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Friday, October 29, 2010

Foody Friday: Pumpkin Cookies

Make these super easy cookies to bring to a Halloween party this weekend! They're slightly healthier than most cookies..if you ignore the honkin' whole cup of white sugar in there.

1&1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil or sour cream for a lower-fat version
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour - I always use a blend of whole wheat and white; about 1.5 cups wheat with 0.5 cups white
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Whisk egg, pumpkin, sugar, vanilla and oil together. Add dry ingredients; mix. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes at 350 F. Because of the moist, cake-like texture, these pretty much never go bad. I made them over a week ago and they still taste fine to me!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mardi Gras marathon launch, long run, and Tony Bennett

- If you're in New Orleans the MGM launch party is going to be hosted by Varsity Sports/Brooks and will be at City Park. There's a costume run at 5:30 and I hope give aways. Free stuff is my favorite!
- Today was another long run Thursday. I decided to squeeze it in this morning. Then I decided not to. Then I was forced to. Whatever, it's a long story, click my dailymile widget to read it. I don't feel like typing it twice. The second segment of the run was tough: Although the temperature had dropped 12 degrees from when I started (not making this up), there was a gusty wind and I was struggling against it for much of the run. Also it kind of sucks to think you're finished, then have to go back out. Boo.
Once I got home, I had some apple cider since I'm out of club soda (my favorite post-run drink). Then I ate the world's most enormous egg burrito. It was huge. It had potato, red pepper, scallions, cilantro, avocado, salsa, cheese, and THREE eggs. I could barely roll it. It needed Spanx for food. (Did anyone see the SNL Spanx for babies skit?) Actually I'm still staring at it because I can't get the rest of it down. I ate about 2/3 and now it's acting all smug, like it won some kind of bet. Geez.
Lately I've been eating eggs a lot after I run. I wonder why? Are they easy to digest? A fast meal for a hungry runner? A good source of protein? Or am I just too lazy to make a real lunch?
- Tonight we have a date night! We're going to a Tony Bennett concert. In preparation we've been listening to Tony Bennett all week, and it's making David all romantic. On Tuesday he brought me flowers!
What do crave/eat after a long run?
Do long runs scare you? No matter how many 20's I run, every time I leave the house for one I have a "What am I thinking? Humans can't run this far!" moment. Then I get over it. But it strikes momentary terror into my well-conditioned heart. How about you?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My pal Ricky Jackson

This morning I got to hang out with hall of famer Ricky Jackson. Now THAT'S what I call a work meeting!
Long run debate: I have a half marathon on Saturday. I work on Sunday but I have this Thursday and Friday off. But Friday I have a morning work meeting. Then I work all next week and leave for vacation the week after. The first weekend of vacation I have a marathon (What is wrong with me, ruining a perfectly good vacation with a 26 mile run?). Therefore, I need to get a 20 miler in this week, but I can really only do it Thursday morning or Friday afternoon, unless I run the race on Saturday and follow it with an additional 7 miles.
What's the call here? When should I squeeze in my 20?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Versatile Blogger...yay!

A little termite gave me this award...the versatile blogger award!

Here are the rules of this award:
1. Thanks and link back to the person who gave you the award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award to other bloggers.

Soooo -
Thank you, Termite, for the award and amusement of reading your answers. Yours are better than answers I could ever make up!
Here goes:
1. When I was a little kid I narrated my entire life in my head. I dramatized, too. "Grace saw the anger in her mother's eyes, though she tried to hide it. 'Stop feeding your baby brother dog kibbles,' she said crisply."
I kept this up until I was, oh, 6 or 7.
2. I don't like sweet beverages of any kind. I attempt to drink pumpkin lattes to celebrate the season but secretly I find them disgusting.
3. I have seven brothers. Six are younger than I and one is older, but he's not very mature so 90% of the time I slip and say I have seven younger brothers.
4. I speed-read and it annoys the heck out of my husband when we are sharing the newspaper.
5. Signs containing grammatical errors or spelling mistakes chill my blood. I actually keep a Sharpie in my purse with which to make corrections.
6. I don't like to watch movies because I can't sit still for that long.
7. For some reason I love that musty cellar or attic smell. Love it.

