Thursday, January 30, 2014

Coming Up for Air

Sorry for being MIA all week.  This week has been NUTS and I'm just trying to keep my head above water.  I haven't had a full day off in almost two weeks.  Yesterday I left my house at 8am and didn't get home until 11PM.  I'm not joking.  Today I nearly broke down in tears.  This is the first night I've been home and able to sit down to blog.  I haven't even been to the gym in 3 days and I'm not feeling good about it. 

But despite all of this, the craziness has served a purpose for me - it reiterated some important lessons I learned last year.

First, that the Universe will continue to repeat the lesson until you have learned it:

I learned many many things during the years I spent in my last career, the most important of which were not finance related, but were life lessons.  I spent many years not speaking up for myself while others took advantage of me, and because I am an extremely tolerant person, I kept my chin up, thinking, one day things will change, things will improve, and others will see that what they are doing is not fair.  It took me a long time to realize that hoping things will change is not the same as taking positive actions to change things.  If  I wanted to be treated differently, I had to speak up!  I don't know why but it's very difficult for me to speak on behalf of my own best interests.  I almost always put others needs in front of mine, and I know that being compassionate must start with being compassionate to yourself.  Somehow, I let this lesson lapse the past few weeks and have been overextending myself on other's behalf.  On the outside, this benefits others, but inside, the stress builds until someday down the road, it turns into resentment.  I know that I can't let things get out of hand or let others make decisions on my behalf because I am the only one who knows what's best for me (I think I even mentioned this in my 2014 Goals post - oh how quickly I forget!).

Which leads me to lesson #2, another that has quickly fallen by the wayside already this year - Self Care.

I am seriously slacking in Self Care right now.  I learned the hard way the past few years, that if I don't take care of myself, I can't take care of others.  I need to nurture my spirit in order to share that gift with others.  I know this, yet I don't often heed it.  If your cup is empty, how will you fill another's?  When we board a plane, and hear the safety instructions, aren't we told in case of an emergency to put on our OWN oxygen mask before attending to others, even children?  To tell you the truth, if faced with an emergency I'd probably be the person suffocating while trying to put an oxygen mask on the person next to me.  Even though I know this is ludicrous, I do this in daily life.  I attend to the needs of others first.  I'm entering a field where taking care of others is a huge part of the job, but still, I know there needs to be a balance. 
I found the below checklist on Pinterest and I think I'm going print it out and put it on my vision board for the year.  These are wonderful reminders:
I hope this list helps others of you out there who may be in the same situation.  I am a compassionate giver by nature, but taking stock of my mental state now, after a month of constant giving, I know I need to speak up, and take action on my own behalf, in order to tip the scale back to a balanced state.  I can't run on empty forever...
So tonight, I'm taking a breather and decompressing.  Tomorrow I'll be back with your regularly scheduled programming.  
And now, let's zen out.  This song randomly came on Pandora the other day, in the middle of my chaotic week.  I hadn't heard it for ages, and even if only for a moment, I felt at ease.  Enjoy:

How about you?  Are you a 'people pleaser' too?

Do you often put others before yourself?

How do you assert yourself while still being compassionate?

Friday, January 24, 2014

What To Do With All This Snow...

I cooked!  Nah, just kidding.  I did no such thing.  Gotcha!

But I did make SNOW ICE CREAM!

Just as I was beginning to think that winter and its accompanying snow had no redeeming value, I stumbled upon snow ice cream.  Apparently, people have been making 'ice cream' from snow for ages.  I've recently seen Instagram pics, Pinterest recipes and even heard about it in real life from someone just this week.  Since I grew up in the snowy depths of Pennsylvania, I almost feel like I missed out on an important rite of passage as a child.  Nah, not really.  However, I was so intrigued that I  had to see for myself what all the fuss was about.  Also, the Northeast has been pummeled by snow this week and I couldn't think of anything better to do with the mounds of it on my balcony.

So, I headed on over to Pinterest to see how exactly to go about this little project.  Oh my, there are pins upon pins for this stuff.  Here are a couple I referenced:

Suddenly I felt like the only human on the planet who has never made snow ice cream.  In any case, it turns out you need very few ingredients to make this little treat.  All of the recipes call for the same 3 basic ingredients: some kind of milk, vanilla extract and sugar (in addition to your pure virgin snow).

Also, many of the instructions made sure to specify that you should be using clean snow free of debris, animal trackings, and/or yellow discoloration.  I enjoyed those comments just a little too much.  I mean, if they hadn't specifically told me, I was planning on just hopping out of my car while driving down the freeway and scooping some black trodden muck from the side of the road.  Thank goodness for explicit instructions.

Without further ado, let's begin.

Step 1:  Grab some kind of vessel and a large spoon and head into the great outdoors to fill that vessel full of white fluffy snow.  (I used an 8 cup Glad food storage container.)

Step 2:  Add in your milk.  Some recipes called for sweetened condensed milk, and some just used regular ol' cow's milk.  Anti-lactose girl over here used unsweetened almond milk.  The amounts varied depending on the amount of snow you have, but I used 1 cup. 

Step 3:  Add the vanilla extract.  I used 1 teaspoon.

Step 4 (Optional):  Add sugar.  I was actually going to skip this step because I didn't want the added sugar, however I tasted my concoction after having added the almond milk and vanilla and it was very bland.  This was probably because I used unsweetened almond milk.  If you're going dairy and you used sweetened condensed milk, I think you could probably skip the sugar.  I added a 1/4 cup of sugar and tasted it.  Holy sweetness!  So back out I went on the deck to scoop up some more snow for dilution.
Step 5:  Eat & enjoy!  Behold my final product:
Verdict:  This stuff in no way tastes like ice cream, but that could be due in part to the fact that I didn't use condensed or dairy milk in my recipe.  It wasn't the best thing I ever ate, but I give it high scores for being a novelty.  And it actually tastes pretty similar to vanilla flavored Italian ice.  Have any of you ever had that?  It reminds me of Rita's vanilla Italian ice, if you have those shops in your neck of the woods.
This snow cream has no nutritional value to speak of, unless we're talking the water content for hydration, but if I had kids I would LOVE to make this with them! In fact, if I knew about this at Christmastime I would have made some with my niece and nephews.  Live and learn. 
If you are currently being slammed with snow, give it a whirl.  Um, just remember to scoop up clean snow people :)
Have you ever made snow cream?!
Please tell me I'm not the only one whose childhood was devoid of this little winter secret.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Do What You Love

Today I invite you to watch this 1 minute commercial ... and then let me know what you think:

I first caught this commercial on TV sometime before the holidays.  I actually haven't seen it in a few weeks so I'm not sure if it's playing anymore.  In any case, the first time I saw this ad, it immediately upset me.  Their message here is to tow the line so that one day you might be able to do what you love.  WTF?!

The spokesperson starts off the ad by asking people if they could get paid to do something they love, what would they do.  The answers range from "yoga instructor" to "baker" to "teacher" to "an activist for causes I believe in".  These are all viable, worthwhile professions.  Why on God's green earth would you wait until you are 65 or 70 years old to start doing what you love and to pursue your passion and purpose?!  And if there are causes that you believe in for heaven's sake, please speak up about them now!  Not 40 years down the road.  Can you imagine what the world would be like if our most important historical activists waited until they were of retirement age to speak out?!  It's actually no surprise to me that this commercial is from a financial company. 

The tag line at the end of the ad reads "Let's prepare today to do what we love tomorrow".  I can only ask here, 'what if there is no tomorrow?'.  What if you spend your whole life in drudgery, desperately hoping that 'one day' will come when you can finally be who you were meant to be, to do what you love to do, and that day never comes???  It may be morbid to think like that but tomorrow is never promised.  All you have is the present moment.  I know many of us were moved by Meg's story and ran our #megsmiles for her this past weekend, and this tragic event is an all-too-real reminder that life is precious and fleeting.  It can be gone in the blink of an eye. 

I admit that as a young doe right out of college, I had the same thinking.  Get a corporate job, and whittle away the next 35-40 years of my life so that one day I may be able to enjoy the fruits of my labor.  After having worked said corporate finance job, I no longer think that way.  That is not the way I want to live my life. I want to enjoy life while I am living it, and not look to the future for some kind of redemption or paradise.  No one knows what tomorrow will bring, but you control your present.  You have this one life - make it worthwhile.

And as an extra little treat into the twisted psyche of some financial professionals - I came across this article this weekend:  For the Love of Money.  It's a quick, provocative read, and if you have never worked on Wall Street or don't know anyone in the industry, I invite you to peek into the mindset of some of those at the top of the ladder in the industry.  I actually worked in the same market as this author (and I often thought, 'what am I doing with my life?').  There was a paragraph in his article that especially hit home with me:

"I made in a single year more than my mom made her whole life. I knew that wasn’t fair; that wasn’t right. Yes, I was sharp, good with numbers. I had marketable talents. But in the end I didn’t really do anything. I was a derivatives trader, and it occurred to me the world would hardly change at all if credit derivatives ceased to exist. Not so nurse practitioners." 

In the end, he decided to leave that life behind and pursue things that held more meaning for him.  It's what I'm trying to do as well and I hope to make my life, my profession and everything in between be purposeful, fulfilling, joyful and meaningful NOW...not later. 

How about you?

Have you seen this commercial before?  What did you think about it?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saturday musings

It's a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning and things have finally settled down a bit!  There must have been something going on in the cosmos recently, because I've read so many blogs the past two weeks where people have echoed the same feelings of craziness, chaos and feelings of being overwhelmed.  But today is a new day, and I feel like I can b r e a t h e ...


Since I haven't posted since Tuesday, I'm going to throw a bunch of seemingly unrelated topics together and call it a post :)

1.  My 2014 Yoga goal is off to a great start.  How is that? you may ask.  Well, wouldn't you know the heavens smiled upon me when I found out I won the 3 month Yoga giveaway from Little Green Running Shoes last week?!  So, even though I had been saying for the past 2 years I was going to get into a yoga practice, it apparently was not my time.  Now is the time, and just like all good things, I think the timing for this gift was perfect, seeing as how I needed some way of centering myself over the past 2 weeks.  Thanks so much to Jenna!

2.  January 1st I became part of the Girls Gone Sporty Ambassador program.  They apparently have different 'teams' and I'm on Team Rad.  I'm not really sure what this means, but I wanted to reach out to see if there are any other GGS Ambassadors out there who read my blog.

3.  What City Should You Actually Live in?  Have you taken this quiz that's been all over The Facebook and Twitter this week?  Please do and tell me your results!  I got Barcelona which just seems a million times perfect. I love Europe!  I have been to Madrid in Spain and loved it.  And in fact one of my favorite cities in the entire world was this little mountain village in Spain called Toledo.  The city is high up on a mountain so you have to take an escalator that they built into the rocks to get up there! I was there in 2005 so I whipped out my photo album (remember when people still printed out 'real' pictures) to share a few with you - enjoy the throwback:

4.  Meg's Miles.  I'm sure many of you runners out there are aware of this tragic story.  It's almost too sad to wrap your head around.  Meg was a mother of 3, out for her morning run in Richmond VA this past Monday, January 13th when she was struck and killed by a drunk driver.  A Facebook event has been set up so that runners everywhere can honor her memory.  So I, along with thousands of others, am headed for a run for a run today to remember #megsmiles.  Are you joining as well?

And with that I'm off.  I hope the Universe settles down a little bit for everyone in the coming week!
Your turn!
Are you running for #megsmiles today?
What is your favorite city in the world?


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Getting Real...

The past few days have been a roller coaster of chaos for me.  I had a few other posts lined up but today I feel like I can finally breathe and I just wanted to get some thoughts down on paper (or internet?).  This may be rambling and may involve some feelings so if you're not interested, just skip on down to the cute video I posted at the end to make up for all this stuff up top :)

The craziness of the past few days was due in part to:  Getting back into the swing of things after the holidays; me overextending myself (classic); starting a new job; a few personal things weighing on my mind; some important business I had to take care of; and to top it all off, a surgery for one of my cats.  All this in the span of a few days.  Finally, after getting home this evening, I literally collapsed on my sofa with my cat (who's now home and doing great!).  After the most intense power nap ever and a shower, I woke up refreshed and feeling a lot better about many things.  Truth:  I also slept through Body Pump.  But instead of feeling like I 'had to' work out (you should really never feel like that - exercise should make you feel good), I listened to my body and today became a much need spontaneous rest day.  I mean, my body just literally passed out as if to say 'Enough!'.  Doing what feels right has been one of my mantras for the past year and I almost let that get away from me these past few days...and I can't really put my finger on why.

