Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lone Bellow Concert

We had these tickets for a while and were surprised when the date snuck up on us so fast.  We started listening to Lone Bellow when they were announced for the 2013 ACL line-up.  And let me tell you, we were bummed when the Sunday acts were cancelled due to flooding at Zilker Park.  Yes, Lone Bellow was scheduled for Sunday.  We swore we would see them next time they toured.  Next time ended up being at the newly opened Music Box Club here in Cleveland.  If you haven’t seen an act perform at the Music Box, you must go.  We were seated within 10 feet of the stage, enjoyed a craft brew, and comfortably enjoyed a brilliant concert with storytelling in between.  May have been one of our best concert experiences and reminded us of the first time we saw Shawn Mullins at the little club in Chapel Hill, North Carolina when we first met.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Floyd

During the Christmas break, B was charged with “the Floyd” from her teacher.  Floyd is a small, stuffed black lab that has exciting adventures.  Kids are tasked with taking “the Floyd” everywhere they go, then writing about Floyd’s adventures.  Not all of the adventures that Floyd enjoyed could be written down in the notebook, but here are a few of the more interesting pictures.

Floyd was enjoying a Wee-Heavy Stout over the holidays - shhh!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Excitement

Christmas morning is always a wonderful time in our house.  I love the tradition of watching the girls going straight to their stocking to see what surprises Santa left and B looking to see if Santa ate her cookies and shared carrots with the reindeer.  After all the presents are opened, we gather for breakfast strata - a tradition that we've managed to keep up for every Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We definitely have a lot to be grateful for.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Culinary Vegetable Institute and Date Night

We are very fortunate in our area to have a strong Farm to Table movement.  We are also very lucky to have the Culinary Vegetable Institute in our backyard (well, 45 minutes away).  They host dinners a few times a year to share their seasonal vegetables and we finally signed up for one.  We were treated to several small courses throughout the evening with an interesting story about each course.  We met Farmer Lee Jones (yes, he was in his trademark bibs!), were encouraged to wander around the kitchen (which we did) and dined on inventive appetizers and desserts.  My only regret is that it was so dark outside, preventing us from wandering around and viewing the outside grounds.

Such a great evening with the husband!

Monday, December 22, 2014

24 Days of Christmas

This year was hit or skip for the 24 Days of Christmas activities.  I had everything laid out and organized, but the holiday season was so hectic with my work, B’s activities, and Meg being at school.  My accuracy rate was probably 75% this year (although Meg would argue it's closer to 50%).  We still managed to hit all our Friday Night Family Activities.  The first Friday was watching Elf.  Second Friday was spent enjoying pizza from Angelos (another tradition).  But the most exciting family activity was our Lolly the Trolley tour, which included visiting the Christmas Story House.  I would highly recommend this tour for everyone who is a fan of The Christmas Story or just enjoys a tour of Cleveland and looking at the pretty lights.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Visiting Santa

Love this picture of B with Santa.  What’s better than sharing your Christmas list with Santa, then enjoying an ice cream at Mitchell’s?!

I wonder what they're talking about?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Learning to Ski

I think it’s important to learn to ski at an early age, if possible.  I learned at 34 (1 month before my 35th birthday to be exact) and would never recommend that.  For starters, I understand our hospitalization insurance too well and I don’t have the lower center of gravity that a small kid has.  When you hit the ground, it hurts…a lot.

Kids, on the other hand, are fearless and learn so much faster.  Meg started ski lessons at 7 and has also enjoyed snowboarding (especially being in class with Lil Wayne's kid) and cross country skiing.  Our schedules finally eased up enough, and Mother Nature cooperated with a nice blanket of snow. 

Love this pic of B.  I’m more pizza slice, and she’s totally French fries on her skis!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Playing Around at Target

Sometimes, the best memories and most fun can be had in a spontaneous way....in the aisles at Target!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sipping at Southern Tier

This has become one of our favorite go-to places when we’re in Chautauqua.  We stumbled across the Southern Tier brewery a few years ago and have marveled at their continuous expansion.  This Thanksgiving weekend, Greg and Megan treated themselves to Southern Tier ski hats.  So stinking cute those two!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Browns Game and Family Traditions

My husband has been a Browns season ticket holder for a few years now and we love going as a family.  The first year, we only had two season passes, so we would take turns for who went each game.  Then we upgraded to three seats, which ups the odds of who gets to go and who sits at home.  During this game, it was just us girls and we had so much fun.  Great weather, great view, great time with my girls. And lots of sun - as you can see from B squinting!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Turkey Trot 2014

A tradition I simply won’t miss.  My first TT was Thanksgiving 2003.  This would be my 11th.  Some Turkey Trots I ran with Greg, some alone, a few with B in the jogging stroller, I even ran during the pregnancy (only the 1-miler), and most recently, a few with Megan completing the 5-mile distance with me.  Whether she understands it or not, she’s locked in from here going forward.  Her reward is a calorie free day of eating and a venti Starbucks post-race.  Hello, Thanksgiving Day tradition!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Brrr! It was cold and icy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Learning to Ice Skate

I signed Bridget up for her first ice skating lesson.  We live in the snow belt where winter sports are big.  Meg learned to ice skate at 5 and I even learned to ice skate with her.  They have this neat little event for the kids called Friday Night Skate and Meg grew up loving this evening with her friends.  I figured it was time for B to learn to skate as well and, in the next year or two, she would also be enjoying FNS.
It was so cute watching her skate out there pushing the cone for balance.  By the end of the first lesson, she had shed the cone and was (timidly) forward skating end to end.  So proud of my little doodlebug!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Popsugar - Who Knew?!

