Wednesday 31 December 2014

Bye 2014 Hello 2015

So we've come to that time of year when it's traditional to look back on another year and look forward to the new one that's about to begin...and while it may be a cliche to do so I thought it was the right thing to do.

So what has 2014 been all about for me...well personally it's been a year of changes, sacrifices and moving forward.

The year started off with me getting into the swing of recording podcasts with good friend Michelle as we got the Disney Dream Girls Podcast well and truly up and running.  We are still going strong and have had great fun recording and chatting with some brilliant guests.

I finally managed to complete my review of our 2013 visit to Walt Disney World, although it did take me till the end of August (a full year) to do it! This was a great way to relive those memories, especially as we knew there would be no Disney trip this year as personal circumstances meant this was not going to be financially viable...but by year end I can say that we are officially counting down to Disney...Disneyland Paris!! (38 days as I type woo hoo!)

Although I did get a little Disney fix by getting my fourth tattoo (all Disney inspired of course!)

Around Easter time I decided to get my running shoes back on after a lapse of about 6 months and adopted the Jeff Galloway 'run-walk-run' approach which worked really well for me. It was also around this time that I decided to make some changes and give myself a healthier lifestyle, this was triggered by two things; firstly I saw the film 'Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead' and secondly I had a chance conversation with my daughters karate instructor. The film was inspirational, not for the methods used in the film, but for the stories and the people who had the determination to make changes in their lives.  The conversation gave me the tools to bring about the change, it was the introduction to the 'Get Real Fat Loss' program.

Taking up the initial 90 day challenge of the 'Get Real Fat Loss' program, and then continuing beyond, has been my biggest personal success and achievement this year. Through a personalised approach to fat loss, exercise and eating I have managed to lose 2 Stone (28lbs) in weight, I have dropped 2 (sometimes 3!!) dress sizes and around 7cms from thighs, waist and bust and 10cms from my hips.  I didn't think I had that much to lose but I can honestly say that I now feel and look better than I can ever remember. I now wear clothes without feeling self conscious or worried that I have lumps in places I'd rather I didn't.  The food that we (yes the rest of the family too...can't be cooking different meals for different people so we all eat together and eat the same things) is so much better than it was this time last year; we have cut out the processed foods and replaced them with lots of fresh foods, veggies and salads and we are all loving it.  We have all either lost weight or seen improvements in complexions or skin conditions so it really has benefited the whole family. And while over the Christmas break I have allowed myself a few treats I know that going forward this new approach is here to stay.

In June Simon and I celebrated 25 years of marriage...we had a great party with loads of friends to celebrate in style.
Yes that is me wearing my wedding dress!
The later part of the year saw us host our annual Halloween party, book the aforementioned trip to Disneyland Paris and close out the year with the usual festive happenings.

So as the year draws to a close I can look forward happy in the knowledge that I have made the most of what 2014 had to offer and that 2015 is another year that will be filled with challenges no doubt but also with friends, family and a sprinkle of Disney magic.  I wish everyone out there a very happy, healthy and safe New Year and may 2015 bring you a year filled with love, happiness and friendships xx

Monday 22 December 2014

It's been a while...let's get festive!

Well we're nearly at Christmas and in the midst of it all I realise that I haven't wrote a blog piece since the beginning of has that happened?

Well, it is a busy time of year and my priorities have been elsewhere...busy at work...busy at home and busy with co-hosting the Disney Dream Girls Podcast.

So I sit here typing as I paint my nails all red and glittery ready for the festive season...truly multi-tasking!!

A couple of weeks ago I took on what seems to have become my traditional role of Christmas Elf as I helped out Santa in his Grotto at my pre-school's Christmas Fair; thought you might like to see a picture!!

We had a great day and raised just over £1000 for the pre-school which was absolutely fantastic!

Sitting here I got to thinking about how I combine my love of Disney with my love of Christmas...

We were lucky enough to visit Walt Disney World way back in 2004 during late November into early December and so got to see the world dressed for the holidays.  We even got to attend Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party on my birthday which was amazing.  It is definitely a time of year I would recommend to visit; not only is the temperature a little cooler (but still nice and warm) but you get all the Christmas theming and by going early December the crowd levels are very low meaning that queues are simply not an issue.  But I think it will be a fair few years before we get the chance to visit at Christmas again as working in education means that taking vacation at this time of year is simply not possible, never mind the issue of taking the kids out of school during term time!
Downtown Disney, 2004
Although it is on my 'must-do' list to visit WDW at Christmas and actually spend Christmas Day out fact we have even speculated on what we would do and which resort we would stay at...ah well I can dream!

