Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mother's Tree muffin top

I know this isn't much to show, but I feel like after about a week and many many hours of stitching nothing but one color I ought to be entitled to show a progress pic, no? I think it is looking good, and maybe next time it'll be more fun to work on cause I'll move down the trunk of the tree instead of just filling in stitch after stitch in a huge block of color. That tree is just never-ending it seems.

Now I think I'll try to get in a bit of progress on Angel of Summer also by Marilyn Leavitt-Imblum. I confess it isn't one of my favorite projects, but it is for my mom, who really does appreciate my stitching, so I feel compelled to continue on with it. I'm going to work on it until New Year's day. I haven't decided for sure, yet, but I'm toying with the idea of starting "Stone Roses" on Jan. 1. I didn't start anything last year, and haven't had a new start in a long time, since before I finished Silkwood Manor anyway. I think I'm due a new start, but I have a tendency to feel overwhelmed if I have too many things going at once, so we'll see what I decide.

As for Christmas, it was a good but unremarkable year. We are fortunate and thankful, and really that is about all I can think to say about it. Hope your Christmas was merry too! :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Because I will not be defeated! :)

Okay, I admit that puffy paint isn't the most glamorous of solutions, but it worked. Mostly. There is still a bit of sag on the side that says "Christmas" but when it is hanging properly that is hardly noticable at all. I would much have preferred to finish it off with delicate invisible stitches - but since that proved to be impossible (at least for me) the puffy paint hides my hack job quite well and now I'm at least not embarrassed to put the thing on my tree or admit I made it. :)

Mery Christmas house ornament

This is Merry Little House by Thea Duck of The Victoria Sampler. Great pattern, lovely little house ornament. BUT, the finishing was really tough. I admit to doing it my own way, so maybe that was part of it. The directions said to mount each piece onto mat board and then attach together, but I attached them without doing that and then put cardboard inside along each side and filled with rice rather than mount each piece. That seemed to work out fine and I liked the effect of having a tighter seam along each side that way. However, I reverted back to "following directions" for attaching the roof, and well, it got ugly. There was just no way to delicately stitch the roof piece down without it showing and you can see I just got frustrated and got it done in the end and it looks like crap. I was going to give it as a gift, but I'm going to have to keep it for my own tree now, cause I'd be to embarrassed of the hack job on the roof. *sigh*

So all you stitchers out there that compiment my finishing skills - see I suck sometimes too. LOL I think I'll work on Mother's Tree next as it has been awhile since I worked on it and it won't require to drag all my stitching stuff out of the closet its packed into for all the showings we've been having!

On the house front, the showings keep coming and coming. Although our realtor warned us to expect a slow down for the holidays things have only continued to pick up - 3 showings just this weekend. The feedback we are getting is almost all positive - but we keep hearing over and over that people just started looking and want to see a few more houses before they make a decision - so no offers yet. We are hopeful it'll happen soon though.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More Alhambra Garden progress

I finished the top triangle motif and began working around the corner of the design. A fair bit of progress, but then I always wish it was more. I could press on, but the Christmas ornaments are finally starting to call to me now that we've finally put up our tree.

Hopefully I'll have a finished ornament or two to show off for my next post.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

They are Coming out of the Woodwork!

I'm sure the now lower mortgage rates can take the credit, but suddenly there has been a flurry of showings for our house. Until last Tuesday we were averaging about 1 showing per week. We've had FOUR in the last 8 days! TWO of them are today. Combine that with all the snow we've been getting and I'm sooo tired from clearing snow and cleaning house.

I have been trying to continue to get a bit of stitching in on Alhambra Garden, and I've made a modest amount of progress, but not nearly as much as I would like to see after a week or so's work! I'm going to try to get in a bit more before taking a progress pic and moving on to something else.

Ah well, I'll gladly give up a little stitching time if it means we have a SOLD house in the near future! Cross your fingers for an offer for us -k?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Scissor Pocket

I've had this as a travel project for a long time and finally decided to just finish it up. It is Alyssum Scissor Pocket by Cats Whiskers. It is a little lighter in person than it is showing up on my monitor (damn camera!)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Paying it Forward

I've never done one of these before, but always thought they looked fun and interesting. Now that I find myself with several smalls I'd like to make up, I thought this would be a good time to participate in one. I responded to Susan's blog post, so now I'm asking for anyone who'd like to receive from me. If you are not familiar with PIF, check out this entry on Susan's blog.

So the first three people to respond to this post will receive a small crafted item (I'll tell you right now it will be stitching!) from me within the next 12 months. In return you post a similiar offer on your blog.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Heritage Sampler progress

I finished the tree ornament! At first I didn't think I was going to like those flowers much particularly the yellow ones as I thought they were getting lost a bit. Once I got the leaves stitched in though I'm thrilled with how it looks! :) I'm going to keep going with this one a little bit more, the next bit is to stitch in my last name in one vertical band and the word "Family" in the other vertical band on either side of the tree ornament area. I also need to stitch in my initials and the year on top of and below the tree. Hmmm... what year should I use? I started this piece in 2007, but not sure if I should use that year as it is likely to be several more years before I actually finish the piece. Maybe I'll do 2007 and find a place for the year ended somewhere else in the piece. Since all those letters and numbers are over-one I think I might tire of this pretty quickly, but I'm going to try to do a little of that before I move on - maybe back to Alhambra Garden as it is whining to me from the WIP pile ever so quietly.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Alhambra Garden progress

I was going to finish all of the top triangle before I posted a progress pic, but on Saturday I decided to stitch some on Heritage Sampler and before long Alhambra Garden was tossed back into the WIP pile. I thought I'd at least take a pic and post it to show I did work on it a little. I'm still enjoying stitching it, I'm just enjoying Heritage Sampler more at the moment. Maybe I'll come back to AG when I get tired of Heritage Sampler. :)
I have made an executive decision to only stitch on what I feel like until the new year. I'll probably try to go back to some sort of rotation then, but for now I'm going screamin'.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Smart Kid!

I just finished meeting with Katie's Pre-K teacher for her first parent-teacher conference. Apparently despite some of the behavior issues we have at home, she is one of those kids who has perfect behavior at school. Always listens to directions, is kind to the other kids, knows all her letters, is above average for what she should know for this age. Miss Erin even said that if Kindergarten were starting tomorrow she is more than ready! I specifically asked because her birthday is May and we wondered about waiting another year. Alex had an August birthday and although we sent him the first year he was eligible, he really struggled that first year and we didn't want Katie to repeat that bad experience.

What really had me rolling was the picture journal the teacher showed me - Most pictures are of her and me or of strawberries - her favorite food. Miss Erin also told me that Katie tells her at least twice a day, "I'm never getting married - I'm gonna stay by my mom!" Smart kid - some days I think that is advice I should have taken!

Anyway, it was good to see her through someone else's eyes and to hear that she is attached to me and actually might like me a little bit. With the amount of general whining she does some days I was really, really beginning to wonder.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bleh, Bleh, Bleh

Ever feel like your job gets in the way of your life? There are so many things I could be doing right now. For instance, I could be taking down the glass “cups” around the light bulbs in all the light fixtures and cleaning them. Or I could be raking all the leaves that have blown back from the curb or the neighbor’s yard into our driveway. Or I could be touching up the paint job on the drywall from the plumbing incident, or I could be sorting through the stash, or I could be watching some mindless TV show.

*sigh* All of those things sound more appealing than sitting at my job doing my work these days. I’m just feeling so lazy and I know I’m one of the lucky ones – I still have my job, the people are pretty nice and the work isn’t too hard. But ugh I feel blah about it. And I don’t want a different job either – I just want to stay at home and take care of the kids and house. Katie will start Kindergarten next year, so she’ll be in school most of the time anyway – but I still don’t wanna work.

Problem is I’m completely capable of holding down a well paying full-time job and doing so affords me the financial ability to do a lot of things I couldn’t do without that. DH says I should just quit and we’ll take our house off the market. (We could live on just his income if we stay in this house). I don’t want that either. So add selfish and materialistic to the aforementioned lazy in my list of flaws.

Maybe I’m just PMSing… or maybe its the weather turning all gray and ick... I dunno

Monday, November 17, 2008

Someone likes our house!

Everyone cross your fingers for us - we have at least one interested buyer, and perhaps two! Our realtor called Saturday and asked if another realtor could show the house on Sunday. We hesitated because we just had the drywall patched from the plumbing incident, and it hadn't been painted yet. She urged us to hurry up and get it painted so they could see it, so that is what we did. They probably smelled fresh paint, but otherwise the wall looked good as new when they were here.

Our realtor called today to say that the showing went really well, they liked our house best out of all they had seen and would have written an offer except that they first have to sell their condo on the other side of town first. Supposedly there is interest in the condo, but of course they need an offer first, like we need an offer before we can buy bigger.

I guess this really doesn't put us anywhere, except that it is really encouraging that someone besides us thinks this is a great house. I know condos can be tough to sell and there is no guarentee that it will sell - we'll just see what happens. I'm just glad to know that maybe, just maybe someone might think about buying this place!

Oh, and the "maybe two" - our buyer's agent has another client she thinks will be interested in our home - they will probably see the house sometime this week. So again nothing as great as an offer - but at least it is interest!

