ANSWER: Duval Street.
QUESTION: WHEN Did The Chicken Cross The Road?
ANSWER: During The 22nd Annual Key West Half Marathon.
~ On Sunday, January 19, 2020, the 22nd Annual Key West Half Marathon took place on the picturesque paradise that is Key West, Florida.
The last of the Keys and the most special of Keys. The infamous Key. The best Key…
Let me just tell you one thing and one thing only. If you love road races - if you love running - if you love fitness - if you just even merely love to move - then get your cute little tushy on down to the Keys in 2021 and RUN. THIS. RACE.
I can hardly believe it myself, but I was one of the participants. I partook in the 13.1 Mile Half Marathon, however, there was also a 5K race available taking place coinciding with the much longer race. For all those who deemed the Half to be maybe just a bit too much, too silly, or just too ridiculous of mileage to attempt.
I guess I fall in the silly and ridiculous category myself. And yes, I did finish - purely to get that highly coveted medal, of course. But it was not without a lot of self-discipline, patience, and maybe some sheer will power thrown in for good measure.
The race was a definite challenge for me, but one I knew I could do, even if I was very, very slow toward the end. And yes, there were lots and lots of chickens participating in the festivities alongside about four thousand humans. And those silly little creatures were a source of joy and good humor to me during such a lengthy physical task.
Taking place on the Sunday of the Martin Luther King long holiday weekend, this is quite a popular race in the Keys. And naturally a big race coinciding with a holiday means hotel prices throughout the island were on the high side. If this is something you may be considering for next year, I’d highly recommend booking your stay far in advance. We booked our room back in June of last year, and rates were already high. This weekend, there were ‘no vacancy’ signs all throughout the island.
And I registered for the race itself back on May 21 last year. We were confident that we were going to run it, so we were sure of booking our hotel back when we did far in advance, and just assumed the price would only increase as registration fills and the race date inches closer. And naturally as the holiday itself got closer.
We stayed at The Reach Resort Key West, a Hilton property. And after our arrival on the island, we checked in and then quickly made our way over to the Race Expo, which was open from 12pm-6pm on Saturday. The Expo took place for the two days prior to race day. And in case you are in the habit of registering for races and then forgetting all about it afterward, never fear. We got plenty of email reminders prior to race weekend with all the necessary details.
My husband and I have run many road races in our lives. Up north throughout all of Chicagoland, and in a large variety of cities and states. We’ve made races part of our travels many times prior to our move South, and we also finished many races in Florida since our move here. If I could leave you one reminder as you potentially prepare for a race in the Sunshine State. and one thing only about racing in Florida it is this: It’s hot here.
If you do run any race in the South, my best recommendation to you is to focus on yourself, your body. Basically, your entire self-care routine should take precedence over attempting any personal bests or world records you may be aiming for. The heat, and the blasting endless sun, alongside the potential for volatile weather events any day of the year here should be on your radar.
In Florida I have run races on highways, races on the beach, races late at night, and races starting before the sun even decides to grace us with its presence. At any and almost all of those times, it’s been hot. It can be humid. The “real-feel” weather is even hotter on the body. And the other issue is water. Right when you need water the most in your entire life, it may not be there for you…
Yes, that’s correct, we’ve even been to races where they run out of water. It’s not pleasant. So, basically, this is all a big and bold or even a small and subtle way of reminding you to take care of yourself and plan for yourself. And don’t rely on supplies to just be there for you if you need it because sometimes they do run out of things. Pack water and plan accordingly.
So, needless to say, when we got the final email reminder for the race, I was very pleased they put out there front and center and big and bold to us as a reminder: They basically told us this is Key West.
Yes, Key Freaking West. Have fun out there. And to NOT make this the race you choose to go for some personal best or some world record breaking time. Something I already knew from lots of previous experiences at these types of races. But others may not. There is always a new and inexperienced runner who may benefit from this. So there they put it. And hopefully that warning helps even one less person end up in a medical tent due to overdoing it, pushing it just a bit too hard, or to help remind them to pack an extra bottle of water or Gatorade.
So basically, have fun out there why don’t ya? Go slow and not care why don’t ya! Take in all the sights along the way. This is NOT a highway race. There is something cool to see and watch and hear each step of the way.
Back when I was in college, the men’s cross country coach, who is still coaching there, had a motto that’s now legendary. Al Carius, head men’s coach at division three North Central College in Naperville, IL, always, always says “Run For Fun & Personal Bests.” I believe that is simply Golden advice for all fitness levels and abilities. It should be fun. And it should be your race, and not anybody else’s.
And I really think the Key West Half Marathon is the perfect race to “Run For Fun & NOT Personal Bests.” Just don’t care about the time on the clock. Only care about how much pure fun and enjoyment you are having while that clock is running.
Either that, or maybe “RUM For Fun & Personal Bests.”
And that’s just what I did. I did the fun part, but I do like the idea of the rum part too. The entire race was a dream race for a road runner. The scenery alone is worth the entry fees and hotel stays and all the planning and traveling to get to that perfect little island.
The course is an out and back route. It starts at the heart of downtown Key West, ventures down the famous Duval Street, wanders around neighborhoods and then out onto the shoreline. Once hitting the seaside, there we stayed for miles upon miles. As the sun came up it definitely was kind of surreal. After all the races I’ve run over the years all over the place, in many states, there was definitely something special about running in my most favorite state, in one of my very favorite places, and watch the sun come up at the same time.
Morning is my favorite time of day. I’m up early, always before the sunrise, a race day being no exception. When I woke that morning in the 4AM hour, I was up with the roosters. And I must say hearing them crowing was an exciting way to start the special day. And gosh, were they crowing. They were loud, and they were hilarious. I imagined a little feathery creature sitting on our balcony starting off his day. Because that’s how close they sounded.
And somehow those quite loud little cuties didn’t manage to wake up the hubby, nor our sleeping puppy. But I tend to think that’s only because when our dog travels, it’s a hard life for a little Sheltie on the road. And she needs extra beauty sleep for the occasion. And the hubby, well…. I’ll just say he literally slept through Hurricane Dorian blowing outside our window for hours on end in the middle of the night, so he basically can sleep through anything. A little rooster chilling out on our 3rd Floor balcony having his morning coffee with some cream and sugar and singing a special tune at the same time would never awake my husband.
So me and the roosters got ready for the race. I had no idea I would meet my new feathery friends again all throughout the race course. But that I did. And after my hubby was all ready as well, we Ubered over to the start, which was about 1.25 miles away. I needed to save every extra step for the long race ahead of me and was glad I did by the end of the day. So Uber worked out perfectly and lots of other families did the same. I also saw lots of bikes and golf carts and taxis making their way to the start from our hotel and the surrounding resorts.
We left our room at 6:27am on the dot. Ventured to the lobby. And ordered our car. Uber arrived at 6:42 and we made it to the line with time to spare before the 7am start. Including my hubby going through bag check.
For experienced racers, all this last minute timing might sound a bit crazy to you. Usually with most of the bigger and longer races we’ve run in the past, they always recommend arriving far in advance, thousands of people filing through the corrals. And lots of standing and waiting enmasse for the gun to go off.
And that’s exactly why I chose this particular race to run my first long distance event in a very long time. There was no hustle and bustle ahead of time. It was more like calm, cool, and collected. Plus some relaxation thrown in for good measure. And bubbles flying through the sky. Oh yeah, and we can’t forget about some good old fashioned chillin.
The gun went off right on time, at 7am on the dot. And it was off through Duval Street we went. There were lots of spectators and cow bells and cheers and bands and then some. To me, it was all so reminiscent of The Bix 7 Mile in Davenport, IA. Held every July, and even though I haven’t run it in years upon years now, The Bix remains one of my absolute favorite, and most memorable and special of road races.
Duval Street was packed with people. Lots of fun music flowing all throughout the course. A Jimmy Buffett Band was playing off to the side of me and yes, I did a double take, because he did look and dress exactly like my dear friend Jimmy.
There were horns and trumpets and full dj’s blasting fun tunes. And of course more cowbells sprinkled throughout.
Once the race route hits the shore it’s a very long out and back toward the airport looking at the ocean all the way, and then back to the center of town. I was fascinated with the jets coming and going next to me at the small airport. Taking off right in front of me, and flying directly overhead with the sun reflecting on the water. I was just absolutely fascinated.
Hitting the turnaround at approximately 6.5 miles, it was all downhill from there, don’t ya know…. Or so joked countless people on the sidelines as we passed.
By this point for me, the sun was really awake and I was glad I had put on layers of sun block before we left the hotel room. At about 8:35am I really felt the sun on my skin. (Me, going slow of course and still with plenty of miles to go.) I imagined my hubby at the finish drinking beer, and he soon would be.
And I ran another slow few miles, back toward town. I would say miles 7 and 8 were really slow, and I planned to walk from mile 9 onward. Like I said, I really just wanted the medal. And there ain’t nothing wrong with a good solid walk, ever.
So very, very slowly walking at this point for the last few miles of the race, I approached a turn on the shoreline. I thought we were headed toward town. Nope, not yet. They had one trick up their sleeve yet. We turned outward onto the vast and open sea. I walked out and back a very large pier before continuing onward. I had studied the race course but I guess I forgot about that part.
The mind starts playing tricks at that point. Oh my gosh, this is too far? An extra out and back! Shall we just stop and sit on this bench for the rest of the day? Yes, I’ll just sit here and watch the pelicans do their thing. Hmmm, sounds like a perfect idea to me… I thought of the old man floating on the old boat on top of the old sea… Was he out there now with the big Fish dragging him around all of creation? I think I saw him on the horizon!
And so, back to reality, I had to tell my brain to shut the heck up. Remember, you know better than what your brain tells you sometimes, so just tell it you are in charge. Even Hemingway and The Old Man himself knew that. I wanted that medal shaped like a compass real bad. I kept going.
Back into town and headed toward the finish, my husband, who had now finished his Half long ago, found me and kindly walked the rest of the way into the finish line with me. We weaved and bobbed throughout the Mallory Square area. At this time of the day, Key West was in full swing. People sitting having a late breakfast or an early lunch at outdoor cafes. A huge cruise ship was pulling into port and I was able to watch it dock as I walked directly past the huge beast.
Making the final turns into the finish, I was more than ready to be done with this very fun race. I came through the finish after walking the last 4.1 miles. Still lots of people coming in even though many hours had now passed.
I made it to the land of the medals. Finally I had my very own compass medal. I love it. It was worth every step. It was worth the push, the mind trying to drag me down and me defying it. It was all worth it. If you want to run a Half, but don’t think you can run the entire thing - definitely walk whatever you want. During those last miles I was surrounded by lots and lots of walkers. It doesn’t matter how you finish it, it matters that you finish. So get out there and walk it if you must. You’re still moving you know, and just moving is really the most important thing.
And at the post-race party, it most definitely wouldn’t be a race in the South without…. corn bread! And that’s just exactly what they had. Banana halves, and Gatorade, and cornbread. Back when my husband finished, they also had bagels with lots of cream cheese, muffins and coffee cakes. But I didn’t mind that was all gone. Cornbread and I happen to be fabulous old friends. And we had a splendid time catching up with each other and chatting on the hard ground.
We sat down on a curb and just did some pure chillin afterward. As there wasn’t much else I could imagine doing at that point anyway, so that all worked out quite perfect. In fact, the actual fact that I was sitting on a street curb in Key West, Florida, glancing at the beautiful sea before me, on a breathtakingly beautiful Florida winter day, reminded me that I really like doing just exactly that.
And if post-race beer is important to your post-race experience, then never ever fear. You know those races where they take a small tag off your race number in exchange for one, single, very small beer after 13.1 miles??? Nope, not this day. At this race - they were handing it out like it was candy. And no tag, receipt, or coupon necessary. Beers all around please!
As our adventure came to an end and our hotel was desperately calling our names, we finally called our Uber to drive us the 1.25 miles back to The Reach. And yes, I’ve never been so happy for the existence of Uber in my entire life than I was sitting in the back seat riding through town during that 1.25 miles instead of walking that final stretch for the day.
Overall, the Key West Half Marathon was absolutely fantastic. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was hard, it was a challenge, it was grueling. But it was also Heaven on Earth. Sometimes the hardest things you accomplish in life are the very best things in all of life on this Earth.
