Sledding with a Friend (and Sushi Lunch)

February 12, 2014 at 1:37 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Yesterday I met with Tracy for sushi lunch without the kids. It was wonderful! She admitted to never trying raw fish, that she’d only ever gotten the cooked or vegetarian sushi at the Dillons. But she was totally game. So we, um, ordered this.

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This arrived after our Edemamme appetizer (another first for her, yum!) and a plate of raw sea bass in a ginger sauce that the chef sent over. I love this place – the chef is always sending over goodies. Tracy gamely tried the sea bass. I was so proud. Needless to say we were astounded by the size of our boat, especially for the price. But the sushi was all excellent, and we ended up taking enough home for each of us to have another meal.

After school, we decided to take the kids sledding at the high school. Liam couldn’t wait to show Amia his favorite sledding hill. They insisted on riding together, with very cute results.

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The kids had enough momentum to clunk right into a chain link fence, and because the hill dipped up a bit at the end, they’d start to slide back. It was hilarious! Tracy got Amia to help her bring the sled up the hill, and the next thing I know, Liam is insisting he help, too. This from the kid who patently REFUSED to bring the sled up on his own when I sledded with him last time. Amia is a good influence!

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Look at my boy, doing it all by himself! So glad he’s made a friend.

We headed back to my house at my suggestion to play the Kinect. I didn’t realize until I queued up the video game that Tracy thought I meant a board game. She was like, “Motion sensor video games? When did this happen?!” She cracks me up. Amia and Liam had a blast. And Liam was much better when Amia had to go, probably because he was wrapped up in popping bubbles and river rafting.

I’ll leave you with this cute video of the kids on the sled:

Picky Eating Takes a Back Seat

September 24, 2013 at 8:30 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A lot has happened since I concluded my experiment in eating. Let me begin with Maple-glazed pork chops, carrots, and asian pasta. I had intended to serve this that Friday James was out of town, but after the chicken finger fiasco, I decided to give myself a break. So instead we went out to Liam’s favorite restaurant BJ’s for some corn dog nuggets, fries, and chocolate milk. We even snagged a seat outside, something we never get to do when James dines with us. The weather was refreshingly cool, and though the food and service was pretty terrible (a first, and we’ve been to this place A LOT), the pazookie more than made up for it. I had to keep Liam up late so we could pick up James at the airport at 10:30, and the lil’ guy was completely tuckered out before I even made it to the airport.

Evie, Milo, and Jill road tripped down to Wichita that Saturday, and the kids had a blast tearing apart Liam’s room. Milo only broke two things…I think we got off lightly. That kid loves throwing things off balconies. I gave Evie her birthday present, a My Little Pony doll that I found a bit disturbing, but the reception I got for it (SQUEEEEEE! I LOVE IT! THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU!) left me all warm and fuzzy. I cooked Chicken Tikka Masala for us grownups while the kids had mac n’ cheese and chicken fingers. Jill and I cracked open a bottle (or two) of white wine while the kids ran amok.

We set up the air mattress in Liam’s room for Evie, then attempted to catch up on the third season of Game of Thrones while they took turns coming out to tattle on each other. Sheesh. After laying down the law about five times, we finally just went in there and laid down with our respective trouble-makers. They were asleep inside of 5 minutes. Peace at last. And Jill finally got to see the Red Wedding. Sweet.

Sunday morning the kids tromped around outside, collecting pine cones at the high school behind our house, exploring “the woods” at the back of our property, and swinging on the teeter totter. We had a little lunch before they had to make the return trip home. Three hours by car is far less daunting than the car and plane ride they had to Florida in the spring, so I’m hoping we can do this again soon. The kids sure had fun.

Sunday night we finally trotted out the pork chops, carrots and pasta. Liam begrudgingly ate the pork chops, then predictably wouldn’t touch the carrots or pasta, so we settled for dry peas and dry peaches. We had to bribe him with ice cream to get him to finish his chops, and after a lot of chewing (and drama), the feat was accomplished. So I think the take away from this whole experiment was that Liam isn’t as pliable as I’d hoped when it comes to food, but I’m still willing to try this maybe one or two nights a week to encourage him to try new foods. He seems to understand the concept – that eating healthy is a good thing to do – but in practice he’s still very resistant. But I can see some hints that he may come around. He’s been pointing out whenever daddy tries a “new food”, which generally isn’t actually new, but something Liam hasn’t seen him eat before. And he’s been asking for foods that he hasn’t eaten in a long time, for instance, freeze dried apples. So we’ll see how this progresses.

