Archive for Travel

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Beautiful Places to Run in the US

Hello friends!  Today I have a guest post for you from Rachel Stires.  Rachel is a media relations representative for Orangetheory Fitness. In her spare time she enjoys writing, hiking, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

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One of my least favorite things to do is to run inside. Trying to keep up a good pace on a treadmill while staying motivated is so difficult, and I find myself wanting to do something (anything) else instead. When I get the chance to run outside though, I love it. Soaking in the views and enjoying the weather make running worth it for me, especially when I get to see something cool.

Here are some of the most beautiful places to run in the US.

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Yosemite National Park: This park’s beauty is hard to write about, because it actually leaves me speechless. The looming, sentinel like mountains with waterfalls like spider webs make you feel tiny and insignificant, and from the distant rush of water to the wildlife that inhabits the park, this place is peaceful but never quiet. It’s distinctly alive, vibrant, and breathtaking. There are plenty of trails throughout the park, with plenty of variety in difficulty and scenery that everyone can enjoy. No matter where you are in this park, you’re sure to see something incredible.

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Flat Irons Vista Trail: Colorado sports many beautiful views and trails, so while I think any of them would be a great idea the Flatirons Vista trail stood out to me. It’s a fairly flat loop trail with some gentle hills, so it’s more beginner friendly. It also sports some gorgeous views of the surrounding area, so this would be a great way to get your spouse or friends involved in an easy-going, scenic run. There’s plenty of wildlife to be seen along this trail, so keep an eye out and you might see something special like an eagle or bear. (Depending on the season!)

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The 606, Chicago, IL: Moving away from the natural views is a trail that unveils the urban beauty of Chicago. Completed in 2015, this trail was built on the foundations of an elevated rail that served as a passenger and freight line until 2001. It has now been converted into a public greenway, stretching for 2.7 miles with multiple access ramps along the way. The trail boasts an exclusive appreciation and view of Chicago, including artwork and events throughout the year. This would be a great spot to visit if you want to see a different side of Chicago, whether as a tourist or a resident.

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Crissy Field to Hopper’s Hands: This is considered one of the classic runs of San Francisco, and anyone can see why. With a beautiful view of the bridge and brimming bay, this trail offers a cool breeze along with it’s amazing sites. You can watch people, ships coming into the bay, and the waves hitting the beach. This is a 3.2-mile flat route that you can double back on to add some distance, so runners of any skill level can use this path. Make sure to bring a jacket with you just in case, as the wind can get a little chilly!

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Mall and Monuments Route, Washington, DC: I think it’s only natural to talk about this route considering we’re talking about places in the US. Locals suggest that you give this path a try during the fall and winter so you can avoid the tourists and get the most out of this tour. The trail is 5.7 miles in length, and offers a stellar view of all the monuments and memorials of Washington DC. It’s perfect if you’d like to take a tour of some of America’s most memorable buildings and memorials from a distance, with some nice views to go with it!

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Trail of Tears National Historic Trail: This trail is laden with meaningful national history as it shows the route that many tribes removed from their territories had to take in 1838-1839. Not only was this journey harrowing and heartbreaking, but it spans for 9 states. You can pick and choose which sites you’d like to see, but the effect that this trail has on people is poignant and meaningful. If you’re interested in learning more about the trail itself or the sites it includes along the way, you can check the National Park Service website for more information and pictures of the various sites on the trail.  

While all of these places are beautiful, there are numerous other locations all over the US that deserve just as much praise and recognition. It just goes to show that there are endless opportunities to explore and see this country in unique ways. Whether you visit these or other places, I hope that you find something memorable and worthwhile on your run!

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Outstanding in the Field

Outstanding in the Field Recap

As I write this post, I am still in a whirlwind of gratitude and awe after my experience with Outstanding in the Field at the Blooming Glen Farms in Perkasie, Pennsylvania.  Outstanding in the Field brings a whole new meaning to the ever popular Farm-to-Table dining.

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My night with Outstanding in the Field was fueled by locally-source libations and wines, exquisite food from the very farm we were dining on and stimulating conversation with new like-minded friends.

How Outstanding in the Field Got its Start

The founder of Outstanding in the Field, Jim Denevan, began this business with the goal of connecting people to the farmers who grow their food.  Jim set his first table at his brother’s orchard in 1999, where only family and friends attended and it has since grown exponentially.  Outstanding in the Field is now on tour and has been all over the United States, Canada, and Bermuda.  They even have an event in Japan coming up very soon!

Hop on my magic carpet as I tell you about my extraordinary evening…

Along with hosting their events at local farms, Outstanding in the Field finds local chefs, typically from farm-to-table restaurants, to be the head chef for the night on the farm.  Our chef was Chef Lee of Bolete and his second recently opened restaurant called Mister Lee’s Noodles.

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At 3pm we arrive and make the short walk to registration and check-in.

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On our way to the reception/check-in, we pass what I think is our dinner cooking. img_0268

We check-in and drop off our two dinner plates.  Outstanding in the Field has the tradition of guests each bringing their own unique dinner plate from home to create a one-time one of a kind table setting.  They even clean your plate for you before you leave!

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We head over to the cocktail and reception area to the left where many people were already gathered, drinking and chatting away.

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Two mixed drinks were offered from Eight Oaks Distillery, and a red and a white wine were offered from a Blair Vineyards, both local businesses.

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First we tried the Log Cabin from Eight Oaks.  Their Applejack is too good!  It tastes just like apple cider, which could probably be very dangerous 🙂

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Next, we tried the Haymaker.  Like the Log Cabin, this went down far too easily.  It was sweet, but not too sweet.  You couldn’t even taste the alcohol.  There was a moment of serious wonder if these were even really alcoholic.

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Lastly, I tried the Cabernet Franc from Blair. This cabernet was delightful.  Some peppery notes, some blackberry, mmm!

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Hors d’oeuvres were being served during the reception as well.  Pictured above is Mr. Lee’s noodles including BBQ beef, kimchi, egg, baby bok choy and shishito peppers.  This was a flavor BOMB. So good!

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We also had these adorable mini fried chicken sandwiches with a house-made buttermilk biscuit, b&b pickles and mustard greens.  These seemed to be everyone’s favorite.

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This one was really interesting!  This was a blue cheese souffle with mushrooms, onion, red wine jam and micro amaranth.  Oh my, were these creamy!  They get an A++ in presentation for these little hors d’oeuvres.

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Although most ingredients of the meal were straight from Blooming Glen Farms where our event was hosted, a few ingredients came from other local farms called Keepsake Farm and Profeta Farm.

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At 4pm, Jim Denevan and fellow longtime employee, take the box to welcome us, tell us the backstory behind Outstanding in the Field, and tell us what else the evening holds in store for us.  They then introduce us to the Blooming Glen Farm owners, Tricia and Tom.

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An adorable farm couple take the box and tell us about their crazy idea of going against the norms of society, and one day just starting a farm!  They spoke about their farm life with such passion.  They told us about this past year in farming and the struggles they experienced throughout this hot, dry Summer we had. They were beyond grateful to be hosting another Outstanding in the Field dinner at their farm, or as they called it their “office.”

Farm Tour

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Then we took a tour of the farm, wine glasses in tow.  We learned how exactly they go about planting everything.  We learned that they harvest either the night before or the morning of farmers markets, so their produce they are selling is super fresh!

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After the tour, we arrived at the breath-taking sight of our table all set for 200.  We got our plates and found seats.

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There were about 200 of us seated at the table; guests, farmers, owners/employees from the vineyard and distillery, all at one giant, beautifully set table.

Table to Field Dining

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First course was Pennsylvania smoked trout and potato pancakes with a beet tartare with horseradish creme fraiche and chive.

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The meals are all served family style, so between about 8 of us, we passed around each course.  The men were such gentleman, and always let the ladies serve themselves first!

While sitting at table with that many people, you have a hard time not creating conversation with the people seated around you.  You can’t go to an event like this and expect to not talk to anyone new.  Not gonna work.  We learned about each other.  We appreciated our differences in occupations, generations (I was the youngest one at our table), and the town we came from.  But we all shared this one similar interest in farm-to-table dining and an evening of good food together.

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That white stuff on top…yeah, that’s all melted, ooey, gooey freshly made mozzarella cheese.  img_0334

Underneath that mass of heaven is an heirloom tomato salad with pesto, arugula, pistachios, basil and garlic, served with a fresh loaf of sourdough bread.

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This was absolutely to die for.  Although I have to say, I had to put some elbow grease into pulling a piece off of that mozzarella!  I jokingly said we needed a steak knife to cut through that thing because it was SOOO stretchy and stringy.  Fifteen minutes later, after I struggled through pulling a piece off, servers came around with steak knives!  You know you have good mozzarella when you need a steak knife to cut a piece off!

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Different wines, again from local wineries, were served with each course.

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You can see in the background under those green tents is where the set-up kitchen is.  They literally set up their kitchen the middle of the field and cook everything there! This whole operation was nothing short of amazing. img_0330

Above is a closer look at their kitchen.

