Recipe: Blue(berry)-Green Protein Smoothie

AH…it’s so nice to be able to put up recipes and just blog about anything and everything.  I’m really, really, REALLY trying to make this one of my priorities these days.  I never realized how much I missed doing product reviews, typing up recipes, or just laying out my thoughts/feelings/emotions….for you guys!

So, it seems that Wednesday is turning into a Smoothie-For-Breakfast kind of day.  Which is awesome.  And, that being said, I attempt to make these as nutritious as I can…which means I’m incorporating both vegetables and fruit.  Working off the base of the smoothie I made last week, I upped the game a little today and made a brand new smoothie concoction.

Below, find the recipe for the Blue(berry)-Green Protein Smoothie.

**FOR THE RECORD: I am using PlantFusion protein powder for these smoothies**

Recipe: Blue(berry)-Green Protein Smoothie (Gluten Free; Dairy Free)

bluegreensmoothieServes 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 avocado
  • 2 cup spinach, fresh
  • 1 package vegan protein powder (I used Plant Fusion Chocolate-Raspberry Flavor)
  • 1 cup coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp chocolate powdered peanut butter (PB2, Simple Truth, etc)
  • 2 cups frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup ice
  • Optional (but HIGHLY recommended): cacao nibs, low-sugar granola, chocolate spread (such as Smudge, Nutella, NuttZo)


Directions:

Place avocado, spinach, protein powder and milk in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the vanilla, powdered peanut butter, blueberries, and ice, and blend until thick.  This is where having a good blender comes in and I love my Vitamix!  Pour into glass or bowl and top with preferred toppings.

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For the record, I topped mine off with 18 Rabbits Chocolate Banana Jr Granola Cereal (which I picked up at Kroger) and 1 tablespoon of NuttZo Organic Chocolate Power Fuel (which I got at Whole Foods, but is also available on Amazon). I also tossed more blueberries on top because they are freshly picked, local, and delicious.  And why not?  More antioxidants!

This basically tasted like a sweet tart, but with less of the tart so it wasn’t overwhelming.  And I do highly recommend the toppings…especially if you make it into a smoothie bowl, like I do.  I froze the bowl overnight to keep it chill on the way to the office.

ENJOY!

Do you have a favorite fruit to throw into a smoothie?  Tell me about it!!

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Recipe: Minty Green Protein Smoothie

I own a Vitamix.  I have for a couple of years now.  And yet…I really haven’t ever jumped on the smoothie bandwagon.  Mostly because I’d rather eat my breakfast, rather than drink it.

And I don’t always think smoothies are that filling.  So often (and maybe it’s just for show), a lot of Insta-Story smoothie makers show their polished off smoothie with the caption (or voice over) saying: “And still hungry.”  And that’s been my problem with smoothies.  When not balanced with the nutrients, I find myself hungry soon after polishing one off.

But that was not the case yesterday when, for breakfast after my 6 mile speed work run, followed by a 1 hour spin class, I whipped up a GREEN smoothie (of all things, I went for the green smoothie) to have for breakfast.

I have done green smoothies in the past and disliked most of them.  They tasted too much like…grass.

But not this one.  And this has the added benefit of being free of added sugars and containing amazing healthy fats, as well as being full of protein and fiber that will, in fact, leave you feeling fuller longer.  And the flavor…it’s like eating a bowl of Mint Chip Ice cream (well…if you do the add-ons, as I do).

Sharing the recipe with you below, adapted from one I found online at Sweetleaf.com!

Recipe: Minty Green Protein Smoothie (Gluten Free; Dairy Free)

mintygreensmoothieServes 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 avocado
  • 2 cup spinach, fresh
  • 1 package vegan protein powder (I used Plant Fusion Natural Flavor)
  • 1 cup coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 2 cup ice
  • Optional (but HIGHLY recommended): cacao nibs, low-sugar granola, chocolate spread (such as Smudge, Nutella, etc)


Directions:

Place avocado, spinach, protein powder and milk in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the vanilla and peppermint extracts, and ice, and blend until thick. Pour into glass or bowl and top with preferred toppings.

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For the record, I topped mine off with Love Grown Foods Cocoa Goodness Oat Clusters and 1 tablespoon of Freedom Foods Smudge, both of which are available at Kroger.

So, I think I’ll take back what I’ve been saying about smoothies not being filling or tasting good (especially when green). Can’t wait to make this one again.

Do you have any filling, healthy smoothie recipes? Share with me!! Comment below.

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Product Review: nuun Performance

nuunhydrationProduct: nuun Performance – $20-24.00

It is no secret that since my running had to take a back seat while I worked on healing and re-training my hip(s) to work differently, more efficiently, and better after my right hip suffered a hip labrum tear in 2015 and my left hip’s hip flexor basically ended up paralyzed in early 2017…my body’s old nutrition/fueling while working out/running has stopped working.

When I came back from the hip labrum tear, I had immediately gone back to using Gu as my primary source of fuel.  But my stomach didn’t like it at all.  I did some research online and found Tailwind…which worked at first, but soon left me feeling sick and with stomach cramps.  Back to the drawing board and those crazy internet searches.  U-Can was next.  I heard amazing things about it.  I bought a sample pack and…this really upset my stomach to the point I was near puking on a 20 mile run before the Kauai Marathon last year.  I reached out to some friends at running stores and distance running groups and did a quick trial on a few different fuels.  Sword, Skratch, huma (chia) gel…all of which did absolutely nothing to help my body feel energized during a distance effort.  In fact, I almost threw the huma gel back up because of the chia texture.  I was throwing out a Hail Mary and had someone introduce me to Hammer.

I didn’t have long to test Hammer in the field before heading to Hawaii…but I did what I could.  Hammer gels and the Hammer Heed (which is a powder that gets mixed in the water).  They worked well enough for sure…and while I struggled with the marathon (mostly due crazy mountains and hella heat), it got me through.

After that, I was running shorter distances and had no need for the endurance fuel at the time.  Then the hip flexor thing happened on January 1 (NO JOKE), and I was out for over 2 months with that.  Training for a couple of upcoming half marathons finally kicked in with me way under mileage…until last weekend, when I finally did double-digit miles – 10 miles with some hills!

Lo and behold…just after that, as I’m gearing up for half marathons this summer and prepping for Chicago Marathon training to kick in around the end of June/early July…my favorite electrolyte drink company, nuun, releases their own version of endurance fuel.  And without any hesitation…I ordered it.

Why was I so quick to jump on the order?  Well, for one thing, I am a nuun ambassador.  So, it’s always nice to try products that I support anyway.  AND I have been a user of the nuun electrolyte tablets since 2012.  The nuun Energy Cherry Limeade will forever be in my fuel belt when I run half and full marathons.  And, the now defunct, nuun Active Kona Cola (can we bring this one back?!), was my absolute favorite flavor they created.  I gave up drinking sodas back in 2013 when marathon training began…and it was the perfect supplement.  With such great success with nuun (all products, except the nuun All Day flavors, which I no longer see on the Web site, so may be defunct now too, are gluten free), I figured I could justify purchasing the new nuun Performance and give it a try.  I ordered them the day they were released…no hesitation.

