Sunday, August 19, 2012

Everyone should visit a Disney Park

Our favorite character is Stitch,
but the kids love Mickey too!
Warning: This post may get a little emotional. 

Some of you may know that I'm a small business owner, specifically I am an independent consultant with Passion Parties. To tell you a general overview of what I do, I work with women, men, and couples regarding sexual health, intimacy, and relationships. Additionally, I work with an amazing group of men and women on my team, Team Bed Rock, to grow professionally, emotionally, achieve financial freedom, and development. I am proud to say that I recently celebrated my third anniversary this past June - so to say that I love what I do, is quite the understatement. In this post, when I refer to a "party", this is work for me - I facilitate entertaining and educational parties for men, women, and couples. And not to brag, but my customers and guests find me to be a riot - I make them laugh till their sides hurt. 

I was at a party last night with a super fun group of ladies, and was sitting outside chatting with some of them about kids, families, and then Disney Parks, specifically Disney World. I was sharing my excitement that I only had 31 days until my next trip. One of the ladies had attended a party earlier in the year when I was preparing for my May trip with all the Hommels - we took seven Hommels with us to Disney World this past May as a family reunion. This of course brought about the discussion of how many people had never been to a Disney Park before. 

This made me so sad, because Disney is such an amazing experience for kids and for parents. So for those of who have not heard my Disney story, I'm going to share it with you now. Today's post will probably be a bit long, emotional, and sad to say there will be few if any travel and planning tips.

My First Disney Trip:

My first Disney trip was when I was 4 or 5 years old, I'm sad to say I do not remember much about it. But the memories I have are very precious to me. That was the last trip I clearly remember my father, who shortly after divorced from my mother, and moved several states away. After that trip, I saw my father a handful of times, the last and most recent being my Senior year of high school, which has been more than 10 years now.

My Next Disney Trips - Sans Kids:

Ironically, my husband and I decided to visit Disney World for our Honeymoon. Oh, if I knew then what I know now, I would have made the most of that seven day trip. I say ironically, because his previous girlfriend was a huge Disney addict like me, although not a planner like at all. He hopped from one Disney addict to another, poor man. ;-)

A year later, we visited Disneyland for our one year anniversary and my 21st birthday - it was an awesome long weekend and very special for us. But, it was expensive - we stayed at the Grand Californian and had park hopper passes for three or four days. A month later, we discovered we had made a very special souveniour from our trip, our oldest son Paul. By this time, Disney Parks had really earned a special place in our hearts and we looked forward to bringing our son, or kids to Disneyland in the future.

A Dream:

So fast forward about five years, we have two amazing kids, Paul and Anya, and live about four hours away from Disneyland. Our son had just started kindergarten and we had Disney fever - we were worried the perfect age to take him would come and go and we'd miss it. So we set the goal to save up the money needed to visit Disneyland at the end of kindergarten. I began saving money and even went back to work to help out with financial goal to earn the money needed. Sadly, I lost my job and was at a loss how best to save up this money needed for the trip. Our seven year anniversary was coming up, and I decided to host a Passion Party to earn some free products for our anniversary, especially since at the time - I just could not afford to go out and buy a bunch of stuff for our anniversary. I hosted this party and was really surprised at how many people attended and bought stuff from my party. I looked over the kit needed to start the business and decided I was going to give it a go.

My first month was a flop - I hosted one party, and it had two people show up. However, the next month went really well and set me on my way. Shortly after Christmas, after being in the business for only eight short months, my husband began interviewing with other companies and felt confident that we were about to do a cross country move due to an amazing job offer. This meant - no Disneyland for the kids. So I booked up my January calendar and worked super hard for two weeks and got the cash together for a hotel, tickets, and money for food, spending, etc. I bought the tickets and we hit the road early February. The kids' first visit was so magical - I always get teary eyed thinking about it. Paul and Anya were at the perfect age, they thought all the cast members in costume were the real characters. We got lucky with no lines that weekend, perfect weather, and just a wonderful, amazing experience. We spent three days at Disneyland, and one day at the beach in San Diego. During this trip, my husband received the call that we were indeed moving to South Carolina - in three weeks.

It was this first Disney trip with the kids that made my business so real and precious to me. Whenever I'd pack up for a party, I saw Mickey ears and knew where the business would take me.

Another Disney Trip:

We returned to Disneyland a year later for my mother and father in law's vow renewal, we had a wonderful trip - seeing family we hadn't seen in a few years, and the kids loved the visit. After returning, Steve was invited to his fraternity's convention that was being held in Orlando, FL. We had never taken the kids to Disney World before, and it had been nine years since we had been, so we jumped at the chance to visit.