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Next up, rabbit with charred escarole, radicchio, broccoli rabe, pickled carrots, crispy celery root, pickle mustard, carrot mustard, and a cracked black pepper cracker.  This was my first time having rabbit.  It was quite tasty!  It kind of tasted (and even looked) like turkey meatloaf.

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Fourth course included veal, stuffed sausage, and stew.  The veal was the one thing in this whole meal I could have done without.  I thought it was very fatty and hard to get any meat off of it.  It could have just been the few pieces I got.  The stuffed sausage was awesome though!

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These veggies went along with the veal, sausage and stew.  I don’t think I’ve ever loved veggies so much in my life.  And that says a lot because I naturally really do love veggies. But this dish took my love to a whole other level.   In the mix was potato, butternut squash, kale, shallots, kobocha squash and locally-foraged mushrooms.  Oh my.  The best part about this veggie medley is that it was fire-roasted, and man could you taste it.  There was this intense smoky flavor to these veggies and I loved it!  Now to figure out how to get that same taste at home…Hm.

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As it gets darker, servers come around and set out candles at the tables and pour the last wine of the night.  They collect our plates to clean them.

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Before long, these fantastic little mason jar cakes come out.  Get a load of this: The bottom is apple cider cake, topped with apples from a local orchard, granola from a local farm, whipped cream and apple cider caramel drizzle

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Shout out to everyone at my table who held up candles above these mug cakes to give me decent lighting for the picture!

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Words cannot describe how delicious this was.  It was the perfect way to top off the night.  With the sun now down, and the temperatures dropping, the warmth of the cake was just what I needed!  The taste of apples was perfect for the Fall-like temps were were feeling and felt so seasonally appropriate.

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At the end the night and for the first time all night, the chefs came out from their kitchen in the field with lanterns and their sleepy children in their arms, to give their thanks and express their appreciation for such a wanderlust evening.

I won’t say too much else, as this post is long enough, other than this was probably one of the most incredible, one-of-a-kind experiences I have ever had.  Tickets were rather pricy, around $200 a piece, but with all of the food and alcohol you get plus the pure magic of dining out in a field at a table of 200 people, it was absolutely worth it.

Farm-to-Table dining has taken on a whole new meaning to me.  I would give this experience a 10 out of 10, and would do it again in a heartbeat.

Check out their site to see if they are coming to a farm near you!

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Things to See and Do in Chicago

My mom works remotely from home, here in PA, but the organization she works for is based in Chicago, so she’s often traveling to Chicago.   She always comes back telling me about all these cool, healthy restaurants, the beautiful buildings, and the excitement of the city.

We were finally able to plan a trip to visit Chicago together.  We left last Wednesday morning and were supposed to come back Friday night.  However, due to a flight cancelation we ended up flying back Saturday morning.

We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott on the Magnificent Mile, which is a strip of high-end stores like Burberry and Coach, but also very common, more approachable stores such as Loft, Forever 21, and my personal favorite, Under Armour to name a few.

We flew into Chicago airport around 10:30am and took a taxi to our hotel.  Our room wasn’t ready yet but the hotel was happy to hold onto our luggage, so that we were able to start exploring the city.

We grabbed lunch at The Protein Bar.  I’m not going to go into much detail about meals in Chicago as that will be its own separate post on Wednesday.  After lunch, we went back to the hotel and were able to get into our room.  We freshened up a bit, unpacked some, and set foot for the Ohio Street Beach.

The Beach

Things to See and Do in Chicago

What? Beach in Chicago??! Oh yes, there’s a beach! It may be small but it is a beach, nonetheless. Sure, maybe the water is a lake and not an ocean, but hey, you gotta take what you can get when you live that far from an actual beach right?  It was actually really cool!

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This might have been my favorite part of Chicago.  This was also my first time seeing one of the five Great Lakes!

I’m used to living two hours at minimum from the beach so I visit the beach at least once a year.  Never have I seen a beach with the view of a city skyline right next to it.  This was amazing to me.

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There was also great, wide running/biking path along the lake.  There was even this beachfront cafe called Caffe Olivia, so you could grab a meal while enjoying a beautiful oceanfront view.  Many people were out laying in the sand, playing beach volleyball, or swimming in the water.

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The Navy Pier

From there, we took a short 5 minute walk to a popular sight, The Navy Pier. We went inside the building, which is home to many souvenir shops and stands, a plethora of popular quick-service food places, a movie theater, and the Chicago Children’s Museum.