Meg had received a Popsugar subscription as a birthday/Christmas present last year and had been trying to convince me that I needed to subscribe as well.  I finally broke down and now I’m hooked.  I’ve been enjoying the first of my six-month subscription and I’m pretty sure that I’ll be giving Popsugar subscriptions as Christmas presents this year.  I mean, seriously, who doesn’t love receiving mail – especially when it’s cool little fashion finds?!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

And the 21st Birthday Celebration Continues

Let’s be clear.  She’s getting older.  I am not.  She may be 21, but I am just 21 and change (a lot of change….but who’s counting, right?).

For her 21st birthday, we originally planned to go to Vegas (similar to Rory and Lorelai who went to Atlantic City and played 21 when Rory turned 21.  If you don't follow the Gilmore Girls, then can we even be friends?).  But Meg’s been to Vegas a few times already and it wasn’t as exciting to her to celebrate her big birthday there.  Instead, she asked if we could do Napa and enjoy wine and good food.  Are you kidding me? That’s a dream trip, right?  But before we could square away the plans, she changed her mind and asked if we could instead have a weekend trip to Gervasi Vineyard and invite a few of her college girlfriends to toast the big birthday.  Turned out to be a perfect choice.

The girls arrived and we enjoyed a bottle of wine in the lobby of our villa before going over to dinner.  It was nice to just unwind from our drives and catch up.  Dinner was strange, to say the least, because our waiter went into panic mode not knowing who was 21 and who was not.  Instead of simply handling this by “carding” everyone, he just panicked and didn’t come back to our table for over 20 minutes.  Seriously? This was not the wonderful experience I was hoping we would all have.  Eventually, we managed to get our food, but we only saw him one other time to check on us.  Pretty crappy server experience (although the food was delicious) so thank goodness the rooms and the lobby would soon make up for that.

After dinner, the girls opened their goody bags.  When you’re a little kid, every mom gives out goody bags to the kids before leaving a birthday party.  You usually got stickers, or bubbles, or a small toy.  For these girls, I had to be a little more clever.  Each got a face mask, lipstick, face wipes, champagne, and hair bands and other little girly things.  What I didn’t expect is that they would all bust out the face masks, don their robes and have a slumber party! What a great evening of face masks, robes, wine and cupcakes and doritos (a little know fact: doritos have no calories when it's your birthday).  We then broke out the games and played Headbanz for adults and had the best evening!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Happy 21st Birthday, Pumpkin!

Even though she's away at college, there was no way I was going to let her celebrate her 21st birthday and us not be together.  So I planned a little surprise.  I texted Meg that I had her favorite coffee drink waiting for her at Kofenya and she just had to run up there, tell the barista, and it was my way of making sure we shared a coffee drink on her birthday (she thought I was in Cleveland).  She showed up at Kofenya, thinking she was just "picking up her coffee" and instead, I surprised her by actually being there.  Best part was hearing her scream, "Mom!" across the coffee house...and then we both hugged, cried a little and sat there just like Lorelai and Rory at Luke's Diner enjoying coffee on her birthday.

I can't believe you're 21...time moves way too fast.  Love you, pumpkin!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Another Halloween Race in the Bag

I love our little tradition of running a Halloween race in costume.  B and I have been doing this since our first race in 2010 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with me pushing B throug a hilly 10k race.  This year, we ran the Brecksville 5k Trick or Trot race and B was amazing.  We both made our costumes this year - she was Batman (Batgirl!) and I was Robin (oh, the irony, I know).  Best of all, she scored her first PR by besting her previous 5k time by 2 minutes!  So next year, the goal is to break 39:xx!

Monday, October 20, 2014

San Antonio and ACL 2014

Flew into San Antonio for two reasons: 1) significant savings on the flight in and out of SA versus Austin; and 2) never been there.  While Greg made every effort to ensure this would be a nice little day trip, B was sick and it just wasn’t happening.  We managed to squeeze in the river walk, even had a nice lunch, but she was in and out of sleeping from her fever that we accomplished little else on the tourist side.  The kid’s a trooper, though, since she managed to rally just enough.

ACL did not disappoint.

We are not a family that leaves the kids at home.  We have raised our girls to behave well in public and to appreciate all the exciting opportunities out there.  They go to museums, art shows, evening dinners at nice restaurants and rock concerts.  Meg’s first concert was at 5 (Backstreet Boys) and B’s first concert was at 4 months (John Mayer).

Friday, we enjoyed Sam Smith, Childish Gambino, Foster the People, Beck and Outkast.  Great lineup for day one. I gotta say, Beck surprised me.  His vocals were so deep and powerful.  I wasn't expecting much, but was impressed.

Saturday, I finally got to see Interpol in concert (love them).  However, Saturday’s best performance would have to go to the Avett Brothers – Wow!  Banjo playing at its finest. We also enjoyed Head and the Heart, Iggy Azalea, Lana Del Ray, Broken Bells, and Eminem (he was the big reason for me on Saturday).

Sunday, Fitz and the Tantrums would have to be my favorite and clearly Greg was here for Pearl Jam.  We also were treated to performance by Spoon, Phantogram, Zedd, and Calvin Harris.

What we loved about Austin.

·         Pedicabs.  B loved her first ride in a pedicab with Greg, while Meg and I rapped to Ice Cube on our ride. I’m pretty sure our pedicab driver will forever be scarred by our mother-daughter duet!

·         Bloody Marys and Craft Beer.  A couple years ago, Greg and I found this great little place a short walk from our hotel that serves THE BEST BLOODY MARY.  The craft beer tent at ACL may have been the biggest luxury item for this family (including Meg, who had previously been on a steady college diet of Natty Light).

·         Brunch and lazing around till the afternoon acts got on stage.

·         Hot Yoga at Wanderlust Yoga Studio.  Got to share this with Meg and she was forever changed by it.

·         Just being together.  Love our family trips.

Can’t wait till the 2015 ACL line-up is posted!

Hello, Sunshine!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Growing Up in the Jogging Stroller

The jogging stroller was the best investment we've made.  It has logged in thousands of miles carting B places and races and many adventures.

Below shows her growing up, beginning in 2007 and ending with a Memorial Day race in May 2013.  She eventually became too big and too heavy for me to push, but what a wonderful journey we've had!

Top left: October 2007 in DC at my Marine Corps Marathon.  Top right: August 2008 in Cleveland.
Bottom left: August 2009 in Oregon at Voodoo Donuts.  Bottom right: October 2010 in New Mexico after our Day of the Dead 10k race.

To Left: at the Girls with Sole race in June 2010.  Top right: in Savannah, GA in 2011 at a 5k halloween race.
Bottom left: falling asleep after one of my runs in the Metroparks in 2012.  Bottom right: at our last race in May 2013 in Cleveland.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Megan

Hard to believe how young this girl looks.

2007 with the biggest slice of chocolate cake - Mmmm!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Father-Daughter Cedar Point Field Trip

The last day before school began, Greg whisked B away for a fun day at Cedar Point.  And thank goodness, I didn't go.  They rode rollercoasters! Plural! She was terrified, but my brave little 7-year-old hopped back on and managed to ride at least four times!  They had a great day together!

And as father and daughter, they checked off #19 on the Summer Bucket List!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Treadmill Accident

I gave myself a couple weeks after Muncie before running again.  It was nice to just hang out, not have any training regimen.  So one Saturday afternoon, Meg had a wedding to work; B had a birthday party; and Greg was cutting grass.  I figured it was the perfect time to hop on the treadmill and enjoy a nice little Robin-time by squeezing in a quick 3-miler.

Then, boom. 

Just like that, the treadmill spit me off, wedging me between the treadmill and the wall.  My shins looked like a sanding belt attacked.

Won't be running for a few weeks now....lost all layers of skin and damaged the underlying tissue.  Crap!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It Never Gets Easier

Today, we moved Meg into her first apartment, a few days before Junior year begins.

And both B and I sobbed, but at least we waited this time until the car pulled away.  It never gets easier letting your kid go, but she is excited and loves her school.  So as long as she is happy, I am, too.

Happy Junior year, pumpkin!


Bridget helping Megan make her bed (something we NEVER see at our house!).

Her first apartment - a duplex.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Yoga at the Cleveland Museum of Art

Meg and I love seeking out great little yoga studios when we travel and we try to take a yoga class together whenever she's home.  So before she headed off for her junior year of college, we managed to snag two spots at the special yoga class at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

There's still class openings and they continue through September.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Muncie Indiana Half Ironman

After not being allowed to finish at Kona in June, I had to have closure on the Half Ironman distance.  About 6 hours away in Muncie, Indiana, the Ironman series offered an event.  I had registered before our place even left Hawaii.

What was I thinking?!  Work got hectic.  I got lazy after coming back from Hawaii.  Work got hectic.  I got lazier.  You get the picture.  Training become non-existent and now I was scheduled to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, and run 13.1 miles.  Oh man, it's a good thing I'm not a quitter.

Meg joined me at this race.  "Joined" is the nice way of saying she had no choice.  She's my companion on all things crazy.  How in the world this kid managed to entertain herself is still a mystery.  Not even she knows the answer!

We met my parents and brother/sister-in-law in Columbus.  My brother and sister-in-law were visiting for the week and weekend and were kind enough to take Bridget for the next 36 hours.  Bridget was beyond excited to stay with her older cousin, Zoe, so it was a win-win for everyone.  Poor Meg, she would be stuck with me on a 36-hour adventure that would be one of the weirdest for her and I and that's saying a lot!

We arrived in a little town outside Muncie for the triathlon check-in, mandatory event coverage session and a little expo shopping.  The event was held on the grounds of the Prairie Creek Reservoir.  Gotta love Siri, but she routed us to the opposite side of the reservoir, told us to park our car and walk to the reservoir.  Are you serious?!  We were separated by water...no way we could walk! Ugh, it took us nearly a half hour to find our way around all the county roads before finding the check-in.  The funniest part...there was a super simple direct route that I would eventually find later...and thank goodness.

This is a pretty cool race in a remote location and with a neat camping and RV lot the race start.  I started thinking that if I did this race again next year, we might have to rent a camper.  Might be fun to have an evening under the stores and then to celebrate with S'mores.  Don't you think?

We pick up my race packet, listen to the race announcements, fret, pace, you know the drill.  Eventually, I check in my bike into the Transition area.  This was a much easier, more traditional check-in.  I got to lay out my towel, organize my bike and run stuff.  Not a lot of space between bikes, but at least there was only one transition area.  Seriously, that ended up being so much easier than Kona. I also learned many lessons from Kona...including simplifying my transition set-up.  This would turn out to be a smart move.

We headed back to Richmond, Indiana, about an hour from the race, but the closest place to get a hotel.  I will make sure I book earlier for the 2015 race (and yes, I'll be doing the 2015 race!).  Our carb loading meal was at the Olive Garden (blech!), but when you're in a town of chain restaurants, you can't be picky.  We hit up Kroger to get some food and snacks for Meg's marathon wait and then headed off to the hotel for some shut-eye.

I tell you, Meg and I could have fun in a paper bag.  She's such a good sport of making the most out of a really boring location!

Race Day
Time to get up before the Sun! Phew, it was early.  The Hampton Inn was kind enough to prepare for us a to-go bag, except it was stuff that was so processed, there was no way I was putting that crap in my body.  And I say this "tongue-in-cheek" because the week prior to the race had included late night evenings of work and no healthy food.  I think I had the unhealthiest diet in my 48 years that way alone.  Not a good thing, but it is what it is.

Got to the race start around 6:00 a.m. I did a practice swim, made a quick trip to the port-a-potty, hung around nervously until my neon orange group of ladies entered the water.  Lots of people wore wetsuits because the water temp was slightly below the wetsuit cutoff.  I made the decision to just wear my swim skin, which was smart because you overheat after awhile in the water and I didn't want to dehydrate myself.  It was going to be a super hot and humid day so I needed to be smart about not overheating and drinking plenty of water.

I was scheduled for an 7:45 a.m. swim start.  My swim went well.  I shaved a minute off my Kona swim time.  I was super impressed considering I had only been in the water maybe 4 times since Kona.  I would have shaved another minute, but I got hit hard by another swimmer within 50 yards of finishing and it disoriented me a bit.  Overall, I was happy.

Now run to the transition area, not walk! Pulled on my socks, cycling shoes, a little lube, a quick bite of Gu, sip of water, slid on the sunglasses and helmet and busted out of that transition area.

While I did finish under the cutoff, my bike portion was disappointing.  Next time, I will include a steady workout of plyometrics to improve on my leg strength.  I also need to work more on better gear shifting.  I made some key/rookie errors.  My bike is a heavier one (I really missed that lightweight Cervelo I had in Hawaii!).  The course had a lot of rolling hills and was very challenging in the heat and humidity.  It was a bit of a boring course, which made it tough to take my mind off the fact that my legs were like jelly.  I had pulled over for about a 5-minute stretch and inner complaint session when a police officer came over.  She asked if I was ok.  I told her, "Yes, I'm just tired and bitchy, but I'll pull it together."  It was very nice of her to care, but I was 40 miles into a 56-mile course and, yes, I was tired and bitchy! But I'm not a quitter.  So I pulled my act together, got back on that bike and hauled my ass into the transition area.

Well, I made it past the bike cutoff with about 20 minutes to spare.  Not a lot of time.  And I needed to finish the half marathon in under 3.5 hours.  Ok, in full disclosure, since mid-May, my longest run has been 10 miles and that was in mid-May.  My longest post-Kona run was 7 miles.  This half marathon was going to be more mental, than physical.  If I could get my mind to finish this daunting distance, then my legs would suck it up and do it, too.

At one point, I was pretty whiney.  I wanted to quit, but I couldn't because that would be selfish and unfair of me since Meg had been patiently waiting since 6:00 a.m. and I couldn't quit.  What kind of message would I be sending her - that it's ok to quit when things get hard.  It's not ok.  So I trudged along.  At the beginning of the run, I hooked up with another runner and we incorporated a run/walk method of 2 minutes run, 1 minute walk.  It helped and got us through the first half of the course.  We managed to beat the turn around cut-off by about 10-15 minutes.  It was a day of beating the clock.  I eventually had to go on my own because she was wanting to walk more and run much less.  I had to finish under the cutoff.  Disqualification was simply not an option.  So I headed off solo until I caught up with another runner around mile 10.  Funny thing is that he told me he did the whole swim course using the backstroke.  And I remember seeing him in the water. 

We ran two cones, walked one cone until we ran out of course cones.  At that point, we ran one full guardrail, walked a few mailboxes, until the awful hill.  We fast-walked the hill, but did so with a smile because we knew we were within a half mile or less of the finish line.  And we would finish well under the wire! We hustled through the finishing chute to the sound of the Black Keys playing.  The sound of the Akron band greeting me at the finish line was perfect.  But even more perfect than that was Meg greeting me at the finish line.  I actually cried and hugged her because this was one of the hardest things I had done and was so glad and proud that I finished!

Finished in 8:30 and change.  Unbelieveable experience.  I will definitely do this again next year.  Muncie, I'm coming after you!

Best story ever from Megan.  I asked her what she did while waiting for me.  She said she wasn't sure, but she managed to kill about 10 hours.  I asked if she slept, she said "No."  I asked if she read her book, she said "not really."  I asked if she ate, she said "some." Hysterical.  Only a 20-year-old could waste 10 hours and not have any idea how.  She did meet the third place male, Andrew Starykowicz, and had fun celebrating with his group.  She got to hang out with some of the faster triathletes and enjoyed people watching.  What a sport!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Edgewater Live at Edgewater Park

Thank you, Cleveland Metroparks, for taking over stewardship of Edgewater Park.  We had another fun outdoor activity in Cleveland.  Yummy dinner thanks for the food trucks.  Beautiful views of Lake Erie, including the Nalu stand-up paddleboards.  Some seriously good people watching and an overall fun evening as a family.

Best of all, we checked off #1 on our Summer Bucket List.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Fun at the Farm

Every Summer Bucket List should include a trip to Szalay's for their sweet corn and fresh fruits and vegetables.  We loaded up with some of the best farm produce in Northern Ohio and were even treated to a visit by our friend, Karen and her daughter.  What a great afternoon!

We scored the best seat, which is a family table that swings and had a canopy keeping the brutal summer sun off of us! Look at those two girls digging into their sweet corn!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wade Oval Wednesday

Us girls tried our first Wade Oval Wednesday as part of our Summer Bucket List and had so much fun!

We enjoyed dinner on the lawn while sitting on our picnic blanket.  Listened to some fun music and did a lot of people watching.

Thank you, CLE, for another fun outdoor activity!

Checked off #2!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Browns Training Camp

We were fortunate enough to score a few tickets to the opening day of Browns Training Camp.  B got to make a cool sign as well as enjoy some fun kids games and activities.  Hotter than hades kind of day in the sweltering sun (which we're not used to in the CLE), but overall a great morning by everyone!

And now we've checked off #7 on our Summer Bucket List!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Irish Festival Fun

Another summer bucket list item checked off our list! And best of all, it was a fun day for Bridget and her cousins as well as our extended family.  So many wonderful activities in Cleveland.

#14 check!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kayaking on Lake Erie

Alternate title could be I Never Knew My Arms Could Be So Tired.  Kayaking is exhausting.  Yet I had so much fun and can't wait to do it again.  All four of us rented kayaks from 41 degrees North.  Greg and Bridget were in a double kayak, while Meg and I each had our own.  I was slow and disorganized as a paddler, but soon got the hang of it and now I can't wait to do it again!

#15 check!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fourth of July Weekend in Put-in-Bay

As part of our Summertime Bucket List, we wanted to spend the day in Put-in-Bay.  Meg's friend from college joined us and we couldn't believe how much fun we had.  I didn't know what to expect, but soon found out that we can have fun anywhere, doing just about anything!

As all northern Ohioans know, the Jet Express is the quickest way to get to the islands.  What a fun way to arrive.  We landed in the town square, grabbed our obligatory golf cart, and headed out for our island adventure. We drove around the island as if we had a purpose, stopped in some strange places (one bartender generously gave Bridget a bag of cheetos), had lunch at an open air BBQ joint, visited a winery (where we had the funniest cheese tray), and managed to find a bar or two for some interesting people watching and to have snacks.  When Greg bought our round trip tickets, he had to state the time we'd be coming back.  When I heard him say 9:30pm, I thought "No way can we entertain ourselves THAT long on such a tiny island."  Well, I was wrong.  We just managed to sprint back to the boat in time to board!

We can now check off #10! Done.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Surprise From My Coworkers

After completing the 50-state challenge, my coworkers surprised me with this beautiful cake and a plaque to hang in my office commemorating the wonderful adventure I had with my family.

Monday, July 7, 2014

50 States Completed

All 50 are done.  What started out as a conversation on a bar napkin in 2008 soon turned out to be a wonderful, yet daunting, challenge.  And we did it.  As a family.  Since completing Hawaii in June, we've had several conversations regarding which race we liked the most - which was more challenging or family-friendly or had the best medal or the best finish line food.  It's hard to answer these questions because we had so much fun tackling the distances and races and providing the girls with educational opportunities that you can only achieve through travel.

So here's a few of my favorite categories:

  • Best race with husband.  Hands down it would the Arkansas adventure race.  Scared the holy hell out of me.  I had never been mountain biking.  I hadn't been canoeing since I was 16 (don't even think about doing the math!).  And I most certainly was impaired when it came to reading a compass and actually finding my way in and out of a forest.  But Little Rock was awesome.  We visited the world's biggest nacho cheese festival, watched the Arkansas Razorbacks football game at a local bar listening to everyone say "Woo pig sooey" over and over.  And we had fun as a couple.
  • Best race with Megan.  This is a tough one.  I loved running side by side with her in the University of Notre Dame Sunburst 5k race where she complained the whole time until hearing the band playing on the field, sprinted, and beat me by 4-5 seconds! It was also awesome to see her finish 3rd in her age group at the Savannah Halloween 5k race.  A beautiful course, but the best part was she wore he medal the entire weekend, except when she showered! Finally, it could have been the Rhode Island 6-hour Ultra race, where she sat in the car between my 2.5 mile laps, came over to cheer me as I came around the corner, and then be greeted by me at the finish line where I said, "Ive had enough of this running. Let's go shopping at Nordstrom's."  And that's exactly what we did.  She was always my biggest cheerleader, regardless of the race distance or how boring the day would eventually become.
  • Best race with Bridget.  Along the way, Bridget and I started the tradition of running a Halloween race.  We would dress up and, in the beginning, I would push her in the jogging stroller.  Our race in New Mexico, the stroller didn't show up in time for the race (no thanks to United!).  Greg got on the web, found a jogging stroller rental place, and had a replacement stroller delivered to my hotel.  He did all this from Cleveland!  In Seattle, she ran her first kids race, which was a 1-mile fun run.  We were dressed up as two Draculas and she kicked ass! We've run 3 more races since then and she even completed her first 5k locally and, of course, it was a Halloween race. For race experience, it melted my heart that after I won 3rd place in my age group, I received a trophy for the Alice in Wonderland Little Ruell 10k race in Oklahoma.  Bridget carried my trophy around the entire weekend - she even held on to it while sleeping in her car seat!
  • Best family vacation.  This is a tough one.  Hawaii for obvious reasons.  Alaska was pretty cool, too, especially being greeted by Bridget at the finish line holding a bouquet of the longest-stemmed dandelions I've ever laid my eyes on. But the funnest of the all was at the most magical place on earth - Disneyworld.  I ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon in 2009. I wasn't trained properly and that was reflected in my horrible 2:40 finish.  But the race opened up the MGM Studio Park for the runners and their families only.  We got to meet ALL the princesses, take tons of Disney character pictures, enjoy the rides and eat some of the most unhealthy food on the planet.  It was a wonderful family vacation had by all of us.
  • Best finish line food.  Another tough question.  The Ann Arbor 10k had fresh fruit by Whole Foods, which was such a delight, and fresh-baked breads from Zingerman's.  Yum!  The Des Moines, Iowa half marathon had an amazing smorgasbord of deliciousness as well, but the Prairie Fire half marathon in Kansas had piping hot Krispie Kreme donuts and fresh, locally roasted coffee at the finish line.  Now that's why I run.
  • Best schwag.  Hands down, I loved the Portland, Oregon Freshwater Trust Triathlon for the schwag.  Each finisher received a hat (that I still wear everywhere), a stainless steel water bottle, and a pint of Descheutes.  Second place would go to the Ironman 70.3 Honu triathlon in Hawaii, where we received hat, shirt, and the best tasting Maui potato chips made on this earth!
  • Best scenery. The Crazy Horse half marathon and the Park City Half Marathon tie for this category.  Both races took my breath away.  We loved Mount Rushmore and Rapid City, South Dakota.  Would even go there again! In Park City, I got to watch the Tour of Utah and meet Bob Roll (swoon - if you're a cycling/Bobke fan).  They were both had outstanding organization, race volunteers, and amenities.  I would run both of these races again and highly recommend others enter as well.  
  • My favorite race experiences.  It wasn't the distance that made the race special.  And I've run big races and really small races.  I definitely like the small, hometown races the best, without a doubt.  I loved the Bill Luti 5-Miler. I ran cross country in high school so this race was even more neat.  Bill Luti was the high school cross country coach for 4 decades.  He stood at the 2-mile mark and yelled out the time.  I heard so many people yell out "Thanks, Coach Luti" that it truly made the race experience wonderful.  I also loved the Jerry Zucker Metric Century Plus Ride, where I met George Hincapie.  I rode for 69 miles with two wonderful women, who were 20 years older than me and could kick my ass in cycling.  Truly humbling and rewarding experience.  But I will never forget my first marathon - the PF Chang's Marathon in Phoenix, Arizona.  I had no idea what to expect and yet I was nervous and excited at the start line and overjoyed at the finish line.  Greg and Megan greeted me and he gave me a beautiful Tiffany necklace to congratulate me.
It's been a wonderful challenge and I count my blessings that I was able to do this with my family and in good health (good health is an arbitrary phrase, you know).  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bridging to Brownies

My little girl is growing way too fast.  As parent, how many times do we say that? The same day we returned from our Hawaii trip, Bridget had her Daisy ceremony where she "bridged" over to Brownies.  Such a sweet ceremony and so neat to see this mean something to her.

Monday, June 30, 2014

An Ocean Wedding

While in Maui, we would celebrate our 10th anniversary.  A pretty big milestone, you know.  We got married on 6-5-04, a very easy date to remember.  What I couldn't anticipate was the surprise that would await me.

After enjoying a nice morning at the pool, Greg told me he had booked a massage for me around 1:00pm.  As soon as my massage concluded, the masseuse greeted me with a card that explained we were having a vow renewal on the beach and there would be a dress waiting for me.

Girls getting ready.

Greg had arranged for an oceanside wedding, a photographer to take family photos (which we've been wanting to do for awhile), and a back-up minister.  The best surprise is that he and Megan had been conspiring for months to do this...and she got her minister license so that she could perform the ceremony! In 2004, she walked down the aisle with me and in 2014 she would be the minister.  Hysterical!

These are just a few of my favorite pictures.  What a wonderful surprise!

Afterwars, we were famished.  The sunset vow renewal meant that it was after 8pm and it was time to eat! Greg had made reservations at the italian restaurant at the Four Seasons.  On our walk over to the hotel, we popped in at the Maui film festival and Meg got to be up close with Emma Roberts.  May have been the highlight of her trip! Since it was getting close to our reservation time, we headed over to the Four Seasons for what may be one amazing meal.  We even tried a new drink - an Italian Shandy, which was a Perioni with Lemoncello...Mmmm!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Fun Around Maui

We arrived safely on our little 8-seater plane.  Holy crap, I had never been in a puddle hopper before and was surprised over how low we flew.  I could see the water VERY WELL.  I had to be brave and hold Bridget's hand, who sat across from me and not let her know that I was freaking out as well.  But our pilots were fantastic and got us there just fine.  Phew!

Maui is stunning.  I was not prepared for all the natural beauty.  While the Big Island is a bit barren and full of lava rock, Maui is lush with foliage and greenery.  Every day was a calm 80-85 degree day with sun and a clear sky.  A tropical paradise.

We checked into our hotel and I would soon realize that the Fairmont chain would compete for my love and affection with Kimpton.  The Fairmont Kea Lani was amazing from every single vantage point.  Just look at this.

Top left: view from lobby. Top right: view from our room.
Bottom left: great action shot of B enjoying the pool. Bottom right: Me & pumpkin sporting our beautiful leis.
For our first night in Maui, Greg had booked us for the Old Lahani Luau.  What a treat! There were several kid-friendly activities for Bridget, learning to dance for me, and other little activities to enjoy before dinner.  We even were greeted with mai tais to drink when we arrived!

One of our first sightseeing activities during the day was our trip to the Maui Plantation Farm.  The best part was sampling fresh pineapple in the fields and learning about the 3 different types of sweetness.  Even better was receiving 4 large pineapples to take back to CLE!

Sunset ocean cruise would have to rank toward the top on this trip.  Beautiful views of Maui from the ocean, a great little ukulele performer, and talking to the captain made this excursion so much fun!

Not everyone was happy about the boat ride!

And now I would have to get ready for the biggest surprise of the entire trip!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hawaii Family Fun

After a shower and a good night's sleep, we spent our final full day on the Big Island at Volcano National Park and sightseeing around the island.  Such breathtaking scenery.

After a little fun and sightseeing, it was time to check out of the Orchid and head over to Maui.  Our ride awaits us!

Is it just me or does this look really small?! They had to weigh us and our bags...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summertime Activity List in the CLE

Last year we started the tradition of making a list of summertime activities that we would like to do as a family.   It's impossible to check ALL the items off our list, but we make one heck of an effort doing so.

In honor of the first day of summer, we hope to tackle these 20 activities in or around Cleveland:

  1. Go to Edgewater Live sponsored by the Cleveland Metroparks.
  2. Wade Oval Wednesdays in University Circle.
  3. Hale Farm in Peninsula
  4. Akron Zoo to see their amazing penguin exhibit.
  5. Goodtime III.  It's a joke in our family that I've never been on this (cheesy, yes).
  6. Catch an Indians game.
  7. Attend a Browns practice at their Berea facility.
  8. Ride the Towpath.
  9. Have lunch at Szalay's Farm.  Best corn-on-the-cob!
  10. Go to Put-in-Bay.
  11. Go to a drive-in movie.
  12. Attend the Summer Market in Avon Lake.
  13. Get scoop of Honey Hut Ice Cream in honor of the Bean, who would take my husband there every summer.
  14. Go to the Irish Festival.
  15. Kayak in Lake Erie.
  16. Go to Yoga at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
  17. Attend one Cleveland Orchestra concert at Blossom.
  18. Enjoy Summertime Treat Night - hotdogs, s'mores, roasted marshmallows).
  19. Go to Cedar Point.
  20. Attend at least one farmer's market or pick fresh fruit and vegetables at a farm.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Two Islands, One Big Race, 50 States

We did it.  We hit 50.  50 states, that is.  And just like that, a goal was reached!

Hawaii was amazing and was everything we thought it would be and more.  We arrived mid day in Kona to one of the most beautiful sights we have seen.  Just look at the view from our hotel.

For the first 5 days we stayed in Kona at the Fairmont Orchid.  Absolutely beautiful with friendly, attentive staff.  Highly recommend this hotel, if you're planning a trip to the Big Island.  First thing we did when we landed late Wednesday was check-in to the hotel which, by the time we landed, was well after our bed time.  Dinner, relax and take in the scenery was all that we planned to do.  And sleep.

The girls enjoying one of the many cool activities at the Fairmont Orchid - lei making!

Thursday, we headed over to Kona to pick up our bikes we had reserved.  I got a sweet Cervelo named Gino and Greg found a Cannondale that would be his ride for the race. We brought our own pedals, but never thought about bringing our own seats.  We would soon learn the importance of that mistake!  Rest of there day was spent poolside and relaxing while squeezing in a little scuba and light open water swim.

