Anchors Aweigh

Today we’re finally heading off to our family vacation, a Disney cruise to St. Maarten and St. Thomas for the next seven nights.



This is the fourth year in a row that we’ve done this trip. I’ve written about it before, but I promised to post some tips I’ve picked up along the way.

  1. Most important tip: Do not even consider going on this trip without children. The omnipresent shrieking and the inevitable meltdowns (adult and child) would make this experience a unique hell. Don’t do this to yourself unless you have kids of your own coming with you! Save your money and go somewhere relatively kid-free, like this place.
  2. Second most important tip, and this is what makes this trip tolerable: Go Concierge. Yes, these cabins are more costly. Yes, this is a luxury. But boy, are they worth it. On the two largest Disney boats – the Dream and the Fantasy – decks 11 and 12 hold the concierge cabins. The decor on this part of the ship is nicer than the rest of it. The halls are quiet since traffic is limited to only concierge guests. Plus:
  • You have access to the Concierge Lounge, which is stocked with desserts, snacks, cans of soda (fountain soda is free but cans otherwise come from room service and will cost you), a deluxe cappuccino/espresso maker, and – best of all – two gratis cocktail hours every day. Seriously, you can make up a lot of the expense right there. Tip: book the second dinner seating, and you’ll be able to hit both cocktail hours every day. Hour #1 begins about 5 PM, the time we’re usually starting to get washed/brushed/groomed for dinner. You can swing by the lounge for a cocktail or glass of wine to sip as you shower and get ready, and if you time it right, you can swing back for Hour #2, which starts at 7 PM before your dinner at 8 PM. Cost savings: $10 a drink x 2 drinks per adult per night x 2 adult drinkers x 7 nights = $280.
  • Concierge guests get to walk right on the ship. No waiting in line at the port. You have your own check-in area. That saves you about two hours right there.
  • You’ll be able to pre-book spa treatments for the busy at-sea days, adult dinners at specialty restaurants, and – if you have children less then 3 years old – the all-important Nursery Services (which are limited in space and must be reserved for the under-3 set) a month ahead of everyone else. With >3,000 people on board, the 2 PM massages on sea days go quickly. Get there first.
  • There’s a private sun deck. This is such an awesome perk. No more fighting for a deck chair that others have mysteriously “reserved” by placing towels down the night before. There are top-of-the-line lounge beds, free sunscreen, and misting machines to keep you cool. I want to live there.
  • Concierge cabins basically come in three flavors: regular rooms with a private terrace (no bigger than anywhere else on the ship but in a more desirable location), one bedroom suites, and luxury suites – the all-out “Walt Disney” suites that go for around $30k a week. Personally, I think that the best two cabins on the ship are 12004 and 12504. Both of these are the regular terrace rooms, but there’s something really special about them. The front five cabins on the ship – including two luxury Disney suites – can be purchased as a group and connected together. The decor is even nicer than the rest of the concierge rooms and they have a unifying nautical theme. If there’s a celebrity with a huge family or entourage on board, you can bet this is where they’ll be. Most of the time, however, the rooms aren’t booked en masse, and when the luxury suites are individually reserved, Disney will release the remaining rooms (including 12004 and 12504) for anyone else. We lucked into cabin 12004 on our first trip and loved peeking over our deck rails to see who was in the Disney suite (alas, no one glamourous). We asked for and got it again on our second trip, then last year we reserved it for Spouse’s parents who were traveling with us. This time and last, we decided to try a one-bedroom suite, which is super nice but honestly, I’m not sure the extra expense makes it that much better than a regular concierge cabin. Moral of the story: go concierge but stick to a regular room if you can get it.

3.  If you’re worried at all about being sea sick, bring scopolamine patches with you. While there is a small medical clinic on board, the hours are brief and they don’t stock the patches. You will be miserable if you need them and can’t get them. Play it safe and get a prescription before you leave home. If you don’t need them, toss them; they’re not that expensive. If you do need them, you’ve got gold.

4.  Consider staying on the boat if there’s nowhere you want to go in port. Some of the shore excursions are lame. Staying on board will guarantee lots of open space in the pool and no line at the waterslide.

5. Check out online boards ahead of time. Disboards is one example. People from your particular cruise will start to post a year and a half before embarking and virtually get to know each other before setting sail. This isn’t really my thing, but if you’re into it, then by all means make some friends in advance.

6. Discreetly give a cash tip – maybe $40 – to your server and your room attendant the first day. Especially since we have a daughter with a bad food allergy, we discovered that a cash tip on Night #1 is a great investment for above-and-beyond service the rest of the trip.

7. Get there the day before. Stressing about making the boat isn’t worth it. Stay at a Disney resort and they’ll pick you up and take you right to the port. It’s slick.

8. Liberally use the Kids’ Club. Ideally, I’d check MGM and Trixie into the Kids’ Club for at least 2 hours every day. Two delicious, quiet, nap-filled hours. 

Have fun. If you have kids, this trip is really a blast for them. Their happiness makes it all worthwhile. Our kids talk about the “Mickey Boat” all the time. Really, all the time. The experience is carefully curated, but when you’re five and six, it’s pure magic.



With my new training plan for fall races underway, I decided one more thing I needed was a new playlist to listen to while running.

My taste in workout music is decidedly different from what I listen to in my leisure time.

With workout music, I gravitate to catchy pop tunes with a rapid-fire clip. This makes sense, since the sweet spot for workout music rings in at 125-140 beats per minute. Two songs that hit the mark: “Edge of Glory” by Lady Gaga (128 BPM) and Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” (140 BPM).

