Magical Holidays

Our Christmas gift from my parents this year was a week-long trip to Orlando with visits to Disney World and Universal Studios Florida. It was, in a word, magical. The weather was perfect and our anticipation of the heavy holiday crowds helped us prepare for the parks and get the most out of our trip.

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This was our second trip with Miss L to Disney but the first since the Fantasyland expansion opened, so it was a must-see for us. Her grandparents were up for spoiling her on this trip so we started the visit with a makeover at the Bippidi Bobbidi Boutique, then hit up the rides. She loves meeting characters so there was a fair amount of getting in line for those experiences — including a mad dash to Belle’s storytime cottage when we arrived on the second day — but it was worth it. We also managed to convince her to try Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain Railroad, which were hits.

The crowds were pretty insane — Christmas Eve, especially — but we still managed to see and do everything we wanted during our two days there. I even had my first Dole Whip (it was good but I don’t know if I’d wait in line that long for a second one).

I was really looking forward to visiting Universal Studios Island of Adventures for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I loved the books — and the movies — and couldn’t wait to experience it. Miss L, on the other hand, couldn’t have cared less. She’d never seen the movies and wasn’t terribly interested in the first book, which I’d downloaded to the Kindle she received for Christmas.

Until our second day.

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I don’t know if it was the fourth butter beer of the week or her third time on the Flight of the Hippogriff coaster but 90 minutes into the day, she grabbed my hand while standing in the middle of Hogsmeade and proclaimed, “I’m going to become a Harry Potter fan, Mama!”

The girl who showed zero interest in Harry Potter before that day then chose Ginny Weasley’s wand for her trip souvenir (surprisingly less expensive than I would have thought — seriously, the T-shirts at Universal are $28; the wands, $32.95). And then she read. And read. And read.

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She’d nearly finished the first book in the series by the time we made it home. She’s since finished two more and would be further along if she didn’t have to wait for next month to roll around to borrow the next book from the Kindle Lending Library.

And, yes, she’ll be a Gryffindor for Halloween this year. I’m already collecting items for her costume.

Shore Bliss

See what I woke up to the past few days? White sands, blue water, palm trees and (mostly) sunny skies. My husband hasn’t had much of a vacation in the past two years so I spirited him away to the beach for a few days. Then promptly dragged him around to visit with my friends and my family. Whatever. It’s the beach; like he’s going to complain. (Also? He likes my family and my friends.)

We ate lots of seafood and celebrated when Miss L decided she likes oysters (the baked kind). Found new restaurants that are deserving of a return visit (Bayou Bill’s and Dusty’s Oyster House). Got sunburned (OK, just me, the perpetually striped-sunburn girl). Relaxed in the company of the people we love. I even managed to sneak down to the beach early one morning to take a few pictures (that fence is my favorite).

All in all, a pretty awesome trip.

Down in the Valley

My Honey celebrated his birthday yesterday. He’s been working so hard and I thought he needed a weekend away, especially because this is the first time since graduating law school that he didn’t have a work conference to attend on his birthday weekend. (Seriously — two jobs and both of them had annual firm meetings the same time every year.)

I told my husband it was just an overnight trip, so he was quite surprised when I picked him up from work Friday and told him we were on our way to Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa. Neither of us had ever been but it met all of my criteria: price, close to home, golf and a spa. Plus, I was fairly certain Honey would love it because he’s definitely one of those “get away from it all” types.

In retrospect, it was probably not so smart to drive through the North Georgia mountains in the dark. Small, twisty-turny mountain roads with no lighting, in the middle of nowhere. Just a little bit scary. Heck, when we drove home Sunday afternoon, I was still quite intimidated, and it was a beautiful sunny day!

We didn’t arrive until 9 p.m. but still was able to do a little exploring of the main resort before we called it a night. Both of us just loved the main lobby area, with it’s high, beamed ceilings and the gorgeous stone fireplace and chimney in the center. The antler chandeliers were kind of cool, if a little more country than our decorating style.

Our room was really nice, with a king-sized bed and a sitting area complete with couch. We had the mountain view side of the resort and lucked out with a corner room, so neighbors on only one side. The balcony looked out on the waterfall lawn and golfcourse behind us (photo above) and the aforementioned “waterfall” was right beneath our window. I’m sure many people find the sound of a waterfall incredibly relaxing but mostly it just made me think it was either raining or that I needed to go to the bathroom! LOL!

The weather was absolutely gorgeous, though, and we spent a couple of hours Saturday afternoon on one of those swings, reading and relaxing. (I made it through two books* during the weekend and also about half of the embroidery for one block of a Melly & Me quilt pattern.)

While my better half was traversing the links, I hit up the spa. Divine! I left wishing I’d booked a couple of additional treatments instead of just a massage and mani/pedi. I’m thinking I need to convince a couple of girls to go up for a weekend of sewing & pampering or just pampering. LOL!

We took a leisurely trip home yesterday and were welcomed back by a very happy dog and two hungry cats who would not leave us alone for a second. That’s love.

* Don’t judge me; I never said I had high standards in literature.

Ain’t Love Grand?

