Sunday, September 25, 2011

Seen on my run: Sag Valley Trail / Swallow Cliff Woods. Plus Old School Maggie.

I found an awesome new place to run: Sag Valley Trail in Swallow Cliff Woods in Palos Park. Actually, it's not "new," I just never got around to checking it out. There is an 8 mile loop, but the nice thing is there are connector trails, so you can easily do a 4-5 mile loop if you're not up for 8 or more miles. It's a very hilly (by Chicago standards) trail, but between the gravel and the fact that the trail is also used for horse-back riding, you have to pay attention while you run.

The only drawback is there are no water sources along the trail, not even those handcrank dealies for well water. I may need to get a hydration belt. I did use my own make-shift system today - I had a couple of those travel squeeze bottles that you can take on an airplane for your shampoo (that have never been used) and I filled them with water and tucked them into my sports bra. Worked pretty well, but between the two it was only 6oz of water. I only have so much space in my bra, so I don't know how many more I can cram in there. Plus being so close to my body, they didn't stay cool very long.

Anyway, my run was pretty slow because I kept stopping to take photos (OK, and because of the hills).

Sag Valley Trail

Sag Valley Trail

Swallow Cliff Woods

This is not the trail I ran. This is a little footpath venturing off the gravel trail. I figured I was going to hit enough hills, I didn't need to try to scale these too.

Sag Valley Trail

Sag Valley Trail

Swallow Cliff Woods

Sag Valley Trail at LaGrange Rd

This point was almost 5 miles in. Beyond this underpass the trail continues for another 3 miles before it completes the loop. Unfortunately, because of rain, this was flooded. You can kind of see the reflection in the standing water on the other side of the underpass. I didn't feel like running through the water in my new running shoes, especially considering how much horse poop was on the trail (you can see some in the bottom left) and probably also in the water. So I turned around and with the connector trails was able to do 6.7 miles instead.

Sag Valley Trail

Swallow Cliff old toboggan slides

What is left of the old toboggan slides. To the right are the stairs going down.

Stairs at Swallow Cliff

From the bottom of the stairs, which are still there and used for fitness. The hill has been filled in a bit to be less steep and is now used for sledding.

Back in January or February 1989, when I was 6, my parents took us tobogganing at this very same spot.

Swallow Cliff Toboggan Slides 1989

I think my mom still has that hat. It's black faux fur and ties under her chin.

Swallow Cliff Toboggan Slides 1989

The above picture was taken from the bridge, which you can see in the background of the photo below. And obviously further behind the bridge is the hill and the toboggan chutes.

Swallow Cliff Toboggan Slides 1989

The toboggans chutes eventually required expensive repairs, and instead were closed in 2004 and demolished in 2008.

Topolobampo, or, my foodie-crush on Rick Bayless

By Flickr User embem30
I'm not a "foodie." I do watch cooking shows, but only the ones on WTTW Channel 11 (Chicago's PBS station). Sure, I can follow a recipe, and I love eating good food, but I'm just not one of those foodie people. Nor do I have much desire to be. The Sailor would like to become a little bit more of a foodie, especially when it comes to desserts and baked goods (a desire of his that I fully support for obvious reasons). But I still enjoy watching cooking shows, just to see how stuff is made and maybe pick up a trick here or there. My favorite cooking shows are America's Test Kitchen and Jacques Pepin's Fast Food My Way.

But Mexico One Plate At a Time with Rick Bayless is my absolute favorite. I looove Mexican food and Rick Bayless seems like a pretty cool, laid-back guy. I love the episodes where he starts off in Mexico, eating street vendor food, and then recreates it in his kitchen. He also has a really boss outdoor kitchen. And I hear he takes his restaurant staff on trips to Mexico. (Funny, the Olive Garden never took me to Italy! What's up with that?)

So, for my birthday, The Sailor made reservations at Topolobampo, Rick Bayless's fancy-pants restaurant in Chicago. (Excuse me, "one of America's only fine-dining Mexican restaurants" according to the web site.)

My birthday was in August and dinner was last night, if that gives you any idea how far in advance you have to book reservations.

Anyway, I'm not going to go into some wanna-be foodie review of the place, because like I said, I'm not a foodie.