I have a tendency to worry.  I know full well that worrying serves no purpose.  Worry takes up space in your mind without paying rent.  Worry never solves problems.  But being an introvert means I often have extensive inner dialogue.  Sometimes this is great!  It allows me to be creative, to think things through, to express myself through writing, to be more in tune with my intuition and most of all to have incredible dreams.  But it also allows my mind to wander and create worst-case scenarios. 


Over the past few years, I've become more aware when my thoughts start straying towards worry and try to steer them back in a positive direction.  It doesn't always work, even though time and again I see that the outcome of whatever I was worrying about turned out better than my worries predicted! 
The past few days I had so many commitments, I didn't even have any time off over the weekend.  If you know anything about classic care for introverts, a key piece is that they require some down time and alone time, because its when we recharge our batteries and process our thoughts and experiences.  [If you're interested in reading about introverts vs. extroverts, this is a great article:  7 Persistent Myths about Introverts and Extroverts.]
I didn't have any of this for days and had this underlying worry about my cat's surgery quietly lingering in the background.  Monday morning came, and when I finally had to leave my cat at the vet and go home without him, I just broke down.  I got in the car and the tears just came.
I am usually pretty strong but suddenly I just felt very alone.  I wanted there to be someone with me to tell me everything was going to be alright.  Sometimes I think because I am alone that I need to have the strength of two people.  That because there is no partner beside me, I need to be even stronger.  Pretty silly idea huh?  I've read that it is important to show our weakness because that is the only way we can invite others in so that's what I'm doing.
Sometimes I'm perfectly fine being alone but there are other times, like these past few days, where I just wished there was someone there to comfort me.  I know I can be alone, that I can survive and thrive and take care of myself without someone else.  I have been doing this for many years, but sometimes, I just wish I had someone else to share life experiences with - both good and bad.  Life is just hard sometimes when you're alone.  I guess if you're single you can relate and if you're attached or married, you're probably thinking 'Oh lord, I'd love just 5 minutes to myself!' Ha!  A tale of the grass is always greener I suppose.
I don't really know where I was going with this post other than to say, I felt weak and alone these past few days.  It's not something I like to admit but I'm putting it out there. I feel a lot better today.  After my nap, I caught the season premiere of Girls onDemand which was exactly what I needed.  It had so many hysterical lines my stomach was actually clenched in fits of laughter at points.  And the icing on the cake is that my cat doesn't even seemed phased by his surgery any more.  In fact, many of the things I was worrying about the past few days turned out better than I could have predicted.  I guess the Big Guy is really looking out for me :)
So there you have it.  I am weak sometimes, but that's what makes me human.
And now for your enjoyment - the cutest video I came across this weekend: 
Watch as a little girl meets her dad's identical twin for the first time.  MIND BLOWN!

How about you?  Do you ever feel alone?  How do you cope?

Are you a worrier?  How do you get your thoughts back on track?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday Faves & Fails: Protein Edition

