Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"You're Awesome!" {half marathon training}

Hm.  So where do I begin with this post?  I feel like I am just bad at training.  I am finding it really hard to stick to a training plan right now, and I'm disappointed in myself.

However, as the title of this post suggests, I was actually running recently, and a guy who was running by my gave me a thumbs-up and said, "You're awesome!"

I didn't think it was that big of a deal until I realized that it made me feel a little bit better about the fact that I was running an 11:30 mile, and I was tired, and I just wanted to stop.  It's awesome when you have anyone cheering you on or even just giving you "the nod".

Over the weekend, I did two days of running inside and doing HIIT and it worked me over.  My legs were good and sore, and I could really tell the difference between doing just a run and doing the HIIT.  I think I needed to feel a little extra "ouch" there to get my leg muscles working and feeling it again.  The last few runs I had outside in September, I was not feeling any residuals the next day, and to me that is the mark of having pushed myself a little extra on that workout, so I'm excited to integrate some new stuff into the mix.

Another huge issue for me has been my shoes.  They are old and they suck.  No way around that.  So for my birthday Bryan got me new running shoes.  I NEVER thought I would be the person who would ask for running shoes as a gift, but here we are.  

So that's where I'm at, and I'm slow, but I'm happy that I'm realizing what I need to adjust and where to make changes.  For me, upping my overall cardio tolerance has been my biggest challenge so far, so I think that will continue for a while.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me! {27 woo!}

Happy birthday to me!  

Today I'm hitting 27, so I thought I would throw together a bunch of old birthday photos

So it's my birthday everyone!  Turning 27 and feeling pumped about it.  27 is going to be a great year I think.  I am mostly hoping for stability, happiness, and letting the good times continue to roll.  So today I'm going to take a walk down memory lane and look at some other birthdays from my 20s...brace thy-selves.

2007, turning 21.  It was a Tuesday and we went to a bar called Joe's on Weed St.  that had $2 pitchers and 25-cent beers.  #collegelife Also, this is when Sparks were big and there is a sparks hiding in this pic.  

2008, turning 22...eating chili cheese fries at Portillo's, duh.  After that I ate a huge Italian meal at a place called Quartino's in Chicago too....damn I want that metabolism back.

2010, turning 24....also celebrated our first dating anniversary!  We went to the Signature Room at the Hancock building that year.

2011, turning 25!  My mom makes the most legit birthday cakes ever.  I mean you can see that here...three layers, whatever kind you want.  Because it's your day.

Ok, so I don't have that many pics of my adult birthdays, woops. Last year we went out to the Original Carrabba's on my birthday, so delicious and legit.  We are going out to a casual, more chill dinner tonight and then plan to have a few friends over Saturday and go out to some bars.  Who's bringing the Sparks?! :)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Crockpot Baked Potato Soup

Today, I'm excited to share this very easy and very delicious soup that is perfect for the "chilly" temps that are coming, or if you live in the plains, will warm you up after you dig out of 3 feet of snow.

It was a perfectly fall day here in Texas on Sunday, so we "celebrated" by wearing sweatshirts, and eating a yummy potato soup, which I promise you will love.  


1 bag of frozen hash brown potatoes (cubed)
20 oz. (or so) of low-sodium chicken broth
1 block of neufchatel (could use cream cheese too, but I like to cut corners)
1 can of cream of chicken soup
6 or so strips of bacon, fried, dried and crumbled
1 tsp. cajun seasoning (Or be scientific like me and do a few shakes in)
3 green onions, chopped for garnish
Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish/stirring in to make it even better
Salt and pepper to taste


1.  Get that crockpot out and put the hash browns, chicken broth, cream cheese, and cream of chicken soup in and give it a stir.  Add in the bacon crumbles and cajun seasoning and stir again.  Let is go on low for about 6 hours or so, stirring occasionally if you can.  If not, just stir it when you get home and let it go again for the cream cheese to blend in.  

2.  When it's ready, spoon into bowls and garnish with green onion and cheese, then stir in that goodness and enjoy!

Boom. Done.  So easy and delicious.  What's your go-to crock pot fall soup or recipe?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Rebooting {weekend recap}

I had big plans last week to give you a five on Friday recap, but last week things went a little awry.  Wednesday night my car stopped working as I was going up a freeway on-ramp.  Yup, just wouldn't accelerate, so we had to have it towed and turned out a connection between my gas pedal and fuel injection needed to be replaced, FUN!   

Then, Thursday afternoon, I went to get a sandwich at lunch and while I was backing out of my parking spot in the downpour, got into a fender bender, very minor.  No one was hurt, but it was just a huge pain.  So basically I was all out of sorts.  Hence, the title of this post:  Reboot.

Friday night we had a birthday party for the CEO of my company, it was so much fun!  Delicious fajitas, open bar, and Bryan finally got to meet most of my co-workers, which was great.

Here you see me sketchily wandering through Wal-Mart pre-party because on our way out the door, I noticed there was a 1-inch tear in the side of my dress by the zipper!  Sweet.  Nothing like power-walking through a Wal-Mart in 4 inch heels to get a sewing kit.

And here we are at the party!

Pretty good looking couple I'd say! My eyes are a little squinty from the flash but oh well.

Post-party we made a late night Whataburger stop because, you know, sometimes you need some onion rings and a cheeseburger and Diet Coke before you can fall asleep on your couch watching Too Cute! on Animal Planet.  Also, the party favors included full-size Hershey's and Hershey's with Almonds bars and so now we have about six candy bars in our freezer. Dangerous.

Barley had quite the weekend--Saturday morning we went to the dog park where he promptly got filthy dirty and totally exhausted.  He got totally mauled by some tiny corgis and chased around with an Aussie mix.  Then he resisted every second of Bryan hosing him off.  In the lower right pic you can see the tired in his eyes.  Also doesn't my little boy look so handsome in his Packers bandanna?!

Since little buddy was so tired on Saturday, we snuck out in the afternoon to go see Gravity. It was really good, but also kind of anxiety-producing for both of us, this isn't a movie you can totally relax in because you're pretty caught up in whether or not she's going to be stuck in space or not.  The whole concept is really kind of terrifying, and will make you feel really small.  Plus we saw it in 3D so maybe that was part of it.  We both enjoyed it, but maybe would have rather seen Captain Philips.    So we'll save that one for another time!  

Sunday meant breakfast out, grocery shopping, and football.  Plus, it was legitimately COOL here in Houston, which felt like the ultimate win.  Since it felt like fall, I made a delish crockpot soup that I will be sharing tomorrow.  Behold, Baked Potato Soup:

And of course, I painted my nails again.  Guys, I'm getting kind of good at it so maybe I can cross this off of my 30 for 30 list soon.

Hope you had an equally great weekend!! And apologies for dropping out of life and the blog world last week, it was a total mess, and I owe a lot of you e-mails! :)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Awards on Awards {what what}

Kate at Another Clean Slate nominated all the blogs on her Let's Be Friends page to have a Sunshine Award, and since I'm one of those ladies, yeahh it's Q&A time!  ALSO to double your fun, Amy at The Crazy Wise Woman nominated me for my fourth ever Liebster!  So I'm also going to answer those questions.  Enjoy learning more weird facts about me everyone!  

The rules are pretty simple....answer the questions and pass the love on for others to answer.  I'm answering the same ones Kate answered since that keeps it easy and I will also just pass the same ones along to anyone who is reading this and thinks it would be fun to do! 
Where were you born? 
I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  
Do you prefer romantic comedies or suspense thrillers? 
I think I like both, but it depends on my mood.  I probably like dramas more than either of the above categories.
What is your favorite sport (to watch or to participate 
Football to watch, always.  I don't know there is another sport I will watch as intently as football.
What is your favorite sound? 
I love the sound of a wine cork coming out of the bottle, or when I hear Barley's tags jingling towards me when I come in the door after a long day of work.
Coke or Pepsi? 
HA.  Up until September 26th, 2013, I had never had a real Coca-Cola.  At least that I can remember.  So maybe when I was a kid I probably did, but Coke and/or Pepsi are not something that have been a part of my "adult" life.  In fact, Bryan gives me crap a lot for not being able to finish those 8 oz. cans of Diet Coke.  So yeah..um Diet Coke is my answer.
Do you have a special talent? 
I don't know...I think I am good at being a puppy mom and wife.  And I'm also very detail-oriented, so that makes me good at reviewing documents and finding small details others might overlook, which also makes me well-suited for my job, weird.
PC or Mac?  
PC now, but I don't totally detest Mac like I used to.  I still have a rough time using them though.  Wow, just aged myself about 20 years.  Cool.
What is your favorite vacation spot?  
We don't really go anywhere regularly, but I always loved going to northern Wisconsin and spending a week at a cabin, just relaxing in the summer by the lake.  So probably at a lake.  OR let's go big and go to Italy.
Do you collect anything? 
I collect Christmas ornaments!  Well, I buy one every time I go somewhere new or we go somewhere new together.  My goal is to have a tree dedicated to our travels and memories one day.  
If you could instantly be an expert in any field, what would it be? I would LOVE to be an epidemiologist.  I think studying how a disease spreads, originates, etc.  would be amazing and fascinating and wonderful.  I love reading books that trace the history of diseases (And the Band Played On..., The Great Influenza, seriously I've read a bunch.

And here are Amy's questions, I removed some duplicates that were repeats or similar to the ones that Kate had, etc.  No one cares enough to read twice where I grew up/am from, haha.

What do you do for a living and is it what you thought you would be doing?  
I work in an industry I didn't picture for myself, but I really love it.
Who inspires you the most?  
Gosh, cliche maybe, but my mom.  She is gracious and kind and tough and thoughtful and remarkable.
Describe your perfect Friday night?  
It's two scenarios:  Dinner and drinks after work with friends OR at home, in pj's ordering Chinese and watching Netflix by 7 PM.  We do both regularly and I truly love them both equally.
What is your favorite holiday and why?  
Christmas because it's so many of my favorite things:  food, family, Christmas music, a real reason for celebration (yes, we're talking about the birth of Jesus here), and just relaxing and enjoying the company of those your with.  So in that vein, Thanksgiving is a close second for me.   
What is your favorite family recipe? And please share it with us!  
Ohh wow.  My mom has passed so many along.  Her recipe for Slow Cooker Swiss Steak is the best though. I don't know that it's a "family" recipe, but it's become a favorite in recent years.

1 1/2 lbs. of round steak or whatever beef cut into 1'' chunks/pieces/slices (you could get stir fry beef, etc.)
8 oz. of sliced mushrooms
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 Tablespoon of minced garlic
1 can of fire-roasted tomatoes
1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
1/2 c. of water
1 package of brown gravy mix.  
1/2 tsp. each of salt and pepper.

1.  Combine steak, mushrooms, onion, garlic, and pepper into slow cooker.
2.  Combine tomatoes, tomato sauce, gravy packet, water and salt and pepper, then pour over steak and veggies.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-6 hours.
3.  Serve over mashed potatoes.

Your tummy will thank you! I plan on sharing our recipe for Caramel Pecan Rolls this holiday season so stay tuned for that because it's ridiculous.
Give me one guilty pleasure...
Anything that includes both peanut butter and chocolate.  My husband does not buy me valentine's boxes of heart chocolates, he just gets a bag of reese's hearts and puts them in the freezer.  The man knows me, what can I say?
Describe yourself in 5 words.
hard-working, spirited, tough, sarcastic, and loving
Post me a great selfie or one that you think just sums you up!

If you could sit down with anyone for an hour and talk... living or dead... who would it be?
Former First Ladies, especially Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush.
How do you like your eggs?
Scrambled or in an omelette. 

Ok so now it's your turn, if you are one of my readers then I already adore you so I pass any and all of these questions along to you! Find my other Libester answers here!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Grinch Who Stole Fall {aka me}

Oh hey there everyone loving fall and posting the million awesome fall things you're going to do...let's talk about why I'm over fall before it's even hit Texas, and despite the fact that it's only October 1st.

FYI everyone, it will not be "fall" by weather definition until like, December here.  All other Texan readers feel free to correct me, but last year on Thanksgiving I remember it being in the 70s.  So maybe that's considered Texas fall?!

So maybe it is the weather, maybe it's jealousy, I have no idea, but I am so tired of reading about fall bucket lists.  This might be unpopular of me to say but it's too late now, and no, I am not sorry.  So I am a little bit like the Grinch who stole fall now, and I shall embrace that title!

Proof that at least one other person agrees with me and this is what inspired my post today.

Although I *do* genuinely enjoy fall things and pumpkins and halloween candy, here are three things I won't be doing this fall and three things that I will get past my grinch-ness to do. 

1.  Making pumpkin s'mores while crafting a pumpkin garland while wearing pajamas made of pumpkin while drinking liquefied pumpkin infused with cinnamon pumpkin vodka while watching a show about how to integrate pumpkin into 100% of your life all the time always.

I love pumpkin in bread, pie, and cake form. But I seriously feel like the envelope is being pushed withe the pumpkin stuff on Pinterest lately.  Roasting pumpkin seeds is also totally acceptable!

2.  Being murdered or worse, just touched by a character at a haunted house/forest/corn maze/basement.

I hate haunted houses so much.  Along the same premise of the scary movie, WHY would I pay anyone to scare me?! One time in high school I faked puking at a haunted house so I didn't have to go in. I get anxiety even thinking about it now.

3.  Wearing awesome boots, sweaters and leggings combos.

So this one is just pure jealousy!  Not gonna lie, I miss the fall wardrobe options I used to have in the Midwest...sweaters, boots, scarves, cute hats and coats.  Yes, this one is all jealousy.  Sunday I tried this..I got leggings, and a slouchy striped sweatshirt out which was warm enough, so I ended up with sandals on.  That's literally as close as I will get to a fall outfit and I just need to accept it and move on.

Ok, so here are three fall bucket-list things I will  happily do!  This is the portion of the list where I prove I do not hate all things fall.

1.  Baking a pie.  

I will not bake it until Thanksgiving, but I will bake at least one or two pies for Turkey day.  I made my very first pumpkin pie last year, and also made an apple crisp we loved.  So I'm all about the warm fall desserts.

2.  Eating lots of Honeycrisp apples.

Weirrrrddd (heavy dose of sarcasm here), but I haven't seen this on a lot of bucket lists despite the fact that HC apples are only available in fall.  Truly, HCs are one of my favorite things about the fall season, so I definitely look forward to this every year.

3.  Decorating for fall.

I kind of want to shun this, but I was out at Target and saw lots of nice decorative items, and I'm thinking of taking a lunch-hour detour to Kirkland's this week at work. I am actually planning on making cheesecloth ghosts for us; here is the pin I will be working from, hopefully get this done during the week or over next weekend!

I am also going to haul out some of the other fall decorations we have.  I usually put a strand of pumpkin lights into a big glass bowl or vase thingy and have mostly neutral fall decs, not huge into having to do Halloween AND Thanksgiving, so I stick to pumpkins and things of that nature for the most part.  Honestly I think a nicely scented fall candle just about does the trick for me now, and is pretty low-maintenance.

What will you be passing on and going for this fall season?!  Do you ever feel like the holiday/seasons get totally over-done online?