Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tagged! Three Lists of Five

Yes, I know, I've been MIA for a while now.

Big deadline coming up SOON, so I'm hunkered down in my writing cave for the time being. But the lovely Diane Craver just tagged me with this interesting meme, so I didn't want to wait to post it.

I am going to list three categories of books.

5 MUST Read Books, 5 Books on Your Nightstand, and 5 Look For These Soon.

Anyone I tag should put these same lists on their blog but SUBTRACT one book from each list and ADD one of their own. (My added titles are in RED.)

Then they should tag at least 5 more bloggers. It will be fun to see how the lists change as it goes around the blogosphere.

Please come back to this post and leave a comment so I can see how the lists are changing as they go around the blogosphere.

Since this is Book Buzz…please keep your lists to titles released in 2007-2009.

MUST Read Books:

Freefall by JoAnn Ross

It Only Takes A Moment by Mary Jane Clark

A Mile in My Flip-Flops by Melody Carlson

Yellow Moon by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Conception by Kalisha Buckhanon

5 Books on the Nightstand:

My Best Friend's Girl by Dorothy Koomson

Sun Kissed by Catherine Anderson

Crazy in Love by Lani Diane Rich

From Harvey River by Lorna Goodison

Trading Dreams at Midnight by Dianne McKinney

5 Look For These Soon:

Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Wanted by Shelley Shephard Gray

Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins

Midnight: A Gangster Love Story by Sister Souljah

The Hood Life: A Bentley Manor Tale by Meesha Mink and De’nesha Diamond

And since I'm on deadline, I'm going to tag anyone who stops by the blog and wants to play. Have fun!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Road Trip Report -- Photo Edition

You know what? I think I'm going to let the pictures do the talking on this post, because I just don't have the words to match these views. Absolutely breathtaking. And the pictures really don't do them justice, either. (At their first view of the Grand Canyon, the kids kept saying, "It's like a painting!" For me, it was the *depth* of the view, which just can't be captured in a photo. But I tried.)





Saturday, August 09, 2008

Freebie Friday Winner!

So here's the Disneyland-themed prize for this week -- a trio of cute Disney gifts! Included is a tin of Disney mints, a magnetic notepad, and a Mickey magnet. And the winner of this prize is:


Jane, please contact me off-list with your address so I can send it your way.

And stay tuned for more road trip reports next week!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Road Trip Report -- California Adventure

When people say they're going to Disneyland, California Adventure is often wrapped up in that statement. After all, it's just across the plaza from Disneyland proper, so why not refer to the whole shebang as Disneyland, like Walt Disney World in Florida encompasses everything from Magic Kingdom to Epcot to that Animal place. :)

Why not, indeed? I dunno. I just wanted to separate the two in my posts because the Disneyland-titled ones were threatening to eat the blog, they were getting so danged long.

My youngest had been itching to hit DCA (Disney's California Adventure) since the minute we turned onto South Harbor Boulevard. See, last year said child was a quarter-inch too short for Grizzly River Run, a fact that was heartbreaking at the time.

This year, the kid topped the required 42 inches by almost two extra inches. And wanted to test out the ride NOW!

So, midway through our second day of the four-day pass, we headed across the plaza to DCA.

Now, DCA is smaller than Disneyland, so it can be a little more manageable. There are a few really popular rides -- Tower of Terror, Soarin' over California, the aforementioned Grizzly River Run, California Screamin', and the new Toy Story Midway Mania. All except Toy Story have the FastPass option, which is lovely. (Although what is it with new rides and no FastPass? Argh, the lines, the lines...)

We did the FastPass tango right away, picking up tickets for Soarin' before going on the ride, and then heading to the far end of the park where California Screamin' is -- right next to Toy Story. Amazingly, Toy Story only had a forty minute wait, so we got in line. (Later, I noticed that the line is set up to hold people in a queuing area across the walkway, which I thought was overkill -- until the next morning. Oy!)

Loved, loved, loved this ride. I'm only sorry it wasn't FastPass-enabled, because I would have been on that thing many times over. It's a 3D ride based on midway games, from balloon popping to plate smashing, and the ride moves from game to game at a really fast pace. It's fun, easy to do (unlike Buzz Lightyear, which frustrates me to no end because I can never tell which little red dot is mine), and a kick in the pants. Big, big thumbs up.

Once done with that, we got FastPasses for California Screamin' and headed over to Grizzy River Run for FastPasses/first ride, too. As expected, youngest child LOVED it.

Hint of the Day, part one: If you have anything in your possession that can't get wet, they evidently have lockers available for short-term use. I didn't know that until it was too late to make a difference. A good alternative is to carry ziplock baggies to put your camera, phone, etc. in so they stay dry, even if you don't. And you will get wet. After one ride, my DH and I didn't fully dry out for about five hours.

