Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Oh. Em. Gee.

First, one should realize that we can't be sensible and grown-up all the time and at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter I was anything but sensible. day ever! Seriously, I felt like I had just drank and entire bottle of Felix Felicis. I don't know that I've been more excited about anything in my life. For those interested, I will now run you through a brief overview of my experience - so if you don't want to know anything about the park, stop reading!

Okay so, we get to the park and I made a beeline for the Harry Potter park. Steven had to work to keep up, but I was on a mission. We finally get near the Harry Potter area....and there's a line just to get in! I was sad:

Yes, that is my Ravenclaw House sweater. And yes, I know I'm a nerd.

But the line really didn't seem that long, and we got into the park fairly quickly. It was incredible, I seriously cannot stress how amazing the park looks. I really felt like I was in Hogsmeade! Plus, it was pretty cold, so the snow on the rooftops seemed entirely plausible! First things first, we got a couple of butterbeers (in souvenir mugs of course!) and I was happy:

Then, to kick things off right, we got in line for Ollivander's right away. We ended up waiting about an hour and a half, but it was so worth it, because I got picked for the re-enactment!! It was so magical, the script was almost word-for-word out of the book, I got to try wands and make things go wrong AND when I found the right wand there was music and lights and wind blowing - it was very incredible. 

Next we went to ride The Forbidden Journey, the new ride for the park. Steven got very sick but I loved it!! You flew around Hogwarts on an enchanted bench, got chased by a dragon, hit the Whomping Willow and flew around the Quidditch pitch and attacked by dementors! It was a pretty crazy ride, but very fun.

After that ride, the part got really crowded, so we decided to leave and get a return ticket for later. I was able to snap a sweet photo, so you too can see how incredible the area looks:

Later, we returned to walk through Honeyduke's, Zonko's, The Three Broomsticks and the Hog's Head. They did a really great job with the interiors of these too, but I wish there were less people so I could walk around more (and that Bertie Bott's every flavour beans weren't $10 a pop) and enjoy it. But I suppose on a Hogsmeade weekend at Hogwarts the shops would get pretty crowded too.

I really cannot wait to go back. And if you cannot wait to get to the park either, here are a few tips from yours truly:

  • Get to the park early and hit Harry Potter first. Even though they were regulating the amount of people to get into the area, it still got a lot busier after noon.
  • Go to Olivander's first, we waited for about an hour and a half, but later in the afternoon the line can get much longer.
  • Don't go through the single rider's line. It doesn't end up being much shorter, and you miss a lot of the line attractions.
  • There's a high possibility that you will get sick on The Forbidden Journey. Of all the people I talked to, just me and one other person didn't get deathly nauseous.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm Blogging from a Plane!

I suppose as part of Delta's attempts to spread holiday cheer, they've teamed up with Google Chrome to present free GoGo in Flight (wireless internet service while in the air). This is pretty rad, as I'm often on a plane with wireless, but never partake because it's ridiculously overpriced. So this means you get an exciting blog post from the air!


Anyway, as a wise singer once said, 'Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays!' So I am currently making the trek back to Tarpon Springs. Despite a trick-connection through Minneapolis, the trip has been pretty smooth. And as I am sitting here in anticipation of my trip home, I've compiled a list of the top-five things I plan to do while home...because you cared.

One - The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Not sure when this is going to happen, but it will. I have been waiting for this for months: seeing people's Facebook statuses and pictures, getting a detailed description from my WBFF Tara - the anticipation is killing me! But in just a short while, my dreams will finally come true and I will get to experience the magic for myself. 

Oh, and yes, I totally brought my Ravenclaw house sweater to wear. I will get picked for every possible audience participation show there is!

Two - Eating a Moe's Southwest Grill. Mmmm mmmm. A Triple Lindy with tofu and queso on the burrito: you are going to be so very, very yummy.

Three - Going to Howl at the Moon. It's a really rad dueling piano bar with delicious cocktails in buckets. For some reason my sister hasn't been here yet, so we will need to rectify that.

Four - Eating at Tijuana Flats, another delicious Tex-Mex joint. Here, I enjoy their black bean tacos and the mild sauces in their hot sauce bar. Om nom, nom, nom...

Five - Mock Eclipse with my sister. Normally we go to the movie theatre to mock the Twilight films and have people hiss and throw things at us; but unfortunately I was in California for the release of the third movie and wasn't able to do this with her. But, we will still have a ton of fun making fun of the ridiculousness that is this third Twilight movie. I think it's more fun to piss people off while doing so...maybe we can convince my mom to throw stuff at us or something.

