May Challenge: U is for Unconditional Love

Thursday, May 29, 2014

So I'm tempted to make this post a huge mush fest, but to not cause a break up or pure embarrassment on his part (because clearly I hold nothing back it's my blog), I've decided not to.

One day I will write a mushy post about Taylor and he will have to deal with it, but for now this song will do because each and every time I listen to it I see his face and my heart fills with warmth and happiness. Thanks for being a part of my life Taylor James. Each and every day is truly a blessing with you in my life. I love you most.

May Challenge: T is for Transformation

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Merriam Webster Dictionary states...
Transformation: a complete or major change in someone's or something's appearance, form, etc.

As you all know, on September 4, 2013 I told myself I was ready to make a life change and get myself healthy. Of course I wanted to do it for myself, but after seeing several people I love do it for themselves, I actually started believing that I could do it.

Three of my immediate family members have made unbelievable transformations and I am beyond proud of each of them. So instead of making this post about me, I wanted to make this post about them and share all of their hard work they've put into making themselves healthy.

My biggest inspiration was my sister. Missy, like myself, has the terrible Piccirilli genes of packing on pounds in our mid-section, ass and thighs.  Like all Piccirilli's, she had an amazing love for Chips Ahoy cookies, french fries and Dairy Queen. It was in March 2011 when Missy decided she needed to focus on her health to better her life and her children's lives. "I had one of those moments when I looked at a picture and I was like who the f**k is that? And then I was like, oh my god, that's me!" Since 2011, Missy has lost and kept off 57 pounds!!! For Missy it was all about calorie counting and using the app "Lose It!"  to help guide her. As stated on their website, "Lose It! is based on the proven principles of calorie tracking and peer support for healthy, sustainable weight loss." During her transformation, Missy went through one pregnancy and has been able to take all of the baby weight off and lose some. Missy, you are absolutely beautiful. You're the most amazing big sister anyone could ever ask for!

The amazingness in my family continued when my cousin Jackie transformed her life as well. As Jackie says, "After college, I realized how fat I got. I also realized to get fit I needed a plan and a routine." So after much research, Jackie decided to try the Whole30 program. What started off as just a detox - through strict no carbs, sugar, processed food or alcohol - it ended up being a way of life for Jackie. She also incorporated spinning class, interval training, tabata class, juicing and running which helped take off the weight. While she is not using Whole30 anymore for food, Jackie still keeps active and stays in check and not emotionally eating. You look fantastic Jackie, so proud of you!!

My cousin Tyler says the Disney Marathon Jackie and I ran back in January of 2012 was his inspiration to lose weight, however I think that marathon is what saved his life. During the Disney Expo, there was a vender who had a fitness booth that calculated your weight, body fat mass, blood pressure and many other health symptoms. After Tyler got off the scale, he looked at all of us and told us the man said he needs to start getting healthy with his lifestyle or his lifespan will not be much longer. Clearly Tyler took that as a wake up call and wasted no more time. Tyler's journey began on January 7, 2012 when his body fat was 37.8%, had high blood pressure and sleeping issues. He could barely walk up the stairs without losing breath. Since January 2012, Tyler has lost an amazing 110 pounds! He now regularly lifts, plays soccer and participates in other physical activities. To me personally, it has been such an amazing journey watching Tyler transform into a brand new human being. I love you, Tyler! You are such an inspiration to me and seeing how much your confidence and spirit has grown has been amazing to witness.

The four of us have had an amazing journey so far and I hope we all continue to better ourselves and our health. I love each of you so much and I am so happy we have all been on this journey TOGETHER. You all continue to inspire me each and every day, and I hope I inspire you equally. Xoxo
"The only thing permanent in life is family."

May Challenge: Q is for Q&A with Kids

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I’ve been super excited to do this post, but it has been a few weeks since I’ve been able to see my sister’s kids. I’ve been dying to do a Q&A session with Jack and Max because lets be honest, kids say the funniest stuff ever. So as the kiddies ate ice cream at Freddy Hill on Saturday, I took the opportunity to finally fire away at them. What I got in response was amazing!

What do you think is the grossest thing?
Jack: Spit Hand – someone spits on their hand and then rubs it on your face.

What would the world be like if animals could talk?
Jack: I’d have some very intelligent conversations with the cats at our house I think…

If you could be famous, what would you want to do?
Jack: I want to be a singer, my band would be called Run Away Train

Do you know what a Wet Willy is?
Max: Yeah, it’s a Hawaiian person!

If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
Max: I would walk through doors and walls.
Jack: I would pull people’s pants down.

What is the hardest thing about being a kid?
Jack: Not getting money every week to buy Lego sets.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Max: A firefighter because of the cool trucks and their sounds.

Who is the president of the United States?
Max: Lord Business (please note, he is the main antagonist of The LEGO Movie) haha

What is your opinion on Barrack Obama?
Jack: Lay off the sauce!

