Friday, September 22, 2017

Top Five Friday : Still Hot

Happy Friday everyone!  It might be the end of September (ALREADY), but we're getting a last minute heat wave in Pittsburgh.  I'm hoping that that I can soak up the sun this weekend and enjoy the warmth before we start to get slammed with snow.  Even if I complain about running in the heat, I know I'll be missing it in a few months.  I do feel super thankful to live in a place that doesn't typically get hit with any kind of extreme weather, and my heart and prayers are constantly going out to all of you who have been affected by storms, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, or any other awful events lately.  Stay safe!

I hope you all have a great (and safe!) weekend, and here are a few of my favorites from the week-

linking up with ErikaHeather, and Friday Five 


Sam Smith - Too Good at Goodbyes
I am a HUGE Sam Smith fan, and I have been eagerly anticipating new music from him.  I love voices that are full of emotion and give me goosebumps (similar to John Legend and Christina Aguilera).  I love this song and hope that more is coming!


Where Should We Begin?
Technically, this podcast still isn't out, but it's coming soon!  I've had this in my subscription folder ever since I listened to an episode of This American Life where Ester Perel was featured, and she was also on a recent episode of This American Life.  The description of the podcast drew me in- "Step into iconic relationship therapist Ester Perel's office and listen as 10 anonymous couples in search of insight bare the raw, intimate, and profound details of their story.  From infidelity to sexlessness to loss, it's a space cor people to be heard and understood.  It's also a place for us to listen and feel empowered in our own relationships.  So...where should we begin?"  You can listen to the sneak peek episode here!


Dove Dry Shampoo
I have to admit that I'm a HUGE dry shampoo fan, and have tried just about every brand out there from high end to low end.  I finally gave Dove a try, and have no clue why it took my so long.  Everyone names this as their favorite brand, and for good reason.  There's no white residue, which is necessary since I have darker hair, and it gives a bit of lift while making your hair look freshly washed.  Not only does it perform really well, but it's also really affordable and can be found just about anywhere!

Also- I just got my hair cut last week!  I feel like I don't have to use as much dry shampoo now since my hair doesn't constantly look a mess with greasy roots now, but I still love the little bit of lift this gives my roots.


Just like that- summer TV is over and we're into fall shows!  It seems like all of the shows that I watch had finales this week, so I wanted to share a few thoughts (and spoilers ahead, obviously):

Big Brother - Really annoyed, because the one person who actually played the game didn't end up winning..again.  But, I'm kind of happy that Cody won America's Choice because he was hilarious to watch and I love the fact that he didn't just follow along with everyone else.

America's Got Talent - I knew that Darci would win so I was really happy for her.  Preacher Lawson was actually my favorite act from the moment that he was interviewed before his audition (remember him freaking out about meeting Tyra and licking her face?!  Iconic).  I hope to see more from him soon!!

Masterchef - All I can saw is BABY DAWWWL!

So You Think You Can Dance - The winner hasn't been announced yet, but I'm really hoping that Lex or Koine win.  I think that they are (by far) the two best dancers left in the competition.  I have to give the edge to Koine, because she has such a lovely personality and makes every dance look so effortless.  Plus, her and Marko just make the cutest pair!  Some of the moves that Lex pulls out just blow my mind and don't seem like they should be possible!  Who do you want to win?


Sticky Rice Baltimore
Last week, when Alexa and I went to Baltimore, we stopped for dinner at a little restaurant in Fells Point, right by the harbor, called Sticky Rice.  The restaurant serves lots of different vegan and vegetarian options, including sushi and noodle bowls.  We got a summer roll to split, then I got a teriyaki bowl with fried tofu and udon noodles, while Alexa got a vegan miso bowl.  We both loved our meals, and were unfortunately too full to try any of their (MANY) vegan sushi rolls.  I would highly recommend if you're looking for a different type of Asian restaurant to try out!

What finales did you watch recently?
How often do you get your hair cut?  I'm about once a year!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Best Products at Expo East

Hi everyone!  Last week, I took a quick trip down to Baltimore to go to Natural Products Expo East with my blogging (and real life) friend Alexa.  This expo (which also occurs in the west at another time of year) brings together companies of all sizes to show off their latest and greatest products that are all centered around healthy living.  There's everything from paleo to vegan to gluten free food, as well as supplements, body products, and stuff for your home.  There's a little bit of everything!

There were so many different companies that we got to meet, and we ate SO MUCH FOOD.  We started the day with a sponsored breakfast, and tried food and drinks at pretty much every stall that caught our eye (and there were a lot).  Even though we tried a lot of different products, there were a few that stood out for me: (in no particular order)

Don't Go Nuts
Roasted Soybean Spread

This was one of the first products that I tried, and it stayed in my mind for the entire show.  I love how creamy and rich these spreads tasted, and the perfectly sized mini tubs for work.  I feel like this is going to be a new staple of mine! The company also has granola bars which were tasty as well!  If you have kids in school, these are a great treat to get since they are nut free!

Available on Amazon

Loving Earth
Salted Caramel Chocolate

I found a vegan chocolate bar that is AMAAAAAZING.  I tried every single flavor that the Good Earth booth had, and (while it was hard to choose) my favorite was the Salted Caramel.  The texture is so smooth and creamy, and the chocolate has a slight coconut taste, but it doesn't overpower the amazing flavors.  

Available on My Brands

Coconut Yogurt

I've been trying a lot of vegan yogurts lately, and they've all been pretty horrible.  Not only do I find the taste strange (Alexa described one brand as carboard-tasting and I agree), but the texture always seems to be incredibly off-putting.  Who wants a soupy mess with random chunks in it?  Not me!  As soon as I tasted this brand, I knew it was a winner.  The texture is thick and luxurious, while the taste was similar to a regular Greek yogurt with a slight coconut taste.  I know that this brand is sold at my local Whole Foods, so I'm definitely going to pick some up in the future!

Available at local stores

BARE Republic
Tinted Mineral Sunscreen

I was really excited to see this brand at the expo, because I always see it at Target and pass it by.  I finally got to try it out, and I am ONLY going to buy this brand of sunscreen in the future.  This is a company that is owned by Coola, who makes a luxury sunscreen that's sold at Target.  To make a more affordable option, Coola created BARE Republic, which is somehow just as luxurious and amazing.  This version is slightly tinted, which adds a tiny bit of coverage to your skin while still looking completely natural.

Available at Target


Sparkling Water

This is another brand that I've seen on shelves, but have never picked up.  Man, was I missing out!  I've been trying to cut back on pop for the past few years, and have been reaching for sparkling water instead.  What's great about this brand is that instead of using "natural flavors", it uses actual fruit.  I tried out their new flavor, strawberry, and could actually taste the real strawberries used.  All of the flavors that I tried out were great, but I think I'm going to get a case of cucumber first.  Apparently it's a great mixer for gin ;)

Available pretty much everywhere


Witch Hazel Toner

Alexa pointed out this booth, since she tried their toner in the past and loved it.  The ladies working the booth were really generous, and I ended up with samples of a few different types of toner, spray, and lip balm.  All of them are absolutely amazing and leave my skin feeling clean and soft.  Since toner lasts a long time, I will be able to use my samples for a while!  As soon as I run out, I know I'll be buying more of it.  

Available on Amazon

To be honest, I could go on about all of the amazing food and drinks and products that I tried.  It was so hard to narrow it down to a few, but I wanted to keep this post nice and short!

What are some of your favorite natural brands?
Have you ever been to a food expo?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Buffalo Creek Training Week 5

...and just like that, I'm at the half way point of training.  Things continued to go well this week, with a perfect speed workout to start off the week and another 10 miler to end the week.  In between these two workouts I took a quick trip to Baltimore.  Overall- a successful week.  Here's a look at what I did:


7 miles / 8:24 pace
Amazing workout today! 8x800m repeats at my half goal pace. Last time I did this workout (back at the beginning of the year) I couldn't finish and pretty much gave up on my training after that. This time around I was nervous but promised myself I would finish. Ended up CRUSHING it! My goal was 4:00 per 800 to meet my goal pace. Ended up running 3:53 for my first repeat, and took a few seconds off each time until I got to a 3:35. I still felt good so for my 8th repeat I went all out and got a 3:10!!  I'm really proud of myself for mentally pushing past this workout and physically having the speed to hit my paces.


