Archives for December 2013

Disney Cruise Recap 12/13

Hello! I am officially back home. I made it back late morning yesterday, and I have been playing catch up with work since then. I cannot believe Christmas eve is in a week, I feel so unprepared (my Christmas tree has NO GIFTS under it. I am so behind y’all). Anyway, we had a fabulous time on the cruise, and I plan to recap the Castaway Cay 5k (again) because I took some video this time. But for today, I wanted to share what we did the OTHER days of our cruise.

We did what is called a “back to back” which means we did a four night ailing followed by a three night sailing on the same ship. There is a certain procedure that you follow in order to do this which I will also be sharing about. So we were on the Disney Dream for a total of seven nights. We went to Nassau twice and Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island, twice.

We drove to Disney on Saturday and stayed with Jen and Jeff at Port Orleans Riverside in a royal room.

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We took the boat to Downtown Disney for dinner at Earl of Sandwich.

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The next day we drove to Port Canaveral and boarded the Dream. The ship looked gorgeous all dressed up for Christmas.

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We had lunch then went to check our our verandah stateroom. (Category 5C is anyone is curious)

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We then did some walking around and lounged at the pool until time for early dinner.

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A Mickey Bar was my dessert of choice most nights.

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After dinner Bobby and I went to one of the adult only areas to watch the Saints play on Sunday night football. (There was a HUGE screen to the right of this photo and we sat in recliners right in front of it. Aaahhh, bliss).

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The next day was a sea day and we went to the gym then had Palo Brunch reservations which was amazing as always. My favorite part: dessert.

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Bobby and I attended a special reception for gold and platinum castaway club members that afternoon. Free champagne? Of course I’m there! We got to hear from the captain which was neat.

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At dinner we may have all been craving cheese sticks…

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The next day in Nassau, the Disney Magic parked next to us. It was neat to see the ships side by side again and get some photos. A couple years ago I was on the MAGIC when we were next to the Dream. This time it was reversed!

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We didn’t get off in Nassau. it rained, so we just read books up on deck and took a nap.

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I love these guys

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The next day we were at Castaway Cay, and we ran the 5k.

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We had a great day on the island relaxing and also playing volleyball.

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We had Palo dinner that night which was amazing, even though poor Bobby had a migraine. Luckily, with a special concoction from the Palo Maître d’, he started feeling better. Even though said concoction was disgusting.

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The next day we had to get off the ship and say goodbye to our friends. Then, we got back on board shorty after.

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Our new room was a deluxe family verandah stateroom, a category 4B.

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We went to the hot tub, and honestly I don’t remember what else! We had late dining this time, so we got to see the sun set before dinner.

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Our cute dinner table

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The next day was Nassau day again, so we hung out at the pool, rode the AquaDuck waterslide, and took a 2.5 hour nap! We had dinner at Palo again that night, and I had the most amazing Crème Brule martini. Seriously. Order it. (The the way we had the same server for both Palo dinners and the brunch and he was amazing. his name is Matt he is from Poland. be sure to request him!)

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These two goofballs were eating at Palo that night as well and came and found us.293

Katherine, Amanda, and me.

The next day we were back at my beloved Castaway Cay for another day of fun in the sun. We had beautiful weather, high of maybe 80, crystal clear water, perfection.

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The next day it was a 10 hour drive to Louisiana to pick up the dogs then back to reality yesterday. We had a wonderful time, it was a great idea to give the cruise as a gift to each other, and I can’t wait to go back some day!

QOTD: Have you been on a cruise? Favorite thing about them? Favorite cruise line?

*WINNERS of the Runner’s Christmas gift guide giveaways are posted on the Rafflecopter widget. See if you won!

**If you would like me to help you plan your magical cruise on most any cruise line (at no extra cost!) email heather@travelwiththemagic.com I would love to help you!

 

Back Home Soon

Good morning! We just docked back in port, and will be getting off the ship and driving home soon. I hope you all had a great week! A huge thank you to my guest posters, I hope you enjoyed them.
Things will return to normal on the blog on Tuesday. I have lots to share from the trip! For now here are a few more pictures:

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Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

I am here on the Disney Dream until Sunday, today be sure to go check out my post about my visit to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!

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Here is the link:
http://travelwiththemagic.com/mickeys-very-merry-christmas-party-2/http://travelwiththemagic.com/mickeys-very-merry-christmas-party-2/

Have a great weekend see ya real soon!
QOTD: have you been to the party?

Evolving Christmas Traditions

Today’s guest post is from GirlsGotSole.com. Enjoy!

I’ve been a vegan for four years now, so this will be my fourth Christmas as a veg. Since the majority of my life was spent as an omnivore, enjoying the “traditional” holiday eating and festivities, I can still vividly recall all those years celebrating with my family and friends with certain traditions and
celebrations during this time of the year.

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Being a vegan though, isn’t that far of a stretch from my “old days.” It just takes some planning and you’re
good to go! In fact, I’ve begun to create some new traditions since being a vegan. My family ALWAYS gets together for the holidays, just as most do. Food is a big part of the holiday, so in past years, we would eat meals with meat
like ham or turkey. What my family has done the last three years (going on four) is do a spaghetti dinner on Christmas. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy some awesome pasta? The only difference is that the omnivores in the family make the “usual” meat sauce while I create a veg-friendly option.

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This way, we all sit down and eat the “same” meal together. It has proven to be a great new Christmas day meal and, we ALL love spaghetti.

Since I was young, my mom has had a tradition on Christmas morning of having a birthday cake for baby Jesus. This has continued on for as long as I can recall. Now, I make it my job to make a vegan cake for the occasion. It not only makes me feel good to make Jesus a cake, but my cakes are never sitting around long. We’re lucky if there is any left the day after!

I love being vegan and love even more that my family has slowly but surely come to embrace my lifestyle. There is really not much to the change, and I feel as though I can share my newfound care for the animals with the ones that I love. Family means a lot to me, so that’s a biggie.  I never push my way of thinking on the subject to my loved ones, but it makes me feel good when they tell me my cake or the brownies I made are the best they have
had.

If you’re interested in trying something new this Christmas, here are a few links to check out. I’m not a huge cook, so these will pretty easy.
http://www.tastebook.com/recipes/847964-Cinnamon-Coffee-Cake
http://www.vegparadise.com/cookingwith512.html
http://www.feastie.com/recipes-course/dessert/from/fatfree-vegan-kitchen-83563/season/christmas-83420

Supporting the Little Guys: Smaller Races Can Be a Blast

Chicago, New York, Boston, Disney. What do these places have in common? Well, for one thing, they are all ripe with history and amazing places to visit throughout the year. But, another commonality shared is they all contain marquee races, drawing in thousands of runners and millions in revenue. Some of these places even have more than one big race. I’m glad races like those exist. It’s great to meet up with thousands of those who share your passion and cover the city in a seemingly endless tapestry of neon colors and space blankets.

But, what about the smaller races? Or, what about the towns that don’t have the means to invite an elite field and/or can’t support a 35,000 runner course? I’m only recently reminded of this by reading an article in this month’s Runner’s World, which talks about although running is enjoying a Renaissance period, smaller races are losing their sponsors, permits and are closing down[1].

While they may not be the biggest or sexiest, smaller races play a vital role in the running landscape.

One illustration of the importance of the smaller race is the sense of community involvement. Think about it. Has there ever been a race, no matter how small; there wasn’t at least one person along the course cheering you on? My guess is most, if not all of you will answer no. That’s what makes this sport so awesome, the people, even if they aren’t the runners. Not to mention the potential for positive economic impact for the community that can be resonate in the ways of local restaurants, gas stations, stores, etc.