This race was all that and more. It was happiness. It was community. It was bubbles flying through the air. It was music playing live on the beach. It was the breathtaking sunrise down at the end of the world. It was the planes flying over my head so close I wanted to touch them. It was Jimmy Buffett singing to me as I went passed him strumming his guitar. It was all those gosh darn cute little chickens crossing the road right in front of my feet. It was all the roosters yelling at me to keep going, as they laughed at me while they sipped their morning coffees in lovely little Cuban cafes. It was simply - FUN.~
BEAN’S BONUS TRIVIA~~
WHAT TIME: Does The Rooster Start Crowing?
ANSWER: 4:58 AM.~~
Some related adventures for y’all:
1] Happy Birthday America! ~ 4 Simple Steps To Help You Have An Easy Americana 4th:
3] The Dog Days Of Endless Summer
27] Thanksgiving & Pete’s Bar ~ Not All Resolutions Need Be Fulfilled On January FIrst
37] New Year/New 007 ~ Here’s 20 Tips That Will Have You Seeing 20/20 In 2020 ~
*Have you ever raced the Key West Half Marathon or 5K? Did you love it? I’d so love to know. Let me know in the comments down below:
I love bakeries. I love everything created and made by hand inside of bakeries. My favorite bakeries are the small ones - the local ones - the ones that aren’t part of any chain - the ones no one’s ever really heard of, except those who live right there in that same town alongside it.
Sure, I seem to always find time and room for Dunkin and Starbucks, etc. In fact, where else do I run to while on a long road trip but for a Dunkin coffee to keep me awake while I’m driving? But what about all those bakeries scattered across the country that don’t have a drive-thru attached? The bakeries you actually have to get out of your car for, and go inside the building to place your order??? Those bakeries... tend to be the best bakeries.
I like to think that my passionate love of bakeries and their heavenly creations runs in my blood... My grandfather was a baker for well over forty years. And when he wasn’t working, both he and my grandmother were at home. They spent hours upon hours in the kitchen. Always cooking. And always baking. Some of my favorite memories with both of them include time well spent in that small kitchen. My sisters and I helped them cook all kinds of food. But my favorite foods they made were their baked goods, of course.
My Papa taught us how to hand-roll the dough to make kolacky cookies. We always started by pouring flour onto the table-top - that was my favorite part - making a purposeful and deliberate mess. We rolled the dough and we put in the jellied fillings. We watched them bake. My grandparents made hundreds of cookies, each and every Christmas, before their health declined and they could no longer do it. It seemed to me that everyone they knew was given a large and heaping full silver aluminum tray of kolackys to take home and enjoy on the holiday. I’ve yet to be able to replicate those amazing cookies. I am continually determined to try though.
I believe my grandparents teaching us these skills in the kitchen has held influence on my life and transformed my love of food, and really just helped me become the person I am today. Foods are tradition. And when my husband and I bake now, not making nearly as much at a time that my grandparents did in their prime, we are always sure to pass some goodies along to a neighbor, a friend, or to whomever we will be seeing in the coming days.
This holiday season I am looking forward to baking chocolate chip cookies, frosted sugar cookies, and Angeletti cookies with my husband. It is now tradition in my home, and someday I’m going to replicate that kolacky as well… maybe even this year.
When I lived in Illinois, there was an abundance of local bakeries. I could go in any suburb surrounding me, living just outside of Chicago, and find a bakery. There was never a shortage of places to pick up special cookies for Easter, a coffee cake to bring to a party, or a cake for a special occasion. And my hubby’s favorite item served at any bakery are always their frosted sugar cookies. Me - I like the chocolate donuts. Simple, basic, and the best ever.
In my hometown, the Orland Park Bakery is one of God’s best creations. I make it a point to stop there at least once, and most likely always much more than once, every time I go up for a visit.
Some years back, I remember one cold December day, my husband and I decided to make the trek all the way out to Chicago just to visit a local bakery and pick up their special St. Nicholas Day gingerbread cookies. My hubby had them in his youth every year, so we wanted to bring the tradition and memories back, and he really wanted me to try them for the first time.
Well, being a self-proclaimed bakery connoisseur by this point in my life, I should have well known that making the very long trek fighting through Chicago holiday traffic and ridiculously sloppy weather to arrive at a bakery around two in the afternoon... is really not the best time to arrive at a bakery.
Bakeries thrive in the mornings. They are the place to be - in the morning. After almost two hours in the car and arriving mid-afternoon, what in the world was I thinking? We definitely should have gone in the morning for this adventure? But that was a different life I lived, and now I am fully awake by five am daily. Anything later - I tend to consider myself sleeping in.
We parked and walked through the icy cold and the busy and festively decorated street to find the bakery, just about to close. The window displays were empty. And once inside, the shelves were near empty as well. Sold out for the day of all product. I was crushed.
We inquired... And somehow, by some miracle of the bakery Gods up above, they still had a few St. Nicholas Day cookies left… We’ll take them! We were ecstatic. We took all that remained. Thrilled. We also snagged up a pre-arranged box of their sprinkle cookies simply because it was all that reminded for sale, sitting on a counter and patiently waiting to go home with someone. It was only after this outing did I learn that I could actually pre-order special product at bakeries to guarantee them available when I arrive to pick up.
So we were on our way out of the bakery to leave them be as they closed up for the day. It would be many more years before I learned my lesson about “sleeping in” and my enrollment in my own 5am Club membership. To me, at the time, we had simply just ‘lucked out’ that’ they had some cookies left for us to purchase.
We then strolled just a short ways down the street from the bakery and dined at a local Bohemian restaurant. It was an old building, and a place beautifully decorated for the upcoming holiday. It was an altogether lovely outing. An outing entirely revolved around bakery as the destination.
When I moved to Florida, it was my definite perception and really became quite hard to find a good bakery. They weren’t nearly as abundant as they were in Illinois. And when we did find a bakery - it didn’t taste the same as up north! I am extremely biased though...Chicago has the best food, and nothing else even comes close. So it’s very difficult for me to compare the delicious food from the north with the different food in the south.
Today, bakeries are still part of my life. I recently lost a lot of weight and made a complete lifestyle change these past few years. I am much healthier than I was during the earlier part of this decade. I had gained weight during a lot of inactivity, and now I have lost it all, and am quite happy to say that I am very healthy. I lost 83 pounds lost to be exact. I go into great detail on my weight loss journey here if you’d like to check out how I lost 77 of those pounds in one year’s time.
