Sunday, March 26, 2017

Blink And You'll Miss It






"Mommy?" Natalie said as I tucked her in for the night. I pressed the covers underneath her chin, just as she likes it.

"Yes?"

Natalie took a deep breath. I thought she might be working up the nerve to tell me about a bad grade she got. She looked nervous. Her eyes were darting all over the place. "I...wantnewsheets." Her words came out in a clump. I had to strain to hear them.

"I'm sorry," I said kindly. "I didn't quite get that."

Natalie licked her lips. "I...want new sheets."

Oh. I stared down at her sheets. They were Frozen sheets. Anna and Elsa beamed at me. Once upon a time, Natalie was thrilled about them. It was during the whole Frozen craze when it was impossible to find products with the beloved sisters on them. I lucked out and found the sheets at Target, just as they were stocking them on the shelves. Natalie's eyes had lit up when she saw them on her bed.

"I love them," she had breathed. "They're my favorite!"

But she was 7 then. Now she had just turned 10.

"You don't like Anna and Elsa anymore?" I asked. Like millions of other kids in the world, she was obsessed with Frozen.



Was. Past tense.

"I like them," Natalie said. "But I just want new ones."

"Grown adults sleep on cartoon sheets," I reminded her.

"You don't."

"Only because your Daddy wouldn't let me get Beauty and the Beast sheets. When you share a bed, it gets tricky."

"Can I though?" Natalie asked. "Get new sheets?"

With a lump in my throat, I agreed. I mean, it's natural. She's growing up. She's evolving. Did I really expect her to sleep in those Frozen sheets forever?

It wasn't just the sheets though. She decided that she was ready to say goodbye to a lot of toys. Where a Barbie Dreamhouse once sat, a desk now does:



Her Frozen sheets are packed away. They were once covered in Disney characters:



Now she has new sheets, with items that she says are "kawaii":



Blink, and you'll miss it.


You'll wonder if the pile of picture books that you used to read to your little girl was ever there at all. You used to dread when she'd beg for you to read If You Give A Cat A Cupcake for what seemed liked the 1000th time:




But when it's gone, when the books are packed away, you'll wish you had known how fast it would go by.


Blink, and you'll miss it. One minute she's a tiny little girl obsessed with Rapunzel.




And then she's double digits.




"Mommy," Natalie said as she sat on her new bed with her items that she says are "kawaii." "I'll still have memories if everything. I'm still your baby girl." She beamed at me.




"You'll always be my baby girl."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Toothsome Chocolate Emporium Restaurant Review







When I heard about Toothsome Chocolate Emporium, I knew I was going to go. I mean, I'm a total chocoholic. It was like the restaurant was made for me.


It's located on the Citywalk, which means yes, you have to leave the park to get to it. But it's right smack in the middle of Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure, so it's easy to get to.

I highly recommend getting there early, because it does fill up quickly. We arrived at 11, and the waitress told us we were smart in coming early, because usually there's a two hour wait.

The restaurant is really neat to look at by the way:





And no, there's not just chocolate there. They offer regular food too. Tons and tons of regular food. The menu is like a book:



"It just keeps going and going," my daughter informed me.


I decided to try the Pork Belly Sliders for an appetizer. Normally I don't bother with appetizers, but hey, I was on vacation.



They were delicious. Even my kids liked them. And yes, that IS chocolate covered bacon on top.


For the main course, I ordered the Chicken Bourguignon:





Tommy ordered the May Contain Bacon burger:




Natalie ordered the Chicken Nuggets Kids Meal:




All the food was scrumptious and flavorful. Tommy's burger came with house made kettle chips, which I loved. He shared! 


Of course we had to get dessert. The kids said they were full, so we decided to pick one milkshake to share. We opted on the Chocolate X5 one. I mean....chocolate....TIMES 5?! Yes please. 






You can keep the jar the milkshake is in, but we left ours behind since we still had to finish up at the parks. We didn't want to have to carry it around. 


If you don't have time to sit down and eat, you can go to the confectionary corner and order milkshakes and sundaes. There's also a store filled with souvenirs and, you guessed it, sweets!




I highly recommend checking this restaurant out. Just make sure to go early, to avoid the wait.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How We Did Universal Orlando In One Day

I almost felt like I was doing something dirty when I asked Natalie if we really had to go into the Harry Potter area at Universal Orlando.

Her jaw dropped open, offended. "YES!"

Look, I love JK Rowling. She's wonderful. She's giving. She's witty. I just simply could never get into the books or movies. I tried. Many times.

My daughter isn't obsessed with Harry Potter or anything. But her teacher is obsessed with Harry Potter, and her entire room is decorated with it. She even organized the class into different houses. Natalie is HufflePuff. She reads the books to the students when there is free time. So Natalie knows about it.

"It's just, we can't get an express pass for any of the Harry Potter rides," I explained.

Natalie shrugged. "Well, I want to see everything!"

So I came up with a plan. Natalie could pick ONE Harry Potter ride and we'd go there right when the park opened.

"Hmmm," she said, tapping her chin. "Hmm. Which ride do I want?"

Traveling with kids can be frustrating.

In the end, she picked the Gringott's ride. So true to my word, as soon as the park opened, we rushed back there. We only got lost twice.






TIP #1: Go to Harry Potter right when the park opens. It's less chaotic. If you only have one day, pick one ride. If you want to do multiple rides, do them all in the morning. You cannot get express passes for any of them. The rides are in different areas. Gringott's is in the Universal Studios section. The others are in the Islands Of Adventure.


I won't lie, I didn't know what anything was in the ride.


I didn't know what was going on in the ride either. Who were all those wizards? I recognized Harry at least. But there was a redhead who didn't look like Ron--I think his name is? Maybe it was Ron? There was some redhead wizard helping us.

But it was fun! And we got to ride up front.


We explored the Harry Potter area. I was glad Natalie didn't care about Ollivander's because the line was long. Get there early if you want to do it. The line was like 50 people deep when I saw it.






TIP#2 Get Express Passes! There are two options: one where you can go on a ride one time, or one where you can go on a ride unlimited times. We just did the single ride since we only had one day.





Most of the express lines were fairly quick. The longest one was the Despicable Me line. I think we were there for 30 minutes, but it beat the 80 minute wait others were doing. Skull Island: Reign of Kong was also about 30 minutes, but was an hour for everyone else.



TIP #3: Eat lunch early and beat the crowds. We walked over to Toothsome Chocolate Emporium at 11 and there was NO wait! It's located on the Citywalk and was between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I'll have more a review on this soon!





TIP#4 If you want to watch the parade, sit where it first comes out. Seriously, ten minutes before it started, the was still sitting space, because not a lot of people were there. And then when it ended, we could easily walk off to another ride since it wasn't super crowded.







TIP#5: It helps if you're a wimp. We only went on the 4D rides, the 3D rides, the ET ride, the Kong ride, plus the one Harry Potter ride. Oh, and the Jurassic Park ride. You WILL get wet. We also didn't bother with any shows. We would have done the Beetlejuice one, but they got rid of it. Boo.


TIP#6: Like lunch, eat dinner early. We ate at 5. There were still lines, but it wasn't as crazy. We ate at Mel's diner. It was basic, but good enough. Burgers and fries! Located in the Universal Studios side.


TIP#7: Do the raptor encounter but bring your patience! We waited for like an hour, because the raptor has to switch out. They only let so many people in. If we did this again, I'd go earlier and hope that the line was shorter. It's amusing though, the raptor acts like she's going to eat you. She'll sniff your hair and all that and sometimes will snap right near your ear. She wanted to eat my daughter.







TIP#8: Wear a fanny pack. I know, I know, people think they are uncool, but there are rides at Universal where you aren't allowed backpacks or purses. The Gringott's ride, for one. You had to put everything into a locker first. I found this fashionable fanny pack at least!






TIP#9: Leave an hour before the park closes. You'll beat the insane crowds. We took an Uber back, and it was still chaotic. Text your Uber driver and tell him or her what you are wearing. Trust me, the pick up area moves quickly, and security moves vehicles along. If you miss your ride, you're out of luck.



I felt like we did everything we wanted to do. If we went back, we'd probably follow the same plan, only there are some rides we'd skip. The Shrek ride, for starters. Next time we go, we might stay two days, only because we're curious about the hotels there. We were staying at Disney property.






So have you gone to Universal Orlando? What hotel should we stay at?




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