Maximize My Month - December 2017

We've made it. The final month of 2017. Together we've tried out and experimented with all sorts of mini life tricks and hacks to see what kind of results we could get each month.

Some were winners and others not so much, but the important thing is that we've been trying. All year, trying. To make ourselves incrementally better. And I think it's working!

November's goal was to not hit snooze. Not a single morning. Guess what? It worked! I woke up with my first alarm every.single.day this past month. It's been day changing (I feel so so so much better), day in and day out. And I'll definitely keep it up. PS did you know that with the new iPhone OS you can turn off the snooze function all together? Yup. Totally doing that.

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So as we move into December, how are we going to finish the year? While I've been great about using the extra 5-10 minutes in the morning to meditate I've also noticed that my habit of picking my phone up to shut off the alarm has led to very early morning social media browsing, news reading, and email checking. Yup, that's what those 4:something AM IG likes are all about.

SO here's what we're up to for December: no e-mail, no socials, no news, no returning texts UNTIL I've meditated. The pieces are all there, now let's prioritize them. 

Because, you see, once I've meditated I'm much more focused, aligned, and excited for the day - which means I'm much less likely to get lost in the black hole of technology.

Small changes. That's what we're all about!

Cheers to one more in 2017!

xoxo

LP

What I'm Into Wednesday - The Turkey(free) Edition

Contrary to popular belief, turkey is totally optional on Thanksgiving. In fact, it's like the one thing usually on the table that I never eat. It just doesn't do it for me. 

So I wasn't upset at all when we planned to go to Angelo's sister Domenica's house for Thanksgiving dinner. She was vegan for many years, so turkey is low on her priority list as well. So low for both of us, that we didn't have it at all. But don't worry, we still managed to eat plenty (as seen in our food and real baby belly photo below). 

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So here's What I'm Into from this Thanksgiving week:

SEE

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There are two websites that I love that feature unusual and weird things to do in San Diego/Southern California: Atlas Obscura (which I've talked about before) and Hidden San Diego. Both of them have entries on the Desert View Tower. This tower is about an hour east of San Diego, in Jacumba, just north of the 8 freeway. Angelo and I took Arlo adventuring on Saturday out east and decided we were so close, we just couldn't miss seeing the tower in person. It was well worth the decor. The goofy guy who owns it has his 6 dogs running around, your dogs are allowed in and off leash too. The first floor of the tower is exactly the weird gift shop you'd imagine in the middle of nowhere desert and for $6.50 you can head up the stairs to the top of the tower, which yes has an amazing desert view. Don't forget to stop at each landing along the way to check out the creepy museum-ish exhibits that are there.

Bonus: your ticket gets you entry to the boulder/cave park just on the other side of the parking lot. We had a blast climbing with the dog up, over, and around big rocks, into caves, and enjoying the strangeness of it all.

I highly recommend making a trip out. Also, he's selling the property for $1.2 million (93 acres!) if you happen to have that laying around.

DO

Pre tower stop we headed up to Mt. Laguna for a morning of hiking. We had the funny thought on the drive up that getting to the PCT on Mt. Laguna (some of the best hiking and trail running anywhere) only takes about 45 minutes - and yet it seems so far away, we almost never go. It can take me 45 to get home from La Jolla. Silly (and a totally random aside). 

Anyway we headed out and just stopped at a random trailhead to start hiking. The Big Laguna Trail is a huge series of trails but the part we ended up on connected us after about half a mile to the PCT. It was perfect weather, looked like fall, and was so much less trafficked than closer hikes. We had a blast!

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SMELL

The main dish for Thanksgiving this year was a butternut squash that was unbelievable. Mind you, we totally forgot about it on Thanksgiving itself (we did each try a bite, but by the time we remembered we were stuffed - pun intended) but it made for amazing leftovers. 

Thanksgiving or not, you should make this. The house will smell am.az.ing.

TASTE

The taste test winner on Thursday was a bit of a surprise. We had all of these amazing, home cooked, delicious foods - and we lost our shit over baked brie. How can you not?

We did a brie, sliced in half and filled with Trader Joe's Hot and Sweet Pepper Jam, and wrapped in puff pastry. Served with crackers and bread - yum! That could've been the whole meal. We would've been just fine.

