My Funniest Holiday Memory

Recently I was contacted by the lovely ladies at Patience Brewster, (she is an artist and illustrator of books, greeting cards, and a designer of Christmas ornaments and gifts) to share with my readers one of my favorite holiday memories, so sit back and enjoy this little story.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures, so I’m adding a few I found online to help you visualize my story.

When I was about 16 years old, we were living in a tiny townhouse in St. George, Utah.  My Mom was a single mom raising 3 kids and when it came to the holidays, we didn’t have much.  So, to make up for our lack of gifts, I thought it would be an amazing Christmas if we put up a huge Christmas tree in our house.  But without funds to buy a huge Christmas tree, I had to resort to other options.  About an hour away from St. George is the Dixie National Forest.  You can pay a small fee for a permit to cut down your own Christmas tree.  So my boyfriend at the time and I set out to find a really big Christmas tree that would make our holidays so full of cheer that we would forget about anything else going on at the moment.

We drove up to the mountains in his little Suzuki Sidekick.  Mind you we didn’t even have a chainsaw.  That would be too easy.  We had an ax and our own strength.  It was snowing pretty hard by the time we got up there and I was on the lookout for the perfect tree.  Everything was either way too big, way too small or not symmetrical enough.  So, we kept driving and driving until finally, off in the distance I saw the most beautiful, perfectly shaped, Christmas tree.  It was just the right size too.  We pulled off to the side of the road, and of course it was quite a hike in our sneakers and jeans through the snow to get to the tree (also mind you, we lived in the desert so we were ill prepared with snow attire).  I told my boyfriend that this was the tree I wanted so he set to cutting it down.  I don’t think either one of us knew how difficult it is to cut down a tree, especially with just an ax.  He chopped, he kicked, he swore, he sweat buckets.  He gave up a few times and then started up after taking a break.  I helped as much as I could too.  Neither the snow nor the bitter cold was helping either, but I was determined to get this Christmas tree to my house to make our holidays special.  Finally, after much laboring, that sucker came falling down.

Now we had to drag it to the car.  This was no easy feat either.  Dragging an enormous tree through several feet of snow in the cold, even with two people, is something I’ve decided they should set up in a Spartan Race because it really is that difficult.  Once again, we sweat and we swore and we took breaks, until finally we got that tree to the car.  With much maneuvering and many failed attempts, we got it onto the roof of the car.

Now I’m not lying when I say that tree hung at least 5 feet over the roof of the car on both ends.  I really don’t know how we drove home because we could hardly see out of the front and back of the car.  We looked something like this:

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I think this should have been the “ah-ha” moment when we realized that this tree might be a tad too big, but when you’re out in the forest, surrounded by massive pine trees, the smaller trees really do look small, when in reality, they are actually quite large themselves.  Nevertheless, we were young and naive and full of the holiday spirit, so we headed home.

When we got to my house, my Mom was still at work, so after moving some furniture out of the way, we set to bringing the tree inside.  We got it off of the roof of the car and with one of us at each end, we attempted to bring it through the front door.  First we tried bringing it in small end first, but it got stuck before even half of it was in the house.  So then we rotated it around, and tried bringing it in big end first.  This tree was being very difficult.  It just did not want to fit through the front door!  We pushed and we shoved and once again we sweat and we swore, (and we might have maybe scratched up my Mom’s door and doorway through this process) and there were literally pine needles everywhere, but dang it we got that tree in the house!

Our house was not big.  I think it was around 1200 square feet.  The family room was the first room you walked into when entering the house and really the only place we could have put the tree.  So we set the tree down on a stand in the middle of the room and attempted to put it upright into a vertical position.  After a lot of maneuvering and me frantically moving picture frames and other knick knacks off nearby tables and walls that were getting hit with branches, we finally got the tree into an upright position.

Now this is when we finally had our “ah-ha” moment.  I kid you not.  That tree, which was placed in the center of the family room, touched all four walls of the room and even with vaulted ceilings, at least a third of it was bent over at the top.  Something like this:

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So this is when I went into panic mode.  I knew my Mom was going to be home from work at any minute and at the moment, you couldn’t even walk into the family room because it was all tree.  Not to mention the scratches on the door, walls, and ceiling from the branches.  But what was I going to do?  We didn’t have time to take it back out again, so we just left it.  Maybe she would be really excited about my holiday spirit?  Yeah, not quite.

Fortunately, I think my Mom realized that my intentions were in the right place, so she didn’t freak out as bad as she could have, although she did freak out.  She told us the tree had to go.  There was no way we could keep it in the house.  I was so sad.  All this work and we couldn’t even keep it.

But then she had an idea.  She suggested we cut the tree into a smaller tree and then put it up.  What a great idea!  So, we took that tree back outside (so much work I tell you!) and we cut off the top 1/3 of that tree and that was our Christmas tree that year.  And you know what?  It was still a HUGE Christmas tree.

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Do you have a funny holiday memory?  Share it with me!

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Finding the Perfect Dollhouse

Christmas is coming and have been so excited to search out the perfect dollhouse for Stella, my 2 year old.  Every time we go somewhere that has a dollhouse, she is stuck to it like glue.  She loves pretend play and playing with dolls, so I know this will the perfect gift for her this year.

Now when I buy my kids toys (which isn’t very often because between my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law, my girls come home with a new toy almost weekly), I do a ton of research.  I always want the best for them.  Toys that are good quality, durable, will grow with them, and that are made to last.  I have this vision of being a grandma someday and pulling all these old toys out of storage for my grandchildren to play with.  Wouldn’t that be so neat?  So, with this in mind I set out to find the perfect dollhouse for my little girl.

I’m not going to lie when I say I researched this dollhouse more than I researched the actual house we live in.  I have spent hours pouring over websites and reading reviews.  Nowadays, when it comes to buying just about anything, there are a million products to choose from.  So, I started narrowing it down.

I knew right off the bat I wanted a wooden dollhouse for her.  I’m not a fan of plastic toys because they often times break easily and don’t feel as sturdy or hold up to rough play as well as wood.  I initially came across some really cute KidKraft dollhouses.  I like the KidKraft brand.  We have a few of their toys (play kitchen, play house in our backyard, etc.).  Their quality is pretty good and their customer service is excellent.  I will say with KidKraft dollhouses, you definitely get the most bang for your buck.  Their dollhouses are HUGE.  And they all come fully furnished.  But, what I didn’t like about their dollhouses was that each room was painted to be a specific room.  Like the kitchens are painted with cabinets and appliances, the bathroom is painted with a mirror and sink, etc.  There’s not much room for creativity and open ended play.

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They do have one dollhouse that is much more plain that I was really eyeing, but it is so big, I honestly just don’t know where we would put it!

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So, I continued on with my research, looking for something a little more plain.  The next dollhouse I came across that seemed to fit the bill was the Hape All Seasons Dollhouse.

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It is smaller than the KidKraft dollhouses, but does come furnished and the rooms can all be switched around.  But some of the reviewers said it was a little flimsy and might not last through multiple generations.  So, the search continued.

And then I found it.  The perfect dollhouse for my little girl.  It is made of wood.  It is plain.  It is not too small and not too big.  It can be played with on all four sides.  And it is very well made.  Heirloom quality.  It is the Terrace Dollhouse by Plan Toys.

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All of Plan Toys products are made from preservative-free rubberwood and they are one of the leading companies to create new material and process to minimize waste up to zero.  Plan Toys is a green company and has gained global recognition for its philosophy with natural aesthetic quality through wooden toys.  In a nutshell, their quality of toys is top notch and you can feel good about buying them too.

I absolutely love this dollhouse.  It is three stories and big enough that both my kids can play with it at one time.  All of the doors, windows and partitions are moveable, so you can open up the entire house, rearrange everything, and put walls wherever you want to create any size of room.  There is nothing painted on the walls, so my kids’ imaginations can run wild with this dollhouse.  And because it is such good quality, I imagine it will be in our family for multiple generations.

The dollhouse itself is not too expensive compared to other similar dollhouses, however it comes unfurnished, and when you consider each room of furniture costs about $20, it can really add up.  Now, I don’t necessarily mind paying more for quality products, but if there is a deal to be had, I’m on it.  I started scouring the internet for sales or deals to bring down the price tag.  Fortunately for me, a nice lady in California had purchased this dollhouse (only last year’s version) and 5 sets of furniture for her daughter and come to find out her daughter didn’t play with it.  So she put it up on eBay for quite a steal and after several emails back and forth (she really was a saint for putting up with all of my questions), I snatched it up for a little more than half the price of what it would cost me to buy and furnish a brand new dollhouse.  I just love a good deal!

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I am so excited to watch my little girl come out on Christmas morning and see this under the tree (or next to it as it will be too big to actually fit under the tree).  I really hope she loves it and I hope she plays with it for many, many years.

 

Do you get as excited to give gifts as your kids are to receive them?  What toys have you spent an insane amount of time researching?

Fit Foodie 5k Race Giveaway!

Remember when I told you that I will be attending The Fit Foodie 5K Race Weekend on November 14-16 in San Diego as a Fit Foodie Ambassador??  Well, guess what?  The Fit Foodie Weekend organizers have been so generous as to offer up a pair of tickets the 5K race and Finisher’s Village!

This event is the ultimate celebration of food, family, and fun.  I am so excited to be a part of the event as a Fit Foodie Ambassador, if you are in the area, I hope you will join me!

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The Fit Foodie 5K Race Weekend is jam-packed with delicious food, cooking and fitness demonstrations, a yoga session, and a Power Systems Obstacle Course Bootcamp, led by celebrity trainer Patrick Goudeau.  Also expect to rub elbows with editors and contributors from Cooking Light and Health magazines who will be on hand to share tips and tricks for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Additionally, 10 percent of the sale of each ticket for the 2014 series will benefit City of Hope, a leading treatment and research center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases.

I appreciate your help and hope that you will join me on this journey to health, happiness, and giving back.  Hope to see you there!

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To enter to win, leave me a comment below telling me why you got into running!  Then follow the Rafflecopter link to enter!  Contest ends Friday (11/7) night at midnight (PST).  Winner will be announced on Monday, 11/10.  Good luck!

It’s in! Our official 2014 Halloween Photo!

Ever since we had our first daughter Annalie, we’ve been taking an annual Halloween photo of her in her costume each year.  When Stella was born, we added her into the mix.  Each year, we pick out a cute Halloween picture frame and put the official Halloween photo in it and put it up on our mantle.  I love getting out these photos each year and looking at the progression.  This is the first year they each picked out their own costume (Annalie picked hers our last year, but not Stella).

So, in honor of today being Halloween, I’d like to share with you our official 2014 Halloween photo!

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Happy Halloween!

A New Take on Teaching Reading and Writing…

My 4 year old daughter loves to read.  We’ve been reading to her every night (and throughout the day) since she was born.  She picked up language really quickly and also knew all the letters, the sounds they made, and how to write each one before she was three.  But after she had learned all that, I knew the next step was reading, but I didn’t know how to approach teaching her.  So, I started out with some basic sight words flash cards.  We started going through 5 words each night and she picked up on them pretty quickly.  After she had gotten them all down, we moved on to simple sentences.  She also picked up on that pretty quickly, but she didn’t like doing it at all.  She dreaded having to read her sentences each night and would beg me to just skip reading and go straight to stories.  So, finally I decided to put the reading on hold.  I knew she was ready because she picked up on it so quickly, but I didn’t know how to make it fun for her so that she wanted to read.

Then I came across a blog post from a parenting blog I really love called Play At Home Mom.  She was in a similar situation trying to find a way for her son to learn reading and writing that was fun for him.  She found that if she used something that he is interested in (super heroes) that it would be fun for him to learn and he would enjoy it and want to do it.  Now as you all know, I have a little super hero lover myself, so I got some inspiration from her in hopes that Annalie would want to learn how to read and write.

I bought some magnetic sight words, blank magnetic sheets to add some of our own super hero words, a super hero notebook, pencils, and a mailbox.  I also made some alphabet super hero flash cards that I found online.

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I set up the sight words on our chalkboard in the playroom so Annalie could build sentences.

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I gave her the notebook and the flash cards (which she was over the moon for) and we attached the mailbox to the wall just outside her bedroom.

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So far, it has been a huge success.  She uses her magnetic sight words and her flash cards to write letters.  Most of them are about superheroes.

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We’ve been writing each other letters almost every day.  She writes me letters and puts them in the mailbox for me to read, and I’ll write her one in return.  She loves waking up and seeing the little flag on the mailbox and knowing there is a letter inside.

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She also loves writing me letters, folding up the paper, putting a stamp (aka sticker) on the outside and leaving it in the mailbox for me to find.

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“Lots of pumpkins at the pumpkin patch.”  “Flash is like me.”

And the best part is that she is having so much fun and instead of begging me NOT TO read and write, she’s begging me TO read and write!

I just love watching her learn and grow, especially when she is having so much fun doing so.  Being a parent can be so rewarding.

Temecula Half Marathon Race Recap

Last year, around this time, if you would have told me that I would run 5 half marathons in 2014, I would have laughed in your face. At the time, the longest I had ever run at one time was about 7 miles. My goal for this year was to run 1 (yup, just 1) half marathon. And here I am, with number 5 in the books. It is an amazing feeling.

But what is even more amazing than that, is that my husband just completed his very first half marathon. And let me tell you, this was not a beginner’s half marathon. Quite the opposite. And he rocked it. I am so proud of him.

We got into Temecula Saturday afternoon.

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We made it there in time to hit up one winery (Doffo), which I would highly recommend (and coincidently led to us purchasing the most expensive bottle of wine we have ever bought to date).

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We then went to Garage Brewing Company for a casual dinner. Great restaurant. Sort of like the Subway of pizza. You go to the counter, pick your sauce and cheese, and then they build your pizza for you out of the expansive array of toppings they’ve got right there for you to choose from. They had a really yummy Mango Hefeweizen that I got to go with the delicious pizza. Great little place! After that we hit the hay so we could be up bright and early for the race in the morning.

We got up at 5am the next morning and I was really indecisive on what to wear for the race. It was in the 50’s and the weather predicted it warming up to the high 60’s by the end of the race. I wasn’t sure whether to wear pants or shorts, or a long sleeve shirt or tank top. I consoled Runner’s World’s nifty little website where you put in the conditions and it tells you what to wear. It told me shorts and a tank, sop that’s what I went with. We drove over to the parking area where we would catch the bus to take us to Wilson Creek Winery (the start/finish area) and I immediately was so worried about my attire choice. I was FREEZING. My body was shivering. But, as the minutes ticked by, it gradually started to warm up.

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We picked up our race packets, got our bibs on and our bags checked and headed over to the stage area for a fun little warm up to Thriller (you know, it being Halloween season and all). After that it was time to go!

We lined up at the start line, gave each other a kiss and we were off!

If I had one word to describe this race it would be H-I-L-L-Y. Holy crap was it hilly. I don’t think there was a single flat section of the entire course. The first 5 miles was an out and back and were gradual hills. Then we ran past the start line for the back 8 miles. Those were the most intense 8 miles ever. The only thing that I could compare it to is the Xterra Trail Half Marathon I did. Every single hill was really, really steep and once you got to the bottom of a hill, there was another steeper, higher and longer hill in front of you.

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A lot of people walked the hills. Some people started out charging up them, and then started walking halfway up. I ran up each hill, but ran very, very slowly. In fact, I think someone walking up a hill passed me at one point.

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Honestly, as tough as the hills were to get up, they were ten times more difficult to get down. I really dislike running down hill. So much so, that I’d rather run an entire race uphill than have to deal with that kind of steep down hill ever again. It just makes my entire body hurt. Around mile 8, I was hurting pretty bad from all the up and down and I was really hoping that Vince was doing okay. We hit the turn around and a few minutes later I passed him on his way to the turn around. He was running with the 2:00 pacer! We high fived each other and instantly I got a second wind. That last 5 miles I felt much better. It was still hard work getting through the hills, but I started really concentrating on my form and was able to maneuver the down hills with considerably less pain that in the previous miles.

I finally reached the mile 12 marker and couldn’t have been happier. There were some people out on the course for the last mile with signs and cheering us on. I rounded the last bend, saw the finish line and ran like hell. When I crossed the finish line, I threw up my arms and smiled a big smile. It was over. I survived. I ran the entire thing without stopping. I got my medal and some water and waiting for Vince to finish.

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About 5 minutes later he came around that bend, crossed the finish line and threw his arms around me. He had also run the entire race without stopping (and he didn’t even drink any water the whole time!). I’m so proud of him. This was a really tough course, especially for a first half marathon and he crushed it.

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Our official times:
Me 1:55:17.5 (14th age group, 39th overall female, 99th overall)
Vince 2:00:27.1 (20th age group, 78th overall male, 135th overall)

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And, boy, I tell ya. The competition was stiff on this one. Those Californians…they are amazing. The overall winner’s time was 1:18:04.1. That’s a 5:58 pace. On those hills. He is a 35 year old gentleman from Encinitas. Blew us away with that time.

In the end, I was really happy I went with shorts and a tank top, because it really started to warm up. The course was beautiful. Most of the race was on dirt roads through wine country. Beautiful hillsides of vineyards and you could see the hot air balloons in the distance. Very lovely.

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After the race was over, we picked up our wine glasses and headed over to the tasting area. I really couldn’t stomach the thought of drinking wine at that moment, so I opted first for a glass of almond champagne to celebrate our finish, and then switched to beer. Great recovery drinks haha!

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When we were done with our tastings, we took the bus back to our car, and went back to our hotel room to shower. After that we hit up some more wineries. Bel Vino for one of the most informative wine tastings I’ve ever had from Dennis, along with a beautiful lunch outside listening to their live house band and enjoying the view of the hillside vineyards.

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Then off to Hart for some great reds and fun conversation with the wine pourers. And finally, Wiens for some yummy wine, but a not so informed pourer (can’t win them all).

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After that we hit up Crush and Brew for some dinner and beer flights (we were a little wined out at that point) and then we went back to the hotel room where we were asleep in bed by 7:30pm.

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It was a great little weekend getaway. I loved running with my husband. I am so proud of him and I love that we can have little race-cations. Good times, good times!

 

Did you race over the weekend? Tell me about it!

Spartan Sports Armband Review


Do you listen to music when you run?  I don’t.  But the only reason why I don’t listen to music is because I’m too busy listening to my beloved Howard Stern.  I’ve been listening to him faithfully for over 16 years now.  He is THE BEST.  Witty, funny, current, and entertaining.  Often times I will find myself bursting out laughing while running because of something he is doing on his show.  And yes, my neighbors probably think I’m crazy.  He can make 10 miles seem like 10 minutes.

Now you all know, as I’ve said before, that I really hate anything on my body when running.  But, in order to get my Stern fix in while I’m running, I need to bring my phone.  Up until now, I’ve been using a cheap armband that I bought online that while it has served it’s purpose, it definitely was not the best made arm band on the market.  I recently had the opportunity to try out a new arm band made by SpartanFive.

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SpartanFive sent me the Sports Armband for the iPhone 5 to use and review.  As soon as I opened it from the package I immediately could tell that I was going to really like it.  It is made out of luxury lycra covered neoprene with PU leather on the front cover.  I love that the material is so soft and flexible, yet the armband feels very sturdy.  The scratch resistant cover allows access the touch screen on my phone when it is in the armband and it doesn’t slip on my arm at all, even when I get sweaty.

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After using it for a month, it hasn’t stretched out.  I can even fit my phone in it without taking it out of the case.  It is water resistant and washable and also had a reflective strip on the front, which is really great for this time of year when the daylight hours are getting shorter and shorter.  It even comes with a set of ear buds that have a shorter cord with volume control right on the cord.  I now have a set of ear buds dedicated just to running!

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So goodbye cheap old armband and hello luxury SpartanFive armband!  I am very happy with this product!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.