“This is my last Ohio winter.” Six words I’ve bitterly uttered every January for the past, oh, four years or so. This year, I meant it. I’m packing up and heading South… y’all.
In less than one month, this Midwest girl is heading to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina.
Where there are countless trails, just waiting for me to run them. And walk/hike/bike them. Also known as one of the best foodie and music cities in the country. Hello, Beer City USA. Oh, and I’ll be approximately 3,000 steps from the Blue Ridge Parkway. My little home office? It’ll overlook the lovely French Broad River. And I’ll be a short stroll from plenty of shopping- and Starbucks (shhh, you Asheville-ians already dismissing me for that coffee chain comment).
So that’s my big news. Now, before you’re all like #30YearOldCrisis, let’s launch into the FAQ.
First, the “why am I going,” in case the description above didn’t provide enough of a reason.
It’s simple, really. I’m a huge believer in always striving for personal happiness and never settling just because that’s the easy, comfortable choice. Plain and simple: Columbus is not my jam anymore. While I’ve loved living in the 614, it’s never really felt like my “place.” It’s always seemed more like I was just passing through.
When I moved to Columbus from Washington DC in 2009, I didn’t think I’d be here for long. A couple years at most; before I headed off on my next adventure. Fast forward almost seven years later.
Truth is: Columbus is a cool town. I wouldn’t give up my time in the ‘bus for anything. I had good times (and some bad ones) that I’ll never forget. The memories that were made here will truly last a lifetime, just like the friendships. I’ve built a career I love with the help of countless inspiring people; through experiences I’d never have gotten elsewhere. I learned there is no better feeling than helping others.
Let’s face it: Despite my best efforts. I was never a true Buckeye. But, I gladly put on the colors because, O-H wow, can those Buckeyes throw a good tailgate.
In North Carolina, I won’t have to be careful about wearing blue; but, instead, what shade of blue.
As I dodge flying buckeyes, let’s move on. So, why Asheville?
I’ve wavered back and forth the past couple years about where I wanted to move. For a while, I thought about heeding the call to “Go West!” I almost just went for it in Denver. I highly considered returning to my favorite city, DC, now that I wouldn’t have to live on cereal. Toyed with the idea of trying out the deeper South- although, that may have posed a health risk with the abundant supply of sweet tea and sweet potato fries.
Trust me, everyone has offered ideas on where they think I should go; what they think I should do. I’ve appreciated it. But, I’ve realized, in the end, you just have to put on earmuffs and ask, “But, seriously now, what do I want?” Easier said than done, friends.
Really and truly, it has taken me a while to get to know myself and what exactly makes me happy. Platinum blonde 24-year-old Hana would be sitting here in her Pink pants eating chocolate pudding staring at almost-30-year-old brunette me, sporting running rights and t-shirt, eating a bowl of roasted veggies, like, “Who are you, and what have you done with me?” And to her, I’d say, “Oh honey, you’ll understand when you’re older.”
I’m not criticizing myself for who I was in my mid-20s. I was really fun, actually. I went out on weeknights. Was pretty much always game for anything, anytime. But, I now have a much clearer idea of who I am and what makes me happy.
Family. Amazing times with my dearest friends. Good conversations. Finding new restaurants. Long trail runs. The great outdoors. My career. Listening to live music. Exploring new places. Traveling at every chance I get. Volunteering. A stellar cocktail. Healthy food. Sunshine and warm temps.
I guess one the perks of being almost 30 that you start to understand who you are, and who you’re not. And then begin to accept and embrace that realization.
You know. Adult things.
Asheville is a pretty good place to experience all of the above, which makes me pretty sure I’ll find my happy place. It’s nice to know I have family there, and that I can drive home to Cincinnati on a weekend; not take a plane. I’m so excited to get outside and escape to the mountains anytime I want, but then also enjoy live music, good food and drinks the same day. Also, pull up the forecast and compare it to Ohio. Enough said.
Really, what’s holding me back from trying? A whole lot of nothing. Some of the very best things that have happened in my life did so without a clear plan. So, I’m going for it. I’m becoming a North Carolinian. What’s the worst thing that can happen- I live in a beautiful, cool city for a year or two and move on? That’s hardly a loss in my book.
I don’t know where I see myself in five years, and I’m okay with that.
But okay, let’s be real. As much as I’m trying to be all cool and calm- you know, channel some Western North Carolina free-spirited vibes- I do kind of have a plan. A solid career plan. Blonde/brunette, career girl, Type A Hana always has a professional plan.
My location may be changing, but my job is not. I’ll still direct digital for Inspire PR Group– just from a few hundred miles down the road.
I’m lucky enough to work with a company that believes in personal happiness as much as I do and that values long-term relationships and great work. I’ve been very fortunate to work with my boss, the founder of Inspire, since I moved to Columbus; at three different agencies. We have a thing where we can’t get rid of each other.