5 miles / 9:20 pace
Easy run before work.  I actually talked about this day in a post last week if you want to see what I ate and did all day long!


Stand-Up Paddleboarding / 2 hours
It was such a beautiful day out, so Dan and I headed out to the lake to do some kayaking and paddleboarding.  It was my first time going out on my own board, and it was so much fun!


3 miles / 9:46 pace
I went on a nice and easy run around my neighborhood before work.  It's looking so fall-y outside and I'm loving it :)


Rest Day
I headed to Baltimore with Alexa for Natural Product Expo East on Thursday after work, and we got plenty of exercise by walking all over the city and expo.  I ended up with just under 9 miles for the day!  I'll definitely be talking more about the expo in an upcoming post, but it was such a fun trip with lots of yummy food that we tried out.


4 miles / 9:32 pace
Since we were still in Baltimore and staying in Fells Point, I decided to go on an easy run around Patterson Park.  It's a really nice park with lots of paths, parks, and a little lake.  I could have easily done 10 more miles (especially if I ran by the harbor) but kept it short.


10 miles / 9:41 pace
Super humid day today but I got it done! Same route as last week's but ended with the lodge loop. Really happy that I took a little time off even if I ended with the hard part!  I even got to see Steffany as she ended her own 10 mile run!

Do you like to run when visiting new cities?
What is your least favorite speed workout?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

WIAW : Halfway Point

Hi everyone!  It's been a while, so I thought it was the perfect time for another Day in the Life/What I Ate Wednesday post.  I'm approaching the halfway point of my half marathon training (this is week 5 of 10!) and work has been very busy with our new app launching and anticipating iOS and Apple product changes.  It's never a boring day at work and today was no different!

Here's a look at yesterday:

5:30 Wake up.  Lately I've been going to the gym before work, so all I have to do in the morning is take care of Selma, change into my gym clothes, and grab my bag that's full of work clothes and my lunch!

6:00 Leave for work.  Dan drops me off downtown, so I eat a chia pouch and drink some coffee to get something in my stomach.  I used to have applesauce pouches, but I found these larger pouches at Sam's Club and I love them!  They're full of greens, chia seeds, and parsley and taste great!  I like to just have a little something before working out.

6:15 Drop my stuff off at the gym and go for a run on the River Trails.  I had a hard speed workout on Monday, so I took this nice and easy!  5 miles with views like this pass by really quickly.  When I get back to the gym, I quickly shower and get changed for work.  My gym's right across the street from my office, so it's a quick commute.

7:15 Once I'm at work and log in to check my calendar and emails, I eat a leftover cinnamon roll.  Every once in a while I pick up a can of Trader Joe's cinnamon rolls to make.  They're SO delicious, even if they're not the healthiest choice ;)  I finish up my coffee while I eat it, which is a toasted coconut cold brew that I made on Sunday during my weekly meal prep!

8:00 Today is more busy than usual, with a day packed full of meetings.  I work on an Agile product team, which means that we have daily work meetings to go over new features with our developers, go over designs, and discuss upcoming projects.  I love that our team is really collaborative and it's a great atmosphere!

11:00 We all take a break for lunch (I had a homemade vegan sushi bowl).  After I'm done eating, I head over to the Milkshake Factory for a free chocolate shake (yay for random food holidays!)  I absolutely love the decor of the Factory, and the milkshake was delicious.  I don't eat dairy often any more, so I didn't feel great afterwards.

1:00 Back to the office to watch the Apple Event.  Since we work in app development, we always have to stay up-to-date on new technology.  I had to take notes on the presentation and changes to the new iOS, Apple Watch, iPhone 8 and X to create a report for my team for the impacts and opportunities to our app.  It's always a lot of fun to see what the future of technology is, but I have to admit that the announcement was a little disappointing.  What do you all think?

