Archive for October, 2022

Universal Studios Orlando

Posted in Trip on October 29th, 2022 by c-had – 1 Comment

We went to Universal Studios Orlando! We got up early every day to beat the crowds. We took advantage of a very rare 4 day weekend on the school calendar thanks to a teacher work day on Friday and Diwali on Monday. We flew down to Orlando Thursday night for four days of fun in Florida.

Here we are at our hotel (Portofino Bay) waiting for the ferry boat to show up to take us to the park. The three of us have Harry Potter-themed shirts, robes, and wands. And I've got glasses too. And if you want to point out that my robe is not a Hogwarts robe, I'll point out that only the students at Hogwarts wear house robes - professors can wear whatever fits their style 😁 .

Universal Studios Orlando

Inside the gate on the first morning. Ready for fun.

Inside the gate

Jen wore a Potter shirt, but had no robe or wand, so she became the victim/test subject for our spells.


We of course went straight to Diagon Alley to experience some Harry Potter. Once you walk through the brick wall, it's like you're transported to a different world. There's lots of fun things to do, but I was happy just to wander around and take it all in, especially first thing in the morning before it gets crowded.

Of course, we did lots of fun things. Our first ride was the Escape from Gringotts, which was a lot of fun.

Escape from Gringotts

We'd bought wands at Olivander's when we went to Universal Studios Hollywood five years ago. These can be used to cast spells around the Wizarding World. They didn't seem to be working, so we stopped in to Olivander's to get their wands "repaired". They could only repair Leah's, as Molly's wand had been discontinued and they no longer "had the parts" (we think they just replace the wand). Fortunately, after further testing, Molly's wand did work (at least some of the time). She cursed her mom with a weather jinx here.



We spent a while wandering around casting spells and exploring. The girls tried out Sirius's motorbike, though it would be the next day before we got to ride it.

Sirius s motorbike

The dragon on top of Gringotts breathes fire every 10 minutes.

Gringotts dragon fire

After an early morning and lots of exploring, we were hungry. We had a delicious lunch at the Leaky Cauldron. It was authentic British fair, including Fish & Chips, Scotch Eggs, Cottage Pie, and Bangers and Mash. Highly recommended.

Leaky Cauldron lunch

After lunch, we rode the Hogwarts Express from Diagon Alley (part of Universal Studios) to Hogsmeade (part of Islands of Adventure).

Hogwarts Express

First stop was one of my favorite rides: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, where we get to fly around Hogwarts. We'd ridden this in California, and it was still so great. We rode it 4 times over the course of our visit. That was in part because it's a great ride, and in part because our Express Passes meant the line was always super short.

Forbidden Journey

We spent the rest of the day around Hogsmeade in and out of shops, riding Forbidden Journey again, and riding the Flight of the Hippogriff (a kiddie coaster, but we had to ride it anyway). Then we went back to our hotel and ate Italian food at Mama Della's Ristorante (which was excellent).

Saturday morning we got to the park early to go to the most popular (by far) attraction - Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. We got to the park around 20 minutes before the start of Early Park Admission (7:40), were in line by 8:04, and got on the ride at 9:00. Not bad, considering wait times ranged from 120-280 minutes during normal park hours. The ride is the most expensive roller coaster ever built, and it is a lot of fun. #1 ride for both Molly and Leah (and a tie for first for me as well). We managed to ride it a second time Monday morning at park open as well, after getting there even earlier then waiting through a 30 minute ride delay.

Hagrid s Motorbike Adventure

Hagrid s Motorbike Adventure

We rode Forbidden Journey again.

Forbidden Journey again

We then left the Wizarding World to head to Marvel Superhero Island. First stop - The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.

Spider Man

Hulk was our first traditional big roller coaster to ride (Hagrid is so much more than just a roller coaster). It was a lot of fun, so we rode it twice in a row. Leah discovered she's a bit of a daredevil.


We discovered this hot dog place in City Walk (outside the parks). Cheaper, and less crowded. We all ate there Saturday, and the girls at there Sunday as well.

Foot long hot dogs

After lunch we hopped to the other park to check out non-Harry Potter things there. We saw some the Horror and Make-Up show, went on the Transformers ride, rode the E.T. ride, and went on Men In Black Alien Attack.

Men In Black

We went back to Diagon Alley and watched a show. We went on Jimmy Fallon's Ride Through New York and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. We saw the Beat Builders show. And then we headed out of the park for dinner.

We ate dinner at Cowfish in City Walk Saturday night. They have a mix of sushi and burgers, including some hybrids. The girls loved this, and begged us to go back (which we did for our final lunch on Monday).


Molly and I both got Burgushi - burger sushi. These are sushi rolls with hamburger meat in place of the fish. They were fantastic. Molly got The All-American Bacon Double Cheeseburgooshi and I got The Taste Explosion Roll (which it was).


Leah's first time eating special rolls (she's usually more of a simple salmon or tuna roll kind of kid). Fancy sushi

Certified Angus beef, applewood smoked bacon rolled and coated with tempura flakes and topped with Roma tomatoes, jalapeños, pepper jack cheese, then baked. Drizzled with spicy mayo cashew cilantro pesto.

Crazy Burgushi

And some serious milkshakes for dessert.

Milkshakes for dessert

After dinner, we went back into Islands of Adventure to catch the Dark Arts light show (running around Halloween) at Hogwarts, and it was phenomenal. Highly recommend you don't miss it (I assume the other seasonal light shows are also great).

Hogwarts Dark Arts show

Hogwarts Dark Arts show

Hogwarts Dark Arts show

Hogwarts Dark Arts show

Hogwarts at night is truly magical.

Hogwarts at night

Sunday we hit the park early and went to the newest big roller coaster - Velocicoaster. This ride is awesome - one of our favorites. It's so fast, full of thrills, and extremely smooth. We rode it twice Sunday, and a third time on Monday.


On the second ride, I was on the car in front of them, so we aren't in the pic together.

All by myself

Second ride

After Velocicoaster, we continued exploring Jurassic World. First we went on the Jurassic Park River Adventure. This is a fun ride through Jurassic Park, which ends with you plummeting down and getting a little splashed. I thought the little splash was no big deal, but the three ladies in the family decided they needed ponchos. As you can see, Molly decided she even needed to cover her face. She also decided to be fancy and hold up her pinky finger. Leah, on the other hand, looks disgusted. The two of them alone might make this our favorite picture, but several of the other riders added to it the awesomeness as well.

The best picture

I don't know why they decided to make this photo spot, but we took our picture there.

Picture with a Jurassic Park Jeep

We were thirsty, so we ducked over to Hogsmeade for some Butterbeer. We drank a lot of Butterbeer on our visit. Cold (normal) Butterbeer, frozen Butterbeer, and even hot Butterbeer (first time trying it, and it was fantastic).


To finish out the morning, we rode Skull Island: Reign of Kong. Then we headed to City Walk for lunch again (hot dogs for the girls, Bread Box sandwiches for Jen and I). We then hopped to Universal Studios to watch the Bourne Stuntacular (which is really good). Then we rode Rip Ride Rockit - a fun roller coaster with music you pick and a start that has you go straight up before plummeting down. Leah liked it so much she and I rode it twice in a row (Molly took the second time off).

I should mention when I say "we" rode these rides, Jen passed on a bunch of them. She gets motion sickness too easily to ride all these rides, so she was very choosy about what to ride (and never rode anything more than once).

We ducked out of the parks early on Sunday to give ourselves a break. We headed back to our hotel for some pool time. Portofino Bay is probably the nicest hotel at Universal Orlando, so we took advantage of it. The girls really liked the water slide at the pool. But before we got on the boat back to the hotel, we got a picture with the Universal globe.

Universal Globe

For dinner that night we had late reservations at the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. We decided in the end to go ahead and eat pizza at the hotel, then just get dessert at Toothsome. The three of us got some awesome fancy milkshakes - Key Lime Pie, Chocolate X5, and Strawberry Cheesecake. They were awesome (and more than we could handle). Jen got a small white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, which was good too.

Toothsome Chocolate Emporium

Monday was our last day, so was a shorter day. Jen stayed at the hotel to check us out and stow our luggage while the girls and I headed to the park early to ride Hagrid again (once was enough for Jen). After Hagrid's we rode Velocicoaster for the 3rd time. Then Jen met us and we went through the Olivander's Experience where they help one person choose a wand (the inspiration for the wand choosing ceremony at my Harry Potter birthday parties).

Then we went back to Cowfish for lunch. We hadn't planned to go back, but the girls begged us to go again repeatedly, and we eventually relented. If we had one of these near us, they'd want to go there every time we went out to eat. The two of them ordered the same thing they'd had two days ago (Jen and I did not).

Back at Cowfish

Then we headed back to the hotel to collect our bags, head to the airport, and fly home. It was a great trip, though I'm not sure we'll do it again any time soon.

Leah’s 13th birthday party

Posted in Celebrations, Leah on October 29th, 2022 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Leah's party was supposed to be the weekend after her birthday in September, but she turned up Covid positive the day before. So, we celebrated on her 13 plus 1 month birthday instead.

Finally party day

For this birthday, Leah requested a painting party. Jen found online tutorials and allowed Leah's friends to pick the artwork they each wanted to create.

Painting party

Painting and drying

Molly was just as excited as Leah about the painting party. Molly has been taking Art electives in school for many years.

Sisters love painting too

The Step by Step Painting tutorials had great instructions and pictures to follow.

Technology and Art

Ice Cream Love

Tiny mushroom house

Starry Night interpretation

Pink Pig Painting

Serious concentration

A little face painting too

Adding all the details

After a couple hours, we took a break for some cake.

There were gifts.

Gifts from friends

Gifts from friends

Gifts from friends

Our artists were loving their painting time so much that we extended the party another 30 minutes. A group photo (minus 1) of the finished artwork.

Finished paintings

Here are Leah and Molly's final paintings.

Leah s painting

Molly s painting

Happy birthday Leah!