Friday, June 10, 2016

Anniversary and Memorial Day

I can not believe that our first wedding anniversary has come and gone already!  Despite the fact that Cody and I didn't actually get to see each other on our actual wedding anniversary this year... (boo working on different shifts :( )  We did have two fun filled weekends around our anniversary.



First on Saturday night, we went to Carrie Cerinos.  When we choose Carrie Cerinos as our wedding reception venue, I was excited because I knew we could come back there every year for our anniversary.  So it was a nice first anniversary tradition.  I ordered the chicken picata that they served at our wedding.  :)

On Sunday we hung out the whole day together and went to Cedar Point.  We try to go to Cedar Point every year, but we didn't make it there last year.  So this was the first time that we got to ride Rougarou (the Mantis with new seats) and Valravn.  Once we got to the park (oops on missing the exit and having to drive an extra 45 mins to get there...) it was a perfect day.  The lines weren't really that long and it was a nice temperature (if not slightly chilly towards the end of the night).  The only lines that we really had to wait for was Cody's favorite, Maverick, and the new coaster, Valravn.  Ok... Valravn wasn't worth the 2+ hours that we waited for it (it kept breaking down) and to be honest by the time we made it to the top of the line I was so over that coaster... so I'm hoping that the next time I ride it, I'll be a better mood, but it is still a cool new add to the park.  I think Millennium and Maverick are still our two top favs...
 
Cody and I agreed not to get each other anything but cards this year... so I was so surprised on our actual anniversary when he had a dozen red roses waiting for me when I got home from work.  :)

Cody and I froze a couple pieces of our wedding cake last year and we were hoping that we did it right and that our cake would come out well the next year.  During my lunch break, Cody texted me and told me that we froze our cake perfectly and that it still tasted amazing!  I was SO excited to try the cake.  At our actual wedding I only ended up having the bite of cake that Cody fed me, and I never made it back up there for another piece.  So the whole rest of the night at work... I'm like mmmm... wedding cake... can't wait to eat it...  So I get home, put the piece on the plate, take the lovely picture above, and then I stood up to walk to sit down and eat it....  on the way to sit down... I couldn't resist... I took a bite.  And to my horror... in complete slow motion... the piece of cake dropped and fell to the ground.  I was like nooooo!!!!   I'm not going to lie... I totally 5 second ruled it and I picked it up and totally ate it anyway!!!  Lol!  Another catastrophe... later on that night I hear a wave of water spilling.  I head out and I see that my cat knocked over the vase of flowers Cody got me.  My goodness was it hard cleaning up all that water!  But I guess it makes a funny story...


This was my anniversary Facebook status.  :)


This was Cody's.  :)


 
Now onto Memorial Day Weekend...  Yay for long weekends!  Boo for Cody having to work it!  However, we still had a really nice weekend.  On Sunday morning our neighbor knocked on our door and surprised us with Indians tickets.  We had bleacher seats right by Chief Wahoo and it was a really good game.  The weather was absolutely perfect and it was a fantastic day for a game.  Darn on the Indian's not actually winning, but it was a close/good game.

 
On Monday we had a bunch of people come over for a little impromptu cookout.  Here is one of the last belly pictures of my dad!  A couple days after this picture he went and got the bariatric surgery done and should be losing this belly in no time!  Matthew, Robyn, and the girls got to see our house for the first time this weekend too.  We had a nice time hanging out with everyone our neighbors, mom, aunt Karen, uncle Gary, and uncle Johnny also came over.  So overall pretty good weekend.

Trip to Orlando 2016

Cody and I took our first trip to Orlando together this year!  Orlando is one of my top, most favorite places is the whole wide world.  The only place that rivals Orlando to me is Las Vegas.  We went from the end of February until the first week in March.  This was a perfect time to go to Orlando because the temperatures were mostly in the mid 70's and the crowds were relatively low.

We used our time share and stayed at the Holiday Inn Orange Lake Resort.  This was a MASSIVE resort and probably the nicest resort that we have access to in Orlando.  The resort has 4 different sections (or villages) the north, east, south, and west.  It boasts over 7 pools and a lazy river, 4 golf courses on site, and two putt putt courses.  It was gigantic!  The west village is where the main pools and restaurants are located.  We ended up staying in the East Village.  We were only able to rent a two bedroom unit here so our room was more than we needed.  One of my favorite features was having our own screened in porch that overlooked the golf course.  We enjoyed eating breakfast in there and hanging out.  We were also only about a mile or two away from Disney and it didn't take us very long to get to the parks at all.