It’s taken me the better part of the weekend to recover from my little jaunt to Florida visit my folks. The older I get, the more traveling takes out of me — but I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. The delightful Miss L and I hopped on a plane Wednesday morning, returning home in time for dinner on Friday. Yes, a quick trip and one that was much needed by all four of us.

This was L’s first airplane ride and she handled it like a pro. Navigating the country’s busiest airport can be a bit challenging but it was one of the easiest times I’ve had there in recent memory. The only hiccup was right after I installed her car seat on the plane when the most charming flight attendant loudly announced to the whole plane, “You can’t sit there!”  Ah, yes, those unwritten rules of flying that I’m supposed to have acquired through osmosis and thus knew ahead of time that anyone using a car seat on an airplane can’t sit in the rows immediately before or after the exit rows. *insert eye roll*

The visit was lovely and a complete surprise for my stepmother, who seemed visibly cheered by our arrival. We’ve spent most of our parenting years living in different states than any of the kids’ grandparents, but you’d never know it by the close relationships they have. It never fails to make me smile to see how excited they get to see each other. Our second night there, she and her granddaughter sat on the bed and played with a pile of necklaces, eliciting many giggles from both of them. (Me: “You two look like a couple of sorority girls at Mardi Gras!”) My father and the girl had fun tossing a tennis ball back and forth in the hot tub, also a first for the little missy.

Before we left, I forced my father to sit for some pictures with two of his favorite girls (four, if you count my furry half-sisters aka the world’s most spoiled dogs). You can tell from the shot above how much he just loves having his picture taken. Still, I think he’ll appreciate having the memento — almost as much as the memories.

A Pirate, a Princess, a Highlander and … Jane Austen?

My sweetie pie cousin and her honey came for a visit again this weekend, this time so we could all go to the RenFest. While the weather has been pretty nice all week, it rained yesterday. On and off. All day.

Any plans I had to take lots of great pictures at the RenFest were dashed, since I didn’t have much interest in ruining my 30D. We did manage to snap a couple of pictures in the parking lot before heading inside. Gotta love that scenic backdrop! LOL!

My cousin does Civil War re-enactments and alos likes to attend the occasional Renaissance festival, so she’s got an extensive costumer wardrobe. I love her pirate ensemble. You can’t see them but she’s got the coolest boots and fishnets on. Her sweetie bought his kilt and sporan during their vacation in Scotland a couple of years ago. He even grew the beard just for the occasion! (It was Scots & Kilts weekend at the RenFest.)

I asked Miss L if she wanted to be a pirate or a princess for the trip. “I want to be a princess pirate,” she declared. A peasant top (from her Halloween costume), pink tiered skirt, sash and flowered crown later — ta da!

And then there’s me, all decked out in my Regency era finest. I have been wanting to do some Regency sewing for some time (and this most definitely will be the first of many for both me and the little missy), and since many people where all kinds of costumed dress at the RenFest, I figured “why not?” The pattern is by Sense & Sensibility; the fabric is a cotton/linen blend from Joann’s. I love it! It’s very comfortable, although I do wish I’d made the sleeve bands just a teensy bit wider. Also, I have not yet made a set of stays for underneath, so I had to wear a sports bra to get the bodice to fit even close to the proper way. Which meant I spent much of the day fighting to get the straps hidden under the neckline.

This was the first time I’ve ever dressed up to attend the Ren Fest and I think it won’t be my last. It was just such fun and really added to the experience. I’m already thinking ahead to next year and what I can make for the kids to wear. Now if I can just get Honey to agree to wear a kilt …

Like a Bird

I woke up this morning, fired up the MacBook and checked my email, finding the weekly fare sale bulletin from AirTran. Now, most of the time I ignore these emails; there are five of us and pretty much everywhere we want to go, we’ll drive. Lately, though, I’ve been almost obsessive in watching for deals because Honey and I are planning an anniversary trip.

This will be our first vacation sans kids since the baby was born (she’ll be three in October), and will mark our 10th wedding anniversary. I think we’ve spent as much time talking about it as getting to the milestone! Planning a trip is tough when two people want different things out of a vacation:

Me — Fun! Shopping! Shows! Stuff to do!

Honey — Peace and quiet.

Once we determined that I was planning the trip, I gave my husband a list of possible destinations (so he could have the appearance of some say in the process): Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, NYC, Washington, D.C. He immediately struck New York and D.C. off the list (we’ve been there before). He’s been to Vegas and didn’t think it was really where he wanted to go for this trip. I picked up a Fodor’s guide to Chicago, to get a feel for what was there, and knew it was the place to go. (Right now the plan is to take our eldest to Boston for Spring Break next year to visit colleges.)

And now we have our airline tickets!

I still need to book a hotel, and there are some itinerary things I need to work out. But we are well on our way to winging it to Chicago. Which leads to my other “flighty” topic of the day …

We came home from running Friday morning to a rather unusual discovery in the front yard:

A robin’s nest! How do I know? Because I found eggshells in the grass near the nest. It was interesting to see it up close, identifying little bits of mud and trash that likely came from our yard (including bits of a dryer sheet). I don’t know how it ended up on the ground or where the birds are (and I’m really trying not to think foul play was involved). I’d like to think the baby bird grew big enough to fly away and build a nest of his/her own. It makes me think of the nest emptying we’ll begin in just a couple of years. Bittersweet.