The Grind

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Early last week, I started asked my facebook friends where I should go to dinner after my 20 miler. I mean, clearly food is the most important thing after you run! I wanted to be prepared. ;) I got a lot of great suggestions, but ultimately my friend Nicole won with her suggestion of The Grind. The menu looked awesome and all of the food is coal fired. Not to mention the drink list looked amazing.

Nicole’s drink: The Moscow Mule

My Blackberry Sidecar. Probably my favorite thing I tasted all night. After one, they ran out of blackberry and I was sooooo sad!

For dinner all of us except for Lance ordered the turkey burger. Nicole and I added goat cheese to ours which was an excellent choice. I would add goat cheese to pretty much anything though.

The burger was seasoned well, but it was a fattier turkey than I would have preferred. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I like my turkey burgers to be practically white, and at least 90% lean. A lot of restaurants in Phoenix offer some really lean turkey burgers, but this one was definitely a little greasy for my taste. It still tasted good, but not sure it’s something I would order again. Nicole and I also split an order of the half and half fries which were half herb fries and half sweet potato fries.

Honestly, they were pretty disappointing. The herb fries just tasted like regular old french fries, and the sweet potato fries were fine, but not exciting. Not like the sweet potato fries at Fez! They didn’t taste bad, just kinda boring. However, you know what was NOT boring? Umm this AMAZING dessert.

Hot, fresh donuts with a salted butterscotch dipping sauce. I diiiiieeee.

LOOK AT THEM!!! SO MUCH DELICIOUS!!!

Seriously, the drinks and dessert alone were worth the entire experience. Steve’s veggies that we didn’t photograph were also perfectly seasoned and delicious, so maybe I just need to try and order something else for my main course? Either that, or just go for cocktails and dessert, because those are the most important things anyway. ;) Nicole posed with me to remind the world that I ran 20 miles. Good friends take silly pictures with you in public for you to post on your blog.

20 (.5)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That face is so cute, right? Maybe the next cycle of ANTM will be for old people, and I can pursue my amazing modeling skills.

What are your favorite restaurants and your favorite things about them??

 

 

The Grind on Urbanspoon

Jason’s 31st Birthday

"It's my birthday!" Jason is going to be so happy I posted this picture.

So Jason is officially 31, which, if my memory serves me correctly, means we’ve been friends for about 11 years. It’s been quite a decade, and I have had the pleasure of watching one of my favorite people on earth grow up, and become this truly incredible version of himself. I love that about life long friendships–seeing how people change, and grow, and who they become along the way. I can’t wait to see how we all morph over the next decade!

Anyway, I wanted to make sure to celebrate Jason’s birthday before I left for the summer, so Saturday night we headed to O.H.S.O. Brewery. I read about this place on Marisa’s blog, and it looked like the perfect place for the occasion. Great looking menu, and enormous list of beers on tap, including some of my personal favorites.

“It’s my birthday!” Jason is going to be so happy I posted this picture.

Next to Jason is his friend Charles. Charles *hates* having his picture taken. He tried to hide from the camera several times, but he was right next to the birthday boy, so he’s in more shots than he knows ;)

Hermano is creepily trying to get into that shot in the background, hah.

Look Hermano, you get your OWN picture! ;)

While we waited for our food, we had some drinks. I had a half and half pint of coffee porter and sonoran white chocolate ale. Ummm, delicious. I’m a great beer mixer. I couldn’t wait for Jason to open his presents, so he started right after we ordered.

We got him the awesome Minnie Mouse bag. Hi Charles! ;)

Okay, so last week Jason was at my house, and his birthday present had come in the mail already, and Steve and I didn’t realize it was sitting out on the counter, so Jason picks it up and asks “Whose is this?” Crap. I totally froze, and blew the surprise, so he wasn’t exactly shocked when he opened it.

A GARMIN!!! What’s funny is Tom got him a one year gym membership. We didn’t consult until after we bought our respective gifts. I suggested to Bethany to make the whole thing really offensive and buy him a session of liposuction. Hah. But seriously, Jason has been doing awesome with his running, and I think he will get a ton of use out of this baby, especially since the day of his birthday celebration I pretty much forced him to sign up for a half marathon. Yes, I am a great friend. If you would like a super obnoxious friend that forces you to work out against your will, I am now accepting applications.

We also got him something he will probably enjoy even more…

It’s a People of Walmart book. Jason hates Walmart, and he always talks about how trashy it is, so I knew he’d get a kick out of this book. Next, he opened Bethany’s present.

Clearly, it was a hit.

Great work, Bethy. Not only did you buy the best gift, and fit the gift theme, you also fit the wrapping theme. The hot pink is perfect.

SHAKE WEIGHT!!!!!

Pump those biceps. It’s also the female shake weight. Gotta start somewhere.

We also had a pretty hilarious talk about shake weight injuries. Apparently, that thing can be dangerous! Shake with caution. Steve and I registered for one of those when we got married, but I am very sad to report that no one got us one.

Shortly after presents, our food arrived, and everything was so so soooo delicious. I didn’t take pictures of any of it because I was too busy inhaling my veggie burger. Yummmmm. Then we had birthday brownies for dessert.

Recipe coming soon. These were ridiculous.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JASY!!!!
O.H.S.O Brewery on Urbanspoon

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

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Hello from Ashland, OR! Tons of exciting things happening right now! Yesterday, I left Phoenix for the next 7 weeks. I’m on a little bit of a vacation for the next few days visiting my friend Mandie, then teaching/directing/choreographing in Portland, then off to Maui for my (late) honeymoon. Whew. Can you imagine packing for that many things at once? It was a little ridiculous. Even Clementine thought so.

“Mom. I think you’re forgetting something. If you don’t pack me, who will run circles around your neck and nibble on your nose all summer? Huhhhh???”

It’s definitely going to be a challenge to be away from Steve for the next 6 weeks. Before I left, he took me on the best date ever. This guy. He is amazing. It started out with my first trip ever to the baking supply store!

Then dinner at Bandera.

They have the bessssst cornbread!

Yummmmm.

Baking store and bread? Clearly, he know the way to my heart. ;)

I arrived in Ashland late last night, and pretty much went straight to bed. I can’t stay with Mandie because she has a cat, but she put me up in a super cute hotel down town! It kind of reminds me of a fancier hostel. There’s a shared bathroom, but private rooms, and the rooms are super cute and homey looking.

I woke up bright and early this morning. Of course. Why would my body ever possibly let me sleep in? Actually, it wasn’t bad, though. I looked at my phone, and it read 52 degrees, and I looked outside and saw clouds, and felt a beautiful breeze. I couldn’t wait to get outside, get my workout in, and explore the city! Today is the first official day of my marathon training. I had high hopes that my body would be like “OMG marathon training!! ALL BETTER!! Run all you want, Ari!” You can call me silly, but I prefer idealistic ;)

The truth is, running still hurts. Almost immediately. But it’s okay. I had surgery less than 2 weeks ago, and as much as I would love to wear a cape and stuff, I’m not super woman. The good news is it’s so early that this won’t set me back, and the mileage is really low, so I can walk my training plan until I’m back to normal. I actually forgot how great walking can be! I walked around downtown Ashland before finding Lithia Park that Mandie had mentioned to me when we drove in last night.

This park was absolutely gorgeous!! I really wished I had brought my camera with me, and not just my phone. I will definitely have to go back before I leave. I did manage to capture a bit of it on the android, though.

This beautiful creek runs all the way through the park, and there are tons of benches, and places to sit, as well as little paths down to the water. If I lived here, I would be here every day. The road started off paved, then turned into a trail.

I just kept walking, and let myself kind of get lost in there. I had been so excited to get out this morning, I hadn’t even thought to grab my ipod, and I ended up being really glad to be out there without it, and just be with nature. I saw lots of other walkers, a few runners (jealous face), and even some people doing yoga! Everyone was super friendly. In fact, I am kind of obsessed with this town. If I never make it back to Phoenix, you know why…

I have this thing for water. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the desert.

And the coolest part? I saw DEER!!!!!

I was walking by, and I heard rustling. The next thing I knew I was 3 feet away from these deer, staring them in the face. They weren’t the least bit frightened of me. How cool!!! Speaking of, I don’t know if I ever mentioned the time Nicole and I went on a driving adventure in Tempe, and saw a zebra in someone’s back yard?

Not quite as cool as the deer, but definitely interesting, haha. Can you imagine owning a zebra? Anyway, now I’m sitting at Starbucks enjoying some hot coffee.

Ohhh, how I’ve missed you. Grande bold coffee, 2 pumps sf mocha, 1 pump sf caramel, steamed soy.

Also, I have some really exciting news! A couple of weeks ago, I finally did something that I’ve wanted to do for quite some time, and I applied to be a FitFluential ambassador. I never thought in a million years that I would be accepted, but last night I received an email inviting me to join the team, and I am BEYOND thrilled!!! What an amazing opportunity to be a part of a community I value so highly with other bloggers that I admire. I am a lucky gal!

 

Firefly Run 5K Race Recap

Heather, Emily, Nicole, Me, Bethany & Jason

Saturday evening I had the opportunity to participate in my first night race!

Heather, Emily, Nicole, Me, Bethany & Jason

Decked out in glow gear. We take night racing very seriously.

Steve, Jason, Bethany and I arrived pretty early so that Jason could register. We quickly met up with Nicole, Emily and Stacey, and hung out for a bit before lining up for the race.

Jason, Bethany and I started towards the back. It was Bethany’s first race, and we had all three planned to run it together. Usually, I’m a big jerk and I ditch my friends at races (or if I race with Nicole, I tell her to just leave me because I will never make it at her pace haha), but I really wanted to run Bethany’s first race with her, and I was excited about the idea of running with my two best friends.

When we started running, I was amazed at how nice it was to be able to look around and enjoy my surroundings. The only thing I usually see during the race is the face of little Garmi. And she’s cute, but Phoenix at night kind of is too. The weather was perfect, and it just felt amazing to be running through the city at night!

The race was an out and back route, so shortly after mile 1, we saw Nicole and Stacey racing back. We all shouted and waved at each other. I was ridiculously energetic, and I kept trying to talk to Jason and Bethany, but they were not feeling as chatty as me haha. Emily and Heather were pretty close to us for the majority of the race as well.

At mile 2, I could tell Bethany was getting tired, but she turned it up a little bit and surprised Jason and me. I started thinking at that point

10 years ago, who would have thought that we would be here?

10 years ago I was near the end of my “first round” of weight loss. I was ridiculously unhealthy, and in a very bad place in my life. We had all been through an impossibly tough and life changing situation together, and the three of us were doing the best we could to get by. Sometimes I can’t believe we’ve made it to this point in our lives–not running a 5k, but maintained our friendship through thick and thin, grown and changed so much as human beings, and found even deeper love and appreciation of our friendships.

I began to get a little lot sentimental, and started to wish that our whole group could be together, but mostly, I was just happy to have these 2 amazing friends in my life, and to be accomplishing goals together. We’ve always been really different. Neither of them are into theatre, and we’re all just really different, so it was awesome to be going after something together.

Bethany kicked some serious ass, didn’t stop once, and ran the fastest she’s run in this stage of her life. I couldn’t be more proud of her!

Before we finished, Steve caught Stacey busting through the finish line with a rockin’ PR!!

You PR that shit, Stacey!!

Then at the very end, Jason picked it up a little and finished a few seconds before Bethany and me.

So serious!

Shortly after, Bethany rocked it out and pulled out a sub 9 pace for the last stretch. I finished with the biggest grin on my face.

Running is fun!!

WHEEEEE!!! I love running!!!! Usually at the end of a race I hate running. This was a pleasant change ;)

After the race,  we headed over to Papago Brewing Company for food and drinks, where we met up with Nacho.

And Miriam and Scott who were visiting from Indiana.

Jason and Nacho had been to Papago Brewing Company before, finding it after we had all been huge fans of their brews at various other restaurants. The beer selection was ridiculous, and the food was incredible! Almost everyone ordered pizza.

Everything I tasted was delicious, and I absolutely loved the atmosphere of this place! I was worried it was going to be a little stuffy since it’s in Scottsdale, but it was definitely beer people atmosphere if that makes sense. I absolutely loved it and will definitely be back in the future!

Final funny note: I mentioned to Steve that he didn’t get a single picture of Nicole after the race began and he commented “She ran by so fast at the end, the camera couldn’t focus on her!” Nice job, Speedy Gonzales. ;)

 

Nicole’s Birthday @ Pizzeria Bianco

I want one of these in my house. I'm counting on Lance to make that happen.

If you live in Arizona, and maybe even if you don’t, you’ve probably heard of Pizzeria Bianco. Several reviews call it the best pizza in the United States. It is a tiny little restaurant in downtown Phoenix, and they are known for their delicious, wood oven baked pizzas, and their outrageous wait times. I’ve heard up to 4-5 hours!! And people wait. There’s a bar next door that I’m sure gets a ton of business as people go through multiple bottles of wine waiting for their chance at some pizza.

I had tried to get a reservation there for my birthday, but was told you need to make them about 1-2 months out (YIKES!!). Also, they only make them for parties of 6 or more. For Nicole’s birthday, we made a plan pretty far out in advance, that we would brave the wait times and finally get to try this place.

I want one of these in my house. I'm counting on Lance to make that happen. Nicole's husband has magical powers. Like building ovens, fixing electricity, and changing light bulbs. Yes, I do find changing a light bulb magical. I would be too lazy to even consider it until I had to get out the flashlight app on my phone.

Oh look, my favorite food! Maybe they should create a race special to end right out front and at the end, instead of a medal, they just give you a loaf of bread. A girl can dream...

To our surprise, we were seated immediately! Apparently 6pm on a Tuesday night is the time to get your pizza fix, friends! I was pretty impressed with their fancy glass coke bottles.

It was really nice to get to know some of Nicole’s friends! They were super awesome and fun (obviously, because awesome people keep awesome company ;) )

The Birthday Girl aka my BBFF. Nicole, that means Blog BFF. I created that title just for you. I hope you like it and don't think I'm a freak. ;)

Sheena...I hope I spelled that right!

Kevin

Camille

I have no idea who that crazy is with the cute husband.

We all ended up ordering a different pizza, and I have to say, none of them disappointed!

Steve and I shared this one. It's called the Rosa and has rosemary, pistaccios, and red onions. It was soooo flavorful!! It was like my tastebuds were having a party like that little rat in Rattatouie!

Nicole's pizza. I know it had ricotta cheese and arugala. It was also super delicious, but I liked mine better :)

Lance's pizza....it had....meat. So descriptive, I know. I didn't taste it, but he liked it!

I don't remember who ordered this or what it was, but it looks good!

And the winner issss....! Oh yes, that is my pizza again.

Everything was delicious. I seriously could not get over how bold the flavors were. I don’t think I would wait 4 hours, but I would absolutely go back again!

After dinner we took some pictures. I know, you’re shocked.

BBFFs. This could get awkward real quick if Nicole tells me this term is totally unacceptable and ridiculous.

Then we went back to Nicole’s house for dessert, which of course means I have an other recipe to share with you soon.

This birthday girl knows how to cut some brownies!

I had so much fun celebrating with Nicole and her friends! I feel so honored to be a part of her real life friends group, and to have such an amazing friend in my life!! Happy birthday Niole!!!

 
Pizzeria Bianco on Urbanspoon

Steve’s Birthday Dinner @ Switch

Look! It even comes with a blackberry inside! It was super cute, and even more delicious!

After returning from an awesome weekend up north, I tried to pretend I had nothing else up my sleeve and all birthday surprises were finished. Well I don’t think Steve was super surprised when we arrived to dinner and our friends and family were there waiting. He knows me too well. We arrived at Switch

and met up with Steve’s mom & sister, my mom, Hank, Charlie, my dad, Hermano, Jason & Nacho, Nicole & Lance. Switch is a restaurant and wine bar, and Jason and Nacho had already polished off a bottle of wine before we got there, so I went ahead and ordered myself a delicious glass of pinot grigio.

Then I had total drink envy when Nicole ordered this delicious blackberry cocktail, so i ordered one too. Then I spilled it before I even got to take a sip. I’m awesomely coordinated. But the nice server brought me another one!

Look! It even comes with a blackberry inside! It was super cute, and even more delicious! Also, that photo is of Nicole's drink. I did not drink my wine and that drink at the same time. Not that I wouldn't do that, but I didn't on this particular occasion ;)

We all had an amazing time chatting and hanging out while we waited for our food.

I hate this picture, but there were not a lot of people pictures from the evening, so I'm posting it. My chin looks the size of Texas, and my face looks oddly misshapen. Weird. Hermano looks great though! He finally got a hair cut and so now he can see. It's awesome. Also, slightly less Beiber-like, yes? Which could be a good or a bad thing depending how you look at it...

Nacho is so classy. You should take him to all your fine dining events.

Lance and Nicole

Then the food came, and oh my goodness, it was sooooo yummmmmy!

Yes, those are sweet potato fries. My favorite thing in life. And somehow I'm surprised that I weighed like 10 pounds more after this weekend. I have no idea how that happened.

Steve's birthday burger. I tasted this one too. And still I don't like ground beef, but you know what I do like? Blue cheese. I could eat it plain. In fact, when I was a kid, I used to eat it plain all the time and then my hands would smell really gross like moldy cheese. It was so cute. You're welcome, mom!

This was Nicole's dinner. I forget what it was called, but I can tell you that the flaky bread part was a little like heaven on earth.

Then they brought out dessert with a candle! In fact, they brought out two because we told them Nicole’s birthday was coming up too.

Like pizookie. Yummmmm.

This was super good, but it did not compare to the cupcakes they wouldn’t let me bring in. What’s up with that trendy Phoenix restaurants? I do not prefer this rule.

Hank got this blueberry vanilla bean bread putting thing which put anything I’ve ever created to shame. Maybe that’s bad plugging for my blog to say their food was better? But seriously, this bread pudding was probably made up of sticks of butter and heavy cream and it was incredible. In fact, every single thing I tasted, I absolutely loved. I would most definitely return to Switch again, and again, and again!

We all had a great time and it was the perfect end to a pretty perfect weekend.
Switch Restaurant & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Steve’s 31st Birthday Getaway

"SURPRISE!!!!! It's your birthday!!!!"

In case you didn’t notice by the return of actually good photography, Steve is finally back from LA!! Hooray!!! Just one week after he got back, it was already time to celebrate his birthday! He was awesome and decided to be born on Easter weekend which meant I actually had the whole weekend off to spend with him! That never happens, so I decided to take advantage of it, and I got in touch with my friend/best realtor ever, Kathy, and asked about renting the weekend at her cabin in Heber/Overgaard.

Friday afternoon, I sneakily packed our bags, got the puppies and asked Steve if we could go take pictures on a mountain. It was the best cover up ever. I should be in the CIA or something because I am the best at being sneaky and keeping secrets. He didn’t figure out where we were going until we were almost to Fountain Hills, so I couldn’t have done that bad! We decided to stop in Payson for dinner. I looked on yelp, and found the Buffalo Bar and Grill.

"SURPRISE!!!!! It's your birthday!!!!"

I absolutely loved this little place. They didn’t typically allow dogs, but they let us sit outside with Winston and Clementine, and then even brought them water! The food was delicious too. Steve got a green chile burger.

That potato salad was super delish. I always try his burgers and never really like the taste of ground beef, yet I keep tasting it...? I'm weird.

I got a grilled chicken sandwich with buffalo sauce…my faaaavorite. YUM. And my fav guilty pleasure–SWEET POTATO FRIES!!!

Running is worth it when sweet potato fries come at the end of the day.

"OMG, I find this food more almost as exciting as your birth!!!!"

As you can see from this picture, I am super classy and attractive. It’s obvious why Steve married me.

By the time we got to the cabin, it was pretty late (for us old people) so we hung out for a bit, then went to bed pretty early. The next morning we woke up at the ridiculous hour of 6am because we are incapable of sleeping in. We hung around for a bit with the puppies.

"Mom, it's 6am. This is ridiculous."

"Boy, that walk from the bedroom to the couch really wore me out! I think now is a great time for a nap."

I discovered the waffle maker and it was love at first waffle!

Why have I NEVER made waffles before?!?!?! And why do I not own one of this incredible contraptions that creates the waffles?! This is a serious problem.

Ummm, as soon as we got back on Sunday, I bought a waffle maker. Stay tuned for a whole slew of waffle recipes.

While I was discovering waffle amazingness, Clementine was discovering stairs.

"Okay, I made it up here, but how the heck do I get back down?!?!"

Have you ever watched a mini dachshund climb up and down stairs?? It’s pretty funny. Her legs are so short, and her body is so long! She definitely took a spill or two.

"Stairs aint got nothin' on me!"

"Yes mom, I'm long and cute and you get no credit for that. Even though we have the same body type (long body, short legs, big butt), you do not receive credit for my super cuteness."

Clementine has so much attitude. I am totally responsible for her cuteness. I mean, where else would she learn this?

I roll around on the carpet daily. Clementine tries to copy. Whatever. I started it.

After hanging out for a bit, we decided to go down to Payson. There’s pretty much nothing to do in Overgaard, so we went in search of something fun, and of course, coffee. Yelp took us to a place called Scoops which had coffee and ice cream. My two favorite things!

I asked the barista what he suggested for something fun to do in the area and he suggested a hike along Tonto Creek. Neither of us were really dressed for hiking, but we decided to head over and at least check out a little bit of it, and I was really glad we did! It was really easy and mostly flat. More like a nice walk along the creek than a hike. Winston and Clementine got to experience nature beyond the dog park!

On the way back to Overgaard, we stopped at a lookout on the 270.

Oh my gosh...TREES! We don't have those in Phoenix. Only the prickly kind.

They are so foreign, we must take pictures in case we can't remember what they look like when we get back to Phoenix!

The birthday boy. I like him ;)

We picked up some things for dinner, a couple movies from the red box, and stayed in for the night. I made a super impressive dinner that included hot dogs and a can of baked beans. I hate the name of this dish, so I refuse to use it, but Steve loves it and is always going on about it, so I made it for him. Plus some asparagus to pretend like I actually do eat healthy.

Totally does not look cute, but I have to admit, it was pretty yummy. I'll have to try it again, and make the beans myself and use turkey dogs instead of beef. Slim pickins up at the Overgaard market.

We tried a new beer I picked up from Whole Foods.

Yummmm. I would definitely buy this again!

Then we watched Like Crazy (I don’t really have an opinion–didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. It happened, I guess.) and Carnage which I LOVED. I know friends of mine who have seen/read the play, didn’t love the movie, but I still haven’t seen it, and I thought it was hilarious. Jodie Foster was a total nut and I loved every second of it. I can’t wait until I have the opportunity to see a professional theatre production!

And that was pretty much it. We’re kind of boring people, but we loved it and had a great time, and headed back pretty early Sunday morning for some more festivities that night.

Special thanks to Kathy for renting our her amazing cabin!! If you live in Arizona or you want to come out this way and are interested in getting away from the city for a bit, I highly recommend it! The cabin has 3 bedrooms, a full kitchen with cooking equipment (like WAFFLE MAKERS!), a gorgeous rustic feel, and lots more! I can’t wait until we are able to return!

 

South Mountain Classic 5K Race Recap

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All in all, I still feel pretty torn about feeling good and blech about this race. Jason and Nacho got to South Mountain early and had plenty of time to kill waiting for the race to begin. As it got closer to the start time, I did a quick and easy jog around the area to try to get my legs warmed up. This race was super small with no bells and whistles. When it was time to begin, some man just yelled at us to come up to the start, then the horn went off and we began. The very beginning started with a slight down hill, so I took off pretty quick at first, but almost right away my legs were not feeling super fresh. Hey, who would have thought basically taking a month off from long runs and speed training, then running 10 miles and doing a race the next morning would leave you with heavy legs? The human body really is shocking.

My goal was to run the first mile at around a 9 min pace, mile #2 around 8:45 and mile #3 with whatever I had left. Well, that slight downhill was really short lived and before I knew it, we were heading uphill up until the turn around. I will say this, that it was kind of like what I imagine Whiskey Row will be like, so I feel like it was good from a training standpoint.

Mile 1– 9:07
Mile 2– 9:01

Not what I was hoping for, but I hoped I could make up for it with the last mile being mostly downhill. I got to mile 3 and felt like I still might have a chance at a PR. I had kicked it into gear, and although I wanted to stop about a trillion times, I didn’t walk (with the exception of like 2 seconds to not choke on my water). No way in hell after making it through an entire half marathon with no walking breaks, I was taking one at a 5K. Even though my lungs were burning and I kind of wanted to die.

Mile 3– 8:37

I was doing the math in my head and I knew if I kept it up, it wouldn’t be a huge PR, but it would still be a PR. Well then I got to 3.1 and I still could barely even see the finish line. I almost completely just gave up and walked. I was exhausted, it was already feeling hot out (the high yesterday was 91!!!!), my legs felt tired, and I felt super lame knowing I wasn’t going to beat my time. I struggled through and finished in 28:05.

Okay, so here’s what’s annoying….My 5K PR is 27:56 which is an average pace of 8:59. Well, according to my garmin, my average pace for this race was 8:52. I know I should just be excited that my pace was faster and not focus on the difference in course length and it not officially being a pr and blah blah blah, but the thing is, I’ve really been enjoying my “I just started running 6 months ago and I PR in every race I do!!” that’s been going on. There are not a ton of fun things about being a new runner. Everything is hard. You feel like a turtle compared to others. You have to spend money on running clothes, and you don’t understand any of the terms that the fancy runners use! But lots of PRs is the fun part, in addition to the new challenges you get to face on almost every run.

So, yes, I am a tad disappointed. However, I’m not a total moron, and I get the fact that I ran faster than before, and I think that’s awesome. This was also the first time that other runners have come up to me after a race and mention that they thought I did well!! A couple of people that I was near on the course, came up to me after and said that they had seen me and I was doing awesome! YAY!!! I also got some extra push from Nacho who was back and forth with me during most of the first half. Unfortunately, he tried to speed up to pass me near the end, and hurt his knee :( After I saw Nacho finish, I jogged back to find Jason and run with him to the finish line. I knew with the hills and the heat, he might need some motivation towards the end. I found him pretty quickly and ran with him until just before the finish line. He finished with an average pace of 10:53 which is amazing!!! I’m ridiculously proud of him!

After the race we went to The Farm at South Mountain for some breakfast.

In the middle of one of the biggest cities in the US, we have this beautiful green and rural farm with lots of restaurants and beautiful outside dining.

I discovered the editing options on iphoto--fun!!!

We enjoyed a lovely breakfast outside, then walked around. It was almost like a farmers’ market with several independent local businesses set up with stands, and tons of interesting items for sale!

There was a man and this was in his green house. It was humid inside there and he had lots of cacti for sale. It was cool, but I liked the bread man better. Obviously.

Look Nicole!!! Baby saguaro???

And we got to see real chickens!!!

Hello chickens. I hope the eggs I ate came from you. That would be sweet. Sorry, I know that's like I ate your children, or something. I hope you don't mind...

Rooster!!!

I absolutely loved eating and walking around at The Farm. In  addition to their breakfast restaurant, there is also a bakery, and a super romantic looking dinner restaurant that I would love to try as well.

Our First Wedding Anniversary

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I have to admit, having celebrated 7 date-a-versaries before we finally tied the knot, I was not super excited about the idea of starting over at 1. In fact, I asked Steve on several occasions if we could just keep going. As of January, we’ve technically been together for 8 years, so couldn’t this be anniversary 8.1? Well, I surprised myself and ended up totally little girl giddy about celebrating our first anniversary. Turns out it’s kind of fun to start over :)

Steve was able to make a short trip home for the weekend, so that we could celebrate together. We began Sunday morning by heading over to Inside the Bungalow, where we got married. When not being used for weddings, it’s actually a super cute coffee shop. Unfortunately they were closed, so we moved on right away. We went to Cartel to get coffee because so many of our friends have been raving about it.

Any place with foam designs wins my heart.

And they don't mess around with their cappuccinos!

The coffee was great, but the atmosphere wasn’t really my thing. Too much snobby hipster, if that makes sense.

Before we knew it, it was time for work (Yes, I worked on my anniversary…on a Sunday. Sometimes my life is not ideal). Steve drove up to Scottsdale with me, then spent some time with his mom while I was in rehearsal. Once I was finished, we shopped around some furniture store lusting after all sorts of things we would love to buy, then headed to White Chocolate Grill for dinner. That’s where he proposed almost 2 years ago :) We didn’t even bring the camera in, just enjoyed being there together. It was perfect.

After dinner, we came home for the moment we’d been waiting for–the cake!!! Did you know it’s tradition to freeze the top tier of your wedding cake and eat it on your first anniversary??

Is it also tradition to remove the flowers first? Because opening up a box and seeing dead flowers definitely did not enhance my appetite.

I’d actually never heard of this until we were in the planning stage, but I thought it sounded interesting, so that thing has been sitting in our freezer for a year.

We cut out a huge slice from the middle to sample.

  

"What does year old cake taste like?"

"Who cares?!?! I LOVE CAKE!!!! I will take sugar and carbs of any age please."

The result? Not great. Not terrible. The cake part tasted better than the frosting, but it definitely did not taste….fresh. I was surprised at how soft and fluffy the cake still was, but we definitely did not finish our piece, or what was left.

Steve is all present-ed out until Christmas (this past Christmas, his macro lens counted as Christmas and birthday, and I got him the balance on his bike after his 3 year old gift card to get his bike as his early anniversary present), so all I had to do was get him a card, but he surprised me with an amazing gift!

This isn’t just a photo album.

Yes, you are allowed to make fun of our ridiculously dorky nick names for each other. It's okay. I can take it.

We both really loved the movie Up, and when we were in Disneyland, I got him the grape soda pin, and now he got my an adventure book. It starts with a couple pictures from the wedding, and one from Boston with the note that this is just the beginning of our journey. Yeah, I cried. I love him. And I love this gift enough to post this picture even though I’m pretty embarrassed to admit to everyone on the internet that in real life I call him Loey and he calls me Loette. We’re special.

Unfortunately, before we knew it, it was time for me to take him to the airport :( He’ll be back for good in two weeks though, so we’re more than half way through! Hooray!! I’m just really glad we still got to spend our anniversary together. Regardless of how busy or rushed the weekend felt, it was still pretty amazing, and we have many more down the line to look forward to.

Did you/would you eat your wedding cake a year later??

 

Mac Visits: Day 1

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I don’t know about you, but I have had the most fantastic week! Work has been fairly light due to Spring break, and Tuesday night I got a visitor! My amazing friend Mac came all the way out from NYC to watch tons of episodes of Seinfeld hang out with me :)

Wednesday morning we tried to hit up the gym, but the very unhappy and rude front desk lady told Mac if he wanted to use a guest pass, he would have to pay $15 per day. Seriously??? Don’t most gyms offer buddy passed? She was so rude too. So instead, we drove down to the lake with the duckies and did a 3 mi run/walk. It was beautiful out, so I think we both ended up being pretty happy about taking our workout out doors.

After our run, we grabbed coffee, had some breakfast, did a little shopping and before we knew it, it was time for lunch. We went to Pita Jungle–one of my favs! Mac got the chipotle black bean burger.

Yummmm. I've had this before, and I love it!

And I had the broiled chicken salad.

Obviously I was a big fan.

Then we took some down time at my house before I had to head to work. Mac and Clemmie became BFFs.

“Love me.”

When I came home we had some Chicken “Pad” Thai.

Spaghetti squash in place of noodles is one of my favorite swaps ever.

Yummmm

Then we proceeded to watch Seinfeld until bedtime. We’re so crazy!

Barrio Cafe

This is my super awesome friend Amelia who married us. She makes good faces, :)

When I told people that I was having a birthday dinner with my Starbucks friends, I definitely got some odd looks. I mean, everyone knows I have a coffee problem, but maybe they didn’t know they extent ;) The truth is, I’m just a chatty person and I like to meet new people, so after 3 years of seeing the same baristas almost every day, having one of them officiate my wedding, and running a half marathon with an other, this group has become pretty important in my life.

I gave Kara a list of a few restaurants I’ve been wanting to try, and left the rest up to her. We ended up going to Barrio Cafe. As soon as we arrived, it was like love at first sight! It has a tiny, hole in the wall feel. There was live music, and the whole atmosphere seemed really authentic! There was a pretty significant wait, but we all sat outside and chatted, and the food definitely was worth the wait!

In addition to the Starbucks group, Nicole, Lance and Carolyn were also able to join us. It ended up being the perfect group! When we first sat down, we immediately ordered margaritas and took lots of pictures.

This is my super awesome friend Amelia who married us. She makes good faces, :)

Carolyn

Mona

Kara

Nicole & Lance

Charlie

I was a little surprised when the salsa came out with a bread basket instead of chips, but it was delicious!

The margaritas were also pretty amazing. Nice and tequila-y, and not super sweet. I hate a marg that tastes like sour mix!

We ordered the guacamole–they make it table side, and oh my gosh, it was absolutely incredible!!

I was totally skeptical of the pomegranite seeds because I usually don't like pomegranites, but it was such a perfect flavor combination! I must try putting fruit in my guac!

And look, we did end up getting chips also! But bread and salsa is a surprisingly delicious combination.

Then the food came and everything looked incredible.

Enchiliadas

Tacos--I had a little bit of food envy when these babies came out!

Steve and I split this steak dish that came in a sweet and spicy sauce with bleu cheese on top. It was ridiculously good. The steak was crunchy and slightly charred on the outside, while perfectly tender on the inside! YUM!

Every single item I tasted was absolutely delicious. I must admit, I was a little surprised at the prices when I first opened the menu, but the flavors were all unique and well worth the price.

After our dinner, we had cookie bar cake made by yours truly :)

And we resumed our photo session…

They even have a super awesome graffiti wall that we had fun in front of!

Me + Starbucks group

Oh no! Someone killed Carolyn! And apparently, rolled her over afterwards...

At least she looks happy about it.

Oh good! She came back to life! Hey Steve, I don't appreciate this whole from below angle that makes me look like I'm expecting. Let's work on that.

Okay, you picked me up, we're good again ;)

And then Nicole suggested we practice our jumping pictures….

Clearly, I don't need any practice.

We regularly pose for White Girls Can't Jump Weekly.

This was just one of those nights where everything is pretty much perfect. Perfect company, food and atmosphere. I was also super in love with our waitress who was hilarious and even tried a piece of the cookie bar cake! Ohhhh, and the band even sang me happy birthday! Pretty much, if you live in Phoenix and haven’t been to Barrio Cafe, that needs to change immediately. And if you’re ever visiting from out of town (like if your name is Mac and you will be here in a month), you cannot leave Phoenix without eating at the best Mexican restaurant I have ever been to.

Special thanks to Kara for organizing such an incredible night, and everyone who made the last couple of weeks super special for me :)

 

 

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10 Years Later

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10 years ago, I had my first surprise birthday party. Up until that year, I had always been very involved in planning my birthday and making it exactly the way I wanted. A month or two before I turned 17, my friends and family began asking what I wanted to do, and to every one of them, I replied “nothing”.

Sixteen was a very hard year. Maybe the hardest of my entire life. I haven’t really talked about it on here, but shortly after I turned 16, my best friend took her own life. It was not something my 16 year old self was at all prepared to deal with or knew how to handle. Less than a year later, and exactly one month before I turned 17, an other close friend took his life as well. The last thing I was in the mood to do was celebrate. I agreed to a small dinner with my family and my two closest friends (Bethany and Jason–the two that are still my best friends ten years later) at my favorite restaurant–Avanti.

That evening I arrived at dinner, and my jaw almost hit the floor. An entire long table in our own private area filled with friends and family. I had never let the control of my special day go long enough to let anyone surprise me (just pretend to be surprised by that, okay? ;) ), but here when I least expected it and thought I didn’t want it, was everyone I loved in one place here to surprise me–and they did! I had absolutely no idea. I was overwhelmed. I realized in that moment, that even in sorrow and life’s most challenging times, there can be joy, and it is okay to let yourself feel happy, even when your current situation is, well, not.

I looked around the table and saw the effort that my dad had gone to make me feel happy again, and I looked at all of the support and people there who loved me. My friend Charity hadn’t been able to find a ride, so she called a cab to take her 20 miles to be there to celebrate my birthday. Where do friends like that even come from?!

When my dad started to ask about my birthday this year, I was honestly hesitant to go back to Avanti (where I have been every single birthday since then, with the exception of while I was at UI), because to be 100% honest, Italian food kind of stresses me out. Then he said “But it’s the 10 year anniversary of your special surprise party!” And I remembered that incredible night–I couldn’t resist.

This year, in the theme of keeping things small and being able to spend time with more individual, smaller groups, my Avanti dinner consisted of my dad, Hermano, Janie, my grandma, Steve and me. Steve, Hermano and I showed up to a table with balloons on top (including Tigger, and purple and green–my dad definitely remembers details of what people like). We sat down and ordered some drinks while waiting for my dad, grandma and Janie to arrive.

One of my favorite things about Avanti is that they always encourage Hermano to play their piano!

They have a professional that they hire to play on the weekends, but both him and the manager are always asking Hermano to play and making comments about his improvements! Sometimes, I can even be convinced to sing with him. Today, after the rest of the family arrived, we decided to do Coldplay’s Fix You together. By the time we got near the end, all of the memories of my birthday 10 years ago, as well as the friends I was missing flooded back and I started to feel a little emotional–not necessarily in a bad way, I was just caught a little off guard.

I will never forget what my friends and family did for me that year, but it doesn’t always feel quite so fresh, and it was a wonderful reminder of how lucky I am, and how much I have to be thankful for.

This year started out a little bit stressful, but it got better really quickly. Of course, Hermano making fun of our dad helped get me out of the cranky mood I started in.

If you don't know my dad, this will make absolutely no sense. Sorry. If you, do...it's funny, yes?

After hours and hours of waiting pretty soon, my dad, grandma and Janie arrived.

I had no idea what I wanted to order. I wanted pasta, but I figured I needed protein and blah blah blah. I don’t even remember the last time I ordered pasta at a restaurant, but I did. Avanti has the BEST gnocchi. Seriously, they melt in your mouth! I ended up ordering a half order of gnocchi in rosa sauce and a side of roasted veggies in spicy red sauce topped with gorgonzola cheese. Everything was amazing,

I have two plates. I like to have more than one of things :)

I couldn’t finish my pasta because I knew I had to save room for dessert!

For as long as I can remember, my dad has given me the same birthday cake. He asked me years ago what kind of cake I wanted and I replied “Marble cheesecake with an oreo crust.” I am a girl who knows what I like. It is out of this world and it’s been my annual cake ever since.

"I wish...."

You wanna know what’s in that delicious martini glass? White chocolate mint martini. Yes, it is as amazing as it sounds.

After we ate, I opened presents–can you believe I am still getting presents?!

Thanks dad!

YAY!! Compression socks! Thanks Janie!

After presents, we had some fun were completely ridiculous with the balloon clip. We’re really mature in my family.

Yup, that's what I get forever and ever. Excellent choice, self.

Balloon clips are dangerous. They should come with a warning.

Example 2.

My favorite.

It definitely would not have felt right this year without our annual dinner, and I am so grateful for the many opportunities I’ve had this year to spend time with people close to me. Thanks dad for always making me feel super special this time of year! I am a lucky girl!