Saturday, December 28, 2019

Sunday Runday: Running Universal Jurassic World 5k

When Thatkid and I ran the Running Universal Minions 5k he spent almost the entire time complaining.  Until we crossed the finish line and grabbed his snacks.  "We're signing up for the Jurassic World one, right?" he asked.   That's how you know the kid is truly a runner.

I didn't put up much of a fight.  The Inaugural Running Universal race was so well run, you'd never guess they hadn't been doing it for years.   And it had all the fun I missed when Disney stopped their RunDisney program at Disneyland.

We headed up the night before, sitting in hours of traffic, to pick up our packets.

And of course we stopped by Voodoo Donuts to check out their display themed to match the race.

We were at the start of the race before dawn again.

They still don't seed by time, so we were in the 5th wave, waiting to start.  But they kept us more than entertained while we waited.  And everyone is in such a good mood.  You gotta love that about the pre-race atmosphere.

Eventually it was our turn to start.  There are confetti cannons for each wave!  Which makes every wave feel special.

We headed off down the entry way, which is when I noticed the park was all dressed up for the holidays.

Although Hogsmead is always winter-ready.

There was a new course this time.  Which I was really curious about, because the course for Minions was rough.  This course kept us flat or downhill for the first 2 miles, which was much easier for Thatkid.

It also took us into the lower lot, which was under construction last time for the new Jurassic World ride.

We got in line to take pictures with the dinosaurs, but there was some sort of malfunction, so after waiting for a bit, Thatkid got nervous about finishing within the time limits and we headed back out to the course.

We ran through parts of the backlot tour that we hadn't seen last time.

And we got our dinosaur pictures.

The last mile had us back in familiar waters...

As we headed back up hill for the rest of the course, it was probably fitting that this is the most ominous parts of the backlot - Jaws, Psycho, War of the Worlds....

It's much easier to stay motivated as the last mile ticks by, and since we had already run this part of the course, we knew there wasn't much ahead of us.  Pretty soon we were in City Walk and heading toward the finish line.

It was a great race and I like the new course. So did Thatkid.  He's ready to sign up for their next race, and this time Thatbaby wants to get in on the action with the kids' race!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Happy Holidays!

May your happiness be large and your worries be small.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Sunday Runday: Lululemon 10k

A couple of months before I headed to Vancouver to run Lululemon's SeaWheeze Half Marathon, Lululemon announced their very first United States race.  A 10k that just happened to be in San Diego.  I mean, I had to sign up, right?

Lululemon knows how to run their races, so I wasn't too concerned about this being an inaugural run.  Plus, I'd run the course (in the other direction) before with friends.  And this was going to be another run with friends, because just about every person a knew had also signed up.

The race started on Shelter Island, where parking is at a premium, so they shuttled us over to the start.  Which isn't novel for races, but if you've ever been shuttled before you'll know that usually means you're in for a VERY early arrival time.  And this was no different.  We shivered in the dark and cold until eventually the sun came up and it was time to start.

The race course was great.  One of the reasons my friends and I enjoy this route is that a lot of it is very scenic, running beside the San Diego Bay.  It's also predominately flat, and the hills that exist are some of the most mild in San Diego races. 

Like in Vancouver, Lululemon had a spin class there to cheer us on along the route...I think.  It was a little hard to tell because we must have run past it between classes?  People were mostly milling about, not actually on bikes.

There were also spirit stations throughout the course with drag queens, hula hoopers, and sharks!

We had a lot of fun running the race - which is one of the best reasons to run with friends.  And when we finished, we were given a medal and a donut!

The post-race festivities included a pop-up shop with a line that wrapped around the entire event, along with several other vendors.  Our race bags for SeaWheeze included a pair of running shorts, and this race gave us a tank top, so this year I've managed to score an entire running outfit, just from participating in Lululemon races!

As anticipated the 10k was really well planned and went so smoothly.  None of the kinks or snags that many first-time races have.  I hope they continue to come back to San Diego!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Disneyland with Kids: Sausage Lasagna

For a number of years, Thatboy and I used to visit Disneyland in January - you miss the holiday crowds, but still get to enjoy all the holiday decor.  Despite this fact, Thatboy was insistent that we had never seen Disney dressed up for the holidays.  And he really wanted to do that this year.  I did a little research and thought that if we went in November, before Thanksgiving, we could probably get the same "holiday decor without the holiday crowds" effect.  But timing wise, the most convenient weekend for us to go was Thatboy's birthday weekend.  I tried to plan around his birthday, but he decided it would actually be fun to spend his birthday at the parks, and so we did an extravagant birthday weekend.  We tried to follow the same rule of thumb as we had at Universal, and it ended up being a great trip.

Where to Stay

This is the first time we've actually stayed at Disneyland.  Usually we stay with Thatmom who lives close enough for us to easily go back and forth.  But because of Thatboy's birthday we decided to do it "right."  There are 3 hotels on property, and after looking at them all, Thatboy picked the Disneyland Hotel.  Mostly because the headboards light up to look like fireworks.  (I know how silly that sounds, but hey, you get what you want on your birthday).  The headboards also play "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes."

