Good Ol’ Plum

When I meet new people (which let’s be honest, happens on an almost daily basis here in DC), I get sooooo excited to tell them that I am from Pittsburgh. I love where I am from, and for a long time, I was pretty certain it was the only place on the planet. JK. 😉 Truly, I never saw myself moving away. It wasn’t until I went to college (20 minutes from home) and met so many friends from so many places that I started to picture myself elsewhere. Long term, I imagine myself back in Pittsburgh, but right now, I love living on my own in a different place!

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Pittsburgh is the place to be with all its sporting events (Go Steelers!), restaurants, running trails, and theaters. I love seeing shows downtown! And I loved living downtown while I was in college. But I am not a city dweller through and through. I am actually from a town called Plum. No one outside of Pittsburgh really has any idea of what that means, so sometimes I say Pittsburgh, and then if you are from the area I will tell you Monroeville, and then if you know THAT place, I will say Plum. Ha! It’s a small farm town turned suburb full of houses and schools and fields and not much else. 😉

Let’s start with my neighborhoods…I have lived in two houses in Plum and both developments have been built on old farm land. That means that there has pretty much always been a farm in my backyard. 😉 At our old house, I specifically remember hearing cows and peacocks. One summer, the goats got loose and ran down my street. We were unfortunately on vacation when this occurred. Hahaha BUT in my new neighborhood, the farm is in front of us. They have cows, but they don’t seem to be as loud as the other ones. To be fair, the people who own these two farms are two of the only people who farm in the entire town. The rest of us are just regular suburbanites living in our houses ha!

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Growing up, I spent most of my time playing in my front yard or in my Grandma’s HUGE yard. Her property turned into a very important source of income for me as I got older and was allowed to drive the lawn mower 😉 Now, at our new house, the backyard is the place to be. And we are surrounded by all our neighbors! There used to be no one in our backyard and we never played there…now houses line our backyard and our patio is the number one spot to sit!

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 Besides that, I spent a ton of time at Holiday Park Elementary School because that’s where my mom worked and where my brothers and I went to school. We also frequented the library, our church, Paradise Park, Nesbit’s Bowling Alley, and the Plum Baseball Fields. Besides knowing 101 people who played baseball or softball, everyone would also go there to walk around and hang out. And take pictures. And eat concession stand food. And text people on their pink Razr phones. Hahaha

If you can’t tell, we might have had way too much fun at Paradise Park even as high school students. 😉 Boyce Park is actually the better park because that’s where the cross country running trails are located AND you can snow tube and ski there in the winter!

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I always thought our high school was HUGE until I went to college and realized graduating with a class of 335 was not that much. 1,200 students in the same school SOUNDS like a lot, but I guess in retrospect, it’s not! A huge addition was added to the high school a few years before I got there, so maybe that’s why I thought it was so huge. Ha!

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Now, if you’re hungry, as I’m sure we were after our high school Powderpuff game, you can go to one of two grocery stores, a Chinese take-out place, delivery pizza of your choice, or you can get in your car and drive to Monroeville! The other side of Plum, which is known as Holiday Park, has a few shopping centers, fast food restaurants, nail salons, gyms, etc…but if you want Target or Starbucks or Panera or THE MALL, you must drive yourself into Monroeville. And it’s only about 7 miles, so it’s no big deal. 🙂 When I moved to DC, I was very annoyed that I had to walk everywhere because I am used to driving to ALL the places. But now my feet have adjusted and I love walking to the grocery store and lululemon and Starbucks and the library!

Plum is a great little family town. Mostly everybody knows everybody, school sporting events are a huge deal and are so fun, and we do have our yearly fun events like Community Days in the summer and Sugarplum Days in the winter. But for now, I love the city life. 🙂

What’s your hometown like?

MIMM: Pittsburgh Edition

What’s marvelous in my Monday? Well, after several much appreciated snow days, we are headed back to school today with a two hour delay. I was able to go home to Pittsburgh for a long weekend and so many wonderful things happened!

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First and most important, my dogs never left my side. We napped together, studied together, walked together, and worked out together. Except Amigo wasn’t really feeling the workout on this particular day. He was more concerned with his favorite toy, the penguin. Colby, on the other hand, was all about the resistance band. In retrospect, it looks exactly like his leash, so it’s no wonder he wouldn’t leave me alone. Hahaha!

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Cuddle buddies for life. #hesnotafanofmornings

I spent most of Friday with my aunt getting pampered all day long. We chatted, relaxed, and just had the best day. In between all the fun stuff, I was able to get some school work done for my night class that starts this week, so I also felt accomplished! My mom joined us for manicures and pedicures to end the night.

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On Saturday morning, I woke up bright and early to go see this guy play in a volleyball tournament. My youngest brother’s team is playing other local teams in tournaments during their preseason, so even though the winner and loser didn’t really matter, of course we were all paying attention to the score! They played a lot of teams that have been playing together since middle school, and that gives them a bit of an advantage because Jake’s team has only played together in high school. They did win two games, though! And Jake is the one serving the ball in the above picture. 🙂

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My Dad and I headed to our favorite restaurant for brunch. Eat ‘N Park is a Pittsburgh classic, and I love eating there every time I go home. There isn’t a bad thing on the menu and their smiley face cookies are always delicious for dessert! We ordered breakfast food (our favorite) and then my Dad humored me and let me take him shoe shopping. Of course all at the same time, my running shoes, rain boots, and black boots bit the dust and so I need to replace each of those pairs of shoes. I was on a mission! I found my favorite pair of running shoes on sale for $90. That’s quite the markdown from $160! My mom and I shopped a bit before meeting up with my brothers for dinner. Then I took a nap and headed out for a night with some friends from college!

I had quite the clothes catastrophe because I literally threw yoga pants in a duffel bag and jumped in my car when I heard we would be off school for the rest of the week, so getting dressed to go hang out with real people was a bit of a challenge haha! Props to my mom for letting me borrow her shirt and not killing me for throwing clothes all over her bedroom and the family room. #shesthebest We met at a place on Pittsburgh’s North Shore called McFadden’s and the DJ played the best music. Julie and Felicia (the two pictured above) arrived early enough to snag a table and it was nice to have a “home base” once it got crowded. Just a place to sit and talk! We had the best time. And then I realized half way home I forgot my debit card… #oops

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Randi and I went to breakfast in Oakmont on Sunday morning at a place called What’s Cookin’ At Casey’s. I had only ever been once before for dinner, so I was excited to try their breakfast menu! We had the best time talking about life and eating all the food. Two older women sitting in the booth behind us told us we needed to stay all day because “we can just tell you are having so much fun!” Ha! Randi and I went to the same elementary school and even took gymnastics together for a short time but as we got older, we had different friends since we were in different grades! We reconnected through blog land, and it is so fun to have a friend who knows exactly what you are talking about when you talk about high school!

