Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Currently: February Edition

Reading:  "Americanah" by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie. The last time I did a currently post, I was reading a different book by this author, which is kind of random! I am loving "Americanah" - it's about the experience of a woman that moves from Nigeria to the U.S. during college, and then back to Nigeria. 

Loving:  the Sorel winter boots that Phil got me for Christmas.  It hasn't been a snowy winter here, but it has been pretty cold so I am glad I have warm, cozy boots to keep my feet warm on my walks to and from work!  Plus, they are really cute!

Thinking:  about chopping my hair off to my shoulders.  I've been growing it out for awhile and while I like the length, I sometimes think it looks a little bit 'blah' so it might be time for a change. My hair appointment isn't until March 31st so I've got some time to think about it!

Frustrated: with how early I wake up during the week. I wish I was a better sleeper.

Feeling:  under the weather as I am coming down with a cold.  I hope it's short lived because I don't have time to feel sick right now as this is a really busy week for me. 

Anticipating: spring and longer hours of daylight.  I can't wait for warmer temperatures and more hours of daylight!  This winter hasn't been too bad but it's been so incredibly cold lately and I'm just over that aspect of winter!

Watching:  the next season of House of Cards when it comes out on Friday!  Phil and I watched seasons 1 and 2 last summer so we are excited to check out the 3rd season. 

Sad:  that the show Parenthood is over.  I loved that show so much so will really miss watching it.  I thought they did an awesome job with the finale, though.

Working:  on presentations for two conferences I'll be presenting at this spring.  I don't mind public speaking but speaking in front of a group for 60-75 minutes is SO HARD for me, hence the reason I am getting an early start on developing my presentation content. 

Grateful:  that my dad's ankle replacement surgery went well on Monday.  He's been hobbling around in pain for years so I am glad he's finally having surgery.  They did one ankle on Monday and will do the other one in 3 months.  I'm excited for him to be able to walk pain free by mid-summer!

Listening:  to lost of podcasts, as usual!  My favorites these days are Dear Sugar, BookRiot, and TED Radio Hour.

Wishing: it was easier to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  ;)  I'm still wrestling with this question even though I've been working for nearly 12 years.

What are you anticipating, loving, and grateful for?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Weekend Review

It was a cold weekend here but I made the best of it.  Here's how I kept warm and busy this weekend!

On Friday night we stayed in and made this Mediterranean shrimp skillet and a Greek salad.  We had made the skillet before and I think last time it was a little better but I can't figure out what I did differently, aside from using penne pasta instead of spaghetti. Nonetheless, it was still a good, easy meal to make.

After dinner we watched a movie called The Good Lie.  It is NOT a light movie as it's about the lives of 4 Sudanese refugees that immigrate to the U.S.  It was sad and eye-opening but we felt the movie was well done. 

On Saturday morning I begrudgingly left my warm bed to head out for a run with my club.  I needed to get 8 miles in and thought maybe it wouldn't be too bad since it was 18F degrees outside (which is warmer than it's been lately).  Except the wind was blowing, so it felt like 7F, and the paths had a thin layer of snow which meant I didn't really feel like I had a firm footing.  That really messes with your stride and made the run feel even longer.

The views along the run were beautiful...  

but honestly I was just ready for this run to be done when I was about 3 miles into it.  This just goes to show that even people that LOVE running don't love every run.
I know there are people who enjoy/tolerate winter running but it's just so hard for me.  It's definitely better than running on the dreadmill but it's tough to get myself motivated to get out there when it's cold!  Yesterday was actually a "warmer" day for us compared to other days so I am sure some Minnesotans would read this and think, "you are a wimp" but like I've said before, I feel like I am more sensitive to the cold!

But hey, on a day like Saturday, you don't have to worry about your water getting warm.  It was cold enough that the cap of my water bottle froze during my run.  You can see the layer of ice in this photo.

After run club, I rushed home, got ready in record time (like 15-20 minutes) and headed to brunch with some college girlfriend.  We failed to take a picture together but this brunch was SO MUCH FUN.  One friend was visiting from South Dakota that I hadn't seen in nearly 4 years, which is crazy.  The 4 of us sat there and gabbed for two hours straight and could have kept talking if we didn't have to go about our days after that. I wish we could all see each other more often but luckily we'll all see each other again in May when we gather for a friend's baby shower.

On Saturday afternoon, I got to do a quick FaceTime with Leigh so I could "meet" Miss Amelia.  She is so cute, I wish I lived close so I could meet her in person and hold her! 

And then I did a video chat with Amber.  I'm so thankful for FaceTime and google hangouts!

On Saturday evening Phil and I went to a fast casual Greek place for dinner and then watched a movie together.  I should say he watched it - I was asleep on and off during it as I had woken up at 4 that morning and couldn't fall back asleep so I was dragging by 9 pm.

Saturday was a somewhat mild day weather-wise but Sunday wasn't.

I try not to complain about the weather but oh my God, weather like yesterday is just awful.  I'm thankful that I have a warm home and didn't have to be outdoors but yowza, those temperatures are just brutal.  It was a good to day to stay in and get stuff done because there is no way I was going to be out and about in that cold weather, aside from going to the grocery store.

I got a workout in on Sunday morning and then Sunday afternoon was all about what I call "adulting" which means things like grocery shopping, laundry, ironing, and meal prep.  Between my birthday weekend and our trip to Santa Barbara, we've been eating out more often and indulging a bit so this coming week is all about clean eating.  I spent a good chunk of time on Sunday roasting and shredding chicken, cutting up vegetables for salads and making this tomato vinaigrette which turned out great!  Even if you don't like tomatoes it's worth trying as the tomato flavor is very subtle.  Salads can get boring for me fast so I need lots of toppings and an interesting salad dressing. 

I capped off my afternoon by attending a virtual google hang-out baby shower for Becky!  She's expecting a baby boy in April and we are all so happy for her! It was awesome that we all got to 'see' each other since an in-person shower isn't possible with how scattered we are!

Sunday evening was all about relaxing which is what I needed.  I have definitely found that I need Sunday evenings to just relax and read so that I can enter the week feeling rested!

How was your weekend?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Racing Plans

It's winter here and will likely be winter-like for the next 6+ weeks (it doesn't matter if Puxatawny Phil sees his shadow or not, winter is always long here).  Winter is by far my LEAST favorite time of year to run as I am just a cold weather wimp.  Plus I honestly feel like I am more sensitive to the cold than the average person - and Phil will back me up on this.  The blustering winds, icy sidewalks/running paths and cold temps just make it so hard to get out there and run but I have been trying to do my long run outside on the weekends.

But instead of dwelling on the less than favorite running conditions outside, I'm trying to do what I can to stay in shape and I'm starting to set my sights on my race plans for the spring, summer and fall! Race registration fees really add up fast so I am very selective about the races I do because I do not give myself a big budget for racing.  I'm excited about the races I selected for this year, though!  Here's what I've got planned for the year:

Hot Dash 10 Mile - I'll kick off my racing with a 10 mile race in my neighborhood on Saturday, March 7th.  This race is being put on by the same organization that puts on the Twin Cities Marathon so I think it will be a great race.  I signed up for this race for two reasons - 1)  I thought it would motivate me to increase my long run distance in January/February so I would have a strong base going into the summer.  2)  The race starts and finishes close to my neighborhood so I can walk to/from the start which is awesome!  Registering for this race in the hopes that it would motivate me to do longer runs earlier in the year sort of back-fired because I am just such a wimp when it comes to cold weather running, so I might be a little under trained for this.  I'll get through it but it certainly won't be a PR.

Get in Gear Half Marathon - I'll run my only half marathon race of the year on April 25th.  The course for this race is awesome as it's along the Mississippi and it follows about 7 miles of the Twin Cities marathon course so it's a good preview for people that plan to run that race.  And - I can take the light rail to the race which means I won't have to fight traffic or deal with the headache of parking which is always a bonus!  I will not be trying to PR at this - I mostly want to have fun and enjoy the beautiful course!

YWCA Women's Triathlon - My friend Courtney inspired me to sign up for this race on August 16th.  It will be my first tri so I am going into it with pretty low expectations for my time (I honestly don't even know what a "good" time would be).  I mostly want to finish with a smile on my face.  I'm a little nervous about training for this on top of training for my fall race (see below - I've got a big summer/fall ahead of me) but I will figure it out.  I figure I can bike to/from run club 2 nights a week to get some extra miles in on the bike and I will do a longer bike ride on Sundays, and I am considering doing a 6 week tri swim course at the Y (on top of open water swims, of course).  I am sure it will all come together and I'll have a great race day!

Twin Cities Marathon - Gulp.  You read that right.  On October 4th, I'll be running my 4th marathon.  When I was diagnosed with RA, I thought I'd never run another marathon.  But last year I did most of the marathon workouts and ran as far as 16 miles without any trouble so after talking it over with my Rheumatologist, I've decided to sign up for the TC marathon!  I did promise my doctor that I would stop training if my joint pain returned so I will be careful and listen to my body.  I don't know if I will run anymore marathons after this one, but I just want one last shot at this distance and when I decide to stop running marathons, I want to be the one making that choice versus having the choice made for me.  John is flying in to run this marathon so I am excited to run it with him and show him my city!  The Twin Cities marathon was the first marathon that I did way back in 2006 so I am excited to race it again.

So there you have it - 4 races that I am excited about!  For the most part, I don't really have goals for any of them, aside from staying healthy and having fun.  Of course I have a back of the mind goal for the marathon but I need to wait and see how my body handles training before I really set my heart on a particular time.

Do you have any racing plans for the year?  If you aren't a runner, are you working towards any fitness goals this year?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Santa Barbara Recap

Happy Wednesday!  It's ridiculously cold out today (high of 5, windchills of -30) so I figured today is a good day to share some photos from our weekend getaway to Santa Barbara as I'm mentally traveling there in my mind today...  You all know how much I love Minnesota, but this getaway came at the perfect time.  It was terribly cold in Minnesota and unseasonably warm in Santa Barbara!

I was happy to ditch the Minnesota cold for sunshine in Santa Barbara!

Thursday was our travel day and to be perfectly honest, we did not have the best of luck. Our flight was delayed by 2 hours due to a mechanical issue and then the rental car process took FOREVER - which meant we hit the road right at the beginning of rush hour.  LA traffic is something special...  I am really glad Phil was the one driving our ridiculously small rental car.  Let's just say that Priceline pick-your-price = tiny car.  We didn't care, though, because we are cheap economical.

Our rental car makes a prius look roomy.
It took us about 2 hours and 40 minutes to complete the 85 mile drive from LA to Santa Barbara.  We were starving by the time we arrived since we hadn't eaten in 10 hours, so the Mexican food we ate tasted especially good.

Fish tacos for the win!
We crashed hard that night after our long day of travel!  On Friday morning we headed out for a hike.  We each did research on our own and randomly both came up with the same idea for a hike - the Jesusita hike to inspiration point. It's about 10 minutes from downtown Santa Barbara, so it was very easy to get to.  It was a 7-mile hike with beautiful views!  I'd highly recommend it!

The beginning of the trail was lined with wild flowers

As we got towards the top, the views were beautiful!

The sunshine felt AMAZING.

After we finished the hike, we grabbed lunch and then headed back to our apartment that we rented from VRBO.  After resting our legs for a bit, we headed to the beach which was only 2 blocks from our apartment.

It was a beautiful, sunny, 80 degree day and the beach was very quiet.

My rock skipper

The birds were NOT afraid of people.
On Friday night, we went to a seafood restaurant in the Santa Barbara harbor and thoroughly enjoyed eating outdoors.

On Saturday morning we made breakfast, hit up the farmer's market and then headed up to wine country.  We drove on this super narrow and winding road - once again, I was very glad that Phil was driving!  I'm much better at navigating!

The views in wine country were stunning - lots of green grass and rolling hills.  The area where we were at is the area that was featured in the film, Sideways.

It's not growing season but it was still neat to see the fields where the vines grow.  We stopped at one vineyard for a tasting which was fun.  If I wasn't so restricted on how much I can drink (thanks to my RA meds) we would have stopped at another vineyard.  We definitely had lots to choose from as the road we drove along had about 10 vineyards on it.

On our way back, we stopped in the town of Solvang for lunch.  Solvang is a cute Dutch village.  I failed to take any pictures while we were there but it was definitely a cute place to stop!

When we got back, we went for another walk on the beach and then came back and made dinner.  We both get burned out on eating out very fast so we really appreciated having a kitchen as we made 2 breakfasts and one dinner during our stay.  The owner provided a bottle of champagne so we enjoyed some bubbly while preparing our dinner.

We won't be able to (comfortably) grill for awhile so we were happy that our apartment had a grill!  Since the kitchen had a limited number of spices, we kept it pretty easy and made chicken, baby red potatoes and asparagus.  We also had some leftover fish from the night before.  It was so nice to avoid the Valentine's Day crowds at a restaurant and eat a simple, delicious meal!

On Sunday we got up and went to brunch at a place that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives which was really good!  Then we hit the road for LA.  Luckily the drive back to LA went much faster.  We checked into our hotel in the Sherman Oaks area and headed to Griffith Observatory.

It was neat to see the Hollywood sign after seeing it on TV so many times!
There are 53 miles of trails in Griffith Park, but we did the most popular hike which weaves it's way up to a peak.  As the hike progresses, you get closer and closer to the Hollywood sign.

The view from the top.  We thought the Hollywood hills were beautiful.
On Sunday night we went to dinner in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood at a cute Greek restaurant.  They had live music and the waiters danced so it was a fun and vibrant place to eat.  After dinner we drove along the Sunset Strip and then drove on Rodeo Drive into Beverly Hills.  It probably would have been better to do this drive during the day so we could see the huge mansions we drove past but it was still a cool drive in the evening.  It made me want to watch Pretty Woman!

On Monday morning we drove down to Santa Monica and walked along the beach.  It was a cooler, hazy day but still a beautiful day for a walk at the beach.

Before heading to the airport, we stopped at In-N-Out burger for lunch as neither of us had eaten there before.  I don't know if it's worth all the hype (I'm not a fast food person) but I'm glad we checked it out!

We both gave Santa Barbara 5 stars and would come back here in a heartbeat.  We loved being near the mountains, ocean, and vineyards and we thought the downtown area was charming with lots of great restaurants.  We felt like it was the ideal getaway for an active couple as there is so much to see and do.  We both thought the best part of our weekend was the hike as it was great to exercise, soak up some sunshine, and take in some beautiful views. All in all it was an awesome getaway and I loved getting to spend 5 full days with my Valentine! 

Do you have any warm weather getaways that you are looking forward to?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Looking Forward

Happy Monday!  I hope you all had a great weekend!  My birthday weekend was wonderful.  I received lots of birthday phone calls, texts and Facebook posts which all made me feel very special and loved. Dinner on Friday was really good and Saturday night was so much fun.  I couldn't have asked for a better weekend!  Plus I fit in a 7-mile run with my run club on Saturday and some XC skiing on Sunday.  We accidentally ended up on a black diamond XC ski trail and I fell REALLY hard towards the end on one of the steep hills so am hurting from that (Lisa + skis + hills = bad combination) but all in all it was really fun!

Birthdays have a way of making me look back on life so I thought that it would be good to sort of flip the switch from looking back to looking forward.  Here are some things I am looking forward to these days!

Today I am looking forward to an unplanned evening.  Lately I have been very possessive of my week nights.  I had a stretch in November and December where I had something nearly every night of the week which just wore me out, so now I try to keep 1-2 nights of the week free.  I usually spend those nights working out, reading, and catching up on chores around the house.  You know you are an adult when you are excited about a quiet night in!

This weekend I am looking forward to our Santa Barbara trip!!  Winter hasn't been awful here, but we've had a lot of gray, sunless days so we are looking forward to escaping to warmer temperatures and sunshine!  We don't have a super detailed agenda for this trip, which is kind of nice.  We'll spend 3 nights in Santa Barbara and plan to go hiking, explore an area with lots of vineyards, go for walks on the beach, and check out the town.  We'll also spend 1 night in LA and will check out the Griffith Observatory and maybe find one other thing to do that day.  I've never been to the Santa Barbara area, but I've heard it's gorgeous so I can't wait to explore it with my favorite guy!

This month I am looking forward to getting together with college girlfriends that I don't see all that often.  One of our friends will be visiting for the weekend from South Dakota, so her visit is prompting a get together.  It's so hard to stay in touch with people as you get older since everyone is being pulled in so many directions between work, family, and other commitments but these friendships are the kind of friendships where months or even years can pass without seeing each other but you pick right up where you left off. 

This year I am looking forward to visiting Amber in Kamloops!  We have been friends for over 6 years now and I have seen so many pictures of where she lives so I can't wait to see it with my own eyes!  I'm planning to go for a long weekend over Labor Day weekend.  I can't wait to spend a weekend with one of my very best friends!

What are you looking forward to?

Friday, February 6, 2015

5 Things Friday: The Birthday Edition

Happy Friday!  Yesterday was kind of a rough day for me at work so I am especially thankful that today is Friday and the weekend is here!  Plus, today is my birthday!  Here are 5 things that are on my mind that are mostly birthday-related!

1.  Today I turn 34.  My last 2 birthdays kind of sucked as 2 years ago I was down about my move to Charlotte and then last year I was down because I was living in Charlotte and wasn't sure how or when I'd find my way back home.  This year I get to celebrate with no doom and gloom surrounding me!  Woo hip!

2.  It's a little bit weird for me to wrap my mind around the fact that I am 34, mostly because my life looks so different from what I thought it would look like at this age.  But there are lots of aspects of my life that I never would have imagined like my trips to Paris, the marathons I've completed, and the friendships I've formed with people from all over the place so I am trying to focus on those aspects of my life versus the other milestones I haven't yet achieved.

3.  I'll be celebrating my birthday by going out to dinner with Phil at a Mexican restaurant I have been wanting to try.  I can't wait to celebrate with a margarita and some chips, salsa and tacos.  The celebration will continue tomorrow as Phil invited some of our friends over for ice cream sundaes and board games.  I love playing board games so much so this is the perfect way to celebrate my special day. 

4.  All I want for my birthday is a nice dumping of snow.  I know that people in the North East will probably shake their fist at me when they read that, but we barely have any snow...  I just bought cross country skis in January and gosh darn it, I'd like to use them on some real snow! We did get a couple of inches earlier this week so it's looking a bit more winter-like out there, but we could use a good 6+" snow fall!  I mean, if it's going to be cold, we might as well have snow on the ground!

5.  Lastly, on a non-birthday related note, we leave for Santa Barbara in 6 days and I am so excited!!  Even though I'm wishing for snow, I'm also excited to escape to warmer weather and sunshine!  We're in dire need of some vitamin D!  (Yes, I'm simultaneously wishing for snow and in need of sun)

What is your ideal way to celebrate your birthday?  I'm all about low key celebrations so wouldn't change a thing about the plans I have!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Music, Books, Miles and Looks of January

Well the first month of 2015 has come and gone.  Usually I say, "where did the time go?" but January honestly kind of dragged by for me!  Don't get me wrong, it was a good month, it's just never my favorite month of the year as we don't get much sunlight and it's just kind of a blah time of year for me.  But I'm excited for February as it will include fun things like celebrating my birthday and a trip to Santa Barbara!



Wherever Is Your Heart by Brandi Carlile - Brandi Carlile has a new album that will be released on March 3rd.  She pre-released this song and I loved it.  I love the folksy sound to her music.  She's such a talented musician; I hope I can see her live in 2015!


January was a quieter month for me and that is quite apparent when looking at the number of books I read! I read 9 books which is WAY more than I usually read! I also read some really wonderful books so it was a great month of reading! My favorites were the 3 I gave 5 stars to, but you really can't go wrong with any of the books that I gave 4 or 5 stars to.  I am also happy with the diversity of the books I read, which can be attributed to my participation in the read harder challenge.  I'd starred the books that I read for that challenge.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd - 4 stars
Yes Please by Amy Pohler* - 3 stars (audio book version)
Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher - 3 stars
Drinking:  A Love Story by Caroline Knapp - 4 stars
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie* - 4 stars
The Martian by Andy Weir* - 5 stars
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart* - 5 stars
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez - 5 stars
Runaway by Alice Munro* - 3 stars


While January was a great reading month for me, it wasn't a great running month.  I had some pain in my foot that was caused by a misalignment in my back that pinched a nerve.  So my total mileage for January was 41 miles.  I took more rest days than I normally would but fit in 23 workouts which I feel pretty good about.  I don't like months like January where I work out less as the leave me feeling 'meh' but I also am proud of myself for listening to my body and not pushing it when I know something doesn't feel right.


Bleh.  January.  It wasn't as cold here as it usually is but it's still cold and I since I walk to work, I have to factor the weather into my wardrobe choices, which means I didn't wear a lot of dresses and skirts, which are my favorite things to wear.  So I feel pretty meh about what I wore in January.  The only outfit I could come up with that was worthy of sharing was the one below. The tunic-style top is from Target and the bottoms are from a Fix I got this fall.  My office doesn't have casual Fridays so this outfit is probably on the cusp of not being right for work but I just wanted something warm and cozy that day.  And in my defense, there are men who disregard the dress code and wear jeans, so at least I haven't stooped that low with my apparel choices!