Why I’m Not (Completely) Crazy for Running a Marathon

3 1/2 years ago, I crossed the finish line of the Portland Marathon and promised myself I’d never do something so stupid ever again. I would tell everyone I knew the same thing…at which point they would roll their eyes and sarcastically say, “Sure, whatever you say, Nicole.” Seriously though, never again.

And until 3 months ago, I was sticking pretty hard to that tune. I’m a half-marathoner. It’s a much more reasonable distance, and you can actually race it. And, feel perfectly fine the next day. But somehow, a friend persuaded me to train for another marathon, and to my surprise, she didn’t have to twist my arm very hard for agreement. I think it’s because deep down, I have been bitten by the marathon bug like so many other runners before me, and I wanted to try it again.


While the race still sticks in my mind as probably the most painful form of exercise I can ever remember doing (and I weirdly find pleasure in running long distances, speedy track workouts, and heated yoga classes), I think the most intriguing part of the marathon isn’t the race itself, but the training that goes into it.

Training to run 26.2 miles requires a tremendous amount of self-discipline. It’s (at least) a 4-month commitment to a running plan, with scheduled short and long runs, speed workouts, hills, and rest days each week, all slowly building up for the big race. After all of the hard work, the marathon race is a reflection of that dedication. For the goal-setters among us, the marathon reveals the ultimate grit asked of a person.

Speaking of grit, saying that you’re a marathoner will put you among a special class of people. Though more and more people are running marathons each year, it is by no means an achievement to scoff at. In fact, most people have a degree of admiration or respect for anyone that can put themselves through this unique brand of torture.

But it’s not just for the bragging rights, or the cool t-shirt that we runners put ourselves through this (though sometimes I joke it is). Everyone has their own reasons for running the marathon – health/fitness, time, another check off the bucket list, etc.; but ultimately, it’s about testing our limits. Whether it’s your first marathon or a twenty-first, it will challenge you mentally and physically, bring you to face the depths of your being.

And if you can train and race a marathon, what can’t you accomplish?

8 Things to Beat the Wintertime Blues

For many of us, February is a long, dreary month. Before Christmas, winter is a majestic season, with the crisp, cold air giving a refreshing cleanse to the earth; however, this side of the holidays, winter becomes an irksome cold that seems never-ending. Snow and slush becomes cumbersome to drive and walk in, and it’s just so unreasonably cold, preventing you from going out and doing things!

Many people get into a slump this time of year, myself included. But looking forward to the spring doesn’t make it come any faster. Here are some ways to beat the Wintertime Blues:

1. Try a new healthy eating regimen. Meal plan at the beginning of each week to incorporate healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables. Though it’s enticing to eat carb-loaded junk food this time of year, it will only leave you feeling sluggish. Look for healthy, easy, quick recipes online, and utilize your slow cooker!



2. Spice up your exercise routine. Try a new group exercising class, or for those on a budget, buy a new workout DVD. If you belong to a gym, try out new machine or go for a swim. Change will get you excited about exercising again.

3. Dance like a fool. That’s right. Blast your favorite tunes and start moving. It will instantly boost your mood! Spectators not allowed.

dance fool


4. Organize your space and time. Laziness begets laziness, and vice versa…so start turning those tables and you will automatically get re-energized! Start by cleaning your house or apartment. Organize your receipts. Create a system of cleaning/organizing that works for you, and stick to it! Use a planner to schedule what you need to do and when. Make sure to include your exercise and personal time in your schedule.

5. Let yourself self-indulge a little. Recharge by treating yourself to a hair trim (or cut if you’re ambitious), brow wax, a couple hours soaking up the scene and browsing your local B&N…whatever makes you feel good about yourself and won’t break the bank!



6. Do something for someone else. Cook a meal for a friend. Babysit a family member’s kids for free. Give someone advice, or help them with a project. Most importantly, get over yourself.