What is the worst grown up show on TV?
Jack: Martha Stewart's show because I DON’T want to make her crafts and DON’T want to eat her food because it looks too spicy.

If you could be any animal what would you be?
Max: A giraffe because of their black tongues!
Jack: A lion fish so I can eat fish without chewing.

What do you think you’ll be doing in 10 years?
Jack: I’ll still be in school.
Max: I’ll be a vampire.

GUEST BLOGGER: May Challenge - S is for Solo Travel

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Meet Melissa Rohrbaugh!!!

Single Mom Survival Guide: Traveling Solo

My 2014 New Year's Resolution was to embrace my independence.  Basically, I wanted to get more comfortable with the idea of doing things on my own.  As a married person, there were a lot of things I had become accustomed to doing as a pair.  Some of them were as simple as going out to dinner or the movies, up to the big things like negotiating the purchase of a new sofa, new car, or a new house.  Honestly, making decisions on my own didn't come easy at first, even despite my bossy persona. Most of it has gotten easier with time and out of necessity.

My challenge for this year was taking a vacation on my own.  Just a long weekend away to explore a place I've never been that is on my "bucket list."  Now, I must confess, although I was adamant about accomplishing this, the whole premise terrified me.  I had a lot of anxiety about going alone.  Some of the anxiety stemmed from the idea of not really knowing my way around or how to navigate a new place.  And some of it was irrational - what if I don't have the guts to leave the hotel room and explore the city once I get there? What if I stumble into a crappy neighborhood and get mugged?  As a result, I booked and cancelled my getaway trip twice before I had the courage to finally go.

Following this last trip booking, I decided that I had to go and I couldn't make any more excuses.  So I booked a long weekend in Seattle.  Seattle was a city I always wanted to visit.  It always seemed like a fun and safe city, with an interesting history and a small footprint which makes it easy to see in just a couple of days.  After talking to a lot of other single mamas, I realize how lucky I am to have a long weekend to myself every other weekend.  It was time to take advantage of my time alone and do something adventurous.

The first thing I did as soon as I got on the plane was made friends and asked questions.  I was flying with lots of Seattleites, and they were all very proud of their city and the fun things it had to offer.  On the flight out, I sat next to a very nice guy - a lawyer originally from L.A. who moved to Seattle 10 years ago.  He put together a list of all of the best restaurants and live music venues.  He also told me which neighborhoods to avoid and drew me a map of the public transportation system. Once we landed, he took me to the light rail line and gave me a business card in case I ran into any trouble.

Once I got into downtown Seattle, I quickly found my bearings.  The concierge at my hotel provided me with a map of all of the touristy stops. I visited all of the essentials: the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, the Great Ferris Wheel, and a lot of museums (I managed to find their shopping district too, inflicting some damage to my credit card).  At each stop, I asked locals where they liked to go to dinner and what they liked to do for fun.  I found a lot of good spots that way, and I also learned that although there are 2,000 of them in a 5 square mile radius, Starbucks is not well loved by the true Seattle coffee people.

The highlight of my trip was going to a Seattle Sounders game.  As a Philadelphia Union fan, I was excited to see the best team in the league play, but I couldn't believe the fan base.  I bought a ticket 4 hours before the game on Ticketmaster for $40.  My seat was great - 8 rows back at mid-field among all of the season ticket holders.  After they made fun of me being from Philly and preparing for me to throw punches or the F-bomb after the first bad call of the game, they took me in as one of their own.  It was a neat thing to see 50,000 soccer fans in a sea of green that were so proud of their team and their city.

My last day there, I just wandered around town, revisiting my favorite coffee shop on my visit and taking time to enjoy the water view.  As I sat overlooking Puget Sound, missing my kids and finally realizing just how far from home I really was, I was overwhelmed with a sense of calm.  I made it.  I have evolved.  I'm not the victim I could have easily taken the role of; I am the exception, improving myself and my outlook on life.

Happiness doesn't find you.  You have to seek it out every day.  Adventure doesn't find you.  You have to step out of your comfort zone and seek out those things that excite, scare, and ultimately inspire you.  And sometimes, doing those things on your own gives you a greater sense of accomplishment. For a while, I was lonely waiting for someone to experience life with, but now I'm learning that you have to lead the charge on your own.  Explore the world - sometimes you will have the luxury of a travel companion but don't avoid travel if you don't.   Work and kids and bills and house cleaning will all be there when you get home, so make your free time worth living for.

Here are some of my favorites from my Seattle visit:

Favorite place to wander around aimlessly: Pike Place Market - this is definitely a foodie must.  There was amazing baked goods to try and a huge variety of amazing fresh seafood picked right out of the water.  The Hmong flower stalls were beautiful as well.  They have gorgeous huge bouquets of flowers for just $10, which is unheard of here.

