Sunday, November 28, 2021

Home Leave: Quick Loop

After from returning to this year's Charleston home base during home leave (we would have loved to have spent more time at our town house....but it was booked the rest of the summer we were there...good problem to have! As a lesson learned, I have already pre-booked ourselves for next summer when it's time to take M to college!!). I had a minute or so to breathe and then I headed off on another whirlwind week. 

Given I was flying by myself and the price was not much different....I splurged for business class (on puddle jumper size not a real big First stop, see the Bestie! 

I spent a few days in good ole St. Louis, hit the fave restaurants, then went for a trim. I debated do I chop the quarantine hair or not.....

It was a spur of the moment decision....but went ahead and chopped the hair. I was even able to donate 12 inches! Stopped in to see my favorite barista at Starbucks (besties daughter) explanation for my weird! Then just as quick as I arrived, I was wheels up to the DC area.

It was a really pretty arrival in DC....blurry photo (we were going 300-500 I spent the next day with my parents (and oddly enough forgot to take any photos). Then since I was staying in a hotel to protect them (we are all vaccinated....but being cautious - thanks 'rona), I opted to drive to Delaware. Why? Well I've tried to go a few trips in the past, but everyone curls the nose up and says no thanks...(ok, it was lavender fields in Delaware). So since it was me, myself and I, we all agreed to go! I took a butt ton of photos which I will share in another post (so if you don't like pretty flowers you can just

Afterwards, I went and checked into a hotel on Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.....I's a beach and it makes my heart happy. I hit a local brewery and distillery to get Richard and I some local swag. I met Richard's cousin (who lives nearby) for a super tasty dinner. Then I went and walked on the beach. For July, the water was FREEZING! 

Chair/umbrella rentals huts!

Sand grasses on the sand dunes.

Dunes and cold Atlantic Ocean. After enjoying the beach a bit, I walked around some shops on the boardwalk and got some ice cream! 

The next morning, I headed back to DC. Stopped en route for a zoom meeting (I am on the Architecture Review Committee for the townhouse HOA....we had a call). Then I returned the rental car and flew back to was a very short trip every where, but was also nice to visit after being stuck for so long in Qatar.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Theme Park Day - Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure

For our second theme park day, we opted for Universal Studios. We got the tickets through Groupon and saved a little $$ (always a good thing). We opted for the park hopper pass so we could visit both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. The main purpose being so that we I could ride the Hogwarts Express between the two sides.

When walking in, the Jimmy Fallon Race through NYC had a non-existent line. So we went there first, Clarissa surprisingly loved this ride the most and went on it two more times (the ‘eeh’ and basket of puppies really spoke to her…lol). After the second time, the NBC panda was down for a photo op…..given pandas are a current favorite animal…..she happily posed with the panda.

We found our way to platform 9 ¾!

And then hopped aboard the train. Upon our arrival in Hogsmeade we found the Owl Post aka post office (despite talking about it, we forgot to bring a postcard to mail….).

Of course we visited the castle. Clarissa has never been a fan of roller coasters, so we did the walk through option and walked through the castle and Richard took the single rider lane…..ironically, we both exited at about the same time.

We partook in some Butterbeer (more Richard….the rest of us aren’t the biggest fans….gasp I know).We walked through the Diagon Alley (aka a quaint snowy village) before heading around the rest of the park. 

C & R opted to ride the Spider Man ride. We searched in all the Starbucks shops for the elusive ‘I was here’ Starbucks Mug to add to our collection, but sadly could not find one. When reading up on the park, it’s recommended to ride the train both directions, so we did return later to ‘London’. 

After back in Universal Studios, we did the usual things like Men in Black, get a beer at Duff’s bar (Simpson’s area), found the hidden Harry Potter area, and we did the above-mentioned Race through NYC again. We had prebooked a reservation at the Chocolate Emporium for lunch (pretty much the only way to get in). It’s a cute steam punk restaurant with some of those insane desert milkshakes. After eating our lunches, Clarissa and I shared a chocolate one. It came complete with a brownie on top and filled with chocolately goodness.

We had a good day and after walking over 18K steps, we opted to call it a day. We didn’t feel too guilty not staying from open to close. Especially knowing we will be back again/regularly as we have the townhouse now. We bought the Freestyle cup at universal also, so we have that tucked in our owner's closet for a future trip. Honestly, so handy and much less to worry about remembering to bring on every trip.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Theme Park Fun - Legoland!


We took Clarissa to Legoland in Florida. We had been to the one in Malaysia a few years back. I worked at a one hour photo back in California when that location opened (aka I printed so many photos of visits from there, felt like I have already been). So naturally, we needed to visit the one in Florida. It was only about a 40 minute drive from our townhouse. So an easy drive for a fun day.

There were all kinds of popular characters to take photos (and selfies) with.

Clarissa's favorite animal! Elephants made of Legos!!

Pride parade in Times Square, NYC!

Clarissa's main goal was to get a new driver's license. Her old one had an out of date

We got distracted by a short line at boating school! She was driving the boat!