I’m also bored with the 4 hour list I made back in 2011 that’s appropriately titled “Marathon 2011.” It’s been modified many times in the interim, but the core remains the same.

At the risk of total embarrassment, here’s “Training 2014:”

  • “Timber” – Ke$ha
  • “Stronger” – Kelly Clarkson
  • “Work It” – Missy Elliott
  • “Dynamite” – Taio Cruz
  • “Fancy” – Iggy Azalea
  • “Fever” – Black Keys
  • “A Sky Full of Stars” – Coldplay
  • “MMM Yeah” – Austin Mahone
  • “Va Va Voom” – Nicki Minaj
  • “Float On” – Modest Mouse
  • “Problem” – Ariana Grande
  • “Jump Around” – House of Pain (obligatory addition)
  • And, one of my all-time running favorites, “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch


P.S. Looking for more inspiration? Check out this list of 100 top workout songs. 


New Sights

Several friends and Ever Patient Spouse all ran distance races last weekend, and many set PRs or competed for the first time.

Me? I was running around with the kids, attending two graduation parties, tackling Mt. Saint Laundry, and getting up five times during the night to appease our barky, semi-continent toy poodle. 

Doing much of nothing proved exhausting.

The low point was being awake from 2 to 5 A.M. on Sunday, when I failed to return to sleep after the third trip outside with the dog.

When overnight cable TV turned out to be unwatchable, I had a chance to catch up on people I know. Living vicariously through my friends’ social media posts was really inspiring. My good friend L finished her first half-marathon with an impressive time of 1:51. I was so proud of her!

It also prompted me to think about what’s next on my list. After a flurry of races in the first few months of the year, I found myself without a new goal in sight.

At roughly 4:37 AM, I signed up for a half-marathon in August.

At roughly 4:38 AM, I signed up for a marathon in October.

How am I feeling about this in the light of day? Pretty psyched.

This time I plan to use a marathon training plan developed by legendary runner Hal Higdon.

There are a variety of plans available, and I’m going to follow Novice 2. The plans are free, but there’s also an app available for $9.99, which I decided to buy. After entering my goal marathon date, it generated an 18 week training schedule.


Now it’s just time to get moving!




Channeling Mrs. Roper

Back in the day, I loved “Three’s Company.”

Watching re-runs now requires a massive suspension of disbelief, as the plots are pretty transparent and the double entendres are entirely cringe-worthy.

One thing that does hold up: the fashions of caftan-loving Mrs. Roper, played in the series by actress Audra Lindley.

mrs roper 1

This swimsuit cover-up from Tommy Bahama (a brand I am not usually crazy about) caught my eye for its overall Mrs. Roper-ish vibe, which I dig a lot.



This Lilly Pulitzer one would also do just fine in this category:



And couldn’t you just see Janet or Chrissy wearing this number?





In preparation for our upcoming beach vacation, I decided to get fake eyelashes.

And yes, I understand that this is the least obvious prerequisite one would need for this type of journey.

But hear me out: what’s easier than no makeup at all when you’re on vacation?

Universal truth: most people still want to look decent at the pool or in the surf (hence swimsuit shopping angst), but an elaborate smoky eye just doesn’t hit the right note.

My awesome stylist S. recently started doing eyelash extensions and asked if I was game. Was I? Did she have to ask?

The process took almost two hours, during which I fell asleep once and listened to a podcast of “This American Life.”

Overall, it was quite a relaxing Saturday morning. Individual lashes were carefully glued into place. Expected duration is about 3 weeks, at which point I’ll need a re-fill.

A real view, right here (no makeup at all!):



Yes, it’s a weird little splurge and I probably won’t keep it up forever, but like many things, it’s fun while it lasts.


Consider This Decadence

I want to start by saying that this rarely (almost never!) happens to me:


But when it does, I love it so, so much!

Getting a car service to pick you up at the airport seems like such a huge indulgence. 

Is it the sign with MY NAME on it, the uniformed driver, or the total lack of needing to think about anything to get from Point A to Point B?

Answer: All of the above.

Car service seems like a huge luxury but – surprise! – is often not as extravagant as you’d expect.

Example: Next week our family is headed out for vacation, and we need a ride from the airport to our hotel when we arrive. Transportation for the rest of the journey is already handled, but this initial leg requires a lift.

At first, I checked out a shared ride shuttle service, which would have been $80 for our family of four. The kicker here is the fine print: the shuttle stated that it could take up to 3 hours to deliver us to our hotel since there would be multiple stops.

How did car service stack up?


But … I found an online promo code that brought it down to $87. 

For this, a driver would pick us up at the airport (with a sign!) at our scheduled arrival time and deliver us to our hotel a mere 20 minutes later.

Is this worth $7?

Heck, yeah! I booked it.

Moral of the story: Investigate all options. Helicopter transport is likely still a bit steep, but car service may not be out of reach.





Dollar Coins

My kids are fascinated by dollar coins.

dollar coin

A few months ago, MGM (6) was going on and on about wanting a dollar coin, and oddly enough, one day he found one – the exact item he was wishing for – in the schoolyard.

How random is that?

They also each received three of them in their Easter baskets (thanks, Grandma!), but they’ve proven hard to contain. Both MGM and Trixie (5) have hidden them in so many secret spots that when it comes time to spend them, they’ll be impossible to track down.

Did you hear the bizarre story from a few years ago where people were using credit cards to order dollar coins from the U.S. Mint, get them shipped for free, and then pay off their credit cards with the same coins in order to get frequent flier miles? One person bought nearly $700k worth of dollar coins! (FYI, the U.S. Mint has now cracked down on this scam).

Strange world.