Saturday, July 30, 2011

Big Cat Rescue Night Tour

Big Cat Rescue ( offers a night tour on the last Friday of each month. Since big cats sleep for much of the day and their hunting times are around dusk, it's a great time to visit and see these beautiful animals so active. There's something really spooky about having a leopard or a tiger creep up on you in the dark when you can't really see the cage too...

Trip to Wonderworks

I have driven past Wonderworks on International Drive in Orlando about a million times and always wondered what's inside that crazy looking building:). Maddy and I decided to add it to our list of places to visit during our "Summer of Fun" and made the trip over this week.

Inside there are a bunch of different little hands on-type mini attractions. Like the Aging Machine where Maddy got to see what she may look like in the future...

Or the Bed of Nails which was a lot more uncomfortable than the guy said it would be...

Got some great head shots of Maddy...

Overall we liked it - kind of a cross between MOSI and Disney Quest. We made it round in just over 2 hours and it was really nice to get out of the heat for a bit too!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Maddy turns 12 (part two)!!

On the big day itself I took Madison for sushi and a "shopping spree" to mark the occasion. Jen, Rich and Mya came over to celebrate in the evening so we bought the most amazing chocolate oreo and fudge icecream cake...

Maddy was so thrilled with her gifts - especially the WWF adoption of 3 lion cubs from Mya, Jen and Rich!

Yep - Mike finished that piece...

This is the last year as not a teenager yet...!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Maddy turns 12 (part one)!!

I can't believe my Madison has turned 12! She had a few friends over for a sleepover to celebrate at the weekend. The party was a cupcake theme and we got started with a cupcake pinata. Here's a massive cupcake holding a massive cupcake...:)

Birthday girl gets to go first...and you can barely tell that's a paint roller Mike...

Aliyah had the winning hit but Maddy knows the best-kept pinata secret...that all the good stuff gets stuck in the container...nice use of stealth my child...

Next the girls got to decorate their cupcakes...

...and present their work...

The girls held up a cupcake each with a candle in it to sing Happy Birthday. Kind of like a round of "cheers" but for 12 year olds...:)

After a inevitable sugar rush and even more inevitable food fight, the girls got into jammys for presents and flashlight tag...

Awww - here they are looking a bit worse for wear after a sleepless night!

Happy Birthday Maddy - I hope you stay as sweet as your cupcakes. We love you!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Declan and the Villages!

We had a really lovely family couple of days with Rita, Eileen, Dave, Matt, Liz and Declan! Boy is he a cutey!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Filthy Pigs...

We were visited by wild pigs last night and here's what they did to our front lawn. This is is just the front - they turned over the sides and back too which I discovered later. Can you freaking believe it? If I didn't know better I'd think they used machinery. I'm seriously considering eating meat again...


Friday, July 08, 2011

The Last Ever Shuttle Launch!!

***Editor's Note: I don't think I've ever taken a set of pictures that capture an event as poorly as these do :(. In fact, I actually felt so guilty that they do a bit of a disservice to NASA that I was tempted not to share them at all! So...I would really appreciate it if you can focus on the enormity of the event and it's place in American and Space history as you read on for me...feel free to play a good patriotic tearjerker like "Proud to Be an American" or that Tim McGraw one in the background...or grab an onion if you like. On a serious note, in 'real life' I was blown away by the scale of the whole thing and thought about the astronauts who have given their lives during the space program. I felt completely overwhelmed and cried my eyes out (as did lots of people) - it was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen :) ***

On July 8, NASA's legendary Space Shuttle Atlantis was scheduled for it's 135th and final flight. We generally see launches as they go over the house from where we live in Tampa each time but it's quite another experience to see it from Cape Canaveral. I have only actually seen one (night) flight 'up close' over 14 years ago and it was totally amazing so Maddy and I planned to make the 2 and a half hour drive over this morning for the last time in history:(.

The weather forecasts worsened in the few days leading up our big event and the chances were only 30% likely to go ahead by the time we left the house at 6 a.m. in the morning. We decided to take an overnight bag so that we'd have another shot in the morning in the event it was a scrub and spend the day in Cocoa beach instead. Either way we were going to have a fantastic day!!

We had done some research online and found out that the best view (outside of Kennedy Space Center itself) was from Titusville which is about 7 miles away from the launch pad. After sitting in traffic for over 2 hours for the last 10 miles of the journey we arrived at the aptly named Space View Park and were amazed at how many people had travelled from all over the country and hundreds had camped out all night too!

We checked out the astronauts 'Walk of Fame'

From the park itself the view wasn't exactly great so we decided to join the gazillions of people on the bridge to see if we could see the launch pad more clearly. Take a good look at the bridge in this photo - those are people on there!!

Look at all of those people! OMG!!

After deciding the bridge was too nuts when we got up there we found a perfect spot at the bottom. We made friends with this lady in a NASA T-Shirt since she looked like this wasn't her first rodeo. We were right - she was very helpful and offered to share her binnoculars too. Score!

I felt a bit silly asking exactly where it was but she didn't mind pointing out it was between the two white boats...not sure how I missed it...;)

This guy jumped in the water and probably had the best view in town. Good for you buddy!!

It was incredibly exciting and nerve racking as the minutes went by. Although there were radios blaring, you don't actually know if it's going or not until the time window expires. You can hear people in my little video actually declaring a scrub! And then...well the magic you can see from the shakiness in my video :)

The giant rumbling noise and ground shaking hit about 30 seconds later which was also a big crowd pleaser. It took nearly five hours to get home and I was still giddy for most of it. Then I watched a marginally better view of the launch on NASA's website ( - click here. I think they must be using a better zoom lens or tripod attachment or something...;)

Goodbye Atlantis - you will be missed...