Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Weekend Recap

Since it's already Tuesday and I missed my typical Hello Monday post, here's our weekend recap.

Weekend Recap

We started our weekend by going out to dinner with some friends.  They have two sweet boys ages 6 and 1.  It's always fun getting together and watching the kids interact.  This time around, their older boy was trying to teach Littlecjc how to play tic-tac-toe.  She really wasn't getting it, but it was fun watching his attempts to teach her.

We debated heading to St. Louis for a day trip on Saturday, but we were unsure about the weather.  There was a lot of talk of possible severe storms, so we decided to just stay in town.  However, that didn't mean we did nothing all day.  Quite the opposite actually.  We started the day at our local zoo.

After leaving the zoo, we left for lunch and had some water fun at home.

Not wanting to end the fun there, we went out again, this time for some putt-putt and time on the playground.

Saturday was so much fun!  On Sunday, we started our day with church, where Littlecjc moved up from the toddler room to the preschool class.  She was so excited and seemed to have a lot of fun.  After resting up from our busy day before, we headed out to my parent's boat club.  The Ohio River is still way too high for my parents to get their boat out, but their camper is already at the boat club and they were camping out and offered for Littlecjc to spend the night with them, allowing Patrick and me a date night.  We went to Logan's for dinner and then to the movies to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales.  I really liked this movie and how it tied everything together.

On Monday, we spent a few hours at the boat club while picking up Littlecjc and then went out to buy a new grill.  Littlecjc spent a little more time playing in her sprinkler and baby pool and Patrick grilled out on his new purchase.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Arrival & California Grill

After our 13 hour car ride, we were so happy to finally make it to Disney.  Don't get me wrong, this was possibly the easiest trip yet with Littlecjc because we brought along a secret weapon, my mom.  Grandma was a blessing on the road.  She sat in the back with Littlecjc and they played the entire time.  They did wipe-clean books, activity books, picture puzzles, stamped notebooks, etc.  I was so impressed, that they only watched one movie during the journey.

Since we split our drive up over two days, we got to the Disney area early, so we stopped to visit a friend for a while, and then we went to the outlet mall to hit up the Character Warehouse store.  Therefore, by the time we made it to our hotel, we had already gotten our check-in information and were able to bypass the lobby and instead head straight to our room.  

We stay at the value resorts more often than moderate, and we've only stayed in a deluxe once.  For us, we usually only sleep in our hotel since we spend all our time in the parks.  So it makes sense to save as much as we can on our accommodations, so that we can return again as soon as possible.  This time around, we found the best deal at Pop Century.

We were in the 80s section, overlooking the computer pool.  

Depending on what types of rooms are available when searching for a room, you never know what type of room might be your best deal.  Originally, the cheapest room we found was a preferred room at one of the All-Star resorts.  However, we continued to look for a standard room and eventually found one.  Even with the pool view, it was cheaper than the preferred room, so we made the switch and ended up at Pop Century.  

We also always request top floor rooms since they tend to be a little quieter.

If you've never stayed here before, the bus stop is just like it is at every other value resort.

If you're not familiar with the Disney value resorts, I'll tell you they are all about the over-sized items covering stairways and decorating walkways.  This hotel is no different.

After getting settled in, we made our way to the bus stop to head to Disney Springs to meet up with some friends.

Our first stop was of course the World of Disney store.  Although I like the looks of the newly remolded Disney Springs, I still tend to stick to the classic, original stores when I'm actually shopping or just wanting my Disney fix.  Littlecjc also loves this end of the complex because they have a carousel and a little train ride.

We do however, love the food options on the new side.  This, of course, includes the cupcake ATM at Sprinkles.

Since Grandma was along with us this time, Patrick and I had planned a little date night during this trip.  So, while Grandma and Littlecjc made their way to the bus heading back to Pop Century, Patrick and I made our way to the Contemporary Hotel and California Grill.

Our dinner reservation was actually at 9:20, but we of course got there a little early so that we could head out on the balcony to watch Wishes.

The restaurant actually has a walkway out both sides of the restaurant.  We realized after the show, that our view would have been much better (and warmer due to the building blocking the wind) on the other walkway.  However, we were swayed by the fact that you could also see Epcot and Hollywood Studio fireworks from the balcony we chose.  This was fun as well seeing all the shows going off at once, but really with Wishes going, that was all we really wanted to see.  Plus, as the shows started, more people filled in behind us making it a little awkward to turn around and see the other shows.

After the show, we were quickly seated.  An assortment of bread was brought to our table.

Since we don't eat fancy dinners very often, we went all out and got an appetizer, the roasted tomato flatbread.

We also both got a Mai Tai!

I went with the short rib served over risotto with asparagus. 

Patrick opted for the halibut.

We originally had planned on not having any dessert, however our waitress brought one out to us on the house.  She said it was for our wait, which it did take a while to get through our dinner, but we didn't really mind, and just figured it was a given with our dinner time being right after the fireworks.  Either way, we were super stoked as it was so delicious.  It really couldn't have been better, because she brought out exactly what we were debating getting, the peanut butter creme brulee.

 When we finished our wonderful meal, we couldn't possibly leave the hotel without checking out the Easter eggs in the lobby.  The Contemporary eggs were all Star Wars themed this year.

These were so neat to see.  If it hadn't already been so late, we would have hopped on the monorail and checked out the Easter eggs at the other hotels as well.  As it was, we ended up walking to Magic Kingdom and caught a bus back to our hotel.

We had such a great time, and I'm so happy that we were able to do this while Wishes was still showing and Grandma was along to watch Littlecjc.  If you're looking for a great date night on property, I highly recommend this restaurant and fireworks viewing. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Wreck it Ralph

Disney Dinners finally made a comeback a few weeks ago with none other than Wreck it Ralph!  We the actually did more of a rolling theme over the week.  The first night, we had the themed dinner.  I made meatloaf cupcakes (mashed potato frosting) and cyborg eggs (brussels sprouts.)

The next day, Littlecjc and I snacked on our Pac-Man cherry gummy snacks that I just happened to come across while at the store.  These were so good, poor Patrick missed out.

Finally, a few nights later we made our candy cars.  Littlecjc had so much fun doing this, even if she didn't quite have it all figured out.  She mostly followed our leads and even asked for a lot of help getting everything done, but she still thought it was great!  And she was so proud of the finished products.  I found chocolate covered twinkies that we used as our car base.  For our additions, we had what was left of Littlecjc's Easter candy, marshmellows, pink ice cream cones and a snack bag mix I found that contained chocolate wafers, mini oreos, and m&m type candies.  As you can see, we then used peanut butter to hold it all together.

This was definitely the most tasty movie night activity we've had so far, and it was a great way to bring back the fun.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Show and Tell: Travelogues

This week, Andrea prompted us to write about our best and worst travel adventures.  I really struggled with this one for a while.  How could I possibly pick one vacation as the best, and do I even have a bad travel adventure?  I feel very blessed that I was fortunate enough to go on many vacations as a kid.  Every summer, we usually vacationed at a different lake or river since my family loved spending time on our boat.  My parents also took me to Colorado one year to go skiing.  This trip provided me with my first airplane experience.  Thanks to competitive dance and cheer days, we also traveled to places like Disney World, all the big cities in the surrounding states like Indianapolis, St. Louis, Louisville, Gatlinburg, Nashville, Chattanooga, and even a trip to South Padre Island, TX (where we visited the best water park ever and went bungee jumping.)  I was also fortunate enough to go on many vacations with my grandparents when they took my cousin and me with them. One of these vacations includes my only venture out of the states; when we were in northern Michigan and Grandpa announced that we were so close to Canada so we were going to check it out.  We went across the border and basically turned around and went back.  We spent more time passing through customs than we did in Canada.  Although I'll never forget my Canadian adventure, my most memorable of these trips was our 2 week journey out west.  We went to Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado visiting sites all along the way like the Royal Gorge, Pikes Peak, and we went white water rafting.  At first, it seemed like a given, that my best vacation would be to Disney World, but which one?  When I went for the first time without my mom, as a college freshmen with a group of great friends?  When Patrick proposed?  Our honeymoon?  Littlecjc's first trip?  My best friend's wedding?  So many choices, and so many great memories at Disney World.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized my best vacation wasn't any of these trips.  Instead it was a 30 hr road trip to California.

Best Travel Adventure
In December 2013, thanks to the Michigan State football team, we made the decision to take the roadtrip of a lifetime.  If you don't already know, Patrick is a big MSU sports fan, and when they made it to the Rose Bowl for the first time in years, we decided we didn't want to miss this opportunity.  I of course, was not just going to go all that way for a game, so it was a week long adventure.  We took Patrick's sister and one of her friends with us, giving us 4 drivers.  We dropped 3 month old Littlecjc off at Grandma's and left mid afternoon.  We then drove 25 hours, straight through to Las Vegas.  We checked into our hotel the Riviera and then walked up the strip for a nice dinner at Gordon Ramsay's restaurant.

Non of us really had any interest in gambling, but we did check out as many of the hotels as we could, of course including the fountains at the Belagio.

The next morning before leaving Vegas, we had to stop by the iconic welcome to Las Vegas sign.

Patrick decided that we needed to make one more stop before getting back on the road.  He just had to go to the pawn shop from the TV show Pawn Stars.

When we finally made it to LA, we went straight to the beach.

Even though this was New Year's Eve, we didn't stay out late since we had a super early day the next morning.  I'm pretty sure that after we watched the sun set on the beach and then got some food and went to bed.

I think we left our hotel room about 4:00 the next morning to make sure we got to Pasadena and found our seats before our path got closed.  One of my stipulations to going to the Rose Bowl game was to see the Rose Bowl Parade.  

After doing some research, we actually bought tickets for specific bleacher seats to guarantee that we wouldn't miss anything.  Our seats were at the very beginning of the parade route, directly across from the main grandstand containing all the media tables.  This meant that we were actually spotted on TV.  Here's one shot of us behind some singers from the Voice.

The parade was just as amazing as I imagined it to be.  However, the experience was more than I could dream.  It is such a production.  So many people were there, and there was even a parade of protesters that followed the actual parade.  The sun was rising right in front of us so my pictures don't do any of these floats justice, but here are a few pictures.

After the parade, Patrick and I walked to the stadium area where a fan fest area was set up while the girls opted to just head back to the beach.  They didn't have tickets for the game and weren't interested in seeing any more crazy fans.  At the rally area there was a stage set up with some performers, but I don't remember who.  There were also a lot of tents for food, drinks, and different vendors.  After walking around a while and getting some lunch, we were ready to head to the stadium.

Our seats were way up top, but we didn't care one bit.  All that mattered was that we were there.  There's nothing too impressive about the stadium itself, but it was pretty cool seeing the mountains in the background.

We couldn't have asked for a better game, especially since Michigan State ended up winning.

After the game, we headed back into town for the typical tourist attractions.  We found the Hollywood sign (although we were disappointed to discover that it wasn't lit up after dark) and we visited the Chinese Theater (which was a little underwhelming.)

Again, we didn't stay out too late, because the next day was devoted to my second stipulation of this road trip, Disneyland.  I really wish we had allowed ourselves more time here, but I guess that just gives me an excuse to go back again.  Regardless, we had a very successful day and succeeded in getting all our priorities in.  Unfortunately, it was extremely crowded this day (being Jan 2) and it was really like one big race for me to get everything in.

We started at California Adventures and headed straight to the fastpass kiosk for the Cars attraction.

With the time crunch, this day was all about the attractions.  My goal was to ride everything that isn't available at Disney World, but to also be able to experience the differences between the attractions that are in both parks.  Our first stop was the Tower.

Since this trip was years ago, I don't remember that many details from the park.  Plus, since it was a marathon of a day, I didn't take near as many pictures as I do these days.  (Side note - since I was only 3 months post baby, I also took many breaks throughout the day to visit the closest restroom to pump.  Yes, I know there are nice baby center areas in Disney parks, but since I was just dumping everything anyway, I didn't mind just stopping into a restroom to make the stop faster.)

We of course loved the (then new) Cars area, and I thought the added Christmas decorations were so fun.

After attacking the park all morning, we switched over to the original.

Again, I regret that we didn't get more pictures, but we really did have a great day!  I was so happy that we were there during the holidays so we were able to see the Haunted Mansion's Nightmare Before Christmas overlay.

We also got to watch the light show at the It's a Small World attraction.  I wasn't even aware that this took place, but I'm so glad we saw it.  The building front is so impressive here in comparison to Disney World.  Unfortunately, this was one of the rides we opted to skip, so I have no idea of any differences inside the attraction.

Overall, the park was beautifully decorated for the holidays.

Even though I kept thinking about how much smaller this park seemed, I really wished I had more time.  As with every trip to any Disney park, there are so many things we missed that I would have loved to have gotten in.  It really just wasn't possible though.  Unfortunately, this was our last day in California.  The next day we started our journey back home.  There are basically two different routes you can take to get to California from Indiana.  On the way west, we took the northern route through Colorado and Utah.  This path was absolutely beautiful and I would have loved to have taken more time to explore, especially in Utah.  However, on the way home, we took the southern route through Arizona so we could take the 2 hour detour and see the Grand Canyon.

So beautiful!  I'm so glad we made the trip longer to see this amazing site.  The ride home was long after our busy trip.  In all honesty, we probably would have stopped somewhere to truly sleep for a while, but we were trying to make it home before a snow storm hit.  Even though we were in the car for so long, we had so much fun and made so many memories.

Worst Travel Adventure
This was extremely hard to determine, because I don't have a vacation memory that was so bad it ruined the entire trip.  I guess if I really have to pick one, it would be a ski trip to Colorado.  Don't get me wrong, I was so grateful for the opportunity to go on the trip, but it was a little awkward.  My aunt and uncle planned the trip and allowed all five of their boys to bring someone.  The older boys all invited their girlfriends, and the youngest two boys took friends.  The youngest boy is my age and he decided to take my brother, who is two years younger than us.  Shortly before leaving for the trip, one of the girls originally planning on going broke her leg and so I was invited to take her place.  Again, so thankful to go, but obviously this also changed sleeping arrangements.  This was before the time of Harry Potter, but the cabin we rented was out of rooms and I ended up in a little room under the stairs just like Harry.  It had some type of bed in there, so it really wasn't that bad, but it is funny to think about now.  I also took a pretty good wipeout on this trip.  I wasn't really hurt, but my ski scratched up my face pretty good, and of course it was right before our pictures were taken on top of the mountain.  Overall, if this is the worst travel adventure I can come up with, I think I'm doing great.

Join the fun and link up your best and worst travelogues!