Today I'm talking protein.  Throughout the past year, I have been making a conscious effort to get more protein in my diet, because I know I have been delinquent with it in the past.  By incorporating more protein, I have seen positive results in my body and energy level.  I get protein from whole food sources, but I also really like protein shakes.  I know people have mixed feelings about supplementing with protein shakes and powders, but I personally think they have their place in a balanced diet and especially in people who lead active lives.  I think they taste great and kind of remind me of what milkshakes used to taste like.  (I really have no idea though considering I haven't had a real milkshake in at least 20 years!)  I like refueling after workouts with protein shakes because they serve to rehydrate as well as aid in muscle recovery.  As I've mentioned before, my favorite vegan protein powder is Plant Fusion and I'm addicted to their Cookies N Cream flavor. 
But recently I've tried a few other protein sources which I'm going to review today.  We've got some new faves and some fails!
1.  Peanut Butter & Co
I've apparently been living under a rock because up until a few months ago I never dipped my toes into the 'flavored' peanut butter category.  Yep, that's right I usually eat regular ol' PB.  However, I had been hearing about the above brand for awhile and back in November I finally picked up the above 2 varieties from Peanut Butter & Co.  I am IN LOVE with the Dark Chocolate Dreams variety.  I have literally been living off this stuff since I discovered it. I don't even know how many jars I've consumed in the past two months.  It's not overly sweet because the chocolate flavor just comes from cocoa, not chocolate.  This also makes it vegan and dairy free.  I can't eat similar chocolate spreads like Nutella because they are made with chocolate and milk, so if you are in the same boat as me - rejoice!  I spread this stuff on fruit or occasionally on a piece of toast but I hate to admit that I often just eat a spoonful or two straight out of the jar.  #classy  Now, the White Chocolate Wonderful is another story entirely.  I did not like all!  It tasted overly sweet to me and just had a weird taste.  Being that I also have not ingested white chocolate in about 20 years I don't even remember what it's supposed to taste like, but this was a no-go. I am now looking forward to trying more flavored nut butters from other companies like Justin's Nut Butter and Nutzzo.  
Nutritional Profile per Serving:  170 calories, 13g fat (2.5g sat fat), 12g carbs (7g sugar) and 6g protein
2.  Vegan Protein Powder
When I drink protein powder alone (mixed only with almond milk) after a workout, I always drink Plant Fusion Cookies N Cream, however when I make green/fruit smoothies, I like to add in a vanilla flavored protein powder to get an extra nutritional boost with my fruits and veggies.  My go-to powder for some time has been the brand on the right - Naturade Pea Protein.  It tastes good, is vegan and contains no soy, and it's really cheap on Amazon!  However, I recently had a gift card to GNC and was running low on my Naturade so I decided to see what they offered in the way of vegan proteins.  Turns out, not much.  Most of GNC's offerings are whey based.  Since 2014 is not the year I want to die from a lactose overdose, most of their options were out.  They had a few soy options, which I'm also steering clear of lately.  And they also had egg proteins.  This is a market I've also never dabbled in, so I know nothing about egg based powders.  However, I happened to stumble upon this one veggie option (above left) - Twinlab's Veggie Protein.  I liked the nutritional profile (vegan, non-GMO, no banned substances - wait, what?!) so I thought I'd give it a go.  Unfortunately, the first time I added this to my green smoothie, I could taste it, and not in a good way.  This powder has an overly sweet flavor which comes from their sweetening agent RebA (an all natural sweetener derived from the sweetest part of the Stevia plant).  It also leaves a somewhat strong trace aftertaste.  Oh well, you win some you lose some. I won't throw it out, but hopefully if I cram enough fruits and vegetables in my smoothies I can drown out the flavor.  I think if they would offer this in an unflavored version it would probably fare better. 
Nutritional Profile for Twinlab per serving:  130 calories, 1g fat (0 sat fat), 8g carbs (5g sugar), and 21g of protein
Nutritional Profile for Naturade per serving:  130 calories, 2.5g fat (0 sat fat), 10g carbs (3g sugar), and 20g of protein

Your turn!

What is your favorite way to get protein?

Do you eat flavored nut butters?  What is your favorite flavor/brand?

Do you drink protein shakes or add protein powders to your foods?  What is your favorite kind?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Virtual Vision Board

