Do I recommend it? Yes! I love this story! But, like Eragon(the Inheritance cycle), I don’t know if the series continues well. I’ll update when I get there.
Part I: For y’all who have yet to read it
This is another book Ana was hooked on first. My curiosity got the better of me, and once I picked it up, I could not put it down. The author has an intriguing story and she presents it very well. There’s enough mystery to pull the reader in, but not too much that it leaves the reader in the dust (which is what happened when I accidentally started with the wrong book of The 39 Clues).
The one major problem for me is that Mrs. Buckley-Archer cannot pick a POV (Point Of View)! Oh my goodness, the POV changed so randomly. First we’re inside Peter’s head, then Kate’s, then back to Peter for half a chapter, and then we’re with Gideon for a paragraph!
Peter, the main character who’s 12, is a bit of a brat, but it makes for a fun unfolding of a friendship. Kate comes from a more traditional family, which is nice for a change in young people’s literature. I love Gideon’s character (more on that in Part II). We see parts of the villains’ backstories. They are dreadful; they broke my heart. Consider yourself warned.
The majority of the book takes place in 18th-century London. It’s not too violent, but it is historically accurate (think crowds gathering for hanging, guns, and a fist or several).
Last warning: You will want to read the next book! Go ahead and buy the next one so it’s ready!
Part II: Some random analyses, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!
The characters were all well-developed. There isn’t much of an arc with most of them yet, but there are two more books coming. I really like how the book mainly focused on what Peter and Kate were experiencing, but how we know that the story is really going to be about Gideon. For the record, Gideon is officially added to my mental book heart throb list. He also had a dreadful backstory. It’s interesting how both Gideon and the Tar Man both had such terrible childhoods, and how each came out of it. Gideon, though he got into some trouble, has a great heart. The Tar Man doesn’t know mercy.
The scene that Gideon, Peter, and Kate rescue the others from the highwaymen was interesting, especially regarding how Gideon presented his plan. Gideon spoke so matter-of-factly, like there was no doubt the God of ancient Gideon really delivered the Midianites into his hands. Then, the Parson used a scare-you-out-of-hell sermon on his captors. Both I’d bet are historically accurate. Add onto this how the Parson responds to one of them as he’s escaping. The Parson did not show the love of Jesus at all, also accurate in the religious setting of the 1700s.
I could do a much better job of explaining how a phone works to Gideon than Peter did! Just leaving that out there.
I wish that there was some more explanation to how this touching the king worked. We got the information we needed but I don’t know how this king’s evil will go away. Next book?
I did not see the ending coming! I knew that the Tar Man made it to modern day, but I didn’t know that Peter would not make it. It was annoying that he didn’t make it because of a sentimental hug, but I’m glad he’s flying with Gideon. I can’t wait until I can get my hands on The Time Thief!
I can’t truly pick which is better: the Parks or a the Cruise Line? This really isn’t a fair comparison. It’s like trying to decide which tastes better: bacon or cake?
Sure, they’re both edible items that aren’t considered healthy by the general public, but they each have a totally different taste. When you get up in the morning, chances are you’d like some bacon. Then after dinner, cake sounds better.
A Disney World vacation and a Disney Cruise vacation present two totally different vacations. I can’t just say that one is better than the other. But, there are situations in which one would appear to be the better option.
Note: This article is written with the experience of many Walt Disney World (not Disneyland) vacations, and one 4-night Disney Dream cruise. I have no experience with other Disney cruises or other cruise lines.
I don’t know first hand what it would be like to cruise with a baby or toddler (the “it’s a small world” nursery place looks adorable though!), so I’m just going to jump right into younger kids ages 4-8ish.
Magic Kingdom is any kid’s dream. Attractions like Enchanted Tales with Belle and Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid make little princesses and me squeal with joy. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and The Barnstormer bring our our adventurous spirits.
