Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Stars

December is probably my favorite month of the year and a big part of it is because of Christmas, my favorite holiday. While the season is often crammed with parties, events and other festivities, it is important to remember the stars who have guided us through life.

Two of those stars are my parents. They supported me and guided me. They taught me the importance of hard work and to never give up. They showed me unconditional love and what a strong marriage looks like. They also started some of the Christmas traditions I continue today.

Another star is my grandmother. She passed away several years ago, but she taught me the value of an education and that you can never have enough. It is partly thanks to her that I obtained my masters and started my PhD. I think she would be very proud of the role that education plays in my life today.

My husband is another star I am thankful for this holiday season. He has been my biggest supporter and cheerleader. He has sacrificed a ton for the betterment of our family as a whole. Everyday I wakeup thankful that I get to spend it with such an amazing man.

This year, I am excited to remember these stars and many others when I hang this star ornament on my tree. 

This star is from the Macy's Heart of Haiti collection. This collection features a variety of home decor items including quilts, metalwork, jewelry and paintings that are made almost entirely from recycled and sustainable. When you purchase items from this collection, you help Haiti and the artists that live there. It is a way to provide support through "trade not aid"

The people of Haiti are some of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere and this is a way to support people trying to better their lives through employment. At this point the Heart of Haiti program has employed 780 artisans, and helped improve the lives of over 6,200 people including many women and children. It is a great way to give in multiple ways at the same time.

To help get you in the holiday spirit, I have a Macy's Heart of Haiti collection star to give away. To enter, please leave a comment below. A winner will be randomly chosen on December 27. 

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own. #CleverHaiti

Thursday, December 13, 2012

4 Years

Today my husband and I celebrate our 4th anniversary. It has been a crazy few years, but through it all, I have had my biggest fan and supporter by my side. I am so lucky to be married to my best friend.

Happy 4th Anniversary to us!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Traditions

My husband and I met, courted and got married here in Orlando. Over that time we developed a number of traditions. Now that we are back here, it is so nice to be able to participate in them again.

One of those traditions was Candlelight Processional at Epcot. I fell in love with Candlelight when I was working at Epcot during my college program. It is the combination of a full orchestra, large choir and the Christmas story. Several of my favorite things. 

I introduced my husband to Candlelight the Christmas after we started dating and we went at least once a year. It was one of the many things I always missed while living away.

Since it was our first year back, we decided to go all out this year and do one of the dinner packages. It was also a great way for us to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary.
Happy Anniversary to us!

We started the night off with dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel at the Mexico pavilion. The table was nice and cozy and right next to the water. With the dinner package, you get a ton of food. We had an appetizer, main course and dessert. It was all really good and I was very full at the end. I should have taken pictures of dinner, but I forgot.

After dinner, we took a ride on the boats in Mexico and then wondered around the countries for a bit. It is always fun to explore the pavilions. I love the ornaments in Germany and the unique finds in Japan.

We had great seats.
Then it was showtime. Since we had reserved seating for the show, we walked up about 20 minutes before the show. It was great, because we got seats right in the middle. 

As always, the show was amazing. The narrator was not my favorite, but honestly you could put just about anyone in there and I would be happy.

After the show, we did a little shopping. Took a look at the new test track and headed home. It was a weeknight, so I didn't want to be out to late.

So pretty.
This is just one of my favorite Christmas traditions. What are some of your favorite traditions?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

November - The Month of Birthdays

Now that we live in Florida again, November means one thing...birthdays. While most people are thinking about turkey and stuffing, we are getting ready for three very special birthdays all at the end of November. My sister-in-law, nephew and youngest niece are all Thanksgiving babies. While we went the traditional gift route for the my sister-in-law, we took the kids on a couple of special birthday adventures.

First off was our nephew, who turned 7 this year. It still blows my mind that he is 7. He was just a few months old when my husband and I met. We took him to Gatorland the Saturday before his birthday to celebrate.

We got to the park about one in the afternoon and went on the train first. This was actually a really great way to get a feel for the park and see where things are located. We then headed to the gator jumparoo show. Here trainers get the gators will jump for food. While it was the perfect fall day for us (about 75 degrees and sunny), it was still a little chilly for the gators.

After the show, my husband took the nephew to look a the snakes (I am deathly afraid so I waited for them in another area). Then we saw the white alligators. They were mostly white with blue eyes and something you definitely don't see everyday.
Even this picture gives me chills.

Next up was the close encounters show. Here you got to get up close and personal with a number of creepy creatures, including 3 snakes. This was not my favorite show. My husband got chosen as a volunteer and I thought I was going to lose him, but thankfully he survived. After the show, we went to feed the gators. They were still moving a little slow and not really fighting over the food, but it was neat to see them so close.
I think he has a career.

Then came the gator wrestling. Before the show began, my nephew got a chance to be a junior gator wrestler and sit on a gator for a photo. A different gator was chosen for the actual show and he was feisty. Which made for a great show.

We then headed out into the gator breading marsh and got up close and personal with some pretty large gators. We also climbed to the top of the observation deck and took a look at all the gators in the marsh.

Last up was a photo with a gator. This was on my nephew's list all day and I was excited it turned out well. I knew Gatorland would be fun, but I was really impressed with the park. There was a lot to do and it is someplace we will go again. They have zip lines over the gator pit and that sounds like my kind of fun.

While coming up with something to do with a 7 year old boy was easy, we had to rack our brain for somewhere to take my 4 year old niece for her birthday. Especially since the theme parks were out—they would have caused some major sibling rivalry. After a bit of brainstorming, we settled on taking her to ICE! at Gaylord Palms. It had been a number of years since we had gone and the addition of the characters from the movie Madagascar made it sound like a great place for a 4 year old.

A couple of days after her birthday, we picked her up after work and we headed to the resort. Trying to explain ICE! to a 4 year old was a little difficult, but she was excited. When we go there, she wanted her hat and scarf on immediately. 

Gingy the Gingerbread man was out taking photos when we arrived, but she was not really interested. The penguins were another story. She was excited to meet and get a photo with some of her favorite animals. It was super sweet to see her give them both big hugs.

I need to either stand or kneel. I look so awkward.

After the penguins, we went into the pre-show area and got the background story about how Santa had ended up in Madagascar. It was really cute and then it was time for our parkas. My niece was super excited to put on both her coat and the blue ICE! parka. She may not have been able to move, but she was going to be warm.

We entered the ICE! area and I swear it is colder than it used to be. Or, I may just be more of a wuss. We walked through the display and took a few pictures. We thought the ice slides were going to be a hit, but she wasn't interested, so we moved on. I think ICE! may have been colder than my Florida born niece was expecting, but she seemed to enjoy it. 

Man it was cold.

After returning our coats, we headed into the resort to take a look at the decorations and other Christmas items. I often forget just how nice of a resort it is. She enjoyed seeing everything except the alligators. (Good thing we didn't take her to Gatorland.) After exploring the resort, we headed home and called it a night.

Now that birthday month is over, it is time for Christmas month to begin. Christmas is my favorite holiday, so I am super excited. We have some really exciting plans for the holiday this year.

What is the most fun you have ever had for a birthday? What is your favorite holiday?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Stepping Bravely into 2007

This week has been insane. We got back to Orlando at about 1 a.m. Monday morning, then had two birthday celebrations this week and I have been battling the plague (or maybe just a really bad cold) since we landed. Then to top it all off, my phone died.

On Monday, it seemed like it just wouldn't charge, but after doing some troubleshooting I soon realized that it was a bigger problem. The phones power system was on the fritz and that meant I got about 45 minutes of idle time or one short phone call when I put in a fresh battery. Not optimal.

Now, I really can't complain. I got about two and a half years out of the phone with just one minor issue. That said, it was beyond the point of trying to fix it and we just needed to suck it up and buy a new phone, or actually phones, since my husband's phone was the same age as mine

After looking at the phone options we decided on the iPhone 4s. I really wanted the Samsung galaxy 3, but after really looking at it it wasn't worth the extra hundred dollars. Since I need to keep this phone for the next two years, I wasn't willing to take the risk on the new Windows phone. It looks really fun, but we'll see if it catches on. I wanted access to lots of apps.

My new and old phones. BB you will be missed.
I am a klutz, so a heavy duty case was a
must for the iPhone.

Since I spent most of yesterday on the couch sick, I had some time to play with my new toy. So far the things that I like about the phone include: access to aps, a better camera and a display that acts more like a computer. The things that I am not loving are no external message indicator (I liked my blinky red light), no separate mailbox icons (I have too many email addresses), not having google maps and the weight and size of the phone. Like most Apple products it is much heavier than it looks like it should be.

It is great to have a phone. It is frightening how lost I felt without one. Almost like missing an appendage. I am just hoping the iPhone behaves better than the Mac I have for work. That thing is constantly giving me problems.

What type of phone do you have? Do you love it? Any must have aps? 


Thursday, November 22, 2012

So Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving and as I write this, I am sitting in Wisconsin with my family watching football after a delicious turkey dinner. I am so thankful for everything that I have been blessed with and that I get to enjoy this day with my family. While some things change, it is always comforting to come home and enjoy the holiday traditions from childhood.

There are a number of people who thought we were crazy for traveling 1,200 miles for 3 days, but I am very thankful that I am able to do it. I am also thankful for a full table, a wonderful and supportive family and an amazing husband that supports me and my crazy ideas.

To say that this year has been a roller coaster would be an understatement to say the least. There have been times when I have been discouraged, but overall, I have truly been blessed with many good things.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving. Enjoy the food and your family.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wining and Dining

One of my favorite Orlando fall traditions is the annual food and wine festival at Epcot. It is a combination of some of my favorite things—food, wine and Disney World. This was one of the events we went to every year when we lived in Orlando before. I was super excited that we would be able to go again this year.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I headed down to spend the day at the festival. It seemed like everyone was going that day. In addition to sampling the deliciousness of the festival, we had signed up for a seminar with Hollis Wilder, the founder of my favorite cupcake shop Sweet!
Easy access gift card

We got to the park at about 1 p.m. and the parking lot was packed. I figured it would be busy, but didn't realize how busy. We started out at the festival center where we picked up a gift card (to make payment easier and stay within our budget for the day), enjoyed some Girhadelli pumpkin chocolate and checked out the Chase lounge.

After the welcome center, we headed to the World Showcase to start snacking around the world. Over the course of the day, we tried a number of things over the day. After trying many things over about 8 hours, I can't even begin to pick a favorite. I am also a terrible blogger and do not have a single picture of what we ate or drank while there.

Waiting in line for something delicious
In addition to the food, we tried a number of beers. I know it is called the food and wine festival, but this year they had a large beer selection and I though it was really cool. We had a number of delicious beers, but the Schöfferhofer Grapefruit, was muy favorite. I was a little hesitant about a grapefruit beer, but it was delicious.

One of our main reasons for going to the festival that weekend was to see Hollis from Sweet! She was there promoting her new book and showing off some of her new recipes. She made a chicken apple hand pie. It was delicious and even better when accompanied by cupcakes.

Miss Holly Cooking Away
After eating and drinking the day away, we hung out and watched the fireworks. Those always make me happy!

The Food and Wine Festival is one of my favorite fall traditions. What are some of yours?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Coming Home

Homecoming for the University of Central Florida was this weekend and for the first time since 2008 I got to celebrate. Living about 10 minutes from campus really has its advantages.

I did not do my undergrad degree at UCF. That was done at a small state school in Wisconsin where most students commuted to campus for classes and then left. Needless to say, while the education was good, the student experience left a lot to be desired. 

In 2004, after realizing that I chose the wrong major, I came to UCF to get my Masters degree and change my career trajectory. Over the next two years, the education and opportunities I received at UCF did just that. I even met my husband through one of my internships during grad school. Because of this I consider UCF "my school."

The festivities started on Friday when I took a late lunch to take part in one of the coolest homecoming traditions ever—Spirit Splash. It is a very unique pep rally that takes advantage of the fact that November in Central Florida has beautiful weather. In the center of the UCF campus there is a fountain and during Spirit Splash students and others get to play in the fountain. I have never gotten in, but it is fun to see several thousand people in the fountain.

Saturday was gameday. We had gone back and forth about going to the game this year, it has been a busy fall, but a friend of mine offered us tickets, so we couldn't refuse. Since going to the game was a last minute decision, we didn't tailgate, but did hit up the indoor tailgate at the alumni center. We hung out for a bit and ran into a number of people we knew.

We headed to the staduim to make sure to see the pregame festivities. They had some fun things going on outside the stadium, including samples from Mellow Mushroom, one of my favorite places. I also got a chance to hang out with Knighto.

The game was good. UCF kicked some butt and won 42 to 17. We actually left about a third of the way through the fourth quarter. UCF was up by 32 at that point, and if they would have lost, I wouldn't have wanted to see it.

It was great to attend UCF homecoming this year, and I think it will be a tradition now that we are back in Orlando. I felt like i really was coming home.

What do you consider "your school"? Was it the school you attended for  undergrad or somewhere else?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Foodie Pen Pals

This month I tried the Foodie Pen Pal program. A couple of months ago, I stumbled across the program that Lindsay at the Lean Green Bean hosts. I thought it was a fun idea, but I was in the middle of moving and other life craziness so I didn't have the time. Now that I am settled, I figured I would give it a try.

Sarah at Yummo Eats was my pen pal. She is originally from New Zealand, but currently lives in Colorado. Sarah was super sweet, and she even sent me a cookie recipe I had been searching for. I still need to make them, but at least I have the recipe now.

My box was absolutely amazing. When my husband saw it, he commented that she must know us well. I gave her some general guidelines, mostly about things I don't like, but I think she somehow took a peak into our pantry before putting together the package. It was filled with peanut butter cups, dark chocolate, granola, and nut butters.

All of the things she included were good and I loved that they were all from companies close to her location in Colorado. I didn't realize that there were so many great companies there. The Nude Food bar was my least favorite, but for a raw, vegan, soy free and dairy free bar, it could have been worse. It actually worked well as a post run, pre-church snack to split with my husband.

My favorite item in the box was Sarah's homemade pumpkin spice almond butter. It was really delicious. She is starting a small online company called squirrel butters where she sells a variety of homemade nut butters. 

  First I would like to offer Sarah a huge thank you. I really appreciate everything you sent. I am super happy I participated in the foodie pen pals program this month and I am excited to see what next month holds.

If you are interested in the program, here is the scoop:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
-Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We've determined things might get too slow and backed up if we're trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 

You can also check out Lindsay's blog for more details.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Run Nona 5k Recap

Today I did something that I haven't done in years....a 5k. I realized a couple of months ago that I have done a number of races since I really started running regularly, but I haven't done a 5k. There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is that my short training runs are more than 3.1 miles, so it seemed a little silly to run a race that is shorter than a short training run. That said, I wanted to have a 5k time to use for training and comparison, so I put it on my to do list.

It was perfect timing when my husband asked if I wanted to do the Run Nona 5k. He works in Lake Nona and several of his coworkers had signed up. The race was inexpensive and you got a tech shirt, so I was in. I am a sucker for a decent race shirt.

I picked up our race packets at Track Shack earlier this week. I do enjoy getting race packets there, because it is always really quick and the staff is friendly. It is also close enough to work that I can get them on my lunch break.

Far View of the Start

This morning we left the house about 7 a.m. and got to Lake Nona around 7:30 a.m. Since it was a pretty small race, there was no traffic and we were able to get in and parked easily. We hit the bathrooms and then headed to the start to take a look at all the costumes. 

At 8 a.m. the horn sounded and we were off. It is still a little strange for me when there is no lead up to the start. I think I ran too many large long-distance events and have a slightly warped perspective. Often, there is a person with a microphone getting the crowd excited.

UCF College of Medicine
The race was an out and back that started in front of the UCF College of Medicine, ran past the VA hospital under construction, into one of the neighborhoods being developed in the area and then back. While there are a number of large companies in Lake Nona, the area is still very much in development. At one point we had cows on one side of us and a field on the other. I think that was part of why this race get people to Lake Nona.

The run felt good this morning. It was just a little chilly, but that was the wind more than the actual temperature. My final time was 39:09. A faster pace than either of the other races I have done recently. I also felt like I could go another couple of miles.

Running a 5k was fun. It is not my favorite distance, but something I may have to do again soonish. What is your favorite race distance?

P.S. Sorry fo the terrible pictures. I just had my cell phone and I need a new phone with a better camera.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Return of the Oatmeal

I have a strange love of oatmeal. I know there are a lot of people who are not fans of the stuff, but I really enjoy the chewy, heartiness of it. You add in the fact that oatmeal contains a ton of good for you things in it and it is a win-win food. All that said, the last thing I want to eat after a hot, humid, 5:30 a.m. run in Florida is a hot bowl of oatmeal.

This problem lead me on a quest to find a creative, yet still nutritious way to have my oatmeal. I wanted something that picked up on the satisfying chewiness of the oats without adding a lot of sugar or fat. After searching on the interwebs, I found two interesting options that seemed like what I was looking for.

I started with these pumpkin oatmeal cups from Green Lite Bites. I pretty much followed the recipe, but added cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice instead of the pumpkin pie spice. I tend to go a bit heavy on the spices, because in my house there is no such thing as too much cinnamon. These were delicious and super easy to make. I love all things pumpkin and these are a great mix of oats and pumpkin.

Then I made these baked oatmeal snack bars from Kath Eats Real Food. I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk instead of the regular milk because it was in the house. I also upped the cinnamon (surprise, surprise). I used cranberries, golden raisins and sunflower seeds in mine. These were also very good. The fruit gave them some sweetness, but was not overpowering.

Overall, both recipes were good. I like the oatmeal cups because it makes them really portable. This also makes it easier for me to have my oatmeal in the car on the way to work, which happens more often than it should.

I know oatmeal is a strange food to love. What are some of your unique food favorites?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

U Can Finish 5 Miler

As a UCF Alumni, I have a soft spot for just about anything UCF, so when I saw this race on the TrackShack website, it was a must do. It was a bonus that the race was close to home and easy to get too. My husband and I met while we were both working for UCF, so he was more than willing to run this race with me.

U Can Finish...really...even at UCF
I got up about 6 a.m. and after a mini bagel with peanut butter, we were on our way. It was nice not having to fight traffic or mass transportation to make it to the race.

At 7:30 the gun sounded and we were off, it was a bit crowded for the first half-mile or so, but after that things spread out. The course took you around the stadium, then wound through campus. You also got to run past my favorite part of campus, the fountain, twice! The only thing missing was Knightro.

Since I am still building my endurance back, we used 2min/1min run walk intervals. This is the shortest race I have done in a long time and the 5 miles flew by. My final finish time was just under 66 minutes. Not winning any land speed records, but it felt really good. It was nice to have a race like that.

For this race we decided to go VIP. The combination of beer, nice restrooms and a donation to the UCF Alumni foundation made it an easy decision. After the race we grabbed our beers and some food from the VIP area. The beer was good, the food was nothing special but it was all worth it for these superfly glasses.

I think I am going to wear these every run!

The race was really well managed and organized. Packet pick up was super easy. After the Twilight Zone 10 Miler a couple of weeks ago, it was nice to have an easy race with less ciaos and some space on the course.

In addition to a great race at a fun location, the weather this morning was beautiful. Fall has finally come to central Florida and I am loving it. This race is a must do again next year. What are some of your must do races?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Race Recap - Tower of Terror 10 Miler

My husband and I are pretty big fans of Run Disney races, so when they announced a new race last fall, we knew we wanted to do it. As soon as registration opened last February, we paid our money and officially put the race on our calendar.

There have been a lot of ups and downs getting here, but I am very happy to say that Saturday night, we finished the Inaugural Tower of Terror 10 Miler. It wasn't my best race or my fastest, but I finished.

Feeling Festive with My New
Headband and Lights

After work on Friday, the husband and I headed to the race expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. The expo was smaller and far less crazy that previous Disney race expos. While it wasn't that big, I was super excited to see Sparkly Soul was there. I have wanted one of these headbands for a while, but never got around to actually ordering it, so this made it easy. Like a bad blogger, I forgot to bring my camera to the expo. I took a few photos on my phone, but they are terrible, so I will spare you those.

Saturday, I got up early and took care of the boring chores that always have to get done on the weekend (grocery shopping, laundry,etc.). I then headed back to bed at about 2:30 p.m. to try and get in a decent nap before the race. Since I am often in bed before 10 p.m. when the race was scheduled to start, I was a little nervous about how I was going to make it to the finish.

On the Bus and Awake

After napping and getting ready, we headed down to Disney and made it to the Wide World of Sports at about 7:30 p.m. Then it was on a bus to Disney's Hollywood Studios where the race started. I have to say that the bus ride to the start was not so bad, but I would have loved to walk to my car when the race was over.

We checked our bags and hung our with some much faster friends until about 9 p.m. Then it was time to hit the porta-potties and get into our corrals. At about 9:30 p.m., they began to walk us down to the starting area. At 10 p.m., with a burst of fireworks, the first corral was off. We were released about 5 minutes later, with more fireworks. I think that all races should start with fireworks.

The Start of the First Wave
I love Fireworks
After starting at Hollywood Studios, the course snaked its way through Disney property over to the Wide World of Sports Complex. There we got to do about a mile of off road running followed by a trek through the sports fields, a run around the stadium and then out the main part of the complex. Then we headed back to Hollywood Studios with about the last mile and a half in the park, before making the final turn and finishing behind the Tower of Terror.

As a whole, the course was alright, but not spectacular. There were a lot of places where it was really narrow, and there did not seem to be as much entertainment along the route as I have seen at other Disney races. Also, while we weren't expecting it,  my husband summed it up best when he said, "it is kind of let down not running though a castle." That being said, the course was well supported with lots of water stops and volunteers.

This was the first race I have run in a really long time without a time goal, which was good, because between the humid weather and the packed course, I would have probably been disappointed. At about mile 7, I was ready to be done and go to bed. I still haven't looked at my official race time, but my watch said we finished in about 2:25.

I Was Too Tired to Stop
for a Better Picture
The worst part of the race was actually after you finished. They were good about handing you water, powerade and snacks close to the finish, but since you were backstage there was no good place to stop. You also had to walk from behind the Fantasmic! Stadium all the way over to Indiana Jones and down the stairs of the stadium to get your bag. It seemed much further than it really was and at that point, all I really wanted was dry clothes and to sit down.

We ended up changing, but not staying for the party. I was beat and didn't feel great. I think that part of it was that I was dehydrated and hungry. I still am not sure how you fuel for a night race, but what I did this time didn't work that well.

I have to say that the Tower of Terror 10 Miler was fun, but not my favorite race. It was a unique experience and I am really happy I got to participate in the inaugural race. That said, I don't know how many night races I see in my future.

Have you ever run a night race? Any tips for staying awake or eating for the race?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Beer Tasting at Orlando Brewing

One of the things I always said about moving back to Orlando was that if we got the opportunity to move back, we would really take advantage of the area and explore the city. When we lived here, there were a number of things that I never got around to doing, and when I left I really felt like I missed out.

We have no plans on leaving Orlando anytime soon, or ever really, but I still want to make sure I do some of those "someday" things we missed the first time. It is also important to me that we explore the city. A couple of weeks ago, Living Social was running a deal for a beer tasting at Orlando Brewing. It sounded like our kind of Fresh from Florida company.

Last week was long and exhausting week, so by morning Friday I was already ready for a drink. It seemed like a perfect day to use the deal. I called and they had a reservation for that night. I was super excited that I was able to get a reservation for the same day.

After work, we grabbed a quick dinner at the Drunkin Monkey, my favorite coffee shop, and then headed to the brewery. The building is in an industrial area a little South of downtown. We weren't really sure what to expect, so we got to Orlando Brewing about a half hour before our tasting.

While we were waiting, we each grabbed a beer. I had a Miami Weiss and my husband had a Brown Ale. The Weiss was really light and refreshing. I am a fan of wheat beers and this one didn't dissapoint.

Then came the tasting. It included 5oz. glasses of eight different beers. All of the beers were good. In addition to the Miami Weiss, my favorites were the Blonde Ale and the Blackwater Porter.

Overall, the brewery was great. The bar area was really laid back and they had a beautiful copper bar. I love that the beer is organic and made on sight. I am really excited to find even more unique places and things to do in Orlando.

Do you ever look for new things in your town? What are some of your favorite local places?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sitting Out Race Season

For the first time in a long time, I only have one race on the schedule. After the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler on September 29, my race calendar is empty. Last year at this time, I had a half marathon and a full marathon on the schedule. I keep seeing people blog about fall race plans and it makes me a little sad I don't really have any.

To make me more antsy, I finally got back into a running routine this week and I am getting my stride back. I had two short runs during the week and a 6-miler on Saturday. They were all ridiculously slow, but I am less worried that I am going to die during the 10 miler.

At this point I have no idea what the fall will hold. There are a number of races I would like to do, but I it will be last minute registrations. I plan on running a couple times during the week and then doing some longer runs on the weekend, but nothing over 8 or 10 miles.

We are still trying to start a family this fall and hoping things go better this time. There is nothing that suggests that running had anything to do with my miscarriage, but it still makes me nervous. Then again, there are lots of things that make me nervous now. I have not decided , but I am thinking that once I get pregnant again, I will stop running for a while. Walking, swimming and yoga will be my exercise. I will talk to my doctor and go from there.

For right now, my race wish list is getting longer. What are your race plans this fall?

Monday, September 3, 2012


I can't believe that Labor Day weekend is just about over. This summer was really long and really short at the same time. It did a number on my running routine.

I really need a running reset. Being pregnant, losing the baby, starting a new job and moving 900 miles have all taken a toll on my training this summer. I have a 10 mile race coming up the end of September and I don't remember the last time I had a week with 10 miles, let alone a single 10 mile run.

Before you think I am too crazy, we registered for this race back in February when I was still on my post marathon high. When I got pregnant, this race became highly questionable, but since I am no longer pregnant, I don't have a good reason not to run. It also gives me motivation to really get my butt back into shape. I have been doing shorter runs on and off this summer, but my normal consistency has been nonexistent.

I don't have any time goals for this race, but I have some training and fitness goals for the month. I am hoping that putting them in writing will help keep me accountable. This month I am going to:
  • Run three days a week
  • Cross train at least one day week (swimming, spin, yoga, etc.)
  • Strength train at least one day a week (I have really been slacking here)
  • Eat reasonably (I have been better about this since unpacking the kitchen)
This is a bit ambitious, but I need something to kick-start a strong, healthy and happy Fall. What do you do when your routine needs a reset?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Coming Full Circle

Almost exactly three years ago my husband and I packed up all our belongings, loaded them into a moving truck and drove 1,200 miles north to Michigan. After a brief detour in Virginia, tomorrow we will pack up all our belongings and drive 700 miles south, back to Orlando. Ending up about two miles from where we used to live. It is amazing how things are so similar, but so different at the same time.

Three years ago, I was working for a great organization, but thought I would be happier if I had my doctorate. Today, I am in a slightly different position with the same organization, and am enjoying every second of it.

Three years ago, I was just newly married and not sure what the impact of all these changes would have on my marriage. Today, after lots of changes and and challenges, our relation is stronger than ever and I know we can get through everything.

Three years ago, I missed the seasons and thought I wanted to live somewhere with four seasons. Today I realize that seasons are highly overrated. While I agree that the fall can be absolutely beautiful, I have no desire to deal with winter again...ever.

Three years ago, I thought my husband and I could do it completely on our own. Today I realize that while we can do it on our own, it is a lot more fun to live life with friends and family close by.

I am not looking forward to the actual moving process, but I cannot wait to be settled back in Orlando. I may not have been born and raised there, but in many ways, Orlando feels like home.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Loss Like No Other

So, as some of you may have noticed, my blog has been a bit quiet for a while. I haven’t been posting because a lot of changes have been taking place, but I wasn’t ready to share them publicly, so there wasn’t much to talk about. Now I am ready to start sharing both the good and the bad going on in our lives. This post is about the bad and is probably the hardest thing I have ever written. 

It has also taken a while for me to be able to share this. I needed to process what happened before I could talk about it on this blog. Please be forewarned that it may be uncomfortable or hard for some people to read. That being said, I want to share with the hope that it may give comfort or insight to someone going through a similar situation. 

I mentioned in my recap of the Marine Corps half marathon that I had figured out why my runs had gotten so hard and why I really struggled during that race. Well, that was because my body was busy burning energy getting pregnant. My husband and I had decided that it was time to start working on starting a family, so I went off birth control. We figured it would take a few months to get pregnant, so I never made the connection that it may be why I was struggling with my running. Two days after the half marathon when something felt strange, so I took a pregnancy test or three. 

We were super excited that having a family was going to be a reality. It meant that I didn’t drink while we were in Las Vegas, which made for an interesting trip. Did the usual and I purchased a couple of books to figure out what we should be doing to give this little baby the best home possible. My husband and I started making plans and doing little things to get ready. We didn’t tell anyone we were pregnant until after our first doctor’s appointment. 

On June 13, we had our first appointment with my OB/GYN. During that appointment, we had our first ultra sound. We saw what looked almost like a baby, and the heartbeat was strong beating at 146 bpm. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. There was a life growing inside of me. The expected due date was January 28. It was going to be an amazing start to the new year. 

After that appointment, we started telling people. We told our families on Father’s Day and started telling close friends soon after. Since we have friends and family scattered all over the place, we told as many as possible in person. I even gave my husband his first Father’s Day gift. 

At the same time, we had an excellent opportunity drop into our lives and decided that we would take it. This meant that we would be moving and taking a new job in just a few weeks. I will talk more about that in a future post, but moving meant finding a new doctor. To get ready for the move, I had a follow up appointment with my original doctor on June 27. Everything still looked good, but it was too early to hear the heartbeat, so I was released to my new doctor. 

On Tuesday, July 17, I had my first appointment with my new doctor. I had some spotting over the weekend and called first thing Monday to see if I could move my appointment. The nurse reassured me that some spotting was normal and my appointment for the next day would be fine. I went in for my appointment and told the doctor what was going on. She said it could be normal, but wanted to take a look. 

We moved from the exam room to the ultrasound room. I got up on the table and the doctor turned on the machine and inserted the wand. On the screen appeared the baby, but something looked off. The doctor walked me through what she was doing—taking measurements and looking at the baby. She told me that the baby wasn’t moving, and that it was measuring about 8 weeks 1 day—I was supposed to be just over 12 weeks at that point. She also said that she couldn’t see a heartbeat and it couldn’t be found with the Doppler. It was much later that I realized, that the missing flicker of the heartbeat was what looked off initially. 

At this point, I was alone at the doctor’s office—it was just supposed to be a routine appointment so I didn’t worry about my husband coming with me. I was told that I had three options. 
  1. Let my body miscarry naturally
  2. Use drugs to induce my body to pass the tissue
  3. Have a D&C – this would mean going under general anesthesia 
My doctor was really amazing and told me that I didn’t have to make a decision immediately. I knew that time wouldn’t really make it any easier and after some thought; I decided I would try the drugs. My body obviously wasn’t getting the appropriate signals and I really didn’t want to have surgery unless I absolutely had too. At this point, I also wasn’t sure if my husband would be able to make it to Florida, so I wanted to avoid anesthesia. 

She wrote me a prescription and walked me through the next steps. I then went to make the hardest phone call I ever had to make. I called my husband and told him that our baby had died. We also talked about our options and I told him what I thought would be best. He reached out to tell his family and booked a flight to come down the next day. I called my family and let them know and my mom booked a flight to come down and make sure I was okay. 

I collected myself and went back to work and sat through the longest orientation ever. Since I had only been there two weeks, I felt like I couldn’t miss too much, but I was not exactly engaged. My supervisor was really amazing and told me to do what I needed too and we would figure it out later. 

I went and filled my prescription and headed back to the doctor’s office late that afternoon. My doctor walked me through what I should expect in the next day or so and inserted the medication vaginally. I headed back to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s house where I had been staying since I started my new job. 

It was going to be a long night, so I grabbed pizza with my brother-in-law and tried to begin to wrap my head around what was going on. A few hours later I started to have some cramping. At first, it just felt like normal menstrual cramps, but got progressively worse. They were the worst cramps I have ever experienced. My stomach was also slightly upset and crampy. I was getting chills. I knew that this was what was supposed to happen, but it still felt very surreal. 

The doctor said it would probably take between 12 and 24 hours for the tissue to pass. For me, it was more like about 5 hours. I went to use the bathroom, had a terrible cramp, and then a lot of blood and other tissue came out. It was followed by another one and some additional blood and tissue a few minutes later. After that many of my symptoms got better, but I was still cramping and bleeding a lot. 

That night I went to bed about midnight. I set my alarm to wake me up about every two hours, just so I could make sure I was still alive. By six the next morning I couldn’t sleep anymore, but felt really rough. It would be another 4 hours before my husband and mom would be here. 

I spent most of the day after on the couch hanging out with my husband and mom. I cried until I didn’t feel like there were any more tears left in me. It felt like I had lost a piece of myself. I also spent a lot of time on the internet trying to figure out what happened and how to deal with the pain and the grief. It felt like we were losing something that had know about for a lot more than 8 weeks. 

On Thursday I went back to the doctor to make sure everything had passed. Luckily my body did what it was supposed to do and I didn’t have to go in for a D&C. That was a relief, because at that point, I really wasn’t sure I could have dealt with surgery. It was the first piece of “good” news I had gotten that week. 

I know I have been very blessed in life, but losing that little baby was the hardest thing I have ever been through.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Run Amuck 2012 - Race Recap

My life has been a little crazy the past couple of months, but I am not quite ready to share the craziness yet. What I do want to share with you right now is this race experience. It is a bit late for a review, but that seems to be my theme right now. 

Celebrating after the finish.
A couple of months ago a good friend of mine mentioned she would like to do a mud race. I was quick to say, “let’s sign up,” and persuade her it was a great idea. I may have also been on a high from the half marathon. A mud race has also been on my list for a while. It was a new adventure and something to keep me motivated during the lull between my spring half marathon and fall race training. 

The race was at the Marine Corps Base located in Quantico, VA, and about an hour and a half north of Richmond. 

We had to pick up our packets on race day, so we were up early on Saturday, June 16. I met up with my friend, and after a quick stop for some coffee, we were on our way. Luckily we didn’t hit traffic and were up there in no time. We picked up our packets and then watched the first few waves of runners head out. They grouped runners into waves of a 100 people to make sure the course didn’t get too crowded. Neither one of us had done a race like this before, so we were pretty conservative with our finish time estimates and this put us into one of the last waves to go. 

About 9:30 a.m. we lined up to start and shortly after, we were off. After a short run on the roads and around part of the track, we were off to the obstacles. The first was a set of stairs with a gauntlet of Marines at the top. Once out of the gauntlet, we hit the bases off-road trails. 

This was after cleaning up
Over 3.5 miles, you traveled through a number of obstacles including, an A-frame, crawling through trenches, carrying an ammunition box, a cargo net, two mud pits and then running under a fire hose and to the finish. Most of the running was on the trails the Marines use to train. I was prepared for running on the dirt, but I forgot that Virginia has lots of hills. While the obstacles were tough, the hills were killer. 

By the end of the race we were super muddy and the fire hose was a great last obstacle. After the finish, we grabbed some snacks and headed to the grass to clean up a bit. Not that it really helped. Needless to say, we didn’t bring our shoes home. 

This was my second Marine Corps event and I have to say that they do an amazing job with events. The Marine Corps marathon is definitely on my must do list.