This was the first trip I began to seriously plan as I would be alone in the parks with Paul - now 7, and Anya - now 6. Steve would be at his convention during the day, and be rejoining us at the Pop Century resort. I also want to share here, about Disney packages. I knew from previous visits how expensive eating in the parks could be, but also knew that it would be a pain to travel off and on property for food. This is when I learned about Dining Packages. After receiving the Disney Planning DVD, I had my heart set on taking my kids to the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort where they could watch the animals from their rooms. I began reviewing the Disney website and knew I would need $1600 for five days at Pop Century Resort (value resort - the Animal Kingdom Lodge rooms began at $500 a night), tickets (I opted out of park hopping this time as it was another fee), and the mid tier dining plan package. So I got my behind in gear and generated the money in a month to pay for everything cash. However, I knew I'd still need more money for spending and for Steve to spend during his convention, gas, etc. So after I had paid for the package, I still needed to save money for the trip itself. 

The night before, we packed the car up, filled the cooler, and was all set to hit the road the next morning. I took a sleeping pill to make sure I went to bed early since I was the driver. Both Steve and I woke up at 2 AM and could not go back to sleep - so we loaded up two sleeping munchkins and hit the road. We arrived to Disney World bright and early that morning, and I will admit I cried when we passed the Welcome sign. Armed with information, I picked up my room keys and we began our trip.

Tip: Take pictures of your kids everyday at the beginning of the day. If you get separated, you will have the most up to date picture. Even better, have a park photographer take the picture so it can be easily spread throughout cast members if need be. 

It was at the end of this trip that we bought into the Disney Vacation Club. Yep, you guessed it - I cried. I cried because this was the reason I became a Passion Parties' consultant two years prior - to take my kids on amazing and memorable trips.

Disney Vacation Club:

Our first visit to a Disney resort after buying into Disney Vacation Club was to Hilton Head Resort - it was a short trip, just two days over Easter weekend, but the kids had a wonderful time. Twenty-five days later, we hit the road with a total of 11 Hommels - my husband's twin brother and his family from Iowa, father and mother in law from Mississippi, and my husband's oldest brother who still lives in Nevada. Our kids got to see their uncles, aunt, cousins, and grandparents and share their Disney love with everyone.

IA and MS Hommels
And of course, the rooms were a huge step up from the value resorts. We stayed in a two bedroom villa at Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas, Kidani Village with a Savannah View. That means, we were able to walk out onto a balcony from either of the bedrooms or the living room, and watch zebras, giraffes, and more eat and walk about. My earlier dream to stay there with my kids had become a reality. Yes, I cried again when I entered the room.

During this visit, my best friend, soulmate, and husband and I celebrated our ten year anniversary. We ended up just where we began ten years prior - in Disney World and so in love. It was wonderful to be in the park with him this time and share honeymoon memories with our kids. The in-laws took our munckins for a night so we could have a special date. We headed over to Epcot to have dinner and walk around the World.

While we did not eat at the same resturant we ate at 10 years prior, we did end up at La Hacienda (in Mexico). It was very romantic and due to the lateness of our reservation, we were able to watch Epcot's fireworks' show - IllumaNations, from our table.

So Here We Are . . .

So here we are, three years after becoming a Passion Parties' consultant, ten years after my first trip with my husband, and getting ready to head back. Some of our most precious memories are Disney related in one way or another, directly or indirectly. And it brings me back to my conversation with the ladies at my party last night who had never been to a Disney Park.


It's not outside anyone's grasp - you can get there and should go, if only once in your life. Disney is not just another theme park with overpriced food and lousy service. The Cast Members go above and beyond to make magic happen for kids and adults alike in the parks. During our previous visit in May, my son - Paul, our Disneyland souvenir was asked to open one of the Main Street stores on his birthday. Everyone sang to him, he threw the opening pitch, and had several pictures taken. At the end, he was even given one full sized picture for free. He felt so special and kept telling people, "It's my birthday, I'm 8."

So you don't have to become a Passion Parties' consultant to go to Disney World (but if you're curious let me know), it was my vehicle to get there and I'm very happy with my business and the opportunities it has afforded me. Find a way to get there, I promise you - it will be worth it.

You can visit my website Southern Pleasure Parties for more information regarding Passion Parties products and business opportunity. You can also find me on Facebook - send me friend request to Amanda Hommel. You can view all my latest Disney pictures here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Info, Tips, & Links

This year we are experiencing our FIRST Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party (MNSSHP), and as such, I've been spending lots of time researching the party, the activities that occur during the party, and overall tips for the navigating the crowds, etc.