So again, cross your fingers - okay?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Spring Queen

This is a replacement piece for Debbi for the last Mira RR. She was the other person whose RR went missing in the most recent Mira RR.
Now I'm going to try to get some progress in on my Alhambra Garden!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I should have been a plumber

UGH! It has been a week. Alex brought home a nasty cold that had him out of school on Monday and me sick the rest of the week. I went home from work early on Tuesday because of the icky cold and then decided that since I was home I would kill a few birds and make some phone calls for appointments. Big mistake – should have just slept off the cold.

Background: Our shower has not been shutting off properly for several weeks. I tried disassembling it to replace the cartridge, but I could not remove the cartridge myself. Somehow messing around with it seemed to get the water turning on and off again properly. This solution was only temporary though as Sean called me as I was getting in to work one day to tell me that “the bathtub is gushing water and won’t turn off”. He did eventually get the water to slow to a trickle by using brute force to push the handle in – but of course that isn’t a permanent solution either.

Soo.. lying on the couch I think good chance to get an appointment with a plumber to have him replace the cartridge – I thought I’d be making an appointment for next week or something. First place I called I explained the issue and that I think it’s the cartridge and he says, “Sure we can replace it. It is a $59 service charge – I can send someone right out.” I think great – I won’t have to take more time off from work, $59 is manageable, he’ll be in and out in about an hour or so and I will still have time to take a nap before the kids come home from school (this was about noonish). Yeah, I guess I’m that naïve.

As soon as the plumber arrives he looks at the type of faucet I have, agrees that the cartridge is the problem, and tells me that the total bill to take out the old and replace with new is $275 and change. I say what about the $59? “Oh, that is just to get me here, doesn’t include actually doing anything.” Since I have to pay the $59 anyway, he is right here and it still sounds attractive to get this all taken care of right now without missing more work, I reluctantly agree. I really think the guy I talked to on the phone (which I later learned was the owner of the company) should have told me the range in which I’d be paying for a replacement cartridge, since he knew that is what the call was for instead of misleading me into thinking I was only going to pay $59. By the way, I thought $59 was reasonable since the cartridge itself costs about $16 – since taking it out and replacing would be about a half hour of labor – that sounded about right to me.

But that’s not the end of it. Plumber tries to extract the old cartridge with a special tool and the cartridge was so corroded that is broke off and could not be fully removed. Now I have a dripping pipe sticking into my shower/bathtub, the water to the whole house is shut off, and my only option is to purchase and install a new faucet. I have to do it right now because this is the only place to shower in the house (damn one full bath) and I cannot turn the water on for the rest of the house until it is fixed unless I want water spewing from that pipe full blast. Now that part isn’t the plumbers fault, the faucet was probably original to the house (1981) and we have very hard water here, making corrosion pretty common after that many years. I have no trouble believing that the only true fix was to replace the faucet.

I did have a problem with paying for the new faucet on top of the “repair and replacement charge” of $275. The new faucet to install cost $848, after he told me it would cost between $600 and $900 depending which faucet I choose. I told him whichever was the least expensive option and that is what he came up with. *sigh* Apparently the cheaper faucets were not stocked on his truck (kinda convenient, eh?). I don’t know the actual cost of just the faucet itself because it is only sold to professionals, you cannot go to home depot or wherever and buy this particular brand. I do know that I could get several similar models in other brands for between $100 and $200 dollars. Still I think I could swallow that if I wasn’t still being charged for the repair that didn’t happen. It is a really nice faucet with a hot/cold water pressure valve that makes sure the water temp doesn’t change when you use other water in the house, and did take him several hours to install.

So grand total for missing half a day of work and deciding to make an appointment: $1123 – ugh. And I’m still sick, and now there is a whole in the drywall in the kitchen where he had to go in from the back to replace the faucet so as not to mess up the tile in the bathroom. Now I get to call around to get that fixed. I’d wait til I was well, but the house is on the market and who knows when someone will want to see it. I’m thinking a big whole in the drywall in the kitchen is not really a good selling point. *Sigh* at least the new owners will have a new faucet, with extra good temp control, and which has a 100 yr warranty on the cartridge. I swear by the time we leave this place it will be an all new house – we replaced windows, roof, garage door, the kitchen plumbing and now the bathroom plumbing.

Oh, and icing on the cake? The next morning when Alex tried to take a shower the pipes start spewing water into the kitchen and into the wall. I immediately have him turn off the water. Plumber comes back out (at 6:30am) immediately and fixes the problem for free, he forgot to sodder one of the joints – but sheesh! Glad we didn’t fix the drywall the same day – no way we’d have known until the water damage started to come through the wall.

I called the owner up and complained about having to pay the extra $200 or so (the cost of the failed repair after you subtract the $59 service charge) and the two of us went round and round for about 15 min. on how ethical their charging practices were, but in the end I couldn’t make him do the right thing. I suppose I could dispute the charge on my credit card, but I’m not sure that is the right thing to do either. I guess I’ve eliminated one company for any future issues…

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another good "new house" possibilty

Our house still hasn't sold, but it has only been about a month, and many, many properties in our neighborhood have been on the market much longer. We are cautiously optomistic, but with the economy the way it is, I just don't think too many people are even thinking about buying right now.

This house has been on the market since July or August, and we saw it at an open house soon after it came on the market. At the time we weren't ready to buy and our own house wasn't on the market yet. We were still in saving and planning mode. Once our house did go on the market, this one disappeared from the MLS and we thought it had probably sold (it seems reasonably priced for the newer, nicer neighborhood it is in.) Yesterday I was looking through the listing again and up it came. Looking through the pics, it looks like the owners have moved out and perhaps stopped marketing it for awhile while they moved??

Anyway, this house is in an ideal location, blocks from both the (gasp!) high school Alex will attend next year, and blocks from one of the acceptable Elementary schools for Katie to attend (gasp again!) Kindergarten next year. Aside: Gosh my kids are growing up fast!!

It is newer than the other house we liked and would need a lot less updating. This newer home appears to have less square footage, but that isn't really true because the aprox. 2200 listed doesn't include the two rec rooms and full bath on the basement level. Yes, yes, this house has plenty of space for get togethers too! Another Aside: I've already informed Sean that if we are lucky enough to sell our house and buy another, I'm definitely hosting a get together after we're settled.

The only negative is that Sean isn't really happy with the yard. It is much more open to the neighbor's yards (though not as bad as many newer homes I've seen) and smaller than the other house. There are some trees, but they are less mature. I don't mind as much because although it isnt' as nice as the other yard, it is acceptable to me and less yard and fewer trees equal less yardwork! Sean does do most of the yardwork though, so I'm inclined to allow him the bigger yard if the house on it works for me.

The price tag plays a role too - this one is more $$. BUT, we'd probably easily spend the difference on updating in the older home, just over time instead of up front. The bank will approve us for much more than either house is listed for, but we want to try to stay in a range where we can afford to put down our 20% and keep our payment lower - the newer home is pushing it on the 20% down, but I know we could still do the payment.

It'd be fun to renovate the older home to be more our own, and it is a very interesting house with some nice features you cannot just in every house - but I know home improvement projects get old, and time-consuming, and draining too.

So anyway, lots to ponder IF we ever sell our current home.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Disney Diary - Day 9

Our little princess
August 31, 2008

Day 9, our last day began at 6am. We had packed most everything the night before but had to pack the last of it in the morning to accommodate packing toothbrushes, hygiene supplies, pjs and the like. As soon as we were all done dressing, showering and packing we took everything down to bell services and checked it with them. Since checkout at the hotel is 11am, and our plane wasn’t leaving til 7:20p, and we planned to go to Magic Kingdom during the day, this worked out nicely. We kept one carry-on bag with us that had our ponchos, some snack food, our sunscreen, the camera and a few other essentials I’m forgetting right now.

So this was the day of the much-anticipated Cinderella breakfast in the castle. Katie was very excited. She got to wear her Cinderella dress and meet all the princesses. Her excitement however did not inspire good behavior. She was a real bear by the last day of the trip and although she did not have a major meltdown, she was cranky extraordinaire. It was almost comical to watch her whining at us, and then smile and hug the princesses a moment later. I just chalked it up to the long trip and lack of sleep and we rolled with it for the most part. She did have to sit a time out or two later in the day (yes, we do timeout even in public if necessary) for the attitude, but we all survived unscathed (mostly). I do wish we could have done the Cinderella breakfast earlier in the trip because I think she would have had a better attitude all around. The way the reservation system is set up though, getting the reservation I wanted was much easier for the end of the trip rather than the beginning. They take reservations 180 days out, but if you are staying onsite, you can book reservations for your whole trip 180 days out from the first day of your trip. So since I was actually booking 189 days out for the breakfast, there weren’t as many people trying to book for that day yet (their 180 day mark hadn’t happened yet) so I could get in for the first breakfast seating on that day, but would have had to settle for mid morning on another day which would have screwed up our touring plans.

