*Or, as us non-Beyonce mortals call it, Houston.

As you guys all know, I am not an avid football fan. I mean, I definitely do enjoy watching football from time to time; however, my enjoyment stems more from everything ancillary to football than from the actual sport. Every year, I spend one or two Saturdays in the fall tailgating or going to a game, but I am not one of those people who wants to devote every fall weekend to sports. And though I do enjoy tailgating and going to the odd game, I almost always leave the game not knowing who won or really even who the relevant players on either team are. Again, I’m really in it so I have an excuse to eat chips dipped in various forms of cheese, drink during the day (which minimizes hangovers!) and wear t-shirts in public without judgment. By the way, this attitude of general apathy toward football basically makes me a pariah in Columbus.


[Pro tip: game days in Columbus are literally the best time to do anything that would otherwise involve crowds or waiting: shopping, brunch, hair appointments, etc. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when everyone else is watching Ohio State.]

You will find it surprising to learn, then, that my trip to Houston was actually motivated by and planned around a football game! Yes that is right – my alma mater, Vanderbilt University, was scheduled to play in Houston over Halloween weekend this year. I obviously did not independently discover this fact, but I was really pleasantly surprised when a friend of mine from college, Josh, texted a few people to invite us to come down for the game.

Vandy gameVandy Game 2

(These photos were taken a few years ago at a different game)

My friends from college are scattered all across the country, but quite a few actually ended up living in Houston. By the time each of them texted four or five of their closest friends, we had assembled a pretty awesome group who planned to travel to Houston for the game. And by “for the game,” I mean, “to use the football game as a pretext to relive college in a different city” and, now that I’m reading this post back, “to eat and drink our way through every single restaurant and bar in Houston.”

It worked out so that four of us arrived at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport right around noon on Friday, October 30. Josh picked us up and took us immediately to lunch at Down House. It was pretty warm out so even though it was a little overcast, we were able to sit outside. The food was good and it was fun to catch up with everyone!

Down House Houston

Of all the restaurants we went to in Houston, which, looking back, was kind of a lot considering how short the trip was, this was the most upscale of them. (That’s not saying a lot, by the way…) The atmosphere at Down House was a bit quieter and more subdued than some of the places we went. Two of my friends, Amy and Carly, ordered a champagne and lavender cocktail that was a beautiful light purple color (…aka lavender…) that was served with a fresh flower. I can tell you that lavender champagne cocktails were not on the menu at any of the other places we went. I feel like maybe the best way to describe this place is that it would be a nice place to stop for lunch and a cocktail during a girls’ shopping trip.

After Down House, we stopped at a bar called Onion Creek for a drink. I knew right away that Onion Creek wasn’t quite as nice as Down House when I stopped in the bathroom and saw this hilarious and accurate exchange on the wall.


After Onion Creek, my friend Emily and I parted ways with our lunch crew and went to Josh’s house to take showers before meeting up with the rest of our friends for happy hour and dinner. In typical Emily and Laura fashion, we managed to get locked out of the gate in front of Josh’s house and had to climb over it. Luckily the neighbors didn’t seem to notice us breaking into their little community, otherwise, I assume we would have been arrested pretty promptly. I decided to take pictures in case the police needed help proving their case against us at some point.


(sorry for weird photo…my phone was on the panoramic setting for some reason but I like this picture too much not to post it)

 We had plans to go out for dinner that night with the big group of around 20 people who had gathered in Houston “for the Vandy game,” but before meeting up with everyone, Josh took us to a really cool cocktail bar called Anvil Bar & Refuge. Josh told us that Anvil is a really “hipster” place, which kind of made me chuckle. It did not seem hipster at alllll to me, but something tells me “hipster” means something different in Houston than it does in Columbus.

We just stayed at Anvil for one drink, but I definitely would have liked to try a few different cocktails there – they all looked really good!


Finally, we made our way to a delicious (and huge) Tex Mex restaurant called El Tiempo Cantina to meet up with our big group.


Of course you know the Tex Mex in Houston is going to be amazing, and we were not disappointed with El Tiempo Cantina! Between the delicious queso con carne and the truly spectacular chicken fajitas, it was an excellent meal.


To be honest, after writing all of this down, I’m somewhat appalled at how much we ate and drank in this one afternoon in Houston. At the time, it didn’t really seem that egregious. I mean, sure, I definitely was uncomfortably full by the time we left dinner but sadly, that is not all that unusual for me…

Also, I’m purposefully trying to wrap this up because it pains me to admit that we actually didn’t go home right after dinner. Nope.

We somehow managed to overcome the gluttony of the afternoon and evening and make it to this crazy dance club called Barbarella’s. I’m not going to link to it because I’m pretty sure I’d be borderline disgusted to see what it looks like in the light of day, but we had a great time just goofing around with everyone and burning off a tiny fraction of the calories that we consumed that afternoon.


All in all, a truly wonderful day in Houston with some of my favorite people in the world!

I will be back with Day 2 of the Houston adventure (and Halloween costume reveal) soon so don’t change that dial. Wait…wrong medium.

Anywho, just check back.

PS – I’m seriously thinking that it might be beneficial for my health to do a recap like this of every day of my life because apparently I eat and drink far more than I feel like I do. Yep, that sure would make for some fascinating reading…

Life Lately

I hope to someday get to a point where I don’t have to begin every single blog post with an apology about how long it has been since my last post. Alas, today is not that day. So, I apologize (to all three of you) for not having posted in quite some time.

In my defense, it has been an incredibly busy few months – first with work, then with fun. Here are some (a lot) of highlights:

It all started with a trip to Vegas to celebrate a friend’s 30th birthday. We stayed at Mandalay Bay.


Though it is pretty from the outside, I wouldn’t recommend staying at Mandalay Bay. It is on the edge of the strip, which makes it kind of a pain to get to other places on the strip. (It also makes it hard to get back from other places on the strip – my iPhone told me I walked over 3 miles after midnight on Saturday just trying to get back!!) It’s also a little bit outdated – some of the other hotels have been updated recently and don’t necessarily cost more.


Mandalay Bay does have a few good restaurants. We ate at The Border Grill for Saturday brunch. It was the most unbelievably gluttonous brunch experience I have ever had.


When you go during the day, you can either choose the lunch menu or you can choose the brunch menu. If you choose to have brunch, you pay $35 for unlimited tapas. And at The Border Grill, unlimited tapas means you literally get an order of every single tapas item on the menu, which is about 20. I was full after they brought out the first three dishes. But don’t worry – I was able to power through and at least try most of the rest of them. An additional $10 gets you bottomless mimosas, which is an amazing deal! We sat there for a while eating and drinking and reallllly getting our money’s worth. The food was excellent – just way, way too much.


After our lingering brunch, it was onto the pool! We finagled our way into Mandalay Bay’s day club, which is exactly what it sounds like – a club, but during the day instead of the night. Despite the fact that I’m not really a “club person,” this ended up being one of my favorite things we did. We had so much fun dancing on the cabana, swimming in the (absolutely disgusting) pool and people watching.


After the day club, we made our way to the other side of the strip for dinner at Giada de Laurentiis’ new restaurant, Giada. It’s at the Cromwell, which is a smaller hotel on the strip. I had Rigatoni with Vegetable Bolognese and it was absolutely delicious. I haven’t tried to make it at home yet, but I think I will try to recreate it soon since the recipe is available online. We also ordered a few appetizers for the table, all of which were really wonderful. I would highly recommend Giada to anyone going to Vegas.



On Sunday, we went to the pool and relaxed before seeing CELINE DION at Caesar’s Palace that night. Seeing Celine Dion was literally one of the coolest experiences of my life. I will admit that leading up to the show, I was not all that excited about it. Of all the shows you can see in Vegas, Celine would definitely not have been my first choice (hi, Britney), but oh man was I wrong. Celine Dion was nothing short of unbelievable. Everyone in the audience (at least everyone I was with) was literally in tears at various points during the show.


After Las Vegas, it was back to real life for a few days before heading to South Carolina! My mom planned a family vacation to Hilton Head Island for the week after Labor Day.


Unfortunately, I had to leave a little bit early to get back to work. I was able to work remotely from Hilton Head one day, though, which was nice. Working from the beach definitely beats working from my office in Ohio…


After Hilton Head, I had a few weekends at home, where I did a whole lotta this:


And this:


Then, I was off to Cleveland for the wedding of a good friend of mine from college. She got married at a gorgeous Catholic Church and then had the reception at Severance Hall, which is where the Cleveland Orchestra has played since 1931. It was a beautiful wedding and it was great to see so many friends who are spread out across the country.


A few more weekends at home meant running a 10k. I did the same race I did last year. It was a great experience again this year too! I’ve been running a lot more this fall and I’ve really been noticing a lot of improvement. I have a few races coming up this fall and winter, so I’ll try to do recaps here. Even though a lot of people probably don’t care about them, I have enjoyed referring back to the recap I wrote last year of the Monterey Bay Half, so I hope to do similar posts in the future.


After running 6.2 miles, I had the distinct and rare pleasure of eating a Zuppa Sicilian sandwich! This is something that no one who grew up outside of Upper Arlington, Ohio, in the early aughts can even begin to understand, but suffice it to say that this restaurant is actually not even in business anymore (which is a crime against humanity). The fact that Jeffrey was able to procure an order of these sandwiches is just…beyond.


I also saw a presentation given by Anthony Doerr, the author of All The Light We Cannot See. All The Light We Cannot See won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and, because I realize that my personal opinion is basically just as valid as the opinion of whoever chooses who wins the Pulitzer, a book that I very much enjoyed. Though I loved the book, I didn’t have very high expectations for hearing the author speak. This is because earlier this year, I saw Jonathan Franzen do an author talk and was extremely underwhelmed by his performance (which was disappointing because I am a big fan of most of his writing!). Luckily, I ended up being completely blown away by Anthony Doerr’s presentation. He touched on so many different topics including his own life, his writing process, insights into All The Light We Cannot See and his perspective on the importance of art and writing in the world. He was a truly inspirational man and my mom and I both left his talk in awe.


I celebrated an old (in more than one sense of the word – zing!) friend’s 30th birthday,


National I Love Lucy Day,


and the beginning of fall.

IMG_1505Phew! Like I said, a very busy couple of months for me.

I’ll be back soon with a recap of two recent short trips I took to Nashville and Houston. Then we’ll be all caught up just in time for the holidays!

Oh hey.

Wow – it has been a while, huh? Well this is not going to a groundbreaking blog post to break my silence, but I had a few minutes so I figured I’d stop in.

Here’s some of what I’ve been up to recently:

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling.IMG_9102went to chicago for a friend’s non-baby shower baby showerIMG_8815went to chicago for a work tripIMG_9194went to nashville and visited my old stomping grounds with my bestie

IMG_9195took a tour of the venue where my brother will be getting married next year

IMG_8758went to the beach for a few wonderfully sunny days

I’ve been cooking a lot! (I actually have been going strong with my New Year Resolutions…except for the part where I said I would blog about it…)


cooked a feast of buttermilk roast chicken, brussels sprouts and kale salad in the mountains


made a huge batch of veggie chili

IMG_9359prepped some butternut squash and black bean enchiladas for the work week…IMG_7976

…because I had leftovers after making this butternut squash and black bean rice bowl

(but seriously that dressing is literally life-changing (add cilantro))

When I haven’t been cooking, I’ve been eating a fair amount of avocado toast (because I’m basic like that).


homemade version


avocado toast + acai bowl at alchemy

I’ve also had drinks with friends quite a few times – rest assured, most are unpictured… :)

IMG_9207friends, family, whatever


eataly in chicago

And of course, in between all of this, there have been plenty of lazy days with this little guy.






his happy place

Week Six: Crockpot Mushroom, Barley & Lentil Soup

I’m a little bit at a loss for how to make this an interesting blog post. Whenever I follow a recipe exactly as it’s written and then it turns out great, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. Obviously ending up with a final product that you enjoy eating is the desired outcome when trying a new recipe, and it’s clearly better for me when I’m actually eating the creation. But on the flip side, following a recipe and having it turn out as promised does not usually make for the most interesting blog content.

On Week 6, I made this recipe for crockpot mushroom, barley & lentil soup. The blog where I found this recipe is written by a local Columbus blogger whose focus is on health and nutrition. Most of her recipes are intimidatingly “nutrient dense” and contain a bunch of ingredients that I’ve never used, or actually even heard of, before. As a result, I’ve always shied away from actually ever making anything from her blog.

When I came across this crockpot soup recipe, I thought it struck the perfect balance of being super healthy while not requiring me to scour through the bulk bins at Whole Foods for lots of obscure ingredients. And bonus – it was extremely simple to throw together! I put this all in the crock pot one Monday night when I got back from work, went over to a friend’s to watch the Bachelor, and by the time I came home, I had a delicious soup for lunch the next day.

soupThis soup is vegetarian (actually it would be vegan if you didn’t pour a ton of parmesan cheese over the top of it before eating…), light and yet, because of the lentils and the grain, it’s really filling. Clearly you guys are all aware that I’m not a vegetarian and have no desire to be. However, I definitely don’t eat meat at every meal (despite the impression I have likely created here of me eating sausage at 21 meals per week…). I do believe that eating a more plant-based diet is healthy. Reducing our meat consumption is also a really great way to help the environment. Win-win!

So my resolutions are still going strong six weeks in! This is clearly the longest I have ever stuck with my New Year Resolutions and I’m feeling good about it. Had I not had an articulated reason to try this recipe, I likely would have spent the sixth week of 2015 eating cafeteria food for lunch. Instead, I had this delicious, homemade soup! Clearly, a preferable alternative.

Week Five: Brussels Sprouts Salad with Bacon and Oven Fried Chicken

By week five of 2015, I was back in the groove! I didn’t feel like it was an annoyance to try a new recipe, in fact, I was excited about the prospect of putting together a fun new meal. This week’s recipes were also a lot more successful than Week 4’s dip-related fiasco (thank goodness…).

I have said it before, but I’m sure you’ve also noticed, that I tend to cook a lot of stuff that tastes just as good, if not better, as leftovers. That means I end up making a lot of casserole-type dishes, crock pot stuff, soups, etc. I rarely cook big pieces of meat because usually those dishes don’t reheat very well or taste as good as leftovers. By week five, though, I was in the mood for more of a traditional “meal” that entailed more than one dish that could be eaten out of a bowl. Soooo in week five, I made TWO new recipes. WHATUP.

First, I saw this recipe for Bacon and Brussels Sprouts Salad. I felt like it was really more of a side dish, so I went on the hunt for something to serve it with. I came across this recipe for Rosemary-Lemon Oven-Fried Chicken. P.S. Is four adjectives too many adjectives for chicken? It’s definitely borderline…



Regardless of the superfluous number of adjectives associated with each of these recipes, each turned out great, delicious, edible, tasty and excellent. And actually, the chicken did reheat well, so I was able to enjoy this combination for several days.




I literally followed each of these recipes to a tee, so I won’t go into a ton of detail about the process. I will say that shredding all these brussels sprouts was a ginormous pain in the neck. I also made the classic mistake of assuming that, since the base of this salad was a billion shredded brussels sprouts, each serving would have approximately negative 100 calories. I pretty much acted like if I ate half the salad in one serving, it would be the equivalent of running five miles.

Sadly, no.

After eating about half of the entire salad, I discovered that one tenth of the salad has about 500 calories. Despite their “superfood” status, brussels sprouts are not a low-cal food, my friends. Live and learn.

Anywho, both of these dishes turned out great, and both are recipes I’d like to repeat again soon.

Aaaannddd this brings us to downside number 56 about my resolution to try a new recipe every week: when I find a good recipe that I’d like to “add to my rotation,” I know that I probably won’t have a chance to try it again for like…forty-seven weeks.

Week 4: Super Bowl Food

Wow I have been a delinquent little blogger over the past month! I am tempted to blame it on being busy at work/actually reading some actual books/working out/spending time with real life people in the world. And all of those excuses are true to some extent. But to be completely honest, I’ve also watched 6 seasons of Friends on Netflix (it’s still SO good) and taken far more naps under the pretext of reading than I’d really care to admit.

BUT, I have also been actually keeping up with my Resolutions! I just haven’t been blogging about it. Yet! I’m going to spend the next couple of days/weeks getting caught up on posting about the recipes I’ve made and the books I’ve read so far this year.

Overall, trying a new recipe each week has been really fun for me. It’s forced me to get out of my rut a little bit and try some things I might not otherwise try. However, there have been a few times where I’ve felt a bit burdened or constrained by it. Week four was one such time. I attended a party for the Super Bowl (and yes, I realize that I am probably going to get sued for calling it that on this (basically nonpublic) forum, but as far as I’m concerned the NFL can…actually nevermind, this is a family place…) and I offered to bring a couple apps.

It’s always a little bit risky to try a recipe you’ve never made before when you’re cooking for a big group, but I felt like I had to try something new so that I could fulfill my goal. I decided to compromise by making one appetizer that I had never made before and one trusty standby just in case the new one didn’t work out.

