December 30, 2015

Book Reviews: Quarterly Updates IV

This year was the first year I've written book reviews quarterly instead of writing one review per book or reviewing books monthly and I definitely plan to keep writing book reviews this way in 2016!

With two days left in the year, I've completed my Goodreads Challenge of reading 50 books but haven't quite finished the Popsugar Reading Challenge I was working toward. Honestly, I'm ok with it. I read a lot of books for that challenge that I wouldn't have normally read...some I loved, some I hated...but the challenge prevented me from reading a lot of books I wanted to read because they didn't fit into the categories. I still loved the challenge so I'm working on one of my own with significantly fewer challenge categories and I'll be posting it here next week! Stay tuned!

Before getting into this quarter's books, I wanted to share my absolute favorite reads of 2015! 

I recommend any and all of these! If you want to stay tuned to what I'm reading in 2016,  be sure to follow me on Goodreads!

Without further ado, here are the books I read to wrap up 2015! You can read past review posts here, here and here.



"The Sun Also Rises" by Ernest Hemingway - I've been wanting to read this since I read "The Paris Wife" since most of that book is about the trip to Spain that inspired this book, but it was boring. This was not the brilliant story of the "Lost Generation" that it's been called. It was my first Hemingway and, considering it's supposed to be his best, probably my last. A popular author's first book

"Why Not Me" by Mindy Kaling - I like Mindy's books much better than either Tina Fey's or Amy Poehler's. "Why Not Me" didn't disappoint and I definitely recommend it for a light easy read on a plane or on vacation. 

"The Zookeeper's Wife" by Diane Ackerman - I really wanted to like this book, but I felt like there just wasn't enough material for an entire book to be written. The Zoo Keeper's Wif of a zookeeper in Poland who hid Jews in the zoo to protect them from the Nazi. The book is less about how the Zabynskis saved Jews in Poland during WWII and more about the day to day operations of the zoo after it shut down during the war. The last chapter of the book really didn't have anything to do with the rest of the story and the narration skipped from the third person to first a few times, which was confusing. A book based on a true story

"All the President's Men" by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward - This book is about the Watergate scandal and the word 'impeached' didn't appear until the last page. Written by the two journalists that uncovered Watergate, this was a cumbersome compilation of the journalists' notes, rather than the process behind the investigations. Don't waste your time. Watch the movie with Robert Redford instead. A book that takes place in your hometown 

"Icarus" by Deon Meyer - This is the worst murder mystery I have ever read. There was no suspense build up and the murderer wasn't introduced (yes introduced, not revealed) until 10 pages before the end of the 360-page novel. The motive wasn't brought into the mix until 8 pages before the end. There was no mystery or intrigue throughout the novel and it lacked everything that makes a crime drama/murder mystery a good read. I've never been to South Africa, but the mix of Afrikaans interspersed with English seemed forced. Skip this one. A book with a one-word title

"White Truffles in Winter" by N.M. Kelby - This book was beautiful! Oh my goodness, I loved it so much! At first, I fell in love with the love story and was surprised to see that this book wasn't going to be about the love story. I've never read food so beautifully written before. The story ended differently than I would have liked, but in a way that really only made sense to the story. I highly recommend it. A book with a color in the title



"The BFG" by Roald Dahl - A childhood favorite that's coming to the silver screen in 2016. If you didn't read The BFG as a kid, you're missing out. Penelope Wilton (Isobel from Downton Abbey) is playing Queen Elizabeth in the film, so it's bound to be good! A book from your childhood

"Dreaming in Cuban" by Cristina Garcia - I read Garcia's book "King of Cuba" last year and didn't like it. Everyone told me I would love "Dreaming in Cuban" and I didn't. The characters were underdeveloped and there didn't seem to be a common theme connecting the characters other than them being related to each other. A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit

"Still Alice" by Lisa Genoa - I lost my grandfather to Alzheimer's in 2013 and was scared to read this book about a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer's at 50, but I really hated it. I think the book's biggest failure is that, as Alice's illness progressed, she became blissfully unaware of her surroundings. She didn't know who she was or where she was, but she didn't seem to care. This book failed to capture the fear that Alzheimer's patients so often experience as they advance into the later stages of the disease. A book that became a movie



"Peter and Wendy: Peter Pan, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up" by J.M. Barrie - I've always been a fan of classics. Last year, I read Sherlock Holmes. Peter Pan is one of my favorite stories and I wanted to read the original story. Surprisingly, Disney and Broadway nailed it as they both mirror the book, perfectly. A book more than 100 years ago

"Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" by Jamie Ford - This is easily one of the best books I've ever read. It's a beautiful story about a young Chinese boy growing up in Seattle who falls in love with a Japanese-American girl who gets taken away to an internment camp in 1942. I picked this up from the library but definitely plan to buy it. This is easily one of my new favorite books and I will definitely read it again. A book with antonyms in the title

"A View from the Bridge" by Arthur Miller - This definitely wasn't as good as "The Crucible" or "Death of a Salesman." I wouldn't say it was anti-climactic but the play just wasn't as compelling as it could have been.  A play

"Persepolis 2" by Marjane Satrapi - I'm about 100 pages into this and love it just as much as I loved the first one. "Persepolis" is the first graphic novel I've read that tells Marjane Satrapi's true story of growing up in Iran during the Revolution. The sequel begins after Satrapi has been sent to Austria by her parents after things in Iran have gotten too dangerous. A graphic novel and A banned book (Persepolis 1 and Persepolis 2)


Have you read any of these?
Have you ever attempted a book challenge?
What are some books that you loved this year?

