Dog Days Virtual Run

I recently (and finally) began getting back into running.  I’m taking it super slow for the simple reason that barefoot running kind of requires that.

My life is full of coincidences, and so soon after I started running again Level Up Runs took me on as an ambassador.  They’re a company ran by runners who offer virtual runs with fun medals to help keep you motivated.  I do love to get some bling for my running, who doesn’t?

I skipped the first few races because I was so recently back to running, but I’m not missing the next one! They’re having an August Dog Days run, and  for every entry, Level Up will be donating a toy, blanket, or a dog bowl to the Second Chance Dog Rescue in San Diego, Ca. Running, a medal and helping a good cause all in one.  Can’t beat that! The run is $25 if you are in the US, you can get more information and sign up here.

Check out the medal design for the run, who doesn’t love Lady? And Stitch, though I don’t think he actually qualifies as a dog.



Exploring the Mangrove Islands

Fred Howard Park is a favorite of mine to paddleboard from.  There are a lot of different areas to explore depending on which direction you decide to go in.  Last weekend we decided to take off straight out and up towards a bunch of mangrove islands that we couldn’t see from where we were but knew where there thanks to Google maps.

We basically paddled from the dinosaur’s hand to right over his head.

Mangrove islands are a lot of fun to paddle around because they are full of birds, schools of fish, and usually quite a few rays as well.

The one thing they don’t often have is a place to stop and walk around.  Mangroves tend to make a place a bit unfriendly to walk.  Those are basically sharp sticks growing up all over the open ground.  Even if it wasn’t horrible karma to go through there breaking everything, ouch.  Beautiful though.


As a result I was kind of excited (like a 5 year old is kind of excited to see a bunny) when I saw this:


Those are real, actual not mangrove trees towering over the mangroves.  Definitely worth investigating. We paddled almost all the way around the island before finding a small beach. And some fellow paddlers.


There was a nice sized clearing of sand and even a patio table and old grill someone had brought in.  Of course there was also the mandatory ‘people have partied here and left their shit behind’ trash but it seems that is everywhere, regardless of how remote a place may seem.  There was even a used-to-be-nice huge tent tangled in the trees.  I get the feeling that wasn’t put there on purpose.

The people we ran into were pretty cool and said there’s another island close by that someone had actually built a bar on.  Sounds like a place we’ll have to find!



Running Belt Review

Does anyone in the world make affordable workout pants with an actual pocket in them big enough for a phone? I used to have yoga pants with a key pocket in them, but I still had to hold my phone if I want to take it to track my runs or just in case of emergency.  Actually, why lie, I just like to track every run, bike ride, and even paddleboarding lately just  because.

Anyways, Level Up VR asked me if I’d like to try a running belt at no cost in exchange for an honest review and I decided it would be fun to try.  I have to admit though, I wasn’t too excited about it because I don’t like wearing anything (besides clothes) I don’t have to, I don’t even wear a watch and only rarely wear jewelry because things on me tend to annoy me. But how are you going to know if you don’t try?  And I COULD use a place to carry things.

I tried it the first time on a run, I just put my phone and a key in the belt. I was a little concerned that the GPS wouldn’t track correct through the water resistant material, but all was good.  As I mentioned, I was concerned about comfort but I actually FORGOT I was wearing it!  That’s just about the definition of comfort if you ask me.

I’ve also worn it hiking and cycling, and although cycling is a completely different  range of movements I again forgot I was wearing it.  That time I tested it’s limits a bit more, I had not only my phone but also a cord and portable charger in the pocket.  I’m not saying I tried playing Pokemon Go with it, I’m just saying if I had it would have worked. And had room to spare.  :)


One other feature it has that’s pretty nice is a line of lights that you can set to blink slow or fast or just stay on.  I live in an area with a strangely large number of horrible drivers, so an added safety feature like that is always appreciated.