Here it is, the 2014 Goals post.  Hunker down because this may be a long and winding road. 
So I mentioned in my last post I don't make behavioral resolutions for the New Year (ie. I will drink 12 glasses of water every day for the next 365 days. Nope, not gonna happen.), but I do like to have some goals and ideas about things I would like to accomplish in the coming months.  I have never created a physical Vision Board (but that is on the to-do list this year), but I love the idea and purpose behind it.  Today's post is going to be a virtual vision board of sorts. 
So without further ado, I present to you some of my 2014 goals (a girl's gotta keep some things private!) listed in ascending order according to degree of difficulty (by my own calculations):
1.  Create an (actual) vision board.  Crucial first step here :)
2.  Prepare and eat spaghetti squash.  Ok, I could've gone all out here and simply written Learn to Cook but let's be real and start small.  Learning to cook is going to be a HUGE endeavor so I'm starting small.  I have been wanting to cook/eat spaghetti squash for months now, so this year it will happen.  This one small victory may be all I need to discover I am actually a culinary genius.  HAHA
3.  Go to the movies alone.  I realized over the holidays there were so many good movies out that I wanted to see, but that upon returning to Baltimore I would not have as many people around to go see them with.  Enter Goal #3.  Just because I don't have a significant other, or an availability of single friends, does not mean I should miss out on catching the luscious Leo in all his glory on the big screen.
4.  Running goals.  Run 2 more Half Marathons this year, as well as enter more short distance races.  I did a few 5Ks last year and am starting to like them a little more than I thought I would.  I would also like to do a 10K this year because that is a distance I've never raced before. I have other (more distant) running-related goals on the horizon, but I'm not sure they are a 2014 type goal yet (ie. Full Marathon calling my name at some point; Trying a Triathlon - sprint distance at first).
5.  Blog work.  I'd like to get more serious about my blog but not sure what that means.  I would actually like to learn more about blog basics (search analytics, etc) and decide what direction I want to take this little number in.  Do I want my blog to have its own Facebook account? Do I want to try to generate revenue?  Do I want to be self hosted?  All things to consider as I am still a blogger newbie.
6.  Get my PT Certification.  This is one I have been poring over for some time now.  I have loved working out ever since I knew 'working out' was a thing - so probably since high school.  I love pretty much any type of exercise, not just running, and I love sharing that with others.  I get asked often by friends and family for exercise advice and many people (jokingly, I dk?!) have asked me to be their personal trainers.  Sooo, this is something I have wanted to pursue for a long time and I hope to make it a reality this year.  For those of you that are Certified Personal Trainers, I'd love to know which organization you recommend.  Thanks!
7.  Volunteer.  I have done volunteer work sporadically in the past but the last time I volunteered on a regular basis was about 10 years ago when I was a hospital volunteer in the maternity ward (LOVED it by the way!).  So this year, I would like to find ways to donate my time and services to causes I believe in - children, animal rights, etc.
8.  Meditate.  Perhaps this should be further down the list because I've said I was going to attempt meditation many times in the past and I have not, but I want to learn how to do this and give it a real try this year.  If anyone out there has a meditation practice and can give me some tips on how to get started I would truly appreciate it!  I've heard there are even iPhone apps for this?  Who knew.
9.  Yoga.  Along the same lines as the above.  I've been saying for years I would like to get into yoga, both for it's physical and spiritual benefits.  Here's hoping this is the year I get all bendy and zen :)
10.  Take a solo trip.  This one is currently wearing many hats, and I'm not sure where I want to go with it.  I'm turning 35 this year (wait, WHAT?!) and thought about taking a solo trip to celebrate my birthday.  I have also been looking into attending a blogging conference like FitBloggin or the SweatPink/Ideafit Blogger conference.  And I am also dying to make a West Coast trip a reality because it's been on my mind forever and I want to see if I could really see myself relocating/living out there one day.  So yeah, this solo trip could be a birthday trip/destination race/blogger conference/relocation scouting mission all rolled into one!
11.  Health Coach certification.  This is another one that has been on my radar for a few years.  I have been following the Institute for Integrative Nutrition for a couple of years and even attended a few Meetups last year with current students of IIN but I've never taken the plunge and registered for classes.  I'm not sure what I want out of becoming a Health Coach right now, but it just feels like the right direction for me to move in, just like getting my PT certification.  However, this and the trip have been put at the end of the list because they are heavily finance-dependent and we'll just have to see where I am in that realm as the year goes on!
Ok so there you have it.  If anyone had the patience to read through that entire list you are truly a saint.  It seems long and somewhat convoluted, yes, and it's not even all inclusive of the big dreams I have going on in my head!  As I said before, goals can change with time, and I want to be flexible this year and most of all do what FEELS right to me.  I did a lot of that last year along with soul searching and I feel like I am moving in the right direction in many areas of my life.  I just need to remember to listen to my own inner voice and try to tune everything else out.
Have you set any goals for the coming year?
Do you have any advice for me on any of my goals?
Can you cook spaghetti squash, meditate or bend your knees behind your head??! If so, teach me your ways!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

I'm Baaaaaaaaack!

