New Hard Drive Who Dis?

After a particularly stressful few weeks of unexpected work travel, my hard drive decided to put the icing on the cake by dying. There was no warning or indication that something was amiss. I put my computer to sleep after finishing up notes from a 9pm conference call and went to bed. The next morning, I opened my computer and went to start 'er up like I've done hundreds of times before and I got a "Boot Error" and the BIOS Utility opened. I have no idea what any of that means so I did what any normal person would do - I texted a picture of the screen to my Brother-In-Law. He said it might be due to a corrupt file or any number of things and suggested taking it to a pro (especially since this is my work computer). 

I made an appointment with GeekSquad and upon initial review, he said the computer wasn't even recognizing that it had a hard drive. I asked if there was some sort of Craigslist Missed Connections option to reintroduce my computer to its hard drive (there wasn't). My new pal at Geek Squad walked me through some options, all of which included getting a brand new hard drive. 

As a result of this process, I've got some tips for you on what to do ahead of time in case you ever find yourself in my shoes, as well as tips for what to do once your hard drive is replaced and you're staring at a clean slate. Here they are!

1. Back up your files (and do so frequently!). This one's pretty obvious, and thanks to the Cloud, this is achieved pretty easily. All of my documents are saved on Dropbox or Google Drive, and I've also got everything backed up to an external hard drive. I'm a little anal, so I've also got a second external hard drive that I keep in my fireproof lockbox along with other vital documents. I highly recommend you invest in an external hard drive if you don't already have one! You can usually hook them up to your wireless router and then they work like the Cloud - you can sync files over your wifi connection. Also, don't make a habit of saving files locally to your desktop. While I know I didn't lose anything critical, it is driving me insane knowing I had files on my desktop but not knowing what they were. 

2. Keep a list of all your installed programs and any license keys. You should keep this list on the Cloud, or your phone, or somewhere besides your computer. This will save you the frustration of trying to remember if you reinstalled everything correctly and digging through emails to find license keys for any paid accounts you may have. 

3. Sync your browser. If you're a Chrome user, did you know you can sync your browser settings, extensions, and bookmarks to your Google Account? This saves you a LOT of time and keeps all your favorites/links organized just how you had them before.

4. GeekSquad (or something similar) can be a lifesaver. As I mentioned, this incident occurred on my work computer, and we had purchased a GeekSquad protection plan when the computer was purchased. This saved me several hundred dollars as the hew hard drive and installation fees were all covered under the plan. 

Bonus: Get yourself a sweet new desktop background to make it feel less sterile. My favorites are from The Everygirl and they roll out new ones every month! 

Have you ever had to replace your hard drive? Do you have any tips for surviving this process with ease? Comment below! 

How I Stay Organized (Part 1?)

I use a lot of apps and tools to stay organized and productive, and today I'd like to share some of those with you. Maybe this is the first of a series of blog posts on the topic? Let me know what you think, and what you'd like to see more of. 

1. Evernote


For those who don't know, I work from home. I have been a remote employee since Day 1 of my current job and it's the first remote job I've had. It was certainly an adjustment and I had to figure out how to structure my time, stay organized and keep track of everything. One of the things I realized very early on was that I needed a way to take notes during meetings (conference calls). I experimented with a few other options before settling on Evernote. I love how I can have separate notebooks for different things (personal, work, old work stuff that I still want to hold on to, standing items/quick reference, etc.). Within notebooks, I can tag things by subject. My notes sync across my devices so I can make my grocery list on my desktop and then access it on my phone at the store! They have a great companion app, Scannable, which has pretty much eliminated the need for a traditional scanner device.

2. Asana


This was another tool I discovered for work in my remote job. I was looking for a way to share task lists with my staff. I played around with some Google Sheets for a while, but found they were too simple for what we wanted to do, but full-blown Project Management programs (like Microsoft Project, for example) were way to complex and offered way more than we needed. Asana is in that perfect sweet spot of helpful features and team collaboration tools, but is super user-friendly and simple to use. While we use it a lot for shared projects at work (such as Convention prep where there are so many moving parts), I also use it to set agendas for meetings (so my staff and I can both add things we need to discuss ahead of time, and I can easily delegate tasks as a result of the meeting). Personally, I've used it for planning big projects in my volunteer life (like developing some social media plans for this blog as well as the Zelienople Horse Trading Days social media accounts that I manage). Again, it syncs across devices, which I LOVE. 

3. GTasks App


This one is strictly an iOS app (though I'm sure there are Android options as well). I use Google Calendar for my main calendar, and I like to use the tasks feature to keep track of random tasks (like "schedule Ziva's groomer appointment" or "buy birthday card for Luke" and things like that). While Google Calendar has a great iOS app, it does not incorporate tasks and this always annoyed me. Finally, I found GTasks, which syncs your Google Calendar tasks to their app on your phone. You can also make additional tasks lists, though I prefer things to sync across devices (in case you couldn't tell that from the first two apps on this list). I've also found this useful for things I remember when I'm out and about that I want to take care of the next time I'm at my desk - I pop the task into my iOS app and then boom! It shows up on my computer when I log in! 

4. Dashlane


Dashlane is a secure password manager. Not only does it store all of my login info and passwords, it will also auto-login on websites and auto-fill forms, saving me time that would otherwise be spent looking up passwords (because I can't remember that website's dumb password rules which are different from every other website's dumb password rules). Again, this syncs across devices! This is a paid subscription service, but I have found it to be such a worthwhile investment. Its features include a random password generator and a password analysis tool, which both keep my accounts more secure! 

