Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter



It was a lovely Easter weekend here – the snow is gone, the sun felt warm, and it was one of those rare years that we could hide the kids’ Easter eggs outside. The grass is still matted and beige; who am I kidding - our grass is like that all year. I just photoshop it in the summer. We had a lovely time yesterday morning hunting for eggs and enjoying the sun on the deck. Dale gave me way too much chocolate (as if there’s such a thing) including my favourite – the solid milk chocolate bunny in a plastic bag. I like to put it in the freezer and gnaw on it from time to time.



We had a big crazy Easter dinner at my parents’ house on Friday with lots of family and friends. The highlight was having friends/adopted siblings Patricia & Maurizio here from Edmonton with baby Luca. It was our first time meeting him. He was so cute and happy and didn’t make a peep the whole time. My adorable 9-month-old great-nephew came as well; so fun to have the babies there. Jim and Sabrina’s baby is due to make an appearance any time; unfortunately he/she didn’t make it in time for the chocolate.





On Sunday we celebrated Easter with Dale’s family. It was nice and calm and good to catch up with the (adult) nephews who are always heading off on some adventure or other. I feel very lucky that we both have families that we enjoy being with. Would be nice if some of them lived a little closer though. You know who you are.

I clipped a recipe for a rainbow cake from a magazine over a decade ago, and I finally made it this weekend. Darla made a similar one a few weeks ago, which inspired me. Even though I would fall into the cake-wrecker category, it looked pretty impressive. That's supposed to be the sun on top, but one of its rays broke.



In a sudden, exciting turn of events, Dale spearheaded a mini-reno in our laundry room this weekend. Stay tuned for dramatic before and after pictures. (Shannon, I know you are probably cringing right now because I haven’t even finished the study and now I’m on to another room. Don’t worry, I’m getting close!)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Golden Nugget



On my leisurely walks along the beach, this hotel caught my eye. Most of the hotels and condos lining the beach are posh high rises, the names usually starting with “Trump,” so this one really stood out. At first I was sure it must have been condemned and boarded up, ready for Donald to bulldoze and rebuild something opulent as soon as the economy picks up. When I got closer, I realized it was still open for business. I took a ridiculous amount of pictures of it because I liked the contrast of the old and the new.

I was intrigued by it, so I checked it out online. I first came upon this picture:
Followed by these (and many more like it showing filthy shower curtains, rusty bathtubs, and dangerous wiring):
Photos of Golden Nugget Beach Club, Sunny Isles Beach
This photo of
Golden Nugget Beach Club is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Photos of Golden Nugget Beach Club, Sunny Isles Beach
This photo of
Golden Nugget Beach Club is courtesy of TripAdvisor


Had I seen the photo of the sparkling pool when I was looking for accommodations in Miami, I might have thought I’d found a hidden gem. I quite like smaller, independent hotels with a bit of character. Hopefully I would have taken the time to read the traveller reviews. Hotel reviews are usually mixed, so you take them with a grain of salt - but in this case, they’re very consistent. Here are some excerpts:



"This was the WORST hotel ever. I would never stay at this hotel again. The building was raggedy, the pool was nasty, and the water was orange/red. I will never recommend this hotel to anybody."


"The room smelled like someone died in it a year ago, and the body was still hidden someplace in it. The staff is completely RUDE and disinterested in anything we had to say at all. The hotel room was so dirty we didn't even want to put our suitcases on the floor. The tv was broken and my fiance was electrocuted when he plugged the tv in. The toilet paper was on a completely rusted out toilet paper holder and there was mold in the shower."


People can be so picky. There were many complaints (and for some reason, I read them all) about no staff being around until 10:00 a.m. A deposit is required for a key (you’d think that would be included in the rate), so if anyone’s checking out before 10:00 a.m., too bad. This was my favourite comment though.

"This is an hotel without any service, ugly and old, the lady on charge goes to sleep around 9 pm and begin working after 10 am and leaves the front desk without any attention, even more, the first night we arrived there (1 am) we have to sleep in the lobby because there was not an employee to give us the room key. During the weekend there was a lot of people doing a lot of noise at the swimming pool surroundings with a recorder, they started in the morning and did not stop for the whole weekend."
Seriously, a recorder? It’s not clear whether they mean a tape recorder or a recorder recorder; either way, non-stop recorder-ing sounds grim.

So I wasted a large portion of my day reading reviews for a hotel I will never stay at. I’m not proud of it, but to be honest if I had this day to live over, I’d probably do it again.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

(Wo)man vs. wild



You're probably all rolling your eyes and wishing I'd stop talking about the Florida trip already. Too bad; if I post one picture a day, I'll have enough for several years worth of posts. Because I care about you, I'll try and speed things up by lumping some together. Today's theme is animals.

I'm not a huge nature person, but who doesn't love seeing animals that are different from our usual local animals. I get a little tired of squirrels and cats and rabbits. We saw lots of alligators - in the lake in my parents' village, at the mini-golf place, and in the Everglades, where you only have to walk a few feet before seeing them all over the place. They look so unenergetic; this one was swimming around with a reed or something stuck across its face and it didn't even care.



Lots of baby alligators



My favourite



Dead jellyfish on the beach




Gecko


Dale also saw dolphins frolicking in the bay during a run in Miami. Or so he says. I think he's just trying to make running look fun.

This last one has nothing to do with animals, but I thought it was clever.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Birthdays



It just so happened that Chloe and Spencer both had their birthdays during our vacation. This alone would be reason enough to make this an annual trip. I saved a lot of time, money, and stress by skipping the whole party scene. I think these are birthdays they’ll always remember. And if not, I have a thousand pictures to remind them.

We went to Universal Studios on Chloe’s birthday. They gave her an “It’s my birthday” button to wear, so she got lots of birthday wishes wherever we went. She chose to have lunch at The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade (Harry Potter world), which the kids loved. I can’t remember what they ate (fish & chips?) but there was lots of Butterbeer involved. When we got back to my parents’ that night, my mom had a delicious homemade ice cream cake for Chloe and she opened her gifts.


Neve's gift to Chloe was Justin Bieber napkins




On Spencer’s birthday, we were at Dale’s sister’s house in Miami. They put up lots of ‘happy birthday’ signs for him and we had bacon, eggs, and bagels for breakfast. Auntie Jeannie ran out especially to buy Spencer some juice, so he was pretty spoiled. He opened his pile of gifts, including some very over-wrapped and duct-taped ones from his cousins. We went to the beach for a bit, then came back for hot dogs (his request) and Oreo Blizzard ice cream cake.




This pic was taken after we made our purchases of Chloe bags - that's why the shelves look like we're in Russia.


So Chloe is now a teenager, and Spencer is ten - such great ages for this trip. It’s lovely being with the children when I don’t have to nag them to do homework or practice French horn (even Tiger Mom took a holiday). They really are good kids and I feel very lucky. That’s as sappy as I’ll get in public.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Trip


A week ago at this time, I was in Miami. Dale and I were probably enjoying a drink on the deck with Dale's sister and her husband, breathing in the warm, tropical air.

I'm experiencing post-vacation depression. I've been spending a lot of time trying to figure out a way we can quit our jobs and school and just be on a permanent vacation. I know everyone feels that way after a holiday; surely someone must have figured it out by now. But until then, I guess I will go back to work tomorrow.

At least I have my memories. And I have a lot of them. I took more pictures than I will ever admit. I rarely print photos, but I try to make an album when we go on vacation. I spent the day on Saturday going through all the pics and sent a select few to Blacks to be printed. Those "select few" were too many to fit into the 200-slot album I bought.

So here's a summary of our trip. Feel free to not read this if you have better ways to spend your time than by reading detailed descriptions of someone else's vacation.

