Deflated, Not Defeated: First Attempt At A Run

Remember this post when I was feeling pretty good about having to start over in fitness? Yeah, I don’t feel that way right now. Not one bit.

Yesterday, it was 68* at lunch time. I’d brought my workout clothes so that I could walk outside during my lunch instead of taking a quick break and working through. I planned to walk a familiar route that I’d run so many times before my knee issues began.

With how great I felt about skiing and hiking this past weekend, I decided to try my first ‘real’ run in more than a year. I’ve run 1 mile on the treadmill (run/walk every .25 miles) but my intention yesterday was to go out, nice and easy, and gage how I feel.

Well, I felt terrible.

The first thing I noticed? Everything on my body jiggling. Very uncomfortable. No muscle.

Then, about .3 miles into my very easy run, I couldn’t catch my breath. No endurance.

So I decided I would run/walk. I walked about .15 miles, caught my breath and started a slow run. Pushing through the hard parts is the only way to increase endurance and strength, right?

About .35 miles later, I had to quit running. My muscles were tired, I couldn’t breath, I had a huge stitch in my side (<– is there an official word for this??). A stitch big enough to make me want to cry.

I walked the rest of the way back to my office. I ran/walked 1.75 miles in 24 minutes; since I still had half of my lunch break left, I finished up in our office fitness center and lifted some weights (arms, lunges, abs).

Logically, I know that I’m starting from zero. I haven’t been able to *really* exercise since Feb 2011. More than 1 year ago. Really, I have lost ANYTHING I had.

But for some reason, I still had this delusion that I am further along in recovery than I am. It’s because everything else has been going so well – my knee doesn’t hurt, I’m getting more active. None of what I’m doing has been building my endurance though.

Yesterday brought me sharply back to reality. I really am starting over. It’s hard to keep it in perspective in the moment – I was so frustrated that I wasn’t able to run even 1/2 of a mile without stopping yesterday. I’ve run half marathons! Played all day volleyball tournaments! And now I’m reduced to stopping every .3 miles running.

But I do have to keep it in perspective – I’m only 4 weeks off my crutches TODAY. The fact that I’m doing all I’m doing without pain or discomfort is incredible. The fact that I’m even running for .3 miles – more than I’ve been able to run in MORE THAN A YEAR! without pain – is extraordinary!

The bad days make the good days that much better (Thanks, Sarah!)  Each time I get my butt out there and get moving, it will get easier. I will get stronger. I will build my endurance.

Yesterday, I was deflated but not defeated.

Today, I’m keeping it in perspective and moving forward.

Birthdaycation: Hiking McCullough Gulch

I’m glad that of the 6 of us in Breckenridge this weekend, Alex’s brother, Sam was unable to ski, like me, due to knee surgery. I would have found fun ways to entertain myself but it was really nice to have a buddy.

While everyone else hit the slopes on Friday morning, Sam and I drove a few miles south of Breckenridge to hike McCullough Gulch, based on this description. A 2.8 mile hike was tolerable for both Sam and I and would work out the lactic acid from the previous days ski adventure. Realizing we wouldn’t be seeing any waterfalls and the lake would be frozen, we packed our bags and hoped for the best.

This is what we saw when we parked.

That’s Quandry Peak, a ’14er’ as we Coloradians call them – a mountain more than 14,000 feet in elevation.

The hike to McCullough Gulch followed just north of Quandry. It was quite impressive to look at during our hike!

We parked at what we thought was the trail head and started on the ‘trail’. It turned out that our ‘trail’ is usually a road but is too snow packed in the winter. We were actually 2 miles away from the McCullough Gulch trail head.

We hiked anyway and decided to see how far we could get.

It was a beautiful hike – mostly snow packed as it looked like snowmobiles and dogsleds had been on the trail before us. 

This was where the snow mobiles turned around and it should have been our cue to turn around too. This was just 2 miles into our hike – where the 2.8 mile hike to McCullough Gulch started.

As soon as the snowmobiles turned around, the snow became considerably less packed and we spent a lot of time digging ourselves out.

Sam is about my height – 5’10″/5’11″. The snow was up to our knees initially, then quickly our hips and waist. We called it quits at 2.1 miles from our start. McCullough Gulch will have to wait for a less snowy day!

During our whole 4.2 mile round trip hike, we didn’t see one other person or animal. It was so serene and peaceful – just me, Sam and the wind blowing through the trees.

Our hike took us about 2+ hours and we were spent by the time we got back to the car.

As much as I would have loved to have been on the slopes this trip, NOT being able to ski gave me the opportunity to explore other winter fun that I might not otherwise have ever tried. I really enjoyed cross country skiing and this hike was challenging and beautiful – both I would have missed if I’d been able to ski. #perspective

Side note!

I wore my Sparkly Soul headbands all weekend in Breckenridge – they stayed put through 2 hours of cross country skiing and 4 miles of hiking! I know I raved about them in my review but really, I can’t rave enough. So functional and so cute! My headbands also caught the attention of most of the women I encountered - they wanted to know where they could get their own. 

Fashion + function + exercise/active living = amazing product.

BIRTHDAYCATION: Cross Country Skiing in Breckenridge

Hello from Breckenridge! I’m spending a few days in Breck with Alex, his brothers and their girlfriend & wife to celebrate our birthdays.

We arrived yesterday in Breck. On the way up, Alex, Mark and Molly stopped at Loveland Ski Area to get their ski legs back before spending a full day at Breckenridge today. With Alex’s season pass, he’s able to get discounted lift tickets for guests so it was a cheap way to get acclimated to Colorado skiing.

Instead of downhill skiing, Sam (Alex’s other twin brother) and Sara (Sam’s wife) and I continued on to Breckenridge to seek out some fun. Sam had ACL surgery just a few days before my first knee surgery so we both are keeping off the slopes this year.

We found the Breckenridge Nordic Center that offered cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Bingo! For $30 (including rentals), we could try cross country skiing and if we didn’t like it, swap to snowshoeing.

Cross country skiing is no joke. We got skis that are skinnier than downhill skis and poles – it took us a while to get our rhythm going on the field but man was it fun!

The weather was fanTASTic – it was 40* and big blue skies. I wore my running tights, snow pants, a t-shirt and a snow coat (thank you, Morgan!) and I was warm enough to take my coat off while we were out in the snow.

We skiied for about 2 hours through small hills and flat meadow lands – it was beautiful.

It was awesome and exhausting, exactly how a day of skiing should be, right?

Right.

After we finished our day and returned our equipment, I very pretty shirt caught my eye and for a very nice 25% off sale, I bought myself a birthday gift. Enter my new favorite shirt.

This shirt is by a company called Lole – a women’s active clothing company covering everything from yoga to running to tennis to travel.

What really caught my eye was the length! I have a super long torso and have a very very time finding long shirts for working out/being active that are long enough for me. This shirt is not only long enough but also has ties on the side to scrunch the shirt up if I want it a bit shorter/fashionable.

Another cool feature? The thumb holes.

With the warm weather today and this week (and me not having a warm long sleeve shirt to wear instead of a coat), this shirt will be the perfect layer for active days outside in Breck. And hiking in the spring. And chilly nights camping in the summer. And cool fall bike rides.

On today’s agenda? Hiking and snowshoeing. I am loving birthdaycation! (Post here!)

Happy Birthday To Me!

Today is my 26th birthday (and my blog’s 1st birthday and Oreo’s 100th birthday! ) This year, I’ve been driving for 10 years (how is this possible?!) and legally drinking for 5 – Thanks for that reminder this morning, Dad!

I’ll be celebrating with a few special things today but the big celebration starts tonight and goes through the weekend. Alex’s twin brothers turn 30 tomorrow and we’re headed to Breckenridge to spend the weekend playing in the mounatins.

I will be continuing my personal birthday tradition of eating a Jersey Mike’s Chipotle Cheesesteak today. For the past 4 years, I’ve enjoyed a birthday cheesesteak – one of the best parts of my day! And, it’s free if you sign up on their email list!

My friend Molly who is visiting (she’s also Alex’s brother’s girlfriend) gave me a birthday gift to open last night – it’s a birthday camera!

A disposable camera! The camera has 6 different birthday themed designs for the photos I take.

I’m using the camera to document various aspects of my day. I love the idea of photographing different parts of my day so when I look back, I can remember what I was doing the day I turned 26. This might be a new birthday tradition…

And for those who may have forgotten how to use a disposable camera, directions are included.

Cheers to birthdays and birthday cameras!

Denver Eats! Euclid Hall

On Saturday morning, Alex’s brother, Mark, and girlfriend (and my friend and bridesmaid!) Molly, landed in Denver for Birthdaycation (my birthday on Wednesday, Alex’s twin older brothers birthday on Thursday) Alex and I wanted to wow them for their first night in Denver with this restaurant we’ve been wanting to try and have heard great things about: Euclid Hall.

Fortunately for us, Euclid Hall is participating in Denver Restaurant Week!

February 25 – March 9 is Denver Restaurant Week, 2 of my favorite weeks all year. Many of the restaurants in Denver participate and provide a 3 or 4 course meal for $52.80 per couple (or $26.40 for a single person). It’s a great opportunity to try restaurants with a higher price point or to enjoy a menu with food you may not otherwise order.

We had 8 p.m. reservations and when we got to the restaurant, the place was hoppin’ with people and music. I feel in love with the atmosphere immediately – it was dimly light with interesting lighting, giant chalk boards in the entry way with the daily beer specials and ‘must know’ terminology (schnitzel, poutine, etc) and interesting music was playing.

We were quickly seated and given our Restaurant Week menus to review – the menu was more extensive that we’d seen online. Lots of phenomenal sounding choices! 

Alex and I decided to approach Euclid Hall with the mentality that we order food that we would not usually order if we’d come outside of Restaurant Week. To us, it was an opportunity to try new flavors and dishes that we may otherwise never venture to order.

And try new dishes we did.

With Restaurant Week, each person was allowed to select 1 beer/wine/cocktail, 1 appetizer, 1 entrée and each couple shared a dessert (all for $52.80 a couple!!). For our two appetizers, Alex and I ordered Pad Thai Pig Ears and Bruléed Center Cut Beef Bone Marrow.

I tried the pig ears first. I had no idea what to expect of this dish – I’ve never had pig ears before! It was decent – it was served with bamboo shoots, peanuts and Thai flavoring. The flavor was very vinegary (not a pig ear thing, just a flavoring thing) and slightly spicy. The pig ear itself was cut into little strips so it was easily eaten with a fork; it was slightly chewy and crunchy because of the cartilage in each slice.

Alex started with the bone marrow.

I can honestly say that I’d never, ever had a desire to try bone marrow. I’ve seen it on Bizzare Foods and No Reservations but it just never looked like something I’d want to eat. However, my philosophy is to always try everything once so I gave the bone marrow a shot. I was the last of our table of 4 to try it and after hearing it be described as ‘MEAT JELL-O’ and ‘having the consistency of a runny egg’, I was not too excited about this taste.

I was not a fan at all - it was mostly a texture issue because I think the flavor could have been good if I wasn’t preoccupied with the slimy jelly in my mouth. Alex enjoyed it and finished most of the marrow. His remark was that while he enjoyed it, the bone was massive and he’d probably have prefered a smaller bone.

Just when I thought we were done with the bone marrow, our server offered us a ‘Bone Luge Shot’. It was a shot of Apple Bourbon Whiskey that’s poured into the top of the bone and enjoyed out the bottom. I was the lucky candidate for the bone luge.

I made sure to scrape all of the extra bone marrow out before doing the shot. It was definitely an experience and I’m glad I tried the bone marrow but I’m not sure it’s something I’d want to order from a menu again.

Next came entrée: Steak Poutine and Griddled Camembert and Pear Preserve Sandwich.

I loved the steak poutine – steak, french fries and cheese together in perfect harmony.

Our second entrée, Camembert and Pear Sandwich, served with sliced grapes, was okay but not something I’d probably order again.

To be honest, we ordered it because it’s a fancy grilled cheese for $14.50 regularly – something we’d likely never order on a later visit. I had high hopes for this one because I LOVE camembert cheese. The sandwich tasted mostly of pear, though, and the bread was very buttery. It was tasty and I liked the idea of camembert cheese paired with pear but it just missed the mark a little bit for me.

Last up was dessert! Our table was stuffed after appetizers, entrées and a couple of beers that when it came time to eat dessert, we all groaned, trying to figure out where the dessert was going to fit!

Both Mark and Molly and Alex and I ordered the Sourdough Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich with salted butterscotch ice cream and praline.

(That’s a terrible photo, I know. I’m still saving my allowance to buy a real camera.)

This was a light and tasty treat – a perfect way to end the night! The sourdough waffle was an interesting juxtaposition with the salty butterscotch ice cream. I’m a fan of all things salty (not a sweets girl!) so this dessert won my heart.

Our server also brought us a small taste of beer (I cannot remember which beer this was) to pair with the dessert and it worked really well together. Slightly hoppy and citrusy, very fresh tasting.

Overall, Euclid Hall is definitely a restaurant I’d like to come back and try again. There were so many great sounding options on the menu that I wanted to taste!

What I think I loved the most about Euclid Hall though, is the ambiance - they have louder, indie/electronic music in the background, comfy seats and unique decorations (chalk boards, light bulbs). It’s not a place to visit if you’re looking for a quiet night out but If you’re looking for an interesting tasting and fun atmosphere to start your weekend off, Euclid Hall is your place.

 Just be sure not to eat so much that you’re totally stuffed and need a nap, like we did. Birthdaycation win. :)

Glacading At St. Mary's Glacier

We have visitors this week! On Saturday, Alex’s brother and girlfriend came to Denver and on Tuesday, another brother and wife will be joining us for BIRTHDAYCATION. My 26th birthday is on Wednesday, the brothers (twins) 30th birthday is on Thursday – the past 3 years, we’ve celebrated our birthdays together and this year, everyone decided to come to Denver for the week and celebrate their big 3-0!

Yesterday, I ventured into the mountains for the first time this winter. Since I spent most of the winter on crutches, my weekends were in Denver doing crutch-friendly activities. When Alex suggested a hike to St. Mary’s Glacier on Sunday, I could hardly contain my excitement!

Alex suggest St. Mary’s hike because it’s a quick drive from Denver (40 minutes) and a short 3/4 mile hike to the base of the glacier. The hike may be short but for 2 non-Denverites (Alex’s brother and girlfriend) and 1 surgery-recoverer (me) it was still challenging. I may be used to the Denver altitude but an elevation of 10,000+ feet makes it hard for anyone to breathe.

But the challenging hike is worth the reward.

It was a perfect day for hiking – sunny, no clouds, slightly chilly. Really, it could not have been more perfect of a day!

It took maybe 20+ minutes with frequent water breaks to hike to the base of the glacier (seen above). We marveled at the huge mountain and glacier to the left, snapped a few photos before deciding to conquor the glacier, too.

I was the only one who wore running tights – everyone else wore jeans – and I’m so glad I did! While my Reebok tights were thin, they were fairly resistant to the wind and kept my body heat with me. They also turned out to be far superior when it came time to glacade.

See those 4 tiny dots up top? the upper 2 are Alex and Philly (the dog), the next lower two are me and my friend Molly (she’s also Alex’s brother’s girlfriend). It took about 10 minutes to get up that high. The hike was SUPER windy – wind bursts every few minutes that felt like they’d knock me back down the glacier!

I hiked up to meet Alex and Philly. The view was INCREDIBLE.

Once I met Alex at the top, it was time to glacade down! Essentially, glacading means hiking up a glacier and then sliding back down on the snow/ice. We let Philly run down herself and Alex and I settled in and glacaded! It was exhilirating!

This is where my running tights REALLY benefitted: the moisture wicking properties kept my pants dry while sliding down and kept the snow from sticking to my booty. So at the bottom of the glacier when Alex’s jeans were packed with snow and wet, my booty was nice and dry. Winning!

This was the most fun I’ve had in the mountains ALL winter! Alex and I plan to come back in the summer – I’ve been told that cliff jumping into the lake blows glacading out of the water…

Starting Over in Fitness & Conquering

When I first ventured into this Osteochondritis Dissecans double knee surgery journey, my biggest fear was losing my fitness and losing my muscle. I’ve been athletic my whole life and was proud of all that my body had done for me – many years of volleyball, 3 half marathons, countless hikes, bike rides, yoga classes, and miles walked.

From the beginning, I felt frustrated by my situation, that I had lost and was losing the ability to do anything I loved. After my first surgery, I took a yoga class and realized just how much I lost in my right leg and what was to come in my left. I was thrilled I could still do yoga but really sad that I was losing so much.

Since coming off my crutches a mere 3+ weeks ago, I’ve come to terms with starting over. I have very little muscle, laughable (to me) endurance, zero flexibility and most importantly, a very positive attitude.

You see, this time around, I know all surgeries are behind me. I know that I’m only moving forward, only getting better. I know that I’m lucky to be walking, running, biking, yoga-ing, living with little to no pain.

These surgeries may have taken away everything that I HAD built for myself in fitness and athletic ability but they’ve also given me the opportunity to rebuild it, better than before.

In middle school, high school and college, volleyball was my THING – my passion, my sport of choice. I’d built my body for quick changes of direction, explosive jumps to hit or block, low squats to pass the ball.

Now, my life and passions revolve a lot less around playing volleyball competitively. I still enjoy playing for fun but I’m not trying to win any high school or college club championships anymore. Now, I’m focusing my life on running, yoga, swimming, hiking – enjoying the playground that is Colorado. Activities that require different sets of strong muscles.

Post surgery, I have the opportunity to rebuild my body to best fit the activities I love to do now. I am starting from scratch, a fresh slate. I can learn to train my body more effectively, more efficiently than before. I can and will come back better than I was before.

Earlier this year, I chose PERSPECTIVE as my word for 2012. Reminding myself keep the situation in perspective has helped me keep a positive attitude, a ‘can do’ mentality this year. I could be pissed off that I’m so far behind where I was but I choose to keep it in perspective - I had 2 major surgeries but now, I have ‘new’ knees and the ability to conquer the world.

I choose to start over and conquer.

Wedding Wednesday: Dress Shopping & Finding THE Dress

**Wedding Wednesday is a feature on my blog documenting our wedding planning process – thoughts, reflections, ideas, milestones. Follow along as we plan a wedding in our home city of Cincinnati while we live in Denver.**

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Part of me hesitates to post photos and my experience dress shopping – I won’t be posting photos of the dress I purchased but it feels strange to post photos of non-winning dresses – it feels vain. However, I do want to remember and chronicle my experience and this time in my life so photos and experience are blogged.

The main reason I scheduled my trip to Cincinnati was to look for and hopefully order a dress. I  gave myself 2 weeks ‘post-crutches’ to ensure that I’d feel comfortable walking and standing all day for dress shopping. 6 months is on the shorter side of the dress shopping timeline but given my surgeries, I didn’t have much of a choice.

I chose to dress shop in Cincinnati because it was important to me to share the experience with my mom and sisters (Trisha, Lexi) and because I figured if I bought my dress in Cincinnati, I won’t have to fool around with shipping or bringing it from Denver to Cincinnati.

I’d looked at a few bridal stores before coming to Cincinnati, called to see if I needed an appointment to try on dresses but really, had no idea what to expect.

Fortunately, Cincinnati has a well-known bridal district in a nearby suburb to where my family lives, the Reading Bridal District. It is a few block section of Reading dedicated to all things weddings – dress shops, alterations, lingerie, slips, shoes, flowers, photography, cake. You name it, there’s a store for it.

We started at Wendy’s Cincinnati Bride shortly after it opened, 10 a.m. We were immediately greeted by Barbara who was our consultant. She asked about my style, what I was looking for and soon told us to pick some dresses out. I ended up with 7 dresses in the fitting room with me.

Unsure what my style was, I had a wide range of dresses – straps, strapless, satin, lace, jeweled, plain.

The first dress I tried on, I LOVED instantly. It fit exactly perfect and looked incredible – it was going to be tough to keep an open mind about any dress after.

I tried on a few others but knew they weren’t my dress.

Ensuring I can dance…

Too shiny, to blingy

I (unknowingly) broke rule #1 of wedding dress shopping, as taught by Say Yes To The Dress, and fell in love with a dress outside of my budget. Dress #1 was $600 more expensive than my limit. Shoot.

Our consultant took down the dress name so if I wanted to come back and purchase the dress, I could do so easily.

We then walked across the street to Bridal and Formal. It was a lot more hectic of a store but our consultant, Norma, directed us to dresses within my budget. Between the 5 of us (4 family, 1 consultant), we ended up with about 12+ dresses to try.

Rather than having my own changing room, all brides tried dresses in 1 common room. The room had about 10 ‘stations’ for girls to try dresses in front of the mirror. We weren’t able to take any photos in this room for obvious reasons – other girls changing in and out of dresses. In fact, no photos were allowed in the whole store unless I’d purchased the dress. Needless to say, I have no photos which means Bridal and Formal did not have my dress.

We girls needed a break from dress shopping and desperately needed fresh air so we walked up the street to a local bar for lunch. Foley’s was decent food, nothing to write home about, but I was very surprised that it wasn’t a bit more ‘girly’ or classy. I appreciated the casual atmosphere but for being in a bridal district, it was very much ‘neighborhood bar’ than ‘dress shopping lunch break.’

After lunch, we were ready to brave the stores again. This time we headed to David’s Bridal, outside of the bridal district. I know I want to use David’s Bridal for bridesmaid’s dresses since my girls are all over the country so I had my sisters peruse bridesmaid’s dresses while I scouted wedding dresses.

I found my dress at David’s Bridal. It was within my price point, contains all of the pieces I liked of previous dresses I’d tried on and made me feel great. I knew right away that the dress I had on was the one – doubly confirmed after seeing my mom’s and sister’s reactions.

I tried it on with a veil, with a hair piece and while holding a fake bouquet. I stood next to my sisters, wearing potential bridesmaid’s dresses.

Holy cow. This is REAL.

I got emotional – I saw myself walking down the aisle with my dad, him lifting my veil, meeting Alex at the end.

THIS is the dress I will get married in.

This is what I’ll be wearing as I commit my life to my best friend.

This is what I’ll dance our first dance in, celebrate my first night as a wife in.

Wow.

We bought the dress and it should be delivered to the Cincinnati store 6-8 weeks before our wedding. I’ll be back in Cincinnati around that time to wrap up last-minute things for our wedding (menu, cupcake flavors, wedding band shopping, etc) so the timing will be perfect.

Leaving Cincinnati on Sunday, I had butterflies in my stomach. All of the big pieces are coming together – we have a photographer, hair/makeup, cake, ceremony and reception venues (and I’ve seen them both, now!). It’s so easy to envision the day, the happiness and love.

6 short months.

Wedding Wednesday: Whirlwind

**Wedding Wednesday is a feature on my blog documenting our wedding planning process – thoughts, reflections, ideas, milestones. Follow along as we plan a wedding in our home city of Cincinnati while we live in Denver.

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Last week, I spent a few days in Cincinnati to meet with and take care of some wedding things. While we’re able to research and secure some wedding things online, it’s also important to have the face-to-face appointment time. Living in Denver makes this a bit challenging so I made the most of my trip and I crammed more into a 4 day period than I ever thought possible. 

First of all, I need to share my newest, favorite airport meal at the Denver Airport. I fly (pretty much only) Frontier, in the A terminal at DIA. Food options are okay – not a wide variety of healthy food. But on Wednesday afternoon, I found this website that details all of the restaurants and bars by terminal! Genius!

I stopped by the Mesa Verde Restaurant in the upper level of terminal A – I’d never been before but have had good success with finding paleo friendly food at Mexican restaurants. Mesa Verde was a winner! For $8, I built my own burrito bowl full of yummy goodness:

Lettuce, black beans (not paleo but still healthy so I eat them), shredded chicken, tomato salsa, hot salsa, jalapenos, cilantro, guacamole.

For all of my future flights out of the A terminal that require lunch or dinner, I’m hittin’ up Mesa Verde.

Then, my flight was delayed an hour so this happened:

On Thursday, I dropped my engagement ring off to be sized and took a peek at wedding bands through the same jeweler Alex used to design my ring. We think it’d be really cool to have all of our rings come from the same jeweler. They weren’t able to turn the ring around in before I left so I should be receiving it by certified mail sometime today. Since Thursday, I have mini moments of panic that I’ve misplaced or lost my ring since it’s not on my finger.

I also met with our reception venue, The Redmoor. Neither Alex or I had ever been in The Redmoor when we signed the contract so it was really neat to walk through and see the space we have to work with. The owner (and our coordinator) Mandie was so thorough in her tour and answered the many questions I had for her (food, drink, seating, decorations).

Later, I met with my friend Natalie who will be doing bridal party hair and makeup. Natlie has been a hair stylist for years and just recently launched her own event hair and makeup company, Rollers and Rouge.  I’m so excited to have Natalie do my and our hair and makeup – she’s supremely talented, super fun and easy to work with. I know she’ll make us look beautiful and natural.

On Saturday, I met with and booked our photographer, Jonathan Gibson. He’s shot my cousin’s wedding (and post-wedding bridal shoot!) and takes BEAUTIFUL photos. A few of his recent weddings were at The Redmoor, too. Like this one:

I want a photo like that!

Jonathan came highly recommended and I’m so excited that he’ll be shooting our wedding. Within the first minutes of meeting him, I knew he was our guy – professional, laid-back, easy to work with, finding out what Alex and I are like a couple and what we’re looking for in our photography. I put down the deposit before we left our meeting – photographer booked!

The last task on my wedding agenda was to wedding dress shop. And shop we did! Dress shopping will get its own post later today.

And to cap off my whirlwind trip in Cincinnati, my family got together to celebrate birthdays – my brother turned 25 on 2/21 and I’ll turn 26 on 3/7. Yes, we are the same age for 2 weeks each year. :) Irish twins!

Or so I thought was the last big event of my trip… Alex was sick on Sunday when he picked me up from the airport. Sick enough to warrant a trip to the ER on Sunday night. He was throwing up, hot, weak – we went to the ER when he passed out onto the bed after a shower and didn’t feel like he had the strength to move or get into the car. Coming from the guy who hates hospitals and rarely complains about sickness, I was scared.

We went to Rose Hospital’s ER and were immediately seen. Alex was treated for severe dehydration and a flu virus. Once they started the saline IV, he started to get his color and personality back – it was amazing to see the transformation!

He was discharged with no further diagnosis – just to rest, keep drinking fluids and take care of himself. He’s done just that – stayed home from work on Monday and Tuesday and is feeling back to himself today.

Whew! I’m finally feeling settled again, after last week’s whirlwind trip. I’m happy to be home and looking forward to visitors and birthday fun next week!

Foodie Pen Pals: February

What a week it’s been! From a jam-packed trip to Cincinnati (as in, out of the house from 830 a.m. – past midnight 4 days in a row) and ending with Sunday night spent in the ER with Alex, I’m finally getting my routine back and a chance to blog again!

Last month, I joined the Foodie Pen Pals group that Lindsay sets up – it’s a great way to ‘meet’ new friends on the internet and to get a fun care package!

This month, I was paired up with Ashley B. from Cincinnati, of all places. She was so sweet and offered to send me some local Cincinnati food that I may have been missing. And boy, did she deliver!

She checked out my blog and saw that I eat mostly paleo so she chose foods that fit into the paleo lifestyle. She sent:

  • Annie Chun’s Seaweed Snacks
  • Yogavive Apple Chips
  • Homemade (as in: Ashley made it) pickles from their cucumber garden this past summer
  • Mt. Carmel beer (local Cincinnati brand that Alex and I love!) 
  • Upcycled earrings
  • Coffee kozie

This was a great package to receive – very thoughtful and tasty!

I dug right into the seaweed snacks – they’re roasted with olive oil and sea salt.

I will definitely be buying these again. I bought 2 packages from Trader Joe’s when I was in Cincinnati last week for $0.99 each (Trader Joe’s brand). Hope I can find them as cheap out here!

I also gobbled up the Yogavive Apple Chips before I could snap a photo – oops!

These were a tasty, light and healthy treat that I’d definitely buy in the future. Each bag contains the equivalent of 5 full apples, air popped!

We haven’t tried the pickles yet – and even though pickles aren’t my thing, they are Alex’s favorite condiment. I’m also planning to give these a taste once we break into them – maybe it’s the pickle that changes my mind! (#twss?)

Now, these earrings that Ashley sent, she made. She works part-time at Starbucks while finishing up grad school and was seeing so many empty gift cards be thrown away when she had an idea – turn them into earrings!

They’re so cute! I wore them yesterday and got so many compliments – no one could tell they were old gift cards.

And lastly, this coffee kozie is so thoughtful. Since moving away from Ohio, I find myself wanting to buy everything Ohio when I see it. While in Cincinnati for Christmas last year, we stocked up on Ohio things – Christmas ornaments, fridge magnets, winter hats, etc. So this kozie was right up my ally.  

This has a set place in my purse already. Now, I just need to get myself to a coffee shop and take a drink to go!

While I was in Cincinnati last week, Ashley was so kind as to meet me for coffee at a local coffee shop. I love making new friends and the internet makes that so much easier – it was so coincidental that I was paired with a girl in Cincinnati and that I just happened to be traveling there last week. It was fun to put a face with a name/emails and learn about her, her garden, grad school and their hopeful plans to move to Denver.

For those of you who get paired with Ashley B in the future, you are one lucky duck! She’s a great foodie pen pal and a genuine, quality person to talk with!

Want to join? Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers.

If you’re interested in participating for March, just send  an email to theleangreenbean@gmail.com and include the following information:
-Your full name
-Your email address
-Your blog name/address
-Your twitter handle (if applicable)
-If you are a US or Canadian resident.

You must submit your information by March 4th as pairings will be emailed on March 5th!