Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Time to Read

I need your help! This summer I have the blessing/curse of having extra time on my hands before starting an insanely intense Master's program. Everyone in the program tells me to get my fill of pleasure reading now, but I am stumped as to where to start! What is YOUR FAVORITE BOOK???

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Washington D.C. Fourth of July

(It's okay if you call me a slacker for posting 4th of July pictures nearly three weeks after the Fourth of July!) As of 11:00 PM Thursday July 3rd night we still didn't have plans for the Fourth of July weekend, but we randomly decided to spend the 4th in Washington D.C., since I have never been there!

We left about 7, and we were in time to catch the end of the parade. After the "Vietnamese Americans", the "Showboating Americans", came two of my favorites....

the "West Virginia Diary Farmer Americans" with their Dairy Princess complete with four of her attendants dressed up as COWS! (I would NOT want to be her attendants!) and the Hare Krishna Americans.

We spent the rest of that day and the next exploring D.C.! (The pictures are in no particular order)

Funny story-- when I was 15 I was OBSESSED about becoming an FBI agent! I loved the X-Files back then (Don't ask). However, I realized that a dislike of blood, and an inability to even hear gross stories would probably preclude me from that field.

And the fireworks show with the Washington Memorial in the foreground was amazing! What a great way to celebrate the Nations Birthday!

Side note-- I thought their license plates were really interesting. I didn't realize that Washington D.C. doesn't have it's own government-- the only government they have is the National government, and don't have separate representatives. Thus the "Taxation without representation!"

Monday, July 14, 2008

Orlando Adventure

At the end of June, we were invited to go spend the weekend in Orlando, Florida with my sister Elisa and her husband Josh. They had gotten a timeshare for the week to celebrate Josh's graduation! (Congrats Josh!)And so, Steve and I jumped on the opportunity to spend some time with them, and enjoy the sighs in sunny Florida!

Amazingly enough, Steve had never been to Florida. He has been to most of the 50 states with the exception of a few like Louisiana. Amazingly enough, I HAVE been to Louisiana! It's one of the few states in the South I have been to!

I absolutely love Disneyworld and anything associated with Disney since my Grandfather was one of the original nine animators for Walt Disney. He was the first of the "Nine Old Men" as they were called. (His name was Les Clark if you want to look him up!)

If you'll notice, Steve and I are wearing the same color shirt everyday. This was in fact an accident. The first day, Steve, Josh, and I walk out of our rooms and realize we are all wearing red shirts and khakis! Only Elisa was the odd one out! The next day Steve and I both reached for Maroon. By the third day, we decided to match just to be funny!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Disney's Hollywood Studio's

The passes we bought allowed us to go to two different parks on two different days, as well as one of the Disney waterparks. Since we got a bit of a later start the first day, we decided to go to Hollywood Studio's. The last time I went to Disneyworld was when I was 14, and one of the favorite things I remember doing was riding the "Tower of Terror" ride! It was even better than I remember it, thanks to Fast Passes, since we didn't even have to stand in line!

While we waited for our time slot, we went and watched the "Block Party Parade!" It consisted mainly of lots of the newer Disney and Pixar movie characters such as Toy Story, Monsters Inc., the Incredibles, and a Bugs Life. It was a lot of fun, and it looked like so much fun to be a dancer in the parade! Forget graduate school, I want to go be in a Disney Parade!!!

Next, we met up with one of Steve's mission companions and his Family. Adam Zern, or "Zern" as Steve calls him lives near Disneyworld and has season passes, so he joined us along with his beautiful wife Sarah and their daughter Emma. (This picture was obviously taken later in the day!)

After meeting up with them, we decided to watch the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! Adam told us about how they choose "extras" from the audience to participate in the show, and boasted that even when he has friends from out of town, he ALWAYS gets picked as an extra! Well, he didn't dissapoint! (Probably had something to do with the batman shirt!) Here he is with a couple of the other extras on stage.

Later, they performed a couple scenes from the Indiana Jones movies, including the marketplace scene, and they decked them all out! He is the one with the blue turban on the far right!

We had such a fun time with Sarah and Adam, and loved exploring the park with them! The best part is that we timed everything just right so all the rides we wanted to go on didn't have lines! (Thank goodness for fast passes and afternoon rains that clear the park!

This is us "waiting in line" for the Tower of Terror.

To end the night, we went to the light and water show Fantasmic! It's a really high-tech light show that tells the story of Mickey in the scene from Fantasia "the Sorcerer's Apprentice" (A favorite because my grandfather worked on it!) Fantasmic basically chronicals Disney Movies through Mickey's dreams, with a few twists in-between!After the show we ran back to the Tower of Terror, and rode it twice without any lines! I probably would have ridden it at least one more time before close, but Steve had had enough! (I am one who would probably ride the teacups until I am sick)

It was a great day, and a great way to start out our Orlando adventure!!!