Staying on property has a number of really great benefits.  Everything is right there, making it ever so easy.  This is especially nice for getting to the park in the morning, and back at night.  Thatboy loved the convenience of that.  It also meant we could stay at the parks later than we usually do, since we didn't have to worry about driving home.  Guests of the hotel can also get early entry into the parks, which we didn't take advantage of, but would be nice during more crowded periods.

Disney does special deliveries to their hotels, which means if you are celebrating a birthday, like we were, you can have special treats waiting for your birthday celebrant.

The hotel also had a really great pool, which we took advantage of as soon as we got in.  And before we checked out on the last day.  

Where to Eat

  • Breakfast - This is the first time we ever did breakfast in the parks, because usually we eat before we head over.  But then of course, we had to figure out when we wanted to do breakfast.  Eat first and then go to the park?  Take advantage of being their early and hit up some of the rides and then go to the park?  We ended up doing the latter.  Most of the rides in Fantasyland don't have fast-passes available, and the lines can get long, so we hit up a couple of them, and then grabbed breakfast at the Red Rose Taverne.  I would highly recommend this because there really was something for everyone.  Mickey Mouse pancakes for my youngest, eggs, bacon and eggs for my oldest, and stuffed french toast for my husband.  I will add there's no kids menu here, but the choices are still kid-friendly.
          We also grabbed breakfast at the coffee shop in the hotel on our last morning which is a great quick service option.  
  • Lunch - Because we hit up the pool as soon as we checked in, we grabbed lunch on our first day at Tangaroa Terrace at the hotel  See?  Convenient.  There aren't a ton of kid-friendly items, but if your kids like cheeseburgers, they'll be happy.  And the grownup food like poke bowls and ramen is a nice change from typical theme park food.  
  • Dinner - The quick service food is usually our go-to at Disneyland.  It's easy and they're everywhere, but we always try to get reservations for dinner places.  It's nice to be guaranteed a seat with no wait after being on your feet all day.  The first night, on Thatboy's birthday he chose Wine Country Trattoria for dinner.  We knew we wouldn't have to fight with the kids over pizza and pasta for dinner.  I had heard great things about their lasagna, but I was actually disappointed in it.  I was also disappointed in the "surprise cake" I had ordered for Thatboy...which, despite me mentioning it being a surprise moments earlier, multiple times, was announced by the hostess as she sat us.  
          The second night we had a much more enjoyable dinner at Cafe Orleans. It helps that Thatboy and I love creole food.  We had some amazing pomme frites to start, and then split the shrimp and grits and a three cheese monte cristo.  The kids?  They're always happy with macaroni and cheese.
  • Snacks - While at Disney we mostly survive on snacks.  As long as we keep a steady stream of them, we can go for long periods of time between meals, even skipping lunch. We especially like to take advantage of the seasonal snacks, like the peppermint beignets, the hot chocolate beignets, and the Christmas tree soft serve.  That last one might be my new favorite - like a shamrock shake in soft serve form!  All mint no chocolate!  And there are always the old standbys like popcorn and dole whips.

California Adventure

Since we're driving distance from Disneyland, anytime we do two days, we start the first day off with California Adventure.  It needs much less time that Disneyland.   We split up here also, with Thatboy and Thatkid heading for Guardians of the Galaxy while Thatbaby and I rode some of the more tame rides. We met up for some family rides and dinner.  After dinner we split up again and the boys and I waited in the Toy Story line while Thatboy ran off to ride the Incredicoaster.  

We stayed to watch the World of Color show.  This was definitely for Thatboy and I.  The kids weren't super interested, or just tired.  It was late.  As a tip, we watched from the "back" of the show, so we could still see the fountains, just not the images projected on them.  It was beautiful and amazing and puts the Bellagio fountain show to shame.

Top (not so) Secret Tip: Let's talk about the Max Pass.  The Max Pass lets you access and get your Fast Passes right from the app on your phone.  More convenience.  But check the wait times before you purchase - we actually didn't need it either day we were there.  On top of that, we rarely use them at California Adventure.  The 2 rides here with the longest lines are Toy Story Mania and Radiator Springs Racers, so if you want to guarantee riding them, without waiting, it's worth it to get the Max Pass.  And Radiator Springs Racer always runs out of Fast Passes so get that one early.


My tip for Disneyland is, as mentioned before, hit up Fantasyland first.  This worked well for us also because it started Thatbaby off on the right foot.  There are still a fair number of rides that are too dark and scary for Thatbaby.

Jungle Cruise, Small World, and Pirates of the Carribean are all rides that have short wait times and lines that move quickly, so we save those for later in the day.  (caveat - Small World Holiday can have really long wait times, but during the rest of the year, it's an easy backup plan.)

Whenever we have some free time between Fast pass times, or dinner reservations, we let the kids run around Mickey's Toon Town.  It's a great place for them to burn off some energy.  

And wait times at night in Tomorrowland are much lower than during the rest of the day.

