Friday, December 10, 2010

Join the Club?

As much as I do enjoy running alone, sometimes I miss the social aspect of running with a group. I remember in high school when I used to run cross country. Our coach would tell us to just go out and run for an hour and my friends and I would hit the trails and just gab (or even sing!) the whole time. It was so fun and that hour just flew by! It was also fun chatting about running and having someone to talk about your goals with. I mean, for each meet we would all set target times and cheer each other on towards reaching them. It was a great motivation and we built wonderful friendships. I do miss that! As great as my DH is about listening to my running rants, I'm also well aware that he does it because he loves ME, not running! And as far as running himself...well he'll be the first to mention that he just does not like running. He'll run a mile or so to get warmed up for a workout, but beyond that, he'd probably have to be chased by something ferocious to go any farther! Since none of my other close friends or family run, I was thinking about joining a running group.

I decided to look online at some local running stores to see if they sponsored anything. It turns out that as I checked out my local Fleet Feet's website, I was psyched to learn that they are beginning some training sessions. They have two different training groups, both of which are geared towards running a specific race. The first is a beginner's 5K but the second is for a half marathon! I thought, YES -- that's perfect for me! Then, check this out -- the specific race they are training for the Cleveland Clinic Health River Run Half Marathon! That is the EXACT race I wanted to run for my first half! (I mean, I've even already listed it in my "Races of 2008" blog list! Just look!)It's like destiny! So I clicked on the link to find out more. Here's what it basically says,
  • Cost is $100 which includes all coaching, training schedule, clinics, support, "goodies" and race entry fee.
  • Participants in the program also receive a 10% discount off all Fleet Feet purchases during the training period.
  • The sponsor this year is Saucony and all registrants will receive a technical t-shirt, water bottle and a shoe bag.
  • Group runs every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning.

What do you think? At first I was thinking the $100 was kind of steep, but then I saw that the $100 includes the race fee which I was assuming was going to be around $40-50 anyway. Then you get all kinds of stuff like the tech shirt, bottle, shoe bag and of course the coaching which I am kind of psyched for! It's one thing to prepare for a race by reading about it, but to have someone coaching you along the way is pretty cool! And to do it with a bunch of other people who all have the same goal -- very awesome! I mean, can you imagine how cool it will be on race day to run with people you've been training with and to cheer them on (and of course have a little cheering section for yourself too!) I'm pretty excited about checking it out. There's an informational meeting in about 4 weeks, so it's still pretty far off. The Fleet Feet store has group runs on Wed and Sun regardless though, so I think as soon as school is out (3 more weeks!) I'll go check it out! I think it'll be a great way to improve my running, and who knows, maybe I'll make some new friends too! :-)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I Survived My First 10 Mile Race!

Well, I survived it! Here is my official Hermes Cleveland 10-Mile Race Report.

When my DH and I arrived downtown, we met up with a friend of mine. We went to get our chip timers and to hopefully find a bathroom. Much to our dismay, the lines for the restroom were a mile long! We decided to try the porto-potties (ICK!) by the starting line, but when we got there, the line was even longer! With just 10 minutes left till the start, we figured we'd either have to just hold it, or find a very discreet spot! (We did the former!) Anyhow, as the race started, the clouds grew darker and the rain began spilling down upon us. I thought, "Oh GREAT!" Lucky enough though, the rain only last about 1-2 minutes and then it was done for the rest of the day. :-) Here's a break down of the rest of the race...from what I can remember!

Miles 1-3: Course went through the streets of Cleveland. Weather was great and course was flat. Tons of racers! I focused mostly on just setting a good pace and enjoying it. I still felt like I had to go to the bathroom, but I figured I could stop at a porto potty if I needed to more towards the end. (Turns out while I thought there were two porto stops, there was only one! I had no choice but to hold it!)

Miles 4-6: Ran on a long straitaway along Burke Lakefront Airport with the wind at my back. Felt great! Had some Sport Beans at about mile 5.

Miles 7-8: Ran back the other way with a strong headwind and all uphill! UGH! This is where I started depending on my trusty new Timex Ironman to get me through it. I just focused on getting though 1 mile or 10 minutes at a time. I also noticed too that my legs felt STRONG on those hills! I swear those Firm videos (AKA: Squat workouts from Hell) seriously prepared my legs to push up those hills with really little effort!

Mile 9-10: Steeper hill, but we were now back downtown so I knew I was close to the finish! I thought, this is it! I dug down and really pushed it in for the last mile. There was a really nice runner who had already finished and was standing on one of the streets. She was yelling to us all, "The finish line is right around this corner! You can do it!" I looked at my Timex and thought, "That can't be right -- my split for this mile is only 8 minutes...I still have another two minutes..." I trusted her though and really put it into gear. Sure enough, as soon as I turned that corner, I saw a huge crowd and the finish clock. I don't know what came over me, but I found a gear that I never knew existed and seriously sprinted to the finish! I heard the announcer say, "Whoa, look at this girl come in. And she just ran 10 miles folks!" I was so excited! I was happy too to see the clock and my Timex time which both had a time lower than my goal time! My goal time was 1:45 and my official finish time was...(drum roll)...1:39:35! Woo hoo! Not bad for three weeks off of serious running...bum knees...and seriously having to pee by that point!

Anyhow, here are my not-at-all-consistent splits via my Timex Ironman:

Mile 1: 9:50
Mile 2: 10:05
Mile 3: 9:57
Mile 4: 10:25
Mile 5: 9:40
Mile 6: 10:05
Mile 7: 10:05
Mile 8: 10:12
Mile 9: 10:24
Mile 10: 8:53 WHOA!

Thanks for reading my LONG RR. Didn't I say this was going to be short? Ooops! Sorry! :-)

WAIT, ONE LAST THING! I do want to take a moment to say how totally awesome my DH is! He drove down to the race with me today, carried an insane amount of my stuff, took the job as my personal photographer, and cheered for me the whole way! He told me how proud he was of me at least 10 times and even took me to Wendy's for a frosty after the race! I am so thankful to have such a supportive husband! THANK YOU! XOXOXO

Monday, December 6, 2010

Avoiding My Run!

I had such a bad day at work today! Actually, I hate to say it, but I've been having a couple of bad days now! The school year is coming to an end, and unfortunately, the kids think school is already over. "Who needs to do WORK?! Rules -- What are those? We're not here to learn -- we're here to chat with friends and hook up!" AHHHHHH! I'm pulling my hair out! And as much as they hate listening to me nag/yell at them, trust me, I hate having to do it! I'd love to just sit back at my desk and not be frustrated with the fact that I've asked them to be quiet 3x and they're STILL talking...I've asked them not to pass notes and there they are, passing them not more that 3 feet away...I've asked them to be where they're supposed to be, and yet instead I find them roaming the halls when there not supposed to, or even inviting kids from other classes into ours to chit chat. WHAT?! And then when I call them out on it, they're going to (a) lie through their teeth or (b) yell back at me?! Oh goodness. Anyways, today was enough to put me in a major funk. At the end of the day, once everyone left, I just put my head down on my desk. I did NOT want to lift it up! I contemplated doing my 4 mile run. At first I figured that I would just skip today and go running tomorrow. But then I remembered that I have a chiro appt tomorrow and won't be able to run. So, I begrudgingly marched to the closet/restroom and changed to go running. Just as I mustered the courage to walk out the back door, I noticed it looked a little gray out. The forecast said no rain until later... Well, as soon as I walked out, it started raining. I thought, "Well, this is my omen -- no running today." Well wouldn't you know it, by the time I drove to the end of my school's driveway, it had stopped raining! UGH! I thought, "Well, that's fine. I'll just run at home." Well after I got home, I still couldn't shake my bad school day. I was just so frustrated. I peeked at Accuweather and once I saw the radar and wind gusts, I decided to scrap my run. I probably should have gone, but oh well. I was just too mad! (It's hours later and I'm STILL fuming!) At least I only have a few more days left of school...14 school days to be exact.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Scrapbooking...Oh Yeah, I Remember That!

