Monday, March 23, 2015

Tales of Training: The Bad Becomes Good

This week, a crappy workout Thursday was quickly forgotten after a wonderful long run Sunday. The corn on my right foot has returned, but it's not nearly as bad as it was last fall. Honestly, I'm too cheap and stubborn to buy new shoes this close a race again (this happened before Toledo AND Fort4Fitness last year!). I think I just need to take better care of my toes and wear good, comfortable shoes at work (rather than squeezing them into cheap pumps).

So aside from feeling like a rockstar Sunday, I had some other interesting events on my long run:

  • As a country runner, I have joked about having corn fields nearby in case nature called ... but I've never actually taken a potty break mid-run. Well, I apparently had too much coffee before I left because my bladder was really full and uncomfortable by mile 8. After a car passed, I ducked into some tall grass off the road and did my business. I'm happy to report I felt much better and did NOT get my tights wet in the process. Go me! 
  • I was chased by several dogs, and I had to turn and scream "GO HOME!" at two fairly aggressive ones who followed me down the road ... I had my pepper spray in hand just in case, but thankfully I didn't need to use it. People, even in the country, you need to tie up, fence in or at least closely watch your dogs. PLEASE! 
  • Around mile 11 or so, a white Lincoln Navigator passed me. I waved at them, as I do at any passing vehicle. Then a half mile later, the same car passed me again. Weird, I thought, but I kept running. Around 12.5 miles, they were back ... this time they came from behind, so I didn't see them coming. OK, I was officially weirded out. I was in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday morning ... why would someone drive by me three times? I stopped and called Kyle to let him know my location and what the car looked like, just in case something happened. That may sound crazy, but it made me feel better knowing I had reported my whereabouts. I didn't see them again, thankfully. Call me paranoid, but that was just strange! 

Monday: 3 miles, easy
I felt slow, but good. Rowdy joined me - he's really doing well at 3-milers, and he keeps me steady.

Tuesday: PiYo Buns
I did NOT want to do this workout, but I'm glad I did. The soreness lingered for a few days, reminding me how hard I worked.

Wednesday: 6 miles, mid-4 at tempo
Nailed it! I started to feel fatigued in the final tempo mile, but I managed to finish strong. This was one of those workouts that you just want to bottle up and hold onto for a while.

Thursday: 5 miles, hills
This SUCKED. I did a 10 minute warm up, then found the best hill I could (from the footbridge up to Irene St. if you're local). I ran that hill six times up as fast as I could, then slowly back down. After, I did a 15-minute cool down to hit 5 miles. As if hills weren't hard enough, my left nee decided to start talking to me (not pain, just discomfort), and the corn on my right foot returned with a vengeance. UGH.

Friday: Rest
Since Kyle is now officially training for the Cedar Point half marathon (Woohoo!), he needed to squeeze in his long run of 6 miles. I stayed back at the house for the morning ... Could have done PiYo, but I decided my knee/foot needed a day off.

Saturday: 3 miles, easy
Our day was packed with plans, so I decided to get up and sweat before it got crazy. Just went nice and easy, and I felt more prepared to handle everything ... including two silly girls under age 4. :)

Sunday: 15 miles, easy
This run wasn't my fastest, but it gave me the most confidence in my training. I held a steady 9:25ish pace, even though the training plan called for the mid-6 at race pace. I just felt like I needed a nice run where I could coast along, and that's exactly what I did. By the last mile, I realized I never doubted myself or felt like I couldn't finish. Considering this was my longest run EVER, that's pretty awesome! I feel more prepared to take on my next race, and then marathon training.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Freezer Meal Recipe: Pineapple, Bacon, BBQ Chicken

Trust me, this recipe is every bit as good as you think it is. Juicy, flavorful, satisfying - I mean, can you really go wrong when you're wrapping anything in bacon? That's a rhetorical question, I know.

Kyle was absolutely drooling over this dish - we served ours with leftover mashed potatoes (not from the microwave this time - we make REAL potatoes with the skins on!) and some steamed green beans (OK, these were from microwave). Kenlee didn't have much interest, but I suspect it's because she's been congested lately. Normally, she's a bacon FIEND.