I'm just going to tell you that the food was excellent, and the service was top-notch. What I loved the most about the service is you could tell the front-of-house staff worked as a team. We had our main server, but I couldn't count how many staff came to our table to bring us food or take our order - and they all explained the food when it arrived, even the guacamole. Our food order was actually taken by the Sommelier, I think because our main server was held up at another table. And then as I was walking out, the Sommelier showed me to the ladies room. And I'm pretty sure Rick Bayless's Dad is one of the maitre d's, or it was a coincidence that one of them was an older gentleman who looked a lot like Rick Bayless.

By Flickr User fatfoodtaxi
If you are interested, this is what we ate:
  • Guacamole: Complimentary. Served with cucumber and ... something else for dipping. The something else was white. I have no idea what it was. Some kind of vegetable. 
The following descriptions are copied from the Rick Bayless / Topolobampo website:  
  • Trio, Trio, Trio: Sampling of Ceviche Fronterizo, Ceviche Yucateco & Coctail de Atun Tropical
  • Tlalpollo: Wild and cultivated mushrooms (slow-cooked in a sealed pot with epazote, hoja santa), homemade suckling pig ham, heirloom alubia blanca with Gunthorp bacon, roasted baby beets, pickled garlic scapes. 
  • Ravioli Autóctona de Huitlacoche: Free-form ravioli of melt-in-your-mouth corn masa noodles, huitlacoche (inky corn mushroom), velvety sweet corn-chipotle sauce, camote two ways, purslane salad (plantain vinegar, pumpkinseed oil, pitiona).
  • Pollito al Tamarindo: Pan-roasted Gunthorp heritage breed rock hen, tangy tamarindo-ancho chile sauce, grill-charred eggplant, tomatillo relish with red knob onion, garlic scapes.
  • Mole Verde de Mariscos con Puerco: Roasted Baja bay scallops, Hog Island (SC) little neck clams and Gunthorp pork belly in Oaxacan green mole (tomatillo, roasted garlic, epazote, hoja santa, parsley), little corn masa dumplings, shaved fennel bulb plus its fronds and flowers. 
We were also served corn tortillas, which were good for scooping up the remaining mole and chile sauces. 
By Flickr User ALifeWorthEating
My favorite of the meal was the trio of Ceviches, and also the grill-charred eggplant that came with the Pollito al Tamarindo. YUM. That's my best review of it. I also had a Mexican Mojito and The Sailor had a Dos Equis.

The total cost of the meal was $150 plus tip, not too bad considering if we both got one of the tasting menus it would have been $180 for the food alone (add an extra $60 per person for the expertly paired wines).

If you want to make reservations, they recommend 8-10 weeks in advance. Otherwise, from what I overhead while waiting for The Sailor (he was on duty this weekend so we had to meet there), the wait for a table was 2 1/2 to 3 hours, although I assume that was for Frontera Grill (the restaurant is two in one - Frontera is the more casual room up front, Topolo is the more upscale room in back). My guess is you can only get a table at Topolo with reservations. My Dad said when he and my Mom were staying downtown near Frontera/Topolo, they saw people lining up outside of the door around 4pm when the restaurant opened, I assume to get their name on the list so they could eat dinner around a reasonable time.

I'm not really into fancy restaurants - I really only go to them for very special occasions, so I don't know if I would want to go back to Topolo - I think if we were going to spend that kind of money, I'd rather check out another fancy restaurant in Chicago first. However, I would like to check out Rick Bayless's other restaurants sometime - Frontera Grill and XOCO (or Frontera Fresco, or if I ever fly out of O'Hare, Tortas Frontera), just because they have different, more casual (and affordable) menus, and like I said, I loooove Mexican food.

Finally, on the way home, The Sailor and I wondered - does Rick Bayless ever eat at Taco Bell? You know, like after a night of drinking or something. Or for the unexpected kitsch factor. Or perhaps Chipotle is a more reasonable option when he wants to go foodie slumming?  Or maybe Pepe's (which was my "Mexican fine dining" growing up)? What do you think? Do five-star chefs always eat high quality food?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

When what you want is out of reach

My mom intentionally put bird seed just outside of the dining room door, where my cat normally spends her days watching the birds and squirrels ... and mice.

Cat & Mouse

Cat & Mouse

Cat & Mouse

Cat & Mouse

Cat & Mouse

I'm sure there is some kind of metaphor in here ... sometimes you have to know your limits. Accept when something is impossible. But get as much out of it as you can.

And curse your evil human overlords for mocking you. Too bad she'll never know this was all intentional.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ani Difranco at The Vic, 9/21/11

I'm a huge Ani Difranco fan and try to catch her show whenever she's in Chicago. Last night was my fourth time doing so:

Anaïs Mitchell opening for Ani Difranco

Anaïs Mitchell opened

Ani Difranco at The Vic Theater, Chicago, 9/21/11

Then it was time for Ani 

Ani Difranco at The Vic Theater, Chicago, 9/21/11

The show was just Ani + her guitar, no drummer or bassist.  

Ani Difranco at The Vic Theater, Chicago, 9/21/11

She didn't need it though, she has so much energy, so much presence

Ani Difranco at The Vic Theater, Chicago, 9/21/11

It was a great show. She's such an awesome performer. She played the sh*t out of Swandive, among my favorite songs ever.

She also talked about how now that she's older and wiser, and recently did a compilation album, she was reflecting on her earlier music. I forget what she said exactly, but something along the lines of "What was I so angry about? Someone needs to get over herself!" It was pretty cute.

Ani's setlist (thanks to

1 God's Country
2 Angry Anymore
3 Manhole (!!!!!)
4 Promiscuity
5 Unworry
6 Napoleon
7 You Had Time
8 Lag Time
9 Jay
10 Marrow
11 As Is
12 TR`W (aka W.O.W.)
13 Little Plastic Castle
14 Swandive (!!!!!!)
15 Mariachi
16 Which Side Are You On
17 Both Hands
18 Angel From Montgomery

Monday, September 19, 2011

A First: Finally Joined a Group Run

Ever since I started running (last winter), I kept telling myself to join a group run somewhere. Whether it was with a running club or just regular fun runs at a local running store, just go check it out. For a variety of reasons - it would push me to run faster, and it would be nice to meet other runners, especially because I like racing much more than The Sailor does, so if I'm at a race alone, it would be nice to see some familiar faces. Plus I'm debating doing the Chicago Marathon in 2012 (shhhhhh don't tell anyone) and I think it would be silly to try to go at it alone when I can go at it with a group.

Anyway ... I never did check out a group run (before tonight) because it either didn't fit well with my work schedule or I was just a big chicken. (Moreso the latter.)

Tonight I finally joined my first group run (at a local running store), and guess what?
  • I wasn't the slowest person there.
  • I didn't run alone and friendless. 
New shoes
Mizuno Wave Nirvana ... now I have them in both colors.
I ran with six other runners, we did 4.25 miles around a "hilly" subdivision at a 10 minute pace. Hilly is in quotes because by Chicagoland standards, it was hilly. By New England standards (the site of my next race), I'm sure it was nothing. I need to find some more "hills" during the next week.

Before the group run, I bought a new pair of shoes. My legs have been feeling a little tight/tired during the past few runs, so I figured it would be a good idea to rotate in a new pair. And also picked up some more sport beans, gu chomps and a stick of body glide. (Exciting, no???? The sport beans are berry flavored and the gu chomps are orange. The body glide is unscented.)

It was eerily foggy on the way home, see:

Foggy sunset.  Flossmoor Rd & Central Ave.
This is actually a grasslands area in the middle of a forest preserve.
Not ... the Planet of the Apes or some deserted landscape.
Although I've never seen Planet of the Apes, so I'm just guessing what it looked like.

Also I think some of my Facebook friends might un-friend me because this was my status update tonight:

Oh well!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Seen on my run

Today's goal was 10 miles. It was a rainy day, luckily I was able to get my miles in with only minimal light drizzle. I debated driving to a forest preserve about 45 minutes away because it has some good hills, and I need to run on hills before my half in New Hampshire on October 1, but with the rainy weather, I decided to just start and end the run at home, doing the bulk of it on the trail nearby.

Of course I stopped along the way to take pictures.

Old Plank Road Trail

Orchard Drive


Was it re-gifted?
Wonder what happened to the gazebo ...

