Square Life Round World

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

Disney’s Hoop Dee Doo Revue Review

Back in January when I was at Walt Disney World for Marathon Weekend, some of my friends and I shared an evening of fun, food, and laughter at Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue. 

Program

Program

Hoop Dee Doo is the nation’s longest running dinner show and is held up to 3 times nightly at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.  

This was the second time I’ve gotten to experience this show.  The first time was when I was somewhere around the age of 16 so I was so excited to see it again. 

Getting there takes a little bit of planning.  We spent the day in the Magic Kingdom so when it was time for dinner, we took the boat from the Magic Kingdom to Fort Wilderness. 

Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness

Once we arrived at Fort Wilderness, the show, held in Pioneer Hall, was a short walk from the boat dock.  If we had not been at the Magic Kingdom already, we likely still would have taken transportation to the Magic Kingdom first anyway.  The other alternative is to take transportation from any other park to Fort Wilderness then take an internal bus to Pioneer Hall. 

Once we arrived, we checked in with the hostess, and pretty soon they called our party to be seated.  One tip about seating, you are assigned your table according to when you make your reservation, not when you check in with the hostess.  There are 3 seating categories, and the earlier you book, the better your table will be within the category you booked.  We booked Category 1, and I highly recommend it, if you can swing the few extra bucks for it.  There’s only about a $5 per person difference between the categories, so, really, it doesn’t add much to the cost.

The menu

The menu

A big silver bucket of salad was already waiting for us at our table once we sat down.  Pretty soon a warm loaf of sweet cornbread with butter made its way to us.  Our server took our drink orders (soda, coffee, tea, wine, beer, and sangria are included in the price of the event) and explained that the meal would be served family style, meaning platters and buckets of food would be brought out for our table to share.  In addition to the salad and cornbread, dinner was barbecue ribs, fried chicken, baked beans, corn, and mashed potatoes. 

Plate of food minus the fried chicken

Plate of food minus the fried chicken

We saw some tables being served mac and cheese so we asked our server about it.  He said that was for the tables with kids but he happily brought us some.  Everything was all-you-care-to-eat so if we wanted more of something, even adult beverages, our server would have brought it.

Beverages were served in mason jars.  How cute!

Beverages were served in mason jars. How cute!

 

By the time we had all our food and began chowing down, it was time for the show to start. 

Hoop Dee Doo

Hoop Dee Doo

The show was seriously hilarious!  They started by picking a few people out of the audience and singing a cute little song about where they were from. 

Great audience interaction!

Great audience interaction!

They also did a little diddy for people celebrating birthdays and anniversaries.  Since earlier that day we ran the 10k and still had our medals on, they acknowledged us, too. 

They performed right at our table!

They performed right at our table!

Fun, fun!  I won’t give away any more of the show but we could.  Not.  Stop.  Laughing.  The unlimited sangria had nothing to do with this, either.  I promise.  Towards the end of the show, it was dessert time.  Each table was presented with its own whole strawberry shortcake.  Yum!  I was so full by then that I could barely hold any of it but I did manage a few bites.  I would have been thrilled to take the rest back to our room for breakfast the next day.  Sadly, as with any all-you-care-to-eat meal, that was not an option.

After the show, they directed us to a row of buses waiting to take us back to our resorts, which was so nice since getting there is not super easy.

I highly recommend this experience and would love to do it every trip if it weren’t for the pricy tag.  Tax and all came to just under $75 each, making this a special splurge.

Have you been?  What were your thoughts?  Tell me in the comments.

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That One Time I Went to New York City on a Whim

Do you have a really cool friend?  I think we all do.  You know, the one who lives a pretty awesome life and seems to always be doing really cool things.  I actually have several like that but one in particular goes to NYC every six weeks to get her hair done.  If that’s not cool, I don’t know what is!  She would say it’s really no big deal, cheap direct flights, good hotel deals, fly in one day, out the next, etc.  Still, I say it’s pretty cool!

Back in December, I was ogling her pics on Facebook, ooooing and ahhhhing over them.  She told me she was going back in January (about 4 weeks later) and asked if I wanted to tag along.  She was planning on seeing Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden, too, and even had an extra ticket.  Of course she did!  Because that’s how she rolls!  So I checked my airline miles balance and with little hesitation, a short while later my flight was booked.  I had never been to New York before.  It was on my top 10 places I wanted to visit so to say I was excited was an understatement.

