Expectations vs. Reality

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As an eternal optimist, I tend to go into all situations expecting the absolute best outcome.  This has served me well in many, many ways and I would never want to change that outlook. However, experiences in fitness have given me what I like to call a cautious optimism, and what M likes to call “finally, somewhat of a grasp of reality from a freaking Disney Princess.”

 

Clearly, my parents are to blame.  I was raised by two loving parents who encouraged me to go after my dreams and convinced me I could do anything with some hard work and a good attitude. Probably part of it is due to the fact that I’m a millennial, thus an entitled narcissist. Either way, I have some issues with realistic expectations.

 

Like camping.

 

It’s not that I don’t like the outdoors—it’s really the opposite of that.  I love a good outdoor workout. I’m extremely fond of front porches, especially when I have a glass of wine to go with them.  Beaches? Wait just one second—let me grab a bikini and some sunblock and baby, I’m there. Parks are delightful—in fact, I just returned from the park by my apartment. I can play catch all day, man.

 

Then my fiancé— I mean HUSBAND (how long does it take for that to sink in?) talks about going camping. At first, this seems like a great plan, but then we start talking details. My expectations and his reality are completely different.

 

You see, my friends can attest to the fact that my childhood ideas of outdoor frivolity were a bit skewed. My grandparents own a motorhome, and I don’t just mean one of those little pull-behind-your-truck, I’m-just-a-tent-with-some-mesh-walls kind of a deals. I mean, like something that Mick Jagger rolled around in with all those girls that dropped their panties at the mention of a rock star. And, you know, Keith Richards and the other two guys. 

 

Imagine my astonishment when I’m invited to a Christian music festival at the age of 10 (They do exist. Imagine Bonnaroo, but replace the pot and shrooms with Surge, Swedish Fish and WWJD bracelets) and discover that not all camping involves king-sized Sleep Number beds and DirecTV. And definitely no private shower and restroom facilities. How did they expect me to do my hair in butterfly clips and rock my Limited Too threads in this squalor?

 

Suffice it to say, I’ve had to readjust expectations many times since that day. The hardest of all these readjustments was when it came to my fitness expectations. There is absolutely nothing worse than having your hopes dashed to the ground by reality. 

 

When I began training, I expected immediate results with very little sacrifice on my part. Obviously I was going to don my most adorable outfit and go run for a bit on a treadmill and leave looking like Zoe Saldana’s hot white sister.  Somehow this did not happen! What?!?!

 

A major part, for me, of becoming more fit is the education that led to more reasonable expectations. Remaining ignorant surely wasn’t going to help me get results, neither would believing every single thing on the Internet or in the latest bestselling diet. Learning how my body worked, what nutrients actually DO, and the different functions of each aspect of a training program were imperative to my success in learning to become healthy.  If you have no idea how anything works, then there is no basis for an expectation at all, and a high likelihood of disappointment.

I’ve since then read TONS of books and articles claiming the best training programs and diets. Bodyweight only training, Crossfit, Tabata, HIIT, Running manuals, P90x with all its muscle confusion, yoga, Eat Stop Eat, The Skinny Rules, Paleo–I love them.  They may as well be the next Nora Roberts novel. The problem is, I was so incredibly confused! There were so many conflicting opinions! 

My best advice for wading into these waters? Ask a trainer that you trust and do some experimentation. It’s actually pretty fun to try all sorts of new things and learn different opinions.  Some are wacky and sound crazy, and more often than not (in my experience) that tends to mean that they are wacky and crazy. But before I leave you floundering, I wanted to add one more tip.  

 

I am obsessed with this girl, Molly Galbraith.  She’s legit. Her blog is crazy good and her story is inspiring. If you’re looking for a springboard to jump into this world of living healthily, I think she’s a great place to start. I’m always looking for experts to learn from, and I have gotten so much out of reading her stuff.  Since I am totally not an expert and am just an eager novice, it’s been so incredible to read from someone who just makes SENSE. 

How about you? Any training programs that you are obsessed with? 

 

Cheers!

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Hi. My Name is Aly, and I’m a Recovering Bride

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Remember that girlfriend that you had in high school that just dropped off the face of the planet when she got a boyfriend?  You used to look forward hanging out together all the time and then she went and got all self-involved, so you were all, “Screw her, I don’t need that!”

I’m that friend, or at least I have definitely been that friend for the past few months. So sorry, please forgive my negligence.  July 13th I tied the knot with the love of my life and have been absent from all of my favorite activities because I was in Bride Mode. It has ended, and I am back and more motivated than EVER!

Please indulge me, as I know this portion of my post is not directly fitness-related.  However, mental sanity is a necessity. Do not take it for granted. And so, for some of you upcoming bride (and grooms/families of brides and grooms/friends and saints who put up with them), I’ve compiled a list of things that I found were key for having a joyous day instead of wanting to have a diva Bridezilla attack on everyone and everything in sight.

  1. Remember that this glorious day you have waited for your whole life is basically a big party. If things go awry, I swear it’s not the end of the world.  People are excited and rooting for you, so try not to have a panic attack. It rained on the day of my outdoor wedding, and you know what? We had a wonderful day anyway. Just be sure to have backup arrangements.
  2.  Be clear on the guest list and make sure everyone else in the wedding party and family is too. You can’t invite everyone that you’ve ever met, unless you have unlimited resources and time. We had a guest limit imposed by our venue, and wanted a more intimate wedding.  It was probably the most stressful part of the wedding to try to enforce the guest list that my husband and I had decided on, and I’m sure some feelings were hurt. However, at the end of the day this is about the Bride and Groom, and if others don’t like it, bummer for them.  Don’t let anyone bring you down. I was lucky enough to have a groom that didn’t care to take care of awkward situations like this in my corner.
  3. Take time to be alone with your new spouse for a few minutes during the reception or right after the ceremony.  After your ceremony, you’re essentially a celebrity for the next few hours. Everyone wants to take a picture with you and talk to you. It’s fabulous—but the few moments my husband and I were able to steal a few unwatched kisses and be giddy about the fact we would be together forever were priceless.
  4. Splurge on your photographer. You spend all this time and money making sure everything is exactly how you have imagined. It was imperative to me that we hire someone who could make everything as visually beautiful as the memories in my mind.  A special thanks to my dear friend Daniel and his company, Michael Bordeaux Photography. Pick someone with whom you are comfortable and someone whose style you love.
  5. Pick attendants that will actually be helpful. My girls and his guys were INCREDIBLE and helpful with anything that we needed.  They talked me down from my minor panic attack, and planned him one heck of a bachelor party. This is always a tough call when you’re trying not to hurt feelings.  We each chose three of our very closest friends who we knew would have our best interest at heart.
  6. Eat. ‘Nuff said.

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Ok that’s all I’ll harp on the whole wedding planning thing. As far as my adventures in fitness, I have absolutely been slacking due to wedding palooza. Yesterday I went back to the boxing club for the first time in FIVE WEEKS and I’m absolutely feeling it today. I think I’ll never be able to move my shoulders again—in a good way! It is thrilling to be back into something I love that makes me feel good (or will soon).  Getting back to it is intense, but it reminds me how much better I feel afterward. Performing horrifically last night has been the best motivator now to get back into my old healthy routines.  I forget how good my body is designed to feel and am looking forward to getting back to a more fit me. More to come, folks.

No for real, I swear.

Cheers!

Aly’s Favorite Things Episode!

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Get excited. Get hyped. Are you ready? YOU GET A CAR!! YOU GET A CAR!! WE’RE ALL GETTING CARS!!!!!

 Nope just kidding, sorry.  You really should get excited, though. Below you will find all of my favorite things that have led me to success in the past. I hope they help you out, as they have me!

Food

Favorite Healthy Dessert: Don’t be alarmed. This is no lie. These flourless AND butterless brownies are to die for, not to mention are high fiber and actually nutritious. Give ’em a try! 

Meatless Dinner: These quesadillas leave you full and happy. M loves these too, so I swear they are fella-approved. 

Meat Dinner: I think that this is the meal that made M propose. No doubt one of his all-time favorites, so I had to include it. I love it too! 

Munchies: Game time food at its best. Seriously, they are better than the original full-fat full of crap version.  

Gear

iPhone app (Android too!):  I love this running trainer! It’s fun having someone tell you what to do and you can jam to your favorite songs.  Like my favorite PUMP UP JAM!!! 

 Gym Bag: Ladies, they have thought of EVERYTHING. Sorry guys, this is girl-specific. There’s a place for your curling iron/straightener, dirty clothes, shoes–yep, everything.  

Headband: No-slip.  This piece of genius will stay with you throughout your whole workout and not slide around or fall off your head.   

 Jacket: CRAZY flattering, thumb holes so your sleeves stay in place, reflectors so you don’t get hit by a car, wicks sweat off so that guy you’re hitting on in your class will think you actually don’t sweat more than he does. Look at you, sexy thang! 

 Tank: It tricks you into thinking you’re only wearing a sports bra but you don’t have to actually only wear a sports bra. Genius. I have like every color. LOVELOVELOVE. 

Shorts: I’ve talked about these already, but they are just THAT good. Shorts under shorts, these move with you and cover your ass…ets. 

 Sneakers: Comfy, just enough support, and super light.  AND they’re pink!  

Just for fun…

Best Yoga Video ever: True life.  

White Wine 

 Red Wine

 

 Workout Resources

Yoga: http://www.myyogaonline.com/

 Lifting: http://www.bodybuilding.com/

 Running: http://skinnyrunner.com/

 

Enjoy! Cheers!  

 

 

 

Are You Kidding Me?

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You know what the biggest weight loss lie is out there on the interwebs/in gym world? Timestamp fitness promises.  You see that girl up there? I’m not going to look like her in 10 weeks or even 10 years.  That’s not a negative thing, that’s a my-body-isn’t-built-with-her-proportions thing.

I can’t even believe how many sites there are dedicated to 30 Days to Shakira’s Striptastic Bod, or Michelle Obama’s Arms in Seven Days.  The only way that’s happening is if you take a weeklong Photoshop intensive.  Plastic surgery wouldn’t even heal that quickly.

So why am I bashing scheduled plans? Aren’t goals a good thing?  Yay! Yes, you’ve been listening! Goals are fantastic and are the best way I’ve found to track how I’m doing.  The problem lies with unrealistic goals.  Setting yourself up for disappointment will make you lose confidence in yourself and forget everything you’ve already achieved. Don’t do that—you’re much too awesome to lose faith in yourself.

A while back, I committed to doing the Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred program. Each morning I would wake up dedicated to my Level 1, 2, and 3 workouts. Guess what happened after 30 days??? I didn’t look like Jillian Michaels.

For the record, I think that’s a really fun workout. Results were definitely noted, but were overshadowed by my disappointment that this getting in shape thing is not a one-month process. Or two-month process.  Hell, it’s been a couple years now and I’m still reaching for more goals.

My point is, getting fit isn’t an event you can mark in your iPhone after a certain number of days have passed.  It’s an every day lifestyle decision. Those workouts will absolutely begin to strengthening your muscles and upping your endurance.  You’ll even notice definite progress, but please don’t get the idea you’re going to look like a Victoria’s Secret model in a month. You don’t even want to be a Victoria’s Secret model…no one likes juice that much.

My intent isn’t to crush your dreams, but to empower you by sharing that every decision you make gets you a whole extra step closer to your goals. I’m a get it done now kind of gal, so this foreign concept of patience was about as easy to digest as a muffin made from shredded phone books. Actually, was recently evaluated at a recent Mary Kay meeting, and that was one of the big markers of my personality. I like my actions to produce results and I like those results to happen before everyone else’s.

There is hope for you all who share that with me! Your ability to push yourself is out of control awesome. But just keep those goals realistic for your fabulous work ethic. The fun part about it is that you’ll start looking in the mirror and think, “Whoa. Is that a muscle right there? I didn’t even know muscles grew right there.  When did this happen?”

Cheers!

Times They Are A-Changin’

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And don’t speak too soon 
For the wheel’s still in spin 
And there’s no tellin’ who 
That it’s namin’ 
For the loser now 
Will be later to win 
For the times they are a-changin’.

How do you react to change? Do you fear it a bit, and view it as an enemy to a life you love? Do you embrace it as a welcomed friend into your midst?  Do you externally support it but internally cringe at the idea?

 I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how drastically my life has changed in the past year. Physical changes are the obvious, but more significant have been the internal. I believe it’s been these changes that have supported and maintained habits.

Like I stated last time, my natural reaction to life is to take it with a side of neuroticism.  I have a dear friend from work who is an avid reader of my blog, and he may be shocked by this revelation.  I don’t believe that it is a neurotic personality that comes across when I’m at the office, but controlling that personality trait has been quite the learning process for me.  I swear this will tie into fitness. Really guys, just give me a sec…

 As a high school and college student, I never struggled with academics. A major blessing has been parents who have supported and pushed me to be the best I can be.  Some credit, however, must be given to my need to constantly be the best and on top. Call it middle child syndrome, but I’ve always felt an internal pull to outpace those around me.

 This hasn’t been a bad thing, but the underlying issue has been a struggle, and I think learned to use this has helped with a breakthrough when it came to my physical changes (you know, getting off the couch and DOING something with myself).  I have an almost maniacal need to stand out.  I desperately strive toward finding meaning for my actions and craving my life to be remembered.

 I don’t mean this in an I-would-love-to-be-a-celebrity-look-how-awesome-I-am way, but rather an I’m-on-this-planet-for-a-reason-and-I’ll-be-damned-if-I let-that-go-to-waste way.  Have you ever just looked around and thought that you, personally, were meant to impact someone or something in a big way? I genuinely wake up feeling like that most days. I know it’s weird, but it gives an exciting spice to life. 

Having this feeling of responsibility has had a tendency to make me a little too eager to go with my gut. Realizing that I wasn’t the one who had all the answers happened at the beginning of my year of volunteering with the organization at which I am currently employed. My mentor and current boss has gently, and with a side of humor, kept my ever-zealous self in check.

Ok now the fitness part. The taking charge of other aspects of my life part.  That day I talked about, you know when I was in the dressing room at The Limited and had a minor freak out? I came to the conclusion that there was no way I could be an encouragement to anyone when my own opinion of myself had reached an all-time low. 

That has been the big secret all along to unlocking my ability to change who I was. Use your own strengths and neuroticisms, as nuts as they seem, to support that person you want to be.  You’re not going to have the same outlook as I do because you’re coming at life from a fresh, different perspective. Embrace that part of you that you may even consider a negative aspect of your life because it is a part of you. And I bet you’re pretty great.

 

Cheers!

Permission Granted

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My dear friends, I know I have been silent as of late. My routine has been a whirl of activity with not a lot of breathing room. I’ve been awesome at fitting workouts in, but not awesome at doing things that make me function and not lose my sanity. I get teased a lot for being like the neurotic character Monica, on FRIENDS, and I’ve been proving way too many people right lately. Yeah, I know!

Yes, my daily workouts are great motivators. There’s nothing like eight 3-minute rounds to make me feel like I can tackle anything the world throws at me.  Budget due? Bring it. Big project to get done in zero time? Whatever, I got this. People who are emotional unstable and spontaneously break down on you? Puh-lease, give me something hard.

 One thing has been missing.  There’s an absence of something beloved and precious, and I always need a reminder of it, so I thought you might too.

 Rest. Relax. Take a day off. Here is your permission slip to do no workout today and have a glass of wine while doing something that makes you that sparkling creature who is taking the time to read this.  I don’t use this time of respite as an excuse or a reward for good behavior, but rather in support of my firm belief that it is vital for sustaining life.  Scheduling it in as you do a workout or a staff meeting helps make it a priority for me.  Your body (and fiancé) will thank you.

 I think the rest day gets a bad rap.  People feel lazy (ok, I feel lazy—maybe others don’t struggle with this) and think about what they could be doing instead.  However, when I’ve found myself feeling just a little burned out on life, one 24-hour period where I can focus on doing things that make me happy and feel fulfilled is the perfect form of medicine.

 M, my constant force of stability, love, and understanding reminded me of how important this can be.  We were talking about one of those heavy-hitter uncomfortable life issues and he innocently said, “You know I want to marry you because I like to actually see you, right?” His comment made in jest really hit home for me.

 I’m not blaming all of this on my workout schedule. A lot of it has to do with my work schedule and that I tend to bring a few hours of work home pretty much every night. Staying fit and being on top of my game in the office is a huge priority, but so is being a happy and stable human. 

I think that having a healthy lifestyle is crucial for my personal happiness. I also think of equal importance is being emotionally healthy and having time to rest and regroup, without scheduling another activity. Parents are probably thinking, “Yeah, a day to rest and regroup would be nice—I’ll consider it in 18 years.” I, on the other hand, am lucky enough to be childless at the moment and need to remember to stop and smell the roses once in a while…or maybe peonies because they’re my favorite. It is Spring, after all.  

 

Cheers!

It’s You and Me Baby–Head Games

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I’d always been under the impression that there are athletic people and not athletic people. I envisioned God smiling as he created me and thinking, “Well, thank Me she’s got some smarts because I know she won’t be going to college on a sports scholarship.”

Gym class was never the bane of my existence or anything.  I’ve always just been kind of average at it, and was never really challenged to improve.  Mostly I cared if I looked/smelled gross after class because I knew I’d see my 11th grade crush, Phil Wieszcyk.

Anyway, my point is I didn’t try very hard because in my mind I was average, and that is all it was going to be.  There were the star athletes and then there were those of us who were just waiting for fourth period to roll around.

What has changed since then? Mindset. You can’t change what you don’t want to do.  You can’t do anything you won’t prioritize. You won’t prioritize anything that you don’t desire or anything about which you have no passion.

My health remained stagnant until I started training with some heart. Seeing each small success and meeting each mini-goal has maintained a passion for being healthy that makes it ten million times easier for me to fit a workout into my day.

Heisman Trophy winner (and former Dallas Cowboy! And MMA Fighter) Herschel Walker said,

My God given talent is my ability to stick with training longer than anybody else. 

I’m sure there is probably some genetic argument people use to say elite athletes are predestined to succeed, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about having the mental toughness to stick it out.  Skipping the gym, in my life, is based 100% on my lack of motivation as oppose to actual physical impairment.

Obviously I’m not claiming to be an elite athlete, but even we normal humans benefit from a tough mindset. It is so hard when you’re huffing and puffing after some “beginner” class to remember that it will all pay off, but hey when you’re looking back after 60 pounds, you’ll get it.

So take a page from Herschel.  Take that training up a level. You can do it!

Oh, and GO COWBOYS 😉

Just a Man and His Will to Survive

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Have you ever felt just a little bit overwhelmed at the gym? Like maybe you’re the only person there who doesn’t bench 750 pounds or run marathons?

When I first started working out, I was in a constant state of being overwhelmed and down on myself.  The group class was the embodiment of anxiety. Do I want to spend 30 minutes to an hour being the chubby kid in the back row heaving like a beached whale? No thanks.

But I have a secret. You are one of the blessed few that gets to hear it.  Group classes can actually be an ego boost! They give you mojo and can crush that plateau. 

Sure, sure, I’ve mentioned them before but I wanted to highlight how big of deal they’ve been for me. That workout buddy you have is perfect and wonderful, but having a whole group of people who notice when you’ve been skipping out is such a motivation.  Here are some tips that I wish I’d known from day one.

Group Class Survival 101

1.  Not everything is about me.  Everyone in the class you just entered is working on their own fitness goals. You aren’t the center of the world.  Not everyone is staring at you.  Not everyone is wondering why the hell is that girl here.  Not everyone just noticed that you couldn’t knock out that last pushup. Promise.

 

2. Chill out. Take a break. There’s always that moment in the middle where I’m pretty convinced I’m about to die.  I’m a little embarrassed how long it took for me to have the realization that this is MY class and it’s all good if I take a little break and grab some water.  I always had this idea that I had to do everything exactly like the instructor—pace, intensity, length, speed, and height.  Yeah, that instructor that teaches these classes 4 times a day and has dedicated his/her life to teaching others fitness. Needless to say, I couldn’t quite keep up.

 

3. Bring water. And a towel. If it’s a good class, you’re going to sweat like crazy. Dehydration will make you shaky and unfocused. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated. Don’t get blinded by sweat dripping into your eyes, causing them to sting like mad.  You won’t be able to concentrate on the instructor or see what they’re doing, so a towel is a great plan too.

 

4. Don’t let your clothes be an obstacle.  I’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again! Confession: I didn’t follow my own rule at a recent boxing class and really regretted it.  You know those sports bras that zip up in the front? Cute right? WRONG. While we were doing sets of burpees then mountain climbers, the zipper came unzipped…whoops. I can promise you I’ll never again be wearing that one to a high intensity class. Oh, and do us all a favor and wear shorts long enough to cover your ass.  

 

5. Talk to people! They’re probably nice. As an added bonus, you get a new support person cheering for your success and doing the same thing you are.

 Hopes this helps! Let me know if I missed your favorite tip 🙂

 

Cheers!

It’s Fine By Me If You Never Leave

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My relationship with exercise has always had a remarkably similar storyline to my relationship with men. It all begins with one great day.

You know the day I’m talking about.  It ‘s one of those days that leaves you going to bed smiling and giddy at the promise tomorrow holds… so giddy that you can’t even sleep because you’re too excited and your mind is making a plan for what that week will hold. For guys, it was an upcoming steamy night. For exercise, it was the bikini I was going to get for this summer. Surprisingly similar outfits were attached to both visions.

Morning would come, and I would spring out of bed singing.  The sun is shining, coffee is brewing and I’m ready to meet each challenge that heads my way with the poise of Grace Kelly and dynamic influence of the Iron Lady, may she rest in peace. This manic, likely unhealthy state of sheer optimism and fortitude lasts for weeks on end. Ok, typically about three or four.

Reality would inevitably have a way of rearing its ugly head. I just don’t feel like going to my group class.  The gym is too packed for me to go. My arms are sore. I had to work late. The guy I’ve been seeing started talking about his car more than is necessary, unless he’s at the Ford Dealer. I found someone cuter. This guy is sweet, brilliant, and interesting… buuuut this guy has season UK Basketball tickets. Deuces. (People still say that. Yeah they do.)

Rinse and Repeat 

This cycle was my life from age 16-22. I don’t think there was the slightest problem with the guy side of it. Prior to age 22, there is no way I had the attention span to be in a real relationship, not to mention zero desire to do so. The exercise thing is where the problem resided.

However, it wasn’t until I met the love of my life that I realized I had commitment issues. My friends are probably laughing at this, because I couldn’t even commit to a hair color until about six months ago (light brown, shockingly my natural hair color in case you’re curious). I think I’ve just been born with a restless spirit.

When I ran across this quote while I was perusing an educational literary magazine, I thought it was a beautiful way to state a lesson with which I struggle. Oh, and it was definitely on Pinterest, but educational literary magazine sounds way better, right?

Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.

Through tough times, it is essential for me to remember why I started something in the first place. I want a stronger, healthier body to enjoy my life. Without exercise, my stress levels skyrocket. I have crazy high energy, and day-um can I wear some jeans now.

When M is really pissing me off (which is rare! Love you), I strive to keep in mind all the good times we have had, and my excitement for our future helps me when I’m convinced for a fleeting moment that I should be single again…after a good boxing class of course, because I am not that rational in the heat of the moment.  Then I remember I’m crazy about that guy, and common sense wins.  I’m still a work in progress, but hey—my favorite part of life is achieving what I’ve set out to do.  And wine.

Cheers!

Still Dreamin’ of California

I mentioned I’m happy to be back, right? But I had to share photos from my trip. Ok, or you could just go to my Instagram page. But it was so pretty!! So here (sorry Facebook friends, this is probably the zillionth time you’ve seen these):

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Just lookin’ out the window. Normal, right? Vacation just isn’t vacation without palm trees.

 

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Gorgeous flowers at Easter brunch. I just love flowers! It’s making me so happy that it’s spring. Soon I’ll be able to put baskets and pots out on my porch!!

 

 

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View partially up our hike. 

 

 

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And yet again…view:)

 

 

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You can see the trail we’d been hiking. It’s called Bump and Grind. The thirteen year old boy in me is still giggling.

 

 

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Happy (late) Easter from yours truly (left), and my aunt (right).

Cheers!