Sunday, 19 May 2013
Whichever it is I just know that the chance to visit my favourite place (apart from home, of course) is getting closer. And most days my thoughts turn to one element or another of our vacation.
The vacation is now paid for (took us 13 months to do it, but it's all done now!). We have two weeks staying at the Coronado Springs Resort with the Quick Service Dining Plan 'thrown in for free' with our package deal. So now my thoughts turn to the details before our vacation can begin.
Being based in the UK we have to sort ESTA's (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) for the whole family, a minor expense at $14 each and at least they will last us 2 years.
Another minor expense is hotel accommodation the night before we fly. We live about a 3 - 4 hour drive away from our departure airport and as check-in for our flight is around 8.00am it is a lot easier to travel down the day before and stay overnight in a cheap hotel close to the airport. So I have been doing a bit of internet searching and have managed to find a really cheap deal for the night :). Another, not so minor expense, is what to do with the car whilst we are away on vacation...thankfully there are lots of different options at different prices. I think I have settled on an option that will mean the car is ready and waiting for us at the airport when we return from our two weeks away - I hate having to think about the end of a vacation before it's even started!!
It will be our first time staying at Coronado Springs Resort so that in itself is something to look forward to. I have been checking out all the information I can about the resort, liking Facebook pages and following Twitter accounts. I really like to go in knowing what to expect so I can start to plan in my head what we will be doing whilst there! The Rix Lounge looks very inviting for a bit of adult time, thankfully our kids are old enough to look after themselves now which means me and Simon will be able to sneak a couple of hours drinking cocktails!
The grounds look amazing and we are already discussing taking runs around the lake. I think the main pool area is going to be a big draw for our two kids and will be fantastic when we have a chill out day away from the parks....oh ok half a day away from the parks!
I still haven't made any ADR's, and at the moment there is really only one restaurant that we can all agree on, which is Teppan Edo in the Japan pavillion at Epcot. I think we enjoy the freedom of roaming the parks with no real ties too much and are finding it really hard to commit ourselves to ADR's...and as far as we are concerned the 'quick service' options are so varied that we are quite happy eating on the go. Plus any ADR's we do make will have to be extra to our Quick Service Dining Plan and out of our 'expenses' budget!
We do however, have one date set whilst on vacation and that is to meet up with good friend Michelle from The Minnie Minxes podcast who is organising a little get together in Epcot one day to travel our way around the world....hopefully including food and drink!!
So vacation planning is taking shape slowly but surely and I shall fill you in with more details the closer we get :)
Saturday, 11 May 2013
Now I have to admit to loving a good wedding and this one was a bit special because Simon had been asked to do the artwork for the wedding invitations and even had his artwork turned into cake toppers!
|Hayley & Kieran comic book style!|
Now whenever I am lucky enough to attend a wedding it always makes me think to back to my own nearly 24 years ago...and always seems to get us talking about what we would do if we were getting married now!
Back in 2010 as we approached our 21st anniversary we were lucky enough to renew our wedding vows...and we renewed them in style...Vegas style!
So there we were all booked for my first visit to the West Coast USA, and more importantly my first visit to Disneyland. As part of our vacation we had booked some nights in Anaheim, some in Las Vegas and some in San Francisco and as we got into planning mode we started joking about getting married in Vegas. Now it was something that we had always joked about over the years but here we were actually going and it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. Now we couldn't get married but we could renew our vows, but where?? Well, there was only ever going to be one choice of vow renewal and it had to involve Elvis; my parents (who were with us on vacation) are massive Elvis fans and I had been brought up with his music. We then embarked on a bit of online research and found the original Graceland Chapel and picked their Blue Hawaii package.
But before we got to Vegas we had a few days staying in Anaheim and visiting Disneyland and Disney California Adventure and whilst there we did a bit of obligatory Disney shopping :).
|The ring - it has 5 Mickey's and 4 'sparkly' gems|
|How I wear it most days :)|
We got ourselves ready, suitably attired in Hawaiian inspired prints, and made our way, via limousine, to the Graceland Wedding Chapel.
|Our limousine outside our hotel|
|Living it large inside the limousine|
We had the most fantastic time renewing our vows with Elvis, we danced, sang and laughed our way through the short ceremony. I can wholeheartedly recommend anyone to do it, it was such a fun experience and created memories that we will treasure forever.
|After the ceremony with our Lei's|
|The infamous 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign|
When we got back to our hotel later that night we couldn't resist getting our photo taken...
