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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 2 - Chef Mickey's & Magic Kingdom

I love Magic Kingdom!  It’s such a pretty park, and what little girl doesn’t dream of a prince and a castle all her own?   To start our day, we headed to the Contemporary Resort, via monorail, for breakfast at Chef Mickey’s.   I love Chef Mickey’s, too.  They have a yummy buffet, and while you eat Mickey and his friends stop at your table to pose for photos.  Then the music starts, and everyone grabs their napkin and twirls it.  It’s tons of fun. 

Normally, after breakfast we would walk over to the Magic Kingdom.  It’s a nice, short walk down a paved path.  This year, though, my mom wanted to ride the monorail.  The only problem is, it only goes one way, so we had to ride the whole line, stopping at several resorts, before we ended up in Magic Kingdom.   It’s a nice ride, though, and we had good company in our car. 

Magic Kingdom is undergoing some renovations right now.  They are expanding the Fantasy Land area, and I can’t wait to see it.  We got right into the swing of things with the Street Party, then we ducked into one of the shops on Main Street to listen to a barbershop quartet sing.  Walker got soaked on a flume ride,  we snacked on pineapple  Dole whip,  we enjoyed Mickey’s Philharmagic movie in 3D, and we got some great photos of Cinderella’s castle.   Pretty soon it was time for a rest, so we hopped the train that circles the park and rode it around a couple times.  I love the little train.  Heck, I love pretty much everything in the Magic Kingdom, except the crowds and the prices.

Right after we got off the train, however, the sky opened up and it poured.  And poured, and poured.  It didn’t stop.  We donned plastic ponchos and made the best of it, but before too long an announcement was made that the parade was cancelled, then the fireworks were cancelled, too.  We called it a day and went to Downtown Disney for Ghiradelli chocolate sundaes, shopping at the World of Disney store, and dinner at the Earl of Sandwich.  On our way back to the car I stopped at Baby Cakes for sugarless, flourless cupcakes to take back to the house.   Who knew gluten free could taste so dang good?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Day 1 - Universal Studios / Islands of Adventure

We got up bright and early to head to Universal Studios.  Walker had been there before, once, a long time ago, but my mom and I were Studio virgins.  To get to Universal, you park in a ginormous parking ramp and walk through an area called City Walk, which is a collection of shops, bars, and restaurants.  They had some great music pumping through the speakers.  We were definitely in the mood for some fun by the time we got to the gates.

Universal has two parks:  Universal Studios, and Islands of Adventure.   You can get tickets to one park or both, for one day or multiple days.  My mom was the one who chose Universal, and she wanted to see things at each park, but she didn’t want to go on any “thrill” rides, so we figured one day, two parks would be the ticket for us.   I waited in line to purchase them while Walker escorted my mom up to the gates.  When you know what you want, the process goes pretty quick.  I was at the window and on my way before the folks at the other windows had decided on their purchases. 

When it comes to theme parks, Walker and I have nothing in common.  He loves the thrill rides, the faster, the better.  He loves the rides where you get wet, and the ones that make you want to lose your lunch.  Me?  I like taking photos.  I like the shows.  I like the landscaping.  I like the characters, the parades, the fireworks, the music.  I love the shopping.  And I love any place that encourages you to have ice cream for breakfast.   Thrill rides?  Not so much. 

So our routine worked itself out pretty quickly:  we’d choose a show for my mom and me, then Walker would dash off to a roller coaster or something,  and when the show was over, he’d be waiting for us outside the exit.   It worked pretty well.  We watched the Blues Brothers, we danced with Dora and Diego, we visited the exhibit that celebrates Lucille Ball.  We walked all the way down to what we thought was a Ghiradelli ice cream shop, only to discover that it was a storefront, not an actual store.  Most of the “shops” at Universal were like that.  

One thing that cheesed me at Universal was a couple of climbing walls that were charging $5 for a climb.  I mean, we paid $122 each to get into those parks for the day.  I didn’t think it was appropriate to charge additional money for an activity, even if it was only five bucks.  I mean, what about the families with four or five kids?  But I’ve heard that Busch Gardens in Tampa is worse.  

