Friday, October 16, 2015

Enchanting Rose: Tea Cup Exchange

Just recently Stephanie over at Enchanting Rose hosted a tea cup exchange, and this was my first year participating! (I've just been a bit late getting my post up as I've been fighting a cold here.) The way it works, various ladies from all over the world sign up, and Stephanie matches us up.  We send to one person, and receive from another so there is the opportunity to make two friends through the exchange! 
I sent a tea cup to Lexi from Times and Seasons of a Beautiful Life.  I had so much fun putting a package together for her and looking through her blog (which you should go check out!)

I received a tea cup from Cryslyn who blogs over at Joyfully Inspired.  It was such a delight to get her package in the mail, decorated in special butterfly stickers.  Inside it was filled with lovelies.  A mosaic-styled tea cup and saucer with many shades of my favorite color; a delicate white doily; delicious berry teas; and this amazing necklace in the shape of a book - none other than Pride and Prejudice. <3  I absolutely adore all that Cryslyn sent me - thank you so much for being so generous!

Many thanks to Stephanie for putting this all together! I thoroughly enjoyed myself and am looking forward to the next exchange.  Hugs and thanks to all! <3

Friday, October 9, 2015

Do and Don'ts of Visiting Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure

It's becoming a thing now.  You've decided to go on a trip.  What is one of the very first things you do? Search the internet for information of course.  Pinterest, blogs, message forums, and a select few websites become your friends over the months of travel plans (and dreams.)  There is a surplus of information out there about Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, but I wanted to list a few things myself, a few Lesser Known Tips for thoroughly enjoying Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure.


Get the Express Pass/Park Hop Tickets

This may not seem like a big deal, especially when you think about two of the Harry Potter rides don't take the Express Pass.  Trust me, it's worth it.  You'll have the opportunity to do things multiple times this way, and then take the time you would have spent waiting in line and meander the parks without feeling rushed.

Also, just get the park hop ticket.  Especially now with the Hogwarts Express taking you from one park to the next, it's just much easier to be able to visit either park at any time during your stay.

Ride Men In Black: Alien Attack more than once

This ride.  It surpases any other shooting game, and was probably the ride we rode the most times.  Here's the thing: once is not enough.  To get the full effect of this ride, you realize that it is a game.  The first time is just your warm up.  Listen to your instructions and follow them closely, and really use the first round to get the hang of shooting the aliens.  There is another team you will be competing against, which just makes it all the more fun.  Trust me, this ride is worth doing until you reach 100,000 + points.  By then you will be addicted and want to bring it home with you.

Be nice to the workers

In a park this size, something is bound to go wrong at one time or another. One of the days we were in the park, the Escape from Gringotts ride was broken down all morning and afternoon.  There was a crowd of workers who had the unfortunate job of telling park guests the ride was closed.  They had the area blocked off, but didn't mind letting us in to take a picture with the goblin statue that was normally used as extra seating and hard to get a picture of without people all around it.  Random nice worker jumped in our picture and ended up talking with us for a while after that.  While other people scowled, complained, or were even rude, the workers appreciated our understanding.  In fact, this guy was awesome enough to call ahead and send us to the front of the line at Hogwarts, The Forbidden Journey, giving us almost an extra hour to enjoy the park our last day that we normally would have spent in line.  They work hard to make this place magical, it doesn't hurt to be kind.


Miss the side shows

We meandered quite a bit throughout our 4 1/2 days, and at times we were tired and just wanted to sit for a while.  We realized that there were shows and performances and parades throughout the day. Some are themed (the Harry Potter Beauxbaton and Durmstrang performance; the bunny's from Hop; etc.) while some are just for fun (pet tricks, Fear Factor Live, magic shows.)  I had no idea I would enjoy these, but they are worth seeing, if you are spending a couple days in the parks.  I ended up buying a kit after the magic show to try and do at home.

Bother with Poseidon's Fury

Like, seriously.  The outside is all intricate and pretty, and the restaurant is pretty good (and air conditioned!) But the show itself? There were too many people standing who couldn't quite see or hear what was going on, and the story in the show was just okay.  At best.  So maybe there is a chance it will be better next time, but I don't actually think we'll try it again to find out. There are just way too many other awesome things to see and do without trying to fit this into what I'm sure is an already packed schedule.

Forget to leave room for souvenirs!

Or you will ride home with a broomstick, Hedwig, Arnold the Pygmy Puff, 2 robes, and an extraordinary amount of Honeydukes candy sharing  your seat...

Monday, September 28, 2015

5 Questions we had in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

 During our recent trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. we stumbled across some things that we honestly had trouble figuring out.  Only a few things, as, I assure you, I spent an unspeakable amount of time on the internet before this trip trying to find the best tips and tricks to the theme parks.  So I decided to make a list of all the things we asked throughout our trip, and things we would have liked to known.

1. Are the Interactive Wands worth it?

This trip we found out that Ollivanders had expanded its wand supply.  Now, in addition to offering the basic character wands, you can get many of them as Interactive Wands for a little bit more money.  At select places inside Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, there are symbols marked into the path that means you can use your interactive wand here.  Throughout the day we saw several people using them, but couldn't decide whether or not we should purchase one ourselves.  In the end it was my dad who caved to curiosity and bought one (after deliberating which one to get for two days. ;) ) 

How hard are they to use? 