I decided I'm making this into a versatile reader award... so if you're reading... tell me 7 things about yourself!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Learning a Language

There are some things I do very well. Extremely well! I can cook like a chef (an iron chef, to be exact), I can make a pun with any word in any conversation, I can earn an A on any test if given about an hour to study, and I can stop a crying baby in 15 minutes. Talent, I tell you!
There are also some things I do very badly, or not at all. For example, my hair. It looks like a rat's nest 70% of the time (and the other 30% it's still wet). I have never successfully mastered knitting, I'm a terrible judge of postal rates, and I absolutely cannot grow anything if my life depended on it.
Add to that list speaking another language. I can't do it. Thanks to my haphazard high school education and my major-changing college studies, I haven't really tried. I took two semesters of language in college: the first was Koine Greek, which I absolutely loved. I was translating with reckless abandon! Big catch: it's an ancient language, so you don't have to speak it. It is written-word only. After transferring schools, I took a French class, which was taught by an Italian. He often lapsed into the Italian language, and he always reverted to Italian pronunciation. I'm not sure what exactly I learned in that class, but it wasn't good French, that's for sure.
I've decided it's time for that to change. I'm learning another language and squashing the arrogant American stereotype! All I have to do now it pick a language. I've narrowed it down to two:
1. Spanish. By far the most practical choice, as I am faced with Spanish-speaking patients daily. Plus there are a lot of hispanics in the US, so this will remain a useful language. It is supposed to be easy to learn, and my little brother is fluent and could help me practice. A drawback is that I am not really drawn to the language and may find it hard to focus.
2. French. There's a great deal of French in New Orleans, and there's a lot of French on the menu. Although not as useful a choice, I really want to be able to order with confidence (yes, my life revolves around food). I want to visit France someday, and I want to speak French decently before then. And since my sister in law has a master's degree in French, I could get some practice in with her, too. me choose! Should it be French or Spanish?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I'm working a double Friday

Do NOT come to my pharmacy Friday. I will bite your head off or poison you, your pick. I'm working from 7 am to 10 pm straight through, no lunch or dinner, probably no bathroom break either. Pray for me.
Pray for my patients, too!
While I'm busy overdosing little old ladies, for your pleasure:
1. Have you tried Deerfield Farms cheese crackers? They're knock-off Cheese-its sold at drug stores. DELICIOUS. Like tiny crispy slices of butter. Yum.
2. If you need to grab some running tights for winter but are loath to pay $88 for Nike's, head to Walmart (ugh, I cannot believe I'm endorsing Walmart for anything!). They have long running tights for $11 right now and they're pretty nice. A tad thin, but I'll take it for $11!
3. Flying soon? Haha, I am, I have vacation out the wa-zoo! I'm a sucker for coupon codes and guess what? You can get airline coupon codes! I searched sites like and googled "airline coupon codes" and found a 10% off deal. Check it out next time you fly.
4. If you have funky runners toenails like me (ie, only partially know), use a ridge-filler nail polish as a base coat. Sally Hansen and Avon both make one. Apply 3-4 coats before color. It hides some of the lumpiness. Use a sparkly rather than glossy polish for the best camouflage!
5. If you are starting a run in the cold but expect to warm up quickly (like on a long run or a marathon early start) wear disposable latex gloves. You'll look like a drug user, but your whole body will warm up and your hand movement won't be impeded as it would if you wore knit gloves. When you've warmed up, throw the gloves out.
6. My new trick for not losing my mind on the grocery store: One ipod earbud in to block out the sound of the woman shrieking abuses into her cell phone in aisle 4 and library book to distract me during my 45 minute wait in line.
7. Drew Brees had his baby. For weeks - months, even - I've been saying he'd name that child Bowen. I bet $100 on it I was so sure. He named him Bowen. If anyone wants me to pick lottery numbers, I'm charging $5 per call.
8. This season calls for pumpkin everything. I stirred pumpkin into french toast dipping mixture and it was fantastic. Especially with maple syrup. Yum.
9. Halloween candy is a rip-off. Compare the unit price (usually price per ounce) and it is almost always less expensive to buy a non-holiday bag of bite size candy bars. If you do the whole Halloween thing. Hubby and I usually turn all the lights off and pretend we aren't home so all the college students don't play cute and come trick or treating.
10. Your library probably has last season's most popular shows on DVD. Don't waste your Netflix.
Time to go grab a few hours of sleep! 'Night!

Thunder Road, here I come!

Yesterday I used some of my vacation days to plan a trip to Charlotte to visit my dear friend, fellow pharmacist, and former roommate Bj. He graduated two years ahead of me and inspired me both to change my major to pre-pharmacy when I was a lost art student and to take up running. Before we were roomies I ran a little once in a while, but we started running together and Bj infamously used to throw gravel at me to make me run faster. In honor of this memory I signed up for the Thunder Road Marathon during our visit.
It's a kind of dumb marathon. It's expensive (especially if you register late) and full of totally silly wastes of money - like VIP spectator sections, a "double medal" for running two races that you have to pay for, and a deal on NASCAR tickets. I don't do NASCAR. In fact, I use it as a synonym for redneck. Sorry, I stereotype like that. I also mock Wrangler jeans and Kool Aid.
Nonetheless, I am determined to have an awesome race. I hear it is a little hilly, but I think I've figured hills out. You just walk up the bad ones and it doesn't even feel like an incline (this is why I could never be a competitive athlete).
Now I just need to figure out how to get from here - three weeks out from a marathon and in the middle of race season - to there: another full in mid-December. Any tips and suggestions?
Is anyone trying a pants alteration this weekend? I want to see some! Oh and contrary to a few comments - I couldn't do that, don't sew, etc - you could easily do this alteration! It's very simple and of course anyone can sew a seam. So I want to see some cute skinnies! :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Got a pair of outlet slacks?

