Friday, February 28, 2014

I'm Going to Disney World!

I don't know about all my fellow North-easterners, but I am over all the cold and snow that we've been having! After living in Florida for 2 years this has been my first real winter back in NJ and it has been brutal. I have been lacking serious motivation to get out and train for my next half at the end of April. 

Fortunately, I have a little weekend getaway planner to the most magical place on earth to help me make it through these last few weeks! By tonight I'll be in Florida for a mother-daughter weekend and it couldn't have come at a better time! 

I had mentioned previously that my mom is a Disney Travel Planner, so our trips to WDW are often called "work research." Since I'm such a fantastic daughter, I'm always willing to help with this important research. We're excited to ahem research the following this weekend:

-Talking Mickey
-Macaroons in France
-Macaroon Ice Cream Sandwiches in France (YUM)
-Spice Road Table in Morocco
-Afternoon Tea at the Grand Floridian
-The Villas at the Grand Floridian

If you couldn't tell from that list we like to eat, we're Italian, we can't help it. Sadly we'll just be missing the beginning of the Flower and Garden Festival so I won't have much to report back to you on that front.

We'll be staying at no less than three resorts between Friday and Monday (holy magic bands batman!). I can't wait to check out the various running trails at the resorts we'll be staying at. A nice run in the warm weather is exactly what I need to kick my butt into gear! I'm also super excited to see how much I walk at the parks with my fitbit (nerd alert). 

Be sure to keep an eye on our Instagram (@halfwaytothecastle) and our Facebook this weekend as I'll be posting pictures daily! 


QOTD: What's your favorite "must do" activity at WDW?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Where in the (Walt Disney) World Wednesday- California Grill

California Grill is by far my favorite signature restaurant, or any restaurant for that matter, on Disney property. I have visited many times, and most recently Lauren and I ate there for our celebratory meal the day before our first half marathon. It has been newly refurbished with a slightly newer menu, some items changing just a bit with the seasons and some completely new and wonderful dishes. 

I have always tried to get a reservation a little bit later in the evening. If you go around the time of the Magic Kingdom fireworks you can actually watch them from the observation deck on the 15th floor of Disneys Contemporary Resort, where the California Grill is located. The Lights will dim and the music that is synchronized with the fireworks will be played in the restaurant and outside on the observation deck—"immersing Guests in the magic of the night." It's truly such a wonderful experience. Dining before the fireworks and still want to experience the show from this very cool view point? Not to worry! Bring your receipt to the check-in desk on the 2nd floor for reentry to the California Grill. Then, enjoy the show either from the California Grill Lounge or the outside observation deck.

If you are on the Disney Dining plan this meal will be worth 2 sit down meal credits. It is definitely worth it and will not disappoint. When we visited in November, I told them we were celebrating our first half marathon when I made the reservation back in April. When we arrived our table had a little something special on it for our celebration.

Lauren had the Oak-fired filet of beef with local tomato risotto, baby vine tomatoes, petite basil, and tomato butter. This is still on the menu! 
My curry crusted scallop dish with a pumpkin ravioli was seasonal and is no longer on the menu, but it sure was delicious. 
We got a dessert because we were on the Disney dining plan, creme brûlée, and of course they added some Disney magic to get us pumped up and congratulate us on our half marathon. 

I've always enjoyed eating here. The food and wine selection is amazing with a great atmosphere to match. I highly recommend trying this signature restaurant if you haven't already. 


QOTD: What is your favorite signature Disney restaurant? 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Smash the Half

As many of you are well aware by now Disneyland has another half to add to it's roster! RunDisney announce that #SmashTheHalf would be an Avenger's themed race weekend. Since there was much speculation that an Avengers race was in the works, the theme of the race did not come as much of a surprise. 

Photo Courtesy of RunDisney

What did come as a surprise was the race date, November 14-16, just one weekend after Wine & Dine on the east coast. While we think it's great that there's another chance for runners to earn a Coast-to-Coast medal, it seems strange that there would be a back-to-back race weekend on the West Coast/East Coast since Tink was just moved further out from Marathon Weekend. We'll see how the new back-to-back race weekends work out in the fall.

The Avenger Super Heroes Half Marathon starts at $195, which is right on par with the Disneyland Half. There will also be an Avengers Super Heroes 5K starting at $70 and Kid's Races for $20. 

What we would love to see is a Star Wars weekend come to Walt Disney World in during Star Wars weekend (perhaps a night race?) and have a special Coast-to-Coast challenge like the pink medal for Tink/Princess weekend. We also would love to see the Avenger's theme more developed into perhaps a larger challenge weekend for the west coast. I'm not much of a superhero person, but I do love me some Iron Man (maybe Robert Downey Jr helps...) but I'm putting it out there that I think an Arc Reactor challenge medal would be pretty sweet.  

I also think it's great that although the Avenger's have a wide appeal, it gives the guys a little something to have in their court to balance out the Princess and Tink weekends. We can't wait to learn more about all the details of this new race and will keep you posted!


QOTD: What do you think of the new Avenger's race weekend?

Breakfast of Champion's

Good morning! Happy Tuesday! Tuesdays for me are the days I work out the longest. I have the day off so I can spend more time running and working out. I'm running my second half marathon in Buffalo, NY hopefully in June. So I decided its time to kick it into high gear and really get this nutrition In the morning thing down. I've posted about this before, I have some trouble fueling up in the mornings and if I run at night it's difficult to know how to eat during the day. I've been finding myself cramping up badly as well when running a longer distances; which I'm sure is because 1- I'm not drinking enough water and 2- I'm not properly eating throughout the entire day. But I do find a good breakfast will help we to feel better. 

A little side note, I'm also really looking forward to the weather changing. It can't come soon enough! I relate smoothies to the warmer seasons! So in hopes that this cold weather we are having will be over with soon, this morning starts my smoothie making on a consistent basis. 

I bought a magic bullet, it works great and is less expensive than a nutri bullet. I've been mixing it up with different frozen fruit/ fresh fruit selections and adding spinach, flax seed, and a liquid (usually either unsweetened almond milk or coconut water). The smoothies have been delicious and keeping me full for the morning into the afternoon. I feel good while running after drinking a smoothie, or I'll make one for right after my run/workout. 
I really like this little magic bullet blender because I can make an individual drink and not waste ingredients. I also love that you blend your drink in the same cup you can drink out of! 

It comes with a ring that you can put on the edge so you can comfortably drink out of it. But of course I also use my reusable Mickey straws :-)
I know this is a common thing, making smoothies and fueling up properly. But I still enjoy sharing my experiences, products I enjoy, and recipes. I would love to hear of any great smoothie combinations out there! 


QOTD: What are your favorite ingridents to put into a smoothie?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Flipbelt-My favorite thing to run with!

The FlipBelt is my absolutely favorite thing to run with. I love this for many reasons, but number one it doesn't move! I ran with this for my half marathon and bought it the day before at the runners expo at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports. I was a bit skepical of buying something that I wasn't used to running with the day before my first big race. I really needed something that would hold more than just my iPhone and headphones so I decided to give it a try. Good thing I did because it couldn't have worked out better. 

The flip belt comes in many colors and sizes. I was able to get my favorite color (purple) and the medium size was perfect. It's a bit snug and didn't move at all! 
During the half marathon it held my iPhone, for my music, which also had a large speck case on it to hold my id and money, a package of shot blocks, and a pack of tissues. I wasn't running with a ton of stuff but more than what I usually would, so this option was again a great choice. It didn't move or chafe! I don't like belts with water bottles on them so this was a wonderful alternative. 

I may or may not have worn my felt belt out once or twice when I didn't want to carry a purse. Yes, that's how discreet it is 😊


QOTD: Does anyone else love their flipbelt? 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Where in the (Walt Disney) World Wednesday-La Cava Del Tequila

Have we mentioned yet that we like to eat? We also like to drink, sampling local cocktails from around the world showcase. One of our favorite places to stop is La Cava Del Tequila located inside the pyramid in Mexico. Here you can either sit down for some chips, salsa and a margarita or grab a drink to go from the bar. They have an extensive menu of different margaritas and tequila shots/flights that never disappoint. I can honestly say I've never had a bad drink here. I've sampled the wild passion fruit, avocado, hibiscus, and jalapeño margaritas (not all at once) and they're all top notch.

How can you say no to such a beautiful concoction?!

One of my favorite things about La Cava is that they are very active on social media and are frequently hosting promotions. Make sure you follow them on twitter and Facebook as that's where they'll announce a lot of their promotions. During Wine & Dine weekend if you came in with your medal they had goodies to give away! We got organic agave nectar and keychains (that looked like a legend of the hidden temple shirt). Where else are you going to get free stuff in Disney?! Right now they're hosting a Facebook contest until Saturday the 22nd to win a $50 gift certificate so check it out! Who can't use $50 towards delicious margaritas?!

Free swag!

While you're there make sure to say hola! to our favorite bartender, Pepe! He mixes up a mean drink and can even suggest some that may not be on the menu.


QOTD: Have you even been to La Cava Del Tequila, what's your favorite drink or snack?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Tower of Terror Weekend Trip Planning

Ever since Kayla and I made the last minute decision to sign up for the Happy Haunted 5K and the Tower of Terror 10-Miler we've gone right into planning mode. I grew up with my mother as a Disney Travel Planner (we get excel spreadsheets of our trip itineraries) and Kayla works a Travel Planner. It's in our blood and nothing excites us more than mapping out the possibilities of our next trip. 


We've made our first big decision to stay at the Wilderness Lodge which we're thrilled about. I have never stayed here before; it's been on my "to stay" list for quite some time. As an Interior Designer I love the theming of Wilderness Lodge. There's just something about walking into that expansive lobby with it's beautiful, sweeping views. We know that this will be the perfect resort for us to unwind and relax pre and post race. 


With our first big decision made, we still have to map out dining and other activities. On our list is Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. I've seen the parade before during a cast preview when I was a CP, but I've never experienced the full party. I love that I keep finding new things to try each time I visit WDW. 

We're also looking into some delicious dining options that are new for the both of us. We seriously LOVE to eat, we could (and probably do) plan our trip around where and what we'll be eating. This is another area in which we'd like to branch out. We know at least one whole day will be devoted to the Food & Wine Festival (which is almost better than Christmas in my opinion). We'd also like to explore a character breakfast and a fine dining dinner option as well. 

Even though our trip is still 7 months out we can't help but research obsessively! We'd love to hear from you veterans what has worked for you during TOT (especially those running both races). Until then, I have a quick WDW girls weekend planned with my mom for the end of the month. I'm sure I'll being doing lots of research and reporting back to Kayla while I'm there!


QOTD: What is your favorite activity or dining experience while in WDW? 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Recipe: Banana Dark Chocolate Chip Muffin

Firstly, Happy Valentine's Day!! Don't be afraid to indulge in some sweet treats today (mainly giant, heart shaped boxes of chocolate). Then after all the chocolate indulging is finished you can try this low-cal treat! Since I had yet another snow day yesterday I decided to give a new recipe a try. Banana Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins! This will be great to grab in the morning or to put in lunches. I've adapted the recipe below from Cook Yourself Thin.

I don't know about you guys but I'm not a morning person. I wish with every fiber of my being that I loved getting up early and getting a head start on my day. The more likely scenario is I'm running out the door 5 minutes late trying to not forget anything. This usually leaves me grabbing something quick to eat for breakfast to in the car on my way to work. 

Banana Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins
Serves 12

2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Oats
2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Ripe Banana, Mashed
1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Butter (Or Vegetable Oil)
2 Large Eggs
1 Cup Low-Fat Sour Cream
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Dark Chocolate Chips

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line muffin tin
2. Combine Flour, Oats, Cinnamon, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Salt and Banana in mixer until well combined (about 2 minutes)
2. Once combined add in Brown Sugar, Butter (or oil), Eggs, Sour Cream, and Vanilla Extract. Mix again until well combined (about 2 minutes)
3. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in Chocolate Chips
4. Use Ice Cream Scoop to disperse batter into muffin tin
5. Bake muffins for 15 minutes
6. Enjoy!

To me, this recipe was simple, and quick. Each muffin comes in at 240 calories each and tastes amazing--seriously! I ate one right out of the oven and the chocolate was all melty mmmm, it was heaven. We'd love to hear what you think if you decide to try this recipe out for yourself!


QOTD: What's your favorite go-to quick breakfast?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Where in the (Walt Disney) World Wednesday- Animation Academy

Entrance to the Animation Courtyard-Just past The Little Mermaid and Disney Junior
The Animation Academy at Disney's Hollywood Studios is one of my favorite activities and is always a must do. You can find the Animation Academy hidden back in the animation court yard. First you watching a short film, after you exit there's an area for photos with characters, and off to the side is the animation academy! 

Kayla's beautiful drawing of Snow White!

A Disney artist teaches a class step by step how to draw Disney characters. When you walk into the animation studio you will see rows of desks with paper and pencil ready and waiting for you. In the front is a stage with a screen that shows what the lead animation is drawing. When you go in they will always stress there is NO ERASING during the class! Don't be scared, just draw loose and light and you may surprise yourself with the outcome. 

Showing off the finished product!
The classes are held every 30 minutes on the hour and the half hour. Typically about 20-30 people are in each class so make sure to show up early in order to ensure a seat. I have drawn characters such as Snow White, Winnie the Pooh, Buzz Lightyear, and Goofy just to name a few. Even if you don't consider yourself an artist I encourage you to check this spot out! It is amazing how easy the artists make it and you may be surprised by your results! It also makes for a unique (and free!) souvenir. 


QOTD: Have you ever experience the Magic of Disney Animation? What characters have you drawn or would you like to draw?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

233 days until our next runDisney event!

Well it's official! Today the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 miler weekend registration opened up! Lauren and I are very excited and proud to say we are running! We have signed up for the Disney Happy Haunted 5k also! Two races packed into one day is going to be a whole new adventure for us. But let's get real we just wanted two metals! 

This was spur of the moment for us. We had originally wanted to run the Wine and Dine half marathon for the second time. But after talking about it we wanted yet another new Disney experience. I'm so happy about our decision to try a new race. 

Has anyone ever ran two races in one day? Any advice for us rookies?

We are so excited! Who's running with us?


QOTD: Who else signed up to run during the Tower of Terror 10 miler weekend?

Monday, February 10, 2014

After Workout Fueling

I really like Muscle Milk. It's a great source of protein! Yes runners need to fuel and have lots of energy which is gained mostly from carbs. Runners build a lot of lean muscle as oppose to "bulking up" which is what muscle milk or protein products are associated with. So high protein products aren't crucial to a runners diet, I've even done some research and most say runners shouldn't drink muscle milk. But I don't care, I usually drink it after a very intense work out or very long run. And it's been so satisfying! I can feel my legs feeling better quicker after a long workout since I started drinking the stuff. I used to have intense practices when I played lacrosse, I wish I would've had muscle milk then. I really do feel a difference. 

Lately, I am running around like crazy too! It's busy season at Liberty Travel and I'm working long hours. I enjoy muscle milk when I can't eat and enjoy a full meal, for example while I'm at work. Something else I love about this product is that it tastes good! The chocolate flavor actually gives me my chocolate fix if I'm having a bit of a craving. You know we all have them!

I guess I just wanted to put it out there that just because it's a protein product doesn't mean runners should "run away" from trying it.


QOTD: Have you ever used Muscle Milk? What do you like do drink post workout?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Valentine's Gift Guide

Valentine's Day is just a week away. If you're anything like me you will procrastinate getting chocolates, cards, flowers, etc. until the night before. You'll find yourself standing in the card aisle with everyone else looking slightly sheepish that you've put so much thought into your loved ones. 

Don't fret, I have come to the rescue and have complied a list of great Valentine's for any runner in your life!

1. Pro Compression Marathon Socks


Show your runner you love them with these aptly themed compression socks. Whoever receives this gift will be reminded of you every time they wear them. They may also come in handy for a race costume down the line (Queen of Hearts anyone?). 

For the ladies in your life Sweaty Bands always make a great gift. They do not budge an inch the entire day and look great. Every time I wear a Sweaty Band I'm complimented on it, and what girl doesn't love compliments? It's the gift that's going to keep on giving. 

Who doesn't love getting a package full of surprises on their doorstep? The runnerbox will send your runner samples of various products for them to try. You can give a monthly subscription, a one time gift box, or they even have a special Valentine's Box (it's like they've done all the planning for you already)!

4. Massage


Regardless of whether your runner has been training non-stop or not, who doesn't love a good massage? I'm sure your runner has a very close relationship with their foam roller, but sometimes the roller just won't cut it. Treat them to some pampering and I can guarantee they will be thankful to have someone work all those knots out of their calves. 

5. Race Entry

Any runner would love free race entry; I'm pretty sure we all not so secretly want to #runalltheraces. If we had money trees and no jobs or obligations we would, but alas, we don't live in this fantasy land. A race entry could be anything for a great themed fun run/5K to a big event like a RunDisney weekend. If you're a fellow runner, join in with them, if not, make sure to be watching from the sidelines with an embarrassing (yet endearing) sign showing your support!

If all else fails and you still let procrastination get the best of you, just remember you can never go wrong with chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate. 


QOTD: As a runner, what would you like to receive for Valentine's Day?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Where in the (Walt Disney) World Wednesday-Pick-a-Peal (Japan)

I have a new favorite must-do activity while visiting Epcot. During our first half marathon and celebrating after at the the food and wine festival in Epcot, Lauren and I were all about trying new things in the place we thought we knew oh so well. 

I wanted to get something extra special to commemorate this trip. Something we both had never done before. So I convinced Lauren (which wasn't difficult) to go pick out our own oysters. After opening the oyster you are guaranteed to get an awesome pearl. You can then create your own piece of jewelry with it too! 

We went to Mitsukoshi in Japan, in Epcot! Definitely the best place to pick your own pearl. There are other places 
to do this on Disney property but Japan is by far the best in my opinion. 

You pick an oyster out of a tank. Then the wonderful cast members open the oyster up for you and present your pearl! 

They put on a nice show to get the crowd (and mostly the person picking the oyster pumped up)! It was so fun. You can then enjoy the pearl as is after they clean it. Or the best part, I was able to get my pearl placed in a ring setting! 

I loved the experice! I will be back again I'm sure! I think a new necklace is in order after my next race, don't you?
Oh and remember the biggest and ugliest oyster produce the biggest and rarest pearls!


QOTD: Have you picked your own pearl? Would you display it as a piece of jewelry? 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Picking the Right Training Plan

The next big race on my horizon is the Nike Women's Half Marathon DC. I was so excited to be one of the luck ones chosen for the second installment of this race. As of this past Monday I am officially 3 months out from race day which means I need to get my butt back into a training schedule. After Wine and Dine I took it easy; first my orthotics had to be sent out to be refit (there goes 2 weeks) then Christmas, New Years, and my birthday all came in quick succession. Oops, maybe I haven't kept the post-half momentum going quite as strong as I would've hoped. Oh well, you live and learn.

Nike offers a training app exclusive to the DC half marathoners featuring that beautiful Tiffany blue. I'm already a Nike+ user so I was excited to see what their training plan held. Once, I had the chance to check it out I was honestly disappointed in their developed plans. You can choose from Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced. All 3 version have you running 5-6 days a week. Personally, I felt like that was too much running and not enough cross-training/rest days. 

I had encountered a few injuries during Wine and Dine training and didn't want the same thing to happen again. For my first race my main concern was to cross that finish line in one piece and not feel too much like death. This time around I know I can finish all 13.1 miles, so I'd like to add in strength training and maybe some speed work. 

I looked into Hal Higdon's plans as well as the Runner's World Smart Coach. Hal Higdon's plans again were like the Nike's plan with too many days in a row of running.

For the Runner's World plan I loved that you could customize the length of your plan. It really broke down what you should be doing during each training day, what your pace should be while running, etc.


I've decided to give the Runner's World plan a shot. I liked that it's structure is similar to Galloway's but I can adjust the length & intensity to fit my needs. Looking back at the Galloway plans I feel like I'm somewhere in between a "beginner" and "time improvement" plan and this new plan appears to fall into that area. I'll keep everyone updated on how this new plan works for me!


QOTD: What do you look for in a training plan?