HEAR

Here's a poll for all you readers. I'm curious if this is a "thing" or just a Neroni family "thing." Or maybe a midwest/Ohio "thing". Do you listen to Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant on Thanksgiving? Angelo's family has for as long as he can remember (it's on the radio every year on Thanksgiving, apparently) so we adopted that tradition as well. Seeing as though Arlo is named for him, it's even more fitting. For the past few years we've listened on our record player and, I have to say, that 18 or so minutes that is Alice's Restaurant is some of my favorite time of that day. The song/story is just unbeatable.

If not, do you have a weird family tradition that you just can't give up for Thanksgiving? I'm curious!

What I'm Into Wednesday - Annual San Francisco Trip

This was our fourth consecutive year travelling to San Francisco to compete in the North Face Endurance Challenge Series.

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I was a co-leader of NPSD when we traveled the first two years. We stayed on friend's floors (shout out to Paddy for the floor and Orrin for the entertainment the first year) and on couches in overstuffed AirBnbs. We drove all the way from LA and carpooled with other leaders we rarely see. We attended the North Face headquarters and partook in design talks. And we raced the marathon relay. One year as a two woman team with the one and only Voychick and one year as a four man team dressed up as BG.

Those first two years were nothing but fun.

Last year we headed up and many of us competed in the 50k. We ran the most beautiful trails I've ever been on, shared stunning views, and conquered distances that were new to most of us. It was an epic adventure of a completely different kind.

This year, the fourth, was totally new. The courses were different - they now finished over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco proper. Fewer people went up. We all ran different distances. Yet, it was still magic. There's something about getting a big group of excited, positive. motivating, and funny humans together. It brings out the best in people, and in a city. 

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DO

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See above. Literally. Go do the North Face Endurance Challenge in SF next year. Any distance. Just sign up. It's a blast.

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The day before the race we had a debate/discussion about how to spend our afternoon. It's tempting to want to walk all over the place and sightsee anytime you're in a different city, but especially in SF. There's a never ending list of parks, architecture, museums, shops, and restaurants that I want to check out. But walking the day before running many miles is usually a bad idea. So a group of us chose to venture over to the Exploratorium at Pier 15 instead. Holy crap. It was so fun. The $30 admission price is WELL WORTH IT. We spent almost three hours like little kids running around this museum playing with everything. It's an interactive science museum at it's core and you'll be entertained by the exhibits, the shows, the nerdy stuff, and the fun. Go.

SMELL

About half of our Airbnb was the same folks that shared one in Boston for SUMMIT 5.0 this year. And for a second time, we ate pretty much the same things as a family: Thai food two nights before the race and pizza the night before. This time the pizza was a star. Tony's Pizza Napoletana was the shit. Specifically the Eddie Muenster - fried kale, smoked bacon, calabrese peppers, muenster cheese, honey, and lemon.

HEAR

If you're like me, weekends with friends are amazing - but you crave silence. I've been true to my November goal of not hitting snooze, and with that extra 5-10 minutes I'd usually waste on the snooze button I've been meditating. Truly just sitting in silence, repeating a mantra. It's been a centering way to start my day - whether at home or on the road.

TASTE

No trip to SF, LA, or PDX is ever complete without a trip to SALT AND STRAW. Since the location in SD seems to be taking forever to open (come on guys!) we took full advantage of our last day to eat ice cream. November's specialty flavors are all about Thanksgiving dinner. From a salted caramel turkey flavor to stuffing to mashed potatoes and gravy. But the winner? Everyone was in agreement that Sweet Potato Pie with Maple Pecans took home the grand prize. I'm drooling as I think about it.

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What I'm Into Wednesday - Travel Edition #2

The weekend of November 2-4 marked our second travel excursion of the month. This time to scenic Phoenix. Or something like that.

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A little back story: Angelo grew up in Cleveland and one of his best friends still lives in Cincinnati. Needless to say, we don't get back much so we don't see him often. Andy owns a very successful dog training and boarding business and also competes in competition (more on that later). He helped us a lot as a sort of virtual trainer for the first few months that we had Arlo. When we found out he'd be just outside of Phoenix for a competition, we knew we had to go. And thus, this weekend adventure was born. 

We got to spend a few nights in an awesome Airbnb hanging out with Andy and his girlfriend, watched him do what he is best in the country at (literally), ate some delicious food, and had a nice weekend away with the pup.

