Thursday, July 28, 2016

It's All About the Bling

One of the things that sets runDisney races apart from all others in my book is the amazing bling.  When it comes to Disney races, rather it's been a plastic medallion, a rubber medal, or the real deal, I've always been proud of and impressed by the medals. You can count on fun designs that are themed around each race and part of the fun is waiting for the big reveals leading up to the races.

And now that bling is even blingier (yeah. . .that's probably not a word).  Gone are the days of rubber medals for 5K races in Walt Disney World and Disneyland.  runDisney released today new medal designs for the Disneyland 5K, Mickey's Holiday 5K, and the Captain America 5K - all of which are coming up this fall.  Check out the new shiny designs below in this image from runDisney.

Image from www.instagram.com/rundisney
I'm glad to see runDisney adding real medals for 5K finishers.  While I know a medal for a 5K is a rare occurrence, when you shell out $75 plus Active fees to run, you deserve a little bling with your t-shirt and your memories.  I don't know about you, but these medals make me wish I had a runDisney 5K on my race plan soon!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Three Days in Washington DC

I've lived my entire life less than a 2 hour drive from Washington DC and have spent very little time inside of our nation's capital.  My husband and I always look for a getaway to celebrate our anniversary weekend and this year we opted to stay close to home and become tourists in a city that we often drive through, but never take the time to see.  We spent three days in DC and I've included a summary here of some of the things we did while there.

The Capital Hilton - As always, we opted to stay in a Hilton owned property where we could use our points to enjoy a free weekend.  Now I can never argue with a free hotel room, but I will say that this was one of the most underwhelming Hilton experiences I have had.  First off, you'll have to stomach $52 per day to park.  DC parking rates are CRAZY so my husband and I opted to park at the Shady Grove Metro Station and take the subway in.  The trip was $7.20 per person round trip and parking was $5.00 for all three days - much better than the over $150 we would have spent just to park downtown.  Then we get to the room.  When we checked in, we were greeted with a warm smile and a "Wow! It must be your lucky day!  You have one of our best rooms in the hotel."  Now I don't know if she was selling us a line, or if this seriously one of the best rooms, but it was small and had absolutely no view.  It was clean and comfortable, but certainly nothing to write home about.  I was also disappointed that there was no indoor pool to kick back and relax with an evening swim.  With all of that being said, the location downtown is fabulous.  Located near McPherson Square, it is only 2 short blocks to the White House and an easy walk from just about anything you'd want to do downtown.

The Newseum - If you love American history and government, you must check this out.  The website talks about spending 90 minutes to two hours here, but we spent two days!  There is so much to see and do here!  The exhibits on 9/11, the Vietnam War, and the First Amendment were my favorites as well as the documentary on American news coverage of the Holocaust during World War II.  While they have activities for kids and adults of all ages, I think kids 12 and over would be the best age for this museum in order to get the most out of it.  Just as a heads up, tickets are discounted if you purchase online instead of at the door and your ticket gets you free admission back into the museum on the following day - a great bonus!

Ford's Theatre - We purchased tickets online to tour Ford's Theatre.  The tour itself is free, but you can upgrade for $5 per person to receive an audio guide to help you as you navigate through the theatre.  My opinion - save the $5 per person unless you are clueless about the Civil War.  My husband and I both didn't feel like the audio added much to the experience since we had a lot of prior knowledge on the events that occurred before, during, and after the war.  The tour begins beneath Ford's Theatre with a walk through a museum about Lincoln's election, the history of slavery, the war itself, and then the plot to assassinate.  You are allotted roughly 25 minutes to explore this part of the museum and then your group is invited to enter the actual theatre.  Inside the theatre, a park ranger gives a theatrical monologue onstage about the events that took place on the night of the assassination.  It was very informative and well done.  Following the theatre, you cross the street to enter the house where Lincoln was carried after he was fatally shot and where he eventually died.  Here you can see the room where Lincoln died and then tour several exhibits on the aftermath of his assassination and the legacy of his presidency.  All in all, the tour is about 2 hours.  We opted to come back later that evening and pay to do a walking tour of downtown DC led by an investigator in the hours following the assassination.  The tour leads you to several key points as you collect clues on the co-consiprators and visit where attacks on other high ranking government officials occurred or were planned.  This was another almost 2 hour tour and again was very well done!  The tour guide stayed in character the whole time and sometimes you forgot that it was 2016!  I would recommend Ford's Theatre and the walking tour for kids middle school and up so that they can have a better appreciation and understanding of the events that happened that night.

The National Mall - We spent one morning walking the National Mall and visiting the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, and the World War II Memorial.  Each of these were very poignant places for reflection.  If you haven't had the chance to walk and explore each of these, I would recommend it on your next trip.  These are amazing architectural monuments to pivotal points and people in our history.  They are a great place to begin cultivating a love of history in young travelers as you can tell them about each.  Since each monument allows you to be the storyteller with your family, you can really bring kids as young as you'd like to explore.  Just please remember that these are solemn memorials - not wading pools or climbing structures for play

Smithsonian Museum of American History - This was the second time I've visited the American History Museum and I was very underwhelmed.  Maybe it's because roughly half of the museum was under construction at the time, but I felt that the sections that were open were outdated and not very engaging.  They did have on the first floor, several interactive exhibits to engage young children.  In all honesty, I would skip this and spend time trying another Smithsonian.  The museum is free so you have nothing to lose if you decide to stop in.



The National Archives - We had to pop in here for a quick visit to see our founding documents.  The National Archives is famously home to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  These documents are kept in a heavily secured area of the building and you are not allowed to take photographs.  The rest of the building features other primary sources.  One exhibit currently on display featured amendments to the Constitution that had been proposed and failed - highlighting the fact that only 27 amendments have been made to the Constitution due to the difficult process.  The National Archives is another free public building to explore in DC.

We loved our time in Washington DC and can't wait to go back with the kids to tour even more! 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

HP Millennials Influencer Panel

I was excited to find out last month that I was selected to be a part of the HP Millennials Influencer Panel through BSM Media.  Over the next year, I'll be hearing about some of the latest and greatest products from HP and will have the opportunity to share this with you here on my blog and throughly social media channels.  As part of the panel, I received several items to get started courtesy of HP.  Check out these amazing items!


HP DeskJet 3755 - The world's smallest all-in-one printer!
HP Roar Mini Wireless Speaker
HP Social Media Snapshots - 4 x 5 inch sticky photo paper
HP Tervis Tumbler Water Tumbler

As part of my welcome package, I also received information on HP Instant Ink.  Instant ink monitors how much ink you have left and will order and ship the ink for you.  This subscription sounds like a great deal.  And right now, HP is offering a promotion where you can get 3 months free of the instant ink subscription with the code SCHOOL3.

I'm excited to share lots of exciting news from HP this year with you!  What HP products have you already tried and loved??

As an HP Millennial Influencer Panel member, I receive products, promotional items, and educational material to use and share as I see fit.  However, any opinions expressed by me are honest and reflect my actual experience.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Hold Onto Your Tiaras - I'm Running Princess Weekend!

Well runDisney fans and friends, I'm excited to share that I'll get to cross another runDisney event off my bucket list!  Look out Glass Slipper Challenge - I'm coming for you in 2017!  Yesterday, my friend and I registered for the annual challenge which includes the Enchanted 10K on Saturday and the Princess Half Marathon on Sunday.

Princess Half Marathon weekend is the ultimate girls running weekend in Walt Disney World.  Each year, a different princess takes center stage.  When I saw the ads for the 2017 registration coming from runDisney featuring Belle, I couldn't pass it up.  Belle is my favorite Disney princess and Beauty and the Beast still remains one of my favorite Disney movies of all time.

My friend, Christine, and I are already anxiously awaiting our big trip.  We are planning to stay on Disney property - most likely at one of the value resorts - to make this a budget friendly trip.  In fact, since we're flying in Friday and flying home Sunday, while needing to squeeze in the expo and two races, we're probably not even going to do park tickets.  While there, our plan is to spend our free time at the pool and spending time exploring all the fabulous shopping and dining options in Disney Springs.

As far as training, I'll need to roll right from the runDisney Wine and Dine 10K in November to start getting ready for race weekend.  This will be the toughest running challenge I've faced yet with back to back race days of these distances, but if anything will motivate me, it will be a mouse!

Who else will I see at Princess Half Marathon Weekend in February??

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Tips for Preschoolers at MLB Games

My husband and I love going to Orioles games at Camden Yards here in Baltimore.  There have been plenty of games that we've gone to on mommy/daddy date nights, but we also enjoy bringing the little guys to the games.  On their best days, preschoolers can sometimes be a handful so it's always a good idea to have a plan when heading out on an adventure with them.

Food - With so many snacks and sweet treats, it's easy for kids to go overboard on cotton candy and ice cream.  Try talking with your child before you even leave the house about the plan for food.  If they are going to be allowed to have one snack after they finish their lunch, tell them that and then they'll be less likely to ask over and over again at the stadium.  You can also check your stadium's policy on bringing food into the stadium.  Brody is a really picky eater so we're lucky that Oriole Park lets you bring in food to the stadium.  Packing Brody his granola bars, goldfish, fruit and veggie pouches, and other favorites not only ensures that he has something to eat that he'll enjoy, but also saves money.

Souvenirs - Whether it's a stuffed Oriole bird, a baseball bat, or a foam finger, souvenirs are everywhere around the stadium and little kids will flock to them like the seagulls in Finding Nemo saying "Mine! Mine! Mine!" Again, I've found the best strategy to talk to Brody about a souvenir before we leave the house.  You can even give them their own money to be responsible for and then they get to pick whichever souvenir they want that fits in that budget.  You may be able to avoid the whole souvenir argument all together if you're able to pair up your game with a giveaway where your child will already feel like they're walking away with something just for entering the gates.

