Category Archives: Living Life

Big Changes

There are more than a few things that have changed in a major way in our household since I last blogged. Man, I have missed writing on a regular basis, but priorities shifted around for a while. While things continue to grow and change, it hit me that blogging is something I want to make a priority. So, my new goal is not to write (almost) every day as I was doing before, but to get in a couple of quality posts each week. I’ll continue to write about what is happening in my kitchen, in my fitness life, and around the house. But now, I get to add my new role to the mix as well (more about that later). So, what are these big changes?

  1. We bought a house. We started house shopping back in spring of 2014, finally found something in the fall, and closed in December. So, we’ve been here for nearly a year and a half at this point. We’ve made some cosmetic changes, but we’ve been taking it one room at a time. Look for some blog posts in the future about what kind of changes we’ve made and what constraints we’ve had as we have done most of the work ourselves!
  2. I went back to school. I’m working on a post masters’ certificate in school administration and I’ve been working a bit on some professional writing. While I will keep the majority of my professional writing on my consulting website, I’ll be sure to mention when new posts go up so if any of my readers out there are also educators, they can keep up with the other side of my life.
  3. And, for the biggest change of all. Last week, I became a mommy. Our little PJ has quickly become the center of our universe. While I will not even pretend to be any kind of expert on anything childcare related, be prepared for some new mommy reflections and stories about my journey back to running for the foreseeable future.

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Looking forward to sharing more with you soon!

When Blogging Takes a Backseat

Since writing is not my full time job, sometimes I find it hard to keep up with my blog. There, I said it. Since I started this blog in 2012 there have been some pretty lengthy periods of hiatus. In fact, I was worried that this summer might get back to that because of the crazy summer hours schedule. Fortunately, I managed to find my way through and while there might have been some weeks that my posting was on the lean side, I managed to get in a couple of posts at a minimum each week (except for that vacation week with no wifi).

The last two weeks have been even busier. I have been working all day, house shopping in the evenings, followed by working a few more hours before bed, and traveling on the weekend. My regular writing time is each morning while I’m having coffee. I can usually squeeze in anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. That isn’t much time, but I make it work. Unfortunately, the consequence of spending late nights working is sleeping in a little in the morning, and leaving almost no time for writing. While I’ve still managed to get a couple of posts up both weeks, they haven’t been of any real substance. 

But here is my key point. We self-impose busy-ness, and then we are disappointed when we don’t have (or make) time for the things we really enjoy. I truly enjoy writing for my blog, but I have to make it part of my routine or it won’t happen on a regular basis. So during the last two weeks, while I had a bunch of self-imposed busy-ness happening, I valued writing for my blog enough to include it in my routine. Because for me, if I let it slip out of my routine, it becomes extra hard to fit it back in.

So, while I was just putting a couple of my regular weekly posts over the last couple of weeks, at least my gears haven’t stopped turning. A bunch of ideas for posts have popped into my head over the last couple of weeks. With time being short for actual writing, I’ve used those few spare minutes I did make for adding blog titles and ideas to draft posts. I’ve got a pretty good queue going now. Of course, not all of those ideas are ready to be fully fleshed out and some may not make it to the blog at all, but spending even five minutes in a morning jotting down ideas has been valuable and has continued to keep blogging part of my daily routine.

I’m grateful that I found a way to keep my morning writing a part of my routine over the last couple of weeks even if it hasn’t been “full on” writing, but I’m even happier that I’m back into my regular routine of writing a full-length post most days of the week. It makes me smile. (Be sure to check out other things that are making folks smile this week over at Olives n’ Wine!)

I would love to hear other bloggers thoughts on this.

How do you keep writing as a part of your routine when life takes over?

 

Recipes Coming Your Way!

I’ve been really wanting to add a recipes page to the blog for a while now. I have a lot of individual recipe posts, but I have been looking for a way to compile and consolidate them all in one place. I even went so far as to add a Recipes page a while back with the tag line “Coming Soon” thinking that would spur me to action. And, it did. It just took a while.

