A Travellerspoint blog

Family visitors and Disney World. Yay!!

sunny 33 °C
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In the very last week of August we welcomed our very first Australian visitors, Uncle Jason, Aunty Megan, Sibella and Mitchell and boy were we excited to see them (and the Aussie treats they bought over for us)!! This week was the start of about a month and a half of Aussie family visitors which included a wedding and plenty of sightseeing.

I've been looking through my photos and I realised that I took over 350 photos on our first day at Disney World! That's a lot of photos to choose from in order to tell our story and after realising that I took about the same for our next 3 days a Disney, I decided that instead of one huge post about our 3 1-2 days in Orlando, I'll break it into 4 smaller posts.

The day before we left for Orlando, we hit an outlet mall in St Augustine so our family could stock up on the cheap clothes and shoes. The kids weren't so keen on wandering around but Sibella and Carys were excited to purchase matching school shoes and Mitchell was excited to try some new American candy. We found a Lowly Worm ride and the kids insisted that they all get in together! Nanny Wendy has some very old Richard Scarry Busy Town books that all of her children, and now grandchildren, love reading so of course, they loved riding with Lowly.


We had lunch in St Augustine and squeezed in a Trolley Tour before heading out to a Jacksonville Suns game. The kids and I met Southpaw but the person who took our photo left us with an out of focus shot. The kids loved having photos in a Southpaw cutout though!


The next day, we loaded our cars and drove down to Orlando to start our Disney adventure. We left a little later than we had originally hoped but as we were packing for 2 weeks away, the delay worked out well as we then settled into our Disney themed condo after a 2 1/2 hour drive. We swam in the pool, the kids played in their Toy Story themed room and we took the opportunity to relax and catch up on 7 months apart before hitting the Magic Kingdom the next day.


We arrived at the park not long after opening and we were glad that the crowds hadn't hit peak numbers as we were able to get some great photos of the iconic Disney Castle and surrounding grounds. The parks were beautifully decorated for Halloween and as the day was warming up, we had to see as much as we could before the kids became too cranky, hot and tired. Surprisingly, they walked around all day without complaining, had a fantastic time and loved every second!


After a few rides, we decided to grab an early lunch before the lines became too long. The ladies behind the counter magically knew it was Mitchell's birthday and they sang Happy Birthday to him. We were all impressed!


Our very fun day was filled with rides, parades, snacks, silly hats, character meet and greets and rain threatening clouds. Before we knew it, it was almost time for the nightly parade to start and wouldn't you know it, it was cancelled due to rain :( We decided to head back to our condo to relax and get ready for another fun day.


Posted by dinige 13:04 Archived in USA Comments (1)



Two posts ago, I wrote that Carys was nearing the end of her ISR swimming lessons. This week she finished and although she doesn't like floating (she is scared of sinking), in her final test she was supposed to swim, float, swim to the edge of the pool and get out. Instead of doing this, she swam and then floated around the whole pool, got to the edge several times, pushed herself away and kept floating! This went on for several minutes and after some prompting, she finally got out and ran straight to a water table to play. She was very proud of her first trophy and certificate (as were we), and when we got home, she had another surprise waiting for her.


The next milestone we completed was potty training so another few days were spent at home. Sorry, no photos from that fun time!

As a treat for completing potty training, we all visited an indoor circus. This one was run by the Morocco Shriners, who I guess you could say are a spin off group of the Freemasons. All Shriners are Masons, but not all Masons are Shriners and you can read more about the differences here: http://www.shrinersinternational.org/en/Shriners/MasonShriners/Masons


Yes, that's a real bear! I don't recall her name but she was a European Brown bear, trained by the Rosaire Brothers. Whilst Googling the Rosaire Brothers to find out the name of the bear, I actually found some really interesting history about them and about the history of circus' in America. You can find that info through this article http://www.vice.com/en_ca/Fringes/the-rosaire-family-circus. The Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary is owned and run by the Rosaire Family and seems similar to the Catty Shack Ranch which we recently visited. If we get down that way, I'm sure we'll pay them a visit!