December 29, 2015

So Long 2015!

Since I started this blog in 2010, I've committed to goals at the start of every year and loved seeing my progress at the end of each year.

I didn't do that last year.

Instead, I said, "I don't want to be bound by a to-do list for the year. I want to be adventurous and spontaneous and I want to learn things and see things and do things."

I made a list of some things that I wanted to work on but didn't really care if I did. Those things included yoga, making more food at home, rather than buying pre-packaged stuff, shopping locally at my local farmers' market, reading more non-fiction, saving money, and exploring more of DC,

I started off the year doing a lot of yoga...and that took a backseat. I've definitely been better at doing yoga at home this year thanks to Yoga with Adriene, but I don't think I get as much out of yoga in my living room (with the dog running around me and the oven preheating for dinner) as I do in a studio.

I definitely tried my hand in some Adventures in Homemade - homemade bread, homemade tomato sauce, pasteis de nata (from Portugal), but I'd like to get better at that, and actually blog about those adventures.

Clockwise from Left: Apple Picking in VA, Hiking in Rock Creek Park, a homemade lattice top pie, at home yoga, "The Bully Pulpit" by Doris Kearns Goodwin
I think I shopped at the Farmers' Market once.

I failed miserably at exploring more of DC. We moved into a new neighborhood and I love it so much, I hardly ever left. I definitely read way more non-fiction than usual and I saved a ton of money.

I definitely had some awesome experiences in 2015. I was finally able to race uninjured and did so at DC Rock 'n' RollCherry Blossom, and finally, Chicago. I traveled a lot.

  • I celebrated my sister's 40th birthday at the Sundance Film Festival.
  • The Pilot and I visited my sister in San Francisco.
  • My mom and I went to Lisbon together, and The Pilot joined.
  • We celebrated our 1st anniversary in Hawaii and then took off on an impromptu trip to Dubai six weeks later.
  • I spent a few days in St. Louis for work, and fell in love with the city.

This year definitely brought some awesome memories and adventures, but at the same time, it was really hard.


The Pilot and I spent more time apart than we ever have. He started the year away in training for a new job for 3 months...and then left again for training with another airline at the beginning of December. He left right after Peyton's surgery and it was tough taking care of her by myself. Peyton's cancer diagnosis in itself was a tough blow but I'm so grateful that we were able to act quickly with the support of some really generous family and friends.

I don't think I was my best self in 2015. I think I was selfish in a lot of regards, but at the same time, I didn't really do anything for myself. I half-assed my way through marathon training, almost reinjuring myself in the process. I spent more time on my couch this year than ever before, I turned down a lot of plans and invitations and secluded myself. I'm not even really sure why.

I'll be 29 in 2016 and lately, I've been thinking a lot about where I want to be at 30. I want to be more committed this year...to everything...to running, to blogging, to my family, to traveling...everything. I want to be my best self at 29 and that means saying "Yes" a lot more, and being the adventurous, spontaneous self that has always made my happiest. I'll be back later this week with how I plan to make that happen!

So, let's raise a glass to 2015...and another one to 2016!
How did your year shape up?

December 28, 2015

Three Years in DC

Three years ago, The Pilot and I ended our long distance relationship and moved to DC. We had already fallen in love with this city but now, it was home, and more importantly, it was our home.

We spent those first six months exploring every inch of this city we could. We went to all of the museums, we tried restaurants, we went on long walks and longer runs.

I've had offices in Georgetown, McPherson Square and Penn Quarter. I've fallen in love with the restaurants on 14th Street, the bars on U Street, weekend mornings in Eastern Market, and the green spaces of Lincoln and Meridian Hill Parks.

We got engaged on the National Mall. We never even thought about not getting married in DC. We got married across the street from the White House.


DC is home. Everything about this city just feels right. The last three years have been incredible. I haven't spent nearly as much time this year exploring the city as I used to (I didn't do much of anything in 2015 to be honest) and that will definitely change in 2016. This is an amazing city and I plan to keep exploring as much of it as I can. 

I don't know how long The Pilot and I will live in DC. We aren't planning on leaving anytime soon, but I plan to keep exploring as much of our home as possible while we are here. 

What's the one place you've lived that will always feel like home?
Have you been to DC? What are your favorite things about the nation's capital?

December 16, 2015

If We Were Having Coffee...

It's the holiday season. Everyone is out and about running around, going to holiday parties, shopping, wrapping presents, etc. It's that time of the year when it's easy to say "I'm too busy." This holiday season, I'm making a conscious effort not to do that. If we were able to find time for a coffee date this week, here's what I would tell you.


Peyton is going to be fine.  The biopsy showed that the cancer was of a low enough grade that it wasn't able to spread and shouldn't come back. This was such a relief. Aside from the stress of Peyton's surgery, the added stress from the anticipation was driving me crazy. I was so scared that the surgery wouldn't be enough and that we'd be out of options, but that wasn't the case at all and our sweet pup is going to be just fine. 

