Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving Highlights

Happy Monday!  I hope everyone had a great weekend! Mine was awesome! Here are some of the highlights with photos sprinkled in.

- Cuddling on the coach with Oscar on Wednesday night.  She was fixed at the end of October and has been way cuddlier since then, which we are loving.  She has SO much personality, too.  I think she thinks she is a human in this photo.

Hey, will someone pass me the remote?
- On Thursday morning, I ran a 10k race around one of my favorite local lakes.  I PR'd at this race which means I PR'd at every distance I raced this year which is pretty cool!  It was in the 30s that morning and snowing so was a pretty time to be out running and the perfect way to start my day!

- We spent Thanksgiving at my brother's, who lives in a suburb of Minneapolis.  The food was amazing and the company was even better!  Thanksgiving is definitely my favorite meal of the year!

- My contribution to the meal was the veggie tray and dips and a shredded brussel sprout salad, which I highly recommend!

There is so much crunchy goodness in this salad!

- On Friday evening, I hosted my family and Phil and his mom for a lasagna dinner.  It was great for our families to meet after hearing so much about each other.  The food all turned out great (you'll have to take my word as I forgot to take photos) and it wasn't too crowded in my 800 square foot condo.

The tables all set up and ready for my guests!

My 3 nephews cuddled up together on the couch after dinner.
- On Saturday morning I ran 10 miles with my running club.  It was 18 degrees when we started but there was no wind and it was sunny so it was actually quite pleasant (or as pleasant as winter running can be).  We rewarded ourselves with a delicious post-run brunch!

- On Saturday evening, Phil and I had dinner at his mom's.  Since we had eaten a series of heavy meals over the past couple of days, she prepared a lighter meal of chicken tortilla soup and corn bread, which was delicious.  I heart soup!  After dinner, I looked through Phil's baby book.  It was so neat to see pictures and read about his development milestones and such.  I could see how bits of his personality came through very early in life!  We capped off the night with 3 games of Yahtzee - all of which I lost!  Womp, womp.

- On Sunday afternoon, Phil came over and helped me decorate my tree.  After that, we went to Yoga Sculpt at Core Power Yoga, which is the hardest class!  He has a free 2-week pass so hopefully we'll get a chance to go a couple more times.

Is there anything better than the glow of a decorated tree?
- To cap off the weekend, I made Iowa Girl Eat's recipe for Chicken Wild Rice soup, which was delicious!  It's Phil's favorite kind of soup, so he was a happy guy.  It'd be awesome with leftover turkey!

Family, our furry friend, delicious food, festive decorations, and time spent outdoors - what more could a girl ask for?

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 10

Today I am thankful for my family.

It's hard to find the words to appropriately sum up how thankful I am for my wonderful family.  I have a large family as I am one of 5, all 4 siblings are married and 3 out of 4 siblings have had a total of 7 kids.  When I was growing up, the size of my family annoyed me at times as it meant a crowded dinner table, long waits for the bathroom (we had 2 for a family of 7, but one was mostly for my parents), and the ongoing battle for my parents' attention.  However, now that I am an adult, I love my big, at times loud, and loving family.

I recognize the fact that the holiday season is not a time of joy for everyone as some have lost a parent or loved one or may have other family dynamics that make the holiday season a time of stress or sadness.  I feel so fortunate that that is not the case for me.  Of course no family is perfect, but I am lucky that despite the fact that we have many unique personalities, we love and support one another and genuinely enjoy the time spent together.

I'm looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow with Phil, my parents, and my 2 brothers and their families.  We'll miss my 2 sisters and their families that won't be there, though!

What are you thankful for today?  I hope everyone has a safe and happy weekend and to those living in the U.S. - Happy Thanksgiving!! 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 9

Today I am thankful for my amazing network of friends.

I feel so incredibly blessed to have such a large network of supportive friends. I've made friends from so many different phases of my life - college, past jobs, through blogging, through running, and the list goes on and on.

I have spent much of my life single but I think one of the blessings of being single is that I have developed very strong female friendships in my life.  That is not to say that those who marry young can't have strong female friendships; it's just different when you are going through life without a partner to rely on, as it forces you to rely on others in your life.  And I think that learning to rely on a network of people is a healthy lesson to learn in life. 

I am thankful for the friends that I've met organically through running, work, college, etc, but I'm especially thankful for the friendships that blogging has brought to my life.  Blogging has allowed me to connect with people who have similar interests, personality traits, and values.  Having a blog definitely makes a person feel more vulnerable, but I have found that the shared experience of being vulnerable seems to deepen the relationships that are formed.  

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, November 23, 2015

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 8

Today I am thankful that I am able to run and race again.

After being diagnosed with RA in 2013, I thought that running and being active were a thing of the past for me.  I was so relieved when I was able to tentatively return to running in 2014. 2014 was a rebuilding year as I was careful about the number of miles I ran and the only race I did was a low key trail half.

My confidence was rebuilt in 2014 so I decided to challenge myself in 2015.  It was a great year for running as I PR'd at a 10 mile race in March.

And then I PR'd again in April at my half marathon.

Perhaps this shirt is my lucky shirt as I ran both PRs in it!
Then in August I tackled my first sprint tri and had a great time!

While visiting Amber in Kamloops, I did a fun and challenging 21km trail race!

And then in October I ran my 4th marathon. Running a marathon was something I thought I'd never do after my RA diagnosis so I am so thankful that I was able to.  It was great to run it with John and my run club buddy Megan.

This was around mile 20 so we were still smiling at this point!

At the finish line with John
Besides racing, I got to run in some really beautiful places, like Chicago...

... and the beautiful Princeton, NJ area.

Running is such a huge part of my identity so I am so thankful that I am back at it!

What are you thankful for today?

Friday, November 20, 2015

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 7

Today I am thankful for the amazing travel adventures I've had over the past year.

Since last year I've traveled to...

... Montego Bay, Jamaica with Phil to celebrate our friends' wedding.

... Santa Barbara with Phil for a long weekend full of hiking, time outdoors and delicious food!

... Rocky Mountain National Park with Kyria for a weekend packed with beautiful hikes and great non-stop conversations!

... Kamloops, BC where I FINALLY got to see where Amber lives!  We hiked, ran trails, ate yummy food, and had lots of awesome conversations.  I also got to know her husband Eric better (he's awesome, too!).

Seen on a run on the trail system near Amber's house.

Enjoying a shady part of the trail race we did together!

Enjoying wine and aps on a gorgeous day!
... Miami with my mom, sisters, and sisters-in-law. I love our tradition of going away every other year!

... Boston with my honey to visit our friends.  I also got to see Kelly on this trip!

... Philadelphia with Phil for 1.5 days of exploring before heading to...

... Lambertville, NJ for Alli's wedding.  I failed to take many pictures of our time in Lambertville, besides the one below. Suffice it to say that it was a very charming and beautiful area!  And besides watching Alli get married, I also got to see Becky and Mandy!  Win-win. 

The Delaware River valley was stunning!

Phew, that is a lot.  It was definitely the year of "small" trips as all of these trips were done over long weekends.  I feel very blessed to have been able to go to as many places as I did, but traveling is a priority for me so it's something I definitely budget for!

What are you thankful for today?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 6

Today I am thankful for sites like Groupon and Living Social as they give me access to fitness studios at a very affordable price.  

I know this is a random thing to be thankful for, but I really do appreciate the deals on sites like groupon and living social. Right now I am enjoying a month of unlimited yoga at my favorite studio, Core Power Yoga.  I love this studio and the classes they offer so much but I do not love the price tag associated with being a member!  Thanks to groupon, I was able to snag an affordable 30-day membership and have been trying to get my bootie there as much as possible.  In January, I am planning to activate a living social deal for 10 fitness classes at another studio that is close to my house.

I love switching things up and trying new workouts so am thankful that I'm able to snag these deals when they come along. I have too many interests to commit to a membership at one studio so this is a great way for me to do some new things during the running off-season.

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 5

Today I am thankful that I have a job I enjoy and am reunited with my mentor.

I've been through a lot career-wise over the last several years; there have been some peaks but a whole lot of valleys.  Going through all of those challenges makes me appreciate the fact that I've found a company and role where I belong.  I changed jobs in July as I had the opportunity to work with my mentor again at a company that I respect.  I actually wrote about my mentor during the 10 days of Thanksgiving last year in this post.  In that post, I said the following:

"I'm not sure what my future holds career-wise but I'm hopeful that I will find myself working with my mentor again as a team as, looking back over the last 4 years, that is when I was most happy and content.  Whether or not that happens, I'm thankful that he's in my corner."

Luckily, I am working together with him as a team and it's been awesome.  The reason I like working with him so much is that we have a great working relationship. We are honest with each other even when that requires giving constructive criticism.  Best of all, we know that we always have each others' back. And - we have fun together at work.

Besides working with my mentor, I enjoy the rest of the people in the organization as well.  My last job taught me that liking and respecting who you work for makes a huge difference in your level of job satisfaction.  Of course it's not all sunshine and roses because no job is. But in general, I am very happy at work, feel challenged, and enjoy the work I do. 

When I left my last position, which was a terrible fit, I felt a deep sense of shame. I felt like I should have been able to last there for more than 14 months. And when I shared the news about my new job with friends and family, I got a lot of comments about how often I change jobs, which made me feel even more shameful. Well, since leaving that job, the 2 other people on my team (we were a team of 3) have been let go due to an acquisition.  So chances are that I, too, would have been let go.  Since starting my new job I've felt more and more like it was the right decision to leave when I did, but finding out that the rest of the team has been let go has just confirmed that leaving was the right decision for me. 

What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 4

Today I am thankful for podcasts.

I discovered podcasts around this time last year when Serial became uber popular.  After hearing friends rave about it, I decided to check it out. Serial was my entry drug. Now if I am listening to something on my phone while walking or driving or cooking, it's probably a podcast.  In fact, I might need to change my monthly recap to "Podcasts, Books, Miles and Looks" because I barely listen to new music anymore.  It's kind of sad because I do miss listening to music at times, but I just love listening to a podcast and falling down the rabbit hole of whatever topic is being discussed from female friendships to the latest book releases to starting a new company.

Another unintended benefit of podcasts is that listening to podcasts has broken my terrible habit of texting while driving.  I never should have been texting and driving in the first place but now it's out of the question because I can't text, drive and listen to a podcast as that's entirely too much multi-tasking.

I'll close with a list of my 5 favorite podcasts!

1.  Start-Up - This is a podcast about starting a new company.  Even if you have no interest in starting your own company (which is the case for me) it's totally intriguing.  Plus I love the voice of the main host, Alex Bloomberg.

2.  Book Riot - Book Riot has several podcasts but my favorite one is their main one. The hosts talk about what's new and exciting in the world of books.  As a lover of reading, I love listening to this!

3.  Starr Struck Radio - In this podcast, a husband wife duo banter back and forth about topics such as morning routines, the decision about when to have children, impostor syndrome, and so on.  I like that they often don't agree with each other as it makes for a more interesting discussion.

4. Death, Sex and Money - In this podcast the host covers topics related to, you guessed it, death, sex or money. The host, Anna Sale, has my favorite voice of the female podcasters that I listen to.  I like that the episodes tend to be shorter (around 30 minutes) and introduce me to subjects and people I had never thought about or would have encountered otherwise.

5.  Books on the Nightstand - Of course 2 out of my 5 favorite podcasts are book related!  The last podcast to make my top 5 list is another literary podcast that is hosted by 2 people who work in the publishing industry. The episodes are typically 30-40 minutes long and have some sort of theme with book recommendations at the end.  Listening to these two talk makes me REALLY wish I worked in the publishing industry!

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, November 16, 2015

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 3

First off, I can't start this post without recognizing the horrible tragedy that happened in Paris on Friday evening. It is heartbreaking to hear of terrorist activity in any part of the world but I was particularly saddened to hear that Paris was attacked as a piece of my heart resides in that beautiful and precious city.  My thoughts and prayers are with all of those impacted by the acts of hatred.

Paris, je t'aime


Today I am thankful that I was able to attend and be a part of my friend Alli's wedding.

I met Alli through blogging 5+ years ago.  I can't remember exactly when we met, but we quickly bonded over shared interests and the shared experience of feeling like we were perpetually single.  We had many conversations about how frustrating dating could be and we'd encourage each other by saying that some day we'd meet up and go to dinner with our amazing husbands by our sides and we would look back on those tearful times of frustration and loneliness and say to each other - "but look - it all turned out!"

Alli met her soul mate in September of 2013 and they were married on November 8th. I met Chris when I went to New York to help celebrate her birthday in December of 2013. The funny thing is that when I booked my ticket for that trip in August, I said - "just wait - you are going to have someone special in your life to celebrate your birthday with and are going to wish I wasn't coming!"  Of course Alli was still glad that I came for her birthday weekend as I got to meet Chris.  I immediately sensed that these two had something special and knew that wedding bells were in their future.

Alli and her parents, walking down the aisle
I am so glad that I was able to attend Alli's wedding.  There's nothing like seeing one of your closest friends marrying someone who truly loves and appreciates them.  Also, this wedding was the first Jewish wedding I have attended and I thought that the Jewish ceremony was so very beautiful.  I love that the parents stand with the couple under the huppah and I loved the explanation of the meaning and significance of the huppah.

Aside from attending the wedding, I had the honor of giving a blessing, which I wrote, during the ceremony.  This is the blessing I wrote:

We offer up a prayer of thanksgiving to God for orchestrating the chance meeting that brought Allison and Chris together.  We ask God to watch over these two as they begin their 
married lives together. 

Allison and Chris, may your hands be forever joined in friendship and your hearts be forever joined in love. May the times of laughter outweigh the times of sadness. May your love for each other grow each day, and may you always remember how very blessed you are to have found each other.

With the newly married couple!  Isn't Allison stunning?

While our time with Allison was limited since she had a room to work, I was glad that she finally got to meet Phil after hearing about my special guy for years!

My handsome date and I
Alli's wedding also gave me the opportunity to reconnect with some of my favorite people.  I hadn't seen Becky and Mandy in over two years so we were well overdo for a reunion!  It was wonderful to spend time with them and introduce Phil to them as well!  Our little table had so much fun!  And you can't tell in the photo below, but Becky, Mandy and I are all wore shades of blue!  So funny that we coordinated like that!

URL turned IRL friends!
What are you thankful for today?

Friday, November 13, 2015

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 2

Today I am thankful that my quality of sleep has improved.

Sleeping has never been my strong suit but when I went off Ambien in July, my trouble with falling and staying asleep went from inconvenient to downright debilitating. I was training for a marathon and triathlon and adjusting to a new job so I knew that I could not continue to function on such little sleep, which prompted me to meet with a sleep doctor in late August.

I was skeptical that the changes they suggested I make, which are detailed in this post, would make a difference, but low and behold - they did.  I fall asleep within a much more reasonable time frame and when I wake up during the night, as I do pretty much every night, I am usually able to fall back asleep.

I'm so thankful that I sought help and that my commitment to making the suggested changes has paid off! 

What are you thankful for today?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 1

Today I am starting my 10 Days of Thanksgiving post series, which is something I have done on this blog every year since I started blogging in 2008.  As a person who tends to focus on the future, goals, and what I am striving for, I tend to under-appreciate the many gifts and blessings in my life. This post series is a yearly reminder to stop, look around, and marvel at all there is to be thankful for!  Granted this should happen more than once a year but I am glad that I at least spend a lot of time reflecting on it each November.  Whether or not November holds the holiday of Thanksgiving for you, I encourage you to reflect on all there is to be thankful for and share something different each day in the comments!

Today I am thankful for Phil.

I'm starting off with a big area of thanksgiving in my life.  I am thankful for my relationship with Phil. We've been in each other lives for over three years and have been through some difficult things such as the loss of a parent, an unwanted cross-country relocation and challenges in our careers.

Phil's silly side never fails to make me smile and laugh.
But through it all, we have grown closer and have gained a better understanding of each other. We have many things in common, such our livelihoods, love of being outdoors and exercising, and our calm, rational temperaments.

Dressed in our best for a friend's wedding.
We love to sweat together.
But we certainly have our differences.  But the differences are what keep things interesting and prompt the most deep and intriguing conversations and debates. He challenges me to explain why I have the views I have or feel the way I feel about things, and vice versa.  He is inquisitive but always respectful when we don't see eye to eye on things.

Dressed up for Halloween!

He's the most loyal person I know and he takes care of the people in his life, like his mom and our beloved kitty Oscar.  

So much love between these two!

We've made a lot of memories over the years and I hope there are many more to come.

And I'm shaking then I'm still
When your eyes meet mine I lose simple skills
Like to tell you all I want is now
~ Snow Patrol
What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Falling in Love with Philly

Greetings and Happy Wednesday!  I'm back from our trip to Philadelphia and New Jersey and am starting to get a bit caught up on life.  My head is still spinning a bit as in the past 4 weeks I've been to Miami, Boston, New Jersey (for work), Chicago (for work), Mississippi (for work), Philadelphia, and Lambertville, New Jersey. Whew, that is a lot of traveling!  But I get a month off from traveling so hopefully I'll catch my breath soon!

I wanted to recap our Philadelphia trip while the memories are fresh in my mind. When I found out that my friend Alli would be getting married in a town that is on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Phil and I decided to fly in early and spend some time checking out Philadelphia. I am so glad we made this decision as we had the BEST time in Philadelphia. I had spent about a day there for work 3 years ago and had a positive experience so I thought we would like it but we actually liked it even more than we thought we would. While we have no plans to leave the Midwest, we both left Philly thinking - we could totally live here.

We flew in on Friday morning and after checking into our room at the Westin (which was in a great location) we headed out to grab some lunch. We wanted to get seafood and thanks to Yelp, we found Luke's Lobster, which was minutes away from our hotel.  This place was amazing!  They have lobster, shrimp, and crab rolls.  Phil had the crab roll and I had the lobster roll.  I have never had a lobster roll because I've never encountered a place with gluten free bread, but this place had gluten free bread which was hands down the best gluten free bread I have ever had.  I loved that the lobster salad did not have mayonnaise in it - it let the lobster meat really shine.  If you like lobster or crab and find yourself in Philly, you have to check this place out!

After fueling up, we headed out to explore the city. We covered a lot of ground as according to the step counter ap on my phone, we walked 12 miles that day, 9 of which were miles walked in Philadelphia (we covered 3 miles that morning between walking to the train and around the airport in Minneapolis).

Philadelphia's roads are a grid system so it was extremely easy to navigate. We saw sites such as Elfreth's Alley, which the oldest residential street in the U.S. which dates back to 1736!  It was so charming!

We stood in a long line to see the Liberty Bell.

And while in the viewing area of the Liberty Bell, we took in a gorgeous view of Independence Hall!  Aren't those pastel flowers stunning?  We had seen Independence Hall earlier in the day from a different vantage point but this view topped it!

We scoped out Reading Terminal Market as we were planning to eat lunch there the following day, and then we headed over to China town.

You know you are in China town when there is a window display with roasted ducks!
We ended our walking tour that day in Love Park, which is located in JFK plaza. We took my favorite picture of the trip there!

We had been walking around for 4+ hours at this point and our feet were screaming so we headed back to the hotel room to rest up for a bit before dinner. The concierge recommended an Italian place in the Rittenhouse Square area, which is the area where we were staying so we headed over there around 7.

Now this is where things get interesting!  I was facing the wall and Phil was facing out into the dining area. I heard the host bringing someone up the stairs into our section and all of a sudden Phil's eyes got VERY BIG.  He started mumbling something but I could not figure out what he was saying so I asked, "is someone famous here?" and he aggresively shook his head yes.  I discretely turned around to see Sylvester Stallone at the table behind us!!  It was the most surreal moment ever. I mean, you can't have more of an authentic Philly experience than seeing Rocky in the flesh!  It turns out that Stallone was in town promoting his new Rocky movie.  I so badly wanted to take his photo or ask to take a picture with him but Phil insisted that we let the man eat his meal in peace.  So I obliged.  I'll definitely never forget that experience, though, or the look on Phil's face when he saw him!!! 

After dinner, it was a beautiful night so we walked over to Parc, which is an adorable French bistro where we sat on their patio and had a drink.  We would also highly recommend this place as well as it was very charming and a great place for people watching as it faces Rittenhouse Square.

On Saturday morning we had a lazy morning which was nice as we were exhausted from our early flight and all the walking we did on Friday. We had an early lunch at Reading Terminal Market, which is another must see spot. I didn't take any photos but it's an area that is packed with restaurants and groceries stands where you can get fresh meat, fish, veggies, you name it.  Phil had a cheese steak sandwich and I had some yummy Indian food. After that we started to walk down Ben Franklin Avenue towards the museum area of the city.  It was a really pretty walk and in some ways it reminded me of the Champs Elysees in Paris.

The museum at the end of the road is the Art Museum which features the stairs that Rocky ran up!
We then went to the Barnes Foundation, which is a museum that features an impressive collection of art that was owned by Albert Barnes. The museum had 20+ rooms so it's pretty hard to wrap your mind around the fact that it was all acquired by one man!!  He had countless Renoirs and Cezannes as well as El Grecos, Van Goghs, Picassos, and the list goes on and on.  So much thought is put into how the art was displayed - it was definitely the most thoughtfully laid out art museum I have been to. I highly recommend this museum to others that visit Philly. It took us about 2 hours to get through the museum which is about the right amount of time for me to spend at a museum as I get museum ADD pretty fast.

After that we headed back to our car and made our way to Lambertville, NJ which was about 45 minutes away for Alli's wedding weekend festivities.  I'll share about that next week but suffice it to say that we had an amazing time!!

Have you ever been to Philadelphia?  Have you ever visited a city that you ended up liking way more than you expected?