Friday, May 27, 2016

Phoenix Eats: Herb Box Midtown

One of the things I miss about Phoenix is my neighborhood. The area surrounding our condo has seen lots of redevelopment recently, adding trendy new restaurants and bars. I try to check out a new restaurant each time I visit Phoenix. This month I was able to try the Herb Box's new Midtown Phoenix location on Seventh Street just north of Missouri Avenue.

The Herb Box is in the Colony development project, which will also house other new restaurants. I watched an abandoned senior-housing complex be torn down to begin construction before I moved to Chicago last year. The restaurant has a great patio that will be nice in cooler Phoenix months. 

I met my friend there for happy hour, during which most drinks are $11. The house wine and beer were $5. (I chose the white house option, which was Chardonnay. Not my favorite, but I'm on a budget.) On a Thursday afternoon, only a few other tables were occupied.

 I started the meal with the Avocado Love, which by the description sounded like avocado toast. When it was delivered to the table, I was shocked. Where's the avocado? Instead I saw a mountain of arugula covering the toast. Don't get me wrong; it was delicious, but I was not expecting this much arugula. I had to scrape a bunch of it off onto a plate so I could eat the avocado toast. (I later ate the arugula at home as part of a salad.) The sweet-hot Serrano glaze is delicious!

I also ordered a side of gouda mac and cheese, because I was looking for a smaller pre-dinner meal. It had a smoky flavor and was filling enough for me. 

My friend ordered the butternut squash and corn enchiladas, which I tasted and loved. I would definitely order it again on a future visit. It was served with a salad. 

My first impression of the Herb Box is that it is a nice option for healthier fare than the norm. The prices are a little high but seem to be in line with other trendy restaurants that serve fresh food.

Have you tried the Herb Box? What did you think?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Chicago Summer Goal:
Get on the Water

I have always felt a connection to the water and boating. My grandfather was a fishing boat captain in Mexico for many years. I remember visiting him on the boat during summer vacations and loving every minute of it. 

Now, boat is still accessible to me via Discover Boating's Get on the Water tool, which shows boat classes, charters and rentals in my area, as well as around the country.

While I don't get to go on fishing boats often anymore, last summer I was lucky enough to experience a Chicago sunset from a boat on Lake Michigan. It was one of my favorite summer memories in our first year in Chicago. This summer I am determined to recreate that experience as often as possible. My mission: Get on the water. 

While researching boat rentals, I came across this touching video titled "Good Run: A Boating Story." It reminded me of my grandpa and of all the reasons I love being on the water.  I love feeling the cool breeze, looking at the amazing city views and spending time with friends and my husband in such a fun setting. 

I found various ways to experience Chicago in new ways on, which makes boating accessible by providing everything you need to know to get on the water. I found 20 locations for boat rentals in the Chicago area to make my summer dreams come true.

Ideas for boating activities in Chicago found on Discover Boating:

  • Renting an island theme party boat with friends.
  • Chicago river boat rentals and cruises to marvel at the city's impressive architecture.
  • Night boat rentals to see the Navy Pier fireworks held during the summer.
  • Sunset boat rentals to see the gorgeous lighting surrounding the Chicago skyline.
  • Swimming and sunbathing sailboat charters.
  • Youth Boating Programs such as sailing classes and racing teams for children.
Want to go boating this summer? Discover Boating has tools to help you get out on the water, even if you don't own a boat! Those looking to buy a boat can find a Boat Selector tool on Discover Boating's website. It's a must-see resource for new and experienced boaters. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Favorite Exercises
for Half-Marathon Training

I recently shared my least favorite exercises and why I still do them. I prefer to be more positive, so now I'm listing my top five exercises for half-marathon training! I do these (and many other exercises) regularly as part of my strength and marathon training.

  • Pulse squats (or regular squats). I could do these all day. They burn, yes, but I love them.
  • Lunges with one foot on bench with weights in each hand. I kind of feel like a bad ass doing these. It tests your balance and strength. 
  • Plank. Not to toot my own horn, but I can hold plank for a decent amount of time. In a recent Orangetheory class I held plank for three minutes! Planks are a great way to work your core as well as your upper and lower body.
  • Pikes on the Ab Dolly. With your feet on the ab dolly and hands on the ground in a plank position, roll your feet toward your hands until you're in a pike, or V-shape. It's a great core workout and challenges my fear of falling.
  • Half-mile repeats. I like that the runs are broken down to short distances for time, so that the workout goes by much faster than usual. They also build endurance and strength. I'm sticking with half-mile repeats because one-mile repeats are not my favorite. Runner's World has awesome tips on doing these.
What are your favorite workouts? Share them with me in the comments!

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Chicago Spring Half Marathon 2016

Pro tip: Don't fly across the country, move and then run a half-marathon in one weekend. It's as exhausting as it sounds. While this wasn't an ideal situation, all three events were incredibly important for Graham and me. All three were events I've been waiting for all year.

I spent the week before the Chicago Spring Half Marathon resting my shoulder, which had been bothering me since Week 12 of half-marathon training. It even felt sore the day before the race. I worried that I wouldn't be able to run the half-marathon. I tried to alleviate the soreness with a back massager and Max Freeze pain relief gel. It did relieve some of that tension, and I felt much better on race day.

I awoke about 4:30 on race morning and stayed in bed. That was a mistake. I finally hopped out of bed, muttering curse words, at about 5. I needed to leave the house by 5:30, so I threw on my race clothes, packed some rice cakes with almond butter and honey, and ran out the door. It takes 45 minutes to get to Lakeshore East Park on the L train. I ate my breakfast and drank water on the ride, while downloading my running app (Map My Run) on my new phone and unpacking my new headphones. I clearly wasn't prepared. I had thrown on shorts underneath my running tights, which I had planned to take off at the start line. I decided instead to change into just my running tights because the shorts were not as comfortable as they had been previously. They felt too tight, and nothing bothers me more than running clothes that are too constricting. I raced to the portable restrooms to change and, you know, relieve myself before the race. When I finally made it to my assigned corral, it had been closed and the runners were about to head out. I went to the next corral and cut throw a gap in the fence to get to my corral, because I wanted to start earlier. And we were off!

I felt good through the first half of the race. While it was much warmer, in the 70s, than weather during my training, there was a nice breeze that cooled us off. The Lakeshore Trail offers little shade, though, so sunglasses and a hat are a good idea. (I opted to just wear sunglasses.) Along the way, local musicians and DJs entertained runners. One of my favorites was a rapper when you get to the South Side. I am unsure of his name, but he had so much energy despite being the only person on stage and having no crowd around him. Running waved their hands in the air as they passed him, and he proclaimed, "I'm doing a marathon performance for two and a half hours!" 

I felt emotional during several parts of the race, as I often do. It feels incredible when people cheer you on and high-five you, especially during the last few miles. Also, I wished I had stopped to take photos of the view of the Chicago skyline when you turn around on the route. It's incredible and makes me feel lucky to live in this beautiful city. 

As far as pace, I kept at an average of 10 minute/mile pace. I started at 9:30 but then felt dragged down by wind when we turned north. The last 3 miles were even more difficult; we were closer to the water and the wind felt more powerful. I was trying to stay ahead of the 2:10 pacer but she passed me with 2 miles to go. I lost momentum and felt disappointed. My last half-marathon pace was 2:22, so I was trying to beat that, but I secretly also wanted to beat my PR of 2:08. I ended up finishing in 2:13:34. I am proud of myself for improving since last September, and now I have something to keep working toward. I love to PR at my next half in the fall (Chicago Fall Half Marathon). 

The post-race festivities included breakfast, a beer garden, lots of vendors, and free flowers! I loved that we each got a flower to take home.

Holding my medals and flower after the Chicago Spring Half.

Overall, it was a well-run race. The volunteers were great at cheering us on and giving us our water, gels and sports drinks. The medal is awesome: It has a spinning Ferris wheel on it! I would definitely run this race again next year.

Half-marathon training recaps:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Hawaiian Birthday

Last weekend I hopped on a plane to Hawaii for a 1-year-old's birthday party.

Just kidding, the party was in Phoenix. The guest of honor was Olivia, my niece. She looked adorable in her grass skirt, Aloha shirt and flower hair clip. Guests got lei'd on arrival to get the party started.

The theme could not be more perfect for a birthday pool party in the Phoenix summer. My mom cooked barbecue pork, macaroni salad and potato salad, and we also munched on fruit cups and sipped tropical (adults-only) drinks through pineapple straws.

Hula girls danced atop the Hawaii-themed cake. Hibiscus flowers decked out the patio space we used for the party. And we tried to stay cool as a Hawaiian breeze.

My nieces splashed around in the kiddie pool, and I melted. It wasn't the heat; it was the love!

An afternoon in the sunshine with family was just what I needed after a rainy and stressful few weeks in Chicago. 

Watch my short video of the party on YouTube and follow my channel if you're so inclined. Mahalo!

Ready for a summer bash?

Inspired to host a Hawaii or pineapple theme birthday party this summer? Check out these adorable decor items I found online!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Carry-On Essentials

My most recent flight reminded me I need to get it together when it comes to being prepared. The Wi-Fi wasn't working on the plane, so my plans to blog were out the window. I was left with nothing to do but sit there and listen to songs already downloaded on my phone. I ended up listening to the same 15 songs on repeat for three hours. I was also shivering. I had closed the air-conditioning vent above me and was still feeling a blast of cold air. I put my hoodie on and tried to sleep in my seat. I didn't have a pillow, so my head was just drooping down toward my chest, bobbing from side to side. It was after this uncomfortable experience that I decided enough is enough. I will make sure I have all of the following items on me when I fly to make it a more enjoyable experience. I added an extra at the end that isn't always necessary (or is it?) but would be nice!

Are you someone who is frequently uncomfortable on planes? Hope this lists helps make flying a little more fun!

  • Headphones + pre-downloaded songs. I will be sure to have at least an hour's worth of songs.
  • Journal (and pen) or Book. Right now I'm using The 52 Lists Project journal I received for my birthday.
  • Snacks. Rice cakes (with almond butter and honey) have been my go-to lately, but hummus and veggie chips/veggies would be tasty, too. 
  • Mints or Colgate Wisps. I wear Invisalign aligners so this a much pretty much always.
  • Wet/face wipes.
  • Tissues. 
  • Neck pillow (or something I roll up into a pillow).
  • Sweater.
  • Water bottle.
  • Face mist. I've heard wonders about this one. I just think it would feel great after the flight.
  • Eucalyptus or lavender oil for headache (or your favorite headache remedy).
  • Carry-on Cocktail kit. They come in various cocktail options; champagne or Old Fashioned would be my picks.
What are you flight must-haves? Share them with me in the comments!

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Half-Marathon Training, Week 12

The Chicago Spring Half Marathon is Sunday! I'm ready. I just hope the weather is nice, and by nice I mean in the 60s and not raining. Is that asking too much? It IS Chicago. ...

I battled some anxiety as well as physical pain this week. My shoulder has been sore for about five days, so I'm looking forward to a few more days of rest and recovery before the race. The anxiety stems from unexpected financial obstacles we're facing that are really the last thing I need right now on top of moving and big changes on the way for us. I can't take much more of this stress this year. But that's a story for another post. 

Here's how the last week of training went:

Monday: Rest day.

Tuesday: 1,7 miles at Orangetheory.

Floor exercises included:

  • Deadlifts to rows
  • Lunges to single-leg squats with straps
  • Planks to knee tucks
  • Tricep extensions on bench
  • Single-arm swings from squat position
  • Bicycle situps with weights
  • Bench jumps

Wednesday: Rest day.

Thursday: 2.5 miles of inclines at Orangetheory. One block was at 2 percent incline, one was at 3 percent and the last one was at 4 percent. We also did two 300-meter rows.

Floor workout:
  • Incline chest press
  • High rows on TRX strap
  • Reverse crunches
  • Knee tucks
  • A bunch of other chest and shoulder workouts

Friday: Rest day.

Saturday: Rest day.

Sunday: 5.31 miles.

Week's mileage: 9.51
Yoga minutes: 20 minutes


I did not intend to have four rest days this week, but I crumbled amid my stress this week. You would think it would motivate me to burn off the tension, but it had the opposite effect: I wanted to curl into a ball and not move. The weather didn't help matters; it felt like 35 on Saturday morning. I put off my planned run until Sunday.

Resting my shoulder and yoga are my plans these next few days before the race. I need to take my own advice about my yoga practice: Breathe and remember you can't control anything but your reaction. Wish me luck, please!

What are your fitness goals? Let me know in the comments!

Previous recaps:

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Recent Beauty Products and Reviews

I enjoy reading about products people are using to find new ones to try. I have a list of items I'd like to start using, including jojoba oil, rosehip oil and the Yes to Tomatoes charcoal mask. Here's what I've been using lately:
Origins Antioxidant Cleanser with White Tea: I love the creaminess and smooth lather; it's luxurious. I also love the citrus scent. What I don't love? The price. I don't know if I can justify $24 for facial cleanser. Perhaps if I can buy when there's a sale going on. ...

Herbal Essences Naked Volume Shampoo: I am always lured by labels that say no parabens. I like using this shampoo, though the Environmental Working Group rates this product as a score of 5, representing a moderate hazard. It has a clean scent that I enjoy.

L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Complete Anti-Wrinkle and Firming Moisturizing Eye Cream: I've been using this for a couple of weeks now. It has firmed my skin somewhat, though I think I also need an anti-puffiness cream or roller to go along with it. A little bit seems to go a long way. EWG rates this product as a 5 in terms of hazard.  I have decided to look for natural ways to reduce my eye concerns.

e.l.f. Makeup Mist & Set: I like using this to set my makeup and to feel refresh throughout the day. I bought this on recommendation of Meg O. on the Go. I am obsessed with her makeup videos and she's right about this one. You can't beat the price of $3!

L'Oreal Ideal Moisture Day Lotion for Dry Skin with SPF 25: I have been using this daily for a few weeks now. I like the scent and that it's not too heavy. I also like that it has SPF 25, because that's one fewer thing to worry about applying. It's also affordable, which is always a plus. It has a rating of 3 for low hazard on the Environmental Working Group's website, or at least its 2013 formulation does.

Try the products:

What have you been loving lately? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Setting a Goal vs. an Intention
and How to Do Each

Each month I set goals. I share them with the world  or whoever clicks on this blog. (Thank you, by the way, for reading this.) Why do I do this? Because sharing my goals is a form of holding myself accountable and manifesting my dreams. The goals I regularly share on this blog are smaller goals that I hope will eventually lead to the life I want to create for myself. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of manifestation and goal-setting. But what's the difference between setting a goal and an intention? The words goal and intention are often used interchangeably, but here's what I think they mean and what the differences between the two are. Below I share tips on doing both. Hope this helps you! (Fun fact: Helping people is one of my larger lifelong goals, so writing this post is a smaller goal that aligns with that.)

Brainstorm and Analyze.
Create lists of what motivates you, want you desire out of life, etc.
Write down words that describe your priorities. Ideas: Friendship, love, money, music, strength, confidence, generosity, admiration, nature, laughter, comfort, travel, family. Identify the areas that are most important and use them to guide your goals.
Ask yourself: What do you want your life to look like? What are your passions?
Write down what you want to achieve. If it helps, break the goals down into categories for different parts of your life. (Career, health, personal, etc.)
Ask yourself why you want to achieve a certain goal? What's the underlying desire?
What resources can you list to help you achieve your goal? (Trainer, friends, books, classes, etc.) Write them down.
What investments (of time or money or anything else) do you need to make? Identify them.

Dream big but make more realistic short-term goals to work toward that big goal.
Try to find a middle ground between setting too easy of a goal and too unattainable.
Leave fear out of the goal-setting process. It has no place in it.
Leave judgment out of goal-setting. You might be worried about what people think. Put your own thoughts of why you want to achieve the goal above all other opinions.
Do you have a goal that you think it's too late for? Repeat this: It's not too late! Write down reasons and ways it can still be achieved.

"If we wait until we're ready, we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives." -Lemony Snicket

Be specific.
Write down exactly what you want (when, with whom, and how). The more specific you can be the better.
Start with one or two main goals. Once you have your main goal(s), you can break those down into smaller milestone goals.

Remind yourself of your goal(s) and your "why."
Write them down and display them around your desk, bedside, in your wallet, etc.
Make a vision board or create a Pinterest board.
Set reminders on your phone of your goals.
Share them with friends or on social media.
Surround yourself with people with a similar goal(s).
Meditate or pray about that goal. 

Schedule time for your goals.
Break your goals down to smaller goals and plan out when you can work toward each goal. 
Ask yourself: What small steps can I take today to bring me closer to achieving my goal? What can I do each week? Make working toward your goals a part of your daily to-do list.
What's a realistic timetable for achieving your goal? Write down due dates. 
Practice single-tasking. For each day or each week, consider focusing on just one goal. Focus all of your energy on it until it's accomplished, then move on to another goal/milestone.

Observe the changes/Hold yourself accountable.
Measure your success. This is why I check in with myself with my monthly goals. Where did you fall short and can you break that goal down even further into smaller steps?
Celebrate your successes and don't beat yourself up about the failures. Try again. Adjust in areas where you didn't hit your shorter-term goals, but keep working toward them.
Don't compare yourself to others. This is YOUR journey.
When you're feeling discouraged, think about times in your life that you overcame an obstacle. You can do this!

