Monthly Archives: October 2012

Wine in Wine Countries, Guinness in Guinness Country


I know it’s Halloween, but it’s about time I recap our trip to Ireland. I mean, we did return three weeks ago! And while I’ve confessed that I am not a fan of Halloween, the Jack O’ Lantern does date back to Celtic traditions in Ireland. In fact, we did see a carved turnip at one of the Folk Museums we visited on our trip:

Celtic Jack O’Lanterncarved from a turnip

But this post isn’t about the history of the Jack O’Lantern {often spelled jack-o-lantern}, nor is it about Halloween. It’s the beginning of a series of posts about our trip to Ireland.


There is so much to record about our trip. So instead of a play-by-play, chronological description of what we did while we were there, I’m going to offer up our impressions on certain aspects of Ireland. I’d love to talk about the people, the sports, the food, the countryside and travel in general. Maybe you’ll be inspired to visit one day. If not, at least you’ll do some armchair {or desk chair} traveling along with me.

And because it’s Wine Wednesday, let’s start off with the beverage that flows like wine in Ireland:



Do you remember when I told you about Rick Steves’ philosophy about drinking wine in wine countries? It’s one I like to follow. And well, Ireland is, of course, Guinness country. So it’s compulsory to have a Guinness while there, right?


Truthfully, I don’t tend to drink Guinness back at home. And while many people think that Guinness is such a strong, dark beer; it’s really not. True stouts were once just stronger, darker porters – clocking in at 7 – 8% alcohol. A typical pint of Guinness is only about 4 – 4.5%. In addition, it’s much lighter in flavor than many of the stouts I love at home. If I’m going to drink a stout {often for dessert!}, I’d rather have one of the following full-flavored types:

  • Founders Breakfast Stout
  • Summit Oatmeal Stout
  • Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

These stouts tend to have espresso and dark chocolate notes to them. That’s why I love them!

In fact, when I’m in an Irish pub {anywhere in the world}, I tend to drink cider instead. It’s not that I don’t like Guinness. It’s just that it lacks flavor for me. In addition, it’s just so filling. When I drink stouts, I don’t tend to drink more than one.

However, we’ve been told that Guinness does taste a bit different in different places in the world. Rumor has it that there are even a few different recipes, too. In fact, Rob has had Guinness in both Paris and Italy and has been quite pleased with the product in Europe over the flavor in the U.S. Is it in his head? Maybe. But who cares if he knows he can enjoy it abroad?

But truth be told, in Ireland, the stuff is just better.

It’s fresher. It’s smoother. And they know how to pull a proper pint. Be patient for your Guinness. When ordered, you might feel like you aren’t getting the best of service. But your Guinness needs to be poured partway. Then it is set aside to settle a bit before getting topped off.

A properly poured pint of Guinness resting after the first pull.

The stages of poured pints…

After I got sick of drinking cider a few days in a row in Ireland, I shifted to Guinness. And if I was worried that I’d get too full or that it’d be too much for me midday, I quickly learned that instead of ordering a pint, I could just order a glass {a half-pint}.

In most pubs in Ireland you’ll find what I call the “Usual Suspects” on tap draft. These are ones you can expect pretty much anywhere:

  • Guinness
  • Carlsberg
  • Smithwicks
  • Heineken
  • Bulmers Cider
  • Budweiser
  • Coors Light

Yes, I said Coors Light. And I would say that the top two beers I saw being served at the pubs while I was in Ireland were Guinness and Coors Light. I’d like to hang my head in shame that Coors Light has grown so popular. When I was last in Ireland in 2000, the only American beer you’d see was Budweiser. Now Coors Light? What is the world coming to? And you won’t see any English beers on tap at all. At least I didn’t.

No matter which beer you choose, almost every one is served in its properly labeled glass. Notice those Guinness glasses above? Well, you’ll find Coors Light served in Coors Light pint glasses. Bulmers Cider is served in – you guessed it – Bulmers glasses. This makes it really simple to buy a round for your friends! It’s easy to tell what everyone is drinking, without having to ask.

And I’d like to debunk the myth about Guinness being served warm in Ireland. It’s not. But it’s not served ice cold either. Nor should a stout be served ice cold. I’m often frustrated with bars and restaurants at home when they give me a frosty mug for an IPA or a stout. If you chill your beer too much, you mask all the flavors.

Stout is kind of like red wine. It’s not served warm or room temperature, but more like “cellar” temperature. And for stout, maybe even a little cooler than that. This is the proper temperature. And there is a reason for it. Don’t ask for a frosty mug. You want to taste your beer, don’t you?

Our driver, Ray, told us that he preferred Murphy’s Irish Stout to Guinness. He said that because it isn’t as mass-produced as Guinness, it isn’t as processed. Well, you can’t find Murhpy’s on tap everywhere in Ireland like you can Guinness; but when we found a pub with both Murphy’s and Guinness on tap, we decided to do a taste test!

Which Irish Stout is better?

There wasn’t an agreement at the table on which beer won. But which was the winner for me?


I thought it had more coffee notes and overall more flavor. Rob disagreed. We rarely disagree on beers. Still, I’d drink either Guinness or Murhpy’s on draft anytime in Ireland!

We did make a trek to Mulligan’s where we are told that you can get the best pint of Guinness in Dublin. And truthfully, it was excellent. Again, I’m not sure if it was all in our heads, but we thought we could tell a difference. When we asked a local what made the Guinness different here versus other pubs, he said:

“The taste!”

Hahaha. Of course, I meant why he thought it tasted different. His only explanation is that it’s been running through the lines for so many years and so often…

In any case, I had my fair share of pints of Guinness in Ireland. But there’s nothing wrong with that because:

Well, everything in moderation right?

All I know is that in Ireland, I have no problem finishing a pint.

Do you drink Guinness?

Do you like stouts?

If so, what are your favorites?

If not, what are your favorite kinds of beer?



My First Goodies Box


I promise you with all of my being that this will not turn into a Subscription Box blog. In fact, I’ve just recently jumped on the Subscription Box bandwagon. So I’m trying a few out to see which ones are worth of keeping. This one is food related, so it does relate to Season It Already!

I’m not sure how or where I found out about the Goodies Subscription Box. In fact, I actually forgot that I signed up for it until I received an email stating that my box was ready to ship and the $7 charge showed up on my credit card. A week later, this box showed up on my doorstep:

The box was bigger than my Love with Food boxes, but came with an assortment and description of six different treats:

Contents of my first Goodies Box

And here are my thoughts on the products:

  • Brownie Brittle – Chocolate Chip FlavorBrownie lover beware! I took one bite of these and knew I had to put them away. I don’t make brownies or keep them in my house because it’s way too easy to eat a whole pan of them. The flavor is excellent and the crunch perfect for those who love those corner pieces! There are four servings in a bag, so I intend to separate them into four ziplock bags and bring them to work in place of my usual chocolate treat. I will be in control!
  • Dang Toasted Coconut ChipsWhen I first saw these, they reminded me of my friend Cinia’s kids. As pre-teens and teenagers, they used to say “Dang!” all the time. {Probably because they knew what kind of trouble they’d be in if their mom caught them swearing.} But when my husband and I opened up the bag and tried these, “Dang!” is exactly what we said. We couldn’t believe how insanely good these were! And they’re made with mostly all natural ingredients in the mix. {The only one in question being sulfur dioxide.} I had to stop myself from taking another handful and put them away. I knew that I wanted to use it top my morning baked banana oatmeal to take it to a whole new level! {P.S. I’m not even a huge coconut fan!}
  • Smartfood Selects Cinnamon Brown Sugar – Sweet Pop Chips? Uh, what? I really do like regular Pop Chips. But a sweet version? I mean, who makes a cinnamon and brown sugar potato chip? I was skeptical. I put this bag in with my weekday lunch for a snack. I was pleasantly surprised and had no trouble finishing the whole bag!
  • Mayesa – Huh? What is this? The label reads: “World’s Finest Chocolate Drink.” It’s made of many organic ingredients and completely dairy free. I feared it would taste chalky; and on my first sip, that’s exactly what I got. But I gave it chance. With each sip, I liked it more and more! I realized after a bit that it wasn’t chalky at all. It was the dark chocolate, rich cocoa powder that I was tasting. When I finished the box, my daily chocolate craving was satisfied. No question about it.
  • Juicefuls – I haven’t had fruit snacks since I was a kid. So popping one of these in my mouth brought me back. I liked the juicy little surprise inside. However, they were sweet (as would be expected) and I think my adult palate has just evolved beyond this sort of thing.
  • Nutella & Go! – Um yeah. I love Nutella. This little to-go snack is 270 calories. So I’m just trying to find where to fit it into a day when I can spend those calories. There is no doubt I’ll enjoy this snack, though. I mean, who doesn’t love Nutella? Oh yeah, my husband. He’s allergic to hazelnuts. I guess I’ll have to take this one for the team!

This is another one of those subscriptions boxes where you can write reviews and earn points. I haven’t looked into what the points can buy me just yet. But for now, 7 bucks a month for six trying six treats I might not otherwise have? I want Goodies. I’m in.

What is your favorite treat or snack that you think very few people know about?


Spooky Tails 5k Run and 1 Mile Walk for Wags & Whiskers Animal Rescue


This past Saturday, my husband I participated with some friends in the Spooky Tails 5k Run and 1 Mile Walk to benefit the Wags and Whiskers Animal Rescue. The best part? Sophie Jean in her Butterfly Costume!

Butterfly Wings!

Look at my antennae!

It was one way for me to appreciate Halloween. Many of the dogs were dressed up in such cute costumes! It totally distracted me from being nervous about the race.

The Week of the Race…

I normally run about three times per week, making sure that they are not consecutive days. The week of a race, I take the two days before as rest days. I haven’t been very good, as of late, about working out on other days and this week, I  just wasn’t feeling it. It may have been the cold, dreary weather that was starting to depress me.

But I only got in ONE run day (or day of any kind of exercise) in the entire week. DOH!

The Night Before…

I had a girls’ dinner night out scheduled with my friends Kim and Jen. I was looking forward to dining again at Santorini Taverna despite that I was just dead tired from the workweek. I kept it to just one Sangria. I was happy that this blog helped me remember that I loved it here so that I didn’t waste my one drink and calories on something that wasn’t worth it. Despite the fact that I had planned on ordering the Shrimp Mikrolimano dish that I had ordered and adored on our last visit, I decided to try the Iberian Pizza that was highly recommended by my friend Jen’s co-worker who had joined us and dines there often. Let’s just say that they make great pizzas at Santorini! Jen had the Mediterranean Pizza which I liked even more.

I got home at a decent time with a half of a pizza in hand with which to feed my husband. I took my night-before-race shower and lathered myself with lavender oil. What am I going to do when I run out of this stuff? They don’t make it anymore! My husband will be oh-so-happy, though, once the “stinky stuff” is gone.

Race Day…

The unique thing about this race is that it didn’t start until 10am. For a day that had a high of 42 degrees predicted, this made me happy! The schedule included:

  • 9am – Vendor Fair, Raffle and Silent Auction sign up
  • 10am – 5k Run
  • 11am – 1 Mile Walk

Despite this, I still woke up at 6am. Ugh. My breakfast did not consist of my usual banana and whole wheat toast with peanut butter because I didn’t have those items on hand. Instead I whipped up the following:

Two scrambled eggs with chopped marinated mozzarella on toasted sesame Ezekiel bread

Not pictured: Water (of course) and the Americano I stopped to pick up at Caribou Coffee. If anything, it kept me warm while waiting for the race to start!

Our plan was that I was going to do the 5k Run and Rob would do the 1 Mile Walk with Sophie. We knew that Sophie wasn’t in shape to run a 5k. Upon arrival, we met up with our friend Steve with his beagles. He was signed up for the 5k Run with his wife, Terri, but she ended up sick and couldn’t make it.

Beagles Sittin’ Pretty – Porter & Paisley

After looking at the route, which looped around a couple of times, Rob decided that instead of waiting until AFTER the 5k Run to do the 1 Mile Walk with Sophie, that he would take Terri’s place in the 5k, but only go as far as Sophie could handle.

We checked out the vendors, entered the raffle and signed up for some silent auction items. Then I realized that we would have to ditch our bag in the car and I would have to shed a few layers since Rob was going to be doing the 5k at the same time and wouldn’t be able to be my usual, dutiful assistant. About ten minutes before the race started, I decided to shed those layers and realized I had to go to the bathroom. I looked everywhere for the bathroom and finally spotted a Porta Potty across the parking lot.

There was only one!

And I was waiting in line for it. I finally reached the starting line with about a minute to spare, handed off the car keys to Rob and started to pull on my iPhone armband and put my earbuds in when the horn blared.

This was the first year that the course was timed – not chip timed, but there was a clock. It was a small race. So I crossed the start line about 5 seconds after the clock started.

The route wasn’t really a route. While we did follow a couple of paved paths and were running on the park driveway and the parking lot later on, much of the run was just running through the leaves and grass around the baseball fields. Rob said it reminded him of football practice in high school. You really had to watch where you were going! As usual, I was afraid of tripping. After one of the loops, I saw Sophie and Rob, so I ditched my scarf and gloves that had started to make me too hot.

The course did not have mile markers. And while there were volunteers there to point us in the right direction, who knew if we cut corners that we shouldn’t have. I just followed the people in front of me. When I got close to the end of the course, I saw Sophie and Rob waiting for me, so I waved and yelled, “Sophie Jean!”

Then I saw the clock…

And I ended up with a PR!

Clock time:


Post-Race and Reflection…

At the goodies table, there were not only people treats, but doggie treats as well. These homemade treats were made by Wags and Whiskers Volunteers. Both Benny and Sophie loved them!

Dog Treats made with Volunteer Love…

At 10:50, the raffle began and the silent auction winners were announced. (We had to be present to win both.) I ended up winning some Ordway tickets! However, I hadn’t brought cash nor my checkbook with me. I’m hoping to get them a check this week so that they know I made good on my word. I always want to support an animal rescue cause!

We didn’t stick around for the 1 Mile Walk, so I have no idea if it started on time or what that was like.

And of course, I’m very happy with my PR! After only having run once during the week and a slow previous 5-mile race, I wasn’t expecting much. While running, I didn’t feel like it was the best of runs. But I’m not complaining!

Comparing this race to my last PR , I’ve come to the following fun conclusions:

  1. I now have a lucky shirt. I’ve worn the same shirt at this race as I did at my last PR race.
  2. I must eat Mediterranean food the night before a race. I ate at Greek restaurants each time.
  3. I must not wear my heart rate monitor. Last time I PR’d, my HRM wasn’t working. This time, I couldn’t find the piece that reads the heart rate. I think just running by how I feel rather than looking at my heart rate is a much more intuitive way to run a race!

Here is a list of my 5k race results for my own personal comparison:

  1. 38:54
  2. 38:20
  3. 38:40
  4. 36:08
  5. 38:27
  6. 37:44
  7. 35:35
  • The Event: Spooky Tails 5k Run & 1 mile Walk for Wags & Whiskers Animal Rescue
  • The Location: Alimagnet Dog Park, Burnsville, MN
  • The Date: October 27, 2012 – 10am
  • Night Before Dinner: Iberian Pizza at Santorini Taverna
  • Pre-race Breakfast: Two scrambled eggs with chopped marinated mozzarella on toasted sesame Ezekiel bread
  • My Time: 35:35 (PR!)
  • The Weather: Chilly. 38 degrees at race start.
  • Attire: Cuddleduds long sleeve shirt under “lucky” t-shirt, black Danskins leggings, fleece scarf and gloves that I ditched halfway through the race
  • General Feeling: “Look at all of these cute Pupper Dawgs!”
  • Uniqueness: Supporting something that matters to me – dog rescue
  • Size: Of the 66 people finishing the 5k Run, I came in 60th. Whew!
  • The Goods: Spooky Tails t-shirt, goodie bag with coupons and such
  • The Grub: Vitamin Water, Granola Bars, bananas, apples, grapes, bagels with cream cheese, homemade doggie biscuits!

What causes do you like to support?


BOO(hoo)! I Hate Halloween.


I’ve never really liked Halloween. It’s not because I don’t like being spooked. I have watched my share of horror films and have been to haunted houses. They are fine.

I’m just not into it.

You probably think I’m crazy. I mean who doesn’t like dressing up in costume?

I don’t.


For me, it’s stressful. I’ve never been creative. I’ve never been crafty. I can’t sew a cool costume together or paint my face with clever make-up. And those pre-made costumes you buy in the store? As an overweight person, it’s frustrating to learn that it’s even harder to find a costume that fits than it does to find regular clothes. That can rule out any sexy nurse or sexy cat costumes, too.

One year, in college, I was so frustrated that I just decided to go à la Adam Sandler with a protractor I’d pull out of the back of my pocket: “I’m Crazy Protractor Man! Give me some candy!”

As a kid, our costumes were ones that my mom would usually pick up at K-mart. You know, those ones made of smelly plastic that had warning labels of being highly flammable. The ones with the plastic masks with string around the back that would pull at your hair. The ones that were made for whatever characters were fashionable that year: Smurfs, He-Man & She-Ra, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She wasn’t a crafty costume creator either.

And I couldn’t care less about how stores, restaurants and houses are all decked out with cobwebs, witches, spiders and tombstones. To me, it’s just a waste of money. I know some people love that stuff. But I don’t.

We don’t even carve pumpkins at our house. {Although I do love roasted pumpkin seeds!}

Just call me the Halloween Scrooge:


And who doesn’t love Halloween candy?

Of course I did as a child. But as a shy kid, going up to a stranger’s or even a neighbor’s door yelling “Trick or Treat!” made me nervous.

As an adult, having Halloween candy around the house to give to the kids trick-or-treating just meant having leftover candy to overeat. And feel guilty about.

It’s the weather, too.

It’s this time of year that the overcast skies, wind, cold and rain start to depress me. In the Midwest, kids often end up having to wear winter jackets over their costumes when trick-or-treating. So what’s the point in dressing up anyway!? I hated that as a kid.

Maybe it’d be different if…

…I lived closer to my nephew. Maybe I’d take him trick-or-treating or to a Halloween party. Maybe I’d take pictures of him in his costume every year. Because Halloween really is about the kids, right?

In recent years, I’ve combated my depression of the weather this time of year and my disdain for Halloween by traveling:

  • In 2006, we took our trip to Paris at the end of October/beginning of November.
  • In 2010, we went on our Honeymoon at the end of October/beginning of November.
  • Last year, over the weekend just before Halloween, we visited my friend Penny and her husband Jeff in Iowa and celebrated a wine weekend with other Wineaux friends.

But there have been times that I’ve really tried to embrace it.

I’ve gone to parties with my husband: once as Static Cling with some dryer sheets pinned to me {he thought it was stupid}, another time as Shaggy {an itchy polyester costume that didn’t fit very well, made me feel self-conscious and that I couldn’t wait to take off} to go along with Rob’s Scooby costume.

My best costume however, was probably that of Mary Katherine Gallagher from the SNL skit. Although it should have been an easy costume, it was stressful for me to find and gather each of the pieces. But it ended up turning out great. I wore it out on State Street when visiting my friend Stacey in Madison, Wisconsin. Madison is one of the best places to celebrate Halloween as an adult, especially if you want to check out some fun creative costumes. That was my favorite part!

So, as usual, hate is a strong word. I guess I don’t hate Halloween, I just don’t enjoy it as much as others. I need to find ways that I can enjoy it myself.

This year, I’m running a 5k:

The Spooky Tails 5k Run and 1 Mile Walk. We were invited by our friends Terri and Steve. All proceeds raised by this event will go to Wags & Whiskers Animal Rescue! You know that I’m all about that.

And while I sometimes think it’s cute that people dress up their dogs for Halloween, I also sometimes think the costumes are way too cruel. That being said, we’re giving Sophie a go at it this year. I wanted to get her a costume that was warm in case it is cold and rainy the morning of the race. She’ll be outside for a few hours, the poor thing. But I couldn’t really find anything like that in a short mount of time.

You’ll just have to come back on Monday to find out what she’s dressed as!

What do you love about Halloween?


I’m still alive…


I know… I try to blog three to five times a week.

You might be wondering what’s wrong.

The truth is, that I haven’t had the bulk of time it takes to focus on completing a post. {Or at least the quality of post I want to complete.} I have 45 posts in the works.

45 ideas that haven’t been completed.

45 different topics floating around in my head.

I have yet to tell you so much… about my travel in Ireland, about my latest cooking classes, about the restaurants we’ve visited in the last few months, how I feel about certain sports and activities, my food and fitness as of late.

All in due time, my pretties. I’ll get there. I just want to complete my thoughts. Hopefully over a few cups of coffee this weekend, that will happen.

In the meantime, let’s suffice to say that:

1) You still need to vote for our 2013 vacation if you haven’t already.

2) I’m working on a few projects that may benefit you in the future.

3) Sometimes life just takes you places and you just need to go with it…

Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hangin’. I want to document my Ireland vacation as much (or probably more than) you want to read about it. I mean, who doesn’t want to reminisce about this view?

Sometimes, a view like this is all that is needed to quiet the mind. Just picturing it in my mind’s eye can bring me back there. I can feel that feeling, smell the sea, feel the wind whipping in my hair. It’s peaceful. It’s calming. It can be just what I need to feel centered.

What do you do when there are so many different things going through your head?

What is the best way for you to quiet the mind?


Bark Box – October 2012


Somehow, someway when the BarkBox arrives, my dogs know it’s for them.

Benny Bear patiently waiting for the opening of The Box

Sophie’s sniffer goes 1000 miles a minute trying to smell every nook, corner and cranny of the box that she can. She looks like she’s on crack for dogs as she paws at that box excitedly. She stops, looks at me and whines as if to say, “Momma! Why don’t you open it?!

Once opened, the sniffing and pawing continues:

Sophie Jean and her curiosity…

The letter inside is from Scout, BarkBox‘s resident Miniature Schnauzer. He tests all the products and blogs, too. I receive his newsletter in my inbox. Of course, I’m a dog lover, so I find these things endearing. If you’d like to sign up for the newsletter, you can here. It’s free.

Of course, the first thing to come out of the box are the treats. The Turkey Trail Blazin’ Bitz from the Feelgood Treat Company {not pictured} are the perfect-sized treat for my dogs. I can give them a few and not feel like I’m giving them too many. BarkBox states that they are “handmade from all natural and organic ingredients” and are “wheat, gluten and preservative-free.” A plus: My dogs loved them. And this wasn’t just a sample. It was a whole bag of treats!

Still, I love that not everything in the box is treats. Barkbox gives me my dogs an opportunity to try other canine products, including toys, such as this mustache:

Humunga Stache – a ball and mustache in one!

Huh?! This is kind of a strange toy. And while Benny Bear rarely plays anymore {he’s 16}, Sophie was just confused. Since there was a hole in the back of the mustache {where the ball is attached}, I broke up a treat and put it in there, hoping she would dig at it. Scout from BarkBox challenged us to a mustache photo and caption contest. We are to take photos of our pooches with the mustaches, caption them and upload them to their Facebook page. Here’s the best I could come up with and Sophie doesn’t even have it in her mouth! She truly does look like a possessed dog trying to get that stache away from me. You can even see her nails scratching for it!

How would you caption this photo?

Next up was a purple wool toy snake by Lollycadoodle. It is colorful, but Sophie would have nothing to do with it. She wasn’t afraid of it or anything like that. She just wasn’t interested. That may change after the novelty of the box dies down. She’s very random about which toys she takes out of her bucket to play with at any given time!

Something Benny desperately needs is this:

Tropiclean Clean Teeth Gel

The instructions state that to apply, all you need to do is squirt it directly on the dog’s teeth daily at first, then twice weekly for regular maintenance. “You’ll soon notice your pet licking their lips repeatedly. This is normal and helps the gel mix with the saliva and coat all surfaces of your pet’s teeth and gums.”

Sophie let me squirt her teeth with it and did lick them a bit. But Benny was not having it! It does have a minty-fresh smell to it just like human toothpaste. {I’m used to Sophie’s chicken-flavored doggy toothpaste, so was thrown a bit by this one.} This may be why Benny turned his head away when I put the bottle near him to squirt it into his mouth. It’s the same thing he does to me when I give him a kiss goodbye in the morning after I’ve brushed my teeth. Guess he’s not a fan of minty-fresh breath. Go figure.

Then there’s these:

Poopy Packs by Metro Paws

BarkBox describes these as fashionable. Wow, that takes poo to a whole new level. I’m not sure I need special colored, argyle bags to walk my dog and pick up the poo; but they do come packed nicely in a roll for easy portability. Regardless, they definitely will get used!

And lastly was the most educational part of the box for me: A Pet Prescription Discount Card. I never knew that you could get pet prescriptions at regular pharmacies including Walgreens and Target. With the card, I can save 10 to 75% on any pet prescriptions. Benny does have some arthritis and his current as-needed prescription is low. Sometimes vet prescription costs are high, so this gives us another option.

What I like about Barkbox:

  • We get to try pet products that we wouldn’t have known about otherwise every month.
  • I’m stocked up on treats!
  • My dogs love it.
  • It’s inexpensive and 10% of the profits go toward a different local pet shelter or rescue every month.
  • Both of our dogs are rescue does, so we always want to support this.
  • It’s easy!

How it works:

  1. Choose a dog size.
  2. Choose a subscription (1, 3, or 6 months)
  3. Your Barkbox will arrive at your doorstep each month that you’ve paid for it.

Do you think my dogs will notice if I wrap their December BarkBox and put it under the tree? I think I could get away with that one. I just might have to open it myself first to peak what’s inside…

If you have a pet, what is his or her favorite toy or treat?


My First 5-mile Race


What was I thinking?!

Running my first ever 5-mile race just one and a half weeks after coming back from a two-week vacation where I got no exercise whatsoever?

What’s more is I started to come down with a cold just a few days prior. Day one started with a sore throat. Day two was a stuffy head. Day three began the draining.

I did everything I could to rid myself of it.

I got lots of sleep.

I drank more fluids than I have in a long time.

I took zinc.

I sipped tea constantly {even more than I did in Ireland.}

I even tried Kat’s Therapy Tea and Katie’s tea concoction.

I slowly got better. And although I wasn’t 100% on race day, I still participated and finished. Here’s my recap for you.

The Night Before…

We hosted our monthly poker tournament on Friday. I knew it was going to be a later night, but also knew that the distraction the night before the race would be good. We met up for Happy Hour at the Burnsville Ale House and I devoured some Meatloaf Sliders. I know. They didn’t sound appealing to me either until a friend highly recommended them once. They are a flavorful world of heartiness. {That one’s for you, Rob!} I considered a beer, but with my cold and all, I decided to hold off.

It was a fun night of poker, friends and a lot of laughter. I had more peanut butter pretzel sandwich thingies than I’d care to admit. But that’s sort of the job of the host, right? We need to show appreciation for any dishes the guests brought.

The last people left right around midnight, which is about what I expected. I completed my usual night before race ritual with a hot shower and lavender oil application before bed.

Race Day…

I awoke on Race Day still feeling the effects of the cold, but not quite as bad as earlier in the week. I made myself my Magic Smoothie and got ready for the day.

Preparing the Magic Smoothie

I didn’t consume my usual breakfast because I was out of bread, but I thought a full-size smoothie {double the size of what I normally make here} would do the trick. I also sipped a cup of my all-time favorite tea:

Market Spice Tea from Pike Place Market, Seattle

We stopped for coffee on the way. We were anticipating a drive just under an hour. The race was at an apple orchard near White Bear Lake, MN. I would not only be doing my first 5-mile race, but also my first trail run! This was my opportunity to run through pumpkin patches, strawberry fields and apple orchards. When I was picking out races to run this fall, I sent a bunch of links to my husband. When he saw the Run for the Apples race, he responded back:

“Do this one! I want cider!”

Of course, I was a bit nervous. Not only was it my first ever 5-mile race. {I had only run five miles twice prior and they were very difficult runs}, but I was overcoming a cold. So instead of trying to push myself or be too hard on myself, I set some more realistic goals and expectations:

  • Finish the race.
  • Run the entire race. It doesn’t matter what pace, just don’t stop to walk.
  • Enjoy the scenery! You’re running through an apple orchard!

The Race…

It was a chilly morning, with lots of fog on our drive to the orchard. When we got out of the car, it was only 38 degrees. I was wearing a light jacket over my three-quarter sleeve shirt, but I hadn’t intended on wearing it during the race. When I saw what the other runners were wearing, I changed my mind and put my number on the outside of my jacket!

At the starting line, I had a really hard time hearing the announcements that I finally just put in my earbuds and waited for people to move. I’m not sure where the starting line actually began and how the chip timing was going to work. There was no real starting mark or mat of any kind that I could tell.

I ran a really easy, slow-going first mile. I kept telling myself it was a warm-up. I didn’t want to start out too fast or have trouble breathing because of my cold. I broke away from the crowd {or rather, the crowd broke away from me}, and I was basically alone. Alone in a tranquil setting, jogging along to jigs and reels on my Gaelic Storm station on Pandora Radio.

My eyes were probably busier than my feet. I wanted to look around at the precious scenery. Seeing those pumpkin patches made me realize I hadn’t been to one since I was a kid. The dried golden cornstalks seemed to be basking in the sunlight. However, I looked down often on the trail because I didn’t want to trip on any rock protruding from the uneven ground. I am very clumsy. Rob calls me his Nimble Princess.

But when I came to the first mile marker, there was a mat with a time clock.

It read 14:21.

What?! My average mile is 12:30 to 13 minutes. I knew I was running slowly, but really? And why was there a clock there? Is this where they decided to start recording the chip times? Or was it just for splits? When did they start the clock?

I will never know because my name is not on the race results.

I don’t know why.

Right after mile one, we came around a bend and Rob took a picture as I passed by:

After Mile One

Then we made it up a very steep hill. This was more of a hill than I’ve come across in a race. In fact, everyone I could see in front of me was walking up the hill.

But I still “ran” it.

It was an even slower run up the hill than what I was running previously, but I didn’t stop to walk. I was going to make my goal of running the entire thing!

Upon completion of Mile Two, I was starting to get really warm. I wanted to rid myself of my jacket, but I had pinned my number to the front. This wasn’t possible, so I just tried to forget about it. I occupied myself by taking in the scenery and counting the number of people I passed. I knew that this number didn’t really mean anything because the run-walkers would eventually pass me anyway, but it passed the time.

By Mile Three, I was feeling pretty good and by the 5k marker I looked at my watch and found that I was at least five minutes slower than my usual 5k. Yikes! I knew I could push it further. And not because of the time, but because of how I was feeling. I had been taking it easy. I picked up the pace a bit. It helped when a woman who was walking tried to pass me while I was running. That lit a little bit of a fire under me. I wasn’t about to let that happen!

By Mile Four, I gave myself a time I wanted to beat. I knew it wasn’t a good time for the race, but it would give me a goal for my last mile. I’m all about mind games when I’m running.

And you know what?

I felt really great when I finished!

Just before the finish line…

I ran the whole thing and I didn’t feel like it was “too hard” like I’ve been feeling with my past couple 5ks.

I think there are a few reasons for this:

  1. I didn’t put any pressure on myself on how fast I had to be or when I had to finish.
  2. I was conscious of my surroundings and encouraged myself in advance to just enjoy it.
  3. I ran much more slowly and didn’t push myself to the limit.

There is good and bad to this. It was my first race and I had a cold. I didn’t overdo it and it felt great. But on the other hand, I didn’t really push myself. Maybe I should be working a little harder. In the end, it doesn’t really matter for this race. The run felt great. My unofficial time was:

1 :09:48

{Unofficial from my hrm; my chip time was not recorded.}

Not good by any means, but it’s a place to start.

I ran for these apples: Haralson Apple and a cup of cider

After the race, we wandered into the garage to do a little shopping. We came home with these purchases:

Honey {I was getting low after all that tea!}, Caramel Apples {best ever!}, Old Fashioned Apple Cider, Apple Syrup {we have yet to try!}

  • The Event: 2012 Run for the Apples 5 mile
  • The Location:  Pine Tree Apple Orchard, White Bear Lake, MN
  • The Date: October 20, 2012
  • Night Before Dinner: Meatball Sliders at the Burnsville Ale House
  • Pre-race Breakfast: Magic Smoothie
  • My Time: 1:09:48
  • The Weather: Chilly. About 40 degrees when race time began.
  • General Feeling: Getting over a cold, had no expectations, just wanted to run the entire thing without walking and finish. I felt great at the finish!
  • Uniqueness: Running through an apple orchard!
  • Size: At least 534 people. However, they stopped listing chip times after 1:03:41.
  • The Goods: Long-sleeved Pine Tree Apple Orchard T-shirt
  • The Grub: Haralson apples, snickerdoodle cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies.

What are your tried and true cold remedies?