The folks at Level Up were kind enough to give me a 50% off code for anyone interested in purchasing the belt, you can find it on Amazon here and the code is RCE5FGY8. If you try it let me know what you think!




Happy World Oceans Day!

World Oceans Day has been recognized by the United Nations since 2009. Before that it had been coordinated by The Ocean Project since 2002 and celebrated on a smaller scale even before that.

A different theme is chose each year, this year it is Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet.

The oceans make up enough of this planet that I think it goes without saying that we can’t have one without the other.

The push this year is to use less disposable plastic.  They aren’t talking about not using any plastic at all – that’s pretty much impossible at this time.  Think about the one use plastic items that you use on a daily basis.  At first I thought it was a fairly easy challenge, but then I looked at the Marine Conservation Society’s Plastic Challenge Tip Swap and holy crap. It’s not just grocery bags that we throw away on a daily basis.  Its trash bags, toothpaste containers, milk/tea/gallon water containers, liquid soap, shampoo and conditioner bottles, the plastic that heads of lettuce and grape tomatoes come in, the list goes on forever.  It’s actually pretty intimidating. But what isn’t intimidating is choosing just one thing for now.  Maybe stop using straws, start using loose tea instead of tea bags, or bring your own bags to the grocer (not the most fun BYOB but still).

Personally I am going to try very hard to actually remember to bring in the stash of cloth bags I have had in my trunk for ages and to bring a net bag on my paddleboard for picking up trash I come across.  On Memorial Day I actually ran across an empty Cheetos bag floating in the water.  Really?


If you are bummed you didn’t find out about World Ocean’s Day sooner no worries, President Obama just proclaimed June as National Oceans Month.  So pick a one use plastic item and see how long you can go without using it.  And when you get used to going without that item pick another.  Because the oceans don’t just need us to keep them clean and healthy just one day or even just one month a year.

What one use plastic item can you do without?



World Oceans Day at Mote Aquarium

I’d never been to Mote Aquarium, though I do love aquariums.  It’s almost 2 hours from my house so I can’t exactly just drop in.  But with the celebration of World Oceans Day as an excuse I was in. My almost 15 year old hates car rides longer than 15 minutes so much you’d think he was allergic but to my surprise both of my teenagers wanted to go to and seemed excited about it.

When you first go into Mote’s Aquarium you enter a big room full of aquariums containing fish both native to Florida and invasive to Florida, like the lionfish, that are in our local waters.  Lionfish are beautiful, but they have such a detrimental effect on the native fish and therefore the reef habitat that people are encouraged to catch them with no limit and there are even cookbooks focused solely on lionfish dishes.  Just another reason for me to be happy to be a vegetarian.  :)

Tanks I love the clown fish and the starfish, but I’d say my favorite was the jellyfish.  We even happened to be there when they where being fed, which was interesting and very cool.

Jelly Collage

After we went through this area we went outside where they had shark exhibits (I love hammerhead sharks!) and where they where they had a ton of booths to give information on ways we can help avoid polluting the oceans, what to do to avoid hurting loggerhead turtle hatchlings (I didn’t realize how important it is to fill in any holes you dig at the beach to avoid trapping them) and all kinds of family friendly activities like  face painting, making bracelets and necklaces, temporary tattoos (got some!) and listening to a cool band whose instruments where all made of trash.

crowds Collage

After we talked to all of the people at the various booths we went across the street to the mammal area.   This is where you can see the otters, giant turtles, and manatees.  Awesome!

One great thing about this aquarium is that there are people all over telling you all about the individual animal’s backstories and how they got to the aquarium.  We were told not just how the manatees got to be at the aquarium, but also little tidbits about their personalities.  It was just one more reminder of how all animals have a personality beyond just what is known of their species in general or expected behaviors.

Random Collage For the record, otters are crazy hard to get a picture of underwater,  they are so fast!  I don’t know a thing about otters but they seem like such playful creatures it’s hard to stop watching them and walk away.

If you’d like to visit the aquarium Mote is located at 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, FL 34236.  Mote is an independent, nonprofit marine science institution dedicated to research. It’s a great opportunity to support a great cause by having a great time that your entire family will enjoy, even my finicky teenagers.  Who can’t get behind that?

I received 2 tickets to the aquarium as a member of Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with Mote Aquarium in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own, of course.

Weeki Wachee

My daughter has been bugging me like crazy to take her paddleboarding.  That sounds like a no brainer, but I usually go super early in the morning, way before the rental places open and I usually don’t have to pay anything since I have a board.  Free is good for a favorite pastime, right?

But I love the fact that she’s interested in it so we decided to find place to rent boards and go a little later than usual.  My partner in crime and my daughter immediately conspired (this is a common thing, I can’t win) and after much Googling and mapping told me that Weeki Wachee is closer than my usual paddling site (Fred Howard Park) and they found a place that rents boards as early as 8 am.


Weeki Wachee is the faraway land of mermaids, manatees and clear blue waters.  I always think of it as being in the same area as Crystal River, about an hour + drive from home, and a place where no one rents anything earlier than about 10.

Weeki 1

I couldn’t argue with that, so we reserved our boards and off we went to The Kayak Shack.  I gotta say, if you’re going to spend the money to rent boards this is the way to go.  They have plenty of stress free parking and really nice people working there (plus a couple of huge, gentle dogs that may or may not be part of the staff).  They load you up in a van and drop you and the boards off about 5.5 miles up the river.  You get on and can just drift/paddle down the river as you choose until you get back to the shack.  In the few places you have a choice of paddling left or right there are very clear signs letting you know which way to go.  If you are feeling lazy you can literally just drift the entire way.  If you don’t stop to get in the perfectly clear water (don’t be foolish, jump in!) you will get back in three to four hours with zero effort.  Don’t want be on the water that long?  Paddle and you’ll get there sooner.

If you prefer to bring your own board I was told there is a place nearby open to the public to put in, I’ll let you know where after we bring our boards up and find it.  Paddling upstream is quite a challenge in some places, so be certain to start off going upstream so that you can relax a bit on the way back.

Weeki 2

One thing to make note of – a few sections of the river are INFESTED with yellow biting flys.  These things are no joke.  We brought cream bug repellent and all of us look like we have chicken pocks on our legs and are occasionally still crazy itchy, especially after being in the heat.  Bring bug repellent SPRAY, not cream so that after playing in the water you can immediately spray more on.  I usually don’t use bug repellent but I was ready to drink the stuff it it would have helped.  After I got home I bought a bottle of extra DEET camping bug spray and a bottle of all natural stuff, next time I go I’m testing both and will let yo know if the natural stuff works.  Cross your fingers for the natural stuff working. Either way, this stuff is right up there with sun screen for must haves if you go paddling at Weeki Wachee.

Paddling this river is like paddling in paradise – clear blue water, huge fish swimming under you, the occasional manatee and scenery right out of a movie.  We even had a raccoon following us along for a few minutes!

If you get the opportunity you should definitely visit Weeki Wachi.  If paddleboarding isn’t your thing you can also rent canoes and kayaks, or go see the mermaids!  I have yet to see a mermaid…



Reload – 1 on 1 Firearms Instruction

When I was in my teens and early twenties I used to go target shooting with friends out in the desert.  We shot pop cans off rocks and that sort of thing. The gun was always handed to me loaded and then handed back after I was done.The only mention I remember about safety was to keep the butt of the rifle snug against your shoulder so you didn’t end up with a huge bruise from the recoil.

Recently my younger son  and I have toyed with the idea of going to a range and shooting (no deserts or wide open spaces in Florida!) but to be honest I was a little nervous about the idea as neither of us has a clue and so made the parental call that we would, but we both had to take a basic class first. And then we just sort of talked about it on random occasions for about a year.

