Tuesday, January 26, 2021

In Which Jenn Reviews Sights & Smells From The Haunted Mansion

I've never performed the lengthy soul-searching required to select my favorite Magic Kingdom attraction, but if I had to make a quick call based on gut feelings alone I would probably say the Haunted Mansion. Sure, it's not the most thrilling experience in the park, but in terms of theme, aesthetics, and storytelling, I think you'd be hard pressed to top it.

So it should come as no surprise that much like the hitchhiking ghosts, some Haunted Mansion items have followed me home! And since they're - shh - third party items readily procured via the internet, I thought I'd throw out some reviews on them. 

You may be assured of my candor; neither of the companies discussed gave me anything or even contacted me. Oh, and don't mind Minxie; she refused to get off my blanket backdrop, and as a black cat is arguably thematically appropriate I decided to just incorporate her into my shoot.

Haunted candle

The first item is from the Magic Candle Company, a business that makes candles (and other stuff, like soap) formulated to smell exactly like theme park attractions without once mentioning the actual names of said attractions anywhere in the label or description. It's like an off-brand Halloween costume catalogue over there. What do you think they mean by "Pirate Life?" "Rome Burning" must be for the intellectuals. And if a "Pineapple Whip" doesn't mention Dole, does it violate copyright?

I kid, I kid - I would duck and cover from Disney's litigators too if I were in their shoes. Anyway, the candle I have, as you might have guessed, is called "Haunted." Is the purple color scheme and the sort of hat you might store in a hatbox an allusion to anything, would you say? Hmmm.

Haunted candle

All right, I'm done taking the piss from this poor company, because I gotta say that smell-wise, they nailed it. It's described as cedar wood and vanilla ("beloved by all happy haunts"), and while I can't say I've ever thought too hard about what the Haunted Mansion smells like, it must be like this. The fragrance somehow manages to be both musty and pleasant, evoking age and cobwebs but making you LIKE IT. Bonus: the paper wick is supposed to crackle when lit, which ought to add to the ambiance.

In short, the Magic Candle Company's "Haunted" gets my stamp of approval. I huff this thing on the regular. I want more! 

Haunted Mansion laptop

Next up: I picked up a laptop sleeve off Etsy from The Cobbler's Daughter, whose Haunted Mansion wallpaper pattern I couldn't resist. I like how it manages to be both subtle and instantly recognizable if you're a fan.

Haunted Mansion laptop sleeve

The sleeve itself is very basic - just fabric over some thin foam-like material, and then a fuzzy inside. It wouldn't do a ton to protect a computer that's been dropped, but it'll work fine to prevent scratches and provide a layer of protection in side a bag or backpack. It doesn't have any additional pockets or compartments, so if you're looking for something with bells and whistles, this sleeve ain't it. But as a basic with a nod to the fandom, I think it performs very well.

Haunted Mansion laptop sleeve

I also grabbed a Haunted Mansion pin from the same store, for no greater purpose than to make the free shipping minimum. It's cute but not ultimately worth the cost, if you ask me. I wouldn't discourage you from adding one to an existing order, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it. 

Haunted Mansion pin

I always enjoy when I can insert little Disney parks touches into my everyday life. Let me know if you know any more good ones!

Don't forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. It would thrill me extremely if you would leave a comment with any questions or thoughtsSee ya real soon!

Friday, January 22, 2021

In Which Jenn's 15th Marathon Continues To Give Chase

The 2020 Wilmington Marathon was supposed to be my fifteenth marathon. Scheduled for March, it was cancelled, my first COVID race casualty.

So then the 2021 Walt Disney World Marathon was in position to become my fifteenth marathon. Painfully but understandably, it was cancelled, alongside the Princess Half and Star Wars Half weekends.

Which brought me back around to the 2021 Wilmington Marathon, where my deferred registration had landed after last year's cancellation. I'd imagine the race organizers thought they'd be free and clear by February 2021. Alas and alack.

Still, it's run by the same organizers who safely put together the Battleship Half Marathon last November, and all their pre-race communications suggested that while the course might be modified the race would go on.

That is, up until two days ago, at which point it was announced that the race had been postponed - to April 17.

This as you may recognize is smack dab in the middle of the would-be Star Wars Rival Weekend races at Walt Disney World. As mentioned above, runDisney has already cancelled that race, BUT I hadn't cancelled my WDW trip. My race is now on day two of my WDW vacation. Whee! 


Luckily my WDW travel buddy has been very kind and accommodating, and since there's no official event date to make anymore we've agreed to push the trip back a day or two so I can run the dang race. Whew. And of course this is better anyway, as by April more people should be vaccinated and there'll be much less risk.

Against all odds, I am hopeful. I am hopeful that Biden's aggressive vaccination plan will work out. I'm hopefully we'll all be vaccinated soon. I'm hopeful people will stop getting sick, we can all safely race and travel again, and I can go back to getting anxious over normal things, like whether or not I'll wake up in time for my races

One of these days I'm gonna run my fifteenth marathon - and I'm hopeful it'll be soon!

Don't forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. It would thrill me extremely if you would leave a comment with any questions or thoughtsSee ya real soon!

Monday, January 18, 2021

In Which The Baby-Sitters Club Goes To WDW In 1988

Adulthood rite of passage: your parents move out of your childhood home, and they do a massive purge of their stuff. Some of that stuff is your stuff. They ask you if you want that stuff. You pick through the stuff, select a very small percentage of stuff you want to keep, and tell them to do whatever they want with the remainder of the stuff. Sell the stuff, recycle the stuff, toss the stuff. The key point is, you do not want the stuff. You have your own stuff. Too much stuff, really. You should probably purge some stuff yourself.

In my case, a lot of the stuff was books. I know - I didn't want books? Look, I kept the good books I liked and potentially wanted to read again. A couple made the cut purely for nostalgia's sake. But I do not need 8,000 volumes of The Baby-Sitters Club. Toss.

Too late I realized I should've made one exception: did you ever read Baby-Sitters on Board? It was the first Super Special of the series, and sees the BSC going on a cruise... followed by Walt Disney World! In 1988! 

Eager to reread the story with an eye to the differences described in 1988's WDW vs. today, I obtained a new copy. You absolutely cannot find a text-only version for free on the internet, so definitely don't google "Babysitters on Board pdf" because nothing will come up, okay? 

The prose is intended for preteens, so it's a quick and easy read, and only includes two Wacky Outfit Descriptions (this must be before it became de rigueur to begin every story with detailed observations of what every club member was wearing). But in case you don't feel like slogging your way through several thousand words about "cute boys" and at least two separate instances of the Comet/vomit song, here are my observations:

  • The cruise is not a Disney cruise, because in 1988 there was no Disney Cruise Line. But one character mentions that every single person on the cruise is also going to WDW after somehow. In the '80s Disney was mandatory. 

  • Once they leave the ship, they are neither at a Disney hotel. Firstly, I'd imagine if they had stayed at a Disney resort, this would've been described in detail, but most telling is the mention that there's a minibar and I'm 99% sure Disney has never furnished those in rooms.

  • They also describe taking a bus to the TTA to the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, but if I recall correctly there weren't bus stops at MK until the last ten years or so, right?

  • Karen, the little sister of BSC president Kristy, gets her own chapters in this one, and she ends up freaked out in the Haunted Mansion because she legit thinks a hitchhiking ghost actually is following her home. She later gets lost in Fantasyland and decides the ghost is friendly and it helps her find her family again. She wants it to come back to her house so it can live with the ghost that's already in her attic...? Fred's and Dave's headstones are accounted for.

  • Karen also talks about various costume characters like Minnie and Snow White just wandering around freely. No handlers, no lines. Heady times, the '80s.