This post will be based on what I've learned, but will do my best to update after Disney with what did and did not work for our family.

What is MNSSHP?

MNSSHP is a special event that takes place during select dates in September, October, and one night in November. It is a Halloween Party - Disney style! You MUST purchase your tickets in advance - the further the better. If you are planning to attend during any of the Friday nights in October, purchase these tickets as soon as possible as they will and do sell out.

This event will have the best parade of the year - Boo to You parade, that is kicked off with a story about the Headless Horseman at the Liberty Bell, then a run through the parade path by the Headless Horseman himself. Special Note: It is told that the cast member inside the costume cannot see through the costume, so is only guided by the very well trained horse. So make sure you are behind the ropes and don't get mad when the cast member in charge of clearing the path is especially strict about everyone being behind the rope. There are two parades each party.

Additionally, this event will also have rare character meet and greets - including villains, the Seven Dwarves, Tarzan, Abu, Timon, and many more. Of course, Disney also has candy stations for kids to trick or treat and receive candy. Just look for the special Candy Station balloons. There is a Villain Dance party located at Stitch's 626 Dance Club in Tomorrowland. Wishes, the nightly fireworks display, is replaced during the party with Hallowishes fireworks show - do not miss it.

There are so many activities to participate in, but one of the best selling points - for me anyways, was that being a paid event, the crowds are more controlled. However, you want to select your MNSSHP date carefully - typically October party crowds are higher, especially during the weekend dates. The last party in November, has typically had the lowest crowds with ride waits about 20 minutes for major attractions and shorter character lines.We will be visiting Friday September 23rd, being a weekend night I'm hoping the crowds will be manageable - I wanted Wednesday September 19th, but it just didn't work with my schedule.


There are so many great tips to be found online, but I'll share my favorite ones here and link to the blogs I found helpful.

Tip 1: Dress up! Most people will be dressed up for the event. Just remember that there will be kids of all ages, so Disney does prohibit costumes that are too scary, graphic, or inappropriate (probably no Sexy Nurses allowed).

Tip 2: Know what activities you want to attend. Every blog I've read shares that most people attend the first parade of the evening, and typically leave after the Hallowishes fireworks show. I know we want to see the parade, my kids are so excited about the Headless Horseman, so I'll probably plan on viewing the second parade, it'll depend on crowds for me. On the other hand, my kids are not big on character meet and greets, so I probably won't schedule time for those. Do your own research on what is offered, where it is offered, and decide what your family must do, kind of wants to do, and is not interested in. From what I've read, there's no way to do it all - so don't run yourself ragged trying to do everything and still ride the attractions.

Tip 3: Get in line before 7 PM for any characters you absolutely MUST meet, I've read these lines can get super long - with wait times over an hour.

Tip 4: Get your wristband early, when you enter MK for the first time, immediately ask a cast member where and how you get your wrist band. You don't want to be ushered out of the park at 7 PM because you forgot to get the wrist band - no fun!

Tip 5: Get to the parades early and find a good seat. I've read that the best place to watch the parade is from Frontierland, as this is where the parade begins, as opposed to Main Street where you'll be waiting approximately 10-15 minutes after announced start time for it begin.

Tip 6: When in doubt, call Disney. I got on the phone with Disney this morning to ask about how the event is run, and what to expect. It was very helpful for me, and will shape my planning.

Tip 7: Face Painting. Apparently every year there is a free face painting booth in the park. When I asked Posh, the cast member I spoke with today, about face painting, she said the best thing to do is to ask a cast member as soon as you enter the park if there will be face painting, and if so where it is located and what time it will begin. This is a little known secret of the MNSSHP, so you'll need to ask in the park to find out the information you need. You do want to be the first in line for this face painting, as expected, it becomes quite busy as word spreads. I have heard it begins as early as 4 PM.

Tip 8: Don't visit the park during the day of the event. I read this on one blog and was a little taken back. Of course I plan to visit the park that day! However, the point that was made was that kids get too tired and cannot stay during the entire event. Our family understands the importance of a mid-day break, so I'm planning a longer mid-day break for that day. Find what works for your family.

Tip 9: Eat before going. I'm tempted to make an ADR for the Desert Buffett for the best view of Hallowishes, but haven't decided yet (which probably means there won't be any availability).

Tip 10: Trick or Treat Bags: Apparently these run out early, so you are encouraged to get one as soon as entering the park or as soon as the event begins. I'm going a step further and bringing my kids' drawstring backpacks with us as a backup. I figure, even if they get the bags from the parks, we are not going to want to carry that around, so we will instead put it in a backpack and have our hands free.

