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.

Book Review: Not That Kind of Girl

Even though it wasn’t on my list of books to read before the end of 2014, I recently read Lena Dunham’s book, Not That Kind of Girl. I came across it in the airport right as I was finishing up White Teeth, and despite thinking that I didn’t want to read it, I found that I just couldn’t quite pass it up.

I fully recognize that Lena Dunham is a polarizing person. In fact, my own opinions of her are difficult to articulate precisely because I actually, somehow, agree with almost every criticism of her and every defense. Personally, I do think she’s a little bit over the top. I find myself wishing she would just get her act together a bit more and stop purporting to speak for an entire generation of young women of which I am a part. I do not identify with any character on her show and I’m relatively offended at the notion that I should. (For those who have never watched it, it’s actually a good show, but each character is just so incredibly self-absorbed and whiny that it’s disheartening to watch and comprehend that there are people in the world who actually share this world view).

I’ve basically never felt more like a Republican old man than I do when I watch the show or even listen to Lena Dunham speak on her own behalf. I usually find myself thinking “Not everything is about you!” or “Life’s not fair!” or “Grow up and learn how to be an independent, fully-formed person!” Like, seriously? I think I’m really hard on women sometimes. Some of this stems from the fact that I find myself saying at least one of the above sentiments to myself on literally a daily basis and I don’t really understand girls who don’t seem to feel the same level of anxiety about projecting even some modicum of competence and awareness of actual world issues. Then again, maybe Lena Dunham is my id? Who knows…

HOWEVER, and here is where the confusion comes in, despite my personal opinions of Lena Dunham, I somehow also really admire and look up to her as being a very important person in current cultural discourse. I am almost the exact same age as Lena Dunham. I am confident that I will absolutely never be as comfortable in my own skin as she is in hers. I truly respect the way she makes no apologies for being exactly who she is and I think it sends an important message to women and girls. Does this make sense? Yeah, not to me, either. Oh well.

Regardless of my conflicted inner monologue about Lena Dunham as a person and as a cultural icon, I thought Not That Kind of Girl was a really great book. For those looking for the next Bossypants or Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, you will probably be disappointed. Despite the fact that Lena Dunham writes a comedic television show, like Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling, her book is not really intended to be a comedic book in the same way that those two are. It really is more appropriately categorized as a memoir. And again, here I find myself saying, “Seriously, you haven’t done anything interesting, who are you to think you can write a memoir?” #whyamisomean

In actuality, I found Lena Dunham to have a really interesting writing style. I was frequently surprised by her eloquence and the strength of her voice. I alternated between laughing and crying and found myself identifying with far more than I expected to.

I certainly would not recommend this book to everyone. Some will not understand it. Some will be completely horrified by it. But for the right audience, this book is a really insightful and captivating piece of writing and it made me really appreciate Lena Dunham in spite of all the things I really dislike about her.


“But no matter what, nothing can ever be as it was. Everything has changed in a way that sounds trite and borderline offensive when recounted over coffee. I can never be who I was. I can simply watch her with sympathy, understanding and some measure of awe. There she goes, backpack on, headed for the subway or the airport. She did her best with her eyeliner. She learned a new word she wants to try out on you. She is ambling along. She is looking for it.”

Big Sur

Big Sur is a really interesting place. Mostly in the sense that it’s not really place. There is no city of Big Sur or anything like that, it’s just a strip of land that has no defined boundaries. Generally speaking, though, it’s considered to be a 60-90 mile stretch of coast line that begins just south of Carmel. So when people refer to things being in Big Sur, there’s not really a specific town that they’re referring to. You kind of haphazardly come upon these little roadside places as you’re driving down the coast. Some look kind of cute and some look pretty ramshackle.

big sur bridge (use)

Nepenthe is one such roadside place, definitely far more cute than ramshackle. It would probably be hard to miss it completely, but it would be easy to drive past and never really give it a second thought. That, however, would be a mistake.

nepenthe useMore than one person told Jamie that we needed to go to Nepenthe during our time in Big Sur. As I already mentioned, my friend Caroline and her boyfriend, John, planned to drive down the coast to meet Jamie and me at Nepenthe for lunch. Before we left Carmel, I spoke with Caroline who told me that she and John were about an hour behind us on the road down to Nepenthe. The drive down Highway 1, gorgeous though it is, is not a cell-phone reception heavy area. Once Jamie and I got down the coast a bit, we realized that even though Caroline and John were quite a bit behind us, we would never be able to meet up with them if we moved around from place to place.


We pulled into Nepenthe, and I planned to text Caroline and John to let them know that we’d just wait for them there, but again with the no service thing. Luckily, Nepenthe is the last place on Earth that still has a working pay phone! I actually used this thing to make two calls. #Blastfromthepast!

Luckily, Nepenthe is a great place to kind of just hang out so it was fine to wait there for a while. A lot of the restaurant is outside, and there are some large concrete stairs that have pillows on them. We sat there in the sun, taking in the views and people watching until Caroline and John made it down. (We actually ate lunch while we waited because we were absolutely starving and then we hung out with Caroline and John while they ate).

Nepenthe 1

There are times when running half-marathons while traveling is great; however, there are a lot of times when running a half-marathon on your “vacations” seems like the stupidest idea you’ve ever had. Being at Nepenthe, I found myself seriously questioning my commitment to the next day’s run since all I could think about was how amazing it would be to sit there in the sun, overlooking the cliffs and the pacific ocean, drinking a beer (or three). I don’t even really like beer. But drinking beer outside at Nepenthe just seemed like it would be an absolutely perfect way to pass an afternoon. But alas, large quantities of beer and running don’t really mix. And actually, neither do large quantities of beer and the winding, cliffside roads leading back to our hotel. Instead, I reluctantly focused on hydrating.

Nepenthe 2

After lunch, we continued our drive down the road for a while to see a waterfall that John knew about. The waterfall was about fifteen minutes further down the road than Nepenthe so we all piled in Caroline’s car to head down there. Once we got there, we noticed that a lot of people were just pulling off to the side of the road to park. We decided to pull into the parking lot and park in the official lot.

Once there, we got out of the car and took the path that led down to the waterfall. It was about a quarter of a mile walk to get down to the waterfall. And once we got to the waterfall, we realized that calling this scenic attraction the “waterfall” is a bit misleading. Well…there is a waterfall there. But it is just not even close to the most beautiful part of the vista. The waterfall is pretty darn tiny, but the view is just incredible.

beauty 2

I found out after the fact that this is one of only a few waterfalls in the world that empties into an ocean, so there is some geological significance, I suppose. But regardless, it’s a pretty lame waterfall.


J L & C

After taking in the waterfall views, we thought we’d stop at this pink sand beach we’d heard about, Pfeiffer Beach. Pfeiffer Beach, we learned, is a pink or purple (depending who you ask) sand beach that has gorgeous sunset views. The entrance to the beach is entirely unmarked. There’s an unassuming side road off of Highway 1 that leads you two miles down to the beach. The road down to the beach is only one lane so you’re constantly having to stop and pull over to allow cars coming the opposite direction to pass.

I want to say that once you get down there, it’s totally worth the stressful drive. HOWEVER, annoyingly, we drove all the way down and didn’t actually get to see the beach. I guess that going to Pfeiffer Beach for sunset is a really popular idea and unfortunately, we were a little bit too late. When we got there, they were only letting one car in for every car that came out. They were also charging $10 to park there. This was a little bit obnoxious. I mean, we all hear about how California taxes are out of control; however, their extreme dedication to charging people for parking in state parks is kind of outrageous. We actually got a ticket at the “waterfall.” It made this incredibly lovely experience just the slightest bit irritating.

Anywho, the point is that, unfortunately, we turned around and drove back out to the main road to head back to Monterey instead of seeing the beach. The plus side was that we were able to take in the sunset from the beautiful drive on Highway 1 as we were heading back.

We arrived back in Monterey just in time to change and rest at the hotel for a couple minutes before heading out to dinner. I made reservations for four at a restaurant called Lovers Point in Pacific Grove, one town over from Monterey. Lovers point is known for having really great views of the shoreline because it sits right on the beach. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any of the famed views since it was already dark once we arrived. Luckily, the food was really great, so even though we missed the views, we still had a nice meal. Monterey and Carmel are known for having a lot of world class restaurants. I’m not sure I’d put Lovers Point up there with them; however, it was a delicious, relatively casual restaurant that had really nice, yet not too fancy, food. I would definitely recommend it to anyone heading to the area.

We saw a lot of other runners at Lovers Point, so it was obviously a popular pre-race destination. And coincidentally, the race route took us past the restaurant the next morning. It was like deja vu! Except instead of eating delicious pasta and enjoying myself, I was running along the coast (which sounds a lot better than it felt at that moment), questioning my decision-making capabilities and wanting to kill myself. So yeah, deja-vu.

Beach Pic 4

Back soon with a race recap.


One of my favorite places in the world is Northern California. My mom and I took a trip out to San Francisco and Carmel around this time last year, and I knew I couldn’t wait too long to get back.


Somewhat unrelatedly (though you will see the connection soon enough), I have recently begrudgingly taken up running. I like to think that I was conned into it by two of my friends, Sara and Jamie, when they suggested that I run the Cincinnati Flying Pig Half Marathon with them a year-and-a-half ago. Ever since I agreed to run that race with them, the three of us have had an ongoing text and email conversation about running, general working out, healthy eating, etc. We also talk about way more fun and interesting stuff, of course, but for basically anything health, fitness or running related, we know we have a receptive audience in each other. It’s been a really great way to keep in touch with some of my friends who I don’t live as close to as I would like.

Ever since that first half marathon, we seem to get together once every six months or so to do another one in a different city. A few months ago, Jamie sent around an article she found online about the best spring marathons across the country. One of the marathons on the list was the Big Sur Marathon. Because of my love for Northern California, I clicked on the link contained in the article and began perusing the official marathon site. I came across the sub-page dedicated to the Big Sur Half Marathon. (As a rule, I’m much more interested in half marathons than full-length marathons.) It turns out that the half takes place in November of each year, so it’s a completely independent event from the full-length marathon. Finally, I had found my reason to get back to Northern California!

I will dedicate a separate post to the actual race, but we had a great (albeit very short) trip to San Francisco, Monterey and Big Sur, so I definitely want to make sure to talk about the non-running portion of the trip, too. For such a short trip, we accomplished a lot, so I’m going to break things up into a few posts, but I promise I will post about it all! I’m still so enamored with everything we saw while we were there, that I definitely need to document and share.

Jamie and I arrived in San Francisco at about 10:00 pm on Friday. We flew out of San Francisco at 6:00 am the next Monday. So it was a super short trip, but we were able to cram a lot of fun activities into a short amount of time. Once we arrived at SFO on Friday, we rented a car to drive down to Monterey. (The half marathon actually takes place in Monterey rather than Big Sur, so that’s where we stayed.)


Two things about this. One: the rental car situation at SFO is completely insane. I honestly do not think I could have navigated my way to the rental car counter had I been alone. Not only is it extremely far away from the airport, the signage is very unclear and unhelpful. Even if you know exactly where to go, though, it would take you 20 minutes to get there because the rental car counter is nowhere near the actual terminals. Once we actually made it there, things went pretty smoothly. We were even upgraded from whatever-the-cheapest-car-on-the-website-was to a Lincoln SUV. Hey, if it’s good enough for McConaughey, it’s good enough for me. The second thing is that Monterey is about a two-hour drive from San Francisco. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend trying to drive down there after flying across the country after a full week of work. Live and learn. But seriously, don’t do this. We arrived in Monterey at about 1:00 am local time…4:00 am Ohio time. Woof.

Based on its proximity to the start of the race, we had booked a room at the Hotel Abrego. It ended up being a nice hotel and it was really convenient to the race, so it was perfect for our needs. Unfortunately, our check-in experience was a bit on the creepy side so I think our impression of the hotel was kind of tainted from the get-go. Let’s just say that Hotel Abrego apparently does not believe in staffing their most appealing, competent and non-ghost-like employees to work the night shift. But we successfully checked in, made it to the room and passssssed out.

In the morning, I woke up to a gentle light flickering on the ceiling. We had our blackout curtains drawn and I had covered the light emanating from the alarm clock before going to sleep. For the longest time, I just laid there wondering where the heck that flickering light was coming from. Eventually, I realized that the fireplace in the room had somehow automatically ignited in the middle of the night!! So weird!! Definitely contributed to the strange vibes we had gotten the night before.

Despite the blackout curtains and the peaceful crackling (…) of the fireplace, Jamie and I are both early-risers, so by 9:00 am on Saturday, we were ready to start our day.

Big Sur Banners

After swinging by the Expo to pick up our race bibs, we headed out for a scenic drive. Our only plan for the day was to eat lunch at a restaurant in Big Sur called Nepenthe. My friend, Caroline, and her boyfriend, John, planned to drive down from San Francisco, where they live, to have lunch with us and hang out for the day. We didn’t need to leave Monterey right away, so we decided to take a detour on the famous 17-mile-drive before getting on the road to Nepenthe.

17-Mile-Drive is a stretch of road (a seventeen mile stretch, if memory serves…), between Carmel and Monterey. It is winding and incredibly scenic, as most of it goes right along the coast. There are all sorts of incredible homes and vista lookout points. Pebble Beach, the famous golf course, is also located along this stretch of land. Jamie and I, being the incredible dorks that we are, got out at almost all of the scenic lookout points to take photos and admire the beauty of the surroundings. Rather than blabber on about how amazing it is (which, it really is), I’m just going to post some photos below. I’m also posting a few from the trip I took there last year.

After completing this drive of indeterminable distance, we got on the road to head down to Big Sur and Nepenthe. I will be detailing our time in Big Sur in a separate post since this one is getting pretty lengthy. Let me just conclude by pointing out that I have absolutely never been on a more breathtaking drive in my entire life than the drive down Highway 1 from Carmel to Big Sur. During the hour that we were in the car, I think I must have commented at least 1,000 times on just how beautiful the scenery was. It may be cheesy to say, but there were times, I could have sworn I had left the United States and ended up in Ireland.

big sur bridge (use)

(I also remarked how glad I was that I was the one driving because I think this portion of the trip would have made me feel incredibly car sick had I been a passenger. There is certainly no shortage of twists, turns and hills, so that’s definitely something to keep in mind if you get bad motion sickness like I do!)

Anywho – check back soon for a recap of our Saturday afternoon in Big Sur as well as a race recap! Hopefully I won’t ramble quite as much in those posts…but we all know I will.