Posted by: wildflowerz | January 2, 2016

2015 Books in Review

Woohoo!  It’s that time of year when I make my book post that no one cares about but me.  :-P

Overall Stats:

  • Total Books Read:  220 (13 more than last year)
  • Total Pages Read:  78,262 (1624 more than last year)
  • Total Number of Books from a Series 165 or 75% (last year was 135 or 65%)
  • Average Length of Book:  356 pages (370 pages last year)
  • Author Most Read:  Susan Wittig Albert (Joanne Fluke last year)

By the Month:

  • January:  13 (6%)
  • February:  20 (9%)
  • March:  19 (9%)
  • April:  20 (9%)
  • May:  20 (9%)
  • June:  18 (8%)
  • July:  19 (9%)
  • August:  18 (8%)
  • September:  11 (5%)
  • October:  23 (10%)
  • November:  23 (10%)
  • December:  16 (7%)

Last year, my biggest months were April, May and July.  But this year, I read more in October and November.  Can you tell we went to Disney and Dragon*Con in September?

Books Read by Category:

  • Classics:  2 (1%)
  • Fantasy:  14 (6%)
  • Fiction:  14 (6%)
  • Historical Fiction:  2 (1%)
  • Juvenile:  12 (5%)
  • Memoir:  1 (0%)
  • Mystery:  75 (34%)
  • Romance:  34 (15%)
  • Science Fiction:  5 (2%)
  • Supernatural:  23 (10%)
  • Suspense:  5 (2%)
  • Young Adult:  33 (15%)

Last year, I read  more of Mystery than anything else, followed by Supernatural and Juvenile, then Romance.  This year, I read more Mystery by far.  Then, Romance and Young Adult.

Books by Source:

  • Library:  68 (31%)
  • Owned:  94 (43%)
  • Owned/Kindle:  58 (26%)

I didn’t borrow any books this year from non-Library sources again this year.  I think, especially closer to the end of the year, I slacked off from reading Library books and tried to read down my home “to read” shelf.  It didn’t really work since I kept buying books to replace them.  :)

Books by Rating:

  • A+:  2 (1%)
  • A:  17 (8%)
  • A-:  2 (1%)
  • B+:  19 (9%)
  • B:  17 (8%)
  • B-:  20 (9%)
  • C+:  31 (14%)
  • C:  30 (14%)
  • C-:  29 (13%)
  • D+:  22 (10%)
  • D:  15 (7%)
  • D-:  9 (4%)
  • F:  7 (3%)

So, did I do better about picking books this year?  Well, last year, I read 49 crappy books (D+ or lower), comprising 23% of my reading.  This year, I read 53 crappy books, comprising 24%.  So about the same  On the other end of the spectrum, last year, I read 25 (or 12%) A rated books last year and this year, I read 21 (or 10%).  So, yeah.

Best Books of the Year:

  • You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
  • Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • Blood of Dragons, Dragon Haven, and City of Dragons by Robin Hobb
  • Legwork by Katy Munger
  • The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  • Triptych, Fractured, Fallen, and Criminal by Karin Slaughter
  • The Witness by Nora Roberts
  • Home Front by Kristin Hannah
  • Armada by Ernest Cline
  • Finders Keepers by Stephen King
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I had way fewer A+ books this year.  Only 2 compared to 12 last year.  But only one of my A+/A books are re-reads this year where last year I re-read all the Harry Potter and Pride & Prejudice.

Worst Books of the Year:

  • Vampalyers by Rusty Fisher
  • Grey by Christi J. Whitney
  • The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • An Eye for an Eye by Anthony Trollope
  • Beast by Judith Ivory
  • The Perils of Pleasure by Julie Anne Long

Not as many F books this year.  I do have two classics on there that I didn’t care for at all.  I also had one best seller and 2 highly touted romance novels.  I just didn’t care for them.  2 of those are free Kindle books that just stunk.

I had quite a few DNFs this year too.  I still don’t have a great way to keep track of them, but here are some I can bring up on GR:

  • Savage Beauty:  The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
  • Her by Harriet Lane
  • Night of Fire by Barbara Samuel
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  • Larklight by Philip Reeve
  • Frostborn by Lou Anders
  • Gypsy Hunted by Andrea Drew
  • The Ghost Network by Catie Disabato
  • Second Glance by Jodi Picoult
  • Dying to Read by Lorena McCourtney
  • Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey:  The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by Fiona Carnarvon
  • Bared to You by Sylvia Day
  • Highlander Ever After by Jennifer Ashley

A few of those weren’t BAD, they just weren’t for me.  Mostly the nonfic and the YA.

Well, that’s all.  If you’re interested, I put teeny mini-reviews of all my books over on Goodreads.  Check me out there.

Posted by: wildflowerz | October 8, 2015

Disney 2015 – Recap

I kept meaning to make this post and then kept putting it off.  Overall, we had a really good time this time.  It felt like the food was better, overall.  Even the counter service meals seemed better.  I felt much better this time, though I’m not sure why.  Usually I’m REALLY dragging by the end.  I have blisters and I’m just so tired.  But I survived this time with no blisters and I was tired, but I didn’t feel horrid.

Some highlights:

  • Best Table Service Meal:  Yak & Yeti (Animal Kingdom)
  • Best Counter Service Meal:  Starring Rolls (Hollywood Studios)
  • Best Dessert:  Mango Pie at Yak & Yeti (Animal Kingdom) though still not better than the Bread Pudding at Raglan Road (Downtown Disney)
  • Best Dessert, 2nd Place:  Butterfinger Cupcake at Starring Rolls (Hollywood Studios)
  • Worst Table Service Meal:  Sci Fi Dine In (Hollywood Studios) though it wasn’t BAD, just the worst of this trip
  • Worst Counter Service Meal:  Simpsons area (Universal Studios)
  • Worst Dessert:  Doughnut at Sci Fi Dine In (Hollywood Studios)
  • Biggest Food Disappointment:  3 way tie between the Dole Whip, Citrus Swirl, and the now non-existent Cake Cups (All Magic Kingdom)
  • Best Park:  Magic Kingdom
  • Worst Park:  Animal Kingdom
  • Best Ride in Magic Kingdom:  Seven Dwarfs
  • Best Ride in Epcot:  Test Track
  • Best Ride in Hollywood Studios:  Toy Story Midway Mania
  • Best Ride in Animal Kingdom:  Expedition Everest
  • Best Ride in Islands of Adventure:  Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Best Ride in Universal Studios:  Despicable Me
  • Most Disappointing Ride:  Transformers (Universal Studios)

I really liked a lot of things we did this trip.  Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios are really half day parks.  So, splitting the day up and going back to the hotel for a swim or heading to Downtown Disney on those days works well.  Doing both Universals in one day was a big money saver, but I would have liked to had a bit more time to shop around in the Harry Potter areas.  I obviously loved Yak & Yeti and would totally do it again on our next trip.  Obviously Starring Rolls too.

Spirit of Aloha was a pain to me this time.  I was so tired by 8:15 when we finally got to go in that it took away from the enjoyment of the show.  Also, the trip back was PAINFUL since we were so tired.  I’d totally skip this one next time, but I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn’t been.  Unless you’re a late night person, though, do the first show.  But if you do the late show, drive there from your hotel if you can.

I’d also skip Sci Fi Dine In next time and maybe try Mama Melrose again or even another restaurant in the park.  Tony’s in MK was okay, but I think doing a restaurant on the monorail or one at Epcot would be a better idea.  Or possibly try the Plaza next time.

I’d also definitely want to hit Raglan Road on our next visit for sure.