Anyway, here are some pics of Katie and the princesses. Sorry, you'll have to tilt your head, for some reason blogger won't let me turn them. We also got a 5 x 7 one of Katie and Cindy that was included in the breakfast. I don’t have it digitally, and my scanner is being cranky so unfortunately you don’t get to see it. Sean kept saying he liked Jasmine the best. Hmmm.. wonder why. He better watch it or I’ll start showing my navel to everyone too. That might be kinda scary though… but I digress.

Here is a pic of the food in case you are interested. Definitely do not pay for this meal for just the food. Nothing was bad, but it definitely was not worth the price tag. I’m glad we had the chance to eat in the castle, but I’m pretty much over that now and if we ever do another princess meal we’ll probably do the one at Grand Floridian or the one in Norway at Epcot. Better bang for your buck with regard to the food, and I’m told Ariel sometimes appears at the one in Norway, which is Katie’s favorite princess anyway.

So after breakfast we decided to do as many of our favorite rides as we could. We did Space Mountain, Dumbo, Carousel, Buzz Lightyear, Peter Pan, Mad Tea Party, and the Indy Cars (probably not in that order – I don’t remember). I do remember that both Peter Pan and Buzz broke down while we were on them. I think Disney was protesting our intent to leave, but Sean just rolled his eyes at me when I said so.

As I mentioned earlier Katie was kinda cranky during all of this and we had a few time outs on benches while we waited for her to decide to adjust the attitude. During one of these incidents a cast member that was empting the trash cans saw Katie’s scowly face and came over to talk to her and tell her how much fun she was gonna have and call her a princess, etc. etc. I appreciate what he was trying to do, but in my opinion there was way too much of this at Disney. It happened to us several other times during the trip. Pretty much anytime we were trying to discipline her, someone would come up to try to make her happy. I have nothing against her being happy, but sheesh – sometimes when a kid is acting up they last thing they need is a CM undermining the parents timeout with “happy time” – I don’t feel I’m explaining that right, and I probably sound like the worst scrooge ever, but it just seemed impossible to get her to take us seriously with everyone seeming to line up to make her happy 24/7. We were trying to teach her she gets to do the “happy time” when she is behaving, not no matter what – and oh if you pout we’ll just try harder to make you happy.

We ate lunch at Peco’s Bills which was a complete zoo by the time we decided to eat. We waited a little longer than usual and didn’t start hunting for where we were going to eat until almost 12:30. Since we just did Pirates again, and were in the general area and hadn’t tried it yet, we headed for Peco’s Bills. The food was good and I’m sure the atmosphere would have been fun if you could have moved in there. Probably would have much nicer things to say about it if we had come an hour earlier or so. As it was we had to circle the place with our tray trying not to bump into anyone and finally we snagged a table as some other family was getting up. There was a live performance that was just finishing up – so people were probably crowding in for that. We left there feeling harried.

After lunch we were already pretty tired. We walked around some feeling sad that it was almost over and I was already starting to feel nervous about the plane ride home. I don’t remember whether we did any more rides except that I know we did the train ride all around the park one more time before we headed back out of the park and rode the boat back to Wilderness Lodge at about 3pm. We had to get on the bus for the airport at 4:30p and we cashed in a few more snack credits at the roaring fork so that we’d have some snack foods to take with us on the plane. We sat in the lobby of Wilderness Lodge for a little bit too and watched some old-time mickey mouse cartoons, while we waited for our bus to come. This was a great veg-out activity for Katie, who really, really needed the down-time.

We got on the bus uneventfully, and checked in for our flight, also uneventfully. Once we were checked we meandered toward our gate thinking we had plenty of time left (It was only 6:15ish – flight leaves at 7:20p). I was shocked when they started boarding the plane at 6:35p! We waited until the last possible call to get on because I knew Katie would have trouble keeping entertained while we were just sitting there, but we were still on the plane by about 6:50p. So we sat for a half an hour at the gate before we moved, and it was really hard to entertain her. Mostly because we couldn't put the tray table down for her to do the coloring or puzzles that I brought. Instead I read to her, and finally we did take off and she fell asleep as soon as it began to get dark in the cabin - probably a half hour into the actual flight.

That is about all there is to tell, uneventful flight, baggage pick up and 30 min. drive home. A nice vacation I'd say. :)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mini Middy

I did this piece as a replacement for Autumn, since her RR was one of the two that went MIA in the most recent Mira RR. Finally some stitching on this blog, huh?

Friday, October 17, 2008

*Sigh* I want this house

Sean and I promised ourselves that we weren’t going to go getting attached to any potential new houses until we’d sold the one we have now. We know with the way the market is now, it might take some time to sell, and it is possible that we won’t even be able to sell at a price that would make sense for us.

However, our realtor suggested, and we agreed to see houses in our price range so that we would be prepared to act quickly if/when our house does sell. Last Saturday we saw this house. Despite all our best intentions, I think we are both pretty set on it if we are fortunate enough to sell our current home. We keep talking about all the things we want to do to it and where all the furniture would go and all the stuff we could do there. Silly, stupid, putting the cart before the horse kinda stuff.

We love that this is sort of a quirky home and does not fit into any real standard floorplan. It isn’t the sort of house you see 15 of every day. Although I really like the polish and convenient features of the newer homes – they are all the same or nearly the same it seems. Also this house is a more affordable option for us than some of those newer homes, though there is quite a bit we’d like to update, which will add to cost over time. Although nothing is falling apart or needs to be updated immediately, there are a lot of things we’d like to upgrade to really make it nice and our own. Of course we can do those things as we can afford to do them rather than paying for everything up front like you do in a new house.

Among the things we are already thinking of doing:
-Update both fireplaces to gas – sorry I’m not a splitting wood kinda girl.
-Finish the rest of the main level (there is no real basement – the “main” level of the home is sort of functioning as a basement and has a family room, a bedroom, a half bath, a laundry room, and an unfinished section with a full window. This room is quite large and houses the furnace, water heater, etc. The drywall is already up (except around the mechanicals), but you could probably add flooring and drop ceiling without a huge investment and then use that space as a third living/family room.
-Put Aluminum or vinyl siding on the whole house – we aren’t much into the Tudor look
- bump out the Master bedroom into the backyard a bit so that we can have a larger Master bath and a big walk-in closet. There is ample closet space throughout the whole house except the Master bedroom. There is one decent sized regular closet there now, but the big closets are the one thing I’d really miss not having a newer home.

So yeah, we’re attached.
I feel almost guilty wanting so badly for our home to sell knowing that many Americans are in much worse situations than we are. We are lucky in that we have a good chunk of equity in our current home and moving to us is really just a luxury right now. We aren’t being foreclosed on, we haven’t bought another home already, so really we are in a good place. If our current house doesn’t sell, we’ll be disappointed, but that is all, no big financial loss. Also although we are cramped, our current house is in a nice area with good schools and everything we really need. I keep reminding myself of that – but it doesn’t stop me drooling over the house we now want.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Disney Diary - Day 8

Here Comes the Rain
August 30, 2008

As I noted earlier we didn’t have near as much rain as we thought we were going to listening to the weather reports before we left. This day was the exception though. It rained pretty much all day – sometimes pouring, and other times just drizzling, but rainy and yucky for pretty much the whole day. The plan called for us to sleep in as late as we wanted, so that is what we did – I think we slept until almost 9am, which is late for us even by weekend standards. We ate cereal and such in the room as we were trying to use up the food we had brought since we didn’t want to be taking much with us back home.

When we were ready we leisurely headed out to the bus stop and headed to Epcot. We made the mistake of picking the very back of the bus to sit. There are 4 seats across the back of some buses, and this was one of them. Do not sit in these four seats unless it is a cold day and you want to be warmed up – definitely do not sit here near the end of August when it is hot, hot, hot! The engine or something from the bus is on the other side of those seats and they get very warm. Color me stupid because we had discovered this on an earlier ride and I still sat there without remembering/thinking about it. It hadn’t started raining yet, but the air had that real humid feeling it has when it is hot outside and it is going to rain. Sitting in the hot seat – literally – was not one of my bright bulb moments for the trip. We couldn’t move either because by the time we remembered (because we were burning up!) the bus had filled up with people, and there was no where to move to.

Anyway, we arrived at Epcot and since it was already 11:30am, we went right for lunch at Sunshine Seasons. Another good meal using 3 credits instead of 4. I shared the butterfinger cheesecake dessert with Katie and it was oh so yummy! My only real plan for the day was to get our picture taken at the Disney Visa both in Innoventions West. I have a Disney Visa on which I earn rewards points to help pay for our trips and one of the other perks is that you get a free 5x7 photo taken with the characters at Epcot. By this time it was raining pretty good, so we decided to just do stuff in the Innoventions buildings until 1:30p when the picture taking station opened. We did lots of fun games and interactions – like a game where you identify fire hazards, and an interaction where you get to move a large robotic arm. There were lots of hands-on type things that Katie could do too – like assemble an emergency kit for extreme weather. Very educational but fun field trip kinda feel. We finally did get in line for the Visa picture and that line was way longer than I imagined – we probably broke our 20 min. wait rule – it was probably a half hour or so. Katie did pretty good in the line though, and I was impressed considering this was day 8 of an exhausting trip. Here is the pic I had the cast member take on my camera while we were posing. We got a nice glossy one too – but I’m too lazy to scan it in when I have this one that is almost the same.

