A Wild & Wonderful Weekend

In the midst of everyday stresses and stressors, it’s always nice to have a little break from the things that are just…making you feel so BLAH about life and what you are doing with your life.

For me, this week, it was having my beautiful sister, Karla, drive up from Birmingham, Alabama, with her eldest son, my nephew, Landon.  I didn’t know how much I needed her and the distraction of having her and Landon here to really just allow me to relax, smile, and be me again!

Family, especially my sister, is, apparently, the cure to what ails, troubles, and bothers you.  I’ve been having…a not so amazing time these past few weeks…and, unfortunately, it’s something I am not really allowed to discuss.  Censorship sucks, yes?  YES!  But…just trust me…the type of personality I have and the person I am…it’s been bothering me on a fundamental level, which, has added a lot of added stress to my already chaotic life.

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Suckage.

But this weekend…was amazing.  I love spending time with my sister…and it doesn’t happen often enough.  So, her texts and calls that ask what I’m doing on certain weekends means…she’s coming to visit.  And I LOVE when she comes to visit.  She and I are best friends and sisters and just…have always been close.  So, me living this far away for 11 years (YES…11 years as of Friday)…has not been easy on either of us.  But here is some of the mischief that we got into this weekend, helping me to not even think about the bad and sucky things that have made a certain portion of a time of my day…a thing I have resented and even loathed at times over the past couple of weeks.

Here’s to sisters…and nephews…and family…and general FUN!  They make the world right again.

1.  Fish in the Water

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One thing Karla and I had discussed for Landon to do while here was to go to the new water park in New Albany.  Unfortunately, Friday left us with thunderstorm warnings and the threat of pop-up storms.  So, at around 3:30…when she arrived and we left the office…the lifeguards were being sent home and the park was closing.  So, Plan B…go to the YMCA and let him swim.  He was swim tested and given permission to go to the life guard chair in the lap pool and to go down the slide in the kids pool.  So, for a good portion of the afternoon…about an hour and change, that’s what he did.  Cathy, Karla, and I all sweltered to death in the humidity of the pool area of the YMCA while he played and cooled off in the pools.  It was worth it to see the smile on his face!

2.  SUSHI TIME!

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My sister commented a week or so ago about how delicious my vegetarian sushi looked when I Instagram-ed it and posted it to Facebook.  And then…I had a brilliant moment of brilliance.  My nephew, Landon, is a very, very, very picky eater.  BUT…he does love cheese things.  Cheese quesadillas, cheese sandwiches, mac & cheese….ALL THE CHEESE!  With the excitement over sushi on my post, I thought of the perfect place for us all to grab dinner, that even Landon couldn’t turn his nose up and refuse to order anything.  Dragon King’s Daughter to the rescue!  For those of you who are not local, Dragon King’s Daughter is an Asian-fusion restaurant with two locations…one in New Albany, Indiana, and one in Louisville, Kentucky.  The menu includes traditional fare from the Far East, as well as contemporary fare with a unique twist.  They offer classics of Japanese dining such as lemongrass miso, vegetable, and sushi rolls, as well as a multitude of new creations including a mixture of East and West forms and flavors.  On the kids menu…a cheese quesadilla…and for the adults…we all went sushi.  My sister and I figured we could get a roll each and split one…so I got the Vegetable Roll, she got the Buffaroll, and we split the Green Acres Roll.  Cathy went for the fishies…and got the Shrimp Tempura Roll and the Dragon King’s Daughter Roll.  And after that…a trip over to the Comfy Cow for an ice cream dessert.  What a great first few hours.

3.  Playtime at the County Fair

It just so happens that the Floyd County Fair happens across the street from where I life.  Convenient, yes?  After dinner and dessert, we came home and walked over to the fairgrounds to scope out some rides and the barns with Landon.  He went on three rides (he had 4 tickets, but he wanted his mom to ride with him on one he wasn’t sure about).  He loved going to see the animals.  And one of the highlights for me was seeing my sister crack up every time the goats bleating.  Her laugh is so contagious.  We all shared lemon shakeups and just walked around.  After that…it was time for showers and then we were all down on the couch to watch Zootopia and then…they took over my room and went to bed and I crashed out on the couch so I could get up early and head out for my 12 mile run and get it done before too much of the morning was passed.

4.  It Runs in the Family

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One of the best things we decided to do, was to go for a short run together.  After my 12 miler, I got home and Karla and Landon put on their running clothes.  We hiked up to Sam Peden Park and ran a loop.  It was hard for Karla, as she hasn’t run in a long while…and she’s not used to the crappy air quality of the Ohio River Valley, but she was a trooper and pressed on.  I ran right there with her to encourage her…and Landon…he was busy chasing down the Army men who were running there.  He beat quite a few.  It was awesome.  Landon has amazing speed and gorgeous running form.  He’s a natural and I love watching him run.  Needless to say, it was a great way to start the day as a family.

5.  Wild Eggs

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Breakfast was the next most important stop on Saturday.  We stopped off at Highland Coffee for some coffee first…and then took the drive over to Westport Road to go to Wild Eggs.  Landon already knew he wanted pancakes and BACON.  He made sure to tell me that if I got an omlette, he wanted my BLUEBERRY muffin.  Since I can’t eat the muffin, I was totally cool with this.  It had been forever since I went to Wild Eggs for breakfast…but it was a nice return.  They even have gluten-free bread and a gluten-free menu now.  LOVE that.  Yes…it even includes gluten-free pancakes, French toast and the like.  That was exciting.  But after 13 miles of running and a hike to and from the park…I wanted some protein.  So I ordered the Surfer Girl Omlette (fresh spinach, wild mushrooms, tomato, cream cheese and onion and topped with diced fresh avocado, pico de gallo, sour cream and fresh alfalfa sprouts. Served with skillet potatoes).  I got mine without the cream cheese and sour cream.  My sister got the same thing, just without the mushrooms (she hates mushrooms).  And Cathy got the Kalamity Katie’s Border Benedict (green chili cheddar corn cakes,topped with chorizo, two poached eggs and queso fundido, pico de gallo, sour cream, green onions and avocado. Served with skillet potatoes and an Everything Muffin).  And, yes, I got a blueberry muffin for Landon.  He was pretty full after eating the two pancakes that were as big as his face and the bacon he ordered…but he took a few bites.  The rest…came home with us and then went home with them today.

6.  Pierced Ears

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Okay, here is something that I didn’t expect to happen this weekend.  My sister and I got to talking about earrings…and she brought up how her daughter (she’s 16 months) had her earrings work out perfectly…and how my mom (whose holes closed because she stopped wearing earrings) had just gotten her ears pierced a few weeks ago.  I said that I keep saying I need to get it done but just haven’t pulled the trigger.  I think a part of me thinks it will fail again.  As a kid, I gave the pierced ears a try about 5 times, but always and an allergic reaction to them.  My sister was the same way, but it worked for her as an adult.  So, she told Cathy to pull into somewhere that could pierce my ears.  We did.  And now I sit here with beautiful 4mm white gold studs in my ears.  Karla taught me how to clean and turn the earrings every day (3 times a day)…and the rest is history.  So here is hoping that they work out this time around…because I have wanted to have pierced ears for a long, long time.  Leave it to my sister to get me to do something like this on a short weekend visit.  HA!

A shopping trip to a few of our favorite stores followed up that little adventure.

7.  Putt-Putt

Because you can’t just spend the day shopping when you have a 9-year-old boy with you, we took Landon to the Renaissance Fun Park.  We had discussed Go Karts…but opted, instead, for putt-putt.  It had been ages since my sister and I went putt-putting.  It was a lot of fun.  The easy holes on the course they put together there are actually quite challenging.  But we had a blast.  Afterwards, Landon and I took on some air hockey…which he won…and then he played a few more games after that…until the money on his card ran out.  It was worth every moment to see him out there laughing and being a competitive little boy.


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.  SOCCER!!!

One of the main reasons my sister aimed for this weekend was that the local professional soccer team, Louisville City FC, was playing on Saturday night.  And, since Landon is a HUGE soccer fan, and soccer player himself, we thought it would be fun to take him to a match.  I said I wanted to get him a replica jersey for him to wear during the match and she picked him up a hat and then got a t-shirt for Chace.  I made sure Karla wore the logo t-shirt I owned to the match as well.  They got some pizza for dinner and we settled into our seats at midfield to enjoy.  I have never seen Landon so into an event as that soccer game.  Seriously, he was shouting at the players and the refs…and it was just magical and fun and amazing.  I bought him ice cream at half time because…it’s my job as Auntie…to spoil him and get him hyped up on sugar.  HAHA!  In the end, after a horrible call by a ref, we ended in a draw of 1-1…and Landon had hoped that some of the players would come over to the midfield (they usually do) so he could get pictures and some autographs, but they all returned to the locker room without coming over.  He was bummed, but he still had a fantastic time, and I loved seeing him light up the way he did when Louisville City scored the first goal of the match!

9.  Home-Cooked Breakfast

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I gave my sister and Landon the option of grabbing breakfast out at a restaurant before they hit the road…or having me cook breakfast for them.  Landon really wanted waffles (with powdered sugar, which he now LOVES thanks to Wild Eggs putting it on his pancakes), scrambled eggs…and bacon.  So, my sister and I hit the grocery store for bacon (this vegetarian does not have bacon on hand), eggs, and a gluten-free waffle/pancake mix.  And then, this morning, I got to cooking.  I started the waffles first, knowing that would take the most time.  He wanted the Mickey Mouse shaped waffles…so I made that happen for him.  And, because we adults weren’t too sure we wanted waffles, we had gluten-free avocado toast with our eggs.  I started cooking the bacon before Karla emerged from the bedroom, but she took over that so I could focus on toasting the bread, doing the waffles, and scrambling the eggs.  It all finished up at the right time…everything done when it should be.  Breakfast was served.  And I didn’t take a picture of it, but Karla and I cook epic breakfasts together.  And Cathy now has lots of bacon in the fridge for this coming week.  Which makes her happy.

After that…they had to hit the road and get home…

It was hard to let them go, but I know Karla’s husband and other two kids were missing her and Landon like crazy.  I just was having such a good time and all the time together went by way too fast.

They got home late this afternoon…and she said that they missed me as well.

I hope we do it again soon.

Sisters really do make everything better!

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Take The Heat

Guess what, folks?

It’s SUMMER!!

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And let’s face it…the Olaf/Frozen/In Summer references don’t get old.  Because…it’s Olaf.  And Olaf is awesome.  Anyone who says so has no soul.

Summer is H-O-T.  HOT!  So hot.  And while I prefer to train in the heat…the one thing I do suffer through (like most other people) is the humidity.  And being that I live in the Ohio River Valley…it’s pretty damn humid.  Like…all the time.  One morning, this past week, I got up to run and it was 84 degrees at 4 am.  That’s not normal!  And it’s not even July yet.

With all that being said, how about I highlight some of the things that made this hot and stormy week a little cooler…

1.  Game of Thrones

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So, last Sunday was, possibly, one of the best episodes of Game of Thrones.  The battle scene, shown above, was one of the most intense and best things I have ever seen on television.  Kit Harrington, who plays Jon Snow, was amazing in this episode and totally deserves to win some awards.  I mean, he really had 100 horses charging at him.  That is not CGI!!  Unfortunately, my HBO Now stream was locked up (as was the rest of the world, apparently), so I ended up having to stay up an hour later than usual to actually watch the episode.  I was NOT looking forward to spending an entire day off the Interwebs if I saved it to watch the following day.  It was totally worth it, but damn, it through off the rest of my week for sure.

All that being said, tonight is the season finale!  OMG!!!  I hope HBO Now isn’t bogged down this week and that the finale lives up to this past week…because…DAMN!

2.  Blueberry Picking
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First of all…yes…I picked the blueberries pictured above.  I went to Bryant’s Blueberries with the intention of only picking 5 pounds of berries…but the crop of Blue Crop berries this week were AMAZING!  I mean…big and ripe and awesome.  Oh yes…I was in a good place.  So, as it was bound to happen…I got 10 more pounds.  WORTH IT.  These are the best blueberries I have ever had.  Forget anything you get in the store.  I don’t know if more jam will be in the future, but I think some blueberry bagels and/or waffles and/or pancakes will be happening.  And blueberry muffins are definitely happening.

3.  Louisville City FC…SOCCER BABY!!
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So, on Tuesday (which meant I did my hill repeats in the heat of the day…after 2 spin classes on Monday), and last night, I was at Louisville Slugger Field, not for baseball…but for soccer!!  I am a season ticket holder to Louisville’s very own professional soccer team.  In fact, last night’s match was broadcast on ESPN3.  Which is pretty cool.  We also had our highest attendance record to date, finally breaking that 10,000 mark.  In fact, it was 10, 062 showed up for the match last night.

But, beyond that, after the match on Tuesday night, I got to get my picture with my favorite player this year, Enrique Montano (#20).  I look horrible in the picture, as I still had my hat on (I hate hats), and I had been melting in that heat I had been speaking about…but this picture is…awesome!  I love when the payers come over to the midfield section to meet the fans.  And Montano is very good about that.  Happiness.

If you’re local and haven’t made it to a Louisville City FC match yet…stop delaying.  Our team leads our division…so we’re pretty awesome.  It’s worth it

4.  Fun Hair
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I don’t think it will last for long, but on Wednesday afternoon, I went to my hairdresser and we got a little funky with my hair.  Teal.  Yes…I dyed my hair teal.  Not all of it, but quite a bit of it.  The problem is, I workout and run quite often, so I sweat.  And my hair, just being blonde, doesn’t hold color too well.  So, I’m enjoying it while it lasts, but it’s already, sadly, fading.

5.  Roadside Assistance
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I’m not talking about AAA or the local trucks that stop and help out stranded drivers.  Nope.  I’m talking about a super-amazing project that I am a part of with some great friends of mine.  One of my girls, Indy (aka: Jennifer), had a spark of genius about creating a project that centers around the songs released off of Peter Cincotti’s new album.  Since Exit 105 was released the other day, Indy put together a Tumblr blog and posted a recipe already for a cocktail based off the song “Long Way From Home.” So from now until Peter’s birthday on July 11th, we’ll be developing and sharing recipes inspired by the songs on the EP. These will be shared everywhere we can think to post them, but will also be collected onto a Tumblr blog-http://exit105-roadside-assistance.tumblr.com/ Check it out!!

And if you are unfamiliar with the talent of Peter Cincotti…discover him…NOW!

Did you do anything amazing, fun, and/or exciting this past week?  Ever dye your hair a crazy color?  Got any fun plans for the upcoming 4th of July holiday?

Moving Forward…No Regrets

You know…it’s heating up outside.  Yes.  It is.  And I sort of love it.  I really, really do!  I mean, I don’t want those blazing hot triple digits, but I have been waiting for the warmer weather…and suffered through the chilly, cold, bitter winter.  We never really have spring here, so…yeah, I’ve been waiting for this.

Yesterday was beautiful.  It was humid, but definitely not as stifling as last week.  And I met with my training partner in a new space with new people…the Louisville Landsharks.  Most of them were keeping their runs down to an hour or 2-6 miles, as they were all doing the TriLouisville triathlon this morning.  As he and I are both running hilly races (and selfishly, we really didn’t want to take on Eastern Parkway), we continued on into Iroqouis Park, and ran all the way to the top and then back.  It was one of my best training runs to date.  I felt good during and after.  Now before…before…not so much.  Let’s take a look at some stuff this week.

1.  Grandma’s Marathon
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When I started back to training this past January, after being cleared to run, and getting approval from Katie, my physical therapist, to follow the Norton Training Program as they all prepped for a late April marathon or half marathon (I ran the half), it was all part of going back and forth between the full and half training program as I prepped for the NYC Half Marathon and then…Grandma’s Marathon.  I was signed up to run it.  It’s my grandpa’s absolute favorite marathon.  And this year…it was their 40th Anniversary.  Big!!  I pepped for this by jumping right into a 20 miler in April because…I needed to see how my body could handle long, long distance.  I came out of it feeling great.  But I didn’t feel ready.  So I transferred my bib and that was that.  The race ran yesterday…and that morning, I felt good.  I felt really good.  Physically, I could have gone out and run this marathon and completed it.  But I think, mentally, I need more time before tackling the 26.2 mile distance.  So, while giving up my spot in that marathon was the best choice, it wasn’t an easy one.  I don’t regret it…but I know I could have done it…now.  Even though the race did get black flagged due to extreme heat.  Runners were allowed to stay out…but that’s pretty intense.  Still…I do sort of wish I had gone…but I know this will just make me better and more prepared (mentally) for my brutal (but beautiful) September race.

2.  The Best Water Stop Ever
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Need a good laugh?  Check this out.  As I mentioned, Matthew and I were running 14 miles yesterday and we took it to the hills.  Along the way, there are a few spots we can stop to refill our water bottles.  When the weather gets this humid and hot, hydration is important.  So, on our way back to our starting point, we made our final water stop, thinking we were actually embarking on closer to 15 miles (which was fine…) to finish up.  We filled up at the water fountain, took some swigs and poured the water over our heads to cool down.  And started on our way again.  Only to see that our finishing point…was not but 0.15 miles away.  Seriously, we rounded the corner from the little alcove the water fountain was in and…BOOM.  We could see our start point.  We both busted out laughing.  But it did get us to our 14 miles we set out to run…so there was that.  This is what happens when you do something new.  You don’t exactly know how much further you have to go.  HA!

