April 4, 2017

not the most magical place in the world, but close enough

The day after releasing Playing House, I realized I needed a vacation. Releasing a book takes a lot out of you. There's the writing, the editing, more editing, and then some more editing. Then you have to figure out your publishing plan--writing the blurb, creating the cover, formatting, figuring out how you're going to market it, then marketing the whole thing. You put a lot of time into it, but more, there's a lot of your heart and spirit.

Add in everyday challenges like working a full-time job, trying to eat healthy, be a responsible adult, and maintain relationships with family and friends, and it can be taxing. At least that's how I find it. As much as I love doing this, as much as this is my dream, my bucket always feels a little empty by the time it's said and done.

I've discussed this before, but I have anxiety issues. If I stress too much and let it pile up, I have panic attacks and can go through bouts of depression. During the past few years, I've done some counseling and learned how to detect the warning signs and ways to prevent anxiety from taking over and causing more serious issues. Sometimes, I'm better at managing than others, but I'm doing a lot better.

A few days before the book release, I could see the signs. I'd burst into tears listening to a song. I'd wake up countless times in the night, grinding my teeth and stressing about imagined problems. I'd feel an overwhelming urge to eat a bag of potato chips or candy bars--and not because I'm maintaining a fairly healthy diet. I'd sit down to write, but the words wouldn't come.

With a lot going on with my day job and my writing career, I knew I couldn't afford to have a total meltdown.

I thought about some of my happiest moments in recent memory--times when I felt truly relaxed and happy. The one that came through loudest and most vividly was my trip to Los Angeles as an early celebration for my 30th birthday last summer. One of my best friends had invited me for a long weekend that would culminate in us going to see The Little Mermaid concert at the Hollywood Bowl on the evening Jodie Benson performed with the crew. If that wasn't exciting enough, then when I arrived at the airport, I learned that my friends were surprising me with a day at one of the most magical places in the world: Disneyland. I'd never been before, and I couldn't come up with anything more profound than "I can't believe it" as we made our way to the park.

About to walk into the park to begin a magical and memorable day.

The day was spectacular. I might have been about to turn 30, but I might as well have been 13 or 3. The whole experience was magical.

As I thought about that lovely day I was struck with another idea. The only thing better than getting to spend a day at Disney would be getting to spend one inside one of my favorite Disney movies. With as much chaos going on in my little kingdom and our world at large, the idea of escaping under the sea or into a castle sounds all too appealing.

Unfortunately, an impromptu trip to Disneyland or World is out of the question right now. It's not in my budget, and I don't have the time in my schedule. And, unless science has found a way, I won't be swapping spots with Ariel or Belle any time soon. That's when I had the idea. Why not have a Disney Staycation?

Now, you might be asking, what exactly does one do on a Disney Staycation? Have no fear, I documented the whole thing.

To start off my Disney Staycation on the right foot, I made sure to have the appropriate wardrobe. That meant my The Little Mermaid T-Shirt and bracelet, my Beauty and the Beast socks, a sparkly headband (to feel like a princess), my Minnie Mouse ears, and a pair of animal-print leggings.

This attire would allow me to be functional for what I had planned for my day while also getting in the spirit of the whole thing. I did end up ditching the Minnie Mouse ears shortly after breakfast, but not before I shared them with a furry friend.

Bingley must love me a lot to put up with my nonsense.

Isn't he the cutest thing in the ever?

My number one rule for the day was to not check my emails (or my sales records or rankings) for the whole day. Rule number two was to stay off of social media for the most part. Rule number three: have fun.

With that guide, after creating a movie watch list (I'll come back to this later) I decided to pad out the day with other activities. This included coloring Disney princess pictures while I watched the movies.

Which I promptly snapped photos of and texted to my mom for approval,
because isn't that what you're supposed to do when you color a pretty picture?

I did a 30-minute cardio workout on my treadmill while listening to my Disney playlist. This actually ended up being a lot of fun, because I could lip-synch along while I sweated it out. (No real singing, though, because I didn't have the breath.) I added the workout to the schedule for a couple of reasons. 1) I'm in the midst of a lifestyle change (again) and trying to eat well and be more active. 2) When you visit a Disney park, you spend a lot of time walking around. Treadmill time--followed by a light Pilates routine--was my way of paying homage. As a note to myself: I need to work on a better playlist exclusively for working out. Some of the songs were just way too slow when I needed pep and motivation.

I scheduled a nap for myself, which was delightful, if the pool of drool I left on my pillow was any indication. I also booked myself a spa appointment in my bathroom. That included taking a nice hot bath, full body scrub with this cocoa bean product I have, giving myself a manicure and pedicure, and doing this weird seaweed face mask that looked super weird.

I kind of felt like that guy in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Ick. But my skin did feel pampered when it was all said and done.

As I mentioned, I'm back on the wagon of trying to be healthier, which means following a balanced meal plan and regular exercise. I wanted to maintain that, but I also wanted to treat myself a little, because this was my Disney Staycation, after all.

I created a menu that would fulfill my health goals while also feeling like a treat. That included having a full breakfast of an egg white and cheese omelet with veggie tots (these are seriously my new favorite food), and Morningstar sausage links (these are lower in calories, and they also fit the Pescetarian diet I follow).

My morning snack was an impulse--but a perfect one. Upon discovering that I had enough frozen pineapple and almond milk on hand--plus the calories to play with after my workout--I made the most Disney treat I could: homemade Dole Whip.

Heaven is a place on Earth, or rather in this cup.

If you aren't familiar, Dole Whip is quite possibly the most magical thing about Disney. I sampled it for the first time during my birthday trip, and it is now my favorite dessert. Made entirely out of 1/2 cup of frozen pineapple and 1/2 cup of Almond milk (plus a little squeeze of lemon when I made it), this treat is a little high on natural sugars, but much lower in calories and fat than ice cream.

This felt like a decadent treat and was a big highlight of my day.

For lunch, I had Trader Joe's guilt-free Mac and Cheese, a Boca spicy chicken patty, and some broccoli. This isn't so much a Disney-themed meal as it was a spin on one of my childhood favorites. For afternoon snack I had dark chocolate-covered blueberries from Brookside and a grapefruit shandy (hey, I was on vacation). And for my final movie of the evening, I ate some Skinny Pop.

But the real excitement came when it was time for dinner. While shopping at Trader Joe's, I stumbled upon Cod Provencale with Ratatouille & Rice in the frozen foods section. It seemed like the most perfect meal I could ever pair with my watching of Beauty and the Beast.

I re-plated dinner instead of eating it out of the frozen container,
and I was pleasantly surprised to see how pretty it turned out.

I was right. Though a little skeptical about how it would taste, this dish was delicious and one I'll definitely grab again. Plus, it was pretty fun to feel like I was dining on French cuisine while watching "Be Our Guest." Speaking of movie watching . . .

You can really make your Disney Staycation whatever you want it to be, but I don't think you can go wrong with having a marathon of some of your favorites. I already owned Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid (obvi), and I had The Emperor's New Groove waiting for me on Netflix. But as a "Happy Release Day" present to myself, I ordered a few of my other favorites to round out the collection.

I also have several others on my Amazon Wish List, now, which means I'll have to do one of these days again.

Both kittens fully endorsed spending part of the day
curled up on the couch watching movies.

And because I was way too excited and way too into this whole idea, I created this handy dandy little itinerary for the day in Canva:

I am pleased to say that I accomplished everything on my list. I also finished the day feeling more relaxed and happy than I had been in a long while. Maybe it was just disconnecting from my email (and mostly from my social media). Maybe it was focusing on something other than work. Then again, it could have been the magic of Disney.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for my how-to guide on how to hold your own Disney Staycation.

*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

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