Hearthwood Abroad: The Offer

Jean got the call for her A-100 class this morning! She’ll be attending the September class. We have to wait until then to find where we’ll be posted…

The NC/FL Road Trip: The Magic Kingdom & The Auto Train

image1342317930.jpgWe started our morning early again and entered the park yuppie-style, Starbucks logo’s shining, green beacon-like from beneath the recycled-fiber cardboard Kozie’s surrounding our espresso drinks.
As the early bird gets the worm, so we got a personal hand-shake from Buzz Lightyear, and enjoyed riding his ride and using the astro rockets, all within 30 minutes of entering the park.
We then went on the Hauted Mansion ride, Pirates of the Carribean and then split up as Lucas and I went to Splash Mountain an the girls got the younger two’s Mouse Ears hats embroidered with their names.
With one final sweep of our god-like will, we granted the children some sweets from the confectionary and exited the park for Sanford, an hour away for our train.
We made Sanford on good time and stopped at Hollenbach’s Willow Tree Cafe, “a real German restaurant in Sanford”, where we did indeed find some real German food, enjoying Bratwurst and Spaetzle with a Kolsch and Schwarzbier.
Lunch complete, we checked ourselves and th car in to the station and began our train ride home.
We are watching “Tales of Despereaux” now in the lounge car with the kids and the youngest who refuses to sleep:)
We’ll arrive at 9:30 in the morning at Lorton, having slept in our family bunk.
A phenomenal vacation.

The NC/FL Road Trip: The Animal Kingdom

image2087559953.jpgOur wild morning began with abreal espresso (sob) latte at the entrance to this park that neither Jean or I had been to before after a quick walk from the lot to the entrance. The day proved to be hot, but again getting up early proved to be worth it; Rafiki, Goofy and Mickey greeted us with an pre-opening show, just like at the the Magic Kingdom.
We started of with the “it’s tough to be a bug” show, which was a 3D show for the kids, inside of the tree of life; fun stuff. The rest of our day was hot and humid, but very fun. We got to see a cool dinosaur ride, a real animal safari, and a phenomenal musical rendition of Finding Nemo. Two stuffed-animal fruit bats in tow, we left for the day in a tropical rain.
We ended the day at the same bargain restaurant at which we ate a couple days ago, and planned our final half day for the Magci Kingdom.

The NC/FL Road Trip: Epcot Center

image2086080937.jpgIn the morning we drove down to our obligatory presentation. Much less panache and professionalism here. We half convinced the guy selling them it wasn’t a good deal. Three hours later (!) we managed lunch and headed off to Epcot. Probably good we only had a half day there, as this was the older themed park with a lot of walking.
No monorail or ferry necessary, we walked right up.
We decided our first ride to be The Living Seas with Nemo, which proved to be a spectacular show of special effects with real fish and Nemo characters superimposed.
We saw the spaceship earth ride an a couple other things, including “the land” with Disney’s experimental tomato trees and other agricultural experiments, before embarking around the world. Lucas had his eye set on France, being a big fan of “Ratatouille”. We marched around and had a pretzel and beer in Germany. More fun, countries, hot sun and cool rain. We ended up in Morocco for dinner and enjoyed it thoroughly. A last minute rush to see A couple rides again before they closed and the fireworks went off. Fireworks and a clip-clip of aching feet and joints, well deserved, to the car. Kids asleep before we got to the hotel.

The NC/FL Road Trip: The Magic Kingdom

image2085391850.jpgWe got up at o-dark-early and drove from Daytona to Disney World to get to the gates before the park opened. Smart move! We took the ferry across after parking (Pluto 11!) and got through half our planned rides before the morning was out, mainly because we got there early enough to beat the crowds.
My favorite rides of the day:
1. Pirates of the Carribean: totally revamped since the movies came out and a lot better.
2. The Haunted Mansion: another revamped ride!
3. The Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse: oldie but goodie
4. Buzz Lightyear: cool laser shooting
5. Thunder Mountain Railroad
6. Barnstormer
We rode a lot of other rides and saw many other things, but these stand out as my favorites for the day.
We took a breather around 3 to exit the park and check in to the hotel. There was a tour group in front of us so we used the phones to surf the net for reviews of local restaurants while the kids slept, and adjourned for an early dinner around 4:30 and scored an early bird special at a local steakhouse.
Afterwards we went back to the park to do more rides and see the fireworks at 10. Merrill decided it was her job to ahout “monorail!” every time I pointed one out. Jean’s job was amazingly only to look at them. We had a phenomenal time!