The rest of the week was a whirlwind of relatives. My parents finally made the drive out to see us on Tuesday despite the newest round of grandpa drama. I haven’t really gone into it on the blog, but Grandpa Marvin is having a very hard time with Alzheimer’s, and my mom’s been having to take care of everything for him since about March. They finally found an assisted living place that he could afford, but he’s been having a lot of trouble adjusting. So that’s why it’s taken so long for my parents to visit. And unfortunately they had to cut their trip a little short. But Liam got to show off his room and his back yard, dad and I got to enjoy some chocolate wine, we had lunch with my mom’s cousins, and I introduced them to The Hunger Games. We also managed a trip to BJ’s, which is becoming a must when we have people in town, according to Liam. Perhaps next time we can manage a trip to the zoo or science museum.

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On Friday we drove eight hours down to Hamilton, TX, for my sister-in-law’s wedding. Hamilton was waaay off the beaten path, somewhere between Fort Worth and BFE. Our GPS was completely confounded, and it actually told us to “get out here and walk the rest of the way to your destination” when we found the hotel. The Inn at the Circle T came highly recommended by Kim, and it was indeed very nice. Though we laughed when we saw this sign in the bathroom >>>>

We finally got to meet the groom-to-be, Jacob, who was very nice, and his two sons who are about Liam’s age. We explained to Liam that he was getting two new cousins. Boy, they couldn’t wait to show him their rooms and their toys and drag him all around the house. Poor Liam wasn’t sure what to make of all this. But in his typical way, he finally warmed up to them and played a little. The wedding was a casual affair, held in a barn, but no less beautiful or emotional. It was all cowboy boots and hats for the wedding party, very cute. Liam was reasonably well-behaved for the ceremony, though he decided to act up just as they were beginning to file in, and thankfully Patti’s cousin Judy
Continue Reading Picky Eating Takes a Back Seat…

Dog Days of Summer

August 20, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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August is long and hot…and boring. Life in Wichita has been slow. The house is mostly put together, and I have lost my motivation to do much exploring, especially with this pesky summer cold that won’t quit. However, the past couple of weeks haven’t been completely uneventful. Here’s what we’ve been up to.

  • We found a babysitter! Actually, our neighbor across the street wasn’t available, so she referred us to her cousin just down the block. But she showed up on time and Liam loved her. And she even charged less than our babysitter in Florida. Sweet! James and I went out for barbecue at Pig In Pig Out, voted best BBQ in Wichita on various websites. It was a very unassuming place in a sketchy neighborhood (aren’t all the best BBQ places like that?), and we were glad we got there early because they closed at 6. On a Saturday night. Weird. But oh my, the ribs were awesome! They didn’t have okra (sad face), but they had some killer green beans. James got the pulled pork and turkey, but he thought my ribs were better. So fun to try new restaurants – it’s one of my favorite things about moving to a new city. After dinner we saw the new Percy Jackson flick, which was better than the reviews led us to believe. All in all it was a nice date night. My only complaint was that Liam was still up when we got home. But we’d made an early night of it, so we didn’t blame the babysitter. He was at least in jammies and in bed getting a story read to him by the time we got in at 9:30. I think next time we’ll have to stay out later.
  • Liam saw his new pediatrician, and he did great! The doctor was attentive, answered all our questions, and really spent a good deal of time with us. She was super delicate when examining Liam, and he responded well. She even sent us home with a book, something they do for each child when they visit. She recommended we put Liam on daily Miralax, which may or may not help with the potty training. We’re still struggling with that.
  • I discovered my last optometrist in Orlando was smokin’ something. He recommended that I get a field vision test every six months because I was a glaucoma risk. Which had me pretty worried. But the guy here in Wichita looked over my records, ran a few tests, and said he didn’t agree. He suggested I come back in another year and they could do some other tests along with my eye exam. But he doubted I had any risk of glaucoma. Whew!
  • Liam still refuses to cooperate at the dentist. This is our fourth visit with him, though our first time with this new dentist in Derby. He dutifully sat and watched James and I get our teeth cleaned, but no amount of bribing or begging got him to sit still for his turn. The dentist said it was no big deal, we’d try again in another six months. I shouldn’t be surprised…Liam still has trouble even sitting to get his hair cut. I’ve been cutting his hair myself at home just so I don’t have to mess with it.
  • We booked our resort for Disney! We’ll be staying at The Dolphin for Oct 16 – 23. They have a deluxe spa there, so I think we’re going to go in for a couples massage. And we can take a boat or walk to Epcot every day for the Food & Wine Festival. We also plan to go to Sea World to see the Antarctica exhibit that had just opened after we left. And Liam will be staying the week in KC with my parents. We can hardly wait!
  • We finally broke down and jumped on the Netflix bandwagon. I had been catching up on Arrested Development on IFC, and I could only view the fourth season on Netflix. And I figured, since we’ve got the first month free, I might as well gorge on some other noteworthy shows – specifically Breaking Bad and Orange is the New Black. The latter two have been outstanding, while AD was been a bit lackluster. But I was assured it picks up halfway through, so I’m slogging through. It’s awesome that I can also watch on my Nexus 7 and my iPhone, which should come in handy with our upcoming travels.