 

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DO

The sport Andy competes in is called French Ring. Here's the gist: a handler and a dog are the competitors. They go through a whole series of little events and challenges and are scored by judges. These events include agility drills (jumping over a wooden wall or long jumping), obedience drills (following commands, heeling, walking on leash, walking with a muzzle, ignoring food, picking up a thrown object, etc.), and drills with a decoy. A decoy is a guy in a bite suit. Andy is that guy. In fact, he's the best in the US. I should mention these dogs are Belgian Malinois and are trained as personal protection dogs. They are smart, fast, athletic, and scary - yet are great family dogs as well. 

The decoy stuff was fascinating. The idea was all about role playing. The dog and handler are being judged on how well the dog listens to commands - like how quickly and accurately does he attack the decoy, but then let go and return to the handler when called. Or how well can he guard an object (like a basket) if the decoy approaches it. He gets points for how close he allows the decoy to come, when he leaves his guard to attack, when he goes back to guard, etc. 

Much less about viciousness and much more about intelligence and obedience. It truly is a game for these dogs, and they're really amazing at it. 

Poor Arlo looked like a chump. 

HEAR

Long car rides call for full blown podcast series. We were in the mood for something along the lines of Serial or S-Town and I had been recommended a podcast a few months ago from my friend Jeff. He recommended Dirty John

Dirty John is a true crime story from the LA Times. It follows an Orange County woman who meets her "dream man" online. Of course, John turns out to be someone completely different than she thought. 

It's fully of lies, deception, anger, emotion, sadness, and a little humor. And it's intense. Be prepared for that.

Also be prepared to want to scream at some of the main characters for not being able to see through this guy. It's infuriating. And straight up outta the OC. 

SEE

After a long drive, all I want is food. After a little Yelping, I found The Coronado in Phoenix, which was a sight for sore eyes and the perfect stop before meeting our friends at the Airbnb. 

An outdoor, dog friendly patio (yay!), super cheap happy hour prices, and delicious food made for a winning combination. We had a salad, a goat cheese and jalepeno jelly quesadilla, and grilled corn on the cob complete with cotija cheese and seasonings.

All the YUM!

SMELL

We were on our own for our second night dinner as well, and ironically ended up across the street from The Coronado. 

Green New American Eatery popped up on many "must eat" lists so we had to try it.

I'd compare it to SIPZ in North Park - tasty bowls filled with vegan protein, veggies, and rice, vegan buffalo wings (which were pretty damn good - the smell of buffalo sauce gets me every time), and plenty of healthy drink options. 

Between a Thai inspired peanut bowl, a ginger and garlic bowl, and the wings we were happy campers...with just enough space in the belly for the last item on the list...

TASTE

How to describe Nami? Vegan soft serve is the actual description, but it was so much more than that. Somewhere between soft serve and the texture of a Wendy's Frostie? With organic added mix ins? Yeah, that'll do.

I got the Haystack: vanilla soft serve with homemade marshmallow creme, chocolate sauce, and pretzel sticks. YUM.

Go hungry, they only serve one size and you will eat it all. 

Also, it's next door to Green. So that's convenient. 

Top 20 of 2017

In doing some reminiscing about my journey, I realized that I've been a part of the health and wellness universe in a professional fashion since 2005. 12 years of working as a personal trainer, physical therapist, running coach, and yoga instructor. In those 12 years I've been privileged to have been introduced to countless numbers of wellness brands, companies, individuals, and products. Some have been passing trends. Others don't quite live up to the hype. But a few are everything you want them to be, and much more. 

I want to use my platform to be able to share what I've found that I absolutely love. The brands, companies, products, and people that are doing something special, something different, and something extraordinary.

The Top 20 of 2017 was born from this desire. 

Between December 1st and December 20th I'll be profiling each brand, product, and the people behind it on Instagram. Sharing my story of how I came to find the brand and why I love them so much. Not all brands and companies are directly health related, but hey, happiness is part of health as well. Many of these companies have been incredibly generous to participate in giveaways with products and experiences so you can enjoy them too. And no, none of these companies has paid me to be on this list. I reached out to all of them to express my gratitude for what they do.

This blog serves as a round up. A place to find all of the information you could want in one spot. And a sneak peak into which brands you can be snagging sweet rewards from!

Enjoy!

