March 29, 2012

In Which My Bathtub Enjoys a Spa Day

Yep, you read that right. No, I didn't get to enjoy a spa day. No, I didn't even get to enjoy a relaxing bath. Yep, my bathtub got the spa day, grainy fruit scrub and all. And yep... I was jealous.
A while ago on some random corner of the internet (I promise I would cite the source if I could remember it), I came across a unique way to clean your bathtub. The tip suggested cutting a grapefruit in half, sprinkling salt on the part that most normal people would eat, and scrubbing away. I will admit I was a little skeptical... our bathtub seems to accumulate grime at record speed, and at least once a week I spend almost an hour hunched over with a sponge and super-powered (but environmentally friendly!) cleaner, cursing under my breath. I was willing to give it a try, though, so the next time I ran across grapefruit at Whole Foods I picked one up.
sadly, my grapefruit didn't have quite such an artistic fate
A few days later I hit the shower after an evening run and noticed that the floor was starting to look a little... past its peak. I'm pretty sure that my hubby thought I had finally lost it when I yelled out and asked him to bring me a grapefruit and a bowl of salt, but he sliced up the fruit and dubiously brought it into the bathroom. I went to work: dipping the grapefruit in salt, scrubbing for a minute, and then going back for more salt. The article I read actually suggests sprinkling salt onto the bathtub, which I think would work just as well.
The verdict? At first I was really impressed: the salt seemed very effective and I didn't have to work nearly as hard to scrub where the dirt had accumulated. Before long, though, I realized that while the grapefruit and salt loosened the grime, it didn't exactly get rid of it... really, it just moved it around some. To combat this, I ended up using both the grapefruit and a sponge: grapefruit to get things started, sponge to finish the job. This worked pretty well, and by the end I had a sparkling bathtub. I'm not sure it cut down on cleaning time, but I'd still recommend the idea, with one caveat: you need at least one whole grapefruit (2 halves, although 3 or 4 would be better) and more salt than you'd expect. 
The reward, though? First, this little concoction leaves your bathroom smelling heavenly. Even Dan commented on how good it smelled the next day. Second, I got to enjoy breakfast the next morning:
I promise this one didn't touch any bathtubs
Not bad for a super cheap, completely natural cleaner!


March 26, 2012

Playing Army

I spent my weekend in a sea of this:
It's not often the military wife gets to tag along for drill weekend, but this month was a little special: Dan's unit had their first Yellow Ribbon Redeployment ceremony, so we hit the road together this time for two days of PTSD seminars, financial planning speakers, (un)employment coaching, and the perk to making it through all of those: some much needed time with great friends.
Friday afternoon, our wonderful friends T and N came into our hometown for a concert and we had the privilege of watching their adorable 11 month old for the evening. It was just the pick-me-up I needed after a long week at work and a day of two spectacularly bad runs: baby giggles, big grins, and some cuddling before bedtime. She is such a happy, easygoing little one, and we had a fantastic time with her.

I snapped this little slice of adorable after laying baby girl down to sleep, when hubby (who knew he had to drive into the night) decided that a nap on the floor looked like a pretty good idea. Go ahead, melt my heart.
When our friends made it back from the concert, we packed up our cars and "convoyed it" (welcome to the Army) down to VA Beach, finally rolling into our hotel at about 3 AM. We had to be ready to go the next morning by 6:30, of course... nothing like less than 3 hours of sleep to start off a long weekend, right?
Saturday involved quite a lot of sitting around and waiting, about 6 hours of speakers (ranging from mildly entertaining to tortuously soporific), and more cups of coffee than I care to count. It was a seriously long day, but thankfully T and N's little girl gave us a good excuse to get up and walk around every once in a while. We were released around 4 and headed back to our hotel to get in a quick workout (me) and take a nap (everyone else), and then met up with T and N and a few other couples to visit the Mecca of seafood:
We stuffed ourselves with crab legs (or maybe that was just me?) and got to enjoy some well-deserved down time. It was really great to spend some time with the guys Dan deployed with, getting to know a few of them and their wives outside of the military atmosphere. It is always so fun to watch Dan interact with his army buddies. After dinner we stopped at the hotel bar for a couple drinks with some of his guys before heading up to make it a relatively early night. I'm pretty sure that between the long two days, the approximate metric ton of seafood I consumed, and the two cherry cosmos, I was asleep before my head even hit the pillow.
Sunday we didn't have to be anywhere until 8, so I lucked out and had time to run before we checked out of the hotel. The morning was blissfully brief and we were done before noon, so the five of us (Dan, myself, T, N, and their little one) drove the hour or so to Williamsburg for lunch and a little shopping. 
visiting with good old TJ
It had been several weeks since I'd seen them, so I was so excited for an excuse to spend the weekend with these wonderful friends. It's hard to believe that we've only known each other since the last Yellow Ribbon ceremony in May, just before the guys left for mobilization -- they have quickly become some of our closest friends and have served as an incredible support system throughout the deployment and reintegration for both Dan and myself. 
I sometimes get a little jealous when I read the blogs of other military wives, who all seem to have a huge group of fellow wives that are really more like sisters. These are girls that they can call in the middle of the night during a deployment, no questions asked. Girls that they see several times a week and talk to almost every day. Girls that would drop everything for them in a minute if they needed it. While their husbands watch each others' backs in the sandbox, these ladies develop a bond like no other here at home as they depend on each other for strength and assistance and love. Unfortunately, since fact that Dan is National Guard and we don't live on or even close to a post, I've never really had the chance to forge these kind of relationships. I've always been ok with being independent, but I would be lying if I said I didn't sometimes crave that kind of friendship with other women who know what the military life is like. I am so incredibly grateful to have one close friend like that in N, and to have weekends like this where I at least get to meet other wives, share stories, and feel like I really belong.
I can tell that Dan, also, really needed this weekend. I know that it was tough on him to go from living with and relying on these guys every day to now communicating through texts and seeing most of them just once a month. I loved getting to watch him in his element, with friends who understand him so well and clearly care about him so much. I hate that a lot of these guys and their families live so far from us (spread throughout the state), but I'm already looking forward to the second Yellow Ribbon event in April. While it was a long and exhausting weekend, I certainly came home with a renewed appreciation for the soldiers in Dan's unit and the army in general, as well as for great friends like T and N.
In the ultimate transition from military to civilian, though, I got to wake my hubby up bright and early this morning for his first day of work at the new job! I am so excited for him and am crossing my fingers that he ends up loving it.


March 23, 2012

Friday Food

Woah! You weren't expecting that one, were you? Not very nice of me to switch things up on you (on a Friday morning, no less, when all the focus you can muster is being used to get through the next several hours), but sometimes you need a change, you know? I just wasn't feeling the 'favorites' thing today... something tells me that no one out there is really interested in my new favorite kind of yogurt (black cherry Chobani, on the off-chance you're curious) or needs to see yet another picture of my fluffball (but just in case...'s Toby sound asleep on freshly-laundered towels on our dining room table.Tell me that's not adorable.)
  So today I thought I'd make use of the Friday "F" theme to share something else, something of which I seem to have a shocking amount of pictures: food. 
Since Dan got home, we've both made a big effort to plan meals, cook at home, and try new things. We've perfected quite a few recipes (and are still working on several others...) and while I used to want to go out all the time, I've really started to look forward to nights where we can whip up something yummy and eat it from the comfort of our own couch, where pajamas are  perfectly acceptable.
Because I am strange and feel the need to document everything (just ask my husband), I often take pictures of our meals before we eat them. Dan's first bite has been thwarted countless times by his crazy wife flying out of the kitchen, crying "Waitwaitwait I have to take a picture!!!" Until now, any big plans I had for all of those pictures (The Illustrated Guide to Generally Mediocre but Occasionally Amazing Cooking, perhaps? I smell a bestseller...) have gone by the wayside, and my growing collection of badly lit iPhone pictures has sat neglected. That's right... I said until now. So without further ado, I present for your viewing pleasure (or not): lots of pictures of food. Try not to collapse with excitement.

This meal was several weeks ago, but just looking at the picture has me craving another artichoke. They are definitely my favorite excuse to eat melted butter vegetable, and even better with pasta (which I think included scallops that night?). The wine was one of my very favorites, too. Definitely a good night.

This yummy meal was dinner a few nights ago. Dan isn't a big fan of fish, so he had shrimp pasta (also yummy), and I baked a piece of salmon for myself. I had exciting visions of a butter/white wine/garlic/lemon sauce to drizzle over it, but I didn't have time to cut and saute the garlic, so my rich and complex idea became melted butter with a little lemon squeezed into it. Not nearly as dramatic, but still pretty tasty. I also made a piece of garlic toast (with garlic and herb butter from Whole Foods -- a recent splurge) and a curried chicken pasta salad (shown on the right)with fresh dill. Everything was delicious, but I was seriously stuffed after all that food.

These little pizzas were Dan's idea, and I will admit to being a bit skeptical... until I took my first bite. Don't let their simplicity fool you -- with the right loaf of french bread, these are a super-easy and absolutely delicious meal. I also enjoyed some leftover couscous that night, and notice the margarita up there? Not quite a big frozen fishbowl from a restaurant, but not bad, either.

The photography is a bit lacking, but flavor certainly wasn't either of these nights when we enjoyed burgers straight off the grill. The meal on the left, from a few weeks ago, was "Dan style": burger + macaroni and cheese = complete meal. No questions asked, no calories counted. The version on the left was my plate just last night, and is how I prefer my burger: cheese, lettuce, Lipton onion dip (don't ask), accompanied by baked beans, grilled corn, pasta salad, and a beer. Summer perfection, right there.

Speaking of not counting calories, this would have been another good time for such an omission: Mexican night! Dan and I both love Mexican food, and this night we set out to make the perfect quesadilla. To be honest, I'm pretty sure Dan's turned out better, but really, who's keeping track? (He is.) Mine included shredded chicken, onion, and cheese and was topped by the trifecta: queso, sour cream, and genuine Taco Bell mild sauce (please, try to stifle those snorts... we happened to have some extra lying around). Pair that with refried beans and a(nother?) margarita, and I was a happy girl.

Lest you think that all we eat are artery-clogging, fat-heavy, cream-based delicacies, I bring you two recent healthy lunches (eaten at my desk, notice the keyboard in the corner). Both started with spinach, onion, and a light vinagrette dressing; the left included corn and salmon, the right cranberries and grilled chicken. If only I could get my act together well enough to bring one of these with me to work every day.

This was another lunch from a few weeks ago -- one of those "lets throw a bunch of stuff into a bowl and see how it works" lunches that turned out surprisingly tasty. I had leftover pearled couscous (the delights of which I believe I've mentioned before), and decided to saute spinach, mushrooms, garlic, and onion to go with it. Because I consume more carbs than any normal human should, I also felt the need to add some bread. In my world, a piece of good bread always improves a meal.

Finally, I leave you with another "his and hers" view. The chicken that you can see (only slightly distinguishable from the piece of bread... see above rule) is one of our latest favorites, another incredibly simple but extremely tasty creation. I just marinate chicken breasts in this salad dressing:
for a day, throw it into a baking dish, pour the dressing over the top, and bake for a while. The meat stays juicy and has an excellent lime kick when all is said and done. Both Dan and I are big fans. The hubby prefers his with a few pretty basic side dishes: corn and a piece of garlic bread that I may or may not have swiped. I took the opportunity to try out two recipes I've been wanting to make: brussels sprouts (just tossed in olive oil, lightly seasoned, and baked for a bit) and beets (Harvard beets, the way my grandmother used to make them). Verdict? The beets were out of this world -- exactly like I remember and so so good. The brussels sprouts were definitely not my thing. A couple of them were ok, but generally I was not a fan. Overall, though, this was a pretty good meal, made even better when paired with a glass of riesling.

For any readers that might still be awake after all of that excitement, thanks for sticking with me. I guess it's not as fun to look at pictures instead of actually making and eating these meals, but maybe someone, somewhere will be inspired to steam up an artichoke, try some pearled couscous, or put onion dip on their burger (ha, who am I kidding? Even I can admit that last one's just weird). Either way, I hope your weekend is filled with equally delicious eats!




