Southernmost Point

Last week, we shut down our work computers and packed our shorts, swimsuits and sunglasses to head to the Florida Keys. We decided to go on this trip to celebrate my 29th birthday and since we had airline miles and hotel points which covered the biggest chunk of our travel, we were just left with the cost of food (lots of it!).

66180_10101167996088583_3838449796269054260_nWe had a direct flight to Key West and upon arrival, we heard “You’re okay with a convertible, right?” A convertible while we drive through the Keys? We’ll take it!

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We landed around lunch time and started driving towards Islamorada, where we were spending our first night. Seafood was calling our name as we pulled into Mangrove Mama’s on Sugarloaf Key.

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I highly recommend stopping in if you’re passing by, if not for the fish tacos, then the flavored mojitos!

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We continued on our journey and marveled over the turquoise water, tiny islands and just how long the 7 mile bridge is. Our first night was spent at the ridiculously adorable Postcard Inn.

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I LOVED that they were pet-friendly and immediately wished our pups had traveled with us!

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The Postcard Inn has a Tiki Bar, a raw bar, kayaks, jet skis, stand up paddle boards and two pools (one is heated). Seriously, what more could you ask for? We watched the sunset as we ate Key West peel and eat pink shrimp and sipped on coronas.

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We explored the grounds, watching tiny barracudas in the water and pelicans by the boats.

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For dinner, we made the short drive to Island Grill and decided to try the tuna nachos. I now understand why they are world famous. Seriously, this dish was TO DIE FOR!

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After a morning walk on the beach, we decided to find a breakfast spot other than the restaurant at the hotel. We hit the jackpot with Midway Cafe. It could not have been any cuter and the mocha almond frappe (which LW called a “breakfast milkshake”) was delicious. My order caused the staff to call me “Vacation Girl.”

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After a filling breakfast (I got the veggie wrap), we headed towards Key West – but not before putting the top down. We decided to take every opportunity to stop at overpasses and state parks along the way.

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We walked several miles at each of the parks. We were delighted that we only saw one snake at this Florida state park. Last year in Ponte Vedra, we saw dozens of poisonous snakes. I loved our little stops along our road trip.

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Bahia Honda State Park had some seriously amazing views. I dipped my toes in the water and promptly announced that I had no desire to snorkel when we arrived in Key West. Kayaking was as close as I was going to get to being in the water.

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We had a delicious lunch at the Square Grouper on Cudjoe Key. We split small plates and enjoyed adult beverages while giggling over the Square Grouper story. We talked along the way about where we’d live if we ever moved to Florida. I said Tampa or perhaps Islamorada, if we weren’t going to work ever again. LW voted Orlando. But we’re not going anywhere. North Carolina is home!

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Dinner that evening was our most favorite of the whole trip. We went to a tiny restaurant in downtown Key West called “Seven Fish.” I had scallops and LW had the catch of the day. Both were amazing.

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I ordered a mango mojito in a pineapple. Yes, in a WHOLE PINEAPPLE.

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You might think that this would be my favorite treat of the whole trip, but it wasn’t. Dark chocolate dipped key lime pie on a stick became my new favorite dessert.

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Oh, and we tried a lot of Florida beers on this trip. Kermit’s had the best key lime pie in my opinion, but I will say that we tried it from three other places before coming to that conclusion.

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Our next favorite dinner was at Firefly. The double porch on the restaurant screamed “Southern!” After devouring crab beignets, I splurged on the fried chicken while the hubs ordered the catch of the day, corvina.

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Did I mention that we rode bikes around ALL DAY LONG before this dinner? So I pretty much burned off that chicken before I ate it!

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We explored every inch of Key West while we were there, some two or three times. Of course we took an obligatory tourist photo of the Southernmost Point (although apparently it’s not actually the southernmost point?). Either way, it’s the one that has a photo prop and a line of tourists waiting.

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Surprisingly, we didn’t run over any chickens or roosters while we were there. Although I did have an unfortunate incident with one at Bo’s Fish Wagon. I’ve never seen so many chickens and roosters in my life – and I grew up on a farm!

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Speaking of Bo’s Fish Wagon, we got the tacos and were a little disappointed. They were very slaw-y and mayonnaise-y. And frankly, there wasn’t a ton of fish on the tacos. I think if we were to go back, we would check out Garbo’s Grill instead of going back to Bo’s.

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One place we really wanted to go was Deuce’s Off the Hook Grill. The regular menu looked pretty good, but the specials sounded AMAZING. However, they were booked solid when we got there for dinner one night, and we were 30 minutes early for lunch the next day. We decided we just weren’t meant to eat there.

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The hotel pool was a nice little escape. I even had some friends to hang out with – including this orange iguana. I’ve never seen an orange iguana before but apparently he is a regular at the pool and even sometimes goes swimming.

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We spent the day being tourists and exploring Mallory Square and the waterfront. We watched the tarpon swimming by the marina and even saw a nurse shark!

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Ernest Hemingway’s home is in Key West, so we decided to take a walk through (we skipped the guided tour). The house (and garden) was FILLED with cats. I’m surprised LW didn’t have an allergic reaction but he was careful not to touch any of them. The house was interesting, especially the pool and the story about it.