The time passed quickly, and before I knew it, I was on the plane headed for the bright lights of the Big Apple.  New York in January is cold, people!  It was even snowing when I landed and snowed off and on for the next 2 days.  Did I mind?  Not one bit!  Being in NYC after wanting to go for so long was surreal!  

Arriving at the hotel was so exciting!  We stayed at the Hilton Midtown. 

Hilton Midtown NYC

Hilton Midtown NYC

She had already checked us in and snagged us a great corner room with 2 windows!  We could even see Radio City Music Hall from one of them! 

Room with a view

Room with a view

As soon as I dropped my bags off at the hotel, we headed straight for Rockefeller Center, then to Times Square. 

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

Times Square

Times Square

Doesn’t everyone?  Pretty soon it was time to get ready for dinner and a night out.  We ate at Capital Grille.  I’m still craving the lobster mac and cheese!  Then we had tickets to see Pippin, which was fabulous! 

Pippin

Pippin

We capped the evening off with, what else?  Cheesecake!  We were going to go for Junior’s but it was totally packed, so we opted for Lindy’s instead. 

Strawberry cheesecake from Lindy's

Strawberry cheesecake from Lindy’s

It was so creamy and delicious!  It was also much lighter than I was expecting but the slices were HUGE!

The next day began by meeting some of my Princess Posse friends who live in the area for breakfast at Maison.  

Breakfast with Princess Posse friends at Maison

Breakfast with Princess Posse friends at Maison

I loved being able to introduce some of my BRFs (best running friends) to one of my oldest childhood friends (old as in number of years we’ve known each other, not old in age, obviously).  Then, it was off to the Top of the Rock.  The city was so pretty from way up there! 

View from the Top of the Rock

View from the Top of the Rock

The elevator ride was pretty cool, too. 

The Top of the Rock elevator had a glass top so you could see it going up.

The Top of the Rock elevator had a glass top so you could see it going up.

After that, a shopping trip to Macy’s was in order, followed by a trip to the 9/11 Memorial.

Macy's

Macy’s

 

9/11 Memorial

9/11 Memorial

It was so cold that one of the fountains was frozen so it was turned off.  The other fountain looked like it was just before freezing, too.  Being there was a very somber experience.  We then headed to Little Italy for dinner at La Mela. 

Little Italy

Little Italy

I had the largest piece of Chicken Parm I’ve ever seen in my life! 

Chicken Parm from La Mela in Little Italy

Chicken Parm from La Mela in Little Italy

It was one of the best, too!  After that, we really wanted Junior’s Cheesecake still, so we got some to go and headed back to the hotel for an early turn-in.

Junior's Red Velvet cheesecake

Junior’s Red Velvet cheesecake

We had a really early wake up the next day because we were heading to the Today show. 

Us at the Today Show

Us at the Today Show

It was still pretty cold so there weren’t that many people on the Plaza.  We were part of the opening shot of the show and one of her friends was able to get a pic of her TV with us on it! 

Us on TV

Us on TV

How fun is that?  Two other highlights were Matt Lauer waving to me and Al Roker posing for a pic just for me. 

Al Roker!  I know him!

Al Roker! I know him!

After a few hours of standing in the Plaza, we found a tiny diner for breakfast.  Then it was time for her hair appointment so we said our goodbyes for a few hours.  I headed back to Times Square to do some shopping at, where else?  The Disney Store! 

Times Square Disney Store

Times Square Disney Store

My people!  Then I set out to find the famous Serendipity 3 Frozen Hot Chocolate. 

Serendipity 3 Frozen Hot Chocolate

Serendipity 3 Frozen Hot Chocolate

On the way, I got a little lost and walked by Bryant Park, which I totally didn’t mind at all. 

Bryant Park, getting ready for Fashion Week

Bryant Park, getting ready for Fashion Week

I also stopped in Dylan’s Candy Bar and tried to find Bloomingdale’s. 

Dylan's Candy Bar

Dylan’s Candy Bar

I know I was in the area but I never saw it.  Strange!  I also meandered through Central Park for quite a while.  

I heart Central Park

I heart Central Park

Ahhhh, I heart Central Park!  There was still snow covering the ground and it was so gorgeous!  I headed toward 5th Avenue and saw the famous Plaza Hotel. 

Plaza Hotel

Plaza Hotel

Afternoon tea there or maybe even just a cocktail is definitely in order next time!  Then I found Trump Tower and walked around there a bit. 

