Conquering Excuses: The Week in Training - 1/13/19

Spending quality time with my treadmill
this week.
"It's too cold." 
"It's snowing." 
"It's too late." 
"Why does it get dark so early?"
"I'm too tired."

Any of those sound familiar?  I know I've been guilty of saying them before, but I'm working on ways to conquer excuses in 2019 when it comes to working out and my training.  As I've heard from much wiser people than me, it's not about "not having time" for something - it's all in how you prioritize your time. 

Full disclosure - this was a rough week in meeting my training goals.  My excuses for the week include busy days at school that kept me later, my husband traveling for work which meant I had both littles to manage, and the brutal winds and snowy weather.  So while my Galloway training calendar called for 2 30 minute runs and a 3 mile run this week, that didn't happen. . .well, it didn't happen exactly that way.  This week, I conquered excuses by modifying and simply doing the best I can.  

This would have been a really easy week to say that I wasn't going to work out since I wasn't able to run the way I wanted to, but instead I made modifications to my Galloway plan to keep me moving without (hopefully) losing too much progress.  I am fortunate to have a treadmill at home which means I can still walk even when I can't run.  Running on a treadmill tears my body up and I've just reached a point where I don't do it anymore.  So this weeks running workouts became walking workouts.  I followed the same plan, just walking instead of running.  And I stayed true to my yoga video as well, logging 3 yoga sessions this week.  

At the end of the day, even when you can't stick exactly to the plan, my motto is that it's better to do something rather than nothing.  We'll see what the week ahead brings.  It's another crazy week of schedules and looks like another snow storm is on the horizon, so more treadmill miles may be in store, but I have plenty of time to continue training before the Frederick Half Marathon.  

Until next week, keep moving friends!  

An All-Star Stay at Disney's All-Star Movies

When travelling to the house of mouse, vacationers to the Orlando area know that there are many choices for your hotel stay.  On my most recent Walt Disney World Resort visit, I once again returned to the bubble of being “on property” and stayed at Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort.  This was my first stay at a value resort in about 15 years as recent family trips have found us preferring moderates or deluxe resorts on property or choosing to stay for free using our Hilton points at one of the nearby off-property hotels.  I have to say that I was really impressed with my stay at All-Star Movies and wouldn’t hesitate to stay there in the future or to recommend it to friends and family!

If you are unfamiliar with the All-Star Resorts, there are a few things to know first before we dive into the specifics of Disney’s All Star Movies Resort.  First, the three All-Star resorts are built along the same stretch of road closes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and include the following themes – Music, Sports, and Movies.  Each resort is very similar (minus the theming obviously) and guests at one resort are welcome to enjoy amenities at the other All-Star properties.  The All-Star resorts along with the Disney’s Pop Century have been undergoing and are still working through renovations to update the rooms.  With these things in mind, the information I’m going to share with you about Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort would also be likely to translate well to the other All-Star properties.


In my opinion the two most attractive things about Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort is the pricing and the theming.  I may drink the dole whip flavored Kool-Aid with a fancy Mickey straw, but even I can admit that a Disney vacation is downright expensive.  This is really rock bottom pricing when it comes to a Disney hotel stay with pricing fluctuating between $100 and $200 per night depending on season, room preferences, etc.  During my stay, the average price per night for a standard room was $133 and on a trip that I priced out while writing this, it came up to $114 per night.  That’s a great deal when you consider that you get all of the perks of staying on Disney property including complimentary roundtrip transportation to and from Orlando International Airport on Disney’s Magical Express, Extra Magic Hours in the parks, access to the Disney Dining Plan, early access to Advanced Dining Reservations and FastPass+ reservations, and much, much more.  If you’re a family that spends most of your time out and about in the parks anyway, this is a very budget friendly option.
 
