Sunday, December 4, 2016

Decking The Halls: Fireside Memories

As Advent and Christmas season is among us, I thought I'd share my thoughts and joys via blog with different themes throughout the month. 

This is my absolute favorite time of the year, for a variety of reasons. 
1. The temperatures start to get amazing in Tucon. 30-40's at night. 60's during the day. Cool enough for tights, leggings, and sweaters. Warm enough to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine. 
2. I adore Christmas music, decorations, lights, garland, and everything glistening.
3. The food!  The drink! An excuse to spend every weekend baking something new. Sipping Christmas themed cocktails or delicious red wine. Gingerbread, peppermints, fudge.....ahhhh

So for post #1, I share my favorite: The fireplace. 

Ryan and I have lived in 4 houses, and 2 apartments - and this is our 1st with a fireplace! I have dreamt of decorating a mantle for years - so am very pleased we get that in this home. 

Our fireplace was converted into a double-sided fireplace, so we can either enjoy the fire in the kitchen or in the "reading room" (as I call it - it's a second living space). Last night Ryan returned home from his 3 week trip in Vegas, and we had our 1st fire. 

I was not so keen on a wood-burning fireplace, due to the smoke. But it took quite nicely last night. 

As we sat by the fire, cuddled up on the couch with our furry Golden Retriever -- my heart felt very full. I reflected on the precious years of sitting by the fire with family around at my Mom and Dad's lake cabin. And I envisioned the many fires we will enjoy at this home in the years to come. There is something about a fireplace that just says "home", in my opinion.

This is the fireplace from the "reading room".

And here is the fireplace from the kitchen - where I decorated it  for Christmas. The decoration theme in our house is "Christmas in the woods" -- lots of garland, trees, and antlers. 

(Yes, we need to get a stocking for Miles)

I am excited to enjoy this mantle for the next few weeks a it is lit up and dressed with garland.

What is your favorite piece in your house to decorate during the holidays? In our old house, it was the bannister of the staircase!




Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thankful

I know, I know - Thanksgiving was 2 days ago. But I have to do a little reflection post of the season.

I also haven't had a personal computer for several weeks. (long story).

So alas, I make time for a little reflection and tribute post to those things I am thankful for. Because isn't the entire holiday season a time of thanksgiving, love, and joy?

I write this post at a Starbucks in Las Vegas, as my dear husband does grad schoolhomework. For the hotel he is living at for 3 weeks has unreliable Wifi. Needless to say, he is excited to come home! ;) So greetings from Sin City!

2016 has been a whirlwind of a year. We have had many changes and different things thrown at us, and when I look back to a year ago - I feel like I, too, have changed. But if you aren't changing, you aren't growing.

  1. I am thankful for a home. The obvious shelter, air conditioning, pillow to rest my head on. But beyond that....we purchased a new home this year that will be our "forever home" (at least for 5-8 more years. ha!) 1 year ago....I thought we would be living in apartment, base lodging, hotels, and moving every 4 months for the next 3 years of our lives. So I am thankful that we have found a stable home that we LOVE.
  2. I am thankful for my friends. It is easy to become homesick having no family within 1000 miles. Ryan is also gone a lot for various trainings and work trips. I work from home, which is isolating. But my friends fill those gaps. We run together and conquer our problems at 5 am. We do dinner parties together. They are the kind of friends I could call at 2am, in an emergency - and they would be at my door within 10 minutes. When I felt weird that Thanksgiving would be spent in Vegas - one of the couples booked a trip to Vegas to join us for the weekend.
  3. I am thankful for my family. Not every family gets along. Not every family actually enjoys each other' company. That is not the case in mine. I love and savor every second I get with them. My parents, my siblings, my extended family -- I am thankful for them all. My parents gave me such a stable, loving home - and now I can call them my closest friends in the world.
  4. I am thankful for my best friend, my husband. We have made a lot of big decisions this year together - and some of those decisions have been tough. We don't have family in town anymore. We are each other's family, support system, cheerleader, etc. Not only do we love each other - but we have so much fun together! 
I hope everyone reading this had a great Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, good food, and memories! My Thanksgiving was the most interesting one I've experienced. But now we have a story to tell, right? My Thanksgiving involved: running the Las Vegas strip, art shopping, sports betting and drinking beer with friends, and a giant plate full of lots of sushi and some turkey, and photo-bombing tourist-selfies. (I just turned 12 last week, apparently)





Thursday, November 3, 2016

A-Mountain Half Marathon

Sunday I competed in the final race of the "Gabe Zimmerman Triple Crown Race Series". Remember that big shooting that happened in Tucson where Gabby Giffords was shot? Well, one of the victims was Gabe Zimmerman, who was an avid runner in the community. Tucson has started a charity race series in honor of Gabe. It's a great series full of good people, community, and support -- and the 3 races really showcase how beautiful Tucson is.

It starts with the Downtown 5K in May, which is a night race. It's a fast, flat race through Downtown Tucson as the sun sets. And the post race party has a giant block party with bands, food trucks, and all the bars/restaurants give discounts to anyone wearing a race bib!

This is the crew of ladies on Race #1. Ryan and I did get a photo together, I just cannnot seem to find it ;) I PR'd my 5K in this one and ran the 5K in 20:19, which was a 6:30 pace. My goal is to break 20 minutes next year! 


Race 2 is the Saguaro National Park 8 miler. This is a very difficult race. In fact, it is listed as one of the toughest road races in the USA. The elevation profile is insane.
This is the crew at Saguaro race! My goal was to sub 8 min/mile, and my pace at 7:52/mile. I was very proud of myself, as when I last did this race in 2008, I had a 9:20/mile pace! 



And the final race #3 is the A Mountain Half Marathon. This is hosted in Downtown Tucson, but it loops you around the "famous" A Mountain - which is a mountain, which a giant "A" painted on it! And yes, you run up and around that mountain around mile 7 of the half marathon. And yes, it kind of sucks!

Here are Ryan and I pre-race! Ryan really did not want to do this race. Lol. He is a very fast 5K man, and not so keen on the long distance races. While we were waiting for the race to start, he kept staring at the coffee shop across the street saying, "I could just get the newspaper, grab a coffee, and have a nice morning while you do this..." (But his competitive drive always kicks in, and he ends up enjoying it!)


The obligatory girls' picture! 

What did I learn during the race? Well, it was the 1st half marathon that I really set out to push pace. And my calves were on FIRE the 1st 2 miles because I skipped the warm up. In the past, I would run about an 8:20/mile pace. But I learned that when you're running between 7-7:30/mile, you HAVE to warm up! It took me a long time to settle in, and I had to drop back a bit in the beginning to allow my legs to warm up. 

I finished 11th for women, 4th in my age group, 58th overall! There were 612 runners, so I'll take those numbers! I finished in 1:42:17. When I hit mile 11, I couldn't push as hard as I wanted, and that is probably because training I never ran more than 11. I really think I could have done better, but I'm not going to beat myself up! As this is such an improvement from my past races! 

Ryan finished in 1:46 - which is amazing. He only ran 1 day/week in training and this is his 2nd half marathon! I'm super proud of him! 

Next up? Phoenix Marathon. But 1st I have the El Tour de Tucson Bike Race. Which is a great little cross training reprieve! 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Training Talk

February 25 I'm running another marathon.

Did you know that I have fully trained from 4 marathons, yet only actually run 4?

Not because of injury, but because of work schedules.

Well on Feburary 25, Abby is running The Phoenix Marathon -- and nothing is getting in the way.

And Abby really would like to qualify for Boston.

Last year I had goals of qualifying for Boston, but now as I look back - I wasn't ready. I wasn't strong enough. My pace was just starting to peak. With lots of speed work, research, drills/strength training to keep my muscles balanced, talking to various running coaches.....I think I'm ready to go for it.

The qualifying time for my age group is 3 hr 35 min.
However, it is recommended to at least give yourself a 10 minute window. Every 10 minutes below your qualifying time, the sooner you can put in your registration for the lottery.

One cannot just qualify - you had to crush your qualifying time these days!

My goal is to finish in 3 hr 25 minutes. I'd really like to keep my pace at 7:45/mile, and that pace will definitely allow me to meet my goal.

Whether I make the lottery to get into the Boston Marathon is out of my control.All I can do is run as fast as my body will let me!

Here is where some of you may get bored, if you're not into running and details and such.....

The Course:
Gradually downhill, mostly flat, a few minor hills thorugh Phoenix.

The weekend:
My birthday weekend. What better way to celebrate entering the finally year of my 20's, than running a marathon?!

The Training
All summer long I have been working on speed and strength. I met with a running coach to talk about how to get with my goals. She gave me my paces for the various workouts I'll do during the week:

Long Runs: 8:20/mile - with some goal pace pick-ups throughout the run (it is so hard for me to wrap my mind around doing my long runs so slow! But....I'll listen.

Tempo Runs: 7:15/mile pace.

Speed drills: anywhere from 6:25/mile pace on my intervels to 7:00/mile depending on the length of the interval.

Aerobic run: anywhere from 6-10 miles at around my goal pace (7:45/mile)

Easy run: 8:30/mile to shake out the legs after a tough workout


So I have been modeling this work out plan for the past 2 week, and it seems to be working! I'm not really training for the race yet - but I do have a half marathon at the end of the month.

Thursday I did a 7.5 miles tempo run at a 7:20/mile pace....and I held a conversation the whole time with my partner! Which means I could have been pushing harder. Which means...I Can Do This!

I'm really going to focus on listening to my body, good nutrition, hydration, and focus for the 16 weeks leading up to the race!

I'm excited :)


Thursday, October 13, 2016

What's New: Career Goals


Once upon a time, I was a little girl who had all these dreams. But then life got sort of comfortable.

College was really quite easy for me. Then I got into the career - and there were moments where I obviously struggled and said "This is REALLY hard", and perhaps I would come home some nights shedding a few tears because nursing can suck. 

But the reality I found is -- as long as I worked a little harder than those around me -- it was pretty easy to advance and be known as a top performer. 

So why go to grad school? Why become a Nurse Practitioner like I originally planned? Why not just sail through my career - stay comfortable - accept the opportunities I find - and just enjoy life?

The past few months have been kind of a struggle for me mentally. I work 40 hours a week. And life is busy! But my brain is feeling a little, well, under-used. (I don't even think "under-used" is a word. See?? I'm turning to mush!!) 

There is this voice inside me saying "But it's so convenient! Suck it up. You work from home. Don't blow this". 

But then there's that little girl that had big dreams and aspirations saying "Don't do what's easy! Do what makes you proud and happy."

Yes, I am admitting to voices in my head. ;) Voices that run through my head at 3 in the morning lately when I cannot sleep. 

I kind of have been feeling as though "Abby" has lost her spirit lately. I've lost touch of my "go get 'em" attitude, and have become the girl that constantly chooses what is most convenient. 

So after much research, and interviewing many different people....I have decided to rekindle my original dream of becoming a Nurse Practitioner! 

So although it isn't going to be easy, I'm doing it. I have learned after much reflection that me as a person doesn't do so "great" when I'm not challenged enough. I thrive when I'm overwhelmed and busy. And this work-from-home job, although convenient, is just not giving me what I desire. 

(You can say it....I probably sound like a millennial right now. I'll own it. But just so you all know, I am actually NOT a Millennial. I am a Generation Y.

To make the choice of getting my masters degrees, I looked into:

-cost of school
-reviews of school (these are obvious ones)
-length of school
-amount of hours of clinicals and classroom time
-average cost of daycare in your city
-a conversation with your spouse about putting kids in daycare 
-how much of a maternity leave would I like to take if we were to have children, as that may affect my entrance into my career field or my schooling
-we don't even have kids and are not even close to having kids
-just submit your application and stop overthinking things already

I have to admit, and this is just between the girls...I am envious of the man in my life who kind of gets to look at a goal and go for it. And doesn't really blink an eye about the 1000 other "what-if's".

So here I go - applying to schools! My goal is to start in January. One of the schools I've already been accepted into has a waiting list, so I'm not guaranteed to begin in January. 

I am so grateful for my work-from-home job with East Coast hours, where I am able to work from 6-2 or 7-3. This will give me the flexibility to spend my evenings studying - and still give me a little quality of life/sanity!

For the second time in 2016, I'm making a big decision and feel really at peace with it! (Decision #1 was to stay in Tucson after we sold our house, moved into an apartment, shipped our dog across the country, and I changed jobs. ). 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

September "Currently"

Haven't done one of these since June, and I'm really trying to get better about writing/blogging! Here are my September's "currently's". I cannot believe the month is almost through!

Reading: 2 books. "City of Thieves" and "Saving Abby" I have hard enough time finishing 1 book, so doing 2 at the same time is not smart. But I was feeling an "easy" read last weekend while we were camping!

Thinking: About how to decorate our house. We have now been in it almost 3 months, and the walls remain very bare. I just want it perfect - and my style. And our new house is very unique. It is a mixture of Southwest Rustic and Modern. The kitchen is all stainless steel and white cabinets - raised ceilings. But there are rooms with adobe brick walls concrete flooring. I just have to keep looking and pinteresting until I find the right pieces!

I wish I was more creative....

Frustrated: With the pool company that started their job on the day we closed....and they still haven't finished it. Our pool works great- but the spa doesn't. And Ryan has asked them to come back 6 (seriously) different times.

Now they are resorting to not answering phones or returning our calls. I get extra pissed off, because my Dad ran a company and he never left his customers dissatisfied or unanswered like this! He cared about his customers and put them 1st! Why is it so hard to find good, honest, hard working people these days?! Rant complete.

Feeling: Content to have some monotony for a while. Sometimes "monotony" is a good thing. I feel like our life has been such a whirlwind this year I don't even know when or where I got on the roller coaster.

We both made career changes, we were going to move to the Midwest, we changed our minds, we sold our house, we relocated the dog, we decided to stay in Tucson, we bought a house, visited family 1 week later, worked on settling in, took a trip to Barbados, had Ryan's mom out for a week.

All these obviously super exciting wonderful things! But I'm kind of ready for some "routine". At least for a few weeks ;)


Anticipating: Getting our baby back. Our baby is the 2 year old Golden Retriever, Miles. We both miss him so much - my heart kind of aches for his loyalty, for our long walks, and for his every day enthusiasm to see me! He flies from MSP to PHX October 15! Wish him luck! ;) (haha!)

Sad:  Every time I turn on the tv. I'm not going to get political here. I just get sad with all the scary tough things going on. Our upcoming election. And the amount of hatred and ugly that seems to exist more and more these days....

Working: On a drainage project in our backyard. It is so much labor - and doesn't really deliver the aesthetics one would hope! But it's necessary. We live in rough desert - and every time it rains, our yard floods. So we have been hauling rocks (8 TONS, in fact), shoveling dirt, and making our yard drain properly so we can eventually look at p8tting in fruit trees and a garden!

It's a marathon...not a sprint ;)

Grateful: For running. I work from home at a computer all day. And that can be rather isolating. I am so grateful for my 5 am running girlfriends, to set my day right! For the past 5 weeks, I've been helping coach Junior high cross country with one of my running friends who is a teacher/head coach at a local school. Running with these kids, coaching them, teaching them the passion of running is such a good "release" after a day of sitting at a desk! I never ever saw myself in this environment - but I have to say I love it!Such a fun age group to work with!

Listening: To Amazon Music these days. They have a great music app that is all playlists, and lets you create playlists too! Everything Amazon impresses me!!

Wishing: The rains would come in like they are supposed to this week, and cool the air off! I am tired of 100 degree days or 80 degree evenings, and ready for some fall weather! :) 

Monday, September 19, 2016

White Mountains Camping

So Thursday night Ryan and I were out hanging metal fencing to snake-proof our yard, and I said, "What should we do this weekend besides our 50 mile bike ride Saturday morning?"

And he said, "Do we have to bike?"

I said, "What else do you have going on?"

Ryan responded "Camping"

And within 2 hours we were rummaging through our camping gear and off to the grocery store to plan a spur-of-the-moment trip to the White Mountains!

White Mountains are about 4 hours NE of Tucson -- and it is my favorite place in the state! It is all pines and about 30 degrees cooler. In the winter time they get snow and all the hiking trails turn into cross country trails. The scenery is absolutely breath-taking and there is so much wild life!!

Our favorite camping destination in this area is Big Lake - and we always stay at Rainbow Campground, which is across the road from the lake.

I've gotten so used to reallllllly "roughing it" with backpacking -- that I felt like were staying at a 5-star resort. I started freaking out when I realized the bathrooms had flush toilets and a sink! (anyone who heard me must have thought I'm from the "back woods" lol)

Friday was a long day. I woke up at 4:10am, got a 5 mile run in, started work at 5:15 am, worked until 12:30 (which was almost a full 8 hr day!!), and then we drove 4.5 hours to the campground!

We got there just in time to set up camp, and watch the sunset just 1/4 mile from our tent! Breathtaking....


I LOVE the big pine trees! Look how big that thing is compare to our tent!


Saturday morning we had an early start. It was about 35 degrees, so it was a mad rush to get a fire started and breakfast cooking. We made breakfast burritos on our camp stove and coffee with pumpkin creamer. Warmed my soul! 

After breakfast, we headed down to the lake for some fishing. The view of the lake was breath-taking. We had the lake to ourselves for the 1st hour!

We rented a boat -and this time we got a motor boat. 5 years ago, we tried the row boat. And let's just say, that didn't work out so hot ;) -- it makes for a funny story in the long run!

I thought Ryan looked like "Grumpier Old Men" with his fishing hat and flannel!


I'm not much for fishing. I enjoy sitting in the boat with my Kindle and enjoying the lake.And perhaps a beverage.

 I was reading "City of Thieves" -but took a break for something different and picked up a book called "Saving Abby". It's a book about a couple who have been married 7 years, that cannot conceive, and they travel the world writing children's books to try to distract their pain.


After fishing we headed back to camp, I used our left-over fajita meat from Friday night to make campfire nachos, and then we headed out for a hike!

This was one of the best hikes I've ever done! We saw elk, a family of 5 deer, a fox, found (and devoured) wild raspberries, and got an amazing look-out! 


This was a map of the trail we did. We just did 5 miles of it up to Big Lake Lookout - which used to be a wildfire look-out station. When we were here 5 years ago, we got climb up in the tower, but that has since burned down :'(

Devastating burned trees. But eventually...new life will come.

This picture doesn't even come close to doing justice of how vast the view is. But if you can see the miles and miles and miles of "sticks" that were once lush pines. Very sad.




My attempt at a panoramic shot of the views from the top!




On the way down, we went off trail and were hunting for deer bones to bring home from Miles ( we get him back in less than 1 month, and he LOVES chewing on bones). All I could find were a few vertebrae bones though. 

However, what I did find was wild raspberries and poison oak! These raspberries were so sweet and delicious!! I didn't realize I was standing in a field of poison oak until after I ate the raspberries. I paid for it at 3am. ;)



Here is a picture of the trail. This was just such a neat and beautiful trail!! I could have stayed out there for hours.





Because we had a lot on our "to do list" at home, we decided to pack up early Sunday morning. Instead of cooking breakfast in the 35 degree temps, we decided to find a good breakfast shop on the way home.

We stopped in Pinetop, AZ -- which is an adorable little touristy mountain down. We had breakfast at a place called "Darbie's Cafe" and it was - a-mazing!! I had the Asparagus Crepes -- which were crepes stuffed with asparagus, onion, avocado, and tomato -- and had hollandaise on top.

These trips are always so restorative and good for us! It's going to be a crazy couple of months or so ahead of us -- so I am so happy we squeezed in a camping trip when we could!!