3 Tips for Easier Holiday Travel

Holiday travel doesn’t have to be a headache

Whether you’re traveling highway, sky, or rails, here are 3 tips for easier holiday travel that will help you navigate smoothly to your destination and allow you to relax with family and friends at the Thanksgiving table.

Things that can fudge your holiday: traffic, airport queues that wrap around the terminal, lost luggage, or worst of all a missed flight. Often with a little planning, these things can be avoided…or at least mitigated.

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Quip: Best Home & Travel Toothbrush

EGADS! I made a mistake–I do have an affiliate link to this product on Amazon (I totally forgot) so this is technically an #ad! Disregard my original words: This is neither an ad nor an affiliate link; I am really this excited about my Quip toothbrush. (you can find yours at my Amazon store)

Imagine having an electric toothbrush nearly the size of a hammer in a charging stand on your vanity. Imagine it needs to be plugged in to keep a charge, meaning you’ve just lost one outlet in your bathroom. Now you’re traveling and your choices are to find space in your luggage for the hammer and its charger or switch to a manual brush for the duration of your vacation. And we all know what that feels like, right?

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Best Travel Makeup, Ever!

Can you travel for a week with nothing but a carry-on and a tote? Would you like to?

Start by paring down your makeup bag. There is some serious bulk and weight in all of those tubes and bottles and jars! How do you not take the essentials, you ask? And let’s face it, once you’re into a beauty routine, it all feels essential at some point, right?

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5K in Every State – Utah!

Y’all, this one was A. Mazing! And yes, it’s the third one this year…I do believe I’m on a 5K roll!

Twelve states done!

This trip was quite last minute. In July I joined a makeup company (this is going to blow your mind, btw), so now in addition to my full-time day job, I’m also a Maskcara Beauty Artist in my free time (more on that in another post). Before my Artist kit even arrived, the opportunity arose to attend the company’s annual conference in Salt Lake City and I said “why not?” My cancer diagnosis five years ago gave me a new perspective on life and a greater appreciation for positive life experiences, so where I used to hesitate and err on the side of caution, now I’m saying yes to a whole lot more. This is making me very happy.

A downtown Salt Lake City mural. Who else loves murals?!

Since Utah had not been checked off my list yet, I figured I should work a 5K into the 47 hours I’d be there. Why wouldn’t I, right? This one was tricky because I didn’t want to miss any of the conference. Well, it just so happened that The Launch Team 5K/10K was happening Saturday morning at 6:30. That’s race start time, folks. I had to be at the designated meeting place by 5:30 a.m. to catch a bus that drove us up Emigration Canyon, and then we ran the 5K back down the canyon. The morning speaker at the conference was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Y’all, this was a test of my efficiency if I’ve ever seen one.

We literally stumbled around in the dark looking for the registration table.

There’s so much to say about this race. First, the group trains teens and young adults of all athletic abilities to run a half marathon. A half marathon. You can’t see me, but I’m bowing in awe. These folks are amazing. They coach kids not only to run, but to develop a healthy lifestyle, to be accountable, and to develop a passionate and positive attitude. I’m so glad I gave these people my money and ran down a hill with them. All the feels!

Second, the scenery. Gahhhh! It was middle-of-the-night dark when I arrived, and it took a while to find where/who was handing out shirts and bibs because all we had for light were the school bus headlights parked along the street. Not to be deterred, we packed in and rode up the canyon, unloaded, and it was still dark. This actually made for some quiet, meditative pre-race time as opposed to the usual hopping around and stretching. It gave me the opportunity to get a little zen vibe going on.

And then the sun started rising. I didn’t actually see the sun until after the race because we were in a canyon; it simply became light enough to see, and the mountains of the Wasatch Range were revealed. Gorgeous.

The mountains as seen from Emigration Canyon.

With the run being all downhill, one would think I would have pulled a fantastic time. No M’am. I did an all-downhill 5K in 42:47 minutes, just 2 minutes faster than my flat Minnesota run in June. Hmph. Yes, I stopped to take pictures a few times, but that can account for maybe 3 minutes at most. They say these downhill runs are so people can get crazy fast times to qualify for marathons. Well, I’m not trying to qualify for anything. Obviously.

Check out this home nestled in the canyon. The Sound of Music anyone?

But, I made it down the canyon, and the sun was at my back as I triumphantly breathlessly crossed the finish line.

They pronounced my name correctly when I crossed the finish line! #saymyname

I collected my second place winnings (for my age group, and there were only three of us) which consisted of a ribbon and a couple of coupons for local eateries, and as I crossed the street to await my Uber I saw this.

Day made right there.

I’ve been struck by ridiculous, overwhelming, natural beauty on each of my 5K trips. Salt Lake City was no exception, and it was crazy easy to navigate. The TRAX Light Rail from the airport to downtown was quick  and I paid for my ride with an app. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

Waiting on the train.

TRAX coming to take me home. Well, back to the airport. The cars were super clean, which is always a welcome relief.

I didn’t see much of the city because my time there was short and I was committed to the conference and the predawn 5K. But y’all, I’m so glad I set out on this crazy journey! Some of these races I’m half walking, and some day I might be walking them entirely, but good grief it is so worth it. If you’re thinking about seeing more of our breathtaking United States, do it. I highly recommend taking it all in. Let it fill your eyes with beauty and your heart with joy. Running shoes optional.

Cheers!
Kelly

 

5K in Every State – Minnesota!

Yep, another 5K in another state. That’s number eleven and the second this year…so far. Eleven! I’m well into the double digits. Ha! Before I give the deets on my Minnesota run though, and for the benefit of the folks just tuning in, I want to revisit why this lofty goal is even on my bucket list (lest anyone think I’m plain crazy).

11 states done, 39 to go!

In 2013 I was diagnosed with stage IIB invasive breast cancer, and understandably, I got way in my head about it. Even with the prognosis of a 93% 5-year and 83% 10-year survival rate, hearing the words “you have cancer” had me questioning everything. For the first time I seriously contemplated my own mortality, I mean seriously realized it could happen and definitely would happen some day. The good news is that it lit a fire in me to get busy living!

My treatment plan included lumpectomy, radiation, meds, healthy eating, and regular exercise. Physical fitness has never been my jam. Starting programs is my forte; sticking with them is not. But, I joined the YMCA LIVESTRONG program where a group of us survivors were instructed in workouts twice a week for three months. It’s a great program, and I thought after doing something for three months it would stick. No M’am. Within a few weeks of completing the course I was skipping the gym more than I was going.

Meanwhile, as I was avoiding the gym, I was working on my bucket list which included a vague reference to travel–something I used to do more often–and I was also racking my brain for an exercise routine that wouldn’t bore me to tears (no stationary exercise equipment please) and didn’t require me to go to a place (because when I get home from work, I’m in). Then it hit me: a 5K in every state would get me traveling again AND would force me to stay active because I’d have to train for each of the 50 races. And all I had to do was run out the door–no going to the gym. Genius! Except I wasn’t a runner. Aye-aye-aye.

Now you’re up to speed, and my most recent run in Minnesota was the 8th Annual Tanner’s Team Walk/Run which raises funds for the Tanner’s Team Foundation. TTF helps families with children fighting life-threatening illness or serious injury in 45 central Minnesota counties. Any time a charity involves children, it tugs at my heart, and seeing some of the kiddos at the race that have been helped by this group gave me all the feels. I was honored to run this one. Well, I sort of ran it. I was just a few weeks into the Couch to 5K program 11.0, so I did run/walk intervals (sounds familiar–same as the last race!) that got me 44:37. Safe to say this was not a personal best, but hey, I showed up and I finished.

The Tanner’s Team Foundation bear?

Finished! And not last!

The day prior, I flew into Minneapolis, rented a car, and marched myself straight to the Mary Tyler Moore statue. It’s Mary who reminds me that I’m “gonna make it after all,” so it wouldn’t have felt right visiting the city without paying homage to the Mary. If I had a hat with me…

I didn’t have long to poke around the city, but the tiny slice I saw was beautiful. At population 420,000, the city has two light rails, a commuter rail, and the Minneapolis Skyway System, which is seven miles of enclosed pedestrian bridges linking eighty city blocks. It’s ranked the 9th most walkable city in the nation. Not bad when you consider the average yearly high temp is 55.2 (that’s for the whole year–it gets into the 80s in July). There’s an artsy vibe downtown, and I stumbled upon some darn good food, too. Do you get the feeling I was absolutely enamored with this city? Me too.

The Mary. A true pioneer.

The Mercury Dining Room and Rail – awesome eats at the former Soo Line train station.

My final destination, however, was a family get-together about an hour and a half from Minneapolis, so off I went to see the brother and the sisters. And in-laws, and nephews, and nieces, oh my! One of my nephews I last saw at Dad’s funeral in 1999, and the last time the sibs were all together was at Mom’s funeral, so this light-hearted gathering with the perfect weather, the games, and more food than we could possibly eat was incredibly relaxing, needed, and good for the soul. My family really needs to do more socializing outside of funerals. These last two trips (I did New Hampshire in May) have made my heart smile.

The setting for our reunion could not have been more beautiful.

We each tie dyed a shirt as a family reunion keepsake, cuz we’re groovy like that!

My next race is to be determined, but I’ll keep you posted. I hope y’all have some fun stuff planned this year. It’s wonderful to get out and explore, and to quote the MTM show lyrics, it’s time you started living!

Cheers!
Kelly

5K in Every State – New Hampshire!

Hello, my dears, I’ve missed y’all! The winter season hit me hard this year and I’m guilty of having hibernated, procrastinated, and generally couch-potatoed. That is, until a couple of months ago. I got off my behind and started the Couch to 5K program again and checked New Hampshire off my 5K in Every State list. Ten states done. TEN. Can I get a woot woot!

10 states done! Only 40 more…

I did the 16th Annual Mont Vernon 5K which supports the Neighbor 2 Neighbor program serving Mont Vernon residents who find themselves needing help with necessities like groceries and heat. Don’t you just love when people help each other? That’s community.

While the scenery on this course was breathtaking, the run itself was nothing short of ugly. I did a run/walk interval and still felt like c.r.a.p. the entire time. In my defense, I’m not quite half way through the C25K program, and my time was 47:01. A real runner might scoff at that (it’s a full 20 minutes behind the fastest in my age group), but I’m proud of (and thankful for) finishing without assistance from the medics. Damn proud.

One of the many gorgeous views along the 5K course

As we lined up and awaited the start gun, I asked a couple with a baby in a jogging stroller if the course was fairly flat. They’re pushing a baby in a stroller, so the course can’t be too tough, right? Well, given the state in which this particular 5K was hosted, that was a nitwit question. It’s New Hampshire. No, the course is likely not flat. However, the couple looked at each other quizzically and said “there’s one big hill, but otherwise it’s pretty flat.” I thought to myself, wow, did I ever get lucky!

Pfft.

I wanted to hunt them down after the race, stroller and all, and explain how they needed to educate themselves on the definition of flat vs. G.D. lung-collapsing hilly. But, being the polite traveler I am, I didn’t. And maybe because it would be a half hour before I could breathe well enough to actually speak.

Shin splints and wheezing aside, it was awesome to have participated in this little local race supporting such a great cause. Mont Vernon was beautiful, the folks were friendly (although topographically confused), and they had a lovely Spring Gala happening along with the race. If you’re checking out small towns in New Hampshire, add Mont Vernon to your list.

General Store in Mont Vernon, NH

But, the real reason for my visit to The Granite State, the OG, was to celebrate a friend receiving her law degree. Completing law school is an impressive accomplishment in and of itself, but the Fabulous Miss M did this after having been in the workforce for…a certain number of years. She had a wonderful network of friends and family supporting her, but I know from personal experience the drive, commitment, and forgone sleep it takes to complete a degree as an adult. Congrats, dear friend, you never fail to impress.

With the graduate. I liked it better when we lived in the same state!

Do y’all have that one friend who knows exactly how to make everyone feel welcome? Whose home feels like home. This is that friend, and it was an incredibly lovely weekend spent with she and her husband, and a load of family, friends, babies, kids, and dogs. The food was potluck exquisite, and it went on forever! You know, when every guest brings the most amazing dish? It was that times a hundred. And with beer. And a bonfire. The weekend could not have been better.

Two of the FOUR pork butts slow cooked on the smoker. #drooling

The bonfire came in handy against the dreaded Mayflies. Next time I’ll visit in June!

I came home after this long weekend feeling recharged having reconnected with friends. When I think about the folks in Mont Vernon hosting a race each year to raise funds for their Neighbor 2 Neighbor program, I see that same spirit in the circle of friends around my New Hampshire peeps. The genuine kindness that exuded from this group was palpable. New Hampshire, the 10th state on my list, was host to a great trip. Beautiful vistas, really good food, and awesome people!

Cheers!
Kelly

5K in Every State: Illinois!

Y’all, I’m checking states off my list! In June I hit Virginia, and although I’m somewhat tardy in reporting this next one, in September I did a 5K in Illinois. Can I get a Kimmy Schmidt high five? This was actually my second attempt at a race in Illinois – the first one was a wash (take a peek). No, really. It rained so hard I couldn’t convince my feet to step out of the swag tent. We ran like children to the car and went out to eat instead.

Nine states done! Woot woot!

But the second time was a charm. I have family in Illinois and pop in a couple of times per year, so scheduling a visit around a 5K was no big. And the bonus was that my niece and grand-niece joined me! These two were so sweet to walk with me, and what a trooper Little A was for walking the entire 3.1 miles (she’s 4). Honestly, she complained less than I did.

My team is ready to roll!

The walk was in a little town, a “subdivision” if we’re using the local vernacular, not too far from home base. Plainfield is in northeastern Illinois, southwest of the city. Its population is less than 50,000, with a historic downtown of boutiques, shops, and restaurants. We did the Plainfield Harvest 5K, but there are lots of other festivals and events throughout the year. It was a darling little place, and I recommend giving it a look if you’re in the area.

DuPage River in Plainfield IL
Part of the walk was along the DuPage River – beautiful

Cornfield in Plainfield IL
If there’s a cornfield, you’re probably in the Midwest

It was a leisurely walk…

Typically, my 5k trips take me to places I haven’t been, but this one was all family, all the way, which was a nice change of pace. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in seeing the world that I forget how much I enjoy hanging with the fam. After the race we grabbed a couple slices (only in Chicagoland will you be provided post-race pizza rather than the usual banana and granola bar) and headed back home where we set up for my grand-nephew’s birthday party, complete with a piñata! I’m telling you, no matter how old you are, a piñata causes some excitement. These kids were little and no match for my candy-stealing skills. I’m kidding!

It’s been a few years since I’ve been able to stay a while and visit with the Illinois contingent. Most of my travel energy was devoted to getting to the middle of Wisconsin (which is no easy task) to spend time with my Mom, usually leaving me with just an overnight in Chicago. Since Mom passed away, I haven’t been back to Wisconsin. I have to admit, as much as I loathed the Planes, Trains, and Automobiles spectacle of getting to her, the empty slots on my travel calendar where Mom used to be are weighty. Still, it was nice to settle in and relax for a few days with my sister and extended family in Illinois–and the fact that it came sans guilt for enjoying family time without Mom was a pleasant surprise. A relief.

We visited the Chicago Botanic Garden, which was beautiful! If you haven’t been, get there. Seriously, go. We burned the better part of four hours and saw just a fraction of the place. It is huge! We saw the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, and the Waterfall Garden. There are 26 other gardens/features to see, which means I need to get back to the CBG.

Chicago Botanic Garden
Chicago Botanic Garden – go see!

The best part of this trip was spending time with my people, some of whom I haven’t seen in quite a while, and doing everyday things with them. You’d be surprised the bonding that can come from a trip to WalMart for a Halloween bucket or a beer run to the corner gas station. It seems the older I get, the faster time passes. Truth be told, as much as I treasure my freedom to travel near and far, I could use a little more “every day life” in my life.

Cheers!
Kelly

 

A Long Weekend in the Mountains (Blowing Rock NC)

Hey Everyone!

About a month ago I took a long-weekend respite in the mountains of North Carolina, and while I posted a couple of pics and a video to the Half Fast and Classy Facebook page, I just realized I still haven’t shared it to the blog. Egads!

I’ve been in high gear (well, higher than usual for me, which is probably still medium gear for most!) with the yard and haven’t found as much time to write as I would like. With that said, let’s make this mountain trip post mostly visual, shall we? Yay!

It’s good to give yourself a break and feed your soul every now and then. When I say feed your soul, that can mean something different for everyone. For me, connecting with nature does my heart and mind good. For others it might be spending time with friends or family, or volunteering, or skydiving. My point is, do what’s good for you. Treat yourself to the things that make you happy!

Grace and I buckled our seat belts and headed a few hours down the road to meet our friend, Karen, and from there the three of us drove to Blowing Rock. It was my first time there, and I can’t say enough about this quaint little mountain town, the people, the scenery, the food, the drink, the accommodations, the convenience. Get the picture? I’m a fan! Here are a few recommendations if you’re headed that way.

What to See in Blowing Rock

Julian Price Memorial Park

Along the Hebron Rock Colony Trail (2.9 miles out and back, moderate) with a waterfall at the end. A beautiful hike!

One of the two deer who dropped by to say hello on our hike. I was beside myself, and so was Grace (dogs are allowed on the trail).

The Blowing Rock

A drive up to The Blowing Rock is a must. It’s North Carolina’s oldest travel attraction, and the views are breathtaking!

Bring your camera, and leave your fear of heights in the parking lot! It’s a short walk (including stairs) around the park, and it ends in a gift shop.

Like most of Blowing Rock, The Blowing Rock is dog friendly – yay!

Where to Eat and Drink in Blowing Rock

Blowing Rock Brewing Company Ale House

A flight at the Blowing Rock Brewing Company Ale House can’t be beat. You’ll find a nice selection of various beers from the award-winning brewer. The Schwarz Bier was one of my favorites! And yes, those are dog treats on the table 🙂

The Hummus topped with Basil Pesto and Red Peppers is beyond words. The basil pesto does something to it that makes it irresistible. The fried North Carolina Oyster Bites were delicious as well.

Canyons Historic Restaurant and Bar

Sunday Jazz Brunch on the deck at Canyons is not just brunch, it is an experience. The trout and eggs was an entrée rather than simply breakfast.

This was our view whilst enjoying our yummy Sunday Jazz Brunch. BTW, dog friendly!

Sunset & Vine

The perfect end to a day of hiking and an evening of window shopping is a generous pour at Sunset & Vine. We toasted the lives of our Mothers on the deck with Grace curled on my lap (was past her bed time). The theme of the trip seems to be D.O.G.

Where to Stay

Alpine Village Inn

We stayed at the Alpine Village Inn because it was, you guessed it, Dog Friendly! I can’t say enough about this place. It was clean with a modern bathroom, beautiful grounds, and the owners and staff were fantastic. Stay Alpine!

The rooms are small and not fancy, but they are clean, functional, and my mattress was comfy!

And best of all, Grace was not only welcomed, but greeted by the owners and staff every time they saw her. She felt right at home. Such a good girl!

So there you have it – the highlights of a weekend trip to Blowing Rock, North Carolina. I highly recommend this little mountain get-away, but even more, I hope you find and do the things that bring you peace and happiness.

Cheers!
Kelly