What I’m Loving Wednesday, November 30

Linking up for What I’m Loving Wednesday at This Kind of Love.

With Christmas in the air and the amazing 60 degree weather we’ve been having (until tomorrow and Friday when the high drops down to an almost unbearable 38), there is so much to love! (and some stuff not to love too).

Black Friday: Yes, we drove to Santa Fe at midnight, got back into town by 2:30, went to Target then the mall, got home and in bed by 5, after a 5 hour nights sleep, got up and back out to ABQ Uptown by 11.  We caused some SERIOUS damage, but got some RIDICULOUS deals! My favorite purchase was the aerater/decanter from William Sonoma that was 50% off! I’m not really crazy.

Thanksgiving Dinner: We had dinner with my family and then dessert/wine/games with Aaron’s family.  Easily gained 5-10 pounds. But it was so tasty! (and my mom manages to make Thanksgiving dinner look like art!)

Minted Christmas Cards:  Friend (and graphic designer) Katie referred me to Minted for my Christmas cards, and WOW, what a great experience.  I submitted my order, got an electronic proof designed by a real person, enjoyed Thanksgiving (a day when no one works or gets mail), and got my beautiful cards, all within 6 days.  Aside from my wedding invitations, this is the most excited I’ve been to send something out.

The Nutcracker: We went with my family to see The Nutcracker at Popejoy Hall on Saturday.  I  hadn’t seen it since I was 6.  The show, the costumes, the music, everything, was perfect! They even had explosives to keep Aaron interested!

Seeing my house transform into a Winter Wonderland: We won’t buy our live tree until this weekend to make sure it is still fresh for Christmas, but Aaron spent Sunday putting lights on the house, and my Department 56 Dickens Village is out, so it is beginning to look like Christmas around here!

My soon to be gingerbread house: I used to make a gingerbread house every year.  The last 3 years I’ve started and haven’t finished.  In 2008 I was proposed to right in the middle of my baking. in 2009 we were coming down off our wedding/honeymoon and I was just TIRED. Last year…I don’t really have an excuse. But this year I am determined! Baking will start this weekend! (this is my last complete one from 2007).

MEANWHILE….Stuff I don’t Love today: (I tried to stay positive, but…you know).

Comcast.  If they weren’t almost the only option available, we’d switch. They wanted to charge us for something we don’t have access to, and then charge us to fix the problem.

ABC for cancelling Pan Am! That was the only new show I’ve continued to watch this season.  Filled with some of the more independent, intelligent, compassionate, stylish female characters on T.V., I’m sad that I won’t see the flight crew navigate through the social and political turmoil of the 60’s.  Yet Jersey Shore lives on?

Winter Weather: Seriously? 60 mile an hour winds tomorrow? 38 degree highs on Friday and Saturday? Massive amounts of snow? Did I move to Chicago and not realize it? YUCK.

My Training: My next half marathon is in 7.5 weeks…and I haven’t done a long run (or anything except a few 3-4 mile runs) since San Francisco.  Am I trying to sabotage myself? I can’t imagine I’ll be particularly inspired by the Antarctic weather conditions coming up either.

HAPPY DECEMBER!

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The Cotton Anniversary

“…When we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.” -Dr. Seuss

Today is our 2 year anniversary!

Two years ago, on a rather chilly November afternoon, Aaron and I got married in front of our favorite people and followed with a wonderful celebration that lasted well into the night. Our cake was to-die for tasty, the wine was flowing, and the DJ kept everyone from my little cousins to my grandmas dancing.

The last two years have been marvelous and Aaron has been a wonderful husband.  We’ve moved across town, we’ve traveled, we’ve run half-marathons, we’ve watched other friends get married and start families, and we’ve welcomed our little puppy Giuseppe into our home.  We’ve had a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see what crazy adventures we get ourselves into during the next several decades.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, AARON!

All photography courtesy of Dry Heat Photography 

What I’m Loving Wednesday: Black Friday Edition

Linking up with Jamie at This Kind of Love for What I’m Loving Wednesday.  Obviously this Wednesday I’m LOVING the 4 day weekend which has started for me, the amazing meal I will have tomorrow, all of the wonderful things in my life that make me eternally grateful, and…BLACK FRIDAY!

I remember watching the news as a 7 year old (yes, I was that kid…one of my first childhood crushes was on Peter Jennings), and a report came on about Black Friday shopping.  It looked marvelous! I wondered why we weren’t taking part in this amazing tradition.  Ever since, I have dragged family, high school boyfriends, and now Aaron with me to participate in this beloved part of the holiday season!

My Black Friday shopping rule is, if it isn’t on sale, I can’t buy it (I usually won’t even go below a 15% discount).  There is a whole month to buy stuff that isn’t on sale.  Black Friday is for good deals and good deals only. I’ve been making my game plan, and trying to figure out which places have good sales.  I haven’t been able to track down everything but here is a list of what I’ve found in my research (I’ll update as I find out new info!).

Santa Fe Fashion Outlets (open at midnight)

Coach Outlet: Not positive, but they will usually hand out 30% off coupons at the door.

Nike Factory: According the Fashion Outlets website, they will have 40% off all clearance and 20% of “back wall” shoes.

Under Armour Factory: $10 off ColdGear, extra discounts on clearance.

Tommy Hilfiger Outlet: 15% off entire purchase, or 20% off purchase of $150 or more.

Aeropostale Outlet: 50% off everything.

Levis: 30% off all tops and outerwear.

Coronado Mall (opens at 5 am, but many stores opening at midnight): If you spend $100 at the mall on Friday, you get a $10 Shop Etc. Gift Card

Sephora: Specials on select products from Tarte, Korres, Josie Moran, Buxom, Bare Minerals, The Art of Shaving, Sephora Collection, and Tokidoki.  (By select I mean 1 product each).  “Like” them on facebook for complete listing.

Forever 21: Don’t know yet, but they will have Black Friday deals according to their website.

Victoria Secret: Bras buy 1, get 1 50% off, $10 off pajamas, $20 off robes, save on crewnecks and yoga pants from the Pink collection (opens at midnight).

Bath and Body Works: $20 VIP bag stuffed with 11 different products ($100 value) with any $40 purchase.

Banana Republic: Don’t know yet, but they usually run 40% off everything sales.

Gap: UP TO 60% everything until Saturday.

Express: Don’t know yet, but they will have deals.

Sunglasses Hut: Don’t know yet, but they have a great sale that ends tomorrow for 30% off all sale items.

Macy’s: Perhaps the inventor of Black Friday, they have too many to list (see complete list here), brands on sale include Betsey Johnson, Perry Ellis, Calvin Klein, Levis, and Michael Kors among MANY others.

WINROCK MALL

UPDATED: Dillards: 50% off all clearance.  They open at 8 am

ABQ UPTOWN:

Anthropologie: 50% off all sale items, 25% off all sale items until Sunday.

BCBG: 50% off all sweaters, outerwear, leather, and boots.

Pottery Barn: Select items with free shipping and/or free monogramming, 50% off throws.  You can see the complete list of applicable free shipping/monogramming items HERE.

Williams Sonoma: 40% off very limited merchandise.  You can see what it is HERE.

AROUND TOWN:

Target: Too many to list, but you can see their ad HERE.  Deals include TVs under $200 and Kitchen Aide mixers for $199.  They open at midnight.

Best Buy: If you aren’t camping out right now, you may not get one of the limited stock TVs, but they have other TVs, SmartPhones, and BlueRay disks on sale.  Their list is HERE.  They open at midnight.

PetsMart: 50% off select merchandise including crates, treats and holiday toys.  You can see their ad HERE.  They open at 7 a.m.

UPDATED: Urban Outfitters: 50% off all sale items until 10:00 am

BlackFriday.com is a also wonderful resource for the actual print ads of some of the bigger chains like Kohls, Wal-Mart, and JCPenney.  Let me know if you have a specific store to look for, and HAPPY SHOPPING! 

Playing Tourist in San Francisco

San Francisco is a city built on tourism.  From the famous skyline to the gorgeous Golden Gate Bridge framing the blue bay waters, San Francisco is easily the most beautiful city in the country.   Aaron hadn’t really done the San Francisco tourist thing, so when we weren’t running 13.1 miles up the hill of death during our half marathon, we got to as many of the sites as possible.

GETTING AROUND:

I personally think renting a car in San Francisco is nuts.  Unless you have inner city driving experience, the hills, 8 way intersections, and pedestrians will probably cause some stress. Most hotels charge between 30-50 dollars a night to park, and the CHEAPEST parking garage I’ve ever found was $6 an hour.  Taxis aren’t too expensive if you stay within a few miles.  We paid between $10 and $20 for about a 5 mile radius.  I highly recommend the $14 Day Transportation Pass.  This gets you unlimited rides on the famed Trolly, Street Cars, and City Bus (MUNI) for 1 day.  They can be purchased at Powell and Market by the Trolly Hub.  I believe they also have 3 day passes available.

STUFF WE DID:

Fisherman’s Wharf: Not too functional as a port, but lots of restaurants, novelty shops, and an aquarium.  Starts at Pier 1 and goes all the way down to Ghiradelli Square.

Pier 39: The most touristy of the piers on Fisherman’s Wharf.  You’ve got your Hard Rock Cafe, your aquarium, your vintage carousel, and all sorts of stores.

Hyde Street Pier: A first for both of us, this pier is at the end of the wharf.  It’s kind of a museum with historic ships and buildings.  Free (donations accepted), admission charged for boat walk-throughs.

Trolly: One of the most iconic parts of San Francisco. The main “hub” is at Powell and Market, but you can get on at just about any block along their route.

Street Cars: These vintage street cars will take you from Fisherman’s Wharf all the way up Embarcadero and then up Market to the Castro.

Lombard Street: The “crookedest” street in the world.  You can drive down (and deal with the tourists who jump in your way for a picture), or take a walk down.

Ghiradelli Square: At one point this was the  factory for Ghiradelli chocolate.  Now it is a chocolate store and ice cream parlour.  I think their sundaes are a San Francisco MUST.

City Hall: One of the most impressive buildings I’ve ever seen, especially for a city hall.  JLo almost gets married here in The Wedding Planner. The Opera House, Symphony, and Ballet are all right across from the City Hall.  Beautiful buildings, and definitely worth catching a show if you can.

Ferry Building: Another iconic San Francisco landmark.  This is where Fisherman’s Wharf starts at Pier 1.  There is a market inside, and the Occupy San Francisco movement is stationed right across.

Farmer’s market: Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning, there is a farmer’s market in front of the Ferry Building.  Seeing as how California produces some of the best crops in the country, the selection was amazing.  We picked up some honey and jam, but if we lived here, we’d definitely be buying some fresh fruits and veggies.

Biking the Golden Gate: Aaron convinced me to ride a tandem bike  across the Golden Gate Bridge (I was scared the whole time).  The route is undeniably beautiful though. There are several rental places along the wharf.

Chinatown: I’ve never been to China, but a walk around some of these streets makes you feel like you’re in a different country (the largest Chinese population outside of China lives in San Francisco).  Plenty of restaurants and some great souvenirs.

North beach: Also known as the Italian District, this neighborhood has the best Italian food and the best bars.

Union Square: Where all of the nice shops are (Saks, Neiman, Barney’s, Bloomingdales, Chanel, Louis, Tiffany’s, Burberry, Prada, Hermes, etc. etc. etc.).  Obviously one of my favorite places to hang out!

TransAmerica Pyramid: I’ve never actually been inside (I don’t even know if you can get in), but this building is what sets San Francisco apart from other skylines.

As much as we wanted to see everything, that was as we could fit in.  There is of course the Coit Tower, Golden Gate Park (and Japanese Tea Garden), Japan Town, Haight Ashbury, the Victorian House Row (I don’t know the real name, but you know what I’m talking about), the Castro, AT&T Park, and Candlestick Park.  There is really too much to see and do in San Francisco and far too many beautiful sights to capture on camera, but we definitely enjoyed our time there (as if it is possible not to), and will hopefully get back there in the near future!

Where to Stay in San Francisco

I can’t say that I’ve been to all the great cities of the world (or even like, more than 3), but I’m sure no matter where I go, San Francisco will be always be my favorite.  I was lucky enough to live just 30 minutes away for 4 years during college, and I  hope that sometime in my future, that I can get back to that area. 

We went to San Francisco last week to run our half marathon, but also to hang out in the city and be tourists. I took an embarrassing number of photos, and I can easily get 4 blog posts out of all of them. (UPDATE: SOOOO behind on blogging…I wrote this a week ago and only now getting around to posting….the next couple of weeks will be some weird mixture of San Francisco and Christmas posts).

Even though I have a lot of other San Francisco things to talk about, I’m going to start with our hotel.

We signed up for the half marathon and bought our plane tickets way back in June.  I didn’t start looking at hotels until 2 weeks before we left.  Not the brightest idea.  All of the usual suspects (Holiday Inn, Hyatt, Hilton, etc.) were all sold out.  Rooms that weren’t sold out were going for about $500 a night, which wasn’t exactly in our budget for a 4 night stay.  There are a TON of independent little “boutique” hotels in San Francisco.  Some look ok, some look scary.  Some I walk by and feel sorry for anyone having to stay or work there. 

It was with this predicament that I had to make reservations at a hotel that I had never heard of.  The reviews on trip advisor were pretty mixed. I was nervous, expecting to walk into some flea bag, haunted, health hazard of a hotel.  What I encountered was a huge sigh of relief.

Haunted?

We stayed at the Larkspur Hotel.  It is one of about 25 in a California boutique hotel chain.  It is located just 2 blocks north of  Union Square and within walking distance to public transportation, China Town, North Beach, and Fisherman’s Wharf. 

The lobby was cozy with several sitting areas including one in front of a fireplace.  The front desk staff was very accommodating and friendly.  Jazzy standards (Amy music!) were playing in the lobby.

The hotel was built in 1915, so it was definitely old, but charming.  Our room was smaller than we would find at a newer hotel, but who goes to San Francisco to spend time in their room?  The bathroom was also pretty tiny, but  not so absurdly small that it was uncomfortable.  Ironically, the “dressing closet” was bigger than the bathroom!

Probably the coolest thing about the hotel was their Green for Green program. For every day that you opt out of maid service, you get $10 to use either at the hotel bar, on pay per view movies, or at Starbucks.  Um, $10 just to clean up after yourself? Can I get that at home too???  The catch is you can only do it 2 days in a row (maybe they want to make sure you aren’t dead in the room or running a meth lab or something), but still, I was all about this!

We redeemed our vouchers at the hotel bar, “1915.”  1915 was cute.  Even though they only had beer and wine and a small food menu, they had a happy hour every day, and great bartenders.  Plus, the bar had this old english countryside library feeling to it. 

San Francisco is not a cheap place to stay by any stretch of the imagination. Compared to some of the big name hotels in the area, Larkspur was actually very reasonably priced, especially considering you are RIGHT next to Union Square.  The quality of the accommodations and the customer service were far greater than the price suggests. Plus, the hotel is dog friendly which these days is very important to us!

My one complaint about this hotel is actually something that they have zero control over…the noise.  Oh my goodness it was noisy.  Our window faced Powell street, which is where the cable car (and its charming little bell) run from 6:30 to midnight.  Plus, there was some overnight construction going on, which made for some restless sleep.  But we did sign up to stay in the middle of a big city, right off a main thoroughfare, so really to expect it to be quiet would be unreasonable.  And again, the hotel, aside from choosing that location, really couldn’t do too much to control the noise. 

View from the room

So…I’d say overall I’d definitely stay here again when we find ourselves back in the city.  Sometimes a hotels.com leap of faith works out far better than you ever imagined!

Happy short week!

A San Francisco Half Marathon

One week ago I was in San Francisco, having a ball, recovering from my second Half Marathon race.

Way back in June we signed up for the U.S. Half in San Francisco and started our training in the middle of August.   Three weeks ago we ran the Duke City Half Marathon as a training race, and both of us did pretty well.  We had a lot of confidence going into the U.S. Half, and we were ready to put our Duke City times to shame at sea level.

Last Saturday we flew out to San Francisco.  Turns out, preparing for a race is a lot different on the road than it is at home.  We were traveling all day, so water wasn’t exactly the easiest to come by. We had a hard time finding bland, carby food, so we ate too much garlic at The Stinking Rose, leaving us feeling quite ill, not to mention smelly.  We also walked a lot on a lot of big hills, which probably wasn’t the best idea.  

 

Despite all this, we headed to the start line bright and early and ready to run.  In August I set a goal of 1 hour and 45 minutes, which at the time I thought was pretty impossible.  When I ran that for Duke City, I decided to lower my goal to 1 hour and 40 minutes since we’d be at sea level with 2 additional weeks of training.

Pre Race

The first 3 miles were great for both of us. I was pacing 7:30 and feeling strong. Then hill number 1 appeared. We’ve done a lot of hill training, but when I’m racing, I like as little uphill as possible. It really slows down my pace, and uses up a lot of energy. This hill wasn’t so bad, but still more than I wanted. This led us across the Golden Gate, which felt kind of epic, though looking down isn’t recommended!

Due to construction, the course had to be changed, adding a mile long 400 foot climb. I knew it was coming. Yet, when I crossed the bridge and saw the hill, it was HUGE. I was running a 12 minute mile and going nowhere fast. Luckily I was able to make up time going back downhill with the most gorgeous view of the city.

The rest of the race was flat. I wasn’t quite on pace to make 1 hour and 40 minutes, but with just a little more than 1 mile left, I was ready to come in at about 1:43. Then, right there at mile 12.5 was another hill. In retrospect, it was tiny. But, when I saw it, my mental state changed from ready to rock to ready to fall down and cry. I couldn’t power through it. Even at the top, I couldn’t make my legs go. My Garmin read 1:45, and I couldn’t spot the finish line. I didn’t have the energy nor the mental state to go any faster. After the longest 2 minutes of my life, I crossed the finish line feeling defeated. Also, according to my Garmin I ran 13.31 miles, which means I picked up an extra .2 miles (equal to about 1 minute and 30 seconds) somewhere.

I finished in 1:47:25, almost 2 minutes slower than I ran Duke City 2 weeks before.  The course was too hilly for my level of training.  I know that everyone has their bad races, and really, for the elevation gain in this race compared to Duke City, 2 minutes slower isn’t all that bad.  It is just too bad that this was the race I was planning for since June, and I fizzled.  I still finished 350 out of 3,542, and 67 out of 1960 females which isn’t too shabby, but I could have done better if I had just pushed myself a little harder that last half mile.

Aaron also had a bad race, combating a terrible side stitch that developed at mile 3, but still finished 71 out of 3,542 which is pretty awesome. 

Yay! We Finished!

Aside from my performance, the race course was AMAZING! We ran along the marina, through the Presidio National Park, across the Golden Gate and back, and down the beach to Fisherman’s Wharf. The race itself had some little fiascos (we didn’t get t-shirts because they ran out, we didn’t get finishers medals because the wrong ones got delivered, construction caused some MAJOR bottlenecks on the bridge, which luckily I was ahead of and not affected by) but it wasn’t a bad experience.  The weather was beyond perfect, and running through San Francisco was nothing short of a dream come true.  Plus, each bib came with a little bar code that could be scanned with a smartphone, so we got our official results minutes after crossing the finish line instead of waiting for them for days.  We also got water bottles, beer, and breakfast at the finish festival. 

Bib with bar code for results

We’ve already signed up for our next half marathon in January, so focus will be on maintaining our training and on shaving minutes off our times during the next 2 months.  I’m amazed at how addicting racing can be, and how much I’m enjoying them!

Training Tuesday Week 12 and The Homestretch

Well, here we are.

His and Her Garmins

On Sunday me, Aaron, and 4998 other people are going to duke it out over 13.1 miles.

12 weeks ago I set out  to complete a half marathon in 1 hour and 45 minutes, never having run more than 6.2 miles at once and after about 3 months of muscle atrophy.  This past Sunday, as we were cruising through mile 11, I told Aaron that I remembered that first “long” run (maybe 6 miles), and how I kind of wanted to die 15 minutes in.  I am amazed at how much has changed in just 12 short weeks.

I feel kind of silly going through this self-pep talk again since just 2 weeks ago I was preparing for another “first” half marathon, but this race is the one we signed up for in June, and the one that I’ve been looking forward to since then. 

Almost 3 and a half years ago Aaron asked  me to be his girlfriend and to run a half marathon with him.  While it is possible that he made this a requirement to keep me in shape (aka not chubby), this has become an activity that we can get excited about together.  Running has been a huge part of Aaron’s life, and he wanted me to be a part of it, and here we are running half marathons together (well, not really together since he is usually more than a mile ahead of me).  SIDENOTE: As a trade off, he now has to go to operas 3 times a year, endure Sephora on a regular basis, and he can speak intelligently about Hermes scarfs and Burberry plaid.   

So here we head into our final week of training…before our next race (have I mentioned I want to run a full marathon by April and qualify for Boston by the 2013 cut-off in September???).

TRAINING TUESDAY WEEK 12

Saturday: 5 mile run

Sunday: 2 hour run (we stopped at 1 hour and 53 minutes and got in 12 miles)

Monday: Easy 3 mile run, strength training

Tuesday: Interval Training: 1 mile warm-up, 5 sets of alternating quarter mile sprints/quarter mile recovery jogs, 1 mile cool down

Wednesday: Easy 3 mile run, strength training

Thursday: Tempo run: 10 minute warm-up, 10 minutes at half  marathon pace, 10 minutes cool down

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: Rest Day (LOTS of water and carb load…hello, pasta!)

Sunday: HALF MARATHON DAY!

Here is the rest of the training plan:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9

Week 10

Week 11