I did some pinterest-based research and came up with what sounded like a failproof dip: Four Cheese Hot Roasted Red Pepper Dip. I mean seriously. How can you go wrong with four kinds of melted cheese mixed with roasted red peppers and garlic salt??

Well sadly, this recipe defies the laws of nature and science because the final result was SO bad. I also somehow don’t have pictures of it (OOPS!).

Suffice it to say, the cheese melted into some weird flubber-like texture that was extremely unappealing. Picture this – you would poke one side of the dip and you’d see a corresponding portion puff out on the opposite side. Okay…I suppose it wasn’t literally that bad, but in all honesty, the texture was rubbery and confusing. And rubbery.

LUCKILY, I had my trusty standby, bacon-wrapped, cream cheese stuffed, jalapeno poppers, the recipe for which can be summed up entirely by the following three photos:

123Honestly, what did we all do before the Pioneer Woman?

Regardless of the failed new recipe, the Super Bowl party was fun and there was no shortage of great food!

4But seriously – don’t make that dip.

Week Three: Mushroom Chianti

As I mentioned last week, one of my resolutions this year is to try at least one new recipe each week. This week, I made what I’m calling “Mushroom Chianti.” It’s based on this Smitten Kitchen recipe for Mushroom Marsala Pasta Bake. I’m calling mine Mushroom Chianti, though, which reflects the fact that I could not find Marsala wine at my grocery store (I didn’t look all that hard…), so I used chianti instead.

photo 1 (33)

I ended up making a few modifications to the Smitten Kitchen version of this dish. One, of course, was to use chianti instead of marsala, though I don’t really think this made a huge difference in the final product. The main differences between my version and Smitten Kitchen’s version were that I added garlic, sausage and kale. It’s becoming very clear that if I see a recipe that I think could benefit by adding sausage to it, I immediately want to try that recipe ASAP. It’s starting to weird me out a little bit.

This dish was simple enough to make, but it did take me quite a bit longer than the original recipe promised. Part of that was that I had an added step of browning the sausage, part of that was that I doubled the recipe, but I think even without those additional factors, it would have taken longer than 30 minutes. Oh well. It was worth it! Here’s what I did:


  • 1 lb (16 oz) whole wheat pasta, uncooked
  • 2 tbs olive oil, separated
  • 1 lb sausage (I used garlic and red wine flavored chicken sausage – yum!)
  • 1.5 lbs mushrooms, chopped (I used pre-chopped baby bellas)
  • 1.5 medium yellow onions, halved and sliced thin
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup chianti (honestly, any dry red wine would be fine here)
  • 6 tbs butter (Irrationally, I hate it when recipes call for unsalted butter. I always use salted.)
  • 6 tbs (1/4 cup + 2 tbs) all purpose flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 3/4 bunch of kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, chopped into cubes
  • 1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large, oven safe dish (I used my dutch oven), cook the pasta according to package directions. Not really going to go into detail here because this should be relatively straightforward. Drain pasta, and set aside.

photo 1 (31)

Using the same pot, heat one tablespoon of olive oil. Add sausage and saute until cooked through, breaking up with a spoon. When sausage is cooked all the way through, remove from pan and set aside.

Add one tablespoon olive oil to the same pan. Add mushrooms and saute until, in the kind of gross words of Smitten Kitchen “until they’ve begun to brown and glisten but have not yet released their liquid.”

photo 3 (24)

Then, add onions and garlic, salt and pepper and mix together. Saute this mixture until almost all the liquid from the mushrooms is evaporated. Add the wine and stir together until it is also mostly evaporated. photo 2 (30)

Once the wine is cooked in, add the butter and stir until melted. Add flour, being careful to make sure that it is stirred in completely and fully absorbed. You definitely don’t want any raw flour flavor in your mixture! Then, begin adding the stock tiny splash by tiny splash. Each splash of stock should be fully absorbed before you add the next. Once all the stock has been added, let the mixture simmer together for a few minutes until the sauce thickens.

To be completely honest, I was kind of grossed out by the mixture at this point. The mushrooms and onions had cooked down quite a bit and the resulting sauce was far more mush-like than I had anticipated. Alas, I forged on, but my skepticism was high.

Once the sauce has thickened a bit, you can begin to assemble the various components of the dish. I added the kale and let it wilt down for just a minute before adding the other parts.

photo 5 (10)

Add back in the sausage and the pasta and stir in all of the mozzarella and half of the parmesan until everything is evenly distributed in the dish.

photo 4 (23)

Then, sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the top of the casserole. Stick this whole thing in the oven and bake until the cheese is browned.

photo 5 (9)

Despite my skepticism, this dish was definitely a success. Remember when I said that Sasha is kind of a barometer for my successes (and mostly failures) in the kitchen? Well, based on that metric…

photo 4 (21)

2015 Resolutions

We are officially two entire weeks into the new year, which makes this post at least two week too late. By now, a lot of people have probably already given up on their New Year Resolutions but for some reason, I have just finally solidified mine. I suppose it’s the true procrastinator in me to procrastinate on something like making New Year Resolutions. I wonder if at this point, they should just be considered “Resolutions” since they clearly were not made in connection with the new year…Well whatever. It’s my blog, so I suppose I can call them whatever I want to.

In years past, I’ve set incredibly lofty goals to try to stick to throughout the year and then given them up about two days later. This year, I have two resolutions and they’re a bit more realistic. I do think that each will require a bit of a stretch on my part, but shouldn’t necessitate a major lifestyle overhaul like I’ve tried to accomplish in years past. Maybe this is the year I’ll actually succeed in fulfilling my Resolutions!

First, I want to try one new recipe every week (and blog about it). And second, I am aiming to read at least one book each month (and blog about it).

In 2014, did I cook 52 different and never-tried recipes? Almost certainly not. And if I did, a lot of the cooking ended up being clustered together around the same time frames. There were weeks when I felt very inspired and energetic and probably tried two or three new-to-me recipes. But then there were weeks-long stretches where I did very little cooking and relied on some easy standbys and take out.

Did I read 12 books in 2014? Actually, maybe (but sadly probably not quite). Again, at least 3 of them were read in the one-week span I spent in Hilton Head and then I read another four in the last part of the year after this post. (Side note, I did achieve my goal of reading 4 books before the end of the year – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, On Beauty, White Teeth and Not That Kind of Girl).

What I’m striving for here is some consistency and a little balance. It wouldn’t kill me to be a bit more purposeful with these types of good-for-me activities.

So how am I doing with my resolutions so far, you ask? Welllll actually, since you asked, I’m doing pretty well with things so far! (That probably should have been obvious since I’m not sure I would be posting this otherwise…)

I have made Bon Appetit’s Crunchy Cashew-Sesame Bars, this Pioneer Woman recipe for Roasted Spaghetti Squash and Kale (to which I added garlic and mild Italian turkey sausage – this should not come as a shock to you), and Half Baked Harvest’s Carmelized Butternut Squash and Kale Lasagna. All three turned out really well, but my favorite was the Pioneer Woman Recipe. The seemingly odd combination of balsamic vinegar and chili powder ended up creating a really interesting flavor and, bonus – it was INCREDIBLY easy to make.

The Bon Appetit bars were great as healthy snacks to take to work. I have always shied away from making my own snack bars because I thought that the payoff wouldn’t be worth the hassle. Luckily, I was wrong! Yes, these bars did require some non-standard ingredients that sound somewhat suspect (wheat germ…) but once I located everything at Whole Foods (in the bulk bins), making them could not have been less of a hassle. It was certainly a departure from any type of recipe I’d ever made before, so I will chalk that up as a success on multiple levels.

Lastly, the lasagna. The lasagna turned out great, as well. I don’t think I did a great job of apportioning things evenly between the layers because when I got to the top, I realized that I would have liked to have a bit more cheese and sauce, but even so, the final product was good. I cooked this for my parents and brother one Sunday night and enjoyed the leftovers for lunch at work. I’m sure my family was partially just being polite, but everyone seemed to enjoy this dish!

photo (7)

On the reading front, well, I’ve already knocked off my book for January! My law school friends’ book club chose “Think Like a Freak” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner as our first book of 2015. We haven’t had our discussion yet, so I will hold off on posting about the book in detail until after we “meet” to talk about it. Overall, though, I found Think Like a Freak to be an insightful and quick read. I have attempted to put some of the “lessons” to use in my day to day life, though doing so is somewhat easier said than done. In their defense, the authors do warn the readers that this may be the case…

photo (8)So, I’m onto book two for the year, “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes, which I picked up in an airport when I had forgotten to bring something else with me. I can’t say I’m all that excited about this book, but then again, to paraphrase the wise philosopher, Phil Dunphy, having low expectations is the best way to avoid disappointment!


Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay

Hiya pals! Sorry for the delay in getting to this post. I traveled to Chicago for part of last week for work (and then stayed for the weekend to hang out with friends), and didn’t bring my personal laptop. I have carried two laptops through security before and it is NOT fun. And it’s super heavy. I decided not to do that to myself just for the off chance that I would have time to get to this lovely little race recap.

(Tangent: When you think about it, having to bring a work computer with you everywhere you go comparatively disadvantages women a lot more than men. When you account for your computer bag and your purse, your carry-on allotment is already used up! You either have to stuff your purse into your suitcase, thereby sacrificing quite a bit of valuable luggage space, or you have to check a bag. Either way it’s not ideal, it’s costly and it’s something men don’t have to worry about. #FEMINISM).

So anyway, back to the half marathon. It was terrible. I’ve already talked about how great of a time I had on the trip, overall. And I’ve mentioned how much I loooovveee Northern California. So when I say the half marathon was terrible, I’m literally only talking about the actual running of the half marathon.

J+L 13

I also understand that saying that running a half marathon was not fun is not a radical or surprising statement. It’s especially not surprising to hear that *I* didn’t enjoy running a half marathon because I’ve been very vocal about how much I hate running. So even by these already low standards, it sucked.

Big Sur BannersLet me start at the beginning. On Saturday, we went to the race expo to pick up our bibs and shirts. The expo was tiny. I have run three half marathons prior to the Big Sur half marathon, but they were all bigger ones. The Flying Pig had over 35,000 participants! The Big Sur half only had 9,000, so by comparison, it was really small. The expo was nice; unfortunately, though, I have gotten used to seeing really huge expos that have tons and tons of really nice merchandise and I usually learn about a new product or see a lot of cute workout clothes I want to buy. Nothing at this expo really caught my eye, so we were in and out in about 10 minutes.


We spent the rest of Saturday having a great time in Big Sur and carbo loading for Sunday’s race (you can read a recap of Saturday here). Before going to bed Saturday night, we set our alarms for 5:30 am (never a pleasant time to wake up on a Sunday morning…), chugged lots of water and applied some flash tats to get in the racing mood!

pre race 2

Sunday morning, we woke up, chugged some more water, applied some more flash tats (seriously, we got a little bit carried away with these), donned our matching outfits, and headed to the starting line.

pre race 3

pre race

That was when the fun ended.

For some reason, Big Sur was just not my race. Obviously, the first half marathon I did was pretty painful. That stemmed from being incredibly out of shape overall and not really training appropriately (or really at all) for it. Ever since that one, though, each race has gotten better and significantly less painful. Until Big Sur.

From mile one, I was just uncomfortable. Mistake number one was putting on my usual daily moisturizer right before walking out the door. In my mind, it was important to put some SPF on before spending 2.5 hours out in the sun (I’ve gotten sunburned on long runs enough times to know this is important). Unfortunately, what I didn’t consider was that my daily moisturizer is not waterproof or sweatproof. The non-waterproofness ended up creating some issues. During the first few miles, as I began to sweat, my face started to feel greasy and my skin was feeling suffocated. It basically felt like there was warm goop all over me that I couldn’t get off. That was distracting and unpleasant but not the end of the world. At the same time, though, I was feeling winded and crampy. Not a great way to start a 13 mile run.

I tried to distract myself by focusing on my surroundings, but I couldn’t help but notice that I was already struggling. In the second and third half marathons that I did, the first few miles completely fly by. There is so much to look at and think about – the people around you, the spectators, the scenery, etc. As I was struggling along the course, I noticed an increasing sense of dread as I realized that I hadn’t even gone one mile and I already felt uncomfortable. I couldn’t get my head into the race.

The beginning of this course is also by far the least pretty so that didn’t help matters. We began in Monterey and wove through the town a bit. We ran through a couple streets with shops, cafes and restaurants. We ran through some residential areas. Then we got to Cannery Row.

cannery row

I told myself, “Hey, you love Steinbeck! Think about how awesome this is and how lucky you are. Think about that so you stop thinking about your stupid skin!” Unfortunately, this little mind game didn’t really work. I mean, I thought about those things for like 30 seconds and it was great and I did feel lucky. But then I went back to feeling a stitch in my side and pain in my hip.

After Cannery Row, the course got far more beautiful. The route took us out 7 miles down the Monterey Peninsula and then back 6. Some people don’t like out and back courses. I; however, tend to think they’re great. Compared to a lot of people who run these races, I’m pretty slow. So the out and back course is kind of fun for me because I get to watch a bunch of fast people race by me. Some people probably find this depressing, but I like it because it gives me something to watch and think about and makes the time go by a bit faster. Since I knew Jamie was ahead of me, I spent a long time searching for her in the sea of faces on the other side of the street. I also spent a lot of time just trying to take in the scenery. I honestly can’t imagine a more gorgeous place to run a half marathon than the Monterey Peninsula. I mean, I literally saw a seal sunning itself on a rock! I was looking for whales but didn’t see any.

course scenery use

I won’t get into the entire play-by-play (or should I say mile-by-mile) breakdown of the race. Suffice it to say that despite how absolutely gorgeous the setting was, I just wasn’t feeling it. I’ll also mention the fact that this is now the second half-marathon I’ve run where my extremely subpar math skills have created some issues. In this race and in the Nike Women’s Half I did in April, I have gotten to mile 7 and been so relieved because (in my mind), I only have five miles left. Five miles is a significant milestone for me because I know that takes me about an hour to run that far. I start telling myself, “Only an hour left. That’s not bad. You can do anything for an hour. If people survive in Guantanamo Bay for years, you can jog along the coast for an hour.” (If you can’t tell, my inner dialogue is a somewhat major part of running for me. Trust me when I say that you do not want to be alone in my head for 2.5 hours of running). *Note: I realized after posting this that most people would consider the voices in their head to be an “inner monologue.” I’m leaving it as is, though, because I think it’s more descriptive of how I actually feel at any given time. #CRAZY.

course scenery 2 use

Anyway, by now my more astute readers will have picked up on the fact that 7+5 ≠ 13.1. Inevitably, I come to mile 8 and think “YES! Only five miles left…WAIT…A…MINUTE!” And then I’m crushed. I realize that I am not running at a miraculous pace and that I still have another whole hour left and that I’m stupid. It’s honestly a soul-shattering experience.

By mile 12, I was on the brink of tears. I wanted to stop so badly. But how lame would it be to quit on mile 12 of a 13 mile run? Also, our hotel happened to be on the other side of the finish line so I knew I would have to get across it one way or another. Anything I could do to expedite that process was a plus. So onward I went. I started to notice a pain in my right foot. I tried to put it out of my mind. It was NOT the only part of my body that hurt at that point, so I kept trudging along, wincing with every step.

Finally, I saw the finish line! Only .1 miles away. That .1 mile was the longest .1 mile I have ever seen in my life. I was honestly not even happy when I crossed the finish line. I was in pain and all I could think about was getting back to the hotel. photo (6)

Unfortunately, the post finish line area was highly disorganized. I got my medal, which I was kind of disappointed by, and continued on to find Jamie. They had a line where you could pick up some free food and drinks. Unfortunately, the selection was not all that great. I grabbed a quarter of a bagel, some Baked Lays (um what is the point of running 13 miles if you can’t even eat real fried potato chips afterward…), three loose strawberries and a banana. The line took quite a while to get through and as I stood there, I just kept feeling worse. I realized how badly my feet were hurting and I was just all around miserable.

I finally found Jamie and we snapped a few photos (not my most flattering, obviously…) and we began hobbling back to the hotel.

post race

I realize I sound like a complete Debbie Downer right now, which is annoying. I oddly finished this race with my best time ever and once I realized that, I was pretty proud (and surprised). It was an absolutely amazing course and I loved being able to run along the ocean in such a gorgeous setting for a few hours. My issues with this race were mostly my own and I don’t really understand why this race was so hard for me. I guess some days you’re just off.

Regardless of my personal struggle, I would absolutely recommend the Big Sur Half Marathon to anyone looking for a half marathon to do. The course is flat and, as I already said a million times, amazingly beautiful. It’s a smaller event, so that’s something to consider. I think a lot of people prefer to run in smaller events. I actually kind of liked the size, but there were aspects of it that were just different than what I’ve come to expect.

Phew, sorry this post is so long! Probably very few people actually care to know this much detail about my Big Sur Half experience. The long and short of it is that I flew across the country for it, ran it, hated it, hobbled around for the next two weeks and haven’t run since. Literally.

But I did get to take a great trip to one of my favorite places in the world, and because of that, I’m very, very grateful.