Trump Tower

Trump Tower

It was then time to meet up with my friend again.  I must say she looked fabulous!  We were both starving, so she suggested we go get burgers.  I kid you not, this girl knows all the cool places!  She led us to Le Parker Meridien Hotel where there’s this red curtain in the lobby.  It looks pretty non-descript, and you would never know unless you know, which she did, that there’s a burger joint behind the red curtain.  Who knew?!  After that, we went back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner and Billy Joel.  Dinner was at Max Brenner, a restaurant famous for all the chocolate.  All.  The.  Chocolate. 

Max Brenner

Max Brenner

Dinner turned into more like a shared appetizer and desserts.  Yes, plural.  I had a chocolate martini, hot chocolate, and a plate full of chocolate desserts. 

All the Chocolate

All the chocolate

Then it was off to Madison Square Garden. 

Madison Square Garden

Madison Square Garden

Her excited face

Her excited face

Billy Joel was fabulous!  The man’s voice is amazing, and he sang for about 3 hours straight. 

The next morning we headed out to Battery Park.  Since we weren’t doing a harbor tour to the Statue of Liberty, this was the only way I was going to get close enough to her to see her at all.  

Lady Liberty from Battery Park

Lady Liberty from Battery Park

There was so much ice in the harbor, I really don’t think they were doing tours out there anyway.  Then we went to the Empire State Building. 

Empire State Building

Empire State Building

It was intensely cold that far up!  I actually liked the Empire State Building better than the Top of the Rock.  I liked being higher than anything else around me. 

View from the top of the Empire State Building

View from the top of the Empire State Building

It wasn’t too terribly crowded, either.  After that, we headed back to Rockefeller Center for lunch at Rock Center Cafe.  There was one, lone, ice skater out on the rink. 

Ice skater, Tara Lapinski, maybe?

Ice skater, Tara Lapinski, maybe?

It was obvious that she was someone who knew what she was doing.  She was being photographed, too.  Another one of my friends later identified her as former Olympic Gold Medalist, Tara Lapinsky.  He said she was rehearsing for her Jimmy Kimmel appearance being filmed later that day.  He showed me video evidence that she was, in fact, on Jimmy Kimmel, so we’ll go with that.  We had just a little bit of time for some shopping in Rockefeller Center before I had to collect my belongings from the hotel and head back to the airport to come home.

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree marker

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree marker

Sadly, all good things must come to an end.  It was a trip I will never forget!

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Feel the Force Premium Package

You all know that Walt Disney World is one of my favorite places on the planet.  One of the things they are famous for is coming up with a really unique thing (or TEN) that is season-specific, making me want to come back almost on a monthly basis.  Where’s my money tree?  I did go to the Rock Your Disney Side 24 Hour event in May as well as Star Wars Weekends.  

Star Wars Weekends

Star Wars Weekends

Yet there are also several other things they’ve come up with since then for the summer that I’d really love to go see including Harambe Nights held on Saturday nights in Animal Kingdom, the Hollywood Studios villains party coming up on August 23, and now Frozen summer fun also at Hollywood Studios, just to name a few.

The Frozen summer events particularly caught my attention because it seems as though they’ve created these using the same model they used for Star Wars Weekends.  They have a Frozen opening show, a Frozen parade followed by a show on the stage in front of the Sorcerer Mickey hat, Frozen sing-along shows throughout the day, a Frozen ending show at night capped off with Frozen fireworks, and there’s even a merchandise area in the same soundstage as the Star Wars merchandise for Star Wars Weekends.  Not only that, but there’s ICE SKATING in there, too!  For $10, you can ice skate for 30 minutes.  That is, if you can get in!  Really, the set up of all of these events is identical to Star Wars Weekends.  They have even brought back the Premium Package, which includes reserved viewing for the parade, guaranteed seating for one of the sing-alongs, and reserved viewing and dessert party for the fireworks.

Since I took advantage of the Feel the Force Premium Package during Star Wars Weekends, I thought now would be a good time to tell you about it since they are doing something similar right now.  Advance reservations were required, and I booked it the day it was announced.  It sold out very quickly.  Instructions told us to check in near Bill and Min’s Dockside Diner at 10:30 for the first part of the package, which was reserved parade viewing. 

Feel the Force check in

Feel the Force check in

I had read the previous weekend’s reviews and knew to arrive much earlier.  As I was walking towards the check in around 10 am I saw, just as I knew I would, people already camped out waiting for the parade but there were still several decent spots left.  The reason I knew to get there so early is because, even though there was plenty of reserved viewing, the area was very deep, meaning there was plenty of room to stack people but not very much room right at the ropes.  They also had a reserved area just for kids.  They let the people who had an even more inclusive VIP package in first, so by the time the rest of us were let in, there was no front row space left. 