Another argument for the little guys is that smaller fields mean less competition. And, for those who are, let’s just say competitively challenged (like myself), this provides an opportunity to get your name next to a low number. For instance, when I lived in Chicago, my wife and I ran a 5k that supported a local charity. When it comes to small races, this one was probably the smallest I had ever run. The field was probably no more than 75 people and the start line was essentially the rubber time mat. There was no fanfare or announcement, we all just looked at each other and started running. There was one volunteer at the water stop and a handful of spectators. Plus, we had to run early as there was another 5k to start in two hours and it used some of our course. I would say I ran it okay, certainly not my best effort, but two weeks later I received a medal (keychain) in the mail saying I had won my age group (out of ten people)! It’s the first running medal I had ever received based on performance and not completion and one of my favorites. If this were a larger race I may not have won or even placed.

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I think the third, and one of the most important reasons, to run a small race is frequency. Small races give you the chance to try new race tactics without the fear of heading into a $150 race with an untested strategy. My Achilles Heel in racing is getting caught up in the hoopla and starting too fast. Even though, I know when people pass me at the start they are going too fast and I’ll catch them, my ego goes berserk and I begrudgingly take off. But, when running smaller races, I get to test out different methods to overcome that issue and feel okay if one of them doesn’t work since I have a small race the following day or week. Use these races to hone your craft and see what works best for you.

In these days of renewed focus on supporting the small business, extend that sentiment to the small race, too. The reasons I shared above are just a few of the many benefits these races can provide to you. So, do them a solid; sign up for a race, have fun and then post a recap for other runners to experience through your perspective. Don’t rule out the little guys, they may be more fun than you could ever have imagined.

Happy running! Run fast. Run smart.

About the author:

Justin Stone lives in Boston, works in advertising and loves everything about running. Most days you can catch him on the Charles River running path or behind the lens of his camera snapping shots of the city’s vibrant and diverse culture. You can read about his running exploits (or whatever else is on his mind) at his blog: www.alwaysrunningforward.com

You can also find him on these social sites:

Facebook – facebook.com/alwaysrunningforward

Twitter – DisnyRunr24

Instagram – DisnyRunr24

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[1] Douglas, Scott. “Some Smaller Marathons Suffering Despite Boom.” Runner’s World. Web. 05 Dec. 2013.

7 Easy Ways to Stay Fit and Healthy During the Holidays

Hi! It’s Heather from Divas Run for Bling and I am so excited to be guest blogging here at Through Heather’s Looking Glass. The holidays are my favorite time of year and I am a sucker for all the presents and decorations this time of year. I am also a fan of the food. I have a serious sweet tooth so this season is perfect for me.  It’s just not so perfect for my diet. I will typically gain a few pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas and not all of it comes off when those New Year’s resolutions are made. Since I am not running 10 miles a day to work off all the calories, I have come up with a few tips that will help me stay fit and healthy during the holiday season.

1. Get motivated. I always try to find ways to get motivated to get out the door and run.  It’s not easy this time of year with all the stress and busy schedules and cold weather. As with last year, I have signed up for a spring half marathon. This way, I know that I have to get out there and get my runs in or my money will just be wasted if I can’t finish the race. I am also doing the Runner’s World Holiday Running Streak in which you run at least 1 mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Even one mile a day can go a long way in staying fit and healthy.

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My spring race this year will be the Georgia Publix Half in Atlanta.

2. Make a plan and be consistent. It is important that you have an exercise plan in place to keep you on track. This will help you see what events are happening on a particular day and allow you to adjust your workout schedule accordingly. I have both my training schedule and any events on my calendar so I know when I’ll be able to do those runs and cross training. It also helps me figure out what time of day is best to do those workouts.

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This is my training schedule for the winter months. It’s based after the Beginner Half Marathon training plan at digitalrunning.com.

3. Exercise early. Coming from me, this is kinda funny as I will be the first to tell you I love to sleep. A lot. However, working out in the morning has a lot of benefits.  For one, it gives your metabolism a boost for the day. Also, getting your work out in early won’t interfere as much with all the parties, dinners and family events. This allows you to stick to the fitness plan you decided on and work off some of the calories that you are putting into your body.

4. Track your calories. This is something that I absolutely HATE to do. It’s time consuming and annoying. But it is also helpful. I find that when I know I have to track my calories, I will make healthier food choices. Just looking at my food journal and seeing that 1 slice of pumpkin pie is 323 calories will make me think twice about going back for a second helping.

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I use the food and exercise tracker at myfitnesspal.com.  It’s easy and can track my calories, exercise and water intake. There is also an app for it so I can track when I’m away from the computer.

5. Eat smart. I know it is not always possible to stick to a diet during the holiday season. You can be smart and what and when you eat, though.  Do not skip meals in order to bank calories for the rest of the day. Especially if this meal is breakfast. This will slow your metabolism and cause you to overeat, adding more calories than if you just ate as normal.  Try to eat balanced meals when possible. This will ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs. Also, it is okay to have a taste of the good stuff (i.e. all those yummy pies and cakes). I try to have a few bites of 2-3 of my favorite desserts so that I can enjoy them without totally going overboard. Be aware of how much you are drinking. Calories from alcohol can add up fast if you are not careful.

6. Drink lots of water. We all know the benefits of water. It helps keep your body working at an optimal level as well as keeps you hydrated and energizes your muscles during the workouts you have planned. Water also will help control your calorie intake. If you are drinking water, you are not drinking other high calorie drinks that are presents during the holidays.

7. Get enough sleep. Not consistently getting enough sleep can have multiple effects on your body. A lack of sleep can slow your metabolism, stimulate your appetite and cause cravings of high carb, high fat foods. Not to mention you’ll be too tired to exercise if you are not well rested.

The most important thing to remember is to stay positive. There is no need to feel guilty if you slip up a bit throughout the season. Just relax and enjoy the time spent with family and friends.

Heather

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Heather is the creator of Divas Run for Bling, a blog devoted to all things running and fitness. She is a runner, blogger and scrapbooker living in Chattanooga, TN with her husband and 3 fur children (2 cats and a dog). She can be found on twitter @divasrunbling and facebook at http://www.facebook.com/divasrunforbling.

Ultra Running

Please enjoy today’s guest post! I find ultra running SO interesting.

After doing my first Goofy Challenge in 2012, which is a half marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday, I felt the next challenge in my run calendar would be an ultra-marathon. With 50k’s being a common distance, I figured it was a very achievable race with 5 months of training I had ahead of me.

An “ultra-marathon,” ultra for short, is technically any distance past 26.2 miles, with 50k, 50 miles, 100k, and 100 miles being the most common, though there are much further including multi-day stage races. Timed races of 6, 12, and 24hrs are popular as well and in both distance and timed races, you can usually sign up for one of multiple distances or times. In timed races you run as far as you can in the registered time and the person that goes the furthest “wins,” plus there is usually a minimum distance to be considered “done” where you get a medal. If you check UltraSignup.com you’ll likely find a 50k close by. This is a good distance to start with even if you’ve never done a full marathon because the training is really about the same at only 5 extra miles. The bigger factor will be in the type of training miles you put in since many ultras are run on trails, even in the flat parts of the country.

As a primarily road trained runner, this was a mistake I made in underestimating how much even a flat trail could affect you. You have to lift your feet higher because even “flat” ground isn’t flat and typically there are small hills and bumps as well as roots and rocks on the trail. Stumping a toe at full speed hurts at best case and can even take you down if you’re not careful. The curves, holes, and dips will also take its toll on your ankles and knees if they aren’t used to landing off camber and changing direction every other step, another detriment of only flat road running. Training on trails is a must to strengthen the little muscles needed to support and stabilize the feet and legs and some cross training will help even more.

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(Relatively easy trail section here in southeast Georgia)

If you search for an ultra, I recommend trying one that’s run on a loop course, though most 50k’s I’ve seen are loops anyway. This takes a lot of mental stress out of planning because you can self-support without carrying food and hydration with you. Usually there is at least one aid station which will be far better stocked than any food and water station you’ve seen at a road race. You can also stage your own pit area to swing in to and grab a headlamp, drop off a jacket, change shoes or socks, etc, it’s really a lot like NASCAR. You’ll usually get to know the volunteers at the aid station as well since you see them many times. They are typically other runners or their significant others so they know better what you need and will take care of you when you come running in asking for water, grapes, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. At road races the volunteers usually stand there quietly holding out a cup of water and you see them for 2 seconds as you zoom by and most of them know nothing about running because they are only there with their school or some volunteer organization. The volunteers at an ultra will blow your mind with how helpful they are.

