Bucket List

Last weeks of summer bucket list

The last weeks of summer are hanging by a thread.  We’re enjoying the long days and looser schedule.  Lately, I’ve been thinking of the last things I want to do to make our summer complete:

  1. Go to a movie.  The kids love doing special things like this and I don’t think we’ve hit a movie theater as a family in over a year.  I’d like to spend the time getting in a fun movie on a rainy weekend afternoon.
  2. Evening swimming. This one is my husband’s idea.  He’d like to take the kids to the pool for an hour or two right before it closes – when it’s starting to get dark out and the lights come on.
  3. Explore a fun park we haven’t visited before.  There are so many great parks around Charlotte and we tend to go to the same ones over and over.  This time, I want to find one that my kids love exploring.
  4. Feeding the ducks.  I’ve done this once or twice with the kids and they loved it.  It’s been a while and I’d like to take them to a nearby pond for a picnic lunch – both them and the ducks.
  5. One last ballgame.  We did our first O’s game as a family earlier this summer. Dean and I have also hit the Knights games (local AAA team) with our neighbor friends this year.  We have one more on our calendar before calling it a wrap on baseball season!
  6. Water balloon fight.  We’ve had a few this year and the kids are the perfect age for it.  We want to squeeze in at least 2 more before it starts getting too cold to soak each other with water missiles!
  7. Dinner outside.  We tend to avoid this during the hottest months of the year, but there is something awesome about a little sweat on your back while enjoying a burger or cold watermelon.  I want to do a few more dinners outside.  Bonus if we invite friends or family over to enjoy these with us on the back patio.
  8. A little travel.  A trip to Atlanta to see family, a visit to the beach, maybe the mountains for a day… I’d like to do 1-2 quick trips before we get into the full swing of things with fall.
  9. Treats!  Of course, saving the best for last.  Whether it’s gourmet donuts or fro yo piled with toppings, we’re gonna get at least one more fun treat day in with the kids.

Anyone else have a end of the summer bucket list they’re trying to work through?


Hitting all 50.

I have a goal in life to hit all 50 states for a visit.  And I don’t just mean where we travel through but actually visiting or doing something in each of them.  Hopefully by my goal of hitting all 50, my kids will have a good head start on their own 50! Especially since I’ve already done about half of them without them (bold below are the ones I’ve hit)!

The challenge for me is when we travel, I often want to pick places I know I like, or we travel to convenient locations – like the Carolina beaches or somewhere else on the East Coast.  As my kids get a little older, I’d love to do an extended trip out west where we have an RV or big SUV to travel around many of the national parks and sights out West.


New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York 
North Carolina 
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina 
South Dakota
Washington, D.C. 
West Virginia 

Some of my favorites so far –

Hawaii – Of all the places I’ve visited in the US and abroad, Hawaii is the #1 place I’d choose for a second visit.  I just really enjoyed the trip – beautiful beaches, great weather – a 20 min afternoon shower each day and otherwise sunny, delicious meals and awesome snorkel spots.  I think if I went back it would be to a different island. I know they all have their own flair!

Maine – We visit every few years for a family reunion. It’s chilly nights and cool/warm days.  Lots of delicious lobster and the town we visit (Ocean Park/Old Orchard Beach) is stuck in the 60s so it’s a nice departure from our busy life.  Plus Portland’s a pretty cool town.

North and South Carolina – There are some great coastal towns in the Carolinas and I’ve loved visiting them. Topsail – where we got married, Wilmington/Wrightsville – where Dean and I both went to college, Charleston, Calabash, Carolina Beach and the Outer Banks – they all have a quaintness that makes it great to visit.  The little hole in the wall joints that you remember for years.

New York – I really enjoyed a visit I took to NYC and I think it would be great to go back during the holiday season when it’s all gussied up for the holidays.  I’d love to take my kids on a Big City adventure. I’d also love to get upstate to visit more of the state.

Massachusetts – Boston was a fun overnight adventure when we took our last trip to Maine. We flew in there and did the Duck Boats and toured the city with our kids and family.  I love the historic nature of that town. It’s just so different from Charlotte’s modern vibe.

When I look at the places I have yet to hit, I think I’m most excited about: Alaska (the glaciers), Utah (seems very picturesque), Illinois (hitting Chicago), Texas (I feel like TX cities will all have their own personality – and be very Southern with great food!) and Washington (Seattle seems really fun with it’s own vibe).

Has anyone hit all 50?  Any spots I should be especially excited to visit?


Bucket List: Domestic Travel

I love to see different parts of the world.  I’ve had the chance to hit some international highlights over my years and I want to keep adding to my world travel bucket list.

During a recent lunch with my co-workers, we were discussing places we want to go or have visited around the world but then got into the discussion of hitting more places in the good ole USA.

It really got me thinking about places I want to hit over the next 5-10 years and who I want to travel with.  In some cases, it seems like a great couples vacation and sometimes I envision a road trip with all my boys.  I’ve done a pretty good job of hitting a bunch of places on the East Coast, but I really haven’t ventured much from that.

Couples Hot Spots:
Chicago – I just think this is a cool city and I’d love to go there. Something about the big lake and the hustle and bustle make it appealing to me.
Hawaii – while I went to Maui a few years ago traveling with my mom and her BFF, I think it would be a great trip to take again with my husband.  Maybe for a big milestone anniversary.  And hopefully to a different island since I did a lot of the Maui stuff last time.
Nashville or Memphis – While it’s too far for a short weekend trip, I think hitting one of these towns known for delicious Southern cooking would be a blast.
San Diego – I want to do some California traveling and San Diego is on my list.  I’ve only been to Southern California once – that I can remember – and I’d definitely like to go again.

Bringing the Whole Fam:
Yellowstone – Maybe rent an RV for a week one summer and do the whole boys thing – cabins, tents, hiking and fishing.  Definitely a little too young right now to appreciate it but it seems like a good late elementary school, early middle school years trip.
Alaska – I think my boys would have a great time as they got a little older.  A little wilderness adventure. No wifi. Just the scenic outdoors.
San Francisco, Napa and the Redwoods – I think hitting the City by the Bay for some urban fun and then adventuring to the huge redwoods would be a blast. And the hubby and I could hit a few vineyards as well.  I visited San Fran in college when we went out for a family ski trip, but I’d like to do it again with my own family.
Texas – Not sure if it would be Austin, Dallas or Houston, but I’d love for my boys to see why everything is bigger in Texas.
Grand Canyon – Everyone I’ve met says that its 100x more magnificent in person than in pictures so it seems like something I need to do.
Seattle – It just seems like a cool city to visit.  I’m sure there is some adventuring to be done.
Niagara Falls – This just seems like something everyone should do at some point.  So sign us up!
Washington DC – I grew up there and definitely got my fill of the National monuments and zoo.  But now that I’m older, I’ve taken for granted some of those trips and I wish we had something as educational and historic in our backyard.  Since we visit the in-laws in Baltimore each year, DC would just be a short trip away for our kids to experience some of that same fun. I know they’d be in awe at the Air & Space museum.
Disney – It’s time for our kids to experience the magic of Disney we got to enjoy when we were growing up.  We’re shooting for this fall – assuming Brooks is good height-wise for most of the rides.

Traveling is such a great way to visit different cultures – even regional differences within the U.S. and I hope that my kids enjoy visiting new places as much as I do.

What would you add to my Bucket List?  Any best tips for bringing the kids along?

13.1 and done.

Yes, the bucket list race is done.  Unfortunately for me, the “polar vortex” hit Charlotte about 36 hours in advance of our Nov 15 race date and it was FREEEEEZING the morning of the run.  My phone said:  26° but feels like 20°! Aghhh!

All that to say, I couldn’t feel my toes until about mile 3 and it was painful to run.  My quads and hamstrings were freezing and so tight during the entire race and it was frustrating that I didn’t warm enough to feel like I hit my stride and groove – mentally I could only think about “put one foot in front of the other, put one foot in front of the other” for 13 miles straight. I really, really wish it was about 15 degrees warmer because I think I would have really enjoyed my race 500% more.

In the past two weeks since the race I’ve debated whether or not I want to do another half, just to see how I can do when I’m not freezing.  Another part of me says, you did it, mission accomplished, move on. So who knows. Maybe I’ll try some other race distance and see how I do.  (Nothing further than 13 miles – my knees were crunchy and crackling for days after!)

Overall time was 2:07 (so 9:44/mile pace). My goal was to be between 2 hrs and 2 hrs 10 mins so I hit right in my range, but my “ideal target” was to get under 2:05 (a 9:30 pace) and I didn’t do that. Whomp, whomp, whomp.

I was right in the middle of the pack:

race results

And when I hit the last mile, I thought to myself: “Man, I cannot believe this is just the halfway point for those marathoners – Wow, I’m so glad I don’t have 13 more to go… no way I could do them all!”

The good:
– Loved seeing another part of my hometown and some of the back roads that I don’t go on.
– It was beautiful visually – all the trees changing colors, some of the older neighborhoods with quaint homes
– My shins did awesome. That was a huge praise!
– I stayed well hydrated and fueled so I never had a huge energy let down.
– My cheering fans at the end. At the 13 mile mark I just happened to look over and see my mom and sister – they ran with me toward the finish line.  It was great to have my “cheerleading section”. (Dean kept the boys home because it was freezing and he didn’t want them standing outside for a long time waiting for a 5 second window where they’d see me – it was just too cold for them.)


The not so good:
– It was so mentally tough. I think because I was so cold, my mind wasn’t able to wander as much as it usually does so the only thoughts in my head were, “my hands are cold”, “man, where is my stride?”, “step, step, step” not my usual ‘mental interior decorating’ or ‘personal counseling’ I often do.  Sometimes you’re running and it just feels good and it’s fun and I can go on and on… this was NOT one of those runs 🙂
– It was hillier than I thought it would be.  Since I didn’t know the course at all, I didn’t know anything about those roads but there were definitely more hills and inclines than I expected.
– BRRRRRR!!! Soooo freezing! I really wish I would have been able to do it in 40° temps and see how my body responded.
– I went out too fast. I purposely did not look at my Nike tracker on my iPod at all the first 5 miles. I just tried to go off of feel and only looked at the mile marker pace clocks. Unfortunately, my body tends to go faster than I’m expecting when I’m around 6,000 other runners and I didn’t gauge well.  I was under 9min/miles for the first three miles and then died because when I looked at my 5 mile track pace online – I was at 9:20/mile pace thru 5, so I definitely slowed down significantly to hit 9:44 for the entire race.


I will say that as soon as it was done, I felt a huge relief that it was finished and there wasn’t an event looming out there anymore. It felt like, “Ok, race done – now it’s time for Thanksgiving and Christmas – let the festivities begin!”

Run a half marathon – bucket list item. Complete.


I’m running right now.

Yes, I am currently hitting the pavement to complete my first (and probably only) half-marathon… and it’s cold outside – 25-30° cold! Seriously polar vortex, you couldn’t wait 48 more hours!

I know, I said only and I’m not even finished with my race.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy running and I’m not excited to hit this bucket list goal for myself, but my knees have taken a beating with these long runs and I don’t want to overdo it with too many miles in just a few years. I’d rather spread my miles out and be able to enjoy lots of shorter runs that don’t cause my knees to crack and clunk for days post-long-run.

I’m sure it’s probably due too many hours, days, years in the gym growing up, but my body isn’t as nimble and doesn’t recover as well as it used to!

So, I’m on the course now… hopefully at the halfway point! I figure I’d use today to share some of the tricks and things I’ve learned about myself during my running training:

1 – For me it’s always mind over matter.  I find that my mind tends to give out before my body does. I’ve never come back from a run and just felt like I was completely spend, hunched over and dying. Yes, there have been harder and easier runs but I definitely had to work on my head more than my legs.

2 – My long runs are really multiple short runs back to back.  When I go on a long run, I usually have a general target – i.e. ‘I’m going to do 8-9 miles’ or ‘I need to hit the 10’. But when I go, I mentally break it down into much smaller chunks. When I see I’m at the 3 mile mark, I don’t think – I’m a third of the way to my 9 mile goal, instead I think – ‘ok, 2 more miles until I hit 5’. Then when I hit 5, I think ‘let’s hit the 7 now’. Basically I am constantly breaking my run down in smaller pieces.

My plan going into the half today was to shoot for a 6 mile target, then from there break it into 2 mile segments – so push for mile 8, then 10 and then 12 and then from there, I’ll be in the homestretch.  If I go into it thinking I’m at mile 1 of 13, I mentally shut down so I need to think of it in “pieces”.

3 – Days are up and down.  During my training, I’d sometimes rock an 8 miler but die on a 4 miler the next week.  I’ve come to realize bad runs happen.  I’m not going to have an awesome run each and every day. And that’s ok.  I started getting painful shin splints about 3 weeks ago and tried a few more runs, but ultimately found that I could barely walk for a day after my runs. My husband and my mom told me that I should just take the last two weeks off running, so I did. I did the elliptical two times in the two weeks before this race and that is all.  Dean said, “you have the stamina built up, but if it feels like your leg is going to break with each step, you’re not going to be able to finish. Two weeks off is not going to kill your running.”

4 – Long runs can be boring.  I’ve found that mixing up my playlists and then doing mental planning is the best way for me to combat the boredom.  I’ve mentally decorated several rooms of my house that are basically blank slates. I’ve mentally thought through books I’m reading.  I’ve talked to God a lot. I’ve thought about my parenting techniques.  It’s so nice to hit the road and just let my mind go.  It’s an escape for me which I’ve really come to love.

5 – You gotta have a good support system.  I am so blessed that Dean has supported this initiative I wanted to take on.  He knew going in that it would be solo time with him and the kids on weekend mornings for months and he’s done such a great job.  They mow with their lawnmower while daddy mows with the real thing. He’s done shopping and errands with the boys while I did my 60-90 minute runs.  A lot has revolved around me having running time each week and I am so thankful that he backs me on things like this. I know I’m not always equally as gracious when he wants to play tons of golf or have ‘me time’ to himself.

I’m proud of setting and working towards this goal for myself and hopefully I can think of a new physical/athletic goal that I can shoot for in 2015.

Half marathon bucket list. Check.

I wanna travel the world…

Traveling to faraway places is something I really enjoy.  Getting to see another culture, beautiful sites, delicious food and beverage, relaxation.  I love all of these things.  Whenever I go somewhere, people always ask me, would you go back? And I’m always hesitant in my answer because while I may want to go back, changes are I’d rather try a new country that I’ve never been to when considering my next trip.  Why go to the same place when there are so many other places to uncover.  Here are some of the cool places I’ve been and locations that pique my interest when considering my next vacation.

Where I’ve been:

Sydney Australia (and surrounding areas- Wollongong) – This was my first time out of the country.  I traveled here for almost a month in college. I took some summer school classes and experienced life Down Under. I loved the accents, the laid back environment, exploring the town and of course visiting koalas and kangaroos. I also went skydiving over some beautiful land. The one downside was while it was an American summer, it was an Australian summer so we didn’t have much beach weather – it was pants and jacket weather, mostly.

New Zealand – After Australia, we took a layover in New Zealand for a week and this place is beautiful.  It is green and hilly and exciting.  It’s definitely the home of extreme adventures because I did some cool things while I was there – stayed in a Haunted Hotel (freaky!), did hi-speed jet boating, tried black water rafting (in caves).  Such a fun and exciting place.

Hawaii – I visited Maui and I think Hawaii is one of those places that I would do a double visit if my husband wanted to see it.  He didn’t get to join me on this trip and it is a gorgeous place. The weather is perfect – always warm and breezy. Theres a 15 minute rain shower daily and then it’s awesome again. The food is delicious – pineapple, macadamia nuts, onion rings, several fish (Ono) and I loved doing the Road to Hana tour where we jumped into the waterfalls and pools and the water is just gorgeous for snorkeling all over the island.

Costa Rica – For our honeymoon the hubs and I went to Costa Rica and we loved all the things we got to do on this trip. There were several days that were just absolute downpours but at the beginning and end, we had great days. One thing that was hard to see (and this is for many vacation places) was once we got out of the resort, we were quickly in an area of poverty – people living in makeshift homes and run down buildings. We saw an active volcano, went to the hot springs and got a mud bath, went ziplining through the rainforest and best of all went on a one-on-one snorkel adventure that was just amazing. Our guide caught a starfish, baby octupus and blowfish for us to hold while we snorkeled in clear blue waters. Very cool.

Venice, Italy – The cool thing about Venice is the water roads, you don’t drive ANYWHERE in this town, everything is on the boat or taking narrow, wandering paths and bridges all over town. The food was delicious and there were tons of cool street vendors and shops. I really loved just riding the water taxi around and seeing the buildings and hotels sitting right on the water. There’s nothing like it!

Split, Croatia – During our Mediterranean cruise, we took a day trip to Croatia. We weren’t docked there for long, but while we were there we enjoyed the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted. In Europe, cafe’s are huge and we hit them up daily – sometimes multiple times a day. We also went through this really cool castle that now houses modern shops and buildings. It is just such a unique set up to be within the castle walls and to see big name stores tucked within the stone walls. I also loved their unique food, it’s not something you’d ever eat in an American restaurant.

Greece – Wow, we made about 6 stops in Greece and they were all so different. I loved visiting the Parthenon in Athens – and being up so high on this historical site and seeing the equivalent of NYC all around me – just tons of buildings, skyscrapers and homes as far as you can see in each direction. What a cool masterpiece at the top of a huge cliff.

I also loved visiting Mykonos and Santorini – they were the cool hotspots – with their trendy stores, little cafes and quaint settings. Of course, these towns look just like they do in the postcards – all the pics I took were amazing, weather it was the whitewashed buildings and windmills of Mykonos or the unique “built into the side of the cliff” setting of Santorini – where we rode donkeys up the cliff into the main area.

The landscape and views were beautiful and the drivers around these parts are crazy! We rented little cars in many of the places we stopped so we could try the non-touristy settings and it was just amazing to see this country towns with houses spread far and wide. Each person with their own slice – and view – of paradise.

Another place we hit in Greece was Olympia and it was cool to see such ancient history. We visited the site of the first olympics and while they are half dessecrated, being in that setting with the ruins of Olympic buildings just felt so cool. They did a great job of describing and showing what things looked like and were used for during the Ancient Games, so you could picture the setting.

Where I want to visit:

Ireland – Something about this setting in the movies always intrigues me. Of course, I’d love to visit a laid back town where it’s not uncommon to share an afternoon pint and delicious, hearty meals!

Spain – Because I minored in Spanish in college, this is always a place I’ve wanted to visit. I’ve done the studies on many of the towns, I’ve retained a little bit of the language. I’d love to see the old history that goes along with it.

England – Something about the presence of the royal family after all these years and the british accent makes me want to visit England. I hear it’s rainy and gray most of the time, but hey, I can pack an umbrella and poncho.

African Safari – Lions. Cheetahs. Giraffes. Sign me up. How cool to go through expanses of dry land, spotting animals that you only see behind glass and barriers at the zoo, living in their natural environment.

Caribbean – Shockingly, living so close to it, I’ve never really been on a vacation to the Caribbean. Nope, never took a spring break trip or a long weekend away to any little island south of Florida. But hopefully, this one will get checked off later this year, as the hubs and I are thinking about a Caribbean hotspot for our 5th anniversary vacation away.

Alaska – After seeing so many cool pictures on Nat Geo channel and hearing many people rave about cruises through arctic water, I think that a trip to Alaska is something I’d like to include on my bucket list of vacation spots. It’s completely opposite of many of the tropical destinations I’ve been to. I think seeing glaciers and wide expanses of icy tundra up close would be so cool.

Thailand – I think experiencing this culture would be beautiful. The colors and flavors. The little markets and the differences from my American culture and comforts. Plus, I like my food a little spicy – I think they could accommodate it!

So, the question is, where next – which one will get checked off the list? Will it be the Caribbean for an anniversary vacation later this year, or will we find another fun destination that we’d like to exlore!
Any others you would suggest I add to the list?