Family, Vacation

Orlando – Part 3

Hope your Father’s day was a great one!

On to day 3 of our Orlando trip.  So we took advantage of the extra hour again and this time we stayed in Islands of Adventure, there are many more rides on this side in the Harry Potter area.  So first thing we did was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, I don’t remember the story line, since we were so early there were no lines so I didn’t catch what Harry, Hermoine and Ron were trying to tell us in the Defense of the Dark Arts room.  Like I mentioned in my previous post they keep you extremely entertained when you are waiting in line.  You go through the green house, see the entrance to Dumbledore’s office and see the portrait of the Fat Lady.  This ride is very like the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland/World, you wear 3D glasses and the chair moves you around and you get twirled around to see different things happening.  At some point they take your picture, I think they need to re-think the location of this camera, my sister is clearly bored

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I’m not too amused either, but Mr. A is clearly freaked out.

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Then we rode Flight of the Hippogriff and this ride Ian could ride, but Jensen could not.  Ian could’ve rode this ride forever if we let him.  We went during an excellent time when crowds were very minimal and the weather wasn’t sweltering.  In the later afternoon around 4pm most of the rides had 15 minute waits.  We got spoiled by the wait times being so short.  We then ventured next door to Jurassic Park.  Mr. A and I rode Jurassic Park River Adventure and we got very minimally wet, probably because the boat we were on only had 4-5 people on it.  Less weight = less splash?  Because my sis and Mr. A went right afterward and got drenched and their boat was full.

After that there were some carnival type games that Mr. A tried to win, but narrowly missed.  They also had this “game” geared towards small kids where you pick a dinosaur egg and put it under a x-ray machine and it shows you what kind of baby dino it is.  The prize you won depended on the type of dinosaur.

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The egg Ian picked

I forget which dinosaur it ended up being, but Ian got a little green toucan as a prize.  He now has to sleep with this toucan, it has replaced his monkey lovey.  Well not replaced but added.  The kid has 5 stuffed animals in his bed.  While walking through the Jurassic Park section there is camp Jurassic where it’s basically a huge play ground, it has hidden slides and bridges and a little splash pad.  Also, here is Pteranodon Flyer ride, it is for kids, meaning you have to have a kid with you in order to ride.  I got to take a little video of Ian riding it.

Of course he loved it and told me all about it afterwards.  Here we are watching the video afterwards…haha

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Also, you’ll find Jurassic Park Discovery Center, which is a building with a little shop and food on the top floor and the lower floor is a museum of sorts, it reminded me of the building in the actual Jurassic Park movie (the original one).  You can see a dinosaur hatch and experience how a dinosaur sees and hear.

We decided to go back to the hotel a little earlier since we were tired from the days before and we promised Ian we would go play in the pool.  On the third day we took it easy since we saw most everything we wanted to see on days 1 and 2.  Also my sister had to leave around 3pm to catch her flight home.  So I bought a wand (I ended up choosing Fleur’s wand) and walked around trying to do all the spells around Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.

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That’s me pointing my wand at the shrunken heads.

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We rode the train back and forth a lot and the station at King’s Cross has you actually walk in-between platforms 9 and 10!

We rode the minions ride and it was very cute.  This had the longest wait time.  We found out that if you choose to sit in the non-moving seats in the front there is virtually no wait time.  You just don’t get the 4D experience, which was fine with us since Jensen couldn’t ride it otherwise.

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There was also no wait for the Stormforce ride, partly because of all the construction around the area.
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There is a comic book section before you get to the Marvel superheros section and some of these little blurbs were funny.orlando-day2-48 orlando-day2-47

So that was Universal Days 2 and 3.  We head to Disney’s Magic Kingdom next!

Family, Vacation

Orlando 2016 – Part 2

Hope your week has been going well.  We went to a lake house over the weekend with my family.  Nice relaxing weekend, a bit humid, but good fun.  I forgot to post this fun video in the post about Disney Springs:

So days 2-4 were spent at Universal Studios.  I was so very excited to go to Harry Potter World, we got to go in an hour early because we were staying at one of their on-site hotels.  So worth it, we got to ride all the rides multiple times before the park opened and got to walk around without worrying about if we were going to run into people’s ankles with our stroller.  First we rode the Dragon Challenge, which is two different roller coasters.  I love how they decorated the path up to the coaster with elements from the movie.  Unfortunately you can’t take any photos, this is one of the rides where they make you put your stuff in lockers, they even have a metal detector at the top.  Both coasters are great, but the Chinese Fireball is more roller coaster and less loops than the horntail one.