After getting the pic taken, we had to wait in the park for about an hour for it to be ready for pic up at the camera place at the front of the park – sorry the actual name of the place is escaping me right now. We did some more Innoventions stuff including Club Cool again before heading to the front of the park. I was so disappointed to find out that our pic wasn’t ready yet. You have to pick it up the same day – only at Epcot, and we weren’t planning on returning later – had other plans. I explained the situation to the cast member and she just bent over backwards to make sure I got my picture. I said several times, that it was okay and I had one almost like it on my camera and she called up the chain to several supervisors to get approval to have me pick it up later at our hotel. Thank you Jan in the photo place at Epcot! So now I have my glossy 5x7 too! So we headed out of the park all wet and soggy, trying to stow our wet ponchos so we wouldn’t get the bus all wet on the way home.

For dinner Sean and I had a date night planned at Narcosse’s. Katie went back to the Cub’s Den for dinner, which she was really happy about and we fed Alex from Roaring Fork and sent him to the Arcade with a $20 bill. 13 yr old bliss for him. Narcoose’s is at the Grand Floridian, another hotel on Disney property. A very expensive hotel from what I hear/read. We had figured out that several buses are shared between WL and GF, so we hopped one that was going to Downtown Disney, knowing it would stop at Grand Floridian first and got off there. There is no official direct route between Wilderness Lodge and Grand Floridian, so we felt pretty satisfied with ourselves for having figured that one out. We saved so much time that we were almost 30 min. early for our ressie. We wandered around the grounds for a little bit admiring how pretty the resort was before heading into Narcoose’s. Once inside, there is a counter where you can see the chefs preparing the dinners. On the counter they had a live lobster just sort of wandering! Had to snap a photo.

For dinner I ordered – what else – whole lobster! We were using 2 table service credits each here, and could order anything on the menu with them, so I was getting my money’s worth! It was very delicious! Sean ordered the Salmon, but our waiter misunderstood him and when he said, “I’ll have the Salmon” the waiter thought he said, “I’ll have the same” and he brought two lobsters. We spoke up immediately and they brought Sean’s salmon out very quickly after that. We both enjoyed our meals and the almond crusted cheesecake there was just too die for – very yummy! I’d eat there again in a heartbeat. We took the slow way back to Wilderness – the monorail from Grand Floridian to Magick Kingdom, then the boat from MK to WL.
Unfortunately there isn’t much else to tell for the rest of this day – we headed back to the hotel for a little alone time while Katie and Alex were still otherwise occupied and then began packing for the return trip home.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Thanks everybody

Thanks for all the kind words of support many of you have posted and messaged me. If nothing else, at least I know I'm not alone in the way I feel. I also want to thank extrememom for her apology and to just say that it wasn't her comment alone, but many comments by several different people that just made me feel like my opinion/voice was not welcome anymore - and neither was the voice of other like-minded people. I think of that community as a group of my friends, and when you are being talked to like that, it is just really hard to feel welcome or liked or like the people on the other end of the keyboard think of you as a friend. Maybe wanting that was too much to expect.

And no, I don't think all Democrats are slimy - in fact most are not. Many, many are good people with whom I disagree. Disagreement is fine and healthy, and I really did appreciate discussing the issues in a civil tone before things turned ugly. It was more the overall tone of several posters coupled with the administrator's self-important agreement with them and her subsequent sanctions that had me throwing up my hands and giving up. They did not want to hear any disagreement, so now they have their own echo-chamber.

I won't be disappearing, hopefully I can use this time to catch up on everyone's blogs and pay more attention to my own (only two more days to do for the Disney trip!). I also might just get to a few of those other boards that I haven't been visiting as much recently - like the Mira board and the rotation board.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Getting it off my chest

I’m not going to be posting at the Wagon for awhile, at least not until after the election. Those of you who read that board probably already know why. I’ve been thinking about this a long time, and as time goes on I’m more and more bothered by the direction the political discussions have gone and by the way the board administration has handled it. In short I feel there is a definite political bias, and I’m thoroughly disgusted at how one side has been admonished for speaking their minds while the other side has been allowed/encouraged to not only speak up, but to spread falsehoods about candidates and their beliefs and in a few cases about my religion. In several instances, I’ve corrected people claiming that McCain, Palin, Bush et. al. want to take away all birth control, or have birth control declared as an abortion, and each time I’m shouted down – not with real facts but with more badmouthing of the candidate in question and an insistence on declaring the above as though it were true.

I’ve also been insulted for my personal choice of birth control, and have been talked to in such a way that I find insulting and demeaning to my intelligence and to my religion. While I’ll acknowledge that McCain, Palin, Bush and most Republicans most definitely are pro-life, and are anti Roe v. Wade, to try to frame the debate in terms of taking away birth control is disingenuous and malicious. I think most who are pro-choice feel that a pro-life position alone is enough to vote for the other candidate - there is no need to exaggerate the position unless you are just trying to smear the candidate. And in my opinion smearing McCain/Palin was the order of the day, and really the whole purpose some people were posting to the thread(s). Despite the self-congratulatory tone about how everyone is/was “learning so much” from the thread(s), it was blatantly obvious to me that many were just looking to have their own liberal sentiments echoed back to them, or to hear the conservative side shouted down.

I haven’t posted in the most recent threads at all – they were locked by the time I read them and a community message was sent out that basically scolded someone on the conservative side for daring to start a thread that approached the debate from a conservative viewpoint. Suddenly anyone making the simplest of statements for McCain or against Obama is told by the board owner to “back up their claims” with links to prove the facts. I see/saw no such requirement or request for those smearing McCain – and that has been going on since mid to late August. When I requested someone back up their claims about the birth control position I was given links to left-leaning statements of the candidates position that didn’t even back up the anti birth control claims (although they did affirm a pro-life stance, which I don’t deny) along with a link to an opinion piece posted on a newspaper blog – hardly factual evidence. Of course when I pointed that out, I was shouted down again and scolded for questioning the opinion piece by calling it a blog (blog or not an opinion piece does not constitute factual evidence). Also the opinion piece didn’t even mention birth control.

I am also sick to death of my religion being thrown out there under the bus throughout this debate. I am a practicing, believing Roman Catholic and if anyone dared try to smear any other religion everyone would cry foul. Say something bad about the Catholic faith though, and everyone seems to cheer and jeer, nevermind if what is being said is actually true or not. In one instance someone claimed that my religion believes all birth control is a sin because it goes against God’s will to create life. When I pointed out this is not true, that the Pope himself encourages Catholics to plan their families responsibly using natural family planning, I got disparaging remarks about this method of birth control and it was dismissed as the rhythm method. Even if you question the effectiveness of this method of birth control, to say the Church believes birth control is a sin even though they clearly encourage at least this form of birth control is an outright lie, told to “strengthen” the smear tactic against the Church. People who say this just want to make others believe the Church would have you raising googles of children you couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to plan for. By the way, Natural Family Planning is basically the method described in the book “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” which is widely acknowledged as one of the best books on fertility available, there is much, much more involved than just counting days (the rhythm method). It is often recommended reading for someone trying to get pregnant too, as knowing your fertility will help you control both when and if you get pregnant.
Anyway, all this is just to get it off my chest I guess. I’m angry and annoyed and I guess I just need to step away from that board for awhile. There are many ladies (some who disagree with my politics) I still count among my virtual friends, and I hope to keep it that way. I figured posting here, those who care what happened to me will find it, and those who would only sneer at it will be spared having to read it. I’m also hoping I’ll be spared having to bear the insults of those who disagree, so if you have nothing nice to say, please just move along – I’m not interested in your comments, and I’ll delete them if you post them. It’s my blog and I don’t have to be diplomatic here. Frankly, I feel I was plenty “nice” to those who disagreed on the boards and basically got disrespect and sneering behavior in return. For that reason, I feel no need to invite discussion into it at this point.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Disney Diary - Day 7

A picture is worth a thousand words
August 29, 2008

We did our usual rope drop routine, this time for Animal Kingdom. Another hot/sticky day. First on our agenda was the Kilimanjaro Safari. The wait was already 40 min. when we got to the ride, so we got fastpasses for it. During our wait we did the neighboring Pangani Trail. Lots of smaller animals, neat to see, but not that much better than your local zoo. Then we did the safari - we did this last year too and it was just as good as we remembered it. We saw lots of gorgeous giraffes, hippos, ostriches, and several other animals – just grazing as if they were really in the wild.

After the safari we headed toward Expedition Everest as Alex has said he wanted to try it. We got fastpasses for 12:40p and then headed over to Dinoland. My plan was for Alex and Sean to do Dinosaur, and Katie and I to do Triceratop Spin. Dinosaur is dark and loud and has dinosaurs that pop out at you and roar and such, so too scary for Katie. Sean doesn’t mind this kind of scary though, so I thought it would be good for them to do together. Triceratop Spin is just like Dumbo only the carts are dinosaurs instead of elephants. Both rides had only about a 10 min. wait. Katie and I are just getting on Triceratop Spin when we notice that Sean and Alex are walking toward us. I ask if they are finished already and Sean shakes his head no. Once Katie and I are done with the ride I ask what happened. Apparently there are signs outside of Dinosaur that say it is like a roller coaster, so Sean won’t ride. I was confused because everything I read said it was definitely not a roller coaster, but I saw the signs out front too.