I did! I bought these Ann Taylor pants last year for $7. But they look like shapeless bags. When I put them on I felt like a 55 year old on the way to a chiropractor appointment. Enter home-solution for frumpy pants!
You can easily alter pants to a slim-fitting Audrey Hepburn style if:
- Your pants are cotton or cotton blend (rather stiff fabric is required as slim cut stretchy material = leggings)
- Your pants are a little too short OR you can quickly hem them (ie, turn them up and stitch down). Or you can wear a skinny longer leg. I prefer the just-below-the-ankle look, but then all my pants are always too short anyway so this works well for me.
- You have a needle and thread or a sewing machine.
- You own another pair of pants or jeans that are slim cut to use as a pattern OR you have a pal to help you size them to fit you.
This is simple.
1. Lay the pants down, inside out.
2. Lay your "pattern" pants on top, matching the crotches and inside seams.
*if you don't have pattern pants, lay on top of the pants and have a friend pin around your outline*
3. Pin around the pattern pants so you will know what to trim off. You should only be pinning on the outside leg seam - that way you'll only have to sew one seam on each pant leg. *If you're pinning around your own legs as a pattern, again, only pin on the outside seam. Leave room as you pin to allow for the curve of your leg*
Try pants on inside-out after you pin and before you sew to make sure you like the fit.
4. Sew along your line of pins with a sewing machine or a needle and thread using plain old straight stitch. Your outer leg seam does not get a lot of wear and tear, so this doesn't have to be the world's best seamstressing.
5. Trim off excess fabric. Turn right side out and try on pants. If they are too long, you can hem them up at this point.
Before: Blah.

After: Much better! Boy, is it hard to take a mirror picture and not get the camera in it!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Vacation Emergency sort-of solved

Last night the hubby and I got on Hotwire and and hunted for vacation deals until 10:30 pm. Taking vacation is so complicated as a pharmacist: You have to have some one to cover for you or you just can't go. It's not like you can just put an "away" message on your email and deal with a big mess when you return - you have to be there and fill the drugs! So while I *have* to take vacation, I can't just take it when I want - there has to be someone available to cover for me. So I have to juggle travel deals with days I can take off. Insane and stressful!
We debated taking a great deal to London in November, but eventually passed on it. That's an expensive trip to take, even with low-priced airfare, and I think it merits a little more forethought. Instead we're going to NYC for a few days. There's always something to do in New York, and we'll combine the trip with a visit to our godbabies in phillie. I miss the northeast; it will be good to go back.
Of course we are going in November, the ugliest month in the area excluding March. Oh well, can't really complain about vacation, eh?
In your helpful comments, Charbelle recommended the Thunder City Marathon. Guess what, girl? I already checked it out last night! A close friend moved to Charlotte two years ago and I texted him last night about staying with him for the race. Unfortunately it's a busy weekend for the company so I may not be able to take the vacation days. Great minds think alike, though!
Now the rest of my vacation days will just have to be staycations, which several of you suggested. I think a few days at home would be a good opportunity to catch up on art projects. For an artist, my walls are pretty bare!
What have you done - or would love to do - on a staycation or a few days off?
Tomorrow I show you how to turn frumpsville pants into classy Audrey slacks. See ya then.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Vacation Emergency

My company went crazy and started a new vacation system that refreshes each January rather than every 12 months based on hire date. This means that I have nine vacation days to use before January first (I thought I had to spread them out until next July). So.
Where should I go?
What should I do?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Middendorf's Manchac 10 mile race recap

David and I were a tad hesitant about the Middendorf's Manchac ten mile race we ran Saturday because I apparently have made sucking at preparation a habit. Friday night we attended a benefit that involved a large quantity of booze and very late hours. Yes, I had 4 Manhattans. Yes, I knew I was racing in the morning. Hm. We got to bed near 1 o'clock, only to be awakened shortly before 4 by our psychotic neighbor, who had been locked out by his roommate and was resourcefully breaking his own window. At one point, shattering glass was followed by low moans of pain, and David and I rushed outside in the dark, expecting to find our neighbor bleeding to death. Instead he was sitting on the ground, pretty stoned, and informed us that the moans were because he had a knee injury. Ooookaay. Eventually he finished splattering glass all over the alley and we drifted off to sleep right before the alarm went off. We got up - I was kind of feeling last night's beverages - and managed to get out of the house.
David and I and a new friend Jen drove together. I met Jen via a local track club, and not only does she live down the street, she basically runs exactly my pace which is fantastic. (She is a better runner, though - more experienced, nice form, lots of marathons). We can certainly work in some longs runs together! Oh yeah, and she is very sweet and easy to talk to, and since we both run and are in health care (she's a fourth year med student) we have things in common. I definitely enjoyed having her along for the ride!

This was my second pretty good race in a row.
I felt a little queasy, but I was ok until mile 7 when I had an espresso gu. It did not mix well with the residual bourbon in my stomach and I finished the race cramping a-plenty. Despite this, I kept an even 7:50 pace, slowing just a little on that last hill to finish in 1:18:43, a 7:52 pace. Jen was counting runners and tells me I finished 8th female overall, although I haven't actually seen the results.
Jen finished right behind me and David surprised himself with a 1:31:30, a time which included a bathroom break.
After these two faster races, I'm starting to finally catch on that, duh, it's a RACE, not a fun run! I tend to run my races so slowly most of the time. I like being in the slightly faster group but I miss the chatting and joking I used to do in the "slow crowd". In both of these races I've made snide remarks and humorous puns that have totally been ignored by the race-minded folks around me.
Plus some dude in American flag shorts snarled, "You suck", when I passed him. Whatever, loser! YOU suck, that's why I passed you!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Yeah, yeah, another race

See, I'm getting this post out of the way on a Saturday so if you don't care about races we can return to regularly scheduled broadcasting on Monday without missing a beat.
Actually I divided it into two because it was getting lengthy. So you can start out with a race review and a pic of sweaty me lovin' my swag.
Today we ran the Middendorf's Manchac ten mile race. It's sponsored by a catfish restaurant in the middle of nowhere (I searched for weather in Manchac and couldn't even find the town). This race actually rivals the Spillway Classic for most-fun race in the area. For one thing, it's cheap - just $25 for track club members. Plus you get a technical T, ground coffee samples, and vitamin water revive (which I discovered, I really did) samples at the finish. The course is a 10-mile out-and-back on a highway along wetlands and um, some body of water. It's straight and flat except right at the beginning - and thus also right at the end - there is a large bridge. Thus you start running straight up a big hill, and while the finish is at the end of a downhill, it means you have to climb a hill right at 9.5 miles. Kind of boring course, except I enjoyed seeing other runners after the turn-around point. It's a sunny run, so wear sunscreen.
The best part is after the race: Middendorf's serves beer, their famous thin-fried catfish, and coleslaw. DEAL or WHAT?! A shirt, a meal, a drink, and some freebies for $25!
Tomorrow I'll post our rather humorous night-before-race and race recap. See ya then!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Two stupid things I did, and a decision

Happy random Friday! I am off today because a co-worker needed to swap some days. It means I'm working a 15 hour shift next Friday, but it's her son's pumpkin patch field trip, so how could I say no?
This week I did something stupid. A dear friend had a little baby girl, and she has been diagnosed with micropthalmia. One eye is smaller than the other and will remain so throughout her life. She may also have a coloboma although it is small enough that her ophthalmologist is actually unsure. I make all my friends' babies' handmade gifts, so I started a little teddy for her. You know where this is heading. Of course the bear's eyes turned out different sizes. Crap. I am now in the processes of making a safe little sweater.
This morning I did something more stupid. I flushed the toilet while changing the paper, and dropped the holder down the toilet. It flushed. It's gone. I'm flabbergasted. Should I call a plumber? How did that hunk of plastic fit down my 1902 pipes?
I'm thinking about running this marathon. The reason is silly - I don't want to "waste" those long runs I put in. If I'm already kind of trained, this is half the work! What do you guys think? It's November 27th, and the only reports I've heard about this race is that it is really, really, really boring and no spectators. I just ran a race with no spectators and I think I can deal with that, but is it worth it?
And now for your viewing pleasure, me in my old hometown at the old cemetery, making a funny face. We used to roller-skate on this road, and once we were cutting up loudly and throwing acorns at each other - then we came around the corner and straight into a funeral. Ah! Stupidity haunts me!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thank you!

I tried all of your ideas yesterday and they were all a success! I woke up with the skin of a newborn babe! Oh wait. That was just a pleasant dream. More like, I slathered concealer all over my face and now I look like a normally-proportioned Heidi Montag.
But I do have a PLAN now.
The plan is to spend my $300 of health insurance on a dermatologist visit. My insurance is funky: I have a $5000 deductible, but I get "healthy points" for cholesterol, healthy weight, exercise, non-smoking status, etc. towards this deductible. I earned the max of $300 per year towards my deductible, but I haven't used any because I haven't needed medical care and I was saving it for an emergency. My face is SO bad, though, that I think this counts as a medical emergency. I mean, it's a visual emergency. Yuck!
You (incredibly helpful) readers brought up some great points yesterday. One is that I seriously need to work on the ol' thyroid and PCOD. Part of the reason that these conditions are untreated is that I do not adore taking hormones. It may be time for me to get over this. Perhaps I should see an OB/GYN before a dermatologist.
Another point that came up was benzoyl peroxide - both as a spot treatment and as Proactive - and I've shied away in the past because it made my face swell. But since it is obvious that my skin changed a lot maybe I can tolerate it now. Regardless - it's time to try something new and I guess I shall do so under medical supervision!

It is now your turn to vent about your health insurance. I've seen it all (working in health care), but I think we all need a chance to gripe. So if you have beef with Blue Cross Blue Shield, here's your invite!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I desparately need your help!

I'm having a skin crisis.
I'm 28 and covered in acne! And I need all the suggestions I can get!
Here are my face-shots of my current red, pimply glory, and here is my back ground info:
1. Skin type: I sure as shootin' don't know. It gets dry and irritated easily, yet I get plenty of acne.
2. Acne type: Mostly large and irritated with peeling skin.
3. Skin care: Morning: Hand-made soap. My skin handles this well - no break-outs, redness, or drying. Evening: Exfoliating scrub with salicylic acid, then tretinoin cream. Day: Aveeno Ultra Calming moisturizer with spf.
This skin care regimen used to work well and break-outs were rare. Now, not so much.
- Running makes my skin worse. Sweat sitting on my skin could be harming it.
- Hormones are haywire. Because I have thyroid problems and PCOS, I have variable hormone levels.
- I am actually 14 years old.
I'm hesitant to change my routine because it used to work well, but obviously something is not doing its job anymore. Suggestions? Hints? Tips? Dermatology referrals?
How do you care for your skin?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Freedom's Run Marathon race review

Ok, I know my posts are getting a little race-heavy. Sorry. I have four races in October so bear with me ;-)
Race website:
Read my recap here. Then read the race review below!

Pre-race information, logistics, organization
Pros: Lots of informative emails, facebook site. Race was well-organized for a small race and you could call the organizer's store if you had any questions.
Cons: Most of the website's info is under "FAQ" so, like, you have to read the whole thing.

Lodging and transportation:
Pros: Host hotel (Holiday Inn Express) was great and moved continental breakfast up early (4 am!) so runners could eat before the race. Buses to and from race.
Cons: It's far away from any major airport - so expensive trip. Slight snafu with buses at to the start - not enough seats - but they figured it out.

Swag: Reusable bag from Newton, plastic water bottle, beer glass, tech T-shirt. Most-awesome medal EVER, made by a local jeweler. I put mine on my key chain. Nothing else - no coupons, fliers, whatever. I expected more advertisers, you know?

Pros: It's beautiful and varied. The course covers dirt road, hard-pack/gravel, pavement, bridges, and stairs. There are incredible views along the towpath and history throughout.
Cons: Having all the hills starting at mile 16 is tough but doable. The race finishes running in traffic - divided by cones - and this narrow section is right about where you meet up with half-marathon walkers. Thus you are stuck behind walkers and can't really pass unless you want to get run over.

Aid stations:
Pros: They had all kinds of edibles - chomps, gus, fruit. Plus water - even bottles - and gatorade. Volunteers were awesome.
Cons: Aid stations are far apart (4 miles) and the trash cans for cups are right next to the aid stations so you have to stop or chug or throw your cup in the pristine forest.

Chip timed, but don't be clever like me and walk to the start (I think I was the last person to cross the start!) because only gun time is reported, not chip time! Prizes were loot from the organizer's running store.

- There are about 5 spectators on the whole course. Seriously. If you need spectators to cheer you, forget this race!
- Bring a water bottle
- Wear sunscreen. The first half of the course is in the chilly morning in the shade. The second half is in blazing sun and I got a nice burn.
- The towpath section can be quite rough - roots, grass, rocks, dead things - especially if you have to pass anyone and must step off the beaten running path. Wear thick-ish shoes.
- No time along the course so wear a watch if you care
- The kids race is fun! Watch it! This year winner ran a 5'37" mile.
- The area is rich in history - make time to sight-see.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In which I shoot myself in the foot

Another bottle-opener medal! With VELCRO, what?!
Here is how I set up for a very bad half marathon.

1. Get up late
2. Skip breakfast
3. Skip potty break (I'll go at the start line...)
4. Drive an hour to the race only to realize that the parking is a disaster; sit on the highway in standstill traffic until moments before the start
5. Rush to the start!
6. Feel pain in the back right heel. Strange pain. Never-had-before pain.
7. Start to run and instantly become aware of tightness in the front of the shins
8. Hit the first water station and accidentally throw your mid-race snack (oatmeal) in the trash. Ouch. No GU on course.
9. Keep accidentally getting water instead of gatorade because table set up was messy/confusing (hey, it was the inaugural race).
10. Think the whole time how you just ran a full marathon a week ago and you're sick of running.

Sounds horrible, right?
Here's the crazy part. I PR'd big-time, cutting five minutes off my last time, and finished 6th in my age group with a 1:46:11!
That's fast for me! You just never know when you're going to have a good race. This sure didn't feel like it!
I continued my race the entire day, rushing to make it home in time for church, then rushing from church to a local running group meeting. I'm joining the group in hopes of finding some more running partners.
Coming Monday: Finally the race review for the Freedom's Run Marathon: the good, the bad, and the hilly.

Last but not least, big shout-outs to the gals I follow who kicked booty at Portland today:
Sassy, Lisa, and Amber.
Sassy ran a fast 3:50 marathon - wow, I wish I could be there!, Lisa met her time goal, and Amber ran her very first marathon. Congratulations, ladies. You are impressive!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Foody Friday: You have ten minutes

During my recent visit to my grandparents my grandpa, who turns 80 today, informed me that he is now the designated family chef. After 79 years he discovered a talent for creating quick, healthy meals that have pleased my aunt and grandma to death (grandma is relieved to finally be off cooking duty, but my aunt still makes Sunday dinner). "I don't let it stress me out," he told me. "I spend ten to thirty minutes max." He shared his recipe for pilaf, but with all due respect, grandpa, my pilaf is pretty special, too.
I like the idea of ten minute meals, though. Sometimes when I work until 6, then go for a run when I get home, I don't want to wait an hour for dinner. I usually have it on the table in 30 minutes, but if I only have ten here are a few stand-bys:

1. Thai Curry: As long as you have rice ready that you can microwave, this is a ten-minute meal. When I make rice, I make a huge pot and eat leftovers all week.
- Minced garlic
- 1 chicken breast or a few pork chops. Or omit for a vegetarian dish
- 1 bag frozen green beans, whole, or stirfry - allowed to defrost in the fridge all day OR 1 lb fresh green beans, rinse (I don't trim them).
- 2 TBS Thai red or green curry in a jar
- Juice of 1/2 a lime
- 1/2 a bunch of scallions
- 1 can light coconut milk
- salt and sugar to taste
Throw garlic in a pan and start heating while you roughly chop chicken or pork. Add to pan; stir. When half-cooked add curry and stir-fry or green beans. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes. Meanwhile, chop scallions. Add scallions, lime, and coconut milk and heat thoroughly. The vegetables should remain slightly crisp. Add salt and /or sugar if needed. Serve in a bowl with a scoop of heated rice.

2. Ham and cheese baked potatoes

- Baking potatoes
- good quality ham
- provolone or gruyere cheese
- Fresh spinach
- Thyme, sage, pepper
Scrub potatoes, prick, and begin to cook in the microwave (6 to 10 minutes depending on size of potato). Meanwhile, roughly dice ham and heat in a cast iron skillet with some water. The best way to cook ham is to allow it to get completely dry and start sticking to the pan, then add small amounts of water to deglaze the pan. I repeat this several times. Turn off pan. Throw in several handfuls of fresh spinach and allow to wilt. Season. You can stir the cheese in here, but I usually layer it separately on the potatoes to prevent messy cheesy dishes. Slit and fluff potatoes and top.

3. Fish tacos / bean burritos

- white fish fillets or canned or leftover pintos (I despise canned).
- tortillas
- lettuce, tomato, scallions, cheese, sour cream or yogurt, salsa
- If it's fish tacos I add cilantro, a squirt of lime, and avocado
This is simple. Throw fish in a pan to cook - or re-heat beans - as you chop veggies. Heat tortillas; roll; enjoy.
To roll tortillas so they don't fall apart, fold two ends in about 1", then fold over one side to cover the filling. Roll tightly. Traditional burritos leave one end open instead of tucking both ends.

4. Pizza
- this requires some planning. Like rice,when I make pizza dough, I make a lot. It is very easy to make pizza dough from scratch, and I make mine 75 - 100% whole wheat. I also add some chopped herbs to the dough. YUM. After kneading a big batch, I'll make my pizza, but the rest of the dough I divide into pizza-sized portions and freeze in ziploc bags (don't vacuum seal: you will need extra room so the dough can rise later).
The night before you want pizza, just throw a bag of dough into the refrigerator. When you get home for dinner, stretch and shape the dough, then top as usual. I usually put cornmeal under the crust.
- Tomato sauce
- Minced garlic
- Mozzeralla, feta, parmesan
- Thinly, thinly, thinly sliced peppers, tomatoes, onions, olives, mushrooms, spinach, whatever.
Top dough with garlic and tomato sauce. If you are using fresh tomatoes, add them here. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning before you add cheese and toppings. Bake at 450 F for ten minutes. Tip: If surface of pizza looks wet, it's from the veggies- blot with a towel and cook for another minute or two. Let pizza sit for a few minutes before slicing.

5. The obvious.
If I find myself staring into a nearly empty refrigerator, I usually saute whatever vegetables I have on hand, add some leftover beans for protein, season well, and top with feta cheese. I particularly like to add a little red wine vinegar during cooking; it adds a little tang and some sweetness as it caramelizes.

Now. I would love if you would share any of your fast dinners with me! I'd love to change my menu up! If you have ten minutes, what do you make for dinner?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

CEP socks - review

I don't really have a lot of cool running gear. I have a $7 stopwatch that doesn't tell time and occasionally turns itself off, an ipod, and sunglasses from the dollar store. I own 3 pairs of shoes, but they were all sales I couldn't pass up. My T's are free from races, some of my shorts are from high school, and I bought my first tube of body glide a week ago (you may feel free to say duh to that one).
So trying out CEP compression socks is certainly new to me! I recently learned about them and the idea makes sense: the compression stimulates blood flow to increase circulation, just as compression hose that varicose vein sufferers/preventers wear. You can wear them as you run, or to improve recovery afterward. Or both.
I tried them two ways:
First, I wore them on a 12-miler to test them out while running. They felt a bit weird on - tight and quite warm - but I got used to them.
Pros: Look like a rugby player, prevent injury, muscles felt fresh even though I had been on my feet all day.
Cons: Very warm, my feet felt squished. But I have wide feet. Also my foot slid around a little in my shoe because they're synthetic and therefore kind of slippery.
Next, I brought them with me to the marathon and checked them in my bag; I put them on right after I finished (honestly it was a bid to keep warm!).
Pros: Very comfy after a long race! It's a bit like having a rub down or light massage.
Cons: None really; unfortunately I can't really assess if they prevented some soreness or not because I have no comparison (I never ran hills before ever - so I don't know if I am less sore than I would have been without them!). I was still sore on the fronts of my calves from braking down a bunch of hills, but not bad at all.
Conclusion: I''ll wear these after races when I have other races coming up soon (I'm doing one alomost every weekend this month!) and I will try them again on a run in the winter when I'll need the warmth.
Is anyone running a Rock and Roll event soon? On Oct 10th you can save $20 on registration by using the code SAVEON10. Only valid on Oct 10th and only for races that are open for registration.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Visiting my past: Middleway, Charlestown, and Harpers Ferry

Our recent trip to Maryland for the Freedom's Run marathon was mostly a chance for me to visit the teeny tiny town of Middleway, where I lived for four years. I was nine when we moved and I missed the area.
We visited all the landmarks I remembered and loved:
- The Charlestown library, where I spent hours each week selecting books (3 book limit per check out!). They used to have two awesome things: a pet tarantula and a rotating exhibit case that displayed various collections (stamps, dolls, tin soldiers). Both were gone.

- My old home in Middleway, which the current owners painted a ghastly combination of hues and "spruced up" with ridiculous window frames. Hmph! The house is pre-civil war with an even older barn; the wood inside is all hand-hewn and axe marks are visible.

- The Middleway historic churches. Middleway has three churches and about, oh, 11 houses. Seriously.

- Harpers Ferry. Exquisite beauty. Amazing history.

We also visited a dear childhood friend and had brunch with my grandparents right before we left. I hadn't seen my grandparents in twelve years!
I expected, of course, to be comfortable with my grandparents. But I was unsure about visiting my friend whom I hadn't seen in 18 years. Would we sill get along? Would we have things to talk about? Well, we did - I felt right at home and had an amazing time!
Have you ever reconnected with a friend from long ago? Was your experience positive, or a tad uncomfortable?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Freedom's Run Fun!