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Entrance to Hogsmede

So this photo was taken right when we got in around 8:30am, the crowds you see is actually minimal it gets way more crowded later, so either you go to Harry Potter area first or last anything in between and you’ll have long wait times.  Also, my sister is a beast, she got into Orlando airport at 5am!

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Only Islands of Adventure is open an hour early, so we did a couple of rides and took some pictures and hopped on the Hogwarts Express to Diagon Alley, which is on the Universal Studios side.

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You can only ride the Hogwarts Express if you have a park hopper ticket, we got the tickets when they were having a buy 2 days get the 3rd free.  If you have the extra funds I highly recommend getting the park hopper ticket.  The train ride is an amazing experience.  You sit in compartments just like the movie, the windows are actually screens that play scenes as if you were riding the train out into London.

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Here are some of the scenes on the way to King’s Cross Station.

When you arrive you walk through the station and it even has the billboard for the “Magic” perfume ad seen in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

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The Knight Bus is right outside the station.

The entrance to Diagon Alley is an actual brick wall, when my parents and youngest sister went before us they completely missed the entrance! Don’t forget to wear sunscreen!

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When you walk “through” the wall the first thing you see is the dragon on top of Gringotts bank.  Which is the first ride we rode.  I will now take a moment to say, Universal’s child swap is amazing if there are short waits.  The whole party has to go through the line and at the end you tell the ride attendants you are doing child swap.  The ride attendant will tell the person waiting with the kids where to go, usually it is an A/C’d room with a television and line of site to the ride.  Once the first rider(s) go they come to the room and person sitting out goes and rides the ride without having to go wait in line again. If you have 3 adults, like us, the third person actually can go again.  So for us it went like this: Mr. A and my sis ride the ride first, they come back, then me and my sis go ride the ride.  Pretty awesome for the adults…not so awesome for our tikes, but it gave them the chance to sit down and relax for a bit.

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Escape from Gringotts is the only ride on Universal Side, the rest of the area is shops/eateries, where we picked up some souvenirs and had brunch.

When you walk out of Diagon Alley, Grimauld Place is next door and Kreacher occasionally peeps out. Outside of Harry Potter area is a pretty extensive Simpsons area, a San Francisco area, Transformers and a kid area.

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We rode Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl and picked up some donuts and saw Doc Brown on our way over to the kid area where Ian rode his first roller coaster ever.

Ian’s first roller coaster was Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster.  The wait was a little long and we got in and as soon as the coaster went Ian’s face lit up.  He was laughing and screaming (in a good way) the entire time.  As soon as it was over and we were pulling back in I told him “that’s it, all done” he then looked at me as if I had slapped him across the face and yelled “WHY?!”.  I told him that’s how it is, but he could wait in line and ride it again, which he of course said yes to.

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We rode a lot more rides, watched the parade and took some photos with Transformers.

That was all day 1, our feet were sore and the kids crashed after we ate dinner.

Family, Vacation

Orlando 2016 – Part 1

We went to Orlando at the beginning of May for some fun in the sun!  Mr. A had a work conference on the Disney campus a couple days before, so the kids and I joined him after his conference ended.  We didn’t plan on going to Disney World this time around because I wanted to go to Universal Studios.  I’ve wanted to go to Universal Studios for the longest time, ever since they announced they were making the Harry Potter area back in 2010.  6 years and 2 kids later we went and let me tell you it was fantastic!  Since our kids are not in the school system yet we go on vacation during off-season times to avoid the crowds.  Beginning of May was a very good time to go, it was warm on most days but not awful.  My sister from California also joined us for a couple days and having the extra set of hands is amazingly useful.

