Did I Mention . . . ? [V.2]

Remember that one time that I didn't really mention the fact that I was headed to Europe until a few days before I hopped on the plane? 

Well, I just pulled out the suitcase again.  

The destination this time is nowhere close to being as glamorous as Europe.  No air travel is required either.  In fact, tomorrow I'll be loaded onto a school bus for a few hours packed full of hyped up kids excited for a week at summer camp.

You're jealous, I can feel it.  

Despite how awful I just made that sound, I am actually extremely excited. The two weeks I will be at camp will be full of hard work, sweat, laughter, new friends, and drawing nearer to God. 

The first week that I'm there, could be classified as volunteer slave labor.  I'll be working my tail off cleaning kitchens, washing dishes, scrubbing toilets and restricting the junior campers' candy flow (the most daunting of them all!).  I had the opportunity to experience this last year, and let me tell you, it's hard work! However, I'm headed back again, so obviously it's not unbearable.  In fact, I'd call it enjoyable.  

Being completely surrounded by godly people in God's great creation doing work to serve my Heavenly Father has everything to do with my wanting to return.  

After my seven days as a servant are over, I magically transform into a camper! High school week at camp is seriously the highlight of my summer! (My parents were concerned with me being gone from home too much this summer between Europe and camp and I was honestly ready to give up Europe, no joke.)

Not my picture. 
I am a little nervous because I've never gone to camp without one of my best friends.  However, this year she was placed on the wait list to work (yes, there is a wait list to be able to scrub toilets! That's how amazing of an opportunity this is.) and never ended up being able to get in.  She will join me for the second week when we camp, but I am going in for a week without knowing nearly anyone.  

At first, I decided to not do the working week, but then I really felt like God wanted me to take a chance and trust Him.  So, here I go! I'm excited to learn more about God and can't wait to see what He does with my life these next two weeks!

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."
 ~ Colossians 3:23-24


Runners Tell All: I Eat Cupcakes Before I Run

You can probably use your common sense and realize pretty quickly that I'm in no position to offer any advice on how to properly fuel your runs.

Example: I've eaten a cupcake before I've run.  Like as I'm walking out of the locker room into cross country practice.

Example 2: I ate a few bites of a sub about five minutes before my 4X100 race last year in track.  Granted, I didn't realize that my race was so soon, but I still ate it.  And my coach still will not let go of it - Subway is my new middle name.

Example 3: Once I ate a granola bar while I was running.  I wasn't even hungry, I just kind of felt the need to eat, so I took my granola bar with me.

You may be gasping in horror right now, sure that the following runs were disasters with consequences such as throwing up all over the person in front of me or having to run 0.5 miles per hour because I felt so sick.  Don't fear though! I was completely and perfectly fine all three times! In fact, I'm pretty sure that I PR'd in my leg of the 4x100 that day. (Thanks, Subway!)

My apparent superpower of having an iron stomach does have an Achille's heel, however.  I do not want to eat/taste/see/smell/hear food within the first five minutes after a run.  At one cross country meet where I had run particularly hard in the last 400 meters, there was a team that was having a COOKOUT right next to the finish line.

When the aroma of hotdogs and burgers drifted over to me, I was breathing hard (duh.) and as soon as I smelled it, my stomach just flipped. I literally gagged and had to keep running to get away from it.  Here's the kicker: it was like 9 AM.  Who wants 'burgs and dogs before most people are even awake on a Saturday morning?

Anyway, the point of all that was to show what a bad example I am when it comes to running fuel and how you should never, ever come to me because my advice would be:

because it's what I do and I haven't died yet so it must be working.  

I do have some favorite things that I eat in relation to running though.  

Obviously, I have no time restraints on when I eat before a run.  For important races though, I do like to keep my last meal at least 45 minutes before start time.  Cereal, bagels with peanut butter, protein bars, and bananas are my favorite pre-race breakfasts. Lots and lots of water throughout the day (if I race in the afternoon) is key to not having to decide between dehydrating and having a full bladder while running. 

Well, I'm not too experienced in this category, but Kashi Chocolate Almond Sea Salt with Chia Bars (longest name ever) seem to do the trick! :) 

I'm a smoothie girl! One of the first things I crave after a run is a fruity, cold smoothie! If those aren't readily available, then fruit, Gatorade, and protein bars will have to do the trick.  Of course I chug about a gallon and a half of water a few minutes after I run when I'm done gasping for air, but I try to keep up a steady water intake for a couple hours. 

When I do get smoothies post-run, I like to make my smoothies protein-packed so it can be a one-and-done sort of ordeal. I use CrioSport Vanilla Whey Protein powder and I think it's pretty good.  I'm not very educated in the realm of protein powders though, so if you have any suggestions, let me know! 

Last night I made a delicious fruity smoothie that I want everyone to know about because I love it so much! 

Here's what you need:
- frozen pineapple chunks (I didn't measure, but about 3/4 cup? Maybe?)
-blueberries (Fresh or frozen. Mine were frozen. ½ cup?)
-1 frozen banana
-1/4 cup of oats
-1 scoop of vanilla protein powder

Blend up the oats by themselves first to avoid having oat chunks.  It's not as gross as it sounds though.  Next, blend everything else until it's nice and smooth.  


I linked-up today with Amanda and Beka! If you want some real running fuel advice, you should probably check out some of those links over there.  You know, maybe you'll find some people who don't eat cupcakes right before they run.  

What are some of your running food rituals? Any protein powder suggestions? 


[A] is for [apples]

I was having a really hard time deciding how to tell all my stories from Europe.  I don't want it to drag on forever but there are just so many things I want to share!  I decided to start Italy & Greece from A to Z.  I'll go in alphabetical order and pick a picture with something that starts with the letter that we're on and I'll tell the story behind it. But don't worry, it won't be 26 days straight of  Europe stories. Promise. 

location // Ferrara, Italy

So, for my very first installment of Italy & Greece from A to Z, out of all the pictures that I could have chosen of notable European landmarks, I picked the one that could have been taken at the grocery store five minutes from my house.  Heck, it could have been taken at my house based on the number of apples that we buy.  

But it is the A to Z challenge, isn't it? And apples start with A, so this is what we're talking about (never mind Athens and Assisi and the Acropolis and art . . . nope, it's apples). 

This picture comes with some emotional baggage for me.  Every time I see it, I crack a smile because of the ridiculous amount of work they ended up being.  So, gather 'round the campfire because it's story time!

Once upon a time when I was packing for my European adventure, I made sure to throw some Jif-To-Go peanut butter in my bag because 18 days is way too long for a girl and her PB to be separated.  Fast forward about four days and I was already needing a creamy fix. We made a short stop in Ferrara and my eyes quickly found a small supermarket.

Supermarket meant that there was a large chance of apples, which as everybody knows, is peanut butter's best friend.  Luckily for me, they didn't just have apples, they had my favorite type of apples! I know, it was like I was floating on a cloud.

I picked out four good looking ones to share with some friends later at our apples&peanut butter party that I was planning on hosting and stuck them in my backpack for later.

I kind of wanted to dig into one them right then and there, but I have this thing with unwashed fruit where I either wash it or don't eat it. So, we stopped at a little bakery and while everyone was enjoying their Italian pastries, I snuck into the bathroom to do some fruit washing.

As it turned out that there was one sink that was shared by both the men's and the women's bathrooms. And also conveniently didn't have a counter attached.  And to top it all off, the sink was really gross so if an apple fell, it was never coming back.  No pressure, right?

After trying to hold all four apples, turning the faucet on with my elbows, and thoroughly soaking my sleeves,  I let myself think that the apples were more clean than they were before and that I better get out of there before someone came out of the bathroom/I dropped one.  So I turned around to grab some paper towel and lo and behold, there was a hand dryer smirking at me. (It was totally smirking, I swear.)

Usually I'm pretty eco-friendly friendly but I was not appreciating the hand dryer at this moment.  So I compromised and dug my rain jacket out of the bottom of my bag and wrapped the apples up all while giving the evil eye to the dryer.  With those kind of survival skills, I'm pretty sure I could be a boy scout.

Many hours and a walking tour of Florence later (those suckers added some serious weight to my backpack!) there was finally an opportune time for some apples&PB. This time occurred in our hotel room which conveniently featured a clean sink complete with a full counter.  I wish I was kidding.

But it's a good ending because I ate my peanut butter and lived happily ever after.

The end.

Just kidding, that's not the end.

But, wait! There's more! 

Only three apples were consumed at my apples&PB party, so using math skills, that means that one was left. I stuck it in the mini-fridge for the next day and accidentally left it there forever and ever.  After all that, I just forgot about it.

*slow clap*

Okay, now it's the end for real.  I feel like this post should start a What I'd #DoForPeanutButter hashtag.  What would you #DoForPeanutButter?


Five Florence Favorites on Friday!

I wasn't expecting to love Florence, Italy.  Smushed in between killers like Venice & Rome, I thought that Florence would just be a stop on the way.


So, so, very wrong.

I am absolutely crazy about Florence! The art! The history! The architecture! *swoon*  Okay, so maybe I'm being a little dramatic, but Florence is definitely a dramatic place.  Home to so many amazing things, the day and a half that I spent there was no where close to enough time.  I barely scratched the surface of the Florence Cathedral and didn't have time to venture to Piazzale Michelangelo and the Boboli Gardens, which is a crime in my opinion.

I'm linking up again today with Juliette, Faith, & Allie to blog everyday in July (which despite my recent track record, I won't keep up. Promise.) and today's prompt is to talk about five favorites.  So to keep the alliteration going, we're talking about five of my favorite Florentine things!

|| 1. The street art.

Umm, how is this happening? Stuff like this goes in museums and she's just painting it on the street like it's no big deal. If you didn't know that Florence is an art city, you do now.  

|| 2. This awesome statue of Machiavelli. 

First things first, check out that leg! Watch out Angelina Jolie, you've got competition! Second, if you thought that maybe he was a pretty nice guy underneath his whole "ends justify the means" thing, you may want to think again.  Check out that expression! Or, if you get nightmares easily, don't. 

|| 3. The street cleaner // the fact that Florence in Italian is Firenze. 

If you were about to litter and then saw this cute little street cleaner begging you to please place your trash in a trashcan instead of on the ground, you would, wouldn't you? (Unless you're heartless/don't think that the baby street cleaner is cute like I do.) Also, I was loving the Italian versions of city's names.  Florence was by far my favorite though for unknown reasons. To me, Firenze just sounds tall, dark & handsome. Anyone with me? 

|| 4. David
This is me maturely reacting to a 14 foot tall naked man.  
Once the initial shock of "oh, hey, naked man! *avert eyes*" was over, I was super glad that I coughed up a few extra euros to see David in person.  The detail was incredible! I kept staring at the back of his hands and imagining how much work it must have taken to carve out the veins so perfectly.  (I just typed veins and for all of you who don't know me, that's a big deal.  #Gross) If you're ever in Florence, see David.  For real.  10 points to Michelangelo.

|| 5. THE DUOMO! 

I am obsessed with the Duomo.  Oh my gosh.  Seeing it in person was one of the things that blew me away on this trip.  Prior to leaving, I had read a book entirely devoted to how the dome was built and to see the finished product right in front of my eyes was unbelievable.  I wish I could go back and look at it all day. (Glad we're talking about a building here because if we were talking about pretty much anything else, I would be labeled Creep of the Year.) 

|| Extra, extra!

I got to climb the Duomo! Best. Experience. Ever. No joke.  But that's another story for a different day.  Here's some pictures to tide you over since I know you're all on the edges of your seats now.

Ever been to Florence? What did you like/dislike about it? What are your five favorites this Friday? Link-up and comment with your link so I can check them out! 

Happy weekend everyone! 


This is Home

I was planning on telling all of you more about my European adventures, but then I saw the prompt for Juliette, Faith, & Allie's link-up.  Today for the Blog Everyday in July challenge, you're supposed to talk about your city.  And that made me think just how much I missed my hometown! After eighteen days of travel, I was definitely ready to get back to the familiar (but oh, so sad to leave the views and the food and the history and the . . . oh. Sorry.).  So, let's talk about the familiar!

I've lived in this small city an hour outside of Detroit for my entire life! (Well, minus 1.5 years of my life, but I don't remember them, so let's not consider that.)

Sometimes we get these really incredible sunrises that make me want to sing.  Except that would ruin the moment.  So I don't.  

Being located in Michigan means that my hometown sees all two seasons: winter and construction season.  Kidding, kidding.  We get a gorgeous range of new buds in the spring, green, green in the summer, crunchy leaves in the fall and an eternal winter that lasts twice as long as all the other seasons combined.  You do the math on that one.  

We have a cute little downtown with cute little shops and cute little parades that big city people think are lame, but I deem "cute."

Proof: My friend, who is from a much larger city, and I biked down to watch the Memorial Day parade that lasted pretty much all of seven minutes.  I loved it.  She didn't.  Oh, well. Can't please everybody.

We were a little late to the fro-yo game, but I am now proud to say that my hometown has not one, but TWO fro-yo shops.  You're pretty much ready to make my town your next vacation spot, aren't you?

If not, maybe this will convince you: we have a food truck! An actual, real life food truck with actual food that actually is pretty good.  I was really hesitant to go at first, but I'm really glad that I did.  It's so unique and becoming a definite feature of my town.  I hope it sticks around as long as I do!

More cool things about my town! In addition to our cute little downtown area that gets all dressy for Christmas and summer, we have a super classy strip mall.  No creepy abandoned buildings here! Everything is new and exciting and busy nearly all the time.  

Annnnd, for all you outdoorsy people, we have a metropark with lots of hiking trails, fishing spots and beaches to get your tan on.  Golf courses and ski hills? Yep, got those too.

If you aren't as in love with my city as I am, that's okay.  You have to live it to love it in my opinion.  However, I will offer one more point that may sway you: 

we have pie. 



An Open Letter to Gelato

Dear Gelato,

It was love at first sight.  Then, at first taste, I was ready to spend the rest of my life with you.  After indulging in your creamy deliciousness two times within six hours of being on Italian soil, I didn't know how our relationship could get any closer.

Hazelnut Chocolate - Verona, Italy // 4/5 stars

Amarena (cherry) - Venice, Italy // 2/5 stars
Sure, your tiny little scoops were wimpy by my American standards, but all that meant was that I had room for more! I paid the price for you and I didn't even flinch.  While I haggled to lower the price of €3.50 keychains, I put down the same amount of money to get two flavors of you in my belly with no problem.

Stracciatella - Venice, Italy // 4/5 stars

You offered me so much variety and choice.  I was never bored when I was in your presence.  Although, I do admit that occasionally you did cause a panic attack because I was next in line and still couldn't decide.  (Especially at that place in Rome that had 150 flavors . . . that was rough.)

Coconut & Nutella - Florence, Italy // 5/5 stars
Every relationship has their problems though.  That's just a rule of life.  Ours is no exception.  While you usually were the perfect escape from the scorching Italian sun, there was that one time where I took a chance and ordered a random flavor that left me trying to get the taste out of my mouth a few hours later.  I've learned to forgive that offense though because nobody is perfect.  Rule of life #2.  

After Eight - Florence, Italy  // 3/5 stars

To wrap this up, gelato, I just wanted to tell you that I miss you terribly.  Although my wallet may disapprove of our relationship, there will always be someone who doesn't understand.  It's hard on me because I can no longer look around and see at least five gelato shops within ten steps that allow me to indulge in you.  Instead, I can only look at the pictures and remember all the great times that we once had.  

Pistachio - Florence, Italy // 4/5 stars
Arrivederci, gelato.  Until we meet again! 

I'm linking up a day late with Juliette, Faith, and Allie to blog every day in July! (Disclaimer: I'm not going to blog every day in July.  That just won't happen. I'm too busy mourning the absence of gelato.)


