Thursday, April 30, 2015

NHL Round 2 playoff predictions

I am rushed in publishing my NHL Round 2 playoff predictions before the games start tonight. Nothing like ending the final series of Round 1 on Wednesday night, and having Round 2 start the next night! The NHL obviously does a lot of things purely for TV ratings (ahem, 8:45 PM CST puck drops for Blackhawks games. Cough, cough).

By the way, I went 7 for 8 overall in my Round 1 predictions. Adam actually went 8 for 8! Maybe we should play the Illinois Lottery?

Without further ado, here are my predictions:

New York Rangers vs Washington Capitals
I was really torn on this one. I expect an ugly, grinding, low-scoring series, with less than 20 total goals scored. That type of style strongly favors the Rangers. I also expect that the Capitals' 7-game series against the Islanders will take some toll on them, whereas the Rangers have been resting for a good week.

Prediction: Rangers in seven

Montreal Canadiens vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Talk about having to turn things around quickly. Tampa was lucky to win its Game 7 against Detroit last night. Despite Kronwell and Zidlicky being out of the Wings' lineup, the Wings dominated much of the game. Tampa has been extremely inconsistent in the post-season thus far and Stamkos hasn't scored a single goal. Despite the Lightning sweeping the regular-season matchup against the Canadiens, I think Tampa's stock is trending downwards.

Prediction: Habs in six

Check out this funny graphic that I found with alternate NHL team names based on their logo:

My favorites interpretations were those of the Canadiens, Ducks, Canucks, and Sharks! What about you?

Now, back to your regular programming.

Anaheim Ducks vs Calgary Flames
Calgary has had quite the fairy-tale with its season and playoff run this year. Alas, I think that the Ducks outmatch them across the board. I do think that the Flames will show up and compete hard, though. The story line here will be all about Jonas Hiller facing his former team.

Prediction: Ducks in five

Chicago Blackhawks vs Minnesota Wild
I believe this is going to be a very challenging match-up on both sides. The Central Division was by far the strongest division in the NHL this year and this series will showcase that.

You could look at the Hawks' performance against Nashville in the first round as either revealing inconsistent goaltending, or revealing goalie depth. I am admittedly more concerned about defenseman depth - how long can Coach Q continue riding his top four defensemen the way he has been? However, it has been fantastic to see Patrick Kane and his dazzling skills back in the lineup. I am also encouraged to see guys like Patrick Sharp, Brad Richards, and Bryan Bickell raising their games.

From the Wild side, the whole story this year has been about goalie Devan Dubnyk. I still don't think that he can keep up his hot streak forever.

Prediction: Hawks in six

NOTE: I have said before that I welcome any feedback letting me know how wrong you think my predictions are. I already know who I am going to hear from on this round (hi Natalie, Kayla, and Tom!) =D

Closing side story:
I went to a volunteer function near Millennium Park last night (more about the event to come). After it ended, I went out to play! I checked out some of the displays for the NFL Draft Town festival, which starts tonight. I also stopped at the Blackhawks Store on Michigan Avenue.

SOMEBODY decided to have some fun with green-screen photo opportunities!

Pretty lifelike, eh?!?!? (It only took me about three tries to get versions in which I wasn't looking the wrong direction or gaping off to the side, etc.)

Happy Thursday to all and go Blackhawks!!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Disney storytelling

Time to link up with Deb's Wordless Wednesday Disney photo hop.
Focused on the Magic
The theme for this week is "Storytelling."

The first thing I thought of was Disney's Hollywood Studios. I love old-Hollywood glamour and the classic, iconic movies that still resonate with viewers to this day. At their core, movies are all about telling stories!

Speaking of Hollywood Studios, one of the most unique dining experiences I've ever had was at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. It's a 50s-style eatery set up like an outdoor drive-in theater. You sit inside a classic car-shaped booth and get to watch old black-and-white movie clips while eating. It is so much fun!

Here are a few snapshots from our last visit:

"I do not make films primarily for children. 
I make them for the child in all of us, whether we be six or sixty." 
- Walt Disney

What are some of your favorite classic movies? Favorite Disney dining experiences?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Favorite warm weather running gear

Linking up with AprilPatty, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run.

This week's topic is "Favorite warm-weather gear."

Ahhh, this topic feels like a distant memory right now. I think the last time I ran outdoors in shorts was back in September. Temperatures have struggled to get above the 50s here in Chicago. Although, it is pretty atypical for Chicago to even have spring, altogether. Usually it goes directly from winter to summer without passing go and without collecting $200.

When summertime eventually does arrive (and it will, with a vengeance), here are some of my must-haves:

Saltstick Capsules
These are electrolyte replacement capsules that you can take during or after a run.

After long runs in hot weather, I used to struggle with lingering headaches. Often, the pain would render me useless for the rest of the day. Sports drinks did not always solve the problem. Sometimes it would give me a stomachache - and there is nothing worse than a simultaneously piercing headache plus an upset stomach. I wanted to avoid consuming all of the accompanying extra calories and sugar, as well.

Enter these capsules. I swear by them for preventing or alleviating post-run headaches. During the summertime, I always keep a few of these capsules in both my running belt and my gear check bag.

It goes without saying that chafing is extremely unpleasant. It is an awful feeling to get into the shower after a run only to feel like the water is a burning match being held next to your skin.

Blisters are a pretty nasty nuisance, too.

Enter Bodyglide, the miracle anti-chafing balm. This is another staple in my gear check bag on a year-round basis. Per the instructions, I use it liberally. 

A hat is essential for keeping the sun and my hair out of my eyes. The ideal hat is one that is adjustable, lightweight, and breathable. I also look for hats that can be machine-washed without becoming absurdly deformed.

Here is my idea of a really great running hat. Look at how it reflects the light!!!

I am joking, of course. (I do love Mickey's sorcerer hat, though. =) )

This is my go-to hat:

Handheld water bottle
I currently use this 8 oz handheld water bottle:

I think it's the perfect size - enough water to keep me going as needed, but not so much water that I feel like I'm dragging a sloshing brick around with me. I also like using the little zippered pouch for my keys, salt capsules, and GU.

A small or medium-sized towel is so versatile. Use it to wipe off sweat; soak it in some water and it becomes a cool compress; use it as a seat protector in your car. I've also seen some folks use (larger) towels to maintain their modesty while changing out of their running clothes.

Did I miss anything? What are your warm-weather running gear essentials/favorites?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Frames From the Weekend: 4/24/15 - 4/26/15

Linking up with Irina and Tara to share a quick recap of my weekend.

Time for our monthly book club meeting! Thanks to Jackie for hosting.

Our selection for the month was How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas. To honor the book's theme, there was much French-inspired food to share. Lots of wine and cheese, of course! Other French contributions included quiche, caramelized onion and goat cheese crostinis, and pot de creme. I brought this lentil salad recipe, to which I added feta cheese. As if we didn't have enough cheese already, right? Hey, cheese makes everything better (even if it was Greek cheese at a French-themed gathering). =)

I ran the Race to Wrigley 10K! 

I had a total blast, despite very nearly DNS-ing the race due to weather concerns. Read my full race recap here.

In honor of the race, check out the fun cookbook that I very coincidentally happened to find at the library afterwards!

The book is filled with lots of down-to-earth, homey recipes like Ryne Sandberg's chicken tacos or Kosuke Fukudome's ginger pork. I'm going to have a lot of fun playing around with this collection!

Speaking of the library, here are two other selections that I also checked out:

The Pioneer Woman's cookbook caught my eye because I've seen her show on the Food Network so many times. In addition to recipes, the book offers a lot of fascinating insight and pictures about her life on the ranch. I appreciate that Ree Drummond pulls no punches when it comes to being honest!

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty is next month's book club selection. I've heard a lot of mixed reviews on this book - it seems that a lot of folks like Moriarty's other books better? We'll see how this goes.

On Saturday night, Adam was watching the secondary ticket market to see if he could find any last-minute deals on Blackhawks-Predators Game 6 at the United Center. Unfortunately, ticket prices were too high. The Hawks' ever-rising popularity never ceases to amaze me! We settled with watching the game from the comfort of our living room.

Photo is from the Blackhawks Facebook page

I was so happy (and relieved!) when the Hawks closed out their series. More on that, plus my Round 2 playoff predictions, coming later this week. 

In the meantime, check out this awesome video showing the Hawks' recent pre-game on-ice display. It is mesmerizing!

Maggie hosted a clothing swap at her place (thanks again, Maggie!)

I love clothing swaps! Such an amazing way to repurpose and reuse. I made out like a bandit!

The rest of the weekend was filled with lots of relaxing, hockey-watching (most of the other playoff series), blogging, cooking, cleaning, working out, and getting ready for the upcoming workweek. 

Looking ahead - Adam is starting a new job today! Additionally, I am excited that the NFL Draft Town festival starts this Thursday in Grant Park!

How about you, how was your weekend?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Race to Wrigley 10K recap

I've had my eye on the Race to Wrigley for a long time. I've run races at the United Center, US Cellular Field, and Soldier Field, but had not yet run at Wrigley Field. This year I decided to take care of that!

It almost didn't happen, though. The rain magnet (yours truly) struck again! Forecasters were predicting rain, wind, and temperatures in the 40s during race morning. This would prospectively be my fourth race in about 9 months that was plagued by inclement precipitation. I very, very, very seriously considered DNS-ing.

Had I actually elected to skip out, I would have felt better knowing that the race proceeds were going to charity. (Incidentally, when I mentioned this to Adam, he said, "The Cubs ARE a charity." Ouch!!! Although, they are supposed to be much better this year, right?)

Alas, in tune with what I learned in my college economics/psychology classes, I am a billboard for honoring sunk costs. I really did not want to waste my registration fee. So I grudgingly arose at the crack of dawn on race morning and got ready to go.

Once the day got underway, things went much, MUCH better than expected.

Prediction #1: At 7:00 AM on a Saturday morning, CTA service would take forever and a day to haul my sorry butt up to Wrigley Field.

Reality #1: I caught a bus as soon as I stepped outside. My bus-to-train transfer took less than two minutes. My train ride was filled with other excited race-goers, which lifted my spirits. I had allowed an hour of transit time, but the total ride only took about 30 minutes. Bam!

Prediction #2: Upon arrival, the streets would be mobbed. It would be nearly impossible to take any pictures with the Wrigley Field statues or marquee.

Reality #2: I present to thee - saying hello to Ron Santo:

and giving a high-flying greeting to Ernie Banks:

As you can see, I lived dangerously, broke the runner's rules, and wore the race shirt on race day. Normally I wouldn't do this but the shirt was so festive that I couldn't resist!

I also wore white compression sleeves and black shoes in an attempt to emulate the "baseball knickers" look.

I wore the white hat primarily to ward off the rain, but I thought it completed the baseball look nicely, too. (This is about the closest I've ever gotten to running in costume, heh heh.)

Prediction #3: All the runners would be standing around in the pouring rain and wind waiting for portapotties, gear check, and the starting gun. We would freeze our collective patookies off.

Reality #3: There was zero wait for the portapotties. An enormous tent housed a gear check (which had no lines) while also providing substantial protection from the elements. Additionally, runners had the option of waiting inside any of several Cubs merchandise stores or a nearby McDonald's. Normally the waiting is the worst part, but this morning it was effortless.

Runners hanging out inside the tent pre-race
Baseball themed McDonald's near Wrigley Field
Enroute to gear check, look who I ran into!
Chicago Cubs mascot, Clark!

Prediction #4: I would be running the race amidst packed crowds, many of whom would be unfamiliar with race etiquette. Things would probably start out very crowded, but then start spacing out after a few miles.

Reality #4: Normally this race is just a 5K. However, in honor of the Race to Wrigley's 10-year anniversary this year, the organizers offered a "Let's Run Two" 10K option (two laps around the 5K course) which I jumped at. The 10K runners started 20 minutes earlier than the 5K runners and walkers. As a result, the course was not at all crowded during the first loop. It was awesome!

Things did get very, very crowded during the second loop, though. I was weaving around groups of people walking five or six in tandem.

Prediction #5: Other than finishing in front of Wrigley Field, I didn't think the course would be very scenic. The entire event takes place outside of the stadium, so how festive could it be? Wrigley Field is under massive construction right now, too. Here are some pictures:

Reality #5: The course went through some very nice neighborhoods! I'd only ever seen some of these streets while driving by in my car. It was really fun to experience them from my running shoes. It was also fun that the post-race area was staged right in the heart of the Wrigleyville social scene on Clark Street. Wrigleyville is so vibrant!

Prediction #6: There would be nasty rain and wind. Everyone would be complaining and would make a mad dash for the exits as soon as they finished.

Reality #6: The rain was relatively light and I didn't notice any wind. I didn't find the conditions to be bothersome at all. The other participants around me were all having a blast, too. Plenty of people were hanging out afterwards (and of course many headed directly to the Wrigleyville bars, LOL).

Here's the finish line (photo taken pre-race):

This was the scene at the post-race refreshment area on Clark Street:
Prediction #7: The post-race food selections would include the usuals - bagels, banana, water, etc.

Reality #7: One sponsor had lines piled up for very unusual food giveaway: Prepackaged steak!

A few of Chicago's finest taking advantage of the free steak
In terms of the day's time goals, the only thing I wanted to do was break an hour. I took it nice and easy the first half. Despite the crowds in the second loop, I kicked it up during the second 5K and got a solid negative split. My final finishing time was 58:13.

In the end...
I had a blast at the Race to Wrigley! What a wonderful surprise that all of my fears of bad weather and crowds turned out to be completely unfounded. The atmosphere and festivities were a lot more fun than I had expected!

