Traveling: Yes! We Are Going to Disney Again

“Y’all are going to Disney, again?”

We get that question a lot…like there is a limit to the number of times one can go.

The first vacation we took as a couple was to Walt Disney World. I took over a new responsibility at work, that was making me feel really stressed.  (Funny, now it’s the one I worry about the least).  I just wanted to get away.  Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple’s best friend lived in Orlando and so we had a place to stay.  In fact, her sister was going to UCF so we had two places to stay.  This covers the biggest hurdle for repeated visits: having a place to lay your head.

However, we still have a blast.  Yes, we still enjoy riding rides even though we don’t just ride rides.  We enjoy the food if you go beyond just quick service (and even some of those are better than others). We enjoy shopping at the different shops, even though we don’t buy all that much.  We definitely love people watching.  We look for meltdowns by kids and parents. We look for the newlywed couples that are starting their new lives by returning to their childhoods for a week.  We enjoy watching the family reunions and seeing the oldest in the group act just like the youngest when seeing a character.

Other vacations are work for us. Going to Europe, driving across country, doing study abroad, these are not relaxing vacations.  Because we have been to Disney so many times, it is relaxing for us.  We don’t have the pressure of making sure we have to do everything. We don’t have the pressure of running to a fast pass across the park.  The closest we have to pressure is making sure we are at our reservations if we have time.

Sometimes, we do enjoy staying on grounds, and in particular camping at Disney.  In fact, if your child is old enough to recognize Mickey Mouse, but not ride rides, then Fort Wildness is a perfect way to have a Disney experience.  They have two major pools, tons of activities, and character experiences. There is a character themed restaurant, and Chip and Dale often have a campfire event. If you are tent camping, it can get really cheap.

For us, Disney World will always be special.  It’s where I had the courage to tell Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple I love her for the first time.  It’s where we took my sister after she graduated from college.  Her family has more than one reunion at the park.  We have run races there. Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple’s sisters have completed their first half-marathon there (you can read about one of those stories here).  It’s a place where memories do get made.

We will be going at least once over Spring Break since we will be there for Star Wars Celebration. We will bring our new camera and try to see the parks with fresh eyes again.

I know we are not the only Disney fanatics out there.  We have tons of friends who go, some even more often than us.  I think it’s because we have one thing in common.  We forget how old we are there and turn into kids ourselves.  Sure, we are falling into the marketing trap, but if we are having fun, who cares?

Running: WDW Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Welcome our new guest blogger, Cristina’s sister, Cara!  You can read about Cristina’s inaugural WDW Star Wars 10K race here.

For a long time, I had a dream of doing a half marathon in Disney World.  When they announced the first Star Wars half marathon in Disneyland, I really wanted to do it.  But then I got pregnant and only wanted to lay on the couch eating McDonald’s.

I had my beautiful baby girl in June 2015.  I did not have an easy pregnancy and was barely active.  I was even on bed rest the last month of pregnancy.  I also ate A LOT of McDonald’s because it strangely was the only thing that didn’t make me nauseous.  I had a lot of work to do afterwards to get back on to a healthy lifestyle.  When the Star Wars half marathon was announced in September, it was just the motivation I needed.  My husband said he would do it too, and on September 29th we officially registered.

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Running: WDW Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side 10K

One of the top things I nerd out about is Star Wars. If you’ve read this blog for long, I think that becomes apparent very quickly. So when Walt Disney World said that they were starting a Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon, I was stoked. Star Wars and Disney and running, three things I love! When tickets went on sale in September 2015, I immediately purchased a half marathon bib. I figured that I had all the way until April 2016 to train and that there was no way I was missing the inaugural run. My sister and her husband decided to buy half marathon bibs as well and my other sister and her boyfriend bought 10Ks. My mom, stepdad, and grandparents decided that since all of us kids were going, that they were going to come as well. Now we had a full on family reunion coming up in April!

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Crafting: Cara Mia Crafting

Wow, it’s been awhile! I have missed you, cooktraveleat. Alas, my grad school work and my full time teaching job leaves me negative amount of time to blog. It’s enough I remember to breathe and eat. But I am on my winter break, so I’ll try to squeeze a few blogs in before school starts up again on January 21st. I am proud to say that I currently maintain a 4.0 GPA in my Master of History program! Additionally, my husband is in grad school as well and he also maintains a 4.0 GPA! Now on to the blog…

If you don’t know, I love to scrapbook. I really like to do all sort of crafts, but scrapbooking is my number one favorite hobby. Unfortunately, just as this blog is on hold while my husband and I are in graduate school, my scrapbooking is also on a hiatus. That doesn’t stop me from buying things to use for later!

One thing I love is surprises. One time my family threw me a surprise party for college or something, I don’t even remember, and it was one of the best parties ever. So, when my sister’s website Cara Mia Crafting started having monthly craft boxes, I immediately decided to get a subscription. What kind of crafty person doesn’t like a fun-filled box of scrapbook material sent to their door each month?!

