Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmastime 2013

The weekend before Christmas I was able to sneak a quick visit to my hometown to see my family.  I was only there a day and a half, but I was really glad to spend time with my family.  Christmas is always pretty big at my grandparents house and I haven't been there for Christmas in probably three years. 

I caught a late flight out Saturday night and we got to Beaufort around midnight. 
Sunday morning we got up and took my dad's dog Doc out for walk down the road.  He gets so excited when everyone is home!
Happy pup!
We then had an early Christmas with just my dad and siblings.  
My dad's Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  It even played the song!
My dad got my sister Caroline and I lovely pearl jewelry sets, plus I got some iTunes and Amazon money.  My brother, Patrick, was smart with his gift and got me a gift card to Fleet Feet Sports.  He noticed I tweet and post about them a lot and figured it would be a good gift, which it was!  Caroline gifted me a cute Dogeared necklace. 
It was such a thoughtful gift.  I have been feeling a little stuck lately and it is a nice reminder to go after what I really want.  I've been wearing it everyday since I got it!

We then walked down to my grandparents house to meet the rest of the family for lunch.  They have a tree full of ornaments in the living room plus a smaller tree in the den. 

My grandfather collects Santa Claus's (which I now realize I didn't take any pictures of...) and they are placed all over the house, there has to be at least 40.  My grandmother also set up the dining room table with her Christmas china. 

After lunch we enjoyed my grandmothers delicious Coconut Cake and Christmas Cookies.  

Our grandmother really wanted to recreate a Christmas photo we took about 19 years ago at Christmas, so we made it happen.  It's funny to see how much we've grown over the years!

Later in the afternoon when it got dark Caroline, Patrick, Dad and I went to check out the Christmas lights.  Patrick and Dad had a 1-10 rating system, but Caroline and I were more laid back with a "good" or "lame" grading scale.  We saw two really great houses with music and  one with a special driveways and tunnel!
Sitting on the back porch enjoying the lovely weather in the Lowcountry. 

I flew back to Chicago Monday afternoon because I had to work the closing shift Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so I just kind of lounged around in the morning before going into work both night.  Guests are usually very happy, friendly, and appreciative of us working the holiday, but it is not a fun shift.  It's usually pretty quiet and it's hard not being with family on the holiday. 

My treat to myself for making it through the shift Christmas Eve was curling up on the new couch in the apartment by the tree with some peppermint ice cream with hot fudge and Love Actually.

When I woke up Christmas morning I looked outside and noticed it had snowed!  A White Christmas!  I had a couple of gifts to open from my mom; a nice pair of hanging silver earring and a great Timbuk2 bag that I can use on my bike or when I go to the gym!  Later that morning I Skyped with Mom, Andy, and Caroline.  

It was boring night at work, but afterwards I walked a bit down Michigan Avenue and enjoyed the lovely snow and Christmas lights.  It was a very quiet night.  Being away from my family this time of year is hard, but I am so thankful that I have loving family and friends, my health, a good job (even though I have to work the holiday), and that I was able to enjoy the pretty Christmas night. 

When I got home I snuggled up again under my Christmas fleece blanket, this time with some popcorn and Sparkling Pomegranate Juice, and watched my favorite Christmas movie, The Family Stone.  It was a nice way to end my Christmas day.  

How was your holiday?  What are some of your family traditions this time of year?  Do you have a favorite Christmas movie?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Thanksgiving with the Family at Kiawah Island

I'm a bit late in posting this, but its our busiest season at the Spa and things have been a little crazy.  I wanted to share some of the highlights from Thanksgiving! 

At work we are usually given a holiday off and it worked out that I was able to have Thanksgiving, which is great because my mom's side of the family always makes fun plans for this holiday.  Like last year we met at Kiawah Island, South Carolina where we rented a big house together.  

I flew in Wednesday morning and was picked up at the Charleston airport by my brother, Patrick, mom, and step dad.  

We spent a little time in Charleston running a few errands before heading to the island.  We had some tasty Carolina BBQ, which is the best, picked up our race packets for the Turkey Day Run, and made a pit stop at Cupcake.  

My Aunt Wendy planned a cookie baking contest for Wednesday and it was in full force when we arrived back at the house.  Teams of two bake cookie bars to be judged by two of our uncles later that night.  

We had six different cookie bars this year.  I made Triple Peanut Butter Monster Cookie Bars, which were delicious, but unfortunately did not win the grand prize.  My two cousins Libbie and Emily were smart and played to judges favorite flavor and made Rocky Road Brownies.  Other entries were Peppermint Brownies, Fluffernutter,  and Raspberry Peanut Butter, so there was no shortage of sweets for this trip!

Thanksgiving morning we got up early to drive into Charleston for the 36th Annual Turkey Day Run 5K with 6500 other participants.  

I'm still not running because of my injury so I walked the Turkey Trot this year.  It was a chilly morning, but it was nice to walk around Charleston.  

When we made it back to Kiawah a few of us headed to the beach to see the Sandcastle Contest entries.  There were some impressive designs.  

Throughout the trip we spent time riding bikes along the pretty paths on Kiawah. 

We also spent time playing lots of games: Scrabble, Apples to Apples, Monopoly, Slap Jack, etc.  One game that was a favorite was called Heads Up.  It is from the Ellen Show and has an app you can have on your phone.  All you do is choose a category and place the phone on your head; a song, show, brand, character, book, movie, or person appears and the other people have to give you clues to guess what it is.  SO MUCH FUN!  The song category was particularly funny because you have to either whistle or hum the song.  This lead to lots of laughing. 

Friday afternoon a bunch of us rode our bikes to go play Disc Golf.  Same rules as regular golf except you use different sized frisbees instead a ball and club.  My brother Patrick had his own set of discs (and was clearly the pro of the group) and the rest of us rented some to play the nine hole course.  I wasn't very good, but it was fun!

I was so glad I was able to make it for Thanksgiving this year and spend some time with my family!

Any special Thanksgiving traditions with your family?  What is one of your favorite games? 

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Frustration of an Injury

Having an injury that limits your activity or hurts or stops you from doing things you like is frustrating and sad and annoying.  I have been dealing with a hip/leg injury for almost a year and I am so over it. 

Just to recap after the Chicago Marathon last year I began to feel a bad ache in my left leg.  I went to a chiropractor, stopped running for a couple weeks, went to physical therapy, felt ok for awhile, then sprained my hip flexor during Soldier Field and am finishing up a second round of PT now.  After my first PT therapy session I learned that my hip and glute muscles were not strong enough and that one of my legs was shorter than the other due to a rotation of my pelvis.  After my first prescription I felt better, but did not keep up with my exercises which was a factor in spraining my hip flexor.  

This last go round of physical therapy I have been much better about doing my exercise homework.  On my last visit this my therapist told me that my hip strength is looking very good.  I was feeling good for awhile, but the last month or so my left leg started to ache again.  I wasn't having issues with my pelvis rotating as much and then all of sudden it seemed to become an issue again.  Even after a correction I was still having the ache in the back of my calf and thigh.  I feel the ache even when I'm not running and it is pretty constant throughout the day.  It does hurt a bit more after a run, so I have been cutting back on my running. 

My body was feeling out of whack so I decided to get a massage at the Cortiva Institute in town with one of the professional therapists there.  One of the therapists at work recommended someone there for me to try.  I've only been twice, but it has helped some.  She noticed the rotation in my hips and tightness in my lower back and calf.   
My physical therapist recommended doing a Video Gait Analysis to see if there is anything with my running form that might be making things worse.  She also suggested I go back to my doctor.  I did my gait analysis and should have the full results soon, but my PT did notice a few things on first look.  With the full report I'll get some more exercises I can do to help these things. 

After a visit with my doctor a couple weeks ago she suggested I get an MRI of my lumbar spine so we could get a closer look at things since I was still experiencing pain.  This was my first MRI and I was little nervous, but it went well.  The MRI machine makes so much noise - I had no idea.  It also took about 15 minutes to get five different views.  It's amazing that a machine can take picture of what inside your body look like, right?  

I had a follow up with my doctor a week later to go over the images and it looks like I have bulging or herniated disc in my lower back.  It is my L5 disc, which is the second to lowest in the spine and the second most common disc herniation in the back.  

source: Mayfiled Clinic
What this means is that the nucleus of that disc has been pushed or leaked out and is pressing into my nerve which is causing the aching I feel in my left leg.  It is a degenerative issue, so pretty much something I'll have to be mindful of and take care of forever.  

What I wanted to know is how to make this better.  I mean I've been having this pain on and off for almost a year!  The first steps include heading back to physical therapy.  Now that we know what the issue is the therapy can be focused more to strengthening my core, posture, and stretches.  My doctor has also prescribed an anti-inflammatory to help with the pain for few weeks.  

I am glad I finally know what is causing the pain, but am bummed that this is something I'm going to have to deal with for the rest of my life.  When you have an injury like this it is very likely to happen again.  I just want to run and be healthy and I'm not now so it just makes me sad.  I think I am a pretty optimistic person, but I needed some time to be sad about it before I shared it on here. 

So right now I am three weeks into no running.  After visiting with my PT she thinks not running for awhile is a good idea.  At this point I don't really know how long of break it will be; it all depends on my progress and pain levels.  
In lieu of running I have been walking and swimming with limited kicking, because too much makes my leg hurt.  The biggest thing my PT has told me is that if some exercise or movement makes my leg hurt to stop.  What we want is for the pain to be focused around my lower back, where the issue is, not spreading down my leg.  I'm only a couple weeks into physical therapy so we'll see how things go.  The ache in my leg doesn't seem as frequent, which is good, but is still there, so there is more work to be done.  
I am hopeful that now that we know what the issue is I can finally focus on getting better.  I know this whole experience, although frustrating, will help me to be a stronger and healthier runner.  I am looking forward to feeling better so I can get back out there and enjoy running again!

A lot of stuff in this post, but just wanted to explain what was going on and share my thoughts on things right now.  

How have you dealt with an injury? 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Good Food, New Hair, and Apple Picking with Mom

A couple weeks ago my lovely mother came to visit me here in Chicago for a couple days.  We planned it so it would be on my two off days which happen to be in the middle of the week and it worked out quite well.  I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again, I love spending time with my mom.  We like pretty much the same things (that mostly includes food and exercise) and we always have a good time together.  
Tuesday morning we started with a swim at the pool.  My mom was a competitive swimmer in high school so I asked for some tips with my swimming form.  She gave me some tips to make my stroke more efficient which I have been practicing ever since.  

After our swim we walked over to Over Easy Cafe, which is one of my favorite breakfast places and has become my mom's as well on her visits to the city.  We split two plates - the Weekly Special Scramble which was full of goodness and the Fleur-De-Sel Fig French Toast which had a creme in between the toast, raspberry syrup, and fresh figs and raspberries.  Over Easy can do no wrong; everything is so damn good!  

We then made our way downtown to Studio 110 which is a fancy salon in the Gold Coast.  I have heard lots of good things about it from guests and coworkers so mom and I decided to splurge on fancy haircuts.  The salon was really nice and my stylist was great.  Isn't getting your hair washed the best?  She gave me lots of tips for caring and styling my hair.  I'm usually a pretty quiet person, but she was a great conversationalist and we chatted the whole the time during my haircut about everything from restaurants, family, and our favorite TV shows.  It was a pricey haircut, but honestly well worth it.  I have been going to the Aveda Institute, which a beauty school for years, but I think I've found a new stylist and will be going back in six weeks time.

After shopping along Michigan Avenue a bit we stopped briefly back at the apartment we headed off for an earlier dinner at Mindy's Hot Chocolate.  
We had both been there for hot chocolate a few times, but decided to sit down and enjoy a meal there too.  We got a seat right away and ended up selecting five different plates to share.  First was the house made pretzels with pepper jack cheese dip and the zucchini and squash dish.

Then we split the Panzanella salad which was full of heirloom tomatoes, with house made croutons, avocado puree, and parmesan.  With that we had a bowl of their Mac Cheese which was uber creamy and rich. 

For dessert we split the Wedding Cake which was buttermilk cake, raspberry jam, cream cheese butter cream, cinnamon sugar pouring cream, and raspberry sorbet and glass of the Black & Tan Hot Chocolate which had hot fudge on the bottom with the medium hot chocolate on top plus a fresh marshmallow.  So good!  The fresh marshmallows are out of this world so fluffy and light. 

It was a great meal and clear to see how Chef Mindy has been a James Beard Nominee and the 2011 Pastry Winner!  I can't wait to go back!

The next day we got up and ran about 4.5 miles to the Green City Farmer's Market so I could pick up a few things.  My leg felt a little off during the last mile, but otherwise it was an ok run.  We ended up splitting a Seedling Smoothie and exploring the local goods.  

That day I rented an iGo car so we could drive out to an Apple Orchard.  Before leaving the city though we had breakfast at Little Goat Diner which is on Randolph Street.  This is Stephanie Izard's second restaurant here in Chicago.  I went once before seeing Book of Mormon a few months earlier and knew I had to bring my mom there to try the food.  Our waiter was a very cute and friendly guy which made the dining experience even better.  We started off with the homemade cinnamon bun which came out warm and gooey.  

