Archive for ‘Advice’

January 5, 2013

My Go-To (and actually healthy!) Breakfast

Last year I spent a lot of time hard boiling eggs for school. I’d take one or two with me in the morning and try to scarf them down while I took attendance, listed off the day’s agenda, and recorded which students ate the school breakfast. It was not the easiest of feats, but I managed. Now in my second year of teaching, I’ve come to appreciate the greatness that comes from eating a really filling breakfast. While I was putting together my LifeSTYLE Book, I came across a “recipe” (it’s less of a recipe and more putting food on top of each other) for a little twist on the usual Eggo waffle breakfast.

sunbutter

The recipe suggested getting two multigrain frozen waffles (less than $2 for 10 at Target), toasting them, and then spreading Sunbutter on top. I have always been loyal to peanut butter, and it was hard to make such a drastic change, but I tried it. It’s a bit smoother than peanut butter and has a little more of a nut flavoring. It’s pretty comparable, though, and from my research the health benefits are pretty even for both. But, if you are looking for a change- I’d pick up Sunbutter from your local Target. It’s in the aisle with all the regular peanut butter stuff, but keep in mind it will be more expensive. I usually pay about $6 for it and get a new jar every three weeks or so.

After you make your fateful Sunbutter vs. Peanut Butter choice, cut up a banana and throw those slices on top. I have to buy really small bananas so I don’t have to cut these huge chunks to fit on my waffle, so try grabbing those mini bunches when you’re digging through produce at the store. This is how it should look (no surprises!):

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I eat this almost religiously on school days unless I’m running late. It can keep me full for about 6 hours, which is amazing. I’ve made this for lunch and dinner sometimes, too, if I’m feeling particularly lazy and want a quick food fix. Delicious : )

January 4, 2013

Check It Out: Downtown Disney’s Splitsville

Today my dad treated me to a morning of bowling at Downtown Disney’s new Splitsville.  I had first seen that this was being built last summer when Maggie and I were over seeing a Fork and Screen movie, and apparently it just opened the week before Christmas.  I had heard a lot of good things about it, so I was excited to check it out.

Splitsville Downtown Diseny

When you come in, you get in one of two lines- Dining or Bowling.  They have a full service restaurant that you can sit at, or you can get food ordered right at your lane.  We got in the bowling line, and since we were there in the first half hour of it opening (regular hours are 10 am-2 am), we got a lane right away.  They check you in and plug in your names and shoe sizes to a computer.  You then get a “lane concierge” who takes a basket with your shoes and menus over to your lane and briefs you on the basics:

1. You have an hour and a half to play as many games as you can.  They build in 10 extra minutes for picking out which bowling ball you want and getting your shoes on.

2.  Each lane has its own waitress who will visit periodically throughout your time block.  My dad and I got some fries and a Turkey Club about mid-game, and it took about 15-20 minutes for the food to come out.  Make sure you order ahead of time, so you’re not stuck scarfing down food at the end.  Here’s a peek at the menu (sorry that some parts are fuzzy- I just snapped these quickly between bowling frames and it was kind of dim).  Almost everything is between $10-$15.

Splitsville Menu 1

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Splitsville Menu 3

3. At the 15 minute mark, your screen will turn yellow as a warning that your time is almost up.  Someone will check on you then to wrap up your bill.  I’m sure you could pay more to stay longer, but an hour and a half was PLENTY of time- especially for two people.  You can always see how much time you have left by the countdown clock at the bottom of your screen.

Splitsville Time Left

I was pleased to see that our scoreboard was already set up with our names when we got our shoes, so there was no time wasted typing things into  a tiny keyboard.  My dad and I got through 3 full games, as well as the first few frames of a fourth game.  We left about 15 minutes before our time was up because we were both pretty done with bowling by then.  The family next to us had four people, and they seemed to fit about 3 games in during the hour and a half period (plus they ordered some snacks in between).

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My dad bowling his next frame. He was much better than me at aiming ; )

I am not super great at bowling and tend to go with the “throw it hard and hope for the best” strategy.  My scores went from 73 to 96 (woohoo!) back down to 71, while my dad beat me all three times with 113, 100, and 122 in the last round (that beats Sheldon’s career best at 68!).  Whenever you get any special shots, like a Strike, Spare, Split, or my go-to, the Gutterball, fun animation pops up on your screen so everyone is made aware of your skill level, haha.

Gutterball Splitsville

They had a good selection of bowling balls to choose from at each station.  I switched between 7-9 pounds with the small finger size, and my dad had a 13 pound ball with an XL finger size.  I saw other bowling balls with XS and XXL, so really, everyone’s hand is covered : )  All the bowling balls have to be Disney related, so they each sport a Mickey or Minnie sketch on the side.

The atmosphere of Splitsville is great.  They played a bunch of Top 40 music, including “Good Time”, “Somebody I Used to Know”, and “Call Me Maybe”.  The walls have a bunch of fun pop art on them, and they also include retro touches throughout the bowling alley to keep up the theme.  The place sports two levels with a total of 20 lanes (10 on each floor).  The bottom floor is always family-friendly, while the top floor turns into a night club for those 21 and up- but only after a certain time at night.  If you go before 5 pm, it’s $15 a person including shoes (obviously food and drinks are extra).  If you go between 5-10 pm, it goes up to $20 per person, and then back down to $15 after 10 pm.  Friday and Saturday might be a little more expensive during that peak time, so be sure to check for pricing.  We paid the $15 for the before 5 pm price on this Friday, though.

