Homemade Peanut Butter and Jelly Pop Tarts

Before I go any further with this post, I've got to admit that I'm really not much of a baker. Baking tends to be a little bit too precise for me...however, the more I delve into testing out some baking projects, the more I enjoy the experimentation! I'd made these pop tarts several times at my old place only to bake them to share with my friends pre-marathon and somehow ruin an entire batch...I had to go through a bit of trial and error to figure out where I'd gone wrong, but I finally figured it out...which is why I've decided to blog it here. This way I'll always be able to revert back to this recipe and no more fails will happen!! 

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Like many of the things I do, my pop tart making has a little bit of a backstory:

I was a pretty big pop tart eater back in my elementary school days. My mom would pack them in my school lunches nearly every single day in lieu of a sandwich because I wouldn’t eat the bread…instead I’d eat the deli meat and leave the bread somewhere to get moldy and gross. Anyone who knows me now probably can’t even imagine a version of Katie who wouldn’t eat bread, but that was the situation back then. In order to be sure that I ate more than just a couple of slices of ham, my mom sent me to school with a pop tart zipped up into a plastic sandwich baggie as though it were the most normal thing in the world.

This was the 90s though...I think lots of questionable food choices were made by parents of elementary school-aged kids back then. Kids today eat so much more healthy...I don't remember any kids ever bringing vegetables to school back then! Kids today eat so healthy that I think a parent sending a kid to school with a pop tart for lunch might possibly raise some kind of red flags...I can't say for sure though since I don't have kids to feed pop tarts to. Just a cat, and cats do NOT enjoy pop tarts.

I still have no idea how I became a full grown adult with the types of things I ate back then…a pop tart as my main lunch entree, a bag of lays and a little Debbie cake as dessert…totally nutritious, right? This probably helps explain some of my eating habits today though. At least, I'd like to think it's not ALL my fault I still eat like a little kid about 60 percent of the time...

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Although I don’t eat pop tarts every day as an adult, I do have a soft spot for them and I try to incorporate them into my pre-workout snack routine when appropriate and necessary…which is usually before a long run or a PR attempt! I ate two pop tarts before beginning my most recent marathon and I feel like they helped fuel me to PR by 44 minutes! 

I started making my homemade pop tarts a couple years ago when I hosted a calligraphy class and brunch for a group of my clients but brought them back this year to share with gym friends who were working towards PRs. I used to make a strawberry flavor and a nutella flavor, but I think these peanut butter and jelly flavored are the best iteration so far! My mom’s favorite sandwich is peanut butter and jelly and since she’s the reason I’m such a pop tart loving freak, it’s kind of perfect that these are slowly becoming the signature flavor of Katie Nesbitt’s Pop Tarts 😉

Peanut butter and jelly pop tarts

INGREDIENTS

Pop tarts

  • 1 package refrigerated pie crusts (I prefer to use Pillsbury brand!)
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup fruit jam or preserves (be sure to use a thick one with chunks of fruit for best results!)
  • 1 egg, beaten

Bring your pie crust dough to room temperature and lay one sheet on top of the other. Using a pizza cutter, cut a large square out of the dough layers. Cut individual pop tarts out of the large square.

Add peanut butter and jam fillings to the center of one piece of the pop tart’s dough. Use a silicone brush to brush the beaten egg along the edges of the other side of the pop tart to help the pieces stick together. Seal the edges together and then use a fork to crimp the edges. With the tines of your fork, prick a few holes in the top of the pop tart to vent. Bake on a parchment paper lined baking sheet for 8-10 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack once finished.

For icing:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp milk of your choice
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla 
  • 1-2 drops of food coloring 

Mix the tiniest amount of milk possible into your powdered sugar to create a thick glaze. I’ve actually used a teeny bit of french vanilla coconut milk creamer when I was out of milk and it turned out really well! Feel free to use whatever type of milk you like. Add a drop or two of your favorite food coloring and whisk til the glaze is thick and smooth. Use a spatula to add to the tops of your pop tarts once they’ve cooled. 

Shamrock Marathon Recap

Although I’ve been slacking on the blog front, I’d really like to start writing more again…and recapping my second (holy crap, have I really done two??) marathon kind of seems like a really good place to start, doesn't it?

If I were to go back to the very beginning of the story of my second marathon, it would probably start with my infamous back injury (my first “sports” injury) that happened at the end of last summer. I'd never experienced anything like that before and was really struggling with feeling betrayed by my body. At that time, my friend Leah was dealing with a big injury too and we were both feeling kind of hopeless and stressed out about it in the way that only super type A fitness freaks would be.

One day she turned to me and said "I'm going to start training for the Shamrock marathon...you should do it too!". Maybe she said it because she knew I liked running, or because I'd already done a marathon and might be pretty likely to be persuaded to do another, but once she asked, she basically set this entire thing into motion for me. 

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At first, I was pretty hesitant about signing up and starting to train for a marathon because I was still hoping to heal enough quickly enough to still powerlift in the spring. I planned to train for the half marathon I'd committed to with my friend Leslie, then do my Spartan Beast, then convert to hardcore weight training. I obviously couldn’t train for both a full marathon and a powerlifting meet and I really liked the idea of powerlifting because...well, I’d never done it before (and I also kind of just really like to be known as super strong for my size…haha). I went back and forth a lot in mind over what the right choice was and even debated on whether or not deciding to run the marathon was the "easy way out" because it was a safer, less risky choice with my back being so sketchy.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and for sure I can tell you that looking back at that time period of my life, deciding to run this marathon was 100 percent the right choice for me. It was kind of amazing to get a chance to repeat this thing I’d done four years ago! I thought that training the first time was a life-changing experience, but I'd be lying if I told you I didn't learn a ton of things about myself the second time too. 

I officially started my training towards the beginning of December.  I remember very clearly opening the first marathon training email Jim sent out and seeing the estimated time he based my plan on was 4:15. I thought “Well, he obviously does not know how slow I am and how slow I finished the last one because there’s no way in hell that’s happening…no freaking way”. I kind of figured I could get maybe 4:30 or even potentially 4:20...if I was really pushing myself. It's funny to remember that because somewhere along the way (probably around the time I realized the pace group choices were either 4:30 or 4:15) I got my mind set on 4:15. 

I will admit that I partly wanted this number to make my PR even bigger than it would have been if I’d finished at 4:20 or 4:30. And that’s not to say that a 25-35 minute PR is anything to laugh at…but I wanted my time difference to be huge. I felt in my heart that this number should represent not only all of my hard work throughout this season of training or all of the sweat and tears logged through weight training in the gym the past 2-3 years, but also some of the personal transformations I've undergone since I ran my first marathon at 26 years old. I tend to be the kind of person who always feels like I have something that I need to prove to myself…whether that’s within my business, related to fitness, or whatever and  4:15 felt like it would be proving something pretty darn big. I genuinely did not believe that a small PR would be enough to make me happy with myself. 

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I started my morning on race day sleep deprived, delirious, and ever so slightly too caffeinated. After hastily eating my pop tarts and chugging my Monster, I had a final last minute freak out about whether or not I could (or should) try to run with the pace group for my secret PR. And then...I was out there doing it! Finally! It was chilly the first couple of miles, but before I knew it I was peeling off my $5 sweatshirt and ditching my hand warmers. I stuck with the 4:15 group for 2-3 miles before my left foot started randomly falling asleep. I slowed down a little bit and tried not to stress out about it…my foot didn’t actually hurt (even though it felt super weird) and my running app still said I was actually ahead of the pace I knew I would need to maintain to finish in 4:15. 

I felt my best from miles 12-15. This was when I felt comfortable speeding up a little bit and my foot numbness started to subside. Right when I was passing the halfway point I went to take a photo of the 13-mile marker flag and almost ran right by my friends without noticing them! Seeing my people there gave me a boost of energy, which would come in handy a little bit down the road (pun intended). 

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My fastest mile was mile 19! I had a 7:56 split that mile, which is entirely TOO fast, (especially when you consider my fastest all out 1 mile max is 7:05…ha) but I had seen the 4:00 pace group on the other side of the course heading in the opposite direction so I knew that 4:15 wasn’t too terribly far ahead. I just knew if I could catch them I could probably slow down a little bit and then be good to go. I didn’t actually find them though until right around mile 21, which was my second fastest mile at 8:44. I asked a random man if he’d seen them pass and he told me “Yeah, there’s a big group of them up ahead not too far”. I could see the orange shirts the pace group leaders were wearing in the distance and I knew that I could catch them. 

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After popping a fresh piece of gum and changing my playlist over to “Last few miles” list, I managed to catch them! Finally seeing that 4:15 sign was so freaking gratifying. I thought "FUCK YEAH" and got so happy because at that point, I knew unless I completely stopped running, I would get that PR no matter what. All I'd have to do is keep pace with them for the next several miles and I'd be good to go. I ended up sticking with the pack for a half mile or so before realizing I still felt pretty decent and trekking forward on my own. In my mind, I felt like this was a smart choice since even if I had to slow down a little it would be no big deal because I’d still be a little ahead of them. Unfortunately for me, the hardest part of the race had yet to even happen yet!! 

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Heading out on the long stretch of boardwalk on the way OUT wasn’t terrible at all because the wind was blowing the opposite way. Yeah, it was kind of boring, but it was totally do-able and my legs didn’t feel like giant logs yet. The way BACK was a completely different story…fighting the wind after stressing my legs out by running those two too fast splits was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done physically and it took a ton of mental toughness to keep from stopping to walk (or just dipping out into a beachside bar or something).

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Running towards the finish line was so surreal. It was the same stretch of boardwalk I’d run down four years ago to finish my first marathon, but it couldn’t have felt more different. I felt my emotions start to bubble up as I got closer and closer and right as I started to sprint (or, the closest thing to a sprint I could manage at the time) I just completely lost my shit.

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I cried for every bit of the hard work I’d put in, for every minute of my training. I cried because I knew that I’d at the very least beat 4:15, my top secret, fingers crossed, can’t even say it out loud because I don’t really know if I can do it goal.  I cried because it meant so much to me that so many of the people that I love were there screaming and crying too. I cried because I had put so much of my heart into every step I'd run since the start of training.

I cried because I freaking did it. And I totally proved to myself that (in this and also many other ways) 30-year-old Katie is better and stronger than 26-year-old Katie. 

This marathon was an unforgettable experience for me...From Jim's training plan that totally changed the game for me and has improved my fitness on so many levels...

To spending a ton of time running weekly with my friend Leslie who would join me for the last hour of my long runs, to my people cheering me on and bringing champagne to the finish line...

To getting to know myself a little better through all the time spent running slowly...

And especially to the feeling I got from completely destroying my secret goal, I am so freaking glad I did this. <3

Thank you to Leah for convincing me to sign up to do this, to my friends for listening to me talk about my training for weeks on end, to Crystal for being my wife/caddy/go to person for race weekend, to Leslie for keeping me company (and keeping me sane) on so many of the long runs, to Cortney and Liz for being there to be my cheerleaders on race day, to Lee and CJ for making me laugh...but the biggest thanks goes to Jim, whose training is what ultimately got me that huge PR! I've been running off and on for the past four years since my first marathon and since I started his carefully crafted plan, I've definitely seen more improvements in my fitness and speed than I ever did before! I'm so grateful to him for being patient and also never making (too much) fun of me for the little kid things I eat before I run. My favorite thing about him is that he's the kind of person who is genuinely passionate about the things that he does, including training, because that's the kind of person I always work to be myself. 

Also, thank you to anyone who took the time to read this...phew. It was almost a marathon in itself getting to the end of this post, right??

Kidding...kind of ;)

 

Everything I Ate in Hawaii

Oh, how I love Hawaii! Out of all of the places I've ever been, it's been the one place that's captured my heart in a way that nowhere else has been able to. I've been three times now and it just doesn't get old! While I love the natural beauty of the islands, all of the fun, active things to do outdoors, and of course the beaches, near the top of the list of the things I love about Hawaii is the food! 

Surprised? Not so much? Obviously, if you are here on this blog, you can tell I really love food. But the thing I like about Hawaii's food is that it's fun and kind of eclectic. I mean, where else can you find so many dishes that include SPAM, of all things? Another thing that I have always enjoyed about Hawaii's food scene is how readily available all kinds of different Asian cuisines are, especially on Oahu. It's hard to find good Japanese curry and/or ramen here in Virginia (at least, where I live), so I love getting my fill of these foods when I'm in Hawaii (or California).

