Category Archives: Travel

Iron, the most precious metal

I’m almost embarrassed to say that Dan and I hadn’t taken Tracker to the Lawrence dog park before yesterday. It’s not as though we don’t give her plenty of exercise — we just haven’t taken the time to drive across town.

Now that we’ve been, though, I can say that we’ll find more time to go back. The park is an absolute paradise for Tracker!

Dan did have to give her a little pep talk when we first got to the park…

Then she was off to make new friends and explore new areas!

Eventually, all the running wore her out. Success.

(Love that picture.)

After having one week off, Dan had to go back to work on Saturday, which meant I was on my own. Fortunately, there was a major event going on…

Throughout the year, Dan’s hometown has a population of about 3,500. But, during the third weekend of October, Baldwin booms for the Maple Leaf Festival.

For further evidence about how big the celebration is for Baldwin: There are two billboards on both sides of town that advertise for the festival year round.

Today, I headed out to the festival with one of my friends. I was kind of bummed that Dan couldn’t go. However, I justified it by saying that he’s gone to the festival plenty during his life and going with one of my girlfriends meant we got to gawk at the craft booths a lot longer.

I ended up walking away with a cute clock pendant necklace and homemade birdhouse. My friend and I also split some delicious caramel apple slices — probably the highlight of the day.

I was also glad to see how well the festival was doing, largely thanks to the fantastic weather. The whole event brings great business to Baldwin, which I totally support!

After looking through all the booths, chatting and snacking, my friend and I ultimately spent six hours downtown. I guess we just enjoyed walking around — which got me thinking about how different it was than last year when I went the day after my first half-marathon. Suffice it to say I didn’t think walking around was quite as fun that day.

Once I got thinking about the race, I thought about how much my running has improved since then.

On the day of that race, I was still medically anemic and my endurance was practically non-existent, even after months of training.

Now, thanks to supplements of iron + vitamin C and vitamin B-12, I have so much more energy! Not only have I gone on to run two (better) half-marathons, but I’ve also PR’ed in the 5K. Goes to show how much the body really relies on iron to facilitate the delivery of oxygen to muscles!

Unfortunately, iron deficiency is relatively common among women. The reason I say this is “unfortunate” is because it’s very, very easy to deal with. I feel so much better now that my iron is back to healthy levels.

Questions: Do you know whether your iron levels are good? Does your hometown have any fun festivals?

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Campfire cooking

I love being outdoors. I love hiking. I love swimming in fresh water. I love experiencing nature. But, after a long day of those activities, I also love heading back inside for my dinner.

That just wasn’t an option when we went camping last week. With the addition of Tracker and the fact that the nearest town was 30 minutes away, it just wasn’t feasible to go out to restaurants, which we did last time. Instead, Dan and I faced the task of preparing all of our meals at the campsite.

I was weary of how successful we’d be, but a little planning went a long way and we made it work.

Night No. 1: Grilled Personal Pizzas

Because this recipe required cheese, we made it on the first night when we knew our cooler would still be cold. Other than that, all the pizzas took were two simple ingredients: individual pizza sauce packages and whole-wheat pita pockets.

While I worked on prepping the pizzas, Dan got the campfire ready.

Then we flipped the grill down, placed the pizzas on a baking rack and let ’em heat until the cheese was slightly melted, about 3-5 minutes.

They worked out perfectly — and even passed the Tracker-approval test. (Although that doesn’t actually say much.)

Night No. 2: Vegetable Fajitas

We knew we’d have to get more creative on the second night, because it wasn’t a sure thing that food in the cooler would be ok anymore. To me, it was just a good excuse to make a vegetable-rich dish of fajitas with corn tortillas, sweet bell peppers, an onion, salsa and succotash.


Note: It turned out that we were able to pick up extra ice on the first night, so the cheese was still good to eat.

This recipe was a little more involved, in that I had to bring along a cutting board and a sharp knife, which I used to dice the onion and slice the peppers. Unlike last time, we also remembered to bring a can opener.

After building the fire again, I got one pot of the succotash and one non-stick pan of the diced onions going. We also made a large pan of vegetarian baked beans for extra protein.

Once the onions were browned and fragrant, I added in the sliced peppers.

I let the veggies cook for a while, mixing occasionally, until the peppers were also tender. Meanwhile, I just brought the pots of succotash and beans up to a simmer.

With all the food finished, Dan and I got to build our own fajitas. I went with a little corn, the pepper mixture, succotash and salsa on corn tortillas.

Simple and satisfying!

Question: Do you know of any good campfire meals?


Scenes from camping

I understand that it can be hard for people to believe that camping is really fun. I mean, by its very nature, camping is a hard sell: collecting wood for fires, showering in communal stalls and sleeping on less than ideal surfaces. But, dwelling on those kinds of things isn’t the point.

Nope. The real point of going camping is…

During our three days in Ozark National Park in Arkansas, Dan and I explored local trails, jumped in the (cold) river and relaxed by our campfire. I could explain in more detail, but I think the pictures do a better job.

After our hike, Tracker had one way to cool off.

Dan and I had another…

Even though we cooked all of our meals at the campsite, we drove to the nearest town — Ozark, 30 minutes away — to explore around a bit more.

But, we made sure to get back before dark to grill up some food!

After dinners, we added more wood to the fire, sat back and enjoyed the night air.

On the last day, we packed up the camp, took a few family photos and went out for a farewell hike.

Although we came home a little stinky and a little gross, it was definitely worth all the fun we had!

Camping: Yay or nay?


Alexis and Jesse’s Wedding

This is a slightly embarrassing story, but I’ve got to tell it anyway…

The night before my childhood friend Alexis’ wedding, I was sharing a bed with my mom. In the middle of the night she swears that I, clearly as day, said: “I’ve always looked up to you, Alexis… And I still do!”

I’m not quite sure what I was dreaming about, but that is truly how I’ve always felt. Alexis is two years older than me and always set an example for how to be a great, genuine person. Although my family moved away when I was nine-years-old, I continue to count her as a friend and I couldn’t imagine missing her wedding.

Now onto the good stuff.

Before the wedding was set to start at 3 o’clock, my mom, sister and sister’s friend Dani, had some time to kill around town. My mom and I started with a three-mile run through the trails next to our old neighborhood.

After many legal battles, it was finally settled that the land cannot be bought for a subdivision. Instead, it will always be preserved for nature-lovers — like me!

(Although the run really made me miss having the trails so close!)

After showering, my mom met a friend for coffee while the girls and I did some last-minute shopping — which was when I finally got the dress I wore to the wedding!

When my mom was done with coffee, we all headed over to the newly opened Bungalow 47, an adorable shop run by Alexis’ mom.

We gawked around for a while at the handmade, unique gifts — and ultimately bought a few things for ourselves.

Then we rushed back to our friends’ house with just enough time to go back to the trails and take some pictures.

Goofiness ensued.

Finally, it was back to the house for an outfit change and makeup-reapplication. Then, out the door for the wedding!

The 3 o’clock ceremony was set to take place at a nearby nature center. Despite the fact it had rained for the three days leading up to it all, they went forth with plans to have the ceremony outdoors.

Thankfully, the skies had cleared up and the weather was perfectly crisp.

Upon arriving, we ran into Alexis’ mom who told us to go say “hi” to the girls before the ceremony.

I nearly started crying when I saw how beautiful Alexis looked, but I was able to keep it together… Until the ceremony when the waterworks began.

It was just all so sweet and touching.

After going through the receiving line, the guests shuffled over to a tent for appetizers and games while the wedding party took pictures.

From old-fashioned bottled sodas to antique decorations there were so many, incredible touches.

After snacks, we had some fun while waiting for the speeches.

We even got “professional” photo-booth pictures as wedding favors.

Before long, all the guests were gathered back together to hear toasts and head into a large, two-story barn for the official reception.

There, I continued to be blown away by all the details. I shouldn’t have been too surprised, though: Her family is incredibly crafty.

Apparently they’re good bakers, too, because the cupcakes were made by her aunt!

The focal point was a set of big, letter-shaped lights — made by Alexis’ husband, Jesse!

Food was served, cupcakes were consumed and fun was definitely had. Unfortunately, I had an early flight the next morning and my mom, sister and friend were getting back on the road. So, we called it quits before too late — but not without recreating one of our classic family pictures.

Twenty-four hours, three magazines and two flights later, I am back home with Dan and Tracker. Even though it was a whirlwind trip, it was oh-so worth it.

Congratulations, Jesse and Alexis!


Back to Michigan

Last night, I set my alarm for the earliest time it’s seen in a while: 5:45 a.m.

There was good reason for it, though. I had to head to Kansas City, catch a flight to Minneapolis and then end at my destination of Lansing, Michigan!

I snoozed on the first flight, but got fuel to get me through the second…


[Insert skim latte here.]

Lunch also gave me a little boost, as did reading trashy magazines about trashy celebrities.

Consumed: Wheat crackers, mozzarella cheese and an apple. Kashi bar later to round it out.

Then, by 3:30 eastern time, I was in Michigan. Easy as that!

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the sunny greeting I expected.

I was like, “Hello, Michigan? I gave you nine years of my life and this is what you greet me with?”

Fortunately the greeting at our friends’ house was a little warmer.

There were pizza slices, cookies, cups of sangria… and some greens for good measure. Evens out, right?

It was also great to meet up with my mom, sister and sister’s friend. With family + old family friends, it was a grand ol’ time.

Ok, now it’s time for bed. Can’t tell which, but either the runner’s high from five-miles around the lake or the sangria is wearing off.

Goodnight!


Worth Talking About Wednesday, 9/28

Sometimes Wednesdays come around so quickly that I barely know what to write about. This Wednesday, though, I almost have too much to say.

But, since when have I let that stop me?

Home-Brewed Coffee

You might wonder, “Why are we just now hearing about coffee machine?”

The answer might surprise you… We’ve just always used instant coffee. I know, I know. It’s not nearly as good as freshly brewed coffee.

Part of the reason why I never had a coffee machine before is because I don’t want it to feed my addiction. But, the pros outweigh the cons in this case.

Just do me a favor and keep me accountable: If you see me drinking five+ cups a day, suggest that I cutback.

Soy Mocha

That’s kind of a funny transition, isn’t it? Once again, I have a reason for posting this.

It used to be that when I felt like “going crazy” with my order at the coffee shop, I would get a simple iced latte. But, the little extra bit of dark chocolate makes this so much more delicious — especially when I get it for half price during my cafe’s happy hour!

It’s also a great weekly treat on Tuesdays, when I have class from 9:30-5.

Michigan for Alexis’ Wedding

Fall break isn’t for another week, but I am incredibly excited for this weekend. That’s because I’m flying out to Michigan for one of my best childhood friend’s weddings!

In this flashback photo she’s the one on the far right…

And, yes. We are apparently suspended in air.

She and her twin sisters drove out to Kansas this summer for my wedding.

(So many new pictures to come!)

Rue Lala

If you haven’t heard of it before, Rue Lala is an incredible web site, which offers daily deals on designer products — and I’m talking deals!

Today I got this leather watch, originally $115, for just $29.

You can only get access to the web site with an invite, but it’s your lucky day: http://www.ruelala.com/invite/emccoy24

Still Discovering New Restaurants in Town

Lawrence is a relatively small city and I’ve made an effort to hit up as many restaurants as possible during my three years in college. That’s why it shocks me that I can still find awesome restaurants, such as La Tropicana, which Dan and I went to with his parents last weekend.

Loved the atmosphere and the food was pretty good, too!

Question: What do you think is worth talking about this week?


Back It Up 5K Trail Race

You know it’s a trail race when…

(Pathetically, that little patch of mud doesn’t compare to how mud-covered I was after slipping on my walk with Tracker this morning. I-do-not-want-to-talk-about-it.)

This morning, Dan and I were up and at ’em early to drive to Milford Lake in the Flint Hills for the United Way “Back It Up” trail race. We signed up for the 5K, but the prices were the same for all of the distances (5K, 10K, 15K, 20K), so we were still up in the air about what to run.

The scenery on the drive was beautiful, but the road still lulled me to sleep.

That just meant I was energized for the race!

It rained the whole night before, so we anticipated that the trails would be extra muddy. On the flip side, the air was really cool. After taking those factors into consideration, Dan and I decided to do the 10K — just at an easy, fun pace.

Before the race started at noon, there was a raffle for prizes ranging from t-shirts to a $150 voucher to a night at Acorns Resort, where the race was set…

Dan and I stood around, clapping while people picked up their prizes.

“I never win raffles,” Dan said.

Then, his number was called — for the grand prize!

That means we get to spend one night in an awesome cabin on the lake!

After that little boost, the race got started — and we flew onto the course. Within the first 100 meters, Dan was pretty far ahead of me and I realized our plans for a “nice, easy” race had changed. I went with it and picked up the pace.

By the turn-around, I was feeling pretty good. But, I also know my body and I realized that, at the pace I was going, I could either push it even harder and get a great 5K time or I could slow down and have a decent 10K.

I went for the 5K.

Hello, personal record! At a 8:40 pace, that’s a full 36 seconds faster than my last trail 5K.

I also managed to come in second out of the women, which scored me a medal.

Better yet, I had time to go back and cheer Dan on while he finished his 10K. (When he passed me after the first turn-around, I told him I was doing the 5K.)

Go, Dan, go!

For not having run that distance since April, Dan rocked the race and ended up getting first of all the men!

Power couple, right?

To top off the already awesome day, Dan and I were then able to swing through Manhattan to see his sister, Claire! Last time we were in town, there was a big rush to get her moved into her dorm. Fortunately, she was able to give us a tour of Kansas State’s campus this time.

We also got a (very late) lunch at Coco Bolo’s, a “New Mexican” restaurant. I went with two vegetarian tacos + rice, beans, cheese and lettuce.

Definitely hit the spot!

After visiting Claire, we hit the road back. Before going home, we stopped by Dan’s parents’ house, because they were awesome enough to watch Tracker all day.

Now, we are finally home, it’s 10:20 and I am wiped out! Homework will wait until tomorrow…

Questions: How was your weekend? Do you ever win raffles/prizes?