Take Breaks - Nine innings can be a long time for an adult attention span, but it's brutal for a preschooler.  Check out if your local ballpark has a play area for kids.  Camden Yards features a play area with sliding boards and climbing equipment as well as a spot to throw and hit like a big leaguer.  Brody loves going here to play during the game, but we also don't want to spend our whole game watching little kids play on the playground.  When we're at the game with Brody, we again set up a schedule ahead of time and communicate a plan to him.  After the first three innings, mommy will take him down for a play break.  Then during the seventh inning, daddy will take him down to play.

Preschoolers thrive on routine and knowing what to expect.  A baseball game is definitely a break from the norm of their daily lives so prepare them ahead of time as much as you can with what to expect so that they'll be ready to enjoy a fun-filled day!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Family Fun in South Central PA

With summertime in full swing and everyone looking for fun things to do with the family, I thought I would highlight some of my favorite finds around the Mid-Atlantic.  Today, we'll start in Pennsylvania with a couple places that I have come to love with my kids.

Hersheypark - Hershey, PA
Home of the best chocolate around (I love me some Reese's!), the small town of Hershey is big on fun!  Hersheypark is a fun amusement park for the youngest in your travel party all the way through the most adventurous.  Featuring a lot of kid friendly activities and a number of thrilling coasters along with a fantastic waterpark, there is so much to keep your family entertained all day long.  If you live in the area, check local retailers for coupons to save money on park admission.  You can also check online for discounts direct through Hersheypark.  And your admission ticket also includes entry for everyone in your party to Zoo America - a small, but enjoyable experience.  Before you leave, don't forget to stop by Chocolate World.  The chocolate tour is a free ride and they also have several add-on experiences you can purchase like making your own chocolate.

Knoebel's Amusement Park - Elysburg, PA
Knoebel's is a family friendly amusement and water park located in Central PA that turned 90 years old this summer.  My husband introduced our family to this great location during the first summer after Brody was born.  He had grown up going here and couldn't wait to share it with his family.  One of the best things about Knoebel's is that parking and admission is free!  That's right, free!  You pay individually for rides and attractions or you can purchase a ride all day wristband.  When we've gone with Brody, the whole day we've spent less than $20 on rides - a far cry from most of the expensive amusement parks.  They also have a swimming pool there that you can purchase daily passes to use.  And if you enjoy camping, the campground is a perfect place for your family to end their day (so I've been told - camping is not my thing. . .)

Turkey Hill Experience - Columbia, PA
Located between York and Lancaster on Rt. 30, the Turkey Hill Experience is something you don't want to miss.  Turkey Hill is famous for their ice cream and iced tea and you get to enjoy both here.  Admission is inexpensive at just $9.95 to enter for adults and kids 4 and under are free.  That entrance fee lets you play and explore what it's like to milk a cow, drive an ice cream truck, and even design your own packaging for ice cream.  If you want to take your experience to the next level, you can add on a ticket to the Taste Lab for about $5.00 more.  Inside the Taste Lab, you get to make your own flavor of ice cream and take the pint with you to enjoy!

These are just a few of my favorite places to visit that are close to home.  PA has so much more to offer out towards Philly too!  Each of these make great family day trips.  Enjoy!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Celebrate the 4th in Walt Disney World

4th of July is a busy travel time as families are in the middle of summer and many parents are enjoying a long weekend home from work.  If you're lucky enough to be in Walt Disney World for the holiday, there are several ways to celebrate the birth of America on vacation.

All-American Eats - Nothing says American food more than hot dogs, corn dogs, and ice cream.  Lucky for Disney guests, you'll be able to find all of the above together on Main Street, U.S.A. in Disney's Magic Kingdom.  Casey's Corner is a quick service eatery located at the end of Main Street closest to the castle and has hot dogs and corn dogs with baseball themed decor.  Right across the street, you'll find The Plaza.  While the restaurant is table service, there is also a counter service ice cream shop attached where you can pick up a cone or a sundae.  These treats are the perfect food and the perfect location for the Festival of Fantasy Parade that runs everyday in Magic Kingdom at 3PM.

All-American Attractions - Inside Magic Kingdom, guests can have an experience fit for a president at the Hall of Presidents.  This indoor show features each of the U.S. presidents talking about their time in office using audio-animatronic technology.  If your day in the parks takes you to Epcot, you can also brush up on your U.S. History by visiting the American Adventure.  Join Mark Twain and Ben Franklin as they take you on a journey through U.S. History using music and some familiar faces.  As a former U.S. History teacher I love any chance to highlight history lessons to my kids, but one added perk with both of these shows - they are in air-conditioned theaters!  

All-American Fireworks - On the 4th of July and the days surrounding the holiday, Wishes gets an overhaul and the nightly fireworks show in Magic Kingdom pays tribute to the United States with patriotic songs.  We also were lucky enough to see the Celebrate the Magic projection show with an American twist as red, white, and blue stars and stripes lit up the castle.  No need to miss out on your holiday fireworks while on vacation in Walt Disney World.

Happy 4th of July everyone!!




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