If I go back even further in time we were lucky enough to visit Disneyland Paris a number of times during the Christmas season....although it was somewhat colder than Florida!! But the temperature did kind of add to the atmosphere!
Disneyland Paris - 2000
We were even there one year just before my eldest's birthday and celebrated with a character tea party which consisted of cake, cake and yet more cake!!

Cake (or should that be gateaux?!) anyone?
Birthday pressie that was waiting for Ethan in our room :)
Birthday button!
At home I devote one of our three Christmas trees to all Disney decorations; decorations that have been collected over the years dating back to the early 1990's.  Simon bought some of our first Disney decorations on business trips to LA and San Francisco, we've then collected more during our various visits to parks over the years plus purchases from the Disney Store.
Some of our original decorations
Me and Molly rather proud of this years tree!

The finished tree :)
And of course a little music always goes down well when decorating...
Or maybe a movie...
Oh and don't forget clothing is essential to both Disney and Christmas...
Jack Skellington Santa hat - bought in WDW 2004
Jessica Rabbit Santa hat - bought in WDW 2004
Mickey Santa hat - bought in Disneyland Paris 2000
Minnie ears - bought at WDW 20112

And this season's must have - the Christmas jumper!!
I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas, and that Santa is good to you this year...Happy Holidays xx

Sunday 2 November 2014

Belated Halloween Post

This maybe a few days late but I thought that as I have in the past shared my Halloween antics then this year ought to be no different...if a little delayed!.

As Halloween fell on a Friday this year we were actually able to hold our Halloween party on the day itself.  We had decided to go for a ghostly/Haunted Mansion theme as can be seen from this years party invite artwork (thanks to my wonderful and talented hubby - you can check out his artwork on his website

So we had the usual gathering of friends to partake in food, drink and and an all round good time!

My Disney Dream Girls co-host Michelle joined us for some spooky fun too!

I hope everyone had a spooktacular Halloween...same time next year??

Sunday 12 October 2014

Let the Countdown Begin!

Well I suppose with a title like that it can only mean one thing...I'm going to Disney!!!

So as I type I am 120 days away from my next Disney vacation.  But where exactly am I going???

Well it's somewhere we haven't been in a lot of years, in fact we haven't visited here since 2006....and it's a lot closer to home than most of Disney...yes we're going to Disneyland Paris!!

Me and the kids back in 2006
Now I bet you're thinking why has it been such a long time since we visited Disneyland Paris, after all it's so close to us here in the UK...well let me explain!!

OK, so in 1996 we took a vacation to Orlando (our fourth at this point) and stayed in a Disney resort for the very first time and loved it. But then the following year we had our first child and this kinda meant a bit of a re-think when it came to our vacations.

Firstly there was the money aspect to think about; although I went back to work after having Ethan I was working reduced hours...but the good thing was that babies/toddlers often got to go 'free' on package deals or at the very least had cheaper rates than adults.  But Florida was a 9 hour flight away, did we really want to subject a small child to a flight that long...or more to the point did we want to subject ourselves to a flight that long with a very small child!!

So we began to look elsewhere and Disneyland Paris seemed the most logical answer; we got our vacation and we got our Disney fix but with much more reasonable travel times and expense!  In the Summer of 1999 we made our first visit which turned out to be the first of quite a few over the coming years.

The following year we visited twice, once in the Summer with my parents and then again during the Christmas season, where we had a little side adventure into Paris.  It was a couple of years before we visited again due to the arrival of child number two but when we did get to go we visited once more at Christmas (the weekend before to be exact - boy was it busy!).

In 2004 we took the kids to WDW for the very first time.  They were both of an age where we could easily take them out of school and therefore take advantage of the cheaper times of the year to go on vacation...we went in early December saving ourselves a significant amount of money compared to going during the school holidays. But a trip to Orlando from the UK is still not cheap and we knew it would be a few years before we could afford to go again as we would have to visit during the school holidays the next time.

So by 2006 we were in need of a Disney fix and Disneyland Paris beckoned again, the kids were still young enough that we could take advantage of cheap discounted rates and it filled the gap between visits to WDW.

I think it was probably around this time that we began to realise just how much we loved WDW and how DLP hadn't really changed or expanded in the few years that we'd been visiting.  It was also starting to get rather expensive to visit DLP with a 3/4 night visit costing sometimes the equivalent of nearly 40% of the cost of a 14 night visit to WDW. So we decided that we would rather not visit DLP in the future but that we would save the money it would have cost us and put it towards a future visit to WDW. After all although WDW costs more we figured we were getting better value for our money with more nights, travelling over 3 times the distance compared to DLP, better weather, more parks, water parks, better shopping, a more authentic Disney experience (there is something I feel that makes a US Disney park different/better compared to the Paris version!) and at Orlando you also have all the non-Disney entertainment to experience should you wish to do so!