A bit more laid back...

The next day we decided to have a bit more relaxing day. One of the really cool things about the timeshare we were staying at, is that they have certain amenities for owners. They let you play miniature golf, ride paddle boats on the lake, rent bikes, and more-- for free!!!

Since we had gotten rained out on our paddle boat adventures a few weeks before, we decided to take the paddle boat for a spin. However, they made us sign a waiver that we wouldn't sue them if we were dismembered or maimed in any way. Apparently someone had seen an alligator earlier in the day! Although we didn't see any alligators (to my relief and dismay) Steve did have his hand bitten off by a shark!Fortunately, it was not a real shark!
We also played their pirate miniature golf, and to get me back for the shark, he put me in my place!

I forgave him though. :)

To end the day, we took a nice drive around Orlando, ending at the beautiful Orlando Temple!

11 Countries in One Day!

I love to travel, so we went to eleven countries in one day! If you have ever been to Epcot, this probably doesn't sound as cool.

When I went nearly 10 years ago, I loved Epcot. It seems weird looking back that a 14 year old would love a place that doesn't have any of the big name rides, and has more of an educational focus. But I loved it! Don't get me wrong though. Epcot has some pretty cool rides like a test track, a space mission that makes you really feel the G force, and "Soarin'" a IMAX type adventure where you feel like you are hang gliding over California. But truth be told, most of those rides are less than 10 years old and are not the real reason I love Epcot.

Honesty, I worried when we were deciding which park we should go to. Josh wanted to go to the Magical Kingdom, and I wanted Epcot. For the first 20 minutes I honestly questioned my judgment. What if they didn't like it!? What if they thought it was stupid, and thought I was a nerd?! Fortunately, they loved Epcot! It has a little of something for everyone!

One of the funny experiences was going to a game show devoted to Velcro product and how they help you find solutions to everyday products. (Shameless advertising anyone?) Well, Josh was chosen for one of the scenes and had to diaper, feed, and then stick as many babies to his apron as possible! Fortunately, he is a father so it wasn't TOO embarrassing!

My favorite part of the day was not going on the rides, even though they were fun! It was exploring the little snippets of eleven countries including: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, America, Japan, Morocco, France, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Each of the countries is staffed by natives of that country, which give it an extra flair!
This is Steve in front of some of the buildings for Morocco.

It would be interesting to talk to natives of these countries and see how accurately they feel their countries are being displayed. For the countries I have visited, they seemed to be pretty darn good! My favorite by far was France. Call me a hopeless romantic, but there is just something about France that makes me sigh. I love it! Lots of people have told me that the French people were really rude to them in France. When I was there, they were really nice to us! Probably because it was three young girls, and we at least tried to speak French. (most people told us to speak English though because our French was so bad!)
For the France display, they had a couple of street performers. It was really cool, because they pulled a guy out of the audience and had him do this:

If you can't tell, that is 6 chairs stacked on top of each other, on top of a table!!! Fortunately, he was planted in the audience! I know I couldn't have even done one of the chairs!

Another of my favorite things is their French Bakery. It is amazing. I forgot to take pictures of what we ordered because we were just so excited to eat it, but this is a picture of the bakery.

I am not sure I could live in France because I would be too tempted to eat all my meals in their bakeries! One thing that really hit home as we were walking around the World Showcase exhibit is how much we all have different tastes. Steve's idea of a dream vacation would be going to South America and canoeing down the Amazon and exploring the Galapagos Islands. I would love to travel around Europe (actually, I want to go to six of the seven continents). Elisa is interested by the Orient. What would be your dream vacation? Which countries most interest you?

Swimming with Sharks

On our last day, we decided to take advantage of our water park ticket, and went to Typhoon Lagoon. One thing I have to say for Disney is that they go all out! It was the coolest water park I've ever been to! It was really neat how they stuck to the theme all around. I wish I had more pictures, but we didn't want to traipse around with a camera in case it got wet. However, I swam with sharks and I just had to get pictures of that!It was probably one of the coolest things we did in Florida. They have a giant salt-water aquarium filled with exotic tropical fish, including sharks. I've never been snorkeling before, so it was a really neat experience for me, and helped me get my feet wet. (Literally and figuratively.) It was so awesome to be so close I could literally reach out a touch these fish! Fortunately, the sharks were a little farther away! They were about 10 feet below the water and included hammer head, leopard, and other varieties of sharks! It was a little scary, but like all the wildlife at Disneyworld, they are very used to humans! And it didn't hurt that they were only 3-4 feet long!!

You weren't allowed to kick your legs, only swim with your arms. Thus the strange curled position of my legs. :) I just wish I had a water proof camera!!