Splitsville Decor

You can not reserve single lanes in advance.  You can reserve two lanes if you also purchase a food package- obviously for just me and my dad this was not necessary.  Groups and parties can always reserves multiple lanes, and on their phone recording, they said they will eventually add single lane reservations this spring.  As I mentioned, we walked right in, but there was about 20 people in line to bowl when we left closer to noon.  Until they allow more reservations, I would try to get there near opening time if you want to try it out.  However, there are plenty of bars and places to sit down and eat throughout the alley while you wait : )

I’d definitely recommend visiting Splitsville on your next trek out to Downtown Disney.  I think people don’t bowl enough in general, and that may be because so many bowling alleys seem run down, smelling of cigarettes and funky smelling shoes.  Splitsville revitalizes the typical bowling alley image, and makes it a much more classy experience.  I think it’s awesome that they cater to young adults as well as families (they even have little bowling ball metal guiders for tiny kids to roll their bowling balls down the lane!).  The food is a little pricey, but you are paying a lot for the convenience of having it brought to you.  It also offers a good variety (even Sushi!) as seen in the menu pictures above.  Everyone will find something to nosh on.  And if you don’t order any food, I feel like the $15 for an hour and a half + shoes is a good deal.  I’m glad I got the opportunity to check it out, along with the free reminder that I need to brush up on my bowling skills ; )

January 3, 2013

Tales of a Gift Giver: DIY Gifts for Any Occasion

Being a teacher isn’t the best way to save money on gifts, so I decided to get a little more creative this year and put a homemade aspect into a lot of my family’s gifts. Here is a rundown of my DIY gifts, and how to make them in case you get inspired ; )

For my mom….

Owl Piggy Bank

When my sister came to visit me in Tulsa, we visited Color Me Mine in Tulsa. This is a “paint your own ceramic thing” kind of place, and of course, I chose the owl. It’s actually a piggy bank, and I instructed my mom to use it to save up money for her next trip to come see me. We always end up going shopping, so I figured every time she is feeling stressed out from daily life, she can look at the equally stressed out owl and deposit change in it to save up for something fun later : )

For my sister….

book of awesome

Last Christmas, my sister gave me this book called “The Book of Awesome.” It contains short passages about the small things in life we should appreciate like driving around to see Christmas lights, finally remembering where we’ve seen someone before after staring at them forever, and playing Robin Hood with batteries in your remotes around your house (steal from the rich and give to the poor!). She not only bought the book, but also had marked it up commenting on various things, drawing illustrations, and coming up with her own Awesome things unique to us. I would randomly read it all year, and was absolutely *delighted* to find out they had released a sequel to it. I bought it, and also the holiday edition, and spent hours and hours marking each passage up and thinking up new awesome things. I was actually afraid she would buy the same thing for me, so I tried to add as much as possible and bought that holiday edition as a back up bonus gift, haha. Luckily, she got me Lego Lord of the Rings instead, so I was safe ; ) Taking a coffee table book and personalizing it for a friend or family member is quite awesome on its own, and it is an easy gift to put together.

For my dad….

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Confession Time: I watch a lot of “beauty gurus” on YouTube. I think I follow like 20 now??? It’s a bit ridiculous, but led to a great Christmas gift idea this year. Rachhloves posted a video a long time ago about DIY gifts, and one of them was a jar of notes. Essentially, you decorate a jar and write a bunch of notes with quotes, sayings, memories, etc. for the person to read throughout the year. Well, I am more fond of boxes so I went straight to my local Michaels and bought this basic black wooden box and some scrabble-like tiles (yes, I had the scrabble idea and assumed the store would have it- luckily it did). I spent about an hour arranging the tiles into the perfect way to state the purpose of the box and take up most of the lid. I did this while Inception was on TV, so I feel like I deserve extra points for processing the movie and putting together this gift. After the box was decorated, I just wrote all the notes- most of which are fond memories I share of growing up with my dad. I had bought a bag of randomly sized, colored paper from Michaels, too, which made the notes look a little more fancy and also had been cut down to size. I ended up making 52 so my dad can open one a week. Warning: This can be extremely fun to make and you may want to keep it for yourself by the end.

For my best friend Erin….

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I made Erin the same present as my dad except her box was very different. I bought a white cardboard one for her, and then spent forever cutting out quotes, cute pictures, and inspirational words to decorate the entire outside and inside walls of the box. The longest part of this project was arranging everything just so on each side of the box, especially on the top (because that has the biggest real estate and will be seen the most). I probably went through about 5 different layouts before deciding on one. This was done during the movie Elf, though, so my mind was a little more freed up than when I made my dad’s gift. Once I laid out all the magazine clippings, I painted Mod Podge ALL over the box to glue it down and create a finishing effect. It looked pretty awesome in the end. I used the same note paper to write Erin’s notes, and once again wrote 52 to make it last all year (though I did tease her that she wouldn’t be able to wait and I’d find her laying in a sea of opened notes, kind of like Monica opening all her wedding presents on Friends).

For my grandfather….

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My grandfather is extremely hard to shop for, so I had to enlist the help of 26 4th graders to put his gift together. We just finished reading Dear Mr. Henshaw the last week before break, and as a “final project,” each student wrote a letter to him telling about themselves and an aspect of the class. I took a picture of each student holding a “Hi Mr. Barr!” sign, too, so my grandfather could see all the cute kids who wrote the letters. I didn’t have time to do practically any editing, so the quotes from some of these letters are hilarious. For example:

“I’m ten years old. I bet you’re really old.”

“My name is Ethan. Do you like my handwriting?”

“Ms. Schrumpf teaches us a little bit too much social studies.”

“My brothers make fun of me. They tease me a lot, but life goes on.”

This was actually really easy to put together. I used a spare binder and some page protectors, had the kids paste their pictures on paper and decorate them like frames, and then stuck all the letters and pictures in the book side by side. And BAM. Present. I think if you’re a teacher, getting your class in on making a gift can be great- but only if you can tie it into a teaching objective (letter writing!). It’s a great way to share what you do with someone else!

