Tuesday, July 12, 2011

All I Need Is A Little Patience -- Easier Said Than Done!

So as you may have read below, last week I went on a 2 mile run and was super psyched to get split times of around 7:14/mile. Well according to my training plan, I was supposed to run 2 miles again yesterday. I was all psyched up, ready to see how awesome my time would be. I was especially anticipating a good time since the weather and running conditions were much better than last week. So I go out feeling pretty good, a little tired, but mostly good. I'm thinking, "I'm definitely going faster than usual." Then I hear my little Nike + iPod lady say in my earphone, "You have reached one mile." I pull out my iPod expecting to see my awesome time, to intead see: PACE=9:27. SAY WHAT?! 9:27?! Is this thing working right?! So I try to pick up the pace and refuse to look back at my iPod until I finish my run. When I am finished, I look at my pace and it says, PACE=8:57. Hmph! That's no 7:14! And I had to work for that 8:57 too. It was a tiring run. I don't get it! :-( I was so dissapointed. I was so excited to see that 7:14 time last week, I started envisioning finish times way better than what I was hoping for before. Well, I guess I need to readjust those times now, back to what they were. I'm beginning to think that 7:14 time was a fluke. All of my other pace times are about the same -- around 9:00 or 9:30 per mile. :-( I was expressing my disappointment to my husband and he reminded me, "Ummm, hello?! You've only been training for 3 weeks. Give it time." NO! I want to be good NOW! I guess I need to pratice a little more patience. It's so hard!

I guess I need to just look at the little progress I've made and focus on that. My overall pace is better -- I started around 9:30 and now I'm down to 9:00 per mile. Also, last week I tried to do a 4 mile run but could only do 3.6. I felt like I could NOT take another step, but this week, I did the full 4 miles, in 2 inches of snow, and it felt just fine. I haven't run 4 miles in a LONG time so that is an accomplishment. This Saturday I'm trying for 4.5. Cross your fingers for me and send out some good vibes. Every little bit helps!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

TWD: Rewind with Snickery Squares

This week, Mari of Mevrouw Cupcake chose a Creme Brulee for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. I was thinking I was going to skip this one because (a) I don't own a torch and didn't want to try the broiler thing -- it scares me, and (b) I just wasn't in the mood for it. Luckily, the fabulous moderator for TWD allowed us to do a rewind recipe. There are a bunch of recipes I missed since I joined TWD so late, so I was excited to try something different. I showed my DH the list of completed recipes to get some suggestions and his pick was the same as mine: Snickery Squares!

Erin of Dinner and Dessert is the person who chose this recipe way back in March, so see her blog for the exact recipe. Anyhow, while the recipe looks kind of scary, it's really super simple. You just process a few ingredients to make the shortbread dough, then you just press the dough into your baking pan. Bake, and allow to cool. While it's cooling, make a simple caramel by heating sugar and a little bit of water. Once the sugar starts to turn color, add in some peanuts. When the peanuts are covered in caramel, dump onto wax paper and allow to cool. Once your shortbread layer is cool, smother it with dulce de leche and then top with half of the caramelized peanuts. (It took me forever to find that dulce de leche! I finally found it in the Mexican aisle! DUH!) While you're working on that, melt some chocolate (I do it in the microwave in 20-30 second bursts) and then add some butter to the chocolate. Layer that on top of the peanuts. Finely chop the remaining peanuts and sprinkle those on top of the chocolate. Put in the fridge for a few hours, slice into 2" square and voila -- Snickery goodness!

I had a little sliver last night just to get a taste -- super rich but super yum! They had that perfect winning combination of sweet and salty. I could tell that they would be a hit. I was right too -- My DH took them to work the next day and he said that a lot of people liked them. I only sent in a few, but he said that they didn't last long. :-) I'll definitely make these again!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Review: The Other Boleyn Girl

I picked up this book after many recommendations on The Nest Bookclub message board. For those who are not familiar with this book, it's historical fiction and is an account of the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry the VIII. The story isn't all about her though. It's about her and her sister and their initial competition in taking over the queen's throne and the results that follow thereafter. The narrator is her sister Mary -- the "other" Boleyn girl.

At first I was very intimated by the size of the book -- 600+ pages, but I gave it a try. I wish I could say that it was a fast read despite the page #, but I'd be lying. While many girls who read this book said that they just could not put this book down, it absolutely dragged for me! I started this book in October and am just now finishing it. I actually put it down and read nothing for a couple of weeks. While that's partly due to the scrapbook projects and Christmas cards I've been working on, it was also due to the story for me too. It just seemed to take forever for things to get going. Some of the story line seemed repetitive to me too. I was like, "Okay already! We all know what is going to happen -- just get there!" The chapter lengths were difficult too. Some chapters were super short at just a page or so while others were 50 pages! Holy moly -- I have no problem reading a couple of chapters if I know they are reasonable in length, but every time I got to one of those super long chapters, I would put the book down and not pick up again for another couple days because I just couldn't commit that much time to ONE chapter. Grrrr!

Overall, it was a pretty good story. Once I got going again, I liked the book and was glad to be reading it. Sticking with it though through certain sections was HARD! If it wasn't for my need to finish what I start, I don't think I would have finished this book. I only sat down and finished it today because I was tired of looking at it on my desk, taunting me..."Quitter!" Oh well, I did finish it and am glad to do so.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Twilight Series News

Okay, so I am on the verge of finishing up The Davinci Code by Dan Brown. So far, it is AWESOME! It is my first mystery/thriller book I have read in a long time! It is a total page turner and is great fun to read. You must keep an open mind though as much of the story line has to do with religion and such. Anyhow, I am loving the book and can't wait to read another novel by Brown BUT, I will have to wait because another book is sitting on my TBR (to be read) shelf and that is....Twilight by Stephenie Meyer!

Twilight is a book about a regular teenage girl who falls in love with...a vampire?! Not my usual genre, but a friend recommended it (thanks Heather!) and it has fab reviews on Amazon. So, I'll be starting that sometime this week.

Anyhow, I come to find out that Twilight is part of a series. New Moon is the sequel and Eclipse is next in the series. I will clearly have to read those now! After doing more research I found out....

1) There is a fourth book in the works called Breaking Dawn (due out Fall of 2008.) She is also working on writing another version of Twilight -- same story but from Edward's point of view. I think that would be very interesting! That one is still in the very early stages yet, so nothing is set in stone just yet!

2) They are working on making Twilight into a movie! Cool! The story must be good then, right?!

3) Meyer is also putting out a book for adults (the Twilight series is technically "young adult") and it is called The Host. It'll be out around May, 2008 and looks pretty good!

Check out Meyer's website for all the dish!

New School Rules

First Installment in the New Series: Things You Wish You Could Say, but Would Probably Get You Fired!

***Disclaimer: The items posted in this series are just for fun! Please know that my colleagues and I LOVE our students and work hard to create a postive learning environment. We would never actually say these things for obvious reasons. Sometimes, we just need a little humor behind the scenes to help us get through the insanity and that is all this is! So with that said...let the fun begin!***

So I was running across an old Email from a friend and we were talking about rules for the new school year. This came after I emailed her the funny 6th grade stories posted below, so keep that in mind! Here is her list of rules:

#1 Ignore the teacher and do as you please
#2 Treat a few with respect... others.. we'll make fun of them
#3 Laugh when another student asks a question
#4 Come to school if you are up to the work
#5 Do half to 1/4 of any and all assignments
#6 Talk over the teacher if you want your friends to hear you
#7 Ask me all day when lunch is
#8 Tell me when you feel something is boring or not worth your time
#9 Disregard homework
#10 Disregard me
#11 Come to school in the same clothes as yesterday
#12 Pass notes
#13 Pass notes about me
#14 Roll your eyes at anything you agree or disagree with that I say
#15 Complain to your parents about me

Which one is your favorite? Any others we should add?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Welcome Spring?!

