Friday Favorites

It’s been a little while since I’ve done a blog post about some things that I think are awesome right now. Without further ado…

  • AfterShokz Trekz Titanium Wireless Headphones I’ve been testing out these wireless headphones from AfterShokz for the past 4 weeks as a BibRave Pro Ambassador. I will have my full product review later next week. But I so far it’s been a mixed bag for me. I love running without headphone wires for sure. And the open ear design really is much safer and works perfectly. My biggest issue is it’s just not very comfortable after running with them for longer than about 45 minutes. Going to give it a few more training runs and try to see if I can adjust it a little more to make it more comfortable. “BIBRAVE” will get you 20% off if you want to try out a pair for yourself! Full review coming next week.

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  • Finding Dory Rachel and I love Pixar and Disney (if you couldn’t tell by the large number of blog posts devoted specifically to Disney). In fact, the very first movie we ever saw in the theater together was Finding Nemo back in 2003. We were very excited to see the sequel, and friends, it did not disappoint. We loved it. Two major thumbs up from both of us. While I wouldn’t put it above the original, it’s a must see if you love Pixar and Disney like we do.

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  • Hilton Head Island Beach Trip A few weeks ago, Rachel and I went to the beach with Rachel’s family for a short 4 days. We had a great time with her parents relaxing at the beach. I wanted to share a few pictures of our amazing time together. I’ve said it before, but I’m so grateful for Rachel’s family. They are indeed now very much a part of me. I wouldn’t trade them for the world!

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Movies I’m Looking Forward To (July-October)

Rachel and I love watching movies. Several years ago, we saw movies in the theaters all the time. However, it has gotten so expensive to go to the movies, that we have become pretty picky about which films we pay money for.

Below is a list of the movies coming out over the next 4 months that I am looking forward to. My guess is we will end up seeing about half of these in the theater and the rest we will wait to rent down the road.

  • The BFG (July): I love Roald Dahl (who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and, of course, Steven Spielberg. The visuals alone make this a must see.
  • The Secret Life of Pets (July): The trailers looks hilarious. We will definitely see this in the theaters.
  • Ghostbusters (July): I have mixed emotions about this movie being remade. But it does look really funny and has a great cast. Curious to read the reviews once it comes out.
  • Star Trek Beyond (July): I very much enjoyed the first two Star Trek movies with this new cast. I will see it for sure, but I wonder if this will end up being a rental with the number of movies coming out in July that I do want to see.
  • Jason Bourne (July): Yes! Freaking Matt Damon is back as Jason Bourne. Yes yes yes!
  • Suicide Squad (August): Seriously, how good does Jared Leto look as the Joker in the trailers?! And the rest of the cast looks amazing as well. Very much looking forward to this movie!
  • The Magnificent Seven (September): Denzel and Chris Pratt along with a slew of other solid actors in a western. Count me in!
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (September): Tim Burton is one of my favorite directors, and this movie looks like another crazy but visually stunning movie.
  • The Girl on the Train (October): I am a big fan of this book, so I was curious to see when they would do a movie adaptation. Emily Blunt as the lead character is a great choice.
  • Inferno (October): I love the Dan Brown (Robert Langdon) books. The two movies with Tom Hanks have also been very enjoyable. Probably a rental, but I definitely want to see it eventually.

I will dedicate a separate blog post in October highlighting the movies in November/December, including Doctor Strange, Trolls, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Moana and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

And there you have it: The movies in the next 4 months that I am looking forward to. What movies are you excited about seeing this year?

Upcoming Race Schedule

Over the past few months, I haven’t had any races on the schedule, so I’ve been able to run without training for anything specific. It’s been a nice break away after a busy 4 months with 4 half marathons and a full marathon.

This summer I only have the Peachtree Road Race on July 4th (the largest 10K in the world) before a busy fall race schedule.

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One of the races I have this fall is the Chicago marathon in October. This means I will begin officially training next month in the Atlanta summer heat/humidity. That should be a lot of fun….

My race schedule for the rest of 2016:

Looking forward to sharing my experiences with training and running these races over the course of the year. It’s going to be a fun second half of 2016!

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Guest Post (Resort Review: Port Orleans – Riverside and other Birthday Festivities)

When Allen asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, I of course chose Disney World. Since we go so frequently, we try to do something different during each trip, and we knocked out a few unique experiences over this particular weekend.

We made reservations to stay at Port Orleans – Riverside, as we had never stayed there before. As always, using our Annual Passes got us a great deal!

Allen can schmooze with the best of them, so upon checking in on Friday afternoon, he mentioned we were there to celebrate my birthday – and voila! They upgraded us to a Royal Guest Room.

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Now, I’m sure they mostly reserve these upgrades for children, because let’s face it: this room was insanely themed to Disney princesses. There was even a backstory! Ahem: Princess Tiana had invited all of her princess friends to join her in New Orleans, and they left behind some of their most prized possessions (I’m paraphrasing). There were magical touches throughout the entire room, including the piece de resistance: a light-up headboard (not kidding).

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One of the things I was most looking forward to while staying at Port Orleans was taking the unique transportation from the resort. Once we got settled into the princess room, we took a boat to Disney Springs from Port Orleans – French Quarter (because obviously we had to grab some beignets before doing anything else).

Once at Disney Springs, we were able to peruse the new Town Center area, which is basically like a fancy mall, but a fancy mall at Disney is better than a fancy mall just about anywhere else. We had a delicious dinner at D-Luxe Burger and I grabbed a free birthday cupcake at Sprinkles.

We returned to the resort that night and walked around a bit, but headed to bed early, since we had breakfast reservations at Be Our Guest the next morning.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a morning person. It takes something significant to get me out of bed on the weekends, and on my birthday, no less. Well, I’d say a chance to get into Magic Kingdom before rope drop is as good a reason as any!

We were able to catch the bus from the resort at 7:30 that morning, which gave us ample time to make our 8:25 reservation. (“Catching” might have included a bit of running when we saw the MK bus heading our way….)

When I was doing research before our trip, I learned that Early Morning Magic was also occurring that morning. This turned out to be a huge advantage for us, because several of the rides were open for guests! We took several (near-empty) photos of Main Street and Cinderella’s Castle, and then hopped onto multiple rides before and after our reservation, including the notoriously long-lined Peter Pan’s Flight and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

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Because we were at the park so early, we were able to get into even more rides with no wait time. Now that I’ve seen how the other (early) half lives, it will definitely be harder in the future to wait a significant amount of time for a ride (basically, like, 20 minutes). It was a great feeling, watching the park fill up and knowing that I was able to do everything I wanted before noon. It was a magical morning indeed!

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I’m going to gloss over much of the rest of the day, since Allen covered it in detail in a prior blog post, but let me recap: fun day, awesome friends, great food, and feeling very loved.

We enjoyed the rest of the evening at the resort, by hanging at the pool bar and partaking in another round of beignets (what? It was my birthday!). I also showed off the princess room to our friends, who also marveled in the intricate details (hence why we’re friends).

The next morning, Allen and I ate breakfast at the resort, and were able to take a few more fun photos. I was sad to leave – but I would definitely stay at the resort again (princess room or no)!

Till next time!

Keeping Up With The Whittakers Part 2

Welcome to the second part of “Keeping Up With The Whittakers”! A few days ago, I blogged about our experience at Disney for Rachel’s birthday. Rachel is working on a guest post reviewing her experience, specifically at the Port Orleans resort. Look for that in the next few days.

Last weekend, Rachel and I headed up to Tennessee for the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The main purpose of our trip was Rachel’s family reunion in Dover, Tennessee. We started off Friday afternoon by heading to Nashville to stay with Davis and Sherre Chappell for the night. Davis was the Senior Minister at Lawrenceville FUMC, where I served as Director of Student Ministries for 8 years. Davis also married Rachel and me!

Davis is now the Senior Minister at Brentwood UMC, which is just outside of Nashville. We have been wanting to get up to see them for the past few years and since we were driving straight through Nashville, we decided to leave a day early so we could see them.

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We went to dinner at a place called Puckett’s Grocery, in Franklin. The food and overall environment were second to none! After dinner we walked around the Franklin area for a little while. There were some great shops and dessert places to check out. The whole vibe of Franklin was really cool.

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After Franklin, we made our way over to Brentwood UMC so we could see the church. It is, in a word, “huge”! There’s a reason it’s one of the largest Methodist Churches in the U.S.

The next morning, after a great breakfast and conversation, Rachel and I made our way toward the reunion in Dover. We stopped off at the Parthenon first, as I’ve always wanted to see the replica in Nashville. It is awesome! We got some great pictures before making the journey to the family reunion.

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The rest of the weekend was spent with Rachel’s mom’s side of the family. It was a great time with all of her extended family. They love to laugh, share stories and eat! (Sounds like my family!)

Her grandfather (Neil Moore) was born and raised in Standing Rock (Dover). So when Neil passed away last summer, her grandmother asked me specifically to come to the reunion and lead a few songs at a short memorial service out at Standing Rock. I was, of course, very honored to be a small part of the service. Rachel’s brother Travis and I played two old hymns and even Rock Top!

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Some of my favorite parts of the reunion…

  • Running a 10K with 10 other folks from the family. I ended up running the majority of the race with Grey Settle (Rachel’s first cousin, twice removed), who is 74 years young! This guy is awesome! I loved getting to talk with him during those 6 miles.

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  • Lisa (Rachel’s mom) and I winning a very competitive game of cornhole. Seriously, we were down huge and came back to win!

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  • Offering the blessing at the family lunch on Sunday for the whole reunion. Neil Moore used to offer this prayer every reunion, and I was asked to offer thanks this year. It was a huge honor.
  • Being a part of Neil’s memorial service (see above).
  • And, of course, being with Rachel and her family. I feel so blessed to be a part of this family. I love them very much.

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All in all, the past two weekends have been a lot of fun. Hard to believe we are in June and summer is beginning! I am 3 days away from the first of 22 different camps that we are hosting at the church throughout the summer. It’s going to be a busy one!

Keeping Up With The Whittakers Part 1

The past few weeks have been busy, but so very good. I figured I would take a couple of blog posts to talk about all that has been going on with The Whittakers!

Rachel’s 31st birthday was Saturday May 21, so you know we had to celebrate in our favorite place (Walt Disney World) for the weekend.

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Orlando here we come!

We stayed at the Port Orleans resort. And because it was Rachel’s birthday, we got upgraded to the Royal Guest Room. Rachel was in heaven! Plus they had beignets so you know we had to grab some! I have asked her to do a special blog post about the resort and room, so stay tuned for that post coming soon! 

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Beignets for the win!

We hit up Universal Studios (Harry Potter World) on Friday for several hours before checking into the resort.

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Later that evening, we took the Port Orleans boat transportation over to Disney Springs for dinner and shopping. They had just opened a new section (Town Center), which was amazing. We ate dinner at one of the new restaurants and walked around for several hours.

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Saturday morning, we had Be Our Guest breakfast reservations at the Magic Kingdom, which was a nice way to start Rachel’s birthday. One of the awesome parts of this reservation was that we were able to get into the park a full hour before it opened to the public. We scored some amazing pictures on Main Street and in front of the castle with hardly anyone there.

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Once we got to Be Our Guest, we split a delicious meal and took in all the amazing sights of the restaurant.

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The Birthday Girl outside Be Our Guest!

After breakfast, we were able to literally get on 14 different rides in the span of 3 hours. Nothing like getting to the park before the crowds arrive!

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Later that afternoon, we met up with our friends Ellis and Colleen, along with Nick and Ciara, and headed over at Epcot for a few more hours of park fun. Then we all headed over to  Giordano’s Pizza to meet up with Chris, Meredith and their adorable baby girl Caroline to celebrate Rachel’s birthday officially!

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We had a great time eating dinner and celebrating with some great friends who mean so much to us. At dinner I even realized that I had officiated all 3 of these couples’ weddings over the past few years. How cool is that?!

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So grateful for these friends!

Finally, we all headed over to Port Orleans to walk around the resort and hang out a little more. We ended up sitting around the pool bar area and catching up for another hour or so. It was a great evening for sure!

Sunday morning, we checked out and grabbed breakfast and a few more pictures around the resort.

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Then we made our way back to Atlanta and the real world. All in all, a great weekend celebrating my beautiful wife’s birthday!