Friday, October 31, 2014

5 Reasons to Join Our Blog Hop

Today I am linking up again with the DC Trifecta Friday Five.  Thanks to EatPrayRunDC, YouSignedUpForWhat? & MarontheRun for hosting this link-up.



Although I love their topic idea for Halloween, because after all it is Halloween.  I am going to step onto my own today and shamelessly promote and share with you 5 reason's you should join us for the Thankful For My Followers Giveaway Hop.



1.  Because where would a blogger be without it's followers?  It's a great way to offer something, even if it's a small something and say thank you for following your blog.

2.  You'll get far more entrants if you join a giveaway hop, than if you host one solo.  For instance I held a giveaway on my own last week, I did promote it, but only had just over 100 people enter.  The last giveaway hop in September that we held, I had over 900 different people enter the giveaway.  The results from previous hops have been similar and I get told from many who participate they seem a vast difference when joining a blog hop, vs hosting on their own.

3.  It's not only a great way to thank your current followers.  It's a great way to obtain new followers.  In a hop, people click on one link, enter the giveaway and then click to the next link.  When you think about all the followers each different blogger has, you can see the potential in new followers.
Additionally, its a great way for you yourself to discover new bloggers and fun new blogs you might want to follow.

4.  It's fun and easy!  This particular hop I have removed almost all the rules.  The only requirements are including the image, and of course the blog hop linky at the end of the post.  Other than that, you know your followers best, host the kind of giveaway you know your followers will like!

5.  Last reason,  today is the last day to join us.  The Linky closes at Midnight for the Thanksgiving hop.  If you are checking out this post after Friday, then I'll recommend signing up for our December hop HERE.



MCM Mama Runs and I would love to have you join us and the awesome list below of great blogs participating!
Hop starts Monday November 3rd and runs through the 17th.
(Note: If you sign up today, you will receive your instructional email, no later than tomorrow morning!)


Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Take On The Run Less Training Plans

Like always, my opinions are just that my opinion.  They are not meant to offend anyone by any means, I have no one but myself in mind when I write posts.



Today's topic is on the Run Less Training Plans.  Specifically for those who are training for higher mileage, full marathons and beyond.  However, the half marathoner may also be interested.

I really do see why these plans are so popular with newer runners, and runners who might want to attempt their first half or full marathon.  Or busy people who can barely fit 60 minutes of time to their selves a few days a week.
Although I am not exactly partial to them, one positive thing about them is they probably do get a few more people active by their creative writing and "new philosophies".  Catchy titles and big promises telling you less is more really do catch a lot of peoples eyes.

I am not questioning the positive influence of these plans and books.  But when it comes to the distance runner who wants to see higher achievements, enjoy a race more, maybe one day experience that possible "runners high."  The run less training methods might not be the way to go.  I speak this from personal experience on both of the training spectrum's.



I have no idea what the numbers are these days, but if I was going to guess I am going to say probably more of today's runners go with the run less plans.
If you speak to runners of the 80's and 90's (because I know a few, and yes these are the comments I hear from them) and compare today's runner to them, yes distance runners may slower and lazier when it comes to training in compared to decade's past.

But I am not sure if lazy is the word, as much as life gets busy and hectic and people want to have goals and sometimes running less might be the only way for some to obtain those goals and still live their lives.

In fact even races have changed their finish line times to accommodate for runners who adapt the popular run less or run/walk training plans.  You used to have to finish a marathons in 5 hours or less. Now a lot of them allow a 7 hour or less finish time.

Times are changing, and is there a right or wrong way?
Nope, in fact if your active and you are enjoying what you are doing, then stick with it, that is the most important part!!!

However, if you are a distance runner and you want more.  You want faster times, you want to not feel so sluggish and crappy the last few miles of a race, you want to push to race instead of just finish. I'd like to share with you my take on why I am NOT a fan of the run less marathon training methods.

Let me tell you a story (this took place over several years):

Once their was a girl (me) who ran a decent marathon time, had pretty great results and success.  At that time, this girl was running 5-6 days a week.  6-10 miles a day with a long run of 16-18 once a week.  (Always at least 1 rest day a week.  Some weeks if needed 2 rest days.)

Then this girl slowly got lazy, started shortening daily runs for start to 4-6 miles, still once a week a 16-18 miler.  She started seeing her marathon finish times getting gradually slower.

Then this girl got even lazier, thinking I've got this, I can do it with less, I know what I am doing.  She started doing her own thing running only 3-4 days a week, long runs every other week and daily run mileage less and less.

Each race became harder and harder, she could see and feel the difference. Races and marathons became just a finish.  Sure she was still "getting them done".  But marathon times had slipped and added an hour and sometimes even more to what she had previously ran in years past with better training.  It was taking a toll on her body, she could feel that extra time on the courses, and it hurt.

One day on the ride back to a hotel after a particularly hard marathon and very bad experience she spoke to her original trainer (Dad).  The conversation went something like this: 

"I don't know why I had such a bad race." 
"You know why, you've adopted this run less mentality, your not training, not putting the mileage in to have a good race, what do you expect when your only running a few days a week?"
"I know, I don't want to have another race like this."
"So what are you going to do about it?"
"Will you help me?"
"If I remind you what to do, you have to promise you'll do it, make it worth my time to help you."
"I will, I want to feel that great race feeling again."

So with 8 weeks until her next marathon, she went back to the basics.  Ran more, increased daily mileage back to 6-8 a day Running 5-6 days a week.  Made sure she got a few long runs in, but the importance was making sure she was running more, putting in the miles ahead of time, training for a better race, taking rest days when needed.  But mostly getting back to running correctly and putting in the required hard work.

Race day came, what happened?
In a short 8 weeks of training correctly again, putting in the mileage, actually training her body properly for what she wanted.  She shaved 45 minutes off her marathon time. (No speed work was ever used during those 8 weeks.  Just proper training, putting in the mileage, no more run less mentality.)

I don't tell you that story to gloat in fact just the opposite.
It's to show that I know what it means to "train less, run less" I know how it feels on the body to train correctly running more and put in the hard work and miles ahead of time and the rewards of doing so.
I understand the results, I know how each method feels.  Which is why I have a strong opinion and disagree with the "Run Less or Train Less" plans for myself.



I am not writing this post to tell anyone what to do.
If you enjoy run less plans, and that is how you achieve your goals and it gets you what you want, I think that is great, keep on doing what works for you!
I also think if you stick to lower mileage and only train for 5k's or 10k's your probably okay.  I know a lot of half marathoners also tend to do okay with 3-4 days a week of running as well, which is great if that works for you!

However, if you are a distance runner and racing and you are wondering why it is "so hard" or want to get PR's or bring down your times or even just enjoy your races more.  My purpose for writing this post is for those of you.

Re-evaluate your training plans, are you running just enough to get by?
Have you slipped into a "train less" mentality (even if by accident?)
If you want things to get easier, if you want times to come down, believe it or not they actually can and will. But not many people can get these things without putting the mileage, training the body properly for the distance first.

Sure there are those that running and speed and endurance come naturally, I wish I was one of them.  But they are a rare and lucky breed.  For the rest of us, we have to think about what types of running goals we have, and how to go about achieving them, and what work really needs to be done to get there the right and safe way!

This post, may be my opinion but hopefully for some it gives a little "food for thought."  It is in no means meant to put anyone down.  If you enjoy your run less training programs and they are giving you the results you want.  Then stick with them, running is after all meant to be enjoyed!
But if your a marathoner and race after race you are struggling and wondering why it looks so much easier for some versus how your feeling, maybe this will give you something to think about!

So tell me, do you enjoy a run less training plan?  Are you in favor of normal training plans that require you to put the mileage and time into them?
Have you tried both, have you experienced different results if you've trained differently?  What are your thoughts?


I am not a trainer or doctor, my posts are my opinion and should not be taken as advice.  They are also in no ways meant to offend anyone.




Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dualed & Divided by Elsie Chapman

Just as I sat down to write the review for the 2nd book I realized I hadn't even written a review for the first book.  Dualed and Divided by Elsie Chapman.  Normally books like these are trilogies but when I finished Divided and realized it actually ended I was pleasantly surprised that I found a series I loved and don't have to keep waiting any more to find out what happens.



NOTE: This book review is NOT a spoiler for either Dualed or Divided.

West Grayer grew up a seemingly normal life, with a normal family.  However, everything about her life isn't what most of us would call normal.  In the city of Kersh when an individual is born, they also have a twin born to another family (an Alt) somewhere else.  Life is pretty normal except when it comes time, and when you are activated.  Each twin is forced to set out and eliminate their Alt.
They say the best Alt wins, and in their society they only want the best and the strongest to survive, which is why it is hunt or be killed

West is fifteen when she is activated.  Which means she has one month to hunt the towns, find her Alt and kill her before her Alt does it to her first.  If she doesn't succeed, The Board will eliminate both her and her Alt from the world.
But a little problem arises and things take on an entirely new direction for West.  She is battling lost friendships, new friendships and even quite possibly love.

The only problem is, she doesn't love herself enough to realize what she has and sets out on an entirely new plan of possible self distruction, which at the same time may be the exact thing that saves her, only time will tell.

When Dualed ends, Divided picks up right where it left off.  With the same fast paced, action and adventure story line we are used to.
But Divided throws in some excellent twists, that even I didn't see coming.  Not to mention all the answers to the questions we had.  If your like me, you'll be flipping the pages as quickly as possible to see how it all turns out.

Dualed and Divided are similar to the harshness of the Hunger Games, but in an entirely different way.  It's not just a few select individuals who are forced to become killers.  Anyone who wants to live, to survive to have a chance at a future must become a killer and prove their worth first.
The Dueled series had a very strong female lead character West Grayer who never let me down.  You really get right into the story from the beginning.  I found both books to be extremily hard to put down.  They are intense and original, and I really enjoyed them.

For readers who enjoyed other series like The Hunger Games, Divergent and Delirum series you will want to check out Dualed and Divided by Elsie Chapman.  Although a little graphic in nature, this is an excellent series, that I really loved and highly recommend!


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

This week for Travel Tuesday I would like to take you on an adventure the Great Smoky Mountains.  This is actually the most visited National Park in the country, so there is a good chance many of my outdoor enthusiast followers have already been here.  However, if you haven't I'd like to give you a few reason's to add it to your travel bucket list.



To go into all of the details and things to see and do within the park would take a much longer post than anyone would care to read.  So I am just going to share some highlights.  Note, my pictures were taken during the month of April around opening weekend, so if you go during the summer things will look much more green!



Why is it called Smoky Mountains?  Well if you look at either of the two pictures above they are decent examples.  See the mountains as they go from dark to lighter to lighter as if they are there but disappearing into smoke?  When that is my explanation of Smoky Mountains.
The misty blue haze that is the result from the lush vegetation, rivers and mountain valleys.



Take the Auto Tour, this is a great way to see the National Park.  This alone can take pretty much an entire day.



Waterfalls, they say there is a waterfall in almost each of the rivers and streams within the park.  Lots to see from the road, but even more if you get out and do a little hiking, like the one pictured below.



The park is home to 800 miles in hiking trails, not to mention a good portion of the famous Appalachian Trail.  I haven't hiked the entire 2160 mile trail, but I have had fun hiking much smaller portions of the trail, as it is in some beautiful country.



There are lots of places for camping, fishing.  Those camping in the park who wake up early may have the best opportunity to see great wildlife.



This park is actually home to over 80 historic structures.  They have also the best collection of log buildings in the entire eastern United States.



There are lots of museums to visit and learn more about the park while your there.  Learn about the early inhabitants and the Cherokee that once called these beautiful mountains their home.



You'll want to head to the top of the mountains stop and check the views near Newfound Gap. Which is on the state line between Tennessee and North Carolina.


Or climb to Clingmans Dome and hike up to the top to see some of the most spectacular views which are 360, from this dome that sits at over 6,600 feet.  Which is actually the highest point in Tennessee



It's a 1/2 mile paved walk/hike up to the Watchman Tower.  However, I should mention it's a very steep walk on up.



But on a clear day, very much worth it!





You can also do a little hiking up near the Clingmans Dome area, even part of the Appalachian Trail starts up in this area.  It can be a bit cooler up here, especially in the spring.



IF YOU GO

* The park can get really crowded in the summer and during holidays.  Plan ahead and you may be able to avoid getting stuck in the crowd.  I visited in early spring and never had to deal with stopped traffic and congestion.
*  There are 3 entrances and this is a FREE National Park, YAY!!
* Nearby towns, with lots of tourist fun
* I suggest visiting both the Tennessee and North Carolina sides of the park.
* If you can get out and do some hiking, there are so many things that you can't see from just the road alone.
*  If your going to go fishing of backpacking you'll need to check in at the visitors center.
* Some sections close during the winter, but most of the part is open year round.
* If you are going to take the auto tour, I suggest getting out early, beating the crowd and giving yourself plenty of time to see it all.



Monday, October 27, 2014

Sometimes Life Makes You Feel Like Your're Hanging

I actually skipped my "About Me" post last Monday because I had been hit by a string of bad luck.  I was going to skip it this week too, because for some reason good luck seems to be not following me. However, I decided to post and share a little, because that string of bad luck is WILL change!


MORE CAR PROBLEMS

In short, I mentioned a few weeks ago I paid $550 for some unexpected car repairs.  Just when I thought things couldn't get more expensive something else went wrong on my car a week or so ago and it cost me another $700.
Surely nothing else could go wrong with my car that has been pretty much fabulous until recent... Well that was until the other day when now it has a problem wanting to start.  Which means, yes I am off to the repair shop again this morning.  My only hope is, maybe this is something related to the other and it won't cost me anything.  (Yes even with all the bad luck I am into wishful thinking!)

But I did get to hang with these 2 cute kiddo's and that
was a definite bright spot!

TENDON ISSUES

In other news, my tendon has been giving me more pain.  I think I mentioned 3 weeks ago I had a little flare up.  Well it's my own fault, I worked a little too much standing on my feet in job #2.  At the same time I have been getting things ready for a huge event I had last weekend, which actually was one of my largest events ever.  Which meant lots of time on my feet, which of course has left me with an extremely sore tendon.

It doesn't bother me to run on it, so I have been.  However, I have even cut the mileage down on that to 3-4 miles, just to be safe.
I am hoping now that the event is over, and I haven't signed up to work job #2 this week, that I can get back to normal and flare up will go away as quick as it came!  Fingers crossed!

My niece and I enjoying some spooks!


WEDDINGS & EVENTS

I think I mentioned before that in over 6 years, this has been my slowest event year ever.  Which hasn't helped the bank account all that much.

This past weekend I pulled off one of my largest events ever.  You may laugh but it was a Hindu Baby Shower.  They seriously go all out for these things, decorate and spend more than most people do on their weddings.  I also pulled it off being very short staffed.

Despite a few things, we actually had a lot of things go right at the event, that really could have gone wrong very quickly, I really do consider myself lucky in that sense.
However, since I was running short staffed and a bit behind, I never broke out the camera to grab a few shots, before I left the family to do their thing.
Which I am kinda bummed about because I pulled off several room decor things that I have never done before, and it looked amazing and now I don't even have a single picture to show for it:(  Oh well....
However, the good news is on this.  I was able to make my client happy, who was an extremely picky 7+ month overly hormonal pregnant mother.  Which I have to say was a worry, because having had a couple of hormonal pregnant sisters, I wondered if it was even possible to really please her.


I have a lot of fun times with this cute niece!

LOOKING TO THE POSITIVE

Although the past few weeks have been filled with a few not so good moments, (a few more than I even shared and I won't go into the 6 pound weight gain that makes me cringe...)
I have had some good things happen too and I have to keep remembering that.
Sometimes it's really easy to let the bad and negative cast a shadow across the good things.

It really got me to thinking the other day.  Sometimes bad things just happen, and they may keep on happening.  But really attitude is what gets you through it and sometimes the worst thing we can do is focus only on the bad, as it in my experience has a tendency to just make things feel worse.

I remember when my tendon injuries were at their worst, the only thing that got me through it was attitude, thinking to the positive knowing that eventually that trial would be over.
I need to keep that focus and positivity in my daily life.

Which is why this week and each week going forward I am going to give myself a little challenge. A challenge to better myself and lead way for good things to happen.  If not to me, maybe I can be the person that brings good to someone else.

So this week, my challenge for myself is: 
Compliment At Least 2 Different People, Each Day on Something I Notice About Them
You are welcome to join me in this challenge.  

Hopefully getting my priorities straight and putting more focus on others, will help me bring my own luck back into my life.  Even if it doesn't, at least it will give me something positive to focus on each day instead of what is going on with my own life!



*** All pictures this week are of me having a little fun with my sis, niece & nephew at Lagoons "Fright Mares", a local theme park decked out for Halloween.***

Do you ever have times where you have to regroup and remind yourself to focus on the good?
Do you set weekly challenges for yourself that are meant to focus more on others?  Are you going to join me in this challenge this week?


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Found a Running Shoe I Love

I received an awesome opportunity to be a wear tester for the new Mizuno Wave Rider 18.  For those who already know what I run in, you know both of my other current pairs of shoes are also Mizuno, Wave Rider 16 and the Wave Creation 15.
Which is why I was even more excited to test out this shoe, because I have been only running in Mizuno's for the past several years, because frankly I love the brand an love that when they update a shoe, they don't ruin it!



STYLE

As if you can't tell in the pictures, these shoes are really great looking.  The black toe front, blends gray then into white in the heel.  With a light green color accent.

They call it the Black/Silver Florida Key's.
This shoe also comes in 2 other color options.

I've actually had several compliments on them from family, friends and other runners.  Which is pretty cool, because I honestly don't remember the last time I was complimented on how awesome my running shoes looked!

So many shoes these days are a bit over the top either too bright or too busy.  I'm not a fan of those kind of shoes for myself, and to be honest I have always wanted a cute black pair of running shoes. So the fun color on these shoes earned some major high points from me!



THE FIT

One thing about running shoes is the fit, they HAVE to feel right. Not just when you first put them on, but they need to feel good for miles and miles and day after day.

Since mine came in the mail, I ordered the same size that I normally wear in Mizuno and when I received them the fit was perfect, I didn't have to exchange them or anything.
Shoes that run true to their size are a major plus in my book, and the Wave Rider 18's definitely earned a thumbs up for me in this category too!

I run between 23-28 weekly miles right now.  I have been wearing these shoes every other day since I received them to break them in correctly and gradually.



COMFORT

Nothing better than a new pair of running shoes that feel awesome on your feet when you put them on.  Even better, a pair of shoes that feel incredible on your feet even after you finish running in them.
I broke these in slowly, and I am really loving them!  They honestly are comfortable and great for my feet during the entire run!

I really like the cushion in the heel and toe front area.  I am not sure exactly, but I don't think the previous version of this shoe had the cushion in the toe front like these do.  In fact I was comparing this new one to my previous version, and I really think these are a much better improvement in this aspect from earlier versions of the toe cushion shoe.

They are still a great flexible shoe, so for those who like comfort, flexibility and stability these are an excellent choice.

To be honest, I had a hard time wanting to take them off.  I was seriously tempted to wear them to work a few times.  But I didn't, I like to keep my running shoes just for running, to get a longer and better life out of them!


SPECS

This shoe is light weight (7.8 ounces to be exact), it's perfect for training and distance running!  They are made for runners who wear and train in a neutral shoe.  (Which since I am just coming off bad tendon injuries, neutral shoes are all I can wear, or will wear ever again!)
It also really does give you the smooth ride, that it promises!  Very similar to the way your foot stride feels in the previous versions of this shoe, although just slightly more heel cushion (in my opinion) that it's predecessors.
They've also improved the durability of the shoe, with new outsole pattern.


CHANGES

If you are like me and wore previous versions of the Wave Rider, I really enjoyed both the 15 and 16 models.  (I did not own the 17.)
Like all runners, when you find a shoe you love you cringe when they come up with a new model, because of the fear they changed the things you loved about the shoe.  Which is why a lot of runners then end up being forced to switch model's or brands.

Great news, the Wave Rider 18 may have some changes.  But for me, none of them were on the negative side, in fact I would say they actually made it better without ruining the feature's I previously loved.
In fact, I really like the lighter weight.  I can tell a little difference in the liner, and I must say I LOVE this so much better than previous versions, especially the softer mesh quality!!!

I wish I could tell you all the technical aspects.  But I am not a shoe scientist.  I just go by what I feel, and what I think about running shoes after wearing them many miles.

As someone who is getting back into medium mileage, with plans to get back into marathon condition over the coming months.  A great shoe is highly important, not just for my feet, but for my knee's and body.  I love the feel of the Wave Rider 18, and the way they respond to the heel to toe strike as I run, and science aside that is great enough for me!



WHAT I LOVE

What I love about Mizuno's Wave Riders, they don't break down like some brands.  I am able to get the full life out of the shoe, and able to get lots and lots of mileage out of them before I have to replace them.

Even though I am in the early stages of wearing the Wave Rider 18's, I can pretty safely say, that these should follow in that same pattern as I am used to with it's previous versions.  Possibly, I'll even enjoy them more because I really do like the make of the new softer and more durable mesh.

The lighter weight is also great, I love how they feel as they hit the ground after each step.  They really do provide a stable step as you hit the ground and then push off with the toes.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

For those who know me as a runner, they know not a lot of shoes make my recommended list.  I have tried many brands and models out through the years.  I have made a few mistakes in a few wrong pairs, and I have also found a few great pairs.  I have already gone through over a dozen pairs of running shoes in the past 4 years as I have been working on my 50 states marathon goal.  So I like to think I have learned the good and bad about running shoes!

So when I tell you I love the Mizuno Wave Rider 18's, and recommend them.  I am being completely honest with you!  I would not say so on my blog it if I didn't truly believe it and feel it!

I think Mizuno's Wave Rider 18's are great for a wide range of runners.  Low to high mileage training shoe for any runner looking for a neutral shoe.  Also because I am coming off foot injuries, feel they are a great shoe to use to come back to running with.  I also think they would (and for myself, will be) a great 13.1 or 26.2 marathon shoe!  Actually, I am looking forward to introducing them to their first race!



Want a little more information on the Wave Rider 18?  
Check out the Wave Rider 18 Page.



What do you think of the look and color of the new Wave Rider 18's? 
If you are shopping for a pair of new running shoes, do you think you will give the Wave Rider 18's a fit test at the running shop as your trying shoes on?
What is your favorite aspects of a great running shoe?



DISCLOSURE:  I was provided a complimentary pair of the Wave Rider 18's and compensated for my review.  However, I was not required to write a positive review, all thoughts and opinions above are my own.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Haunting Season

Book Review
Around this time of year, I love to pick up creepy books and read them.  I found The Haunting Season on the newer arrival section at the library earlier this year and kept the book in mind for this month.  So glad I did, I really enjoyed this haunted tale.

I haven't read any of Michelle Muto's books before, so I was opened a new experience!  The Haunting Season was perfect for one of my "seasonal creepy reads" for Halloween.

The Siler House has been one of Savannah Georgia's most haunted houses for decades.  The summer before college Jess Perry gets enlisted along with three others to spend a month in the house and be monitored as part of a paranormal study.

Jess had seen ghosts for a long time in her life.  It wasn't until after her father died when she started to force it, and she hasn't seen a ghost since.  Despite her deceased grandmothers warning to leave the dead alone, and to be careful what you let in.  She is bound and determined to be a part of this study and start seeing ghosts again.

Allison, see's malevolent spirits, and has had a very dangerous past with them.  Brian has the ability to make things disappear.  Gage has been known to bring back things from the dead.  Together they all posses some unique skills that a government organization thinks are so unique they are paying them quite well to participate in their study.

The problem with haunted houses, you never know what you are getting into.  Some can be harmless or a hoax, others can be deadly.  Jess doesn't care, she dives into this believing all ghosts are harmless.  Even despite her roommate Allison's repeated attempts to persuade her otherwise.

It isn't until things start changing, and taking a turn for the worse that the four realize they are not only in over their heads.  But may possibly be getting themselves sucked into something they may not be capable of handling or getting out of alive.  As darkness reigns in, and their designated official who is supposed to be documenting and watching over them starts changing before their eyes.  The group have to make some tough decisions that they may not know the results until it's too late.

With known and unknown dangers lurking.  The inability to know who to trust.  With a little love in the wind. Jess and her peers gather together to confront evil and see if there is a chance to get out alive.
This novel is Young Adult, but I have to be honest I really think the content was written for adults. The main character is eighteen, which is likely the only reason this was classified as YA.  I am not sure I would want my young teen reading one of the love scene's in the book, but that is just my opinion.  However, the language is fairly clean and overall this book was well written.
The great news about this book is, it is a stand alone so you don't have to wait for sequels to find out how it ends.

If your in the mood for a haunted read this Halloween season, The Haunting Season by Michelle Muto is on my highly recommend list!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Grand Teton National Park

This week for Travel Tuesday I am taking you to Grand Teton National Park.  This beautiful National Park is in Wyoming.  Just south of Yellowstone National Park and just north of Jackson Hole.



Grand Teton is full of beautiful lakes that are great for fishing, boating, kayaking or canoe and even swimming (depending on the time of year.)  It's also nearby the Snake River, where you can take day floating trips.



The Teton's are also full of hiking trails, a hikers paradise of over 200 miles of trails.  Day hikes, or backpackers will love the range and forests and peaks in this park.  Most of the hikes are a bit more rugged so you'll want to check in at the visitors center and get a good map and familiarize yourself with the hikes and the area first.



Teton's aren't just for the summer, lots of people come to visit in the winter for snowshoeing and snowmobiling.  However, you may need to check for permits for those things as well as overnight backpacking.



Camping, lots of campgrounds to choose from.  They have both sites with hook-ups or none.  To my knowledge they are all first come first serve, but you may be able to reserve some of the group sites.



Scenic driving.  Even if you are only driving through and only have a day.  You'll find lots of beautiful views and sights to see just taking the scenic driving tour routes around Jenny Lake and Signal Mountain.



Animal watching.  You'll have lots of opportunity to catch sight of Elk, Deer, Bison and Moose.  Although rare, if your lucky you might even spot a bear.  Most animal sighting are just after sunset or just before sunrise before the people come out to disturb them and send them into hiding:)



THINGS TO KNOW
* This is a National Park, so there is a fee to enter the park
* Near Yellowstone, this is a great place to add to your travel list if you will be visiting Yellowstone or Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
* Hiking, carry a map, GPS and water.  This is also bear country so bear spray is also a good idea.
* Bug repellent, I found this to be a must in the evenings.
* Lots of places to eat and gift shops nearby.



Friday, October 17, 2014

5 Favorite Fitness Tunes

Today I am linking up again with the DC Trifecta Friday Five.  Thanks to EatPrayRunDC, YouSignedUpForWhat? & MarontheRun for hosting this link-up.

Today's theme is 5 Favorite Fitness Tunes.  Which means, it's your chance to see how dorky I can really be.  Because I'm actually going to tell the truth on a few tunes that will probably sound dumb to most, but I get a boost in my step every time they come on!



If you're like me it's almost impossible to pick just five.  Especially since I enjoy Pop, Rock and Country as well as classic oldies:)  So I broke mine up into different categories and picked one from each of those.


1. Favorite tune that helped me get through my (almost 2 years) of work injury.  Whole Wide World, by Mindy Gledhill.

2.  All time favorite tune to listen to when I hit miles 22-25 of a marathon.  If You're Going Through Hell by Rodney Adkins.

3.  Favorite tune that is so dorky to mention, but puts a huge smile on my face and yes is definitely in my playlist Hoedown Throwdown by Miley Cyrus.

4.  Favorite current pop tune that is on my playlist, and happens to be my first Taylor Swift workout song (I am loving her as a pop singer by the way, and I don't care what anyone else thinks of that:) Shake It Off.

5.  Inspiring songs that I enjoy listening to when I workout this year.  This one was tough to pick just one so sorry I picked two:
Brave by Sara Bareilles and Roar by Katy Perry


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Balance Bar Review & Giveaway

I received the opportunity to try out Balance Bars and review them on my blog.  Originally when I was asked before I even accepted I visited the Balance Bar website, I wanted to make sure these were a product I might enjoy and would be a good fit for my blog.  When I discovered they were, I was excited to try them out.



The wonderful people at Balance Bar provided me with a large box full of both the Dark Chocolate Caramel Macchiato and the Dark Chocolate Crunch bars to try out.  The great thing about having so many, I was able to try them out as well as allow my family members to try them.  So this review is actually written by me, but an accumulation of all of our opinions on the bars.



Let me tell you the first thing that caught my attention on these bars.
40-30-30 Nutrition Energy Bar
40% Calories from Carbs
30% Calories from Protein
30% From Dietary Fat

Not only that but they are Gluten Free, which isn't a problem for me.  But I do know a lot of people who have to find good tasting foods and nutrition supplements that are Gluten Free.

Additionally, they are a great source of Antioxidants (Vitamins A, C, E, & D.
With 13 Grams of Protein and 4 Grams of Fiber
Kosher - 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified Cocoa.
Only 180 Calories per bar

Personally, I think these are great for athletes.  A great bar to eat even at breakfast or a snack.  To give you extra energy before/during a workout.  It's got the protein needed for after workout recovery, but the calories and carbs to get you through a run or workout.

How do they taste?
This was the biggest question for me when I first received them.  I'm not going to lie, I was a bit apprehensive at first.  Usually I don't really like the taste of protein bars.  However, I am being totally honest in telling you, they are pretty good.
In fact several of my family members who are huge chocolate lovers, love these.  Additionally, I had a few kids try them, and they also really liked them. 
So on how do they taste, they won several of my family members approval!


Want to try them yourself, visit the Balance Bar Website for more information.
You can also sign up for their emails, to receive coupon offers.
You can also locate a store near you that sales them by visiting HERE.

Overall, my honest opinion is these are a great tasting nutritional energy bar.  Which is why I want to give one of my readers their own bars to try.  How to enter, just enter via the Rafflecopter form below, it's that simple.  

Must bey 18 or older to enter, or have a parent enter for you.  The winner will be chosen and notified within 48 hours of the giveaway end date.  Winner will have 72 hours to respond to their email, if no response a new winner will be selected.  Winner must have a U.S. Shipping address and must be able to accept packages at the address.



a Rafflecopter giveaway


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Willie's Redneck Time Machine Review & Giveaway

Those who read my blog know, I love books especially great books.  I also love to share my love of books with my nieces and nephews. Before I recommend a great book to them, I like to read it and make sure it's great quality, fun and something that will promote the love of reading in their lives.  Because there is no greater gift you can give a child than the gift of loving to read!  (In my opinion)

I received an opportunity through Tyndale House Publishers and was provided with a complimentary copy to review Willie's Redneck Time Machine by John Luke Robertson with Travis Thrasher.  All thoughts and opinions below are my own, I was not required to write a positive review!

If your like me, you love watching Duck Dynasty, it's great family laugh out loud fun.  So when I saw this children's book I suspected this was something my nephew would love.

In this book you get to be your own Duck Commander.  In other words, it's a story that you shouldn't read through from cover to cover.  But after each chapter, you get to choose the next adventure and where the story is going to go.  In other words, you could read this same book over and over again and experience a different adventure or story each time.  It's fun, full of laughs and just as you would expect from one of the Robertson's!

What child doesn't have dreams of going back in time, to be able to see things that they only learn about in school, or go on a time travel adventure.  In true redneck fashion, the time travel machine is of course an outhouse found out in the Duck Commander warehouse.
What looks like a normal old outhouse, you soon discover there is a lot more to it, and adventure awaits.  Not just one adventure, but a new adventure at each chapter.

Right away, you are traveling through time back into the 80's for Korie's and Willie's Prom.  You are in charge, you choose what will happen.  At the end of the chapters you are asked a few questions, based on your answers you go to different pages, for a unique story.  You'll visit a fun futuristic war and decide if you'll help Si win, visit Noah's Ark.  Will you make it back in time for Korey's birthday party?  There are several different endings and several choices to create a new adventure with just a turn of a page.
I even found myself laughing and smiling at the different possibilities!

I am excited to give this book to my nephew, it's going to be one of his Christmas presents.  I really think this is perfect for kids, boys or girls.  Any child who loves a sense of adventure!
I personally think the age range for those who will enjoy this fun adventure book is between 8-14.  If your looking for a fun book that your kids will enjoy, Willie's Redneck Time Machine is one I give a big thumbs up!

There is actually four available books in this series:
Willie's Redneck Time Machine
Phil & the Ghost of Camp Ch-Yo-Ca
Sin in Space
Jace & the Deadliest Hunt


If you want to buy a copy, check it out on AMAZON.


Even better, the gracious people at Tyndale House Publishers have provided me with an additional copy to send a lucky winner from my blog.
Just think, it could be one less birthday or Christmas present you have to buy this year:)

The book will be shipped by me, so I am opening this to U.S. shipping addresses only.  (Sorry, I can't afford international shipping at this time.)
I am opening this giveaway to any age, however those under 18 must have a parent permission before entering.

How do you enter?  Pretty simple, just enter below in the Rafflecopter form below.  That's it!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Toltec Mounds State Park, Arkansas

This week for Travel Tuesday I am going to introduce you to something different, something that many of you have probably never heard of or considered visiting.
Today's post will likely appeal more to those who enjoy American Ancient History as well as Native American Archaeological digs and sights.




Most people when they think of Native American Indian sites, think of Teepee's and Petroglyphs. Not a lot of people think about Indian Mounds, which is why I am showcasing this little visit I took and enjoyed while I was visiting Arkansas.



Unless your a historian, you probably wouldn't consider this place a vacation destination.  I personally don't either.  However, if your going to be in the area.  This is an interesting place to stretch your legs and visit and learn about.  It could take all of 30 minutes to an hour, it just depends on your walking speed really.  As the Plum Bayou trail around the area is about 1.6 miles long, but can be shortened if wanted.



Toltec Mounds State Park is actually one of the largest archaeological sites in the lower Mississippi Valley.  Originally their were 18 mounds but now because of erosion and farming only 3 remain.



What is an Indian Mound?
It's basically a mound of dirt, the highest right now at 49 feet.  Very possibly higher back in 650 to 1050 A.D. when they were built.

How were they built?  Back then they didn't have the tools we had, so they were built up from flat ground by hand, possibly pots or other ways to carry the dirt in, but all by hand nonetheless.



Why were they built?
Now depending on who you ask, they may have a different ideas of who the Indian's were who once occupied this land, and build the mounds.
After all, other than ancient texts which don't cover a whole lot, it's all really up for speculation.
Some will tell you for religious ceremonies, battle purposes, living residences, dances, games ect...



Well because this is my blog, I will just tell you my theory (so don't take it for anything other than that.)  I think it was likely all of the above.
They are in a lower valley, and low valley's flood.  So why not build up taller mounds to protect their homes and food from flood waters.  Or to create quick safe haven's to run to when possible flooding occurs.



People througout time do things for a purpose or just to do them.  Look at the crazy things we build now days ourselves.  So who knows really, but one thing for sure is.  If you are going to break your back to carry that much dirt and create tall mounds like that.  Your probably doing it for a purpose, and to me flooding would be an excellent purpose!

My guess is, these mounds at one time held their structure's, or homes!



Where did these people go so long ago?
This is another thing that depending on who you ask, you'll get different guesses.

The theory I hold my belief in is warfare.  If your a scripture reader, and not that I am a scriptorian by any means.  But based on the information about the different battles back in those days, I would say they were destroyed during the massive wars during that time.
If you believe in that theory, then at one time the river and water ways pictured here were rumored to have been littered with thousands of warrior bodies.

However, if you don't go with that route, it's also possible they died off from disease or just plain moved on to other areas.



But that is half the fun about these area's, it's all open for speculation and you can really let your imagination go, if you like that kind of thing.  Which I do!
However, if you really like to dig into things.  The Smithsonian has tons of stuff on this that hasn't even been cataloged or even begun to dive into.  This includes the mounds in several states and area's in America.  So if that is your thing, then that is something to consider.



You'll also pass Mound Lake, which in my pictures looks a little eery, but that is because I visited in the spring just before everything became green and alive.




There is a visitor center, which I recommend stopping by.  That is where you'll learn pretty much the majority.  You can pay your entrance fee, and they'll give you a little booklet to help you have a more educational walk when you go out to walk around the mounds.




IF YOU GO:
* They do charge (at the time I went $4) to go through the museum.
*  This is a great stop to do if your traveling the area, it could take as short or as long as you'd like it to be.
*  Not too far from Little Rock, Arkansas
*  There are also a few other local attractions and museums nearby in the same area.