Marathon Training

Oh the life of a busy person trying to train for a marathon….

Last Tuesday Cheryl and I ran a 14 miler at 4:00am before work. It was rough and I had to walk more than I wanted, but I got through it. This past weekend we were supposed to do 7 miles, but we were in a car driving to and from Ohio most of the weekend so that didn’t happen. I was supposed to do a 5 miler on Tuesday, but I went at lunch and could only get in 4 (slow) miles.

Treadmill Training

I wanted to try and do my 7 miler today outside but it is monsooning and I HATE running in the rain….oh well. I am going to try and do as many as possible at lunch, but I also have a lot of errands to run so we will see how it goes.

This weekend we have to do 18 miles. I WILL do it.
Even if I have to go super early or super late.

How do people train when they are busy? Any helpful hints?

Viva Las Vegas!

So I just got back my second batch of PhotoBin scanned slides.

It’s pretty difficult to see what is on old slides without straining your eyes and your neck. I sat on the floor of my room trying to categorize all the sides that I had. One thing about old slides…no instant gratification. When my parents took the photos they didn’t know if the image would be too dark, too light or blurry. There was no digital cameras to see the photo, rate it, and possibly retake it. It made for some interesting slides in the end.

In this batch there were a lot from my parents cross-country honeymoon. They visited the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Now the Grand Canyon has looked the same for pretty much ever. Las Vegas on the other hand has changed SO MUCH! I remember my dad telling us about the way it looked when we had gone our senior year of college, but now seeing the images it looks nothing like Vegas does now.

Las Vegas Strip in 1975

Vegas Strip 1975

Las Vegas Strip 2014

Vegas Strip 2014

I mean look at Ceasar’s Palace! It’s so tiny compared to what it looks like now.

Ceasars Palace

The city of lights!

Vegas Night 1975

O-H-I-O!

The crazy weekends continue!

This past weekend my friends and I drove to Columbus, Ohio. Why you ask? Well Rutgers was playing Ohio State and as a forever band geek I HAD to see the Ohio State Marching Band perform. So we all piled into 3 cars from all over NJ and headed west.

Ohio Road Trip 2014

We had the most people in our car #funcar

Ohio Road Trip 2014

We also assumed we would see AMAZING fall foliage (like in the Catskills) but it was lacking a little. We all met up in PA at Waffle House so we could even the cars out. We were all fine staying in the same car because I mean #funcar

Ohio Road Trip 2014

My friend Kristen went on a rant about her hatred of Pumpkin Spice Lattes aka my favorite part of the fall. So the #funcar stopped for the best fall drinks ever and bombarded her with pictures. I mean seriously who hates PSL!?! Not this girl!

Ohio Road Trip 2014

Before we knew it we were (briefly) in West Virginia.

The drive is around 8 hours, but with stops and traffic it took us about 10 hours to get there. We arrived at the Red Roof Inn Plus around 6pm. Once everyone else had arrived we headed out to a local favorite Thurman’s Cafe. With a group of 13 we knew we would have to wait, but luckily we had a bar to wait at.

Ohio Road Trip 2014

Thurman’s Cafe was on Man vs. Food for their Thurminator burger. I wasn’t in a burger mood so I got fried pickles and grilled cheese, but man that burger looked good.

Ohio Road Trip 2014

We had an early night since we had a LONG day the next day.

We got up around 8:30am and headed out to the hotel parking lot. I didn’t really want to tailgate in the parking lot, but my friends insisted so we did. Luckily there was an Ohio State store right by us so we could buy buckeyes!

Ohio Road Trip 2014

Peanut butter and chocolate goodness. I wish I had gotten extra to bring home with me.

Now the reason I was there was to see the Ohio State Marching Band. Our high school band based our high-step marking and elaborate drills off of schools like Ohio State and Iowa. I wanted to make sure I was in the stadium before pre-game to see their famous Script Ohio (my high school did script CHS). We left the lot about 2 hours before kickoff and walking down to the stadium I was so mad I hadn’t insisted on tailgating closer to the game.

Ohio Road Trip 2014

The crowds and the atmosphere was amazing. I mean their stadium holds 107,000 people! We were talking to Ohio State fans as we were heading in and everyone was so nice.

Ohio Road Trip 2014

Of course we went into the stadium an hour early because someone said that was when pre-game was. We hiked up to pretty much the top of the stands to our seats and then were told that the band only goes off 20 minutes before the game. Oh well!

Ohio Road Trip 2014

Finally the band came on and made a block R for Rutgers being welcomed into the Big 10. We were pretty disappointed they didn’t do script Ohio, but someone said they were doing it at halftime since it was homecoming.

The game was a little depressing. Rutgers was loosing pretty bad once halftime rolled around.

Ohio Road Trip 2014

The band did a classic rock routine. It was so cool to see them perform in person! Here is the video of the performance.

At the end they did DOUBLE script Ohio! So cool!!