So Alex and I rode it while Sean waited with Katie. UGH. I hated that ride. It definitely was not like a roller coaster, but it was almost pitch black except for when a shrieking Dinosaur jumps out at you and breaks your ear drum. This happens about every 20 seconds or so. It wasn’t that I felt afraid; I just found it annoying and not enjoyable at all. Sean totally could have handled it, but after my glowing review he wasn’t really interested in trying it out.

We spent some more time looking at animals on trails and that was sort of fun – many different types of fish and birds. The birds were loose right in the park and not contained in a cage at all they would land right next to you on a tree limb or right on the walkway.

Then it was time for lunch – we had planned to eat at FlameTree BBQ, which I hear is very good. This idea was nixed though when we realized the eating area was outside with no AC. In fact, most of the places to eat counter service at Animal Kingdom are outdoors. We notice this problem in Disney Studios, and Epcot’s World Showcase too. There were several places I wanted to try out, but just couldn’t face eating outside on such hot days. We needed the respite from the heat more than we needed the food I think. So we ended up at Pizzafari – we ate there last time too and as I remember it – nothing special but okay food. One thing the kids and I both did really like was that they had Minute Maid lemon ice for dessert, very refreshing in the heat and also low-cal.

We didn’t have a very pleasant a meal here – not because of the food, as I said it was fine. We were cranky though – I was cranky, Sean was cranky, and Katie was cranky. Poor Alex was just trying to stay out of everyone’s way I think. Sean and I were arguing in that way we argue in front of the kids when we are trying not to argue in front of the kids. I don’t even remember what it was about really, probably about walking all the way to Flame Tree and realizing we couldn’t eat there because it was outdoors. Anyway, we weren’t saying much, but the tension was there and a few veiled comments were made. We were all tired from all the going, going, going on the trip and all the heat. I somehow managed to get a splinter of wood from the chair I was sitting on under my thumbnail – really far in. A month later I still have the messed up nail to prove it. Ouch! I’m a big baby and I cry easily when I’m stressed or emotional or cranky. A few tears slipped down my face during this meal while I tried to get it back together and shake off the bad morning. It didn’t help that AK is my least favorite park and I wasn’t really having a good time. I really enjoyed the safari, but the rest just doesn’t do much for me. I felt more like I was just hiking around in the heat with a cranky kid (I think Katie felt like I did about this park – liked the safari, not much else) and a big cranky kid (Sean). Turned me into a cranky kid too, I guess.

Anyway, the lemon ice just about got me back on track. Tasted pretty much like sorbet even though it was just cheap frozen lemonade. It was time for our fastpasses for Expedition Everest, so Alex and I did that next. Wow, maybe I’m just getting old, but that one really got my blood pumping. I’m not sure whether you actually go upside down or not, but you certainly feel like you are going upside down in the dark backwards at one point in the ride. Fun, but definitely a once a trip experience!

After EE we headed out of the park to the bus stop. Katie was still being generally cranky and Alex being the sweetheart that he is offered to pick her up while we were waiting. She had asked me and Sean first, but it was so hot and she is about 38 lbs now. 38lbs is a lot to hold in the hot sticky heat, especially when she is hot and sticky too. Alex picked her up, chatted with her, and made her smile. He is such a good big brother. He even poured some of his water into her water bottle since she had drunk all of hers already. I snapped this pic of them together while we waited. The bus came after a few minutes and we all went back to the hotel for a swim, a rest and to shed our crankiness.

We took a little longer than usual break and I think I even slept for a half hour or so. I think the trip was wearing on all of us and we needed a little extra rest time. When we were finally ready, we headed out to Epcot to do the World Showcase. Again we were thwarted by the counter service places having only outdoor seating. We wanted to try San Angel Inn in Mexico as soon as we entered the park, so we walked from the front of the park all the way to Mexico only to find this out. This is the one area that I will definitely research better if we do another trip. I won’t be putting any restaurants that require me to eat outside in the heat in our plan! I just didn’t think to check on that when I was picking places – just went by reviews. As long as we were already in Mexico though, we decided to look around at the shops there and do the Three Amigos ride. The ride was very cute and it was indoors and had AC, so we all enjoyed that. There were beautiful Mexican wood carvings that I would have loved to take home, but they were quite expensive.

After exploring Mexico we decided we hadn’t better tempt fate any further by putting off dinner. It was already 6pm (we usually eat at 5 or 5:30p) and Katie can get really owly when she is hungry. We toyed with the idea of going around World Showcase looking for a counter service that was indoors, but thought it likely there wouldn’t be much and since we didn’t know for sure didn’t want to keep wandering aimlessly. In the end we decided to go back to Future World and eat at Electric Umbrella. We had eaten there on our previous trip, so we knew what we were getting. It is a bland burgers and chicken fingers kinda place, but we were hungry and it was indoors. Dinner there was uneventful and we all had enough to eat. We ordered Alex the double burger with an extra bun and he then put one of his burgers on the extra bun for Katie. She ate the hamburger just fine and only had about two of my fries so that made sharing really easy with her there. I had read a review somewhere that said the cheesecake (which is prepackaged, small, circular, single servings) was actually pretty good here. Sorry, but I have to disagree. I ordered it for dessert and didn’t bother finishing it. It tasted like nothing and the texture was too grainy. They also had chocolate chip cookies there (also prepackaged) and both kids really liked them.

After dinner we trekked our way back to World Showcase. Alex and I picked up fastpasses for Test Track on our way as we had missed out on getting to do that ride when we were here before. Our plan was to look through as many countries as we could and then go to Beaches and Cream and have some really good ice cream before calling it a night. We got through several, I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t remember exactly which ones. I know we looked through China where I got some pretty glass dear for my mother. We also went through Norway where we tried to get Alex and Katie to make good Viking faces for the camera, but I don’t think Katie really understood. We ended up not spending as much time as I would have liked looking at the exhibits and the shops because Katie is still really hard to take into shops like that. She wants to touch everything and lots of stuff was breakable, so we couldn’t really linger like I wanted to.

After about the 12,345th time telling Katie not to touch I decided no more shops and we’d just go have our ice cream at Beaches and Cream. Sean and Alex were fine with that – I think they were both kind of bored with me looking at “stuff”. They didn’t really get into the educational, interesting aspect of looking at the other countries like I hoped they would, and with me trying to manage Katie’s behavior I couldn’t do much to draw them in. Alex did show at least a mild interest in the Viking exhibits though.

We walked through the International Gateway to the Beach Club resort and to Beaches and Cream. Excellent ice cream shop. We got seats at the counter and after much discussion ended up ordering two Hot Fudge Mudslides to share. These were huge cake-like brownies on the bottom, hot fudge, vanilla ice cream, oreo cookies, whip cream and a cherry. Alex and I ate one and Sean and Katie the other. Sean especially liked his! Yummy – I didn’t care for the brownies at the bottom so much – just too heavy and not as chocolatey as I like them, I guess. Alex felt the same way I did about the brownies and we ended up leaving most of them in the bottom of our dish. We had plenty though with all the ice cream and cookies though. Katie didn’t eat too much, but was happy enough and Sean ate almost all of theirs by himself. He rarely eats sweets at all, but when he does allow himself a treat like this – he really fills up!

After our ice cream, we waddled back through the International Gateway and over to Test Track. Alex and I rode it and it was surprisingly fun – I don’t know why, but I wasn’t really expecting to like this ride. While we were gone, Sean and Katie found a bench with an obstructed view of Illuminations. Alex and I sat down with them and watched the end of the fireworks. It had cooled off outside enough to be comfortable and it was a nice moment all sitting out under the fireworks. After the fireworks we headed out of the park and back to the bus. It was an extra magic night for Epcot, but we weren’t staying. The upside to that was that there wasn’t as big of an exodus out of the park because lots of people were staying. We got on a bus rather easily and headed back to the hotel. Since we were sleeping in the next day Alex and I decided to go swim even though it was already 10p. A nice swim and a 30 min. stint in the hot tub and I went to bed feeling pretty relaxed

Monday, September 29, 2008

First Week on the Market

Our first week on the market is coming to a close (we listed last Tue.) We had one private showing and one open house so far. Our realtors tells us that the private showing people decided to bid on a cheaper house. I looked at that house online, and it definitely wasn't on par with ours - busier street, less sq ft., older neighborhood, less curb-appeal, so clear reason why it was priced below our house. The realtors said they really liked our place just decided they couldn't really afford it, so bid on the cheaper house.

The open house was pretty slow, only one family came and they had three kids, so I cannot see where they would want to buy this house. Alex's room could maybe hold 2 smaller kids, but I don't think you'd buy this house if you had three growing kids already. Realtor said they had all positive things to say though. She also said the slow turnout was probably because it was during the Packer game. Melissa can probably verify that people here in WI hardly do anything else when the Packer game is on...

