Square Life Round World

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

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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Volunteering at runDisney’s Marathon Weekend

About a month ago, I headed down to my favorite place, the Walt Disney World Resort, to volunteer at runDisney’s Marathon Weekend.  As you may know, I’ve participated as a runner in several runDisney events but never as a volunteer.  Without the volunteers, the races simply would not be possible so I was excited to experience that side of it.

Volunteer registration for runDisney events is just about as popular as runner registration.  Many events fill up within hours of registration so it takes some planning if you want to participate.  Several of my friends and I wanted to volunteer together so when registration opened up, we were in communication with each other almost immediately so we could coordinate our requests.  During the registration process, you actually choose what assignment you want and what location on the course.  The assignments include bag check, screaming fan, water stops, food stops, and even volunteers helping to check volunteers in.  My group chose the food stop for the half marathon, which was Clif gel and the water stop at mile 13.1 for the full marathon.

For this event, volunteer registration opened up about 3 months prior.  Assignments are not guaranteed so even if you register, your request is not guaranteed.  In my group, we all got our requests, though.  About a month before the event, I got a letter in the mail confirming my assignment and giving final instructions.  We were also required to pick up our volunteer credentials prior to the event.  For locals, runDisney had several options prior to the expo.  Credential pick-up was also available at the expo for those from out-of-town.  Since most of us were also running the 10k, we had to go to the expo anyway so expo pick-up was very convenient.  My flight was delayed so my friend Heather ended up picking up my credentials for me.

Both of our shifts were from 4 am to 11 am so we had to get up super early, 2:30 am.  Transportation is not provided to the volunteer staging area so Heather drove us there.  We left the resort around 3:30 for a 4 am arrival because we knew there would be road closures due to the race.  The staging area was at the Blizzard Beach parking lot.  When we got there, a huge tent was set up for volunteer check-in.  We walked in, they scanned our credentials, directed us to jacket pick-up and then to snack pick-up.  For snacks, we were each given a big Ziploc bag and were told to pick out 5 snacks.  I got fruit snacks, Chex mix, an Uncrustables, a granola bar and some trail mix.  Within minutes we were through the check-in area and headed to find our numbered bus, which matched the number on our credentials.  In true Disney fashion it was all super organized and effortless.

Half Marathon Volunteer Jacket and Credential

Marathon Volunteer Jacket and Credential

Marathon Volunteer Jacket and Credential

Around 4:30 am our bus took off for our assignment location.  For the half marathon, we were stationed at the Clif gel stop, and there was quite a bit of setup to be done once we got there.

Mocha Clif Gel with Caffiene

Mocha Clif Gel with Caffeine

Tables had to be set up, and we opened the boxes of gel.  Everything had to be sanitized, too, and we were required to wear rubber gloves when handling the product.

Our Group ready to hand out lots of Clif Mocha gel

Our Group ready to hand out lots of Clif Mocha gel

Once we got everything set up, there was a little time before the first runners were expected so a few of us walked to the Hess station right up the road.  I was thankful for real restrooms nearby.  Once the runners started getting to our area, everything moved very quickly.  There was a little bit of a learning curve to holding the gel so the runner can grab it on the way by.  It really only took a few hours for all of the runners to come through and then it was time to break everything down.  Breakdown was a breeze and pretty soon it was time to get back on the bus to Blizzard Beach.  Once we got back to the staging area, we had to be checked out just as we were checked in.  Once again, our credentials were scanned, and we handed in our one day park ticket vouchers in exchange for the ticket.

The next morning, we did it all over again.  For the full marathon, we were stationed at the 13.1 mile water stop right outside of Animal Kingdom.

Water ready to hand out

Water ready to hand out

In fact, we were right behind the Dinosaur ride building, and once the park opened, I could hear the sounds from the ride.  Again, we had to set everything up including the tables and this time, pour the cups of water.

Our group ready to hand water out

Our group ready to hand water out

Everything once again moved quickly once it started.  Again, there was a learning curve to balancing the cups on your hand so the runners could grab them.  This part was tougher than I thought.  Holding your arm out, balancing a cup of water on it for 3 hours straight was not easy.

One of my favorite parts of volunteering was being able to see the race from start to finish.  Runner interaction was great for both races.  I also got to see all of my friends who were running, some of whom even stopped for pictures with us.

Our friend Aimee took time out of her race to stop for a pic with us.

Our friend Aimee took time out of her race to stop for a pic with us.

Day 2 Erica and Aimee stopped for a pic with us, looking great at the halfway point!

Day 2 Erica and Aimee stopped for a pic with us, looking great at the halfway point!

I saw one of my sorority sisters from college whom I’ve not seen in 18 years!  I also was able to spend quality time with some of my favorite running friends volunteering with me.  I loved getting to know them better!

As an incentive, volunteers always get snacks and a piece of apparel to wear for the shift, which you get to keep.  In this case, we got jackets both days, and we were thrilled when we found out they were different for the different events.  When volunteering for a half or the full marathon, volunteers also get a one day park ticket, so we each got two.  What I was given doesn’t expire until March of next year so hopefully I can plan a trip between the time my annual pass expires and the time these passes expire to put them to use.

I learned some things from volunteering.  You’ll get dirty, much dirtier than I anticipated.  The water stops are WET!  Yes, that should go without saying, but I didn’t think to wear old shoes.  About halfway through the second day I started calling out names on the bibs to give as many people as I could a little lift.  The response from that was overwhelming!  I wish I had done that from the very beginning.  I had no idea what hard work volunteering was.  Many runners thanked us, and yes, it felt great when they did.  I was actually almost as tired and sore after volunteering as I am after running.  Almost.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely!

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I’m a Disney Side @ Home Celebration Host

Show Your Disney Side

I’m so excited because a couple of weeks ago I was notified that I was chosen to host a Disney Side @ Home Celebration.  This means that through a partnership with Disney Parks and MomSelect, I would be receiving a free celebration kit with which to host a party.  Last week I got my party kit and was blown away by the generosity of the sponsors.

This sticker let me know something special was inside my box!

This sticker let me know something special was inside my box!

I knew the kit would contain lots of items to help me host a great party, and I knew it would contain a special hostess gift for me.  However, I had no idea just what was in store.

I was thrilled when I opened my box to find a carry-on sized piece of American Tourister luggage, the official luggage of Disneyland and the Walt Disney World Resort as my hostess gift.

American Tourister is the official luggage of Disneyland and the Walt Disney World Resort.

American Tourister is the official luggage of Disneyland and the Walt Disney World Resort.

Their official hash tag #PackMoreFun really came to life when I unzipped the bag to find it stuffed full of wonderful things to help me plan and host my party.  There were decorations, plates, napkins, cups, cupcake liners, balloons and games, all to use for my party.  There were also more hostess gifts for me like measuring cups from ABC’s The Chew and cookie cutters, which will both also come in handy for party preparations.  There were party favors for adults and kids such as runDisney ChEar cards, runDisney rubber bracelets, runDisney/ESPN bumper stickers, HP photo cards, stickers, temporary tattoos, Craisins and Mickey and Minnie Valentine’s Day posters.  So much party-planning inspiration was inside that luggage!

So much awesome was inside the box!

So much awesome was inside the box!

I’ve already started putting together several ideas for my party, including my menu.  My menu will feature items to represent each of the four theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom), Disney Cruise Line, and a couple of the Walt Disney World Resort Hotels.  I’m so excited to host this party, and I plan to make it a great one!

For ideas on hosting your own Disney Side Celebration, visit www.disneysidecelebrations.com

I received free products in order to host the Disney Side @ Home Celebration.  The opinions expressed here are my own.

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WDW Inaugural Minnie 10k

On Friday, January 10 I got to participate in the Inaugural Minnie 10k as part of Marathon Weekend at the Walt Disney World Resort.  For daytime races, this always means a very early wake up call.  2:30 came very early, especially since my body was on Central time which means it felt like 1:30 to me.  Buses started running at 3:30, which seems a bit insane for a 5:30 start.  However, it really does take that much time to get 10,000 runners in place for an on-time start.

Minnie 10k starting line

Minnie 10k starting line

The first 3 miles were a bit boring.  I knew this part was outside of the parks but I thought there would be lots of character stops and other entertainment to distract us from 3 miles of boring, straight road.  Unfortunately, there was only a DJ right after the start and one character stop that I saw before entering Epcot.

This DJ was right after the start of the Minnie 10k.

This DJ was right after the start of the Minnie 10k.