Anyway:  we planned to stay for the fireworks, but late in the afternoon the winds picked up and the rains came down.  They didn’t let up, either, so we made an early night of it and went to Walker’s favorite steak joint in Orlando, a place called Logan’s Roadhouse, for dinner.  Then we went home and soaked in the pool before settling into the home theater for a showing of “The Help”.   Gotta love vacation!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Florida ~ Our Vacation House

Now that the summer travel season is underway, I thought I’d share with y’all the vacation we took back in April.  Now, we normally head south earlier in the year, when the winter winds have chilled our bones, but this year, there were no winter winds, and when we planned this trip, Bro was planning to come along with his kids, so we planned around their school schedules and birthdays and such.  Unfortunately, Bro was not able to take time away from work during our scheduled vacation.   I had my heart set on visiting EPCOT during their Flower and Garden Festival, so changing our dates just wasn’t going to work.  We’re hoping Bro and the boys will join us next time. 

When we still thought there would be a herd of us on this trip, we decided to rent a fancy vacation house instead of several motel rooms.  The house came out cheaper than four motel rooms, we would have been more accessible to the kids, and we figured having a kitchen would boost the budget, too.  Plus, the house I found was just plain cool.   I mean, check this out:

This was our room.  We had doors that lead onto the lanai.

We had four bedrooms and four bathrooms.

And awesome video games....

in the fancy home theatre!

We even had a private pool & spa ~

In case anyone is wondering, we rented this house through All Star Vacation Homes in Kissimmee.  I would definitely recommend them.

The deal on the house included our choice of $150 rebate or a free weekly car rental.  We chose the car, since there was no way we could rent what we needed for $150.  A couple days before we left for Florida, it occurred to me that when you rent a car, your credit card supplies the insurance on it.  Since we weren’t charging this car to a credit card, I needed to make sure it was insured.  It was not. The folks at All Star explained that if we have full coverage on our personal vehicles, that coverage should extend to this rental.  I have full coverage, but Walker does not, as his van is twelve years old.  So we had a couple choices:  either I could do all the driving, or we could pay for a supplemental insurance policy with the car rental place.  Neither the staff at All Star nor the customer service rep for the car rental place could quote a price for an insurance policy, so we ended up cancelling the car through All Star and taking the $150 instead.   

Our flights to Florida were uneventful.  We arrived to sunny skies, warm breezes, and the scent of blooming flowers.  It was heaven.  We picked up a minivan from National Car Rental – LOVE those folks! – and headed out of the airport.  

The All Star rental office is located in a nice little strip mall directly across the highway from the motel we usually stay at.  We knew from our many trips down there that the same strip mall housed a grocery store.  So I went to sign the lease while Walker picked up some groceries and my mom napped in the backseat  guarded the van. 

The fabulous vacation house provided a gas grill on the lanai, so Walker took care of cooking dinner while my mom and I soaked in the gloriously warm private pool.  It’s worth mentioning, this pool had steps but no railing.  I helped my mom in, but she’s a feisty bird and did not like being dependent on me.  After that first night, she dragged a patio chair to the steps and leaned on that to get in and out of the pool.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day

Once a sailor......

forever a sailor

That's my daddy on the left.  He was very, very proud of his service.  And so am I.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Shopping Adventure

The plan for this holiday weekend included painting the side of the house that was damaged in the tornado, then taking a drive down the river to a little place called Slippery's, a bar made famous in the movie Grumpy Old Men, for a leisurely lunch on their deck.  Then the storms came, and that all went out the window. 

