Friday, January 30, 2015

Favorite Indoor Workouts

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

Today's suggested topic is 5 Favorite Indoor Workouts.  

I am not a gym person nor am not a huge fan of working out indoors.  If and when I have no other option, these are a few of what I enjoy doing.




1.  The Treadmill, as much as I dislike it, sometimes I just have to like it.
I am also going to throw in, indoor tracks.  I have 3 indoor tracks within a mile or two of my home.  I recently just learned that the Olympic Speed Skating Oval from the 2002 Winter Olympics also has an indoor track that runs around the ice, I am kinda looking forward to hitting it up next crappy weather day.  I heard you get to run along side all the Olympic athletes while they are training.  I am thinking that might be pretty cool to try!

2. Jillian Michaels Workouts, especially her circuit training ones.  They kick my but each and every time, and sometimes its just fun to mix it up.

3. Resistance Bands, may sound funny but I like them.  They are things I can do when I am watching T.V. or have a few minutes here or there to spend on a little resistance training, arms or legs.

4.  Stair Climber, I have one of these it's lasted years.  I keep it in the bedroom with a great view of the T.V.  Doesn't matter if I only have 2 minutes or 20 minutes it's a great little workout!

5.  Chasing my nieces and nephews around and playing with them.  They are all seriously a fun workout.  It's amazing how many times a 1 or 5 year old can run around a house in an hour.  You get 3-5 of them together, and let me say I am exhausted by the time they leave, it's less exhausting to do a 10 mile run, than an hour of playing whatever they want.  Ha ha :)


So what are your favorite indoor workouts?  If your forced indoors, do you prefer Gym's or Home Gym's?




Thursday, January 29, 2015

How to Take Care of Your Running Shoes

If your a runner, whether you run 100 meters or a marathon.  One thing we all have in common is our running shoes.  Most runners will tell you, they spare no expense to make sure they have excellent shoes that will hold up to the wear, tear and miles they put into them.   It's the one time we spend $100+ on shoes and know it's money well spent and we will spend it several times a year on as many pairs as it takes.
Which is why it is so important to take extra care with them, and know how to extend the best possible life in them!



I'd like to share a few tips and tricks I have learned through the years to help give the expensive running shoes I own, a much longer life.


RUNNING SHOES

* If possible purchase 2-3 pairs, and alternate them.  Running in the same shoe ever day can break it down faster.  But if you can give it a 24-48 hour break between runs you can actually extend the life of the shoe and get more miles out of them.

* When possible avoid running in the rain.  Or if you do have to do a training run in the rain, use an older pair, or a pair that is closer to their mileage running out.


* Never wash your running shoes in the washer.  I know they can get muddy, but throwing them in the wash isn't the answer.  Doing so will break the shoe down and sometimes can even ruin a pair.
Instead, spot clean them if possible.
If you do have to wash your shoes, NEVER put them in the dryer! Let them air dry, a dryer will surly ruin them!

* Check your running form.  Are you striking your heel too much, or maybe your dragging your feet at times.  A few changes in the way you run, will not only help your stride, but will help pro-long the life of your expensive running shoes.  If you're not sure how to do this, have an experienced runner or coach watch you run to give you tips, or visit a running medical specialist and have a running analysis done.

* Never leave your shoes in a hot car.  A lot of the plastics/rubber on the shoe can actually deform or melt on you, especially in the warmer months of the year.  This will damage the shoe and wear it out faster.  Instead buy a bigger bag, or purse and take them into work or wherever with you instead of leaving them in the backseat or trunk.

* Only wear running shoes, to run in.  Doing other things in them, can ruin them.  They are made for running/walking.  Not cross training, lifting or hiking!

FUN TIP: If you keep your running shoes and store them in boxes, or want to.  When you get them make a note of the date you purchased them.  And use the box as a quick mileage journal for them.
That way you'll always know when the shoes are nearing their end!


So tell me, what tips do you have to prolong the life out of your running shoes?  Or is this something you haven't thought about before?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Pizza Bible

If you are like me and you love a great Pizza, this is one cookbook you may want to consider adding to your collection!  The Pizza Bible by Tony Gemignani.

Let me tell you a few reason's I loved this cookbook.  I love pictures, especially good ones that show detail, and even how to do something.  This book has it.
The pictures are actually pretty mouth watering, clearly he knows how to make pizza look good!

I'm not a professional cook, in fact not even close.  But I do enjoy trying it from time to time.  But when your dealing with dough, it can be tricky.  What is sticky, what isn't sticky enough, how many times do you roll it, what happens if you over roll it.  Sounds crazy, but a lot can go into it and make the difference between a slice that is heaven, or a slice that is just pizza.

This book breaks the entire process down, so you can not only create some of the best pizza's, but they will taste better than ones you can get from some of the best restaurants.
From how to make the dough, how to store it, how long you can freeze it. Prep times.  I knew their were different kinds of flours, but I had no idea what a difference some of them can make with dough.
Not to mention all the different sauces, which are the best for which kinds of pizza and dough etc..

I used to think making pizza seemed pretty simple, and it is.  But just a few minor changes in the way you make it, and using the correct ingredients can make a world of difference, this I learned well!

I'm going to be honest, when I cook and particularly when I bake.  I bake on stones.  My stoneware is years old, and seasoned fabulously.  I learned how to clean them years ago without having to ruin the seasoning and all the work put into getting them to that point.  But even I picked up a new trick from this book.
Possibly the reason I found lots of success with the recipes in this book was because I cooked them on stoneware instead of steels.  I just thought I should mention that!

This is a Pizza Bible, not only does it tell you all the "Though Shall Not..."  But it even gives you his Ten Commandments of Pizza.  Sounds funny, and even I think it is.  But I learned a lot from it, enough to now be able to make the perfect pizza anytime!

Not only do you get the best tips tricks and recipe's for dozens of different kinds of pizzas.  But he's also got sections for Calzone's (which I love, and who doesn't!) Bread sticks, Pepperoli and sausage rolls.  As well as several things to do with leftover pizza dough, YUM!

Have I tried all of them?  Nope, I've really only scratched the surface, and their are a few that really I have no desire to try.
However, being a runner I love to eat pizza, I can't help it.  Being able to make it on my own, for a yummy meal after a long run, or even as part of a carbo-load before a big race is just a plus.  Being able to make it GREAT is even a bigger plus.

