a year of running

I run to breathe the fresh air. I run to explore. I run to escape the ordinary. I run to savor the trip along the way. Life becomes a little more vibrant, a little more intense. I like that.

- Dean Karnazes

Last year, I had met a HUGE goal of mine which was losing my baby weight and becoming more active. I was so happy with the progress I had made, and the person I had become. Not only was I down the baby weight, but I was also the healthiest I had ever been. Fitness had become a daily routine for me, and I was proud of myself for that.  I am also proud that I have maintained that weight and that lifestyle, through 2015.

 I knew I would need another goal, because after all it is not just about the number on the scale. So, I made a goal to make running a BIG part of my year. I have never been a lover of running. I barely made the softball team, because my mile and half was seconds away from the slowest cut-off. I dabbled in the whole running thing, but honestly I would complain the entire run. It is amazing to me how much I have changed my mind about running. I love the saying that if you don't find an answer to your problem during a long run, than there isn't an answer. 

Trail running has become a huge passion of mine. My uncle introduced me to trails, over a year ago and I have not looked back since. My favorite thing about trails is that you have to constantly look around you and soak in everything, because if you don't, you will end up on your face. About half way through this year, I started to run just to run. Before that I would always run for a certain amount of time or run to burn a certain amount of calories. I eventually realized it is so much more fun to just hit the trails, and run. Who cares how far, who cares if you are forced to walk some, all that matters is that you are running and just enjoying the surroundings. 

Before this year, I had only ever done 2 races, and both of them were with my Aunt Cathy and Uncle Rick. I had been running, sure, but mainly to get back into shape and get over the baby weight. After doing a trail run towards the end of last year, I knew that I had opened a whole new world. Races give you something to look forward to, they give you a goal to set and most importantly they are FUN!  This year I ran 8 races, and all of them were such a fun experience. 

Running was a huge passion of mine this year, so I thought it would be nice to end the year with a half marathon. 

I registered for the Vail Half Marathon, which was a trail run and labeled as "mostly downhill." Honestly, I didn't really prep for it as much as I should have. I did a few 11 mile trail runs, but the trails I used were relatively flat and packed dirt, not so much like the real thing. I cross trained, and made sure to work on my endurance. I had big plans of doing one last long run on a local trail, but I got a horrible cold about a week and a half out from the race. So, that last run never happened and honestly not much happened the week leading up to the run. I could barely get out of bed, let alone train, so I crossed my fingers and hoped. 

I woke up Saturday morning, knowing it wouldn't be the easiest race, but I was excited.  They loaded us onto a bus and drove about 25 minutes to the start. Talk about a rough mental start, we were just driving and driving and all the time I am thinking, "umm, this is a half marathon not a full, right?" We finally arrived at the starting point. I used the tent toilet at the start, said a little prayer and tucked myself into the back of the pack.

The first 4 miles were rough! It was mainly uphill and was no where near a flat and even trail. I found myself letting my mind wander and I would quickly lose my footing. I hit my first high around mile 4.5 and ran with that for a few. I updated my cheer team (Ryan and Luke) when I was nearing 7.5 miles and at that point, I was feeling OK. Than came mile 10, I hit a wall. My legs were aching, my lungs were filled with the flem and I was THIRSTY! 

Mentally, I was spent. Physically, I was tired. I knew Ryan and Luke were waiting for me at the end, which was huge motivation, but I was just done. Honestly, the last few miles I did a lot of walk/running and just focused on finishing. I reflected on my year, thought about where I was just a short 16 months ago and I trekked on. Running has become a passion. I started running to prove a point, I kept running because I am naturally competitive, I am still running because somewhere along the way I have realized that it calms my inner crazy better than anything else. 

Yes, I finished. No, it was not the time I wanted. But, I did finish and I did cross that finish line to a smiling and dirty little boy. 