Recently a new range opened in Tarpon Springs, Reload Quality Indoor Shooting Range so we decided to check it out.The place already has a ton of reviews, most of them outstanding.

They only offer a couple of types if classes right now because they are so new. One is the 1 on 1 firearms instruction which sounded perfect so we went ahead and signed up. I’ve never been to a gun range so I had no idea what to expect, except it would probably be loud.

Walking into ReLoad was kind of like walking into a big name running store.  It’s huge, clean, and full of aisles of things that you probably know all about if you’re into that kind of thing, but are otherwise interesting and totally worth looking at even if you know you don’t need any of this stuff.  They even have a big section of conceal carry purses.  I didn’t even know that was a thing. Wine purses on the other hand…


Anyways we signed the wavers on line and since we were a little early we sat at one of the the tables by the food place.  Yes, they have food.  It isn’t completely set up yet but the guy there said will be basically an extension of Shlomo’s Gourmet Subs and Deli in there. They’ll even have falafel sandwiches.  Who would have thought the time would come when I could go target shooting and have a great vegetarian meal under the same roof? I was already impressed before the class even started.

So the class starts in the training room with the instructor telling you the basic safety things to know, how to hold the gun, and answering any questions you have.  This part was fairly short and sweet, but there was no rushing and you had plenty of time to ask questions and make sure you understood how to hold the gun and such.  Which was actually a bit more step by step than I expected.

And you know what?  The one thing I thought I knew was wrong, because that place is quiet as can be.

Then on to the range.

Not quite so quiet, but still completely not intimidating. We did all jump at the first shot, but then it was just fun.  The instructor, Marci (I think), was amazing and stood next to us while we took turns shooting giving us tips and telling us how to do each step (I can totally load, and ReLoad a gun now) without once making myself or my son feel like we knew as little as we knew.  That’s pretty dang close to magic when you’re instructing a 14 year old.  Just saying.

Shooting Collage


So anyways, if you are near Tarpon Springs and have an interest in learning to shoot but are maybe a little intimidated, this is the place to go.  Check out their 1 on 1 classes, I really think they are a great idea for anyone new to the sport.  Is shooting a sport?  Maybe, my arms did get tired by the end of the night so…







I was exploring other blogs out there and stumbled across a girl who started a New Year’s challenge for herself to paddleboard 100 miles in 100 days.  A mile a day doesn’t sounds like much, but when you take into account the fact that it’s an activity that you can’t do on a daily basis, it’s weather reliant, and not actually all that close to the house it puts it into perspective a bit.

I liked the idea so much I decided to challenge myself to do the same.

I just started bicycling a couple of weeks ago, so I thought it would be fun to bike 100 miles in that time too.  That’s something I can just go outside and do, as long as it isn’t lightening.  Fun!

Then I decided to sign up for the Dare Greatly Trail half marathons.   It’s 3 halves starting in December.  I mean, ya I’ve never run more than 4 miles and I haven’t run at all in a year, but what the heck, right?

I even made this great banner photo thing for my post.


Then I announced my super great plans to the boyfriend, aka partner in crime.  (AKA person I’m volunteering to do this with me.) And he used his stupid logic on me.  How many weeks in 100 days? About 14. So that’s less than 7.5 miles a trip.  Easy, right?  We usually paddle about 3 miles, what’s the difference?  Unless, of course, we skip a weekend which is a given considering 5 kids between us. Plus jobs that easily take 50 hours a week. Plus his other job and out frequent non-paddling adventures.  Hmmm, maybe not quite as easy as I thought.

The bike part really should be easy though, we tend to ride the trails near the house about twice a week so that part should be easy peasy. Heck I’ll ride around the block until I hit 100 miles if I have to.

The running, well that’s not a given and not something I’m great at being consistent about. But we have 7 months until the first half, so it’s probably doable. Right? Sure.