So why then I hear you ask have I booked a trip to Paris?

Well...there are a few reasons!  The first (and probably the main reason) is cost...due to personal circumstances we are just not in a position to be able to afford a vacation to WDW at peak season for 2 adults and 2 teenagers! So when DLP started advertising 'free days' I was intrigued.  After some investigation I discovered that we could book for early next year, when the kids are off school, and get 2 days and nights for free!  So after doing some calculations and much family discussion we decided to go for it (this is going to be all of our Christmas presents this year I think!!). Plus having not been to DLP since 2006 there have been a number of changes and additions that we would really like the chance to see and experience.  And as the kids are now that much older compared to the last time they visited they will be able to appreciate it in a completely different way.  Oh and I NEED my Disney fix ;)

So let the planning commence!

Sunday 7 September 2014

90 Day Challenge

So for those of you that are regular visitors to this blog you will know that I have recently been under taking a bit of a challenge...a 90 day challenge in fact...a challenge that ended yesterday...or did it?!

So let me fill you in on what I'm talking about and how it all came about.

The tag line for this blog is 'blogging, jogging, podcasting and planning my way to the Magic Kingdom'.  When this blog started I had decided it was time to get myself off the couch and get fit...or at least fitter than I was!  With, at the time, an upcoming visit planned for Walt Disney World and specifically Coronado Springs Resort my aim was to be able to jog around Lago Dorado at the was a little 'carrot' to get me moving!

Well it worked, it got me off my butt and moving, although there were a few occasions over the next 12 months or so where the jogging stopped and I had to re-start.  But each time I did I was always pleasantly surprised by how easily I picked it up.  Now I am not a runner (in fact I often refer to my running as a bouncy walk!) but through using the 'Couch 2 5K' method and then later the Jeff Galloway 'run-walk-run' method I was able to get out and move!

Let's move forward to around Easter this year when Simon showed me a film called 'Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead'.  It was a documentary that followed an Australian called Joe Cross who had decided that he needed to do something about his weight and the amount of medication he was on for a skin condition.  Now his solution was to travel across America on a 60 day juice diet which for him brought about some amazing results.  Now it wasn't the method that he used to shed his weight that got to me (hubby is a real skeptic and insists that I share links on why Detox Diets aren't scientifically sound and how the science behind Juice Fasting doesn't hold up, making them an expensive and damaging waste of money) but it was the inspiration he gave to others and the effect that had on them.  In particular one lorry driver that the documentary followed for the later half of the film; this was a chap that was considerably obese but he made the decision to change and do something about it which to me was left me with a feeling of 'well if he can do it what the hell am I moaning about'.

So I resolved that as a family we would start eating better; we would eat healthier foods and reduce the processed foods that were just too easy to turn to...and we did, we started to make the change and you know what it was fine, it wasn't a big deal we just did it!

A few weeks into our new healthier eating I was chatting to Molly's karate instructor, Selina, who told me about a programme her husband Jason had started called 'Get Real Fat Loss'. She showed me some photos of herself before and after the challenge and I was amazed. She spoke about how easy it was to adopt a new way of eating and how it didn't leave her feeling hungry; I was intrigued.

So after speaking with Simon and then chatting with Jason I decided to sign up for a '90 Day Get Real Fat Loss Challenge'...I figured I had nothing to lose after all I just wanted to be eating healthier and getting fitter and if I managed to lose a few pounds as well along the way then I would be really happy.

On Monday 9th June I started my challenge, 90 days of a new way of eating plus exercises twice a day.  The great thing with this programme is that it is designed for each person individually it is not a 'one size fits all' approach.  You provide Jason with a food diary for a week and he tells you what you should be doing by breaking down your calories with regard to your fat, protein and carbohydrate intake. And then through a private Facebook group you share what you're eating each day and what exercises you are doing, along with weekly weight and measurement updates.  From this Jason can monitor your progress and change, if needed, your calories etc.

So I started at 10 stone 5lbs (145lbs) with the aim of getting to around 9 stone 7lbs (133lbs), well 90 days later and I have surpassed my goal and now weigh 9 stone 0.4lbs (126.4lbs) a total loss of 18.6lbs.  I have also managed to lose 6 cm from my thighs and waist, 6.5cm from my bust and 7cm from my hips.