3.  Mediterranean Food
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My roommate might be addicted to a meal that I make…although not too often.  I say this because last night, I had the bright idea of making some Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) for dinner.  I had one last batch of grape leaves in the fridge to use.  But…as I went to get dinner prepped, as the rice was cooling…I noticed the grape leaves had gone bad.  I told her we’d just have them tomorrow, but she insisted she’d been looking forward to them all day, and actually went out to Meijer to pick up more grape leaves.  That was how much she wanted me to make these.  So…for dinner, I cooked up the dolmades, served it with tzatziki and a side salad of greens and veggies and a garlic vinaigrette.   It was really good.  I love making these.  Sort of labor intensive…but worth it.  Besides, the Mediterranean Diet has been proven to be the healthiest one out there.  Consider me…a giver of health.  HA!

4.  How A Superhero Learns To Fly…
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So…last Sunday, I had my friend Natalie over for dinner.  I cooked up Smokey Zucchini Cakes with a Creamy Lemon Sauce, and some Cauliflower Breadsticks.  She brought the fruit.  SO GOOD!  And then, we all settled in to watch Zootopia, rounding out the Disney Animated Movies In Order (as it is currently the last one) marathon.  She had never seen it, so that was fun.  But, during the movie, there was a loud BANG that sounded at the door.  Instead of cowering and wondering what it was, Cathy, Natalie and I sprung up to go check it out.  We ain’t afraid of no ghost…intruder…whatever it was.  Turned out it was the wind, but it we all laughed at how we were ready to get our crime fighter mode on. Which started this talk about being Superheroes.  Which lead to Cathy in a Jane hat (Firefly), carrying a Captain America shield (Marvel), with a cloak on (Lord of the Rings) and a pipe…for some reason (Sherlock), armed with a plunger (Dr. Who); Natalie in a pirate hat and coat, armed with a pistol and sword; and me in a mermaid dress and a squid hat carrying a Dinglehopper…er…I mean a fork…

We were…the Fandom Fighters…and we went outside in public like this and got caught by one of my neighbors.  It was so much fun.  I haven’t laughed like that in a long time.

Don’t ask why I have a mermaid dress…


5.  Blueberry Picking
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Cross another thing off the Summer Bucket List.  For real.  Yesterday…after my humid and hot run, and after refueling with some Allergen Free Biscuits and Jam from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe…Cathy and I headed out to New Salisbury, Indiana, to Bryant’s Blueberries.  There, under the screaming hot, mid-day sun…we picked 10 pounds of blueberries.  What am I doing with 10 pounds of blueberries.  Jam!!  I am making jam.  And, apparently, scones.  Because Cathy keeps mentioning scones.  And…I’m sue there will be pancakes.  Pancakes are always a good idea.  Or…maybe donuts.  Hmmm…I’ve been meaning to make some donuts.

Or maybe…blueberry bagels.  I need to make bagels.  I might make bagels…I should make bagels.

Anyway…I have ALL THE BLUEBERRIES!!  Blueberries for days!!!

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And I’m known for my jam…so…I can’t wait to give some of these out to people!!

6.  Finding Dory
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Well, the Renaissance Faire is a no-go this weekend.  It is, after all, Father’s Day weekend.  That being said, Cathy and I needed to fill in some time…so we are off to see Finding Dory this morning.  SO excited for this sequal.  Finding Nemo is probably my 2nd favorite Pixar movie (the first being Inside Out).  So, this is a big huge deal for me.  And I’m so excited to go.  Other than being a film lover, and someone who used to want to animate for Disney, I just love the Finding Nemo story.  And it is INCREDIBLE how far technology has come since the release of the original movie in 2003.

7.  Earth to Echo
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Okay…I realize that the film, Earth to Echo, came out over 2 years ago, but I’ve been in this 2 year loop of ALL THE DISNEY ANIMATED MOVIES for the past 2 years.  So, now I’m watching movies I wanted to see, but couldn’t since Disney was taking over my life, time, and movie watching time slot.  I had my eyes on Earth to Echo for a long while…as it was made as an homage to Spielberg.  I mean, the plot is pretty much lifted from E.T., but also borrows heavily from The Goonies and other 80s movies about kids hanging out and doing things.  But it is filmed in that old-school Spielberg technique which just makes you feel like you are right there in the movie itself.  I didn’t expect too much, but this film was adorable and I loved every moment of it.  Seriously.  If you overlooked this one…it’s on Netflix…go watch it…NOW.

8.  Father’s Day


And…last, but not least…HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!!  My dad has been such a steadfast, supportive, and integral part of my life.  I may live in a totally different state, but he has always cheered for me, guided me, and helped me to understand the value of making it in the world…on my own.  He’s why I am a strong, independent woman.  My dad is one of the nicest men in the world, still opening doors for my mom, my sister and me when we are with him, still waits at the security check until I am completely through at the airport, and still wants to take me out to eat when I come visit.  He’s my (super) hero…and I am lucky to have such an amazing man to call my dad!!

Did you do anything special in honor of Father’s Day?  Seen any good movies lately?  Ever pick blueberries?

Hope everyone had an epic week!!

Weekly Wrap-Up

I know, I have been horrible about these weekly posts about good, shiny things with rainbows and sprinkles and all that lot.

But the truth is…

…I’ve been busy.

Like…very busy.  On the road, racing, cooking, baking, seeing friends, living life…

That sort of busy.  The kind of busy when I get home on Sunday from finishing up any and/or all grocery shopping and errands that were ignored Friday night and Saturday due to time constraints or whatnot…and I really don’t want to do anything except sit and veg, foam roll, and watch Game of Thrones.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But…I do like my little roundups of what has been going on…so here’s one for this week.  I’ll try to be a bit more consistent…

So, what have I been doing?  Well…where to start?

1. Back-To-Back Weekend Half Marathons


Okay…I know, when coming back from a year off of injury, the last thing I should be doing is racing back-to-back long distances, right?!  Well…technically…not in my case.  My PT and I have discussed the importance of mileage as I attempt to build myself back up to a marathon distances.  I already transferred my bib for the spring one that I signed up for, and have made someone a very happy racer to have that bib and chance to be part of a marathon I have been dying to turn.  That being said, my training continues and last weekend, I was scheduled for a 16 miler…and this past weekend 13 miles.  It just so happened that last weekend was the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon & Mini Marathon race.  I signed up because my friend, Deana, encouraged me to do so.  With 16 miles on the docket, I got up and ran 3 ahead of the race and then completed the last 13.1 miles in the rain…with lots of people and a medal at the end.  A couple of months ago, I signed up for the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon up in Indianapolis. I ran this one back in 2012, and this year, Meb Keflezighi was not only sending off every wave of the race, but he was running from the back of the pack to the front.  HOW COOL!!  So, I signed up and went up to Indy this past Friday night to race on Saturday morning in the humidity. That being said, I had my first completely pain-free race and came within 1:06 of matching my PR time for a half.  I never did get to meet Meb though.  He started just after I finished…and I beat his time.  Something tells me that he wasn’t here to all-out run this one, though, LOL!  So, I’d say my return to running has been smart, slow, and steady.  It’s been fun having races on the schedule again.  I am not running any races this year for time or for PRs…just for fun.  And that’s making a big difference in how I approach going into them.  But it is nice to see that my fitness and strength haven’t gone to hell in the forced year off.

2. Captain America: Civil War
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I am totally #TeamIronMan.  My roommate is totally #TeamCap.  So, we have our own little Civil War as it is.  That being said, today we went to the movie theater and saw Captain America: Civil War and it was everything I expected and more.  I hate seeing a divided Avengers…but I love where they took this movie.  I loved how everything played out and how they are setting up for future films on the way.  If you haven’t seen it yet…GO.  Do not hesitate.  Do not pass GO or collect $200. (Monopoly reference there, LOL!)  Buy a movie ticket (I know they are expensive…but OMG…WORTH IT) and sit your butt down in a movie theater seat with popcorn and a drink and just…ENJOY IT!

#TeamStark forever!

3. The AlterG Treadmill
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Welcome to the spaceship!!  That’s what AlterG tweeted back to me after I blogged about my experience running on an AlterG Treadmill.  First of all, this is forever happening.  Seriously, I am going to pay for package minutes to run on this thing because it is going to mean I can train like I need to and take all the pounding off my body and come out of it faster, stronger, and injury free.  It’s totally worth it.  After getting to take a spin, as it were, and test it out…I can see why so many elite runners make use of the AlterG when recovering from hard races and/or from injury.  This machine has forever changed my way of training and recovering.  I am very fortunate that my physical therapist office has one to use.  Seriously…life changing.  Regular treadmills tear me up.  This one…I could fly…so fast…and when I was finished…nothing even twinged at me.  LIFE CHANGING!

4. NuttZo
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I posted week or so ago about the Spring Sale going on with NuttZo.  I’m a #NuttZoAmbassador and decided I would take advantage of said sale.  If you missed out, I even offered my ambassador code for a 20% discount.  Stay tuned, as I am certain more sales will be headed this way.  That being said…I purchased the big jar of the Chocolate Power Fuel and then one of each of their available varieties: Original Peanut (Smooth), Original Peanut (Crunchy), Chocolate Original Peanut (Smooth), Chocolate Original Peanut (Crunchy), Power Fuel (Smooth), and (my personal favorite) Power Fuel (Crunchy).  If you are unfamiliar with NuttZo…you’re missing out.  Nuttzo is a medley of seven organic nuts and seeds…all combined to make a healthy, omega-rich, organic nut butter.  I love being a product ambassador for this amazing nut butter.  It’s pricey…but it’s worth it.  Take a chance and try it out!  You can find it in local stores or find buy it in their online store. #NuttZoFanatic #NuttZoLove #EatNuttZo

5.  Re-reading the Harry Potter Books
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I blame the upcoming release of a movie, the new book coming out, and the fact that the best time I had in Universal Studios a few weeks back was at both Harry Potter Worlds.  All of that has spawned me to revisit the entire book series.  In fact, I just wrapped up the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and will be starting Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets this week.  SO looking forward to it.  This re-read was a long time coming.  Been meaning to do this for awhile.

6. The new Goo Goo Dolls album, “Boxes”
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I have been a fan of the Goo Goo Dolls since…well…forever.  No joke. I was with them in their punk music days, and then stuck with them when they went mainstream rock.  I love their music.  And, somehow, they sneaked an album out on me. Seriously.  But after my race on Saturday, I went and picked it up.  This album is AMAZING.  I have listened to it all the way through at least 4 times this weekend.  If you haven’t heard it yet…listen to it…purchase it…enjoy it.  Nice to have some new material from them.

7. Repaying an Act of Kindness


So, just before the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon…like…Thursday morning (the race was Saturday), my Garmin 620…died.  It refused to charge, hold a charge, or turn on.  I was not a happy runner.  I posted about it on Facebook and had a lot of beautiful souls offer to let me borrow their watches for the race.  But, one of the race ambassadors, and a lady I came to know and count as a friend during the whole Norton Training Program for the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon & Mini Marathon, Melissa, offered just to give me one.  It was a no-frills watch. In fact, it was the original Garmin I had before I got the 620, so I even knew how to work it.  She didn’t ask for me to pay for it, she just said she’d give it to me.  So, in order to repay her, I do what I do best…I made her Lemon Blossoms, picked up a soft pretzel from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe, and delivered them to her that Wednesday around lunch.  It was nice to talk for a moment about our upcoming plans, and she and I are going to take a run together soon.  I love having someone join me on my morning runs.  We’ll have a good time.  This woman has a big heart and a beautiful soul.  I am so happy I got to know her.

8. The Return of Sweet ‘N Savory Food Truck
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So…a month or so ago, I went online to find out when Sweet ‘N Savory would be returning to Louisville to serve up their amazing gluten-free crepes.  I know they had mentioned they had their first event planned for April, so I wanted to be in on it.  But, what I found instead was a message that the owners were pursuing their first love…training horses, and would not be returning.  I was happy for them, that they were making a good living and doing what they love…but selfishly, I was sad because their crepes and their gelato were like none other.  Well, this weekend while I was on the road, I saw messages about them being in Louisville and serving.  Turns out, they are under new ownership.  The new owner is Brandon Lutsch, who is very familiar with the importance of gluten-free foods as his wife is a Celiac.  I am going to go and introduce myself once they have their May calendar up.  I hope to become as good friends with them as I was with the original owners, Richard and Ashley!  I can’t wait to get my hands on a crepe!!  I’ve been crazing!!

And that’s a wrap for these past few weeks.  Logging off for some decaf coffee and some Game of Thrones.

Have you eaten anything fun, new, and exciting?  Do you have a favorite food truck?  Have you ever done or been a recipient of a random act of kindness?

Life’s Too Short to Miss the Sweeter Things

Two fun facts about me:

1. I love eating healthy
2. I love sweets (especially chocolate)

What we have here, my friends, is a constant battle of sheer willpower.  But, the fact of the matter is…sometimes you just have to find a way to treat yourself.  Naturally, I stick to my necessary gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian lifestyle…however, this doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy some of the finer things in life.

That being said, 2016 is a year of change for me.  I’m trying to improve myself, my body, my soul, my mindset…I’m trying to reach both long-term and short-term goals.  And part of that is definitely making certain tweaks to the diet.

I’m not saying I am cutting out sweets and desserts entirely.  That’s inhuman.  But, I am cutting back on them.  And once the current ones in the pantry are moved out…they aren’t coming back in.  I buy gluten-free…so I’m too cheap to just toss the stuff away.

That being said, I’m always game for trying new ways to make an indulgence healthier.  And awhile back, the amazing Lottie Bildirici, better known in the social media world as “Running on Veggies” posted about the treat she made for Kara Goucher (yes…THE Kara Goucher) when she was coming to NYC to run the NYC Marathon.  Kara chose blondies as her treat and Bildirici got to work researching and coming up with a recipe that would not only seem like a treat, but be made with real ingredients, nothing processed, and be healthy.  When the recipe posted, I was beyond intrigued.  Granted, my foray into baking using beans as a base resulted in brownies that tasted like black beans, so I did have my reservations going into this…but I decided to give it a try.

Blondies made without flour…and by using garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and dates as the sweetener.  Well…there was only one way to find out how this would turn out.  I hoped for the best, since Kara Goucher was a fan…but…hey…some things you have to try yourself.

So this was what I put into my food processor this past Sunday afternoon:

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Everything but the dairy-free dark chocolate chips, that is.  Any nut butter (or nut-free butter) will work, but I’m a huge fan, and an ambassador, for NuttZo…and it really is the best stuff on the market.  Find it.  Trust me…it’s worth the price!

After giving everything a whirl in the food processor, I was left with a light and fluffy fatter.  I folded in the chocolate chips, sprayed down some muffin tins and began to evenly distribute the batter into 24 muffin tins.

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After baking for around 40 minutes, I removed the pans from the oven and let everything sit, untouched for over an hour.  At that point, I moved everything to a sheet pan (carefully) and then into the freezer.  But not without trying one.

First of all, they don’t taste bean-y…and they don’t taste like dates either.  They actually taste like a decadent little dessert or muffin.  Especially when warmed up in the microwave for about 30 seconds or longer.  Although, I love them frozen too…but I’m weird like that.  These are an amazing treat and one that I don’t feel bad about eating because…it was made from real food.

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I know a lot of people look down on those who enjoy a treat every now and again…but the fact of the matter is…we’ve got it all wrong.  Not all calories are created equal.  Just like now not all carbohydrates and fats are either.  That’s the being said, I am a firm believer in counting nutrition, not calories.  And that’s what making something like this is all about.

And trust me…they are SO good.

If you want to give them a try…you can get the recipe here!  They are easy to make, and delicious.  Trust me…you’ll want to keep these on hand!  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack or dessert…these are truly a delicious and healthy treat.

Eat real food.  These treats are more like a healthy choice than an indulgence.  And what’s not to love about that?!

Product Review: Pillsbury Gluten Free Banana Quick Bread & Muffin Mix

Pillsbury Gluten Free Banana Quick Bread & Muffin Mix

Pillsbury Gluten Free Banana Quick Bread & Muffin Mix

Product: Pillsbury Gluten Free Banana Quick Bread & Muffin Mix – $4.49+

You know…I don’t shop at Wal-Mart often.  I don’t.  But, there is this gorgeous Neighborhood Market version of Wal-Mart (it is all groceries!) in Louisville, and if I happen to be on that side of the city, I’ll stop in for some essentials that.  I mean, the prices are right and it’s not all sketchy like some other Wal-Marts are.  Nor is it busy, so that is also a plus!

I rarely go off my grocery list these days…but one day while searching an aisle for something, I spotted a box of gluten-free banana bread.  We all are aware that my forays into gluten-free banana bread have been epic fails…every single time.  And here…here was a mix that would do all the difficult stuff for me…and all I had to do was add a few things and pop it in the oven.

Easy peasy, right?

So, yeah…you better believe that box came home.

For the record, the box just happened to be a new baking mix from the amazing Pillsbury, who seems to have embraced the gluten-free market as of late, having started with refrigerated dough for pizza, cookes, and pie.  Since then, it has introduced gluten-free funfetti cake mix (I have some of this in my pantry), gluten-free funfetti cookie mix, gluten-free multi-purpose flour, and gluten-free quick bread and muffin mix.  They also have already made gluten-free muffins out there…I have yet to find them though.

That being said…the great pantry purge is underway and this weekend, with all the horrible events going on in the world, I needed to comfort myself with a little baking.  So, I pulled out the box of the Pillsbury Gluten Free Banana Quick Bread & Muffin Mix and decided I was going to give it a try.  But why just bake it up as bread?  Why do the easy thing?  Instead, there was a recipe on the side of the box for Gluten Free Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins.  Which sounds…frickin’ fantastic.  I didn’t have any chunky peanut butter on hand, so I used my PB2 powder from the pantry and it worked out just fine.  No peanut chunks…but…hey, I saved some calories and fat, right?  HA!

So, this recipe was really, really easy.

Simply preheat the oven to 375°F.  Put the mix into a large bowl and add water, extra crunchy peanut butter (I used PB2 and it worked great! No little peanut chunks though…so there is that…), vegetable oil, 2 eggs, and some miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips (or dark chocolate chips…which is what I used) and beat the conglomeration of ingredients into a thick batter.  Spoon it into 18 muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes until they are golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let them cool for about 10 minutes in the muffin tin before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

I get a little skeptical, at times, when it comes to big-name companies jumping onto the gluten-free bandwagon.  But Betty Crocker managed to do it well, and, to be honest, Pillsbury really hit it out of the ballpark with this particular mix.  I was beyond impressed.  The muffins fluffed up and cooked to a beautiful golden brown.  So often, these mixes turn out pale products, regardless of sitting in the heat of the oven.  They centers were moist and rich.  The muffins themselves bold with banana flavor, and the PB2 gives it a nice peanut butter thought, without overpowering the banana.  Because, after all, I bought this because I suck at making gluten-free banana bread.  The dark chocolate morsels (I used Enjoy Life, for the record), were a nice, sweet touch.  I had to make myself stick to just one of the muffins, because I easily could have eaten three right then and there.  So good.  Moist, rich, and delicious!!

So, as we all know, I usually steer clear of mixes like this due to ingredients and trying to eat a bit cleaner.  But we all have to indulge a little bit, right?  Right!  So, Pillsbury makes its Gluten Free Banana Quick Bread & Muffin Mix from rice flour, sugar, tapioca starch, potato starch, dried banana, dextrose, and it contains 2% or less of: leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, calcium phosphate), canola oil, cellulose, propylene glycol esters of fatty acids, distilled monoglycerides, xanthan gum, salt, natural and artificial flavors, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, nonfat dry milk, citrick acid and bht (antioxidents).  Whew.  A lot of preservatives and the such, but I don’t make this stuff often…and I just really wanted to see how it worked out.  Totally worth it for an every-now-and-again fill-in, especially if I want banana bread.  At least until someone can give me a recipe that I can actually master and make without it being…gross.

As for nutritional information…the Pillsbury Gluten Free Banana Quick Bread & Muffin Mix makes 12 servings.  Each serving will dish up 120 calories, 1 gram fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 220 mg sodium, 28 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams sugars, and 1 gram protein.  If prepared (as the banana quick bread or plain banana muffins), the calories per 12 servings goes up to 170 calories, 6 grams fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 230 mg sodium, and 2 grams protein.  Not too bad for a quick bread mix…and really not bad for a gluten-free product!

I have to say, I was beyond amazed with the quality and the taste  of the Pillsbury Gluten Free Banana Quick Bread & Muffin Mix.  These muffins were moist, delicious, and so easy to prepare and make.  I would be more than happy to try other Pillsbury mixes (I guess the funfetti cake mix is up next), because this blew me away.  The texture was perfection.  The flavors were bold and pronounced.  And it only took me 10 minutes of prep time at most.  Can’t beat that convenience.  Way to go Pillsbury!  Thank you for your gluten-free awesomeness!

Restaurant Review: Bake Me Happy, Columbus, Ohio

Bake Me Happy, Columbus, Ohio

Bake Me Happy, Columbus, Ohio

Restaurant: Bake Me Happy, Columbus, Ohio

Okay…technically this is not a restaurant.  There is no open seating, no tables, no hostess…none of that.  This is a bakery.  Not just any bakery though. This bakery has huge kitchen space to work out of, and in turn, offers up quite a lot of gluten-free goodies in their store.

Bake Me Happy was started by the lovely Wendy and Letha, committing themselves to making each and every bite that you have from their products the most decadent thing you’ve had since sliced bread.  Sliced bread, however, is not on their menu.  After being self-diagnosed with gluten intolerance in 2006, Wendy immediately felt relieve from a life of digestive issues.  The only problem was…the gluten-free food choices available lacked flavor and texture, seriously limiting what she would be willing to consume (and who can blame her!?).  After many years of self-study, she decided to take the plunge and signed up for an immersion course at the Culinary Institute of America, experimenting with recipes and trying them out on unsuspecting friends.  Soon, both friends and family began requesting her treats for parties, and none of them were gluten intolerant.  From there, Wendy expanded and began offering her products to the public.  And from the huge response she got from her goodies…Bake Me Happy, the bakery, was born.  And because Wendy understands what it is like to have a food intolerance , you can guarantee that she takes great care and pride in the products that she puts out for the public.  Not only does she understand the importance of what she does, she also knows that a perfect recipe cannot be rushed and that the best things in life are worth waiting for.

Just over a month ago, I wrote up a review on Bake Me Happy’s Cream-Filled Spongies (think Twinkies), which I found in the freezer at Raisin Rack in Columbus, Ohio.  While they were…okay…they didn’t wow me.  And in response to my post about their product, the owners very kindly invited me to check out the bakery the next time I was in the Columbus area.  As one of my best friends lives in that area, I make the trip there numerous times a year.  And…this past Halloween weekend…that was where you found me.  And, I recalled their invite to check out what fresh goodness they had at their bakery, instead of a freezer at a natural foods store…so…that morning after breakfast, my friends and I journeyed over to their Merion Village retail location to check out what fresh goodies awaited.

First of all, I was completely blown away by the amount of space they had in there.  HUGE location.  I am so accustomed to my gluten free bakeries being little, tight spots that have a few seats and a small kitchen.  Not to say they don’t turn out quite a lot of products (Annie May’s Sweet Cafe and Cherbourg Bakery, I’m looking at you!), but this kitchen space was unbelievable.  You step inside and it’s just open and not congested, even if there is a line.  It was nice.  Their storefront contains a counter that was jammed full of fresh baked goodness, and a smaller fridge that kept items like their cheesecake bars and other dairy-based goodies chilled and fresh.  It was organized.  It was adorable.  And I already knew I wanted one of their soft t-shirts before I left.  HA!

Bake Me Happy's Gluten Free Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mummy Tart, Gluten Free Lemon Blueberry Bundt, and Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Donut Muffin

Bake Me Happy’s Gluten Free Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mummy Tart, Gluten Free Lemon Blueberry Bundt, and Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Donut Muffin

So, after going back and forth on a few items (I really wanted one of the huge Apple Dumplings, but the roomie, who I was splitting everything with, was less enthusiastic), we finally got our turn at the counter and we made our selections, keeping it reasonable and promising to return to try more.  So, four items.  It was hard to narrow it down.  In the end, we ended up going with a Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mummy Tart, a Pumpkin Spice Donut Muffin, a Lemon Blueberry Bundt, and (not pictured above because I devoured it on the car ride home) a Almond, Coconut & Chocolate Chip Scone.  In addition to that (and for a later blog) I purchased a box of their Take-And-Bake scones in the Blueberry, Goat Cheese & Basil flavor (roomie’s choice!).

So, let’s start with what I ended up eating first.  The (not pictured) Gluten Free Almond, Coconut & Chocolate Chip Scone ($3.50) sounded like a dream to me.  Like…a baked treat version of an Almond Joy.  Delicious, right?  Absolutely right!!  This is the first time I have had a gluten-free scone that lived up to the scone name.  I make scones, but none of them get the layers of pastry, and that flaky and crumbly texture to them.  This one had exactly that.  It was the most perfect scone I have had since going gluten free.  It had that hard outer layer and inside was a dry, crumbly, but not dense.  More biscuit-like.  I was in love.  And the blend of the sweet coconut and chocolate with the nuttiness of the almond made for more love and praise than I can even convey in words here.  Needless to say, the scone was devoured in record time.  And I loved every single bite.  I might have licked my fingers clean too.  You can get Bake Me Happy’s Gluten Free Scones in the following flavors: Almond, Coconut and Chocolate Chip; Ham, Cheese and Chives; Maple Cream, Bacon and White Cheddar; Blueberry, Goat Cheese and Basil; Jalapeño, Pepper Bacon and Pepper Jack Cheese; Apricot, White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut; and Dill, White Cheddar and Stone Ground Mustard.

As I visited the bakery on Halloween, they had quite a few Halloween themed treats.  One of these was the adorable Gluten Free Pumpkin Cream Cheese Mummy Tart ($3.50 (I think…)).  I mean, come on…they are tarts that look like mummies.  Eyes and everything.  Bonus…pumpkin flavored.  YUM YUM!!  This was the first thing I ate the next day when I set out to devour half of each pastry (with my roommate, who is not gluten-free) consuming the other half and giving me her thoughts.  I loved, loved, LOVED the light and flaky pastry that these tarts are made from.  It reminded me of puff pastry…flaky, buttery, amazing, delicious, heavenly.  And the pumpkin cream cheese filler was the perfect amount.  Not too much.  Not heavy handed.  But just enough to make it feel like you were taking a bite out of an amazing pumpkin pie.  I was in pumpkin-everything heaven, let me tell you!!  So happy.  The first thing I said to Cathy when I took a bite was, “OH MY GOD THIS PASTRY!”  Blown away.  This was the first pastry crust that has actually impressed me since I’ve been gluten free.  Total win.  Totally want another one…or ten.

The Gluten Free Lemon Blueberry Bundt ($4.50) was Cathy’s (the roomie) choice when it came to items that we selected.  She is a sucker (see what I did there?) for anything lemon.  So, I had a feeling when we were making our selections that she would go that route.  Next time I want a flippin’ apple dumpling.  Because I have never seen a gluten free apple dumpling before.  But…no matter.  The bundt cake was dense, but not heavy.  I loved how moist and sticky good this little cake was.  The blueberries brought a nice pop of sweetness.  Cathy didn’t think there was enough lemon flavor in it, but I thought it struck a nice balance.  The lemon was complimentary to the blueberry, not overpowering or underwhelming.  Just right.  I might have saved this for my last bite because, while dense, I found the texture quite light, airy, and amazing.  And I thought the flavor was above and beyond what I expected.  Crazy good.

And, last but not least, falling under the category that if it’s pumpkin I want to eat it…is the Gluten Free Pumpkin Donut Muffin ($3.00).  Strangely enough, this turned out to be Cathy’s favorite thing that we bought at Bake Me Happy.  I was shocked when she told me that.  But, quite honestly, this was one of the most perfect gluten-free donut anythings that I’ve had in a long time.  The texture was perfect.  Not too dense, but not too light either.  Perfect balance.  The flavor was AMAZING.  Seriously.  It was pumpkin, and it was rolled in this fantastic cinnamon sugar topping that made each bite both savory and sweet and I loved it.  I devoured each and every forkful.  And I wish I had bought more of them. Pumpkin flavored or their standard donut muffin, it wouldn’t matter.  This is the consistency of donuts that I’ve been searching for…for years now.  Nailed it.  And I loved it enough to lick the plate.  No joke.

I have to say…fresh beats a freezer any day and Bake Me Happy sure did impress me with their fresh, made right there in the bakery, treats.  There was so much to choose from and not enough room in my budget or stomach for all of it.  That being said, I happily am ready to bake up some scones this weekend.  And I can’t wait to add this place to my list of stops for every single time I visit Columbus, Ohio.  I was beyond impressed.  And the staff was so friendly and helpful.  I didn’t get to meet the owners, as they were at the Celiac Conference that was going on (and that I didn’t know about until Friday as I was traveling), so hopefully next time I will be able to talk them up some.

If you are in or around Columbus, make it a point to drop by Bake Me Happy.  Buy a shirt (they are SO SOFT!) and buy up their goodies.  You won’t be disappointed.  Not one bit.  They certainly changed my tune.  Fresh is best.  And why not get some great gluten-free treats fresh out of the kitchen of a place that loves to bake up happiness?