Category Archives: adventure

A Proposal and How to Conquer Disney World In 3 Days (part 1)!

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Now that I’m home from my Disney vacation, I can finally talk about what I’ve been waiting for… the proposal!

On the day we left for Disney, I couldn’t sleep. I was just too excited. I even woke up Brendan, who spent the last two nights at Wilco concerts. After breakfast, we struggled to find ways to pass the time before our car came to pick us up for Midway. I suggested we play Monopoly. Monopoly is our FAVORITE game. We probably play it once a week. And ever since he found out that I knew about the impending engagement, he has been teasing that he had hid the ring in the game box. Every time he’d tease, I’d open it up thinking… “well, maybe this time, he’s for real.”

I wasn’t falling for it on Saturday. I refused to open the box, but he was insistent. Eventually, I stopped protesting, and inside the box were two pieces of chocolate. I turned around to yell at him for tricking me again, but instead I found him on his knee, proposing. I’ve read so many engagement stories where they say it was a whirl, and that everything stops. It really does. And even though I knew it was coming and he knew what I was going to say, it still shocked me.

Oh, and the ring was GORGEOUS. It doesn’t look like any ring I’ve ever seen, which is what I wanted. It’s very modern without being too showy. And it just feels me. He reallllllly got it right.

  

After the proposal, we changed our facebook status, called and texted everyone close to us, and grabbed our bags for our trip. B had rented a limo for us, which was such a nice touch! We landed in Disney about three hours later.

*Let me just stop here and say that we CONQUERED Disney World, as in, we did EVERY SINGLE RIDE on our wishlist (which was pretty extensive, plus some). I did a lot of research beforehand on how to maneuver the parks, and it really paid off. The next part of this blog is a recap, in addition to a how-to-guide:

Our first night was spent at the Boardwalk. It’s a beautiful little area meant to look like 1920s seaside town. We wanted to enjoy it, but we were overwhelmed and tired. We did have a drink at the Atlantic Dance Hall and munched on some fries at the ESPN Zone. Either way, it’s great if you are a group of adults looking for something to do when most of the parks and shops are closed.

Our second day was at Hollywood Studios. For our days at the park, we followed the magic hours perk we got as guests in Disney resort hotels. Even though we could use the park late, we insisted on getting up early, taking the Disney buses to the park about an hour prior to the park opening, and waiting in line for the “rope drop” (the official opening of the park). Our goal of the day was to do three things: ride Rock n Roller Coaster; Star Tours; and Tower of Terror, take a class at the Animation Academy, and see Muppets in 3D all before we had to go back to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner at Jiko in the late afternoon.

We started by lining up behind the rope drop nearest to Tower of Terror. As soon as the rope dropped, we walked quickly to the fastpass line and grabbed our first fast passes. Then we headed to Rock n’ Roller Coaster where the line was about 10 minutes, if that. We hopped on without fast passes.  When we were finished, we rode Tower of Terror. It was B’s first time and he loved it, so we grabbed another fast pass on our way out to ride it again. At this point, it was only 9am, so the park still wasn’t crowded. We shopped, then headed to Animation Academy where we learned how to draw B’s favorite, Donald Duck. The class was actually a TON of fun. And it killed 20 minutes of our wait for Tower of Terror, which we then rode a second time without waiting.

After that, we spent the rest of the afternoon shopping, seeing the Muppets (really no line, which shocked me) while waiting for our Star Tours fastpass, experiencing the cheesy joy that is the Great Movie Ride and Backlot Tour, and getting a free hot dog from a vendor that spotted our “Just Engaged” buttons. *If you are celebrating ANYTHING while in Disney, tell a cast member. They will give you a button or two that your whole party can wear around the park. Cast members and other vacationers were congratulating us left and right, and we got a couple little perks to go with it.

Late afternoon, we headed to Jiko in the AKLodge. The Lodge was gorgeous with a ton of animals roaming the grounds. They, hands down, had the best lobby of them all as well. And Jiko… omg…. I am not over exaggerating when I say that Jiko had maybe the best food I’ve ever had. Jiko is also overlooked compared to the other AKLodge restaurant, so it isn’t crowded. But mainly, I picked Jiko because of the full vegan menu. But for us meat eaters, I tried the duck, which was cooked perfectly. After dinner, the restaurant gave us free creme brulee made out of spices. It tasted just like pumpkin pie. Yum!