March 22, 2012


Life has been too busy lately to think in full sentences, so bullet points it is.
 -- Who made the decision to skip spring and forge straight ahead into summer... in March? I'd like to speak with them about paying my AC bill for the next few months.
 -- On the other hand, I am celebrating the return of grilling season. There is nothing better than cheeseburgers and corn straight from the grill... except when that meal is accompanied by a margarita. Just talking about it gets me all excited for dinner, and it's only 9:15. Going to be a loooong day, ladies and gentlemen.
 -- The other springtime perk I'm not complaining about? All the extra daylight hours lying around these days. I love being able to come home, change, spend a little quality time at the dog park, and then have plenty of time to still run outside before dinner.
 -- Thank goodness for awesome neighbors. Tuesday night, Dan and I were watching TV after dinner when I started to experience the blurry vision that means I'm getting my once-every-two-months migraine (it's like clockwork, I swear). I headed in to track down some Advil before trying to nap through the worse of the vision stuff, when I realized we had sudafed, benadryl, pepcid AC (for the dog, believe it or not), and zicam, but were out of both advil and the always-essential fast-acting tylenol. After a mini panic attack that involved searching through old purses in a desperate attempt to unearth just one pill (a difficult task when you can't even focus on your hand in front of your face), Dan texted our lovely upstairs neighbor, who also happens to be a nurse and the supervising human for two of Tess' very best friends. She immediately brought down several doses of at least three different choices of drugs, saving us from what would have otherwise meant either a miserable night or a miserable trip across town. Definitely a nice perk to apartment living.
 -- Even though the cards were stacked against me last night (lots of shin pain after my previous run, a lingering headache from the night before, and a stomach that wasn't exactly happy), I decided to head out for just a short run. The idea of going out with no goal mileage or planned route was kind of appealing, so I hit the road and told myself I would go as far as I felt ok, but if things started to go badly I'd head for home. (In the end, of course, I ended up taking the same route that I run almost everyday... I am sadly predictable.) Less than a mile in, though, I realized that my head, my legs, and my stomach would be the least of my worries. I had been drinking water all afternoon, and even though I went to the bathroom just before heading out, it didn't take long before I needed to go again. As I've experienced a few times before, the motion of running makes "holding it" harder than normal, so for several miles I was doggedly focused on just one thing: making it home before I peed in my pants. Too much information for a Thursday morning? 
 -- I was washing my face last night when our smaller-sized fluffball strolled right on into the bathroom, hopped onto the ledge of the bathtub (very normal), jumped down into the bathtub (very NOT normal), and proceeded to gulp (clean) water from the cup I use to rinse things down when I clean the tub. This is, for the record, the cat who has full access to both his own water dish and his sisters', which are kept full at all times. This fact didn't, however, keep me from feeling like a terrible fur-mama.
 -- I have to update a bit on my post last week about the Nike+ app, in which I wrote that one of the (few) disadvantages of the system was that you couldn't just glance at your pace, but had to swipe the screen to see it displayed. I've since figured out, however, that the app offers a "lock mode" during workouts, in which the screen is blocked against random tapping, but your time, distance, and pace are still displayed. The really great part about this feature is that if you double-tap the screen, it reads those stats to you at any time. Dangerously easy...
 -- I have a new friend. We've only known each other for a few days, but I can already tell that ours will be a love-hate relationship. We originally met because I've been trying to find a way to reduce some pain, but this friend... he is not always gentle. He is definitely not kind, even though I know that the longer I spend with him, the better off I will be. Sometimes he starts out easy, and I think that hanging out with him might feel just a little bit good, even a tiny bit relaxing. Before long, though, things get uncomfortable again. But I've been told that our time together is "supposed to hurt," so I suppose that I will keep him around for a while...
my new BFF: the foam roller... and a very spaced-out me after yesterday's run and rolling session
  -- And last but definitely not least: my awesome hubby got a job offer yesterday! I am so proud of him and excited for him to start, because I know the last few months of job searching have been long and frustrating. Last night I told him I wanted to take him out to celebrate, and he was practically beside himself with excitement to go here:
Our town's very own Cookout just opened, and while I hadn't even heard of the chain a month ago, Dan has asked almost every day for the past two weeks "Is Cookout open yet?!" This was a perfect (and cheap!) way to celebrate, and I have to say -- I may or may not already be craving another Oreo milkshake.


March 19, 2012

Time for a Change

I had a conversation with my husband this weekend that made me really sit back and think about some things. Poor hubby would probably recall the incident better as an explosion of tears and frustration and exhaustion that landed at his feet, rather out of the blue.... details, details. However you describe it, the incident inspired me to take a closer look at the way my life is playing out right now, leading me to a few fairly significant realizations. There's nothing like deep stuff to start off a Monday morning, right?
The past few months have been a little rough for a lot of reasons. Since the beginning of December, I lost my father, welcomed my husband home after over 8 months of living on my own, switched birth control twice (hello, hormones), tackled a huge project at work, and about a million other little tiny things that add to this snowball of change, adjustment, and stress. For weeks now, I've felt like I was running on empty: not getting enough sleep, not always eating well, working several hours of overtime each week, continuing to train hard without enough recovery time or the right fuel, pushing myself to keep going when my body was begging for me to slow down. And that's only half of the picture -- mentally, I've been battling a lot of stress, guilt, frustration, and doubt. My mind has been so taxed and tired that little things have become cataclysmic, challenges have become roadblocks, and each new stress has threatened to fling me into a tailspin. I've found myself completely unable to focus on things I need to accomplish, incredibly forgetful, drastically unmotivated. It also occurred to me this weekend that lately I've been concentrating far more on everyone around me than on myself, weighed down with the feeling that I'm letting people down. I've felt like I can't keep up with the demands (or at least perceived demands) of the people in my life, and that has led to some serious guilt.
I've had this general sense of "something's not right" for a while, but my exhausted self shoved the thought, like so many things, to the back burner. I was just too swamped to even face the idea that something was going to have to give. Until this weekend, when something so small I can't even remember it left me crying to Dan about how tired I was, how overwhelmed, how done. And then my hubby repeated something that he has said a lot lately, something that made me indignant and angry each time before. "You're never happy anymore," he said, "I miss the Meg who smiles and has fun." That's what it took for all of this to finally hit home. Since then, I've done a lot of thinking, a lot of soul searching... and he's right. I didn't want to admit she had been gone, but the truth is I miss her too. 
I don't want to overstate the problem or cause my poor mom any more concern than this is worth: I don't think I'm depressed or in need of clinical attention. I think right now, it's all about adjustment: adjusting to married life, adjusting to a job with new and different demands, adjusting to being an adult, out there in the real world without a safety net. I think it's about learning who I am and what I need and how to make that work. It's about pulling myself out of a pothole and teaching myself to avoid the next one.
As far as I can tell, there are just a few changes I need to make in my life right now... but they are big ones. If you know me even a little bit, you know that I handle change about as well as a giraffe can hide on a beach. These changes, especially, are going to require a rather large leap out of my comfort zone. They require some relearning, reshuffling, and a lot of re-evaluation. In the next few weeks, I'm hoping to focus much more closely on my priorities -- not necessarily what they have been, but what they should be. I'm hoping to take the time to recognize which activities are important and beneficial to me, and which ones are a waste of time and energy. I'm hoping to make some time to take care of myself and my own needs. I'm hoping to let go of some undeserved guilt that needs to be, once and for all, left behind -- an undertaking that is much easier said than done, but one that I am determined to finish this time around. I'm hoping to do whatever it takes, minute by minute, to worry less, relax more, compare less, smile more. Because really, life's too short not to smile enough.

