Monday, April 27, 2015

Get in Gear Half Recap

On Saturday, I ran the Get in Gear Half Marathon.  When I went to the packet pick-up, I was surprised to learn that it was the 38th annual race - that's got to be one of the longest standing races in the Twin Cities!

Before I delve into the recap, I'll cut to the chase - I managed to PR at this race by over 2 minutes!  My official time was 1:52:14.  I didn't go into this race expecting to 'race it' or PR it and I will definitely admit that it wasn't my smartest race, but you live and learn! Here's a recap!

The night before the race, Phil and I had a quiet night in.  We made roasted broccoli and this pasta recipe but skipped the mushrooms as someone (ahem, Phil) won't eat mushrooms. It was a simple, delicious recipe and one I'd definitely recommend. 

The race didn't start until 9 on Saturday so I got to wake up without an alarm on race morning, which is always nice.  I had my usual breakfast of oatmeal with banana and 2 cups of coffee and then headed out the door to take the lightrail to the race.  I'm so glad I could get there via public transportation!

I was kind of over dressed for this race but I don't like using bag drops and I didn't want to be cold waiting for the race to start!
The race course was along the Mississippi River so it was a pretty scenic route.  I would describe the course as rolling hills with 2 decent climbs/descents (which you can see below in the elevation profile).

Here are my splits:

Mile 1 - 8:30
Mile 2 - 8:11 (WAY too fast)
Mile 3 - 8:20
Mile 4 - 8:19
Mile 5 - 8:10 (WAY too fast again, but this mile was mostly downhill)
Mile 6 - 8:20
Mile 7 - 8:19
Mile 8 -  8:25

* This is the point where the pace I ran during the first part of the race started to catch up with me and my pace started to suffer.

Mile 9 - 8:37
Mile 10 - 8:40

* At this point, I knew that I would PR as long as I ran sub-10 minute miles, which I knew I could do.  I played a lot of mental games during the last 3 miles and told myself things like:  You just have to run 5k more!  Only 18 more minutes of discomfort!  Less than 9 minutes of discomfort!

Mile 11 - 8:32
Mile 12 - 8:50 (there was a big climb during this mile)
Mile 13 - 8:53
The rest - 8:40

I was SO happy to be done when I crossed the finish line.  I grabbed my medal and hobbled down to the area where they had the food, which was SO FAR from the finish line which I think is a poor decision for the race set-up...

I am very happy with my time, but I made a couple of big mistakes during this race.  First, I went out way too fast.  I shouldn't have been running 8:20 or faster miles in the beginning!  Second, I didn't eat anything during the race besides one cup of water and gatorade at each water stop.  They did have some gu's at around mile 10 but it was a brand I haven't had before and I didn't want to risk having GI issues in the final part of the course.  I know some people can do halves without any fuel besides water/gatorade, but I was reminded on Saturday that I am not one of those people.  I felt nauseated and had to force myself to eat afterwards, which is a telltale sign of not properly fueling.  Lesson learned - next time I will bring gu's.

I checked the race website for my final results when I got home for my results and was really happy with my stats!

But all in all, I'm very proud of my time and I am excited that I'll be going into marathon training with a great level of fitness!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Currently: April Edition

Where did April go?  It seems like it was just Easter - but now the end of the month is only a week away!  Crazy!  Here's what is currently going on in my world these days!

Reading:  Scaling Down:  Living Large in a Smaller Space.  I've been very intentional about purging and de-cluttering over the past year but I know that more can be done.  This book was recommended in a blog post I read months ago and my upcoming move inspired me to request a copy from the library.
Loving:  smashed avocado on toast. My favorite fast week night dinner is gluten free toast with half an avocado smashed on it and the other half cut up with scrambled eggs with salsa.  Mmmm.

Thinking:  about all the things I want to do this summer like visit state parks in the area, take a trip with Phil to the north shore of Lake Superior to do some hiking, and soak up time at the lake with my family.

Frustrated:  with the weather.  It's been cold and super windy this week and we had snow flurries on and off on Wednesday.  I know April in Minnesota is rarely nice but it's tough to go back to this cold, crappy weather after spending a week in the 70s!  Come back spring!

Feeling: like I am entering that time of year where my calendar is getting a little too full.  I have some fun things planned so I can't complain but between a full calendar, my upcoming move, and a business trip the week after my move, I feel a little bit overwhelmed when I look at my planner.

Anticipating:  my half marathon on Saturday.  I don't have a goal for it, I just want to have fun and see what kind of pace I can sustain.  Fingers crossed the windy weather moves on before race day.

Watching: Garfunkel and Oates on Netflix with Phil.  It's a very quirky show about two female singing comedians but it's very entertaining.  We are savoring the episodes as there are only 8 at this point.

Sad: that I know several people who have been laid off from their jobs in the past week. I hate hearing about people going through stressful situations like that. 

Working: on planning a running club volunteer night.  We will be volunteering at Feed My Starving Children which is an awesome organization!

Grateful:  that my body has been handling the longer runs I've been doing lately.  It gives me confidence that I will be able to run the marathon in October (I'm very paranoid that something is going to happen that will prevent me from running it).

Listening:  to Mat Kearney's album when I am in the car (which is rarely these days).  His new album is excellent!

Wishing:  that I didn't have to move.  I know I am lucky that I get to stay in the same building and rent a similar unit, but moving is such a pain. 

What are you currently anticipating, grateful for and wishing for?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Do It Now - Taking in Live Perfomances

When you live in a city that you think you are always going to live in (or will live in for a long period of time), it's really easy to take things for granted.  I was the queen of doing that before I was relocated to Charlotte.  Minneapolis has a lot to offer but I wasn't always great about making the most of it as I thought there would always be time to do the things I wanted to do. But after living in Charlotte, I knew that when I moved back, I needed to have more of a "Do It Now" perspective as you just never know when life is going to throw a curve ball at you. 

I'm applying this "Do It Now" perspective to multiple areas of my life, but one area I'm applying it to lately is taking in live performances.  Luckily I live in a city that has lots of opportunities to choose from.  In fact, Minneapolis has the second most theater seats per capita - we are second only to New York! Here are some of the live performances I've taken in or will be taking in over the coming months!

Last month, a couple of friends from work and I snagged a Living Social deal for tickets to Mary Poppins at a local dinner theater.  I loved this movie so much as a child so it was very fun to see the live production version of it! Both of my co-workers enjoy going to live productions so I can see us doing something like this again!

Tonight, Phil and I are going to "An Evening with Neil deGrasse Tyson" at one of the theaters in downtown Minneapolis.  For those of who aren't familiar with him, NDT is the host of the popular show, Cosmos, which is a show about all things science.  NDT is an astrophysicist but he has a way of explaining complex things in a way that the average person can understand.  I bought the tickets to this show as part of Phil's Christmas present.  He loves NDT so I was really excited to surprise him with this gift.  We know 2 other couples that are going to the show so we'll all have dinner together before.  It should be a really fun night. 

In June, I'm going to an Ingrid Michaelson concert with 3 other friends.  Ingrid has been on my "bucket list" of artists I want to see live for many years so I am excited that I will finally get to see her in concert!  I own all of her albums and have been a fan for years so I am really excited to see her live!

Last, but not least, in June I am also going to see the musical production of Once with my friend Courtney.  We actually bought tickets for this the day they went on sale in November because I wanted to make sure we got great seats.  I loved the movie Once and I have heard great things about the live production!

I don't know that I'll take in as many live performances in the second half of the year as I will during the first half of the year, but I'm excited that I've got so much to look forward to in the coming months!

Do you like to go to live performances?  Is there something that your city/area of the country offers that you tend to take for granted?    

Friday, April 17, 2015


Happy Friday everyone!  Another week is *almost* behind us.  I can't believe we are in the second half of this month already - time is a-flying!  Here's a recap of my week!

The high of my week was spending Tuesday night with Phil.  It was a beautiful night so we went for a run and then made dinner, and watched an episode of Anthony Bordain's show, The Layover.  Specifically, we watched the Paris episode which has me missing that city even more! My calendar is filling up fast these days so I savor these quiet nights in with Phil.

The low of my week was awkwardness at work.  Everything is fine, but suffice it to say that my team/work environment is not exactly ideal/fun.  My boss would not be surprised if he read that, by the way.  He knows the team environment leaves a bit to be desired.

A book I am reading is Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.  It's a collection of essays about topics such as feminism, politics, and pop culture.  I don't agree with some of Gay's opinions but it's been an interesting read. 

A recipe I made was Spiralized Mexican Sweet Potato and Chicken Casserole.  It was really good but kind of a putzy recipe.  I made the sauce and shredded the chicken ahead of time, which helped.  I'd recommend the recipe, but I'd suggest using 2-3 10 oz. cans of enchilada sauce instead of making the sauce (unless you've got a lot of time to make the recipe) and sauteing some cut up chicken breasts instead of boiling the chicken and shredding it.  That said, it was very good and something we'd make again, and it's great as leftovers!

Spiralized sweet potatoes

All ready to pop into the oven.  I forgot to take an "after" photo as we were starving so dug into it right away!

A podcast episode I loved was the latest Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin and her sister.  I think this was my answer last time I did a TGIF post.  I like the format of this podcast - it starts with a small recommendation for how to invite more happiness into your life (this week's advice was to always give warm hellos and goodbyes to everyone in your household), then Gretchen poses a question that is supposed to help you get to know yourself better, they answer a question from a listener and then they share a moment when they either succeeded or failed at bringing more happiness to their lives.

For my workouts, I completed a strength training workout and speedy walk in my neighborhood on Monday, runs on Tuesday and Wednesday, and another strength training workout on Thursday.  Today is my rest day and tomorrow I will run 14 miles with my club.

The best money I spent was on dinner with my book club last night.  I love our monthly meetings!  This month we discussed Euphoria.  I can't say I loved it but it did have an interesting twist at the enD and it made for a good discussion.

My plans this weekend include dinner tonight with a family that I met through my church years ago.  I haven't seen them since I moved back from Charlotte so it will be great to catch up with them.  On Saturday I'll run with my club in the morning, get a recall fixed on my car in the afternoon, and then we'll spend the evening with Phil's high school friend and his wife.  Sunday morning we'll meet up with Amber and her husband for brunch (can't wait to see her!!) and then the rest of the day is unplanned which I am excited about!! That said, showings are starting to get booked so this might be an awkward weekend of not being able to be in my home during the day on the weekend.

What is the best recipe you've made lately?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Travel Tuesday: 2015 Travel Plans

Traveling is one of my favorite past times so I thought I'd start a "Travel Tuesday" post series.  On a somewhat monthly basis, I'll talk about things like my travel plans, how I approach planning the trips I take, and share some of my favorite travel experiences.  

To start off, I thought I'd talk about my travel plans for the year.  I think this year is going to go down as the year of smaller trips.  At the start of the year I was thinking/hoping I'd be able to plan a bigger trip to somewhere like Europe or Argentina, but due to a couple of different factors it makes more sense to take more smaller trips instead of one big trip.  Here's what I've got planned for the year!

In late May, I am going to Colorado to meet up with Kyria to do some hiking.  This is a short weekend trip but we are planning to do one really long hike and a shorter half day hike so we are fitting in as much outdoor time as possible!  We'll be staying in the Boulder area so if any Coloradans (is that how you refer to people from that state?) have any suggestions for hikes, we are all ears!  So far we've been using this article for inspiration!  I've traveled to Colorado for work several times but haven't been there for fun since 2006 so I am due for a trip.  It's such a beautiful state so I can't wait to do some hiking and spend some quality time with a great friend!  A little known fact about me is that I spent a summer and two winter breaks working in Steamboat Springs, CO, and I loved it so much that I strongly considered moving there after college!

In August, I am planning to go to DC to visit Becky and Ben.  Becky's going to have a baby any day now so that is the inspiration for this trip!  I think that Phil might join me for this trip as he has a cousin in Arlington so we could both see family/friends and enjoy some time together on this trip.  Plus I really want him to get to know Becky and Ben since they are such dear friends of mine and important people in my life.  This trip hasn't been booked/planned yet but it is going to happen.

In September, I am going to Kamloops to visit Amber!  Amber and I have seen each other every year since 2010 but aside from the time I hosted her in Minneapolis, all of our meet-ups have been in other cities.  I've seen countless pictures of the area where she lives so I can't wait to see it with my own eyes!  I'm excited to spend a long weekend with her and her husband.  We're planning to run a trail race together and I'm sure we'll spend lots of time outdoors.

In October, I am going to Miami with my mom, sister, and sisters-in-law.  My younger sister isn't able to join us due to her limited vacation time, which is a bummer, but she'll be there in spirit and hopefully she can come in 2017!  We did our first girls trip in October of 2013 and are going to try to take a trip every 2 years.  We selected Miami as the time share company my parents belong to has a location on South Beach and the price for the room was very reasonable.  I've never been to Miami so I am excited to check out the area but mostly I'm excited to spend a long weekend with the girls in my family.  None of us have been to Miami, though, so if anyone has suggestions on things to do/see, let me know! 

In November, Phil and I are going to Lambertville, New Jersey for my friend Alli's wedding.  I'm super excited for their wedding but I'm also excited that they selected such a beautiful, charming area for the wedding.  Plus I'll get to check another state off my list as I've actually never been to New Jersey!  We'll most likely extend this trip and either spend some time in Philadelphia or New York City.

I love that my travels will take me to a variety of places from the mountains to the oceans, to big cities and charming, historical areas.  I also love that 4 out of 5 of these trips are to meet up with or visit URL turned IRL friends.  I really can't imagine my life without the friendships I've formed through my blog.  A lot of these trips are "girls trips" but I am glad that Phil will be joining me for 1-2 of them.

When I list it all out like this, it makes me realize how incredibly lucky I am that I get to go on all of these trips.  They may seem "small" to me compared to some of the trips I've taken in the past but I know I'm lucky to be able to afford to go to this many places.  But like Amber so eloquently said in her post about the cost of travel, traveling is a huge priority for me and I am willing to make sacrifices in other areas of my life (driving an older, paid off car, not eating out often, etc) in order to be able to afford to travel as much as I do.

Do you have any trips planned for the year?  Is traveling a priority for you?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Weekend Recap

Happy Monday, everyone!  If you're anything like me, you are wishing it was still the weekend, though! Here's how I filled my weekend.

On Friday night we stayed in and made one of "go to" fast/healthy recipes:  Southwestern Chicken and Rice Skillet. It's so good and so easy.  After dinner we watched the movie Interstellar which confused the heck out of me.  Even Phil did not really understand what was going on.  While we were watching the movie, we had the company of the kitty that Phil is pet sitting for.  I guess Phil is building a reputation as an excellent pet sitter!  He'll be taking care of Charlie the cat for about 11 days.

Meet Charlie (I could not get him to look at the camera so you just get to see his backside I guess!)

On Saturday morning, I did my long run with my club.  The weather was absolutely perfect so I really enjoyed this run.  I ended up running 13 miles.  I have a half marathon in about 2 weeks so I am glad I was able to comfortably run 13 miles.  I don't anticipate a PR at this race but I am glad I'm going into it feeling ready.

On Saturday afternoon, I met up with a college friend for lunch and manicures/pedicures.  We had bought a groupon deal for a salon that neither of us had been to.  It was fun to get together with my friend but there was only one person working at the salon (weird, right?) so it was kind of a long process.  But that just gave us extra time to catch up!

I picked a springy purple color for my toes
On Saturday night we met up with another couple and checked out a new (to us) Mexican place that is not far from where I live.  It was a taqueria-style Mexican place which reminded me of the place I went to in the Mission District of San Francisco.  There was a long line when we got there so we knew it would be good!  They were making fresh corn tortillas right in front of you which I thought was really cool!  The food was awesome and inexpensive - we'll definitely go back.  After dinner we treated ourselves to some DQ ice cream and were excited that it was actually warm enough to sit outside and eat it!

Sunday morning was a beautiful morning.   It's days like this where I especially love my view.  Condo/high rise living isn't a forever home for me but it definitely suits my lifestyle right now and I'm so thankful that I live in a unit with such a spectacular view!

That morning, I met up with Allison and Marisa for brunch.  We went to a spot in my neighborhood so I was able to walk there which was nice.  It was fun to catch up with them!

On Sunday afternoon, I took advantage of the beautiful weather and went for a nice long walk in my neighborhood.  I go for a lot of runs in my neighborhood but it was nice to take a walk for a change.  It was great to get some fresh air and feel the warmth of the sun.  

Sunday evening was all about video chats. First I had a baby shower video chat for my friend Lauren who is expecting in May.  Then after that I had my family book club chat - we discussed Everything I Never Told You which we all enjoyed. 

It was fun, full weekend but I am feeling a bit tired as I start this week.  I know this week is going to be a bit hectic with my condo going on the market and having to contend with showings and such.  Next weekend is shaping up to be pretty quiet, though, and I am going to try to make Sunday a plan-free day or a minimal-plans kind of day.

How was your weekend?

Friday, April 10, 2015

5 Things Friday

Happy Friday!  Here are 5 things on my mind as we close out the week!

1.  The weather this week has been so crappy here.  Temperatures have been in the 30s, it's been rainy, and we have not seen the sun.  We even saw some snow flakes last night.  Womp, womp.  Spring is typically a pretty disappointing season here in Minnesota as it's rarely warm/sunny but I'm just so over these cold temps!  On a positive note, it sounds like it will get up to 60 tomorrow and will be sunny!  I think the weather will be great for my long run in the morning!  Yea! Here's hoping the crappy cold weather is gone for good after today!

2.  On Tuesday, I completed my 10th class at the barre studio where I bought a living social deal.  I'm kind impressed that I managed to fit in 10 classes in 30 days, especially considering that they are not open on Sundays.  I loved the classes so much but I can't justify the cost of a membership there so I am thinking about treating myself to a 10-class pack. 

3.  On Tuesday, a photographer came and took photos for the listing of the condo I'm living in and it goes on the market this coming Tuesday.  I'm hoping and praying that it sell VERY FAST because I hate the thought of leaving it in "showing condition" every day for a series of weeks...  There are no other units in the building on the market so the listing agent thinks it will sell fast - I hope he is right.  I'm so ready to have the next 6 weeks of disruption behind me.

4.  I got a spiralizer from my parents for Christmas and have made some fun recipes with spiralized vegetables lately.  For example, Phil and I made this zoodle shrimp scampi recipe in February, I made this spiralized apple and cabbage slaw for Easter, and I'm planning to make this spiralized Mexican sweet potato and chicken casserole this weekend.  Spiralizing is definitely a fun way to eat veggies!

5.  I've got a fun weekend ahead of me which I'm looking forward to.  Tonight we are staying in and making dinner.  Tomorrow I'll run with my club in the morning and then meet up with a friend for lunch/manis/pedis and then I'll have another quiet night in with Phil.  On Sunday I'm going out for brunch in the morning with two local bloggers and then I've got a virtual baby shower video chat for Lauren and a virtual family book club  video chat!

What's on your mind today?  What do you have planned for the weekend?  What is the weather like where you live?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Strength Training: One Year Later

Last spring when the symptoms of my Rheumatoid Arthritis started to subside, my Charlotte Rheumatologist really pushed me to add strength training into my fitness routine.  Truth be told, I have never been great at strength training on a regular basis.  I'm great at doing cardio, but strength training sort of overwhelmed and intimidated me in the past. 

But I came across article after article, like this one, touting the benefits of strength training for people with RA and my doctor continued to emphasize that strength training would strengthen my joints which would protect them from further damage from this disease.  When your decision about whether or not to strength train becomes a question of your long term health, it became pretty obvious that I needed to find a way to incorporate it on a regular basis.

In early April of 2014, the nagging joint pain in my elbow, wrists and fingers began to subside so I started off by going to classes at the YMCA, such as Body Pump, which is one of my all-time favorite strength training classes.  After moving to Minneapolis in May, I decided I couldn't justify the cost of a gym membership since my condo building has a great gym so I decided to try Bobbi McCormick's summer shred program.  I loved her program so much that I ended up doing 3 different shred programs.  I now have a lot of different workouts to choose from each week.  One of my organizational projects for the year involved printing off all of the workouts and arranging them by the area of the body that they work out (full body, lower body, upper body) and I have a special section for Tabata workouts. I've also wrote down or printed out a lot of workouts from Peanut Butter Runner's blog and included them in this binder.  She has a page full of great workouts.

In the last year, I've learned that I need to go into the gym with a plan.  I need to know exactly what I am going to do and the sequence of the moves I will do.  I've also learned that I prefer workouts that combine strength training with short bursts of cardio.  I like workouts that are broken up by 30-60 second high intensity cardio, like mountain climbers, burpees, or high knees, for example.  Lastly, I've learned that I need an accountability partner.  My accountability partner, Amber, lives over 1,500 miles away but we keep each other motivated by texting/instant messaging about what we are planning to do and if I am planning to get up before work to workout, I usually tell her as then I am less apt to change my mind when the alarm goes off.

A year later, the results in my muscle tone are probably subtle to others...

April 6, 2014

April 6, 2015

but they're noticeable to me.  I feel more fit, my clothes fit better, I run faster, and most importantly, I can say that I'm managing my RA - it's not managing me.

Do you consistently strength train?  If you do, where do you get most of your workouts?  

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Weekend Recap

Happy Monday!  I hope everyone had a great weekend!  Easter sort of came fast for me on one hand, but on the other hand, I feel like I've been anticipating it's arrival for weeks - mostly because I gave up sweets for Lent so was looking forward to indulging on Easter Sunday!  Here's how my weekend played out.

I had Friday off as my company recognizes Good Friday as a holiday.  On Friday morning I intended to do my long run as I wasn't able to run with my club on Saturday since I was leaving town.  I intended to run ~10 miles but my body said NOPE so I cut the run short and just did 5.5 miles.  This was one of those runs where every step felt hard.  I don't know if it was the fact that I didn't have coffee, or the fact that I was running into 15 mph winds, or the fact that with those winds it felt like 18F (burr, I hate you mother nature), but that run sucked!

On Friday afternoon I packed and got my apartment as tidy as possible as the listing agent was coming by over the weekend to take some preliminary photos for the listing.  I'm hoping and praying that it sells fast because I dread the thought of having lots of people traipsing through my unit over the next 4-6 weeks.  Later that afternoon, I went to Good Friday service at my church.  It's a very somber service but it's one of my favorites of the year. 

On Friday night, Phil and I made dinner together.  I had read a post on the blog Fannetastic Food earlier in the week that inspired our dinner.  It took maybe 15 minutes to make and was so delicious.  We just marinated some shrimp in tamari (you could use soy sauce if you can eat gluten) and garlic chili sauce, then sauted the shrimp in a little olive oil.  Then we added some steam-in-the-microwave bags of rice and Asian-style veggies as well as all the other partial bags of frozen veggies that I had in my freezer.  For the sauce we just used the same ingredients that we used in the marinade.  It was so easy to make and really delicious!

After dinner, we had another couple over for game night which was very fun as usual!  I'm so glad that our friends like game nights as much as we do!

On Saturday morning, I hit the road for the lake. Phil stayed back so that his mom would not have to be alone on the holiday.  I wish we could have spent the holiday together but I hadn't seen my family since Christmas and likely won't be back at the lake until June due to my move so it just made the most sense for us to spend the holiday with our own families. 

On Saturday afternoon we dyed eggs.  I think us adults had as much fun as the kids did.

The finished product!
The rest of the afternoon was spent hanging out with the kids.  Charlie and Evelyn had fun taking some selfies with me!

And I got a good picture of Evie with my mom.
On Saturday night I went to the Easter Vigil mass with my parents.  We didn't get home until 10:30 and I went straight to bed as I was so tired.

On Sunday morning, we woke up to some goodies from the Easter Bunny.  I think Evie's favorite part was the stuffed bunny.  She loves stuffed animals and loves to give them kisses!

After my sister and her family went to church, I headed out for a run.  It was chilly (30F with a wind that made it feel cooler) but I managed to push myself to run 5 miles.  I am SO over these windy, cooler mornings.  Spring, where are you?

The rest of the day was spent eating.  There was no shortage of food, especially sweets!  My family LOVES black jelly beans so my mom always has a dish of those sitting out.

Besides the Easter candy, my mom made a chocolate cake with Easter-themed decorations.  I helped put the peeps on the cake but that was the extent of my contribution to the dessert making process.

My mom also made a lemon custard pie and she put some custard in a separate dish for me since I can't have the crust of the pie.  Like I said - there was no shortage of food.

After all of that eating, I vegged on the couch for a bit before heading out.  Evie showed us that even though she is only 14 months old, she knows how to use a cell phone. 

In the late afternoon, I headed out and made a pit stop at my aunt and uncle's lake home so I could see my cousin and my grandma before heading back to Minneapolis. 

It was a fun, family-filled weekend that went entirely too fast but they always do!  A year ago, I was not living driving distance from my family and after living far away from family, I really appreciate the ability to drive up to my parents for a quick weekend!   And soon lake season will be here and I'll be up there more often!

How was your weekend?  Do you live close to your family?  My parents lake home is about 3 hours from Minneapolis so not too far!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

2015 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge - First Quarter Update

For the last several years, I've set a goal for the number of books I wanted to read during the year, but this year I tried something different as I decided to participate in the BookRiot Read Harder Challenge

I'm so glad I took on this challenge as it's pushed me to read different types of books and new genres that I wouldn't have checked out otherwise!  It's been so fun to research books to read for the different categories.  Here's a summary of the tasks I completed during the first quarter of the year and my thoughts on the books I read!

Tasks Completed in the First Quarter:
A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25: Purple Hibiscus by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie - This book was difficult to read as it deals with the difficult topics of domestic abuse and child abuse.  I felt a pit in my stomach while reading this but it's a book that I am glad that I read. I can't believe the author was under the age of 25 when she wrote this as the writing was SO good.  This book would also count for the category of a book written by an author from Africa.

A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65:  Runaway by Alice Munro - I read this for my local book club and did not care for it.  The stories were just sort of depressing.  We ended up having a good book club discussion about it but we all agreed that we just don't really get the hype around this author (she's a renowned short story author).  This could also count towards a collection of short stories.

A book by a person whose gender is different from your own:  The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion - I read and loved The Rosie Project so had to check out this sequel.  I did not like it as much as the first book but still enjoyed it overall.  When reading it, you sort of have to get over the fact that the insensitivity of Don, the main character, makes him come off as a jerk but it's sort of out of his control given the fact that he has Asperger's.

A book by an author from Africa: Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie - When we were in Jamaica, another friend in our group was reading this book and raved about the author.  After reading and loving Purple Hibiscus, I decided to check this book out and I am so glad I did.  It's about the experiences of a woman from Nigeria that immigrates to the U.S. during college.  It opens your eyes to how hard it is to assimilate to a foreign land.

A YA novel:  We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - I loved this book!  I read it in one sitting and found the story so engaging.  I never would have guessed that it was a young adult novel, so if that is a genre that you typically avoid, don't let that classification keep you from reading this book!

A sci-fi novel:  The Martian by Andy Weir - This book is an example of why I love this challenge.  I probably wouldn't have checked out this book if it wasn't for the read harder challenge as I typically don't read science fiction books but I am so glad I read this book.  It's fast-paced and entertaining and they will be making it into a movie this fall starring Matt Damon.  I'll definitely be going when it's in the theater!

An audiobook:  Yes Please by Amy Poehler - I'm not a huge Amy Poehler fan (I'm not opposed to her, I'm just sort of ambivalent) nor do I follow Saturday Night Live closely so I am probably not the target audience for this book.  That said, it was interesting and enjoyable to listen to - for the most part.  I did feel like it jumped around a lot and there was a lot of name dropping but I loved her mantra of saying, "good for you, not for me."

A collection of poetry:  Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson - This book is classified as a middle-grade book but I think adults will get something out of reading it. It's a memoir written in verse about the author's experiences growing up as an African American in both the south and in New York.  It's hauntingly beautiful at times.

A microhistory:  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - This was a fascinating read for me.  It's about a young African American woman who battled cervical cancer.  Her cells were unknowingly taken from her, multiplied, and used for research.  In the book they said that there are so many of her cells made that if you placed them end to end, they'd circle the earth 3 times!  How crazy is that?  The author weaves together the sad story of Henrietta Lacks and her descendants while tackling the issue of bioethics. 

A book published this year:  Girl on the Train by Paul Hawkins - This book is being heralded as the next "Gone Girl" and I can see why that parallel is being drawn because this book is a page-turning thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.  It's definitely worth all of the hype!

A book published by an indie press:  The Empathy Exam by Leslie Jamison - This is the first book that I read for this challenge that I really did not care for.  It was published by a local press here in Minneapolis that has a good reputation but this book just fell totally flat for me and came off as very pretentious.

A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure:  Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod - Of course I had to pick a memoir set in Paris for the "guilty pleasure" task. This book was delightful.  It made me ache for Paris!

A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture:  The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman - This is a book that I have owned for years.  It's about the medical treatment of the daughter of a Hmong family.  The book focuses on the challenges doctors and patients face when they come from different cultural backgrounds but the author also weaves in the history of the Hmong people.  The Hmong people have been through so much so it was a sad, eye-opening read.

A collection of short stories:  Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri - Sometimes short stories feel inaccessible and I struggle to feel connected to the characters since they are somewhat brief but that was not the case with this book.  For the most part, the stories all made me feel something and I was sad to see each one come to an end.

A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade:  Redeployment by Phil Klay - This book won the 2014 National Book Award so I had high hopes for it but unfortunately it just did not work for me.  The author's writing style felt detached at times which was likely intentional given the subject matter (war) but that detached style made it difficult for me to connect to the characters in the stores.  Also there was so much technical military language, I feel like you'd need to be in the military to understand some of the context of the stories.

Tasks completed =15

Tasks To Be Completed:

A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ
A book that takes place in Asia
A romance novel
A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.)
A book that someone else has recommended to you
A book that was originally published in another language
A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind
A book published before 1850
A self-improvement book

What is the best book you've read so far this year?  It's hard for me to choose, but from the books I read for this challenge, my favorites were We Were Liars, Interpreter of Maladies, and Girl on the Train.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Time for a Change

I've been growing my hair out for over 2 years now and while it was fun to have the length for awhile, lately it just felt heavy and listless.  So I decided I was due for a big change. When I got to my hair appointment, I was surprised when my hair girl measured my hair and said that I had enough to donate to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program which is a program that uses donated hair to create wigs for women battling breast cancer. 

A couple of snips later and I had 8" inches to donate to the program...

 And I walked out of my appointment looking like this!

I am really happy with how my haircut turned out.  It feels so much more fresh and healthy and I'm glad that it's still long enough to pull back into a ponytail for work outs!  I felt like a new woman walking out of the salon!

I've been through a lot of change over the last several years and a lot of that change felt 'out of my control/forced on me' so it was nice to make a change that was completely my idea.  :)

When is the last time you made a big change to your hair do?  Have you ever donated hair to a program like Pantene's?  This is the 3rd time I have donated my hair!