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I'm having a really hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year. I haven't done any shopping, I haven't gone to any parties, I've been a bit of a grinch. I'm hoping to spend some time this weekend seeing all of the Christmas decorations around DC and I'm hoping that that will help.

I would tell you that I keep opening my 2016 planner and then walking away from it. This year has been really hard and I don't want next year to be anything like it. I'm looking forward to a fresh start, to spending a lot more time running, and to hopefully, a better year, but I'm having a hard time actually making plans for the New Year.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this post has been a little depressing, so here's what I am looking forward to: time with mama, time with The Pilot, new friends and beginnings, Noche Buena (Christmas Eve), Rum Chata, and tons of puppy snuggles, because Peyton is going to be just fine, and that is truly a Christmas miracle!

Happy Hump Day!
What do you do when you're having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit?




December 10, 2015

Currently...

Feeling... stressed and sleep deprived. Peyton has been waking up every 2 hours since she came home from the vet and I am just exhausted. She's doing really well but she just wants to play in the middle of the night. I think the pain meds are messing with her sleep schedule.


Reading... "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova. I started it on the metro this morning. I don't think I like it but I'm only 30 pages in. Has anyone read it? I haven't seen the movie either.

Watching... "Telenovela" on NBC. I grew up watching telenovelas in my grandparents' house and while I wish this show was a little bit more Latin...it's kind of funny.

Needing... to finish my Book Challenge. I'm a little bit behind and need some recommendations for books to read. Who can help? These are the categories I have left:

A book more than 100 years old - I need a short one, so I think I'm going to read Peter Pan
A book with antonyms in the title
A book written by an author with your same initials (CM or CK)
A play
A banned book
A book set during Christmas

Wanting... sleep.

Working on... my blog redesign. I put that on hold for awhile but it's getting close to finished.

Grateful for... our friends and family who have supported our Crowdrise campaign to offset Peyton's veterinary bills. I never thought so many people would be willing to help and I'm so grateful that they have been. It's making this situation a little bit less stressful to deal with.

Loving... the Christmas decorations all over the city. I went for a run on Tuesday by the Capitol and the Capitol Christmas tree is so pretty at night!

Do you have any recommendations for the books left in my challenge?
How do you deal with sleep deprivation?
What are your favorite elements of a blog design?
Happy Thursday!


December 8, 2015

Planes, Trains, and ???

I have been a ball of stress for the last six weeks. I've been stressed about work, about money, about the holidays, and now about Peyton.

My mind is running constantly so I'm  having a hard time falling asleep and an even harder time waking up. Since I  brought Peyton home from surgery, she's been waking me up every 2 hours and I'm exhausted. I haven't been eating right. I went grocery shopping this weekend for the first time in probably a month.

Last week, I ran twice. The Chicago marathon was two months ago and I've run four times since.

I haven't done yoga since before the marathon. I haven't been to a spin class or a barre class or anything like that. I basically ran the marathon and stopped working out.

It's completely unlike me and all of a sudden, it hit me why things have been so stressful. The circumstances are there, but my capacity to deal with them? Gone. I am a true believer in the cleansing powers of exercise. By not working out, I'm not even giving my body or mind a chance to blow off some steam.

So, I'm trying to run again. I ran 3 miles last Wednesday with The Pilot and 3.5 miles with a friend on Sunday. I've been sore after each, but in that way that makes you crave another workout.


I don't know if I'll run tonight but i will run this week.The point of this post is that this used to be a running blog. Part of the reason it hasn't been one is because I was injured for so long but I'm recovered now. For two years, I couldn't run and now that  I can, I'm not running.

I promised myself that when I recovered I would never take for granted my ability to run and not only am I doing just that but by not running I've given up part of myself.

{via Stride Box}
So I'm committing to run and I'm committing to writing about running. It might only be twice a week (tge running part, not the writing) but I know that I need to get back out there, if for no other reason than to clear my mind of all of the stresses in my life right now.

Wish me luck and, if you can, try to hold me accountable.

December 7, 2015

Girl's Best Friend

Oh my goodness. What a week.

Thank you all for your sweet comments about Peyton on my post on Friday. The Pilot and I were so appreciative of the support through what has been a surprisingly difficult week.

Last Monday, Peyton stepped on broken glass and cut her paw. Tuesday morning, she was still bleeding so The Pilot took her to the vet. He asked them to check out a small lump we had noticed a few weeks ago and on Wednesday, she was diagnosed with cancer. Thursday, we met with the veterinary oncologist (Yes, those exist. I had the same reaction) and Friday, she went in for surgery. It all happened so quickly, but our sweet pup is home and recovering.


The Pilot and I didn't do much other than take care of Peyton this weekend. Friday, after we picked Peyton up from the vet, we took her to the pet store to pick up some food. Since the surgery was on her mouth, she's going to be on a soft food diet for the next few weeks, so we had to pick her up some wet food. We were absolutely exhausted and spent most of the night trying to keep Peyton comfortable before finally falling asleep.

Saturday, we rearranged our apartment so that Peyton could maneuver it a little bit more easily with her cone. The funny thing is, I like it better this way!

Sunday, The Pilot and I did some typical Sunday things, grocery shopping, laundry, etc. and I went out for a run. It was only my 4th run since Chicago and it was hard and I was out of breath, but it felt so good to get out there, especially given all of the stress of this week.

If I'm being completely honest, I would have rolled my eyes at a post like this a year ago. Honestly. The last 5 days of my life have completely revolved around my dog. Thursday morning, I was so terrified that we were going to bring her to the vet and they were going to tell her that she had two months to live and that would be it. I came home from work Wednesday and just sobbed. I never ever thought that something like this would hit me so hard, but here we are. I'm hoping things settle down a bit as she starts to get better through the week and I'm anxiously awaiting the results of her biopsy.


This week has been so hard, but it's amazing to see so many people reach out to help us out - whether it's to petsit Peyton while I'm at work, to give advice about how to keep her from getting out of her cone, or to help us offset the costs of her surgery. As you can imagine, Peyton's veterinary bills were costly and unexpected. The Pilot and I launched a Crowdrise campaign over the weekend to try and offset some of those costs and were blown away to see so many friends and family help us out.

2015 has been a really hard year, but to have something like this happen, and realize how many people out there care about us is truly amazing. <3

December 4, 2015

Peyton.

The Pilot got Peyton right after we started dating. I thought this was the most irresponsible thing he could have done. He was living with friends and interviewing to become a pilot.

We were kind of, sort of, not really dating, so I kept my mouth shut. After all, she was freaking adorable.



Fast forward three years and The Pilot and I were moving in together. Peyton and I had a rocky start. She was HIS dog and would bark aggressively every time we hugged. When we moved in together, The Pilot picked her up from his parents house, drove her to DC, and left the next day for a 4-day trip.

It was terrible. She was in a new place with a new owner. I think she thought The Pilot had left her for good. She shook uncontrollably and peed every time I walked into the room. Peyton and I, as roommates, were not off to a good start.

But things slowly changed. We started recognizing that we are a part of each other's lives. Slowly but surely, she became my "sweet pea honey bee." When my godfather passed away, and my grandfather later that year, Peyton put her head on my lap and licked the tears from my face. When we came back from Dubai in October, she was more affectionate than ever.



A few years ago, a friend of mine found out that their dog had cancer. They spent a fortune to treat their dog, who is now happy and healthy. I told The Pilot that if we were ever in that situation, we wouldn't be able to pay that. We wouldn't do it.

Well, on Wednesday, we found out that Peyton has cancer. I found myself at a veterinary oncologist yesterday and, this morning, we're dropping her off for surgery.



I can't even comprehend how much this is costing us. I tried so hard to estimate what this would cost and I came up short by $1,000...but what else can we do? Peyton is just as happy and healthy as ever. We discovered her tumor, which is just beneath her chin, two weeks ago, but she's otherwise, a normal, happy, over-excited dog who loves chasing squirrels. 

Our options are to have the surgery and, if all goes well, she'll be fine, or, we could leave it alone and let it keep growing and be forced to put her down in a few months. So, here we are.

This year has been so, so, so hard. At the start of the year,  The Pilot was living in St. Louis, training for a new job less than six months after our wedding. Once he got out of training, his schedule was wildly unpredictable. He would leave for a day trip and not come home for 5 or 6 days. It was hard, but I came home every night to a wagging tail and it made everything better.

Peyton was always The Pilot's dog, but over the course of our relationship, she's become mine too. The Pilot is away most of the time and having Peyton makes it so much easier. 


It took awhile, but I truly couldn't imagine my life without Peyton. She's our first baby, our little bee, and right now, we're doing everything we can to save her.



I don't know if that will be enough, but we have to try. 


So, here's to hoping.

November 30, 2015

{Long} Weekending Highlights

Long weekends are so amazing. I wish every weekend was 3 days. Whose idea was it to create a 5-day work week and a 2-day weekend?? What kind of balance is that?

I had a wonderfully long, relaxing weekend. My mom was in town, The Pilot didn't end up working on Thanksgiving, and it was a great weekend.

I got out of work early on Wednesday and ran a few errands before heading home to do some cleaning and baking before my mom came in.

Thursday morning, we woke up and made mimosas and warmed up the cinnamon rolls I had made before while watching the parade. I loved the parade this year (as always) and loved the performances by the casts of "Something Rotten" and "Finding Neverland."

After the parade, we made our way to Woodley Park for a trip to the National Zoo. All of the Smithsonian museums are open on Thanksgiving and it was a gorgeous day in DC, so we took advantage of the warm weather to spend the day outside at the zoo.


From the zoo, we made our way to dinner. This year, I made us reservations at 701 in Penn Quarter and dinner was fantastic. The Pilot was on call all day and we were all worried that he would get called in as soon as we sat down to eat, so we were all thankful that that didn't happen!

Friday morning, we woke up, had some leftover cinnamon rolls and then made our way out into Virginia to visit some wineries! My mom has been wanting to visit the VA wineries since we moved out here, and it was so warm in DC on Friday that we couldn't pass up the opportunity! We visited two wineries - Fabbioli Cellars (which I had been to before) and Winery 32. At Winery 32, we ordered lunch and spent the afternoon on their patio enjoying the scenery.


