Thursday, July 31, 2014

Book Review: Painting the Moon

Book Description:  

When Noelle Cooke inherits a cottage from her British aunt, she also inherits a cottage full of secrets--a locked room, an old journal, an art gallery in financial ruin. Noelle never planned to abandon her life in San Diego, never intended to move across the ocean to live in a tiny Cotswold village.  But the idea becomes irresistible, especially with the possibility of saving the gallery. 

And just when Noelle settles into her new village life and starts to discover the cottage's mysteries, someone from her past reappears—her first love, Adam Spencer.  But an impossible barrier stands between them, and Noelle is forced to make a choice.  Will she risk her heart?  Or will she walk away…and lose him all over again?

My review:

When the author approached me and asked if I would read this book, she described the genre as contemporary romance/women's fiction.  I can't remember the last time I read a romance novel of any sort so I wasn't sure what to expect as some romance novels can be a little over-the-top for me, or the characters can be a bit, well, mindless and annoying.  But luckily, this book definitely fell more under the category of women's fiction and it was a book that I really enjoyed.

I knew early on that it would be a book I would enjoy as it is set in England and I am a sucker for books that are set abroad.  Noelle was a likeable character and the town where the book was set sounded so charming and was easy to envision.  I enjoyed the love story aspect of the book but what I liked even more was the storyline of Noelle discovering the secrets from her aunt's past, either by finding things in her home or reading a journal her aunt kept.

This was a light, easy read that would be a perfect summer or vacation read.  

Do you find yourself drawn to books that are set in certain areas?  I enjoy reading books set abroad, especially those set in France!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publishing company.  I was not compensated for this review, and the opinions are my own

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Workout Wednesday: A New Gadget

Earlier this month, my club did a hill workout in torrential downpour.  I am not exaggerating.  It felt like sheets of rain were pouring down upon us.  But my club pretty much runs regardless of what the weather is like, unless it's lightning, so we all slugged our way through a very wet workout.  My Garmin got water damage when I ran the 2010 Portland marathon in heavy rain and since then, it's always been a little sensitive to wet weather.

Well, that workout was just the last straw for my little Garmin.  I tried putting it in a bag of rice to see if it would dry out, but it didn't work, so I had to bid adieu to my trusty little side kick which I've had for over 5 years now.

RIP, Garmin.
I think the fact that it lasted as long as it did is pretty impressive, though.  I know they are a costly gadget, but from a cost/use perspective, I have more than gotten my moneys worth!  After doing some research and ordering a new one from REI, I dug out my original battery-powered Garmin that I used when I trained for my first half and full marathons in 2006.  This thing is a dinosaur!

I felt like I had a small laptop on my wrist.
About a week later, my new Garmin showed up!  I went with the 220 model which I am very happy with.  It got great reviews, had all the features I needed, and as an added bonus, it came in a feminine color! 
Yea!  No more ugly, masculine running watches for this girl!
I've been running with the watch for about 2 weeks and I give it 2 thumbs up!!  Here are some of the main reasons I like it:

1.  Fast satellite connection.  My305 seemed to take FOREVER to connect, but I don't even get the 'searching for satellite' screen on this one.  It seems to connect basically instantaneously which is a huge improvement over my 305.

2.  Bluetooth.  The 220 has bluetooth which means it will sync with my iPhone and upload my workout without me having to plug it into my computer.

3.  Size and feel.  I like that the face of this is smaller than my 305 was, and the arm band can go as tight as you'd like, which is important for a person like me with small wrists as the smallest setting on the 305 was a little bit loose for me.

All in all, I love it.  With a retail price of $300, it is certainly not cheap and is not the right gadget to buy if you are a casual runner.  But if you are like me and running is your jam, it's well worth the money spent.  I expect this watch to last just as long as my 305, so that means I'll probably log over 5,000 miles with it.  So at $0.06/mile, it's an investment that I can justify.  Plus since I have an REI membership, I'll get 10% back in the form of dividends so it ends up being $270 when you factor that in.

Do you use any gadgets when working out?  I've debated getting a FitBit or some sort of HRM gadget to track calories burned when doing non-running workouts but I can't bring myself to spend money on another gadget right now.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Virtual Coffee Date

When I read Caroline's virtual coffee date post last week, it reminded me that it's been awhile since I did one, so here goes!

If we were having coffee today...

- I'd tell you that the party I hosted on Saturday night was really fun!  I made pulled pork, lentil meatballs with marinara, pickle dip (goes with potato chips), fruit salad, and a layered s'mores ice cream cake (pictured below) and the other 3 couples each brought something to share.  The fireworks show was probably the best one I've ever seen and we wrapped up the evening with a game of Apples to Apples.

This is each of the layers of the ice cream cake.  I am glad it tasted good because it was kind of a putzy dessert to make!

- I'd tell you that I've had multiple people tell me that they can tell how much happier I am now that I am back home.  It's nice to hear that others are noticing I am back to my normal self as I wasn't sure how long it would take to shake that bogged down version of myself that I became in Charlotte.

- I'd tell you that my transition to my new job has been... challenging.  The work environment, especially within my immediate team, is different...  It's only been 2 months and they say it takes about 6 months to adapt to a new job/work environment so I am trying to be patient.  For now I'm trying to focus on the fact that this job brought me back home and am trying to remain hopeful that I'll feel more comfortable in my new group soon.

- I'd tell you that for the first time in my life, I am consistently strength training.  I completely attribute this to doing the summer shred in June.  I've been re-using some of the workouts from the shred and supplementing with workouts from Peanut Butter Runner.  I can definitely tell that I am getting more definition in my arms which is nice to see!  I'm looking forward to doing another shred later in the year around the holidays.

- I'd also tell you that running is going really well.  I ran 13.5 miles on Saturday, which is the longest I've ran since my injury and I felt pretty strong on the run.  I'm probably not running on the trails as much as I should but it's just so time consuming to go out to the trails in the area since it's a longer drive/slower pace/etc.  I do plan on running on trails next weekend, though.

- I'd tell you that I am really looking forward to the (mostly) unplanned weekend ahead.  The last 2-3 weekends have felt a little bit over planned so I am glad I have a quieter weekend on deck (yes, it's only Monday and I'm already thinking about the weekend).  I am trying to not make any plans on Saturday so that I can relax and do whatever I feel like doing that day.

If we were having coffee today what would you tell me?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Currently: July Edition

Happy almost Friday!  Here's what's currently going on in my life these days!

Reading: Painting the Moon by Traci Borum. I'm enjoying it as it's set in England and I'm usually a sucker for books set abroad, but I am not making as much time to read as usual so I'm progressing through the book a little slowly.

Loving: that our weather is finally summer-like.  We had a cold stretch for awhile there which I was not a fan of. I love fall, just not in July.

Thinking:  that maybe, just maybe, I could run a trail 50k eventually.  I think road marathons are out of the question for me but I think a 50k would be gentler on my body and easier on my joints since the trail surface is lower impact and the pace is slower, too.  I'm not even seriously considering this, though, until I have a healthy, issue-free year of running behind me.

Frustrated:  that I still encounter situations where I have to explain why I didn't like living in Charlotte.  OMG if I never had to talk about why I didn't like Charlotte ever again that would be the best thing.

Feeling: a little overwhelmed by life lately.  I am not complaining because I missed having a full life when I lived in Charlotte, but I have probably said yes to a few too many things lately and coupled with the lack of sleep, I'm feeling a bit more tired than I'd like.   

Anticipating:  the party I'll be hosting this weekend at my condo.  I feel like I have so much to get done between now and Saturday but I know it will be a fun night!  I planned it in conjunction with a fireworks show that we'll have a great view of from my balcony.  Can't wait!

Watching:  season 2 of House of Cards and feeling a little confused by the story lines at times.  Maybe it's the fact that we watch them at the end of the day when we are both really tired, but sometimes an episode ends and Phil and I look at each other and say, "what?"  But we're still loving this show and will definitely watch season 3 when it comes out!

Sad: that I won't be able to take much time off when my sister and her husband are at the lake in August as I have limited vacation time since I just started a new job.  I am hoping to take Friday off when she is here so we'll get a long weekend together, but I wish I could take more time!

Working:  on coming up with a good birthday present for Phil's birthday which is less than a month away.  He is sort of a minimalist and doesn't really like "things" so he is a bit tough to shop for.

Grateful:  that for the first time in 3 years, my summer isn't being overshadowed with anxiety over whether I passed the CFA exam.  Level I and II candidates get their results next week and I am just so glad that I won't be one of those people anxiously checking for their results email EVER AGAIN.

Listening: to the new Ed Sheeran album, which I love!

Wishing: that summer wasn't going by so fast!  There are still so many things I want to do but I am running out of weekends!

What are you currently anticipating, frustrated by and loving?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Paid in Full

I did something big last week.  Just over 5 years after finishing my MBA degree, I paid off my grad school loans in full!  Paying down these loans has been a major area of focus for me over the last several years so it feels good to see that balance (which was quite large as my MBA program was expensive) at zero. 

My goal for 2014 had been to pay the balance down by 2/3 but after thinking it over, I decided to use unused money from the relocation packages I received for my moves to Charlotte and Minneapolis, as well as some other money in savings to pay them off.  It made me a little nervous to use some of my savings to pay off these loans, but I still have another savings account to draw from if something were to happen.  Plus the interest rate on my loans was FAR higher than the rate I'm receiving on my savings account, so it was the right decision to use savings to get rid of that debt.

Paying off my student loans has been an obsessive goal of mine and I have been aggressively pursuing that goal.  I had been putting 1/3 of my take home pay towards my student loans for the last year+ so having them paid off is going to make a BIG difference to my cash flow!  People have asked what I am going to do with that extra money and the answer is that it will all go into savings so I can rebuild the balance I depleted by paying off those loans.  I do have a (large) savings goal in mind and once I reach that goal, I am hoping to plan a special vacation as a reward. 

I know student loan debt is viewed at "good debt" but it sure feels good to have that debt gone!  Now if the value of my condo could increase enough so that I could sell it and pay off my mortgage, I'd be 100% debt free!  But that will not be happening for quite awhile so for now I am taking pride in the fact that my student loan debt is GONE.

Are there any specific financial goals that you are working towards? 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Another Fun but Busy Weekend!

Well hello, Monday.  You came entirely too fast.  I had a fun weekend but it was definitely a little bit really busy so I am feeling a bit tired this morning.  Thank God for coffee!  Here's how we stayed busy this weekend!

On Friday night Phil had a friend from work come over to see his house (which he bought in February) so we had a drink on his patio (beers for them, fanta for me).  After she left, we went to an impromptu BBQ at his friend's house where we hung out with 2 of the couples we had seen the week before.  After eating and catching up, we made a brief cameo at another party at a friend of Phil's.  I was pretty socialized out at this point so was glad that we just made a brief 30 minute appearance.  Plus I wanted to get to bed at a reasonable time since I knew Saturday would be a long day.

On Saturday morning I was up bright and early for run club. We met in a different location as a local running store was having a 25% off shopping event.  I ran 11.75 miles, which is my longest run since returning to running in January, and then bought some new shoes, socks, a hat and some gu for longer training runs.  I'm really glad the color of the newest model of the shoes I buy is less obnoxious than my current color.

After the run, I rushed back home to shower and got ready so Phil and I could hit the road for Amber's wedding which was in the Spencer, IA area.  Amber is another URL turned IRL friend.  We've been reading each others' blogs for 5+ years and met in person for the first time back in 2010.  It's been fun to watch her relationship grow from a first date to a wedding date so I am so glad we were able to be there on her special day.  Phil and I had a great time at her wedding, here are a couple of photos I snapped!

Just Married!

The beautiful bride & I

Not the best selife, but here I am with my dashing dance partner!
On Sunday morning we drove back to Minneapolis, making a pit stop along the way so we could drive around the campus where Phil went to school.  When we got back into town, Phil headed to his mom's for the rest of the day and I did a bunch of things including making a to-do list and shopping list for the get-together I am hosting next Saturday and going to 3 (yes, 3!) different groceries stores to get most of the items on the shopping list and making the dessert (which was kind of more work than I had anticipated). Phew.  It was a busy afternoon/evening.

Next weekend is going to be pretty busy too due to the all the preparation I'll be doing for the get-together we are hosting on Saturday evening.  Maybe, just maybe, the weekend after that will be quiet!?

What was the highlight of your weekend?  Mine was attending Amber's wedding!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why Being an Aunt Rocks

I adore being an aunt.  There were a lot of compelling reasons for me to move back to Minneapolis but being close to family was certainly at the top of the list!  I missed seeing my nieces and nephews on a regular basis when I lived in NC so now that I am back, I am trying to make a point to spend more time with them as I appreciate it even more after being away. 

My brother was on a fishing trip last weekend so I decided to take my nephews on an "Aunt Date."  It was a win/win situation as I had fun hanging out with them, they (hopefully) had fun hanging out with me, and it gave my SIL some downtime and an opportunity to get things done without a 6 and 9-year old in tow.

We did our usual "Aunt Date" which includes a trip to our favorite kids bookstore, Wild Rumpus, followed by ice cream.  This book store is so cool.  It's hard to do it justice by explaining it - it's something you just have to see!  So even if you don't have kids, I recommend checking it out if you ever find yourself in Minneapolis. 

Petting one of the two cats.  They also have a chicken that walks around as well as other animals in cages such as chinchillas, birds, and a tarantula.
The store has so much detail to it so there's lots to look at.  Matthew's looking a canoe that is hanging from the ceiling (which I had never noticed before) in this picture.

There are chairs throughout the store that are perfect for perusing a potential purchase (how's that for an alliteration!).

After the boys picked out their book, we headed down the street to Sebastian Joe's to get some ice cream. Of course we had to take a picture by the turtles on the patio...

Just like we did last time we were here 18 months ago.

After getting our ice cream fix, we walked down to Lake Harriet and watched the ducks for awhile.  It was a beautiful, picture perfect day.

Before heading back home, we snapped a quick selfie.

I heart these two kids, and my 5 other nieces and nephews.  Being an aunt rocks so much as it gives me an excuse to do fun things like go to a kids bookstore and eat ice cream.  Plus being around them reminds me of what is most important in life.  I am not sure if I will have the opportunity to have children of my own, but whatever the future brings, I am thankful that I can be a mother-at-heart to these kiddos!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Workout Wednesday: Date Night Workout

Last Thursday, Phil and I both had a free night so we decided I talked him into doing one of the workouts from the summer shred.  He has heard me talk about the shred workouts a lot this summer and was a bit curious so it didn't take too much convincing to get him on board for a couples workout.

After looking through all of the workouts, I decided on a full body work out that included the following:

Circuit #1
1. 10 Pushups
2. 10 V-Ups
3. 20 Squats 
Cardio Blast----> 50 Jumping Jacks Circuit

Circuit #2
1. 10 Inch Worms
2. 15 Bicep Curls with a Shoulder Press and Squat
3. 20 Tricep Kickbacks 
Cardio Blast----> 50 Mt Climbers Circuit

Circuit #3
1. 15 Lateral Raises front and side
2. 15 Lower Leg Lifts
3. 20 Prison Squats (deeper squat)
Cardio Blast----> 15 Squat Thrusts

At the end of the workout, we were both sweaty messes and he agreed that workouts ARE indeed difficult.  We did the workout in my condo gym which was pretty quiet that night which was good as we took up quite a bit of room, especially when we did things like inch worms (you basically walk your hands out to a plank position and then walk them back until you are standing up). 

As we were working out I thought back on my single days and how I probably would have rolled my eyes if I saw a couple working out together.  Yes, I know I was a downer Debbie at times when I was single.  But now I can see that it's fun to work out as a couple. It's not something I would honestly want to do every day as Phil and I are both independent people who enjoy doing things on our own.  Plus there is no chance of Phil getting up at 4:45 or 5 to workout so we'll never be the 'work out together every day' couple!  But it's nice to do the occasional workout together. 

If you are in a relationship, do you enjoy working out with your significant others?  I enjoy running with Phil and could see us doing some shred workouts occasionally.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My First Fix

Anyone who knows me well, knows I do not enjoy shopping.  Especially my mom as she got to experience some epic "I don't want to go shopping" tantrums during my youth.  Don't get me wrong - I like having new things but I don't enjoy the process.  At all.  I'll never be one of those girls who views shopping as a hobby - for me it is a total chore and a means to an end!

So when Nilsa posted about Stitch Fix, I was intrigued.  For those not familiar with this company, the way it works is that you fill out a style profile and a stylist then sends you 5 articles of clothing, along with a sheet with tips on how to style each piece.  You try them on, keep what you like, and return what you don't (postage is free and they send an addressed envelop that you drop back in the mail so they make it very easy). You get charged for what you keep, and if you keep everything, you get 25% off. 

The thought of someone sending me clothes to try on in my own home sounded appealing and I could certainly use a change from my usual head-to-toe Banana Republic looks, so I decided to give it a try in July!  I got my first fix last week and here's what I got!  (My apologies for the crappy pictures, I suck at taking photos of myself!)

Item #1 - Dress

When I opened the stitch fix box and saw this magenta dress, I thought YES!  Now I might have something to wear to Amber's wedding (which is this coming Saturday).  I was a little skeptical when I saw that it was a wrap dress as I usually don't like how those look on me.  But my initial impression when I got it on was - hey, I like this!

But...  on closer inspection, the dress had some flaws - mainly the excess fabric area which you can see in the photo below.  I think if I had a bigger chest it might have look better, but since I am a small-chested gal, it just didn't look right.

But I loved the color and thought maybe I was being too picky.  I posted the photo on IG and asked if I should keep it.  Darn near everyone said that I should keep it - but a couple of people contacted me directly and said the top looked too baggy on me.  And when I showed it to Phil, he echoes their sentiment.  So my verdict was - send it back.  But I let the stylist know that I love the color so hopefully I'll get something in this color in the future.

Items #2 and #3 - Skirt and Blouse

When I saw the print of the skirt I was initially pleased - until I pulled it out of the box and saw that it had an elastic waist band.  So I was not surprised when I tried it on and did not like it at all.  I felt like the cut of the skirt was unflattering. 

I actually really liked the blouse but I already have a top that is nearly identical, so my verdict was - send both pieces back.  I let the stylist know that I would have liked the skirt if it was a more structured pencil skirt.

Item #4 - Blazer

Ok honestly all I could think when I saw the blazer was, "the 80s called and they want their blazer back."  The stylist suggested wearing it with the skirt and top ahead, but Amber suggested pairing it with something more tailored, so I tried it on with a dress I wear often.

I still hated it, so my verdict was - send it back.  I told the stylist that the color was to neon for me and that I need blazers that have a more tailored look.

Item # 5 - Top

I am ending on a positive note with this last piece which was a striped top that I absolutely love!  I mean, you really can't go wrong with stripes since it's my signature pattern.  I tried it on with a skirt I wear to work often and liked how it looked.  

I can see myself with this with many different bottoms from a pencil skirt to jeans to a jean skirt.  So my verdict was - keep!

My thoughts on the fix

I only ended up keeping 1 out of 5 pieces, but if I didn't already own a shirt similar to the black blouse, I would have kept 2 of 5 pieces.  And I liked 3 of the 5 pieces so feel like my stylist is off to a good start.  I think/hope that with the detailed feedback I provided, I will like more of the pieces in future fixes.  But even if I only keep 1 piece of clothing from each fix, that's a win in my book as it will allow me to slowly build my wardrobe.

My next fix will arrive in early August and this time I asked my stylist to focus on tops that can be worn with pencil skirts or dress pants and I also asked that she look for work-appropriate dresses.  I'll excited to see what she comes up with next!

Have you ever tried Stitch Fix?  Do you enjoy shopping for clothes?  

The thoughts in this review are my own and I was not compensated for Stitch Fix to post this review.  However, I will receive a $25 credit if you sign up for Stitch Fix using the referral link included in this post.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Weekend in Photos

As usual, the weekend went entirely too fast.  But isn't that always the case?  This weekend I tried to strike a balance of having things to do but also having some downtime to relax.  I didn't relax quite as much as I thought I would this weekend but I still had a great weekend!

On Friday, we met up with 3 other couples and went to Minnehaha Falls.  This waterfall is super powerful right now because of all of the rain we've had so I wanted to make sure we saw it while it was still a-roaring!

Phil is not a huge fan of posed photography (he is like my dad in that regard) but I did talk him into taking a picture with me here.

After having dinner at a restaurant by the fall, we went to the home of the couple that lived close by for dessert and a couple of games of Wits & Wagers which was a new game for us.  It was really fun!

I was up bright and early on Saturday morning to meet my running group for a 7 am trail run at a location that was about 20 miles away. 

I was a little apprehensive about this run as I have never been a huge fan of trail running but it actually went really well.  We ran 11.5 miles in about 2 hours and 8 minutes, so our pace was kind of slow but I know that's the way it goes with trail runs.  The trails were pretty muddy in certain parts so my legs were I mess and I was a hot, drippy mess as it was so humid that morning! 

On Saturday afternoon I was supposed to meet a friend for coffee but she cancelled as she wasn't feeling well so I used the afternoon to be meal plan, grocery shop, and do laundry.  When meal planning, I focused on recipes that required basil as my Bert the basil plant (yes, I named him) had quite a few leaves that I could harvest!  My basil is doing well.  My flowers?  Not so much.  Only one is producing flowers, 2 plants died, and the last one is growing like a week but won't produce flowers.  Oh well, at least I can say I tried to grow flowers!

I am hosting a get together at the end of the month and one of the guests is vegetarian so I am experimenting with some vegetarian recipes.  I used some of the basil to make these lentil 'meatballs.'  They look and sound a little weird but they are actually delicious!  They have chopped up kalamata olives in them which give them a salty, tangy taste!  The recipe was a hit, so while the meat eaters are enjoying pulled pork, my vegetarian friend will have a meatball marinara sandwich.

I used the majority of the basil to make a very easy marinara sauce.  I forgot how easy it is to make my own marinara sauce!  I'll definitely be making this recipe again.

On Sunday I went to a yoga class at the studio by my house and was reminded how hard/awesome classes there are!  My afternoon was spent with my adorable nephews.  Being an aunt rocks!  I'll share pics from that in a separate post as this one is getting long enough.

I capped off my Sunday by doing a trial run of Chicken Provencal which will be the main course for Julia Child Night this fall.  Phil and I both gave it two thumbs up!

For having a "quieter" weekend, I sure kept busy!

What were some of the highlights of your weekend?

Friday, July 11, 2014

5 Things Friday

Oh Friday - I'm so happy to see you!  Here's what on my mind this week!

1.  Tonight Phil and I are hanging out with 3 of his friends and their significant others.  We're going to dinner and playing some games after so that is my kind of night!  I really like Phil's friends and feel lucky that I get along with the girls so well as it's not always the case that you mesh well with other couples.  Us girls have talked about going paddle boarding together this summer so hopefully we can find a time to do that!

2.  Tomorrow morning I am doing my first long run on trails.  My race this fall is a trail half so it's time to start incorporating some trail runs.  To be honest, I am a little nervous about this as I am more of a road runner but it will be interesting and hopefully fun to check out some of the local trails (although I am not looking forward to all the driving I'll have to do to get to the trails.  I hate driving).  I am running with some others from my running club so am glad I'll have company out there.  It seems like most runners I know prefer trail running but for some reason I don't see myself falling in that camp.  Maybe I'm just not "zen" enough?  But maybe I'll feel differently by the time the race rolls around!

3.  I've throw in the towel on sleeping well on week nights.  Most mornings I wake up around 4 am and don't fall back asleep.  I know it has to be stress related and I don't really know how to eliminate the stress, so I am just accepting that I won't sleep as many hours during the week as I'd like.  It does make getting up at 5 am to workout a lot easier, though, so there's the silver lining.

4.  Speaking of workouts, I've continued to incorporate 3-4 shred workouts each week.  It really helps to have Amber as an accountability partner to keep me motivated.  I'm on track to continue my streak of a workout every day of the month which feels good!  

5.  Even though Julia Child Night #6 is 4-5 months away, my aunt and I are already starting to experiment with recipes!  I am hoping to test the main course dish, Chicken Provencal, this weekend!

What's 5 (or fewer) things are on your mind today?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Workout Wednesday: A Milestone Achievement

Happy Wednesday!  I don't know about you, but this week is feeling especially long on the tails of what was a short week last week due to the holiday.  But hey - we're almost half ways through the week.  Woo hip.

So I wanted to post about this last Wednesday but I wanted to do my recap of the Summer Shred before the July session started in case my post inspired anyone to sign up...  but if it wasn't for that post, last week's Workout Wednesday post would have certainly been about this:

Yes, I realize I look like a hot mess in this photo as it was super humid and warm, but this moment had to be documented!

Those pictures were taken a week ago Saturday. If you look at the lower right hand corner of my Garmin you'll see that I ran 10.50 miles!  This is a big deal because it was my first double digit long run since my RA diagnosis!!

~11 months ago when I was diagnosed with RA, I honestly questioned whether I'd be able to walk pain free so the fact that I'm able to run 10+ miles and feel good afterwards is a major accomplishment!  Having RA is hard and I don't always talk about it because I don't want to be that person who is talking about her health all the time, but one way RA has changed me for the better is that it makes me appreciate feeling good and having an active lifestyle more than ever.

So take that RA.  Lisa - 1, RA - 0.

Have you ever been through something that has made you appreciate your health? Do you feel like you appreciate your health and ability to be active?  I do now, more than ever.  I'll never take my healthy, active lifestyle for granted again.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The 4th in Photos

It's hard to believe that the 4th of July has come and gone!  The 4th always felt like the middle of summer for me when I was a kid since we went back to school in mid-August usually but I know that I need to adjust my thinking now that I am an adult since summer technically lasts until late September! 

It was great to spend the 4th up at my parents' lake home.  There's just nothing like being on the water with family around the 4th of July holiday!  I drove up on Friday morning and got there around 10 am and of course the first thing I did was pick up this little cutie.  You can't see much of her outfit but Evelyn is also wearing stripes!

She liked me a lot better this weekend compared to the first weekend I saw her when she mostly cried when I held her.  #auntfail
I helped out with a couple of things in the kitchen and then headed outdoors where this little guy kept me company for awhile.  Charlie turned 3 in May and his personality is REALLY starting to come out.  He is really funny and I just adore his curly red hair!

I feel like I barely saw my nephews Andrew and Matthew as they were running around, playing with the other 'big kids' but they did slow down a bit to take a picture for their aunt.  I'm looking forward got some one-on-one time with them next weekend as I am taking them on an aunt date on Sunday afternoon!

I tried to get a good picture of my dad with Evelyn, but there was no way she was going to smile on command. 

I'm noticing a pattern as last time I saw her, she wouldn't smile when I tried to take a picture of her with my dad!  Oh and how random is it that my dad is wearing the same shirt?

Around 1:30, my dad's siblings, their kids and their kids' kids started to arrive.  I think we had about 40 people there so it was quite a big group!!  I got to see quite a few cousins and all my dad's siblings, including his sister and brother-in-law that live in California.  It was fun to see how well the kids of all of my cousins played together. 

Charlie has a hand-me-down 4-wheeler that he loves to drive around. I was surprised that the other kids were content to get rides and didn't insist on driving it themselves.
My SIL planned an art project for the kids which turned out really cute.  But let me tell you, taking a photo of 15 kids under the age of 10 is really really hard!  But here they all are!

The adults had their own entertainment in the form of a bean bag tournament.  And get this - my team won!!  I am very unathletic but I guess bean bag toss is the one game I am fairly good at. 

On Saturday morning, I got up before most of the family was awake and went for an 8 mile run which wasn't very pleasant.  It was hot, and there wasn't much shade and I ran into the wind for about 2 miles towards the end of the run.  But at least I got the miles in.  I am glad that I do most of my long runs with a group!  It was a peaceful morning when I got back to the cabin.  I just love mornings at the lake.

Saturday was a quieter day at my parents' as it was just my mom, dad, grandma and I.  I played 3 games of Scrabble with my grandma and beat her once which is a BIG deal because I have never beat her before.  She is 91, but you wouldn't know it.  I failed to get a picture of her this weekend which I am bummed about!

On Sunday morning I got up and fit a shred workout in before everyone else was up.  Evelyn was all smiles when she woke up!

After church, we relaxed outside for awhile and I had my favorite summer drink - rhubarb slush.  I love this drink so much!  

Before I headed back home, I tried to work with Charlie on saying his ABCs but he was in a silly mood and wanted to skip some letters and improvise on the alphabet song.  What can I say, the kid is certainly entertaining!

And there you have it - another fun weekend at the lake!  I hope everyone else had a safe and fun 4th of July!

If you are American, how did you celebrate the 4th of July?  For my non-American readers, what did you do this weekend?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Workout Wednesday: My Thoughts on my First Shred

I used to do a regular blog post called "Workout Wednesday" and I have decided to resurrect that feature!  I don't know that I will do this weekly but I figure it gives me a platform to share what's going on in my fitness life!

Last month I decided to give the June Summer Shred a chance after hearing Amber rave about a previous shred she had done.  It's a program that is ran by Bobbi McCormick of nHerShoes and the way it works is that each week for 4 weeks, she sends you a week of meal plans and 5 workouts as well as a shopping list for the meals from the meal plan. 

To be honest, I did not follow the meal plans at all.  While she had some gluten free options, none of them really 'grabbed' me and I felt like a lot of the lunch options were tailored for people who work from home as they were things you'd prepare right before eating it, which does not work for me.  I did make a couple of recipes, though, so at least I tried a few new things!

In terms of the work outs, I pretty much loved this program.  In the past, strength training has kind of intimidated me.  I feel like I would go to the gym and sort of amble around, doing things like bicep curls and lateral raises and after about 10-15 minutes I'd be bored and unsatisfied with my workout.  Doing this program taught me how to challenge myself in the workout room and it showed me that strength training can be fun!  Here are some of my takeaways from the program!

1. Workouts don't need to be long to be effective.  While it's probably ideal (for me) for each workout session to be 45 minutes long, I learned that a really intense 20-30 minute workout can be as effective as longer workout.

2.  You are capable of more than you think you are.  One of the workouts, which ended up being the hardest of the four weeks IMO, included 300 burpees.  Yes, 300 BURPEES.  I looked at the workout and thought - "I can not do this."  In the middle of the workout I thought, "I can not do this."  But I kept going and focused on getting through each set (the burpees were split up into sets of 25) and at the end I was so proud of myself for finishing!  I still hate burpees and I guarantee that this workout would be just as hard the next time around but I know that I have the ability to make it through whatever I set my mind to.

3.  It helps to have a plan.  I have never really felt comfortable in the weight room and have struggled to put a strength training workout together on my own and that uncomfortable feeling I had in the weight room kept me from making strength training a part of my workout routine.  But having a detailed workout that I could take with me to the gym along with a video explaining the moves of each workout made me feel way more comfortable.  I no longer felt like I was sort of wandering around the weight room - instead I was a woman on a mission.

4.  It helps to have a buddy.  Amber signed up for the shred and her participation encouraged me to sign up as well.  I am so glad we did this together as it was nice to have someone to talk to about the workouts.  We'd talked about when we were going to fit in the workouts, how hard they were, how long they took and what parts were the toughest for us.  It was nice to hear that the hardest parts for me were often the hardest for her as well.  Bobbi also sets up a facebook group, which is great for motivation, but there's nothing like having a real life friend to keep you motivated!

In general it's really important for women to strength train but it's especially important for me due to my RA as it helps strengthen my joints which is important since they can undergo quite the battle when I have RA flare ups.  After doing this shred, I'm confident that strength training will continue to be a part of my weekly fitness routine. 

If you are thinking about doing a program like this, I highly encourage it!  The nice thing about Bobbi's program is that the workouts are design for people who are working out at home as most workouts don't require much more than some dumbbells.  I definitely feel like I got my money's worth (the shred cost $45 for 4 weeks).  Bobbi is doing another Summer Shred in July so if you are curious about giving this a shot, you have until Friday, July 4th to sign up!  I will definitely be doing another shred in the future!

Are you good about incorporating strength training into your fitness routine?  Prior to doing the shred, the only time I'd strength train was when I took a body pump class (which I also love).  I'll continue to do body pump but it will be great to have the workouts from the shred to use in the future.  Amber and I already have a plan to keep each other motivated to do some workouts each week in July!

*  The thoughts in this review are my own and I was not compensated in any way for posting this review.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Music, Books, Miles and Looks of June

Whoa - it's July?  Holy Batman this year is flying by!


Peace by OAR - I have been a big fan of the band OAR for quite awhile and I love their new single.  Also?  This video was recorded at a live performance that they did in Minneapolis this spring!


I actually have a social life again which means I read a lot less in June.  Which I am more than OK with.  I read 4 books and my favorite was Eleanor and Park!

Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen - 4 stars
Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin - 2 stars
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell - 4 stars
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan - 3 stars


June was another great month in terms of workouts.  I managed to run 77.5 miles which I'm happy with as that's 20 miles more than I ran last month!  I am also proud of the fact that I did so much strength training this month thanks to my participation in the summer shred.  I'll do a post tomorrow with my thoughts on the program (spoiler alert:  I loved it!). I managed to do 16 shred workouts on top of all the miles I ran so I was definitely very active in June!  And for the 3rd month in a row, I achieved my goal of doing 30 workouts in 30 days, which means I've done 91 workouts in 91 days!


June was a better looks month for me since I was back at work.  The first look is a dress that I got from Banana Republic years ago.  I hadn't worn it in quite awhile as it felt a little snug for awhile there, but thanks to the inches I've lost by incorporating strength training, it now fits great!  The fact that I have had this dress for 3+ years and am still wearing it is one of the big reasons I shop at places like Banana.  The clothes are a little more expensive than other chains, but the looks are (mostly) timeless and the clothes last for years!

My second look is a new polka dot dress that I got on the clearance rack at Loft.  I tend to favor stripes, but polka dots are a pattern I am starting to add to my wardrobe!