Monday, 30 April 2012

Short and Sweet.

 It appears my rheumatoid arthritis is in need of having a greater presence in my life at the moment.  So apart from taking the children to their various activities I am not doing too much at all.  Still no reason to not count my blessings though.

740. More time with my mum and my neice, out for lunch this time with my two as well - such healing.

741.  A Doggy who will curl up with me.

742.  The persistant rain makes me feel not so bad about not getting into the garden to work.

743.  My lovely lightweight kindle.

744.  Film night with my hubby.

745.  Freedom.

746.  The protection of God's loving arms around not just my body but my heart and soul as well.

747.  Our NHS and my medication.

748.  Phone calls and dates with friends made.

749.  Frank discussions about house buying with my mum.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Too Spoilt

While in Florida 'The Sunshine State', I was allowed a luxurious hour and a half in a craft shop with my daughter.  Everything comes bigger over there even the craft shops.  I could have spent a lot longer browsing but knowing where my weaknesses are I decided to give lots of the fabric aisles a very wide berth so that I was not too tempted.  Something I did find was the yarn that I have made into a crocheted dishcloth.  It is Lion Brand Recycled cotton yarn and is aptly named Sunshine, now whenever I go to the kitchen sink a little bit of Florida Sunshine shines up at me :o).

It was lovely yarn to work with and I will definitely do some investigating to see if I can get some more of it, here in the UK.

Another little project I have been working on this week is this:
I bought a knit and crochet magazine which came with this yarn plus a blue and a red, the colours really sang out to me.  However once I started to use the yarn (100% acrylic) I realised just how spoilt I have become using mostly organic cottons.  It was scratchy and difficult to keep the tension  with (hence the wobbly look!). I decided to make a little project bag as I am getting into the habit of having several projects on the go at once (this helps me to craft a little longer each day without too repetitive movements making me stop).  With more than one project I seem to be constantly getting my yarns, crochet hooks and bits of crochet all tangled up.  This little bag will just do the trick and I have lined it with some fabric that came from the above named shop in Florida so that my hooks do not fall out!
And look there is another little project ready to find a home in here already using Sirdar Simply Recycled cotton - can you guess what it is going to be.  Maybe it will be in my next post.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Monday Grattitude.

I might not have been writing down my blessings on a Monday, but this is becoming such a way of life since I started counting with Ann Voskamp (press the link at the bottom of this post).  I would still very much like to get to 1000 though!

730.  Internet shopping for the few bits that I need avoiding going to the shops and seeing things that I don't need.

731.  Chatty phone calls with my niece.

732.  A job that allows me to get over my jet lag with flexible hours.

733.  A nice tidy desk ready for a new term.

734.  Several crochet projects on the go at once.

735.  Pinterest - I'm loving all the ideas it is generating in my head.

736.  Stag Antlers!  A cheap, environmentally/animal friendly dog chew which my puppy dog adores and is going to save me A LOT of money on not giving her a daily chew that she consumes quicker and quicker when we leave her.

737.  Giggling girls eating together in a restaurant.

738.  Snuggling in bed with my duvet after the heat of our holiday.

739.  Facebook scrabble - I missed you!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Remembering Discovery Cove - Florida 2012

At the end of March it was my daughter's 11th birthday.  We booked our long trip to Florida purposely to fall over her birthday as this was the first one she was going to have by herself for some years.  Until  May last year we had my niece living with us who turned 15 years old on the same day.  Wasn't that clever of my sister and I to both have our baby girls on the same day!  After all the trauma of particularly this last year, this birthday needed to be different.  I ensured that my niece would be getting a good day with at least one visitor back at home.

We booked the holiday back in August last year.  The idea for what we did to celebrate this birthday did not come together until just a month before we went.  My mother gave us a special monetary gift just at the time when we were trying to decide whether we could afford to do this special thing or not.  When we told her about it, she was delighted that the gift would go towards it.  So what did we do?  We swam with dolphins.

Discover Cove opened in 2001.  I have heard lots of very mixed reports about it.  The cost is one thing people always comment on, it is very expensive, however being there convinced me that the money is being spent well.  Keeping the dolphins working and captive is another report I had heard, however many of their 44 dolphins have either be born there or are rescued from other zoos/parks/rescue centres.  Back in 1998 my husband and I swam with dolphins in the Florida Keys and we knew this experience would not be the same as that.  This was part of the reason why we did not try and repeat that experience, we swam in very deep water, snorkeling to keep up with the dolphins, which would have been far to difficult for an 11 year old.  So what did our experience consist of.......

All food and drink for the day is included in the package, it is all buffet style and there was plenty of choice (even for us fussy vegetarians!).  We therefore arrived at 8am ready for breakfast, we had to queue for a while to get our photo passes completed and our time for our dolphin experience to be booked in.  Then straight to the restaurant to eat pastries, french toast, cereal, yoghurt and fruit.

