Chicago Marathon 2014 Recap

Running can be tricky. Sure, how hard can it really be? Lace up your shoes, put one foot in front of the other and go. You can do everything right and some days you just don’t have it. Other days you feel on top of the world. I would have to say that this year’s Chicago Marathon fell somewhere in between the spectrum of feeling on top of the world and then praying that it wouldn’t come crashing down during the last 6 miles.

The Friday Before
We headed down to Chicago Friday late afternoon. We decided to spend some time with my in-laws who were watching Madelyn for us race weekend so that it could be as stress-free as possible. Last year, we took her along to the expo and hubs carted her around the city to see me at various locations. It was interesting to say the least. This year, she spend the weekend with her grandparents which was nice because they don’t live as close my mom and sister do. When we arrived at my in-laws, my MIL had a variety of different pastas and veggies waiting for us. Along with lots of water and wine. The food was delicious as was the pre-celebration cake that she had also purchased:

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Chicago Marathon: Run Maria Run

The next morning, we woke up early, ate some breakfast, kissed our little girl good-bye and headed down to meet my sister and mom for the expo.

The Expo & Post Race Meal
Just as overwhelming as it was last year, without or without a stroller ;-) At least this year, I was able to enjoy it a little bit more and stand in line at the Nike counter in peace.

everymileismagnificentThe Chicago Marathon expo is unlike any other I’ve ever been to. Even though going through the whole thing can be totally overwhelming, I can’t believe how well-organized it all is. I could’ve easily been in and out of there in 15 minutes if I wanted to. But clearly, that was not the case. We walked around the whole thing and checked out all the marathon swag. This year, I made sure to pack water and snacks to eat while I browsed. After purchasing some shirts, a jacket, a movie and winning an entry to the 2015 Puerto Rico Marathon(!!!!!),

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we decided to make our way back to our hotel to get settled in before dinner. I was even able to squeeze in a NAP before our early dinner reservations. We ate at La Madia, which was walking distance from the hotel. It was a “new to us” contemporary pizzeria and I’m so glad we ventured out of our comfort zone because the food was amazing. We started our meal off with a spinach and taleggio fondue that had a hint of truffle oil. It came with the most amazing warm bread puff which we ordered more of. I feel like restaurants either give you too much dip or not enough dippers :-) Never the perfect amount. We also tried the marsala glaze and whipped ricotta bruchette. So unique and delicious. For my main entree I went with Chianti braised short ribs with risotto. I ate pretty much everything. It was so good that I almost wanted to lick my plate ;-) No worries, I refrained. After dinner the “kids” (hubs & my sister) went out for a few drinks while I headed back to the hotel with my mom to get ready for the next day. After I had everything laid out, we watched Transcend on my laptop. Amazing movie. So inspiring! And if you’re a runner, I highly suggest it. I could go on about how awesome it was, but that’s a different post for a different day.

The Day Of…
We took a short cab ride over to the Hilton on Michigan where Team Salute had a banquet room reserved. It was so nice having a place to hang out with my family before the race and to check my bag without having to stand in a crazy line. I’ve definitely been spoiled that way the last two years. Team Salute offered a light breakfast and beverages for the runners and their families, massages post race, and a BATHROOM!

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The best cheerleaders EVER!!!!

While I was in the bathroom, the person in charge Team Salute called for the people in the first corral to head down to the start. I figured I had plenty of time since we were right there and I didn’t have a bag to check. WRONG! I left about a half hour before the corral closed and the lines were absolutely insane. I kept looking at my watch, trying not to panic and laughed when I heard a guy say, “They’re not going to start a race with this many people waiting to check their bags!” Ignorance must be bliss because I was starting to freak out. Everyone around me had clear plastic bags to check, while I was just trying to get into my corral. Just then, I saw a guy in a bright neon jacket waiving people through who did not have bags to check. I made a mad dash for it and got to my corral at 7:19am. It closed at 7:20. Just as I was calming down, it hit me. I had to go to the bathroom again! I knew it would be a short bathroom trip but the lines to the port o pottys were insane. There was no way I would make it in time. I debated whether or not I should just start the race and then go at the first port o potty station. I knew that I didn’t want to start the marathon out like this so I waited in line. For 9 minutes. At 7:29 I was back just in the knick of time for a 7:30 start. Talk about close calls.