A Disney cruise is also eye-widening for kids. Aboard the Dream, the Oceaneer Club & Lab present some awesome experiences everyone will love! The space was made for parents to drop off their children and so they could go do… I don’t know, sit on the adult deck and chat? But there are also frequent “open houses” when all ages are welcome to come play. When the Club has open house, the counselors and kids are all corralled into the Lab, and vice-versa.
I’d go pick up my sisters and Alex had been making crafts in Pixie Hollow, Anjalena had been playing in the Millennium Falcon (Dream only), and Alli had been at toy boot camp with one of the green army men from Toy Story! They rarely wanted to leave. They played Sloppy Science, trained to be Jedi (a different, more group-oriented program than the Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios), and played with the floor’s interactive virtual game board.
Winner: Disney Cruise
Aboard the ship, everything is close by. While at the Disney World time is spent getting to-and-from your hotel and the parks, and then more time in the parks walking to-and-from other attractions. Younger kids will love having the entire world- the ship -in their own walking distance. If they’re hungry, just take the elevator up to Cabanas. If they’re tired, it’s just a hallway to your stateroom.
To point out the pros and cons for older kids, you really need to know your child. I was just as big (if not bigger) a Disney Princess fan at age 12 than I was at age 6. However, some think themselves too cool for meeting Cinderella (by the way, tell that child that line of thinking makes you un-cool).
Older kids will have a better grasp of the Parks. Transportation, planning, and lines all make sense in their heads. Plus, they’ll understand the magnitude of the trip. They understand that every kid in America wants to go. There’s nothing more magical than anticipating the Castle, and it still taking your breath away. Older kids are tall enough to ride the thrills and appreciate all the shows (not just the preschool ones).
The Oceaneer’s Club and Lab are open for ages 4-12. In my opinion, the twelve year olds will have even more fun than the four year old. Besides the in-your-face-Disney themed rooms, there is a room chock full of craft supplies, a room full of tablets with pre-downloaded Disney games, and a pirate room where you can steer your own ship on a monitor, just to name a few. I haven’t even mentioned the activities around the rest of the ship.
Driving the Millennium Falcon
Playing on a tablet in Pixie Hollow
Both vacations offer a great amount of stuff for older kids.
I mentioned before that the Dream offers its own Jedi training program. It takes place in the Millennium Falcon room of the Oceaneer’s Club during an open house so parents can watch. This one is open for any and every kid to participate in. Kids meet a Jedi, stormtroopers, R2D2 (encased) and an imperial officer. However, they are generic and there’s no Darth Vader. Kids use the force on objects and people.
In Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there’s Jedi training open for 5-12 year olds too. This you have register for (no additional charge, it’s just really popular) near the old American Idol Experience building. It’s so popular, you need to be there when it opens. We once tried to sign up Anjalena for it, and she was put on the waiting list. We arrived at the proper time, and waited, and waited… the group was full. The next year my mom registered on time and all three of my little sisters eligible made it. The show was in front of an audience with more effects, lightsabers, and Darth Vader himself.
Winner: Disney’s Hollywood Studios (the Parks)
The crazy sign-up is totally worth seeing your kid using a lightsaber against Darth Vader.
Disclaimer: I don’t know what has changed or will be changing since The Force Awakens.
There were many character opportunities aboard the ship. Less than 15 minutes after we boarded, the we saw Cinderella! Ana and I grabbed the kids and ran up to Deck 4 to say hello! It was fantastic! Later that trip, Alli, Alex, and I were hurrying to make it to dinner in time, and we nearly ran into Peter Pan! We hopped in the unnaturally short line. I didn’t have the regular camera (I videoed it!), and Peter just chatted with Alli for two minutes. Awesome. Most of the time, however, there were crazy long lines. The big princess event (with 4 or so princesses to meet) and Anna & Elsa were ticketed events, but you’d still have to wait.
