Get Fit for Disney Plan

Ok, if you arrived at this page because you are a serious athlete wanting advice for the Disney races like the Princess Run or the Star Wars Marathon (which to me is watching episodes 4-6), you want to go here.  We applaud you, but this is for the average couch person who wants to survive taking their kids to the parks.

You can enjoy the parks even if you have mobility issues, but that would be someone else’s blog.

Couch to Mount Everest

Evaluate your current level of fitness.  If you have a step tracker, what are your average steps in a day?  Do you work out?  If you don’t, start out slowly, the last thing you want to do is injure yourself.

If you average 5,000 steps a day, add 500 steps, and increase your step goal gradually to get to 10,000.  At Disney, our average step count was between 15,000-20,000 a day.

Encourage your kids to walk with you.  This will help you train for stopping, starting, complaints, and sudden requests for potty breaks.   If you bring along your undisciplined dog, that will help you train for unexpected tripping hazards and being stepped on.

Maybe you’re more of a treadmill person.  If so, vary your speed.  At intervals, increase your speed to “getting across the park before your fast-pass expires” or slow down to “everyone leaving after fireworks”.  Studies have shown that interval training is more effective than staying at a steady pace.

The mall can be a good place to work out.  Get a map of the mall and hold it in front of you.  Pick a store and label it as your favorite ride, then pick another store at the opposite end of the mall as your second favorite.  Get to store 1 and store 2 within a 15 minute period, reward yourself by visualizing having a great time for 3 minutes.  Bonus points if you end up in a Disney store afterward.

Determine the weight of any children you have between 1-9 years of age.  Work your way up to deadlifting them and sustaining the hold for 30-40 minutes.  Your actual children may not want to volunteer for this until tall people stand in front of them during fireworks.  Either put on their favorite tv show, or get a stand in.  (Note, your dog will probably not volunteer for this either).

You can work out at the office too!  Stand up at your desk to simulate standing in lines.  Add squats to increase leg muscle strength.

Wear the shoes you plan to wear at the park- do NOT bring new shoes.  Follow this plan, and you’ll be ready to have a great vacation.   Good luck!

*Dreaming of my next trip… and Dole Whips.

 

As a follow-up to my “Best Guidebooks for a Disney Vacation”, here are some recommended apps and websites for your trip.

Apps I plan to use:

  • My Disney Experience– the official Disney app- good for tracking reservations for restaurants and rides, maps, show times and photo packages.
  • Universal Studios official App
  • Undercover Tourist Orlando– touring plans for Disney, Universal, and Sea World, ride wait times, maps.
  • Find My iPhone find friends.  Built in to your iPhone, if you accept friend requests you can track their location and show your location to them- hopefully this will help my daughter find us when we split up.
  • Pokemon GoPlants Vs. Zombies HeroesTetris– for waiting in lines for my very wriggly son.
  • Overdrive digital library.  I can bring a bunch of ebooks and audiobooks on my iPad, checked out from the public library.  I also plan to use the digital magazines on Flipster.
  • Google Photos– automatically upload photos to storage. (note, after I got it all set up, hubby switched us to Amazon Prime photos, so now we are doubling our backups!)

Websites:

If you have an app or website that helped you on a previous trip, put it in the comments!

 

April 1, 2017

A Guide to the Orlando Guidebooks

If you are considering a trip to Disney World, you should know that a little bit of planning and advanced preparation can make your vacation much better.  You should not read every single book out there about the trip, it will make you bonkers.  I have read them for you.  You’re welcome.

I like anticipating and planning, I find it enjoyable, especially when the snow won’t go away, the sky is gray, news is depressing and work is stifling.

I’m not paid for my opinion (but if you are interested in giving me money, I’m listening!).  I suggest you read over these reviews, figure out what book is right for you, then get it out of the library.  Bring the book along in your suitcase, sure, but don’t lug them around the park.  Use apps and the park’s map.  At the end of my reviews I’ll list the  books I plan on using on my trip.  Check back to see another blog on recommended websites and Apps I plan to use.

Frommer’s Easy Guide to Disney World, Universal and Orlando 2017 by Jason Cochran.

A comprehensive book that includes all the latest updates, but some of the descriptions of the rides and shows are as cynical and unappealing as the ones from the food critic in Rattatouie.  It is for a reluctant tourist who has been dragged into an Orlando experience, and mentions gritting your teeth through parades and skipping rides because they’re dated.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have kids, because height requirements are not listed, and he suggests preschool activities whenever he mentions “kids”.  The descriptions of food are also a bit snobbish.  He recommends jamming two parks into one day because there’s “not enough to do”.  He’s not all doom and gloom, he encourages people to talk with the experts, the craftspeople and the imported people of different countries who are there to share their culture.  He  says what each shops sells (besides the usual). The descriptions of the tours given by Disney World are detailed and clear, and include prices.  The book includes a full sized folded map of the area.

Birnbaum’s 2017 Walt Disney World

This is the officially authorized book, and it shows.  It has the licensed characters through-out,  and the descriptions can be described as “gushing”.  Magic bands are “technological wonders” and Extra Magic Hours are “a great value”.  I don’t know how all the volunteers are paid, if they are at all.  It would be cool to be one of their testers, if it meant free passes or hotel stays.  Because it is official, it has all the phone numbers, up-to-date details and lists of what characters are at what restaurants.  The book is designed to be used up, to rip out pages, write in the back.  What is noticeably missing is any mention of anything non-disney.  The 8 day planner only has spaces for Disney related activities like what fast-passes will be used, what park you are going to and so on.  The book has coupons in the back.  The only one that was tempting to me was the one for Basin (but this is a library book).  The book suggested both full day and half-day itineraries.  Some of the choices were a bit odd (see the safari in the afternoon, go to all the shows).  I would recommend this book to people who want to get hyped up and don’t plan on moving East of Route 4.  It adds in cruise information.  Were you planning on taking a cruise while in Orlando?  No?  Well, why not?  Now you have all the information!

The Unofficial to Disney World with Kids 2017

Here’s real people telling you real stuff, people who love going to Disney, but aren’t in Disney’s official pocket.  This version of the book is more than a list of rides and restaurants, it reads like a parenting manual, self-help guide and Yelp review.  A group of testers try everything and rate it based on interest and age.  Quotes from real people pepper the book. To give one example, they rented strollers from different vendors to see which ones had the best service, and talked about the advantages and disadvantages of having your own stroller.

They remind parents that their children will not suddenly turn into angels because you are on a special trip, give advice on handling meltdowns, following through with consequences and how to childproof a hotel room.  They cover the “take the kids out of school” controversy as well as the “off property/on property” debate.  What if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding? Should your child bring a friend?  Can grandparents survive taking the kids without the parents? They have suggested strategies for avoiding losing children (tattoos, anyone?). They rank rides based on small child fright potentials, discuss where to find characters in the parks, list restaurants and what they offer, and emphasize, over and over- DON’T SKIP THE NAP.  (I never heed the advice to go back to our hotel, but we do take a rest after my husband insists).  There is a brief chapter in the back about Universal Studios, Seaworld and everything else, but they do suggest readers get a more comprehensive book that they happen to sell.  They have touring plans for different scenarios, like parents with toddlers or teens splitting up from parents.  There are 6 itineraries for Magic Kingdom, and 4 each for Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios.  They mention several times that you can have a subscription to their website/app to get more individualized, up to the minute plans.  That would be my only complaint, but they need to make money just like the rest of us.

