Experience 38 of 52: ICE

ICE at the Gaylord National Resort – National Harbor, Maryland is created from over 5,000 blocks of ice weighing over 2 million pounds.  As quoted from this website, the artisans are from “Harbin, China – a city in northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province that is world-famous for its annual Harbin International Snow and Ice Festival. Every winter, more than 2,000 sculpture artists carve a massive, 100-acre walk-through Ice Park and a full-size Ice City from blocks of ice taken from the nearby Songhua River.”

The display at National Harbor is a quite “cool” 9 degrees and requires you to bundle up while you ooh and ah over the sculptors artistry.  The highlights were the ice slide and a huge ice angel!

We followed the ICE show with dinner at “Grace’s Mandarin” Chinese restaurant with impressive views of the harbor.

In addition to the ICE show, we walked through the Gaylord National Resort Hotel which is an adventure in and of itself!  The indoor atrium features a 60 foot tall Christmas tree and includes a nightly tree lighting ceremony complete with indoor snowfall.

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Experience 37 of 52: Christmas

The fall presents us with a series of holidays to celebrate and bring family together.  From birthdays in August/September, Halloween in October, Thanksgiving in November and finally Christmas in December, we have opportunities to celebrate and enjoy time with family and friends.

Our Christmas celebration this year continued our yearly tradition of visiting with Paul’s parents on Christmas Eve followed by a visit to Sue’s mom on Christmas day.  As always, the Anderson Christmas celebration provided plentiful provisions and generous gifting.  The gals were inundated with gifts from Paul’s parents, brother and three sisters.  Hopefully the crew found the gifts given by us as thoughtful and as appreciated as the gifts given to us.

On Christmas, after opening the generous lot of presents left by jolly old St. Nick, we spent the day with Susan’s mom, brother and sister and their families.  Once again we were treated to a grand meal and generous gifts.  We followed up our gift exchange with a game of Catch Phrase which was uproariously fun.

We also enjoyed a white Christmas this year that allowed us an opportunity to do some backyard sledding and to build a snow woman.  Life usually seems to be too full to enjoy days outside in the snow with the kids so having this day free to have fun with them was most enjoyable.  Our snow woman “Sally” didn’t last long, however, as the day warmed and the snow began to melt almost as quickly as it had arrived.

As always, the time with friends and family went by too fast.  We really should find more excuses other than holidays to spend time with family and friends.


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Experience 36 of 52: Xel Ha

Xel ha Park is essentially a natural aquarium that provides many activities to fill your day with adventures.  Because the entry fee pays for an all-inclusive admission, we didn’t need to bring food, towels, snorkeling equipment or even money for lockers which simplified this adventure.  We walked into the park and made our way to a tube ride which led us through a mangrove forest before expelling us into the snorkeling lagoon.

Here you could participate in numerous activities such as cliff jumping (which Susan braved) zip lining into the water (which we all braved) and other adventurous activities. Because we were pressed for time we were limited in what we could do but besides the tube ride we were able to

  • see and hear about 10 parrots
  • see a toucan close up
  • walk onto a glass bottom boat and look at the colorful fish below
  • discover many coati animals which are indigenous to the area
  • discuss what a cenote is, although we didn’t have time to see or jump into one

Some of the adventures available here that we would definitely want to investigate next time include:

  • Sea Trek® Xel-Ha – allows you to safely walk on the bottom of the lagoon without requiring scuba training
  • Snuba – combines snorkeling and scuba by allowing you to use snorkeling equipment that is attached to compressed air tanks located on the surface
  • Swim with the manatees
  • Stingray encounter (swim with them)
  • Zip Bike – a bicycle on a zip line gives you a bird’s eye view of the landscape

As is evident, there is a ton of extremely cool adventures available at Xel Ha.  We absolutely loved this adventure and would go back and spend an entire day here so that we could take part in all of the activities.  Although we were not able to squeeze in snorkeling during this trip, others in our party who did said that although they had to swim longer distances (than in Akumal) to find fish, when the schools were found they were as vibrant and plentiful as what you see on the Xel Ha brochures.

I think the biggest lesson learned here was that it is ok to, in a safe environment, step a little bit outside your comfort zone and take a calculated risk and enjoy the adventures that are in front of you. Susan set this example for the girls by jumping off the cliff even though it was intimidating. Hopefully the cliff jump planted a seed for the girls to enjoy life and to take a chance sometimes.

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Experience 26 of 52: Port Discovery

Our Port Discovery experience was better than expected because not only did the girls enjoy the fun of the play maze but the exhibits connected nicely with our previous experience and interest in Greek mythology as well as Kate’s recent interest in Egypt and Cleopatra.  The “Gods, Myths and Mortals” exhibit presented several interactive exhibits that allowed the girls to test their knowledge of the Greek gods by matching the names to the myths.

Another mythological exhibit asked a number of multiple choice questions on how you might handle certain situations. After completing the questionnaire you were told which mythological character you were most like. Kate was clever like Hermes, Grace was adventurous like Odysseus and Dad was hideous like Polyphemus, the Cyclops blinded by Odysseus.  It was a welcomed opportunity to brush up on some of the crazy myths and characters.  We had previously encountered some Greek mythology in the book “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief”, during Experience 3 of 52: U.S. Capitol Building and during Experience 10 of 52: The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA).

Another thing we learned about ancient Greece was that Athens invented democracy, or rule by citizens but  in order to vote you had to:

  • be male
  • be at least 18 years old
  • your father had to be a citizen
  • your mother had to come from a citizen family

This led to the obvious discussion, especially in this political climate, about the treatment of women, slaves and immigrants and how our U.S. modern society has changed its views regarding these ideas.

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Experience 25 of 52: The Mysterious World of Alain Nu

Alain Nu, “the man who knows“, recently performed two shows at the Applied Physics Laboratory (or should it be the “Applied Psychics Laboratory”?).  As described on his website:

“A headlining performer at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for four straight years, Nu was also the international star of four hour-long television specials for TLC entitled “The Mysterious World of Alain Nu.” On January 20th, 2009, Alain was asked to appear before many of the living recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor at theSalute to Heroes Inaugural Ball which celebrated President Obama’s inauguration into the White House.”

Alain Nu is “the man who knows” the hidden potential of our minds, and he proves it with every appearance!”

The performance was rather fascinating and, even though we know that he will

“incorporate elements of probability, psychology, suggestion, professional techniques or just plain “good timing”,

it is still fascinating to contemplate what you’ve just seen and you will still ask yourself “how did he do that?”

We were enthralled throughout the show and we watched in awe as he continually stunned the audience with his appearance of knowing more than he should have known.

I don’t think I could do this show justice using my own words so instead I’d suggest watching these videos.

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