Monthly Archives: December 2011

Fit Friday: GRR 15K training guide

Officially 10 weeks from today is the largest 15K in the USA: the Gate River Run (GRR) here in Jacksonville!

Their website banner heading features the starting line from a past year's event.

My first 5K was the Florida Times-Union charity run part of the GRR in 2009. It was a great time with an overwhelming number of people in attendance.

After our first 5K. No fancy outfits, no timers...we were happy to finish and make it home.

It still intimidates me to think of running it. Partly because I’ve never run 9 miles and partly because most people there are “real” runners who do this every year and more.

There’s a huge expo that weekend and a carb-loading spaghetti dinner the night before. There’s also two great training programs to get you ready. I’m still on the fence about whether I’ll attempt it in 2012 (totally typed “2010” the first time, yeesh) but I figure having a training program to attempt until then can’t hurt!

Here are the two programs from the GRR website’s training section:

option 1) 10 Weeks! By Jerry Lawson

“This is a 10-week training schedule designed to get you ready to complete the 9.3 mile Gate River Run. You don’t have to be a hard-core runner to take part in this mega event, just someone in decent physical condition.”

January 3rd
2 miles
2 miles
3 miles
3 miles
3 miles
January 10th
2 miles
3 miles
3 miles
3 miles
4 miles
January 17th
3 miles
3 miles
3 miles
3 miles
4 miles
January 24th
3 miles
3 miles
3 miles
3 miles
5 miles
January 31st
3 miles
3 miles
4 miles
3 miles
5 miles
February 7th
3 miles
3 miles
4 miles
3 miles
6 miles
February 14th
3 miles
3 miles
4 miles
4 miles
6 miles
February 21st
3 miles
3 miles
4 miles
4 miles
7 miles
February 28th
3 miles
3 miles
4 miles
4 miles
6 miles
March 7th
3 miles
3 miles
2 miles

option 2) 12 WEEKS by Doug Alred, adapted from Hal Higdon’s 15K training program

» Click Here to Download a 15K Training Schedule from the GRR website

This is theirs, not mine. I'm simply including it for easy reference. Visit the GRR website and talk to your doctor.

I find it’s easier for me to stick to if I have a plan laid out ahead of time. I really enjoyed my C25K program and I just love that they offer these for anyone interested.

The second one is much more in-depth and it’s already two weeks in. But, I think I can follow it anyway and like that includes rest and cross-training. I know I got the rest days scheduled! 😉

What fitness programs are you doing? I have a friend and a cousin who are probably planning to participate in 2012’s (they’re my running heroes) and I’m so proud and impressed.  The GRR brings 20,000+ people together so maybe one of them will be you?


Couponing update

My extreme beginner couponing adventure started in April this year with my 28 Goals list. As we end 2011, I thought I’d tally up my results so far. Also, it’s less math I have to in April. 😉

Let’s crunch some numbers…

ohmagoodness, so many receipts


April 2011: $88/$37


May: $206/$145


June: $421/$216


July: $175/$99


August: $377/$224


September: $245/$101


October: $331/$152


November: $231/$170


December: $245/$133


SO FAR: SPENT $2219/ SAVED $1277

I’m actually pretty happy with that. It means we didn’t have to shell out almost $1,300 (even though we got stuff worth that much!) just by taking the time to clip and be conscious while shopping, rather than being at the mercy of whatever looked good or we needed right then.

Even though I did manage to save more than what I spent not once, but twice, you can see that far more often, my average spent was still significantly more. But, my average savings so far is still 57.5 percent! That’s like getting everything (and a little extra) buy one, get one. Woot!

And, my husband pointed out two things :

  1. That $1277 doesn’t even include all the gas money we saved on through Winn-Dixie’s Gas Perks program.
  2.  Our fridge cost $1299. Eeek! I basically paid for our dream fridge with coupons. Amahzing! (Oh, Happy Endings sitcom…I miss you already!)

I began my experiment to focus on cutting coupons, not just save 35 cents on shampoo, but as a means of budgeting and working for my household. It’s been quite a learning experience but clearly, we’ve benefited. I can’t wait to total the full results in another four months!

Do you coupon? Did you coupon? And like the cashier inevitably asked me no matter where I go, “Do you watch that coupon show? Are you one of those extreme people?” Let’s get to dishin’ on the clippin’! Hmmmm, maybe that didn’t come out as cool as it sounded in my head…ah well, it stays. 😉

The amazing world of White Oak Plantation

Mr. Greenhorn and I were given a unique opportunity to visit a faraway land, that’s actually only about an hour from Jacksonville.

It’s called White Oak Plantation and Animal Conservation Center. And, it’s amazing.

You can read the Gilman Foundation website  and Google for the Gilman family / Gilman Paper Company stories and the amazing Howard Gilman, who started the White Oak Conservation Center (WOCC).

Basically, from Russia then came to NY and started the Gilman Paper Company. The paper company was less remarkable from what I gather and eventually went out of business, however, the last direct descendent, Howard Gilman decided that as paper manufacturers, he had an obligation to give back to nature.

So, on one of the company’s tree farms in Yulee, Florida (right on the FL/GA line), he started an animal conservation center! What better for endangered animals than almost 8,000 acres of protected, private land in an environment that most were compatible with?

Turns out, animals really prefer huge open spaces with minimal human interference. Especially for breeding. Go figure. 😉

So, although Mr. Gilman is deceased, he has an amazing place with so much to offer people and animals.

It was a long highway drive to where we were going…

that turned into a lengthy, scenic road...

that turned into a primitive, natural drive path. 

One of the more kept dirt parts.

Before we even got to the animal center, we had our share of animal encounters.

Like this early morning gator sighting in the river.

And the deer that jumped across right in front of us!

Yeah, we were going 30, and then dropped it to around 10 mph to be safe.

Once we made it to the guard shack, he pointed us the way to the main club house where we parked and met our group.

This is the entrance foyer. We loved the wooden rhino! And went exploring down that long hall.

Jeremy wanted to buy it. I just wanted to move in. I already mentioned amazing, right?

The long hallway is packed with posters of movies, plays and other performance art promotions. Almost all of them are signed by celebrities with love and praises for Gilman and the WOCC.

Like this one from Betty White! Can you see the reflection of others?

After a welcome movie and coffee, we got to tour the Baryshnikov Dance Studio.

That's our tour guide. The space was beautiful! And we missed Baryshnikov by one week. Drat!

Then, it was time to board the bus to see the animals. There are so many! Many of which I wasn’t able to photograph because their space is so large they can be camera-shy.

Like this Hairy Rhino. He was my favorite! So small for a rhino and he was covered in hair. Weird.

Others were happy to come check us out:

Black Rhinos

The baby in front is George! The guy in the background is his buddy, Tank.


Stripey butt! Aren't they awesome? Okapis are super unique and NOT related to zebras but giraffes.

Grevy’s Zebra

I love their ears!

I seriously couldn’t get over all their space. This is maybe almost a quarter of it:

Beautiful day in zebra territory.

Somali Wild Ass

One of the ladies on our tour thought the bus driver announced that this was the "Smelly" Wild Ass. I was laughing too hard to take a picture, so this one is from the WOCC website.


The brave one came to scout our noisy bunch.

We also saw a ton of birds and didn’t get close-ups with the addras, tortoises, tigers, antelope and some others. One of the elusive animals was the panther who was apparently adopted / befriended by a dog on the premises. They were so cute but too far away to snag a picture of.

The WOCC works with many other organizations and countries for animal conservation efforts. For example, a cheetah who had been in a zoo and unsuccessful at breeding for four years, was shipped to WOCC and was pregnant within a couple months! It’s a romantic place, I guess, haha. 

10 points if you can spot her and the cubs in the pine straw!

They have so many animals and it is really awesome to see them from afar and with friends because they have a herd, not because their cage is only 200 square feet. They of course have fences, but I think it’s more to keep the human out. I felt like I was the one in the zoo  because of the animals looks. They’d wander up then get bored with us all ooing and ahing and snapping pictures, and they’d walk off with us trapped in the bus behind the fence. 🙂

After the bus tour they served us a truly delicious lunch perfect for a crisp fall day.


After lunch, we were encouraged to ask questions or go back to visit any of the animals and visit the gift shop. We bought Jeremy a hat and my Mom a giant glossy photo book. I wanted this little guy!