Feel the Force Wristband

Feel the Force Wristband

Being short, I took up residence behind the kids.  I figured I had a better chance of seeing over the littles than I did the bigs. 

Highlights from the parade

Highlights from the parade

It was ok.  Mickey ice cream bars and strawberry bars were available as part of the package as were bottles of soda and water. 

Snacks for the parade viewing were included with the package.

Snacks for the parade viewing were included with the package.

Honestly, I would have had a much better view of the parade had I staked out my spot on the street at the same time I arrived at the package check in. 

The second part of the package was the Symphony in the Sky fireworks and dessert party. 

No seats were available for the dessert party, just tables for standing.

No seats were available for the dessert party, just tables for standing.

I was really excited for this because, hello!  Darth Vader cupcakes!  Seriously, though, the Magic Kingdom has done a Wishes dessert party for years, and I’ve always wanted to go.  Unfortunately my family does not share my enthusiasm for copious amounts of expensive desserts prior to watching fireworks obstructed by the roof of the building in which the party is held.  My family wasn’t with me this time so it was all mine!  I arrived a little after 8 to check in, and we were allowed in right around 8:30.  They had LOTS of desserts!  LOTS!  And plenty of each. 

This is just a sampling of what they had.  I somehow missed getting a pic of the Darth Vader cupcake tray.

This is just a sampling of what they had. I somehow missed getting a pic of the Darth Vader cupcake tray.

It was quite hot and humid so the icing melted off the cupcakes a wee bit, but they were all headed for my belly anyway so I was ok with that. 

The Darth Vader cupcake at the bottom is on its side because the icing fell off.

The Darth Vader cupcake at the bottom is on its side because the icing fell off.

It just meant my pictures weren’t going to be as good.  Also available were 2 different adult beverage options.  Now, one might think you could get your money’s worth on the alcohol alone, and I’m sure some did.  However, I learned really quickly that fruity adult bevs and lots of super sweet desserts don’t really mix very well.  So, I just had a few sips of each one. 

2 different adult beverage options

2 different adult beverage options

Shocker!  I stuck to water and Diet Coke instead.  Not long after I decided I was done with the goodies, it was time for the closing show to start.  The reserved viewing area had great views of the stage and show. 

We had great views of the stage!

We had great views of the stage!

The fireworks set to Star Wars music were what I was there to see and were the real reason I had paid the premium price for the Premium Package.  As soon as the fireworks started, I realized right away that the fireworks view was not good, not good at all!  Remember that stage that we had such a great view of?  Yeah, it pretty much blocked a lot of the fireworks. 

Not so great view of the fireworks

Not so great view of the fireworks

So for me, this killed the Premium Package.

In short, if I had one day for the individual elements, I would go the free (with admission) route and stake out my parade and fireworks viewing spots.  You are likely going to get better viewing with about the same amount of time waiting and standing so why not?  Just buy your ice cream, sodas and cupcakes, and you’ll come out way ahead, even if you throw in an adult beverage (or 3).  If I had multiple days, I might spring for the premium package just for the experience, but not for the views. 

The Frozen version of this has gone up $5 per adult but there’s the added element of the sing-along show.  From what I understand, Frozen Premium Package holders get seating in the first 4 rows, which is a really nice added feature.  Also, since there isn’t the even more inclusive VIP package for this event, it stands to reason that prime viewing along the ropes would be easier to get for package holders than it was for Star Wars Weekends.  The viewing for the Frozen fireworks is still going to stink, though. 

Have you experienced either Premium Package?  What were your thoughts?

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How to Survive 24 Hours in the Magic Kingdom

Rock Your Disney Side 24 hour event at Magic Kingdom

Rock Your Disney Side 24 hour event at Magic Kingdom

On May 23, Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort was open for 24 hours, from 6 am to 6 am on May 24, for the Rock Your Disney Side 24 hour event.  A little more than a month before, I decided I wanted to go.  So some of my Princess Posse girls and I got to planning.

