31 March 2009

Sunshine and earthworms

The weather has been quite kind these first couple days back to school. Nice weather always puts the children in a better mood. The big thing on the playground is earthworms. We received a lovely new layer of mulch over the break which holds moisture in its lower layers well; the perfect digging grounds for small hands in search of fat worms. One of our little friends even brought in a tub of worms he'd found at home. I tried to get a picture of a worm in a little hand, but the camera card is still full of Disney photos!

I'm uploading them as we speak, so there will be a nice link to an album full of photos for you at the bottom of the post. In the meantime, tomorrow is already hump day, and I have decided to go back to my Hump Day Goodies making ways. Tomorrow's goody is kettle corn. Ever since I first smelled the delicious salty, buttery popcorn in Disney World, I've been itching to make kettle corn. In fact, I had even planned to make some before our trip for snacking on the plane. Anyway, a nice big bowl is already made and cooling for tomorrow. Tuzi, who seems to dislike the smell of oil and the sound of corn popping is not impressed and even carried his carrot (an offering from the offending MamaTuzi) away to his room. The photo is from before we left. He has taken to napping in a little towel tent on T's office chair, and I managed to capture a few photos. Such the inventive little bun!

30 March 2009

Aaaaand we're back!

We started our last day off right with a Character Breakfast at the Garden Grove in the Swan hotel. The food was delicious as expected and we got to meet Pluto and Goofy, too. After a short rest for digestion, we headed off to the Magic Kingdom to finish off our day and vacation.

My favourite park did not disappoint. We managed to get on every ride we wanted, watched the Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade and the castle stage show. We even stayed long enough to catch the SpectroMagic parade again. I definitely can't wait to go back!

For now, the magic has been put on hold as we return to our routine. We were sad to go, but the weather helped usher us out. It stormed overnight on our last night, complete with hail, and didn't let up until sometime just before we took off. Landing at Dulles wasn't too bad since the weather here was a balmy 77F.

Tonight I will spend some time uploading all the photos we took as well as some of the professional PhotoPass ones. I'll link them here when they're all done.

27 March 2009

Every Person Comes Out Tired

Today was EPCOT day. We got up earlier this morning and headed over to the park by ferry. One of the advantages of staying at the Dolphin is the ferry transport to EPCOT and Animal Kingdom. But the ferry to EPCOT is even better because it drops you off at an alternate entrance at the back of the park. So, rather than having to fight the crowds through the main gate, we leisurely entered just between France and Great Britain in the World Showcase.

We headed straight for Test Track, another ride T had never done. The wait was already over an hour (the park had only been open for an hour!) but we got our Fast Passes for later. It seemed everyone was rushing to Test Track and Soarin', so demand wasn't quite as high for Mission: Space. That ride has 2 options; the Green, less intense team training or the Orange more intense training. The Orange line had a wait time of over an hour, so we jumped in the Green line for a 10 minute wait. It was well worth it, and I doubt we missed out on much (other than intense spinning, according to others we spoke with).

Lunch was at "The Land" building which houses Soarin' and some other less in-demand rides. The line for Soarin' was still beyond what we wanted to wait, and Fast Passes were being handed out for the afternoon when we hoped to be at the pool. Since we both had the chance to ride Soarin' in DisneyLand (where it started) we didn't feel the need to ride again, even though it would have been great.
Test Track was a great time. Admittedly, it was slightly less cool than my memory hyped it up to be, but still the Disney genius was on full display. Throughout the wait in line, you walk by exhibits and scenes to get you super excited. They really try to make the wait half the fun.

After being whipped around and generally treated like crash test dummies, we headed "home" for some relaxation by the pool. We were not impressed with the service today, especially compared to yesterday when a waitress asked us almost immediately if she could get us anything. But still, it was nice to take a nap and do some reading while we rested our legs for tonight's Extra Magic Hours.

Future visitors note; it really does pay to stay on Disney property. We've bought goodies in the parks and had them delivered to our hotel; items arrive by 1:00pm the following day. You can get your park ticket "attached" to your hotel key card to reduce the number of little things you have to carry. Transport to and from the parks as well as the other resorts is complimentary and constant. Finally, the Extra Magic Hours are provided exclusively for guests of the Disney resorts. These happen before the parks open and after the parks close to the public. Once the EMH begin, guests are required to show their resort IDs to gain entrance into rides; with little to no wait whatsoever!

26 March 2009

Lions, rhinos and giraffes!

We started our first full day in Animal Kingdom. Needing a good night's rest after yesterday, we slept in a little longer than we liked and ended up hitting the park around 10am instead of 8am. Again, our tardiness didn't seem to have any ill effects. We headed straight for Kilimanjaro Safari to grab some Fast Passes to evade the lines later (the wait was already up to an hour!). Fast Passes in hand, we crossed the park to get to It's Tough to Be a Bug. I'd seen it before, but T had never been. It's a 3D spectacular show with lots of surprising effects. That was a great way to get a jump start on the day and instantly wipe away any lingering sleepiness!

By the time we got out of Flik's ant hill, we were ready to head back in the direction of Kilimanjaro. We stopped for some delicious corn dog nuggets on the way and got a wonderful photo of the tree. (That's on the camera, so I'll have to upload when I get home.) Kilimanjaro is just as good, maybe even better than everyone says it is! We saw real lions, rhinos, giraffes and all kinds of other animals too! We could have ridden over an over if there weren't a wait!