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I spotted this pay phone outside the restaurant as I walked in and I thought it was so random! Do people even use pay phones anymore?! Photo credit goes to my Dad 🙂 He lives in Oakmont and took this picture when he was walking around town one day. Apparently it strikes everyone as odd! Ha! He claims that it works and he will be calling me from it today. So I shall be waiting for a call from an unknown number. Any guesses on how many quarters he will need to use?!

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60 degrees in January, windows down, sunroof open, loud music…no explanation needed. #perfection

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When I was writing my year in review post, I came across pictures from the run pictured above and remembered that was the first time my friend Kristen and I met up to run in DC. When I told her, she decided we HAD to go running on this day because it is like our one year friend-aversary ha! Well, that day was yesterday, and we were busy driving back to DC from Pittsburgh, so how were we supposed to fit a run in?

Um…we stopped driving every hour and ran one mile. Hahaha! This was at the rest stop in Somerset, PA and we had to take pictures at this exact spot because the well-known huge windmills are in the background. No one really noticed us running here…we just did a loop of the perimeter of the parking lot and hit a mile in 8:27.

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Then we got in the car and ate a donut, because we deserved it, right?! Ha! I’m one of those annoying people who takes two bites of a sweet treat and puts it back in the box. Salty treats are my weakness! These donuts are from Peace, Love, and Little Donuts, which is a small shop in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. They really are little donuts, in case you were curious 🙂 Bite size, if you will! Flavors included vanilla, honey, apple pie, s’mores, cinnamon sugar, and mocha.

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An hour later, we were at our halfway point and stopped at our usual place to put gas in the car and get a salad at Subway. But while we were there, we had to get our mile in…so we ran around the perimeter of THAT parking lot. This one wasn’t quite as fun because we had to lap it 6 times;) I am pretty sure the big group of students we saw coming home from a ski trip thought we were weird. I didn’t ask them questions about their clothing, so they shouldn’t ask me questions about my running. 😉 #logic

Purple skies led us to our third stop at the Hagerstown outlets. Now THIS was a fun mile! It was our slowest yet at just over 9 minutes, but we got to “window shop”, we heard music playing through the outdoor speakers, and there were so many sidewalks/directions to run in! Do I sound crazy? I am aware this sounds really crazy and you are reading this wondering WHY I think this was fun. But I promise it was. And at this point of the drive, I am usually pretty unpleasant because I just want to be home…but we kept having a run to look forward to and that kept our spirits up!

We did not run a mile upon our arrival in DC, because important things like unpacking and grocery shopping and watching Grease Live needed to take place. 🙂 It literally made my whole Sunday to add a little bit of running to our drive and that is how I know I am a crazy runner person because no one else I know would do this. Haha! I cannot take credit for the idea because I saw someone I follow on Instagram (I can’t remember the name!!!) do this during a road trip a few weeks ago, but I’m very glad we stole the idea yesterday!

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Things that aren’t marvelous? Forgetting to bring back some of my mom’s delicious biscotti. WAH! #thelittlethings

What’s marvelous in your Monday today? Share something below! 🙂

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2015: A Year In Review

If you had told me last New Years Eve that THIS New Years Eve I would be on Christmas Break from my first year of teaching, I don’t know that I would have believed you. My life last year was so very different than it is now, but there have only been good changes!

I moved to College Park, MD in August of 2014 to start my Master’s in Reading. I took on three part time jobs at UMD: a research assistant in the Education Department, a writing consultant at The Writing Center, and a fitness instructor at the gym. That’s how last year began…a new semester of grad school plus my three jobs.

This is for my own memory. You will likely be tempted to skim or scroll past some stuff. Ha!

JANUARY

Right after Winter Break, I drove back to Maryland for a work trip to Boston. My research team worked with another team out of Boston College that we communicated with via Skype and phone calls. We went up to see them for 2 days in January to get LOTS of work done in person! It was also -4 the entire time we were in Boston, so thank goodness we were only there for 36 hours. 😉 This was a typical work trip in that I truly have no idea what the city of Boston looks like because I was at the airport, in a taxi to Boston College, at Boston College, at our hotel, and then all of that in reverse. This month, I also started teaching PiYo and I took myself on an adventure to Annapolis because I had never been and that’s what you do when you have few friends in a new place! I ran to the MLK Jr. monument on MLK Jr. Day and I met up with Kristen for the first time to run the National Mall!

FEBRUARY

I taught PiYo once before teaching it on a stage. At the beginning of the semester, the gym has a sort of “opening night” for its classes so everyone can see what’s available. That was a little bit out of my comfort zone! I started training for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler (you’re welcome for the selfie) and spent a lot of time on the indoor track because it snowed a LOT this month and I was a big baby! I went to running group with my church almost every Wednesday and found lots of new-to-me routes in DC. My mom and Jake came to visit for Valentine’s Day and my best friend Stef visited a few weekends later. I also worked at and attended a Fitness Expo at UMD’s gym that brought fitness instructors from up and down the east coast!

MARCH

I remember watching a lot of Grey’s Anatomy this month. Ha! I was obsessed and school kept getting delayed, cancelled, or closed early because of cold weather and snow. I made it outside when I could to keep training for the 10-miler, I took lots of selfies at The Writing Center (omg long hair), and I kept teaching PiYo every Monday morning and Tuesday night! My running group did a special run for those we knew going on a mission trip to the West Bank and I spotted the National Cathedral for the first time since moving here. And of course, my baby brother turned 16 and got his permit!

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And then it was warm. This was also the month I started tossing around the idea of applying for teaching jobs. My final decision was made while I was sitting in a Jason’s Deli. My memory, I tell ya… I was home this month for Easter and drove with Jake for the first time! I also went running on my favorite loop downtown (where I ran almost every morning in college) and I have a very vivid memory of tripping over a crack in the sidewalk and falling into a big X-shape. My leggings ripped, my hands were bleeding, I was half crying and half yelling, and then when I finally stood up…I kept running. Hahaha! I went to an event at UMD called “Grad Prom”, attended my first bonfire of the year in shorts and sandals, ran to Gravelly Point where you can see planes take off from Reagan National Airport, and ran the Cherry Blossom 10-miler. It was so fun to have my friends in town for that race! I’m a Beachbody coach so I went to a Super Saturday event in Baltimore and I also went to my first Nationals baseball game!

MAY

I started and successfully completed Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix Extreme program this month. I made a last minute decision to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon when an extra bib became available and I also ran to Gravelly Point for the first time. You can see the planes from Reagan National Airport taking off and landing here! My friend Sarah and I went to the Marine Barracks Evening Parade and my mom and my aunt came to visit for the weekend. We went to Atlantic City at the end of the month for Memorial Day Weekend and I rushed back to Maryland ASAP because I had my first teaching interview! My mom wanted to know what I was wearing and my dad wanted to see a picture of the Zipcar I had rented, so that’s how I ended up with that super awkward picture on the bottom right. Ha!

JUNE

First November Project workout.
First Duquesne Alumni Event at the Nationals vs. Pirates game in DC.
First adventure to Old Town, Alexandria, VA.
First time eating an apple fritter (that was the size of my head).
First time making and eating Strawberry Salsa for a Strawberry Festival Party!
Second Kenny Chesney concert.
Second Taylor Swift concert.
Second and third teaching interviews (third time was the charm!).

I also chopped all my hair off and spent a lot of time on the computer. It sounds terrible to say that in the middle of summer, but I was taking two online summer classes and apartment hunting!

JULY

My mom, Jake, and his friend came to DC for the Fourth of July. Kristen and I started training for the Marine Corps Marathon with a team of other runners from my church. I spent even more time on my computer, took my mom to see the elementary school where I was hired, started moving to my new apartment, and spent 10 much needed days on the beach!

AUGUST

I officially moved to my new apartment in Virginia. One of my friends from college also moved to the area so we spent a lot of time exploring DC together! I ate brunch with other DC area bloggers, made my first grown up purchase of porch furniture, and ran the Lincoln Memorial steps for the first time. I went home for a week to surprise my family (a conference I was supposed to attend was cancelled last minute), we celebrated Amigo’s 2nd birthday, and then I started new teacher orientation. My classroom was looking bare and empty! Kristen and I went to a Steelers bar to watch a preseason game, I went to Baltimore to celebrate my friend Shannon’s birthday, and I finally got tagged at November Project!

SEPTEMBER

A secret November Project workout that ended at a Biergarten in DC for yoga and drinks. My first day as a real teacher. 😉 The Pope came to town, I ran a 10k with my friends, I met Amanda for dinner, and I went to a 90s bar crawl in DC. I also made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for my mentors and coworkers as a thank you for helping me during my first month of teaching!

OCTOBER

My mom and my aunt visited the first weekend of October! My classroom finally started feeling like a real room. I visited the pumpkin patch and then I got sick for the first time in my adult life…not even ashamed of that selfie. I had a fever and a sinus infection and junk in my lungs and it was horrible and I had to take care of myself. Hahaha! I participated in a Blogger Scarf Exchange, spent time with my family from Indianapolis in DC, and went to New York City to see the marathon!

NOVEMBER

70 degree days meant evening runs as often as possible. I went hiking on the Billy Goat Trail, attended a Beer and Wine Festival at Nationals Park, and generally counted down the days until Thanksgiving Break. 😉 I flew home (which is unusual) for the holiday, spent time with my cousins, and helped my mom decorate for Christmas.

DECEMBER

Where did this month go?! There was a lot of Christmas cheer this month. I ran to see the Capitol Christmas Tree and the National Christmas TreeMy friends and I went to see Zoo Lights at the National Zoo. I took myself on an adventure to the National Harbor to see all of their Christmas decorations and check out the area. I went to a Christmas party and hosted a Christmas party, which I also labeled my birthday party. 😉 #decemberbirthdayproblems My mom, my aunt, and I made Christmas cookies, I met up with my college roommate for dinner, and of course, we celebrated Christmas. Then, we made a getaway to Hershey, PA and NYC for a few days!

Looking back, I was ready for this life (teaching and such) at the beginning of 2015. I loved being in school, but I wasn’t fulfilled doing a whole bunch of jobs instead of focusing on one job. The summer brought some stress as I started applying for jobs, interviewing, and apartment hunting. I also thought it would be a fabulous idea to take two online classes, so that just added to my stress. August was a wonderful month free of responsibilities, at least until I started orientation for my job. I was SO nervous to take the night class that I have with my job but after doing it for a semester, I realize it’s not ideal but it works.

In September, I remember being SO tired. I was overwhelmed, I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing AT ALL, and I was just generally whiny to anyone who asked me about my life. In October and November, I feel like I started to hit my stride. I figured out that I will probably continue the rest of this year feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing…but having confidence to figure it out as I go is what is making me successful. I’m doing what I said I was always going to do…teach…and I’m doing kinda okay at it. I’m a perfectionist, so you will never hear me say I’m good. And let’s face it, as a first year teacher, I probably have some room to grow. 😉 I had a check up with my doctor last week and she was asking me about my life and just was amazed at how much has changed with me this year. She said she can’t wait to see what my life is like next year…and neither can I! Because I can’t even begin to imagine!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, FRIENDS! 🙂

Tell Us About It: Pittsburgh

Have you ever noticed that everyone thinks their favorite fill-in-the-blank is the best thing ever? I’m thinking vacation spots, pets, you name it…if someone loves it, they probably think theirs is the best. 🙂 Not in a conceited way, just in a proud and happy way! Today I am linking up with Julie and Mattie to talk about my favorite things about my state!

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To start, I wore glasses from the age of 7 to the age of 22. I thought I looked SO weird without my glasses. I loved them. Two summers ago, I was a day camp counselor who had to swim with her campers, which kind of REQUIRES you to see, so I got contacts to wear to work. And then I decided contacts were way better. So if you are looking at these pictures wondering why I was too lazy to put in my contacts…I wasn’t. I just really never had them until last year. 🙂

ANYWAYS –> I am from a suburb about twenty minutes from downtown Pittsburgh, so I am going to share all my favorite places in and around that town. If you’re interested in what’s going on in Philly…well, I’ve been there before, but Pittsburgh is better. 😉

The Stadiums

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Heinz Field is my very favorite. Even if it’s a cloudy day, as you can see above, the view of the city is perfect from my seats!

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You won’t be let down from ANY seat in the house at PNC Park, either.

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I haven’t been to Consol for too many hockey games, but I have been there for many concerts and it is a great venue!

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Now that I am thinking of all three stadiums/arenas, I have actually been to games and concerts at all three locations. PNC Park hosts concerts, but they also host Pirates’ games all summer and about once a month, they do something special where there is a musician or fireworks after the game. In the above picture, Chris Daughtry played after the game. Whether you are close to or far away from the players/artists, you can see and hear it all. You won’t be disappointed at any of these venues!

The Views

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Carrying right on with this theme of the skyline…this was the view from my apartment in college. I love seeing all the buildings! The very BEST view of all is driving out of the Fort Pitt Tunnel onto the bridge that leads into the city. You really have a panoramic view of the stadiums, The Point, the rivers, and the skyscrapers!

I borrowed this video from YouTube. I wish I had found a video that captured what you can see to the left when you drive out of the tunnel…that’s where the stadiums and The Point are! But this one is still pretty cool. 🙂

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I took this picture when I was out running one morning. This is The Point where the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers intersect. In 2013, a giant duck came to visit our city. This 40 foot yellow friend brought almost a million visitors to the downtown area! It was the duck’s first stop in the United States, so Pittsburgh was excited!

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With or without the duck, The Point and Point State Park are always filled with people running, biking, and just enjoying the nice weather.

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Lots of events, like The Great Race and the Pittsburgh Marathon, end right in or near Point State Park. The entrance to the park usually has some kind of festival going on too…it all changes depending on the season. This summer when I was home, the Three Rivers Arts Festival was going on!

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From the other side of the river, you can rent kayaks. I have done this a few times now, and I am always so surprised how much of an arm workout it is!

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The last, but most important view…Mount Washington. You can drive or take a little red incline up the side of the mountain to get to the overlooks. Even as residents of Pittsburgh, we love going to the lookout!

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In this particular picture, we were visiting with my friend Stef who used to live in the city, but moved away when she was young. She remembers a lot of places, but it’s fun to play tourist!

The Parks

Point State Park is downtown, but Schenley Park is a few miles away and it’s a much bigger and more “typical” park. In true Pittsburgh fashion, there is one spot where everyone likes to sit in the grass and watch the sun go down because guess what…you have a great view of the city. We really like our skyline!

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Schenley Park also has many fields and tennis courts as well as an ice skating rink and a disc golf course! My favorite part of Schenley Park is, of course, the trails. I love to run on them and I love to bike them!

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Hiking – Summer 2013

The Children’s Museum

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This might seem like a strange place to include on my list of favorite places, but The Children’s Museum is a place I loved going as a child and a place I love taking my younger cousins now! Other popular museums include the Andy Warhol Museum, The Mattress Factory, The John Heinz History Center, and the Carnegie museums.

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My brother Jake (L) and my cousin Lucy (R)

This climbing area at The Children’s Museum was a favorite as a child and it’s still a favorite now. Adults DO fit. 😉

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These are my favorite pictures to paint! I had so many with my name on them when I was younger. Now, I make ones related to running. Of course!

Soergel Orchards

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I love this place in the fall for the pumpkins, the apples, the hayrides, the vendors, and the activities…like pumpkin painting.

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I painted it like candy corn. Because of course I did.

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But, I also love Soergel’s come spring for their Easter festival! The year we went with my little cousin Lucy, we got lost on the drive there…it ended up being quite the trek!

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I just love how festive they are!

Kennywood

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If you are a Pittsburgh native, you are an amusement park lover. We had a day off of school every year in the spring for a Kennywood picnic. Everyone would buy tickets and spend the day at the amusement park with their families! This is the Kennywood mascot, Kenny the Kangaroo.

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Lots of the roller coasters are wooden coasters, which makes them all the more bumpy and fun! This is a picture on The Racers. Two roller coaster cars race on parallel tracks and even though we have all now figured out the “trick” about how they decide which car wins every time, it’s still a fun ride. 🙂

Boyce Park and Seven Springs

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In my town, we have always had ski and snowboarding slopes at our local park. A few years ago, they added snow tubing, which I think is the most fun winter sport. How fun is it to lay down, fly down a snowy hill, and then lay back down in your snow tube to ride back up the hill?! A great time for all. 🙂

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Seven Springs is about 45 minutes away and it is THE place for outdoor winter activities. We usually make a trip to Seven Springs at least once a season!

Duquesne University

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My alma mater. I had no idea where Duquesne was even located in our city until I went on a tour there during my junior year of high school! I knew as soon as I got there that it was the place for me.

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It’s affectionately known as “The Bluff” because the campus is on top of a hill…which again, gives us a great view of the city. 🙂

The Pittsburgh Zoo

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Also located on top of a hill, you enter the zoo by riding a huge, steep escalator! The monkey house, the polar bears, the dolphins, and Kids Kingdom, where there are nets to climb and a huge playground, are always my favorite exhibits! It can be a hard walk if you aren’t used to hills, but there are lots of benches along the way!

Other Random Favorites

The Cultural District for the theaters and the restaurants!

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Razzy Fresh in Oakland for frozen yogurt.

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Oakmont Bakery for “The Oakmonter”: bottom layer of cheesecake, top layer of chocolate cake, chocolate fudge in the middle. Topped with milk chocolate butter frosting and dark chocolate piping to finish your sugar coma. 🙂  DSC00048 DSC00063  DSC00074

Hartwood Acres for Christmas lights…but the display hasn’t been open for the past few years! I’m hoping it makes a comeback. Hartwood Acres is another suburban park that is absolutely beautiful!

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And my very favorite spot in the whole city…the path near the Convention Center. I spent many, many, many mornings running this path in college.

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We are the City of Bridges. 🙂

What’s your favorite thing about your city?

Friday Favorites: Surprise Visit Edition

Happy Friday, friends! This week was actually supposed to be my first week of work, but somehow I ended up in my favorite state…

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…good ol’ Pennsylvania. 🙂 So what brought on the sudden road trip?! Well, first of all, road trips are fun. But second of all, I was supposed to take a four day class this week about classroom management and climate, and last week I got an email that the instructor was on medical leave and would be unable to teach. I really thought nothing of the email…I was happy to have an extra week of summer! But then on Sunday night as I was falling asleep and NOT setting my alarm, I had the bright idea to show up in Pittsburgh on Monday. And by show up, I really mean show up.

As in no one knew I was coming.

As in I texted my brothers this picture of the PA sign and they said, “OMG you’re here?!”

As in I walked up behind my mom in the store she was shopping at with my aunt, and she did this…

My Dad’s first question when I sent HIM the picture of the PA sign was, “Did you tell your mother?” He knew she would freak out. I was so happy she was so surprised. And I intended to catch this whole thing on video, but once she said, “OH MY GOD!” and hugged me, I accidentally stopped recording hahaha!

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Alex was also super happy to see me. 🙂

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Jake tried to kill me with his Fast and the Furious driving habits. Just kidding. 😉 He’s actually a good driver. Now if we could just stop “changing songs” on the iPhone while behind the wheel…and to be clear, I feel bad yelling at him for that because I do the same thing. But OMG it’s scary when the sixteen year old does that!

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And I taught my Dad how to take a good selfie. Skills that everyone should know. He said every time he turns the camera around, his face looks weird. Don’t we all know that struggle?!

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And all the selfie takers of the world said Amen.

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The most important moment of the week was getting my hair “fixed”. I am the kind of person who waits until she wakes up one day and says OMG I HATE MY HAIR before I get my hair cut. Therefore, I hardly ever make appointments. Also, I know 2.5 people in DC so I don’t have a new go-to person to do my hair yet. Michelle, the stylist I went to this week, has cut and styled my hair many times in the last ten years and she is my favorite. In fact, she cut my hair when I was thirteen and changed me from long straight hair with a part down the middle to side bangs and side part. And obviously I have never strayed from that style. 😉 But then I went and got my hair cut short. Which I like (most days). I saw my mom a few weeks after I got my hair cut and asked her if she thought the layers in the back looked choppy or sloppy…because there is a difference and that difference matters. We decided it looked fine and I moved on. Lately, my hair is at that awkward in between stage. It’s not short, it’s not long, it’s just there and not doing much for me. So I went to Michelle because she is the only human I trust to put color in my hair (it’s called caramel) and I was SO afraid of what she would think of the choppy layers in the back because she is good at her job and I just knew she would have an opinion. 🙂 Let’s just leave it at this: the girl who cut my hair a month ago had lime green hair and lime green fingernails and Michelle has been cutting hair for twenty years. Now I have nicely cut short hair AND some color!

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#model #lol #not

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I ate lunch at my favorite Pittsburgh restaurant, Eat ‘N Park, and since I’m not young enough to get a free Smiley cookie with my meal anymore, this chocolate covered pretzel had to do the trick. Do you ever just NEED something sweet after a meal? That’s me all the time. 🙂

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I perused books about my new favorite age group…second graders. I am a naturally curious, inquisitive person, and when my principal offered to give me some books to look through, I had no idea what I was in for! There are just a FEW in that stack. Ha!

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Found my favorite coffee mug. Can we talk about how many ounces of caffeinated goodness would FIT in that mug?! Keurig, let’s talk about making that fit under your machine. Thank you.

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I suffered and had to eat Hunt’s ketchup with a meal last week…then I accidentally went shopping at Trader Joe’s and had to buy their version of ketchup. Let’s just identify that there is no better ketchup than Heinz ketchup and Sam’s Club now has me set for life. JK. More like set for the next three months. 🙂

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Shopped at my favorite store (aka Target) and tried on clothes that didn’t match. Does that bother you? Sometimes I honestly pick out a neutral piece that I have no intention of buying just for the purpose of trying on clothes so I can get an idea of what the outfit would look like. Not the case on this night!  I (or should I say my Dad) bought the pants because they were on sale for $11, they have pockets, and they are dressy enough to wear to work. I hope I can pull off the slouchy trouser trend! Reasons I doubt myself: my Dad asked if these were pajama pants. He is also a guy, so he doesn’t understand. And he is color blind, so did he even know what he was looking at? I hope he is reading this right now. 🙂 I danced around in this plaid top because I love the buffalo check pattern on the cuffed sleeves, but I put it back on the rack and now I’m having buyer’s remorse. Target, I will be back.

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I spent twenty minutes of my life whitening my teeth every day this week. I still have 7 more days to go. 🙂 In this picture, I have the white strips on my teeth. The strips come in trays that look like retainers and you just kind of place the tray over your teeth and push up or down so that when you pull the tray out of your mouth, the white strips stick to your teeth. My favorite aunt is a hygienist and she always has the latest and greatest products for us to try. These white strips are like Crest, but 100 times better. I also like them because they taste like mint and if I recall correctly, Crest White Strips taste disgusting. My aunt is having me take before, during, and after pictures throughout these ten days and after only one day, her coworkers in the dentist office were freaking out about how much whiter my teeth were/are. So either my teeth were really bad before, or these strips really work!

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I found my new favorite shirt at Sam’s Club. Yes, you read that right. Sam’s Club. What the what?! I also bought a slouchy Calvin Klein sweatshirt and the cutest pair of running tights for only $9. Who knew Sam’s Club had such great picks?! Not I!

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Let’s talk about moving. I seem to do it a lot, do I not? There are some clothes in my closet at my Mom’s house that I just want in my closet in DC even though I am probably not going to wear them tomorrow. I just don’t like my wardrobe to be spread out all over the map. 😉 In an effort to NOT pack 107 duffel bags or 1 large box (that I do not have room for in my car because I have too many other things), I looked to our favorite friend Pinterest to help me pack hanging items in my closet. Ain’t nobody got time to take all those clothes off the hanger just to put them back on! Enter: the garbage bag. Pick a section of clothes that will fit the width of the bag. Slide the bag up over the sides…

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Take that section off the hanging rod and set it on the floor. It pretty much stands by itself. Slide the garbage bag up over the ends of the hangers so that it is more enclosed, then wrap the ties on the garbage bag around the tops of the hangers. GENIUS. I CAN’T EVEN.

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As if I didn’t love Pinterest enough before. If my description confused you, find the original pin here. And follow all of my boards here! I’m a big fan of the “Is It Fall Yet?” board right now. 🙂

Have the best weekend! 🙂

***

Bloggers, looking for a link-up? Click over to any one of these amazing blogs to join us for Friday Favorites!

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Pittsburgh Half Marathon Recap

I headed home to this place this weekend…

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…to wear an outfit like this…

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…and eat food like this.

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It was marathon weekend in Pittsburgh and I couldn’t wait to go back and cheer on my friends. I knew SO many people who were running and after spectating last year (when I was hurt), I knew it would be fun to go back and watch again! I don’t know why I didn’t sign up…but at the last minute, I found a bib and I was officially running another half marathon! The first time I ran a half marathon in 2013, I was SO nervous and I put SO much pressure on myself to finish in a certain amount of time. Yesterday, I knew my morning routine…I knew what to do when I got to the race…and I knew that even though I was prepared to run 13.1 miles, I didn’t REALLY train for 13.1 miles this spring. I trained for the 10-miler that I ran with my friends three weeks ago. So I have done a lot of running…but I wasn’t ever working towards 13.1. So going into yesterday’s race, I tried to take the pressure off of myself and just run for fun.

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I started the day with my favorite pre-race breakfast of peanut butter banana toast…

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…and got to the starting corrals right at 6:50. The gun went off at 7 AM. Oops! I didn’t mind arriving then because I don’t like standing around to wait. Pre-race nerves kick in and I end up in the world’s longest line with other people who also think they have to pee at the last minute;) So the only bad thing about my (sort of) late arrival was the corrals were PACKED. And since you enter from the back and work your way forward, it was kind of a struggle to get to Corral C, which is where my friend’s bib was registered. Luckily there was a girl in front of me who took charge and led the way!

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I didn’t take many pictures while I was running…but Pittsburgh is known for its bridges, and this is the first one we crossed at 16th Street in The Strip District. Here is what I remember from the race:

Mile 1: So many people. Lots of bobbing and weaving to find my stride. I don’t like when groups of people spread out across the street because then you can’t get past them!

Miles 2-4: Enjoying the crowd support and nice weather. I threw my sweatshirt right at the start line because I didn’t need it! I also started messing with my belt here because I wanted to turn my music on and put my phone in the pocket. Sadly, because I just got a new belt, I couldn’t figure out how to make it tighter and my phone made the belt so heavy…which means it bounced up and down while I was running. No thank you! I ended up holding my phone the whole race, but that was okay because when I run on a normal day I am usually holding my phone (I don’t like arm bands).

Mile 5: First Gu. Unfortunately it was chocolate because I couldn’t find a second salted caramel flavor at the store this weekend. Chocolate Gu is a little too sweet for me, I think. I was excited for the next water station!

Miles 6-9: If you saw me towards the end of these miles, I would have told you I wanted to quit. I thought I was going to see my mom in this stretch and I didn’t see her at the spot I thought she would be at! I also started picturing everything that was coming instead of the mile I was in and I just got cranky. Ha!

Mile 10: Free gummy worms. Usual part of a half marathon…

Miles 11-12: All. the. hills. The Birmingham Bridge is the last bridge you cross and it feels SO hard. This is also the spot where the half marathon and marathon split, so as we turned left to go to the finish line, we were relieved…and stuck with another hill. The end of this race is a slow incline until you are basically at the finish line and then it’s flat! I saw some of the chefs from Duquesne standing on the edge of campus and shouted “Let’s Go Dukes!” and they all started cheering. 🙂

Miles 12-13.1: I definitely played the same song on repeat because it’s loud and mean and helped me go fast!

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If you would like someone to pace you anywhere from 8:32-9:54, call me. Consistency is obviously my middle name. 😉 It’s funny because you can tell I was messing with my belt in mile 4…and then in mile 5 when I gave up and refocused on what I was doing, I ran so much faster!

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My number one fans were at the finish line. 🙂 I finished in 2:05 which is definitely not my fastest half marathon, but I’ll take it knowing I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been! I have a completely different perspective about races now than I did when I started racing…it’s just about celebrating what you can do on that day, in that moment. It’s not about “winning” or stressing yourself out…it’s about the atmosphere of a race. The atmosphere is AMAZING. Runners are excited, spectators are excited, everyone is happy and working hard…it’s very, very inspiring and it’s such an accomplishment no matter how many times you have crossed a finish line.

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And then there are the little things. I may or may not run for the free food.

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The finish line is right by Point State Park and there are a ton of vendors around selling food and other running goodies to us exhausted runners! I wanted to find my friends and see others finish the full marathon, so I took my time…got my medal engraved, drank a shake, and went to this wonderful place with foam rollers.

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Lindsey also ran the half marathon…her fifth half! Pittsburgh is her favorite course ever.

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Then I walked around some more and finally made my way over to mile 25 to find this girl. This was her second full marathon (because she’s nuts…I think I’m a one and done kind of girl) and she was SO. FAST. When I saw her at mile 25, I ran next to her for a little for encouragement…she set a 47 minute PR yesterday. She finished 47 minutes FASTER than she did last year! I am such a proud running friend. 🙂

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My brother got me a bear and now my first Pittsburgh half marathon bear has a friend;)

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And then I had to drive back to Maryland. Sigh. That was a long drive. It was so hard to sit for four hours! Luckily, my friend Kristen was in the car with me. She lives near me and is also from Pittsburgh so she was going home for the weekend to run too! The trip was so much more fun with someone to talk to the whole time! Especially yesterday when it was full of stories about running and racing. Something only a runner could appreciate!

Today, it’s back to reality and three more weeks of school. I think I can, I think I can…

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Unrelated picture of my brother’s dog and his new blanket with a hood. Cutest thing ever. Hahaha

Happy Monday to YOU! What did you do this weekend?

Full Circle

A year ago, my mom and I came to the University of Maryland to meet my advisor and check out the campus. I had been accepted to graduate school, but I had no idea what this place was like. I knew that I could make my decision just by seeing everything…when I visited Duquesne, I just knew I was supposed to be there. And the same thing happened when I came here.

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We came down for the weekend right before Easter. We were on Spring Break and it was perfect timing! I had a meeting scheduled with my advisor and I had to figure out where I was going to live. Of course, we also made time for some fun adventures, like going to D.C…
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…after all, it is only 8 miles away. I have such good memories from this little weekend trip. In typical tourist fashion, we drove to D.C. and just expected to find parking. We ate dinner at Good Stuff Eatery and luckily, we found a place to put our car. We were not so lucky at the National Mall…I mean, it is The National Mall. 😉

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This picture was taken in motion…check out the tour bus to the left. The area that we parked in was reserved specifically for tour busses. My mom does drive a huge SUV but I don’t think that would fool a police man. Ha! So we quickly (illegally) parked and ran to take pictures. #touristproblems

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We went to Palm Sunday service at UMD’s Memorial Chapel…

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We explored the Inner Harbor in Baltimore…

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And of course we went shopping :).

I lived in the city when I went to school at Duquesne…I moved out of my house and did the whole college thing. But I didn’t really “go away”. I definitely gained a new love for Pittsburgh while I was in school because I met friends from so many different places around town and loved living near all the entertainment that a city brings. But I figured if I was going to be in school for a few more years, why not change it up? Why not go somewhere new? I had no idea how I was going to feel leaving everyone behind, but after the first visit to Maryland, I felt excited. I figured out all of the little details on our trip and now it was time to just be excited…so much so that we spent the 4th of July here because I just HAD to show the rest of my family where I was going.

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All of a sudden, it was August, and it was time to move in.

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I would be living with a random roommate, but lucky for me, she was also starting grad school. And she turned out to be super nice. 🙂

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It was a really big deal for me to leave home for the “first” time. And it was an even bigger deal to not know a single soul in my new city…but surprisingly, that didn’t scare me.

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First day of school 🙂

There are also a lot of things about moving somewhere by yourself that you don’t think about before you go…and no one tells you about before you go…that you just kind of figure out along the way. Example: I have a lot of friends, but they aren’t here. I can text them and call them, but I didn’t have someone to immediately invite over for dinner on Friday night. I didn’t have a partner in crime to go shopping with. My family wasn’t around to go to church with me. I am super happy that I ended up living with someone for my first year away because I don’t think I realized how much time I would spend alone. I actually am the kind of person who enjoys alone time, but it is definitely a challenge to make yourself do things by yourself that you wouldn’t usually do. It stopped feeling like a challenge and started feeling refreshing. I wasn’t about to sit in my apartment all day every day…I wanted to go do things, so I went and did them. When there were events happening that I wanted to go to, I went and made friends once I got there. Deciding to move and physically moving all of your things is one thing…deciding to make your move the best thing of your life, well that takes something special.

I did a lot of running…

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…and I did a lot of organizing. The weekend that I got here, I intentionally didn’t unpack all of my things so that I would have something to do once my family left. 😉

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I went to football games with my roommate and welcome week activities with other grad students.

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I baked…

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…and I FaceTimed with my dogs. Ha!

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And slowly but surely, I started to make friends. I met friends at church, I met friends in my running group, I met friends in class and at work.

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Friends to be had everywhere…but I had to make the choice to go find them. There were MANY weekends in my first semester of school where I drove home to Pittsburgh. It was something that I wanted to do, but I also needed to do at that time. I still wanted to feel connected. There were also times when I decided to stay put for the weekend…and then I would see pictures of my friends out and about and feel so left out. That made no sense to me because I love where I live, where I go to school, and what my life is like now. No one tells you what the transition feels like…I didn’t want to live a double live driving back and forth all the time, so I had to learn that my friends will still be my friends even if we aren’t together all the time.

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No one tells you that you might find it completely normal to go to the movies, go out to dinner, or go explore a new part of town…all by yourself. And just when you start to think you’re a weirdo, your family or friends come to visit and you get to brag about your new home.

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I found “my people” slowly but surely…now if I want to go to brunch or try a new fitness class or just hang out…I know who to call. But I’m also totally comfortable doing things I want to do all by myself. No one told me I would learn to get to know myself even more. 😉

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I have learned SO. MUCH. about myself in the last year. I feel more confident, more independent, and dare to say it…happier. I DEFINITELY was not unhappy at this time last year. I was student teaching, loving life, getting ready to graduate and go on vacation with friends. But I feel older. And wiser. And more thoughtful. I am more talkative…I didn’t really have a choice in that one ;). I am more connected in my faith and I think the move made me be more connected to the people in my life, both here and in Pittsburgh. When I think about what I was doing at this time last year, I realize I could have NEVER even pictured what my life would look like right now. And I am so happy to say that I love who I am becoming. That thought that we can plan and plan and plan…and still not know what to expect…is so exciting because WHERE does that mean I will be next April at this time? And where does that mean you will be? How much have we all changed in just one year? What will we be doing? How will we feel? What will our lives be like?

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I have no idea. But I can’t wait to see.

Road Trip Essentials

Finally going home for Spring Break! 🙂

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The drive from Pittsburgh to D.C. or vice versa is ridiculously easy and because it’s ridiculously easy, it’s also ridiculously boring. Or maybe I just think that because I’ve done it 107 times;) That is a slight exaggeration, but I spent a lot of weekends this fall in my car and so I’ve been staying put for longer periods of time these days. The trip is only about four hours, but the mountains of Maryland and Pennsylvania can only be so interesting before you start to lose it! Luckily, about two hours into the trip, I am able to stop in Breezewood, PA where I usually get coffee or food, fill up my gas tank, play with my phone, and then get back to driving. Traffic going home is never bad but traffic coming back is horrendous. As it usually is in this area. Once you are about 30 minutes away from my apartment you hit the bumper-to-bumper loveliness. At all hours of the day. Believe me, I have tried to arrive at many different times.

Since I drive by myself, I have to try to keep myself entertained and alert. When you’re traveling with friends, driving is obviously much more fun! At any rate, here are my road trip rituals for the drive to and from school.

1. Beverages.

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You might think I am crazy for listing drinks first…but listen, I drink a ton of water, and running out of water while I’m on the road is no fun. Most of my water bottles are 32 ounces (because I’m a freak like that) and I try to drink one water bottle during each half of the trip. This way, I know that I’m hydrated, and it makes me stop and take a break half way through the trip because I have to go to the bathroom. Reasons why I have three water bottles instead of one that I refill: the water fountain at the place that I stop tastes disgusting. I actually bought a water bottle there once because I couldn’t stand the taste of the water fountain. #watersnob Also…caffeine is necessary for all road trips, especially solo road trips. 😉

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Two completely different coffee cups…Starbucks or Dunkin??? What team are you???

2. Comfy clothes.

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I usually leave early in the morning (around 7 AM) so I can get to wherever I’m going in a decent amount of time and still have most of the day to get things done or make plans with family and friends. I’m a morning workout person, but if I’m getting up to drive, I just get dressed in my workout clothes. Then I am comfy while I drive and I am ready to workout whenever I get to my destination. 🙂

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I also do not recommend white comfy clothes. I only made this mistake once, but as you can see, it was fatal. Hahaha
I made chocolate Shakeology before I left Maryland and before I started drinking it a few hours later, I just shook the cup again to get the drink moving. When I popped the lid open, it showed me who was boss.

3. Easy breakfast/snacks

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You can’t go wrong with overnight oats when you know you are going to be running out the door! Here, the almond butter jar was basically empty, so I added almond milk, oats, and cinnamon and let it sit in the fridge overnight. When I woke up, I grabbed the whole container and a banana and had a perfect breakfast ready to take with me!

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Shakeology is also perfect for breakfast. Easy to make and it tastes good! On a regular day, I like to drink it a little thicker so it’s like ice cream;) But on the road, it’s often my breakfast! As far as snacks go, I need something that I will eat and it will be gone. No grapes or popcorn or carrot sticks or anything that there is a bunch of because I will in fact eat it all mindlessly while I drive. Granted, most people don’t have entire bags of grapes or carrot sticks on their passenger seat, but when leftover groceries travel with me, I have learned to put them far away from where I can reach them. #somuchselfcontrol

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You know my love of peanut butter and jelly knows no bounds. I love Lara Bars because they are made with a handful of ingredients (REAL FOOD!) so this flavor is a nice healthy replacement for my PB&J obsession. 🙂

4. A full gas tank.

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This should probably be a little higher up on my list but I loathe the gas station. If someone else (like my Dad or brothers) is in the car with me when I get to the gas station, you can bet your fine self I am not getting out of the car. #diva I can make it all the way home on one tank of gas, but one time I decided to leave without a full tank (hey, it was 1/2 full…) and then I didn’t get gas halfway through my trip. Stupid, stupid, stupid. My gas light came on right as I passed a sign announcing the next rest stop was closed due to construction. This was the same night my Shakeology exploded. Great times! Needless to say, I am a freak about filling up my gas tank now. I even get gas halfway just in case. Two times at the gas station in the same day. Go me.

5. New-to-me entertainment.

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If I’m in the middle of listening to a podcast, I make sure to download the latest episode before I leave (using wifi instead of data and all that responsible cell phone stuff). 😉 I also LOVE to add new music to my library or add old playlists to my library just to mix it up. I listen to my music LOUD for the beginning and the end of my trip…it’s my “yay, I’m leaving!” or “yay, I’m almost there!” celebration. But somewhere in the middle, the music starts to annoy me and I find myself hitting next after the first ten seconds of every song. That’s when my podcasts save my life. I’m toying around with the idea of listening to books on tape, but then I think of my 52 book challenge for the year and feel like audio books are cheating! I’m still deciding. For my drive today, I added some T-Pain, John Newman, and Nicki Minaj music to my playlists. Some songs are new, some songs are just new to me, and some are throwbacks.

If you’re on Spring Break this week, happy relaxing Tuesday!
And if you’re stuck in the real world, happy Tuesday to you, too…now, go get a cup of coffee.

– Team Starbucks or Team Dunkin?

– Do you listen to audio books?

– What are your must-haves on the road?

Setting A Personal Record

Yesterday, I did something crazy.  Actually, it’s not all that crazy for a girl who is signed up to run the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Half Marathon in, oh, 13 days.  But it felt pretty crazy because I never did it before.  I ran 11 miles.  The farthest I have ever gone is roughly ten, so to say I was nervous to run yesterday was an understatement!

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I might’ve taken a quick nap in my car first. It was 7:30 a.m. after all…

Recently, me and one of my favorite friends joined the Steel City Road Runners.  The group meets every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday for track/hill work, easy/tempo runs, and long runs.  We thought it would be fun to meet other running obsessed people and get pumped for race day!  This was my second Saturday long run with the group and I was looking forward to exploring some of the roads I will actually be running during the half marathon.  The 11 mile run was rightfully dedicated to the victims and families of the tragedy in Boston.  We all dressed in blue and yellow and ran our hearts out!

Copyright Steel City Road Runners via Facebook.

Copyright Steel City Road Runners via Facebook.

I do have to admit that this winter, I was not the most…ahem…dedicated runner.  Me and the treadmill are not the best of friends and while I do enjoy bundling up in all of my running gear to hit the streets when it’s snowing, I have to say I did not run as much as I would have liked to.  Most runs this spring have felt great, but some have really showed me that I need to regain the speed and strength that I had in the fall.

Exhibit A: The end of a 7 mile run in March.

Exhibit A: The end of a 7 mile run in March.

Yesterday I took off with the 9 minute mile group and I really fell into a groove!  I loved running across the bridges, past the Children’s Museum, through South Side, and back around through Downtown.  It kept my brain entertained while my legs said please stop, Kylie, we’re tired.  I stayed within the 8 minute range throughout the entire run!  I was very thankful for Gatorade along the way and I finally got to try GU!!!  I had chocolate and it was delicious.  I ate a little bit at the end of every mile.  Runners of the world…I know that’s not how you’re supposed to eat it.  But I had to SAVOR the chocolate-y goodness!

My lovely running friends :)

My lovely running friends 🙂

Look at these girls!  They are my biggest supporters 🙂 They did amazing as well!  I am proud of all of us for CRUSHING those 11 miles.  I finished in 1 hour and 35 minutes with an average of 8:37 per mile.  In 13 days I will race and in 13 days I will finish 13 miles in less than two hours.  That goal is MINE!

Questions:

-What’s the craziest thing you did this weekend?

-Treadmill run or outside run?

-Favorite flavor of GU?

-Any long distance runners out there?!