Dare I say that I'm starting to catch some of the hype about Cubs baseball? I am not a baseball fan. But, being surrounded by hundreds of happy runners/walkers in Cubs gear can actually be pretty infectious. =)

My next race: the Cinco de Miler on May 9

Friday, April 24, 2015

Advice to a younger me

I loved reading Erica's post from yesterday with tips to her younger self! Here is some of the advice that I wish I could have given to myself earlier in life:
  1. Get enough sleep.
  2. Be comfortable with yourself. Embrace what makes you unique.
  3. Amidst all the ups and downs, life is a constant.
  4. Instead of always waiting for that perfect moment, do the things that you love NOW.
  5. Keep a journal and take plenty of pictures.
  6. Travel every chance you get and do as the locals do. Be a traveler instead of a tourist.
  7. Go for that graduate degree/certification earlier rather than later.
  8. Cook more. Eat less processed food.
  9. You feel better when you take care of your own appearance.
  10. Relationships mean everything both personally and professionally. Nothing is more important in life than your family and friends.
  11. Quality over quantity.
  12. Be not afraid. Don't worry about things until they happen.
  13. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
  14. If you need orthodontic work, get it done - the sooner the better.
  15. You know yourself better than they know you.
  16. Learn at least two foreign languages.
  17. The first reaction is usually the correct one.
  18. You already know what to do.
  19. Read more.
  20. Enjoy the journey and be present in the now.

What other advice would you give your younger self or to me?

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Time to link up with Amanda's Thinking Out Loud Thursdays!

Struttin' my stuff for everyone
Earlier this week, I wore what I considered to be a very cute outfit to work. As a result, I was striding around the office with an added boost of confidence. I met with my boss, had productive discussions with several team members, resolved lots of issues. All in all, I was feeling really good about myself.

Then, around 11:30 AM, I realized that my fly had been open the whole morning.

Thank you, thank you, please hold applause.

A new do
It's been extremely windy in the Windy City this week. I've actually delayed running a few errands because I didn't want to have to walk/bike around in those conditions. It's been giving me a nice unique hairdo, too. This is pretty much the story of my week:

We need a metal detector
During the epic Blackhawks-Predators game on Tuesday night, it was hilarious when Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne lost the puck in his pads! Here's the video:

Apparently the Hawks and Preds have a penchant for losing the puck when they play each other in opening-round playoff series. Remember when Antti Niemi (who used to be my favorite Hawk) had a similar incident in 2010?


Of the two incidents, I thought Niemi's had much better commentary. "It's almost like Niemi was giving birth to that puck!"

I'm running the Race to Wrigley 10K this Saturday. Check out the race shirt - I think it's pretty snazzy!

In the Race Participant email, the organizers are encouraging everyone to wear their event t-shirt on race day.

Hmmm. Most experienced runners consider that a no-no and a great way to brand yourself as a newbie. (Although, I have seen arguments going either direction.)

On one hand, the Race to Wrigley probably doesn't draw the most serious crowd of runners. The majority of participants probably will wear their event shirt. Who am I to go against the organizers' suggestions?

But on the other hand, I do believe that you shouldn't wear anything new on race day. Nobody wants to deal with potential chafage or other wardrobe issues.

Ahhh, the endless dilemma of what to wear...

Meet me in St. Louis
Within minutes of the 2015-16 NFL schedule being released on Tuesday night, Adam and I were already road-trip scheming. We are looking at going to St. Louis the weekend of September 28 to watch the Steelers play the Rams. Note: I've had some bad sportsfan experiences in St. Louis (within a span of 48 hours, we saw both the Blackhawks and the Penguins lose to the Blues) so hopefully this time will be better.

Being the planning runner that I am, I've already found a local race that I want to run that weekend. It's called the Flat as a Pancake 5K/10K. Considering how ill-trained I am when it comes to hills, any race with a name like that is a gimmee for me!

Probably not the most aerodynamic choice of running attire out there, but a great costume nonetheless!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Disney Nature

Before we begin today, how about that Blackhawks triple-overtime victory last night?!?! OMG. I stayed up to watch every second. It's going to be a rough morning but it was so worth it!!!

Allright, down to business and linking up with Deb's Wordless Wednesday Disney photo hop.

Focused on the Magic

The theme for this week is "Disney Nature."

Right away I thought of the Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom. This is one of my favorite experiences in all of the Disney Parks!

Here are some action shots:

I've been on the Disney Kilimanjaro Safaris maybe three or four times. It's a different experience every time, since the animals are free to roam and do whatever they please.

The animals always get right-of-way, too. During this most recent visit, our jeep had the pleasure of waiting for some of them to cross the path before we could proceed. Love it!

Quick side story:
Elsewhere in the Animal Kingdom that same day, Adam and I were watching some monkeys bopping around and swinging from tree to tree. We saw one monkey that decided to, uh, answer nature's call while dangling from a branch about 20 feet in the air. Worse yet, there was another monkey on the ground almost directly beneath that, uh, took the brunt of the answer. (I actually did get a picture of this, uh, incident, but decided for the sake of decency not to share it.) When you gotta go, you gotta go, right?

"There's nothing funnier than the human animal."
- Walt Disney