I am excited to have all of this week off for Spring Break, but it sure doesn't feel like spring around here! The temps are still in the 30s and in the 40s on nice days. Awhile back, my husband offered to get me a plane ticket to visit my family in California for this week. I said no because I figured I'd have a lot of stuff to do at home over this break, like cleaning, organizing, stuff like that. I also figured, if I was going to use up a plane ticket to California, I didn't want to just spend a week there, I wanted to go for 10 days at least, maybe even two weeks. I can do that once school is out. Well, can I just say that I am slightly regretting that decision! I've had one day off so far, and I am already getting bored! I cleaned most of the house and organized a few things yesterday. I could probably finish today. I went running and read some magazines, but I'm nearly done with those too. I'll probably read some books now too, but so far...pretty boring! And did I mention the weather is gross too! I'd love to get out and work in the garden, but so much for that. Ugh, I could be reading those magazines and books in the sun-shiny state of California! What was I thinking?! Oh well... I guess I'll try to find some fun stuff to do over this next week. Hopefully I'll get together with some friends I haven't seen in awhile, maybe go shopping... We'll see. I just have to remember that at least I am on vacation! Any day of vacation is better than none!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Are My Legs Supposed to Feel Like This?!

So I had another trip to the chiro today. Each time I go, I get a little more info! (Here's the medical mumbo jumbo if you really want to know. If not...skip down!) I think I've got it figured out now...It appears the sacroiliac joints in my pelvis are a little off. (You know those two little dimples on either side of your spine way down on your lower back? Those are your sacroiliac joints.) Anyhow, the imbalance causes me to favor one leg a little and has changed my form a little. The other problem is that when I run, I strike down too much on my heels. This is forcing my fibula (the non-weightbearing bone in the lower leg) back farther than it should be. That in turn, pulls on the ligaments which is connected to my knee and THAT is the pain I am experiencing. So to fix all of this, I need to (a) get my joints and such back to where they should be, and (b) learn to run with more of a mid-foot strike than a heal strike. Dr. Craig gave me a few tips on the latter, and they really helped in yesterday's run. I'll try again tomorrow as I try to run 3 miles. Dr. Craig is actually going to watch me run around the parking lot next week to give me more specific tips! Who knew a chiro could do that for you?!

In the meantime, I wanted to stay fit by trying another one of my new workout videos. Today was another Firm video, Bootcamp: Maximum Calorie Burn. Holy guacamole! That video kicked my butt! I think I did a zillion squats! My thighs are like jello! During the video, I kept saying, "OMG, Please be done...oh no, not more squats...I can't feel my legs anymore -- are they still there?!" It was SOOOOOO hard, I was just pouring sweat! I know I am going to be feeling it tomorrow! That's good though. We ordered in for lunch today and I got a stromboli just for myself. I ended up eating the whole thing! It was probably equivalent to 2-3 big slices of pizza. WHOA! It was so yummy though. Hopefully those zillion squats burned off at least a few pepperoni slices!

"Chaos in the Kitchen" Challenge #1: Brandied Cherry Tart

Before I begin with my cooking challenge updates, I'll give a brief update on my running. I really don't have much to say. I've been keeping up with the plan I got from my local running store, Vertical Runner. The plan has me just doing some base building. I'm running 4 days a week now. Here's how this week looks: M and W 5 miles, F is 4 miles, and Saturday 9 miles. This Saturday is supposed to be the first "official" group run for a training group that Vertical Runner is hosting. I'm kind of unsure about going because the long run is only planned to be about 7 miles and as I said, I need to get 9 in. I may just go a little earlier and run 2 on my own beforehand. I'm not sure if I'll join the training group, but I figure that I should at least check it out. I seem to be getting kind of bored with my running, so this might be a good kick start. I should probably start hitting some other trails too. I've been just running in my neighborhood the past 2-3 weeks and it is getting OLD! Other than running, I've been trying to do my workout videos on my T and Th. Last week I didn't do them since I was super busy those days, but I did one in this week. So, so far, so good. Okay...onto the eats...

Challenge 1: Brandied Cherry Tart (recipe from Blog: Good Things Catered)
Recipe Rating: 4 stars (see sidebar for rating details)

When I first found Katie's blog, Good Things Catered, she had this fabulous drink posted, a Cherry Mojito. I was having some friends over so I decided to give these a try. Oh my gosh...this drink is UBER fabulous! It is my official beverage of summer, 2008. So anyway, I bought way too many cherries and didn't know what to do with them. I went back to Katie's blog and found this wonderful looking cherry tart. Click on the recipe title above to see for yourself! Doesn't that look SO yummy! I thought, "Wow, that looks easy! I'll give it try." So, I gathered all the ingredients and got to work.

The night before, I followed a simple dough recipe and using my food processor, created a basic pie dough. I had never made my own dough before, so I wasn't quite sure what it was supposed to look/feel like, but it seemed to resemble the picture, so I wrapped it in plastic and stuck it in the fridge.

Next morning, I'm ready to whip this baby together. I put the cherries in the sauce pan with sugar and let them do their thing. I grab the pie dough out of the fridge and flour my counter top so that I can roll it out. This is where I encounter my first problem -- that dough was as hard as a hockey puck! "Ummmm, is this supposed to be like a rock?" I figured that I would just cook down the cherries and say a little prayer for the dough.

Well luckily, just as my cherries were almost finished, the dough was beginning to soften. Phew! I set the cherries aside to cool and started to roll out the dough...or should I say, attempted to roll out the dough. I read that to roll the dough into a nice circle, you should turn the dough every now and then. I rolled and then went to turn it...yeah, it didn't budge. WHAT! It was totally stuck to the counter. GRRRR. I had to peel it off the counter and start all over. That happened about a zillion times until I finally got the idea to roll it out on parchment paper. I mean, after all, I'm going to be putting this thing on parchment anyway!

So then I have the dough down on the parchment and go to roll. Yeah, the whole thing just slid across the counter top, almost onto the floor! UGH!! I have now decided that baking is NOT my thing. I persevere though and try a thousand different things. The dough continues to stick...to EVERYTHING! It sticks to the parchment, it sticks to the rolling pin, it sticks to my hands. I finally give up and toss insane amounts of flour over everything! I will roll this piece of dough out if it kills me! (I later looked at some pics online and found that what I thought was an "insane" amount of flour was actually just right.)

Well, eventually I triumphed over the dough. It was completely hideous -- not at all a circle or even a rectangle. It was more a diamond shape, but at that point, I was so WHATEVER! The dough was also thin, but I hoped it would be enough to do the job. I finally poured the cherry mixture onto the dough and did my best to fold the sides up to keep the mixture from running out. With the dough being so thin though, some of the sides just didn't want to hold and some cherries escaped. I didn't even use all of my filling because my dough would not have held it. At that point, I didn't even care.

I threw the hideous thing in the oven and just prayed it would be somewhat edible. Well, about 15 minutes later, I pulled it out of the oven and let it cool. Compared to Katie's masterpiece, mine looked U G L Y (hence, no picture)! Oh well...Another 10 minutes later, I cut a little piece and... loved every bite of it! The crust, as much of a pain in the butt as it was, was so tasty! It was flaky and buttery, but not dry. The cherry filling, while a little runny, was SO delicious. It was sweet and a little tart at the same time. The cherry flavored brandy that I used too was the perfect complement. I loved it!

I decided that I definitely want to try this again. Next time though, instead of trying to roll out the dough, moving it to a baking sheet, and then shaping the sides, I'll just try using a tart pan. That way I don't have to worry about the filling spilling out. And I will certainly be liberal with the flour too. Flour will be my friend!

So overall, I guess I can call this first challenge a success. As ugly as my final product was, it tasted pretty darn good. I learned how to make my own dough too which was pretty cool. Now I just have to figure out how the work the darn stuff!