Instead, Walker, Diva, and I went shopping.  Diva needed a new dress for the graduations and weddings we're attending this summer.  I had a gift card to Kohl's, so off we went.  The sky was dark but it wasn't raining when we entered the store.  Pretty soon, though, we heard thunder.  Lots of thunder.  I joked that we needed to stick together so when the tornado sirens went off, we'd end up in the same shelter.  Miss Diva made her selections and off we went to the dressing room.  Only, my baby girl turned to me and asked for privacy while she tried on her dresses.  Just like that, I was banished to the sofa outside to wait with Walker.

Pretty soon, though, I was summoned back to the dressing room.  One of the tops Diva chose had a blue camisole under a sheer, floaty paisley top.  The camisole was stitched to the top with one loose thread at each strap, to keep the two pieces together while they were in the store. To make matters more complicated, the top had split sleeves. Diva got tangled up trying to get the thing on so I went in to help.  We were still trying to figure it out when the power went out.  Diva and I were a foot apart and I could not see her.

We stood there, not really sure what to do.  You know, a store the size of Kohl's had to have some sort of backup power.  Whomever designed those dressing rooms neglected to put in any sort of emergency lighting, creating an enormous liability for the store.  Imagine someone with a hearing impairment, trapped in there.  Imagine a mother with a very young child she can no longer see.  Imagine someone with a balance issue, who needs a cane but set it down to try clothes and now can't find it in the pitch dark.  Not to mention the average Jane, like me and Diva, unable to see the chair we were about to trip over as we made our way out of the dressing room.  Major fail, Kohl's.  No excuse.

Pretty soon someone came around to check on us.  She hollered that someone else would be bringing us flashlights.  Unfortunately, that never happened.  Eventually we got Diva dressed in her own clothes.  I located my purse, which held my cell phone, and opened it to trigger the light on the screen.  It wasn't much but it was enough for us to find our way out.  In the main store there was an emergency light on, creating a dusky effect that was light enough for us to find Walker.  At the direction of a sales clerk, we headed to the front of the store.

The front of this particular Kohl's houses the junior's department.  Diva, who has always shopped in the girl's section, was in heaven.  Bright colors, slinky fabrics, metallic embellishments!  By the time the lights came on she had a selection of dresses to try on, and I was pretty much resigned to the fact that my little girl was barreling toward adolescence and was not looking back.  Luck for both of us, the dress she loved the best was one that I also loved, the least grown up of the bunch.  It's a sweet sundress done in an antique white with navy and purple roses printed on it.  More grown up than what Diva usually wears, but not the least bit over the top.  And it was on sale, for less than the amount of my gift card. Score!

To celebrate, we headed to Dairy Queen for Confetti Cake Blizzards, then we zipped over to the hardware store so Walker could recharge his man batteries wandering among all the tools and boy stuff.  Diva and I priced a new front door, but I wasn't thrilled with the selection.  I did find some closet doors that were not on their website - wahoo! - but we didn't pick them up since they won't fit in my car.  And then we went home. 


Friday, May 25, 2012

Summer is Here ~

In anticipation of the upcoming travel season, I thought I'd share a photo that
illustrates what happens when you put five little kids in a car with no air
conditioning and drive them to Canada, stopping only for brief  gas-and-potty
breaks and the odd photo op ~

Yes, my friends, those were good times....

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

When Did That Happen?

I've been so wrapped up in this situation with my mom, and the subsequent house hunting, that I haven't really been doing much else. So today, Walker boarded a bus for a trip to a baseball game, found myself rattling around the house with no particular purpose. When I opened the window in my bedroom, I realized I've been missing a lot.  Look what happened while I was living in my head: 


Of course I headed right outside.  It's a gorgeous day.  I thought about taking a bike ride, but my bike is buried behind tables full of rummage sale stuff.  I've been meaning to pack that up......

Instead, I grabbed my camera so I could share this supreme gorgeousness with y'all.  Enjoy!

Oh - and looked who popped up to visit with me!

Hope you all have a wonderful day ~

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


So we went to look at a duplex yesterday, and as I mentioned, briefly, the house is having water issues and there is significant mold in the basement of the rental unit.  The owner is having it looked at, but honestly?  I don't even want to go there.  Mold is one of those things that you think is taken care of, then BAM!  It comes back without warning.  Plus, the renters have been living in these conditions for months.  I don't want to be the owner of record if any of the kids come back with medical problems. 