BONUS TIP 11: Did you know the first two hours of a Disney locker are FREE? I had no idea until recently! Take advantage of this! Whether it be for a water ride like Splash Mountain or when you're getting tired and need a break from carrying stuff, locate the Disney lockers and stash your stuff there for two hours for free. Nice!

See links below for more tips. Hope this helps you plan your special MNSSHP event!


Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Info by the DIS Boards (complete with videos)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

33 Days till Disney - HALLOWEEN!

We are only thirty-three days away from our next Disney adventure, and let me tell you - this next trip will most certainly be an adventure!

°o° This will be our first Disney trip totally without Steve - he will be staying home during our weeklong trip.

°o° Disney Youth Program: This will be the kids' first Disney Youth Program, we will be headed to Epcot to hang out with some Imagineers and learn all about marine life and preservation.

°o° First SPLIT STAY! For those of you who don't know what a split stay is - it's exactly how it sounds, we'll be spending one night at Disney's Beach Club Villas (Stormalong Bay here we come!) and the remainder of the trip at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village.

°o° First Member Wednesday over at Disney's Boardwalk Resort Community Hall.

°o° First time viewing Fantasmic. We've always wanted to, but always seem to run out of time. We have the Fantasmic Dining Package and I've made time in the schedule this time to guarantee viewing!

°o° First Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

Our last trip was beginning of May and we were supposed to be going right back mid-June, thankfully some things came up and the trip was cancelled. While going to Disney World in June is better than not going to Disney World at all, I'd rather not being there June-August, way too dang hot. Initially we were going to skip a second trip this year, but then the kids and I were talking about Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) and decided it'd be fun to go and check it out.

One of the first things I did was check the MNSSHP dates and then hopped on over to Touring Plans and checked the crowd fluxes, I selected the least busiest week (September 17th) and decided that was when I wanted to go. A little known secret are the Disney Youth Programs, these programs are priceless for kids of any ages and a big budget saver. When you select a Disney Youth Program, you get park tickets for as much as 50% or more off. With my dates in hand, I found a DYP that worked for the kids' ages and interests and got us all registered. I really want to stress that one of the most important planning tools when planning when to visit Disney is a crowd flux tracker - I really recommend Touring Plans, they are reasonably priced at $10 for the whole year, and you get a really awesome mobile app with it too, make sure to check it out. Nothing is worse than visiting Disney during their peak seasons which include any time US school kids are out of school (think Summer, Spring, and Holiday Breaks), or during any of their special events such as Food and Wine Festival or Star Wars weekends.

Now, when you want to attend a special event at Disney World, if they have multiple dates - check your crowd tracker and find the lowest crowd dates, aim for that one first. Second, you really have to plan ahead. Remember that I began planning and purchasing tickets the first week of June - for an event in September. I was not surprised to learn that the most popular October dates were already sold out. If you want to attend something special such as MNSSHP, Night of Joy, F&W, Osbourne Christmas, or anything else - buy tickets ASAP. I consider us very lucky to have gotten the week we wanted, MNSSHP, and the Disney YP tickets with such "short" notice. Tomorrow, I'll post about MNSSHP and what all it entails. Remember, I've never been before, but the good Disney addict I am, have spent that past two or so months researching MNSSHP, reading blogs and tips, and watching videos. Till then - have a Magical Day!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort

Our family headed down to Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort this past Easter weekend. As with most of our trips, it was a note taking experience. During our last Walt Disney World trip, I made a lot of notes and posted them as a Facebook blog post, which has been super helpful with planning our next WDW trip that is now only 25 days away! With HHI only about 2-3 hours away (depending on who you get stuck behind or don't get stuck behind on the backroads there!), we will probably head there more often than the WDW parks.

This trip, our first as Disney Vacation Club members,  we stayed in a 1 bedroom villa, which was so amazing. Upon arriving and checking in, we recieved our first, "Welcome Home!". The 1 bedroom villa was amazing - it included a spacious master bedroom including a king sized bed and flat screen TV, which Steve loved - he was able to flip channels to his heart's content! It had a HUGE Whirlpool tub - and when I say huge, I mean it was gianormous! There was even a little seat in the tub.

