Only the adventurous eat swamp pizza…

Nearly a year ago I stumbled on an article about about Everglades Pizza in Ft. Myers, Florida. The pizza had all the best of the Everglades on it: snake, gator, swamp cabbage and frog’s legs. I promptly emailed a few friends about this and then began harassing them on Facebook about making the trip as a guys outing. One was tepidly interested, the foodie was sarcastically interested (which meant he wasn’t interested) and the rest shared varying levels of being grossed out. Those were my guy friends, quite the manly and adventurous bunch.

Last weekend Laura came to town. Somehow we started talking about Everglades Pizza, which we keep calling swamp pizza, and she was intrigued. Once we nixed a spontaneous day trip (Laura, unforgiving, didn’t think to bring her passport!) to the Bahamas, Laura suggested we drive across Florida to try the pizza. My guy friends have nothing on Laura.

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I went back to that old Facebook thread and email list to let my buddies know we were actually going to do it. The one who was tepidly interested in the past decided to come on for the ride, along with his family, and no others joined. We did alert Jillian’s parents, who live in the area, and they met us as well. I made it clear that everyone agreeing to try the pizza, it is $45 after all, needed to commit to eating at least one slice. In the end that meant that of our caravan of 7 adults and 3 toddlers, only 4 of us were going to make the try. Oh, and we planned to have the kiddos each try one new meat….we were expecting leftovers and those kids eat ANYTHING! Needless to say, I was relieved when we arrived and learned that our pizza was a medium with 6 slices rather than a large with 8 slices, far less food to eat.

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The pizza arrived, it clearly had frog’s legs on it but otherwise looked, more or less, like any other pizza. I dove in and found it delightful with just a hint of spice courtesy of one of the meats. The others did more or less the same but took the time to take apart their slices so that they could try each of the tastes.

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Rob, the guy friend who made the trek, was surprised at how flavorful the whole thing was when he was expecting it all to be gamey. He thought the gator was the best part and thought the python was chewy but still incredibly flavorful. Jillian’s dad, Jimmie, agreed with Rob on the python and compared it to Rabbit. He also felt the Alligator was spiced just right. Unlike Rob though, he really enjoyed the ‘swamp cabbage’ which was hearts of palm. Neither seemed too entranced or offended by the frog.

Laura pointed out, and I have to agree, that it was a bit annoying to have actual bone (from the frog) on the pizza, which we all had to pick off. She had actual been quite nervous and non-committal toward eating the entire slice but loved it all and the frog best, pointing out the frog had a nice, crispy skin. If anything, she was disappointed that the gator reminded her of chicken.

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As for me, I just ate the whole thing and didn’t look back. Had the frog not had a bone and you told me it was a meat-lover’s pizza I might not have known the difference.

We ordered three pizzas and some other food and the Everglades pizza was the first item finished. We all had our initial one slice and we dived up the leftovers as equitably as possible. The next day, no stomach ailments were reported.

 

Interested in trying it yourself?  Head to Evan’s Neighborhood Pizzeria in Fort Myers, FL.  Call ahead if you want the Everglade’s Pizza – it takes an hour to make.

Surviving Disney World With Toddlers

10347235 10102770580665984 2565926943526677332 n 165x250 Surviving Disney World With ToddlersSo we made it. No, seriously. And it was better than we expected.  I’ll be the first to admit I dreaded the lines, the screaming kids and the inevitable break down our kids would have at Disney World, but you know what, it didn’t happen.  That’s right, our kids were wide eyed and excited about EVERYTHING at Magic Kingdom, and frankly who could blame them.

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Here’s our top 5 tips for surviving Disney World with toddlers:

  1. IMGP2199 250x188 Surviving Disney World With ToddlersBring your own stroller.  Our kids napped on the go at Disney, and having our stroller was so much easier than having a hard plastic rental.
  2. Download the app and book your fast passes for the morning!  You can get a secret fourth fast pass either at the fast pass+ kiosks or on your phone once you’ve used up your three for the day.  And once you’ve used the fourth you can get a fifth and so on…
  3. Tie something to your stroller so it is easy to identify!  And no, a mickey mouse tag is not unique in Magic Kingdom, nor is your kids nemo stuffed animal!
  4. There are actually some quiet places in Magic Kingdom for downtime – we took the girls to Tom Sawyer Island for some running around time and time away from the crowds.  They appreciated it and so did we!
  5. Disney’s baby room is going to be super crowded.  Just saying.  It’s great that they have it, but man it is crowded.IMGP2160 250x188 Surviving Disney World With Toddlers

Have you survived Disney World with toddlers?  Share your tips below!

 

We’re Going to Disney World!

No, we didn’t win the Super Bowl, but yes, we are going to Disney World.

The last time we went to Disney World was in 2011. We drove up to Orlando to visit family and decided to go to Disney World just for the heck of it, because frankly, who doesn’t love Disney World.  We planned nothing and spent our time running from ride to ride trying to get in as much as we could in one day. Fast forward three years and now we are planning a trip to Disney World around nap times, looking at height restrictions and thinking about stroller parking.   My times have changed.

Planning for Disney with Toddlers

Orlando is home to the most famous theme parks in perhaps the world – Disney World.  It’s actually four parks in one: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.  Thankfully it’s only about three hours from our house, so it is an easy weekend and an easy trip with kids.  That being said, we aren’t planning to spend three days at the theme parks with 1 ½ year old twins – that seems like a bit too much for them and us – so we wanted to find ways to maximize our time at the parks and minimize the chances for toddler chaos.disney world 226618 1280 186x250 Were Going to Disney World!

Turns out in the last three years A LOT has changed at Disney World.  The fast pass system, which allows you to skip long lines on the rides has changed from a paper ticket you got at the ride, to an electronic system you book in advance.  And you can book a “fast pass” for character meetings, parades, shows and all sorts of activities.  The reviews on this new system are mixed, but from my perspective, not having to haul the kids around from ride to ride to get fast passes for later sounds like a good idea to me!  We booked our fast passes online before going to the park – you select which rides or attractions you want to fast pass and Disney offers you four options on fast pass times.  That was terrific for us since we could plan to group together rides and activities in each of the lands.  If you have a chance of heart or plans, you can always update your fass pass selections online or at the park.

Transportation within Disney World is easy and convenient.  We had planned to stay at a Hilton property on Disney property, to maximize the convenience of the shuttle, but other plans got in the way and now we’re staying about a 10 minute drive away.  That’s ok though, because we heard from a local that the hotel/resort shuttles are slow and time consuming if you aren’t at a Walt Disney World Resort or aren’t planning to park hop.  She recommended we bring our own car (with car seats) instead of waiting for a bus with cranky toddlers.  We’ll see if we made the right choice.

For now though, it’s off to Disney World!

 

Doing the 70.3 Ironman and Raising $3,856 for Charity

I think I should start by saying ‘Wow’!

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Just a week prior to the race I announced on this blog that I was doing the Miami 70.3 Ironman and that I wanted to raise $3,000 to honor what would have been my sister’s 30th birthday.  I didn’t really expect to hit that goal and I certainly didn’t expect to blow past it with over $3800 raised.  So, first and foremost, thank you to everyone who supported this effort, it really is still unbelievable!

Triathlon3 Doing the 70.3 Ironman and Raising $3,856 for Charity

So, about that race.  Every triathlon starts with swimming, followed by biking, followed by running.  The Ironman Triathlon comes to 140.6 miles of swimming, biking and running.  Yes, miles.  Thankfully the Miami Ironman Triathlon was a 70.3 race, or exactly half a traditional Ironman.  My race was 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of cycling and 13.1 miles of running.  Because I did the half Ironman, I like to call the race the Aluminum Man, as aluminum is one half the atomic weight of iron.

I woke up Sunday morning and, as one does before a big race, set to coloring my hair pink and purple.  As a result I forgot a few things: breakfast, the beet juice I planned to drink with breakfast, and my glittery bike helmet.  Yeah.  That was a problem.  Especially because I took an Uber ride to Miami so Jill could get back to sleep after dying my hair. Upon arrival in Miami I had to call my wonderful wife to wake up my two sleeping daughters to drive down to Miami and deliver my multi-colored helmet to me before 7 a.m.  Great start.

Somehow it all worked out.
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We met, I finished my setup before being moved to the start line and had some time to relax and take in the atmosphere with my lovely ladies and my friend Greg who showed up for sunrise.  Before I knew it, my wave was called into the water and I was off.  My training did me well here and I finished the swim in 51 minutes, not bad considering how much extra distance I swam on account of the current pushing me out to sea.  (Also pretty good considering how awful my first long distance swim was!)

Next up, the bike.  We started from Bayfront Park, right by the Triathlon5 140x250 Doing the 70.3 Ironman and Raising $3,856 for CharityAmerican Airlines arena and cycled up US-27 all the way to Stirling Road (practically home) and then back again.  The wind was strong as I headed out but on the way back to transition, with the wind at my back I practically flew.  I averaged 17.2 mph which was excellent for me and the fastest I’ve ever averaged at that distance.  A better bike might have increased my speed a few more mph but I was happy.