We got to stay for the holiday firework show this time and it was magical.  If you're going to do this, don't bother trying to get close to the castle.  Main Street is where you want to be.  Images that correlate with the music and fire works are projected on all the buildings and it was just magical.  Plus it "snowed"!

Galaxy's Edge

I'm putting this in it's own category, even though it's part of Disneyland.  Thatboy was really excited to be able to check out Galaxy's Edge while we were there.  

Galaxy's Edge opened earlier this summer and initially required a reservation to get in.  Now anyone can walk right in and explore, which is way easier!  There's not a ton there, although a new ride will be opening next month.  It reminds me a lot of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal - a total immersive experience.  Being there really is like being on another planet.  Every aspect is like a movie set.  It's filled with mostly shops, and a couple places to eat.   Instead of Butterbeer, the draw here is milk - in the blue and green variety.  Of course you need to do a taste test - our family was split pretty much down the middle on this one.

The one ride currently open is the Smugglers' Run where each member of your party is assigned a role in their attempt to shuttle goods on the Millennium Fountain.  There's no fast pass and the lines are long, but it was definitely worth it.  Everyone in the family had a great time.  For us, Thatbaby took a nap while the big boys got in line and when he woke up we joined them, so it worked out pretty well for us.

The food is quick/counter service except for Oga's Cantina, which is definitely more bar and less food.  Oga's does require reservations, so if it's on your list, make sure you get them ahead of time.  I was able to secure them just a couple weeks in advance. When we arrived for our reservation we still had to wait in line, but if you didn't have a reservation you couldn't even wait in line.  Inside continued the immersive experience with so much fun things to look at, from the droid DJ spinning music, to the power blacking out and needing to be restarted.  It's standing room only, which isn't the most fun with kids, but the non-alcoholic drinks are pretty fun for them.

We ended up getting a fuzzy tauntaun (a peach drink with a numbing foam on top reminiscent of szechaun buttons), a jabba juice (orange pineapple juice with blueberry boba), a carbon freeze (lemon lime and strawberry juice with blueberry and green apple boba), and a Dagobah Slug Slinger (a margarita like drink with herbs and ginger).   And we all really enjoyed our drinks.  I definitely see us coming back!

This was definitely one of our most successful weekends at Disneyland, with the exception of Thatboy's birthday dinner.  It's an easy one to make up to him though.  Lasagna is not so hard to make.  Thatboy thinks it is, because TMIL convinced him it's an all day ordeal and so their family only ever has frozen lasagna from a box.  On the other hand, it's one of my easy go-to recipes for company since it serves a lot of people and it's really just about layering ingredients.  This is one of my fancier ones in that I make my own bechamel sauce for it, but that's a lot easier than it sounds.

Sausage Lasagna
1 1/2 lbs Italian sausage
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
2 cups cream
salt and pepper
3 cups tomato meat sauce
1 lb lasagna noodles
1 lb ricotta cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat the broiler and then broil the sausages for 8 minutes.  Let cool just until you're able to handle them, and then remove the casings.
  2. While the sausages are broiling, make the bechamel: Add the flour and butter to a sauce pan on medium high heat; stir to combine, and keep stirring until it becomes paste-like and bubbly.
  3. Slowly add in portions of the milk, stirring constantly while adding and between adding liquid
  4. Once all milk has been added, season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350.  Spread a layer of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish.  
  6. Add a layer of the lasagna noodles, breaking to fit in the dish.
  7. Top with a layer of sausage, ricotta cheese, and bechamel.
  8. Repeat with another layer of noodles, sausage, ricotta, and bechamel.
  9. Continue layering until all the ingredients are used up, ending with bechamel on top.  
  10. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Sunday Runday: Grape Day 5k

This year the Grape Day 5k fell on the same day as the Fit Foodie 5k.  Oh no!  Both of these races are favorites of Thatkid and I and we usually enjoy running them together. 

I let him pick which one he would prefer to run and he chose the Grape Day 5k.   This community race is one of my favorites precisely because it is so community oriented.  Cheerleaders from neighborhood high schools cheer on the course, residents come out and man self-made water stations, or just cheer from their front yard.  It's got a real small town feel to it.

This year the course changed slightly, starting and finishing at the community park.  Thatboy loved this, because it meant they were closer to a coffee shop for Thatbaby and him to grab breakfast, but also because Thatbaby could play on the playground while they waited for us to finish.

Leftover from SeaWheeze, my Nike+ App was still in kilometers. This seemed to be really great for Thatkid who appreciated hearing an update every few minutes as to how he was doing, instead of waiting for the mile markers.

The new course still had some killer hills.   That kid and I decided that we'd run the flat portions of the course, jog down the hills, but walk up the hills. 

In addition to the water stations, the volunteers had set up spray blaster stations at the top of hills - with either water or colored chalk.

The new course seemed easier than the old one, and before long I was texting Thatboy that we were almost at the finish.

Of course, as soon as he saw the finish line, Thatkid took off like a rocket, and Thatboy JUST missed him finishing!

Thatkid and I do a lot of races together, and the Grape Day 5k is always the beginning of nonstop racing for the two of us for the end of the year.  We love it so much.