There was a good sized closet, lots of counter space and plenty of bathroom drawers, then a seperate, smaller bathroom with a shower. The master bathroom had crisp garden green shutters that opened from the Whirlpool to the master bedroom, allowing the bather to watch TV, or just enjoy the view. My favorite, oddly enough, was the Mud Room - a nice side room that included a small bench for sitting down to remove shoes, with space to store them, and hooks to hang those wet beach towels and swim suits. Also in the mud room was a large closet with a full sized washer and dryer, laundry basket, vacuum, broom and dustpan, and more. The dryer came in handy for drying our swimsuits during our pool breaks so we didn't put cold, wet suits on to return to the beach or pool.
There was a full sized kitchen, which was great for storing all our leftovers and drinks, and the freezer even had an ice maker. The kitchen came stocked with service for 8, plus coffee and filters for the coffee machine (which Steve took total advantage of). The living area included the kitchen, with the most adorable family table, two seats, and an over stuffed couch that pulled out to a queen size fold out bed, which was shockingly comfy. Cut out from the kitchen island was an entertainment center which had a larger flat screen tv inside and allowed Paul to flip channels. Also included was a DVD player, and of course, at every DVC resort, there is a little "video store" to check out movies for free. Both the living area and the master bedroom had balcony access, which opened up to a large balcony with a full sized picnic table, two large rocking chairs, and room left over. Our balcony over looked the grill and lounge below, where the kids later went to run with their bubble wands.
The resort itself was large, and cradled between the wetland marshes of the island, and the harbor were all the boats were docked. There was a fantastic biking path that ran alongside the harbor that lit up once the sun set.

The resort itself was brimming with fun activities and things to do - from hammocks littered throughout the resort, various games of hopscotch, horseshoes, and bean bag tosses throughout the cabin yards, and of course the game rooms with paddle ball and fooseball, community room with a large tv for movies, card and board games, and more, the three pools including the Big Dipper slide, playground for kids, and the basketball courts. The Cast members planned several activities, most of which were free, and others such as guided kayak tours, swimming with dolphins, fishing for sharks, and more at a reasonable price. If you forgot anything at home, that was ok, you could rentit fairly cheaply, such as fishing equipment and bait, or free like volleyballs and basketballs.

A few things I learned from this trip:

1. Take advantage of the full sized kitchen. With this being such a last minute trip, I really did not take advantage of our full sized kitchen. I brought drinks and a few snacks with us, including popcorn, but we really had to rely on take out for our food, which of course can add up. Next time: I'm hitting the grocery store to really bulk up on food to cook with and have available for snacks.

2. For sure need a beach bag: I've had a 31 Gift Certificate sitting (somewhere) in my closet forever. It's time to dig that bad boy out and get on a beach bag. We didn't pack one for the trip and we really did need it.

3. Bring your own bike: The cost of renting a bike isn't too bad - as a DVC member it was $16 a day or $30 for the length of your stay. If we were staying a week, that wouldn't have been a bad deal at at ... Unless you multiply that by 3 or 4. Since we have bikes at home, we need to bring them next time. Getting around on a bike is really the way to go, it's fun, relaxing, and you get to take in so much more around you. The bike paths are really kept up and so much fun to explore.

4. Speaking of bikes .... If you MUST rent a bike, be warned that they use LARGE biking seats. Man, whoever said more was better? I'm walking funny after spending two days on those large seats. It was NOT comfy!

5. Bring a backpack: Yep, I recently purchased a new pack for our WDW trip, and why didn't I bring it? I just wasn't thinking. Bring a backpack, it'll make life easier.

6. Hat, Sunglasses, and Sunscreen: Can't believe I forgot a hat. Whoops!

7. Disney's private beach was a lot of fun, but I didn't bring any of our beach (or pool) stuff. Here's some things I'll be taking next time. If you're going to spend time on the beach, take a portable gazebo/tent thing (not sure what they're called, we have one but I've yet to use it!). The only umbrella coverage is a rented one, so bring your own. We will be bringing our camping chairs to sit in, and maybe even a little table to put things on. The resort had lots of footballs, volleyballs, basketballs, and more to check out (just had to leave your room key) but take your favorite pool toys as well. I saw a lot of inflatable beach balls - what was great was that kids would get together and play with the balls together. It was great watching the kids make new friends. Also, boogy boards, water guns, and noodles were popular, but I believe the resort had noodles kids could use. Also, every day the cast members did about an hour of Pool Games, complete with prizes for the kids. Make sure to check the Daily Events (available at the Front Desk/Lodge) for times.

8. Have good shoes. I have to say I got this one RIGHT! Right after our last trip to WDW, I went on a hunt for the PERFECT Disney shoes. And I ended up with the Vibram Five Fingers Komodosports Shoe, which are the PERFECT Disney shoes. I wore these shoes everywhere: biking, walking, to the pool, and even on the beach and in the water. These shoes were awesome! My feet did not hurt like they can with flip flops and overall they were easy to get on and off.