The last couple of days have been a fantastic vacation and a time of nostalgic reflection. I've returned to all my old youth haunts and seen my dear childhood friend. But I'm saving all that for later in order to post a quick race recap!
First off, let me report on the results of my dedicated scientific experiment. I have personally discovered that hills > heat. FYI. So if you plan on training in a hot clime in hopes that fighting humidity will prepare you for fighting hills, allow me to burst that bubble for you.
Now having said that...Freedom's Run was a GREAT race. Fantastic. Gorgeous. I mean, literally breathtaking. The hills were killer (the advertised "rolling hills" included three particularly brutal climbs, including a vertical mile long toil at miles 15-16). But it was absolutely worth it to experience the splendor of the Potomac and sense the valor of soldiers passing through the cornfields of Antietam.
The night before the race David and I met up with Abbi for packet pick up and the pasta dinner. Abbi is cute in her pictures, but in real life she's just adorable and I wanted to stick her in my purse and take her home. See?

We enjoyed her company on the walk back through Shepherdstown to our cars, and she even safely navigated us out of a graveyard that we got lost in. Once we reached our hotel, I pulled out a granola bar and ate a late-night snack as I laid out my stuff. I totally forgot to take my meloxicam, resulting in joint swelling later!

I set the alarm for 4:00 - seriously - and when I got up I ate breakfast twice. Our host hotel offered continental breakfast starting at 4 am the day of the race! I had oatmeal and coffee twice, then prepared my nasty goopy baggies of salty oatmeal. We were bussed to the start, and I got on the bus early - good thing, because the bus filled up and they had to send another. I felt bad for lots of panicked runners! :(
It was chilly at the start, and I must have looked cold, because a good Samaritan gave me gloves and someone else found me a trash bag to wear! Finally we started (after singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic. At this point I decided that this was the COOLEST RACE EVER). We started on a slight uphill, then a slight downhill. By the end of the downhill I knew my muscles were in foreign territory! The course starts near Rumsey Farm (dirt and mud road), heads to Harpers Ferry, then crosses a petrifyingly narrow and high footbridge over the Patomac, culminating in metal mesh stairs that were wet, slippery, and awful. And everyone walked down so we came to an abrupt traffic jam. The stairs led to the flat C&O canal, where I've walked many a time - so I expected ten miles of stones, gravel, rocks, etc. It was pretty rough terrain; I had decided to wear my lightweight, thin soled New Balance shoes which turned out to be a mistake. My feet got quite the beating on all the rocks, stones, and roots on the canal. I slowed down a lot here, feeling the need to conserve energy for the hills to come. In retrospect this was not the best strategy, but I certainly enjoyed the superfluously beautiful Patomac sparkling in the rising sun as a sheet of mist rose above it. This part of the race had some of the most spectacular views I've ever seen! I had a slight incident at mile 5, right at the beginning, as I rolled my ankle badly...stepping on a mole. Not a hole. A mole. Poor mole. Poor me (the ankle is sore but didn't hinder my running at all - just ached a little). I ate some oatmeal at mile 6 and nibbled more every 45 minutes until the finish (plus one gu). I felt fantastic as we left the canal but stayed slow as I turned off the canal onto a ginormous hill. Mile 15-16 was one enormous vertical climb! I actually walked parts of the hill and continued to do so on big hills: I had promised myself to enjoy this race and I was determined not to finish feeling like crap. The hills continued through Antietam, and I had one bad mile around 21 or 22. There were very few water stations on the course and I decided for some reason to eat a Gu at this point. It made my mouth feel dry and gross and I realized my water bottle was almost empty. I started feeling dehydrated and parched, but right before it became critical I reached an aid station. I drank 2 cups of gatorade and one of water, plus grabbed a fresh water bottle. I realized I had been underhydrating because without the humidity I'm used to my thirst sensation was blunted! Before I knew it, we were turning into Sheperdstown towards the finish. For some reason I kept thinking there were more hills ahead, but really it was just rolling hills to the finish. But all the way to the end I kept reserving strength, unsure why...but I crossed the finish in about 4:01 by my watch (longer by gun time but it isn't posted) and I felt totally refreshed and happy and could have run another 10k no problem! No wall this time, no awesome finish either - just a solid, enjoyable run on a beautiful fall day.

There was pizza at the finish and I wolfed some down before we headed to the after party for a beer.
David ran his first half marathon and was waiting for me at the finish. He felt great, too - he also said he felt like he could have gone on farther. Take-away lesson for both of us: We could both stand to expend a little more energy out there!

I'm having a cup of coffee now and getting ready for a bonfire with my friends. It will be a perfect end to this trip!
Up Next...
- David guest-posts his experiences training for and running his first half-mary.
- I wore my CEP recovery socks after this race for an hour or so ...will they combat soreness due to hills? Check back for a review!
- This post was a recap of my race, but I'll be posting a race review so you can assess the pros and cons and see if you want to run it yourself!