Thursday, June 30, 2011

Magic Kingdom

We split Magic Kingdom into a 2-day event (a move I highly recommend.) We were early birds on Saturday and got there before they would even issue us a ticket. (Oops - my bad. Although, in my defense, I had read that they let you onto Main Street where you can browse until the park opens. This was not the case.) We arrived at 8:10am. We were issued tickets at 8:30. Then we had to stand in a holding area for another 20 minutes before the Dapper Dans and the good caucasian folks of Main Street USA greeting us with chirpy dance, after which, Mickey Mouse rode in via train with all his pals. Fireworks went off. Then the hoards descended on Magic Kingdom.

All my anal-retnetive research paid off. I knew right where to go. Which rides to get on pre-crowd. Where to get FastPasses. Etc. The whole thing moved like clockwork.

Here's a little collage o' fun: (clockwise)

Magoo on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (rode it 3 times), Alice and the March Hare on the Teacups, Magoo on Aladin's Flying Carpets, and Mike and Magoo in Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.

Another big ride was Splash Mountain - which we rode twice - with our rain ponchos. The first time around we were in the back so we didn't need them much - but the second time around Magoo and I were in the front seat baby!!! Splash city!

Here's Magoo (seriously) trying to pull the sword out of the stone.

We also hit the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, which is a comedy show projected on a screen - but it also depends on audience participation and I'm not sure how they mesh the screen animation with the live voices of the actors backstage (who can see the audience via screens or whatever) but it's a great effect. Well, wouldn't you know, the spotlight comes up on Magoo to participate and isn't he PLEASED AS PUNCH - ham that he is.

So the little monster (on the screen) asks Magoo: What's your name?
A man with a microphone rushes over to Magoo.
Magoo says: Eat my dust.
I kid you not.
So I lean in and whisper: Just tell them your name.
Magoo says: Magoo (He says his real name, of course.)
Monster says: I couldn't hear you before but your lawyer told you the right answer.
Audience laughs.
Monster says: Hey Magoo, do you know why Cinderella is a bad soccer player?
Man with Microphone coaches Magoo: Say why?
Magoo says: Because she has big skirts on and can't kick the ball.
Monster makes a big O face which gets a laugh.
Then Monster says: I hadn't thought of that. What I was going to say is that Cinderella is a bad soccer player because she always runs away from the ball.
Then they cut away from Magoo.

I have no doubt in my mind that the actors backstage rolled their eyes and thought Magoo was totally obnoxious.
But I also know that Magoo thought he was HE-LARIOUS - and I guess that's what counts. He loved it!

One of the last things we did at Magic Kingdom was have Magoo transformed into a pirate.
They gave him a pirate name, Davey Bridgekid. They let him pick his "look" - he went with skeleton pirate. They sat him down and did his make-up ...

... then they made his swear a pirate oath. They gave him a bandana, earring, eyepatch, sword, and sash. Then they allowed him into a secret room and let him search for a pirate medallion.
It was fabulous!

The only thing I would suggest is that they give parents some eye make-up remover to take home. It took 2 days to get all the back make-up away from his eyes. So he looked like he was heavily into The Cure for the rest of the vacation.

Tomorrow: Hollywood Studios

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 1: Epcot

We landed in Orlando at 10:00am. Since we were staying at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort, we got to ride the Disney Magical Express right to the airport and were at out resort by 11:00. We dropped off our extra carry-on bags at bell services and hopped the bus to Epcot. We were there by 12:00. Not too shabby.

At this point, I should probably say that I did a decent amount of Disney research pre-trip. I'm a planner. So I knew that by getting to the park 3 hours after opening, there was a slim chance we were going to get on any of the popular rides like Soarin' or Test Track unless we wanted to stay late - which we did not.

We ended up hitting The Sea with Nemo and Friends b/c the line was 15 minutes (short) and we rode through the aquarium on our motorized half-shell and then hit Turtle Talk with Crush - which was fun. Then we headed up to the World Showcase 9via a splash fountain so Magoo could cool down) and started our tour at Mexico.

I purchased one of those Passports so Magoo could stop in at the KidCot stations and have his passport stamped - and that was great for about four countries - then he got bored with it.

At Norway, Magoo and I rode the The Maelstrom, a water ride through Viking territory, while Mike sought out some lunch in China.

We joined him in China, then coasted by Germany and Italy. Mike and Cam were hot and wanted to get back to the hotel. I NEEDED to visit Japan. It was a MUST for me, so we skipped these other countries.