7. Read a kids’ novel…or a few. There are some really great stories out there, and it doesn’t have to remind you of your college lit class to enjoy reading them! I recently read Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth, which was engaging and I learned about a different culture and era – even if it was written for middle schoolers. I highly recommend it! Also a good way to relax without rotting your brain with TV as you spend more time indoors.

8. Let your creative juices flow. Creating something to be proud of will lift your mood and get you excited about pursuing your hobbies. Write lyrics to a song (a.k.a. a poem), make a vision board, learn you to crochet a blanket…the possibilities are endless!



10 Best Books & Blogs for Job Seekers

Sometimes the job search can make you feel like a needle in a haystack. There are so many people out there competing for the same positions you are, and it’s hard to know how to stand out. When you’re looking for direction and strategy, it’s often helpful to go to the experts to evaluate if you can use some of their pointers and adapt their advice for your own use. Here are the 10 best books and blogs/websites I’ve found to be most helpful for job seekers:

1. I Got My Dream Job and So Can You, by Pete Leibman

I was so impressed with his insight after I read it, that I emailed him immediately after finishing it to let him know how much I loved it. He replied to my email the next day, blowing me away even more! Great read with lots of useful advice.

2. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

This is the classic book on human relations skills. A must-read for everyone, everywhere, every career, because of it’s useful application of how to communicate better. There’s a reason why this is still a hot seller and still relevant over 50 years later!

3. 48 Days to the Work You Love, by Dan Miller

This view had a very unique twist on the job hunt – it looked at the whole person, and finding fulfillment in what you do, not just paying the bills (though that’s important too!) A very uplifting read, so if you’ve been struggling with pessimism, be sure to pick this one up!

4. Job Searching with Social Media for Dummies, by Josh Waldman

Great tips for using your current media outlets to connect and aide your job search. Because that’s where the employers are looking!

5. I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Career Girl Should Know, by Kate White

I couldn’t put this book down! Kate White, former Editor-in-Chief of Cosmo Magazine, shares her career experiences and motivation for professional development. Though this book doesn’t stick exclusively to the job hunt process, it’s very motivational and will get you thinking about your career path, not just the next job offer.


Blogs & Websites:
1. Classy Career Girl – Anna Runyan shares great tips for developing a job search strategy. She has posts and webinars on resumes, cover letters, networking, etc. She also has some great interviews with writers and successful professionals that are worth checking into.

2. Levo League – Tons of articles with insightful advice about careers, skills, lifestyle, fashion, etc. Also, they have articles about successful professional women that motivate and inspire.

3. The Undercover Recruiter – Brought to us by our friends in the UK, the Undercover Recruiter has a great collection of articles about career management, the job search, interviewing, personal branding (my favorite), resume tips, and salary.

4. The Daily Muse – Ok, like everyone else on this list, they also have an outstanding ensemble of articles about anything you can dream of involving careers and the job search. I especially their new feature of Muse University, which allows you to pick a topic that you’re interested in learning more about, and take a “class” on it, and you will get a daily email for 5 consecutive days with a recommended article and homework assignment to help you learn that skill. Don’t worry, you’re not graded, it’s for your own personal development! Topics include Kick Start Your Job Search, Becoming a Networking Master, and Ace Any Job Interview.

5. Life After College – this blog talks about exactly what it suggests – life after college, and figuring out how to function in the real world, in regards to Life, Career, Money, Goals and Relationships. If you feel like you’re a fish out of water after your undergrad years, this blog will comfort you that you aren’t alone – and give you useful advice along the way!

Mascara Lash-off

Last month I went to Sephora to restock a skincare product, and was pleasantly surprised to get an additional December birthday gift at the register – Benefit’s They’re Real! Mascara, which I’ve been meaning to try out for a while! This called for a Mascara Lash-off, so I decided to face this mascara off with Covergirl’s new Bombshell Volume Mascara.


First, the benchmark: without mascara


Benefit They’re Real Mascara



What It Claims to Do:  lengthens, curls, volumizes, lifts & separates. Our jet black, long-wearing formula won’t smudge or dry out. A specially designed brush reveals lashes you never knew you had!
 saw dramatic length & volume
90% saw base-to-tip curl
94% saw visible lift
100% saw long-wearing results

Actual Results: I think this mascara delivered for all that it claims! I saw an increase in length and volume and curl. I especially like the domed-tip, which helped get to fan out the usually hard-to-reach corner lashes to create an even more voluminous effect!

Length/Volume: Excellent. I saw an increase in both length and volume.

Clumpiness: I applied 2 coats, which seamed to do just the trick. However, a minute later I applied a third layer just to see the effect, and found that it created a spikey, clumpy effect on the lashes. So just stick to 2 coats of mascara!

Excess Product on Eyelid: Usually mascaras that create a lot of volume leave a bit of excess product behind, but surprisingly, this mascara didn’t! You can use this mascara without any eyeliner, if so desired.

Overall rating: 4/5. I love this mascara and the effect it produces, and would definitely buy again. The only thing that would hold me back is the price tag – $23 for the high-end mascara. Nonetheless, a great mascara!

Covergirl Bombshell Volume Mascara



What It Claims to Do: The two-step Bombshell Boost System combines extreme volume with an intensifying top coat for big, sexy bombshell lashes. Step One: Apply the extreme volume basecoat. Step Two: Finish with the intensifying top coat.

Actual Results: Wow, I was pleasantly surprised how much I loved this mascara! The first coat separates the lashes nicely and adds volume without any clumpiness, while the second coat intensifies the look. I applied 2 coats each of Step 1 and Step 2.

Length/Volume: Both were excellent!

Clumpiness: None to speak of.

Excess Product on Eyelid: A little amount, I would suggest to use this with eyeliner. With the big, bold lashes created, the eyeliner will go along nicely.

Other Notes: I really liked the softness of the formulas when applied with the two brushes. It didn’t produce spikiness like the They’re Real did when applying additional coats of mascara.

Overall rating: 4.5/5. I love this mascara! It has everything that I look for in mascaras, with length, volume, intensity, no clumpiness, and soft application. Definitely a winner! However, this one is also a little more expensive than your typical drugstore mascara at $14.99.


The Verdict: I have to say that I love both of these mascaras and would definitely buy either of them again! The higher price tags on both of them are definitely worth the splurge every once in a while! However, today I’ll have to choose the Covergirl Bombshell Volume Mascara for the winning big, luscious bombshell lashes that it creates.

Book Review: In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez

I hate finishing a good book.

After becoming attached to the characters, seemingly at their side with the struggles they endure and the triumphs that they win, it’s sad to see them go. An end to a good book is like saying goodbye to a friend, with the hope of meeting one day again.


Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies was one such book, and it resonated even deeper because, though this is a novel, the characters did indeed exist. The story of four sisters living in the Dominican Republic during the brutal dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo transports us to the era and enables to visualize what this regime was like. Patria, Dede, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabel each narrate a section of the story which helps us to become equally attached and identify with their circumstances and actions. The girls face various struggles due to their once-idolized leader throughout their childhood and youth, and in adulthood, led by third sister, Minerva, the sisters begin to participate in an underground political movement fighting to stop the dictatorship. Trujillo gets wind of the work of the sisters (known in the underground code as “The Butterflies” or “Las Mariposas”) and plots to have them removed. Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa were assassinated by a group of Trujillo’s cronies on a dark mountain road in 1960. After this, the Mirabel sisters became icons of freedom and women’s rights in the Dominican Republic and in the world.

Julia Alvarez used her creative license to construct historical events into an engaging novel in memory of The Butterflies. Though these sisters are very much intertwined with the identity of a nation, she was able to express their personages in an accessible, and approachable form. We are often faced with textbook interpretations of history, which make important figures like statues in a museum instead of once thinking, breathing individuals, capable of making choices and walking uncharted paths. We see these people as stagnant, unchanging. However, as we know with ourselves, our family members and our friends, this is not how humans operate. We are constantly evolving, and a life-changing decision we made today did not define who we were six months ago. The person we will be ten years from now will have experienced more joy and pain than the person we were ten years ago, and each day will define us a little more than yesterday. This is the beauty of historical fiction, and particularly this novel. As we journey with each sister, we come to understand her and the choices she makes. We see Patria, Dede, Minerva and Maria Teresa grow, and walk along side them. We begin to truly understand the environment and the people, not just what a textbook tells us is so.

The real-Mirabel sisters came to be known as heroines and martyrs in the Dominican Republic. Their death in 1960 inspired many to publicly denounce the cruel regime which signalled the beginning of the end of Trujillo’s reign. Through this novel, these women have become close to my heart for their small daily acts of bravery and standing up for justice that led to the ultimate act of bravery: the loss of their lives for what they believed in. Their story inspires me, and I hope it will you, to fiercely uphold what is just and right in our world, despite the resistance of others. Thank you, Las Mariposas, for your bravery and commitment to freedom – may we not forget your sacrifice.

Mascara Lash-Off

Let’s be honest, don’t we all crave long, luxurious lashes? They have never gone out of style, and I’m pretty confident stating that they never will. Countless mascaras claim to lengthen, but which ones really work? Today’s lash-off will look at two lengthening mascaras, Covergirl’s Lashblast Length and L’Oreal’s Double Extend.

Benchmark: Without mascara


COVERGIRL lashblastlength Mascara



What It Claims to Do: Tapered brush and mylon lengthening formula combination work together to lengthen lashes and is flake and smudge resistant.

Actual Results: Was I even wearing mascara is this photo?

Length/Volume: I don’t know if it added any length, because I could hardly see my lashes! Definitely no volume.

Clumpiness: None.

Excess Product on Eyelid: Hardly any product above the lashline, so could be applied without any eyeliner.

Other Notes: If I wanted to go for a no-makeup look, I might use this type of mascara. But then again, why even bother if I wanted to go sans makeup?

Overall rating: 1/5. I was pretty disappointed with how this turned out.

L’Oreal Paris Double Extend


Step 1: Fortifying Extender


Step 2: Color Magnifier


What It Claims to Do: Creates long, lush lashes up to 60% longer. The Fortifying Extender is a conditioning, micro-fiber base coat, formulated with Ceramide-R, that visibly lengthens and fortifies lashes. The Color Magnifier takes lash length further as it coats with rich color that won’t clump or smudge.

Actual Results: The two-step conditioner and color are a nice combination! Both go on so smoothly on the lashes, and there is little to no clumpiness!

Length/Volume: I’m not sure I buy into a product “lengthening” your lashes upon application, but the mascara went on nicely and I liked the lash separation. After these photos, I actually added a coat of volumizing mascara just because I prefer a little extra volume, but I think for an initial coat or if you don’t like to wear a lot of mascara, this is a great choice.

Clumpiness: None to speak of. I think the “fortifying extender” is a nice prep and the “color magnifier” brushes on very smoothly, like silk on your eyelashes!

Excess Product on Eyelid: Hardly any product above the lashline, so could be applied without any eyeliner.

Other Notes: I really liked this mascara, especially the primer/color combo. As I stated before, I like the va-va-voom that volume brings, but I found that pairing this mascara (first/second coat) with Maybelline’s The Colossal mascara (last coat) is a home run combination!

Overall rating: 3/5. I definitely use this on a day to day basis. Marks off only for the lack of intense volume that I prefer.



The Verdict: As you might guess, the winner for lengthening mascara this round of the Lash-Off is L’Oreal’s Double Extend. Sorry, it’s hard to tell in the above photo, but trust me, in person, the Double Extend is significantly better. I’ve been wearing it a lot this past week, and it’s a nice mascara that I’d definitely recommend to anyone looking for a nice lengthening mascara. Enjoy!