It has been an amazing and oh-so-educational ride to be a part of building a Inspire from the ground up. The past 1.5 years, I’ve watched the little baby agency take its first steps, start to build momentum and suddenly sprint full-speed ahead. Now, may the force be with us.
I am so excited to keep working with Team Inspire, which I believe is the strongest its ever been, and with our stellar list of clients, most of whom are also friends. The beauty of my job is that I can pretty much do it from anywhere with wi-fi and a computer. In Asheville, I will be working from home and also from a co-working space downtown a few days a week- which will make me put on make-up and change out of yoga pants every now and again. Plus, I would start talking to a wall if left alone too long alone.
I love my job. I love my coworkers. And now i’m going to love my life, even more.
You know what else I love? Ohio. I will always proudly say I’m from Cincinnati (and you’ll know it from the way I say my A’s). And put anyone in their place who makes remarks like, “Oh, you’re from Ohio- you must have grown up in a corn field.” I’ll never stop chanting, “OU, oh yeah.” Or writing Xavier in on my bracket as the grand champion of the NCAA Championship. And I’ll still believe “maybe next year” the Bengals can win a playoff game.
If this was an Oscar speech, they’d be starting to play music right now.
And I’d like to thank my family. And my friends. And everyone who’s supported me and cheered me on to literally go chase my dreams…
Stay tuned for miles of footnotes from Asheville, starting at the end of March.Read More
A protein-packed green smoothie with no added sugar that makes it so easy to be green.
I’m sitting here making a list what ingredients I need to buy to make my two classic contributions to Thanksgiving dinner. They are pretty much the easiest dishes, which is likely why I have been trusted to bring them year after year. Corn pudding and green bean casserole, both made in the Crock Pot. That’s right, just combine all the ingredients, turn that sucker on high and evacuate the kitchen.
For the record, both are always gobbled up, so I’ll proudly continue to serve as Sous Chef, overseeing the slow cooker, thank you very much.
You know what else I am really good at making? Smoothies. I’m even more comfortable around my blender than I am with my Crock Pot. I’ve been carefully perfecting the art of the green smoothie, and recently created a masterpiece. Which means I have since enjoyed it for breakfast, lunch and dinner- on separate days, of course.
Whoever said a smoothie can’t be a meal hasn’t had one of these green machines, or is just afraid of the color.
I know you’re out there, green haters. But, just like I’d tell Kermit the Frog: It’s actually just so easy to be green!
Did you know I gave up sugar cold turkey earlier this year? And caffeine, too. I know what you’re thinking: What kind of lunatic gives up two of life’s greatest pleasures—sweets and coffee? [Slowly raising my hand] I just hadn’t been feeling well, and I’d been reading a lot about how both sugar and caffeine affect your overall health, from your skin to digestive, physical and mental health. It wasn’t that I was following any certain diet, but I wanted to see what happened.
Guess what: Three months in, the results were fantastic, so I’ve largely just kept at it. I have only had one full cup of coffee (with plenty of cream) in the past six months, and it made me feel like I was going to bounce off a wall. As for sugar, I will enjoy a cookie or a piece of cake on a special occasion, but I don’t crave it, and I can’t say it makes me feel good. I stick to natural sugars, like fruit, and even enjoy those in moderation. Did I mention I have more energy and just feel generally better? Because I do.
I never was a huge coffee drinker, or had much of a sweet tooth, so this new way of eating wasn’t as hard for me as I’m sure it would be for others. But, it did make me realize how many foods contain a LOT of added sugar and just how much sugar I was eating without even knowing it. Foods I considered to be generally healthy, like flavored yogurt, protein powder, oatmeal, salad dressing, trail mix, peanut butter, granola bars—all have sugar, and often a whole lot of it.
I’ve found ways to make delicious meals that are often very sweet but have minimal, if any, added sugar. It IS hard at first, but, once you learn what to buy, it’s actually pretty easy. Case and point: This smoothie.
Now, listen up, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You know what the ingredient is that makes this smoothie so darned extra creamy and delicious?
Yup, I’ve scientifically proven, yet again, that avocados do indeed make everything better. I put a chunk in my smoothie a couple weeks ago, and a legend was born unto my blender.
I also pack in the kale. Oh, kale. How I love you. But, I know there are a lot of you out there who aren’t members of the Kale Lovers Club. In fact, you may actually be kale haters (gasp). And I’ll admit, I’ve had some pretty yucky kale smoothies- you know, the kind that taste kind of grainy and, well, like you’re eating liquid grass?
THIS GREEN SMOOTHIE IS NOT ONE OF THEM.
Glad we cleared that up. Now let’s talk about what else is in it. Half a banana (again, I don’t overdo it with natural sugar, either, although I know fruit is good for you!), a dollop of almond butter (no added sugar), unsweetened coconut/almond milk (Califia Farms = my go-to) and some flaxseed.
Usually, I enjoy this smoothie after a good workout, which usually involves a long run and/or strength training. So, it’s important that I pack in the protein. I use plain Greek yogurt (once you go Fage, you can’t go back) and Vega protein powder.
When I was first breaking up with sugar, I searched for a protein powder that didn’t have any added sugar, and that’s when I found Vega. It’s a plant-based powder that’s full of fruits, veggies and probiotics, too. My favorite flavor is vanilla, but it also comes in chocolate and chai.
Pause for a commercial break: Costco sells Vega, almond butter and Fage Greek yogurt in bulk! Nothing better than super-sizing all my healthy favorites. All of the above are pretty much why I have a membership.
Now back to the program.
On Thursday, I’ll be filling my plate with corn pudding, green bean casserole, and loads of turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, etc. It’s going to be an epic feast.
But I know how I’ll be going green on Black Friday. And it doesn’t involve waking up at 4 a.m.
(More interested in my Crock Pot recipes? I’m a believer in Seeded at the Table’s Crock Pot Corn Pudding, and I first found the Smoky Green Bean Casserole recipe in Better Homes and Gardens…the actual magazine)
I spent some quality time in the Windy City this fall, which I am certainly not complaining about Whenever I go to Chicago, it’s like visiting an old friend. We pick up right where we left off. I grew up visiting Chi-town a lot because my uncle has a condo there, so it’s no big thing to do settle in and do those non-touristy things like ride the L, pick up a few things at Jewell (the grocery store down the street), grab a bite to eat or head out for a run.
Speaking of running. Downtown Chicago is one of my favorite places to hit the pavement. Two of my college roommates and I had a girls weekend in mid-October, and then I headed back just a couple weeks ago for the BlogHer Food conference. I’ve had quite a few opportunities run the town lately, and I took advantage.
I’ve put in many miles over the years in the city’s “front yard,” also known as Grant Park, which runs along the shore of Lake Michigan and is home to a few slightly famous attractions, such as The Bean, Buckingham Fountain and the Art Institute of Chicago. Ring a bell? Thought so.
Hint: If you want some alone time staring into the shiny Giant Bean, peel yourself out of bed and run my Grant Park Scenic Loop route between about 5 and 6 a.m. No tourists in sight. Just saying.
That easy 3.8-mile scenic jaunt also goes right by the Art Institute, through Millennium Park, over the BP Pedestrian bridge, past Buckingham Fountain, along the lake and over to the Museum Campus, home to the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium.
The best view of the Chicago skyline is from the steps or trail between the Shedd and the Adler. Just trust me. That’s why I call this next route the Million Dollar Museum Campus 5K+. I’ve run it all times of the day, and, every time, I have to stop and take it all in. You’ll hardly even notice you’re running you get so wrapped up in this view. For anyone who tends to get bored easily when running (points at myself), this one’s for you.
Oh Chicago, you show-off, you.
Ironically, I start and end both of those loops at the corner of Roosevelt and Michigan Avenue, at the foot of Agora; tall iron sculptures of legs and feet. The Polish artwork is supposed to depict how people act in a large group. While it sounds rather odd, I recommend stepping in and seeing what it’s all about.
For the record: I often combine both of the above routes into one longer one, but I broke them up into two more bite-sized legs here because sometimes it’s nice to just have ideas for a quick 5K.
So, put it all together and what do you get? The 11.5-mile Downtown Chicago Grand Tour. If you want to see the best of Chicago on foot, this, in my humble opinion, is the way to do it. I did this run on an abnormally warm November evening. It was one of those times when it felt tragic to stay in my hotel room. I honestly didn’t even realize how long I had run until I got back- it was just that nice out.
I love running on Chicago’s Lakefront Trail, which stretches 18.5-miles along Lake Michigan. It cuts through Grant Park but also goes much further in each direction. There’s something about running beside water that just makes me zone out, too. If it’s a nice day, sailboats dot the water.
As part of this on-foot excursion, set out on the Lakefront Trail down to the Museum Campus, out into the lake and around the Adler, then all the way back past the marinas to Navy Pier. Then, cross over to the city’s “Second Riverfront,” the Chicago Riverwalk, on the south bank of the Chicago River, right in the heart of the city. It’s kind of fun to feel like a peewee running below the towering buildings.
Confession: I always build a few photo breaks into my Chicago runs. Because, memories?
Moral of this story? Don’t leave for Chicago without packing running shoes. I don’t think I ever leave for a trip without packing running shoes. Even if I have to sit on my suitcase to make them fit- which is often because I also like to bring a few other pairs of shoes- they are always in there. Plus, a good run will make indulging in (a second slice of) deep dish pizza all the better, right?
Happy trails.Read More