I guess hoping for a sale in the first week was pretty unrealistic in this market anyway - its early so we'll keep on keeping on - though I think keeping my house clean might kill me. ;)

Disney Diary - Day 6

Katie Rides Again
August, 28, 2008

On Thursdays, the Magic Kingdom opens an hour early for resort guests – also known as Extra Magic Hours. So we headed out extra early to arrive for rope drop at 8am. This day we planned to do Fantasyland, or as Alex refers to it – Katie rides. It was a bit muggy and humid and although it wasn’t overwhelmingly hot, I felt like I was sweating all day because of all the moisture in the air. It had rained earlier in the morning and everything was a bit damp in general, just sort of one of those sticky days, I guess.

Once in the park, we headed straight for Dumbo. We got in line right away and rode probably 3rd or 4th circuit of riders. Katie loves this ride, but in line for it she kept saying she wanted to ride “the horseys” first instead. The horseys = carousel. We made her do Dumbo first because for some unknown/unexplainable reason, Dumbo is always, always busier, and if you don’t do it first you can end up waiting for hours. This year we actually got Sean to ride too. Last year he chickened out because of the height. Alex talked him into riding with him saying he could control how high the ride goes with the joystick on the console of the ride vehicle. They rode near the bottom the whole time. I was so cracking up! I took this photo of them from the elephant in front of them. Alex just didn't want his pic taken at all. Toward the end of the ride some mechanism in the ride syncs up all the elephants though and they all went up to the highest height and then back down despite what anyone was doing with their joystick. Sean was a little annoyed at this, but seemed to survive the experience okay.

After Dumbo, we did in fact do “the horseys” next. The best thing about this ride (if you ask Katie) is that you can see yourself in the mirrors on the inside of the ride. She kept pointing to herself and telling me to “look at me riding”. Sean didn’t want to repeat any rides we had done previously in the trip, so we did Snow White’s Scary Adventures next. It was okay, but I’ll never understand why they made a ride of only the scary parts of a movie beloved by little children. Katie did okay though, it helped that mostly the scenes were stationary and not moving, so I think it was easier for her to know they weren’t “real”. By this time in the trip she was getting much better with the “in the dark” rides too, so that also helped. After Snow White, I convinced Sean we should do a few rides that we had done before just because we could and we liked them, so we did Peter Pan again and It’s a Small World again. Katie announced that “It’s a Small World” is her new favorite ride and we heard the song again and again from her many more times throughout the day and the trip.

I think we also did Mad Tea Party and maybe Indy Cars, but I cannot remember for sure whether I’m remembering this day or a different one, and I know we did Pirates of the Caribbean in there somewhere too. Katie loved Pirates, even though it was in the dark and there was a small drop and a sort of scary light projection. She loves Jack Sparrow – crazy girl, she is only 4, and already knows a man she wants when she sees him. *sigh* She wanted to do it again as soon as we finished it, but our stomachs were a growlin’ so instead we headed over to Columbia Harbor House for lunch. Sean had the Anchor’s Aweigh tuna salad sandwich. I had read online that this sandwich was really, really good. Sean said it was pretty good, but didn’t live up to the hype. I’m not much for Tuna salad myself, so I had chicken fingers, which were pretty standard chicken fingers. I think the kids had chicken fingers too, and we once again did the 3 credit counter service meal to serve 4 here.
If you ever eat at Columbia Harbor House – go upstairs to eat your food. The downstairs area is much more crowded and upstairs is much calmer. We found a spot to sit overlooking the Haunted Mansion ride and it was a nice break from the crowds and the heat. Added bonus was that we could see as we were finishing that the wait time for Haunted Mansion was only 10 min. Since Alex and I had done the ride a few nights ago when we had our EMH night, I knew the ride would probably be too dark/scary for Katie, but there were no drops/heights/roller coaster features that would freak out Sean. I offered to Sean to watch Katie while he and Alex did Haunted Mansion, which was nice for him because most of the time it worked out that Alex and I would do something and he and Katie would wait for us. Off they went, and both enjoyed Haunted Mansion.

After Haunted Mansion we decided we were a bit tired from the early rising and decided to head back to the hotel for our usual nap/rest/pool time. We had to come back to Magic Kingdom by 4:50 for our reservation at Liberty Tree Tavern too, so leaving early was a good idea.

When we came back later in the day for the LTT dinner, boy was it sweltering. So hot – just the walk from the front of the park to the restaurant about killed me (or so I thought). Luckily, we got right in to eat, so we didn’t have to stay out in the heat for long. The food was really good too. It was comfort food really, mashed potato and several kind of meats and good salad. The apple cobbler a la mode was exceptional too. I’ve heard that they are discontinuing the character part of this meal come January 2009 – and it is really a shame – this was our favorite character meal. Probably because Minnie Mouse took a few minutes to warm up Katie from across the table and then pose for some pics with her. Katie then decided she wasn’t too scared of the characters anymore and posed with Goofy and the Chipmunks too. Too bad my darn camera took awful pictures because the lighting was so dark and my autoflash sucks. Did manage to get this one good picture of “the guys” post dinner outside.

After dinner we caught the Woody’s roundup parade and Katie yelled, “Look, its Jessie” about a million times in my ear until I thought I would go insane. She had a great time though. Right about this time we began to notice that the clouds were really threatening and downpour was imminent. We looked for an indoor attraction and came up with the Country Bears. After the Country Bears, still no rain, but a really nice cool breeze was coming in – it felt great. We decided to do the Tiki Room next as it was also indoors and we were beginning to feel a sprinkle or two. After the Tiki room birds told us to “get out!” it was really comfortable outside, though it didn’t look like the rain had ever come. It was probably 75 though with much less humidity than before – almost heaven. We did the Hall of Presidents, where I swear I had to fight not to sleep, even though there were some interesting moments.

After all that we decided to burn some snack credits at the Sleepy Hollow snack stand. All week we had trouble using up our snack credits, we so did not need them, but we figured we had them, might as well use them. Sean had one of those big ice cream cookie sandwiches that Alex and I had the other night at the EMH. Katie, Alex and I all had a single scoop of ice cream. Yummy, but my waistline really should have passed, especially after all the apple cobbler a la mode I had eaten at LTT. After our ice cream we headed out of the park again and back to the hotel where we swam for an hour or so before bed.

Friday, September 26, 2008

First Open House

First open house this weekend, so cross your fingers for us! Thanks for all the nice comments on the house. Trust me, until recently it didn’t usually look that nice, this is the result of more than a week of intense cleaning during all my free time. It’s always been a good house, don’t get me wrong, but we are just outgrowing it, which means it is even harder to keep it clutter-free.

The backyard is pretty awesome. The yard and the larger kitchen (for a house this size) is what sold us on it and I’m hoping will sell someone else on it too. Of course now we are spoiled and are going to have trouble finding a bigger/newer home with as big and as private a backyard. Newer homes generally equal smaller lots and fewer mature trees – at least around here. We might buy another older home that is just larger and update it ourselves as budget allows, but first we have to get this one sold – no use putting the cart before the horse!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Disney Diary - Day 5

Sundae and Cirque
August 27, 2008

This was our rope drop day for Disney Studios. Since we missed out on Toy Story Mania when we were here earlier in the week, we headed right for the FastPass machines for Toy Story Mania. Even with getting in line as soon as we could, our Fastpass return time was still 12:40p! And I waited in line for something like 25 minutes just to get the Fastpass! Ugh! Considering that was the longest wait we had for anything for the whole vacation though, I can hardly complain. While waiting in line though, I had to snicker smugly a bit at the two women in front of me. They were complaining to each other about how they were unable to get reservations for any good meals this week. “And they tried getting reservations a whole two weeks out – how could they be booked up?” Since I researched our trip ad nasauem, I knew that your best bet is to make reservations up to 6 months out. I even scored a most sought after ressie for Cinderella’s Royal Table for breakfast on our last day, but I’ll leave that description for when I come to it.

After securing our fastpasses for Toy Story Mania, Alex and I had decided we had enough courage to try out Rock n’ Roller coaster. Unfortunately though, the wait was already 60 min. and since we had just gotten fastpasses for Toy Story Mania, we couldn’t get another one for 2 hours. *sigh* No RnR coaster for us this trip. Nice to leave something for next time though, right? So instead we did some of the lesser known attractions, having done all the other major headliners the last time we were there. I wanted to see the Beauty and the Beast show, but it didn’t start showing until after 11am and we had reservations for 11:30am at Sci Fi for lunch, so we couldn’t see it. We did ride Star Tours again and we did the Narnia attraction and “One Man’s Dream”. I think we must have done a few other things too – but they are slipping my mind right now.

As I mentioned we had lunch at Sci-Fi. We had eaten here last time, and Sean really liked the atmosphere. You sit in “cars” and watch old-time drive in movies while you eat. The food was only so-so last time, so we weren’t expecting much, but boy were we pleasantly surprised! Last time we ate at dinner time, so when we ordered the hamburgers (which are normally only on the lunch menu) we got basically the kids burgers. What a difference to have the adult burgers at lunch time! They were big and juicy and came with all the fixin’s. Great burgers. Also I had a hot-fudge sundae for dessert. Just your simple hot fudge sundae – nothing different, but with real ice cream, very rich hot fudge and real whip cream and a cherry. Very tasty. Also, instead of fries, Sean and I ordered a cucumber-melon salad that was surprisingly good too. I had just ordered it because I was sick of fries and figured if I didn’t like it the burger was big enough to fill me up anyway. Don’t know how I did it, but I’m embarrassed to admit I ate the whole burger, all the salad, and the large sundae too. I was very full, but it was so worth it.