  • Another Karen chapter describes a character breakfast on the Empress Lilly, which I had heard of but was hazy on the details. Turns out it was part of the erstwhile Walt Disney World Village, now Disney Springs. The characters (the ones in the book, not the ones in the costumes) note sadly that it's a fake boat-shaped building, not an actual paddleboat - oh shoot, I just realized this must be Paddlefish now. Boy am I slow on the uptake. Anyway, according to Karen the inside isn't that exciting. So much for theme.

  • Everyone's really enthralled with Main Street -  they keep calling it a "little town." Now defunct shops mentioned include the House of Magic, Penny Arcade, The Shadow Box (what even was that?), and the cinema.

  • Defunct MK rides mentioned include Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (miss you, boo!), Snow White's Adventures, and the Skyway. Unfortunately no '80s descriptions are included, aside from a mention of the Witch trying to dump a rock on you in Snow White.

  • Big Thunder gets a bit of detail - one kid mentioned the scenery including bones, possums, a chicken, a goat, and a mine shaft. I think that's all still there. Pirates of the Caribbean is also described, but even with all the refurbs over the year nothing new (that is to say, old) is mentioned. Typical piracy, I guess. Much excitement over audio-animatronic leg hair.

  • At some point people get ice cream at a place in Fantasyland called The Round Table? Never heard of it. Former name of the Friar's Nook, maybe? Perhaps the Cheshire Cafe? A slightly more than cursory internet search won me nothing but Cinderella's Royal Table and round table discussions.

  • Dawn is all snobby about WDW because she's from CA and has been to Disneyland, oh, SO many times. Turns out she finds the WDW Space Mountain way more intense than the Disneyland one. I can't confirm; mostly what I remember from Disneyland's Space Mountain is that the cars are more comfortable and WAY easier to get into and out of. There is no mention of this in the book, only motion sickness. The babysitters are weak.

  • More characters end up on Tom Sawyer Island in this book than possibly some days in the park. Are there still air guns in the fort?

  • Only one group ever makes it to what was then called Epcot Center. It is led by Stacey, who claims not to know what "prototype" means but whatever. Epcot having changed so drastically, her chapter is pretty interesting. They start at the Universe of Energy, which would've been pre-Ellen/Bill, but no one calls it boring; it's all about the dinosaurs, which, fair. 

  • Next they hit up The World of Motion, which I never rode (that I remember). According to the book, there's a bike accident AND a car accident, and it is HILARIOUS.

  • At the Imagination pavilion, they do Captain EO, which they find "funny, exciting, and deliciously scary." I would've gone with "bonkers, absurdist, and deliciously bizarre," but sure. But then they're right there and DON'T DO THE FIGMENT RIDE??????? They don't even mention its existence and I feel personally attacked by this omission. (They never make it to or mention Horizons, either. Whoever did the research for this book didn't like good rides, apparently.) The Epcot portion concludes in World Showcase, where they have lunch at "a restaurant." I love that place!

  • It is implied that the day parade and the night parade are the same parade except for the whole timing thing. They catch the nighttime version at the end. The only float specifically mentioned is an upside-down birthday cake. I'm assuming this is un-birthday related but it doesn't ring a bell for me. I checked and apparently the Main Street Electrical Parade would've been running at MK during this period, but I don't remember that float. Afterward there are fireworks, but nobody says anything about a soundtrack or shapes or any of that jazz. 

So that was WDW in 1988 according to some made up people! It occurs to me just now that if the babysitters were all around twelve/thirteen in this book, they were born in the '70s. That would make them all in their forties now, and older than me. See, sometimes nostalgia makes you feel young!

Don't forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. It would thrill me extremely if you would leave a comment with any questions or thoughtsSee ya real soon!

Friday, January 15, 2021

Happy Friday: How To Make Virtual runDisney More Realistic

I've said it many times before: unfortunately, I'm not all that big on virtual races. Whenever a runDisney race has been cancelled of late, I've always taken the refund rather than switch to the virtual version. But there are many who disagree with me, including the thousands who performed a virtual WDW Marathon Weekend race (or 2 or 4) last weekend.