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 Miles 1-13.1
Easy with a few challenges thrown in there. I started the marathon with a race pace band from r2r pace bands. My goal for the band that I decided to go with was 4:25. I had three goals set for the this race: A)Beat my time from last year  B)Come in under 4:45 C)Finish in the 4:30s. I decided that this year I would forgo my headphones the first half of the race so that I wouldn’t get too excited and start out too fast. My plan was to use them during the second half when you hit a few dead spots on the south side. I’m so glad that I decided to do this. The crowds were absolutely insane and incredibly motivating! Despite a few hiccups in the first half, I had so much fun! The first half of this course is so fun to me because mainly I know where I’m going. I easier for me to mentally push myself because I could do the first 13.1 miles with very little guidance. I knew what side of the street to be running on in order to hug the corners. I felt really good. But from the moment that I started running, I could feel that my shoes were tied too loosely. I had thought about stopping the first chance I got to tie them up better, but foolishly I kept going. While I was out on the course I did manage to see this guy again!

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He goes by “Dr. Dribble”. He dribbled two basketballs the entire time!!! Talk about talent! Side note…I hate taking pictures while I’m running :-) Shortly after I hit the 8 mile marker somewhere on Broadway in Lakeview, I saw my cheerleaders! Perfect opportunity to re-tie my shoes! I stopped over quickly, told them that I was feeling good and headed back on my way. As I was running, I then realized that they were much too tight :-/ I found an aid station shortly before mile 12, sat down, took one of my socks off and put some vasoline on the bottom of my foot (I was feeling a blister form) and headed back on my way. I looked at my watch and at my pace band and I was now almost 3 minutes behind my pace. Instead of looking at where I needed to be overall, I looked at what each mile needed to be and tried to stay with that as best as I could. I crossed the half in 2:14:23. Only about 3 minutes ahead of my time last year. I knew that I was going to have to push myself hard the second half if I wanted to beat last year’s time.

Miles 13.1-26.2
I was definitely in my own little world during this race. I can barely remember any of the spectator signs on the course. I was so focused on my pace for each mile and making sure I was hydrating and fueling properly. It was around mile 14 that I tried putting my headphones in. For some reason, they just weren’t fitting right, and were becoming more of a distraction than anything so I tucked them back into my flip belt. I’m glad that I did because I remember the atmosphere so clearly. People cheering me on by name. The sights, sounds and smells while running through Charity Village, Pilsen, and Chinatown. The second half of the race was the most challenging but yet the most rewarding for me. I felt small victories as I ran past certain spots on the course that I remembered stopping at last year because I either had to walk or stop to stretch. When others were stopping to walk, I kept on running. When I did have the urge to stop and walk, I reminded myself that a slow run is faster than walking. I was feeling really good and on pace to finish in the 4:30s until mile 20 came. Mile 20…The proverbial “wall”. It was weird and not like anything I experienced last year. I actually felt good. I wanted to keep running and keep running hard, but every time I tried, I felt like I was going to puke. This feeling lingered for the final 6.2 miles making it the longest of my life. I thought to myself that maybe if I did throw up, I’d feel better and could continue running. But then I kept thinking about becoming dehydrated and not being able to finish that last bit of the race. I would’ve been devastated. There was no way in hell that I was going to let months of hard work and time spent away from my family be for a DNF. So my goal then became, not to puke until I got to the finish line. For 6 miles I alternated 1 minute of walking with running for as long as I could before I felt like I had to stop again. By mile 25, I had nothing left in me. I was hoping to get that second wind, but it never came. I pushed myself, with everything I had left, up that hill on Roosevelt and around that corner to the finish line. And I made it! I crossed the finish line in 4:43:14. 24 minutes faster than my time from last year!! I was thrilled! And I didn’t even puke.