Thank you to each and every one of you who have been my running "partner" throughout this year.  To my husband, Ryan, thank you for being my constant and for pushing me to be the best I can be, I love you! To my parents, thank you for letting me to continue to run even it means taking Luke the second you get in the door from a long work day. You both are the reason deployments don't suck so bad. To my Uncle Rick, thank you for inviting me to Dances with Dirt and thank you for always having a smile on your face when you finish a race, you are such a motivation. Thank you to my best friend, Briana, your smiling face and conversations in the gym are half the reason I have been so successful at this whole "living a healthier life" thing. And thank you to Luke (you can't read yet but someday you will see this), your patience in the jogging stroller amazes me each and every time, and your little voice saying, "Go, MOMMA!" is reason enough to finish any race. And to anyone who has supported me throughout this journey, thank you! I love you all! 

I am so excited to be joining a few runners and complete the January Reset. I am really looking forward to improving my time and learning more about how weight training can help my running. If this is something you are interested in, let me know! It is through mommyrunfast (Laura Peifer) and more information can be found here. Ready to sign up? Use code "blog" for 10% off and register here

21 Day Runner's Reset - http://www.laurapeifer.com/

Next year, will be all about the trails. I want to improve, I want to run an ultra and I want to continue to conquer the inner crazy. Thanks, for sharing my journey! 

Happy running, 

a very merry weekend recap

I literally can not believe that Christmas is THIS week. Is everyone prepared? Are all of your presents bought, wrapped and under the tree? We have tried really hard to do lots of festive things with Luke this year since it's really the first year he is super interested. He loves Christmas music, love Santa and he loves giving presents! 

This past weekend was our 2nd annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, and we had such a good time. I love themed parties and is there any better theme than an ugly sweater? I think not!  Ryan and I had been crafting away all week (no, seriously he helped a lot this year) so we were ready to unveil ours this year. A Christmas tree and a present! He was a good sport and I am so happy we were able to pull it off!

Everybody had such cute sweatshirts, but unfortunately my camera died at the beginning of the party. I was able to snap a few before it went dark, but I swear everyone looked so good!! As always, Luke and his friends had such a fun time running around eating all the sugar they could sneak. 

I love hosting parties and I have definitely found that the more you can do throughout the week, the better. The day of the party we mainly just had some picking up to do, last minute decorating and drink making. Luckily, my house gets festive pretty early in December. We didn't have too much to add, except some fresh flowers and a few candles. 

Mimosas may be my favorite drink, but since this was a night party, I knew I had to change them up slightly. So, for the signature drink I did a Cranberry Delight!

Cranberry Delight

1 Bottle of Sparkling Apple Cider 
1 Bottle of Brut Champagne
2 cups of cranberry juice
Double (or triple!!) if needed

Mix all together and add in some frozen raspberries for some added flavor. I also did a non-alcoholic version, using a very watered down lemonade instead of champagne and no sparkling cider. 

We made the pulled pork for the party and everyone brought a side to share. I love doing potluck parties, because we have friends from everywhere. It is fun to see what people will bring, and how different your favorite dishes can be. It was very successful! Look for my pulled pork recipe in the next few weeks, it is absolutely amazing!

Luke and I made these super cute reindeer (pictured at the top of the post) and they were SO easy. Thanks to Jamielyn, from I Heart Naptime, for the fabulous idea. Who doesn't love rolos and pretzels? I added them to the top of some of my cupcakes for an added bonus.  

My favorite dessert by far were the Oreo/Pretzel balls that I made. They were so good and pretty easy to whip up during Luke's nap. 

Salty Oreo Surprises 

1 family size Oreo pack, finely crushed
1 8oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups pretzels, crushed 
2 packages of chocolate melts (white or chocolate)
Dash of peppermint

Crush the pretzels and the Oreo in a blender or food processor. Pour into a bowl and add in the softened cream cheese. Mix with your hands until incorporated. Roll into 1-2 inch balls and freeze for at least 1 hour. 

Melt the chocolate in the microwave and dip the frozen balls into the melted chocolate, completely covering. Add whatever toppings you want.  Place on a wax lined pan and pop them back into the freezer, so they can set. Keep in fridge until you are ready to serve! 

So easy!! While I love baking for the holiday, it is important to me to not completely over due it. I was asked recently to review a product called MealEnders. Part of this review was to share them at my party and see what guests thought of the product. I have used them for a few weeks, and am definitely a fan of them! 

"MealEnders Signaling Lozenges are a revolutionary way to help beat overeating, master portion control and curb snacking by clearing cravings from the mouth and mind. MealEnders’ combines the best of food science and behavioral psychology to offer a stimulant-free way to fight the urge to overindulge." - MealEnders.com

They offer so many different flavors, my favorite being the cinnamon. "MealEnders consist of two components: a sweet, outer reward layer and a cooling/tingling inner core. The outer layer provides a measured dose of “dessert” associated with the end of a meal, while the inner core engages the trigeminal nerve (the nerve that senses “taste”) with long-lasting cooling/tingling sensations that cleanse the palate (MealEnders.com)" 

Now I have not noticed a huge change in my cravings, but I do think they taste good and I think the theory behind them is genius. So often our mind thinks we want something sweet and savory, but in theory we are just bored. I am a huge fan of everything in moderation, but when I have already used up my daily dose of moderation, these were a "go to" for me. 

I loved sharing them with the guests and I was even able to give out a few packets for them to try at home or during their next holiday craving! 

You have a chance to win 4 packets of MealEnders! This is a huge value and trust me, you will love them. These will be the perfect addition to your New Years Resolution! 

I am already planning next years ugly sweater! We love hosting this party, it always gets us in the holiday spirit. Spending the holidays with friends and family is my favorite part of the year.

What is your favorite holiday treat? 

Happy holidays, 

the perfect gift

Let's talk about gifting! Remember waking up Christmas morning and having no idea how hard your parents worked to put together those presents under the tree? Long gone are the days of leaving out the cookies Christmas night and going to bed! It seems like forever ago, but there was a time where you would march into your elementary school with $5 and buy all of your presents in the Lil Shoppers store. I'm talking about the stores that the PTO set up to help all the little kids buy their parents knick knacks and decorate ornaments that they made. Does anyone else remember those? I loved those days, and I know for a fact that my parents still have a little trinkets from those days. They were such tiny gifts, but we picked them out, wrapped them and made them the best gifts ever!

I am still a lover of homemade gifts. Especially ones that my 2 year old makes! His attention span is somewhat limited, but he does love arts and crafts for about five minutes. We totally capitalize on that and have him make as much as he can throughout the month, to send to our family. This year I got a few wooden pieces from Michaels and let Luke (and Ryan) use their imagination to decorate them. I love how they turned out, and wish we could be there to see them opened! 

Small bird house
Kid's washable paint
Clear sealant to use after the paint dries

I also love the idea of putting my son's face on everything. So, family expect to open a lot of coffee mugs with Luke on them.  My MIL never waits to open her presents, so I am sure she is happily sipping from her Luke face coffee cup!  Calendars are usually on my mom's Christmas list, since it is an easy chance to get lots of pictures up on the wall, and completely useful. We opted to use Shutterfly this year, because they have some insane sales throughout the month, and it is super easy to ship to other addresses.


Yes, I am secretly hoping for that new GPS watch to be under the tree, but I would also love a coffee cup or a homemade gift from someone I love. 

What are your favorite gifts to give and receive during the holidays? 