Complete Walt Disney World 2016 by Julie and Mike Neal

Did I say Frommer’s Guide was snarky?  It is positively mild compared to the blaring opinions in this guide.  At first I thought it would be another “aw gosh” praise of all things Disney, since the Orlando locals said they were the only guidebook “honored by the Disney Company.”  But I got a hint of their free spirit when they called magic bands “dorky”.  Then they did not hold back on either praise or disgust as they rated rides and restaurants.  They give a 1-5

star rating and think of it like a movie critic rating- it’s not the budget or the hype, it’s the viewer’s experience that counts.  They gave the little Mermaid ride one star, but the carousel five.  They selected the “best of” in different categories in the first chapter.

The book emphasizes its photos, and there are some great ones.  Even the packing list has pictures.  The map of the entire Disney domain is odd, in that the two page spread puts North on the right.  This guide is wordy, a good pick for armchair readers who want history, factoids, behind the scenes details and just details in general.  Each ride has at least a page dedicated to it, and at the bottom of the page they list average wait times on a daily timeline.  The Animal Kingdom chapter has an extensive animal guide and where to find each species.  The A-Z chapter goes all over the place, and would not be the format I would use to provide quick information.  I noticed quite a few typos and strong opinions not necessarily shared by the average tourist.  One of the testing things they did was stay all day for a week at a value hotel during spring break to see if it was filled with carousing college kids (spoiler- no, not really).  No mention was made of anything West of Route 4- if an alien read this book they would think that there was just untouched wilderness beyond the borders of the realm of Disney.

MouseJunkies by Bill Burke

This book is hilarious, it makes me want to be friends with this guy.  Unfortunately, it was published in 2011, and his website doesn’t look like it’s been updated since 2014.  Still, this book is entertaining enough to read anyway.  Bill Burke and his fellow “mousejunkies”, people who have become addicted to Disney magic, describe the highs and lows of their hobby.

There is no mention of anything but Disney, and no option but to stay on Disney property.  Bill compares staying off property to walking on broken glass, and professes his fear of Orlando jumping snakes (no, not a real thing). Rides and shows are mentioned, including a funny description of two huge guys happily going on the Peter Pan ride, but the bulk of this book is a poetical love letter to the food and service.  He describes meals in heartfelt detail, including his quest for the best Bloody Mary, the careful treatment of guests with allergies, his inability to stop eating at the Spirit of Aloha dinner show, and a loving ode to Raglan Road.  His description of Dole whips made me give them a try, even though I don’t like pineapple (now a fan). For service, he talks with the tv host Stacy,  who gives (gave?) little segments on hotel tvs and vacation planning videos.  He covers basic information, but also his favorite benches at each park (“My name is Bill and I’m a benchaholic”). He describes an experiment with “drinking around the world”, where you have a drink at each country in the world showcase, cautioning you to not get stupid, abusive or sick.  He and his mousejunkie friends talk about non-park recreation like fishing, golf and spas.  They discuss the Disney Vacation Club points system. Serious addicts, they get their fix 2-3 times a year, with a few even moving to Florida to make trips easier.  He talks about the difference between going as an non-parent and as a parent, and commiserated about the misfortune of getting sick on your vacation.   He invents new words, like “Epcrotch”- the horrendous skin chafing you can get from the wrong clothing and excessive heat.  To top it off he shares many people’s “Lightning Bolt Moments”, the moment they fell head over heels in love with Disney.  I think my lightning bolt moment was when I went with my grandparents, and while everyone else was watching a parade, my grandpa and I  went on Big Thunder Mountain twice, feeling like we got away with something.

I want a new edition!

So what books will I bring?

I will bring the Unofficial Guide to Disney World 2017, Eyewitness Travel Florida, the Birnbaum Disney World guide for kids, and possibly a Harry Potter book (we are currently reading the Chamber of Secrets illustrated edition).

Maybe I should write my own guidebook.  I have a few weeks to do more research.  I want to know if I can tour the Be Our Guest restaurant if I don’t have a reservation, the best place to have a quiet time (low stimulation) in Universal Studios and Island of Adventure, where exactly is the best place to stake out for viewing the river lights in Animal Kingdom, and how to avoid being domineering over my family and instead make sure they do what they want.

 

Boston! Games!  Fish!  Frostbite!

It was a very bitterly cold weekend, but we managed to have a good time in Boston.

If you are planning where to stay, hotel location is important.  Check the maps to see where the nearest subway station is.  Parking is expensive, so make sure your hotel includes parking with your stay (ours charged us $40!). We were a mile away from the subway, which didn’t seem bad until we had a -10 degree wind chill factored in.  So we used Lyft.

We went to the New England Aquarium in the morning. I thought it was crowded, but a woman remarked to me that it was usually worse on the weekends.  They have some wonderful exhibits, including a giant tank with a spiraling ramp around it.  I think it would have been more enjoyable if I wasn’t chasing my son or dodging people shoving in front of me to see things.  (Yes, lady, you have a fancy camera, however, I was here first.) I would say an average family walking at normal speed could see the place in about 3 hours.  It was interesting to see staff people maintaining the penguin area and main tank.  The signage was great, and most of the buttons work (ask me how I know that).

From the Aquarium, it was a quick (FREEZING) walk to Quincy market, which is a huge hall full of food booths, a food court Valhalla, if you will.  A perfect place for picky eaters and foodies to both get what they want.  Seating is an issue, it is a busy place.  I would recommend going early or late for lunch, and assigning one parent to secure a spot while the other gets food.  There was live music, a trio of fiddlers, making it an enjoyable lunch.

By this point my son, who had been running at turbo, suddenly shut down, demanding to go back to the hotel.  My husband and I discussed it later- we think it was the cold that exhausted him more than walking around.  We attempted a bit of shopping.  Newbury comics, which is in a building on one side of Quincy market, is huge and full of interesting pop culture stuff, not just comics (but they have that too).

If we had been refreshed by our lunch, we would go to the Boston Science Museum, but we all wimped out and went back to the hotel.  If you do decide to do two or more places, make sure you look up package tickets- you could save 20-30%.

We had one day tickets to PaxEast on Sunday.  PAX is a series of video game conventions held by Penny Arcade.  It includes video games, computer games, board games and device games, and all the big companies and small independents show up to see what’s new, play demos and get swag.  I read through the list of panels, but didn’t see any I desperately wanted to go to, so the family spent the whole day on the show floor.  The place, about the size of two football fields, was packed with booths from places like Nintendo, X-Box, Blizzard, Dell, and more.  The whole convention felt like BookExpo mixed with NY Comic Con, in that it seemed that the fans were all over the place but it was designed for business insiders (store owners, reviewers, peer-to-peer networking).  Even big name fan vendors like Thinkgeek or Jinx were mostly advertising their companies instead of selling merchandise. There were tournaments for different games.

Twitch was one of the sponsors, and they were filming live.  They had  a lounge which was sort of like a green room, and gave out water and snacks.  In one of the side halls, rows upon rows of giant pillows were laid out for people to lounge on (provided by Yogibo, I think). I didn’t take pictures because it seemed a bit invasive.

I know we barely scratched the surface of this convention.  I’m more of a sci-fi and fantasy fan than a video game enthusiast, but I found many cool things on the show floor and I would have enjoyed the board games if I had gotten into them.  My son enjoyed playing Minecraft, but the highlight of his day was being able to play a demo of the upcoming Kingdom Hearts game, the one that the family is planning to upgrade to PS4 to play.  He played all the way through the earlier games, twice.

Then off we went home, leaving all the snow and ice behind us… well,  so we thought.

“I said ‘allo!’ but that’s close enough.”

So now that I finally gave my gift to my friend, I can show it off!  Here’s the worm from Labyrinth.  I made it with felt and doll eyes.  I didn’t have a pattern and didn’t think to create one to share, I apologize.  I used three colors, beige, red and blue.  The hardest part was trying to make a fluffy fringe.  This was regular sheet felt, and if you tug on it too hard it just pulls right off.  Teasing it with a needle works better.