Illinois Central Railroad Car
My Grandpa used to work for ICRR

Best post-run drink
Best post-run drink (for the lactose-intolerant)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Vintage Illinois Wine Festival

Vintage Illinois Festival at Starved Rock 

This afternoon, The Sailor and I went to Vintage Illinois at Matthiessen State Park (just south of Starved Rock State Park) with his sister, brother-in-law and best friend. For $15, we each got a souvenir wine glass and seven tasting tickets (two extra tasting tickets for buying in advance online). Each "taste" was equal to half a glass of wine (see The Sailor's glass for an example). There were a bunch of wineries there, but I don't remember which ones I tried, or even the names of all the wines I tried. I just know that I went up to ones with shorter lines (especially if the lines were in the shade) and asked for a dry red. Sometimes I mixed it up and asked for a dry white. At one tent I went hog-wild and tried their port, and at another they had mead! I really mixed it up. Although I got dry mead (or at least I told them I prefer dry and they poured me something dry).

But I know what I like. Dry red wine. The drier the better. The Sailor is the complete opposite. He prefers sweet wine, the sweeter the better.

Next year if we go, we need to bring some camp chairs. And even though it said no outside food or beverages, we need to bring some cheese and bread. Like the many other sneaky folks who brought in their own snacks. And dogs. Apparently you are supposed to bring your dog to a wine festival. It doesn't matter if it's a tiny lap dog that you push in a stroller (saw that), or a dog you carry in a shoulder bag (saw that - on a dude) or a big golden retriever, husky, German shepherd, or St. Bernard. Forget the dog park. Bring them to a wine festival.

Oh, and I did earn all the wine this morning (well, this morning and whatever I do tomorrow). The Sailor and I went out for a 3 mile run, and did it in 25:30, which is my fastest training run. Actually, since I've had my Garmin, this is my second-fastest pace. My fastest is the 5K I did in June, my time was 26:20 which was an 8:29 pace. Today's pace was 8:30.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Fort2Base Photos

OK, so not totally wordless ...

Starting Fort 2 Base ... 5 minutes after the official start,
because I was in the port-a-potty line. Yay for chip timing.

Finishing Fort 2 Base ... before my husband. My husband, The Sailor.
As in, he's in the Navy. Been through boot camp.

Let's look at this from another angle: 

Sure, it's only 2 seconds, but I'll take it!

Also, today's run wasn't that long, but I was able to get home, throw on running clothes, and squeeze in almost 2 miles on the trail near the train station before I had to pick him up. I would have just given him the keys and ran the 1.5 miles home, but I had Ballet Fit class tonight at my sister-in-law's studio and I didn't want to shower twice.

Old Plank Trail, Park Forest

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Perspective: I have it. And need to remember it.

I'd still like to run a 6-minute mile someday.
Just one.
If you follow a lot of other runners online - through their blogs, Twitter, Daily Mile, etc - it's easy to start feeling like you're really slow. You think, sure, I ran a half marathon, but gee look at my time ... it's really not all that impressive. I couldn't even run a 5K at the pace some of them run a marathon. And just like me, they also hold down full-time jobs (that do not include running professionally).

However. I need to talk to more non-runners more often.

Some of my co-workers knew I was running a race last weekend, so when I came in on Monday, they asked me about it. I said the race went really well - great weather, great course, good course support, etc. They asked how many miles it was (11.5) and how long it took me to finish (1:58). One of them asked what they was per mile - "like 6 minutes?" I had to smile. Even when I told them it was more like 10 and a half, they were still impressed. Just the fact that I ran for two hours straight was a big deal to someone who never runs.

As much as I love following other runners, especially faster ones (so I can learn from and be inspired by them), it's good to check in with the rest of the world once in awhile and realize even if I'm not the fastest, or even anywhere near the fastest in my age group, I'm still impressing someone.

AND, what is even more fun is when I see other friends start running - especially when they mention that I have inspired them to do so. Honestly, that makes me feel so awesome. Almost as awesome as a PR or placing in my age group at a race. Who cares how fast or slow I am - just the fact that I've helped to inspire someone else to pick up such a healthy habit, one that can help them physically and mentally, is so great. That's what really matters. Not how well I do - I'm not getting paid for this, and I never will - but what I get out of it. And if others can get something out of it too, well that's just fantastic.

However, friends, I'll tell you right now, if you tell me you're going to pick up running, or do a couch to 5K program, I will keep hounding you and bugging you and reminding you until the day comes that we do a 5K together. And then I'm going to bug you again to do another one.