A BIG help and time saver for us was the app from TouringPlans.com.  It’s worth every bit of the $15 or so we paid for the WDW & Universal access.  If you see the name and are turned off, thinking you don’t need a touring plan, don’t be so hasty.  If you’re going when it’s busy, you need one.  Even if you go when it’s not, it’s immensely helpful.  It’s mostly helpful because it will tell you when a ride is at it’s busiest.  It will tell you if you should go ahead and ride it now since the line won’t be going down or if you should just wait a few hours and come back because the line won’t be so long.  You can make a plan, but change it on the fly.  It also has real wait times for rides.  Those are usually much less than what WDW will officially tell you.  I SO recommend these apps.

Finally, how much did I walk while we were there?  Here are our totals:

  • Saturday:  13,750 steps/5.70 miles
  • Sunday:  25,047 steps/10.46 miles
  • Monday:  19,284 steps/8.05 miles
  • Tuesday:  19,288 steps/8.05 miles
  • Wednesday:  24,774 steps/10.35 miles
  • Thursday:  17,318 steps/7.23 miles

Totals:  119,461 steps and 49.93 miles

How does that compare to a normal week for me?  The week before Disney, Saturday until Thursday, I did 99,343 steps or 42.37 miles.  And it looks like I missed the gym the Sunday that’s in there so a regular week might have been higher.  And I know that I was having some issues with a blister that week, so I was a bit slower.  That thing they say about Disney being SO MUCH WALKING?  Eh.  It’s a good bit of walking.  But I don’t find that to be the issue.  In fact, I felt generally okay as long as we were moving.  It’s when we were having to stand in line that my feet hurt so badly.

Posted by: wildflowerz | October 2, 2015

Disney, Day Six – Animal Kingdom

12006334_10154267236118327_7282813995390669048_nOn Thursday we did breakfast in the room again before heading to Animal Kingdom. We got there just before opening again and headed straight to Kilimanjaro Safaris. Remember when this first opened and there was that whole bit about getting away from poachers? Then they dropped that part? Well, they’ve added a bit about it back into the commentary, but nothing major. Next, we went to do Festival of the Lion King. THIS is my favorite show at Disney. In fact, it might be the only one I actually like. I mean, I don’t like the Finding Nemo show AT ALL. I’m not crazy about the Beauty and the Beast one at HS. What other ones are there? Anyway, I love this show and even suffer through bleacher seats to watch it.

We did Flights of Wonder next, which is a bird show, but actually entertaining.  Following that, we stopped at Tamu Tamu Refreshments and each got giant ice cream sandwichs with hand scooped vanilla between two large chocolate chocolate chip cookies.  Yum!  We hit Dinosaur next, then went to do Expedition Everest twice in the single rider line before lunch. Lunch.  Guys.  I officially declare Yak & Yeti my FAVORITE restaurant at Disney.  We waited 15 or so minutes to get seating.  While waiting in line to check in, Em spies one of her TKD instructors through the doorway, so she goes over to say hi.  For lunch, Em had a burger and fries (adventurous, she is not).  Chris had some seafood thing.  But me?  I had the ribs.  The yummy, yummy ribs.  I like ribs, but they aren’t a huge thing for me.  They’re incredibly bad for you so I almost never get them.  But these ribs.  I could write a love sonnet in ode to them.  They’ve got this yum hoison sauce on them and they fall off the bone.  They came with an Asian slaw and chicken fried rice.  Heaven.  For dessert, I’d heard that the mango pie was THE thing to get.  I only sometimes like Mango, but I was unsure.  But I was SO FULL from the ribs, I decided to go for the Mango and if I didn’t like it, I was already full.  Well, I had to make room in my belly because it was SO good.  Easily in my top 5 desserts at Disney.  For sure. 12003367_10154267727488327_2207551978377682365_n

We waddled out of Yak & Yeti and used our Fast Pass for Everest.  Then we hopped on a bus back to our hotel to hit the pool for a little while.  Originally, we were going to do Downtown Disney on this afternoon.  Then, keeping an eye on the weather, it was supposed to rain in the evening.  So we were trying to come up with something to do, so we were going to go to Splitsville, the bowling place at DtD.  However, then it didn’t rain.  But we were EXHAUSTED and still stuffed from lunch.  So what do we do?  We go to the movies.  Scorch Trials, the Maze Runner sequel had come out the previous Friday.  We went to the AMC at DtD to see it.  We were on the side where you can order food and watch a movie.  Let me tell you that AMC knows how to do this. We’ve got a place near-ish us that does this called Studio Movie Grill.  It’s awful.  They’ve got you sitting in these rolling office chairs and you’re packed really tight up against each other.  If you movie, it jogs everyone down the line.  Annoying.  But this AMC has regular movie seats, but extra wide and extra comfy.  I totally like to kick back and put my feet up on the rails and there’s places to do that at every seat under the counter where you eat.  It was awesome.

Oh, but back to the movie.  I read the first book, but didn’t continue.  Em read the whole series and loved it.  She was SO upset.  Like, on the verge of tears upset.  The “crazy people” in the book, evidently were just crazy.  In the movie, they were like super fast moving zombies.  I’m not sure if it just scared her or she was just upset that they didn’t follow the plot at all and was over-tired, but she was not happy.

After the movie, we went to Earl of Sandwich.  I’d heard that this place was fabulous.  I thought it was alright.  I was tired of turkey sandwiches, so I got a buffalo chicken wrap.  It was alright.  This place, you pick either a dessert or a side, so you actually get less food than all the other counter service places.  That was okay this night because, honestly?  I was still stuff from lunch!  We each had yummy cupcakes for dessert and then headed back to our room.

Posted by: wildflowerz | October 2, 2015

Disney, Day Five – Epcot, Downtown Disney, Spirit of Aloha

Wednesday was breakfast in the room once again before heading to Epcot.  This was originally supposed to be the day we did Universal, but since we did that all in one day, we had a free day this day.  Em chose to do Epcot.  We also decided we’d like to do Downtown Disney.  So, we went to Epcot first since most things at DtD didn’t open until 10am.  We rode Soarin’ first, after we stopped at a Fast Pass kiosk to make some FPs.  We then headed over to Test Track to use one of those FPs.  After that, we took a bus to our hotel, then another bus down to Downtown Disney.

12036891_10154265731763327_8003674322737224286_nWe did lunch at the Wolfgang Puck counter service in the Marketplace.  We all three had yummy pizza.  Em had a horrible brownie and Chris and I had adequate cheesecake.  After that, we looked around in some shops, getting tees for both Em and I.  We walked the entire length, then took the boat back to the Marketplace.  We took a bus back to our hotel and decided to do a pool break for a bit.  After the pool and showers, we took a bus back to Epcot. We decided to do a walk around the world.  We hit the frozen marg stand in Mexico for some refreshment for Chris and I.  Em got some friendship bracelets for her two best friends in the Mexico pavilion.  Chris REALLY wanted to see the Chinese Acrobats, though no one else really cared to and I actively didn’t want to stand out in the sun.  We tried to see them, but it started raining and they cut it short.  A YouTube Disney show was filming and we had to sign releases for Em to be in it.  It’s called WDW Best Day Ever.  It’s not up yet.  I just checked.  We finished walking through the World before we hit the monorail to the Polyneisan for dinner.

