Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Music, Books, Miles and Looks of June

June was such a blur!  I thought it would be a quieter, slower month but it totally wasn't.  It was a weird month, though. It certainly had some highs but it also had more than its fair share of anxiety and stress (related to work) so I am glad it's behind me!

*crickets* I have not listened to much music lately as I mostly listen to podcasts when I am in the car (which isn't very often) so I don't have any new songs I'm loving these days!  


I read 4 books in June, so it was kind of a low reading month (for me).  All of the books I read were pretty good, but it's been awhile since I've read something that I absolutely LOVED. Similar to previous months, the books I starred are ones I read for the Read Harder Challenge.

Citizens of London by Lynne Olson - 3 stars (book club book)
French Milk by Lucy Knisley - 4 stars
Nobody's Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle* - 3 stars
In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner* - 4 stars


June was not my best month for running as I had some random pain in my ankle/foot that made me take some extra rest days.  I got it x-rayed just to be sure it wasn't a stress fracture, and everything looked fine so that was a relief.  My total miles for the month were 60, which is my lowest month since February!  Oh well - I am sure July will be a higher mileage month since I'm marathon training now.  I also biked 56 miles, swam 5 times, and did 5 strength training workouts (lower than I'd like but it's tough to fit everything in these days).


My favorite look of the month was the dress that I wore to my cousin's wedding.  You can't see much of it in the photo but the best part about it is that it has pockets!!  It's also nice that the neckline has jewels sewn into it so I did not have to wear any jewelry with it!  I've had this dress for 2 years and this is only the second time I have worn it - I need to pull it out of my closet more often.

How was your month of June?  This is my last post before the 4th of July holiday - have a great weekend and for my American readers, have a safe and fun 4th of July!  And Happy Canada Day to my Canadian readers!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Triathlon Training: Taking a Swimming Class

Happy Tuesday!  A couple of weeks ago I talked about my triathlon training plan so today I thought I'd delve into a class I took to prepare for the swimming portion of the triathlon, which will certainly be my weakest sport of the three.

I took years of swimming lessons as a child and grew up going to the lake so I am very comfortable in the water.  However, all of my swimming has been recreational, so I decided to take a class to work on my endurance and swimming technique.  I took a triathlon swimming class at my local YWCA which taught us the Total Immersion approach to swimming.  I'm still new to it so I can't really succinctly explain what it means, but my take away is that it helps improves your efficiency and form.

Here are some of the main takeaways I got from this class:

1.  I learned an efficient stroke technique for the front crawl.  Since I took many swim classes as a child, I knew how to do the front crawl, but I can't say I was efficient at it.  At this class the instructor gave us a lot of feedback on our stroke and helped us improve our technique.  The class was extremely technique centric so the first 3 out of 6 classes were not exactly a "good workout" as we'd focus on one aspect of the stroke for 25 meters, get feedback, focus on another aspect of the stroke for 25 meters, get feedback, etc.  She also took videos of us individually at two different classes so we could see what our stroke looked like.

2.  More strokes doesn't necessarily = sustainable speed.  In my mind I thought that I would get further by taking more strokes, but that is not really the case (at least for me - I am sure that it's different for strong/seasoned swimmers).  By taking the class I learned that power/speed comes from using your entire body, especially your core.  My goal is to get through the swim and have enough energy for the bike and run so it was helpful to learn that I could slow down my stroke, improve my form, and still finish in a shorter amount of time than I would have if I had just increased my strokes/minute.

3.  The tempo trainer is my friend.  For those unfamiliar with a tempo trainer, this is what it is:

The tempo trainer is basically a metronome that you can put in your swim cap.  I HATED practicing piano with a metronome when I was a kid but it turns out that I love swimming with one. It makes me feel so much more calm and in control and it helps me control my breathing as I breath on the beeps.  Plus it keeps me from rushing my stroke speed.  You are allowed to use these on race day.

I'm so glad that I took this class as I feel much more prepared for the swim portion of the triathlon.  And if nothing else, it motivated me to get into the water once a week in the early portion of triathlon training and since swimming is the least convenient of the three sports BY FAR, it helped to have that motivation!

Did you take swim classes as a child?  Are you a strong swimmer? 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Weekend Recap

This past weekend was one of those perfect summer weekends that made me so thankful to live where I live as the weather was just picture perfect.  Phil was gone for the weekend for a golf trip, so I was on my own.  I definitely missed him but I was able to keep plenty busy and had a good mix of active time, social time, and down time.  Here's how I filled my weekend.

On Friday night I went to happy hour with a couple of coworkers that I used to work with.  We hadn't all been together in over a year so it was great to get together and catch up.  That night I was in bed by 9 pm reading.  

On Saturday morning I was up bright and early for a run with my club.  It was the first official long training run for Twin Cities and my 10 mile run went great.  I ran with someone new to the club so it was fun to get to know someone on the run.  It was a beautiful morning and when we finished the run I said, "Gosh I love Minnesota."  That sense of thankfulness for being back in a place I love has not worn off and maybe (hopefully) it never will.  

Our 10 mile route took us through my neighborhood which is one of the prettiest areas of Minneapolis in my biased opinion.
On Saturday afternoon I had some errands to run.  I wore the shirt from the Book Riot Store that Amber got me for my birthday in February.   It was the perfect birthday present for a book-lover like me!

I swung by Phil's before running errands to check on Oscar.  I could tell he was pretty lonely after spending his first night alone, so I played with him lots.  It's tough to get him to stay in one spot long enough to take a non-blurry photo but I captured a couple to send to Phil.

After running several errands, I took advantage of the beautiful day and read on my balcony while snacking on watermelon.

A cool drink + watermelon + a good book + a view = perfection
I went to church that evening and then my friend Amanda picked me up and we headed to the musical Once.  I wore a dress that I hadn't worn since our trip to Jamaica!

I still heart stripes!
Once was amazing!  If you have the chance to see it, I highly recommend it.  The cast is incredibly talented and the show was about 2.5 hours long, including the intermission, which is the perfect length of a show in my opinion (I think some broadway shows get a bit long).

On Sunday morning I woke up early without an alarm and enjoyed breakfast on my patio.

Then I was off to my first open water swim!  The lake I swam at is 6 miles away so I biked over there so that it would sort of be a brick workout.  I got to try out my new triathlon outfit that I had purchased the day before.

The open water swim went pretty well, aside from a little snafu with leaking goggles that resulted in me *almost* losing one of my contacts... I guess it's time for me to buy some new ones.  I swam about 0.75 miles and was definitely glad to be done at the end!

Sunday afternoon and evening were very low key.  I did a lot of reading on my balcony.  I can't remember the last time I sat and read for several hours so that was nice and very needed.  In the evening I tried a new recipe that I had printed out a long time ago. 

I am glad I liked it as it yielded quite a bit - although I am sure Phil would not turn down some leftovers.  I was going to try to reduce/eliminate my dairy intake this month but the last two recipes I've made were cheesy ones so that's been a bit of  #fail.  Maybe next month I'll do better!

How was your weekend?  Was the weather beautiful where you are?

Friday, June 26, 2015


Oh Friday, I'm so happy to see you!  Here's a little TGIF recap of my week.

The high of my week was lots of things, such as getting to know/playing with Phil's cat, going to an Ingrid Michaelson concert with Amber and a friend from work, and seeing a bunch of former coworkers, including my former boss, at an event hosted by my previous employer (I left on good terms so it was great to see everyone). 

The low of my week was feeling extremely frustrated and impatient about something related to work.

A book I am reading is In the Shadow of the Banyan. It's a book my mom recommended to me that is set in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime.  I'm counting it toward the "books set in Asia" category of the Read Harder Challenge.

A recipe I made was One-Pan Italian Sausage and Peppers Pasta.  It called for marinara so I used this easy recipe to make the marinara using basil and oregano from my herb garden!  I know it looks like it has a lot of cheese but that's actually just four thin slices of provolone.  It was delicious and so easy to make!  Phil does the dishes when I cook so he was very happy that there was only one pan to wash. :)

For my workouts, I completed fewer workouts than I'd like due to lots of evening commitments that kept me up too late to get up before work to workout... I ran on Monday and Thursday, and also went to a swim class on Thursday.  Today will be a rest day, tomorrow I will do my long run with my club, and on Sunday I'm planning to bike to a local lake to do my first open water swim!

The best money I spent was on dinner at a Greek place that we went to before the concert.  The food was so good and inexpensive!

My plans this weekend include going to a happy hour tonight and going to Once the musical tomorrow night (which I'm so excited about!!!).  Phil has a guy's golf weekend so I'll also be cat sitting!  The past week has been a busy one so I am really glad that I don't have much planned for the weekend!

What was the high of your week?  What was the best money you spent?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

From Terrace To Table

After several years of high rise condo living and trial and error, I've learned what grows well on my balcony and what doesn't.  I've tried and failed to grow tomatoes, green peppers, and flowers, but have figured out that I'm really good at growing herbs!

Last year I just grew basil as I wanted to see how herbs would do on my patio, which gets limited sun exposure.  Since it grew so well last year, this year I decided to expand my herb garden and I planted basil, oregano, cilantro, flat-leaf Italian parsley, and rosemary.  I "cheated" a bit and bought the herbs in plant-form versus growing them from seeds as I got a bit of a late start due to my move in May.  Everything has been thriving and I got to harvest my first herbs in early June!

Parsley and basil

Rosemary, a bit more basil, and oregano

I would love to grow my own vegetables as I grew up eating home-grown veggies but you just have to know your strengths, and patio vegetable gardening is not mine.  But it's still really fulfilling to make meals that utilize herbs I have grown myself!  I've already made a couple of things so I thought I'd share some photos as well as links to the recipe.  As Phil said, these meals are "Terrace to Table!"

First up, I used my oregano to make Greek Feta-Zucchini Turkey Burgers.  These tasted great but I'll be the first to admit that they did not grill well.  I think I should have added more GF bread crumbs as they were a bit too moist and did not hold together well  Or maybe I should have pre-baked them?  Further experimentation is needed.  They tasted great but they are obviously not very "presentable."  But in an attempt to "keep it real," I'm still going to share the photo because it's the taste, not the look, that counts...  right?  I served the burgers "naked" because the 2 grocery stores I went to did not have GF burger buns.  Such is the life of a gluten free girl...  The burgers went great with the Greek salad I served them with!

The next night, I used a whole lot of basil to make some lentil meatballs and marinara sauce.  I forgot to take a photo of the lentil meatballs before adding them to the sauce so you'll just have to take my word that they are in fact in there!  I made this dish last year as a vegetarian option at a party I hosted so decided to give them a whirl again.  Last time I made them, people ate them on buns as a sandwich filler but this time around we had them on top of GF spaghetti. 

Different night, same salad.  We love salad!

Not pictured is the cilantro that I used to make a southwestern black bean salad - which we actually ate as a dip with tortilla chips.  I'm currently drying the remaining oregano and the rosemary for future use and I'm still trying to figure out a use for the Italian parsley...

It's going to be a fun summer of cooking as I intend to find recipes that will utilize my herbs, which are growing like weeds thanks to the rain and warm weather we've had lately!

Do you have a garden?  Have you ever grown herbs?  What is your favorite fresh herb to use when cooking?  Mine is a tie between basil and cilantro.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Meet Oscar!

On Friday, Phil got to bring home his new kitten!  Meet Oscar the cat!

He's a fluffy, orange cat that we are already so in love with.  He came from a litter of 7.  Phil knew he wanted a boy, and orange cats are typically boys (which is something I learned - I think it's so interesting that gender and fur color are linked).  There were 3 unclaimed orange cats, so on Friday afternoon we drove down to a farm in southeastern Minnesota where they were born to pick out our kitten.

The 3 orange kittens were all so cute, but we were drawn to the fluffiest of the 3.

The other 2 orange cats were going to homes in Minneapolis, so we took all three back with us.  We timed our departure perfectly as the kittens started to nap when we were leaving.

Oscar (the one sleeping) with his brothers
We felt a little guilty separating Oscar from his brothers but I know he's going to be happy at Phil's house.

On Friday morning, Phil's co-workers threw him a "cat shower" so there were lots of goodies waiting at home for Oscar.  Phil's love for cats is something that is very well-known so I am not too surprised that his co-workers got him some gifts.  Plus he works at a very close-knit company (I'm envious of his work environment).

Oscar lived outside at the farm but so far he's acclimating well to being an indoor cat.  He's a little tentative/shy but I am sure he'll warm up to us as he gets more used to his environment.  Phil introduced him to his first toy and he loved it.

I'm so excited that Phil has a cat of his own now!

Do you have any pets?  We had a cat when I was in high school but he was an outdoor cat so this will be my first experience with an indoor pet!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

New Threads

As I've mentioned before, shopping is not something I enjoy at all.  I enjoy having new things and feeling well put together but I do not enjoy the process of shopping.  Luckily in May I was able to expand my wardrobe a bit by utilizing two different services:  Keaton Row and Cabi.  I'll explain how they both work below and show you what I ended up purchasing!


A friend of mine at work read an article about Keaton Row and told me about it as she knows how much I dislike shopping.  I was intrigued by the concept so decided to give it a try.  The way it works is that you fill out a profile online about your likes/dislikes/etc and then you are paired with a stylist. The stylist then puts an online "look book" together for you, free of charge.  If you like the items, you click on the hyperlink and buy the item. There is no cost to me for this service because the retailers pay the stylist commission if you purchase an item through the look book.  When I requested my look book, I asked for dresses that would be appropriate for weddings and/or work, as well some other summery work outfits.  I ended up buying two dresses, both of which I am really happy with!

The first dress is the dress I wore to a wedding I went to with Phil.  I really loved how the dress fit.  I do wish it had pockets, though!

When I shared this photo last week, Suki asked to see what the rest of the dress looked like, so here is a picture from Bloomingdale's website.  The dress was on sale when I bought it so the price was very reasonable!

The second dress is a dress that I will be able to wear to work (excuse the horrible photo quality.  I suck at selfies!). 

It's very comfortable and is something I can probably dress up with jewelry for a wedding or special event.  It has a 'wrap' neckline but there is a button in that area that keeps it from 'unwrapping' if that makes any sense?   This dress also came from Bloomingdale's and was on sale when I purchased it.

Overall thoughts:  I consider this a more flexible, no-upfront-cost alternative to Stitch Fix.  I am an extremely picky person so I liked being able to look through the look book and purchase what I liked.  I also like that you are assigned one stylist and can have back and forth dialogue with her about what you liked/disliked.  I will probably request another look book when we move into the fall season. 


Next up, I attended a Cabi paty that a coworker hosted in her home.   Cabi is an online clothing company with consultants that host in-home parties so you can see the clothes in person.  Each season, Cabi releases a collection and the pieces tend to coordinate well with each other and they also tend to coordinate with past collections.  I ended up buying 4 pieces at this party that are a bit more on the casual side but still mostly work appropriate.

First off, I purchased some navy, fitted pants and an asymmetrical striped top (still obsessed with stripes).  The top is something I can wear on Friday at work and is something I know I will also wear on the weekend, and the pants are something I will likely wear every week because they go with a lot of tops in my closet! 

The other two items I purchased were a fitted lace t-shirt and pink jeans.  The fitted lace t-shirt is something I can wear under a cardigan or blazer at work, or I can wear it on it's own outside of work.  The pink jeans were just too fun to pass up (still obsessed with colored pants!).  I could probably get away with wearing the pink jeans on a Friday at work but I'll probably end up wearing them more on the weekend.

Overall thoughts: I liked the ease of the shopping experience as the host had wracks with all of the different looks for the season and at the beginning of the show, the consultant explained how the different pieces coordinated with one another.  The 4 pieces I purchased could probably all go together which is something I really liked about the Cabi line.  The clothing is certainly not inexpensive but I feel like these are pieces I'll wear many times so the cost per piece was justifiable. I also like that I can wear all of these pieces outside of the office in more casual settings.

Between moving and adding 6 pieces of clothing to my wardrobe, my wallet needs a little break but I am planning to request another look book in August so I can add some fall pieces to my wardrobe!

What are your thoughts on shopping?  Have you tried any personal styling services?  I used to do Stitch Fix but was disappointed as my last couple of boxes were disappointing and I felt the stylists disregarded my feedback.