For my brother-in-law….

grab and go popcorn

Dan is SO EASY to shop for because I can basically throw Dunkin Donuts gift cards at him and he’s ecstatic. However, Dan’s birthday is December 25th, so I run into the dreaded TWO PRESENT CONUNDRUM. Luckily, Dan and I share a love of fantasy movies, especially Lord of the Rings, that Katie isn’t really as into (and by not really into I mean doesn’t care at all). So, I made a homemade coupon in Dan’s Christmas card offering to take him to go see The Hobbit in any format (there are three ways to see it- basic, 3D, and 3D High Frame Rate) and a $10 snack budget. We went on New Year’s Day and saw the fancy 3D High Frame Rate one at the new and improved Downtown Disney Theater (I hadn’t been to the NOT Fork and Screen side in a long time and was very impressed with its multiple fancy snack bar choices and grab and go popcorn- as seen above). We’ve done movie outings together before (again-usually to the one’s Katie doesn’t care about). I know we saw Tron in IMAX 3D and some of the Harry Potter films, and it’s fun. Homemade coupons may be cheesy, but when a free movie outing is involved, they are golden.

So yes- gift giving this year was pretty awesome. I definitely had to step it up a notch to make up for the fact that I am poor, but it turned out to be really fun to put everyone’s gifts together (and go see The Hobbit!). Hope this gives you some DIY ideas for upcoming birthdays, mother’s and father’s days and the occasional anniversary : )

PS- For each of the kids in my class, I wrote a hand written card. I do this every year because I remember LOVING when a teacher wrote a heartfelt message that was unique to me. This takes me about four hours, but watching each kid read their fairly long message of encouragement, appreciation, and care is totally worth it. Plus, I always get a couple of cute notes back and I gain the trust of some of those hard to reach kids ; )

July 29, 2012

My First Drive-In Theater Experience

Growing up in Orlando did not offer me a lot of authentic, small town experiences.  For example, when someone mentioned “drive-in movies,” my mind went straight to the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  It’s a restaurant where you sit in fake old cars while watching cartoons and movie clips play on the screen:

Sci Fi Dine In Theater at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Of course this is not a legit drive-in theater, but I don’t remember ever hearing of an actual drive-in theater to go to in or near Orlando.  I gave up that the concept was probably outdated and that I would never get to go to a real one.

WELL, Tulsa does have its perks- one of which is that it *just* re-opened the Admiral Twin Drive-In.  The theater has two sides that each play one double feature starting when it gets dark.  My friend Briana and I ventured out on Saturday night to finally see The Dark Knight Rises.  Both of us were eager to see how this whole “drive-in” thing works (she grew up in New York- also not a big drive-in place).

Admiral Twin Drive-In

Based on what I had read, some people had complained of long lines getting in, so I played it uber-safe and got there around 7:15 (gates open at 7).  I wasn’t surprised to see the lot pretty empty, but we got a good spot in the second row back (there’s space right up to the screen, but the poles that mark the spaces for cars probably start about 50+ feet away).  After we got there, cars kept steadily coming in.  I would recommend aiming to get there at 8 if you plan on getting food.  You will still get a good spot, won’t face much (if any) of a line at the front, and you’ll have time to get food and settle in.

Now, I had no idea what the food prices would be or how strict they were about not bringing in outside food.  I decided to being some water bottles and a few snacks in my purse, but planned on eating some type of dinner at the theater.  They definitely don’t check any bags or your car for food, and there were a LOT of people who brought whole coolers of stuff.  I also saw a kid with a bunch of Subway subs, so yeah.  Don’t be afraid to make yourself a gourmet meal and bring it over.  Just maybe put it in the trunk until you park in front of the screen.

Admiral Twin Concessions Menu

If you do want to eat there, I posted their menu above with prices.  Their concessions and bathrooms (which Briana said were clean and decent) are located right under the back to back screens in the center of the drive-in.  I think the dinner options- cheeseburger, chicken fingers, etc. are VERY reasonably priced.  I got the chicken fingers with ranch and it was great.  They give you a good-sized portion that is not too much or too little, and it was nice and hot when I got it (few things are worse than cold fries).  I also opted to get their souvenir cup (see below)- and I NEVER get souvenir cups.  However, this one was only $5, and whenever you bring it back-for the rest of your life or however long this drive-in is open- you get $1 refills!  I plan on coming back- even being able to use it once more would get my money’s worth.  Plus, you know, I get to have another cup for home : D

Souvenir Cup for $5- Refills only $1

On the side we were on, you had to turn your car radio station to 88.3 FM to hear the movie’s audio.  You can turn this station on early because they play music before the film like regular theaters.  I was a little worried about my car battery dying with just the radio on, but I felt pretty assured that it wouldn’t- otherwise why would they broadcast sound that way? HOWEVER, it was really hard in this heat to not have the air conditioning on.  We kept the car off with the windows down for probably the first hour or so and I could feel my clothes slowly getting soaked with sweat (when we left at 11:45 pm, it was only down to 95 degrees!).  After the first hour, I turned the car on for about 5 minutes every 10-15 minutes just to circulate some air.  This worked well, and I was lucky to have a pretty quiet car as to not disturb nearby people.  Keep in mind that for a second, your radio will turn off to turn on the car, so don’t do this during key scenes.  Loud, action sequences would probably be best if your movie has them.  Many people sat out in chairs on the ground or in the back of their pick-up truck, so that’s also definitely an option.  I liked the sound quality of being in my car (the radio had absolutely no static- it was crystal clear), and the fact that I could avoid bugs- but then again, I’ve always been an indoor girl ; )

Amberjack in the backseat at Admiral Twin

Lastly, I really enjoyed that Admiral Twin allows you to bring pets as long as they stay on a leash.  Amberjack still has some issues barking and getting anxious when I leave, and she’s at her worst at night.  Because of this, I always try to get home before dark to appease her and my neighbors.  The drive-in, though, gives me a way to see movies at night without having to worry about AJ.  I just put together the dog-equivalent of a diaper bag, set up a little bed for her in the back, and she’s was all set.  Note: If you bring a pet, they have to remain on a leash at all times.

As for the actual movie, I thought The Dark Knight Rises was only okay.  I’m just not a huge fan of this Batman franchise.  I find them a little hard to follow and get confused a lot about why people are doing things.  I liked the last 5 minutes a lot though : D  And getting to see the Man of Steel and Hobbit trailers beforehand was a big plus.  I can’t recommend The Dark Knight Rises movie, but I will recommend the Admiral Twin Drive-In.  The good food, new movie at a cheap price ($7!!), fun atmosphere, and great sound quality made for a fabulous first drive-in theater experience.

