Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mary Mary, quite contrary...

how DOES your garden grow??? Ours is growing great minus the few bugs we have had eating up our plant leaves. We have had a REAL spring this year and not that weather that goes from cold to hot and humid in 2.7 seconds flat. Usually by now we are in 90's weather and it is hot hot hot. I hate that. This year though we have had a really nice two months of 60s and 70s degree weather giving our vegetables a nice growing season. I have cabbage growing, lettuces, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, squashes, herbs, cucumbers, corn, and watermelon, cantalope, and peppers all in my garden right now. Oh and I forgot onions, broccoli, and cauliflower. Yes that it a lot.

Here are a few photos of our garden about a month ago.

Garden beds 1 and 2

Planting seeds

Garden bed 1

Tomorrow I will show you what they look like now. They are growing so well. We are using raised beds this year and it is located on the side of our house. It is the part of our yard with the best sunlight.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spring Storms

Recently if you have been watching any news you have seen some of the damage that has been done in the recent spring rain storms that have come through the midwest, south and mid east. We have been getting some really severe storms with heavy winds and tornados. We are certainly not in tornado alley and I have no idea how people can live with the daily summer threat of tornadoes there. However, we have had more than two or three years' worth of tornadoes right around our community this spring. We had at least two touch down yesterday. In fact I saw the big storm cloud that produced the tornadoes yesterday evening while I was checking on our garden. There was a huge cloud with a ton of lightening and lots of thunder. I could hear it off in the distance but I could tell that it wasn't going to affect us, as it was too far to our northwest. We didn't feel a bit of the rain, but it was a little windy.

Today we are currently under a tornado watch and a severe thunderstorm warning. I have been watching the weather all morning so far.

This brings me to my point. Do you have an emergency plan in place for your family? Do you have a weather radio? Do you have a good supply of flashlights and batteries? Candles, lighters or matches? Do you have a particular place in your home to sit and wait out a tornado or whatever weather emergency you experience from time to time in your area? Now may be a good time to go ahead and begin to prepare for a weather related emergency or earthquake. Just by thinking about it can prepare you a bit more than you are prepared now....just sayin....

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Yes, I coupon. Is that a verb now? Coupon? I know it is a noun but can I use it as a verb? I think so. So, I coupon. I collect coupons, save coupons (the noun) and then use coupons to buy the things we need. That is couponing, right? See a verb again.

Yesterday I talked about Food Storage here. I talked about wanting to increase our food storage in our house to three months worth of food. That is a lot of food, especially for a family of 5. How can I just go out and purchase three months worth of food with our budget? That is where couponing comes in to full force.

I used to think that using a coupon here or there really wasn't worth the time. By the time I paid for my Sunday paper ($1.75) and then the hour or so cutting out the coupons that I wanted to use or at least the coupons of the products that we actually use, then going to the store and seeing that the coupon for the specific brand really didn't make it cheaper than the generic label I was already buying normally, made no sense to me. Seriously, NO SENSE! So for a long time I stopped and was happy with just reading the ads in the Sunday paper, tossing the coupons and then buying the generic of whatever we needed. This made sense to me. I figured I was saving money buying generic and then using my Valued Customer Card on top of that for other items. This satisfied me.

Then it occurred to me, after reading a post in a forum, I was doing it completely wrong! ACK!!! I could be saving a ton more money and I wasn't getting the whole idea of couponing (the verb).

Now I am going to let you in on a little secret: Have you seen the TLC show "Extreme Couponing"? These women go out with their coupons and buy up a shelf full of deoderant, or mustard, or apple sauce, or whatever. A. SHELF. FULL! Then come home and organize it on their pantry shelves (or the shelves in the basement or garage, or under their kids' beds) and sit back and glow from their experience. Now this is extreme! And yes, I think they have an addiction problem too! However, the basic premise is this.

When you begin couponing you start to collect coupons for the items you use, pasta sauce, salad dressings, deoderant. Then when the stores put these items on sale you take all your coupons and buy up enough that you feel comfortable with. It could be a couple of the item or it could be a shelf full. I am not judging. Then that item comes off your weekly shopping list for a while. So if you are going through a bottle of salad dressing a week and it is on your weekly shopping list and you buy 8 bottles then you won't need to shop for it for 8 weeks. Slowly, and I mean slowly you will see your weekly shopping list dwindle and your stock up list (the items that are on super sale and you have a coupon for) will increase. You begin shopping your pantry for the items you need weekly and not the grocery store. These are for the items that are shelf stable, like packaged, jarred and canned items as well as items you can freeze if you have a big enough freezer. Eventually you will begin to run low of salad dressing so you start looking for the sale again and you use your coupons you have been gathering all this time.

