My New Side Project: Vacation Advisor with a Disney Focus!

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Cinderella Castle decked out for the holidays, 2017.

Hi, friends! I’d like to ask for a big favor from you today: I’m embarking on a new side venture (don’t worry, I’m still planning on blogging as usual!) as a trained vacation advisor for a company called Mouse Counselor. I know you’re all aware of my obsession with Disney, so it probably won’t come as a surprise when I tell you that I’m specializing in Disney vacations! I’d love to help you, your family, and your friends plan the most magical trip possible. Best of all, my services are all for free! So if you could please like my new Facebook page, Mouse Counselor: Christina Doka, and help spread the word, I’d really appreciate it. I can also be reached by email at chrisdoka@mousecounselor.com!

Thank you so much! 😍😘

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Countdown to Disney: 45 Days

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20953500_10106693311536829_1695517932177272958_n.jpgMy Disney obsession is no secret. I first visited with my parents and brother in 2001, and thought I don’t remember much of the trip—to those who know me well, it’s also no secret that I have the worst memory in the world—I know I had a good time. Todd and I visited together early in our relationship, then again in 2012 when he proposed. And on our recent trip to California with my parents, we visited Disneyland for the first time (right). But every time we’ve gone to that magical place, it’s been warm and sunny—until now. This year we’ll be in Disney World for New Year’s Eve, so that we get to experience all of the holiday decor plus a special celebration to welcome 2018.

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My Fastest 5k Yet!

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16939531_10106026132379209_4669073140362198351_nThis year Todd and I are working toward the NYRR 9+1 program, in which you run nine races and volunteer at one to gain guaranteed entry into the 2018 NYC marathon. (No, we have never attempted such a long distance before. No, I am not sure I even can run an entire marathon. But I know I have to try, at least once in my lifetime.)

Because we figured January and February would be super cold, we chose the Washington Heights 5k in March as the first of our nine runs. Did I expect it to feel a little bit like spring? Silly me. The temperate was in the 20s; I could see my breath while we hurried to the starting line. I’d dressed in high socks, leggings, a tank top with a pretty warm jacket on top, gloves that could become mittens, and my Pusheen hat—and though that combination worked perfectly during the race, it left me hopping around trying to stay warm while we waited in our corral.

The course was a simple out-and-back that looped up through Fort Tryon Park, taking us around the Cloisters, a MET museum specializing in medieval art and architecture. I highly recommend checking out the collections there; the entire museum is so incredibly peaceful and awe-inspiring. It’s also situated at the top of a very large hill, which we had to run up as part of the race. This is where I say thank you to the creators of Disney’s Moana soundtrack: As I labored up the steepest of the inclines, the song “How Far I’ll Go” popped up on my playlist, and its yearning buoyancy gave me the push I needed to stay strong and positive. From there just another small hill, and then I sprinted the rest of the way down Fort Washington Avenue, about a mile left to the finish line.

I didn’t catch my time as I crossed, but I felt really good, not winded or aching despite what I knew had to have been a faster pace than usual. I’m hopeful that this means my weekly combination of one long run and several short speed bursts is training me to become a better runner—either that or I was just trying to outrun the cold! When I later checked my chip time, I’d completed the course in 27 minutes and 7 seconds, a new PR. I’m a little worried that it was just a fluke and I’ll fall behind in my next race, but the only way to find out is to sign up and run. One down, eight to go…2018 NYC marathon, here we come!

Impressions of Disneyland Paris: Part 1

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The first stop on our honeymoon was Disneyland Paris, Europe’s answer to Disneyland and Disney World. There are two parks: Parc Disneyland, which is like the Magic Kingdom of Disneyland Paris (it’s laid out almost identically, with a main street and a castle hub that branches out in spokes), and Walt Disney Studios, which is more like Hollywood Studios but even smaller and less themed. Here are some photos and thoughts to convey our initial impressions of Disneyland Paris (hotels, Disney village, and Walt Disney Studios), with more to come in additional posts.