Guys.  I was so tired.  And so not into it at that point.  My feet were extremely swollen and I was super hot.  But, on we went.  We got there and had to stand in line to check in.  We had ADRs for the later show this time, rather than the earlier one.  We didn’t wait too very long before we were seated.  The food came quickly and we filled up just as quickly.  The show was almost the same as last time, but it was cooler because the fire stuff was at night.  We finished up around 10pm and had some bad news.  Evidently, the monorail stops running at 10pm.  Who knew?  So, we had to find a bus to Downtown Disney, then transfer to a bus to our hotel.  The bus was there when we got to the bus stop and tons of people were just milling around instead of getting on, so we hopped on.  Once we got to DtD, we got in an already long line to our hotel.  It took about 45 minutes before a bus came.  Seriously.  It was after midnight by the time we finally got back to our hotel.  UG.
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Posted by: wildflowerz | October 2, 2015

Disney, Day Four – Magic Kingdom

12036540_10154263097393327_6859518865832231992_nTuesday we did breakfast in the room again before heading to the Magic Kingdom.  We got there just a bit before opening.  We first headed over to Space Mountain.  This is one of Em’s favorites.  We then did Buzz Lightyear (where I KILLED it), then on to Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain.  We went over to Liberty Square to do Haunted Mansion (short line, first one of the day), then back to Fantasyland to do Mickey’s PhilharMagic before lunch. 12020051_10154263345313327_3101337872268626490_n

Lunch was Be Our Guest.  Last time we did BoG for dinner.  We were unable to score ADRs for dinner this time, but we did get lunch.  We had ordered ahead of time, so that really sped up the process.  We checked in outside, got our rose tracker, and then went inside to stand in a short line to check in.  We found a table in the portrait gallery.  The wait was about 10 minutes or so, but once it came it was totally worth it!  I had a turkey sandwich with green beans.  Chris had a roast beef sandwich with fries, and Em had the turkey with fries.  Chris and I did Master’s cupcakes and Em had the strawberry ones.  The cupcakes here are small, normal sized ones.  The papers on the bottom of the cupcakes aren’t the tear-away kind, so they’re kind of awkward to eat.  Our’s were tasty, but they were really nothing special.  The Master’s Cupcake has the “grey stuff” on top of it, which is just grey colored plain icing.  So, tasty, but really nothing special.

After lunch, we used our Fast Passes on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  We then tortured Em with the Hall of Presidents.  Okay, I’m not sure if I’ve ever even done this one.  I kind of enjoyed it.  We then used our Fast Passes for Peter Pan, which always has a ginormous line for some reason.  We hit Under the Sea (short line). Then we headed over to the Mad Tea Party and to score a cake cup at Cheshire Cafe.  News Flash:  The cake cups are a lie.  They don’t have them any more.  Em rode Mad Tea Party with Chris and we went over to do the Carousel of Progress.  Em had also never done this one.  Next we took a trip on the People Movers.  This turned out nicely. It was cool and Space Mountain was temporarily shut down when we went through so the lights were on and we got to see the inside.  Cool!

Next, it was on to Stitch’s Great Escape.  Seriously I hate this one for the burp alone.  Ew.  We ventured back to the main area in front of the castle to stand in the scorching sun and watch the Festival Parade.  It was pretty cool, with this giant clockwork-type 12019919_10154263718258327_891582257676620295_nMaleficent.  After the parade, we went back into Fantasyland and did Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor.  Chris got to be “that guy.”  Every time we’ve done this one, Em’s been spotlighted, so Chris got his turn this time.  Next we used our Fast Passes for Big Thunder Mountain.  We had a little time before our dinner reservation, so we got in line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train again.  This was our only painfully long line of the week.  The TouringPlans app said it would be about 30 minutes.  It was more like 45 and it was awful.  By the time we finished, we were tired and decided to head to Tony’s and see if we could get in early. 12046998_10154263275458327_5871734683220285819_n

We’d never done Tony’s before.  Usually when we do the day in MK, we make dinner reservations somewhere else.  We decided to try Tony’s this time.  It was fine.  Chris and I both had the chicken parm.  We both liked that the chicken was crispy fried and not super soggy like it is when you get it most anywhere else.  The sauce was fine, but really nothing special.  I had amaretto cheesecake for dessert.  It was yummy, but VERY VERY VERY small.  Chris and Em both had chocolate cake, Chris the adult version and Em the kid’s.  Em said Chris’s was MUCH better.  She had pizza for dinner.  Surprise.  After that, we headed back to the room for an early night.

Posted by: wildflowerz | September 30, 2015

Disney, Day Three – Hollywood Studios

12043017_10154260700333327_2664015470630601148_nMonday, we had breakfast in the room and then went over to get a bus to Hollywood Studios.  We got there just a few minutes before they let everyone into the park.  We only stood around a few minutes after that when they officially opened 15 minutes early.  Do they always do this?  They’ve opened 15 minutes early every time we’ve gone.  We headed over to do the Tower of Terror first.  No line.  Then we went over to Rock’n’Roller Coaster.  We had about a 15 minute wait for this one.  We then headed over to Star Tours.  We finally got a new scenario!  We landed on the Wookie planet this time.  Em really wanted to be the Rebel Spy, but she was thwarted all day.  After riding this one, we took a look in the gift shop and found a cute SW tee for Em.  Then we rode it again.  After that, we did the Indiana Jones show.  I’m not a huge fan of the show.  And I loathe sitting on stadium seating where there isn’t a backrest.  It KILLS my back.  But whatever.  :)  After that, it was time for our Fast Pass for Toy Story, so we went and did that.  By that time, it was lunch time.  We headed over to Starring Rolls. 12011345_10154260810408327_1163004925164772256_n

Guys.  WHY has no one told me about this before now?  So, for actual lunch, they’ve not got a big selection.  They have turkey sandwiches, ham sandwiches, and sushi plates.  We got one of each.  Chris didn’t mention much about his sushi, but my turkey was REALLLY yum.  Em’s ham was tasty too.  But the read draw, is the dessert.  This is the home of the famed Butterfinger Cupcake.  And it’s all that they promised, children.  It’s a chocolate cupcake with a fudge center.  It’s piled high with white icing and then dipped in a very heavy layer of crushed Butterfinger.  OMG.  SO good.  Em got the peanut butter and chocolate cupcake, which was also tasty.  Normally, we just eat at the ABC Commisary since it’s got a decent selection and plenty of seating in the air conditioning.  But this is SO going to be our go-to place from now on.  Even without the cupcakes, we’d still do it.  The sandwiches were THAT good.

Next we used our last Fast Pass to ride Tower of Terror again.  We then headed over to see MuppetVision 3D.  Before we headed back to the hotel for a swim, we stopped by Waddo’s Grotto.  You know where the warehouse area of the Backlot Tour used to be?  That’s where the Grotto is.  It’s just a big Star Wars store.  But the thing is, it’s all the same merch that’s in the store outside Star Tours, it’s just more spread out.  So it wasn’t all that special.  Anyway, we’d ridden everything we wanted to, so we headed back to the hotel for a break in the pool.

IMG_20150921_084147687_HDRAfter swims and showers, we got ready and headed back to HS.  We hit Star Tours again before heading to our dinner reservation.  Even though we had a reservation at 7, they were packed and we had to wait about 30 minutes before we were seated.  Okay, this isn’t my favorite place.  I like it okay, but it’s just burgers.  The one thing it has going for it, that I never take advantage of, is that as your drink on the meal plan, you can get a milkshake.  Chris and Em did this.  I got the veggie burger.  It was okay, but not any better than the kind you buy frozen at the grocery store.  Chris and Em had burgers and shakes.  For dessert, Em did the sundae, while Chris and I had the doughnut with ice cream.  This is one of those regret desserts for me.  The doughnut wasn’t great, but I ate it anyway.  Meh.  The service here was also super slow.  We had scheduled our 4th FP for Rockin Roller Coaster from 7:30-8:30, but it took so long to be seated and to be served that we missed it.  Chris and Em went and rode it as a Single Rider anyway.  It kind of gave me a headache earlier, so I skipped.  We then headed over to the MASSIVE line waiting to get into Fantasmic.  We got in and got decent seats and only 10 or so minutes before the show started.

I like Fantasmic.  It’s my favorite of the evening shows.  I’m not a fan of Illuminations and the crowds you have to stand in for Wishes makes it less than ideal.  But Fantasmic is cool.  I’m not sure what was going on, but the cameras for the projections on the water kept flickering in and out.  It also started misting a little near the end.  After the show, we headed back to our hotel.