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Post Race
After hobbling back to the Hilton, I drank a protein drink, changed out of my sweaty clothes, and got a post race quickie massage. After I sat there for a while, we made our way over to Lou Malnatti’s for a celebratory feast & drink :-) I ate two helpings of Lou salad and a slice of pizza. My stomach still wasn’t feeling 100% but it felt good to eat something. While we were sitting there, we also witnessed the Packers pull off a WIN :-) It was a great little Sunday.

We took the L back to our hotel. Traffic was too crazy to try to hail a cab and I needed to keep moving. When we got back to our room, I had a sweet. little treat waiting for me:

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From my very thoughtful husband. Way better than flowers. I think I’ll keep you ;-)

After a bath and a short little nap, I laid in our huge king size hotel bed and texted my mom who was on her way back to WI. I thanked her for everything, all of her support and I told her that I was really proud of myself. I managed to shave off nearly a minute a mile and I knew in my heart and soul, that I had given the race everything I had. That to me is by far a much bigger measure than meeting the time goal-pushing the body and mind past a point that you thought was impossible. It truly becomes mental at a certain point and I’m so glad that was able to overcome the obstacles that were thrown my way.

I like this feeling of contentment. Knowing that I gave it my all and I did the best that I could. I have yet to think to myself, “I could’ve done better.”  Sure, there are things that I probably could’ve done differently, but I did the best I could with the hand that was I dealt that Sunday.

I can’t say whether or not there is another Chicago Marathon in my future. I’m content with the results of this race and the experience was the best marathon experience I’ve had. I’ve made good memories with this one and I don’t want to tarnish them. So onto the next :-) I am excited to see what the future holds for me…both running-wise and personally. For now, I’m going to turn my focus back to my family, spend some quality time with that “not so little girl”, and enjoy being “lazy” on Saturdays. I think it’s well deserved.

Women Rock Chicago 1/2 Marathon

On Saturday, I completed my last double digit run before the Chicago Marathon. My training schedule had me running 12 miles. Instead, I headed down to Chicago with my mom and two of her friends to participate in the Chicago Women Rock 1/2 marathon, making it my 7th half marathon. Continue reading

The Family that plays Together

Happy Packer Day! Madelyn clearly knows what’s up. 

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I hope everyone’s week is going well. One day closer to the weekend and to my little cousin’s wedding! I’m thrilled to watch her get married, and I can still remember when she was born…how’s that for feeling old?! 

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Al & her fiance at our wedding

We definitely started our week off with a bang. On Monday, Madelyn spent some quality time with her great grandparents and my mom, while hubs and I hopped on the Amtrak and ventured down to Chicago for the Cubs vs. Brewers game. I can’t remember the last time I was at Wrigley Field for a game, but it felt good to be back in familiar territory :-) 

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When we got into the city, we ventured into Old Town and visited the Fleet Feet there. Of all the stores to visit in Chicago…clearly I have a problem. I think I love this store so much because it’s my first experience with running stores. I remember calling my mom after my first visit there and saying, “They just have so much stuff for running!” I also participated in a few of their fun runs during my Chicago days. As we left Fleet Feet, it started to pour. We didn’t really have an agenda until the game, so we kind of ducked out from the rain and then decided to head toward Wrigley.

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We ate at Mo’s Cantina before heading to the game. The day turned out to be perfect. Great weather and an awesome date, what more could a girl ask for? 

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After the game we met up with Kristine for a few drinks and before we knew it, it was time to catch the late train back to Milwaukee. But not before stopping for some Lou’s. Of all the Chicago style pizza the city has to offer, Lou Malnati’s is my absolute favorite. That crust tho! Unbelievably delicious. Hubs ordered our pizza to go because he didn’t think we’d have enough time to eat there. His plan was just to have us eat it at on the train. I had a better idea. Instead, we sat in the park near our old apartment, shared some pizza and talked about the old times. This is the same park where we took Oliver on his first walk and where we had our engagement pictures taken. By far my favorite place in Chicago.  

IMG_00671Today, I met my mom for lunch at Sven’s Cafe. I haven’t been here in a while, but I stuck with my usual. Mixed greens salad with goat cheese, chicken, walnuts, grapes and balsamic. It never fails me. I also had an Italian soda with pumpkin. It was good, but just a tad bit too sweet for me. My mom had the coconut Italian soda and that tasted much better.  

