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Chocolate Kingdom

Posted on August 11, 2017 by under Things to Do, Travel.    

Since Brian and I arrived in Orlando a day earlier than usual, we decided to do some exploring. We found this place called Chocolate Kingdom conveniently located across from the Orange County Convention Center. Anyway, we’ve been coming to #ZINCON for several years and we didn’t even know this place existed. I suppose this is because (a) we’ve never really had that much time to spend exploring and (b) it’s kind of tucked behind the Walgreens, which we have never, ever ventured beyond.

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Apparently, Sarah was familiar with the place because it’s right across from the Red Roof Inn where she and her convention roomies usually stay but the running joke is, because the of the business’ nondescript façade, it’s some kind of front for some sketchy operation. Yeah, we probably watch too many movies. Jokes aside, they do kind of need to work on their storefront more than a smidge.

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The business looks pretty legit once you’re inside. It’s just the outside that looks sketchy. LOL. Besides taking a tour, you can also purchase various truffles. They have lots of different kinds to choose from.

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A tour had just started when we got there but they were nice enough to let us join the one that was in progress. They next one wouldn’t have been for another hour or so. Honestly, I’m not sure we would have gone through with the tour had we not be able to do it right then and there.

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Our tour guide told us that we hadn’t really missed anything, just a little cartoon where the prince talks about the chocolate shoes and all of that.

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The tour, which talks about how you end up with a chocolate bar from a cacao bean, is definitely geared for children. They have little cartoon videos they play at each point of the tour.

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Here are a few pictures of our tour guide.

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The interactive parts of the tour included shooting marshmallows into the dragon, eating a candy-coated cacao bean, drinking a weird chocolate concoction similar to how it would have been served in the early days when chocolate was first discovered, and sampling some chocolates as we went.

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Some of the other things we tasted were a bit iffy but I was definitely not averse to sampling the processed chocolate.

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We got to taste some dark, milk, and white chocolate shoes.

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This is one of the old school tools that they use to process the chocolate and turn it into something delicious for us all to enjoy.

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Incidentally, chocolate – whether white, milk, or dark – has some pretty basic ingredients. You can see them listed in the photo above. High quality chocolate doesn’t require much. Unfortunately, chocolate makers these days add a bunch of other fillers. So, remember, the fewer ingredients the better.

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At the end of the tour, you can purchase one of these delicious candy bars that they make right before your eyes. You can also customize them to add your favorite mix-ins. Brian and I didn’t buy any though, because we were pretty much eating chocolate (various forms of it) throughout the factory tour.

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That’s pretty much the story of our Chocolate Kingdom tour. Before I sign off though, I’m leaving you with this: here are top ten reasons to feel great about eating chocolate. Enjoy!

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Hyatt Regency Orlando – Our Home Away From Home

Posted on August 7, 2017 by under Travel, Zumba.    

When I received this email from the Hyatt Regency Orlando a few days before our trip, I knew we were in good hands. I didn’t have status this year because I hadn’t been working in Topeka and earning any World of Hyatt points but somehow I still got assigned one of the exclusive floors when I checked in on my Hyatt app.

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Brian is super spoiled and partial to the corner rooms so, naturally, he asks for one during check in. She manages to find one for us and — surprise of all surprises — it’s the exact same room that we stayed in last year.

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When we walked in, the room (and the amazing pool view) felt oddly familiar. I actually looked up our hotel bill from last year to be sure.

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It was indeed the very same room.

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Last year we got it because I was a Platinum rewards member. We actually got a few extras last year (like the complimentary access to the Regency Club Lounge where you get free food and booze all day long) that we didn’t get this year because I no longer had my status. I think we got the same corner room completely by accident. However, now that we’ve had it twice Brian is convinced that we should specifically ask for it again next year. Of course, I’m pretty sure that the minute that we specifically ask for our favorite room, we won’t get it. That’s how it usually works, anyway. So now my mission for the next year is to stay at only Hyatt properties as much as possible so I can rack up some points and earn my status back.

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I didn’t have status and the Regency Club Lounge which is $75 a day extra was completely sold out so we didn’t have access to the free breakfast, snacks, hors d’oeuvres, and drinks this year. However, they did give me this 20% OFF card which came in super handy because it gave us discounts to all of the restaurants at the hotel including the onsite Starbucks. We used the heck out of that card!

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Oh, I forgot to mention that we brought Snowman with us. It’s this dancing snowman that’s been going on trips with various work people for years. Snowman has his own album and everything.

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I think Snowman enjoyed the magnificent views from our room just as much as we did.

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One of the best parts of our favorite room is the magnificent sunsets. Brian and I actually got to enjoy it one night. We turned our chairs around to face the wall and just sat there drinking wine as the sun slowly disappeared into the horizon. Unfortunately, that was the only night I got to watch the sunset because I was super busy the rest of convention.

I’m not sure if Brian sat there and watched more sunsets during the rest of our stay. He certainly had enough time to do so. Since he was just hanging out and not actually attending convention, his schedule was much more leisurely than mine and consisted mainly of drinking beers and lounging poolside.

Anyway, we just love staying at Hyatt Regency Orlando. They always take such good care of you — with or without status. I hope our luck holds out and we get the same room again next year!

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Zumba at Relay for Life

Posted on August 5, 2017 by under Community, Zumba.    

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A few months ago, a friend of mine who was on the Relay for Life organizing committee this year reached out to me and asked if I would volunteer to teach a Zumba class on July 14 at 11 PM. I love volunteering for things so I told her of course I’d do it but I did want to clarify the time because I thought it was a typo at first. It turns out, she really meant it.

The Relay for Life event goes from 7 PM to 7 AM and they planned various activities every hour to keep participants awake and fully engaged throughout the 12 hours. She needed something for the 11 PM time slot. The instructor who volunteered last year had moved away and so she decided to ask me this year.

Though the time made me pause, of course, I agreed to do it. I live for this kind of volunteer work. It’s so fun!

Anyway, when she asked me back in January, we hadn’t finalized the summer schedule yet so I agreed not realizing that I would be teaching an 8:45 AM Aqua Zumba class the next day. I was a little bit worried but I had faith that I’d be able to handle it. I think the excitement of dancing from Friday into Saturday outweighed my apprehension. I hadn’t danced that late into the evening/next morning in years! Plus, this is my first ever 11 PM Zumba class.

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Dancing alone is never any fun so I decide right off the bat to recruit some people to help me. I had five amazing Zumba instructor friends who answered the call. More people wanted to help actually, but we only had a one-hour time slot so we couldn’t have too many instructors. I took the first five to confirm. Huge thanks to Andrea, Nick, Melissa, and Charis for helping me!

All of our friends who agreed to stay up and dance with us that night deserve recognition too. I mean, I realize they were sacrificing sleep time to help. The party wouldn’t have been any fun without people to dance with.

Here are few pictures from that evening…

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This is one of my favorite Zumba people, Melissa. She is just so vibrant and full of life, and she’s always willing to help me out with my Zumba volunteer events.

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I’m glad we brought a few Zumba addicts with us because only a few of the Relay for Life people participated and most of them didn’t stick around for the full hour. I’m sure they were trying to conserve their energy for the long haul. After all, they had 7 more long hours to go and we were only there for the Zumba bit.

Brian is always really supportive and around for all of these events but I decided to give him a break from having to drive me around all over the place that evening. I managed to hitch a ride with Andrea to Melissa’s 6:45 PM Zumba class at East YMCA and then I hitched a ride with Melissa to Carlos O’Kelly’s (our usual post Friday night Zumba hangout specially right now because they’re doing that summer drink tour) and then I tagged along with her to her house and Bishop Carroll High School where the Relay for Life event was going on. Her house is just around the corner, less than 10 minutes from the school.

That was actually one of the craziest 24-hour periods of Zumba I’ve had (not counting ZINCON). Basically, I took Melissa’s Friday night class, then the Relay for Life Zumba at 11 PM, then I taught my two classes (Aqua Zumba at 8:45 AM and Zumba at 10:30 AM) at Andover YMCA the next day on about five hours of sleep (if that). That’s four Zumba classes in 16 hours. It was nuts!

And, Andrea did it all with me!

Anyway, I considered it my warmup for ZINCON, which is a grueling schedule of four straight days of 24/7 Zumba. It’s so fun though! I can’t wait to tell you all about it. I may have time to blog about it tomorrow.

