ATL Tough Mudder

So a few months ago Cheryl had a business trip in Atlanta for a week. I decided to fly down with her the weekend before and stay with our friend Jill who had recently moved there. Since the trip was last minute, she already had a few things planned. One of them was the ATL Tough Mudder. She asked if we wanted to participate, but I told her this time I would watch and maybe do it one day. After seeing the actual race though I’m not sure if I will ever do one, but more on that after.

She was running the race with a bunch of people she worked with at the school in Georgia. They were all really cool.

Tough Mudder

All the teams running each had a start time, but it didn’t really matter. You just showed up at the start with your team and they let you into the shoot once the group in front went. You had to climb a small wall just to get to the stet line so you know it was serious.

At the start they had a guy yelling and screaming about teamwork and who has done Tough Mudders in the past and stuff. He was somewhat motivational. He had everyone repeat a Tough Mudder manta too.

Tough Mudder

Then they were off! Tough Mudder is a team event so they all had to stay together.

Tough Mudder

We had to pay to be spectators at the event. Not sure why, but we did. There was even a separate spectator path so we could go from event to event to watch. We stayed near the start area where the mudders looped back around to do the Funky Monkey.

Tough Mudder

Monkey bars over really gross looking water. Most of the guys made it across, but the other two girls on the team both fell.

Tough Mudder

When it was my friend Jill’s turn she rocked it! Even with all my crossfit I still don’t think I could do that.

Tough Mudder

They were all in pretty good spirits at the point and moved on to the rest of the obstacles.

Tough Mudder

This is where things got confusing. Cheryl and I started off the down spectator path to get to the other obstacles before them to watch. Well the spectate path just kind of ended and we were standing in the middle of a field with a bunch of other people trying to figure out where to go. We finally started walking around a barn and saw the team going up a hill so we followed them. They got to a giant hill with a net on it.

Tough Mudder

After we watched them on that (not a spectator area) we found other lost looking people that told us how to get back to the path. We made it to the next spectator area at arctic enema a few minutes before the team. They were starting to wear down at that point. A nice ice bath should wake them up!

Tough Mudder

You were forced to go under a wall and a lot of people couldn’t do it, but the whole team did. Then we kept going to the next spectator area at the Berlin walls. Giant wooden walls to climb over. This is where teamwork was necessary!

Tough Mudder

Most of their hands were blistered or broken open at this point, but they seemed to be having fun. We moved on to the next spectator area at everest. Everyone has seen it. The half pipe you have to run up all gross and muddy. This one wasn’t as bad as ones I had seen in pictures from other races. Probably because it was so hot the mud wasn’t wet.

It took a long time for the team to get there. I got bad sunburn sitting in the field waiting. One of the girls had twisted her ankle so they were mainly walking at this point, but still going! The guys got up the wall easily. Jill failed the first time, but finally got up. It must be hard for short people.

Tough Mudder

After we walked next to them back to the start/finish area. We ran ahead to see them do the electroshock therapy at the end. I saw a few people try to run through so they wouldn’t get shocked, only to fall HARD in the mud. The team got through ok, but it looked painful. Someone said they got shocked in the eye! OUCH!

Tough Mudder

But they finally made it to the finish line! I forget how long it took, definitely a few hours. I was hungry and tired and sunburn, but it was definitely fun. They got beer after so we joined them.

Tough Mudder

They were all pretty dirty and beat up, but definitely thinking about doing another one. I guess it’s the same way I am with running halfs and marathons.

On the way out there was even a place to leave your muddy shoes!

Tough Mudder

It looked like a fun experience, but probably not something I will be doing. I would be so afraid to hurt myself, and I also tend to get competitive so having to stay with people the whole time might be rough.

I am doing a ROC run (5K) next month with 2 friends and Cheryl. Smaller group of people to stay together so it will be a test to these longer intense obstacle races.

European Adventure 2011 – Paris

So last Wednesday I told you all about our trip to England in 2011. Well we also decided that since we were in Europe we needed to go other places. We decided to jump on the train and visit Paris for the day!

Paris 2011

So we decided to get a Eurostar train to Paris on Saturday, since a lot of things there were open. We took the first train out (6am) and we had cabs take us to King’s Cross Station. There was a long wait for the train, which was surprising, but we made it on without incident.

Paris Train

We had booked our tickets in advance since it was cheaper. We weren’t sure if we could bring food on, but there was a food car so we bought breakfast on the train. The ride was around 2 hours long.

When we arrived in Paris we had to try and navigate the subway system. I had researched which subways to take where, but finding them was another battle. We had some young kids try and convince us to sign some petition (aka wanted our money) but we finagled our way around them. Finally we got onto the Metro and headed to our first destination…Les Catacombes.

Les Catacombes

This was the main thing I wanted to see while in Paris. I had read all about them and knew the line got long early in the morning and they only let 200 people in per day. The stairs and path were dark and hard to maneuver so Karen’s mom and aunt opted out, but my mom wanted to go. We waited in line for a little while until we were finally able to head down the spiral staircase.

Les Catacombes

Most of the pathways were pretty dark. They had some light, but not a lot. The flash on my camera was the only way we could take any pictures. We didn’t use the flash once we arrived at the actual catacombes since it is a burial site and disrespectful.

Les Catacombes

Les Catacombes is where the remains of most of the Paris cemeteries were taken in the late 1780’s because the cemeteries were making people sick. The remains were later built into walls almost all over so that people could visit. It seems pretty morbid, but it’s a really interesting part of Paris’ history. I always think of the Disney movie Hunchback of Notre Dame where all the gypsies lived in the catacombes.

Les Catacombes

It took us a while to get through Les Catacombes and that isn’t even all of the remains. It’s just the ones they built up!

After we headed over to Notre Dame to see the famous cathedral.

Notre Dame

There was a wait to get in and the place was crowded. I loved looking at all the stained glass all over.

Notre Dame

The cathedral is massive, but they let us take pictures inside (no flash) unlike Westminster Abbey.

Notre Dame

After it was around lunch so we decided to head over to Ile Saint Louis. It’s a little island next to Notre Dame. We walked up and down a few of the streets looking for a place to eat. We finally saw this little place called Aux Anysetiers du Roy. It was small, but the food was the most amazing food! We all started off with wine (of course).

Aux Anysetiers du Roy

The chef (this little woman) came over to take our order. I ordered french onion soup and rabbit (because why not) and when she asked how I wanted it cooked I said “medium well” she replied with “medium” and thinking she didn’t understand me I said “medium well” she responded again with “medium” so I said ok. The chef cooks how she wants to cook! Well it was so delicious I wanted to lick the plate clean.

After we stopped in a few shops and then got a little ice cream and looked out over Le Seine. It was such a nice day out! The original forecast was cold and rainy so we were all sweating in sweaters.

Next we jumped back on the metro to go see The Louvre Museum. It was close to closing so we knew we wouldn’t have time to go in, but we saw the outside.

The Louvre Museum

We headed to the Arc de Triomphe and stood in the street like total tourists to take pictures.

Arc de Triomphe

Then we wandered down the Champs des Elysees. My friend Karen wanted to find Chanel, but we COULD NOT find it! We kept asking people and they were looking at us like we were crazy. Finally we gave up but we found out later it was on the next street over.

We decided to end our day over the the Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower

We relaxed on the lawn for a little with all the other people. It was like we were in Central Park!

Eiffel Tower

Then we tried to get far away so we could get the whole tower into our pictures. We gave up after a while and I just photoshopped the top in. The lines to go up were hours long so we skipped that too.

Eiffel Tower

By the end of the day our feet were killing us and all the main places were closed. We walked back toward the trains station and found a cute coffee shop to relax in. We just sat on the street and people watched. It was really nice.

Paris 2011

By the time we got to the train station to head home it was later than we thought. We didn’t have time to stop for food and we were starving so where did we go? McDonald’s of course! Oh Americans haha.

I passed out most of the train ride back. It was a fun and exhausting day. I would definitely go back to Paris again for longer. The history and architecture of the city are so breathtaking. I would love to have more time to enjoy it.

Next week I will be telling you about our last stop…Ireland!

Running in Philadelphia – Schuylkill River Trail

Big city running is always so enjoyable because there is just so much to look at. I love running in Central Park in New York and seeing all the different people out exercising. Running, biking, walking, rollerblading…the sky is the limit on secluded trails and paths.

Some big cities it’s a little harder to find places to run that is runner friendly.

I travel to Philadelphia quite often because most of my college friends live there. When I am in training for a race I need to be able to go out and do long runs while I am there. A few years ago Cheryl and I discovered the Schuylkill River Trail and it is no officially my favorite place to run anywhere. It might also be because this is where most of the Rock and Roll Philly Half Marathon takes place.

Schuykill River Trail

So where is this trail and why is it so great!?! Well the Schuylkill River Trail is actually a very long trail (130 miles) in Southeastern Pennsylvania. We only run a very small portion of the trail.

We start at the famous Philadelphia Art Museum. We park right behind the museum on Waterworks drive (2 hour limit), but if that is full there are other parking lots along the river. We like to start here because it has a bathroom, water fountain and a little cafe. The paths here are also pretty wide and also almost always crowded.

Schuykill River Trail

You start along Boathouse Row and Kelly Drive. Boathouse Row is where all the college rowing teams and the Schuylkill Navy have homes to drop their boats and practice in the river. The houses are so nice. We see rowers in the river almost every time we run.

Schuykill River Trail

The paths are very well maintained and have dividers so you keep to a side. They are pretty wide in most places which is helpful since there are bikers and runners all going in different directions.

Schuykill River Trail

The trail paths get narrower the further up you run. The area also gets more residential with businesses and houses compared to the wooded areas near the art museum.

Schuykill River Trail

At around 4 miles you get to the Falls Bridge. This is where Cheryl and I cross the river to the other side. You can continue on the path if you want, but most people use this as a turning point.

Schuykill River Trail

On the other side of the bridge you run on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. I love running here on the weekends because most Sundays they close the road for people running or biking. The path on this side of the trail is a lot narrower so to avoid congestion they stop cars and we have free reign of the road. It’s nice, almost like running an actual race, except there is no one giving me water.

Schuykill River Trail 07

The trail is mostly shaded. It has patches of shade and then patches of sun. It was hot when we were running and sunny out, but luckily it wasn’t as hot as it had been. I was definitely sweating!

Schuykill River Trail

At 7 miles is where it starts to get brutal. This is where I always have issues during the Rock and Roll as well. You get to a point where there is NO SHADE. Like none whatsoever anywhere you look. This also always tends to be later in my run so the sun is higher and it is hotter. It makes the end challenging.

Schuykill River Trail

But at least there are really pretty views of the Waterworks and the Art Museum!

Schuykill River Trail

We ran the whole thing except every mile we would walk for .1 to drink water. I have yet to master drinking water mid run without throwing it at my face, and that really doesn’t help my thirst.

Schuykill River Trail

A 10:45 pace isn’t horrible, but nowhere near what I want it to be in September for the Rock and Roll Philly Half Marathon. I have aspirations of running a sub-2 hour like I did a few years ago. Well that is going to require a lot more work on my part!

 

BRAVO Top Chef Duels Premiere Tasting

Today we welcome a very special guest blogger….my sister Cheryl! She is going to tell us about her recent experience at the Top Chef Duels Premiere Tasting. Enjoy!

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Well it’s that time of year again! Time for the Top Chef Premiere Tasting. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend last year and this year was just as fun!

My mom and I headed over to the Altman Building for this years Top Chef Duels Premiere Tasting. The premise of the show this year is that some of the best chefs from Top Chef and Top Chef Masters battle head to head in 3 rounds. The first two rounds each chef picks a mini-duel based on the other’s weakness. The final challenge they both have to cook for a panel of judges and the winner of the final round will move on in the competition.

As press we were able to arrive and enter the event earlier than the public and look around at the setup.

top-chef-duels-main

The event was presented by Chase Sapphire Preferred and the ticket proceeds went to City Harvest in New York.

When we walked in there were 3 “dueling” stations. Each station had 2 past Top Chef alums. Station 1 was Richard Blais (winner of Top Chef All Stars) against Marcel Vigneron (Season 2’s runner-up). Their protein was… Lobster! Who doesn’t love a battle of lobster rolls.

top-chef-duels-richard

top-chef-duels-marcel

Richard had more of a traditional lobster roll which was a heaping portion of lobster. Marcel on the other hand created an open faced lobster slider. The winner of this duel (for me at least) was Marcel! It was a little lacking on the lobster (since Richard’s had so much) but the taste was incredible. The flavors of his lobster roll were amazing. My mom and I each had 2 of those.

Next up we had Art Smith (Top Chef Masters Season 1) and Kevin Gillespie (Top Chef Season 6) and their protein was… Fried Chicken! Mmmm Mmmm good.

top-chef-duels-art

top-chef-duels-kevin

Art created a chicken drumstick with maple syrup drizzled on top. Although a little hard to eat, this drumstick was amazing. Kevin created a fried chicken sandwich. Oh man! This was the definite winner in my book. Everything about this slider was perfect right down to the pickle. I’m guilty of having 3 (or maybe 4) of these little guys throughout the night.

Last but not least we had Tiffani Faison (Season 1 runner-up) and Dale Talde (Season 4) and their protein was… Ribs!

top-chef-duels-tiffani

top-chef-duels-dale

Tiffani cooked up a spicy thai rib. This was the largest portion of the night as you had an entire rib each (which was delicious). I loved watching them cooking them right in front of you. Dale created a Korean Short Rib lettuce wrap. The winner for this was Tiffani. The main reason she won was because the short rib I got from Dale was all bone. My mom had a boneless piece but having a full bone in mine turned me off trying another.

After we ate—and ate and ate—we were treated to a preview of the first episode. Curtis Stone and Gail Simmons came up onto the stage to announce the new season. I have watched the show so many times but seeing all these famous faces in person is still so much fun! (Also Curtis has an amazing accent).

top-chef-duels-curtis

This was another great year at the Top Chef Premiere Tasting. The food was delicious and the contestants were so fun to talk to. After tasting all 6 dishes the final winner was: Kevin! His chicken sandwich is something I still think about. I’m going to try and re-make it from the ingredients list but I have a feeling I will never make it like he did. MVP goes to Marcel. He was so animated and fun all night. He wanted to talk to everyone and was the sweetest person!

top-chef-duels-final

Thanks for another great year BRAVO!