And the points on this aren't half bad! When I was calculating with the Recipe Builder on Weight Watchers' website, I thought for sure I could substitute turkey bacon to cut a few points off. Well, the difference was only ONE point per serving! Kyle will be pleased to know I'll let him keep the "real" stuff this time.

Pineapple, Bacon, BBQ Chicken (14 points/serving)


  • 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 20-oz. can pineapple chunks
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce of choice
  • 8 slices of bacon
Prep Directions:

  • Wrap each breast with bacon; place in gallon-size freezer bag
  • Add pineapple and BBQ sauce to bag and mix
  • Label; store in freezer
Cook Directions:
  • Remove bag from freezer and let thaw for about 24 hours
  • Preheat oven to 385 degrees; place chicken in casserole dish and cover with sauce
  • Bake until bacon on top is crispy and your chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 (about 40 minutes depending on how thick your chicken is)
  • Let sit 5 minutes before serving
Suggested Sides: Cilantro coleslaw, simple salad

This is the second of eight freezer meal recipes I'm sharing after attending a party sponsored by my local Farm Bureau. Recipe credit goes to Michelle Rudolphi -  check out her LivingIt Facebook page for more information or if you have any questions. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tales of Training: Out for a Spin

OK, I can’t be the only one who felt nearly naked out there this week. After months of piling on the layers, it felt incredibly weird to go out for a run with only one top and one pair of tights. But I’m NOT complaining! Temps in our area hit the 40s and 50s during the day, so my morning runs hovered around the freezing mark (low 30s). This only created one problem: The snow would melt during the day and leave patches of ice on the streets/sidewalks in the morning. (I run around 5 a.m. – well before the sun is up!) 

But Saturday? Oh, Saturday! I ran in the afternoon sunshine, and it was 50-freaking-wonderful degrees! I may have been soooo happy that I ran a half-marathon PR. (Sorry, not sorry!) I'd say this training through the winter stuff may be paying off. 

Monday: 3 miles, easy
Rowdy and I managed to find enough dry spots to get this run done, but I skipped the sprints that I was supposed to tack onto the end of the workout. That’s not the first time I’ve opted out of those … Oh well. 

Tuesday: 6 miles, mid-four at tempo
The ice patches sorta ruined this run. I had to keep slowing down … and then I actually slipped and fell … twice. I can’t believe I made it allll winter without falling, and then I take a few tumbles in March. UGH! Oh well – no injuries to report except a scraped knee. 

Wednesday: Yoga Meltdown
For cross training this week, I suddenly felt compelled to re-connect with my old friend Jillian Michaels. When I first tried her Yoga Meltdown DVD, it was waaay too hard for me. Now that I’ve been focusing on strength with PiYo? I was able to do the whole thing! It was still hard, mind you, but I didn’t feel like I wanted to die by the end of it. Instead, I felt like a yoga badass (which I realize is sorta the opposite of how you’re supposed to feel after yoga). 

Thursday: 5 miles, intervals
After Tuesday’s icy tumbles, I was much more aware of the slick spots on my route, but my legs/lungs weren’t fully cooperating. I did intervals of nearly sprinting for a few minutes (1, 2, 3, 2, 1) with 2 minutes of rest between … then I did it allllll again. I was also supposed to do a 10-minute warm-up and cool down, but I cut those to 5 minutes instead. This workout KICKED.MY.BUTT. I know it’s acceptable to walk for the rest/recovery minutes, but I usually try to stick with a light jog. Yeah … not for this run. I had to walk a couple of times, which was a little discouraging – but it’s also a little encouraging because I know I was pushing my limits. 

Friday: 3 miles, easy
I think I was definitely feeling the effects of Thursday’s intervals still. Took it easy with Rowdy in tow. 

Saturday: 13.1 miles
If I owned a convertible car, I imagine putting the top down for the first time in the spring would be a lot like going for a run for the first time in the spring. Like I said, it was 50 degrees and sunny. Aside from some vicious wind for the last half of my route, the conditions were PERFECT. I KNOW I should take my long runs at a slower pace, but I just felt good dammit! I set my watch so I could only see my overall time/mileage and ran by feel instead of pace. I admit, toward the end when I realized I could hit sub-2:00, I may have picked up my feet a bit more. But again, I imagine it’s like getting that convertible out: I just HAD to rev the engine a little! 

Even though this pace may have been a training no-no, I think I’ll be OK, based on my quick recovery. On Sunday, I was only slightly sore and managed to go grocery shopping, walk to/from my nephew’s birthday party AND catch up on laundry (which is a miracle on a normal Sunday, let alone the day after I ran 13.1 miles.) Today (Monday), I felt slow on my 3-miler this morning, but not sore at all. I didn’t even cringe when I walked up the stairs at work – that never happens after a half-marathon! So I know I still had some gas in the tank, and I can definitely hit a real PR at the Towpath Half Marathon in a few weeks (by how much, I don’t know). I just need to conserve/build whatever gas remains – I promise, I’ll play it smart. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Freezer Meal Recipe: Jamerican Meatloaf

So after I brought home EIGHT freezer meals from going to the coolest thing I've ever done as a blogger, I decided my husband and daughter would get to pick one meal per week to try. First up was Jamerican Meatloaf - yummy!

This was definitely a great twist on a classic American dish. Kyle and I were blown away by all of the flavor in this meatloaf. It may be a little too spicy if you don't like heat (or if you're in the preschool crowd), but for the adults in our house, it was PERFECT.

We paired ours with a rice pilaf (the microwave kind from a packet ... because that's how we roll) and some steamed green beans (also nuked in a bag). The recipe feeds four to six, and I sliced the ours up into six servings. While the slices looked small, they were deceiving - when I mashed them up, I realized they were plenty big!

I calculated 11 points for a 1/6 slice of the meatloaf. That's not too shabby! With our sides, the meal came out to 17 points. That's a little high for a normal dinner for me, but for Kyle (who gets more points per day), it was well within his range. You *could* substitute ground turkey for all or half of the meat to lighten it up, but Kyle and I both thought that may make the dish a little dry ... For now, I'll just save this meal for days when I have a few extra points to spend - it's worth it!

Jamerican Meatloaf 
Serves 4-6 (11 points for 1/6 serving)
  • 2 lbs. ground meat (1/2 pork, 1/2 beef)
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, small diced
  • 3 cloves minced garlic (or 3 tsp. pre-minced garlic)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. curry
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tbs. pepper
  • 1 tbs. coconut aminos
  • 2 tbs. almond or coconut flour

Prep Directions:
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Form into a loaf shape and place in a gallon-size freezer bag. Get as much air out as possible and seal. 

Serving Directions:
  1. Remove from freezer and place in refrigerator to thaw overnight.
  2. Line your Crock-pot with two strips of foil in the shape of a cross. Place meatloaf in the center. Cook on low for 4­-5 hours. You can set this in the morning and then let it go to the “keep warm” setting once cooked, until ready to serve.
  3. Remove meatloaf from Crock-pot using the foil handles. Slice it up and enjoy!
Suggested Sides:
Roasted Carrots tossed with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder
White rice (mix with tomato paste, butter, salt, pepper)

This is the first of eight freezer meal recipes I'm sharing after attending a party sponsored by my local Farm Bureau. Recipe credit goes to Michelle Rudolphi -  check out her LivingIt Facebook page for more information or if you have any questions. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Freezer Meals from my Farm Friends

I don't know where to start with this story, but I'd like to just get to the point: Last weekend, I got invited to one of the coolest parties ever ... a freezer meal party sponsored by the Ohio Farm Bureau, as well as the Ohio Pork Council and Ohio Beef Council! Basically, last Sunday I went to a lovely little farm house about an hour away to prepare freezer meals with several lovely bloggers, farmers and friends. The Farm Bureau gave us ALL of the ingredients and supplies, and I went home with EIGHT healthy meals for my family. BONUS: All of the meat came from Pettisville Meats, a local butcher/processor. How awesome, right?!
Clockwise, from top: Alicia and Ashlee tag-team a station, some delicious cilantro chicken in progress, Bailey and Michelle working together at the counter, and bags full of freezer meals!
When my friend Taysha first messaged me about the opportunity, I thought I was dreaming. First of all, I thought, "You want me to cook?!" (Because Kyle does the majority of the cooking in our house), and then "You're giving me all these meals for FREE?!" Yup!

