Monday, April 28, 2014

Big Sur

After a quick breakfast at the hotel it was time to leave for LA.  My husband is a huge golf fan so wanted to drive by Pebble Beach on the way.  We paid $10 for access to the gated community and drove past some gorgeous coastal homes and scenery, stopping every now and the to take pictures of surfers, seals and the famous cypress trees.

As we headed south along Big Sur the weather deteriorated.  It rained on and off for most of the drive which while unfortunate, wasn't that big a deal.  The scenery was still beautiful and we all enjoyed the ride.  The route is pretty much just a tourist road with a couple of little towns along the way with restaurants and small hotels, but it is gorgeous.  We avoided stopping as long as we could, and without cell service for a lot of the ride didn't really know where to stop and eat anyway.

We finally made it to a little town - Cambria - that had a nice grill.  The town was going through a severe water shortage so all public restrooms had been replaced by port a potties, which seemed odd, but I guess isn't in this area..  

As we got further down the coast and left the winding coastal road, the sun came back out.  We considered a stop in Santa Barbara to stretch our legs but decided to keep going, and purposely drove right past Solvang even though we went right past it.  At this point, it's a tourist trap run by people of Danish descent, but not very Danish feeling.  We got to my in-laws house in the late afternoon.  We unloaded the car, unpacked, did some laundry, had dinner, packed our bags for our next stop - Disneyland, and headed to bed.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Screen Free Week

Screen Free Week starts at my kids' school tomorrow, which means I will be doing a serious reduction in screen time. I can't go totally screen free as I helped organize the week and some of the presenters have been emailing me.  

Still I will
- not watch TV - except for Hawks playoff games
- stay off Facebook
- stay off my computer

Instead I will
- play with my kids
- finish the dollhouse
- clean my house
- go through my to do list
- enjoy some sunshine and long runs 

Honestly, giving up the TV will not be a problem, it's Facebook and my new virtual garage sale obsession that will be tough for me.  I still have a few pending items for sale so will need to check in about them, but otherwise will stay off Facebook.  

I have scheduled one post to publish this week, but that was preset.

Have a good week and I'll let you know how I did on Saturday (technically it's only Monday- Friday)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Race Season

Last year I ran 8 races of varying distances (5k up to a half marathon). In each case I was doing the distance for the first time, so I had no specific goals beyond finishing.  I only had 3 days a week to exercise so ran each of those, never did any serious cross training or strength training.

This year I will have more free time once summer hits and kids are in camp so I plan to add cross training into the mix.

To the left is my race calendar for the year.    My first race this season is the Cinco de Miler.  A new distance for me but at this point 10ks are my favorite distance do I think I'll enjoy this one. I haven't registered for the last three yet, but I will. Also considering flying back East to do a race with a friend - either the army 10 miler in DC or the Atlantic City half.  I'd love to finish the year having done twelve races.  Doing one per month is tough in Chicago given the weather, but 12 for the year is doable with all the options in the summer.  I'd love to do the Rock N Roll here in Chicago as well, provided it's not ridiculously hot (it's usually 90-100 degrees here then).

I also hear more and more about serious runners doing walking intervals within their long runs. I used to think you had to run the whole time.  I think Jeff Galloway's method would drove me crazy as the intervals are really short, so need to find an option that works for me. 

I'm looking forward to running Fort 2 Base again this year although realized after I registered that we're going to Ravinia the night before so I'll have to make sure I eat well and don't drink too much at the show and try to get a good night's sleep. No matter I will conquer Heroes Hill this year.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Facebook Virtual Garage Sales

Whoever came up with this is brilliant.  Instead of setting aside a weekend to have to stay at your house to sell your unwanted stuff (not to mention the work that goes in preparing for the sale), you can now just post a picture, price and some basic info on your item and see if you get any bites.  And by the same token if you are need of something but don't want to pay full price you don't have to spend your precious weekends going from house to house hit or miss.  

I joined my town's Facebook virtual garage sale last fall when I was looking for a bike for Little Man at a friend's recommendation.  I posted an ISO (in search of) listing and quickly received an answer from a Mom who had a like new boys bike.  Picked it up next day for $20.

I forgot about the site for a while but started checking it out again after the holidays.  Since then I've gotten a black Coach purse, a bunch of Legos and lots of books for my kids for 20-30% the usual cost.  I admit I check it a bit obsessively now.  

If you're wondering why not just use Craig'slist or ebay - this is easier.  Instead of having to search using keywords for your item of interest, within your geographical location, you just scroll through the newsfeed and check out/respond to the things you are interested in.  

The admins set the tone and in some cases let anything go.  The ones on the site I follow have a long list of rules but that protects everyone.  Craigslist doesn't do that.  Also I hear all sorts of horror stories about Craigslist.  At this point most of the sellers I have bought from have left the items on their doorstep for me and I just put the money in the mailbox.  Easy and safe.  Only once did I enter a house to get three big shopping bags of Legos but it was someone I had bought from previously. 

I'm starting to sell a few of my own items, and have even just given away a few that I couldn't figure out how to price (like a bunch of outlet covers for child proofing - I didn't need them anymore but I figured someone would).  

Some people will haggle but most will only respond if the price is right.  

Tomorrow I have 3 people coming to pick up things.  I plan to keep the money in a separate envelope and use it towards maybe starting my Lia Sophia business in the fall.  Yes it all comes back to Lia Sophia ;)

But seriously, if you're looking to offload some stuff or are a garage sale fan but hate spending time driving around and finding nothing, give a virtual site a try. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lia Sophia Facebook Opportunity Event

The other night one of the advisors I have bought from in the past hosted an opportunity event on Facebook.  Yes it was basically a recruiting event but also a no pressure forum for me and others to learn about the business and ask questions. The advisor who I used to host a party most recently had one too but I skipped that one.  Well that is I tried to view it once it started,but it was a private event.  I didn't want to RSVP for it cause that advisor doesn't even have a Facebook presence so I don't think she'd be the right fit for me.  

I always take these things with a grain of salt as I know that direct sales people profit from those under them, but still I think she was pretty honest.  Although when I asked her what she didn't like about her job so said, "nothing".  I find that hard to believe.  No one likes every single aspect if their job even if it's a little thing, but I didn't push it.  

She's been in the business for about 6 years and has a team of about 100.  She does seem to give good support to her team and they help each other.  I admitted my main reason for doing it was to earn free jewelry.  I asked if there was much pressure to recruit, and she said she supports everyone to run their business their way.  No pressure.  She lives in Ohio but most of the team meetings are via conference calls and Facebook meetings so that's not an issue.

I ended the meeting saying I wouldn't be ready until the fall due to having Little Man home so much, and she said she understood and respected that.  She's a grandma herself. 

I didn't get all my questions answered but most of them.  I definitely feel like I could succeed with her.  Actually last night when I couldn't fall asleep I started drafting my party presentation ;). I just hope I like the new starter kit.  At this point that is really the deciding factor.  

The tricky part will be that advisor who hosted the Facebook event and my previous party advisor have the same upline.  Not sure if they know each other.  Not sure if that'll be wierd when the time comes, if I do sign with someone in Ohio who I have never met versus someone who I have been to 4 parties with including my own - but I'll figure it out.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014


When we started planning our trip to California we picked Momterey as one of our stops mostly because we wanted to drive down Big Sur to get to LA.  We weren't really sure what we were going to do there aside from the aquarium.  Them I found out that we were going to be there during prime whale watching season.  Done.  

Our original plan was to see the aquarium the day we arrived and go whale watching the next day.  But the weather forecast was working against us, so after playing beat the clock to get out of Sequoia in time, we switched the reservation and arrived at the dock just as they were starting to board. 

It took about an hour to get out to the area where the whales are. The water was pretty choppy and Little Hugger felt a little nauseous but thankfully never got sick.  

We saw a bunch if humpback whales.  They would spout and shortly after we'd see the arch of their back and then their fluke.  None of them ever breached but it was still cool to see them that close. 

We stayed out in the deep water for almost an hour and then headed back to the dock.  It was pretty chilly on the way back so we stayed inside the boat.  
At this point we were all hungry so we found a restaurant in Fisherman's wharf for an early dinner.  Then we headed to the Monterey Plaza Hotel to checkin.  The kids loved the hotel.  We had two connecting rooms that opened to a shared patio.  It was nice to have lots of space after our cramped cabin quarters. 

