Birthday Adventure

I am still dreaming of the Nutella Milkshake I had at the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. Man, I should have gone back for another one  🙄.  Too late. And we devoured it so fast there is no picture.

The last week was a different one for us. Oliver worked ahead in school so we could take a stay-cation and go to Universal Studios. I had wanted to go again for a while now that Emerson is
tall enough to ride most of the rides. What better excuse than my birthday? None. I had also invited Anna, “Lela”, along with us back before we left Colorado. We are all HUGE Harry Potter fans. In fact, they are the first books I ever enjoyed reading.

We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel @ Universal Studios, which I recommend. I did look for a good rate to the Portofino Hotel as well, but found the better deal at the HRH. (Florida Resident Rate. I also tried for a Military Rate, which did not get published until almost January 1, 2018 but the FL rate ended up being better. I could only get a club level or suite with Mil rates.) Our pool view was fabulous and the amenities – the pool mainly, were a big hit. The boys played in the pool so long the first day that their toes bled. Yes, this is a Florida thing, and yes I checked their feet after a few hours of swimming. But apparently, not well enough… 

We enjoyed 3 full park days and 2 pool days overall. Staying at the big Universal Hotel – Portofino, HRH and Sapphire Bay – is the only way to enjoy Express passes the whole time without having to pay more for them. This is at least $80/person/day in savings. It makes a huge difference, as you can ride all the rides and see both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in 2 days without waiting in lines. WORTH IT.

We walked each morning the park – it’s that close. I find the meal plans aren’t worth it for my family. We pack our own snacks – fruit pouches, nutella and jelly sandwiches, water bottles, apple juice, etc for our main snacks. Saves money and we eat healthier this way. Not that we didn’t eat Berties Every Flavor Beans, Chocolate Frogs, ButterBeer, Pumpkin Juice and my birthday treats 🙂  It was a bad few days, but walking 10 hours a day, I say it was deserved. Did I mention Emerson didn’t cry or complain once about all the walking? Adrenaline junkie, that kid!

I feel we ate our way through Universal successfully. The Breakfast buffet at the HRH – The Kitchen – was very good. A little pricey overall, but compared to one omelet at $16, the $23 buffet was a steal! We had some amazing Italian at Vivo, and a fun time at Cowfish. The boys loved this place because you could make a “fish” and “send it to the fish-tank.” Then while seated for dinner you get to watch for your fish swimming around on their virtual fish tanks. Oliver ate 2 full children’s meals (like that bento box below) at dinner one night!! Holy Moly.

We returned back to the camper today at Patrick Air Force Base, did some grocery shopping, and in general had a “chill” day. Oliver did his required school work and a few make up reading-log events from last week. (He did read while on vacation! Good kid overall, but man we (Anna and I) battled some attitude and listening with that kid lately. I hope it was all tired from the parks and adjustment from dad not being around, and not what the future has to hold throughout adolescent and teenage years.


  1. It was an awesome time! Loved being with all of you. Miss you guys!!

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