July 31, 2011

(Mostly) Silent Sundays: Animals of the Hoosier State

Last weekend (has it been a week already? sniffle...) I flew out to Indiana to spend four-ish incredible days with my wonderful hubby. I'll write a little more about the fun things we did in tomorrow's post (which also marks two months -- woohoo!), but I wanted to share a few pictures today. These are from our trip at the zoo, which was blazing hot but still pretty fun!

On the way into downtown Indianapolis
Dan is excited to see some animals...
red panda panting in the heat
sleepy tiger
Dan's favorite: the brown bear
This sign just cracked me up -- we did see some elephants, but apparently some days you can get up close and personal with them. I don't think any of us were too sorry that this wasn't an option on that day!
Dan and I love King Julian from Madagascar, so we were excited to see these guys and wondered if they all talked like Sacha Baron Cohen
adorable young giraffe
very cool looking bird
king of the jungle
this guy was digging a hole under the fence.... we didn't stick around to see if he made it out
cheetah love
And the award for ugliest zoo animal goes to... the wildebeest! This guy was hairy and muddy and had quite a pungent odor... yuck!
This little guy had to be censored.... he was sharing just a little too much!
I got to touch one of these little sharks... such a weird feeling!
my favorites!
A little hard to tell from the blurry picture, but this guy was sound asleep with his neck so far back that his head was completely upside down. I can't even imagine the crick in his neck he must have woken up with...
polar bear nap
And just in case you were interested in seeing a few non-furry mammals, here we are at the end, sweaty and exhausted but still smiling:
Love this guy!


July 28, 2011


*Note: I am woefully behind on blogging. Case in point: my hubby's birthday was Monday, and I am just now getting around to writing this belated post. I flew home Monday evening after a wonderful but sad weekend saying goodbye to him, and between emotion and sheer exhaustion, I am still feeling a little like I was run over by a rather large truck. I promise to share a little bit about our fun in Indiana soon, though -- just bear with me while I try to wedge this whole 10-months-apart thing into my happy place so that I can start getting through it!*

Twenty four years (and 2 days) ago, when my mom was still just 5 months pregnant with yours truly, this guy was born:
[I apologize for the lack of baby pictures. Even if I had any, he'd probably kill me if I put them up online. Rest assured he was a very cute baby!]
Eventually that grinning kid:
... grew up and asked this girl to his senior prom:
He graduated from high school:
... and then from Valley Forge, where he commissioned as an officer in the army:
Over the years, he has grown to be an outstanding soldier:
... a wonderful uncle:
... a devoted brother and son:
... and an excellent father to two very lucky furballs:
(the puppy on the left is Macy, Dan's former dog who now lives with friends)
Best of all, though, he's become the most incredible husband any girl could dream of marrying!
I am so very thankful to call this guy my husband! While I was so glad to be able to spend some time together on his birthday, it absolutely broke my heart to leave him that afternoon, saying "see you later" when we don't really know when "later" will come. I know that the time will fly and he will be back home with me soon, but that day truly can't come fast enough.
Happy, happy birthday, my love! I miss you like crazy and love you even more than that!


July 20, 2011

Leaving on a Jet Plane

In 24 hours, I will be on my way to this lovely state...
to soak up every minute of four days with this wonderful guy:
I am absolutely in shock that this weekend is here -- the past two months have, somehow, been both the fastest and slowest of my life. I am beyond thrilled to see my hubby, but very sad to have to say goodbye for another 10-ish months.
This weekend was a nice balance of relaxing (including a few hours by the pool with an excellent book) and fun. I cooked some of this...
butternut squash, raisins, maple syrup, cinnamon, and some cereal thrown in for crunch
...which tasted much better than the horrible-quality picture would seem to suggest.
I also ran this many miles...
 ... all at once! I headed out without much of a plan Saturday morning, and I ended up back at my car just as the Garmin hit 13.3. It was a tough run but definitely do-able, and I am so relieved to know that a half-marathon is officially within my grasp.
On Sunday, this lovely lady:

came to spend the day with me. It was really wonderful to see her and I was so grateful for her company! All in all, it was a very fun and blissfully laid-back weekend.
Since then, I've been up to my ears in to-do lists, to-pack lists, and trying to keep myself entirely too busy to ponder the conflicting emotions surrounding this weekend. Unfortunately, Dan will not get a two week R&R, so these four days are all we have. We are hoping to spend some time with a few of these guys...

and do a little of this:
eating, shopping, and maybe even some smooching!
I'm excited to enjoy a fun weekend, but I know that Monday's flight home will come much too quickly.
Between working extra hours and getting ready for the trip, I doubt I'll be around here much in the next few days. Hope that everyone has a fantastic week, and I'll be back to post about the trip when I return!


July 15, 2011

I Confess...

It's Friday again (can someone explain to me how that happened, please?) and despite an abundance of favorite things that I could tell you about (the-most-amazing-pumpkin-bread-in-the-world and this video being the leading contenders this week), my sleepy brain is feeling a little over-honest. It would be a shame to waste all of this candid truth, so I figured it might be time for a few confessions from a rather... trying week. Try your hardest not to Oh, just go ahead and judge. I probably would too.

 -- In the past week, I have eaten an entire box of wheat thins in 24 hours and a whole loaf of the afore-mentioned pumpkin bread in two days. I've been a little hungry. My mid-section is less than pleased with me (and I with it). Someone please hide the baked goods.
 -- Twice this week I have fallen asleep before 9 pm. Sad but oh-so necessary. I blame the cat -- one look at him all curled up and snoozing (his preferred pastime approximately 23.5 hours out of the day) makes me start to nod off myself.
 -- Wednesday I went for a run around my local college campus. I knew it was going to storm, but I was determined to sweat out a few quick miles outside (and head back to finish the rest on a treadmill, if I had to). When it did start to drip, I headed back for my car, and about half a mile out disaster struck. My left foot landed wrong, my ankle rolled, and before you can say "graceful" I was skidding across the pavement on my hands and knees. Ouch doesn't really describe it. Even though there was no one around, I was incredibly embarrassed and my first response was to spring back up and announce (to no one in particular) "Oh, shit. I'm okay, I'm okay.... yep I'm fine." Except I wasn't. I had blood streaming from both knees (not an exaggeration, sadly), my palms were stinging like crazy, my cell phone was several feet away, having bounced down the road (thankfully it survived), and my ankle was in definite pain. With great effort I collected myself, hobbled a few feet, tried in vain to wipe the blood off my legs, got my hands all bloody instead, waited at a stoplight forever while the rain picked up and drivers shot me pitying looks, and tried to jog but quickly returned to walking when my ankle made it clear that running would not be a choice. By the time I got back to my car, I was a soggy, limping, bleeding mess. I called my dear husband expecting to leave him a voicemail, and burst into tears when he actually answered. It was definitely not a good afternoon for my pride.
 -- I spent the rest of Wednesday evening and most of Thursday in misery, sure that my ankle was going to take forever to heal and ruin the rest of my half-marathon training and generally end my life. I felt like such a cliche: I had never loved running so much until I lost it. I was actually shocked at how depressed I was not to be able to run Thursday morning, even though my brain had been begging for a rest day anyway. So yesterday afternoon, I did something that I knew I shouldn't. Despite the a lingering twinge in my ankle, despite the fact that my shoes were still soaking wet from the rain on Wednesday, despite the mega-sized band-aids flapping from my oozing knees like a 7 year old, I went to the gym. I told myself I'd start slowly and see how it went, but before I knew it I'd jumped from the bike to the elliptical and right back onto the treadmill. Luckily, I made it through two miles with no pain (and another four this morning), so I think my fears were (for once) unfounded. And that new-found love for running? Sure, I'm happy to get back out on the road again, but I'm already dreading having to drag myself out of bed early tomorrow for a run. Cured!
 -- I am making no effort to hide that I am super-excited to see a movie that is coming out this weekend..... and no, it's not the one that you're thinking. I'm just dying with anticipation to see these guys:
I am a huge and unapologetic 23 year old Winnie the Pooh fan. I fell in love at the ripe age of one month, when I received my first stuffed animal of the "silly old bear." Since then, I've amassed countless stuffed Poohs (including one in a baseball uniform), donkeys, piglets, and unnaturally-upright tigers, and as a toddler child young adult until I got married, I always fell asleep with a yellow bear tucked in my arms. I watched the tv show (the original show, with the real voices and animation and none of this awful D*sney Channel stuff) every weekend with my dad and read all the books several times. My love for the bear and his friends has grown with me: in the past two years each of my parents gave me wooden signs with quotations from the book, one of which makes me cry every time I read it. Just a few months ago, I purchased four handmade greeting cards with similarly heartwarming Pooh quotes, and because I can't bear to send them off, I'm going to frame them. It's been a long love affair, and I am so thrilled that this movie will return the characters to their original drawings and (with a few exceptions) voices. No offense, Mr. Potter, but this weekend, I'll be spending a few hours with my very favorite bear. (Also, I'm pretty sure that going to see the new HP movie without Dan would be grounds for divorce.)
I think that may be enough honesty for one week. Have a lovely weekend, dear readers!