None of this matters, however, because my mom hated the house, and she didn't even see the mold in the basement.  She was making snarky comments before we even got inside.  The realtor didn't know what to make of us.  I'm sure we didn't make her day.  I'm also pretty sure something more is going on, like maybe my mom isn't ready to move, or maybe she doesn't want to live in a property that she doesn't own herself.  Maybe she thinks she'll give up too much.  I think falling scared her, but I don't think she really wants to move.

So, for now at least, I'm stepping back.  Walker and I need to do some improvement project at our house, and I think we need to get started.  If we do move, later on, the projects will hopefully increase the home's value.  If we don't move, we'll enjoy our home that much more.  It's all good.

Monday, May 21, 2012


The house we looked at today was beautful.  At one time, anyway.  Now, it's got water leaks and a basement full of mold.  So, so very disappointed.  The search continues ~


I think it's fate.  Or divine intervention.  Maybe karma?  Who knows.  What I know for sure is, at three o'clock this morning I went through the real estate listings again.  There, under commercial properties, was the perfect - and I mean THE.  PERFECT!  duplex for Walker and me and my mom.  I never look under commercial properties. Usually, those are just....commercial. Lots of bars and hair salons with the odd office space tossed in.  Why did I look now?  That would be the divine intervention part.  Or maybe one of my peeps in heaven gave me a tap on the shoulder......Anyway:  usually when you see a side-by-side duplex the two units are mirror images of each other.  That was a bit of a problem, as Walker and I wanted more space than my mom.  This place has three bedrooms and two bathrooms on the "owner" side, but two bedrooms and 1.5 baths on the "rental" side. Both sides have attached garages, which is a definite need for my mom.  My mom's side also has laundry on the main floor.  Walker and I will enjoy some finished space in the basement, along with not one, but two gas fireplaces.  I always wanted a fireplace.  Just one thing - we have yet to see it in person.  We have an appointment for later today.  I'm so nervous - if it's at great as the listing makes it look, I want it. I'm hoping that it being hidden in the commercial listings means that nobody else will find it and start a bidding war.  Cross your fingers for us!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Just Worried ~

Peeps, my mom fell again.  This time she hurt herself.  It doesn't sound too serious, she says she's just sore, but since she didn't get checked out I don't know for sure.  I don't know what to do.  We're looking at a pair of condos, but logistically, it will take an act of God to get them both.  They're built like a duplex, just the two of them on a nice lot.  Both are for sale but by individual owners.  I do not have the resources to buy another property without selling our current home.  So we would have to make an offer with the contingency that we sell our home, and that my mother is able to purchase the other unit.  Since the two units are owned by different people, unless they are all sympathetic to our situation, there's no benefit to them to wait until we get our duckies in a row and get our home sold.  My mom has a home to sell, too.  I can't focus on anything else.  My mind is all wrapped up in what to do, and I have no answers.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Monday in the Garden

My first rose of the season ~  

My dahlia in bloom ~

Found this little guy hiding in the rhubarb ~

Eventually, he found his way into the sun.  He's about the size of a baseball ~

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hey Peeps!  Still here!  It was a crazy week, but crazy in a pretty good way.  I was on mandatory overtime at the office, which is fine with me as I can use the extra pay and it doesn't happen all that often. On Friday morning, my mom held a yard sale, so I stayed up and helped her run it until Walker got home from work.  Saturday, we did the sale again, then we drove up the highway to see Squeak's last soccer game of the season.
They call him Doctor Defense ~

After the game, we stopped at Home Depot for some garden plants.  Walker's mom just moved into a new condo, and she needed some flowers planted.  We were happy to oblige.  Then we went home and planted our flowerbeds, too. 