Our time with the dolphins was to be around 12.30pm, so we found a nice shady spot and made up a little camp for the day with some chairs and sun loungers.  Then it was time to go and get changed and measured up with either a wet suit or vest for the day.  I opted for the vest (the easiest to wear by far), but I encouraged the others to wear wetsuits as this gave them good coverage to protect from the sun which we would be in all day.  We picked up our little bags, containing snorkel, mask and dolphin friendly suncream and we were all set.

There is a large lazy river/reef that goes around the park.  This is shallow enough for fun snorkeling for the children and challenging enough with deep areas in the river to stretch their swimming skills (though floats are available).  It was a lovely 30 degrees temperature (the same as our pool at the villa) and was terribly inviting.  The children spent most of their day in here, no wave machines, or slides, just snorkeling fun.
 There was also a beautiful aviary area, with lots and lots of very unusual birds, there were pots of food available and we saw many people with birds on their hands having their lunch.  I watched mesmerised by one very small bird that managed to eventually get through a whole grape which was probably bigger than it's head!  My husband managed to catch this wonderful peacock in all his glory:
The drinks,slushies, icecreams and snacks that were on offer kept us well topped up so that we decided we would have a late lunch after our dolphin experience.  We had been watching other people having their experience and so the children particularly could see exactly what they were going to be doing.  We were given an allocated time to go to a particular area where we had to sign disclaimers and watch a safety video.  This briefing was very well done and I was most impressed with their care for the animals.  One large family in our group had their time delayed because one of their allocated dolphins had gone to sleep!

We were paired with another family of four and led to our area in the large lagoon.  The trainers were very knowledgeable and we were able to ask all sorts of questions.  The dolphins were gently introduced to us by swimming along in front of us all and we were encouraged to put our hands out to stroke them.  We were in water that was waist/chest deep on the children, it has to be said it was very cold even with wetsuits on, this is obviously what is necessary to keep the animals happy.

We were then given the opportunity to watch the dolphins do a few movements and to give them instructions on how to do some as well (like splashing us all).  There was then the chance to give one of our dolphins a kiss, we had an older one and a teenager swimming with us, the teenager did the fin pull swim with us, while the older one lay on his back letting us rub his tummy!

Here are a few more pictures:

There was also another lagoon full of fish and rays, I didn't go in here, swimming with fish is not my idea of fun, no idea why dolphins is okay and little fish not but there you go.  My son and husband went and swam in here and said the experience of gliding above rays whose fins stretched out as wide as their arms was amazing.

This is not the sort of treat that we would try and do again soon,  I hope one day when the children are older they might like to either go and do this again or do the experience that we did down in the Florida Keys.  For the healing and memory making experience we wanted this to be - it far succeeded all we could have imagined.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Back home.

We got back home 4 days ago and I am afraid I am still suffering terribly with jet lag.  We have had three weeks in Florida, just the four of us.  It has been a great family bonding experience after all the upsets of the last 3 1/2 years.  It felt very decadent to be in such a large villa (one husband and I stayed in years ago before we had children with friends) by ourselves.  However God knew what we needed and he provided it!

I have been ruminating about how write about it when we did so much so have decided to do it in the form of reviews of the various places we went.  There were only two parks that we went to and only spent one day at each these were Discovery Cove and Seaworld.  The rest we dipped in and out of over several days (and for some, weeks).  I thought I would start today with Epcot.  This was the first place we visited at the request of the children.  We had arrived very late on the Saturday night, spent Sunday stocking the cupboards and swimming in the pool and by the late afternoon were ready to go and start investigating Walt Disney World.

You can find a map of the Epcot park here.

This turned out to be our most visited theme park of the holiday.  It is the largest in size and is dominated at the entrance by a huge ball which houses a ride called Space Ship Earth.  This turned out to be our most ridden on ride, partly due to the fact that we never had to queue to go on it!
This ride takes you on a steady tram ride round and round the inside of the ball with a display of videos and animatronic tableaux giving a brief history of the world, from the big bang to cavemen, to Egyptians, to the first books, radio, film, computers until you finally reach the top of the ball where you get an amazing sight (not going to spoil it for those that have not been).  There is then a slow descent back which is done backwards, to keep you entertained they now have a touch screen video in each little 2 seater car where you can explore what the earth might be like in the future.  This was great fun and very much a favourite thing of my 11 year old daughters.

Around this area are several innovations areas which have all sorts of computer games and learning experiences which are great fun when it was not to busy.  We did come across on our final visit to this park an area where you could build your own roller coaster and then get into a simulator and ride it - this looked incredible and we wished we had found it earlier, as the queue was too long.

To get around queueing when we were in the Disney parks for more than a couple of hours, fast passes were brilliant.  These enabled you to get an hour slot when you could by pass the main queues (some of which were 2 hours long!) and do your ride with very little queueing.

We were pleased to find Ellens Energy Adventure still there, this is another very low thrill tram ride and I am amazed at how much the children learnt about energy.

The world showcase takes up more than half of the parks site and is situated all the way round the big lake.  You go from country to country getting a taste of building and life styles.  Most of the countries had restaurants in them (and shops, lots of shops).  A few had rides or shows, we didn't go into them all but had a good walk around the whole area.
This is Germany.

