Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

The Big E 2017

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Previously: The Big E 2010, The Big E 2011

The Big E is what they call the Eastern States Exposition up in Springfield, MA. It’s like the state fair for all of New England – there are buildings for Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Each state has at least one “thing” that is very very popular. Some of them are obvious (Vermont has lots of maple things) and some are less obvious (Maine baked potatoes are a BIG DEAL and I don’t understand). This year Connecticut had lots of craft beer and wine, so obviously we picked the right New England state.

This is the second time we went to The Big E with these particular friends and I could not have done it without them. Two extra adults means we can actually have fun instead of having one long, sustained meltdown that snowballs from Lincoln to all the kids to me crying next to the fried cannoli stand because I can’t take it anymore. But that did not happen! We had fun! And I only lost Lincoln once!

(I did in fact lose Lincoln, but Lincoln was never lost. He just decided to go back to where everyone else was waiting while I stood in the Maine building freaking out. At least I know his sense of direction is really good?)

I did not take many photos (by my standards) because 4 kids is still a lot of kids even when I have help. But I did better than our visit in 2014, which I never got up on the blog at all! I don’t have a single picture of Finnegan, because he was either chilling in his stroller or on me the whole day.

Fake eating fake lamb pops in the “you should eat more lamb it’s delicious” booth located next to the adorable lambs.

A very nice 11-year-old girl named Clara let us pet her sheep. She won a bunch of ribbons. I can barely keep a houseplant alive.

This is a singing refrigerator.

No one wanted to eat here.

Evan recently learned what a “photo bomb” is.

Baby lobsters at the Maine building.

Lincoln loves rides.

And that’s the end of fair season! Next up: FALL FUN SEASON. Time for corn mazes, pumpkin patches and cider mills.

 

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The Best Weekend of the Year 2017

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Previously: 2016, 2015, 2015 (part 2), 2014,  2013

I can’t remember when I started calling this the best weekend of the year, but now that’s the official name in our family and we celebrate as if it’s a holiday. Four kids out of the house all weekend isn’t easy but we had a great time as usual and the food makes up for the stress.

Greek Food Festival:

Ledyard Fair (with friends!):

Taste of Italy:

Mystic Eats:

After we went to the food festival in Mystic, we hung out at the Seaport, then went straight to a birthday party, then straight to cheer practice. Operation Keep Them Busy is going along just swimmingly, although if Finnegan keeps waking up at 2 am I’m not going to be able to keep it up every weekend.

Hopefully he let’s me get enough sleep to make it to The Big E next Saturday, because that’s like the whole Best Weekend of the Year rolled into one day.

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Brooklyn Fair 2017

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

The very best part of the year in Connecticut has just started. The weather is gorgeous. There are so many fun things to do we can’t possibly do them all. We’re just two weekends away from The Best Weekend Of The Year. We can be out of the house 12 hours a day easily, so when we get home all the children are exhausted and go right to bed.

On the one hand, this is perfect. The United States Navy called in their claim on my husband, and we won’t be seeing him for a while. Operation Keep Them Busy is my only hope to avoid sad, crying children every day. It’s lucky that this drastic family change happened during a time of year full of activity and changes. It’s easier to adjust when you’re already adjusting to new classes, new teachers, new schools, new routines and plenty of fun.

On the other hand, participating in all that fun without a second set of adult hands is taxing mentally and physically. There’s no one to go with the kids on rides the babies can’t ride. There’s no one to watch the stroller while I run to the bathroom. There’s no one to help carry plates at a food festival. There’s no one to wear an exhausted toddler when I’m wearing a nursing baby. There’s no one else to drive when I’m super tired. There’s just no one else. We’re going to miss some of the annual events we “always” go to because my sanity is more important than doing everything.

To kick off the best part of the year, we went to the Brooklyn Fair and it was wildly successful. I basically said yes to everything, including throwing a ton of money at stupid carnival games because my kids love those cheap, gross, horrible, trash stuffed animals so much. We were there for almost 5 hours and I think I only threatened to abandon them once. Maybe twice for Lincoln. But they had a super good time and said I was the best mommy and I got to eat the cotton candy they forgot we bought so it was a good day.

 

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Our First Disney Trip: Animal Kingdom

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Previously: Non-park days, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot

By Friday, I was afraid I wouldn’t actually make it out of bed. The thought of putting my shoes on made me want to cry. But I also really, really wanted to see Pandora and go on the Everest roller coaster and do the safari ride and meet Donald Duck and, funny enough, none of that stuff was available in my hotel room so off to the Animal Kingdom we went!

Sunrise from our hotel room:

Children NOT interested in waking up:

My original plan for Friday was that we would get to Animal Kingdom early enough to be the first (or almost first) people on Flights of Passage so we would have time to see the standby line, then ride the Na’vi River Journey before our 8:30 am Flights of Passage Fastpass. There’s a lot of stuff to see in the line while you wait, but only while you wait, not in the Fastpass tunnel. But because we slept in a little bit and got to Animal Kingdom right as the opened the wait time for Flights of Passage was already greater than 45 minutes. The wait time for Na’vi River Journey was essentially nothing though, so walking onto that and then using our Flights of Passage Fastpass worked out great.

Pandora was fun to look around and explore. We loved how much there was too look at and explore. I took a zillion pictures but it was really sunny and the kids couldn’t even look at the camera so all I have to share are landscape pics. We somehow lost the family photo the Photopass photographer (booo).

Flights of Passage was the most amazing ride I have ever been on. I let myself get hyped up because I had heard such AMAZING reviews and 30 seconds into the ride I was like “Oh this is really nice but I don’t know if I’m blown away…” and then I was totally blown away.

Ok, so, this is where I want to mention that I almost let something that happened that morning completely ruin our trip. While we were waiting to go into the pre-ride show for Flights of Passage, one of the kids said they needed to pee but swore to me they could hold it. They did not hold it. And I did not handle it well. I feel way worse about how angry I was – I was super embarrassed and expressed that as anger – than I did about the actual situation. Even with the Fastpass the Flights of Passage pre-show plus other pre-show plus ride was at least 30 minutes long and when you’re a kid who really has to pee…that’s a long time. So here is the lesson I learned: EVERY time you see a bathroom, make the kids use it. We had had a couple close calls on the previous days, but I hadn’t yet realized we needed to make a rule about at least TRYING to go every hour. Also, bring extra clothes for everyone, not just the babies. And don’t yell at your kids at Disney World, you’ll just feel like a huge a-hole.

Because of that…delay…we ran out of time for E to rider swap immediately and had to go over to Africa for our Kilimanjaro Safari Fastpass. I took way too many pictures of far away animals. And now I’m going to make you look at some of them!

I let Caroline hold my phone during that whole tour because she REALLY wanted to take pictures of the animals. I’ll spare you any of those. Not that you could tell what they are even if I did post them. Bouncing tram + cell phone + 6-year-old = blurry nonsense.

After the safari we went back to Pandora because E couldn’t wait any longer to ride Flights of Passage. Which is a valid way to feel, it’s incredible.

While E and the kids were using their rider swap, I went to Pongu Pongu to try out one of the drinks I had heard about.

The drink is called a Night Blossom and it’s “a mix of limeade combined with apple and desert pear flavors finished off with passion fruit boba balls”. I loved it so much I drank all of mine and then stole Lincoln’s. He only really cared about the boba balls so I left those for him at the end. The food thing is pineapple and cream cheese deep fried inside…something? I can’t remember what they are called but they were SO GOOD.

Finnegan agrees the pineapple things are delicious.

After my family got off the ride, I made them all buy Night Blossoms too. They agreed it was an excellent decision. Also, it was our last day in the parks and we still had a bunch of snack credits to use up, so using them in Pandora seemed like a good call.

Animal Kingdom is a really big park and I had done the least amount of minute-by-minute planning for our day there – all our Fastpasses were very early – so we had a lot of free time. We ended up crisscrossing back and forth and back and forth around the different countries many many times. There isn’t really a good way to completely avoid that, but I’m definitely going to do more planning if (when) we go back. We rode Kali River Rapids and the kids were disappointed to not get soaking wet. I think they would have ridden it all day just hoping to get splashed.

Some of the walking is unavoidable though. The Animal Kingdom is maybe just a little bit like a really fancy zoo, so we took one of the trails to see the tigers and then just wandered around checking out the cool Disney imagineering.

After some exploring, we checked into our lunch at Tusker House. Shocking information: it was a character meal and a buffet. Other shocking information: it was great. It was also not at all crowded and some of the characters came back around to visit the kids (mostly Lincoln) again. ALSO, they let us bring the stroller into the restaurant because both babies were sleeping in it. Finn slept through almost all of lunch but we woke Linc up. He never would have forgiven us if he missed Donald Duck.

Grumpy 8-year-olds who don’t want to be in the picture don’t stand a chance against Mickey.

After lunch we took the train out to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, where we met Rafiki. Doc McStuffins was also out there, so if you wanted to see her that’s the secret no-wait spot. The train ride was relaxing, the actual area was not super exciting. But it wasn’t crowded, which was super nice!

Caroline isn’t as miserable as she looks in that photo, I swear.

Then we FINALLY made it over to Expedition Everest, which Evan and Caroline were most excited about.

HE REALLY WAS EXCITED. Did I mention this was day 4 of the parks? We were all so tired.

We spent a lot of time in Asia section of the park in the afternoon. It wasn’t too crowded, there were places to sit, and the kids really loved riding Expedition Everest so we rode it a bunch of times. Considering it’s the only real coaster in the park (I am anti-Dinoland, we didn’t ride any of that junk besides the Dinosaur ride) I have no idea why there were always Fastpasses available, but as soon as we swiped in with a FP we’d book another for a little later. I think I rode twice and E rode three times which means the kids rode five times.

Pro tip: $5 bubble gun from the craft store can keep a toddler busy while he waits for the big kids to ride their roller coaster.

The Anandapur Ice Cream truck will make you ice cream floats with any combination they have. The kids got chocolate soft serve and root beer. E and I got vanilla soft serve with Orange Crush. They were all delicious and such a good refreshing snack.

I took more photo at Animal Kingdom than anywhere else. It was partly because our day was a liiiittle less busy, partly because the crowds weren’t bad so I could set up shots, and partly because it took me that many days to get into my photography groove. I even have a roll of film to develop from this day. We also managed to get a couple family photos from the Photopass people:

 

 

Our lunch with the characters was actually part of a package that included seating for the first showing of Rivers of Light. It meant we didn’t have to waste a Fastpass on a 9 pm show and we didn’t have to get in line hours early to get a seat.

Poor Finnegan was DONE by the time we picked out seats at around 8:45. E tried wearing him to get him to calm down but the only thing that helped was letting him just nurse and nurse and nurse until he fell asleep. I had a hard time working my camera around an angry, nursing baby, so a lot of these photos were actually taken by E.

After ALL OF THAT, we still had to head back to Pandora to see it at night.

Pictures don’t really do it justice. It’s so cool. Also cool: one of my friends from high school did some of the lighting! We were in drama together. That last part was probably obvious.

We got a family photo with the members of the family who were still awake:

And then I decided that no matter how tired we were, eating something for dinner needed to be a priority and I really wanted that dinner to be in Pandora. So we stood in a (pretty short) line in the canteen to try the Pandora food.

I got a build-your-old bowl with rice, beef, and creamy sauce. E and Caroline got steamed cheeseburgers. I think Evan got a grilled cheese, but it was gone before I could even take a picture. And then we had these blueberry cheesecake things for dessert.

It was all delicious. I’m still thinking about rice bowl and trying to figure out how to recreate it at home. I also tried the steamed cheeseburgers and although I was skeptical, they were actually really well spiced and the bun was surprisingly good. I’m not sure it would be worth a super long wait, but it was definitely a great use of our meal plan credit and completely different from any other food we had all week.

And then it was time to go home! I tried to take a picture of the Tree of Light waking up on our way out, but nighttime photography needs a tripod and instead of a tripod I was wearing a toddler.

And that is it! Our whole Disney vacation!

I’m working on a post now about what I learned while planning the trip (about stuff like Fastpasses and dining) so if you have any questions feel free to ask so I can include the answers. I’m not a Disney expert by any means but that’s not going to stop me from offering advice based on what worked for us.

This trip was so fun and so magical and gave us all the core memories we could possibly want. If you’re a Disney-person at all, you should go to Disney World.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our First Disney Trip: Epcot

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Previously: Non-park days, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios

Our Thursday at Disney World was supposed to be all Epcot: a calmer day to walk around the World Showcase, ride a couple exciting and a lot of less-exciting rides, eat things, drink things, and meet a bunch of princesses. But because our Jedi Training on Wednesday was cancelled, we had Jedi Training at Hollywood Studios first thing in the morning before we even started Epcot. Because Epcot didn’t open until 9 and our check-in for training was 9:40, we actually had a “relaxing” morning. We got to the park right after they opened and E and Caroline got to ride Tower of Terror with only a couple minute wait. Evan did not want to do it again, so he and the babies and I found a coffee stand near the exit and ate donuts the size of our heads while we waited.

Then we headed across the park for Jedi Training, past the lake with the dinosaur. The kids were obsessed with this dinosaur.

Here’s my short review of Jedi Training: I loved it. The kids also thought it was “cool”, but I am not sure it was the super duper awesome amazing unbelievable thing I thought it would be for them.  To sign up, you have to rope drop the park, run to the sign-up area, stand in line and then hope your spot doesn’t get rained out later. It gets rained out a lot, especially in the summer thunderstorm months. I don’t know if we will bother to make that effort if (when) we go back, unless the kids specifically ask for it. Or if Linc wants to do it (he was too young this year).

It was worth it at least once for the photos though.

The PhotoPass photographers took a LOT of pictures of the show too.

That’s the Seventh Sister, she’s a Jedi hunter trained by Darth Vader. *takes off dork glasses*

On the way out, the kids talked us into buying lightsabers. I wasn’t THAT hard to convince. Mostly so the Photopass person could take this pictures.

The park looks really crowded in those photos, which is weird because I don’t remember it being crowded.

Even though we had planned just one day in each park, we had purchased park hopper passes (thanks military discount!) so it wasn’t a problem to get into Hollywood Studios and then hop over to Epcot. We choose to take the 30-minute boat ride instead of the 10-minute bus ride, because I hate the buses. On the boat, we got a nice view of several resorts and we didn’t have to fold up the stroller. I recommend the boat.

Our original plan was to get to Epcot super early – they opened at 8 am for Extra Magic Hours – to rope drop Soarin’, since we used our Tier 1 Fastpass for the Frozen ride. But because Freddie The Best Castmember Ever had booked us those spots in the morning Jedi Training, he also turned our two morning Fastpasses (which were for a character meet and the Nemo ride) into magical, open-ended Fastpasses, good for anything in Epcot. That allowed us to start our day in Epcot with our princess lunch at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at noon, then use our original Fastpass for Frozen and the two special ones for Test Track and Soarin’.

Our princess lunch was SUPER. I had heard mixed things about the restaurant because it’s located in the Norway pavilion and serves actual Norwegian food. Not everyone is a fan of pickled fish, but the way the menu was set up meant there was PLENTY of choices. You order drinks and a main course and then can eat from the “appetiser” buffet as much as you want. But we could have made entire meals of the buffet – meats and cheeses and salads and fruit and rolls. The non-meal-plan babies ate a TON of food. I had a delicious seafood casserole, E had meatballs, and the kids had pizza and mac & cheese, so don’t be afraid of Akershus.

Also, it was a really pretty building with good light, so my photos of the kids with the princesses look great.

This Ariel was amazing. She spent so much time with Caroline, admiring all the sea animals on her dress and whispering things together.

I mean, look at that. That’s Caroline’s best life.

We were all STUFFED by the end of the meal but dessert is included so they brought us two of these trays. The apple cake in the middle was definitely the winner. It was SO good.

We also met Belle at that lunch! I let the PhotoPass photographer take that one because the alcove was sort of small.

Lunch was right across the pavilion from both the Frozen ride and the Anna and Elsa meeting spot. The ride was really fun and I was super glad we had the Fastpass, because the wait time was around 45 minutes. But for some reason the wait time to meet Anna and Elsa was…nothing, basically. It was amazing. I’m almost sad we just walked through the whole line, because we missed getting to look at all the fun details Disney puts in the buildings so you forget you’re waiting in line. But not THAT sad. When Frozen first came out, the wait times for Anna and Elsa were FIVE HOURS OR MORE. 5 minutes was way better.

 

And then I made Caroline pose for a few photos.

Don’t you love her very authentic crocs with socks look?

After we were done in Norway, it started to look like it might rain and we wanted to make sure we did Test Track before they closed it due to weather. So we headed in that direction with a quick stop in Mexico to ride the dark boat ride there. We managed to knock out Test Track with the FP and rider swap, then Soarin’ with the FP and rider swap, and then Spaceship Earth before it started to POUR. We were prepared with ponchos (although we forgot the stupid rain cover again!), so we dashed across the park to the character spots to wait for Mickey and friends and then Joy, Sadness and Baymax.

I was not expecting Epcot to be the park where we met the most characters, but I think it wins!

The wait for Joy and Sadness was the worst wait anywhere that week – the line moved soooooo sloooooow and it was just a back-and-forth line in a big empty space. We were really tired, and damp, and it was boring, and we didn’t have the stroller so we had to wear Finnegan. I made the kids pose for photos to keep us all amused.

It was only sort of pouring when we left the characters, so we hiked over to the Land and Sea section and finally rode the Nemo ride. It was adorable and there was NO wait. There’s a real aquarium at the end so it looks like Dory and Nemo and Marlin and Crush are swimming with the real fish. There was a ton of stuff in that area that we skipped, so Epcot is top of my list for parks to go back to if (when) we visit again.

We decided it was too wet to try to do anything else right away, so we caught a bus back to the hotel to change clothes, pick up the stroller rain cover, and unload the lightsabers. The middle-of-the-day buses are less terrible than end-of-the-night buses, so it was an easy trip. Right after we got back to the hotel, it completely stopped raining and the sun broke through the clouds. We decided it was a good time to go back to Magic Kingdom to try to ride Splash Mountain (which we had missed the first day because it was broken). We checked the app and there were still Fastpasses available for around 8 pm, so we snapped them up and headed back.

On the bus to the park, we noticed a rainbow. When we got into the park. you could still see the rainbow. And then as we headed towards Frontierland, I realized if I could stand in the right place, we could see the DOUBLE rainbow leading right into the castle. I took probably 300 rainbow photos (as did every other person at the park).

 

Between the sun coming out and the rainbow and the general feeling of magic in the park, we all forgot we were tired. We used our Fastpasses to rider swap Splash Mountain. By the time I got on it was sunset, which was super fun. Then we tried to grab dinner but it was 9 pm and the quick service places were closed. So we decided to go try and see Tomorrowland, since we had missed most of it on our Magic Kingdom day. We also wanted to let Caroline ride Space Mountain, since I had previously told her she was too short but I was wrong. The fireworks were going on as we crossed the park, so we cut through Fantasyland behind the castle. When we got to the other side, we realized almost everyone in the park was still watching the show, so the wait for Space Mountain was almost nothing. E and the kids hopped on. About 5 minutes later, the fireworks ended and at least a hundred people RAN towards Space Mountain. The wait time went from 10 minutes to 45 minutes almost instantly.

Once I met up with the coaster riders, we decided to do the Toy Story ride before we left, just because Linc loves Buzz Lightyear so much and had been such a champ with not riding Splash Mountain or Space Mountain.

Then the park was closed, so we (and eeeeeeeeverybody else) left. The bus was stupid again. It was 11 pm before we got back to the hotel. And no one had eaten dinner. The kids were too tired to care and E chose sleep over food, so I went down to the hotel food court on my own and got a huge plate of pasta and some cupcakes. Finn nursed SO MUCH on this trip, both for comfort and to stay hydrated in the heat, so I was constantly starving. No skipping meals for me.

Because we had such a late night, we adjusted our plan for Friday just a little bit. Although we did still rope drop Animal Kingdom. There were no days off during this vacation.

Next: our LAST DAY in Disney at the Animal Kingdom and the new Pandora world!

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