June 20, 2012

Navigating Theme Parks Like a Pro: A Guide to Being a Better Tourist

This summer I had the pleasure of taking my friend from Tulsa around the Orlando theme parks. This tour guiding is some what of a specialty for me seeing as how I was raised in theme park central from age 5. I have accumulated a lot of knowledge which has allowed me to put together some tips and tricks for navigating the parks successfully. Keep in mind- I am big on getting on as many good rides as possible, so I don’t hit a lot of shows (except absolute must-sees). Show lovers- you have been warned.

Look for signs like this to remind you where you parked.

1. Don’t forget where you park! A lot of first timers are so excited to get to the park that they don’t look at the colorful character signs and 3 foot long numbers painted on the ground identifying your car location. You may have a general idea of where your car is, but the more exact you can be, the better. Take a cell phone picture of the parking row if you have to. Believe me, at the end of your day, you will be grateful for any seconds you can shave off between you and the prospect of sitting down in air conditioning.

2. Parking Trams are not always worth it. If you are like me and get to the park early, you usually park close enough to walk to the park entrance. If you can see where the parking lot ends and other roads or entry ways begin, you ARE close enough to walk. It is likely you will even get to the gate faster because the trams wait for all the slow pokes in the parking lot who mosey along up to the vehicle (don’t be that person- I beg you).

3. Get to the park before it opens. This is crucial. A lot of parks end up letting you in 10-15 minutes early so you can walk around and shop at their stores up front. You can use this time to walk to the rides you want and get fast passes if needed. I usually aim to be parking my car 30 minutes before opening time (add 15-20 minutes to that if you have to buy tickets at the gate). Any extra time you can squeeze in before 11 am is great anyway because that is when lines are the shortest and you are not squeezed in a mob of people as you move around the park.

This is what happens when you come later than 9 am.

4. Go to popular rides first- no matter how long the wait currently is. Yes I see that a ride no one cares about has no wait while a popular ride already has a 20 minute wait, but trust me- it is worth it to go now! Those lines will likely be 1.5-2 hours long when you try to visit them later. At the very least you can grab free fast passes (offered at Disney, not Universal) for a good time slot. Fast passes for really popular rides run out early, and even if you get them after an hour of being open, you might be given a time slot for 6:30 pm (when you plan on already having left the park by then). Here is a quick list of where you should go first at each park:

Magic Kingdom- Splash Mountain

Disney’s Hollywood Studios- Toy Story Mania

Epcot- Soarin’

Animal Kingdom- Expedition Everest or Kilimanjaro Safari

Universal Studios- Rock It Roller Coaster (even though I hate it…)

Islands of Adventure- Harry Potter: The Forbidden Journey or The Hulk

Sea World (does anyone still go here…?)- Manta

5. Choose lines wisely. A lot of rides have long lines- that’s a given. However, some are MUCH easier to wait in. Rides like Space Mountain and Soarin’ at Disney usually have hour plus waits, but their entire lines are indoors (and have mini games along the way!). This makes a huge difference in how you feel while you wait. Any line can bore you, but I’d prefer a line that doesn’t leave me sunburned and dehydrated, too. Note: The Harry Potter: Forbidden Journey has a big portion of its wait outside, however, it has a lot of fun things to look at throughout its line that makes it worth it.

6. Eat lunch at a show. I tried this strategy with Maggie this year and loved how well it worked out. If you are just getting a quick, counter service lunch, consider eating it while you watch a parade or an outdoor theater show (ex. Beauty and the Beast at Hollywood Studios) to save time. You get to fit in one extra attraction and get a food fix : )

7. Unless you are trying Tip 6, don’t go to parades or big shows. These shows grab so many people’s attention and keep them rooted somewhere away from any ride line. Use this brief window to get in line for something that will likely have a huge wait again once the performance is over. Parade times are really great for using this strategy.

8. Eat lunch early or late- even if you use Tip 6. Counter service lines can take up to an hour at peak times (I’m not kidding- I did wait an hour once). If you go before 12 or after 2, you are very likely to wait no more than 15 minutes before food is placed in your hand. You also won’t have to worry about finding a table amongst a huge mass of people, which can be really annoying and force you to share 2 chairs between 3 people or sit at the gross table in the corner with ketchup spilled on it (or if you’re really unlucky, having to deal with the lack of chairs AND gross table).

God bless the single rider line option (see right sign).

9. Single rider lines are your friend- especially at the Universal parks. Think about it- how much do you really talk with your friends or family while on a ride? Not much I’m guessing. You’re too busy listening, screaming, or laughing to chit chat. Because of this, you should be getting in as many single rider lines as possible. These lines are usually 10 minutes max, and in many cases, don’t even have a wait time. You probably have a good chance of being on the same vehicle as your companion, just likely in separate rows. And more times than you would think- you end up sitting right next to your friend anyway (bless those odd-numbered parties who waited in the real line). Single rider lines are also great for repeat rides if you want to go on something a few times, but the regular wait is daunting. My best picks for single rider lines would have to be Men in Black (Universal) and Revenge of the Mummy (Universal). Other ones can be slow, so if you feel like it isn’t moving, get out and try it later.

10. Bring as little as possible. Bags WILL slow you down. At Universal and Islands of Adventure you will constantly be putting them in lockers because they aren’t allowed on rides. While these lockers are free, they can have long lines to put your stuff in AND get your stuff out. You also will have to go through security check points at the gate, which can use up those precious minutes in the morning. My go-to park items are an individual car key and a snack size ziploc with cash, ID, ticket, and a debit card. No more, no less. Anything bigger will get you sent to the lockers for rides because the workers are trained to look for phone shapes in your pockets. Disney is much more lenient on what you can take bags on (I can’t think of anything you can’t bring a bag on at the moment…), so choose to bring more then.

