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And the leaves that are green turn to brown November 16, 2014

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Fall in DC really is beautiful, though it tends to be short-lived.  It seems like this fall will be no exception.  Frankly, it didn’t even feel like fall until right around Halloween, and then this weekend, less than two weeks before Thanksgiving, felt more like winter.  The leaves are in big crunchy piles on the sidewalk, it is dark when I leave for AND come home from work, and folks have broken out their scarves and knee-high boots – so, I guess there’s no mistaking the season.

Some animals prepare for winter by hoarding.  In our household, we seem to be doing just the opposite – we have decided to buy a house, so we are thinking about what we can eliminate, reduce, and streamline.  While that process unfolds, I find myself looking and feeling a lot like the many neighborhood squirrels – like I have packed on extra heft to protect myself from the impending cold.  I have been exercising less and less – not only because other things have been more pressing, but also because I seem to have lost the inherent drive to better my body.  Is it unreasonable to think I might get that drive back during the short, cold days of winter?  Past patterns do not give me hope in that regard.

In any case, I will write here when I can – about training, yes, but also about life in our new neighborhood, as we put down real roots and try to become a part of a larger community.  Perhaps our neighbors will turn out to be running partners, or I will find that biking to work is more rewarding on the new route.  Who knows?  Anything is possible.

And, of course, there is always spring to look forward to…

RTR Unlimited review September 22, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Pretty.
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My love for Rent the Runway is well-known.  So, when they announced their “Unlimited” service, I was one of the first people in line.  Basically, you fill your queue with as many items as you like from their VERY impressive selection of accessories (handbags, scarves, jewelry, sunglasses, jackets, FUN!!!), and they send you three at a time.  Shipping – both ways – is free, just like with their dresses.  You can keep the pieces as long as you want.  Whenever you want to return 1, 2, or all 3 items, they will send you others from your queue to replace them (so you always have 3 items).  The monthly fee is $75, and you can cancel anytime, as long as you return all of the items you have first.  Simple!

Here’s what I got in my first shipment:

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These Dannijo earrings were super fun, but VERY heavy, and not particularly practical for everyday wear.

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These OScar de la Renta earrings were awesome – the only downside was that they were clip-ons.  Then again, they’re a lot lighter than they look, so it wasn’t a big deal.

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I think the Gigi New York satchel was the best part of the delivery.  It fit all of my stuff (and I have a LOT that I carry in my everyday bag), and the leather looked and smelled so amazing.  It was obviously a very high-quality item – in fact, it was brand new with the tags when I got it, so I’m pretty sure I was the first renter to get it!  I didn’t want to give it back.  :-)

I kept the bag for longer than the earrings, even taking it on my West Coast adventure this summer.  Then I got my next bundle:

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This grouping wasn’t my favorite.  The bracelet is awesome (I still have it, actually), but the earrings were kind of blah and the necklace arrived damaged.  But, in true RTR fashion, I got replacements very quickly and without any extra hassle on my part.

I hope I continue to get handbags (I haven’t gotten any since the first one), since it’s nice to spruce up that part of my wardrobe without having to commit to a large purchase.  I like the jewelry as well, but I have plenty of accessories already in my closet.  Hopefully, I’ll get to try out some of the jackets during the fall – if I keep getting a good variety, and if RTR keeps adding more goodies to their vaults, I imagine I will continue to be an Unlimited member.

Has anyone else tried the service?  What did you think?

How to have a Ragnarly, dude! relay race September 5, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Races, Running.
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Today, we are a week out from Ragnar DC – squee!  I started re-reading posts this morning from Ragnar TN back in 2012, and it got me all excited for the fun that is to come.  But, I also started getting a little anxious about logistics and packing – after all, there are a LOT of moving parts when you’re talking about 12 people, 2 vans, 200 miles, and zero sleep.

There are oodles of blog posts about how to pack for Ragnar.  When I was prepping for Tennessee, the chronic overpacker in me got really frustrated – you want to have everything you could possibly need for 3 different “mini” races (and for lots of potential weather scenarios), but you also can’t take up so much room in the van that you don’t have any left for the really important stuff (otherwise known as your teammates and a cooler).

So, rather than put together yet another in-depth packing list, I’m going to talk about the things you probably DON’T need to bring to Ragnar…

Lounging/non-running clothes – Okay, so I’m not talking about clothes for partying after you finish the race, or PJs for in the hotel the night before the start.  I’m talking about clothes for DURING the race, after you have completed one of your legs and the waiting begins.  While I definitely recommend bringing three separate running outfits, there is no point in putting on “regular” clothes in between.  You probably won’t have time anyway.  Make sure you have flip flops or slippers or other comfortable non-running shoes, and call it a day.

Enough food for a small army – Yes, you will definitely eat a lot during Ragnar.  But, not everyone likes the same things, and even ONE person’s tastes will vary during a 30+hour period (for example, I liked pumpkin muffins at the beginning of Ragnar TN, but I had eaten so many of them by the end of my second leg that I never wanted to see another one as long as I lived).  Make sure you have plenty of hydration, and sure, pack some portable and chewable fuel, but remember that you can usually stop for food at least once or twice during the journey.  I distinctly recall both a Zaxby’s AND a Cracker Barrel stop during our van’s off time.  At the time, they were both the best meals I have ever had.

Full size pillows – They take up a LOT of room.  Chances are, not everyone will be sleeping at the same time, so you could always use folded up sleeping bags and/or blankets to rest your head.  If you have one of those airplane neck pillow things, all the better – it’s small, and it works for both sitting up sleep AND laying down sleep!

Your pet – I love my furbabies as much as the next person.  Probably more, come to think about it.  But as much as you don’t want to take Fifi to the kennel while you run around the countryside, do the humane thing and spare your dogs/cats/cockatoos the misery of being crammed into a van with a bunch of crazy, delirious humans.  Plus, you don’t want your best buddy breaking loose when one of your teammates, in a sleep deprived haze, opens the door to the van before you’ve actually put the leash on.

A bad attitude – Seriously, just don’t.  Ragnar is FUN!!!  If you come expecting to have a good time, meet some cool people, and enhance your existing friendships, you’ll be in great shape.  The opportunity to be tired and cranky will most certainly present itself, but don’t take the bait!

Anyone else have tips on what not to bring?

Running Up(s) and Down(s) September 4, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Races, Running.
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The downer is that I decided not to run the Marine Corps Marathon this year (booooo).  As thrilled as I was to win a spot in the lottery, the summer turned out to be way busier than I was anticipating, and training fell by the wayside.  There was no way I was prepared to run 26.2 miles, and I didn’t want to do it unless I could really do it well.  The good news is that MCM has a deferral program, so I paid a fee to guarantee my entry in the 2015 race.

So, what am I going to do to ensure that 2015 doesn’t go the way of 2014?  First things first, I had a consultation with a personal trainer last night – I think losing some weight and incorporating strength training into my fitness routine are both excellent ways to make progress towards next years race(s).  The workout was TOUGH, and I am still hurting today, but my miserable excuses for push-ups demonstrated that I need to get some expert help and not just focus on cardio.

Second, I am going to try to have a BLAST at Ragnar DC next weekend – hopefully, that will kick-start my get-back-in-shape campaign and renew my love of running and fitness.  Even reading some blog entries and recaps of last year’s DC Ragnar has started to get me in the spirit – so look for a post in the near future about things I am looking forward to (and hoping to do differently) during my second relay experience!

Summer Loves September 1, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Pretty.
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I haven’t done monthly Birchbox reviews in a while, partially because BUSY, but also partially because there were a couple of “meh” boxes where I didn’t feel strongly about any of the products.  Thankfully, the last couple have been pretty darn good (especially August), so I figured I’d give a shout out to some of my favorites.

LAQA & Co. Lip Lube -

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I got this in the purple shade, and I was immediately skeptical – but, it’s actually pretty fun!  I wore it to perk up some neutral-heavy work outfits, and I loved how moisturizing it was.  It also has a subtle minty flavor, which is always appreciated.

Noir Eyeliner -

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So, I am still figuring out whether I like the Benefit They’re Real Push-Up Liner, so I wasn’t initially thrilled to get an eyeliner pencil in my Birchbox.  However, I quickly changed my mind – this liner is AWESOME.  It goes on super smooth, and it is VERY long-wearing and VERY black.  It’s not as precise as a gel or liquid, of course, so it would be hard to do sharp wings or cat-eyes with this.  But, for an everyday liner, it is a high-performer.

Vasanti Detox Cleanser -

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I love everything Vasanti does, seriously.  This cleanser is no exception – fresh-smelling and effective, this is a great everyday face wash.  I am currently having a nice little bout of adult acne, so I won’t be buying this immediately, but I would be happy to work it into my skincare routine once I no longer look like I am going through puberty.

Anyone else discover great new products this summer?

Emmy Excellence August 27, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Pretty.
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When I got rid of cable earlier this year, I neglected to think about the impact it would have on my awards show fashion watching!  Even though I only saw the lame network coverage of the red carpet (sniffle…E!, I miss you), I definitely have some thoughts about whose looks were made for TV and whose should be canceled immediately.

The Award-Worthy:

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Heidi Klum was one of the first celebrities I saw, and I was so happy – she looks amazing!  The dress is great (fit, color, visual interest, yay!), the earrings are super cool, and the loose waves are beautiful.  Maybe not as much of a risk as she usually takes, but I’m okay with that.

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Prints can be dangerous (see Betsy Brandt – sorry, Marie, but it just wasn’t attractive), but I think Julie Bowen knocked it out of the park with this dress.  She looks…just WOWZA.  I think the side part works really well, too.

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I suspect that people either love or hate what Julia Roberts wore, but count me in the former camp.  She looked dazzling on the carpet, and it was so nice to see a short dress amongst a sea of gowns.

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Some people have said they didn’t like the cut of this dress for Amy Poehler, but I thought she was exuding confidence and sexiness.  I think the styling really takes the whole look up a notch (it could have washed her out otherwise).

The (not-so-Breaking) Bad:

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I hate how everyone was tip-toeing around how absolutely awful this outfit was.  “Oh, Lena Dunham always gives us something to talk about!”  Come on – this is ugly with a capital UG.  And I feel like her new hairstyle would have looked so fantastic contrasted with a dark, dramatic gown – a missed opportunity.

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This dress says, “Hi, I’m Katherine Heigl, the mother of the bride.”  It ages her like whoa, and the color does absolutely nothing for her beautiful features.  Sad.

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I will give Kerry Washington credit for the color – she rocks a bold hue.  But the cut and fit of this dress is completely wackadoo, and I don’t like the hair (it just looked limp, like it was doing well to hang from her head).  A rare miss for this fashionista – makes me wish for one of Olivia Pope’s rockin’ pantsuits.

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I hate that I have to put Allison Janney on my no-no list, because I adore her and there probably aren’t many actresses I’d rather be friends/have a beer with (especially when I am re-watching “The West Wing” and falling in love with her all over again).  But sometimes friends gotta dish out the tough love, and this dress is just way too suburban-Winter Formal-circa-1982.  And wasn’t it SUPER hot out there (it IS August in L.A., after all)?  Velvet just doesn’t make sense.  All of that said, the hair and makeup were bangin’ and the fact that she somehow mentioned incontinence in her acceptance speech is pure awesomesauce.

The Smack in the Middle:

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Every year, one pregnant actress just KILLS it on the red carpet.  Hayden Panettiere is so close here.  Hair?  Perfection.  Makeup?  Satisfactorily glowy.  Dress that hugs baby bump instead of trying to hide it?  Boom.  So what is my issue?  First, I am really, really hating the nude overlay on the torso.  It was not subtle, and it took away from what was otherwise a super sexy look.  I mean, come on – we can see the girls anyway, so show them in all of their enormous pregnant glory!  Second, except for the times when she was posing or being interviewed, she was displaying full-on resting bitchface.  It’s just not pretty.

So…what did everyone else think?

Pucker Up, Buttercup July 29, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Pretty, Uncategorized.
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Who knew?  Today, July 29, is National Lipstick Day.  In the past, I was very leery about lipstick, especially in the summer – but with today’s super-moisturizing, super-long-lasting shades, why not put a pop of color on your lips in July?

My favorite shade these days is from NARS, and it is called Heat Wave:

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Fun, no?  It’s a really punchy orangey-red, and you should not let the strong color out of the tube scare you away!  It wears beautifully, and you can even run some clear gloss over it to lock it in and give it some shine.

Of course, anytime I think about lipstick and icons, I think of Miss Marilyn.  Girl could rock some red lips!

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And, no mention of lipstick in the modern era would be complete without an homage to Claire from The Breakfast Club.  Happy National Lipstick Day, everyone!  :-)

56734 Molly Ringwalk lipstick

The Travel Bug – Lewes, DE July 22, 2014

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Originally, my summer travel plans consisted solely of my August trip to California (to see my amazing sister and ADORABLE nephew).  But…sometimes I just get that bug, ya know?  When the walls I’m used to just won’t do, and when I’m dying to explore something new and different and exciting.  And it’s great when the travel itch can be scratched by driving just a few short hours away.  That’s exactly what happened when we spent July 4th weekend in Lewes, Delaware – and now I am completely enamored with “the first town in the first state.”

The real reason we chose to go to Lewes for the holiday weekend was…beer.  :-)  I found out the week before that Dogfish Head was opening a beer-themed inn in Lewes, which is more or less halfway between the brewery in Milton and the brewpub in Rehoboth Beach.  Hubby and I didn’t need much convincing, let’s just leave it at that.  But if you do, there have been a few articles written about the Inn – and Jason and I (and Jack!) really enjoyed our stay.  It is pricey, but the location can’t be beat (short walk to both beach and town), and the hospitality was top-notch.

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The beach at Lewes was another big draw for us – unlike the other area beaches, they allow dogs (before 8 AM and after 6:30 PM during high season, and all the time in the off-season).  I have never seen my puppy happier, or sleepier!  He and his mama had fun splashing around and chasing tennis balls in the waves – while daddy stayed in ankle-deep water, of course.  What can I say?  Jack and I are definitely the water babies of the family.

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There were tons of dog-friendly restaurants and shops, and even though there were obviously a lot of out-of-towners (it was July 4th weekend, after all), the whole town had a very relaxed, welcoming vibe.  But, there was still plenty to do – we opted for an afternoon of kayaking the Broadkill River, followed by a tour and tastings at the Dogfish Head brewery.

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Even in holiday traffic, Lewes was only about 2.5 to 3 hours away from DC.  It was also a pretty drive, between crossing the Bay Bridge and going through some quaint Delaware farmland.

I can’t believe it took me so long to “discover” Lewes and the surrounding beaches.  This fan of sand and surf is awfully glad to have them nearby!  I am already plotting my next trip…

Summer Sun Safety June 29, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling, Pretty, Running, Swimming.
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For those who don’t know, I am a melanoma survivor – I was initially diagnosed and treated back in 1999, so ever since then I have been extra super diligent about protecting myself from UV rays.  Back in the day, that meant sucking it up and dealing with greasy, weird-smelling sunscreens that often clogged my pores.  Thankfully, in the years since my diagnosis, there has been tons of progress, even in the drugstore sun protection arena – but my favorite brand has to be Supergoop!

I first tried Supergoop! in a Birchbox – and as soon as I used the sample of the City Sunscreen Serum, I was hooked (and I have been using it ever since).  It is light and non-greasy, and it works amazing as a primer under makeup.  I feel good walking out the door every day, knowing that I have done something good for my skin.  But as much as I love the serum, Supergoop! has so much more to offer…

Through the Birchblogger network, I was chosen to take part in a Google Hangout with the founder of Supergoop!, Holly Thaggard.  In advance of the live chat, Birchbox sent four Supergoop! products for me to try.  DISCLOSURE: I received these products for free, but all of the opinions in this post are my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

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The Everyday SPF 30 is, like its name suggests, a really great everyday sunscreen.  Yes, you should wear sunscreen every day!  It absorbs really quickly and doesn’t feel sticky or greasy.  Because it goes into skin rather than sitting on top of it, I felt like it really resisted a lot of sweat when I went walking with the doggie on hot, sunny mornings.  Of course, you need to give it time to sink in and then reapply if you do serious sweating/swimming, but since the scent is light and pleasant and the texture is nice and light, I think I’ll be much less hesitant to lather up repeatedly!

The Forever Young Hand Cream is the product I thought I’d like and need the least.  I am pretty good about moisturizing my hands (I truly believe your hands will tell your true age more than your face, if you don’t take care of them properly), and I honestly hadn’t thought about treating them any differently than the rest of my body when it came to sun protection.  But, this cream may have changed my mind!  Like all the Supergoop! products, the texture is divine – not greasy at all.  The scent is subtle, and for those of you who drive to work, the bottle fits in the cup holder so you can protect your hands while they are on the wheel!  A little of this cream goes a long way, so I think the 10-ounce bottle will last a long time.

The Anti-Aging Eye Cream is a freaking game changer for me.  Amazing.  It didn’t irritate my under-eye skin at all (and mine is VERY sensitive), and it was lightweight and soothing (the cooling tip applicator helps with the de-puffing).  Plus, it gives some extra SPF protection to an area that can really help keep you looking and feeling younger.  I am very excited to add this product to my daily routine.

The Mint Fusion Lip Balm may allow me to get rid of a few underperforming lip glosses.  It has a VERY subtle pinkish color, so it looks good on its own (I wore it to a party with a heavier eye, and it complimented the look beautifully).  But, you can also apply it over lipstick for shine AND sun protection.  Win win!  The mint flavor/scent was very mild – I would almost like a bit more.

I had such a good time testing all of the Supergoop! products, and I learned a lot from the Google Hangout.  Despite many years of being a serious sunscreen advocate, I picked up a lot of new tips (for example, I now know to put my sunscreen in the fridge for a cooling effect on hot summer days, and that drinking red wine the night before sun exposure can increase the risk of sunburn) and really enjoyed hearing all of the questions.  Supergoop! is definitely not an inexpensive line, but in my experience, the products are effective and long-lasting.  Much like Maria Sharapova (a devotee of the brand who recently became a co-owner!), I believe in the power of Supergoop! and will be using their products for a long time to come.  It’s so great for an active gal like myself to have reliable and skin-friendly sun protection!

Who else loves Supergoop! – and has anyone tried their new sunscreen oil?

Going Gaga for Yoga June 18, 2014

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After eating my way through San Francisco, I needed a pretty big reset on my (lack of) fitness routine.  Fortunately, my local Bikram studio was running a promotion for 30-days of unlimited classes for $99.  Ideally, they wanted the purchasers to try the 30-day challenge – at least one class every day for 30 days.  I felt like I could at least give it a try (and even if I didn’t take 30 classes, the per-class cost would be less than usual).

For those unfamiliar, Bikram yoga is a particular genre made popular by Bikram Choudhury in the early 70s.  Bikram Yoga classes run for 90 minutes and consist of the same series of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises, practiced in a hot room (generally 104 degrees and 40% humidity).  The instructors typically use a standardized dialogue to lead students through the postures, but of course each teacher’s style varies.

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I had practiced Bikram off and on over the past few years, but this would be my first attempt in taking back to back (to back…to back…) classes.  During the first class, I felt exhausted and completely out of shape (but, it should be noted, that was all me – yoga is not about everyone being at the same level, and there is no judging).  I concentrated and tried to watch some of the more seasoned students, and even by the third or fourth class, I noticed significant improvement.  It’s just like anything else – the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Even though I noticed steady improvement, I had one particularly bad class where I felt like I was going to simultaneously pass out and throw up – blargh.  Because of the heat and the strenuous nature of the workout, you have to be very well-hydrated AND very well-nourished to sustain a serious practice.  That day, I hadn’t eaten nearly enough at work, and it showed almost immediately.  I didn’t make that mistake again!

Even though I only made it through 8 days of the 30-day challenge (that sounds a lot worse than it is – I just decided to vary my workouts and spend some quality time walking with my pup and biking), I definitely plan to make Bikram a regular part of my exercise routine.  When my marathon training starts in about a week, I can definitely see one or two classes a week being helpful in terms of flexibility and stamina.

And, of course, I want to eventually look like this in Standing Bow Pose:

Yoga

A girl can dream…right?  :-)

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