I did take time to stop at each and every mile marker to have my pic taken, which I’ve never done.  Lines were really long for the character stops but not too bad for the mile markers.

All the Mile Markers

All the Mile Markers

After the first 3 miles, we headed into Epcot by way of a backstage entrance close to Test Track.  There were several more character stops in Epcot, but lines were still longish.  We ran about halfway around World Showcase before heading out to the Boardwalk area.  A great part about this leg of the race is access to real restrooms.  I took the opportunity to stop in Germany.  Here, I ran into my friends Heather, Katie, Sarah, Jenn, and Penny, who were all running together.  They passed me shortly after I saw them.  We ran past Boardwalk, circled around by the Swan and Dolphin resorts, past Yacht and Beach Club resorts, then back to the International Gateway.

Football Goofy by the Boardwalk

Football Goofy by the Boardwalk

I ran into my friends again, who were in line for Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.  They motioned for me to join them in line so I did.  We only took one pic with all of us, so it’s not like my joining them held the line up.

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum at the Minnie 10k

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum at the Minnie 10k

I stuck with them for most of the rest of Epcot.  We spotted Chip and Dale, and since we were close to the end, we took time to jump in that line, too.  I love how this pic turned out.

Chip and Dale at the Minnie 10k

Chip and Dale at the Minnie 10k

I again kept up with them until we got to the 6 mile marker.  I wanted my pic with it so I got in that line and they kept going.

I had plenty of energy to sprint to the finish and just like that, the Inaugural Minnie 10k was over!

The finish line at the Minnie 10k

The finish line at the Minnie 10k

My thoughts about this race are mixed.  I loved the race shirt, bib and medal!

Love the shirt, bib and medal!

Love the shirt, bib and medal!

I also really loved that lots of people were dressed in costumes, and most everyone I saw was running for fun.  It makes for a very fun race when everyone around you is enjoying it.  I really thought they should have stepped up the entertainment for the boring first 3 miles.  There were also too few water stops, only 3 for the entire race.  It was a very warm and humid morning, and 3 stops for more than 6 miles is not enough.  There were also all water stops only, no electrolytes.  This needs to be corrected.  I did like the post-race food box.

Minnie 10k runDisney food box

Minnie 10k runDisney food box

These tend to still get mixed reviews but I think they are great.  They seem to be stepping it up on the contents, too.  Hello, Skittles!

Would I do it again?  I don’t know.  Maybe.  I like the distance for what it was to me, a way to participate without having a race be the center of my vacation.  The purpose of my trip was to volunteer (more on that later).  It was nice not to have pre-race jitters, not have to deal with the usual taper stress and not have to watch what I ate and drank the days before.  I was also ready to head straight to the parks after a quick shower, so it was nice to have that extra energy.  I still like the half distance for when the race is the main part of my vacation, though.  Minnie seemed impressed to finally have her own race, too.

Minnie loved that she was featured on the 10k medal!

Minnie loved that she was featured on the 10k medal!

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Disney Parks Blog Food Truck Meet Up

This past Thursday I had the opportunity to attend the Disney Parks Blog Food Truck Meet Up at Downtown Disney at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.  Several times throughout the year, the Disney Parks Blog hosts special experiences that are open on a first come, first served basis.  This is how it works.  They publish a blog post about the upcoming event and when it is along with a few general rules and an email address to RSVP.  The first however many people who send an email get in.  If you are fast enough, you will get an email back later that same day confirming your acceptance.  These events fill up in minutes so if you aren’t looking at the blog at the exact right time you will likely miss out.  I actually have Twitter alerts set up from Disney Parks so if they tweet about it, I usually know pretty quickly.  Unfortunately, I’m rarely there during one of these events so I usually have to live vicariously through others.

This time, however, I was planning to be there for Marathon Weekend and was hoping to get into another runDisney meet up.  I already had about a half an eye on the blog anyway, and it just happened to work out that when they updated the blog with the post about the Food Truck Meet Up, I saw it before the tweet even happened.  So I sent my email right away and about an hour later I got an email back confirming my attendance.  I was so excited!  Fifty people were selected and we were each able to bring a guest.  I invited my friend Heather, whom I was rooming with for Marathon Weekend.  I was also very excited to find out that several more of our friends got in, and I knew we were going to have so much fun!

