Wednesday, July 17, 2013


For Kenneth and Mama, Epcot is the ultimate theme park.
Mama loves the ride, "Soarin" and we rode that first.
If you are looking for tips on visiting Florida theme parks,
here is tip number one.
If you want to ride Soarin, get there early!
This was our longest wait, but it is so worth it!

After Soarin, we had dinner reservations at Tutto Italia.
What a tasty experience!  Since we have been to Epcot several times,
we have eaten at Chefs de France, Biergarten Restaurant,
San Angel Inn, Restaurant Marrakesh and the day I ran the Disney Marathon,
(trust me, that's a totally different post) 
Kenneth and the kids ate at Tokyo Dining. 

We loved Tutto Italia.  We had great service with authentic Italian food.

even John was full after Tutto Italia!

With the clouds looking really thick, we ducked into Japan.
There is a huge shop there that Mama really likes.
Julia and I enjoyed watching a jeweler there make pearl jewelry
while visitors tried their luck at selecting oysters from a tank
and cracking them open to find pearls inside.
We went on around the world making a brief stop
in England.  We watched little girls "queue up"
to meet Mary Poppins. (Sadly, Jay and Cooper
were not there for me to torture with a Mary Poppins vigil.
They had gone to the Magic Kingdom.)

After our trip"around the world" we were back to the main entrance 
where Kenneth and kids rode "Mission Space".
The GM Test Track, the fastest ride at Disney, was closed
because the track was wet.  Boo. This just means, we'll have to go back 
to do it all again...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hollywood Studios

We were ready early for another theme park day.

We got to Hollywood Studios with a strategy of going to the point
farthest from the entrance and doing rides there.  Success!
We didn't wait long at all for Disney's Tower of Terror.

(Again, for those with weak stomachs... beware!)
For John, Julia and Kellye... it doesn't get any better than this ride.
It was during this trip that I realized Dick Clark had nothing on
my sister-in-law.  She loves these rides more than any kid in America!

Kellye, Julia, Will and Cooper at ToyStory Mania

I love The Great Movie Ride, so Jeff, Jay, Cooper and I
rode it twice.  So, Jay and Cooper, thanks for being good sports!

After eating at The Backlot Express, we thought we'd dodge the rain
by attending the "Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular".
After the show, we did another couple of rides and then went for ice cream.
This time, we didn't dodge the showers, 
but Jeff, Kellye, Will, John and Julia decided,
"what the heck, we're already wet".  They stood in line (in a down pour)
 for the Rock-N-Roller coaster while the other guys and I went to my favorite, 
"Beauty and the Beast".

These guys are really not Beauty and the Beast fans, 
but they were very sweet about
going to the show with Aunt Christa and Uncle Kenny.

But when I wasn't looking, they couldn't help but show their real feelings...

Okay... I love Belle, Gaston and of course Mrs. Potts and Chip...

... but I don't thing Jay, Cooper or Kenneth felt the same...
On the upside, we stayed dry and I had a marvelous time!

We paused at the exit gates for Julia to do her best Mike Wazowski, then
we all dried off, changed and went to dinner.
We had a great day at Hollywood Studios and were looking forward to
another day at Epcot.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Universal 2013

Disney and Universal in Orlando offer something for everyone.
(Have I mentioned how much I love these theme parks?)
While my children always loved the Magic Kingdom,
we decided that Universal, Hollywood Studios and Epcot
might be more fun for them this summer.
(Cousins Jay, Will and Cooper visited the same parks,
but substituted the Magic Kingdom for Epcot.)
John and Julia grew up reading and watching 
the Harry Potter series,
so I guess it's natural that Hogwarts would be 
the ultimate vacation destination!

A fairly recent update to Universal Studios in Orlando
is the Harry Potter World.  We met visitors who flew in from San Francisco.  
"Doesn't California have a Universal?" we wanted to know.
They told us that California's Universal doesn't have a
Harry Potter World, and it was worth the trip!

The scenery, architecture, rides and shows are true to
the books and just as imaginative.  With a butterbeer to go, we were ready
to ride "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey".
I speak with authority when I say that ride is not for
those with weak gastrointestinal fortitude.

John and Julia enjoyed roller coasters like Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit,
Dragon Challenge and the Incredible Hulk.

We saw the show, "Poseidon's Fury", enjoyed a little magic outside Hogwarts,
ate ice cream and had a fabulous birthday dinner for Mama at a 50's Diner
called Mel's Drive In.

The cloud cover kept the temp just right.  We dodged just a few sprinkles
getting to the Despicable Me ride, but stayed on well past dark.

All ten of us left dog tired, but couldn't wait til the next
day when we would get up and go again -  this time to Hollywood Studios.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Disney, Universal and Mama's Birthday

It's generational, our love of Disney.  During his retirement years,
my Grandaddy Frank loved nothing better than flying to
Orlando to go to the Magic Kingdom
and people watch.  The excitement for him was
 the orderliness, the size, the cleanliness
and the wonderful business model of... magic.

Living in South Georgia for our earliest years, my brother and I got to go often.
After our move to northeast Georgia, we still went for special occasions, like
the Inaugural year of Epcot. I'll agree with my nephew, Cooper.
"It's the happiest place on Earth!"

Mama had been planning. Our last trip was 2009. It was time to go again.
So... we celebrated Mama's birthday at Universal Studios.
We got to the park a few minutes before 9AM.  We weren't back in the
car until well after 9 PM.  Mama kept right on going.  Pretty good
for a _1st birthday!!

Magic Kingdom July 16

I was worried that we would melt in Orlando during July.
The cloud cover and the afternoon showers kept the temps down to our
comfort zone.

I had never been to Universal Studios.  Oh boy!

"The Hulk" Universal Studios

Yep, I rode it!!  The kids were amazed.  Jeff and Kellye hopped on first with no fear.
Okay, so I'm a little competitive.  After the ride, I staggered off and agreed
 I'd definitely be back to ride it again!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Reading in the rain

We, of the deep south, have been taught to
never, ever, ever complain about rain.
I suspect this is due to our deep agricultural roots.
My Daddy kept a watchful eye on the forecast because
he raised cows.  "Rain is a good thing" per Luke Bryan and thousands of
farmers or part time farmers like my Daddy.
It wasn't the best thing for fourth of July celebrations though.
But, I'll not complain.  I'll just read.
Rain has definitely been a good thing for my reading resolution.

Most recently, I finished The Geography of Bliss.
This is one writer's quest to find the happiest and least happy
places on the planet.  I wish he would have asked me.
He traveled to Iceland, Moldova, Bhutan, Qatar, India, Thailand, Great Britain, 
Switzerland and Amsterdam to find out where the happiest reside. 
To generalize broadly, he found that happiness is not
geographical.  It is relational.
It is found in relationships.
It is found in y'all.

For me, that y'all is my family first, friends,
neighbors, church family and my great friends at work. 
I'd love to travel the globe in search of just about anything,
but I know to stay home if I'm looking for happiness.
So come south, EricWeiner, we know a thing or
two about y'all, happiness... and after this summer - a lot
about rain!

Monday, July 08, 2013

Birthday #13

Since both of our children have July birthdays and
since we built the same swimming pool twice (!),
it's a given that every birthday party is a pool party.
We've had some good ones and Julia's thirteenth was no exception.

You don't have to be the hostess with the mostest to deliver on a great pool party.
Balloons mark the spot, pizza - and lots of it - let's just say that De
and I were amazed at how much - drinks, cake, ice cream - oh and SUN
are the only requirements.

Every year, Julia wants "birthday cake".  That is
cream cheese pound cake to the rest of the world.  We made it in a 9 X 13
pan and De cut out the numbers and decorated.  We add this cake
to the gallery of great cakes he has done for J & J.  

Happiness was made complete with monogrammed goods
and gift card delight.  But.... I really think that happiness truly came from
reuniting with friends that had not all been together since May.
For me, happiness came from seeing Baby Noona so excited...
and a bright sunny day with no RAIN!

And... just a thought... are you familiar with the
"It's not complicated" AT & T commercials?
Well.... the above photo (particularly the swimsuits)
makes me think of  "more less stuff".

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Family Reunion

Road trip!
Early Birthday morning, we left to go to our favorite Aunt Martha's house.
It was Julia's actual birthday, though we are celebrating with her friends
at a later date.  Months ago, Aunt Martha planned a send off
for her son, John, as he and his family move back to Singapore.
We loaded up for the trip to Statesboro, Georgia for family, 
fun and a little barbeque on the side.
If we do anything,  it is chase good barbeque.
I give the barbeque a solid 5. I would not rate the stew nearly
as high.  What the stew lacks, the sauce more than pays for!!
The mustard sauce is truly worth the long trip...
but then so is Aunt Martha.

Favorite Aunt Helen, Mom, Julia and Aunt Martha

Besides eating good barbeque, the kids rode in Norman's Model T 
and swam to their hearts content.

Harry, William, John and James
Julia and Norman


Whether our cousins are in Washington state, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee,
Singapore or Atlanta, we just don't get to see them often enough.

Bonus recipe:
This recipe comes from Woody's Campfire Talk chat room on the
Georgia Outdoor News website.  Obviously, I'm not the only one who wants
the recipe for Vandy's sauce.  This approximation was submitted by jason 4445.

3-cups Heinz ketchup
1/2 cup of water or alcohol (like Jim Beam)
1/2 cup Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup of lemon juice
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Lee and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
3 teaspoons dry mustard
1 finely chopped onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 stick butter
4-5 lemon slices
hot sauce to taste

Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

Rain, rain, go away...
The southeastern United States has had a 
very unusual summer.  An unusually wet one.
(Is this El Nino?!?)

Normally, we celebrate July 4 in a cloud of heat and humidity
and usually under extremely dry conditions.
This year, most events were cancelled due to rain.
We refused to give in.
After all, July 4 comes but once a year.
We had a great time, albeit a soggy one.

The conditions were okay for backyard fireworks.
(Meaning the rain had stopped right at the time we were shooting them off.)

Kids swam, we ate and ate and ate.
(This is an ongoing theme, isn't it?)
and had a great time.

Freedom lies in being BOLD.
-Robert Frost