Here's a little recap of what I ate on this last trip. If you're interested in some pretty landscape photos, be sure to check out my photography blog, here!

1. Curry chicken plate lunch at Fatboy's with mac salad. Totally a fatty thing to do to eat macaroni salad and rice, but it's also a total Hawaiian thing to do. And it's surprisingly good. Or maybe that's just me, because I love mayonnaise??
2. Turkey sub from Timmy T's Gourmet Grinders in Kailua. Basically just like Jimmy John's, but they use Boar's Head meats and a bread that tastes more like a Hawaiian roll and less like the french bread JJ's uses. LOVE these sandwiches.
3. Some kind of really sweet drink from a rooftop Mexican place called Buho Cantina. 
4. Chip and dip trio from my favorite...the Mai Tai bar at the Royal Hawaiian. The best place to see that quintessential Hawaiian sunset and have a couple strong ass cocktails that cost $15 each...ha.

1. There gets to be a point when I'm traveling and feeling the effects of eating to excess and decide I probably could use a few grams of protein in order to not turn into a sack of potatoes...this, or Premiere Protein from Costco are my go-tos.
2. Whole Foods hot bar breakfast!! If you're traveling to Hawaii from the East Coast, you eat a lot more breakfast because you wake up every morning between 4-5AM since the time is 5-6 hours behind what you're used to. Whole Foods never lets me down. Interestingly enough, I feel like the Kailua WF has a specific smell that always reminds me of that exact location. (Okay, maybe that wasn't interesting at all...ha. MOVING ON...)
3.  Hapuia (coconut) custard filled malasada from Leonard's Malasada Mobile!!! Malasadas are Portuguese donuts that don't have holes. You can get them filled or not, but I prefer filling, either hapuia or chocolate. They're made to order, so they are hot, fluffy, and delicious.
4. Mussel pokè. Poke is basically raw fish. I'd never had mussel pokè before, but after trying a sample at Foodland (yes, grocery stores have great pokè...) I was sold. I love mussels. I love pokè. Mussel poke = match made in heaven. Perfect beach day food. And healthy. 

1. & 2. Truffle oil and egg pizza and a fancy titos and soda from Prima in Kailua. Truffle oil on pizza is so heavenly.
3. & 4. My Thanksgiving meal on the beach, courtesy of Whole Foods (the meal) and 7/11 (the wine). I was surprised to find that although I really enjoyed eating my stuffing and potatoes on the beach, I actually really missed spending the day with family! I'm all about a beach day, but it felt really weird being so far removed from everyone.

1. Happy hour at Laylow Waikiki.
2. Pork belly ramen from a stand inside the ala moana mall. They've got a legit Asian food court with a ton of stands and $1 beers. Manichi Ramen is probably the best I've ever had...the broth was so smooth and silky and the noodles were perfectly chewy with the right amount of flavor! 
3. Beef curry bowl at a stand at The Street. The Street is a cool little food court type place with several fun little eateries. I always feel like I can't get good Japanese curry at home, so I was thrilled to enjoy some in Waikiki. 
4. Whole Foods again for the win...can't not have pecan pie at some point Thanksgiving weekend, right? This pie was so amazing...perfect amount of sweetness without being too much. 

1&2. More ramen! Lucky Belly is a really fun Ramen place in Chinatown. It's really more of an Asian fusion place than a straight up authentic spot, but it's still really REALLY good. Lucky Belly is the place where I got one of my best friends hooked on ramen in 2016 if that tells you how good it is. They've also got a lot of amazing cocktails.
3. This is one of those things I feel like people would judge me for loving, but I am obsessed with chips and dip. I really wanted french onion, but couldn't find it, so I settled for ranch.
4. This cute little cafe near my friend's house called ChadLou's has made to order ice cream sandwiches!! You choose your cookies and ice cream and they put it together. I had macadamia nut ice cream between my cookies. Such a wonderful treat while I answered emails and caught up on some work. 

1. The appetizer from Lucky Belly was this amazing (albeit, $16) gyoza!! Perfection and actually better than some gyoza I had eaten at a stand in the Ala Moana Center.
2. Banana, walnut, Nutella waffle from ChadLou's. I mean, NUTELLA WAFFLE.
3. Bacon, egg, avocado, cheese, ham sandwich from Ono's in Kailua. Get it?? B.E.A.C.H?? I am very passionate about breakfast sandwiches. This one was decent, but I can't say I'm up at night dreaming about it or anything...
4. Ice cream from Cream N' Roll. This was a really neat concept...they rolled out your choice of ice cream and any add ins and shaped them into, well, rolls. In general though, it just tasted like ice cream to me...which I can take or leave right now. I'm more of a savory winter eater. 

1. "Fish and Chips" with cod and sweet potato fries. Sadly, I was disappointed by this. In theory it sounded amazing...but it really didn't turn out to be that great.
2. Shrimp and pineapple stir fry...in a pineapple! I'm still wanting to make my own Hawaiian themed stir fry. Mine would have bits of spam and pineapple and peas and green onions...maybe shrimp too!
3 & 4 Brunch at Koko Head Cafe! This is one of my must-visit places on Oahu! A Top Chef finalist is the chef/owner here and everything I've tried on the menu is amazing! All of the brunch items (which they serve all the time) are Asian fusion inspired, like the chicken and egg skillet I had. I love the rice on the bottom of the skillet because it gets crispy!! Also, gotta have a rum punch in Hawaii, ;)

1. Shrimp quesadilla with that famous North Shore shrimp! 
2. Spam and egg musubi. Spam musubis are one of my favorite things about Hawaii...I LOVE Spam despite the fact that it's in all actuality pretty gross. If you've never had a musubi and you like Spam, be prepared to have a life changing experience when you finally get to enjoy one. 
3. Rum cocktail with locally made rum in an animal mug. When I ordered my first drink, I asked specifically for this white porcelain cat mug, which I immediately fell in love with. I loved it so much I asked if I could pay for it and take it with me. Bad news? Bartender said no. Good news? Found one online for $12. My second drink was made for me in this fun toucan tumbler! 
4. Last day wings at this little sports bar next to the grocery store in Kailua. If you're a football fan in Hawaii, weekday games are always on in the afternoon! Which is great for Happy Hour specials, but not so great for people who work traditional hours...

This trip happened at kind of a weird time for me, but I still managed to enjoy myself throughout all of the eating and cocktails and sightseeing. I'm planning a post with suggestions for anyone headed to Oahu, so stay tuned for that!!! 

Richmond Half Marathon Recap

It's taken me a really really long time to write about this, but even though it's super belated, I couldn't let such an amazing experience go undocumented. A couple months ago, after what started out as a casual conversation in the gym one day after class, my friend Leslie and I set out to start training for the Richmond Half Marathon. Though I initally signed up for the race looking for to improve upon my last time running Richmond, I ended up getting not just that PR I was hoping for, but also the beginning of one of the best friendships I've ever had, as well as learning a lot of life lessons along the way. 

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I started running when I was 25 (and by running, I mean glorified speed walking/jogging). I casually decided to run both a half and full marathon within a few months of lacing up my very first pair of running shoes because, well, I'm just that kind of person. I need/crave having a specific goal to work towards and I also tend to believe that if there's something out there you want to do, you should live by Nike's motto and just do it already. I trained for those races completely alone. I didn't really choose it that way...I just didn't know anyone else who liked to run and lived in close enough proximity to train with me. In fact, at the time, I didn't even like to run. But I didn't know what else to try and do to get "in shape" and running seemed pretty simple...I figured I could handle putting one foot in front of the other. 

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Doing all of that running and all of that solo training changed my life for the better. I always did my best thinking in the solitude of training, with nothing to distract me besides my music. No Snapchat, no Instagram. No TV or chores or emails or whatever else to distract me from my own thoughts. As much I learned from doing it all on my own, after training with my friend, Leslie for 3 months in preparation for our half (her first race EVER), I realized that there's also something to be said for training with a friend too. 

We kind of haphazardly put together a plan for training which culminated in a final ten miler a couple weeks before the race. We ran together for the majority of training. Both of us were sick for probably 70 percent of the duration of the time leading up to the race (I still swear we had whooping cough) and I was healing from a back injury for the most of it. Despite feeling like we were hobbling around much of the time we trained, we still managed to finish the race at 2:05 (a PR for me and a great start for Leslie!) which makes me really proud of us. Especially knowing all that we went through to get to that point!

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I love Richmond because I like that the majority of the training is in much MUCH more mild weather than it is training for Spring races. The irony here is that this race ended up being THE coldest race I've ever run. When we made our way to the starting line it was only TWENTY SIX DEGREES. Both of us were nervous, me especially because I waited til the last minute to eat my giant Rice Krispy treat and then had to shove it down my gullet in two minutes before we took off. I was trying to make sure that we didn't have to stand outside in the cold too long, which ended up backfiring when we ended up rolling up right before our wave started!! 

I had wanted to race with the 2:00 pace group since 2:00 was my ultimate goal...but we quickly lost them after I had to stop to tie my shoe. It wasn't worth it to speed up early on to try to catch them, so we just worked on running our own race after that. 

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By mile ten or so, I could tell Leslie was getting tired. Personally, I was starting to feel a lot of adrenaline, especially since I knew the course and could tell how close we were to the finish. At this point, I became a crazy lady, just yelling things at her to motivate her (and probably pissing off the other people who were running near us) but I knew that we were too close to slow down! 

When we finally rounded the last corner and flew down that hill (that hill is literally the best thing about running Richmond...you get to FLY down the finish line because it's all downhill) I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I never cried after either of my prior two half marathons or even the marathon I ran (though I might have been too exhausted and/or dehydrated to physically create tears at that point...), which is shocking, because I'm a very "heart on my sleeve" type of person, but I got so emotional when we finished. I think it was mostly because I knew that we had really been so much farther than just 13.1 miles.

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With all of the things I had been going through during the Fall, I needed Leslie there to run next to me, to listen, to love me unconditionally and to laugh at my terrible jokes. And she needed me to be the bossy little person telling her that we were doing this and to remind her there was alcohol waiting at the end of the finish line on race day. I teared up at the end because I was proud of her, proud of myself, and all in all glad to have been on such a transformative journey with someone who went from friend to a best friend in the space of the time that we trained together.

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All mushiness aside, this is one of my favorite races. This is the one I'd do again and again just because I really enjoy the course, the people, the atmosphere, and that freaking amazing feeling running down that hill to the finish line. This race is oddly enough the only time I've ever cramped while running, but I'm very used to running on extremely flat terrain, so that's probably why. I'm in the middle of training for the Shamrock Full, but I'm really seriously considering signing up for the full Richmond...it's just that good of a race!! 

If you've made it to the end of this, thank you for listening to my story! I really believe that running is one of the most theraputic things I've ever done for myself. And although at times I have a love/hate relationship with it, I know that I'll run the rest of my life, as long as I'm able. Running changed my life by teaching me I could do things I never thought were possible and I am just so glad that I was able to bring that amazing feeling into my friend's life too:)

Fayetteville Spartan Super Recap

This past weekend marked my THIRD Spartan Race and my very first Spartan Super. It also ended up being the one year anniversary of my very first Spartan...the 2016 Wintergreen Sprint! You can read more about that first race here, if you're interested.

It feels like it's taken me forever to finally get my first Super under my belt! After running the Charlotte Sprint earlier this year (read that recap here) I was ready to sign up for the May Super in Arrington, VA...so much so that I even turned down work for that particular date! Unfortunately, they ended up moving that one to June 3rd, a date that I'd booked almost a year ago. This meant that I had to search for another race I could make work with my schedule. There actually aren't that many Super dates as it is, so this past weekend was the first I could make work!

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The funny thing about this race is that literally TWO DAYS after I registered, I hurt my back doing heavy high rep deadlifts. At the time I hurt myself, I had no idea how serious the injury really was, OR that I'd need almost two months to recover! I'd planned to be SO beyond ready for this race, but life had other ideas. I was only able to run 8 miles once, about 5 weeks before the race. I'd hoped to have had a 10 miler under my belt before then, but it just never happened. I never got to refresh my skills rope climbing or spear throwing, AND the heaviest thing I had picked up in weeks was Lucy, my 12 pound orange tabby cat.

It was a game time decision to run at Fayetteville, and I owe the fact that I was able to get out there at all, to my trainer, Geoff, who basically forced me to stay out of the gym for almost two weeks. Taking time off was the LAST thing I wanted to do, but it ended up being the best thing. Sticking to resting and going to physical therapy helped me progress more in two weeks than I had in nearly five weeks prior. I finally decided that no matter what, I was going to race in Fayetteville, mostly because I knew if I didn't, that would mean I'd be out of the running for my trifecta this year and I really REALLY want that Trifecta!

I couldn't have asked for a better experience for my Super, especially all things considered! I thought I might have had to run the race alone (My friend Cheryl also hurt her back and was considering sitting this one out) but I ended up having two incredible athletes to push me along the course. The weather was perfect, the course was flat and felt like running on the trail near my house. My former nemesis, the rope climb, was toward the beginning of the race. I flew up the rope and hit the bell with satisfaction. 

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The worst part of the race was actually taking C4 (which I NEVER take) and feeling really amazing until about mile 5 or so, when I started crashing really hard and feeling like I was going to puke. That's a really great reminder to NEVER try something new on race day. Stick to what you know already works well for you!

I also cramped more on this course than I have in the past, despite making sure a fair bit of sodium was in my diet leading up to the race. Even a mustard packet given to me by a fellow racer didn't help. I'll have to experiment and figure this out before my Beast in December...cramps in my right calf and glute muscles meant I had to walk around the 8-foot wall. 

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Though Fayetteville was nice and flat, the dunk wall and mud were some of the most disgusting I've ever been through. I've been sick now for a couple days and I wouldn't doubt that water is at least partially to blame! 

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Besides making it up the rope a second time, the biggest wins of the day for me were actually being able to do the atlas carry (I hadn't picked up anything heavier than a cat in weeks!) AND conquering Olympus. I've done Olympus once or twice in training, but I failed this at Charlotte when I was in good shape and completely healthy. It was even at the beginning of the race at Charlotte! I had it in my mind I wasn't even going to attempt it this time because of my back pain, but I tried it anyway and miraculously made it across! That felt SO good. I often wonder why it is that I put myself and my poor body through races like this...that feeling is the reason I do it. Being able to surprise myself, to prove that I can get better, that I can get stronger....that's what makes it worth the bruises, the mud, the black toe nails and the literal blood, sweat, and tears. 

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I will always remember all of the Spartans I've done very fondly, but when I look back on this one, I know I'll feel a strong sense of pride because although I wasn't really ready AND I was fairly certain I wasn't going to be able to do most of the things on the course, I really came through in the clutch and surprised myself. I proved to myself that I am capable of so much more than I thought I was, and that's a feeling I won't ever forget!!! 

Now on to the Florida Beast!! Can't wait to finish out my Trifecta :)

Peonies and a few odds and ends

Since this time of year is one of the craziest times of year for wedding photographers (we lovingly refer to this as "busy season"), it's all I can do to keep up these days! It's also getting warmer outside, so things are heating up in our day to day lives as well. (Pun intended).

We're currently working on moving out of the 1910s house we were renting (which means painting, landscaping work, and a bunch of other odds and ends), as well as preparing for several weddings we're involved in next month...including one where John is actually a groomsman! It's his first time being a groomsman, which is funny to me because I've been dying to be a bridesmaid and he, of course, gets to be in a bridal party before me! We've also joined an adult kickball league for the first time and I'm learning how to do sports. Most of what I can do is run...but they haven't come up with a position yet that allows for someone else to kick the ball and me just do the running...ha!!

Since this weekend is Mother's Day, I went to Trader Joe's today for flowers for my mom (and myself, because hey, cat moms matter, too!) and instead of buying a pre-made bouquet, I decided to make us both arrangements instead. 

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Although I'm kind of already over the gray weather forecasted for the next three days, the rain and gloom was actually perfect to put on Alabama Shakes and get to work creating with these pretty flowers with a cup of sugar cookie coffee.

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I love how the arrangements turned out! I love playing with flowers...it was a fun little escape from my work for the afternoon...now it's time to head back to my editing cave!

Charlotte Spartan Sprint Recap

Oh hello! I feel like it was just the beginning of April, wasn’t it? How did we already get to the first day of May?? It seems like I was literally just prepping for my second Spartan Race the first weekend of last month and now here I am several weeks later and I’m just now blogging about it! I’m a total slacker lately when it comes to this blog, but I’ve got a TON of stuff to share in the upcoming days and weeks! 

I think anybody who’s known me a really long time (beyond a couple years or so…) would think it’s somewhat hilarious and/or ridiculous that I’ve actually run TWO Spartan races now. WHO AM I EVEN?? Last year when I turned 29, I decided to set up a list of challenges and activities to work on completing before my big 3-0 birthday this July and one of those things was to run an obstacle course race! I started OCR training through a local group called ROC Training and it ended up being perfect timing. My friend and I ran our first Spartan, the Wintergreen Sprint, back in the Fall and set our sights on a Trifecta in 2017 by signing up for Charlotte Sprint!

  Thank you to my friend Tori for the pics! She ran her own preggo Spartan running around taking photos of us!!

Thank you to my friend Tori for the pics! She ran her own preggo Spartan running around taking photos of us!!

Since this was my second race and I didn’t have to work until late the night before, I felt so much more at ease going into the race! Not only did I know what I was getting myself into this time, I’d also heard from multiple Spartan veterans that the Wintergreen Race we’d run (I’m using the term “run” loosely here…) is one of the hardest Sprints out there. Starting Saturday morning I was excited to see how far the last few months of training would take me and what I could improve upon…especially the rope, which was my nemesis at the last race. You can read all about that here in my Wintergreen recap, if you’re interested!

One thing I’ll always remember about this race is how freaking COLD it was at the start. A lot of that, I’m sure has to do with the time of year we raced (beginning of April) and the time of day our heat was (8:00-8:30 competitive). I’d definitely take the cold weather though, over racing later in the day because the second thing I’ll always remember about this race was the MUD. 

Oh, the mud. It smelled like straight up cow poops and had the texture of what I’d imagine quicksand to feel like. I’m usually pretty good at barbed wire crawls because I’m petite, which makes me lower to the ground naturally, but I can’t imagine there was even one person who didn’t struggle through that mud! It almost would have been worth it (and faster!) to do the 30 burpees and skip slogging through that crap (literally…haha).

The mud made all of the obstacles more difficult…especially the rope. 

The rope. THAT STUPID FREAKING ROPE. Last year, when I started ROC training I think I laughed (or more likely rolled my eyes or grimaced, which I have a tendency to do) when they started trying to teach us how to climb a rope. It’s not like I’m not strong, but upper body strength has never been a strong suit of mine and I’d always imagined a rope climb would be straight up upper body work. It turns out that it’s mostly technique and since we spent a lot of time before the Wintergreen Spartan learning that technique and I felt like I stood a pretty decent chance at getting it at the race.

Well, if you've read my Wintergreen recap post, and/or ever talked to me about that race experience in real life, you’ll know that it was a pretty epic fail at my first race. I basically got 3/4 of the way up the rope and lost all of my energy and did a horrible, awkward slide down the rope before bursting into tears. I tasted my hot, salty tears during the angriest, most defeated thirty burpees of all time. That moment was my biggest regret from that race and I think it was because I felt I really did have the capability to climb it. Some obstacles I don’t feel bummed about failing because I know that right now they are so far out of my reach due to my size, genetics, strength levels, etc that even if I literally gave 100 percent towards completing it, I still wouldn’t get it. The rope wasn’t one of those things, so it made me so mad at myself knowing that I failed and ultimately let myself and everybody who was cheering for me down. I vowed to make it up the rope at my next Spartan and dedicated as much time as I could practicing rope climbs and working on my grip strength. 

The morning of the race, we could see the rope area as we parked and headed to the start. “Oh that doesn’t look too bad!” I said out loud. It was almost like I jinxed myself. It technically wasn’t all that high (though, when you’re afraid of heights, pretty much anything is high) but it was destined to be the most slippery thing on earth after hundreds of people attempted to climb after crawling through literally SHIN DEEP poop mud. 

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After slogging through the poop mud, I hustled to the hoist and the rope. The hoist was a piece of cake…again, because I think they have us do heavier hoists in training, I was well prepared! After the hoist, I was antsy to get over to the rope. Cheryl noticed and commented on how ready I was. “I’m just trying to get it over with!” I said. I think most of us were just DONE after the mud, so I know I wasn’t alone in feeling that. I couldn’t relax or concentrate on anything else until I’d gone up that rope. The closer I got to it finally being time to attempt the climb, I started to feel more and more anxious. I felt it in the pit of my stomach. What if I didn’t do it? Especially after I made such a big deal about making it happen this time?? 

The first thing I did when I approached the rope climb was look for one that had dry-ness starting lower than the others. The ropes were ALL muddy and slick towards the bottom, but towards the tops they were dryer where you could tell that people had quit. I grabbed the rope in my hands and went to hook it around my foot and that’s when I realized this was going to be NOTHING like climbing the rope in training. Nothing really could have prepared me to go up a rope so slippery I couldn’t really keep it between my feet very well OR hold onto it well enough to grip it with my hands. I could feel my heart sink and my tear ducts filling up after I jumped up on the rope only to have it slip through my fingers and my (unfortunately bare) legs.

I slid down off of that rope, hot tears in my eyes, already feeling like a failure, full on toddler style meltdown about to erupt, when my friend Leah stood in front of me and told me “NO CRYING!!”. She said it with such sternness and fierceness that I immediately sniffled and took a deep breath before collecting myself as best as I could to go at it again. I couldn’t walk away with that being how it ended…I just couldn’t. I knew in that moment that the only way I’d be giving up this time would be if I physically fell off of the rope because my arms and grip gave out. 

After a couple more deep breaths, I jumped back up and took it kind of slow. I realized that if I could just somehow get past the slick, wet mud stained part of the rope, I’d be home free (I mean, as home free as you can actually be when it comes to a rope climb…). If I could just get past the slick, slimy length of the rope, I’d be able to inch up the rest of the way just like I’d done a hundred times before in practice.

Thinking back to that moment, my memories of making it up feel like a blur. Like it happened in an instant, but also like it took a lifetime. Near the spot where I quit on myself at Wintergreen, I felt exhaustion creeping in. It hurt, I was tired, wet, and I was so hungry! My arms were burning and I just wanted it to be over. That’s the moment when I realized that I couldn’t give up. I couldn’t let go. I couldn’t let my mind take over when my body knew what it needed to do. That’s a moment I will go back to again and again in my mind when I need that little bit of extra to push through something difficult…in that moment I knew that the only difference between me last time and the me that I wanted to be…the one succeeding and ringing the bell, was to keep going despite how hard it was. 

And isn’t that such a good metaphor for life? What’s the thing that separates successful people from those who aren’t? What’s the thing that separates athletes from people who aren’t? It’s that grit that says keep going even though everything in you wants to stop. I say all the time “If Katie Nesbitt can do it, anybody can” because I know that I’m not special. None of us are. We all have the capability to give our best or the capability to quit. If exercise hating, junk food junkie, bookworm, couch potato, Katie Nesbitt can climb ropes and deadlift twice what she weighs, I feel that anything is possible…(but seriously).

Anyway! Back to my story: I kept pulling away at the rope while my coaches and my friends (and a few strangers) yelled encouragement and other random things at me. Suddenly I heard people yelling at me to hit the bell. I was so confused for a second because I didn’t think I was close enough to it, but I held on for dear life and swung my arm out and hit the bell. In that moment I felt fear (because I was literally swinging from the top of a rope and afraid of falling off) and SO much relief. 

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After sliding awkwardly to the bottom, my eyes welled up with tears. This time becauseI realized I had climbed the freaking rope! I had conquered an obstacle that had frustrated me to no end at my first race and I’d done something I NEVER would have thought I’d be able to do in my lifetime.

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That moment, that feeling of being able to prove to myself that I could do it was something I will never ever forget. Wintergreen was a great experience, but Charlotte was all about redemption for me. I am so glad that I got to go and do this, AND that I got to do it with friends! Throughout the race I bitched and complained a lot, repeatedly asking “WHY DO WE PAY MONEY TO PUT OURSELVES THROUGH THIS SHIT?!?” but I know why it is we do it. Because it’s cathartic to be able to push yourself, to prove what you can do, to redeem yourself from past failures, and because the camaraderie you share with your teammates is something so special. 