Contrary to popular belief, I am alive!  If anyone reads this blog regularly, I apologize for my 2 week MIA status.  I actually did not intend to take such a long blogging break, it just kind of happened.  Every year around the holidays, my whole family gathers back in Pennsylvania to celebrate, with most of us being fortunate enough to get a week or two off from work to spend time together.  So I packed up some essential belongings (read: 2 cats who vehemently oppose car rides) and headed back home for two weeks.  My sister and her family were in from Georgia for an extended stay as well.

I had all intentions of blogging over the holidays and even had a few post ideas lined up but life just happened.  The holiday season felt very rushed to me this year, in the few weeks leading up to it as well as the holidays themselves.  And with so much family in town, we literally had things scheduled to do every day during the week of Christmas.  The bigger our family gets, the crazier things seem to get (but in a good way!).  I was somewhat off the grid and unplugged the past two weeks, although I was still posting on Instagram and Twitter, and it felt pretty nice.  But I am pretty anxious to get back into my normal routine, and to get writing again.  I have lots of overdue posts ideas so get ready - you just may get sick of me :)

I'm not going to overload you on a Christmas/New Year's recap because I know you've probably read more than your fair share of those lately, but below are a few pics of what I was up to over the break:

1.  Christmas Eve with kids

Two things to note here:  1. This is only half the presents (they opened the other half Christmas morning).  2. The tree is only decorated on the top half.  Not a new trend, but babies are apparently drawn to tree balls like runners are to race swag.
Waiting for Santa!  Instagram
2.  Christmas Day with the fam
3.  Running!!  I was actually considering joining a gym back home for 2 weeks so that I could get some strength and conditioning workouts in, because I wasn't sure how the weather would fare for running.  Truth be told most of my runs were pretty darn cold! But my running felt really really good, and really really strong.  I'm thinking maybe because I just came off that month of boot camp conditioning?  My mileage the past month or two has been pretty low but out of nowhere I pulled a 10 miler while I was home! What?!  My other runs were anywhere from 4-6 miles. I'm already excited for a spring Half (more to come on that in another post!).
Snow running!  Instagram
4.  A Night Out at the casino.  Yes there is a casino in Bethlehem and no I don't gamble.  I just take pictures.  And drink.  And eat mussels.  And maybe flirt with a 26 year old bartender (oy).  Hahaha
Is it illegal to take pictures of people at the BlackJack table? I dk??
These mussels were heaven.  So much garlic.  Those cheese fries in the background (not mine) are taunting me with certain death.  So much LACTOSE
5.  Learning to cook.  A doomed endeavor?? My sister is a GREAT cook/baker.  She and my nephew were teaching me how to make vegan fudge.  My baking skills leave a lot to be desired but this fudge is the  If you are interested I will find the recipe for you. It's from a vegan cookbook my sister has.
I'm wearing an apron so you know I mean business.  I told my sister I don't even own one of these mixers so can I just mix stuff with a spoon at home?! This must be her reaction face.
The finished product.  Sweet vegan heaven.
6.  New Years 2014.  I am not a huge New Year's person.  The changing of the year on the calendar is not usually a huge marker in my life.  Granted it is somewhat exciting and I do admit to getting caught up in the wonder of 'what will the new year bring', but I tend to think of 'new years' in terms of years of my life, so usually my birthday signifies a new year for me.  I also don't make New Year's resolutions because I tend to make changes and set goals throughout the year.  Also I don't think NY resolutions work!  I think changes are made one day at a time, in small steps, and I don't think its realistic to say you will stick to something for an entire year that you haven't even tried out in real life yet.  I do believe in setting goals, but I think they need to be flexible and will often change throughout time. 
So NYE this year I went to the movies with my sister and brother-in-law.  (We saw Anchorman 2 - it was ok.)  And then my family always hosts a NY Day party.
New Year's Day 2014 with my sisters.  Instagram
Now I'm back in Baltimore and ready to get back into the swing of things.  I've got lots on my agenda in the next few weeks and already have some plans and goals for early this year.  But that will be for another post.  Even though I wasn't writing, I was reading lots of blogs over the past two weeks and it looks like many of you had great holidays and even some big changes during that time!  2013 was a year of some (major) changes for me and the year I started blogging so it will be very memorable for me.  I have a few ideas about what I want 2014 to be, but as the great Gump says, life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get!  Onward and upward my friends :)