Monday After Memphis

My weekend in Memphis was nothing shy of spectacular!  Sunday Funday with mimosas and these girls was such a treat!


This  morning, I was on the 5:50am plane out of Memphis and back in Chicago shortly after 7am.  My first stop after cuddling Cooper was a nap.  I had to catch up on a little bit of sleep before the busy day ahead.  I happily and intentionally overindulged this weekend…think wine flights, beer, and pizza! 


Although I blew off my workout today, I had strong intentions of getting back into my healthy routine.  The BOY and I had our last venue appointment today (spoiler alert…we liked it a lot!), and then I ran off to Costco and the grocery store, making a quick stop for lunch along the way.


When I got home, there was a bunch to do.  It’s amazing how messy one boy can make our little house…ha ha!  I had paperwork to accomplish, laundry to clean, Scandal to binge watch, and of course more Cooper to cuddle.  Since the BOY was in class, I knew I could whip up my go to ‘get back on track’ dinner.  Salmon and veggies.  I also found a delicious bagged  salad that completed the meal.


It’s one week to go before my race, so I should be doing some sort of run tomorrow morning.  Which means…I’m off to bed!  But first, I’ll leave you with a funny picture of Cooper who backed himself (hind legs first) into the cabinet today.


What is your get back on track meal?

What is on your meal plan this week?

Meal Planning 9/08/14

Monday: Teriyaki Salmon and Salad

Tuesday: Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken

Wednesday: BBQ Shrimp

Thursday: Leftovers

Tonight Instead of Pinning…

I am taking a break from pinning color schemes, flower arrangements, and unique wedding ideas tonight.  The BOY got started with dinner by making the turkey meat, which meant all I had to do was throw everything into the oven for our hearty Turkey Taco Casserole.  After kitten was loved and fed and dinner devoured, I got down to work.


Yoga is back! 

Our fall yoga starts tomorrow at work. I have full little yogi and junior yogi classes and maybe some high schoolers too.  Because some of the kids are the same, I definitely need to work on a creative new plan for tomorrow…and update my music again.  It’s going to be a FUN Fall!  I’m thinking tomorrow’s theme will be camping…in honor of the end of summer and all.


I also need to get packing.  I leave for Memphis on Saturday before the sun rises, and I’m not sure when I will have time to collect my sun dresses and Sperry’s for my girl’s weekend of BBQ and mimosas : )

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So as you can see…I kept myself busy with non wedding business.  I should confess (because I’d just feel bad if I didn’t) that even though I stayed away from my ‘Fall in Love’ wedding board ( I spent most of my time on the Yoga Kids board), I did contact a few photographers.  A bride-to-be never rests! 

Yet that is exactly what I need to do.  I’ve got plans for an early morning run!

Do you use Pinterest?  What is your favorite board/thing to pin?


Yesterday was my third time volunteering for St. Jude this year and every experience has been so different and fun.  Yesterday, the volunteers were the support behind the St. Jude Dream a Little Dream fashion show and raffle.  The event hosted around 1500 guests and raised money and awareness for the children of St. Jude…perfect timing to kick off the Thanks and Giving Campaign.



View from my first apartment in Memphis 2006


I remember when I learned about the campaign about 7 years ago as a St. Jude employee.  Since then, the support for the campaign has grown (who hasn’t seen the logo at your local Target or sporting store?) and today is the 10 year anniversary of its start.  The video’s on this website are priceless and well worth checking out this week!




This time of year, and this week in particular, when many of us have off of work, are traveling, and planning for the holiday season ahead, there is plenty of time to reflect on the joys and gifts in our lives and give back to those in our community in need of financial, emotional, and physical support.  Starting off the week by donating my time and energy to this local event in support of a wonderful cause was the BEST way to kick off my Thanksgiving week.


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Last week on the job 2008


And remind me how lucky I am to have a strong partner, an adorable kitten, a healthy family, generous friends, a job that I love and challenges me, four walls and a roof, heat in the winter, strength to run 26.2 miles, amazing cousins, an active 101 year old grandfather, trips to Israel, a bookshelf full of books, opportunities for growth, clean water from my faucets, laughter and love!




I will be taking all of this appreciation with me as my family hits the road (yup we’re driving) to New York tomorrow night.  I know Thanksgiving is all about the food, but for me, I’m more excited to spend this quality time with my family and our close friends on the east coast!  But before I go, I want to wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thank You and Keep on Giving!



What does #ThanksandGiving mean to you?

Sweet Potato Pie {Revisited}

I discovered sweet potato pie during my time living in Memphis, TN.  I even remember where I had my first taste.  I was skeptical at first but the BOY ordered it for dessert, so I picked up my plastic fork and took my first bite.  It was a party in my mouth from first taste.  Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of this amazing moment, but I do have tons of pictures of the BOY enjoying fried chicken in that same spot!




Every visit to Gus’s since then, whether with the BOY, my friends or family, sweet potato pie was ordered.  Often, multiple slices!  Whenever I make my way back to the mid south, there are a few restaurants that I HAVE to visit and sweet potato pie at Gus’s is always top of my list!  I actually had never made a pie when I attempted my first Sweet Potato Pie as a new blogger for New Years Eve 2010-2011.  It turned out incredible!  Can you believe that I haven’t made one since?  It was the first thing that I suggested when I knew we’d be home at my parents for Thanksgiving this year.  Since I had to work Tuesday and Wednesday, I got started a little early with the sweet potatoes.




The recipe suggests running your potatoes through a fine mesh sieve.  After 1/2 of a potato, I had some serious carpel tunnel and a centimeter of sweet potato.  I figured that there had to be a better way of doing this, so I pulled out my immersion wand, which worked out so much better. I highly recommend going that route first.


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I had plenty of sweet potato puree that I packaged up and sent home to my parents.  Thursday afternoon, I was ready to make my pie.  I bought a premade frozen crust from Trader Joe’s.  The only problem is that when I tried to thaw it out, it broke apart.




I was able to push everything back together to form it into a crust.


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The pie crust baked up just fine.  It didn’t look real fancy, but it tasted really good!  Meanwhile I got to work on the filling by mixing together the sweet potatoes with plenty of spices!




I had some help pulling everything together since the majority of us where in the kitchen working on dinner by this point.




The pie went into the oven just as we sat down for dinner.




40 minutes later, the pie was ready.  It looked beautiful and went straight from the oven to our table.




Along with a pecan pie and baked apple cobbler and of course Cool Whip as a topping!




The sweet potato pie was fantastic!  It is one of my all time favorite pies, and I was so happy to share it with my family!




After dinner, we all retreated to the living room to watch some football and work on a puzzle.  My brother made a fire, which was perfect since the weather had really cooled down.




The puzzle making was intense as we all battled to be Puzzle Master and find that key piece.  We did have to take one dessert break, which became BYOF (bring your own fork) with no plates required…ha ha!


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We had our puzzle finished before heading off to bed with full tummies and happy hearts!

And I even had leftover pie for dessert the rest of the weekend!



Sweet Potato Pie

From The Food Network



1 recipe Sweet Pie Crust*

1 egg white, lightly beaten

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup heavy cream

4 large eggs



Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle. Carefully transfer the dough to a 9-inch deep pie pan and ease the pastry into the bottom and sides of the pan. Press the dough into the shell and crimp the edges in a decorative pattern. Using the tines of a fork, lightly dock the base of the shell. Place the shell into the oven and bake until lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the bottom with the egg white. Set aside until ready to use.

Rub the sweet potatoes with the vegetable oil and roast in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes, until very tender. Remove and set aside to cool. Peel the potatoes and pass the flesh through a fine mesh sieve using a rubber spatula. (Or use your immersion blender…so much easier and faster!)  You should have about 1 1/2 cups of smooth sweet potato puree.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sweet potato puree with the sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, combine the heavy cream with the eggs and whisk to combine. Add the cream and egg mixture to the sweet potato mixture and stir to blend. Pour the batter into the prepared pie shell and place the pie on a sheet pan.  Bake until the center is set and the tart is golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.



*I used a premade TJ’s piecrust, but here is the recipe for homemade pie crust from The Food Network

Half Marathon History

In less than 2 weeks, I am running my first race of the year…a half marathon!


Prepping for this race really got me thinking about my Half Marathon History.  Usually I start my race season with a smaller run, but this year I am diving right in to a longer one.  I haven’t run a race since the Marathon last October and haven’t run a half marathon since 2009.  I am starting to feel a little nervous.  Seems silly…I have run numerous races in the past and after running a full marathon, you’d think a half marathon would feel simple.  Yet, surprisingly this race seems like a challenge.  Maybe it is because I decided to set the goal of running a half marathon PR (personal record) this year (under 1:50:00), and this is my first chance.   Here is a little history on how I got to this point…


I ran my first half marathon in 2006.  I had a blast and my friend and I finished in just over 2 hours. 


Kelley and Jen Post Race


It was such a positive experience (and I had a wonderful coach) that I was ready to sign up for my next race before I crossed the finish line. Unfortunately, a broken toe sidelined me from the 2007 St. Jude Half Marathon, and I was cheering on the sidelines instead of running.  In early 2008, I was diagnosed with a blood clot in my leg and PE’s.  One day, I will entertain you with stories from a Memphis hospital.


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I had to take 6 months of Coumadin (a blood thinner), and during this time, my hematologist recommended that I stop running.  It was a total bummer, but I was seriously determined to run the St. Jude half marathon in December 2008.  I wanted to honor my patients and prove to myself that I was healed and recovered.  A close friend of mine flew down to run with me and we layered up for this uncharacteristically cold day.


Race 2


The race was fun and more emotional than I had expected.  I crossed the finish line with tears in my eyes in 1:50:24.  It was such an amazing way to finish a rollercoaster year and a race that I will never forget.


After Race 2


When I moved back to Chicago, I was excited to run a hometown race.  I signed up for the Chicago Half Marathon in the fall of 2009, but sadly hurt my back over the summer.  This is where I discovered cross training.  I was attending a weekly spin class at the gym where we followed the Lance Armstrong training program.  Despite not running as much as I wanted, I was in great cardiovascular shape.  It was fun to be back home and have a great support system cheering us on!


Group Before


I decided to run a smart race with my goal being to run the race pain free.  I had a blast, despite the heat and was surprised when I finished in 1:51:52, not too far behind my PR.




I took 2010 off from long races and focused on triathlons.  Last year’s big goal was the marathon, during which my half marathon time was 1:54:34.  I was impressed with my time and this is what actually motivated me to try for a PR this year.




So far this year my race training has been inconsistent.  I took a week off from working out in March due to a busy schedule and fatigue.  However, I have gotten in some nice long hilly runs (10 miles this past weekend).  During the week, I have been doing some mid distance runs, some faster and some slower. I have not been doing any specific speed training or tempo runs and I have gone back and forth between thinking a PR this spring is a reality.  I have had a lot of doubt about my goal race pace (8:30 minute/miles), however, this morning, I was able to finally kick in some speed running 6 miles in under 49 minutes.




This was just the confidence boost that I needed 2 weeks before my race.  Rumor has it, that this is a flat course and I am feeling healthy.  A little pre-race pasta, and I think I may have a PR in me on May 6th.  Either way, I know that I will have a lot of fun adding another half marathon to my growing list!!!


Me After Race



Have you ever run a half marathon?

What is your PR?  Any last minute training advice?

Some Memphis Love!

We had a fantastic weekend in Memphis.  Although Chicago will always be home, it feels great to get back to Memphis.  I could not have asked for a better weekend in terms of weather and as always we had great company!  We were able to hit up a few of our favorite restaurants and although my fingers are a little puffy from all that sodium, it was totally worth it!  Here are a few pictures from our adventures…

The first stop is the BOY’s favorite…

Check out his T-shirt…can you tell he’s excited?!

A full plate of WORLD FAMOUS fried chicken…

GONE!  No room for our favorite sweet potato pie.

A quick rest and then we’re on to our first of two trips to the Flying Saucer for beer and pretzels.  The Saucer has more beers on tap then any other place I have seen.  Plus, if you’ve met me once, there is a good chance that I’ve mentioned the soft pretzels served with queso at the Flying Saucer.  I love to wash them down with a wheat beer!

The next day we went to the Flying Fish for fish tacos, fried shrimp and hush puppies.  Unfortunately, I ate my food so quickly that I wasn’t able to take a picture.  We spent the rest of the day bumming around Beale Street enjoying some live music, sunshine, and of course more beer and pretzels (at our second trip to the Saucer).

It was sad to leave Memphis, especially saying goodbye to our friends.  But, it is time to enjoy a meal that is not fried!  We are both looking forward to our next trip to the mid-south!  And trying to convince our friends to come up north for some Chicago favorites…once the weather warms up of course!

Heading to the South

The BOY and I are heading down to Memphis for the weekend to visit some old friends and of course eat some fabulous food!  The bad news is…no weekend posts…the good news, I will share our favorite Memphis food with ya’ll.  Those of you who visited me when I lived in Memphis, you will definitely be JEALOUS!  See you next week!

Photos Taken by ME back in my Southern Days

Mississippi River Path                                                                                            Memphis Sunset