Running a marathon a few years back was just a yolo thing I did to say that I’d done it that ended up wearing me out, but running Spartans has been an intentional thing I’ve done that’s given me confidence, strength, a tribe of amazing athletes that I get to call friends. I can’t wait to sign up for my next race!

Photos & Meal Planning

One of the weird things I do that maybe not everyone else does (or maybe they do??) is photographing most of my meals. Not all of the photos are nice or are in good lighting. In fact, most of them are just quick snapshots of whatever I'm about to dig into before I chow down on it. 

I started doing this for two reasons.

1. I really, REALLY love food. I like to remember great meals that I've had! Taking a photo of a meal is like taking a photo of any other good memory to me. 

2. I like to look back through my food photos for ideas on what to eat when I'm in a rut food-wise or just can't decide what to eat. We all have those nights when we're trying to decide what to eat because nothing sounds good and this helps me pick from things I've had before. It really does help when I'm meal planning or just thinking about what I should have for dinner!

Meals pictured (left to right) 

Row 1:
1. Coconut Thai Shrimp Bowls, 2. a Blue Apron salmon and cous cous dish, 3. a kid's meal from Cafe Rio, 4. Chicken pita from Zoe's Kitchen

Row 2:
1. Skinnytaste Butternut Squash Lasgana rolls, 2. Skinnytaste Crockpot Sesame Chicken, 3. Leftover chicken teriyaki and beef bulgogi and salad, 4. Ground turkey, roasted green beans and butternut squash, 

Row 3:
1. Lean Cuisine Vermont Cheddar Mac & Cheese and open faced tuna sandwich 2. Rice, broccoli, chicken, and a cara cara orange, 3. Homemade chili, 4. Bagel thins, baby bel cheese, spinach, and smoked salmon

Row 4: 
1. Peanut Butter Pie from the Roosevelt, 2. Skinnytaste Crockpot maple drumsticks and cauliflower gratin from Trader Joe's, 3. Angel hair pasta with olive oil and sauteed shrimp 4. Baked Chicken, rice, and sriracha ranch. 

Must Haves for Long Haul Flights

We are a little over a week from heading out to HAWAII (!!!) and I couldn't be more excited. I've already started working on my packing list (which is actually a spreadsheet...and includes things like who I want to buy souvenirs for and what sights I want to see). Is that really weird and type A?? I can't help it, I guess I was just born this way, because that's how I roll. 

Since Hawaii is a little bit of a trek (we've got a four hour flight and then a seven hour flight to get there), I thought as I was packing up some of my long trip essentials, I'd also share them here!  

1 & 2. Earplugs and a sleep mask - These long haul flights are the perfect opportunity to get a little bit of sleep if you can sleep on a plane. I personally can only sleep on a plane if I'm exhausted beyond belief. And even then a sleep mask works wonders, especially when people near you decide they really want to keep their window shades open and the sun is right in your eyeballs. Earplugs are a bonus. 

PRO TIP: I usually pick a window seat on the side I sleep on. I sleep mostly on my left side, so I usually pick the left side of the plane. Something about doing that helps to trick my body into feeling like it's time to sleep.

3. Comfortable headphones - If you don't want to use earplugs, comfortable headphones are so important. If you're wearing your headphones for more than an hour or two at a time, comfort is really important! I recently got these Beats headphones, that I love! I'm a big earbud person, but a lot of people also love to wear the over ear headphones too. 

4. Spotify Premium - I started using Spotify Premium when I was marathon training and needed access to hours of music that I could also access offline without purchasing 70 or 80 dollars of music from Apple. I love it for long haul flights because you can make a playlist of as many songs as you'd like and then you can make it available offline, meaning you won't have to use wifi or data to listen. This is awesome for flying or any other time when you might want to conserve data or battery life! 

5. Mophie Charging Case for iPhone - Speaking of conserving battery life, I don't travel without a Mophie Charging case for my iPhone! Previously I had the external universal mophie charger, which I'd use with my regular phone charger, but I've found the charging case to be the most convenient and easy to use when you're traveling. You don't need to carry anything extra, the charger is on your phone! You just flip a little switch when you're low and it starts charging right then and there. Such a lifesaver for a flight on a plane that doesn't have power! I have this one. I thought it would be super bulky and I would hate it, but once you get used to it, it's just fine! 

6. A zippered pouch - I think the key to staying organized when traveling is lots of compartments. There's not much I hate more than looking for something I need and having to dig through my entire cavernous carry on bag. I keep a smaller bag of some kind in my carry on with all of my in flight essentials (gum, dramamine, headphones, advil, lip balm, nyquil, etc) so that I can grab that and stick it in the seat back in front of me so I'm not digging through my carry on every time I need something. 

7. Compression socks - I'm very pro wearing socks when I fly. If it's a shorter flight, I might wear sandals, but for long flights, I always wear socks, specifically compression socks. Long flights are always FREEZING, so socks are very important. Compression socks are great because in addition to keeping your feet warm, they also help keep your feet and legs from swelling due to cabin pressure and lower the chance you might get a blood clot. 

8. Zabees Immune Support and Sleep powder I discovered this stuff on a trip earlier this Fall and fell in love with it! When you're traveling, your immune system can always benefit from a little bit of a boost and the melatonin and other things in the powder also help me relax enough to drift off to sleep. I highly recommend this stuff before a red eye flight! 

My last "must have" is a must have for ANY flight. It's TSA PreCheck. I signed up earlier this year and was mad I hadn't done it earlier, because it makes the process of getting through the airport SO MUCH SMOOTHER. You pay a one time fee and go to your local office to have them verify your identity and take your fingerprints and you get a known traveler ID that allows you to bypass the long TSA lines and go straight to the PreCheck line instead. I love it because I can keep my shoes and jacket on and I don't have to remove my laptop or liquids! I travel alone a lot and really prefer people not know I have an expensive laptop in my possession. 

A Girl's "Weekend" in Charleston, PT 1

A little over a week ago I returned from my very first trip to Charleston. It seems like almost everybody is going to Charleston these days and so instead of feeling all of the FOMO feels, I decided to make the trek myself to see what I might be missing out on. My friend Sarah (who is also a wedding photographer!) and I road-tripped together from Virginia. Surprisingly, the drive isn’t terrible and it’s well worth it, in my opinion, because it turns out, if your favorite things in life are food and cocktails, Charleston is the place for you!