After the 3rd Rutgers was still loosing horribly and it started to rain and it was freezing. We called it and walked over to the bar area. We tried to get into a cool local bar, but since the game was still on it was packed. We wound up in Buffalo Wild Wings which was also packed. I eventually got a table for us and we got to warm up and relax. Rutgers wound up loosing 17-56, but it was a good effort for their first game against OSU. After we headed back over to the local bar, Out R Inn and it was so fun!

Ohio Road Trip 2014

It definitely would have been my kind of car in college. Stacey and I went on an adventure that night and got back around 2:30am. What a long day, but it was a blast!

The next day we packed up and headed to brunch for our friend Kristen’s birthday. We tried to go to a brewery, but didn’t realize the Columbus Marathon was going on so places were crowded. We eventually found a place that was just opening so we got a table quickly and the food was awesome.

After that we headed to the North Market to stop at Jeni’s and get ice cream. Cheryl’s boss had sent her some once (she went to Ohio State) and we had to get it before we left. I got buttercup pumpkin with amaretti cookies and sweet cream biscuits and peach jam. I think we are going to order some to have shipped.

Ohio Road Trip 2014

At the market I was looking at a beer store and they had Sweetwater! I love the Georgia craft beer, but you really can’t get it north of Georgia. I was jumping like a little kid when I saw it!

Around 1:00pm we started our trip back. We had some Google Maps issues which made our trip a little longer than expected, but it was still fun.

Ohio Road Trip 2014

We stopped at McDonald’s and I got yelled at for going in the play place and we got dinner at Steak ‘n Shake (after getting lost).

We finally got home around 11:30pm.

It was such a fun adventure with my friends. I love road trips and I cannot wait to do it again!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Day 2

So yesterday I took you on a tour of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. After we visited Diagon Alley we spent the rest of the day in Universal Studios Florida until it closed at 5:00pm. We were heading to Downtown Disney to shop and have dinner so we wanted to have time to change and rest a little…after all this was vacation!

The following day we slept in a little longer. We didn’t wake up until 7:00am. Our plan was to go to Universal Studios Florida at 8:00am (when the park opened to the public) and take the Hogwarts Express train over to Islands of Adventure and Hogsmeade. Unfortunately when we got to the King’s Cross station they told us the train didn’t start running until 9:00am.

So in the meantime we headed back into Diagon Alley. There were a few places I hadn’t really had time to check out the day before. One being the tavern. We stopped in for some frozen butterbeer for breakfast.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

I loved the huge tankards on the wall with all the drinks. If it had been later in the day I definitely would have gotten a beer, but the butterbeer was tasty.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

At 8:30am we decided to head out and see if there was a line for the train. The day before when it was really crowded I didn’t see the sign above the entrance to Diagon Alley. Wayfaring Wizards Welcomed!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

The line for the train was all the way out into the street when we got there, but it moved pretty fast. You have to go through the main turnstile at the front of the station. This is where they check your tickets. You have to have a park hopper ticket to ride the train to the other park. After that there were cute little tidbits all over the station. I especially liked the Magic billboard like they had in the movie. There were a lot of suitcases and trunks all over as well.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

Because the line outside takes longer with them checking tickets the inside line was moving really fast. I felt like I was on a ride. People were whipping around the turnstiles. It was actually pretty hysterical to be a part of. We finally came to a stop near the end where the stairs are. Once you get upstairs you come around a corner and see people disappearing between platforms 9 and 10!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

I was obsessed with this. If the lines weren’t so crazy I would have loved to have Cheryl take a picture of me disappearing!

After that we were on Platform 9 3/4!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

Hedwig and all of Harry’s things were waiting for the train as well. An employee broke us up into groups of 8 for each train car. We actually only had 5 people. As we were getting into our station area the train pulled up and we were ushered on.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

The cars are only on one side of the train, with a hallway connecting 3 cabins per car. I of course got a seat right next to the window!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

I was so excited I was seriously like a little kid. I even bought a chocolate frog for my first train ride! FYI those things are GIANT chocolate frogs and delicious.

Soon the train started to move the the window screen started taking us through London and towards Hogwarts. The screen was really cool. It showed a lot of different scenes, but it was hard to take pictures of. We left London and then saw Hagrid flying his motorcycle through the countryside and then we were going past the Forbidden Forest and into the station.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

Also when the train starts the doors to the cabin close. On the outside it shows students walking in the halls (again Hermione’s voice was so bad) and also dementors! Good thing I had my chocolate frog! (Nerd alert)

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

The train ride was great, but pretty short. It had to have maybe been 2-3 minutes and I am pretty sure the train moves SUPER slow. There are hydraulics in the seat that make them bounce up and down so it seems like it is going fast.