After lunch we headed back to Toy Story Mania to use our fastpasses. What a fun ride! Sort of arcade like, if you’ve done the Pirates of the Caribbean simulation at DisneyQuest where you use your cannon to shoot at ships, this is very similar, only instead of shooting at ships you shoot at lots of different targets to try to rack up a high score. If the wait was not so long, we’d have done it multiple times – it was a lot of fun. Both Sean and Alex got higher scores than I did, but then I had to keep trying to help Katie figure out how to shoot. I probably shouldn’t have bothered, she was having fun just watching all the Toy Story characters go buy. I have to mention though, there was this family about two families in front of us with a newborn. That baby was literally DAYS old, and they took him/her on the ride. I was really surprised. Now the ride is far from being a roller coaster, but you do get jerked around a lot and I can just not imagine taking a baby that young. Even an older infant (say 6 months) would have been fine, but a newborn?? Even one of the cast members was shaking his head saying the baby was too young, but since the ride does not have any rules about height, he had to let them take the baby. One would think common sense would prevail with the mother, but not so. She looked to be in her mid-40s too, so it isn’t as though you could say she was young and foolish or anything, she ought to have known better. Anyway, after Toy Story Mania, we just went back to our hotel for our usual afternoon rest/pool time.

After our rest we went to Downtown Disney, this dragon is outside the Lego store and is made out of Legos! Our plan was to eat at Earl of Sandwich, which I’d heard lots of good things about. Katie was acting up a bit and cranky and didn’t want to eat anything – at all. I remember being pretty annoyed with her, she was just generally misbehaving/not listening to directions, but no real meltdown. I have to say that this was the one unpleasant meal we had at Disney World. The sandwiches were good, but the service wasn’t the best. The staff seemed to be annoyed with me when I tried to ask questions about what they had, and what I could get using my dining plan. I asked politely, and got snappiness back. Then I was told to “go stand over there” with a general gesture to wait for my order. I wasn’t sure what “over there” meant, so I asked “right here?” and got an eyeroll and a “YES!” It wasn’t as if they did anything really awful, but I think we got sort of spoiled from all the good service everywhere else at Disney, so it stuck out more. Katie ate exactly two potato chips from Sean’s bag and nothing else. Alex and I were full from lunch at Sci-Fi still, so we split a ham and cheese sandwich, which was very good. I didn’t enjoy it much though because of Katie’s general crankiness and unwillingness to just sit while the rest of us ate. She wanted to run around the restaurant, which I was absolutely not going to allow, so she was whining and just generally unpleasant to be around.

After dinner was Cirque de Soleil! I had heard lots of good things about this show and I was really excited for it. I was also nervous that Katie would not behave during the performance based on how fussy she was at dinner. Turned out I needn’t have worried at all. She loved it and except for the time while we were waiting for the show to start, she behaved perfectly. I kept her busy during that time by walking her around a bit and taking her to get popcorn, so that she didn’t have to sit still for very long. Also, even though popcorn is not the best of dinners, I did want her to have something in her stomach because I didn’t want to interrupt the show with cries about “I’m hungry.” At home I would have just made her go without since she had the opportunity to eat a perfectly good dinner, but I didn’t want her to ruin the experience for everyone else.

We had the perfect seats too – section 207 AA seats 1-4 if you ever want “the best cheap seats”. This section is category 3 I think, but abuts Category 2 and is pretty close to the front, but it is on the side, rather than the center of the stage. What was best about it though is that at the beginning of the show all the performers come out from the sides of the theater and pass right in front of these seats. Katie was thrilled and thought they were smiling and performing just for her since they were after all – right in front of her. I had been worried that Sean and Alex would not care for a cirque type acrobatic show, but they really enjoyed it. We all really enjoyed it.
After the show, we discovered a “short-cut” back to the bus stop and were back to our hotel within about 30 min. We just took it easy the rest of the night and Katie and I even managed to catch the Water pageant out on the lake at about 9:30pm

Wanna buy a house?

Whew! After months of talking about it and doing various updates, we finally decided we are ready and put the house up for sale. I know the market is pretty soft right now, so although I'm trying to be optomistic, I know it might not sell quickly.

Here is the link to our listing.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Disney Diary - Day 4

Dream a Little Dream :)
August 26, 2008

This was our first Magic Kingdom day. Our routine was to eat breakfast in the room (cereal brought from home plus milk and granola bars) and get to the boat/bus stop by 8:15am. We did that on this day, and it worked perfectly. I love rope drop at the Magic Kingdom because they do a little show with Mickey and Minnie and some other characters. They arrive at the front of the park on the train and dance and sing and sprinkle confetti on the crowd waiting to enter. Not a huge deal really, but sort of fun to be a part of and makes you really feel that the excitement is about to start.

Since we were returning to Magic Kingdom on Thursday morning for the early extra magic hours (park opens at 8am instead of 9am for resort guests), we decided we would do the Fantasyland stuff during morning EMH on Thursday and do Tomorrowland now. Although Alex and I had already ridden Space Mountain on Sunday night during the EMH, it is our favorite ride and we had to head there first. Since the ride had only a 10 min. wait when we got there we didn’t use Fastpass but just hopped in line. Fun ride as always – I joked to Alex that I had broke my “screambone” on that ride. Yes, yes, I’m a screamer, and now I was feeling a little bit horse.

We decided to do Buzz Lightyear next before the lines got very long and also because we wanted to do something all of us could ride together (Sean and Katie did not do Space Mountain). Standby for Buzz was listed at 15 min. which isn’t much, but Sean almost did not want to ride – we don’t do long lines – we passed on anything more than 20 min. I reminded him though that Buzz is one of the more popular rides and it is likely we won’t have a shorter wait the rest of the day. So we get in line. About 10 min. later we are approaching the front of the line when we see guys in white jackets with blue wording – “The Year of a Million Dreams” written in a nice script. Silly me in my glazed over “Waitin’ in the line” zone out didn’t even register what this could mean. Then I notice they are counting each person in line. They stop at Katie, whose hand I was holding. The man looks up at me and asks, “How many in your party ma’am?” Stupid me is still not really registering and thinking he means how many are going to ride together I say “just two” because Alex and Sean planned to ride in one cart and Katie and I were going to ride in another. He says, “Really, just two?” and I say, “Well, those two are with us too (pointing at Sean and Alex), but just she and I are going to ride together.” He says okay, and then starts talking to the person behind us for a minute or two – I’m starting to wake up to the fact of who this cast member is and why he’s asking questions and start to wonder if we missed out based on my cluelessness. A minute or two goes by and then he just starts passing out DREAM FASTPASSES! I guess he was asking how many in each party to be sure that he had enough passes and didn’t have to give some to only part of one party. Here is Alex holding up his:

Alex was completely thrilled. I think if he had won a sticker he would have been pretty excited. Just to win something at all was a big thrill for him. Once we explained what it actually was, he was that much more happy! In case you aren’t familiar, a dream fastpass is a fastpass to all rides that take fastpasses in the entire park! So in Magic Kingdom that was all 3 mountains, jungle cruise, Peter Pan, Winnie Pooh, Mickey’s Philharmagic, Stitch, and Buzz.

We ditched our touring plan for the day and did rides as we came to them – which was so nice! It wasn’t a very busy day to begin with that day, so anything that didn’t have fastpass was a pretty short line anyway. We got so much done that day. We did the Indy Cars next since we it was one of the few rides that sometimes has a longer line but does not have a fastpass. Then we just meandered around Tomorrowland and did everything as we came to it. Laugh Floor comedy, Tomorrowland Transit Authority, Carousel of Progress, and Space Mountain one more time since we had the Fastpasses. We skipped Stitch even though we had the fastpasses because Alex and I had done it when we were there for the EMH and didn’t care for it and I know it would have scared Katie to death anyway (too much dark). We did not do Astro Orbitor either because Sean is scared of the height.

It was still pretty early, so we did Mad Tea Party, Winnie Pooh, Peter Pan, Mickey’s Philharmagic and It’s a Small World (using our Fastpasses where necessary) before heading to lunch at Cosmic Ray’s. All day, people kept noticing our Dream fastpasses around our necks and asking how we got them. Alex loved to tell the story – you could tell he felt like a real celebrity. I don’t remember exactly what we ordered at Cosmic Ray’s but I know that by this time we had fallen in the habit of ordering 3 meals for the 4 of us. Since we were on the dining plan, a dessert came with each meal, and all that food was just so much – and trust me I like to eat, but just couldn’t justify eating all that. It also helped that Katie is pretty picky, and wouldn’t eat much if we got her a separate meal anyway. Sean, Alex, and I would each just order a meal each, and I made sure that somewhere in there was something Katie could share. Worked out perfectly and nobody went hungry and we still had to throw some food out a few times (mostly too many fries, or an extra dessert). We saved her counter service credit each time this way and it worked out so that we had an extra counter service meal on the day we didn’t have a table service because we had used up 2 table service credits for a special dinner.