Hotel
We stayed at the Sequoia Lodge, which is located about a ten-minute walk from the parks and a five-minute walk from Disney Village. We lucked out with a quiet corner room and a private balcony. The rooms were comfortable and relatively clean, though the balcony could have used a dusting for spider webs. The beds and pillows were standard, but we were so exhausted by the end of each day that they felt like heaven.

Breakfast was included at the hotel, though it wasn’t anything to write home about, mostly croissants and some meats and cheeses. There was yogurt and cereal for us light eaters, and the guava juice was really tasty. A big bonus of Sequoia Lodge? The hotel pool, which I forgot to snap a photo of. There’s a slide going into the pool, which is both indoor and outdoor, connected by a little opening that guests can swim under (or they can walk around, like I did, if they don’t trust their swimming abilities or don’t want to get their hair wet). The pool area also featured a hot tub, a sauna, and a gym.

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Disney Village
Think Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs), but much smaller. There were a few shops selling toys, clothes, and art pieces, as well as a few food options. One note about the food both in Disney Village and in the parks: It was all very average. I think Todd and I have been spoiled by the exceptional quality of the food in Disney World. But everything looked super cute and we enjoyed browsing the shops. We even got to ride on the “hot air balloon,” and got great views of the parks and resort.


Walt Disney Studios
On our first day we visited the smaller of the two parks, Walt Disney Studios. We felt that it could be done in a day if you want to do everything, or a half-day if you are going to be selective about the rides you choose. We skipped Tower of Terror because neither of us were feeling 100%, but we did try out Rock-n-Roller Coaster and the Crush Coaster, both of which were more intense than we had expected. The Crush Coaster starts out with cute theming and a little story, and morphs into crazy loops and turns! Of course we also went on the trackless Rémy ride, which was so awesome. You go into a little “rat mobile” and wear 3D glasses, and really feel like you’re a rat being chased through the restaurant and kitchen! We then ate in Bistrot Chez Rémy  (so good!), but I’ll post a separate food review another day, probably when I’m back home. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any of the shows, but we heard that they’re really enjoyable.

Finally, Part 2 is up! Check it out!

My Bachelorette Painting Party

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In the time since my last post, we’ve mostly been busy with wedding planning. We finalized the music selections for our ceremony and reception. We organized our seating chart and coordinated with the florist. We ordered our cake topper, created a program for hotel guests, and figured out our favors. We sorted hundreds of pearls based on size and shape: flat-bottom, large, medium, small, very small. But the best part of the past two weeks was the one thing I didn’t plan: my bachelorette party! Continue reading

Holiday Season Photo Post

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I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with laughter and joy! I had a lot of fun in the kitchen trying out some new recipes (like butternut squash & spinach lasagna and ricotta cheesecake) with Todd, and of course sharing a bountiful meal with my family. This year, I felt most thankful for Todd and his generosity and understanding, the love of and for my family, those close friends you can tell anything to, my interesting job copyediting at O and the great people I work with, the Lightbringer fantasy series by Brent Weeks, and that I have time for jogging and exercising. Continue reading

My First Time at Cirque Du Soleil

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I only have vague memories of visiting the circus as a child, and I’m not sure if those are real or imagined. I’ve longed to watch a circus show for some time now, so when planning this Disney World vacation, Todd and I decided to purchase tickets to Cirque Du Soleil: La Nouba. The largest theatrical producer in the world, Cirque du Soleil is a Canadian entertainment company that combines global circus styles and continual live music to create jaw-dropping performances. La Nouba is the company’s show in residence at Disney World, running 90 minutes without an intermission in a custom-built theater since 1998. The ticket hints at the show’s grace and eccentricity, and the seat plan below demonstrates the layout of the theater. We sat in section 103, Row D; I think any seat would have offered a good view, but we did have to crane our necks a little bit for the aerial performances.

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