Friday, August 22, 2014

Phantom of the Opera

Last night I was able to escort Yiayia and Nana to Winspear Opera House in Dallas to see Phantom of the Opera. It was my first time at Winspear and my second time to see Phantom. Nick took me the first time see it at Music Hall in Fair Park for our first anniversary. I loved it - the music is so beautiful! I love the sets, the costumes...everything. It was neat to see a different company's rendition, as some of the sets were different, costumes varied slightly, and of course each individual performer has their own spin on the character. It was a beautiful night!
I pretty quickly learned that when you visit Winspear, it's cold in there! The a/c came out from under our seats and blew on the backs of our legs. Yiayia and Nana bother wore slacks, but I had on a dress and my legs were freezing all night. I had to go outside during intermission to warm up. In the future, should I ever find myself at Winspear again, I will wear slacks...and boots...and thick warm socks.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Galveston Vacation Day 5

Time to leave had finally arrived, and we decided to do a little sight seeing on the way back rather than just drive straight home. It probably made us a little more tired than we needed to be, but we had a lot of fun on the way.

We left our hotel around 11:30 and decided to grab lunch before making our way over to the San Jacinto Monument. Standing 567.31 feet tall, it commemorates the site of the Battle of San Jacinto, a decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. It was constructed between 1936-1939 and is the world's tallest masonry column. By comparison, the Washington Monument is 555.427 feet tall.  We toured the museum at the base of the monument and then took the elevator up to the observation deck, 489 feet up. 

 Next we drove over to see the Battleship Texas across the street. We decided not to pay to actually walk onto the ship because it was so hot by then, and standing on a large steel structure in the heat is not my idea of fun. So we looked from the sidelines, bought a couple of small souvenirs to support the site, and walked around the grounds for a little bit looking at some of the tombstones in the area.
 We hit the road for Huntsville next so we could stop by the large Sam Houston statue that sits on I-45. Mom never knew you could actually walk up to it and that there was a visitor's center back there. We didn't stay long because everyone was tired, but it was a nice little stop anyway.
 After that it was one more stop for a bite to eat when we hit Corsicana and then on home from there. 9.5 hours later I walked in the door to my house. It was a very long day but a great way to end our vacation week.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Galveston Vacation Day 4

Our original plan for Thursday was to return to the beach, however Kate and Trey both decided they had had enough of the beach. Trey was starting to get just a tad too red, and Kate scrunched up her face and said "That water is just so.....salty. It gets on my skin." So rather than drag them both out there and listen to them complain all day, I decided to take them to the Moody Gardens Aquarium. Mom and Richard headed back to the beach alone for the afternoon. But before we could leave for the aquarium, we had to go downstairs and play putt putt on the hotel's free course. It was Kate's first time playing. Her form needs a little bit of work, but I think that's Daddy's domain so I just let her do her thing.
The Moody Gardens grounds are pretty awesome - very nice landscaping and three pyramids housing different attractions. The aquarium is located inside the big blue pyramid. Right away Kate was super excited because of that. When you enter the aquarium, you are not on the bottom level of the pyramid but up towards the top, and the different areas of the aquarium sort of spiral off from this central lobby.
Because of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, the aquarium gave us each a shark passport to get stamps in as we toured the facility. They also had a special shark exhibit, although it could be something that is always there and I just assumed it was special. I really have no idea. It was cool either way. The kids enjoyed looking for the stamp stations, and we even had to go back through the whole aquarium once we finished because we had somehow missed a stamp.
After the aquarium, we had some time to kill before we needed to meet up with Mom and Richard for our evening bay cruise, so the kids and I headed down to the seawall to get some ice cream and walk around a little bit. They wanted to walk out on a fishing pier to watch the waves (which were much bigger than Tuesday when we were at the beach, so they really would not have enjoyed themselves) so we attempted to do that but the pier we were on charged you $3 per person to walk out there. Whatever. So we just walked along the free seawall instead and guess what? We didn't spend any money at their gift shop, although I was planning to, because I was highly annoyed at the $3 charge to walk on a pier.
After we met up with Mom and Richard again, it was time to head back over to Moody Gardens to board the Colonel Paddlewheeler, a replica 1800s paddlewheel boat that takes you on an hour-long cruise in Offatts Bayou. We did the 7pm cruise, which meant we had an amazing sunset show while we cruised. We enjoyed ourselves and it wasn't a bad little cruise for the money.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Galveston Vacation Day 3

Day 3 was Schlitterbahn day! We had tickets for the waterpark so we spent our entire day there. We had our own private cabana to store our stuff so we could come and go as we pleased that even had a locker for our wallets and phones, etc. We had our own attendant who kept coming by to check and see what we needed. We could've had her go get food for us, but we brought our coolers in so we could save money and eat sandwiches all day.
We hopped into the lazy river first thing, and it turned out to be not so lazy. Schlitterbahn advertises that you literally never have to get out of the water to get all over the park because it is all connected by their laxy river system. What I failed to read is that some parts of the lazy river are actually lazy, some parts have little rapids, and other parts have huge tsunami like waves going through them. We hopped into the rapids section first without realizing it, and Kate was not pleased. She and I shared a two man tube and she also had a life jacket, but we still both ended up drenched. (I loved it, but I can imagine how scary it was for her.) We finally got out of the rapids area only to end up in the tsunami section with these huge rolling waves. Those were a bit scary as well. Finally we found the lazy section, but by the time we got to there she was done with the river. She lost her trust.
They had several kiddie areas for her to play in, so we spent lots of time watching Kate slide and play. We swam in the pool, hung out in the pool sized hot tub, and I did went down a water slide. Mom spotted this big zipline-like chair while we were in the river and decided she was riding it and one of us was going with her. Richard nor myself wanted to do it, but finally I caved and declared it was now or never. We had to get out of the water twice - once due to a pretty torrential rain that came through for about 30 minutes and the second time because of nearby lightening, but we used that time to eat lunch and snacks so it wasn't a huge deal.
We were strapped in to the chair by Justin, who was working that day. I kept joking with him about coming to my memorial service if I didn't make it back, and he promised to speak. Richard filmed the whole thing from the bridge in front of us, and suddenly it was time to go up......and up we went. It was a great rush - actually a very smooth ride up. I am really not a fan of heights and my feet were tingly, but I wasn't too bad until we got all the way to the top and the chair stopped. When it slowed down and stopped, we sort of naturally leaned forward a tad which made us both uneasy as we were only strapped in with a simple seat belt. The view was pretty amazing from up there! Just as quickly as we stopped, we headed back down again which was great! When we got almost to the bottom, Justin leaned over in front of our rapidly approaching chair and yelled something about the emergency brake, which we couldn't understand but it made us scream anyway and then the brakes grabbed hold of us which bring you to a screeching halt! We went from screaming (Mom cursed) to laughing hysterically. Justin was bent over with laughter and declared us his favorite riders of the day and even insisted on getting a hug before we left the platform. I told him when I got down I was punching him in the face, but I hugged him instead. It was a riot. 
Since Richard wouldn't man up and ride the zipline, I told him he had to ride the boogie board surf thing instead. He acted all nervous about it and then it turned out just fine and actually quite a bit of fun. Sometimes you just have to try something you are a bit scared of and see what happens.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Galveston Vacation Day 2

Galveston day 2 was a beach day. I began my morning as I always do when I'm on vacation - by waking up freakishly early. My eyes popped open at 5:20 am...so I forced myself to close them again and when I woke up thinking surely an hour had passed, it was 5:40 am. So I laid in the bed and played on my phone until a little after 6:00, and then got up and put on my workout clothes and went for a 3.1 mile run. It was a gorgeous morning - in the 70s, I got to watch a beautiful sunset while I was out, and I broke a great sweat.

We loaded up our beach goodies and headed out the door around 11ish (these folks I'm traveling with do not get up early, like, ever). We went to the East Beach for the day and set up camp. Yiayia loaned us a beach umbrella she had never used and it turned out to be the best thing we had all day! We were thankful for some shade and that we didn't have to pay a ton o rent one of the umbrellas already on the beach.
Kate and Trey began the day by digging in the sand with every beach toy imaginable. We had a whole pile, but despite the fancy molds (which none of us know how to use properly - how do you get the sand out??) they just ended up digging a big hole and filling it with water. I even tried to build a castle with Kate. We started by carving out our moat and then when I started to build the towers with our fancy plastic tower mold, I couldn't get the sand to release from the mold. So I basically built a big square and Kate filled it with water too.
Sand play lasted maybe 45 minutes before Kate decided to venture out into the surf. The waves were actually very calm - there were times that the ocean looked no worse than a lake, so there were no big scary waves crashing into the shore. We put on Kate's life jacket and she pretty much spent the rest of the day bobbing up and down in the surf with everyone else. She had a blast, and despite the fact that we were at the beach for over 4 hours she wasn't ready to leave.
Me? I dug my square, played in the surf for about 30 minutes, and I was pretty much satisfied and could have gone back to the room, showered, and found something else to do with the rest of my day. I personally find the beach a tad boring. I mean, you basically sit there and stare at each other all afternoon. I made the best of it and we all sat out in the water and talked and watched a big storm on the west end of the island move out to sea, but really, I would rather have been exploring the city or finding a museum or shopping. Eventually I got really tired of bobbing in the nasty water so I went up on the sand and laid on a towel under the umbrella for a while and just listened to the waves. That was pretty nice, I'll admit, and since I had been awake since 5:20 I also needed a little rest time.
We left the beach around 4:30 and headed over to the ferry to cross over to Bolivar Peninsula. It's free, so why not? Kate loved being on the ferry and we climbed up to one of the deck's to search for dolphins. We saw several, as well as huge cargo ships up close. Over in Bolivar we explored Fort Travis Seashore Park for a little bit. There are still several bunkers and remnants of the fort around, and it has great views of the bay. We headed back across on the ferry after that, this time standing on the front edge and saw even more dolphin this trip. By now it was sunset, so we had a great view of that on water.
Domino's Pizza cooked dinner for us last night, because no one was in the mood to go eat anywhere by the time we finished our day. We arrived at the hotel at 7:40 pm. Tired? For sure.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Galveston Vacation Day 1

Yesterday we headed south for a week in Galveston with Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Trey. Kate is so excited to be going to the beach again! She only asked three times on the way down if we were there yet, which I was thankful for. (Yay for DVD players in the car.)

When we got into town, we checked in to our hotel and unloaded the cars. Let's talk about how traveling to the beach for one week requires a small Uhaul's worth of junk! We look like we were moving in. Anyway, after getting unpacked and rearranging the furniture in our room a bit, we decided to go to a nice dinner since we weren't all sunburned and cranky rather than wait later in the week. I was the only one who had ever been to a Bubba Gump's before (in San Francisco and Gatlinburg) so that's where we ended up.
Kate was excited that her burger came in a little boat (a replica of Jenny) and I ordered a pound of crab legs because they're fabulous. We filled our bellies while eating on the balcony and watched a storm building in the distance over Houston that was headed our way. Because of all the lightening, we decided we really could do anything else outside like swim or putt putt so we went back to the hotel.

Richard and I grabbed our camera gear and drove out to East Beach to try and get some lightening shots. The lightening was phenomenal! I am still learning to shoot lightening (it's all about patience) but I think I got some decent pictures. After the lightening sort of died down, we headed downtown to The Strand so I could see the buildings down there. We did a little more night shooting but left because a homeless guy wouldn't stop bothering us to take his picture. It was late and I was getting tired anyway.
Tomorrow - the beach!