Finally the run.  I’ve been told for a triathlon you need to pace the swim, enjoy the ride and survive the run.  I think I might have taken that advice a bit too literally.  I survived the run but not much more.  As I pulled in from the bike ride I relaxed, I was way ahead of schedule and had PLENTY of time to make my 7 hour goal.  I found Jill on the edge of the transition area and she helped me re-color my hair, which was looking rough after hours of swimming and biking and set off on my run.  For the first time all day I was aware of the heat and the sun and before I knew it, it was taking a toll.

As I ran I got more and more tired.  The sun wore down on me.  I took some walking breaks, then I was walking more and more.  I think of running a mile in 10 minutes as my over/under.  I can sustain 7 minute miles over shorter distances and earlier this year managed to run 13.1 miles with a 9 minute per mile average.  My first few miles were around 10 minutes.  After the swim and bike though, I would have been thrilled to have kept to a 10 minute pace but I figured I’d be closer to 11 or even 12 minutes per mile.  I was over 12.  Then there was the I-395 bridge and I had to cross it 4 times, walking more of the uphill each time.  The amount of time it took me to complete a mile kept ticking up; 14 minutes, then 16 minutes. My stomach was cramping, I needed energy but anything other than water hurt more than helped.  I walked more and more  I couldn’t see the finish line but knew it was just around the corner, or the next corner, or the next corner, ack!  I eventually found the finished line and managed to run through it and nearly collapsed on the other side.

My goal was to finish in 7 hours.  My time was 7:09:47.  Just 10 minutes shy of my goal.

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Did I forget to mention that I missed my goal time at my first marathon by a mere 14 seconds?  This seems to be a trend.

Oh well, I don’t care, I still finished and I survived!

Thank you again to everyone who supported me – your donations, texts and messages of support were appreciated more than you’ll ever know!

Turn my hair PINK and PURPLE for my 70.3 Triathlon

Working towards taking items off a bucket list is a pretty awesome feeling.  Being able to cross item #1 off that list is even better.

On October 26th, that’s this coming Sunday, I am going to compete in the Miami Half Ironman 70.3 race.  This is 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of cycling and then a half marathon.  In total 70.3 miles.  I’ve been training hard for about four months now.  Getting up when it is still dark in the morning to swim, bike and run my to work each day to hopefully make it to the office by 9am.  My weeks have consisted of anywhere from 10 to 20 hours of exercise.  I’ve lost weight, purchased a fancy bike, eaten gobs of food and [luckily] managed to avoid major injury.  The worst part, Florida’s summer sun and time away from my family.

With the race so close though, some friends have asked me if I’m racing to support any charities.  Until yesterday, I had not set anything up but…..that was yesterday.

In the past, I have done an occasional race in support of the RSDSA in memory of my sister, Rachel.  The problem with this is that this charity is more a memory of Rachel’s death rather than her life.  In life my sister was interested in three things: helping people, helping animals and doing things with glitter glue.  (I’m sure there was something else but those three are pretty encapsulating.)

Specifically, I remember my sister in her younger years collecting wildlife card files, books she would fill with information about wild and endangered animals.  In her ‘later’ years she and I spent a lot of time working with what was then called the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). The mission was to stop racism and hatred of all types.  Unfortunately, NCCJ has not survived the test of time but the Miami Chapter lives on as the MCCJ.  Most important to the sparkling memory of Rachel’s life was her constant obsession of decorating everything with glitter glue.

For each of the first two items, I’ve decided to create fund-raising pages with The MCCJ and The Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN). Their connection to my sister should be obvious to all who knew her.  To memorialize the glitter glue is a bit more difficult so instead of donating do the American Association of Glitter Glue Enthusiasts (gosh, I hope that’s not a real organization) I will instead place one centimeter of glitter glue on my helmet for each $50 donated to the above charities.  And to make sure it is clear I’m memorializing my sister, I’ll use purple glitter glue for donations to MCCJ and pink for donations to WCN.  (If you’re curious, the helmet is black.)

There is one other item about my sister that is relevant.  This Friday, October 24th, would have been her 30th birthday.  So, with only a few days to go we’ll set the fund-raising target at $3,000.  It’s a stretch, I know, but as an incentive if $1,500 or more is raised for MCCJ, I’ll dye my hair purple.  If $1,500 or more is raised for WCN, I’ll die my  hair pink.  If we meet both goals, I’ll be running the triathlon as the Miami Beach version of the villain Two-Face from the Batman comics.

The race is THIS Sunday, October 26th.  I’m not going to do this again.  Click the fund-raising links (MCCJ | WCN), share this post on facebook, and help give my race outfit some serious style points!

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Rachel as a bunny!