flying through the air with the greatest of ease.

I don’t talk much about working out on this blog. For a lot of different reasons. But mostly because my workouts are boring these days. And I’m usually ok with that.

I tried it all–every kind of exercise and diet–in my 20s. I was always worried about calories and weight. And I tortured my soul (and my thyroid) restricting both. I yo-yoed between two or three pant sizes for ten years. And it wore me out.

When I blew out the candles on my 30th birthday, something happened.

I changed.

After two really rough years of unsuccessful fertility treatments, I decided it was time to be kinder to myself. To go a little easier on myself. On my heart–and my soul. 

I stopped all the crazy, hard work-outs. And even crazier, harder diets. 

I fell in love with yoga and barre because neither hurt my body.

And I read the book “It Starts with Food”–that Whole30 thing. This was a life-changer for me.

And that was that. 

I’m 35 now. I run a little. I yoga a little. I barre a little. I don’t own a scale. And I eat real food.

My heart and soul–and body–are happy and healthy. And I haven’t changed pant sizes for years.

But sometimes…

Sometimes I get bored and lazy with the same old exercise routine. Don’t we all? Sometimes we’re so busy (I hate that word) being a wife and a mom and really hard-worker at our desk-jobs that we lose a little bit of our spark. The spark inside our hearts and soul that gets extinguished by all. of. the. above. 

And for me–that’s usually when the universe starts whispering. 

Last week she whispered to me through an Instagram post of a woman flying through the air with the greatest of ease–on a silky trapeze.

I just reread that and it made me laugh out loud. But whatever. She did. 

I knew I needed to try something new and different to liven up my old exercise routine and bring back a little of that good, old Angie-spark. 

I signed up for an aerial fundamentals class last week at Defy Gravity CU. And it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

The instructor was kind and patient–and made us all feel welcome and comfortable. We warmed up and did a few strength and stretching exercises and then we got to work on the hoop.



And the trapeze.


I was so nervous. I think all of us in class were. Flying through the air on a hoop–or a trapeze or silks or anything–is a little out of this mom’s comfort zone. But all the other gals in the class were so encouraging of each other. It was amazing and uplifting. And refreshing. 

Defy Gravity is a pole fitness and aerial arts studio (located at 24 E Green Street, suite 11 on the north side of building) in Champaign that welcomes people of all shapes, sizes, genders and ages–no matter what your fitness level. Their classes are designed to help you not only gain strength, confidence and a positive body image–but to also interact with a diverse and supportive community that will cheer you on as you meet your goals and have loads of fun. All of their instructors are certified aerial fitness professionals with the knowledge to make your experience safe and energizing. 

Did you read that? Everybody is welcome. Word. Also refreshing. 

I got a great work-out and felt so cool flying around the air on a bunch of circus apparatus. 

And I only farted (loud) once. Whoops. The instructor assured me it happens all the time. Phew. Bahaha. 

And when I left the studio I felt that good, old Angie-spark I haven’t felt in awhile. Boom.

I’m going to keep going back. I like work-outs that don’t hurt and still make me sore the next day. Check and check. My abs are still tender almost a week later. And I like working out with gals and guys who share good hearts and souls–and that good, old spark.

Feeling bored with your work-outs? Defy Gravity CU is having a Black Friday sale today. They’re offering a one month pass for $80. Sign up. Tell them I sent you.

We can all fly through the air with the greatest of ease. Let’s all be daring young (wo)men on the flying trapeze.

A Father’s Day Gift Idea. With J Hilburn.

Father’s Day is two weeks from today. Need a gift idea? We have you covered.

Our pops has always been a sharp dresser. But last year he came home with some new shirts that took his sharp dressing game to a whole new level.

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He’d met with J Hilburn personal wardrobe stylist extraordinaire Sara Seed a few weeks prior–and she hooked him up. Look how handsome he looks in his J Hilburn shirt!

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Sara Seed just happens to be one of my favorite high school teachers–if you’re a townie I’m sure she was one of your favorites too. And now she’s a personal wardrobe stylist with J Hilburn. She meets her clients at their convenience (at no charge and with no obligation) to set up a unique measurement profile and help create clothing that is fit and styled exclusively for them.