How can I be so healthy now and still eat donuts regularly? The answer is simply moderation. And - Discipline. I can eat ALL THE THINGS. Just not ALL THE TIME. I believe that when one fully grasps and understands that simple and basic concept, it can truly be life-changing.
And I love baked goods so much that I currently plan a once-a-month outing to our local bakery - Cinotti’s, located in Jax Beach, FL. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Declared on the top of each box. I lost 83 freaking pounds, while eating treats and breads and pastas and pizza and ice cream - AND - bakery, lots of Cinotti’s Bakery.
By establishing that roughly once-a-month outing, this allows for me to have the tasty treats that I love and never, ever want to give up, but also allows for discipline and patience in between outings. All that discipline and patience make for a stronger person. I don’t eat donuts every day - I eat them roughly once a month. And as I’m sure you’ve probably read in every magazine out there preaching at you on how to get healthy - don’t restrict. Don’t eliminate… Meaning, don’t erase foods from your life to get healthy. Learn to live WITH the foods you love. Because life is too short not to eat donuts. Just don’t eat them all the time. Simple, right?
These outings are so important to me I classify them by name - and time-and-date stamp them into my iPhone calendar as well. I then share the calendar event with my hubby so he knows when we are going out for donuts. Yay!
We have called these visits many things… Fabulous Friday, Wacky Wednesday, Tasty Tuesday, and Terrific Thursday. Whatever we call it isn’t important though; it's simply putting a name to an event on the calendar that is now tradition. Right now, hubby and I are living through our monthly ‘Totally Terrific and Tasty Tuesdays’ - That means we go to Cinotti’s, once a month, on a Tuesday. And my iPhone tells me as much, once a month. So simple, and sooooo delicious.
And for our November visit to the bakery, our furry baby Madeline was officially included in this little tradition of ours…. When I happened to glance down while we were paying, and underneath the cash register area toward all the little holiday trinkets for sale inside the shop... dog bones! Better yet - BAKERY dog bones! I was thrilled once again. How absolutely and utterly adorable. Made with flour and peanut butter and really just a few simple ingredients safe for a doggie’s tummy, and with a label calling them Canine Cookies… I HAD to purchase them! When we got home Madeline had the single best treat she ever had in her life. I know this not because she told me in English, but because she literally cried out loud for more after she was done with her very special bone. Even dogs love bakery.
And now that I know there is life out there at five am, and that is also roughly when bakeries are usually turning on their lights for the day, we would never now show up at the bakery at such a late hour as two in the afternoon. When that time of the month arrives, and my iPhone vibrates and jingles to tell me it’s our Totally Terrific and Tasty Tuesday, we go outside and exercise before the sun rises, and then head right on over to Cinotti’s. We arrive there fairly early in the morning, when they are fully stocked and selection is overflowing. Parents are bringing in their school-aged children up to the counter so they can pick up a special treat on their way to dropping them off at school. I think of my Papa and all his years upon years of hard work in the bakery. I walk outside carrying my taped, cardboard box of goodness, and I miss him terribly. This box of bakery is a special way of remembering him. Yes, life is too short not to eat donuts. And we bring home our box along with some peanut butter baked dog bones to our very happy, little, eight year old puppy. ~
If you’ve been looking for the finest beignets on the island - and not just any random beignets - then look no further than Another Broken Egg Cafe… Because THEY have the best beignets at the Beach!
And, I know, this is definitely not New Orleans… beignets are not plentiful around here. But they really are the best around.
I’ve had the opportunity to visit NOLA three times thus far in my life. The most recent trip being in 2016, which feels like an eternity away from such fabulous memories. Such a very special place and a vibrant city that I could easily move to in two seconds flat.
So it was 2016 the last time I was blessed with the opportunity of being able to dine upon beignets. On that most recent visit, my hubby and I had arrived in NOLA by rail from Chicago; Amtrak specifically. I remember sitting outside at a table at the famous Cafe Du Monde. It was Thanksgiving weekend. The Christmas season was officially starting and beautifully decorated trees were popping up everywhere I looked. Everything we ate and drank that weekend was divine. But the beignets were the best of it all.
We ordered a plate of the traditional beignets, and each a cafe au lait to sip. I remember powdered sugar being everywhere. It’s was draped all over the seat I sat upon. It was layered throughout the entire ground floor of the outdoor patio. It was floating through the surrounding air in swirling motions. It was ghostly and magical at the same time. It had snowed powdered sugar in the city of New Orleans - and it was magic.
Because whether or not it was real snow falling, we were sitting at the very heart and soul of NOLA. We sat there and soaked in all the excitement. All the wonderful sights and smells and sounds. If you ever make it to New Orleans, be sure to plan a stop at the Cafe, and remember to get a table for a more leisurely experience. There is also a quick service line area, which mostly caters to the countless tourists who need to taste the piece of heaven but are in a rush to see everything else too. So if you have the time on you hands, take the seat and sit a while. Because sitting down and observation can sometimes be the most moving and important aspect of your travels. And as for the beignets themselves, they were heaven on this earth.
And the ones I ate this past week were too! And who would have guessed that ‘Another Broken Egg Cafe’ was born in Louisiana?
They really serve up some fabulous southern hospitality at the Broken Egg as well. We had the friendliest server, and the first thing she asked my hubby and I was if we had ever been to the Cafe? No, we said, this was our first visit.
We had attempted to dine there a few times, mostly on the weekends, and the place was always packed - too packed to even find a parking space. Most recently, we had made inside the front door. It was a Sunday morning. And everyone in Jax Beach goes out to breakfast on Sunday mornings. We had somewhere to be that day and thought we could “squeeze in” an outing to the Cafe beforehand. They had a one hour wait; sigh - sad face. We had to leave. We reminded ourselves to try them again, on a weekday.
So just the other day, which happened to be a Wednesday and just after the lunch time rush, we walked into the Cafe. We literally had the place to ourselves! Such a lovely and peaceful time to dine out sometimes.
Since we told our server that this was our first visit, she said she’d be right back. Upon return, she mentioned that an order of beignets had been started for us. It was on the house - it’s their way of welcoming us in, she said, and wanting us to come back again. And as you can tell by the fact that I’m writing about this magnificent food creation, we will most definitely be returning.
I ordered what I had intended to order after I had searched their online menu earlier in the day - the classic French toast, a side of baked bacon, and unsweetened iced tea. We each drank at least two glasses of their fabulous tea.