The NC/FL Road Trip: Daytona Achieved, the "it's better than a timeshare" talk

image2030270562.jpgJean and Lucas were up before any of us. By the time the girls woke me up Lucas had been jumping around in the waves for an hour. We went down and joined them for a while until some thunder and lightning began rolling in and we made a hasty exit for the hotel. Good timing too, as we were due for our “talk” check-in at 9:00am.
Free breakfast, Lucas put away two plates of bacon, eggs and fruit. The talk was nearly two hours, the rep not managing to convince us to “flat rate our vacations for life” or get ridiculously low (they were good rates actually) resort, hotel or plane fares. If it weren’t for the money, it’s the destinations that lack. Not that I don’t appreciate the destinations themselves, just that we don’t enjoy resorts in general.
The afternoon at the beach was awesome! Lucas and Merill each had their own brand of fun, Lucas preferring to body surf and Merrill preferring jumping over waves and running in the surf. They each took a turn on the boogie board though, both catching great waves. Eleanor enjoyed hip rides and being lifted over the shallow waves for fun. After we tired of the water, we retired to the beach just out of reach of the waves and proceeded to construct our beach castle. I made some pretty good walls I must confess. I napped Eleanor on my shoulder, the best feeling for a dad mind you, to feel the small satisfied rythmic breathing of your young nestled into you. The castle didn’t last long; Nothing is immune to the destructive force of a young boy’s curiosity, so the walls came down and we once again beat a hasty path with peals of thunder and smattering rain around us.
We acquired a gift certificate for Gilly’s Pub44 at the Riverfront, a family restaurant by day, biker hangout by night. We all had a great dinner (I had a pound of steamed jumbo shrimp with old bay on the cheap) and played at a small playground afterwards.
Preparations for Disney tomorrow…g’night.

The NC/FL Road Trip: On to Daytona

image1809107249.jpgWe rose early and left Meagan, Schorr, Chloe and Frannie (cat and dog) by 7:30 and hurtled towards Daytona, nearly a nine hour drive ahead of us. South of The Border tacky bilboards flashed by us until we passed the tacky wonderland.
Midday and lunch at Wendy’s flew by, and the miles dwindled until we made it to our check-in point on the A1A, the Plaza Ocean Club around 4:15. We were staying free of charge for listening to another timeshare spiel. A quick check-in to the room and a walk out the back and to the beach! We had a nice little walk and then walked a couple blocks to dinner, finally deciding on inexpensive and dirty vs. clean and pricey. Lucas chose it because it was a Pizza joint. Clear and Present Danger was our bedtime background and we bedded late.

The NC/FL Road Trip: Visiting Meagan and Schorr

image2035920550.jpgDrove the five hours to Raleigh. We made good time and got into town for lunch. Had sandwiches at the Side Street Cafe on Meagan’s recommendation, a good find. Visited the Two museums in downtown and saw an excellent exhibit on dinosaurs and natural sciences with aquariums in one museum and a fun pirate exhibit in the other. There was even a pirate ship on which the kids could play (and did) for nearly an hour.
Meagan met us shortly after five o’clock, and we drove to The Pit for sinner, Schorr meeting us shortly thereafter. We had a great dinner and local microbrews, and drove to M&S’s house afterwards, where we bathed and bedded the kids. We had a good, though short sit down with M&S, and dropped off to sleep.

July Fourth Weekend

What a blast! We started our day picking wineberries at Hearthwood. Jean and her parents were at Hilton Head for Alden and Heather’s wedding, which we sorely missed, but I wouldn’t have traded our weekend for that kamikaze drive with three kids.

Kate and the boys helped out and we gathered enough berries for a fresh wineberry pie, ice cream and a double batch of jam!

By mid afternoon we made it over to Bob and Billie Warhurst’s place (thanks, Bob!) for their spectacular party. Lucas was asking after the food as soon as we arrived. The kids immediately gravitated to the tire swing, and spent the afternoon making a circuit between that, the moonbounce, the slide, and the trampoline. They chowed down on all manner of cookout food, Lucas taking down two hotdogs and proclaiming a tummy ache after subsequent moonbouncing. I enjoyed the ribs thoroughly.
Mom and Dad featured ice cream heavily in their grandparenting routine, and I marveled at the kids ability to continue eating.
By the end of the day, we stayed way past bedtime and had some sacked, happy kids. They were asleep not five minutes after hitting the pillow.

Yesterday we made the pie, ice cream, and generally took it easy. Today, zip line, pool and more fun. Tomorrow, we’re off on a week-long east-coast excursion, involving NC to visit Meagan and Shore, Daytona Beach and then Disney World.

iPhone 3GS

Like Ferris says, “How I do love to drive it…”, I too enjoy using the peppy new iPhone 3GS. The whole interface is faster, mostly due to the 600MHz processor with 256MB of RAM. The voice control is nifty, the digital compass…will be useful someday I’m sure. It’s the video that I love. Oh, and the auto-focus, auto-balance, 3 Megapixel still camera. I shot this (and edited in iMovie) yesterday: