Friday, October 28, 2016

October Favorites

Most of the new purchases I made this month were not for myself, but for Victoria, who arrived a couple of weeks ago. Thus, I only have four October favorites.

Bath & Body Works Stress Relief Eucalyptus Tea Body Wash and Foam Bath: Relaxing soaks have saved me recently. I have been so on edge and stressed about everything. I shouldn't be stressed at all  this is an amazing time in our lives — but that's how I've felt at times. Relaxing after Orangetheory or when Victoria is falling asleep helps remind me that I have much to be grateful for and that I control nothing, so I should relax.

Bath & Body Works Flannel Candle: My second favorite is also from Bath and Body Works because I recently shopped at the store for the first time in years. I used to shop there every year but stopped when I become more of a minimalist. When my mother-in-law wanted to buy lotion recently, I stopped to smell some of the candles and remembered how much I liked them. I decided to get a few and Flannel is my favorite. Graham and I burn candles all the time anyway, and these last more than 25 hours each.

Lush Cup O'Coffee Mask: After months of wanting to try this, I finally bought the mask. I was using the Mask of Magnaminty, but my skin became more sensitive to the tingling of the mask. The coffee mask is a lot more gentle, and it smells delicious! I love the exfoliation of coffee.

Chicago Cubs: I had to throw this in because the team has created some of my favorite memories this month. It's been a blast to watch them make it to the World Series. I can't wait to see what happens!

What were your favorites this month? Share your links with me!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Last Saturday night I was at Wrigley Field watching Cubs history. It was surreal. Chicago Cubs fan are always passionate, but the energy was on another level on Saturday night. It was not lost on me how lucky I was to be there. Lifelong Cubs fans would have done anything to be there and I am a newer (yet still passionate) fan since we moved to Chicago for Graham's job. For me, it's more personal. I know how hard my husband and the entire organization has worked all season long to do their part. This entire week is filled with excitement and anticipation for what seems like the entire city. I hope you'll send your positive vibes to the Cubs tonight as they play the Indians in Cleveland. GO, CUBS, GO!

Moments from Saturday:

Monday, October 24, 2016

Pumpkin Picking at Didier Farms

I have been longing to pick pumpkins all month, but we decided to wait until Victoria arrived to go. When Graham suddenly found himself with a Sunday morning and early afternoon available, we headed to Didier Farms in Lincolnshire, about a 40 minute drive from where we live in Chicago. It was in the high 60s/low 70s, the perfect conditions for a visit to the pumpkin patch. It was a busy morning at Didier Farms. A long line of children flowed into the farm as we arrived, but we found a vast selection of pumpkins to choose from.

First we bought ride tickets ($1 each) so Victoria could ride a couple of rides. Graham rode the carousel with her (4 tickets for both) and then she played in the bounce pumpkin (3 tickets). Any unused ride tickets can be used in the farm stand toward your pumpkin purchase.

When jumping time was up, we picked our pumpkins. Victoria was reluctant to come out, but we told her we were going to go down the slide, so she finally agreed. Victoria found her perfect pumpkin.

Then we headed to the farm stand for cherry pie filling, treats for friends and apple-cider doughnuts.

On the way out, we spotted this gorgeous kale that we really want to get for our plant collection next year.

And that was how we celebrated a historic Cubs win!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Week's Highlights

This workweek has actually been wonderful! I haven't been as busy at work (though I will be next week), so I was able to relax and adjust to life with a toddler.


  • I made it to Orangetheory Fitness for my first workouts since the Chicago Marathon. Victoria cried when I got out of the car for the first class, but she calmed down eventually. It helped that we had toys in the car that she was going to play with when she got home.
  • Morning walks with Victoria. I am getting a lot more steps in each day just trying to keep up with a toddler!

  • The Chicago Cubs beat the Dodgers last night, which means they come home to play at Wrigley Field, and I'm going! They need to win one more game to make it to the World Series. Typing that is surreal.
A photo from last season.
  • Five years ago today, Graham brought Capone home. 
Capone on the beach in Chicago.

Weekend plans:

  • Cubs game!
  • Possibly pumpkin patch. 

What are your weekend plans?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Chicago Eats: Green Zebra, Twisted Tapas, Mercadito

In my third installment of What I've Been Eating, I am sharing what I ate at three Chicago restaurants: Green Zebra in West Town, Twisted Tapas in Rogers Park and Mercadito in River North. My favorite of the three is Mercadito,  Mexican food restaurant.

Green Zebra, West Town

Green Zebra is a vegetarian, tapas-style restaurant. I loved every dish that we chose, and my friends and I sampled almost every dish on the seasonal menu Our favorites were housemade gnocchi, the buckwheat pasta and the corn cake. All three were absolutely incredible. I wished the corn and potatoes had more flavor. We also had an artisan cheese plate (I only liked one of the cheeses) and squash blossoms (good).

For three people and a baby the bill was around $140 with drinks.

Buckwheat pasta

Corn and potatoes
Squash blossoms

Twisted Tapas, Rogers Park

Graham and I went to Twisted Tapas for date night recently when we wanted to branch out from our usual sushi place. We had bruschetta, crab cakes, fish tacos, and spicy potatoes with aioli sauce. I liked the crab cakes and spicy potatoes the most. The bruschetta was nothing special and the fish taco was OK.

Spicy potatoes


We didn't order a lot and drank water so the bill was about $36.

Mercadito, River North

I met Jessie (from Just Jessie blog) at Mercadito for tacos one night and I could not believe how good they were. I mean really good. I had the espada tacos (blackened swordfish with spicy aioli and cabbage-jalapeƱo slaw) and my mouth is watering just thinking about them now. I paired that with a watermelon margarita (Mi Amiga Sandia on the menu) that I also could use at this moment. I want to go back!

Espada tacos

Mi Amiga Sandia margarita

We also ordered a trio of salsas with chips. The bill was about $40 each.

What great restaurants have you been to lately?

Previous restaurant posts:

Monday, October 17, 2016

Fall and Winter Running Gear

winter running clothes

Chicago had a mild winter last year, so I got lucky when it came to running. I didn't really need to invest in a lot of winter running gear in my first year in Chicago. This year, though, I have been hearing that winter will be especially long, cold and snowy. While I don't have a race in mind, I still plan to run during the winter. If you, too, prefer running outdoors to the dreadmill, you might like some of my picks for winter running gear. Here's what is on my shopping list for late fall and winter training:

  • Bright running jackets. I especially like this green and blue windproof pullover from Brooks.** Windproof jackets would be helpful to have in the Windy City! Also, jackets with thumb holes are the best; trust me!
  • A vest. I want a vest because often I get hot under all those layers and want my arms to be more exposed vs. my chest and neck. 
  • Earband. This is important! Covering your head and ears when you run in the winter makes all the difference. If you run frequently it's smart to have several earbands or hats on hand so you don't need to keep doing laundry. I also find that earbands help your earbuds/headphones stay in place.
  • Running gloves. This is another item that makes a huge difference when running in the cold. I've had terrible running experiences when I forgot gloves. Don't make the same mistake!
  • Arm warmers. Arm warmers are ideal for late fall and spring runs when it isn't as cold but it is still chilly. They can be easily taken off and tied to your wrists if you get hot wearing them.
  • Long running tights. It will be time to transition to long tights from shorter tights and shorts. You really can't have enough pairs if you work out often.
  • Ice traction spikes. I threw these in because I thought about getting them last winter, but it didn't really snow that often in Chicago. However, I remember having to miss a spring training run because the sidewalks and the running trails were too slippery after a snowfall. Traction spikes would be beneficial in situations like that. The pair shown above might be more for trail running, but you can find options for ice cleats via Runner's World.

Are you thinking about winter fitness attire? What's on your shopping list?

Shop my winter running picks**:

** This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, October 14, 2016


I wasn't sure how much I wanted to share about this, but a major change has happened in my life and it will impact how I blog about fitness, food, travel and anything else on this blog. I have hinted at a monumental shift on this blog several times, and it's finally occurred. Graham and I now have a 2-year-old. Her name is Victoria.

She has been in our care for just a few days, and already I have learned so much. On Day 1 I felt like I could totally do this. I got this. I can be a parent. On Day 2 I felt like a failure, like I can't do this at all. Day 3, after much-needed rest, I felt better. I am guessing that is just how it will be from now on: One day I will feel like I can do everything and the next, not so much. Or maybe it will be one minute I will feel triumphant while the next I will feel lost. Time will tell.

We are excited and slightly terrified at the same time. So I guess that's how we know we are parents.

Related post:

Setting up her room:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Marathon Training: Differences Between First and Second Marathons

Marathon Foto, Chicago Marathon
Photo by Marathon Foto

I had two goals for my second marathon: don't walk, and try to get any time better than my first marathon. When I crossed the finish line on Sunday, Oct. 9, I had no idea whether I had accomplished the second, and I would later find out that I didn't. I got almost exactly the same time, and I was initially a little disappointed. Then I realized that I shouldn't be too surprised because I didn't track my pace at all; I just took it easy and steady. My running app malfunctioned early on, and it was then that I decided not to worry about time and to just have fun. I had to remind myself this marathon was about wanting to be a part of my new city and touring Chicago with 40,000 of my closest friends.

I did manage to jog the whole marathon, which was enough of an accomplishment for me. In my first marathon, I started out at about a 9:30-9:45 pace and ended up walking a lot of the final six miles. At the 2016 Chicago Marathon I maintained an 11 minute mile pace the majority of the time. I wasn't in pain and I didn't struggle mentally as much as I did my first time around. I actually felt grateful and positive, even in the last six miles. I kept telling myself I was almost done and feeling great, especially after a nice woman handed me an orange Popsicle.  

I credit my strength training and group runs for that success. I didn't feel alone in my second marathon because I knew several other runners (I even ran with one of my teammates for a little bit). I wasn't in as much pain because I had incorporated so much strength training, drills and group runs into my preparation. While the time was the same, the aftereffects were much better this time around. 

What I learned while training for my second marathon:

  • Strength training is essential. In my first training I mostly ran and did some yoga. I didn't lift any weights, nor did I do enough core work. Strength training helps reduce injury risk.  During my second marathon training, besides some brief calf tightness and a week of shoulder soreness, I didn't experience any recurring issues. (Read the Runner's World guide on strength training.)
  • Group runs make training a lot more fun. I did my training mostly on my own the first time, even my 20-miler. This year I chose to go on the group run, and I can't imagine having done it without them. I had both emotional and logistical support, and it made a huge difference. 
  • You still need to track what you eat. During my first marathon training, I ate whatever I wanted. I reasoned that I could eat anything and everything because I had run so many miles. Wrong. You can't eat whatever you want. Sure, you can indulge in some ways, but you should still track your eating habits. I gained weight during my first marathon training, like so many people do. This time I lost 4.5 pounds. While it wasn't a goal to lose weight, I was just happy that I didn't put on my pounds. Also, by incorporating strength training I have also gained muscle.
  • Plan your workouts and give yourself a break. I wrote down all my runs and workouts in my planner every week. I also wrote down times that I could fit a workout in if I had missed a planned run. I learned to be flexible as well. If I was sick or was traveling, I rearranged my workout plans. If I missed a run, I didn't beat myself up about it; I just did the best I could.
What lessons has your fitness journey taught you? 

Related posts:

Monday, October 10, 2016

Chicago Marathon 2016 Recap

I did it! After months of training and recapping, I finished the Chicago Marathon on Sunday.

I was nervous in the days ahead of the marathon because I did a lot of walking around the two days before and because I slipped in the shower and bruised my behind. I also had a stressful week at work and my life is about to be changed forever. In comparison the marathon seemed like it would be a piece of cake.

I awoke at 4 a.m. on Sunday and wavered on my outfit choice. I decided to stick with my plan to wear shorts and a tank despite it being in the 50s that morning. I wore sweats and a jacket over it as I traveled to Grant Park on the L. I headed to Gate 2, where I had to say goodbye to Graham. Only runners are allowed in the park before the race. I used the portable restroom again and walked directly to Corral J, which is Wave 2. I then waited for about an hour for my wave to finally start walking to the start line. Along the way I made friends with three women in my corral and we even got our photo taken together. 

I started after 8 a.m. I immediately felt the bruising from my fall, but that eventually faded away. From the beginning I could tell this was going to be a special experience. The energy was beyond that of any other race I've done, and it really feels like the entire city has your back. Spectators cheer; dance; and give you ice, water, snacks, candy, Popsicles, and even beer. They hold funny signs and make you laugh. They shout inspiring messages as you pass. It's incredible.