Their are lots of cookbooks out there on the market.  All cookbooks aren't for every cook, this one may or may not be right for you.
This one in my opinion is for someone who wants to take a little extra care to make something that will taste the best it possibly can.  This is also a good book for anyone who enjoys a California Style, Italian, Sicilian, Traditional or Chicago style and even grilled.  This is for the cook who loves pizza, and wants to learn new skills to make great pizza anytime!   For the cook that wants to take their time, and do something right, rather than just quick.



Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary copy of this cookbook by Blogging For Books for my review.  I was not required to write anything positive, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Visiting Seattle

I don't offer a whole lot of Travel Tuesday posts on cities themselves, probably because I am a country girl at heart and the mountains and trails are far more my style of exploration.  However, I do visit cities as well, and when I do I like to get out and find the known and less known spots of interest.



Seattle, Washington is one of those places.  Oddly, I never thought I would travel here.  But after a lot of hard work at a job, I actually won an all expense paid trip to a destination of my choice.  At the time I decided to take my sister and her new little baby girl. (Because the trip was for two and the baby could fly free:)  So after a little thought and once we realized we might not want to be on a plane for hours on end with a baby.  We picked Seattle, from Salt Lake it was less than an hour flight:)  Which was perfect.


To be honest when I first picked the place, all I had on my mind was visiting Mt. Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park since they were both in pretty close proximity to Seattle.  Little did I know at the time that I would find the city itself a beautiful adventure!


One thing about Seattle like all big cities the parking is a bear and expensive.  So when I had the travel agent book this trip (yeah, I rarely use them, but had to on this trip since I won it.) I made sure we were within walking distance to the waterfront and market streets.


When we checked in and they saw we had a baby with us.  They put us up on one of the higher floors and on a floor with other children haha.. We laughed at that, but it was all good, we had a great view of the city, especially at night don't you think!

This was actually taken around midnight, but it looks like day.
I sat the camera down looking out the window so it would be steady and set it for a very long exposure almost 45 seconds.
First time I ever tried to take a fun night shot actually:)

Seattle is known for its rain.  Although we had cloudy skies most of the trip, it actually never rained the entire week we were there.  In fact it was beautiful.  As we left, it was almost disappointing not to be able to say we saw the Seattle rains:)



I highly recommend the Famous Pike Street Market Place!  Not only will you see places that you've seen in the movies.  But their are some excellent deals!  Oh, and if you love flowers, I walked past dozens of shops with flowers for sale so beautiful and prices that were amazing.  Bouquets I would pay $40 for here, I could have gotten there for $6-$9 seriously fabulous!!!



Walk the waterfront, and enjoy the history and beauty.  Not to mention all of the great shops and places to eat.  Pretty much something for everyone!  I don't say that lightly as I am one of the pickiest eaters around.



Leave the car at the hotel if you can, and just walk.  Sure its steep downhill all the way to the piers and downtown Waterfront district.  But seriously, you don't need your car.  You get to see and enjoy much more on foot!
However, I will mention we had lots of issues with the cars there, they seemed to not care if you had the right of way to walk across the street.  I actually give them pretty poor marks on that part.  So if your walking, watch your step as you cross a street.  Just because the cars are stopped at a red, doesn't mean they actually obey it!



However, if you do want spectacular views of the city.  I suggest hopping in your car and driving around the sound to the other side to look across at it.  There are lots of parks and beaches on this side too.  Great for runners!
The water is pretty cold though, but we couldn't resist letting this cute baby put her little chubs in for her first dip in the ocean and of course walk in the sand:)



Over all we had a great time, sightseeing, shopping and playing around in Seattle.  So much so, that I would definitely make it back there sometime.  That city has some crazy hills, I bet the Seattle Marathon is so fun, I hope to run that one someday.  I think I would love running up and down all those hills!


Have you been to Seattle, did you find it to be a beautiful city too?



Monday, January 26, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me

SLUMBER PARTY & MOVIE FUN

This past week was a lot of fun.  I took my niece to the movies, then I had another niece come over and we had a pajama slumber party.  Filled with singing, dancing and eating way too many cookies:)  But it was a lot of fun, I sort of sacrificed a few workouts to spend the time with them, but that's okay because they are more than worth it!  They all help keep my young, that and up to date on all Disney princess everything!

A FIRST FOR ME

I did something this past week that was a total first for me.  I know a lot of you will laugh, because most people start doing this when they are younger.  But I dyed my hair for the first time ever.
See I had a few blond hairs on top of my head, that may or may not have been mistaken for grays:) I am strange I love my hair color, so I was nervous to change it.  So I picked a color that looked very similar to my own.  Which in reality was a shade or so darker.  But apparently it was so similar that not a single person this week even noticed, not even family and I told them I colored it, haha.
But it's all good, the only important part was to get rid of those "blond" hairs:)



MY BIRTHDAY

In a couple of days, I will be turning another year older.  I am one of those weird people who love birthdays.  Age is irrelevant anyway, it's all about how you feel and act.  Anyone who knows me, knows I have no intention of ever growing up, so I guess I will be able to be forever young:)
So on my birthday, I never work...ever.  I take that day just for me, and sleep in, run or go out to lunch.  I will eat cake and sticky rolls and not care a single second about any of the calories!


FUN FACTS

So since this week I have a birthday, I decided to do one of those fun fact posts.  Hopefully I will be able to keep this fresh and not things I have mentioned before:)
I found a website that gives over 800 random questions to answer about yourself, so I picked a few to share.

How many pillows do you sleep with?
Usually 3 and occasionally up to 5, I don't know why I just like pillows around me I guess:)

How many hats do you own?
I really don't know on this, I am going to say it's over 30 for sure.  I love running hats, and love lots of different colors so I own ton's of them.

Can you ice skate?
Yes, I did a lot as a child.  But haven't done it in years, although I did tell one of my nieces I would take her this winter.  On the mornings I run along the local canal by my house, on the day's its froze over, I remember heading down there as a kid and skating on the ice.  Although we didn't have skates, usually we just slid around in our boots and hoped we didn't break through the ice:)

What was the last song you danced to?
During the sleepover with my niece I made her watch the original Annie with me, and we did get up and dance to The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow:)  Yup, I am a dork, but I am fine with it!

If you could bankrupt one person or company who would it be?
This one is tough, I don't really envy specific rich people.  I figure they earned it and whatever.  But whenever I hear of rich people who are idiots or leaving all their money to their pets or something dumb like that.  That grabs my attention, so ya if I could take someones money it would be someone who was planning on leaving it all to their cat, LOL
As for companies, it would have to be a corrupt one, maybe a oil company (when they raise the gas prices back up, haha.)

