Tuesday, December 1, 2015

2015 Ornaments

Our tree is up and we all agree that it is the most perfect and beautiful tree!  Sunday night, we had our annual tree trimming and dinner and a record was set for how fast the tree was trimmed.  The children took charge and it was done in the blink of an eye.

This years ornaments represent guitar lessons for Harris and the getting of braces for Grace.  I simply love how our ornaments tell the story of our lives!  It makes me happy and adds even more meaning to our Christmas season.

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Turkey Dessert for Friendsgiving

On Saturday, we got together with one of our favorite families for Friendsgiving.  We had a fun time eating together, playing peanuts (a card game) together and then watching their favorite football team in a nail biting (heartbreaking) final!  We had a fun twist on the regular Thanksgiving meal with cranberry cocktails, turkey pot pies, and a salad with stuffing croutons.  For dessert, we had turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy!

That's right, dessert.  This turkey is an ice cream cake that I picked up at Baskin Robbins and it makes me chuckle every single time I think of it.  The whole thing is simply ice cream (they come in different flavors) covered in caramel sauce.  It was the perfect dessert for a fun, casual get together to celebrate Thanksgiving and friends!  And did I mention it was easy?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Giving in Grammar School

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  We spent the day at my sister's beautifully renovated old home where we had great family time and delicious food!  It was a good day.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the end of an era for us at the children's grammar school.  For the past 9 years we've had the honor and blessing of being able to participate in a Thanksgiving tradition of giving back to our community.  Every Thanksgiving our grammar school participates in providing meals for our local soup kitchen.  Each grade level brings in hundred of items that go toward the making of a Thanksgiving meal; turkeys are donated and carved and each grade level makes pies.  The school helps contribute to 700 meals and the children bake 288 pies!  This has been one of my very favorite things about our school and I can only hope that it has made as much of a positive impact on our children as it has on me.  It's a really beautiful example of giving: time, food and love!

Last year for this group of Moms!  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Harry Potter World- Hogsmeade

On our second day at HP world, we explored Hogsmeade and the castle!

You guys, the castle.  It's wonderful and it was, by far, my favorite ride!   In fact, our first time through I wished there was a line so I could take my time taking it all in (Dumbledore's office, the hall of portraits, the history classroom).  I shouldn't have worried because we rode it 4 more times!

Hogsmeade has three rides total; Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (the castle), Dragon Challenge, and Flight of the Hippogriff.  The Dragon Challenge is set up to be a part of the Triwizard Tournament and is where you can see the Weasley's car!  Near Flight of the Hippogriff (which is the shortest ride in the history of rides) is Hagrid's cabin!

We explored the shops and stores of Hogsmeade in between riding the rides.  Here too they have areas for the children to use their interactive wands.

As you can imagine, Harris' very favorite store was Honeydukes.  He was a kid in a candy store!

We ate lunch in the Three Broomsticks and got The Feast for all of us to share!  Though it was a ton of food, it was less expensive than four meals and was so delicious!  Right next door to the Three Broomsticks is the Hog's Head.

We were advised to go back to see the castle all lit up at night so we made a special trip before dinner one evening.  We were glad we did as the whole village looks beautiful lit up.

A funny side note: We actually had three days that we were in Florida, with plans to spend the first two in the HP parks.  However, after an hour or two in the regular park, we found ourselves wandering back to the HP worlds!  As Harris said, "we just seem happier when in Diagon Alley."  So even though we had no intention of going back to the parks, we ended up going back to both of them! They were our happy places!

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Purple (ish) Sunset

Last night I looked out the window and saw a most spectacular sunset unfolding.  Right around the time that I grabbed my camera I got a text from Bryce, who was at the airport, asking if I was seeing what he was seeing.  Purple (and pink and gold) sunsets will always be a favorite around here!


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Harry Potter World- The Hogwarts Express

There are two parks at Universal Resort, Universal Studios and Universal's Island of Adventure, and Diagon Alley is in one and Hogsmeade is in the other!  In order to be able to get between the two you have to board the Hogwarts Express.  To be able to do this, you must buy the park to park pass, which is a little extra, but totally worth it!

To board, you enter in to King's Cross Station where the lines must get rather long, but we were able to walk right through.

