April 11, 2018

Why the Boston Marathon is My Victory Lap

If you've followed me or read my Boston Marathon acceptance post you know a little bit about my marathon journey. 

Today I'm over on the Momentum Jewelry blog sharing why the 2018 Boston Marathon is my victory lap, and how much running has changed my life. Honestly with the marathon mere days away, I've spent a lot of time in the past couple of weeks reflecting on my running journey. I was even getting teary-eyed getting all my thoughts together for my blog post. Running has become a huge part of my life and not just the exercise part. It's changed how I view myself, opened doors to so many unique opportunities, and allowed me to meet and become friends with so many amazing people. 

Here's a sneak peak: 

Running has shown me that putting myself out there is less scary than I think it is. Running has given me opportunities and excuses to travel across the country and internationally to fulfill some of my wanderlust. My main goal for the 2018 Boston Marathon is to enjoy every mile. It’s a victory lap for my running accomplishments and it's also a celebration of running and what it's done for me. Five years after my first marathon, I’ll be on the starting line of the Boston Marathon, and I'll know that all of the strength I need for anything that comes my way is inside me.

Check out my Instagram page for a chance to win your own Boston-themed Momentum Jewelry Motivate Wrap today (giveaway ends Thursday 4/12 at midnight EST). 

A post shared by Lauren πŸ’œπŸ¦„πŸ• (@breathedeeplyandsmile) on

What has running added or changed about you or your life?  

April 6, 2018

{Baltimore Bred} Top Vendors to Check Out at the Baltimore Farmers' Market & Bazaar

This weekend is exciting because it looks like snow is no longer in the forecast for Baltimore (YAY!) and it's the first Sunday of the season for the Baltimore Farmers' Market & Bazaar underneath I-83 (Jones Falls Expressway). It's also the perfect event to highlight in Charm City!

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The market runs every Sunday from 7 AM -noon from April 8th through December 23,2018 (more information on the Facebook page). This is one of the biggest farmers' markets in the city with everything from local produce, fresh eats, and artisan goods. It's something I love going to after a run to grab a bite to eat or spend the morning shopping and eating with my boyfriend especially in the summer months. 

Lots of amazing local products and food vendors are sold there which makes it sometimes more fun for me to just grab breakfast and browse the market leisurely. I'm going to share with you my top vendors and goods to check out at the farmers' market this year. 

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1. Farm to Face falafel wraps
This list is not in order, but if it was this would still take the top spot. These stand has the most delicious made-to-order falafel wraps with the option to have it with a lavash bread or collard greens wrap. 

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2. Seasonal produce and plants
I love coming to the farmers' market throughout the year as different produce and plants come into season. The flowers are always beautiful in the spring and sunflowers start appearing later in the summer and the early fall. I also snagged a bunch of herb plants last spring to plant in pots on my balcony. 

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3. Michele's Granola
This local small-batch granola can be found in grocery stores and markets around the area, but I always love buying from the source as well as having the option to buy granola in bulk and try out the new seasonal flavors. 

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4. Migue's Mini Donuts
The perfect pairing to a cup of coffee, these mini donuts are fried on site. You can top yourself with powdered sugar and the option of other toppings such as chocolate syrup. A small bag of 6 mini donuts for $3 is a steal for a sweet Sunday treat. 

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{Photo from Migue's Minis Facebook page}
5. Zeke's or Dooby's coffee
Every Sunday at the market you will see a long line for Zeke's Coffee-a Baltimore-area favorite. I usually have little patience when it comes to waiting for coffee so I often head over to the Dooby's stand and grab a cold brew coffee and maybe a breakfast sandwich. Both will get you a delicious caffeine fix to fuel your shopping. 

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6. Bags of kale
I know this is an odd choice,but if you use kale and don't mind taking the time to clean it all, you can get a plastic bag stuffed full of kale from multiple local farms for $2 or $3. Some of the other greens can be more pricey compared to grocery stores, but the kale is super affordable.

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7. Gogo's Fashion Truck 
Gogo's is a busload (literally) of fun thrifted and vintage clothes, jewelry, and accessories. I love browsing and seeing what unique finds are for sale. 

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8. Ekiben 
Ekiben has a storefront in Fells Point but brings their no-frills steamed buns and other Asian fusion items to the Farmers Market. 

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Also, I'm super excited for some of the new vendors to the market in 2018 including my favorites Gundalow Juice and Bottoms Up Bagels. 

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Hope to see you at the market! 

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Do you have a favorite local farmers' market? What is your favorite food to purchase there? 