Yes, technically not Disney, but whatever.

12027788_10154257682298327_1467022501844316065_nSunday we got up and had breakfast at our hotel before driving over to Universal.  In our original plan, we planned to do Islands of Adventure on Sunday and Studios on Wednesday.  But we use TouringPlans.com and when I made the plans for both those days, they had us ending ridiculously early.  So we pared down a few things and decided to attempt it on one day.  We did IoA first, though we probably should have done US first since it opens an hour earlier, but whatever.  We got our tickets and headed to the Marvel area to ride The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.  The line was super short.  We went right over to Doctor Doom’s Fearfall, which also had a super short line.  Sadly, the Incredible Hulk coaster was down for refurb.  :( After Marvel, we went over to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter area.  Em was finally tall enough to ride Dragon Challenge.  So we rode twice, once on each coaster.  We were disappointed to see that they evidently aren’t running the two coasters at the same time any more.  But the line was super short too.  Sadly this ride requires that you go through metal detectors and you can’t bring ANYTHING on the ride, including your phone.  The whole locker situation at Universal is highly annoying, but at least you don’t have to pay for them.  Anyway, next we went on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, then Flight of the Hippogriff.  The line for Forbidden was a little longer, about 15 minutes.  But Hippogriff was only about 5 minutes.  Somewhere in there, we got a Butter Beer.  Guys.  I don’t know if my tastes have changed or they’ve gotten better, but it was YUM!  We then headed to the Hogsmeade Station of the Hogwarts Express.  Also, no real line.  This took us over to Universal Studios.

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We first decided to do lunch.  We headed over to the Simpsons area for food.  Chris had tacos.  Em had pizza.  I had a chicken sandwich and applesauce.  It was…meh.  We then went to a spur of the moment show of Animal Actors on Location.  It was kinda cute.  Then we headed over to ride the Simpsons Ride, followed by Men in Black.  After those, we went to the ET Adventure, then headed to Production Central to ride the new Transformers ride.  MAYBE if I were actually into the Transformers, I would have liked this one.  But it was stupid and made no sense.  I couldn’t tell which transformer was trying to “help” us and which one was trying to “kill” us.  The ride is exactly like Spiderman though.  After that, we stood in a long line for Despicable Me.  12036515_10154258420743327_2286304250950583587_nAfter that, we stood in line for Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.  I think those two were the only ones we had a big line for.  We headed over to the New York area to ride the Revenge of the Mummy.  That one’s pretty cool.  There’s one part with an awesome fire on the ceiling effect.  We then headed to the Harry Potter area.  I got another Butterbeer and Em and Chris got ice cream at Fortesque’s.  We looked around a bit before heading to Ollivanders to wait a bit for it to start.  I thought it was just going to be us and another adult couple, but at the last minute, more people arrived.  So, Em didn’t get picked for the wand sorting.  Oh well.  We rode the Hogwarts Express back to King’s Cross station and then left the park.

For dinner, we had reservations at Boma.  We went to our room to change and then just drove over there instead of taking the buses.  The buses are great for getting to the parks, but from resort to resort they’re a pain in the butt.  Boma’s at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  It’s an all you can eat buffet of African food.  It was really yummy.  It had a lot of meat, a few sides and breads, and a few soups.  And lots of desserts.  This was Chris’s favorite meal of the trip, I think.  After dinner, we drove back to our room and slept.IMG_20150920_110814949

Posted by: wildflowerz | September 29, 2015

Disney, Day One – Drive Down & Epcot

So, we’re back.  We’ve been back for a while, but I’ve been putting these off.
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So, a week ago, Saturday we got in the car, dropped off the dog, and drove down to Disney World.  About half way there, the air conditioning stopped working in the car.  It was MISERABLE.  We left it off for a while and about an hour before we got there, we tried it again and it was working.  Not sure what happened, but it was miserable there for a while.  We arrived at our hotel, Pop Century again, around 4pm.  Our room wasn’t ready, so we left our car and took the bus over to Epcot.  We got there a little before 5pm.  We hit Spaceship Earth right away.  We then did Sum of All Thrills.  Someone had some sort of medical issue right before we headed into the orientation room, so it took a while.  Not sure what happened.  It looked like some woman was over-served, but I don’t know.  After that, we headed over to Mission Space, Orange of course.  Then we used our FPs for Test Track.  We headed on over to Rose & Crown for our dinner reservation and got a LOVELY seat outside, right next to the railing.  Em and I got bangers and mash and Chris got steak and fried fish.  I had the sticky toffee pudding for dessert (REALLY yum) and Chris had the chocolate bread pudding (it was okay).  Em wasn’t feeling great, so she didn’t get any.  We went ahead and went back to the room and called it a night.

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So, I’m not sure what was up with Chris this time.  Normally, he’s all advocating for going back to the room in the middle of the day or calling it a night really early.  THIS time, I think he’d lost his mind.  A few days before we left, he comes up with the idea that since Epcot closes at 9pm and Magic Kingdom had extra magic hours and was open late, we should have dinner, then head over to MK to see Wishes and ride some of the rides at night.  After having been in a car all day long.  Yeah.  I think he’d lost his mind.  Listen, I hate the idea of leaving in the middle of the day for a rest.  First, I like to power through.  Second, it takes SO MUCH TIME to get the bus back and forth.  And?  I hate napping.  Look at all that time you’re wasting!  We’re at Disney!  But, I’m not a fan of super late nights either.  Needless to say, Chris’s plan didn’t happen.
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Posted by: wildflowerz | September 26, 2015

Disney World Food!

A friend asked about food at WDW and since that would take up too much room for a FB post, I thought I’d just do a blog entry.  So, here’s our family’s opinion on the restaurants we’ve tried at Disney World, organized by location.  If you’re new, Snacks just means that’s all you get there on the dining plan.  Counter Service means it’s like a regular fast food restaurant, usually where you order at a counter, get your food, and seat yourself.  Table Service is like a regular sit-down restaurant.  For easy reference, all the restaurants in GREEN are my recommendation.  The ones in RED are the ones to skip/avoid.  The rest are fine.  Here they are:

Magic Kingdom:

  • Aloha Isle (Snacks) – Home of the much lauded Dole Whip.  I can see how if you like Pineapple, you’d like these a lot.  I, however, do not like pineapple at all.  So, no thanks.  But they’re one of THE THINGS to get at MK, so if you like the pineapple, go for it.
  • Be Our Guest (Lunch/Counter Service):  We were unable to get a dinner ADR for BoG this time, so we did a lunch.  If you’re unfamiliar, BoG is Counter Service for Lunch at Table Service for Dinner.  It’s one of the only (the only?) place where you can make an ADR for a Counter Service Meal.  You can also go to the website up to a month ahead of time and place your food order.  I recommend you do make your food order ahead of time because the process to get in is much quicker.  When you arrive, you check in and you get a little plastic rose.  You pick your table and when you’re food is ready, they find you, using the rose.  It’s pretty cool.  Here, Em and I had super yum Turkey Sandwiches.  Chris had the Roast Beef Sandwich.  We all liked them a lot.  I liked that I had the option of getting green beans with lunch (and they were yum too!).  Chris and I both had the Master’s Cupcake (it has “grey stuff” on top!).  Em had another flavor…strawberry maybe?  They are regular sized cupcakes with a generous amount of icing on top.  They were all very yum, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for the grey stuff unless you just want to say you’ve had it.  It just tastes like regular icing.
  • Be Our Guest (Dinner/Table Service):  We scored an ADR here on our last trip in 2014.  We were seated in the West Wing, which I highly recommend, even though it’s forbidden.  ;-)  It’s a smaller room, but the rose under glass is there and it’s constantly “storming” outside, which makes for some neat effects.  I think I had the steak here last time.  Honestly, unless it was the trip we just got back from, I usually can’t remember what I had.  I do remember that we all really liked our meals a lot and would highly recommend it.  To get an ADR, you’ll need to get online the DAY your window opens up and even then it might not happen.  Good luck!
  • Cheshire Cafe (Snacks) – This is the place with the famed Cake Cups.  Or, it was.  I read all about the cake cups online for months and months before we went to Disney.  Everyone raved about them.  I LOVE cake, so it was high on my list of things to eat.  Know what?  They don’t have them any more.  The stuff left is your standard snacks, so nothing special.
  • Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe (Counter Service) – We’ve done lunch here three times, I think.  We usually end up there because they’ve got a big selection at lots of different windows to order from.  In the end, it’s your standard theme park food, so it’s nothing special.  Adequate and lots of indoor seating.
  • Gaston’s Tavern (Snacks) – We tried the popular LaFou’s Brew here on our last trip.  We weren’t impressed.  It tasted like an apple juice slushie.  Meh.
  • Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe (Counter Service) – I believe we had lunch here on our last trip.  It was surprisingly yum.  I believe I had a pulled pork sandwich.
  • Pinnochio Village Haus (Counter Service) – Em loves the pizza here.  I think we went here either our last trip or the one before.  I had some sort of super messy sandwich that was very yummy.
  • Sunshine Tree Terrace (Snacks) – The other part of the Dole Whip vs. Citrus Swirl war can be found here.  A Citrus Swirl is a mix of vanilla soft serve and orange slushie.  It tastes like a creamsicle.  It was okay, but the price to food ratio is VERY large and you’re not coming out on the better end of that deal.  I’d totally skip it.
  • Tony’s Town Square Restaurant (Table Service) – Okay, the table service restaurants at MK just don’t excite us.  Excepting Be Our Guest.  So, we decided to go out on a limb and try Tony’s this time.  It wasn’t bad.  Chris and I both had the chicken parm.  We liked that the chicken came out still crispy and not soggy like usually chicken parm.  The sauce was just mediocre.  Overall, it was tasty, but nothing to write home about.  For dessert, I had the amaretto cheesecake.  It was very yum, but VERY tiny.  Chris had the chocolate cake and liked his.  Em had the kid’s chocolate cake and it was tiny and not nearly as good as Chris’s.

Epcot:

  • Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Table Service): – We’ve only done this for breakfast.  Breakfast is breakfast in most places at WDW so there’s nothing really special about the food.  This is Norway’s restaurant, so there’s a lot of raw fish in addition to the regular breakfast stuff.  We’ve done this one twice when Em was younger because it’s a fabulous character breakfast with a bunch of princesses.  If you’re not into the character thing, skip it for breakfast.
  • Biergarten (Table Service) – This is is Germany.  We went there on our last trip.  Biergarten is a buffet restaurant and you’re seated family style, which we didn’t care for.  If you’re not sure what that is, it means you’ll probably be sitting at a table with a bunch of people you don’t know.  They do some cook dancing and music during the meal.  The food was okay.  Maybe we’re not huge fans of German food, but we didn’t love it.  It wasn’t bad, but not a favorite and we probably won’t go again.
  • Chefs de France (Table Service) – When Chris and I went on our very first trip to WDW when we were first married, this was our favorite place.  When we took Em for the first time, we went back and were disappointed.  It wasn’t bad, there was just nothing special about it.
  • La Cantina de San Angel (Counter Service) – We had this last time.  Ug.  Okay, we LOVE Mexican food.  I mean, we eat it usually once a week.  So we figured we’d try it for counter service.  It was AWFUL.  Em had nachos and it was all cold.  Chris and I had tacos and they were bland and ug.
  • La Cava del Tequila (Drinks) – I wanted a margarita last trip.  We heard this place was fab.  Eh.  We’re not big drinkers.  Not for moral reasons, we just don’t really drink much.  I would have MUCH perferred a cheaper, frozen marg from the cart out front.  So that’s what we did this time and it was much tastier and more refreshing.
  • La Hacienda de San Angel (Table Service) – My opinion on this was is very dated.  Chris and I went here in 2001 or so.  It wasn’t good.  BUT, that was 14 years ago.  But we’re generally of the opinion that for table service, we want something we can’t get at home and Mexican is not that.
  • L’Artisan des Glaces (Snacks) – OMG yum.  They have an ice cream filled macaroon.  It’s SO GOOD.
  • Restaurant Marrakesh (Table Service) – Chris and I did this one on our first visit and then we went on our last visit before this one.  We love it.  We don’t have any Moroccoan/Turkish/Persian food near us, so we like visiting here when we go.  Also, there’s belly dancing.  :)
  • Rose & Crown Dining Room (Table Service) – Okay, I love British stuff.  So, I like going here.  We went this most recent trip as well as the time before last.  This time, I had bangers and mash.  Chris had steak and fish.  It was all super yum.  I had sticky toffee pudding for dessert and it was awesome.  Chris had the chocolate bread pudding.  It was okay, but nothing super fab.
  • Sunshine Seasons (Counter Service) – This place is in the pavilion with Soarin’ and Living with the Land.  It’s got a lot of different offerings and it’s not just your standard theme park fare.  Definitely recommend.
  • Tangierine Cafe (Counter Service) – Ew.  No, no, no.  The food Chris and I had was super cold and kind of revolting.  Em had a burger and (granted, she was 6 when we went, but) she cried when we made her eat it.  So, yeah.
  • Teppan Edo (Table Service) – The one time we used a travel agent, she couldn’t get us dinner at Ohana, so she subbed this instead, saying it was a lot alike.  It is not.  Don’t get me wrong, Teppan Edo is fine, but this is just a Japanese Steak House.  We have TONS of them at home, so why eat at one when you go on vacation?
  • Via Napoli (Table Service) – This place is new as of a few years ago.  We went there on our last trip and the one before that.  Em loves pizza.  This is supposed to be the “best pizza in the World.”  We’ve liked both meals we got there.  This past time, the service wasn’t great.  Chris got lasagne and it came out so early that he was finished eating before mine and Em’s food even got to our table.  And he’s not a SUPER fast eater.  We’d definitely try it again and hope for better service next time.

Hollywood Studios:

  • ABC Commissary (Counter Service) – We’ve eaten lunch here every visit except this past one.  The line moves quickly, the selection is fine, and there’s tons of seating inside in the air conditioning.
  • Catalina Eddie’s/Fairfax Fare/Rosie’s All American (Counter Service) – These three are all stands right next to each other.  The food was fine, but nothing outstanding.  There’s plenty of seating and though it’s outside, it’s mostly covered.
  • Mama Melrose (Table Service) – We ate here our first two visits with Em.  The first time it was SO GOOD.  The last time, the food was okay and the service was horrible.  But there’s not a lot that draws us for food here at Hollywood Studios.  We might try this one again next time we go.  If I can drag Em away from Sci-Fi!
  • Pizza Planet (Counter Service) – Fair warning:  Chris and I ate here back in 2001.  It was the worst pizza I’ve ever had.  BUT it’s been 14 years, so…who knows how it’s changed.
  • Sci-Fi Dine-In (Table Service) – Em loves this place.  We went this past week as well as last time.  It’s fine. It’s burgers and fries.  There’s nothing all that special about the food.  The one thing this one has going for it is that for drinks, you can get a milkshake and it’s part of the dining plan.  Yes, that means you can get your food with a milkshake to drink.  Then, you can also get a dessert.  The desserts here aren’t great, so I’d stick with a ice cream sundae.  The doughnut is fried too hard and the candy bar is just okay.
  • Starring Rolls (Counter Service) – OMG guys.  How have I not known about this place until now?  First off, the food selections are slim.  They’ve got a ham sandwich, a turkey sandwich, and a few sushi platters.  I had the turkey.  It was SO GOOD.  Em had the ham and I tried a bite of her’s too and it was also very yum.  But here’s where this place really wins:  dessert.  This is the home of the Butterfinger cupcake.  It’s a chocolate cupcake with a gooey fudge center.  It’s topped with white icing with a thick, hard layer of crushed Butterfinger on top.  SO good.  Em got the pb & choc cupcake and it was also yum.

