How to Make Healthy Coffee Creamer

Hello, hello!

Alright so it’s been a couple weeks but I have a good excuse…I was in Puerto Vallarta!

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Yelapa, Mexico

And it was great! I didn’t take many pictures because mostly I: read on the beach, body boarded, slept, ate, ate, ate and hit up the spa. It was truly so relaxing and just what I hoped it would be. The waves were perfect from sun up to sun down and we body boarded to our hearts content. I have never been one to go to a spa on vacation but this time I did and I LOVED IT. I actually got 2 massages in 1 week. Don’t hate me! We didn’t even rent a car so it was total bliss. I ate tons of chips and guacamole and shrimp and even this molten pot of cheese!

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I don’t normally like pico de gallo, as I hate tomatoes, but I was totally feeling it on this trip!

This post is going to be random as I jump subjects. But when I got home I made this fabulous banana bread from Bakerita.com! I have some sort of curse when it comes to banana bread, zucchini bread or any type of quick bread. It always turns out concave and burned yet raw at the same time. This recipe though turned out perfectly.  It’s sweetened only with bananas and uses coconut flour. Mmmm, I still have some in my freezer. It’s perfect for dipping in coffee!

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And so now speaking of coffee, I mentioned a while back that I was quitting stevia because I’m just a little skeptical about the stuff. If you google the subject you will learn some interesting things. But my gut feeling is: if it tastes too good to be true, it probably is, so I’ve been on a quest to cut out all stevia and replace it with sweetener that comes from real food. Not just pure sugar. That stuff still isn’t healthy.

Here is a summary of my coffee loving history.

  • 1996 (age 16): Started drinking lattes! I discovered coffee flavoring syrup and determined vanilla was the best. Of course back then sugar wasn’t bad for you, fat was! A few years down the road I switched to sugar free vanilla syrup. Gross.
  • 2002-ish: Switched to regular coffee and developed a passionate love for Vanilla Coffee Mate. Yikes.
  • 2008-ish: Upon becoming vegan I switched to the soy version of Coffee Mate. Vanilla Soy Creamer. A step in the right direction for sure since I think that stuff at least doesn’t have partially hydrogenated oil in it.
  • 2011: Switched to stevia & almond milk and other non-dairy milks.

Is this interesting? No, of course not. But the point is, I’ve tried just about everything (except drinking my coffee black, haha!!!) and I am committed to getting the perfectly sweetened cup of coffee in the morning.

Of course I could just start using honey or brown rice syrup instead of stevia but that wouldn’t be nearly as exciting as making my own creamer out of dates now would it?!

This creamer tastes very good, is very easy to make and it gives me the satisfaction of coming from real food. And I just want to say, I have not blown up like a balloon having made this switch. I know that was a concern when I quit stevia. Like, won’t switching to actual food that contains calories make me gain weight? No. The answer is no. But the stevia people don’t want us to know that. Oh, but what I do want to say is: since I made this switch my “sugar threshold” has gone waaaaay down. It doesn’t take much of this DIY Creamer to sweeten my coffee. One thing about Stevia is, it’s about 300 times sweeter than sugar. So consuming stevia will indeed make you crave more sugar.

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DIY Coffee Creamer

  • 1/2 cup medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 cup non dairy milk (I’m liking hemp milk or almond milk as long as it doesn’t contain carageenan)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • small pinch of salt

Put all ingredients in a glass measuring cup or bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours (or overnight).

Remove from refrigerator and microwave for about 2 minutes to soften the dates, this will make it easier to blend.

Pour mixture into a blender and blend on high until smooth.

Store in a glass container. I love the “Weck Juice Bottles” and use them for tons of things! You can get them at Crate & Barrel or Williams Sonoma.

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And last but not least here is Rocco playing in what I call “Minpin Cove”. Heaps of blankets, toys, my socks and tennis balls all over my living room.

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Alright, I’ll be back soon with more exciting things like how to make your own kitchen & bath cleaner and laundry soap! Woooo!

Laura

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Costa Rica Part 2

I’m back in the land of the living again, well kind of! I’ve had the flu for the past 8 days and it’s been reaaaaaal ugly. My fiancé took such good care of me while I was sick, but now he is sick and I feel awful about that. We are just practicing all that “in sickness and in health” stuff early. 🙂 Ok, I think we have it down.

For anyone on the cleanse, your 3 weeks is just about up if it’s not over yet! Congratulations for giving it a try!

Ok, here is the rest of our Costa Rica adventure.

On Christmas Eve we decided we needed to find a new place to stay for the rest of our trip. Someplace with air conditioning. Anyplace. We were staying in Jaco/Playa Hermosa by the way. Every hotel even remotely close was booked. So we kept expanding our search. Finally, we found a brand new Hilton (with a/c) with vacancy in Liberia. I know, funny name, right? We weren’t planning on going to Liberia on our our trip, but it turned out to be a great change of plans. Liberia is really close to great beaches, national parks and I’m convinced in 15 years it will be the Vegas of Costa Rica.
We get to Liberia and the climate there is totally different than the Puntarenas Region where we had been. Puntarenas was really green and humid. Liberia was more arid desert.
The following day we drove down the Nicoya Peninsula and went to a National Park and visited a town called Tamarindo. The National Park was cool because within the park it had something like 4 different climate zones including rain forest, dry forest, arid desert and one more I can’t remember. It also had waterfalls and 2 volcanos. Cool stuff.
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The next day we went to Playa Samara and WOW, this was an incredible beach and fantastic stop! This white sand beach was so clean and safe. The water was almost as warm as bath water and we spent the entire day boogie boarding and having a blast. After our day of fun in the sun we ate a phenomenal dinner at a Mexican restaurant and headed back to Liberia.
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I guess we didn’t take many pictures this day since we were in the water.
We spent the following day at another national park. This park was really huge and was known for it’s wetlands and for having over 200 bird species.
We saw a lot of wildlife in this park.

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First, alligators! There were 2 and they were fighting, but only caught one on camera.
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This cute little thing is a Coati Mundi. There were a bunch of them but then a car drove by and scared them all away.
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Tons of monkeys! What do you think about monkeys? Cute or creepy? A little of both I think.
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Iguanas are EVERYWHERE. Like squirrels here.
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Ducks. I just realized I made that picture bigger than the others and I like it!20130122-195657.jpg20130122-195802.jpg20130122-195815.jpg20130122-200033.jpg
We saw tons of birds!

The next day we drove back to San Jose and enjoyed our last day in Costa Rica.

This was such an amazing vacation and it has been so fun sharing all these pictures, I hope you enjoyed them!

Adios!
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Costa Rica Part 1

It is SO cold outside in Utah. Lilly says having to go potty outside when it’s 8˚ is cruel. I don’t blame her.

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So far the cleanse is going well. All two days of it. For breakfast I have the Thin Mint Protein Shake, Creamy Tomato Soup for lunch, a handful of cashews for a snack and dinner is a salad made of brown rice, black beans, greens, salsa and guacamole. Normally I’m active and I would need to eat more than this, but right now I have a nasty cold so I have mostly been sitting and am therefore not very hungry.

Ok, on to the fun stuff. Costa Rica!

My fiancé and I are both planners so we had our trip all laid out. We rented a house in Playa Hermosa, near Jaco which has the best surf in Costa Rica. The pictures and description of the rental house sounded amazing so we booked it for the whole week. Our plan was to surf, go to a volcano, a national park, surf more and my fiancé likes to paraglide so of course that was a big part of our plans.

Plans change.

We got in late so we decided to stay the first night in San Jose because the rental house was about 2 hours away. The hotel we stayed at that first night was AMAZING! We were so spoiled that first night! We liked the hotel so much we stayed there again our last night since our flight went out early in the morning.

The second day we drove out to our rental house. We stopped and took lots and lots of pictures.

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This is the beach in Jaco. Beautiful, dark sand, very warm water and consistently good surf.

Then we get to the rental house. It looks just like it did in the pictures. But now would be a good time to mention the house had NO AIR CONDITIONING and since the house is not lived in most of the time, it reeked of mold. Ok, that’s fine, it has lots of windows. We rushed around and opened every window and door in the house. But then you have to close the doors at 5 because the mosquitos are too bad. And the doors and windows didn’t have bars on them so it wasn’t safe to sleep with them open anyway. Now I should mention that every night there was gun fire nearby. Like, real nearby. And roosters that go off at 5:30 in the morning. So, we wake up at 5:30 after a night of hearing random gunfire in a house that is 84˚ with 75% humidity for a heat index of 91˚.

That didn’t get us down though. We were too excited to hit the beach. My fiancé surfs and I boogie board but I was eager to try surfing. So in to the warm water we go, it was amazing! I managed to stand up on the surfboard a few times…before breaking the board. Shoot. No worries, we rented me a boogie board instead since that’s my jam 🙂 We had the BEST day of surfing/boogie boarding. We laughed and laughed and laughed. It was a great day! Until we went back to the hot house, showered and toweled off with wet towels that smelled like mold. Yummy.

We had great food while we were in Jaco. It’s not typical Costa Rican food, its pretty much like the food you find here. We ate at a great sushi restaurant (veggie rolls) and a great “fusion” restaurant that served a little bit of everything.

The second day was equally amazing. We went to this place called “The Zephyr Palace” and it is hands down the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Rooms here START at $400/night.

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This place was incredible.
We stopped here and ate our homemade peanut butter sandwiches we brought 🙂

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From here we went to the paragliding site because it was looking like it might be good for flying. I will post more pictures and videos of paragliding soon after I get them all off the camera. I probably took 100 pictures.

Here is one picture of future hubby assessing the site. It was so gorgeous!

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After he was done flying we went back in to town and had another great dinner. Around this time we started dreading going back to the house. It was sooooo hot in that house and it was impossible to sleep much. We were getting tired and a little desperate. We decided we needed to find another place to stay. A place with air conditioning. The next day was Christmas so finding a hotel with vacancy was tough. We went in to super nerd mode, each of us conducting searches on our tablets, cross referencing expedia with trip advisor reviews and the guide book. The search got gnarly. Every good hotel we found was booked. Every hotel with vacancy had awful reviews. We just. wanted. air. conditioning…

To be continued…

My Vacation to the San Juan Islands

Hello Everyone!

Last week I was in the San Juan Islands, off the coast of Seattle, celebrating my parents retirement, my brothers 37th birthday and my parents 42nd wedding anniversary! My brother and his wife were kind enough to put this trip together and they rented an amazing home for us all to stay in. There were 7 of us on this trip: my brother Greg, his wife Leslie, their 9 year old son and 6 year old daughter, our mom and dad and me.

I arrived in Seattle and it was very chilly compared to Salt Lake City! I spent a day looking around Seattle and visited Pike Place Market. I loved all the flower vendors!

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I wish I could have taken some of these flowers home!

Next, I took a ferry out to San Juan Island. It was very cold for the first few days of the trip.

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Doesn’t that just look chilly!

The weather did improve though and we found out we were here during the warmest days they have had in the last 9 months!

I went for a couple short runs but stopped to snap some pictures.

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Oh and cool is my nieces shirt? It says “hugs & pugs”!

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Lilly would feel so honored if she only knew.

Every day we went sight seeing. We were always trying to spot some orca whales, but no luck.

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The ocean

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Part of my good looking family

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Me

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Snug Harbor

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Snug Harbor

It was nice to have such a beautiful home to return to at the end of each day.

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Tough Life, I know

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Cute barn on the property

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The living room aka the dance floor 🙂

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The well used kitchen

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View from the kitchen window

I can’t believe I didn’t see a single pug on this trip. I only saw a partial pug. It was half Pug, half Boston Terrier but it had the friendliness of a Pug and friendly owners too!

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Me, on a boat

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Kayaking with my pops!

Thank you to my family for a great vacation, especially to Greg and Leslie for organizing everything and renting that house!

Adventure Race Chronicles

Well, we survived! Actually we did better than that, we raced for 12 hours in near 100 degree temperatures and didn’t sustain as much as a blister or a flat tire! Success!

We are now suffering from some “saddle soreness” though…YOW!

We ended up only having to run about 3 miles, not the 17 miles we had prepared for. But I don’t think we were really sad about that. It was really hot.

Here is how the day went:

5:30am: Woke up and ate a breakfast of Ezekiel bread with almond butter and agave nectar (my standard pre-race meal) and a cup of coffee.

7am: Arrived at race check in, received our maps and check point coordinates. The boys plotted the course. More on that later. At this time we learned where the race would start, what order we would be running/biking/paddling/climbing and where we needed to drop our gear & boat off at.

8am: Dropped the boat off at the designated spot. Drove to the start.

8:30am: Arrived at the race start, determined what gear we needed to have on us and what could be left in the gear box and picked up later. We would only have one chance to get items out of the gear box. Snacked on Laura Balls. Made many jokes.

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It was all laughs before the race start! My teammates kept me giggling from 7am-11pm! We were not the most serious racers but I am positive we had the most fun! Those guys are awesome!

10am: Race begins and it’s already about 80 degrees out! We started running, carrying our packs, life jackets and paddles. We had to run approximately a mile to our boat (a 2 person sea kayak that we smooshed 3 people in to). Began paddling.

I lose track of time here. We paddled down the Jordan River for about 5 miles. Our sea kayak was not the easiest to steer. The boys did all the paddling, I rode in the middle. I felt very useless in this section but there wasn’t enough room for all 3 of us to paddle at once without knocking paddles. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of this, but I am positive we looked great. 🙂

Next, we got out of the river and put our running shoes back on. We got quite wet during the river portion but it felt good. From here we left our boat, water shoes, paddles and life jackets and ran to a climbing gym about a mile away via paved roads. This was more like an urban adventure race as we did zero trail running.

We arrived at the climbing gym and had to choose 1 of 5 routes to climb. We all had to climb the same route. We earned time deductions for how high we made it up the wall. I’m very happy to report that all 3 of us made it to the top! I knew the boys would make it but I didn’t think I would make it half way up since I had only practiced climbing 3 times and it’s definitely not my forte. That was my personal success of the day!

Then we ran back to the boat.

Here’s the fun part. Not. We had to “portage” (carry) the boat back to the start which was about a mile away. Other teams had wheels to put under their boat, but not us. We pretty much just carried it. If we ever do this again we will be using wheels!

1pm: Once back to the starting area we ditched the boat for good and prepared for the rest of the race. We changed into our biking gear and packed our bags with all the food & water we would need for the rest of the day! This would be our last chance to get anything we needed out of our gear box. We also fueled up on sandwiches and Gatorade.

Side note: this is the only race I’ve ever done where stopping and eating a sandwich isn’t frowned upon, it’s actually encouraged! That’s my kind of race!

1:30pm: We were now on our way to the mountains where the race would really start to feel like an adventure. Until this point it had all been urban. We started biking on a paved trail until we got to the trail head. At this point, it started getting extremely hot. I was so thankful to be on the bike and not running. Running in that heat would have been…nearly impossible.

Once we arrived at the trailhead we were supposed to hit a “check point” and write that number down. This is was our main frustration with the course. The check points were not where they were supposed to be. The boys are highly trained in land navigation and they are very precise. Unfortunately, the race organizers were not precise and didn’t put the check points where they were marked on the map. This was a huge source of frustration for us because we were doing everything right but ended up wasting a lot of time searching around for points that were more than 200 meters off!

Thats ok, we were in it for the experience of team racing and fun and nothing else.

Now it’s about 2pm and we started mountain biking up the mountain. It was HOT and our heads started pounding. We were drinking as much water as we could and spitting water on ourselves to cool down. With the dry heat it didn’t even feel like I was sweating. Things were rough for me at this point and I felt like I was hardly moving.

Then we came upon a runoff stream. It. Was. Glorious. We stopped and got our clothes wet with the cold water and cooled our bodies. We had a little blue lagoon moment at it was incredible. I believe it totally saved us. Our headaches went away and afterward we felt so invigorated.

We made it to the checkpoint at the top and had a choice to make. It was 3:30pm and we had until 8:30pm to either trail run or mountain bike. We chose to stay on the bike. Our task was to hit as many “check points” as we could and then be back to the top by 8:30pm to head back to the start/finish.

We did great during this part and racked up a bunch of points from hitting so many check points. It also meant we biked for 6.5 hours before biking back to the start.

We checked in at 8:30pm, exhausted from the climb back up the mountain. But then it was time to descend. We must have been ready to be done because we hauled major booty down that mountain. It was by far my favorite part of the race. Oh did it feel good!

Once we were down the mountain we had to bike back to the start the same way we came. I think at this point we really didn’t even care about being in a race. We were just chatting and having fun and enjoying the cooler temps and the darkness. We saw a skunk, some fox and 2 bucks on our ride back! At one point we were like, ‘oh yeah, this is a race, we should probably speed up!’

We made it across the finish line around 10:00pm I think. It was great to be greeted by Jeff’s family!

Since we weren’t allowed to use our phones during the race I had mine securely put away and didn’t take any pictures or track how far we went. I really have no idea how many miles we rode, but I know we rode for about 8 hours.

Then we packed up, went home, ate, showered and slept!

The next day the saddle soreness was unreal. The seams from my shorts had embedded into my tush and I had lovely sores. The boys had their own issues which I won’t elaborate on.

In the end, it was a great experience and I’m so glad we were able to race as a team and I am really proud of us. Thank you boys for racing with me!

Tour of my Home!

I have always loved the Parade of Homes. And model homes. And MTV Cribs back in the day. And just about anything on HGTV! It’s just so fun getting to look inside people’s homes! Admittedly, my home is nowhere NEAR anything you would see on TV, but I figure if you are anything like me, you would like to have a look anyway!

So let’s start my little home tour.

First of all, I live in a Townhouse, which is awesome because it gives me the convenience of an attached 2 car garage, but NO YARD WORK!

I don’t have an actual yard, just a small courtyard, but I still have a micro garden! I am currently growing 3 very small cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, basil and kale.

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When you walk in the front door you head right upstairs and into the main living area & kitchen.

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I am not into decorating at all, but I do have a love for all things black and tan. Case in point:

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What a ridiculous creature!

This is the other side of that wall. My dad built both of these pieces and they are hands down the nicest things in my house.

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The living area is open to the kitchen, my favorite room in the house. This kitchen was probably the main reason I chose this home.

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I like it a lot!

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Inside the kitchen there is a huge pantry which I think is a Utah thing. We loooove our big pantry’s in Utah!

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My pantry has surprisingly little food in it. As you can see I have many kitchen electrics and many spices. The only food items I really have are canned beans, quinoa, wild rice and amaranth. The rest is all fresh produce in the fridge.

There is also a 1/2 bath in the kitchen which is very convenient.

Now let’s head up another flight of stairs, that’s right, we are getting our workout in. 🙂

This is the guest bedroom.

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And guest bathroom. I apologize for the lighting here.

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I absolutely adore washing machines. It’s like a sickness. I think after having to use laundromats for so long, being able to do laundry in my home will forever feel like a luxury. No more lugging loads of laundry through snow! Here they are in action even!

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I love them. If they were bright pink I would love them more! Do you think pinterest has directions on how to paint appliances? Probably.

Last on the tour is the master bedroom (my bedroom).

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I’m pretty simple. I just went for all white. The curtains came from Target for about $20, the duvet cover is from Pottery Barn.

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There is a big closet in there too but I didn’t take a picture. I’ll just tell you it’s very organized and color coded. I have all my workout (work clothes for me) clothes hanging up and I own about 4 pairs of jeans.

My bathroom.

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That’s it! You have seen it all! Thanks for stopping by!

Trail Running

I have recently decided to take my running off road. I know, what took me so long, right?

Well, I was scared to! Running up hills and down hills in gravel and dirt = scary for accident prone girls!
It did sound like fun though. Plus I was looking forward to a new challenge and a change in scenery.

Speaking of new challenges, my boyfriend and I are planning on doing an adventure race together next month (if we can both get our obnoxious injuries healed up by then!) which consists of a 15-17 mile trail run, a 35 mile mountain bike and a 5 mile canoe/kayak. The race takes place over a 12 hour time span and you are only give certain coordinates so you have to plot your own course using a map and compass. That’s where the boyfriend will really come in handy! I figure I can be in charge of making snacks and telling jokes and he can be in charge of getting us to the correct check points.

So, 15-17 mile trail run…I better start trail running!

Runners World magazine just published a trail running issue with a big write-up on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail here in Salt Lake and how great it is. The magazine also said trail running is one of the few level playing fields between men and women. So that’s encouraging considering I run a 9 minute mile and boyfriend runs a … 7? Gulp.

Last week I decided to go out for my first real trail run. Exciting! I had a goal to just do 2-3 miles because I read you should take it easy your first time out. Well, I started running and I just couldn’t stop! The scenery was beautiful, the trail was full of runners and mountain bikers and the air was fresh! I felt like a big dog running wild with my tongue hanging out my mouth. Or maybe more like a small, perky dog just taken off leash. 🙂

I ran all the way up here…

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And then I kept on going! I felt so great I ended up running 6 miles total. Oops!

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These pictures were both taken from the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in Salt Lake, behind the University of Utah.

I hope you all are enjoying spring time!