Friday, July 31, 2015

Coffee talk - August edition

I am linking up with Coco, Deborah, and Lynda for this month's edition of Coffee Talk.

The Ultimate Coffee Date

The link-up actually starts tomorrow, but I am ready to get this party started a day early!

The premise behind this link-up is: "If we were having [insert choice of beverage here] together, I would tell you..."

Armed with my tall glass of either orange juice or water on the rocks, here are a few things I would share:

Adam and I are going to Israel in November! We got ridiculously good airfare on Turkish Airlines. We'll be flying into Tel Aviv with a layover in Istanbul. Now we are working to figure out our itinerary - there is SO much to see and do. The plan will likely include some combination of Jerusalem, Haifa, Tiberias, the Dead Sea, Tel Aviv, and a jaunt to Petra, Jordan.

The Old City in Jerusalem

We'll also be road-tripping to Traverse City, Michigan over Labor Day! I have wanted to visit northern Michigan for a long time, so I am very excited to finally make it happen. I've heard amazing things about the beaches, the hiking, the food, and the friendly people.

The Grand Traverse Bay
Traverse City claims itself to be the Cherry Capital of the World. I plan to take advantage of this by eating as many cherries and cherry-themed recipes as possible. I want to bring home a car trunk full of cherries!

This past Wednesday, I watched sports all day long. 
In the afternoon, my company held one of its annual Chicago Cubs rooftop outings.
Hanging out with Meghna and Alicia, two of my awesome coworkers
It was so hot and sunny that most of us only spent a few minutes on the rooftop. The rest of the time, we were inside hanging out. (Allright, maybe I didn't literally watch sports all day long.) I even wore a Cubs-themed shirt to Wrigley Field for the first time ever (thanks to running the Race to Wrigley!)

Later that night, I went to Soldier Field to watch Manchester United take on Paris Saint-Germain.

It was a complete and unmitigated disaster trying to get into the stadium. Soldier Field is not built to handle 60,000+ fans trying to enter the premises and go through security all at the same time. Blech.

That aside, once I got to my seat I had fun. The atmosphere was very lively and those soccer players have footwork skills like you wouldn't believe.

My adherence to self-imposed goals lives to fight another month... but the streak is in jeopardy. (See this post for further background.) I did manage to log 62.5 miles during the month of July. As of right now, I remain perfectly on track to run 750 miles for the year.

The month of August is going to be a real challenge, though. My running motivation is as low as it has ever been. Combine that with the arrival of hot and humid summertime weather. Then throw in a dislike of the treadmill. Results:

These days my new jam is strength training. I am enjoying the quick and visible results that I've reaped from doing more consistent strength-training over the past few months. Woo-hoo, instant gratification!

I am trying to improve my dance skills. What a challenge this has been! In my Zumba classes, I'm paying closer attention to my instructor's form versus my form to identify what I can improve. The initial conclusion: EVERYTHING.

In an attempt to get some extra practice, I borrowed this DVD from the library:

It's a good thing that I don't have a mirror in my living room for when I try this DVD at home. Heh.

So what is new with you? What would you share with me over a coffee or other beverage?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Questions nobody asks - Part 1

Last week Amanda wrote this post to ninja some of Alison's Questions Nobody Asks. There were some really great questions on the list!

To borrow Amanda's phrase, I am re-ninja-ing the questions to link-up to Amanda's Thinking Out Loud Thursdays.

There were a total of 43 questions in the original list. I'll cover them over a series of posts.

1. Do you go by a nickname?
I previously talked about my nicknames in this post - but in short, a few nicknames I go by include Em, Emmers, E-Dog or E, and Emzo. My friend Helen also calls me "M" (phonetic shortening of "Em.")

2. When driving, do you listen to CDs, tapes, the radio, or nothing?
I usually default to the radio. I'll flip around a selection of music stations (80s, classic rock, and "Top 30"-type stations), a local news radio station, or one of the sports-talk radio stations (God help me).
If I can't find anything good amongst those stations and/or I get bored, I'll switch to CDs. I think the car currently has a stash of Tori Amos, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Eagles, Journey, Disney, and some Beethovan and Chopin.

3. Are you a window person or an aisle person?
Window. I love seeing the scenery, and I enjoy watching the take-off and landing.