Me, Heather, Aimee, Katie, and Heather's daughter Hailey

Me, Heather, Aimee, Katie, and Heather’s daughter Hailey

I’ll be honest, when I first started talking about it, I had no intention of staying for the entire 24 hours.  I thought I’d be there for rope drop (the Disney term for park opening), head back to the hotel for a nap and maybe the pool in the middle of the afternoon, then head back in the evening to shut it down.  It didn’t take long for my Posse peeps to convince me otherwise.  I realized pretty quickly that I needed a strategy.  So, I came up with a plan, and it worked beautifully!

  1. Pack a bag.  Spending 24 hours in the Magic Kingdom is like a sleepover, only with no sleep.  You need stuff.  How much stuff is a personal preference.  I took a backpack full of 2 changes of clothing complete with undies and socks, flip-flops, my glasses, contact solution and case, deodorant, wipes, tooth paste and tooth-brush, hair brush, hair spray, and head band.  I used every single thing in there.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, Aimee only took a robe and sleep mask (Tinkerbell ready for bed) and deodorant spray.  Katie was somewhere in the middle.
  2. Take resort Transportation.  Sure, you could drive your own car if you have one there but there is really nothing more convenient than resort transportation.  They were well-prepared for the crowds and even though the bus line was super long at our resort, it moved quickly, and there were plenty of buses to move us all. 
    The bus line--ack!

    The bus line–ack!

    We headed down to the bus stop a little before 5 and made it right on time for the 5:45 opening show.

  3. Divide and Conquer.  This is especially important if there are multiple things your group wants to accomplish at the same time.  We wanted some of the special merchandise and since you never know how well stocked it is, it’s always best to go right away.  We also knew that there might not be enough lockers to go around so that was a priority, too.  Katie and I went to get the lockers (we ended up getting 2 and sharing) and Heather, Aimee, and Hailey went to get the merchandise.
  4. Pace yourself.  24 hours in the Magic Kingdom is not easy.  You cannot go full speed ahead and expect to make it through.  Well, maybe YOU can, but I knew I couldn’t.  Be realistic about what you will be able to do and prioritize.  Do you want to ride everything? Do you want to get fun character pics?
    Fairy Godmother loves us!

    Fairy Godmother loves us!

    Glad we had fast passes for this one!

    Glad we had fast passes for this one!

    Pinocchio

    Pinocchio

    You may have to choose because as long as 24 hours seems, there is not enough time to do it all.  We tried to find a good balance.  We got some great character pics and rode some of our faves.

    Will I ever get 999,999 on Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin?  Not this trip!

    Will I ever get 999,999 on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin? Not this trip!

    We even rode the new 7 Dwarfs Mine Train before it was officially open to the public!  We also were able to do many of the special experiences just for that day.

  5. Use social media.  It was a special day so bloggers and media were out in full force, both official and unofficial.  While Disney released a lot of the deets during the weeks leading up to the event, they didn’t spill everything.  If it weren’t for social media, we would have never known about the Mine Train being open.  Ok, to be fair, we probably would have figured it out, but not until much later in the day when thewait was insanely long.
    Nope!  We didn't wait 3 hours!

    Nope! We didn’t wait 3 hours!

    There were also food and beverages we wouldn’t have known about if it weren’t for social media.

    Special drink mug I found out about through social media.  Also, I thought I was smiling!  I was tired!

    Special drink mug I found out about through social media. Also, I thought I was smiling! I was tired!

    There was even a live webcam on Main Street, and some of our friends who couldn’t make it were able to see us.  How did we coordinate this?  You guessed it!  Social media!  Oh, and if you are going to use social media, this also means you will need to bring your charger and take advantage of the many charging outlets throughout the park.

  6. Hydrate. Y’all it was hot!  The heat index was over 100 during the hottest part of the day.  Dehydration is not magical!  I drank about 6 of the 20 ounce sized bottles of water throughout the day and Diet Coke, too.

    I drank 6 of these throughout the day.

    I drank 6 of these throughout the day.

  7. Don’t forget to eat.  You need fuel to make it through 24 hours of non-stop fun.  And yes, it is possible to have so much fun you forget to eat.  We only had one dining reservation, and that wasn’t until 10:45 that night.  We also had planned a 2 pm Dole Whip meet up so we could easily meet up with everyone we knew who were there.
    Hailey tried to get my tiara at the Dole Whip meet up.

    Hailey tried to get my tiara at the Dole Whip meet up.

    We found Maryanne at the Dole Whip meet up.

    We found Maryanne and Kelsey at the Dole Whip meet up.

    Other than that, we had to remind ourselves to eat.

  8. Get into the spirit.  Walt Disney himself once said he doesn’t make movies for kids.  He makes movies for the kid in everyone.  The same is true of his theme parks.  This was the first time in history that the Magic Kingdom allowed adults to dress in costume during regular operating hours.  They do allow kids to dress in costume all the time, and they allow costumes during the fall special ticketed Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and other special events.  However, adults in costume during the day is unprecedented, and some people went all out!  I had 2 outfits for the event and pajamas for over night.  Aimee wore a full-blown Tinkerbell costume and got lots of attention.
    Tinkerbell Aimee

    Tinkerbell Aimee

    Also, characters love it when adults want pics with them.  We even got pixie-dusted in Bibbity Bobbity Boutique!

    Pixie Dusted

    Pixie Dusted

  9. Keep your eyes open.  Even if you’ve been to Magic Kingdom dozens of times, when it’s a special day, special things sometimes happen.  Cast members were handing out buttons to promote the new Maleficent movie.  Also, around 1 am, we were approached by a cast member who handed us special passes for an exclusive meet and greet with Maleficent from the movie.
    We got special tickets to an exclusive Maleficent meet!

    We got special tickets to an exclusive Maleficent meet!

    I met Maleficent!

    I met Maleficent!

    Aimee and Katie were able to get their pic with Pain and Panic from Hercules because they were paying attention.  No joke, that line had been 4 hours long earlier in the evening, but around 5 am, they saw the line was nonexistent.  They were able to get several other great photos, too.  About this time, I was sitting on a bench resting, not sleeping, resting!

  10. Stop and smell the roses.  Not literally, unless you really want to.  24 hours in the Magic Kingdom has only happened 2 other times so there aren’t a lot of people who can say they’ve done it.  We watched the sun rise in MK 2 days in a row and never left.  That’s pretty epic!  The energy of the day was electric!  From the opening shot of fireworks to the characters waving goodbye to us in their pajamas, it was truly an amazing day!

It was certainly a day I’ll never forget and to be able to spend it with some really amazing ladies made it even more special.  Were you there?  Share some of your thoughts!  I’ll leave you with a few more of my favorite photos from the day.

We found Betsy on Main Street!

We found Betsy on Main Street!

I, Aimee, and Katie made it for the entire 24 hours!

I, Aimee, and Katie made it for the entire 24 hours!

Heather and Katie staked out great seats for Festival of Fantasy.

Heather and Katie staked out great seats for Festival of Fantasy.

We found Maryanne and Jennifer after wishes!

We found Maryanne and Jennifer after wishes!

Middle of the night silliness

Middle of the night silliness

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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?

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My Quest For Half Fanatics Part Two–runDisney Wine and Dine

In case you missed part 1, which was the Memphis Greenline Half, you can find that recap here.

I was so incredibly excited for this race for a few reasons.  First of all, Wine and Dine was my inspiration race, the reason I started running in the first place.  Some of you already know the back story but in case you don’t, here is the short version.  I was at Walt Disney World Resort in October of 2011.  I arrived the same day as that year’s Wine and Dine Half and saw all the preparations being made the afternoon of the race.  The next day I saw lots of people walking around with their medals and wished I could do that.  After I got home, I did some research and decided to make that wish a reality.  I was determined to run in the 2012 Wine and Dine Half, which was scheduled for October but later moved to November to accommodate the inaugural Tower of Terror 10 Miler.  I did the 10 miler instead and resigned myself to never getting to do Wine and Dine until one night in Spring of 2013 when I found myself in front of my computer registering anyway.

Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

The other main reason for my extreme excitement was where we were staying–Beach Club! 

Disney's Beach Club

Disney’s Beach Club

I had never stayed at Beach Club but I got a really, really, really good rate on it, and the fact that it’s located just steps away from the Wine and Dine after party made it a deal I could not turn down!  I had always wanted to stay at Beach Club because of its proximity to Epcot and Hollywood Studios (but mainly Epcot) so I was stoked.

Wine and Dine is a bit different from other runDisney half marathons in that it is at night, starting at 10 pm.  Since I had done Tower of Terror, which is also a night race, I was better prepared for the challenge of a night race.  So on the morning of November 9, 2013 I got up, had a sensible breakfast at the France pastry shop in Epcot, went back to the resort and chilled by the pool for a few hours. 

Relaxing By the Pool

Relaxing By the Pool

Then I took a nap and at some point I also ate a turkey sandwich for lunch that I had purchased at the France pastry shop that morning.  My parents were out enjoying Epcot so I texted them to pick up a cheese plate for me also at the France pastry shop.  That was my dinner along with some sliced apples I had picked up at the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party the night before, some crackers, and a Luna bar.  Normally I wouldn’t go into such great detail about what I ate before a race but with it being a night race lots of people ask how to eat during the day.