The wand comes with a map that shows you where the interactive sites are throughout the park, and what spell motion to use (i.e. swish and flick, and so on.) It's usually pretty easy to spot where the site is, but a little harder to master the actual wand waving.  Some took several minutes of foolish wand waving, whereas others we got on the first try.  Overall it wasn't too difficult to get the hang of, it just took a bit of time at the beginning to figure out.  We took turns with it throughout the day.  Sometimes there is another family or two there already and you have to wait to try out  your wand in a specific spot, but it doesn't take very long, and for the most part the other guests don't block the interactive wand area.

In the end, it turned out to be a lot of fun, and I'm really glad we got one!  We didn't each need out own, since only one person can use the spell spot at a time.  Once you're back home it can still be used for display purposes; except for the very tip of the wand (presumably where the sensor is located) the interactive wands are identical to the non-interactive.  I must say, having a Harry Potter wand sitting on your bookshelf both looks awesome and brings back memories.

2. Will the HP rides make me sick?

There are four rides in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: The Forbidden Journey; Flight of the Hippogriff; Dragon Challenge; and Escape from Gringotts.

** Flight of the Hippogriff - This is a fairly easy roller coaster.  It's meant for younger kids, so it isn't very long.  There are a few tight turns near the end, but it shouldn't be a problem on the whole.

** The Forbidden Journey - This is the ride that is located inside Hogwarts.  Do you suffer from motion sickness?  If the answer is yes, then this ride will almost definitely make you ill.  This ride is less of a roller coaster, and more like an intense simulator.  Complete with exciting things to see throughout the castle and various large movie screens, it can be a bit dizzying at times to go through so much at so many different angles.  Closing your eyes or looking away from the screen can still make a huge difference, as can basic nausea medicine.  My mom, who can't ride in the passenger seat of a car for very long without getting carsick, went to the doctor for medicine, and with the combination of a prescribed patch and anti-nausea pill was able to get on once.

** The Escape from Gringotts - If you've been to Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure before, then good reference points would be The Mummy and Spiderman.  This ride is like a combination of both of those.  If you haven't: The Mummy is periodically dark and fast, sometimes unexpectedly; Spiderman is a 3-D ride with glasses and screens throughout the other objects.  Escape from Gringotts has all of that.  If it is the screens that bother you, taking off your glasses, looking away, or closing your eyes should make this ride just fine.  However, there are times the car travels sideways, or turns you around quickly, or drops unexpectedly.  No heavy spinning, but if you often get sick on rides, some dramamine beforehand wouldn't be a bad idea.

** Dragon Challenge - Two different roller coasters side by side, but the are close to the same: your feet hang, you go upside down multiple times, large hills, curves taken at fast speeds.  Comparable to The Raptor at Cedar Point, if those kind of thrill rides make you sick, so will this one.  It's fairly straightforward and focuses more on the coaster and less on the themeing.  We don't know if my mom's medicine works here or not, because she is too scared to get on rides like this.  ;)  Still, the line for this ride is cool, as you will see the Goblet of Fire and the Weasley's blue car, so it's worth it ask if you can walk through and not ride (sometimes this is allowed, sometimes not, depending on who is standing at the line entrance.)

3. Should I really buy myself (or my child) a robe?


I did buy myself a robe, and quite honestly loved it.  How often do you get the opportunity to dress up as an adult, and really, what better place?  They came in plenty of sizes, all four house colors, and with a mirror in Madam Malkins so you can see right away what it looks like on you. The quality was excellent and I'm sure it will last a long time.  However, I won't deny, they are expensive.  The final price exceeded $100.00, but I knew this and had planned and saved ahead of time.  They were heavy and hot to wear in Florida sun, but the air conditioned buildings and rides we stopped at made up for it.  

When considering buying a robe for you child, consider how fast they are growing, and if they are actually going to wear it.  Kids may think they will wear the robes, and as soon as they step out into the hot air change their minds. If they are going to grow out of it within a year, or not actually wear it very long in the parks, a better option may be to purchase an inexpensive, lesser-quality robe online or at a halloween shop, that way they can still dress up, but without putting a dent in your vacation fun. I also sewed myself Luna's yellow dress that she wears in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1.  It was much lighter than the robe but still a lot of fun to wear.

4. Will my camera/bag/water bottle fit in a locker?

There are lockers located at the entrance, or very close to the entrance, of any rides you can't take your bags on. They are a decent size, fitting my backpack (pictured left) as well as a water bottle, small souvenir bag, wallet, etc.  They are locked by your fingerprint, so no one else can take your locker.  You only have to remember your number, and don't forget to keep your express pass on you if you have one!  We usually had to get two lockers: one for my bag, one for my moms

5.Can I see the castle without riding the Forbidden Journey?

Absolutely.  In fact, there is a special section dedicated specifically toward this.  If you ask the workers at the front of the Hogwarts Gate, they will tell you there is a Castle Tour that you can take, and each stationed worker will point you in the right direction/let you through when you get to their point.  There is a separate line for non-riders that you can go through, to get closer to some of the details of the castle rooms without holding up the line, and a whole separate wing for the moving portraits.  This turned out to be the perfect way to get pictures of things throughout the castle that we hadn't had time to stop an get before, and you can feel free to stop and take as as much time as you want looking and listening.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

A magical return trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Our family vacationed in Orlando Florida back in 2011, but since then the park has made the addition of Diagon Alley.  Curiosity was enough to cause us to want to go see it, compounded with the memories of the last time.  There is so much to do and see and buy...and, of course, to take pictures of.  Between all of us, there were a lot of pictures.  Going through and choosing some for the blog has been a long process! (In other words, picture heavy post!)  These will take you through Harry's story - starting with London, going through Diagon Alley, into King's Cross station, onto the Hogwarts Express, arriving at Hogsmeade, and finally entering Hogwarts - as if you were living in the wizarding world yourself!