There are several websites and blogs that can help you find the rock bottom prices on items in your area. I began with This is a great site and includes a forum for couponers (people who coupon) to chat with each other and beginners to learn from the experts. There is a charge however for the site and you get to pick the stores that you want the information from. The less number of stores then the cheaper your membership is. However, I have found that gives you the same information and it is completely and utterly free! How cool is that, and saving you money too! Happy couponing!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Food Storage

I alluded to this in another post where I talked about using our camper for emergency storage, in case we had to evacuate quickly for whatever reason. This past winter we had some slow times in our household and we didn't have as much income as we had in past years during January and February. In past years my husband worked some in these months but this year he hardly had any work. Therefore, we were lacking in the money department.

Once we feel the strain we tend to tighten the belt a bit more and start to look at ways to make us feel a bit "looser" in the wallet. Sometimes we start selling stuff and other times we look for what we have in the house to get us through.

Thankfully this year I had a bit of a stockpile of foods in the pantry and we used a lot of what we had stored to help us round out our grocery budget. I was glad I had the extra on hand. Prices seem to be rising both in groceries and in gas. This little stock of food helped us out.

Beginning in April we moved our pantry from the downstairs family room closet to the first floor hall coat closet. We built shelves and moved our coats to our rooms. The closet was just a catch all for junk on the floor of the closet and old coats that we rarely wear. The closet is close to the kitchen which helps a ton in meal prep. While we were moving it I realized that we had really gone through some food that I had stored. I was not only impressed that we had this store of food and it could help us during our lean months but was also amazed at how little we had left.

This brought both me and my husband to start thinking about stocking up again. We were convinced that this is the right and good thing to do for our family. Both of us began looking on the internet for food storage organization. We found these awesome boxes to help store and rotate your canned goods. We haven't bought them yet but will be buying them soon.

We also found that many Mormons store food. This sent us through a ton of blogs dealing with food storage acquisition and storage organization. They are awesome at creatively storing food.

Now don't get me wrong. I am NOT a survivalist, I am NOT a greenie, and I am NOT thinking the world is going to end or anything. I AM thinking that we have lean times in our household.

Eight years ago we had a hurricane come through our city and it wiped out our power in our house for 14 days and our phone for 28 days. We had two toddlers and an infant at the time. I wasn't as prepared for that disaster as I could have been but we survived it. This event also taught us that we aren't immune to natural disasters where we live. Being more prepared will only help us next time.

So there are many reasons why we are going to stock up on food and related items. You may have some reasons too.

"They" (the Mormons, survivalists, and preparedness people) say to work toward a stock of three months supply of food that you already eat first. Also stock up on water. Then stash some cash for emergencies only. Once you have done that then they say to work towards a year supply of food with basic staples.

So my question today is, do you have a store of food for your family? How long can you go with the food you have in your home right now?

Summer Plans

This summer we are planning a big trip. It will involve several states and camping. At this point we are not sure what we will be camping in. Our current trailer is a 1993 or 1994 (can't remember it is so old) Coachman Catalina. It has done us well but it needs some work. The running lights on one complete side is not working so we can't tow it in the dark, which poses logistical problems. It also needs a new A/C unit as ours is on the fritz. The wallpaper is falling down in places and our kids are growing out of their bunkbeds. One child still sleeps on the couch. It has no slides and we all can't sit at the table at the same time.

We were so close to purchasing a new 40ft. fifth wheel and had the financing all lined up and a deposit on it and a signed contract when the scandalous RV dealership sold it out from under us. We are assuming they got a higher price for it and therefore a better deal for them. We were so sad but in our family, where this sort of bad luck follows us, we roll with the punches and obviously there is something better out there for us. Okay, I am still mad about it and so very disappointed, but I can't do anything about it so I move on.