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The house is also right across from the light house. One of my most favorite parts of the trip was visiting Sunset Pier (we grabbed drinks at Ocean Key resort) and watching the sunset.

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There were at least 200 people on the pier with us (and probably 50 more at the bar watching the Seahawks/Packers crazy game). Live music is abundant in Key West, and was no different here. The band played, people danced and the day came to an end.

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We bit the bait and went to Blue Heaven for breakfast after the race on Sunday. The banana bread was incredible. The whole meal was incredible, but the banana bread was the best (and my belini was pretty darn good, too!).

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On our last day, we sat by the water and had our last lunch. I indulged in more fish tacos… and more mojitos.

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And I have to say it was kind of the perfect way to end our trip. Sunshine, water and my most favorite person beside of me.

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Oh, and of course I had one more chocolate dipped key lime pie on a stick before we headed back home and back to reality.

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Oh Happy day + giveaway winners!

A few weeks ago, I ran a  5-mile race with some of my girlfriends. Afterwards, I tweeted about the race and Mizuno reached out offering me a free pair of their newest running shoe, the Wave Rider 18. These beauties arrived and I can’t help but notice the irony that the color scheme is called “Key West” and we just announced our trip to Key West + my running the half marathon there in January. I think these shoes and I were meant to be!

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I’ve already started training for the race but since I’m 10 weeks out, I have the opportunity to slowly work my way up. I’m currently at 5 miles and did a run last night, keeping my pace under 9 miles (though my first two miles were by far my fastest!). So far, so good with hitting my 2 hour goal. I’m excited to try out my new shoes, set a new PR in this race, and get back into running.

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Now… the real reason you’re here…. the winners of the giveaway. I am so grateful for everyone who donated and read the blog this past month. You helped make some serious wishes come true for perfect strangers. The Porters visited Bald Head Island last week. Adrienne had two stock-car driving experience passes sent to her (big thanks to the Joey Logano Charitable Foundation). Julie G is getting her discs to help her learn to speak French. Michelle received two passes to go hang gliding in the OBX. As donations continue to come in, we’ll work to cross more items off these bucket lists. But let me say one more time, THANK YOU. I’m so grateful for your big hearts (and your excitement for Tieks). The winners were selected by Random.org. There were 14 of you who entered (names were matched with donations and comments). Congratulations to Kelly W, winner of the $100 gift card to Tieks; Amy T. winner of the pink ribbon hat; and Arely P., winner of the $10 Amazon gift card.

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I will be in touch with each of the winners. I hope to be able to offer more giveaways and to continue raising money to bring happiness to the lives of these amazing fighters. Check out the Pretty in Pink Foundation if you get a chance. They do some pretty awesome things with some pretty awesome people. Oh, and you just did something awesome, too, so high five to you. And big hugs all around. My heart is so full of gratitude for you all!

Happy November + a running playlist!

I woke up to stories of snow here in NC, as well as in SC. We don’t have any in Charlotte, but we do have some cold rain. Hard to believe that this past Monday was 80 degrees, and this coming week we will be back in the 70s. Is anyone out there still denying global warming? This weather is craziness! And this weather pushed me straight to the gym for my first half marathon training run this morning. I don’t do rain and I especially don’t do cold rain.

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.57.27 AMYesterday, I registered for the Key West Half Marathon in January. I’ve wanted to do this race for years and since my birthday is also in January, we decided to make a birthday trip out of it. My husband even decided to do the 5k while we are there! Having a winter birthday and growing up in Virginia meant I didn’t have a lot of warmth or sunshine to celebrate my special day, so I’m thankful that this year, I will. Well, warmer than January in North Carolina, anyway.

11315_10100995262378323_6758311029683940757_nIf I haven’t told you before, I LOVE the beach. Don’t care where it is, as long as it has sand, salty water, and sunshine, I’m a happy camper. However, signing up for a January half marathon means winter training runs. So I’m going to need a lot of motivation, warm running clothes and some awesome music to keep me going. Luckily, the course is flat (Thanks, Florida), so I will have an advantage training on hills here in NC. I’m already prepared to train some on the treadmill, at least on rainy/snowy days, or days that drop below 45 degrees. My run this morning was 4 miles at an 8:53 pace. I’m pretty happy with that, but am also pretty positive I can’t maintain that for more than 5-6 miles. My goal for this race is to get it done in 2 hours or less. So, I need to be under (or at) a 9:10 pace for 13.1 miles. Whew! That’s what training is for, right?

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 3.16.06 PMI created a new playlist to get me motivated for training. I usually just put my iPod on shuffle so I’m not always listening to the playlist in the same order. Everything is pretty upbeat. I’m especially loving Florence + The Machine these days! I grabbed a few songs from Jen’s playlist to push me to the 2 hour mark. Now I know I have enough music to run 13.1 miles (or I’m going to have some quiet thinking time if I don’t get it done in 2 hours).

So, here’s to 13.1 miles, birthdays in Florida and some awesome music on this cold, rainy November day. What are your favorite songs to run/workout to? I’m always looking for new additions to my playlist!