Square Life Round World

I'm navigating through this round world while living a square life, and it fits exactly as it should.

My Top 10 of 2020

I think most people would agree that 2020 was one crap year. That being said, it wasn’t all bad, and it had some really great parts to it, too. Instead of focusing on all that 2020 took from me, I’ve decided to highlight what it gave me. Here are my top 10 in chronological order, for the most part.

New Job

The year began full of promise. I started a new role at work in January, bringing new energy to my career aspirations. Despite the challenges that transitioning to full time remote work would bring a few short weeks later, it was the best move I could have made for my career at the time. It’s been a year of learning and growth, which is all I could ask for in any year, much less a global pandemic year.

Disney Cruise from New Orleans

If you know me, you know how much I love Disney, Disney Destinations, in particular, especially Disney Cruise Line. When Disney Cruise Line announced they would begin sailing from New Orleans, we did not hesitate to book. In fact, we booked the inaugural cruise from New Orleans, which sailed in February. We had never cruised that early in the year before. The timing wasn’t our favorite. It was in the height of flu season, and we were apprehensive of traveling during flu season. Weren’t we cute? It was also colder than we prefer. We boarded the ship in long pants and heavy coats. The horror! We had previously only cruised from Port Canaveral, Florida, and it was always warm and sunny. As we prepared to set sail, we all agreed never again that early in the year.

The Disney Wonder was warmly welcomed by New Orleans, even though the temps were chilly.

As the saying goes, man plans and God laughs. It turned out to be the perfect time because if we had cruised when we usually do, it would have been cancelled. It also turned out to be a really great trip. It warmed up quite nicely as we sailed south, and it was almost perfect overall.

It was warm and sunny by the time we made it to the Southernmost Point in Key West.

A fun bonus was staying in NOLA an extra night after the cruise to go to Mardi Gras. My parents had never been before, and seeing them experience it was another highlight of the year. They really got into catching all the beads and throws. We came home with four bags full!

My parents collected quite the Mardi Gras haul!

Scottsdale, Arizona

On the heels of the cruise vacation was a long weekend girls trip to Scottsdale, AZ for a bachelorette party to celebrate a dear friend. I always try to travel to at least one place a year I’ve never been before. If it hadn’t been for this trip, I would have broken my very long streak.

We booked a house through Airbnb with a heated pool, hot tub and enough bedrooms and bathrooms for all 11 of us. We brunched, some hiked (not me), played games by the pool, partied the night away and sipped and strolled our way through the town.

Old Town Scottsdale was so much fun!

I’ll never forget the last morning. That’s when it hit me the world was about to change. We were all packing up getting ready to leave for our flights home when those of us who work for ALSAC got an email about a change in business and personal travel policies. That was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Winemaking

Pretty soon, everyone was making bread, myself included. Yeast was a hot commodity, one that was in short supply. One day, I was perusing Amazon to find yeast, and my search yielded wine yeast. What?! What in the world does one do with wine yeast? I quickly went down that rabbit hole and found out one makes wine, of course! So I made wine. I made 2 gallons of strawberry wine, 1 1/2 gallons of blueberry wine, a gallon of peach wine and a gallon of banana wine. People ask me all the time how it turned out. It’s not bad, totally drinkable. It’s just not great and not really worth the effort, if I’m being totally honest. I think it probably takes a lot of patience and practice to get a stellar result, and I don’t have that much patience. Or desire. If things take a drastic turn for the worse and there’s a booze shortage, for example, I take great comfort in knowing I got this, though.

My attempt at winemaking

Home Office

Like so many others, working from home full time meant I found myself suddenly needing a dedicated work space. I already had a built-in desk my homebuilder installed, but I quickly figured out that wasn’t suitable for full time work. Luckily, I had a spare bedroom I had barely set foot in over the last 10 years. I spent a few weeks getting it all cleaned out, getting rid of the furniture, which included my childhood bed, and a bunch of junk I had stored in there. I created a gallery wall focal point consisting of Disney prints I had collected over the years from various promotions and gifts. I made good use of Michael’s curbside pick up when I bought all the frames for it. I added a desk and fancy office chair and moved in. I was quite proud of the result.

My new Disney themed home office. Who’s surprised?

Home Bar

After I vacated the builder grade built-in desk, I decided to turn it into a home bar with a subtle tiki theme. I installed glass racks under the cabinets and moved all of my bar glassware to the cabinets and the racks. I had no idea I had that many bottles until I started pulling them out of the various places all over my house where they were stored. In keeping with the theme, I ordered a Polynesian drum table from eBay that had been used in the guest rooms at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. I decided to display the few tiki glasses I have on it. I also have a piece of art to hang between the cabinets depicting Trader Sam’s, a tiki bar at the Disneyland Hotel in California and at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in Florida. Additionally, I’m in the process of sourcing some light sconces, which were also used in the Polynesian guest rooms. They will hang on each side of the cabinets. Covid can’t close down this bar!

The beginnings of my home bar. I just need a few more touches and drinks are on me!

My Disney Trip with Dad

You can find a detailed recap of this trip a few posts back. It was a surprise last-minute fall trip that turned out to be, quite possibly, the best gift of 2020. This time with Dad truly was a gift, one that I will forever be grateful to have received.

My trip with Dad was a gift!

eBay Fun

A side effect of the travel industry coming to a screeching halt was that it gave Disney Cruise Line and the Walt Disney World Resort time do a little (a lot of) housekeeping. They sold finishes and furnishings off by the truckloads to a few dealers who then resold to the public. The Polynesian drum table I mentioned earlier wasn’t the only treasure I found on eBay and from those dealers directly. I’m practically on a first-name basis with some of the dealers now. I bought a trunk that was used in the Disney Cruise Line staterooms, some Disney Cruise Line lampshades, the fish hooks that hang outside the stateroom doors, a pillow from Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and a few other odds and ends. I’m still searching for a few additional pieces, too.

