Life is a Zoo…2018 is Now Open for Business

So apparently New Year’s Resolutions are supposed to be made (some article I read last year) however I’m going with 2018 Goals, as opposed to resolutions. For me moving forward requires some reflection on the past.

It has been a rough end to the year with the loss of my little fur-friend. I thought I was so prepared to let her go and while I know it was the right decision (at 15yrs and with an enlarged heart, it was her time) it has been a process. I feel like I lost a little piece of my heart. [And that is all I have to say about that – Forest Gump]

There are several other events that I could have done without coming to fruition at the year end. So it was important that I look back over the events of the past year if for nothing other than to not judge 2017 on just the last two months of the year.

The Good Stuff (in no particular order)

  • I spent time in Texas with friends

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  • A work trip to Mexico

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  • The road trip of all road trips from FL to Seattle

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  • Fantastic conference in NOLA with two amazing gal pals

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  • Some great workouts (inclusive of podium finish at a comp) and improvements in the lifting department
  • Progressed with the PhD
  • I’m a godmother/aunt to the most beautiful little girl

2018 Goals

  • Finish my PhD – Spring 2018 – even if it damn near kills me
  • Secure a job in academia for a Fall 2018 start
  • Stay strong
  • Don’t be a disappointment
  • No matter what, no matter where – don’t forget to find the positive and always keep a smile

That pretty much sums it up.

So here is to 2018 and remember…

“If you are confident enough, every zoo is a petting zoo.” – Author Unknown

In Memory of Ruby: 2002-2017

HRH Ruby Tuesday Templeton

Rest in Love little girl

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Go West…Drive tourism in action

When one of the most important people in your life decides to take a job across the country (literally 3,350 miles in the opposite direction of you), it is only logical to volunteer as co-pilot for the journey.

Go West Young Man

The trip went something like this: Day 1: Orlando, FL to Metropolis, IL (we saw Superman); Day 2: IL to Osage City, KS (crossed the Mississippi!); Day 3: KS to Estes Park, CO (Highly recommend the Silver Moon Inn, Claire’s for breakfast, and Estes Park Crossfit – Rocky Mountain National Park was amazing, from what little we saw due to weather); Day 4: CO to Rock Springs, WY (WY has the most impressive visitor center I’ve seen); Day 5: WY to Boise, ID (saw the 1st JC Penny store in Kemmer, WY before a stop at Fossil Butte National Monument to interview park ranger, must go back and hike); Day 6: ID to Seattle, WA (Cowboy Donuts was most excellent and “You have reached your final destination”).

Along the way we ate protein bars, sunflower seeds, a giant bag of Twizzlers (only 150 calories per 4!), drank shitty gas station coffee and listened to Disney, Glee, Hamilton, and lots of This American Life, which if you have never listened to I recommend you do. We also talked about random things, bitched at traffic, and had a general good time. I managed to keep up with my workouts, even if it meant getting up at 5am to do so. I also only logged two nap sessions during the 6 days of driving (this is major since I typically pass out approximately 30min into a journey), and never got us lost (I may or may not have almost missed a turn but I made up for it by reading all the signs as if the pilot couldn’t see them, which he could but it made me feel better about my momentary failures as co-pilot).

Fossil Butte National Monument

For me the biggest standout was watching the country change. It reinforced how much I love traveling and the beauty in the diversity of landscape, wildlife, plant life, people, politics and culture. I get to live in a beautiful country and this trip really helped remind me of that.

Seattle was a fun city to explore. Coffee shops every six stores, the Starbucks of all Starbucks (aka Starbucks Roastery – and even monks visit this location so it has to be good!), great places to eat, dog friendly, and super walkable.

The food scene was fantastic: Cheese, Meats, Bread (not your every day grilled cheese sandwhich); Lunchbox Laboratory (try a boozy shake!); Pho In & Out (the service was FANTASTIC and the pho on point); every coffee house ever (just do them all); Sweet Iron Waffle Bar (have a sweet and savory waffle); Japonessa Sushi Cocina (I recommend going for happy hour – possibly the best sushi I’ve ever had); The Pink Door (an experience that I strongly recommend – check the entertainment schedule – the Pink Door Lasagna and Bolognese were amazing); Elliot’s Oyster House (great location on the Pier – great spot to watch the sunset – again I recommend happy hour).

I also utilized Uber Eats while in Seattle. Let me tell you how utterly overwhelming it was to decide what to order…on one occasion I gave up and just had a protein shake, the decision was more than my little brain could handle.

What we did: When you visit friends in a place you have never been, typically you want to experience all the tourist things that make your friends cringe. The beauty of this trip was that we were really both tourists and as such visited the following:

  • Space Needle (go up, come down, and marvel at the view – if you are into kettle corn, it smelled amazing – I just drooled over the smell b/c I’m allergic and 550 feet up isn’t really the place for an allergy attack).
  • Museum of Pop Culture – super awesome, the exhibits change, but we saw: Star Trek, Jim Henson, Horror Movies, Fantasy, and Sound (where you get to play with instruments!).
  • The Space Needle and MoPOP sit in the complex that once held the World Fair (Aka Century 21 Exposition) – take time to explore the entire area, it is worth it!
  • Pike’s Place Market – and Yes we saw the dude’s throw the fish! The market is three levels and is visited by both tourists and locals alike – and rose kale seems to be the plant of choice in floral arrangements.
  • Walk and explore – the other parts of the stay really was just walking and exploring. I stopped in every coffee shop possible and some random stores that looked interesting.
  • Foundations Crossfit is the place to drop in – for you workout buffs. I did the OLY classes and the coaching was excellent. They are very friendly and welcoming and I highly recommend them for a drop in of OLY, Powerlifting, or Crossfit classes.
  • What we did NOT do: Due to an unusually early snowfall (it snowed in the city – and apparently that is apocalyptic) we did not get to visit Mt Rainier or Olympic National Parks. The road conditions less than ideal and a pass was closed – I may or may not have almost cried…Mother Nature apparently has something against my dissertation (it’s on electric vehicles and sustainability in the national parks, which is totally ‘save the earth’ so I’m confused – but such is life!) We also didn’t take a water taxi across to Alki Beach or go to the Aquarium (mainly b/c I overslept that day and decided to do school work instead).

As a whole on this trip, I found the people to be polite and friendly. Sure there were some places that had a grouch but really most people were helpful and happy to be of service.

Would I do the trip again? Absolutely! I don’t regret sitting in a car for 6 days at all (my legs and hips may argue that point but getting old is rough!) – I can honestly say that I never once was ‘bored’. There were some moments of ‘road weary’ but that comes with the territory. Overall, the time that I got to spend with my friend is really what I treasure. Life is what you make of it…your journey is all in your perspective on life. See the beautiful around you, make your own laughter, treasure the memories and the times you get to spend with those you love.

Selfies!

Selfies were taken throughout the journey #earthpartner

Take a Risk…Have an Experience

I knew nothing about grid league until recently. The newly formed Orlando Aces, part of the Florida Grid League, had two open tryouts. Players specialize in body weight movements (they do the ‘sexy’ stuff like muscle ups and hand stand pushups), barbell specialists (moving lotsa weight hella fast), and utility players (the badasses that can do everything).

For the first combine (aka tryout), I was able to grab clicks and watch the excitement (I loved every moment of it!). As to the second combine… after a little push, a shove, some subtle-not-so-sublet hints, and a tad bit of bullying, I tried out this week as a barbell specialist.

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Did I make the team? NO! Not even close lol. The girls that did were spectacular and super impressive. What did happen? Well, I had a great time and I surprised myself with how I did do. To be VERY clear, I had zero expectations and after seeing the girls that were moving the weight around I knew I was definitely not making the cut. However, having only practiced cycling the heavier weight for a week – I was VERY happy with my performance. This did reaffirm that I love moving weight around, however for now I’m going to focus on OLY lifts.

Stepping outside of your comfort zone isn’t easy, however the trick is to just have fun. Embrace the uncomfortable and don’t wind yourself up so tight that you loose sight of the reason you pushed yourself in the first place.

Personally, I think the Aces are going to do well (fine I’m biased!). They have the all the ingredients for success: sound vision, strong leadership, key support staff, and a solid, well rounded team. Most of all, they have a group of coaches who understand how to push athletes to work hard yet have a blast. All while making sure that all the wheels are turning towards success.

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One of the best parts for me was being able to support some super friends/athletes, throw down with some amazing athletes, get coaching advice from pros, and have a great time with friends.

To the entire organization I wish only the best…give em’ hell and remember to enjoy the experience!

 

Discover Riviera Maya

Overview

Co-escourting a group trip to Mexico, specifically Puerto Morelos, led to my first extended stay in the country (previously I’d only visited on a cruise ship).  Prior to departure friends and family expressed their concerns to safety and security issues in traveling to Mexico. In the 5 days there, both on the resort and on the excursion, I can truly say that I never once felt “unsafe”. Frankly, I felt more uncomfortable, and distinctly less safe, while traveling in Jamaica, Barbados, and St. Lucia than I did during my time in Riviera Maya. Granted, I was in a highly tourist area, and maybe I’m more comfortable a traveler than I was several years ago.

Resort/Length of Stay: H10 Hotels – Ocean Coral & Turquesa/5days, 4nights,

Excursions: Isla Mujeres

Temperature: 80s and breezy

Lows

There were some lows to the stay, that I wasn’t expecting, mainly with the resort. The layout of the resort was nice and it was low season so not crowded. As a whole the service level was less than impressive (some of the bartenders were downright rude…not sure where they left their smiles at). Being in the service industry, I’m typically one to tip – however this trip no one earned a tip and even when I watched friends tip (and sometimes heavy) it didn’t make any difference in level of service. The food was beyond disappointing, the quality, the variety…it was akin to cheap fast food. The Mexican restaurant on property was really really bad – even the worst of “Mexican” restaurants in the states was better than what was on property. I wasn’t expecting it to be completely authentic (it is a tourist resort after all), however I was surprised at how “watered-down”  the quality of food was. Water pressure in the room was sad, and there was no hot water … Finally, pay attention to the fine print. It is an all-inclusive, however if you want to utilize room service make sure it is during the posted hours or you will be charged (and be sure you have a room service menu in your room … one that wasn’t run off a copy machine that was running out of toner).

The decor of the resort overall was marginal and very random (keep an eye out for Spiderman, Michael Jordan, and Elvis and Marilyn statues). The resort is rated as a 5star, and I’d give it 4stars at best.

Highs

Now that we got the unpleasantness out of the way. Mike’s coffee shop is the best thing happening on the resort … open from 8am till 10pm you can get all the espresso, machiattos, cappuccinos, hot teas, etc that your little heart desires (and I did!). The hibachi restaurant was the best food hands down on the resort – fresh, well flavored and a good show. The breakfast buffet was decent – go to the omelet station …eat the bread (it is all fresh and good). The rooms are a good size and the bathrooms are roomy. If you aren’t 100% comfortable with your travel companion then I’d recommend getting comfortable or booking two rooms – the bathroom set up isn’t for everyone as there are doors on the toilet and shower but not the rest of the bathroom. The nightly entertainment was decent – there was a good show that showed the culture of Mexico in dance and traditional costumes, that was well done. The group services staff was excellent – anything needed in regards to handling the group (i.e. convention room set up, handling rooming issues, etc..was all handled very professionally). Also, hidden gem – hammocks! Find them and take a nap. The gym was also good – got in a good workout – dumbbells, treadmills, elliptical, bikes, barbells, and a circuit machine.

The excursion was a catamaran trip to Isla Mujeres – it was fun and I enjoyed it. The downside was there wasn’t nearly enough time snorkeling or stand-up paddle boarding but the mid-day sailing did allow you to see the sunset and enjoy a cool evening breeze on the sail back to dock – and the crew was exceptional.

I enjoyed my time on the beach, by the pool, in the ocean, and in the hammock. Now back to the ‘real world’.

p.s. I’ve been VERY impressed with Detroit International Airport. The entire set-up here is efficient and service oriented. I’m a fan!

NOLA – Where life is buzzing all around

I do enjoy when academic conferences are held in exciting locations (all part of getting attendance numbers up). The conference this year was in New Orleans! Two of my wonderful girlfriends joined me for a couple days of exploration, food, music, and shenanigans.

Food ReCap

Galliano: By far the best meal/service combination I had the entire trip and in the top 5 of all time. The service from start to finish was impeccable, with everyone from management to waitstaff making sure that the meal was good, dishes were cleared, and drinks were refilled. I had the Crawfish Pasta Monica, a good portion with chunks of crawfish tails – the toasted cheese bread was a bit too toasted otherwise a dish to make the tastebuds tingle. The blackened drum is a must try and the southern fried chicken was most excellent. Dessert changes each night so ask your server for their recommendation.

Cafe du Monde: You can’t go to New Orleans and not dine at this classic establishment. However, if you don’t NEED to wait in line at the main shop then I recommend the location in the Riverwalk mall – shorter lines same great taste. The coffee was excellent but the beignets were a bit more dough-y than I recalled. Still heaven in a bite!

Drago’s: All you need to order is 1 dozen charbroiled oysters – that is all. Use the bread to soak up the buttery, parmesan goodness and enjoy every bite. As my sister said “It’s a religion”. I did have a shrimp po boy – but I really wasn’t all that impressed – the bread was far too crusty.

Mulate’s: Nightly Cajun music – but don’t get there too late because the band will wrap up  on schedule. Good location for a drink and some dessert while indulging in music. Right across the street from Galliano.

Morning Call Coffee Stand: This 24-hour joint serves coffee and beignets with a throwback flare. The beignets were probably my favorite of those tasted on the trip. This joint is located in New Orleans City Park – so make a day out of visiting botanical gardens, museum of art and sculpture garden, boating, biking, and much more.

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Spitfire Coffee: Pay attention or you will walk right past it. I had the cortado and it was lovely.

Adolfo’s: Located on Frenchman street this was the perfect place to have an end of trip dinner. Cash only and limited seating, it is well worth it to get there early. Have some drinks downstairs while you wait, or walk around the Art Market and check out local wares (I did some shopping for myself and for Christmas!).

Other Happenings 

Aside from eating our way to a food coma – which by walking 14 miles over 2.5-3 days we subsequently nulled out the caloric intake – there was also time to discover what the city had to offer. French quarter fest was in full swing for the weekend, so there was plenty of music and festivities to partake in. I’d been to Bourbon Street before, so I skipped that and instead enjoyed the music offerings of Frenchman Street. Club after club with each one having better music than the last – pop in and out and dance yourself to a good time.

We opted for a tour of the city and really learned a lot about the history of New Orleans, the layout of the city, its people, and life outside of tourist-land.

To commemorate the trip…well we all may have stopped into Electric Ladyland...I can only speak for myself when I say that Chris is a great artist and I’m very happy with fresh pineapple inked onto my wrist.

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Overall, I have to say that I left NOLA with a great impression and would absolutely go back. The city has experienced a rebirth since Katrina. The people were friendly and, as a city, I experienced some of the best hospitality overall that I have ever experienced. There is a zest for life that can be tasted in the food and felt in the music…as they say in New Orleans “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Pictures are worth thousands of words…but here is a brief recap of my trip to Texas City and Austin (apart from the pictures).

Texas City

A cute little spot. Friday night is food truck night and often there is live music. Da Daiquiri Spot is within walking distance – I didn’t get the chance to try it but it’s on my to-do list next time I’m in town.

Shipley Do-Nuts: Located across TX, AL, AR, MS, and LA- they have good coffee, these things called kolaches (basically an oversized pig-in-blanket), and some yummy donuts – indulge and love your life.

Taqueria El Jaliciense: A Mexican joint that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I was in search for a breakfast burrito, this one was sub-par.

The Showboat Pavilion:  A Texas City landmark, this building was originally a theatre built in 1942. It is now an event venue and was the location of a beautiful wedding (the entire reason I was in Texas City).

Galveston

A Sunday drive away from Texas City, Galveston was a great spot for lunch and a drive. It was an overcast day and the water was rough. A quiet day in a town that typically is bustling with tourist activity.

The Spot: Lunch was at The Spot, a 5-venue eatery, on Galveston Island. I was very excited to have the fried pickles (fried in a flour batter!) and a big, juicy burger. The pina colada is served in a coconut and had rave reviews, as did the shrimp kisses (bacon wrapped, cheese stuffed shrimp). Apparently our party lucked out and there wasn’t a long wait – recommend a scoop of butter pecan or Oreo ice cream as a way to finish off the meal while you walk along the sidewalk.

Austin, Texas: Keeping it Weird

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A great town filled with coffee shops, barbecue joints, food trucks and an eclectic flavor. Great time exploring the area and hanging out with friends.

The Buzz Mill: An interesting joint, where hipster meets lumber sexual but the patio is dog friendly! Ask the barista for suggestions as the staff is very helpful. I didn’t try the elixirs but the menu looked very interesting and worth trying!

South Congress Cafe: A great spot for brunch – don’t let the exterior fool you, this seemingly hole-in-the-wall has style and class. I had the goat cheese and bacon omelet with an adult iced pumpkin spiced latte. The service was good and the food most excellent.

Terry Black’s Barbecue: The first of two BBQ joints I tried. The coleslaw was amazing, the smoked turkey divine. The brisket was good but I would recommend getting it dry not moist, hard pass on the mac-n-cheese (very little flavor). Grab some seasoning rub for the trip home.

Chi’Lantro:  When Korean BBQ meets Chipotle you get Chi’Lantro. Pick a meat, decide if you want a bowl, salad, or burrito, and then add the toppings. Solid 3stars and the beverage selection has some great non-high fructose corn syrup alternatives!

Picnik Coffee: Drink the butter coffee. Don’t ask questions, just do it.

La Barbecue:  Wait in line and jam to the music. Skip the pulled pork and chipotle coleslaw and go straight for the beef rib and brisket. That is really all you need to know. O, get there early.

Figure8 Coffee Purveyors: Cute spot with outside tables. Get some caffeination and enjoy sitting in the sunshine – the chocolate chip cookie hit the spot.

After you have stuffed yourself to the brim, go for a drive, walk along the river, do some shopping on South Congress street (cute shops with some unique items) and drop into Crossfit Central Downtown – the Misfits class with Nader is where the pain-cave is at. Make sure to give the pup-patrol some loving as they are the sweetest welcoming crew ever.

 

When Winter Comes…

Some days you take pictures of random people competing at events…

Yesterday, at War on Wall Street, 2017 Winter Games, I got to take pictures of my family, leaving everything they had on the floor in the name of competition.

Crossfit is about community. There is nothing more amazing than watching people from all walks of life, different boxes, and different athletic backgrounds all come together.

It was/is an honor to support and cheer for these amazingly awesome people. They mean more to me than they will ever realize.

Here are 10 of my fav shots…