Where to Go in Boston

Best friends have an interesting way of knowing your weaknesses. So when Hayley came up with the idea that maybe we should take a weekend trip to Boston in less than a month, she knew I would agree against my alleged budgeting priorities.

And just like she insisted, I didn’t regret it for a second. Here is a list of all of the recommendations that came our way and the places we found on our own. I hope you can cross even more off the list than we did (indicated by the green check marks)!

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Myself and Hayley at the MNUFC game that brought us to Boston. So much fun, and a great way to see Gilette Stadium!

Boston is grouped into neighborhoods, which reminded me of Minneapolis, but they’re much more connected either by their subway (the T) or by foot, so that’s how I’ll group our recommendations:

Beacon Hill/ Back Bay

“Old school Boston where you feel like you went back in time. Tatte Bakery ✅ is here and I would highly recommend for breakfast/coffee.”

“You won’t be disappointed by the architecture and houses there… you can see the Massachusetts State House on the hill. Liberty Hotel has an awesome bar – it used to be an old jail, so very cool interior. Charles Street nearby also has a bunch of cute spots and Acorn Street is iconic. ✅ Boston public gardens & Boston Common, which is beautiful and near Newbury Street (fancy street with lots of shops!) ✅ and Copley Square. ✅  Past the gardens you’re closer to Fenway area, which is where there are a lot of fun dive bars to go out to – even if you aren’t catching a baseball game.”

Our review: This is Hayley’s favorite neighborhood, so we spent quite a bit of time walking through the neighborhoods. I LOVED seeing the green space of the Boston Common and Public Gardens, you can see why it’s a running city.

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North End/ Little Italy

“Any restaurant here will be delicious, make sure to go to modern pastry to get a cannoli. Giacomos is delicious and iconic, but there is always a line so maybe not the best option if you have limited time. Ward 8 is a cool cocktail bar right by TD garden.”

“Start at Faneuil Hall & Quincy Marketplace ✅ and follow the Freedom Trail to a couple of places of interest. ✅ Paul Revere’s house is there ✅ (just walk by, don’t pay to go in) and it’s got the best cannoli place (Mike’s Pastry on Hanover St.) in town. ✅ Cafe Vittoria is a good, old Italian spot with boozy coffee drinks and pastries. A few other good Italian restaurants in the area are Giacamos, Bacco✅ Bricco, Grotto.”

Our review: We spent a lot of time here Friday, and found our way back again on Sunday before leaving. Beacon Hill combined with North End can make you forget you’re in the US, but just a neighborhood over the hustle and bustle of the city returns. I stand by the Mike’s Pastry being a must-do (note: it’s cash only), and dinner is worth prioritizing in this neighborhood!

South End

Gaslight: French place, great for brunch

Beehive: great for brunch or at night, live jazz

(reviews below are as the were given to me)

South End Buttery: my favorite breakfast spot ever. quick serve with good coffee and little breakfast treats, get the biscuit sandwich!

Coppa: my favorite restaurant in boston, delicious italian, super good wine and cozy vibe.

Toro: Spanish tapas right around the corner from my old apartment

Flour: another adorable bakery with the best cookies…a few spots around the city.

Myers and Chang: amazing dim sum brunch and dinner…SO good.

Area 4: fun cocktails on tap and delicious wood fired pizza. there is also one in cambridge.

B&G: great patio and amazing oysters

Yvonne’s: good place for dinner or swanky bar to visit

Our review: Beehive was a highlight of the trip. It may have been because I was very hungry from going to CorePower before. Or it could have been the live jazz that could be enjoyed on both floors, great cocktails, and trying my first shakshuka! Definitely plan on a reservation, but we got a spot at the bar- I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the house. South End is also great for walking around, it felt more spacious and homey.

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Gaslight brunch before the game
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Beehive- live jazz at basement level but speakers are on the main level as well!
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Beehive- shakshuka and Florentine egg’s benedict
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Beehive- coffee cake du jour
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Beehive with the bathroom decor

Seaport

❌Drink: my favorite bar in Boston. they have an amazing burger and play good rap music and don’t have a drink menu, you just tell the bartender what you like and they make you a good cocktail

❌Committee: good drinks and snacks, super chill atmosphere. good for day drinking/hanging.

“The Seaport district has blown up in recent years. It’s kind of the cool hip spot now and there are a lot of fun breweries / bars. You can easily walk or uber from downtown and it’s right on the water. I’d recommend Legal Harborside – it’s a fun bar/restaurant with an awesome rooftop! Harpoon Brewery & Beer Hall is a five minute walk from there, which is an awesome local brewery. Fan Pier Park on the north end of Seaport has a beautiful view of the harbor / city. Envoy Hotel roofdeck at night. James Hook Lobster for lobster rolls.”

Our review: We saved Seaport for going out Saturday night, and it was packed. The two places above with the sassy red X’s I added while we were out are due to both being at capacity and not taking more people. We ran into this at a few more places here. If the description above sounds fun, go to the breweries and restaurants during the day/evening to have better luck than we did!

Cambridge

✅Little Donkey: probably my second favorite boston restaurant…”global tapas” and has a fun atmosphere

Pammy’s: good italian with yummy wine and cocktails

Brick and Mortar: fun cocktail bar with super good drinks

“The other area I’d suggest checking out if you have time or are close by is Cambridge – across the river – to see MIT and Harvard Square (though Harvard is a bit further of a walk). MIT is right on the river and it’s a beautiful campus. Again, only if you have extra time and feel like walking the bridge. It’s a great view of the city! If you do make it to Cambridge, stop at Curio Coffee for the mini waffles.”

Our review: We were staying at the Royal Sonesta on the water in Cambridge, so a lot of our time here was walking to and from our destination, but it was a great central location. Little Donkey was our first stop after landing and it started us off on the best foot. I was underwhelmed by Harvard to be honest, so I wish we had made it over to MIT.

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Impossible burger looking its best
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Little Donkey- the Jerusalem bowl, a calamari salad I don’t remember the name of, patatas bravas, and my burger (all amazing!)
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Hayley looking wicked smaht
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I take class at Corepower in every city I can!

 

p.s. I’m not an oyster fan, but if you are, I was told the good oyster/seafood spots are Neptune Oyster, The Daily Catch, Atlantic Fish Co., Eventide Oyster Co., Island Creek Oyster Co.

Hope this helps! Enjoy Boston!!

What to Expect When You’re Rescuing

This isn’t the first time I’ve written a blog post about a dog, and it won’t be the last. While I am in every way a crazy dog person, what I love most about dogs is the connection and comfort they can provide to people.

So whether you’re with me in the dog lover camp or not, this post is for you. It’s not for Maya- she can’t read.

This is a post I’ve considered for years. I’ve wanted to write about my experience adopting Maya, but sharing my love for this perfect pup meant needing to be brave enough to share the not so perfect.

In a sense, this means breaking the rules of social media- allowing others behind the filtered curtain that our staged photos create. But perfection is the antithesis to scrappy. To be true to myself and this platform, I’m using my 26th birthday and Maya’s 5th birthday as the perfect time to embrace that.

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My boyfriend, Brandon, and I adopted Maya in August 2016. I was truly stopped dead in my tracks on the Secondhand Hounds site when I saw this brown-eyed beauty. We brought home the cuddliest two year-old pointer spaniel mix, originally from Arkansas, who spent 6 months with a loving foster family while she gave birth to 13 puppies and recovered from heart worm.

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While in her foster home, she was with dogs, puppies, kids, and was strategically kept away from the cats.

One of her first weeks with us, Brandon brought Maya to a dog park. She was accosted at the entrance by a dog jumping all over her and nipping at her. The owner was across the park socializing with other owners, not concerned by what her dog was doing.

That experience may be the source of the aggression she now has towards dogs, or it may have triggered a memory from her time as a stray. While navigating this dog aggression isn’t “what we signed up for,” it’s been an epiphany of what unconditional love looks like.

Laurel Braitman— science historian, author of Animal Madness, and owner of a Bernese Mountain dog with a canine compulsive disorder— explains it best in her TED Talk:

“But like with humans, sometimes it’s six months in before you realize that the person that you love has some issues. And most of us do not take the person we’re dating back to the bar where we met them or give them back to the friend that introduced us, or sign them back up on Match.com. We love them anyway, and we stick to it, and that is what I did with my dog.” 

If we knew then what we know now, I don’t think we would have thought Maya was the right dog for us. I don’t think we would have known we were strong enough to take on this challenge, and that one flaw doesn’t stand a chance in outweighing her amazing qualities. 

Since you may not be familiar, I’ll catch you up real quick. From a logistics stand point, she almost never barks, she enjoys napping while we are away at work all day, and she’s embraced her city life by monitoring the streets in her free time.

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My dad and his grand-dog on neighborhood watch

From a personality stand point, I’ll keep it brief. I don’t think any person has stepped foot in our house without Maya cuddling up to them on the couch and giving them more kisses than they bargained for. When we have parties, she embraces whatever outfit I give her and works the room, making sure she spends time with each guest and offers different toys that might catch their fancy. An Aquarius like her mama, hosting is her love language.

We’ve come to accept that while Maya’s great with people and kids; and a lot of hard work has earned her three dog friends, she’s never going to be “normal” around dogs.

After years of reflection, progress, and setbacks, I realized by not sharing this topic, I was isolating people who were experiencing the exact same thing. Worse, I was adding to the idea that everyone who adopts a dog or brings home a puppy will have a completely predictable and ordinary experience.

In reality, this isn’t the norm for everyone and our norms around dogs aren’t normal. If you think of a family dog you grew up with— regardless of your generation— dogs stayed at home…like dogs. But they probably weren’t home alone like a millennial’s 9-5 requires. They were likely with a stay at home parent, or you or a sibling had shifts and responsibilities.

As it’s become increasingly common to adopt a dog or buy a puppy at younger stages in one’s lifewe’ve brought animals into a wide variety of scenarios, and we expect a cookie cutter result. We’re putting pets into public, crowded spaces and assuming they’ll have a blast. Do you know how many people are out there that HATE public, crowded spaces? 

Hover over the photos to meet Maya’s three friends

Whether you bring home a purebred puppy or find your perfect rescue pup, there will also be something about them that is out of your control. Rather than this fact deterring you from making that step, I’m hoping to reiterate the importance of being adaptable and staying curious.

Aspiring dog owners, spend time thinking about how you would work through a variety of situations. Look forward to finding out what they enjoy, rather than deciding what your life will be like together before you even meet them.

If you think of how you try new experiences, it’s rarely diving in head first. Brandon and I tried a salsa class in January, and I am so glad he talked me into buying a single class rather than a 10-pack. Just like Maya, we’re gifted in other ways.

Now, I promised this wasn’t just about dogs, and it’s not. When it comes to navigating dog scenarios with Maya, some days are better than others. Some days, I thought we couldn’t live like this, but 99.9% of the time, I wonder how we ever lived without her.

This experience has made me aware of how often I assume every person I see, especially every person that looks like me, is experiencing the world just as I am.

It’s given me a glimpse, even if it’s only the size of a pinhole in comparison, to the unconditional love parents have for their children and the commitment to adaptability that comes with that. When I see a kid running rampant at the grocery store, I save the passive aggressive glance (that I’ve now received) and remind myself they’re trying their best.

It’s been a huge learning experience in mine and Brandon’s relationship, of how we can work together as a team and stay the course even when it’s tempting to quit. We’ve had to think critically about whether we’re the best home for Maya, and how we can continue ensuring that.


Turns out, off-leash dog parks and dog birthday parties weren’t designed with a family like ours in mind. That’s fine, it’s a reminder of how many people go through their day-to-day with transportation, buildings, and jobs that weren’t designed with them in mind.

These are not meant to be apple-to-apple comparisons; rather, this awareness is what keeps me grounded on the not so perfect days. It’s what instantly makes me grateful for all that I have and all that I can do.

That gratitude is rooted in every day returning to a happy home— mind you, a condo in the city with a communal yard that we avoid— that’s filled with cuddles on the couch, items knocked over by Maya’s tail, cooking with a four legged shadow, endless laughter, and most importantly, the permission to come as you are.

Perfection need not apply.




Dog owners- I have so many tips on what is and isn’t helpful in my situation, training tips that have worked, things that have absolutely not, and so much more. If that’d be interesting for another post, let me know in the comments here or where you found this post!

 

Reverse Goal Setting- Know Your Value Part II

Note: This post will make sense on its own, but is intended as a continuation of Know Your Value

Goal setting is about looking to the future. It’s filled with optimism and the thrill of what’s possible. Reverse goal setting, as I’m calling it, is it’s realist step-sister.

Last December, during our team’s year-end offsite, we were asked to think of a goal or endeavor that didn’t go our way in 2017. Being asked to reflect on the year that’s already passed, let alone zero in on something that wasn’t a highlight, is a hard pill to swallow.bw

This is why morning is my favorite time of day- maybe I’ll set a new record of productivity today, who knows! At night, I have to accept the defeat of the unchecked boxes of my to-do list.

At this point in 2017, I had only been at Comcast for four months and had already experienced and accomplished more than I could have imagined. So what came to mind instead, was a personal unchecked box.

My letter, that I opened this December 2018, asked for me to embrace my blog as a platform to share my perspective and my experiences. To not be shy in sharing my yoga instagram, or hide this hobby of mine.

I reminded myself, “Others need your light and you need to shine.”

So what did this mean for 2018? While the letter was forgotten for most the year, making myself a priority was not. I shared my experiences of training for my first marathon; I invested in a yoga photo shoot; and when I stumbled upon the opportunity to attend the Know Your Value Conference in San Francisco, I threw my own hat into the ring. 

With this Conference came another opportunity to show up. Not only to make the most of each day of the conference, but also to submit another application for the Human Performance Institute (HPI) in Orlando.

This conference was focused on health and fitness, and how your well being outside of work impacts your work performance. Aka everything I could have ever wanted. I was so determined to attend this conference it scared me a bit. It reminded me a lot of when I was so passionate about the cook off competition, that I knew I needed to reel it in.

But at the same time, there’s an invaluable bliss in admitting to yourself and others what you want, and how you will get there. It’s ephemeral- once you know the results of the goal, you can’t relive that state of unknown.

On the last day of the conference, we were sitting through back-to-back presentations of amazing speakers, inspiring entrepreneurs, and courageous story tellers. At one point in this, I realized I needed to come up with a plan- a reverse goal- of what I would do if I found out that night I hadn’t been selected for HPI.

I had tunnel vision for finding out the four winners, and I worried if I wasn’t in that 4% being invited to attend, it would jade my experience of the amazing weekend I had just been exposed to.

I asked myself, “What are you looking to get out of HPI? How will you achieve those things, seek out that knowledge, and create that experience for yourself even if you are not chosen?”

That’s the power in realizing how badly you want something- it makes it pretty difficult to just give it up.

So that night, we were blessed again by Mika Brzezinski’s presence as she did closing remarks for just our group, and announced we’d move onto the 4 HPI winners.

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The first video started, and the owner of it came up and took a photo with Mika, Joe, and the other organizers. I thought, Great! They’re going to play all the videos, and then we get to take a photo! I threw my blazer to the ground so my dress could really shine, and adjusted my hair.

“Okay, and onto our next winner,” Mika announced. Meaning…they’re not going through all the videos…that was actually the first winner, there is only three more. The next three were announced and none of those three were me.

In true optimistic fashion, I stayed close by just in case my video inspired them to take on a fifth participant.

Needless to say that wasn’t the case. This was a hard pill to swallow. The tears coming to my eyes were hard to swallow as well. Reel it in, Reed! No one else is reacting this way. Lose more gracefully!

A good friend from the Twin Cities Region, Melissa, who started at Comcast on the same day as me, talked me off the ledge by telling me it’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to not reel it in, and to have wanted something badly. Without knowing I had set the reverse goal for myself earlier that day, she assured me there would be other ways for me to achieve what I needed. My success didn’t lie just in that weekend in Orlando.

Reviewing the unchecked boxes I had on the last night of the Conference, I asked myself what I could do with the time remaining.

I introduced myself to one of the Executive Coaches assigned to our cohort, a major perk of attending Know Your Value, and he jotted down notes on my business card of what I was interested in.

Moments later, Melissa came over to introduce me to a woman from the Comcast corporate benefits team in Philadelphia, who was interested in creating wellness champions at the Region level. How much my eyes lit up assured her that I was as passionate about this as Melissa had indicated.

The most important boxes I checked that day were the two inspired by the loss I had been so scared of.

These moments took place at the time when I had almost counted myself out. Knowing myself, had I been selected for HPI, I would have zoomed past the executive coach and the benefits woman on my way to celebrate. This news made me pause, and realize I was in control of how to move forward.

I may have not gotten my picture with Mika, but I think this one of me standing on my own shines even more.

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Know Your Value

In early August 2018 I stumbled upon an opportunity on our internal website that made me do a double take.

When deciding to join a larger organization, I had been looking forward to exposure to different people with different experiences, and hoped to take advantage of the resources put into development.

This opportunity far exceeded my expectations-

KYVOnce I read this a few times in a row on the edge of my seat, I jumped to how I could be a part of it. You could nominate someone or you could nominate yourself. I realized I hadn’t heard anyone mention this, which meant two things: it’ll be hard for anyone to nominate me if they don’t know about it AND if no one knows about it, they’ll only have a few applicants and they’ll have to pick me!

I took it as a sign that it called for a video and essays, both of which I love. I was going to nominate myself, and I’d rebrand it to “applying” so it didn’t sound so self serving.

From that day forward, I was ecstatic. I showed my video to anyone who implied the littlest bit of interest. I was no longer embarrassed I nominated myself, I was proud of the story I had to tell.

But if I could go back, I would have shared this with my coworkers from the start. When I found out I was accepted in October, there was a lot to catch them up on- I applied for this months ago, I’ve been nervously awaiting the results, I’ve been accepted, and here’s what it is. No you didn’t forget, I just never told you.

I have the most supportive team, but somehow the idea of sharing this “application” with my peers made me doubt whether they’d believe I deserved to go. Of course, this couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

More so, I wasn’t accepted because no one else applied- our cohort of 100 was chosen from more than 700 applicants.

It wasn’t until the week before the Conference that the weight of that set it. Following a housekeeping/logistics call with our cohort, one participant, Jamie set up a Facebook group for everyone.

Shortly after, another member, Jason, created an event to run the Golden Gate Bridge Friday morning. I was giddy. This was going to be a weekend of being surrounded by motivated, like-minded people, who are eager to connect.

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Friday morning, I met Jason and Katie in the lobby, excited for such a unique morning workout. I didn’t know that this would be one of my favorite memories of the entire weekend.

Jason asked if I wanted to Lyft to the bridge or run, and I confidently said, “Whatever works!” He asked if I was a runner and I explained that I did my first marathon this year. We decided to Lyft as a group, and on the way there, I found out Jason does ultra marathons, and his training schedule (which I pried to find out) includes Tuesday and Thursday half marathons and 30+ miles on Saturday.

He’s also notorious for having burpees for breakfast. Aren’t we all?

Ohh, I thought to myself, this is sinking feeling is how my sculpt students feel when I announce we’ll be doing a 5 minute plank.

As we started off on our run, Jason quickly ran ahead while Katie and I did a run-stop for photos- run workout. Jason would circle back to say hi and then would carry on. It wasn’t out of impatience or to show off, it was a genuine way to have a shared experience.

At this time, Brene Brown’s words came to me as they often do, one of the quotes she often shares and speaks to in her own life is, “Comparison is the thief of Joy,” Theodore Roosevelt.

While I wasn’t judging Katie or Jason, I had this little whisper of self doubt. I had the opportunity to focus on the back of Jason’s “Spartan” shirt running in front of me, or I could take in the scenery and know that just being there, I am enough.

This was the best prelude to the Know Your Value conference I could have imagined. It was an equalizer. Hours after finding out about Katie’s family, what’s on the horizon for her four boys, I found out she’s the Director of Research for the NBCUniversal Amusement Parks.

When is the last time you met someone and the conversation went in that order?

On the way to brunch, Jason mentioned needing to prepare for the wellness panel tomorrow. I didn’t know where to start- I couldn’t wait for this wellness panel! Also you’re on the panel?? No comparison, just joy. Instead, I was grateful for the time I had to connect with these two unique and fascinating individuals, and couldn’t wait to meet more of our cohort.

IMG-0304It’s hard to capture the rest of the weekend into words, which is why I have delayed attempting to do so in a blog post for the last month.

Not all experiences are meant to be reproduced. The words would lack the energy, authenticity, and company that made them come to life.

What I will share, are a few takeaways that stuck out as actionable for anyone-

    • “Come with a plan. That way I don’t have to figure out your life for you.” One of the hosts from the NBCU side shared this with us. It put into perspective the burden you are putting on mentors and your advocates when you haven’t invested the time to actively think about where you would like your career to go. It’s like handing them a half baked cake and asking, where do think we could serve this?

 

    • “The only way you have a case for a raise is to increase your value to the company, no one owes you anything.” The VP of Benefits at Corporate reminded us of this, as he warned the 100 of us can’t go back to work on Monday and ask for a raise. He encouraged us to solve a problem for the business and track the value that adds.

 

  • “To know your Value, you have to know what you value” -Sarah Reed. Just kidding. I’m sure someone said some variation of this in setting up this activity. We were given a list of 100 values and asked to circle the ones that called out to us the most. From there we wrote our top 20 on cards and ordered them, and did the same thing again to bring us to our top 5. Regardless of the role I am in or the team I am on, I know I will add value through Passion, Creativity, Ambition, Mindfulness and Leadership.

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What also made this so difficult to write, is the overwhelming question of where do I go from here? How do I make sure this experience doesn’t become static?

Turns out, I needed to address that first, and wrote a post about moving forward from Know Your Value before writing this one on looking back. Stay tuned!

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2019, filled with opportunity and courage from Knowing Your Value!

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Dia Simms, CEO of Combs Enterprises (and started as his- Diddy’s- assistant)

My First Marathon

One week ago, I was lined up with more than 7,000 runners waiting for the Twin Cities Medtronic Marathon to begin. Some were listening to music, bouncing around, or starting to shed the sweats they layered for the start line. I was doing yoga, per usual, in  the little space I carved out for myself, and couldn’t help be intimidated by the people around me.

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Should I have worn a garbage bag over my torso? (A question I never thought I’d ask) I wondered what they ate for breakfast, or if I should have gotten to the corral sooner.

I was distracted from these thoughts when the emcee asked who was running a marathon for the first time. I threw up my hands and cheered, and tears came to my eyes.

When is the last time you did something for the first time? Whatever doubts I had about the next 26.2 miles were nothing compared to the intrigue of the unknown. I told myself, this is the last time you will run a marathon for the first time. You will compare any future race to this one, so you need to make this experience exactly what you want it to be.

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Whether you’re interested in running a marathon, or want to be the best cheerleader for someone else taking this challenge on, here are my takeaways and some of the best advice I received-

1. My fanny pack of love notes: On one of my long runs, I thought about a gratitude practice I could have during the race. I landed on asking friends and family to write notes with words of encouragement or anything they’d like me to read during the race. It took a bit of vulnerability to request this from others, but I’m so glad I did.

I had just over 26, and was able to open a note each mile. I would ABSOLUTELY recommend it, and can’t imagine this race without that ritual. Each mile marker, instead of thinking about how many more miles I had, I was excited it was time to open another note. I can’t thank my note writers enough!

2. “Just have fun and don’t be nervous, it’s not like you’re going to win!” This was 100 percent accurate, in fact, here’s who won, by literally running twice as fast as me. Truly, my number one goal was to have fun. At some points in my training, this seemed like a very unrealistic goal. But just like how my idea of fun being getting up at 6 am for yoga, or planning a great carpool, I had a blast running this marathon.

I was smiling ear to ear for 90% of it (here’s a hot take- what if the race was only 20 miles??) and because winning was off the table, I paid attention to my pace but not my time. That meant stopping to talk with and take selfies with the amazing cheerleaders that navigated closed roads and big crowds to watch me. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

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Friends, Ingrid and Cyrus, mile 7
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Family friends- Taylor Ann, Owen (who ran out to hug me), and not pictured, Josh! Mile 10
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The soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. Finlay!! The kisses from Lola were a game changer. Mile 13 and Mile 21
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My boyfriend and his wonderful family who visited for the weekend! Mile 17.5
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This put some pep in my step- Meeting our Senator at mile 24!!

3. Be flexible with your training: Enter the race with curiosity rather than a rigid plan. There will be surprises along the way, and this mindset will help you be present to embrace the happy ones— the INCREDIBLY enthusiastic dad that ran alongside his daughter, yelling, “ARE YOU SEEING THIS? LOOK AT HER GO!!!!”— and it will help you patiently assess the uncomfortable ones— like a stomach ache for the first 3 miles from a bigger breakfast.

Rather than reacting to this, I noticed it, and thought logically about where it could be coming from. Throughout training, I didn’t each much before my runs, which was more of a bad habit than best practice. I told myself the ache had to go away as I burned calories with each mile, and it did! Rather than going into a downward spiral about how I shouldn’t have tried something new, I postponed eating any gels until mile 7 because my body had enough fuel. You are always in control.

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Not the end of the race, or even a mile marker, just a really spirited street 🙂

4. “When something starts to hurt or get tired, think about how amazing your elbows feel. Notice the wind blowing in your hair.” This made me laugh when I first received it, and when I opened it mid-race. I can tell you one thing about a marathon, your elbows will not fail you.

I often tell my yoga students to notice everything they are doing, the space and strength they are creating, because it’s so easy to notice what we can’t do. That’s what I love about this- there is beauty in every moment.

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I loved this view crossing the bridge from Minneapolis to St. Paul

5. Lastly, carry a mantra with you. This was great advice from another yoga teacher, and I have another friend to thank for the mantra I chose. Inspired by Irene Fernando’s TedTalk, I borrowed the phrase “why not me?” If 7,000 runners are going to finish this race, why not me? If someone is going to make it up this hill, why not me? If there’s going to be someone that has fun for 26.2 miles, why can’t that person be me?

Rather than stemming from competition, this mantra reminded me that all of the strength, endurance, focus, positivity, and passion I needed to complete this goal was already within me. P.s. this question drives Irene to take on amazing challenges and make an impact in her community- you can learn more here.

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If you said encouraging words once, if you tracked my number on the race app, or followed me around the Cities on race day, thank you for being a part of this journey. While I can’t run a marathon for the first time again, I’d be very surprised if it was my last.

Sweet and Spicy Cauliflower Wings

One year ago, I was less than a month into my new job at Comcast, when it was time for an end of summer potluck/cook off. I rarely have the chance to compete in things that do not require hand-eye coordination or an understanding of basic organized sports.

After years of guessing my way through football and March madness brackets, here was a competition I actually had the skill set for. My confidence paid off, and I made the italian summer salad, Panzanella, and walked away with the appetizer trophy.

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So Long Summer Cook-Off 2017

This year, my confidence was a given. I had gotten used to seeing that beautiful trophy on my desk, and explaining to others how I became the proud owner. I knew I needed to enter the appetizer category again, so I could win and keep the travelling trophy.

I landed on cauliflower wings being my golden ticket. They’re a vegetarian, paleo, gluten free spin on a fall favorite (#trendy), and they would catch people’s eye. The more people who taste my dish, the more that can vote for me.  IMG_1126

As you may know from this blog, my recipes are scrappy. The recipes are made up, the dishes often are as well, and game-time decisions are rooted in what I happen to have in the pantry.

With so much on the line, however, I was motivated to do multiple trial batches of cauliflower wings. Finding recipes from all different trusted sources, I looked for the commonalities and tested out the differences. I feel confident that this recipe is the best cauliflower wing recipe out there. There, I said it.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1-2 heads of cauliflower (I used 1.5 for the tray you see above)
  • 1 bag of Mill’s almond flour, I probably used 2 cups
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 2 tbsp old bay seasoning or paprika, garlic powder, and salt/pepper
  • 2 cups Frank’s buffalo sauce
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/8 cup butter (optional)
  • Baking sheet with tin foil and olive oil/cooking spray

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Chop cauliflower into florets– think about what size you want the “wings” to be
  • Pour 2 cups almond flour into separate bowl and mix in seasoning
  • Beat eggs in a separate bowl (if you’re not sure how many wings you’ll be making you can start with less and repeat the almond flour and egg steps)
  • Set up baking sheet with tin foil and lightly cover it with olive oil or cooking spray. This is an important best practice to keep the “breading” on the cauliflower.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Moving one piece at a time, dunk cauliflower floret in the egg and then roll in it the almond flour. Many other recipes said to put the almond flour in a bag and toss the florets in it until they are COVERED with flour. Absolutely not. Roll it lightly but cover most the surface.
  • Place on *lightly oiled* baking sheet, and repeat until full.
  • Bake at 425 for 25 minutes, then flip each piece *carefully to not remove breading* and bake for another 20 minutes. Another unique detail here vs. others is that I insist on not adding the sauce until all baking is complete.
  • While the wings are baking, mix your sweet and spicy buffalo sauce- Frank’s buffalo sauce (not the spicy buffalo, I made that mistake), agave nectar, and sesame oil. Add melted butter if a creamy texture is desired and there’s no dietary restrictions against it.
  • Once wings are finished baking, decide how much sauce you would like to have. For saucier texture and strong flavor, dunk each piece quickly in sauce and set back onto tray. For a more controlled approach, use a spoon to do a heavy drizzle over the wings.
  • Note: If you are not serving these on the same day as baking, i.e. potluck, do not apply sauce until time of serving and keep wings in Tupperwares, not refrigerated.

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And for all of you wondering, the buzz for the cauliflower wings was unprecedented. When it came time to collect votes, I anxiously awaited the results while trying to pretend I didn’t care at all; as if, perhaps, this was just an office potluck.

They announced the appetizer category was tied. Truly I was crushed. If assuming mine was one of the appetizers tied for first, how in the world did I tie? I wanted to win by a landslide. Unanimous. Maybe it’s good I’m not eligible for many competitions after all.

After wrangling a few more taste testers, the final results came in. The chef of the Reuben meatballs was the new proud owner of the appetizer trophy. I smiled and applauded, just as I learned from all the awards shows. It was confirmed later that I was the other dish originally tied.

Truthfully, it took hours, some would say days, to accept this loss. I cleaned and organized my desk with a more minimalist look and feel, and haven’t noticed the absence of the trophy. As ridiculous as it sounds, I still would have rather gave my heart and soul into a silly competition and still not win, than be too cool or reserved to let myself get swept away at all. I counted my success in the number of requests for this recipe, and awarded myself an A+ for effort. Take this recipe and run with it, you’ve got nothing to lose.

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Mind Tricks for Marathon Training

Do you even blog if you don’t have a “tips and tricks” title? While something so cliche pains me, I have found that a large part of my training has been tricking myself to rethink and reframe the task at hand.

Here are some tips whether you’re training for a race (of any distance) or if you’re still in the beginning steps of Couch to 5K 😉
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Trust your planning:

As I’ve mentioned before, people love to do math for marathon runners. I’ve often got the response to new mileage accomplishments, “Wow, and you are still going to have X miles after that!”

It’s important to take these comments with grace, and trust that you’re planning has you on the right track. Once I chose a training schedule, I made events on my google calendar for every Saturday leading up to the race with the mileage I’d be running. This allowed me to plan around obstacles, like weddings and work events, months ahead of time rather than making an excuse week of.

I also added month countdowns for every 7th of the month. Having the events “MM 4 MONTHS AWAY!” helped me keep my training top of mind, but also allowed me to relax as I remembered I had months of training to go.

Count up rather than down:

I understand saying I’m going for a 14 mile run doesn’t sound very appealing, I tend to feel the same. Rather than letting this goal daunt me, I set out on my run saying instead, “I’m going to run 7 miles and then I’ll run home.” As I’ve mentioned, being stranded 7 miles away from home makes it very motivating to keep the run going.

As I reach miles throughout, I don’t focus on how many miles I’ve accomplished, not how many miles I have remaining. If I slip up, I come back to the big picture- “I’ve only done four miles, I have 14 left to go! Well…I’m running 18 miles today and I’m done with 4.”

Lastly, in my 20 mile run last week, I split up the mileage in my mind to think, I just need to run 5 miles 4 times. At each 5 mile mark I would stop for a quick stretch (less than a minute) or refill my water. Running 20 miles always sounded daunting to me, and kind of still does, but this trick makes it much more manageable.

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Supplement your running
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A big goal when starting marathon training was to not hate running by the end of it. Just above that goal was my hope to not get injured. I let these two work together by not running more than I absolutely needed to. This meant having a loose interpretation of training schedules, focusing on quality instead of quantity.

Outside of my long runs on Saturdays, I’ve kept my 6 am yoga and yoga sculpt practice in my routine, but have added in 1-2 days of running a week. One of those days is a 5-8 mile run outside, and the other is spent at FlyFeet Running in downtown Minneapolis to combine sprint work and strength training.

To be honest, I haven’t seen any training schedules recommend this (unless we can now count this blog post as an expert opinion). But I’ve felt better after my 18 and 20 mile runs than I did after any of half marathons, so something must be working!

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In my yoga class this morning, I shared the idea of cautious curiosity. We were building on dancer (above) to king dancer pose, and later had more opportunity for backbends of bridge and wheel. “Recognize what your body has already done,” I shared, “This might be the time to explore a bigger expression, because you’ve been building to it. Or this might be the time to back off, because you’ve already asked enough.”

This is what I’ve kept in mind with my training. Yes, I should be able to run X amount of miles on a given day because I’ve been working towards this, but I must remain curious and give my body the chance to weigh in.

On race day, this might be stopping throughout for short breaks or walking. If it does, I’ll be truly present, take in the sights, and say hi to any familiar faces 🙂 If you’d like to be there in spirit, comment below with a message you’d like me to see. I’ll be opening a different message each mile to remember the amazing crew I have with me at all times!