Tuesday, August 23, 2016

All's fair in mid-August

One of my state's great traditions -- the Iowa State Fair -- ended this year's run on Sunday. I know there are a lots of states out there that claim their fair is the best, and everyone's entitled to their opinion. But I love my state's fair. I look forward to it each year and can never go just once in the ten-day span.

This year, I was only there twice ... and only for a few hours each time, but I packed plenty into my visits.

Food ...

The Duke from the Corn Stand

A fried pickle dawg (pickle wrapped in cream cheese and pastrami and then fried)

The Pride of Iowa Wrap -- a jalapeno cheddar tortilla with pork shoulder, sweet corn salsa, and hickory smoked bacon bits. It is layered with cheddar jack cheese, fresh avocado relish, chipotle aioli and crispy tortilla bites for added texture.

... live music ...

Hold For Swank -- I went to college with the lead singer and the bassist.
Tim Stop!!!!

... and plenty of Iowa craft beer.

I also looked at some animals, the butter cow, the dollhouses, and the ugly cakes.

Oh, and I volunteered at the Iowa Craft Beer Tent for the second year in a row.

All in all, it was another successful year of fairgoing.

What's your favorite part of the fair?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Music Monday: Dave Matthews Band - "You and Me"

I'll go ahead and confess that I've never been a huge fan of Dave Matthews Band. Sure, I've enjoyed a song here and there (I mean, "Ants Marching" is a legit jam tune), but I have never gone out of my way to hear this band/musician. My boyfriend is a huge fan of this band. They are to him what John Mayer is to me. And that's significant. I get it. I understand it. I may never share his passion for Dave's music, but I support it. And I might be coming around on a few of the songs.  The boyfriend had me listen to this one over the weekend, and ... I kind of like it.

What music did your significant other introduce you to?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Weekly Reads, Vol. 82

I wasn't very good about blogging this week. I just didn't have a lot to say, I guess.  Some weeks are like that. Regardless, I did read blogs, so here are a few of my favorite posts from the week.

Cait shares a list of things she wants to teach her daughter. They're good reminders for women of all ages, I think.

Meg explains her feelings on the term "girl boss."

I've gotten really into podcasts lately. Sarah and Nick have some great suggestions I may add to my list.

Steph made a list of behaviors she's observed that put people into a category titled "special kind of asshole."

Whitney saw "Hamilton" in NYC. Are you as jealous as I am? Well, try to quell that a little and go check out her advice on what to know before you see "Hamilton."

I'm even more jealous of Sarah after reading about her Walk-Up Experience. The technology sounds awesome, and, as a Rangers fan, I'd love to meet Elvis Andrus and Emily Jones.

I hope you're having a fantastic Sunday!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Let's have coffee ...

If we were having coffee ...

... I'd probably sipping on whatever dark roast I have for my Keurig with just a splash of local cream (it's pricey but oh so worth it).
I love The Awkward Yeti.

... I'd tell you I'm kind of sad I haven't gotten to watch any of the Olympics this year. I don't have access to live TV, so I've missed out on the fantastic performances by Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Simone Biles, etc. Everything I know about the Olympics is what I'm learning from social media.
These Phelps memes are killing me!

 ... I'd probably also say I think people bullying Gabby Douglas on Twitter about her hair or not putting her hand over her heart during the anthem are ridiculous. They need to calm down and get back to looking at their own lives.

... I'd tell you at least ten people on my Facebook friends list are pregnant. For many, it's the first child and oh so exciting. I'm happy for all of them, but it is starting to feel like I'm in the minority of women who is not making that announcement. And may never get to. With my age and reproductive issues, having children may not be in my cards. Sometimes I'm sad about that. Sometimes I'm indifferent.

... I'd tell you I felt guilty saying "no" on Saturday when someone asked if I could work for them that night. I had been planning a lazy day with the boyfriend all week --- and very much looking forward to it. When a co-worker told me she wasn't feeling well and asked if I could take her shift, I felt very bad telling her I would prefer to have the night off. Fortunately, she found someone else, but I still experienced pangs of guilt all evening and at times the next day. I'm having a hard time telling myself that taking care of my needs (some downtime in this case) is just as important as being there for others.

... I'd tell you that you need to check out the show "Stranger Things" on Netflix. The boyfriend and I were looking for something to watch Saturday night and both of us had heard about the show from friends. We tried an episode and while it was good, we weren't quite sold. But by the second episode, we were completely hooked. We ended up finishing the series in less than 24 hours. I still have so many questions and can't wait for the next season.

... I'd share this funny story from my Sunday library shift:

What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Weekly Reads, Vol. 81

I neglected to get a round-up post up last Sunday when I was out of town, so here are two weeks worth of good posts.

Monica has a great and funny way of sharing random tips about running. This week's post is full of good stuff.

Sometimes I think I have this whole adulting thing down. Other times ... meh.  Seems like Lex can relate to me with her list of 10 Not-So Adulting Moments.

Juliette has some serious (and legit) questions about the Olympics.

As I've mentioned at least a handful of times lately, my friend, Rena, released a book this week. I'm so excited for her. Even though her book release is a bit different than mine, in a recent post, she explained exactly how I felt as it came time to release my latest.

Helene has some great tips for finding the positive even in tough times.

Finally, Rebekah shared a very personal event and disappointment. I think pregnancy loss happens far more often than we talk about and it causes women who experience it to feel alone. I applaud Rebekah for sharing her story.

Happy reading!

Friday, August 12, 2016

July fitness recap

I know the journey to getting in better shape is a slow and steady one.  And little goals along the way will help me reach my overall goal.  So I have fitness benchmarks I want to reach each month.

Work out 16 days a month.  Grade = C
Meh. That's probably generous. I got out of routine really bad.

Strength training once a week.  Grade = F

Track my food each day.  Grade = F


12 Races in 2016 update:
I did two races in July -- 5! on the 4th and the Diva Dash 5K, so I'm still very much on track to complete one race per month. I will end up exceeding it, actually.
5! on the 4th was my friend's first ever 5K!

The weather was perfect for the Diva Dash 5K, and I liked the bling.

Oh, and I also completed one day of RAGBRAI, which resulted in a 48-mile bike ride.

I was going to be hard on myself about still not being in a good routine, but then I looked at two races and that bike ride and I realize I might not be where I want to be, but I'm doing OK.


Last week's workouts
Friday: Off
Saturday: Off
Sunday: Off
Monday: Cardio Kickboxing
Tuesday: 2-mile treadmill run
Wednesday: 30 minutes of walking on the track

Thursday: 30 minutes of walking on the track and then 15 minutes of yoga at home

Thursday, August 11, 2016

My Favorite Things: Home Decor

Confession: Apartment life isn't my favorite.

I was fine with it until I lived in a roomy duplex and then owned a house. I loved having a ton of space to decorate and make into a home. Now I'm in a 600-square-foot shoebox. But at least I have a balcony and a washer/dryer in unit, right?  And I've still managed to decorate in a way that the apartment feels less temporary. 

Here are some of my favorite things around my apartment:

I bought this race medal holder from a local Etsy company, 515 Signs. It's a fun way to display my race bling and keep track of my personal best times. It hangs right across from my bed as a reminder of my accomplishments and strength.

There's baseball memorabilia scattered around my place, but this is a pretty key collection. The top is a rendering of Rangers Ballpark done by a guy I knew years ago on a Rangers message board. Below that is a cute sign I found at a store once. The very bottom was a Christmas gift from my friend, Savannah. The little circle holds some actual dirt from the ballpark that's close to my heart.

My friend, Meg, did this art for the kitchen in the house I owned. I wanted something with wine, but that's really the only specification I gave her. What she created was absolutely perfect. It now hangs above my couch.

Finally, we have my gallery wall. All of the photos were taken by me or friends. It adds a very personal touch to a large wall in my living room.

What are some of your favorite things in your home?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What I'm Loving Wednesday 8/10

I'm loving ...

... my August reading list, which includes only books by people I know. Including this selection that just came out yesterday. I plan to start it tomorrow, and I can't wait! (You can order your own copy here.)

... remembering my weekend away in Kansas City. The Demi Lovato-Nick Jonas-Mike Posner concert was incredible, but honestly, it was nice just to get out of my city and spend time with the boy. (P.S. We survived an entire 48 hours together, which seems significant.)

... this ice cream. I'm skeptical of anything that claims to be light. I've tried a few others and they tasted like crap, but this was insanely good.

... that I get to have a semi-lazy day on Saturday. I wanted to have a full lazy day, but I need to get the oil changed in my car, so ... I'll have to do a little adulting.

What are you loving this week?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Show Us Your Books: July

Life According to Steph

After a lackluster month of reading in June, I'm happy to say July was better. I only managed three books, but they were a significant upgrade from the previous month's selections.

June was such a letdown, I decided to rejuvenate my reading with a favorite. This is the third time I've read this book. Well, second time actually reading. I listened to it the first time I took it in. I never get tired of it. And I fall in love with Matt Watkins every time.


One of my goals in life is to visit every MLB ballpark. Eric did that and he chronicled each of his visits. It was fascinating to read not only about the history of each venue and team but also about the personality or culture of each fanbase.  Eric did a great job of intermingling baseball facts with his personal insights. It was a nice summer read.


I love this author's writing style, and the story was great. It was easy to get caught up in the idiosyncrasies of this family. They felt like real people. I haven't watched the movie, but it's on my list of things to do when I have some free time. Someone else compared it to "The Family Stone" and I can absolutely see that -- an overall sad tone but with some humor sprinkled in.


This month's reads will have an interesting theme -- they're all written by people I know. Stay tuned for my recap in a few weeks.