April 2, 2018

Why Marathon Training is Difficult Post-Injury

Be sure to enter my giveaway for Smile Brilliant easy at-home teeth whitening, ends 4/6/2018! 

As of today the Boston Marathon is officially 2 weeks away. It is really exciting and still feels unreal to me. Unlike previous marathons including the 2016 Chicago Marathon, I have not been posting weekly recaps about my training or how things are going besides some post-run photos on Instagram (you can follow my hashtag #BreatheDeeplyandRunBoston for all of my Boston updates!). This is a huge race and something I have been dreaming about since I ran my first marathon in 2013. So why no weekly recaps and blog updates on my training? Honestly because I have been scared I'll be injured again. I won't be truly relieved until I am at the start line. 


To recap after my best marathon and big personal record and Boston qualifying time at the Chicago Marathon 2016, I was diagnosed with a a metatarsal stress fracture. You can read all my posts about my injury and being an injured runner here. I did the whole boot and physical therapy thing. I have dealt with real or psychosomatic soreness occasionally in my right foot ever since. My last injury update in July talked about how I was starting to feel like myself again as a runner. 

Phantom Pains 

From my research and knowledge of biology/anatomy, my brain could just be hypersensitive to any normal soreness in my foot. There could still be some nerve or tissue irritating surrounding the site, although the bone callus has formed, and the bone is fully re-modeled. I have also read anecdotes that some people still get soreness and tingling years after a stress fracture. 

I had to defer the 2016 Philadelphia Marathon to 2017 because of my injury. I followed a low-mileage Hal Higdon marathon training plan because the goal was just to run the race for fun as well as prove to myself that I can run the marathon distance again without getting injured. For 2 months before that marathon, while I still had good health insurance at the end of graduate school, I went to True Sports Physical Therapy to continue to work on mobility and posterior chain strength. I remember even race week I had my physical therapist push around on my foot because I swore I was having some pain again. Then I had fun at the marathon, finished in 3:43, took my recovery seriously, and continued running. 

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That is one happy marathoner (Philadelphia Marathon 2017) 
For Boston I should have started training in December, but I was busy with graduating from graduate school and came down with a cold/virus the week of Christmas which knocked me out for about two weeks. It was a confidence boost to successfully complete the Philadelphia Marathon with a solid time, considering my training. Starting Boston Marathon training in January I knew that I wanted to just run the race as my victory lap so again I have been following a lower mileage marathon training plan. The stress of studying for my occupational therapy boards and the wrath of winter have not made it super easy so it was nice to not have too much pressure on myself from my running plan. 

I am scared of getting another stress fracture in my foot, mostly because of the idea of missing Boston, but also because of the idea of starting at square one with running again. I know my injury happened at the very end of 2016 and it's now 2018 so I should be over it. 

Anxiety

Despite not feeling fast, I've had a few solid races recently,even tying my 5K PR a few weeks ago. I know that have some anxiety and a streak of hypochondria, but my last injury came on suddenly and was unexpected. It was my first and only real running injury after running my 4th marathon. Maybe it was just one of those things, every runner (even Shalane!) at some point has an injury. Maybe it was my over-striding, training mileage, or lack of recovery and relaxation that training cycle, and I will not make those mistakes again. I told my boyfriend in January that if anything happens, I'm walking this freaking marathon. I have always felt I act more conservative than my fellow running friends, but especially post-injury I am all about #restdaybrags, getting enough sleep, and taking an extra day off running if anything feels weird. 

This isn't just any race-the Boston Marathon means a lot to me. It's a celebration of how running has changed my life since I ran my first 5K 7 years ago. I suppose talking about my training and sharing that with the world meant it would be a bigger blow to me if I ended up injured. Here I sit in taper town, 2 weeks until race day, just needing to stay healthy. 


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You will see me running or walking across this line this year. 

Bottom Line 

I'll be at the 2018 Boston Marathon.This has been a blog post mostly for myself, but I just want to let you know that if you are months or years about when being injured that at least for me it's normal to still have real or phantom feelings in your old fracture site. That it's normal to feel anxious about injuries interfering with your goals. That resting and taking care of yourself now is better for you in the long run. Better smart than sorry. 

If you have had an injury, do you still get worried? What anxieties do you have when training for a big event or race? 

This post was linked up with the Weekly Wrap

March 30, 2018

At-Home Teeth Whitening for a Coffee Drinker

Disclosure: Smile Brilliant sent me a complimentary whitening kit to use. My before & after photos are not retouched or filtered. As always all thoughts & opinions are my own.


Something that I haven’t really shared with anyone is that I’m self-conscious of my teeth. They are nice and straight after many years and lots of money as a child/teenager with top & bottom palate expanders and then braces (thanks Mom & Dad). However as someone who loves coffee and tea and other staining foods (like beets and red wine!) my teeth are kinda yellowed. This has come more apparent in the age of selfies and posting photos online. Also the increase in coffee consumption with graduate school and studying for my board exam did not help! Who doesn’t want whiter teeth when showing of those big happy smiles? Don’t worry coffee, I still love you.


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I was really happy to recently try out Smile Brilliant, an easy custom fitted whitening system. This post is obviously sponsored because Smile Brilliant was nice enough to send me complimentary product, but I also truly did have a good experience. At first I was skeptical about the product, but then I actually saw fellow pal and running blogger Hollie’s results and knew I needed to take advantage of this opportunity to help my smile. 


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How does Smile Brilliant compare to other teeth whitening systems?  

Smile Brilliant is a custom whitening treatment for your teeth that you can do at home. Many of the options out there are largely temporary-like the whitening strips I used in high school & college. Unlike strips, charcoal is not ADA-approved and can be abrasive for teeth while also being temporary.  The Smile Brilliant method uses custom molded trays which is similar to the treatment at a dentist but way less expensive. It’s more expensive and a longer process than say whitening strips, but it is better at removing stains more permanently.



How does Smile Brilliant work?

First Smile Brilliant sends you a kit with your whitening gels along with base and catalyst paste and supplies to make your impressions. You pretty much follow the instructions to mix the pastes together and press into trays which you then put in your mouth and bite into for 2+ minutes. Unlike the anxiety attacks I would have at the orthodontist during impressions when my mouth was full of a giant tray, this was a bit more pleasant. I was worried I would really eff this part up, but it was easy!


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After mailing the impressions off in the prepaid envelope, it took just over a week for my custom molds to be mailed back to me.  These molds fit perfectly and were super comfortable. They were flexible and soft so it was easy to keep them in with the whitening gel for 1-2 hours at night before bed (Smile Brilliant recommends using whitening trays for 1-3 hours).  Basically there was gel in a little syringe that held 3-4 applications and I just squeezed some into the molds and popped them in.


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With the strips or other systems I tried I felt like I was constantly trying to keep them in place and not bump them around with tongue.

There was also a desensitizing gel to use after the whitening gel for 15-2 minutes. I could feel some sensitivity for the first 3 applications, but it was minimal.


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Did it actually work?

I tried to be good and avoid consuming staining foods or drinks for 24 hours after a teeth whitening session. I couldn’t give up my coffee so I was drinking it with a straw!


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Taking and posting photos of your mouth is weird. 
 I have spent some time staring at my teeth this week, and I definitely see some results. It looks subtle in the photos, but I'm hoping to do a few more treatments since I did about 6 applications between these photos. My boyfriend even commented that he thought they looked whiter. I’m going to continue to use up my gel and get this pearly whites looking sharp. I don't plan on drinking any less coffee soon so I'm happy I can do a little whitening maintenance on my teeth.  Smile Brilliant recommends after the initial use (daily applications, 7-10x) to use it once or twice every 2-3 months for maintenance.  

I totally recommend Smile Brilliant for an easy way to give your smile some self-care!


Giveaway & Coupon  

Click on the link to enter to win your own Smile Brilliant kit here
Giveaway open to USA, UK, Austrailia, and Canadian Residents. It is open for 1 week and ends on April 6, 2018. 

You can also save 15% on your own Smile Brilliant purchase with code: breathedeeplyandsmile15


Have you ever tried a whitening treatment for your teeth?
Are you a big coffee or tea drinker like me?

March 14, 2018

3 Tips to Prepare for Running & Racing This Spring

This post was originally published on the Charm City Run blog. Check out their blog for more great posts and explore the Charm City Run website for information on fun upcoming events and training groups 😊

A taste of warmer weather in Maryland the past couple of weeks means runners are getting excited for the spring race season. If you can believe it, the 2018 B3 Distance Series kicks off in a mere 2 weeks with the Under Armour KELLY St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock 5K on March 11. Maybe you are just dusting off your running shoes and getting back to running after a winter break. Maybe you have been training for a few weeks and are gearing up for all the races you signed up for months ago. Below are some tips to prepare you for a strong and healthy season of spring running and racing.

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1. RUN WITH OTHERS

When the weather is unpredictable or if you are getting back into the swing of running regularly, it can be difficult to get out the door to run alone. Find a group to run with, make a running date with some friends, or join a training group. Running with others can help you stick to your training plan, and make those longer runs more enjoyable. Charm City Run has great training groups for new runners and seasoned marathoners alike which offer accountability, fun, and everything you need to get to the start line strong. You can also look for free fun runs near you.

2. OPTIMIZE NUTRITION & HYDRATION

If your 2018 resolutions from January are long forgotten, have no fear. The beginning of spring is a great time to revisit or set goals and refocus. Now is the time to start optimizing your nutrition to prepare for spring race season. Instead of trying a new fad diet, focus on eating more quality fuel for your runs and workouts. With warmer weather, hydrating more frequently is important. Tracking your water intake can help ensure you are drinking enough throughout the day.

3. GEAR CHECK

Spring is also a great time to check on your shoes and gear and see what needs to be replaced. It varies from runner to runner when they need to replace their shoes based on the use, running surface, shoe model and type, as well as type of runner. It’s recommended to replace your shoes after between 300 and 500 miles and definitely if you are noticing wear on the soles or tears in the upper. Come into Charm City Run and get fit for a brand new pair or running shoes and check out all the latest spring models to start your spring training and racing on fresh shoes. Ladies, if your sports bra has celebrated a birthday it’s time to toss it and replace it! Charm City Run can fit you for a brand new sports bra in store to help you find one that’s comfortable and perfect fit.

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Happy Running! 

Are you training for any spring races or events? Did you take a break from running during the winter? 

This post is linked up with No Guilt LifeMCM Mama Runs, and Marcia’s Healthy Slice for Tuesdays on the Run and Rachel,  Lora, and Debbie for the Coaches’ Corner :)

March 2, 2018

Take an Active International Vacation with STRIVE Trips


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by STRIVE Trips who offered me a discount for their programs. As always all thoughts and opinions are my own.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve found that a great way to satisfy your sense of wanderlust is by taking race-cations. I’ve ran some races and planned some trips around the country and Canada in the past few years including the Seawheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver, Ragnar Las Vegas, and the Chicago Marathon (multiple times!).  

Ragnar Las Vegas home stretch!
This year and the next I think it’s time to add some more stamps to my passport and get out of North America. I was excited to recently be connected with this awesome company STRIVE Trips which organizes trips for adults featuring a balance of cultural immersion, active exploration and sightseeing, as well as daily options for athletic training (a.k.a RUNNING!). Don’t worry, if you aren’t a runner you can choose to walk or bike these excursions (or even skip out to spend time as you please).
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For 2018, STRIVE Trips is offering two adult programs-one to Kenya and one to Peru. 

Let’s be honest, a mix of running, eating amazing food and travelling to a new country sounds like a perfect vacation to me! It’s pretty much what I do anyways, although a bit more heavy on the food and less so on the running part. Planning an international trip can be intimidating so it’s awesome that STRIVE Trips takes care of all the planning and also provides 24-hour-a-day support on the ground in the country and from the US based staff.

For the athletic portion on each trip there is a daily opportunity to get out and exercise. You can walk, bike, or run as much or as little as you want because the group has a van trail behind the group that can pick you up whenever you’re done. There are also at least 2 staff members running with the group. Besides just running in a new country, there are some awesome opportunities such as staying at the high altitude training center run by Olympian & World Record holder Lornah Kiplagat on the trip in Kenya.  LITERALLY running with Kenyans like a BOSS. Running with and talking to elite Kenyan runners is an amazing opportunity for any amateur or serious runner.
 
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Running with Kenyan runners
Besides the athletic portion, the trip organized by STRIVE Trips includes everything but your flights, meaning it includes noted meals, lodging, transportation, and activities. STRIVE Trips makes sure you get all the fun of sightseeing and cultural immersion of a country. For example with the Kenya program you also get to participate in a tea ceremony with a local family or spend time at local zoos along with a 3-day safari. It’s on my bucket list to go on a safari and visit a giraffe sanctuary so I definitely was hyped to read that.  

The Peru program includes fun activities including visiting Machu Picchu, zip-lining, and hiking in the Incan Cloud Forest. Back to the food, the Peru trip also includes a chocolate class where you learn about how chocolate is made and then get to mix together your own style of chocolate as well as a Pisco Sour making class which is the national drink of Peru. SIGN ME UP! 

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Pisco Sour class in Peru
Besides programs for adults, STRIVE Trips has unique service-learning programs designed for high school and college students. These trips mix running, service-learning projects, and adventure in an international setting. If I was in high school this would have been maybe the COOLEST way for me to get service learning hours for graduation.

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A photo from a recent STRIVE trip in Peru on an excusion
You can find more information about the trip to Kenya in July here or the trips to Peru in May or August here. The max group size for the trips is 12 participants so get more info and get signed up! With my career shift and current planned vacations, a STRIVE Trips program may not be in the cards for me for 2018, but I’m hoping to definitely take advantage in 2019.

February 12, 2018

5 Last-Minute Valentine's Day Gifts in Baltimore

Disclosure: All thoughts and opinions are my own and are not affiliated with or sponsored by any of the aforementioned brands or businesses. I work for Charm City Run and CorePower Yoga, but the thoughts in this post do not reflect those of the companies. 


With February being a shorter month, I find that the days and weeks just fly by. That means that Valentine's Day is also in just two short days! If you have completely forgotten, do not fear! I am sharing a list of 5 easy, last-minute Valentine's Day gifts for the special people in your life from local businesses. Despite my dislike of the pressure of this one big day and the hiked-up prices of prix-fixe dinners for the holiday, I do really love having the holiday as a reminder to spend some time with your significant other or Valentine. I keep it pretty low key, with a Galentine's Day brunch the weekend before and a nice dinner with flowers from my boyfriend for the actual holiday. Pro tip-surprise your valentine with a gift or dinner the day before or after to avoid the rush and prix-fixe menus! In a busy world, sometimes we need a silly holiday to remind those special in our life how much we care about them. 

As you know, I love supporting small businesses, especially when there are so many amazing businesses right here in Baltimore. Here are 5 Last-Minute Valentine's Day gifts for your Valentine, Galentine, or anyone who could use a little love in their life. 

5 Last-Minute Valentine's Day Gifts in Baltimore

1. Chocolate-Covered Strawberries from Berries by Quicha

What says "I love you" more than chocolate-covered strawberries?! I planning on stopping by Berries by Quicha right here in Federal Hill in Baltimore to grab some of their amazing and unique chocolate-covered strawberries. They have flavors such as Reese, Bacon, and even a Ciroc-liquor infused chocolate-covered strawberry! Besides sounding tasty, their strawberries and special holiday packages look beautiful. 

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries from Berries by Quicha
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According to their Facebook page, TODAY is the last day to pre-order for guaranteed selection for the holiday either via their website, store (920 Light St), or by calling at 410-440-3239. 

2. Cupcake from Dessert Fantasies

For a simple sweet treat for your special someone or your Galentine, grab a cupcake or cookie from Dessert Fantasies in Locust Point. I sampled their cupcakes at a Yelp event a couple times, and they were delicious.  I would love to have this adorable unicorn cupcake shared on their Instagram feed ::hint::hint:: 

Cupcake from Dessert Fantasies

Scrolling through their Instagram are photos of cupcakes, cookies, and chocolate-covered oreos so there are a bunch of sweet options for you to choose from. 

According to their Facebook page, Dessert Fantasies (1433 E Fort Ave) is open today from 1-6 PM and will be posting extended hours for Tuesday and Thursday. You can contact the bakery at 410-929-2073 or 443-763-9373.  

3. Gift card to Charm City Run or CorePower Yoga

The perfect gift for any occasion for the special runner or yogi in your life is a gift card to Charm City Run to stock up on some spring training essentials or a gift card to CorePower Yoga to take some classes or buy new yoga gear. It's also the perfect way to give an opportunity for some self-care to a friend or loved one. Another fab idea is buying a water bottle and filling it with some sweet treats and candy for your Galentine! 

CorePower Yoga-valentine
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4. Mouth Party Caramels

Mouth Party Caramels are an addictive, delicious and soft caramel that melts in your mouth (and is based right in Timonium). It is also my favorite sweet treat to buy at the register when I'm at Whole Foods or Charm City Run-Locust Point. 

They have standard flavors including original, sea salt, and Chesapeake (with a touch of Old Bay of course!) as well as a special Valentine's Day flavor-dark chocolate raspberry. You can order online (check their delivery options since it's cutting it close to the big day!) or find the location nearest you locally that carries their product (they are in so many stores in the city). 
Mouth Party Caramels
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5. Flowers available at a variety of local stores and florists

When in doubt, flowers are always a welcome surprise for a loved one or friend. Whole Foods in Harbor East has been advertising 2 dozen roses for $24.99. Also I highly encourage you to support local florists such as Local Color Flowers, Pearson's Florist, and Rosie's Posies (I have only personally used Pearson's but am always swooning over Local Color Flowers Instagram. Rosie's Posies is in Cross St Market and has good reviews!). 

Do you have any other last-minute Valentine's Gifts from the Baltimore area? Do you celebrate Valentine's Day?