Animal Kingdom:

  • Flame Tree Barbecue (Counter Service) – This is a decent counter service place.  There are tons of places to seat, but it’s small areas on a path.
  • Restaurantosaurus (Counter Service) – We went here our first trip with Em, so it’s been a while.  But I know how I said above that Em cried when we made her eat that burger from the counter service place in Morocco?  That happened here too.
  • Tamu Tamu Refreshments (Snacks) – This place has hand-made double chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches.  They’re huge and super yum.
  • Yak & Yeti Restaurant (Table Service) – This might be my favorite restaurant for non-dessert in all of WDW.  We ate here a couple of trips ago and liked it a lot, but we ate here again this time and it was SO GOOD!  I got the ribs.  They’re in hoison sauce and come with chicken fried rice and asian slaw.  Loved it all.  YUM!  For dessert, I was skeptical, but had heard the Mango Pie was very good.  I’m not a huge mango fan, but guys.  It was so good.

Downtown Disney:

  • Bongos Cuban Cafe (Table Service) – Chris and I went here in 2001 and it was awful.  Obviously, that was forever ago, but ug.
  • Earl of Sandwich (Counter Service) – I’d heard this place was fabulous.  I thought it was okay.  I had the buffalo chicken wrap.  I was tired of turkey and there wasn’t a lot else I was interested in.  You can get a side or a dessert here, so you actually get less food here than other places.  The cupcakes here were REALLY good, though.
  • Planet Hollywood (Table Service) – Chris and I ate here back when we first came in 2001.  The best I can remember is that it was fine.  But they were all over the place, so we usually just skip this one.
  • Raglan Road (Table Service) – We ate here last time and if it were up to me, we’d have eaten here again this time.  First, the entertainment is great.  There are dancers and awesome musicians.  For the food, I had bangers and mash.  It was good!  Em said her burger was burned though.  But where this restaurant really excels is the bread and butter pudding.  Guys.  It’s SOOO GOOD.  It’s hands down my favorite dessert at WDW.  SO Good!
  • Rainforest Cafe (Table Service) – We’ve been here several times.  I’ve not a huge salad person, but they have the best asian chicken salad.  For a bit we decided not to do it because it’s a chain, but there’s not one anywhere near us at home.
  • T-REX (Table Service) – We went here on our last trip and it was yummy.  The theming here is very good with the rooms all looking completely different.
  • Wolfgang Puck Express (Counter Service) – We ate here this trip for lunch.  It was tasty!  We all had pizzas and they were good.  Em got the giant brownie for dessert and it was awful.  It was dry and not nearly sweet enough.  Chris and I both got cheesecake.  It was tasty, but nothing special.

WDW Resorts:

  • Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge (Table Service) – We tried this place this visit.  It’s a buffet and they have LOTS of stuff.  The chicken was kind of dry, but everything else I had was yummy.  Chris said this was absolutely his favorite place of the entire trip.  Em liked it okay.
  • Ohana at Polynesian (Table Service) – We first did this one for breakfast.  They have a yummy juice that no one else has.  Other than that, it’s breakfast.  But at Ohana, that’s a character meal.  It was Lilo, Stitch, Mickey, and Goofy.  Lilo never made it to our table.  Another trip, we tried Ohana for dinner.  It’s more like a brazilian barbecue.  They come around to your table constantly with 4-5 different types of meat.  It was super yummy. And there’s a yum bread pudding for dessert.  Em didn’t like it but Chris and I LOVED it.
  • Pop Century (Counter Service & Snacks) – We usually stay at Pop for a variety of reasons, but when we have extra counter service credits, we have breakfast here.  It’s fine. Nothing spectacular, but fine.  You should try to always use your credits NOT on breakfast because you get more for your money that way.  But sometimes it’s not possible.  I will say that on our last morning, we had a bunch of snack credits to use and Em got their tie-dye cheesecake (Yes, at breakfast.  Shut up, we’re on vacation!) and it was SUPER yum.  It’s got a red velvet crust.
  • Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Villas (Table Service) – We went for this one last time.  It’s more Indian-type food, which I usually don’t like.  And I won’t say this was my favorite, but it was pretty good.  This is also the restaurant where you want to go for lunch or a really early dinner so you can see the animals.  They’re RIGHT OUTSIDE your window!
  • Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at Polynesian (Table Service x 2) – We did this for the first time last year.  We liked it so much we did it again this year.  There are two shows.  There’s a 5:30ish and an 8:15pm.  The later one’s better to see the fire part, but there are logistics problems.  You finish at around 10pm.  But unless MK or EP is open late, you’re going to be stuck getting a bus to Downtown Disney, then finding your bus to your hotel.  And it’s a MADHOUSE.  The actual show is cute.  It’s got plenty of songs your recognize, along with a bunch of dances from different countries.  The dancers are HOT, both the men and the women.  The food is pretty yum.  It’s all you can eat and this is the only place I know of where there’s select alcohol that’s all you can drink.  That includes 2 types of beer, a wine, and a sangria.
  • The Wave…of American Flavors at Contemporary (Table Service) – We picked this the time before last because it’s advertised as having more healthy choices.  Perhaps I read it wrong, because it’s not so much healthy, but more organic and locally sourced.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s good, but at that point it wasn’t what I was looking for.  I don’t really remember what we had, but Chris LOVED it.  Em liked it too.  I think I liked it, but I can’t remember a whole lot about it.
Posted by: wildflowerz | September 7, 2015

Dragon*Con 2015

Hi guys!  We bailed on today, so our D*C is over.  So, I thought I’d do a recap:

Thursday:  I went to the gym, showered and ate breakfast, and then drove down to Registration.  I left around 9:30am and ran into some massive traffic on 75.  There was a major wreck that closed down 3 lanes of traffic.  I’m not sure when it happened, but it was a mess at 9:30 and it was still a mess when I drove back by around 1pm!  Luckily, I brought up Waze and it directed me around it.  Still, it took me about an hour and fifteen minutes to get down there.  Normally it’s about 40 or so minutes.  It definitely could have been worse, though.  Once I got down there, I parked in our usual place, right next to the Sheraton and Westin and walked over.  From the time I entered the door of the Registration room (which was right after a short bathroom break) until the time I left the registration room, was approximately 5 minutes.  SO easy.  Since it was so easy and the past few years they’ve had the blood drive right outside, I went over and did that.  I spent about 10 minutes in line there waiting to get my info in the system.  Then, once I went into the blood drive room until I got my cookies, it took about 15 minutes.  Everyone was super friendly.  I definitely had a stellar experience.  I was hungry and it was around noon once I finished, so I went over to the Peachtree center for some lunch and then drove back home.  This is where I found out that the place we park has REALLY jacked up the prices.  It was $20 for up to 2 hours and $40 for an entire day!  Unfortunately, most everyone else had jacked their’s up too.  And the prices they list online were NOT what they were charging, so the only way to figure out the prices was to drive around.  And I’m NOT a good driver when I don’t know exactly where I’m going, so I didn’t even attempt that!  The drive back was fine.

Friday:  Em had a quiz in her LAST class of the day, of course, and Chris said he didn’t have anything he was dying to see on Friday, so I did something I’ve never done and did D*C solo for a day.  I went to Weight Watchers (Yes, I’m still going.  No, I can’t seem to get it together.)  first and then drove on down.  The drive in was PERFECTLY fine.  A fair few people were on the road, but no slowdowns at all.  I parked at the same place again.  (Grrrr!)

