Monday, April 20, 2009

Easter Fun

I always have so many great ideas for things to do around Easter time, and somehow it sneaks up on me every year and I'm left scrambling at the last minute (hah...scrambling...Easter eggs...OK I'm pathetic). This year was no different. We did manage to fit in a few fun crafts in the days before Easter, but a lot of things - like dyeing Easter eggs - just didn't happen this year.

Amanda and I did make these super-cute tissue paper chicks:
Easter Chicks
I got the idea from a website and we modified it a bit...stupid dollar store was completely out of all pipe cleaners except red and black and we could only get small egg-shaped styrofoam balls. It still worked great, though. I was a bit dubious as I wasn't sure the tissue would stick well to the styrofoam, but it did, even as we rotated the balls to cover the whole area. Amanda did hers pretty much on her own, and added a few embellishments as well (hers is on the left) - lovely pom pom belly button, ears, and tail, as well as a crinkled up pipe cleaner "hat".

We also put together these great cards for family to give out at Easter dinner:
Easter Cards
The idea for these ones came from here. (As you might have noticed, I mostly steal craft ideas from other people since I'm not great at coming up with them on my own!).

We had a lovely dinner at my mom & dad's place with both sets of parents and my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew (as well as little peanut niece/nephew-to-be!), plus my aunt and cousins. We were also celebrating Mike's birthday at the same time...he was an Easter Sunday baby which means that his birthday often falls right around the holidays, this year on Good Friday. The kids looked adorable in their Easter outfits (courtesy of Grandma):
Pretty Easter Dress
Stylin' Dude

This meant that we were on our own for Easter dinner, which doesn't happen very often! We picked up some rack of lamb and put together a pretty nice dinner: roasted rack of lamb, oven-roasted tomatoes with a bread crumb, pine nut, and feta topping (I made these up), steamed broccoli with lemon (even though I always forget that lemon juice turns the broccoli kinda brown!), and buttery rice. Yum! It was delicious if I do say!
Easter Dinner

And for dessert, I was actually organized enough to make something in advance. I always love lemon for Easter, and lemon roll is one of my favourites, so I decided to try the recipe from Best of Bridge. It was fantastic! If you're looking for a super-lemony dessert, this one definitely fits the bill. It was actually better a day or two later once it had sat in the fridge for a bit. I will admit that I didn't use real whipping cream...I'm one of the few people on the planet who doesn't love whipping cream, and after a heavy dinner I figured we could use something a bit lighter (as in sitting in the tummy lighter, not calorie-wise...that was already a lost cause). So I used Dream Whip instead and I thought it was delicious! I also doubled the amount of Dream Whip and used half to mix with the lemon filling and half to ice the outside. Mmmm...I wish there was still some left!
Sensational Lemon Roll
Lemon Roll and Strawberries

I am far too lazy to type in this long recipe, but I found it online (this site does not credit the recipe, but it's from Best of Bridge, The Best of the Best and More, Volume 1.

And so ends this long Easter post! Belated Happy Easter everyone!

Sam at 8 Months

So we're a bit late...he's actually edging towards 9 months as I write this!
Sam at 8 Months
At 8 months Sam was 17 lbs, 8 oz and 26" long. Still much smaller than Amanda at the same age (I have her down as 19 lbs, 1 oz and 27.75" long at 8 months). But he's catching up, and he's definitely come a long way in the last couple of months.

The big news in month 8 was mobility! Sam was doing a lot of scootching, squirming, bouncing, and rolling by the time he hit 8 months, and shortly after the 8 month mark he figured out "regular" crawling (though even now he's not very quick at it).

A few random photos of Sam in his 8th month:

Playing in the ball pit at the birthday party of one of Amanda's preschool friends:
Who, Me?

Hanging out on the floor in his usual place:
Big Grin

Playing with bubbles with Amanda:

Watching the belugas at his first trip to the aquarium:
Sam Watching the Belugas

Posing with his big sis:
Happy After the Aquarium!

And of course you can look at any of the million photos of him from our Disneyland trip, or see the whole month 8 photoset on Flickr!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amanda's Day 1 Interview

We took a short video of Amanda each evening, recounting the day's events...I'm going to try to post them here (even though it requires my editing the video, which I'm not very good at!).

Day 1 video:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Disneyland Day 3

Once again, our hopes for an earlier morning were dashed by our late night on Tuesday! It was about 9 am again by the time we got away from the hotel. But we knew we had a busy day planned so we were happy to let the kids sleep in a bit!