9. Pack Light: While I did pack lighter with this trip than any other trip we've done - everything fit into ONE bag, I still overpacked. Part of that was not knowing what to expect - I packed two cool weather outfits and one warm weathered outfit for everyone, PJs, and swim attire plus any toliteries and electronics we needed. Here's the thing though - we really only needed one outfit each, swim attire, and PJs. With the washer and dryer, it was easy to throw everything in while we lounged in PJs or hit the pool in our suits and pull overs while the clothes got clean.

10. Let the kids go: There was SO many family and/or kid activities available. There were activities for kids and parents together or just kids. It was awesome the freedom my kids had at this resort without me being too worried about them. It was ALMOST as freeing as cruise.
The most shocking part of this resort? It feels like a Disney park resort, you really do "go back to the real world" when you're done. It's quite undescribable how amazing it really is, until you experience it. There were so many things we've added to a to-do list for our next trip including the campfire stories, kids night out, and the Spring Jam late night swimming and sliding. And even though I'm super burned on my left side and walking all bowlegged from the oversized biking seat, I cannot wait to return. A weekend just isn't enough time. We need atleast a week there. So make plans to visit Disney's HHIR as soon as you can! Leave your cares and the real world behind and immerse yourself in the magic that IS Disney.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Took a Week Off . . .

This week our family was so blessed to have my mother-in-law come for a visit. Now, I can almost hear some of you sucking in your breath and thinking, "Oh no!" but quite honestly, I have the perfect mother in law. In addition to pretty much being perfect, she also loves to explore new areas the same way I do: food! So I knew I'd be taking this time off from my juice only diet to show her around via some of our favorite restaurants.

While taking this week off, I did continue to exercise so as not to gain any weight and while I'm bummed I haven't lost any weight, I am pleased that I did not gain any either. Yay me! I have also noticed some big differences in my body, health, and how I feel in general. Keep in mind, that I have continued to juice during this week, albeit not as much as I would if all I ate - or rather, drank was juice.

1. I really enjoy biking and before this week, had gotten my rides up to 16-17 miles a ride and was working towards a 50 mile goal. I did bike during the week, but my numbers were totally inconsistent. I was able to do 1 day at almost 21 miles, another couple of days of 10-15 miles, and one very busy day with only 5 or 6 miles. I felt I was working a lot harder and needed more fuel to be completing my upper miles, and really didn't feel this strain when I originally hit my 17 miles on the bike. I'm looking forward to getting back to juice alone just to feel so good on a bike ride. I've even noticed my discomfort during the rides (i.e., saddle seat) has increased while off the juice fast.

2. My energy levels have been all over the place. I get spurts during the afternoon, but feel super tired by early evening and even have experienced some headaches.

3. I went 27 days without a single migraine, sinus headache, or tension headache - and this week I had 3 pretty serious headaches and a migraine.

4. This may be TMI, but I have a terrible itchy scalp - originally I thought it was a dry climate thing back when we lived in Vegas, but South Carolina is not dry, quite humid actually. I noticed back in week 2 of my juice fast that my scalp had gotten so much better, so much so that I totally forgot about it until this week when my scalp started itching again. I'm not sure what causes this, but now I'm very suspicious of it being nutrition related.

I also noticed how my food made me feel - everything from heartburn, stomach aches, and more. And I was controlling my portions! Along with this, I was able to observe processed food versus non-processed foods that I ate. For example, Thursday night was Domino's night at the kids' school, so we ordered pizzas. Today, I made whole wheat pizza pockets from scratch using only whole foods for "game day lunch". While I experienced heart burn, had trouble with digestion, and in general discomfort from Domino's highly processed foods, when I made the same pizza only from scratch using whole foods I did not experience any of those problems.

Tomorrow I'll be saying good-bye to my mother-in-law till next May, but I'm super excited to get back to my workout and juicing routine and back to weight loss. Yippie!

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Just Juice?!"

Sometimes I get a lot of strange looks when people realize I'm "just juicing" - meaning I don't drink soda, tea, coffee, eat processed foods, or eat foods at all - I drink raw fruit and veggie juice. I drink approx 72 ounces of fresh juice and 1-2 gallons of water with it.

When you first begin juicing, as I've mentioned there is a detox period, this is when your body adjusts to the "new diet" but after this period of adjustment you will notice some awesome changes.

For example, I've been sticking with my P90X meal plan for almost 4 weeks before I began juicing. I was working on getting my bike miles up, but the hills and humidity really made it a challenge for me. Three to four miles into my rides and my legs would just be done, I'd be wheezing up the hills, counting the minutes till I got home. However, I changed my diet to juicing and have made huge leaps in my biking miles - from barely 5 miles a day (which I still struggled with) to 16 miles! And I'm continuing to add miles to each ride.

