Saturday, September 30, 2017

September Books

One of my goals for 2017 was to read 17 books. Well, had I known my reading speed (or the fact that the library would quickly become one of my new best friends) I probably would have adjusted that number slightly ;)

In case you missed the recent posts, I blogged about the books I read in January HERE, February HERE, March HERE, April HERE, May HERE, June HERE, July HERE and August HERE. There were SIXTY-TWO in the first eight months, so when I add September's EIGHT that brings the total for the year thus far to SEVENTY! In case you're interested in what I read (and how I'd rate them), feel free to check out my previous write-ups when you have time!

  • Missoula by Jon Krakauer - The hubby was planning on listening to the audio version of this title, so I thought I'd grab the book from the library. The author is a fave of ours (Into Thin Air and Into The Wild both being awesome reads), so I knew this would be another great one. Now, let me start off by saying I don't mean "great" as in "happy-go-lucky" or "sunshine and butterflies". This is a very difficult subject - rape (specifically non-stranger sexual assault). I felt it sort of read like an episode of Law & Order: SVU, but the victims in these cases were real. It is an absolute shame how sexual assault is treated in the justice system, but maybe a book like this may shed some light on the issues and bring about change. I would strongly urge college age women give his book a read. Rapists are not only men hiding in bushes, wearing ski masks, they can be people who you deeply love and trust. I would give it a 9 out of 10. 

  • Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton - A friend had posted on social media asking people to tell her a book that they couldn't put down. I put the majority of them on my "For Later" list and this one was the first available at the library. I knew nothing about it, but when I first opened it I knew it was exactly what I needed. This is a collection of essays about Glennon's life. Let me tell you, so much of it screams true for me. It is honest, funny, thoughtful and brave. She bares it all and invites you to join her in the journey. I love her realness when it comes to her relationship with God and many of the insights she shares. Like my friend's friend who mentioned this book, I couldn't put it down. I read it in about a day and actually was sad there wasn't more. I pray I am able to live more authentically and love more deeply. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta - A friend of mine mentioned that a magazine she subscribes to lists new book suggestions every month. She took a picture of the last couple and sent them my way. A couple of the books were available at our library, so I put them on my list - this was the first one. I had zero knowledge of what this one was about. Let's just say it wasn't my cup of tea. It was about a mom who was a recent empty-nester (her son going away to college) and her story. Although the writing was good, I felt like it centered around sex and pornography, which isn't my jam. I also felt like there were big jumps in the story that I would've preferred being filled (rather than leaving it up to the reader). I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson - A friend of ours was reading this and wanted someone to discuss it with. The hubby and I decided to grab the audio book version and listen to it on the way to a camping trip. For some reason, when the hubby put the book on his iPhone (we have a VW van with a cassette player so have to transfer CDs onto our mobile devices if we want to listen to them in the car), the tracks got out of order. Thankfully most of the chapters stand on their own so it wasn't too terrible. Recently the hubby and I watched the documentary "13th". I feel as though this book went along with that film. I appreciate that this book not only lays out the serious and urgent issues facing America, but also gives action steps to help with healing and advancement. I would give it a 7 out of 10.

  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon - I brought this book with me camping, hoping to read a couple chapters and I just couldn't put it down. I don't remember who recommended it, but I'm so glad they did. It is a little childish, yes, but I am never one to turn down young adult reading. The story is about a "bubble girl" growing up and trying to find her way in the world (well, I guess in her bubble). I felt all of the main character's feelings right alongside her - loneliness, fear, love, excitement, disappointment, anger, joy, frustration, etc. I noticed that the book was turned into a movie (or at least that's what the front of the cover said), but movies never seem to live up to the books so I'll probably pass on seeing it - but I will grab a few more books by this author! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • The Gifts of Imperfection by BrenĂ© Brown - I have read another one of BrenĂ©'s books, so when this one became available at our library I grabbed it up. Although it is listed as a self-help book, I wouldn't say it necessarily offers a step-by-step guide on how to live a "wholehearted" life. Many of the topics (or as she calls them, "guideposts") are things that need to be PRACTICED. It is not a one-time thing that you do and check off your list. These are lifestyles that you should be cultivating and pursuing - such as authenticity, self-compassion, gratitude and joy, creativity, play and rest, calm and stillness, laughter, song and dance. There were definitely a ton of nuggets that I took from this book, many of which I hope to implement in my daily life. I am definitely a perfectionist so this book hit right where it hurt... but was exactly what I needed to hear. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - I don't remember who recommended this one, but I'm so glad I grabbed it. I could not put it down. It was actually written in 1984 but has gotten much more press lately because it was turned into an original hulu series (and, before you ask, I'm not sure I'll watch it because I always tend to like the books more). The story is set in a totalitarian society that has replaced the United States of America. Due to dangerously low reproduction rates, Handmaids are assigned to bear children for elite couples that have trouble conceiving. Although this is a fictional story (I loved reading the new introduction written by the author in February of this year) it is crazy how you could technically see some of the ideas playing out in today's society. It was a bit of a wake up call as to never "fall asleep" on the rights, liberties and freedoms we hold near and dear. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward - Another recommended book (although I forget where the recommendation came from) that I really enjoyed. A sad tale that is beautifully written about a family in the Mississippi Delta. The story is told from the point-of-view of both the son (JoJo, a thirteen year old boy) and the mother (Leonie, a drug abuser). It is a story of trying to find a place of love, belonging and home. It was powerful, heartbreaking and meaningful. I would give it a 8 out of 10.

And with that, my September reading has come to a close. If you have any suggestions on books to grab, let me know! I'm always down to throw them in the ever growing library "for later" queue!

What are you currently reading?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Friday Favorites

This week flew by... Maybe because we are heading out of town this afternoon and I felt like I had a ton of stuff to get accomplished before I could unplug and relax with friends. I can't even believe that a week from today I will be flying to Chicago - EEKS! On one hand I feel like I've been training FOR-EV-ER for the Chicago Marathon and on the other hand I don't know if I have trained long enough and feel like I might need another month to get fully prepared... But ready or not, the race is coming and I'm going! Okay, okay, enough of my mini-meltdowns, time for the main event!

Halo Top RAVE

I know, I know, I've posted about Halo Top Creamery quite frequently (remember when I reviews all 17 of the flavors they currently had on the market?!), but there are three things that happened recently that I MUST mention. First, they released new flavors recently and we tried the Cinnamon Roll pint... It was DELISH! Legit it might be one of my new favorites. Second, said Cinnamon Roll pint wasn't filled to the top when I opened it and I mentioned it on my Instagram. Their customer service reached out and offered to replace the "sad pint" with a new one! AMAZEBALLS! Third, a friend tagged me in a post of an upcoming holiday flavor... Gingerbread House! Oh HECK TO THE YES! I'm not one who likes pumpkin flavor, but peppermint and gingerbread are my JAM! Now we just have to wait for it to be released!

Parks Project National Parks Tee

Yup, this is another brand that I've mentioned before... BUT they released a new shirt that I NEED! The new raglan tee is one that I MUST have! I would say that it is going on my Christmas list, but I am pretty sure I've gotta grab it before then... like TOMORROW! They also have a similar bumper sticker that would be PERFECT for the #AdventureMobile!


A friend of mine was hosting a giveaway for a super cute tank the other day and I HAD to enter. Lucky for me, I WON! The tank is from @kikoti_innerkindness. KIKOTI is an acronym that stands for Keep It Kind On The Inside because they believe we're all worth it! Can you say PERFECT?! My "Inner Kindness" Varsity Tank is on its way and I'm STOKED! 

Fall Momentum Wraps

The new season brings with it new Momentum Wraps and I am SO STINKIN' EXCITED! Not only are there new colors for the cooler temps, but the new sayings are right up my alley! I think know I need them all! Five new sayings and five new wrap colors inspired by the beauty of the season are just what the change in season calls for!

Runbell 3.0

Have you ever been running and had to yell out "Excuse me" or "On your left" just to have people ignore you, give you dirty looks or not hear you? I know this happens rather often to me, so when I heard about this new Kickstarter I was JAZZED! The Runbell is a fitness wearable that fits in your hand and features an easy to use striker. It rings clearly to safely alert other trail users someone is behind them without startling them. Currently they're looking for backers on (with the new Runbell coming to market in February). I don't know about you, but this sounds AMAZING to me!

What are you loving lately?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Boston Marathon Update

The day is here. The day of reckoning. The day we find out my fate in regards to getting into the 2018 Boston Marathon.


Okay, so maybe it was yesterday, but I spent all day refreshing my email a bazillion times and had zero energy to blog.


The post you (and I) have been waiting on for nearly a year... Yup, I ran my first (and, thus far, ONLY) Boston Qualifying marathon 362 days ago, on October 1st, 2016. And I finally found out and can share with the world whether or not that time actually secured me a coveted spot into the 2018 Boston Marathon.


You were expecting to see the "CONGRATS" email everyone else has been posting, weren't you?! Well, I haven't received it yet...
  BUT my name is on the entry list and my time beats the official cut-off, so I'm going out on a limb and saying I'M IN!

In case you don't remember, I had a four minute and ten second buffer from what my age and gender requirement was and what I ran my race at (3:35 vs 3:30:50). And, thankfully, this year I had barely enough wiggle room to get me a spot!

Source: Boston Marathon's Facebook Feed

Did you notice that?! The buffer this year was 3:23... I got in by 47 seconds... HOLY CRAPOLY! That is a less than 2 seconds per mile difference over the course of a marathon...  A little too close for comfort if you ask me.

Sounds like the BAA may need to update the requirements soon, since the last update was in 2012 and the cut-off grew by such a large amount this year. I guess it's a good thing I'm shooting to BQ by over 5 minutes in Chicago for 2019...


I can't tell you how excited I am... Actually, I'm still sort of in shock. I mean, it seems like I've been working towards this goal for so long that it's surreal I may have legitimately reached it. You could say I'm still working through #AllTheFeels.


I realize a lot can happen between now and April, but God willing, I will be toeing the line of the 2018 Boston Marathon!


And I can't conclude this post without offering a sincere and heartfelt THANK YOU to each and every one of you! Your support, encouragement, and belief in me has meant more than you will ever know. I don't think I'll ever be able to repay you for your generosity and kindness, but please know that I am forever grateful for you and your presence in my life!

What was the last goal you went for with your whole heart?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Walt Wednesday

Some people do a "Wordless Wednesday" post, where they simply share a photo or image, but I thought I'd make a little series out of my Wednesdays. And since I love alliteration so much, why not go with Walt Wednesdays (obviously everyone can use a little break from the seriousness, scariness and sassiness of life - and what better way to help put a smile on your face than with a cute wiener dog picture, am I right?!)... So, without further ado...


When life gets overwhelming, how do you de-stress?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks

When I received an email inviting me to the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks I knew I had to make it happen. I mean, they describe one of the location we'd visit as an expansive geological wonder known as the "Mini Grand Canyon."

"The Sinks" / Source: Irvine Ranch National Landmarks' Facebook

I've been in the region before for a few #TeamSparkle Trail Runs and knew it was a beautiful area, so thought I'd head up and check it out (even if it was just to do some intel for future runs or some hikes for the hubby, pup and myself).

When I signed up we were told we were going to explore the majestic open spaces during an exclusive tour of fitness focused programs on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks; traveling along Loma Ridge into Limestone Canyon, then pausing for a brief half mile hike on Box Springs trail ending at a shady Oasis. The open-air vehicle tour would then travel to the Sinks (aka the "Mini Grand Canyon"). The tour was supposed to include information about a variety of fitness programs on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks including yoga, mountain biking, Tai Chi, and hiking activities.


I was pretty pumped for the event (I mean, I sort of had to be to be willing to make the over two hour journey {an hour plus there in morning commuter traffic and an hour home}). We are always looking for new places to explore and with more than 37,000 acres of permanently protected wilderness I thought I had just found exactly what I was looking for... 


Well, let's just say I was a little bummed. I should have been tipped off when the directions mentioned "the road says private, but it's still okay to drive on for public programs." I quickly found out that although the majority of activities in the area are free with required pre-registration, unfortunately the space is not technically "open" to the public. There are "Wilderness Access Days" that allow more of a free-range use of the park (which seem to occur once a month), but other than that you are really only allowed on the land if you have pre-registered for an event. 


In my mind I think "public land" should be OPEN TO THE PUBLIC... But, once our guides explained the land was set aside for preservation and they have balance allowing human access and protecting nature it made a little more sense.

With that said, the area is gorgeous. And super expansive! There are over 40,000 acres of protected open spaces which are home to geological wonders, diverse flora and fauna, and rare or threatened species. Throughout our open-air vehicle tour (picture a pick-up truck with chairs along the sides of the truck bed), we were told about different hikes you could take, some of the different species of plants or wildlife in the area, given history of the land, etc. 

Source: Irvine Ranch National Landmarks' Facebook

There are a ton of activities that are offered by the conservancy group - including equestrian rides (but you have to provide the horse), twilight hikes, morning treks, evening walks, yoga, YIKING (which is a combination of cardio hiking and yoga), bird watching, kayak tours, nature walks, mountain bike clinics, etc. Not only do they offer exercise activities, they also have a ton of ways to volunteer and give back! There are a ton of stewardship programs where you can help restore the canyons, remove invasive plants, harvest wildflower seeds, help with trail restoration, etc. [PS I think I love the stewardship side the most and I already have a couple ideas of where the hubby and I can volunteer to help out.]

If you are in the Irvine area and are interested in any of the activities or signing up to volunteer, head to the website {} and check it out! You can also keep up with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy blog HERE.


PS Did you know that this Saturday {September 30th} is National Public Lands Day?! If you were looking for a reason to get outside and enjoy nature, let this be your sign to throw on your "play" clothes and GO EXPLORE! #OptOutside


Where is your favorite place to explore?

Monday, September 25, 2017

A #BrooksChallenge (or Five) & New Shoes {#Levitate}

Remember when I announced that I was selected to be a Brooks Run Influencer? Okay, don't worry, I won't hold it against you if you don't... it was almost eight months ago! Anywho, one of the amazing perks of being an influencer (which is similar to an ambassador) is Brooks sends us gear from time to time to try out and spread the word about...


The other day I had a knock on the door (truth be told, Walt the Wiener Dog HATES the UPS and FedEx truck so any time they're in our complex we get QUITE the warning, so I knew a delivery might be on its way) and SURPRISE!

Not only are the shoes super awesome (I'll get into that more momentarily), but they also included a fun little challenge for us to play... You see, if we post a picture or video rocking our Levitates and tackling one of the energizing challenges, someone from Brooks will do the exact same! Uh, how cool is that?! I'm always down for a fun game!

There were a ton of AWESOME ideas - run at sunrise and sunset on the same day, run a mile backwards, run a route that creates an infinity sign, run to the highest point in your city/country/continent, run across a border, run happy, etc.

The hardest point was trying to narrow it down (honestly, I wanted to do the majority of them because they were so fun, but I also wanted to make sure I got this post up before the end of the year ;)). Here are the ones I tackled thus far:

Obviously "Run Happy" was the first challenge I crossed off... 4 recovery
miles with the hubby in the new shoes - DONE and DONE!

Run Across A Border: My 16-miler took me through 3 cities - Carlsbad, Leucadia and Encinitas

Run at Sunrise and Sunset in the Same Day: Since I already had 16 miles earlier
in the morning, I might as well head out for 2 at sunset, right?!

Then I decided to tackle TWO challenges at the same time... "Run a Mile Backwards" and "Run a Route that Creates an Infinity Sign on a Map". Here's a fun time-lapse video of the challenge... It was a lot harder than I was expecting!

I figured running on the inside of the nearby track would help in case I fell (landing on soft grass would cushion my fall)
and would help keep my infinity sign a little more contained

Now it's YOUR turn, Brooks!

Not only are the challenges a way to mix up my runs (at this point in my marathon training I definitely need more FUN), but the shoes were FAN-FREAKIN'-TASTIC too! They're pretty revolutionary for the Brooks brand and I can see why!

The main idea behind the Levitates is ENERGYBrooks wanted these shoes to be the most amplified and energized experience for runners. They're some of the most bouncy and springy shoes on the market. Not only that, they're a very run-able product. (Because, let's be real, being like Tigger would be fun, but I need something I can do my training in.)

Brooks partnered with chemistry giant BASF to create their own chemical compound! The DNA AMP midsole technology is the most in-shoe energy return in the performance market. Not only is the foam springy, but the casing holding it in prevents it from splaying out and throws that energy right back into your foot. Also, there are new flex grooves on the sole that add extra rigidity which spring back quicker and help prevent energy loss during transition.


They've also updated the upper with a fit knit. A new circular knit allows for a premium experience, comfortably accommodating your foot as it moves and expands. They're snug but forgiving... Think of it as a hug for your foot!

Brooks wanted to create this shoe to make it easier for us to do one more lap, one more mile. The goal is to keep us running longer. The shoe may not necessarily have been built with an elite in mind, but it is perfect for the runner who needs a little extra boost to get out the door! And who couldn't use a little extra pick-me-up from a friend?!


You know I gotta #KeepItReal... The Ghost model has been my go-to shoe for the last four-ish years, so I don't know that I'll completely jump ship and be all Levitate, all the time, but I'm stoked to put more mileage on these and see how they do (thus far I've got 22ish miles and love them already). I'm thinking they'll be my shoes for the Chicago Marathon!


PS They will be available worldwide on Saturday, September 30th, but you can pre-order them on Brooks' site today!

What is your go-to running shoe?