Famille Du Pentium

Another Day, Another Llama Video

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Day at the Races

We went to Arlington Park yesterday; this was an employer-paid event that included admission, a program, food, beverages, and a private tent for our company.  The kids had a great time, and pictures are HERE.

Next event: A Day Out with Thomas, in August.  More pictures to come! 

posted by Michael Humphries-Dolnick at 8:11 am  

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Aaron’s Band Concert

So I’m catching up on some stuff that should have been done in late May / early June, if we hadn’t hightailed it out of Illinois so fast after school ended.

Aaron is a member of the District 73.5 beginner band, and this band won the 2006 John Philip Sousa Foundation Sudler Cup award for excellence.   This award covers the full band, including the beginner band that Aaron belongs to, all the way up to the elite Symphonic band.

So in honor of this award, the band had a concert during the last week of May, and we recorded portions of it.  

Here is Aaron’s band playing three selections of music [MP3].  This is an MP3 file, so you can download it but you’ll need an MP3 Player to listen to it (hopefully your computer already has one).  If this works out well, I may post other MP3s from the concert.

BTW as I was writing this post, Aaron received a letter from Illinois Congressman Louis Lang congratulating him on his class’s Sudler Cup achievement.  We, of course, are very proud.

Oh, I guess I should mention that Aaron plays Trombone. 

posted by Michael Humphries-Dolnick at 2:48 pm  

Friday, July 13, 2007

Disney Day 8: Epcot Day 2

Epcot Day 2 had a lot of character 😉

That is to say, we planned two character meals for today: the Princess Breakfast at Akershus in Norway, and the character meal at Garden Grill in The Land pavillion.  

We planned the Princess Breakfast because the younger two of our kids still love the princesses (even though they’re boys) and Cinderella’s Table was full when I tried to book it.  So this is the next best thing.  

Getting there was confusing (my fault – I didn’t plan our route in advance) but once we got there, we were let it pretty quickly even though we were a few minutes late for our Priority Seating time.  

I must say of all the character meals, the characters in this venue really sort of rushed through.  We didn’t get much time at all with them, they just dropped by to sign autographs and snap a few pictures, no real bonding with the kids.  That bonding experience is what makes character meals special, and without it, you might as well set up cardboard cutouts. 

The food was actually better than a lot of breakfast venues, featuring both a buffet of authentic Norweigan breakfast foods, and a "family style" serving of standard American fare.  

At this point I’m going to stop and direct you to the pictures HERE, because the Breakfast pics were on a memory card that crashed and are thus in a different album in the gallery.  It’s pictures of the kids with all the princesses at breakfast.  

Moving on,  we toured (again) the world showcase and got very tired (it is so huge).  Maybe next time, we’ll allow for one day for each country – that would be fun, eat meals in one country and just hang out in that country all day.  Yeah, when we’ve got all the time in the world.  But not soon. 🙂  So the kids got their faces painted in Africa (it’s a country now, according to Disney!) and then we made our way back to the front of the park where all the rides are to take ride inside the geo-dome (Mission:SPace?)  I remember this being a more fun ride, but this time it seems like it was just a documentary.  I guess my memory isn’t what it used to be.  Next, Aaron and I finally used our Test Track fastpasses from the last time we came to Epcot, and I finally got to ride.  That was a really fun ride, and I hope it’s there next time we come to Disney.

Finally we made our way to lunch at the Garden Grill.  We had been waiting our entire trip for this character lunch;  last time we came to Disney, we were exhausted at lunch time and had no reservations.  We had just toured "the land" and were ready to sit down and eat.  We walked up, unknowing, to the desk at Garden Grill, and asked if there were any stand-by seats available.  We were seated immediately, and only after we sat down did we realize that it was a character meal.  This was one of our most memorable experiences, both because we "lucked" into a stand-by seat at a character meal, but also because this is where Ethan got chocolate all over his face, and the characters made a big deal about him and sort of danced around him, making fun of his face. 

This time, again our great memories failed us.  I’m not saying it was a bad experience, by any means, but it didn’t live up to our memories.  The characters were so-so and came by infrequently for quick snapshots, and the food was not-so-special.  But hey, we lived.  It’s Disney, you can’t really have a bad time at Disney, can you? 🙂

Here’s pictures of the kid’s facepaintings, plus the char meal at Garden Grill.   

This wraps up my Disney trip narrative.  We certainly had a wonderful time, and it was well worth it.  We’re going to go again, in about 3-1/2 to 4 years, so I can start my planning as early as 2010! 

posted by Michael Humphries-Dolnick at 8:28 pm  

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Disney Day 7: Magic Kingdom Day 3

OK June 12th, Aaron’s birthday.  We decided that we hadn’t built enough rest into our plan (even Aaron was tired), so we decided to swim at the resort, eat lunch, take a nap, and then go to the park.  The cool thing is that once you figure out how to "work" the parks, it’s easy to go late and take as many rides as you want – you just work them around the crowd-grabbers, like parades and fireworks. 