The next day, we went back to DCA at opening, which is later than Disneyland -- 10 am at the time we were there. We got there at about 9:15, hoping they might let us in early even if the rides weren't open yet. Sure enough, they opened the gates, then told people to follow the signs to Toy Story if they were interested in getting in line.

We wanted to give it another go, so we got in line, fairly close to the front. A cast member led us through the park, along paths I'd never seen before (someone joked that they were just yanking our chains, making us take the longest possible route to see if we'd follow), and then made us stop for about fifteen minutes.

Right before "opening", they led us to the ride itself, weaving the line through the many twists and turns to get to the entryway. At one point I looked back and the line behind us stretched over the bridge and past the point of visibility. We guesstimated there were over a thousand people waiting at that point.

Very, very glad I didn't wait to get in line.

Had another great day at DCA, skipping the shows for more time on the rides (though if we go again in the next year or so, we'll definitely make time for Aladdin. It's a great show.). At about five that evening, we decided to head to Tower of Terror for our last ride. It was so empty, we rode it four times in less than an hour. Walk in, go on the ride, walk out, go around the corner and walk in again. It was great.

Tip of the Day: Multiple rides in a row can be great fun. If you're lucky enough to happen upon a favorite when there aren't many people waiting, go for it!

And to that cast member who singled me out in the front row the last time through during the "no photography or videotaping" spiel, staring at me and saying he didn't want to see anything about the ride on my MySpace page, here's a message:

Nope, no MySpace. But you never said anything about Blogspot. So there. ;)

Tomorrow -- first Road Trip Report winner!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Book BIN Tuesday -- The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland

Yes, I'll post part two of the Disneyland report sometime today (maybe late -- kids are still home for the summer, but DH is back at work!), but I didn't want to neglect Book BIN Tuesday, either. So in keeping with the theme of the week, my recommendation today is The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland.

I've used this book on every trip to D-land (three in the last four years!), and it's a lifesaver. Want to avoid long lines? Wondering what rides will make you toss your cookies? Trying to find a hotel you can walk from to the park (instead of driving or taking a shuttle)? This is the book for you.

One big help I learned about from this book -- the Baby Pass. Do you have a kid too short to go on one of the rides? Or a youngster who trembles at the thought of going in the Tower of Terror? Here's the scoop -- get in line as a family. At the first Cast Member, tell them you need a Baby Pass. (Or Kid Pass if your little one might get offended at the title.) You'll receive a slightly-larger-than-index-card-sized form good for some serious line-skipping. One parent goes on the ride with any/all child(ren) tall enough to participate. As soon as that parent is done, the second parent can jump ahead, either by getting in the Fast Pass line or going up the exit ramp or whatever the form tells you to do. It's good for up to two people, so if you have one child that's not riding and one that is, the one who is can go twice in a row. Bonus!

That way, you don't have to stand in line twice to get everyone on the ride who can/wants to go, and the kid who can't/won't ride doesn't have to stand around twice as long waiting for everyone else to get done. Pretty cool, huh?

So if you're going to D-land, pick up a copy of this book. They update it every year or so with new info. You may not need to Buy It Now, but if/when you have a trip in the offing, be sure to Buy It, er, Then! :)

Friday, August 01, 2008

Can You Keep a Secret?

That was our challenge this year for vacation. See, we took the kids to Disneyland. And didn't tell them until we got there.

Yeah, they noticed that we were planning a trip -- kinda hard to hide something like that -- but we'd always wanted to surprise them with Disneyland and knew this would be our best year for that. So while the DH and I were on our way back from a much-needed couple vacation early in the month, we were brainstorming how to get them all the way to southern California without tipping them off.

"I know!" One of us said. "Let's tell them we're going to the Grand Canyon!"

Not that Anaheim is truly on the way, but it'd work. Eventually, though, we realised that we'd have to do better than just come up with an alternate, fake destination. No, we'd have to really take them to the Grand Canyon.

With a five-day detour along the way.

No hardship, really. I've never been to the Grand Canyon, so I was pretty excited about heading there as well. But it was funny to see our jaunt to CA turn into a twice-as-long road trip throughout the Southwest, all for the opportunity to surprise the kids.

And the surprise? We made it to South Harbor Boulevard, the road running right in front of Disneyland, without any of them figuring it out. Once or twice they'd say something like, "Hey, isn't this the hotel we stayed at last time we drove to Disneyland?", but it would be quickly forgotten in the grand scheme of things. In fact, we had the kids hunting for a Cold Stone Creamery as we took the exit to D-land, and the older two missed the visual clues at first because they were searching for ice cream. It took the four year old to yell out, "Isn't that the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror?", to which we replied, "Surprise!"

The looks on their faces were totally worth it.

Next up: The Disney Report