Monday, December 30, 2013


Made in USA: Jeans: old James Jeans (similar) // Striped Tee: American Apparel // Shoes: c/o New Balance // Hat: Brixton (similar

Imported: Hoodie: gifted Columbia (similar) // Gloves: old Target 

Guess who went to the frozen tundra of New York for Christmas and forgot a proper winter coat? That's right - this chick!  I also forgot my favorite wigwam socks and the hubs wouldn't even let me steal his pair. Double fail. The temperatures didn't break over 30 degrees for the entire trip. 

Thankfully, my mother-in-law gave me a very thick hoodie for Christmas which layered perfectly over my endless supply of long sleeve tees and knit hats (seriously, I brought 4 hats, but zero pairs of wool socks).  Let's just say it's a good thing I'm a fan of multiple layers and anti-heavy coats

I had a great time making snow angels, practicing my sliding skills, and even throwing a few snowballs at my dad. All in all, a very good time indeed. Jax, Jewels, and the hubs ditched me because it was too cold outside! It's cool because I got to hang out with this guy: 

And what better way to spend a few minutes alone with my dad than freezing in the snow.  

Oh, spending a few minutes on a frozen retreat admiring Mother Nature's handiwork wasn't bad either. 

See you on the flip side 2013! Ending the year with snow is always ideal for me. Who's coming with me for the next snowball fight? 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Holiday Sparkle Made in USA

1: Simon Sebbag 'Gold Crocodile' Cuff // 2. Lauren Merkin Mini Caroline Clutch //3.  Julie Bee's 'New Yorker Platinum' Pump // 4. St. John Collection Gold Buckle Belt // 5. Deborah Lippmann 'Fake it Til You Make It' // 6. Essie Luxe Effects Collection // 7. Silver Collar Necklace // 8. La Mer Collections Watch //

Holy goodness how is it mid-December already? Christmas is in a week and New Year's Day is in two weeks. Where did the year go? Scratch that. Let's not fall down that rabbit hole.

If you're still looking for some holiday sparkle for any remaining holiday parties you better add to cart already! Or just pick up some sparkly nail polish and call it a day.  However, New Year's Eve is coming faster than a Nor'easter in February. I always struggle with what to wear on NYE because it is the one day a year where you're pretty much allowed to dress up and shine like a disco ball and I don't do disco.

This year I want to wear pants. Crazy, I know. Actually, I've want to wear a black pantsuit ever since I came across this Black Halo jumpsuit and thank goodness it is no longer available because I was getting ready to do a bad thing and sell a kidney to buy it. But at only $60 this June & Hudson one is much more affordable and that open back is amazing.

I don't know if I can commit to a full on sparkly dress yet, but a black outfit paired with lots of sparkly accessories - I can get on board with that.

What are you wearing for NYE? Sparkles - yay or nay?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday Party Metallics

Made in USA:  Blouse: Nanette Lepore (similar) // Blazer: thrifted Theory // Lips: L'Oreal 'Berry Persistent' // Nails: Essie 'steel-ling the scene' // 

Imported: Skirt: old Ann Taylor  // Shoes: Christian Louboutin (similar) // Clutch: old Rebecca Minkoff (made in USA option)  // Headband: old Anthropologie (similar

Confession time: when the hubs bought me these sparkly Christian Louboutin shoes I was shocked. Granted they made turning 30 a bit more fun, but they were so freaking expensive and so amazingly sparkly that I was worried I would never get a realistic cost-per-wear out of them.  However, I have worn them to fancy parties, mid-week date nights, work, weddings, weekend date nights, Halloween, and even a fancy baby shower (because nothing proclaims, "I'll stab you with these shoes if you ask me the state of my uterus" like a pair of sparkly Christian Louboutins at a baby shower).  In my defense, the pregnant mother-to-be told me to wear the shoes! Something about "swollen feet" and "living vicariously through your shoes." Who am I to deny a pregnant woman's demand!

Needless to say I was counting down the days to this year's round of holiday parties because those shoes were destined to make an appearance at  The hubs even had the audacity to tell me to wear them to his firm's holiday party. I gave him a "b*tch please" look and told him to wear his grey Allen Edmonds shoes so our shoes didn't clash.  Welcome to our world :)

Even though I'm officially "holiday partied out" this was my absolute favorite outfit of this year's holiday party season. Velvet - check. Chiffon - check. Taffeta - check. Mixing metals - check. Skirt with pockets - double check!

I'm just saying that this outfit will make a reappearance at a different holiday party next year. Oh who am I kidding - I wore this outfit twice last week! Once to a holiday party and then again for a date night with the hubs. Granted I wore it to date night so I could photo document it because I didn't even take one picture in it at the holiday party. Not even an Instagram selfie! Just keeping it real! The hubs didn't seem to mind because he thinks it is absolutely ridiculous when women freak out over wearing something more than once. Gotta get that cost-per-wear down to normal levels!

What's been your favorite outfit during this year's round of holiday parties? Would you consider wearing the same outfit to two different parties in the same season?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Simple Advent Wreath

When I was a kid both of my grandmother's would send my siblings and me an advent calendar every year. Truth be told I enjoyed them more for the candy than the message, but now that I'm an adult I look back and I wished I would have enjoyed those calendars for their meaning rather than their chocolate calories. 

This year for the Christmas season I wanted to put together a very simple advent wreath and that way I would have a few moments of reflection during the month. I wanted something simple, rustic, and slightly glam. I've been searching for traditional colored advent candles for months, but never found the appropriate sizes I wanted. Instead I used very simple metallic gold candles. You can criticize my candle selection all you want and I'll be fine with it. 

Supplies: Wood slab, 4 metallic candles, 1 white pillar candle, and pine needles (I initially wanted to wrap the candles with twine and decided afterwards that presented an additional fire risk). I purchased the wooden slab and candles at a craft store with coupons for less than $20. 

I picked a few pine tree limbs from the trees in my backyard and gently placed them in between the candles on the wooden slab to give the slight appearance of a traditional wreath. The pine also smells lovely! It almost makes me think I have a real tree in my living room. I might add more fresh pine every Sunday to keep the wreath looking fresh and to keep that fresh pine fragrance in the air.

I can't tell if I enjoy this wreath more in the afternoon sunlight or when it's lit on Sunday evenings. Either way I find it to be very peaceful and that was part of the desired intention. 

Simple and easy. The wreath took mere minutes to assemble, but it's impact has been far greater on my soul.  I honestly don't know why I didn't make this simple wreath years ago. 

If you're going to light an advent wreath please never leave the flame unattended! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Made in USA Men's Gift Ideas

Randolph Engineering Aviators ($129) //Sword and Plough Leather Key Fob ($35) //  Weiss Watch Co. Standard Issue Field Watch ($795) // Jacob Bromwell Great American Flask ($199) // Vermont Flannel Company Plaid Scarf ($20) // Allen Edmonds Money Clip ($52) // JJ Weston Cufflinks ($57) // Blue Claw Company Duck Island Dopp ($65) //

If I may say in my qualified expert opinion as a woman who always hangs out "with the guys" there is one thing I can't stand about men - they routinely avoid splurging on themselves. That doesn't mean they won't buy something nice for themselves every once in a while, but overall they tend to stick with a wallet that has holes in the corner or a pair of shoes that has worn a little thin. I think it's because they're dudes and they don't think they're supposed to own as many wallets as women have purses (duh) or shoes (bigger duh).

With that in mind - spoil a man in your life this holiday season. Go big and get him an every day watch he can wear for the rest of his life. Or get him that shiny, non-collegiate logo adorned, copper flask. Get him a pair of rugged shades or a proper pair of cufflinks. Or finally upgrade his sorry looking key chain and get him a classic leather fob. Okay fine, you can borrow the scarf and dopp kit bag, but you should get them with him in mind.

Chances are the men in your life deserve a little splurge every now in then.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Snow Day!

Made in USA: Jeans: old James Jeans (similar) // Tee Shirt: American Apparel //  Socks: Wigwam // Hat: Brixton // Gloves: old Filson (similar) // 

Imported: Boots: Hunter 

My ideal day goes as follows: nice run in the morning, breakfast (gluten free chocolate chip pancakes, french vanilla latte, and a side of bacon), scalding hot shower, read by the fire, watch snow fall, play in snow, thaw out from snow, read some more, play in snow some more, eat chicken noodles soup, get back in the snow etc. Basically I want to play in the snow as much as humanly possible. I was that kid who would only come back inside for a mug of hot coco before changing gloves and then running back outside into the snow. 

I love snow. I get sad every winter where there isn't more snow because I miss it dearly and it's one reason I couldn't imagine moving any further south.

Thankfully, I've got a snow partner in crime in Jax. We huddled in the house on Sunday, eagerly watching the snow accumulate in the backyard. Finally, I looked at the hubs and said, "it's time to play in the snow!" I promptly "borrowed" one of his heavy flannels (I hate running around in a heavy jacket and would rather layer up and wear a heavy flannel), threw sweaters on the dogs, pulled up my boots and away we went.

Jewels lasted all of nine seconds and then begged to be picked up. Jax and I ran around in the yard like the crazy ones we are and the hubs just took it all in. Then we came inside, watched some football, warmed up by the fire, and stared longingly at the snow outside. 

Did you get snow over the weekend? Are you a snow person or do you hate the snow? 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Made in USA: Dog Gift Guide

Ever since Lady and the Tramp came out it's been the ultimate dream to get a puppy for Christmas.  As a kid I always hoped to find a puppy under the tree, but alas that never happened. My parents were far too rational to give a bunch of screaming kids a puppy! I kid, we had plenty of dogs growing up. 

However, eight years ago the hubs and I got a call that a 9 week old Boston Terrier was "too rambunctious" for his new family.  The hubs and I had talked about getting a second Boston and ideally we wanted a boy. On the car ride over to see if this puppy was a good fit for our family the hubs was more excited and I was more hesitant because I wasn't 100% sold on the timing of getting a second dog.  That first moment I saw Jax reminded me of the time I was a 12 year old when I walked into a pound, craddled a 50lb dog in my arms, and told my dad the dog was coming home with me. The bond was instantaneous between Jax and me. He's been my pup ever since that day. 

And so we brought Jax into our lives just weeks before Christmas. The hubs even joked that we could put a bow on Jax since he was our Christmas present to ourselves. He didn't go for the bow, but both pups help us open our presents every year. Even Jewels loves shredding wrapping paper. (just make sure your dog shreds the paper and doesn't actually ingest the paper) 

So if you've got a special pup in your life (my furbabies are eight years old and I still call them pups!) or you've got friend with a pup - don't forget them this holiday season. Every dog needs more collars, leashes, toys, and beds. Seriously, my pups have four beds in our house. And that collapsible bowl needs to get in my life ASAP because that would be perfect for taking with us on our longer hikes in the park.  I'm shocked that Jewels doesn't already own that rain jacket!

Finally, I'm not a cat person. I'm horribly allergic to cats and since they're slowly trying to kill me I try to avoid cats at all costs. However, if you're looking for a few cat gifts that are made in the USA please let me know in the comments and I will certainly try to help you out. Felines are furbabies too! 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Gingham and Python

 Made in USA: Gingham Shirt: Tradlands // Jeans: J Brand, old (similar) // Purse: Coach, vintage (similar) // Nails: Essie "Eternal Optimist" // Shades: Oakley (on sale!) // 

Imported: Velvet Blazer: J Crew, old (made in USA option, gorgeous green option) // Shoes: Delman made in Italy (similar

Three things:

First, it's officially December which means winter is practically here and I can break out the irrationally large number of velvet clothing items I own.  Insert copious amounts of happiness here. The hubs thinks I'm crazy, but I am drawn to velvet. Love it and wish I could wear it year round.

Second, after a tad bit too much indulgence of mashed potatoes, turkey, bourbon, and peanut butter pie over the Thanksgiving holiday I'm going to have to give up skinny jeans until the end of the year for a few weeks. Or perhaps this is my post-marathon eating binge that always happens when I introduce gluten back into my diet. Whatever it is I'm all about the trouser jeans at the moment. Thankfully I've got a trusty, old, pair to get me through the rest of the sweet treat season.

Finally, I had a momentary panic attack when I was trying to rationalize that I could wear both gingham and python print patterned items and not look crazy.  The hubs was kind enough to point out that the additional patterned item wouldn't be the thing that outed my craziness.  He such a way with words!

How as your holiday weekend? Score any major deals? We bought new appliances, hardwood floors, and a few gifts. I imagine we'll be getting a phone call from our bank in a day or so asking if we've noticed any fraudulent activity on our credit cards :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Made in USA Black Friday Deals

Ah, Thanksgiving is nearly here. The day of giving thanks, lots of good food, watching football, and spending time with loved ones.  Steal away a few minutes over pumpkin roll and tell someone how important they are to you and how you don't tell them nearly often enough.  I wish all of you a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.

I'm a new convert to Black Friday shopping thanks to my in-laws. I had every intention of sitting this year out, besides purchasing new appliances for our kitchen, but some of these deals are just too good to pass up! I'll be adding more deals through the week, but here is what I have put together so far. Whether you're buying for a gift or for yourself, try to buy at least one thing that's American Made this holiday season.

Black Friday Deals: Frye shoes up to 70% off and select New Balance shoes on sale for $39.99 or less. Also, look for clothing items such as these: Tucker blouses,  Three Dots dresses, Karen Kane top/dresses, Nanette Lepore dresses, and Trina Turk dresses.  Sale starts at 12am EST

Bailey 44: 40-50% off of all sale pieces. Stock up on blouses, knockout dresses, the only black skirt you'll ever need, and even more dresses, Sale runs through Black Friday. Free shipping on all orders! 

Billykirk: 20% off entire site. Gorgeous selection of leather goods for men and women. Sale runs only on Black Friday. 

David Meister: Save 25% off site wide. There are no words to describe this dress.  Check item describe to ensure item is made in USA. Use code: DMTAKE25 Sale runs through Black Friday

Emerson Fry: Save 20% off full price items. You can cross that metallic skirt off your list. Sale runs through 12/2 

Hanky Panky: Save up to 40%. Best.Lace.Undies.Ever. Sale runs through 12/3 

Huckberry: Curated a "Made in America" shop. Amazing pieces for the men in your life that enjoy copper flasks, Filson jackets, and other odds and ends. Click here for an invite

James Jeans: 33% off site wide. Jeans, jeans, and more jeans!  Code: JJBK33  Sale runs through 12/2

Julie Bee's: 40% off all purchases and free ground shipping! American made shoes! My favorite green pair seen here. Code: BLACKFRIDAY  Sale runs on Black Friday. 

Karen Kane: all day specials, additional 25% off all sale items with code BLACKFRIDAY, plus free tote on all orders over $150! Stock up on everything!

La Mer Collections: 35% off site wide. Can be combined with free shipping on all orders over $100. Made in USA watches! Code: 35LOVE 

Les Femmes Velours: 50% off! Gorgeous luxury tees made right in NYC. Sale ends 12/1. 

Loren Hope: Save 20% off orders over $100 and get free shipping. Shiny goodness for everyone and you don't need to worry about sizes! Code: THANKS  Sale runs through 12/2 

LA Made: 50% off select items. Stock up on short sleeve tees and maxisSale runs through 12/2 

New Balance: up to 50% off select items, plus 15% off sitewide (some exclusions). Compression socks, running socks, shoes, and plenty of laces made in the USA. Socks and laces make the perfect stocking stuffers for any runner. Sale runs through 12/1

Otte: 40% off all sale items with code EARLYFRIDAY. Favorite picks: Otte NY blouse, Dannijo Kami necklace, Clare Vivier clutch, Carson skirt, Theyskens' Theory jacket

Rory Beca: 25% off site wide plus Free Two Day Shipping. Code: RBFREE25   Sale runs through Black Friday. 

Steven Alan: Save up to 50% off of new markdowns. Sale runs through 12/2. Free shipping on all orders placed on 12/2 

Trina Turk: save up to 60% off! Check item description for "Made in California" Loving this jumpsuit, trouser, blazer, and jacket. Sale runs through Black Friday. Free shipping on all orders! 

West Elm: save up to 25% off! The more you spend, the more you save. Look for Nordic Ware bakeware, Lodge cast iron skillets, Apotheke candles, and Billy Wolf items for dogs.  Sale runs from 11/27 - 12/1. Promocode: STOCKUP

Monday, November 25, 2013

Kitchen Inspiration

Flashback: Winter/Spring of 2010 the hubs and I were  looking at houses and after far too many houses to count we realized that to get what we really wanted, within our budget, we had to buy an older house that needed work. We were going to have to get our hands dirty or pay someone else to get their hands dirty in order to get the house we truly wanted.  The kitchen was near the top of the importance list for both of us because we both love to cook. I'm more of a baker and vegetable person and the hubs takes his meat incredibly serious, but between the two of us we can put together a pretty decent meal.

Our current kitchen is scary. Remember those Euro-style laminate cabinets and countertops from the 1980s - they're still in our kitchen. We've also got terrible vinyl floors and wallpaper that makes my eyes want to peel.  To top things off we've got the U-shape that doesn't even work in our kitchen and low ceilings. 

In a nut shell our kitchen is so bad that we felt completely justified in taking a wrecking ball to it! Seriously, we're taking a wall out and completely changing the layout of the kitchen.  I can't wait.

When we first moved into our house we decided to live with the kitchen for at least two years to get used to the layout, figure out what we hated, and come up with a plan for a full renovation. Bids went out to three design firms and I'm happy to say our deposit has cleared with one of them. Construction is scheduled to start in mid-January. Neither one of us wanted to deal with the holiday rush and risk having this renovation take any longer than it had to. 

That paradoxically seems so far away, but it also seems so close! Our cabinets have been ordered. The hubs refused to even contemplate white cabinets which meant we went in the total opposite direction and have selected a shaker style cabinet in a espresso brown color. We're buying our appliances this week during Black Friday sales. We'll be purchasing our solid hickory floors (so excited about these!) either this week or next week.  We've finalized our pendant light selection and just need to "add them to our cart" already. Same thing for the garbage disposal and new window. A lot of the major decisions have been made and things will start to feel "real" once supplies start to show up at our house.

Yet, we're still finalizing other things: granite, paint color, hardware, backsplash, faucet, and I'm sure we're missing something! We're going to the granite yard in December so that means we'll finalize that sooner rather than later. 

We're doing most of the demolition, besides physically taking down a wall, in addition we'll be doing the painting, floors, and backsplash.  I think we're actually going to wait to do the backsplash a few months later just so we can take one decision off of our plate right now and finalize that color/texture/material down the road. Plus, I really want to try my hand at some tile work (yes, the hubs thinks I'm crazy). 

Neither one of us is looking forward to eating massive amounts of take out while our kitchen is being renovated, but I know every fast food meal I choke down will be one less I'll have to eat! I hope once our kitchen is done I'll never want to leave it and I'll be cooking up a storm! 

If you have any kitchen renovation tips - please leave them in the comments! I'm sad that we won't have our new kitchen for this year's Thanksgiving dinner, but at the same time I'm so thankful that it's coming in due time.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pumpkin Roll Tips and Tricks

Move over pumpkin pie. See you later pumpkin spiced latte. Don't let the door hit you on the way out pecan pie. Okay, I'm kidding on that second one. I love me some PSL, but I was serious about the pumpkin pie part. 

The go-to fall treat in my household for the past six years has been pumpkin roll. The recipe I use was smuggled from an amazing baker's house in West Virginia and since it is a family recipe I can't share it with the whole wide world. This one is a close second

I feel warranted in providing this advice because my hubs and office mates are pumpkin roll addicts and I've mass produced 4 of these rolls in one weekend in addition to making too many to count over the years.  If you're looking to make this delicious treat for Thanksgiving I offer you the following Tips and Tricks:

1. Use pureed pumpkin and not a can of pumpkin pie mix. There is a MAJOR difference. Trader Joe's has the best canned organic pumpkin.  I hoard these treasured items. Cans of pumpkin pie mix have additional spices added to them and that can throw off the final flavor of your roll. 

2. It is inevitable that when you are assembling dry ingredients the telephone will ring, a massive dog fight will break out, someone will knock on the door, or something else happens and the last thing you want to ask yourself is "did I add enough nutmeg?"  Too much nutmeg can be over powering. I always scoop out my dry ingredients and put them in little separate mounds in my mixing bowl starting at the top and working in clockwise order. That way if something happens I can count the piles and go, "okay, only 2 mounds of cinnamon added that means I need to add another teaspoon." This is not a pumpkin roll isolated tip. 

3. When a recipe says to beat eggs on high for 5 minutes it means it! Yes, you're making a flat cake, but you need that flat cake to be fluffy so you can roll it. Don't get lazy and skimp on the amount of time you beat the eggs. It seems crazy, but little details like this matter when you're making any rolled cake. 

4. Use the very best jelly pan you have. I use this bakers half sheet and I haven't had a pumpkin roll stick to it yet. Nonstick means nothing to me. Butter and flour your pan like your life depends on it. Getting the cake off the pan is the crucial key to a good pumpkin roll. You can't roll it if it sticks to the pan! 

5. Use a much larger pan that you think you need. Again, this half sheet pan is amazing because the pumpkin roll batter doesn't come close to filling up the pan. That means I don't have to fight to make sure the cake sticks to the sides of the pan. 

6. Get that cake off of pan within 60 seconds of taking the cake out of the oven! The faster the better. Your fingers will survive the heat. The cake rolls much better when it is warm and moist. 

7. To roll the cake use a towel that is powdered sugared on only one side. I literally scoop powdered sugar onto a towel and then use a spoon to pack the sugar down. Oh and yes, I have special dish towels that are reserved for pumpkin roll and that's it. Once you flip the cake onto the towel you can powder the one side of the cake and now both sides of the cake are covered in powdery goodness. That cuts down on the mess significantly. 

8. After the cake cools, use a similar method to frost the cake. Just frost part of the cake, slowly roll,  and then add more frosting as you slowly finish the rolling process.  

9. Speaking of frosting. You want the frosting to be firm, but not hard, since it is going to hold the cake up in its roll form. I normally make my frosting the moment the cake is baking in the oven and then chill it in the fridge, but I didn't on this particular occasion and my pumpkin roll didn't hold its shape as well. Word to the wise, if you want a pretty rolled cake use a stiffer frosting or chill your normal cream cheese frosting. 

10. Serve this cake immediately. The photo below shows the amount of powdered sugar on the roll as soon as it is unrolled from the towel. After a few hours all of that powdered sugar will have dissolved into the cake and you might feel tempted to re-dust the cake with additional powdered sugar. Trust me, there's enough sugar on these thing you don't need it! But it sure does look pretty when it's fresh! 

I was nervous as all can be the first time I made a pumpkin roll because my hubs holds these things in such high honor. I was really stressed about the flipping of the pan part, but after a few tries I got the hang of it. I can now bang out one of these without thinking, which my hubs and coworkers always appreciate. My running joke is that as long as someone supplies me with a can of pumpkin I'll make them a pumpkin roll.

Are you team pumpkin pie or team pumpkin roll?  You know where I stand on this issue!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Holiday Party Skirts Made in USA

Milly // Karen Kane // Trina Turk // Corilynn // Bailey 44 (on sale!) // June and Hudson ($38!!!)  

I'm going on record and saying that the 2013 holiday party season will be the season of the skirt! At this point in life you've probably accumulated enough sparkly and jewel tone dresses that take up far too much real estate in your closet. And the major downside of those classic holiday pieces -  you can only wear them once a season! Then you have to remember which party you wore that piece to last year so you don't re-wear it to the exact same party with the same people the next year.

Female problems. Men just don't understand these things.

Do your wallet and closet a favor and pick up a skirt (or two) that can pull double duty during the holiday party season and beyond. Throw on your favorite blouse, tuxedo jacket, sparkly necklace, and sky high heels to give any one of the skirts above a festive feel. Then, re-wear that baby to a different party with different accessories for a completely different look. Finally, wear one to work with your regular work attire on any random Wednesday.  Buy an extra couple of coffee with the money you saved by investing in such a versatile skirt.

Would you forgo a dress and wear a skirt to a holiday party?  My office and the hubs' office respective holiday parties are four days apart this year and I'm thinking a skirt will make an appearance at one or both of them!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Richmond Marathon Recap

Just a quick recap of marathon #5.  To sum up: it wasn't my day. My hip felt off from the moment the rain soaked race started. By mile 3 when the rain subsided I had managed to convince myself that my hip didn't hurt at all (LIAR!!!!).  On a steep downhill at the end of mile 8 it just gave out. There was actually a quick stab of pain where it felt like lighting  ran through my veins. I had every intention of dropping out of the race and taking my first DNF except I couldn't figure out the logistics. I couldn't figure out how the hubs would come get me, how I would stay warm, and then I realized I still had to make my way to the finish festival because I checked a bag.  I tried to look for a medical tent and to be completely honest I couldn't find one the rest of the course. 

Race Takeaways: wasn't my day. Back to the drawing board. 

Race Logistics: Look this was a smaller race. I think there are roughly five thousand marathon participants, eight thousand half marathoners, and four thousand 8k runners. The start times are staggered and the marathon goes off last at 8am. That staggered start made everything really easy. The hubs and I stayed at a hotel 3 miles from the start line and it took us less than 10 minutes to drive to downtown. The hubs dropped me off at 7:05am and I walked a few blocks over to bag check. I was able to check my bag, get through the port-a-potty line, and down a bottle of water before the half marathon went off at 7:30am. This was the quickest port-a-potty line I've ever been at in a race. 

Race Tip: Find the port-a-potties farthest from the start line. They generally have the shortest line! Unless they are the first port-a-potty spot from a major line of transportation, then go to the second farthest ones. 

Security was nothing like any of the other marathons I've been to this year. NYC took wands to people just to enter certain sections of Central Park, all bags were searched, and all runners had to pass through security checkpoints. Baltimore had security checkpoints and all bags had to be examined. Richmond required that all checked bags be in the clear bags handed out at the expo. That was the extent of the security.  There were plenty of police present at the start line and at the finish expo. 

Post-Race Festival: I got there later than expected and I'm sure things were more crowded during peak finish times, but I received my fleece blanket (nice touch!), medal, bottle of water, and a slice of pizza within 3 minutes of finishing.  The signs made it appear that bag check would be farther away, but it took two minutes to find my UPS truck and get my bag.  There was plenty of pizza left when I got there and that makes me think anyone who wanted pizza could get pizza. The beer line was quick and efficient as well! 

Crowd Support: This race has the tagline, "America's Friendliest Marathon" and that set the bar pretty high. To me, nothing has come close to the crowd support during the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon. I get the weather was absolutely pristine that day and that definitely helped and it was a bigger race so it isn't far to use that as a comparison. However, there were lots of "dead" spots during the Richmond marathon. I wasn't expecting NYC-like crowds, but there were just so many areas that had zero crowd support that I was a bit bummed. Yet, when there were crowds they were absolutely amazing. There must have been hundreds of signs posted along the way that were encouraging and funny as heck. Some of my favorite crowds were along Main Street in The Fan district. One of the bars had a sign, "you cheer, we drink!" in which they encouraged runners to cheer as they ran by so the guys at the bar would do shots. Highly entertaining. The hubs and I made sure to bar hop later that night in that district just to pay it back to some of the bars.

There was a massive wall right after mile 20. I've heard about it from other runners who have done Richmond and every year the wall is decorated to say, "the wall." It's a really nice feeling to run through the wall during a marathon. Totally mental, but a really nice touch. There was lots of beer, candy, soda, and other treats to pick up along the course from plenty of nice folks. 

Course: This baby is hillier than the elevation map leads you to believe! I know that's said of every marathon, but there are a lot of stretches where there felt like it was just small enough of an incline that you're like, "I'm running up a hill, right?" Mile 15 is this massive long, concrete bridge and it's just one long gradual incline. There are some serious downhills on this course and they are STEEP. I might be in the minority of runners here, but I absolutely hate downhills. Those suckers hurt. The finish line is one massive downhill and by that point I didn't care, but every one of those hard steps at the end hurt. 

Overall: Look, I didn't have my day. I finished in 50 minutes longer than I wanted to and that part hurt.  I'm not going to let that ruin my outlook on Richmond because the hubs and I had a great weekend, minus the three hours of pain during a marathon. Our objective was to have a drinking weekend without the pups. Mission Accomplished! He had a great time drinking on Friday night while I was the designated driver. Thanks to Urban Spoon I was able to find amazing gluten free bison meatloaf at McCormack's Whiskey Grill & Smokehouse and the hubs enjoyed a bison sandwich and whiskey. Saturday night we went bar hopping (well, I hobbled), ate small plates at a few different pubs, had the best bar pizza ever at 31 Monkeys, and tried a host of local Richmond brews (Hardywood, Center of the Universe, and Legends were among the best). The night ended with good karma and walking out of the last bar to find not one, but two cabs waiting on the corner. 

A great weekend indeed. 

My marathon medal will keep me straight over the winter. I'm signing up for my next marathon that is going to require I train during the colder months and I'll gladly take it because as soon as my hip gets better I'm going to be chasing that sub four hour time. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

American Made Thanksgiving Gifts

1: Personalized Growler // 2: Linnea's Lights Pumpkin Candle // 3: Rablabs Garra Bottle Stopper // 4: Stonewall Kitchen Maple Pumpkin Butter // 5: Brooklyn Slate Cheese Board // 6: Greenies Pet Treats // 7: Pat Kim Designs Triangle Dinner Bell // 8: Epicureans Gourmet Cutting Board //

Just over two weeks away from one of my favorite holidays. Thanksgiving might be my all-time favorite food holiday. I eat a turkey sandwich every day for lunch, so clearly I'm loyal to turkey. My sister and I used to pick our seats at at the Thanksgiving table based on the proximity to a massive bowl of my grandma's mashed potatoes. My husband and brother actually confiscated an entire basket of my dad's homemade rolls one Thanksgiving. Thankfully, one of my uncles discovered their actions and the family was able to carbo load on some rolls.

I've always loved Thanksgiving. Watching the Macy's Day Parade on the tv while smelling the food cooking all morning. Then, the house was total chaos as all of my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins gathered around the table to give thanks. And by table I mean the crazy contraption my dad would set up to seat all 20+ of us. Later when I was in college we'd rotate houses and head over to my uncle's farm. Absolutely nothing beats Thanksgiving dinner at a farmhouse. Football on tv just can't beat with the before dessert activity of throwing on a heavy coat and going outside to pet a horse, alpaca, cow, etc.

I vividly remember my first Thanksgiving away from my family. Initially I was sad to be away from my family, but thankfully I was spending the day with my new family. My in-laws have different traditions - they love the Westminster Dog Show and they introduced me to Black Friday  Shopping and now I couldn't imagine the day without watching cute pups on tv.

But I do remember that first Thanksgiving away. My biggest thought was, "what do we bring as a gift?" My hubs thought I was crazy, call me old fashioned, but if I'm going to someone's house and I'm not cooking something then I'm bringing a gift. If you find yourself in a pickle and need a gift then check out the ones above. They're all under $50 and each one is made in the USA.

If you want to come by my house this year you're more than welcomed to bring a personalized growler. You can never go wrong with beer! A filled one would be the perfect gift for Thanksgiving. Just don't drink and drive!

How about you - do you remember your first Thanksgiving away from your family? Have you had a Thanksgiving away? This year the hubs is mixing things up and will be cooking a turkey on the grill. I'm looking forward to not having to share an oven with him all morning.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Polka Dots and Tweed

Made in the USA: Skirt: Nanette Lepore via Reddz Trading Bethesda (similar option) // Clutch: Gigee Marie // Shades: Oakley // Nails: Essie 'After School Boy Blazer' // 

Imported/Unknown:  Blazer:  old Ann Taylor (made in USA option) // Blouse: old Tucker for Target (made in USA option) // Bracelet: old Derng (made in USA option) // Shoes:  old Cole Haan (Brazil) 

Say hello to my new, yet possibly old, favorite skirt! Found this baby in September while perusing a second hand store. I swear I was on shopping lockdown, but I had 20 minutes to kill and in the long-run buying a sparkly and tweed skirt was better for my soul than buying a drink or two at a bar. And in DC it would have only been two drinks before I totaled the cost of this skirt!  

The hubs did call me out on my failed logic though. "Really, you would have downed 2 drinks in 20 minutes in a bar all by yourself." He knows I would have been only able to get through one drink in that amount of time all by myself. What can I say, I don't "down multiple drinks" in public by myself. 

But seriously, I am on shopping lockdown. Unless a clothing purchase is deemed "necessary" I'm not buying anything for myself through the end of the year. The hubs joked that my definition of necessary couldn't include "sparkly" or "polka dots."  I sure showed him with this outfit! 

This skirt is in fighting place for favorite item I've picked up second hand. What's your favorite second hand score? 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Recharging the Batteries

Made in USA: Jeans: James Jeans (similar) // Cardigan: Venley by Youth Monument // Nails: Essie 'Twin Sweater Set' // Duck Boots: L.L. Bean // Camo Field Jacket ("borrowed" from my dad): military supply store 

I don't run from laugh lines, rather instead I run towards them. Last weekend I added a few more to my cheeks and I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world. I got to spend two nights at my parent's home, catch up on snuggle sessions with my their poodle, a day with my sister in NYC, and most importantly I was able to spend precious moments with my grandmother and nephew.  My nephew and I even talked my grandmother into judging a jumping contest, but then we got busted by our respective moms! 

I even skipped a long run because spending a few more hours with my family was better for my soul than running a few more miles. That's saying something! 

Those moments of laughter and those walks through the woods were the perfect recharge for my tired self. Marathon training has been incredibly tough this time around. I've felt like an empty shell of my usual chipper self for a few moments and a quick visit to my childhood backyard was more refreshing than any spa treatment. I could just sit down by the lake all day with a good book, a warm blanket, and be blissfully happy. 

What do you do to recharge your internal batteries? I usually go for a run because I can't escape to my parent's house every weekend, but this time around I was more than happy to kick off my running shoes and slip on a pair of boots.