2:00 2 more hours of meetings- a demo from one of our vendors for a project I'm leading, and my team's biweekly meeting.  I have a few minutes break in between, so I finish up my lunch - potato salad and apple crisp.

4:15 Time to go home!  There are a few extra detours on my bus ride home, but that just gives me more time to listen to podcasts or read.  Plus, the view isn't too bad ;)

5:15 Make it home, take out Selma, pick up our weekly CSA box (which was packed with tomatoes, peppers, apples, lettuce, green beans, squash, and APPLE CIDER!!!).  I also squeeze in 10 minutes of yoga to stretch out.

5:30 Cook dinner.  I made a pretty simple meal- Dan Dan Noodles from the Thug Kitchen 101 Cookbook.  It's basically noodles with bok choy and browned tempeh, with a delicious tahini sauce and cucumbers.  It came together pretty quickly and made for a delicious and filling dinner!

6:40 I work on this post while I finish dinner, then quickly do the dishes and head out for Trivia Tuesday!  It's the best part of my week, even though my team gets last pretty much every week.  It's all about the fun, right?  Update- definitely got last today.  Our score was in the 50's and the winner had over 120.  BUT we had a BLAST tonight!

9:00 Stopped at Target and Giant Eagle on the way home to pick up a few things.  Luckily there's one on the way home from trivia, so it takes pretty much no time.  I did buy a few things that I didn't need, like pumpkin K-cups for work, a new running top, and a Kristin Ess finishing spray (pretty much obsessed with her Instagram lately so I had to try it out!).

9:45 Got home, packed up my bag for the morning, packed my lunch, and got ready for bed.  Ready to do it all again in the morning!!

What are your days like?
Favorite breakfast?
Cold brew or hot coffee?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Buffalo Creek Training Week 4

Hi everyone!  I had another great week of training, which included a fantastic speed workout and my first double digit long run.  Here's to hoping that the good training weeks continue!


Rest Day
We came back from our camping trip in Ohio, so I decided to take the day off of running.  Great decision!


5 miles / 9:34 pace
I went out on a humid but cool run around my neighborhood, and did some yoga once I got home.  Selma joined in!


7 miles / 9:22 pace
I specifically remember this speed workout from last year and was looking forward to doing it again this year.  The plan was 1 mile warm up, 2 miles at half marathon pace plus 15 seconds, 6 x 30 second hill repeats, another 2 miles at the same pace, and 1 mile cool down.  I got to do this workout with Jessie again, and we ended up crushing our goal of 8:25 miles, and hit 8:16, 8:10, 8:17, 8:09.  The hills were definitely a challenge in the middle, but this is one of those workouts I can look back on and know I gave it my all.


Rest Day!


4 miles / untimed
I was originally planning on going on my long run after work, but ended up getting home an hour late (thanks to detours on the detours my bus takes home).  No worries- I just went on a shorter run and held off on my long run for Saturday morning.


10 miles / 9:42 pace
I really didn't know how this run would go, and I kept putting it off until it was early afternoon and I had to either get it over with or skip it for the day.  I decided just to go for it and take it as easy and slow as possible, just make sure that I get in the miles!  I went on a route that took me up and down huge hills for the first five miles, then finished with some more gentle rolling hills for the final five.  My first half was definitely slow, then each mile got faster and faster until I finished with one under 9:00.  Great moral booster!


3 miles / untimed
Went on a nice and easy run with Selma at the park.  Nice cool morning!

When do you like to do your long runs?
Favorite speed workout?

Friday, September 8, 2017

Top Five Friday : Camping Edition

Happy Friday everyone!  Today I have a special Top Five post to share with you- all about my camping trip.  As I mentioned yesterday, I went camping for the first time during the long Labor Day weekend.  It was so much fun that I knew I wanted to share about it!

The People

The best part of this entire weekend was getting to see one of my best and oldest friend- my college roommate who I met in college.  We've travel around the world together (after college we went on a trip to Europe where we visited Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Czech Republic), and I got to visit her on adventures that took her all over the place (she lived in Mallorca as an English tutor, then moved to Chicago for grad school).  She lives in Indiana with her boyfriend now and it's been such a long time since I've seen her, so it was amazing to spend the weekend with her.

