Pirate Adventure Island Open at Legoland

23Mar2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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It’s no secret to anyone who reads my blog that I’ve got some Lego-lovin’ boys in this house.

They’re always excited to visit Legoland Discovery Center in Atlanta, but especially when there’s something totally new to check out.

We’ve seen on previous visits that something new was being built, but we had no clue what Pirate Adventure Island would be like.

As six-year-old Jonah declared, “IT. IS. AWESOME!”

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There is a water feature!

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And not just a water feature, but a super-cool one where you can build a Lego ship and then race yours against your friends’ boats!

And…there’s a super-giant climbing structure shaped like a pirate ship!

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Granted, my 14-year-old Lego-lover wasn’t interested in climbing (and was probably too big anyway), but my also-14 daughter surprised me by building something with me while we waited on the boys to do their thing.

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(Note Eli’s wet shirt from the boat races)

I’m not sure what I built. It kinda reminded me of a meditation garden I saw on HGTV once. I left it atop the bin. Maybe some kid found it the next morning and turned it into something really cool?

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Probably not. She or he would’ve been FAR too busy reveling in all the new pirate-y goodness!

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Skål to IKEA’s Easter Smorgasbord!

20Mar2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

As promised, I’m back to share my review of my family’s journey to IKEA Atlanta, to partake of their Easter Paskbord.

All five of us tried some new foods and gave the experience two thumbs up!

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Everything was decorated festively for spring. There were little bunnies, eggs and flowers everywhere.

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Starters included salads, pickles, assorted Swedish cheeses, deviled eggs topped with shrimp and mayonnaise, and salmon prepared in a variety of ways. I could hardly believe my husband tried the raw marinated salmon–and liked it! I also tried pickled herring for the first time ever, and it was actually quite tasty. If you enjoy the flavor of pickled things, and the texture of sushi, you’ll enjoy herring, too.

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Entrees and desserts were served in the usual IKEA cafeteria line. The servers dished up huge portions–I don’t think any of us were able to clean our plates, and only the boys had room to go back for seconds, making the $16.99 price a remarkable bargain, in my opinion.

Here is everything I ended up trying:

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The entree plate is on the left and included mashed potatoes with gravy, prinskorv (sausages that reminded me of hot dogs), potato pancakes, meatballs and Jansson’s Temptation, a gratin-style potato casserole flavored with salted fish (which I didn’t bother mentioning to anyone at my table until after they tried and it and loved it!). The appetizer plate on the right contains a huge portion of cold poached salmon topped with a seasoned mayo-type sauce, brown bread, pickled herring, a shrimp-topped egg, cold Swedish ham and crispbread.

I’m bummed that I forgot to get some of the cucumber salad, but at that moment, Jonah had a near-accident with his tray and distracted me!

I’m not sure what any of the items on the dessert plate were called, but the tall chocolate candy was filled with marshmallow creme, the coconut truffle had a coffee-flavored center, and the green one reminded me of the pistachio-citrus-cherry flavor of spumoni.

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My kids are often picky eaters, in different ways, but all of them found several foods to enjoy. As you can see, Eli’s plate is all-beige, but that’s because he doesn’t like fish and isn’t a big fan of ground beef, either. Even so, he went back for a second helping of Jansson’s Temptation, despite it containing fish!

The only disappointment of the evening is that we couldn’t find any of the promised Paskmust to sample. Eli, especially, was looking forward to trying this soda purported to taste like a cross between root beer and Dr. Pepper. Maybe next time.

All in all, it was a really tasty dinner, at a good price, and I highly recommend that you try it out next Easter! I am quite certain we’ll be back.

#AllYouCanEatATL

IKEA Swedish Easter Paskbord

5Mar2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

I enjoy blogging about fun things to do around Atlanta, especially events that allow families to celebrate other cultures.

On Friday, March 18th, 2016, we’ll be going to IKEA Atlanta to celebrate Spring with an authentic Easter Påskbord.

This annual Swedish Easter Buffet will be open from 6 to 8 p.m. Continuing IKEA’s reputation for value, this all-you-can-eat event is just $16.99 for adults and $4.99 for kids aged 12 & under. IKEA FAMILY Members enjoy a discount of $4 off adult admission and $2 off kids’ tickets. It’s recommended that you purchase tickets ahead of time because seating will be limited. Also, the normal restaurant menu will not be available during this event.