11. If you do bring a bag, bring everything. If you are going to bring a bag despite the locker rules, get one that can double as a backpack (hands free is always better for navigating around the park). Stuff it with a lot of items to help keep your day cheap- sandwich lunches, snacks, water bottles, ponchos if it rains (or for water rides), camera, batteries in case your camera dies, medicine for headaches or stomach issues, etc. All of these things you can get in the park but the price will be hiked up like crazy. It’s really either bring nothing or bring everything when you make the bag or no bag decision.

The most reliable ride…ever.

12. Take advantage of sissy rides when you are tired. You know what I’m talking about- those rides that never have a long wait because they aren’t shiny, fast, or related to a specific film or character. These are GREAT for when it gets really crowded after lunch and you just want to escape people and sit for awhile. The ultimate example of this is the PeopleMover at Magic Kingdom. This automated tram type ride guides you through Tomorrowland about 3 stories in the air. I’ve never NOT walked on this ride, and its 10 minute length is a decent amount of time to relax and regroup. While nothing compares to the magic of the PeopleMover, other rides to consider would be the train around Magic Kingdom, The Haunted Mansion (depending on the time of day), boat ride in the Mexico pavilion (Epcot), Carousels (at any park), and 3D shows like Shrek (Universal) or Phillharmagic (Magic Kingdom).

13. Do your research before you go. You should look up parks you plan on going to and look for these two things: ride closures and “extra” hours. Ride closures help you avoid walking out of your way to get to a ride just to find out its closed, and it also helps you gauge how other lines will be. Right now, Test Track is closed at Epcot. That’s always been a big draw for the park as its main thrill ride. With that closed, other lines can and will be a lot worse. The “extra” hours is good to know because the morning ones are only offered to guests staying at the theme parks’ resorts. You probably want to go to the park that doesn’t have these so that when you are let in, there isn’t an hour’s worth of people ahead of you (note: if the extra hours are tacked on to the end of the day, then this might be a great park to go to because lines die down considerably after dinner no matter how late a park is open).

Don’t do it!!!

14. Don’t wait longer than an hour for anything. If it isn’t a thrill ride, you probably shouldn’t even be waiting an hour. When lines get really long after lunch, take advantage of easy rides (Tip 12) or see a show. So many people still get in line for Peter Pan when it is 75 minutes long. The ride is over in about a split second and its just Peter Pan!!! It’s not like it’s based on a Disney Princess or something. Dumbo-type rides (the ones that load, spin you in a circle in the air for a bit, and then end) are HUGE time wasters. Avoid them at all costs. Once you’ve been on one, you’ve been on them all. Trust me.

15. Push the red button as soon as you see the giant alien. You’ll know it when you see it- and you’ll thank me when you do.

If you are an Orlando native and have your own tips, please feel free to comment below and add them. Or if you are still lost and want more specific park advice and recommendations, let me know. Park knowledge isn’t always the most useful skill, but nonetheless, I’ve accumulated a lot of it.

June 5, 2012

5 Cheap Cures for the Summer Blues

Since I decided to become a teacher, I still get a summer break.  And since I still get a summer break, I still hit that same period about a couple weeks into summer break where I feel completely bored. Yeah, sure, I’m grateful for the extra rest, but eventually sitting around doing nothing becomes less exciting.  I know a lot you are not teachers and don’t have this summer break problem, but perhaps you still feel a little bored with the lack of television options (another brutal reality for me the next few months) or you still feel phantom summer break boredom pains from your younger ears.  Here are a few ideas to add some fun into your life until the end of August rolls back around.

1. Rediscover Magazines

Remember when getting mail was fun and not just full of bills?  You can have that again!  Magazines are extremely cheap now because the industry is dying out with so much media being consumed online.  While print magazines may be out in a decade, you still have some time now to embrace their twilight years (at excellent prices, too!).  Amazon has several magazines available for only $5 a year!  This is how I subscribed to Marie Claire.  I feel you can get $5 worth out of any yearly subscription, especially if you are interested in the overall subject matter.  My sister got me into Marie Claire because while it does have a lot of fashion pages, it also has articles about real girls doing real things you can either relate to or admire.  I particularly loved the article “Love and the Single Girl” in this month’s issue.  Knowing there are single ladies out there thwarting parents from buying online dating subscriptions for them or being asked to move to make room for a couple, yet still completely content with their lives, makes me realize that being single at 24 is not a life sentence.

I will constantly recommend Entertainment Weekly till I die, but I am also one to love me some pop culture news.  Entertainment Weekly offers an extra tablet edition of their magazine free with your subscription, which is great on the go and offers extra interactive features (ex. jumping to a trailer of a movie you are reading about).  This has been especially useful to me while I am in Orlando.  EW runs about $25 for the year, but for $9 more you can get it for two years (remember, it’s “weekly”).  You can check out EW’s offer here, or pay less for a shorter subscription over at Magazines.com here.

I know there is a lot of digital media for us to consume, but nothing quite beats sitting down for an hour to flip through a magazine by a pool, curled up on your couch, or killing time during travel.  You will always get a little more written content than if you read the articles online, and you will help make sure future generations get the opportunity to post pictures from magazines on their wall (I still have EW covers as decorations in my apartment…haha).  Click here to check out Amazon’s current $5 deals on magazine subscriptions (through June 17th).  Also make sure to stalk Groupon and Living Social for magazine deals, as I have gotten a couple $12 subscriptions there, too.

2. Try out Fitness Classes through Summer Deals

Gyms are not stupid.  They know we as a human race hit summer and go oh….swimsuit season…damn those extra pounds!  I think even skinny people feel awkward sometimes when they pull out that swimsuit that has been at the bottom of their drawer the past few months.  But this ends up working in our favor because the gym and exercise class deals that pop up are great!  A lot of boot camps run shorter session deals where you can do a few weeks of classes at a highly reduced rate.  Tulsa Fit Body Boot Camp, the place I went in March and April under a Groupon deal, is offering 2 weeks of classes and a meal plan for $25.  You can e-mail tulsafitbootcamp@yahoo.com for more information.  For my Orlando friends, Fitness-n-Fun boot camp is offering 6 classes and a consultation for $29 on Living Social (ends by June 6th…so check it out now).  I just bought the Jazzercise deal on Groupon today (ends in a few days).  It’s offering 10 classes for $39 or 20 classes for $59, which is really good compared to their regular monthly and start up fees.  I’ll probably end up using this half in Orlando and half in Tulsa since it’s valid at any location.

If you are really tight on cash or really fickle about your choice of exercise, most classes offer the first class free to try.  You can be really budget conscious and spend weeks just hopping around to different classes.  Gyms will offer similar free day or week passes, though they might bug you a lot afterwards to make a financial commitment.  Just think of the summer as a time to play the field, exercise-wise, to find that one place you could see yourself making a long term commitment to come Fall ; )

3. Make New Friends, But Keep the Old (TV-wise of course)

After May, my busy DVR takes a 4 month siesta- this is probably crucial to its ability to function, but can be quite a bummer when night after night I struggle to find anything worth watching.  This is where my DVD/Blu-Ray player gets its yearly workout.  When June comes up, I usually dust off my DVD collection to find those few shows I feel I’ve taken a long break from and need to re-watch.  In past years I’ve gone through Buffy, Friends, Lois and Clark (90’s love!), and Roswell.  This summer I chose some old Grey’s Anatomy episodes (select seasons…I don’t have the patience to watch some of it’s dark periods, a.k.a. The Dr. Hunt Years) and The Vampire Diaries (TVD).  I’m watching TVD with my friend Erin, which has been really fun.  TVD is probably one of my top favorites on TV right now, and I’ve never re-watched episodes since they aired (minus one in Russian while I was in Moscow, haha).  Watching shows with friends who haven’t seen them is much more exciting than watching them by yourself, because you get to see them go through all the shock and awe you did when you first saw all the drama play out.  There’s nothing quite like marathoning through an old favorite…

…except maybe marathoning through a show that’s new to you!  I tend to pick up at least one new show each summer that’s been on the air already by watching reruns, taking advantage of the Hulu Plus free week trial, mooching off a friend or relative’s Netflix capabilities, or visiting the magical place called the Orange County Library System (once you go OCLS, you don’t go back…sorry Tulsa).  I’ve picked up Big Bang Theory, Parks and Recreation, Covert Affairs, Downton Abbey, How I Met Your Mother, The Middle, and Chuck this way.  It’s even fun to do this with series that have finished because then you can relish in not having to wait after any cliffhangers (people who did this with LOST are so lucky!).  Here are a few of my recommendations for TV shows to catch up on based on your interests and time:

a) For people who don’t want to catch up on too much before the shows start next year, check out Revenge and Once Upon a Time.  Both of these were freshman hits for ABC this year, and have a pretty good following due to their unfolding mystery plots.  You’ll want to be up to date on these for break room conversations next year at work.

b) For those who take forever to go through episodes, try Downton Abbey.  It’s a hit with most and only airs for a short period each year.  It’s been on two seasons already, but only totals 16 episodes.  Note that season 2 is better than the first, so be patient if it seems a little dull in the beginning.  Like wine, it gets better with age.

c) Comedy fans should check out the underrated Community.  They just did an episode almost completely as an 8-bit video game!  If that isn’t awesome enough to entice you, there is also a fake flashback episode, a zombie attack episode, and 3 epic paintball battle episodes.

d) For fantasy/sci-fi fans, Supernatural is still one of my favorites.  It is one of the few TV shows to be banished to Friday and then sent back to a mid-week slot.  And it was just renewed for an 8th season….so I am not the only fan.  Two hot brothers solving supernatural crimes with rich, long-running plot lines to support the series? Win.

4. Create a Personal Style Book

Now this is something I haven’t tried before, but that I thought of while perusing the latest Marie Claire.  There are so many times where I have random thoughts while browsing online, walking through stores, or flipping through a magazine- “I love that print on that top!” or “I wonder what that nail polish looks like on…” or “I need to decorate my apartment like that.”  I feel like in my mid-20’s, I’m finally coming into my own style…or maybe I’m just beginning a new chapter of an ever-evolving life cycle of style (this is coming from someone who wore bike shorts in elementary school (they were comfy!!!) and every single Old Navy solid color top in middle school).  I kind of wish I had a book that had all those likes and interests together.  When I described this to Katie, she said..”Soooo, you want to make a Pinterest book.”  I went to defend it, but she’s right.  It’s a Pinterest book.

I like the idea of Pinterest, but never really got into using the platform.  I’m more drawn to creating a book by hand.  Not only will it take up some time (it can really be infinite if you fill it up a little at a time as time passes), but it’s more unique than a bunch of links on a website.  It creates a good way to get a second use from my magazines, forces me to be more aware of current styles (and the types of things I’m drawn to), and can be a great coffee table book for my apartment : ) I imagine my final product would have pages like this:

The above picture is from a blogger that already created books like the one I’m describing- one for fashion and one for home decorating.  I think this can be a fun project to help you get your ideas together whether you are freshening up your wardrobe, furnishing a new apartment, changing up a room in your house (ex. preparing it for a new baby!), or creating an idea book for special occasions.  I picture this done with a blank notebook with cardstock-like pages.  I think notebook paper might be too flimsy for a lot of gluing, but those notebooks with dividers built in are tempting to separate your idea collections.

5. Learn (some of) a New Language

Raise your hand if you’ve vowed to teach yourself a new language, bought a bunch of stuff to support your learning, and then given up this dream after a week?  ::Raises hand…3?…times::  I really want to learn some Russian so that when I go back to visit our family friends I can converse a little.  I was on a good roll by the end of my trip last year, mastering about 75 words and phrases, as well as learning how to read the language (just pronunciation, not comprehension).  But now most of those words I have to check on in my language book, and I only remember how to sound out a handful of letters.  Boo.  This summer I’m going to try to use my extra time to make a little more progress in my russian language acquisition.

For anyone else bold enough to take on a foreign language this summer, I highly recommend checking with your library concerning any free programs they offer.  OCLS offers an online program that is self-paced called Mango Langauges (oooo, Tulsa offers Mango Languages, too- see here). I worked with this a little last summer before all my TFA training started and loved it.  I made flash cards as I went (which I recently found!) to support long term learning.  All you need is your library card to access the online courses they offer (note that you can’t learn the whole language, but these free tutorials are great for building a good general knowledge to have short conversations with native speakers).  Here is a list of the languages offered:

If your language isn’t too obscure, you can also find CDs and workbook kits at the library to learn the language as well.  I wouldn’t recommend Rosetta Stone until you are fully committed to learning the language.  Even the cheaper kits online can put you out $30, which is only worth it if you’ll stick with it.  Try Mango first and checking out audio CDs for on the go…this could be you by the end of summer : )

I hope one of these (or all of these!) suggestions struck your fancy and will help you cure any impending summer blues in 2012.  I myself will be imploring all five, but then again, I’m an overachiever.  Even if you don’t get a break from work or school, find some time to pretend you have all the time in the world to just relax and enjoy the sun : D

June 1, 2012

For Anyone Who Has Been In That Awful “Friend Zone”

This past week I had a blast from the past experience.  Me and my friend from Tulsa were looking around a store at Universal when we realized the guard at the front kept eying us.  He went out of his way to talk to us both times we went into the store (we had to go back for something), and my friend was convinced he was into me.  I was on the fence about it after our first store visit, but then during our second visit, I was convinced he’d rather chat up my friend.  She’s married and could probably care less about the situation (besides being a great wingwoman, of course), but at some point during this second stop, I felt really sad and just wanted to go.

In middle school, high school, and even grad school, I can pinpoint a time where I was friends with a pretty girl and wasn’t even in the running (whether I was interested or not) when it came to guys.  I’ve been told (after a significant effort on my part to show *my* interest) how interested a guy is in my friend.  I’ve been told by guys I’m in the middle of dating that they like my friend a little bit, too (yes this happened).  I’ve been asked why my beautiful friend shows indifference to a guy’s efforts when I could ask them the same question regarding my own.  I didn’t realize how much this affected me until this week when I felt all that hurt from 13, 15, and 21 year old me hit me all at once in a Universal store of all places.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I think I am a pretty, smart, strong woman and all.  I know I can improve in certain areas, but I don’t wake up hating myself or anything.  I am happy to put together a cute outfit or get my hair looking just right for a night out like any other girl.  But the past can kick me in the ass just like anyone else, too.

So guys of all ages, please don’t overlook the friend of the pretty girl you are dying to be with.  They are probably the one that has listened to you, offered advice, shared your interests, checked you out, etc. and you are completely missing their signals.  They may not be your one true love, but at least give it a second thought instead of trampling over their self-esteem and feelings without even realizing it.

And to pretty girl best friends- telling your friends sorry that yet another guy has fallen for you only makes the friend feel worse.  Trust me.  You could help by being straightforward about not being into guys you don’t care about so they don’t annoy you or stomp over your friend’s feelings.  You could even be a little bitchy in front of unwanted guys to throw them off the scent.  I promise, it’s okay if a few guys see that you aren’t perfect.  There will soon be another line of guys for you around the corner.

And to my fellow sisterhood of “friend zone” girls (and guys!), I’ve been there.  It sucks, and I wish I could give you all (and the incoming class of us) a hug.  It’s time to let these semi-scarring past experiences go, and not let them get to us in the middle of cartoon character stores over an only okay-looking guy when your married best friend is just there trying to get souvenirs for family members (run on sentence alert).  One day the guy will be looking at us, and we don’t want to miss it because we are excusing it as a “he’s just not that into you” moment ; )

March 10, 2012

Hunger Games Gift-Giving

This past Christmas we did Secret Santa at school.  I got our librarian, who just happened to be reading and getting really into The Hunger Games series.  Well, if you are privileged enough to know a Schrumpf, you should know we do take gift giving to a whole new level.  I think every family member of mine has been through some type of scavenger hunt for a gift- a tradition started by my dad, but continued on by others (like me, when I made an extensive hunt for my brother-in-law to find the new flat screen I didn’t even buy for him, haha).

Anyways, I had about 2 weeks to give Secret Santa gifts, so I decided to make each day’s gift relate to each district’s specialty.  Maggie asked me to post the notes I gave Tina as I went along so she could read them again, so here are the original notes and gift ideas.  Keep in mind the gifts were targeted towards my person’s favorite things which influenced some choices.

*Note* I wrote District 13’s on a post-it and said all that was left of this demolished district was this piece of paper, and it was coupon sheet for Sonic.

District 12: Coffee and a Muffin

Tina,

We at District 12 are very poor, so we could not even spare some coal (our district’s main product).  However, Peeta Mellark took pity on you and tossed you this from his bakery.

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor,

Your Secret Santa

District 11: Christmas Hand Towels

Tina,

District 11 is known for agriculture.  We actually have quite a lot of cotton fields.  Your tribute gift today is 100% cotton as you see.  Maybe you can use it to keep injured areas clean and free from infection in the arena.  Or you can use it as a nice decoration.  Your choice : )

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor,

Your Secret Santa

District 10: Arby’s Giftcard

Tina,

District 10 raises quite a bit of livestock.  Maybe you can visit one of our many distributors and try some?  We only raise the best cattle, you know.

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor,

Your Secret Santa

District 9: Popcorn

Tina,

Amongst all the grain we in District 9 produce, we were able to come up with some corn as well.  You might not want to pop this in the arena, though.  The sound will likely reach unfriendly ears.

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor,

Your Secret Santa

District 8: Cloth ornaments in the shape of birds

Tina,

Panem is not all evil.  We occasionally produce cute things, too.  See what our textile rich District 8 put together?

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor,

Your Secret Santa

District 7: Colorful Post-Its

Tina,

Here’s some note paper from our lumber rich District 7.  We figured you could use it to take notes on your opponents during Caesar Flickerman’s interviews.

