So You’re Going To Universal Studios Orlando?

So You’re Going To Universal Studios Orlando?

You’ve watched Universal Studios Orlando featured on All-Star Celebrity Apprentice and decided:  This year, you are going to Universal Studios Orlando for your family vacation.    Yes, I know, if you are going to Orlando shouldn’t you visit “the House of Mouse?”  But, let’s get honest, doesn’t your family crave and deserve a new adventure?   It’s time to indulge your older child and explore a new “world.” Enter Universal Studios Florida, also called Universal Studios Orlando.

You’ve made the decision to go and and as the official “Family Vacation Coordinator” you are now wondering what your family should see and do first. My first bit of advice:  Assess with whom you are traveling: with or without kids?  Older, younger or all ages?  Are the grandparents joining you or are you on your own with your children?  These are important questions to ask because, at Universal Studios Orlando, there is no prescribed list of things to see or do and your itinerary can really depend on the ages of your entourage. 

So let me get this point out of the way: I am 100% convinced that Universal Studios Orlando’s target audience is not children ages 5 and under.  Yes, I know that there are rides (and islands) that cater to younger children but I found that I had the most fun when Lulu was old enough to take advantage of the more vigorous rides.  Now, I know that there are some people who would TOTALLY disagree with me but having visited this theme park a few times, I feel strongly that more fun is had being able to ride the adventurous rides like “The Hulk” and “Dragon Challenge” on the Islands of Adventure with your family than taking turns riding separately because one of your children is too young to partake in the adventure. (Am I being too harsh?  I don’t mean to–I’m just telling you how I see it.)   Those rides are not designed for the faint of heart or the small of age and stature.  If you want rides targeted toward your “wee ones” and have classic photo opportunities with memorable (and somewhat historical) characters, I know a park down the street that will be happy to oblige.  Lulu is the perfect age to enjoy ALL of the rides on the Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida.  We got lucky–Adam and I wound up “fighting” over who got to ride with her on her first “big” roller coaster. As it turns out, thanks to a change in my center of gravity I get completely and totally ill riding roller coasters. Yet, one more reason that getting old sucks! So Adam and Lulu enjoyed the roller coasters while I sat out to “check Facebook.”

After five Disney Cruises, our little (okay, now big) adventurer was Disney’d out and wanted to see something new–and something for “a more sophisticated” traveler.  And guess what?  Universal Studios Orlando delivered!  We are both diehard Harry Potter fans: she loved the movies while I devoured the books almost on the same day as they were released. (Fortunately, Adam agreed to indulge our addiction to the world of wizards and witches.)  We were anxious to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!  But not before we had a chance to embrace our inner Lorax and pay homage to the man who taught us the fun of using words to rythme and teach us valuable lessons about respecting the trees: Dr. Seuss at Seuss Landing.

Looking for our list of great things to do while at Universal Studios Orlando? It’s coming. Check this site over the weekend and we will post a list of our favorite adventures!



Peace, Love & Cupcakes: Making Cupcakes At Jilly’s

Peace, Love & Cupcakes: Making Cupcakes At Jilly’s

Cupcake Jillys

The Perfect Cupcake

American Girl dolls. American Girl dolls is all I have been hearing for over a year.  Our daughter can’t get enough of them and when asked what she would like for her birthday, the holidays, or on a Wednesday (joke), she doesn’t pause to take a breath or give the question any additional thought: An American Girl something.

Luckily, she also has quite an imagination and makes up humorous and somewhat gruesome stories for her dolls.  K can be found in her room setting up a Tier 3 ER for her American Girl dolls who have recently been in a deadly helicopter accident and were then “mauled” (aka sniffed) by the German Shepherd, who for the sake of the game is now a Saber Toothed Tiger.

Imagine my surprise several weeks ago when I discovered the American Girl dolls had been left by the wayside and K was parked in front of the television watching the Food Channel’s latest dessert show: Cupcake Wars. When I tried to distract her, she promptly told me: “Not now Mom!  I’m about to find out who won this season’s competition!” Uh, huh?  What exactly was she watching?  It seems that K is hooked on a show that, like Top Chef (on the Bravo network), pits chefs (Pastry chefs in this case) against each other for the honor of winning an award and monetary compensation.  In K’s case, she was watching the final episode of the 3rd season in which Chefs Casey Shiller, Certified Executive Pastry Chef, and Dana Holland, executive chef of Jilly’s Cupcake Bar & Cafe competed against several other teams on the episode entitled “The Final Frontier,” an outer space theme.  The winner’s cupcakes would be featured at a VIP party honoring the first man in space.  Guess who won?  And guess who was screaming with joy and jumping all over our living room furniture?  Yeah, it was Jilly’s and K was THRILLED!

So it seems that the competition had been re-run in preparation for Season #4 beginning in January, 2012 but K didn’t know (or care).  When we told her that we decided to go to St. Louis for a winter break holiday, K’s first questions were  “Can we go to Jilly’s?  You know their in St. Louis too?”

So off we were to visit some wonderful friends in St. Louis and go to Jilly’s.

K Outside of Jilly's: Day 2

We showed up at the bakery a bit later than we had intended: 4:30 p.m.  The bakery was scheduled to close in 30 minutes.  How were to know that we were about to experience Divine Intervention in the shape of Jill Segal and a fantastic cupcake?  When Jill saw us taking pictures, she sadly told us that they were OUT OF CUPCAKES! OMG!  We came all this way (from Chicago to St. Louis) and they were out of cupcakes?  I couldn’t help it.  I swear that the words just slipped out of my mouth: “Oh No!  And we drove all of this way!  From Chicago to St. Louis just to try your cupcakes! And she (my daughter) is such a fan! You can’t be out of cupcakes now?!?”

Jill just melted in front of us.  This wonderful woman who owed us no more than an “I’m sorry but what kind of dummies show up at a bakery 30 minutes before it closes expecting prize winning cupcakes?” explanation, stopped everything that she was doing, grabbed K’s hand, took her to the back room and introduced her to Casey Shiller and Dana Holland, the chefs who created magic and won the contest!  K was speechless, and it looked as though she was having trouble breathing because she was so excited to meet her culinary idols!  Casey asked K if she was interested in designing her own cupcake?  And the rest of the story can be shared through pictures–they are much more interesting and tasty:

Casey and K choose the cupcake


Yum! Cream cheese fills the cupcake


Pink Cream Cheese Icing


Now? Which toppings to choose?


Carefully applying silver balls


More design


Add an Umbrella or No? Choices, choices


Cupcake Jillys

The Perfect Cupcake



The Finished Product: Boxed


Dana consults and declares it a "Good Job!"


We get our pictures taken with the famous crew from Jilly's


What a way to spend a phenomenal afternoon in St. Louis!  Adam, K and I had different favorite parts of the trip.  Visiting with new and old friends absolutely made the list of highlights.  But I think that we can all agree that there is NOTHING like a cupcake to make your day and bring a smile to your face.  I cannot thank Jill enough for her hospitality and enthusiasm.  Carey and Dana were fun to work (and play) with and I know that K cannot wait to make it back to Jilly’s again for a repeat performance.  Be honest, if you had a chance to design your own cupcake with an award winning team, wouldn’t you?

Brings a smile to my face every time I see this pic. Must be a Mom thing?

I know that she would!


Willy Wonka's or Jilly's Cupcakes? Yummy!