Her brother and his girlfriend also came along, and as it turned out his girlfriend works at the same company as me!  I immediately clicked with her, and we already have plans to get together.  The six of us had such a blast, and it was fun to be with a group of people that have such different jobs (we have an architect, engineer, ABA therapist, college counselor, and two digital bankers), but we all share a love of adventure and having a good time!

The Site

Our fearless leader picked a location that was halfway between Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, and settled on Columbus.  Just southwest of the city in the town of Hillsboro is Rocky Fork State Park, which features a huge lake, two hiking trails, camp grounds, and acres of land. 

We stayed in the tent camping area, which had a picnic table, fire ring, and that's it!  Luckily for us, the campsite also had bathrooms and running water, so we weren't really "roughing it", but still got to enjoy the great outdoors.

The Food

One of the best parts of camping is making different food, right?!  We all brought different categories of food to make it easier, and ended up having a feast every night.  I was responsible for veggies and meat substitutes (tofu and Smart Dogs), while others brought fruit, bread, eggs, and meats.

For dinner, we would have mixed vegetables cooked in a foil packet, grilled hot dogs, and lots of junk food like chips and popcorn.  For dessert we would have s'mores (of course), and mountain pies!  If you haven't had one, you just make a sandwich (in my case I liked Nutella and marshmallows on white bread), add it to a cast-iron sandwich maker, and cook it over the coals.  When the "pie" is done, you just open up the iron and your sandwich is perfectly crispy and the insides are melty.  Amazing!!

The Activities

We definitely spent a lot of time hanging around the campsite and catching up, playing games, and just having fun, but we also took advantage of some of the activities offered at the camp ground.  Kayaks were available to rent, so we took them out on the huge lake and spent a few hours out there. 

We also played volleyball, frisbee golf and basketball (which you could rent from the park office).  There are two hiking trails on the property, and we went on the longer one (which is about a mile loop).

The Products

Here are a few of the products that I tried out on the trip, with mini reviews:

Tent - Since this was my first camping trip, it was also the first time I put up a tent!  This one was so easy to assemble (I was even able to do it myself).  It kept us dry the entire weekend as well!  What more do you need from a tent?!

Sleeping Bags - These definitely kept us warm (even though it never got too cold at night), but I wouldn't say they were the most comfortable sleeping bags ever.  I think that I would have preferred one with a softer lining (this one was all polyester), but it did its job.

Cooler - I packed all of our food in this cooler, and used an ice pack I saved from an old Blue Apron delivery, and all of my food stayed cold the entire weekend!  I like the fact that there are wheels and a handle, but would have liked a drain hole as well.

Chairs - We picked these up at Cabela's on our way to camping and I loved them! Everyone ended up sitting in them because they're so comfortable.  I love how the chair has a strap in case you don't want to bring along the bag that they come in, and they lock in place so you'll never fall out.  They also have two cup holders, with one being a little bit wider so cups of any size fit!

Have you gone camping before?
What's your favorite grilled/fire-roasted food?  Mountain pies or corn!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

What's New With You? Linkup #20

Hi everyone!  Happy September to you all.  This is probably one of my favorite months- cooler weather, fall food and drinks (especially pumpkin beer), sweater and boots come out, and I don't feel like I'm going to pass out when I spend more than 10 minutes outside.

Before we get to that, it's time to recap my month of August, which ended up being a lot of fun with some exciting activities happening.  It seems like every weekend was busy, which is just how I like my months!  I would love to hear what you got up to in August as well, so make sure you join the monthly linkup with Kristen and me by linking up below!

Now let's see what's new with me!

Goals and Resolutions

Do Something Crafty. Eek, definitely didn't do well with this in August.  I'm going to make the excuse that I spent a lot of time outdoors to enjoy the nice weather.  I'm sure I'll pick up with this goal again when it starts to get colder outside, but for now I'm not worried about it.