Cheryl is the Senior Online Producer for Self Magazine. She was invited to this event as press, but all opinions are her own.

Friday Favorites – Running Essentials!

Happy Friday!

Well it’s that time of the year again….running season! The end of August/beginning of September is really my favorite running weather. It’s still warm out, but not so hot your eyeballs are sweating. The mornings are usually a little chillier, and then it gets warmer throughout the day. It’s also the time of year when most people start training for fall runs. I will be running the SeaWheeze half marathon next weekend in Vancouver, but I really haven’t trained much for it.

Once I get back I will be intensely training for the Philly Rock and Roll Half Marathon is September. It’s the only race I have run consistently every year since I started running so I like to gauge my times off that race. I really want to finish under 2 hours. I have only done it once in 2009 with a time of 1:57:08. I am also running the Philadelphia Marathon for the first time in November. This will be the first marathon I am running for time in a while. I can never run the Disney races for time. Too many photo ops!

That being said, now I have to make sure I have all the essential gear for training. Here are some of my favorite essentials.

Shoes: Asics Gel-Kayano 20

Asics Gel Kayano

I have worn A LOT of running shoes over the years. I have tried a bunch of different brands, but I always come back to Asics. I love the fit and weight of them. This month I am running in the new Gel-Kayano 20. I had run in the Gel-Kayano 16’s when they came out and loved them, but every generation since I have hated so I skipped them. The 20’s are finally back to the old design so I figured why not. I love them! Always make sure to go to a running store if you are just starting out to get fitted for shoes. They will tell you about your gate (I overpronate so I need stability) and your best size (I wear an 8.5 even though I am normally a 7).

Running Socks: Balega Hidden Comfort 

Balega Hidden Comfort Socks

Balega has amazing socks. There I said it. I have about 30 pairs of running socks and 28 of them are Balega. They are comfortable, don’t fall down and keep my feet dry even on super hot days. Grab a pair ASAP!

Pants: Atleta Relay Capri

Athleta Relay Capri

I mainly run in capris just because I hate having to pull shorts down. I love these new Atleta capris I just got. They have a fun pattern and a drawstring inside. Drawstring pants are key for me because I don’t like when they roll down and the drawstring makes sure they don’t. They might be a splurge on price, but quality pants mean a lot of use.

Running Tank: R-Gear Shades of Grey Tank

R-Gear Shades of Grey Tank

I can’t tell you how many times I wear this tank. I love the color and the breathable fabric keeps me cool even on hot days.

Sports Bra: Oakley Continuance Seamless Bra

Oakley Continuance Seamless Bra

Obviously this one is really going to depend on your size, but I am loving the Oakley Continuance Seamless Bra. I didn’t think I was going to like it at first since it didn’t have underwire, but it really holds you up. I run in it so often I had to get another one!

Sunglasses: Oakley Polarized RPM Edge

Oakley Polarized RPM Edge

This is my first year running with sunglasses. I could never find any that fit me well or didn’t annoy the crap out of me. Luckily when I ran the Oakley Mini 10K I got this awesome pair from Oakley. I can’t believe I went all those years squinting through runs. These are great! They don’t fall off and most of the time I forget I am wearing them.

Running Watch: Nike+ Sportwatch GPS

Nike+ Sportwatch GPS

When you are working on running faster a running watch is a necessity. I am a big fan of the Nike+ Sportwatch. It syncs with satellites to tell you where you ran, how fast and how long it took. Then you plug it into the computer and it will show you on an interactive map. You can even turn off the GPS and use it while running on the treadmill. You can even set it in intervals to beep so you know when to pick up the pace or slow down. So many functions, but easy to use. I also love the online community aspect. You can invite friends and compete against each other, and there are levels you reach depending on the miles you have run. I have had a few with problems, but every time Nike sends me a brand new one as long as it’s a software/hardware problem.

Headphones: Yurbuds Inspire Pro for Women

Yurbuds Inspire Pro for Women

I don’t know about you, but I need music when I run. Whether it’s my music, a radio station or a podcast, I have to have something to listen to. I recently got these Yurbuds and I can’t run without them. They are very comfortable and the buds come in all sizes so there is always a perfect fit. My favorite part it that there is a volume adjuster, audio controller and speaker all in one. Now if I want to skip a song or change the volume I can do it with a click. Also if someone calls me mid-run I can answer without skipping a beat.

Running Belt: Nathan Trail Mix Hydration Belt

Nathan Trail Mix Hydration Belt

Long runs in the warm weather are tough. They are even harder if you don’t have a good hydration belt. This one from Nathan is my go-to. It holds just enough water so I am hydrated throughout my run without weighing me down. I can also fit my phone, keys and a Gu packet so I have everything I need when I am far from the house.

Sport Gel: Gu Gel Energy Peanut Butter

Gu Peanut Butter

Speaking of Gu, have you guys tried the peanut butter one? It is AMAZING! I have done long runs where I am anticipating having it. Definitely a pick-me-up!

Well I think that is everything! Anything else you can think of?

Of course in the summer you also need things like sunscreen and maybe even a hat, but that all depends on the day. Have a great weekend and get out there and run!

A look back in time at Korea during the Vietnam War

So last week I finally got some old slide back from PhotoBin. They converted them to digital for me. Now I sent 350 slides, but it was pretty difficult to figure out what they were pictures of since they are so small. While going through the slides I found a bunch that were a different color (grey casing) and noticed a lot had landscapes and some military. I assumed they were pictures from when my dad served in Korea during the Vietnam War.

Well the images when they came back are amazing. It’s time like this I wish my dad was still alive so he could tell me about where they were taken and the little details he remembered from them. I do know my dad was a helicopter mechanic. He went through regular basic training, but then was recruited to fix the helicopters. That meant he ended up in Korea instead of on the front line. He said almost all the guys he went through training with that went to Vietnam died. Since I have no idea where any of these were taken I figured this will mostly be an image post. Enjoy!

These I assume are from the base.

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

My dad also got a chance to go to the ocean. He was always the one behind the camera so to see pictures of him this young is so bittersweet.

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

A lot of these pictures are of the city/town they were near. Not sure if any are famous landmarks.

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

 

Korea during the Vietnam War

These show the poverty like conditions people were living in.

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

 

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

Fields as far as the eye can see. Complete with an ox plowing them!

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

Then my dad wound up on some mountain to get a better view of the city.

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

And finally my dad found the racetrack. That man loved going to the racetrack until the day he died. Who knows…maybe this is where he fell in love with it!

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

Korea during the Vietnam War

If anyone knows where any of these pictures were taken please let me know!

European Adventure 2011 – First Stop England!

So this is going to be a long post….just a warning.

So to continue with my Where in the World Wednesday series I have decided to jump back to 2011. One of my mom’s DREAM trips was overseas to visit England. She had told us about it since we were little that one day she was going to visit there. With the expense of 2 kids and life, she never really made it on her own there. After we graduated college we moved back in with our parents. At the time I had just started my full-time job and was making ok money. In the beginning of 2010 Cheryl and I thought how great it would be to take my mom to Europe as a Christmas present. We mentioned it to our dad (who did not fly) and he said it would be expensive. Cheryl made a spreadsheet of airline costs, hotel prices, tours, food, etc. and we figured out how much money we would need to save….and save we did.

For a full year we would each put money away every paycheck to our Europe fund. On Christmas in 2010 I made a video to play for my mom to tell her we were taking her on her dream vacation! She cried of course and said it was too much, but we told her we had been saving and we were going. After we mentioned to our friends the trip and they asks if they could come too. We are big planners and they wanted to go with someone who would plan it for them (I had an hour by hour timeline I am that crazy). My mom said sure so we recruited our friends Kier and Karen and Karen’s mom and aunt.

We planned our trip for September of 2011. Kids would be back in school and the weather there was supposed to be comfortable. We also decided since we were flying all the way to England, why stop there. We made it a 10 day adventure and visited England, France and Ireland. Here is leg 1 of our journey…England!

London 2011

We took a red-eye flight from Newark to Heathrow on Thursday night. Our friends live in Philly so they flew from there. We all met in London in the morning on Friday. We convinced everyone to take the tube to our hotel since we had the unlimited cards. Lugging suitcases up and down stairs during rush hour though was not fun. We decided to stay on the top of Hyde Park near Lancaster Gate at the Royal Court Apartments. Since we were going to be there for a few days we wanted a place with a lot of space and a kitchen area. It was also a good price. The rooms were nice!

After we arrived we decided to go for a walk while waiting for our rooms to be ready. We went into Hyde Park.

Hyde Park

Our first stop was the Peter Pan statue. It has been in a lot of movies and I wanted to make sure we visited on our trip. The walk through the park there was really nice. The weather was perfect!

Peter Pan Statue

Then we walked down the path along The Long Water and past the Serpentine Bridge.

Serpentine Bridge

We made our way over to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. There were a lot of people walking around in the water or sitting with their feet in it. Not sure if you were allowed to but I did anyway. It was actually really hot out!

Princess Diana Memorial Fountain

After we stopped for some water and snacks at a coffee bar right on the water. Then we decided to walk to the closest tube station. Along the way we found a phone booth and a cool taxi. I wish NYC taxi’s looked like this!

London 2011

Then we went to the Knightsbridge tube station to head over to Buckingham Palace. Mind the Gap!

Knightsbridge Tube Station

Then we were there! Buckingham Palace! It is crazy huge.

Buckingham Palace

After we decided to head up to the British Museum. When I was looking into stuff to do I noticed they had something called the London Pass. It included an unlimited tube travel card for the length of your stay as well as a bunch of the major landmarks we were planning on visiting. The British Museum was one of the places you could use it and it was the only day it was open late. I wanted to see the Rosetta Stone!

British Museum

It might seem crazy, but the entire year before going I was subscribed to the Living Social daily emails for London. One day they had a deal for spend £30 get £70 at Rowley’s. Seems like a good deal. The best part was that the voucher was for 2 people and you could use up to 4 vouchers per table! That’s £280 worth of food and there was 7 of us. I made a reservation for Friday night and it was soo worth it. The food was amazing. We sat there eating and drinking for hours. We also left a nice tip for the waiter (I had not yet learned of the European tipping less policy). He was a happy camper!

On Saturday we took a day trip to Paris. First train there and last train home! More on that next week.

On Sunday morning Cheryl and I had originally looked into running the London Half Marathon. Sadly when we found it they were already sold out. We thought it would be cool to run a race while we were there so we looked into other ones. We found a little local one called the Starfish Breakfast Run in Clapham Common. There was a 5K and a 10K. My mom wanted to go so we signed her up for the 5K and we signed up for the 10K. We took the tube there early Sunday morning. It was a nice, local run. I loved hearing all the accents. My mom was bummed she was the only one that walked the 5K (even though the lady I emailed said a lot of people walk) but she still had fun. The 10K was a double loop of the 5K and my mom was waiting at the finish line for us. A nice start to the morning!

Starfish Breakfast Run

When we got back we showered and changed and headed out to do the Harry Potter walking tour. This was before they opened the Universal set tours :( The tour was fun and we visited a lot of places from the movies, like King’s Cross Station. We didn’t go inside. They set up an area outside with a wall and buggy so people could pretend they were going to Platform 9 3/4. I can’t imagine how many people were tying to do this inside!

Harry Potter Walking Tour

After the tour we split up. We went to the London Eye and everyone else went shopping.

London Eye

The London Eye was awesome. There was a decent wait, even if you have tickets, since it goes so slow. I liked it going slow once I was inside so I can see everything on all sides.

London Eye

While we were inside it started to get dark out so we headed for dinner after.

London Eye

I had read about a great Indian restaurant near the London Eye. All the booths were old train cars! It was called Bangalore Express, but I am reading now that it is closed. Such a shame the food was delicious! Everyone else went back to Rowley’s because they had purchased another deal and the food was that good!

Bangalore Express

After dinner we met up with everyone else at a bar near where they had been shopping. The first bar we went to was in the process of closing…at 11pm! Our parents (old people) were getting tired (and drunk) so they went back in a taxi. We headed to a bar next door to get another drink. As we were sitting and talking Cheryl noticed her chair move and then realized her purse was gone. She sprang up from the table and ran after a man leaving the bar. She confronted him and grabbed her purse back (which he had in his hand) and then freaked and ran back inside. This happened all in a matter of seconds. I didn’t even realize what was going on. After considering it she was very lucky he didn’t have a weapon! Luckily she got her purse back (which had all our passports in it). She was a superhero! Now I am so crazy about knowing where my purse is at all times. Beware of pickpockets!

London 2011

On Monday we booked a bus tour out of London into the country.

Leeds Castle

Our first stop was Leeds Castle. It was really pretty inside and outside. The old British castles are so amazing!

Leeds Castle

Next we went to the White Cliffs of Dover. This was one thing my mom wanted to see so we made sure to book a tour that went there. We even went to the beach. The pebbles of the beach were pretty hard to walk on. I almost fell a few times!

Dover

Next we had a traditional fish a chips lunch. It was soo good I didn’t have time to take any pictures I was shoveling it into my mouth.

Then we stopped off at the historic Canterbury Cathedral. The church was HUGE! The architecture and details everywhere was so amazing to look at. I could have spent hours inside exploring.

Canterbury Cathedral

Our last land stop was Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. I am almost positive one of the Thor movies was filmed there.

Old Royal Navy College

After that we got on a boat and headed on a tour up the River Thames. At this point it started to rain so we mainly stayed inside. It was harder to see what he was pointing out on the sides of the river though. Once the tour was over we got some dinner at a chain restaurant (I know I hate that too) and then went on a Jack the Ripper walking tour.

Jack the Ripper tour

Technology really enhanced the tour. She used a projector to show images and videos of certain areas we visited.

Jack the Ripper tour

On Tuesday we started the morning by touring Buckingham Palace! I am not sure if they still allow it. I know it’s only certain times of the year, but we got tickets early.

Buckingham Palace

You can only visit certain rooms of the palace and most stuff is topped off or has plexiglass on it. The old pairings and furniture was really cool though. You also cannot take ANY pictures inside.

Buckingham Palace

We had an earlier tour slot, so we visited the Royal Mews while we waited for everyone. That is where you can see all the cars and the horse carriages they use for parades and stuff.

Royal Mews

Then we walked over to Westminster Abbey. If only they let us take a horse and carriage.

You also cannot take any photos inside the Abbey. I saw a lot of people getting cameras taken away and yelled at. There are a lot of famous people buried there and a lot of tombs. It was VERY crowded though so it was hard to see everything.

Westminster Abbey

Then we decided to jump on a double decker bus instead of the tube. It was still so nice out and the busses were also part of our transportation with the London Pass.

Bus

We headed over to the Tower of London.

Tower of London

Our first stop was to see the Crown Jewels. I would love to wear some for just a minute.

After we tried our had at being guards.

Tower of London

We obviously can’t be.

Tower of London

Then we walked around and learned about the history, saw some cool guns and cannons and even cages where all the animals were kept. The Tower of London used to be a zoo!

Tower of London

One the other side of the Tower is the Tower Bridge. This is the most ornate bridge and most people think it’s London Bridge, but it’s not. London Bridge is a plain old ordinary bridge (we crossed it).

Tower Bridge

Even though we were all exhausted and hungry we wound up walking FAR to get to Wapping Food. A restaurant in an old hydraulic power station. The food was ok, but we could have found just as good closer. The decor was ehh.

On Wednesday morning we started the day with a traditional english breakfast. I LOVED this and wish they had it in the U.S. I am also a big fan of tea,

English Breakfast

Then we took the tube down to Big Ben.

Big Ben

After we walked over to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. We made sure to get there early.

Buckingham Palace

A lot of people show up for the Changing of the Guard because they don’t do it all the time and it’s a pretty big spectacle.

Buckingham Palace

We made sure we were on a railing area so we could see. The band marching through reminded me of high school. There were also a lot of police out making sure everything went smoothly.

Changing of the Guard

Then we jumped on the tube for a long ride up to Abbey Road. It’s funny to watch the crossing camera of people trying to impersonate The Beatles. I am sure we looked just as crazy! It was difficult to cross because people driving could care less what we are doing and they fly through the road. After we signed the wall.

Abbey Road

I had wanted to see the Millennium Bridge they showed in Harry Potter. It is such a cool looking bridge, but was far from where we did the Harry Potter tour. Cheryl, my mom and myself broke off and headed down.

Millenium Bridge

I wanted to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral after, but it was closed by the time we got there. We decided to call it a day and head back to finish packing. We had an early flight to Ireland the following day!

One of the saddest moments was when I was in the tube and saw this sign for the Doctor Who Experience.

Doctor Who Experience

I had not seen anything about it online when I was doing all my research or that would have been a definite! I was also the only one at the time that watched the show. When we got back from vacation I convinced my mom and sister to start watching it and now they are hooked! They were so bummed I didn’t get them into it before we went!

England was an amazing experience. We were able to cram a lot of stuff into a short period of time. I did a lot of pre-planning to figure out when things were open so we wouldn’t try to go somewhere only to find it closed. We also had amazing weather almost the whole time. It rained once for maybe 3 hours! I actually didn’t have a lot of short sleeve options since I thought it would be rainy and cold and dreary. I loved London! I would love to go back again.

Next week I will bring you along on our trip of Paris, France.

Birchbox Store Review

Most people have heard of Birchbox. They were one the of first box subscription companies. A year ago no one really knew what box subscriptions were, but now they have ones for really anything you can think of! Beauty products, health food, dog food, crafts…you name it, they probably have it (and if not then maybe you should start it!)

Last week for work I had to go into New York to do some videos at a few different companies. One was Birchbox. I originally assumed it was their office somewhere in New York, until I got to the address. Birchbox has opened a store!

Birchbox Store - Soho

The store is located in SoHo at 433 West Broadway. I fell in love as soon as I walked in. It is open and bright and really draws you inside. The PR girl walked me around originally and explained to me the basic ideas and set up of the store. After that I shot a lot of b-roll for a short video piece my office will be doing. Once I was done though I walked around again to get more acquainted with the space and how it worked. Let me give you a tour.

When you first walk into the store you see a display on your left. This wall is dedicated to the box for that month. It houses all the products that most subscribers receive in their box, but in regular sizes not sample sizes. This section rotates the products out monthly depending on what was featured in the boxes.

Birchbox Store - Soho

One your right side is the Shop the Top section. This rotates either monthly or weekly, I can’t remember. It showcases all the top products that Birchbox has been selling through their website.

Birchbox Store - Soho

Now comes my favorite part of the store. When I got shopping I honestly could care less about brands. I hate going to a department store to look for a tank top and having to walk all over from designer section to section. Why can’t all the tops be in one spot!?! Even at places like Sephora. I want a black eyeliner. I don’t want to carry around 15 of them from each different brands section to decide which one I like better. Birchbox has answered my prayers.

Birchbox Store - Soho

They ingeniously set up their store with the customer in mind. Want a red lipstick? Head straight to the lipstick section to see all the different reds (by all the different brands) all in one spot!

Birchbox Store - Soho

The sections are broken out all over the store. Even each section is broken down to a more specific type. Have oily skin? Go to the oily skincare section. Dry skin? Right next to that you can find the right product for you!

Birchbox Store - Soho

All along the middle of the store are mirrors and tables call the Try Bar. This is a very cool section. A lot of people are really nervous to try the newest trend or fad. Don’t want to have to buy 15 different BB creams to find the one perfect for you? Well they have an area where you can try out some of the most popular to see what works for your skin.

Birchbox Store - Soho

When people sign up online for a box they have to answer a series of questions. Not every product is perfect for everyone person and Birchbox knows that. They have a variety of products that they send out every month. If they are sending out face wash and you say you have oily skin they don’t send you one for dry skin. Want to know what products fit your parameters? They have a touch screen which will ask you all the same questions and it gives you a lot of options to choose from to help make your search faster.

Birchbox Store - Soho

At the back of the store is a very cool area. Right under the lighbulb BYOB signs is the Build Your Own Box section.

Birchbox Store - Soho

Pick up a menu, decide what you want, and build your own Birchbox (with 5 samples) right there in the store. It’s that easy and only $15!

Birchbox Store - Soho

They even have special limited boxes just for the store that change monthly. I love the Modern Mermaid box.

Birchbox Store - Soho

Downstairs there is even more! The hair and body section is downstairs. Again this is broken down by hair type and skin type. So it’s easy to find what you need.

Birchbox Store - Soho

They also have a Birchbox Men’s section. It’s not big right now. They are still testing out the men’s line, but they wanted some stuff in the store for guys.

Birchbox Store - Soho

All over the store, randomly placed, are more consumer-type items. iPhone cases, makeup bags, shirts. I liked the way they interspersed them with the other products to make the store more enjoyable to walk through.

Birchbox Store - Soho

The downstairs area is also a hair and nail salon!

Birchbox Store - Soho

Going out and need a quick hairstyle? It’s only $30 for a 30 minute hairstyle (like a bun, braid or waves). Same goes for makeup. Can’t seem to get your makeup to look salon perfect? $30 for just 30 minutes. I would love to do this to get the perfect smoky eye.

Birchbox Store - Soho

Nails are just $10 for a polish change, $20 for a polish change and accent nail art, and $30 for a polish change and full nail art. Pretty amazing prices for NYC!

One of the other awesome perks they have for Birchbox members is classes. They don’t have a full calendar yet (they just opened in July), but sessions like how to do a fishtail braid or even how to do a smoky eye will be taught at the store. The classes are free for Birchbox subscribers and $30 for non-members. I wail definitely be checking back often to see other classes they start to offer!

How cool is this store? I can’t wait to go back and see what changes month to month. I had cancelled my Birchbox subscription a few months ago, but now I think I might have to start it again! Great job Birchbox!

Project Life – July

Slacker in every way this week. Didn’t get as many blog posts done, but I did make a tentative calendar for the rest of the month so I should be on a better schedule. I also fell behind in making my Project Life cards, but I finally got caught up with July!

Project Life July

Project Life July

Project Life July

Project Life July

Project Life July

I really need to start utilizing all the stock card sets I got, but I just take so many pictures!

Instagramming: July 2014

How is it already August 6th and I have not done my July grid yet!?! Slacker over here! Let’s get right to it.

Instagramming July

1. Summer means smaller clothes so I did a green smoothie cleanse challenge with Cheryl (she did a juice cleanse) and we both lost about 5 pounds in 3 days!
2. I love Whimseybox and my Paper Flowers box from last month
3. The 4th of July was a lot of fun with my friends in Philly
4. I FINALLY went to some concerts. Zac Brown Band is amazing live, Phillip Phillips is adorable and O.A.R. is always incredible
5. Can’t get over how much I love my new dino dress from ModCloth
6. I have been very intense with crossfit and running this month. Need to get into shape!
7. We finally spruced up the living room with a new couch from Bob’s
8. Camping at the beach. Need I say more? Bonfires, beers, s’mores and friends. Amazing weekend in Assateague
9. I discovered the new Party Party app from A Beautiful Mess and I am obsessed
10. After almost 2 years I finally got back to Washington DC. What better way to sightsee than to run
11. Dino love at the Museum of Natural History
12. I somehow scratched my cornea and got to be a pirate/hungover at work with my eye patch and sunglasses. I was also a walking pharmacy with all my meds. Healed up now though!

August is already under way and I have a lot of fun stuff that has already happened and will soon happen. Sea Isle weekend with my girls, pool party, garage sale and a trip to Vancouver AND Wisconsin. Jam packed this month (as always).