Are you a gelato fan? What flavor is your favorite? Mine is definitely a tie between Twix, Nutella, and coconut! 


Smoothie Round-up

I love smoothies.
Let me say that again:
I. love. smoothies. A lot. 

My smoothie consumption is definitely higher than that of the average smoothie enthusiast.  My accomplishments include (but are not limited to) drinking a smoothie every day of the week, occasionally drinking a smoothie for every meal of the day and owning about five smoothie recipe books.  My mother is proud.

Since I'm obviously a guru here (#sarcasm in case you can't tell), I'll impart a little smoothie knowledge on you.  Some things I've learned about smoothies:

1) If using spinach, blend the spinach and your liquid first before adding the other ingredients. Otherwise you will have spinach chunks.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

2) Frozen bananas are the best thing ever because they make smoothies thick and you get to eat them with a spoon.

3) There's no such thing as too many smoothies.

With this being said, it would be cruel of me to tell you all this and not give you anything to practice your newly learned skills on, wouldn't it? Here's some of my favorite go-to smoothies:

(I have no measurements because I don't measure things out . . . sorry!)
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter: (creative name, huh?) Sweet & thick. Tastes somewhat like chocolate ice cream or a Frosty to me!
    • frozen banana (the more the thicker, as they always say)
    • vanilla protein powder
    • oats
    • peanut butter
    • cocoa powder
    • water
  • Orange Strawberry: So delicious! Not as thick as the CPB, but it's so fruity and the orange juice just makes the flavor perfect.
    • Orange juice
    • Strawberry yogurt
    • Vanilla yogurt
    • Frozen strawberries
    • Frozen banana
  • Tropical Greens: Pinapple-y and so, so green. But not thick. 
    • Frozen pineapple
    • Mango
    • Spinach (remember tip #1!)
    • Frozen banana
    • Plain/vanilla yogurt
    • Water
And there you have my three favorites! I also love to include frozen blueberries, raspberries, almond milk & flax seed in a lot of my smoothies. 

If you want some more ideas, feel free to swing by my Pinterest board dedicated completely to smoothies (another one of my qualifications)!

If you end up trying any of my favorites, let me know how you liked it!

P.S. If all is going according to plan, I should be somewhere in Greece right now! I'll respond to comments and update you on my trip as soon as I can get some reliable wi-fi!


Ciao Amici!

Obviously my post on how I'm learning Italian is going great if I had to google translate how to say "Hello Friends" before I even started writing anything. Yep, I'm pretty much fluent.

Despite that little setback there, I am pretty proud of the progress that I am making in it.  I started to learn Italian few months ago with this awesome FREE app called Duolingo.  Ever heard of it? I love it! I will admit that there are probably better ways of learning a language than a free app, but seriously, this was perfect for me.

(Bonus! While you're practicing to become multi-lingual, you get to stare at this cute little guy! If that doesn't convince you to try it out, you're a lost case.)

I wanted to somewhat be able to communicate common phrases while on my trip and I think (hope! I'm writing this the night before I leave!) that this prepared me pretty well.

For example, I know how to say "I have cats!"

Ready? "Io ho gatti!" See! Now I can tell every Italian that I come across and they will be so happy for me. (Do Italians like cats? If they do, we will get along so well.)

Also! Another fun bonus fact that relates to Italian: Did you know that the phrase "kapeesh?" actually comes from the Italian word "capisci," which means "Do you understand?" Woah. I figured that one out all by myself and my mind was so blown.

When I get back from my European adventure, I hope to continue to learn Italian so maybe one day I could have an entire fluent conversation about my cats.  Kidding, kidding.  Just a little though.

Anyway, I hope that you all have a great 4th of July weekend! I'll be sporting my red, white & blue somewhere by the Adriatic Sea.  And if the good ol' U S of A is still in the World Cup, you can bet your boots that I'll be cheering.

And if you're interested in checking out another language, I do recommend Duolingo! Warning: it can get addicting.

Are you multi-lingual?