Thankfully, on Friday morning, I found a few hours to dedicate to working on my collection of original recipes to share with everyone. I’m looking for a better way of organizing them still, but for now, I have them organized by major categories:

  • Pork, Beef, and Lamb
  • Poultry
  • Vegetarian
  • Seafood
  • Side Dishes
  • Soups and Stews
  • Dips and Sauces

As I have a need, I’ll add more categories.  Also, I’ve only added a handful of recipes at this point, but as time passes, I’ll be adding more and more. In fact, just this morning, I added a perfect recipe for summer–a lightweight version of Slow-Cooker Lamb and Vegetable Curry!

So this week, I guess I treated myself with time to get something accomplished I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Take a visit over to Olives n’ Wine to see how everyone else is treating themselves. And, be sure to stay tuned for many more recipes coming your way!

Weekly Recap: Family Time

At the beginning of the summer, I decided I wanted to make building my weekly base mileage a priority, so I built my plan each week to build on what I had done the previous week. I purposely kept speed work out of my routine to make sure my quads were in good shape and so I could focus strictly on how my body felt as I added on my miles. This week, I hit 26 miles. I’ll end up with about the same next week and then I’ll drop back slightly as I officially start my training for Crooked Road in November.

Here is how my week played out:
Monday: Body Pump during lunch, 1 mile and my full-body challenge in the evening
Tuesday: 4 miles of trail. It was tough and HOT! We ended up walking a good bit because it was just so miserable out there. I also got to add another fall to my vast collection of tumbles I’ve taken. I actually managed to roll a little so I avoided adding more scar tissue to the skin on my right knee.
Wednesday: Body Pump during lunch, 1 mile and my full-body challenge in the evening
Thursday: 5 miles with Melanie. I actually managed to finish this one with a relatively quick overall pace (quick for me, anyway). I did the first part of my challenge, but when I got to my side planks, my shoulders were spent, so I save those and my military presses for Friday morning.
Friday: 4 miles. I managed to do 3.4 without a walk break. With my asthma this was a pretty big deal. Did the rest of my Thursday challenge stuff and also what was scheduled for Friday.
Saturday: 1 mile of laps around our hotel and then hit the fitness center to do my challenge.
Sunday: 10 miles followed by an almost 2 mile stroll. (More on this run tomorrow!)

Overall, it was a good running week. I had two runs that left me feeling like I’m making some good progress. My long run was a little frustrating, but considering the level of humidity as I started, I don’t think I could have expected much more.

On top of all that, we got to spend a great weekend with family. We kicked it off on Friday, by driving up to Cumberland, Maryland. When we got there we met up with my sister’s family and my dad, stepmom, and nephew. We took my dad out to dinner to celebrate his birthday. We haven’t been able to do that for him in quite a while, so it was pretty special.  On Saturday, we spent the day with his extended family (most of whom I have not seen in over 10 years). It was so nice to spend time catching up with everyone and have decided that it will not go that long without me going up to see everyone again.

We decided to drive back to my mom’s house in Alexandria on Saturday night and we spent a couple of hours relaxing and chatting (and planning for our beach trip next week).  On Sunday morning, she made breakfast for everyone and we got on the road by midday to head back.

It was a very full weekend, but very happy as well!

Balance

Today, I want to spend a little time talking about balance.  No, not the kind of balance that keeps you upright (although from time to time I struggle with that) or the balance that people talk about between home and work, etc. I’m talking about balance in the way you work your body.

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I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this since I started my running streak. I’m almost 50 days in at this point, and from the beginning,  I knew I was going to have to make a conscious effort to include other types of exercise into my routine.  If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I attempted that 30 Day Abs Challenge in June that was floating around everywhere. I modified it slightly to include push-ups and side planks.  I made it to day 15. In my current state of physical fitness, that was about all I could manage at one time.  Once I realized that was going to be my stumbling block, I modified slightly and stayed there.  Every other day I put in 50 sit-ups, 50 crunches, 50 leg raises, 25 push-ups, and kept my planks between 30 seconds and one minute.

Still, by the end of the month, I felt completely burnt out and I had no energy to add in any other forms of exercise besides running and core.  So for July, I decided something had to give. I’m in a little group on Facebook with a bunch of my runner girl friends that we used to keep us motivated during the abs challenge. For July, everyone started throwing out different ideas, but for me, all of them seemed to focused on one particular area.  So, I punted. I sat down with Runnerdude’s Full-Body Fitness for Runners by Thad McLaurinThe Runner’s World Guide to Cross-Training by Matt Fitzgerald, and this great article about strength in hip abductors and chose a series of upper- and lower-body exercises that I thought would benefit me in terms of overall strength development. In addition, I tried to choose some that were strictly core or incorporated core strength as part of the overall work.