Japan was GREAT! They had three fabulous Taiko drummers out front, a beautiful koi pond, a gorgeous garden and the STORE! I could have spent hours in that store just looking at the purses and all the awesome fabrics. They had toe socks, origami paper, chopsticks, stationary and about 10 million other things that I love. If the men had wanted to do anything else, I would have sent them off to do it and stayed in this store. But they didn't. They were done and wanted nothing more than the pool at the hotel. So I had to hurry. But it's alright, I did buy myself a small bag, some paper, toe socks, and a lucky cat. And Magoo got some Pokemon cards.

But I had to skip Morocco - boo. (I did get some nice pictures though.)

We took ever-so-brief stops in England and Canada, and basically went back to the hotel.

Photo collage:
Top: Magoo in front of Spaceship Earth, a wall in Mexico, a fountain in Morocco
2nd Row: a garden in China, a gateway into Morocco, Magoo and I in the Japanese garden
3rd row: A giant troll in Norway, Magoo plays in a fountain, koi pond in Japan
bottom: Morocco from afar, taiko drummers, Magoo in Canada

More tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Space Mountain ... 26 years later

On Saturday, I rode Space Mountain.

I had waited 26 years to do it.

Long, long ago, when I was around 13, my mom, step-dad, and I drove down to Florida. On our Magic Kingdom day, my mom didn't feel good. I remember we rode the Jungle Cruise and that was about it. I really wanted to ride Space Mountain, but my mom wasn't up for it. My step-dad didn't like rides. When he was younger he had gotten on one of those spinning swing rides and the demented carny left him on for a really, really long time. As I recall my step-dad said the carny went for lunch. Thinking back, this doesn't seem logical to me. Wouldn't someone notice a swinging chair carnival ride with one crying kid on it? Still, my step-dad didn't like rides - so he wasn't going to come with me. They said I could ride it by myself and they'd wait for me, but the line was 60-minutes long and I didn't want to stand around with strangers for 60-minutes, so I didn't ride it.

I can't say that missing out on Space Mountain put me into a deep depression that I never clawed my way out of. But I can say it was a lame-o trip to Disneyworld. (No fault to Disneyworld.)

However - since we started planning this trip, getting on Space Mountain was my A. Number One Objective.

Space Mountain.
Space Mountain.
Space Mountain.

On Saturday, we arrived at the park at 8am. We were so early they wouldn't even let us in the front gates by then. At 8:30, we got our tickets then waited at the railroad station with the hoards. At 8:50 a bunch of dapper white folks came out to the balcony of the station to sing chirpy, happy songs like "Good morning - good MORning to yooooooooooou." Then the train arrived with Mickey, Minnie, Snow White, Aladin, Donald and the crew and they were jolly and happy and welcomed us to the park (Magoo couldn't have cared less, BTW) and then fireworks went off, the ropes dropped, and everyone scrambled into the park.

I had my map out and anxiously followed the Space Mountain crowd to Tomorrowland. We walked right into the building, through the cow maze, down ramps and up ramps, twisting this way and that, until - finally - we were in the loading room. AHHHHHHH! We got on our rocket - me in the front seat, Magoo behind me, then Mike. And then we launched.

If you don't know - this ride is primarily in the dark. It is extremely thrilling b/c you have no idea when a drop is coming or a tight turn. You're whisked away! My eyes were clutching every bit of strobe or colored lightbulb to try to figure out way laid ahead. It was freaky - in a delicious way. But it was also intense and my mothering instincts kicked in - as I couldn't see or touch Magoo.

And then it was over.

And it was awesome!

This is the picture the ride camera took.

Clearly Magoo is loving it.

And look at my face - I'm like a psycho cheerleader, I'm so excited! (With the shot being so small, you can't really see the look in my eyes - but it's a little frightening - like a zombie salivating over a juicy, juicy brain.)

We had such a great time, we got FastPasses and went on it again. And it was even better the second time around!

So, after 26 years, Space Mountain was well worth the wait.

In other news:
Expect more Disney posts this week, folks. I've have lots and lots more. But I'll try not to be obnoxious about it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Magoo's New Invention

I'm always somewhat amazed by the Lego creations Magoo comes up with. Lately, he has been inventing things with moveable parts. This is what he brought down today.

The thing that impresses me the most is that he's no longer working from kits or instructions. He just looks at the parts he has and starts putting things together. He seems to have a good mind for engineering.

Isn't it awesome?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day Bike Ride

On Saturday (which was not Father's Day, I know, but it was like pre-Father's Day) Mike, Magoo, David Brudz, and his boys: Curly and Mo (and me, the sole female) decided the day was perfect for a bike ride around the reservoir.

(Above) I was coasting along the back taking photos as I rode. Good thing I didn't hit any rocks!