Ready to head out to the busses!

Ready to head out to the busses!

 

Around 7 pm I headed to the buses to go to the start line. 

Transportation Information

Transportation Information

Yes, 7 pm for a 10 pm start.  It really does take that long to get everyone there and in place.  Busses for runners only run between 7 and 8, and I wanted to be on an earlier one.  As soon as I got there I noticed 3 long lines right down the middle of the staging area.  I correctly guessed they were character lines but I could not tell who they were for.  I jumped in one and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Until finally I saw I was in line for Chef Goofy. 

Me with Chef Goofy

Me with Chef Goofy

The other lines were Chef Minnie and Chef Mickey.  Once I got my photo with Goofy it was time to meet some of my Princess Posse friends for our group photo. 

Princess Posse Friends

Princess Posse Friends

We sat around chatting for a bit, listening to the DJ, and trying to relax. 

I can't believe people were actually dancing before a half marathon.

I can’t believe people were actually dancing before a half marathon.

Before long it was time to head to the corrals.  I stopped at the potty then took my place.  Shortly thereafter, off we went!

Each corral got their own fireworks start.

Each corral got their own fireworks start.

Wine and Dine Start Line

Wine and Dine Start Line, complete with bubbles coming out of the champagne glass

We headed toward Animal Kingdom and took a quick loop around the park.  I loved the light up elephant tusks that welcomed us into the park.  I also loved seeing Everest all lit up at night.  Unfortunately I did not take any photos on the course so, sadly, I have nothing to show you.  This part was very dark and crowded so I really had to watch my step.  After leaving Animal Kingdom we headed back down Osceola Parkway toward Hollywood Studios.  This is the part that really made this race seem short to me.  It felt like we approached Hollywood Studios way earlier than I had anticipated.  So the last half of the race was filled with things to keep my mind occupied, and it flew by.

Running through the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights in Hollywood Studios is the highlight for many during this race, and it did not disappoint.  You do have to run through the Studios for quite a bit before getting to them, though.  This only added to the anticipation of it for me and made it that much better when I finally got there.  Shortly after the lights, it was time to exit the Studios and head for the Boardwalk area between Studios and Epcot.  It was right at the exit of Studios that I had my biggest regret of the race.  I did not stop for a pic with Darth Vader.  The line was fairly short and I should have stopped.  I don’t know why I didn’t because it was the only pic I really wanted.

After exiting Studios, we ran along the path between Studios and Epcot and even ran right past the Beach Club.  I thought I might be tempted to stop at the hotel and just go to bed by that point, but nope!  I was still going strong.  We then ran through some backstage areas of Epcot before heading through Future World and out the front of the park towards the finish line.

At the finish line area I got my medal, food box, water, Powerade, banana, and my beer.  Wine and Dine is the only runDisney race that gives runners alcohol at the finish.  You get your choice of beer or wine.  Then it was time to head back to the entrance of Epcot for the after party, which was happening in World Showcase.  I took one look at how far away I was from the entrance, thought about how far Future World was from where I was standing, and almost wished I could just grab a bus back to my hotel.  I knew my parents were waiting for me at the after party so I just sucked it up and started walking.  I did text my mom to have my dad meet me as close to the entrance as he could so I could get my flip-flops and compression calf sleeves from him.  I don’t check a bag when my parents are there since my dad can just stash some of my things in his back pack.  This is one race that I wish I had, though.  I could have had my flip-flops and compression sleeves much sooner had I checked my bag there.

Once I got to the after party, I saw they were selling race merchandise.  I was hopeful that they were also selling the race banners from the displays at the expo. 

See the "I Did It" banners hanging in the expo?  I got one of those!

See the “I Did It” banners hanging in the expo? I got one of those!

Luckily they were, and I got the last “I Did It” banner.  I will figure out a place to hang that at some point in the future.  Dad and I met up with my mom, and I really didn’t want anything to eat.  I drank my beer and chatted with a few other runners.  Shortly thereafter I decided I would rather just go back to the room than fight the crowds for food and rides.  I always end up wishing I had stayed longer.  This was no exception but at that moment, leaving was what I wanted to do.