So, what does one eat at a Swedish Påskbord, you ask? Check out the menu!

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Not being Swedish, I had to Google a couple of things, such as Jansson’s Temptation (gratin-style potatoes) and Prinskorv (Swedish sausages). I have never tried herring, but my dear Swedish friend Marie insists it’s delicious, so I’m going to give it a go. There will also be a unique drink to try, called Paskmust, a spiced cola-type beverage that I’ve heard described as a cross between Dr. Pepper and root beer.

(I love Dr. Pepper but hate root beer, so it’ll be interesting to see what I think it tastes like!)

Come back after to hear my review of this celebration. I’m really looking forward to it, and hope you will join us there!

#AllYouCanEatATL

My Day in Traffic Court

4Feb2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

It was a hurry-scurry morning when I was running late last December.

Flying from food co-op pickup to volunteer at my little boy’s school wasn’t a good time to discover the railroad tracks were being replaced at the single crossing I was familiar with there in the booming metropolis of “Podunkville”, Georgia.

Dismayed, I followed the road beside the tracks, hoping to find another crossing. I drove a couple of miles with nary a break in sight. So, I turned around to look for one in the other direction.

I know I shouldn’t have been speeding. But…my son is on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, and he does not do well when plans are changed. Or even when people are late. If you say you’re going to be at his school at 10:30, you can bet he is watching the clock, and at 10:31, he will be fighting back tears if you haven’t yet appeared.

So, yeah, I got a little antsy, and yeah, I was going 29 miles above the speed limit when I saw the cop.

I wasn’t able to slow down fast enough. A lump grew in my throat as I saw the blue lights flashing behind me.

“Great! Just great! Exactly what I don’t have time for this morning!”

Gravel crunched beneath my tired, old minivan as I pulled over into a bait shack parking lot.

In my rear-view mirror, I saw that the officer was a woman, close to my mother’s age. I thought, “Hey, cool. Probably a mother and grandmother. She will understand my plight.”

Nah. She didn’t care. She mentioned that she just had her radar calibrated and wondered if I knew I was speeding. I couldn’t lie. I admitted my guilt.

She handed me the ticket with little fanfare. “You can pay this online before February 3rd, or appear in court then. Have a nice day.”

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Yeah, you, too, “Barnette Fife” I thought, as I drove off–slowly–with tears stinging my eyes.

I was going to just cough up the $129 (ouch) and pay the fine online, but friends told me that if I went to court, I could possibly get a reduced fine or even have it dismissed. So I decided it was worth the gamble. After all, I hadn’t had a ticket of any kind in almost 30 years, and I was going from one community outreach-type activity to serve in my autistic child’s classroom, blocked only by their city replacing railroad tracks. It was as good an excuse for speeding as I’d ever heard.

It should’ve been a sign of things to come when I woke up to torrential rain yesterday morning.

The drive to Podunkville usually takes 40 minutes or less. I left an hour early to allow for the weather, but I barely made it in time. With just three minutes to spare, I popped up my umbrella and splashed across that puddled parking lot as fast as my chunky legs would carry me.

I joined about 30 other “hardened criminals” inside, which was considerably more than I expected to see in such a tiny town. There were quite a few colorful characters in the mix and we all bore varying resemblance to drowned rats. We covered pretty much every demographic: white, black, Hispanic, young, old, middle-aged, rich and poor. We had to sit for a long time as the deputies and other court workers slowly trickled in and attended to various tasks.

I always amuse myself with people-watching in these situations. I like to imagine people’s stories, why they are there. A young guy limped up the aisle and fell into a chair a few rows ahead of me. His pale head glistened bald, elaborate tattoos encircled his neck, and he clutched his ribs, wincing in pain every time he moved. (Motorcycle accident? Bar fight? Wife met mistress, and they both beat him up?)

Three college-aged girls beside me kept me entertained with their whispered conversation about food, with one stating that she “Ain’t never seen no salt on the outside of a taco shell” and her friend confessing, “Well, them blue ones are good, but I really ain’t no tortilla chip expert.”

