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five for friday.

2 May

Happy almost weekend everyone!  I just got back from a speedy 3.5 mile run with Back on My Feet and I wanted to share a few things I’m loving this week before I log some hours in the library today.  But first, you should all head over to my friend Melissa‘s blog The Valentine RD to check out my guest post about balancing law school and fitness!

Here’s 5 things I’m loving on this (hot) Friday…


unnamedI have been loving seeing the sun come up during my morning runs with Back on My Feet.  This one was taken on the North Broadway Bridge, near the entrance to Elysian Park.


This morning we ran 3.5 miles along Alameda — I love Union Station so I had to take a picture.


photo 1

OBVIOUSLY this is hanging in my kitchen.  Who doesn’t love a casual Kendrick Lamar reference (and kale)?



I am really enjoying this challenge so far — the workouts are a nice little boost after what I am already doing.  More than that, though I am LOVING getting text messages like the one below from Jenn.

photo 3


So proud of her!

(4) SAMIRA’S CLOSET {and following it on Instagram} 

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 7.09.04 AM


I love a clothing boutique downtown (6th and Hill for you locals) called Samira’s Closet.   I’ve purchased a few things from Samira’s shop over the last year.  The other day, I found what I thought was the perfect dress for graduation, but when I came home to try it on again, the zipper broke!  They allowed me to return it, and when I came back I found an even better dress, PERFECT for a wedding I am going to this weekend. (Sometimes I am pretty awful at being a girl — and leaving “big occasion” dress shopping until the last minute falls into that category).

I love Samira’s Closet, but I also really love following the store on Instagram.  I think it is such smart/unique utilization of social media.  I saw the dress I ended up buying on Instagram earlier in the day and walked in and knew I had to try it on!

(5) Wedding Weekend Anticipation! 


Me, Whitney, Kelsey, and Hayley at our high school grad night, June 2006.

This weekend is my friend Kelsey’s wedding!! I have known Kelsey since we were freshman in high school running cross country.  She was the fastest girl in our grade and I remember being in such awe of her athletic ability!  Over the years we became friends and I am so excited to see her tie the knot on Saturday to Drew, and to celebrate with Whitney and Hayley as well.  And, now that I have something to wear the real excitement can begin!


What’s one thing you’re loving right now? 



guest post: know your numbers.

18 Dec

Hi everyone! As you may know, I am participating in the blog challenge #Elf4Health.  Today’s challenge is to “share your expertise” so I thought a guest post swap would work well for that.


Samalee Allen, who blogs over @ Life from the Center of the Pie, is sharing her expertise on my little corner of the web and it’s all about debunking cholesterol numbers (and I am guest posting for her about how to become a spin instructor)

Without further ado, here’s Samalee…

“Ms. Allen?”


“I have the results of your recent blood work. All is normal.”


“Yes. Have a nice day.”

”WAIT! I need to know what those numbers are.”

“Would you understand what those numbers meant, if I told you?”

“Yes! See, I’ve been working really hard for a long time and want to know if it paid off.”

“Your total Cholesterol is 177 and your TSH is 1.96.”


When you’ve struggled with with lousy, high cholesterol all of your adult life…

When 1/3 of your momma’s heart doesn’t work due to a major heart attack…

When the average weight for everyone on the maternal-side of your family is at 200+ lbs…

When you’re genetically predisposed to high cholesterol…

When your grandmother and bio-dad died of heart disease…

…you want to know your numbers!

Let’s Break Down the Numbers

know-your-numbers numbers

source: Google Images

Cholesterol is a fatty substance manufactured by our liver. Lipoproteins are fat and protein vehicles that transport Cholesterol. There are several kinds of vehicles, but we’ll keep to the 2 major types everybody talks about, LDL and HDL.

LDL (low-density Lipoprotein) – the wheelbarrow transporting cholesterol to the vessels and arteries.

HDL (high-density Lipoprotein) – the Amtrak transporting cholesterol out of the body

An easy way to remember which is which:

LDL = “Lousy”-density Lipoprotein (eL-evating the risk for heart attack)

HDL = “Healthy”-density Lipoprotein (hauling-out the risk for heart attack)

The average healthy person should have an LDL of <200, even better to have <130. For those who have risk factors (genetics, heart disease, obesity, smoking, hypothyroidism, fatty diet and an inactive lifestyle), the good doctors desire to push the LDL numbers down below 100. This is really a hard feat without the help of meds, nutrition and fitness working together. The target HDL of an average healthy person is >60. If the HDL number is lower, this increases the risk for heart attack.

My Experience with the Numbers

My total Cholesterol has been over 260 since my early twenties when it was tested. I am genetically predisposed for high cholesterol, but helped to keep it high with my poor nutritional choices. And, at some point, my thyroid decided to stop functioning efficiently. The thyroid aids in ushering out the LDL. Mine wasn’t doing it’s job. So, three years ago I started taking Levothyroxine (Synthroid) to keep my thyroid active and hoping to bring both thyroid and LDL numbers down. Still, the numbers remained unhealthily high.

When the doctor decided to ward off the potential for a heart attack, he prescribed Atorvastatin (Lipitor) and I cried like a baby. I felt like a failure and a geriatric. I now refer to my meds as “vitamins.” Again, there was little change in the LDL numbers, even while being semi-active.

December 1, 2012, through prayer I felt like God was encouraging me to go on a partial fast eating only fruits, veggies, nuts and whole grains while avoiding animal proteins and sugar. Not easy for a couple of weeks. Then, on December 18, my husband suffered a heart attack…about the time of the arrival of my Forks Over Knives cookbook. I watched the documentary by the same name in the Critical Care Unit at Vanderbilt Hospital as Terry slept.

The church where we attend was focusing on a 40-Day Prayer Challenge. One of my prayer “seeds” is to receive healing from this lifelong battle with lousy, high LDL…even if God has me work for it!

Jan 2010: Total Cholesterol 336, LDL 250, TSH 11.45

Mar 2010: Total Cholesterol 313, LDL 225, TSH 6.18

May 2011: Total Cholesterol 339, LDL 256, TSH 3.47

Sep 2011: Total Cholesterol 250, LDL 173, TSH 6.12

Feb 2012: Total Cholesterol 207, LDL 130, TSH .92

Mar 2013: Total Cholesterol 177, LDL 98, TSH 1.96

So, what brought my numbers down?

I am convinced that without spiritual intervention, my numbers wouldn’t have changed so dramatically. I continue to pursue healthy, nutritional choices with plant-based foods on a daily basis and consuming meat only once-per-month. Consistently, my fitness includes 2-3 hours of cardio (including Zumba), each week, and recently adding light weight training. And, I still take my “vitamins.” It is my prayer to be taken off the cholesterol drug although my age (50 in June) and the odds are against it. I believe in God’s odds as my prayers are being answered and my numbers finally reflect a change!

Thanks, Samalee! Go check out her blog — Life from the Center of the Pie.

Let me know — what are YOU and “expert” at? 

v’s hasta luego.

12 Jan

Nebraska, Texas and Iowa are all restaurants here but the only place I’ve seen the word “Arizona” is on the front-page of the local newspapers. So far from home, we were alerted to the horrifying news by way of G’s Twitter feed within hours of the shooting while holed up for the night at our hotel not far from the foot of Alhambra, the 14th century Moorish castle built in Granada.

We had a four-star location and no-star access to our hotel room on a cobblestone street. To gain access to our “loft room,” we had to climb one of those winding staircases that are advertised for $495 at the back of the New Yorker. Every time we finagled the door open to the minuscule hallway, all I could do was laugh.

Our one full day in Granada was near perfect, on both tourist and weather fronts. We toured the Alhambra in the morning and were taken with the history and the geometric exactness of the architecture and gardens. The influence of other cultures, including Moroccan and Moorish, is evident and the people as a whole seem friendlier. Maybe it’s because there are so many tourists there even the nuns post public signs in English.

One of my best meals in Spain was at a restaurant called “Kebab King,” where G and I split a kebab, which is more like a stuffed sandwich than anything resembling a skewer. In the evening, we blindly wandered up the streets of Granada — the maps we had did not name many of the streets — and ended up in a park where the public gathers to watch the sunset near the Alhambra. Witnessing the attempted police raid on the park was fascinating, and we couldn’t help but wonder why they waste so much effort on about a dozen people selling what amounts to glorified junk. With a yell, the vendors were alerted the police were on their way and when they left 45 minutes later, they returned within two minutes. My son, Reid, would have enjoyed the street theater of it all.

Back in Madrid since Sunday, I fumbled my way on my own to the Reina Sofia museum, which houses Picasso’s Guernica and got lost on my way back … “a nice way to learn a city,” G says. At the Museo del Prado we say a Renoir exhibit imported from the U.S. and a lot of famous Spanish artists. In 90 minutes, we zipped throuh one of the “richest” museums in Europe, according to the Lonely Planet guidebook. You could say tourist fatigue is setting in.

It’s been nice to experience a bit of the rhythm of G’s daily life here, including taking the subway with her today to see where she “works” (and even she would put that word in quotes) as an English teaching assistant and meeting/getting to know her roommates (two UC Davis grads, an Italian and a Spaniard) and the mother of one of her roommates, who happened to be here as well.

Oh, and a big thank-you to Spain for banning smoking in restaurants soon after I arrived and to my ever-entertaining and usually patient guide, “Juliana,” as she calls herself at Starbucks (they can’t deal with the hard “G” here). Gracias, Juli (“hoo-ly”) as her roommates call her.

You can have your blog back now. This is way harder than it looks.

seven days in spain

6 Jan

Random observations from V’s first seven days in Spain:

So serious: People don’t smile enough. While waiting in a Madrid bus station to head toward Bilbao, it was eerily silent in the midst of what is Spain’s Christmas season. There’s just not a lot of laughter or wasted words here.

Speaking of the holidays: Traveling back to Madrid from San Sebastian on Jan. 5, the equivalent of “Three King’s Eve,” we shared train space with Spaniards lugging wrapped Christmas presents. That night, the streets of Madrid were cluttered with people finishing their shopping and the main department store, El Corte Ingles, selling traditional holiday baked goods by the door. To an American eye, it’s all a little upside-down — New Year’s before Christmas — but a welcome relief to the commercialism that passes for Christmas in the U.S.

Runner dudes: By far, the most people I have seen running were in the coastal resort city of San Sebastian in the northeast. Preparing for swimsuit weather? Have yet to see a single woman running on the streets.

Too much of a good thing: For me, that would be “pinxtos,” the Basque version of tapas, spread like a feast in the bars and restaurants in Bilbao and San Sebastian. Sometimes fried, always rich.

Basque ABCs: We didn’t hear as much of the Basque language (Euskera) as we thought we would but we saw a fair number of signs that were impossible to decode. Just take any old word and add a bunch of z’s, k’s and x’s and it could pass for Basque. San Sebastian Spanish sounds deeper and more gutteral than that spoken in Madrid.

Going the distance: Loved the fact that the street signs that dot many corners on the main thoroughfare in San Sebastian give the distance in minutes, as in “Renfe 5 mins,” or “five minutes to the train.” Fastest speed clocked on the train to Madrid … 247 kilometers per hour … couldn’t help but calculate how that would demolish my commute back home.

No translation necessary: While overhearing one of the many children we have passed on the streets, G the human translator said, “Ugh, a whiney kid is the same in any language.”

grape face.

3 Jan

[Guest post by my mom, Valerie J. Nelson]

With any luck, our most dangerous encounter of this trip, and perhaps this year, is already behind us. We rang in the New Year at Sol, a plaza in the center of Madrid and because we’re Americans and because we’re exceedingly prompt, we got there a couple of hours early after pausing at an Irish bar so overwhelmed with customers that they wouldn’t slow down to serve mixed drinks. (Thanks, G, for buying me the second beer I’ve ever downed. Living large in Madrid.) We didn’t really realize how large the crowd had grown, and as the clock struck midnight, we were poised to down our dozen grapes with seeds along with everybody else but were still struggling with the concept as we started making our way to the edge of the sea of people. A jabbering Spanish sea that ended up pushing and pulling us this way and that. I wouldn’t say it was 10 minutes of terror, but almost. As G was still trying to consume her grapes, she was literally moving forward without touching the ground and feeling none too well, causing one man to call her, in Spanish, “grape face.”  
New Year’s Day we made our way to Bilbao, about a five hour’s bus ride to the north. Bus was upscale as was the bus stop, shiny new with candy promoted by “The Simpsons” (popular here, G says) and a display of pearl jewelry behind the counter. We sped by small towns where relatively modern subdivisions share the same space as stone churches that are hundreds of years old. Once in Bilbao, we stumbled around until we found our hotel smack in the middle of the old quarter of town, with its cobblestone streets and a Christmas market with two violin-makers as the star attraction. (The gift-giving part of Christmas happens here on Jan. 6, Three King’s Day.)
The river that runs through Bilbao pumps up the charm, as do its many bridges, ranging from modern to classic in style. The guidebooks say the main/only reason to go there is the Guggenheim, the Frank Gehry-designed behemoth that makes the Disney Hall look like a bit of an afterthought. The art at the Guggenheim didn’t wow but I got to see a Vermeer up close & the outsized art that surrounds the building is impressive and surreal. But what really impressed was the prix fixe lunch we had at the museum restaurant, which has a Michelin star. Food — pumpkin soup appetizer, roasted eggplant, glazed turkey with passion fruit, tomato stuffed with baby squid — doesn’t get much better than this. Or as G says, “It was bomb.” In the evening, we went on a “pintxo crawl,” “pintxto” being the Basque version of tapas. I am learning that Spanish food is basically bread-based.  
Today, we headed east to San Sebastian on the coast near France. Much more charming than Bilbao, which felt like a small-scale big city, while San Sebastian has the making of a pretty great resort town, if it weren’t 6 degrees celsius out. Once again, a river runs through the town (sensing a theme here) but it’s on the coast. G compared it to Avalon in Catalina, except this town’s for real.


It’s V

31 Dec

You give  a kid a perfectly good name and she boils it down to one tiny initial. So in that vein, this is V, G’s mom guest-blogging for the next two weeks from her latest home far from home, Madrid.

Got here about 7:15 a.m. local time and am not a complete wreck, to borrow from you-know-who’s vernacular. It helped that I was so sleep-deprived I slept for three hours on the first leg and four on the second. Interesting note regarding international flights: The people are friendlier than Americans on the go, at least in airports. Got a kick out of listening in on conversations of the Marching Mountaineers from Appalachian State University, band geeks extraordinaire who filled at least 50 seats on the flight from D.C. to Madrid and came off as sweet and earnest.

Checked one bag that got searched by TSA, a first for me. I could have done carry-on only but G’s requests included a dress that debuted on New Year’s in Vegas 2009, packets of instant oatmeal, a couple of Spanish textbooks (my daughter the nerd, love it) and mascara (“because it’s really expensive here.”) Took an hour for my bag to show up but after it finally did, I walked through the doors and like a scene out of a low-budget movie, G greeted me European-style with two kisses on the cheek and we took the subway to her apartment.

Her five-bedroom apartment in a very nice area of Madrid is upscale on the outside and kind of pre-World War II on the inside. Lots of hallway, little kitchen and one bizarro bathroom that is so narrow the toilet had to be installed at an angle.

We had our own little mini-Christmas by the 4 Euro tree, and I got a couple of cosmopolitan scarves that I am going to figure out how to wear properly and a box of chocolates inscribed on the front: “125 grs of big emotions from Salamanca.” It reminds me of the scene from “Love, Actually” when the Portuguese woman tells the Colin Firth character she learned English “Just in cases.”

Spent a couple of hours walking around Madrid, and happy to report Gillian didn’t get lost just confused. I mean, she’s only lived here a little more than three months, right? Madrid is more of a mixture of people than Barcelona, the only real comparison that I have …. meaning that Barca natives seem to abound while Madrid seems more like a big-city mix of cultures.

We wandered by palaces, fountains out of nowhere, up the occasional cobblestone streets, down lots of major streets with tiny cars and recognizable chain stores … and ate “lunch” at 100 Montaditos, a tapas-like place that lives up to its name. G orders, I pay. Pretty good deal, no? But for 13 Euro and change we had jamon iberico, shrimp and Caesar mini-sandwiches plus beer and a diet Pepsi for me (caffeinating my way through Day 1.) G’s goal: To eat all 100 Montaditos before she goes. (I taught her well: I’m a big believer in “attainable goals.”)

Tonight we are ringing in “Nochevieja” in the center of Madrid. Grapes are supposed to be involved and people were already lining up for the big event by 1 p.m. We’ll take pictures. Madrid definitely has more character than I expected … not the wild charm of Barcelona but still a lot of quirkiness going on.