So after some R&R we made our way to MK for the last time.

First, we drove to the TTC and took the Monorail in. and Aaron sat up front in the captains compartment.  This is a great time for the kids, and the driver always treats each kid like it’s the first time he’s ever had a visitor in his compartment, and tells them all about the Monorail and how it works.  

Next, I’ll just highlight stuff – we took rides and met characters.  Here are the pictures starting at DSC00231, and an explanation: 

  • Waiting for the Monorail, riding in the front of the Monorail
  • We met Rafiki (from Lion King)
  • Aaron’s birthday dinner at Crystal Palace (Pooh & Friends) – note that Tigger is leading a parade, that’s in honor of Aaron’s birthday
  • More pics from Jungle Cruise, we took it again
  • Pirates, which we took again
  • The Teacup ride
  • Buzz Lightyear, which we took again
  •  Indy Racers again
  • 3-D Glasses from Mickey’s Philharmagic
  • Pictures of the Castle and Main Street at night

Tomorrow – our last day at Disney, Epcot.

posted by Michael Humphries-Dolnick at 5:17 pm  

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Disney Day 6: Magic Kingdom 2

Marla’s Aunt and Uncle from southern Florida joined us at Magic Kingdom today to help us celebrate a couple of birthdays.  Since we arrived late, we went and got fastpasses for Space Mountain.  We diverged from our plan a bit because we had guests with us.  No sense in killing anyone on our vacation, eh?

Lunch was at Cosmic Ray’s, and it was one of the few disasters we encountered.  We took our time touring, and then ate a late lunch.  We figured by 2:00 PM things would clear out at the counter service restaraunts.  Boy, were we wrong.  We had to scout for seating for 30 minutes, splitting up and staying in touch by cell phone when we found tables.  Once we found one, it had no chairs.  Marla, Penny and Alfie guarded the table and scouted for chairs while I went to get us food.  The food lines were not actually too bad, although they screwed up our order and I had to wait too long for an order of fries with my kids’ meals.  Finally, the food came, and I made my way back to the table.  By now, the others had scrounged some chairs and even another table nearby, so we could actually sit and eat.  From there, it went smoothly, but we were not happy with the seating availability at such a late hour for lunch.

After lunch, we did some more touring until dinnertime.  I’m not going into detail here because I don’t remember it all – I know we finally went to Mickey’s toontown Fair and did the Mickey pictures and the big playground, and at some point we did the Tomorrowland Transit Authority and Enchanted Tiki Birds,  but I don’t remember much else until dinner.

Dinner was great, at Liberty Tree.  I must say, having reservations is a must.  We saw several disappointed families waiting to see if they could get in "stand-by" – it was no good this night.  They were booked solid.  This was a character dinner that included Goofy, Minnie, Chip, and Dale.  

After dinner, we rode a few rides but the highlight was It’s A Small World – by now the lines were negligible, and we rode it twice.  We could have ridden it three or more times, but the kids had had enough.  We had already closed this park once, so we packed it in and went back to our hotel.  Tomorrow, we were coming back to MK again, so we needed our energy.

Pictures are HERE (starting with the picture of Ethan on the train), and this is what you’ll see:

  • Ethan on the train, Justin on the train, Aaron boarding the train
  • A view of Big Thunder Mountain railroad from the (regular) train
  • Other scenes from the train
  • Playing at the play-park (whatever it’s called) at Mickey’s Toontown Fair
  • Waiting for pictures with Mickey
  • Pictures with Mickey
  • The kids get messy at Cosmic Rays
  • Alfie & Penny and Aaron at Cosmic Rays
  • Waiting for Pirates of the Carribean
  • Jungle Cruise (oh yeah, we did that also 🙂
  • "The Backside of Water"
  • Dinner at Liberty Tree
  • The kids get pictures and autographs from the characters at Liberty Tree
  • It’s A Small World!

I will pick up the narrative tomorrow – Disney Day 7, MK Visit 3.  Only two days left!

posted by Michael Humphries-Dolnick at 5:18 pm  

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Disney Day 5: Rest

Every trip to Disney should include planning for a "down day" – recover, rest, and sometimes play at the resort.  As I said in my review of Port Orleans, I wish we had planned for more time to just play at the resort.  As it was, we ate breakfast at Boatwrights – the Port Orleans Riverside table service restaraunt – and then we went swimming at Old Man Island.  We had made plans to eat lunch at a Disney Studios table service restaraunt, however we decided we needed more rest after swimming so we napped and ate at our resort’s counter service food court. 