The timing of this event couldn't have been more perfect. Kyle and I were JUST talking about the idea of buying a small cube freezer so we could store extra meals, meat and garden produce. AND I had recently bought a cookbook with several freezer-friendly recipes to I wanted to try. There was really no way I could turn this down.

OK, so I know FREE MEALS AND RECIPES are already awesome, but this event was amazing for a few other reasons:

From left: Ashlee, Jen, me, Jess (Cultivated with love), Mandi, Sarah, Bailey (in front), Taysha (Dirt Road Charm), Michelle (LivingIt), Kat (Mom on the go in Holy Toledo) and Alicia.
I got to meet some really cool women. Gong into this event, I only knew Taysha and our friend Ashlee ... and I also sorta knew Taysha's sister Jess. I was a little hesitant to go along because sometimes my anxiety gets the best of me in social situations. I clam up when I have to meet new people, which I KNOW can come off as rude or bitchy ... which makes me even more anxious ... it's a vicious cycle. It didn't help that I was nervous about having to cook, but everyone was great, and it was a good experience for me to step out of my comfort zone. I may have hit up the appetizers a little too much (hello, emotional eating!), but I seriously had so much spending an afternoon with so many great women.

Taysha listening while she cooks.
The recipes came from a dietitian. Michelle Rudolphi of Fort Wayne happens to be Taysha's trainer, and she has a passion for showing people how to cook nutrition meals for their families. Even though I'm not a great cook, I do share her passion for helping others live a healthy lifestyle, and it was great to pick her brain about a few things. For instance, I didn't know what plantains were before this party ... Don't judge, OK?!

I got to have some great conversations about food! One of the things I admire about Taysha is her passion for connecting consumers and producers in order to have OPEN and HONEST conversations about food. This was of course her goal for the party, but no one ever pushed opinions or had an agenda - we just chatted away like friends tend to do when they're working in the kitchen. :)

While we were working on the meals, I was actually the first one to bring up some questions. A lot of my family members are farmers, and I grew up on a small farm (we raised angora goats for many years and also had hogs and other livestock for 4-H projects), so I definitely have an understanding and appreciation for where our food comes from BUT I'm always interested in learning more!

I learned SO MUCH, and I'm sure this blog could get a lot longer ... But if you want to know more about food/farming/nutrition, I encourage you to ask an expert instead! Seriously, I was going to launch into some facts/thoughts I took home with me, but that's all just my perspective. I think if you're interested in learning more about food, you should get your facts straight from the experts. Michelle and Taysha both have a TON more experience/wisdom than I do, and I'm sure they'd LOVE to answer any questions you have.

Success! My freezer is FULL!
Let's get to what everyone cares about: the meals! Michelle had us set up eight stations - one for each meal. At each station, there was the recipe, the ingredients and any supplies you needed (measuring spoons, cutting board, etc.). At first, I thought we would go around to each station and make each meal. Instead, we picked just ONE station and made that meal 16 times (we were supposed to have 16 people, but a few canceled). This made me VERY nervous because I didn't want to screw up everyone else's meals! So while everyone else was grabbing an apron, I found a meal that didn't look too intimidating: Apple Balsamic Pork Chops. I haven't gotten to cook/eat my recipe yet, but I managed to finish them all without making TOO much of a mess ...

When I got home, the food BARELY fit in my tiny freezer, but we made it work. Some of the recipes are for the Crock-Pot; others are for the oven. Either way, I'm VERY excited to try each of the meals and then SHARE the recipes with all of you! My plan is to do one per week, but forgive me if I get behind, OK? Committing to eight consistent weeks of blogging is hard with my schedule, but I REALLY want to try because I think a lot of my friends/readers are also interested in trying healthy freezer meals.