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(Typical aid station at an ultra. Multiple hydration choices, fruit, potatoes, sandwiches and cookies)

The best part about ultras is that you get to run with everybody, fast and slow. At road races you typically line up in a corral based on ability, fast runners up front, slower runners in back, and me usually somewhere in the middle away from all of my friends. During the race you never see anyone since you can’t catch your faster friends and your slower friends can’t catch you. Ultras are typically smaller with 50-200 people so you all start out lined up together. You’ll see many of your friends throughout the race since your fast friends will catch you and you’ll catch your slower friends. You may catch each other at the aid station as well since you might spend several minutes there before heading out on another loop if they are long. I’ve met many faster runners, MUCH faster than I am, but I was able to hang with them when they were drinking or taking a difficult section slower than their normal pace.

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(100 runners at the start of a 50k. We only needed headlamps for the first 4.5 mile lap here.)

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(Hit Girl ran at least 2-4.5 mile laps in this outfit and did 2 other costume changes at this ultra. Notice she’s wearing Luna sandals as well)

You may also find that the atmosphere is closer to a tailgate party than a race. You’ll still see people in costumes and there might be canopies with friends of runners sitting in lounge chairs eating and drinking beer. You may even see runners come in from a loop and chug a beer mid race. If you have someone to cheer you on they’ll get to see you many more times than a point to point road race, plus they may even be part of your “crew.” At point to point ultras, and even bigger distance loops, runners will typically have someone crew them by having them take care of them when they come by if they want something that isn’t supplied by the race or even just moral support. I’ve even seen them take off and pace runners for a lap or walk with them for a while to boost spirits if needed.

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(Having a beer on our “hash” lap!)

If you think you can’t run an ultra, you’re both right and wrong. Anyone can get through a 50k because they typically have lesser pacing requirements than road races since they are longer distances, the race directors plan for them to be longer due to distance and fatigue. Plus since they are on trails, they aren’t as concerned about reopening roads. If you have to run on or cross a road during an ultra, there is usually traffic since they don’t shut them down, you do have to pay attention. But you’ll have to be more self-aware than on a closed course anyway, even on the trail portions. Where you’re right is that few people, even long time runners, actually run an entire ultra, especially if there are hills or mountains or distances past 50k. You’ll end up walking a good bit so plan on that from the get go and save your feet for later. A good tip is to walk up hills to save energy, then run down the other side. If you’ve ever tried run/walk, a la Jeff Galloway, you’re half way there already. You can run/walk almost any distance.

Check out an ultra-marathon if you find one nearby, they are always looking for volunteers or you can register for a shorter distance part of one to get the feel of how they work. It’s a great way to learn and have a lot of fun too. You’ll likely make a lot of local friends and get motivated to try a full one yourself. They are huge confidence booster as well, you’ll look at your next half marathon as “just a training run.”

Marc Bigbie is a part time ultra-marathoner, part time blogger, and full time Disney lover. Visit www.MarcBigbie.com to follow some of these passions and more.

Time to Dream

Good morning! I am here in Disney World and we board the Disney Dream today! It’s very warm here, in the 80’s, which I of course don’t mind for a cruise.

We made it to the hotel about 5:30 last night then took the boat to Downtown Disney to eat at Earl of Sandwich with Jen and Jeff. Bobby and I may have also had some ice cream while we were out.

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We took the boat back, watched some football, and now are ready to go! I hope everyone has a great week and enjoys the guest posts I have scheduled. See ya real soon!

My Christmas Gift

Good morning friends. I am on the move again! Bobby and I will be heading out of town tomorrow to go on a Disney cruise with our buds Jen and Jeff.

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I am SO excited, because over the past 5 years, we have tried twice to go on a cruise together. Once, I had to cancel because I got a new job, and once she had to cancel. So I can’t believe it’s finally happening!