Today, I biked down Whiskey road to Downtown Aiken. I've been wanting to try this ride for awhile now, however coming home from Downtown is practically all uphill, and I was worried I wouldn't be able to make it back. I was so shocked at how easily I got up the long hill and by time I neared the Main Gate, I still had so much energy that I added an extra 4 miles onto my ride down Pine Log. This is the difference "just juicing" is for me. I have so much more energy and endurance. I have to admit I was a little shocked when my Cardio X was complete today, it went so fast and I still felt so good!

When I woke up this morning, I still felt so full from the night before! Why? Because I drink lots of juice and water during the day. The juice is good for me, and I'm not starving my body. I hope that you'll at the very least look at juicing in a different light: don't think of juicing as the OJ in the carton at the store, but rather five or six big oranges, peeled and juiced. Yum! If you're also interested in juicing - give it go. What have you got to loose, except weight, diseases, and chronic illnesses?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Juicing Tips and Common Questions

I'm entering my third week of juicing and have really learned a lot of lessons and tips along the way. The best and most important lesson I've learned is one my Beach Body Coach, Casey Beard, is always telling me: BE PREPARED! The first week or so I stuck pretty strictly to "juice only" and along the way, I've succumbed to temptation with salads, veggie sandwiches, and even a few less healthy options (ahhhh pizza). Typically speaking, I succumb to these temptations due to a lack of preparation or I've allowed myself to go too long without juice or water. So I look forward to writing this post and sharing some lessons I've learned along the way.

1. Whenever possible: juice ahead. I guess some people probably like juicing one serving at a time, if you are one of those people - good on you. :) However, I am not. I like to juice 64 ounces at once, this is typically a day's worth of juice for me.

2. Mason Jars FTW! In the FSND group, a poster mentioned that Mason jars (you know the glass ones for canning jams, veggies, etc.) were the best way to store juice. I swung by the store, picked some up, and guess what? They are SO awesome! Perfect serving sizes for storing, you shake them up, take the lid off, and can drink directly from them. Super easy to clean and very cost efficient. Give them a try!

3. Be Brave: You for sure want to hit up the Reboot site for support from other juicers, recipes, nutritional information, and more. I especially love the Nutritional Benefits page, it walks you through the benefits of varying veggies. I suffer from chronic migraines and so I make sure to juice some celery sticks daily, these veggies help prevent my migraines without the use of expensive medication that can have negative side effects. Be brave and try new veggies according to what you need! I totally agree with Joe Cross that you need to have lots of green fruits and veggies (more veggies than fruit) in your diet to feed your body. Kale doesn't sound too friendly, but it's not bad! Pair it with a 1-2 slices of fresh pineapple and you never taste it!

4. Detoxing: The first few days of a juice fast are difficult, heck the whole thing can be a mental challenge. However, something I really want to stress is the detoxification period. It's hard. You are throwing a huge curve ball at your body - only drinking fruits and veggies, you're not eating, and if you eat a lot of processed food (and today a lot of people do) then your body may start screaming for all those ingredients you can't pronounce. Hang in there! Depending on your current diet, you may experience a range of symptoms: fatigue, exhaustion, headaches, migraines, aches, pains, nausea, stomach pains, gas, etc. Just remember, you won't feel this way the entire time! The detox stage varies from person to person, mine last about 2 days, and by day 3 I was back to working out and biking.

5. Negativity: You will experience a lot of support from people, but know that not everyone will be supportive. Ironically, it seems like my friends who have never expressed an interest (to me that is) in whole foods, nutrition, etc. are the ones who are the most supportive, inquiring, and open to the idea of juicing. These are the people who typically try my juice. On the other hand, my friends in fitness, health, and exercise groups have been the ones to be the most negative about it. Comments such as, "it's a fad" or "it's not healthy" or "it's just another weight loss short cut" or "you can't do it" are the common ones I hear. And I'll admit, it makes me a little irritated, but I think that's because I expected these groups to be the ones to be supportive. I mean, I'm juicing fresh organic fruits and veggies, not mixing Cyan Pepper, Maple Syrup, and a Lemon together....  In short, be prepared that some people are not in a place to be supportive, and that's okay.

6. Set a Schedule: I like to have a set time that I sit down and juice a day's worth of juice. For me, it's in the evenings after dinner. I like doing it then because I'm already cleaning up after the meal, so might as well get it all done in one shot. Whatever works for you, make that time your juicing time. I like to put on some worship music (for those who followed my "The Journey Called Faith" blog - don't be shocked!) and spend time with God. Also, your juice will keep in your fridge anywhere between 12-48 hours, it depends on what you put in it, how you store it, etc. Make sure to fill as much to the top of possible and store in smaller jars so you don't keep opening and closing it. You can also freeze juice, but I haven't tried this one yet.