To wrap this up, I'd like to say THANK YOU to everyone: the Farm Bureau and pork/beef councils for sponsoring the party, Taysha for organizing everything, Jess for helping her with the shopping/delivery, Bailey for opening her home, Michelle for providing her recipes and knowledge and everyone else for being so kind and understanding of my lack of kitchen skills ... (If your pork chops are awful, don't tell me, OK?)

This is the first time I've ever gotten free stuff as a blogger, so I guess I'm probably supposed to disclose that the Farm Bureau paid for the party, but they didn't pay me for my opinion or even ask me to write about this event. I just want to pay it forward by sharing my experience and the recipes with my readers! If there were enough meals to go around, I'd share those too ... you'd just have to fight my husband for the bacon-wrapped chicken ;)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Tales of Training: Warming Up

After all my whining about winter running, it appears we're finally getting a bit of a reprieve! (Because you know, Mother Nature heard me complain and decided to grant me that personal favor ... it's not like anyone else had to deal with the cold, right?) We still had a few cold days last week, but I was rewarded with temps in the 30s (squee!) and sunshine for my long run on the weekend. Coming up this week, we're looking at 50+ degrees! ::Throws confetti and melting snowballs::

In terms of training, I believe last week is what coaches would call a cutback week. I obviously wasn't slacking by any means, but my mileage and intensity was toned back a bit to let my body recover and prepare for the next challenge. 

Monday: 3 miles, easy

Honestly, I was so tired I don’t remember anything about this run … Is that sad? I know it was still cold though …

Tuesday: Piyo Sweat
Felt great to get a decent strength/cross training workout under my belt again. I went for Sweat because that’s what I wanted to do! Mission accomplished.

Wednesday: 6.39 miles – mid-4 at tempo
Here’s the run in English: I ran 1 mile as a warm-up, then ran 4 miles at tempo, which means about 75 percent of my max effort. In between each tempo mile, I slowed down and recovered for a quarter mile. I was supposed to do a 1 mile cool down, but I cut it short since I was close to home.

Thursday: 5 miles, hill workout
We had one last (hopefully!) cold blast Thursday and Friday, so I went to the treadmill for this one. I ran a 10-minute warm-up, then I did six rounds of 2 minutes faster pace at a 5-10 percent incline, with 2 minutes of recovery between. Then 10ish more minutes of cool down. It was tough, but I hung in there!

Friday: Rest
My body just needed it. (Note to self: Don't schedule tempo and hills back-to-back again ...)

Saturday: Rest
I would call this active rest since I spent the day on the go. Kenlee and I picked up the house in the morning, then we went to the hair salon. After our appointment, we hit up McDonald’s for lunch, then stopped into Walmart for a baby shower gift. Sunday was just as busy …

Lady Date! In case you're wondering, McDonald's Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad + Dressing + Fruit & Yogurt Parfait = 15 points. Really hits the spot for me!

Sunday: 10 miles
I dropped Kenlee off with my in-laws around 9 a.m. and took off for 6ish miles alone. Then I picked up Rowdy for the last 4 miles … and realized he would need a bath after running through all the melting puddles of ice/snow. After cleaning him, then me, I picked up Kenlee and quickly made us both lunch before heading to my parents’ house, where we got to spend the afternoon playing with my nieces, nephew and siblings. I was completely WIPED when we got home. Thank God for compression socks and carry-out pizza!

Looking ahead: I’m soooo excited to be running in warmer temperatures again! I’m a little worried about finding time for my long run this weekend, as we have two parties to attend and Kyle is picking up an extra shift at his part-time job … But I know we’ll make it work. We always do!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Tales of Training - Roller Coaster Week

This week was up and down ... with the weather and my training. But sub-zero temps and fender-benders be damned! Because in the end, I logged all the miles I was supposed to. So, take THAT!

Sunday: Rest
In addition to grocery shopping with Kenlee, I managed to squeeze in some time with the foam roller. Can I count that as active recovery?