On Sunday morning, Walker and I met up with his family for Mother's Day brunch.  We had a nice time at a restaurant that overlooks the Mississippi.  I love watching the river - so peaceful!  After brunch and some visiting, we had just enough time to stop back at home, whip up some side dishes, and zip over to my sister's house for a cookout with my family.  My mom doesn't like a fuss, so we kept things casual.  It was a great day all around.  Hope all my Mom friends had a great Mother's Day, too ~

Monday, May 7, 2012

Not So Typical Sunday

This is what happens when you're a breast cancer survivor:  you go to your niece's very first concert since joining the city girl choir.  You settle into a surprisingly comfy seat in the school auditorium.  Thirty-nine little girls take the stage, and your first thought is, "Statistically, three of those young ladies will battle breast cancer at some point in their lives."  Sigh.  I am such a dork.

Diva's group sang a beautiful song that was written for them by one of the choir directors.  I wish Miss Diva was here, so I could record her singing it.  I do remember these lines, but I can't swear that I got them just right:

Let me go, let me soar
Don't hold me back 
Unlock the door
I have dreams, you'll never know
Until you let me go

Of course, there's a lot more to it.  I wish I had used the video on my camera at the time.  I never use the video feature, at least not on purpose, so I forget it's there.

After the concert there was a reception in the school gym.  Our group was large enough to fill a table on our own.  We were sitting there munching cookies when I looked over and saw my mom on the floor.  I swear, my heart about stopped.  I jumped up and ran over but several dads beat me to her and helped her up.  She said she knocked her chin but otherwise was unhurt.  I wasn't sure if I should believe her until she commented on how handsome her dads-in-shining-armor were.  Um hmmmmm.  She's fiiiiiiiiine. She says she doesn't know why she fell. But I told Walker, that's it, we need to get cracking on finding a duplex.  If we can't find what we need, we'll have to build it. That'll take months.  As soon as the reception ended, we headed out to look at the duplex I found online over the weekend.

That's an hour we won't get back.  The rest of the houses on the block sat at the top of a fairly good sized hill.  This house?  The builder carved the site out of the hill, then built a retaining wall out of wood.  A two story retaining wall that is now bowing out.  Standing out front, looking at that wall, all I saw was dollar signs.  Not only that, but the sidewalks are made of wooden planks.  Very slippery wooden planks.  The search continues.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Finally, A Minute's Peace!

Y'all, I do not even know where to start!  We have not stopped moving since we returned from Florida. Last weekend we had a wedding shower on Saturday and a cookout to attend on Sunday.  This weekend, we helped my mom run a yard sale on Friday and Saturday.  I don't know how much money we made in total, but Walker and I will be adding $400 to our vacation fund.  Oh, yeah, baby!  Florida will not have to miss us for long.  Later today, we'll be enjoying Diva's first choir concert.  And hopefully, we'll be touring a house that's for sale in the next town.

I'm not sure I'm sold on the idea of moving, but it's something we keep coming back to.  When I bought this house seven years ago, we were planning on children.  That is not going to happen.  While this house isn't huge, it feels bigger than what we need.  We have three bedrooms and a full basement and a dining room that gets used two or three times a year.  I clean it all every weekend, and when I do, I think about downsizing.  Every time.

One motivator is my mom.  Right now, she lives in her own home in the same neighborhood that Walker and I live in. We try to help with her yard work and snow removal and such, but she's fiercely independent.  She doesn't let us do much for her, even though she gets exhausted doing it all herself.  Lately, she's been talking about selling her home and moving to an apartment.  Walker and I looked at duplexes a while back, thinking we could have her live on one side while we lived on the other, but we couldn't find anything that was all on one floor.  My mom has trouble with stairs. 

So yesterday, I searched the real estate listings but didn't expect much.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a property that just might meet our criteria.  The best part?  It's in the same price range as our current home, so if my mom isn't ready to give up her home just yet, we can still afford it.  We don't have to rent to strangers.  Now, we haven't been able to see it in person yet, but I'm encouraged all the same.  Stay tuned....