Sunday, 28 April 2013
A few months ago Simon and I were having our usual Saturday morning Starbucks whilst our daughter spent an hour at her electric guitar lesson. Whilst waiting for the freshly made coffee we both spotted a small flyer advertising an upcoming running event around the area local to the aforementioned Starbucks.
The event was a 10K and 3K run-jog-walk around a local football ground; Derby County FC at Pride Park, Derby. Now at the time of seeing this flyer Simon had managed to keep to a pretty good schedule of runs, despite some appalling British weather. I on the other hand...not so much! I too had been plagued by the very snowy winter but also by a rather painful chilblain which had literally stopped me in my tracks.
But as we sat there drinking our coffees we both looked at each other and had the exact same thought...we could do this and do it together. Well, OK by together I mean Simon could run the 10K and I would cheer him on and then he would join me and help me through the 3K.
So as soon as we got home, we powered up the laptop and enrolled ourselves for the relevant races! There was no going back now! And then our thoughts turned as to why we were doing this? Sure the sense of personal achievement would be fantastic but surely we could turn our sporting endeavours to good use. Perhaps we could raise some money for charity? But which one? We both knew which charity we wanted to support, one that we had supported before and one that has some close links to our love of Disney.
Previously we had used Simon's artistic talents to help raise money for the WDW Radio Dream Team Project, which raises funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation USA. But as we are in the UK we thought we could continue the theme by raising money for the UK Make-A-Wish Foundation.
So back to today, the day for our running! Through amazing friends we had already raised a fantastic sum of money through sponsorship donations so now it was our turn to live up to our end of the deal and run those kilometers. So an early start; breakfast at 7.30am...on a Sunday morning...was followed by a short drive to the location of the race. We parked up, and decided to remain in the car as it was absolutely freezing!! It even started to rain at one point...but thankfully it didn't last long and for the duration of both events it remained dry but windy and cold! I was glad that I'd decided to get my cold weather running gear back out of the cupboard!!
As race time approached we braved the elements, and joined the crowds and approximately 3500 other 10K runners, and in amongst the crowds we were spotted by my cousin who was also running her first ever 10K race; couldn't believe out of all those faces we managed to meet up, we both knew we would be there but never thought in the sea of people we would actually spot each other.
|Me and my cousin, Jennifer|
The first runners entered the stadium and finished with a very impressive 31 minutes. The atmosphere was fantastic with the crowd cheering everyone home, everyone looking for that special someone that they were supporting. I noticed the timer ticking into the 40 minute mark, so got the camera ready so I could attempt to take some shots of Simon crossing the finish line, I looked up and there he was entering the stadium! He was running really well and even managed a sprint to line, picking off at least a dozen other runners; I was very impressed and felt really rather proud :) Quickly I dashed out of the stadium to greet him as he left the runners area, eager to know what his time was as I'd missed the timer!! So after checking his Nike+ app we knew that he'd done his fastest ever 10K in 42:07 minutes, officially placed 264th out of 3517 runners - absolutely fantastic.
|Simon crossing the finish line|
|A very happy Simon after completing the 10K|
I have to say that the atmosphere was great, there was a lovely mix of people from small jogging clubs to individuals to families all determined to have fun and get that 3K completed one way or another :) So off we set, and after getting used to running with lots of other people, I settled into my running. I was determined to keep focused on what I was doing and not be put off by others, or try to run faster than I could manage. With Simon by my side I kept up the pace, occasionally dodging children as they seemed to dart in and out of the crowd at an alarming pace (oh to have their energy!) and kept on running...through 1K...that wasn't too bad...pushing along to the 2K mark but as I approached it I knew that I was going to have to slow down and take a breather, so with 2K completed (non-stop) I slowed to a walk. I caught my breath, walked for a small amount, dug in my heels and started running again. I had one more short walk break before rounding the corner to the stadium, and once I could see the finish in sight I was determined to finish strong...I ran down the side of the football pitch and over the finish line in 27:28 minutes with my fastest pace ever :) I even got a medal - go me!
|Me and my medal :)|
If you would like to add to the money we have already raised for Make-A-Wish Foundation UK please follow this link https://www.justgiving.com/PhippsDerby10k/ as at 28th April we had raised £250, which should increase further as Simon's employer are matching every pound (up to £300) that we raise - thank you.