They offer the new nuun Performance in two flavors and two different forms.  Both powdered.  The flavors are Blueberry Strawberry and Orange Mango.  You can either order these in a box that contains 12 sachets, or in a 10 ounce pouch (that makes 32 8 ounce servings).  The sachets retail for $24 and the pouch is $20.  So it’s just preference.  But as I travel for most of my races, it was easier for me to spend the extra $4 for the ability to toss a sachet or two in my luggage than have to pack an entire pouch or measure it out into baggies and hope that they don’g explode with the change in air pressure on planes.

I tested the nuun Performance  out on my 8 mile run yesterday.  I know that isn’t really that long of a run, but with 2 weekends and 3 races in my future, I didn’t feel that I needed to run 11 miles with the group.  But, I figured if I fueled halfway through, it would give me some idea of what to expect.  The real trial will happen this coming Sunday as I run the Disney World Dark Side Half Marathon.

So…how did it go?

I decided to try the nuun Performance Orange Mango first.  In 2 cups of water, I mixed the powder from the sachet and let it dissolve.  Into my fuel belt bottle it went and I was set to try it out on my run.  It was a rather warm morning too, so I figured this would go a long way on telling me how I react to it.  I set out on my run, and shortly after hitting that 4 mile mark…I tried it out.

How do you use nuun Performance?  This endurance supplement was created for you to drink during intense or long workouts (>90 minutes) to stay hydrated and perform your best.  It was formulated using the newest science on how your system performs under stress.  nuun formulated a precise combination of electrolyte + carbohydrate ingredients, in quantities to be fully absorbed, for improved hydration and reduced stomach distress as compared to other leading sports drinks.  Also, being in powdered form allows you to make exactly as much as you need each time.  What’s even more important to me is the ingredients.  nuun Performance uses only clean ingredients, such as dried fruit powder, not fruit flavor + fillers. And it is certified non-GMO!

So, how did it go?  Did it work for me?  In a sense…YES!

The nuun Performance is light, both in texture and flavor.  You would think you simply dropped one of those tablets for their Active/Energy/Vitamins varieties into the water.  The flavor was also light, which I appreciated, simply because I don’t like to be overwhelmed with flavors while I’m running (especially long distances), but I like to have a break from plain water.  This did it.  The powder dissolved perfectly and didn’t have that chalky flavor other performance powders I tried have.  I was impressed.  And the best part…no stomach issues!!  Not a single one.  I was beyond impressed and hope that this continues to hold as I build in more endurance races into my schedule and begin training hardcore for my go at the Chicago Marathon this fall.

Let’s discuss the ingredients in nuun Perfomance.  Check out the screen cap of the nutrition and ingredients for this amazing endurance fuel:

nuunnutrition

Here is a list of nuun Performance active ingredients:

  • sodium: 380 mg
  • potassium: 200-210 mg
  • magnesium: 20 mg
  • calcium: 15 mg
  • chloride: 80 mg
  • 15 grams of carbohydrates

And…here is a helpful table of guidelines for use of this new, amazing product!

nuunhowtouse

It is, honestly, impossible to run long distances without fueling your body at some point during the activity.  While there are a lot of options out there, I was very impressed with the new nuun Performance.  I have a sensitive stomach, especially during intense activity, but this was gentle and light and…perfect if you ask me.  I can’t wait to use it more and more during my training.

If you’re looking for new fuel options or are just starting to seek out endurance fuel…give the new nuun Performance a try.

You can order it here: https://nuunlife.com/shop/nuun-performance/

 

Random Observation…

Something I discovered today…

I should never, ever, EVER skip morning coffee.  I had 2 cups of green tea…but it just wasn’t the same.  I do not function well without my coffee.

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I was having massive coffee withdrawal brain fog.  Which…in many ways is probably not healthy either…but I mean…I was making really stupid errors and doing really stupid things.  ALL THE STUPID THINGS!

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Now we know…and knowing is half the battle…

…but first…

COFFEE!

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Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, IN (May 28, 2016)

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Me crossing the finish line of the Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, Indiana

Race: Run for the Berries 5K

Place: Starlight, Indiana

Date: May 28, 2016

Time: 22:24

There are a lot of things people run for.  For some…beer.  For some…donuts.  For some…pizza.  For others…wine.  For me…FRUIT!!  I love fruit.  There is nothing quite as amazing as a giant bowl of cold, wet watermelon after a hot summer run.  In fact, this is my favorite thing to eat in the summer after I run…whether it’s a short weekday run or that long slow distance on the weekend!

So, trust me, whenever the Run For The Berries 5K rolls around every year…I’m always eager to take part.  Why?  Because strawberries…EVERYWHERE.  Yes…I will run for berries.  Hell, I’ll run for any type of fruit, honestly.  YUMMY!!  And while you don’t get any for free, there is nothing better than rewarding yourself after a hard run with a big bowl of strawberries and a cold frozen strawberry drink.

I wasn’t actually signed up this year for the Run For The Berries 5K in Starlight, Indiana this year.  Like I said, every race has sort of been a last-minute decision thing due to the hip issues and how I never know exactly how I’m going to feel from one day to another.  I haven’t actually participated in the Run For The Berries 5K since 2013 (when I was in my best racing shape…and at my fastest).  In 2014, I was in Buffalo, New York for the Buffalo Marathon, and last year I wasn’t running anything…at all.  I was a miserable pile of non-running self-pity and hurty hip things.  So, it was nice to come back to this one.  This is my fourth time running this local 5K and I will always do it whenever I am able.

Today…despite some slight twinging in the hip first thing in the morning…I was going to do it.  I filled out the registration form at work on Friday and had it all set to go in the morning.  Cathy offered to pay my $25 registration fee because…bills…bills have been plaguing me recently and I am slightly broke at the moment.  So that was awesome.  So I got up early (4:00 am) to get my PT stretches, dynamic warmup, and some plyometrics in prior to the race.  I did my core work as well.  And then made a dash (in the car) up to Kroger because I needed a pre-race banana.  This is not a want…this is a NEED.  I went ahead and grabbed a few other necessary groceries while I was out.  Got home just before 6:00 am.  Cathy and I had some cereal for breakfast with some coffee (for the kid and adult in each of us) and proceeded to keep saying we needed to get off the couch and get moving, but neither of us really making an effort.  Ah well.  The good thing was, any tenderness or soreness in the hip had worked itself out…so I was feeling good.

Teeth were brushed and I put my hair up in pigtails and got out my Bondi Band of choice.  I went ahead and put some water in my Kara Goucher water bottle and popped a NUUN tablet in it for some electrolytes before Cathy grabbed the sign, the race bag, and we headed out for the race.

We left early, because Cathy wanted to make sure we had plenty of time for her to get lost on the way there.  We don’t go up that way often, but, there are signs that point the right way.  The drive there was gorgeous with the sunrise and the beautiful houses out in the country.  It’s always a nice ride up to Starlight.  We followed the signs to the little field we always park in at the race and got situated into a spot.

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Pinned up and ready to run the Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, Indiana

From there, it was into the main hall of the Strawberry Festival grounds to get officially registered for the race.  I went up to the table with cash and the form already filled out…got my race bib (#180) and was given a t-shirt in the size I requested.  The shirts were gray this year.  And back to being in tech material.  YAY!!  I got pinned up, went to use the bathroom, and then we meandered around the grounds for a little while to kill some time.  On the way out, I saw Renee from my spin class heading in.  She wasn’t feeling good, but was running with a friend of hers who is training for her first triathlon.  So, that’s really fun.  We chatted for a moment and then she went to register and I went to meander, waiting for my good friend, Michelle, and her little boy, Liam, to arrive.

