Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Disney on No Dollars a Day

"You have nowhere to go, you are where you belong, you can live the life you dream."

I believe I've become a born-again fitness fanatic.

If you consider walking on a treadmill for an hour at three mph and a three degree angle (net elevation gain 800-some odd feet) to be a workout, then I work out most days, and on the days I don't I try to get in as much real life walking as possible.

Today I walked around the pond instead. I did the shorter loop and then the longer loop (but not the longest loop) and it took me most of an hour, so that is all good. It's a perfect day and I feel like I benefit from the fresh air and sunshine. The community fitness center is small and the windows are sealed and I'm breathing gym air.

The sky was an incredible shade of sapphire.


The black glass of the lake reflected some of the intense blue of the sky.

I had my annual physical shortly after getting home from Yellowstone Park last August. While at the park my new normal sleeplessness did not affect me. At home I'd have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. While at the park I slept like a very relaxed cat.

I mentioned this to my doctor and she asked if I'd been outdoors a lot at the park. Of course. I was outdoors pretty much every daylight hour. And I slept. I won't go as far as to say I have some form of seasonal affective disorder, but I will say I'm pretty sure that sunshine and vitamins and lungfuls of clean air are somnia-friendly.

I'm born-again because my life has followed a pattern vis–√†–vis exercise programs. For the first 25 years or so I was as inertial as can be. I took yoga and bowling and ice skating for my college PE requirements. In my mid-twenties I took up jogging, a gateway form of fitness that led to jazzercise, aerobics and low-impact aerobics for the next 25 years or so. Then I lost steam. I became more or less a couch potato. I still took the stairs, walked sporadically, hiked when I could (and suffered the crippling knee pain of the out-of-shape).

And I know you'll find this hard to believe, but I lost my lithe figure. It took a while longer for my brain to catch up. In my mind I was still willowy. But there's no denying it when your jeans just won't zip. No, they didn't shrink suddenly. I wasn't exactly in denial, but it's true your metabolism slows in your mid-life years. And it's all about self-acceptance, loving yourself as you are, right?

Besides, I ate a reasonably healthy, low-fat diet. No fried foods, very little meat, skim milk, no soda pop. I'm not much of a snacker, I eat when I'm hungry and often just breakfast and dinner. I keep my sweet tooth on a short leash. Still my weight would not stabilize. When I weighed what I'd weighed when I was nine months pregnant, I took action.

Action meant exercise. I started a year ago. I walked every day and when it got hot I started walking on the treadmill at the fitness center. I walked and watched British crime drama on my iPad. I avoid the scale because this is more about how I feel and look, and how my clothes fit. So when I saw my doctor in August I was pleased that I was 15 lbs. down. I had to weigh a package the other day that was more than my five lb. postal scale limit, so I weighed it by weighing myself - with the package and then without it. I'm four bags of flour down now.

I feel better, I sleep better, it's all good. Preach.

Neil and I got back on Sunday from a quickie trip to Orlando. Most years we go in January for the FUN show, the Florida numismatic show, which is always one of the biggest coin shows, probably because Florida has the right demographic for coin collectors, i.e., men older than a certain age. I spend most of my time at the show reading in the convention center lobby, or the suite provided for legacy members by the world's largest collectibles auction house. Neil naturally is a legacy member.

I did buy two pretty darn nice silver rings, one set with garnets and one with pink coral, even though I've forsworn accumulating more stuff. But after walking around on the bourse for a couple of hours, I just wanted a little memento. Two mementos. I'm just sorry it wasn't three.

The rest of the trip was a little game Neil and I play called Disney on No Dollars a Day. As much as I love the parks, there is plenty to do at WDW at no cost if you are easily amused, like we are. And of course, it's not really No Dollars, silly. We do stay at a hotel (not a Disney one this time), and we do rent a car, and we have to eat anyway.

We arrived Thursday and after some $4 eggs and pancakes at Denny's we went to the coin show so that Neil could view the lots he was preparing to bid on. He spent some time on this. I read. And grabbed some snacks from the suite. We checked in to the Hampton and kicked back for a while, until it was time to go to our first character dinner.

Well, Neil thought he had booked a buffet character dinner. He wanted to surprise me, so he didn't tell me where. I love surprises - the kind when someone hands you a wrapped box or flowers and says, surprise. Knowing ahead of time that I'm going to be surprised, not so much. I finally weaseled out a hint, just enough info to convince me that there were no character dinners that met the criteria. Fine.

It turned out to be a dinner at Kidani Village at the African Kingdom Lodge. We love visiting the lodge and seeing the giraffes and zebras and wildebeests on the mocked up veldt with the invisible electric fences.


It was dark though, and a bit cool outside, so we went right on to dinner at Sanaa, boasting African cooking with Indian flavors. Neil put his fists up to his ears. I said what are you doing? He said, I'm Mickey Mouse, I'm your dinner character. Then he said, I probably shouldn't book reservations very late at night.

We had a appetizer of naan and chutneys and a lovely meal - spicy chicken and mahi for Neil, vegetable dahl and paneer masala for me - and split a bread pudding, also spicy, for dessert.

On Friday it was back to the coin show, where Neil walked the bourse and I bought my rings. The auction was at 2 p.m. and I hung out in an area with chairs and tables in front of the convention center, enjoying the temperate weather. For weeks now, Neil has been stressing because this auction had so many coins of interest (to him) and he knew they'd be auctioned at a fast and furious pace, since all were quarter eagles (gold $2.50 pieces). So much to agonize over. Do you bid to win right away, or do you save your bullets for your favorite coins and perhaps miss out on winning anything?

Predictably, Neil went in with a spreadsheet and a detailed bidding strategy. It was over faster than I expected and when I saw Neil coming out, I tried to read his demeanor. My impression was dejected, but I'd not put it past Neil to play act dejected before boasting victory. Still I said, it didn't go well, did it? I was right, he'd only won one coin of five in the live auction, plus one more that he'd placed on online bid on.

The coin he won was his last choice of the five, so he spent some time second guessing himself and beating himself up. I talked him down. Honestly, this whole auction has been almost a thorn in my side. Before the lot viewing, there'd been something like 19 coins of interest (to Neil). At some point I asked him not to tell me the prices. Ignorance is bliss, and it's his money. But as much as he joneses for retirement, it would mean a different approach to coin collecting that I don't think he's ready to contemplate. And that's slightly annoying.

We have ratty furniture and no landscaping, and yes I know, coins are an investment, and it's his money. I get to go one some interesting trips as a fringe benefit. So I won't complain (much) but I don't need the details needling me.

After that we were done with coins for the duration. Yippie ki-yay. (Did I really just type that?)

Back to the hotel for another kick-back and then we headed to Downtown Disney. We picked up pizzas-to-go at Wolfgang Puck Express, then drove over to the Polynesian resort. We told the security guard we were there for dinner and it wasn't a lie (technically). We found a nice table at the far end of the swimming pool, where it transitions to the beach, and ate our pizzas while we watched the fireworks display over Cinderella's castle. Contentment.


We goofed around the hotel for a while (no gift shop ever left behind) and called it a night.

Saturday was our only full and open day in Orlando, tarnished just slightly by knowing that our flight home boarded at 6:40 a.m. on Sunday. We pulled out all the No Dollars a Day stops.

We started out at the Art of Animation resort (starting at $105 per night, excluding tax), the newest of the "value" Disney hotels (starting at $85 per night, excluding tax). I love new hotels. It opened in late 2012 but we've never made our plans far enough in advance to get a reservation. At 11 in the morning it was a hive of activity. The line at check-in went on forever. The concession area was teaming with people. The pool was jam-packed and to my dismay, it was fenced and required a room key for access.

Part of the No Dollars a Day plan is the fact that you could, if you wanted to swim, wear a swimsuit under your clothing, grab a towel from the towel wagon and plop down on a chaise. Not that Neil and I would dream of swimming, but I like the idea as an option in the best seller I visualize writing. I hope this isn't some new Disney trend of locking down the resort pools.

We walked around the grounds a bit, getting away from the crowd. There's a bridge to the Pop Century over Hourglass Lake that no one uses or possibly has ever used. Neil figures it cost three million dollars to build. It would make a beautiful picnic spot, if one hadn't had a hot Hampton breakfast fairly recently.


After that, we decided to visit a "moderate" Disney resort (starting at $167 per night, excluding tax), so we pulled the Coronado Springs resort out of a hat. We loved it. The check-in area was peaceful and gracious. The colors - teal and cinnamon - were soothing. The lake that the hotel encircles was scenic and tranquil.


Neil got a caffè mocha and I got one of the best, if not the best, iced mocha smoothies that I've ever had, all the more enjoyable for the price, $3.89. Whipped cream? Hell to the yes! We took a stroll around the lake and had an above-average gift shop experience when the ceramic animals and vases in the display case turned out to be a bargain $9.95.

Did I mention we loved it? Did I mention I want to stay there next year (maybe)? Did I mention the rooms for two go up to $261 per night if you want a lake view? You also can blow $1,020 per night (excluding tax) on a suite that sleeps six, if you want to bring four close friends.

Our DoNDaD tour continued with a stop at the Saratoga Springs resort. We got a bandaid and some sploogey cooling gel for Neil's blistered toe, walked around a bit and took a boat ride to the treehouse villas. There and back again. I love all the free Disney transportation. (We didn't ride the monorail this trip, but it definitely will be in the book.)


From there we headed to the resort area loop that includes the Swan and Dolphin (no free parking), the Boardwalk, Yacht Club and Beach Club resorts. High cotton. I have to say, I loved all the fairy tale colors. And the flowers.


This time our characterless dinner was a sumptuous seafood buffet at the Beach Club. We wandered around on the beach side first, then dined on seafood bisque, calamari salad, fried clams, steamed shrimp, salads, side dishes and desserts to die for.

After dinner we people-watched from the second floor balcony for a while before heading back for an early night before an early flight home.

I've been home for two days and I've made beads twice. Muses must love Walt Disney World too.


There's a time that comes once every morning
When you choose the kind of day you will have
It comes in with the sun and you know you've begun
To live the life you dream
You can light all your candles to the dawn
And surrender yourself to the sunrise
You can make it wrong you can make it right
You can live the life you dream

Pray to Buddha, pray to Krishna, pray to Jesus
Or the shadow of the devil on your wall
Anyone you call will come

The night comes to you dressed in darkness
Descends on your body like a blessing
You can lie in its arms it will heal your heart
You can life the life you dream
You can wake in this vale of tears
You can laugh like a child again
You can make it right you can make it wrong
You can live the life you dream

What you see and you believe is not the answer
To anything that matters very much
Anything you touch is gone

In the valleys you look for the mountains
In the mountains you search for the rivers
You have nowhere to go you are where you belong
You can live the life you dream
If you call him your master will find you
Seven bars on the door will not hold him
Seven fires burning bright only give him delight
You can live the life you dream

All your treasure buys you nothing but the moment
All your poverty has cost you everything
Love will teach your dream to sing

Judy Collins

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz