Tuesday Things


1. My work-life balance is struggling. Our annual audit begins each year in March but doesn’t really kick into high gear until the end of April and carries through the month of May. May is also one of our busiest months on the revenue side. For the past several years I’ve made the stupid mistake of taking vacations the first week of May: New Jersey Marathon, Long Branch Half Marathon, Ragnar Relay Cape Cod. No matter how well I plan for the time off, I’m inevitably buried for the remainder of the month. The third week in May is always our annual user conference, so basically as soon as I have a handle on my to-do list I have to somewhat abandon it again for four days. I try to stay caught up on emails between sessions but it can be overwhelming. This was my 5th year working the conference and for the first time I actually came back to the office to get work done. It definitely helped me stay on track but there were still items that didn’t get done and ended up coming home with me last weekend. No idea why I keep doing this to myself year after year, but I want to declare right now that MAY 2015 WILL BE A VACATION-FREE ZONE. It has to be. I miss my sanity.

2. I was chosen as an ambassador for the Houston Marathon!  I was blown away in January by the organization of the race, the number of spectators on the course and how great the course actually was. The weather was pure perfection [this is a variable, I know] and despite having a miserable race performance-wise, I knew this wouldn’t be my last time in Houston. As an ambassador, this also means I will be running the Houston Marathon. After quite a lengthy hiatus, I’ll be making my grand return to the marathon distance in January 2015. And possibly the most exciting part of all? Training doesn’t start until September. So while I may be slightly jealous of everyone running Chicago and NYC this fall, I won’t have to do any sauna-running at 4am this summer.

COME RUN HOUSTON WITH ME! Early registration for my fast friends [sub-4 full marathon or sub 1:52 half marathon] closes on May 29th. The lottery opens up on June 4th and will run through June 19th , with results announced on June 23rd.

Houston Marathon Registration

3. In August I’ll be running Hood to Coast with Nuun. After several years of trying to make it on the team and now finally securing a spot, it still doesn’t seem real. Airfare has been purchased and 3 months from today (!!) I’ll be heading out to Seattle. After running Ragnar Cape Cod last weekend I feel less nervous and much more excited for HTC. I have a loose training plan sketched out for the next few months but probably will push the kickoff to the 26th. My shin & knee are now more of a dull pain, but I don’t want to rush into it just because the plan was supposed to start this week. Once it’s underway I’ll talk a bit more about the training. HTC_logo4. RedFest starts on Friday and we FINALLY won tickets. I’m not even sure how many different contests we were entered in to win tickets to this festival. Eventually we came across a voting-based contest, which allowed us to plaster the link all over social media. All of the begging [so annoying, I know] paid off when we scored 3-day VIP passes! To be honest I’m a little nervous because there is little to no information about the event on their website. They finally uploaded a map and schedule over the weekend, but there is nothing about what time the gates open or what activities are included with the ticket. I emailed them two weeks ago to find out and apparently they were “still in the process of figuring that out”. Two weeks out from the event. In any case, we’ll be drinking and eating for free all weekend while listening to country music. I highly doubt we won’t have a good time.


5. We’re going to Europe! Unfortunately, the trip is 18 months away. After we unexpectedly had cancel our Mexico trip [which coincidentally freed me up to run HTC…] Brad was on a mission to find us a replacement vacation. One of his suggestions was a European cruise. I was hesitant initially because while our all-inclusive resort in Mexico was fairly pricey for 7 days, the airfare to Cancun was about $350 per person. A trip to Europe requires a ridiculously expensive [and ridiculously long] flight and the total cost of the trip was almost twice as much as Mexico. There was no possible way we could go anytime soon, so we pushed the date out to Fall 2015.

Cannes, France

It’s hard for me to get excited about it because it’s really far away and there’s definitely potential for a wrench to be thrown in our plans. But this didn’t stop me from ordering a couple books on Mediterranean cruise ports. On the agenda: Barcelona, Cannes, Rome, Naples, Palma Majorca, and Florence/Pisa. I’ve already been researching hotels and we’re in the process of learning Spanish. The plan is to be pretty damn fluent en Español by the time we leave. We’ll be spending an extra day before/after the cruise in Barcelona so if you’ve been there [or any of the ports we’re exploring] please tell me EVERYTHING.

How to Plan a Vacation That Won’t Break the Bank

Over the past few years, Brad and I have been trying to take advantage of every opportunity we can to travel. Maybe it’s a few hours away to Dallas for a concert or across the country to visit friends in San Diego. Either way, we’ve grown accustomed to building a few vacations into our schedule each year. Neither of us bring home a huge salary and I can almost guarantee that you on your own make as much or more than both of us combined. So it’s not like we can wake up one day and book a trip with little to no planning. Last summer I did a boatload of research, created a savings spreadsheet to track our finances and booked us a vacation to Mexico for the end of summer 2014. Unfortunately, a few things came up and we had to postpone the trip until next year. But I thought I’d share a few of my tips and tricks to help you plan your best vacation yet.

How to Plan a Vacation

1. Decide where & when you want to go. Whether you’re planning a week-long tropical getaway or 3-day trip to run a marathon, you should have a pretty solid idea [especially if you’ve already registered for said marathon] of where you’d like to stay. Negril boasts beautiful beaches in Jamaica but it’s several hours from the airport, while Montego Bay is less than twenty minutes away. If you want to squeeze every single minute out of your vacation, a location closer to the airport would probably be best. If your mind is set on a quiet relaxing week of doing absolutely nothing in Mexico, you should avoid the Hotel Zone in Cancun and research resorts in Playa Mujeres or Riviera Maya. A cruise might be more affordable in winter months but it might be due to lower temperatures. Make sure you review the average highs and lows [as well as historical precipitation totals] for your destination so you don’t end up spending that beach vacation playing board games in the room.

2. Set a savings goal. After preliminary research you’ll probably have a rough idea of how much this vacation will cost you. Do you want to sacrifice a little quality to spend $1500 at an all-inclusive or are you willing to buckle down to spend $2500 at a nicer resort with more perks? It all depends on how much wiggle room your budget has. Can you save $50 or $150 a paycheck? Also, does the resort require only a deposit to secure your reservation and the balance is due at check-in or do they need the entire stay paid for when you book? Sandals charges a $400 deposit [unless booking a package with airfare, in which case it will run you $1,000+] while Excellence Resorts collect the cost of the vacation a week prior to check-in. The latter may be a better option if you don’t have the money to shell out up front. Make sure you count meals, souvenirs, parking at the airport, baggage fees, etc. They may seem like small insignificant charges but they’ll add up and should definitely be accounted for.

Savings Goals 3. Do your research and read the fine print. Become best friends with Trip Advisor and other similar sites. Take all reviews with a grain of salt. If you’re staying in a city with public transit and want to avoid renting a car, look at hotels close to rail stations. In both Philly and DC I was able to take the rail from the airport to my hotel and also to travel around the city. Rail passes are much cheaper than renting a car AND you won’t have to pay for parking at your hotel, which averages $20/night in bigger cities where parking is at a premium. Find out if your hotel charges incidental fees and how much they are per night. In Vegas we were hit with $750 in incidental fees at check-in and it put a significant dent in our vacation fund. Lesson learned. Use a credit [not debit, unless you have unlimited funds in your checking … in which case, I’m super jealous] card for incidentals. The charges usually don’t drop off for 3-4 days after you check out. Are there additional resort fees? Some charge an additional 15-18% per night to cover things like WiFi and Fitness Center access. It’s best if you do a little research beforehand so you know exactly how much you’re looking at spending on accommodations and can include them in your budget.

Excellence Playa Mujeres on Trip Advisor

4. Book far in advance – and shop around. When planning my race weekend in Philly, I started looking at hotels and airfare in June for the November trip. This resulted in roundtrip airfare for two + 3 nights in a 5-star hotel for only $1,000. For Marine Corps I started even earlier, researching [and booking] in February for the October trip. This landed us a hotel less than a 1/4 mile from the marathon finish line and a one-bedroom suite with a full kitchen for less than $200/night. I started planning an August 2014 vacation in August 2013. Planning that far in advance gave us a reservation for a two-story rooftop terrace with a private plunge pool for the exact same price as a standard room without a view in April or May. If you have to book last minute, use either Priceline’s Express Deals or Name Your Own Price tool. It gives you control over the price and star-rating of hotels, while allowing access to exclusive deals to hotels trying to fill their vacancies. Hotwire is another excellent resource.

Priceline Express Deals and Name Your Own Price 
5. Put on the finishing touches. Book your airport transfers, buy tickets to that show you’re dying to see, crowd source for must-try restaurants in the area you’re visiting. If you’ve been on a vacation with me, you’ve probably caught a glimpse of my trip itinerary in Google Drive. Prior to departure, I get a spreadsheet together with an hour-by-hour schedule. It’s not an ‘end all be all’ plan, but having some general direction gives me peace of mind. It avoids the “what do you want for dinner?” “oh I don’t care, what do you want?” “eh, I’m not really in the mood for anything in particular. what’s around here?” “I have no idea” conversation. Then it turns into a big clusterfuck because no one can agree on anything. Yeah, no thanks. Restaurant reservations, museum tours, excursions, pool time, after dinner drinks, shopping, etc. It’s all plugged into the spreadsheet. Even if things aren’t done in the exact order, at least there’s an idea bank to work from and everyone on the trip has access to it so there’s no surprises. Maybe I sound crazy [I call it organized] but if you ever come with me on vacation I can promise you won’t have to worry about a thing.

And while we’re on the subject, here’s a list of my Top 10 Travel Tips.

What’s your best vacation planning tip? What mistake have you made on a previous trip that you learned a lesson from?

Fun While It Lasted

Well it’s a sad day, friends. Not only is it Monday, but also my long vacation from work has officially come to an end. I’m lucky enough to work for a company that operates on a “non-accrual” PTO policy, which basically means you can take off however many days you want. These days are subject to manager approval but as long as your work is done and your requests aren’t excessive, the number of PTO days you take in any given year is up to you. I’ve read that companies expect employees to take 3-4 weeks off per year under this policy, but in 2013 my days totaled just over 2 weeks. Definitely not going to be the person who abuses that policy.

Anyway, since I don’t take many days off during the year I was able to use 6 PTO days to create a 16 day holiday vacation for myself. Initially we were planning on going back to work on the 2nd, but the idea of going back for only Thursday + Friday seemed silly (and painful) so we took the additional two days. You know how after a vacation you find yourself wishing you had a vacation from your vacation before going back to work? That’s pretty much what that was. The road trip and all of the traveling wreaked havoc on our sleep schedules – which is why I slept through NYE – so it was nice to have a few extra days to reset before going back to the grind.

You probably hate me now. Sorry about that.

While the days off were certainly relaxing, they were also very productive. On Thursday we did all of our laundry from the trip. Brad took the dogs to the park and I went shopping for baking sheets. I came home with new baking sheets, cake pans, a muffin tin, a loaf pan, and new silverware. Still not sure how I ended up with all of that stuff. Whoops. Our previous bakeware and silverware sets were ~8 years old, so they could be somewhat justified. But probably not. But oooh, look how pretty the new silverware is:


Thursday night we went to see the Wolf of Wall Street. I read the book awhile back (‘09 or ‘10) and was really excited to see it was being made into a movie. The reviews were so-so and some people seemed to be genuinely horrified by it. Let’s be serious here: it’s a movie about Wall Street. Obviously there’s going to be sex, drugs, excessive spending, and a hell of a lot of cursing. Maybe I was prepared because I read the book. Maybe I was prepared because I expected it out of a movie directed by Scorsese exposing the lavish lifestyle of stock brokers. Either way, just know this: if you’re a modest (or even somewhat-modest person), this movie might make you ridiculously uncomfortable. After all, the movie set the all-time record for the use of the F-word.

On Friday the Christmas decorations came down. This is kind of a big deal considering we usually we keep them up until my birthday on the 21st. But the weekend before my birthday is the Houston Marathon and the weekend after I have friends in town to help me mourn the loss of my 20s. I really didn’t want to wait until February 1st to take them down so it happened this weekend. And I’m not really upset about it. The house looks so clean now.


Saturday I did some work on the office. Someday this room will be done. I emptied a huge filing cabinet that basically held every important (and some “WTF did I save this for?”) document from 2002-2009. You know, just in case I’m curious how much I paid for electric in October 2004 ($89.52) or what my rent was in 2008 (more than our current mortgage payment). I filled up a laundry basket with paperwork that needed to be shredded and that thing was HEAVY. Then I went through the manila folder labeled “To Be Filed” that has been sitting on the desk since 2010 and created hanging folders for each category, filing each paper away into its new home. There’s still a little more work to do (pictures need to be hung, desk needs to be cleaned off, etc.) but it’s getting there. Paula, here’s your progress photo:


Sunday morning Brad went out and bought a shredder. We spent over 5 hours shredding our own crap, plus a giant box of his mom’s paperwork. Six garbage bags later, anything with personal information on it had been converted into confetti. Then I deep-cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom. Our counter space in the kitchen is pretty limited so I moved a few things into cabinets and a few things into our bookcase.


All wine and booze now live amongst our many leather-bound books. And this corner of the house smells like rich mahogany. I’m slightly upset about how empty that wine rack is. Don’t worry friend, I’ll fill you up soon.

After cleaning the bathroom and organizing hair products + makeup, I decided it was time to bring my makeup brushes out of the drawer they’ve been living in. Now they’re out on the vanity for easy access (thank you, Pinterest):

makeup brush container

So now that the laundry is done, the Christmas decorations are gone, the kitchen is clean, and the office is somewhat organized, I feel a little bit better about going back to work. There’s something about a clean + organized house that calms me. Here’s hoping this first week back is quiet and uneventful!

Oh, and a puppy photo, because… why not?


Traveling with Ease :: My Top Ten Travel Tips

As I’m getting ready to leave for a weekend getaway to the West Coast…

San Diego

… I thought I’d put together a list of travel tips. Slightly less snarky than my last traveling rant, but helpful nonetheless.

1. Buck up & check a bag.Yep, you heard me. All that money you’re spending on buying travel sized items or transferring smaller amounts of shampoo/conditioner/etc. into TSA approved 3oz containers? Don’t bother. By the time you buy all the travel-related crap, you’ll have spent the checked bag fee anyway. Toss all of that stuff into the suitcase. Staying with friends? Check what they have at their house and bring only what you need.

Don’t be the person trying to shove a too-full carry-on suitcase into a too-small area in the overhead bin. You know what that does? It could cause the plane to leave late because then they need to end up stowing your bag with the checked luggage anyway. And you know what late departures make your neighbors? ANGRY. Don’t be that person. Check the bag, pay the fee and be done with it. One less thing to haul around the airport = less stress.

2. Bring extra ziplock bags. You never know when you might need one. Just do it – better safe than sorry. I also tuck a pair of scissors into my suitcase. Comes in handy taking all of the tags off the clothes you just purchased for said vacation. Everyone does that, right? Oh, just me? Never mind.

3. Carry all chargers & electronics with you. As much as you might not want the extra crap on you, what if your flight gets delayed and you run the battery down on your cell from tweeting angry messages to your airline? How are you planning on charging that baby back up with your charger in the checked bag. You don’t. The iPod you brought to drown the sounds of crying babies on the flight isn’t going to do you any good tucked away in your suitcase. Put it in your purse/carry-on.


4. Ask for samples. I recently fell in love with a few Origins products, which come in a one-size-fits-all tube that is a tad bit too big for travel. While at the counter recently I asked for a few samples – ask & you shall receive!


Perfect size to travel with for a few days. And that cost me zero dollars. Win.

5. Dress comfortably. I have an evening flight, so I am heading to the office today in work attire and have some clothes to change into for when I leave. DRESS COMFORTABLY. Can’t stress that enough. Yoga pants are your friend. Wear a t-shirt and then a hoodie or cardigan for when/if you get chilly. Be prepared. Oh and wear socks! So important. The thought of walking through security sockless just grosses me out.


6. Compress those legs.Whether you’re traveling for a race or just a vacation, your legs will be happy if you wrap them in compression socks or sleeves. They help keep the blood flowing while you’re stuck in that damn airplane seat for 3+ hours.

Pro Compression

7. Tuck and roll. When packing your suitcase, roll your clothes. I promise it will keep them less wrinkly then actually FOLDING them! The contents are absolutely going to shift, multiple times if you have layovers, so roll your clothes. If you’re SUPER Type A, you can even roll specific outfits together, which eliminates the frantic OMG-WHERE-IS-THAT-TANKTOP digging in the suitcase for twenty minutes. Tuck items into every crevice you can find. This particular vacation, which consists of a much-anticipated concert, requires two pairs of cowboy boots to make the trip. I tucked some clothes INTO the boots, and pack clothes all around them too. Neat & organized. No real estate wasted. Yeah those boots were a little heavier, which goes against another travel tip (always WEAR your heaviest items) but I’m not wearing them on the plane – it’s hot as hell here still. SO this leads into my next tip…

8. Weigh your suitcase before you leave the house. Then you know exactly what you’re working with. Ideally, 40lbs is perfect. The max is 50, leaving you with a generous 10 pounds of souvenir space for the return trip. You don’t want to be at the check-in counter heading home pleading with the agent to not charge you the over-the-limit fee. Not that I’ve ever done that before…

9. Bring a water bottle. This is one of my favorites. Stash an empty water bottle in your carry-on bag. Keep a tube or two of Nuun in there too. Once you make it through security, fill it up with water at a restaurant. Add Nuun. This doesn’t cost you a penny. Free & hydrated is the way to be, especially if you need to make the mad dash from one terminal to another during a layover. Unfortunately most airports don’t have water stations like in races, so carrying your own is KEY!


10. Stock up on magazines. Now, this only works if you subscribe to a ton of them. The month before I’m leaving on a trip, I will take every magazine I get in the mail and put it aside. Once travel time comes around, I can board that flight armed with have five or six (yes I subscribe to that many) unread magazines. The times I don’t do that? I’ll spend $20-25 on magazines at the gift shop in the airport and I’m already in the hole before leaving for vacation. NOT IDEAL.

And then? Sit back & enjoy the flight!

What’s your favorite travel tip?

Do you subscribe to magazines or is that just me? If so, which ones?

Vacations & Running

I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking lately, particularly about the upcoming fall months.

Back in March I booked a cruise to the Bahamas for the bf’s 30th birthday in September.

photos from our last cruise circa 2009

Then he lost his job, and started a new job in sales. The first month was awesome; he was making more money working 30 hour weeks than when he was working 65-80 hour weeks. Initially I planned on paying for the entire vacation, but as his income grew, he felt guilty letting me fund the trip. He decided we would use his first bonus to book our airfare. Unfortunately, he was one sale short in April of hitting the bonus. And then in May he hardly sold anything at all, and obviously did not hit his bonus.

I started to panic a little bit because as his income slowed, my savings started to disappear. The money I had planned on using for airfare, spending money, etc. was slowly being trickled out of my bank account to pay our bills. After going back and forth close to one thousand times, I finally cancelled the cruise last week. Arms crossed, stomping my feet, totally upset we had to abort mission.

Guess who hit his bonus this past weekend? of course, now that I cancelled!

Ah well. He’ll be coming with me to DC in October for Marine Corps, so it’ll sorta be like a vacation for us. Except I’ll be doing a lot of sleeping, running, and limping around for 50% of it. Seriously, I’m still trying to figure out how to pull this cruise off – I can just re-book it…

Speaking of running, I haven’t ran once since the 5 mile trail run. I talked about getting the spark back, and I also got something else back – pain in my shins that WILL.NOT.GO.AWAY. So I’ve been on yet another running break for the past week or so, just icing and resting. I get so bummed that I can’t reach my full potential with running & racing. It seems that whenever I get into a groove, the shins start to hurt and I scale back on my training. Then I have to start from ground zero again. No wonder I can’t run any faster – I can’t train consistently!

Then this thought pop into my mind: what if I end up not being able to run Marine Corps? Then all of the money I’d be putting into traveling to DC could have been used to take my boyfriend on vacation. What if I defer my entry until 2012? Then I further branched out: what if I ran Rock n Roll San Antonio as my first full? Or if I needed to take some more time off before starting to train – I could run the Austin Marathon as my first. Should I just jump ship on MCM altogether and choose one of those to save money? Wait – could I still go on this cruise?!

But then if I don’t run MCM, my family won’t be there for my first marathon. And the crowd support at San Antonio was less than stellar for the full last year – I’m going to need a lot of people screaming in my face to stay motivated. Austin crowds were better, but nowhere near MCM’s… And what about all the people I was looking forward to meeting in DC?

So I haven’t switched to a different marathon.

I didn’t defer my entry into Marine Corps to next year.

And I’m still not going on that damn cruise. ugh…

Norwegian deposited my refund into my bank account this morning. Thank you NCL, that was WAY faster than the 4-6 weeks you told me I’d receive it. And because I have zero self-control, I immediately turned around and logged in here.

Absolutely no self control. I have one last pair of shoes to test out before I say with 100% certainty that I absolutely MUST go to the ortho doctor and have custom orthotics made. That’s going to be an expensive trip…

Yep, Brooks Ariel. In all their geriatric glory. I ordered them from RRS because of their awesome 90-day return policy. If these beasts don’t work out, you won’t catch me wearing them to Body Pump or around the house – they are going straight back to the store. Brooks, please don’t let me down! You’ve already disappointed me with the lack of color choices for this shoe – really, one? And a boring one at that.

So I bought another freakin’ pair of running shoes. Is there a rehab I can check myself into? I’m willing to go voluntarily.

ESPN the Weekend: Hollywood Studios

While I was going through the photos on my memory card, I realized I never did a Saturday recap from our Orlando trip. Let’s fix that RIGHT NOW!

After running the Champion 5k and showering, we headed back to Hollywood Studios for the day.





The first hour and fifteen minutes of our day were spent in line for Toy Story Mania. Thank God for cameras to keep us occupied.





We decided that the winner of the game would buy the first round of beers.


I *ahem* was Player 1. Pay up Carly!!

We wandered around the park for a bit enjoying our beverages, and then made our way to our 1pm lunch reservations at Mama Melrose’s.


The food was delicious, as usual, and the service was sub-par, as usual.

Carly marked up the wall inside with our names:


And we jumped at the opportunity to get the perfect “We Run for Wine” photo:


While our lunch settled we explored the ESPN Sports Zone, beer in hand of course…





…took pictures with every mascot we could find…


Carly, show us how you REALLY feel about the Gators!







On our way out of the park, we caught the end of a parade:



Back to the hotel we went to have some afternoon cocktails and get ready for an evening of dancing. We were off to the Boardwalk!


We attempted to have dinner at a couple restaurants, but a 90 minute wait wasn’t exactly what we had in mind. We lowered our standards, and saved a few bucks here:


Enter Fried Food Heaven:


Not exactly what we had in mind for dinner, but it got the job done!

Next up: Jelly Rolls for some cocktails and to scream Journey & Billy Joel at the top of our lungs.


And as every great night should end, we hit the dance floor at Atlantic Dance Hall.

Café Tu Tu Tango

Carly and I dined at Cafe Tu Tu Tango back in October when we were in town for our first half marathon. The sangria and food were delicious, so it only made sense for us to make it our first stop Friday night.


We started off with a carafe of red sangria, which was fantastic.


We also immediately put in an order for these:


To die for (but really, isn’t anything with goat cheese to die for?)


Our next selection doesn’t have a picture, but here is the menu description:


There were two huge mushrooms, and the horseradish remoulade really made the dish for me. Definitely something to look into replicating at home.

Next up were Curry Chicken Skewers with a cucumber yogurt sauce and garlic flat bread. Didn’t quite get to take a picture before we devoured them.


Although they looked fairly small, we were pretty full from those three plates. We were planning on skipping dessert, until I read this tweet from Paula:


A dessert menu was immediately requested.


How could we say no?


HEAVEN! Thank you Paula!! I’m still dreaming about it…

And on top of the amazing food, the service was absolutely flawless. I cannot stress enough how awesome our bartender Peter was. If you’re in the Orlando area and happen to end up at Tu Tu Tango, tell Peter that “South Florida” & “Austin” say hello!

ESPN the Weekend

Vacation is just around the corner! Initially this vacation began as a weekend getaway for Brad and I, but it slowly morphed into a fun vacation for Carly and I too. While he is preoccupied with the bachelor party and rehearsal dinner for the wedding, the girls will wining, dining, and running.

Another highlight of the weekend is ESPN the Weekend at Hollywood Studios.



In addition to a day full of theme park rides, pro athlete sightings (maybe meeting?!) and delicious lunch at Mama Melrose’s, we also have this:


While Brad sleeps off his hangover from the bachelor party, Carly & I will be up bright and early to run the 5k race on Saturday morning. And, most importantly, earn another medal to add to our growing collection.

We’re pretty excited, only 4 more days to go!