We also went to a birthday party at an indoor bounce house where there were a ton of inflatable castles to bounce around on. I think the only time Carys stopped was to stuff birthday cake in her face before running back out to the castles. She loved it but I was not a fan of some of the items available to eat. Eeew!


Before I start the next blog post, which will be MASSIVE by the way, I'll finish with some photos of Carys and Daddy experimenting with corn flour paint balloons on the driveway. It was raining and Carys really wanted to paint the driveway so we tried filling water balloons with the paint to see what would happen. Some of the balloons popped in Carys' hands, some on the driveway, some bounced and some were stomped on but she had a fantastic time. Her rain gear doesn't fit anymore so we need to buy some more for our next rainy play day!


Posted by dinige 07:59 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Visiting some big cats!

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Still staying close to home, we visited The Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary. We'd heard great things and although the ranch offers day tours and night feeding tours, we decided to start with the day tours. The Catty Shack is a not for profit refuge for lions, tigers, cougars, bobcats and a few others. You can get fairly close to the cats as they are mostly sleeping during the day. One high point during our visit was hearing two of the three male lions roaring at each other, albeit encouraged by the curator Curt. Curt 'roared' at one of the cats who then started roaring at his fellow lion at the other end of the park. It was Apache the cougar's birthday and he was presented with a special cake and present but he was not keen about leaving his den at the time. Perhaps he also wasn't keen in appearing in the documentary that was being filmed at the time!


It started raining right at the end of our tour which was great timing for a little face painting. This was the first time Carys had sat still long enough to have her face properly face painted and she loved the end result!


The start of August saw us watch our first live game of NFL at Everbank Field in Jacksonville. We watched the Jacksonville Jaguars take on the Miami Dolphins in a preseason game. The mascot of the Jaguars is Jaxon de Ville and he is known to somersault backwards off the top of the light towers into the stadium! The game itself goes for about 3.5 - 4 hours because of all the halts in play and although the Jags are usually placed around the lower end of the ladder, it's still great to be able to say we've seen an NFL game. Spectators start leaving the stadium after the first quarter or so if the Jags aren't playing well which can't be very encouraging for the team.

I couldn't believe the number of players they had on the ground (about 60)! They have a complete offensive and defensive team (made up off 11 players each) which they switch if the team with the ball scores or is forced to give up possession, (the offensive team goes on defense and the defensive team goes on offense). During the regular season, the preseason team has been whittled down to the main playing team, hence why there were so many of them at this game. The Jaguars are the team in black, gold and teal.


For the last few months, Carys has been participating in an extracurricular activity through her school called TOT or Teams of Tomorrow. TOT is held at her school for 45 minutes every Friday and Carys loves to sing and bounce her new TOT ball every time she comes home. Halfway through the TOT semester, the kids participate in a half time performance at a local basketball game so they can showcase their newly learned skills. These photos are from the summer session of TOT and it was just a performance for parents. Carys was very excited but as soon as the music started she became very shy and refused to participate with her ball until the very end when it was time to perform with the scarves and ribbons. At least she had fun for a little while!


On the way home from TOT we dropped into her school for their open day and visited Miss Nicole and her horse and pony. Carys loved the horse's blue tail and the fact that she could ride him all by herself!


Posted by dinige 13:32 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Some time at home

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Nigel was coming up to an important milestone in his aircraft training...the end! We needed to spend some time at home so he could finalise his course and help with the process of moving the Squadron into a new building onboard Naval Air Station Jacksonville. Carys was also nearing the end of something very important; swimming lessons! We enrolled Carys in the Infant Swimming Resource method. Although she can't actually swim using strokes, if she managed to get herself in a situation where drowning was a possibility, with these lessons she would be able to get herself into a safe position until help arrived. Obviously this is a great relief to us! We were also preparing to have some family come to stay with us for a few weeks and all of the adventures that go with sharing a new country experience. Here is what we got up to.