So cute!

All in all, I can’t believe I had never even heard of this place until August this year. And for anyone wondering, I went in October, which I would highly recommend. I wouldn’t want to be on that open-air bus during Florida’s July or January. I would, however, be happy to host an event or volunteer there any time of year.

It is definitely one of the most interesting places I’ve gotten to visit. It’s pricey and limited but I would still encourage anyone to try to go. And, a family reunion or girls/guys weekend there would be spectacular. They have cabins and all kinds of amenities like golf and tennis.

Hope you are having a great week. A new year comes with the weekend, and I can’t wait!

New Year’s Eve party ideas

This time next week it will be 2012. Crazy!

I’ll be attending rather than hosting a party this year. But in case you are planning a party, or just like to stalk party ideas like me, I thought I’d share my NYE party from last year and some ideas from around the web.

My 2010 New Year’s Eve party:

I hosted 25-ish friends and family members last December to count down 2010. It started around 8 p.m. and although several people stayed the whole time, many also came and went, open house style, which I thought worked great.

Oh, and one note before we get into it, these are real, casual family photos that predate the blog. They weren’t staged or expected to be revealed on the Web, so they might be blurry or blown out. Sorry!

I made several appetizers and desserts, many of which were in honor of New Year’s traditions for good luck from around the world.

Circular items are considered good luck on New Year’s symbolizing the year coming “full circle.” So, I made crab cake balls, ham and gruyere thingys, mini cheesecakes and red velvet cupcakes. 

The ham and gruyere thumbprints I didn’t take a picture of but here’s Martha’s:

They did look pretty like that and they froze well.

However, I hated them (I thought they tasted like dry dog kibble). Apparently lots of other people liked them because the trayful was mostly eaten. I didn’t have enough people for that amount to be polite nibblers. 

Miniature crab cakes were easy for guests to grab and eat. They were so delicious I'm craving them as I type this.

 [Martha Stewart’s recipe for Asian sesame crab cakes here]

Cheesecakes--starting at the top and going clockwise--s'more, vanilla, eggnog and pumpkin.

[Recipes adapted but originally from these s’more, vanilla, eggnog and pumpkin cheesecakes]

In the background are my red velevet cupcakes and decorations. Front and center is me with my little cousin. How cute is she?!

[Cheated with Betty Crocker box mix and I don’t regret it for a second. So delicious.]

I decorated with as much theme-y stuff I could find. Of course, hats, noise makers and tiaras are super fun if you have the right crowd. You can see mine above because I’m happily corny that way. 🙂

Red and silver because that was my Christmas colors for 2010 and the silver lent itself to the New Years sparkle. I also arranged clocks with alarms all set to go off at midnight.

Just some of the clocks, even an hourglass.

 On top of the clock display were chocolate coins wrapped in red and silver foil that I found at World Market. Coins are said to be good luck but for obvious reasons–you’re richer with them! Mine were just symbolic…sorry, friends. 😉

Next to the coins is a little sign explaining the tradition. I made them for all the food and decorations.

12 skewered grapes to eat at midnight.

You can see the tag explaining the tradition behind the grapes. Here it is close-up:

Why I served grapes on a stick...

 To make the tags, I simple used Microsoft Word and photo paper in my own printer. I found a picture of glitter online. Then I magnified it and repeated it across the document page. I set up a series of text boxes with the verbiage for each food or tradition and then inserted the { shape. I colored it red to match my scheme and rotated them to set off each text box. Then just print and cut out! I used the excess paper taped to the back of each tag to make them stand up.

2011 New Year’s Eve party ideas:

For a website with a ton of New Year’s tradition history, click here.

Here are some of my favorite NYE party eye candy recently:

Resource list below

  1. Ring in a Bright New Year invitation from
  2. Cinnamon Eggnog Martini from
  3. Personal champagne bottle tablesetting from I love the tags that are printed with a countdown.
  4. Confetti! from
  5. All white inspiration from
  6. Handmade poppers filled with Hershey’s Kisses from All guests “pop” them at the stroke of twelve for a midnight kiss. How cute?!