What are your favorite organizational tools/apps? Comment below! Also let me know if this is something you'd like to see more of on the blog! 

Five Things Friday: 2.9.2018

It's been a busy week, and I wondered if I'd hit my goal of at least one blog post or not, but here we go! 

1. I've decided to switch from the full marathon to the half for Pittsburgh. Training has been nonexistent the past few months, and the pressure to try and catch up at this point just isn't worth it. I'm looking forward to adjusting my training schedule on my calendar and building a great base for what will be my 11th half marathon! [Click HERE to learn more about my fundraising efforts and to make a donation!]

2. I'm speaking at a student leadership conference on saturday on the topic of time management and ironically, I'm finishing the presentation prep somewhat last minute. Leave me your best time management tips in the comments below! 

3. My nutrition company just launched a brand new app that I'm pretty stoked for. As someone who loves fitness trackers and checklists, this app is everything I've been dreaming of! It's a great way to track your health and wellness goals all in one place, and it's also (obviously) designed to help people stay on track with using the products. I'll be attending my company's national celebration event in Nashville in August, and I'm SO excited to connect with my team, receive training, and of course, enjoy some southern food (#thebalancedlife). If you're interested in learning about what the heck these products are, or what the app's like, drop me a line in the comments or send me a message on the Contact page. 

4. My dear friend Nik wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about airport travel. I think Nik is great, and his opinions are great, and this post was no exception. Check it out and subscribe! 

5. If you aren't following Jessie over at 15Minutes_Late, you are missing out. Not only is her Instagram feed chock full of gorgeous and wanderlust-inducing travel photos, she also gives great tips and advice on how she uses meal planning and meal prep to save money (so she can fund those amazing trips!). I look forward to her weekly grocery haul pics each week, and to all of her recipe ideas! 

GROCERY HAUL! 🥑🥦🍊 $61.63 at @aldiusa this week! Bonus points and a gold star to whoever can tell me how many 🥑 are in this grocery haul! ⭐️ . Still working to clean some things out of the freezer this week - but still managed to spend plenty of $$$. . Both the “recipes” for our lunches are in my STORIES right now! So go check it out. . And if you peep my grocery list you’ll notice a few things on the list, but not in my haul, and a few things in my haul that weren’t on my list. It was WAYYYY cheaper to buy guacamole than to make my own. REAL TALK. 😳 And those lobster & crab ravioli are amazing. So when I saw them I couldn’t resist. 😍 . 👇🏼Here’s what’s on the menu this week! . BREAKFAST 🍯 Overnight oats for me 👉🏼 1 x strawberry chocolate, 2 x chocolate covered blueberry + 1 x chocolate coconut 👉🏼 AKA cleaning out some frozen fruit. 🍳 Eggs + avocado for him. . LUNCH 🥡 Egg roll in a bowl 👉🏼 verified amazing, I had a few bites to make sure. 🥘 Chicken curry w/ rice & broccoli. . DINNER 🍕Homemade pizza w/ 2️⃣ ingredient dough. 🍤 Bang bang shrimp pasta w/ mushrooms & broccoli. 🐟 “Mystery” fish (I can’t remember what kind is in the freezer) + rice & broccoli. 🌭 Sausage hoagies w/ peppers & onions + sweet & sour cabbage. 🌮 Tacos 😍 . Is anyone eating anything tasty for the Super Bowl tonight? Well probably end up Netflix binging instead, but I’m using it as an excuse to eat pizza. 🏈🍕🤷🏼‍♀️ . . . . . #eatrealfood #mealplanning #mealprepmadesimple #healthycooking #foodforfuel #foodforthought #mealprepsociety #healthyfoodshare #mealprepideas #howtomealprep #mealprepdaily #mealideas #foodisfuel #mealpreponfleek #foodgram #mealprepping #freshproduce #eatyourveggies #healthyeating #balanceddiet #groceryshopping #groceryhaul #grocerybudget #easymeals #budgetmeals #forkyeah #fooddiary #ALDIgram #eattherainbow #cookingfortwo

A post shared by Jessie || PGH ➵ EVERYWHERE (@15minutes_late) on

Hope everyone has a great weekend! OVER TO YOU: What are your best time management tips and tricks for college students? Share in the comments below! 

Five Things Friday: 1.26.2018

First things first, if you're new to my blog, WELCOME! 

It's my first Five Things Friday of the year! Here goes...

1. Marathon training has been completely on hold this month due to work travel and illness (and the ridiculously cold temperatures we've had this month - I just don't handle the cold well). I'm hoping to get back into a better routine (or any routine) next week. I'm grateful I've been able to keep my nutrition on track thanks to some amazing products that get delivered to my door and I use every single day.

2. I'm on the Partners Board at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and we had our first meeting last week. The Trust is embarking on a new strategic plan and we've got a TON of fun things planned for 2018. Now is a better time than ever to consider becoming a member - there are SO many benefits. Mark your calendars now for Cultured Cocktails, coming April 28!

3. Anybody else check their credit score every week? Just me? I have a standing reminder on my calendar to log in to Credit Karma and get my free updated score each week! It is one of my many great tools I use to keep track of my financial picture. I'm planning to do a longer blog post on this soon!

4. My new Instagram BFFs are Little Miss Lola Doodle and The Cutest Clementine. Seriously, how can you not love these two?!?! 

5. I'm not planning much travel for 2018 (because I'm saving for a Eurotrip!) but I am thinking about squeezing in a trip to Chicago in March (thank you, free hotel nights!). Send me your restaurant recommendations! 

Have you subscribed to my blog? You can have new posts delivered straight to your inbox! 

Happy Friday everyone! 

2018 Goals!

Now is about the time that many people are falling off the wagon with their new year’s resolutions and goals, so I figured now was also the perfect time for me to share mine. I don’t really ever set resolutions, but I like to have some goals to focus on.

I’ve actually got some pretty big goals that I’m keeping private for right now (but if we’re friends IRL, please ask me about them!), but here’s what I’m putting out there for the world:


1. Read every day.

In 2016, I set a goal to read 52 books, or one per week. I actually surpassed this goal and read 53! I knew I wanted a slightly less aggressive goal in 2017, but I read even less than expected and probably read somewhere around 25-30 books (which is still a lot!).

To get back into reading more regularly, I’ve set a goal to read every single day (and so far I’ve still got a perfect record!). I use Goodreads to track my reading, and I’ve set a goal on there to read XX books, so I’m hoping daily reading time will help do the trick!

I’m not putting further parameters on what “read every day” means - so some days it may be a chapter, or other days might be a bit more, like the day recently where I had 3 hours of flights and read a few hundred pages.

I’m also committing to reading all of the unread books on my bookshelf (as opposed to the hundreds of unread books also sitting in my kindle app haha!)

2. Run 2 marathons.

I’m already registered for the 10th anniversary of the Pittsburgh Marathon in May (on my birthday!), so that’s one for sure. I’ve got a free entry for Akron in September and had a great experience there in 2017, so I’m definitely considering it again as well. I’m also tossing around some other ideas!


I'm also participating in the Run for a Reason program once again and am looking to raise $1000 for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation. I'm currently 15% completed with my goal. I'd love to see my friends and family sponsoring my race at $1 per mile (that's 26.2 miles, folks!). Even $0.50 per mile is a HUGE help and goes a long way towards funding a cure. You can donate by clicking HERE!

First things first - I’ve got to get back into a rhythm with running. The past few months have not included much running and while I’m ok with that and know I’ll get back into it, I also know these next few weeks will probably be rough, particularly with all the gross weather we’ve had.



3. Create a plan and budget for a trip to Europe.

A Eurotrip has been high on my bucket list for many years, so I’m determined to finally start making some plans!

I won’t be going on the trip or setting dates until I’ve met some financial goals I’m working towards, but I’m also hoping that making more concrete plans will help keep me focused on those goals.



4. Stick to my #powersheets.

I haven’t used a planner in many, many years thanks to technology because I keep my calendar and task list in Google Calendar, but I decided to try one out this year in hopes that seeing my goals in writing, on paper, in my own handwriting, will help me stay focused on them and not lose momentum. I figure if I’ve got to drag this book everywhere with me, I may as well smash the goals and plans written in it, right? :-p

After looking at a few options, I settled on the #powersheets planner from Cultivate What Matters. Unfortunately, they were sold out of the 12-month planner and aren’t restocking their inventory, so I purchased a 6 month calendar. I’ve been chipping away at it a little bit at a time and hope to have all of my action plans laid out by the end of next week!

This goal also encompasses achieving those other goals I vaguely mentioned at the beginning of this post, so it's actually more than just writing in a planner (though I'm definitely going to buy some fun new pens to write in it!)


Do you set New Year’s resolutions or goals? Share them in the comments!


In honor of #GivingTuesday, I've got a big announcement to make: I'm running the Pittsburgh Marathon again in 2018! This is the 10th anniversary of the return of the Pittsburgh Marathon, and it will be my 3rd full marathon (2nd in Pittsburgh). Once again, I will be raising funds for the Western Pennsylvania/West Virginia chapter of the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation. As part of the Run for a Reason program, all of the funds raised will stay local! This means the money raised will directly benefit all of my fellow IBD warriors here in the Pittsburgh area. 

To learn more about some of those IBD friends, check out the trailer for The Stool, an upcoming documentary I had the privilege of working on earlier this year. Stay tuned for more details regarding the premiere of The Stool in 2018! 

I've set a goal to raise at least $1000 this year. I sincerely appreciate every dollar that people are able to spare. ALL of the funds raised stay local! I will be fundraising until race day on May 6, which also happens to be my birthday! Crowdrise allows the option to make monthly donations, so please consider a recurring gift (or simply spreading your gift out over several months!).

To kick off my fundraising, all donations of $15 or more made TODAY (November 28, 2017) will be entered to win a $50 gift card to Starbucks or Chipotle (winner's choice!). 

#GivingTuesday is a GREAT way to give back to great causes! I will also be making a donation to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust as part of #GiveBigPittsburgh. What are some of your favorite #GivingTuesday charities? Comment below with a link! 

My new website is LIVE!

I'd been wanting to update/upgrade my website for quite some time. While Blogger has been good to me over the years, I was ready for a more polished look. A few weeks ago, I finally took the plunge and started building my new site on Squarespace - I love all of their beautiful templates and the user-friendly interface. And sure, all those advertisements/sponsorships on my favorite podcasts probably contributed subliminally to my desire for a new home on the web.

