Amica Newport Half Marathon 2017

Hi there!

This race recap will include my opinions on the race itself, both positive and negative. These are solely my opinions based on experience and others may feel differently.

I am writing this race recap after running my 11th half marathon… which in itself sounds surreal. I can hardly believe I’ve done 11 of these now! This particular race popped up on my radar after talking to a girl while waiting in our corral for the Disney Princess Half Marathon to start this past February. She had mentioned that her first half was in Newport, Rhode Island and it was such a scenic race. Fast forward to this summer and being a good new wife, I signed myself and Paul up and immediately wrote a training program for us to follow that began the next week. He was thrilled 😉

Now, if you know me at all, you know that I despise running in the heat and humidity. My ideal running temperature is 40F because I find the cold air incredibly refreshing. Completing the majority of the training in the summer was a huge challenge in itself, but we put the sweaty miles in and completed 14 weeks of training in preparation for the race yesterday!

Newport is about an hour and a half from where we live in Massachusetts. We decided it would be wise to stay in a hotel the night before the race to cut down on travel time in the morning and give us access to hot showers post-race. If you are ever considering running this race and need to travel, I highly recommend booking your hotel months in advance! We failed to do so and every single hotel room in Newport and Middletown was sold out a month before the race, so we ended staying about 35 minutes away. Better than our apartment, but certainly not ideal.

We first arrived in Newport late on Saturday afternoon to pick up our race packets at Easton’s Beach (or “First Beach” to locals). Paul was disappointed there was no race expo, but I had figured there wouldn’t be since there was never a mention of an expo in the emails leading up to the race. Our take on the Bib Pick-Up was that is lacked organization. All of the other half marathons we have run have been very large, with tens of thousands of participants. I suppose we may be a bit spoiled in regards to awesome packet pick-ups, but the issues we noticed could have been easily resolved. There were several separate lines to stand in, based on your bib number. The main issue is that there needed to be signs high in the air indicating which bib numbers were for each line. Standing twenty feet back, you were not able to see which line to stand in. This created a huge delay because hardly anyone was in the correct line and the poor volunteers were running around trying to accommodate everyone. (We happened to guess our line correctly! Score!) We waited in line for around 30 minutes, which is insane. Usually at a pick-up, you will wait around 5 minutes, tops.

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Easton’s Beach

I was pretty excited because the bibs were personalized with your last name instead of first name. Considering this was my first race after getting married this summer, I was more than happy to show off my new last name!

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We admired the beach for a few minutes before heading to our hotel to check in, then continue to dinner. We ate at Olive Garden (with a hard no Alfredo sauce rule), followed by setting out our race outfits for the next morning. A 3:30 wake-up is not for the faint of heart!

RACE DAY

We packed our own breakfast, knowing that we would be leaving the hotel prior to their 5:30 breakfast bar opening. We ate toasted English muffins with peanut butter and drank water for our pre-race fuel. Never lets me down! Time to drive back down to Newport!

There were separate parking lots for the half marathon and full marathon athletes. We parked in our designated parking lot and got on the shuttle bus to take us to the race start. As far as race transportation goes, Paul and I were both extremely impressed! They had arranged plenty of school buses to smoothly transport runners, the wait was minimal, and our bus driver provided race information before opening the doors to make sure everyone knew where they needed to go. Great job!

We had quite a bit of time to kill because the race website strongly suggested arriving early to avoid traffic delays. After sitting down and zoning out to music for an hour, we got to watch a gorgeous sunrise over the ocean.

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We were shocked the sunrise was as beautiful as it was, since it was going to be a dreary, rainy day. The clouds parted with impeccable timing!

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Everyone started making their way over to the race start. Because this race was on the smaller size with roughly 4,000 runners, there were no designated corrals. Instead, the race started with three different self-seeded waves based on your expected average pace. Paul and I began in the second wave, which was a 9:00-11:00/mile pace.

Prior to the race, we had discussed whether or not we would run together for the entire race. I had been fending off some calf, knee, and hip pain the week leading up to the race and was not sure that I would be able to run the entire race. I was extremely nervous that I would get 2 miles in and would be in too much pain to continue running. With that being said, I told Paul that if I had to walk, then he should continue on without me. I wanted for him to reach his potential and not be held back. He was confident that that would not be the case, and if he was slowing down, I should leave him. It’s always good to have a game plan! As it turned out, we ran together for about 3.5 miles and then I pulled ahead and never saw him until the finish. I still dream about one day running an entire race together, but we made it further this race than ever before!

Here are my race splits. Keep in mind that I am by no means a “fast runner.” In fact, I would consider myself average at best! But that’s the thing about running, you are there to challenge yourself. To push yourself. To do your personal best. It doesn’t matter if it takes you under 90 minutes or over 3 hours to finish. Breaking through the mental and physical challenge of running 13.1 miles is such a feat, no matter the time you complete it in!

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My previous PR was 2:09.44, which I ran in Atlanta on Thanksgiving nearly 3 years ago! Last November I fell short by less than a minute and was extremely disappointed. I had a goal this year of running a 9:30 mile/minute pace to give myself a little wiggle room to get under 2:09. In fact, at the 10k mark, I was on track for running a sub-2 hour race! I was feeling really strong and was so proud of the race I was running. As you can see from my splits, I started to fall apart around mile 8. I specifically remember the moment when I thought “I still have 5 more miles left. There is not way I can keep running this fast for 50 more minutes!” My legs were starting to feel heavy, I was breathing hard, and was just all around exhausted. A lot of the race was along the shoreline and there was a strong breeze, but around that time we turned inland and lost that benefit. At this point too, the humidity was almost unbearable as the sky braced itself for rain in the near future. I could feel the heat radiating from my face and was feeling defeated. (Again, I despise running in the heat and humidity more than anything) I allowed myself to back it off a little bit for mile 10 to get back in the right headspace and finish the race strong. Just before mile 11, there was a hairpin loop and as I went around the tight turn, I could feel a blister that had been growing steadily throughout the race on my foot split open from the added friction placed on my skin. My foot felt like it was on fire! At mile 12, I was in a lot of pain from my open blister and had a hard time pepping myself up to finish strong.  I lost a lot of my nice time cushion I had worked so hard to create, but knew if I kept running at a decent pace that I would still be able to PR. This past training program, my main focus was on going all out for my last mile of the long run. I wanted to get my body accustomed to running fast after it was exhausted. I trusted my training and took it home as best as I could. While it wasn’t under 9 minutes like it had been in training the past few weeks, I’m still happy that I was able to finish strong. I was able to block out most of the thoughts surrounding the painful blister and overheating by counting to 8 over and over again. I developed this method accidentally a month or so ago and realized that it really helps me run fast and not over-think everything in that last mile where you have a specific goal to reach.

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This race had RaceWire provide FREE photo downloads, which is incredible! Absolutely another plus to the race! I don’t think I have run another race that provided free photos.

I will say that the race finish area was a bit of a disappointment. There were two flags that said FINISH, but they weren’t visible from very far away and it left you wondering “when is this going to end?” as you were rounding the curvy seaside at the end. I found myself feeling a little frustrated when I thought I was close to the finish, but couldn’t really tell exactly where it was. I thought I was about to finish for the last half mile, which is a looooooong time to think you are almost done! I think investing in a finish arch of some sort rather than flags would be a welcome touch!

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I was so happy to finish! Every time you finish a race you feel victorious, but adding in a PR and knowing you ran faster that race than you ever have before makes it even sweeter. Oh happy day!

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Newport Half Marathon 2017 medal

I planted myself just before the finish line along the fence and watched for a few minutes while I waited for Paul to cross! I started cheering when I saw him run by, but I knew he didn’t hear or see me because he didn’t look at me or give any sign that he knew where I was. That’s okay though! I could tell he was totally in the zone and was solely focused on finishing the race. Paul dropped 21 minutes from his previous PR that he ran 6 years ago! I am beyond proud of all the hard work he put in the past few months! I’ve been trying to tell him for years that using a training program and not winging it really works… now he is a believer!

After the race, they had a great assortment of food for the runners to replenish their depleted glycogen stores with. My personal favorite included cups of chicken noodle soup! They also had clam chowder I believe, but since I do not like seafood, I didn’t pay much attention to that. The soup was a nice addition from the usual race fare of bananas and bagels! (If you are more of a traditionalist, they had bagels and fruit as well) It was a little bit difficult to hold the snacks though. I had a water bottle, mini Gatorade bottle, cup of piping hot chicken noodle soup, and an apple I was trying to juggle. A plastic bag or drawstring backpack would have made walking with our food a lot safer! I was terrified I was going to spill the soup all over myself while we were walking to find somewhere to sit down with it to eat because I was still a little uneasy on my feet after the race.

This race was voted “Best Half Marathon in the Northeast” by Competitor magazine and I can definitely see why! The course was beautiful as you ran around the adorable downtown area, wound through Newport’s breathtaking coast, past the historic Gilded Age mansions, and around the Rhode Island countryside (including past some farm animals). There are no steep hills, but rather gentle rolling hills throughout. Plus, how adorable is that pineapple medal?! I love it!

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Proud half marathon finishers

We took the bus back to our car and drove on over to our hotel. Post-race showers are the best showers, aren’t they? We stopped by P.F. Chang’s on our way back home and thoroughly enjoyed our meal!

A successful race was had by all! Now… what’s next?

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Vermont & Maine Weekend

Two weekends ago, we had the pleasure of visiting my aunt, uncle, and cousins in Vermont! The trip was made even more special because my mom and grandparents would be visiting that weekend as well- mini family reunion time!

We drove up on Friday evening after Paul was finished working.

Vermont, here we come! Teddy always rides up front with us, while Graham stretches out in the back seat. It works out pretty well for everyone. We saw this gorgeous sunset on the drive while we were in New hampshire!

On Saturday morning, we all loaded up into a few cars and headed to Maine. We had a full itinerary planned and the first stop was the flagship company store of Stonewall Kitchen in York, ME. (Fun fact: we took some of our engagement pictures in York last year!) Stonewall Kitchen is a company that crafts high-quality jams, jellies, syrups, sauces, and more! They have open jars of all of their delicious products to sample with crackers, pretzels, or tortilla chips. Needless to say, we had an amazing time tasting dozens of their products and purchased several to take home! I think it would be an impossible feat to leave this foodie paradise empty-handed.

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Stonewall Kitchen Company Store

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Mom and Parker enjoyed Stonewall Kitchen!

Next, we were off to a late lunch at Five Islands Lobster Co. in Georgetown, ME. It was an hour and a half drive to our next destination and I swear I have never seen more kayaks and canoes strapped to the top of cars in my entire life. I would say roughly 65% of cars had them; it seemed as though everyone was up for a day of paddling around on the water!

Paul tried his first whole lobster! Unfortunately for me, I do not like any seafood and stuck to chicken tenders and fries. My family seemed to enjoy their lobsters though and that made me happy. The restaurant itself has a huge outdoor patio overlooking the ocean and has a great summer ambiance. Graham was completely obsessed with watching the water, as you can see with his head sticking through the fence. He was staring intently at the ocean for a solid hour! I’m pretty sure if we let him, he would have happily jumped in the water and played for hours. Considering we had a few hours to drive back, we wanted the dogs to stay dry. Maybe next time!

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Another beautiful sunset driving back to Vermont from Maine

The next morning, we started the day with German Pancakes made by my Uncle Tom! They are a favorite of our family, as my Grammie is from Germany and brought the tradition with her. Some of us headed out to King Arthur Flour‘s flagship campus following breakfast, which is located in Norwich, VT. As always when we go to King Arthur, Paul and I purchased several fun baking supplies and mixes! We love King Arthur!

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King Arthur Flour goodies

The rest of the afternoon was spent primarily outside enjoying the beautiful day. Teddy and Graham had a blast playing with their doggie cousin, Toby and their brother, Parker.

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This is the look of pure happiness and contentment:

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We can’t wait until we are able to purchase our first home and have a yard for Teddy & Graham. They love going to Vermont more than anything because it’s always non-stop running around outside and playtime for them!

Teddy & Graham even got a tasty Vermont cookie from Norwich’s local general store, Dan & Whit’s. Dan & Whit’s is a cool place, they have everything (and I mean everything)!

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Doodle smiles in Vermont!

Somehow, I did not get a group photo of everyone and feel like a total failure! But I did get a selfie with Grammie!

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Late in the afternoon, Paul and I had to say our goodbyes and head back to Massachusetts since we both had to work the next day. It was a wonderful busy weekend spent with family and we are already looking forward to doing it again soon! If I haven’t said it recently, we love living in New England!

Back At It

Well, hello there, long lost friends!

In the past couple of months I have had a couple friends mention “Are you still running and eating sweets? I used to enjoy reading your blog!” and I have been inspired to share my life with you all again! To answer that question- of course I am still running and feeding my raging sweet tooth regularly 😉

To those of you who may be new readers, I originally decided to start a blog a few years back because I have moved so often and thought it would be a fun way to stay connected to friends and family all over the country. For background, I have lived in Pennsylvania, Texas, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Washington, Georgia, Virginia, and now Massachusetts again!

It has been quite some time since I have posted on here… I believe we are closing in on nearly two years. I made the decision to take a blogging hiatus when I began my post-bacc dental hygiene program shortly after moving to Massachusetts. It became apparent early on that free time is not something I would have in abundance. Additionally, writing about studying constantly and completing clinical requirements for a year and a half wouldn’t exactly be the most exciting thing to read. Since then, my life has changed pretty dramatically. On December 5 of 2015, Paul asked me to marry him and I became the happiest girl in the world. I completed my degree in dental hygiene in December of 2016 and officially became a Registered Dental Hygienist after passing a series of board exams, beginning my career. Paul and I got married on May 20 of this year and we have started our happily ever after together as Mr. & Mrs. Norvell. It has been an exciting time to say the least!

I figure instead of trying to make up for two years of missed time, I will jump right into where I am right now and start here! This past weekend, I had the pleasure of spending time with two of my best friends from dental hygiene school, Flavia and Eliane.

FRIDAY NIGHT

On Friday night, Eli and I arrived at Flavia’s beautiful new house with all of the ingredients for a homemade pizza night! Paul and I have been on a bit of a homemade pizza kick since his sister and niece got us an early bridal shower gift of a pizza stone and the Williams Sonoma Pizza Night cookbook back in April. I have been a little bit obsessed with their recipe for whole wheat pizza dough and whipped up a batch that afternoon to bring with me. Lately, I have been making homemade sauce from various recipes in my beloved cookbook as well, but ran out of time on Friday… from the jar it is! (Homemade is a million times better, FYI) We ended up making two pizzas: one with marinara sauce, a cheddar cheese blend, seasoned ground beef, green bell peppers, and onions. The second pizza was made with marinara sauce, an italian cheese blend, copious dollops of ricotta, and fresh basil straight from Flavia’s garden.

 

The finished pizzas turned out very well and were both a hit! Following dinner, Flavia’s sweet husband, Sam, began a fire for us in their backyard fire pit and we broke out all of the necessary materials for s’mores!

 

We made a few s’mores with Reese’s (my favorite candy!), but I must say, I think I’m a bit of a s’mores purist. The chocolate did not melt as well as it does with the classic Hershey’s milk chocolate bar and I missed the goodness of the melty chocolate. That being said, they were still a delicious treat! After spending time catching up around the bonfire, it was time to get some rest for our beach day on Saturday!

SATURDAY

Alarms were set to head to the beach nice and early. We were successful in getting to “Second Beach” in Newport, Rhode Island before the crowds. It was a beautiful day for relaxing with friends!

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Second Beach, Newport, RI

After about 5 hours or so on the beach, we packed up to spend some time downtown in Newport. We drove around and admired the Gilded Age mansions from the outside for a bit before parking and walking down to sightsee and grab some ice cream! I was blown away by the beautiful flowers blooming all over Newport and couldn’t help but take pictures of several.

 

Aren’t they gorgeous? When Paul and I finally buy a house, you better believe I will be planting hydrangeas all over the place! I have always loved them, so much so that white hydrangeas were one of the flower types that made up my wedding floral arrangements and bouquets!

Newport, Rhode Island is such a cute little maritime town. Paul and I visited twice last year and I highly recommend it as a place to check out if visiting New England. We actually signed up for the Amica Newport Half-Marathon a few weeks ago and I am looking forward to a scenic race in October! We are in week 3 of training, but more on that another day.

Flavia, Eli, and I had a great time wandering around and chatting!

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Newport

Eventually, it was time to say our goodbyes and for Eli and I to head back to Worcester. There is something to be said for strong friendships and prioritizing time with your friends. Sometimes it can be a challenge to make schedules align, but it is always so worth it.

SUNDAY

Sundays are when Paul and I almost always do our grocery shopping and any other random errand running for the week. We did our usual Sunday routine, with the addition of running 6 miles together in the morning since our long Saturday run was postponed due to my day in Newport. Gotta get those miles in! When we finished running and shopping, I made a loaf of banana bread with 3 over-ripe bananas we had in our fruit bowl.

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It was delicious, especially served warm with a smear of cream cheese on top. Can’t beat it!

That about sums up my weekend! I will aim to blog once a week from here on out, but we will see how everything goes. If you have any requests for future posts, don’t hesitate to ask! I will talk to you again soon (not in two years again…)

Life Lately

Hello, there!

I’m taking a quick homework break to post some pictures from the past few weeks. School really took off and I don’t think I’ve ever had this much homework before, but it’s okay because I really do love my school. It will all be worth it! Without further ado, here is a little peak into my life lately… it’s mostly pets {as usual} because they’re my life.

Bailey hiding in pillows

Graham won’t be able to find me here!

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First Tennessee game. Our Internet went out during the middle… we have a new Internet set-up now.

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Graham dancing on a morning walk in the park!

Kristi Teddy smiling

We’re going “bye bye!”

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Dental Hygiene Christmas! Getting our instruments 🙂

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Graham and Paul: man time

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Shrewsbury St. College Shuffle goodies

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Shrewsbury St. College Shuffle goodies {this was AMAZING}

Paul and I

Boxed water

Boxed water. Has anyone ever seen this before? It was new to us!

Me & Paul jerseys

First Seahawks game

goldendoodle puppy

Graham 14 weeks

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Friendly’s date!

studying

Studying for my first two exams {that were in the same day… so mean}

Teddy & Graham

My babies

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Bailey found another hiding spot!