Lets start with our plane ride.  Since Mr. A was already in Orlando I had to fly solo with the two kiddos.  It wasn’t as awful and horrible as I thought it would be, everything went as perfect as could be.  I also have TSA pre-check so I didn’t have to take our shoes off or take out a baggy of liquids.  I brought an umbrella stroller, which Ian sat in and I brought my Ergo which Jensen was in.  I haven’t used this since Jensen could walk so to say he was less than thrilled was an understatement, but I didn’t care!  Him strapped to me meant he couldn’t run free while I was trying to check in our bags.

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Safety First

We flew Southwest, I went ahead and paid extra for the Early Bird so I could ensure we had 3 seats together.  We got strapped in and off we went, I brought both of their tablets, and their blankets on board with us.  The flight is short from DFW, so didn’t have to stress too much about entertainment.  Once we landed I was in such a rush to get out and get our luggage and catch the shuttle that I forgot to pick up the gate-checked stroller.  Luckily they sent it down to the baggage claim area after I told them what happened.  We got on the shuttle and were on our way.  Jensen fell asleep.

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Once we arrived at the hotel I was able to check-in early (we got there around noon) and got situated in our room.  (I’ll have a separate post about our fantastic hotel)  We waited for Mr. A to join us and we relaxed for the rest of the day.  The next day I planned for us to go to to the Disney Art of Animation Hotel, I had wanted to stay here initially but we weren’t going to Disney World so it seemed a waste.  (It’s good we didn’t stay here the taxi ride between Universal and Disney is outrageous).  I wanted to stay here because they have the Cars cars outside.  They have all of them from the original movie except Red and Lizzie.  Ian was very upset Red wasn’t there, it’s all he wanted to see and basically was a butt about it the rest of the time.

If you visit Florida please remember to bring sunscreen, as you can see from the pics it’s very sunny in the sunshine state!  Jensen’s favorite is Mater and as soon as he saw Mater he yelled “Mater!!” and ran over there.  The pool for this area is surrounded by the orange cones which also serve as sitting areas.  So that was the Cars area of the hotel.

Next to that cluster of rooms is the Finding Nemo section.  When you start walking over there you’ll see the seagulls way up, you can see them in the picture above with Sarge.  The buildings are painted like you are on the sea floor.  This is the central area of the hotel and also has the main pool and a small play ground.  We were very impressed by how immaculate these structures are, in fact when we were walking around we saw maintenance crew touching up paint on the buildings.

We let the kids play a little bit in the play ground that looks like a coral reef.  Then we moved on to the Lion King area.

After we walked through here it was around lunch time so we decided to skip the Little Mermaid area, especially since neither of our kids were really interested in Ariel.  So we took a free shuttle over to Disney Springs, which is a huge shopping area.  They have a lego store, a mini train, which our children had to ride, and this huge hot air balloon.  Along with a bunch of stores, you can spend all day here.

We decided to eat at T-Rex Cafe, inside has all prehistoric decor and every couple of minutes a storm comes through with lightening and thunder.  Jensen wasn’t a fan of this and had to be held every time this happened…which was probably 4 times during the course of our meal.  Really cool decor and the food was good, not cheap, but I do believe it’s part of the Disney dining plan.

After eating we walked around some more and passed by a row of amphicars.  What is an amphicar you ask, well it’s a car that’s also a boat!  So cool right?  The ride costs $130, so we decided to skip this attraction.  Still very cool to witness the car driving into the water and then floating away.

After this we walked and shopped some more and took a taxi back to our hotel.  Where we attempted to go swimming, but it was actually too cold!  Next up Universal Studios Day 1

Family, Holidays

Easter 2016

March was a busy month for us.  Mr. A went to Hong Kong for a week to attend his cousin’s wedding.  The week after he returned I had to go on a business trip to Indiana.  On top of the usual birthday parties and weekend outings.  We didn’t get to go to Prestonwood’s Egg Drop this year as it fell on the weekend that Mr. A was out of town and I wasn’t about to take 2 toddlers by myself.  We did try to go to another Egg Drop, but it didn’t happen as the church didn’t anticipate the huge crowd and they deemed it unsafe for the helicopter to drop the eggs.

The kids did get to hunt for eggs at school and we did a small one in our house.  Then my sister also hid some eggs at my parents’ house when we went over for dinner.  All these photos were taken by their teacher.