The process has been pretty great - their support team has been responsive to all my questions, I don't need to code anything myself (unless I want to), and my blog posts all imported from Blogger! I'm still building out many of the pages, but take a look around and let me know what you think so far! 


Trying that 26.2 thing out again...

I'm officially registered for my second marathon! I will be participating in the 15th Anniversary of the Akron Marathon! I participated on a relay team (hey, Ohana!) a few years ago and really like the race experience. It's well organized and the swag is awesome. I also like that's not terribly far from home and that it's early enough in the fall that I'll be able to recover in time to run some other fall races as well as pace Jeff at the JFK 50 Miler in November (eek! So exciting!). 

As an added bonus (in my opinion, anyway), this will also be my first race as a member of Team Challenge! While I'm not new to fundraising for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, this will be my first time to official Race in Orange. You know an organization really matters to me when I'm willing to (and excited about) wear orange. Orange. Ick. The worst color ever (except for maybe brown).

My goal is to raise at least $1000 for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, so yes, I'll be hitting up all of my family and friends for money again. Until there is a cure for these awful diseases, I will continue to do whatever I can to raise funds and awareness. You don't find cures, you fund them.

I'm using a Hal Higdon training plan again and have also set the following fitness goals for myself for the summer:

-Run 3x per week.

 The training plan has 4 runs per week, but I've found that often isn't realistic for me.

-Strength train for at least 15 minutes 3x per week.

The Cranberry Township Community Chest had these awesome fitness stations installed at Graham Park in 2014. They're fairly basic and use body strength, so I'm not going to start some bodybuilding career (which is good because that body paint looks creepy as hell), but at least I'm incorporating another good habit. And let's be honest, most runners have no upper body strength at all. 

-Walk/Cross train 1-2x per week. I really enjoy walking so this is usually pretty easy for me to add in. In an effort to keep a good workout routine going (and to motivate me to get at least 3 runs in each week), I told myself that if it was raining really hard or the weather was otherwise crappy and I didn't feel like going outside to run, I'd do a Jillian Michaels workout (or something similar, but I like hers). This morning I did 30 Day Shred for the first time in a long time and it was a little rough haha. 

A post shared by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on


-Keep nutrition on track.

Again this should be pretty easy because the nutrition company I've partnered with has an AMAZING product line. I've recently (finally) started using the performance line and holy crap! It IS possible to have a pre-workout drink that doesn't make your skin crawl after 10 minutes. 

Run, shake, repeat. #runtheblueline #akronmarathon #teamanchored

A post shared by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on


-Drink local beer!

Hey, life is all about balance. And I've got to re-hydrate from all those runs somehow, right? :-P 

A post shared by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on


What are your summer fitness/beer goals? Comment below! 

Student Loans...Ugh.

*Feel free to laugh in my face if I ever tell you I'm going to blog consistently.*

Can we talk about student loans? Most people I know have them, and whether they owe $5,000 or $50,000 or $150,000, they all feel this burden in their daily lives. Most of the time I joke with people that I'll die of old age before my student loans are paid off. I also get frustrated when I think about all the things I'd be able to do if I didn't have to make these payments every single month. Things like buying a house, or take a trip to Europe, or invest more for my retirement. 

In my years of paying on my student loans, I've learned a lot. I've learned that you have to just make the payments every month and be done with it - don't dwell on it or you'll make yourself crazy wondering how you'll ever pay it off. I've learned that people have very different definitions of what is "a lot" in terms of student loan debt. For example, a friend told me how hard it was to make the payments on her husband's loans, and his balance is 10% of mine. 

I've also learned a lot about ways to make the payments a little easier. In some cases, people may be eligible to have their loans forgiven entirely. That sounds great, in theory, until you realize that most people don't qualify. For example, I work for a non-profit organization, which should qualify me for forgiveness of my student loans after so many years of service, but I work for a 501(c)7, which is the wrong kind of non-profit, so I'm not eligible. Sigh. 

Refinancing is something I've learned a lot about and have actually done twice now. A few years ago, I refinanced my private student loans. As a result, I was able to lower my monthly payments and drastically reduce my interest rate. 

Here are my tips for loan refinancing:

  • Shop around for the best rates. There are many websites that will help you do this, including my favorite, Credible (more on them in a minute).
  • Take advantage of auto-pay discounts - many lenders will reduce your interest rate by .25% by setting up automatic payments each month. This also prevents you from missing a payment (which could damage your credit score)!
  • Pay attention to the length of the loan and choose one that fits your budget. This might mean taking a longer loan that has a lower monthly payment, or choosing a shorter loan but knowing you'll have to tighten your purse strings for a while to pay it off sooner. 
  • Take advantage of referral bonuses and get some extra cash money while you're refinancing. 
  • Consider adding a cosigner - this may open up even better interest rates for you. 
As promised, let's talk a little more about Credible. This isn't a sponsored post - I receive nothing from them for writing about this, but I want to share this information with others. However, there are referral links in this post. If you use them to refinance through Credible, you and I will BOTH get $250! 

First, Credible is not a lender. Instead, they will help you shop for rates from many lenders all at once. This will save you so much time! From there, Credible makes it easy for you to submit your loan application to the actual lender that you select. I am so glad I found this site when I was first refinancing because they gave me so much helpful information about the whole process. I needed a cosigner, and Credible emailed him (thanks, Dad!) directly and gave him the link to securely upload his documentation to be included with my loan application. There are other great websites out there that do this loan shopping for you, but personally, I was able to find the best rates on Credible. 