In the meantime, here are the posts from last year:

Day 4 of ZINCON 2016

Day 3 of ZINCON 2016

Day 2 of ZINCON 2016

Day 1 of ZINCON 2016

Kicking Off ZINCON 2016

Then these are from 2014 (we skipped 2015 because we used 2015 ZINCON budget for the 2016 Zumba cruise instead):

ZINCON 2014: Highlights

ZINCON 2014: First Impressions

The very last Zumba Instructor Conference in LA in 2014:

2014 Zumba Instructor Conference — Day 3

2014 Zumba Instructor Conference — Day 2

2014 Zumba Instructor Conference — Day 1

My very first ZINCON in 2013:

Crossing Items Off the Bucket List

The Peabody Orlando

The Peabody Orlando Pool at Night

Pictures from Zumba Kids Training

Zumba Toning Training with Madalene

Salsa & Merengue Mash Up with Wally

My First Zumba Fitness-Concert

Zumba Wear Fashion Show and Live Concert

Pictures from the ZIN Soiree

Mastering the Warm Up and Cool Down

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Carlos O’Kelly’s Summer Drink Tour

Posted on August 5, 2017 by under Free Stuff, Things to Do.    

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Speaking of drink tours, Brian and I are scrambling to finish my Carlos O’Kelly’s summer drink tour. This is a “ladies only” offer so all of the drinks are pretty frou frou. Brian is more of a beer drinker so he hasn’t been much help. I suppose he could drink the Cuba Libre.

I’m a light-weight and can usually only drink one drink each time so this drink tour is taking FOREVER to complete. Although, since we’re down to the wire, I made an exception last night and drank two. The promotion ends on Labor Day.

These are all of the drinks you have to drink in order to complete the tour and earn your reward:

  • Patrón Top Shelf Margarita
  • White Peach Sangria
  • Blackberry Long Island Tea
  • Raspberry Gin Slushy
  • Horchata Rum Shake
  • Corazón CocoLoco
  • Pink Paloma
  • Blue Lagoon
  • Jumbo Margarita
  • Cuba Libre
  • Blueberry Ginger Mojito
  • Blackberry Mint Julep Margarita

The ones in bold are my favorites with the Horchata Rum Shake being my favorite of the favorites. It tastes like a milkshake. You can’t taste the liquor at all! It would be awesome if I could just drink 12 of those. That wouldn’t complete the drink tour, though.

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I bet you’re wondering what’s the point. Your reward is an amazing set of handblown Mexican glassware. You get the glasses after you complete six drinks and then you get the bottle once you complete all 12 on the list.

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Honestly, I’m not as concerned about getting the bottle but I do want two sets of the glasses because three glasses is just an awkward number to have. I want a pair of each. I got my first set of glasses a few weeks ago but then we left for #ZINCON and so now I’m trying to pick the tour back up.

I only need a couple more drinks on my new punchcard so I’m hoping to get my second set of glasses this weekend. Hurrah!

P.S. It’s not too late to start your tour. Wendy started hers last night. I gave her one of my punchcards that already had one punch on it. After her two drinks last night, she only needs three more to get her glasses. Come join us!

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Wichita Wicked Brew Tour

Posted on August 3, 2017 by under Community, Date Ideas, Things to Do.    

Have you gotten your Wicked Brew Tour shirt yet?

Brian and I have been diligently getting stamps on our passport in hopes of earning our shirts before the deadline or they run out of shirts. I actually completed my passport already and got my shirt. Brian would have completed his already too, except he left his passport in one of his shorts and it ended up getting obliterated in the laundry a few weeks ago.

Being the persistent people we are, he’s decided to start over and I decided to start over with him. So, I may have talked him into starting over. I mean, how are we going to be matchy-matchy if he doesn’t get his Wicked Brew Tour shirt?

I got my first shirt in a Medium size and I now want one in size Small. That’s pretty much my motivation for starting over with him. Anyway, we need a few more stamps but we’re getting there slowly but surely.

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I’m not generally a coffee drinker but this whole Wicked Brew Tour has got me drinking way more coffee than I’ve ever drank before. Brian is a coffee addict but he don’t really like the kind I drink. He likes to drink his coffee black — plain and unadulterated. He was really excited for the beer drinking part of the tour, though.

The Wicked Brew Tour has got us visiting places we don’t normally get around to visiting. Here are a few photos.

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The picture above is from our trip to the Donut Whole a few weeks ago.

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This one is from River City Brewing Company. Incidentally, the night that we decided to go there for dinner was the same night as Automobilia and that was a real treat. Mostly for Brian but I enjoyed watching his eyes light up as he walked up to his favorite cars.

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Automobilia surrounded River City so we decided to look check out the car show while walking off our dinner. There were 1500+ cars on display downtown from Washington to Broadway. It was car heaven!

We’re really enjoying the tour so far and I think we’d enjoy it even more after we get our Wicked Brew shirts. I’m hoping we can get the rest of the stamps in the next two weeks because the deadline is just around the corner. I sure hope they have some shirts left!

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