So the question is whether or not I should give it a go.  No point trying something you know for a fact you can’t do, but then how do you know if you don’t give it a try?

Any opinions? Are there 3 things that you enjoy doing so much that it would be fun to challenge yourself to do them a lot more than you currently are?







Paddling the Mangrove Trails

There is a kayak trail through the mangroves near the area I usually go paddleboarding, but the water is generally very low, resulting in a muddy stinky mess more than a path.  This weekend, however, the tide was really high and the path looked navigable so we tried it out.

I’ve been around Florida water enough to know that mangroves can have some fairly nasty creatures in them.  Crabs and spiders come to mind – always try and duck under branches, don’t let them touch your hair!  Not to sound too crazy girly, but seriously. Don’t.

Anyways, I kept an eye out and saw nothing.  We went down the path and though it got narrow enough that there was no turning around on a paddleboard it was really cool. For those of you who haven’t tried paddleboarding yet take my word for it when I say that trying to paddle when the board’s fin is in front is not an easy task, you really want to turn the board around to go back the way you came.  The board knows you are doing it wrong and constantly tries to turn itself around.

Anyways, the mangrove trail was beautiful and kind of mysterious and very cool.






It is just as cool as you might think to paddle down a trail covered over by the trees, nice and shady and peaceful.  Paddle may be a strong word actually, because the trail got so narrow I kind if had to just push off branches to keep moving forward.  Fun, right? Oh hell ya, till I saw this.

One Crab

You know what’s a funny thing (not haha funny though)? Once you see one you see they are everywhere.  Kind of like when you buy a yellow car because no one else has one and then you see them at every red light.  But you can’t really connect with a crab like you can with a fellow driver.  Trust me. Or not, whatever.

So then I decided that I had paddled far enough down this path, and should go back to a bit more open water.  You know, the kind with sharks but no crabs.

Which is when I realized just how narrow the path actually was. Even when we found a place wide enough to turn around that meant going forward and back until you bumped the roots and made all the little creatures run about 8 times.  Good times.

I took the picture below of 1 crab. Got home and there where how many?

Crabs with arrows

Anyways, soon after we got back out on the bay we saw another tunnel to add to the list of things to check out, but breakfast was calling so that’ll be another trip.

Am I the only one totally creeped out by things that I know damn well can’t do a thing to me even if it did fall right on me?  Heaven forbid I ever look up and see a snake in the trees…




The 5K Zombie Run 2016

Another year, another zombie run in Tampa!

Everything started off fine this year.  Happy faces all around.


But then some of the runners started acting a little strange.  No offense, but people just weren’t looking all that healthy.  Myself included.  That’s what I get for wearing a dress to a run. How are you going to outrun zombies in a dress?  And so I became a zombie. So sad.

zombie run Collage

I’ve been lucky enough to run in the 5K Zombie run for years, but this was my first time as a zombie. OMG Fun.  Since my partner in crime was not allowed to run due to surgery a couple days before we switched from runners to zombies kind of last minute.  I mean, plus there were those bites.

Turns out being a zombie is AWESOME. Much more fun than it looks on The Walking Dead.  I didn’t even get an arrow to the head or anything.  Want to take it easy? Just stand dead center and moan about it.  Want to get rid of an excess of energy?  Well there are all those tasty looking humans to try to catch. Being a zombie can actually be MORE work than being a runner when a long wave of humans goes by!

Being on the zombie team was every bit as much adult recess as being a runner.  Maybe even more because you are hanging out with strangers trying to strategize about taking down the next horde of humans. Not to mention the extremely scientific discussions regarding why there aren’t more retired age zombies in the movies and why there really should be. Amongst other philosophical discussions while awaiting the next victims.

I got to say, we were pretty good at being the running dead.


Want to try the zombie life?  Take a look and see where you can catch The 5K Zombie Run next! You’ll have to be in Florida though, because these runs are put on by a local Tampa company.