Be Musical. I have still kept up with the piano and have been playing that like crazy.  I'm learning a few songs that sound pretty good (in my opinion at least) and it's been a great way to relax at the end of the day!  I got my wisdom teeth out earlier this month, so I've been afraid to play the sax.  I can just imagine starting to play and blowing out my stitches!  I also realized that I unfortunately won't be able to join the symphonic band that I wanted to (the concert dates are all days that I'm busy and I would have to miss a bunch of practices).  So- for now I'll just be playing at home!

Stay Active.  This was an amazing month for me, fitness-wise.  I started training for my next race, the Buffalo Creek Half Marathon.  Training has been going really well, and I've been keeping up with group runs in the form of long runs on the weekend and speed workouts with Jessie.  I've also been spending a lot of time outside doing things like kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding (just got my own during a big Labor Day sale at LL Bean!), and hiking.

Drink Beer!  We didn't make a new batch of beer this month (definitely need to get on that soon), but we did visit a new brewery- North Country Brewing.  It's located at Slippery Rock University, so we spent half a day up there walking around campus and drinking beer.  I really liked the brewery and would definitely put it at the top of my list of favorites in the area.  Now that it's officially pumpkin and Oktoberfest beer weather, I'm looking forward to trying out even more places.

Other Stuff

I went camping!  I'm going to be sharing more about this in a post tomorrow, but I went on my first camping trip over Labor Day weekend with my old college roommate and her boyfriend, as well as her brother and his girlfriend.  The six of us had such a fun time and I'm looking forward to even more camping trips this fall.  Dan and I are hoping to get out for at least one more trip before it gets too cold.  If anyone in the Pittsburgh area has suggestions on good camping grounds to try out please let me know!

I went to a tennis tournament.  I would say this was a highlight of the month- we took a quick trip to Cincinnati to see the Western and Southern Open.  The entire trip was a lot of fun (visited two breweries there!) and the tournament was a blast.  I had no idea what to expect, but it was way better than I ever could have imagined.  I have a full post on the trip here!  (speaking of tennis- is anyone else completely emotional about the fact that it's an all-USA women's semi final at the US Open??  After Madison Keys won to make it 4 for 4, I teared up a bit! What an amazing tournament this has been!)

We're planning our next Ireland and Scotland!  Dan found a great deal on Groupon, so we jumped on it and bought it immediately.  For the past few years, any time that someone's asked what was on my short list of countries to visit, I always mentioned these two, so I'm REALLY excited to go!  Included in the Groupon is a car rental, so I'm sure we'll get to see a ton of the beautiful country side.  Problem is- there's so much I want to see and so little time (only 3 days in each place).  If anyone has suggestions on must-see or do or eat or drink places, let me know!

The new cast of DWTS was announced! Ok, this might not be something new with me, but I always get so excited when the new cast is officially out.  There are a lot of people that I'm excited to see- Nick vs Vanessa Lachey (and of course they were paired with newly wed/new parents Peta and Maks), T.O., Lindsey Stirling (who is dancing with Mark Ballas, so I'm already calling them for the win), Malcolm in the Middle (aka Frankie Muniz), and Drew Scott (WHY wouldn't they bring on his brother as well?!  Missed opportunity).  It looks like it's going to be a very exciting season!  Here's the full cast:

Shark Tank entrepreneur Barbara Corcoran with Keo Motsepe
’80s icon Debbie Gibson with Alan Bersten
NBA player Derek Fisher with Sharna Burgess
Property Brothers star Drew Scott with Emma Slater
Actor Frankie Muniz with Witney Carson
Singer/actor Jordan Fisher with Lindsay Arnold
YouTube star Lindsey Stirling with Mark Ballas
Singer Nick Lachey with Peta Murgatroyd
WWE wrestler Nikki Bella with Artem Chigvintsev
Pretty Little Liars star Sasha Pieterse with Gleb Savchenko
NFL player Terrell Owens with Cheryl Burke
TV personality Vanessa Lachey with Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Paralympic swimmer Victoria Arlen with Val Chmerkovskiy

That's all I've got for today- let me know what's new by linking up below!
What's on your list of must-see countries or cities?
Ireland/Scotland recommendations?