I used to love scrapbooking but haven't had time for it in a LONG time. I also got kind of bummed because it seemed like a didn't have any fun stuff going on to scrapbook about! That's when I started doing little projects. Those were fun. The last one I did was a set of letters that I altered for our guest room. They turned out a little more "girly" than I had planned, but oh well! I had fun making them!

Now that we are in November, I know that Christmas is right around the corner. Every year I say that I am going to make my own cards. I am hoping this year I will actually do it! I think it'll be a fun project!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Is It Time for A Hobby Switch?

AHHH, it has been a week since my last post. Very bad -- and it has been even longer since I've posted any crafty stuff. WHOA. And here it is...the first symptom of what I've deemed, "the hobby switch". My husband laughs at me about this, but I just can not stick with one hobby for any long period of time. For awhile, I was really into my fishtank and aquascaping. That kept my busy through the winter, but once spring came around, I was all about gardening. When fall came, that went to the wayside and I got into knitting. After about 20 scarves, I got into scrapbooking. Love that, but lost some of my mojo and started reading. Read about 20 books in two months and then started scrapbooking again. The winter months were still waning on though and I missed plants, so I started growing African Violets...lots of them! Now they are doing their own thing and I tried to get back into scrapbooking. Not a lot of pics to scrap though, so I started making cards. Well, that's been fun, but now I have this goal to run a 1/2 marathon, so now running has become my new obsession. In the past three weeks, I bought new running shoes, clothes, and have subscribed to Runner's World mag. Until I get it, I've been reading back issues from the library. What's funny about all of this though, is that I totally focus ALL of my energy into that one hobby of the moment. Since I finished those scarves, haven't picked up a needle since then. Since I finished my last of those 20 books, not a single one since then. I have been all or nothing baby!

Through all of my "hobby switches" though, I have always run. Maybe not so much in the winter, but while it's nice out, I usually try to get in 2-4 miles every other day. It's only now that I'm really started to think competitively about it again. SO, I am hoping this isn't a TOTAL "hobby" switch. For one, I'd like to think that running isn't just a "hobby" for me. I've been running off and on since high school, which for me has been about 10 years. It's the one thing I've stuck with to some degree this whole time. I'd like to think it is more of a lifestyle for me. I am hoping with this new goal, that will solidify it for me. The other reason I hope this isn't a "hobby switch" for me is simply because I still like scrapping and cardmaking. I just need to make sure to find time for it in between work, keeping this endlessly messy house clean, (how does that happen with just two people living here?!,) and running. Wish me luck!

Anyhow, here is an Easter card I made a few weeks back. It's actually cuter in person. I used some spring themed paper I got a Target.

I hope to have more to share soon!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why Am I Doing This Again?!

Today was the second speedwork day of my training plan so far. The first traning session was terrible. The track was covered in snow, so I had to do it on an unmarked path. I only had my Nike+iPod to help me. I had two big problems: (1) I miscalculated the distance and instead of running 800s, was running 750s, (2) I could not judge or calculate my pace -- it was all over the place! Using the timer on my iPod was too hard while running. Mistake #1 I can live with -- 50 meters -- no biggie. Mistake #2 -- well if you are running the speedwork "laps" at all different times, well, that kind of defeats the purpose! I think I was running them too fast because I couldn't even finish the last one. :-(

Well, luckily the track was clear today so I was able to do my speedwork there. I started with a mile warmup which was a breeze and then started my first 800 meters (1/2 mile) run. I had my trusty $10 Walmart watch to help me keep time and that worked WAY better. I had the goal time of 4:00-4:14 minutes per 800 in my mind. I hit my first one at 4:04. Not bad. It wasn't too fun though. I took a 400m recovery jog and tried my next 800 -- hit that one at 4:06 but it was tough! When I finished that 800, I didn't even think about it -- I automatically started walking after crossing the line! NOT in the plan! I let myself walk a little though, then started jogging again. Too make a long story short, I pushed myself through the next two 800 meter sets with times of 4:09, then 4:14. It was really hard and I had to use a lot of positive "atta girl!" self talk.

At one point, I actually thought, "What in the world am I doing out here?! Nobody else is here...I'm not training on a team so it's not like anyone is depending on me...And yet here I am, pushing myself through complete discomfort / mild agony to do what? Run faster? For who?!" I didn't come up with any obvious answers, except of course, "For me!" My husband and family could care less how fast I run an 800 in. They'd love me just as much whether I ran them in 2 min, 4 min or 10min! (And I am very thankful for that!) My friends, while supportive, could care less -- none of them really run. So again, why am I out here? I guess the answer, "FOR ME!" will have to suffice for now!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wilton Cake 1: Please Don't Laugh!

So yesterday was my first real Wilton 1 Decorating Class. I say, real, because for the first one, we just watched our instructor decorate. Last night, we finally got to play with some frosting! Before that though, I had to bake and frost a cake. I baked the cake on Tuesday, and headed over to my friend's house the following day to frost the cake and prepare our icings before class. So it was me and four other girls and we thought 2 1/2 hours would be pleeeenty of time to do all that. Yeah... not so much!

As soon as we all arrived, we immediately started making the frosting. A few people worked on that, while the rest of us trimmed the cakes, cut them into layers, filled the cake, then stacked the layers. (I filled mine with a lemon meringue pudding. YUM and super easy!) Once the cakes were all set, we finally started icing. We quickly found out that one bowl of frosting was not going to be enough. DUH! We started making frosting like crazy! Confectioners sugar was flying everywhere! It was hilarious! Well once we had enough, we continued frosting. The instructor made it look so easy when she showed us. For some reason, mine didn't quite look like hers! :-) None of my other friend's cake did either, so we all just laughed! After that, we speedily made our colored icings while stuffing pizza in our faces. We cleaned up, packed our bags, and raced out the door without a minute to spare.

As I ran out to my car, I placed my cake on the roof of the car to arrange all of my supplies inside. I placed my keys in the ignition and was just about to rev her up and I remembered my cake! I nearly drove off with my cake still on the roof! AHHH! I would have totally cried if anything happened to my cake! Luckily, I saved it though. After grabbing my cake, I finally headed over.

Once we got to JoAnns, we set up and got to work. Long story short, the instructor had us practice making stars and writing letters. Let's just say that I have a whole new appreciation for the girls at our local bakery! :-) We finally got to work on our cakes. I wanted to just make some fall leaves. We had more trouble than I thought sharing the icings in the time we had, so I just used two colors of leaves instead of three. I didn't place my leaves on the way I wanted to either. Oh well! I also seem to run out of time too. I wanted to put a top border and a bottom border, but I was only to finish my final leaf with a few minutes to spare. I could have put on the border if I REALLY wanted to, but I have to admit, I was pretty tired by then. After a long day's work, a crazy cake frosting episode, and a two hour class, by 8:30, I was D.O.N.E!