Here are the exercises I chose for the month of July:

Upper Body
Push-ups (2 x each week)
Bicep Curls
Tricep Dips
Military Presses

Lower Body
Forward Lunges
Single Leg Squats
Clams
Burpees (this is really a full-body exercise, but I threw it in here for categorization purposes)
Squats
Lateral Lunges
Walking Lunges
Wall Squats
Fire Hydrants

Core
Sit-ups
Bicycle Crunches
Planks (2 x each week)

After I selected my exercises, I assigned 3 exercises to each day of the week (plus one rest day) alternating my daily focus between upper body/core and lower body. Then, I decided on my number of reps each day. I wanted to start with something I knew would challenge me but be easily attainable for the first round. I then started gradually increasing my designated reps each week. I’m almost finished with week 2 and I can already feel the challenge increasing.

Now comes to the fun part. Because I only assigned 3 exercises a day, I totally feel like I can put other workouts into my schedule. This week, I hit Body Pump class twice. I’m tired now, but I get a “rest” day before I tackle my long run on Sunday.

I’m really happy with the balance my new 30 day challenge is giving me. I can already feel it making a difference in my body. Hopefully, all of this work will help me take off the weight I put on over the winter while I was injured. If it does, that would be awesome. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too, I just want to keep making progress!

How do you keep balance in your fitness life?

Pilot Mountain Hike: Mountain Trail, Ledge Springs Loop, and Big Pinnacle

Nathan and I love hiking, so we decided to take advantage of the extra day this past weekend and try a new trail. We looked at some different options, but ultimately settled on this one because it’s a longer trail and we wanted a bit of a challenge. We’ll probably go a couple more times through the summer and fall, but choose less challenging routes because we’ll be in serious training mode as we get closer to our big races. I had attempted this hike solo several years ago, but some large storms rolled in, so I turned back after about an hour.

The Mountain Trail is definitely one of the lesser-traveled trails at Pilot Mountain State Park.  To get to the trail, park in the gravel parking lot at the corner of Pinnacle Hotel Road and Culler Road, then walk across Pinnacle Hotel Road and to the left. Within a very short distance, you’ll see the trail. If you go to the right, you’ll see Grassy Ridge Trail. That’s a bridle trail, which I’m sure you could also hike, but I’ve never tackled that one.

The first part of the Mountain Trail is no joke. In fact, it’s a pretty serious climb. I was wearing my Garmin to track our mileage and the elevation profile shows that we climbed about 500 feet over the course of the first mile.  Once we got through that first mile, we took a break and drank some water. Then, the trail gave us some reprieve. For the next mile and a half, the trail rolled pretty well.  We passed through some super green areas with narrow trail, and then some places where it looks like the the rhododendron had been burned out.  I wish I had thought to take pictures of those spots.  The contrast between them was pretty wild.

Cute little guy spotted along the trail

Cute little guy spotted along the trail

Just before we reached the 2.5 mile mark, the trail started climbing pretty steeply. In fact, over less than a mile, we climbed almost 1000 feet.  During this time, we hit the junction with Ledge Springs Loop. Since it is a loop, we decided to go right, and walked along the base of Little Pinnacle. The traffic on the trail definitely picked up by this point.  In addition, the mostly dirt and rock covered trail turned into steep, stone steps during this part of the trail. There was a lot of climbing and as a result, I ended up needing some breathers along this part to keep my asthma in check. By the time we reached the saddle that connects Little Pinnacle and Big Pinnacle, the trail had mellowed quite a bit.  We walked the loop around Big Pinnacle and then found ourselves a spot in the shade to eat some snacks and get ourselves hydrated.

Super cool rock formations found while hiking at Pilot Mountain

Super cool rock formations found as we neared the junction with Ledge Springs Loop

Pilot Mountain State Park actually has the best access for non-hikers to a summit I’ve ever seen.  If you want, you can drive practically the whole way to the top and just walk around the Big Pinnacle and hit the overlooks from the top of Little Pinnacle. For us, the fact that there was a parking lot with restrooms and water fountains meant a perfect halfway resting area.  After a snack, a visit to the bathrooms and refilling our water bottles (for the 2nd time), we headed back down Ledge Springs Loop so we could do the other side of that trail.  Going this way enabled us to peek over the top of Little Pinnacle to look at the valley below.  It was really nice up there!

The way down was pretty uneventful, although we almost missed our turn back onto the Mountain Trail.  If you do this hike, be on the lookout! There isn’t a sign at the actual turnoff, but there is just down the hill from the turnoff. You can see it from Ledge Springs Loop, but you have to be looking for it.  Mountain Trail is blazed with red circles, so between that and the sign, you should find it. We were busy talking to each other and not completely paying attention, so we didn’t realize we had passed it until we crossed over a little spring that we had seen when we first got on the trail. Fortunately, that triggered both of us, and we turned around to see the turnoff just behind us.

The way down was much nicer in terms of going downhill rather than uphill.  There were a few climbs on the way back which I’m sure were short in comparison, but by that time, my legs were pretty done, so they felt just as harsh as the ones coming up. But, I loved every second of it.

Elevation profile from our hike

Elevation profile from our hike

When we finished, we picked a handful of fresh blackberries along the side of the road, had a good stretch, and headed back into Winston-Salem for a refreshing adult beverage before we made our way home to grill Fourth of July burgers for dinner.

It was a great day of hiking! If you’re up for a challenge, I would definitely recommend it!

Where are your favorite places to hike?

Weekly Recap: In Love With the 3-Day Weekend

While the teachers and students are “off” for the summer, our district office only operates four days a week. We still are expected to put in 40 hours a week (or take vacation time) so the schedule runs from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM. That makes for a long day! This year, I decided to use up some vacation time so I could leave at 5:00 each day. It makes the days much more bearable, and it allows me time to get in a workout, dinner, and a few minutes of relaxation each night before getting up to do it all over again. However, those 3 day weekends are an idea I could get used to!

This past week, thanks to the holiday, we got to go back to our regular schedule. Then, our amazing superintendent sent an email out on  Thursday which said we that in the spirit of the holiday, we would close down at 2:00 for the weekend. Talk about making my day!

Here is how the rest of the week went…

Monday: Hit a great Body Pump class at they Y over lunch with Melanie.  I’m going to try to do this 1-2 times each week. I just hate that they don’t over the classes on a consistent schedule. Ran 1 mile after work.
Tuesday: 4 mile run after work and kicked off my July 30 Day Full-Body Challenge!
Wednesday: 1 mile run and day 2 of my challenge (that’s a rest day)
Thursday: 5 mile run and full body challenge before work. Great late lunch with an old coworker who is moving away after work.
Friday:  1 mile run and full body challenge early in the morning. Then, we met Nathan’s sister and husband for breakfast in Winston-Salem and headed to Pilot Mountain for hiking. 7.5 miles up and down the mountain we were tired and ready for an adult beverage. We hit Foothills for beers and an appetizer before we headed back to Greensboro to grill our burgers and relax for the rest of the evening.
Saturday: 1 mile run (my body was having no more after the hike the day before) and my 30 day challenge. Nathan made us an awesome breakfast (more about that on Wednesday). Then, we ran a bunch of errands, met some friends for early dinner and drinks and went to the movies.
Sunday: 9 mile run followed by bagels with the crew. Rest day for my 30 day challenge. I made those flexible so I could use them on whatever day I did my long run. Then, quick menu planning and grocery shopping. Nathan made fish tacos for lunch which we enjoyed on the patio before we headed off to Durham to see the Bulls take on the Tides with some good friends. We ended up with great seats! Then, we headed to Mellow Mushroom for a late dinner before bringing it back to Greensboro and crashing.

Ideal seats to see Durham Bulls vs. Norfolk Tides

Ideal seats to see Durham Bulls vs. Norfolk Tides

After a weekend like that, am I really ready to take on another work week?

On a totally different note, I’m going to be completing all of my runs this week using Mizuno Baton! For every mile I run this week, Mizuno will donate $1 to Back on My Feet, an organization that assists the homeless creating new opportunities for themselves by providing access to training, employment resources, housing resources, and yes, running. I promise I’ll write more about it once I finish my week!

Have a great Monday, folks!