Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Training for Tuesday; My next half marathon

I have thrown around the 'sub 2 hour' dream a bazillion times. My 2nd half marathon was in 2:05 and at the time I didn't even consider that under 2 hours was a possibility. Ever since then though, it's been on my mind.

Trouble is, that was in 2012 and it's almost 2015. Way to make shit happen, Kristen.

I have run 2 half marathons since then. Both were.. not great.

But! We are not talking about those today, today we are only being positive and awesome, so go away negativity! I shun you.


I've mentioned before that I would like to do the triple crown (5k, 10k, 10m) but have decided not to do them unless work pays for them (so keep your fingers crossed for me). I am doing the rock n roll half marathon in March. And after that, I am going to do the KY Derby mini, which was the race I did in 2012. One of those races is going to be my bitch.

If I sign up for all the races, this will be my schedule:

7th March: 5 km
14th March: Rock n Roll Half
21st March: 10 km
4th April: 10 miler
25th April: Derby Half

I do not train well for races. I love to plan, but I'm not so great at following through with plans -unless they involve travel, in which case I totally do. But hard work? Not for this lazy girl.

But this time is different.

I got sick at the end of November just as I was starting to get back into it and love running again. Rude. Once I could breathe properly again, I made sure to get out there and hit the pavement treadmill. Unfortunately, I dislocated my right knee last week, so that threw a spanner in the works as well, but I did manage to get some good runs in. And that was my goal for December, just run. No plans, no requirements, just get out there and remind my mind, body and heart that this is something I do, and love. Just run.

I didn't want to plan too much because a) over planning means under achieving and giving up b) holidays c) NYC.

But December is over. And I'm ready.

With the help of the internet, info from Tracy and Alyssa, here's how I'm gonna do it:

Run Consistently
Number one, most important thing for me is that I have to run consistently. Life gets in the way and all that jazz. I don't care if I miss a hill run, or I don't feel like doing a speed workout. At the very minimum, just run.

Yoga + Strength Training (Cross Training)
Yoga helps me recover from a run and just helps my running in general. When I was at my best in 2012, I was doing weights just as often as I was running. So both of these are very important to making sure I stay on track and in the best possible shape.

I need to make sure I do specific speed workouts. Intervals and Tempo runs to be precise. I also need to make sure I can run race pace early on in the training, if only for a couple of miles at first.

I hate hills. The only reason I hate them is because I have none near me, and I despise driving to go for a run. I know, I know. I have to go to a park 20 minutes away that has horrible hills, and run them. As far as I can tell, the rock n roll half isn't particularly hilly (I have no idea how to read those things) but from experience I know the derby mini is. The good thing is, the 10 miler goes through the same park as the mini, so that's good training at least.

More miles
I need to make sure I can actually comfortably run 13.1 miles, so I have to do my long runs. These are always the ones that fall off, I'm much more likely to go for a 3-6 mile run than a 10 miler or more. I also know that a lot of plans do not recommend that you run the complete race distance before your race, but everyone is different. I don't intend to run 14 miles every weekend, but I do want to make sure that I can go out there and bust out that distance without blinking an eye, not relying only on hope on race day.

Run outside
This is really important as well. Just because you can run an 8 minute mile on the treadmill does not mean you can run it outside, Kristen. I am really bad at that. I can run as fast as I want for a couple miles just to get it over with, but I just don't have that oomph outside. Need to get the oomph. Not that I want to run 8 minute miles outside. Not that I can.

^ That might be my favourite thing ever.

I'm not going to share my specific training plan on here, because it's boring and I don't want to share my crazy goals just yet.

Bye Felecia! Linking up with the girls of course.


Hope everyone has a wonderful and safe end to 2014. See you on the other side!

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Best Books of 2014

I surpassed my goal of 100 books in 2014! Out of those 100+ a few really stood out. I wanted to share.. duh. I'm not including re-reads like P&P, The Book Thief or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society but I'd still recommend them all. Anyway, these are just the books I enjoyed reading in 2014, you might agree or disagree!

The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenNorth & South by Elizabeth GaskellThe Grand Sophy by Georgette HeyerMe Before You by JoJo MoyesThe Lunar Chronicles by Marissa MeyerAustenland by Shannon Hale, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo MoyesEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and Stardust by Neil Gaiman.

Other notable reads:

The Selection Series by Kiera Cass
EmmaPersuasion and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

The disappointing reads:

The Night Circus I think my expectations were too high. I listened to it, and it's read by Jim Dale who I discovered I am not a fan of.
The Delirium Trilogy

Wish I hadn't read these:

All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes
The Queen of Kentucky
Allegiant I didn't mind the first two, but this one was just not good.

How bout you? Favourite or worst book of 2014?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Someone's addicted to reading challenges

So I found another book challenge group.. or rather, it found me. I finished the last challenge that I did with Megan in a month, so I thought it would be fun to do another. The rules seem quite similar and the categories were too good to resist. I think they do some bonus rounds as well, fun! It starts in January.

I learned a lot from my first challenge (and second, lets be honest) because I picked books for the sake of picking them and they sucked big hairy book suckingness. So I'm making sure from now on to pick books that are already on my to read list or actually sound good and I'm picking them because I want to read them. 

The best part is that I only had to buy one book - the rest were on my kindle or bookshelf waiting for me, and the one I bought was super cheap.

5 points: Read a book, any book that is at least 200 pages long – Dear Mr Knightley by Katherine Reay
10 points: Read a book that begins with the “A”, “An”, or “The” - The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

10 points: Read a book with a two word title – The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
15 points: Read a book with an animal in the title – Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched The World by Vicki Myron
20 points: Read a book that the title begins with the first letter of your name – The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
20 points: Read a book set in any country in Europe – Atonement by Ian McEwan - you're allowed one re-read and I am 99% sure I read this book in 2007 but it was so long ago, I don't remember it. I think I read it right before I saw the movie whilst I was in London.
25 points: Read a book from the NPR’s guide of great books from 2014 – The Martian by Andy Weir
30 points: Read a book by a favourite author that is not a re-read - Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen - I accidentally clicked 'currently reading' the other day but I haven't started, don't worry I'm no rule breaker. 
30 points: Read a book by a comedian or comedic actor – Yes Please by Amy Poehler
35 points: Read a book about science, discovery, or a scientific process – God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens

Have you read any of these books?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Christmas

I know most people won't be blogging today but I just wanted to throw it out there anyway.

Happy Christmas! 

I hope you spend all of your time happy. Whether that's with family or friends or pets, just be happy. Be thankful that you're alive and well. Life is good.

Yes, I say Happy Christmas. According to my Nana, Merry means get drunk and we all know how much I love my Nana.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The 10 Books That Changed My Life

Jana shared her 10 books and even though she didn't nominate or ask me, I thought.. what a lovely idea!

Like Jana says (haha get it?!) it's hard not to get intimidated sometimes by other peoples favourites or recommendations. I look at some people's lists of their favourites, or books they want to read.. and I can barely understand or get into the synopsis, let alone the book itself. It makes me feel uneducated or uncultured. I feel silly or offended when my favourites aren't on their lists. What's wrong with that I like, I say? What's wrong with me that I don't like the same books, or that I didn't understand them? But like I've said before, you have to do you, you have to like what you like and screw everyone else. Aint nobody got time for doing anything they don't like, whether it's reading or exercise.

I don't want, or expect anyone to like every single thing that I do, so I can't expect myself to like every thing that other people like - which would be every thing in the whole world, and well... I'm not gonna live long enough to read all the books, go all the places, watch all the movies. That being said - I never turn my nose down at someone elses favourites or recommendations, because how else are you supposed to find your new favourites? Every book I read opens my eyes in some ways, whether it's a new love or the realisation that some people shouldn't write books.

Anyway. Today I wanted to share the 10 books that have changed my life. Maybe they'll change yours.

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

You might skim past this one because you already know I love it. I've rambled on about it so much. But I love it because it taught me so much. It's ok to have opinions, but you need to learn to accept when you're wrong. There are crappy people in this world, you don't have to go along with them. Stay true to yourself, love the people you love, love what you love. Looks can be decieving, everyone has a story. Don't judge a book by it's cover. I can read the same book every month for the rest of my life and find something new to love every time.

Cleo by Helen Brown

The cat lovers version of Marley and Me perhaps? This book touched my heart in so many ways and it's one that I think about often.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

This book took my breath away and crushed my heart.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

If I could recommend any book to any person every single day of my life, it's this one. I know, not even P&P has that claim. This book.. I think about it so very often, I read it maybe once a year.. I can't handle more often than that. So good.

Harry Potter and the Philsopher's Stone by J K Rowling

Yes, because I read the Philospher's Stone, not the Sorcer's. Just kidding, kind of. Anyway. I love all the Harry Potters, of course, but this book changed me because I am just amazed at the world that has been created and how many people just love this series. That kind of love makes me happy and these books hold so many memories for me. I love it more now than I did when I read the first few in high school.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Before P&P there was this. The first time I really, truly, loved a book. It broke my heart, I cried so much, I laughed and loved these fictional characters more than anyone I knew in real life. I still love it, but not as much, but I'll always remember the first time I read it.
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

One of my favourite stories of all time. I love the movie too.

Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult

Talk about heart wrenching. This book has stuck with me since I read it so many years ago.
Matilda by Roald Dahl

This book made me start to think that maybe being a little (or a lot) different was not such a bad thing. And just because someone is related to you by blood does not make them family, and sometimes those who aren't related are your family.

The Babysitters Club (Kristy's Great Idea) by Ann M Martin

The books that started this love affair that is the longest relationship I have ever had.

Books are the only thing I have always loved and that have always loved me, no matter what. Thanks BSC.

Needless to say, my mum and KC are exempt from all these wild exclamations of love and whatnot. I would give up books for them, but they know and love me too much to ever be crazy enough to ask.

Don't forget to link up with Tracy and Alyssa on the 30th (next Tuesday!) for the last Training for Tuesday of the year!


Has a book ever changed your life? Do share.

Monday, December 22, 2014

How to have a fabulous Christmas

Wake up early. We are all children on Christmas Day.

Presents! Up to you which order you do things, we always opened presents first because patient we are not.

My favourite part is seeing people's faces when they open the gifts I so thoughtfully (in my opinion) picked out for them.

Eat a big breakfast. Kudos to you if you're the one cooking.

Do nothing for a little while, maybe play with your new toys.

Spend time with your loved ones. Family, friends, pets, stuffed animals.

Remember that life is short and you won't always have that luxury ohmygawd I'm gonna cry now

More food! Hopefully someone else cooked it.

Christmas crackers and their silly hats are a must for me, and they are so hard to find here but I found some at TJ Maxx and I make my inlaws pretend it's a thing here.

More presents? Yay!

Don't forget to smile and be nice to everyone you meet, especially if they are working.

Go to bed fat and happy because Christmas is awesome like that.

Or if you're like me, maybe miss out on all these things because you thought Christmas Day was a brilliant choice to fly back from NYC. Hopefully our flights don't get delayed!

So hopefully we are having the time of our lives in NYC by now - follow along on instagram because you know I'll post all the things!

What are your must do's for a great Christmas?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I'll be home for Christmas...

One of my favourite Christmas songs is 'I'll be home for Christmas' by Bing Crosby. Perhaps it's because the lyrics are 'I'll be home for Christmas.. if only in my dreams'. It's been on repeat lately.

I always spent Christmas in Melbourne. To me - Melbourne is Christmas, because family is Christmas, and family is in Melbourne... Before I moved to the US, I had spent only 1 Christmas away from my family, it was horrible. So I vowed I would never spend another Christmas away from them. Obviously I only got to keep that vow for a few more years. I wouldn't change a thing - I love KC and our life here. Being an expat is hard (anyone got a violin?) but it's normally so worth it. It's always harder around the holidays though.

So for right now, let's humour me. Let's pretend I'm back home and I am spending Christmas with my family. This is most of them below.

If I was still in Australia, Mum and I would take a week or two off work  and we'd make the 10 hour or so drive to Melbourne, where my Nana lives.  We have been doing this all my life, as far as I can remember. Somewhere along the line, the boys stopped coming but Mum and I continued..

We finally arrive at Nana's - did she get shorter? She asks how the drive was, are you hungry? Do you want to see so and so? They want to see you. Kristen, will you get this down? Will you put this away? You left this here last time. Are you going to take a shower? Make sure you dry the floor. Yes Nana, I say. Of course, Nana. Love you Nana.

Time flies in a flurry of Christmas activities and family. We see everyone bit by bit and then all together. Sometimes its four people over, sometimes just one, other times it's the whole family. My aunties and uncles have big houses but for some reason we always have a big fish and chips get together at my Nan's teeny tiny 2 bedroom unit. It's small and squishy and oh so loud and I just sit there and take it all in, because I've missed this. My cousins and I sit on the floor while the 'adults' sit on the couches. We put the actual children in our laps and watch carols in the domain, just like every year. Afterwards, we get out old photos and slides - we weren't there but it's fun to see our parents be children again.