After lunch we decided to just try to make the most of our dream fastpasses and then go back to the hotel before we got burned out. We did Jungle Cruise – which we all really liked. We didn’t get the chance to do it last time, so it was fun being on it for the first time. Then Alex and I did Big Thunder Mountain before we headed out of the park. We had done Splash Mountain last time we went to Disney, and although neither of us hated it, we didn’t really like it either, so we skipped it. We rode the boat back to Wilderness Lodge all happy and content and feeling so lucky to have won the dream fastpasses. It really made our day. Sean suggested we pass on the fastpasses we hadn’t been able to use to someone else, so that is what we did. We saved Alex’s for a souvenir and gave the other three to some people at Wilderness Lodge waiting to get on the boat to go to Magic Kingdom. I looked for a party with no small children as we had used up all the Fantasyland stuff, and there were still fastpasses for the mountains on 2 of the 3 badges. It was fun to pass on the magic – we gave the passes to a mom and dad and their teenage son – looked like we made their day too.

The rest of the day was not nearly as exciting, but we were happy and enjoyed it anyway. We did our usual rest/pool time and then went to Coral Reef for dinner. Here is a pic of the inside of the restaurant:

I had a new york strip steak that was really good, so were the accompanying potatos. Sean had some sort of fish dish – the mahi mahi I think, which he also enjoyed. It was a nice meal, but we’ll probably pick someplace different next time. No complaints, just not so great we’d keep coming back with all the other great choices at Disney World. I think this was the night we rode Spaceship Earth at Epcot. It was closed for refurnishment on our last trip, so this was our first time riding it. Definitely another family favorite for us. We didn’t know about the pictures they take of you and put into the video at the end, so that was pretty fun/funny for us. I did manage to hold Katie up so her head was in the shot on the ride, even though I didn’t know I was doing it at the time. Hilarious apprehensive expression on her face! She was probably feeling a little nervous about some of the ride being a little dark, but she calmed down and enjoyed it well enough with no problem.
Alex and I also tried to ride Test Track sometime that night, but were thwarted once again by long lines. We rode Ellen and the Universe of Energy and then headed back to the hotel for a little more swimming and of course watched Wishes from our balcony again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Disney Diary - Day 3

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!
August 25, 2008
Luckily for me, it was in "the plan" for us to have a sleep in day. After the EMH (which lasted til 1am) I never would have made another rope drop. :) So we slept until 8:30 (late for us) and had reservations at Chef Mickey's! Great breakfast, and I'm sure the character interaction would have been better had our kids been willing to cooperate. Katie did take this one picture with Minnie Mouse before she decided she was afraid of the characters, and while we coaxed Alex into posing for a few pics, he was less than thrilled with having his picture taken with a bunch of cartoon characters. Ah well. It was good breakfast fare and Katie did really enjoy seeing the characters (from afar) and the songs and antics they did. They also do something where they twirl napkins in the air for Mickey and the other characters and she really enjoyed that. Sean and I really liked the Contemporary resort too - and if we go back to Disney again, we're definitely going to consider staying there (its on the monorail, which was the one and only thing we missed being at Wilderness Lodge). One note though - we found it really strange that sitting in Chef Mickey's you could look up and see birds perched on these sort of panels that hung from the ceiling - right inside the restaurant! It was near the end of the meal before we noticed them, and they didn't seem to be causing any trouble, but I couldn't help but wonder what might happen if - ah, one of them needed a bathroom break. Icky thought there! Since we were on the dining plan and we used the Table Service credit for this character breakfast, we ate this late breakfast and filled up good and then we used our Counter service credit for dinner (skipped lunch with no problem cause we were still full from breakfast).

So we left right for Disney Studios from the Contempory. We wandered down to the lobby where we asked a cast member for directions to the bus stop. He replied that we'd probably have to wait for a good half hour, but pointed us in the direction. We got to the bus stop and less than 5 min. later a bus pulled up for Disney Studios. Luck? maybe, but we found our experience with the busess to be far better than the pessimisstic attitude that seems to abound regarding them. I think I mentioned before that we never waited more than 10 - 15 min. for a bus all week.

It was probably close to 11am when we got to Disney Studios, so we knew riding the big headliners without a fastpass wasn't going to happen. We wandered over to the new Toy Story Mania ride first, hoping to be able to get a fastpass for late in the day - we were trying to stay the whole day and watch Fantasmic! Unfortunately, all the fastpasses for the day were already gone, and the wait was 70 min. We just don't do waiting for more than 20 min. - even when it is something we really like, so Toy Story Mania was out for us. I did notice that the wait time for the ride fluctuated between 70 - 120 min. throughout the day.

Since no one in our family had any interest in Tower of Terror, and Alex and I weren't sure we wanted to try Rock n' Roller Coaster or not (we decided not for now), we did not have the need to do any fastpasses for the rest of the day. We did most everything in the park and had a great time, but it was HOT. Like melting in the shade right into your shoes HOT. I have never been so hot for so long in all my life. We coped pretty well though - Disney Studios is a good park to be at on an inclement weather day because most everything is indoors and air-conditioned. We did not do Lights! Motor! Action! though because it was outside in the sun and during the hotest part of the day (I think the shows were at 1:30 and 4pm). We did do Backlot Tour which was somewhat warm and in the sun for portions, but it was also on a moving tram for part of it so that was okay. The Muppet 3-D show was great and although Katie saw it last year she didn't remember it at all and thought it was pretty funny this time. This time though she wore the 3D glasses and it freaked her out a bit having stuff seemingly fly out at her. She did pretty okay though and didn't cry or anything.

We also saw the Indiana Jones show which was also outside but in a covered stage area out of the sun. Hot, but not as unbearably so. Alex and Sean are big Indy Jones fans so they really enjoyed the show. Katie was just as excited about the Mermaid show which she absolutely loved. This show also had some special effects that involved simulating cool sea breezes in the theater - very welcome on a hot day! Sean said if I'd let him, he'd watch Little Mermaid over and over again all day! We missed the Beauty and the Beast show - just never lined up with a time it was playing I guess.

One of the best parts of the day was that we got both Katie and Sean to ride Star Tours. AND they both liked it! In fact we did it twice! Sean is a big chicken on anything more than the most basic of rides and this was the first time Katie was tall enough for Star Tours. The pic above is Alex on the rider outside the Star Tours ride. I have to admit to getting the idea for this pic from Erin! Also Alex just wanted to sit on it and of course it was a natural photo moment.

Somewhere in there we had Pizza Planet for dinner, which was okay, but nothing special. Alex really enjoyed the arcade type games they had there though (think Chuck E. Cheese) Toward the end of the day we went in to see the Little Einstein show much to Alex's chagrin. Katie loved it, and sang along and danced and had a blast. Sometime during the show the skies opened up and POURED. When the show ended, everyone just sort of hung out in the theater waiting for the storm to blow over before venturing back out - it was coming down in buckets. We just let Katie run around with a few other kids her age in the theater (they weren't being roudy or disruptive or anything) while we relaxed and regrouped. I really wanted to stay for the night-time laser show Fantasmic! so I was hoping the break would give everyone the motivation to stay for the few hours til the show.

After we had hung out for about 20 min, Katie decided she needed to go potty. She usually never volunteers this information when we are out doing "fun stuff" and I have to make her go every few hours so that there are no accidents. (Remember last year's meltdown - yeah that was at least in part cause I made her go potty) So, I was not going to discourage her even if it was raining buckets. Our ponchos were very inconveniently located in the stroller, which was in the middle of the pouring down rain outside. Luckily the bathrooms were just across the courtyard from Little Einsteins, so I took Katie by the hand, ran to the stroller and pushed it under an awning with my one free hand. I left the stroller there then took Katie to the bathroom. We were both somewhat wet, but not soaked. The important thing though - she went, no meltdown, no accident. Yay! When we were finished I saw Alex and Sean now outside huddled under the Little Einstein awning - we were under the awning on the other side of the courtyard near the stroller. I motioned for them to come over and they did and we broke out the ponchos for the rest of the evening. They were in thier own plastic cases so even though the stroller (a Disney rental - which I loved by the way) was soaking, the ponchos were still dry.

We saw the Disney Animation film after that and wandered though some exihibits. By this time it was getting close to time for Fantasmic! So we walked up there amid announcements that the show MIGHT be cancelled due to the weather. I had a mild heat headache from earlier in the day and remembered that I had a couple advil in my fanny pack (yes I'm one of those nerds!) and I took them. In the end they had the show while it drizzled just a little bit. We watched it on wet bleachers in our ponchos, but honestly I think we were just all glad to be cool for the first time all day. My headache broke just in time for the start of the show, and it was fantastic, um I mean Fantasmic! The foggy drizzle did make some of the special lighting effects hard to see, but I still throughly enjoyed the show and was so glad we stayed for it. The whole family really liked it too and were glad in the end that I nagged everyone to stay for it. No pictures of it cause of the weather though. It was only 9pm when it finished, but we were bushed and got right on a bus back to Wilderness Lodge (again hardly any wait). We didn't do anything else that night but watch Wishes from the balcony again - our nightly ritual while there.