If you look up felt sewing you will discover there are actually three crafts.  One craft sews together felt cloth to make objects like I did here, one craft takes raw wool and jabs it with a needle to create objects (I’m going to look into that more) and the last one knits with wool and then shrinks the objects down by “felting” them in the wash.

 

Here are a couple other things I made:

I painted wooden teapot ornaments, using white paint and markers.  I used sharpie markers for everything but the tie-dye one, where I used washable markers and then watered them down to run into each other.

I made comfort bunnies for two friends who are ill.  I used this pattern from Jo So and So.

 

 

Right now I’m knitting  a cowl to give to someone as part of a library lobby day.  I’m working on the second draft of a mystery novel, trying to straighten out the sequence of events and researching hurricanes.

“Cor!  If she kept on going that way, she’d have gone straight to the castle!”

Goal setting

  1. By the end of March I will finish my second draft of my novel.

Flipping through my notebooks I find goals like these plastered everywhere.  Goals are not dreams or wishes, they are targets for action plans. If you’ve read any literature at all on the subject, you know that writing down goals makes it more likely you will succeed, and that goals should follow the “S.M.A.R.T.” strategy- Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and on a Timeline.  The other commonly described goal is the stretch goal, which is described as a goal that seems out of reach but isn’t completely impossible.

“Yeah, yeah yeah, Jane,” you say.  “Goals.  I had goals, but I didn’t achieve them, life got in the way.”

Ok, go look at those goals now.  Evaluate them.

Ask yourself a few questions.
  • Did you make any progress toward your goal?
  • Did you encourage or reward yourself for taking action on this goal?
  • Was this goal given to you from the outside world?
  • Are you still the same person who wanted these goals?
  • What will happen if you let go of this goal?  Any negative consequences?
  • Do you want to make a whole-hearted commitment to trying again?
  • Do you want to make a different goal instead?
  • What tripped you up the most in trying to achieve the goal- scheduling, motivation, fear, other people, unfortunate events?
  • Is there anything you can change to make this goal easier?
  • Did you break it down into smaller chunks?

Ok, now make some new goals.  Here are the rules- the goals must be something you are willing to commit to, that you have reasonable amount of time to complete, that don’t involve other people giving you approval or permission, and that will give you satisfaction and enjoyment in working towards them (not just achieving them).

Now, think about how to achieve those goals.  What are the obstacles- do you have solutions to overcome them, a “plan b” when things go wrong?  What are you going to do to encourage yourself?  How can you get support from loved ones?  Do you have the tools and space you need to start?

Share your goals with people you trust to encourage you.  Get to it!

“I need a better tool for keeping track of all my to-do lists,” I said to my husband, explaining I had tried out two apps.
“Oh, you mean project management?” he said.
I guess I did mean project management.  At work, I’m keeping track of everyday tasks, long-range projects, event planning, reoccurring monthly or quarterly duties, and overall goals.  At home I’m tracking chores, family appointments, health goals, a construction project, writing goals, craft projects and fun plans. Having all of this in one app would be great.  So far I’ve haven’t found the perfect solution, but I’m still looking.

I thought about what I wanted in my App before searching.  I discovered that’s like deciding what kind of boyfriend you want before dating.  It can cause unrealistic expectations.

What I was looking for:

  • Easy to learn and use
  • Quick access
  • Create to do lists with deadlines
  • Make sub-tasks under main tasks, with separate deadlines
  • Both web and mobile interface
  • See full list in one place, expand or contract
  • be able to share list or export

The Apps I tested:

Remember the good old days, when you bought software and then you used it indefinitely?  Now you rent it, per month or per year.  Basic services are free, sometimes with a free trial of the expanded services to get you dependent on them.  Expanded services add features.  Some of these added features are frivolous, some are fundamental.

I glanced at Smartsheets– it looks very useful, but the $168 a year for individuals (after a trial period) is out of my planned price range for basic to-do list management.  If you work provides it (or other software like it), check it out. Trello also got my attention, but it looks like it has a learning curve, and I don’t know how robust the free service is.

Reminder is the basic thing that comes with Apple devices.  This means it’s on my computer, cell-phone and tablet already, and is already set up to share on iCloud.  You can create multiple lists with deadlines, but each list is its own, without sub-tasks.  I like the checkboxes, that is satisfying.  You can share your list with family sharing (but that only helps if they are using reminders too).

In Todoist, deadlines are a premium feature.  It pesters you with emails of the things you haven’t completed.  It already has project categories to get you started.  I didn’t like the interface or the nagging, so dropped this one.

Wunderlist is very handy to make a grocery list, or a daily to-do list.  You can make a pretty background (some free, most not).  You can add subtasks to projects, but you only see them for one project at a time. Premium service allows for assigning lists to others, attaching files and other pluses.

I am actually thinking of paying the premium ($25/yr)for G-queues so I can get it on my phone.  I’m finding it very useful, since I’m already using  other Apps from the Google overlords that it integrates with, such as g-mail and calendar.

I could make my own system using a basic document that I share in my own cloud. Then of course, I could use a notebook and pen.

How do you organize your projects for home and work?

I am part of a creativity group called Inspirators (by the way, friends, we need to meet again soon! Contact me!) and one of the main things we talk about is getting our act together to be more productive.  Creatives who are selling their art need to keep track of projects, clients and money.  Creatives who are making art for the enjoyment of it need to manage their free time effectively.

I’ve read a lot of books and been to lectures about being organized and productive.  I know two big things.  First, everyone has a different style that works best for them, and a lot of creative types would go nuts trying to follow a style that works perfectly for someone with a more linear, analytical mind.  Second, you can have the best system in the world, but if you don’t know what you really want to accomplish, what’s most important, you’ll drown in the sea of everyday inconsequentials and never get the big picture stuff even started.

I’ll talk about goals in another blog.  I am also checking out some productivity apps- G-queues, Reminder, Wunderlist, and RemembertheMilk.

Books I recommend about time management and organization:

My Goodreads list keeps growing, too- good thing one of the things I have decided to do is set limits on my internet time so I can read more!

 

 

 

December 26, 2016

I can’t show everything I’ve made yet, since I’m giving some gifts at New Years, but I thought I’d do a quick post about some of the things I made recently.

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Shawl

I knitted this shawl from the pattern “Escape” on Ravelry.  I didn’t realize that the pattern had an increase, and I kept wondering why it seemed to take longer and longer to finish a row. (Oh!)  It wasn’t as lacy looking as I thought it would be, as I used fluffy yarn.  For lace work it is better to use thin yarn.

Pie

I made pecan pie and need to remember that the recipe in my Family Fun cookbook is tasty but doesn’t give long enough cooking  time and the pie is very runny/soupy (really good as an ice cream topping!)

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Bath Bombs

My son loves bath bombs, but since one alone can cost between 3-6 dollars, we decided to make our own.  The hardest ingredient to get is citric acid, we had to order that online.  Plain epsom salts are sometimes kept behind the pharmacy counter, if that is the ingredient you are searching for. If you are sensitive to essential oils, choose what you use wisely.  We used peppermint extract and it was fine.  We got the recipe from DIY Projects for Teens, but my 7 year old was able to follow along and assemble them easily, thanks to the clear instructions.  We considered giving them as gifts, but he wanted them all! It was pretty easy, so I will probably make more.  The one that looks like a stick of butter was made from a bit of packaging from one of his toys.  The trick is compressing the mixture enough for it to hold its shape, so anything that can close will work better (like a plastic  egg or a snap-together ball ornament.)

 

This week I need to finish a lot of projects before our annual friends get-together on New Years!  I’ve got quite a list!  What are you working on?

November 8, 2016

Westdragon's NaNoWriMon

NaNoWriMon– a pokemon that evolves with your word count!

 

This one’s from the official page.

Now I have to keep going to make this look good at the end of the month!

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