What are you reading?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Music Monday: Mike Posner - "Be As You Are"

Over the weekend, I made a road trip to Kansas City for a little concert featuring Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, and Mike Posner. I bought tickets to this show more than six months ago and have been looking forward to it ever since. I was most excited for Demi (I just love her), but figured Nick would be good too. When they announced Mike Posner was the show opener, he got sandwiched between Demi and Nick for my ranking of most anticipated performance. And he lived up to those expectations. (So did Demi. Nick actually exceeded my expectations for him.)  It was an all around great night of music. I would love to see Mike Posner again someday.  This was my favorite from the set (and it's also probably my favorite on the album).

Forewarning: The video contains some nudity that might not be appropriate for some settings.

The song fits in well with my weekend, honestly. Sunday afternoon, upon return from Kansas City, I participated in a march to create awareness of the need for mental health reform in our state. I listened to stories from those directly affected by mental health issues, and I think the biggest thing is the stigma attached to disorders such as depression and anxiety. So many people just don't understand these afflictions and try to wave them off as something someone can just get over. It doesn't work that way. But because of this belief, many who need help are afraid to ask for it or don't know how to ask for it or are being shamed for asking for it. All of that needs to be fixed.

I'm off my soapbox for now, but this might come up again in a future blog post.

Happy Monday everyone!

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Kickstarter for Tim Stop

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you already know about my love for this guy:

If you're new, here are the important points:
- I first saw him live in July 2009 at a college bar owned by my brother. I was instantly hooked.
- He played for my 30th birthday party. 
- So far, I have seen him perform 25 times. Most of the shows were in Des Moines and Ames, but I did make trips to Texas and Wisconsin to see him.
- He was mentioned during key points in my novel, Riffs of Regret.
- His song, "Open Road," inspired a tattoo I got last year.
- He's finally putting out some new music, but he needs some help.

So he's doing a Kickstarter campaign. Wander over to that link and watch his video. It'll help you get to know him a bit. You might even be entertained. I hope you'll be compelled to support him.

In the meantime, here's one of my favorite Tim Stop songs (and believe me, picking just one was a challenge):

Thanks for indulging me!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Weekly Reads, Vol. 80

I can't believe we're staring down August already. Where has summer disappeared to?

My posts this week will probably be sporatic, and so will my reading. I have a big certification test on Friday, and I absolutely cannot fail it. So I will be using a lot of my free time to study.  Have I mentioned I'm terrible at studying? And at taking tests?  Ugh.

I have encountered some feelings of burnout in recent weeks. And let's be real, those feelings come and go throughout the year. Cait has some awesome tips for remaining productive even when you're feeling burned out. I need to try some of these.

One advantage to the proximity of fall? Football! Namely, fantasy football. Last year, I was in a league with some of my brewery co-workers. I should see if we're doing that again this year. If so, I'll likely need a good team name. Sarah has a few recommendations of fantasy football team names for girls. Some of them would work for either gender though.

With the way we all watch TV (live, DVR, online, etc.), it can be difficult to avoid posts about your show on social media. Whitney contemplates the proper etiquette for spoilers in today's world of TV. What are your thoughts?

Our country is riddled with racial conflicts and issues. Karen acknowledges this but wonders why we think everything is about race. Is it possible, we are too quick to jump to that area without waiting for all the proper information about an incident?

Friday, July 29, 2016

One day. Two wheels. 48 miles.

I got to cross another thing off my bucket list yesterday.  I completed one day of RAGBRAI.

RAGBRAI stands for Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. The ride started in 1973, when a group of friends decided to go for a "casual ride" across the entire state. It has become an annual tradition that attracts thousands of cyclists from all over the country. Lance Armstrong has ridden a few times. Jimmie Johnson joined him this year, apparently. The route is different each year (and announced with a grand ceremony in late January/early February). Cyclists sign up, and pay really good money, to spend seven days riding across the state.

Needless to say, it's a BIG deal in this state. Not only is it a tradition, but it is a pretty decent economic draw for Iowa as well.

I have been wanting to ride one day of this event for a long time. I've come close to doing it a few times in the past, but it never quite worked out. Until now.

Yesterday, I woke up at 5 a.m. after spending the night on my bestie's couch. We loaded our bikes into her husband's truck and traveled an hour and a half to Centerville. From there, we joined the other cyclists for day five of this huge ride.

RAGBRAI attracts thousands of riders each year.

The first leg wasn't bad. The second wasn't either, honestly. The weather was gorgeous, and the ride was mostly flat. Until we got past Unionville. Rolling hills killed our energy completely.

We called someone to come get us a little bit outside of our original ending destination.

This is my "over it" face."
By the end of the day, we'd logged 48 miles on our bikes. That's my longest ride to-date.

Today, I'm sunburned, my legs are achy, and my butt would protest getting back on my bicycle.  But other than that, I had a great time riding and chatting with my friend. And I have an even greater appreciation for the people who do all seven days. And even more for the people who do this EVERY YEAR.

Does your state have a famous race or similar fitness event?

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