Once we got off we had to take a picture!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

Now we were in Hogsmeade! I had previously been to Hogsmeade, so I didn’t need to do too much looking around.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade

The one noticeable thing about this trip to Hogsmeade was it being a lot less crowded. I think because Diagon Alley is so new people want to get there first thing to ride the new ride. I was totally fine with that because the castle ride (the forbidden journey) is my favorite.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade

As we walked up it said it was only a 30 minute wait! We got in line and I noticed a few differences. They now had lockers for you to put your bags in before getting in line AND they had a single rides line which was definitely not there the first time. The line was so much shorter!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade

We made our easy through the castle grounds and then the castle itself. Honestly the 30 minute wait was mainly due to people stopping to take pictures in line. The ride was once again fabulous. I must say I still like it better than the new ride. I love feeling like I am flying!

After the castle ride Cheryl and I jumped in the 5 minute line for the Flight of the Hippogriffs. It is one of only 3 actual roller coasters at Universal. Last time we rode red so this time we went blue and it was a rush. After though I realized all I had eaten was half a chocolate frog and frozen butterbeer and my stomach was a little mad at me. We grabbed some croissants and headed into Islands of Adventure to check out the other rides.

It only took a few hours for us to do all the other rides in Islands of Adventure. Around noon we were hungry so we figured why not eat at the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade

I got the fish and chips (again) because they are just so delicious! I also got a beer because I mean vacation.

After lunch we walked around to a few of the shops in Hogsmeade. I must say when they first built Hogsmeade it was understandable to have an Ollivander’s there since they wanted a place for people to buy wands. Now though it seems silly since there is also one in Diagon Alley (where it belongs). They also made this park interactive like they did with Diagon Alley so it was cool to see some of the stuff move when kids waved their wands at it.

After looking around Cheryl and I decided we wanted to go on the castle ride one more time. This time we did single rider and my mom waited for us outside. The girls in the car with us (yes we got to go together) were super annoying though. They had their hands and feet sticking straight out the whole ride. Hello! Other people are on this ride too!

Anyway after that ride we figured why not take the Hogwarts Express back. I had heard that the experience is different in each direction.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts Express

This time we left Hogwarts and had Fred and George follow us with fireworks. Then heading back to London we saw the Knight Bus driving crazy through the streets.

After we got back to Diagon Alley my mom decided to head back to the hotel. Cheryl and I decided to go on the Escape from Gringotts ride one last time. The line was a lot shorter, but we randomly had to stop because of the ride breaking down again. It was around 3:00pm at this point and I guess the later it is in the day they don’t do ride photos anymore because that part was empty. It was still fun!

I am a big Harry Potter fan, but really that’s the only reason I go to Universal. I mean the Marvel section was cool and the Hulk roller coaster was awesome, but it’s not enough. I mean can someone build a Doctor Who park for me?

I don’t foresee myself going back to Universal any time soon unless they extend the Harry Potter section some more. It really seems like it is their biggest money maker in the park and I can see why! It’s so fun going and feeling like a kid, but being around a lot of other adults that share the same love for this awesome book/movie series.

Mischief Managed!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Day 1

Over the weekend I visited Universal Orlando and mainly the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

In 2010 I visited the Hogsmeade section in Islands of Adventure because that was the first part that was built. My new trip brought me back because they extended into Universal Studios Florida with a Diagon Alley section. When we booked this trip we told the booking person on the phone the reason we were coming and he told us about the Harry Potter package. It included a welcome package and breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron. We told him to sign us up!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

How cute is our owl post! We got this box when we arrived with a stuffed owl and welcome letter. We also had Harry Potter room keys and tickets for breakfast. On Friday we headed to the parks early, but not crack of dawn early.

After wandering around for a little we decided to head over to Diagon Alley. To get there you walk past King’s Cross station!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

There are a few other store fronts outside as well as the Knight Bus.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Sadly you couldn’t go IN the Knight Bus. You can stand on the back stoop and look in and you can also talk to the conductors. I called the conductor Stan, but his name was Paul. Ernie the driver was there though and we talked to them for a little bit. I thought it was cool that Ernie is a part of the conversation and asks you questions and cracks jokes.

Next we decided to head into Diagon Alley. You go what looks like an alley and then there is the entrance! There is a speaker playing brick moving noises as you enter too.

Right inside is Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Just like in the movie the Weasley takes his hat on and off and a rabbit appears and disappears.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

The inside of the store is pretty cool. There are a few floors (but you can’t go up) stacked with boxes. The detail they put into these stores is incredible. There is even an Umbridge on a tightrope! You can buy extendable ears, pygmy puffs, nosebleed nougat, chocolate frogs and a bunch of other cool things.

Attached right next door is Quality Quidditch Supplies. I really liked all the shirts and quid ditch stuff.

Across from Weasley’s is the Leaky Cauldron. Our reservation wasn’t until 9:00am, but we were starving so we went in to see if we could make it earlier. Luckily we did! The times really don’t mean anything and after we went in the line got really long.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

The inside was really cool. I loved all the pictures on the walls and the staircases and rooms. Even upstairs, where you can’t go, they have whole bedrooms set up!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

It was so rustic and exactly how I imagined in the books (and mostly like the movies). I got the full English breakfast. It was pretty tasty, but not as good as the breakfast I got in London.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

They even had a giant leaky cauldron!

After breakfast we decided to walk around a little more. The first thing you see walking into Diagon Alley is Gringotts with the giant dragon on top. It is really amazing (and even cooler since my cousin did the iron work on it). Every 15 or 30 minutes it breathes fire! It is definitely startling at first, but after the initial shock it is so cool to see!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Some other stores along the main street (that are just fronts and not accessible) are Flourish & Blotts, The Daily Prophet, Fillibuster’s Fireworks shop, Spindlewarps, Eeylops Owl Emporium.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon AlleyThe details they put into this section is amazing. They have interactive displays like the Monster Book of Monters in cages and even Self-Knitting Needles. It was so cool to walk around and soak it all in.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

There is a new Ollivander’s shop. They have one in Hogsmeade (even though it belongs in Diagon Alley) and you can now buy regular wands or inter actives wands.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Another awesome shop was Madam Malkin’s. Inside they had really nice sweaters and clothing to buy. You can also get robes in there. They also have a talking mirror that comments on your clothes and some costumes from the movies.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Once you get to Gringott’s you can go right, which has a bunch of shops (you can buy Gringott’s bank notes) and a stage where there are daily performances.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Left with bring you down past the bathrooms and to Knockturn Alley.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

I was a big fan of the Knockturn Alley section. It was dark, they had wanted posters on the walls (with moving pictures) and the store Borgin & Burkes. The store had cool merchandise and displays and the vanishing cabinet (when you got close) chirped like there was a bird inside.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Really I think the only thing missing in Knockturn Alley was the dark mark randomly appearing in the sky. It’s definitely possible since it is so dark and would be so freaking cool.

After we wandered for a little we figured it was finally time to brave the line for the new Escape from Gringotts Ride. As we were walking over we noticed that employees were letting people know the ride was down. This happened the last time when we were in Hogsmeade, so we figured we would tough it out. We had to put our stuff in lockers (which are free) so we headed over and Cheryl got in line. As we were walking to the line people started cheering. I guess the ride was working again.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

The line looks a lot more ominous than it actually was. It was moving pretty consistently the entire time we were outside. There was also a lot of cool posters to read to keep you busy.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Then about a half hour into the wait we were inside!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

The inside was so cool! I loved all the chandeliers and the goblins were so realistic. They were all keeping busy while we waited in line and sometimes even looked up and stared at you.

Unfortunately as we got closer to the end of the bank the line stopped moving. We waited for a good 20 minutes for it to start again.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Then we were down in the vaults. These are not the huge high security vaults, but the door was so intricate. Again the line stopped moving. Cheryl even had enough time to leave and use the bathroom and come back before we moved again.

At the end of the hallway was an employee telling you a number to go to. They have little areas to take your picture before you ride.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Then we were headed down another long hallway. This one had tables with the Daily Prophet (complete with moving pictures) and portraits of famous goblins. We stopped and waited again! This was the longest wait of them all, but there was no way I was getting out of line. We were so close!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Or so we thought….after being split into two groups you head into a room with an office. Then a video plays of a goblin and Bill Wesley. Even though Bill was barely in the movies, he is the main character in the new ride. After their little talk about the bank and going down into the vaults you are sent to another room to wait for the elevator. Once inside the elevator it moves and creaks like you are going really far down underground. As the doors open you are confronted with another line (of people getting their 3-D glasses) and then a line up a staircase to the ride.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

I didn’t find out until later that the reason there are 2 lines here is because one is a single-riders line. Wonder how long they had to wait?

The ride itself was awesome. Definitely more roller coaster than some of the other 3-D rides in the park. The only thing that annoyed me was Hermione’s voice is not Emma Watson. Not sure why she wouldn’t have let them use her voice, but it is really noticeable and kind of put me off.

Even so the ride was a thumbs up!

After the ride we headed outside again and had some butter beer ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour. I really liked it because I devoured it before I took a picture! Fail.

Then we headed out into the park to do some other rides, but don’t worry. We went back again the next day!

Two days in Universal Studios Orlando

I love to travel. I actually work so much so that I can afford to travel.

A few months ago my mom and aunt were planning a trip to visit my aunt who lives in Florida. My aunt in Florida mentioned how she wanted to visit the new Diagon Alley extension of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal. I too wanted to go so Cheryl and I bought (very expensive) plane tickets to come down Thursday after work and head back home Sunday morning. Literally 2 full days is all we had in Florida. Unfortunately my aunt hurt her back a few days before our trip so she was unable to go. We couldn’t cancel everything so close, and I still really wanted to go so we still jetsetted down there to go with my mom and aunt.

Cheryl and I flew out at 9:00pm. Universal is definitely no Disney. The only option to get from the airport was taking a Mears bus, a car service or renting a car. My mom and aunt had rented a car to get there from my aunt’s house and they already had to pay $20 a day just to park! We decided to jump in an Uber ($30 compared to the $90 car service through the hotel) and we got there around midnight. We got right into bed since we wanted to get up early and utilize the early park admission.

Universal Studios Orlando

We were staying at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and they provided complementary boat service to the park entrances. The park open at 8:00am, but hotel guests can go in at 7:00am and the boats start running at 6:00am. We weren’t too crazy. We got to the boats around 7:00am.

Universal Studios OrlandoThe other nice thing about staying on Universal property is the Express Pass. We got it complementary while we were there. It lets you skip the lines for most of the attractions (everything but the Harry Potter ones) and it’s pretty expensive on it’s own (around $60 per person per day).

Universal Studios Orlando

I had perviously been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when they only had Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure open. Now that Diagon Alley was open we decided to Universal Studios Florida first. My aunt is not a Harry Potter fan in the least. She also doesn’t like roller coasters so she pretty much was just tagging along. When we first walked in we saw the Despicable Me ride was open. My mom loves those movies and the minions so we jumped on line. The ride was really cute. It was a 3-D ride (which I eventually figured out is pretty much every ride at Universal) where you sit in a cart with 3-D glasses on. Then your cart moves while a giant screen makes you feel like you are in a ride.

Universal Studios Orlando

It’s so fluffy!!

After the Despicable Me ride we went further into the park. It was then that I realized none of the other rides were open yet. Only the Harry Potter section is open early. Everything else opens at 8:00am with the park..bummer.

Universal Studios Orlando

On our way to Diagon Alley I noticed the shark from Jaws. I remembered it used to be a ride there and we had an old picture of me and Cheryl inside the shark’s mouth. We tried to recreate it as adults.

We decided to head over to Diagon Alley next.

Universal Studios Orlando

Full post on that tomorrow, but let me just say it was AMAZING.

After we got through everything in Diagon Alley we headed to check out the other rides in the park. Transformers was by far my favorite.

Universal Studios Orlando

As I had mentioned almost all the rides are 3-D. Some have tracks that the car moves on from screen to screen. Others, like E.T, is a full track ride, but not a roller coaster. I also really liked the Men in Black ride. It was actually a shooting game (like Toy Story Midway Mania in Disney). Cheryl dominated. I was also a fan of the Mummy ride. I like the fast paced ones and the Mummy ride had less screens and felt more like a ride.

We had dinner at Finnegan’s Bar and Grill. All the quick serve places were PACKED. It was nice to sit down and have some lunch and a cold beer.

Then it was 5:00pm. The Universal Studios Florida park closed at 5:00pm while we were there for Halloween Horror Nights. That you had to buy separately, but I hate being scared so there was no way I was going. There was a lot of this kind of stuff in the park though.

Universal Studios Orlando

My family is basically in New Jersey, Florida and Wisconsin. My cousins, Steve and Patty, and their kids are right in Orlando. We decided to head to Downtown Disney to do some shopping and get dinner with them. We went early so I could visit the World of Disney store as well as the new Marketplace Co-Op.

Universal Studios Orlando

I got a new 2015 calendar! Last year it sold out so fast I made sure to snatch it up. I also was not a fan of the Marketplace Co-Op. I had assumed the items available online were just a small portion of the shop, but literally everything online is what they have in the shop. I was pretty bummed there wasn’t anything new to see. Oh well maybe once it gets popular they will have special stuff you can only buy there.

After shopping we headed to the Rainforest Cafe for dinner. My cousins have babies so we needed something kid friendly and that could fit a large group. My cousins were late (parking there with construction sucks) but the restaurant refused to seat us until everyone was there. We were pretty annoyed, but eventually they let us sit so we could order drinks and appetizers and wait for our family.

Universal Studios Orlando

In case you didn’t know, twins run in my family. The boys are 2 years old and I love that they are identical twins like us :)

We got home around 11:00pm and went straight to bed. The next day my aunt decided she was going to do her own thing while we did more Harry Potter stuff. I don’t blame her. It’s crowded and if you have no idea what anything means, probably boring. Our original plan was to go to Universal Studios Florida and take the Hogwarts Express over to Islands of Adventure. Of course when we got there at 8:00am they told us the train doesn’t start until 9:00am. I wandered around Diagon Alley some more and then we got on line.

Universal Studios Orlando

The Hogwarts Express was very cool, but a short ride. I really like the way they did it. Again more on that tomorrow!

Once we got to Hogsmeade we did the other rides and then headed into Islands of Adventure to do more rides.

Universal Studios Orlando

How great are our shirts!?!

The first ride we did was Jurassic Park. LOVED it!

Universal Studios Orlando

I would have gone on that all day if it wasn’t a water ride. Still so cool.

Next we headed over to the Marvel area. I love me some super heroes so I liked the whole set up and all the heroes out to take pictures.

Universal Studios Orlando

We went on Captain America (3-D ride) and then the Hulk roller coaster. That thing was freaking amazing. I loved roller coasters so I was bummed they didn’t have many actual ones, but the Hulk made up for it.

After the Hulk we went on the Cat in the Hat (like Winnie the Pooh in Disney) and then the carousel, but after that we were done with Islands of Adventure! I think shaving the Express Pass really helped. We rarely had to stand on any lines. We decided to head back to Hogsmeade and have lunch and then ride the train back over to Diagon Alley since I heard each direction is a different experience. My mom headed back around 2:30pm, but Cheryl and I stayed and did a few more rides over again.

Universal Studios Orlando

We got back to the hotel around 5:00pm and relaxed while waiting for our 7:45pm dinner reservation to roll around. My mom and aunts love the food network so whenever a chef has a restaurant they like to try it.

We got dinner at Emril’s. The food was really good!

Universal Studios Orlando

We had artichoke hearts, calamari and tuna lettuce wraps for appetizers. Then I had the swordfish and quinoa for dinner. Since it was our last night and I had actually done pretty well eating wise we all decided to have dessert. I can’t not get creme brûlée! It was a smaller portion which was perfect because it usually makes me sick if I eat too much.

We headed back after and went to bed. Cheryl and I had an 8:30am flight so we had to be up at 4:00am to get to the airport!

It was a nice 2 days in Universal, but I don’t see myself traveling there again for a long time or until they make more Harry Potter rides. After so many Disney experiences the hassle of getting there from the airport really irked me. They also have so many rides that are all the same and not many roller coasters. I also wasn’t a fan of all the carnival games all over the place. I felt like I was at Six Flags. I still had a lot of fun with my family.

Busy Lady Marathon Training

It is officially 40 days until I run the Philadelphia Marathon!

My life is far from boring. I keep myself busy, busy, busy. That being said, training for a marathon while busy is quite difficult. My weekly runs are hard enough between crossfit and my workload. Sometimes I have no desire to do 5 miles at lunch, but crossfit in the morning and my second job at night I have to try and find time. My weekends are just as bad. Last weekend I jetted down to Florida for 2 days and then had a wedding all day Sunday. Since Sunday is my long run day I had a bit of a conundrum.

Which brings me to today.

This morning, Cheryl and I woke up at 4am. Yes you read that right. 4:00AM! Our Sunday long run was scheduled for 14 miles and I needed a long run since we have two 20 milers coming up in the next few weeks. Since we didn’t have time this weekend we decided to do it today.

We had coffee, a granola bar and put lunch in the crockpot. At 4:40 we headed out the door with our fuel belts and head lamps set to run for the next few hours. We decided to do 2 7 mile loops so that if we had to go to the bathroom we could stop back at the house.

Running Map

Running that early is eerily quiet, but also kind of nice. Mostly a few cars along the roads and random other crazy runners. I was listening to The Magicians on my iPod. I like to listen to books on my long runs because the music just gets boring after a while.

Around miles 5 we stopped in the park to use the porta-potties. Now that was creepy since it was still really dark out. A few runners passed us by with no headlamps or anything! How they do not fall or trip is beyond me. Maybe guys don’t feel as unsafe running that early alone in a dark park, but there is no way I would do it! Since we used the porta we didn’t have to stop at the house so we circled back up the hill to do another loop.

I know I have to run hills, but I sure hate it. The one we always try to incorporate into our run is pretty long and steep. The first time I got up it fine, but the second time I had to walk for a little.

Running Splits

There was no fast running happening this morning. The pace stayed somewhat consistent, but got slower as the day went on. I am just glad I got a long run in! The last long run I had was the Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon!

Running Watch

Done and done.

Now I need to be conscious of my food today. Marathon training is always so difficult because I mean I burned almost 1500 calories before 8am! I had gatorade during my run and when I got home. Then I had coffee and yogurt for breakfast. I had a snack for later today, but I was too hungry I had to have it. Spicy guacamole and melba toast! My favorite snack :) For lunch we made soup in the crockpot. We did it last week and it was delicious and convenient.

Any good soup crock pot recipes?

Wedding Designs and Fun Times

So yesterday my friends Aaron and Christine got married!

A few months ago when they were doing all their wedding planning I mentioned that I could help them with their invitations if they wanted. I have only done a few wedding invitation suites and I want to get more work for my portfolio. They jumped at the chance and I set to work giving them some ideas. They had wanted a dark purple as their color and bubbles incorporated. It took a while, but I finally found a great vector background that I thought would work. They loved it and then I started designing the enclosures.

Wedding Invitation Suite

They bought purple shimmer invitation pockets and wanted 4 enclosures inside.

Merlot Pocket

The invitation was glued into the pocket and the enclosures were placed over each other in the bottom section.

Wedding Invitation Suite

I designed the enclosures so that the background would flow together seamlessly. I loved the way it came out.

Wedding Invitation Suite

I even designed a logo for them and made stickers to close the pocket.

Wedding Logo

So as the big day drew closer they asked if I would help with a few more things for the day of the wedding so everything was cohesive. I designed a program, menu, table numbers, the seating chart and signs throughout the day. To help them with the cost I printed and cut everything.