  • 10am – Arrow:  Visit Scenic Nanda Parbat – This was a discussion panel in the AMSF track in the Marriott.  It was fairly full, but not packed.  In the past, discussion panels have been hit or miss.  My experience on THIS track has that the panelists have all acted like they are THE expert on whatever they talk about and the audience members are stupid with their little opinions if they don’t match their’s.  However.  I’m happy to say that, at least for this panel and the next one, that has changed.  It wasn’t an awesome panel, but it was decent.
  • 11:30am – Outlander:  Home is Where the Heart Is – This was another discussion panel.  Same track, same room.  Different panelists.  How it was run was perfectly fine.  It ended up being slightly less interesting than the previous panel, but still not too bad.  I ended up leaving early to find lunch.
  • 12:30ish – Lunch – I just did Subway because it was the easiest, lower calorie choice I could find that I knew I’d be able to eat.  Everything was SLAMMED.  The Subway line at least moved fast.  I lucked out and found a place to sit right outside the Subway too.  A friend was meeting me, so I saved a seat for her and she got there a few minutes later.  We ate and caught up and then decided to head to the dealer room, which was opening at 1pm.
  • 1pm – Dealer Room – This year, the dealer room moved to America’s Mart Building 2 instead of Building 1 where it was the past two years.  In Bldg 1, it was horrible.  There was one room on the bottom floor that was fairly tiny and it was always wall to wall people.  I’m not talking normal dealer room busy.  I mean, you walked in and in 10 minutes maybe moved 10 feet.  You eventually gave up and it took about 10 minutes to get back out.  It was BAD.  The other room was ginormous, but oddly shaped and it was REALLY hard to navigate in an orderly fashion.  Generally, you had no idea if you’d seen everything.  I’m happy to say that THIS year, it was much better.  It was still two room.  The top floor was fairly large.  The bottom floor was slightly smaller.  They were both either rectangle or square and laid out in rows, so it was easy to make it to everything without inadvertently skipping something.  There were escalators at the front and back too, so if you got to the back of one room, you could just go up or down and start right on the other without having to backtrack.  They also labeled the rows with their booth number so it was easier to find them.  The only downside I saw to the layout is that there was an aisle right up the center.  So, if you were methodically going down each row, when you cross the center, there was a traffic jam.  Every.  Single.  Time.  Still, I’ll take that over the mess the last couple of years.  Okay, so my friend and I got there right at 1pm and the line to get in it was already 3 blocks long. No, I’m not joking.  It took us 40 minutes to get inside.  Once there, we kind of randomly wandered to see the place.  Didn’t buy anything.
  • 2:30pm – Battlestar Galactica – Michael Trucco, Aaron Douglas, Tricia Helfer, and Jaime Bamber – Marriott Atrium Ballroom – In the past several years, I’ve skipped the BSG panels.  I LOVE Aaron Douglas, but he’s only really been at the Con as a regular guest and not doing panels.  Also, it’s been a lot of EJO and Mary MacDonnel.  And while I like them, I don’t really want to see them over and over again.  All these guests had been there before, but Helfer hadn’t been since the show started forever ago.  The room was about half full, I think.  The panel was great and they were all entertaining and had lots of good stories to tell.
  • 4pm – Q & A with Felicia Day – Marriott Capitol Ballroom – I think that’s the correct room name.  It’s the one down a level or two from the Atrium on the opposite side.  I hate this room.  It’s oddly shaped and hard to see in.  The line has several parts.  There’s a queue right in front of the room, done with tape on the ground.  When I got there, that queue, of course, was full.  I asked the person at the front where the end of the line was, and he pointed a few feet away.  It snaked by the stairwells, down the hall, and back around.  Not long at ALL.  So I was pretty excited.  We finally started moving in, while all these people kept going down the hall to nothing where the line bent. Those people tried to merge in in front of us, but everyone yelled at them and didn’t let them in.  We got up to the part with the tape on the floor queue and right before we made the last turn, they were at capacity.  Okay, that room is annoying, but it’s WAY larger than that.  Turns out, the second part of the line was somewhere downstairs.  So people that knew that, joined the end and skipped the part we were in.  Fuck you door volunteer person.  Never mind the fact that Felicia Day should NOT have been in such a small room.  Maybe not the Atrium Ballroom, but at least the Hyatt Centennial, Sheraton Grand Ballroom, or Peachtree in the Sheraton.  She JUST had a book come out and has SO much geek cred.  So, yeah.  Instead, I headed back to the dealer room.  The line was slightly shorter than it was earlier, but it only took about 15 minutes to get in this time.  People were steadily going in, but crossing the street was stopping people.  I went by Sparkle, my favorite, and got a super cute ribbon, wrap bracelet with a metal tag on it that says, “After all this time?  Always.”  I also got a super cute necklace that says something like, “I always imagined paradise would be kind of like a library.”  I also got two con tees, one for Chris and I and one for Em. Then, I headed down to dinner.
  • 5:30pm – Alma Cocina – I got there about 15 minutes early, but my friend joined me after a few minutes and we were seated.  Her husband and son joined us soon and Chris and Em came in a bit later.  While we were waiting, we noticed Veronica Belmont (Vaginal Fantasy, Sword & Laser).  Later she was joined by Tom Merritt (Sword & Laser).  So, that was neat.  We didn’t bother then…just stared a tiny bit.  :-P  Dinner was yummy.  We got a guac and salsa sample platter.  I had steak tacos for dinner.  Em got a chile relleno that wasn’t filled with cheese and she was super disappointed.  It had a little cheese, but mostly was filled with quinoa.  It was tasty, but really not what she wanted.  Also, the stuff around it was SUPER spicy.  She got a churro (with cinnamon ice cream) so she was okay.  :)  Chris dropped me off at my car (he’d parked at Alma where they validated) and we drove home separately.

All day Thursday, I was EXHAUSTED.  I don’t know why.  By dinner, I was a little sniffly and by the time we got home, I could barely keep my eyes open and was sniffing a lot.  Em played some Disney Infinity and then went to bed.  Chris and I watched some tv and then I went to bed.  I went to sleep at like 9:30 and slept until 8am the next day.

Saturday:  I luckily felt much better the next day.  We got ready and drove in.  The drive was perfectly fine until we got to Williams where the traffic getting off on Courtland stopped everyone.  We finally were able to exit on Courtland and parked at the horribly expensive place.

