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I Like to Live on the Edge

July 20, 2016
About two weeks ago my friend called me and told me she was traveling to the U.K. for work. Then she asked if I could join. Initially I told her no.

The cost.
The time away from my kids.
The time away from work.
It was just too short of notice.
...or so I thought.

I sent a text to my husband to tell him and share a laugh. He immediately encouraged me to go.

The U.K. is not on either of our lists to see. He made a good point by saying who knew when this type of opportunity would surface again. At the end of the day, it's one more country and culture to experience. So I took his advice and replied back to my friend that I would search for a flight.

After a lot of texts back and forth figuring out dates, searching for a flight within my budget, and so forth, it dawned on me: My passport is about to expire (July 24). Shit.

So then started my search to see how soon could I receive my passport if I got it expedited. The answer is 3 weeks. However, if you have travel within two weeks you can go to a passport agency and possibly walk out with a passport that day. Ours in located in Miami.

But. You must show proof of travel.

Damn. So that means I have to buy this plane ticket, knowing I won't have a valid passport to make the flight back with the hope that I can get an appointment in Miami and walk out with a same-day passport. The guy at the passport agency advised that he could not guarantee that that would be the result.

So I consulted my husband. He still encouraged me to go. His view: Worse case scenario is that we would have to cancel the flight and be out a couple hundred dollars. Best case scenario is that I would walk out same-day with a passport and see a new country. Times like these I love my husband's optimism.

I turned off the worry wort part of my brain, booked the flight, and made an appointment with the passport agency in Miami. Good thoughts and vibes that I could get a same-day passport.

Fast forward to Miami.

I got an appointment the morning of Friday, July 15. My flight was scheduled for Wednesday, July 20. I decided to take the baby with me to England since he's not even close to being weaned from the boob. So I had all of my paperwork for him and me.

Fingers crossed. Toes crossed.

After a long-ass day in the agency, including coming to the window just to be told my passport photo from Walgreen's was not within regulation and being sent to take a new one (no makeup and hair was not done that day, I might add), I finally submitted all of my paperwork and was told to come back later that afternoon to get our passports. He warned that I needed to be back before 3pm and it could take an hour or two from then to be called up.

We returned at about 2:30pm or so. After an hour I was called up, but the lady wanted me to explain why my current passport looked like this:

My response: Um, because I have a 3-year-old. Like, seriously. How do you answer that question?
Apparently a passport is considered government property, and therefore, since my current (still valid) passport was damaged, the government required a written statement to explain why.

I decided to write the letter from a smart-ass perspective. I said something like my son wanted to unleash his creativity and chose my passport as the perfect medium, thus crushing my dreams of travel. I turned in the letter.

Then more wait.
Then a bit of freaking out (my anxiety).
Maybe she didn't appreciate my dry humor.

Finally a little after 5pm we were called up. The passports were ready! I walked out of there like I had just won the Powerball. Who cares what my new, impromptu passport photo looks like. I'm going to England, bitches!

So today's the day. Literally in about an hour I will be getting in the car and driving to the airport with my sights on Manchester, UK. We will be in Manchester for the first 3 days, then finish the week in London!

Time to brush up on my British accent.

Half Marathon Recap: Gasparilla

March 2, 2016
I have lived in Tampa, Florida for 16 years now and this is the first time I've run the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic. Gasparilla is a big deal in Tampa; for about a month straight, there are parades and festivities: a naval parade, a kid's day parade, a night parade, people drinking and dressed like pirates, and then there's the Distance Classic.

When I shared that this was my first Gasparilla I received the same common response: "You've never run Gasparilla before?!" Well shame me no more!

I was a bit nervous for the race. About two weeks before, I went out for a 10-mile training run and re-injured my right knee. This is the knee that I have had troubles with for the past two years or so. I had previously seen a sports injury doctor who informed me that I only irritated the patellar tendon, but it's not a serious injury.

But nonetheless, you don't want to "feel" your knee when you're running. And I obviously don't want to stress it too much and cause a real injury which could take me out of running for months to heal.

So Gasparilla race weekend, my husband and I went to the race expo to pick up our bibs (my husband was running the 5K). While there, they had a booth set up with kinesiology tape. I went in and got my knee taped for the race.
The next day we headed to my husband's race. After walking around with my knee taped, I felt my knee throbbing a little, not a lot, but enough to make me worry about my race the next day. I decided I was not going to run for a P.R. (personal record), but switched my goal to simply finish.
Morning of the race, we got there early. Going out with a goal of to only finish and not worry about time takes so much pressure off. For the first time I didn't even slightly nervous before starting. I had the mindset that I could treat this as a training run and take it nice and slow.

It was honestly such a beautiful day. And the views were amazing.
I was easily able to keep up with the 2:20 pace group. I felt so confident, even around mile 9-11, which is usually when I hit my wall and want to slow down/give up. I told myself I was almost done and kept running.

I think it also helped that I knew my husband and sons would be somewhere on the course. I would be so embarrassed if I saw them while walking. I finally saw my husband at about mile 12; my husband was so encouraging and ran next to me and cheered me on.
I finished my race at 2:19:04; my best time is 2:18:42 so I was just shy of my personal record! It's kinda frustrating to know if I had pushed myself just a little more, I would have achieved a PR. But on the other hand, I am proud of myself for showing up, running the entire time, and completing with a decent time...bum knee and all!

Chipotle Dinner: Chicken Burrito Bowls

February 7, 2016
It is no surprise to learn that Chipotle is one of my favorite places to eat. I love just about everything about them: the spice in the meat, the abundantly healthy options, and their commitment to serving "food with integrity". But as much as I love Chipotle, it does take a toll on my pocket book to eat there very often as a family of 6.

Our solution: homemade chicken burrito bowls. Although this is not a Chipotle copycat meal (therefore will not taste like you're eating at the restaurant), it's good enough for us so we call it Chipotle dinner. It's my oldest son's favorite meal.

"Chipotle" Chicken
8 chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chipotle seasoning
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Place chicken in bowl or container.
Drizzle olive oil and add all seasonings.
Get your hands in there and massage the marinade into the meat. Don't be shy.
Set aside while you heat up the grill.
(Marinate the chicken for about 1-2 hours for best results and a deeper flavor.)
Grill until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.
Allow chicken to rest before cutting. Then cut into bite-size chunks.

Cilantro-Lime Rice
2 cups of rice
2-3 limes, juice of
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
Salt - to taste

In a large pan, cook the rice. Allow to cool.
Juice 2 limes. Mix well into the rice.
2 limes is usually sufficient, but be sure to taste the rice to determine if you can pick up the flavor.
Right before serving dinner, chop up and stir in the cilantro.
I hold off this step until right before serving so that the cilantro stays vibrant.

Black Beans
2 cans black beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
2 cups water
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf - optional
salt and pepper to taste

Over medium, heat olive oil.
Add onion and garlic. Sauté until onions are clear.
Add remaining ingredients. Mix.
Allow to come to light boil, then turn down heat to simmer.
Allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes.

While my husband is grilling the chicken, the beans are simmering and the rice is cooking, I begin to tear the baby spinach into bite-size pieces. That's it! Once the hot ingredients are ready, you can plate:

buen provecho.

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