Princess Posse friends at the Food Truck Meet Up

Princess Posse friends at the Food Truck Meet Up

The email instructed us to be at Downtown Disney West Side between House of Blues and Cirque Du Soleil for a 3 pm check in.  When we got there, it was pouring down rain, and I was thrilled to see that the event was set up under the Cirque Du Soleil awnings to keep us dry. 

They set us up under the Cirque Du Soleil Awnings to keep us dry.

They set us up under the Cirque Du Soleil Awnings to keep us dry.

Upon check in, we were given lanyards in one of four colors and a poncho. 

We were all given lanyards in one of four colors and a poncho to help keep us dry.

We were all given lanyards in one of four colors and a poncho to help keep us dry.

I love that Disney thinks of everything.  The purpose of the different lanyard colors was so each color would start at a different truck to balance out visitors to each truck.  So after everyone was checked in, we were given a brief introduction and description of each of the four trucks.  Each truck is themed after a different Disney park, and there are three different offerings per truck. 

Downtown Disney Food Trucks

Downtown Disney Food Trucks

Going into the event, we thought we would get to try one item from each truck so we were shocked when they told us we were getting one of EVERYTHING.  Score!

Our first stop was World Showcase of Flavors, the truck representing Epcot.  We were given a lobster roll with homemade potato chips, a grass-fed beef slider with homemade potato chips, and a potato perogie with sausage and carmelized onions on the side. 

World Showcase of Flavors Menu

World Showcase of Flavors Menu

World Showcase of Flavors Offerings

This was by far my favorite truck so I was thrilled to get to try it first.  I am a long-time fan of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival held each fall, and these are some of the most popular offerings from the festival.  The lobster roll was my favorite!

Up next was Superstar Catering, the truck representing Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Meatballs were the star here.  We were given turkey sausage and golden raisin meatballs served on creamy polenta, a lamb meatball flatbread sandwich, and a spinach and feta beef meatball sandwich.

Superstar Catering Menu

Superstar Catering Menu

Superstar Catering Offerings

They were all good but I liked the beef meatball sandwich the best. 

Next was Fantasy Fare, representing Magic Kingdoms from all over the world.  We tried the famous hand-dipped corn dog with homemade potato chips from California, a croque monsieur ham and cheese sandwich from France (and Be Our Guest in Florida) and glass noodle salad from Japan. 

Fantasy Fare Menu

Fantasy Fare Menu

Fantasy Fare Offerings

I have to say I was not a fan of the glass noodle salad.  The hand-dipped corn dog was a definite hit!  I liked the sandwich but it did not hold a candle to my favorite croque monsieur sandwich at Les Chefs De France in Epcot. 

A girl and her corndog!

A girl and her corndog!

Finally, we tried the Namaste truck, representing Animal Kingdom.  This was set up a little differently.  The other three trucks put each item on a separate tray, but Namaste put all three on one big tray and even covered it in aluminum foil to help keep the rain out.  I liked that.  The food, however, was probably my least favorite of the four.  We were given tandoori spiced shrimp, butter chicken, and beef short ribs.  The tray also had jasmine rice and naan bread. 

Namaste Menu

Namaste Menu

Namaste Offerings

I loved the naan bread!  I also enjoyed the beef short ribs.  I think I would have enjoyed all of it more had I not been so incredibly full by the time I got to this truck.  Plus, the food here was a bit spicy.  While I normally love spicy food, we were all running a 10k bright and early the next morning and were a little afraid of the spicy food.

In addition to the food, we were also served wine, beer, sodas and bottled water. 

Wine, beer, sodas and bottled water were also offered.

Wine, beer, sodas and bottled water were also offered.

Door prizes were also given out throughout the event, and we learned that each of us could stop by Pop Gallery on our way out and get a free print and glass of champagne, which we took full advantage of.  Our friend Jenn won a $25 gift card to Splitsville.  Also on the way out, we chatted up Thomas Smith, the Social Media Director for Disney Parks, and got some insight on an upcoming meet up opportunity.  He also gave us an exclusive Disney Parks Blog pin.

Disney Parks Blog Pin

Disney Parks Blog Pin

It was a great event and a wonderful way to start the weekend!  I’ve already been asked by several people who have seen my food pics what it is and where they can get it.  My family has even added this to our to-do list for our fall trip.  We were also stopped by several people who saw our lanyards as we were walking back and asked us where the food trucks are.  I predict they are going to be a huge success!

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