Dinner was at Planet Hollywood in Downtown Disney.  It was our first experience with Planet Hollywood, and we were very happy with it.  Plus, they take the Disney Dining Plan – that alone almost paid for the cost of the plan!  Planet Hollywood is a very expensive place, and we definately ate our money’s worth.  

After that, we looked around Downtown Disney a bit more, and then met up with Marla’s Aunt and Uncle, with whom we toured Magic Kingdom the next day.  We got back to our hotel early, took one last swim, and went to bed, even though our plans called for arriving at  MK late the next day.  You take all the rest you can get at Disney!

I don’t have any pictures for this day, but you can check out some of the scenes from our resort HERE.  What you’ll see:

  • Pictures of the "towel animals" that the housekeepers created
  • Justin’s P.J.’s after we had them professionally laundered.  They never looked better!
  • Scenes from the counter service restaraunt at Port Orleans Riverside 
posted by Michael Humphries-Dolnick at 5:07 pm  

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Day 4: Magic Kingdom 1

Day 4 at Disney – June 9th, we went to Magic Kingdom.

The only thing I regret is that we did Epcot the day before Magic Kingdom.  Next time, not gonna do it that way.  We closed Epcot last night, and today is our first day of a park that you have to be very aggressive to tour – Magic Kingdom.  The tour plan we were following was called "Dumbo or Die in a Day".  But, we did it – and, I’ll admit, we had fun.

We arrived at opening and made our way to Dumbo – a cycle loader that pretty much has a 90 minute line anytime 30 minutes after opening.  So if your goal, like ours, was to not wait more than 20 minutes for any ride (a goal we achieved, by the way) you have to hit the rides with long lines first.  

So we rode Dumbo.  Then Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, Tomorrowland Indy Speedway, Buzz Lightyear, and the Laugh Floor Comedy Club.  All before lunch.  Then, we took a break – went back to our hotel, ate lunch, and took a nap.  These were all of our favorite rides amongst the most popular, and they were done.  

When we came back, we took the pontoon boat (Disney calls it a "raft") over to Tom Sawyer Island and looked around.  The younger kids loved it, but Aaron hated it (as you can tell from the pictures).   Even though our plan called for it, by this time we didn’t want to do the ToonTown stuff (Mickey’s house pictures, Donald’s Boat, etc.) until we met up later with Marla’s Aunt and Uncle.  So we skipped forward to Country Bear Jamboree, skipped It’s a Small World (line over 20 minutes, better time to ride will come later) and Pirates of the Carribean.  Meanwhile, we had gotten fastpasses to Jungle Cruise and we took that. 

Whew!  What a day.  Time for dinner, table service at Tony’s Town Square, fashioned after Tony’s in Lady and the Tramp.  Of course, the specialty of the house is Spagetti and Meatballs, which we all devoured and then watched the parade and fireworks before going back to our hotel.  

The pictures of every MK day are HERE; I’ll give you a little guidance on our first day at MK:

  •  Some shots of Magic Kingdom "opening"
  • Dumbo!
  • Indy Speedway – even a three year old can drive the cars!
  • Tom Sawyer Island excursion
  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • Goofy Statue in front of Tony’s
  • The SpectroMagic Parade (well, what I could catch of it)
  • The Fireworks

At this point, the pictures move into Day 2 at MK (Day 6 at Disney), which I will cover in two blog posts from now. 

posted by Michael Humphries-Dolnick at 5:11 pm  

Monday, July 9, 2007

Day 3: Epcot Visit 1

Epcot was one of our favorite parks the last time we went.  It didn’t disappoint us this time. We went on day 3, which was June 8th. 

First, we arrived early for opening, and hit the plan running.  Marla and Aaron made their way to test track, while I took the younger kids in the stroller to The Land to get fastpasses for Soarin’, the new flight-simulator ride.  That was an adventure in itself; since Disney has opened this ride, it definately attracts big crowds to The Land which used to be somewhat sedate.  But with a very short wait, I got the fastpasses and made my way back to Test Track.  The idea was, we were supposed to meet up and all ride together.  Marla, knowing that we couldn’t take Justin on the ride, got a switch-off pass, which is kind of like a fast-pass for parents of small children, and then she and Aaron took the ride.  Disney has really improved how they handle switching off now – instead of waiting at the front of the line with your non-riding kids, the non-rider and kids can now tour nearby while the riders go.  Then, when the riders get off, you take the "switch off pass" and the adult with the non-riding kids can go with up to two other riders.  Works great.  So Aaron and I went back to Test Track again.  Only this time, the ride broke down, just as we were about to board.  So this time, we got new fastpasses good anytime that month, no time limit – w00t! We saved the "oops the ride broke while you were in line" fastpasses for our next visit and moved on. 