Speaking of which, it seems we have a lot of traveling and events look forward to. I’m leaving tomorrow for a short trip to KC to sell some books at Half Price (nine boxes worth, because James came to his senses), visit with family and friends, and pick up two more bookshelves from Nebraska Furniture Mart. Derby is having a festival on Saturday which includes an ice cream social and an outdoor movie, so if I’m feeling motived, Liam and I might take the ol’ stroller up to High Park and check it out. Sunday we’re off to Parent Orientation at his new preschool, and he’ll be starting right after Labor Day. And it looks like we’re getting lots of visitors in September – James’ friend Travis, my sister and her kids, and my parents. Then we end the month in Texas for my sister-in-law’s wedding. So while the dog days of summer still linger, we’ve got a busy fall ahead.

To Grandmother’s House We Go

July 21, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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One of the perks of living in central/south Kansas is grandma is only a few hours away. And now aunt Jill is, too. To commemorate this fact, along with Jill’s birthday, Liam and I took a trip up last week. On the way we stopped at my friend Candi’s house to play with six-year-old Miles. Liam and Miles have played a few times before, and they get along great. And while Miles is light-years ahead of Liam in school (this little genius is skipping two grades next year!), he was good about finding ways to play along at Liam’s pace. Unless he wanted to play soccer golf, a game he invented with some pretty complicated rules. But then there was baby brother Bryce, just 11 month old, ready to take up the slack. The boys all had a great time at the pool. Liam timidly stayed with us moms in the baby pool, but he really enjoyed watching Miles flit around on the various slides. Miles reminds me of Liam in a lot of ways, so it’s fun to get a glimpse of what Liam may be like in a few years. 

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We had a full house at mom’s – Doug had to go out of town and Jill had to pick up some shifts at Starbucks, so Liam got a ton of Evie and Milo time at grandma’s. We spent Saturday at Powell Gardens for the Lego exhibit.

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They had a bunch of lego ducks, swans, frogs, flowers, and animals on the grounds. This lego lawn mower cracked us up! It was a hot day, so we spent as much time in the shade as we could. The kids enjoyed the shade, too.

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I hadn’t been to Powell since they’d planted the vegetable garden, so that whole side of the grounds was new to me. We had planned to take the kids over to the fountain, but they discovered this little garden sprinkler and decided to play here instead. Of course, Evie and Milo ran full tilt, fully clothed, and we had to change them out of sopping wet clothes and into their swim suits. Liam, on the other hand, refused to get near the water until he was wearing the Proper Attire. These cousins couldn’t be any more different sometimes! And, of course, I couldn’t get all three of them in one shot at the same time. This will have to do.

James drove up in the afternoon and we had ourselves a little date night, our first since moving to KS. James discovered a new German place, Haus, boasting German and Belgian beers, exotic wursts and authentic Belgian waffles. The food was decent, though I’m not a huge fan of sausages. Feeling adventurous, I tried the Rabbit and James tried the Wild Boar. They both tasted about the same to me once they were drowned in sauerkraut and mustard. The Belgian fries, however, were outstanding. We got three dipping sauces, and true to the reviews, the Sriracha Aioli was the best. We also stuffed our faces with two appetizers, the fried cheese curds and the pretzels with hot cheese. Our stomachs near capacity, we skipped the buns on our sausages and went straight for the kill…a crispy Belgian waffle on a scoop of chocolate ice cream, drizzled with copious amounts of chocolate sauce and caramel. Holy crap, that was good! I almost forgot that I was full, and I gobbled up most of it. Just as well – I think James had hit capacity with all the bread and Belgian beer. Somehow we rolled ourselves out of there and took a stroll through the only museum we could find open that late, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. James finds modern art a bit dubious, but they had an outstanding photography exhibit by a woman in rural Idaho. (I get the feeling all of Idaho is rural.) Then we walked the grounds at the Nelson until we just couldn’t take it and had to sit down. Full bellies on a hot night, not conducive to romantic walks.

Sunday I had a lovely brunch with my college friend Jenny at Neighbors Café in downtown LS. Gotta love those cinnamon rolls! She bravely agreed to come back to my parents house to see how big Liam had gotten, and got a full dose of cousin madness. Quite a departure from her nice, quiet, one-cat, one-husband household, I’m sure, ha ha. Actually, even our house seems quiet when it’s just Liam and I at home. Three kids = five times the noise.

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On Monday we took the kids to Crown Center for the Curious George exhibit, which they all loved! Evie jumped right in, posing for this photo, then joining a large group of kids all working with foam blocks and a conveyor belt. Milo took Jill off to explore, and that left me with Liam clinging to my skirts. He eventually warmed up to the idea of posing with George, as you can see above. In that third photo, I told him to put his arm around George, not thinking he’d put it around the front! This kid cracks me up. They had lots of little buttons to push and drawers to open with artifacts inside. They had a whole display of George merchandising that captivated his attention. I found it interesting that the authors fled Nazi occupied France with their manuscript in tow, traveling all the way through Spain on a bike and Brazil by boat before arriving in the States.