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J Hilburn delivers quality custom clothing and personal styling services at a price that won’t break the bank. They offer exclusive Italian shirting and trouser fabrics, luxury performance knits and a top-shelf accessories line that marries the best in handmade designs and European quality. Each of their garments is crafted from fabrics that have been carefully selected from some of the finest mills in the world (more often than not, the mill is Italian).

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Their custom shirts are my favorite–they are beautiful and unique–and a perfect Father’s Day gift for our pops and yours. This shirt of Danny’s was cut on the bias with a split yoke on the back–so sharp, right? You can even have the shirts embroidered with anything you’d like–dad’s initials, kids’ initials or even I Love Dad.

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And would you look at all their fabric choices?! Something for everyone. Boom.

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I invited Sara over last weekend to show you how quick and easy it is to set up a unique measurement profile. Even with my two little “helpers” running around she was in and out of our house in less than 30 minutes. Check it.

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Why, yes–of course they are tying each other up with Sara’s measuring tapes.

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Along with her measuring tapes (she measures 16 different points)–Sara brings her big book of choices–all the fun stuff to customize your look.

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One more thing–Sara and J Hilburn can make a dress shirt (or any other garment or accessory for that matter) for dad AND mom–or anyone who loves beautiful, unique clothing that fits perfectly. Because–guy or gal–who doesn’t love a crisp dress shirt? So fly.

Here’s Sara’s website www.saraseed.jhilburn.com. Check her out. You can give her a call today–217-898-5495. Or shoot her an e-mail at sara.seed@jhilburnpartner.com. Tell her I sent you. And if you think her job sounds like fun–it does, right?–let her know that too. She’s always looking for new stylists to join her J Hilburn styling team.

Thanks for coming to play, Sara. Danny loves his new special shirts. And Happy (early) Father’s Day to all the papas (and the mamas who serve as both the mamas and papas) out there. XOXO.

ode to the minivan.

Full disclosure. I sell cars. I have since college. I work for Napleton’s Toyota of Urbana, formerly O’Brien Auto Park of Urbana. And they’re paying me to write this post. So read it. Share it. Click on and through the links. And if you’re in the market for a new vehicle (Toyota, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Kia, Mitsubishi, Mazda or anything pre-loved) give us a shout. We’d love to earn your business. You will help me convince my boss this kind of advertising works–the honest mom kind–and I’d love you forever for that.

Also full disclosure. I would have written this post anyway. Even if they weren’t paying me. Because I really really really love my Toyota Sienna Minivan. And I want to tell you allllll about it. 

. . .

I remember my girlfriend Carrie telling me once that she loved her minivan more than her husband.

It was before I had kids so I didn’t really *get* it. I thought maybe she’d (we’d) just had one too many glasses of wine. And we had. Or she was trying to flatter me–her favorite car salesperson. And she was.

But at that time she was a mom of two little baby girls–and she was 100% serious.

Five years and two kids later–I get it, Carrie. I feel you. Sorry Danny. Haha. I love my Swaggerwagon so hard.

. . .

I got pregnant with Dean when Johnny was just a few weeks old. I was lugging around a heavy infant seat and soon realized I’d be lugging around two heavy infant seats. I felt the need to make my life as easy as possible. So I traded in my SUV for the mother of all vehicles–literally. The minivan.

We bought our Toyota Sienna four years ago. And I love it just as much today as I did that first day we brought it home. Here are my top ten things I love about it–in no particular order.

1. Smart Key and Power Sliding Doors and Rear Lift Gate. Look ma, no hands (literally)! Unlock, lock and open the sliding doors and lift gate with the click of a button. So handy for a mom who has her hands full.

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2. It’s spacious. Mine fits eight passengers. Plenty of room for my good vibe tribe. Here’s a pic of us from a few years back–Danny, Uncle Nic, Nanny Carol, the boys and Grandpa Hat and me (in the way back). We ride around like this all the time. So. Much. Space.

