Tuesday, March 10, 2015

30 before 30: An Update

A few years back I decided to make a list of items I hoped to get done before I turned the big 3-0. Some of the items included travel, learning new things, experiencing new places and reading. Let's take a look at how well I've done:

  • Visit Washington, D.C. 
  • Have a girls only Vegas trip
  • See the Eiffel Tower
  • Visit the new Yankee Stadium
  • Get my Masters
  • Begin my teaching career
  • Take photography classes
  • Buy a new house
  • Visit Boston
  • Read a biography on ever U.S. president
  • Become truly bilingual in Spanish
  • Take a road trip to Southern California
  • Visit New Orleans
  • Visit Disneyworld
  • Learn photoshop
  • Visit [and maybe climb] Half Dome
  • Visit my niece! 
  • Live a healthier life style
  • Get a puppy  [accomplished when we decided to get a new kitty, Twix, instead]
  • Write more
  • Take more pictures
  • Become more involved in my community
  • Take Brian to see the Mariners in Seattle [before Ichiro retires]
  • Spend more time with friends
  • Have a truly healthy, supportive marriage
  • Bake more
  • Take a cooking class with Brian
  • Visit Frida Kahlo's house
  • Attend more concerts
  • Walk for Cancer research

  • So the items that are lined through I have officially completed and feel okay about checking them off my list. The items with the teal color are works in progress - things I work on a little bit every day. I am pretty proud to report that I am officially on president number thirty three- Harry S Truman. When I originally started the presidents I have to admit that I thought I would not finish or even get very far before I gave up. Luckily I found some really great biographies to get me started and stubbornness kicked in. The items in red are items I have decided are not things I need to do. They would be great, but I would be okay if I live my entire life and never get my Masters degree. So in total, I  completed over half my list. And I am pretty okay with that. 

    Did you ever make a to-do list? How successful were you?

    Monday, March 9, 2015

    Franklin Roosevelt and The New Deal: My Review

    Before getting started with my review, I have to make a confession: I purchased a Roosevelt biography years ago and never got a chance to finish it and when FDR came up on my list I thought I had it laying around somewhere. That proved not to be the case as the biography somehow grew legs and disappeared (yes, that can happen). So on a whim, I searched Amazon and picked a biography that I felt would serve my presidential purpose. Eh...


    I didn't realize when I purchased the book that it was going to be solely about The New Deal (and I mean solely) and that it was written in the sixties. There were a lot of references to the incoming invasion of Communism and it was amazing how little credit the administration received for the legislation it passed. Going through school and learning about The New Deal, Roosevelt and his administration were pretty widely praised; apparently that wasn't always the opinion of historians. Who knew?!

    The Good:
    Lots of detail about the key players in The New Deal. Everything from how legislation was written, who had to do back channeling, threats, etc! If there was ever anything about the New Deal you wanted to know, this is probably the book for you.

    The Not So Good:
    The book was not well written. I felt like the author spent most of the book quoting other people's work and published materials. And he would make a statement and then proceed to beat the point to death for the next twenty pages - all the while never really saying anything of real value on his own, just quoting other authors over and over. Also - it wasn't the full biography I was hoping for, but I am taking the blame on that one.

    Overall Grade:
    It took me a really long to get through this and by the end of it, I spent most of my time skimming through it since I didn't feel like reading an author quote other authors. It was not my version of decent historical writing and there was a very prominent bias throughout the book. My grade? C.

    Up next: Harry S Truman!

    Thursday, February 19, 2015

    WDW Recap: The Final Day!

    Well I knew it was coming when I landed, but nothing quite prepares you for your last day of Walt Disney World excitement. I decided we would split our final day between the Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom - because I could't leave the World without one more view of Cinderella's Castle!  I wanted to try one more character meal before we left and I saw that the Animal Kingdom had one and figured - why not! It could be fun. Plus, the Animal Kingdom is all about Donald Duck so I knew it would be fun times.


    The character breakfast at The Animal Kingdom is tons of fun (and on the cheaper side). You get a picture before the breakfast starts and then you get to help yourself to mounds of food while the characters come by and say hello. My husband of course loved the food aspect, I enjoyed the characters. Again WDW does not disappoint when it comes to character interactions - all the characters spent a bunch of time with us and did a number of poses. Thanks, guys! After breakfast we ventured onto the Kilimanjaro Safaris where we saw a charging Rhino! We were told to not stand up because we didn't want to scare the Rhino into charging our way. It was an amazing experience! 

    We also walked around the animal preserve in Asia where there were plenty of beautiful animals. Tigers, monkeys, bats - everything! I got to play around with my camera settings and got some beautiful shots!

    And of course, what day at the park would be complete without watching a show?! We opted for Finding Nemo and it was well worth it!

    After the show it was time to head over to the Magic Kingdom. It was starting to get a little chilly so we made a beeline for some hot chocolate. Of course, I got slightly interrupted when I saw this little beauty...


    I had promised the hubs that we were done with waiting in line for character photos. But I just couldn't help myself. I looked over at him and gave him my best puppy dog eyes and he just sighed and made his way to the back of the line. Best. Husband. Ever. The line went by fairly quickly and the weather cooperated so I was able to get my picture with yet another character - woo hoo!

    After finding our hot cocoa I saw yet another character line that I just couldn't resist. I double checked with the character wrangler who confirmed they would be around as long as the weather held up and so I got in line and kept my fingers crossed that the rain would stay away. It was touch and go for a minute, but we were rewarded with a classic photo.

    We lucked out because not long after we saw the mice the rain really started to pour and the ladies had to go inside to keep warm. The hubs and I made a beeline for the Winnie the Pooh ride in an effort to stay out of the rain and was pleasantly surprised by the queue and the ride. Very well done! We finished out our trip with a few more rides and another view of the magical castle.

    We made our way back to our hotel and got prepared for the long trip home. It was an amazing trip and I am so happy we were able to finally get to Walt Disney World and explore every square inch possible. 

    People asked if I thought I would have less love for Disneyland now that I've seen the World. y answer is - probably not. I haven't been back to Disneyland since our vacation, but Disneyland for me will always represent years and years of childhood memories. My mom and Nana brought me to Disneyland when I was a kid and I will always cherish those memories. Not to mention Disneyland is the original - and nothing can take that away. I actually feel a little bit bad for people who grew up with the World - when they come to Disneyland it is a bit of a let down (from what I read) - but I got to experience Disney on a whole different level while still enjoying my home park. I think it is fair to say that I will always love Disneyland. But the World has a lot to offer.

    What do you like about both parks?!

    Tuesday, February 17, 2015

    Back into the folds...

    Late last year I found myself in a big running funk. I didn't want to train. Didn't even want to look at my running shoes.  I kept telling myself that it was just a phase and that perhaps my mind and body were trying to tell me to take a break. Of course I was a little worried because I knew I was going to be running the Walt Disney World Half with very little training (..and no partner) so I just kept the fingers crossed and told myself to have no goals. And then this happened....


    Expensive though they may be, nothing gets you back in the spirit of running than runDisney races. They are amazing and though it was by far my best performance, I was reminded again of how much I love running. It gives me a charge nothing else has and of course there is the bling. You know I love the bling.

    The stars aligned because just as I was talking myself back into this whole running thing, my favorite running partner in the whole world sent me an email trying to schedule our next run. It was meant to be! So of course - to ensure proper motivation - we signed up for the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in San Francisco!

    Adding to that signing up for the Divas with friends and my quest for the Coast to Coast medal with the Avengers in Disneyland and I think I can safely say that my running mojo is back. 

    So for any of you out there who might be struggling - don't give up! Find a race, goal - anything to get you back out there and you never you know. You may just fall back in love. 

    Monday, February 9, 2015

    WDW Vacation Recap Day 6: Magic Kingdom Pt 2

    After being rained out on our first day inside the Magic Kingdom, I was really hopeful that I would be able to enjoy a full day inside the park sans torrential down pour. According my phone I was going to get my wish as the weather report called for clear blue skies!

    Again we decided to hit up the Seven Dwarves Mine train first thing in the morning, knowing full well it would have a massive line all day long. After playing around in Fantasyland a little bit, we stumbled upon these two cute characters.


    Of course you never see these characters at Disneyland, so we had to jump in line for a picture. I can't say enough about how awesome the character interactions are at Disneyworld - definitely one of my favorite parts. We played around the parks a little bit more, catching a few of the shows - including the Dreams show in front of Cinderella's Castle - before trying to find a place for the parade. 

    Can I just say that I absolutely LOVED the Magic Kingdom parade?! So many characters! And of course, the best part of the entire show - Maleficent's Dragon who breathes actual fire! So epic! Our final day in the Magic Kingdom also happened to be our dating anniversary and so we decided to make some dinner reservations to celebrate. We enjoyed dinner at the Whispering Canyon at the Wilderness Lodge, which is a super fun experience that I suggest everyone try at least once!

    After dinner it was time to head back home and prepare for our final day of vacation!

    Monday, February 2, 2015

    WDW Recap Day 5: Animal Kingdom

    After being rained out at the Magic Kingdom, I was really hoping for some decent weather on our trip to the Animal Kingdom. I knew if it was rainy that the animals would more than likely go hide and that the park would be just a tad less exciting. Luckily, we were blessed with very nice weather and got to enjoy the whole park. We got to the park before opening and one thing I like about Disneyworld is they tend to let people in early. I don't know if it is because the Magic Band system can take a while or if they just like to be nice, but each day we were at the parks we were let in prior to the posted opening time - score! The first thing I wanted to check out was Expedition Everest - I had heard it was a very popular ride and that it was something to get on as quickly as possible. As soon as we were through the gates we made a beeline for the ride.


    We walked right onto the ride and prepared ourselves for a crazy journey through the land of the Yeti. This is a pretty cool ride - you go forwards and backwards and forwards again - and you even come face to face with a very scary Yeti! It is an amazing attraction and I suggest everyone try it at least once!

    After surfing the Yeti we decided to use our Fastpass for the Kilimanjaro Safari in Africa. I have heard amazing things about this ride and was so excited for a chance to get up close and personal with the animals. The ride does not disappoint - you see crocodiles, antelope, rhino, elephants and cheetahs. There are more animals along the way, but I do not want to spoil all the fun. It is also an informational ride- giving you information on conservation and animal factoids throughout the adventure.


    I do not know if it was because of the animals or lack of people, but this park was so peaceful! I felt that the hubs and I could take our time and did not have to rush from ride to ride and could really enjoy the sights. It was a lot of fun!


    Of course no trip would be complete without hanging out with every.single.character. This is where I feel bad for my husband because I definitely made him sit in every character line possible. Thanks for your patience honey! At the Animal Kingdom we were able to meet Pluto, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, Mickey, Minnie, Baloo, Raifiki, King Louie and Dug & Russell. It was so much fun!

    After paling around with some of the characters, we opted to end our day with the viewing of The Lion King musical show. They sang some of the songs from the movie and had dancers and characters and floats - another amazing time!

    Once the show was over, the park was shutting down and it was time to go. Since the day was still young, the hubs and I decided to head over to Downtown Disney and check it out. It was here that I saw quite possibly the biggest World of Disney store ever. Like... Ever.

    This store had everything you could possibly imagine - luggage, stationary, clothes, towels, toys, pins - everything! I spent a good amount of time going through each aisle and carefully considering the merchandise. It was hard to figure out what to get everyone, but eventually I made my choices and we moved on to dinner. We decided on a themed restaurant - Trex Cafe - not knowing it was like a Rainforest Cafe, but for Dinosaurs instead of the Rainforest - but it was fun nonetheless and we made a friend while waiting for our food. We called him Sir Wally, The Woolly Mammoth the Third - or Tre for short!

    After dinner we were both spent so we decided to call it a night. I made sure to get a full nights sleep for our last day at The Magic Kingdom!

    Wednesday, January 28, 2015

    WDW Recap Day 4: Magic Kingdom

    We started our fourth day with a character breakfast at Chef Mickeys. I made the reservation without fully realizing just how big the resort area really is and how dependent on WDW transportation we be. Chef Mickeys is located at the Contemporary Resort - which is located pretty far from where we stayed at Caribbean Beach - and our reservation was for really early. Like so early it was prior to WDW transportation starting. Not wanting to cancel, we opted to take a cab and enjoy some quality time with our (well my) favorite characters.


    During breakfast we got to meet with Goofy, Donald, Mickey, Minnie and Pluto. They took their time with us - even though we had no children - and posed for more than enough pictures. This was my favorite part of Walt Disney World on a whole - I never felt like my time with the characters was rushed. In Anaheim there is definitely a rushed sense to each character interaction. But in terms of price - ouch! I understand that you are paying for the character experience and not so much the food, but you can get a better deal at our places on the resort - so my vote would be (unless you REALLY love their outfits) to pick another character breakfast.

    Now to say I was excited to spend a whole day in the Magic Kingdom would be a bit of an understatement. I love Disneyland and I heard that the Magic Kingdom was like my park but on steroids, so I had my game face ON!

    I wanted to try the Seven Dwarves Mine Train - I have heard marvelous things about the ride and knew that it would be the one ride with a terrible wait all day so I told the hubs to prepare for some quality time with his fellow tourists cause we were all going to get to acquainted!


    The ride itself puts on little mine cars and takes you through the Dwarves' mine. You get to meet all of them while they're working and whistling away - it's really quite charming. The dwarves are a combination of animatronic and CGI type graphics - Disney did a really great job! Unfortunately, it also takes place in a dark mine so my pictures of their faces did not come out as I had hoped. Sorry friends! But trust me when I say - its worth a ride (or two!)!

    After the mine train we decided to up Peter Pan's Flight and the Haunted Mansion. Unfortunately for me, my house was down for repairs so we headed towards Thunder Mountain Railroad where we ran into these cute little guys!

    I loved seeing the Chipmunks in their cowboy uniforms! After our character adventure, we hit up Thunder Mountain. It was so surreal to me to be on rides that were similar, yet very different, from what I was used to. The track almost seemed like it was in reverse from California, but it is still an awesome ride.

    The one thing I will say about Disneyworld is that they always seem to have characters out or some character interaction happening. The hubs and I would literally stumble into character meets, mini parades filled with characters and actual character stops without even trying. I normally have to track down cast members in California and ask where I might find a character that day. So if you like characters, make a trek to Disneyworld - they have the space and the staff to give you everything you could ever want!

    Unfortunately we did have to deal with Florida weather in January - which means torrential down pours, thunder and lightening. The hubs and I tried to hide from it and got drenched in the process. Oh well - we're on vacation, right?!


    We went on the People Mover and inside the Carousel of Progress in some vain attempts to wait out the rain. Needless to say, it did not let up and so we made our way through the wet and dreary weather to the Haunted Mansion and then on to the Country Bear Jamboree - my childhood favorite!!


    After Country Bear I decided I couldn't take the rain anymore and so we decided to call it a night and head home. 

    Up next: Animal Kingdom!