 

And for your entertainment some selfies with Jensen:

 

Around Town

Tulip Farm

A couple from Holland have a tulip farm just north of Dallas and I saw on Facebook that a few of my friends were “interested” in this event.  I told Mr. A about it and we planned it out with some of our friends to go visit one weekend.  One of our other friends went the weekend before and told us to arrive as soon as they opened as it would get crowded later in the day.  We find in general it’s always best to go to these types of things as close to open time as possible.

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It’s very beautiful and there are indeed rows and rows of tulips.  They have baskets at the end of most rows, you just pick one up and pick any tulip you want, once you are done picking bring it to any of the many tents and they’ll put this gel stuff on the ends and wrap up the tulips for you.  They were $2.50 per tulip and entry was $2.50 per person.  So not cheap, but indeed beautiful.

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It might look like Jensen is sniffing the flowers, but he’s really looking for bugs! haha

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The boys were bored pretty quickly, but they found the “sand”, the dirt around the tulips, to be highly entertaining.  Especially when filling up the tulips to the point that they were drooping…or throwing the dirt in the air…

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I did manage to get a couple of pictures with the boys.  Never mind that they aren’t looking at the camera…

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In the end I picked 6 tulips that hadn’t fully bloomed yet and they lasted a little over a week, pretty impressive for tulips!

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You can buy bulbs from them too, check out their website: Texas Tulips

Around Town, Family

Silly Jensen

Ian is a picky eater.  I put something new on his plate and he will question what it is and promptly tell me “I don’t like it.”  I have no idea why he is like this because Jensen is a pretty decent eater.  The other day we went to a Pho place near our house and if you order the pho then you get a plate of these veggies to add to your bowl of noodle soup.  So we were giving the kids the bean sprouts and Ian went for the lime and started making silly faces because it was sour.  Then all the sudden Jensen starts crying and saying “I don’t like it!”  His face was RED and we asked him what he didn’t like and so he pointed at the plate and there was a little nibble out of the jalapeno slice 😯


Jensen also can be quite temperamental, we are working on not hitting when something makes him mad.  He can throw a fit if you don’t give him what he wants. However sometimes his frustrations can be funny.  Ms. J sent this text to me the other day 🙂

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Around Town, Family

Jump Jump Jump

Apparently there is a new thing out there for kids to do instead of just going to the movies or hanging out at someone’s house.  It’s trampoline parks, I see them all over the place.  During the Christmas break Mr. A had to finish up end-year reviews for his employees, so I took the kids to one to get them out of the house.

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We’ve been here twice now, once during Christmas break and another time for a birthday party.  The one we went to is called Jump Street in Plano.  They have a special area for younger kids and it has a smaller trampolines and a lot of bounce houses and this big slide.

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At first Ian refused to go by himself, so I took off my shoes and went up there and slid with him.  After that he was just fine with it and went a million more times by himself.

Jensen is still little and has a hard time climbing to the top by himself, so at the birthday party Mr. A and myself went down the slide with him.  Obviously lots of fun 🙂

The big kids area is huge and they have lots of different activities, a basket ball hoop, dodge ball, a mechanical bull and a lot of huge trampolines.  There were a lot of teens here I was quite surprised.  All in all a great place for kids to burn off some energy and have fun.

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Holidays

Valentine’s Day 2016

I’m catching up!!

This Valentine’s Day I decided I would take the day off and help out at the kids’ school for their Valentine’s day party.  I’m so glad I did.  I love seeing what they do during the day when I’m not around.

These are the Valentine’s I made for Ian to give away.  They are little heart pockets that are supposed to look like those conversation heart candies. I filled them with fruit snacks because kids love fruit snacks.  I subscribe to My Paper Pumpkin and this was the project of the month as well as a heart banner (that is still hanging up in my house…)  I thought this was perfect to give to the kids since I am not that close to my co-workers to be giving them Valentines.

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This is the Valentine’s I made for Jensen to give away.  I found a free printable and bought the cars on Amazon.  The cars were already individually packaged so I just stapled the print out on there.

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I got to help cut out and hide little paper hearts that the “Love Monster” left out.  All the kids raced around the room to find all the hearts.  Then I got to help the kids make their own Love Monster with a special note to give to their parents.  After that the kids exchanged Valentines.