We were lucky that our room was right next door to one of the pools.  Day one we went out for lunch at Gatorside Dock and Grill for Cody to get some Florida gator (not as good as Fort Lauderdale).  Then we grabbed some groceries for the week and came back to hang by the pool for a little while.  It was a nice day to kind of relax and unwind before the upcoming days of going to the parks.

I did a ton of research before our trip so that we had a good game plan when we got to Orlando.  I already researched a bunch of the places that we wanted to go and the best days to go to each park.  I used the crowd calendar at Orlando Informer (they predict which days will be low, moderate, high, and very high crowd days in each park) and I tried to select either low or moderate crowd days for each park that we went to.  It actually worked out perfectly and we definitely minimized our crowds by using this tool.  Now I think sometimes when you go to Orlando like June-August almost every day is a very busy day, but when we went it worked perfectly!


And when I say that I did a lot of research and planning... that is so not a lie.  I had a whole spreadsheet compiled with all kinds of information that we needed.  I had this spreadsheet printed off (multiple copies) and I had it emailed to my phone.  :)  We were well prepared. I know that some people say that they don't like to have plans on vacation and they like to figure things out as they are there... but that is SO not us!  We have done that before and we always find that it is stressful trying to find good places to go to (and we almost always end up settling on a place that is only ok) and we almost always waste a day planning while on vacation/we miss a lot of cool things while we are there.  I would rather do the research ahead of time and have an idea of what we'd like to do.  Now we aren't SUPER strict to a schedule... it's more of an outline... some things are set and others we just do it as we want to.  Plus... traveling is our hobby and we need things to look forward to and research about.  Cody is also a planner like me and shares my sentiments on being prepared.


The next day was Hollywood Studios!!  We were there right as the doors opened and we ran straight to Toy Story Mania!  This is without a doubt my favorite attraction at Disney!  Now before we came to Disney I did some extensive research into our "touring plan" (or the order that we'd hit all the attractions in) and I tried to figure out how to best use our fastpasses.  This was my first time using Fastpass+ where you can make your reservations ahead of time.  Hollywood Studios only allows you to get 1 tier A and then 2 tier B fastpasses.  I had to basically choose between Toy Story Mania and Fantasmic premier seating.  Luckily when we went it wasn't too busy so I was able to get the pass for Toy Story Mania and then I was later able to get Fantasmic.  I'm not so sure how feasible it would have been to be able to see the first showing of Fantasmic without the premier seating option, because it seemed to fill up by most of those people.  So if you are going during peak times and you want to see the first Fantasmic show then you might want to consider just running to Toy Story Mania first and using your Tier A fastpass for Fantasmic.



 I was geeky excited that almost no one was in line to meet Mickey Mouse at the very beginning of the day, and he was in the building right next to Toy Story Mania.  I think Cody was a little annoyed with me for wanting to stand in the line, but :) :) :)  Mickey Mouse pictures!!


I can't believe how different Hollywood Studios looks without the Sorcerer's Hat! I don't think that I've ever really noticed what the Great Movie Rides entrance really looks like! 


Hollywood Studio's is going through a transitional period right now.  There really wasn't enough for us to be active all day long.  We ended up going on numerous rides twice; Toy Story Mania, Rocking Rollercoaster, and Tower of Terror.  I know that they are adding in a Stars Wars land and a Toy Story Land, but until then the park kind of felt empty.  I sincerely missed the backlot tour!  That was one of Hollywood Studios best attractions and I kept hearing myself tell Cody how great it was back in the day as we passed different areas of the park.  I think that the Streets of America are basically wasted space and I completely understand why they are tearing it out, but I sure am going to miss the Osborne Family Lights at Christmas.  I think that was one of Disney's best Christmas attractions.  Rumors are though that it's going to move to Disney Springs aka Downtown Disney.


While Hollywood Studios is currently lacking in overall attractions...  I'd say their night time shows are pretty strong.  Fantasmic is still one of the best night time shows that I've ever seen and I absolutely love it.  They have also added a Star Wars themed firework show at the end of the night.  I think that they are going to add a lot more to this show as it progresses, but it was still pretty cool.



After Hollywood Studios we went to Miller's Ale House, which is obviously going to be our "go to" spot every time that we visit Orlando.  Not only was it about two minutes away from our resort, but it was the obvious local favorite.  They had great specials, and they served something called zingers which were like chicken tenders but 10x better!  They were lightly breaded and dipped in sauce and they were probably the best chicken tender we've ever had!!  They also had $10 pitchers of margaritas which were right up Cody's alley. We ended up going there 3 times during our stay and are 100% sure that we will be back there.  There are actually a couple of Miller Ale House locations in Florida and I think we are going to be visiting the one in Miami before our cruise.


The next day was all about Cody!!  He is a major Atlanta Braves fan and the Brave's spring training just so happens to be at Disney's World's Wide of Sports complex. 


We got there early and Cody and I tried to get autographs from players.  Cody was excited to get hall of famer, Dale Murphy, to take a picture with him and sign a ball.  We also had a nice day out in the sun!!  I think we both got a sunburn that day!  But it was actually super nice to be out and about in the nice weather.



We were going to drive an hour to Crabby Bill's that night which is a seafood place that Cody really likes, but we decided that we didn't want to do such a long drive.  We were also going to go to one of the two all you can eat lobster/seafood buffets in Orlando.  However, prices were really high to go to them and they had mixed reviews on Trip Advisor so we decided not to go.  Instead we saw this "large" Chinese buffet, called Golden China, on our way back to our house and we decided to go there.  WORST China buffet EVER!  They had almost no food on the buffet at all and what they did have didn't taste that great.  We should have known because no one was really there when we pulled up.  I'm not usually a person that writes reviews on Trip Advisor, but I actually did give them a negative review.  We'd never got there again.



On Wednesday we finally got to go to Universal Studios!  I think I was the most excited on this trip to get to go see the newly expanded Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  We came on a great day in the park and hardly had to wait for any rides at all. This is me in front of the entrance to Diagon Alley!  I absolutely thought it was incredible!



We ran straight to Diagon Alley (which of course is all the way back in the park).  This is a shot of most of the area.  There are so many shops and places to go!  You can see me with my butterbeer which is terrific!  I would describe it as cream soda with a caramel froth on top... very tasty!


Here I am inside of Gringotts.  I couldn't believe how beautiful it was!  I'm not sure if you can see them, but there are goblins working at each station.  The whole premise of the Gringott's ride is that you are trying to open up your own bank account.



Here is the main goblin.  He is the one that gives you instructions on how to open your account.


Then you go into the main show room (similar to Rocking Rollercoaster) and Bill Weasley walks you through coming down into the bottom of Gringott's to look at your vault.


Then you go down in one of two elevators to get to the ride entrance.


Then you come down to the ride entrance and get into what are supposed to be mine cars.  Then you go through the ride.  Now when I first went on the Hogwart's Castle ride it was unlike any ride that I had ever been on.  This ride is very similar to the spiderman and transformer rides at the park.  It was still cool.  *Spoiler Alert*  Basically you get attacked by Voldmort and Bellatrix Lestrange and Harry and the group come and rescue you.  It was still pretty cool to go on, and since I was there on a day where it wasn't too busy I actually went on it 3 times!  :)  The details in the ride que and on the ride itself were incredible!


Mmm I got a butterbeer ice cream at Florean's Ice Cream parlor (from the 3rd book).  Basically, butterbeer is Universal's golden goose.  Everyone wants to try it and they basically make everything into it.  They have a regular butterbeer drink, a frozen one, a hot one, ice cream, fudge...  basically anything and everything is butterbeer flavored. They sell the drinks anywhere from $6 - $12 based on whether or not you get a souvenir cup.



We didn't eat in here but this is the Leaky Cauldron.


I really enjoyed walking into all the shops front the books and seeing what they offered.  This was the Weasley Twins store.  It had a lot of practical joke items to buy.



I also spent quite a bit of time wandering around Knockturn Alley.  If I hadn't known that they had created it ahead of time, I'm not sure if I would have found it. It's tucked way in the back corner and kind of hidden.  I don't think many people know that it's there... which is cool because it adds to the ambiance of the place.  It sells things that are little bit more creepy like in the book.


In order to ride the Hogwart's Express (which connects both parks) you have to have a park hopper ticket (which is freaking expensive!!)  Cody and I were only going to Universal/Islands of Adventure for one day, so we did opt for the park hopper ticket.  It was cool to get to go on the Hogwart's Express, but in truth I'm not sure if I'd buy a park hopper ticket just to go on it. 

Here are Cody and I on the train.  We were in a small compartment with 4-6 other people.  The window is actually a video screen and plays a show of moving across the countryside as you head towards either direction.  The video that plays is different in both directions because in one direction you are arriving at Hogwarts and the other you are arriving in London.

If you are interested in reading about my first trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Hogsmeade portion of the park...  head to this blog:

http://melnemac.blogspot.com/2011/09/wizarding-world-of-harry-potter.html



Universal is lucky that it added Harry Potter to it's parks, because without it there really isn't that much to do.  However, maybe that was because we had already been to Universal in Hollywood a few years ago and all the shows are the same, so we opted out of going to most of those.  We had an enjoyable day with almost no wait in lines so we were able to ride everything relatively easily and we were done about an hour or two before the park closed.  The weather was perfect and it was a nice day.


 So these pictures crack me up!  We asked a guy to take a picture of us in front of the Universal globe.  This is Cody looking back and saying "Hey wait... the Universal sign isn't behind us."  The guy didn't even tell us he was taking the picture... just took it when Cody wasn't even looking haha.


But in the end we got the perfect one!!  Yay!  


We ended up staying in the Citywalk area for dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp!  I always like the atmosphere in that restuarant.


Thursday was our day at the Magic Kingdom.  We didn't quite get there at rope drop because of how long of a travel distance it takes to get to the Magic Kingdom.

I was very excited to see the newly expanded Fantasyland and to see all of the new attractions.  This is the new Little Mermaid Ride that basically walks you through the whole story of the little mermaid.  I really enjoyed it, but it definitely aimed towards little girls.


 I was really excited to get to go on the Seven Dwarf's Mine Train ride.  I had done extensive research on the Magic Kingdom and what rides to hit first, so I knew that we should get a fastpass for this ride. Although I have heard that the que and waiting line for this ride is one of the best in Disney... I knew that with average wait times over 2 hours that I shouldn't test our luck.  It was a very pretty ride but it was still a slow moving/not really a thrill ride type of ride.


Another expansion that was new to me was the Disney Hub around the center of the Castle.  I was really impressed by this expansion and by how much more room there seemed to be around the castle.


The Haunted Mansion!  One of my favorite rides to go on at Disney.



 I actually did a couple of firsts this year.  I went on the Liberty Square Riverboat for the first time.


We also went to the amazing Tiki Room.  I've always heard about this, but I've never gone to see it.  Basically you are in a room for 10-15 minutes with a lot of robotic singing birds!!  Ummm... yeah... still not so sure how I felt about the Tiki Room.  Part of me liked it...  Part of me never wants to go back to it again.  Kind of like the It's a Small World ride.


So unfortunately, with everything that Cody and I share and totally are aligned in... our love of Disney is not one of those things.  Cody hasn't seen hardly any Disney movies at all, and he wasn't too thrilled about being at Disney as adults without kids.  Personally... I love Disney and when I was in Orlando I spent everyday there.  For Cody, I think it was a little painful and was more about compromise than happiness to be there.  :(  Hopefully he'll start to like Disney more after we have kids.


As always, my favorite part about the Magic Kingdom is the night time.  I absolutely love the night time parade and I think that it is spectacular!  Also they have a pre-show before the fireworks show on the castle that I have never seen before.  It is called "Celebrate the Magic."  It basically shows clips from Disney movies and of Walt Disney himself and it is all tied in wonderfully to each other.  The castle basically transforms into a giant screen and everything is played right off it.  It was super amazing and lasted for 10-15 minutes right before the firework display.  I'm really happy that we got to see it.


Friday was a wonderful day around our resort.  We had a ton of fun hanging out in the pools for the day and basically relaxing.  This was one of our only days without anything planned for dinner so we decided to head to Disney Springs aka Downtown Disney.  I cannot BELIEVE how different this place looks!  First they added an awesome parking garage that tells you how many spaces are available on which floor, and then they've just added a massive amount of new places to eat and shop to the area, and it is still under construction!  I was blown away at how many options that were there.  Basically we wandered around for an hour trying to figure out where we wanted to eat and we ended up eating at the House of Blues.  Another reason why I really wanted to go to Disney Springs (still doesn't feel right typing that... Downtown Disney forever... boo on them changing the name!) is that I really really wanted to buy a poster.  Years and years ago when I was in Orlando I used to browse in all of the shops including the art shop and I saw a poster there that I've always loved about having Vision and it's of Walt Disney standing on the empty lot of the Magic Kingdom with Cinderella's castle ghosted out behind him.  I've always thought it was cool, and I'm quite excited to have that poster hanging up in my cube at work.  :)

Our last day we hung out at the resort again for the day, and then we met with Cody's cousin and family for dinner.  You guessed it... Miller's Ale House again.  When Cody asked Dave where we should meet he actually said that this was their favorite place around!  Just confirms what we had already figured out... this place is awesome!  We actually had about a 45 min wait, but it was worth it.  It was fun getting to meet Cody's cousin and his family.  I'm glad that we were able to meet up.


Well that sums up our trip to Orlando.  Overall, I had a fantastic time and I still love Orlando.  I have no regrets about going there before we have kids (even if Cody debates me on that)...  We absolutely loved our resort and I would go back in a heartbeat.  Always a fun time in Orlando.  :)