Thursday, November 20, 2014

Our Harry Potter World Adventure: Part 1

When Adam and I heard about the new Diagon Alley opening at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando, we knew we had to go.  We both love Harry Potter, and we've both been to the Hogsmeade section in the past (although not together).

We decided back in June to go on and book a trip for the fall. We knew it'd be a better time of year to go in order to not only avoid crowds in general, but also because then it wouldn't be quite so new. We figured the weather would be decent as well. Plus, it gave us something to look forward to during the craziness of moving and getting settled into life back in TN.

We were so excited that it was finally time to go!  We flew out after work on Friday and got there fairly late. We headed to bed, but I am like such a little kid that I had a really hard time getting to sleep!

We decided to stay in one of the Universal hotels because you were able to get into the park an hour before anyone else. This ultimately proved to be very worthwhile.

After getting into the park Saturday morning, we headed straight to Diagon Alley. We were blown away the second we saw it, but we knew to get straight on to the ride before the line got long. We virtually walked on, and it was really neat.  Then, we spent a lot of time enjoying butterbeer and exploring all of the shops and everything there was to see.  I just can't even explain how detailed everything is and how awesome it is to see it!

We soon took the train over to the Hogsmeade side (which is also new and incredibly awesome) and rode the ride in Hogwarts (along with the other two rides) and explored the area and shops before having lunch at The Three Broomsticks.  We truly felt like we were in the book - everything there feels so real!

Adam had never been to anything else in Universal, so we spent the rest of the day riding everything else in both parks. We never waited more than maybe 15 minutes or so except for the Harry Potter rides when we had to wait 30 if we were riding them anytime other than when the park first opened. We stayed until the park closed and then had dinner back at our hotel before calling it a night.

Here are some fun photos from our first day:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Finishing the KY Bourbon Trail

You may recall that Adam and I started the KY Bourbon Trail this past May/June. You can read about the first part of this adventure here.

In late October, we decided to spend a weekend finishing up the rest of the tour. We headed out after work on a Friday and made our way to Frankfort, KY where we had found an inexpensive hotel room that was sort of centrally located near the remaining distilleries we planned to visit.

We had some time to kill that evening, so we drove over to Lexington to have dinner at Mellow Mushroom and then spent the rest of the night checking out 3 haunted houses before heading back to our hotel.

On Saturday morning, we started our day at Buffalo Trace. It's not part of the KY Bourbon Trail, but we had heard good things and wanted to check it out. We enjoyed a great tour, and the samples led us to picking up a bottle of the main label to take home and enjoy.

We quickly discovered when driving to the next stop that completing this adventure in October was smart - the drive through KY was gorgeous with all of the leaves changing color!

Our next stop was Woodford Reserve. We were excited because we know we like this bourbon's main label, and we would get to try their double-oaked label.

We had some time to kill before our tour (this spot stays pretty busy), so we had some lunch from their cafe while sitting on their patio. The food was tasty, and it was fun getting to relax outside in a pretty spot for a bit.

The tour was pretty standard, but we still enjoyed it. We decided we like the double-oaked bourbon almost as much as their main label!

We ended the day at Town Branch. We didn't know that they also brew beer, so it was neat getting to sample both some of their beer as well as some of their bourbon during our tour. We found that we liked several things they make!

We had some dinner and then headed back to our hotel to relax after a busy day!

Sunday morning, we checked out and then headed straight to Wild Turkey. Neither of us had ever tried any of their product, so we maximized our 2 tastings each to try 4 different things. We didn't care for their main label, but they have some other products that were delicious. The tour was nothing special, but it was still great to mark it off the list.

Our last stop to complete our KY Bourbon Trail Passport (you can pick one up at any spot on the trail, get it stamped, and when you've visited all of them you send it in for a t-shirt) was Four Roses. We had tried their main label before and haven't cared for it, but we discovered their single barrel is quite tasty! It was another pretty standard tour as well.

It was only lunchtime, so we decided before heading back to Nashville to head back over to Maker's Mark again and pick up another bottle or two (as we may or may not have already enjoyed the bottles we bought in May).  We of course had to dip them!

I sent in our passports for our shirts once we got home, but we're still waiting to get them back along with our shirts. While we don't necessarily need yet another t-shirt, we did see them in one of the distilleries and they're pretty neat!

It was definitely a lot of fun for us to do the trail. It was a great activity to enjoy together, and we learned a lot not only about how bourbon is made, but also about how to taste it and the unique history of each distillery. We also learned a lot about what kinds of bourbon we enjoy (and have a nice little stock now that should last us a while.)

I definitely recommend doing the trail if you're into such things. Some of the tours are definitely better than others, but it's still a really fun experience to check them all out!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Connor's First Preds Game

Connor is just a couple of months shy of turning 7, and let me tell you - this age is fun!  We have really been able to do more and more stuff with Connor over the last year or so now that he's sort of "old enough" to enjoy certain things for the first time.

Last night, we took him to his very first NHL hockey game! Granted, he's never been to any sort of hockey game... but nonetheless, go big or go home, right?

The Nashville Predators have had a really good start to the season, and we love going to their games because they tend to be a lot of fun. We knew that Connor would love all of the sights and sounds of the game, even if he didn't understand the rules of the game, etc. (Heck, Adam and I don't even understand all of the rules).

We didn't tell him where we were going until it was time to get dressed in our Preds gear. He was excited, and we hopped in the car to head downtown.

We got there a bit earlier than we usually would so that we had plenty of time to walk around and take everything in. We signed him up a while back for the Preds Kid's Club (which got him his game ticket free along with a shirt, bag and some other fun preds swag that he loves!), and it came with a coupon for the Pro Shop. He was pretty excited to look at everything, and he decided to get him some Fang Fingers.

We found the kid's booth, and he got to try his hand at shooting a goal. He definitely thought it was pretty neat!

We also went to grab a snack (we ate dinner before we went), and he was thrilled to pick out a cookie! I think the atmosphere of all the people wearing Preds gear, getting something from concessions, seeing the Pro Shop was really awesome for him.

Before long, it was time to head to our seats. We didn't want him to miss any of the opening festivities! All attendees were given a Pekka Rinne bobblehead (very cool), so we had to open one up and check it out.

Connor thought it was SO COOL that Gnash (the team mascot) entered by rappelling down from the ceiling. His eyes were huge as the sirens went off and the team came out. You could tell he was soaking it all in and that he'd never seen anything like it.

The first period of the game was a bit boring, even for the adults... but things picked up in the second two periods. He started getting really into it and joined in all the cheers. It was definitely neat when we scored and all stood up to dance and sing along to the goal song.  In the end, we won and were so excited!

He was talking 90mph as we made our way out, and he asked us when we will go to another game. We are so glad he had such a fun time! Preds games are really kid-friendly, and he's definitely at the perfect age to go for the first time. I'm sure it won't be our last time to go, and we look forward to making more memories as a family with fun outings like this!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Race Report: The Middle Half

For our October race, Adam and I ran The Middle Half on October 11.

I have to admit... we didn't really train for this one. We had the best of intentions when we signed up back in June, but between our summer activities, moving across three states and getting settled back in at home? It just didn't happen.

Nonetheless, we'd gotten in a few good runs and at least worked up to 6 miles on our long runs. We were excited because this is one of my favorite half marathons (and my 8th time to run it, having done it every year since it started), and it was Adam's first time to run it.

It was a cool morning, but we were thrilled it wasn't pouring down rain - as most of the week the forecast called for that! We knew we needed to take it easy, and we started off from the very beginning by walking every mile for a minute or so.

One of the things I love about this race is that I always see lots of people I know, and this was no exception. It really gave me a sense of being home... running a race through my college town, seeing friends from over the years, and now running it with my husband.

We actually felt pretty good the whole time. I definitely think taking walk breaks each mile from the start was a wise decision for us. By about mile 9, we were taking them a bit more often, but I was still really pleased with how well we were progressing.

Before long, we made it to the finish line! We finished with Adam's second fastest half marathon time, something I think we can be proud of considering we didn't really train as well as we would have liked.

After the race, we found my sister and then hung around chatting with friends for a bit. My mom was walking it so we had a little time to kill as we waited on her to finish. We were thrilled to have some pizza and a coke from the post-race food... definitely spot on after being out there in the damp weather running for a few hours!

Meanwhile, this is how Adam felt as we waited.

But we were still both proud to finish! This was Adam's third half, and it was my 26th. I think. It's hard to keep count these days. This was my slowest finish time at this event, but I truly don't even care about the time... it's just fun getting out there and getting it done.

It was fun hanging out with my sister as we waited on mom and her friend to finish.

All in all, it was a really fun race (as always), and it was so much fun getting to run my favorite half with my husband! I can't tell you how many times I ran this race in the first few years and thought about how awesome it would be to someday run it with him, even before I knew Adam would be my husband! It's definitely really cool to make it happen. He claims he's done with half marathons, but I have a feeling I'll be able to talk him into this one again.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Strength in Numbers Virtual Race to SUPPORT OUR TROOPS!

Not only is November a time for thankfulness as we celebrate Thanksgiving, there is another important day this month - Veteran's Day on November 11.

What better way to show how thankful we are for our troops than to give back to them through a virtual race! (I know, it's maybe not your first thought... but let me tell you how you can participate in this easy activity to give back to our military.)

This month, Jost Running is dedicating its virtual race to the non-profit where I work - Courage Beyond at Centerstone.  Our organization provides our military population (including active duty, veterans, reserve troops AND their loved ones/families) with confidential, no-cost programs and services like counseling, support groups, classes, therapeutic retreats, etc. to assist them in facing PTSD and other invisible wounds of war.

According to the VA, 22 veterans a day die by suicide. The suicide numbers among active duty soldiers as well as military spouses are also on the rise. At Courage Beyond, we're working to provide our military and their families with other options and ways to find healing.

Will you consider participating in this virtual race? It's super easy, and your registration fee (only $25-$35, depending on the race distance you select) will provide a donation to Courage Beyond... and you get an awesome finisher's medal!

First of all, you might be asking - What is a Virtual Race?

I'm glad you asked! It's a race that you run in the location of your choice - maybe it's at home on a treadmill, outside on a trail, around your neighborhood, or within another road race in your community.

Do I have to be a Runner?

NO! You can run, walk, skip, jump, or even choose to "sleep in" and not run at all. Your registration will still benefit the cause.

Here's how to join:
  • Register online for the November Strength in Numbers race, benefitting Courage Beyond.
  • Sometime before November 30, complete your race!
  • Submit your race time on the Jost Running website and get your medal!

Other Ways to Be Involved with Courage Beyond
  • Use hashtag #TCVirtualRace to share with Courage Beyond that you're participating! We'd love to hear why you signed up, see a photo from "race day" or whatever you may wish to share.
  • Join the event on Facebook and invite your friends!
  • Learn more about Courage Beyond on our website
  • Email me at work for questions or more information.
  • Spread the word on your social media/blogs about this EASY way to Support Our Troops!

I'd love it if we had lots of people nationwide joining in the virtual race to benefit this great cause. It's a great way to get a workout in (something you were probably already going to do at least once this month, right??) AND use it to support our military and their families!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fall Fun with CJ!

Earlier in October, we planned a super fun weekend to enjoy some fall and Halloween festivities with Connor!

We started out with the fall festival in our neighborhood. It's so fun to be in a community where there is stuff like this available to residents. We quickly determined that if we were childless, it wouldn't be something we'd necessarily care about... but since we had Connor for the weekend of the event, we found it to be awesome for kids.

He had a blast playing with us in the inflatables...

He also got to check out some local police vehicles and fire truck...

And there were a few festive photo opportunities...

Later that day, we took him to Ghouls at Grassmere (the Nashville Zoo)! We got a membership here for the year, and we've already found it to be a great way to spend some time together as a family. Connor absolutely LOVES Halloween, and it was fun to take him to this event.  He has decided to be a grim reaper for Halloween, so we gave some of his costume a test run.

Family photo once we got to the zoo...

Playing some Carn-Evil games...

Riding the Scary-Go-Round...

There were a LOT of fun activities for kids at this event. He got to go trick or treating at about 20 booths, played about 10 different games, saw volunteers dressed up as his favorite super heroes, checked out the Monster Lab (where he got to touch silly stuff that was supposed to be scary stuff - he got a big kick out of it!), and walk through the Frightening Farm (a silly little haunted farm scene that he thought was super neat!)

Also that same weekend, we celebrated my mom's birthday with a special dinner at her favorite restaurant. Connor hadn't seen Nana and Papa for a few weeks (or Meredith) so he was excited to spend some time with them.

We have a new routine with CJ now that we're home, and it involves us taking him to school on some mornings. He had a special week at school where they got to have dress up days, and on one particular day he could wear a hat. He was pretty excited about wearing the Thor hat he picked out on hat day!

After all of the fun and excitement of the weekend, Adam and I planned a special date night, too! We had yet to go out to dinner for his birthday (which was back in early September!), and when we found a Groupon to The Melting Pot we decided it was time to make it happen. Adam had never been before other than one time we went and did just dessert there, so it was fun to go and have the experience together!