We saw a TON of critters, starting with a black snake, a deer, an egret, some dragonflies (which the boys caught) and this chipmunk. There were actually a bunch of skittering chipmunks, but this is the only little guy who stood still for a photo.

I had to take some photos of the wildflowers, naturally.

I don't know what either of these are called.

We did a bit of mountain biking this time around. I have a pretty green road bike with a lovely basket on the front. It's perfect for cruising through the streets of Paris with a baguette sticking out of the front basket, not for plowing through rocks - but I made due.

The boys did great through the rough terrain. Curly had a minor wipe out - but nothing he couldn't "walk off." Magoo is so good on his bike we're thinking he's ready for gears.

It was certainly a lovely day for a bike ride.

Hope you all had a good Father's Day and a great weekend.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Last Day of School

Today is the last day of school.

It is dark and rainy - dreary - which probably is perfect weather for the way Magoo is feeling. He woke up, teary-eyed. Good-byes are difficult for him. I think he will miss the routine of his second grade class. But most of all, I think he will miss his teacher, Mrs. Amarucci, who he has come to adore.

He's had a wonderful year. In first grade, he had a difficult time adjusting to the work load - in second grade he seemed to embrace the challenge. Writing is still difficult. He has a ton of ideas in his head and has a difficult time recording them (which will improve in time) and organizing them (which we are still working on.) It's a frustrating task for him. And in all honesty, when you sit down and the teacher explains what kinds of things they are looking for in a short essay it's basically a checklist of what makes a good picture book.

Plot with Beginning, Middle, End
Attention to detail
challenges and plot twists

The list goes on. I sit back and think, Do you know how difficult it is to write something like that?

Magoo thrives in math. He loves it. He loves that there is a correct answer and he loves having solid strategies on how to get to it. My boy is a strategy lovin' boy.

He has grown in the way he handles his emotions as well. Yesterday, Mrs. Amarucci pulled me aside to tell me a story. Magoo had been working hard on the final draft of his report on American Rock Snakes. He was almost done when his seatmate, a very sweet girl I will call Opal, sat down next to him and spilled her yogurt all over his paper. Opal felt horrible. She and Magoo took his paper over to the garbage can and cleaned it off as best they could. A single tear ran down each of Magoo's cheeks as he tried to maintain his composure. Mrs. Amarucci came in with a save. She voluteered to type his page for him and he agreed. She was very proud that he did not get angry with Opal and he did not crumble into disappointed tears. He was happy to have Mrs. Amarucci's help, and on his way out of the classroom, he made sure she didn't forget to work on his paper. :)

I have always been thrilled with Magoo's school and all the teachers he has had there, but I think something special clicked with Magoo and Mrs. Amarucci. I think he blossomed under her tutelage and she will maintain a place in his heart for a long time.

Mine too.

Hope all your kiddos had wonderful school years and are ready to kick back and enjoy summer!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Art Class: Review

The end is near.

Well, the end of the school year, that is. I feel a lot of people are in a reflective state right now so I thought I'd jump on board with a review of some of the things the boys and I accomplished during our Sunday Morning Art Classes.

Top: figure drawing, rock painting, sequential story telling
Middle: "stained glass" panels, t-shirt printing, clay magnets
Bottom: origami boats, nature drawing, watercolor landscape

I'm quite impressed with how well the boys did during the watercolor lesson. If we start up again, I'll definitely do more of that. That's not to say that didn't do well at everything I threw at them - they did! But watercolor can be challenging, so my expectations were low. And they certainly shouldn't have been b/c the boys ROCKED IT!

For now, Magoo and I will continue to work on drawing throughout the summer as part of our "summer school" and my friend Heather is GUNG HO to learn watercolor so there will be some informal lessons there.

In other news:

It is beautiful today. I am reading one of my crit partners full manuscript so I will try to take it out in the front yard and enjoy Mother Nature along with a good read.

My hair has started to grow out again, so I'm off to Anna's Hair Perfection to get it snipped and shaped.

I'm in the middle of season two of Californication. I'm really digging it, but it's not a show Magoo can watch, so I'll finish the final disc up in the next 3 days and then it's bye-bye pay-cable TV until next fall.

Have a great day everyone!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Four Necklaces (and a Pair of Earrings)

It was West Hartford's big art show this weekend. I love to go every year and I love to buy things when I can. However, this year everything seemed to fall into two categories:
things I loved but couldn't afford *and* things I could afford but didn't love.

While looking at some of the many jewelry booths there, it occurred to me that I could just go home and make my own necklace. For the record, I like to buy from other artesans, but I'm not dropping $75.00 on a beaded necklace. I'm sorry - I simply can't afford it.