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We walked out the back of the building to get a view of the lake, walked up the outdoor steps to where the carousel and Ferris Wheel was.

Things to See and Do in Chicago

Then we re-entered the building on the second level, which housed Crystal Gardens, a gorgeous indoor botanical garden in a six-story glass atrium.
Things to See and Do in Chicago

On our way back to the hotel so we could recharge our devices and our feet, we stopped at Whole Foods to pick up some fresh berries, carrots, celery and guacamole so we would have healthy snacks on hand in the hotel room.

Magnificent Mile

That night we walked the Magnificent Mile, stopping in Nordstrom to admire all of the clothing I cannot afford.  Then, I had a little too much fun at Under Armour.  I can’t help it! When I spend 50% of my life in workout clothes, I can reason for these purchases.  We were toast by 8pm, which would have been 9pm our time.  We went back to the hotel and passed out.

Exercise

The next morning, I woke up early, around 6am, and returned to Ohio Street beach to run along the pathway following the lake.

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I told myself I’d only do a 3-mile run, as my legs were tired from walking around a total of 6 miles around the city the day before.  But I also told myself that if for some reason I started running and my legs felt good, I’d make this my planned long run for the week in my half-marathon training plan, which is only 5 miles for this week.

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I didn’t feel great, but I didn’t feel like I was dying during the first mile and a half, so I ran 2.5 miles out and had no choice but to run the 2.5 miles back.

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I mean, what the heck.  I thought I might as well run my long run when I have these magnificent views that I may never see again, right?

People Watch

That morning, my mom had some work calls she had to be on, so after breakfast and a shower we found a local Starbucks with outdoor seating and settled down for about an hour and a half with our iced coffees and laptops.  She did her work and I got to work on my blog while getting to people-watch on the streets of Chicago.  This may sound weird, but this was another favorite part of our trip.

Things to See and Do in Chicago

When I’m traveling, sure – I like to see all the popular touristy must-see spots, but I also like to live like the locals.  Sitting on the city street, on a warm, Summer day, relaxing and working on what I love was just so enjoyable and appreciated.

Chicago Architectural Boat Tour

After a morning of work calls, my mom was free for the rest of the day.  We went on an architectural tour of the city by boat.  We went through Shoreline Sightseeing.

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The tour was an hour and 15 minutes of entertainment, fun facts and a historical overview of the city by our tour guide, Jim.

Things to See and Do in Chicago

Jim did a great job at highlighting some of the most beautiful buildings Chicago has to offer.

Things to See and Do in Chicago

It was interesting the way he described the buildings and how they were built to compliment one another and the city around them.  This building below follows the same curvature as the Chicago River we were traveling through.

Things to See and Do in Chicago

Being the psychology nerd that I am, I loved when Jim made the connection of the architecture to the people of Chicago.

Things to See and Do in Chicago

He compared Chicago to New York City, which I am all too familiar with, having lived there for two years.  Chicago buildings are more spread out than New York City buildings. The city, in general, is more open, allowing people a bit more personal space.

Things to See and Do in Chicago

Where as, in NYC, the buildings are right on top of one another, and that’s how the people are.  People of NYC can be very in-your-face.  I could definitely see a difference in the people between NYC and Chicago.  I felt like people in Chicago were so much friendlier than the people of NYC.

Things to See and Do in Chicago

Millennium Park

Can you really say you went to Chicago without seeing “the bean” in Millennium Park?  This was our last must-see to check off the list!

Things to See and Do in Chicago

Interesting fact: This sculpture is not really called The Bean.  It’s actually called the Cloud Gate.

Things to See and Do in Chicago

Things to See and Do in Chicago

Inside the bean

Also in Millennium Park is the Crown Fountain. My mom told me about this before we came. There are video images of faces projected onto the towers on opposite sides of the fountain.  The faces change from straight face, to smile and then so that it looks like the face is spitting out the water.

Things to See and Do in Chicago

It was  really hot day, so walking in the shallow water was a great way to cool down a bit!

Things to See and Do in Chicago

There’s a bunch of other sights to see in Millennium Park that we just did not have time for.  I encourage you to click the link to Millennium Park a little further up in this post, and do more exploration!

That was really the end of our Chicago explorations.  The rest of that afternoon, we went into check out my Mom’s business’ new office building, which was GORGEOUS and super contemporary looking.

Things to See and Do in Chicago

View from the kitchen of her new office

Then we had dinner, and packed for an early flight home the next morning!

Don’t forget to check back Wednesday for my Healthy Chicago Restaurant recommendations and reviews!

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Things to Do and See in Chicago

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