[Life] Paddle boards, birthdays, and triathlons

Life has been exhausting in the absolute best ways imaginable. Every morning just before the sun rises I’m up eating breakfast and heading out the door to run, walk, paddle board, or bike with Joe (and often Coco). In addition, three days a week I’m at the gym (the $20 a year membership gym!) circuit training with light weights and my own body weight. If you think I’m starting to look like a bodybuilder you’ll be disappointed to know that the only thing about me that resembles a bodybuilder is my tan (and even that’s not exactly accurate because of my fair skin, blonde girl problems). Anyway, it has been the most enjoyably exhausting two months and here’s just some of the latest and greatest happenings from the caribbean:

  1. Paddle boarding has become my newest addiction. It scares the H-E double hockey sticks out of me while simultaneously thrilling me to pieces. And to be fair, I’m only scared when it’s cloudy outside and I can’t see the bottom or if I’ve travelled too far into the deep that I can’t see the bottom. Perhaps you could say I’m not a fan of the deep, dark blue waters and what swims below. Flashbacks occur now and again to that time I drifted miles from shore into the deep abyss waters of Lake Superior in a tiny raft, having to be saved by my father who clearly thought I had better arm-strength, boat handling and navigational skills. However seeing sea turtles, beautiful sting rays, and countless starfish make it all worth it. Plus having Coco dangling over the front of my board or hiding in-between my legs or watching Joe move with ease on his board makes my heart full. Joe-Paddle boarding
  2. I celebrated my golden birthday! And it was extra-amazing thanks to Joe, my handsome husband! He spoiled me to an evening out at my new favorite restaurant, Zion Modern Kitchen, where I gorged myself on seared ahi tuna and banana bread pudding. There may have even been some late night snacking on french fries and a frosty and even pizza, three things I rarely eat but apparently you only have one golden birthday so… go big or be old!Ahi tuna-Zion Modern Kitchen
  3. I drove for the second time since we moved! It turns out that the need for coffee can be an extremely powerful motivator. Let me expand on this a bit further: Driving occurs on the left side of the road and although most drivers are polite, they drive a bit crazy and I’ve never had to deal with rush hour traffic until moving to an island. Figure that one out. And since we’re on the subject of driving, if you want a thrill drive 60mph once or twice a month after only driving 35mph at the absolute most any other day. I’m not even kidding, 60mph on the only highway on the island feels like 120mph and you better believe I’m holding on for dear life.Iced Mocha-Bistro Cafe
  4. I roped Joe and I into volunteering for St. Croix’s Ironman 70.3 and it was awesome (and exhausting)! Athletes endured jellyfish stings, poor road conditions, and pouring rain to make it to the finish line. Being up close and watching those athletes motivates me to want to do and be more in my own fitness and triathlon journey. It was amazing to see the diversity among the athletes—age, weight, fitness levels—and know that all it takes is the time, dedication, and mentality and anyone can push through to the finish.Swim Finish-St. Croix Ironman
  5. The dark side of the island… St. Croix is unfortunately a place where dogs are seen in a different light. They are seen as fighting dogs that will earn you money and not a member of the family like most of us view them. Pit bulls are top dog on the island (along with short-legged mixes of who knows what) and they are everywhere. Fortunately there is a rescue service on island and many dogs are given a chance at a better life. If you ever visit St. Croix I encourage you to look into taking a rescue dog back to the states with you for someone to adopt. Paws From Paradise takes care of all the details, all you have to do is fly.Sunrise-St. Croix

Until next time… Cheers! 💜

Every now and then bite off more than you can chew… then chew like crazy. -Lorna Jane Clarkson

[Life] Adventures Afar

Life has been a whirlwind of chaos the last few weeks. My workout routine was, for a while, less routine and more fit-it-in-whenever (if-whenever-even-happens) kind of schedule. Finally this last week I was able to get back into more of a routine and get back to what I love—running and working out (hopefully soon adding in cycling again). I’ve gone from the mundane of everyday to a new and exciting opportunity. I’ve had highs and I’ve had lows. But right now, I’m focused on everything positive and embracing all of these new, incredible opportunities and doors that have opened before me.

On that note, as I grow and change, so too does this blog grow and change. With the big new adventure my husband and I have embarked on—we headed south to St. Croix, trading the snow and cold for sunshine and warmth—I’ve decided to post a bit more of what I call ‘Life’ posts to this blog (or at least that’s the plan!). My family and friends already know this blog so rather than starting another one, I’m going to distinguish these posts by always starting them with [Life]. They are meant to inform and amuse family and friends of adventures and new life experiences. They will be a bit more like diary entries (fitting I think given my blog title!) and probably will be random musings and lists like Saturday confessions and A bit of this and a little of that.

So here you go:

  1. I have a fabulous new job!
    I LOVE this new job that I have, but I have to look at amazing food photos all day (bummer, right?!), which means I’m hungry all day long and wanting to go straight to my kitchen and whip up a batch of cookies, fresh bread, or whatever other wonderful concoction I happen to be looking at in that moment. I have to say that right now I’m extremely blessed. This is absolutely my dream job to have. If you’ve read this blog at all, you know that food is one of my obsessions. Being able to pursue a passion of mine combined with my skills is beyond exciting. (The photo below has nothing to do with my new job. This was just a super delicious brunch meal I had on Easter Sunday—Crab Benedict!)Crab Benedict
  2. Proud wife moment alert!
    My husband hates to run. He would rather clean than run (we clearly are completely different people). I don’t mean to say that he doesn’t like to workout. He very much enjoys lifting weights and biking—things he can see change with. But with our new adventure he’s taken up running with me. Just about every morning he has run with me at the beach or up and down the hill just outside our doorstep. In one weak moment he even ran next to me on a treadmill!Joe and Libby on treadmill
  3. I’ve been applying sunscreen and bug spray like some people shun carbohydrates.
    What can I say? Worrying is in my DNA; add in the fact that I’m blonde and you’ll understand why I feel the need to generously apply sunscreen all day long. I think the bug spray speaks for itself.
  4. We joined the cheapest gym and supported a good cause!
    For $20 a year, $40 per couple, Joe and I can workout and support a non-profit in our community helping others to get motivated and fit. The gym is only open from 3pm-7pm, but for us that works perfectly. We run in the morning and save the afternoon/evening for lifting weights (Joe) and a BBG workout (me).we rise by lifting others
  5. I’ve been using this running technique almost daily.
    When I use to run on a treadmill everyday (I just could never get myself to run in the Wisconsin winter cold), I would always have an action plan—speed, time, and incline. Now that I’m running outside daily I have to keep my mind occupied to push through. That’s where using the Attention Narrowing Running Technique really comes into play. If you haven’t tried this technique, I strongly recommend that you do. You may be surprised how much easier you can climb that hill when you focus ahead.running technique_ironwomandiaries

I feel like so much has happened these last few weeks that I can’t even remember it all in detail enough to share anymore. I tell bits and pieces to my mom and dad and the rest gets lost and mixed up amongst everything else that’s happening. But, anyway, I wish you all a wonderful week!

Stay tuned for your usual every other Monday, Monday Motivation post next week! 💜

A bit of this and a little of that

I haven’t blogged in forever 😳. So to make up for my lack of blogging I’m going to share with you a bit of what I’ve been up to, including a few of the things I crossed off my seasonal bucket list. 💜

In October we spent a lovely weekend up north at my parents’ house. We went for a walk in the woods around Long Lake to see the fall colors.Libby and Joe at Long Lake.

And the colors were GORGEOUS!Long LakeOf course we had to go to my absolute favorite coffee shop—The Black Cat—and get a chai latte and raspberry scone.Black Cat coffee houseIn November we celebrated Joe’s dad’s birthday (83!) and enjoyed Thanksgiving early with my mom. Why early you ask? Well, instead of a traditional Thanksgiving spent with family, Joe and I hopped a plane (or maybe 3) and escaped to the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix. We traded cranberry sauce and stuffing for a cheesy lobster spread with pita. And of course we had to have one colorful/fruity/tropical drink next to the ocean! Tropical drinks: St. Croix

I’ve ran or biked every day before work, and an occasional Saturday or two, since before Thanksgiving. I’ve also continued to do other training, like HIIT and resistance, so that 2-3 times a week I am getting two workouts in a day. Running or biking every morning sets my mood for the day and gives me added energy. If you don’t already, I highly suggest adding a morning workout into your routine at least a couple of times a week. Libby: post runHere at home we’ve had a ridiculously warm winter (no complaints here!). But with no snow on the ground it is a bit hard to believe that Christmas is next week. One of my favorite things about this holiday season has been watching a Christmas movie EVERY DAY this month. Of course a lot of the greats have been watched—Santa Claus (1-2), Elf, Christmas Vacation—with more still on the list—Rudolph, A Christmas Story, A Muppet Christmas Carol. But mostly Hallmark Channel specials have been watched. Not all with terrible acting, but the plot rarely changes. Nevertheless, they have worked at making it feel like Christmas is near.Christmas tree 2015One of my new favorite things is having lunch, almost weekly, with my good friend Annie and her newest family addition, Jameson. JamesonAnd, best of all, Joe and I celebrated three years of marriage on December 9! He is by far my biggest supporter and fan, and I don’t thank him enough for it. He puts a smile on my face every morning and makes me laugh every day. He is hands down the hardest working person I have ever known, which I hugely admire and appreciate. He inspires me to work harder and to chase my dreams. I’m so blessed to not only have him in my life, but to call him mine. Out of all life’s adventures, he is my favorite. 💜Joe and Libby: WeddingSo that’s a glimpse into all that has been happening! What have you been up to? And in case I don’t get the chance to say this next week—happy holidays! 🎄

Ditch the all-inclusive

My husband, Joe, and I will never stay at an all-inclusive and this is why:

Joe and I have only once stayed at an all-inclusive together. It was the first year that we met and another couple wanted to vacation with us in Mexico. It was my first time out of the country besides Canada. Joe had stayed at all-inclusives prior to meeting me—the dark ages as I call them 😉 —and also had been out of the country many times before.

All-inclusive are nice if you like buffet lines, eating and drinking as much and whenever you want, and not having to make any decisions of where you will eat dinner (except from maybe the 3-5 restaurants the hotel offers onsite). But why go to Mexico to do that? Why not stay closer to home and go someplace like Florida? You aren’t really experiencing the culture and uniqueness that that country has to offer.

The adventures, the sights, the food, the people, and the memories we’ve made far exceed any we would have made staying at an all-inclusive. We love to immerse ourselves in the culture of the country we are visiting—to see what the locals see, eat what the locals eat. Some of the best foods we’ve ever eaten on vacation have been from hole-in-the-wall places off the beaten path. Had we stayed at an all-incluvise we would never have rented a car and stopped at the tiniest food stand along the side of the road. Never gotten those empanadas and taken a photo of children playing a game on a tablet (something you wouldn’t expect to see at a small food stand in the middle of nowhere). children on tablet in BelizeWe would have never stopped at that small mountain village in Ecuador and had the most delicious eggs we’ve ever tasted (and to be fair, the worst coffee—instant, yuck!). instant coffee in Ecuador
Sure you can take a day trip that your hotel provides with a shuttle full of other people from your all-inclusive. They’ll probably stop once or twice along the way at a “tourist trap” shop, where they sell overpriced locally made goods. (Who is really lining their pockets with those profits? Certainly not the people in the small villages that are making those goods.)

Not everyone seeks adventure or loves not knowing what will come next. But I highly suggest, if you’re up for an adventure and having one of the best times of your life, that you ditch the all-inclusive and plan the bare minimum—like maybe a hotel room here and there or maybe just the next village you will be in.

Joe and I often when traveling to Belize (we’ve now been there over 10 times) won’t even book a room. Honestly, even if it was our first time, we probably wouldn’t book more than the first night or two. In fact this is often how we travel to any foreign country. Only the town or village is known, the rest we figure out once we are there. Bonus tip: Hotel rooms can look different in person than what they appear on the internet and a fair amount of hotels will give discounts to travelers that pay cash.

Concerned about safety? Remember this, there are dangerous places right here in America too, we just don’t venture into those areas at dark or ever at all. The key is to be smart and be respectful—which also means don’t be flashy. Most likely you won’t be bothered. In all of the times driving though Belize and once in Mexico, Nicaragua, and Ecuador we’ve never encountered any problems. As my husband always says, “If you’re looking for drugs in a dark alley, it’s probably not going to end well for you.” In other words, be smart! I always read up on what the U.S. Department of State travel advisories are for any country before we venture there. If we were to encounter a problem we would know the warning signs or what to do. (That ties into my comment about being “flashy.” Some countries value things we have more highly than others. For instance, before we went to Honduras I read on the U.S. Department of State site that iPhones are a hot commodity. So much so, that tourists lives have been taken. Being smart in Honduras means not taking photos with your iPhone or using it out in public. Better yet, just leave it in your hotel room.) Again, it’s about being smart and being aware of potential dangers, not being naïve that they exist. Always let family and friends know where you will be and give at least two separate people specific itineraries of each day of your travel—where you will be and area you will be traveling through. Most likely you will have planned what villages/towns/cities you will be visiting and estimated days you will be there, if this changes, let your family know and give them an updated itinerary.

Still not convinced? Maybe money talks. Ditching the all-inclusive could save you a good amount of money (do I see another trip in your future?! 😉 ). For example, in hotel room, Caye Caulker, BelizeBelize you can stay in a clean, updated (air-conditioned, television, small fridge), right on “main street” hotel for as little as $65 per night. That’s only $390 for a six-night, seven-day vacation! Ecuador is even cheaper, much cheaper. You’ll find that hostels are most popular and for a double person room with a private bath you’ll pay as little as $30. Food is also incredibly cheap. A full lobster dinner in Belize is $15.

What kind of personality does it take to ditch the all-inclusive? Just about any! Joe is analytical and yet spontaneous and ridiculously outing. He can strike up a conversation with anyone and be their best friend in minutes. Me? While, I’m the exact opposite in almost all accounts. I do, however, like to think I’m spontaneous too—really I think it’s more compulsive (but ultimately, aren’t they about the same?) Unlike Joe, I’m an introvert and can’t talk small talk to save my life (I’m much better at the written word than the spoken). I’m also a worrier, although I hate to admit it. Yet, together we balance each other well and make for a great dynamic pair when it comes to traveling adventures.

We both love to explore food and are up for trying just about anything—I’m a vegetarian so that means no meat for me, but Joe has often had “mystery meat” and did draw the line at guinea pig in Ecuador. As Andrew Zimmern says, “If it looks good, eat it!” taco in Nicaragua We look for places that are packed with locals—that’s usually the best sign that the food is worth stopping for and often also extremely cheap (places that look modern, extra clean, not off the beaten path, and are packed with people dressed like you, aka tourists, often is what we call a “tourist trap” and will charge 2-3 times more than a local place. Not to mention the food is usually less authentic to the country and owed by a foreigner. If you’re trying to stay on a budget while traveling, avoid those places).

Some of the best memories and adventures we have, have been when Joe and I rented a car in countries we’ve never been and driven through the countryside. We’ve seen gorgeous parts of Belize, pulled over for cows in Nicaragua that literally took up the entire road, and breathtaking views of Ecuador and it’s people, while driving by ourselves.

We’ve met people from all walks of life—many of whom we see every year—and have little to give but are always giving anyway. One such friend is Donte (pictured below between Joe and I). Joe, Donte, LibbyHe lives in a room not much bigger than a dorm room. In one of our first meetings with him I mentioned my love of seashells. From time to time we bring him t-shirts or buy him breakfast when we visit. We don’t expect anything in return except his company. But every year he has a present for me—seashells. Often he combs the beach for hours looking for large and the smallest of small seashells to collect. This warms my heart. And this experience, this friend, would have never happened had we stayed at an all-inclusive.

We’ve met people that are traveling for 3, 4, 6 months. People that have just quit their job and are out exploring the world and all it has to offer. People like Moe from Michigan, Toby (traveling for four months but didn’t quit his job) from Australia, and Eoin from Ireland who has no plans to return home anytime soon. We’ve shared dinners and breakfasts and conversations with these people. How many times have you had such an experience while in the buffet line at your all-inclusive? You will never meet someone traveling for months staying at an all-inclusive. Not to mention these are some of the most interesting and down-to-earth people you will meet. They’re there for a good time, for an adventure, and for sharing experiences. They aren’t there to show-off, judge, or “size you up” and figure out your situation. Everyone becomes equal—the way it should always be.

We’ve seen waterfalls where we paid $5 and not another soul was in sight seeing the magnificent beauty we were seeing before us. We set our schedule and drive, letting whatever happen, happen, with no expectations. Sure vacation is meant to be relaxing, but it should also be about making memories and exploring. When I go someplace new I want to take in absolutely everything I can—the food, the people, the music, the markets. I adore markets! fish at a market in Ecuador
Remember, a hotel is merely just a place to lay your head at night and shower in the morning. Why spend so much on a hotel room that you will spend so little time in? As long as it is clean (and safe), that’s all that matters.

I guarantee if you decide to take this kind of adventurous vacation you will have the time of your life. You will make more memories, try more foods, and meet more interesting people than you ever have before. Be open to being spontaneous and going with the flow. You just never know what adventure will await you.Swinging in Ecuador