My mom left on Saturday morning and The Pilot and I did some stuff around the house before heading out for the day to meet up with some people. Sunday, we slept in, made breakfast together, stayed in our PJs until well after noon, and put up our Christmas tree. It was a pretty perfect end to the long weekend.


How was your long weekend?
Did you go shopping? Are you after any Cyber Monday deals today?

November 25, 2015

Why We Go Out on Thanksgiving

This is the third consecutive year that I'll be going out to dinner for Thanksgiving.


When I tell people this,  I'm met with some really mixed reactions.

"We can squeeze you in for dinner!"
"Why don't you come to my house?"
"But it's Thanksgiving!"

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the invitations to friends' Thanksgivings, but I like going out to eat.

Thanksgiving has never been a big tradition in my family. I honestly don't have any Thanksgiving memories growing up. It's not that we never celebrated it, it just wasn't really a big holiday for us the way it is for a lot of people.

Growing up in Texas, we used to spend the holiday with a friend of my mom's. I don't really remember what we ever did after we moved to New Jersey.

For the last three years, my mom has come to DC for Thanksgiving. We've woken up, eaten cinnamon rolls and watched the parade while drinking mimosas. We head to the National Mall and visit one or two of the museums and then we go out to dinner. One year, we went to Lincoln. Last year, we went to Jackson 20 in Old Town. This year, we're trying somewhere new.

I love this tradition. This year will be Year 3 and I wouldn't change a thing.  It would be better if The Pilot could join us, but I love it. As much as I love to travel, and as much as I love to cook, I like our Thanksgiving just the way it is.

When friends and co-workers find out what my Thanksgiving plans are, a lot of them feel bad, but I can tell you, there's absolutely no reason to. Sure, we don't have the most traditional Thanksgiving, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Is there a holiday that you celebrate somewhat nontraditionally?
Have you ever gone out to eat for a major holiday?

November 23, 2015

Coffee Date: Thanksgiving Week Edition

Good Morning friends! Since I completely disappeared from social media last week, I thought we'd have a coffee date and catch up! I'm drinking a cup of home brewed coffee and eating some pumpkin banana bread that I whipped up last night while getting ready for work. 


If you were joining me, here's what I would tell you:

I came home from St. Louis with a terrible cold. I stayed home from work on Monday but didn't really start feeling better until Thursday. I still have a bad cough, but am otherwise on the upswing.

I would tell you that work has been crazy. I work in nonprofit fundraising so it's my busy season, but busy hasn't even covered it. I didn't eat lunch until 4:00 on Wednesday!

I would tell you that my mom is coming down for Thanksgiving. We're sticking to our new-ish tradition of watching the parade, visiting one of the museums, and then going out to dinner. The Pilot may or may not be flying. I'm excited for another low key Thanksgiving with my mom in town.

I would tell you that I spent all day yesterday doing stuff around the house, doing some baking, and watching The Food Network and now I want to bake every day for the rest of the year. I seriously LOVE baking.

That's really all that's going on with me! 
How are you spending Thanksgiving?
Are you traveling? Cooking? What's on your menu?

November 16, 2015

How I Fell in Love with St. Louis

Last week, I headed to St. Louis for a conference. The conference didn't start until Thursday morning so I flew in early Wednesday and spent the day exploring. It was a cloudy, overcast day, but I was staying right downtown so I took advantage of being right in the middle of everything to try and see as much as I could!


The conference was scheduled for Thursday, Friday, and most of Saturday morning, but I tried to fit in as much exploring as I could! So as soon as I got off the plane and checked into my hotel, I grabbed some breakfast and a cup of coffee and headed out to see as much of the city as I could!

First up, The Gateway Arch - The Gateway Arch is one of the most iconic monuments in the country and it didn't disappoint. Towering over the city, the Arch is built so that no matter which way you're looking at it, you still have the ability to look through it. I couldn't help taking a snapshot of the Arch from a dozen different angles at every time of day!


The Arch just celebrated its 50th anniversary two weeks ago and several people had told me it was a must to go to the top of the Arch. I was shocked when I got there to realize that I wouldn't be taking stairs or an elevator up, I'd be taking a teeny, tiny little tram that takes you the 3-minute ride up to the top! The view from the top offers a great view over the Old Courthouse, the City Garden, and Busch Stadium.


City Garden - This public sculpture garden in the middle of the city is perfect for walking around with a cup of coffee, which I grabbed from 6 North Cafe.


The Old Courthouse - The Old Courthouse is the courthouse where Dred Scott case was first tried and it was beautiful! They've turned it into a museum with a few different exhibits (including one about Dred Scott) and I spent some time there while waiting for my turn to go up the Arch. (You pick up your tickets at the Old Courthouse.)