Friday, was packet pick-up and athlete check-in.  If we weren't nervous before, we would be now.  We grabbed our packets, ankle timing chip, swim caps, signed our waivers, and drank lots of water.  The race would be hot, hilly and humid.  Hydration was necessary.  Oh, and we hit the expo shop and found a couple cool shirts with all the racers names on the back.  What a great keepsake!

Friday evening, we took our bikes to mandatory bike check-in.  The Ironman 70.3 Honu race was unlike any other triathlon I had raced.  Normally, you check in your bike the morning of the race and lay out your towel, organize your transition area, and then head down to the water.  Not this Half Ironman.  We had to drop off our "T2 Run" bag during check-in.  No room for mistakes at this point.  Then, early Friday evening, we rode our bikes to the bike checkin, which was about 7 miles from the hotel.  Holy crosswinds, batman.  What the hell was I thinking when I decided to enter this race?! I know, I thought "Go big or go home." Now this was suddenly feeling like a super crazy, super insane choice!  We found our assigned rack, checked-in our bikes, and took the bus back to the hotel....in silence...freaking out inside.  We don't get CROSSWINDS in Cleveland.  My right hand and shoulder blades were already aching from the death grip that I had trying to prevent myself from tipping over on the bike from the forceful direction of the winds.  This was after a 7-mile ride.  I had to come out of the water, hop on to the bike, and cycle 56 miles! Uh oh.

The rest of the evening was light and easy.  Early dinner, early to bed.

It's 5am? How can it be 5am? Holy crap, we're doing this.  And off to the Athlete Bus we went with all the other racers at our hotel.

As soon as we arrived at the T1 Transition Area, I dropped by T1 cycling bag and headed down to the open water swim.  Nerves were on heightened alert.  I knew I could swim the distance.  I even felt comfortable with the open water and channeled my inner Crowie Alexander Got Milk Commercial (The open water is my playground, he says).  I knew I could do this.  But could I do it with nearly 1,000 other athletes, with waves, in salt water, and under 1 hour 15 minutes? And the women were the last wave, so there was no cushion for finishing as the clock started ticking with our group.  Greg and the male group got a 7 minute cushion over the women.

I did.  Made it out of the water in 1:03 and change.  A bit slow, but I'm pretty sure I zigged and I zagged way more than necessary.  My dad always said I ran like a Singer sewing machine on zigzag stitch.  Pretty sure I swim the same way.  But hell, I did it.  But this is where the first of many mistakes began.

I walked across the sandy beach to the showers they had to rinse off the salt.  I piddled.  Seriously, I stood there and enjoyed the rinse.  What was I thinking?! Then I walked the 200+ yard hill to the transition area, thinking I was conserving energy.  No no no.  The (and yes. there's another "then"), I couldn't find things logically in my transition bag, had to dump out the contents, sort through my crap, find my gels (which would NOT slide into my back pockets in my race top because I was soaking wet), and had to insert my gels into my bra.  Mental note, get a bento box and organize your fuel, Robin!  I start to head out of transition and then realize I forgot to apply my hoohah cream.  No way was I going to tackle 56 miles on an uncomfortable seat without the miracle of hoohah cream.  So back to the port potty I went.  By the time I hopped on my bike and exited transition, I spent nearly 20 minutes in transition! Stupid.

There was a giant hill immediately out of transition.  And this was only the first of MANY hills I would encounter on this fine Saturday morning.  The hills, the headwinds, the crosswinds, and the fact that I was not at a good racing weight, would all challenge me.  I raced a good portion by myself, which also meant I didn't have to worry about drafting concerns!  No penalty tent for this girl.  Since we weren't allowed to have music, it also meant I had a lot of alone time...so I sang.  And I only know the words to a few songs...mostly rap songs.  And my voice is awful!

While the scenery was beautiful, I remember very little about the course other than it was hot, hilly, humid, but filled with breathtaking views of the ocean...and lots of lava rock.  The turn around was in a neat little town called Hawi (pronounced with a "v" instead of "w") and I was so grateful to be able to say I was over halfway!  About 40 miles into the race, I ran into Greg, who was with the medical team due to leg cramps.  I pulled over to check on him and chatted with the medical team to make sure he was ok.  It was a wicked hot day and it got the best of many athletes.

The final 5-mile stretch was through lava fields and I was stunned over just how how my body would soon feel.  I was rounding the last couple miles and a volunteer told me that it was nearly 12:30pm - the cutoff and I better hurry.  As I entered the chute, I was told I missed the cutoff by 4 minutes.  4 lousy minutes! I racked my bike and paced a bit, considering whether I should just dart off on the run anyway.  The run cutoff allowed athletes in the transition area until 12:45pm to get out on the run course.  I still had 10 minutes and only needed to slide my feet into my running shoes, throw on my hat, and head out.  I wanted to do this so bad because I had the legs to do it.  It's my thing, running.  But I'm only a rule follower and that was that.

So I wandered off to the medical tent to see if Greg had checked in.  Afterwards, we grabbed our t-shirts and a couple beers and watched as the finishers came through the run cute.

Amazing experience.  I conquered the swim.  I handled the bike just fine in all the heat.  And I knew I had the legs left for the run.  This could only mean one thing...I just HAD to sign up for another half ironman to prove that I could do this.  I had to have closure.

But first, I needed a shower.  Boy, did I smell!