One such individual was Justin Stone, who tackled an at-home Dopey Challenge. Not content to simply wear a bib and accept a medal upon the completion of his requisite miles, he decided to make his virtual runDisney experience as true to the real, in-person thing as possible. 

Oh, sure, you say. He probably wore a costume, got his family to make posters, got friends to spectate, that sort of thing. I've heard of people doing that.

Okay, but have you heard of people doing all this?

Justin Stone rundisney

Now that is commitment to the runDisney art form. Brilliant! Hilarious! And, frankly, spot on. Can't say it tempts me to join in, though. 😜

Follow Justin Stone on Twitter just in case he says more funny things.

Don't forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. It would thrill me extremely if you would leave a comment with any questions or thoughtsSee ya real soon!

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

In Which Jenn's Race Medals Are Covered In Cat Pee

This is not the blog post I expected to write.

It seemed like it would be much more straightforward. I was going to tell you about how I used to put all my race bibs and medals on my cubicle wall. That looked like this.

Race bibs

But then we moved to Puerto Rico in 2019, and all those bibs and medals came down. They were packed away in a box and shipped to the island. With no clear display area, that box got shoved under the bed. That looked like this.

Medals in a box

Fast forward to last month, when Pat gave me a medal display rack for Christmas. Hooray! I had always wanted one of those! We set it up last weekend, and I pulled out my box of medals for display. Only as I started to unpack them, something seemed... off.

Some of the medals were discolored, somehow? The metal had corroded. But the box had been closed the whole time! Sure, Puerto Rico is humid, but not that humid, and anyway it was only about a quarter of them, not all. What the heck happened?

I had almost finished putting all the medals on the hooks when I got a whiff. A very distinctive whiff. If you have a cat, you know the whiff I mean. To me, it smells almost like something burning. Ammonia.


My stupid cat climbed under the bed and PEED ON MY MEDAL BOX.

In the immortal words of Charlie Brown: AUUUUUGH!!!!!

Cat pee medals


So. Cool. Cool cool cool cool cool. Cool! 

I mean, it's okay. It's just medals. Only a handful of them, even. And I think I can clean 'em up. I'm going to start by simply soaking them in water and then go from there. The ribbons on most can be readily removed and soaked as well. It's gonna be okay.

But not exactly how I envisioned the triumphant return of my medal display, y'know?

Nevertheless, it's the display I have. It looks like this.

Medal display

It might be a little overloaded. I should probably get another one. Two or three. Several.

I'll tell you what I should not do, though. I should not store any more medals under the bed!

Don't forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. It would thrill me extremely if you would leave a comment with any questions or thoughtsSee ya real soon!

Monday, January 11, 2021

In Which Jenn Has A Disney Sing Along En Español

Let's get down to business - or, as they say in Spanish, hombres de acción:

This means "men of action," and that's my segue into today's topic, which is: my New Year's resolutions. Duh.

Much like deciding what to give up for Lent, I like to make my New Year's resolutions very doable. For this year, my primary resolution is to watch a maximum amount of Disney movies in Spanish. Disney+ offers language tracks and subtitles for pretty much all their animated movies in both European AND Latino Spanish, and since I already know the context of the dialogue in English, Disney in Spanish should be a pretty good learning tool.

Also a good learning tool? Disney songs in Spanish! What I particularly like about these is the translations of the titles. Such as the above example from Mulan - I'm sure someone could have literally translated "Let's Get Down to Business," but they went with "Men of Action" instead. Similarly, it's not that Megara insists that "I Won't Say I'm in Love," but rather that "I Will Not Speak of My Love:"

La Sirenita goes with the much more direct "Kiss Her:"

Scuttle's terrible singing is somehow less funny in Spanish, but you should know that Coco is just generally a million times funnier (particularly Frida Kahlo. ¡Y CADA SOY YO!). Which brings us to Coco, of course, which you would think would be the exception, a one-for-one translation, since it's already largely Spanish. For some songs that's the case, but not for "The Beat of My Heart:"

There are countless other examples, but you get the idea. If you're out there trying to learn a language, try folding some Disney in - it really does work for everything!

Don't forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. It would thrill me extremely if you would leave a comment with any questions or thoughtsSee ya real soon!

Friday, January 8, 2021

In Which Jenn Hosts The 2021 Walt Disney World Marathon's Wake

WDW Marathon start

I hope you enjoyed my light complaining earlier this week, because today we're going to do some heavy complaining: I should be in Walt Disney World right now. :( :( :(

I should be picking up my race bib! I should be planning out my pre-race meal! I should be there for the Walt Disney World Marathon!

But I'm not. My love is cancelled. We all know that. And I know, too, that compared to other tragedies COVID has wrought, the cancellation of a race is hardly at the top of the list. But it's been my absolute favorite part of every year six years in a row now, and I am not going to lie: I AM SO INCREDIBLY BUMMED. 

My greatest feelings of joy occur in those marathons. If I'm lucky it kicks in as soon as I hit the Studios and I can ride it all the way down the Boardwalk and into the World Showcase. The World Showcase itself is a 100% happiness guarantee. What will I do without it?!

This is where photos and trip reports come to the rescue: while I can't get the 2021 race back, and I can relive 2015 through 2020. Below you'll find links to all my race recaps (my favorites are '18 and '20), plus a selection of some of my favorite photos from those races past. Get ready, 2022 - we're all coming for you with a vengeance!

Walt Disney World Marathon race recaps: 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020

WDW Marathon

WDW Marathon

WDW Marathon

WDW Marathon

WDW Marathon

WDW Marathon

WDW Marathon

WDW Marathon

WDW Marathon

WDW Marathon

WDW Marathon

Don't forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. It would thrill me extremely if you would leave a comment with any questions or thoughtsSee ya real soon!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

In Which Jenn Has Forgotten How To Run In The Cold

Christmas Run

Hello and welcome to The Fairest Run Of All, 2021 edition! Shall we start out the new year with a little light complaining? Let's!

Because boy howdy, kids, as a denizen of the warm and humid land of Puerto Rico for almost two years now, I have all but forgotten how to run in the cold. I ran a series of 5Ks over the last couple weeks while in Maryland's wintry throes, and while I knew intellectually it was going to be chilly I was not prepared.

Literally. I wasn't prepared. I almost was - I packed gloves for my runs, and long-sleeved shirts and pants, and even puffer vests. So far so good. 

I also own four pairs of crew socks, the kind that go halfway up your calf. They're soft and thick and warm and perfect for running, and currently live in a drawer in Puerto Rico. Of course in Puerto Rico they're useless, but I keep them there so that if I'm ever flying somewhere cold, I can pack them. In this case, I did not remember to pack them. My ankles were COLD.

Not the end of the world, of course, but you know what ELSE winter running throws at you on top of the cold? Wind! Frickin' GUSTS of wind! What is that about? Is the cold not enough??? (After the 2017 Rock 'n Roll Marathon DC, you think I'd learn, but I guess I blocked the memory from my brain.)

Oh, and the rain. Why not add some rain while we're at it? That'll make it extra fun. Nothing like a good rain juuuust above 32 degrees - all the cold and wet with none of the pretty snow elements.

And the ice! The day after it rained, it got down to below freezing overnight, and during my next run there was ice. I kept my eyes on the ground and didn't fall, but I still thought that was impolite.

Although! It did flurry on Christmas. I liked that. And the cold makes me much faster - a good minute per mile, sometimes. And once you get started and warm up a little, if the wind can just chill tf out, it's really not so bad. 

I guess I did formerly run outside all winter and survive. I could get used to it again. Except that I'm back in Puerto Rico now, and don't have to. Let the cycle begin anew!

Don't forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. It would thrill me extremely if you would leave a comment with any questions or thoughtsSee ya real soon!