Thursday, December 14, 2017

My Last Afternoon in Florida

As hard as Fitness Camp was (and it was VERY, VERY HARD) -- I was beyond grateful to be there. And one of the things I most enjoyed was the beach...the ocean...the smell...the sand...
We walked on that beach just about every day...
AND I LOVED IT.
Saturday, I went to the gym for the morning workout. Then, I showered and went to this very spectacular event that was taking place just down the road from our condo...
At the Treasure Island Resort -- Sand sculptors from all over the world came to compete in Sanding Ovations...
There was a giant tented craft show/market set up, there was LOTS OF FOOD (which I did not eat),a stage with live music, LOTS OF BEER (which I did not drink)...handmade jewelry, 

But -- mostly -- it was about THESE INCREDIBLE SAND SCULPTORS...

I don't even have words for these amazing works of art. When I got there, the artists were still working on their masterpieces...and my crappy camera certainly doesn't do them justice...

But you will get the gist of it....
Really...I cannot imagine a better way to spend my last day in Florida.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Polar Express GRAND FINALE

I swear...just when you think IT CANNOT GET ANY BETTER -- our Polar Express event GOT EVEN BETTER..!!  Of course, seeing Santa was one of the events.  But I wasn't so concerned with Lilly and Warren seeing him, because they had a Santa visit last week (with their Mom, at the Mall).

Besides, there was a long line outside of the SANTA car...and I didn't want the kids to waste their time standing in a line when there was SO MUCH FUN STUFF TO DO.
One of the things Lilly did in the craft room was write a letter to Santa. She spent a lot of time -- that's GOLD INK she decorated it with, people.
But, as Ritaluck would have it -- at the end our our time at the North Pole -- I realized THERE WAS NO LINE at Santa's special car. So I took the kids over there, hoping he was still in residence...
And he was THE BEST SANTA I have ever met.
Both kids got on his lap, and told him what they would like to get for Christmas.
When Lilly told him she would like a lizard for Christmas, Santa took that request in stride. And he said this,

"A lizard? I will take that into consideration. But here's what you need to know, Lilly. Whenever a child asks for a live animal, whether it is a dog, a cat, a pony, a horse, a turtle, a giraffe or a lizard -- I need to get written permission from a lot of people. Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, your teacher, babysitter, minister and school counselor. It's a lot of paperwork, Lilly, but I'll get it started"

I mean -- HOW GOOD IS THIS SANTA??!! Then, the icing on the cake??

When it was Warren's turn, Santa said, "so, Warren -- you're the one who loves trains?"

Warren's eyes went wide, and he said, "yes"

Then, Santa said, "well, I'm glad you waited to come see me. Because, since there aren't any kids waiting in line -- I have the time to show you something very special. No other little boys have seen this today..."
Then, he reached behind his back -- and pulled out a tiny little music box that had a train going around and around...
THEN -- he asked Warren if he knew what time it was? When Warren said he didn't know -- Santa got out his very special pocket watch. WHICH ALSO HAD A LITTLE MINI-TRAIN...
Wow. I cannot say enough about this event...it was so well organized, so beautifully planned...it went way beyond my best expectations.

Well done, Santa and the whole team at the Polar Express.  The memories we made on that day will last a lifetime.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Polar Express, Part Three

So -- what happened when we ARRIVED AT THE NORTH POLE?? You simply won't believe it...

To get back to our Kick-Off Christmas event -- the wonderful Polar Express Train Ride...

The Polar Express train pulls into a long building (at the other end of the park -- I think the train went around two or three times to give the illusion of traveling to the North Pole)...

It is like cave darkness...and every body gets very quiet...Then -- POOF -- all the bright lights come on, and the music starts to play, and the kids can hardly wait to jump off the train....
This long building has train tracks right down the middle -- with stuff going on on both sides
The kids run up and down, because they can't decide what to see or do first.
There was a Snow Princess, giving out gifts
That was our first stop...
A big attraction was the NINE stations where kids could run the model trains.
And bubbles came down from the ceiling -- giving the illusion of frsh snow
Our favorite was the crafting room
There were so many decorations, and free hot chocolate and cookies...
That blue back drop was the station where a professional photographer took your group picture (yes, that's a guy wearing a kilt)
Everything had lights...the reindeer, dozens of Christmas trees.
The kids got to climb around the caboose
And they took several turns to run the model train boards.
But Warren would just as soon be building his own track system, thank you very much. AND THEY HAD PLENTY OF THOMAS TRAIN STUFF available at various stations...
Honestly, people, it JUST DOES NOT GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS. I have never been to anything that was so well done and beautifully organized. THANK YOU, MOUNT PLEASANT IOWA and all the people at the Midwest Central Railroad...

But we're not quite done.  Really...I haven't even told you about my favorite thing at the North Pole...

Monday, December 11, 2017

2017 Polar Express, Part Two

Sorry...this is the post that was supposed to publish on Saturday.  But it did not.  And I didn't realize it until Monday morning...Which could only mean one thing.  THE CHRISTMAS FESTIVITIES have officially begun, and I'm so busy LIVING my life I don't have time to WRITE about it...

*****************
I wasn't clear about what this Polar Express event was all about. It takes place in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. And it is put on by a non-profit group called the Midwest Central Railroad. They restore old steam engines, and this is their big fundraiser every year. The event is staffed by dozens of volunteers...and here's the experience.
  • You must buy your tickets in advance (it sold out in two days).
  • When you get into town, you pick up your tickets at the South Depot -- which is the old railroad depot, at one end of their centrally located city park. 
  • Your tickets tell you EXACTLY which train car you will be riding in. (there are five passenger cars)
  • Once you board the train, the conductor "punches" your ticket (just like in the movie).
  • When the train starts to move -- there is a recorded voice piped into the cars,  telling the story of the "Polar Express".
  • The rain goes in a big circle around the park two or three times -- creating the illusion of traveling to the "North Pole"....(the windows are frosted so the children can't see they are going in a big circle).
  • When the train pulls into a big long shed at the other end of the park, and everything gets very quiet, and it's cave darkness...
  • Then, the voice announces that we have arrived at the North Pole -- and the music starts to play, and all the lights come on, and when the kids get off the train -- there are a dozen different stations and activities for them to do.
I'm glad we got there early --as the anticipation was terrific...and there was lots for the kids to see and do before we boarded the train.
The kids played under the water tanks...
The windows were frosted for a reason....it's all about creating the illusion...
The old passenger car -- with it's original ceiling.
They know EXACTLY how many people will be on each car.
Lilly and I were both so excited.
But nobody on that train was as thrilled as Warren. When the Conductor came down to "punch" his ticket, he held it up like he knew EXACTLY what was going to happen next!!
But he did not know. None of us knew. This event was SPECTACULAR...

******
MMWI:  224

Friday, December 8, 2017

Grandma Camp Christmas KICK-OFF

Last Saturday, we had the kickoff event for Grandma Camp Christmas. And IT WAS A DOOZIE...Thank goodness for my friend Bonnie Britten, who posted it on Facebook. It is the Polar Express -- an actual train ride...and it's in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.

SIGN ME UP!! 
Warren could not be more excited!!
Lilly and I wore our Ugly Sweaters!!
Fortunately, Uncle Ross is going with us. So Lilly sat up front with Ross, and Warren and I were in the back seat.
This is how he plays Bananagrams...(it was a 3 hour car ride)
Once we arrived, we took some pictures in the gazebo.
It was a beautiful day!!
We picked up our envelope, and got our souvenir tickets.
There were some perfect climbing trees behind the Train Depot
Uncle Ross did NOT like this pre-show activity.
The people were arriving...EVERY SEAT WAS SOLD OUT IN TWO DAYS.
They do this event three weekends in December...so that's 5,000 tickets sold.
The train was coming into the station, blowing it's whistle...
The conductors were dressed up, just like in the movie.
Ross put Warren up on his shoulders so he could see the train.
Our tickets said we were on the "Candy Cane" car. This was SO EXCITING...I worried that the event itself cannot live up to the hype....