And of course, it goes without saying that I'm most looking forward to spending some quality time with my family and friends. After all ... 'for the holidays you can't beat home sweet home!'

Happy Christmahanukwanzika everyone!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Support Craft Breweries!

This weekend, in addition to snowboarding (surprise), Steven and I watched a very interesting documentary entitled Beer Wars. This documentary focused on the secret war currently being fought between new craft breweries and the 'big three' - Budweiser, Miller and Coors. Watch the trailer!

Before prohibition, apparently there were many craft breweries all over the United States - European immigrants who came to America and brought the beer recipes from their home countries. After prohibition ended, the era of 'big beer' began and brought with it tasteless, common beer. Those who wanted beer with intricate flavors needed to brew their own.

Enter craft breweries: New Belgium, Sam Adams (although I consider them more 'mainstream' now), Gordon Biersch, Stone Brewing Company, Dogfish Head, etc. They bring beer with flavor, life, But with the 'big three' dominating the market, these little guys struggle to survive.

For example, did you know that Anheuser Busch owns 49% of the market share? And that's not just Bud, Bud Light, Buch, Michelob, Bud Lime or any of the others that first pop to mind. No, no. With the advent of craft breweries, Anheuser Busch needs to get a piece of that action and also owns some trickster brews: Shock Top, Wild Blue, Rolling Rock, and Beach Bum. Not to mention the capitalize on imports: Boddington's, Leffe, Hoegaarden, Kirin, and Stella Artois.

I mean, Boddington's, really?! I love Boddington's! I guess now I know how I was able to get it at Rays games.

You can see a full listing of Anheuser Busch's brews here, and the list might surprise you!

Actually, an interesting test the documentary ran, and I would like to partake in was a blind taste test of Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Lite. Everyone tested had 'their' beer, but none of them were able to pinpoint it when tasting each beer.

Do they really all taste the same? Is my preference for Miller Lite really just due to loyalty to my Wisconsin roots? I'm very interested to try...

I know why you choose one of the 'big three': they're cheap, you don't care what your beer tastes like, etc. But come on people! It's time to put your big boy or big girl pants on and start standing up for beers with taste and character, made by those who love what they do and aren't afraid to try new recipes!

Call me a 'beer snob' or whatever you will, but I'm staying away from the 'big three' and all of their tricks. You may be paying more, but you're paying for quality and helping craft breweries stay in business. If you have Netflix, I highly recommend watching the film - I'd equate it to Bottle Shock, but for beer.

After watching the movie, Steven and I were inspired and quickly took a trip to BevMo to snatch up some craft beers. We checked every label, and were surprised to find how few choices there are and how many land mines await you!

In other news, check out Brew Masters on the Discovery Channel. It follows Sam Calagione, owner and founder of Dogfish Head Brewery and it's 'Off-Centered Ales for Off-Centered People'. It's really quite interesting and a lot of fun to watch!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy St. Nick's Day!

What?! You've never heard of St. Nick's Day? Well... I mean... outrageous... come on... erm... honestly I'm not surprised. I was pretty much the only kid out of my friend's who celebrated St. Nick's Day growing up.

St. Nick's Day happens on the 6th of December when St Nick visits and leaves small presents in your stockings. St. Nick actually gave me my first beanie baby!

Derby the Horse: My First Beanie Baby. I snuck him into school that day to show my friends.

St. Nick's Day is predominately celebrated in the Midwest by families with strong Central/Eastern European ties. With my mom's family being strongly Ukrainian and Polish and dad's family being German (plus growing up in the Milwaukee area), they brought the tradition with us to Florida. 

It celebrates the feast day of St. Nicholas, who lived in the village of Patara (now the Southern coast of Turkey) during the third century. While there are many versions of his story, the main gist is that he gave to the poor and hungry and protected those who needed protecting, and St. Nick's Day is meant to preserve the stories of his generosity.

The main question I get from people is "What's the difference between Santa and St. Nick?" While Santa Claus is also based on the image of St. Nicholas, he has morphed into someone much flashier and bigger what with the North Pole, elves, reindeer and that sleigh.  If you still don't realize the difference, these chocolates should help:

Santa Claus (left) and St. Nick (right)

So St. Nick's Day is meant to be simpler and celebrate the life of St. Nicholas himself, while Christmas brings you the jolly rotund man whose nine slave reindeer carry him through the air in what I'm sure is a very heavy sleigh.

In any case, Happy St. Nick's Day everyone!