Sunday, 21 April 2013
So after a very cold winter and being plagued with a painful chilblain on my left foot I have finally managed to get back out on the road. My new efforts started over the Easter weekend and I have now completed 8 runs.
I am kinda picking up from where I left off last October and am doing a combination of running and walking, something I first started doing last Summer when I tackled the C25K program. The mix of steadily increasing the running and reducing the walking worked really well for me and resulted in my being able to run for 20/25 minutes non-stop. So when I picked up the baton again at Easter I decided to adopt a running and walking approach but rather than follow the C25K program again I thought I would just get out there and see what I could do.
So 8 runs in and I have to admit I am pleasantly surprised with myself and my efforts. I can now run for approximately 1 mile non-stop and then finish a route of nearly 2.5 miles with a mix of walking and running. And what I have noticed is that my running segments are getting longer!
Today Simon and I decided to try something a little different with our run, instead of doing the usual route near where we live we thought we would drive a few miles to a local country park and have a run around the grounds. The weather was just right, a little chill in the air but the sun was shining with only a light wind. We parked up, set our i-pods and running apps going and off we went to find our route. The park is relatively flat and had plenty of clear paths for us to follow, so dodging pedestrians, cyclists, dogs and children we had our little run.
This was my first taste of running on different terrains, which I was a bit nervous about, but I found it was much easier than I'd expected. It was a beautiful setting to run around, lots of greenery, gardens and even a stately home and courtyard to navigate!
It was also good preparation for mine and Simon's first organised run event next weekend! Simon is running a 10K and is then joining me in a 3K...I would love to run the whole 3K but am not sure that is realistic, I know I'm not far off so I will give it my best shot and let you all know how I get on.
We have decided to put our running to good use and are using the opportunity to raise funds for the Make-a-Wish Foundation UK, a charity dear to our hearts as we have previously supported the US Make-a-Wish Foundation through Simon contributing unique pieces of art for auctions run by the WDW Radio Dream Team Project.
If you'd like to support our running efforts please visit our Just Giving page at http://www.justgiving.com/PhippsDerby10k
Sunday, 14 April 2013
All the photos posted so far concentrated on WDW...but we also recreated photos taken at Universal Studios, and here are the results!
|1991 - Mels Diner|
|1991 - San Francisco/Fisherman's Wharf area|
|1991 - ah Lemon Squeeze, love that drink!|
|1991 - Jaws!!!!|
and finally in the New York area...
Something I hadn't really appreciated back in 1991 was just how new Universal Studios was, it had only been open just over 12 months when we visited, and although I have enjoyed visiting over the years I am seriously considering whether we will be visiting later this year. There are a couple of rides I love - Men In Black & The Simpons (although I still prefer the previous incarnation of 'Back to the Future') - but other than that I find I am struggling to find good reason to spend the ticket entrance fee!
And obviously since our first visit back in 1991 Universal has expanded to include Islands of Adventure and Citywalk, both of which certainly add more to the Universal experience. Will we visit this year? I simply don't know...watch this space later in the year to find out!
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
So let's see what has, or hasn't, changed...
First we have the walkway from the main building down to the pool area.
And by the pool...
And in one of the beautiful courtyards...
Where have the palm trees gone?
It is a beautiful and, surprisingly, tranquil resort and one that we love and would not hesitate about returning to or recommending. But this year we have decided to be brave and try a different 'moderate' resort (can't afford the 'deluxe' ones although I'd love to be able to one day) so this year see's us at Disney's Coronado Springs instead...only 132 days to go!!
Monday, 8 April 2013
This post looks at areas outside the parks starting with outside the Dolphin Resort hotel on our way to Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf...
...and playing miniature golf...
Can you see the Tower of Terror in the second picture? Only just if you look carefully!
And the common factor in both these visits to Fantastia Gardens was that it rained...not sure playing golf with metal sticks in a thunder storm was one of our better ideas!!
|1996 - hole in one!!|
|2011 - hole in one...again! Honest!|
I can take no credit for golf skills here as I think we all got 'hole-in-ones' :)