Dad & Captain Jack Sparrow on Castaway Cay
The girls and Cinderella
The Parks offer more character opportunities, but they’re not as concentrated as the cruise. There are better chances at getting to meet rare characters at the Parks. There are still many lines, many long lines. At that point, it’s a draw. The Parks offer character meals. The cruises do not. The cruises have themed restaurants, great service, and it’s all included, just not characters visiting the table.
Winner: The Parks
This is a close race, but I pick the Parks because of the variety of characters and settings.
The Parks themselves don’t have swimming pools, though some have attractions that will get you SOAKED.
The resorts and hotels have some great pools! The Moderate and Deluxe resorts have some cool water slides. The legit Florida beach is a about an hour and a half’s drive away.
Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are water parks filled with water slides and giant pools. Typhoon Lagoon even has a snorkeling area. Both are
The Dream has two small pools on Deck 11. They get extremely crowded on at-sea days due to their size in proportion to the thousands of guests on one ship. The Aquaduck is a water slide aboard the Dream and Fantasy. It’s pretty mild, but that doesn’t detract from its awesomeness. The slide is a clear tube that you can see through all the way around. It’s especially cool going over the ocean; it’s like you’re flying!
Castaway Cay, the private island, offers the gorgeous Bahamian water and white sand. They have a free snorkeling area, with rental gear available for an additional fee. Pelican Plunge is a couple of water slides that offer the same amount of thrill Parks’ slides do.
Winner: Cruise Line. Nothing beats the clear blue of the Bahamas.
Stay tuned for Part II which will include teens, adults, and food!
As I’m trying to write this article, I’m realizing that a lot happened in 2015, much more than I originally thought.
In January, my mom did the Celebration Half Marathon in Florida. We made a Disney vacation out of it with a great deal through Disney’s education program. Our aunt and cousin came as well.
We had lunch/dinner at Tusker House in about a half hour when the above picture was taken. Lex, Anjalena, our cousin, and I hurried to Expedition Everest. We waited in line (took a selfie), rode it, then rode it again with Fastpasses! And we were only a tiny bit late to Tusker House!
We got to Magic Kingdom at opening. Cinderella’s stepsisters and stepmother were talking and hanging out with us as we walked to the carousel. After riding, they went to their regular spot, and we waited in a normal line to take a picture with them. It was magical!
Not all eight of us like roller coasters, but all eight of us tried Seven Dwarfs’ Mine Train. This is Mom and Lex trying to take a selfie as the train begins to go downhill.
Also in January, I began my first college courses at our community college and my parents bought me my first laptop! Mom and I read Unbroken, the story of Louie Zamperini. It was a GREAT book! I highly recommend it*.
In February, we drove down to Florida again for the Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend! Yes, that winter we went to Florida every month. We didn’t go to any of the parks, but we still had a blast! Alli, Lex, Ana, & Papi ran the 5k. Mom did something called the Glass slipper Challenge. So the day before the half, she ran the Enchanted 10k (with me!) as well.
While we were down there, we drove over to Merritt Island to visit Teen Missions Int’l headquarters, where I would train for the trip that summer. A nice employee (who ended up leading a preteen team to Trinidad) gave us a little tour and we met Bob Bland, the founder. It was great!
March presented Pilgrim, a musical theatre production based on John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress. I showed up to help out for the final two weeks, and I fell in love with the cast, theatre in general, helping backstage, and Charlotte Christian Theatre Company. Little did I know that I’d be called the Prop Ninja, and now as an intern with them, known as the Backstage Badger. My sister Ana played Hopeful, and Lex joined backstage helping with costumes.
In April, I was a production assistant (a fancy term for the person who does whatever odd jobs a set may require) for Upward Sports‘ “The Big Story”. It’s a small evangelical DVD Upward gives out to participants every year. While on set, I met Jason Burkey, mostly known as the best friend character of the same name in the movie October Baby!
I also went to Carowinds, a local amusement park for the first time. I went the fastest I’ve ever been before (on land): 90 mph on the Fury!
Charlotte Christian Theatre’s 8-12 year olds class put on Pinocchio at the beginning of May. All three of us older girls helped out. I did the lights for all three shows!
The Run Wild 5k was another success! Getting up at 5am, delivering ice, setting up tents, giving out temporary tattoos, all of it is so fun for me!
I finished reading through the Harry Potter series for the first time in May. It was epic. I was quite bitter at the ending, but I’ve since come to peace with it.
My aunt took Ana, Lex, and I to the beach in June. We had a lot of fun! It was a great getaway before the biggest trip of my life…
On June 27, I arrived at The Lord’s Boot Camp to train for Guatemala!
I think I’ll just sum up July with a slideshow:
August and September were awesome, but really tough. I came back from my trip and started a full college semester. I tried to maintain two internships, and I got my first job.
In October, I brought myself down to a normal busy (rather than the crazy busy). I visited my best friend in upstate New York and had my 17th birthday the next weekend!
November was full of tough school assignments and learning to “bloom where I’m planted”. I saw The Phantom of the Opera for the first time!
December has been fantastic! A cousin got hitched on my parents’ 18th wedding anniversary. We went on a Disney cruise aboard the Dream. It was so much fun!
Kids? Yes, but it contains violence (not much worse than the earlier films)
Do I recommend it? Yes!
Part I: A story
This was me this year.
I was SO excited for this movie. Star Wars pretty much runs in my family. My uncle is one of those (awesome) nerds who owns a “Revenge of the Jedi” poster. My dad tells me how he and his brother waited in a line around the building to watch Empire Strikes Back with surround sound (a cool, new thing back then). My mom saw The Phantom Menace while pregnant with me.
Who am I kidding? I am still so excited for this movie! I’m the second-generation Star Wars fanatic.
So we find out that our long-awaited-for Disney cruise vacation (more articles on this to come) falls on the premiere night for The Force Awakens. We read that typically Disney cruises showed movies that were in theaters and/or to be released on DVD/Blu-Ray. We (my mom and I) did all sorts of internet searching to find out if The Force Awakens would be shown on the ship. If it wouldn’t be showing, I needed to buy tickets! My mom called Disney, but received an automated message. Finally, about two weeks before we embarked, we read on a DISboard (a Disney forum website) that someone as obsessed as us had emailed Disney and had received a yes: The Force Awakens would indeed premiere on the ship!
Once on the cruise, we learned that they were prepared. There were lots of Disney Cruise line/Star Wars souvenirs. All of the crew/cast members were getting ready (As the animation class instructor put it, “We’re having ten hours of meetings for a two hour movie!”). There would be five showings: two in 3D, three in 2D, including one at 5:15AM!
We had the early dinner seating, which was moved to 5:15pm (rather than the normal 5:45). We skipped dessert, and headed up two decks to join the growing line of excited Star Wars fans. We opted to watch it in 2D because we suspected more people would go for the 3D and because Mom and some of the girls were apprehensive about the motion of the 3D while on the ship.
At about 6:40 the doors of the Buena Vista Theater opened, and at 7:15 exactly, the LucasFilm logo appeared on the screen. The theater went crazy when STAR WARS started sliding backwards.
Before Disney bought LucasFilm, I’d sometimes ask my parents, “What was it like to see ‘STAR WARS’ appear on the big screen for the first time?” Now I know.
I had to pee for an hour and a half during the movie. I was not going to miss a single second of the greatest movie of the decade, maybe of the century. As soon as the director’s credit appeared, I shot out directly toward our stateroom. Let us hope that they stuck to tradition rather than the Marvel trend of after-credit scenes.
After the movie (and using the restroom), I felt like I could do anything. On the drive home the next day, despite the break we took in South Carolina for Papi to fix the van, I was in a fantastic mood. “How are you doing?” people would ask me to be polite. “Awesome! I just saw Star Wars!”
Part II: A short spoiler-free review
Like I said, I’m a second-generation Star Wars fan, so I was raised on the prequels as equally as the originals. The Force Awakens doesn’t leave story of the prequels, but it’s definitely more reminiscent of the originals. Some say it was too reminiscent, but I liked it.
The acting was great. The new guys (Finn, Poe, and Rey) are going to do well holding up the franchise in their own, new, ways.
If you can afford it, see it now! The theater offered some cool force sound effects that I don’t think will deliver the same effect my home TV does. Also, how long are you going to be able to avoid spoilers?
Speaking of which…
Part III: STOP SCROLLING AND GO PLAY MINECRAFT. DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN IT YET. Spoilers ahead!
Disclaimer: We’re just a bunch of sisters who like watching Cupcake Wars on Netflix or Food Network (when we’re at a hotel with cable TV). We have no official relationship of any sort with anyone officially affiliated with the TV show.
December 22, 2015, welcomed the second annual Lopez family Cupcake Wars.
Last year’s Cupcake Wars was our first. Alli (age 8) and I went up against Lex (13) and Ana (my twin-not-twin). Alli and I got the kitchen first. We used this recipe that I found on Pinterest for the cake part, and used store-bought buttercream frosting. For the decoration, we used some gingerbread men-shaped toppers we found in Target’s baking section.
I was proud of myself for not ruining the recipe and for cutting the corner of a Zip-loc bag to squeeze the frosting out. The alternative would be using the standard butter-knife to frost.
Ana and Lex used a “death by chocolate” recipe and store-bought chocolate frosting. For decoration, they used a Reese’s cup, a (different) store-bought gingerbread topper, and yellow sprinkles to make a baby Jesus in a manger. They got the major creativity points.
Some behind-the-scenes pics (with Papi photo-bombing)…
Matching bows… oh yeah.
In the end, ALLI AND I WON!!! The judges had a tough decision, but landed on the gingerbread cupcakes because WE’RE AWESOMER THAN THE OTHER TEAM’S! Just kidding, the delightful taste of the gingerbread surprised them, so they chose us.
This year, the we divided into the same teams. I pinned a bunch of ideas, and together Alli and I picked a fun Princess Leia design. We didn’t follow the recipe, just the picture for the decoration. We used this site for both our peanut butter frosting and chocolate cupcake recipes.
Every homemade frosting I’ve tried to make thus far in life has failed, Cupcake Wars 2015 being no exception. The only difference this time around was that the frosting tasted awesome, despite its lack of fluffiness (it’s consistency was more similar to soup than frosting).
In light of that, Alli and I quickly made up two more cupcake designs: a simpler Christmas-themed one, and a Chewbacca that would use the store-bought frosting.
I panicked over our batter for no reason, as it baked just fine. When I was celebrating evading imminent failure, Ana and Lex began their baking.
They used this chocolate cupcake recipe and made homemade caramel cream cheese frosting (from a recipe I can’t find). I thought my frosting tasted great, but theirs was AWESOME. They used strawberry tips for noses, chocolate chips for eyes, and pretzels for antlers.
Some behind-the-scenes baking… Nothing much has changed.
No matching bows this year
We made a HUGE mess.
Then it was time for the judges to taste. Something went wrong with Ana and Lex’s batter, because the cake was dense and dry. However, their Christmas-related creativity and frosting were favored over Alli’s and mine.
In the end, they couldn’t choose a winner. The competition was a draw. Next year, Alli and I shall reign champions!
Have your own Cupcake Wars, a great indoor winter activity for all ages! Comment your own stories of family baking/cooking competitions and rivalries!
It seems that everyone has their own version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
But the Muppets’ is the best A Christmas Carol. When you pop a version of Dickens’s story into your DVD (or VHS if you’re cool) player, pick this one. Here’s why:
Gonzo quotes straight from Charles Dickens.
Gonzo plays Charles Dickens (Rizzo plays himself), and not only does he tell the story, but he quotes so much from the book! Other Muppets and Scrooge quote as well. This movie isn’t just filmmakers telling a story from memory, but filmmakers striving to tell Dickens’s story.
The Muppets do such a great job living with humans, and the humans do a great job living with Muppets. It’s like that’s the way the world was made. Below are three of my favorite villager moments.
Exhibit A: The Baby Band during “It Feels Like Christmas”. Check out the beginning of it here on Youtube. Watch the two babies on the right in the front row, and you’ll see what I mean.
Exhibit B: The classic singing vegetables. “If he could be a flavor you can bet it would be sour!”
Exhibit C: The carolers. “He must be so lonely, he must be so sad, he’s really a victim of fear and of crime, look close and there must be a sweet man insiiiiiiiiide! NAH!”
“How would the bookkeepers like to suddenly be UNEMPLOYED?!”
“Heatwave! This is my island in the sun!”
I’ve seen the movie a dozen times, but this part still makes me laugh.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
He’s super scary, but he doesn’t infiltrate your nightmares (like Jim Carrey’s). He’s the best Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in A Christmas Carol‘s movie history. He’s creepy and dark, but not downright evil (like Pete in Mickey’s).
Why do you think (or not think) that the Muppets have the best A Christmas Carol?
Kids: Yes, if their reading comprehension can take on this length
Do I recommend it? Yes, but I haven’t read the rest of the series yet.
**Update: I have continued to read the series, and I do not recommend the series as a whole. The books go steadily, but drastically, downhill from here.**
Part I: for y’all who have yet to read it
My sister Ana (my twin-not-twin) had read Eragon a few weeks before, and she was hooked. So I finally I had to pick it up myself.
I, too, was hooked. All of my free time went into finding out what happened next. The ending was satisfactory (I can’t say anything more here), and I still wanted to read the next one (Eldest).
Now, I did not like the way the love interest was handled. When I found out that Eragon was written by a teenage guy, Christopher Paolini, I was shocked. The story is fantastic; I expected it to come from a old guy (just being honest). However, when it came to the “love interest”, the author’s youth made sense. Not only was the “love” not true love, but I don’t think that it’s good enough to be compared with chick flicks’ idea of love.
Paolini was obviously inspired by Tolkien. The way the different races (dwarf, elf, etc.), the land, and the history are portrayed screams The Lord of the Rings. Yet, Paolini writes like any modern author. Eragon isn’t like The Lord of the Rings, don’t get me wrong, I just see the inspiration (Aragorn > Eragon). Eragon is fast-paced and travels deep into the main character’s thoughts just like any modern novel.
Part II: Some random analyses, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!
Saphira is my favorite. I loved getting to know the dragon. She is fantastic. I thought it was rather obvious that she would get to breathe fire during the climax, but it was cool nonetheless, with the Isidar Mithrim shattering and all. I loved watching her and Eragon’s relationship grow.
I also really like Eragon’s family. He’s an orphan, but he doesn’t live a rotten life like Annie or the like. Garrow and Roran are rather normal. They have great strengths along with faults.
Whenever a major character dies, I analyze the death to see how it contributed to the story. I’ve found that many authors kill characters because they think they should or because they enjoy it. Garrow’s death was done well. His death really added to the plot and kept the story moving. Without his death, there’d been no need to revenge it and go after the Ra’zac with Brom. Paolini made a good choice, even though killing parents is becoming rather cliché.
Murtagh was an interesting character. I had a lot of trouble understanding him. As I’m reading through the rest of the Inheritance cycle, Murtagh grows even more interesting and I’m figuring out how he works.
As Ana originally pointed out to me, Eragon loses consciousness a lot. It’s a bit annoying, but I don’t see much of a way around it. Any ideas (answer in the comments)? It’s about as annoying as the first couple of Harry Potter books.
What did you think of Eragon? Answer in the comments! Please don’t release spoilers without warning.