Not So Little Anymore

(updated below) 
The little girls are growing up.
Baby Leanne - 5 already! - loves her karate classes.
Leia, 7, is almost done with 2nd grade.
And Addy, 9, has decided she's going to work for NASA some day. While playing with her awesome Mission Control board, she yelled, "Get off the moon! A meteor is coming! Geez this is going to be so much paperwork!!"

UPDATE! "Addy's class nominated her the most likely to be a Mars Astronaut!" 


Harry Potter Land

On Wednesday we borrowed both girls and headed for Universal Studios. 
They were sad about missing school (not!!) 
but put on a brave face and tried to enjoy the day.
We'd hoped to get to Hogwarts before the crowds but . . . .
yeah, we missed that window. 
The place was packed. 
We stood in line for one ride, took a few pictures,
then fled to the relative sanity of Minions and the tram tour.

Leia had been to Universal with us in January 
but this was Leanne's first trip. 

She was a little overwhelmed by all the noise, people and activity,  

holding tight to my hand most of the day 
and flat refusing to have her picture taken with any of the characters we saw (unlike Leia, who wanted her picture taken with EVERYONE!)
The girls danced their way through lunch,
ate ice cream (and churros with chocolate sauce - yummmmm!),
then we went back to Harry Potter land 
- where the lines were much shorter, thank goodness! -
to get Leia the magic wand she'd been talking about all day. 
Leanne decided she'd rather have a giant stuffed unicorn - guess she doesn't see herself in a wizarding role quite yet. 

Overall we had a fun day. Hogwarts was a bit overwhelming with the crowds and constant noise; I'd like to go back at 8 one morning - when they let season pass holders in an hour before official opening - to explore the stores and rides. There isn't a lot to Harry Potter land - only 3 rides and the short show at Ollivander's before you pick out your wand - but the atmosphere and set decoration are first rate. We'll definitely be back.


Almost Baby Time

The latest pics of Jaclyn Rose.

We'll get to meet her sometime around June 25.

Leanne plans to call her baby sister "Rosie". Personally, I'm voting for "JacJac".




After traveling all day Tuesday, we expected to have Wednesday as a recovery day. Wrong. It was better - a grand-girl day!
Leanne has turned into a puzzle solving wiz. 

We surprised Leia at school, then took her for an afternoon of miniature golf before she headed off to her school's open house. Dinner and a sleep-over with Leanne finished off the day.
Thursday we headed for the Apple Store in Simi to get hubby's phone functional again*. And since Leanne's favorite train was right there, she and Pop went for a ride around the mall. And I was a nice person and didn't take a picture as hubby oooooozed himself out of the train car afterward, holding his poor abused back. Those train seats are hard!  
*Turns out that changing sim cards is super easy; who knew? (Probably everybody but us.) 


At Sea and On Land

Finishing up our week at sea:

Formal dinner #3; the Scarlet O'Hara painting (my 2nd favorite picture of Queen Elizabeth); looking down in the Grand lobby; bronze wall outside the Golden Lion Pub; sparkly chandelier. 

Fantastic food has been a big part of our voyage. Triple chocolate mousse dessert during our last formal dinner; sculpted hen (bread) in the Kings Court buffet; fruit carving also in the buffet; beef tenderloin with mushroom and asparagus in Britannia dining room; our table number.

English afternoon tea, with harp accompaniment, on our last day at sea. Tomorrow New York and the long trip home.
It's cold on the top deck at 5:30 am!; Queen Mary 2 in lights; smokestack and bridge; Statue of Liberty. 
Our bus driver decided the fastest route from the docks to JFK was through Manhattan. And he pointed out sights along the way. Best bus ride ever. Carey tunnel - we spent 20 minutes under water here; World Trade Center fountain; original Macy's; skyscrapers; roses growing in the street median - red in front, pink in back; New Yorker; NYFD; Macy's entrance; NY street; Queens tunnel.

Time to come home! 


At Sea

We boarded Queen Mary 2 in Southampton on Tuesday and spent the afternoon unpacking and getting acquainted with our home for the next 7 days.

