Movin’ On Up!

First things first, happy Friday! I celebrated this mild achievement (making it to Friday is always an achievement) by having a super awesome breakfast. TJ’s waffles, small smear of almond butter in between, plain Greek yogurt sweetened with honey, and warm blackberries. Good breakfasts like this always make my day better.

After I entered the blogging world back in December 2011, I never thought that I would enjoy it as much as I do. I’ve learned so much from other bloggers and I’ve discovered new blogs every week. I enjoy connecting with my readers and I continually think of ways to write interesting posts for everyone. Now, after a little over 4 months into blogging, I’ve decided to take it to the next level…

I’ve decided to move my blog over to self hosted! It was a big decision, and a somewhat costly one at that, but I think it’s what’s right. I want to grow the blog as much as I can, and I’m the type of person who doesn’t do anything half-assed. I want to be able to make my blog more tailored and customized, and the only way to do that is to by self hosting.

So as the blog is transferred over, Blonde Bostonian will down starting Saturday and will most likely be back up early next week. It will have a new design that will hopefully be cleaner, more robust, and more tailored to what I want to bring to my readers. Also, be on the look out for a recap of the Boston Marathon, the Marathon expo, and the B.A.A. 5k!!!

I promise not to be gone too long! While I’m gone, I’d like to wish the best of luck to all the people running The Boston Marathon on Monday! You guys inspire me so much and I can’t wait to cheer you all on!! If you’re running the race, let me know when you think you’ll be running through Cleveland Circle/Washington Square – that’s where I’ll be, cheering you all on! Maybe I’ll see you at the race expo on Saturday or the 5k on Sunday!

Also, I’ll be live tweeting from the Expo on Saturday, the B.A.A 5k on Sunday, and the Marathon on Monday. To get updates throughout the weekend Follow me!

Have a great weekend!

Bloggers: Any tips for self-hosting? When did you make the decision to switch over to self-hosted? Anyone running the B.A.A 5k on Sunday? My roommate Steph and I will be there!

Three Things

Thursday is here and I’m starting to see the end of the work-week tunnel!

We all experience set-backs in life, and lately I feel like I’ve experienced set-back after set-back. I hurt my foot a few weeks ago after spending a whole weekend painting. I stressed over my injury and forced myself to rest and not run, which for a runner, is a very stressful experience. I’m not a good injured person. I get frustrated, angry, and antsier than a two-year old in church. But it seemed to pay off, because I returned to running last Friday and haven’t looked back. I’ve experienced no pain during the run, after the run, and my foot usually feels better in the hours after I’m finished. I do experience a LITTLE tightness in the morning, but after walking around for a few minutes, it disappears. Yay! Looks like I’ll definitely be able to run the 5k this weekend!

After running a couple of times this past weekend, I decided to take it to the streets on Tuesday. I geared up, compression sleeves and all – I felt legit, I felt strong, I felt psyched.

Then my Garmin couldn’t get a signal. Seriously Garmin? I know it’s been a while since I’ve used you, but COME ON! After giving up with my useless technology, I said screw it and just kept going. Everything was great, but then around mile two, I had another incident; one even more annoying than the first. I’m going to spare you the details, but let’s just say my intestines hated me. I’ve had GI issues before while running, and it’s a pretty common experience that most runners have at some point in their running career. After cutting out a lot of dairy (specifically milk) from my diet, the problem was diminished drastically. But on this day, during this run, it decided to make an appearance. I ended up walking a mile home and spent the rest of the night back and forth between the bathroom. Not fun.

I felt so defeated. Why was my body acting this way? What did I eat that day that made me feel this way? Why can’t my mind and my body sync up?

Flash forward to last night. It was a new day – I was going to try this again!

I suited up, and made my way out. I waited for my Garmin to crap out on me again, but it didn’t! Signal was reached and I was on my way. It was the best 4.5 miles I’ve run in recent memory. I wanted to go slow and strong and I did! No speed intervals. No tempo or threshold run. Just plain running. I finished at a 9:12 mi/mil pace and didn’t have any GI issues! Success all around!

I can’t get down about these frustrations. In the grand scheme of life and my running career, a couple bonked runs are not a big deal. Two weeks of rest because of a funky foot is not a big deal. There are much worst things in life, and sometimes I have to remind myself of that. I was made ever more aware of that yesterday morning after finding out that they found the body of the missing BC student, Franco Garcia, floating in the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. I run around that Reservoir all the time. I’ve seen his family handing out flyers. I’ve seen the ‘Missing Student’ signs all over light posts. It breaks my heart to know that his family is going through something like this. In the days and weeks moving forward we’ll find out what happened to him, but for now, I’m thankful that everyone in my life is safe and sound. His family is in my thoughts, and I wish that you include him and his family in yours.

So on that note – today, I am thankful for many things, but three in particular are:

  1. Healed foot = 5K is a go on Sunday!
  2. I got to Skype chat yesterday with one of my best friends and old roommate from college, Gabby. She’s in Rome, Italy right now working on her Master’s in Architecture. I miss her dearly, so it was awesome to get to talk to her for a little while.
  3. The health and safety of my family and friends. Anything can happen anywhere and it’s been made more and more apparent to me lately with what happened. Hug your loved ones!

I miss you, Gabby!

Have you ever experienced GI problems on a run? Any tips for combating them? Foods to cut out? How do you deal with frustrating and disappointing runs?

WIAW #3: Veggie Couscous Mix {What I Ate Wednesday}

It’s Wednesday – happy Hump Day!

It’s also What I Ate Wednesday! Head over to Peas and Crayons to check it out! Thanks to Jen for hosting, as always!

Breakfast

Honey flavored Chobani, ground flax, blackberries, and granola; the breakfast staple.

Lunch

Lunch was a bit more exciting. As I stood in front of my open cabinets and refrigerator last night, attempting to get creative for dinner,  I came up with this recipe. I had already put two chicken breasts in the slow cooker that morning so I would have some pulled chicken for the week (I add it to salads, dinners, etc.). I thought it would be nice to make a sort of couscous salad to get my greens, chicken, and starches together in a meal.

Recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potato Couscous mix

Serves 2 as a main dish, or 4 as a side dish. The chicken is always optional if you want to make it vegetarian.

ingredients:

  • 1 chicken breast
  • one can of chicken broth (preferably low sodium)
  • 1 box of couscous (I used a box of Near East garlic and olive oil pearled couscous)
  • 2 cups of brussels sprouts
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese

Chicken directions:

The morning before you make dinner, place the chicken breast in the crock pot and add enough chicken broth to cover the meat. Set to low for about 8 hours.

Dinner directions:

  • Set your oven to 400 degrees.
  • Cut up the sweet potato in small 1-inch chunks. Place them in a mixing bowl.
  • Trim the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half. Add them to the mixing bowl.
  • Toss the Brussels and ptotato pieces with some olive oil (enough to lightly coat) and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Put the veggies on a sheet pan and roast for 20 minutes, tossing the veggies every 5 minutes or so while they’re in the oven.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the couscous according to the box instructions.
  • Once the couscous is finished, add the roasted veggies and mix together. Add as much or as little of the chicken as you like.
  • Then add 1-ladle of the leftover chicken broth from the crock pot. This has all the yummy chicken juices. Mix together.
  • Top it off with some parm cheese and you’re ready for dinner. Easy peasy!

Snacks

Two unpictured Samoas girl scout cookies, because I wanted something sweet and I love it when they’re frozen. I also beat off hunger between the gym and dinner with a banana.

Dinner

Bernie had three chicken breasts in his fridge that were on their last days – it was time to use them or toss them. I agreed to help him cook them, but I wanted a recipe that was a little more interesting than just plain chicken. I found a recipe for broccoli and cheese stuffed chicken on Skinny Taste. I always have broccoli in my fridge and I had some left over taco cheese, so these chickens were a little more zesty.

I can’t say enough about this recipe – it was so good! Gina never seems to let me down. I paired it with some leftover broccoli for added veggies. Only change I would make – add more cheese!

What new recipes have you tried lately? Any creative cooks in the kitchen out there – share one of your easy weekday meal recipes. I need ideas!

Travel Tuesday Takeover: Japan Prelude

Today I have some exciting news to share with you guys! Since I started the blog, Tuesdays have been all about my traveling experiences, specifically my experiences in Europe this past summer. Since I want to keep sharing traveling adventures, I decided to begin “Travel Tuesday Takeover” – guest posts from other people sharing their travel stories. So I asked my good friend Rebekah to guest post for the next few weeks. She recently returned from Japan and will be sharing her experiences every Tuesday on the blog. If you have any questions or comments for Rebekah, be sure to leave a comment (as always)! Enjoy!

____________________________________________________________________________________

Adventures in the Land of the Rising Sun: Prelude

My boyfriend and I moderately enjoy Anthony Bourdain. We watch his shows, read his books, lust after his trips, adore his arid brand of sarcasm, and we’d like to spend a night at a bar with him. Ok, fanboys really.

Perhaps subconsciously inspired by his jet-setting life and autumn Sundays spent watching him on the tube, we decided we wanted to travel out of the country. But the proverbial trip to Europe didn’t seem to strike a chord with my other half—myself either to be honest. I have been lucky enough to visit a good number of beautiful countries in Europe, and while “been there, done that” is far from my feelings on mainland Europe, the thought of going again didn’t tickle me. Ideas were tossed around, nothing stuck.

One night, likely after a few too many beers and far too many episodes of “No Reservations,” I received an off-the-cuff text message from my boyfriend: “Let’s go to Japan.” It was half suggestion, half question—but across town I squealed and immediately began looking up flights.

He should know better.

Because with that we were off to Japan. Everyone asked, “Why Japan?” We answered, “Why not?”

Not long after, we stopped calling the trip a vacation. It became clear that we were embarking on something of an adventure—12 days, 3 cities, countless things to do and see.

For the next few Travel Tuesdays, I’ll be walking willing readers through my time (read: adventures) in Japan. What I expected, what I did not expect, what I learned, and what I got myself into.

-Rebekah

Weekend in Review: Photo Edition

Happy Monday everyone! I hope everyone had a great Easter/Passover weekend! I spent this weekend doing many things including running for the first time since I injured my foot (so far, so good!), celebrating Steph’s 24th birthday, Easter at Bernie’s parents’ house, and putting a few unwanted holes in walls. Here’s some pictures from the weekend to catch you up a bit.

Photos of Easter in New York via my sister. Missed them!

My Easter in MA with Bernie:

 

How did you spend this weekend? Do anything fun? Share!

Friday Link Love

Happy Friday everyone!

Work has been busy, busy, busy and blogging has taken a back seat over the last 24 hours – so today, I leave you a couple of links that I’m loving/have come across lately for your Friday enjoyment.

1. This weekend I’m FINALLY going out! It’s my roommate’s birthday, so we’re getting gussied up and hitting the bars. It’s the first time I’ve gone out like this since January (?) and I can’t wait.

I hope it involves a lot of arm raises like this:

This gif from #whatshouldwecallme sums it up.

“When I start getting ready to go out”

2. Did you know Titanic is out in theaters in 3D?!

Did you know Titanic had an alternate ending?!?!?! WHAT?!?!

I’m so glad James Cameron didn’t use this. Talk about a horrible way to end the movie! Bernie and I always catch Titanic on TBS every now and again, and he always says, “I hate Rose! I can’t believe she threw the diamond in the water. It’s the worst movie ending ever.” But after showing this to him, I’m pretty sure he thinks the real ending is the best ending ever. Yikes – so bad.

3. Speaking of Titanic, check out this hilarious writer from Jezebel who summarizes the movie for you – so you don’t have to see it.

Happy weekend! Any fun plans for the weekend?

Boston Fever

Boston has been hit with marathon fever!

Every April, the city begins to develop a certain buzz around the famous marathon. Television channels have been running commercials about their upcoming marathon coverage, blog posts and articles are showing up in the local papers, and my neighborhood is FILLED with runners every weekend mornings.

Every year, I seem to miss the marathon for various reasons. The Boston Marathon always falls on Patriot’s Day, a Massachusetts state holiday that commemorates the first battles of the Revolutionary War. Schools are closed, city businesses are closed, and some offices are closed. When I was in college, we always had Patriot’s Day off. I always wanted to spend it by making my way to Copley Square to watch the race, but I never made it. School work, part time jobs, and other things always got in my way.

There’s something about the marathon that’s really special to the city. The marathon is such a storied race with a rich history of marathon stories – it’s the world’s oldest annual race, the challenges of Heartbreak Hill, the “scream tunnel” at Wellesley College, team Hoyt (who actually ran the New Bedford Half with me – and I saw them!!), Rosie Ruiz, and much more. It’s awe inspiring to watch the runners push themselves to the limit, both mentally and physically.

This year, my roommate Steph and I are going to watch the marathon for the first time ever! We’ll be watching from the Brookline area of the race. I feel like it’s the perfect location. The runners will have just finished going through Heartbreak Hill, and at the Brookline point of the race, they have about 4 miles left. The runners are going to need all the support that they can get – and we’re going to give it to them!

Steph and I are also running the B.A.A 5k the day before the race and will be attending the Marathon race expo. I’m super excited!! Running races always gets me super pumped about running more, and I can’t wait to be inspired to keep running.

Another story that is part of the famous Boston lore is the story of the first female runner ever to enter the marathon: Kathrine Switzer. In 1967, Kathrine entered the race using the name K.V. Switzer. Not realizing the name was that of a woman, no one noticed and Kathrine ran the race and finished. I saw this NPR quick story and video about Kathrine and learned something I had never known – she was almost physically pushed off the course by a race organizer. Check it out – it’s a pretty amazing story. It’s hard to believe that it’s only been 40 or so years since women were allowed to run marathons. It seems that women dominate at running races as much as men these days – it’s definitely an equalizing sport and I love it!

 

Are you running Boston this year or know someone who is? Would you ever want to run Boston?  Have you ever watched the marathon in person? What do you find most inspiring about running?

WIAW #2: Nonstop Hunger {What I Ate Wednesday}

Hello friends, and happy Wednesday! Since I like order and schedules (I’m weird like that) I’m going to continue with the tradition of What I Ate Wednesdays. Head over to Peas and Crayons to check it out! This month is all about adding an extra cup of veggies to meals. I think I did alright, but I know I could have done better.

Breakfast: 1 vanilla Chobani yogurt, with 1 tbs ground flax, blueberries, and some Quaker Oatmeal Squares. Hmmm. Never get tired of Greek Yogurt.

Lunch: A turkey and cheese sandwich. I feel like a little kid again every time I eat them – this was my mom’s go-to when we were kids – but it’s a little more adult now. Organic roasted turkey breast, muenster cheese, dijon mustard, baby greens, and Ezekiel bread.

and some pretty sad looking grapes. They still tasted yummy.

A couple hours later, I had an apple pie Larabar. My hunger was on fire today!

Snack: After work and a good gym session (my foot is feeling so much better! I was so tempted to run but I held back) I headed home to shower. While waiting for Bernie to finish up at the gym, I had a protein shake. Chocolate protein powder+ice+water.

Once Bernie got back, I headed over to his place to make dinner for us.

Dinner: Chicken breasts, roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli, and rice pilaf. On the sweet potatoes was some olive oil, salt, pepper, and cinnamon (yum). After roasting for about 10 minutes, I added the broccoli so it wouldn’t burn. Paired with some wine, it was a perfect dinner.

What are some of your favorite eats lately? What’s your favorite way to add veggies to your meals?

My 23 Hour Trip

Phew! It’s been a busy couple of days! Sorry for being away this weekend, but I had a whirlwind trip that lasted a whole 23 hours.

I got to see this little face

Saturday morning I woke up bright and early to head to my parents’ house in Upstate New York. The reason for this quick trip?

Trading in this baby…

For this!!

Look who’s joining the 21st century!!!

I was super excited to finally get rid of the heavy, useless brick that was my Blackberry. I had it for a whole two years and hated it almost immediately. I got it in that little sweet spot time where the iPhone was available, but it wasn’t SUPER popular yet. The whole concept of playing games with people like Draw Something, or Word With Friends didn’t exist. I liked my Blackberry, but recently with my upgrade due, I knew that I wanted an iPhone 4S. My Blackberry sucked. It froze. It deleted things out of the blue. The battery life was a joke. Time to go.

I even ordered my iPhone case weeks ahead of time in preparation. Isn’t it adorable? I got it on Etsy from the Pretty Smitten shop. The case wasn’t cheap, but it is gorgeous! It’s a quality hard case, and it arrived quickly and easily. Working with Elizabeth was fabulous! I highly recommend her Etsy services.

I’m still trying to figure out my phone – I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of how to utilize it to its full potential!

I also did ‘home’ things. I got my highlights touched up and a much needed haircut. I haven’t been able to find a hairdresser in Boston that I LOVE, so I take advantage of getting my hair done at home. My hairdresser has been cutting my hair for over 10 years, and she’s amazing. I also got a pedicure. It was MUCH NEEDED! Saturday night I met up with an old friend who recently got engaged! Congrats, Amanda!

Sunday morning, I got up at 8am to head back to Boston. On the way back, I decided to stop at Ikea. As you read earlier, Bernie and I finished painting the final rooms of his condo, so it was time to start decorating. Bernie HATES Ikea, but I love it. So I took a solo trip and got a pretty good haul of stuff! I have some plans for the living room!

I got back to Boston around 3:30 in the afternoon. After a quick trip to Whole Foods for groceries and a shower, I reunited with Bernie for dinner. After making dinner, I finally got to sit down!

I’m tired just thinking about this weekend. Glad that I’m home!

Readers: How was your weekend? Do you have an iPhone? Any fun fitness/health apps I should download? Do you play Draw Something or Words with Friends? I do — username: BlondeBostonian

Homeward Bound

Usually on a Saturday morning, there is NO reason for me to wake up at 6am – aka: death hour. Even while training, my morning runs usually happened around 9am.

Well, I’m up at death hour today for a reason. Can you guess? It involves…

and….

and finally…

 

Have a wonderful weekend!

Feeling the Pressure

After my half marathon, I seemed to recover much more quickly than I ever thought I would. I wore compression shorts immediately after and overnight in the days after the marathon. Two days after the marathon I had zero soreness, which I tie to the compression.

It’s been almost two weeks since the race. I’ve been running, but not a ton. I’ve been mostly doing lower impact workouts in the time since. Weight training has returned and I’m actually enjoying it. However, while Bernie and I were painting his house past Saturday, I noticed a very sharp pain in my right foot. All of a sudden, I went from feeling fine to having a super tough pain radiating from my foot, up my ankle, and into my calf.  Oh. Shit.

I immediately didn’t know what it was. I thought to myself, “Maybe it’s from standing on my feet all day and painting. Maybe it’s from lifting heavy cans of paint. Maybe it’s from standing on the super scary rickety wooden ladder.” As the night went on, it continued to hurt. I went to sleep somewhat worried, but chalked it up to overexerting myself.

The next day, I woke up to the same pain. I changed my shoes from my Nike Free’s (little support) to my Brooks running shoes (more support) and it seemed to help. I had on and off pain the whole day while painting. Again, I hoped and prayed it was nothing serious.

So this leaves us to now. I’ve been having a pain in the outside/bottom/top of my foot (it keeps changing). I also noticed that the calf on that leg was SUPER tight, especially along the outside. So I rolled it one night and was left with a really sore lower leg, but a somewhat better foot. I’ve dealt with ankle/calf injuries before when I had peroneal tendonitis. I used to get really bad ankle/calf pain when I rode horses and my orthopedist at the time told me to get a foam roller for my calves. Within a week, the pain was gone forever.

So right now, I think it might be one of two things:

  1. The peroneal tendonitis is back since I have pretty tight calves from all the training I did.
  2. I strained a tendon in the bottom of my foot from walking around in very unsupportive Nike’s while painting all weekend (lifting heavy cans, standing on my tippy toes a lot, standing on a rickety wooden ladder).

At least, that’s what I’m hoping.

I know that the best thing to do is rest, so I’m taking 5 days off from any exercise and waiting to see how I feel on Monday. That would be 9 days after the pain started. I know if I go to an orthopedist, that’s going to be their suggestion. I don’t believe it’s a stress fracture, because I don’t have any tender spots on bony parts of my foot. I don’t think it’s planter fasciitis, because my heel doesn’t hurt (at least that’s what I’m hoping – PF is scary for runners). I am worried, but I’m trying to focus on resting, icing, stretching my feet and calves, and foam rolling. I’d like to not be sidelined from running for longer than two weeks if I can help it. I have a 5k in a little over 2 weeks! If I’m still in pain by Monday, I’m going to make an appointment with an orthopedist.

Please ignore my scary toes. They're getting a pedicure this weekend - promise!

Since I’ve had multiple issues with my calves, I decided to finally make another investment in compression gear – compression calf sleeves. After researching different brands, I headed to City Sports and picked up the CEP Sports Compression Sleeves. After foam rolling, I slipped them on and they felt super comfy. I’m excited to start using them for runs. After walking around in them for a little while, I noticed the bottom of my foot didn’t hurt quite as much anymore. Good sign? I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

For now, I’ve been rocking these at night and will most likely be wearing them under my pants during the day. Shhhh – it can be our little secret ;).

Readers: Have you ever had calf muscle issues? Ever try compression gear? Do you think they make a difference? Ever had arch pain? How do you deal with annoying injuries?

Link Love

Happy Thursday everyone – only one more day to go!!

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that everyday there’s some new viral video or something funny on the internets. I just can’t seem to keep up!

Something that I noticed a couple other bloggers mention is the tumblr site #whatweshouldcallme. Have you guys seen this!? So funny!! My favorite that made me laugh this week was this one:

“Getting out of bed on a Monday”

and…“When you realize your friends are taking a group photo without you.”

I do this a lot….

and here…more subtle this time.

…and here…..

COME ON SARAH! GET IT TOGETHER!

Anyway.

Bernie also sends me/shows me hilarious gifs all the time. This one is my favorite.

I like to imagine that this is how the T and bus drivers feel in Boston.

Now for a more serious one – to all of you running the Boston Marathon!!

I found a link to a really awesome article all about each mile of the Boston Marathon and what to expect during each one. I thought it was pretty accurate. I can only speak for miles 21-26.2 because I live within those miles, but either way, it’s worth a read. Check it out here!

 

Any other fun internet things you read/see/enjoy? Any Tumblr users out there? Have you seen #whatweshouldcallme?

WIAW #1: My First {What I Ate Wednesday}

When I first started reading healthy living blogs, I noticed that many bloggers post the meals that they eat throughout the day on their blogs everyday. From these posts, I’ve gotten some really good ideas for recipes and creative meal ideas.

Overnight Oats in a Jar -- what is that?!

I don’t do this. While I occasionally talk about my eats and my mentality on healthy eating, I don’t regularly post a list of meals that I eat throughout a given day or week. This is because, honestly – it takes time and I’m lazy/busy. I didn’t intend for this blog to become a ‘food blog’, but since I’ve learned so much from other blogs in terms of healthy meal ideas and eating whole food is such an important piece of the healthy lifestyle pie, I thought I would start posting food more often.

Which leads me to my FIRST WIAW {What I Ate Wednesday} post! I found out about WIAW from my fellow bloggers and from Jenn’s blog, Peas & Crayons. Head over to her blog and check it out!

Now for the eats. The rules of WIAW are that you post your eats from a whole day (any day, doesn’t have to be Wednesday). So without further ado…my eats from Tuesday:

Breakfast: plain Chobani with a tsp of fig butter mixed in, blackberries, and Bob’s Red Mill granola on top for added crunch.

Lunch: mixed greens topped with chopped cucumbers, red onion, and a chickpea salad. When Bernie and I were in Italy, we found a place that had this amazing chickpea salad of chickpeas, chopped tomato, onion, and peppers, olive oil, salt, pepper, tuna, and cilantro (at least those were the ingredients I could taste). I replicated it by using TJ’s fresh salsa (chopped onion, cilantro, tomato, peppers) chickpeas, EVOO, salt, and pepper to taste. It’s amazing on its own or topped on a salad. Also with lunch was roasted sweet potato and onion from dinner last night.

(sorry for the non-creative/pretty non-existent plates. This is how I pack my lunch for work.)

I snacked during the afternoon on a couple of these babies!

Dinner: Amy’s Vegetable and Lentil soup and a grilled sandwich on Ezekiel bread with roasted turkey, muenster cheese, and dijon mustard. Hit the spot!

What are some of your favorite eats lately? I’m obsessed with fig butter lately – so good!

Travel Tuesday: The Contiki Experience

Hello everyone and happy Tuesday! After a few weeks’ hiatus, Travel Tuesday is back! Over the last few months, I’ve chronicled my and Bernie’s trip last summer to Italy, France, and Spain with Contiki, a travel guide for 18-35 year-olds. We did a ton of things during our two week tour around the Mediterranean. We explored the Colosseum and visited where the Pope lives.

We took a bus to a bus, to a boat, to a train, to a bus, to get to our hotel.

We toured the smallest Museum of Natural History ever in France.

And we saw architecture that would make Dr. Seuss happy in Barcelona, Spain.

 

 

We saw a lot of sights in 2 weeks and experienced things we never would have if we didn’t decide to travel together. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I don’t regret a second of it.

When Bernie and I decided to take a trip together, we sat down and brainstormed ideas of where to go. Ever the adventurer, it was Bernie’s idea to go to Europe. At that point, he and I had been together for about 4 months. I didn’t think the relationship was going to end before, but that’s a big commitment to make, to schedule a huge trip together months in advance when you had only been together for a short period of time. I took the leap of faith and said yes to Europe. A few weeks  later, we paid a visit to a AAA travel agent in search of some help. We had both been abroad, but never traveled within Europe before. We didn’t have the faintest idea of what to do. This is where we found out about Contiki, a travel company that plans trips/tours throughout Europe and other countries. After crunching some numbers, we realized that traveling through Contiki would be about the same cost-wise or somewhat cheaper than traveling on our own. Between Euro Rail passes, hotel/hostel stays, and food/activities the trip’s cost added up fast. Contiki takes care of everything for you – hotels, travel between countries, some meals, and many activities. And during the entire trip, you’re lead by a guide who deals with logistics and helps you navigate a foreign country.

After searching through the GIANT Contiki tour book, we settled on “Mediterranean Highlights” which started in Rome and ended in Madrid. A few days later, we booked the trip online and waited!

Overall, there were good things about our experience with Contiki and some not so good things. Here’s a quick rundown of the pro’s and con’s of budget traveling.

Pro’s of Traveling with Contiki

  • Convenience. All of the logistics of traveling in foreign countries is taken care of for you. Your hotels are booked for you, group dinners are scheduled for you, and tours of monuments/attractions are organized for you.
  • Inexpensive (in comparison). While it’s not cheap to travel with them, it is cheaper than traveling on your own. There are many dinners and tours included in the cost of your trip. When we went to visit the Colosseum, we had a two-hour guided tour lead by a local guide. This was included in the overall cost of the trip. The day before, Bernie and I went to the Colosseum and had tours pitched to us for about 25 Euro each – VERY expensive!
  • Hotels>hostels. We got to stay in some pretty nice places (for the price) while traveling. Our hotel in Madrid was beautiful; it even had a pool.
  • Tour guides are live-in teachers. Our tour guide, Giuseppe, was amazing. He was from Italy, so he was fluent in Italian, but was also fluent in Spanish and knew a lot of French. He led us on some great walking tours of all the places we went, and taught us the native language of the country we were in. This proved to be key. It felt good speaking the language and experiencing it with more knowledge than the average tourist who was on their own.
  • Traveling in groups is better than traveling alone. We made a ton of friends while on the tour. Since Contiki caters to 18-35 year-olds, everyone was in a similar age group. We all became very close over the two weeks and had a blast together exploring. I think it also helped me and Bernie not want to kill each other by the end of the trip. Don’t get me wrong – I love my boyfriend and spending as much time with him as I can – but traveling is stressful. Having other people to put your focus on and interact with makes a big difference.

  • Free time. We were given at least a few hours each day for free time to rest, explore, or do whatever. We found these free time hours to be key to enjoying our vacation. While it’s great to go with the group, going off and doing things on our own was sometimes better than group outings.

Con’s of Traveling with Contiki

  • This is a tour, not a vacation. While we knew that this trip wouldn’t be all rest and relaxation, I felt like sometimes the go-go-go nature of the trip was overwhelming. There were days where we were so completely exhausted, almost to the point of not even wanting to go out on the tours (which is crazy talk!). Our tour guide said on day one, “This is not a vacation, this is a tour.” He couldn’t have said it better. If you’re looking for a low key adventure vacation, Contiki is not for you.
  • Cost. While the trip was cheaper overall, we ended up spending more money while there than we thought we would. Many of the extra excursions through Contiki were not included in the price – which we did not know. When we got to Europe, our tour guide laid out to us how much each excursion would be over the course of the trip. Before we knew it, we were dropping 250 Euro each for excursions. I wish I had known this beforehand so I could budget accordingly.
  • Hotels are so-so. It was hit or miss with the quality of hotels we stayed in. The hotel in Rome was great, but the hotel in Nice, France was HORRIBLE! A kid in our group was covered in bed bug bites from that hotel. I developed a cold after two days in the hotel. There was visible mold everywhere. I know the trip included budget accommodations, but some of the hotels were even worse than “budget” level in my opinion.
  • The tour group’s dynamic can be hit or miss. Our group had a fabulous dynamic! Our tour guide took us out to enjoy the nightlife, but we didn’t do it every night so it wasn’t overkill. We all bonded well as a group and I stay in touch with many people from the trip. We saw some other Contiki groups along the way, and some of them were wild – going out every single night, never sleeping, drinking until all hours of the night, hung over on all excursions. Apparently Contiki has a reputation to be sort of wild and crazy. This was not the experience I had, but I can imagine that the mindset of your tour guide and the people in your group makes a huge difference. Our group was all about going out and having a good time at night, but we also wanted to be refreshed enough to enjoy the sights during the day.
  • Not enough free time. I wish that we had an extra day in each country to experience things on our own. Unfortunately, we didn’t. Free time was numerous, but it was often short and was spent napping, resting, or getting ready for the night ahead of us.

Overall, I don’t think we would do a Contiki tour again. Not because we had a negative experience, but because we’ve figured out how to travel through Europe and we want to do it on our own. Going our first time with a tour group was the best thing we could have done – we aren’t travel virgins anymore. Also, we weren’t nuts about all the countries in the tour. Italy was phenomenal, Spain was way cool, but France wasn’t great. I wasn’t that much of a fan, and could have done without it. If we were to go back to Europe, we would stick to one or two countries and tour those extensively.

 

Readers: Have you ever traveled through a foreign country? Did you do it through a tour or on your own? Share your experiences!

Blue to Brown

Sorry I’ve been M.I.A. the last couple of days, but Bernie and I have been holed up in his condo finishing one of the major project left, painting.

For anyone who has ever bought a new house or rented a new apartment, you know there’s nothing like paint to freshen up a room or change the mood in a house. When Bernie moved into his condo back in October, we knew painting was going to have to happen. So far, we’ve painted the kitchen, entryway, and his bedroom. This weekend, we tackled the living room and the second bedroom. The second bedroom was a HORRIBLE yellow – I’m talking highlighter yellow. After some decision, we settled on a nice dark gray. It looks amazing!

Sunday morning, we woke up exhausted, but we had the largest room left – the living room.

When Bernie bought the place, we knew we wanted to change the blue. The color was nice, but it just wasn’t what we were going for. We settled on a nice golden tan color, which sets off the original molding nicely. Here’s the finished product!

We love it!

This condo redo has been quite the process. When I met Bernie, he was living with his parents outside of Boston and working full time in the financial world to save up enough money to purchase a condo for himself in the city. He worked for years and eventually saved enough money to purchase his two-bedroom condo in Boston that he has now. Searching for the condo was even more of a process. He lost two condos before he finally found this one. I tagged along during the whole search and saw some nice places, and some not so nice places. Boston has a lot of older buildings, so new construction is out of the question, and it’s hard to find older places that have been taken care of properly. The place he eventually bought wasn’t the nicest, but it was in the best area and had potential. Once he moved in, he knew that he wanted to change some things including the bathroom (which was SCARY bad) and the kitchen. At the moment, the bathroom has been completely renovated. It was teared down to the studs and completely rebuilt. It looks amazing. I’ll have to put some pictures up sometime soon. I wish I had taken before photos, but the reno happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to. If I had ‘before’ photos, you could see how much of a dramatic change it it.

I’ve also been involved during all the renovations, helping Bernie select tiles and paint colors. It’s been really fun. I was the girl whose father bowed down to the temple that is This Old House and who could fix anything in our home. He built our back deck completely by himself when I was younger and it still stands strong to this day. I love renovations.

With me moving in this summer, I’ve been helping him decorate and make his condo more of a home. Now with the paint on the walls, we have a blank canvas to make our own. I’m so proud of Bernie for figuring out what he wanted at such a young age and working his ass off to get it. I know he complains sometimes about how expensive it is to be a homeowner (well, duh babe) but he has a lot to be proud of. At 24, he’s a homeowner. Not many people can say that.

We started off the decorating by hanging the first photo in the living room – one of our favorite pictures from our trip to Italy blown up on a canvas.

Readers: How was your weekend? Do anything exciting? Have you ever done home renovations/home improvement projects? Tell me about them!

Trader Joe’s Lovin’

Happy Friday everyone! Who’s pumped up for the weekend?!

In Boston, we have quite a few choices for grocery stores; Shaws, Star Market, Market Basket, Hannaford, Stop and Shop, Whole Foods, etc. But the one that has a special place in my heart is Trader Joe’s. I remember being introduced to TJ’s in college. We never had one growing up in Upstate New York and when I discovered the little grocery store, my mind was blown. Healthy, creative, fun food items for cheap!? It’s a miracle!

When I was in college, the closest TJ’s was in the Back Bay, about a 20 minute walk from the NEU dorms and about a 30 min walk from my apartment Junior/Senior year. It was pretty easy to hop on the T and head down. Then I discovered the other TJ’s in Coolidge Corner – a larger TJ’s that sold beer and wine. Amazing.

I now live 1 mile from the Coolidge Corner TJ’s, which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s close enough for me to walk, but if I need a lot of things, I have to drive or wrestle the T with bags of groceries.

So this past weekend, I took the car and headed down to TJ’s for my weekly shopping. I haven’t been in a few months and I now know why I don’t go very often – I always leave with a big grocery bill. Oops. Oh well.

Two of my impulse buys are Quinoa and Black Bean chips and Fig Butter. The chips are amazing! They have a light taste with a hint of lime and are reallllyyyyyy crunchy! Yumm! 🙂

The fig butter is also equally amazing.

It tastes like the inside of a fig newton, which is pretty much the best packaged cookie ever.

This morning my breakfast consisted of a sort of deconstructed “pb&j” with Ezekiel bread, fig butter, crunchy almond butter, and banana slices.

Probably one of my favorite breakfasts in a while. I think this fig butter would be perfect with some sort of grilled cheese with prosciutto and brie. Hmmm.

What are some of your favorite new foods? Have you ever been to a Trader Joe’s? Any exciting plans for this weekend?

Back to Normal

Please tell me I’m not the only one feeling this way?

Boston has been beyond beautiful this week. Today it’s supposed to hit a high of 80 degrees. 80 degrees in MARCH?!

Yesterday a few coworkers and I took advantage and ventured out of the stuffy office for some lunch al fresco. Best decision ever. My manager also held one of our weekly meetings outside. 9:30 am and already warm enough to have a meeting outside. Also, best decision ever.

Warm days also mean  cold breakfasts. Overnight oats in a jar tupperware are back.

Things have been pretty low key over in Sarah-land ever since the marathon this past weekend. I did my first real workout last night – my normal Wednesday night spin class. My spin instructor was not there since she had her baby! Apparently, she emailed everyone at the gym on Thursday morning saying, “Yeah, I’m not feeling too great today. I probably won’t be teaching tonight.” And then the next day, she had a daughter. I sure hope I’m like that; working out until the bitter end. She gave birth a week early, too. It must have been all that spin!

I think Friday might be my entrance back into running. I have a 5k in about 3 weeks, so I can’t stop completely. I plan on keeping my running schedule the same, running 3 days a week, but just at a decreased intensity in terms of distance. I plan on incorporating some speed work over the next few weeks to get my legs moving for the 5k. Otherwise, it’s smooth sailing for the next few months until half-marathon #2 training begins in August. I’m excited.

On tap for this weekend:

  • Dinner at Bernie’s parents’ tonight. 🙂
  • Painting! Bernie and I are going to finally finish painting his condo. It’s been such a process, but it will finally be done!
  • Boston Restaurant Week date night on Friday at Mooo. Steak=happy boyfriend.
  • Sleep. I haven’t slept past 8am on a weekend morning in a long time. It’s going to be glorious.

 

Readers: Has the weather been unseasonable where you live this March? How have you been enjoying it? What do you have on tap for this weekend – I want to know!

What I Learned from Half-Marathon Training

Happy Spring everyone! There’s really nothing better than some fresh flowers on the first day of Spring.

I’m still basking in the glow of my first half-marathon this past Sunday. Over the last couple of days, as people have asked me “so how was it?”, I’ve describe it as, “The most physically and mentally demanding thing I’ve ever done in my life.” I honestly was prepared for the physical demand of the race, but the mental demand of the race was something that I was not quite as prepared for. There was a point in the race where I just wanted to quit. I wanted to walk off the course, find one of the many cops lining the edge of the course and say, “that’s it. I’m done.”

But I didn’t.

I pushed through. I got through these rough moments by thinking about Bernie and my parents and friends waiting for me at the finish line. I knew they would be there, with funny signs in hand, and cheering loudly. I couldn’t let them down. I worked too hard to not make it all the way.

Immediately after finishing, I knew that half-marathons were for me. I’m so ready to do another one! There’s a half in Boston in October that I plan on doing, and I’m looking forward to start training again. I’m already looking up training plans to help me shed my time. 2:12 is a good base, and I want to improve upon it.

As with everything in life, training was definitely a learning experience. I had never really trained diligently for a race before, so this was the first time. A few things I learned while training for my first half-marathon include:

  • PB/banana toast is my go-to pre-run fuel. There’s a reason a lot of people eat it before running, it works.
  • Fruit flavored Gu’s are WAYYYY better than the other non-fruit Gu’s.
  • Chomps don’t always sit well with my stomach. Use with caution.
  • My fuel belt was the best $40 I’ve ever spent.
  • When in doubt, go to the chiropractor. When my lower back/hips were hurting, the chiropractor fixed it and taught me at-home exercises that I could do to make them stronger. I’m officially a chiro convert.
  • There’s a really nice bathroom in the Boston Common. It came in handy many times.
  • My body can do amazing things. I learned that my body is so much stronger than I thought it was. I can push it harder than I ever thought I could. I need to trust it more.
  • Self confidence and body love. I haven’t always had the best love affair with my body, but after running the marathon, I am in awe of what it can do. I will no longer take it for granted and will appreciate every muscle.
  • Compression shorts are the JAM! I won a pair of Aspaeris compression shorts on Julie’s blog (I was shocked – I never win anything) and they are the greatest invention known to man. I wore them the nights leading up to the race, and immediately after the race, and over the last two nights post-race. It’s now 2 days after the race and I have no muscle soreness. If you often have hip pain after running long runs, invest in some high-quality compression shorts for recovery. I swear to you – they’re miraculous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Running really is for me. Some people run a big race like a half-marathon and realize that running is just not for them. After my experience on Sunday, my love for running has been reaffirmed. Running is definitely for me.

I’m already looking forward to my next race – the B.A.A 5k the day before the Boston Marathon. Steph and I are running the race, and then will spend the next day cheering on the Boston runners! It’s going to be a blast!

Until next time; readers – have you ever experienced similar mental blocks during a race like I did? How did you overcome them? What has running taught you? Share!

New Bedford Half Marathon Race Recap

I did it! I ran 13.1 miles and finished my first half marathon!

I couldn’t be more prouder of myself and my roommate Steph – who PR’ed!

Let’s go back to yesterday. The night before I packed everything I would need in my bag, created my playlist, and charged my iPod.

The next morning, we woke up bright and early. I slept like a BABY – I was really surprised. I thought I was going to be nervous and toss and turn all night. I had my normal pre-run breakfast, got dressed, and off we went. New Bedford is about an hour and ten minutes from Boston, and we made it in about that time. No traffic. Parking at the race was actually really easy. There were a ton of people there, but parking lots were numerous and had spaces left.

Steph and I made our way to get out numbers and boy, was it crowded! This year they had their largest field ever – 3,350 runners. Last year it was 2,730 – the largest to date.

After getting our numbers, we got ready, warmed up, and took some pictures to remember the moment. My parents came from NY to watch, and our Boston support group included Bernie, Steph’s boyfriend Micah, and our friend Devon.

Then we made our way to the start. It was a beautiful day in New England – 60 degrees and sunny. Perfect for a race.

And we’re off!

For the first two miles, Steph and I ran together. We were going at a good pace and I felt really good, but I knew something was wrong. I was going WAYYYY too fast way too early. For the first two miles, I averaged an 8:30 – 8:40 pace. I knew I had to slow down, so I told Steph to go for it, and off she went. After mile 2 there was a HUGE hill. It looked scary and it sucked, but since it was so early in the race, it really wasn’t that bad. I was enjoying the race and loved seeing all the signs that people brought to cheer on the racers. At the 10k mark, I clocked in at 55:32. But then. The wall.

I have never actually hit the proverbial ‘wall’ while running. I think it was a mixture of the heat, the constant sun beating down on us, and my big rookie mistake – going out too fast too early. As you can see from my splits, everything went down hill at mile 8. I was overheated, dehydrated, and tired. I had nothing left. I took a Gu at mile 6, but it sat like the biggest rock in my stomach.

The last 5.1 miles were the roughest miles of my life. At mile 8-10, the course looped around the edge of the ocean, so the breeze both cooled me off, and slowed me down. At this point in the race, I knew my goal of running a sub-2 hours was not within my reach. My goal at this point was to just finish strong. I began to walk through every water station, taking in as much water as I could. Every mile, I promised myself that I would walk for 30 seconds.

I hated myself during these miles. I started to beat myself up for quitting. I felt like my Gu was going to come up for a few miles. It was the toughest moment of my life. Mile 12 was another hill, a sort of heart-break hill like in the Boston Marathon. As I was running up the mile 12 hill, I started to see more and more runners who had already finished lining up the sides of the course, cheering on runners. At one point, a man who was sitting on the curb with a finishers medal around his neck looked me directly in the eye and said, “Don’t stop! You’re almost at the top…it’s all down hill from there!!”

That was it. I was going to finish. At that point, I knew that I was going to finish the race. I turned the corner and saw the finishing line. It was the most glorious sight I had ever seen.

One of our signs. Probably my favorite.

Then, I spotted them – my cheerleaders! They had made a couple of signs and once I saw the “Your feet hurt because you’re kicking so much ass!” sign, I knew it was them. Clearly I was happy.

I crossed the line in 2:12:58, and honestly, I didn’t care. I finished. I finished running strong and I didn’t vomit on myself! I was so ecstatic! It took a few minutes for it all to sink in. Once I found everyone, I found out that Steph beat her last half marathon time by a whole 15 minutes!! She finished in 1:49:56! She’s a rock star and I’m so proud of her!

Bernie came up to me after the race and said “I had a great time! I totally see why you did this! I want to do some 5k’s with you!” That took me back completely. Bernie has been very supportive during my training, but he always thought I was crazy. He didn’t get it – why would I run this? Only crazy people run long distances for no reason. After he experienced the excitement of the race and the energy, he was totally into it! I’m excited that he wants to do some 5k’s!

After the race, we stretched out, changed and went to find some food. My stomach was pretty unsettled for a good hour after the race, and I couldn’t even think about food, but we ended up at the Waterfront Grille for some seafood and beer. Steph and I had some celebratory drinks while we waited for our food.

Devon and Micah

Overall, I would do it again in a heartbeat. The satisfaction and pure joy that I experienced when I crossed the finish line was worth every shitty mile. There is another half I plan on doing in October, so I’m going to take this experience and learn from it. There are definitely a few things that I know I will fix for next time:

  1. Wear my fuel belt with my own water. I got so dehydrated and I was jealous of every person with their own water on the course.
  2. DO NOT GO OUT TOO FAST. I need to slow the hell down! I went out way too fast. If this was a 10 k, then I did awesome. But it wasn’t.
  3. Eat more breakfast if I’m eating 4 hours before the race. I only had one piece of pb toast and banana for breakfast. My stomach felt weird in the morning, and I didn’t want to stuff more food in it. Bad decision. I needed more fuel. And the chomps I had right before running did not settle well in my stomach.
  4. Wear sunscreen, even if it’s a March race. I got burned. Ouch. Who wears sunscreen in March?!

For now, I’m still basking in the glow of the race. Now I’m off to foam roll my tired muscles. Thank you to everyone for all your comments of encouragement on the blog yesterday! It definitely helped! And a big thank you to Steph, Micah, Devon, Bernie, and my parents – you guys were the best cheerleaders/supporters ever!

13.1 or Bust!!

Today is the day! Today I run the 35th annual New Bedford Half Marathon. I’m super excited! I’ve gone through weeks of sore muscles, an aching back, many Gu’s, and cold Sunday mornings – but it’s here!

If you want to follow updates in real time, follow me on twitter!

See ya on the other side!

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