Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday in Motor City

Hello from the great state of Michigan! I flew into Detroit last night and spent the night at one of my favorite hotels (the Westin in the airport) before starting a full week of meetings today. I have seen my fair share of hotels in the last few months, and they have ranged from grimy to gorgeous. The Westin has proven to be one of the (much) nicer ones - though I really can't believe they want to charge $10 to use the wifi. It's 2014, dudes! That's my only complaint. 

The neighborhood I grew up in held its annual Chili Cook-off this past Saturday, and since C was out of town visiting some friends, I headed up to spend the day with my family. It was a perfect fall afternoon, with just a hint of wind and clouds, and the 12 types of chili being made were the ideal complement! We had so much fun. 




C and I went on a date on Friday night before he left - we were planning to stay in and cook dinner, but when I realized that Fury had just opened, we had to go. We both love movies like that - historical action types - and we thought it was a really good film. Technology has come so far, and war movies are just so accurate these days. Amazing. 

Before the movie, we got dinner at our favorite local Mexican place. Yes, we were the young couple ordering the "fajitas for 2" special at 5 pm. 20s going on 70s. It happens. 



It was a great weekend, and good to spend some time with my love and my family before a week away from home.  My current biggest issue is that I didn't realize how cold it already is in Michigan!! I didn't bring the right clothes for this.... Whoops. I might find myself being the proud new owns of a Michigan sweatshirt from the airport... Just what I need! Ha :)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Long nights make for long days

I am not a good sleeper. In fact, I'm quite a bad one, at that.

Be careful not to misinterpret that statement - it's not that I don't like sleep, or don't want or need sleep. I really love it. And I definitely want and need it. I'm just not very good at actually achieving good, restful sleep.

My brain tends to go into over-drive mode at night (I received an actual medical diagnosis of suffering "racing thoughts" at one point) and it's very, very hard to shut down, even when I'm tired. My body can be totally worn out, screaming for rest, and my brain is still going a mile a minute (usually creating heart-pounding anxiety, because it's always when I generally start thinking the worst of the worst stuff, awesome!).

Once I do fall asleep, I'm not great at staying asleep: I tend to wake up multiple times throughout the night, either getting up to use the restroom or just laying awake because something disturbed me. I'm pretty sure I inherited this lovely trait from my mama. She's a really light sleeper, too - I can remember standing next to her side of the bed when I was little, just barely whispering "mom!" and her instantly being wide awake. I thought it was just a mom-thing, but, since I'm not one yet, I think it's just a trait... sigh. I wish I'd inherited my dad's ability to sleep through anything and everything, instead!!

C, luckily thankfully (I guess) does not have this problem - he generally sleeps like a rock all night, every night. Me, on the other hand? I toss and turn, and the slightest thing wakes me up and keeps me up. Lately, that thing has been a certain kitten who wants to bound across the bed and aggressively snuggle. C keeps snoring away, never even noticing the cat in the bed, but the minute Toby jumps up, I can feel it, and I'm awake. We try to solve this by closing the bedroom door, but if the door is closed, the cats sit outside it and cry, which (surprise) keeps me awake. Again, C doesn't even notice.... ha

Anyway. Over time, I have developed a list of things that generally sometimes help with my sleep issues. I thought I'd share a few of the tactics that I rely on, in case there are any other (sleepy) bad sleepers out there reading.


1. A warm drink: I rely heavily on Sleepy Time Tea, which is an herbal blend made with natural sleep aids. I make a cup before bed a lot of nights, and if I'm really feeling wired, I use two tea bags to double-brew and hopefully get a little more oomph. Another go-to for me is a cup of warm milk with some Ovaltine powder stirred in. As old as that makes me sound, it is really comforting, and it's what I usually make if I find myself awake in the middle of the night.

2. Don't look at the clock: This one is hard, but it really helps me. When I wake up in the night, I make every effort to not look at the clock beside my bed. If I could, I'd get rid of the clock all together, but I'm pretty sure not having it would cause me anxiety... what a cyclical issue, ha! If I look at the clock, I start to get worked up about the sleep I'm not getting. Which obviously doesn't help! So, I do my best to not look at see what time it is, and just work on keeping my eyes closed and going back to sleep. If the alarm hasn't gone off, I don't need to know what time it is.

3. White noise: We run a box fan in our bedroom 24/7/365. I have found that having some noise in the background keeps me from focusing on either the impending silence, or the little tiny sounds that a house makes when it's quiet. The sound of the fan is just loud enough to keep me from hearing every drip or creak, and quiet and constant enough that it helps lull me to sleep.

4. Benadryl: I'll be honest - in college, I got a bit too reliant on both prescription and OTC sleep aids, and had to work really hard to wean myself off of them. I didn't like the fact that I couldn't sleep without taking something, and I thought it was better to naturally sleep badly. I still generally feel that way - it's better to just be in my natural state than reliant on medications. However, we do usually have a bottle of OTC Benadryl, which has the same active ingredient as an OTC sleep aid, but at a much cheaper price. On really bad nights, or after a few days of not sleeping well, I will take one pill, and it usually does the trick. It's just enough to put me to sleep without making it hard to wake up again or making me groggy the next day.

5. Multiplication tables: This one is probably unique to me, but it works. Your average "counting sheep" or just counting "1, Mississippi, 2, Mississippi" doesn't work for me, because I count too fast and then get anxious about how much time I've spent counting (a little crazy, I am!). I resorted to multiplication tables a few years ago, and have found that they have a much better effect: I have to think just enough that it keeps my brain focused, but is repetitive enough that eventually I fall asleep. I start at 1x1 and work my way to 1x12, then start over with the 2s. A few rounds in, and I'm usually sawing logs!

Do you have trouble sleeping? Any tricks that work better than others? Are you someone lucky enough to have no trouble sleeping, anytime and any place? Trust me, I'm jealous...! Teach me your ways.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Birthday Cake Cookies

I love cupcakes as much as the next person, but sometimes, they can be too much - they are hard to transport, there is frosting everywhere, they get smooshed... sometimes, cupcakes are not the answer.

A co-worker was celebrating a birthday recently, and I wanted to bring in a treat - cookies seemed like the answer, but I wanted them to be special! I found the answer laying in my pantry (and no, it wasn't Toby, although that is where he likes to hide these days...).

I used the standard Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe as the base, but then swapped the chocolate chips for white chocolate chips and sprinkles. The recipe for the cookie batter is a classic, and you really can't go wrong when you start with it. These cookies turned out fantastically, and my co-worker loved them. Perfect for birthdays (or any day that needs a cookie)!



Birthday Cake Cookies
makes appx 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup rainbow sprinkles

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F. 
  2. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. 
  3. In a larger bowl, combine butter, sugars, and vanilla, and beat until creamy (a few minutes, at least).
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. 
  5. Slowly add in flour mixture (I usually divide into three parts) and stir well after each portion. 
  6. Stir in morsels and sprinkles. 
  7. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. 
  8. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. 
  9. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Five for Friday: best links of the week

There's really nothing like the sound of a smoke detector chirping to tell you the battery is low.... at 2:30 AM. Right?? You've never seen my husband rip something off the wall the way he did with that dang thing, before tossing it under a pile of blankets in a spare bedroom and grumpily climbing back into bed. We have those stupid wonderful alarms with built in batteries that can't be removed so... it's still at home chirping. Perfect. Welcome to Friday!

I thought I'd do something a little different for Five for Friday today, and share with you five links to some of my favorite things on the web this week. Take a peek!

Brain on Fire // I think I've found the next book I want to read... sounds fascinating. And terrifying.

I See You // Sam @ Reddy or Knot linked to this article this morning and it really touched me. I think that I do a good job of trying to "see" people versus just immediately judging and looking away, but I know that I am guilty of the glance-over, too. Children can teach us so much.

Baked Goat Cheese with Pull-Apart Baguettes // Could this look ANY more delicious?! I think not... I need to bring an appetizer to a get-together this weekend and I may have just found exactly what I was looking for!

A 20-Second Stretch for Better Posture // So important for those people (like me) who are stuck at their desk most of the day. Fight against bad posture! Take a few seconds to do this simple stretch.

A New Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Theory // Potter fans will enjoy this one - an article describing some of the links that may go unseen regarding the Deathly Hallows.

Did you read anything inspiring or interesting this week? Send it my way. Have a wonderful (hopefully long!) weekend, my friends.



linking up with the five on friday girls:  Darci, Christina, April,and Natasha
As if they weren't enough fun, they are doing an awesome giveaway this week - go check it out!


linking up with karli and amy

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

All about the mon-ay - and a good cause!

When I am deciding whether or not to run a particular race, there are a number of factors that go into my decision. Surprisingly enough, I am not only concerned about the bling (though very important), the course (more important, I suppose), or the option of a post-race beer (most important, if I’m being honest!) – I’m also thinking about the time commitments required and what the money looks like.

One of my favorite medals - OBX Half

Race registration fees tend to be… uhh… not cheap. So when I see the $$ signs next to the name of a race that I’m interested in, I’m immediately curious as to where that money is going. Is it being pocketed by the company sponsoring the race? Is there a really cool medal or nice T-shirt in it for me? Are they going to feed me post-race? What, exactly, are you doing with my dollars once I register?

Nice bling from the Marine Corps Historic Half

Ideally, I like to run races where some or all of the registration money goes back to the community – I like races that support charities, and it makes me even happier if the money goes to a local charity or cause. When a representative from Carpenter’s Shelter in Alexandria, VA, reached out to me and asked if I might be willing to talking about their upcoming Run for Shelter in a blog post, I was more than happy to oblige.

Per the representative from the shelter, here is some info about Carpenter’s and the race:

Carpenter’s Shelter and Pacers Events is proud to bring back the Run for Shelter 10K, 5K & 1 Mile Fun Run, an event dedicated to ending homelessness in the DC area. 

The race, scheduled for 8am on Saturday November 22nd, will be an out-and-back on Eisenhower Avenue (Metro accessible on the Yellow line). 

Carpenter's Shelter has been helping homeless individuals and families achieve sustainable independence through shelter, guidance, education, and advocacy since 1988. 90% of the shelter graduates never again return to homelessness. 

Registration is $35 and all runners will receive a technical shirt. Fastest overall men and women for the 10k and 5k will receive the following prizes: 1st place - $100, 2nd place - $75, 3rd place - $50.

Homelessness is a major issue in our area, and something that, because I work in the city, I see personally every single day. I am faced regularly with people asking for money, for food, for help of any type. It is heart-breaking, and I don’t begin to know nearly enough about the topic to truly do it justice here – but I do know that when I can help in some way, I do. All proceeds from the Run for Shelter benefit Carpenter’s Shelter, which is actually the largest homeless shelter in Northern Virginia. That’s a race I can get behind.

I was not compensated in any way for this post; I just wanted to spread awareness about a local cause and a local race, for any of my readers nearby looking for their next challenge. I’ll be paying my $35 registration fee from my own pocket, and I’ll be running the 10K on November 22nd – I’d love to see you there!

Register now for the 2014 Run for Shelter! 

I've created a group named Typically Late on the registration page - if you decide to run the race, register as part of the group so I can see who's going to join in! Maybe we can organize a get-together afterwards or something :) It'll be fun!