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I have quite a bit to share from our short trip (I really love to pack it all in on a trip!) so I'll be sharing two separate Charleston posts. I only took my little film camera (a Canon AE-1, if you're interested) and my iPhone, so most of my photos are just phone photos! Don't judge too harshly, guys. 

  35mm Kodak Portra 400 rated at 200

35mm Kodak Portra 400 rated at 200

Sarah and I live a couple hours apart, so we met in Richmond and drove into Charleston Sunday afternoon. After a few re-routes thanks to destruction from Hurricane Matthew, we finally made it to town in time for a late dinner!After consulting Yelp and comparing menus of a few places with good ratings, we chose to head over to Voodoo Tiki Bar in search of Cheeseburger egg rolls. 

I have to say, after the experience we had at Voodoo Tiki Bar, I will be a little skeptical of Yelp in the future. I was hoping for a chill bar where people go to have a bite and some cocktails. It ended up being a full on club atmosphere (we’re talking black light halloween party here, guys). It was a pretty interesting way to start the trip, considering I was basically wearing pajamas (leggings and a big comfy sweater) and had no makeup on…not even moisturizer! 

We had drinks and shared both Cheeseburger egg rolls and Shrimp po boy sliders. Both were pretty good, especially for a club-y type place. I don’t think there are many places like this where the food is actually really good! I imagine if you'd had a few drinks, it would taste even better! 

I also noted that they had several types of tequilas that seemed really cool (like a strawberry jalapeño infused variety) and I’m already regretting not having the pecan pie bourbon. All in all, I do think I would return if I was in the area for like, a bachelorette party, a birthday, or something else with a big group. I will definitely try to dress more appropriately next time, as well…HAHA.

The next morning we set out for the day to explore and eat. And eat and explore. We had no real set agenda, just mainly stuffing our faces as much as possible. Which is pretty much par for the course when you are on vacation with me. That and day-drinking. 

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Our first stop was Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit. It’s such a cute place, but it’s really tiny. So tiny that we actually passed it twice walking King Street before we made it in! We decided to share three biscuits (our main strategy here was to share smaller portions so we could eat as many things as possible since we were only in town for a couple days). We sampled ham, cinnamon, and buttermilk with pimento cheese. 

The biscuits were so good! I highly recommend trying a few different things because there were things I liked about each of them. The cinnamon had a sweetness to it that complimented the saltiness of the ham biscuit. And the pimento cheese? Well, it’s pimento cheese so you know it was amazing!

We also shared a homemade oreo cookie. I'm an oreo connoisseur, if you weren't aware, so I felt this was a necessary snack to try. The cookie was chocolate-y and shortbread-y and amazing! I could eat a whole sleeve of them if they were smaller, for sure. 

After browsing some of the shops on King Street, we took a break for a donut at Glazed Donuts. I chose a raspberry frosted donut that was delicious! Probably one of the best I’ve ever had! The raspberry icing really tasted of raspberry. I could tell that they used real berries to make it. The donut itself was a perfect yeast donut. Light, airy, and soft! I would rate this as an A+ donut. 

Following our donut tour, we went to a distillery tour at Charleston Distilling Co. Living in Virginia, there are a ton of wineries and breweries around and I’ve been on my fair share of tours of them. I’ve yet to go to a distillery though, so this was a neat experience! We learned about how they make rye whiskey, vodka, and gin (did you know gin is actually FLAVORED VODKA???) and sampled a few. 

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Next, we set out in search of the infamous Rainbow Row that’s pinterest and Instagram famous. I loved the pastel colored houses and the charming architecture in this area! The bright paint colors are just so happy I wish that they would catch on at home so at least when we’re in the depressing throes of winter we’d have something cheerful to look at! 

We also stopped by the pineapple fountain at Waterfront park, since it’s in walking distance from Rainbow Row. 

  35mm Kodak Portra 400 rated at 200

35mm Kodak Portra 400 rated at 200

After walking around quite a bit, we stopped at Pearlz for a bite to eat and a glass of champagne. We shared some oysters on the half shell, pork rinds, and corn fritters. The oysters were good, but I was underwhelmed by the corn fritters and pork rinds. The corn fritters were pretty bland and the pork rinds tasted like they came from a bag. 

It could be I'm just spoiled by the amazing homemade pork rinds back in Richmond at the Roosevelt. I think Richmond is gonna be the next Charleston, guys. At least foodie wise!

A lot of people highly recommend Folly Beach, so we drove out to check it out around sunset. There were SO MANY SHELLS. And rocks! I’m imagining that’s because hurricane Matthew rolled through only a week prior. I can’t wait to see my film photos from Folly beach because it was just so pretty! 

  35mm Kodak Portra 400 rated at 200

35mm Kodak Portra 400 rated at 200

Instead of a full on dinner, we decided to go to two bars and have some snacks and drinks. Our first stop for the evening was the Gin Joint. The most unique thing about the Gin Joint is that you can order a drink based on two adjectives listed in their menu and the bartender will create something special for you! I chose fizzy and floral. I’d like to go back at some point and choose another combination…maybe tart and unusual? Or herbal and fruit?

We split a ricotta stuffed meatball and pretzels and then headed to the rooftop bar at Vendue hotel, where we met a couple who had just gotten married and were on their honeymoon and were treated to two rounds of salted pretzel shots (who knew that was a thing??) by the bartender. Totally made for a fun evening and a neat story to remember when looking back on the trip. We meant to eat something else, but being that it was late Monday night and lots of things were closed early, I ended my evening with Doritos from the hotel vending machine. (Typical Katie Nesbitt).

If you’re wondering where we stayed, we had a room at the Hampton Inn in Mount Pleasant, just over the bridge. I’m a Hilton Honors member (what, what!) and I earn points every time I stay, which during wedding season is pretty frequently. I had enough points for us to stay for three nights for FREE in Mount Pleasant, so it worked out really well for us to make that our home base. It wasn’t too far away that it felt like a hassle to go “home” and it was a lot cheaper than staying downtown. 

That concludes the first part of our trip! When I return with part two of our adventure, I'll be recapping the trip to Boone Hall Plantation (where the Notebook was filmed!) and several more food pit stops. We hit THIRTEEN places from Sunday night to Wednesday morning, so you’ll definitely want to stick around to hear about Tuesday/Wednesday!