EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival

Last week, Amanda and I visited Walt Disney World to wander around at EPCOT’S International Flower and Garden Festival. This yearly festival runs from March 1st until May 29th, and has food, fun, and of course…flowers!

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A few years ago, the festival introduced “outdoor kitchens” taking advantage of the popularity of vacationers loving to try snack sized portions of food, which is a genius idea. There are 15 kitchens spread around the world showcase, two of them being newcomers this spring for the 24th year of the festival. You can use snack credits for many items as part of the Disney dining plan, and you can even pre purchase an adorable gift card that can be used as you eat around the world.

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Don’t forget about the Garden Rocks concert series. These mini concerts will get you movin’ and shakin’ along with the music at the America Gardens Theatre. You can check out the full concert lineup here, as well as information on dining packages.

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There are also tons of adorable topiaries, exhibits, and gardens to see during your visit to EPCOT. With 13 topiaries sprinkled around the park, you are bound to get a few great photos with some of your favorite Disney characters in plant and flower form.

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A favorite of mine were the kid play areas. I know my daughter is going to flip when she sees these when we go back in April.

Be sure you don’t miss the bonsai and butterfly exhibits either, they are great for learning and teaching your kids, as well as just plain cool.

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The festival center also has special weekend events for you to check out, and you can also sign up for special tours and events going on during this time, like the like the Royal tea garden tour. It looks super fun! Of course there is also tons of fun merchandise to purchase as well to commemorate this special occasion. You can find several booths selling everything from t-shirts to  mugs to garden essentials.

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Spring time is a great time to visit the Walt Disney World Resort, so be sure when you do, that you block off plenty of time to spend in beautiful EPCOT at the International Flower and Garden Festival.

QOTD: Have you ever visited Walt Disney World during this time? What is your favorite thing about the festival?

runDisney Princess Half Marathon Race Recap 2017

A couple of weeks ago I have the privilege of running in my 6th runDisney Princess half marathon. I ran the Glass Slipper Challenge last year and in 2014, but this year my friend Jen and I decided to save some money (and some sleep!) and just run the half marathon. (Pssst. There is a video at the end of the post so hang tight to watch a recap from my Instagram Stories!)

Every year we dress up, and this year was a bit crazy for both of us and we didn’t have time to create elaborate matching costumes like we have done in the past. However, we still dressed up and per usual kept our costumes a secret until the night before the race. We went to bed early, and my 2:45 am alarm came way too soon.

We got dressed, put on our traditional fake eyelashes like we do every year (you would THINK we would be better at this by now!) and headed to the bus.

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(Coming soon: A tutorial on how I created my costume, the easy/I’m terrible at sewing kind of tutorial!)

We got to the bus stop in front of the Yacht Club, and were the last people loaded before we left. What was interesting was we were on a park bus, not a regular greyhound which was a first for me with runDisney. There was a lot of traffic, but we made it to EPCOT by about 4:15 and walked to the family reunion area where we met up with a friend before checking Jen’s bag. It was chillier than I expected, and I was thankful for my throw away sweatshirt I remembered to bring.

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We had never gotten to the corrals this early before, and they were pretty empty! runDisney got smart and put a row of port-o-potties close to the front corrals so we were able to go to the bathroom with no line and then jump in D corral. Karen was also in our corral, so she hung out with us and started the race with us, too. Our plan was to just have fun and take walk breaks. I was super undertrained and this was just a “for fun” race.

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The race started a few minutes late because the traffic was so bad, but finally we made it up to the start line with the rest of our corral.

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After a quick hi to Rudy and Carissa, we were off on our 13.1 mile journey!

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The first couple of miles are always so uneventful. It’s dark, there is nothing to look at, and you start thinking about all the miles ahead! Thankfully we just all chatted together until around mile 2 when Karen decided to stop for a character photo that we decided to skip (lines were already so long! I can’t imagine how bad they were for the corrals behind us.) We made it to the Magic Kingdom gates and I was excited we were getting closer to the more exciting parts of the course.

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After a quick stop at the med tent for body glide, we were on our way towards the TTC. I have to admit, I was a little bummed at the low crows at this spot. Traditionally this is my second favorite spot in the race because of all the energy from wall to wall people screaming and cheering, but this year there was hardly anyone and it made me sad. Did anyone else notice this? It wasn’t very cold outside so I’m not sure what the deal was. We passed my favorite drummers and kept going towards the big hill.

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When we made the turn to get to the Magic Kingdom, we thought it was odd that the 5 mile marker wasn’t in it’s usual place. (The things you notice when you have run this course over a dozen times!) We would later find out the course through the Magic Kingdom was slightly altered which is why the markers were in a different place.

We made the turn onto Main Street, my favorite part, and again it just didn’t have the same crowd and energy I am used to seeing, but it’s still my favorite part.

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We stopped and found a girl by herself trying to take a photo and we took turns getting pics for each other. I love runners!

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Next stop was the bathroom in Tomorrowland. We used to stop at the ones at the TTC, but a couple years ago they started locking those for us for some reason, which means even more princesses waiting in line in Tomorrowland. We had a several minute delay, and then were on our way again.

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We made it out of the Magic Kingdom (sad times) and made another bathroom stop at the next water station (too much coffee!) We arrived at the long stretch of single lane road, and Jen and I can’t figure out why its always so COLD on this part of the course! Any ideas? Before long we were at mile seven by the Grand Floridian. I took a picture with Snow White, since the line for her in the Magic Kingdom was dozens of people long. This is as close as I was going to get.

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The next few miles were uneventful again, just running out on the road. We saw the race going the other way towards the Magic Kingdom around mile 2.5 I guess, and I saw the balloon ladies! I yelled for the princesses to run faster! We grabbed a CLIF shot at the free station around mile nine, and took a walk break to eat those (I am not coordinated enough to run and eat at the same time). Next we were making the turn on the loop of death at mile 10 (it KILLS my IT bands) and had a 5k to go. At this point we had gotten to the length of my longest and one and only really long run from this training cycle of 10 miles, and I was getting tight even though we weren’t running fast at all. My right thigh/quad up near my hip flexor started to hurt, but we only had a couple miles to go so I just pushed through.

Soon we hit mile 11, and looped around and up the overpass and down into EPCOT and mile 12. A photographer caught me doing an Insta story on my phone. Oops. But seriously, if this doesn’t sum up my life I don’t know what does.

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We looped around the small part of the course that goes through the park, and then I could hear the gospel choir singing! Miles 13 came and went, and we were in the home stretch of the finish line.

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Can I just say that I love getting race pictures free as an annual passholder?!?

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We made it! After crossing the finish line in 2:32, we had to get pixie dusted of course.

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We got our medals, and headed over to the Media/VIP tent for some much deserved food and of course, mimosas.

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Now I was able to do my favorite thing, cheer other runners on as they came through the finish. I LOVE seeing runners tearing up, holding hands with loved ones, and just getting to experience the looks on their faces as they are mere steps from the finish line. There is just nothing like it, and it makes me so happy.

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Mimosas make me happy, too.

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So does this guy. Always takes time to talk to runners and makes us all feel so special. Jeff Galloway is the best!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carissa came into the tent for some food and we were able to say hello for a minute and grab a picture.

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We hung out and ate some more, met with a couple of people, and then headed back to the resort. I am so thankful to have a friend like Jen who gifted me with the opportunity to run in another Princess half marathon. I also love our little tradition of running the Princess half!

If you want to see a video I took during the race as a recap, and also see what Jen and I did for the rest of the day after the race, be sure to check out the video below. Please note this video is my Instagram story from the day, and apparently it doesn’t like when you have still shots mixed in with your videos, so there are about 5 times during the video where you will see it “Freeze up” for a couple of seconds. These are the places where I had still shots that won’t come up, so just ignore it, it will keep playing!

 

For more race recaps and general runDisney information, photos, and posts, check out my runDisney page!

Tampa Tuesdays: SeaWorld with a Toddler

*As I mentioned before, my Tampa Tuesday blog posts won’t include just Tampa, but others places nearby/in Florida, so please don’t be confused and think SeaWorld is now in Tampa, it’s definitely still in Orlando.

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1.) Bring your own stroller: While SeaWorld Orlando does have stroller rentals, they are of the plastic variety. While this works just find for a little bit older kids, if you have a toddler that will nap in a stroller, plan to bring your own for more comfort. We tied a bright ribbon around the handle of our stroller so it was easy to find when exiting shows.

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2.) Save the Shamu Happy Harbor playground for the afternoon: There is a huge, fun play area just for kids at the back of the park called Shamu Happy Harbour. I knew I wanted Emma Kate to experience this, but I also knew if we did it first thing, I would NEVER get her out of there! This is a large area that was never very crowded when we were there, so I suggest doing some things first that may have long lines early in the day, then head over to the kids area right before or right after nap (we went after). Keep in mind they DO have a splash pad area which is great for hot summer days, but bring extra clothes if you want your child to be able to play in the water.

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3.) There are “sleeping baby” areas at the shows, use them!: I LOVED this idea and we ended up using it ourselves! When you walk to the top of the stadium up the path at most of the shows, you then get to a walkway that goes across the whole top row that overlooks all the seating. If you have a sleeping baby/toddler you don’t want to take out of your stroller, you can wheel them right up to the stadium and park them behind the back row and stand to watch the show while your child sleeps. Emma Kate fell asleep in her stroller at one point and we didn’t want to miss the last sea lion show of the day, so we used the sleeping baby area and it worked beautifully. It also made it easy for us to be the first ones out after the show was over and avoid the crowds of people exiting the theater.

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4.) Make a plan around show times, but space them out: Each show only happens a certain number of times a day, so pick the ones you want to see, and rank them in order of most important to least important. Keeping in mind as the day goes on your toddler will get more cranky and restless, you may end of having to skip one of two shows, and you don’t want it to be your favorite one! Also, try not to go straight from one show to another without giving your toddler a chance to run around and get out the wiggles. We tried to avoid the stroller when we knew she needed to get some energy out and it worked well for us.

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5.) Split up if necessary: Remember that sometimes it’s ok for the whole family to not stick together. Some space can even be good on a hot day. Bobby wanted to ride one of the roller coasters, so Emma Kate and I went for a walk to find some food while Bobby went on the ride. He later went on it again when Emma Kate was napping and I took the opportunity to sit down, check my phone, and do some people watching. Be sure to pick a spot to meet up afterwards though so no one gets lost!

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Disclosure: I was given two free one day tickets to visit SeaWorld, however all opinions are mine.

Unpacking in Tampa

Hello from Tampa! We finally have internet and my laptop is up and running. I may be surrounded by boxes, but I have a Christmas candle burning, music playing, and my tree is up. However, it has been quite the experience to get to this point. Let me backtrack.

Me, Bobby and Emma Kate left my parent’s house in Louisiana on Sunday and drove to Tallahassee. Then Monday we drove to Tampa and it was warm enough to swim at the hotel pool!

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We battled several issues back and forth with our lender and the title company all day Monday, and weren’t sure we were going to be able to close on Tuesday. Tuesday morning came and after more back and forth, we FINALLY got the final numbers literally fifteen minutes before closing. We were able to do the walk through and get to closing, but we had to hurry because the movers were set to come at 1:00 (closing was 11:30).hO8QiqcuZBC3zm3EWY5562phR9lOZRrSEcbQ2hOpEr0pX92IBO6s2USUwoHpCAxxuZIAzaQBtnhdUkEcHBkrSoXvbrkUpX92IB

We get to the closing and the lenders had sent over the wrong packet for signing!!! So they had to send over the right one and reprint everything. If you have ever bought a home you know how much paperwork this is. Finally after 12:30 we started signing. As we are signing, the electricity goes out. Yall, I can’t make this stuff up! We finally got into the house and the poor movers were here until after 7:00.

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I have never seen so much packing paper in all my life. They pack stuff up super tight and well, but I felt it was a bit excessive and did feel guilty/wasteful.P_3IkSM_TnE4rMP1RDMeup3ptk2pLy2GQ62WowzoJWEpX92IB

Things are slowly coming together, but there are still boxes everywhere. We haven’t even touched the stacks in the garage and I have been wearing the same three outfits and and over for days. TWWIEejvrU4y-v1T2U_joQUqrEiFR2-PfPW09X6zN1opX92IB4pJ80TMBUvsZ-jG1w5L-gps5id0npgBY91p6D76k4CMpX92IB

However, Emma Kate LOVES the packing paper. I’m thinking I should just save some to give to her for Christmas instead of spending money on toys!IHb7dKfaWDG2vYYpew1j5Aclz-H0AsILu89f2njxzuMpX92IB

This girl is already loving her new daycare, too! She goes three days a week and did awesome on her first day.VHj93u5FE3m2UO80SFPYP25_fgKKHWVjWGy8V3s_sWgpX92IB

I was sure to get our patio set up first thing, and we love our view!xP3NS9by3RTQ7rMmXs_wH9wU61-9_wNse5NBxxldjckpX92IB

More to come, I still have to do a gift guide and recap the rest of our Disney trip. It’s all coming up I promise!

QOTD: When you have moved, did you pack yourself or have movers pack you? What was your best strategy for unpacking?

Refresh Summit

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen some pictures from this past weekend when I went to Refresh Summit South in Tennessee. Last year I had the privilege of being a speaker, and this year I was a last minute attendee!

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Refresh Summit is a Christ centered fitness retreat. A great time of learning, sharing, and sweating with other ladies! After the crazy summer I have had and with preparing to move, it was great to get away and be still as I get ready for a huge life change. We filled the weekend with worship,

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food,

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conversation,

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workouts,

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group fitness,

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country glow zumba,

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and a bonfire with s’mores

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It went by super fast, but was just what my soul needed in this season. I took a long hike by myself on Saturday afternoon, and it was great to just drown out the noise, no social media, no texts, etc. and just walk, pray, and listen. Sometimes I think we are so busy doing all the talking and praying that we forget to just BE STILL and listen. (At least I do!)

I am so glad I got to go back to Refresh and see old friends, and also make new ones!

QOTD: Have you ever been to a retreat or conference? What is your favorite part?

Back from Disney World

Hey friends! I am back from Florida. It has been a whirlwind week and a half, and it is so good to be home! If you will recall when we left for Disney Emma Kate was sick, and let’s just say we have had better Disney trips. She was super cranky and fussy (rightfully so) and keeping it real, it really stressed us all out. Her fever broke the day we got to Disney but that didn’t stop her craziness. I’m not sure if she was just super tired, or overwhelmed or what, but I have never seen her act the way she did in Disney…she was a hot mess! I think not knowing what to expect was difficult on us, and let’s just say I need a vacation from my vacation. We for sure still had fun and happy moments, and I can’t wait to share them with you over the next couple of weeks. You will get the good, the bad and the ugly of taking a very strong willed two year old to Disney. Smile I loved seeing her meet the princesses, ride the rides, and experience my happy place. Of course there is still so much more I want to show her, but we got a good start on getting her obsessed with Disney just like the rest of the family. She said cute things like “BIG CASTLE!” and “Pluto has a big tongue” and “Emma Kate and Minnie Mouse!”

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My parents recently bought into the Disney vacation club and generously used their points for our trip, and getting a two bedroom villa was for sure the way to go. We could put Emma Kate to bed at night and still hang out in the living room without having to be quiet. We were on the first floor of Saratoga Springs and it was great to let her just walk out of the patio and out to the grass or playground. Having a full kitchen and washer and dryer was a plus, too!

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Our room was on the bottom right behind the bench in the back of the photo.

Also having our car was the way to go because we didn’t have to wait in long bus lines with a toddler having a meltdown. We still were able to ride the ferry and the monorail which Emma Kate liked.

My dad and I went to the grocery store the first day to get groceries so we cold eat snacks and breakfast in the room each day to save money. We also grilled outside by the playground the last night which was a lot of fun. Emma Kate loved the pool/kids water play area and we went there three or four times in the afternoon after nap.

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I feel like my thoughts are so scattered right now and I will get more specific when I give you my daily recaps, but I did want to check in and let yall know I am still alive and that you will hear more about the trip. I hope everyone had a great week!

QOTD: Were your expectations too high the first time you brought your child on vacation?

Don’t Be Like That

Eagle Creek so graciously sent some packing essentials my way, which I was very grateful for. I have always packed for races with garbage and grocery bags, so this was a real treat! Check out my short video below for more info and a fun little way of sharing about their products.

Here is the Eagle Creek website where you can find all of their cool gear! Remember, no one wants to sit next to a smelly person’s stuff on an airplane. So just don’t be like that, ok?

QOTD: How do you pack your stinky race day gear and shoes?

Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek

When I was in Florida for the Princess Half Marathon weekend, I had the opportunity to stay at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. I stayed here for one night in January, but we were so busy I did not have the chance to really look around, so I was excited to have another stay and see what it was all about.

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This hotel is tucked away on Disney property, and you have probably passed it 100 times and not even noticed. It is conveniently located to Disney Springs as well as the theme parks. Hilton Orlando bonnet creek

The rooms are spacious at 414 sq. feet, and the beds were very comfortable. There was a desk in the room as well as a television, coffee maker, safe, and refrigerator. We had a huge window with a great view of the pool! Off in the distance we could see the Swan and Dolphin as well as the Tower of Terror!

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The lobby is super inviting and fun, check out the ceiling!

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One of my favorite things was this little spot which was open 24 hours a day. They had snacks, coffee, pastries, candy, donuts, chips, among other things. It was great to go down at 3:00 in the morning and grab some coffee the morning of the 10k.

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The views out the windows in the lobby area were amazing, and there was even a screen porch and fire pit so you could enjoy the sunset.

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There is also a convention center at Hilton Bonnet Creek, and they do weddings as well!

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There are several restaurants, and Jen and I ate at two of them. The first night we ate at Harvest, and they even had a special menu for the runners.

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Downstairs by the pool and next to Harvest they had a table of different waters for the guests. The watermelon was so good.

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Even though we didn’t use it because we were doing enough running as it was, there was a really nice gym on the ground floor next to the pool area.

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Speaking of the pool area…WOW. I am saving some of my photos for another post, but yall, this was an oasis. A lazy river, zero entry, waterslide, hot tub, plenty of lounge chairs, and an amazing outdoor restaurant.

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We ate at Beech the night before the half marathon, and it had such a relaxing vibe, and the weather was perfect to eat outside poolside.

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Also, this hotel is right next to the Waldorf Astoria, where there is an amazing spa. There is also a golf course, shopping, and a kids club next door at Waldorf Astoria.

Jen and I kept talking about how much we loved this hotel, the food, the pool, and the options it provided us during our stay. Being on Disney property is just so magical, and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek allows you to be in the middle of it all without breaking the bank. I hope to stay here again soon. The pool is already calling my name!

QOTD: Do you like a good pool/lazy river? Have you stayed at Bonnet Creek?

Disney Fantasy Cruise 2016: Day 2

After my 12 hour sleep the night before, I was ready to enjoy our first full day on board the Disney Fantasy. It was a day at sea, as we sailed towards Cozumel. We got up, ate breakfast at the buffet at Cabanas, and headed to the adult pool area.

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I brought three novels to read, something I haven’t done in a LONG time, and I was really excited to just relax, read, and nap, and that’s exactly what we did, with a mimosa thrown in at some point. We were officially on vacation.

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We had lunch at Cabanas, and went right back out to our lounge chairs for more reading and napping. What an exciting day, huh? Check out our view. If you look closely, you can see land.

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Later in the afternoon we headed back to our room to shower and get ready for formal night. Let me just take a minute to say how happy I am that formal night is early on in the cruise, before we ate all the things and then had to fit into a nice dress.

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By the way the lighting in the cabins is terrible for picture taking! I didn’t think to go out on the balcony until later in the cruise. I blame the sun, or something like that.

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We had dinner in Animator’s Palate, and we were also recognized for our 9 year wedding anniversary a couple of days prior. Yummy dessert!

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After dinner, we changed clothes and walked around a bit before heading to the adult club for some fun and games. I want to say we also saw the show Aladdin in the theater this night.

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I was so excited when I say the lady in charge of the adults for the week was one we have had before, and she is HILARIOUS, and did not disappoint. We played a game Bobby and I both love called “The Quest”. If you have been on a DCL cruise, hopefully you have played. It’s a scavenger hunt game, where you are in teams with a number and you have to bring “your number, AND ____” to the front, and the people who do it fastest get the most points. Think things like a man wearing a bra, two men skipping holding hands, a girl in men’s shoes, etc. etc. So many laughs my stomach hurt, and thankfully this time I didn’t have to be the one to take off my bra in front of strangers.

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Anyway, our team ended up winning, which was even more fun! We were given Disney Cruise Line hats as a prize, because, it’s what all the cool kids wear.

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We were worn out after all the fun, so headed back to our room to discover this guy:

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The next day was Cozumel, and we had heard it was supposed to storm all day, so we crossed our fingers the weather would hold out, and went to bed.

QOTD: Have you ever played the Quest? Do you dress up for formal night on a cruise?

Pre-Thanksgiving Weekend

Baby it’s cold outside! We had our first freeze last night, and it dipped into the 20’s (for you northern folk that’s a big deal for Mississippi, yall!) Anyway, we had a good weekend but now it’s time to get ready for turkey day! We will be hosting at my house, and judging by the current state of my house, it is NOT ready for company!

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(Speaking of turkey, how adorable is EK’s art project?!?)

But first, the weekend. We drove to Louisiana to visit my parents. I had kind of an overwhelming week and really needed some quality time with family plus some help with the wee one. We haven’t taken her to my parents since before we bought Orange Leaf back in August, so we were well overdo for a visit!

Friday I hung out with Emma Kate and packed up for the trip while Bobby went to work.

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It was a chilly morning but we went for a walk and played in the driveway.

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Friday afternoon we drove down to the parental units’ house, and Emma Kate was excited to explore their big house now that she can walk. She also enjoyed her new little table at their house.

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Saturday morning I went for a 3.1 mile run, and it went really well, which I was totally not expecting! Aren’t those the best?

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We just hung out around the house Saturday which I REALLY needed. Mom, dad and I ventured out to Wal-Mart to get Emma Kate some Christmas toys (I know, on a Saturday, are we nuts?!?) but otherwise we stayed at the house.

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Fun fact: my mom has been playing the piano most of her life.

My dad grilled, and we ended up watching Jurassic World that evening. Thoughts on that movie? It had some good parts, but the cheesy parts were a bit more than I could handle. I mean, of course everyone knows you light a flare and walk up to a T-Rex then let it chase you in heels, right?

Sunday morning was more hanging out, and more grilling. it turned cold, but that didn’t stop us of course!

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Emma Kate loved running through the house pulling things out of cabinets and shutting herself in rooms (her new favorite thing…until she gets mad because she can’t open the door.) The Saints had a bye this week so when it was the little one’s nap time we loaded up and hit the road back home. It’s good to be back, but always sad when a fun weekend has to come to an end. Luckily, I get to see family in just a few days!

QOTD: Thoughts on Jurassic World? What did you do this weekend? Anyone play the piano? I took lessons for a year and hated it. Sad times.