Surf City USA Day Trip – 7 Family Friendly Things To Do in Huntington Beach

StillLivingTheDream.com

While you can definitely fill a full week relaxing in Huntington Beach, California, if you only have a limited amount of time to play in Surf City USA, no worries. We have the perfect itinerary for a full day of family-friendly fun in this casual and cool Pacific Coast community.

My family and I stayed in the beautiful Irvine and Costa Mesa areas while visiting Southern California this summer, the perfect home base for a vacation in Orange County. The Costa Mesa Marriott is 10 minutes from Huntington Beach, so we had just a short, 20-minute drive back to the hotel after a full day of fun. For information about things to do in the Irvine and Costa Mesa areas, be sure to visit my post: Family Travel – Fun Things to Do in Irvine, California #OrangeCounty.

Our friends at Visit Huntington Beach hosted our visit for the day and helped us coordinate a schedule that included a combination of water sports, good food and relaxation that was perfect for me, my 10-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son. If you are planning a girl’s getaway, romantic weekend or vacation with younger kids, they have a lot of other ideas about things to do in the area – so be sure to check them out for ideas before you arrive.

A DAY IN HUNTINGTON BEACH

stilllivingthedream.com

1. Learn to Surf – When in Surf City USA, you gotta surf! After all, Huntington Beach has the most consistent waves on the West Coast. If you don’t know how to hang 10, surf lessons from Toes On The Noes is the perfect thing to do in Huntington Beach.

Located at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa in the Retail Courtyard, Toes On The Nose offers lessons for those of ages 6 and up with any level of experience. As first timers – we were so excited about the opportunity to hit the waves with a little help from the pros. 

StillLivingTheDream.com

After putting on wetsuits (provided by Toes On The Nose), we walked across the street from the hotel to the beach with our two instructors, Brock and Paul. Our 2-hour morning lesson started with a brief explanation about technique and we practiced going from the paddling position to standing on our surf boards while we were still on the sand.

stilllivingthedream.com

stilllivingthedream.com

StillLivingTheDream.com

Then we hit the water. Jackson went up immediately and Annie was soon to follow. It took a few more tries for me – but it turns out you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. I wasn’t going to win an award for style, but I had a blast riding a wave all the way in to the beach.

StillLivingTheDream.com

Brock and Paul were so patient and nice. They’ve both been surfing for a long time, especially Brock who started surfing when he was just a little one in preschool. It’s clear they are in their happy place when in the ocean. Even though they are clearly very experienced, they seemed to really enjoy surfing with us rookies and were excited for us when we got up on our boards. We all enjoyed getting to know them…it’s always awesome to meet people who are living their dream.

StillLivingTheDream.com

After a while, it was clear that Jackson was really progressing quickly. Brock took him out to work one-on-one with him so he could experience as much as possible before the end of our lesson. It was so fun to watch Jackson feel the thrill of catching waves on his own. While Paul and I watched him from the beach, Paul told me that he could tell he had the bug. Paul got it when he was 13 years old and has been hooked on surfing ever since. He could tell Jackson was heading there.

Jackson stood a little taller when Brock and Paul asked him to come see them next time we visited Huntington Beach so they could go surfing together again.

StillLivingTheDream.com

While surf lessons are a bit of a splurge – it’s totally worth it if you’ve never done it before. I also felt so much more comfortable knowing the kids had experienced surfers with them who knew about rip currents and how to be safe while having fun. Our instructors really maximized our time in the water, giving us the chance to catch waves immediately by telling us when to pop up…timing is everything.

stilllivingthedream.com

StillLivingTheDream.com

Many thanks to Brock and Paul and Toes On The Noes for an epic morning.

Jackson said it was lit.

StillLivingTheDream.com

2. Ride Bikes Down the Boardwalk – After your surf lessons, rent bikes at Toes On The Noes (they also offer hourly and daily bike rentals) and cruise down the Boardwalk. There’s an 8.5 mile paved beach path perfect for pedaling around. It’s a great way to soak in the sun, the views and the relaxing vibe of Huntington Beach and the Pacific Ocean. We worked up an appetite after hitting the waves, so we rode our bikes from the Hyatt to Sandy’s Beach Grill for lunch. Bike rentals come with locks and you’ll find bike racks all along the paved path, so you can stop to shop or eat or just relax on the sand.

StillLivingTheDream.com

3. Have Lunch at Sandy’s Beach Grill – While on your bike ride down the boardwalk – stop in Sandy’s for a bite to eat. This casual restaurant serves authentic California cuisine and is right by the iconic Huntington Pier. We had delicious scallops and mushroom flatbread at a table with a great view of the ocean. It was so yummy and relaxing and we were able to lock our bikes up on a bike rack right outside the restaurant. Check out my full review of Sandy’s Beach Grill in the post, 8 Great Restaurants in Orange County.

StillLivingTheDream.com

4. Stand Up Paddleboarding at Huntington Harbor with OEX Sunset Beach. We fell in love with Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) last year in Florida. So much so, that we bought our own paddleboard before we left Sandestine! We don’t get the chance to go out as often as we’d like in Houston, so whenever we are by the water – we always try to squeeze in some time to SUP. OEX Sunset Beach, a kayak and SUP rental shop only a short drive down the Pacific Coast Highway from Sandy’s Grill, is a great place to grab a board and get on the water.

StillLivingtheDream.com

Since we’ve been stand up paddleboarding before, we each got our own paddleboard – but two people can easily fit on one board if you are new to the sport and have younger kids. OEX Sunset Beach also offers lessons if you want to learn before you head out on your own, but SUP is really easy…you just have to find your balance. While it’s a lot of fun, relaxing and a great way to explore – it’s also a great workout. We went out around 3:30 p.m. so we had two hours to play. OEX Sunset Beach closes at 5:30, so all kayakers and paddleboarders have to be in by then.

The harbor is beautiful and there were a lot of kayakers and paddleboarders out on the water. We had fun exploring the area and looking at the boats and homes along the way. Paddleboarding is very calming to me. I love falling into the rhythm of paddling as I glide across the water. The kids love it, too. It’s a great way to see the water from a different perspective and while we didn’t talk a lot – it’s fun to experience SUP together with your family.

We went pretty far out, around several bends in the Harbor and before we knew it, it was time to head back. It was a little windier then we anticipated and because we were going against the wind on the way back, we made it back with only about 10 minutes to spare! With tired arms, tighter abs and full hearts – we turned in our equipment.

Tip: Parking is limited in their parking lot but you can park for free along the highway. You can also store your valuables in the shop (car keys, etc.) so you don’t have to worry about taking things on the paddleboard.

5. Shop at Pacific City If you have time and want to do some shopping, Pacific City is a fun place to visit. Right on the Pacific Coast Highway – they have big stores like Free People and LUSH (our favorite bath products!) as well as smaller specialty shops. We went after we finished SUP and before dinner and really enjoyed CherryHills Market. They also have restaurants and live entertainment. While we just visited for an hour, we could have been here much longer.

StillLIvingTheDream.com

6. Eat Dinner at Cucina Alessa – Just a short drive from the Boardwalk to Main Street is a delicious Italian restaurant, perfect for dinner. While you don’t want to wear a bathing suit or cut offs, it’s not too fancy. We were very comfortable. Jackson got lasagna, I ordered lobster ravioli and Annie had pasta with grilled shrimp and everything was delicious. We heard that all their handmade pastas are yummy – especially the Butternut Squash Ravioli. For a full review about Cucina Alessa, see my post: 8 Great Restaurants in Orange County.

StillLivingTheDream.com

7. Bonfire on the Beach – While there are several public fire pits available for use on a first come, first serve basis on the beach each evening, there’s a special area across the street from and between the Hilton and Hyatt hotels where you can reserve a private bonfire. Waterfront Adventures, part of the The Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort, allows you to enjoy watching the sunset on the beach and making s’mores by the fire without any of the fuss. They provide the beach chairs, fire pit, wood, soft drinks and water, and all the fixin’s for s’mores.

StillLivingTheDream.com

This was an amazing way to end the day. We just showed up on the beach and checked in with the attendant at about 8:30 p.m. Our private fire pit was already set up. During the evening he continually checked on us and kept the fire going so all we had to do was get comfortable and curl up by the fire. We loved visiting together about our Huntington Beach adventures in such beautiful surroundings.

StillLivingTheDream.com

Tip: Be aware that the beach closes for everyone at 10:00 p.m. Starting at about 9:45 p.m. police vehicles begin to patrol the beach – so be prepared to pack up or pay a fine!

The kids happily dozed off during our ride back to Costa Mesa after the Bonfire. Before they were out like a light, both of them smiled and said…”Today was the best day. Ever.”

So, yeah. This mom’s kinda loving Huntington Beach.

What is your favorite thing to do in Orange County?

As guests of  Visit Huntington Beach our meals and activities were provided in order for us to experience Surf City USA area attractions. No other compensation was received and, as always, all opinions expressed are my own or taken from input received from my kids.

Share

Family Travel – Fun Things to Do in Irvine, California #OrangeCounty

Family Fun Things To Do In Irvine, California

Are you planning a family vacation? If your travel plans include California, you don’t want to miss visiting Irvine in Orange County. During my recent 6-day trip to Southern California with my two kids, we found Irvine to be the perfect destination for family-fun as well as a great home-base for several day trips we took to the Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach areas.

Many thanks to the folks at Destination Irvine who set-up travel and coordinated some of the activities during our trip. I highly recommend visiting this site to prepare for your perfect Southern California family vacation.

At the center of Orange County and just minutes from John Wayne Airport, Irvine is a beautiful community filled with shopping, bike trails, good food and fun things to do. I’ll be covering details of places to eat and our day trips in future posts, but first I want to share some tips about what to do in Irvine proper….a fabulous destination in itself!

Where to Stay:

Embassy Suites Irvine

Our home away from home for two days was the Embassy Suites Irvine – Orange County Airport. A comfortable place to rest and relax with plenty of room to spread out, the Embassy Suites, with separate living and bedroom areas great for families, also provides all guests a complimentary made-to-order breakfast each morning (hello omelets!) and snacks and beverages in the evening. We loved playing cards in the atrium before dinner while enjoying refreshments.

Embassy Suites Irvine

Plus – if you are smart enough to schedule some down-time during your vacation (I need to do a better job with this) you can swim in their indoor pool or take advantage of summer programming like a painting class we noticed they were offering on Wednesday evenings. Very cool.

Embassy Suites Irvine

We’ve stayed at Embassy Suites hotels in other states before. In fact, Annie still remembers staying at the one in Dallas when I took her to the American Girl Doll Store for her birthday when she was just five years old. Embassy Suites does a great job of providing consistently great service across their chain of hotels and the Irvine location just went through a $12 million renovation – apparent by the modern furnishings located throughout both the guest rooms and public areas.

Fun Things to Do:

Orange County Great Park and The Great Park Balloon Ride

The Great Park Balloon - Irvine, California

We made a stop here Sunday evening – the first night of our trip. Open Thursday – Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., The Great Park (once a Marine Corps Air Station) is now home to sports fields, a carousel, a farm and food lab with interactive fruits, flowers and vegetable displays (open from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.), a historical hanger with cool exhibitions including two World War II airplanes, a play area and visitor’s center, and probably the most recognizable attraction – the Great Park Balloon.

The helium balloon goes up 400 feet offering views of Irvine; however, wind prevented us from riding it while we were there. Because of this fact (we learned that it hadn’t been able to go up for several evenings the week we were there) and more activities offered earlier in the day then in the evening, I recommend going to The Great Park in the morning/early afternoon.

The Great Park Farm and Food Lab

If I was lucky enough to live in Irvine, I would be out here. A lot. They have a farmer’s market on Sunday mornings and host classes including sports and dance, yoga, photography, art, sustainable gardening, cooking and wellness throughout the year. They also offer activities like movies on the lawn and family craft and play programs. While we were there, a fencing organization was outside practicing. We heard they are building a new ice skating rink including a practice facility for the Anaheim Ducks there as well as well as fields for many different sports. My kids, who both play lacrosse, were happy to hear that lacrosse facilities were included in the plan.

The Great Park, Irvine CA

We were bummed we weren’t able to experience the 15-minute helium balloon ride, but we checked out a frisbee and soccer ball from the visitor’s center at no-charge and had a great time enjoying the sunset and beautiful evening playing together on the lawn.

We are slowly learning that when we travel, we have to be flexible and deal with the unexpected…making the most of the journey as it unfolds naturally. You can plan (and boy do I plan!) but certain things, like the weather, just can’t be helped. Getting stressed out doesn’t make things any better. We ended up having a great time doing something that wasn’t on the itinerary.

Tip: Bring a picnic and make a day at the park if time allows. Visit them online to see about free classes and activities that may be going on during your stay and take advantage of the Farmer’s and Artisan market with food trucks and live entertainment on Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Irvine Spectrum Center

Great Wheel - Irvine Spectrum Center

We learned pretty quickly that there’s no lack of shopping in Orange County. The Irvine Spectrum Center is an outdoor shopping center with two department stores (Nordstrom and Target), many full service and casual restaurants, tons of popular stores, and entertainment including a movie theatre, ferris wheel, carousel, kiddie train, Dave & Busters, and a comedy club.

Great Wheel Irvine Spectrum Center

Since we didn’t get to ride the Great Park Balloon – we were very excited to get a bird’s eye view of Irvine from the Giant Wheel, a ferris wheel in the middle of the shopping area with 52,000 energy-efficient LED lights. On a clear day when at the top, look towards the Santa Monica Mountains (53 miles away) and Downtown LA (40 miles away).

For the record….I was never scared. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Honey and Butter, Irvine

Tip: Visit Honey & Butter for the best darn macarons. Our friend Rob at the fabulous Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine and Cocktails restaurant recommended this to us. (I promise I’ll fill you in about Andrei’s later!) The character macarons are even more delicious than they are adorable. Annie was thrilled to get a Pig macaron – she is nuts about pigs. Other flavors to die for: milk and honey, sea salted caramel, thai tea and matcha. We bought a bag of assorted flavors to take back to the hotel to enjoy later but they were gone before we got back to the car.

Don’t judge….we were on vacation!

Pedego Irvine Electric Bikes

Pedego Electric Bike Irvine

One of the absolute, hands down, top highlights for all of us during our week in California was our tour of Irvine with Bob at Pedego Electric Bicycles. I used to want a Vespa, now I want an electric bike. Bob, the store owner, is awesome. You couldn’t meet a nicer guy who truly loves SOCAL and Irvine.

Amazing bike trails begin literally outside Bob’s store’s door. One of the reasons we all fell in love with Irvine is because it’s truly a bike friendly city. We only experienced a taste of what the area has to offer in terms of trails….it left us wanting to experience more.

Pedego Electric Bike Irvine

These bikes have heavy frames compared to the road/race/triathlon bikes the kids and I are used to – but they are extremely easy to operate. Unlike Houston, Irvine is very hilly so riding up some of the inclines, especially on long rides, can be challenging. On a Pedego, you can either pedal like on a regular bike, stop pedaling and let the electric bike do all the work or do a combination of both. Pedegos can go up to 20 miles per hour and operate with a throttle. These are particularly wonderful if you are recovering from a sports injury (like my recent tendon tear in my leg).

Pedego Electric Bike Irvine

Bob sells bikes as well as rents them and offers guided bike tours. We went out for about 1 1/2 hours and experienced spectacular views along Shady Canyon Trail, University Trail by Quail Hill, Woodbridge Trail, and Turtle Rock Trail. We rode by beautiful homes, water, a golf course and even saw a road runner while we were out. Bob gave us a lot of background information about Irvine during the ride. If you really want to know a city, get out of the car and get on a bike. Irvine trails and Pedego bikes make it easy.

Pedego Electric Bike Irvine

Tip: If you’re shorter than me (I’m 4’10” – about the average size of a 5th grader) then you’ll probably have trouble riding these bikes on your own. But no worries. They have tandem bikes and my 10-year-old daughter, Annie, rode one with Bob (and loved it).

ChocXO Chocolate Factory

ChocXO

I may or may not be in love with chocolate.

Wait. Yes – definitely, yes. And Irvine is home to one of the best Chocolatiers, ChocXO…the only Bean to Bar Chocolate Factory in Orange County.

ChocXO

In addition to a shop full of goodies, ChocXO on Irvine Center Dr. offers 45 minute to 1 hour tours of the factory. For just $10.00 a person you can learn about how they make their specialty chocolate and the tour includes three, free chocolates from their chocolate case as well as samples of raw cacao pulp, cocoa nibs and cocoa liquor. Sasha, our guide, walked us along the educational wall of the factory with windows where we saw the machines they use to make chocolate. She told us what happens before they get their fine flavor cacao beans from Central and South America and what they do with them to make their products.

This tour was especially interesting for us since we just returned home from the Dominican Republic with Fathom Impact Travel were we worked at Chocal, the women’s chocolate co-op in Altamira. Many of the activities we did by hand to assist production at the co-op, like discard the bad beans and separate the shells from the chocolate nibs after they were ground up, are done by sophisticated equipment at ChocXO. It was eye-opening to see how chocolate is made here versus in an undeveloped country. While there are many similarities, ChocXO certainly has the advantage of technology and the chocolate we sampled was unbelievably delicious.

I highly recommend just about any of the chocolate squares and truffles in their chocolate bar. My favorite flavors: birthday cake, lemon meringue, spicy PB&J, salted caramel and creme brulee. You can purchase them while you are there as well as order them online, but sadly – cannot find them in stores in Texas. Sigh.

ChocXO

Tip: Request tour guide, Sasha. She’s fabulous! She’ll give you a ChocXO quiz at the end of the tour and you can score two more free chocolates if you turn it in…especially fun for the kids.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Irvine and Orange County?

Be sure to visit StillLivingTheDream.com again soon for posts about fabulous places to eat and details about our day trips to Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.

As a guest of Destination Irvine, some of our travel related expenses were covered in order for us to experience Orange County area attractions. We also happily paid for some of our own travel, food and activities during our journey. No other compensation was received and, as always, all opinions expressed are my own or taken from input received from my kids.

Share

Hydrating with BODYARMOR SuperDrink

still living the dream - BODYARMOR

My kids participate in a lot of sports. Lacrosse, soccer and swim team are a few outdoor sports they are involved with right now. Living in Houston, where it stays hot and humid most of the year, we have to be mindful about keeping hydrated during these activities. It’s an ongoing challenge for all of us.

I have a hard time keeping down fluids when I run, so I struggle with finding a balance between staying hydrated and keeping cramps and nausea at bay. My kids…well – they are just lazy! They get pretty warm at lacrosse games, especially my son who wears chest pads and a helmet, but “forget” to drink fluids. I’m usually on the sidelines screaming “Hydrate!” as much as I’m yelling “Go team!”

still living the dream - lacrosse

We usually stick to water because I’m not a big fan of all the artificial ingredients in some sports drinks and my kids really don’t like the way they taste. I mean, if I’m going to the trouble of working out to keep healthy – I’d rather not load up on a bunch of chemicals while I’m actually doing it! Sometimes water just isn’t enough though. During one a sprint triathlon last summer when it hit record high temps in H-Town….heat was a real issue. I realized during that race that I needed electrolytes in a big way so I alternated between drinking water and the sports drink they gave out at all the water stations.

I was recently given the opportunity to try out a new sports drink line by BODYARMOR. SuperDrink by BODYARMOR has natural flavoring (no artificial sweeteners or color) and provides hydration with a combo of potassium blended electrolytes, 10% coconut water and B vitamins. Sounded good to me, but would the kids like it?

At last weekend’s swim meet, my son and daughter both gave them a try. BODYARMOR SuperDrink comes in 8 flavors. We tested 6 of them: Strawberry Banana, Mixed Berry, Orange Mango, Fruit Punch, Blackout Berry and Tropical Punch. The verdict? They loved the taste (and I did, too!)

They are light and refreshing. Sweet…but not too sweet. After I drank one I felt – well…hydrated! My daughter’s favorite was Strawberry Banana. Jackson liked all the berry flavors. I’m partial to the Orange Mango.

still living the dream - swim

I don’t always say this after trying out a new fitness related product, but BODYARMOR SuperDrink is going to become a staple in our house. The 16 oz bottles are perfect for throwing in the gym bag and I think it’s cool that they are also gluten free and don’t contain caffeine. I did a search online at DrinkBODYARMOR.com and they carry these sport drinks at Kroger, Target and HEB, all places close to my house. Check out the site to see where to get them by where you live. And while you’re online, be sure to print this BODYARMOR coupon (I did!) so you can save some cash while keeping cool this summer.

Be well. Be safe. Be fierce.

I was given samples of BODYARMOR SuperDrink for free in order to review. I received no compensation for this post and all opinions stated are my own. 

 

 

Share

Mind, Body, Spirit…Be Determined

Be determined

I’m driving to Galveston tomorrow morning to attend the 2016 Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce 9th Annual Celebrating Women: Mind, Body, Spirit Conference. Initially I was motivated to attend because of the keynote speaker, author – Gretchen Rubin. I met her several years ago and am a big fan of her books, especially The Happiness Project.

Several of my colleagues are attending and I’m excited to see them, too. The energy and support I receive simply by being around them always helps me along my journey towards personal and professional development.

But after diving into the rest of the agenda for tomorrow, I think what I am really looking forward to learning about … is finding out what I need to learn more about.

Does that make sense?

I’m intrigued by sessions like Caring – Let’s Get to the Heart of It, The Food and Mood Connection and Living From the Heart. I feel like these topics are speaking to me right now. I don’t know exactly where each of these sessions will lead me – but I know I want to go there.  I suspect I might just scratch the surface of some topics that I’ll want to dive deeper in to. I’m determined to learn more.

And that’s pretty exciting.

There are also a couple break out sessions for physical fitness (hello hip, hop cardio – I’m coming atcha!) and a session lead by Jentry Kelley, owner of Jentry Kelley cosmetics where I’ll learn her quick, eight-step makeup process. I need this in my life! I’m 45 years old and I still don’t know how to put on eye make up. It’s embarrassing, ya’ll.

I hope you’ll follow me tomorrow on my social media channels: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I’m looking forward to sharing what I learn along the journey.

Share

What The Hell Were You Thinking? Three months with #bluehair

IMG_2953 (1)

photo courtesy of Sheri Marie Salon

A couple days before Halloween last year I dyed my hair blue. Brilliant, bright, big as day, sassy pants…blue. I was going as Joy from the movie Inside Out to a Halloween party and the store bought color spray wasn’t cutting it. I wanted to be authentic. Also – I always wanted to dye my hair.

inside out blue hair

Someone asked me later (after Halloween was over and I was clearly keeping my hair color), “What the hell were you thinking?”

And I wanted to say:

I was thinking it’s just hair. And that I’m lucky to be working from home in this season of my life. And that I’m not getting any younger. And that dying my hair bright blue seems plain ridiculous for a 80-year-old, so I should get it done at the sensible age of 44. Because regretting never dying my hair blue seems like a silly regret to have.  And also – it’s just hair.

What I said was:

I know, I’m crazy.

And maybe I am. Just a little. But here’s the funny thing. Life for three months with blue hair was pretty amazing. Because every day. Every. Day. Someone, somewhere stopped to tell me they liked it. At the dry cleaners. At the grocery store. At the doctor’s office. At my kid’s school.

People with piercings and tattoos and people in business casual clothes. People with law and medical degrees. Young and old people. People who act and sing, groom dogs, teach school, crunch numbers, work on cars, own companies….

People who I would never had had a conversation with before would stop and say, “you go – girl.” One lady at a convention came over to me after the speaker had wrapped up and said “I couldn’t stop looking at your hair – I had to come and tell you how awesome it is.”  And someone else hugged me.  A stranger. Which was a little weird. But oddly, ok.

And also – people stared. And little kids pointed. And some people clearly did not like it. At all.

Which is ok, too. Because putting yourself out there means you accept both good and bad reactions.

Admittedly, during the first week I was a little timid. I thought – what the hell WAS I thinking? Because brown hair goes with everything and blue hair clashes with some outfits. Blue hair isn’t an accessory you can take off when you have an important business meeting or have a serious matter to discuss with someone and put on when you are going out for dinner with friends.

People who already knew me, knew the kind of person I was – that I love Jesus and being a mom. That I don’t sell drugs or steal and rarely lie (well – there was that time I couldn’t go to jury duty). But sometimes I would see someone who didn’t know me look at me and pass judgement.  And sometimes, sadly, people who knew me did the same thing.

The second week I decided that I needed to own it…embrace it 100 percent or dye it back.  Because you can’t walk around with bright blue hair and be all second-guessy. I needed to walk confidently and not apologize and probably stop calling myself crazy all the time.

I decided to embrace Joy for more than just a day.

Blue hair gave me permission to take risks. Not absurd risks. But get out of your rut kinda risks. After you dye your hair blue, ordering something different at a restaurant you always get the same thing at because you know you like it hardly seemed like a big deal at all.

And a funny thing happened after awhile. I forgot about it. And life kind of went on. I still struggled with helping my son with 8th grade Algebra and I worried about my weight and I dealt with anxiety. I worked and packed school lunches and went to book club.

Someone was staring at me in a doctor’s office last week and I thought maybe I had a booger on my face. It didn’t even occur to me that it might be my hair.

Here is my challenge to you.

  1. When you’re out and about – compliment someone. Tell a stranger you like their hair, or their dress or their boots…especially if you can tell they took a risk and put themselves out there.  Receiving a compliment from a stranger is a pretty amazing thing.
  2. If a friend takes a risk – acknowledge it. You don’t have to like it, but tell them you admire their courage. Not saying anything…says something.
  3. If you want to try something new, do it. Don’t let fear of what other people think stop you from living your dream.

Disclaimer: Before I dyed my hair blue I asked my immediate family members (my kids and husband) if they were ok with it. I wanted them to be comfortable with me and any questions or ridicule they might get from friends (and they did). My daughter said, “Go for it – you only live once” and my teenage son shrugged his shoulders and said, “Do what makes you happy” and my husband told me…..

It’s just hair.

Truth.

P.S. Yesterday I dyed my hair silver.

silver hair

Thank you to all the professionals (especially Shannon, Hiliary and Carolyn) at Sheri Marie Salon who take good care of my hair and make me feel pretty.

 

 

Share

Inspiration Where You Least Expect It

Tonight my nine-year-old daughter told me to get on my running shoes and come outside with her. I begged her to go upstairs and play. I didn’t want to go outside. It’s like Mars in Houston right now and I’ve been feeling bad about myself for skipping work-outs. I have had a hard time keeping up with my running group….a bad start to a new running season. So I thought I should watch Big Bang Theory re-runs and eat chocolate instead.

The truth is I’ve felt bad about myself about a lot of things lately. I had an incredible experience at an oil and gas company leading a group of extraordinary people over the last year. I was in awe of their talent each day and I think I made a difference, too.

But I didn’t see my kids. I was missing school functions and even when I was home. I wasn’t home. Things slipped through the cracks. My health wasn’t good. And other things at home weren’t good either.

So I took a leap of faith and accepted a contract position which allows me to work from home and will give me more time to be with my family. To take care of myself.

To blog!

So there’s a learning curve and I’ve fallen a couple times over the past couple of weeks. But I’m getting my sea legs…figuring out my cadence….finding my new normal.

Still – I didn’t want to run tonight. But Annie told me to run with her. So I put one foot in front of the other and before we knew it – we ran 2 miles together.

Here’s the thing – the inspiration I didn’t realize I had has been sitting on her canopy bed down the hall reading Judy Moody chapter books to her stuffed animals and turning cartwheels where ever she can find six inches of clear space.

Annie.

She talked to me the entire two miles. Telling me that I was awesome. And that she admired me because I keep running even when it hurts. Even when I’m tired. Even when I feel I can’t. That I take the longer route because while it’s harder, it’s worth it.

She told me that running is like having a lemon aid stand to earn money to buy a camera (hint, hint – she wants a camera!) You can’t just have one lemon aid stand and expect to earn all you need for the camera you want. You have to have a lot of lemon aid stands….and you know – it just kinda all adds up.

What?!

When did my daughter get all smart and insightful.

And damn. When did she become a good runner?!

So maybe I’m not in the best shape after our little run tonight – but I’m better.

And also…I’m back.

 

 

 

 

Share

Salata Eat Light at Night Promotion (free salad or wrap!)

Salata logo

I’ve shared with you my love of Salata before.

Salata Salad Bar high res (1)

Salata, The Next Generation Salad Bar, offers over 50 toppings including my favorites: grapes, strawberries, black beans, crab and the absolute best fat-free mango dressing EVER (which is 0 Weight Watchers PP – BTW!) They also have wraps, soup and some of the best iced-tea and lemonade flavors.

Salata Wrap high res

So naturally, I was thrilled when Salata recently invited me to enjoy a complimentary meal to learn more about their current Eat Light at Night Promotion and awesome offers for free food items for their mobile club members.

I often visit Salata during the day to eat, but salads aren’t just for lunch. In fact, a good salad with lean protein makes a great dinner.

A recent article on Healthline.com recommends eating lean proteins, veggies and fruits in the evening and specifically avoiding starchy carbs three hours prior to bedtime to maintain weight. Melissa Lanz, founder of The Fresh 20, said in a HuffPost Healthy Living article that “nutritionally, dinner should be a light, well-proportioned meal that is under 500 calories.”

Salata ELAN

On September 8th, Salata began offering mobile club members  in participating Texas, California and Illinois locations a coupon every other week for free items, complimentary protein upgrades and add-ons.

I know, I know, it’s way past September 8th….but it’s not too late to get in on the deals. 

How to become a Salata Mobile Club Member

To join – just text “Salata” to 777111. You’ll get a a coupon that’s good for a week. New members will also receive a buy one, get one free salad or salad wrap offer immediately!

Score!

Do you love Salata? What are your favorite toppings?

I was given a complimentary meal at Salata in order to review and share news about their Eat Light at Night promotion. I didn’t receive any other compensation and all thoughts and opinions (and favorite salad toppings!) are my own!

Share

Color Fun Fest 5K – November 1st in Houston (Discount tickets!)

color toss with logo

I love attending local fun runs and have participated in many over the last several years. I can’t believe I haven’t had the opportunity to experience a color run yet. I was going to go to the Color Fun Fest last spring, but the event date conflicted with the kid’s swim team meet, so I couldn’t go.

I am so excited that the Color Fun Fest 5K is coming back to Houston this Fall for a Halloween Edition on November 1st and that they invited me to be their guest to join in on the fun.

My kids participated in two triathlons this summer and Jackson is on his school’s cross country team, so you could say that races are starting to “run” in the family. (I know, I’m terrible. I just couldn’t help it!) So we are all going to do the Color Fun Fest together. The best part is, kids 12 and under participate for FREE!

Since the event is the day after Halloween, costumes are encouraged. They have two runs; a day run at 5:00 p.m. and an evening run at 7:00 p.m.

This is a fun run so it’s not timed. The 3.1 mile course includes:

  1. 5 color stations along the run with thousands of pounds of color to shower runners (made of vibrant food-grade cornstarch that is safe and natural)
  2. High energy music along the course to keep families pumped up
  3. Night run features industrial strength blacklights and visual effects
  4. 2 water stations on the course
  5. A course with enough lighting to safely run at night
  6. Post run celebration with vendors, food and live entertainment

 

Color fun fest w-logo nighttime

Event Details:

November 1, 2014 : 2:00 pm – 10:00 pm. Day Run starts at 5:00 PM / Night Run starts at 7:00 PM. Event concludes at 10:00 p.m.

Sam Houston Race Park – 7575 North Sam Houston Pkwy W, Houston TX 77064

Discounted Tickets:

Join the fun and get your tickets now. Still Living The Dream readers can score tickets for an epic discount….just $20!

Use discount code: LIVINGTHEDREAM when you register here. 

Not in Houston? Color Fun Fest events are happening all over the country. Check them out online for a city and date near you!

I am receiving complimentary tickets to the race on November 1st in return for promotion of the event; however, I’m not receiving any other compensation and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Share

#FitMadeFun – Healthy Lifestyle for Kids with CLIF Kid and LeapFrog LeapBands!

photo (2)

School is back in session and while it’s still hot (really, really hot!) in Houston, the Fall season is really just around the corner.

For the love of pumpkin bread, I heart the Fall! As the holiday season approaches, the temperatures will finally begin to drop which makes for much better outdoor running weather!

The kids and I stayed pretty active over the summer despite the heat. Now that they are getting back into a routine with school, organized sports keeps them busy – but we also try to have fun and keep moving around the house.

Which is why we were really excited to be invited by MomSelect to host a Fit Made Fun party sponsored by LeapFrog and Clif Kid. We received a party kit with free product in order to host the party. To inspire kids to get up and active, LeapFrog coordinated an event in Santa Monica, California, on September 6, 2014, where hundreds of kids and parents joined together to break several Guinness World Records with fitness activities.

We participated at home in Houston and while we probably didn’t break any world records, we had a blast!

Annie showed her friends her new LeapBand – a cool wearable activity tracker that encourages kids to move around throughout the day. Like my FitBit, the LeapBand tracks movement – but it also has several fun games, up to 50 fitness challenges you can take and even virtual pets you can create and rewards you can earn.

LeapBand

Instead of logging steps, you earn jewels which unlock even more fun activities. I really like that you are rewarded for your movement and also that parents can lock the device during certain hours during the school day and/or night so games won’t be a distraction during class or while sleeping  (but it can still be used as a watch and continues to track activity!)

For our Fit Made Fun party, we used the CLIF Kid 60 Minutes of Motion cards, a combination of 25 motion, activity, adventure and game cards, to inspire relay races and other fun activities. My friend Kelly and her kids came dressed for the occasion!

photo (3)

exercise

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends kids have 60 minutes of daily physical activity. This card deck, available to download for free starting September 15, 2014 here, is a fun way for busy families to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines.  Star jumps, crab walks, nutrition tips and choose-your-own adventure prompts are just a few of what you’ll find in the deck.

After our activities, we took a break for a healthy snack including fruit, cheese and crackers, hummus and Clif Kid Zbar Protein Parfaits. We crumbled up the Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Chocolate and Chocolate Mint flavored bars and the kids used them as toppings on vanilla yogurt. It was a huge hit!

food

We are already fans of Clif Bars for grown-ups. My older son, Jackson, eats one before races and early morning cross-country practice. I always have one before a long run or triathlon. They are easy on my stomach and provide the nutrients I need to keep going.

Clif Kid Zbar Protein are great for kid’s growing bodies with calcium, vitamin D, iron, Zinc and 5g of protein. I also like what they DON’T  have – no partially-hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, synthetic preservatives and artificial flavors.

My kids just like that they taste good!

After we played (even the moms got into some of the hula hooping fun!) we gave away a LeapBand to one of our friends! Annie was so excited to draw the winning ticket and her buddy Michael was even more thrilled to win a LeapBand of his own!

DSC_0201_2014-09-06-11_14_

The LeapBand can be found at stores like Target, Walmart and Toys R Us for just $39.99.

What do you do to help keep your kids active?

How do you track your progress throughout the day/week and what helps keep you motivated to stay active?

I received free products in order to host the LeapFrog and Clif Kid sponsored MommyParty but did not receive any other compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Share

My Triathlon Experience

Tri collage2

Success!

Tanya and I finished the Cypress Sprint Triathlon last Sunday. We’ve been training all summer and crossing that finish line was such a rush…an amazing feeling of accomplishment.

Any time I finish a race, whether it’s a 5K or a marathon (I ran the Hawaii marathon in 1999), I celebrate the fact that I finished. While I always aim to better my time, just being in the race and finishing is the most important thing to me.

This is especially true with triathlons. With three different events combined in one, it’s the chance to exercise many muscles and mental strength. I love the challenge! Even though I participated in a Sprint Tri (Towne Lake) for the first time last year over Labor Day, I had my doubts about whether or not I would be successful this time. The swim was 550 meters, 150 meters longer than the race I did last year. Plus, I didn’t spend a lot of time running during my nine-month work contract from September 2013 (right after my first triathlon) to June 2014. I did cycle a bit in the spring (Ed and I trained for the Houston to Austin MS150 but we didn’t end up participating because the event date conflicted with our trip to Disneyland) but I didn’t exercise much between April and June.

With only a short time to train, I really focused on swimming. It’s my weakest link and the part I fear the most. It took a bit to build my endurance in the water back up. Since I don’t have a strong freestyle stroke, I end up swimming breast stroke for a lot of the race, which is fine but a lot slower than if I was able to do an even freestyle. After we attended the pre-race clinic the weekend before the race, I was more fearful of the open water swim then ever before. I’m not sure why, but I got in the lake and choked. Eye-level with the top of the water, the distance between me and the last buoy seemed an ocean length away and I felt exhausted before I even started.

I spent some more time in the pool the week before the race and while waiting in line for my wave to start, I was nervous, but a little more confident. It helps me when I concentrate on getting to each buoy (this course had one at every 100 meter mark) instead of focusing on the swim finish. I like that it’s the first part of the race so I can get it over with and not spend time worrying for the entire race!

While I had some people lap me from the wave that started after me (waves started every four minutes and there were four waves after mine), I held my own. While people swimming over you can be a little unnerving, knowing what to expect helps calm your fears when it happens!

Cypress_Tri_2014_dss009447 817

I look pretty serious in this picture, but I was very happy that the swim was behind me when I got out of the water. I was concentrating on catching my breath and making up time during transition. I love to cycle and I was gearing up for the ride in my mind already.

Cypress_Tri2014_drB002070 817

After I finished the 14-mile bike ride, I started the last leg of the Tri…the 5K run. I didn’t do any brick workouts this year (i.e. alternating between running and cycling in one work-out) so my legs were like lead. It took me about a mile to work out the heavy filling in my thighs, so I ran a little slower than I normally do. The crowd support was so good at the end of the race, I was inspired to sprint to the finish line even though I was completely spent.

Cypress_Tri2014_bbF001781 817

For me, training for running and triathlon events keeps me focused on staying active everyday. It’s so important for me to have a goal so I can keep motivated and keep moving forward! Since losing a lot of weight two years ago, it’s so important to me to stay as healthy as I can.

I’m already looking forward to my next Sprint Tri! I’ll be working on bricks and swimming to try to improve my time as well as re-focusing on nutrition for overall health.

I highly recommend participating in a Sprint Triathlon. While there are incredible triathletes at these events, the community is very supportive of first-time folks and those, like me, who have a goal to finish the triathlon, not win. There are athletes of every shape and size (although at 4’10” I’m usually one of the shortest!) and ability level. I’m a pretty competitive person, but with triathlons, I truly believe that everyone who finishes is a winner.

There’s a great Tri coming up in Clear Lake that I wish I could attend. The 7th Annual Clear Lake International and Sprint Triathlon is on August 23, 2014 in League City, Texas at South Shore Harbor and Resort. It offers both an International Course with a 1.5K Swim, 28.8 mile bike and 10K run as well as a Sprint Course with a .5K swim, 14 mile bike and 3.4K run.

The Sprint course has a shorter run, great for those who are new to running or not as strong in this area. I love that this event takes you over the Kemah Bridge and provides views of Clear Lake and NASA Space Center. It sounds like so much fun and I’m definitely putting this event on my list for next year! Who knows, by then maybe I’ll be ready to take a stab at the longer course?!

Is participating in a Tri on your bucket list? What are your fitness goals this year? Do you participate in running, cycling or swimming events? Do you have any tips for training? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thank you to New Creative Media for sponsoring this post and supporting my health and fitness goals. While I was provided compensation, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Share