My favorite neighborhoods to run through were Pilsen and Chinatown. The spectators there seemed a lot more enthusiastic and loud. It was just what I needed at that point (Miles 20-22ish). 

I didn't track my pace at all, but I remained steady. I normally use the Map My Run app, but I turned it off before the halfway point because it malfunctioned and wasn't tracking my pace correctly. I didn't then to just finish and not worry about my time. I felt good throughout most of the race, but the last 2 miles were tough. My back was killing me at this point, and I was ready to be done. Funny how those last couple of miles seem longer than the rest of the race. 

I ended at about 5:02, which is what I ran my first marathon in as well. I didn't improve my time despite not really walking, but I am still proud of how I did. It's one of my favorite races I've done so far. I highly recommend the Chicago Marathon!

Most popular signs:

  • "I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 26.2." 
  • "Run like a clown is behind you."
  • "You run better than the government." 
  •  "If (a candidate, you guess) can run, so can you." 
  •  "Run faster, I just farted." 
  •  "Hurry up so we can eat." (or drink)

Training recaps:

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Chicago Marathon Training Weeks 15 and 16 | It's Race Week!

It's race week! I can't believe it: I am running 26.2 miles this weekend. And next week will be even crazier, but I'll share more about that after the marathon.

Week 15

I didn't recap Week 15 of Chicago Marathon training because I had a cold and didn't work out much. I didn't run my planned 10 miler either, because it was raining and I felt terrible. That week consisted of three Orangetheory workouts. (Week 15 was the week right after the Chicago Half Marathon.)

Week 16

Week 16 of training is race week. This is the plan:

Monday-Tuesday: Rest day.

Wednesday: 2 miles at Orangetheory at lunch and then 3 miles at group marathon training. We did 8 runs up the stairs of a parking garage (40 flights total). We also ran to the hill and did 15 times up and down with various drills (like side shuffles) each time.

Thursday: Rest day with stretching.

Friday: Pick up my race packet and more stretching. 

Saturday: Rest and elevate my legs. 2 mile shake-out run in the morning.


I'm excited to share how the marathon goes next week. If you're running or have ever run a marathon, tell me about your experience in the comments!

Previous recaps:

Current running favorites**:

** This post contains affiliate links.

Fall Running Playlist:

Chicago Half Marathon:

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Weekending: Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

View from the Navy Pier Ferris wheel
Graham and I randomly decided to visit Navy Pier over the weekend so he could ride the new Ferris wheel. I had already been on the old one in summer 2015 when my friend Charlsy visited me, so it wasn't my top choice for what to do with our Sunday. I later discovered it can be a fun way to spend a day, because it's all about your attitude. Also, rainy days mean fewer people.

We had lunch at Chango Loco, a Mexican restaurant on the second floor of the food court. The restaurant had limited options but at least it had a veggie burrito. And the beans that came with it were everything I wanted and more. 

After a filling lunch, all I wanted to do was sit. Instead, we headed to the Ferris wheel, where we waited maybe 10 minutes to board. Graham and I wanted our own car, but we had to share with a family since we were a party of two. We had plenty of room, though, because the cars are spacious. After one rotation, the wheel appeared to slow, and we all wondered aloud if that was it. Nope, it wasn't. The ride means three whole spins on the wheel. That was a relief given that tickets cost $30 for two of us.

We had an unexpectedly fun afternoon, and I can't wait until our next day off together.

P.S. Linking up with Blush Blonde and Fairy Princess Diaries.

Monday, October 3, 2016

October Goals

This will be an October to remember. I already know it. Instead of allowing myself to get overwhelmed by the change that's happening, I'm choosing to remind myself to be grateful. If you're ever staring at a to-do list that seems to be never-ending, it helps to reiterate the why. Why are you doing what you're doing? Often that why is a blessing you need to be reminded of. If it's not, it's time to consider doing something about that!

What are you most excited about this month? 

September goal check-in:

October goals:

  • Embrace the new season and the all change coming our way. 
  • When feeling overwhelmed, give myself a break and ask for help. I already take on a lot, but this month I will encounter my biggest challenge yet. Graham and I will need to be a team more than ever. 
  • Beat my first marathon time (Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon 2015) at the 2016 Chicago Marathon. 
  • Film at least one video a week.
  • Work through half of my fall bucket list. A lot of these can be done in one day!

Related post: