Hello! It’s been a while.

run emmie

Hello thereI’ve been dying to post a blog, or two, or 13 – yes, I have 13 I want to post but life has been so insane and wonderful and crazy, I’m just enjoying the ride and trying to hold on.

Every once in a while I stop to eat food but that’s the lesser of the excitement going on.  So here’s just a few of my favorite, and not so favorite, things over the past few weeks.

emmie#1 – The Dog Interview:  I love my new puppy, Emmie!!  She is a husky lab (or for those techy people Siberian Retriever) mix. I adopted her on Sunday, October 13, 2013 from Wags and Whiskers Pet Rescue.  I felt like I was asked more questions in that “interview” than in my job interview (I’m telling you, my life has been crazy!). In all honestly, I would have told them my whole life story to adopt this princess.  And boy is she a princess.  Her toys take over the house and she has her own room.  She has 3 collars and 2 leashes – all pink and one has jewels.  We’ve gone on many adventures in the past 2 months including trips to the dog park and puppy play dates with friends.  She LOVES water, and treats and tennis balls.  HATES baths, people wearing hats and the vacuum.

I decided if I’m eating healthy, my dog should eat healthy too.  Giving her the best chance to be the healthiest dog, I sprung for a 4 star dog food… Nature’s Recipe Grain Free – Chicken, sweet potato and pumpkin – tis the season, right?!  Dog Food Advisor was my source for what’s the one of the best and I went with one of the first ones I found at Petsmart.  Dog Food Advisor says there are 5 start dog foods out there, but 4 stars are good too.  This was my Black Friday purchaseseriously – see I told you this dog rules my life….  Petsmart was having a Black Friday sale for $15 off this 24lb bag.  Plus there was a $4 manufacturer’s coupon so that took $19 off the original price of $47… what a steal!!!  With such a great deal, I had to buy 2 bags… so I did.   Merry Christmas Emmie, Black Friday will never be the same again!

emmie food

Looking at the ingredients of this dog food makes me think that my dog just may be eating better than me some days… however that doesn’t stop her from eating everything within her mouth’s reach.  I went to the vet earlier today to get her something for a possible worm she may have from digesting a parasite… currently she is running like a crazy monkey through the house and pacing back and forth.  I think that medicine has the same effect as digested frogs do when she manages to capture one… Just sayin’. 

#2 – The Job Interview –  Guess what?!  I got a new job!  I started my new job October 28th.  I’m the newest Financial Analysts for Allstate Benefits (yes, the you’re in good hands people)!   I am so blessed to have such a wonderful job and amazing supervisors and co-workers.  The past month and a half flew by and I’ve learned so much.  This was definitely a career shift for me and it came at no better time than me reading Sheryl Sanberg’s book Lean In.  Chapter 4 talks about “It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder” and discusses how times have changed and careers aren’t one way up ladders anymore but you have to play in the whole jungle gym, where there are multiple ways to the top and no path is clearly defined.  On a ladder you can only go up, down or not move but in jungle gym, you can switch careers, take time off, and reenter careers.  So that’s what I’m doing.  I’m climbing around my career jungle gym and can say this is one of the best decisions of my life!

image#3 – The Half Marathon –  I challenged my body to something I’ve never done before… a half marathon!  If you recall, I attempted a half back in June but got injured, went to physical therapy and enjoyed a weekend in Chicago, not running.  So about 2 weeks before the Thanksgiving Day Half in Jacksonville, I decided I had to complete one this year.  And Thanksgiving was the day to do it.  Calories Out > Calories In = Win

Yeah, it was a little crazy, but that’s the theme of the past few months.  The training only consisted of 2 long runs before the half.  My thought process was the shorter the training time, the less likelihood of injury before the race.  Who cared about after the race at that point.

So, I stuck with the schedule all but 1 day and pushed through it.  Then came race day one of the coldest Thanksgivings I can remember.  I have a little pre-race regiment I’ve been doing this year and it seems to help – Odorless Garlic and Echinacea Goldenseal for immune boosts – tearing your body down during a run (or training) is brutal!  Calcium-Magnesium-Vitamin C supplement for muscle recovery – in my mind acts like Advil.  Works for me!

run nutrients

Then came the morning of the race… 35 degrees and “icy” says my car.  I researched for hours what to wear (and went shopping – living in Florida doesn’t prepare you for this weather!)  and came to the conclusion that the following race gear would be perfect:

What better way to start the morning than a tasty breakfast!?  1 cup of coffee whatever it takes is also required on race day everyday.

run bfast

I had planned on having powergel/gu/whatevers every 30 minutes and my goal was the get done in less than 2 hours.  That would be a 9 min/mile pace.  Compared to my Gate River Run time, this was not good, but it was still a stretch goal.  By the time I hit mile 10 I was feel the endorphins – or the powergels – and my glutes.  But I felt so good I was determined to finish in under 2 hours.  And guess what, I finished in 1:53!!

run info

For my first half, I’d say I did pretty good.  I definitely want to do another one, and soon and I want to get faster.  I know I can!  But until then, it’s time to refocus on #4…

run start

#4 Becker CPA Review –  I applied to sit for my CPA exam a few months ago (I filled out the application over a year ago) but I was still hesitant of initiating the next part… studying.  Once I had my job figured out, I knew I had all my ducks in a row to enable me to put in the grueling 30 hours/week to study.  So I did it.  I signed up for the Becker CPA Review.  I decided the live class is for me and I am enjoying all 4 hours on Tuesdays/Thursdays each on top of the other 20+ hours of at home studying I’m doing supposed to be doing each week.  My first section is Audit and my exam is currently schedule for the beginning of January!  Yikes – yeah reality is starting to set in.  But you know what?  I’m focused.  I’m focused and driven to do it.  The best part is that I have full support and a cheerleading squad from work!

audit book cpa books

I took the night off from studying to #1go to the vet and get Emmie medicine, #2 make something for dinner other than quick meals in my car from point A to point B – tonight’s was sweet potato and chicken with celery and humus as an app, #3 get a gift for a work Christmas Exchange this week, #4 go to the store because I am out of toilet paper and deodorant – two essentials I can’t live without and #5 blog.  🙂

I have some exciting posts coming up, such as Volume 2 of the 12 Days of KitchenAid (here’s last year’s posts) and other crazies as I venture through this exam and watch Emmie grow up. Just in the past few minutes she ate through another toy, got the hiccups and is now passed out right next to me 🙂 rough life for the princess.

I’ll leave with a quote from Nelson Mandela“Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.” 

Find your passion and make a difference living it out!

One slow mile and a foot cramp later…

quoteable quote

I did it!  I ran again!  Ok, so it was only 1 measly little mile, in air conditioned space, on a treadmill, at 0% incline and I was extremely slow…  But hey, I ran!

For those of you who didn’t know, I have been recovering from a hip flexor injury I got a few months ago when I was training for a half marathon.  I was up to 10 miles, running strong and running fast.  Then it all plummeted.  I missed my half and have been extremely reluctant to even try to run again.  I still want to complete a half before the end of the year so time and more training will tell if I can.

Back to this one silly mile run… as I was running (maybe we should call this a fast walk instead).  So as I was fast walking, my hip surprising didn’t hurt!  I could feel my muscles engaging again but didn’t have pain!  (hallelujah, praise Jesus, yes, yes, yesssss)

Once I reached that 1.00 mile (which felt like a marathon) I decided to stop and work on some stretch and strength exercises.  Note:  I’ve noticed I spend far more time stretching than actually working out these days could this be a sign of aging!!?  Feeling pumped about my fast walking mile, I thought – hey why not try some lunges?  BAD IDEA.

I have this issue where I get these intensely-painful-want-to-cut-off-my-foot-drop -to-the-floor-in-pain foot cramps every so often.  I also will get cramps in my calves in the middle of the night where it wakes me up and I feel almost paralyzed with pain.   I’ve done some research on this and these two links below are great resources if you are experiencing any of these too.  My favorite remedyfoot massages – any takers out there want to endorse this and support my foot healing with your massage skills?!

Livestrong: How to get rid of foot cramps

Runner’s World: How to prevent foot cramps

The calf cramps haven’t happened in a while (actually, I can’t pin point when the last one was but I also try to block out that painful episode from my mind…).  However, as soon as I started doing lunges, my left foot started spazing! I couldn’t believe this.  I thought “really?!  You mean to tell me I successfully ran fast walked 1.00 mile and now I get a foot cramp!  What in the world?!”

So I stretched.  And stretched.  And stretched.  It didn’t go away so I called it a day and headed home.  With my foot still cramping, walking to the car was tough and luckily it was my left foot so my 40 minute drive home was do-able.

Experiencing a mini runner’s high from my run fast walk was very short-lived by my foot cramp.  However, it was just long enough to remember the feeling of the road/treadmill under my feet and the fresh air/recycled gym air on my face.  I love that!

Feeling productive (remember 1.00 miles is a HUGE accomplishment for me), I decided to reward myself with my favorite-at-this-moment-cookie, dark chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.  I have 2 secret tricks that I think make these amazing… grind up the oatmeal in a food processor or blender (if you broke your food processor, like I did) and grate extra chocolate in the mix…

spaghetti squash dessert

Pair with a big class of Almond Milk (or Merlot if you had a fabulous workout) and enjoy!

Chicago: One Foodie’s Journey through the Windy City

deliciousIf I had to describe Chicago in one word, I would have to say Chicago is delicious! But since I have a blog, I can describe it in as many words as I want! 🙂

Chicago really is delicious though…

  • The food. <— don’t have to say anything else about that.
  • The weather.  Sunrises over Lake Michigan were captivating.
  • The art.  Every walk and run was full of new amazing artwork.
  • The sightseeing.   Views on top of the buildings were incredible.
  • The people.  Surprisingly delightful, helpful and welcoming.

Before I go any further, I did go to Chicago June 22 – 25.  I’ve been told this is one of the best times of the year to go.  If it’s really like this more than one weekend of the year, I’m packing my bags!!  (Ok, I’m a Sunshine State girl and the thought of Chicago winters freak me out!)

Now that’s out of the way, back to my second favorite city I’ve ever been to!  From the start of my trip, I knew I had a mission to taste, see and smell all that Chicago had to offer.  All its deliciousness!

Chicago trainI started my trip Saturday morning where I learned how to use the Orange Line, buy a train ticket and witness true Chicago art in action.  Note: I was really confused about this guy on the train who pulled out a paint pen (second smell of Chicago – first was the airport food!) and made art.  My sister and I who are so-not-city-slickers just looked at each other, started laughing and wondering where the hidden cameras were.  Was this an episode of What Would You Do?  What would you do if you were in a strange place and a strange guy started drawing on a window in a moving train with about 30 other people??  The answer – just laugh and say ‘sister we’re not in Kansas anymore!’

I still don’t know if this was legal, or normal for that matter.  Any city people have an opinion?!

Chicago LouAfter the train, we took a cab to our hotel and then started the adventure for food!  I smelled something delicious and literally followed the smell.  I stopped once I lost it, turned to my sister and said “did I really just follow my nose to nowhere?!?” — at this point I thought – Chicago food – you have high expectations in my book!  We made our way to Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria for some authentic Chicago pizza.  We were so hungry we got a giant cheesestick stuffed spinach thing and it was so good (could have been the hunger at this point though).  Then the pizza came…

The pizza.  THE PIZZA.  Delicious.  Simply Delicious.  Crunchy yet soft, thick crust, hot melty cheese and flavorful sauce and sausage.  Yes. The pizza is was amazing! We devoured it.

I had 2 thoughts when I was done with this… when can I workout and where can I get MORE PIZZA??  The latter thought was clearly a higher priority than the first.

Chicago mapWhile at lunch, the planning began!  The road trip to my food adventure was mapped (literally! Check out my map pic).  Marked by numbers and dots, the must see and do Chicago places were spotted.  Yes – I went old school and used a paper map.  Yes – the accountant in me numbered everything.  Yes – I calculated the quickest and cheapest way from point to point.

After a delicious lunch and productive planning session, the trip was well under way!

Chicago Palmer House

After overestimated my hunger, dinner was out of the question.  Dessert was not.  I can never pass on dessert.  Especially when a friend specifically says “go to The Palmer House and eat the brownie in the lobby.” Need I explain more?!  My friend had me at ‘eat’…  The Lockwood Restaurant at The Palmer House Hilton IS all that it’s cracked up to be!  I treated myself with an expensive glass of wine and an overpriced dessert but it was so worth it!  Now where’s my prince charming to take me away in the horse drawn carriage?  I felt like I was in a fairy tale.  Ever rich bite of the chocolate mousse, warm brownie and soft ice cream was deliciousssss.  Yes – the portions were as small as they appear in the picture and we split it 3 ways but it was yet another successful Chicago food adventure!

Feelings after day 1: Full. Happy. In awe by the beauty and deliciousness of everything! Oh yeah – and really tired!  Thank you super comfy hotel bed!

Chicago 5kDay 2: Run Baby Run!  The reason I came to Chicago was to complete my very first half marathon at the Chicago Women’s Half and 5k.  Since my hip flexor injury about 3/4 weeks ago, I have been completely out of commission.  Walking even hurts.  Physical Therapy was helping but definitely wasn’t a miracle fix.  I decided that the half was completely out of the question but the 5k seemed attainable.

So I got up at 5:00AM (yes – they rise early in Chicago – another reason this is MY city!) and headed to the starting line which was 2 blocks from my hotel!  I LOVE runs.  Everything about them.  The runners, the spectators, the adrenaline, the music, the connection between you and the road, the testing of endurance, strength and stamina!! Gosh! It’s, well, delicious!  I was nervous, really nervous for this run because I hadn’t even tried to run for a few weeks.

The gun went off and the 5k began!  The first half mile was miserable!  I felt every step shooting pain in my hip.  I was battling pain and determination.  Adrenaline and reality.  Luckily, the pain lessened and I ran the next mile and a half strong.  Then mile 2 started and pain returned.  Not as bad as before and I was over halfway done.  The last half mile I gave it my all (which wasn’t much) and finished as strong as I could.  I wanted to cry (our of happiness for running 3 miles and pain because my hip was throbbing).  But the crowd got to me.  They cheered for everyone and I felt like I’ve accomplished something.

Chicago The Webber Grill

My run wasn’t great.  In fact, it was actually really bad for my normal pace.  But I’m so glad I finished.  So many steps I felt like walking, so many turns I felt like turning the other way.  But it was the city that kept me moving.  Every turn was a new sight.  Something Beautiful!  Skyscrapers, running under overpasses, by the lake, through Grant Park, by large artwork.  I wish I had my camera! Thank you Chicago!  You kept me running!

After a run of any sorts, I think it’s a great excuse to eat something delicious (like I need an excuse!)… The Weber Grill Restaurant was calling me!

Another recommended restaurant, The Weber Grill is known for its BBQ.  It lives up to this!  I got BBQ sliders (pulled pork, BBQ meatloaf, slow-smoked brisket) and mac-n-cheese!  YUMMM.   The BBQ sliders were amazing!  First time having brisket and it passes every test! I wasn’t a huge fan of the cheese in the mac-n-cheese but that’s a personal preference.  I like plain ol’ cheddar!

I feel like I lived the life of a tourist!

Chicago siteseeing

Feeling like a kid in a candy store or at Disney World is probably the feeling I had this day.  After lunch, we ventured to the Hancock Tower, up what felt like 100s of floors and overlooked the city!  The Navy Pier was so busy but a fun touristy stop too!  I couldn’t believe we were on a lake.  I’m used to the salt life.  Fresh water of the lake seemed weird.  I thought, would I sink without the buoyancy of salt water? Answer – after The Weber Grill- the magic 8 ball says: It is decidedly so.

Chicago nightBy day we were tourist.  By night we were, well, still tourists!  Again, this city is beautiful!  You have the peaceful water and parks then you have the busy city hype and buzz with lights, cabs and people.  All within a 5 mile area!  Best of both worlds perhaps?

The Roof bar on the top of The Wit is apparently the “it” roof bar in Chicago.  It’s a top 10 roof bar in Chicago and definitely had great ambiance!  It was a Sunday night when we went so it wasn’t super busy but it was pretty cool.  Plus roof bar?  I’m thinking that makes it cool in itself!

Chicago The BeanSo I can’t forget the Bean!  Yes, THE BEAN.  Very cool, amazing art.  At one point we realized/remembered The Bean depicts the entire city sky line… SO COOL.

There were so many people at the Bean taking pictures, I felt like I fit right in!!  Just look at these pictures!  AMAZING, right?

You know by now that I like LOVE cupcakes, right?  Well it was my mission to find a cupcake shop and try at least one.  Sprinkles was the only one within walking distance (needed to walk off all the other food previously mentioned!).  This is also not a local cupcakery but in many cities around the U.S.  (Mom and pop bakeries have my heart!).  So if I ever win the lottery, I will move to Chicago (during the “good weather” months) and sell homemade cupcakes!

Chicago cupcakes

Back to Sprinkles– The storefront was so cute!  I decided to get a carrot cake cupcake and it was VERY GOOD!  First cupcake in Chicago and I wanted another one!  Plus – check out the Dog Treats… what!?! Ok, Sprinkles might not be local, but they sold me with the dog treats.  Too bad I don’t have a dog with me. Cute. Delicious. Sprinkles.

Chicago GiordanosThe last two meals of the trip was another trip to a NEW pizza place (YESSSSS) and  to a cafe.  I watched the Blackhawk’s take home the Stanley Cup at Giordano’s Famous Chicago Pizza.  The pizza was even better than Lou Malnati’s!  (was that possible?!) and the wine delicious!  Something about pizza and wine.  What a great combo!

The pizza.  So good!  I wanted to take it home.  Well I wanted to take more home, we finished all the pizza!  I liked pizza before Chicago.  Now I love it!  I love Chicago pizza!  Carbs don’t matter in Chicago —> because you can walk to everything!

The last lunch was at Artists Cafe right down the street from our hotel.  I decided to go with homemade pretzels and a caprese salad.  Delicious.  Great choices and I felt a little healthy because I ate a tomato.  Even tomatoes taste good in Chicago!!

Finally, Tuesday evening my trip ended with a direct flight (thank goodness I was exhausted!) back to Jax.  Sad to be home but so happy to have gotten to see so much in such a short trip.  Truly a foodie’s paradise city.  Could I live there? Honestly – maybe!  I fell in love with the city.  No complaints at all.  The cold weather may just give me an excuse to travel more and appreciate Florida in a different way?!

This whole finding what makes you happy, what you love, is wonderful. And DELICIOUS!  Finding love is going to be fun!!

Next city – who knows?  Any recommendations out there?

Chicago: I came. I saw. I ate. I conquered!