Anyway, back to the trip. We are still planning it even though we don't know what we will be going in. This year we are planning for 5 weeks. We will first go to Delaware and visit the Dupont Botanical Gardens. We want to see the pretty flowers and the fairy garden they have there. Then we want to go to Philadelphia and see Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, The Franklin Institute, The National Constitution Center, Betsy Ross House, and maybe get in the Philadelphia Zoo. I am thinking that will take three days. We also want to try to get in Valley Forge.

Then we want to travel through Amish Country, tour about there a bit. Then move on to Gettysburg and then Harpers Ferry. This will be a possible quick one day trip for each. Then we have to be home for The Pickle to go to Boy Scout Camp. After his week at camp we will pick him back up and then go to Tennessee and into Nashville. We want to see the Grand Ole Opry Building, the Worlds Fair park, and perhaps pick up a show or two. Then move on to Memphis and eat some BBQ (Memphis style) and see Graceland and spend a day on the Mississippi River. Then we have to be in western South Carolina for a family reunion.

So this is the plan and as with the Sears Family, plans can change quickly and without warning. LOL

Friday, March 18, 2011


The other night our kids' school had a fundraiser spaghetti dinner. We walked in and our older two kids' fifth grade teacher walked in right behind us. She sat with us for dinner. So we chatted about the day, weather, etc, until she asked us how our weekend was last weekend. She knew we had taken the kids out of school on Friday (she is their teacher) and the kids had told her we went out of town.

She isn't the most friendly of people to begin with so I was glad she asked and was interested in our trip. I told her that we had gone to the Udvar Hazy museum and then on Saturday we went to the American History Museum at the Smithsonian. We talked about some of the exhibits we saw and all. She seemed interested but mostly I talked and she ate. She didn't ask many questions about what we saw. But I can talk so I did and filled the time.

Then she asked us if we were going anywhere for spring break. Uh, YEAH!! We are going away. It is a whole week and we wouldn't want to "waste" it by not doing something fun. So I told her we are planning a trip to Florida to see the Space Shuttle launch. We are also planning some time in St. Augustine to see the oldest city in America and then hoping to get some National Seashore time in where the kids can work to get their junior ranger badges there. Then she asked "well are you going to go to the beach at all?" Yes, we do hope to spend a day at the beach too. We finished eating and the kids wanted to go look for a book in the book fair that was going on too. Thus ended our visit with the teacher.

Since then it has got me thinking about some things. I know we aren't the most "normal" of families. We have considered selling everything and living on the road, roadschooling the kids for a year, and other "odd" ideas. We travel a lot. More than many families. We love to explore new places, learn about stuff, and have fun doing it. The kids are great in museums and they love to look at things as well as touch them. They are explorers too.

The beach is fun and we will enjoy a day or two at the beach but we aren't the kind of family who can go to the beach every day and do the same stuff over and over again. I know that some families love the beach and being on the beach every day. Don't get me wrong, my idea of a good relaxing time is at the beach with a good book and an ice cold diet Coke.

But for us having a busy day filled with fun and learning and exploring is fun for us. We look forward to it. I love to plan the days and my family loves that we see some really cool things. The kids will talk about these trips for the rest of their lives and I think about that when I am planning them.

Yes, sometimes we need a vacation from our vacation. But isn't that the fun of it?

So back to the teacher. She didn't at ALL seem impressed that we go to some really neat places. She didn't seem impressed that we are taking our kids all the way down to Florida to see a launch, to see the oldest city. She didn't seem impressed that we took our kids out of school one day and took them to a really cool museum about all kinds of airplanes and that the kids learned about some really interesting times in history where planes became important to the story. She didn't seem impressed one bit. Now I know I shouldn't be out to impress anyone but I just would have thought that she might have said, "wow what a really cool day you had" or engaged my kids by asking some questions about the planes or what they saw, or even if they enjoyed the day.

It seemed to me that she was more upset that the kids weren't in school and not in her class that day. Hmmm.....

Now I am a teacher and I know that kids learn differently. I also welcome the opportunities where parents are able to be facilitators of learning, particularly by participating in learning activities, like going to museums with their kids or going places to learn together.

But there is more that bothers me. We have members of our extended family who also don't understand why we are "always on the go". They complain (for lack of a better word) that we are "never home". They don't seem to understand our excitement about traveling. They don't seem to understand or appreciate why we want to show our kids other places. This bothers us, but it doesn't stop us. We know what we are doing. And we also know the many reasons why we are doing it. We love that we spend time together. We love that we are given the opportunities and we take the opportunities to explore new places with our kids.

Do you have people in your life who don't understand? Do you try to explain it to them? Do you try to help them understand? How do you handle this?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum

Two Fridays ago we went to the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum. It was phenomenal. Seriously, even for girls it was wonderful. This place is huge. It is an enormous hangar with three levels of airplanes both on the ground and suspended in the air. It has several sections, military, helicopters, commercial planes, early planes, and it has the space section.

First, this museum is located near the Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia. It is an extension of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Admission is free but parking is $15. For a family of five $3 a person is a really good deal.

We loved this museum. When I planned our trip I figured that we would spend about 2 1/2 hours there and it would be sufficient for our family, both boys and girls to have their fill of planes. It was not near enough time.

When we arrived we admired the sculpture out front. We liked the swirl of the metal, but these fun orbs caught our eye and the kids had to see how comfortable they were.


Once we arrived inside we immediately found a bathroom and went to the only restaurant in the museum (McDonalds) for lunch. One rule in our family is that everyone needs a full belly before starting to tour a museum. It just makes for happy kids and that makes happy mommies and daddies. So we ate.

Then we began our tour. We started at the front desk where we were given activity sheets for the kids (no patches at the end but it kept them on task).

We began on the second floor. We found this fun fighter jet painted in a shark motif.


Ladybug didn't think it was that heavy! (wink wink)


We saw the Lockheed Blackbird! Oh my goodness this is a big plane. This is looking at it from the second level.


It is really an impressive plane. We then went over to see the Enola Gay. This is a B29 Superfortress. It is THE plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. I was amazed at how I felt around this plane. It holds a lot of history in its wings. I needed some time with this plane but the kids moved us along. Some planes with such significance just seem to need some reverence, you know? This one does. It is a big, heavy plane and it looks almost like it was a miracle it just got off the ground much less fly some really important bombing missions like it did. I could imagine the conversations between the pilots, the silence the plane probably had when it dropped the bomb, the nervousness of the gunners, and the complete concentration of the bombardier sitting up in the nose of the plane.



We continued around and began to examine the markings on planes, identifying the American and the German planes, military vs. commercial. We even found a bored docent who welcomed the challenge to take our picture.


We saw an Air France Concord. This is a big plane too.


We then spent some more time with the Blackbird.


Is it okay for a girl to call this plane "sexy"? It truly is sleek and aerodynamic. It is HUGE. It is skinny.

But the next stop was exciting. The space shuttle Enterprise. This is the shuttle that they did the test flights in gliding back to earth in. It is actually smaller than I thought.


It is big but I, for some reason, thought it would be bigger. I really enjoyed walking around it though and seeing the huge rockets in the back.



They had exhibits from all the space programs from Mercury on up. They even had Alan Sheppard's module that he circled the earth in.

Overall, our impression of this museum was first rate. We really enjoyed all the planes. We didn't get to any helicopters or did we get to the third floor catwalk to see the other planes suspended up there. We HAD to leave as we had dinner plans we had to get to, and we promised that we would return. It is worth going back.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The "Disney" Backpack

Each year we feel we need to carry things with us, just in case, for us and the kids. So each year we used a backpack to help keep our things together. We also had a fanny pack that Dad carried his wallet and camera, etc in. I fill my pockets, my tag on my pin lanyard, and any other place to keep stuff. But the backpack is the quintessential item for us. We have used the LLBean deluxe backpack for the first couple years but this year Dad said we needed a new one. The backpack does get a bit heavy from time to time.

The first two years we also rented a stroller each day so the stroller helped us lug items around. It was wonderful but the last two years the kids have been able to walk more and we haven't needed the stroller.

This year Dad looked like this:



and this:

The front pocket held a few band-aids, hand sanitizer, a map or two, and other little items like extra pin backs. The big pockets held our jackets, and on this day, our rain ponchos and jackets, a sweater or sweatshirt, sometimes a pair of pants. Throughout the day we take off jackets and put them in the back pack or put jackets back on later in the day. This new backpack was great because it also had the outside straps. The straps could be cinched up to make the pack skinnier when we all had our jackets on or expanded to accommodate the extra stuff in there. The straps were also great for hanging our cups and on the day it rained we hung a wet towel on the strap to dry out.