(babies always know best)


March 16, 2012

Friday Favorites

So far, this Friday morning has felt suspiciously like a Monday -- frustrations abound, patience does not, and the hours left until the weekend seem too many to count without giving in and curling up under my desk for a nap. But although I am short on time and energy, there are at least a few happy things inspiring me to get through the day without gathering up everything on my desk and just dropping it directly into the shredder box:

Pretty pink nails (a very rare occurrence around here, inspired by the spring weather) and toes that are also happy to be enjoying the a little warmth.

Sore legs -- the good kind of sore that mean my runs this week have been quality. It has been amazing to get back to running outside and feeling less of that bad sort of pain this week. I've struggled a bit with motivation and getting used to some increased mileage, but I pushed myself hard this week and am proud that I got so many miles in. I'm hoping that after the weekend this will end up being a 30(-ish) mile week, and while I'd love to be hitting 40 mile weeks like I was at the peak of training last summer/fall, I'm extremely happy with how I've bounced back from a rather rough winter.

Sometimes the 80-year-old woman in me comes out to play. I had an odd craving for Raisin Bran recently, so I picked up a box last weekend and have had it for breakfast every day this week. I finished the box this morning, and it was delicious. In all honesty, I'm not a huge fan of the raisins, but it is worth suffering through them for the "bran" part. When we grocery shop this week, though, I'm already excited to go back to my very favorite:
(My name is Meg, and I am addicted to cereal...)

Speaking of addictions: I've seen praise for this little piece of genius floating around the blog world a lot lately, and I have to say that I, too, am absolutely and hopelessly obsessed. I am not a big game person (the only "game" I play regularly on my iPad is the wonderful Sporcle), but I have definitely wasted more hours of my life than I'd like to admit on this in the past few days. I am an absolutely terrible artist and feel so bad for the random people I've been matched with, but I am having way too much fun to stop.

These guys never get old. Love, love, love.

We are taking my step-mom out to dinner tonight to celebrate her birthday, and my mouth is already watering. There will be an excellent salad, top-notch bread basket, juicy prime rib, baked potato, and an excellent glass of wine (or 2). I will probably be miserable all night and into tomorrow, but it will absolutely be worth it. I shouldn't even mention that dessert will be waiting for us at home in the form of this...
... which will surely not look as good as those, but hopefully will taste as amazing. If you need me for the rest of the weekend, I'll be in a food coma.

So now it's just a matter of convincing the clock to work a little faster, nudging it forward towards 5:00. So close, yet so far away....
Happy weekend, everyone!


March 14, 2012

Nike Saves the Day

Sometime last spring, when the weather got warm and I ventured off the treadmill and out onto the road, I began to develop an oddly shaped, oddly colored, semi-permanent lump on my left arm. The fact that it was light green was only slightly concerning, and the glowing light didn't worry me too much, but I did get kind of uneasy when it started to beep at me...

That's right... as quickly as I became an outside runner my Garmin emerged as an extended appendage. Like most runners I know, I developed a begrudging obsession with this sweaty accessory: it was so easy to monitor my pace that all of a sudden I wanted to know exactly what it was at all times. Some days I spent more time watching my stats than I did watching the road under my feet (which I suppose could explain a few things), caring more about how my splits came in than how I was feeling. Comfort and even logic went out the window -- my biggest priority on each run was seeing a pace I could be proud of every time I glanced at my wrist (ie every 15 seconds or so). Garmin provided the last word on the results of any given run: negative splits? Speedier pace? Longer distance? I could be dead on the side of the road, but if my numbers were good, that was all that mattered.
There were several dark days last summer when Garmin failed me... a few mid-July runs where my sweat shorted out the poor guy and shut him down halfway through my course, strange instances when my battery would drop from fully charged to dangerously low in less than an hour, and of course days when those elusive satellites couldn't be located no matter how much I coaxed cursed. The few times I had to run without my not-so-trusty friend, I felt lost and unfocused. I hated not knowing my exact numbers, and instead of relaxing and just running by feel, I spent the miles mapping out courses in my head, frantically estimating distances, convinced I was barely moving. It was a terrible addiction, a sticky love-hate relationship.
On Sunday, after covering such a large percentage of my mileage the past few months on the treadmill, I was thrilled to get outside for a gorgeous run. Unfortunately, what should have been lovely took a sharp turn towards ugly when, less than half a mile from home, my fully-charged, Garmin started that dreaded beep. I gritted my teeth and looked down to see "Low battery" blinking on the screen, choking back the urge to rip the thing off my arm and hurl it into the nearby swimming pool. I turned around and stomped back home, fuming a little more each time it emitted a pathetic, dying beep. I wasn't about to sit around for another hour waiting for the thing to charge itself again, especially since I had a sneaking suspicion I'd just end up facing the same problem again. I flopped down next to my husband (who was still half asleep), launched into a tirade full of words that I really shouldn't share here, and clipped the offending Garmin in to charge. In my haze of ire, I pushed the start button to turn the darn thing on... and immediately, to the dismay of my poor confused hubby, burst into tears. The screen requested that I pick a language. English? it prompted, which I knew meant only one thing: it had been reset.
Months of times and splits and distances and totals... gone. Race data... wiped. Sure, I had written down the basic info about each run (total distance, overall pace). But all of the details I had been meaning to load onto my laptop someday? Erased in the blink of an eye. I was a frightening mix of devastated and livid... it was not pretty.
In my anger, I tossed my former friend to the side and grabbed my knight in shining armor -- the iPhone. I typed "Run GPS" into the App Store and within seconds had fallen head over heels for a new love:
Meet the Nike+ app. This baby does everything but actually run the miles for you: it tracks your course, pace (by the second, literally), calories, totals, PRs, weather, and more. It plays your music for you. It shows you a full map of each run, color coded by pace. It speaks to you, reading your total distance, time, and overall pace at user-defined intervals. It plays you inspirational messages from elite runners when you need a little pick-me-up. It is accurate, thorough, and everything a numbers girl like me could ever wish for.
I've only used it twice so far (Sunday's run and another beautiful 70-degree outing last night), but already I am practically sold. Here's a quick breakdown of what I can tell so far:

 -- maps the course right there on your phone, making it easy to go back and remember the details of your route
 -- provides a clear picture of the fastest and slowest points of your run:
lovely green downhills
 -- eliminates the need to look at a screen constantly by updating you (as often as every quarter mile, although I have it set to half miles) on your distance and pace. I love having this read to me as I continue to focus on where I'm going, instead of having to look down at my wrist at just the right time while the Garmin cycles through stats
 --tracks record distances and speeds, making it easy to set goal paces and tempting to outrun my previous sessions
 -- I haven't tested this, but there is also an option for treadmill runs -- I have no idea how this would work, but I'm definitely going to experiment with it
 -- smoothly imports playlists so that you can pause or skip a song right from the app, and allows you to designate "power songs" for a boost when you need it
 -- the overall layout of the app is very impressive: it offers so much information and possibility, but everything is easily accessible and self-explanatory. The screen displayed during runs is simple and uncluttered, and historical data is easy to retrieve
 -- imports data to the nike+ website, which includes even more details about each run, goal setting, challenges to join, training programs to load, and so much more. Also (theoretically) a more foolproof way to save data than the prone-to-epic-failure Garmin
 -- less chance of technical failure (again, theoretically) -- at least so far, I have not had to wait a single second to load satellites or connect to a network or plug into the heavens before heading out to run
 -- one less thing to charge, remember to bring with me when I run after work, and carry on my runs (I always bring my phone for entertainment/safety anyway)

 -- harder to check pace at any given second (you have to swipe the lock screen to see the pace display)
 -- no function (that I've found so far, at least) equivalent to Garmin's pace buddy:
I kind of liked smoking that little guy...
 -- while it's fine for regular training runs, I'm not sure that I want to be carrying my phone during a race (I'm going to look into an armband, although I may also decide to revert to the Garmin just for races)

... I think we have a winner. As sad as I am to admit that my little Garmin, who I have (mostly) loved so well in the past year, is not as capable or convenient, it's tough to argue with all those advantages to the Nike+ system. It's been fun to watch my total miles add up each time I open the app, and I love knowing that when I'm ready to hit the road, it's ready to go with me. Best of all, though, I am hoping that it will break me of my little pace obsession -- during my first two runs, I only checked the screen once or twice to see where I was, instead pushing myself to hold what I thought was a good pace until the next half-mile update. I hope that this will help me tune into myself a bit more and get to know what my paces feel like, as opposed to struggling to hit a certain number on the screen.

Is there anyone else out there who uses or has used Nike+? Love it or hate it? I'm curious to hear everyone's thoughts on how it compares to Garmin!


March 12, 2012

Monday Moans

I'll go ahead now and apologize for the mindless drivel I will be attempting to pass as noteworthy today... it may be Monday, but my brain is still (at least) an hour behind. I've tried to liven things up a bit with some humorous clips, but if you're looking for something meaningful...
you should probably come back tomorrow. Consider yourself warned.

This weekend consisted of equal parts celebration...
(for a few exciting things that will hopefully be official-enough-to-be-blogworthy soon)
and dreading coming back to work today....

 I hoped that if I hid effectively, Monday morning might pass me by,
but it seems to have spotted me despite being disguised by the covers...
 ... and here it is, overbearing and annoying as ever.

 So I dragged myself through a run, feeling a bit like this...
and now I'm at work, buried not under snuggly blankets, but piles of paperwork. Nowhere near as warm and fuzzy, trust me.
I'm doing my best to be productive today....
in hopes that tomorrow won't be quite as bad. 

For now, though....
I'm ready for lunch.



March 7, 2012


I would love to have something exciting to share with you today. It would be fun to talk about fantastic long runs or fancy new recipes or good news I've received or some deep epiphany I've had about my life lately. In reality, though, the most exciting things in my life are as follows:
 -- My run last night was made utterly miserable by the smelly, loud, disgustingly annoying guy on the treadmill next to me, who spent his time clinging to the front handlebar grips for dear life as he cranked it way up and attempted to sprint. He came within inches of flying off completely at least twice. I hate to be judgmental at the gym, but I it is so frustrating to be stuck next to someone who is essentially goofing off.
 -- We baked gourmet slice-and-bake chocolate chip cookies last night and I proceeded to consume as many as I possibly could... I lost count somewhere around cookie #6. I have no self-control when it comes to these things.
 -- I made my favorite super-easy sauteed veggie dish (garlic, onion, squash, mushroom, and okra this time) last night for the first time in forever, so lunch today is that and my favorite couscous. I'm not even hungry but I'm dying to eat it all right now... it will be a wonder if I make it until 10:30.
 -- A significant increase in mileage in the past week or so has left me practically unable to walk today. The soreness has been building for a few days but this morning's run was cut short thanks to serious muscle pain and general exhaustion. It's hard when I want nothing more than to keep pushing myself back into half-marathon shape, but my body insists that I slow down a bit. I think tonight may call for some yoga.
 -- A project at work recently has left me feeling like I'm running a marathon in 100 degree weather with a space suit on... while dragging at least 2 coworkers behind me as dead weight. The finish line looms somewhere mid-April, but right now that is a loooooong way away and it's been miles since the last water station.
 -- My desk is a mess and it. is. killing. me. My apartment is also a mess, which is even more frustrating considering the several hours I spent cleaning just a few days ago. Thanks to a dog who likes to play in the mud and a cat who leaves a trail of fur everywhere he goes, just keeping our living room and bedroom clean is a struggle. And that's before you even get to the dishes in my kitchen, which seem to spontaneously leap from the cabinets at night and pile themselves in the sink.
 -- The next thing on my wedding to-do list is to pick and build a wedding website. This weekend, I started to do "a little bit of research" on which ones I liked best... and now several days later I have a list longer than my arm of cute templates and designs. I think I need to hire a wedding planner just to make these decisions for me -- I'll do all the time-consuming work, I just need someone who is capable of actually making a choice.
So there you have it, the exciting life and times. I hope for all of our sakes that something wonderful happens soon, if only so I will have improved blogging material. Until then... Happy Wednesday!



March 5, 2012

I'd Rather Be Sledding

I suppose I can think of worse ways to start the week:
tough to see, but there are lots of snowflakes outside that window
I had the gym to myself this morning and got to watch the snow fall as I ran. Normally I'd be frustrated to be relegated to the treadmill, but I can't really complain after two great runs outside this weekend. Both were a bit chilly, but Saturday I was even brave enough to wear shorts and didn't regret the choice too much. It was just so wonderful to be outside that even the crazy fierce wind both days couldn't ruin the miles. I am dying to get back to some of my normal routes, but I'm doing my best to work up slowly in hopes that the improved-but-still-present pain in my right shin won't get any worse. There are so many races I am just itching to sign up for in the coming months, but I'm holding off until I can be positive that I'm 100% ready for them.
This weekend was full of other nice things, as well -- birthday celebrations, yummy food, chances to sleep late, frozen yogurt, catching up with friends, wedding excitement, and lots of cuddles with a certain sleepy fellow...
Lest the weekend be too happy, though, fate was sure to even the score with a few low points: several hours of undesired apartment cleaning, a quick slide down a muddy hill on my *ahem* derriere thanks to an overenthusiastic puppy, and a particularly nagging headache on Saturday certainly did the trick. None of these little hiccups, however, could keep me from sitting here at my overflowing desk and wishing like heck that it was still the weekend. Especially since this:
clearly states one thing: snow day. It's times like this that I'm not a fan of the real world.
Happy Monday... if you believe in that sort of thing!



March 2, 2012

Friday Favorites

Well hey there, Friday. You certainly did take your time this week, huh? Go ahead, have a seat and get comfy. Can I offer you a drink? Oh no, don't mind that I'm tying you to this chair. I promise to take care of you while I hold you hostage here for a while...
Now that you're thoroughly creeped out by my kidnapping tendencies, let's proceed with the regular Friday routine, in which I share several things that redeemed my week and kept me smiling.

Bad pictures, good eats. This week has been especially yummy: (clockwise from top left) pasta with scallops, an artichoke(!), and a glass (or two) of my favorite wine on Sunday evening; delicious grilled chicken salad with sunflower seeds, cranberries, cheese, onion, and spinach for lunch one day this week; excellent cheeseburgers with a side of gourmet my hubby's favorite Velveeta mac & cheese (can't win them all); and a butternut squash/cranberry/maple syrup concoction that turned out to be the perfect oatmeal topping and a slightly-less-guilty dessert. I am really enjoying cooking more since Dan has been home -- we've mastered several excellent meals and for the first time in a while, I get as excited about a meal at home as I do going out these days. That said, I am pretty excited that tonight we are headed out to let someone else do the slaving-over-the-stove thing for a change.
Speaking of yummy food...
I honestly can't get enough of this stuff. I was never a huge fan of couscous, but this is a whole different (and highly delectable) beast. Honestly, I start to freak out if I don't have at least two boxes on reserve in my pantry at all times. So far the roasted garlic & olive oil is my favorite, but the  basil & herb is pretty fantastic too. I've added some wilted spinach and sauteed mushrooms to the mix before, but really it's perfect just the way it is.... right from the pot.... eating mouthfuls straight from the serving spoon. Don't judge until you've tried it.

It is taking every ounce of self-restraint I possess not to click "purchase" on this lovely item. Hard to tell from the picture, but it's 8.5 inches wide, so there's plenty of room for cash, cards, cell phone, keys, lip gloss, an emergency stash of benadryl... the list goes on. It's the perfect size to carry alone as a clutch or drop in a bag (preferably this one that I've been lusting after for forever). My current purse found itself at the mercy of a certain furball's claws last week, so I know it's only a matter of time before I cave in and replace it with one of these beauties. Thankfully I've been working a ton of overtime lately, so when I do eventually give in, maybe I can spin it as less "impulse buy" and more "hard-earned"....

I have to be honest... I did not want to go see this movie last night. I did not want to watch something that I knew would hit close to home. I did not want to sit there with every muscle in my body clenched tight for over two hours. I did not want to sit there with involuntary tears streaming down my face when it was over. All that said, I am so glad that we went: as hard as it was to watch, the movie was surprisingly well done and certainly enlightening. It's one of those that I think lots of Americans need to see, in hopes that they might learn a little respect for the incredible sacrifices our military servicemembers make every day. I've always been incredibly proud of my husband for choosing to do what he does, but this film brought that pride even more acutely into focus.

I know I've been on a some-ecards kick lately, but this has to be my favorite one ever -- I just can't help but laugh every time I read it.

Lastly but most importantly: I want to wish a very happy birthday to this beautiful lady! She is such an incredible girl and I am so very lucky to call her a friend. She has been an amazing life line through everything this past year (the wedding, Dan's deployment, my dad's death), I honestly am not sure what I would have done without her. Can't wait to celebrate this weekend!

Happy Friday everyone!




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