We started Wednesday out back at Disneyland park. By this point we had realized we weren't going to see everything we wanted to see, so we relaxed a bit and enjoyed our last day without rushing any more than necessary. We did want to fit in a few of the classics, so we started with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which we thought Amanda would love (and thankfully, the line-up was non-existent first thing in the morning!). However she wasn't so impressed! For some reason she wasn't feeling quite as daring this day and was a bit frightened by the fast rollercoaster. She was OK with it, but partway through she asked me if it was almost over. So needless to say, she decided not to ride for a second time with Jeff when we switched out the parent riders!

Next up was Peter Pan's Flight, which I'd never seen. I was quite impressed, actually, especially considering the ride has been around since the park opened in 1955. I thought the effects were pretty effective; my favourite part was the twinkling stars over the city.

Next we rode Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, another 1955 original. Even though it's kind of hokey, I always feel like I need to do this one. In name, at least, it has a special place in our Dad is a super-fast walker and when he's in a rush, my Mom and I always have to jog to keep up with him. Whenever he leaves somewhere busy (like after Symphony of Fire fireworks in the summer), she says it's like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride to follow him to the car! I guess that makes poor Dad Mr. Toad...but not really. We mean it very affectionately! Anyway, we all enjoyed this one although I think the craziness of it might have been a bit much for Mr. Sam.
Sitting on Mr. Toad's Car

Our next stop was Toon Town. Jeff and I saw this area when we last visited together (in 1997!!), just after it opened. It was fun to visit with Amanda since there are tons of fun little things to explore. It was really hot though, so we were all getting a little tired after awhile. We also went for a ride on Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin; well, Amanda and I did – Sam was sleeping in the carrier and so we didn't want to wake him up!
In jail!
Behind Bars!
Meeting Goofy:
Goofy Pose!
Cooling off by the fountain:
Posing By the Fountain

After Toon Town we were all feeling a bit grouchy and in need of nourishment and cold, we still had a few more things we wanted to see at California Adventure. So we headed over there and popped in for a quick show at MuppetVision 3D. Jeff and I are both big Muppets fans so we were looking forward to it...Amanda was a bit more reluctant but she really enjoyed the show. She hasn't seen too many 3D things (I remember going to a Christmas movie at IMAX once, but that's about it) so she was really intrigued by things flying out of the screen at her! There were a lot of inside jokes for people who know about the Muppets, but it was fun for everyone. And air-conditioned!!

By this point we were really hungry, so we had lunch at Pizza Oom Mow Mow (interesting name?!?), which had quite a few choices other than pizza and a nice cool inside to sit in! That got us all feeling better, and so we headed over to Toy Story Mania, one of the newest rides at the park. I think overall this was Jeff's and my favourite ride! You sit in a car that travels through the ride, and you have a toy gun that you use to shoot targets on the screens as you go by. There were lots of fun effects too – like on the screen that had water balloons as targets, you got sprayed by little jets of water whenever you popped a balloon. Once again, Jeff beat Amanda and me by a long shot, but fun was had by all!
Amanda in her 3D glasses:
Cool Girl!

After this we were starting to run out of steam, especially because it was sooo hot! Jeff really wanted to fit in a ride on the California Screamin' coaster, so we grabbed some Mickey ice cream sandwiches and relaxed while we waited for him to finish his ride.
Pre Ice Cream

Finally, we bid farewell to California Adventure and headed back to Disneyland for a few last hours. Sam needed a food break, so I fed him while Jeff and Amanda visited the Astro Orbitor (which Amanda desperately wanted to ride for some reason!) and then Star Tours. I was a bit disappointed as I would have liked to ride Star Tours as well!

It was starting to get late and we knew we needed to find a good spot in order to see the fireworks at 9:25 pm, so we decided to try for one last ride first. Walking past the Haunted Mansion we saw that there was no line-up, so Amanda and I headed in. I wasn't sure whether she would be OK with it, and I could tell a few parts were getting kind of scary for her. So I had to talk throughout the ride about how silly everything was so she wouldn't get too freaked out (or keep us up all night with nightmares!). She enjoyed it though, and ever since we returned from our trip, she uses the "this room has no windows and no doors" line at random intervals and in completely non-applicable situations (the other day she told me "this pasta has no windows and no doors", then burst into giggles).

We had decided to save the fireworks show for the last evening we were there – somehow it seemed like an appropriate way to round out a magical Disney vacation! But we also knew we needed to find spots early for the fireworks. This was OK as it turned out we were all pretty tired and happy to sit for awhile and rest. Amanda and Sam both napped, and Jeff went and brought us back food to eat while we waited. Overall we waited about 2 hours before the fireworks, but it was worth it. It was also fun soaking up the ambience, with people walking by and families enjoying being together.
Fireworks are Coming!

Our spot for the fireworks was excellent – right by the Disney/Mickey statue in the middle. We were absolutely blown away by the show...Disneyland definitely never fails to amaze when it comes to fireworks! There were fiery cannons, laser beams shooting all around us, and even Tinkerbell flying through the sky to light off fireworks (Amanda saw the cables she was on, but told us they were there to keep her from flying away in the wind!).

After the fireworks we walked around for a little while longer, enjoying the atmosphere and taking a few more pictures. Then it was one last walk through the magical castle before heading home to our beds! What an end to our Disney adventures! We can hardly wait to go back!

Disneyland Day 2

On Tuesday we had high hopes of getting to the park part of our park-hopper pass we had one "early morning" into the park. However, after our late night on Monday, we weren't nearly as early as we had hoped! We ended up getting away from the hotel at about 9 am. We headed over to Disneyland with the intention of getting on some of the bigger rides that usually have long line-ups later in the day.

First, showing off the new Mickey ears...
Cool and Comfortable!
Excited for Day 2!

First stop was the Matterhorn. This has always been one of my favourite rides and we were sure Amanda would love it. We were right! She actually rode it twice – this was where we learned about the rider switch pass. Because we had Sam with us, and he couldn't ride (duh!), we both waited in the line – only about 20 minutes – and then when we got to the front, Amanda and I rode together. Then when we got off the ride, Jeff went right on and Amanda went with him! So she got two rides in a row and we only had to wait in the line once. We used this quite a few more times over the course of the trip!

Next we headed over to It's A Small World. This ride, too, has been recently overhauled and the lines for it were huge! However, in the morning we waited only about 10 minutes so we were pretty happy with that! It was fun trying to spot the "new" characters they have added...we saw Ariel and her friends, Aladdin and Jasmine, Nemo and friends, and several others. Sam also seemed to really like this one – so many things to look at!
It's a Small World

After that the lines started to get long at Disneyland, so we decided to head over to California Adventure for awhile. This was my first visit and I thought the park was fun! The rides are definitely geared to older visitors for the most part, but my favourite part was just walking around and seeing the funny signs and inside jokes posted everywhere – for example:
Award Weiners...Hah!

We did a quick walk-around in the Hollywood Backlot section of the park, and managed to fit in one ride –Mike & Sully to the Rescue. It was pretty neat, especially the part with all the doors...they managed to make it look like the place was huge!

Next we headed back to the hotel, because we had a surprise planned for Amanda – lunch at Ariel's Grotto! We had to get her outfitted in her beautiful Ariel costume before heading back to California Adventure for lunch at 1:50 pm (precisely, on the nose!). They definitely run the lunch like a well-oiled machine...we were lined up on the winding staircase in a specific order so each child would get a turn with Ariel. Then we were shown to our table and the princesses started arriving fast and furious...only a few minutes between each one! It was a bit crazy at the beginning as we were trying to get both kids settled (and Sam was a bit grumpy), order our food, and take pictures/get autographs from all the princesses.
Amanda and Ariel
Amanda with Belle
Amanda with Jasmine
Amanda with Cinderella
Amanda with Princess Aurora

The good news was that the food was pretty good here!
Appetizer Platters

After lunch we were all filled up and ready to do some more exploring at California Adventure! We headed over to Soarin' Over California, which Amanda again got to ride twice. It was a short ride, but fun – we liked how they added special effects to the video, like the smell of oranges when we were flying over the orange groves. I especially liked the introductory video before we got on the ride – funny!

Next we headed over to the middle of the park to see the Pixar Play Parade. Luckily we ran into Darryl again, and he had scoped out excellent seats right in front and had just texted Jeff to find out if we wanted to join them! So we were very lucky to get great seats for the parade with no effort on our parts! We settled in for a bit of a wait and then enjoyed the parade.
Kids Enjoying the Parade!
Acrobatic Woody
Cool Float with Spinny Acrobats

After the parade Sam was in need of some refueling, so Jeff and Amanda headed over to the Bugs' World area while Sam and I hung out in the parents' room for a bit. Amanda enjoyed riding Flik's Flyers and Francis' Ladybug Boogie, and cooling off in the Princess Dot Puddle Park (it was HOT that day!).
Cooling Off!