Next, let’s talk theme.  I LOVED the themes of Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort as everywhere you look there are larger-than-life tributes to your favorite Disney films.  I was solo on this trip, but my two young boys would go absolutely nuts here!  You will make no mistake about the fact that you are in Walt Disney World.  Each section of the resort has a different theme based on a Disney movie.  A quick walk around the resort will highlight Toy Story, 101 Dalmatians, Herbie the Love Bug, Fantasia, and The Mighty Ducks.   The resort also features two themed pools including the main pool featuring Sorcerer Mickey from Fantasia and a “quiet pool” featuring Goofy playing hockey in The Mighty Ducks area.  The theme was so amazing that it may make be break my own Disney rule of staying at a different resort each vacation just to experience it again.
A hidden playground!


Speaking of pools, the resort does feature some amenities for families to enjoy, although this where you will start to see a different between value resorts and those in other categories.  I found a nicely hidden and shaded playground for little ones in addition to the pools to enjoy some downtime at the resort with you need a break.  They also have an outdoor area where movies play at various times.  The food court features all quick-service items – no sit down restaurant at any of the All-Star properties.  The food was what you would expect from Disney quick service – good, but not great.  It was hot and service was friendly and fast.  There also is a gift shop (imagine that!) at the resort to pick up all of your Disney vacation goodies.  There’s nothing “fancy” here and certainly no amenity that stands out to make that the reason you book this resort in my opinion, but everything was clean, friendly, and certainly met my needs.

The rooms are also another place where you will see a difference in categories at the Walt Disney World Resort.  Again, my room was clean, comfortable, and certainly met my needs, but nothing to write home about – which was totally fine because most mornings I left my room by 6:30AM and didn’t return until 10PM or later.  I stayed in a room that had not been renovated yet and that was also handicap accessible so my pictures are probably very different than others out there.  My room featured one King bed, some furniture around the room, a TV, the dressing area with a vanity and sink, and then a bathroom that was all open including a wheel chair shower.  If you are considering a stay here soon, Google to get updated room pictures.  The rooms are being updated to include a Queen bed and then a Murphy bed to give guests more options in their room setup while not compromising space.  New carpet and updated bathrooms as well as new art will all give the rooms a fresh feel.  I booked a standard room and was located in The Mighty Ducks section which is the furthest away from the main building.  I was actually directly next to the main building for Disney’s All-Star Music Resort (literally just walked across an driveway to get there) so the front desk recommended and I took advantage of using that resorts restaurant each morning and bus transportation in the evening. 
Breakfast is always better when it's
shaped like Mickey!

The last thing I’ll comment on is the bus transportation because I often hear people criticize this when it comes to the All-Star properties.  Common complaints are that it is crowded and slow to these resorts.  I don’t think I would agree with slow.  After staying at a variety of properties from value to deluxe now in recent years, I think bus transportation is bus transportation and they all run on about that 15-20 minute schedule it seems.  I will say that busses were crowded, but again, I don’t know that I’ve experienced busses at park opening or park close that aren’t crowded when staying on Disney property.  There are times that a bus is shared among all three resorts so you do sometimes make multiple stops picking up and dropping off guests.  This isn’t always the case though.  Overall, I would not have any bus concerns scare you off from staying on Disney property.  You’re in Disney. It’s crowded.  

So, to wrap all of this up, I stand by my previous thoughts here on the blog that there's not a "bad" choice of where to stay on Disney property - just what's right for you and your family.  I really enjoyed my stay at Disney's All-Star Movies Resort and wouldn't hesitate to stay there again.  If your family prioritizes budget and time in the parks with young kids, this is probably a great choice for you.  If you are looking for a quieter, slower paced resort as you want to build more R&R time into your Walt Disney World Resort vacation, consider staying at a moderate or deluxe property to enjoy more of the amenities offered there.  I hope this helps you plan a stay that is "practically perfect in every way" for your family when visiting the Walt Disney World Resort!

The Week in Training - 1/6/19

Time to lace up those training shoes, Mickey!
One of the best things about keeping a blog are the connections you make with others along the way.  I've met so many fabulous "virtual" friends over the years who share both a love of running and a love of Disney with me.  So in the spirit of connecting with others, I'm starting a weekly post this year that will allow me to share my week in training.  My hope is that this will be a weekly place where I can hold myself accountable by publicly sharing what's going on with my running while also hoping to create a community space where all of you who are also enjoying the ups and downs of a fitness journey can share your own stories.

So here we are at week one - let's talk 2019 goals first.  Actually, to tell the story of my 2019 goals, I need to tell you a 2020 goal.  I'm planning to run the Walt Disney World Marathon in January 2020 along with the Castaway Challenge which means that 2019 is a year for me to seriously pile the miles back on!  I generally do better sticking with a training plan when I have a race to train for so I have two half marathons on the books this year.  In May, I'll be running the Frederick Half Marathon.  This race was my very first half back in 2016.  I'm also signed up for the Baltimore Half Marathon in October.  This will be a return to this race after a three year hiatus.  By completing both of these races, I'll also earn the Maryland Double medal.  And, because I love medals and it's really only one more race, I may add the Baltimore 10 miler which would get me "King Crab" status for the second time.  Ultimately I'm running Maryland in preparation to runDisney again in 2020!
Pretty much. . . #truth

Those of you who have been following me for several years now know my deep love of Jeff Galloway and his training plans so it should be no surprise that I'm once again turning to him for guidance on my training this year.  While I continued a regular exercise routine in 2018, I didn't run any races, so I'm back at staring in square one for half marathon training.  I'm following Galloway's Beginner Half Marathon training plan that can be found on the runDisney website.  It's a 19 week training program which works perfectly since the Frederick Half is 19 weeks away.  This week, I ran my three training runs - two 30 minute runs and a 2 mile run on the weekend.  It actually felt pretty good being back out there with minimal adjustment for my body.  I'm supplementing my non-running days with either walking or yoga to keep moving but hopefully without putting too much stress on my muscles and joints.

What are your fitness goals this year?  Any runners out there with exciting races on the calendar?  Or maybe you're changing up and trying something new.  Whatever your goals are, I can't wait to follow your journeys too!

Mary Poppins Returns - Is it Practically Perfect in Every Way?

On opening night, my family and I headed out to celebrate the return of everyone's favorite nanny to the big screen.  I have to say we are a big Mary Poppins household and couldn't wait for a jolly holiday this December.  It's important to understand this as I think our intense love of the original may have influenced some of our feelings on this sequel 54 years in the making. So here we go. . .

Mary Poppins returns to 17 Cherry Tree Lane as the Banks family once again finds themselves in need.  Jane and Michael Banks are all grown up and Michael lives in the family home with his three children.  Michael is recently widowed and his family, along with many in London, have fallen on tough financial times.  When those financial struggles literally hit home, Michael and his sister begin searching for bank shares that had belonged to their father in order to bring back financial security.  While they are searching the house, the three kids walk through the park on their way to pick up some groceries.  Instead of finding food that afternoon though, they find a nanny and bring her home. Michael and Jane instantly recognize Mary Poppins from their childhood and the whimsical adventure begins again! Just like in the original, you'll find music, imaginative stories, and life lessons.

There are several things I really loved about this movie.  I think Emily Blunt's performance as Mary Poppins was truly memorable.  She nailed the "cheekiness" of the role as well as the warmth and comedic timing.  I also thought she carried the musical numbers very well.  Now to the banks children - they were adorable!  I loved watching them care for each other, care for their father, and learn how to be kids again through the magic of Mary Poppins.  Several of the songs were also enjoyable additions to the movie including "Can You Imagine That?," "The Place Where Lost Things Go," and "Trip a Little Light Fantastic." But the best highlight of the movie was undoubtedly the cameo by Dick Van Dyke. I seriously think the man doesn't age - to see him dancing around and singing in his 90s is downright impressive and magical!



Now for the things that missed the mark with me.  There is an entire scene reminiscent of when Bert and Mary Poppins jump into one of his sidewalk paintings where Jack and Mary Poppins take the kids and jump into a painting on a bowl.  I didn't enjoy the two songs in this scene - especially "The Cover is Not the Book." While the message behind the song is commendable, there are some lyrics that may raise an eyebrow.  I also felt the costuming here felt "forced" to bring back some original Mary Poppins memories.  And as much as I enjoyed several of the songs in the movie, the soundtrack did not live up to the original in my opinion.  "Turning Turtle," for example, left me confused and checking my watch. . .and I love me some Meryl Streep so that's saying something.

