Monday, May 31, 2010

Our (not so) little dancer...

Last week was dance recital for Carissa. It was a whirlwind day! We spent all morning at dress rehearsal then came home to have dinner with Mom, Jimmy, Virginia and the kids. It was so nice to see my little nephews, as well as Jimmy and Virginia and Mom. We don't see them often enough. Then it was to the recital and home with Jimmy and Virginia's boys, who are 3 years old and 5 months old. Aunt Annette got them both to sleep so Jimmy and Virginia could go to a concert in Portland. Great day, but a busy one.

Here's Carissa in her tap number, "Good Ship Lollipop". She was adorable with her long ringlets and sailor outfit. It was her first year tapping in heals and she did a great job!
Her second number was a jazz number called "Hoop Dee Doo" and included hula hoops. She got her recital hula hoop, which was larger than she had been practicing with so she was having trouble with a tricky move that involved throwing her leg over the spinning hoop. Well she nailed it and was so proud of herself!
Remember how I talked about Carissa switching schools over Christmas break. One of the big reasons was the lack of social interaction and friend choice at her other school. With only 6 girls in her grade there wasn't a lot of friends to chose from. Well she's all settled in her new school (and looking forward to the brand new Intermediate school that will open this fall) and has really found some good new friends. A couple of them do dance with her and I talked them into a few photos in their Hoop Dee Doo costumes. Aren't they adorable?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Frou-Frou Girl

Carissa is such a girly girl. Her favorite color is pink, she loves to wear skirts, she adores hair flowers and really doesn't like jeans at all. So when I saw this skirt I knew it was her. I was so right! She LOVES it. She looks adorable and loves twirling in it. It's so frou-frou, just like her!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Girls Disney Day 3 & Heading Home

After our late night at the parks, the air conditioner didn't bother us as much. They had worked on it but it was still really loud. We were just too tired to care and both slept well.

I awoke the next morning with both anticipation for todays fun in Disneyland and dread at the thought of leaving. We really had seen and done everything we wanted to in the last 2 days so today was just cake, but I also hated to leave. I did miss my husband and my kids though, and was happy to be returning to them soon. While Bek and I had fun, being at Disneyland did remind me of the fun of having your family to share this with. Now I'm even more desparate to get my family back to Disneyland soon.

But I digress. We woke, prettied ourselves up, packed the last of our stuff and toted our luggage down to Bek's car. Then we headed off for the park. It opened early this morning, at 8am, and we were in the gates about 8:30am.

First up was a quick stop at the partners statue, featuring Walt and Mickey. It was pretty empty this morning so we were able to take pics of a family and then get some of our own without other random people in them. I love this statue and want a copy of this statue for my house... I love it!

We headed straight for Pixie Hollow in search of a visit with the fairies. Not too soon after we got in line they opened it. There was this adorable older gentleman with a New Zealand accent who was the cast member when you entered the tall grass of Pixie Hollow. He was so funny! Kept talking to us all like he was a fairy and saying that Tinkerbell doesn't like to wait for anyone, so she'd be seeing us and the other fairies would join her shortly. Well, that was fine with Bek and I as we were really just here to see Tink.

I love how you enter Pixie Hollow and become miniature, like the fairies. How the grass is so tall, how the flowers are so big and all the little details in between. I had to snap some pictures of the incredible details. First is the big banner for the "Fall Revelry" that hangs in Pixie Hollow. Next is a beautiful flower that stood about 4 feet tall.

Usually some of the other Pixie Hollow fairies are here and this is one of those spots where one stops to greet guests. No fairy though, just Bek and I. ;)Then it was time to see Tink! I was so sad my photo didn't come out crisp. :(

And here's Bek with Tink.

Then it was time for both of us. Tinkerbell instructed us to stand like her and be "sassy" so we did. I love that I can be such a goofball in Disney. LOLThat was the big plan for Disneyland so Bek and we turned tail and headed to California Adventure.

It was a long hike from Pixie Hollow all the way to Paradise Pier, but we took our time and enjoyed the Disney feeling, knowing we were soon leaving.

Next up was California Screamin'. Time for one last ride, right? So we jumped in the line and waited the 15 minutes to get on the ride. Thankfully this time it actually did work and we screamed and yelled the entire time. This is a horrible picture of the screen showing us on the ride, but had to share it anyways. Bek and I are in the back row...

We had yet to go on Toy Store Mania so that was our next goal. When we got to Paradise Pier we saw that the line was really long outside the ride. We didn't have anything else we had to do so we decided to go for it, especially because we saw that they'd just opened the attraction and there was a huge gap in the line. Sure enough it did move pretty quickly and we ended up only waiting about 15-20 minutes. This is always a fun ride and I beat Bek in point total, though I must admit her hurt hand didn't help her out.

The only other major attraction on our list today was to see the full production of Aladdin. Since that didn't happen for a while we headed for one of my must-dos for today - the Animation Academy! Here a young animator taught us to draw Donald Duck.

He was hard! Much more difficult than others I've drawn, with lots of curves and lines. The animators go pretty quickly too, so it was a rush to keep up. I loved every second of it! Here's my take on Donald...

We also learned stayed to learn how to draw Mickey and Grumpy. We spent so much time here today but I loved it! If I were a youngster I'd want to be a Disney Animator some day. It was so fun and I really loved the results.
It was now time for Aladdin and Bek and I went plenty early so we could get a good seat. Standing out in the sun wasn't very fun, but we found a tiny bit of shade and sat down there while in the line. We got great seats about 15 rows from the front, so I had a much better chance of getting some great shots without the flash. Thankfully the entire show went off without a hitch so Bek was able to see it all. The music was fabulous and the genie was hilarious. It was soooooo worth the wait!

*sigh* That was it for California Adventure. We walked by Soarin' to see if we could sneak a ride in but didn't feel we had time to do that and still get to Cafe Orleans for the beignets that we just had to try. So we big California Adventure a fond farewell and headed back to Disneyland.
Our whole plan here was to hit Cafe Orleans and pick up all those last-minue souveniors we hadn't yet grabbed. Bek went to the nearby store to get a cool sweatshirt she'd seen for Kayli and I checked us into Cafe Orleans. In only 5 minutes we had a table, again outside. We ordered another order of the scrumptious Pommes Frites and an order of Beignets. Holy moly, I could sit here and eat these foods forever and be perfectly happy. SOOOOO yummy! That berry puree was pure heaven. We tried the vanilla anglaise sauce but both of us preferred the berry puree, so we ordered more and sat back and enjoyed. YUM!
After stuffing ourselves on fries and beignets we sat and people watched. We soaked in the last bits of California sunshine and Disneyland magic and then grudgingly bid Disneyland farewell. We had a fabulous time to share with one another but it was now over.
Thankfully we still had a plane ride home together. Bek was coming back to Oregon with me as stop on her way to her hometown of Forks, Washington where she was looking for a HOUSE! Bek is moving back! They really aren't enjoying Arizona and miss the Northwest. In just a month they will be home for good! Unfortunately they won't be as close as they were before, when they lived in Battleground. But she'll still be just a 4 hour drive away, close enough to go visit on a weekend and close enough to once again see each other more than once a year. YEAH!
Bek and I both flew JetBlue home and she was as impressed as I was. The captain actually came out and said hi to passengers. We enjoyed some TV while we flew, watching some thing about mothers and their little girls being beauty pageant queens. It was one of those train wreck shows that you couldn't help but watch yet at the same time you had to roll your eyes at the ridiculous parents in them.
When we arrived home I was due to ride with Bek, who was staying the night at our house before heading to Forks. She was sooooo jazzed to go and got more and more excited as the minutes ticked closer to touchdown.
Imagine my surprise when I came out of the gate area and found my husband and kids waiting for me with a big sign that said "We missed you Mom!". Awwwww... They all hugged me and I was so, so glad to be home!
In the end, Bek was too keyed up to come home with me instead deciding to just drive the 4 hours to her hometown that she missed so much. We bid goodbye at the airport, knowing that in just a month we would see each other again.
I'm so glad I took this vacation with her and got to spend some time doing stuff for me, but I had missed my family dearly and I was glad to be home.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Girls Disney Day 2

Last night I was snuggled in my soft, comfy bed in the HoJo eagerly anticipating a wonderful nights sleep. I capped the night off by finishing off "Wings" by Aprilynne Pike, a fabulous book that is the first in what is now my favorite series - even moreso than Twilight. *gasp* Anyways, am I painting the idyllic picture? Us girls come back to the room, tired and happy from a day well spent at the parks. We relax and I nestle down in bed.... only to be woken up again and again and again by the air conditioner. Seriously? The stupid thing was SOOOOO loud! Every time the compressor in it would turn on it would make a huge noise and then ran so, so loud. I could not sleep. It woke me up all night long and by early morning there was no way I was going to be able to sleep any longer. At 6am I got up, disgruntled at the ridiculous A/C.

Now, Bek was up late last night taking care of some stuff so she was still fast asleep. I dressed then slunk off quietly to the front desk, where I complained about the air conditioner. They were nice about it and told me they would send someone up to look at it. Unfortunately, that didn't help me now. I decided to go peruse the gift shop at the hotel and then walked back slowly, enjoying all the plants and flowers growing there and stopping to take pictures of the fountain. Nothing exciting, just relaxing and taking my time since I was up so early.

When I got back to the room I headed for a shower, enjoying the nice, hot water until it RAN OUT! Halfway through the shower I got FREEZING water. Ugh! Strike #2 for the HoJo, and all in one day. Sheesh. I did finish my shower though, got dressed and munched a granola bar. About then Bek woke up and we decided to start our day.

Our plan for today was to hit the nearby Character Warehouse to see if we could find any cheaper souvenirs to take home. I didn't have high hopes, since I had specific requests from the kids, who all wanted a Vinylamation, these collectible Mickey characters decorated in different ways. I was also searching for a nice mens wallet for Brian. We roll up to the character warehouse and go inside, taking our time to look around at the tons and tons of stuff they have. There was some great prices if you were into whatever was on sale, however there really wasn't much that we could find. I ended up with a t-shirt for me and a polo for Brian and Bek grabbed one sweatshirt. That's it... that's all she wrote.

Slightly disappointed, we headed back to the hotel. It was 10am and we were famished. We knew exactly where to head next - Mimi's! Bek and I both enjoyed hearty breakfast meals that were so good. Yum! She had a few things to take care of back at the hotel so I headed to the parks and she headed back to the hotel. I went into California Adventure, as that's where Bek and I would be meeting. I really didn't do much other than walk around and soak up the ambiance. It was pretty surreal to be wandering around Disneyland with nowhere to go and nothing to do, but that's exactly what I did. Bek called when she made her way into the park and we headed for our big goal of the day - Grizzly River Rapids!

We couldn't have chosen a nicer day to ride Grizzly. It would end up being about 80 today and the sun was shining and warm. We safely stowed our backpack (in which we packed extra shoes... smart, huh?) and my camera in the free lockers before getting in line. The stand-by line only took about 15 minutes at 11:30am on a warm, sunny day. Not too shabby.

Bek and I rode in a raft with a family of 4, who had 2 small kid, and a couple from New Zealand. The kids weren't thrilled to be riding, but stuck it out thanks to some kind words from Bek. We got pretty wet riding and both left looking like we'd wet our pants. Gotta love that! LOL

Since we were already wet and not planning on sticking around California Adventure all day we decided to go again right away. We thought about going single-rider but decided it was much more fun to ride together. So we did.

This time we were on a raft with a Dad, Grandma and two tween boys as well as a couple. What I love about Bek is that she isn't afraid to talk to these strangers and got all sorts of conversations going. I am much too quiet to do that with people I don't know so having her along meant that we chatted it up a bit more. I liked that. The two boys were such little cuties and were having so much fun talking to us about the ride. I must say that the boys did take the majority of the soaking though. LOL

By the time we were done with Grizzly Bek and I were pretty darned soaked. Our pants were the worst and it was hours before they dried enough to be comfortable. Let's just say that Bek and I dealt with our fair share of chafing today. 'Nuff said.

Next up was a trip to Paradise Pier to ride Screamin' again! The line was moving well and before too long we were right waiting for a car to board. As it came around the corner into the loading area it stopped. The whole thing stopped. They shut down the ride!

Ugh! Seriously? But they did. It was flat out down. There were people stuck in cars all over the track, including a set right at the pinnacle of the highest crest of the ride. The people were still stuck there 15 minutes later, sitting in the hot sun just waiting to be extracted from the ride. In a way I was glad we hadn't quite made it on, because that would have sucked!

Bek and I headed to Toy Story Mania, which had a horrendous line! Sheesh, they need fastpass machines for TSM, like they have in Disneyworld. But since they didn't and since I had ridden it at least 5 or 6 times at Disneyworld 5 months prior we decided the wait definitely wasn't worth it and moved on. We looked at a few shops then walked the long way around Paradise Pier to the front, where we took pics in front of Mickey's FunWheel...

I will say that the area behind us is where the spectators for the new "World of Color" show will be standing. Just the thought of that area packed with spectators, all standing, was enough to make me shudder. Guess we need to let the ferver of the new show die down some before coming because I have a feeling that it's going to be crazy! Thankfully we just missed the premier of the show, which opens later this month.

After walking the pier we decided to head to Disneyland. We decided to take the scenic route and check out Disney's Grand Californian by taking that exit out of the park. Wow, that resort is huge and so gorgeous. The inside looked like a giant plush hunting lodge. What I wouldn't give to stay here sometime. It was absolutely fabulous!

We made our way through the hotel, out to Downtown Disney and then to Disney. Again, we went with no huge plan other than to enjoy ourselves and stick around for the fireworks in the evening.

We flitted around for a bit, stopping first to ride It's A Small World. Can you guess what time we got there?
This was my first time seeing It's A Small World in Disneyland with the addition of some of Disney's popular movie characters. I strictly adhere to the "no flash" rule, so getting pictures inside the ride was very, very difficult for me. My favorite addition was Lilo and Stitch on their surfboard, but it came out very blurry. Also loved Jasmine and Aladdin on the flying carpet. This guy was pretty cute to see too:
I will admit to taking a phone call while on the ride. My oldest, Chase, called while we were riding and I let him listen for a bit. He told me about his great day at school and suddenly it hit him... he said "Mom! Are you on Small World? Oh no...." He talks like this ride is his arch enemy, but I bet he would have traded being at home for being here with me on Small World.

After another rousing verse of "It's a Small World After All..." we disembarked and were promptly blocked by the Celebrate Street Parade. We took off towards Toontown and it was a pretty good time to go.
After a quick stop at a counter-service for a free cup of ice water (we were parched!) we headed for Mickey's house. I'd missed seeing Mickey in his classic costume (I saw him only as Chef Mickey) at Disneyworld, I knew I wanted to see him while in Disneyland. Bek and I walked the queue... and walked... and walked. In the end there were probably 20 people ahead of us in line. They let most of them through then held the rope at us.
When it was our turn we were the first ones through to see Mickey. I've got to tell you, I got the little flip-flops when I saw him... he is the epitome of Disney for me and so symbolic of my love for the magic Disney provides. I was just so happy to see him!
Now, after the flip-flops I did a double-take... Mickey was so short! He was dinky. Tiny. This guy was one short mouse. I've seen Mickey before but he's never been this small. Sheesh! I can't believe I was taller than him!
Bek and I took turns taking photos for one another and then took one together with the big cheese himself.
Mission accomplished, we had met Mickey!