After a couple of the slow rides (Living with the Land and Journey Into Imagination), we took Soarin’.  This is really an amazing ride, I can’t really describe it.  You are strapped into a sort of hang-glider looking thing and then lifted up in front of a huge IMAX-like screen on which plays a video of a hang glide through many cities.  But the screen isn’t just IMAX, it goes below you and above you and around you – creating a true feeling of flight.  We were blown away.

After Soarin’, it was off to the countries – El Rio del Tiempo in Mexico first.  I love this ride.  They’ve renamed it, and now I can’t remember what it’s called.  But it’s still fun, and we rode it 3 times.   

Next, off to Norway and Maelstrom, a kind of neat indoor ride that includes a small log flume.  

We had lunch at Les Chefs in France – we really wanted to try different dining this time, and Les Chefs was great.  Each time we go to Disney, we have one memorable dining experience – and this time, Les Chefs was it.  Great service, excellent food, and a very relaxing atmosphere.  It’s nice to eat in a French restaurant with kids and not have to worry, because it’s Disney!

Next, we rested up until our dinner reservations at Rose & Crown, the last seating before Illuminations starts, so we could watch it from the outdoor dining area.  This has changed a bit – in the old days, you could get there early and ask for a seat by the rail and be accomodated.  Now, they seem to seat the people who show up last in the best seats – which I found to be considerably rude.  But wait, they redeem themselves.  Just prior to the show, our waiter comes by and asks us, "Do you want to watch the show from our private viewing area?"  It turns out, anyone who gets seated close enough to the show time but not at the rail gets to watch the show a little bit closer, in a small area reserved for that purpose, down by the water.  Great view!  Better than up by the rail!  The only gripe is that you have to stand, but it is a better view by a longshot.  After the show, we returned to our table and were allowed to finish our meal – no rush, they were very nice.  We actually left after park closing, and nobody rushed us.

The pictures are HERE, and here’s what you’ll see: 

  • Us hanging out in Norway
  • Morocco
  • Some attempts to capture the famous Epcot dome at night

Yeah, so I didn’t take many pictures.   

posted by Michael Humphries-Dolnick at 5:16 pm  

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Disney Day 2: Animal Kingdom

I’m obsessed with finishing my travel review of our trip to Disney, no matter how long it takes :).

On day 2 (this was Thursday, June 7th) we arrived a bit late after needing some extra rest from the drenching we got at Disney Studios the day before.   Our "plan" was still in force, but again we had fewer rides we wanted to take than the plan called for, so we had plenty of time. 

We did ride Dinosaur, the new indoor dark thrill ride.  It was great, except it kept breaking down.  This was OK in one sense, whenever you’re removed from a ride prior to it’s completion, you get a sort of FastPass that lets you come back anytime and ride it again, through the FastPass line.  This is nice because there’s no specific time limit, so you can re-ride anytime you want.  The downside is, when it breaks down they have you walk through most of the ride with the lights on, exposing all of the "surprises" that you would normally experience in the dark.  I guess that’s OK, but I’d rather not have seen the "behind the scenes" before I rode it all the way through.  Eh, what are you going to do.  

My only regret is that we didn’t ride the Safari ride.  We tried, but kept getting sidetracked picking up our Fast Passes, and by the time we finally got there they were out.  

Disney is importing more animal characters into the park, and thus we got the chance to take pictures with Winnie the Pooh and Friends.  

We were disappointed with the petting zoo.  Frankly, the petting zoo at Brookfield Zoo is better.

And of course there’s the big play area (forget what it’s called) themed after an archeological dig.  The kids always love this, and it’s a good way to spend a hot afternoon – in the shade, in a place where parents can sit back and watch their kids burn off energy. 

That night, we ate dinner at Rainforest Cafe.  We’ve eaten at the Downtown Disney Rainforest before, and it was great.  This one was so-so, our seating wasn’t great but the ambience was still very nice.  The downside of Rainforest is that they don’t take the Disney Dining plan, so you have to plan around that.  

Since AK closes early, this was a great day to see some sights, ride a few rides, and then get back to our hotel early and get some rest before our big day (Day 3) at Epcot.   I think the next time we go, we might actually skip AK unless they have some new major rides.  Dinosaur is great, but they need more here.

Oh yeah, pictures of our visit to Animal Kingdom are HERE

posted by Michael Humphries-Dolnick at 3:10 pm  

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Summer Pictures Recap

If you looked for the pictures yesterday, they might have still been uploading.  Everything is done now, and you can find them all at:


This includes Disney, Dells, July 4th, and the car races.

posted by Michael Humphries-Dolnick at 2:06 pm  
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