This was a great pack! I have to tell you though that before we left for Disney Dad asked me what I though about getting a new pack and I told him that I didn't think it was necessary. He went ahead and bought it anyway and I am glad he did. It was a much better pack than the other 'book bag' types we had used in the past. The weight distribution was so much better an on the front there was an extra strap to hold the shoulder straps together which really helped distribute the weight and give it support as you were wearing it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Disney 2010 Part 5

Towel Animals!

Our housekeeper at Port Orleans-Riverside was awesome this year. She made us something to look forward to each evening when we came back to the room. Here are a few things we found as we returned after a long day in the parks.

We were excited to find this duck toothbrush holder one evening.

Duck towel animal

These pretty towels were waiting for us.


Then apparently the stuffed animals were missing us one day and were waiting for us in the window when we returned one evening.


But the last day we were here the stuffed animals got a bit naughty while we were gone and had their own fun.

A teddy bear water slide!

The kids loved these little surprises each evening.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Disney 2010 Part 4

Top 10 things I love about Disney World.

10. The meal plan. Our first trip to Disney World I knew there was one thing I did NOT want to do and that was walk by a snack stand and have to tell the kids they can't have a Mickey Ice Cream because it is too expensive and if you are hungry we brought our own snacks of cheese and crackers. That just didn't sound fun to me and Disney World is supposed to be fun. So when we discovered the meal plan we thought this was perfect for us. This way if the kids wanted a Mickey Ice Cream then they could have a Mickey Ice Cream, period, smile on our faces, eat away kids! which brings me to ......

9. Mickey Ice Creams. It is a staple in our Disney diet. We eat one practically every day. I love that they are good quality ice cream, creamy and rich, with good quality chocolate, thick and yummy. I love that they don't melt terribly fast and that if you break the chocolate off you don't necessarily lose the whole thing on the ground. I also love that if one of your kids does drop it or it completely falls of the stick and into the mulch (yeah, we know from experience), the cast member selling it will just give you another one. This makes mom smile.

8. The weather in Florida. While we have had both warm and downright cold days in Disney World for the most part the weather doesn't really seem to be an issue. We dress for the day and it isn't a focus. Even that really rainy day we had this year didn't really seem to be a big bother for us. I love that.

7. Park-like atmosphere. I love that Walt wanted the whole park to be more than an amusement park. His vision included grassy areas, planned beautiful gardens, and trees. I love that you can walk around the parks and around the resorts and feel that you are in a luxorious park, or even a fancy plantation home or in the gardens of a true castle. I love that the themes are carried out in all the small nooks and crannies. Some of the prettiest garden areas in the parks are close to the bathrooms. We have spend a many day in the parks just walking around and enjoying the sights other than the actual rides. I love that too.

6. Themes of the resorts and parks. It's all in the details. Every part of Disney is truly "Disney". You feel like you are walking on an old time boardwalk back in times' past at the Boardwalk Hotel. You feel like you are truly in a New Orleans Station at the Port Orleans - Riverside Hotel. When you are in Italy in Epcot, you truly feel like you are there. And that goes on in every aspect. Walking down Main Street is like going back in time.
Boardwalk Hotel

5. (Sticking with #6 and #7 ) So much to do other than ride rides. Each year we try to spend some time experiencing other parts of the resorts. We have gone swimming in the heated pools. We have explored other hotels. We have spent time at Downtown Disney. We enjoy spending some time doing something else other than going into the parks and riding rides. Even in the parks we have enjoyed exploring the other opportunities. We have walked through the rose garden in Epcot. We have explored the animal habitat areas in Animal Kingdom and spent a great deal of time one year identifying the different birds in their aviary. We have enjoyed the animal petting area, watching the various shows, and sometimes just sitting on a bench people watching. Even the shopping is fun.

4. The Restaurants. Oh my, the restaurants in Disney are great. We love that because of the meal plan we have the opportunity to eat in really nice restaurants that if we were paying out of pocket, we might not have been able to eat there. We like both the buffets and the sit down service restaurants. Epcot has great garden salads at the counter meals and we love to eat at Pizza Planet in Hollywood Studios. The kids have eaten dinner in some very fancy restaurants and they are able to practice their manners. The food is delicious also. Each sit down dinner takes us usually 2 hours from beginning to end to eat. It is an experience in itself and we love that too.