So my final thoughts on the movie, it was OK.  I walked out of the theater feeling good about the film and about life, but I wouldn't put it up there as one of the best I've seen in 2018.  While my feelings on the film wouldn't rate it as "practically perfect in every way," there are plenty of others who have absolutely loved it.  I'd love to hear from you with your thoughts after you have a chance to catch Mary Poppins Returns this holiday season! And check out this FREE activity packet you can download including coloring sheets, games, and bookmarks!

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Find Your Way to Ale & Compass Restaurant!

Welcome to Ale & Compass Restaurant
Ahoy fellow Walt DisneyWorld Resort lovers! Recently I visited Ale & Compass Restaurant located inside Disney's Yacht Club Resort and there is so much love about this nautical inspired restaurant.  Let's break down the location, atmosphere, and menu to get an overview of all you can expect to find here.

Location - Disney's Yacht Club Resort is located on Disney's Boardwalk and Ale & Compass Restaurant is easily found right off the resort's main lobby.  Dining at resort properties can sometimes be tricky from a transportation standpoint, but guests wanting to check out Ale & Compass Restaurant will find easy access from both Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios.  This is also easily accessible to guests enjoying stays at Disney's Boardwalk Resort, Disney's Beach Club Resort, or the Swan and Dolphin.  Both of the theme parks and all of the hotels mentioned are within easy walking distance of this dining location.  If you haven't taken time to stroll the Boardwalk area located between Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios, it is absolutely beautiful and has many dining, shopping, and entertainment options.
View of Disney's Boardwalk

Atmosphere - Once inside the restaurant, you will fall in love with the calm, quiet atmosphere.  I love Disney and even get excited about people watching, but even I need a break from the busy theme parks.  I went at lunch time on a Wednesday and the entire time I was in the restaurant, there were no more than 5 tables seated.  The color scheme is also warm and relaxing with rich blues and wood finishes.  There is certainly nothing here that would overly appeal to parties traveling with kids, but it's not a restaurant that is off-limits because it's "too fancy" for little ones.  The waitstaff could not have been more friendly and I was impressed by their willingness to accommodate food allergies with such care and precaution.  While no one in my family has a food allergy, one of the ladies traveling in the group next to my table did and the waiter talked extensively with her about the allergy and then had the chef come out to review the menu with her and offer options for preparing the meals.  Great customer service!

Lunch menu
Menu - So one of the pitfalls to writing a restaurant review when you travel by yourself is that you only get to try what you eat off the menu.  With that being said, I can tell you that my meal was one of the best salads I've had on Disney property.  I had a hard time choosing with so many delicious options on the menu, but opted for the salad to try and eat a little healthier before heading into Disney's Hollywood Studios where I would most certainly being enjoying less-healthy options throughout the afternoon.  On my waiter's recommendation I chose the Roast Chicken Kale Salad.  The dried cranberries and spiced walnuts added a sweet and salty kick to the superfood mix of kale, swiss chard, and quinoa.  I felt ready to take on the day when I was finished and no so full that I couldn't blast of on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster in just a bit!  I decided to save my dessert for the park later on and wrapped up my visit.  As you can see, prices are pretty reasonable when compared to other Walt Disney World Table Service restaurants.  If using the Disney Dining Plan, you'll probably get more "bang for your buck" elsewhere as that one table service credit can buy you character dining experiences as well.  Don't forget that this is one of the restaurant locations on property that offers 10% off to Disney Visa Rewards Cardholders.  Don't have a Disney Chase Visa yet?  Check out my referral link here to learn how you can save money and earn rewards with your Disney Parks vacations!  

Roast Chicken Kale Salad at Ale & Compass Restaurant
While I can't speak to the quality of the menu entirely, if the salad is any indication the rest of the menu should be delicious - and I'd love to come back and try more on a future trip.  It's a quiet respite from the rush of Epcot or Disney's Hollywood Studios and can easily be fit into your day at either of these parks.  This is also an easy reservation to grab if you're planning a last minute trip to the Walt Disney World Resort.  Bon Appetite at Ale & Compass Restaurant!  

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