So I left the art show with only one thing, inspiration.

I pulled out my beading box. I looked through all my beads and found some green ones that I had removed from a clunkier piece of jewelry that my mother had not wanted. (At least I think that's where I got those beads.) I pulled out some small silver beads, a clasp, some left over chain link, and a couple of crimping beads and got to work.

Easy peasy. And now I had a new necklace!

That was so gratifying. It was a creative buzz and I was jonesin' for more. I found a large, glass bead and quickly fashioned it into a pendant. (The chain was from another necklace.)

Two necklaces down - but I still had the itch. On Sunday morning I headed out to JoAnn Fabrics to get a few things (foam, t-shirts) and I wanted to get a couple extra findings to make necklaces, specifically bead tips. Bead tips are handy little things let you hide the knot of your string when tying off. Plus, I found these lovely blue/white asian beads (below) and wanted some small deep blue beads to go with them.

Then I came home and made this.

Three necklaces. I felt good. I started taking pictures for the blog, then (when photographing the bead boxes, first photo) I noticed how good the silver leaf beads looked next to the brown beads and inspiration struck once more.

I even had a couple leaf beads left over to make myself a pair of earrings.

Now I am satisfied. I have four new necklaces and a new pair of earrings and it probably cost me no more than $10.00.

Thanks to all the wonderful artists that put up a tent, displayed their works, and sat there for two-days straight. Thanks for inspiring me. Sorry I didn't buy anything. Maybe next year.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Kimono Bookmarks

I found these on the awesomely crafty How About Orange blog and I had to make some for the Japan basket Magoo's classroom was putting together for the school fair.

Here's the tutorial if you want to make a couple for yourself - and why wouldn't you!? I need to make a few for home too. Maybe I'll trim the long hair and use a manly print and make a couple for Magoo as well. (They're a little addictive.)

In other news:
-We made it through the heat. OH MAN was it hot! But I have to say the inside of our house wasn't that bad - well, at least on the main floor. It would get pretty stuffy upstairs and after one night of horrible sleep, we installed the AC into Magoo's room. But the massive electrical storm we had at dinner-time cleared the hotness out and now it's back to a normal June temp.

-Yesterday Magoo and his classmates gave his teacher, the wonderful Mrs. Amarucci, her teacher gifts. It was so much fun to sneak in there and see her surprised face. But great pity and admiration goes out to her, her helpers, and the students, because it was HORRIBLY hot and in that stuffy room. It was a steam room - I'm not even kidding. How they got ANYTHING done is completely beyond me. Hats off to Mrs. A for being an awesome teacher all year long and for powering through in the heat! Magoo has had a wonderful year.

-Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I love when I receive mysterious packages from Viking. They always hold something exciting. Last night the UPS man brought me this, Wink in Hebrew!

Everything is reversed. The binding is on the other side. You read and turn the pages right to left. They reversed all the art. It's kinda freaky to look at it that way, actually.

But coolest of all was that they changed the text on the tiny posters.

Here's a Sumo wresting poster and one for the Lucky Dragon Circus. This is how I made them in the original version.

I was tickled to see that they went it and translated Sumo and Lucky Dragon Circus! And, even though they flipped the art - they didn't flip the Japanese text on the art. That's awesome attention to detail! Well done!

That got me curious about the Chinese edition, because I hadn't noticed the little posters when I flipped through that - but sure enough ...

They translated the posters too!

So cool.

There should be one more translation coming, someday. Indonesian! I can't wait!

In other news:
It's hot.
Wicked hot.
I have all my windows opened right now, but as soon as I return from taking the boys to school I will be closing up the house in an attempt to seal the cool in. Can you say cereal for dinner?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Art Class: Watercolors

It was the last art class of the season and since I had bought some student-grade watercolor paper in January, I decided it was high time to use it. My first thought was to simply teach the children how to make skies with a gradation of blues and then lift out the clouds, but they handled that in 5 minutes. So, while the skies were drying, I pulled out one of my landscape books and we proceeded to work on lovely meadow scenes.

(Above. Magoo laying in a wet-on-wet sky.
Below. Curly dotting on some leaves.)

Magoo had a feel for the looseness of watercolor. Curly had to fight his desire to be precise. Pen and ink is right up his alley. He did great with tiny dots, too. Maybe I should teach a lesson in pointillism next year?

Here's Magoo's finished watercolor. Isn't it lovely? (Unfortunately, I forgot to snap a shot of Curly's. Mo wasn't there due to illness.)

Since it was the last class and I wanted to congratulate them on all their hard work, I made them little gifties: sketchbooks covered in their own art.

Here's a look at all three of them:

I used Mo's flamingo and chameleon. Curly's Mom Juggling Bowling Balls and Old Man. And Magoo had a couple cats in his sketchbook that I scanned.

The tutorial on how to make the sketchbooks is over on Angry Chickens site.

The only thing I did different was scan in the kids' art, color them, and make paper with them. Then I covered the cardboard with the paper before I assembled the books.

They are so much fun to make! I can't wait for things to calm down a bit around here so I can make some more.

To the boys, great job on all your hard work!
To everyone else, Happy Monday!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Beaded Origami Crane: Tutorial

The beaded cranes I made for the Japanese School fundraiser sold well. Imagine that beaded cranes were food and people were starving - that's how well they sold.

On Wednesday - the first day of the sale - all 22 beaded cranes sold. So Mami asked me to make more. I brought 10 into the school that morning, and by the afternoon, they were sold out again. So I made 6 more for the after school sale.

At this time I was starting to get a little anxious because I felt like there was such a high demand for the beaded cranes that I had to spend every freakin' minute I had making them. Plus - the principal of the school had mentioned wanting to place a massive order for cranes as Christmas gifts next year.

This - of course - is all great for the school in Japan, but I hadn't really signed up for this amount of work. To put it into perspective - if I'm only beading the cranes (meaning Mami has already folded them) I can bead 6 - 7 cranes in an hour - without a break. So it took me 3 - 4 hours to bead 22 of them.

You do the rest of the math on that one. Needless to say - I hadn't planned on donating hours upon hours of my time to this project. I just wanted to help out a little. I have things to do people - and they weren't getting done.

So then I took a step back and started to relax. I decided I will make what I can, but I won't let them become a priority or an obligation. I taught Mami how to bead the cranes, so she could help with that part too.

Then I thought - Well hey - if people seem to like these so much, maybe they would like to make them too. So I present, the BEADED ORIGAMI CRANE TUTORIAL!!!

Here's what you'll need:

An origami crane. See tutorial here for folding your own.
2 colorful beads (I like glass beads)
2 small beads (I use gold here, but they are usually gold or silver)
1 slightly larger gold bead (or silver)
a heavy thread like a button thread or thin embroidery floss, cut about an arm's length of it
1 long needle

Thread needle and pass it through the crane. Insert it from the opening in the bottom and puncture a hole in the middle of the back. Pull most of the thread through, leaving only about 3 inches sticking out from the bottom.

Slip on the larger of the gold beads and then 1 small gold bead, like so.

Make a loop with the thread and slip the needle back through the beads and crane in reverse order; small gold bead, large gold bead, crane. Bring the needle back out through the small opening at the bottom. Pull through, but leave enough thread for a good loop on top.

Bead the bottom glass beads. You can do this in whatever order you like. For this crane I went small bead, large bead, then the small gold anchor bead. The small anchor bead will always be last because that's the bead that holds the other ones on.

Run the thread back through the beads - but not the anchor again! Just go back through the glass beads in reverse order. You'll pull the thread out at the top of the bead closest to the crane. That meets up with the other loose end of thread.

Now is the time to readjust your thread so you have a nice sized loop at the top. When you have it how you like it, tie a knot in the two loose pieces of thread, directly below the cranes body. I usually ties 3 -4 knots. Then I snip the excess off.

Tie a knot in the top loop of thread to hold the gold beads in place. And VIOLA'! You have a beautiful beaded origami crane!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Origami Cranes for Japan

One of the other mothers at my son's school, Mami, is from Japan. As you can imagine, the tsunami greatly upset her and she's been doing everything can think of to try to help. She recently had the idea to have the second graders (her eldest is in 2nd grade with Magoo) make origami cranes & swans and she plans to sell them for a dollar a piece to raise funds for an elementary school in Japan. (She and her son are going to visit in July.)

When she ran this idea by me, I volunteered to jazz some of them up and make little ornaments out of them. Then she can sell those for two dollars. So I strung them up and added beads. I think they look great! And I grabbed some branches from the backyard for a "display."

Isn't that green vase nice? I just got that a a tag sale last weekend!

I like the look for this so much that when my vase and branches come back to me all empty - I might make a paper crane tree of my very own to keep in my living room. Maybe Magoo can help me fold some cranes.

In the meantime, if you're around Whiting Lane School, Mami will be selling plain cranes for $1 and beaded cranes for $2 after school for the next week.

In other news:

I have to go to the dentist today. Boooooo. I will be getting either a filling or a crown. Boooooo. I spent a restless night dreaming of being in the chair.

"Is it safe?"

"Is it safe?'

If you don't know what I'm talking about, see Marathon Man.