Nana was hot on our tail (wake?)

We made it to driving school. You may think I was just too slow with the camera taking her picture...but no, it was the don't take my picture, speak to the

Lego Lady Liberty.

You also had to be looking for the the little hidden gems! Rubber duckies under a wave! 

Can't take these two anywhere without them getting in trouble!

Richard and Jim headed off for a roller coaster. Clarissa doesn't do roller coasters so we rode on Merlin's train. As soon as it started, I was worried as it was going fast and up/down. At first she was mad, then she kept riding it again and again and again....we finally dragged her away....

We made it over to the Lego Movie area. Our little cat lady found the cat lady!! We also rode on the triple decker couch was fun!! She loved it so much that she went again after Richard/Jim caught up with us.

Spotted a taco shop when looking for the drink refill station. We pre-bought their freestyle drink when we bought our tickets. We just had to scan the receipt and got our cup. You can refill up to once every 10 minutes. My only complaint was the refill lines (and a number of non-working machines), but we could get soda, lemonade, and even a slushy!! We can keep our cup and use it on a possible future trip and just pay a reduced drink price!

Two floor merry go round!

Clarissa had lots of saved up a lot of allowance during the pandemic since she couldn't go anywhere and we visited the Friends shop (only Friends Lego's). She was plotting her decision. She picked a large set and the price was not marked up for being in the park (surprise to me).

We did find a shop that would personalize/etch a lego piece with whatever word you want (aka like a unique name that is never found on the typical We looked into getting one, but it takes time and they had a backlog. It would of been another hour pro-tip: order it on your way in, pick it up on your way out! 

Don't forget to hit the toilet on the way's fully stocked by this fun lady!

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Honey, I'm home....

After some doctor appointments and some fun with friends, we kept enjoying our home leave - it was amazing to have a vacation! Or at least a change of scenery - something we had not done since November 2019!

Clarissa started wearing contacts this summer! Her eye doctor said tweens are actually a really good age to start wearing them. Nothing says summer like ice cream!

The teen headed off to Texas to visit with dad. We weren't sure if Clarissa's summer camp was going to be a go or not. So we planned a little overnight trip to Myrtle Beach on our way (so at least we had something fun to do if camp was cancelled). We beached and hit the hotel pool.

We spent a ton of time on our balcony. It was nice just staring out into the ocean and feel the breeze.

Pelican fly bys and airplane take offs were frequent.

Her good friends/cabin mates from camp in 2019, both lived in Myrtle Beach. So we met up the night before drop off for ice cream for them to catch up....smiles all around and it was as if no time had based!

The next morning we headed the rest of the way to camp! Looks the same!

Her full prescription of contacts weren't in yet (and trying something new could be tricky at, she wore glasses to camp). She was so excited! Daddy was a little nervous. We were doing our good bye hugs while waiting for the gate to open up. I sent the above group picture to the other mom saying we just arrived. She responded she had just pulled up (and there was only 1 car behind us....super lucky). So while we drove to the stations (lice check, temperature check, paperwork, etc), they were right behind us!

Clarissa did some awesome new activities this summer!

Axe throwing and Archery! Hitting the target both times!

Meanwhile, Richard and I entertained ourselves by visiting his alma mater on the way home from drop off at camp. Stocked up on USC swag. Then we had our doctor appointments, some walks on nice days, and catching up with our friends sans kids!

After a week at camp, we picked up Clarissa. Then, we headed straight down I-95 to Orlando! If you recall, we added a new tab to the blog. We bought a townhouse, sight unseen (in person, lots of zooms), and we were heading down to the check it out during the only week of availability we had all summer! 

We made it to Home Sweet Home late Friday night (thanks to lots of traffic on the 95).

Lucky for us, it looked like it did on our zooms and the photos. Huge sigh of relief. Of course, we want to change some things and put our touch on it (but also knowing it is a rental). We spent a ton of time cleaning out the owner's closet! The previous owners left it full of baby gear (pack'n'plays, high chairs, baby floaties, etc), so we cleared it out and made a donation run!

The resort entrance is great!

We made a friend at our entrance and hung out in our private pool quite a bit!

It's great in that our property overlooks a pond. We didn't see any alligators, but there were some wood cranes, herons, and ducks.

I couldn't pick a fave of the wood cranes (new camera + photogenic birds....). Click on one of the images to see them full screen! We also checked out the resort nature trail, it was late evening, so low light, but saw a raccoon in a tree and sleeping ducks.

We played with some sparklers in front of the townhouse to celebrate the 4th of July.

For safety, the resort asked for all fireworks to be shot off from a field near the clubhouse. It made for a nice little show with everyones fireworks. We watched up close for a little bit, then walked home and watched from our pool! 

Now don't worry, we didn't just work on the townhouse and walk around nature....we did some fun theme park days!! Coming soon!

I think the most exciting part of our townhouse was while running errands, Waze would navigate us through the Disney World property!!