This was China.

There were several other areas that we looked at - Living with the Land is an area where lots of scientific work is being done on genetically modifying plants to grow in certain ways as well as using different growing materials such as hydroponics.  My son was not that impressed especially as the ride that took you gently around the whole area was on a boat, the irony of it not being land was just too much for him.  We had hoped to book a table at the Garden Grill restaurant here as we had very fond memories of visiting it 14 years ago.  Sadly we could not get a table even 3 days in advance at a time that suited us.  However this did mean that we got to eat at the canteen style restaurant in this area that still used fresh food grown on site.  We were so pleased to find this gem, not only were the prices far more affordable than the main restaurant but it also had a huge vegetarian choice, I had vegi sushi, my husband a Moroccan vegi filled wrap, my son a sort of tapas and my daughter stuck with an egg salad - all were satisfied.

This area also included the Soarin' ride.  This was fantastic, you sat in rows rather like being suspended in a seat under a hand glider and were then rotated and raised so that you were in front of a huge video screen flying over California, this was definitely one of my favourites.

Another area was all about space, here you found the mission space ride

I know lots of facts about this ride due to my son swallowing a guide book while we were away, it was fascinating learning the history of the rides but I will not try and bore you with it all now.  This ride split in two you could go on a green ride or an orange ride, we opted for green to start with.  You were directed into little 4 seater capsules which felt very much like you were in a space ship before the screen in front  of you took you on a launch and trip through space before landing.  It was a very confined space and dark but the simulation was quite gentle and we loved pressing all the buttons (which were just for playing with :o).  My husband and son then went on the orange ride and reported back that it was just the same except it spun you round a bit as well when you were taking off.  This did not sound too bad - so my daughter and I thought we would give it a go. Big Mistake, I ended up feeling very ill as the G-force the spinning caused was horrendous!

Having had previous experience of the parks we knew to take our own food in with us, when we could and although it is only Spring the temperatures were well in the 80's most of the time and having cool spray stops like the one above were very welcome.

Other adventures we enjoyed in this park were:

Maelstrom - a very small log fume type ride in Norway where the trolls tell you to 'Go Back' and so you do.

Reflections of China - a 360 degree cinema taking you around the Great wall of China and other areas in China.

Test Track - this ride is brilliant and we finally got my daughter on it on the last day, hubby managed to film this little bit of her enjoying a 60 mile an hour test on the track - a great family ride:

The seas with Nemo and friends - another very gentle family ride watching Nemo and friends having an adventure, ending with very clever cartoons being shown on the front of a real aquarium.

Turtle Talk with Crush - it took some persuading the children to go on this as it looked very much for little children, I had to confess I was a little apprehensive as well.  However it turned out to be so much fun.  You get deposited into a human tank and a Crush the surfer dude sea turtle from Nemo comes and has a chat with you.  He is a cartoon but he is working in real time, asking questions of real people in the audience.  The answers to the questions were responded to individually and then the children were invited to ask their own questions of Crush.  The facial expressions and funny answers that Crush gave made it absolutely hilarious as well as technically very very clever.

The first and second to last night we spent watching the amazing fireworks.  To get a great place around the lake to watch them,  I sat and kept a space while husband took the children off to do things for another hour.

The wait was well worth it.
I wonder where I might tell you about next..........

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Easter Worship

We were in a bit of a quandry about what to do on Easter Sunday morning.  It is such a special time of celebration for Christians, that being on holiday was not a good enough reason to let it pass by.  None of us fancied trying to find a church, I didn't want to be going to a theme park.

In the quiet I felt the prompt of His Holy Spirit to go and see the sunrise over the Atlantic ocean, something that is not possible in the UK.  We had planned to go to the Kennedy Space Centre at some point and as that is by the coast a plan came together.  My dear husband did a search on the map to find a good place to go.  We ended up at Jetty Park and when we arrived we noticed there were lots of people despite the very early hour.  It just so happened that the local church were having an outdoor sunrise service.  The beach was big enough to accommodate everyone with some personal space, the added bonus of worship songs playing was fab.

It has been quite difficult to get into Holy Week, away from home and friends. However being forced to rethink and spend time alone with God has been great.

What I was not expecting while reflecting on the glory of the sunrise I was watching in the photo above,  considering that morning when Mary went to the tomb was the shadow of grief that passed over me.

Grief is a funny old thing.  As time passes you get used to the fact that the world is different when wearing grief glasses, you get used to that being the normal.  However I now seem to going through a new phase of grief shadows.  I don't know how long they are going to keep me, sometimes they are long  and sometimes they are short.  This Easter Sunday it was thankfully short, though the intensity of loss was deep.  So much has changed since last Easter, important people in my life are now missing.

The tears that flowed so freely were so welcome that morning, being on holiday has been stirring lots of memories and emotions but the release of tears had not come.  Praise Jesus for the freedom and release he gave us by his ressurection.