Because I'm a runner now, and dammit, I want to be one forever. I heard a great running quote somewhere (online of course) - "You don't stop running because you got old, you got old because you stopped running." 

I'm visiting my ultra-marathoner best friend in Boston later this month, and we're running a half together. At first, we weren't sure if we would - we had picked a half to do, but by the time we went to sign-up, it was sold out. I suggested perhaps doing a shorter race - a 5K or 5 miler. She replied with something along the lines of "let's do a half now - when are you going to be ready to run another half marathon again?"

I told her that I hope to be ready to run a half pretty much every day for the rest of my life (or at the very least be a short training plan away from ready). This "being a runner" thing isn't just an item on my bucket list, and now that I've checked it off, I'm moving on. This feels too good, too inspiring to stop. Plus ... well for the first time in five years, I'm actually liking the way my body looks again.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Race Report: Fort2Base 10 Nautical Mile

Fort2Base finishers medal is pretty great. Need a dog tag chain though.
Pretty awesome finishers medal
This morning, The Sailor and I ran the inaugural Fort2Base race, from Fort Sheridan (Army) to Naval Station Great Lakes (where The Sailor drills as a reservist).

I did a good job training for the Rock ' n Roll Chicago Half Marathon [read: I mostly stuck to a plan], but after that race (on August 14), I slacked off a bit. I ran 32 miles total during the 4 weeks between the half and today's race. Because the following weekend I went to Detroit to visit college friends, and then the weekend after that The Sailor and I moved (to my parents house). The weekend after that (Labor Day weekend), I did my only run over 5 miles between the half and today's race. And it wasn't even that long - 8 miles. And that brings us to this weekend.

Maybe I had fresher legs today or maybe (this is more likely), I allowed myself to push a little harder, but I had a much better showing today. For the RnR Half, I tried to keep my heart rate in the 150s, even though I knew I should be able to do a half in the 160s. I guess I just wanted to take it slow and easy and finish strong with that race, knowing I had two more longer races in the following months that I could push if I felt comfortable with it. Also I was still getting used to focusing on my heart rate (and not my pace) during running. Anyway, knowing how great I felt after the half, today I went for it and kept my heart rate in the 160s and it felt great.

The weather was perfect. Around 60 degrees at start time, and the first 7.5 miles of the course (10 NM = 11.5 standard miles) were on a shaded bike path. Because the race was point-to-point, we parked at Great Lakes and were shuttled to the start line at Fort Sheridan. Unfortunately there was a huge traffic back-up getting onto the base (should have seen that coming knowing what it was like getting on base for The Sailor's pass-in-review aka boot camp graduation). It didn't help that our shuttle bus driver didn't know her way around Fort Sheridan, so we got dropped off at 7:01am (race time was supposed to be 7am) and as we were walking with our busmates to the start, we realized we were actually on the course. (Made sure to walk around and not over the mats at the start line just in case.) Luckily they held the start of the race until the last bus arrived (I think there were one or two more after our bus), but we were still in the port-a-potty line when the race started. We ended up starting about 5 minutes later. But, the nice thing about that was the bike path we ran on was kind of narrow, and because we started after the majority, we didn't experience any course congestion (although I don't know if anyone did - haven't seen any complaints about it on the event's FB page).

The course support was awesome. Water and gatorade every 1.5 miles, but, even better, lots of soldiers in uniform doing traffic control. Being called "ma'am," especially by someone [OK, a cute youngish man] in uniform never gets old.

Just past mile 8, the course entered Great Lakes (running through the main gate was pretty cool), and the last 3.5 miles followed the 3 NM course (that race started around the same time and was completely on the base).

Fort2Base 10NM elevation
That 4-mile downhill might have also contributed
to why today's race went so well.
I knew the course went past the beach, but I forgot (until we started the downhill) that that meant a steep uphill. Check out the elevation from my Garmin Connect. I'm running a half on October 1 in New Hampshire that has some real hills (not these Midwestern bumps), so this was good practice.

The Sailor and I started the race together, but he took a slightly faster pace (I think he always pushes himself during workouts like he's still in boot camp). I caught up with him around mile 10.5 (right before the uphill) and we stayed together. We made the last turn and saw the Finish ... and (no surprise since we've raced together before), he started sprinting and I kept up with him, and I think there was some (sweet) trash-talking from him.