Then we ended up splitting the Corn Beef Hash with Eggs and the Parathos Burrito which was out of this world.  I was a little unsure about it as first, but with the recommendation from our waiter we figured it was worth a shot.  Why not try something different?  All the flavors were just perfect with flatbread, spicy sauce, avocado, and greens.  Yum!     

We then drove down to Indiana and went to County Line Orchard.  I had never been apple picking before and thought it would be fun.  We arrived and saw tons of school buses in the parking lot.  It was a busy day at the orchard with schools.  It was near the end of their stay so it wasn't too bad.  

We checked out the giant pumpkins and then went inside the barn to check out all the apple treats. 
I knew we wanted a doughnut and split a delicious pumpkin parfait.  It was a fresh pumpkin doughnut with vanilla soft serve with whipped cream and drizzled with caramel and honey.  It was fabulous.  

We then got on the tractor trolley for a little tour of the orchards before actually picking.  Honey Crisp, which are our favorite had all been picked, but we found a few gala and macintosh apples.  It was neat to see apples actually growing on trees!  

We made our way back to the barn and where we split a cup of apple cider.  Mom picked up a six pack of pumpkin doughnuts to take home as well.  Plus a lucky find was the Wild Friends Nut Butter (formerly Wild Squirrel) for sale in the barn.  We had seen them on Shark Tank a few years ago and ordered some.  They are delicious but not sold in any many stores.  I had to pick up a jar of the Honey Pretzel PB to take home myself. 

While we had the car for the day we drove out to Bolingbrook to stop at IKEA.  I needed a bookshelf for my room and a bedside table.  We were there awhile and I went back and forth on couple of things, but finally decided on something with the help of my mom.  We got back into Chicago a little later than planned so stayed nearby and had burgers at Bad Apple.  You can always get a good grass fed- burger here and there hand cut specialty seasoned french fries.

The next morning it was time for her to head back and me to get ready for work.  Our visits always go by so quickly, but it was fun few days.

Hopefully I'll be seeing her and the rest of my family for Thanksgiving if everything works out with my schedule!

Have you ever been apple picking?  What is one of your favorite restaurants?  What do like to do when family is visiting?  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rosehill Cemetery Crypt 5K 2013 - Race Recap

Last weekend I ran the the Rosehill Cemetery Crypt 5K.  This is the second year of this race and I was looking forward to running it again.  I like the theme of the race and that it's on the smaller side.  

Since I ran it last year I got a coupon code for this years race and signed up as soon as I got it!  The next thing I did was design a shirt to wear for the race.  I'm a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan and the whole running through a graveyard makes me think of that.  I knew exactly what quote I wanted to use to put on my shirt.  
I went to Cafe Press and made a tech running shirt and was happy with the finished product when I got it in the mail the next week.  
My super cool Buffy Quote shirt!
As I mentioned this was the second year of this race, but they fixed many of the issues I had with it last year.  The race started on time, the path was marked better with tea lights, and they had a better shirt.  I still think they could light up more of the graves and mausoleums though. 
This years glow in the dark t-shirt.
From my experience last year I knew that I should bring an extra light to help see the path.  I purchased a head lamp from Target around Christmas last year and just wrapped it around my hand so the light lit some of the path.  I arrived at the cemetery about 30 minutes before the start and after a few pictures I lined up to start.  

You get to run right under the entry way and then follow the tea candle lit path all through the cemetery   Lots of people had glow necklaces on their arms and legs so you could just see a mass of glowing colors at the turns ahead which was pretty neat. 

Again, I'm a Buffy nerd so I listened to the Once More With Feeling soundtrack (the musical episode) during the race.  

Kara mentioned this as an idea last year and it was too perfect to not do myself!  So I was running through an old graveyard, wearing my Buffy shirt, listening to a musical, and pretending to be an kick butt slayer - how awesome is that?!?  

As you can see this run was just plain fun!  I found a comfortable pace and just kept with it.  I think I took about three walking breaks and stopped very briefly to snap a few pics.  

Not all of my pictures came out very well, because it was quite dark.  I finished in 38:36mins.  Not my best time, but it was better than last year so that's good!

After crossing the finish line I hung out a bit and sipped on my free Honest Tea and chips while a band played.  I didn't think the "after party" was that great.  The band was not the best and there was no food truck, like last year.  I stayed briefly before making my way back home. 

Overall a fun race!  There are a few things that could be better, but I think the race improved since last year.  I might have to run it again next year!

Have you ever run a race at night?  If you made a race shirt what would you want it to say?