3. Cast members. The cast members are all wonderful. (except one who made my daughter cry) We love talking to them, asking them questions (they are so knowledgeable). And they are so helpful. They are everywhere and when I 'grow up' I wouldn't mind being a cast member too. Even those who are the trash picker uppers are the best. Everyone is so friendly too. We get the best tips and information from them. I see so many visitors in Disney who ignore the cast members and don't give them another glance and I feel so sorry for them because they are missing out on so much information. Our first year, because we talked to the cast members, we were given the opportunity to see Cinderella privately and were given all the time we wanted with her. We had our photos taken and probably spent a good 30 minutes with her. It was wonderful. We also were given front row tickets to see The Lion King Show in Animal Kingdom and Dad was asked to be a part of the show. It was so cool. Because we talked to cast members we were also told the best times to see things, the best places to go, and some fun things to do. We learned about Kim Possible Missions, the roller coaster simulator and the make your own video game. Very cool stuff. AND cast members go hand in hand with ......

2. Pin Trading. We LOVE pin trading. You get pins from the Disney stores or Kiosks and then you can trade pins to get other pins that you want from cast members or other people. Most other people (visitors) don't want to trade but the cast members are required to trade any pin that you want. You have to trade one pin for one pin and it has to be a Disney official pin. We got into pin trading our second year. We found that it could be a very expensive activity and the next year we purchased pins in bulk to trade. Again this year we purchase a lot of 100 pins to share amongst us all to trade. Even then we felt like we didn't have enough to trade. It is pretty addicting. It also has been wonderful for our youngest because she has to talk to the cast members if she wants to trade.

1. Parades and Street Shows. I love that every time you turn around it seems that there is a parade or a street show going on. You can stop and watch if you like or you can continue on. We tend to stop and watch and we are never disappointed. We love that.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Disney 2010 Part 3

Now it is time to stop and smell the roses. Literally!

Day 5 was spent at Epcot. As we were leaving our hotel the doorman asked us where we were going today and we told him Epcot. He then proceeded to tell us his favorite things to do at Epcot. I am so so so glad we stayed and listened to him. The weather was a bit chilly today but we were going with a few goals. One, we wanted to do the Kim Possible Missions. They are so fun and cool. As my middle daughter said, "where can you go in Germany and see a girl running out of a window beating the bad guy with a broom??" When you go to Epcot you have to know that you are looking for the Kim Possible missions because otherwise you will miss it. We signed up and had a bit of time before our mission started. On the way to the bathroom we found these guys:

Three chipmunks

And we found Pocahontas.

And we found Duffy!


That was goal number 2. Find and buy Duffy the bear. Ladybug wanted him from the start and we made her wait a few days before buying him because we wanted to make sure that he was what she REALLY wanted and not what she wanted at that time. She REALLY wanted him and so she got him today (and her picture with him too as a bonus)

Goal #3 was to go through the back entrance (or exit) of Epcot and take a boat to check out the Boardwalk Hotel/Resort. It is beautiful.

Boardwalk Hotel

Inside the Boardwalk Hotel

We saw their big gingerbread display and really enjoyed the other Christmas decorations there too. They even have a miniature carousel that spins and plays music. Very neat.

We returned to Epcot and it was pretty crowded that day so we didn't really ride any rides, well maybe one, Test Track. But we enjoyed the scenery, the decorations, and oh, we also rode the Donald Duck ride in Mexico. That is a MUST for our family. It was nice to not have to rush from place to place or worry if we were going to stand in any line for a long time. This comes from being here for the past 4 years. We have pretty much done everything so we can now "stop and smell the roses". Which we did in the rose garden that is never ever crowded at Epcot.

We still had some time before dinner so we went over to the Inoventions buildings and checked out two great exhibits that the doorman suggested. They were both interactive and the kids loved it. The first one they were able to record themselves doing certain things like a jump, a victory cheer, running in place, and ducking (I think), then they were able to play a video game with their own self as the little man in the game. It was neat, and they could email the game home so they could play there too. Pretty cool. The next was the "make your own roller coaster and then ride it" simulation. Literally, that is what it was. The kids made their own roller coaster and then got into a simulator attached to an arm and they could ride their own game. I did not do that but they said it was really cool! Thanks, Mr. Doorman for some great suggestions!

Okay, now it is time for dinner and we have to rush a bit to cross the entire park to get there (boy my feet hurt on these trips). It was in Italy at the restaurant there and it was sooooo good. The kids loved it and the setting was perfect. It was our favorite dinner of the trip.

Here are the kids in front of the fountain in Italy.

At Epcot in Italy

When we finished dinner we mosied on back out to the busses, enjoying the fireworks on the way and of course, pin trading with everyone we saw.

Day 6: Magic Kingdom

Now that it is the week before Christmas the crowds are here. We are so glad that we come for a few days prior to the big crowds so we can get in what rides we want without waiting 110 minutes to ride a ride.

Today we decided we wanted to ride a few rides again and made it our mission to get them in. We ate our favorite breakfast here on Main Street and while we were eating Dad went and got us Fast Passes to Big Thunder Mountain, our favorite roller coaster (besides Goofys Barnstormer, and Expedition Everest, and the Dino Roller Coaster in Dinoland (AK) and .... ha ha). We rode the train and got off at Toontown and walked the back way to Tomorrowland. Along the way we stopped (taking our time and enjoying not standing in line anywhere) and examined the Spanish Moss hanging from the trees and a bunch that had fallen to the ground. We talked about how it grew and that it had no roots and didn't need too much water either.

Checking out the Spanish Moss.

Learning about Spanish Moss

We rode on the People Mover in Tomorrowland and then watched the Carousel of Progress. I love that show. We had our picture taken with Buzz Lightyear but the cameraman made our copy blurry. Then we ate dinner out with our cousins.

Oh, and this morning we bought these cups with hot chocolate in them for $5 each (we thought a good deal) and the cast member at the food court in the hotel told the kids they could use them to fill up for free on drinks too! They thought that was awesome!

We love our drink mugs.

Yes, our cousins (two families and Dad's aunt and uncle) were also down here at the same exact time we were. They had other things on their schedules so we couldn't meet up in the parks like we had thought we might be able to do but it was so much fun having dinner with them at a really yummy pizza place just outside Disney property (shh, don't tell Mickey we didn't eat with him that night). When we got back we still had Fast Passes for Space Mountain and Ladybug didn't want to go so I stayed at the hotel with her while the Pickle and Bean went back to MK for some late night riding. They had a blast and rode many rides without waiting in any lines. They didn't get home until almost 2 am!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Disney 2010 Part 2

We love Disney World. We love that when you step onto Disney property it is like you are transported (or at least we feel that way) to another alternate world. Not back in time but just in a world where there are not worries, no concerns, no problems. The biggest struggle you have is which fast pass to get first, or if you are going to fit on the bus with all the other 85,000 people who want to go where you are going. If that is the only worry, then you MUST be in Disney World.

Day three found us in The Animal Kingdom. This was the first year back to this park in three years. We went here our first year when the kids were little. Then we consentrated on the Safari ride, Pocahontas, and The Lion King show. We didn't even make it in to Asia or into the Tree of Life. This year we focused on Asia (Expedition Everest), the animal petting area, and then eating at Tusker House.

Disney Day 3

We saw the Tree of Life movie (It's hard to be a bug) but before we walked in we had to try on our bug eyes.

My bug-eyed girl

We also went to the petting zoo and were able to pet and walk around with the animals. Look what we found here:

Hidden Mickey at the petting area

Our Bean really enjoyed the petting area. She needed to be quiet with the animals. We have been running around so much that she just needed some time and she was in her element here. After that we ate dinner at the Tusker House. It was good. Again a buffet, but we don't mind eating to our hearts content.

When we left the park was closed and this is our favorite time because we can walk quietly without the crowds. We don't feel rushed and we can enjoy the scenery. As we left we decided to head over to Downtown Disney. We shopped and stopped to take pictures with our favorite characters.


And this Woody made out of Legos!!


Day three came to a close very late with three very very tired children.

Day four was spent at Hollywood Studios. We arrived and rode the required Toy Story 3 and did the Backstage Lot Tour. There was hardly anyone there in the park because when we woke up that morning it was pouring down rain. It was raining pretty hard. We donned our parkas and headed out anyway. We were so glad that we did because the parks are so enjoyable when there aren't so many crowds. By the time we arrived though the clouds had disappeared, well the rain had at least stopped and we were able to enjoy the park without getting too wet.

During the Backstage Tour we spotted the barn from Hannah Montana, the movie. Needless to say our Ladybug was quite excited and we took pictures in front of it.

Hannah Montana's Barn

Oh yes, Pickle decided it wasn't cool to pose in front of the barn. (shh, but secretly he liked it too)

Then we mosied on over to the Rock and Roll Roller Coaster and rode that ride. By the time we finished up there, got the required Mickey Ice Cream and and watched the street shows it was time for the Osborne Lights. We walked through the lights and watched them dance and dance. We sang along with the Christmas songs, searched for hidden Mickeys everywhere and traded pins with any cast member we saw. (oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that we had lunch at Pizza Planet and shopped too)

Look who we found too!

Monsters, Inc.

Next was dinner and fortunately for us it was right around the corner from the lights. We ate at the Sci-Fi Drive In Restaurant. Now this place is so much fun if you are into theme dining (which we are). You walk into the restaurant and you can't see any part of the restaurant at all. You only see the back of what looks like a big billboard. Then they take you into the restaurant area which looks JUST LIKE a drive in theater. They show old 1950's movie shorts and clips and commercials. The best part is that you sit in cars!! Yup, lookie here:

Sci-fi Drive In Restaurant

Crazy!! I know!!

The food was good and the service was by waiters who are on roller skates. So much fun!!

After dinner the Bean asked to return to the Osborne lights one more time so we did and she enjoyed watching them dance. Now the park was pretty much closed at this time so we pretty much had the park to ourselves again (BONUS!!) So we are walking up and down the street under the lights singing away, dancing away and pin trading with the cast members. We were talking with one cast member and the kids were trading with another when out of the corner of my eye I noticed that the Bean has two cast members dancing with her. She had such a great time!!! So we all danced and danced and then decided to start to head on back home. What a great way to end day 4.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Disney 2010 Part 1

This was our fourth year going to Disney World just before Christmas. We chose to go at Christmas time with the kids because of a couple reasons. One, we love Christmas and Disney World is completely decorated for Christmas. Two, the weather seems to be a bit cooler at this time of year, but it can be hit or miss. Some years we have had great weather (not too hot, not too cold), and other years it has been chilly or some days downright cold. Three, Dad slows down his business at this time and it is a perfect time for a vacation after working so hard through the summer and fall seasons. Four, for the first part of our vacation there are hardly any crowds which is so super nice. Okay, on to the trip.

This year we opted at the last minute to upgrade our stay to a hotel on site. We had originally planned to pull our trailer and stay in the campground. We got a better deal by staying in a hotel so we stayed at the Port Orleans-Riverside Hotel. We stayed there last year too.

The first day we arrived, checked into our hotel and then headed over to Epcot for some fun and dinner. This year we weren't as worried about making sure we rode all the rides and it was nice to just relax and enjoy some of the less popular parts of the parks. We will get to that later.

So here we are at Epcot.

Epcot 2010

We don't look too happy at this point but we will cheer up later.


We rode a couple rides and then headed over for dinner. We ate at the Beirgarten Restaurant in Germany. The food was great. It was a buffet and had a polka band for entertainment and a Christmas story for the kids. Everyone had fun. At this restaurant you sit at long tables and we were seated with another family from Michigan who was down for a work/vacation time. They had three cute little kids and we enjoyed talking with them.

See we are having fun now.

Showing off our pins

The kids wanted to get on with the pin trading so as we left we stopped and watched some of the fireworks and traded with cast members along our way home. Once back to the hotel we began our commensorate checking of the pin board in the Trading Post and then the requisite Mickey Ice Cream before heading back to our hotel room.

The second day found us at the Magic Kingdom.

I love this sign as you enter the park.

A plaque as you enter Magic Kingdom

We enjoyed riding all the rides we couldn't wait to ride (Buzz Lightyear, Big Thunder Mountain, and Goofy's Barnstormer) That evening we had dinner at the Plaza Restaurant and honestly we wouldn't go back to this one again. It is a 'typical' sandwich and ice cream shop and not worth wasting your table meal on it. Now if we were paying out of pocket we would definitely choose this place.

Here we are waiting and waiting for our table. The kids were tired and hungry at this point. But look how cool the fireworks are behind us. (We got the tip from a cast member who told us to snap a shot just at this time for a cool picture)

Fireworks behind us.

We stayed at Disney for 7 nights so there are lots more to come. Have you been to Disney yet? What is your favorite park?