Finally, the clerk began calling roll. I was hoping there would be an Adams, an Aiken, an Allen, or an Anderson on the roster, so I wouldn’t have to go first. Alas, I was the only “A”. But there was a girl whose first name was–no joke–Ninja, and a man with the last name of Outlaw. Which sounded like a great beginning to a joke: A ninja and an outlaw walked into the courtroom…

Seriously, y’all. You really can’t make this stuff up.

We were finally asked to rise as the judge, a hunched-over man of at least 80, entered the courtroom with nary a smile. I wished again for that Allen or Aiken to magically appear, so I could watch how the judge interacted with the other defendants. But, no such luck. The curse of the “A” name meant I went first.

I approached the bench with a smile. The clerk read my offense, the judge asked for my plea. I said, “Guilty” and quickly rewound the tape in my mind so I could tell him the Reader’s Digest version of the circumstances that led me to speed that day. I wanted him to know that I wasn’t exactly what you’d call a habitual offender.

But I never got a chance to say another word.

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“I accept your plea. Your fine is $129. If you can’t pay it all today, you can have up to 120 days but doing so means accepting 12 months of probation and a monthly monitoring fee. Exit with the deputy who will escort you to the payment window.” And the clerk called another name as the deputy (ironically, the same woman who ticketed me) opened the door beside the desk and motioned me through.

And that was that.

I guess in retrospect, I should’ve at least asked to plead my case, but he didn’t give pause for that. He didn’t look like the kind of man who cared much about excuses anyway, probably because he’s heard them all before.

So, Barnette Fife and I opened our soggy umbrellas and sloshed across the street to pay my fine.

(Yes, in Podunkville, the court is too small to house the payment office, so it’s conveniently located in an entirely different building. On another street.)

I forked over my card, and the too-happy clerk behind the bulletproof glass added a $6 credit card “convenience fee” and cheerily thanked me for my contribution to the betterment of Podunkville.

You know, I’m usually really nice to cashiers and others in service positions, but as I wrestled to reopen my dripping umbrella, I just couldn’t bring myself to respond with my usual, “You’re welcome.”

“Have a good one,” I heavily sighed, as I marched across the foyer, my soaked shoes quacking like ducks against the slippery tile. It was a long swim–I mean, walk–back to my car. I swear rivers had grown across that lot while I was having my fun in court.

Driving home, with my damp blouse clinging to goosebumped skin, I could feel my wet toes shriveling up like raisins. And you better believe that I cursed myself thoroughly for not just paying the stupid ticket online.

 

Beauty and the Beast at The Fabulous Fox

3Feb2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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“Tale as old as time
Song as old as rhyme
Beauty and the beast!”

I can’t stop singing that song tonight! My sweet daughter and I got to see Beauty and the Beast on Tour tonight and it was just so, so good.

I mistakenly thought the show started at 7:00, but it was actually 7:30. So, arriving early, we wasted time trying to get the perfect selfie. This was about the best this Mama-Beast and her little Beauty could come up with:

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Anyway, there is much to appreciate about the story of Beauty and the Beast. From the age-old lesson of not judging people by appearance alone, to the wonderful escape that exists within the covers of a book, I resonate with Belle. And though the original Disney movie is quite good, nothing compares to the extravagance of experiencing a live theater performance.

It’s hard to choose a favorite scene, but if I had to settle on one, it would have to be the mug-clinking dance. It’s just brilliant!

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And how can you not love arrogant, pompous, hilarious Gaston? This Broadway version of the character is much funnier than the one in the film.

Speaking of humor, I saw Beauty and the Beast on Broadway a couple of years ago, and I don’t remember the Beast being as funny as he was in this show. He truly cracked me up with his temper tantrums and clear need of anger management counseling.

There was also a great chemistry between Lumiere, the servant-turned-candlestick and Cogsworth, the butler-turned-clock. All of the enchanted characters and the ensemble gave excellent performances.

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Of course, with it being Disney–and Broadway–the costumes and sets were also stunningly beautiful.

After you see it, you’ll understand why this show has delighted over 35 million people worldwide. It runs nightly through February 7, at the historic Fox Theater in Atlanta. Tickets are still available for these performances, as well as for afternoon matinees on Saturday and Sunday.

And in case you were wondering, it’s totally suitable for children of all ages. (Clearly, even 40-something kids like me!)