And then I ran into my friend Amber, whose husband Tim was running (and was 2nd male overall) in the race.  Amber and I both have been dealing with hip labrum tears.  She had surgery on hers…I didn’t.  We’ve bonded over this.  I’ve met a lot of good friends through having to sit out of running…and it has made me better for it.  Amber and I are going to start riding bikes together once I get more comfortable on mine.  YAY!  Her kids were anxious for her to come and join them…so we parted ways and she said she’d cheer for me at the finish.

I love my friends.

We saw a lot of the fast runner people doing their strides and warming up prior to the race.  So we headed that way so I could stretch.  I think I did a quad stretch on each leg and called it a day, HA!!  I’m so awful about stretching.  We were all starting to move up to the orange cones that marked the start of the race.  It was at this point that Michelle and Liam showed up, just in time, which made me SO happy!!  We waved and they went to stand with Cathy just beyond the start point.  Our race organizer got on the bullhorn and started to give some information about the race.  Like male runners at the finish will have white cards to fill out; female runners will have pink; walkers will have yellow.  OH…and if you are registered as a walker…and you run down a hill…you are now a runner.  It made me laugh.  And everyone else.  Then…we had to wait for HIS Garmin to find satellites. He did…and the count was given.  On your marks…runners set…and then the horn.

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Total game face on at the start of the Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, Indiana

I took off…giving a nod to my cheering section.  It was total game face though.  Which is not like me, LOL!!  Seriously.  I’m so laid back but…game face.  The first mile is a series of rolling hills…nothing too major.  I was running comfortably, but speedy.  I could tell I was speedy.  In fact, at one point, I was thinking…”Wow…I’m ahead of Lynn.”  And the moment I thought it, she passed me quite easily, not even breathing hard.  HA!!  That will teach me.  Anyway…I was having a nice run…no pain…feeling good…not worrying over anything but holding steady and preparing for the hills ahead.  Mile 1…perfectly measured…my watch beeped right at the marker.  Turns out…it was a new fastest mile for me… I just wasn’t aware of it at the time.

Zen racer.  I never look at my watch or obsess over pace.  I run better when I don’t know.

I made the turn onto Engle Road and started into the second mile.  I loved this part of the run because, soon after making the turn, I scooted past a cute little girl running with her dad.  She was saying something about how what she loved about today’s run was she was running with older people.  I turned my head and said, “You’re doing an amazing job!”  She thanked me and said, “How old are you?!”  She was aiming for first in her age division.  HA!!  I told her I was 35 and she was relieved.  She was in the 14 and under group…and definitely under 14.  That was an ego boost.  This mile also brings in more rolling hills, but a few more downhills than uphills.  We ran past Hubers Family Farm and continued down Engle Road.  And then I made the turn into Mile 2.  This is where the water stop is, but I just kept on running.

Because right there…RIGHT THERE…on Hill Road…is THE HILL.  It’s like my friend, Amber, said later on Facebook…it’s not just the hill but WHERE the hill is in that race.  At this point, your legs are tired and this hill is HUGE.  I mean…it’s a steep, steep climb.  So, I did my best to run up it, still lacking the power and strength that I used to have.  I’m working on that…kinda.  I’ll be working on that more.  Hills might slow me down…my legs might not be able to maintain a fast pace for a long period of time…but maybe soon they will.  It all takes time.  And I’m sometimes impatient, LOL!  After the hill, it’s just a few rollers and a couple of smaller climbs to the finish.  You actually finish this race going uphill.

I could see it in the distance and I attempted to pick up the pace, but my legs were shot for the day.  The best I could do was just focus.  I had runners pass me up as I got a bit closer…which always pisses me off…they were all men…

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I don’t always drink a frozen strawberry drink after a 5K…but when I do, I’m at the Strawberry Festival!

I heard Cathy and Michelle and Liam all shouting and cheering.  And as I ran by, I hear Amber yelling, “GO KAREN!”  I really do have awesome friends.  So, I pushed…and I saw I was in the 22 minutes…but it ticked past my 22:02 PR…and just ticked past the 2013 finish time of 22:19.  But only by six minutes.  I was tired, and hot, and a sweaty mess when I stopped…but I was so happy with that run. It was challenging and it was amazing and I came out of it without any pain.  Not even a twinge.

I was handed a pink card at the finish showing I was the 8th woman to finish.  Cathy said I definitely placed in my age division.  We thought that in 2013 too, and I ran it faster, and didn’t…so I wasn’t going to hold my breath.  We took some pictures and then meandered over to the festival to get a nice, cooling frozen strawberry drink.  And our big bowl of strawberries (Cathy & Michelle got strawberry shortcakes).  We went and took a seat at a table.  Liam went to play on the slides and we sort of hung out, enjoyed our strawberry treats, and found a lot to laugh and talk about.

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You can’t do the Run For The Berries 5K and not eat a big bowl of strawberries!  FOR REAL!

It was taking a lot longer than I remember to get to awards, so we decided to go hit up the booths at the festival.  Cathy bought me this amazing crocheted Wonder Woman doll.  This woman knits there fantastic dolls from Disney movies and other things.  There was only one Wonder Woman doll.  It was meant to be mine.  There was also only one Captain America doll.  Cathy went back and purchased that while I got her a purple star crown with blue and purple ribbons to wear.  Seriously…we really are adults.  Liam got his face painted for the first time and did a fantastic job sitting there while it was done.  Then we went to watch Liam play some games and I purchased a thing of strawberries with a salted caramel dipping sauce.  THIS. WAS. LIFE. CHANGING.  I love salted caramel and was the first person to get this dip that day.  I am so glad I did.  It isn’t a combination that I ever considered. There were the usual suspects…chocolate and white chocolate. But you wave salted caramel ANYTHING at me…and I am buying it.  THIS WAS AMAZING.  I’m in love.

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I posed with a lot of stuff today.  Someone needs to make me a spokesperson. LOL!  This is the knitted Wonder Woman doll!

As Liam finished up his games, the announcement that the awards were going to be given out was announced.  We made our way over there and saw all the male awards handed out first.  My friend Amber’s hubby, Tim, won 2nd overall male, because he’s stupid fast…and amazing.  And then the female awards were given out.  And I was announced as the first female in my age division.  WOOT WOOT!!  Considering I didn’t place the previous time I ran..and ran it faster, this was a nice surprise.  Exciting stuff.  Cathy, Michelle and Liam all cheered loudly as I went to receive my award, this cute little pint glass thing.

And that was a wrap for the day.  Liam wanted to go check out the bouncy houses and Cathy and I needed to go grocery shopping and hit up a few spots in Louisville.  So, we parted ways and I went home to shower and change.

As it stands, the official results of the Run For The Berries 5K are that I finished in 22:24.  Not a PR…but I clocked my first mile in 6:48, which is awesome.  Now if only I could maintain that sort of pace.  But these legs just aren’t there and aren’t ready.  Maybe one day.  Maybe not!  Either way…super proud.  I was the 8th female to cross the line and came in 1st in my division.  If the official results ever get posted…I’ll update this accordingly.

Already looking forward to doing it again.

 

Working Hard for a Weekend of Hard Work

Ah, it’s Sunday.  A day to rest and relax right?  RIGHT?!

HA…never!!  Today, I’ve done countless loads of laundry, prepped and cooked all the meals for the coming week, took recycle to the store, took care of a cat, did some necessary shopping, mailed off a package, finished up (much-needed) grocery shopping, organized the pantry, and polished off a book.  I’ve blogged on my race on Friday night, made up lunches/snacks for tomorrow, and have even changed sheets on the bed.  And showered.  Important.

This has been a chaotic and crazy week.  I got back into town from a relaxing (ie: NON-RACE) weekend in Orlando, Florida.  Sure, the Star Wars Half Marathon was running at Disney World that very weekend…but I was not quick enough on making a decision to run, and by the time I was certain I was going to be able to do it, registration had closed.  Instead, the day before I headed out to get to Florida, I did my long run.  On a Tuesday night.  On tired legs.  But it was done and I didn’t have to do it alone…or in Orlando, where I had no idea where I could safely and effectively go running.  As it was, I found a park where I managed 5 miles, and I did 5 miles back and forth on this 0.20 mile boardwalk on Cocoa Beach while I was away.  But that was it for the running.  The rest of the time I was exploring…but we’ll get to that momentarily.

With a couple of days away from the office, I was overloaded with work, so I ended up doing something I hate doing.  I brought work home and put in some time away from the office.  It had to be done…or I’d still be buried.  This made my week even more stressful because I was trying to fit in all my normal stuff while having to do some work at home.  It meant…the normalcy took a lot longer to get around to.  And grocery shopping never happened.  So, my roommate and I were living out of the pantry/freezer/fridge for this week.

So…with all that being said…some good stuff has been going down these past two weeks…so let’s take a look at some of the highlights!

1.  Universal Studios Florida


It’s Marvel Superheroes, it’s Harry Potter, it’s rides, rides, rides.  And I had an absolute blast.  I met Captain America (he told me I had beautiful green eyes!), which had to happen as he is the favorite superhero of my nephew, Chace.  I flirted with the driver of the Knight Bus at Diagon Alley in Universal as well.  SO MUCH FUN.  That being said, I vastly prefer Disney to Universal, but it was actually nice to step away from the Disney monster and do something I’ve been wanting to do, but couldn’t pull myself away from Disney.  HA!  And thank goodness for my friend, Jenn, who was willing to go on the thrill rides with me.  Cathy refuses.  She’s a big baby.  OH…and I bought a wand.  I have my own Harry Potter type of wand.  It’s Ivy…with a Unicorn Hair core.  And I loved it because I was able to cast magical spells at both of the Harry Potter lands at each Universal Studios theme park in Florida.  It takes so little to make me happy.

2.  Toasted
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Eating out with me can be…difficult at times.  Thank you Celiac disease and lactose intolerance.  That being said, while I was in Orlando, thanks to my Find Me Gluten Free app, I found the most perfect place to dine.  In fact, we (Jenn, Cathy & myself) ended up having dinner there three times.  The place is called Toasted, and it specializes in Crafted Grilled Cheese & Burgers.  And…they have gluten-free buns, bread, and veggie burgers.  They also have vegan cheese.  This…was my happy place.  To top all of that off…they had gluten-free fries.  And, let me tell you, the Truffle Oil & Rosemary fries were to die for.  We learned, after our first visit, that one order of fries would do for the three of us.  Amazing sandwiches.  I had a different one each night…never got sick.  Let’s hear it for gluten-free dining done right.  If you find yourself in the Winter Park area of Orlando…go and check them out.

3. Gluten Free Snack Cakes
schnacks
Okay…I admit it.  I love my desserts.  I have tried, for ages, to give them up.  But the sweet tooth reigns supreme.  For sure.  And, after getting my roommate a little tipsy on her birthday, I took her grocery shopping.  And bought a bunch of stuff I didn’t need but wanted to try.  And, despite trying to be a little better about my choices…I discovered a new product from Schär‘s Sch’nacks!  These delightful little treats are simply a gluten-free, unrolled version of a Swiss Roll.  They are little single serve cakes that are filled with cream and dipped in German chocolate.  And they are light, and amazing.  I have to resist buying them too often…but a treat every now and again is always fine.  There are 10 cakes per package…and I only have one after dinner each night.  Seriously…a worthy investment for an every-now-and-again treat.  Back to some fruits and vegan yogurts after this.  And I’m back to cooking real food…and not just living out of the fridge/freezer/pantry…which is also a plus.

4.  Road Bike Shoes
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Today, I meandered over to Schwinn in Clarksville, Indiana, and purchased a pair of road bike shoes.  Now that I have a road bike, I figured I needed to get the clip-in shoes so I could ride it.  They are very nice at Schwinn and even discounted the price of the shoes and put the cleats in for me.  YAY!!  I hope to get fitted to my bike next weekend, time permitting!  Crossing my fingers.  Then, I get to practice clipping in and out…and probably taking a few spills during said process.  It’s actually…kind of exciting.  Not the falling part, but getting the necessary gear and stuff done to get out onto my bike.

5.  Running my fastest mile at my favorite 5K

 


Friday was not only Earth Day, it was the running of the Pro.Active For Life 5K in Frankfort, Kentucky.  I go to Frankfort quite often for the races, and while 5K races are one of my least favorite distances, this just happens to be my favorite 5K race.  It’s not just the race itself, but the people.  Frankfort, honestly, some of the best people in that running community.  I can’t say it enough.  Not only did I win my age division this year, but I pulled off a 6:53 mile.  Shocking myself.  Even more shocking…the entire run was pain-free.  And…I was only 6 seconds off my PR (also set at this race).  Stronger every day.  Trying to be really smart when it comes to my training.

6.  A long, solo, pain-free Saturday morning run

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So, Friday night I churn out a speedy 5K (even if my finishing picture looks like I’m just cruising, LOL!), knowing that Saturday, I was on my own for my longest run since…forever.  I am signed up for (although still not 100% sure I’ll be running) a marathon in June.  Bib transfer can only happen through May 1, leaving this Saturday the only chance I had for attempting a long marathon-training type run.  And, I had to do it solo, as everyone I know is either recovering from Boston, running Big Sur, running London, running Derby or running Flying Pig.  So, they are either recovering, out of town, or tapering.  So, Saturday morning, I laced up, still feeling good, and went out for 20 miles in my area.  No crossing the river (it was Thunder Over Louisville day anyway…so this was probably better in the long run…ha…I made a punny).  So, I just sort of went.  I never pushed my pace…I ran comfortably and just sort of made the route up.  The last 5 miles, however, I decided to make the toughest.  I don’t know why.  I’m sadistic like that.  So I hit up the Fast Freddie route…which is HILLS FOR DAYS!…and came out of it better than I even expected.  Once again…no pain.  And 20 miles done.  Alone.  And way better than I dreamed.  WITHOUT ANY PAIN!  I spent the rest of the day out and about, doing some grocery shopping and regular shopping and eating good food for recovery and fuel.  This…was the type of run I mentally needed.  And while it does make me feel better, I still don’t know if I’ll run in June.  I’m pondering for one more day before making that call.

7.  Game Of Thrones
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The new season of GoT starts tonight, and unlike last year, I’m set.  HBO Now was downloaded this morning and I’m set to watch this season as it airs, instead of getting spoiled.  I know I read the books, but the show has gone away from how the books actually worked out, so it’s nice that I won’t have to attempt (and fail) to avoid spoilers this time around.  It’s the little things in life.  SO…YAY!!  It’s the little things in life…like Season 6 of Game of Thrones.

8.  Caramelized Honey Latte at Starbucks

 


They keep selling out of it, but when I went to Florida this past week, I was introduced to Starbucks latest (and greatest) drink.  It’s the Caramelized Honey Latte and it is AMAZING.  It reminds me a lot of The Bee Sting, one of Ha Coffee’s signature drinks in Kauai (I miss Hawaii!).  I get mine with coconut milk and it is…OMG…to die for.  I had it hot and iced while in Florida. The Starbucks at Universal Studios City Walk sold out of them…and the one here in our local Target sold out too.  I think this drink is quite popular.  And it should be.  It is made of super YUM!!  If you haven’t tried it…RUN, do NOT WALK, to Starbucks and give it a try.  You’ll thank me for it.

So, there are some of the highlights these past couple of weeks.  Here’s to hoping for a bit more relaxed and easier week ahead.  And I hope everyone had a great week and enjoyed a beautiful weekend.  And for anyone racing this coming weekend…good luck!!

Hawaiian Hau’oli

Aloha!

So, last week, for a wonderful week, I was fortunate enough to spend some time on the two of the Hawaiian islands.  The original purpose – to run the Kauai Marathon.

But then…I fractured my ankle.

Trying to start a new trend in footwear, perhaps? This is Bootsie, my new friend for the next 6-8 weeks. MEH!

Trying to start a new trend in footwear, perhaps? This is Bootsie, my new friend for the next 6-8 weeks. MEH!

Yep.  Fractured my freakin’ ankle three days before leaving for Hawaii.  SUCK!!  I tried to put a positive spin on things…I really did.  At least I was still going to Hawaii.  Yeah…it didn’t really work for me then either…but I was trying.  To help make this painful adjustment, I started a Twitter account for Bootsie (the boot I’m forced to wear for 6-8 weeks) to document traveling adventures.  I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason…so there better be a damn good reason for this.  That’s all I’m saying.

The first leg of the trip was flying out to San Diego.  This gave us pretty much a full day to adjust to a bit of the time change (West Coast = 3 hours behind EST; Hawaii = 6 hours behind EST) and break up what was already a long ass flight to the islands.  We’d depart San Diego before it was bright and early to get to Kauai by mid-morning.  It was a plan.  The ankle just meant we had to depart from the hotel sooner because I wasn’t moving anywhere very fast.  So…my traveling companions, Cathy & Jenn, were both very helpful and very, very patient with me.  And, I didn’t complain much.  I mean, complaining won’t change the situation.  I just apologized…a lot…for being slow.

The first order of business after getting to San Diego and checking into the hotel to drop off luggage was…lunch.  Not having prepared for lunch, I ate a protein bar, while my fellow travelers ate tacos from a local taco stand.  SO cool.  But after that, I required my morning cup of coffee…so we sought out and found a great local establishment called…

Lestat’s Coffee House, San Diego, California

Lestat’s is one of those places that is open 24/7, 365 days of the year.  YES…it is always open!  Holiday?  No worries…they’re open!  Lestat’s Coffee House has a few signature drinks on their menu…and as it was pretty toasty in San Diego, I wasn’t feeling the hot coffee that day.  Neither were my traveling friends.  So, they each got coffee freezes (think blended drinks!) while I opted for one of Lestat’s Signature Drinks done up all refreshing and cold.  Jenn got the Winter Raspberry Freeze ($5.25), which is a ice blended raspberry mocha.  I took one little sip.  WINNING!  Cathy had me pick for her, and I choose the Arctic Squirrel Freeze ($5.25) for her, which is an ice blended hazelnut mocha (similar to the Hazelnut Turtle drink she loves at our local cafe…just…blended and cold).  As for me…I went with the Iced Arctic Joey ($4.55)…which is coconut, almond and chocolate.  I had mine made with coconut milk as well (+$1.00).  In essence, it was a liquid almond joy.  And it was delicious.  There were bits of coconut floating in it.  I think I was just starting to get in the Aloha spirit by getting something with coconut.  Needless to say…smooth, creamy, delicious.  Nothing overwhelmed the drink, and it wasn’t heavy.  It was pure liquid gold.  And refreshing.  And tasty.  And in the end, coffee should always be tasty.  I was beyond happy with this decision.

Lestat's Coffee House Iced Almond Joey with Coconut Milk

Lestat’s Coffee House Iced Almond Joey with Coconut Milk

Upon arriving in Hawaii…after the rental car debacle…wherein we learned…convertible is fun…but not when you have a fractured ankle.  We got it sorted…and switched out the fun and stylish convertible for…a Ford Fusion.  Yeah…definitely not the way we had envisioned traveling, but it gave us more leg room and some more storage space for our big-ass luggage.  LOL!  After checking into Pono Kai Resort in Kauai…coffee was needed.

It’s always coffee with me.  LOL!

So, we scoped out and fell in love with a local café called Ha Coffee Bar.  And we went back every day we were on the island of Kauai…save for Sunday, because they are closed.

Ha Coffee Bar, Lihue, Hawaii

It was love at first “Aloha” when it came to Ha Coffee Bar.  I have nothing but warm fuzzies when I think back to every stop at Ha Coffee Bar, each morning, first thing, while on Kauai.  It was a bit of a drive from the resort, but always worth it.  I tried three different things on the three days we were there that they were open.  And, not once, was I ever disappointed in my choice.  Ha Coffee Bar is a café that is built to resemble an old-school bar.  No joke.  Their iced drinks are even mixed in martini shakers.  LOVE.  This set-up allows them to showcase and sell products and items, such as pour-overs, that might not typically be served at a café.  Ha Coffee Bar primarily serves espresso coffee, cold brewed coffee, pour-over and French press coffee.  The variety in the types of coffee they serve allows for different origins and price points, which also helps minimize waste as they don’t have coffee sitting and going stale…high quality coffee and flexibility that allows customers to explore different blends, flavor profiles and methods of making coffee.  Coffee love.  And boy…did I LOVE this.  On the first day there, I stayed pretty basic.  I got a Salted Caramel French Pressed Cafe Au Lait with Almond Milk.  I loved that they added the flavor to the steamed milk itself, and then gave me the pitcher of leftover almond milk in case I needed more of it in the drink.  But it was perfect the way they gave it to me.  And the French pressed coffee…OMG…so good.  Jenn got a simple Iced Hazelnut Latte and Cathy got an Iced Peppermint Mocha.  So, on the next morning, I noticed they had signature drinks hanging up near the register…so I decided to give one of those a try.  I had it narrowed down to two…but opted for their drink the Bee Sting.  The Bee Sting is simply Espresso, Coconut Milk, Honey and Cinnamon.  I got it iced…as the humidity was killer that morning.  Cathy got their take on an Iced Black & White Mocha (Zebra).  And it was, absolutely, hands down, my favorite coffee drink of the trip.  I wish I could have had it again.  I would have gotten it again.  The coconut milk gave it this rich flavor, the honey sweetened it, the cinnamon lent a hint of spice…and espresso…got me moving for sure.  Simple…yet SO good.  SO very good.  In fact, on our last day there, this is the drink that Jenn opted to get after trying mine.  With Ha closed on Sunday, we had to go elsewhere, but on our last day on Kauai…we were there in the morning and I was getting another signature drink…Liquid Sunshine, which was cold brew coffee, coconut syrup, and coconut milk.  DELICIOUS!!  Not Bee Sting delicious…but delicious.  I was quite happy with it.  Not something I can get here…anywhere…so that was most of the draw for this drink in particular.  The last morning there, Cathy got the Iced Hazelnut Mocha and a Pineapple Cream Cheese Scone to enjoy for breakfast.  I still say it today…back in Louisville, Kentucky…that I miss Ha Coffee Bar.  It made that much of an impression.

Ha Coffee's Salted Caramel Cafe Au Lait with Almond Milk, Iced Bee Sting, and Iced Liquid Sunshine

Ha Coffee’s Salted Caramel Cafe Au Lait with Almond Milk, Iced Bee Sting, and Iced Liquid Sunshine

 

Skinny Mike’s Hawaiian Ice Cream, Lihue, Hawaii

I have KONG Radio to thank for the discovery of Skinny Mike’s.  As we were driving the island of Kauai on Saturday, just enjoying beaches and the like…an advertisement for Skinny Mike’s Hawaiian Ice Cream came on.  And it advertised ice cream, sorbets, and vegan ice cream.  They had my attention, and the attention of both Jenn and Cathy too.  I looked them up…and took note of where it was located.  And we vowed to go there and check them out.  At least once, yes?

And so, Saturday evening, after splitting a gluten-free pizza at a local chain…we headed over to Harbor Mall, where Skinny Mike’s is located.  We parked and marched up the stairs to the little shop.  Online I had taken a peak at the flavors, and sort of had my heart set on the Pineapple Cream.  However…they didn’t have that flavor.  So…I was left to look over the offered flavors while Jenn & Cathy made their choices.  We each got regular scoops ($3.49) of our flavor choices.  Cathy went with the Mint Chocolate Chip as it is one of her favorites…anywhere.  Jenn won with their signature flavor…a local classic…Macadamia Nut.  Hers was so good, we went back the last night there and each got a scoop of the Macademia Nut.  That’s how good that was.  For my first trip there, without the Pineapple flavor being available…I went with the suggestion of Coconut Cream.  The Coconut Cream ice cream was the perfect level of coconut flavor.  No bits of raw coconut…just the flavor infused in a creamy scoop of ice cream goodness.  It was delicious.  Smooth.  And melted fast.  Ah…coconut based things…I didn’t mind though.  Not one bit.  I eat frozen desserts rather quickly regardless.  LOL!  We were so impressed with the ice cream there that, as I said, we all went back to get the signature Macadamia Nut flavor on our last night on Kauai.  Worth it.  That was some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had.  Just…delicious.  I miss it.  I want some more of the Macadamia Nut flavor…it’s a craving that hits now.  Now that I know it exists…but can’t get it anywhere else…but there.

Skinny Mike's Hawaiian Ice Cream's Coconut Cream and Macadamia Nut Ice Cream

Skinny Mike’s Hawaiian Ice Cream’s Coconut Cream and Macadamia Nut Ice Cream

 

Java Kai, Kapaa, Hawaii

What happens when  your favorite Hawaiian coffee stop on Kauai is closed on Sunday?  You have to find a new place to get that caffeine hit.  And this was what we were left to do on Sunday morning.  Sunday.  When I should have been running a marathon.  When, instead, I was hobbling around Kapaa in search of coffee.  The stop at the little food truck-like coffee place was…not going to work for everyone.  No one was really happy with the menu options…so…we backtracked to a spot that Jenn spotted and had looked up online.  It wasn’t far from the resort.  It was a worthwhile stop in the end.  And, in the end, we all ended up with a bit of breakfast with our coffee as well.  How?  Because this place had some gluten-free options on the menu and in the bakery case.  SCORE!  This meant we could have something a little more substantial at the start of the day, instead of the meager protein bars or yogurts back at the resort.  It would mean eating better now and not making poor choices later.  And so…Jenn got one of the bars from the bakery case…the Aloha Bar ($3.75), I think.  For her caffeinated goodness that morning, she got the Iced Macanut Latte ($4.50).  Cathy went for the Breakfast Burrito ($10.50), which includes eggs, roasted potatoes, caramelized onions, and cheddar cheese, which she got with the mango-chipotle salsa.  For her drink, she got the Iced Hazelnut Mocha ($4.70).  She at hers there at the café as she was the driver.  As for me…they had gluten-free English muffins.  HELLO!  So I ended up getting the Gluten Free English Muffin with Cream Cheese ($3.95), which they kindly toasted for me…looks like in a pan…no cross-contamination.  And for the drink, I got the Iced Macanut Latte ($4.50) with Almond Milk (+$0.75).  Jenn and I had ours to go and I happily noshed away on a Glutino English Muffin with a light spread of cream cheese.  The Macanut Latte…macadamia nut flavor…espresso…nutty goodness.  And it was just the perfect drink that morning.  It was supposed to be marathon morning…and I needed a distraction.  This food, while simple and basic…was just what I needed.  The drive along the coast helped too!

Java Kai's Gluten Free English Muffin (with Cream Cheese) and Macanut Latte with Almond Milk

Java Kai’s Gluten Free English Muffin (with Cream Cheese) and Macanut Latte with Almond Milk

 

Hanalei Bay, Hanalei, Hawaii

We visited a lot of beaches while visiting Hawaii.  I mean, that’s part of the point when you visit an island, right?  But, I think, above all others, my favorite one we stopped at, and spent the most time at, was Hanalei Bay.  This beach is stunning.  A beautiful 2-mile long crescent of white sand, nestled beneath a breathtaking range of mountains.  The water was relatively calm that day, with some small waves crashing against the shore.  Despite my new friend…Bootsie…being on, we were determined to get away and enjoy the day.  Anything to keep my mind off the fact that I should have been running.  Hanalei Bay is a great beach for walking and body surfing.  Calm waves, lifeguards, and a great coast line.  I managed a few solo ventures along the waterline of the beach, just needing to at least move a little…minus the boot.  I took it off for beach time.  Strange tan lines were not on the agenda.  I was very careful of where I stepped and the movement of the sand…and would pause if a wave came up and rolled over my legs…because that undertow could be a bit strong and throw me off balance.  It was here that I realized my surf lessons the following day were not going to happen, as much as I wanted to give it a try.  It was just not going to be physically possible for me to get up on a surf board.  I was brokenhearted over this…but shrugged it off as no big deal.  These were the cards I was dealt.  Suck it up, cupcake…you’re in Hawaii!

Me and Bootsie at Hanalei Bay

Me and Bootsie at Hanalei Bay

After some walking and some laying on the beach…we got dressed and headed off for the next venture.  Which tunred out to be a good thing.  Heavy rains started soon after we had changed…and soon, Jenn and I realized just how sunburned we had gotten.  I don’t think Jenn slapped on any sunscreen.  I had…but the burn was in those places where clothes met skin or that strings were located.  I was trying to avoid strange tan lines…and yet…that is what I ended up with in the end.

That being said…for a moment, I forgot about the ankle…and the boot…and I just enjoyed the perfect afternoon at the perfect beach.

JoJo’s Shave Ice, Hanalei, Hawaii

I have my good friend Harry Cooke to thank for the journey, while in Hanalei, to JoJo’s Shave Ice.  He had mentioned it to me in a message on Facebook…and we were right there!!  And with the rain pouring down now, it gave us a good excuse to not sit in a car and try to avoid the flooding roads.  It gave us some time to hope the rain would pass and we could do more exploring.  The rain didn’t pass.  It was with us the rest of the time on the North Shore.  However, after a bit of a short (hobbling, for me) spring from the rental car to the little storefront that the Hanalei JoJo’s Shave Ice operates out of…we knew we were in for a treat.  The original JoJo’s began in Waimea in 1992, the same year that Hurricane Iniki landed on Kauai.  That store is stil there today and still has the original JoJo’s sign.  The goal of JoJo’s…to offer the ultimate in Shave Ice on Kauai…which is a true Hawaiian treat.  When they expanded into Hanalei, they took the JoJo’s traditions and secret recipes along…and introduced the smaller “junior size,” which closely matches the normal serving size of other shave ice venues throughout Hawaii.  JoJo’s doesn’t use commercially made syrups.  They, instead, carefully make up their own syrups, with a lot less sugar and more flavor than the commercially used ones by other shave ice businesses.  And…no corn syrups either.  They also have upgraded all their locations with the best ice machines on Kauai, making for an unmatched, fluffy shave.  LOVE.  The three of us each got the Junior Sizes ($4.50).  And they let you choose up to 4-5 flavors.  I don’t remember what Jenn got…but it had cherry…and perhaps lime?  I can’t recall.  Cathy got Root Beer, Lemon and Grape Shave Ice.  And I opted for two of my favorite flavors…Watermelon and Strawberry Shave Ice.  Of course, now looking back, I wish I opted for something more…local…like mango or something.  Next time.  But the shave ice at JoJo’s was huge…filling…and amazingly packed with flavor.  I can see why it’s been open for 23 years.

30 ounces of Watermelon and Strawberry flavored goodness from JoJo's Shave Ice

30 ounces of Watermelon and Strawberry flavored goodness from JoJo’s Shave Ice

 

Kalaheo Coffee Company & Café, Kalaheo, Hawaii

I know that technically Kalaheo Coffee Company & Café should have gotten a full review, as it was our place to catch a bite for lunch…on Monday afternoon.  However, it was a hot day…and the humidity was really doing a number on me.  And while there were a few options for a gluten-free vegetarian on the menu, what sounded really, really good was the Spinach and Kauai Greens Salad ($10.95).  And the reason that this didn’t warrant a Restaurant Review post was…it was a salad I could have made at home.  Honestly.  But this was what I wanted.  The Spinach and Kauai Greens Salad is a blend of fresh grown Kailani Farm greens, served with crisp spinach and topped off with strawberries and candied pecans.  I kept the feta cheese and held the side of warm flat bread for obvious reasons.  It came with a simple balsamic vinaigrette.  And it was delicious.  Light, but filling.  And cooling.  And just flat-out what I was really wanting that miserably humid day.  But…it was a salad I could make…and therefore…it garners a mention here…but the restaurant itself is cozy and has a lot of great, fresh-made, delicious sandwiches, salads, soups, etc, to choose from.  And I loved sitting in there, listening to runners who had run the day before discuss the marathon and half marathon…looking at the different food items coming out of the kitchen to each table.  Beautiful setting, beautiful food…and tasty too.  For the record, Cathy got the Hot Pastrami Sandwich, which contained grilled onions, mushrooms, and melted Swiss cheese on toasted bread.  She got it with the much raved about Garlic Cilantro Fries…which after seeing her and Jenn devour…made me really wish I could have had those.  Not safe though…not for me.  Darn it.

Kalaheo Coffee Company & Café's Spinach & Kauai Greens Salad

Kalaheo Coffee Company & Café’s Spinach & Kauai Greens Salad

 

USS Arizona Memorial – Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii

This was one ONE place that I had to visit while in Hawaii, and the main and primary reason we even island hopped over to O’ahu instead of just hanging tight on the beautiful island of Kauai.  Honolulu is definitely a hopping city and much more urban…think LA and NYC.  But this…this stop was…important.  To all three of us.  The USS Arizona Memorial is the number one visitor destination in Hawaii, drawing millions of people from all over the world to see where World War II began for the United States on December 7, 1941.  Visitors are free to explore the grounds of the Pearl Harbor Visitor’s Center, which was recently expanded from the original 3 acres to 17 acres, and is now operated by the National Park Service.  Admission and parking is free to all visitors.  Over 2000 tickets are given out free per day on a first come, first serve basis.  We had to check our bags before entering the historic site, so Jenn and I did that while Cathy went to get the tickets she reserved online for us.  We were set for the final shuttle out, at 2:45 pm.  It was the hottest day in Honolulu…and with all the metal and concrete, we were literally melting out in the sun while walking around the ground.  We ducked into the museum, but it was even hotter in there.  Bottles of water were purchased and Cathy and I downed ours before we were put on an earlier shuttle, the 2:30 pm, to head out to the memorial.  A US Navy boat taxied us out to the USS Arizona Memorial, which is built over the remains of the sunken battleship, the final resting place of the 1,177 crewmen killed on December 7, 1941, when their ship was bombed by the Japanese Naval Forces.  The memorial itself was relatively quiet upon disembarking and walking over to it.  You can still see the oil leaking out of the actual ship that is buried beneath the waters of Pearl Harbor.  It is moving and touching.  And the memorial is beautiful and humbling.  And I am so glad that we went.

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

 

Dole Plantation, Wahiawa, Hawaii

Two words…

DOLE WHIP.

DOLE FREAKIN’ WHIP!!  That was the primary reason to venture out to the Dole Plantation in Wahaiwa.  It was a bit of a journey…a long drive, but well worth it.  The Dole Plantation originally operated as a fruit stand beginning in 1950, before opening up to the public as “Hawaii’s ‘Pineapple Experience'” in 1989.  Another one of O’ahu’s most popular visitor attractions, the Dole Plantation provides activities for the entire family, including the Pineapple Express ($8.25/adult), the Plantation Garden Tour ($5.00/adult), and the Pineapple Garden Maze ($6.00/adult).  None of which we did…due to the cost that was associated with each one and the warm, humid weather that made us want to stick to the air conditioning.  What we did do, however, was shop at the HUGE gift shop, which carries a wide variety of Dole Plantation Gifts, local favorites, foods, and refreshments…including DOLE WHIP!!  You can even purchase a fresh pineapple to take home.  I wish I had.  The pineapple in Hawaii is freakin’ incredible.  I did some shopping, buying a few minor things like Dole Pineapple hard candy and a magnet.  Easy to transport and all.  And then, we went over to The Plantation Grille to purchase a bowl each of the world famous Dole Whip ($5.25).  It was a large serving, which I loved, and devoured enthusiastically.  Better than Disney, which is one of the few places Dole Whip is available.  This was…amazing and I wish I had gone back for seconds.  Dole Whip, by the way, is vegan and gluten free.  LOVE!!  It’s just pure frozen treat love.

Dole Whip from The Dole Plantation's Plantation Grille

Dole Whip from The Dole Plantation’s Plantation Grille

 

Panalu’u Beach Park and the Random Pineapple Roadside Stand, Hauula, Hawaii

Welcome to two of the most random stops we made on our trek around the North Shore of O’ahu.  Panalu’u Beach Park is located on O’ahu’s windward coast and has this strip of narrow, sandy beach.  The nearshore ocean bottom is shallow and has a reef, so swimming conditions here are poor.  This was a clam day at this particular beach when we pulled over to check it out.  Cathy went wading…and the water looked so refreshing (another humid and hot day!), that I took off Bootsie and kicked off my flip-flop to go wading in the surf myself.  My friend Jenn snapped my favorite picture of me on this entire trip here…with the gorgeous blue water and the white sand on the beach.  As I said on my Instagram…”Make only memories…Leave only footprints…Kill only time…”

Me on Punalu'u Beach Park (THIS IS MY FAVORITE PICTURE!)

Me on Punalu’u Beach Park (THIS IS MY FAVORITE PICTURE!)

From there, we went hunting for a shrimp place, Romey’s Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp, that the lady at Enterprise told Cathy about after we first arrived in Honolulu, when she mentioned we would be heading up to the North Shore.  Along the way, I had been hunting for mangos and we found a stand that advertised them.  We pulled into this dodgy little roadside stand, only to learn that they were out of mangos.  The weather had ended the season early.  I was bummed.  BUT…we did purchase a fresh pineapple there, so we purchased one for $5.00, and watched as this little old lady had it peeled and sliced in less that 2 minutes…bagged…and ready for us to take away.  We wasted no time, after climbing into the car, trying it out.  So fresh…so juicy…so amazing.  Hands down, the best pineapple I have eaten in my life.  Anywhere.  And I’ve had a lot of pineapple.  We did find Romy’s…and Jenn and Cathy split a plate of the Garlic and Butter Shrimp.  They ate that and I ate a good 2/3 (if not more) of the pineapple.  They helped a little after they were done with their fresh seafood.

Best.  Pineapple.  Purchase.  EVER!

BEST PINEAPPLE EVER from a random roadside stand along the North Shore of O'ahu! They peeled and chopped it right there!

BEST PINEAPPLE EVER from a random roadside stand along the North Shore of O’ahu! They peeled and chopped it right there!

 

Chief’s Luau, Waimanalo, Hawaii

Okay, again, this would generally get a blog of its own, despite not being a restaurant.  I couldn’t go to Hawaii and not do a luau, even if it is one that is so tourist-y…it’s funny.  We chose Chief’s Luau ($82.00+) due to the fact that it is the best ranked luau on O’auh AND that it had an allergen menu on their Web site.  And, yeah, it’s tourist-y, but I actually had a lot of fun at the luau.  I finally got a lei (made of shells as we had the cheapest package), had my picture taken with Chief…learned how to hula dance, watched Cathy throw a spear (rather poorly), watched Cathy make a coconut leaf headband (which she left behind), listened to great music, enjoyed the history of the dances that are native to Hawaii…and just…kicked back, laughed, and enjoyed my final night in Hawaii…with a Mai Tai and everything.  Aside from the free drink…the luau package also included dinner…and as a gluten-free vegetarian, this left only a few things for me to pick from.  Cathy was there for the meat…the pork…cooked in the ground with banana leaves…but for someone like me…I got the food that was catered in.  And that’s fine…but because it was catered, I didn’t review it.  I was left with the Seasonal Fruit Salad (more pineapple!), the Poi (GROSS…it looked like Barney’s (the purple dinosaur) snot…kind of gelatinous and goopy and YUCK.  I didn’t want to try it, but peer pressure had me at least take a taste.  NEVER AGAIN!), the Steamed White Rice and (my personal favorite) the Sweet Potatoes.  My first plate of food was not really full, and as this was all you can eat, I ventured back for more of the DELICIOUS sweet potatoes and the fruit.  Because…fruit and sweet potatoes are actually two of my favorite foods in life.  For real.  The Mai Tai’s were delicious…and I had a great time at the luau.  If you are in O’ahu and want to go to a luau…go to Chief’s.  They are #1 for a reason!

Seasonal Fruit Salad, Poi (GROSS!), White Steamed Rice, and Sweet Potatoes - my gluten free and vegetarian dinner at Chief's Luau

Seasonal Fruit Salad, Poi (GROSS!), White Steamed Rice, and Sweet Potatoes – my gluten free and vegetarian dinner at Chief’s Luau

 

Barista, Portland, Oregon

The flight we took back to the mainland went through Portland, where we disembarked and stayed an entire day, so we could explore.  Cathy and Jenn had Voodoo Doughnuts for breakfast.  We hit up the food pods for lunch, we did a gastropub for dinner.  But after the stop for doughnuts, it was vital that we got caffeine.  And I chose Barista, out of all the different coffee shops in Portland.  I chose wisely…of this I am certain.  Being a former barista, myself, I not only liked the name, I liked everything I read about them.  Barista was established by coffee legend, Billy Wilson, who now has four (4) Barista cafés open in the Portland area.  Let me tell you, this cofee delivers!!  Barista is one of the first multi-roaster shops in the Portland area, showcasing Heart, Coava, and another roaster on bar for espresso or drip.  Barista is known for serving exceptional coffees from the world’s finest roasters, prepared by the most skilled baristas in the Portland area.  No joke.  Jenn skipped out on this amazing experience, but both Cathy and I partook of the opportunity to try the coffee at the Downtown Barista location.  Cathy ordered the Semi-Sweet Valrohna Mocha ($4.50).  I went for the Bittersweet Valrohna Mocha ($4.50) with Almond Milk (+$0.75).  It was delicious.  Strong…but smooth.  There was this perfect balance of chocolate and espresso that just…melted together.  The milk softened up the bite of the espresso itself, cutting through the dark chocolate.  OH MY GOD…one of the best coffees I have ever had.  If you are in Portland and love coffee…you are missing out if you don’t swing by one of the Barista locations.  For real.  I loved every sip.  Even better…finally a coffeeshop that gives me an 8 ounce cup of coffee for a small!!  THANK YOU!

Barista's Bittersweet Valrohna Mocha with Almond Milk

Barista’s Bittersweet Valrohna Mocha with Almond Milk

And that was it.  It was Portland to Vegas to Louisville from there.  And my 10 day vacation came to an end.  Back in Louisville, it’s hard for me to ignore Bootsie.  It’s a depressing reminder of everything I’ve had to cancel for the upcoming weeks leading into November.  I tried not to fuss much over it on the trip.  And, I ate whatever I wanted…whenever I wanted…as long as it fit into my dietary restrictions.  And despite limited mobility and really lack of much movement at all…while continuing to stuff my face with local eats…I lost 3 pounds.  I’ve put it back on since coming home though…so no worries.  LOL!

It was a beautiful trip to paradise…and I’m already dreaming about my return.  Next time…to actually run the Kauai Marathon!!