Now, you can request certain themes, or just get a fun surprise themed box. My December box, the first month of service, was a Walt Disney World craft box. Can you say right up my alley?! I took some pictures to illustrate what exactly the box entailed.

Cara Mia Crafting

Sweet handwritten note welcoming me to my craft box.

Cara Mia Crafting

Cricut cut Disney supplies and stickers, inserted in the cute purple bag.

Cara Mia Crafting

Adorable pre-made goofy page.

Cara Mia Crafting

Adorable pre-made Mickey page.

Cara Mia Crafting

Tangled!!!! Perfect!

Cara Mia Crafting

I love this pattern, perfect for Minnie!

Cara Mia Crafting

Haunted Mansion is my favorite ride, and this totally looks like the wallpaper in it!

Cara Mia Crafting

Perfect page for fireworks.

Cara Mia Crafting

Perfect colors for inspiring my creativity for other Disney moments!

So that’s it! Lots of awesome stuff inside and I go to Disney World so much that I’m sure I’ll be using it soon. In fact, I have a trip coming up in April, so I think that I know which scrapbook stuff I’ll be using to commemorate the occasion!

So, if you’d like your very own craft box from Cara Mia Crafting, feel free to drop her a line. She also sells a wide array of craft things, so browse the site and see if there’s anything you like. Hopefully, I’ll have another blog out within the week! Ciao!

Cara Mia Crafting

Cara Mia Crafting info.

Eating: Portobello and Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue

Besides eating at the Food and Wine Festival, Cristina and I had two nice meals in Disney while we were there at the beginning of October. The first was at Portobello in Downtown Disney while the other was the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner and show.

On Saturday, after our race, we headed to Downtown Disney. We decided to eat at Portobello. It was mid-afternoon so the restaurant wasn’t very crowded, yet we still had to wait for a little longer than what should have been necessary. Maybe we were both tired from the race, but when you see only 3 tables filled you get antsy having to wait. However, the extra time gave Cristina and her mother more time to talk so in the end it wasn’t that bad. While waiting for our food we were brought some fresh baked breads with a half of a roasted garlic bulb that was drizzled with olive oil. This was the best thing I ate there. Don’t get me wrong, my meal was excellent, but this was just perfect. Maybe it was because I was hungry. Knowing I was going to eat a lot that night, I choose two appetizers: the calamari and the meatball sliders. The calamari was lightly battered and well season and cooked perfectly. None of that chewiness that you get at lesser restaurants. The sliders were also very good but the buns were overwhelming the meatball so much so that I ate the last one without the bun. Cristina ordered the mozzarella stuffed rice balls which were the star of the bunch. The risotto stuffing was well flavored and made the marinara sauce served on the side unnecessary. Cristina’s mom ordered the portobello mushroom served with gorgonzola, polenta, and rosemary sauce which was also quite tasty. For a main course, Cristina ordered the gnocchi which came with a nice pork ragu even though she only ate the gnocchi. Cristina’s mom went with a woodburned oven pizza that looked yummy, but I was rationing lactose pills so I didn’t partake. Overall, Portobello served us a nice meal for a very affordable cost.

Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue

Playing the washboard at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue

On the Sunday night of our trip, we met up with Michael, an old friend of Cristina’s who lives in Orlando. While playing a very whimsical round of mini golf at Fantasia Gardens, I stated how I always wanted to do the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. I’ve always heard great things about the show even though I never heard about the food. Michael stated it was an all you can eat and drink comfort food based menu. We called for reservations to find out they only take pre-payment. It is very pricy, but we had been saving up. After the golf match (Michael won), we headed to Fort Wilderness. When you walk in, you are greeted by your waiter and brought to your table where cornbread with honey butter and salad is waiting for you. There were quite a few drinks that were included which did include quite a few adult beverages. Cristina when with root beer while Michael and I enjoyed some sangria. Before the main course, the show starts. The premise is that you are at G-Rated Saloon show. It’s great if you like you good singing and really bad jokes, i.e. “Call me Butter cause I’m on a roll!” After the introduction to the show the main courses come out: fried chicken, bbq ribs, baked beans, corn and mash potatoes. The ribs were the star with the fall of the bone quality but the fried chicken was as good as an all you can eat set could be. We quickly finished the ribs and ordered another bucket. The show continued while we were served strawberry shortcake for desert. While the food was good, you wouldn’t come to the Hoop-Dee-Doo for the food. The show is the main attraction here and if you are a lover of bad jokes, as I am, then the show is well worth the money.

Running: The Disney Halloween 5K

The Run According to Kurt

Four o’clock is not a time I should ever have to wake up. Especially, when I’m not even sleeping in my own bed. However, we had to start getting ready for our run. The buses were leaving around five to take us to Animal Kingdom. We bought bananas the night before so we could have something in our stomachs. The air was chilly.