The beignets were a very unintended surprise, so I hadn’t planned that food into my day. A few months ago I completed a personal weight-loss journey and major transition to a very healthy lifestyle. But one of the commitments I made to myself during that change was that I would always allow myself desserts. I lost a total of 83 pounds, while never giving up desserts. I love treats too much to eliminate them entirely from my life, and I refused to restrict myself in that area. So any weight loss that occurred had to occur while allowing access to treats. The only difference now being continual moderation.
So, with complete confidence - as the completely unplanned powdered beignets were served to me, I was able to sample them. And THAT sample and THIS picture below are the prime reasons that desserts remain a part of my life.
Wow. Amazing. Their ‘biscuit beignets’ were heaven on this earth. No words can accurately describe them - and they should definitely not be missed out on. I highly recommend visiting the Cafe and placing an order. Or, better yet, mention that it is your first visit if it truly is, and you’ll probably be treated to a very special treat. The photo at top shows their “half order” that was served to us, which comes with four beignets. A full order comes as a batch of eight..
After my first bite, I immediately inquired if diners are able to place to-go orders. And during this inquiry I multi-tasked... and I dreamed of picking up a full batch of biscuit beignets on a regular basis and eating them all in front of the tv in the evenings, by candlelight… I can dream, right?
Yes, of course, our server mentioned. She said that she personally was bringing home a batch for her teenage son that afternoon. She wanted him to help her clean up the house, and her son’s response, can you bring me some beignets? Smart kid.
My husband ordered an omelette with a side of baked bacon, and he also drank an unsweetened iced tea.
Both of our meals were much too large for us to finish in one sitting. So we had a second meal for the next day made from our leftovers that we brought home. Second-day breakfasts can be the best. But second-day breakfasts with a beignet on the side IS the very best.
Beyond our doggie bag, we were also each sent away with to-go cups of yet another glass of iced tea. You definitely get your money’s worth there, that’s for sure. And then, after we paid, our server presented us each with a sealed return certificate. Put them in your purse and don’t open them, she mentioned. When you come back, your server will open the sealed envelope for you and each certificate is a winner… maybe even an order of beignets.
After the shock of the beignets wore off, we paid our check and were ready to leave. I made a mental note to myself on the way out the door. We will be back… and while it’s been a very long few years since I made it to NOLA for a visit, something tells me it won’t be nearly that long before I make the trek down A1A for a visit to the Broken Egg Cafe. ~
10/25/2019 0 Comments
#17) Fall Flavors ~ Six Simple Steps I’m Taking This Fall To Maintain My Massive Weight Loss
Living in Florida, it can be hard to notice the changing of the seasons. I sometimes need to use the drink menu at coffee shops to gauge where we are at on the calendar.
And right now, whether we know it or not, it’s still Autumn.
And besides driving past a set-up pumpkin patch display in front of a local church the other day, the only change I’ve seen in all the weeks since fall has officially started, is with the drink menu offering all those special, seasonal additions at coffee shops and grocery stores. The most famous of those seasonal drinks being, of course, the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks, McDonalds, and Dunkin Donuts (Dunkin makes a delicious pumpkin donut by the way).
The only other seasonal change I notice here is specifically in Orlando - where Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party has been taking place at the Magic Kingdom now - since August… Yes - you read that right - August. Visitors dressed in their Halloween costumes, trick-or-treating down the festively decorated Main Street USA, since the middle of our hot and Endless Summer.
Considering I lost massive weight this past year and am extremely interested and determined to maintain that healthy lifestyle, when all the seasonal pumpkin drinks started to appear on the coffee shop menus, I really wanted to know how many calories are floating around inside those highly-flavored drinks. Well, the news is not so good:
***380 calories for a Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks (!)
***310 calories for a medium Pumpkin Spice Latte at McDonald’s (!)
***420 calories for a medium whole milk Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Signature Latte at Dunkin Donuts (!!!)
The amount of calories in just a single one of those drinks is now an entire meals worth of calories for me. I absolutely cannot even imagine drinking that much sweetness at once anymore. So, to help me maintain weight loss, I have been sticking with my usual unsweetened iced tea, or plain, black coffee this season.
It took me a little while, over a year ago now, but I am very used to ‘plain’ drinks now. Just the thought of ordering one of those lattes makes my stomach turn around. It’s definitely a good thing for my overall health that I don’t even really want or desire those drinks anymore, and I have also learned and acquired a few other wonderful and simple ways of feeling and enjoying the scents of fall without all the extra calories that can go along with it.
Below I’ll explain a variety of ways I’m acknowledging and enjoying the change of season while watching my calorie intake. These are just a few simple ways I am enjoying all that the Autumn season has to offer, without gaining weight, maintaining my weight loss, and not overindulging at all.
Specifically, here are six simple ways I’m enjoying Autumn 2019:
Yes, they come first! Because as they say - candles set the mood. And indeed they do. I went out and purchased a few pumpkin scented candles (room sprays work well for this too) and the scent in my home reminds me of all at fall has to offer. I think of hay rides, picking pumpkins, carving those pumpkins, and the scent of homemade pumpkin pie. And the bonus is that breathing in that heavenly scent doesn’t put one extra calorie into my mouth!
And since I’ve personally been staying away from Bath & Body Works for a few years now, I shopped around for the best autumn scented candles I could find. I enjoyed browsing around my local Pier 1, admiring all the adorable seasonal decor. And I purchased two three-wick pumpkin spice candles on sale for ten dollars each. I thought that was a reasonable price and keeps me away from Bath & Body Works where I used to spend too much money. And because I love candles so much, we picked out some autumn-scented candles at Target as well.
2 ~ I Avoid ALL The Seasonal Drinks - ALL THE TIME
This one is a no-brainer for me. For me - myself - and I - I’ve personally been staying absolutely away from all those high-calorie drinks that happen to be advertised everywhere I look.
I stick with my usual drink order. I do NOT indulge in drinks that have calories attached. My usuals are plain water, water with lemon or lime, always ice cold; plus, plain hot coffee, and hot or iced tea. Club soda or sparkling water. Period. Zero calories drinks. I do not indulge in that department. It works for me. It’s become a lifestyle for me and once something is lifestyle it’s easier to maintain. I do recommend trying it out.