I really loved my Wine and Dine experience!  I do wish I had taken some photos along the course and stopped for Darth Vader.  If I ever do this race again I will check my bag so I can get to my stuff quickly.  Like always, I wish I had stayed at the party longer.  While it lacked the magic that Princess Half Marathon had, I think I like the course better.  It goes through 3 of the 4 parks so there is quite a bit to look at. 

With that, I was two-thirds of the way towards my goal of becoming a Half Fanatic.  Just to review, that’s 3 half marathons in 90 days.  The third was coming up in just four weeks, the Memphis St. Jude Half Marathon.  If you’ve been following along, you already know what happened with that race.  It was cancelled due to an ice storm.  My goal of becoming a half fanatic was all but gone.  Or was it?  Check back soon for part 3 of my quest and see if I was successful. 

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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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Into and Over It Part Two, Over It

In case you missed Part One, in which I covered what I’m into lately, you can find it here.  Go ahead.  Take a moment.  Catch yourself up.  All caught up?  Here are some of the things I’m totally and completely over.

Over it

Winter–To be fair, we haven’t had any real winter weather to speak of here.  The ice that caused my St. Jude Half Marathon to be cancelled and just one little dusting of snow is about it.  Yet, I’m totally and completely over winter!  My skin is itchy and dry.  Some days I just can’t get warm.  I don’t like being cold, and I don’t like having to bundle up to avoid it.  Bring on flip flop weather!  Please!

This is all the snow we've had but I'm still over winter.

This is all the snow we’ve had but I’m still over winter.

Rachel from Biggest Loser–I admit it.  I was just as shocked as the next person at her frail, skin-and-bones physique.  At the same time, I’ve heard enough about it.  I’m over it!

Traveling–This is a shocker for all who know me.  I love traveling and am always up for a trip.  With three pretty big trips in just a few months, two of them within two weeks of each other, I want to stay put for a while, as does my dog and my bank account.  That being said, I’m sure I’ll be getting over being over traveling pretty soon as I’m already starting to feel a tiny twinge of wanderlust.

I want to stay on the ground for a bit.

I want to stay on the ground for a bit.

5ks–Another shocker!  I still love running and races, just not really 5ks anymore, especially local ones.  Don’t get me wrong!  There are some great charities doing 5ks as fund-raisers.  I want them to have successful events.  It’s just not a distance that I enjoy, and, well, I’m over them.  I’m not saying I’ll never do another one.  I’m relatively certain I’ll do one before the year is over.  At the moment, I’m a bit disinterested.

My Old Glasses–If you saw part one, you know that I broke my glasses a few weeks ago.  I don’t want to have to depend on my contacts for every single waking hour, so I used duct tape to hold them together.  For obvious reasons, I’m really over them.

I kind of can't believe I'm sharing this pic but you can see why I'm over them.

I kind of can’t believe I’m sharing this pic but you can see why I’m over them.

Paying Someone to Do My Yard–I’ve always had a problem with paying someone to do something I’m capable of doing myself.  It’s not really about the money.  It’s more about being thankful that I can and using my abilities.  Last year, however, I got completely behind and overwhelmed with the yard work for the first time ever.  So, I hired it done.  I’m hoping to stay on top of it this year.

Sure, it looks nice when it's professionally done, but I'd really like to go back to doing it myself.

Sure, it looks nice when it’s professionally done, but I’d really like to go back to doing it myself.

Yogurt Shops–They are popping up on every street corner lately, and they are all just alike.  You self-serve your yogurt, which I find a bit icky to start with.  Dispensers are sticky, and, well, I have no idea whose hands have touched the dispenser.  Call me a germophobe, but I don’t like it.  Then, you add in whatever toppings you want, again self-serve.  Again, there’s the potential for yucky germs having touched the toppings.  Plus, if I want a treat, I want real ice cream!  To me, frozen yogurt is just a way to trick yourself into thinking you had something healthy.  Chances are, by the time you fill the container up and top it with all kinds of junk, you would have been better off just having ice cream anyway.  Ok, getting off my yogurt soap box now!

Valentine’s Day–I’m aware it’s today.  Painfully aware!  Call me cynical, and maybe I’m just bitter because I won’t be getting flowers and candy.  I have gotten flowers and candy in the past, though, and even then I was over it.  There is just so much pressure to the day.  And for what?  Show your loved ones you care all year-long not just one day.  Of course, I might change my tune if someone wanted to offer up a bottle of Pinot Noir from Oregon or Washington (you get this if you read part one).

So over Valentine's Day!

So over Valentine’s Day!

What are you over?

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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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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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