Busch Stadium - Of course I couldn't take a trip to St. Louis without taking a tour of Busch Stadium! I actually didn't think I was going to have time for it, but I landed Wednesday morning with enough time to spare before the 12:30 tour. The Cardinals' Stadium is one of the eight remaining ballparks I have yet to visit. When I walked into the stadium, I thought, "Here we go, Ballpark #23" but after the tour, I don't think it counts as much. I've taken tours of Nationals Park and US Cellular Field, and in both of them, we saw the whole stadium. The tour of Busch was great and really dived into the history of St. Louis baseball, but we didn't leave the area behind home plate. We saw the Cardinals Club and the Redbird Club (aka places that  I will never sit in at a baseball game), went onto the field and into the dugout, and visited the press box, but I didn't really feel like I saw the stadium, so that was a little disappointing.


After my day of sightseeing, I went for a run and got caught in a downpour a mile from my hotel. It was super cold out and I'm pretty sure that that mile run is the reason I'm now nursing a really bad cold. I brought my phone along on my run and snapped some pictures along the way.

That wrapped up my first day in St. Louis, but here are some other things I did while I was there.
  • Central West End - Sara recommended CWE as a great neighborhood for dinner and I made my way there on Thursday after the conference for dinner. I ate at this adorable little restaurant called Wildflower and sat at the bar. The food was incredible, the bartenders were really nice, and the chef even came out to say hello.
  • 360 - the rooftop bar at the downtown Hilton, with gorgeous views of the Arch.
  • Gooey Butter Cake - I've seen this stuff all over Pinterest and never knew it was a St. Louis treat until I was there, so of course, I had to try it! I stopped by Park Avenue Coffee for a slice of the traditional cake and I wasn't disappointed! I can't wait to try out one of those Pinterest recipes!
  • Laclede's Landing - St. Louis's historic district with a bunch of bars and restaurants.
  • Venice and Frazer's - Sara and I met up on Friday night for drinks at Venice (such a fun, eclectic bar!) and dinner at Frazer's (incredible cheese plate, even better food!) in Benton Park. We had an amazing time catching up and I loved that she showed me her favorite parts of St. Louis!
  • Mud House - I found this place because it was the only thing open at 7 am on Saturday. My brother called me Friday night because he was road tripping to Chicago with his team and due to arrive in STL around 7 am so of course, we met up for breakfast before he dropped me off at the conference and hit the road again! Mud House is a cheap, counter-service, breakfast spot with exceptionally good food and coffee.

I fell in love with St. Louis and I will definitely be back! There were some things I didn't get to do that I would have loved to - the Budweiser Factory, Forrest Park, and the City Museum -but I just didn't have time. 

Have you been to St. Louis? 
What are some things that you would add to this list?
If you haven't been there, do you think you'd visit now?


November 12, 2015

Currently...

In... St. Louis! It's my first time here and this city is kind of awesome!


Feeling... like myself again. I ran for the second time after Chicago yesterday and it was great. 3 easy miles touring St. Louis and getting caught in the rain...it felt great to be running again and I know that taking a month off was the best thing for me.

Reading... "The Sun Also Rises" by Ernest Hemingway.

Watching... "Once Upon a Time" and "Master Chef Junior." MCJ premiered on Friday. I freaking love this show and am constantly amazed at what these children can do. An 8-year-old made a burger using two different kinds of meat...I've never even heard of that. I also cry every time they do.

Thinking about... blogging. I've had this blog for 5 years now and I definitely haven't been able so spend as much time with it this year as I would like. (Case in point: It took me almost 2 months to get my Lisbon and Hawaii posts up). Last night, I listened to the Blogging, Business and Balance webinar by Helene and Taylor and it was awesome! I definitely learned a lot of tricks to balance working full time with blogging.

Needing... to get a new passport. My passport is the only thing I haven't changed my name on. I was holding out because, for two years, I've had ONE empty page in my passport that no country would stamp and I finally got the last page filled in Dubai last month. The problem is...I'm so terrified of not having a passport for a few weeks that I don't want to do it.


Wanting... to go to Germany and see the Christmas markets. The Pilot hasn't gotten his December schedule yet so it's up in the air whether we'll be able to go or not but it's high on my list for the end of this year!

Working on... my blog redesign. I'm hoping to have it launched by the end of this month!

Loving... Junior League. I've made some awesome friends so far and I'm loving my first year!



Alright your turn! Pick three of the above 'Currently...' items and let me know what they are for you!
Happy Thursday!

November 10, 2015

If We Were Having Coffee...

Good Morning!

I'm sitting here enjoying a cup of home-brewed French Roast coffee so I thought I'd write a coffee date post to catch you all up on what I've been doing.


If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I've only run once since Chicago. Training was tough, and the race was equally hard. I didn't mean to take this much time off, but I just haven't felt like running. I need to start thinking about my training strategy for 2016 and then build my races around that, and that means, getting back on the road and in the gym soon.

I would tell you that I went home this weekend to see my mom for her birthday. I honestly can't remember the last time I went home and it was so good to be there. Due to a delayed flight, I got in really late on Friday and we were up super early Saturday morning to drive to New York for a special friends and family screening of the new Peanuts movie! My cousin, Jen, works for Blue Sky Studios and got to work on the film! If you're a Charlie Brown fan, see this movie, it didn't disappoint!