In concept, I do like the aisle, though - especially when I'm in the window seat and need to go to the bathroom. Incidentally, though, I read somewhere that the aisle is statistically the most dangerous seat. You have a higher likelihood of getting hit by a bag falling out of the overhead compartments, being elbowed in the head by people walking by, getting clocked by the beverage carts, etc. But hey, I guess some would argue that the probability that you'll need to go to the bathroom is much higher than any of those stats, right?

4. How do you relieve stress?
Working out, watching something light on TV, talking to a confidante. I do instinctively want to stuff myself with pizza, ice cream, chocolate, or some kind of crunchy, salty snack, too - but I try not to go overboard.
Yummy yummy... especially when I am stressed.
5. What's your favorite childhood TV show?
As a child and still to this day, I love the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air!

Honorable mentions: Bugs Bunny cartoons and Full House

6. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
So many things. Astronaut, scientist, vet, teacher, concert pianist, psychologist, journalist (newspaper or magazine), guidance counselor.

When I was in college (i.e., a big kid), I was a finance major. In those years my dream, like many finance majors, was to work in investment banking, consulting, or one of the big accounting firms.

Perspectives definitely change over time! These days, my dream is to be a travel/food writer (although I am sure it is not as glamorous as it might seem, either).

7. What is the best prank you ever pulled off?
Background information: Adam dislikes sweet potatoes. I don't understand why. I am even more confused because he LOVES pumpkin pie... and the two are not that different.

At Thanksgiving dinner one year, my mom and I made a sweet potato pie. We set it out on the table. Adam saw it and said, "Ooooh, pumpkin pie!" My mom and I didn't correct him. He got a big slice and started eating it and enjoying it. My mom and I began grinning. At that point, we told Adam what he was actually eating - and obviously it wasn't so bad, was it?

As you might expect, Adam was none too pleased! He claims to this day that he could tell that something was off and that it didn't taste right. But I believe that had he not known it was sweet potato, he would have polished off that pie without a second thought!
Sweet potato pie or pumpkin pie? You decide!
8. If you could have dinner with any three people, who would you decide?
I think I've answered this before - but I would choose Warren Buffett, Anthony Bourdain, and either Ina Garten or Julia Child.
Anthony Bourdain in Chicago!
Your turn! I would love to hear your answers to any or all of these questions!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Time to link up with Deb's Wordless Wednesday Disney photo hop.

Focused on the Magic
The theme for this week is "Showtime."

(Blackhawks fans, when I heard this theme I have to admit the first thing that came to mind was Patrick Kane's famous utterances. I love this Kaner gif! But this is a Disney-themed photo hop so we will keep things on point. =) )

My favorite nighttime show at Disney is Epcot's "IllumiNations - Reflections of Earth." It's an absolute must-see for me anytime I visit Disney World. I love it so much that I bought the soundtrack on CD.

Here is one of my few reasonably-clear snapshots of IllumiNations. It so does NOT do it justice:

My second-favorite nighttime show at Disney is Fantasmic. I've seen it at both Disneyland and at Hollywood Studios and it's spectacular at both locations. I also own the Fantasmic soundtrack on CD. ;-P

Again, I only have a couple of reasonably-clear pictures from Fantasmic. Here is one:

I've only seen World of Color at Disneyland once. Unfortunately, my spectator angle wasn't very good. I look forward to going back and seeing it again someday soon!

My fellow Disney fans, what say you? What is your favorite Disney nighttime show?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

BTN Big 10K race recap

This past Saturday, I ran the BTN Big 10K for the first time.
This race is enormously popular, probably because of the strong representation of Big 10 alumni that live in the Chicago area. I think it's very clever to use the word play on the Big Ten Conference for a 10K race! Kudos to whoever came up with the idea.

I've been eyeing this race since its inception in 2012. I have always been wary about its annual timing in July, though. With that in mind, I signed up for this year's race with exactly zero intention of shooting for any time goals. My true motivation?


Each runner gets to select one of the Big Ten schools to represent, along with a school-specific shirt. I've mentioned many times that I am a proud alumnus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Go Illini!) I will happily rep the orange and blue anyday.

The race village was located in Soldier Field's south tailgate lot. On race morning, I zipped there on a Divvy bike and gleefully docked at a station right next to the starting corrals. Divvy is the best.

I stopped by the Illinois booth and grabbed some rocking Illini sunglasses.

I was hoping to wear the Illini sunglasses during the race! You couldn't really see through the lenses, though. This meant I was back to wearing my plain old neutral sunglasses. Ah well.

As I was making my way towards the starting corrals, an emcee announced that Illinois had the largest representation of runners at the race. (Michigan State came in a very, very, VERY close second.) Several folks around me grumbled, "What a surprise that Illinois won in a Chicago race." YES, there was a disparate hometown advantage, but I was still happy. The winning prize? The playing of the Illinois fight song at the starting line!

The starting area was jammed with spectators and mascots cheering us on. So much energy! The runners were fairly packed in at the start, but as is typical in most races, everyone gradually spread out.

The course consisted of an out-and-back on Lake Shore Drive down to 42nd Street, returning along the lakefront path. The course also went underneath the McCormick Place tunnel twice.

The temperature was in the mid 70s and rising, and the humidity was thick. I started at a semi-easy pace and felt good for the first three miles or so. Then, the humidity began wearing on me so I slowed down. (I saw one guy veer sharply off course, head directly towards some trees, and then violently throw up. Yikes!)

Around Mile 4.75, there was an on-course slip and slide. You better believe that I took advantage!
Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of the slip and slide, so here is a snapshot from Lindsay's 2012 race recap.

As we all know from our childhood days, slip and slides generally require lots of momentum via a nice running start. However, there was a long line of folks waiting to go through. This meant there wasn't much room to do anything but take about two big steps and then plop-dive in head first. Embarrassingly, I only made it about halfway through the slip and slide before I came to a grinding halt. I had to try to get up from there and claw my way to the end. Awkward... but still fun. =D

At each of the aid stations, they were playing a rotation of the schools' fight songs. Loved it! One station played the Penn State fight song as I passed through. Adam is a proud Penn State alum so this made me smile on his behalf.

I ended up crossing the finish line in 1:02:57.

The post-race party was basically the biggest tailgate party I've ever seen in my life. There was lots of beer, plus rows and rows of grills cooking up Amylu sausages. There were also opportunities to attempt field goals, do a 40-yard dash, play corn hole, or practice your football throwing skills.

Several school mascots were present to take photos with their proud alums. There was no Illinois mascot, so I got a picture with some of the Illinois cheerleaders.

I found out later that my picture ended up getting some extra recognition - it showed up in this article! Ahhh, the magic of social media and hashtags, woo hoo!

The BTN Big 10K was a really fun, festive race! I think all Big Ten alums would enjoy it. It is nice that they offer both the 10K and a 5K distance. I am already trying to plant the seeds for Adam to sign up next year. We all gotta represent, right? =)

My next race: The Fort2Base Nautical 10-Miler on August 23.

Linking up with April, Patty, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run, and with Jessica, Mary Beth, and Jennifer for Race Recaps.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Getting back on the horse

After taking a 6.5-week blogger hiatus, I am finally getting back on the horse.

To be honest, for a period of time I had pretty much decided that I was pulling the plug on my blog. It takes SO MUCH time. My motivation/momentum had taken an earth-shattering nosedive. I've been unenthused about the increasing pervasiveness of advertising and sponsored posts.

In short, this was my blogger theme song for a few weeks:

What changed my mind to bring me back? Ultimately, the remembrance that blogging is a terrific way to stay in touch with friends and meet new ones. I have so many examples, but here are three recents on which I am reflecting:

1.) This morning I attended a fabulous Women's Forum sunrise yoga event. I got to see six awesome friends there - all of whom I met through blogging. It was the best kick-off to a Monday morning that I've ever had.
From L to R:
Top: Erica, me, and Jill
Middle: Lauren and Melanie
Bottom: Maggie and Natali
2.) Natalie will be visiting Chicago in August! We were talking this morning about plans for meeting up at the Air & Water Show. She is another wonderful friend that I met through blogging and I am super excited to catch up with her.
Throwback Monday to the 2014 Chinatown 5K with Natalie (left) and me.
Aren't Natalie's Sriracha leggings the coolest (or rather the spiciest) thing ever?!?
3) To me, one of the biggest highlights of running races is the post-race celebration with the many great friends that - you guessed it - I met through blogging! Here is a picture of Xaarlin, Luiz, Cristina, and me after the Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon on July 26 (recap coming soon):

L to R: Luiz, Xaarlin, me, and Cristina
In the surroundings but not pictured: Xaarlin's dog, CB
All of the amazing friendships have me realizing how valuable it is to keep the blog windows open. So with that...

We have a lot of catching up to do! I've got three races to recap, amongst many other things. Let's see if we can gradually get both back on track and in motion.