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor,

Your Secret Santa

District 6: Gas Gift Card

Tina,

District 6 strictly works in transportation.  You should come visit us sometime.  We’ll even pay for the first two gallons of fuel ; )

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor,

Your Secret Santa

District 5: Batteries

Tina,

POWER.  That’s all District 5 is about.  And not like “take over the world” power.  We’ll leave that to the Capitol.  Here are some batteries for you.  Hey, you might get a parachute with a flashlight and no way to turn it on.  Best be prepared for any situation.

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor,

Your Secret Santa

District 4: Goldfish Crackers

Tina,

Guess what District 4 does?  Look at your gift.  Think about it….Nope, not cracker manufacturing.  We specialize in fishing!  And apparently we have a sense of humor, too.

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor,

Your Secret Santa

 District 3: Love Actually Soundtrack Sampling

Tina,

Citizens of District 3 love their electronics.  We figured we’d share our specialty with you in the form of a CD.  Some tracks may be missing.  iPanem is still building up a music database around all the censorship from the Capitol.

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor,

Your Secret Santa

District 2: Christmas Mug

Tina,

District 2 is famous for masonry.  Yeah we know.  Not the coolest of specialties unless you are from the middle ages.  We fashioned up this mug for you, though.  And even more important, we will give you a hint about tomorrow’s final and most special of gifts: District 1 specializes in luxury.  Let your mind run wild, and tomorrow your final tribute gift will arrive.

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor,

Your Secret Santa

District 1: Mockingjay Pin

Tina,

“Save the best for last” seems to apply quite nicely here.  District 1 only made a certain number of these *limited edition* Mockingjay pins, so protect it with your life in the games.  Let it serve as a reminder that you should always be the kind of person who would stuff their face with poisonous berries rather than kill the possible love of your life.

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor,

Your Secret Santa

Kelly Schrumpf

Hunger Games Mockingjay Pin

Mockingjay Pin for District 1 Gift

 

 

March 4, 2012

The 10 Step Plan

This week I found myself in one of those “What just happened here?” situations.  I had been dating a guy regularly for about a month when all of the sudden contact virtually stopped.  I asked what was up and got a text message crammed with token lines of we should just be friends, I need to get things lined up on my end, I wouldn’t ask you to wait for me, and you deserve better.  Yes ladies.  All of this in a text message.  Oh, and it was sent to me in the middle of my work day instead of the night before when I had inquired about said situation.

The following is a guide in case this bizarre situation comes up in your life where even when you aren’t in a relationship, you still face the dreaded break up text.

1. After reading the text, close your eyes, put your head down, and accept that there are no guys left in the world worth dating- no matter how awesome you are.

2. Follow the first rule of Fight Club in relation to your text message- DON’T TALK ABOUT THE TEXT MESSAGE.  You know you will only cry over your disappointment, be upset that you are crying, and cry more.  I described my mood and actions the rest of that day as “emotional lockdown.”  No talking meant no crying, and I managed to hold off long enough that I didn’t need to cry at all.

3. Solicit and accept all hugs.  These will remind you that while one guy doesn’t know how to treat you like a human being, most of the world does.  I told my class that I was sorry for being irritable or quiet and explained that I was hurting because I had a bad fight with my friend.  They suggested I write an apology letter, but after explaining it was the other person’s fault, they were immediately ready to hug the crap out of me.

4. Notify the grapevine.  You know all those people who you just told you were excited about this new guy you were dating?  Well now you have to make sure they all know you are not dating anymore so they do not ask you about it later and break Step 2’s emotional lockdown you have going.  Just focus on the people you see regularly.  If any 2nd circle people know, you can just tell them later if it comes up when you are already over it.

5. Craft the absolutely *perfect* reply.  You have ONE chance to text back.  After that, communication has to cease or else you will look crazy, desperate, lame, etc. (Note: I did break this rule once, but then decided it was time to make a clean break and went with delete contact instead). I never go the explicative route or the carefree route.  I do care, but I’m not going to throw a fit about it either.  My advice is to always be genuine, nice, and as understanding as possible.  You want to leave the guy with “Damn.  I just let this gem of a person go for no reason.  I’m an idiot.” : D

6. Sleep.  You can deal with the rest of your feelings in the morning.

7. Create a post-break up playlist- complete with even amounts of sad and angry music.  You can add to it as you get more and more towards a Kelly Clarkson-bad ass-single lady outlook on life.  Here are some recommendations:

a) Rock Bottom by Pablo

b) Echo by Jason Walker

c) Kill by Jimmy Eat World (personal favorite)

d) If I Were a Boy by Beyonce

e) What Doesn’t Kill You by Kelly Clarkson

8. Go out with friends.  You do not want to sit alone anywhere for too long and replay the past two weeks to try and pinpoint SOMETHING that would have indicated you would be in this situation now.  You won’t find it, and you’ll just end up cursing inanimate objects in your apartment.

*Bonus* If you are as lucky as I was to have gone shopping the weekend before in anticipation of future dates, feel free to bust out those cute clothes with your friends.  You might look a little out of place with your friend in sneakers and jeans and you in high-heeled boots, dangly earrings, and a sparkly top, but hey.  You are NOT going to let your careful expenditures go to waste in your closet.

9. Turn into Jim Carrey from Yes Man.  Agree to try everything and anything.  Colleague asks you to judge a school competition you haven’t heard about before?  YES.  Boot camp class your friend has been begging you to tag along to while you laugh at the idea of even considering based on your athletic ability?  SURE!  Applying for a bunch of part time jobs in the area even though summer isn’t for another 2 months? DONE.  Sign up for a CPR/First Aid class required of said jobs you are applying for?  GO FOR IT.  The world is your oyster, lady!

10. Channel your inner Emily Thorne and find some way to get your final aggression out to move on.  Instead of an intricate plot to take down most of the Hamptons, I went with writing this post.  It’s not meant to be harsh or cruel, but more to just laugh off the ridiculousness that was this past week.

And with that, I will leave you with this quote from the ending monologue of He’s Just Not That Into You:

“And maybe a happy ending doesn’t include a guy, maybe… it’s you, on your own, picking up the pieces and starting over, freeing yourself up for something better in the future. Maybe the happy ending is… just… moving on. “