I would tell you that I've started working on my blog design, except I've run into a little hiccup with the template I bought and the color scheme. If anyone out there can help me with some HTML stuff, please let me know!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I'm a little bit behind on my 2015 Book Challenge, but I think I'll finish! I have 14 books left and I'm in the middle of two. (I never read more than one book at a time but one of them - a nonfiction - is just dragging, so I picked up a fiction book to read at the same time.)

I would tell you that I'm starting to think a lot about 2016 and what it's going to look like.

I would also tell you that I'm really annoyed that I saw my first Christmas commercial before Halloween.

I'm heading to St. Louis this week for a conference. I've never been there before so if anyone has any recommendations for restaurants or things to see, let me know!

So tell me...

  • Have you seen Peanuts?
  • What are your thoughts on Christmas coming early? Has your tree been up for weeks or do you wish the holiday season actually took place during the holiday season?
  • Have you been to St. Louis? What should I see or do there?



November 5, 2015

5 Things to Do in Dubai

Dubai is an incredible place. Rooted in tradition, culture and history while boasting an impressive array of Western influence, Dubai is quickly becoming the centerpiece of the world. Everything in Dubai is the biggest/best of its kind...the tallest building in the world, the tallest commercial building in the world, the best hotel in the world...there isn't anything there that wasn't built to impress.

I wasn't in Dubai for very long, unfortunately, and there's a lot that I would love to go back and see, but I've pulled together a list of the five things that I think any trip to Dubai should encompass.


1. Visit the Jumeirah Mosque - The Jumeirah Mosque is the only mosque in Dubai that is open to non-Muslims. Sheikh Mohammed, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, opened the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding to educate tourists and expats (Nearly 90% of Dubai is comprised of expats) about Emirate traditions and culture. You can visit the Jumeirah Mosque and learn about Islam. I found it fascinating to learn about the rituals associated with the call to prayer and I loved hearing the call emanating from one of the nearly 1,500 mosques in Dubai as I made my way through the emirate. One thing I didn't get to do that I really wanted to was to participate in one of the SMCCU Cultural Meals, where you can have share a traditional Emirati meal with Emiratis and engaged in conversation about their history and culture.



2. Ride an abra boat across Dubai Creek - Abra boats have been transporting people across Dubai Creek since Dubai was just a tiny finishing village. For AED 1 (rouglhy 27 cents), you can take the short ride in an abra boat across Dubai Creek to visit the famed gold or spice souks in Old Dubai.


3. Watch the Dubai Fountain at night  - Designed by the same team that designed the fountain at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, the fountain at the Burj Khalifah was made to make the Bellagio fountain look like your backyard sprinkler. With jets that shoot up to 500 feet in the air, the dancing fountain is definitely impressive. As my flight out of Dubai took off, I could actually see the fountains from the air. The fountain show takes place every 30 minutes. I recommend watching it a few times from a few different angles.


4. Take a hop on/hop off bus tour - I know that these tours aren't popular with more seasoned travelers, but they offer such an easy way to get around a city and see things while learning about them. The Pilot and I did the tour on our last day in Dubai and I really wish we had thought to do it on our first day. We took a City Sightseeing bus, but they offer virtually the same route as the Big Bus tour. Dubai is a sprawling place and with the limited time we had there, this was the best option for us to really get a feel for the city.

5. Have Tea at the Burj Al Arab - This is the one thing I didn't get to do in Dubai that I'm most disappointed about. One of the most popular things to do in Dubai is to visit the top of the Burj Khalifah, the tallest building in the world. At 300-500 AED ($80-$130) though, the cost is prohibitive. The Pilot and I opted to skip the view from the Burj Khalifah not only because of the steep price, but because the view you really want to see is of the Burj Khalifah. The Burj Al Arab is the world's only 7 star hotel. At AED 990 per night ($2750), this hotel oozes luxury. Located on a private island, the only way onto the premises is with a room reservation or a reservation at one of the restaurants. For AED 620 ($168), just a little more than the admission price at the Burj Khalifa, you can have tea at the Skyview Bar and still get an amazing view of Dubai while visiting the most luxurious hotel in the world. We weren't able to do this because you have to book well in advance, and, unfortunately, our last minute trip to Dubai didn't afford us this opportunity. Luckily, our hotel still offered a pretty incredible view of that gorgeous skyline.

Have you been to Dubai? 
What would you add to this list?


November 4, 2015

3 Days in Dubai

With our last two trips (Hawaii and Dubai), The Pilot and I have really pushed how far we're willing to travel for a long weekend. Hawaii was an 11-hour flight and Dubai was 13. Dubai was actually pretty easy to do. We lost a day on the way there and gained a day on the way back, making this short trip totally doable!


Day 1
Our flight landed around 7:30 in the morning. We checked into our hotel in Deira, which is near both the airport and Old Dubai, and headed out to explore. 

Assuming that Dubai was like every other city, we headed "downtown" toward the Burj Khalifa. Unfortunately, Dubai doesn't really have a "downtown" and heading to this area really just brought us to the Dubai Mall, but we made the best of it! We stopped in the Mall and had a quick bite to eat before heading outside to explore. 

The Burj Khalifa is the world's tallest building. It sits at the base of the Dubai Mall surrounded by the Dubai Fountain and the Souk al Bahar (home to one of the many Shake Shacks in Dubai).


It seems obvious to say, but that building is tall. It shoots straight up into the sun and looking up at it on a bright, sunny day, makes you feel like you're staring straight into the sun!


We wandered around the Souk and the Mall a bit before hopping into a cab and heading to the Jumeirah Mosque. There are nearly 1,500 mosques in Dubai and this is the only one open to non-Muslims. When we got there, we were greeted by the staff and invited to share some camel's milk ice cream and relax a bit before we could go inside the actual mosque. I was given an abaya to wear inside the mosque and asked to cover my head (the only time I needed to do so while in Dubai) and we went inside. The mosque is beautiful. It's very simple, but still a beautiful place for worship.


We left the mosque and headed back to our hotel for dinner. By this point, we had been awake for nearly 36 hours and were exhausted. Before heading to bed, we were able to catch this incredible view of the sun setting over Dubai from our hotel's roof. 


Day 2
I wish I could tell you that we woke up on Day 2 and seized the day, out to explore at the crack of dawn, but the reality is, that I was exhausted. We lounged around for a good bit of the day before heading into Deira and Old Dubai to wander around. 


Deira is Dubai's commercial district and sits on the Dubai Creek, across from Old Dubai. The way across is via boat, in tiny little boats called abras that have been used since Dubai was a tiny finishing village without 7-star hotels. We took an abra across to Old Dubai and spent the evening wandering through the Old Souk and the general area. 


We left Old Dubai and headed back to the Dubai Mall to san ee the Dubai Fountain show. It was much more crowded than the day before and we found a spot near the Mall and waited for the show to begin.


Day 3
On our final day in Dubai, we did wake up at the crack of dawn and seize the day! We bought tickets to a hop on/hop off tour and spent the entire day seeing every part of Dubai that we could! I've always been slightly skeptical of these tours, but with limited time, this seemed like the best option to really dive in, and it was an exceptional way to do so! Dubai isn't the type of city that you can just walk around and explore. It has much more of the LA feel, where everyone drives, so this was perfect. 


We went to Palm Island, saw the Burj Al Arab, went to Jumeirah Beach, visited the Financial District...we really just did everything, and had plenty of time to hop on and off and explore. Our flight wasn't until almost midnight, so we had a full day to really see Dubai and it was awesome! 

In 3 days, we definitely skimmed the surface of the city, but I wouldn't have it any other way. There are cities that you visit and by Day 3, you're ready for a change of scenery, and others that leave you craving more. Dubai definitely fell into the latter and I would love to go back and really dive into Dubai. While I was disappointed to see more Shake Shacks, Cheesecake Factories, and TJI Fridays then Middle Eastern restaurants, I was amazed to see just how well Dubai has been able to hold on to their culture while welcoming the western influence. 

What do you think of Dubai? Would you travel there?
If you've already been, what was your favorite thing to see or do?

November 3, 2015

3 Perfect Days in Oahu, Day 3: Pearl Harbor and Diamondhead

It's been 6 weeks since I came back from Hawaii and I'm finally posting about our last day there. Don't worry, I promise not to wait too long to tell you all about last week's trip to Dubai! Missed my first two posts? Check out Day 1 and Day 2!

Just like that, we had come to our final day in Hawaii. Fortunately, our flight wasn't until almost 10pm so we had the whole day ahead of us to explore.


Once again, we woke up bright and early (jet lag!), and Carolann took us to Pearl Harbor to see the USS Arizona Memorial.


It was an incredibly moving memorial. Pearl Harbor is considered a living memorial, meaning, the physical memorial is essentially a grave site. The soldiers who died in the USS Arizona still rest beneath the Memorial. It is the most moving memorial I have ever been to and was definitely an emotional experience.

After Pearl Harbor, we stopped for breakfast at Bogart's an amazing little place I came across on Yelp. The Pilot had a fried rice breakfast bowl that they're famous for...I had more than  few bites because it was incredible! Carolann and I shared an acai bowl and it was incredible! I had never had one before and I'm definitely a fan!


Bogart's was at the base of Diamond Head, which we had plans to hike to the top of. It was hot and steamy that day which made for a serious workout, but the views from the top (and along the hike) were well worth it!


After hiking back down Diamond Head (the way down is much easier than the way up), we made our way to Waikiki Beach. We spent the afternoon swimming and relaxing by the beach before stopping at Leonard's Bakery for some malasadas. These little sugar coated donuts were heaven...and the ones stuffed with lilikoi (passion fruit) made my heart beat a little faster.


We brought the malasadas back to Carolann's house and stopped by the Kalapawai Market to grab sandwiches for dinner. We enjoyed dinner, malasadas and some ice cold liquid aloha on Carolann's roof top before sadly making our way to the airport.

Everyone told us we were crazy for going to Hawaii for just 3 days but it was well worth it. We had a whirlwind vacation but we were still able to relax, and the trip home was nice and smooth. Would I go back to Hawaii? Absolutely! I would love to explore some other islands! Would I go back to Hawaii for 3 days? Definitely! Short trips seem to be our MO and I love them. You definitely have to cram a lot in, but I think that 3 days is the perfect amount of time to explore any destination!

What's the furthest you've traveled for a weekend getaway?
Have you been to Hawaii? What's your favorite island?
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