What's the difference between setting a goal and an intention?

Goals Intentions
Relies on reasoning, logic. Relies on emotion, comes from a place of love (not fear).
Has a time frame. Surrender to the process.
Action plan is put in place. Have faith. Believe in the magic/the universe.

Manifesting/Intention setting:

I credit my yoga teacher training for helping me let go of fear of judgment. During teacher training, we each talked about our intentions. I was afraid. My fear emerged in the form of tears. My heart pounded. I felt threatened. But the response from my fellow teacher trainees had no judgment whatsoever. We all have dreams we're afraid to share. Sometimes we're afraid of judgment when our dreams evolve.

I consider my journal and this blog a safe space. It's an outlet that houses my dreams, adventures and thoughts. It's a daily reminder that I am working toward my intention.

I recently read this quote: "What's on your mind becomes what's in your life. So think the thoughts you want to see." (Karen Salmansohn)

Those words capture perfectly the process of manifestation:

  • Set an intention. Visualize the end result. Meditate on it. Write it down. Feel it!
  • Observe the signs. The universe is listening. You will notice signs everywhere that relate to your intention. 
  • Hold your intention. Default to happy, grateful thoughts.  Act as though your intention has already come true. Keep imagining the outcome.
  • Trust the process and realize your manifestationFeel the gratitude and reinforce your trust in the process.

A few resources on goal-setting:

  • A search on Pinterest yields countless pins on goal-setting, along with many printables and checklists.
  • The journal "Start Where You Are" by Meera Lee Patel is an illustrated workbook journal to help you work on goals and self-exploration.
  • The book "The 52 Lists Project" was recently given to me as a gift, and it contains prompts for lists of everything from goals to your favorite things and things you want to add to your life. Creating lists and journaling can help you identify what you want your goals to be.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Half-Marathon Training, Week 11

It's tapering time! I'm so excited to be done with my longest runs. The race is less than two weeks away, and my longest distance will be 6 miles. It felt amazing to finish my 12-miler on Sunday!

Monday: Rest day.

Tuesday: 2 miles. I did four half-mile repeats. My paces were 9:42, 9:00, 9:11 and about 11:00. I obviously wasn't feeling that last one. I also did 36 lunges, 35 pulse squats, 20 regular squats and core work.

Wednesday: 30 minutes of yoga. 50 hip raises, 50 crunches, 15 single-leg V-ups each side and a 1 minute plank.

Thursday: 3.1 miles at the Cinco de Mayo bar crawl with my running group. We ran to three different bar/restaurants that were about a mile apart. It was a lot of fun and I got to know some awesome runners in Chicago. I also did 20 pulse squats and 20 crunches.

Friday: Rest day. I ran/walked .25 mile to just get outside on a busy workday. Other than that I did about 10 minutes of yoga.

Saturday: The plan was to run 14 miles. I went to Starbucks to get some coffee before my run. When I returned, my key wouldn't open the hallway leading to my apartment. I was locked out of my apartment for two hours, ruining my plans to run. I had to meet a friend around Wrigley Field later so I couldn't push my run back that day. I decided to go to Orangetheory instead and do my long run on Sunday before the game. I was frustrated and defeated, so I did my best to adjust to the new plan.

The Orangetheory workout started with 2.34 miles on the treadmill. We rowed 450 meters, 300 meters, 150 meters and 800 meters as well.

Floor workout:
  • Alligators with TRX straps
  • Speed skaters
  • Hip raises with heels in TRX straps
  • Squats onto the bench with weights
  • Double-tap crunches

Sunday: 12 miles. The plan was 14 miles but I ran out of time before needing to get ready for the Chicago Cubs game. I have actually never done 14 miles before a half marathon (usually it's up to 11 or 12), so I was OK with going up to 12 miles. I felt that if I had enough time I could have kept going for another 1.1 mile, so that's all that matters. The weather was finally perfect! I stopped to admire the blooms and take in the views of the city along the lakefront path.

Week's mileage: 19.69
Yoga minutes: 50


I'm struggling with what my goal pace should be for the race. Should I try to set a PR or be happy with running faster than I did at my last race? I'm really not sure. I know that if I don't run a faster pace I would be disappointed after all the hard work I've done for the last three months.

Perfect weather on Sunday was such a gift! It renewed my motivation and made me grateful to live here in Chicago.

Previous recaps:

How are you doing on your fitness goals? Let me know in the comments!

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