  • 10am – Dealer room – We all went to the dealer room and Em mirrored my purchase.  The got a ribbon wrap bracelet and the metal tag says “Jedi.”  She also got a necklace that says “Girl on Fire.”  This day, we only had a short wait to cross the street and went right in.
  • 11:30am – Battlebots – Sheraton Grand Ballroom – I didn’t have anything at this time and Chris found this one on the schedule.  We thought it was supposed to just be a couple of the creators, but it turns out that the full (or almost full) teams from Overhaul and Witch Doctor were there, in addiction to people from Nightmare, Hypershock, and Icewave were also there.  It was a really good panel except the sound was screwed up and earsplitting when they showed a couple of vids.  Em loved this one.  She even asked a question and got applause.  :)
  • 1pm – Game of Thrones – Kristian Nairn (Hodor), Finn Jones (Sir Loras), and Julian Glover (Grand Maester Pycelle) – Marriott Atrium – The line for this was VERY manageable.  The room was only about 1/3 full.  This was on my sched because I didn’t have anything else at this time period.  I kinda wanted to see them, but they weren’t high on my list.  Turns out, it was a good panel.  They were all interesting.  Finn Jones is obviously a superfan.  He had all sorts of theories about everything and had totally read all the books.
  • 2:30pm – Flash – Candice Patton (Iris), Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin), Robbie Amell (Ronnie), and John Wesley Shipp (Henry) –  Marriott Atrium – The Line for this was SUPER long.  We’d left the previous panel 5 minutes early to avoid the crush of people leaving.  We exited the back of the building and went around to join the back of the Flash line.  When we got in line, we knew we’d get in, but it would be the back.  And sure enough, we were in the back 1/4 of the room.  This was a good panel too.  They were all very funny and entertaining.  Em donned her headphones and played her DS.
  • 4pm – Once Upon a Time – Merrin Dungey (Ursula), Kristin Bauer van Straten (Maleficent), and Victoria Smurfit (Cruella) – Marriott Atrium – Once again, we left the previous panel 5 minutes early to avoid the crush.  The line for this, predictably, was super short.  It was outside, but just barely.  I’ve NO IDEA whey they put them in this room.  It was less than 1/4 full.  They were all very entertaining.  The content wasn’t really what it should have been for this show.  It’s weird that the GoT panel was way more kid-friendly than the Once panel was, huh?  They were all hilarious though.  There was lots of dancing and singing.
  • 5:30pm – What We’re Reading – Young Adult track – Marriott – I love this panel and try to make it to it every year.  Ran into another friend there too.  Chris went off and did his own thing here.  I have a giant list of book recs.  If someone’s interested, just comment and I’ll make a post of them.  The people on the panel were friendly and did a good job.  I’d only read a few of their recs, so I got lots of new stuff.  And the recs ranged from middle grades all the way up to a few adult books.  Oh, and they always give away stuff at this panel too and I won a free book!  It was some mystery…not YA…so I’m not sure why they were giving it away, but whatever:  Free book!
  • 6:45pm – Truva – Em and I totally went the wrong way out of the Marriott to get to dinner and had to stop and consult my map.  Then, to make it back, it was SO HARD to get through all the people, so we were a few minutes late.  Truva is a Turkish place we’ve been to for the past several years.  We LOVE it.  There’s belly dancing, which most of us don’t particularly care for.  But this year, the dancer got Em to get up and dance with her, so that was fun.  The food, as always, was super yum.  The company was also fab.

No one seemed to be heading to gaming this night, so we just headed home.  This is the day my D*C app started frakking up too.  It kept freezing.  Then, it wouldn’t load the full thing.  Once we got home, it worked fine, but for most of the day, I couldn’t use it.  Luckily, Chris’s still worked and he did most of the day with us, so it was alright, but annoying none-the-less.  Luckily, I’d stuck the pocket programs in our bags for backups, so I used that when I got “lost.”

Sunday:  Yesterday we left at 8:30am and got there around 9:10 and parked at the same expensive place.  Chris thought we were leaving WAY too early.  Since we didn’t really have anything planned, we got in line for John Barrowman.

  • 10am – John Barrowman – Sheraton Grand Ballroom – When we got in line, it was wrapped around around 2 corners of the building and half-way to the next corner.  Seriously.  We didn’t start moving until after 10am…which makes no sense because there was nothing in there before us.  We got to the last inside queue (about 30 people in front of us) when they hit capacity.  Yeah.  So Em and I headed over to get in line for Arrow since we had nothing else going on.
  • 11:30am – Arrow – Steven Amell (Oliver), Katie Cassidy (Laurell), John Barrowman (Malcolm), & Matt Nable (Rahs) – Marriott Atrium – We left immediately from the Sheraton and walked to the back of the Atrium line.  We were about halfway down the first full block.  I’d been MUCH farther in this line before and gotten in, so I wasn’t worried about that.  The only annoyance was these people in line behind us.  The guy was vaping and his…vapor was blowing in everyone’s face.  He acted like he was high.  The girl was a giant bitch.  You know how if you’re talking in line, people generally join in to make comments?  You know, make new line friends?  If you want to keep to yourself, you just don’t talk terribly loud.  Well, she was talked at a moderate volume, so I tried to make convo a few times.  She kept giving me bitch face.  So, yeah.  It’s not like I was going off on a tirade or treating her like my new BFF.  Jeez!  Then, they both left the line a few times and I got to listen to her berating the dude about getting back to the line because OMGWE’REMOVINGNOWHURRYTHEFUCKUP!  Gah.  Luckily, when we got into the panel, they were split off and we didn’t have to sit next to them.  The room, I think filled up.  We were in the back 1/4, but right in front of a giant screen, so all was good.  This was an excellent panel.  They were all hilarious and the moderator was good.
  • 1pm – Buffy Guests – Clare Kramer (Glory), Amber Benson (Tara), and James Leary (Clem) – Westin Peachtree – Once again, we left the previous panel 5 minutes early to trek up to the Westin.  When we got there, the line was SUPER short.  The panel was barely 1/4 full.  It was a good one though.  Kramer was SUPER nice and engaging.  Leary was hilarious, as always.  Benson was nice, but she’s way more subdued…a lot like Tara actually.  This was a pretty good panel.
  • 2:30pm – Lost Girl – Paul Amos (Vex), Kris Holden-Reid (Dyson), Zoie Palmer (Lauren), Anna Silk (Bo), Rachel Skarsten (Tamsin), Ksenia Solo (Kenzi) – Westin Peachtree – We left the Buffy panel and the Lost Girl line had gone upstairs.  So we joined it.  Chris joined us later.  They didn’t load it until REALLY close to the panel time, which was weird since the Buffy panel was super small and couldn’t have taken that long to empty.  We got decent seats.  Holy crap, guys, this is practically the entire cast.  The only main person I missed was Trick (Richard Howland) and Hale (KC Collins).  Wow!  They were so funny.  It was a really great panel.  My only complaint is that the sound was kind of jacked up, so it was hard to hear sometimes.  Still, it was great.
  • 3:30pm – Dealer Room – No line.  It was SUPER crowded this time.  We rarely did more than shuffle.  I didn’t enjoy it at all and we found nothing.
  • 5pm – Hard Rock Cafe – We had no plans to meet people for dinner and got finished at the dealer area early, so we wandered to the Hard Rock just before 5 and only had a 10 minute or so wait.  Em was looking a little drained at that point.  We all had yummy food and we embarrassed her by singing along to the songs playing.  Especially Bohemian Rhapsody.  Hey, everyone else there was singing it too.  So, really, she was in the minority.  :-P
  • 5:45ish – We finished up dinner and had nothing really going, so we thought we’d try and make the Karen Gillian panel at 7pm.  Technically, the lines aren’t supposed to start until an hour before the panel.  At 5:45, 15 minutes before the line was supposed to start, the line was down the long side of the building, and almost to the end of the short end in the back.  I’ve been in that line at that last corner it passed and barely got in.  So, forget that, we headed on the Sheraton to wait for the Battlebots panel at 7pm.
  • 6:45pm – Battlebots – Sheraton Grand Ballroom – We got there around 6 and they wouldn’t let us make an official line.  I mean, it was just a handful of nerds, but mostly we wanted to somewhere to park our stuff and sit down on the floor, ya know?  They let us line up at 6:20.  At I thought this was just going to be showing vids, but I was wrong.  At 6:40 or so, they let us go in and just went ahead and started at 6:45, 15 minutes early!  They were showing pics, but mostly it was another Q&A.  Most of the same team was there as before, except Overdrive.  Em got to ask another question, so she was happy.
  • 8pm – After Battlebots we stopped by the car and got our games and headed down to the basement of the Westin.  Our friends had luckily found a table.  We were joined by a bunch of other friends soon after that.  We’d bought an xpac for Castle Panic, so I watched while a few people played that.  Some other friends played Forbidden Island.  Our group on CP, so that was fun.  After, they played Tsuro.  Mostly I read during this.  I’m not SUPER into the games, but they’re okay.  But the atmosphere down there is just not conducive to my enjoyment.  It’s REALLY loud and cold…which is weird considering how many bodies are packed down there.  We left around 10:20 or so.  On our way home we decided we didn’t care much about coming back, so we stayed home today.

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