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IMG_2185We took the kids on the wrong sky walk to Union Station, instead ending up at the Sheraton (must have been that right turn at Albuquerque), but they were happy to run all the way back around. Then they played quietly for almost an hour at the train exhibit. By the way, Milo is indeed only an inch or two shorter than Liam now. He’s still wearing Liam’ shirts from last year, but not for long! We couldn’t leave without getting some chocolate. Evie and Liam both had chocolate covered marshmallows, while I feasted on a dark chocolate dipped twinkie on a stick. Yum.

Tuesday, Jill’s birthday, was also Marvin’s moving day. So Jill and I babysat the kids and grandpa while mom and dad moved grandpa’s stuff out of his apartment in LS and into an assisted living place they found for him off Bannister Rd. All was well – the kids were playing quietly and Marvin took a nap – so Jill went out to Freebird’s to get us some takeout. I was feeling pretty confident until the kids started fighting, then I found Milo sitting in mom’s chair with a pair of adult scissors, then grandpa woke up all disoriented and started taking off his clothes and taking out his teeth. I finally convinced grandpa that it wasn’t morning and he didn’t have to take a shower, but he wasn’t happy about it. I guess he’s gotten rather OCD in his old age, coupled with a touch of dementia, and the poor guy doesn’t know what he’s doing or where he’s going. I think he’s moving into a facility just in time! Actually, for mom’s sanity, it should have been sooner. But now he’s all settled and taken care of. Whew!

I’ll end with this hilariously cute video of dad and Milo. We ended our trip on a good note, too, with the kids all playing really well even as I was loading up the car. I’m looking forward to visits from both Jill and my parents in August.

Last week in Florida

May 3, 2013 at 10:07 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Lest you think we’ve been idle since Jill left, here’s what we’ve been doing all week before the big cross-country drive. Saturday night Brooke came for one last babysitting gig and James and I headed to Magic Kingdom for our reservation at the new Be Our Guest restaurant. We had to make them three months in advance. The setting was spectacular, just like the ballroom in Beauty and the Beast. We ate in a little room off to the side, the West Wing, complete with destroyed portrait and the rose in its glass case. It even shed petals! Beast would walk through the room every hour or so, and he even leaned down and waved to me. After dinner I begged James to stay for the fireworks, which were pretty underwhelming, and then we got stuck in the crowd all trying to get out. Oh well.

Monday I crossed off the last of the big rides on my list when I met Calli at Animal Kingdom for a morning at Disney sans kids. I kick myself for not doing these with her all year! This is only the second time we’ve met up after we dropped our kids off at school, and it was so much fun! We got soaked on Kali River Rapids, got terribly dizzy on the Primeval Whirl (and there were so few people in line, we got to go twice!), then redeemed our fast pass for the Expedition Everest. What a fun ride! At the recommendation of another patron, we waited to ride in the first car. At one point you hit the end of the track on a precipice, then start going backwards. Very thrilling in the front car! Much of the ride was in the dark, which is what I love about Space Mountain. The yeti made an appearance, though not as scary as I’d hoped. But still a very fun ride, and one I hope to coax James on when we’re back in October. Calli and I ended our day with cocktails and lunch at Yak and Yeti. I’m so going to miss these mom-only play dates!

Feeling a little guilty about how much fun I had with Liam while he was in school, I took him over to Nicole’s house to play after I picked him up. Her grandparents were there, and after many tries, we got a great photo of all of us. Mandy thoughtfully bought us a frame, and I’ve already got the print displayed with our other photos. This will have to go on the mantel in our new place in Kansas. We’re going to miss Nicole and Mandy, too! I invited them over on Sunday to raid the fridge, so we’ll have one last play date before we go.

I couldn’t leave Orlando without one more stop at my favorite burger joint, Pine 22. So after getting the oil changed and giving the car a much needed wash and detail, we headed downtown for my favorite burger and Liam’s favorite fries. I built my own burger with smoked gouda, applewood bacon, seared onions, shredded lettuce, roasted garlic aioli, and mayo on a toasted bun. Wow, that description makes me wish I was going there again today! After lunch Liam and I went to Lake Eola to feed to swans, ducks, turtles, geese, and other water foal. The playground was almost empty for some reason, so we stayed there until late in the afternoon. Liam was so funny, playing quietly on his own. This little boy approached him and asked if he’d play with him. Liam just matter-of-factly said “No” and went about his business.

Wednesday after school we met James at his office for the last time, then headed to another of my favorite Orlando eateries, High Tide Harry’s, for dinner. They have scrumptious hush puppies with cinnamon butter, and fried okra as a side dish. We have leftovers in the fridge…I think I know what I’m having for lunch today!

Thursday was the last possibly day we could go to Disney, so despite the 90% rain forecast, I took Liam to Epcot. There was one last playground we hadn’t played on, and there was one last food offering at the Germany pavilion I hadn’t gotten to try when James and I went last Saturday. The rain cleared up a bit once we got there, so I picked up the meatloaf sandwich and a beer, and Liam and I found a table by the lagoon under an umbrella. I know, meatloaf sandwich doesn’t sound that great, but with the mustard sauce and fried onions, it was to die for. Brisket, collard greens and jalapeno cornbread at The Smokehouse was even better. And I couldn’t leave without sampling our favorite drink from the France pavilion, a Vie Va Rose Slushy. By mid-afternoon I was feeling pretty good. Liam played in his favorite hedge maze in the England section. But, sadly, all the playgrounds were closed because of the rain. So instead we tried an indoor game Calli had told me about that her kids had loved. It had to do with saving money, and you got to carry a piggy bank to various stations to play the game. Liam loved it so much he wanted to play it twice. Big hit! Afterward I took Liam on the monorail one last time. We intended to pop over to Magic Kingdom to run around on Tom Sawyer’s Island, but by then the rain storm really picked up, so we headed back to Epcot to meet James for more dining at the Pavilions. Another meatloaf sandwich hit the spot.

Now it’s time to get down to business. Clean the house. Organize things for the movers. Make a pile for Goodwill. Somehow I’m going to squeeze in a hair appointment, a night out at the Wine Room and Bosphorous Restaurant in Winter Park with Mandy and Calli, and brunch at Stoneybrook Country Club with Maggie on Sunday. And because I’m completely insane, I’m taking Liam to the pirate museum in St. Augustine on our way out of town on Monday. James is staying in Orlando to oversee all the packing and loading. I just have to squeeze every ounce of fun out of Florida before we move to Kansas.

Grandpa’s January Visit

January 24, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Grandpa Bob couldn’t wait to leave the bitter cold of Illinois and visit us down here in sunny Florida. And Liam couldn’t wait to see him, either. He had lots of new toys to show him (most of which grandpa had bought him, lol), including his new guitar and scooter. He also took the Big Wheel for a spin, though still not using the pedals. Oh well.

IMG_1475On Saturday we decided to try a new Cajun place we’d heard about, Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen. Holy cow, was it good! We’re always disappointed in the gumbo at Cajun restaurants, but theirs was almost as good as the stuff we make at home. James’ crawfish etoufee was decent, but I decided to order their specialty, Andouille sausage and shrimp on cheddar grits with a red wine sauce. Which was absolutely fantastic! We’re definitely adding this to our list of favorite Orlando restaurants.

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On Sunday we headed to Animal Kingdom to see the lions, tigers, and slushies. Pictured above, Liam and grandpa are waiting outside James’ favorite food stand to get a yummy slushy. Just across the way was the Yak & Yeti, and now that I’ve tried it two times, I can safely say it meets my approval for good Disney dining. We took grandpa on the Safari, took the train to the petting zoo, and finally caught the Finding Nemo musical. That last was a bust – crappy seats, and Liam kept wanting to leave – but the rest was lots of fun.

Tuesday we dropped Liam off at school and spent the afternoon outlet mall shopping. I took a slight solo detour to the nearby JCPenney’s in Kissemee and finally found some jeans that fit. That seems to be the only place I can find jeans short enough for me. For lunch we tried a new Indian place we’d heard good things about, Saffron. Instead of a buffet, they offered a lunch plate that included Naan, appetizer, soup, and dessert. It came out on a perfect little rectangular plate with dividers. The food was great, and I think we’ll be coming back here to try dinner sometime. Another to add to the list!

Wednesday we decided to give Disney another shot, this time at Hollywood Studios. I shouldn’t be surprised, but after a year of season passes, we’re still finding parts of the park we’ve never seen. This time it was the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground, which Liam absolutely loved! They had all these tunnels and slides and caves, and it made you feel like a tiny insect crawling along all the tall blades of grass and candy wrappers. Very cute.

We had lunch at the Sci Fi Drive In, where we sat in a car in front of a big screen and watched clips of old black and white sci fi flicks and cartoons. There was some sort of problem with the kitchen, so our food took a really long time. But Liam didn’t mind sucking down most of James’ milkshake and bouncing on the car seats. Best of all, to make up for the inconvenience, our server brought us a fast pass that we could use on any ride at any time. So we got to bypass the 90-minute wait for the Toy Story Midway Mania ride, which I’ve been wanting to try since we moved here. It was really fun, though I don’t think Liam cared for it much. But at least it was something he could ride.

Of course, we can’t leave Hollywood Studios without seeing the Cars show. Liam couldn’t get enough of Lightening McQueen, of course. He insisted that I shoot some video this time so he can watch it later. You can hear Liam saying, “That thing’s on FIRE!” In fact, I think he mentions fire in every single video I shot, lol. Here’s a good shot of the finale. Enjoy!

Christmas in Lexington 2012 (Part 2)

December 30, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Finally it was Christmas Eve, and time to put out cookies and milk for Santa. And carrots for the reindeer, which was apparently something James did as a kid. Liam didn’t quite get the concept, opting to take bites out of Santa’s cookies before settling them on the plate. (And eating the Hershey kisses off the peanut butter blossom!)

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Mama said she thought she heard jingle bells in the distance, and it was time for Liam to go up to bed. I read him a few stories, then he leaned over to me conspiratorially and whispered, “I hear jingle bells. In the distance.” Friggin’ cute.

In the morning, Liam came bounding into our room with Mama, shouting, “It’s morning! I want to see Santa!” After explaining that Santa had merely stopped by, Liam was content enough to just open presents. He still wasn’t wild about tearing open wrapping paper. He kept telling James, “I got this started for you,” which is what we always say to him to prompt him to finish opening a present.

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Then it was time for the biggest present. Exactly what he asked for! The toy with the “elebator!”

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Some assembly required.

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I love this photo.

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And I made James take this when Liam and I were snuggling on the couch. Y’know, cuz otherwise you’d have no idea I was even there. Such is a mom’s/photographer’s burden.

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The snow all melted and Liam wanted to slide down the slide in the backyard. It was more slippery than expected, which apparently surprised Mama. She was going, “Ooo, ooo, ooo!” in this photo. I barely even got the shot. Hilarious.

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Then it was Liam’s birthday! While getting dressed, it was like a little light bulb went off. “Oh! It’s my birthday! I’m four! I want to open presents!” So at nine AM we started making cupcakes, and by 9:30 he’d opened all his presents.

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DSC_0148He got a Lego car set, the game Operation, some clothes, and a Lightning McQueen guitar. Look at him go, like a little pro! Though he prefers to set it down on the ground and strum the strings with a pick. I attempted to tune the thing, but it’s more like a four-string ukulele, so I had no idea what I was doing. Perhaps Grandpa Bob can give him some pointers when he visits in January.

Operation and Legos were a bit frustrating for him, and will likely be toys he’ll grow into. Funny enough, two toys he got last year – his camera and his Mobi video game – he didn’t even pick up until the summer. But that’s just as well. With a birthday and Christmas only two days apart, poor Liam gets inundated with new toys.

Once the cupcakes were cooled, he helped Mama with frosting and sprinkles. Then with a shrimp fork in hand, he proceeded to eat a tiny bite out of each cupcake on the plate! Whatever, it’s his birthday.

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We spent the rest of our trip trying new restaurants and meeting up with some of my family. We saw my cousin Scott, his wife Lindsay and baby Lucas, who’s almost 10 months old. (The rest of the Pappas’ were laid up with the flu or otherwise indisposed. But I was able to pass on the big gift to the family we’d been working on all year: a compilation of grandpa Marvin’s stories.) We sampled chocolate covered grapes, bourbon truffles (whew, like taking a shot of whiskey!), and chocolate covered sea salt potato chips at Old Kentucky Chocolates. We’ll definitely be making this a regular stop on our visits. We had pizzas and cannolis at Goodfella’s Pizzaria (yum!), and boatloads of barbecue at City Barbecue (decent, though I wish I’d ordered something different. I got the three lil’ sandwich sampler, and the chicken and sausage weren’t that great. But the pulled pork, corn and beans were outstanding!) Robert took us by Jacobson Park, which Brady and Devin love to play in during the summer. And despite the cold, we all got out and climbed around with Liam. He love, love, loved it! The playground was enormous, and all wooden. So now we have to come back when the weather’s warmer.

Finally it was Friday, and time to take the Subaru sleigh home. We were ready, especially me because I spent the whole time with a cold. Liam wasn’t feeling too well, either. But it was nice to see family, and we can’t wait for them to (hopefully!) make a trip down to see us soon!

The Beach in December

December 10, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Ahhh, smell that ocean air. This was the scene at New Smyrna Beach at 11 today. A few cyclists, some snowbirds down for the winter, and us. Storms were forecast, but because it was such an unusually warm day (high of 81), I decided to risk it. And what a fine day it turned out to be!

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Not hot enough to bother with the beach umbrella, though the water was quite cold. We built some sand castles, played with water in the sand pails, and kicked the ball around. All the little old ladies thought he was adorable.

 

Liam was such a good boy, playing quietly on his own, then playing catch with me. I’m usually begging him to get in the water, which leads to much whining, so it was nice not to bother with that. Later in the afternoon it started to cloud up, so we headed to Norwoods for their famous coconut shrimp. Liam enjoyed their bread and chocolate milk. On the way home, we heard on the radio that New Smyrna was under a tornado warning. We got out of there just in time! It’s weird to live somewhere that tornadoes can strike in the winter. Though it’s also weird to go to the beach in December. A good kind of weird.