A storage trunk that was used in the staterooms of the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy cruise ships.

One of the great things about these pieces is that none of them is “in-your-face” Disney. That means you can rest assured that I have not fallen off the deep end, and my house does not look like a Disney theme park. It’s just that now I have a few subtle pieces scattered in that are sentimental to me because of the memories made from years of family vacations to these destinations. Well, my office isn’t that subtle, but if you can’t go a little crazy with a home office, where can you go a little crazy? Amiright?

Bourbon Hunting

Winemaking may not have panned out like I planned, but fall brought a new hobby – bourbon hunting. Technically, this started about a year ago. I was sitting at a bar waiting on a to go order (foreshadowing much?). I struck up a conversation with the patrons around me as well as the bartender. I was fascinated by the topic of conversation, Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. It was in that moment I realized there was a whole world I knew nothing about. I asked a very innocent question, where do I buy this bourbon? They all laughed at me and told me if I had to ask that question, I would never be able to. I internally thought, oh H-E-double-hockey-sticks no! I made it my mission to prove them wrong, even though I’d never see any of them again to show them. No one tells me I can’t do something or can’t have something. No one!

So I went to work. I assembled a small army of people who became equally invested in this mission, and we quickly found some hot leads. One friend’s mom knew someone who worked in a liquor store in a small town who promised to hold us back a bottle when they got theirs. However, she quit that job and went to work for the county jail just a few days before that fabled shipment came. Another friend’s husband’s uncle claimed to get a bottle every year that he gives to her husband’s cousin. He said he’d give it to her this year instead. Again, the mission was thwarted by a freak thing. Apparently someone died in his home around the time the shipment would have come, and he was too distraught to follow up on the bourbon, understandably so. I really can’t make this stuff up! That’s how it goes in the world of bourbon hunting, I learned. I decided it must be an urban myth. Everyone seemed to know someone who had a bottle or had almost gotten a bottle for themselves, but no one actually had a bottle. We failed miserably!

Fast forward to the fall of 2020. I was back on the hunt again, with a much smaller and much less enthusiastic army. There were no hot leads, no someone-who-might-know-someone. There were a few random Instagram contests, but the trail was mostly cold. There was this one bourbon lottery, though, at a small liquor store. I wasn’t eligible to participate, naturally. One of my friends was, however, and she isn’t into bourbon. So one Sunday morning, I brought us cups of mimosas to drink while standing in a cold parking lot waiting for her name to be called. It was a long shot, but a long shot is still a shot. As luck would have it, her name was called right around 10th. I figured all of the Van Winkle expressions would already be gone, but when it was our turn to choose, there it was, sitting on the table in all its glory – Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year. Yes, I know it’s not Pappy, but for the sake of conversation, most of the time all of the Van Winkle expressions are collectively referred to as Pappy. That was certainly the case in the original conversation that led to this wild goose chase in the first place. Throughout all of this I’ve also learned that I actually really like bourbon.

Old Rip Van Winkle luck

Being Diagnosed with a Chronic Disease

I hesitated to add this. It’s personal and private. However, it really was one of the best things that happened to me this year. Let me explain. I have been sick for a long time, probably around 10 years. I ignored it because in my mind, if I didn’t have a diagnosis, nothing was wrong. I managed my symptoms on my own for years. I pat myself on the back for this because I did a pretty darn good job of it, too. I hid it from everyone, even my family. Last year, it got bad enough that I had a full physical. I figured if there was a problem, a physical would find it. Wrong! I got a clean bill of health, which did nothing but feed into the story I was telling myself about nothing being wrong. It got exponentially worse this year, and I could no longer control the symptoms. It was time to see a specialist. Within a day of getting a definitive diagnosis and starting medicine, I felt normal again. I didn’t even realize how sick I was until I re-learned what normal felt like. Taking ownership of my health and starting treatment has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. While I’m not jazzed to have a chronic disease, I am jazzed that I have answers and that I feel good again. I say all of this to encourage anyone dealing with nagging illness to get it checked out, even if it seems insignificant.

There are also some honorable mentions that didn’t get their own feature. I’ve loved being with my dog all day, every day. I’ve loved working from home and being able to work from my parents’ house during extended visits. I’ve really enjoyed less crowded restaurants the few times I’ve been out. Middle seats open on flights were REALLY nice! Curbside pickup needs to stay forever, as does alcohol to go from restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, though. I could easily come up with 10, 20 or 100 reasons why 2020 stunk, too. But that’s not what this is about. It’s about finding the rainbow after the rain, the silver lining, the laughter through the tears. Happy New Year, everyone!

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Disney Cruise Line Chocolate and Liquor Tasting

That groundhog really pulled a fast one this year, didn’t he? Winter keeps holding on for dear life and just won’t let go! As the temperatures creep ever so slowly upward and as daylight shifts from morning to evening (because it’s not really an extra hour of daylight), I’m dreaming of warm, tropical weather.

I thought I’d share a favorite activity aboard a Disney Cruise – tastings. As part of their onboard fun offerings, tastings are available for a nominal fee. You can either prebook when you schedule other activities in advance or visit Guest Services to sign up on board.

One of their more popular tastings is Mixology. At $25 per person, five drinks are prepared by participants taking turns under the tutelage of a bartender.

Disney Cruise Line Mixology

In Mixology, all of the glasses are set up at the bar and each person takes a turn making some drinks. Everyone ends up with five different drinks made by fellow participants.

I have to admit, this one’s not my favorite. In my experience, you either have the timid folks who only pour in a splash of alcohol or the jokesters who think it’s funny to dump half the bottle in. Either way, I’d rather the bartender just do it as a demonstration class instead of hands-on. After doing this one twice, I’m good to skip it going forward.

One that I really did enjoy, though, was the Chocolate and Liquor Tasting.

Disney Cruise Line Chocolate and Liquor Tasting

Each person gets their own set up of wines and liquors paired with different types of solid and melted chocolate bliss and Parmesan cheese.

This one was $35 and included a champagne (real stuff from France), a red wine, a port and a fairly high end scotch. In fact, the bartender told us our pour of scotch would cost $38 on its own in the bars on the ship, making it a bargain as part of the class if scotch is your thing.

Paired with the liquors were various types of solid and melted chocolate and chunks of Parmesan cheese, which we were instructed to taste with each liquor. I don’t recall having a favorite combination, but it was interesting to experience how the notes of each liquor changed with different pairings.

Each person got his/her own set up, which is great for those who don’t like to share. The class was set up for a full group, even though it wasn’t full. The scotch, chocolate and cheese were already on the tray when the class started, and the wines were poured as they were presented. Since the class wasn’t full, that meant some of the scotch, chocolate and cheese went untouched. That simply was not acceptable so the bartender offered up the extras to the rest of us. One scotch fan was very happy as he got several extra glasses.

One thing to note is that I did not book this in advance. I don’t even recall this particular class being available to book in advance on my sailing. In fact, I didn’t sign up until about 5 minutes prior to start time. So, if you find all tastings sold out in advance, never fear! Head to Guest Services and check availability.

For my next cruise, I already have the Champagne Tasting, Stem to Stern (a wine tasting), Martinis and Tequila and Margaritas booked. I probably won’t keep all of them, depending on what other activities I find on the Navigator once I’m on board. I just have to cancel 24 hours in advance to avoid being charged.

Do you have a favorite on board activity? Please share it in the comments.

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Tales of a Castaway Cay Cabana Convert

This is the time of year when I start dreaming of tropical beaches, citrus sunsets and colorful umbrella drinks. January and February are my least favorite months, and I can’t be alone in that. Lately, my thoughts have been wandering to the paradise that is Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, only accessible via a Disney Cruise Line ship.

The Disney Wonder

The Disney Wonder docked at Castaway Cay

More specifically, I’ve been dreaming of my private cabana on Serenity Bay, the adults only beach on the island. It took me seven years of cruising Disney before I finally bought into all the hype. For years I thought they were an over-the-top extravagance that couldn’t possibly be worth the high price tag. Less than five minutes after setting foot into our precious piece of real estate for a day, I knew my past thoughts had been misguided. Wayyyyy misguided.

Serenity Bay Cabana 25

Cabana 25 on Serenity Bay

Getting a cabana on the island had never been on my radar, partly because they are almost impossible to get but mostly because of the high costs. As of now, Serenity Bay cabanas are $399 for up to 4 guests before tax. Family beach cabanas are $599 from September 25, 2018-March 17, 2019 and $649 from March 18, 2019-September 24, 2019. These prices are also before tax and are for up to 6 guests. On both beaches, you can have up to 10 guests in the cabana for an additional charge of $50 per guest over the number already included in the price. Not exactly cheap!

So, how did I get from there to here? It’s pretty simple, actually. I mainly wanted a more comfortable beach experience for my parents, my mom in particular. They are both in their seventies, and over the years I’ve watched as my mom has increasingly struggled with the beach. It’s harder for her to walk on the sand, and the beach chairs hurt her back. She also is sun-sensitive. While there are plenty of umbrellas on both beaches, getting full coverage from the sun is easier said than done. In 2017, my parents stayed on the beach just long enough for lunch to be served. It was hard to watch them not enjoy this highlight of the trip. I thought a cabana might be the answer and rationalized the cost by thinking of it as an all-day excursion. Per person, it’s really not that much more than other all-day excursions. Disney math at its finest!

Sign at the entrance of the private cabana area

So, after I made up my mind I wanted one for our 2018 cruise, how on earth was I going to get one? Let’s first break down why they are hard to get. First, there are only 24 of these beauties on the island (numbering goes up to 25 but 13 doesn’t exist); 20 are on the family beach (one is a double sized Grand Cabana at, you guessed it, an even higher cost) and 4 are on the adult beach. So, there aren’t a lot to go around. Second, Disney has a tiered system for booking activities, cabanas included, based on number of cruises you’ve taken and room category. Concierge guests (top room categories) get first dibs at them. There are more rooms in this category than there are cabanas. Often, they are all snatched up by this group first. Then, Platinum (10+ cruises) cruisers get a shot, followed by Gold (6-10 cruises), Silver (1-5 cruises) and finally, the newbies can try.

As a Silver cruiser not staying in Concierge, my chances were slim-to-none. As expected, they were all gone when it was our time to book. I stalked the site daily for cancellations to no avail. My next plan was to immediately go to Guest Services after boarding the ship and get on the wait list.

On the day of embarkation, something magical happened! We were on our way to the port when we learned of a change in our itinerary. We were supposed to go to St. Maarten, but due to a storm in the Caribbean, we weren’t going to make it. Instead, we would be making two stops at Castaway Cay. Thank you, Mickey! Many people were disappointed to miss St. Maarten, and I can totally understand that. I was elated, however! Immediately my brain went to the cabanas. A surprise stop meant all cabanas were available for the bonus stop, and I was determined to get one. Or so I thought.

I went straight to Guest Services when we boarded, thinking I would just book one right there on the spot. Not so fast! I learned that the cabana list is owned by the Concierge staff on board. That means Concierge guests still get first dibs. The Concierge staff would call me if there were any available after they were offered to their guests.

A few hours later, we got a call that there were two left, and one had my name on it! Success! Later that night, we received our wrist bands and cabana check in information.

Castaway Cay Cabana Wristbands

Our wristbands! We were official!

The next day, we docked at Castaway Cay for our bonus stop. We could not get off that ship fast enough to head to our private slice of paradise! Upon arrival at Serenity Bay, we headed straight for cabana check in. We were greeted by our cabana host for the day and taken via golf cart to Cabana 25. They were clearly expecting us as we found our name on the welcome sign.

Welcome Sign

What a warm welcome!

Our host showed us around our cabana, where we found very comfy chairs and loungers, a ceiling fan, changing area, bar menu, snack basket, fridge stocked with sodas, water, fruit and cold towels, outdoor shower, floats and tubes, a hammock and sunscreen. The most important feature was the button to push in order to call our host. All was included in the cabana cost except drinks on the bar menu.

Cabana 25

The back entrance to Cabana 25

Inside the Cabana

The cozy interior of the cabana

Cabana Interior

So inviting!

Cabana Lounge Chair

Super comfy lounge chairs

Cabana Lounge Chair

Another comfy chair. I tried them all out.

Cabana Ceiling Fan

It was a little chilly so we didn’t end up using the ceiling fan. It would have come in handy on a warm day, though.

Castaway Cay Bar Menu

If we wanted something from the bar menu, our cabana host was a push of a button away.

Snacks

Snacks

Stocked Fridge

Fully stocked fridge

Floats and Rafts

Floats and rafts right next to the cabana

Personal Hammock

We had our own personal hammock.

Complimentary Sunscreen

Complimentary sunscreen

We lounged around the cabana for a bit before taking a walk on the beach. It was kind of chilly that day (March) so the water was much too cold to enjoy. We went back to the cabana where we agreed it was nice to be shielded from the cool air. I found a sunny spot on the cabana porch and relaxed in the sun until it was time for lunch.

Beach Selfie

The obligatory beach selfie

We called our cabana host to come get us for lunch. Within moments he arrived to whisk us off in the golf cart. While we could have brought lunch back to our cabana, we chose to eat there. After lunch, I picked up my favorite drink there, the Konk Kooler, and we headed back to our tiny home.

We decided we could almost live there, it was so nice! Before we knew it, they were announcing that it was time to leave. Our cabana host came to collect us, and we enjoyed the biggest surprise of all! The cabana host drove us back to the ship, past the customs check, and dropped us off right at the gangplank. No extra walking for my mom! She was all smiles! It was then that I realized this was the first trip to Castaway Cay that my parents were able to enjoy the island for the entire day. Mission accomplished!

Happy Parents

Seeing how much my parents enjoyed the day made it all worth it.

Four days later, we got another call from Concierge. One of their guests had cancelled their cabana for the second visit, and they were calling to see if we wanted it. Without much hesitation, we wholeheartedly said yes! The next day, we got to do it all over again in Cabana 22.

Cabana 22

We got Cabana 22 for our second day.

Cabana 22

The back entrance to Cabana 22

We are now cabana spoiled! I’m happy to say that we’ve already secured Cabana 25 once again for our next cruise. We are Gold this time, and we got lucky. I found a Platinum cruiser on our cruise who kept monitoring the available inventory for me until our booking window opened. I knew there was one available on the adult beach, and I was laser-focused on getting it! Luckily, I had fast fingers and a fast internet connection. We can hardly wait to visit our little haven in paradise once again.

Cabana 22 Sign

We are looking forward to once again calling Cabana 25 home for the day.

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Palo Inspired Snacks

Earlier this year, I visited the Eastern Caribbean on my 3rd Disney Cruise Line cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy.  This was my first time on the Fantasy and the first time on a 7 night cruise.  It was also my first time in the Eastern Caribbean.  You could say it was a trip of firsts, for so many reasons, but one of those firsts was especially yummy.  We dined in Palo one night for dinner.

Palo aboard the Disney Fantasy

Palo aboard the Disney Fantasy

It was not my first time dining at Palo.  In 2011, we enjoyed a most delicious brunch in Palo aboard the Disney Dream.  You can find a snippet of that here.  However, it was our first time having dinner at Palo.

Palo is 1 of 2 adults-only restaurants aboard the Fantasy.  It features upscale Northern Italian cuisine, and it is outstanding.  It requires advance reservations and comes with an extra charge of $30 per person.

I’ll share more about this meal later but for now, I wanted to tell you about one of my favorite parts of the meal, the antipasto.  Shortly after we were seated and our orders were taken, our waiter wheeled a cart to our table containing an assortment of Italian meats, cheeses, olives, roasted veggies and flavored olive oils.

This cart contained an assortment of Italian meats, cheeses, olives, roasted veggies and flavored olive oils.

This cart contained an assortment of Italian meats, cheeses, olives, roasted veggies and flavored olive oils.

He placed a generous amount of each on a plate for us to share and drizzled it all with aged balsamic vinegar and the flavored olive oil of our choice.

The waiter placed a generous amount of each item on a plate for us to share.

The waiter placed a generous amount of each item on a plate for us to share.

It was a great way to start the meal!  One of my favorite things about it was the simplicity of it.  It’s something that I can easily replicate at home and feel like I’m right back on board the Fantasy anytime I need a mini staycation.

A few weeks later, I was at our local farmer’s market and spotted a new vendor selling locally cured meats.  One of the meats caught my eye.  It was bresaola, which is an aged, cured beef.  For my southern friends, think country ham, only beef.  I was planning to attend an outdoor concert that evening with friends and needed to make snacks for us all to share.  A light bulb went off in my head, and I decided to let that be the inspiration for my contribution to the night out.  On the way home from the market, I picked up a nice chunk of parmesan cheese and some olives marinated in Italian herbs.  I cut the cheese into chunks and since everything is better on a stick, I skewered all the components into my Palo-inspired antipasto bites.

My finished Palo-inspired antipasto bites

My finished Palo-inspired antipasto bites

No outdoor concert is complete without wine or champagne so I also picked up a bottle of Italian Prosecco, which paired perfectly with my antipasto bites.  One of my friends brought orange juice for mimosas, and we had a great evening.

Cheers to a lovely evening with great friends.

Cheers to a lovely evening with great friends.

Have you ever made a vacation-inspired dish?  Tell me about it in the comments.

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I’m a Bad Blogger!

I guess you’ve noticed by now I’ve been a little MIA lately.  Sorry for that!  Have you ever felt totally overwhelmed with life in general to the point that you can only focus and complete what absolutely has to happen at that particular moment and everything else gets put on the back burner?  That’s been me lately.  Between work, a huge list of things around the house that need attention, and my running woes, I haven’t really had the mental capacity to fill you all in on what’s been going on.  I’ve been doing some fun things that I’m sure you all would love to read about, and if you follow me on Twitter and Instagram you might already know about some of it.  However, when it comes time to share after the fact, I’m already in the mentality of handling what’s next on my it-has-to-get-done-now list.   I deeply apologize and hope you’ll stick with me while I catch you up.

So, here are a few of the things I’ve been doing this year (I do plan to write more in-depthly in the coming weeks about these things).

  • I took a semi-last minute trip to New York in January with a girlfriend of mine.  It was my first time going!
  • My family booked our third Disney Cruise Line trip, which will be coming up next year.
  • I once again registered as a St. Jude Hero for the Memphis St. Jude Half Marathon.  To support me, visit my fund-raising page here.
  • Over Memorial Day weekend I spent 24 consecutive hours in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World for the Rock Your Disney Side 24 Hour Event.
  • I also took some extra time to enjoy some of the special things happening during Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • I finished my first distance event since being injured–the Navy 10 Nautical Miler.
  • I’ve been working with a company called BzzAgent and will be bringing you a Coppertone product review and giveaway soon.
  • I’m also working with a company called Influenster and will be reviewing their Spring Fling Vox Box.
  • I’ve also had a request from a reader to share exactly how I went from couch to half marathoner.  I’ve touched on my story a little bit but I never really shared what happened between point A and point B.
  • Finally, I have developed a summer slush recipe that my family loves and I hope yours will, too.

So, what story should I tackle first?  What are you most interested in?

Follow me on Twitter @myglasssneaker.

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My Disney Side @ Home Celebration

This past Saturday I hosted my Disney Side @ Home Celebration.  Thanks to a partnership with MomSelect and Disney Parks, I received a kit full of fun to help me host my party.  I had so much fun hosting this party, and I think everyone else had a great time, too.
Show Your Disney Side

First let’s talk food!  I wanted to feature all four parks at Walt Disney World Resort as well as Disney Cruise Line in my menu.  So, this is what I served:

My menu card

My menu card

  • Fantasmic! Firecrackers (Hollywood Studios)
  • Farmer Mickey Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (Epcot)
  • Living with the Land Tomato Soup (Epcot)
  • Chilled Strawberry Soup (1900 Park Fare at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort)
  • Mickey on Safari Rice Crispy Treats (Animal Kingdom)
  • Dole Whip Push Ups (Magic Kingdom)
  • Nemo’s Konk Kooler (Disney Cruise Line)
    This is most of the food I served.  I forgot to take a pic of the soup but here are some garnishes I put out for it.  I also forgot to take a pic of the sandwiches after they were toasted, but you get the idea.

    This is most of the food I served. I forgot to take a pic of the soup but here are some garnishes I put out for it. I also forgot to take a pic of the sandwiches after they were toasted, but you get the idea.

For some items, I actually used Disney recipes, like the Konk Kooler (minus the alcohol, thus Nemo’s) and the Chilled Strawberry Soup.  Everything else, I merely made as a representation of the Disney Parks theme.  I really had fun developing the menu, and everything was really easy to put together.  I also used some popcorn buckets I’ve gotten in the past at the parks and put some different store-bought flavored popcorn in them.

No party is complete without great decorations!  My kit contained plates, napkins, cups, a table cloth, and swirly decorations. 

Cups, plates and napkins were included in the kit.  I also used a flower pot I bought at World of Disney last year for the utensils.  I took it on my DCL Dream cruise last year and had the characters sign it.

Cups, plates and napkins were included in the kit. I also used a flower pot I bought at World of Disney last year for the utensils. I took it on my DCL Dream cruise last year and had the characters sign it.

I used everything except the table cloth.  I had a different idea for the table.  The kit also contained runDisney/ESPN ChEar cards, as used at runDisney races and ESPN sporting events.  I covered the cards in clear contact paper to protect them, and used them as place mats. 

ChEar cards make great place mats.

ChEar cards make great place mats.

I also picked up some containers from the dollar store, added some ribbon and tulle fabric to them, and made some fresh flower arrangements for the center of my table. 

I made three of these flower arrangements and placed them down the center of the table.

I made three of these flower arrangements and placed them down the center of the table.

My finished table

I used the swirly decorations on the back drop to a photo booth I made along with plastic table cloths, also from the dollar store.

Back drop for my photo booth

Back drop for my photo booth

My friend Beth picked up some of these celebration buttons for me in the parks and sent them to me. 

I used these celebration buttons as name tags.  Beth even included a penny for good luck!

I used these celebration buttons as name tags. Beth even included a penny for good luck!

Disney Parks has complimentary buttons for pretty much any occasion and it’s not uncommon to see lots of people in the parks with them.  I thought they would make really fun name tags since some of my guests didn’t know each other. 

After we had spent some time eating and chatting, it was time to play Bingo, which had been generously included in my hostess kit.  After a few minutes, it was pretty apparent that all the cards were very similar and it was likely that everyone was going to Bingo at the same time.  It became a race to see who could yell it out first. 

We played three games of Bingo before it was time to have fun with the photo booth I set up.  HP was a sponsor of the party and had included some photo cards for my guests.  I thought it would be fun to take some pictures and play around with the Disney Memories app on my iPhone.  The kids had such a blast with it!  They enjoyed putting borders, stickers and characters on their photos with the app.

My Pic

My Pic

This pic won the day!

This pic of my mom won the day!

Later on, I texted all the photos to my guests that they could print out at home using the HP photo cards each family took home with them.

Each guest also received goodies from the sponsors.  The adults got a poster, the HP photo cards, a runDisney/ESPN bumper sticker, and a Muppets calendar.  The kids got runDisney arm bands, Craisins, stickers, temporary tattoos, and a few other things I threw in for them.

All my guests got goodies to take home with them.

All my guests got goodies to take home with them.

It was a really fun way to spend an afternoon, and I’m very thankful to all the sponsors who helped put together the generous hostess kit.  I especially love my hostess gift from American Tourister!

Decorations, gifts for my guests, and this piece of luggage from American Tourister were all included in my hostess kit.

Decorations, gifts for my guests, and this piece of luggage from American Tourister were all included in my hostess kit.

Disclosure:  I received free products from MomSelect and Disney Parks with which to host a party.  As always, my opinions are my own.

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Disney Cruise Line Room Service

Hundreds, maybe thousands of families are just like mine these days, anxiously awaiting the release of the Disney Cruise Line itineraries for the remainder of 2015.  My family and I are getting ready to book our third Disney Cruise as soon as bookings open, and the suspense is killing me!

The famous Disney Cruise Line horn on the Dream

The famous Disney Cruise Line horn on the Dream

Where are the ships going?  What will the itineraries be?  Most importantly, what is it going to cost?  While we wait, I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite things about a Disney cruise, included room service!

Yep, most items on the room service menu (packaged snacks, canned sodas, bottled water, and alcohol excluded) are available 24 hours a day and are included in your cruise fare (don’t forget to tip the delivery person).  Just like the rest of the food on a Disney cruise, it’s delicious, too!  My family loves room service primarily for the unlimited Mickey ice cream bars (not on the menu but they’ll bring them) and my very favorite thing they call All Hands On Deck.

All Hands on Deck cheese plate and Mickey ice cream bar from room service

All Hands on Deck cheese plate and Mickey ice cream bar from room service

It’s a fruit, cheese and cracker plate, which hits the spot as an afternoon snack with a glass of wine while getting ready for the evening.  I’ve spent several early evenings noshing on this very thing while sitting on my veranda watching the sky dim.

My favorite afternoon snack aboard a Disney ship

My favorite afternoon snack aboard a Disney ship

It’s definitely one of my happy places.

We also love room service for breakfast when we either don’t feel like getting dressed right away for breakfast or we are in a hurry to get off the ship to begin our day in whatever the port of call is that day.  In addition to the regular menu (which again is available 24 hours a day) there is a card you can hang on your door the night before with your selections and desired delivery time.  It’s a continental-type breakfast and you can get things like cereal, yogurt, fruit and pastries.  We love the fruit and pastries!

Fruit and pastries for breakfast

Fruit and pastries for breakfast

Hot food is also available any time.  We’ve gotten things like sandwiches with fries and chicken wings.  Other things are available, too, like salmon and pizza.  We’ve also ordered the chocolate chip cookies, and they are colossal!

Huge chocolate chip cookies

Huge chocolate chip cookies

We’ve even been the lucky recipients of surprises from room service like a fruit basket and a miniature dessert plate.

Surprise fruit basket from room service

Surprise fruit basket from room service

Surprise dessert plate from room service, I ate a lemon pie bite before snapping a pic.  Oops!

Surprise dessert plate from room service, I ate a lemon pie bite before snapping a pic. Oops!

As soon as Disney Cruise Line releases the itineraries for our targeted travel time, I’ll be counting down the days when I can once again enjoy this luxury!

What’s your favorite part of a Disney cruise?

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Disney Cruise Line Dream Cruise 2013–Pirates of Nassau Museum

Yo ho, yo ho! A pirate’s life for me! Most kids (and adults, too, for that matter) have dreamed at some point of being a pirate. Many have even dressed up as one, making pirate costumes some of the most popular and most sold of all time. The pirate lifestyle has been dramatized and romanticized by books, movies, TV shows and attractions for decades as a fabulous life on the high seas of eating, drinking, and being merry. There are no rules. Do what you want, when you want, however you want. Pirates seem to get away with everything so who wouldn’t want to be one? On our Nassau day, we visited the Pirates of Nassau museum and learned it wasn’t quite the glamorous and care-free lifestyle of our pirate dreams.

Pirates of Nassau Museum

Pirates of Nassau Museum

Pirates were a big part of Nassau’s rich history so it’s only natural to preserve it with a museum dedicated to the pirate’s life. The museum is located at the intersection of King and George streets, very easy to remember (King George). It really is a very short walk from the port so no need to get a taxi and maps are available at the information desk at the port.

The information desk at the port in Nassau

The information desk at the port in Nassau

The cost for the museum is $12 per person, but I’ve read that if you go on a slow day or later in the afternoon, there might be a guy standing out front ready to cut you a deal. They had plenty of patrons when we went so no deal for us! We were directed to the gift shop to purchase our wristbands (clever of them to start you in a gift shop) and then we were free to start the tour.

Wristband for Pirates of Nassau Museum

Wristband for Pirates of Nassau Museum

It was a self-guided tour, and it was VERY dark inside the museum.

There weren’t very many (if any) actual pirate artifacts, which was kind of a disappointment. I wanted to see some real, bona fide pirate stuff. Instead, displays were created to give visitors the feeling that they were stepping into a pirate ship and into the lives of pirates. The tour guided us through the “ship”, showing us the sights and sounds of a pirate’s life.

Displays depict the life of a pirate.

Displays depict the life of a pirate.

Placards were on the walls, giving information and also true/false trivia questions testing your knowledge of facts versus myths.

This placard sets the stage as you enter the museum.

This placard sets the stage as you enter the museum.

While it wasn’t exactly what I expected, I did learn some things. For starters, most pirates got their start as legitimate ship workers, where the hours were long, the work was hard, and punishments were severe. The only escape from this very difficult lifestyle was to become a pirate. Instead of long days of hard work and punishment, pirates enjoyed days filled with drinking, games and merriment. Of course, the only way to fund this lifestyle was to steal, cheat and kill by overtaking other ships that passed through the pirate-infested waters of the Caribbean. Greed was prevalent and oftentimes they would turn on each other to get a bigger share of the loot. Also, most pirate ships didn’t have a doctor on board so any amputations and other surgeries had to be performed by the ship’s carpenter, using carpentry tools such as saws, with no anesthesia.

Pirate surgery without anesthesia--ouch!

Pirate surgery without anesthesia–ouch!

It didn’t take long for me to decide that rum or no rum, the pirate’s life was definitely not for me!

Another thing I found quite surprising was their attitude toward and respect for women. The rape of a woman was totally against “pirate code” and was punishable by a very cruel death. Also, if a female pirate (yes, although rare, they existed) were caught and sentenced to death, she could easily get her sentence reduced to life in prison by simply claiming to be pregnant. Death sentences were normally carried out immediately, and because the judges of that day didn’t want to be responsible for the killing of an unborn child, they would not call for the execution of a pregnant woman. I also found it odd that there was no follow up to this. Wouldn’t they have caught on to her lies after 9 months in prison and no baby had popped out? Chances are, she was going to die of natural illnesses in prison anyway (according to the museum), so I guess they thought it really didn’t matter.

Even though it wasn’t quite what I expected, I really enjoyed the museum. It was very interesting and informative and it only took about 30 minutes to tour. It’s very close to all the shops, which makes it a great add-on if you are only planning on shopping in Nassau anyway. It’s probably not something you’d want to go out of your way to make time for if you are planning an all-day shore excursion.

Have you been to Nassau? What’s your favorite thing to do there?

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Disney Cruise Line Dream Cruise 2013–Castaway Cay 5k and a PR, Well Maybe Sort Of

If you’ve been reading along, you know that strangely enough the thing about this cruise I was looking forward to the most was the Castaway Cay 5k.  On Tuesday of the cruise, the day had finally come.

Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island that most of their cruises sail to.  It is gorgeous!  The water is so blue, and the sand is pristine!  There is plenty to do on the island.  There is snorkeling, a sting ray interactive area, water toys, character experiences, parasailing, a glass bottom boat tour, and even a water slide.  There is yoga on the adult beach (Serenity Bay), and massage cabanas for those who want to indulge on the beach.  Then there is my most anticipated activity, the 5k.

Our personal Navigator for the day (a printout that tells you everything that is going on) said we should meet in Evolution at 8:15 am.  Running also were my dad, my brother-in-law, and 2 of my nieces.  So at 8:15 we signed in, were given our bibs, and Briana (a member of the activities crew) went over the course map with us. 

We all met in Evolution to get signed in for the 5K.

We all met in Evolution to get signed in for the 5K.

Ok, this is not a great picture but they had the course map on the big screen.

We all got bibs, and they say runDisney!

We all got bibs, and they say runDisney!

My dad was wearing his t-shirt from the Mickey’s Happy Haunted 5k Trail Run from last year, which got Briana’s attention.  She ran the 10 miler last year.  When dad told her I ran the 10 miler also as well as Princess this year, she came looking for me.  She is planning on running Princess in 2014 as part of the brand new Glass Slipper Challenge.  From that point on, she kept calling dad and me her runDisney family.  I thought that was really fun.

So about 8:45, we made our way as a group to the gangplank to exit the ship.  We walked all the way to the second family beach.  It felt like a long walk, but that is pretty typical of runDisney races.  At one point during the walk to the start, my brother-in-law said, “Is this 5k almost over?”  I thought it was a good warm-up, though.  I like to walk for a bit before I start running.

We got to the start and I had the bright idea to go ahead and buy our 5k shirts.  The gift shop is right next to the start.  I’ve read that many people have their family members buy them while they are running, and if you wait until you finish they may be out of your size.  Since none of our family members who weren’t running were planning on getting off the ship before we would be done, that wasn’t an option for us.  So I grabbed the shirts and went to pay, thinking I’d be in and out in 2 minutes.  The Cast Member was super friendly and talkative, wanting to know EVERYTHING about our trip so far.  I told her we were about to start running and I needed to get to the start.  Then she proceeds to tell me ALL the reasons she can’t run.  Yeah, yeah, let’s pick this up!  I was about to be left behind.  She was SUPER careful to make sure they were folded perfectly in the bag, too!  Well, needless to say, the other runners took off while I was walking out of the store.  They have a box by the start for everyone to put their belongings, and I still had to do that, too.  So, not only was I the last one to start, there wasn’t anyone in sight when I started.  I wish I had checked the clock at the start to see just how far behind I was, but I didn’t.  I’m going to estimate 90 seconds.

It wasn’t too long, though, before I was passing people, mainly the walkers.  Then I had my dad in sight, who was mostly walking.  I wanted to catch up to him, but every time I was almost to him, he would take off running, putting more distance between us.  He can actually walk faster than I can walk/run so with him adding some running in, it was almost impossible.  Then came the first water stop.  Dad was stopped at it, and he spotted me.  I stopped to refill my water bottle, and I was sure he would wait on me.  But noooooooo!  Dad, you’re KILLING me!  I’m 38 years old.  I’ve been running for a year and a half.  I’ve completed 2 half marathons and a 10 miler in the last year.  I have on expertly fitted running shoes and tech running clothes.  And I’m being smoked by a 69-year-old man who doesn’t run or walk regularly, wearing 10-year-old Reeboks, khaki shorts and a cotton t-shirt.  That was a lesson in humility.

The course takes you down the air strip,  has you make a loop through the 5000 foot long bike trail, finish off the air strip to Serenity Bay, circle back and make another trip through the bike loop, then head home.  It’s pretty clear to go counter-clockwise through the bike loop the first time, but for the second loop, some were going clockwise and some counter-clockwise.  I was in the clockwise group and met my brother-in-law and one of my nieces heading the other direction.  He indicated that he thought I was going the wrong way.  I told him I didn’t think it mattered and continued on.  At this point I vaguely remembered Briana mentioning that if you do something wrong, it could add a half mile to your trip.  I couldn’t remember what that was, and I started questioning myself.  The bike loop is marked in feet by thousands in both directions, and I had just passed the 2000 feet mark.  I decided to try to estimate another 500 feet and turn around and head back the other direction (remember the bike loop is 5000 feet, so by my estimation I would be at the 2500 feet mark and doubling back would equal 5000 feet).  I have no idea how close I was, but I don’t think I could have been that far off. 

I headed to the finish and the clock said I had a PR by about a minute and 20 seconds.  Since it’s not a certified course, I got stared late, and I got turned around, I have no idea how accurate this was.  We all collected our medals, and I got a pic of Briana. 

Briana gave us our medals!

Briana gave us our medals!

We retrieved our belongings and headed to find a spot on the beach for the day.

Me after the race, with my medal and the ship

Me after the race, with my medal and the ship

Dad and I after the race

It was really a lot of fun!  I kept hearing about how hot this run can get, and it would have been much harder had the sun been out.  It was overcast all day, though, with a good breeze blowing.  It was very enjoyable.  Plus, with this run, I can now call myself an international runner.  The experience exceeded my expectations, and if I ever get the opportunity to go on another Disney cruise that stops at Castaway Cay, I will do it again for sure!

Have you ever done a 5k on vacation?  Where was it?

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Disney Cruise Line Dream Cruise 2013–The Aquaducky Derby

Thank you readers for hanging in there with me while I enjoyed fun and frolics aboard the Disney Dream and at Walt Disney World last week!  I’m back so now you’ll have new stuff to read.  I know you are excited!

First off, I want to share with you something entirely new for Disney Cruise Line, the Aquaducky Derby. 

Aquaducky Derby

Aquaducky Derby

It’s so new that ours was the very first cruise to ever do this event.  It was a fund-raiser for Make a Wish International, and we were able to raise over $5000 on our cruise for this fabulous organization.  Did you know that every year Disney Cruise Line grants 735 wishes to children with life-threatening diseases?  That’s just Disney Cruise Line!  That does not include what they grant in their theme parks.  That’s pretty awesome of Disney but Make a Wish International still needs cash to operate with so that’s where this fund-raiser comes in. 

Throughout the cruise, passengers were able to purchase cute rubber duckies for $5 each. 

Rubber Duckies were purchased for $5 each.

Rubber Duckies were purchased for $5 each.

We were asked to write our room number on our ducky with a Sharpie so they could track the winner.  This also made it easy to return the ducky to its rightful owner after the Derby.  People even decorated their ducks in all different colors.  Anything was fine as long as it was done with a Sharpie.  Then on the last day, Disney VoluntEARS were on hand to collect the ducks in these mesh bags. 

Disney VoluntEARS collected the ducks to take to the start line.

Disney VoluntEARS collected the ducks to take to the start line.

Even Donald and Daisy were there to cheer for the event, dressed in their cruise duds. 

Donald and Daisy were excited for this event!

Donald and Daisy were excited for this event!

So, basically what happened is the water was turned off of the Aquaduck (the water slide/roller coaster which can be found on the Dream and the Fantasy), all the ducks were dumped in, the water was turned back on and each duck had to fend for itself to find its way to the finish line. 

And they're off!

And they’re off!

More VoluntEARS collected the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers, the winners were announced, and the owners were presented with medals. 

Here come the winners!

Here come the winners!

It was so much fun and way more exciting than I would have ever imagined a duck race in the Aquaduck could have possibly been. 

They were also really organized about getting the ducks returned to their owners.  I was curious as to how they were going to pull that off since there were over 1000 ducks participating.  They had tables roped off and set up according to floor number.  You walked up to the table that corresponded to your floor number, told the VoluntEAR your room number, and they found your duck(s) for you.  I have to say, though, that my duck had a pretty rough ride! 

My ducky got a little scarred and bruised.

My ducky got a little scarred and bruised.

He was all bruised up from all the other duckies’ Sharpie decorations.  He was still smiling, though, so he didn’t seem to mind. 

I really love that Disney did this event!  It felt good to be a part of something meaningful on vacation, and they did a great job of putting on an exciting show.  I don’t know if they have plans to do this every cruise but if they do, I would definitely do it again!

Would you participate in a fund-raiser on vacation?

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