Posts Tagged With: Writing

Ignite Your Sense of Adventure

I ate a piece of Dove chocolate candy the other day and this was the message inside the wrapper. I think it’s my personal manifesto.


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Happy Holidays from TKG!

We’d like to wish all of our followers and fans of Top Knotch Gear a happy holiday season and cheers to a great New Year! Below are some various Christmas pictures we took on Instagram. (We’re addicted to Instagram!) Safe travels!











Ann Arbor



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The Color Run – St. Petersburg

Saturday was the big day! September and I ran The Color Run 5K in downtown St. Petersburg here in Florida. There were THOUSANDS of people, all dressed in clean white shirts and ready to run.

Bright white shirts to start the race.

Bright white shirts to start the race.

There were so many people, they had to start different heats every 20 minutes.

There were so many people, they had to start different heats every 20 minutes.

In our “swag bags” (the bag you get when you sign up for the race that’s full of complimentary goodies), we had sweat bands, temporary tattoos, free t-shirts and our own, individual bags of colored powder to use at the finish line.

My personal pouch of turquoise color. It was very tempting to open it and throw it at the start... but I'm glad we waited...

My personal pouch of turquoise color. It was very tempting to open it and throw it at the start… but I’m glad we waited…

At every kilometer, volunteers threw colored powder onto runners. First up was pink! And thank goodness we both wore sunglasses – you can’t see anything through cloud of color!

All you could see was a cloud of pink dust - thank goodness we wore sunglasses!

September running through color #1 – PINK!

Next up…

K #2 was all BLUE!

K #2 was all BLUE!

The third kilometer in the race was ORANGE.

The volunteers just get covered in powder!

The volunteers just get covered in powder!

So much color and we weren't even finished!

So much color and we weren’t even finished!

Kilometer #4 – YELLOW!

Approaching the yellow cloud...

Approaching the yellow cloud…

September running and taking video

September running and taking video

The last round of color was at the “finish festival”.

Made it to the finish!

Made it to the finish!



When prompted, everyone open their color pouches and throws their colors in the air!

When prompted, everyone opened their color pouches and threws their colors in the air!

Crazy color!

Crazy color!





We had such a fun time running this race! To see if there’s a Color Run coming to your city, click here!

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Grandma’s Thanksgiving Recipe – Tradition or Experiment?

As Thanksgiving approaches and Americans all over the country prepare to stuff their stomachs with their traditional family feasts, I decided to attempt to make my grandmother’s cranberry orange salad. We’re having Thanksgiving in Florida again this year, half the country away from my family in Michigan, but I wanted to try something new – something exciting and special.

I first had my grandma’s cranberry salad last year at Christmas (one of the two times a year I can afford to go home) and I was so obsessed with its tangy, sour delight, that it nearly surpassed my favorite Christmas food of all time – Aunt Jan’s make-ahead mashed potatoes. As I ate the cranberry goodness, I couldn’t help but feel so happy inside.  Yes, it is delicious. But I was so proud of my grandma for taking the time to make it and sharing it with our family, even though I’m sure it had gone unappreciated many Christmases before. I was proud of my grandma, that in her old age, with her shaky hands and severe arthritis, she would take the time to make this family recipe – a recipe she learned from her own mother, many years ago.

I emailed my mom a few weeks ago, inquiring about the recipe (I didn’t have it written down anywhere). My mom, in turn, had to call my grandma (which I suppose I could/should have done in the first place) to decipher the directions on the worn recipe card. My mother and my grandmother discussed the process, step-by-step, as my grandma tried to recall exactly how her mother used to make the salad. Later that night, I had a wonderfully vague, completely confusing recipe in my inbox:

1/2- package fresh cranberries (think this is 1lb; or it could be 1/2 of a 1lb- package. . . who knows?)
 1 orange –  do not peel, but you might want to slice into sections so you can remove seeds
 1 apple, cored but not peeled
 3/4 cup sugar
 1 package orange jello (unclear if it is small pkg or larger pkg. . . “depends on how many cranberries you use, so I guess if you use all of the package of cranberries you should use a large package of jello”. . . don’t you think?)
 1 1/2 cups of water
 1/2 teaspoon orange rind
– She grinds the cranberries, orange, and apple in an old-fashioned, hand-cranked grinder. It produces a lot of wonderful, very sour juice. Save the juice for enjoyment later.  Don’t know if a food processor would work, but worth a try. Add the sugar. Set aside.
 Add boiling water to jello mix. She did not remember if it is 1 1/2 cups of boiling water, or 1 cup boiling water (as per package instructions) and 1/2 cup cold water to help it set up. Chill the jello until just partially set. Mix in the cranberry mix.
 “Then you must do something with the extra 1/2 teaspoon of orange rind. . . this is Grandma Burnett’s recipe from Arlington, I remember copying it in her apartment and she wouldn’t have had that in there if she didn’t use it. . . no, I don’t remember how I make it. . .” Maybe the orange rind is sprinkled on top? Or mixed in for even more orange flavor?  Give it a try.

I glanced over the ingredients a while ago, excited that I could find most at the produce stand around the corner. (Even Michigan-grown cranberries!). But as I read each line tonight, attempting to make this divine dish, I realized one thing: My family is not good at communication. I don’t have a hand grinder or a food processor – so a blender had to do. Mixing ingredients, I realized that I had something more like cranberry soup – not a scoop-able mixture that will soon resemble a salad. Frustrated, I thought about just freezing the cranberry mixture and eating it like sorbet tomorrow morning. I thought about using it in my smoothies or even putting it over pancakes. But no, that was not the recipe. That was not my grandmother’s recipe. While the instructions leave lots of room for improvisation, this is still my family’s recipe for cranberry orange SALAD, not sorbet, smoothies or pancakes. I called my mom to clarify directions, discussing the process step-by-step, as she tried to recall exactly how my grandma used to make it. Describing what I was staring at in my mixing bowl (and what I was wearing all over my shirt), it was debatable as to whether or not my work would turn out to be edible.

As tempting as it was to call it a night with what I had, I wanted to try and make this delectable holiday salad my grandma ate growing up as  kid – a recipe that my mom remembers from her own childhood – a recipe that (if I can get it right), will be a part of my own family’s holiday traditions someday.

As I write this post, it is still unclear if I even have cranberry orange salad or just cranberry orange goo. But at least I can call my grandma tomorrow, wish her a happy Thanksgiving and let her know that one of her fond childhood memories is a now part of another generation.

Happy feasting!

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Awesome, Easy Smoothie Recipe

I’m on this new health kick and have been making lots of smoothies for breakfast and lunch. (Dropped 4 lbs in 1 week!) I’m not really a fan of recipes (too many directions – I don’t exactly follow directions) – I prefer to experiment in the kitchen. Smoothies are fun to play with because you can mix a bunch of fruits, veggies and dairy together and the creations are endless! My most recent concoction is absolutely DELICIOUS and was the result of portion-controlled experimentation. Packed with protein and antioxidants, this smoothie makes for a fresh breakfast and is great post-workout.



Recipe (throw all ingredients into the blender and liquify!):

  • 1 c. lite soy milk
  • 1/2 c. non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 c. blueberries (frozen)
  • 1/2 c. grapes (frozen OR thawed – I usually freeze them)
  • 1/2 c. cranberries (frozen OR thawed – I usually freeze them)
  • 1 Tbsp. Agave Nectar (optional – for a little sweetness)
  • A couple shakes of ground cinnamon

About the ingredients:

Soy milk – I’ve never been a fan of milk (despite my obsession with cheese), so I use soy milk. September’s also lactose-intolerant, so soy milk is a perfect alternative. Soy milk is a great source of protein and calcium without the possibility of hormones from regular cow’s milk.

Greek yogurt – TONS of protein, twice as much as regular yogurt! It has probiotics that are good for your gut, loads of potassium (good for muscles post-workout), and up to 20% of the daily recommended amount of calcium! Not to mention, it’s a perfect substitute for lots of other things in the kitchen.

Grapes, blueberries and cranberries – all are full of antioxidants that help prevent disease and slow aging. They’re heart-healthy, digestive-healthy, good for urinary tract health, and Vitamin C. In this smoothie recipe, they’re just the right fruits for a tangy, slightly sour morning burst.

Agave Nectar – this is a great, NATURAL substitute for sugar. It’s made from the same agave plants that tequila comes from (no wonder I love it so much!) and doesn’t have any preservatives.

Cinnamon – in this recipe, I add cinnamon for that extra spark. In addition to being delicious, it’s health benefits include stabilizing blood sugar, lowering bad cholesterol, anti-clotting effects, and is a good source of calcium, manganese, fiber and iron.


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Travel Tip Tuesday

Tip 1: Don’t want to carry your purse when you go out? Use a binder clip as a key ring/money holder. You can clip it directly to your money belt for safekeeping and not have to worry about toting around your purse or bag while you explore.

Tip 2: Use a plastic soap container as a camera case! Most containers are waterproof (or water resistant at the very least) and are just the right size for a digital camera.

Tip 3: One of the best parts of traveling is eating. If you go out to eat or hang out at a bar that has cardboard coasters, consider snagging a few – they make very original, super crafty gift tags… especially for beer drinkers!

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The Color Run – America’s Twist on India’s Holi Festival

On December 15, September and I will run a 5K race (3.1 miles) called The Color Run. Unlike many other races, The Color Run is about fun fitness with friends and family, not speed. It encourages people to be come out and be active through COLOR. At each kilometer of the race, volunteers douse racers with neon-colored powder. Participants wear white shirts at the starting line and by the end of the race, everyone looks like a tie dyed rainbow covered in yellow, orange, pink and blue ! (It makes for great pictures.)

Photo courtesy of The Color Run

Photo courtesy of The Color Run

Photo courtesy of The Color Run

In addition, if you’re familiar with Indian or Hindu culture, you may have heard of the Holi Festival or the Festival of Colours. This annual celebration in India commemorates the beginning of Spring and the defeat of evil. (While not an overly religious holiday in India, it does mark the death of the demoness, Holika, who was defeated and burned by Lord Vishnu. I.e.: good triumphing over evil.) The highlight of the Holi Festival, like The Color Run, is the brightly colored power thrown at people. There’s dancing, food, music and even a wickedly big bonfire.

Who would have thought that Festival of Colours half the world away would inspire a running event here in the states?! Very cool.

Even elephants participate in the Holi Festival!

Look familiar?

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New Start November

This time of year is beautiful in Florida. The days are consistently in the 70’s, sunny and dry. Mornings and nights are cool, breezy and unbelievably fresh. This recent change in weather has inspired me to undergo a new fitness and diet transformation that I am entitling: New Start November. This month I will jump start a 35-lb shred (a weight loss goal I’d like to complete by my birthday in April), I will take up running (something I’ve never enjoyed but want to try) and I will renew my love of the great Florida outdoors. My transformation includes the following:

  • 30 runs in 30 days – aka: running every day. I’m already sore but I’ve read that it takes 21 days to make something a habit… I have 5 days already under my belt!

Learning to enjoy running is going to be very difficult for me but I’m ready to shred it!

  • Running some local races – including the famous Color Run (more on this run in an upcoming post) and some island races in the area. This is a great way to socialize, challenge myself and see my training pay off. Goals are empowering and good motivation.

So excited for this race!

  • Liquids for breakfast and lunch – to cut down on calories and grocery expenses, I’m going to juice and make smoothies for every breakfast and lunch. We have a stellar grapefruit tree in our back yard and a fantastic produce stand just 2 blocks away from our house. It’s perfect!

First grapefruit of the season! SO juicy and delicious. Yum!

  • Daily dinner challenge – dinner will be “real” food (i.e.: solid foods) but I am challenging myself to see how much of my dinner can be made with locally-grown produce from the produce stand. This way, I can eat healthy and help out a local business!

Fun challenge

  • Not biting my nails – this has been a bad habit of mine for as long as I can remember. However, I’ve discovered that if I paint my nails, I don’t nip at them! So I purchased some obnoxiously awesome nail polish with giant, glittery confetti in it and my nails have never looked better.

My new Wet ‘n Wild glitter nail polish. It’s like wearing confetti!

  • Kayak trips – We live less than a mile from the beach and the mangroves (perfect spots to put in kayaks) and there are dozens of intercostal waterways and uninhabited islands to discover. I will plan half-full day kayak trips so I can explore the area and get back on the water. I find the water rejuvenating and meditative…and I can’t wait to get back out there!

The mangroves are practically in our backyard!

This challenge will be…. challenging. But I’m excited for the adventure I look forward to my new lifestyle… and my new body! And thanks to things like Pinterest, there are lots of tips, tricks and endless inspiration!

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What would you give…

… to travel the world?

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Travel Tip Tuesday

Today’s travel tip: How to make postcard travel art!

I love postcards. September might even say that I am obsessed with postcards. I love sending postcards, receiving postcards, and collecting postcards that catch my eye. I was at a store about 6 months after we moved to Florida and purchased 15+ postcards to send to my family. The cashier looked at me like I was slightly insane and asked where I was from (she thought I was a tourist because I was snatching up so many of the colorful cards.) While I was too embarrassed to tell her that I had been living in the area for half a year, I fibbed and said I had just moved a few days ago….. then I B-lined out of the store.

So it was no surprise that while on our recent road trip, September found me at the gift shops at the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park, eyeing the racks of….POSTCARDS!  This time, though, we had a new approach. We decided to get a stack of touristy cards for our friends and family (which we still have yet to send to them) and for us, we picked 3 vintage cards to use as wall art!

Use postcards as wall art!

Post cards are inexpensive, small (so they’re easy to pack) and a great way to commemorate a trip. We already had the frame – it was just sitting vacant collecting dust. Now, we have a fun piece of art that will always remind us of our road trip through the southwest. This whole project cost less than $1!

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