They have an awesome referral program as well - if a friend refinances after using your unique referral link, you BOTH get $250! Who doesn't want an extra $250 just for helping a friend out? If you have student loans (and again, who doesn't?), I encourage you to check out Credible and please use my referral link to help a sister out! 

I am happy to answer questions people have about student loans (and if I don't know the answer, I will help you find it!). Comment below if you've ever refinanced your loans and share what your tips and tricks! 

2016: A Year in Review

Like most people, I can agree  with the sentiment that 2016 was a bit of a dumpster fire. I'm not really sad to see it go, but there were also a lot of highlights and memories made that I will cherish forever. Here is my 2016 year in review:

-I took trips to Chicago, San Antonio, DC, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, Indianapolis (again), St. Louis (again), Dover, Niagara Falls, Riviera Maya, and Boston;

Kansas City has a pretty great skyline. #travelswithlauren #adventureisoutthere #collectmomentsnotthings

A post shared by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on


-I said goodbye to my beloved Grandma Margaret;

-I ran 26.2 miles and didn't die (mostly thanks to Jeff and Chelsea);

-I turned 30 and had two parties to celebrate;

A photo posted by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on May 7, 2016 at 7:24am PDT

-I celebrated the weddings of friends;

Whoever thinks running is a solitary sport is just. plain. wrong. 😘😘 #mcshuppwedding #ohana #manatees #runbutler
A photo posted by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on May 22, 2016 at 4:35pm PDT

-I scrambled around downtown Pittsburgh with Laynie to find a place to watch the last few minutes of the Stanley Cup Final so I could see my favorite team win their 4th Stanley Cup;

-I watched David Boudia and Steele Johnson qualify for the Olympics in person;

A photo posted by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on Jun 24, 2016 at 5:54am PDT

-I said goodbye to my childhood home and moved to a new one; 

Thanks for the memories, 431.

-I got to spend time with cherished friends;

A photo posted by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on Jun 22, 2016 at 5:20pm PDT
A photo posted by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on Aug 8, 2016 at 6:00pm PDT

-I wish bon voyage to a dear friend who embarked on a huge adventure;

I am so proud of this brave girl, but damn I miss her! 

-I ran new race PRs (heyyyyyy sub-30 5k!);

And the season of PRs continued today with a HUGE PR at Buffalo Creek today."! 2:12:04 - holy crap! Huge thanks to @pghrunner for helping me through that final mile today! #hshive #nuunbassador #gameonpgh
A photo posted by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on Oct 15, 2016 at 1:36pm PDT

-I met one of my favorite people and told him he was my favorite (and he loved it);

A photo posted by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on Oct 9, 2016 at 9:26am PDT

-I earned a medal the size of my head;

A photo posted by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on Oct 24, 2016 at 9:07am PDT

-I discovered Popeye the Foodie and he became my favorite instagrammer; 

A photo posted by Popeye the Foodie Dog 😉 (@popeyethefoodie) on Nov 23, 2016 at 9:16am PST

-I took my racing international and also ran 3 half marathons in 3 weeks (including another HUGE PR);

-I visited every country in North America in 4 days;

A photo posted by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on Nov 6, 2016 at 1:00pm PST

-I visited Mexico for the first time and watched my lovely roommate get married;

Nice close-up of the back of my head haha

-I raised a lot of money for CCFA;

A photo posted by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on Nov 17, 2016 at 8:35am PST

-I read 53 books; 

A photo posted by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on Nov 29, 2016 at 5:36am PST

-I celebrated my 4th anniversary with an organization that treats me like family (and I got a promotion!);

-I hugged my favorite super heroes 58982986389237967876532312787 times;

-Annnnnnnd I ended the year with a bout of shingles. But here's a picture of some of the many tacos I ate this year instead. 

When I write it all out like this, there was a lot more good than bad. But that doesn't mean I don't have big goals for 2017!

52 Books in 52 Weeks

I've had a Goodreads account for several years now, but I used to forget about it for months or years at a time. When I'd remember, I'd log on and update my "Books I've Read" list with as much as I could remember (and synced it to my Kindle account!), scroll through the newsfeed to see what my friends were reading, and then promptly forget about it again. I don't know why, considering I have always loved reading and books.

Towards the end of 2015, I was on the Goodreads app and I noticed a "Reading Challenge" section. I learned you can set a goal for how many books you'd like to read in a year, and then use the app to track your progress. If your friends have challenge goals, you can also follow along their progress and see which books they've read to help them reach their goal. I'd never had a reading goal before, and again, I don't know why.

I decided to read 52 books in 52 weeks - one book per week for an entire year. Considering there have been times where I've blown through an entire book in a day, I figured this goal would be easy-peasy! And for the most part, it was, though I did have to read 7 books in December to finish off my goal. I didn't put any restrictions on myself in regards to genre or book length - just 52 books in 52 weeks. Some were print books, some ebooks, and a few audiobooks as well. I did read 2 books that were advanced copies of not-yet-published books. Since they aren't on Goodreads yet, I elected not to include them in my count. I also read a few boxed sets or 2-in-1 books and I counted those each as one book (since they show up on Goodreads as one book).

Here's my reading list for 2016:


Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking)

by Christian Rudder (print)


Modern Romance

by Aziz Ansari (print)


The Quotable Walt Disney

by Kiki Thorpe, Dave Smith (print)


A Secret Kept

by Tatiana de Rosnay (print)


Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends

by Tim Sanders (I had him sign a copy when he spoke at a conference I attended in 2015!)


The Girl on the Train

by Paula Hawkins (audiobook)


Ready to Run: Unlocking Your Potential to Run Naturally

by Kelly Starrett, T.J. Murphy (print)


A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival

at Jonestown by Julia Scheeres (print)


The Perfect Witness

by Iris Johansen (audiobook)


Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner

by Dean Karnazes (print)


Never Never: Part Three

by Colleen Hoover, Tarryn Fisher (ebook)


November 9

by Colleen Hoover (ebook)


The Best Goodbye (Rosemary Beach #12)

by Abbi Glines (ebook)


Leif (Existence Trilogy #2.5)

by Abbi Glines (ebook)


Why Not Me?

by Mindy Kaling (audiobook)


Beautiful Burn (The Maddox Brothers #4)

by Jamie McGuire (ebook)


Work Rules!: Insights From Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead

by Lazlo Bock (print)


Heaven is For Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back

by by Todd Burpo (audiobook)


Running Until You're 100

by Jeff Galloway (print)


The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic

by Hazel Gaynor (ebook)


Fire Country

(Country Saga #1) by David Estes (ebook)


My Year of Running Dangerously: A Dad, a Daughter, and a Ridiculous Plan

by Tom Foreman (audiobook)


Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men

by Michael S. Kimmel (print)


Yes Please

by Amy Poehler (audiobook)



by Tarryn Fisher (ebook)


Hot as Hell

(Deep Six 0.5) by Julie Ann Walker (ebook)


Wild Irish Ride

(Weldon #1) by Jennifer Saints (ebook)



by Colleen Hoover (ebook)


Hopeless (Hopeless #1)

by Colleen Hoover (ebook)


Losing Hope (Hopeless #2)

by Colleen Hoover (ebook)


Up in Flames (Rosemary Beach #13)

by Abbi Glines (ebook)


Devil and the Deep (Deep Six #2)

by Julie Ann Walker (ebook)


When SEALS Come Home Boxed Set II

by Anne Marsh (ebook)


It Ends With Us

by Colleen Hoover (ebook)


Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

by Elizabeth Gilbert (print)


Adnan's Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial

by Rabia Chaudry (print)


A Beautiful Funeral (The Maddox Brothers #5)

by Jamie McGuire (ebook)


Under the Lights (The Field Party #2)

by Abbi Glines (ebook)


Always You

by Missy Johnson (ebook) 


Once She Dreamed (Once She Dreamed #1)

by Abbi Glines (ebook)


Stubborn Love (Stubborn Love #1)

by Wendy Owens (ebook)


Broken Flowers

by Robert M. Drake (print)


Born For This: How to Find The Work You Were Meant to Do

by Chris Guillebeau (print)


The Chemist

by Stephenie Meyer (ebook)


Too Late

by Colleen Hoover (ebook)


Christmas in Alaska

by Debbie Macomber (print)


The Last Orphans (The Last Orphans #1)

by N.W. Harris (ebook)


She, the Kingdom (She #1)

by Olivian Pope (ebook)


Once She Dreamed (Once She Dreamed #2)

by Abbi Glines (ebook)


A Christmas Homecoming

by Melissa McClone (ebook)


The Christmas List

by Chrissie Manby (ebook - Kindle Single)


Married for Christmas

by Noelle Adams (ebook)

BONUS: 53.  

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime: Comfort Classics, Freezer Food, 16-Minute Meals, and Other Delicious Ways to Solve Supper!

by Ree Drummond (print)

There it is - the complete list of books I read in 2016 (as of December 27). I included the last one because I received it as a Christmas gift and read it cover to cover. I've already flagged recipes I'm excited to try! I finished with a week to spare and even finished a bonus book.

I haven't set a goal yet for 2017, but I'm thinking somewhere around 45. Yes, I know some people would set a goal that was even bigger than 2016's, but I'd like to keep it fun and don't want the pressure of having to read books quickly to finish up (that sort of happened in December). 

What were your favorite reads in 2016? I am looking for recommendations! Comment below with your best suggestions! 

Walmart Grocery Online

Disclaimer: I received compensation from SavvyConnect to shop using Walmart Grocery Online, however, I was not asked to give a review and opinions are entirely my own. This is not a sponsored post and I was not compensated by Walmart in any way. 

On Friday, I mentioned that I had recently had a great experience with Walmart. Yes,



As part of a market research study, I was asked to try out Walmart Grocery Online. Over the course of a few days, I added items to my online cart, much like you do with any online shopping purchase (or the way I'd make a grocery list, if I were shopping in-store). I was able to find everything I was looking for, including some specialty items like flaxseed and a Keurig water filter refill. I found a coupon for $10 off my first purchase, so of course I used that! After I had everything added, I was able to select the store and pickup date and time. 

Unfortunately, this service isn't available at my local Walmart Supercenter in Cranberry yet, so I had to drive abour 15 minutes to the Baden store, which really wasn't a big deal. In fact, the experience was so great I'd happily drive back there again to use the online pickup. 

I received a confirmation email that explained what I needed to do. They said I'd receive a call 15 minutes before my pickup window (you get an hour) and then whenever I was about 10 minutes away, I could call them back and they'd have everything ready to go as soon as I arrived. It also included a map of the store outlining where I should go and park for online pickup.

As it turns out, I forgot a few items and also had some non-grocery items I needed to look for, so I went early to shop in the store. While I was shopping, I received a call from my personal shopper (shoutout to Ryan!) saying my order was ready and to call him back whenever I was 10 minutes away. As I was just getting into the checkout lane (with only 1 person in front of me), I called him back and he said he'd have everything ready to go. 

I pulled into the designated space and within a minute or so, out came Ryan with a cart containing my items. He came around to the driver side and asked if I wanted to check any of the produce before he loaded the car. Everything was GREAT (and the spaghetti squash was HUGE). He had selected everything and prepared the order personally. He also verified that there had been no substitutions on my order (in certain cases, they may substitute an item for a similar item of equal or greater value). 

He loaded everything into the back of my car and then asked if I'd like the loaf of Italian bread up with me so it didn't get smashed - super thoughtful! He also handed me a reusable shopping bag full of goodies, as a thank you for trying out the service! He also told me I could

refer others with a $10 coupon

(full disclosure, if you use my referral link, I get a $10 coupon too!). 

I highly recommend this service. Everything was so easy. I can definitely see this being helpful to busy people or those with kids. I've read a few other reviews of the service online and many people have said

you can still use paper coupons as well

! It looks like you need to present them at pickup, or you can always take your receipt and coupons to customer service. You can also use the Walmart Savings Catcher app as well!



to save $10 off your first purchase using Walmart Grocery!

Have you used the service before? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

Five Things Friday: October 28

I've got five awesome things to share this week! 

1. I completed the Monster's Mash Half Marathon this weekend and earned a medal the size of my face!

#MedalMonday: I completed my 6th half marathon on Saturday! The race begins with a lap around the Dover International Speedway and ends next to the Miles the Monster statue! It was a windy and rainy one, but I had a pretty great race! 🏃🏼‍♀️🏅🏁#teamanchored #gameonpgh #nuunbassador #nuunlove #hshive
A photo posted by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on Oct 24, 2016 at 9:07am PDT

2. I had a GREAT customer service experience with WALMART this week. Yes,


 Walmart. I'm gonna write a whole blog post about it, but for now,

use this referral link

to save $10 off your first order! 

3. I'm all set for Trick-Or-Treat on Monday! I've picked up some of my favorite chocolate treats, as well as some fruit snacks that are allergen friendly! Check out the

Teal Pumpkin Project

and consider having allergen friendly treats available! 

4. Coach Jeff and I are headed to Niagara Falls, ON this weekend to run the Niagara Falls Marathon. I'm doing the Half and Jeff is going to crush the Full in order to gain a qualifying time for the JFK 50 Miler next fall. I'll have my phone on airplane mode, but will try and post to Instagram on wifi whenever I can. Follow along by following me on


and following the hashtags #PGHLaurenNATour and #CoachJeffJFK50 (and probably other hashtags I will make up on a whim). 

5. Speaking of #PGHLaurenNATour (NA stands for North America, by the way), I will be in all three North American countries within a span of 4 days! On Wednesday, I leave for Mexico to celebrate my college roommate Elyssa's wedding in Cancun! On the way home, I'll be spending a day in Miami as well and would love some restaurant recommendations, so leave your favorites in the comments below!!!

I'm back!

Since the last time I posted here was in July, I thought it was time for a new header and some updates. This wasn't an intentional blogging hiatus, but so much life has happened since then and I've just been focused on other things.

Up first, I've made progress on several of my goals! 

Successfully train for and run a marathon - DONE 5/1/2016

Raise $1000 for CCFA - DONE 5/1/2016

Run a sub-30 5k - DONE! I ran the Steelers 5k in 29:34 thanks to Coach Jeff's help and then ran the inaugural Flyby 5k in 29:30!

Run a sub-60 10k - still chasing this goal, but I did get a new 10k PR at the Great Race this year (1:01:29 so close!)

Run/walk 1500 miles - 66.41 (Jan) + 76.35 Feb) + 97.34 (Mar) + 94.08 (Apr) + 67.02 (May) + 53.28 (Jun) + 53.1 (Jul) + 8.51 (Aug - YIKES! But this is only what I actually tracked, so it's not


 bad) + 58.16 (Sep) = 574.25. 

Clean out my boxes in the basement - DONE! We moved in August (which contributed to the low mileage displayed above), but since then I've taken several very full carloads of stuff to Goodwill! 

Clean out the desk in my room that I never use - DONE! In fact, that desk is in the garage ready to be donated/sold. 

Read 52 books: I've read 36 so far this year! 

Use more vacation days: I'm going to Mexico in less than a month, so I'll be using at least a week then! 

Blog more: HAHA oops.

Actually sort through my pictures from Alaska so I can 


 blog about the experience and design and order photo books: HAHA maybe before the 2 year anniversary of the trip? The photos are mostly sorted - I just need to actually put the books together.

Denali National Park


As I mentioned above, we moved in August and I also had a huge work event, both of which went very well, but I'm glad to be done with. Moving to a smaller house has allowed us to go through and get rid of a lot of crap we don't need, and the result is a lot less clutter! 

As I also mentioned above, I'm going to Mexico next month! My college roommate Elyssa is getting married at the Hard Rock Riviera Maya. I've never been to Mexico so I'm looking forward to some pool time, margaritas, and as much chips and guac as I want!

Time to plug a great cause and a super fun event! I'm on the planning committee for Opening Night! A movie premiere event benefiting the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America - Western PA/WV chapter. This year we are premiering

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

 and will also be showing

Dr. Strange

 in a second theatre! Tickets are on sale now and we have some awesome things planned! For more information and to purchase tickets, click the picture! 

When I go to Mexico, I'll also be stopping in Miami for a day on the way home. Comment below with your suggestions for things to do and places to eat! 

Training Update, and a Belt Review!

Training for my second marathon has been even more all over the place than training for my first. Between a busy summer and some nagging achilles tendinitis, there hasn't been as much running lately as I'd like. 

But, some of the running has been fun and productive! 

My first race after running the Pittsburgh Marathon was the Brentwood 5k - it's become an annual tradition to run with friends and then stick around for beer and prizes. They did the prizes a little differently this year and it was sort of lame, but the beer and company were still awesome!

Brentwood Firecracker 5k!

I ran the 2nd annual Hot-To-Trot 5k as part of Zelienople's Horse Trading Days last weekend. They adjusted the course this year and I really liked the changes (though there's a pretty tough hill in the middle!). Following the race, we got to ride in a hot air balloon! It was tethered, and "only" went 40 feet up, which makes me pretty confident that an un-tethered ride would be terrifying. 

A photo posted by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on Jul 18, 2016 at 12:57pm PDT

As a Level Up Virtual Runs Ambassador, they asked if I wanted to try out one of their new LED light-up running belts! I've tried several different belts/armbands, so I was anxious to see how this one measured up to the

SLS3 belt

I've been using for shorter runs (I use my hydration vest for longer runs). 

The pocket easily holds an iPhone 6 in an Otterbox,

with plenty of room left for car keys, cash, gels, etc.

The fit of the belt is similar to the SLS3 belt, but the elastic seems slightly less stretchy (this may change over time). The pocket is much deeper, which makes it much easier to get my phone in and out without having to manipulate the pockets. I kind of wish there was a separate pocket I could keep my car key in so it doesn't fall out if I take my phone out mid-run, but this really hasn't been an issue. Even when the zipper is open, stuff doesn't really move around or fall out. 

Easy on/off and adjusts for a perfect fit!

The LED lights are pretty cool! This would be an excellent addition to any night-time runner's reflective gear. The battery casing doesn't take up much room at all in the belt, and the lights have different patterns (or steady on, if you prefer). 

Great fit and it stays in place!

Want to try out the belt for yourself? Level Up Runs is offering my readers a chance to purchase it for 50% off - what a steal! You can purchase your own LED belt


. Use code RCE5FGY8 to get it for HALF OFF! 

You can also join Level Up Virtual Runs and I for the

Dog Days Virtual Race

next month! Use code SAVE10 to save 10% off your race registration - register



Comment below if you have any questions about the belt, the race, or about becoming a Level Up Ambassador! 

Dog Days Virtual Race!

Hey all! I'm excited to share I've teamed up with

Level Up Virtual Runs

for another Virtual race, the Dog Days 5k/10k/Half! Participants receive the awesome finisher's medal featured below as well as a $25 gift certificate for


AND, for every entry, Level Up is donating a toy, blanket, or dog bowl to the Second Chance Dog Rescue in San Diego, CA. Learn more about the work of

Second Chance


If you love dogs and running as much as I do, what are you waiting for?



Ziva loves the Dog Days of Summer! 

June Goals Update and a Weekend Update!

June Goals Update:

Successfully train for and run a marathon:


Raise $1000 for CCFA:

 $2100+ raised.

Run a sub-30 5k: 

Coming this summer?

Run a sub-60 10k: 

Coming this fall?

Run/walk 1500 miles:

 66.41 (Jan) + 76.35 (Feb) + 97.34 (Mar) + 94.08 (Apr)  + 67.02 (May) + 53.28 (Jun) = 454.48! It's not likely I'll make 1500 miles (since I'm only counting logged running/walking workouts and not ALL my steps).

Clean out my boxes in the basement:

 Done, I guess? They're all in storage at the moment. We're moving in August so maybe I'll get a chance to sort through some of that crap then. 

Clean out the desk in my room that I never use:


Read 52 books:

 30 books read to date. 

Use more vacation days:

Big fail on that so far this year, but I've got a trip to Mexico in the fall and hoping for a few long weekends here and there as well. 

Blog more:


Actually sort through my pictures from Alaska so I can 


 blog about the experience and design and order photo books:

Sorted, but no photobooks yet. 

I had a pretty solid July 4th weekend: I enjoyed craft beers with penguins at the Aviary on Friday, had yinzeritas on Saturday, went to a Daniel Tiger birthday party for two special girls on Sunday, and ran a new course PR at the Brentwood 5K on Monday! How was your holiday weekend?


Happy the Penguin tried to steal some ShuBrew!

New Course PR at Brentwood!

Finally, a plug for a super awesome event that is coming up on FRIDAY! Hope you see everyone at Cosmo - use code HOTNIGHT for discount tickets! Details can be found at


For The Community of Runners

My latest post is up over at the Smart Panel Blog, and I'm really proud of how it turned out. I was asked to choose a photo related to my hobbies and write about it, and of course it turned into a post about running. Check it out here and let me know what you think! 

You're probably going to see this picture posted forever and ever.