Cleveland Rocks!

This past weekend Neal and I went to Cleveland, OH to visit Neal’s sister Jill and her husband Rob.

We set off on our adventure after work on Friday, hitting the road at 5:17PM.

The drive up to Cleveland wasn’t bad at all, but the Pennsylvania Turnpike at night is a little scary.  Neal and I split the driving in half, getting us into Cleveland at 11:59PM. Neal was a champ, driving the last leg of the trip while I napped.  I really appreciated him helping me drive.

Rob and Jill have the most adorable house in Cleveland.  I just loved the layout and how they had decorated it.  It definitely made Neal and I excited about our own house hunting, when the time comes.

After a cup of coffee and some catching up, we headed out to the West Side Market.  It reminded me of Eastern Market here in DC and the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia.  Still, it was unique and had some wonderful vendors.

Neal and his adorable sister Jill

The market sells lots of produce, meats, cheeses, and breads.  One of Jill’s favorite venders sells cannolis, which are out of this world!  I’ve never seen so many cannoli flavors.

We ordered the apple pie, pumpkin pie, oreo, double chocolate, original, pistachio, hazelnut, and peanut butter chocolate.  My favorite was the peanut butter chocolate, but the pumpkin pie was also very tasty.

Neal and I also bought some handmade garlic parsley gnocchi from a vender and can not wait to try them this weekend!

After an amazing time at the market, we headed over to the Souper Market for lunch.

Neal and I split a bowl of caramelized onion, Parmesan and potato soup and Jill ordered an Indian Lentil soup (Mulligatawny).  Both were rockin’!!  I loved how light yet flavorful both soups were.  After lunch we headed over to Coventry in Cleveland Heights.  Coventry is a street in Cleveland Heights with cute little shops and various restaurants.  After a relaxing drive over to Coventry, I knew a cup of coffee was in order.

We stopped into Pheonix Coffee, where I ordered an Almond Mate Latte.  A mate latte is more or less a hot tea (mate) steeped with hot (skim) milk.  It was awesome!  I would definitely order it again.

After shopping along Coventry, we headed back home to meet up with Rob.  Neal and I were exhausted, so we took a quick 2 hour nap.  After that nap I knew that something was up with my body.  There was no reason for being that tired.  I had a funny feeling I was starting to get sick.

Once Rob got home we went for a lovely walk in the Cleveland Metroparks.

Jill and Rob are an absolutely adorable couple.  They got married last October and are expecting their first child in the next couple of weeks.

It was so great being able to see them before the baby arrives.  It was also really fun seeing where they hang out and get their walks in!  Jill was a runner in college and Rob was a pole vaulter, so health and fitness are extremely important to them.  It was neat seeing the parks they had found and how they incorporated daily walks into their lives (I’m sure they’ll be runs after the baby arrives).

After our walk we put in an order to Melt and headed off to Lakewood to see the Cleveland skyline.

Now Melt is this amazing grilled cheese restaurant but with an hour – 2 hour wait on a Saturday night, ordering out was the ticket!

Rob and Jill ordered the Gyro Melt (slow roasted beef & lamb, tzatziki cucumber yogurt sauce, fresh tomato & sweet onions, feta, muenster), Neal ordered the Buffalo Chicken (Super crispy breaded chicken breast, spicy authentic buffalo wing sauce, celery and blue cheese slaw, melty blue cheese, cool ranch dressing for dipping), and I ordered the Porky Cheese (honey ham, crisp bacon, smoked gouda).  These sandwiches were AWESOME– though far from healthy.

Saturday night after dinner we all settled in and watched a little football.  I, of course, fell asleep on the couch before moving into the bedroom around 11:30PM.

Sunday morning we all got ready for church and then headed over to The Root Cafe in Lakewood.  Now this cafe was AWESOME!! Organic, Vegan, Gluten Free; you name it, they have it!

I ordered a raspberry and white chocolate scone with a soy chai, Jill also ordered the raspberry and white chocolate scone, Neal ordered a frittata, and Rob ordered the vegan french toast.

After church we quickly packed the car, ate some leftovers, and said our good byes.  I could tell from the moment I got up that my body was fighting something, so I wanted to make sure we left around 1PM so that we were home by 8PM.  I wanted to be able to organize myself before the week ahead and to take some meds if needed.

We hit the road at 1:39PM and made it home at 7:39PM on the dot… kinda crazy that it was 6 hours exactly.

I was snuggled up on the couch by 9PM and probably asleep by 9:30PM.  I slept sound until 7:00AM and woke up rather sick today, sadness.  Still, the weekend was wonderful and I’m so glad we had the chance to visit Jill and Rob before the baby arrives.

If you haven’t been to Cleveland before, you really ought to go!  It wasn’t what I expected.  I figured it would be extremely industrial, but it really was a cute city with lots to offer!



Flying High

Who says you can’t drink wine out of a straw?

OK, maybe not but it was a fun picture!  Last night Neal and I went out to dinner with his parents at the new Italian restaurant in town, Napoli’s.  As they don’t have a booze license yet, we brought our own wine… which was awesome!

The meal started with hot rolls and dinner salads.  For dinner I ordered the chicken cacciatore with spicy marinara sauce.  Neal ordered the sampler, Neal’s mom ordered lobster ravioli, and Neal’s dad ordered a seafood dish (can’t remember the name).

We also ordered a cannoli and piece of strawberry cheesecake for dessert.  The cannoli was so awesome!  I just loved the filling.  I could totally do without the fried pastry, but the filling is just amazing.

This morning Neal and I got up early to get in a run before breakfast.  We headed down Main Street and ran over to Grinnell College.  The campus is beautiful and it is also the site of the first University of Iowa football game.  Although Iowa, formally known as the State University of Iowa (SUI), lost that game it was really cool to see the field where the Hawkeye’s first played.

We ran for about 40 minutes, burning 453 calories and running about 4 miles, give or take (this is why I need the forerunner).  We also ran past some gorgeous houses with beautiful gardens.

After our run Neal and I had breakfast with his parents.  I ordered an omelet with an English muffin and Neal ordered a breakfast combo (pancake, eggs, hash browns, etc.)

I love dining with Neal and his parents though I must admit, I’m looking forward to getting back home to my oatmeal, eggs, salads, and new recipes!

Now we’re at the airport, waiting to fly back home.  I had a wonderful time in Iowa and am so grateful for Neal’s family.  They are so welcoming and it’s amazing to have a great relationship with them!

Weekly Plan







20 min run (E) in Iowa (Check!)

Omelet and an English muffin

At the airport…

Traveling back home


Spin AM

Homemade smoothie pre workout, oatmeal and iced coffee post workout

Vegetable stir fry (Trader Joe’s), apple sauce, granola bar

Quinoa and asparagus

Back to work… grocery shopping and organizing things at home after work


2 mile run (E)

1 egg, 2 egg white sandwich, fruit

Leftover quinoa and asparagus

Grilled veggie and goat cheese sandwich

Cooking and graduate work



Homemade smoothie pre workout, oatmeal and iced coffee post workout

Grilled veggie and goat cheese sandwich, Figs

Taco Soup and seven layer dip

Dinner with the gang: Planning on making Taco Soup


20 min run (E) and weight lifting

1 egg, 2 egg white sandwich, fruit

Grilled veggie and goat cheese sandwich, Figs

Leftover taco soup

Enjoy a relaxing Friday night!



Pumpkin oatmeal and coffee

Lunch at Neal’s

Leftover taco soup

Alexandria’s Festival of the Arts and Iowa vs. Iowa State game


3 mile run with Neal

Protein bar pre workout, post workout ??

Leftover taco soup

Homemade pizza with Neal

Redskins vs. Giants and plenty of graduate work

It looks to be a busy week, but it’ll be good getting back into the swing of things.

Happy Labor Day Everybody!

First Taste of Fall

It is an absolutely beautiful day in Iowa today!  The sun is shinning, the wind is blowing, and it is a crisp 70 degrees outside.  It is just gorgeous!

Last night I had some incredibly random/obscure dreams.  Dreaming is not uncommon for me but having 2 big dreams in one night is kinda crazy!  I tend to dream about things on my mind, but it’s really funny to see how those themes play out in my dreams.

My first dream started out in Philadelphia as I was prepping to go out for a run.  While out on the city streets I ran into a facebook friend (friend of a friend whom I’ve only met once in person) and she went on and on about how I was suppose to meet her on the other side of the city for our run an hour ago.  I clearly had no idea what she was talking about, but we continued our run.  We ended the run at her apartment and she invited me in to meet all of her friends.  As we made our way around her house I ran into Neal by the patio door, which was weird because he had never met this girl nor did I think he knew where she lived.

As it had been raining outside, Neal had an umbrella with him and he led me out onto the patio.  The umbrella was incredibly weird, as it had wires lining the inside… which Neal began to light with a lighter.  I was like “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” and he just told me to wait and to be patient.  Well the wires in the umbrella were actually fireworks which he had taped in there, again, so random!!  After the firework display, Neal got on one knee and proposed… Crazy, I know!  The ring was made up of 6 little rings, which when put together were one engagement ring.

My second dream was a little more dramatic as I was being sued by some of my clients at work because they had found my blog and were upset about the content.  They even started a facebook group about suing me… can you believe it, lol? Thinking back on the dream it’s actually really funny but I seriously woke up in a panic.  I kept telling my boss “I never blog about work” but she still said that my clients were going to sue me.  Craziness!

This morning for breakfast I had a cinnamon raisin bagel topped with all natural peanut butter and a sliced banana.  With a cup of coffee along side and my graduate work to do list written, I was ready to start the day!

After finishing up my graduate work, Neal and I volunteered to tackle some errands for his Mom and Dad. Personally I was just excited to be outside!

While at Walmart I came across this incredibly weird wine … has anyone ever seen this kind of wine before?

When Neal and I got to our last we were really close to Main Street so I decided to just walk back home.

Isn’t this just the cutest town?

Most of the stores are closed on Sundays, but I stopped by the town’s grocery store to pick up a Gingerade Kombucha and the new Rachel Ray magazine.

I have a huge confession… I never use to like 30 Minute Meals but I just love Rachel Ray’s TV show and her magazine.  I have fallen in love with Rachel Ray and I’m no longer afraid to say it.

I also picked up this Smores dessert dip mix at the town’s marketplace, which I can’t wait to try next weekend!  Today has been wonderful so far and I can’t wait for this evening.  Neal and I are going for a  run in an hour and then we’re going out to dinner with this parents at this new Italian restaurant in town.

I hope all of y’all are enjoying your Sunday and that the weather is as beautiful as it is here in Iowa!

A Rainy Gameday

Saturday Recap

After rolling out of bed this morning at 8AM, I joined Neal and his parents for breakfast at a new restaurant in town.   I had ever intention of going for a run this morning, but when my alarm went off at 6:30AM I had a terrible headache.  I’m sure the run would have done me good, but I took some advil and slept a little longer.

The restaurant we went to had just about largest breakfast menu I’d ever seen, but I knew I’d need something hearty to tie me over for the University of Iowa vs. Tennessee Tech football game.  For breakfast I ordered a vegetable and ham scramble which included mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and ham.  Instead of toast I ordered an English muffin on the side, which was delicious!  With a hearty breakfast an a few cups of coffee in my belly, I was ready to hit the road with Neal.

Now I knew there was a chance of rain today, but Neal and I weren’t expecting severe thunderstorms and downpours.  It was pouring when we hit the road… which wasn’t ideal for an football game.

When Neal and I arrived in Iowa City, there were swarms of people walking towards the stadium in their ponchos.  There were also plenty of people braving the elements and just wearing their hawkeye attire. We were in an absolute downpour on our way to the stadium and it continued as we found our seats.

As the rains let up towards the end of the second quarter, I snapped a few quick pictures of Kinnick Stadium.  I love watching Iowa games each weekend, but there’s just something special about being at the game with Neal.  To hear the cheers, to see the crowds, and to watch the swarms of people in black and gold is just thrilling… and Neal is always super happy.

We made it through half time without any rain, but within minutes of the third quarter starting the rains returned.  Now we thought it was pouring in the first half, but nothing will compare to the rain that came down during the third quarter.  The rain was cold and it hit you like a paint ball.  The stadium also became very dark and I just knew a serve thunderstorm was upon us.  About 10 minutes later the referees called for a delay of game due to lightening, so we headed to the stadium concourse.

Neal and I waited out the rain for about 40 minutes before deciding to head on home.  Although we wanted to see the last quarter, we were soaking wet and I was freezing.

Iowa did resume play about 30 minutes later and beat Tennessee Tech 34-7!!  Although the rain wasn’t ideal, it was a really fun game and Iowa looked great!  I also had a wonderful time with Neal and really treasured that time with him.

Sunday Funday

Tomorrow is our last full day in Iowa and although I hope to relax, I do have a little to do list…

  1. 3 mile run with Neal
  2. Graduate homework
  3. Workout planning for next week
  4. Meal planning for next week
  5. Organize graduate work for next week

Thrilling, I know, but I’ll feel so much better going into the week if I have everything organized.

I hope everyone has a great Sunday!

Is there anything y’all would like me to blog about now that you’ve been able to get to know me a little bit?

A Proud Hawkeye!

It’s the weekend!! And not just any weekend, it’s a 3 day weekend!!

Yesterday was a really big day for Neal!  As a published author, he had a book signing at Fry Fest in Iowa City for his new book “What It Means To Be a Hawkeye“.

Before the book signing, Neal was able to show me around the University of Iowa.  It was so fun seeing where he went to school and the dorm he lived in while he was there.

We even saw Neal’s books in a number of Iowa bookstores, which was really cool!

Neal was so happy and I totally felt like a proud girlfriend!!  Speaking of being a girlfriend… guess what Neal bought me??

Yeah right!  I wish!  We both got a good laugh out of it though.

After walking around the university for a bit, we stopped at Jimmy Johns for lunch.  We have a Jimmy Johns in Washington, DC but Neal and I had never been so we thought we’d give it a try.  I 0rdered the turkey sandwich on their 7 grain bread.  It was a really tasty sandwich and very, very filling!

Once at Fry Fest we walked around for a bit and checked out all the venders and their booths.  There were soooo many t-shirt stands and lots memorabilia.  It screamed Hawkeye pride!

Is it sad that I really wished I had children already that way I could buy this table and chairs set?  These were SO adorable.  There were so many children there, dressed up in their Iowa attire.  It was incredibly cute.

Neal’s book signing was wonderful and it was so fun seeing him with the other authors and players.  I also stepped in to help organize things a bit.  They needed a woman’s touch to help things run smoothly.

After the book signing we headed back to his parents house and relaxed for a bit…. but it wasn’t before long that we headed out to the Dari Barn!!

This is seriously one of the best ice cream places I’ve been to and they are only open between memorial day and labor day.

It was a wonderful day and it’s hard to believe that we haven’t even been to the Iowa football game yet!  The game is at 11AM CST today and we’re both really looking forward to them playing Tennessee Tech!

I’m also really looking forward to Sunday as Neal and I are going on a 3 mile run around town as part of our 15K training!!

Have a wonderful weekend!!

Finding the “PLUS” in Plus sized

Good morning and hello from Iowa!!

My time here has been absolutely wonderful.  After a day of traveling and book research on Wednesday, I took advantage of Thursday and totally relaxed!  I went to breakfast with Neal’s parents, went shopping on main street, bought two new books (book 1/book 2), looked through book 1, took a 3 hour nap (woop woop), went to spin, got cleaned up, went to dinner with Neal and his family, and then relaxed with Neal as we watched some football!  It was a wonderful day!

The only part of the day that was a little odd was my spin class.  When I arrived to the class there was a pretty good grouping of women.  They were all shapes and sizes, which made me really comfortable.  When I go to spin in DC, I am the largest person there by far!

I stood there waiting for the instructor to arrive, but then one of the women in the waiting room put on the mic set.  Now this is going to seem like an odd comment, but just go with me please, but I was shocked to see a “plus sized” instructor.  I was so excited to see an instructor who had a little meat on her bones.  Seeing her made me think, “why can’t I become an instructor?”.  The truth is, I don’t know if the gyms in DC would ever higher a “plus sized” instructor.

Seeing the “plus sized” instructor made me think about Adele, for whatever reason.  Adele is such an incredible artist.  Every time I listen to her new album I am just amazed by the power in her voice and in her lyrics.  On top of that, Adele is “plus sized”.

I just think Adele is gorgeous and I love that she has a little meat on her bones.  I had heard rumors that she was told to lose weight and that just made me sad… she is beautiful and should only lose weight if she wants to.  This got me thinking about why I strive to lose weight and to be fit.

Adele also has a wonderful personality.  It’s so funny to hear her talk about her ex boyfriends.  She makes me want to yell out “you go girl!”.

When I was younger I just wanted to be skinny… society’s vision of skinny!  I wanted to go into a store and to know that I would find my size and be excited to go shopping with my friends.  I wanted to be free from the chains of food and enjoy exercising every day.

I want to be is shape so that I can feel great and live a long and healthy life.  I want to develop habits that will last a life time, habits that I can pass along to my kids and share with others along the way.  I want to be great in my own body, to be at my “feel good weight” again!

As I prepped my bike in yesterday’s spin class, I felt great.  I thought about my fitness and how hard I am on myself (not a good thing).  As the class began I watched as the women around me started to jibber jabber, not focusing on the work out at all.  I swear, but the class gossiped through the entire class.  It was the oddest thing.  The class really showed me that I need to be proud of myself.  I may weight more than 200 pounds, but I’m in good shape and I put forth all of my energy when I work out!

My goal is to be more confident in who I am and to be more comfortable in my own skin!  Comparing myself to others doesn’t benefit me, especially when I live in such a healthy city.  EveryBODY is different and I need to focus on Ashley, not on anyone else!

Today, Neal and I are off to Fry Fest for his book signing!  I am so proud of him and can’t wait to share about the day tomorrow!

Happy Friday everyone!!!

I’m Free!

Hello from bright and sunny Iowa!

So, Neal and I totally went to bed at 2AM last night and woke up at 4AM this morning to go to the airport.  2 hours of sleep is no bueno!  I got my hair done last night and didn’t start packing until 11PM, oops!  Neal was cracking me up this morning though as he literally couldn’t function off of the 2 hours of sleep he had gotten.  It was hysterical.  We were out of bed and out the door in 15 minutes though, so we were champs!

I knocked out on our first 1 hour flight and was totally out of it when we got to Detroit.  Neal was a total trooper, as he didn’t sleep a wink on flight number 1.  On the second flight be both knocked out and have been go, go, go ever since.  I am running off of 4 hours of sleep and Neal is running off of 3 hours….craziness.

I have also been a really good girl today eating wise.  I brought some granola with me to the airport, so as to bi-pass the breakfast sandwiches and high calories treats that line the airport halls.  Neal and I were also very good and stopped by subway for lunch instead of trying a butter burger from Culvers.  Supposedly these are amazing, but we were rock stars and went to subway instead!

We’re in Iowa this week visiting family and will be going to the opening Iowa football game on Saturday, but we’re also here so that Neal can do some research for his next Iowa football book!  Today we’ve driven all over doing research on a particular football player and are now at another library and should be here until they close at 8PM tonight (It’s 4PM now).  Long day, but I know Neal will be thrilled to have this research done!  At this point, I think my Wednesday run is not going to happen, but an early morning run would be fantastic tomorrow morning!

So…. here’s the big news for today…

I just paid off my credit card!!  I made a lot of big purchases on that card… laptop, couch, and practically a new car after all of the service I’ve had done on my baby.  I’m grateful to have had the card for emergencies, but it feels so good to have it paid off!  Of course, times will come up when using a credit card is a necessity, but I’m just so thrilled to have it paid off.

I wrote a post a few months back about saving money and I truly believe that these steps helped me to pay off my credit cards (minus getting a part time job).  The truth is, we all know the steps we should take to save money and to pay off our debt, it’s just a matter of doing it.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve created a gazillion budgets but have a hard time sticking to them for a whole month.  I’m good for a week or two and then I go back to old habits.

Using Mint has really helped me, not only with budgeting but also with knowing where my money is going.  After paying all of my bills, I tend to spend money on the following things:

  • Groceries
  • Gas
  • Dining out
  • Buying gifts for others (friends, family, Neal)
  • Travel
  • Random crap that I don’t need to buy at Target (anything from candles to CDs to clothes)

My new meal planning calendar should help me a lot with my grocery budget and I just need to flat out be better about not spending money on others too often, on travel, and on other random crap.  I know I can do great…I just have to do it!

What helps you to stay financially disciplined?  Anyone else out there ready for College football to start this week?