From top left: mandatory lifeboat drill; our stateroom and balcony; view of Southampton from our room; after our taxi ride from Portsmouth; the 2-story Grand Lobby.

First day at sea: first formal dinner; the long corridor on Deck 6; attending a lecture in Illuminations (which is also the Planitarium); sunset on the Atlantic.

Second sea day: my favorite portrait of Queen Elizabeth on the wall by the Purser's office; our 3-level dining room, the Britannia; second formal night - don't we look spiffy?; Sandy and I played bingo, and lost of course.

Third day at sea: reading in the Winter Garden after lunch; first blue sky we've seen - it's been overcast and gray seas until now.

The food is fabulous; our room is spacious and comfortable; and we are really getting into this relaxing thing. My only complaint is the difficult and tricky internet connection. There's no connectivity in any stateroom (unless you prop open the hall door and that's still iffy). It's better in public rooms but still slow and tricky. Oh well, guess I'll have to read a book instead . . .



Not London

We talked about going to London for a day, but in the end we decided to go the opposite direction - Cardiff, Wales.

We took the train west, following the locks and canals to Westbury where we changed to the Bath/Bristol/Cardiff train. What we didn't know about was the big rugby match in Bath - and Westbury was where everyone changed to the Bath train. The little 3 car train pulled into the station, already full with people standing in the aisles. Then the hundred or so people milling about the platform (including us) pushed their way onboard. Two more stations before Bath; each loaded with people trying to get on the Bath train. It's been a long time since I've been that close with so many total strangers. Everyone was in a good mood though, laughing and joking - apparently the train situation happens every. time. there's a match in Bath.

When we finally reached Bath we again boarded the big red hop-on and -off bus.

The city overview was interesting - the newer parts of the city are built on land reclaimed from the sea. City hall, courts, the BBC (Sherlock and Dr. Who are filmed here), all have beautiful views of the ocean from land that used to be ocean.

Our first stop, post-bus, was Cardiff Castle.
We got to the ticket counter one minute before the behind-the-scenes house tour started. So glad we didn't miss it - the tour and guide were exceptional.
All written materials throughout the country are in both English and Welch. Our guide said students are taught both languages until they are about 16.


The original keep was built by the Normans around 1081.

In 1865, the 3rd Marquess of Bute began a 16-year restoration that turned the castle into the neo-gothic masterpiece it is today.

As our Castle guide said, anything you think is gold, is gold. 24K gold plate was everywhere.

Ceiling of the gentlemen's smoking room.


Each room we visited had a theme, usually from the Bible. The ceiling, walls, tiles, windows, were all painted to reflect that theme.

Fireplace in the smoking room.

It was amazing and gorgeous and outlandish.

Ceiling of the banquet hall.
Stained glass windows with Wales dragon in the Marquess' bedroom.

The Bute's money came from the vast coal reserves they owned throughout Cardiff.

Carved walnut wall in the banquet hall. Hubby was in awe.

The 3rd Marquess was one of the richest men of all time, far richer than Bill Gates according to our guide.

And that kind of money can buy some impressive things. The Marquess' bathroom is a great example - hot and cold running water in the 1860's. Nice!

We also climbed the 44 stairs into the old Keep,

then the 30-something stairs to the upper rooms. (And I have the knee brace to prove it . . . . )

I drew the line at climbing the spiral stairs to the tower roof,

but brave hubby got some great pictures from there.

Evidence of older walls and buildings has been kept and used in the current Castle.

The wall behind the gift shop shows how thick the old Roman wall was;

and the red line around sections of the outer wall show the original Roman sections.

We spent a lot of time at the Castle - it was just so interesting! - and didn't have time to do much else.

The center dome is City Hall; the dome on the far right is the museum.


We walked past City Hall,

where brides and wedding parties were constantly coming and going,

on our way to the National History Museum, where we had about 45 minutes to admire their collection of paintings and antique silver. Then it was back to the train station for the much more peaceful trip home.

Cardiff is another place where I really (really, really) wish we'd had more time. We'll need to come back and see the rest of the country too.

Brewery we spotted outside the train station. Brains and beer. How can you go wrong??