Me, Teddy, and Graham

Outside on a gorgeous day

The end.

First Week in Worcester, Mass.

Hello, hello!

It’s been exactly one week since we officially moved into our apartment in Worcester, Massachusetts. Where did the time go?! Probably into the unpacking/shopping for odds and ends vortex! I swear, no matter how much I unpack, there are still mountains of boxes left. I think someone is playing a trick on me 😉

Here is a quick recap of some of the major stuff that’s been happening around here lately!

THE DAUNTING ROADTRIP

Confession: I never want to make the drive from Georgia to Massachusetts ever again. With two dogs and a cat, it was not an easy one! Many “potty breaks” were taken… and a lot of time was added to the drive because of them! In my car, I had Teddy and Bailey. Paul took little Graham with him in the moving truck. All of the animals were champions and did so well!

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Graham’s first time in SC

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Welcome to South Carolina

I originally wanted to stop and take a picture in every state we go through. That didn’t last very long… but more on that later! I got the first few though!

Doodles and I in North Carolina

Doodles and I in North Carolina

After 7 or so hours of driving, plus time for stops and lunch {which adds up to be over 10 hours somehow}, we made it to one of my favorites states- Virginia! Driving through the Fancy Gap area in the Blue Ridge mountains will always bring a level of excitement to me. I have made the drive countless times on my way to Radford and it’s simply gorgeous. It used to be the “Okay! I’m in the home stretch!” feeling and I think that will never go away. Virginia, you are such a beautiful place.

Virginia is for Lovers <3

Virginia is for Lovers ❤

After this stop, we ended up driving diagonally through Virginia from base to tip. I thought I was never going to leave the state! When you’ve been driving all day and it’s getting late… 4 hours in one state can seem like forever! I ended up losing Paul along the way and drove through West Virginia, Maryland, and part of Pennsylvania myself until I reached our destination for the evening: Grammie and Poppop’s house! My brother Kevin, who was gracious enough to help us out on the move, had already gotten there 3 hours before I did. Just goes to show you how much time is added stopping for animals!IMG_0889IMG_0890

We spent all of Monday in Pennsylvania resting and relaxing with Grammie and Poppop. It was so nice to spend time with them 🙂 The three weary travelers were sure glad to get a full day’s rest in… especially since we were driving until the wee hours of the morning. {Except Kevin… still jealous} Grammie cooked for us like we were kings and queens. We left on Tuesday morning with full bellies and a happy heart.

The drive from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts is considerably shorter. I was definitely glad to have already done the bulk of the drive! Only 4.5 hours separated us from our new home!

I had told Paul and Kevin before we left that there are two routes that take the same amount of time, but one goes through New York City and the other doesn’t. Let’s take the route that doesn’t go through NYC to make it easier.

Thanks to a GPS flaw, guess who ended up driving through the heart of NYC? Oh yes, that would be yours truly! Paul an Kevin followed my advice and didn’t have to deal with this mess. Lucky them!

The good news is that traffic was fairly slow moving thanks to some construction work, and I was able to snap a few photos.

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I was lead over the George Washington bridge {for a cool $14… highway robbery!} and through Manhattan.

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Lesson learned, New York. Lesson learned.

Finally, I reached the sign I had been waiting to see…

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{Excuse my quick drive-by blurry photo.}

We made it!

DOODLES ADAPTING

The dogs have been adapting pretty well so far! The one big thing initially was that we don’t have central air in our apartment. For someone who prefers to keep her room temperature around 65 degrees {and that might be generous… I’d love to sleep in an igloo} this was not acceptable. The dogs were panting for two days straight and several box fans and a tower fan did little to provide them {and us!} with relief. Needless to say, we are now proud owners of an air conditioning unit so we can all sleep in peace. Hallelujah!

Goldendoodle puppy 10 weeks

Graham checking out the floor

Boy, does this puppy love to snuggle!

Boy, does this puppy love to snuggle!

Is it time for a treat?

Is it time for a treat?

I’ve been taking them on at least one long walk and several short walks per day. They love getting outside and being active! Dogs after my own heart! It’s been great to explore the neighborhood and some city hiking trails as well 🙂

Walk time!

Walk time!

Sleepy baby

Sleepy baby

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I love this picture because it shows how much Teddy and Graham play with each other. It also shows the Teddy is teaching him how to “doodle.” Step 1. Look adorable…

PAUL AND I

The humans have been doing some exploring of our own as well! We have discovered a couple delicious treats already…

Gourmet Doughnuts

Vanilla cream filled and blueberry cake doughnuts

These were the two best doughnuts I have ever had. We just happened to drive past a doughnut shop while returning the moving truck. The line of cars wrapped around the building and filling every space in the parking lot was a good indicator of a local favorite!

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Rota Spring Farm ice cream cone

After a recommendation from our realtor’s husband, we made it out to Rota Spring Farm. They have homemade ice cream as well as a country store selling their own fresh produce and meat. We indulged in ice cream {of course} and then headed inside to fill a bag up with some of the best looking vegetables I’ve ever seen! So, so good. I’ve missed New England ice cream! Nobody else seems to do it as well.

Shameless selfie because everyone around us was eating ice cream

Shameless selfie because everyone around us was eating ice cream

Sweet bakery

Cupcakes in Boston

We made our way into Boston on Sunday afternoon so Paul could feel out his way to work for Monday. We went into this cupcake shop that was adorable! Also, see the little cup of frosting? They have “shots of frosting” on their menu in addition to cupcakes. I had to get one simply for the novelty of it!  My cupcake {vanilla} was amazing, by the way.

Aside from sweets, I was pretty excited yesterday because I went to buy food for dinner at Trader Joe’s. I have never lived less than an hour away from a Trader Joe’s and the thought of actually going there to do some grocery shopping made me way more happy than it probably should have. But, hey! It’s the little things!

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FEELINGS SO FAR

IMG_0921So far, we are both still happy we made the decision to move here. Worcester itself seems a bit run-down, but that is probably because we are both used to living in shiny suburbs where everything is brand new. Also, I’ve never lived in an actual city before. The neighbors we have met so far have all been very nice and welcoming! I joined a gym today {YAYYYY!} and with each passing day it’s starting to feel more and more like home… even if we never get our boxes unpacked and I never learn these crazy streets 😉 Paul has started his job this week and I begin school next week. Everything is coming together! I look forward to all of the adventures that are awaiting us.

Georgia on My Mind {A 9 Year Reflection}

Hi friends!

As many of you know, I am getting ready for a big move. If you didn’t know, I am going back to school for a second degree and could not be happier about it! My new school is located in Worcester, MA… just a little ways away from metro-Atlanta! {Okay, it’s actually pretty far} While I have been packing up everything I own the past week or so, I’ve been reflecting a lot about my time in Georgia.

In my 25 years of life so far, I have been extremely fortunate. My siblings and I have had an opportunity that most of our peers cannot begin to fathom; we have lived in 7 states all across the country. I’ve lived in the north, south, east, and west. Due to our regional prowess, I have a pretty strong handle on the regions I prefer within the United States. In short, I know what makes me happy. Because of this, I have known for over 9 years that Georgia is not the place for me. That’s not to say it’s a horrible place to live; it’s just not for me.

I truly believe that there is a perfect fit for everyone, where they can flourish and push themselves to be their best. I think about in terms of a relationship, but a relationship with a physical area, not a person. In my opinion, most people are quite narrow-minded when they think of where they would be happiest. “In my hometown” would probably be the most common answer, if I had to guess. But I say, challenge yourself! If you’ve never stepped outside of your comfort zone, never been away from that bubble of familiarity, how would you actually know? You won’t know unless you’ve tried.

With all of that being said, I’m going to take a little trip down memory lane. I have complained about Georgia a lot in the time that I have lived here. So much, in fact, it’s a miracle that I have any friends at all! {Like I said, it’s just not for me} I want to do this; however, to point out the positive aspects and the reasons I am thankful to have spent 9 years in Newnan, Georgia.

HIGH SCHOOL & BEYOND

August 2006

August 2006

Here is a photo of our first day of school in Georgia! {When I took the photo out of it’s frame, some of the ink stuck to the glass. Ignore the white splotches!} The funny thing is, I look incredibly similar now to the way I did when I was 16, minus the bangs. I suppose that’s why I am still often mistaken for a high schooler at 25… maybe someday I’ll be grateful for that? All of my siblings look like babies in this picture though!

Although I absolutely hated our high school in Georgia, I am thankful that I graduated high school and was able to move on. High school just wasn’t “my thing.” I was never in the popular clique or the girl with a huge circle of friends. I related in a huge way to Taylor Swift, who sung her heart out about exactly what I was going through. I was good at school {I took 6 AP classes} and good at swimming, but I did not thrive socially. I was very shy and that did not bode well for moving across the country at 16. On top of that, I’ve always been an old soul and I couldn’t stand immature kids! I was so ready to get this nonsense over with! Needless to say, I was thrilled beyond belief to graduate and move right along to college!

For college, I made the obvious choice to attend a school that was not in Georgia. I already knew that Georgia is not where I was happiest and wanted to experience somewhere I had never lived before. I chose Radford University in Radford, Virginia. I can say in all honestly that I love Virginia. I love the way that it is truly a combination of North and South. After being taunted my last two years of high school for being a “Yankee” {which I loved to point out that Washington was not even a state during the Civil War, fool} I was more than excited to be at a place where everyone was accepted. People with all different types of upbringings were friends. It was so refreshing to experience! This is how it should be.

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I did not party it up in college like most of the other students {I was nerdy… remember} but I had an incredible four years that I wouldn’t change for anything. I did college my way and would recommend that to anyone and everyone! You do you.

LEARNING TO WORK

I hear all the time that Millennials do not know the value of work. That we expect everything to be handed to us on a silver platter. That we are lazy. While I can agree to an extent that there are a lot of people my age that sadly fit those qualities, I believe that I have learned the importance of work.

My parents own a concessions company. I’ve talked a little bit before about working shows or fairs with my family. I’ll argue until I am blue in the face that you do not know what it is to be bone-tired from working until you’ve worked a busy fair. From the time I was 16, I have worked for my parent’s company when they need me. This can entail 18-hour workdays. Manual labor. Driving across the country. Most importantly {and daunting}, dealing with the PUBLIC. Oh, the public. As a person that struggles with uneducated people, this was a big lesson for me. You sometimes have to break things down to a preschool level {without being condescending, if possible} to get people to understand you. When you explain the concept of a “refill” to a full-grown man five times and he still doesn’t get it, you just have to let it go. No need getting yourself bent out of shape because of it. Stay composed, stay professional, and move on with your day. People can be rude and treat you like garbage. I have learned more from these rough situations than I ever could have imagined.

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I also had the opportunity to work retail {at Ann Taylor} and to work in a hospital {Cancer Treatment Centers of America}. I am forever thankful for both of these job opportunities because it has shaped me into a more well-rounded individual. Excellent customer service should be provided regardless of where you work! I learned how to provide world-class service to those in need. I will carry these skills into my future life in the dental field.

My parents always say that they would put any of us kids up against anyone else our age and we will out-work them. We know we are capable of working hard; we’ve experienced it. All of this was primarily instilled into my siblings and I while in Georgia.

TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF AND OTHERS

A question I keep encountering is “Will you be okay up there without your family?” Truthfully, I am always taken back a little bit by this question. I have never once considered that I would not be okay living far away from my family. They have raised me to be an intelligent and capable individual. I can cook healthy meals from scratch, bake with the best of them, study and earn high grades in my classes, take care of my pets, stay physically fit, manage my finances, and roll with whatever life throws at me. It makes me question my generation, if this is such a big concern for people. Would others struggle making it on their own? Why?

I am glad that I was taught to be capable. My parents gave me a lot of responsibility, especially being the oldest of 7 children. But the responsibility I have shouldered has made me stronger. It has prepared me for life. Would I have been ready to move 1,000 miles away when I was 15? No. But in the 9 years I have lived in Georgia, I have become an adult. I can do whatever needs to be done; bring it on!

RAISING PETS

Oh, my babies. My loves. Some of my greatest joy in life comes from my pets. I have always had a pet. There has never been a single day in my life in which I didn’t have a pet. But, while in Georgia, I have learned how to provide care to them for myself.