I crossed the finish line first (according to our official times, two seconds before him), and he claims he didn't let me win. So, personal victory. Although I suspect he did let me win because, well, sailors are very polite (to civilians).

Post-race, they had cheese sticks!!! I love cheese, especially after a run, so that was pretty exciting. They also had the usual water and bananas, and many varieties of pop chips, and some vendors giving out free samples - including more cheese from a Vermont cheese company. But then my body told me to stop eating cheese, and I listened. I'm guessing the fancy Vermont cheese had real milk in it. Moving on ...

The race was an automatic PR because I've never raced this distance, but this was my best longer-distance race. So I'm pretty proud of myself!! My pace was almost a minute and a half faster than my pace for the RnR Half last month.

Ready for Fort2Base tomorrowIn addition to the great finishers medals, we got nice tech pullovers. Lightweight, so they will be great in the fall.  Not bad considering the race was was $20 for The Sailor and $30 for me (special pricing for reservist/dependents).


My time: 1:58:44; pace 10:20
The Sailor: 1:58:46

My place: 499/784
AG: 16/35
Gender: 176/361

Friday, September 9, 2011

A First for Me: My Car Died. While Driving.

Fun morning
So today was a fun day.

Leave for work.
Fill up my gas tank.
Get a few miles from home.
And ... my car died.

In the middle of a kind of busy road.

Yay! Luckily I was able to get to the median before it pretty much stopped.

Called my parents and left a message on the answering machine (knowing they were asleep - my Dad works evenings and my Mom was off today), then called for a tow. By the time I got off the phone, a cop showed up and offered to push me into the nearest parking lot. And I was able to reach my parents. They (both of them - like a field trip) showed up after the cop left, but before the tow truck arrived. I told them I was just going to get a tow to their mechanic, who has been the family mechanic forever. (OK, maybe just for 37 years ... since they got married and started this family.) My parents (and possibly my brother) have even bought used cars off of him. My Dad asked if I had called to let him know my car was coming, and I hadn't, so I did.

Well guess who finally retired? And closed his shop altogether, and sold the building it was in? This is all according to an automated message. Came as a surprise to my parents, they were just there a few weeks ago.

Of course then it's like ... well we have no idea where else to go ... we've been going to the same guy for 37 years. Ended up going to a mechanic that's been open forever. (Almost literally ... since 1914, so pretty much for as long as there have been cars.)

Anyway, all morning my parents kept guessing that it was my fuel pump, because both of them have had cars die while driving, and in both cases it was the fuel pump. (And their stories sound horrifying - this was pre-cellphones, and both had their cars die on the expressway.) Well, turns out it was the fuel pump. When I told my mom, she said "I was right - I love being right." (Shocking!!!)

So add this to the list of crap that has had to be repaired on my car within the past year. I assume it's because for the first 5 years I had my car, my commute was always pretty short (at first I was taking the train to work so I only had to drive a mile and a half to the train station, then I got a new job and my commute was 12 miles each way, then I moved and my commute was less than 3 miles each way).

But last year we moved and my commute became 29 miles each way. And my car hit 100K miles. And that's when stuff started falling apart on my car. New tires (expected), new fan belt, new alternator, the exhaust system still needs to be replaced, then one new tire (nail), I know I'm forgetting other stuff. And my brakes are still squeaking (last mechanic said they were OK though, I'd like another opinion when I can afford the possible consequences).

Now my commute is 12 miles each way (again ... because I moved back in with my parents) so hopefully this pace of car repairs slows down. Because we're still paying off The Sailor's car and I really don't want two car payments at the same time. My car needs to at least make it to next spring. Maybe I should start driving The Sailors car to work. He takes the train.

And I can only imagine how much fun it gets when you add home ownership to the mix.

How's your car? What do you drive, and do you like it? Can you make it past 100K miles with a long-ish commute and not have everything crap out? That seems to be the true test ... 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Looking Forward To:

In addition to all the fun fallness I'm looking forward to, I'm also excited about ...

This Sunday: Fort 2 Base 10 Nautical Mile (11.5mi) Race. The first race The Sailor and I will run together since the Soldier Field 10 on May 28. Plus it's always fun going up to Great Lakes! And taking a trip to the NEX to buy some new Navy pride apparel. Maybe I'll start Christmas shopping ...