After a 3-hour flight delay, we left Fargo on Sunday, March 20th. The delay was frustrating because we were heading to Magic Kingdom first thing in the morning. We finally got to bed around 2:00 a.m., only to get up at 7:00 to head to the Happiest Place in the World. The kids did awesome under the circumstances, but everyone ran out of steam by late afternoon. I was so determined to stay for the fireworks at 10:00 p.m., but we only made it to 7:00 p.m. or so. That was really the only disappointment; we had a fabulous day. The weather was perfect, we avoided line-ups even though the park was pretty full, and besides losing Chloe (the child I thought was the least likely to get lost), everything went smoothly. Neve got her princess fix, we went on some fun rides, and we got away with buying only one souvenir (a doll for Neve).


We went to Epcot the next day. This was the park I was least excited about in advance, but I was pleasantly surprised. The older kids loved Test Track and Soarin'; Neve liked the little splash pad.



Club Cool was also a hit - you can taste different sodas from around the world. The floor around the drink dispensers got disgustingly sticky by the end of the day. Spencer was in heaven.


After we left Epcot, we headed to my parents'. They spend the winter in a little village about an hour from Orlando. It was great to see them and having a glimpse into where and how they spend their winters (we've been there once before). They have a sweet arrangement in which they do volunteer work in the village in exchange for a house to stay in. They have a nice little community with friends, a pool, and best of all (at least in Chloe's opinion), a golf cart to zip around in.



We spent the day with them on Wednesday, and Neve stayed with them Thursday as well while the rest of us went to Universal Islands of Adventure. The kids loved the Harry Potter part, and the Jurassic Park water ride was pretty awesome too. Dale and I went on the Hulk, which is a crazy rollercoaster. I just googled it to find a picture to post, but I came across a bunch of youtube videos of the ride, so here's one if you're interested. I can't imagine holding a camera during this ride. It was super fun, especially in hindsight.


The next day we went to the Gulf coast with my parents. It was a perfect hot, sunny day and some of us underestimated the amount of sunscreen we needed. We had a lot of fun playing in the waves. We also went miniature golfing at a fun little course that had resident alligators, and then had dinner at an Amish restaurant.



On Saturday, we went to Miami. We stayed in a condo near the beach for a week. There was a gorgeous pool, which we had almost completely to ourselves. Dale's sister and her husband live about 15 minutes from the condo, so we hung around with them all weekend, as well as a few evenings during the week. On Friday, we left the condo and stayed with them for the weekend. We went to the Everglades, to the beach, and spent a lot of time on their deck. The kids had so much fun with their cousins (two teenage girls) and spent hours playing Life, watching movies, and eating ice cream.


On Monday, we said goodbye and headed to Cocoa Beach. It was noticeably cooler there than in Miami, but we played in the waves and had a great time. The next day we went to Orlando and flew out crazy early the next morning. And then it was over.


If the permanent vacation thing hasn't worked out by then, we are hoping to at least be able to make this an annual or every-other-year kind of thing. But we said that last time too, and that was seven years ago. Oh well, it helps that the snow is mostly gone and the sun feels warm. I'm just going to keep out my summer clothes and hope for the best.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Home



The vacation has come to an end. It was all that I dreamed it would be. And now we've been home for just over 24 hours and regular life is back in full swing. I will delay a real trip update for yet another day, but here are some pictures in the meantime.






Monday, April 04, 2011

Wish you were here

The vacation is nearing completion. We're going to squeeze out another day and a half of fun in the sun before we put it to rest. We've had gorgeous weather, a good combination of down time and hanging out with family, and lots of memory-making material. We're in Cocoa Beach tonight, in a room overlooking the ocean. I can hear the waves crashing onto shore (over the sound of one of the kids snoring) and am looking forward to the view in the morning. It's going to be as bright as our east-facing 22nd-floor apartment in Toronto was. Bring it on. See you in a few days. Miss you all!