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3. The back-up camera and parking assist. I can see what’s behind me. And my van beeps at me when I get too close to anything–like the side of the garage–which I hit twice with my old car that didn’t have this feature.

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4. Dual View Entertainment Center with ear phones. They can hear their show. I can hear my music. Win. Win.

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5. Sun Shades. Keeps the sun out of their eyes. So I don’t have to listen to them whine about it.

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6. Climate Control. Backseat passengers can control their own AC and heat. And the driver and front seat passenger can control their own too–perfect if one of you is cold blooded and the other is hot blooded. And now you’re singing that song.

7. Navigation with touch screen. Because one of us is always getting lost. And the other hates asking for directions. You can guess who is who.

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8. Safety Features (Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock Brake System, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist, Smart Stop Technology, Blind Spot Monitor, Front and Rear Parking Assist, Air Bags, Latch systems in four locations, including lower anchors and tethers on outboard secon- and third-row seats. Child Anchor Locks. Ummm…all that because of all that precious cargo. Enough said.

9. Eco Driving Indicator, MPG. Soooo, I may have a little bit of a lead foot. Or I did. Before I discovered this feature that lights up to tell me when I’m driving in a way that conserves gas and emissions. Now I drive super slow. Boom.

10. These hooks on the back of the way back seats. And the way these way back seats fold down. The hooks are great when I actually remember to bring my re-usable grocery bags to Schnuck’s–or when I don’t (they hold plastic bags too).

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Or if I clean out my closet and want to drive around for three months with three bags of clothes I need to donate to Goodwill. Please tell me you do that too. Whoops. And four bag chairs I drag around all week for Saturday morning TBall games).

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. . .

I could probably come up with 100 things I love about my minivan. Tons of cup holders, tons of nooks and crannies to hide snacks and hair bands, the hands-free Bluetooth phone, a CD player (yes, I still listen to CDs), satellite radio and USB port, how my husband looks driving it, etc.  But you get the gist.

And something else to love? Toyota is offering $1000 rebate or 0% for 60 months (to qualified buyers) this entire month of May. What’s better than free money? Nothing. Nothing is better than free money.

Thinking about a minivan? Come see us at Napleton’s Toyota of Urbana. Tell them I sent you. And get some Swagger(wagon) love in your life. You’ll thank me, I promise.

a little illinois marathon recap. and a little life recap.

Oh hey, Monday morning. Anyone else having their coffee from the big coffee cup today? You know the one. We all have it. Mine is big, chipped and stained–and takes the excessive microwave reheats like a champ. Praise it–that big coffee cup.

I’m not limping around too badly this morning. How are you all feeling? The Illinois Marathon weekend was a wet one, but a fun wet one! Right?! I seriously want to give a virtual high-five (and butt-slap) to every volunteer and all the emergency personnel out there on the course Friday night and Saturday. You all made it work for all us runners. You kept us going–so big thanks for that.

My Aunt Patty came from Kansas City to run the 10k with my parents, Danny and me. And we had a blast. I actually ran my best time–in the cold rain wearing a big poncho–go figure.

Here are some pics from the race weekend. Enjoy.

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^^^ just a little carbo-loading the night before the race. ^^^

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^^^ or a lot. a lot of carbo-loading the night before the race. ^^^

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^^^ me, pam, nanny carol and aunt pattoo ^^^

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^^^ looks like fun, right?! so proud of aunt pattoo! she killed it. ^^^

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^^^ took about two dozen pics like this. under my poncho while running and probably fiddle-farting with my playlist. boom, nailed it.^^^

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^^^ the worst pic ever. of the best sign ever (about prosecco tasting better after a 10k in the rain! yessss, ma’am). my girlfriend whitney nailed it. i love her so hard for cheering us on in the rain. ^^^

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^^^ post race. nailed it. ^^^

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^^^ and pancakes after. always pancakes after. ^^^

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^^^ and how sweet are these little sweet babies?! nanny pat and grandpa john kept them dry at home. ^^^

. . .

And I’ve slowed down the posts over here a bit–from three each week down to two. Between my mom job, my day job, my night job, my blog job and a crazy awesome (and crazy time-consuming) class I’m taking right now–I had to rein it in. So hang in here with me. I’ll ramp it up again this summer.

I’ll see you back here later this week with a tasty, healthy, easy dinner recipe. Happy Monday. XOXO.

the very best music playlist (for your illinois marathon race).

Hey hey! It’s Illinois Marathon week, Chambana!

Who’s tapering out there? We have our last long training run today–and it’s a beautiful day for it. Fingers crossed we get lucky with the weather next weekend. I’d love a sunny sky and very little wind Friday and Saturday. Please and thank you.

Still haven’t registered for a race? Good news! The Illinois Marathon re-opened registration until 11:59pm Monday evening. So sign up today or tomorrow! And use my coupon code to save $5 (coupon code: hatandhermarkers2016).

. . .

I think the music playlist is the most important part of my race day success–even more important than my jogging shoes and my jog bra. Ha.

Here’s my playlist for Saturday–my top 50 running songs–in random order (although I do always start with Air Force Ones and end with Dog Days are Over, it’s a tradition). Some oldies, some newies–all songs with a good beat to keep a good pace. And all songs I know by heart. I love to sing (or rap) along while I run. Try it. It makes the miles pass so much faster.

I usually only listen to about three minutes of each song before I skip to the next one–try that so you don’t get bored. And if I come across a song I ‘m really feeling–I’ll listen to it a few times on repeat before I skip to the next one. Whatever works, right? Right.

Go ahead add a few of these to your playlist. And we’ll see you at the finish line. Good luck!

Hat’s Illinois Marathon Playlist, 2016

  1. Air Force Ones (feat. Murphy Lee, Ali & Kyjuan) – Nelly
  2. Thunderstruck – AC/DC
  3. I’m Every Woman – Whitney Houston
  4. Wifey – Next
  5. Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) – Shakira
  6. She’s Not Just a Pretty Face – Shania Twain
  7. I’ll Be – Foxy Brown & Jay-Z
  8. Hook – Blues Traveler
  9. Dancing in the Dark – Bruce Springstein
  10. Get Me Home – Foxy Brown & Blackstreet
  11. America’s Sweetheart – Elle King
  12. Fast Car – Tracy Chapman
  13. 679 (feat. Monty) -Fetty Wap
  14. Changes – 2Pac & Talent
  15. Beast of Burden – The Rolling Stones
  16. Love Lockdown – Kanye West
  17. Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne
  18. Change Clothes- Jay Z
  19. Desperately Wanting – Better Than Ezra
  20. Move This – Technotronic & Ya Kid K
  21. Welcome to the Jungle – Guns N’ Roses
  22. Should’ve Been a Cowboy – Toby Keith
  23. Machineheard – Bush
  24. Wild Night – John Mellencamp
  25. Crazy Bitch – Buckcherry
  26. Stronger – Kanye West
  27. Mo Money Mo Problems (feat. Mase & Puff Daddy) – The Notorious B.I.G)
  28. Ants Marching – Dave Matthews Band
  29. I’m Like a Lawyer With the Way I’m Always Trying to Get You Off – Fall Out Boy
  30. I – Kendrick Lamar
  31. Whatever You Like – T.I.
  32. Suicide Blonde – INXS
  33. Me and My Girlfriend – Makaveli
  34. All About U – 2Pac, Nate Dogg & Snoop Dogg
  35. She Wolf – Shakira
  36. Gangsta Luv – Snoop Dog
  37. Ride Wit Me – Nelly
  38. Perfect Gentleman – Wyclef Jean
  39. Freedom – George Michael
  40. Morning After – Timbaland
  41. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) – Michael Jackson
  42. Knockout – Lil Wayne & Nicki Minaj
  43. Magic (feat. Rivers Cuomo) – B. o. B.
  44. Wanna Be a  Baller – Lil’ Troy
  45. Brian Wilson – Barenaked Ladies
  46. The Show Goes On – Lupe Fiasco
  47. Hit ‘Em Up – 2Pac
  48. Run This Town – Jay Z
  49. Life is a Highway – Rascall Flats
  50. Dog Days Are Over – Florence + The Machine

PS. They say personal playlists are a window to the soul. And I kindof agree. So now you *really* know me. Ha. Have any good songs to add to this list? Add them in the comments. XOXO.

a morning at aikman wildlife adventure

We loaded up the minivan bright and early this morning. Coffee and croissants from Art Mart–and two kids who couldn’t wait for our little Saturday morning adventure.

We drove south on I-57 to Arcola (exit 203)–and then another five miles west through the gentle, rolling hills of Amish country.

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We passed horse and buggy after horse and buggy–all the way to the former Rockome Gardens location.

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My childhood friend’s little sister Kelsey and her husband James Aikman just opened Aikman Wildlife Adventure in Arcola. The concept has been James’ dream for some time–and finally became a realty when the park opened earlier this month.

Aikman Wildlife Adventure is a 40-acre wildlife park and refuge for animals of all kinds. Their mission is to provide the highest quality of life possible to all wildlife in need while maintaining a family friendly environment through interaction, education, conservation and by creating an experience of a lifetime.

And it was–really, truly–an experience of a lifetime.

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The park boasts a 20-acre animal sanctuary–with a gravel path to drive through. And will soon offer a walk-through area with large animal habitats (bigger than most zoos), animal rides, a huge budgie aviary with a walking path and feed sticks, a large petting zoo and a playground with a pavilion and picnic area.

We took a behind the scenes tour with a park guide. You can too, for $25/person until Memorial Day. Or you can drive your own vehicle through the safari for $20/vehicle.

It was one of the coolest things we’ve ever done as a family. I’d highly recommend it. We toured the indoor and outdoor habitats and saw over thirty species of wild animals including HYENAS (my little Lion Guard fan-kids freaked). Check it.

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Wild Turkeys. They eat the parasites out of manure. You learn something new every day.

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The ass of an ass. I said ass, twice.

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Oh hey, zebra.

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Bison. Are. Big. (And friendly, just like Johnny.)

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These camels. My favorites. Fabio and Randy. Just wanted to smooch us all day.

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Scimitar-Horned Oryx. Native to Egypt. Hunted for its horns, nearly to extinction.

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Jacob’s Sheep. Three horns, yo.

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Shelters like these are built around the property to provide some protection from the wind.

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Me and My Llama (Going to the Dentist) used to be my favorite song. I’ve been singing it all day today.

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Owners James, Kelsey and Asa Aikman take us through an indoor habitat.

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HYENAS! They aren’t named Janja or Jasiri–at least not yet. But their naming rights are available along with their adoption–for any of you fans of the Lion Guard.

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Exploring the grounds. And playing on pallets. Because pallets are fun. Ha.

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Looping back around to the camels. Because camels are my spirit animal. Unload your burdens, baby. Lay it all on me.

We ended our tour in the gift shop–and learned a little more about SABLE. SABLE (Saving Animals By Lasting Encounters) is a non-profit entity established for the feeding, caring for and housing of animals. The organization partners with Aikman Wildlife Adventure to help educate guests of the park about the animals, their habitats and the conservation efforts taking place there.

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You can also make a donation through SABLE to adopt an animal at Aikman Wildlife Adventure. Your donation is tax-deductible and covers the costs of bringing the animal to the park, covers the animal’s food for a year and covers all the animal’s veterinary care. For more information or to donate, e-mail James at james@aikmanwildlife.com.

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The Aikman Wildlife Adventure is open Friday and Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday noon-5pm. For more information visit www.aikmanwildlife.com or visit their Facebook Page.

So grab the kids and hit the road–it was a 35 minute trip for us, door to door. We had a blast this morning–thanks to the Aikmans–and learned a lot. Plus it was a very quiet ride home too. Win, win, win. Boom.

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We can’t wait to go back. Thanks James, Kelsey and Asa.