At this point it was starting to get pretty late and we needed some dinner, despite our very late and filling lunch! So we decided to do one last ride at California Adventure, using our FastPasses for Grizzly River Run. Amanda rode twice again, and this was probably her favourite ride of all! There are big round rafts that you ride on with 8 people per raft. This one was definitely a soaker! Amanda was so thrilled that she got drenched on her first ride with Jeff, then couldn't wait to go again with fact, she insisted on sitting right by the entrance to the raft where she would get the wettest! The only downside was they were having some technical problems when we were on the ride, so we spent a lot of time waiting for the rafts ahead of us to clear. I'd love to ride it again when it's working properly!
Grizzly River Run, Take 2
Grizzly River Run, Take 1

We made one final stop before ending the day – we stopped back at Disneyland for a ride on the Mad Tea Party. I was a bit reluctant...I hadn't been on it before, but I know I'm not great with spinny rides. It was OK, but I was very dizzy after getting off. Lesson learned – no more spinny rides for Jen!
Crazy Teacups!

That was about all the excitement we could handle for the day! We walked back to the hotel, stopping for take-out Tony Roma's on the way home. Another very busy day!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Disneyland Day 1

[Warning: lots of photos ahead! The full photoset of our our trip can be found here.]

We slept in a bit on Monday to give everyone time to recover from our late arrival the night before. We grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel then headed over to Disneyland! Amanda was beside herself and was dancing around while we waited in the line to get our passes transferred to tickets and get into the park itself.

Waiting Outside the Gates

The classic photo of all four of us just inside the gates...taken by a Disney PhotoPass employee:
Gotta Do It...

After walking down Main Street and soaking up the atmosphere, we headed right over to Sleeping Beauty's castle since that was what Amanda insisted she wanted to see first! She was actually a bit freaked out by the darkness and some of the spookier effects. Next she and I went on Snow White's Scary Adventures (which she also found a bit scary), then Jeff took her on Pinocchio's Daring Journey. Next up was the Storybook Land Canal Boats...we had a young tour guide with a really high squeaky voice...she sounded just like a cartoon character herself!

Then we headed over to Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, which neither Jeff nor I had been on before. This is an interactive ride where you shoot at targets with a "laser gun" and at the end you can see how many points you got. Needless to say, Jeff beat Amanda and I quite easily! The funny thing was that at the end of the ride they had kiosks where you could email yourself a picture of you on the ride. Jeff's didn't work out, but we sent the one of me and Amanda home. But when we looked at it later, they had put a border around us in the little car, and because Amanda was short, she was covered up by the border! Oops! She was pretty disappointed.

Miscellaneous Sam cuteness:
Hot Sleepy Boy

We had arranged to meet up with an old high school friend of ours whom we hadn't seen since University but had learned (thanks to the modern miracle of Facebook!) was going to be at Disneyland with his family at the same time as us. Since we just had a bit of time before we had to leave, we hopped on the Disneyland Railroad at Main Street Station and took a ride all the way around the park. Amanda especially liked the lovely dinosaur exhibit since her preschool class has been learning about volcanoes and dinosaurs!

We met up with our friends and their two kids, a 6-year-old girl and a boy just a couple of months older than Amanda, and had lunch just outside the park. It was great having a chance to catch up with Darryl and meet Bonnie and their family!

After lunch we headed back to the park. We hit Autopia first (we had picked up a FastPass in the morning) and Amanda loved it! It's kind of genius the way it's designed...she really thought she was driving the car. She kept telling me she thought she was getting the hang of it, then we would hit another bump and it would throw her off a bit! I must say that I had some weird flashes of what it would be like once she's driving:
Talkin' and Drivin'

Next we went to Pirates of the Caribbean, which thankfully had a nice short line-up. It's great because the wait is short but the ride is quite long! Amanda really enjoyed this one and Sam also seemed to like looking around at everything! This is where Amanda also discovered her obsession with "getting wet" on rides...she liked the small drop/slide and later on in the ride told us that she'd gotten some drips on her feet! We also really liked the part where the pirate image is projected on the "waterfall" looked completely real until we were traveling under it and realized we weren't getting wet!

We walked a bit more and picked up a FastPass for Splash Mountain, and also ran into Aladdin (our first character encounter!):
Amanda with Aladdin

In the late afternoon we headed back to the hotel for a bit of a rest; Amanda and I hit the pool while Jeff and Sam took a bit of a nap. Afterwards we walked back to the park for the evening. We grabbed dinner at the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country, which had surprisingly not bad food! We were quite impressed with the food in general at both parks...although the prices are a bit high, there were lots of healthy options and even basic foods (like burgers) were good quality, with nicer-than-usual buns etc. and sides like apple slices instead of fries.