Later this month: A certain someone is taking me out to a very special restaurant with a very awesome chef to celebrate my birthday. (Yes it was last month but this restaurant is kind of a big deal and it's a challenge to get reservations at all.) (And yes I'm aware Rick Bayless probably won't cook my actual meal ... but you never know!!) I'm super excited!! I love watching his cooking shows.

I expect all of New England to look just like this while I'm there.
End of the month: Going to Boston for a whole week with my BFF Scott to visit our BFF Vera! And while I'm there, Vera and I are running our very first race together - the Applefest Half Marathon!

Next month: my first obstacle-course race. A spooky, Halloween-themed one at that. Honestly, as much as I love Halloween, I'm a little nervous. I get scared at haunted houses. Even ones for children. But I love to challenge myself.

At some point: Giving Pumpkin Spice Lattes a second chance. I tried one last year with soy milk and no whip cream, but I've been told it's better with full fat regular milk. (Thank you modern science for lactaid pills.)

Also, it's time for pumpkin patches and corn mazes! Forgot to mention that in my last fall-lovin post. And we have no shortage of those in the south suburbs of Chicago.

It addition to F2B and the Applefest half, I'm trying to figure out which shorter distance races I'm going to do this fall. Right now I'm trying to find a good Thanksgiving morning race. I'm pretty sure The Sailor thinks I've gone race crazy. Probably.

Do you like to do a Thanksgiving morning race? Any luck getting non-runners to join you? 

Friday, September 2, 2011


Even though it's 93 degrees out, it's September, so in my mind, it's fall, my most favoritest season EVAR. Why? Many reasons ...

The fashion! Tights! Sweater dresses! Boots! Cute shoes! Cute jackets! Scarves! And, yes, even legginges (when worn appropriately - as an alternative to tights - and not as pants). What's not to love? Plus as a redhead, fall colors look so good on me.

wardrobe remix: casual friday wardrobe remix: more business casual leggings! Wardrobe Remix / Business Casual wardrobe remix - fall afternoon wardrobe remix - work 

The weather! Summer 2011 has been the first real summer we've had in awhile. I feel like for the past few years, summer has been milder than normal. Not that I'm complaining (unlike 99% of my Facebook friends) because I like my seasons to feel like seasons. Anyway, I'm looking forward to being able to turn off the a/c for good, and open the windows. Being able to wear cute fall fashions like boots and sweaters and tights and not look like an "ironic" hipster. And being able to go for a run and get my best times of the year. And, you know, the beauty that is fall:

tree red leaves Autumn colors

HALLOWEEN! Hands down, my favorite holiday. Sure, with Christmas comes cookies and presents and pretty decorations. That's all nice and good and a close second. But with Halloween comes silly and scary decorations. And candy. And costumes. Luckily The Sailor shares my love of Halloween. Pretty sure when we finally have our own house, we're going to have some pretty elaborate decorations and be the house on the block that is turned into a haunted house for the neighborhood kids to go through.

halloween decorations halloween decorations halloween decorations halloween decorations

Anything pumpkin or pumpkin-flavored. I love it all. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin coffee drinks ... I think this year I will make it my goal to make as many pumpkin-flavored things as possible. Starting with Turkey Pumpkin Chili, pumpkin brownies and maybe I'll even attempt pumpkin pie from scratch.

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Fall festivals. Not just the Halloween-related ones, but anything fall related. This year I'm going to miss the Long Grove Apple Festival, but to make up for it, I will be running the Applefest Half Marathon. Just look at those cute medals!!!

However, would you believe, despite all the Germans up in our family trees, that we've never been to any type of Oktoberfest? Maybe this year we'll make it to one. However, with many of them I can't tell if the only thing that makes it an Oktoberfest is the fact that it is in September or October and has a beer tent. I want the full deal - bratwurst and sour kraut and schnitzel and polka and leiderhosen and German singing and dancing. And German beer too of course. And I kind of want to wear this if/when we ever go. (If I had the money I would buy a real Frauline outfit but I don't [remember I mentioned we moved in with my parents?], so I have to resort to sexy Halloween costumes.)

What do YOU love about fall???? And what is the most interesting pumpkin food you've eaten?