Monday: 3 miles + 8 strides
Heading into the week, I knew it was gonna be cold. Like, really cold. Monday morning, my weather app said it was 5 degrees outside ... and I sorta tried to ignore the part where it said negative 11 with the wind chill ... Since I only had 3ish miles to run, I decided to tough it out and put on nearly every layer I owned. This picture (taken after I had warmed up a bit on the back porch) says it all:

Tuesday: 6 miles, negative splits
After Monday's cruel lesson from Mother Nature, on Tuesday I decided to hit up the treadmill before work. The plan called for me to run 2-mile negative splits i.e., run faster every 2 miles, but I actually bumped it up every 1 mile (or half mile toward the end) to just be done.

Wednesday: 3.75 miles, mid-2 at tempo
The plan called for 4 miles, but I cut the cool-down short because I didn't want to make Kyle late to work. I felt good, and Rowdy bumped up his distance PR - his previous record was 3 miles. He's been really excited to come run with me lately ... which might have something to do with the treats he gets when we get home. But I'll take what I can get.

Thursday: PiYo Hardcore on the Floor
I realize the title of this workout is slightly perverted, but it's no joke. I struggled with the push-ups at the end and had to take a break. Just means there's room for improvement, right?

Friday: Rest
I had every intention of squeezing in an extra PiYo this week, but honestly? I just wanted some extra time to shave my legs. All the ladies out there understand, I'm sure.

Saturday: 14 miles
This run was a mental effing roller coaster. Let me set the stage: Because this would be my farthest run EVER, Kyle told me to pick a route and he would come pick me up at the end. I liked this idea because it meant I could run from our house to the fairgrounds in another town, and I would feel all badass knowing I could run a route I have driven countless times before. Get what I mean?

Well for the first 6 miles or so, I struggled with my Camelbak. Even though the sun was shining, it was only 5 degrees or so when I left, so the water kept freezing in the tube! Normally, I sip once per mile to keep things moving, and that usually prevents any ice. Apparently, I needed to sip A LOT more often in these conditions ... I had to stop at least three times to remove the mouthpiece, warm it up in my hands, and then suck all the ice from the tubing. I nearly cried in frustration and thought about turning back around or calling Kyle to bring a different pack. But I'm glad I pushed through ...

The training plan said I was supposed to run my mid-5 miles at race pace, and I NAILED it. Every mile but one was sub-9 minutes (and that one was 9:02). It was just the pick-me-up I needed to forget my ice issues, which subsided as the sun came out and the temperature rose. When I hit mile 10, I stopped for a Gu and stood happily in the sunshine for a bit. I felt UNSTOPPABLE.

The next 4 miles went surprisingly well! To be honest, I thought I would be hurting a lot more after hitting the faster paces. By the time I reached the north entrance of the fairgrounds (the bridge entrance for locals), I was planning my victory pose: Kyle would take a picture of me holding up a 1 and a 4 with my fingers, and I would be grinning with pride.

Instead, just as I was heading to do my victory lap around the track, Kyle waved me down and said he'd been in a fender-bender. WHA???!! He assured me everyone was FINE and sent me off to finish my run. The fairgrounds was unexpectedly PACKED with cars though, so I barely made it through to hit 14 miles on the dot. Apparently, there was a garage sale that morning, so Kyle was looking for a parking spot when a truck that was stuck in the snow suddenly got traction ... and backed right into Kyle's SUV.

Being the selfish, youngest child runner that I am, my first thought was, "That jerk in the truck just ruined my run!" But in reality, I know that accidents happen. And I am truly grateful that we just have to deal with some minor dents and dings. Thankfully, Kyle came prepared with a protein shake and blankets for me, so I was mostly content to wait for the deputy to arrive and write up a report.

In the end, we decided to be positive and make the most of a strange situation. So Kyle was happy to snap a picture of my victory pose.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Disney World Planning, Part 1: Research

I have a confession to make: I'm a Disney freak. Over the last several months, I've fallen deep into the rabbit hole that is planning for a trip to Disney World ... and think I'm a complete convert. 

If you don't already know, I'm what most people call a "Planner" No, not planner. But "Planner." With a capital P, air quotes and a bit of a side-eyed smirk. When I get excited about something, I tend to research the hell out of it so I know ALL of my options. Then obsess over all the decisions. Compare costs. Look at pros and cons. Draft Excel sheets. Make itineraries and lists. And basically freak out until the big day comes. 

Examples of this OCD-like behavior include when I got married (I think my 3-inch binder is a better scrapbook than my professional photo album), when I got pregnant (HOURS after that pink line showed up, I was at the bookstore ... and I already knew which book to buy based on prior Internet searches), when I started running (Do you know how many running blogs I follow? It's crazy ...) and now: Planning a trip to Walt Disney World. 

Like a lot of 80s/90s kids, I grew up with the Disney animated classics: "Cinderella," "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," "Toy Story," etc. - all of the VHS tapes are still lined up in my parents' TV cabinet ... and I told my mom she's not allowed to get rid of them. Ever. 

And luckily, my parents took us all to Orlando to experience the magic when I was 8 years old. I can still remember meeting Mickey and Minnie, spinning in the teacups, singing along to "Beauty and the Beast" on stage, and watching the fireworks over Epcot from my dad's shoulders. 

Jan's rocking the fanny pack, I'm rocking the perm and Scott is rocking those chicken legs!

I knew the moment I left that I would be back with my own child someday. So when my husband kept dropping little hints about maybe taking our daughter, I had to have a come-to-Jesus talk with him. "We're either going or we're not," I said. He needed to give me the green light so we could get serious about planning and saving ... or he needed to put the idea on hold until he was really ready to commit. 

Sounds insane, I know. But my mind couldn't take the thought lingering in the back of my head any more. I either needed to push it out completely or let it take over. That's just how my brain works ... and he knows this. 

So luckily, Kyle gave me the go-ahead, and I'm currently in the throes of planning our family’s first adventure to the World. (And don’t think that I pushed him into this … He’s never been to Disney World before, so I think his curiosity played a big part in his decision to go sooner rather than later.)

I think our big talk was back in June … and I’ve been researching ever since. I told my mom I have NO IDEA how she planned our trip back then with just a book from the Disney Store and an 800 number!

Rather than hold all this knowledge for myself, I’ve decided to share it. Over the next few months leading up to our trip, I’d like to post about the planning process and tips I’ve used to create what I hope will be a wonderful, memorable experience. 

Part 1 is going to be research. Because that’s where it all starts. Before I made any decisions, I got my hands on as much information as possible. Now let’s be real… there’s no way anyone can really be a Disney expert in just a few months, but I think I’ve found some of the best resources to get started. 

For the Majority of First-Timers: WDW Prep School 
Shannon Albert is my hero. Seriously. She focuses almost all of her content on planning for first-timers. Her six-step planning process has kept me in check so I don’t get too far ahead of myself (we’re currently on Step 4: Pick dining options). If you’re into podcasts like I am (think radio on your mobile device), you’ll want to binge-listen to all of her episodes of WDW Prep To Go for great ideas and tips. You’ll also notice all the best planning pins on Pinterest come from her. In my opinion, you can skip all of the other planning resources and just stick to this website if you don’t want to be overwhelmed. 

For Those Who Like Details: "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World"
If you’re a details person, you HAVE to read this book. It includes tons of ratings, charts, lists and plans – all based on meticulous research and data from a team of, essentially, Disney scientists. The only downside to this book is that a new one is printed every year (they have to in order to keep up with the constant changes at the parks!). That leads me to my next recommendation …

For Those Who Want To Do It All:
This website is an extension of the Unofficial Guide, with up-to-date information about pretty much ANYTHING you want to know. You have to buy a subscription (a whopping $12.95 for an entire year … or less because there are discount codes everywhere you look) to access the step-by-step touring plans or create your custom plans to maximize your time in the parks. You can also look at plenty of FREE material without a subscription, including the blog posts, which are helpful and sometimes entertaining. 

For Those Who Want to Geek Out: Be Our Guest podcast 
I listen to several Disney World podcasts, but this is one of my favorites. The hosts are always upbeat and excited to help listeners plan their trips – the way they talk about the World always puts me in a good mood and gets me so excited for my own vacation. This show isn't as structured as WDW Prep To Go, but that's the appeal! You can learn a lot throughout their conversations and trip reports. Listener Questions are my favorite episodes because people ask about things I would’ve NEVER thought to ask. 

Keep in mind through all of this that I haven’t actually been to Disney World in 21 years, and my family’s wants/needs won’t be the same as yours. I’m just hoping that sharing my experience will help others get started when they’re ready. Remember, I’m a “Planner” so I prefer to do it myself rather than use a Disney travel agent … but the option is out there (at no extra cost) for those who’d rather let someone else handle the details. 

I think Part 2 of my series will be budgeting for Disney World. If you have any questions in the meantime, you should leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What We're Eating: Peanut Butter & Banana Protein Smoothie

So if you made it through the long-ass story of how I ended up on the bathroom floor and then became a protein powder person, you may recall that I mentioned a new obsession with smoothies. There are literally millions of combinations I could try, but there’s one that I’ve been using as my go-to recipe lately. 

Peanut Butter & Banana Protein Smoothie (5 points)
  • Handful of ice (more or less, depending on your preference) 
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 2 tbs PB2 powder
  • 2 scoops EAS Lean 15 vanilla protein powder 
  • 1 banana, sliced
Directions: Combine all the ingredients in a blender and fire that bad boy up – it’s that easy. I will note that sometimes I have to use a spoon to scrape the sides of the blender because the powder will stick. But other than that, you’re gold! 

Before ...

... After!
Cheers! Here's to a great post-workout recovery. 

P.S. You can find PB2 and EAS powder at most major grocery stores. I buy mine at Meijer. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tales of Training: %&!@ February

So I used to have a boss whom I often butted heads with, but I could always agree with her on one thing: F--- February. (Except she and I usually left out the dashes ...)

My point? Where we live, February pretty much sucks. If you make any plans, for any reason, Mother Nature will screw with them. By this point in the winter, we've had enough cold and snow, and we're ready to move on to sunshine.

The difference between my boss and me is that she could afford to make a trip to Florida every February to escape the arctic cold. This week, I had to settle for pretending I was running alongside all my Twitter/Facebook friends who were at Disney World for the Princess Half Marathon weekend. ::SIGH:: Oh well.

Sunday: Rest Day

Monday: PiYo Lower Body
I was supposed to do a "Fun Workout" according to my plan, but I opted for something easier. The lower body workout is heaven for my legs/hips. (Helloooooo pigeon pose!)

Tuesday: 3 miles
Took it easy with Rowdy ... I think he's ready to move up to more mileage, but I'm waiting for a good weather day to take him out and see how he does.

Wednesday: 6 miles, mid-4 at race pace
Well at this point, I'm not sure what my goal pace really is. I could shoot for the moon and try for a 1:55 half marathon, but I'll be happy with another 1:59. It's hard to keep reminding myself that winter miles should really be run by feel/effort and not by pace. Either way, I went faster for the mid-4 miles in this workout, and that's all I could really ask of my body in these temps.

Thursday: 5 miles
I was supposed to take it easy for this workout. However, the double-digit negative wind chill forced me to use the treadmill in our office fitness center. I normally LOATHE treadmill miles, but I actually felt relieved to not worry about ice/snow/layers of clothing getting in my way. So I kinda cranked up the pace for a while and let my feet fly. I felt AWESOME afterward!

A decent indoor run MUST be documented. Notice the happy face!
Friday: Rest
I was going to attempt to do a core workout, but my motivation pulled me deep into the couch Friday morning. I regret nothing.

Saturday: 13.1 miles (strong finish?)
So my options were to run Saturday morning in decent temps (about 18 degrees) as some snow fell OR run Sunday with no snow, but lower temps (about 10 degrees). I chose the "warmer" option and stuck to it. I mapped out a country route that I thought would be free of traffic for the most part (and it was), but it was also pretty slick. I was doing OK for the first half, but I fell apart toward the end when I couldn't get decent traction. At one point, I realized I was running so slowly with tiny, careful steps up a hill that it would be faster if I walked ... so frustrating! The strong finish part wasn't as strong as I hoped it would be, but I know I at least ran a little faster when I was back in town on semi-clear streets.
I stand by my earlier statement: F--- February
Looking Ahead: I have no idea how I'm going to get all my workouts in this week with wind chill advisories and my husband's work schedule ... I'll just take it day by day.