A local on the boat had told us about a great beach for watching the sunset so we drove over there.  The kids had fun collecting seashells (as always) but unfortunately Little Hugger dropped her camera in a puddle in the rocks.  We managed to salvage it, thankfully and she didn't lose any of her pictures.  

We also realized we need to travel more with our kids.  They were amazed by all the little things - the free toiletries in the bathroom, the robes, the free newspaper, and especially the phone in the bathroom. 

Once it got dark we headed back towards Cannery Row and stopped at a frozen yogurt place before heading back to the hotel.  

The next morning I got up early to go for a run.  It was a little cool but I found a nice path along the water - paved at the very beginning and then gravely for the rest.  It felt great to run especially with the views

Got to say good morning to the locals :)

And saw some pretty flowers along the way

After breakfast at the hotel we headed to the Aquarium.  We have a great aquarium here in Chicago, so I usually don't visit them in other cities but it was going to be a rainy day and I had heard good things about this one.  It did not disappoint.  We ended up spending most of the day there aside from leaving briefly for lunch.  

There was a really cool jellyfish exhibit and they had a really interesting presentation about great white sharks.  Apparently they have had a few (one at a time) in captivity over the years and are the only aquarium to have done that.  They only keep them for a few months and when they notice them getting unhappy they tag them and release them back in to the wild.  Little Man was very curious how they know a shark is unhappy so we went and asked - mostly they start acting differently bumping against the sides of the tank and in some cases start looking at their tank mates as food.  Fish are friends not food ;)

It was pouring down when we left the aquarium so we headed back to the hotel for dinner.  We had to eat in the hotel bar as the restaurant was all booked up but the food was the same as the regular restaurant and we had a great waitress so it worked out well.  

After dinner we packed up so we could get an early start in the morning.  This was going to be our longest driving day - along Big Sur down to LA about 350 miles. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sequoia National Forest

Sequoia was the first stop in our California adventure.  We flew into Fresno (on a prop plane from SFO which Little Man thought was really cool) and drove about two hours to the forest.  I probably should have checked the directions a little better as we ended up coming in the opposite end of the forest (two hours) from where we were staying.  I hadn't realized just how big this forest was.

The ranger assured us that we would be fine without chains for our tires (despite the fact that CA law requires you have them in your car through the end of March).  We took our time driving up to our cabin stopping a few times along the way.  We stayed in the Grant Grove cabins which are near the Grant tree but not completely out in the wilderness like my husband had remembered from his childhood.  Those cabins no longer exist.  

We had originally booked two cabins but were told at checkin we could get a rollaway bed and have all of us in one cabin.  It was a little tight, but we weren't planning on spending much time in the cabin anyway.  

The next morning we had breakfast and headed out to explore the forest.  We started with the Grant Tree.  The second tallest in the forest at 264 feet tall (and estimated to about 1600 years old).  There was still snow on some parts of the trail so we were all glad we had brought our snow boots.

There was a cool tree near there that had fallen down and you could walk through it.  Kids thought that was really fun and went through it a few times.

Our next stop was the General Sherman - the tallest tree in this forest.  The funny thing was that on the way to it there's a sign that says "There it is" and there's a really tall tree to one side and then a clearing and another really big tree past it.  Lots of people assumed the closer tree was the General Sherman and took a bunch of pictures of it, only to follow the trail and realize that they had taken pictures of the wrong tree.  

This is the real General Sherman - 274.9 feet tall and estimated to be at least 2300 years old

There are tons of "smaller" but by no means small trees in the area which are not fenced off and you can get up to and touch or hug ;)

After a quick picnic lunch we set off on a hike to Moro Rock.  It was about 1 1/2 mile away but the kids were willing.  We took a trail through the woods one way, and walked on a paved road on the way back.  Along the trail there were a few spots where trees had fallen and they had to cut through the tree to continue the trail. 

Once we got to Moro Rock there were about 400 stairs to the top.  I hate stairs, especially step or awkward stairs but I wasn't going to chicken out.  

The view from the top was amazing although I have to admit I didn't like getting too close to the rail.  There was one crazy couple who had brought their dog up which seemed insane to me, but they all made it down just fine.  

At first I was a little disappointed that everyone else wanted to take the road back but we got to see the only wildlife we saw the whole trip so it was worth it.

The amazing thing of the whole place though is even though the General Sherman and General Grant trees are the tallest and well protected you can walk close to many of the others and of course end up feeling very small.  We all really enjoyed Sequoia and look forward to exploring more National Parks in the future.

We were planning an early departure the next morning and my husband decided to pack our snow boots in the car to save time in the morning.  The next morning we woke up to this...

8 inches.  Only the 3rd snow that season at that low elevation.  Luckily the plows were out in full force but it took my husband about a half hour to get our car out of the parking lot due to crappy minivan traction.  

Once we were on our way and realized that the switchback mountain roads were not icy and treacherous we enjoyed the view.  

The kids thought it was cool to see the snow line as we got lower down.  

We had about a four hour drive to sunny Monterey, arriving in the early afternoon.   

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Stitchfix #2

I got my second fix the other day, did a quick fashion show for the family and we quickly agreed that two pieces were worth keeping - a pair of white pants and a loose colorful top.

I had white pants on my shopping list, so that was an easy sell since they fit well.  The top fit well and I liked the colors so that went right in the closet too.

So what were the no's?  Two piece that I wished had fit and a pair of earrings.  The two pieces that didn't fit were a maxi dress and a button down collared shirt.  The maxi dress was too loose on the top, and the button down shirt was really tight in the sleeves.  The earrings were nice, but I already have something very similar.  

Still they were worthwhile pieces, cause when I went shopping the other day I actually kept my eye out for better fitting versions of what Sidney (my Stitchfix stylist) had sent me.  I also got a jacket similar to the one I had gotten on my first fix.  In the past I probably would have skipped it since there was a matching skirt and I would have assumed it was meant to be a suit, but now I saw it's potential as a seperate to wear with jeans.

Happy with my second fix and looking forward to the next one. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mom's Day Off

Ideally I schedule these once a month, but usually reality kicks in, weekends are busy so it's more sporadic than that.  This past Saturday I booked a 10 am haircut and color (2 1/2 hours of pampering with my long time but not frequent enough hairdresser).  I decided to put on one of my new stitchfix outfits plus Lia Sophia jewelry and my 1154 Lill purse. My hairdresser complimented me on my purse. 

After the haircut I strolled weaved through the mobs of tourists on Michigan Ave to Eataly for lunch.  I guess I made the right choice of outfit cause two different people asked me for directions to/advice on stores.  On the way I stopped into the Loft.  I had stopped in briefly the other day to pick up some sunglasses with Little Man and saw a few things I liked but knew that he didn't have the patience that day for me to try things on.  Today I had all the time I needed and ended up walking out with 5 things and ordered another online later since they didn't have my size in store.

I was a bit overwhelmed by Eataly but ended up deciding on a good Margherita pizza and a glass of white wine the waitress recommended.  I was underwhelmed by the Nutella bar, which I had high hopes for.  I love Nutella and it's a staple in my pantry, but the menu wasn't that different from what we do at home - Nutella on a crepe, spread on crusty bread, between cookies, on a muffin, etc.  

Still a successful day, ending with my husband grilling dinner and watching dozing off during a movie once the kids were in bed. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Making Memories

We're back from spring break - a 10 day California adventure that included Sequoia National Park, Monterey, Disneyland and LA.  It was our first spring break as a family and overall a great trip.  My husband took over 600 pictures with the new camera we got for this trip so I'll post a select few once I have a chance to weed through them.  

When we were in Sequoia we did a short hike and passed an older couple.  As she walked past us she looked at me, smiled and said, "memories".  I'm guessing we reminded her of doing similar things with her kids when they were younger and I realized this trip was all about making memories. 

Little Man Quote of the Day

As we were driving along, he suddenly says, "it wouldn't be good if police officers were allergic to feathers."

I asked, "why not?"

"In case a robber stole a chicken"