Most days, mum comes in and wakes me, come on lets go shopping. Nana hates shopping, so we drop her off at the pokies. Mum and I meander around the vinnies and salvos, sometimes finding nothing and other times hitting the jackpot. I nearly always find a book. We stop and get some potato cakes and dim sims. Mum drops me off at the library and goes to pick Nan up.

Every night, Mum cooks dinner and Nana turns the TV on so we can watch the news while we eat.. I consider not finishing what's on my plate but I know my Nana won't allow it. Nothing gets wasted here. Afterwards, we sit in the living room and watch more news. Nana reads her paper, Mum reads a magazine and I read a book. A family of readers, we are.

The next morning is Christmas. I'm older, yes, but I'm a kid in Melbourne. As soon as I know they are both awake I jump out of bed yelling 'Happy Christmas!' and I wait not so patiently for them to be ready to open presents. I am the present hander outer and I say 'Happy Christmas Mum/Nana' with each present. I say thank you for the pajamas and the books and the Disney stuff. I'm still a child to them, and where it used to annoy me, now I love it. After we've unwrapped the presents, I fold up all the wrapping paper because my Nana recycles it.

Finally, it's time to go to my Aunty & Uncle J's. They are the Italians of the family and Christmas day has always been at their place. Lots of food, laughter and more food.. We stuff ourselves silly, I have a few drinks now and we pop our crackers and wear our silly hats.

bad picture, but the hat.
We eat some more food, open presents, take silly photos and talk the day away. It's late now, time to go home. Lots of hugs and kisses, promises to visit more often, we take leftovers and bags of presents, tears are shed. We wave goodbye, with a beep of the horn or two. The 3 of us are silent on the way home, broken only by my Nana's occasional hum-singing.

At home, we make some hot cuppas and sit around reading some more. What a lovely time I have in Melbourne. What a lovely family I have. I lean over to give them both hugs and kisses. Night Mum, I say. I lean over my Nana, trying not to breathe in the smoke and give her a kiss. She says 'See you in a porridge' quickly, trying to beat me. I let her. I say, 'aw shucks, you beat me. See you in a porridge, Nana. Love you'.

A couple of days later, it's time to head back to Sydney. We pack the car, Nana trying to convince us to take more food and asking again 'are you sure you didn't forget anything?'. Finally, we're ready. Mum starts sniffling. I start wiping my eyes. Nana calls us both dills, gives us a hug and a kiss that just feels like Nana. I hug her one more time before I get in the car. It's hard to let go. I'm not sure when I'll see her again, stupid ocean. I keep hugging, finally Mum beeps the horn. Nana pats me on the back, kisses me on the cheek and says "Stop crying you silly duffa. I'll see you in a porridge, won't I?'

I love my family. They are crazy and annoying and get under my skin like nobody else. They've caused me more grief and madness than any other person ever could. They are the worst of me. They are the best of me. I took them for granted. I didn't appreciate them. I miss them.

I'm not complaining. Truly. I just miss them. And this was therapeutic for me to get out. People always say to me they don't understand how I could live so far away from my family - that breaks my heart. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. To love someone from another country? To have to choose between the family you love, or the one you love? To have to choose between two families, two countries, heck two states? Pick a side? No matter what, somebody gets hurt. I don't relish the fact that I am away from my family. Of course I miss them, of course it's hard. So many people around the world have it worse than simply being an expat - at least I can talk to my family, others don't have that luxury.

I made this decision, and I live with it. More than that, I love my life, I wouldn't change anything. I am lucky to have found this guy I share my life with, that let me get 3 cats, that tries to make Christmas as good as it can be for someone like me. I am lucky to have my own little family.

That being said... the power to apparate across oceans would be greatly appreciated.

Now to throw this post in the complete opposite direction, I wanted to share my favourite song for 2014 and link up with Helene. I am zero percent ashamed to admit that it was Shake it Off. It could be because it's still fairly recent in my memory. I don't even remember what I did at the beginning of the year, let alone what song I liked. So there you go.

Where would you apparate to if you could?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Northanger Abbey

So I've now read 3 Austen novels. I feel quite accomplished.

Some time ago, I broke my 'books before movies' rule with Austen's other books because I never thought I would get round to reading them. Silly me. I have read Persuasion, which I loved, and picked Northanger Abbey as my next Austen because I absolutely, no shame, love the movie. I have seen it like 17 times. The guy who plays Henry Tilney is also in Austenland, be still my fangirling heart.