We arrived at Animal Kingdom to the sounds of very loud music. An energetic and, actually, quite funny DJ was keeping the crowd entertained. We walked around and sat down and talked about the race. About a half hour before the race, our supporters, Cristina’s mom and sister, joined us to cheer us on.

Around seven, we got in our chute position. Due to Cristina’s illness we self-imposed a slower pace time for us.  The race began shortly after.

I have to admit, it was a fun, if rather crowded, race.  Disney music was playing throughout the park.  We could take pictures with characters, which most of the runners with kids did, but we were too worried about finishing to stop.  The park made the race go by that much quicker especially since it kept setting up mini goals for us.

The only problems with the race were that the people with strollers were way too fast.  They started right after us so they kept passing us up.  They kept trying to avoid us and we kept trying to avoid them.  There was also one section that wasn’t wide enough for the runners so everyone except the very first people had to stop and walk.  While I don’t mind walking, we were all sweaty at this time so it reminded me of teaching middle school boys after PE.

While we have run faster times, I was real proud of our forty-six minute time.  Cristina had only run once in the last 3 weeks due to her illness.  We enjoyed collecting our plastic medals.  Most importantly, we realized this race wasn’t the end of our training but the beginning of our next phase of running.

The Run According to Cristina

Disney Halloween 5K

Meeting Mickey and Minnie before the race

I was so excited to run the Disney Halloween 5K. Disney World is one of, if not, my most favorite places on Earth, and since running is becoming more and more of a big time hobby for us, it was the perfect place to have one of our first races. Especially since Halloween is my favorite holiday! Unfortunately, I contracted the flu 3 weeks before the race. I was bedridden for a week, and it took me almost two full weeks after to really get over the tired, achy feeling the flu left behind. During that time, I only ran once, which bummed me out. I was shooting for a goal of around 40ish minutes before the flu, but now I upped it to 45 minutes.

We went to sleep around 8pm the night before the race to try and get a good night’s sleep. While various reasons kept us from getting a great night’s sleep, we did okay. 4am came quickly, and before we knew it we were on the bus, headed to Animal Kingdom. It was still pretty early when we arrived, around 5:30am for a 7am race, so though there were people, it wasn’t hugely crowded yet. A dressed up Mickey and Minnie were out and since the line was short, we jumped at the chance to take a picture with them (which became a ridiculous line a little later on). A DJ was blasting out music to keep us pumped up, a much appreciated thing. After about an hour, my mom and sister arrived to cheer us on. We smartly saved seats on the bleachers for them and suddenly, it was time to line up.

Disney Halloween 5K

Hitting the 3 mile mark

As Mickey and Minnie cheered us on, we were off! I was a bit tight, because we placed ourselves toward the back of the race where the slowish people were. The beginning was very slow going as we tried to move past some of the slower ones and were forced to walk at certain areas due to a large crowd in a tight squeeze. The first mile was entirely in the parking lot. When we actually got to the entrance of the park, characters were greeting us. Though some people were stopping to take pictures, Kurt and I really wanted to time ourselves and declined doing so. As we ran, the park with littered with different characters, the only ones giving me pause to almost stop being the hyenas from The Lion King since I’ve never even them out before. We kept moving, however, through different sections of the park, including behind the giant animal facilities which looked much nicer than it smelled.

Eventually we hit the 3 mile mark and only had that .1 left until the finish line. We pumped up the volume and crossed at 46:06…not quite my goal time of 45, but good enough considering how slow that first mile had been. It truly was exhilarating to run through Animal Kingdom and see all the people enjoying themselves like I was, especially Kurt. We got our plastic medals with pride and met up with my mom and sister to tell them all we had seen during our run.

Next year, I foresee the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in our plans.

Disney Halloween 5K

Cristina crossing the finish line

Disney Halloween 5K

Sweaty and displaying my medal

Eating: The Food and Wine Festival at Epcot

Kurt and Cristina at the 2011 Food and Wine Festival

Kurt and Cristina at the 2011 Food and Wine Festival

Anyone that knows Cristina and me will be quick to tell you that it seems like we are always at Disney World. We’ve actually bought season passes before. As I heard one man tell his friend at the entrance of Magic Kingdom: you may walk in age 37 but you will leave age 7.

My favorite event at Disney World is the food and Wine Festival mainly because I like food and wine. The festival, which takes places in the World Showcase of Epcot, features food from around the world. Tasting plates are served for around five dollars. Wine comes in small glasses ranging with the most expensive being around ten.

Cristina and I both buy gift cards when we go. It makes it easier than pulling out our wallets and debit cards every time. It’s also safer.

We decided to attend the festival during the Wine and Dine Half Marathon Party. We could enter the park at 7 pm and the party ended at 3 am. There was a big screen with the half marathon being broadcast. Most of the rides were open (except Spaceship Earth, my favorite ride, of course). The price was actually a few bucks cheaper than a park ticket.

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