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Mischief Managed

Growing up I was never much of a Harry Potter fan. Actually, I wasn't at all. I remember my parents reading The Sorcerer's Stone to my brother and me before bed, and also taking us to see the first two movies. Aside from that, I was never very interested in fantasy. 
Flash forward about 16 year, I'm a junior in college, and have finally realize everyone in the world loves HP except for me. I had no idea what the big deal was, but I was interested in finding out. One of my friends had all of the movies at school with her, so I spent the next few days catching up on all that I missed out on.

Fast forward another few years. After seeing all of the movies and absolutely loving them (I know, seeing the movies first is not the way to go), I decided I was well past due to read the books. I headed to Half Price Books, bought the set, and dived into the fantasy world of J.K. Rowling.
Now here I am, just last week visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. Tom and I have been wanting to go, so when we booked a spring break trip to Sanibel we knew we'd have to make a stop. Orlando is about a 3 and a half hour drive from Sani, so we booked a hotel, got up bright and early, and headed to Universal. Luckily Tom is the best and drove the whole time while I napped :) (Hi Tom!)
We started the day in Universal, which is the Diagon Alley part of the park. I was actually surprised how small Diagon Alley was, and how many people there were there. It was so crowded it was actually hard to walk through. We did a quick once over of the shops and Gringotts, then sneaked away inside to grab a butterbeer. I got two butterbeers for us (frozen - the best), and Tom grabbed us two actual beers, Wizard's Brew and Dragon Scale. Wizard's Brew is a porter that I liked best, but Tom liked the Dragon Scale which is a lighter and slightly hoppier lager.
We sat outside Gringotts in the sun trying to stay warm (it was actually a chilly day), then began 
exploring the shops. We popped into Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions (I especially loved the dresses on display, but it was so dark in there that I couldn't get a picture), Sugarplum’s Sweetshop where we bought a pumpkin pasty, chocolate frog, and Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans (stay away from ear wax and vomit - seriously), Quality Quidditch Supplies, and lastly Olivander's. We also went down Knockturn Alley and stopped into Borgin and Burkes. It was dark and creepy but pretty cool to stop into. I really loved how detailed each of the stores were, they were just like the movies, but they were so small and SO packed. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if everything wasn't so crowded that you couldn't get through a store.
We then lined up for the Escape From Gringotts ride, which was probably my favorite part of Diagon Alley. The line starts outside the bank, and as it moves up you move into Gringotts. Holy crap - Gringotts blew me away. It was identical to the movie. The high ceiling had three huge, elaborate chandeliers hanging from it and goblins sat along the sides working on their paperwork. They looked so real I couldn't believe it. As the line moves along you then go into the vaults under the bank, and then onto the ride. I found the ride itself a little underwhelming because it is about five minutes long, but getting to see Gringotts made it worth the wait. 
Next we boarded the Hogswarts Express to take us to Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure. The train had a screen in each box to make it look like you were driving through the county to Hogwarts. There was also some kind of screen on the door of the cabin that showed the outline of Harry, Ron, Hermione and some Dementors as well. I actually preferred Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley. I loved the snow covered roofs and crooked chimneys, and the view of Hogwarts in the distance.
I found that the shops in Hogsmeade were basically the same as the shops in Diagon Alley. Zonko's had the same things as Weasley's, Honeydukes the same as Sugarplum's, there is another Olivander's, etc. I have to say that Dervish and Banges was definitely my favorite shop. As tiny as it was, it was the only store where I saw they sold the Harry Potter books. They had the hardcover books along with the illustrated books which I enjoyed flipping through. They also sold wand sets for the Tri-Wizard champions and Dumbledore's Army, and the Tri-Wizard Cup. I thought the wand sets would make the best souvenirs. I also liked stopping in the owl post and seeing all the owls, including Hedwig!
After exploring the shops we got in line for the ride in Hogwarts, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This was my favorite part of the whole trip. The line takes you into the Herbology green house and through the castle. When you enter the castle you walk through the hall of talking portraits, Dumbledore's office, the Dark Art's Classroom, past the sorting hat, and then into the Great Hall where you get on the ride. Walking though the castle was the best thing ever, it was so detailed with everything you can image from the movie. The ride was so fun, too, it really feels like you're flying. 
By this point in the day we were starving and decided to stop into the Three Broomsticks for dinner. It's legitimate English pub food - I ordered a piece of rotisserie chicken with potatoes and corn, and Tom had a half rack of ribs with rotisserie chicken, potatoes, and corn. We also got more beer, we both had the Hogshead Brew which we both really liked. We also got dessert obviously, a chocolate trifle that had layers of strawberry and cream.  Nothing has ever tasted better in my life since I was so hungry! 
It actually got really chilly once the sun when down, it was in the 60s all day but then got down to the 40s. After dinner I was pretty ready to head back to our hotel, I was tired and freezing, but Tom wanted to ride the Dragon Challenge. There was no way I was going on since I was so cold, so I went back in the Three Broomsticks to order hot butterbeers and wait for him. The park had basically cleared out at this time since it was about to close, and Tom was the last person to get on the ride. 
Once Tom got off the ride we headed back to our car while sipping our warm butterbeer. I'm pretty sure I was asleep before 10. We both loved HP World despite the crowds and chilly weather, and I'm already craving frozen butterbeer (I was actually just looking up recipes and will probably make some this weekend!). Going for the day was the perfect amount of time, but next time we're in the area I'm hoping we can maybe spend some time at Disney as well. It was truly magical! 

Early Spring

There's something about opening the windows and letting in fresh air for the first time each year. Just the smell of the warm air is refreshing and rejuvenating to me. On Saturday we had our first true warm day of the year - for this to come in February is like a miracle to us in Cleveland. The temperature hit almost 70, naturally everyone was out and about.
In the morning Tom and I went to Urban Farmer for breakfast. Tom got a pulled pork Eggs Benedict and I got a waffle with granola, Greek yogurt, and strawberry preserves. Urban Farmer is a farm-to-table restaurant, and everything I've had there has been amazing. After breakfast we decided we had to walk around the city and make the most of the amazing weather. We walked down to the lake, popped into the Science Center, and walked back to this amazing restaurant on the lake called Nuevo. We sat at the bar near a window with a lake view, snacked on chips, salsa, and guacamole, and sipped margaritas.
Being in the sunshine after hibernating for the last three months made me so happy. It was such a nice break from the cold and is making me so excited for spring to really be here.