As you get to the end of the line, there is a corner where you get to see others disappear as they go through the wall at platform 9 3/4.  This is super easy to miss (and, in fact, we did and had to go back!) but is fun to do.

Afterwards, you are squeezed through a tunnel and come out to see the Hogwarts Express in all of her glory!

Even though the train does take you back and forth between the parks, it's more of an experience than a ride! The inside of the train cars look exactly like you might imagine and there are things happening on both the doors and the window.  Also, each way is a different experience so it's important to go both ways!

Up next- Hogsmeade!  And then our month of Harry Potter will be over : )

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Harry Potter World- Diagon Alley

When I finished reading the Harry Potter series to Harris this spring, I knew that we had to make the trip down to Harry Potter World as soon as we could.  It's been on my "list" for a while but I wanted both children to have read the series, and I didn't want to go until Diagon Alley was finished (it was completed July 2014).  I'm not one who loves theme parks, and I didn't really know what to expect but HP World exceeded all my expectations in every way! HP World is divided up, Diagon Alley and Hogmeade, between the two Universal parks.  We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel that is a part of the Universal network so that we could have early entrance to HP World.  The park that is open for early entrance changes every few weeks but during our stay it was Diagon Alley, which was perfect for us! Also, this time of year was the perfect time to visit, the crowds weren't crazy and the weather was just right.

We were up at 6:00 that morning and ready as the gates opened!  Grace and I had both done some reading about things not to miss which was super helpful as it's not exactly always obvious what might need a second look.  The phone booth outside of Diagon Alley is one of those things!  If you dial MAGIC you will get a message from the Ministry of Magic.  Each time we tried we got a different message!

Also, outside Diagon Alley was the Knight Bus with a very funny Stan Shunpike standing by to talk some magic with you (along with a very magical shrunken head).  Don't forget to walk around to the back of the bus and check out the inside!

Once you walk through the brick entrance to Diagon Alley you are fully immersed in a very realistic rendition of Harry's world.  I might have teared up at this point because I was so happy.

We spent a lot of time taking in all the amazing details and special touches.  They seem to have thought of everything.

We rode Escape from Gringotts right away so that we wouldn't have to wait in line and it was so fun. The inside of Gringotts is an exact replica of what you see in the movie, with goblins, moving pictures and some incredible chandeliers!

On top of Gringotts is a dragon that breaths fire every 12 minutes or so! It's really quite a spectacle!

Very soon after we got to Diagon Alley we visited Ollivander's Wand shop as no wizard or witch can do much magic without one.  Because it was so early, we didn't have to wait in line long at all and quickly found ourselves face to face with Ollivander himself.  Harris and Grace were picked out of the group to participate in the wand choosing and this turned out to be one of the most special parts of the whole trip (there were other children in our group so not everyone gets this opportunity).  He spent lots of time having the children try magic with wands, Harris' wilted the flowers, and finally decided on wands for each of them.  Naturally, Bryce and I couldn't resist buying the wands even though we had only planned on buying one interactive wand!

Throughout Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are interactive experiences where after performing a specific motion of the wand, magic happens!  The wands come with a map showing the user where all of the locations throughout the park are.  It is very, very fun!

After we got our wands we headed to Gringotts bank and exchanged our Muggle money for wizarding money.  This money can be used throughout the parks.  Also, you can ask the goblin questions and he will answer you!

Shortly thereafter, we stopped in the Leaky Cauldron for some breakfast!  Bryce and I had a traditional English Breakfast with coffee while the children got pumpkin juice and pancakes.  I love that in HP world the food is good and that you don't have to fight for a place to sit since they seat you and bring your food to you.

After breakfast, we wandered around Diagon Alley and explored the shops and experiences.

We watched a show, "The Three Brothers," which was beautifully done (I might have teared up... again).

We also explored Knockturn Alley where all the dark wizards go.  Around this time, it started to pour down rain and we had to don a different sort of robe!

When it was time for lunch we went back to the Leaky Cauldron and had our first butterbeer!  Folks, during our time in HP world we tried all four types of butterbeer; warm, frozen, regular and ice cream.  Each of us loved the warm the most, it was so good!

Next up!  Hogwarts Express....

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