While the people over at Ace of Cakes, or even, my local grocery store bakery are nowhere near in danger of losing a job to ME, I think my cake turned out at least half way decent. I still think it looks like a 4 year old did it, but everyone keeps saying it looks good. They must feel sorry for me! Oh well, I can only improve from here, right?!

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Shows are Finally Back!

Okay, this is totally not running related. I just wanted to say how happy I am that my shows are finally back on! Tonight, I will be plopped on my couch wathing Lost. I have been watching that show from the very beginning and just love all the individual story lines and the twists and turns. Can't wait to see what'll happen tonight! Friday night is a new show I've been watching -- Moonlight. This is it's first season and while the premise is a little out there (the main character is a vampire,) I am totally drawn into the show! I find the inner conflict the main character goes through pretty compelling, and of course the forbidden love thing is always fun. Oh yeah, did I mention...the main character is very easy to look at! OMG, I can not help but smile like a giddy school girl every time I watch the show! It's so difficult to watch it too because usually my DH watches with me and I try my best NOT to let him know that I am basically mesmerized by this guy on tv. Anytime my DH finds out that I think some guy is good looking, he has to make a HUGE deal about it! He'll spend the whole entire show saying stuff like, "Oh, there's your man! Look out, here he comes! Maybe you'll be lucky and he'll take his shirt off for you!" Oh, did I mention that he'll do that through the WHOLE show! It gets super annoying. It gets to the point that I don't even want to watch the stupid show anymore. So anyhow, DH, if you're reading this -- yes, I think the guy is a looker. Now let's move on! :-)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Healthy Recipe #1: Zucchini and Chicken Salad

As promised, here is a healthy recipe I'd love to pass on. It's one of my DH's favorite summertime salads. It's pretty easy to make, is tasty and very healthy.

Zucchini and Chicken Salad
(From: Everyday Food’s Great Food Fast)

Serves 4


¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1¼ pounds zucchini, thinly sliced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 bunch (8 oz) spinach, roughly chopped
½ red onion, thinly sliced
¾ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh mint


  • In a large bowl, whish together ¼ cup of the olive oil, the lemon juice, and the salt and pepper to taste. Add the zucchini; toss to coat, and let marinate while cooking the chicken.
  • In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 6-7 minutes per side. Remove from skillet, allow to cool, and slice thinly.
  • Toss the chicken with the zucchini mixture, spinach, red onion, pecans, parmesan cheese, and mint. Serve, eat, and say YUM!

We're Here! Vacay Report: Day 1

So we ended up traveling for 22 hours before we finally got to bed. The final plane ride was a little over 5 hours long, but after traveling so long, it felt like 15! I was getting so antsy the final hour and couldn't get off that stupid plane fast enough. I actually started thinking, "The next vacation I go on will have a plane ride limit -- Anything beyond 10 hours of travel is too much for me!" The exhaustion took a toll and both DH and I and the only thing we could do once we arrived was crash!

Well, when we woke up this morning, we mosied down to the lobby and enjoyed a nice breakfast poolside. As soon as I sat down and took in the view, I realized the 22 hour trip was more than worth it!

After taking a walk around the hotel, we grabbed some brochures and chose some activities to do over the next 10 days we are here. The first thing we're doing is taking a hike tomorrow through Volcanic National Park. Hopefully we'll get close enough to actually see some of the lava flow! Super cool! That'll take almost the whole day tomorrow and we're both pretty psyched. Hopefully I'll have some cool pics to share of that soon!

Other than that, we spent most of today just exploring. We checked out the local shops and even hit the local supermarket to pick up some somewhat affordable food. (After the $25/person breakfast this morning, milk and Cap'n Cruch looks mighty tasty! Too bad the milk was $7/gallon!) More updates to come!


As an aside, I brought some of my running gear just in case I felt like hitting the pavement. I thought it might be cool to try to find a nice path around here and find my own "Rave Run"! At first I wondered how I was going to get my mileage in without knowing the area, but my DH got me one more Bday gift that'll surely help with that -- a Garmin Forerunner 405! That thing is flippin awesome! It's pretty ginormous on my twiglike wrist and way more technological than I think I can handle, but it is pretty darn cool. I can't wait to take it out on its first test run!

Also, while trying to kill time at LAX, I wandered into a bookstore and found this super cute cupcake book: Hello, Cupcake. It's got all sorts of pics and directions for how to create cupcakes in all different designs! Next time you go to Borders, check it out!

No TWD Today

Just wanted to write a quick note to say that I will not be able to complete the Tuesdays with Dorie recipe for this week or next week! I won't be home until August, so I'll have to jump back in then. I look forward to getting home and checking out all of your awesome recipes! I can't wait to see how everyone liked the Cherry-Rhubarb Cobbler. I have a bag of rhubarb sitting in my freezer just waiting for me when I get home.

Vacay Report Day 2 coming later today... If I'm not too tired! :-)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pumpkin Fudge

A friend of mine has been mentioning that she loves having pumpkin fudge this time of year but hasn't been able to find any at all. As she is telling me this, I am remembering that I have half a can of pumpkin puree that I need to do something with. Well, it didn't take me long to put 2 and 2 together!

As soon as I got home, I started searching for some pumpkin fudge recipes. I haven't made fudge in a loooong time though and didn't even own a candy thermometer, so I was searching for something easy. I turned to the VeryBestBaking website since I had such good luck with their pumpkin roll recipe and sure enough, I found a pumpkin fudge recipe! It still mentioned the use of a candy thermometer, but after reading up about testing for the "soft ball stage," I figured out how to make it without the thermometer.

I modified* the recipe a tad based on some reviewer comments, so click here for the original or look below for my adapted version.

Spiced Pumpkin Fudge
(adapted from

-2 cups granulated sugar
-1 cup packed light brown sugar
-3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter

-2/3 cup (5 fl.-oz. can) evaporated milk
-3/4* cup pumpkin puree
-1 Tablespoon* pumpkin pie spice
-2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) white chocolate chips
-1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow crème
-1 cup chopped pecans
-1 teaspoon* vanilla extract

1. Line 13 x 9-inch baking pan with foil.
2. Combine sugar, brown sugar, evaporated milk, pumpkin, butter and spice in medium,
heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 10 to 12 minutes or until candy thermometer reaches 234° to 240º F (soft-ball stage). *Because I didn't have a thermometer, I placed a bowl of cold water next to the stove and did a test for the soft-ball stage.
3. Quickly stir in morsels, marshmallow crème, nuts and vanilla extract. Stir vigoriously for 1 minute or until morsels are melted. Immediately pour into prepared pan. Let stand on wire rack for 2 hours or until completely cooled. Refrigerate tightly covered. To cut, lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Makes about 3 pounds.

So after allowing these to cool in the fridge for a few hours, I pulled out the pan, lifted the fudge and sliced off a little piece. I was hoping to this would have a nice strong, spiced pumpkin taste. I was worried that the white chocolate would be too overwhelming. It wasn't! This fudge was wonderful! It tasted just like pumpkin pie, with just a little white chocolate. It was just what I was looking for. I'm glad I added more pumpkin puree and spice to the fudge. It was fabulous!

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Taste of Summer

Well, it's been awhile since I've given an update on other things, so here's a little bit of everything going on right now...

Run Report: Again, not too much new going on. I've kept up with my training and have continued to bring the speed work back into the routine. I hit the local track last week and ran some intervals. I was pleasantly surprised at how good I felt. While I had planned on running a 400, 800, 1600, 800, 400 with 400 recovery runs in between, I wasn't able to do that middle 1600. I could instead only do another 800. It was insanely hot and humid though, so I think that's still pretty good for me, especially considering my last track workout was um... in March! Unfortunately though, I have no idea what my times were. I was so distracted that morning, that I put the wrong watch on! I didn't even realize it either until I was just finishing my mile warm up and went to press the button to time my first 400 only to find my "fancy" silver/gold watch on my wrist. DOH! Oh well...

As far as my long run, I'm glad to say that I'm up to 12 miles. I felt pretty good while doing it too. I was super tired the rest of the day though. I usually do a session of Namaste Yoga afterwards to stretch out and I opted out last Saturday. I paid for it! I did it later during the day and it did the trick. I was again reminded the importance of stretching.

This week, I have a planned cut back week and will be enjoying it!


In the Kitchen: I think my all-time favorite summer pie is strawberry rhubarb pie. I was excited to find some rhubarb at my local grocery store so I immediately started looking for a good recipe. I started by looking in my favorite cookbook, America's Test Kitchen's The New Best Recipe and was lucky enough to find a strawberry rhubarb pie recipe -- perfect! I had to find one strange ingredient (arrowroot) but was soon ready to go.

I tried a new dough recipe, also from The New Best Recipe and had a much better time with it. The main difference was that when you add the ice water to the dry mixture, you don't do it in the food processor. You instead do it in a separate bowl and then fold the ice water in. That seemed to work much better for me since I could easily see the consistency of the dough to tell exactly when it was ready. This will definitely be my go-to pie dough making method!

I then worked on the filling which seemed pretty easy and worked on assembling the pie. This is definitely the hardest part for me. Getting the dough from my work surface to the pie plate is a nightmare. Of all the methods recommended, the easiest for me is to fold the dough over itself in half, then fold it again in fourths. Then pick up the dough, put it in a corner of the plate, then simply open up the dough. After wrestling with the dough, I finally had everything assembled as directed, put it in the oven, and crossed my fingers.

After an hour or so of baking and a few hours of cooling, the pie was finally ready to be sliced. I'd show a picture of a nice slice, but that is not possible. Each slice is crazy ugly for two reasons. First, the bottom crust wasn't firm. To fix that, I think next time I will butter the pie plate. I can also maybe place some bread crumbs or graham cracker crumbs to help keep the crust from getting soggy, like Dorie suggested in her blueberry pie recipe. The other reason for the heinous looking slices is that the filling was pretty runny. I think I need maybe more arrowroot next time. I will also slice the fruit smaller. The chunks were a little big for my liking.

As ugly as the slices were, my tummy did not discriminate. The pie was very tasty! It was the perfect balance of sweet and tart -- my ideal taste of summer.


Summer Vacay: The word "vacay" will have a whole new meaning next week. My birthday is this Friday. I'm turning the big 3-0. I have been begging my DH all year to go on a vacation of some sort this summer. All year he has been saying NO WAY! Well just yesterday, he finally spilled the beans. He has been planning a surprise vacation for my birthday all year! He only told me early so that I could get some shopping done and get the house ready, but that's all he's telling me! I know we will be gone for 10 days... I know that I need to bring a few swim suits... I know I need hiking shoes also... but I have no idea WHERE we're going! That is the one thing he wants to keep a surprise until my actual birthday. Tee Hee! I'm so excited! So needless to say, I have no idea what that means for running or cooking/baking challenges over the next two weeks, but I'm not worried about that! All those things will be here when I get back. Until then, I've got some rays to soak up! YEA!

I'm Back!

I didn't get a chance to blog our last days in Hawaii, but we didn't do too much. We drove around to Hilo on Wednesday and stopped to see some waterfalls and botanical gardens. Then we went to Volcanic National Park only to find out that much of the hiking trails and roads throughout the park were closed. We finished off the day by heading back out to Kalapana to see the lava flow to get a few more pics. It was pretty cool. The next morning was our last morning there. I went snorkeling one last time and said goodbye to all the cool honus (sea turtles) there. After that, we bought a few last souvenirs and then had to head to the airport. I cried almost all morning. I SO did not want to go! I refused to accept that I could no longer wake up every morning, eat breakfast on my balcony while taking in a gorgeous view, and then walk a mere 100 yards down to the beach to swim with my new friends, the sea turtles. Boo Hoo! Much to my dismay, reality was awaiting us and my time of ignoring it was regrettably up.

After a few very cush first class flights, we finally arrived home Friday afternoon. After saying hello to the kitties for few minutes and laying around, we quickly went about unpacking and washing all of our clothes. We had a birthday party the following day so we knew we had to get done as much as possible Friday. We tried hard to stay up till 10PM (which was 4AM Hawaii time) in order to get back on our sleep schedule. Well, while we did go to bed around 10:30, we slept until noon the next day! DOH! So much for that! Luckily, the party was at 4 so we still had time to go shopping to get a gift.

We got to the party just in time and even had some pics to share. It was funny though because later my MIL said, "Wow, it sounds like you had a great time. Are you glad to be back home though?" I realize she probably expected me to say, "Oh yes, I missed home so much." But I just couldn't lie! I did not miss home at all! I said, "No...I'd rather be there! It was so beautiful and we had so much fun!" I even told my husband that if someone gave me an offer to live there but said I had to give up my house, my car, and all my worldly possessions, I'd be like, "Okay!" He said, "Yeah right. You'd get tired of it after awhile. The grass is always greener on the other side." Hmmm, I don't know. I can bet there aren't too many people who say, "Wow, I wish I could live in Ohio. It's way better than Hawaii!" :-)

Oh well. I am slowly reminding myself that even though I can't live in paradise, I am extremely fortunate to have even been able to visit. And I have tons of beautiful pictures to remind myself of that every day and that is good thing!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Way Harder Than I Thought!

Okay, so earlier this week I read The Law of Attraction by Michael Losier and I decided that whether I believe in everything the guy is saying, the message of positive thinking can't be a bad one, so I thought I'd give a try. Okay, this may not have been the best week to start that. This has been SO difficult! Monday was one of my MOST frustrating teaching days. Here's a sample...

1) Last Friday, my principal declared that we could have a "jeans day" every day for the last two weeks up until winter break for $15. (Teachers in my building often pay money to be able to dress down in jeans. The $$ collected goes to a charity or local needy family.) So anyhow, I was super psyched to be able to wear jeans, I actually went out and bought another pair. As soon as I got home Sunday night, I threw them in the wash so that I could wear them Monday. Okay, so now it's Monday morning, and I'm running late. I run down to the dryer and pull my new jeans out only to find them nearly two sizes smaller than they were the night before! I mean, when I put them on, my legs felt like they were in sausage casing! What the hell?!?! I followed the label instructions! GRRR. I didn't even have time to change or find anything else, so there I was for the rest of the day, stuck in sausage casing!

2) I got to school and almost immediately got a note from a parent saying that she wants all of her son's missing assignments for the past NINE weeks so that he can do them all and get full credit for them. Uh...NO! And if not, she expects me to put together some extra credit work for him because there are only a few days left in the quarter and he can't have a D on his report card. Uh....yeah, I'll get right on that!

3) Just a few minutes later I ask a student to please find his way back to his classroom (which I know is downstairs) and to stop wandering the hallways. He tells me to "mind my own business." Uh...excuse me?!?!? So then of course, I have to confront the whole situation and I'm just thinking, "WHY?! Why did you have to go there? Because now this means paperwork for me, and that is NEVER good." Anyway, the boy refuses to give me his name or even his homeroom teacher, and only continues to say that it's none of my !@#@# business. AWESOME!

4) My principal comes to my room asking me for the locker number of one of my students and his combination since they now have to search his locker after he threatened to kill one of my other students. Kill them?! Please, so unorginal! (Meanwhile, as she's talking to me, I'm hoping she doesn't notice my sausage casing jeans. I might have to pay extra for those!)

All this within about 15 minutes. At this point, I just want to go home and start all over again! Trying to start my positive thinking plan on that Monday was like trying to start a diet on Thanksgiving Day! It's just not possible. Well, there was one ray of light...the teacher next door decided to order in for lunch so we had lunch from my favorite Mexican place down the street. Little things like this make everything all better! :-)

The Training Begins!

Wow, it's been nearly a week now since my last blog entry. I have been busy with school and have just been in a general funk, so the inspiration to blog just hasn't been there. Anyhow, I did want to update on one of my goals for the year and that is to run a half marathon! I have NEVER done one before, but I need something concrete to motivate myself to get off the couch, so, there you have it! Anyhow, I'm happy to report that my half marathon training has officially begun! A coworker recommended this tool on the Runner's World website called Smart Coach. You enter in your last race time and the type of race you want to train for, and it gives you a whole workout schedule. Pretty cool! Well, the half marathon I want to run is the Cleveland Clinic River Run and it isn't until September 7th. The plan I got on Smart Coach is a 16-week plan, but I figured the sooner I start training, the better! In fact, my one coworker suggested setting a spring goal for myself. So, I decided to start training for a 5K in the spring. I told my teaching partner, (who is starting to run) about it and she found one in March AND signed up! WHOA, that's just a month away! I think I am going to do it with her though.

So, my training started on Feb. 1st. I just ran once around my development. I hated it though because we live on the middle of a big hill, so half of my run is downhill (awesome) but the other half is uphill (totally UNawesome!) The loop is about 1.75 miles. So far, I've run a few times more -- about every other day. Today was my longest run. I wanted to run 4 miles, but I had to stop at 3.6. My pace was better though. Using my cool new Nike+ IPod, I was able to see my pace per mile. I only have used it for the past two runs, but for my first run with it, I ran 2.6 miles at 9:46/mi. Today I ran 3.6 at 9:20/mi. That's better! I was so exhausted though and a bit disappointed I didn't do the 4 miles. I honestly can NOT imagine how I will EVER run 13.1 miles!!! That seems so far away! And those split times are SO much slower than I used to run in high school. Then again, that was a LOOOOOONG time ago. Actually, I should be pretty proud. I mean, that 3.6 mile run was only my 4th run since spending 6 solid months keeping the couch from flying up into the air. I know, instead of focusing on the daunting distance of 13.1 miles, I will instead try to focus on smaller distances first. I've got the 5 K in March to work towards, then maybe a few months later, I'll do a 10K...I'll get there eventually, RIGHT?! Oh well. Time to focus on the positive -- According to my Smart Coach plan, I am ahead of schedule! Anyone have tips or inspiration to offer?!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Raindrops are Falling on My Head...

Today is a pretty gloomy day outside. It's in the low 60s and has been nonstop raining all morning. I've taken a few days off from running since my last run was pretty painful. I've been massaging my lower leg with my foam roller and icing and I think that's helped. I decided to brave the yucky weather and go out for a short run. I drove over to one of my favorite local parks, Hudson Springs Park. There is a small lake there and a 1.8 mile wooded trail that goes around it. Part of the trail though is open and near the trail, they have pavillions, a play area for kids, picnic tables, and swings there. You can also rent canoes and go out on the lake. I have never done that though -- I don't know how, I don't know why, but I know I'd end in the water somehow! Anyhow, the park is really nice with tons to do. My DH and I actually got some of our wedding pictures taken there. It was cute because there I was in my big poofy wedding dress and these little girls were there with their family having a picnic. They kept falling us around talking about how they thought I was a princess! SO CUTE! That was such a beautiful day...unlike today! As I was driving there, the little sprinkles on my windshield grew stronger and more plentiful. By the time I pulled in, it was a pretty steady rain. Oh well, I was already there I figured. I started on my run and luckily, before I knew it, the rain was the last thing on my mind. I focused more on my knees trying to monitor how they were feeling, all while trying to push myself up and down the hills that I seemingly forgot existed. On each hill, just as I felt that I couldn't suck in anymore air, luckily I had reached the top and was ready to come down. I just kept thinking, "What goes up, must come down!" That helped! Anyway, I'm glad to say that I ran the loop twice for 3.6 miles and both knees felt WAY BETTER than my 4 mile run earlier in the week. I had nearly no pain in my right knee and only minor / occasional pain in my left. As soon as I got home, I massaged again with the foam roller and iced. So far so good!

After doing more research on the two races I blogged about yesterday, I think I will do the 5.25 mile race. It turns out that this race is part of the local Blossom Time Festival in Chagrin Falls. The same day of the race, they will be having hot-air balloon races, a parade, and "The Taste of Chagrin" -- you know what that means...yummy food! And if that food weren't yummy enough, there will be the typical fair stuff which means rides, games, and yes...fair food! OMG, my DH loves fair food! And what better way to finish off of 5 mile race than with elephant ears?! (For those non-fair-going people, no they are not literal elephant ears! They're huge pieces of fried dough with cinnamon and sugar. AKA, "crystally goodness!") I still have a few weeks to decide though, but this one sounds good to me!

Now I am contemplating another couple of races, but these aren't until August. The problem is, they are on the same day. Remember how I said that I would LOVE to run another 10 mile race? Well, it turns out there IS another 10 mile race not too far from here. It's the Perfect 10-Miler and is scheduled for Sunday, August 17th. It looks like a pretty popular race with some pretty good runners. I know that because I looked at the results from last year, and there were nearly 30 girls just in my age group. When I compared my recent 1o mile time with their times, I would have been almost dead last! Yikes! The other race is a 10K (6.2 miles). The results from last year show a much smaller group (55 people in the entire race) with times that I could compete with. Oh, and there's one more factor -- both of these races are just 3 weeks before the half marathon I want to run! The 10-mile race could be a good "practice race", but I don't want it to drain me too much for my big race. I don't think it will though. Three weeks should be plenty of time to recoop. the 10-mile with great athletes and prepare to be smoked or run the 10K with fewer, more equal-to-me athletes and hope for a medal? Decisions, decisions...Hmmm, I wonder what food they will have at each...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I've Been Tagged! WOO HOO!

Okay, so I'm super excited because this is my first "tag"! I've been tagged by Linda! Here goes...

1. Name your 2 favorite scrapbooking topics: any kind of family get together, our cats doing funny or cute stuff

2. What are the 2 best places you've been to? Maui and the Bahamas

3. Name 2 things you do every day: email and hopefully something creative (writing, crafting, or even cooking, although not that last one so much lately!)

4. Tell us 2 things that pretty much everyone knows about you. I am a teacher and am recently married...well, kind of. We've been married for 2 1/2 years.

5. 2 places you wish to visit: The Philippines and Australia

6. 2 things you may not know about me are: First, I know a lot about a lot of random things. You see, whenever I get into a hobby, I have to know everything there is to know about it! So, I know a lot about aquariums, raising African violets, growing roses and hydrangea, and hopefully, scrapbooking and card making! Second, I once got to be an extra in a movie!

7. 2 nicknames you've had at some time in your life: My name is Tammie but my dad used to call me Tamoca (rhymes with taco.) I have no idea why! I never really liked it because it always made me think of tacos! I do like tacos though. I never really had another nickname except maybe for Mila. That is my middle name and in high school, a couple of my friends thought that was a cooler name and started calling me that.

8. Name 2 of your favorite drinks: Cherry Coke and Chai Tea Latte

9. What are 2 interesting (in a good or bad way) jobs you have had in your life? One interesting job I had was in high school! As I said above, I got to be an extra in a movie. It was a totally lame martial arts movie called, "Double Dragon". They were filming in Cleveland and needed extras for some fight scene. The director was friends with a guy in my town who owned a martial arts studio. They wanted a certain "look" though and went to my high school looking for people. That's where I was DISCOVERED! Ooooooo! Anyhow, I had no martial arts training so I had to take karate for 2 weeks and I had to audition. I even had to do all this karate moves! It was crazy. I got to hang out on the film set and meet Scott Wolf and Alyssa Milano. That was cool! I never made it onto the movie, but it was still super fun! The second interesting job I guess is teaching. I never have a dull day, that's for sure!

10. What are your top 2 fun things to do after work? Scrapbook or make cards and watch tv. I usually end up doing all three at once!

11. What are 2 things I would like to learn: I would like to learn how to speak another language. My mom and many of my relatives speak Tagalog (the language of the Philippines.) I would love to be able to speak with her in her native lang. The second thing I'd like to learn would be to dance! I always get super psyched when I see shows like So You Think You Can Dance?! I know that is so not me though. I'd probably break something -- either something in the room, or something in my body!

12. What are the last 2 songs you downloaded or last 2 CD's you bought? I haven't downloaded any tunes in a long time...don't remember the titles, but I KNOW it was something from the 80s! To keep with the "2" theme, I'll make two guesses...Janet Jackson's "Control" and Cindy Lauper's "Girl's Just Wanna Have Fun"!

13. Okay, here is my question: What are the last two books you've read? I haven't read in awhile, but the last book I read was The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. It's a historical fiction novel which a lot of people recommended to me. I wasn't a fan myself. Before that, I read, The Thirteenth Tale. I can't remember the author's name right now, but I LOVED that book! It was like a modern day Gothic kind of story which rich language and a good twist at the end! Great fun!

Okay, that's it for me! Now it's time for someone else. All of the questions have 2 in them. Answer the questions, add one question of your own (this tag started with 4 questions) and then tag 2 people. Simple enough? I am tagging Jill and Melanie.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dinner at Lolitas

Here is my review of Michael Symon's restaurant Lolita. I tried to discreetly take a few pics with my camera phone, but ummm, yeah -- the pics didn't come out so great. It's not me though, it's the camera.... yeah, that's right, the camera! :-)

Yesterday was my husband's and my anniversary -- a whopping 3 years! We decided to celebrate by going out to dinner at a new place. And with my new foodie obsession, we decided to try out one of Michael Symon's new restaurants. For those of you unfamiliar...Michael Symon was named as the newest "Iron Chef" on Food Network's Iron Chef America. He is a native of NE Ohio and owns two restaurants in Cleveland -- Lola and Lolita. Initially, I told my husband that I wanted to go to the fancier of the two restaurant -- Lola. Then he encouraged me to check out the menu to be sure of which restaurant I wanted to eat at. Yeah, for me, I like to try to picture the food while I'm deciding what I want sure helps to know what half of the those words mean! "Merguez"...what? Halibut "morels"... uhhhhh? "Gremolata" -- wasn't that a movie? Okay, clearly I was a little...okay, a lot out of my league here. We decided to try Lolita's instead. I pretty much could recognize everything on that menu! LOL!

Well, we arrived to Tremont, which is a suburb of Cleveland. If you plan on going to Lolita's be aware that there is no parking lot. (I guess if you're familiar with the area or Cleveland in general, you would assume that already.) Anyhow, we parked on a nearby street and walked over. I guess since this guy is semi-famous, I expected a wow kind of entrance and interior, you know, like Hell's Kitchen or something. While the entrance door is very nice, once you step inside, yeah - not so glam! I mean, it's not hideous or anything, it's just not what I was expecting. First, it's very small. My husband assured me that there is a whole 2nd floor above though. Second, there really wasn't much... atmosphere I guess. Like I said, not BAD, just not GLAM!

So anyhow, we decided that since this was a special day and a special trip, we would order one app each, an entree of course, and one dessert each. I'm definitely glad we each ordered our own app. The appetizers are definitely made for just one person. Well, they may be made for two, but with us being so used to hujungous portions at other restaurants, the apps looked perfect for one. Anyhow, my DH ordered the roasted beets as an app, but instead got the dates (pic below). Hmmm, beets -- dates... I guess they sound similar. He didn't complain though and just decided to try something new. He was very glad he did. I took a little taste and was glad for the mix up too! They were wonderful! The dates were very sweet -- almost dessert sweet, but then I got a little taste of pancetta. OMG, it was the perfect balance of sweet and savory -- the sign of a beautifully designed dish! I ended up getting the lamb ribs (which oddly enough isn't on their online menu). Anyhow, the ribs were served with orange segments, fennel (I think) and parsley. Another great balance of sweet with the orange citrus and savory with the perfectly cooked ribs. Yum!

For our entrees, my DH got the gnocchi with pork ragu and I got the linguine with clams. We both LOVED our dinners. The ingredients were expertly put together to create fabulously complex dishes. And I think that's what made the difference for us -- a lot of restaurants have dishes that taste great, but may be kind of one dimensional, if that makes any sense. These dishes had so much more -- you could taste so many different flavors in each bite, with each flavor complementing another. Fab!

For dessert, my DH got the vanilla gelatto and I got the mango sorbet. While the gelatto was good, my DH said it was pretty similar to just ice cream... but really good ice cream! My sorbet was insanely good! I mean, it tasted like they took mangoes, at their peak freshness, pureed them, and then froze them for this fab sorbet. I mean, so many times you get a sorbet that is supposed to be raspberry flavor or strawberry, and then it tastes nothing like the original fruit! This was SO not like that! Very yum!

So anyhow, while we were pretty unimpressed with atmosphere of Lolita, the food was very good. And considering that, the prices are fairly reasonable. I mean, I've paid more for a plate of food at Outback or even Olive Garden, and their food, while very yummy, doesn't reach the complexity of what Lolita has to offer. So I say, if you are in Tremont area, give it a try! I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Monday, October 11, 2010

TWD: Chocolate Banded Torte

This week, Amy of Food, Family and Fun chose the Chocolate Banded Torte for our Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. All I can say, is that this recipe is exactly why I wanted to join TWD. First, it is something that I would never have tried on my own! It looks way too complicated for my newbie skills (or lack thereof!) Secondly, I am so glad I joined because this recipe rocks! I think it is one of the best things I have EVER made! It not only looks cool, but it tastes great too! It was fun also because you could totally change it up depending on what flavors ice cream you decide to use in the layers. I love that!

The original recipe calls for a ganache made from scratch. I was surprised at how easy it was to make. Melt some butter and chocolate (I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips), whisk in some sugar, and add tons of eggs – DONE! Next the recipe called for adding some raspberry mixture into store-bought vanilla ice cream. Well now that I have my own ice cream maker, I scoff at store-bought ice cream. That’s right, SCOFF! (No offense to those that used store-bought ice cream! I just look for any excuse to use my new ice cream maker! J) So anyhow, I decided to make my own raspberry ice cream. Luckily, I found a pretty basic recipe in my new Williams-Sonoma Frozen Desserts book. (See below.) The recipe was supposed to yield 1 quart, but I was worried that wouldn’t be enough, so I decided to make another batch just in case. It was then that I decided to try a different flavor and use up some the fresh blueberries I picked just the week before. So, I made a batch of blueberry ice cream and put everything in the freezer.

Assembling the torte was actually pretty easy. It was very time consuming though because you had to pour a layer of ganache, then freeze for 30 minutes. Put in a layer of ice cream, freeze again for 15 minutes. Another layer or ganache, freeze for 30 minutes… and so on and so forth. I had a ton of other things to do that day though, so it really wasn’t a big deal. I assembled the whole thing in between loads of laundry, baking some cookies, and making dinner.

I was so nervous about how it would turn out seeing as how I have never attempted anything like this, but I am pretty pleased with it! Clearly, I need some help with my slicing technique, ha ha! Other than that though, it actually looks pretty neat and the taste… wowzers! That ganache is so rich and totally fab! And the berry ice cream? The raspberry was a little more tame than I would like, but the blueberry was awesome! I will definitely do this again but would love to try other ice cream flavors! I wonder what else I could do with blueberry? I would also like to try mint. Hey, I wonder how it would taste with a caramel type of ice cream. Ahh, so many options!

Berry Ice Cream
(Shortened version – original version from Williams-Sonoma Frozen Deserts)

2 cups chopped berries
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Puree the berries. Put half of the chopped berries in a food processor along with 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Puree until smooth. Set aside.

2. Prepare the custard ingredients. Put the milk, ¾ cup of the cream, and the remaining ½ cup sugar in a medium saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining ¼ cup cream until they are blended and a pale buttery yellow, about 1 minute.

3. Temper the egg yolks. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently ith a wooden spoon, until bubbles form around the edges and the sugar is dissolved, about 4-5 minutes. Do not allow the liquid to come to a boil. Remove from heat. Begin whisking the egg yolk mixture with one hand while slowly pouring one-fourth of the hot milk mixture into the yolks with the other. When one-fourth of the hot milk mixture has been blended into the yolks, start pouring the warmed yolk mixture back into the saucepan, whisking constantly until well blended.

4. Cook the custard. Place the saucepan with milk and yolk mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, 4-5 minutes or until it reaches a temperature of around 170 degrees F. Do not allow the custard to bubble or come to a boil.

5. Add the pureed fruit and strain the custard. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the pureed berries and vanilla extract. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl. Pour the hot custard through the sieve, gently pressing the liquid through.

6. Cool the custard. Set the bowl inside another bowl filled with ice and cold water. Allow the custard to cool to room temperature, 30-45 minutes.

7. Chill the custard. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard. Cover the top of the bowl also with plastic wrap and refrigerate the custard until well chilled, 3-12 hours.

8. Churn the ice cream and add the fruit. Remove the plastic wrap from the custard and bowl. Pour the well-chilled custard into the mixing container of an ice cream maker and follow manufacture’s instructions. During the last few minutes of churning, add the reserved 1 cup chopped berries and churn just until incorporated.

9. Store the ice cream. Transfer ice cream to a plastic freezer container. Cover tightly and freeze until ice cream is firm, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

**My variation: To make the raspberry ice cream, I followed directions as stated. For the blueberry ice cream though, I didn’t want any skins in the final ice cream, so instead of pureeing 1 cup and tossing another cup at the end, I pureed and added both cups in step 5. I liked it much better and wish I had done that with the raspberry.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Talking Cats -- Too Cute!

So I ran across this video on YouTube. It is too cute!

Now here is a translation someone made. Hilarious!

I swear, that is how my cats must talk to each other!

Hope it brought a smile to your day! :-)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Those Hilly Courses are Paying Off

After a relaxing evening and a rejuvenating 10 hours of sleep last night, I was feeling good this morning. I had a big bowl of cereal and plotted out my run for the day on MapMyRun. I orginally planned a 6 mile out-and-back run but noticed that they was another landmark just 1/2 mile beyond my turnaround. I figured that if I was feeling good, I'd go ahead and push for 7. I grabbed my iPod loaded with some Podrunner tunes and drove to the bike path. As soon as I started my run, I noticed that my pace was a little faster than usual. My breathing was still near "conversational" so I figured I'd just keep it up for as long as I felt okay. Once I got to my 3 mile turn around, I could see the 3.5 mile turn around up ahead. I figured, "What's one more mile?!" I figured too that if I was really tired towards the end, I could always just stop early and still get my planned 6 in. Anyhow, I was feeling pretty good the first 4-5 miles, but then I started to get tired. Normally I have some Sports Beans around then, but I figured those weren't really needed since I was only going a few more miles. So instead, I focused on my form and on maintaining the moderate pace I set, and I pushed through to finish a 7.1 mile run! Woo hoo! This was my longest run since my 10-mile race a few weeks ago. While my knees did hurt occasionally, it was more of a discomfort -- Certainly nothing that would stop my in my tracks. I still am a little annoyed that the pain/discomfort is there though. Will it ever go away?! Anyway, I feel pretty pumped to have pushed out 7 this week. I ran it at a pretty good pace for me too, 9:06 min/mile! The bike path course I ran today is super flat and I think the runs I've had recently at the hilly park I've been going to have made me stronger. Cool! I think I will hit a few more hilly courses before next Saturday. I plotted next Sunday's race course on MapMyRun and the first two miles are all uphill. Yikes! Oh well, what goes up, must come down, right?! I should have a pretty fast finish. At least, let's hope!

Spiced Pumpkin Dip

So after making the pumpkin roll last week, I had a little left over pumpkin puree. I wasn't sure what to do with it until I saw a super easy and yummy tasting recipe over on Annie's Eats. The recipe is for Spiced Pumpkin Dip and you must try it!

Here is the recipe as written on her blog:

Spiced Pumpkin Dip

½ cup canned pumpkin puree
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

In a large mixing bowl, combine canned pumpkin, cream cheese, powdered sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Mix well. Spoon into a decorative bowl.

I love this dip with graham crackers or gingersnap cookies. Yum!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

You Make My Day!

Yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to have been nominated for an award -- The You Make My Day Award! (Thanks Lida!) It is awarded to those people whose blogs, well...make your day! To carry on the tradition, I will share a few blogs that I've been reading lately! (I'm supposed to list 10, but I don't get a chance to read many blogs! Here are 5 I've been checking out lately.)

The Rainbow Crafter: A blog mostly about crafts (of course!)
A Blog of Thoughts: Scrapbooking
Fatcatstamper: Stamping and cardmaking
See Kai Run, See Kai Eat: The name says it all!
Birthday Challenge '08: Running

You girls make my day! THANKS!

Starting to Get Nervous

Tomorrow is the first race I've had since my 1o-miler back in April. While I did fairly well at my last race, I didn't really run it as a "race". In the weeks before the race, I had only gotten up to 9 miles on my long run and then I got injured. I had to take it easy for the three weeks leading up to the race, so I decided to run the race fairly conservatively, saving enough energy to be sure I could even finish the 10. Since then, I've been trying to build up my base again. Most of my runs have been 3-4 miles during the week and then my long run on the weekend, which as of last week was 7 miles. While it felt pretty good, my motivation just hasn't been there. I haven't done any "speedwork" and I've kind of had to force myself to even get out there and do my 3-4 mile runs and my weekly long run. I did complete them though and hope that I am somewhat prepared for my 5.25 mile run tomorrow. I know I can definitely go the distance -- what I'm worried about is pacing and hills!

To try to get a target pace, I used the Running Times Magazine Calculator and entered my last LSD run time. I ran 7.1 miles at a 9:06 pace. The calculator says I should be able to run my 5.25 mile race at around 8:57 pace. I've been doing nothing but "steady-state" runs for awhile now though and haven't hit 8:57in a long time! I'm hoping the momentum of the race will help me push it!

I'm also worried about hills. I used MapMyRun to find the route for the race and then clicked to show elevation. There is a MONSTER hill right in the beginning. From mile 0.75-1.25 is straight up with a change in elevation of +190 feet! From there, it's up and down until mile 2.5 then it's all pretty much downhill from there. Holy moly...that first half of the race is going to be TOUGH! I'm going to need some super rockin tunes on my iPod for the beginning! Clearly, with all the hills, I can forget about getting even splits. I figure, I'll run the first half the race trying my best to stay under 10 min/mile and then try to rock out the last half. We'll see!

The other reason I'm a little nervous is because none of my friends will be there to run with me. They had some other things come up and won't be able to go. On the flip side, my in-laws will be there to watch and cheer me on. As forever grateful as I am to have someone there to show their support, I am nervous because I am so NOT used to that! Of all my 80+ races I had during high school, my own parents went to a total of... 0! That never really bothered me since I was running more for me than for anyone else anyway, but the bottom line is, I am not used to having anyone there to actually watch me. Ahhh! What do I do? What do I say? I am so awkward when I comes to stuff like that! Oh well, instead of feeling awkward, I will focus instead on being grateful and running the best race I can! I hope to have a positive race report for you tomorrow! (Goal finish time: 45-52 minutes)

TWD: Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream

When I first saw that ice cream was on the agenda for Tuesdays with Dorie, I figured I would have to skip it since I don't have an ice cream maker. I've actually made ice cream before with bags, ice, and rock salt, but it's such a pain in the butt and I wasn't ready for that! Then I went over the TWD blog and saw a bunch of people raving over this recipe, which by the way, was chosen by Delores at Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity. So that got me thinking... hmmm, I wonder if maybe this one is worth a little effort. I put that thought in the back of my mind and then headed out to a family get together. Well, wouldn't you know it, my DH's cousin's wife was serving birthday cake and... homemade ice cream! She made ice cream simply out of the extra cake batter she had and it was FAB. U. LOUS. AHH! I knew I had to have an ice cream maker after that!

After asking around, I decided on getting the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. I then found out that Williams-Sonoma offers this ice cream maker for about $1o more than most places BUT, it comes with an extra freezer bowl which retails for $30 itself! (Thanks Joelen!)
It just so happened that I was meeting my friend a few days later for lunch at a place right next to a mall that has a Williams-Sonoma in it! WOO HOO! It was meant to be! So anyhow, I now have my little ice cream making baby! Isn't it cute!

As soon as I got it home, I washed all the needed parts and placed the freezer bowls in the freezer. I then started making the mix for the blueberry ice cream. (Check out Delores's blog for the recipe.) I noticed that the recipe yielded just 1 pint. Well I wanted to really test my machine out, so I decided to double the recipe. The only other change I made was in regards to the sour cream. A lot of people on the TWD blog were saying that this recipe had a little too strong of a sour cream taste, so I actually used a little less than the recipe stated. I mixed the ingredients as directed and popped it in the fridge for the night.

In the morning, the mixture and the freezer bowl were ready! I quickly assembled the machine and poured the blueberry mixture in. I licked the spoon that I used to help the mixture along and was very pleased at how it tasted so far! It was a bit reminescent of a blueberry cheesecake. Yum!

A short 20 minutes later, the ice cream was ready! I spooned it into a quart container and popped it into the freezer for a few hours. After a long day, I finally pulled it out and made myself a bowl. It was SOOOO yummy! It was nice and creamy with a strong blueberry and sour cream taste! For me, the amount of sour cream was perfect. It mellowed out the sweetness of the blueberry, but didn't overpower it. And look how pretty it is! I will definitely make this again! Thanks Delores for choosing this fabulous recipe!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

TWD: Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes

This week, Clara of I Heart Food4Thought chose Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. (Click on her blog link for the original recipe.) I was glad to see a cupcake recipe as I was in need of something fairly easy. Of course, I found some way to make these a little more complicated than needed though. Why do I do that to myself?! LOL! I made the basic batter and then baked these babies up. Once they cooled though, I took Dorie's recommendation and tried to fill the cupcakes with some yummy Nutella! I've never had Nutella before, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but as soon as I opened the lid, I knew just how yummy it would be. It smelled exactly like Ferrero Rochers -- one of my favorite candies! Anyhow, Dorie suggests using a pastry bag with tip and then plunging the tip into the cupcake and filling with Nutella (or marshmallow fluff, jam, etc.). I don't have either of those tools though, so I tried a different method. I cut a cone out from the top of the cupcake and scooped out a little of the inside with a knife. I spooned in some Nutella, then placed the top back on. It seemed to work pretty well! The only problem was that when I went to dip the cupcakes into the glaze topping, the cone fell out. DOH! I decided to just placed the glaze on with a knife instead of dipping. No biggie!

Even with the little additional step, these cupcakes were still pretty easy to make. The shape of the cupcake didn't come out so great though, with the top being uneven on some sides. Oh well... I guess that makes them look more "homemade", right?! While ugly, the taste of the cupcake came out pretty good. The texture was light and fluffy. I wouldn't say it was moist, but it wasn't dry either, so that was good. The glaze topping was different than what I've ever had on a cupcake. Since I'm used to a fluffy frosting, the firmer texture took some getting used too, but the taste was phenomenal. Bittersweet chocolate is my fave, so I loved it. I think I may even like this glaze better than frosting! And the Nutella filling? HELLO! Yum! Between the fluffy chocolate cake, the solid chocolate glaze, and the very rich Nutella, these are some seriously decadent cupcakes! I would love to make these again! When I do though, I hope to have a pastry bag and tip to make the filling a little easier. Hmmm, what to try next?

Oh, and I guess that I should mention that these cupcakes were supposed to be decorated for Halloween. I got pretty lazy though once I had finished the glaze, I decided they were D.O.N.E! :-) Besides, I have to make something for DH's potluck and work later this week so I have to save my Halloween decorating stuff for that. Sorry!

***UPDATE: I had the cupcakes today (the day after baking them) and! They are my favorite cupcakes to date! I ate three just today! EEEK! I have to say though, the Nutella totally makes them for me! They're so yummy! The only problem I encountered was that when I bite into the cupcake, it kind of fell apart. Between the cone I had cut out, and the very dense Nutella, the rest of the cupcake just couldn't hold together. So at least for this instance, I can say the cone method didn't work out too well. That's okay though -- I went out today and bought a pastry bag and tip set just so I could make more of these... the proper way! I can't wait to try all sorts of combinations!