Have you ever invented a fairly unique meal or drink?
Hmmm, well when I was younger around the age of 12, I used to like to make pink mash potatoes with baby blue gravy.. Ya, no one ate it but me, and I could never understand why:)

What is your favorite type of fish?
Well I do love sharks!

Have you ever played golf?
Nope, I look at golf and can't find anything appealing about it so I have no desire to ever try it.

Have you ever walked into a wall?
Many of times.  The worst was when I was 18, my friends and I got off work in a mall and we were in a hurry so we were running through it to get out quick.  I had forgotten they locked the glass doors all except one at close.  I ran full speed and smacked my face right into the glass.  That hurt worse than anything, I am actually shocked my nose didn't break.

Have you ever handled a snake?
Yes, many times.  I have even eaten rattlesnake before!

Have you ever contemplated suing someone?
I used to work as a para-legal and I sued dozens of people each day.  So I am not really sue crazy for myself, it would take a lot to do it.
But I was once hit by someone in a car who was here illegally and with no insurance and the damage they did to me and my body in the accident and the fact that because the cop was busy they got away and not even arrested.  For a time I really wanted to sue anyone who was here driving illegally and anyone who doesn't have their own car insurance.  If I am going to be honest, I still don't agree with people like that!

Did you ever have a tree house as a kid?
Not a tree house, but my did make us a huge hut with windows and doors, and big enough for us to have about 10 friends in it at a time.

How fast do you type?
The last time I was tested I could type 70 WPM without error, but I can type a little faster than that, however their will probably be some errors:)

What is the largest amount of money you have ever won?
I don't know if you consider this winning, but I won a surprise award once at work and with it came a $5,000 cash prize.  But for contest winning, I won a blogger award contest a few months back and landed a $500 check and I thought that was pretty sweet!

What was the last movie you saw in a theater?
It was Unbroken and even though I knew the story before going in to watch, I thought they did a beautiful job and found it very inspiring!



What is going on in your week?  Do you ever have slumber parties with your kids, grandkids or nieces and nephews?
Or pick one or two of the random questions and give me your answer!



Thursday, January 22, 2015

The "ME TIME" Tag

This morning I was hopping around visiting a few of my blogger friends, and I notices Press on & Run tagged me in the "ME TIME" tag.
Since I didn't already have a post planned for today, and especially since answering questions about myself can make for a quick post, I decided why not, and to join in the fun!
I just hope it was okay to use the About me image:)



1. What do you watch and read during "ME TIME"?
If you read my blog you know I LOVE to read, although I have a wide taste in books, I do enjoy Young Adult that are written for adults:)  I go through phases, and sometimes I like adventure, mystery, dystopia etc.. Right now I am going through a weird darker phase, and I have a bunch of books I picked up that are a little on the "darker" side.  So we'll see:)
I'm not huge into T.V. I can go days without it.  But I do have a few that I enjoy; Walking Dead, Survivor, Heartland, Arrow.  I also have a daytime guilty pleasure that I don't watch much, but when I can, yeah I watch General Hospital:)

2. What do you wear during "ME TIME"?
Anything comfy, I am not a huge lover of long sleeves so I am usually in a comfy T-shirt or something that is in nice soft fabric.  However, quite often if I am going casual I can usually be found sporting a fun color running hat.  I have hats in almost any color:)

3. What are your "ME TIME" beauty products?
I'm not really into much, but I do moisturize, and I will put extra moisture on my face and neck, never a bad thing to try to age well:)  But I don't spend a ton of money on things like that, because I find cheaper brands are just as good as the expensive ones.  Others can keep their expensive scented lotions that dry their skin out.  I love my Jergins lotion!


4. Current favorite nail polish.
I have over 200 colors of nail polish.  I kind of have a problem if I see a great color I will buy it.  Usually forgetting I have one very similar.  I love to paint my nails.  Although I think I should re-do them today, now that I am on the subject:)
I like OPI Sally Hansen.  But I have found Nail Aid makes a 3 minute top coat that when I put it on, I can go a week without a single chip and that says a lot because I am constantly handling books and wedding equipment at my two jobs!

5. What do you eat drink during "ME TIME"?
Pepsi, that's my sweet nectar or choice:)  As for food, if I am going to pick a favorite it's Pizza:)

6.  Current favorite candle?
Well right now I am enjoying a pomegranate candle.

7.  Do you ever have outdoor "ME TIME"?
Heck yes!  Sometimes I will take a drive and just go out exploring or drive through a canyon.  I will hike alone, but if I do its usually in a National Park or a very popular trail where its safer because your not really alone because of all the other people out that day.

8.  Would you ever go see a movie alone?
I do it all the time.  Well maybe like once a month:)  But oh ya, it's great.  The first time I tried it I thought it would be weird, but it wasn't.  If I go, I go during the middle of the day, only on weekdays.  I show up just before it starts... Besides, once it starts no one else cares.  Not only that, but usually there are 1-3 other people doing the exact same thing!

9.  Favorite online shop?
I guess I will go with Amazon, you can really get anything there:)

10.  Anything else you do during "ME TIME?
I can't leave out blogging!  I love it, it's become one of my favorite "ME TIMES" I really enjoy the friendships I have made through all the networking.
Plus, I love my blog, it may not be the biggest or best out there, but its mine and I have enjoyed cultivating it into what it is now, I find it's a great stress reliever and just a fun way to talk about things I love!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A feel good romance

If you enjoy a feel good romance, a book that you'll finish reading and just want to give it a hug.  Then Always on my Mind by Susan May Warren is a great read to pick up!
I've read a few other Christiansen Family novels before in her series, so I knew even before I started the first page, that I would likely enjoy this book.

Raina Beaumont, is your average girl, with average problems who makes average mistakes.  Except recently her average mistake lead to more than she could have anticipated.  After loosing what may have been the love of her life.  She is now alone single and expecting a child any day, she isn't sure what to do with her life, let alone the baby.

Casper Christiansen is an adventure seeker who loves to search for treasure.  After his trip to Honduras failed to help him forget the woman who filled his heart and then broke it he isn't sure what to do.  But one thing is certain, he isn't going to find it on another treasure hunt, at least not right now.  So home to Minnesota is where he is headed, with a little hope that visiting Raina and getting past some unresolved feelings may make a difference.
The only problem is, when he imagined seeing Raina again, it wasn't anything as he expected. Especially since only minutes after seeing her, he is helping rush her to the hospital to have a baby. He's also pretty sure that the baby, is someone else's, the same someone that caused him to leave Minnesota in the first place.

When Raina makes it clear that there is no future for her and Casper, he does what he knows.  He goes home, to Deep Haven, to reset and see where he wants to go from there.
Unexpectedly, and unknowing of Casper's plans, Raina also makes her way home to Deep Haven. Eventually their paths collide, and Casper decides if he can't have her, he still wants her as a friend. However, the problem with friendships, sometimes they can lead to more, and sometimes less.  But at the same time, you never know what kind of adventure either can bring.

Susan May Warren does it again, and brings us into another Christiansen's family romance.  With her ability to create characters that we love, and can relate to.  With a story line that could be something real rather than just fictional.  You won't be disappointed!
I loved this book, and loved the characters, you really do walk away from this read feeling good!
I recommend this book for ages 16+, its content is appropriate for any audience.


Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Tyndale Publishing for my review. I was not asked to write a positive review, all thoughts and opinions above are my own.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hiking around Yellowstone Falls

If you haven't been to Yellowstone National Park, this is a place you definitely need to add to your list of places to visit.  There is a such a vast array of things to do and see within the park.  Although they are famous for their geysers, did you know they also have some of the most beautiful waterfalls?
Well if you didn't, your about to be shown a few and a hike that should be added to your trip schedule.



One thing I would like to mention.  There are several pull-outs along the road and view area's that require less difficulty to get to.  However, if you are in shape and don't mind a lot of climbing these are some area's of interest that I really enjoyed hiking down into.



I'd like to give you a couple of hikes to consider.  These hikes are located in the Canyon Area near the South Rim if your interested in finding them.  There are also a few other hikes I did in the area to capture some of these views.  If you have time, get out and explore them all or as many as possible, the views are worth it!!!!



Uncle Tom's Trail - If you are looking for some spectacular views, this very short trail that takes you down about 500 feet to a better view of the lower falls.  Be careful on this hike, use the guides along the stairs as needed to get down and back out.  I would recommend a sturdy hiking shoe for this, for safety reasons.

Have to admit I really liked this shot too!


Artist Point Trail to Point Sublime - This one was a little over 2.5 miles round trip, and wasn't very difficult at all.  Any average hiker would have little trouble with this one.  The Lower Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in the park, it drops 308ft which is double that of Niagara Falls for those who need a little more to visualize.



The great part of this hike is the views are great no matter where you are at along this rim.  You can look along the river as it carves into the edge of what they call Yellowstone's Grand Canyon.  Or out along the waterfalls.



If you've been to the Grand Canyon, then you can see why they call this
Yellowstone's Grand Canyon!  Just beautiful!

This next shot is another I really liked how it turned out.  A lot had to do with the evening hours it was taken, but isn't it just a beautiful shot!  For this shot, I took one of the side trails along one of the lookouts.  It was steep and pretty much all downhill to get down, but worth the views.  Quite a short workout to get back up and out again too:)




This next picture was one of my favorite shots of the trip.  I just really lucked out, when I climbed down for the view and picture.  It was near the evening so the sun wasn't at it's fullest.  But it just hit the rock, and the water spray so perfectly and created this beautiful rainbow along mossy green rock into the raging falls below.


Have you been to Yellowstone?  If so, did you enjoy hiking to the views of the different waterfalls?



Monday, January 19, 2015

Fighting a Treadmill, literally

So last Monday I tackled replacing the walking belt on my treadmill.  The guy at the support center I called, told me replacing it would fix it's sudden stopping issues.  So I ordered the $80 walking belt.
Right as I started I realized the instruction manual that came with it, didn't cover anything about replacing it.  So I was on my own.  I grabbed one of my toolboxes (yeah, I am a wedding decorator, I have 3 of them, ha ha.) and stared at it a while then began taking it apart in what seemed like the most logical way.

But I had this 1 screw, that how they got it in, in that angle to begin with, is beyond me.  But it was a bear to remove!  Literally took hours for just that one part.  Finally 2 days later, lots of bruises, a few blisters and marks that now a week later still remain on me I finished.


So I am thrilled to try it, I get on and 1.76 miles into it exactly it suddenly stops and won't start again. (Same problem.) I call the repair center, and get some girl this time.  She tells me, she is not sure why the guy told me to replace the walking belt, she is sure it's the roller thingy????
I could have picked the 200 pound machine up and thrown it out the window I was so upset, that the guy before had told me wrong!

So yeah, I was not, not a very happy person!
Instead Tuesday I did a 3 hour workout after I realized there was no fixing it... Yeah not kidding, I had pissed off energy to spend!
But if I am going to look at it, in the glass half full sense, I will say this.  All that squatting, bending and putting my back into getting the parts off.  Well it was a super hard workout.
My buns are more sore than they may have been ever.  My arms and back feel like I pushed a car a mile, they were sore for days.

As for the treadmill, I am not going to do any more to it.  I'll just buy a new one, but not this year!
I rarely use a treadmill, and frankly it was only for the days that the air quality here this month and next gets so bad, that it's unhealthy to be out running in.
I'll suffer through the cold, and on the really bad air days, I will use the stupid machine until it stops, and then wait 30 minutes until it wants to start again, to run a little more.


WEEKLY WORKOUTS

So how did my weekly workouts go?  If you remember last week I said I had a goal to do 20,000 steps each day.  If possible I wanted to try to get a 30,000 step day in.
Well....

Monday - 3,300 steps.  Yeah the battle with the treadmill ruined this, for this day.  But if you count how sore I was the next day, guess the muscles got the workout instead.

Tuesday - 26,300 steps for the day.- part of which included 5 mile run in increments on the treadmill and a total of 3 hours of double workouts.  Yeah, I really should have pushed this day for the 30k steps.... I regretted that come Thursday!  But I creamed my sister today, so that is a bonus!

Wednesday -   22,000 steps for the day.- 5.5 mile run outside. Double day workouts.

Thursday -  20,000 steps for the day, 6 mile hilly run outside.  Double day workouts.

Friday - 10,100 steps for the day.  2 mile run.  I was burned out, I probably could have pushed it, but I had a little pain in the area where I fractured my foot last summer, so decided to take it easy for the day.

Saturday - We wont even mention this:) Still had some pain in the foot, and to be honest my body was exhausted from all the double day workouts.

So, obviously I didn't hit the goal I set for the week, but that is okay.  I really should have pushed it Tuesday to hit the 30k ,but that's okay.  I will try again this week.

I actually beat my sister this week, not by much, but enough to call it a win:)  Oh yeah I totally rubbed that one in her face!

One of my other sisters also bought a Fitbit on Saturday (she wanted in on the action:)  Even after she bought it at 2:30pm, she still got in a 20,000 step day first try???  So yeah, I am thinking this weeks competition is going to be intense!  But like I already told then, BRING IT!!



ONLY 5 DAYS LEFT TO JOIN US

We've had an awesome amount of participants in the Grow Your Blog Hop so far.  The list is 30+ and grows a little more each day.  I am getting really excited for this event!
So if you've been thinking about joining us, Friday January 24th is the absolute last day to join the hop! (No late entry exceptions.)

If your interested in growing your blog, and participating in a fun networking opportunity then you will want to join us.  You can read through all that is expected and all of the rules and join the hop HERE.

I would like to mention that during February during the Grow Your Blog, Blog Hop.  I will be running some posts that will be all about growing your blog.  You can expect to see:

How to build a better blog, and grow.
How to blog stalk and network:)
How to grow your social media.
How to make money blogging.

I'll actually be sharing my actual tips, things I have done.  I decided to give you my true personal experience with those things.  So whether you join us in the hop, or don't have time but still want to get a little involved in growing your blog.  I have some fun things in store for February!



How did your week go?  If you workout or run, did you have some great days?
Have you ever replaced a walking belt on a treadmill, did you get as beat up as me?



Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop

I am excited to participate in this large book giveaway hop.  I want to thank I Am a Reader Not a
Writer for hosting this hop.

I was going to give away one of my favorite books I am excited to start reading this year.  But then I remembered we all have different tastes.
So I have decided to give a $10 Amazon gift card instead.  This way the winner can order the book they have been "Dreaming" of reading!




I am making it really simple to enter.  Just follow my blog in your favorite way to follow.  You can find all of my follow options on the right side column next to this post.  Then tell me how you do so in the Rafflecopter form below.

For those who have a little more time, and are interested in earning additional entries, you'll also see a few other things you can do in the Rafflecopter form below.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

That's it, this is a blog hop so here is the list of all the participating bloggers. Go enter as many giveaways as you can:) Lots and lots of awesome chances to win!



Looking for a New Adventure in Running?

Have you ever considered looking for a new adventure in running, from the normal races?  Have you ever considered a Spartan Race?
Well whether you have, or haven't now is really the time to look into it and consider it more!

Let me share with you some of the exciting new events, and Spartan things that are happening!



The Spartan Cruise, March 6-9th, 2015

Yes, you get to board a first ever cruise Spartan Cruise.  You'll leave Miami and sail to sea.  Stopping off at a few locations on the way, one including the Bahama's.

A few reason's why you should consider the Spartan Cruise:
*  You'll race on an exclusive island course.
*  Bring your kids, kids under 18 cruise free and they'll be having a complimentary kids course so your kids can join up in the racing fun too!
*  Toes in the sand, parties on the beach and surfing in the water, all great ways to relax and celebrate after your Spartan race!
Spots are filling up fast, so if your interested visit HERE and book today!



New the 2015 Annual Pass

It's a great pass, for Spartan Race lovers who want to do more than one, and more than one state.
Race Anywhere - Anytime - Any Race
This pass also includes some special VIP perks for race day.
The pass has many perks, but also includes discounts for Hotel's, Car Rentals and other things.



2015 World Champion Spartan Race

This year the race is moving to beautiful Lake Tahoe and will be held in October.
You can read more about it HERE.
They'll be giving their largest prize purse ever, $500,000 in cash prizes.
Have what it takes for this full weekend of fun, sweat, mud?  You can sign up today!

Want to register for a race today?
I have this fabulous discount code for you to use, that will give you 10% off your race entry to any race this year:  Use code: SPARTANBLOGGER at checkout.



I'll be doing a Spartan Race giveaway soon on my blog.  A chance to win free race entry to a race of your choice within the continental United States.  So make sure to check back in the coming weeks!

So tell me, have you ever ran a Spartan Race before?  Which one(s).
If you haven't, do you think you see one in your future?


Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this review. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Taken by Erin Bowman

There are no men in Claysoot, not a single one a day over eighteen that is.  The heist has taken them all.  The heist doesn't care if you are a son, brother or even father.  If you are male, when you turn 18 you vanish at midnight on your birthday.  They call it the heist, because no one knows what happens to you, they don't know if you live or die or anything about where you go.
There is no escaping is, no one ever has, not since the beginning when the ground first shook and the winds kicked up and then the light came towards and took the first boy.  It's happened the same way ever since.

Some have tried to figure it out, they have attempted to climb the big walls that surround Claysoot.  But anyone who climbs is killed.  They may disappear over the top of the wall, but by morning the town finds their body burned and dead lying next to the wall.  Which is why climbing the wall is a form of suicide.

Gray Weathersby's doesn't have much time, just a few short months before his own turn in the heist will come.  But when he discovers a letter from his mother that he wasn't supposed to see, it changes everything.  Gray begins to question anything and everything.
He only has his childhood friend Emma to confide in, but even he's not sure how much he can trust to tell her, without risking her own life as well.
But he's bound and determined to find some answers, even if that means risking everything.  One night Gray makes a choice, a choice that will kill him or save him or possibly worse.  He has no idea, but one thing he is sure of, only minutes after making it he realizes Emma is bound for the same fate as him now.

I really enjoyed Taken by Erin Bowman, in this Dystopian primitive world.  The author made a few choices that I particularly liked.  First I really liked that the main character was male.  Of recent most of your main characters in Dystopian are kick butt females, so I really liked having the main character as male.  He's also quite likable.  Not some insane image that you can't relate to, but the character Gray himself is very realistic.
I also liked that as many questions as you get, you also get some answers.  You don't have to wait until the third book to find out what the heist is, you find out pretty quickly.  With that said, this is a very fast paced book, so as soon as you figure one thing out, you are thrown another set of questions and obstacles.
I really did enjoy this read!  I am already reading the sequel Frozen, and look forward to later this year (April) when the third and final book Forged comes out!  In other words, this is a great series to start, because you won't have to wait years to find out how it ends!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hoover Dam, Nevada

Many people visit Las Vegas, Nevada to see the casino's and shows.  But for those who want a little adventure, history and love to sight see.  About 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, Hoover Dam is one of the places you should add to your visit if you are ever in the area.



I'm going to start off right away and apologize for my pictures.  The quality isn't exactly great, like I usually like to show you.   I've been to Hoover Dam, or Lake Mead a few times but in the past I never took a camera.  However, since I only use my own pictures and don't want to use others, these are the pictures you get.
But I will say, if you are visiting during better "daylight" hours of the day, these pictures would not only be clearer but the rocks are so much more red and vibrant and the water is usually a beautiful blue on a sunny day.  As you can tell my pictures were taken at night, pretty much just at dusk.



The Colorado River which begins in the Colorado Rockies and then heads into Utah and flows through some of the most beautiful desert country you have ever seen.  Eventually heads into Arizona/Nevada and the Hoover Dam which actually sits on the Nevada/Arizona boarder is where most of the remaining river water ends up.



Lake Mead is in some desolate but beautiful desert country.  Beautiful red and orange rock surround the lake.  Lake Mead is actually one of the largest reservoir in the United States (by Volume, not size.)
It was build during the Great Depression, it gave thousands of people jobs during hard times.  But it also took over a hundred lives in the process.



Most who visit the lake itself enjoy fishing and boating.  But many people, over a million a year take a trip to the Hoover Dam to see the Concrete arch that spans what is called the Black Canyon.



I highly recommend taking the time to walk across the bridge, lets just say the views are spectacular on both sides of the dam!
To give you an idea of the size, the Hoover Dam is 726 ft tall.  The base is as wide as two football fields.
An idea of how much concrete was used, you could build a 4 foot wide sidewalk around the entire equator of the earth with as much as they put into it.  Yup, that is a lot of concrete!


Have you been to Hoover Dam?  If you have I can pretty much guarantee a guess that your pictures are better than the ones I show above.  Is this a place, you hope to at least see once if you can?  




Monday, January 12, 2015

The Heart that Loves to Compete

This is my Motto this month!
This week started off still feeling like crap, it was taking forever for me to get rid of the nasty cold I had.  Fortunately by Wednesday it finally started to feel like it was going to break.
This is a little how my week went.


This week, although a slow start was again in true competitive spirit.  What I have a theory on will be pretty much how each week going forward is going to be. Especially since my youngest sister taunts me daily and tells me I don't have a chance at beating her step goal.

Monday, 3,500 steps 
I was feeling pretty sickly that day.  I did attempt to workout, but about 10 minutes into it I was just blah so ya I gave up and went back to the pillow.

Tuesday, 15,100 steps
I was still feeling like crap, but my sister basically told me I was weak and to get my butt up out of bed and workout, that I could die of exhaustion after.  Funny, I pretty much did just that with an indoor workout:)

Wednesday, 18,300 steps
I actually did a double workout.  By afternoon I was feeling better, all fever was gone.  My cough even seemed to be lessening.  So I did two indoor workouts.  I thought this would be enough to beat her.  But it wasn't, I actually came in 3rd place that day.  But oh well, I was just thrilled to be feeling better again!

Thursday, 20,700 steps
Thanks to an icy morning trail run.  Yup I said trail.  Things have warmed up to 28-30 here in the morning (crazy odd weather), so the snow is pretty much melted.  So I decided to take the muddy side of the trail.  The ground was frozen for the most part, but the paved trail was icy so I figured I would have more traction and less likely to fall on my butt on the trail:)  My theory was right, and thankfully since the ground was still frozen, I didn't even kick up much mud on my clothes:)  Felt good to get out though, after a week and a half off running!
(Nothing like a good run to knock a bad cold out of you!)

Friday, 12,500 steps
Not quite as impressive, but that is because I was lazy and slept in:)

Saturday, 4,700 steps
Yup, pretty weak!  I had to work from early morning until night, then a family birthday party and by the time I got home I was too tired to workout.  I know, I know I should have anyway....but I didn't.

FYI: I only actually beat the sis one day this week..  That's gonna change!
In my other competitions with other Fitbit friends, I had a few day wins, but mostly hit mid pack in the results:)  That too will change:)

Overall, I must say competition works!  Normally, I am my own best competition in life.
But I would have never done what I did Tuesday & Wednesday if I didn't have my baby sister shoving it in my face that she can workout and be sick and take care of two kids and still beat me!

But I will say, she's in trouble when I step it up in the next few weeks as I break into the higher mileage as I get this body back into marathon shape!  Knowing her, she'll still be quite the competition!





THIS WEEKS GOAL
This week, (knock on wood) I am healthy so my sis just better watch out!  My goal Mon-Sat this week is to get in at least 20,000 steps each day.  Whichever day I seem to be feeling my best, that is the day I am going to try to hit my first 30,000 step day???
I'm also enjoy double workout days.  Run in the morning and lighter workout in the afternoon or evening, so I might just keep that up this week!  Technically, doing so is likely the only way to actually hit those numbers until I get into the long runs:)
I've also started the strengthening process for my arms and wrist, as begin working on the handstand goal:)


OTHER NEWS
Not much else to report on the fitness side.  Except I finally did order in a new Tread for my Treadmill and it arrived.  Now I just need to take the time to install it.
Fingers crossed that it works and fixes the machine.  I will probably be needing it quite a bit as the local inversion has been making the air quality quite poor.  Not exactly the healthiest to be breathing in while working out!  Since all the storms seem to be hitting back east, and skipping Utah.  It could be a long yucky air month ahead!

On a side note, the work injury has continued in the amazing me faze.  It is better and better all the time.  I am still wearing the boot to sleep, which I think because it's keeping the tendon stretched has really been helping.  I'd say I am at 90%-95% healed depending on the day, and well on the way to full recover!
Wow, even though I have remained confident and optimistic the entire time, I never realized how awesome it was going to be to say those words!

Also, I have not finished reading a book in 2 weeks... I know, something seriously wrong with that!  I am going to correct that this week for sure...maybe even right now!!!!

LAST
If you haven't already, and your a blogger who would like to grow your blog.  You should consider joining my Grow Your Blog, Hop in February.  Sign up going on now until the 24th.
Should be a lot of fun as well as an amazing Networking opportunity for bloggers who are serious about growing their blogs.
You can find out all the details and join HERE.






Share with me your weeks, have any good, great or even not so great news to share?




Thursday, January 8, 2015

Grow Your Blog, Blog Hop

I'm hosting a Grow Your Blog, Blog Hop in February. I'd love it if you'd like to consider joining me and others in this great Networking opportunity!

(1/21/15 UPDATE: I am going to cap this off at 40, participants.  We are almost there, so if your thinking of joining join us you will want to join soon.) 

You might be wondering, how does Runaway Bridal Planner know how to grow a blog, her blog isn't one of the biggest.

If you are thinking that, your right.  I don't have one of the biggest blogs out there, but in the past few years I have gone from a couple of page views a week to thousands.

To a larger blog, this might not sound impressive, but for a smaller blog I am pretty darn proud of how things are going.  It makes me feel like I have a decent idea on how to grow a blog.  What I am doing is working, it's not easy, its a lot of work (fun work), but it is working!
My goal for this hop, is to let you all in on what I have done.  How you can build your blog and grow your audience even if at one stepping stone at a time.

What have I learned this past year that has helped me do this?  A simple thing, the understanding and knowledge of Networking!
It's not always about the numbers, it's about the relationships you build.  You know the term, "It's all who you know."  Well in some ways that DOES ring true in blogging.
Good networking relationships in blogging can actually turn into finding more and more future relationships.  When your interacting with one blogger, and others see you time after time, it draws their interest and sometimes they come visit your blog just to see what your all about.
If your lucky, you might even end up finding a few new friendships out of it too!

To do this, you have to have a foundation to build on.  Most people start with a blog, and then venture into other area's of social media marketing.


Any size blog is welcome to join the hop!  However, bloggers who aren't receiving millions of pageviews each month will probably find this growth opportunity to be the most beneficial!


I'd love it if you'd like to join up and participate!  However, please make sure you read through this entire post (sorry it's long I know) and make sure you are okay and can agree and commit to the time in February to do this.
If you are not sure, don't sign up!
If you need to think about it, just bookmark it and come back later.  I am leaving the sign up, up for 3 weeks.


4 SIMPLE RULES TO JOIN

#1  Any type of blogger can participate, however, to keep it comfortable for everyone participating  your blog must be considered family friendly, no nude or erotica are allowed.  All blog participant submissions will be reviewed before your name is added to the official list.

#2  It is a requirement that you participate in the comment exchange portion of the hop.  I know blogging takes time, and growing your blog takes even more time too. So when I set this up I didn't want it to feel overwhelming to anyone.  I also wanted to make it as easy as possible.  But it also wouldn't be fair if you signed up to participate, and others are commenting and sharing your blog and social media mentions if you aren't doing the same with their blogs.
I estimate that this will take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes additionally from your day. (*see below if you can't participate daily.)
You'll be on the honor code that you'll participate each week and help grow others blogs as they are doing for you!  However, if it becomes obvious that you are not participating.  I reserve the right to delete your blog from the group.  Also keep in mind others are likely to notice first that they are participating and you are not.  If your looking to develop new blogging relationships keep in mind that others will notice what you do and don't!

#3  You'll need to be okay with receiving a daily email from me in February.  You'll receive an initial email welcoming you to the blog hop.  An email the last week in January to let you know what date(s) your blog will be spotlighted in Feb (to give you time to prepare).  Then the daily emails will start Feb 1st-28th as we all begin Networking, it will be your list of to do's for that day.

#4  You must post on your blog at least ONCE a week each week in February.  You can also post daily! You are NOT required to post any more than normal, after all it's your blog it needs to ring true to how you want it to be, which is why there is no other requirements than to post at least once a week!

How it All Works

The object of joining this is to grow your blog and get it out there in front of different eyeballs in the form of Networking.
Getting your messages shared via different people, different ways at different times.  We all have different blogs and different followers, and we can all help share each others blog and messages to, so together we will help grow each others blogs, social media mentions and posts.


We will focus on these Networking areas:
* 1 day (possibly 2) in Feb your post will be featured and commented and shared by all.
* Twitter Follows & Retweets
* Facebook Page Likes, Post Likes & Shares
* Pinterest, Board Following, Image Pinning
* Instagram Followes, Likes
* Thoughtful blog comments


What do you need to know now to join?

* Optional, pull your google analytics or whichever reporting system you use to track your blogs page views and other statistics.  Pull your average monthly numbers and set them aside.  After the hop is over, I want you to compare them to your February results from the hop so you can see the difference!  (Also may want to make note of your social media numbers to see the growth there too.)

*  You MUST commit to blogging at least once each week in February.  Blog as you normally do, although their will be a few weekly suggested theme post ideas, they will be entirely optional.  You blog how you want to blog!

* Optional, but highly recommended.  Include at least 1 pinable image in each post!  Even if you don't have or use Pinterest yourself, one thing that many bloggers do find is that Pinterest is their #1 source lead to their blog posts.  If you don't have a pinable image, then you can't have a presence on Pinterest and your losing out on new visitors to your blog.

* On January 26th you will be emailed a date for your blogs spotlighted post(s).  This will give you advanced time to create a great post for your spotlight day.  You can use it as a day to introduce yourself and your blog, or create a post on something you are passionate about.  You can do anything you'd like, its your blog its your time to shine.  I just want to give advance notice so you can prepare.
(A recommended 500 word minimum as well as at least 1 pinable image should be considered for this post! *See the Q&A below for more info on why for this part.)
Depending on how many we have sign up, their will be 1 or possibly 2 blogs spotlighted each day.
Why?  Well on this date, everyone in the blog hop will be visiting your blog and commenting on it.
(*Its okay if your busy and cannot visit a blog each day, you can play catch up during the week.  The main requirement is that by the end of the week (Midnight Saturday), you must have visited each and every blog that was spotlighted for that week.)
NOTE: I would like everyone to have 2 spotlight days, however that depends on how many we have sign up.  For sure for now plan on 1.  You'll know by the 26th if there are going to be 2.

* During the month of February you MUST be willing to leave a thoughtful comment on ALL the spotlighted blog posts (You will receive these via email weekly.)  You should also be leaving an easy way for other bloggers to find your blog when you comment.  If you don't, then you cannot complain that others are not returning a comment on your blog.  They can only comment if they can find you!  It's also highly recommended you turn OFF capitcha's or other things that can detour others from commenting.

*  During the ENTIRE month of February.  If someone comments on your blog, you MUST be willing to go back and visit their blog within 72 hours.  *Networking*  (Only if they leave a link to their blog, in your comments.  You will not be required to locate others who are not making themselves easy to find.  When you respond to their comment on your blog, just make sure you let them know you would have loved to visit their blog but they didn't leave a way for you to find them.
This rule also applies for comments that are received from others not participating in the hop.  They may have found you and taken notice from one of the comments you left on another blog.  This is all about Networking and Networking comes from many various forms.
You want to grow your blog, and this is one of those things that takes time, but can also be a lot of fun, for this hop it is required to comment and return the favor to all who visit you and take the time to share their thoughts on your post!!!

* Although you'll only be required to visit the spotlighted blogs and social pages on any given day. For Networking purposes, I highly recommend you spend as much time or even a little time if that is all you have, visiting other blogs on the list of interest to you, commenting on them.  Making new relationships.  I keep saying this, but it's all about Networking!!!!

* Only if you have these forms of social media.  Sometimes you will be sharing others posts via social media.  You'll want to make sure you use appropriate  #Hashtags.  #Hashtags are beneficial on Twitter, Pinterest & Instagram.  You can include them on Facebook, but unless they have changed things recently that I am unaware of, Facebook doesn't pick up hashtags like the others do.  If you are not familiar with these, you can learn them in a few minutes just start today.

*  Additionally, you will need to know how to re-tweet, favorite or like a post on Twitter.  Like or comment on an Instagram post.  Pin an image to a Pinterest board, pin an image to a group board.  Share, comment and like a Facebook post.  (You will only be responsible for doing this if you tell me you have and use these social media options.)

*  Optional, if you aren't on: Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook now would be a great time to sign up for accounts.  You can use the Blog Hop to help build your following base.  If you are thinking of signing up for some/all do it before you join this blog hop so your links can be included for others to use during the hop.

*  You will get an email within 48 hours of signing up for this hop.  At that time your name will be added to the official list of bloggers participating.
However, I understand if 5-15 minutes a day is too much to add to your schedule in February.  So if you can no longer participate or change your mind please email me anytime between now and January 24th and I will remove you with no questions asked.  PLEASE let me know no later than this, because I will be spending time working you into the hop schedule.  If you bail at a later date, it won't be fair to others!  In the form you fill out, that is when you'll let me know what dates in February you cannot be spotlighted.  I will do my best to work around schedules.

*  Have more questions, scroll down below to see the question and answer section for more information or contact me for the answer.


_____________________________________

See who has already signed up to participate in the 
Grow Your Blog, Blog Hop

(The list will will be updated as needed every 48 hours until Jan. 25th.)
If you don't see your name on the list and you sent me your application more than 48 hours ago.  Possibly your email/blog information was incorrect.  Email me and I will look into it.


NOTE:  Because this hop will take me a lot more time than normal to organize and put together.  I am only allowing bloggers to join up between now and January 24th.  Sorry, I will not allow any exceptions to this!  

WANT TO JOIN US?
Fill out your information in the form below to join up and participate:





___________________________

QUESTION and ANSWERS

Q- I don't have a lot of time, but I want to participate.
A- No worries, none of us have ton's of time.  I am keeping this as simple and easy as possible for everyone.  5-15 minutes should be all that is needed to do each day's requirements.

Q - What if I sign up, but I can't put effort into it every single day?
A - No problem!  It's set up to be easy, so you can do this as you have time.  You don't have to do it everyday if you don't have time. You can go in and do it on the days you do have time to focus on this.  You just have to have it all done by each Saturday.

Q- You mentioned although optional it is highly recommended that our sponsored day posts have at least 500 words and at least 1 pinnable image, why is this?
A- If you are familiar with SEO or even the term Going Viral then this is where this comes into play. In short Google searches sites/blogs and has specific algorithms to determine what posts are valid content, the ones they feel are better come up in google searches more.  Posts with very little content are the least likely to get picked up.  Although there is no rule of thumb on what is the perfect post length, some say it's somewhere around 1,500 words.
I picked 500, because that is what they consider the lower end of a good word count post, plus it sounds less overwhelming for most people.
Although it is rare, if a post goes viral several things happen.  If you notice posts that go viral when you view them, very rarely will you see short posts.  It would take too long to go into it.  But to better the chances since you'll be getting lots of page views, and pins and shares to these posts I thought I'd put it out there so if you are one of the rare lucky individuals, you're chances will be slightly higher!

Q- What if I don't have Facebook or Twitter and I only have a blog and Pinterest or some other combination?
A - No problem, the reason I had you fill out the Google Document is so I can circulate what you do have appropriately.  You will not be required to comment or share others social media channels if you don't have that particular form yourself!

Q- I only post on my blog once or twice a week is that okay, or do I need to do more?
A- You can post as much or as little as you want as long as you keep to the minimum of 1X a week.  Don't try to create posts, just for the sake of posting during the "Grow your Blog, Blog Hop".  Keep on doing what you have been doing, be real, post as you normally do.  Share content like you normally share it.  The point is to introduce your blog to everyone in it's "REAL" self.  You want people to keep on following you, so stay true to what makes your blog unique.  Don't start writing new content, on new topics or things you have no plans to blog about in the future, you won't want to confuse your potential new followers.

Q- You mentioned their will be possible blogging subjects sent out each week.
A - Yes, but they are completely optional.  One subject can bring several different variations ideas.  Since this is a "Grow Your Blog" focus, the subjects will be related to this.  You do NOT have to run any of those post topics, they are only suggestive.  However, since we all have different successes and we can all learn from each other, I am going to put the idea out there.  It's entirely up to you, if you tackle any of them!

Q- I haven't used social media in the past, if I sign up for it and it is brand new can I use it in the hop?
A- Of course, and what better way to get an immediate following!  I'd suggest joining the ones you want as soon as possible just so you are familiar with the functions and how to "like, share, comment" on things ahead of time so you feel like you know what you are doing come February 1st.

Q- I am signing up, is there anything I can do now to help me get ready for the hop?
A- Yes, As you know blogging takes time, especially writing quality posts.  Take this time in January to get a head a little, write a few posts and get them scheduled for February.  This way, you won't have to divide too much of your time between writing posts and networking with the other bloggers and assigned tasks.  This also a great time to start thinking about what you'd like your spotlighted post to be on.
___________________________


If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments to this post.  Because likely if you have a question someone else will too.  
I am sure this being my first hop of this kind, there are a few things I haven't covered that you will help me to do so.   
(No question is a dumb question, I promise:)
However, if you have a question and you are not wanting others to see that you asked, feel free to email me and ask me in private.  I will respond to all comment questions, and emails daily!