Happy Anniversary!

September 30, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It was Wednesday, actually, but we decided we needed a nice night out. I even bought a new dress! I bought tickets to the Cirque du Soleil and made reservations at Wolfgang Puck a month in advance. All our ducks were in a row.

Except…set back. We walked into Wolfgang Puck, checked in at the front, and they proceeded to seat us. But as we took a look around, we were clearly overdressed. And it was horribly depressing…metal tables, kids in strollers, and it felt more like a mall food court. Then we looked at the menu, and it was all wrong. Clearly this wasn’t right, so we headed back to the podium to straighten things out. Turns out I had made a reservation at Wolfgang Puck Café…when I should have made a reservation at The Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck Café. Seriously?! On the website there is barely a distinction. And who would make a reservation at the stupid mall food court version, anyway? After a few blank stares, a shrug, and a poor explanation that they were all full up upstairs, we decided to blow that joint.

Instead, we went here.

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IMG_1200And as cheeseball as it is to spend your anniversary dinner at the Planet Hollywood, we actually had a great dinner. We ordered fruity cocktails (James liked his bright green Sour Patch with Midori so much that he ordered two!), got the Capt’n Crunch breaded chicken finger appetizer (which was awesome), and our dinners weren’t half bad, either. Wolfgang Puck can suck it!

Then it was off to the circus! I was glad I passed on dessert at PH because then I had room for a Cirque specialty: $5 cupcakes! I had the red velvet with a glass of Pinot Grigio. This was no ordinary cupcake. Instead of cream cheese icing, it had what amounted to a 1-inch hunk of cheese cake topped with nuts. OMG, indulgent!

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The show was spectacular! It’s amazing what they come up with. You had your standard clowns, tight rope walkers and trapeze artists. But then they had daredevil bike tricks, silk curtain acrobats, and the most adorable little Asian girls doing an intricate dance with wooden dumbbells and ropes. The stage itself was almost as enthralling as the show. The floor would transform as things dropped down from the ceiling, and suddenly the whole stage would be a trampoline. They wouldn’t allow photography, but I got this cool picture in the lobby.

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What a wonderful way to spend our anniversary. Happy eight years, honey!

A week with Grandpa

July 6, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Our week with Grandpa Bob just flew by, and now that Liam’s down for his much-needed nap, I can share all the fun stuff we did. We had a lot of fun in the sun, which wasn’t James’ cup o’ tea. But he weathered it without too much complaint, despite the sunburns.

IMG_1019Saturday afternoon we spent at the pool, and with a little coaxing we got Liam to swim out in the deep water with daddy and grandpa. He’s still timid about leaving the steps, and he adamantly refused to go underwater. I figure he’ll have enough of that next Monday when we start up another round of swim lessons. Before I got him to leave the house, he modeled his little life jacket and swim ring for me. Of course, he wouldn’t actually wear them in the water. But at least I can see how freakin’ cute he is in them. Sigh. Maybe next summer.

On Sunday we headed to Lake Eola for the farmer’s market. I was one week too early for okra, but I picked up lots of fresh peaches, mangos, and tomatoes. Bob suggested we try brussel sprouts in lieu of okra, so we cherry-picked the smallest, most tender-looking specimens for Sunday’s dinner.

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We stopped at City Fish for lunch and a refreshing microbrew. It’s one of our favorite seafood joints, and conveniently right by the market. Yum! Because Bob was staying a little longer than he has in the past (which we love, by the way!), I decided to trot out our favorite dinner recipes. Sunday we grilled our awesomely spicy Haitian VooDoo Sticks, which we serve on pita bread with cucumber, tomato, and Archer Farms Tzatziki Yogurt Dressing. Bob sliced our fresh brussel sprouts in halves and sauteed them in olive oil with minced garlic, then topped them with shredded parmesan cheese. And let me tell ya, they were to die for! I’d tried brussel sprouts as a kid and hated them, and while my sister has always told me they’re way better fresh, I didn’t quite believe her. But I stand corrected! We will definitely be adding these puppies to the menu.

On Monday, to help James recover from his scalp and shoulder sunburn (my poor white boy), we took Liam to see Pixar’s new hit, Brave. Liam was so good during the movie, only once getting up to switch from daddy’s lap to mine. The steady stream of Reese’s Pieces probably helped, too. We all thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and Liam is still talking about “the girl with the red hair” and “the bear”. I was a little concerned he’d be scared during some of the fight scenes, but he seemed just fine. In general, Liam doesn’t seem too fazed by what he sees on TV. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

DSC_0002Tuesday we decided to trek to the beach. Last summer Bob, Liam and I had gone to Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic side. But because Liam and I had had such a fantastic time at Siesta Key, and Bob had such fond, but distant memories of Sarasota, we decided to try Clearwater on the gulf coast. Bob was jonesing for some Cuban sandwiches, so with a little googling, we found Columbia Restaurant in Clearwater. Bob remembered eating at their location in Sarasota years ago, so it was settled. We arrived just in time for lunch. We got a table right by the water, with lovely views of the inlet. We all ordered their famous Cuban Sandwiches, their 1905 Salad, and James tried the Spanish Bean soup. Best Cubans we’d ever tasted! After deciding to save half our sandwiches in the cooler for later, we indulged in dessert: James with Churros and caramel, chocolate, and guava dipping sauces; Bob with white chocolate bread pudding; and me with the Key Lime Pie. We sampled from each other’s plates, and I thought the bread pudding was the most outstanding. Best of all, as we were enjoying our meal, a couple of manatees lumbered by, and we watched them from the railing. Very cool!

Then it was on to the beach! We drove up Clearwater Beach a ways, but being July 3rd, the place was packed. We opted instead for the less crowded Sand Key, which was just south. Our waiter had told us it was a broken shell beach, so we knew it wasn’t going to be anything like Siesta Key. While the sand was disappointing, the water was not. Once you got past the small shells in the short break, you could walk quite a ways out and still keep your head above water. I’d never been that deep in the ocean with Liam before – I’ve always been nervous about taking him past the break when I’m by myself. But with Bob, James and I passing him around, it was actually quite nice. And the water was so warm! But full of seaweed – perhaps from the tropical storm that had hit that beach the previous week. Back on shore, James and I took turns building sand castles so Liam could knock them down. The sand was quite course, with an interesting salt and pepper color to it. Digging down a few inches, the shells became more apparent. I’m starting a sand collection in little glass bottles, and the Sand Key sand looks quite interesting, especially sitting next to my fine, white Siesta Key sand. I’m such a Midwesterner, I had no idea beach sand from the same general area could be so different!

For Independence Day, we stayed home and cooked another of our favorite meals, Tuscan Sausage Ragu. After dinner, we headed to downtown Avalon Park to see the fireworks. James wasn’t feeling up to going (surprise, surprise), and just as well – it was packed! I decided to park in the grass pretty far back rather than hunt for a closer spot. We checked out some of the booths, then headed back to the car in time to get our chairs out and watch the fireworks. Liam absolutely loved it! This is the first time I’ve actually taken him to see big fireworks, unless you count the time last December when I walked him in the stroller down the street far enough to see them just over the trees. He’s talked about that for months, so I figured he’d like to see them a little closer this year. When the show was over, we packed up the car, and as I was strapping Liam into his car seat, I suddenly felt like my feet were on fire! I’d stepped on a fire ant hill in the dark…in sandals. Let me tell you. That shit hurts. After much cursing and ripping off of shoes and slapping my feet like a lunatic, I managed to get myself composed enough to drive us home. In bare feet, mind you. And I had to off-road it to bypass the nasty traffic. From the back seat, Liam said, “Mommy, are you going to cry?” I told him, “Maybe. This doesn’t hurt quite so bad as childbirth, but, geez, feels like almost!” My feet were still stinging when I got home, but after slathering them with some cooling Benadryl, I took Liam to sit in the drive way and watch our neighbors shoot off roman candles. He seemed just as impressed by that as with the big fireworks. Of course.

Intent on avoiding the Disney/Universal/Sea World corridor, on Thursday we took Bob to Winter Park, a trendy, upscale area with shops and restaurants. We arrived just as the Amtrak was pulling into the train station in the adjacent park, so Liam, of course, went bananas. For lunch we stopped at our favorite Orlando restaurant, Bosphorous Restaurant, for some delicious Turkish fare. This time I tried the Moussaka – ground lamb, eggplant, and cheese served with rice. Heaven. Again we decided to save half our meal for dinner and indulge in dessert. While James and his dad enjoyed their rice puddings, it was nothing compared to the new thing I decided to try: Kunefe. It was a huge plate of shredded phyllo dough, sweet cheese, and a sweet sauce. They threw in a few whole pistachios for good measure. Wow.

Aside from eating well, we spent most of the rest of the week at home, where Liam would take grandpa upstairs and play trains. Or he’d follow grandpa out to the back porch to play in the sand box. Wherever grandpa was going, Liam was going, too. James and I got chastised for lingering too long. “Daddy, you can go now.” Or, “Mommy, go inside!” Liam wanted grandpa all to himself. After brunch at Keke’s today, we explained that we were dropping grandpa off at the airport so he could go back to Illinois. Liam pondered this a moment, then said, “But I’ll play with him tomorrow, then.” Poor kiddo. I have a feeling tomorrow morning’s going to be a tough one, explaining that grandpa isn’t here anymore. But grandpa will be back soon. We promise.

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