We also rode the Dinosaur ride. A lot scarier than I thought it was going to be! It's one of the rides where they take a photo of you at some point along the way. When we saw the photo of our car, my head is buried in T's shoulder, I obviously don't have my eyes open and I'm looking down anyway. Not recommended for littler friends. Phew!

We managed to get back to the hotel for a nice relaxing nap in the afternoon. We were greeted by a deliciously large fresh fruit plate and Pellegrino in our room when we returned! Thanks Daddy! After a long, exciting morning in the park the fruit was just what we wanted. We saw this cool (magical?) whale cloud while relaxing in the unfortunately rather uncomfortable chairs at the Dolphin Pool.

Finally, we finished up our day at the Magic Kingdom. We went over to see SpectroMagic which had 2 magical showings tonight flanking the nightly Wishes Come True fireworks spectacular. I'm so glad we got to see them both. We also got to sneak in a round at the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. This is definitely a must see! Probably using the same technology as Turtle Talk with Crush, this is an interactive show. The monsters perform an adlib comedy show and incorporate real people from the audience. As we were getting prepped for the show and transfer into Monstropolis, I was starting to have doubts about the hilarity level. But that was quickly resolved as they snapped shots of people as we were filing into our seats and added captions. We're hoping to get to do that one again on Saturday!

25 March 2009

Lights, Motors, Action!

We spent our first day in Disney World at Hollywood Studios (you may know it by its old name, MGM Studios; we haven't discovered why the name was changed yet). We were a little late getting to Dulles, my fault, I never feel like I'm totally ready. We got there about 45 minutes before our flight was due to take off. Luckily, being in the morning in the middle of the week, there weren't many people around. The nice thing was that we didn't have to wait anywhere!

Watched Bugs' Life on the plane; T got it from iTunes since he'd never seen it. It was the perfect length to while away the time. I have to say I quite like JetBlue! It was the first time I'd flown with them. No charge for luggage (unless each passenger has more than one) and they had so many options for snacks and beverages - and also no charge!

Back to the park, T and I were both dragging a little despite all the excitement that comes along with a trip to The Greatest Place on Earth. We didn't sleep much last night getting packed and all. The highlight of the day was "Lights, Motors, Action!" as you may have guessed from the title. Real stunt men perform awesome car stunts twice a day. Though there are claims that park attendance is down 20-30% this year, the stadium was packed. If you think car chases, pyrotechnics and general speed-infused action are cool, you should definitely see this show.

Another highlight of the day was our lunch. We ate at a 50's style restaurant in the park. In true Disney detail, the place was like walking into a 50's house, but with a bar. When your party is called to be seated, the hostess calls you like she's your mom. The delicious food tastes like mom's cooking (if mom made super juicy, deliciously flavourful fried chicken). We both ordered fun drinks - I got a cool Mickey's BeBop, which is basically a Shirley Temple served in a souvenir glittery plastic cup and topped off with an LCD glowing ice cube!

Tomorrow, we're off to Animal Kingdom in the morning. Hopefully we'll be able to pull ourselves away for some pool time in the afternoon and then off to Magic Kingdom in the evening for SpectroMagic!

20 March 2009

5 days!

Today is the last day of Spring Break Camp. Sorry I've been MIA a long time, while the auction took over the world. Let's just say it was rather intense there for at least a week. I had a week to catch up on sleep and get my health back in order before Camp started. A week to plan the camp, which I had only half-planned during the onslaught of auction tasks. But now, on the last day, I'm feeling quite good about it. I had the good sense way back in January to plan for an outside group to come in to entertain the children. After some struggles with my first choice, I found a suitable alternative, which as turned out amazingly well.

We've had a lovely lady come in each morning to entertain the children with hands-on Mad Science. She teaches them real science while keeping them involved and engaged via really cool projects and activities. This is just the way children should be introduced to an academic subject, I think. She has the children so interested in learning, the camp has actually become educational! While she runs her program in the morning, I have plenty of time to get myself organized for the afternoon.

I can't help but want to have equally cool (if not as educational) fun projects for the children on my end. We started the week with a pillow case decorating project. This is the second year I've done this same activity, but learned from last year. Last year I made throw pillow style cases for each of the children, out of very nice (but not see-through) Osnaburg fabric. I bought many, many colours of Sharpies and fabric markers and expected the kids to go wild drawing and decorating their 20" square blank canvases. The whole project took them about 20 minutes. Many of the children just scribbled colours (and these were not our youngest ones!) and declared themselves done.

This year, I made regular, bed style muslin pillowcases and by accident (my fabric wasn't wide enough) had to add on a strip of green quilter's cotton. The green was a lucky, perfectly sized remanant which fairly accurately matches our school's shade of green and the main fabric is the cheapest muslin available. The benefit of the cheap-o muslin is that it's see-through. So I printed simple, generic pictures of animals, dragons (our school mascot) and other child-tracing-friendly images. The children slid the drawings into their pillows and coloured them in, some traced the images first, others just coloured. Both ways, they turned out beautifully. The younger children drew free-hand, their imaginations uninhibited. The oldest children chose more intricate images to trace carefully and then colour in, sometimes complete with shading! The first day, I gave them 20 minutes to work on their pillows which turned out to be way too short. They've been working on them during down time all week long!

What is the purpose of the pillows? Each day, we have "rest & relaxation" time while they watch a movie. The youngest children really need this time because they are keeping up with the older ones all day long. We set out gym mats on the floor, let them take off their shoes and lie down to watch. The pillows provide an obvious boundary so they don't crowd each other, can be sat upon, rested on or used for a clandestine nap.