Up next was Minnie. We walked towards her house and saw the line for her... the outside line in the blazing sun. We were hot already and standing in the sun didn't sound very fun so Bek and I decided to skip seeing Miss Mouse. Oh well.
After a bit of perusing the shops (we did a very good job of perusing this trip... hit them all at least once I think. LOL) we left Toontown. I had mentioned to Bek that I'd never been on the Storybook Land Canal Boats and she suggested we go now. The line was very short and we jumped right on. I was pretty impressed with what I saw. All those teeny tiny plants, all those miniature houses and castles and cities. It was relaxing and adorable to see.
Up next was Fantasyland. Bek and I wanted to cover it today, before the hoardes of locals took over tomorrow (Saturday). Most of the rides were a pass for us, but the one we both really, really wanted to go to was Peter Pan's Flight. This is my favorite non-thrill ride in all of Disney. I just love the way it makes me feel, how I'm out there flying and part of the magic that is Peter Pan. The wait time said 20 minutes but we probably waited closer to 30, half of it in the hot sun. Let me tell you, it was worth it. I still love that ride as much as ever.
Bek and I were getting hungry now and we knew just where we wanted to eat. There was this place I kept hearing about on the DisBoards called Cafe Orleans that supposedly had fabulous Monte Cristo's, garlic fries and Beignets. Neither Bek nor I had every been there before so we just headed to New Orleans square and expected to see it. We walked around New Orleans square, and around again and even caught a glimpse of Tiana, who had just finished a show.
We finally gave up and consulted the map. We were nearly in front of it! The reason we didn't see it was because they have temporary walls put up that make it hard to see the sign. We had walked by it at least 2 or 3 times already this trip. Doh!
We made our way to the counter and requested seating outside. We were seated in a matter of minutes and enjoyed people watching and chatting. First up for the meal was the Pommes Frites... fries with Parmesan cheese, garlic and parsley. Bek and I shared an order and they were SOOOOO delicious!
Then came the Monte Cristo. This is like a heart attack on a plate - ham, turkey and swiss cheese coated in batter and fried then sprinkled with powdered sugar. Let me tell you, it was soooooo worth it! It was absolutely delicious. The best part of the whole meal was the little tub of berry puree you see by the grapes. YUM! I could eat just that berry puree and be perfectly happy. And I would NEVER have thought to eat berry puree with a sandwich like this, but it tasted so yummy!
This was the most fabulous meal ever! It was so yummy and rich (and we'd filled ourselves up with Pommes Frites) that we couldn't even order the beignets. We saw a dad and son who ate the same thing we did but then shared 2 orders of beignets afterwards. There was no way Bek and I could have done that! As it was we only ate half our sandwiches and we were stuffed. Guess we'd have to plan a trip back for the beignets.
After eating our fill we just took in the ambiance a little, enjoyed the cool evening air and decided to go shopping. Remember those Vinylmation characters I told you the kids asked for? Well, they have this set called "Cutesters" and it's nothing but cute little girly things - cupcakes, Minnie's dress, Fairies, an owl, a tree with critters on it, etc. ADORABLE! They were so cute and I knew I had to have one for Carissa. But in the time we'd spent here I had yet to find a store with them in stock. They had them on display but didn't have any for sale. So we looked in nearby stores, on a mission to find a Cutester.
It was starting to get late and Bek was getting pretty worn down. She offered to take a load off and save us a seat for the fireworks, so we headed to the hub. Despite it being only 7pm, with the fireworks not schedule until over 2 hours later, the hub was pretty busy and the benches were getting filled. We found a bench that was 1/2 empty and took a seat. It was nice to relax for a few minutes after all the walking in the sun we'd done today. After a bit I took back off, in search of the Cutester. Bek happily stayed behind to guard our bench.
I will admit to making a few stop on the way to wander next to the castle in search of the Snow White fountain. I'd heard of it but never been there before. While walking back from the fountain I caught a glimpse of the castle at dusk and took a few minutes to stop and take photos. And in the few minutes I stayed there to take photos, mess with the settings (I'm really trying to improve my photography) and take more photos, the sky was subtly shifting into darker shades of blue. Isn't it beautiful?
Well, despite my search, my walk from Tomorrowland to Frontierland, to Critter Country (where I stopped for a yummy treat to munch later - marshmallows covered in caramel, peanuts and then chocolate. YUM!) there were no Cutesters to be found. I was so bummed!
In time I made my way back to Becky, who was ready for a bathroom break and a chance to stretch her legs. I held down the bench while she did that and made a trip to the lockers, where we'd stowed our sweatshirts. By the time she got back I was very happy I'd thought to bring them, as it was getting chilly now that the sun was down.
While waiting I tried taking a few night photos from my bench. This one is my fave, looking into Tomorrowland.
It was great to sit and relax and both Bek and I took time to catch up with our families back home.
I could tell time for the fireworks was getting near, as cast members came along asking all those people camped out in the hub to stand up and move forward. Bek and I stayed put. Having held down a bench for this long had it's privledges. LOL
The announcements began and I started to get excited about seeing my absolute favorite part of Disney... the fireworks. And of all the fireworks I've ever seen at Disney, "Remember, Dreams Come True" is my hands-down favorite!
Then the lights went out on Main Street and everyone got quiet. Julie Andrews voice filled the air and then the music that makes me tear up just to think about ... a little girls voice singing:
Star light, starbright
First star I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have this wish I wish tonight
We'll make a wish and do as dreamers do
And all our wishes will come true.

*sigh* I love that. I can't even describe how magical those words are for me. And to hear them in Disneyland is, itself, a wish come true.
The Disneyland fireworks are so good because they encompass all that is fabulous about Disneyland, all the attractions and rides and show. For instance, here's what they looked like at the Pirates of the Carribean section. See the skull and crossbones?
I love how the castle changes colors, how the fireworks are so precisely choreographed, how they each element is so perfectly coordinated for the particular attraction or song. I took lots of pictures. Here's some of my faves:

The park was open until midnight tonight, so when the fireworks were over Bek and I busted butt for the one ride we hadn't been able ride yet - Finding Nemo! This ride wasn't here my last trip to Disneyland so I wanted to check it out, yet the line had been really long all trip and I just couldn't see waiting 1/2 an hour for it. Even right after the fireworks we had a 20 minute wait, but we decided now was as good a time as any. I can say that I was really unimpressed with it. I mean, the addition of the special effects is good but it's still really boring and in such tiny, cramped quarters. Bek did say it's better in the daylight and she may be right, but either way it's not one I'd be in a hurry to ride again.

Bek and I had Space Mountain fastpasses to use and headed that way next, only to find that it was currently closed. We never did get there for a 2nd ride this trip.
We had really exhausted what we wanted to do in the parks today. Our feet were tired, we were tired and we decided to just call it a night. On our way out we did run into this little lady...
It was nice to see her, since we'd missed her at her house earlier in the day. This pic of us three girls was a fitting end to another day of our girls trip.
Back to the hotel we went and pretty much straight to bed. We hoped that the air conditioner was quieter, but really we were both too tired to care.