Plus, in place of all those high calorie drinks, I purchased myself an Alex & Ani ‘Pumpkin Spice’ spice bracelet that I’ve had my eye on since last autumn - and I wear it every day. I enjoy IT - and not the extra calories it implies.
3 ~ Get A Real Pumpkin
So simple, right? By purchasing a real pumpkin, which can go for under ten dollars, and small ones, just a couple dollars at the grocery store, you get to enjoy the purest symbol of autumn, every single day. And if you get yours by visiting a pumpkin patch, all the better!
And, pumpkins always look fabulous sitting on the front porch, balcony, or lounging in front of a fireplace mantel.
Plus, you can turn the pumpkin into a project by then painting it or carving it out.
4 ~ Bake Pumpkin Seeds At Home
After we purchase our chosen pumpkin and enjoy the sight of it, on Halloween we carve the pumpkin and scoop it out. Then we bake the seeds in the oven. I always enjoy the scent that is released when carving open the pumpkin… Always so fresh, and smells like a pumpkin patch.
I first clean and rinse the seeds, then lay them on a baking sheet on top of non-stick foil with some sea salt sprinkled on top, and bake the pumpkin seeds in the oven. After they are finished being toasted, the seeds have a taste that cannot be replicated by any store-bought seeds. There is always something most refreshing about toasting the seeds on my own. It tastes better, fresher, and it really is. Plus, pumpkin seeds are one of those autumn delights that are very healthy! No weight gain on this one - in fact, eating nuts and seeds is a fantastic way of maintaining my weight loss.
5 ~ Eat the Seasonal Chicken Pot Pie - Just NOT The One Costco Sells
With fall comes an abundance of warm and seasonal recipes, like chili… and chicken pot pie. Every autumn I used to look forward to the seasonal changes at Costco by picking up one of their chicken pot pies. We would cook it for dinner and use the leftovers for lunches and dinners throughout the week. But most store-bought chicken pot pies, including Costco’s extremely large pie, are loaded with tons of calories that I do not need or intake anymore after weight loss. The chicken may be healthy, the veggies inside the pie may also be healthy - but the rest of that pie is definitely NOT healthy. And at 525 calories per ⅙ slice, the pie is extremely high in calories.
So, I’ve decided that with fall, I can still enjoy the seasonal meal of chicken pot pie. I’m just NOT purchasing the Costco version. I don’t need to give up the food. I just need to enjoy it in a more healthy manner. I’m also staying away from the easy-bake Marie Callender's version - which has a whopping 600 calories - in the smaller version!
Instead, on a busy week, we now grab Blake’s Pot Pie. It’s in the freezer section, has 370 calories per pie, and tastes just as good as any other store-bought version. I serve it with a side of steamed green beans, and an easy, healthy, and low-calorie dinner is ready in a flash.
I haven’t had the time this season to make a healthy and homemade version though, so if you have a chicken pot pie recipe that you make I’d absolutely love for you to share it with me in the comments below - please!
6 ~ Indulge - Without Overindulging
Yes, I still eat the pie. I just don’t eat ALL the pie. We bought a pumpkin pie two times this season from the local Winn Dixie. I can enjoy a slice, or two, even including whip cream on the side. But I don’t eat pie all the time, and don’t worry at all if we don’t finish the whole pie before it goes bad. And yes, I absolutely have thrown out the leftover pie, and more than once. I’m not ashamed.
I try not to waste food, but a part of weight loss and weight maintenance is knowing that some food WILL GO TO WASTE. I freeze what I can, I portion out for other meals what I can, I plan ahead like crazy. But there are still some times that food will be thrown away. And part of this pumpkin pie that we purchased did make it to the garbage can. Without my feeling any guilt or feeling bad that food was wasted. If you are looking to lose weight, or to maintain massive weight loss like I am maintaining, you will likely run into having to throw some food away. I have accepted this and do the very best I can not to, but with treats it does happen.
I have learned how to indulge - without overindulging. That means some food waste, some times. Part of my weight loss is allowing myself to continue to have all the treats that I love. In moderation. How can I let autumn pass me by without a piece or two of pumpkin pie? I can’t. I have to be able to eat the “normal” seasonal foods that I love without overindulging. Without - missing out. As they say, yes - everything in moderation.
Although, as I mentioned above, I do not drink all the fancy and high-calorie coffee drinks anymore. The difference there is lifestyle. I have removed any and all high calorie drinks from my entire lifestyle. So I am used to not having them anymore. To the point that the thought makes me ill just thinking about having one of them. I have very successfully removed those drinks from my life. That’s a choice I made. But I love desserts and treats too much to give them up entirely. I WILL continue to eat desserts - a choice by me to keep them IN my lifestyle. Desserts and treats remain. Which is why I moderate, and why I still eat pumpkin pie, and why I am ok with and understand that some of that dessert will end up in the garbage.
And yes, as the saying goes... “Better in the trash, than sitting on my *ss.”
Here are a few other ways I’m enjoying the season…
So even though I don’t drink all those amazingly fun and delicious autumn-themed drinks anymore, I do watch for their arrival onto the menu each autumn as a way to gauge what season I am currently living in. And then, I go about my usual routine. Adding in the flavors of fall in a very healthy, and very sustainable way. ~
9/13/2019 0 Comments
#7) My ‘Before & After’ ~~ How A Single Act of Kindness, Lime Bubly, and MyFitnessPal Helped Me Lose 77 Pounds in One Year
Well I never thought I would have a weight loss “before and after” — but here I am with my very own story to tell. Including the photos that I am now plastering onto the internet, with no shame, no remorse, no guilt, and no regrets. I share it with the hope that it reaches even one other individual who may benefit from my journey in some positive way.
I never thought this would be me at 38 years of age, having a personal weight loss success story, mostly because when I was younger I was always very athletic during my entire early and young adult life. I was a runner, and played lots of different sports in school and all the way into college with two-a-day practices. Weight was nothing I ever, and I mean never, ever, needed to worry about. I did not gain what they then called the ‘freshman fifteen’ at college. And I ate ice cream every darn day in the university dining hall. Sprinkles ALWAYS included.
After college I started working, and still my weight was just fine. Then, at about thirty years old, everything changed. I fought the change hard, and even tried to run through it, literally. My entire life had changed, slowly by the day, and yet, overnight as well. Running came to a dead halt - in fact, I honestly thought I would never run another step in my entire lifetime. I had some extremely complicated health issues come up; and I no longer felt in control of my own life. And on top of it all, I started to gain weight.
The weight slowly crept up and up for most of my early thirties. I watched all of this change happening to me and felt truly and completely helpless to it all. It wasn’t a good life change. It was bad change. And change is the singular reason I gained weight. I could be ashamed of it and regret it and hate myself for it… but I’m not ashamed, and I don’t regret it, and I definitely don’t hate myself for it. ZERO shame, ZERO regrets. And ZERO embarrassment either. Because if I did I wouldn’t be able to get past it all and change my life for the better. No regrets, because if I didn’t live through what I lived through I wouldn’t be living my very best life — right here, right now.
Below = Me - Before (at my heaviest):
Weight gain and weight loss is as simple and as complex as any and all change really. It can happen fast; it can happen slow. And how an individual responds to any change can help develop their character... Their character that can continue to mold and change and grow a person further into who they are meant to be.
In August of 2018, my family in Chicago came to visit me and my husband down in Florida. They took the long two day drive down, and with that drive came their car stocked full of supplies for the road, including a cooler and snacks of course. On the first full day they were down here, we all went on a wonderful mini road trip up north to Amelia Island for the day. And not getting to see my nephew very much, since our move away from Illinois had occurred just before he was born, I embraced riding in their car with them for the day. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to spend some quality time with my newest family member; every time my nephew said ‘hi’ over and over again on repeat, and ‘big truck’ for every large vehicle he saw on the road, I laughed.
While enroute to Amelia Island and taking the car onto the auto ferry and out across the St. Johns River, my brother-in-law was kind enough to offer me a can of Lime Bubly to drink that they had stocked in the car. This one pure and simple act of kindness and generosity really can ripple effect and change someone’s life forever. I had never found a sparkling water brand that I liked. And I LOVED Coke. I always knew if I wanted to be really and truly healthy I needed to say goodbye to Coke and soft drinks from my life. I gladly took the Bubly from him and embraced trying this different brand of carbonated water for the first time.
Later that weekend at the grocery store I stocked up my cart with Lime Bubly. I devoted an entire shelf in my refrigerator to those bright green and happy looking cans. The cans have the words ‘oh hi’ printed on their cap… I thought of my nephew… oh ‘hi’ on repeat. Every time I wanted pop or that distinct feel of carbonation and bubbles in my mouth I took out a Lime Bubly. I stopped buying pop. I promised myself that much… that I could stop drinking pop. Even if nothing else changed regarding my health, I was going to be healthier for that one singular change.
And with that one act, between August and into September, I lost seven pounds. I was utterly and truly amazed! I was absolutely fascinated that I could lose weight — even if it was just a few pounds in the bigger picture — without pills or any other strange and unnatural concoctions. I was truly shocked with each pound that had come off... And with that initial accomplishment, the thought then entered my mind that maybe I could actually lose the weight I had gained during this tumultuous past decade of my life...
I became determined. I had given myself the momentum I needed, and was ready to take massive action. You see, momentum doesn’t just occur, or happen on its own, it has to be propelled by your very own initial movements. And once momentum is gained, it then becomes ever and increasingly difficult to stop once you’ve taken off and started the ride. I had the keys in my hand, I had started the engine, and now I had just hit the gas.
I accelerated… it had just taken me a very long while to know that I was the one who was sitting in the driver’s seat all along.
Being a very visual person, I knew if I stood any chance of success that I would need a way to track my progress, and track my food. I needed a way to see those seven pounds and the unknown number of future pounds in a graph format. I wanted to see the speed and rate of pounds lost. I needed to see it written down or visualed somehow to grasp the concept of the weight lost. And most importantly, I needed to understand how much energy (calories) to take in every day for success with both weight loss and weight maintenance. I had started traveling down the road; I now needed to know what lane was best for me to get into for safe travels on the journey.
Being a runner, while growing up I had counted and logged every mile I ran throughout high school. I logged so many darn miles run that when I graduated my parents put that crazy number on my graduation cake written into the frosting: 2,551 miles run in high school alone. If I can track thousands of miles run over the course of my early life, without the internet, then I can track the calories I ingest every day, today, with all the technology of the world at my fingertips, no problem.
I remembered my dear friend talking about MyFitnessPal a couple years ago. My perception was that she really embraced the use of that app and had molded it into her lifestyle very nicely to help her track her calorie intake, accurately, and with great success. In the back of my mind and in the front of my mind I knew whatever I was going to do from there on was going to have to be a lifestyle change. Not a short stint. No 21 Day Fixes for me. I needed routine and craved routine and needed to make gradual lifestyle changes, nothing abrupt.
So on September 12, 2018, and seven pounds down, I went ahead and downloaded the MyFitnessPal app. For the first time ever I typed my own weight into a digital database. It was NOT a good feeling. But I fought the horrible feeling and continued onward. I followed all the prompts. I read all the articles. I read all the notifications. I did what it said for me to do, and in my own way.
I wanted MyFitnessPal to be a tool, and not in any way for it to ever become a necessity or a hindrance in my life. And by this I mean I wanted to utilize MFP and other such tools to help me reach my goals, but for these tools to not become something I depended on for the rest of my life.
Unless I really wanted to, I didn’t want to need the app to be successful in my journey. I didn’t want to become addicted to it for the physical changes to happen or stay with me. If the Internet ever went down, I wanted to still be able to know how to eat and intake a healthy amount of fuel each day. I told myself whatever change I made had to be a change I could do every day no matter the circumstance. No matter what technology provides us in the future, and no matter what food inventory was being sold at the grocery store on any given day. I never once told myself that I needed the app or that I would gain a ton of weight without access to that app. Thus, I chose to remain on the free version of the MFP, and still have never once enrolled and paid for premium access. The only thing I truly needed - was me… Me, and my knowledge, and experience, and the correct use of tools, to appropriately help me get where I wanted to be.
I logged everything into MyFitnessPal for one single, solitary day. The next day the app suggested I take a picture of myself. Aghhhh!! The picture, it emphasized, would be to show my progress. At this stage I was absolutely mortified of a starting picture. Or a ‘before’ picture. Before WHAT??? I thought. Before. What. What is going to happen to me that I would progress from that point? I was honestly scared. The thought was almost too much to handle. I nearly quit the app right then and there. I could barely even stomach the thought of telling my husband that I had joined what I thought was a calorie-counting app, let alone take a photo of myself at the beginning of this - whatever ‘this’ was.
So I was about to log out of the app and not take the photo. Go ahead Christine! - Delete your newest online account. Unsubscribe. I had horrific, fearful thoughts of not succeeding in any way. It would kill me, I thought, to not succeed at such a large and monumental task. I was on the verge and ready to give up. As I was contemplating these actions, I remembered that I had already given what I deemed at the time the most important of important information into the app the day before. I had already told MFP my current weight! If I could do that, then I could take a picture of myself, right?
Movement. Action. Momentum. Action. Massive action.
So, before going any further in either direction, I decided to do some initial and brief reading on weight loss before and after photos. I was absolutely and positively mesmerized! Wow! People took photos of their weight loss journeys and posted them online?! It was shocking and very motivational. There’s an entire online industry of weight loss and health and fitness individuals who inspire people to change their own lives! This is a big, and I mean BIG, industry! I just didn’t know how big, and was never even aware of it, because I was never needing to even be aware of it before then in my life. So after some initial perusing online, I said, omg, what the heck, I’ll take the photos. Go ahead Christine, follow the prompts. Take the darn photo.
My God in Heaven, what in the world was I doing? What was I getting myself into?!
One photo can help change your life. Take that photo. Do it. Embrace it.
On September 13, 2018, one solid day into MyFitnessPal online, I took what would become my official ‘before’ photo.
And that initial photo now stands in contrast with me, present day, September 13, 2019. And a loss of 77 pounds. My very own “Before & After” weight loss success photo.
How did I lose those 77 pounds? Through much patience, discipline, routine, and logging. I also got over my fear of even talking about the process and told my husband right away when I got started. For some reason I thought he would be mad at my attempt - but he wasn’t. Quite the contrary - he has been immensely and extremely supportive. And this entire past year of the process he has been with me and encouraging me every step of the way.
I also lost the weight through the use of great tools. I successfully molded MyFitnessPal into my newly embraced ‘Lime Bubly Lifestyle.’ The cool green cans and the app were great TOOLS for me. Tools I could utilize, but tools I made sure I never NEEDED to survive. I would go days or weeks WITHOUT the Lime Bubly just to prove to myself I didn’t need it to lose weight. But gosh, the weight was falling off me. I tracked my calorie intake with MFP and ate the amount of calories it told me to eat.
And yes, I made plenty of mistakes. I just didn’t let those mistakes derail me or my progress. I embraced each mistake and learned from it. This made my drive and determination and motivation grow even further to succeed. I read. I watched videos. I listened to podcasts. Lots and lots of podcasts. Some of my favorite online health and fitness humans are Corinne Crabtree of ‘Phit & Phat’ on podcast, and John Glaude of ‘Obese To Beast’ and Alan Roberts of ‘Every Damn Day Fitness’ on YouTube. I really resonate with these three amazing individuals the most, and highly recommend listening to them or watching them or following them if you want to lose weight for real, for good, and to help you change your life for the better. They are as real and as raw as me and my story. They are honest and truthful. They can act as that extra ‘push’ you might need every day to keep going.
With the help of those weight loss rockstars, and many others, I really educated myself on the process of losing weight. I came to understand that weight loss is math. It’s mathematics - and it’s science - and it’s physics. Weight loss is simply eating less fuel than your body needs to maintain its current weight each day. So with MFP helping me add up the daily math, and my grasping and understanding of that simple scientific concept, nothing could stop me from succeeding. I lived and breathed and ate and logged and ate and logged. Repeatedly. Repetition. Routine. And now today I have reached a one year milestone achievement of this newly embraced, and most welcome, healthier lifestyle.
It’s all real. It’s untouched. And it is my sincere hope that this story, and with associated visuals to coincide, may help you, or someone you know… Someone who may be in the initial stages of weight loss; someone you know who is well into their weight loss journey but isn’t finished yet, or someone so lost and so far back behind the starting line that they’ve never even seen the internet world of “Before & After” yet - someone just like I was a year ago when I didn’t really know that there was a whole world out there of people who struggled with weight gain just like I did.
The weight has been coming off for over a solid year now, falling strategically and healthily into a range I am so very happy with. I loved myself before, but I love myself more now. It’s not because I look different; I love who I have become and am so very happy with ME. The physical pounds coming off my body have changed my life both physically and mentally. I have made lots and lots of life changes since I moved across the country a few years ago, but so very many of them have grown and magnified and developed into a life all their own during this past year of weight loss. My confidence is intact and strong and growing stronger every day. I spend money differently now, and am very strategic and responsible with every penny I spend (and I had kept a budget for years before this change too). Plus, I’ve really embraced minimalism, even more so now than when I started seeking a minimalist lifestyle a few years back.
Below = Me - During ~~~ Enjoying the ride...
And finally, I’ve joined the 5am Club. Yes, that dreaded nightmare of a club, where I wake up every day at five o’clock. And by doing it every day, I am an official card-carrying member. I recommend it highly — Do it. Join it. It may just be the single best card you carry in your wallet. And yet, gosh, I tell you, it’s not an easy club to join. And the membership fee is pretty steep. But if you join, it will change your life in ways you never dreamed of.
In this past year of journeying through seventy seven pounds leaving my body, and waking before the sun rises, I am happy to report that my health is improved, I published my website, started my very own Etsy Shop, make tee-shirt designs, have a fully functioning art studio in my home, and am writing my own lifestyle blog. But joining the 5am Club gets a big bold bullet point of emphasis all its own. Waking that early - on purpose - and even many days before five in the morning, is literally the swift kick in the BE-Hind that I have always needed to push myself beyond my limits. And at 38 years of age, I love that push, I embrace that push, and I love who I have become because of that push. I love challenging myself every day, and I wouldn’t change a thing… Although I do fully embrace any change coming my way.
And yes, I still do eat ice cream — sprinkles included — just not every day.
So with all that being said, I do hope by sharing with you the story of my journey, that any one part of it may have resonated with you in a change you have made or are looking to make in your life? Please let me know in the comments down below your thoughts, and what steps you are taking daily to improve your own life? But most importantly, let me know if you also like a nice, cool green, icy cold can of delicious Lime Bubly.
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