It started about 6 months after we moved here in 2006. I’m not going to beat around the bush, I was depressed. I would cry myself to sleep most nights because I hated living in Georgia so much. I hated the stupid warm weather {still do}. I hated my high school. I hated that swimming was not a big sport here. I hated that I had no friends. There really wasn’t much going for me around this time. I went with my mom to Petsmart one Saturday afternoon to buy dog food for our Golden Retrievers, Lexi and Willie. There were about a dozen cats available for adoption. I stopped dead in my tracks and asked the volunteer if I could hold one of the two cute grey and white kittens. {A big deal for the shy high schooler} I immediately fell in love. We were told that these sisters were found tied inside a plastic bag on top of a wood pile. I looked at my mom {who was holding the other grey and white kitten} with huge eyes. I didn’t even have to say anything because she knew I needed them. Knowing what a rough six months I had had, she told me I could have a kitten. I protested that these two could not be separated! My eyes filled with tears. Being the true animal lover that she is, she said I could adopt them both. By the time we had them home, I had named them Mia and Sophie.

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Mia

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Sophie

These girls brought the first true happiness I had found in Georgia. I needed them as much as they needed me. They are so sweet and still make me smile on a daily basis.

Three years ago, I adopted an adult cat. Her name was “Baby girl” but I wasn’t fond of that. I changed it to something I felt was similar enough that she would catch on to, but that I actually liked. I renamed her Bailey. Bailey has definitely taught me about problem solving! She is one particular cat! She is so snuggly though and loves to cuddle.

Bailey

Bailey

Two years ago, my mom purposely bred two of our goldendoodles. I prepared myself for the birthing process as well as I could and helped to deliver Lola’s first litter of beautiful goldendoodle puppies.

The whole process was nothing short of amazing. I won’t go into all of the details again, but it was an experience that I will never forget. Through that day on April 23, 2014 I became attached to a certain special puppy. As you may have guessed, that is Teddy.

Baby Teddy bear

Baby Teddy bear

Teddy at 8 weeks

Teddy at 8 weeks

Without my assistance, Teddy never would have taken her first breath. She had a little bit of a rough entrance into this world and we bonded immediately. In fact, I am tearing up as I write this. People probably think I’m a little extreme, but I love her to amounts I cannot begin to describe. I love her as my child, which to me makes perfect sense. I saved her life. She is alive because of me and me alone. I provide for her, I feed her, I take her on walks and runs, I taught her that the outside is for potty, and most importantly I love her with all my heart.

Teddy's first Christmas

Teddy’s first Christmas

Teddy and I

Teddy and I

The pillow queen herself

The pillow queen herself

We had another litter of puppies earlier this summer. The experience was still amazing, but not nearly as memorable as my first time being a doggy midwife; I knew what to expect this go around. A puppy was born {also fourth} that reminded me of baby Teddy. It was a boy that was very petite. He was also darker in color like Teddy and completely adorable. I knew I was going to be moving in a few short months and told myself to try to not get too attached, as I was already finding out that an apartment in Massachusetts that allows large breed dogs is ridiculously hard to come by. After working with an angel of a realtor, she found a pet-friendly place for us to rent! In comes my little Graham.

In my opinion, he is the sweetest puppy of the 12 we had in this year’s litter! He is playful mixed with the right amount of bashful. I know he and Teddy will become the best of friends. She already is a tad bit obsessed with licking his paws. She’s a good big sister! I also know that my love for Graham grows stronger each and every day. I can tell that he is such a good boy.

Graham 5 weeks

Graham 5 weeks

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Graham 9 weeks

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Graham and I braving the Georgia heat

I know the dogs have no idea that their world is going to be turned upside down this weekend, but I truly think they are going to enjoy Massachusetts. The crisp fall air. Seeing snow for the first time {I cannot wait to witness this}. Summers that are hot, but not so much so that after 3 minutes of standing still outside, you have a stream of sweat down your back… nice visual, I know.

To wrap up this little section, I’ve always been an animal lover. But while living here, I have embraced my love of animals and learned how to take care of them completely.

PASSION FOR FITNESS

Since I was 11, I was on a swim team. I became a competitive swimmer just before I turned 13. I swam throughout high school for both my school team as well as a more competitive club team. I’ve always loved the notion of practicing hard to break your own records. I swam for part of college and eventually decided that it was best for me to part ways with the team. The choice was highly personal and a difficult one for me to make.

After my swimming career was over, I felt lost. What would I do with 20+ extra hours a week in college that were previously devoted to practice? I still worked out, but it was nowhere near the rigor that I was used to as a Division I athlete. I needed something to work hard towards physically. I joined a small triathlon team at my college that had just started up. I was already a strong swimmer, but had never run or biked before {besides recreationally}.

Completing my first triathlon

Completing my first triathlon

Running proved to be the most difficult aspect of a triathlon for me. When I started, I could not run a 5k without stopping at least once. Shortly after my first triathlon, I graduated college. I got home and thought I wanted to do more! But before I did, I really wanted to improve my weakness- running.

After some random google searches, I found the Atlanta Track Club. They host a 16 weeks half marathon training program. Novice runners were welcome! In fact, you just needed to be able to run 3 miles to prepare for the program. I knew I could do that and before I knew it, I had committed to training for my first half marathon! I was nervous that I wouldn’t actually be able to complete 13.1 miles straight, but I was more than up for the challenge!

The funny thing is, running became a huge passion for me. I am not a fast runner. But it is something that always challenges me and I get a mental high after each run. After I crossed the finish line at my first half marathon, I knew I was addicted. My goal was to complete the race without walking, I did not have a time in mind. I just wanted to finish strong and have a solid race. I finished my first half in 2:22 and was beaming!

First half marathon!

First half marathon!

To date, I have completed 8 half marathons, a 15k, two 10k’s, and countless 5k’s. I adore the process of training for a half marathon and giving it your all on race day. {Except for runDisney events… I do not try for best times for those. That’s about the overall experience} I love the dedication training requires. I love the feeling of finishing the race. The rush of accomplishment and excitement.

If you were to tell me 4 or more years ago that I would grow to love running, I wouldn’t have believed you. But life has a funny way of turning the tables in all sorts of crazy directions!

Besides running, I have developed a passion for lifting weights through BodyPump. This Les Mills program works every muscle of your body in the hour long class. It keeps you entertained with the music and choreography. I have been going religiously for over two years now and look forward to class. I liked it so much that I became a certified instructor last summer! I still haven’t taught because I had a full-time job and the hours weren’t conducive, but that’s not to rule it out forever!

BodyPump Training

BodyPump Training

I’ve become passionate about fitness as a whole. Though I’ve always been mindful of the importance of exercise from being a competitive swimmer, I have embraced it to a fuller extent. This is a part of my life that is not going away. I don’t think “Oh, I should probably go to the gym today.” I’m actually excited about it! I enjoy cardio as well as lifting and understand the importance of each for a person.

RELATIONSHIPS

I have saved the best for last! Though I initially did not have many friends when I moved to Georgia, I have slowly built up a meaningful group of strong friendships. I would not have met some of these amazing people had I not lived in Georgia. I’m not going to start listing out my friends to make myself feel popular, but suffice it to say that I am thankful for each and every one of you.

The one special shout out will go to none other than Paul. We were introduced through a mutual friend and my life was forever changed. I might also add that NEVER in my life did I picture myself dating someone who was born and raised in Georgia. It seemed inherently wrong! But Paul is not a typical “Southern boy,” though he is absolutely a southern gentleman. It has been over 2.5 years and I could not have asked for a more supportive and understanding boyfriend.

I’m going to try my best to not get too mushy here 😉 I will probably fail miserably.

One day last year I called Paul. I told him “Hey, I found this really neat dental program. The only problem is, there is just one like it in the entire country… and its in Massachusetts.” Without a moment’s hesitation, he said “Go for it. You should apply. I think you’ll be happiest because this is what you’ve wanted. I’ll move to Massachusetts with you.” His unwavering support has meant the world to me. When I wanted to punch every person in the face that told me “The winter is going to suck in New England!!!” Paul was always there to remind me not to listen to the haters. That we are doing this for us, not for them. He is the best. {Plus, winter is my favorite season anyway}

My 23 birthday, two weeks after our first date

My 23 birthday, two weeks after our first date

Jersey Shore 2013

Jersey Shore 2013

Peachtree Road Race 2014

Peachtree Road Race 2014

It's GAMEDAY!

It’s GAMEDAY! February 2015

We have had so many wonderful times since we have been together and I am looking forward to our future. I am also incredibly proud of him for accepting a wonderful job position in Massachusetts. Sometimes, things just work out the way they are supposed to. I love you, Paul.

All in all, my 9 years in Georgia weren’t all terrible. In fact, I can say with clarity that I have grown into the person I am today because of Georgia. I have no intentions to return here on a permanent basis, but an thankful for all I have learned.

Georgia,
Georgia,
No peace, no peace I find
Just this old, sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind

Celebrating Mother’s {A Belated Edition}

Hi there!

I’m coming at you today with yet another belated post… such is life.

As everyone knows, last weekend we celebrated Mother’s Day here in the good old US of A! While I was truthfully annoyed at receiving zero recognition for being the pet mother of 4 {Paul and I do not see eye to eye on this matter, clearly}, I was more than up for celebrating my own mom! For anyone who does not know, I am the oldest of seven kids. All born to the same parents, who are still together! Not only that, but there is me, then triplets, then twins, and then one more single to finish us out. So… needless to say my parents are kind of rockstars. {Also, no fertility drugs were used… so I am terrified I will someday have septuplets :O}

We were all able to come together, except for one brother, to celebrate Mother’s Day this year! That in itself is a huge feat considering not everyone lives in the same house these days!

Together for Mother's Day

Together for Mother’s Day

On the top from from left to right we have Kevin, Alex, my dad, Kayla, and Kyle. Along the bottom, there is Maegan {Kevin’s finacee}, my mom, Thomas, me, and Paul {my boyfriend}. Greg was the only one missing in action this year!

We had steak, potatoes, and roasted green beans for dinner: a Freund classic! My dad seasoned, tenderized, and grilled the steaks to a mouth-watering perfection. I must have said “This is amazing” at least 5 times!

Steak dinner

Steak dinner

After our bellies were full, we stepped outside to take a family photo. Thankful a neighbor stopped by to snap it for us! Then, because we are us, we began taking pictures of the goldendoodles.

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Lola and Mom… the two mothers!

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Mr. Bentley and Mom

I think my mom loves Bentley more than all of her human children combined…. and that’s the truth 😉

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Mom and I

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Paul & I

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My gorgeous girl

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Thomas with Daphne

That about sums it up! It was a nice low-key evening relaxing with family.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

  • Have you ever celebrated being a “pet mom?”
  • Any meal your whole family loves? It’s steak for us!

Pregnancy Announcement {of the NON-Human variety}

Well hello there, long lost friends!

I have some exciting news to share with everyone on this fine Cinco de Mayo! Lola, one of my family’s Goldendoodles, is pregnant with her second litter of puppies! Can you say “Hip hip hoorayyyy?!”

My mom took her to the vet yesterday, where a sonogram confirmed her pregnancy. Not that we had any doubts… {And yes, it was planned. Lola is a well-mannered lady, after all}

Lola's sonogram

Lola’s sonogram

The vet counted 7 puppies so far. Do you remember the counting mishaps we encountered last year? We will get a more accurate X-ray when she is 55 days in {Goldendoodles typically deliver around 61 days} to know what to better expect. I’m guessing 9-12 based off of last year! I will keep you updated as we find more information out!

In case you don’t already know, here is a picture of both Bentley {big daddy} and Lola {pretty mama}.

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This litter of puppies should be born the first week of June. I will be preparing myself for the dog birthing process again, since it’s been over a year since I last assisted!

Goldendoodles have the absolute goofiest personalities of any dog breed I have even encountered. I am completely obsessed with Teddy and cannot wait for the other puppies to be born and watch their own personalities grow and develop. It’s such a neat process!

OODLES OF DOODLES, here we come 🙂

QUESTION OF THE DAY

  • Have you even assisted in a dog birth?
  • What is your favorite breed of dog?

Disney World 2015 {Day 1: Expo}

Hey HEY hey!

{{Disclaimer: I began this post over a week ago. I had some technical difficulties with pictures not loading and decided a blog without pictures was too boring to post. Finally got it working again!}}

After a whirlwind week in Orlando, coming back to work for 4/5 of this week was rough. But now I’m back in action {and writing a blog post on a Friday night… don’t judge me and my pathetic excuse for a social life}!

DRIVE TO ORLANDO

We are fortunate enough to live close enough to Florida to have a day drive rather than spend boocoo bucks flying there! My mom and I left mid-morning on Wednesday afternoon. Mickey, we’re coming for ya!

Road trip to Orlando

{We may have made a pit-stop at a Dick’s Sporting Goods along the way… can’t let those coupons expire!}

We arrived at a hotel on International Drive in the evening and found our way to Uno Chicago Grill. I love deep dish pizza! We had decided that we didn’t need to stay on a Disney property that night.

I went to sleep that night with one goal in mind for the next day: get a pair of the 2014 runDisney shoes!

HOW TO GET runDISNEY SHOES

For those of you unfamiliar with the runDisney/New Balance collaborative process, I’ll give you some insight:

On the first day of a runDisney expo, a “virtual queue” line opens up at 6am. You sign up through your race bib number {to ensure you are legitimately running in a race that weekend}. You will be assigned a group number and a time. I’m not sure how many people are in each group, although I’m guessing around 20. You will receive a text and/or email when your turn is up. At that time, you have one hour to return to the New Balance tent. {Your spot is not saved if you arrive later than that} Although you have a group, your spot within that group is determined by your actual time of arrival at the tent. Each person is then escorted individually by a New Balance rep to the shoes. Just because you are in that virtual queue, you are not guaranteed your size or style of choice. It’s actually an incredibly stressful process!

Going through what my mom and I went through last year, we were aware of the process and determined to get another pair from last year’s styles. For the 2015 shoes, they decided to go with a retro design that we were not particularly fond of. We knew they had a very limited quantity left from 2014 though! There was even an inventory online of what was sold out in semi-real time. {I heard it had a slight lag} Since there was the Disney Marathon in January, much of 2014s leftover stock was gone before our race weekend even began! So, as soon as the clock struck 6am, I had my race number out and typed as fast as I could to get the earliest group possible. Guess I was quick enough because I was assigned Group 1! My heart was beating so fast and adrenaline fully flowing! The first endeavor of the day was a success!

We arrived to the expo location nearly 2 hours early. This was partially because we had nothing to do, and partially because we wanted to be very first in line at New Balance. It was a freakishly cold day in Florida {sub freezing temperatures and 21 mph winds} and we were standing outside for two hours. Some people might call that crazy…

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Our toes and fingers were completely frozen and faces red from that cold wind. But we stood there and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, they decided to open the expo early because everyone was freezing their butts off! The good news is that we were the first two people in line for the shoes! HOORAY!!!!! I got the smallest size made of the men’s “Goofy” shoes from last year, while my mom opted for last year’s Cinderella model. We were so pleased with ourselves!

As we were ringing up the purchase, a New Balance manager that was there shouts “The first two pairs sold of the expo!” and everyone surrounds us and starts clapping and cheering! That was a surreal moment, to say the least! If you know my mom and I at all, you know that we have an unnatural love for “cool sneakers.” My dad said he was glad someone finally recognized us for our great accomplishments 😉

Cinderella and Goofy

Cinderella and Goofy

After our major shoe accomplishment, we browsed through the rest of the expo and enjoyed seeing the different booths in relatively low crowd levels!

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We also took advantage of many photo opportunities!

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runDisney Expo

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The NEW glass slipper!

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Glass Slipper Challenge

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HOTEL CHECK-IN: CORONADO SPRINGS

Following the Expo, our hotel check-in was a breeze! I took advantage of Disney’s online check-in process, so all we had to do when we got there was receive our room number! This year we stayed at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. While checking in, the concierge even joked “have you done this before?!” because I had everything completed and nothing left to fill out. Our magic bands {that were mailed to the house a month in advance} served as our room key as well as FastPass at the parks!

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REST OF AFTERNOON

For the rest of the afternoon, we walked around Downtown Disney, went to our dinner reservation at BOMA Flavors of Africa, and then went back to Downtown Disney! It was a busy night, but we were so excited to be at Disney, we wanted to do as much as possible!

If you remember from last year, Boma is my very favorite Disney restaurant and I was so glad to be back! It’s an African-themed buffet that is crazy delicious! My only disappointment was that I adore their carrot ginger soup {so random} and we went on a day they were not serving that particular soup. It was still a fabulous dinner, though!

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Plate of Mini desserts!

For the desserts above, I was not a fan of the guava panna cotta at all. In fact, I’m surprised that I had the self-control to not spit it out… definitely not a guava person! At least I know that now. I adored the little zebra-looking dessert, though! The key lime cheesecake was great as well. Bread pudding was so-so, in my opinion.

At Downtown Disney round 2, we made a stop at Ghirardelli to split a sundae… as if we hadn’t had enough dessert for one night! Have you heard about my sweet tooth?

Ghirardelli

Ghirardelli

Once we were finished, we toted our sugared-out selves to the bus area and went back to the hotel. We wanted to get a good night’s sleep since we were going to the MAGIC KINGDOM all day on Friday!

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

  • Is there a food you can’t stand? {guava— ick!}
  • Any further questions about the runDisney New Balance process?

ORLANDO: We Have Arrived

I am currently blogging from a warm bed in a hotel room in Orlando, FL! I just want to stop on by and say a quick hello!

My mom and I drove down yesterday. We may or may have not been singing along to Disney songs along the way… no shame 😉

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Currently, we are getting ready to leave this hotel to head on down to Disney for a little breakfast and go to the “Disney’s Fit For a Princess” Expo! Last year, we were so impressed by this race expo and are looking forward to it!

Throughout the week we will be going to Magic Kingdom, attending a wedding, going to Epcot, racing in the Enchanted 10k, and racing in the Disney Princess Half Marathon! {<– those two events make up the coveted “Glass Slipper Challenge”} We are beyond excited for the busy week ahead!

I probably won’t check in again until after our trip is finished, so have a great week and I’ll catch you later!

HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH