Thursday, January 29, 2015

Homemade Peanut Butter project

Justin came home from preschool declaring that we NEEDED to make homemade peanut butter.  "All you need is peanuts and apple juice, Mama!"  So I followed the recipe that my four year old had in his head and it was DELICIOUS!
 Yep-- that's it.  Peanuts and a little apple juice in a blender (or food processor) until it's nice and creamy.
 Justin is really my kitchen guy.  He hopped up to the counter and made a fruit salad after our peanut butter snack.
 And then promptly took a rest with his best friend, Kolachi....who, incidentally, ALSO enjoyed the peanut butter!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Habitat Project: Phase Three- final construction

The habitats are done!  They turned out very COLORFUL!  Each child was responsible for including the four things that make a habitat-  food source, shelter, space and water source.  Alex took pains to try and re-create the grasses (using hay) and even put in a human hunter and his raft.  She also managed to rig her pelican so that it looked like it was flying above the scene.  Quite creative!

Justin made sure to include the prey of the lynx and a lot of colorful details-- like "pans of meat" (the four year old was concerned that his lynx wouldn't be able to catch her food all the time) and "fences".
What a fun project for the dreary winter days!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Habitat Project: Phase Two- Field Research

We decided to do some field research today and headed to the Minnesota Zoo to see what types of habitats the zookeepers constructed for the crocodiles and lynx.  We brought our sketchbooks to draw and take notes!

 Justin made a lot of observations about the rocks, trees and stream that these lynx kittens have in their enclosure.  (Side note:  if you live in the area, check them out-- there are currently four kits and a mama in the exhibit and the kitten antics are hilarious!)
 The only crocodile they have is the African Dwarf Crocodile, so not exactly the American swampland that Alex is researching, but we made notes on similarities and differences between the two habitats.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Habitat Project: Phase One- Research

Inspired by our recent trip to Florida, Alex decided that she really wanted to learn more about alligators and crocodiles.  Inspired by a recent shoe purchase, I decided to introduce the kids into the art of the diorama. I have very fond memories of diorama-making as a student, so we combined our interests and began researching animal habitats.

We started in our classroom library, and soon discovered it would behoove us to make a trip to the public library as well.  The kids both picked out books about their specific animals (Alex ended up settling on crocodiles while Justin wanted to learn about the lynx).  They read and found answers to a worksheet I drew up.  Then the fun began!

 How to make a swamp out of a cardboard box?

 Justin had a little more help from Mama, but his task was to make a snowy forest with a den for his lynx.

Stay tuned for diorama updates!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Flourish & Blott's art lesson

Back to reality......  we had a handwriting/painting lesson today.  Alex got to use a very special quill that I purchased for her at Flourish & Blott's (the stationary store from Harry Potter's World of Wizarding).  
Justin was feeling a bit left out, but he remedied that immediately.  I told the kids in the morning that after Justin was done with preschool, we'd have our art lesson.  So, when we picked him up from school he had a handful of cattails-  "For me to write with, Mama!"  
 And write with them he did!  They actually worked really well--  While Alex was working on running and twirling lines with her nib, he tackled a rocket ship!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Day Seven: Day Off at Downtown Disney!

For our last day in Paradise, we spent the morning swimming and finishing up our scavenger hunt answers at Sweet Escape.  Then we headed to downtown Disney for a last little shopping and lunch at the T-Rex cafe.  I was a bit worried that the kids would find it a little intimidating (they hide from the gorillas at Rainforest Cafe), but the preceeding week had definitely desensitized them enough so they could enjoy a fun meal!

 Outside the LEGO store, we found a substitute Kolachi!  Pretty sweet--
 The end of the day consisted of adults packing and tidying whilst the children played, played, played!  Gotta get those video games in while they still could!  Justin and Dave rigged up a pool noodle to keep the acceleration pedal down so that he could actually win the racing game!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Day Six: Animal Kingdom

The kids had had enough of the parks!  They opted to stay back at Sweet Escape today with Cathleen (oh, what a luxury to have a travelling nanny with us!), so the adults put our game faces on and hit Animal Kingdom.  We had fun touring together, but the real surprise still awaited--
 Nope-- not that stupid dinosaur ride that I hate, but go on every time I'm there.

We drove from AK to park at the Yacht and Beach Club, where we walked to EPCOT to tour around the World Showcase for a bit.  I love that place and definitely need to plan a future trip to spend more time touring and window shopping!

Today's photos were lost, too (*sob*), but the big surprise for Dave was that I organized a fireworks cruise that left from the Yacht Club Resort and toured around a bit before settling into the perfect spot to watch EPCOT's Illuminations from.  We even had a "Happy Anniversary" banner on the side of the boat in honor of our 11th year anniversary!  It was a perfect way to wrap up our week at Walt Disney World-- 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Day Five: Hollywood Studios

I am really sad that I lost a bunch of digital images from this day of our vacation.  We had a great morning rushing ToyStory Mania at rope drop.  After that, we went to the Frozen Sing-Along  (I think I annoyed Alex with my singing along...she was trying to absorb every moment and I was being a little goofy) and then split up to do some Mama-Alex touring (Animation Academy to learn how to draw Olaf and the Little Mermaid show) and Daddy-Justin touring (Disney Jr. show and looking for the Cars characters).
After meeting back up with Cathleen and Andy to see Beauty and the Beast musical (perhaps my favorite Hollywood Studios show), we surprised Justin with a trip to the Lights,Motor,Action stunt show.  While it was not my cup of tea entirely, he was glued to the live action car and motorcycle stunts.  When the 'real' Lightning McQueen drove out on set, his jaw dropped wide open!
Cathleen took the kiddos back to Sweet Escape in the early afternoon and the rest of the adults hit the 'fast' rides and caught dinner at the Sci Fi Drive In restaurant before heading home.  We were originally going to see the Fantasmic show that evening, but we were all too tired (and I think it was raining).  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Day Four: Ditch the kiddies, we're going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