When we were done stuffing our faces with the best food ever, we jumped on the bus and headed back to Hollywood Studios for the Osbourne Family Lights. Basically, a guy in Arkansas decorated his home in millions of lights. Eventually, his neighbors complained about them and the crowd it was drawing, so he was forced to remove them. Disney bought the display and added it to the movie sets. From Thanksgiving to the New Year, you can walk around and watch the lights dance to music and see fake snow fall. It was gorgeous. Here’s a video I found:

We made it back to our hotel around midnight. So, here’s what we learned about how to conquer Hollywood Studios:

  1. Head to the big attractions first, either Tower of Terror or the Roller Coaster.
  2. Grab a fast pass for at least one of them and then ride the other without the fast pass. My personal opinion is that the Roller Coaster will most likely have a shorter line each time.
  3. Kill time for Star Tours or the other main rides by taking in one of the shows or doing the drawing classes. You can also meet a ton of Disney characters in the Animation area.
  4. Avoid the entrance for Indiana Jones and Star Tours if you are in a hurry. Go through shops or walk around through the fake town instead. The place gets congested fast, especially in the afternoon.
  5. We didn’t realize this, but the biggest wait was for the new Toy Story ride. So, if you have someone that must ride that ride, head there first and get a fastpass ASAP. By the time we headed to Pixar, the wait was 3 hours and the fast passes were all gone (by 3pm!).
  6. You can only get one fast pass per hour, so read your ticket carefully and prioritize.

… So that’s it. Tomorrow, I’ll post on how to do Magic Kingdom (aka, the holy grail) in 4 hours and EPCOT in 2. HA!

 

 

Life’s a Great Adventure

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Quick update on my current challenge. So far, I am rocking it. 15 mins/day may have been too easy. On days when I’m not feeling the workout, I’ve been putting on a couple of internet videos and getting in core. Other days, I’m doing my regular thing. It’s been mainly strength and toning, so I better be ripped come Christmas time!

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You know that feeling when things start to build up? One day, it’s my flat tires and the next it’s a lost CTA card. I’ve got a dog throwing up and (thus) a destroyed futon to replace. For some reason, this week hasn’t been too kind to me. B says it’s karma and I’ll get something good coming soon.I’ve got one thing to say to that….

IT BETTER BE.

On Tuesday, our office power went completely out for forty minutes. My coworker and I sat in complete darkness waiting for it to pop on, both surfing the web from our phones. And even though we were miserable (with the power comes the heat), I couldn’t help but chuckle and think that this was so unplanned.

I often wake up and think, “Today’s going to be a great day.” We’ve all had that feeling that something wonderful was going to happen soon. And I know that we’ve all had the opposite- that feeling of dread that nags at us. The morning of our lost power, I had none of those feelings. It was completely ordinary.

It got me thinking…

I have an adventurous soul with careful tendencies. I have all of these grand plans, like rock climbing or eventually moving across the pond for a bit. I’m constantly collecting pictures of places I want to go.

Vienna at Christmas time...

On the other hand, I really love my creature comforts. I love having a home base and the safety of loved ones around. I miss home when I’m gone too long. I cant go a week without talking to my dad.

I’m really not sure how to reconcile those two characteristics. Is there such thing as a cautious explorer? Or do we have to be one thing or another? Maybe it’s more about me being a realist (careful) with delusions of grandeur (adventure)… Is that possible.

It’s (I’m?) a confusing mess.

One thing I do know, however, is that life is a complete and grand adventure. I may not get to travel the world yearly like some of my friends. Nor can I move back to the hometown and be completely satisfied. My adventure is how I address life as it is now.

So, that’s my new mantra. As the days become slower and darker, and I spend my days drooling over beautiful vacation pictures of my friend’s, I just repeat to myself that this is my adventure. And if I dont like it, it’s up to me to change it.

Shout out to the boyfriend...

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And on that encouraging note… it’s time for my December goals. First off, goal #1 is to pay my rent… which I forgot to do yesterday. December really crept in there.

I’ve decided to be pretty vague in my December goals only because I know that I’ve been pretty lazy the last couple months and because we are going on vacation before Christmas hits. So it’s the double wammy of diet/workout disasters waiting to happen.

To combat this, here are my slightly vague goals:

  1. 15 min/day of working out
  2. A new recipe a week
  3. Vegetarian every other week
  4. Strength train or tone 3xs a week
  5. Cardio 3xs a week
  6. Plank-a-day (this is a twitter based challenge I found through @Irisheyes1982 and @dawnieslife… both have awesome fitness based blogs you should check out)

 

I think all are doable (really working on that “hating your body” one). I can easily do planks in a hotel room without my mat and I already decided that I will wear a pedometer at Disney and try to get a certain amount of steps for it to count as fitness time (though I may attempt a run at one of the paths near our hotel).

How are you working your December adventure?

Mouse Ears

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It’s time to follow the bouncing ball and whistle along (unless you are me and are unable to make any kind of whistling noise):

 

God, I used to love those sing-along videos! We had at least 10 of them growing up.

We also had Disney story time records, like this one:

We were, obviously, the most annoying kids EVER.

 

And, as a kid in the 90s, who didn’t dream of getting the Michelle Tanner treatment or having Jon Stamos and his fake band sing to you?

 

I have been to the actual Disney World twice in my life. The first time, the only thing I can remember is that my three year old sister got lost at our hotel (spoiler alert: we found her). The second time, we were reluctant teenagers who secretly loved it until a creep-o in a Donald Duck costume “accidentally” felt us up as my mom snapped pictures. Either way, I’ve been dying to go back as an adult.

And now, with the help of a very patient and cooperative boyfriend, I get my wish! But I’m not just going to Disney World… I’m going to Disney World during the Christmas season! Yes, I realize that the crowds will be nuts and that I am going to be spending a ton of money on vacation when I could spend it on lovely readers like yourself. But when I see pictures like this:

And videos like this:

I just cant help but ignore the price tag and the potential screaming kid/annoying tourist/pushy picture takers in favor of this experience.

To curb costs, we are staying in the value resorts (meh) and are planning simple breakfast and lunch combos that will have us avoid expensive cart or restaurant food. I’m also purchasing all Christmas gifts way in advance (as in, I may have already bought one or two of them). Our big splurge will be dinner at the restaurant Jiko in the Animal Kingdom Resort, and I’m working on some Disney-esque surprises for B. Besides our Summer Camp misadventure, this will be our first vacation together in the two years we’ve been dating and living in sin, so I’m going to try to make it extra special!

And yes, we did discuss going to Harry Potter World, but it’s not worth the price to pay for admission and logistics from our Disney World resort to Orlando Studios. Some other day, Hedwig.

I realize that this post has NOTHING to do with my weight loss (I gained .4lbs this week- read about it in my weight loss page) or running (treadmill runs will dominate this rainy week). BUT with the insane stress I am under and the emotional week I’ve had, this is my mental health post for the week. Only 80 more days till we land!

Chicago Bucket List

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So. My last post was a bit sad. I keep thinking over how I really haven’t done much during my Summer. I can sum up the highlights pretty quickly:

  1. Went to soooo many Dance Dance Party Party sessions
  2. Celebrated my birthday on the roof with a kickass dinner and then went to Six Flags
  3. Watched panoramic fireworks from every angle of the city
  4. Ran a 5K with my niece cheering me on, a 10K in 90+ degree temps, and made it through my first Half Marathon
  5. Had a sleepover with the same niece where we I got burnt at the beach, had a lovely dinner date with the robot monkeys, walked in the Faces Fountain, and sang along to Beauty and the Beast in our private balcony seats.
  6. Two FIRE games with my favorite Ginger. During one of them, we had our own waitress to bring us our salted pretzels.
  7. Sang along with Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, Flaming Lips, Decemberists, and Paul McCartney
  8. Applied for my Master’s degree

I might have missed something, but those were the key events. I really didn’t travel much or spend a ton of money on any one thing.

All of this got me thinking. Without the ability of traveling, I need to make a Chicago Bucket List- a list of things I’ve always wanted to do in this city but haven’t had a chance.

1. Hot Dougs- It’s true- I’ve never been there before. But oh have I lusted after this place and their tricked out hot dogs. Seriously, they have a rattlesnake hot dog on the menu this week!

2. Bulls and Blackhawks game- My professional sport teams have included the Cubs, Sox, Bears and the Fire. And while I’ve seen the Wolves play, I have never seen the Blackhawks. And I’d really like to break out those 1996 Bull horn hats we got as kids. Maybe I still have my Jordan jersey?

3. Take banjo lessons at the Old Town School of Folk Music- I learned guitar from 3 sessions, now I want to take it to the next logical step in the hippy progression and take some banjo classes. This is a serious goal. It will happen.

4. Find the Mac and Cheese food truck… or any food truck for that matter- I hear it’s amazing. So why can I never find it!

5. Watch and then participate in the Chicago Marathon- Have I not talked about this enough?

6. Ice skate at Millennium Park- First step: Learn how to ice skate.

7. Bike the Drive down Lake Shore Drive- Or, just get a bike.

8. Full Moon Fire Dance- This apparently happens right outside our apartment. But it’s where a ton of fire dancers go on full moons to do some pyro dances and drum circle it up. There’s one on the 12th, so I might just have to go…

9. See an opera at the Lyric Opera- As someone with a degree in music, the fact that I haven’t gone to see an opera here is alarming. Very, very alarming.

10. Kayak on the lake and river- This is supposed to be an AWESOME tour of the city, and the rates are pretty reasonable. But the stench of the river might be a bit too much for me to handle.

I could add more… a lot more. But now I’m interested. What would you add to my Chicago bucket list?

The Next Steps

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I was having some major dejavu. There I was, again, sitting in my favorite college professor’s office fretting about life- my career path, classes I needed, where I would be in a year, my relationships, etc. This particular professor has a gift at making you reflect and analyze till nothing and everything seems right- all at the same time.

But, I wasn’t his student anymore. I’ve been two years removed from him. In fact, it had been a year since I had seen or even communicated him last. This was just supposed to be a surprise catch up after a horrible interview for what I thought was my dream job.

That dream job was something I have secretly prayed for over the last, classroom-free year. The more and more that I watch old college friends get teaching job after teaching job, my heart breaks a little more. It’s not jealousy, it’s a mix of nostalgia. I truly miss my time as a teacher. It ended too soon.

The last year sans-teaching has been a strange bag. I find myself living with a boyfriend in a better neighborhood and taking the L to my job as a program assistant in a graduate program. I’ve been taking on more and more for my job, becoming oddly comfortable with terms like biomaterials and can easily distinguish between your biology and engineering undergrad courses. Oh, and I’m running a half marathon in 4 days. I could call it a 180, but that would be stupid. It’s more of a 120.

My life, oddly enough, feels as if it should. I’m perfectly content living a little above paycheck to paycheck at a job while dealing with the emotional toll that is my post undergrad years.

But, as I found myself grasping at straws in that interview, I kept thinking… what if? What if I was still teaching? OR What if I got this job? What would my life be like? Would I miss living in the city and utilizing public transportation to read smutty romance novels in the morning? Would B and I be happy, or would I be stressed to the max with RTIs and lesson plans? Could I have a dog, if I wanted?

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I gave myself twelve hours to mope over it- to pretend that I was a failure because I wasn’t teaching for another year. And then I got to planning the NEXT STAGE of my life.

This stage includes working on my Masters.

I’ve been hesitant. I wanted to make sure that my job, which provides beyond excellent tuition benefits, was right for me, and somewhere I could continue to work while in school. After thinking over how not getting that dream job wasn’t as depressing as it should have been, I realized that the job I have now is what I make it. I could keep at this for another two-three years. And if I need to, I can explore other options at the university.

So. I’m making it official. I’m looking in to grad school so I can begin phase 2. This is the right time, and I’m ready to make that next step. I filled out the majority of my application this morning with the hope of being admitted for the winter quarter.

I’d normally write that “I hope I’m ready,” but I am. It’s time.

I'M READY!!!