Favorite Tourist Spot: Bill Speidel's Underground Tour (James St. & 1st Ave.) - a fun way to learn the history of the city at the expense of its founding fathers, complete with a 90 minute trek under the city streets.

Favorite Seafood: Ivar's Acres of Clams (1001 Alaskan Way) - the clam chowder and seafood cocktail were delicious and only a few bucks during happy hour.  They also encourage feeding the seagulls at their walk-up fish and chips shop outside.  Those birds were the happiest but most obese I've ever seen.

Favorite Coffee: Storyville Coffee (1st & Madison) - best latte of my life and they even make the foam on top look like a heart.  A far cry from my typical Dunkin Donuts fare.

Favorite Brunch: Sazerac (1101 4th Ave.) - I recommend the Diablo scramble - muy delicioso.

Favorite Museum: EMP Museum (325 5th Ave. N.) - a museum dedicated to all things pop culture.  I loved the Nirvana exhibit - brought me right back to high school and my alt rock CD collection of the day.

GUEST BLOGGER - May Challenge: R is for Risk Taking: Risk vs. Reward

Friday, May 23, 2014

Meet Caroline Bergh!!!

You hear it all the time…life is full of opportunities—carpe diem—If you dream it you can achieve it—I don’t know about most people, but I do know myself, I am a very logical person who prefers to have a plan and taking a “RISK” makes me nervous and flustered. I am mostly fearful of the unknown, because of the potential to (ugh the dreaded four letter “F” word)…fail.

Yet, I have learned that a life without risk makes for a boring life. As I look back now, I thankful to see that at times when I am unable to plan every detail, in essence, forced to take a “risk”, that things really can turn out quite BEAU-tifully.

I first realized how taking a risk could turn into an amazing reward from my first real “adult” decision…where to go to college.  I use the term “adult” loosely because I was 17 when I graduated from high school and barely an adult when I was making such an important decision that would change the path of my life forever <3.

Due to my type A personality, I had researched many schools based on my interest to get involved in the field of healthcare and to play soccer. I had narrowed my search down to three schools, each in a different parts of the country, all offering me different things. I made my final decision after creating a long list of hand written pros and cons (see type A personality right here) detailing everything from my potential majors, cost, strength of soccer conference, housing, weather and proximity to the beach. I eventually went with selecting Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

I had visited the school on an official visit and gotten to meet my potential future teammates but prior to that two day stay, I did not know ANYONE who was going to school there and it was five+ hours away from home in a new state where I would in theory embark on “the best four years of my life.”  I was petrified that I would not be able to make friends or that people wouldn't like me or I would become homesick or that I would regret my decision to take a risk. I know that the thought of taking that risk at the time made me sick to my stomach and my head hurt from all the potential “what ifs” but as it turns out that risky decision led me to achieve my dream of playing soccer in college where I ended up meeting some of my best friends, while getting a solid education, oh and you know just falling in love with my husband-whom I am so thankful for each and every day and who I never would have met had I not taken a risk.

Another “risk” I took that changed my life forever was when I applied to physical therapy school…in yet another state, Florida. I felt the same fears as I did when I decided to go to ODU, but I reminded myself that sometimes you have to take a risk to achieve a great reward. Physical therapy school at the University of Florida was difficult to juggle with married life, working part-time, and being a puppy parent, but it was so worth it to share 8+ hours over three years with my incredible classmates. I am very grateful to have a top-notch education as the foundation for my new career.  Now looking back on my one year mark from graduation, I am so thankful to have taken that risk!

Risks aren’t just in education/careers, or in love, but I have also taken a risk by trying CrossFit! About 2 years ago my husband told me that I had to come try it with him because it would be something we could do together and it was competitive which is perfect for me because I am VERY competitive. I consider myself to be an athlete and because of my competitive nature I was so nervous to try my first workout because the entire time I kept thinking, "I hope this coach doesn’t think I am out of shape" or that I am weak! Two years later I am happy to say that love doing CrossFit! It has allowed me to connect with people in a “team” atmosphere and build some incredible friendships…and improve my overall fitness and health.

Even right now I am working on two current work related “risks”. I have recently started a new business through Rodan and Fields as an independent consultant for a skincare line and it has been another risk that I decided was worth a try. I am very excited about the process and it has been another great way for me to meet new people and continue to push myself to grow and develop as a person.

 As a full time physical therapist I have taken on yet another risk as a pelvic health physical therapist by attending some pelvic health workshops to expand my knowledge of the human body…this is one risk that I am hoping turns into an incredible reward because it will allow me to improve the lives of so many people who are living with pain and discomfort.

There are always risks that do not turn into rewards, but I have found that if I chose to think logically and optimistically that I can overcome a risk turned fail (I hate that word) and learn from the situation.

Even writing this blog post was a risk!!

I have realized that everyday we take have to take risks. The risk may be small like introducing yourself to someone in an elevator or in the hallway or something large like purchasing a house or leaving your current job to pursue a goal, but I think we all need to embrace risk taking because life is too short to simply sit around and talk about things…each day we need to go out and make today count because you will never get it back!

Thanks to Amanda for encouraging me to write..<3 love you!

GUEST BLOGGER: May Challenge - P is for Public Transportation Rules

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Meet Donavan Thomas!!!

Hi! I’m Donavan. Nice to meet you, reader of Take Your Pic! I too follow this blog closely, so I feel like we’re already kindred spirits.

I’m so glad that Amanda has taken on this challenge again in 2014. Not only do I love reading the guest posts, but it’s giving me a chance to write a post I’ve been thinking about for years. Did I mention I blog at A Marathon Runner’s Wife? Anyway, this is the perfect chance, so thanks for inviting me Amanda!

I live right outside of Washington, D.C. In the nearly five years I’ve lived here, I’ve learned to appreciate a lot of things about this area – there’s never a shortage of things to do, happy hours to attend or places to explore. But do you know what all of those things bring? PEOPLE. And with them come their SUVs, their tour buses and their hybrids. Depending on who you ask, you’ll learn that D.C. traffic is the worst (or one of the worst) in the nation. You think your evening commute is bad? One day, it took me 6 hours to get home – a trip of all of 14 miles.

Given all of that, it took me about 2 weeks to appreciate the beauty of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or Metro. I haven’t always been able to, but for most of my 5 years in D.C. I’ve taken Metro to work. I also take it out on the weekends for dinner and drinks with friends, to tons of sporting events and other activities and even to the airport or the train station. My husband and I live directly across the street from a station – in fact, that was our number one criteria when we bought our home.

It’s safe to say that public transit has become a huge part of my life. And it’s not just subway trains that get me around – I’ve taken plenty of buses and regional rail trips in my life, too. But with all of the love I have for public transportation, there are also things about it that infuriate me. And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that there are just a few rules that, if everyone followed them, public transit would be a much better place.

1. Give up your personal space – This is an actual photo (to the right) of the station where I get off for work each day – imagine all of those people pushing on to a train. Every inch of space can be used, so when someone is standing in a way that doesn’t allow for others to occupy space, it’s incredibly painful. Give up your bubble – you’ve decided to allow the germs of public transportation to reach you, so you can move a bit closer to the rest of us.
2. Don’t stop at the top or bottom of an escalator – Escalators are a crucial part of most transit stations. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are getting on or off of one and just stop as soon as they get off. With a hundred people coming behind you, that can be really dangerous for all involved.
3. Obey the posted rules – Don’t eat. Don’t drink. Don’t play music. Don’t bring your pet. Stand out of the way of the doors. All of these are rules for a reason. Truth be told, I ate on the metro once. And I still feel bad about it … so take my advice and don’t do it.
4. Give up your seat to people who need it – This is just common courtesy. Pregnant women, elderly people, children and persons with disabilities should never have to stand unless they want to.
5. Have an open mind – People who refuse to take Metro in D.C. because they think it’s dirty/don’t understand it/think if makes them look like they’re slumming it/can’t figure out the schedules are just closed-minded, in my opinion. Public transportation might not be glamorous, but it can be easy and fun. And in D.C., it’s rarely dirty!

See, I promised there were just a few rules. It’s really not hard to take public transportation, and once you start doing it, you can do it almost anywhere. Since I’ve lived in D.C., I’ve successfully navigated subway systems in London, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia with ease. Hopefully, if you’re reading this and have never taken public transit, you might be considering it. It does benefit the environment, is often less expensive than driving and – at least in D.C. – it usually saves you a bunch of time.

GUEST BLOGGER: May Challenge - O is for Online Dating Horror Stories

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Meet Jackie Smith!!!

Over the years, I’ve had countless opportunities to live life and experience all that it has to offer. I can't complain, I’m truly blessed. Like most women my age, I model most of my life choices comparing myself to the girls from Sex and the City. That being said, I know it's not real life, but you have to admit, the show is a real gem and everyone of the episodes relates to a past relationship or current dating situation.

I suppose, if I really followed in Carrie’s footsteps, I would be breaking up with Aiden, and pursuing right?

Big for the third time while he cheats on his twenty five year old wife. But this is real life, by societal norms, I should be married, with children, but instead, I’m not. I do however, spend most of my spare time on Pinterest planning and plotting away on a wedding board titled “When Shit Gets Real” and that's basically like almost getting married,

Needless to say, we all like to mix things up once in a while, meet new people and get out there and see what's available. In 2014, companionship can be found electronically in what I refer to as the “bowels of the internet”, better known to normal people as online dating. If there is one thing I love, it's telling a truly horrifying real life, ridiculous story. Honored to help my cousin with her A-Z blog challenge I now present you with my real life dating horror stories in hopes it will make you laugh.

As with all horrible things, in the moment they are just that. HORRIBLE. But when the dust settles, they are the best stories, and sometimes the most entertaining.

Horror Stories in Online Dating Part 1: Featuring the Wanna be Undertaker and Lizard Boy

The Wanna Be Undertaker

I had a date on Sunday, seemed innocent enough. I was going to meet a good looking guy for coffee. Worst case, I spend 30 minutes of my life in hell and a few extra minutes at the gym Monday morning working off my latte. I had to reschedule due to a wicked hangover, so we ended up meeting on Halloween a few days later. We kept the venue the same, meeting for coffee at an open public place. The town was cute, on the water and the coffee shop was also adorable. The guy, not so much. 

He met me on the sidewalk, hugged me for longer then needed, then we went inside. He had already ordered (cheap ass) and walked away when I ordered my drink. We sat and chatted for a while, then he wanted to go for a walk. Since it was Halloween, all the kids were out trick or treating and the houses were all decorated with cob webs and spooky music. This was great, however, my date now began aggressively trying to hold my hand and kiss me on every corner. He had the breath of a dragon and kept insisting we walk through the cemetery. After walking around and dodging his kissing assaults for 50 minutes, I was ready to bolt. He continued insisting we go through the cemetery. I couldn't stall him any longer from trying to kiss me nonstop, so my options were kiss dragon breath or die in a cemetery. I chose the cemetery. After a lovely walk among dead bodies, in the rain, we sat outside a church and talked about lord knows what. Soaking wet perhaps in the beginning stages of pneumonia, and possibly harboring a ghost spirit in my purse, we finally left. I never spoke to cemetery boy again.

The Lizard boy from Monsters Inc.

We met for dinner on a Friday night. He refused to eat since he had made waffle fries prior to the date. He also looked nothing like his picture and in fact resembled the lizard creature from Monsters Inc. Charming. He was the most miserable person I have met and I know some pretty miserable people. He told me about his crappy job (which turns out he wasn't in any way an engineer which he claimed to be), his ex gf cheated on him with a surgeon and never looked back to him and his creepy family. He told me his miserable life story and way way too much information. Feeling like a therapist, trapped in a Pixar film, I excused myself to the bathroom and when I came back he conveniently had something to tell me.

I knew this would be good.

My mind wondered to him stating, “ I eat dead bodies” or “Jeffrey Dahmer is my idol” or “I used to cut myself and I take anti-depressants regularly” turns out, the lack luster news was his mom was at the very same bar. Super.

Trying to sneak out wasn't an option, since she was perched on a bar stool at the door. I then spent the next 40 minutes with a woman drunk out of her mind and high on narcotics since she recently had back surgery. Between screaming "whats this girls name again" loud as hell trying to whisper, and falling off her seat, she engaged in a compelling conversation about Chris Daughtry's new album with her semi normal friend. Drunk drugged out mom kept trying to buy me drinks, but after the second one, my penchant for playing nice with lizard boy had worn off. We finally left and lizard asked to see me again. Apparently, this is a normal friday night for him, but in my world, this was anything but normal.

Although, there are plenty of horrible stories to share, these two are my favorites of the worst. There are plenty of weirdos out there, but it should be said that there are also some really nice guys that are anything but losers. For every bad date I went on, I had a great one with someone else. So, if you are looking for love and thinking online dating might be for you, go for it. You have nothing to lose, and just think if you are really lucky, you might have some good stories to share at brunch!

Interested in being a guest blogger for this year's May A-Z Series or know someone you think would be a great addition to this year's posts? Click here to email me asking for more details. Be brave! Take "write a blog" off your bucket list. Share your artwork, write a poem, showcase your photography -- Take Your Pic loves it all!! 

May Challenge: N is for Never Have I Ever

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Thought it would be a little fun to play the Never Have I Ever game on the blog today! This is the absolute
truth, so help me God! Leave in the comment section a Never Have I Ever for yourself. Happy Playing! :)

  • Never have I ever wrote a guest blog post for another blog
  • Never have I ever played a round of golf
  • Never have I ever watched the sun rise or set on the beach
  • Never have I ever had stiches
  • Never have I ever bungee jumped
  • Never have I ever traveled by myself
  • Never have I ever lived on my own
  • Never have I ever injected or swallowed drugs
  • Never have I ever finished an entire jawbreaker
  • Never have I ever been in handcuffs
  • Never have I ever skipped school
  • Never have I ever been skydiving
  • Never have I ever been in the hospital overnight 
  • Never have I ever stolen anything

GUEST BLOGGER: May Challenge - M is for Mosaic

Monday, May 19, 2014

 Meet Margaret Almon!!!

Making mosaics has allowed me to be my strongest most intuitive and free self, and how I am in the studio has informed the rest of my life.  In the studio I respond to color, to light, to a sense of what brings joy to my eyes, and I trust myself.

Perfectionism has been a blight, but in the studio, I am guided by what I find beautiful, not by an illusion of perfection.  Perfect is manufactured.  It does not occur in real life.

In my 20’s I was very clear that I was a poet.  It was a solid identity that I encased myself within. When I realized I didn’t want to write poetry anymore, I felt shattered.  What was left of me?

“You are not broken.  There is nothing fundamentally wrong with you, defective or damaged beyond repair.”    That’s what a therapist told me many times, until I started to believe him.  There is a healthy part in us that wants to learn and grow, and is wiser than all our fears and pain. The shards we see are not a sign of being unredeemable.

“There’s something cosmically right about taking broken pieces and bringing them together in a mosaic.”  That’s what a nurse said as he wheeled me down the hallway for a medical test.  He was intrigued by my work, and I was intrigued by his interest.  Mosaic does resonate with the human heart, and the desire for wholeness.

What imperfect thing do you love?  Where are you free?  I’d love to hear your answers.  Click here to email me.

To view more mosaic joy, visit and

Looking to purchase your own piece? Visit my Etsy shop!

Interested in being a guest blogger for this year's May A-Z Series or know someone you think would be a great addition to this year's posts? Click here to email me asking for more details. Be brave! Take "write a blog" off your bucket list. Share your artwork, write a poem, showcase your photography -- Take Your Pic loves it all!! 

May Challenge: K & L are for Keep Livin and Lovin

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sometimes you just need a weekend full of life and love. 

It was amazing to have a weekend getaway to the Wildwoods with Taylor. We've had this trip planned since December of last year so it was great that it was finally here. Taylor and I get to spend plenty of time together but it is rare we get a weekend of just ourselves -- no friends, no family -- just each other.

When I decided to make a lifestyle change back in September, I made a goal for myself to register for a half marathon during the spring of 2014. I knew about the Wildwood Half Marathon for the last three years because it use to be held on a Sunday in August -- usually the Sunday after my week vacation with my family. Being that it was the day after we left, I always had to miss it. Luckily this year the race committee decided to change the date for the race to May. Yay perfect for me. The bargain shopper I am, I pulled the trigger on Black Friday getting a special race entry fee. I knew the race also had an 8k so I convinced Taylor to sign up for that one. He's a good boy friend sucking it up for his lady. Thanks babe!

So the weekend was finally here. We packed our bags and headed down on Saturday morning. We went to the race packet pick up and grabbed our bibs and goodie bags. The rest of the day we spent walking on the boardwalk, soaking in the sun and carb loading for Sunday morning. With our race entry we received free passes to Morey's Piers so we brought out our inner kid and rode a view rides. We walked the boards, grabbed a view items for ourselves and headed back to the hotel. After asking out hotel owner for an Italian restaurant suggestion, we headed to Alfe's and it was tasty and filling we literally got back to the hotel and crashed.
Race day started bright and early as the half marathoners hit the streets of Wildwood at 7:30 a.m. The 8k race started 15 minutes later. I am so so proud of Taylor because this is his first real race. He absolutely crushed it and got 4th in his age group. Great job T - so happy for you!! Of course my nervous were high as I had really high hopes of doing well for this race. Two weeks prior I beat my Broad Street Run PR by 20 minutes and I had goals for doing the same here in Wildwood. My previous best time for a half marathon I had was 2 hours and 25 minutes and I was confident I could beat that, but I didn't just want to beat it. I wanted to crush this one too.

Luckily my hard work paid off and I did just that today. My goal for today's race was to finish in 2 hours and 5 minutes and today I crossed the finish line at 2 hours and 4 minutes. WOO HOO!! This journey has been amazing since last September and each and every day I am adding more days on to my life. More days to experience new adventures, more days to be with my family and more days to love Taylor.

My future plans?
Rest a little bit! :) I've been in overdrive for about 9 months now and I could use a good two week tapper. But the break can't last for long. I have an exciting race schedule coming up this Fall with the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in September and the Philadelphia Marathon in November. I can't wait to beat another PR in November at the Philly Marathon. I hope you will all follow along as I go through that journey! As always, thank you for all of the likes, comments and texts you all send me every race day. I am truly blessed!!! Love you all!!!

Interested in being a guest blogger for this year's May A-Z Series or know someone you think would be a great addition to this year's posts? Click here to email me asking for more details. Be brave! Take "write a blog" off your bucket list. Share your artwork, write a poem, showcase your photography -- Take Your Pic loves it all!! 

GUEST BLOGGER - May Challenge: J is for Juicing

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Meet Emily Benton!

Juicing 101 = Going Green For Your Health

Think eating your daily salad is enough to keep you healthy? In some ways, yes.  But if you really want to maximize your health potential – juicing is the way to go.  If you think juicing is a fad and for hipsters and health nuts, think again.  It’s an essential way to get daily nutrients into your body the BEST way possible, even on top of that salad and piece of fruit you have as a snack.  Essentially you are flooding your body with the concentrated nutrient dense goodness of fresh, raw, unpasteurized juice. Drinking fresh juices can increase energy levels, make your skin glow, help you lose weight and reduce cravings.

Here are my top 4 reasons to juice. 
1) You aren’t getting enough in your diet.  Even if you think you are eating well – eggs and whole grains for breakfast, a salad for lunch, protein bar for snack, and chicken and rice for dinner.  But overall, you still aren’t getting the nutritional value you need daily. When food is cooked,  some of the nutrition and vitamins drop.  Juicing fruits and vegetables will give your body the vitamins it needs in an easily absorbable way.

3 Weeks of Juicing during January! 
2) Greens = life.  Green means life.  Remember in grade school science class when you learned about plants?  That thing called chlorophyll (you mean bore-ophyll a la Billy Madison)?  Well that is essentially the thing that gives life to the plants, helps them grow, helps them heal.  This will do the same for your body!  Juicing is great for disease prevention and disease curing.  This isn’t a whacky medicinal theory, I promise.  IT WORKS!  As a natural detox, you can also drop some pounds from juicing.  In January, I juiced every morning for 31 straight days and naturally lost weight.

3) Good on the go.  I take a green juice as my breakfast in the morning. It takes 3 minutes to make and keeps you full most of the morning.  Fruits and vegetables are full of fibers and vitamins that fill your belly up to get you through the morning. If you start your day off a healthy way you will continue to put good, quality foods into your system the rest of the day!

4) Wake your body up right – having a juice be the first thing you put into your body is your best bet.  It will wake up all your systems the right way.  Green juice > coffee for your morning routine.  Over the last few years I have juiced, I have had so much more energy in the morning.  Try experimenting with 2 weeks of juicing and two weeks not juicing, see how your energy levels are.  It’s a natural way to rejuvenate and detox your body.

There are way way more benefits to juicing every day that I could write a whole novel on (oooo that’s a thought).  As a holistic health coach, I believe in the power of fruits and vegetables.  I believe they can cure and change lives.  Juicing is something everyone should incorporate into their lives.  It doesn’t have to be daily, start with 2 or 3 a week.  Experiment with fruits, vegetables, and seeds and report back! I promise you will enjoy it!

Got questions on juicing or health coaching? Email me at or check out / . Don't forget to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

GUEST BLOGGER: May Challenge: I is for International Education

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

 Meet Jennifer Connor

As a child – a girly-girl for that matter – I dreamed of travel to such romanticized places like New York, Paris, London and Rome. I gravitated towards movies that took me to these places, from Disney’s The Lizzie Maguire Movie to my all-time favorite, repeat sleepover movie, The Parent Trip (sorry, the Lindsay Lohan version).

What started as fantasy, ended in adventure. I studied French in middle school and high school. Then, on a whim, decided to study Italian as a freshman at Penn State. I ran with this, taking three semesters of Italian and applying to study abroad in Florence, Italy. I had no idea that a trip that was a dream come true would be so life-changing and challenging.

Florence’s city scape – a photo I took during my
Spring 2009 semester studying there.
Though, Italy – a part of “old-Europe” and a very popular study abroad destination – would suggest an easy-breezy gourmet experience, I was surprised with how much I changed when I returned. Above all, I came back having shed my judgments about the way life should be lived. Prior to jet-setting, I’ll admit as a 19-year-old suburban Philadelphian, I placed certain career paths, lifestyles and possessions above others. What I learned in the “modern,” yet Renaissance-lingering city of Florence, is that there are many, many ways to live life – and NONE are better than another.

Today, I work at the Institute of International Education (IIE) in NYC across the street from the United Nations. Currently, we are running a campaign called, “Generation Study Abroad,” or #GenerationStudyAbroad. Currently, less than 10 percent of American students study abroad. This initiative aims to double the number of American students studying abroad by partnering with U.S. universities and encouraging undergraduates to take a semester abroad.

I took this photo from the roof of our IIE building.
To the left you’ll see the UN building and to the right,
numerous Fulbright advisers from universities around the United States.
Knowing that this blog is read more by the 20-something crew than undergraduates, your role in this is to encourage younger family members to pursue a study abroad opportunity, for one, and to at least get a passport. There’s a whole world out there of differing perspectives and I am a firm believer that if we can better understand our counterparts we have a much greater chance of achieving world peace. 

Secondly, if you feel you missed out on an international experience during your undergraduate degree OR still have a bug for travel ignited by a semester abroad, I have an opportunity for you. Specifically I work on the outreach team for the storied Fulbright Program, a program funded by the U.S. State Department and established in 1946 by Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. Fulbright introduced a bill in the United States Congress that called for the use of surplus war property from WWII to fund the “promotion of international good will through the exchange of students in the field of education, culture, and science.” Imagine that – the creation of positive, bi-national relationships steeped in intellectual exchange FUNDED by things we were using to destroy each other.

There are two opportunities for you to apply for – a year of study/research abroad OR a year teaching English abroad. I’m going to plant the seed, and let your imagination begin to run wild. Check out our website, follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook, and watch this introductory webinar introducing the new grant year.

Then, let me know if you have any questions! Via e-mail (, Facebook or Twitter (@Journalist_Jen).

May Challenge: H is for Hog... Jog n' Hog

Monday, May 12, 2014

Some of you may remember this post from a previous blog of mine, but this may be new to some. I thought it was absolutely worth the re-post. I have only had ice cream TWICE in the last 9 months which to me is beyond impressive after re-reading this post and my old lifestyle of ice cream in a bowl every night. I would love to participate in Uncle Dave's Jog n' Hog again but i may only be able to do the Half Hogger. (wuss, I know!) If anyone is looking for the perfect way to celebrate National Ice Cream Day, this is your race! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!!

July 15, 2012 

As many of you know, one of my favorite things - if not my absolute favorite thing in life besides family- is ice cream. Today is held extra special in my heart because it’s National Ice Cream Day. But I have to admit, this may be the best celebration to date.

While at work on Wednesday I saw my friends at Visit Bucks County (@VisitBucksPA) tweeted out information on the Jog N’ Hog race series taking place at Shady Brook Farms this weekend.

As I continued to read, I learned that Uncle Dave’s Ice Cream, located right on the farm, was hosting. To me what could be better than going for a run and eating ice cream. As I continued to learn, the race consists of a two mile run, you then eat a quart of ice cream, and then you run back. UMMM WHAT?!?!?!

While I thought this is quite possibly the most sickening thought, I knew I had to do it because this sounds like the most awesome thing I could ever do in my life. who would I sucker into doing this with me?? That was easy --- my running partner, my cousin Jackie, was an obvious yes, and I then forced my sister into doing it (she’s not a runner/never ran a race before) but she was all about it.

Being this run is based on having fun/a good time, the three of us have always called ourselves the three amigos. So to Shady Brook Farm we went as the Three Amigos. (We call ourselves this because we were OBSESSED with the comedy movie “Three Amigos” growing up, we use to watch it almost every day at our Memom’s house.)

The Jog n’ Hog series encouraged people to dress up as pigs, clearly for the race name, but we decided to go a bit off the beaten path. There were plenty of cute piglets along the race.

So at 8:30 a.m. off we went!!! With my sister and cousin beside me we tackled an event the three of us have never done together. (I actually think this is the first thing we’ve EVER all done together in our adult life.) Our sombreros were on, maracas were in hand and our bellies were empty. The occasional talk about hoping to not vomit was also brought up.
The Three Amigos

I could not be more proud of my sister who KILLED the first two miles after not training/really running. She felt great, she looked great. I was so happy to be by her side.

The first two miles were quickly over and as we approached the ice cream station we had about three guys powering their way to the finish line, killing a quart of ice cream and running two miles in nearly 25 minutes. These guys must have really trained. God bless their souls....and stomaches.

The ice cream station was a huge party. Families joined runners as they tackled the challenge of eating the entire quart of vanilla bean ice cream. Other mentally twisted individuals, like myself, brought toppings. I obviously was going to make this thing legit, no playing around. IT’S ICE CREAM PEOPLE!!!

Done and Done!!
So there we stood with several hundred ice cream eaters....some of them looking green and others enjoying themselves. After a few glamour shots with my family, I could see Missy and Jackie were hurting a little bit. Missy dented about 1/3 of her quart...Jackie I am unsure but probably around the same amount. I was pretty disappointed to see the amount of people who cheated. To me, who cares what time you finish! But at the same time I’m happy I didn’t see anyone get sick.

I, however, was in it to win it.

I don’t mess around with ice cream and I sure don’t mess around with an ice cream challenge. About five years back I completed the Friendly’s ice cream 12 scoop challenge. This was going to be a piece of cake.

A quart of ice cream with some chocolate sprinkles and chocolate sauce, and about 20 minutes later, my challenge was completed. My sister and cousin had all the faith in me that I could finish it.

The girls with Uncle Dave himself!
We left the ice cream station and were the last party there (I have a feeling the 15 minute conversation with Uncle Dave, the ice cream owner, hurt us with time a little bit, but I wanted to know the shops history!!!)

So back two miles we went....It was not much of a run but a quick stroll. I seriously had the best time of my life this morning and the ice cream fiesta in my mouth was so worth it!!! It was so nice to finally participate in a race where I was happy the entire time. With all of the races I do they are so competitive and I am too hard on myself. This race was the exact opposite.

The three amigos crossed the finish line together and it was great to see the smiles on everyone’s faces.

The best quote of the day was when a kid asked me how I response was, “I didn’t, I just showed up.” hahaha Our outfits were a hit and I’m glad I made people laugh today.

Thanks Hog n' Jog and Uncle Dave’s Ice Cream have made my national ice cream day a memorable one! 
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