7. Got Kids? Get them involved! The younger you get them into juicing, the earlier you start to build healthy eating habits. Are they babies or toddlers? Try, "Super Baby Food" - it'll get your munchkins on the right eating path from the time they are eating solid foods.

8. Share your Juice: The reason I'm juicing is because my husband shared the documentary, "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead" with me back at the beginning of this month. A few weeks later, I am beyond honored that a handful of friends from my Facebook page have made their own decisions to do a Juice Fast. Pay it forward. If you have juice, share it. Talk about it. Let's create a change in our communities. In my business, I am always reminding myself that I am not aware of people's circumstances, I never know who in my parties is worrying about their finances, or who is desperate to get out of the house, who is new to the area and needs new friends, or who just wants to try something new. So I always ask people if they want to become a consultant like me and join my team. This is exciting because I see firsthand the personal development and freedoms these women experience as a direct result of their new businesses. Think of juicing the same way - you don't know who is challenged with migraines, aches, pains, who is struggling with a disease that they either cannot afford medication for or is crippled by their medication. Share with people. Create community.

9. Pulp: I see this a lot on the FSND page, "what do I do with the pulp"? Your juicer should come with a list of suggestions on what to do with the pulp. I also recommend the 100 Days of Real Food and Nourishing Meals websites, you can substitute a lot of their recipes that call for "shredded" or "leftover veggies" with the pulp from your machines. Yay! See you can cook a meal for someone with that! You can add it to soups and stews, breads and muffins, save it for compost, and more.

10. Line your pulp collector: This was a great tip from my manual: line your pulp collector with a baggie, this makes clean up super easy. Plus, you can seal it up and throw it in the fridge to cook or bake with later. Just remember to label it and use it within 24-48 hours.

11. Bathroom Visits: Remember on your juice fast you want to drink LOTS of water. Based on the documentary, "Food Matters" (Watch Instantly on Netflix) try to drink 1-2 liters of water first thing in the morning, before or after every juice, and before bed at night. Yes, you will be in the bathroom - a lot. But that's okay. And during your detox period, you'll be in the bathroom a whole ton. But again, once your system is cleaned out, it gets better.

12. Famer's Markets: Buying produce can get expensive. So look for local farmer's markets and co-ops. Of course you can always grow your own as well. I'm not too talented in that area, so I found a co-op in Aiken, it meets on Tuesdays at Magnolia's Market. My co-op is $3 a month, I get 10% off produce, and can purchase "shares" which are bundles put together by the co-op, my cost is $20 or less. You can also visit: to locate farmer's markets and local growers in your area. You want to buy organic, yes it costs more: that's why you want to ask the local growers if they use pesticides or fertilizers on their farms. Think of it this way, when you're juicing, if they used a pesticide, guess what else is in your juice? Concretrated pesticides. Scary ... Also be on the lookout for road side vendors as well, you can usually save a bunch of money this way too. And remember, if you're buying food for your family - look into local meats, eggs, dairy, and fresh bakeries. However, always ask: are they using refined grains or sugars? You're want to make sure they are not using these items for products you purchase for your family or yourself if you're only juicing some of the day. Best steal: Amish Popcorn. Super good! My kids are addicted! If you buy the kernels at say, "The Fresh Market" it's over $6, but go to Nobel Breads and it's less than $2 for the bag.

13. My Mean Green: Here's my mean green recipe. Give it a try!
- 1 bunch kale (yep I use a whole bunch at a time, it's super good for you!)
- Half a bunch of Fennel (you know I'm not even sure what you're supposed to juice on this, so I stick the whole dang thing in there: bulb, leaves, and stalk)
- 3-4 celery sticks (add these slowly and taste along the way - celery is super strong)
- 1-2 apples
- 2 slices of fresh pineapple
- 1 cucumber (peeled!)
- 2 Green Pears

Super yummy! If you want it spicy, add a touch of fresh ginger root. Speaking of Ginger Root - on the FSND page, someone recently posted their version of Apple Cider. With fall in the air, it might be the perfect juice to make, heat up, and enjoy instead of a cup of coffee in the morning. Here it is:

- Red Apples (3-4 depending on how much juice you want)
- 1 Orange (peeled)
- Half lemon (peeled)
- Ginger Root (to taste)
- A pinch of cinnamon and allspice