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Then I sneakily went home after they all had their lunch.  When I went back to pick up the kids, Ms. J told me Ian woke up looking for me and asking her where’s Ms. Sandy.  She was very confused because A.  that’s not my name and B. Ian NEVER calls me by my name.  But since all the other kids were calling me that he started to do it too.  I’m happy to report he still calls me “mommy”.

Mr. A got me 2 bouquets from Bouqs.  I love this flower site, the flowers are fresh and the price stated is the price you pay, there are no additional shipping and handling fees a lot of other flower sites tack on.  The tulips Ian picked out and the roses with the succulents I picked out and Mr. A bought me 😉

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Hope your Valentine’s Day was full of love!

Around the House, Family

Jensen’s 2nd Birthday Party

My baby turned 2 in January.  When deciding a theme for his party I had a hard time.  Jensen loves trains, what boy doesn’t??, Ian also loves trains.  Ian’s 2nd birthday party was train themed.  Jensen also loves the show “The Stinky and Dirty Show” an Amazon original, it has one episode.  We read that there would be more, but we’ve been watching the same episode over and over for over a year now.  So I told Mr. A what about a transportation theme and he thought that was a good idea.

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I wanted this party to be low key and minimal decorating on my part.  I searched on Etsy for some cute printables and I landed on the transportation one from Stockberry Studios.  I ordered chicken nuggets from Chick-fil-a and planned out the other food I’d serve and the cake I’d make.  I thought to myself “Self that’s all you need for this party don’t go overboard!”.

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Then 2 weeks before the party Mr. A goes “I saw some cool box vehicles you can make, they look easy to make I’ll help you.”  So I looked at the links he showed me and indeed they looked easy enough, so I though sure I’ll make one or two.  Guys I ended up with 7 box vehicles and a gas station, why do I torture myself?

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I got the initial idea from Emilia’s Blog and went from there.  I made 2 cars, a plane, a train, a boat, a garbage truck (personal fav) and a huge fire truck.  All of these boxes I had on hand and hadn’t recycled yet.  The smaller ones were made using diaper boxes and the huge fire truck is from the box that had the Little Tikes fire truck Santa got Jensen for Christmas.  I did something similar for Ian’s 2nd birthday, I made a big train and that time I painted the cardboard, which took forever and didn’t turn out great because the paint warped the cardboard.  This time I used posterboard and tape.  Mr. A did help me, by the time I got to the large fire truck I was done with creativity, so he did all the finishing touches on these vehicles.

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Before the party I cleaned out the toy area and hid a lot of the toys in Mr. A’s studio.

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This balloon and the Thomas one behind it is still floating 3 months later!

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These pillow covers are actually part of our every day decor in the play room 🙂

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Favors of course!

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I didn’t light the candle until after we finished singing, kid blows out all the candles!

Party Details:
Food: Chick-fil-a nuggets, spare tire donuts (chocolate donuts), various snack mixes, PB&J and fruit
Cake: Chocolate cake that I made look like the a construction site
Favors: I printed out some coloring books and melted some crayons into some vehicle shapes using this mold, some chocolate and some stickers
Paper Decorations: Stockberry Studios

 


On Jensen’s actual birthday, which was a couple days before his party, Mr. A took him to Legoland Discovery center in Grapevine, Tx.

Around Town, Family

Dallas Zoo

When my sister from California came to visit we also took the opportunity to go to the Dallas Zoo, we hadn’t been in awhile and the weather was nice.  Also during the winter the price of tickets are only $5 and kids 2 and under are free.

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King Julian!

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They have an area where you can feed the giraffes, it’s super fun for the kids.  I didn’t expect that they would like it so much, but my youngest sister really wanted to feed them, so I let the kids try it too.  I ended up buying another bunch of food for just them to feed the giraffe too.  Ian was hesitant at first, so he’s standing pretty far back.

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Jensen on the other hand walked right up to the giraffe and fed the giraffe like he did it everyday.
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Afterwards we went to eat lunch at “Dallas Grilled Cheese”  Yummy carbolicious sandwiches

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We didn’t go to the children’s zoo area where there is petting zoo, we would’ve had to stay another hour at least if we went there.  We were getting hungry and the food options at the zoo aren’t that varied.  All in all a great zoo to spend the day at.

*The featured image was taken by my sister.