Wedding Designs

I hit a bit of a snafu when I was cutting. After a while it just gets so repetitive I tend to zone out. Not a good idea when using sharp instruments. I cut my finger pretty badly and had to get it checked out. Luckily I didn’t need stitches, but I did get a cool sock to wear for a few days. Even so the work must continue!

Wedding Designs

I was also lucky to have Cheryl to help me out since holding the ruler was challenging with my giant finger.

Wedding Designs

The weather yesterday was absolutely beautiful! They could not have asked for a better day. They had a nice display of stuff when you first got there.

Wedding Designs

The ceremony was outside at the Essex County Paddle Boat House.

Wedding

The one thing with an outside wedding is you can’t really stop people from being in the area, especially if it is on public land. The Turtle Back Zoo is right by the pavilion so there were a lot of people watching.

Wedding

That didn’t phase Aaron and Christine. The ceremony was beautiful and Aaron broke the glass on the first try! Mazel Tov!

Wedding

 

We headed to our hotel in between the ceremony and the reception.

Wedding

The reception was at the Brooklake Country Club. I had never been there before, but the grounds were gorgeous.

Wedding

Wedding

The tables were arranged by place Aaron and Christine had visited together.

Wedding Designs

I designed the table numbers to look like postcards from each destination.

Wedding Designs

Aaron and Christine’s first dance was great! They took lessons and it showed. Lots of twists and turns and dips. And of course Christine look gorgeous in her dress! I loved the cut.

Wedding

I have never been to a Jewish wedding. It was inter-faith since they both aren’t Jewish, but they did a lot of traditional stuff. The one fun one was the horah!

Wedding

They also had a really great photo booth set up. I love photo booths!

Wedding

The favors were s’mores kits since that is what Christine was eating when Aaron proposed. So cute!

Wedding Designs

They really thought of everything to make the wedding unique and fun. It was definitely a day of celebrating the two of them as a couple and I could not be happier to have been able to be a part of it!

Wisconsin Visit!

So after Vancouver, we decided to extend our vacation and visit our family in Wisconsin.

We go to Wisconsin every year, but this year we weren’t sure at first. My cousin Tara had recently been in a very bad car accident that left her paralyzed from the chest down. With everything going on, and them trying to adjust, we didn’t want to burden them with a visit. After discussing it over, though, we decided it would actually be really great to have family come out. So we were off!

Flying to Wisconsin

My uncle picked us up from the airport and we headed back to their house just outside Milwaukee. I love going to Wisconsin because my uncle used to work for Miller (he just retired sort of) and there is always beer.

Leinenkugel's

That night we just relaxed and talked. My cousin Sarah came home later at night and we all had a nice dinner.

The next day we had decided we were going to go visit my cousin Justin and his wife Tara and their kids. On the way my aunt wanted to stop at a new spectacle in Sheboygan, WI. North America’s tallest flagpole! Supposedly they had been making a huge deal about it on the news and my aunt wanted to see it up close. Oddly enough it’s outside Acuity Insurance. So we pretty much parked in the employee lot and gawked at this huge flagpole. At 400 feet tall the thing was massive!

North America's Tallest Flagpole

After the flagpole gawking we headed to my cousin’s house. I was pretty nervous at first about the visit because we had been getting updates, but were told she looked different. I don’t do well with emotions and I was afraid I was going to get upset and make her upset.

Well the visit was amazing. She is such a strong person. She does a lot of stuff on her own, and is learning more and more everyday. If you would like to help donate to help them remodel their home for her wheelchair you can donate here.

After the visit we drove back to my aunt and uncle’s house. Midwest sunsets are beyond amazing.

Midwest Sunset

The next morning we got up and got our fishing license for the next day. Then we hopped on a train and headed to Chicago!

Chicago

Even though Milwaukee is an hour and a half train ride to Chicago, they didn’t have many departure options so we left later than we had wanted. Once we got there we squeezed into a cab and headed to Navy Pier.

Chicago

The last time I was in Chicago was in February and it was FREEZING. It was nice to be there in the summer.

Chicago

We walked around inside and outside Navy Pier and then went in to the Botanical Garden area. It was really pretty and I was obsessed with the jumping water.

Chicago

Coming back from the end of Navy Pier we found this kiosk to take pictures and well…we took a lot. We also got some Garret’s Popcorn to bring home with us.

Chicago

After Navy Pier we were hungry so we jumped in another cab (bigger this time) and went to Portillo’s for some traditional Chicago hot dogs. Nomz

Chicago

After I stuffed my face we decided to go to the bean (and stop spending so much on cabs) so we walked. It was a really nice day in Chicago and the walk felt so good! Eventually we made it to the bean (cloud gate).

Chicago

Then, along with 200 other tourists, we took lots of fun photos. My cousin even convinced me to lay on the ground, but my uncle reminded me about bird poop so I freaked out and got up.

Chicago

We were only in Chicago a few hours, but we decided to take the 5:00 train back to Milwaukee. We knew we had to get up early the next day and the train after that wasn’t until 8:00. Such weird train schedules!

The next morning we got up crazy early and headed out fishing on Lake Michigan! We had to be on the lake at 5am so it was EARLY!

Fishing on Lake Michigan

It was pitch black out when we got on the water, but the sunrise was gorgeous!

Fishing on Lake Michigan

My uncle has a boat, but it doesn’t fit a lot of people so he chartered a boat for the day. The two guys (father and son) were really nice and helped us maneuver fishing. I had never been out on such a big lake before! Before you knew it something got the line and I decided to be the first one up. You have to hold the rod in your hip crease which hurts a lot, but I did it! We were fishing mostly for salmon and I love salmon!

Fishing on Lake Michigan

Cheryl and Sarah were up next and they did great!

Fishing on Lake Michigan

Then it was my uncle’s turn. His first one broke off, then he helped my aunt, but her’s broke off too. Next it was my mom’s turn.

Fishing on Lake Michigan

My mom didn’t wear proper footwear and I was scared she was going to fall over a few times, but the guys on the boat made sure that didn’t happen. Soon everyone had caught something!

Fishing on Lake Michigan

As the day wore on we were getting less and less so we kept moving around. After a while one of the trout lines (on the bottom of the lake) went off and I jumped up. It took me a good 20 minutes to reel my line in because it was at the bottom of the lake and the fish bolted after it got the hook. Cheryl also grabbed a trout line and it took her almost 30 minutes! We were left with 2 HUGE lake trout. Mine was 17lbs and Cheryl was the winner of the day with an 18lb fish.

Fishing on Lake Michigan

We were starting to finish up for the day and it started to get hot too. I caught the last fish of the day, but our 2 trout took up almost the entire cooler so we didn’t need any more.

Fishing on Lake Michigan

Finally around 10am (I told you we went early) we headed back to the dock. They have this awesome sign and fish station so you can take pictures. So smart.

Fishing on Lake Michigan

We decided to keep some of our fish, but not all of it. If we had driven we would have kept it all. We gave the rest to a guy at the dock that cleans fish all day and takes the scraps. He was overjoyed!

I love fishing. I just hate that the only other person I know that loves it is in Wisconsin. Family and fishing brings me back every year!

How to make pierogi

So if you are Polish (and even if you aren’t) you have probably eaten your fare share of pierogi.

My best friend and her husband are both Polish (like very Polish) and a few years ago I got them to teach me and Cheryl how to make pierogi. I had all these pictures and I knew I wrote the recipe down, but I couldn’t find it. Well I finally did and now I am going to share that recipe with you.

Pierogi Recipe

Ok first you need to start with your fillings. You can either make potato cheese or sauerkraut and mushroom pierogi or both at the same time!

For the potato pierogi you start by boiling one bag of potatoes in water.

For the sauerkraut and mushroom you boil 2 bags of sauerkraut. Then inn a pan, sauté mushrooms with butter and a little salt and pepper.

Pierogi Recipe

Next we are going to make our dough.

Pile of flour on a table (or cutting board). Make a hole in the flour and add a little warm water and one egg.

Pierogi Recipe

Now start to mix the dough with your hands.

Pierogi Recipe

Keep mixing and cut up any chunks with a knife.

Pierogi Recipe

This process takes a while. Keep adding water if necessary and mixing with your hands until it makes a dough consistency.

Pierogi Recipe

If you are making a lot of dough and need to wait wrap the finished dough in syran wrap so it doesn’t dry out.

Pierogi Recipe

Chop up mushrooms smaller and add sauerkraut to mushrooms in pan. Add some more salt and mix the sauerkraut and mushrooms together to taste. It needs to cool before you can add it to the pierogi.

Mash potatoes with farmer cheese half amount of cheese as potatoes (1/2 cup) and add salt and pepper to make slightly salty.

Pierogi Recipe

Roll dough to thinish layer and use glass to make circles.

Pierogi Recipe

After you have your circles, fill the middle with your preferred filling and pinch top then sides down. Make sure to seal up the whole outside.

Pierogi Recipe

Lay your finished pierogi on parchment paper.

Pierogi Recipe

Once you have all your pierogi made, place in boiling water one by one and stir around so they dont stick together. This is where making sure they are closed comes into play. If they are not the filling will start to seep out. When they float to top take them out.

Pierogi Recipe

When you are done, you can either choose to make them right away or freeze them. If you are going to freeze them you need to coat them in vegetable oil so they don’t stick together. Even though I did they still came out in a clump, so you can also use parchment paper to make layers in your tupperware.

Pierogi Recipe

If you are hungry them throw them in a fry pan with some onions and cook them up!

This makes A LOT of pierogi. Unfortunately I didn’t write down all the EXACT measurements, but they were kind of eyeing everything so it was hard. This is a great recipe for big holidays or family gatherings since there are so many. We did this right before Christmas and everyone loved them!