FOOD AND NUTRITION

Wild Friends FoodsDo you love nut butters? Do you love stories of young people following their dreams and building successful businesses from their dorm rooms? If so, than you'll love Wild Friends Foods.

Nuun HydrationIf you're like me, you grew up drinking sugary sports drinks that shall not be named here. Why? Because that's all we knew/had. Well, there's something better. Plant based, all natural, much lower in sugar, and cleaner overall. That's nuun. And that's just a part of why I love it.

RXBARProtein bars that aren't filled with lab grown ingredients are incredibly hard to come by. So when RXBAR first showed up in my life, with it's ingredients clearly labeled on the wrapper, I was stoked - and skeptical. We know protein bars that taste good are even harder to find. Well, they nailed it on both fronts. 

Four Sigmatic - Everyone hears the ads on podcasts and most of the time we tune them out. When I heard about mysterious "mushroom coffee" on Tim Ferriss' podcast, I couldn't get it out of my head. I love coffee and I'm super into other mushroom based supplements...what happens if you put them together? Magic, it turns out. 

101 Cider House - If you're a local San Diegan you know we have a plethora of breweries, but finding good cider is a whole different story. Most cider is sugar laden and ultra sweet. Not 101 Cider House. With buzzword ingredients like activated charcoal and spirulina, this is a totally different experience. 

BoochcraftA local brand that figured out how to take kombucha and make it boozy? That is enough to get me interested. Add in amazing flavors and great people and I'm sold. 

Dark Horse Coffee Roasters - Coffee sure has come a long way. From the days of Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks to a micro roaster on every corner. DHCR is consistently the best - the secret? Great coffee AND even better employees (the vegan donuts don't hurt either). 

Chosen Foods - When a friend goes to work for a new company, ends up loving her job, AND the company makes the best avocado oil on the planet, you take note. 

Beaming Cafe - I'm a firm believer in routine. And part of my routine calls for Friday morning breakfast porridge bowls from Beaming and morning meditation at the beach. A routine that makes me feel so damn good. 

Muir Energy Gel - We've all taken a Gu on a race course. We've all experienced the gut rot that comes along with it. What if you could take a gel, made of real foods, that would give you the energy without the digestive issues? You can. And it's made right here in La Jolla. 

BODY CARE

Schmidt's Naturals - It's no secret, I sweat. A lot. It's one of my favorite parts of working out. And I've heard over and over how dangerous traditional deodorant and antiperspirant can be for you, but can something natural actually work? Yes, turns out it can. 

Saje Wellness - Essential oils can get a bad rap. Many of them are sold through multilevel marketing businesses and use cheap source products, which makes them both shady and unappealing. Not Saje. This Canadian brand has been doing their natural wellness thing for more years than most, and it shows. 

Defense Soap - Wait? So a soap product made to keep wrestlers and martial arts guys from getting nasty things off of sweaty mats can actually be really great for your skin (and for clearing acne) too? This one is perhaps my favorite find. 

CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES

lululemon athletica - I won't bore you. I LOVE lululemon. The people, the philosophy, the collective, and yes, the clothes. My life would not be the same without them. And I don't mean that superficially. It's true. 

Knockaround - One can never have too many pairs of rad shades. And when those shades are made by equally rad dudes, locally, and for an affordable price, that's even better. 

Milestone Running - We might as well call this my second home. This local running store is so much more. It's home to a community of smart, connected, hilarious, friendly, and special people (and one special dog). Cheers to many more years creating with these crazy folks. 

Ciele Athletics - Introduced to me by some ultra running friends, this small hat startup has nailed the game. Incredible performance, even better looks, and (because they're made in Canada) the friendliest faces ever. 

Stance - When your socks are the coolest part of your outfit, you know the brand is doing something right. From partnering with huge names to collaborating with small groups, Stance has made their debut into the run world a stylish and successful one.

STUDIOS

Spirit Yoga Studio - Fun fact: Spirit was the very first yoga studio that I regularly attended upon moving to San Diego. When they first opened their doors it was all donation based and it was evident that the community surrounding the space made it special. While lots has changed in the years since then, the community feeling has not. And that keeps bringing me back, as both a student and a teacher. 

F45 San Diego Downtown - What? Paid fitness has made the list? Yup. When the paid fitness studio elicits the results like this one has, it deserves a spot. I have F45 to thank for my muscles - and for giving me a space to exercise them once again.