Happy gifting, 

Send Flowers at 1-800-FLORALS

spreading the holiday cheer

This is the first year in my adult life that I felt like I had enough people to justify giving out a fun and festive goodie bag. I am a regular at the gym (ugh, I know right) so that means gifting the parking lot man, the front desk ladies and my beloved child watch ladies some yummy goodness. Luke is a huge part of my passion for the gym (free child watch, anyone?!?) so I wanted him to help pick out the goodie bag and help make the goodies. I want him to grow up knowing that Christmas is more about giving and less about receiving. I want him to put as much effort into gifting as he does looking through the toy magazine. Huge dreams, right? Well, I am on my way! 

Michael's is dangerous any time of year but luckily around Christmas they are the JCPenny of craft stores, everything is on sale, always. I got these cute Reindeer to-go boxes on deep discount. I believe they were marked down to $3.50. 

I already posted about the amazing sugar cookie recipe and annual decorating contest here. Luckily we keep most of the cookies, so we had a huge amount to give away. This was after a few days of attempting to keep them in my house and them disappearing daily. 

I wanted another easy, but good, Christmas cookie. While looking through my Facebook feed, the Kentucky Butter Cookie popped up. I clicked on the link and thought that it looked really good and REALLY easy. I was right on both thoughts. I did not change the recipe, so check out the Cookies and Cups Blog for the recipe. Interestingly enough, Luke did not like these. Everyone else I sampled them on, loved them and thought they were yummy. I even had some with my morning coffee (whoops) and thought it added a nice bonus. 

We handed the goodie bags out well before Christmas, so I think  we had a bit of a surprise element, which was nice. I loved seeing Luke hand them out and the huge smile he had on his face. We even took a big pan of the cookies to our local firehouse. Ok, so this wasn't just us being nice to our local firemen.... when we bring them goodies, Luke has free reign to the fire trucks. Which, he loves and it kills a good hour of our night. 

If I could hand out a Reindeer Goodie Bag to each and every one of you, I would! Thank you for letting me share my life with you! I truly appreciate you all! 

Holiday love, 

Send Flowers at 1-800-FLORALS

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree!

By now most of you know that I have slight obsession with pumpkin. Well, decking the halls happens to be my second obsession! I am not crazy enough to do any decorating before carving the turkey, but after the food comatose goes away, you can find me unpacking my 10+ Christmas totes and decking the halls. Before I got married I had started to collect Christmas decorations. Honestly when we got our first house together, I mentally did an inventory of all the wonderful places I could add Christmas cheer. I love it! 

Growing up we would always go to a "cut it yourself" tree farm and those are some of my favorite memories from childhood. As you can imagine, there are no such places in the deserts of Arizona, so we have found the next best thing; Brian and Kelly's Christmas Trees. Yes, you pay slightly more than the big box stores but you are supporting a local business and the trees are hand picked from Oregon! The tractors are also an added bonus for Luke, he LOVES farm equipment!

We are hosting family Christmas this year, which means my immediate family will be making the journey to our house. I LOVE hosting Christmas, so I had to get a large and in charge tree this year. We opted for a 9' Noble, they are perfect to place heavy ornaments and they are oh so fragrant! 

Everyone has their own way of decorating their tree, but I thought I would share my small Christmas tree ribbon hack.  Our tree topper is from a cute small store in Florida and was purchased 8 years ago so here is a similar one. Michael's always has amazing sales on their Christmas ribbon. Every year I pick a new color at a super low price. This year I went with a burlap and red glitter ribbon. 


Cut 4-5 equal length cuts of ribbon. Put the tops together and place two facing forward and two facing the opposite side, attach with pin. 

Sew a few stitches into the top of the ribbon. I used red ribbon to hide within the red glitter. 

Place the ribbon on top of the tree, positioning them around the top. 

Add on your tree topper and you have the perfect top to the tree! 

We do not do a theme tree, but rather a collect all tree! When we got married, our parents gave us a few ornaments from our childhood, which we cherish. We also make a point to get an ornament from each place we visit. We have some from Panama, Germany, the Mackinac Bridge and so many more. It is a fun tradition that I am so happy we started. 

Merry Christmas, 

Send Flowers at 1-800-FLORALS