The change is so dramatic that at times it has taken some getting used to...I also now need a completely new wardrobe as most of my clothes are literally just hanging off me! But this is a change I am very happy about (if a little unexpected!) and now my challenge continues as I learn how to keep the new me that I have created.

But I know that I can do it; I have the support of Jason and all the girls currently enrolled in the challenge as well as, and most importantly, an amazing and supportive and encouraging husband in Simon.  He has been so supportive all the way through and I know that he is proud of what I have achieved and that in itself is an added bonus in all of this - thank you Simon, love you always xx

As I now embark on the next phase of this journey I would say to anyone out there who is fed up with their weight, or the way they look or simply know they should be eating and living better you can do something about it if you want it enough. I did...and you can too!

This was taken on 1st June 2014

Taken on 7th September 2014

At the beginning of June we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and I was pleased to be able to get into my wedding dress...just! I hope you can see the difference when I tried the dress on today!!

Saturday 30 August 2014

WDW Summer 2013 - All Over

So this is the final post in my diary of events recalling our visit to Walt Disney World in the Summer of 2013.

Our final day, or our day travelling home, was spent saying goodbye to the Wilderness Lodge; we had breakfast one last time sitting out in the sunshine and vowing that if we could afford it in the future this resort would be top of our list!

We made our way to Downtown Disney to take advantage of the airline check-in desk there (we were with Virgin Atlantic), before doing some last minute shopping, having lunch at Wolfgang Puck Express and then watching Monsters University at the cinema.

Then the airport beckoned and so began the long trek home; 9 hour flight followed by a 3 hour car journey.

So the vacation was over, and although we don't know when we will be able to visit again, we do have some fantastic memories to keep us going.  This vacation more than any other wasn't just about the parks it was all about the experiences we had and the people we met and the new friendships was about the Disney Magic.

As I write this post I have friends waiting to return home from their first family vacation to Orlando; they have had a fantastic time and are vowing to start the big save and head back in 2016.  That's how this place gets you; it leaves you with an indescribable feeling and an urge to return as soon as possible.  Not visiting this year has been tough with so many people I know able to make it. But I have enjoyed seeing the photos and the Facebook status updates, and yes there's even been a touch of jealousy on occasion but I know we will be back...maybe not soon but we will get back 'home' someday.

Wednesday 27 August 2014

WDW Summer 2013 - Day 14

Well here we are on our last full, proper day at Walt Disney World...always a bitter sweet day as we try to make the most of those final hours whilst knowing that we will be going home very soon and not knowing when we will get the chance to return.

So this morning we took the boat and headed over to the Contemporary Resort...

...where we had breakfast at the Contempo Cafe.  As we finished breakfast the kids went off to the arcade to use up their credits which gave me some time for a little shopping!
Bay View Gifts
Well to be fair it was a necessity as my sunglasses had broke the day before so I couldn't survive without a pair of shades now could I?!!
Trying on shades...this is the pair I bought
When it came time to make our way over to the Magic must do park for our first and last days of our vacation...the kids wanted to jump aboard the monorail but we decided to make them walk!! Honestly you'd have thought we were making them walk miles when in fact the walk from the Contemporary to the Magic Kingdom is only a few minutes and a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the monorail.
 Leaving the Contemporary Resort.

Some views along the way...we had it all to ourselves!

We obviously needed refreshment after such a long walk and headed straight to The Main Street Bakery (otherwise now known as Starbucks!)
Although we did take the time to admire all the Halloween decorations...I shall post some more photos at a later date.

We then headed over to Big Thunder Mountain where the kids went off for a ride by themselves.  We then had a little Disney Magic as a family gave us some of their unused Fastpasses for Big Thunder, and as there was more than we needed we decided to pass on the magic and gave the extras to another family.
Kids on Big Thunder Mountain...honestly they are on there!
We had a late lunch at the Columbia Harbour House (one of my favourites) before jumping on It's A Small World (has to be done on the last day!).  We also managed to see The Hall of Presidents and The Enchanted Tiki Room before the kids had a go at playing 'A Pirates Adventure - Treasures of the Seven Seas' in Adventureland.  This was another interactive game which we all loved getting involved with;
Molly activating something in the basket!!!
We also had chance to play some more of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom...
The kids dragged us onto the Tomorrowland Speedway (their choice not mine!) before we dropped in to see Mr Sonny Eclipse at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe while we had a bite to eat.
Me with Sonny!!
As the day began to draw in we headed back over to Big Thunder Mountain for a ride in the dark...
before heading over to the hub to watch Celebrate the Magic for the last time, followed by Wishes...there was not a dry eye tonight :(
Goodbyes are hard to say
But we had time for one last selfie on Main Street;

Monday 25 August 2014

WDW Summer 2013 - Day 13

We have now reached the penultimate full day of our vacation, day 13.

So what did today bring us?  Well it started off with a boat trip across Bay Lake to the Contemporary Resort...
Waiting for the boat at Wilderness Lodge dock that we could hop aboard a monorail to the Polynesian Resort...but why? Two words...

At Capt. Cooks enjoying our breakfast of Tonga Toast - yummy!!!!
So for anyone who doesn't know what Tonga Toast is let me explain.  It's a THICK slice of sourdough bread that is stuffed with bananas, deep fried and then coated in cinnamon sugar and it is AMAZING!! We chose to visit Capt. Cooks and had breakfast there but you could, if you wanted, push the boat out and eat at the Kona Cafe but as we had the Quick Service Dining Plan we were more than happy with Capt. Cooks. It also reminded Simon and I of the year we first stayed in a Disney Resort (Port Orleans French Quarter) and on our first morning we had breakfast here at Capt. Cooks, although back then we were unaware of the lure of the Tonga Toast!  But from now on this will be a must do for all of us.

After we had stuffed our faces we decided to have a wander around the Polynesian and soak up the atmosphere...

A little shopping!!
Enjoying the beautiful surroundings
We then hopped back onto the monorail and headed off in the direction of Epcot.  We decided to head over to the World Showcase with a little detour first to get Fastpasses for Test Track later in the day.  We headed over to The American Adventure and were lucky enough to catch a performance by the Voices of Liberty; this is one of my favourite attractions and a must do every trip.  We were lucky enough to do the Backstage Magic tour a number of years ago that took you behind the scenes at The American Adventure which really gives you an appreciation of all that is involved with an attraction like this.
Beautiful day at Epcot
As it was now about lunch time we headed to one of our favourite counter service restaurants - Katsura Grill in the Japan pavilion.
Enjoying lunch at Katsura Grill in the Japan pavilion
After lunch saw the kids partaking in yet some more Phineas & Ferb: Agent P's World Showcase Adventure.  This time we headed to the United Kingdom pavilion, although the kids were rather perplexed at the choice of tea during one of the clues...chai tea...mmm perhaps not our choice for a typical British tea!!
Kids playing Phineas & Ferb in the UK pavilion and being somewhat perplexed by the choice of tea!!
And of course whilst in the United Kingdom they just had to have their photo taken in the traditional red telephone box...after all the chances of finding an operational one in the actual United Kingdom are few and far between.  We do have one where we live but it has been turned into a tourist information point and has leaflets and maps on the surrounding area but no telephone!
When in Epcot!! Only chance we Brits get to experience one of these nowadays.
It was then time to head over to Future World and use our Fastpasses for Test Track followed by a ride on 'The Seas with Nemo and Friends'.  We had a quick walk through Innoventions before making our way over to The Land pavilion and Sunshine Seasons for a spot of something to eat, which for me consisted of some lovely grilled salmon and strawberry shortcake - yummy!
Inside the Land Pavillion, looking down onto Sunshine Seasons
We then took the monorail from Epcot to the TTC (Transportation & Ticket Centre) and then over to the Magic Kingdom.  It was 'Extra Magic Hours' this evening and the park would be open until 3.00am!!!
Arriving at the Magic Kingdom, all decorated for Halloween!!
One thing we had not yet tried but that was on my 'to do' list was the cinnamon roll over at Gaston's Tavern. Now previously the Main Street Bakery had been THE place for cinnamon rolls but since the re-vamp and Starbucks take over the rolls had been removed from the menu but had emerged on the menu at Gaston's Tavern in New Fantasyland.  They were as yummy as ever but I swear they've grown in size!!
Now THAT'S a cinnamon roll!!
Had to take some photos of the inside of Gaston's Tavern because the theming inside here (and all of new Fantasyland) is fantastic!

Even at 6 foot 2'' Ethan couldn't fill this chair!
Interior decoration Gaston style
The rest of the evening was spent with a ride on the Haunted Mansion and plenty of shopping!!  Although when it decided to rain the shops did get rather busy and put a bit of a damper on my shopping experience!  But thankfully the rain cleared so that we were able to watch that evening's premier performance of the Halloween version of 'Celebrate the Magic', which included a number of Disney villains!  The advantage of taking our vacation at the end of August meant that as we were now into September (the first to be exact) we got to experience a little of Halloween Disney style.

We finished the evening off by riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover during a performance of Wishes.  We eventually left the park at 12.15am well and truly worn out from our day.
Arriving home after a long day....but with shopping!