We will be leaving Sunday on the Disney Dream for a four night cruise, then just Bobby and I will be staying on for a three night after that. Our Anniversary is January 6th, so we decided this would be our Christmas AND anniversary gift to each other (well, we are allowed to get each other one small gift just to have something under the tree).

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That’s fine with me, we love cruising and got a great rate we couldn’t pass up on the 2nd half, and a discount from rebooking onboard for the first one. I can’t wait to see our friends again, go to our favorite place on earth, Castaway Cay, and do a little unwinding before Christmas.

Don’t worry, I have been working on some posts and also have some great guest posters lined up, so things here on THLG will be business as usual. Also, when we get back into port Thursday before going out again, I will be able to check email, share photos, and catch up with the online world before going back out again.

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I will be taking tomorrow off per usual, then blogging again Sunday before we board the ship. I will be live posting Saturday and Sunday from Disney and the Dream on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. In the meantime, don’t forget about my giveaways I have going on:

Panera Bread backstory challenge and $100 gift card giveaway

Runner’s Christmas gift guide with TWO giveaways

*Winner of my Natural Bliss giveaway is Lauren Graback. Please email heatherslookingglass@gmail.com to claim your prize!

Disney Vacation Recap November 2013

You may have already read my race recap from my time in Disney, but I have yet to post what we did when we weren’t running.  We checked into the gorgeous Wilderness Lodge on Thursday. I haven’t stayed here in a few years and forgot how much I love it. We had a standard club level room but lucked out and had a beautiful Courtyard vied.

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We hung out in the lounge and some with Jen and her family, then Bobby and I had dinner at the Captain’s Grille before going to EPCOT for the runDisney meet up.

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We slept in a bit then headed to Magic Kingdom for a couple hours. I love taking the boat over!

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The park was all dressed up for Christmas. I love it!

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Bobby discovered Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, and we spent a lot of time on the trip playing.

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We took Jen over to the expo with us and picked up our race bibs.

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That night we ate with Jen and family at Trails End at Fort Wilderness. It was an early dinner, so we had some time that night and decided to just wander around the resort, which is one of my favorite Disney past times. We went over to the villas and sat by the fire. There was NO ONE in there, and it was so nice to just sit and hang out.

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The next day we met Jen, Jeff, and Wyatt at Downtown Disney after Wyatt’s kids race. We had lunch at Earl of Sandwich then Bobby and I saw a Disney Infinity tent set up. If you tested the game you got a free t-shirt, so we figured…why not? We waited in line about 15 minutes, played the game and got our shirts.

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On our way out of Downtown Disney, we ran into my Healthy Living Summit roomie Amanda, and local pal Larissa and chatted for a few minutes before Bobby and I headed back to the resort for a nap. We had a long night ahead of us!

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We had a blast running Wine and Dine, and didn’t go to sleep until almost 4:00 in the morning. We got up around ten for breakfast and to say goodbye to our friends before heading to EPCOT.

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In the parking lot I ran into more bloggers!

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It was our last day to enjoy food and wine at the festival and it was HOT outside. Don’t worry, I cooled off with some frozen adult beverages.

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That night, we met some friends at the Polynesian for a few minutes then headed over to ESPN to watch the Saints play on Monday Night Football. We someone got lucky and snagged the two amazing lounge chairs front and center. We were so excited we couldn’t stop smiling. The game was great, and we had a blast.

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It was another late night, about 1:00 by time we got to bed, and the next day was our last day. We went to Hollywood Studios and did some of our favorite things.

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That evening we had dinner at Citricos at the Grand Floridian, then changed clothes and headed over to the Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Very merry Christmas Party! (Recap to come!) I wanted to eat the huge gingerbread house. It’s amazing.

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The party was a blast, and it even “snowed” on Main Street.

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We walked around the new Grand Floridian Villas after the party and took some pictures of the gorgeous lobby.

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After another late night, we slept in then drove home. We had a great trip and made lots of new memories!

QOTD: Do you stay up late on vacation? Do you nap on vacation? We did every day!

*I would love to help you plan your magical vacation! email me at heather@travelwiththemagic.com or go here and request a quote. Be sure to put my name on it!