We headed off to another baseball games at Bragan Field to watch the Jacksonville Suns. Carys loves to visit the jumping castle and playground when we go but this time she also wanted to try some T Ball.


We had collected a few fireworks to set off on July 4 and from what we understand, the laws here regarding fireworks are quite confusing and each county and state have different rules. This is just my understanding, NOT the actual law so it may be wrong. Don't quote me! Selling fireworks from a registered business is not illegal but setting them off is. A blind eye is turned on July 4 though! Of course, people set off huge fireworks but we weren't willing to take that risk. Naturally, it rained this night so our small celebration was cut short but we were able to alternate setting off our sparklers with our neighbours opposite us and when the rain grew too heavy, we were delighted to join them and their guests for more festivities.


The neighbours!

The first music on the green event for the year was held at the clubhouse of the golf estate where we live and we decided to check it out. It was a lovely warm evening and although I have no idea what the name of the band was, they played a great selection of songs. Carys really enjoyed running around the large open areas and we really enjoyed having a few drinks and a short walk home.


We also experimented with some home made paints during Carys' art and craft time. We used corn flour, water and a powdered cordial mix to make fruit scented paint patterns on the driveway. Our site supervisor was not impressed at the mess (he told me so)!


After our paint dried and we started to clean up, we discovered our paint also made fun crystals for playing with, even more fun!


At 2 1/2 years old, we took Carys to her first ever movie in a cinema, Despicable Me 2 (she called it Spickadle Me!). The prices here for tickets and candy bar are almost half of what we would pay in Australia and for bigger families, even less (i.e, you actually get change from $50!). She picked out her very own booster seat and insisted on carrying our popcorn bucket. She loved her first time at the movies and squealed with delight every time she saw a Minion!


Posted by dinige 16:27 Archived in USA Comments (3)

Baseball and Mermaids? (Part two)

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On the second day of our Tampa weekend, we had planned to do some local sightseeing and a pirate ship cruise. Unfortunately the weather got the best of us and our pirate cruise was delayed so we hotfooted it to find some lunch somewhere near the marina. On the way I found a very interesting vending machine, can't say I was tempted to purchase though!


We found ourselves at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, apparently the largest Bubba Gump location worldwide and right opposite the Gulf of Mexico! Too bad the weather didn't let up so we could enjoy the view.


Mmmm, Coronarita!

After lunch, the weather cleared enough for our pirate cruise to depart. What was supposed to be a two hour cruise of the Intercoastal waterway became 1 hour of cruising and 1 hour tied up alongside when the weather closed in. To their credit, the crew didn't skip a beat and the kids had fun with pirate songs, a water pistol fight, stories of treasure and of course, a treasure hunt. Unsurprisingly, the weatherman that day said the weather would be cloudy, not isolated storms along the coast. Fail!


The following day we decided to get some more sightseeing in before we headed home. We drove around town a bit and decided to take the longer, coastal roads to our next destination. One of the interesting sights of this detour was crossing the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, the 'flag' bridge of Florida.


Our next and final stop before home was Weeki Wachee State Park, the only city of live mermaids! Typically for this weekend, we had to drive straight through a storm whilst driving over a long, barely above the water causeway with thunder and lightning surrounding us.


There wasn't a whole lot to do at the park by the time we got there and because of the weather but there is a natural spring fed waterpark full of slides and small rides, a riverboat cruise, animal shows and of course, live mermaid shows. We were able to watch one of the performances and Carys was amazed to see real live mermaids in the Under the Sea show! Weeki Wachee also runs camps during school holidays for kids wishing to be mermaids for the week.


What visit to a mermaid city would be complete without a photo with a mermaid?


Posted by dinige 15:33 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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