Help Me Choose My New Rivet & Sway Glasses!

When we moved from urban Florida to the mountains of North Carolina three years ago, I barely looked back in the rear view mirror on our way out of town. We were over the traffic, over the broiling hot summers and ready for an outdoorsy life in our new rural home. Slowly, we realized that there were indeed a couple of things that we missed – our favorite pizza joint, college football games and shopping locally for whatever we needed.

We’ve adjusted pretty well to the things that we’re lacking, (I can now make a mean homemade pizza and we head down to a football game every season) but the shopping has definitely been hit or miss. Sure, I can order most things online, but there are things that sometimes have to be tried on before committing to a purchase. I found this out the hard way when I started shopping for my prescription eyeglasses online. There were tons of websites out there that sold glasses, but I was seriously nervous about filling my prescription without getting to try on the frames because it’s not exactly the same thing as buying a pair of jeans, you know? So, I didn’t. I kept on wearing my same old glasses from my Florida days thinking that one day, I’d make the drive down to Atlanta to check out a wide selection of frames in person and probably drop way more money than I intended.

But, guess what? All is not lost! There is a company out there that has perfected the online eyeglass shopping experience and has saved me from wearing my same old glasses for the next handful of years.  I heard about Rivet & Sway just 3 days ago and fell in love with their concept. Get this, they will send you 3 frames of your choice for free in their Home Try-On kit that will get to you in just a couple of days. You then have 3 days to try on the frames (again and again and again) before shipping them back, again for free (they include prepaid postage in the package). How easy is that?

Well, I immediately went online and had a crazy hard time deciding on which 3 frames I wanted to try on – there are a ton of styles to pick from. I decided to read their style tips, which really helped me narrow down my choices and I placed my frame order on Tuesday. Imagine my glee when today, this box was waiting for me when I got back from campus.

Lexi was napping so I ran upstairs and ripped into the box because let’s face it, I love
getting packages in the mail! Each frame came in its own box and arrived in perfect condition.

Then came the big reveal -here are the darling and daring red frames that I chose to try on. From top to bottom, the styles are Street Smart, Ruby Red and Besame Mucho.

 Okay, so here’s where I need your help. I love all of them and am having the hardest time deciding on my own. Which ones do you like best?

 If you need another perspective to help you decide (since I went all serious in the first set of pictures), here are some candids of what I’ll probably look like in real life since I’m almost always making goofy faces. Oh and the frames are in the same order as the above picture, so you can still vote for top (Street Smart), middle (Ruby Red), or bottom (Besame Mucho) frames.

Thanks for your input everyone. Feel free to include your vote in the comments. I can’t wait to see which pair you like best. Best of all, I can’t wait to order my new frames and start sporting some stylish new specs!

Disclaimer: The great folks at Rivet & Sway are providing me with a pair of eyeglasses of my choice. No monetary compensation was made and all opinions in this post are entirely my own. 

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Remember that place that had that beer? Adventures in Cologne, Germany

As I was going through the pictures on my camera yesterday, I realized that I never shared our layover in Germany with you all. We were only there for 24 hours, but we ended up having quite the adventure anyways. This is how it all started.

We’ve flown in and out of the Dusseldorf airport many times. It’s one of our favorite via points because the airport Sheraton is nice, very convenient to the hotel (it’s attached to the parking garage) and there is a small grocery store in the airport where we can buy kid-friendly provisions and take them back to our room.

The last time that the Irishman came with us to Dusseldorf (when Parker was 6 months old), we spent some time in neighboring Cologne. It’s a gorgeous city and it’s famous for the Dom cathedral. While we were there, the Irishman insisted on going to a small local place that was known for its beer (it’s a microbrewery). To be known for your beer in Germany is kind of a big deal since ALL of Germany is known for its beer. Armed with a map, we headed off from the train station with Parker in his stroller to find this restaurant.

And it was everything the Irishman had hoped it would be. The end.

Well, it was the end of the story for that trip. Fast forward 5 years to this trip. So we land in Dusseldorf and check into our hotel around noon. Since we had the whole day ahead of us (we weren’t leaving until the next morning at 9am), we decided to take the train into Cologne (about a 45 minute ride) to spend the day. And here’s the best part. The Irishman wanted to eat at that same restaurant, but he couldn’t remember the name. Or the address.

And this is where you are all in awe of my wifely support. When he tells me that he thinks he remembers how to get there, I agree to follow him. Mind you, he is very good with directions and has a freakishly good memory, but with two kids in two, it was still a total leap of faith to walk a mile or two to a place that he hasn’t been to in 5 years.

But first, we visited the Dom cathedral to take in all of its Gothic splendor.

The kids in the necessary touristy shot outside of the Dom.
Inside the Dom.
Parker sitting in time out (for running around screaming like a banshee in a church) and Lexi offering moral support. This is also known as my favorite picture of the trip. Oh, the despair!

And so, with the Dom visit behind us, we set off in search of the elusive restaurant. As we were walking down the boulevard, the Irishman kept saying, “Doesn’t this look familiar to you?” Um, no. The last time I was here, I was a sleep-deprived hot mess still nursing a non-sleeping child. I could barely find the toilet in our hotel room in those days, so I certainly wasn’t clued in enough to notice landmarks along a scenic 2 mile walk.

But, he clearly knew where he was going so we trudged onwards. Well, he knew where he was going until he made a wrong turn and we went a quarter mile or so in the wrong direction. At that point, Parker’s feet needed a break so I handed Lexi to the Irishman and (praying that it wouldn’t break) I let Parker hop into the stroller for a bit.

He proclaimed that stroller riding was, “Excellent.”

Once we backtracked and found our way again (or once the Irishman claimed that he did and I followed), we were back on track. Then, 5 minutes later, he recognized the sign outside of the restaurant and he let out a whoop of glee.

We made it!

Seriously, he was so proud of himself. And okay, I’ll admit, that it’s kind of awesome that he can go someplace once, half a decade before, and then walk there on instinct.

So we went in and sat at a random table in the courtyard. And get this: We had the SAME WAITER that we did 5 years before. No joke! When we sat down, the Irishman whispered to me, “He looks really familiar. I think that’s our same waiter.” I looked at our waiter closely, but since I’m entirely too introspective to notice faces (or street signs or landmarks), I was no help. I did, however, remember that our waiter warmed a bottle for Parker 5 years earlier and commented on the fact that he had no problem doing so because he had a gaggle of children himself.

The inside dining area.

When he came to get our orders, I asked, “Do you have, like, 6 children?” He looked at me like the crazy person that I am and said, “I have 7. Why do you ask?” And then the Irishman and I started talking over each other explaining that we had been there 5 years before and yadda yadda and we basically sounded like the nutso American tourists that most Germans assume us to be.

View of the brewery operations from the outside courtyard.

And all was right in the world. And we drank beer.

The first beer. Oh, the glee!

Oh as an aside on the beer – in this particular restaurant, they refill your beer automatically until you put a coaster on top of your glass indicating that you’re done.

My coaster on top of my beer, signaling that 3 beers was probably enough at 2pm in the afternoon.

That’s right folks, they just assume that you want to drink copious amounts of their delicious brew. In our case, they were right.

My leftovers from my fried eggs over home fries. I’m going to be replicating this recipe shortly. It was delicious.

So after that, we walked the mile or two back to the train station. I took a photograph of the intersection where the Irishman made the wrong turn so that if we come back in another 5 years, he won’t make the same mistake.

Don’t make a right here!

I should add that we weren’t remotely worried about getting lost on the way back to the train station. That’s because the Dom Cathedral (which is adjacent to the train station) is impossible to miss from anywhere in the city.

We finally hopped on the train (during rush hour) and headed back to our hotel. By the way, it’s a good thing that I took the following picture when we were departing that morning because we completely neglected to write down the name of our stop. I guess I pulled my weight during this excursion after all.

All in all, it was a great day. The Irishman was happy and fulfilled, we had a tummy full of beer and German food and we didn’t get lost for more than 10 minutes. I’d call that a success.

Brandcation or Bust: Training Ride #1

Today’s ride was the first one I did since learning that I had won the opportunity to kill myself ride over the Smoky Mountains in 10 weeks. Since this was a training ride, instead of just a ‘fun ride’, I decided to pick a course that would let me do a series of loops that were exactly half uphill and half downhill. I wanted to gauge exactly where I was with regard to my saddle tolerance (read: how soon will my bum hurt) and whether I was capable of tackling any uphills yet.

Of course to do that, I needed some data. Before I left Tallahassee, I bought a Cateye Strada bike computer. It’s a nifty little device that tells me my current speed (while I’m riding) and can also track how long my current ride is, my average speed during the ride and finally, my top speed (which is never very fast because I am a chicken on downhills). Here are my stats for this ride:

11.05 miles completed.
average of 12.1 miles per hour.

That average speed sounds about right – I was going about 18 mph on the flats and downhills and only about 7 mph on the uphills. My goal is to get to a speed of about 10-12 mph on the uphills since I have about 20 MILES of an upward battle during my ride. I’d rather not be climbing it for more than two hours. It hurts just thinking about it!

But, I’m not discouraged. Want to know why? Well, I remember that (during my marathon training) before I made it to 26.2 miles, I had to make it to 2 miles. I remember feeling like I would never get there. That it would be too hard, too long and too scary to even try. But, the key was to push all thoughts of the end goal out of my head and to focus on small goals instead. I think that’s a good plan here, too.

Other random thoughts:

  • My bum felt surprisingly okay. When I first started riding for any significant distance (about 10 years ago), it was all I could do not to stand for the entire ride. I think I’ll be okay in this regard.
  • What didn’t feel okay was the space between my thumb and pointer finger where the gear shift was digging into my hands. I kept readjusting my grip, but just couldn’t get comfortable.
  • You know what else didn’t feel so great? My neck. That position is really awkward, especially if you’re not used to it. I’m going to have to spend many hours in the saddle to get used to both the neck angle and the hand pain.
  • While I was going super slow uphill, I didn’t feel incredibly winded. I’m in better shape than I feared, but definitely not where I want to be.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to share will you all my favorite cycling gear, my favorite cycling routes (I’ll be bringing my small point and shoot camera with me for rides), tips on proper cycling posture and I’m even going to post a video about how to successfully get in and out of those dreaded clipless pedals! I haven’t forgotten about the charity info I promised you all, so I’ll be sharing that as well as soon as the details are finalized.

Oh, I had one final random thought. I can’t believe I’m actually going to do this. That is all.

Dog “Sitting”

When Parker was a baby, I regularly put the dogs in the bedroom while he was awake.

I wasn’t as much worried about his safety (they’re super friendly corgis, after all) as I was about their safety.

Since corgis are low to the ground, they’re the perfect height for riding…or sitting on.

Lexi is consumed with trying to sit on the dogs. She’ll keep trying even though she slips off their backs repeatedly.

I usually let her do her thing right up until I get the following look from one of the pups.

Please help us. We are not fur-niture.

And then they run back to the bedroom to nap in peace…until the next time.

Brandcation or Bust: Holy Crapola, I Won!

Oh my word, you guys, I cannot believe that I won the blog contest to the Brandcation Blog Retreat in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, coming up in October. When I first got the email, my initial response went something like this:

Woohoo! Yeah, baby! Right on! YAY!!!!

Then, reality set in. Um, I’m pretty sure said that I would bike there. Crappers.

Yeah, so biking almost 50 miles through the mountains looks completely doable on paper, but this ride is no joke. The hardest stretch of road is 18 miles of climbing. That’s right, 18 miles of pedaling uphill. Yikes! The good news is that once I get to the top, I can literally coast the last 20 miles into Gatlinburg, Tennessee. That’s a good thing since I’m pretty sure that I’m going to lose all functioning of my legs by the time I make it to the top.

The Plan:

Okay, so I have 10 weeks to train. My training rides will come in two types: (1) Long flat-ish rides that require me to spend hours in the saddle; and (2) shorter rides that are all uphill. A very real obstacle at this point is saddle soreness. I’m not sure if you’ve even been on a bike for hours, but initially, your bum will hurt way before your legs will. The first type of rides (long, but flat) will get me accustomed to being in the saddle for the duration of the ride. The second mountainous rides will get my legs accustomed to the burn.

The good news is that this is definitely not a race. I just need to get there and I’m going to give myself plenty of time to do it in. I might need someone to give me oxygen once I get there, but the good news is that I am guaranteed to sleep well that night!

I’ll do half of my training on the roads and the other half on my bike trainer. My goal is to get on the bike four times a week (starting now!) and to slowly build up to riding for two hours for three of those rides and to riding for four hours for the last ride. If I can make stay on the bike for four hours, I can stay on the bike for six hours.

My Crew:

I am already very thankful to two people who jumped on board right away. One of my closest friends here is a cycling fanatic and he’s been wanting to do this ride for awhile. He jumped at the chance right away and I’m not going to lie, I’m glad that I will have a riding partner. I am, however, slightly uneasy about his use of adjectives like, “EPIC” and “FUN” because this is a person who will ride all day until he falls over. If he thinks it’s going to be an ‘epic ride,’ that probably means that I am in over my head. But hey, that’s not anything new around here, right? Ha!

The second member of my crew is none other than the Irishman. He’s going to be my road crew. What that means is that he will (more or less) be within a couple of miles of us. He’ll have water, snacks, replacement bike parts and most importantly, my luggage! I’m trying to convince him to ride next to us blasting ‘Eye of the Tiger,‘ but he’s not a fan of holding up traffic. Spoil sport.

The Charity/Charities:

The charity (or charities) that will benefit from this crazy adventure have yet to be finalized, but I promise that I will let you all know just as soon as everything is selected and the webpage is set up. You know, I love running and riding for charity. It’s a great motivator. As soon as I start to feel sorry for myself (because I will at some point do this), I think about those that can’t ride themselves and I think about important it is to constantly raise awareness (and funds) for certain issues and it never fails to give me renewed energy and a healthy dose of perspective.

 

So over the next 10 weeks, you’ll know all you’ve ever (or maybe never) wanted to know about cycling. I’ll be blogging about my gear, my training rides, my progress and I’ll take as many pictures during rides as I can manage without crashing. I promise that I’ll still keep up with cooking and kids and the rest of the craziness that finds its way onto this little blog, but blogging about my riding journey makes me feel like you’re all there with me every step of the way.

Which you are, right? Right?? Tap, tap, is this thing on?

 

Love Who You Are….Today

When I was younger (think adolescence through undergrad) I spent a lot of time wishing I was a little more _______ and had a smaller _______. The first blank was usually filled in with something personality-related like “outgoing”, “carefree” or “popular” (all of which I was definitely not) while the second blank usually stood for something physical  like eyes, nose, or butt (I’m Greek – those traits kind of come with the territory). I didn’t think of myself as being unhappy, but I wistfully wished that I was somehow different. Somehow better.

It’s amazing how these little insecurities can worm their way into every aspect of our lives. They can impact whether you speak up in a group (and what you say when you do open your mouth) and they can influence everything from the haircuts we get to the clothes that
we wear. As I’ve gotten older and gained some perspective, I realize that all of this second-guessing of myself stemmed from one thing: needing external validation. In other words, the younger version of me needed other people to tell me whether I was good enough, fun enough or pretty enough. What an incredible power to give up to someone else!

I’m not sure when I stopped needing that validation. Perhaps it was when I got married and stopped feeling the need to shave my legs regularly. Or maybe it was when I had children and realized that they would have the very eyes, nose and butt that I so desperately wanted to change in my youth. I mean, I look at them and I see perfection. Don’t get me wrong – they aren’t angelic beings who can do no wrong. None of us are. They are, however, wonderful and delightful exactly as they are and they are worthy of all of the love and devotion that I can muster (and then some). So it occurred to me at some point, why on earth would I deny myself the same love and unconditional acceptance that I so generously bestow upon them?

Through the lens of my almost 34 years, I look at myself now and I am at peace with who I am. Sure, I’m kind of a neurotic introvert who is often socially awkward, but you know what? That’s okay. I live in a beautiful part of the country where my interactions with others are purposefully limited (no mass transit or long grocery store lines here!) and I work in a field where locking myself in an office for days on end to do research is not only acceptable, but encouraged. I look in the mirror and I no longer see too big features in an oval face. I see eyes that have (corrected) perfect vision, a nose that smells roses and farts from three rooms away and laugh lines around my mouth that I wouldn’t erase for the world. I see hips that have successfully birthed two children and legs that have carried me 26.2 miles and then some. And If I happen to have some cellulite, all that means is that my tushie won’t freeze in the winter and I’ll have a bit of extra cushion when I fall chasing my kids.

I so wish that I could go back to my 15-year-old self, give her a big hug and tell her that everything would end up alright. I’d also let her in on a little secret: being more outgoing or having a smaller nose wouldn’t have made her any happier, but loving and accepting exactly who she was at that very moment would have made all of the difference in the world.

Forgive yourselves your imperfections. I love you all exactly as you are. Promise!

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Lexi is the world’s best mimic. I’m sure this is probably true of most second children, but it blows my mind how she imitates every single thing that she sees. Of course, it’s most pronounced with Parker. She idolizes him. Whenever they’re in the room together, Lexi is trying to sit on him, kiss him and get his attention. Thankfully, Parker loves being the center of attention, so all of this baby love is (usually) welcome.

At the tender age of 14 months, she’s figured out that we all find it hysterical when she mimics a behavior that is beyond her years. Last week, she went into the bathroom and tried to brush her own teeth (with Parker’s toothbrush) and a couple of days ago, she went into the hallway and came back wearing Parker’s backpack.

Even though the backpack was empty, she was struggling under it’s bulk and we were laughing so hard that I couldn’t even steady the camera for a decent shot. Since Parker always wants to jump in on the action, we switched her to his smaller Thomas the Train backpack and he wore his “school” backpack. Oh and he had to change into his matching t-shirt, naturally. All suited up, we headed outside for some pictures.

With the spontaneous (and very random) photo shoot over, I told the kids to come on back inside. Parker told Lexi, “Just hold onto me sister, I won’t let you fall.”

And just like that, my heart melted. God, I love that boy.