Summer Travels

Traveling is one of my all time favorite things to do. Not only do you get to disconnect from the every day hustle and bustle and recharge, but you also get to experience new things and make memories with your family. We have made travel a priority and have worked hard to make vacations a special experience for our family. Aside from plain old hard work you can also make planning vacations a little easier by using travel rewards Credit Cards, like the Discover It Miles Card. It has no annual fee, the miles never expire, and you can fly any airline at any time! Just use it for regular purchases and you can rack up rewards to use towards your summer travels.

 

Just before summer started we spent a week in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. We stayed at The Gran Porto Real, our first all inclusive!

 

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The pool was by far our favorite place. We had a view of it from the balcony in our room. Payton was in the pool within the first hour we were there and it feels like she didn’t leave for the whole week!

We made it!! #normanfamilyvacation2015 #mexico

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We spent most days hanging out by the pool. Lounging, reading, swimming, napping.

 

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An all inclusive vacation was a bit different than our typical Disney vacation or our previous Costa Rica and Baja trips, we spent more time relaxing and having no plans instead of planning out every detail and adventure. We did a spontaneous bike ride tour of the area one morning and ended up down by the beach and toured some Mayan Ruins.

 

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We also saw these awesome palm trees – they had been blown over by a hurricane but continued to grow even though they were growing sideways!

 

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One of my favorite things about taking vacations is being able to share these experiences with Payton. Growing up with memories of spending quality time together exploring, adventuring, and relaxing is something you can’t buy.

Travel is something that helps keep us focused during the busy seasons. I am so thankful to be able to work hard along side my husband and best friend and know that we are building our dream, working hard so we can play hard. With that hard work and smart planning with rewards card like the Discover It Miles card, nothing seems out of reach. Work hard, plan smart and you can experience the world.

 

Mexico was our one big trip this year, but we also have some travel plans to spend a few days in Minnesota next month and then we are going to Jamaica in September for Chris’ 30th Birthday/Our 8th Anniversary Celebration! For that trip we will be leaving the kiddo with grandma and enjoying ourselves sans kiddo on 7 mile Beach!

 

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I Can’t Wait!

 

What are your Summer Travel plans?

 

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Disney World 2014 – Epcot & Animal Kingdom

Isn’t funny how you look forward to something like vacation for so long and then BAM it’s over. Coming home on a Tuesday means hitting the ground running trying to catch up after being gone for a week. I wanted to try to write a recap with some Disney tips before I forget.  We packed so much into just a week. Traveling and vacations are some of my favorite things, but after day 6 or so I usually start to crave the comfort of structure. I’m looking forward to getting back to my bed, my food, and my gym. But we had a really great time.

This past week we spent 3 days at Disney World, my absolute favorite place on earth. This trip was especially exciting because Payton is old enough to ride almost all of the rides! We flew in late last Tuesday afternoon and stayed at the Wyndham right next to Downtown Disney for the night. We had reservations and park hopper passes for the next day so we wanted to be sure to get an early start. We headed right to Downtown Disney and ended up eating at Bongos Cuban Resturant and just walking around for a bit before heading to bed. We were up early the next morning to check into our On Property resort, Art of Animation.

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I love love loved Art of Animation! It has four areas: The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Cars, & Finding Nemo. We had a family suite in The Lion King area. We already had our Magic Bands when we arrived so we just had to check in to activate them. It turns out they were updating their system when we tried to check in and they weren’t sure our Magic Bands would work in time for our Breakfast reservations or for our park tickets and fast passes, so they gave us hard copies of the park tickets and blank fast passes. Once the system came back online we still had our pre-booked fast passes as well!

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One of the biggest tips I give to people who ask about how we plan is to invest in the Deluxe Dining Plan and make your dining reservations in advance. With the Deluxe Dining Plan each person gets to order an Appetizer, Entree, and Dessert at each meal, along with 2 snacks per day. With the plan you aren’t stressed about spending money on food and you can just enjoy your meals! We try to book Character Breakfasts’ with the Dining Plan so we don’t spend our time in the parks chasing down characters, they just come to our table while we eat! Our first meal on Wedneday was at the Grand Floridian at 1900 Park Fare. The food was great. Breakfast is one of my favorite meals because they have Mickey Waffles! Seriously, there is something magical that makes those waffles taste amazing. The characters at this breakfast were a bit out of Payton’s realm. We saw Mary Poppins, who I’m not sure she really knew. It also had Alice & the Mad Hatter, she was clueless on those as well. Tigger and Winnie the Pooh also showed up, which she was excited for.

After breakfast we were able to just take the monorail to Epcot, where we planned to spend half the day. epcotfamily

We planned on using our fast passes and riding all the big rides like Test Track, Mission: Space, and Soarin’. We started out with Test Track, which has changed a big since we last rode it. You get to design your own car and see how it measures up in different test areas like power, safety, and efficiency. I’m pretty sure every one just tries to build the fastest car they can! Payton picked the decorations for our car, isn’t it cute?

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After that we headed to Mission: Space. I was a bit concerned about this one… I don’t always love this ride so I wasn’t sure Payton would love it. We started out heading towards the Green “less intense” side, but once we found out she was tall enough for the Orange “more intense” side we switched over. Poor girl had no idea what she was in for!

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All or nothing, I guess! She did really well, but said she didn’t like the tight feeling when we would accelerate. She liked when we were floating or driving, but not when we would blast off. This turned out to be the ride we used to rate all the other rides… “Is this like the Space Ship ride?” No, its not as bad as the space ship ride… haha. But she survived, I was pretty proud of her!

We also did the Nemo ride and played in the aquarium for a few minutes before heading to Soarin’. This ended up being her favorite ride of the day! After Soarin we headed over to walk through the World Showcase. We started in the United Kingdom where we had our lunch reservations at the Rose & Crown Pub. This is Chris’ favorite restaurant at Disney! It’s like spending a day in a real English Pub. I started with the Scottish Egg. I’ve heard a lot about these but don’t think I’ve ever tried one.  

Delicious Scottish Egg I had with lunch at The Rose & Crown in #epcot #normansdisney2014

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It was delicious! I also had the burger and Fries, which was fantastic. I had a Toffee Bread Pudding for dessert. After we finished we walked through the rest of the World Showcase. Payton loved hearing the different music and trying to guess what each world was.

We conquered Epcot in record time thanks to our ample supply of fast passes! We didn’t wait in line at all. We took the monorail back to the Grand Floridian where we parked and then headed back to finish checking into Art of Animation now that our room was ready.

After checking in and resting for a bit we headed back out to Animal Kingdom.

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We wanted to take Payton on Dinosaur and Expedition Everest. Going in more of an off season, Animal Kingdom wasn’t that busy at all. We barely waited in line and got right on both rides. Dinosaur is always fun, but I was most excited to take her on Expedition Everest. It was her first “real” roller coaster! She absolutely loved it! Even if she had her eyes closed half the time.

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We also did he It’s Tough Being a Bug show and joined in a few of the dance parties going on aroud the park. Animal Kingdom closes earlier than the other parks, I imagine it is because as it starts to get dark all the animals go hide for the night. We headed back to the hotel to rest and clean up for dinner. We had reservations at Boma, the African themed buffet at Animal Kingdom Lodge. The dinner was great with a large buffett of all different types of food. Meat, Salads, Soups, all kinds of flavorful food! Plus an amazing dessert buffett. They had a fun bongo dance party that Payton loved.

Day 1 at Disney was a long day, but SO fun!! We walked over 17 miles, without a stroller!! After dinner we were ready for bed… we knew we had another full day coming up as we planned on hitting Magic Kingdom all day the next day!

Have you ever been to Epcot or Animal Kingdom?
Do your kids (or you) like roller coasters?

Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Half Marathon Race Recap

After a jam packed Friday and Saturday in Pittsburgh, it was finally time for race day! I kept waking up thinking I was going to be late for the race, so my sleep wasn’t exactly sound. I finally decided to get up a few minutes before my 5:30am alarm. I stumbled around the hotel room getting ready.

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I made sure I had my watch, my Honey Stingers, my fuel belt, my Nuun, and of course, my pace tattoo!

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We headed down to the lobby around 6 and met up with the rest of the #runfor crew. I ate half a blueberry bagel with butter and drank some Cherry Limeade Nuun. Corrals were closing at 6:45 and I had a bit further of a walk than some of the other runners because I was in a later corral so we set off around 6:20 or so.

Sidenote- I’m pretty sure staying at a hotel near the start line of the race is a must do for me from now on. I loved not having to worry about driving/traffic/parking on race morning! Especially with nearly 30,000 runners in this race, I can’t even imagine the madness.

A last minute stop at the portapotty and it was time to enter the corrals. Security was obviously heightened. Some people asked me if I was nervous to run a race after everything that happened at Boston. I can honestly say I wasn’t. Meeting with some of the PR people that work with Dick’s and the race I knew they had it under control. They took a lot of precautions like No spectators allowed near the corrals and they had these signs up:

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They actually checked our bibs as we went into our corrals. I was in the last corral, which was crazy full. We heard the star spangled banner off in the distance and sat there for awhile before we started moving. We had to have walked nearly a mile just to get to the start. It took close to 25 minutes for us to even get up to the starting line… see it up there?

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As we approached the start the energy was electric! The crowd was loud and strong – there were SO many people there cheering us on. I mean, by the time we had got to the start people had been crossing the line for over 20 minutes! And the crowd was still going strong!

And just like that… we were off! I saw the hubs just a little ways down from the start. He was such a great spectator! Barely a half mile into the race they already had a band set up and playing. There was a cheering banana just after mile 2. SO many people were out everywhere cheering us on. I thought surely the crowd would die down after a while – especially being one of the slower runners- but they didn’t! The first few miles went quick. I was holding a decent pace and on track to PR big time. Mile 3 brought the first of 5 bridges we would cross.

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I can honestly tell you that eating carbs pre-race made a HUGE difference for me. During the GO half in April I was already gassed by mile 4. This time around I was feeling strong. We crossed another bridge around mile 4 reminding us we were earning the title “Runner of Steel”

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Just after this bridge I saw the hubs again. He walked briskly next to me while I pounded my feet out trying to run faster… haha. We then turned around and crossed another bridge… yay for bridges! Oh yea- this is also where I spotted the guy who was juggling his way through the whole race. Seriously!

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Miles 5 & 6 were good, nothing exciting to report. I remember crossing the 10k mark and heading for yet another bridge. It truly was gorgeous out. The perfect race conditions, cool with clear skys. And honestly, I was surprised at how beautiful the city was!

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At this point we were heading outside of the downtown area and I was certain the course would be empty about this time. Man, was I wrong. There were SO many people out cheering us on! At this point I was still pretty close to being on target for my 3 hour finish. I felt energized by the crowd and tried to pick it up a bit. Mile 8 had another water station… which, this course was absolutely amazing with! I never felt myself wishing for another water station. They were perfectly spaced out and well manned. Even being one of the “slower” runners I found that they still had plenty left and ready to hand out when I got to each one. As we passed through the water station there was a huge crowd of what looked to be Military. Turns out it was a local JROTC program cheering us on! This, of course, made me pick up my pace. I remember being in JROTC in high school and not being able to pass the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) and how far I’d come since then. So I ran harder.

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At this point my legs/hips were getting pretty tired. I was a few minutes behind my pace schedule but kept trying to catch back up. Miles 9 & 10 passed as we were nearing the split off from the Full Marathon. Mile 11 came as we crossed a bridge back into the downtown area. At this point I was pretty certain I could shave off those few minutes and still come in sub-3. Then I turned the corner near mile 12 and saw the hill. It wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined… but it really killed me. Then started the downhill… I was thankful for the extra momentum but it was not feeling good on my hips/legs that were already hurting. I just tried to keep a steady pace. I was going to go for it as soon as I saw the finish line. Right around mile 13 the full marathon rejoined our course. People were going crazy as the marathoners came in. I was imagining it was all for me. ha. I tried my best to sprint it out and then got a charlie horse in my right calf… and in my right hip (how does that even happen?)… and then in my left calf… so I did the ugliest sprint/waddle to finish.

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It felt so good to cross that finish line and know I was done. I was hurting far more than I did on my last race because I know I pushed myself way harder. I was proud of myself. Even if I didn’t get my sub-3… I was close!

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My previous PR was 3:23, so a nearly 20 minute PR! I’ll take it! I snagged my bag of goodies at the finish and my Runner of Steel Medal and hobbled toward the Dick’s Sporting Goods tent where I met up with the rest of the #runfor crew…. ate some snacks and got a massage. Man, VIP tents rock.

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Overall I was seriously impressed with this race. The course is beautiful, the aid stations were well executed… but the thing that stuck out to me the most was how excited the people of Pittsburgh were to support the race. It is a BIG deal in this city. Some places can make you feel like the races they put are a hassle – but Pittsburgh honestly LOVED this race. And it showed. The crowd support on this course was unlike any I had experienced before. It was so motivating. I was brought to tears a few times as I struggled through my own pain/thought process and needed that encouragement to keep going. So, hats off to Pittsburgh. You rock.

The rest of the day was spent napping and relaxing with the hubs. Where I looked like this:

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Post nap hair and compression sleeves. Oh yea.

and this happened too…

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Apparently Primanti Bros is a Pittsburgh must-do… so we did.

What do you do after a big race? Nap? Eat?
What’s your latest PR?

I was compensated for this campaign with Dicks Sporting Goods. All thoughts and opinions are my own