July 13, 2011

Close Encounters of the Crittered Kind

Since the weather got warm freaking hot and I started to run outside, I've had several chances to get up close and personal with a few species of the animal kingdom. I run mostly through neighborhoods and down residential streets, so I'm constantly dodging squirrels and circling around dog walkers. I am definitely an animal lover, so typically I don't mind these encounters, but a few run-ins recently have been taking this a little far....
The most common confrontations involve a dog, a long driveway, and a surprisingly far-reaching invisible fence. At least once a week, I look up from the road to glimpse at least 50 pounds of fast, barky fur barreling towards me, looking for all the world like they're coming in for a tackle. Thankfully, every single time they've had the good sense to stop just millimeters from the road, knowing exactly how far they can skid without getting zapped. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't freak out and sprint across the street the first few times this happened, but now I barely blink. After several weeks of this, I know where the doberman mix lives, and I know when his parents let him outside in the mornings.
Being chased by a dog (who can't catch me) is one thing, but a few weeks ago I was practically run down by something I really wasn't expecting: a bird. When running around the little pond in my normal running spot one morning, I must have gotten a little too close to one mama's nest of chicks. I wasn't exactly paying attention, but all of a sudden I heard a squawk and heard the beat of wings just inches from my head. Looking behind me, I saw a mass of black feathers quite literally zeroing in on my head. I almost wish I'd had the presence of mind to glance at my garmin during the next minute or so, because I. took. off. Picturing being carried off by my hair or getting my eyes pecked out, I booked it down the trail and was fully prepared to dive into the filthy water while this bird followed me, cawing angrily, for almost a quarter of a mile. Finally the path took me under some trees and the kamikaze crow decided to give up her chase. Needless to say, I haven't run around the pond since.
My most exciting (and most painful) encounter with the animal realm, however, came last week as I finished up an otherwise excellent afternoon run. I was about a mile from my car when I ducked under a tree and a bug zipped right into my mouth. Before I could even think to spit it out, I felt a searing flash of pain and realized that whatever it was had either stung or bitten me... on my tongue. I can't claim to be an expert on pain thresholds, but I think I can safely say that this one was equivalent to an elephant stepping gingerly on your big toe... and then lifting its other three legs off the ground. Thankfully there was no one around to hear my squeaks or witness the desperate scraping of my tongue that ensued. I've never had an allergic reaction to a bee, but I was just waiting for my tongue to balloon and render me something like this:
Thankfully, though, my tongue remained a normal size (and my mouth didn't shrink), so I was able to finish my run with no complications beyond a little bit of lingering pain and a truly awful taste in my mouth.
I truly love being able to run outside, enjoy the scenery and the sun, and actually feel like I've traveled the miles I log. As my body has adjusted to hills, heat, and a truly astounding amount of sweat, I've found that most mornings, my legs crave a stretch of road over the neverending band of a treadmill. I suppose that the animal interactions are par for the course, and I should probably be thankful I've never run across anything more dangerous. I was thrilled find myself less than 25 feet from a huge heron on a cool morning a few months ago, I get a good chuckle from the crazy geese I pass each day, and I've certainly spied some adorable puppies, so really I suppose it's worth a little tongue pain to have the freedom to enjoy nature. Let me tell you, though: the first time one of those dogs develops a tolerance for electric shock, I'll be finding a new route every morning.


July 10, 2011

Crunching the Numbers

I feel compelled to share a few numbers that I am particularly fond of today:

As of this morning, I have officially run 500 miles this year. Exciting milestone! And considering I didn't run for most of January or February (thanks to knee issues + cold temperatures + having a fiance who was home every night + laziness), I'm pretty sure that I'm on track to meet my goal of 1000 miles for the year. Since my runs are getting longer, 1200 might even be a more realistic goal. Also worthy of mentioning: 11.1 miles this morning means I am only 2 away from the half marathon distance -- hurray! Today's run was hot and I crashed a little around mile 9, but I was able to pull it together enough to get back to my car (albeit at a much slower pace). Still, I'm excited!

After what seems like a lifetime, this deployment is officially more than 10% finished. I'm pretty thrilled, even though every time I mention this to a friend, they give me a smile full of pity and struggle to suppress their urge to tell me that 10% is really a rather small number. I am fully aware that in the scheme of things, we've barely made a dent in this year, but luckily the percentage continues to grow slowly but surely.

I've had time to take two naps this weekend. I've eaten yummy Mexican two times (can you ever get enough chips and cheese dip?). I've had two delicious iced mochas. Gone for two lovely runs. And best of all? In just 2 more weeks, I get to see my handsome hubby! Apparently, good things come in pairs these days.

Hope your weekend has generated some equally pleasing numbers!



July 8, 2011

Friday Favorites

It's been quite a while since I've done one of these, and at the end of a long (even though it was only 4 days, someone explain this to me?) and somewhat lonely week, I could definitely use a little gratitude and happiness. So off we go -- a few things that have made my week lovely:

As I mentioned, I've had some yummy food this week! A few nights ago I piled cream cheese, smoked salmon, onions, and capers on yummy bread for a delicious dinner, and last night I had pierogi (the plural of pierogie). I've also rediscovered a love for dried apples -- they are healthy but just sweet enough to taste like a treat!

I was in serious need of a new pair of running shorts (2 pairs just wasn't cutting it now that I'm running practically every day) and picked these up at Dick's last week. They are super comfortable and I love the color -- hard to see but it's kind of a salmon-y pink and a light green. The only problem is that they don't have a little pocket for my key, cash, etc, so I won't be able to wear them on any long runs. Still cute though!

I received these adorable keyrings in the mail today, thanks to a lovely etsy shop. I finally decided it was time to retire my old wallet/keyring combination because I was tired of lugging around a heavy wallet everytime I pulled out my keys. These are so adorable and lightweight, and I'm excited to be able to switch up the patterns every once in a while. 

I am seriously looking forward to see this lovely lady tomorrow! She is a wonderful friend from college who also happens to share my name! She is home from Arizona (aka entirely too far away), where she's in graduate school studying super-smart science-y things. I'm so excited to make the trip down to my college town to see her while she's here!
I don't say this often, but I think it all the time: I am so thankful for all you awesome bloggers out there! I follow lots of blogs for lots of different reasons, and I am inspired and moved by each and every one of you: the women who write them. You are astonishing runners, incredible cooks, impressive photographers, fantastic mothers, and simply amazing writers. I feel so lucky every day that you ladies choose to share your lives, and I can honestly say that besides talking to my sweet husband, reading your posts is often the highlight of my day.
Happy weekend, everyone!


July 6, 2011

Good Eats

As much as I hate household chores, I find that you really can't beat the relief and accomplishment of having them finished. A few nights ago I tackled our bedroom and bathroom, I've been slowly catching up on laundry, and last night's challenge was the kitchen. Typically my kitchen stays in pretty good shape because I don't cook just throw everything in the dishwasher (I really do cook, I promise!) After a busy end to last week and spending most of the weekend out of town, though, by yesterday the piles of dishes had started to get ahead of me. Trying to find a clean glass was a bit of a challenge, and I knew that something had to be done. Luckily, I had the perfect motivation: my fridge was also remarkably empty, so after I finally finished cleaning up, I went grocery shopping to restock my freshly organized cabinets.
Confession time: I went to two different grocery stores last night. I started at our brand spankin' new Whole Foods (we've had one for years, but they recently moved and upgraded) and picked up tons of exciting things: butternut squash, mini eggplants, dried fruit, herbed cream cheese, pumpkin seeds, a fantastic loaf of bread, and other fresh and delicious-looking things. I decided to try shopping here this time around in an effort to infuse a little more healthy food into my diet. I have a tough time merging healthy eating with my allergies (peanuts, fresh fruit, and soy) and have to work a little harder to find foods that are good-for-me and also won't-cause-me-to-stop-breathing. It's a delicate balance. Soy can hide in the most unexpected places. I often ponder how much easier life would be if I were allergic to oreos and cupcakes and too much ice cream... but as much as I miss fruit, I'd never be willing to trade! So I was excited to poke around Whole Foods and come out with several healthy eats that I can actually eat.
Of course, on the way home I still had to hit up good old Harris Teeter (I do have sort of a love affair with that store, it's one of my very favorite places) for some staples: gatorade, my favorite yogurt, the pasta sauce I can't live without. I felt guilty going to two stores in one single night, but I knew if I didn't go last night, it would only be a matter of days before I caved in and went to the second store anyway. It's not unheard of me to run by Harris Teeter three times in a week to pick up a few things I need. I think that's why I love the place so much... it's a little like a second home.
When it was time to pack food for work today, I honestly couldn't decide what I wanted to eat first. Everything looked so yummy! I ended up with an english muffin for breakfast, topped with my favorite almond butter and raspberry jam -- so good! For lunch, I brought a few slices of the incredible Whole Foods bread (9 grain something I believe) with a little honey butter I whipped up that complimented it perfectly. I also brought some fresh pineapple (the only fruits I can eat are citrus) and cottage cheese. It's been forever since I've eaten this well at work -- usually my lunches look more like yogurt and pretzels or a boring salad. The best part of this, though: I spent less than I usually do on groceries. I was expecting to pay higher prices (for better quality food), but I was pleasantly surprised by the totals. Definitely beats frozen meals or going out for fast food!
So as much as I procrastinate on the household chore thing, I'm really looking forward to going home to a clean kitchen with all kinds of yummy options for dinner... even though tonight I have to vacuum.


July 5, 2011

In Which I Appear To Be A Boring 50-Something

(no offense to all of the 50-somethings out there who actually have exciting lives. You all put me to shame.)

Happy.... Tuesday? I think? Three days weekends always throw me off so badly... although certainly not so badly that I couldn't use one every other weekend or so. This week's only saving grace, so far, is that it will only last for four days. And that one of those days is almost over. Have I mentioned that my coworkers are driving me a little crazy? 5:00 can never come fast enough these days.
My weekend was surprisingly quiet for a holiday one, which I did appreciate. In fact, the past three days really bordered on boring. Not that I'm complaining: I was able to catch up on sleep and a few magazines, lounge around, clean the apartment, and knit myself a sweater vest (ok so I'm kidding on the last one, but I sort of feel that old....) 
Friday evening I stopped to purchase my first ever stick of bodyglide on the way home from work -- thrilling, I know. I read by the pool for a little while, ate a bowl of pasta, and went to bed super early. Really, I'm just a blast when I'm all alone in the apartment... I think even the cat has a more exciting life.
Saturday I got up super early and headed out for my very first double digit run. I had 10 miles on the calendar, and while it wasn't exactly easy, it was a lot less horrific than I expected. I was dripping from the heat when I finished and left little puddles everywhere I went (especially the floor of the Starbucks where I stopped for water... you know they appreciated that), but I made it through 10.27 miles. I am seriously amazed that in the past few months I've gone from struggling through two or three miles to running 10 without wanting to just fall into a ditch somewhere. This is definitely a good sign, considering (drumroll please) I registered for my very first half marathon this weekend. I've been considering this race for several months now, but finally got up the courage this weekend to make it official. My goal is simply to get through it in one piece, I'm not concerned about times or negative splits or anything technical. If I'm still able to smile at the finish line, I'll call that a victory. The race is two months from yesterday, so I still have several weeks to run long, and I'm hoping to build up to at least 14 miles a few weeks out so that I know I can make it the whole way. Any advice for first time half-marathoners? I could definitely use it!
After a nice long shower, I headed up to Washington DC to see my brother-in-law and spend some quality time with my sister-in-law, who flew in for the weekend. It was so great to get to hang out with her and my newest little nephew again. He is just the cutest! After a long day at the hospital, we grabbed dinner at a surprisingly good little mexican restaurant and headed back to the hotel where Dan's family has been staying.
Sunday morning I did a quick little recovery run on one of the hotel treadmills that looked like it was already outdated by the 1980's. I was just thankful I made it 3 miles without it flying apart! We made a dunkin' donuts run and went back to the hospital for the morning, and then I left for home around 2 and drove through a few crazy storms on my way back. After a quick stop to pick up a new sports bra (on sale!) I spent the evening being lazy, doing a little laundry, hiding from yet another huge storm, and generally loving the idea that I didn't have to get up for work the next morning. I could get used to that!
Yesterday I made myself get up at a reasonable hour (ie before noon) and headed out for a run. I was shocked at the difference in temperature between 6:30 (when I usually run before work) and 10:00. I was miserable and after only about 4 miles decided to pack it in and head for home. Of course, once I figured I'd take advantage of the heat and head down to the pool for a little while, the clouds came out and it got much cooler. Story of my life... but at least I had the pool to myself! Last night Toby and I went over to my dad's for an excellent dinner that I've been craving for quite a while -- nothing says 4th of July like hamburgers, hot dogs, corn, and strawberry pie! I ate so much but it was all worth it. I caught a couple flashes on my way home, but otherwise didn't do the fireworks thing this year -- Dan and I usually go together, and I just wasn't interested in doing it without him. Instead I headed home and finished up the laundry.... too exciting, right?
This evening is also going to be a wild party: I'll be hitting up the gym, getting groceries, and then curling up in bed with a good movie. Exactly what all 23-year-olds dream of, right? Luckily, I don't mind being boring... I just wish my hubby was here to be boring with me! I hope that all of you had much more exciting things to do this weekend! Hopefully you were able to eat some great grilled food, catch a few fireworks, or maybe even relax on a river (that's what Dan and I did last year for the 4th -- lots of fun and sunburns!). And here's to hoping that something will happen this week to infuse a little excitement into my life... just not too much!


July 4, 2011

Silent Sundays

*Thanks to a fun little power outage, this is actually posting on Monday. Hope that's not too confusing... Silent Mondays just doesn't quite have the right ring to it. But happy 4th of July everyone!*

Two things that have made my weekend just lovely:
I officially registered for this baby Friday night. I'm terrified and beyond excited at the same time. It's not until Labor Day weekend, so I still have 2 months to keep training, but my long runs are feeling great lately so I definitely think I'm ready. Can't believe I'm actually doing this though!
So happy I got to spend some quality time with this little guy (my youngest nephew) and his mom this weekend! There's nothing like a smiling baby to cheer you up after a long week at work!



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