Northanger Abbey is definitely not Austen's most popular work, which is why I thought I wouldn't like it. I was so wrong. I truly love this book, I daresay it ties for second place with Persuasion in my heart. But considering I have only read 3 of Jane Austen's novels and P&P will always be #1; it seems all the others will tie for 2nd place. Based on their film adaptations, Mansfield Park will be my least favourite.

Anywho. Shall we?

This book has some real, heartfelt drama and romance, but mainly I like it because it's really, really funny. Catherine is awesome and kind of nuts, and the supporting characters run the gamut from really likeable and charming (Eleanor and her brother Henry) to excruciatingly irritating and shallow (John and Isabella). Austen makes fun of the (then) popular Gothic novels and authors who spurn novels. Henry is quite possibly Austen's cheekiest character.

If you don't know the story, it's basically as follows: young 17-year old Catherine Morland accompanies the wealthy Mr. and Mrs. Allen to Bath for her first introduction to Georgian society. She meets the charming Henry Tilney and sociable John Thorpe who both vie for her attentions, and befriends John's sister Isabella and Henry's sister Eleanor. She meets General Tilney (Henry's father), who mistakenly takes her for an heiress. After the whirlwind social life of Bath, she is invited by the Tilneys to their country estate, Northanger Abbey, where - due to the influence of her fondness for gothic novels - she thinks up some fanciful ideas about the General. She falls in love with Henry, but her fancies and the General's discovery of her family's true social standing land her in trouble and threaten to tear her and Henry apart.

The novel's first sentence is significant: "No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine." It sets up two ideas: first, that Catherine Morland is, or is going to be, a heroine; second, that she is an unlikely one. The first chapter focuses on the Catherine's practicality, her intelligent but not brilliant mind, and her lack of experience in the world. Austen introduces Catherine as a realistic character, while contrasting that realism to her role as the heroine of a novel. Throughout the book, the narrator articulates Catherine's thoughts more eloquently than Catherine could, perhaps, but she voices Catherine's perceptions. Also, Northanger has one of my favourite Austen lines: 

Northanger Abbey shows how life is, a simple over-imaginative girl finds love even though she is not the most clever, most pretty, most smart. She never pretends to be anything she isn't and puts to shame those who do. Northanger Abbey is a delightful read and I highly recommend it, that is, if you want to. If not, just watch the movie. Or Austenland. That's good too.

Have you ever liked a book after seeing the movie?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Save or Splurge

Thanks to Biana for this idea, though I'm so with Amanda, splurge is such a gross word.

Below are the categories:

1. A cocktail dress to wear to a wedding
2. A glass of wine at a restaurant 
3. A hotel room
4. A haircut
5. Wild card...you name it! 

1. Save - I rarely go to weddings anyway, but I always check out TJ Maxx or Marshalls first, or I might have my heart set on a dress from RTR. Renting a dress isn't super fiscally responsible, but for someone like me who doesn't like to wear the same thing twice it's fun. I probably use them once or twice a year.

eva franco ora dress

2. Save / negligible - I never order wine at a restaurant. If I do get an alcoholic beverage (like a cocktail) I try to get one on the cheaper side. After Sydney prices though, everything is cheap here, so... I normally only ever get one drink, like the other night we went to dinner and I got some fancy blue cocktail and it was sooo yum.

3. Save / Splurge (to me) - I don't like to waste money on the place I am going to sleep. I shouldn't want to spend all my time there. I still want it to be nice, safe and clean. So while to someone else it will look like I'm staying in the cheapest hotel, to me it is a splurge because they are so damn expensive. I won't stay in a seedy 1 star motel 5 miles from where I want to be.. but I will find the cheapest, with the best reviews and best location for our budget. Sometimes we get lucky, like our Honeymoon.

4. Save - And I'm kinda cheating here because one of my best friends just happens to be the best hair stylist in the country, so..... Though it used to be a splurge because of maintaining the blonde and how long it was. I rarely get my hair done anymore. I got it done in October kinda ombre-y, and I'm already itching to have it all one colour again (my natural). What do you think?

5. Save / Splurge (to me) - My wild card is going to be clothes.. exciting I know. I have always been about the cheapest deals, if something was on sale, I'd buy it. But with a closet full of nothing to wear and clothes I don't like.. I'm seriously over that now. I know the Gap and Express etc aren't expensive stores to most people, but for me who almost always buys secondhand or super cheap, they are. However, their clothes tend to last longer and you can get them on super sale, so while they are still a splurge for me, in the end it works out as saving because I'm not wasting money on crappy cheap clothes that don't last.

What's worth a splurge to you?