Next we went over to Splash Mountain for our first "big ride"! Amanda was insistent that she wanted to go, even though we were a bit nervous for her. She and I went on together and she was a total champ! I could feel that she was nervous...I was behind her and my arms were around her, and as the ride went on I could feel her shaking a bit. After the first drop she complained that she hadn't even gotten wet, but I told her there was more coming! After the second double-drop she was still doing fine, but knew that the big one was still coming. As we got ready for the big drop I held her tight and could hear her heart going a mile a minute, but she said she was fine...and she was! We had to spring for the exorbitantly-priced souvenir photo...our baby's first big ride! And as you can see, she looks a lot happier than I do:
Splash Mountain
(Medium-sized so you can see the looks on our faces!)

Amanda was on a total high after that ride, so we thought we'd take the chance to see a few rides with normally long lines while most people were watching the fireworks (we had decided to wait for our last night to see them). We went over to the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and were surprised to see that the line was still about 45 minutes long! (This is one of the rides that's been recently renovated, so lots of people want to see it.) We decided to wait anyway and finally got on the ride just after 9:30 pm, when the fireworks were starting. Amanda really enjoyed it although Sam was less impressed...he cried through a lot of it so I spent my time frantically trying to keep him quiet in the tiny submarine!

After that one it was so late that we were about ready to pack it in. We took a leisurely walk back through Main Street and stopped to buy hats for the kids. Just as we were leaving the hat store, we ran into Mickey and Minnie! Since it was so late there weren't many people around, so we were lucky enough not to have to wait to see them. Amanda was thrilled!
Minnie & Mini
Mickey! & Mini!

Late though it was, we stopped for ice cream at Coldstone Creamery on our way home, and enjoyed our treats in our hotel room before retiring for the evening. cream!!

Our Disneyland Adventure!

I am very late in posting about our Disneyland trip, but it's a bit intimidating to actually try to summarize it and I keep putting it off! But I realize if I don't write something now, I will forget a ton!

Bottom line: we had an AMAZING time. Amanda loved it just as much as we thought she would. We have a great video of her seeing Sleeping Beauty's castle for the first time...will have to try to pull it off as a short clip and post it. Everyone who sees it says it should be a Disneyland commercial! That first sighting of the castle is so magical.

Our flight down was pretty uneventful...we had a pretty short layover in San Francisco, but the second leg was taking off one gate over from where our first leg arrived, so there wasn't any stress involved. The luggage all made it (a big relief, since I was worried about all the Sam paraphernalia that we'd have to go out and buy if it didn't!) . We caught the shuttle bus from LAX without any problems. It was actually kind of was after 9:30 pm by the time we got on the bus, and I guess that isn't prime arrival time for Disneyland tourists! So we got on the bus and we were literally the only people on it aside from the driver. The four of us in a bus that holds around 100! Amanda thought it was quite funny. The kids were both exhausted and fell asleep on the bus ride so it was quite peaceful. I admit to getting a little teary-eyed when we actually arrived; it felt quite magical having two sleeping babes in our arms and arriving at Disneyland at last!

On Our Way!

Hotel was OK...nothing special but it was very close to the main gate and we got a deluxe room for free with our Visa points, so no complaints. It had a nice pool, and we had planned to try to swim every day as a break in the middle of the day, but we only made it once – just too many things to try to fit in at the parks!

The trip back home was a lot more stressful. We were flying through SeaTac on two different airlines. At LAX, the Alaska rep told us he could tag our luggage through to Vancouver, but he couldn't give us boarding passes for the second leg of our flight - we would have to go back out to the main check-in counter in Seattle and go back through security. This had us a little bit worried as we only had 1.5 hours in Seattle, but we figured it would be OK. That was until our first flight was delayed by well over an hour. Ack! I spent some time on the phone to Air Canada trying to figure out what to do, and they confirmed that we – all four of us – needed to exit and go back through security. Also, they told us that the flight was the last one of the evening so if we missed it we would have to stay in Seattle overnight or pay for a flight on another airline. We figured it was a lost cause, but decided to give it our best try to make the second flight, even though by the time we got off the plane in SeaTac it was 15 minutes until departure in a different terminal! Jeff ran ahead to the gate (which required a trip on a subway to get to the terminal) to see if they could help us, and I followed behind with both kids and the rest of our carry-on small feat! I was amazed to get to the gate and find out that Jeff had gotten us on the plane! The gate staff acted like it was no issue at all, which meant if we had been on time and gone out and back through security it would have been a total waste of time. Oh well, lesson learned for next time – always go to the gate first! The bad news was our luggage didn't make it on the flight, but it was delivered the next afternoon so it all turned out OK in the end. Phew!

I will summarize our actual Disney adventures in a few separate posts...going to try to recap what we managed to see in our three days at the parks!