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I also decided that today would be my last day of work for the week. I have so much to get done before this weekend and I want to spend some time with Madelyn before she heads down to Chicago (for the first time ever without us!!!!) to spend time with her grandparents for the weekend. I know she will have a blast, it’s me that I’m concerned about ;-) 

Tonight, I was really feeling a bike ride. The last two runs (the only runs this week!) I’ve had have not been the greatest. My legs have felt heavy and I’m left feeling defeated. I don’t know if it was the humidity or the fact that I ate like crap this weekend (or both) but I haven’t been on my A game. So I decided it would be best to give my leggies a little break and head out for a bike ride with my entourage in tow. 

IMG_00811It felt really good to work my legs but in a different way. We rode up to Leff’s Luckytown for some food before the Packer game, and then rode our bikes back. The best way to consume “not so healthy” food. I told hubs it felt great to work off the food we just ate as opposed to just sitting there and letting it sit in our stomachs.

Tomorrow, I have a barre class on the workout schedule and then taking the day to chase Madelyn around while trying to smuggle her with hugs & kisses. it’s funny, I’ve spent a whole month away from her so you’d think a weekend would be no problem, but it never gets easier. 

What’s on your workout agenda for the weekend? Any other fun plans? I’m also headed to a marathon Q & A session at PRO this weekend! I’m thrilled for that! 

I Think I Did it Again…

For someone who was planning on taking a break from training this summer, my race calendar is sure filling up:
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I have my sights set on a few half-marathons and like I said earlier in this post, I still want to focus on getting faster.  A few night ago hubs was watching Chicagoland and they were showing highlights and behind the scenes from 2013 Chicago Marathon.  I became really sad that I turned down the opportunity to run this year.  Since then, I’ve thought long and hard about my goals, what my life could like in the next year or two: this could be last year in a long time that I’ll even be able to run the marathon.  We’re not guaranteed another day, much less a year and who’s to say that I won’t be deployed next fall.  So, started looking into fundraising again for Salute, Inc.  I know that I can beat my time if I train a little smarter this time around.  I can sit here and think of a million reasons not to do it, but ultimately I’m sure I would regret it come race day.  I was talking about it with my boss a few days ago and he offered me this advice: “You know what to expect this time around and everything gets easier with more practice”.  So I came up with a training plan that I believe was attainable with my schedule and that would get me to the finish line, ran it by hubs and he said that if I want to do it, I have his support 100%.
I was still on the fence about it when I got to work today.  I was talking with a co-worker about signing up for distance races.  He was hesitating about signing up for his first half with no really great explanation not to.  Just a lot of excuses and I said to him, “Sometimes you just gotta do it without thinking, rip the bandaid off!” All the while my Team Salute application sat on my desk, filled out just waiting to get e-mailed.   What gave me the final push to “rip the bandaid off”?  This video.  It almost brought tears to my eyes.

There’s no other feeling like crossing the finish line after running 26.2 miles and enduring months of training.

My biggest hesitation about training for the marathon is the one thing I’m most proud of: My daughter.  I’m having a hard with “the mom guilt”.  Part of me feels like I should be spending every free moment I have with her since she’s growing up so quickly, but I also know that I need to make time for the things that I enjoyed prior to having her.  When I went back to work, my mom told me this: “It’s not the quantity of time you spend with her, but the quality of time that matters.”  I try to keep reminding myself of this when life outside of the home gets crazy busy.  With the way my training schedule is set up I have Sundays to give her and Larry my undivided attention.  No barre, no running.  Sundays will be designated family time this summer and I’m looking forward to it.

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Question of the day: Active Moms out there…how do you balance work, home and a training schedule?

Can’t get Enough

Happy Monday!  How was everyone’s weekend?  Ours was excellent, but as usual, it went by way too quickly.

On Saturday, Larry and I decided to do something that we’ve never done before in our 8 years of being together:  We took the Amtrak from Milwaukee to Chicago for a day trip.  Just the two of us.  We had an absolute blast.

We boarded the early train and played tourists for the day.  Even though we visited some “touristy” places, we also checked out some places off the beaten path.

Our first stop was Willis (Sears) Tower, since it’s right near Union Station.  We got there early and we still had a good amount of time to wait.  By the time we left at around 11am, the wait was up to three hours!  So I suggest getting there very early.  And it’s FREE for military members :-)

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It was our first time there since they put in the sky decks.  I walked out there with no problems…but I think Larry was a little nervous ;-) I’m pretty fearless when it comes to heights and things of that nature so I LOVED this!

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After our visit to Willis Tower, we were hungry for some brunch so we headed west to check out Little Goat.  Stephanie Izard opened this restaurant shortly before we moved and it’s always been on my list of places to try.  We decided to walk there (about 1 mile) and we waited 45 minutes to eat.  It was totally worth it.  The food was amazing and I’d highly recommend it.  There’s also a cute coffee shop/bakery attached to the diner.

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After brunch, we headed North and met up with some friends at Old Town Social.  After a few drinks, Larry and I headed to Fleet Feet Old Town-the best Fleet Feet I’ve ever been to to check out some running gear.  They have everything you need at this store.  I’m seriously thinking about Newton’s for my next pair of running shoes and I just found out that they offer military/police discounts with a valid .mil or .gov e-mail.

From Fleet Feet we headed back downtown for cupcakes, a glass of wine at Eataly and a bite to eat at Pizzeria Uno.  It wouldn’t be a day trip in Chicago without a stop for deep dish pizza.

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Before we knew it, it was time to board the last train back home.  We both said that we’d rather do something like that each month than have a bunch of random date nights through the month.  It was a nice break from reality.  We love our daughter unconditionally, but sometimes mom and dad need a break ;-) It was nice to get home and spend the rest of our weekend with the little princess.

IMG_2551Where’s your favorite place to take a day trip?   Chicago is definitely mine!  It’s a short 2 hour drive or hour and a half train ride away!  Doesn’t get much better than that…unless of course you lived there ;-)

Get Lucky Chicago Recap

I am happy to announce that I survived a 1/2 marathon with very minimal train (6 miles was my longest training run-on a treadmill) and while breaking the rule-”nothing new on race day” and I have very little soreness today.

My mom and I completed the Get Lucky Chicago 1/2 marathon yesterday.  It was my 5th one and her first.

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I was very nervous for this race for severals reasons:  the weather in the Midwest has been less than stellar for outside running, so most of my running was done on a treadmill.  I had only trained up to 6 miles when the normal amount is 10.  I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my mom since she did properly train.  Needless to say, I am grateful that muscle memory kicked in and I was able to complete the race with my mom.  Today we both said that we will do longer runs on the weekends so that we don’t lose any base training for upcoming races.

Weekend Details

We drove down to Chicago on Friday afternoon with two of my mom’s friends who were also doing the race with us.  We stayed at the Congress Hotel, which was Team Ortho’s host hotel.  It was an ideal location because packet pickup was right at the hotel and there was a shuttle for us on race day to take us to the starting line since it was about a 20 minute drive away.  After we picked up our packets, we walked down to Garmin to say hi to my friend Kristine and then it was off to Eataly for some carb loading.  I decided on pizza-it was pretty amazing.  After dinner, we ventured downstairs to check out the desserts.

eatalydessertsWe took a cab back to our hotel and spent the rest of the evening getting our gear ready to go and catching up on Runner’s World magazine.  I was in bed by 8:45 and it felt great :-)

Race Day

We walked to closest Starbucks and hopped on the shuttle at 7:30.  The race started in Jackson park, near the Museum of Science and Industry.  I was excited to run a new part of the lakefront path.  When we lived in Chicago, I usually ran more north of museum campus so it was nice to see the skyline coming from the south.

We got to the race pretty early, so hung out, stretched and beat the long port a potty lines :-)

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At 9 am we were on our way!  I told my mom from the beginning that I would be staying her pace the entire time.  We started off at comfortable pace.  I kept one ear bud out so that I could talk with my mom and communicate with other runners if I needed to.  It was a great idea since there was ice on the path and runners ahead of you would yell out “Ice” so that you were aware of what was ahead.  The path was also very narrow, so it was nice to be able to hear if other runners behind you were trying to pass.

The course was an out and back and I was little surprised to see the turn around point at around mile 5.  It wasn’t until about mile 7 that my mom wanted to stop and walk for about a minute.  It was then that I started to feel my quads cramp up.  We ran the rest of the course and maybe stopped for walking breaks about 3 more times.  Even though it can be difficult to run at someone else’s pace, I’m really glad that I stayed with my mom.  It was nice to be able to have someone to talk to and keep your mind distracted.  While I was motivating her, I really actually just trying to keep myself motivated.  The race was route was really well laid out, until the end.  There was one point where we ran past the finish line, saw mile marker 13 and still had to keep running.  I was not a fan and it totally messed me up mentally.  That last mile was a tough one.  My Garmin was right on track with the mile markers until about mile 10, then it became slightly off, but still close enough.  At the end of our race, my Garmin told me I ran 12.95 miles in 2:18 minutes.

I’m so proud of my mom and the timing we got for her first 1/2!  She’s addicted :-)  This was my first time running with compression socks from PRO Compression and my calves feel awesome today!  Normally, my calves are what bother me the most after a long run because I tend to run more on my toes.  I’m not sure if it was the compression socks or the fact that it was a nice and easy pace, but my legs feel great today and I will definitely be wearing these for all longer runs.

The Get Lucky Chicago 1/2 marathon was a great way to start off the 2014 racing season. My goal is keep logging longer runs on the weekend and to earn a new 1/2 marathon PR at my next run which is the Rock n Sole on June 14th!

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Weekend Catch Up 10/28

Hi friends!  I hope everyone had a great weekend, I know we sure did!  We were super busy with lots of family stuff in Chicago on Saturday.  Back in August, at Madelyn’s birthday party, my SIL asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding.  I gladly accepted the offer and on Saturday we set out to look for some dresses.  After trying on a few dresses, we found one that looked great on all of us.

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This one was my favorite of all the dresses we tried on.  It’s the perfect material for a June wedding, it looked great on everyone, and it was very comfortable.  I can’t wait to see them in the actual color that the bride to be picked out!

We also celebrated Grandma Rita’s 90th birthday in Chicago.  I’m amazed at Larry’s Grandma: not only does she still live by herself, but the woman drives and loves going to the casino :-)  She’s quite the little ball of fire!

On Sunday, we took the babes and walked around the mall for a little bit.  I had some birthday money I wanted to spend and I also wanted to check out Williams-Sonoma to get a head start on my Thanksgiving Day prep:

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I used this last year when I made my first Thanksgiving turkey and it went over very well.  So, I’ll be using this again this year and in the future, until I get brave enough to venture out and try something new ;-)

After the mall, I came home and got ready for a baby shower for a girl at work.  I was going to bring my little miss, but she was passed out on the ride home from the mall and didn’t even blink an eye when I took her out of her carseat and into her crib.

Speaking of Madelyn…this past week I bought her her first pair of boots!  She didn’t know what to make of them at first and had a hard time figuring out how to walk in them.  By the time I picked her up on Friday, she was walking all over in those things.

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I die over the cuteness :-)

Today, I finally made it out to my garden to plant some garlic.  I hope I didn’t wait too long.  The weather is supposed to be decent this week-nothing below freezing.  Instead of planting 100 heads of garlic, like the previous owners did, I opted for 40 heads.  I think that should be sufficient.

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I’m really excited about gardening in 2014.  I’ll definitely have more time to plan out what I want to plant back there.  We are also in the process of transitioning half of our garden space back into the backyard.  After assessing how much of it we used this past summer, we decided that 6 raised garden beds is just too much for us.  If it was our only hobby, then maybe.  And we’d like Madelyn to have a bigger yard area to play in than what we have now.  Removing 3 of the beds would open up a ton of space and give us back a good chunk of our yard.

P.S. Does anyone have tips for growing beets?  I planted a TON of those tiny seeds in July and I only got TWO beets!  I don’t know if I planted them too late in the season or what, but it was very frustrating given how much time I spent doing it.  The two beets that I did harvest ended up in a juice this past weekend.  Apple, beet and ginger.  YUM!