Since the adults in our group are ...ahem... big nerds, we HAD to take a day requiem from the Disney Complex to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  (Kids stayed at Sweet Escape with Grams and Gramps). Because there were 7 of us, it actually made sense to crowd check into a Universal Studios hotel following the fireworks, catch a few hours of sleep and wake EXTREMELY early for our exciting Wizarding day.  We got to use Early Park Admission with our hotel room keys, and the entire process could not have gone smoother!
 We got to the park about a half hour before Early Park Admission, and were right in the front of the 'walk only' line that brought us back to Diagon Alley!  What a rush!  We were numbers 3-10 into the queu for the brand new Escape from Gringott's ride......but wait...... we missed a turn (they didn't have the lines blocked off, and we ended up somewhere in the back 30, trying to figure out how to get into the ride!)  Eventually we figured where we should have zigged instead of zagged and got back into the line.  All in all, we only lost about 20 spaces in line.  Unfortunately, it took them a while to get Gringott's up and running-- we were already at the loading area, so we figured it made the most sense to just stay put and wait.  After about 20 minutes, we were green-lighted for the ride of our lives.  It was seriously AMAZING and we all had the biggest smiles on our faces as we exited!
We stopped at Ollivander's Wand shop and then had some warm butterbeer (mmmm....) before exiting Diagon Alley and hitting all of the rest of Universal Studios rides.  Man.  They were a RUSH!  What fantastic high-speed thrill rollercoasters :-)

We had the Universal equivalent to FastPass for EVERY RIDE (except a few of the HP ones) and made great use of them.  I don't think we stood in line more than 10 minutes for anything all day long!  After exhausting the Universal park rides, we hopped on Hogwarts Express and headed to Hogsmeade!

 Lunch at the Three Broomsticks.  I had a great shepherd's pie and Dave enjoyed the fish and chips.
 Branding.  It's everything.  Of course, I will pay through the nose for the bottled 'gilly water'....thank you for the opportunity!

After experiencing Hogsmeade and the Forbidden Journey ride (which I personally found pretty scary!), we ventured out to explore the rest of the Islands of Adventure park.  Our favorite stop?  Springfield, USA- home of the Simpsons!  Bet you can't guess where we took an afternoon siesta?

We stormed these two parks-- with the help of Touring Plans, it was an extremely busy and successful day! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Night Three: Tomorrowland Terrace Dessert Party

After our late morning/afternoon at EPCOT, the best way to top off this day would be with a Fireworks dessert party at the Magic Kingdom.  I had snagged this reservation (for 18!) 180 days ago, and it was the highlight of the trip.  We all met up at the Tomorrowland Terrace at 7pm to enjoy our dessert buffet (*yum!)
 We were technically the last party to be seated, but the tables are all reserved, so it wasn't a problem at all.  We had nice close table to the front (although when the fireworks start, everyone stands, so we couldn't watch from the table)

 We enjoyed both the Dreams castle projection show and the Wishes fireworks.  My kids were happy with their hearing protection on, and although it was VERY late by the time we left, everyone was in a good mood (or sleeping).
The best part of the night was watching Tinkerbell fly right overhead!
We capped off the night with an attempt at a group photo.  Aside from Alex sleeping and not having her face towards the camera, it's a pretty darn good shot!
Now, fighting the crowds to get OUT of the park and back to the parking lot was a horse of a different color.  Sheesh!  But we all made it.

Day Three: late start day or "Dale wants to elope with my Sister"

Today was our late start day.  We had reservations for the Tomorrowland Terrace Dessert Party this evening, and in order to make it that late for our kids, we had to plan a s-l-o-w day.
We spent the mornign playing with new toys and swimming....oh-- and counting the balls in ball pit.  The Sweet Escape has a scavenger hunt with a top prize of a free nights' stay.  Also, NOBODY in the vacation rental history has successfully completed it.  So....being the group of Type A, competitive personalities that we are, we were doing it.

After lunch at the house, we headed back to EPCOT.  I wanted to explore the World Showcase a bit before dinner with Mickey and friends at The Garden Grill.  Well, we didn't get too far into the countries because....
 We all had to ride Imagination a few more times...

We did make it to Mexico (to do the Three Caballeros boat ride) and Norway, to have some school bread.  Mange tak, Norway!

We met Rorie, Chris and Cathleen for dinner at The Garden Grill.  I went back and forth on this reservation, but I'm SO GLAD I made it, and I will lobby hard for dinner at GG every Epcot trip henceforth.  First off, the characters are so cute in their farm wear!
 The food was very good-- it's served family style, so there's something for everyone.  But Alex got an EXTRA special breadbasket and entree (GF, of course) and enjoyed the attention.
 We made a 4pm reservation (which is right when the restaurant opens), and we enjoyed a LOT of character time-- we got three or four visits from EACH character during our meal!  The first visit is always scrambling for pens and cameras, but the second and the third were pure magic.
Dale was HILARIOUS.  He was hands-down the best character interaction I've ever experienced.  He was very mischevious and naughty-- sneaking up behind Rorie and startling her.  He then 'apologized' and proceeded to fall deeply in love with her.  When we told him that she was engaged to Chris, he made a sign of a heart with his hands and then made it 'explode'--.  We missed video of the first part, but here's what happened a few moments later--

We were laughing so hard! The part where he sticks his finger in his mouth slays me! (and I asked to talk to the manager afterwards to make sure that she knew he was SPECTACULAR!)  Happy and full, we made our way to the Magic Kingdom to ride a few rides before checking in to the Dessert Party.