Of course, last year, I didn’t have Pinterest. I didn’t even look there because I’m sure I would’ve ended up with enough beautiful and creative stuff to throw 10 New Year’s parties.

Where will you be when the ball drops?

Christmas, in pictures

I hope you had a wonderful weekend! I can’t believe how fast it went. I think we need holidays for after big holidays. 🙂 I so enjoyed my Christmas vacation. I even managed Thursday through Sunday without using the Internet! Remarkable.

Keeping the Christmas spirit in my heart (and the tree in my living room) isn’t enough to deny real life, but maybe I can delay it a bit with this picture review…?

Sooooo much food.

Reindeer games, hahaha.

Skyping Christmas morning with my Mom and brother!


Lots of love, especially with my favorite guy.

Regular programming starts Tuesday, as does a short countdown to 2012! What did your Christmas weekend look like? Tell me! ‘Tis the season to share. 🙂

Wine, snacks and pottery

I couldn’t forget to share a fun event I recently attended with my girlfriends. We try to get together to do something once a month (sometimes it’s laid back at home, sometimes it’s a unique outing). You can see one of our past events at a tea party here.

But for December, we went to a local pottery painting studio called Doing Dishes. We went on a Saturday evening so they let you bring in food and drinks…we brought hummus, veggies and wine!

And, it surprised me that it was so much fun. So much fun, in fact, that I didn’t take a single picture while we were there! Just use your imaginations to conjure up the smell of paint and the sight of a large packed room full of women, four of whom were being way too loud and brought a cooler. 😉

Everyone was so nice and the staff was really helpful. We each picked out a piece to paint and then selected our designs. I chose a small footed bowl. I think it was supposed to be for ice cream but I thought it was perfect for jewelry.

Plain ceramic piece.

After way too much time considering what I was going to do with it, I finally decided simple was best. I did choose a couple of neat touches though. One was a paint that had color beads in it. It came in a few colors but I chose the white paint with blue tones for the outside of the bowl.

After three coats of the outer paint, this is what I had.

For the inside, I chose a light gray color. But after three coats, it was still a bit plain. At the suggestion of my friends, I tried this odd paint powder that was supposed to bubble up like beads once the piece was fired.

Inside the bowl after painting.

Once you are done painting, you turn it in so the staff can fire it in the kiln. ‘ll tell you, even though I liked my piece, I was sort of unimpressed with the dull colors and awful texture. They assured me it would look better after firing.

A week later, my phone rang and it was the girl from Doing Dishes letting me know my piece was ready to be picked up. And I couldn’t believe what a difference there was. They were right.


Fun, right? Especially considering the great time I had making it and the fairly low cost of the whole event. Here’s the inside of the bowl:

I love how those crumbles came out!

I think it looks perfect on my bathroom shelf and it has already started to accumulate earrings.

No more rogue jewelry left wherever I took it off.

My friends’ pieces looked beautiful before so I’m sure they turned out great, too! Doing Dishes has so many items to choose from and so many cute ideas like footprints (and hand prints and butt prints) for babies, mugs, dog treat jars, ornaments and even fused glass pieces that I think you could make a fantastic gift if you don’t want anything there for yourself.

Have you ever worked with pottery? I’d really like to make the pottery, too, not just paint it. But I think this cute bowl is way better than what I could’ve done so I’m grateful for baby steps. 🙂

Blog short cuts

Without the car stress hanging over my head, I’m feeling much more productive. I even went through a little spring (winter?) cleaning on this little bloggy. Just in case you want to check out the updates, here they are:

  • I eliminated the Project tab since basically everything posted and life = a project.


  • I finally added all the links to the Food Files page! All the postings that included recipes I’ve tried are now housed in one spot, organized by the meal (drinks, main dishes, desserts, etc.). I hope it makes finding yummy food ideas and old posts easier.


  • I also added all the links to the Wedding page. So all the postings about our honeymoon, first and second wedding anniversaries are in one spot. I’ll be adding actual wedding info and photos soon. Mainly because sharing is fun, and occasionally, helpful.

So, that’s it. No big deals, just a little ownership maintenance and happy forward progress. What are you guys up to this week? Anyone else wrapping up loose ends or making little refreshing changes in life? The power behind them is kinda amazing!