I know I’ve been MIA for a while, but there was some personal stuff I had to get sorted out. And still do. But I paid for this website, so I really should keep at it and who knows, maybe there is someone out there in the vast realm of the internet that actually reads and enjoys this blog. We may never know. But if you do, show me some love!
We’ve been having a lot of storms the past few days out here in Pittsburgh. Tuesday night, Dave and I just sat in the dark and watched it from our living room. We’ve got a spectacular view.
Because of the storms, I couldn’t run Wednesday night, which meant that it was Adventures in Baking night. We’re starting to have an overload of CSA basket goodies that are reaching the end of their shelf lives, so I wanted to use them. This included rhubarb, apples, watermelon radishes, dill, and kale.
First, I had to drive around from Target to Trader Joe’s to Shop N Save to get a few ingredients that we didn’t have on hand. Canning jars. Whole garlic. Fresh ginger. (I finally gave up on finding a vanilla bean and used vanilla extract instead.) I am so excited that I have canning jars. They’re adorable and remind me of being little when my mom used to can fruit and we would use old jam jars as drinking glasses. Before it was cool!
It started out with a kale chip fail. Or well, not a fail, but they definitely got a “needs improvement.” I’ve never really worked with or eaten kale before and the directions said to toss (or rather “massage”) them with olive oil and salt. (I added paprika, too.) The problem was that I added olive oil and salt in the amount you would to make steak fries, not thinking about how much lighter the kale is so there wasn’t as much in the bowl as I thought. The result? Very VERY salty chips. They weren’t all too salty, but after a while, we just gave up on them. Especially since Dave is not a big salt lover. I just have to keep that in mind for next time, because other than that they were pretty good! Very crispy!
Luckily my other recipes turned out better (I think). I started with making rhubarb mini muffins. We have 4 mini muffin pans, but no regular size ones so all the cupcakes, tarts, and muffins I make are mini. Which is fun and cute so I’m not in a hurry to get a big one. That’s what the wedding registry is for! 😉
This recipe was from allrecipes.com, called Aunt Norma’s Rhubarb Muffins. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/aunt-normas-rhubarb-muffins/
They use veggie oil instead of butter, but not to get too healthy, they have a butter, sugar and cinnamon streusel on top. When I went to measure out the vanilla extract, it came out fast and furious, so I’m not actually sure how much ended up in the recipe. But definitely more than was called for! I was unsure of how they would be (especially with the vanilla faux pas), but these muffins are delicious! Way to go, Aunt Norma!
While the muffins were baking, I made a brine of white distilled vinegar, water and salt for pickles! The recipe for Carrot and Watermelon Radish Pickles is on The Bojon Gourmet http://www.bojongourmet.com/2013/04/carrot-and-watermelon-radish-pickle.html, but it leaves room for experimenting and personalizing. For my pickles, I used a watermelon radish, baby carrots, fresh dill, green onion bulbs, and garlic cloves. It says to let it sit at room temperature for 10 days, then refrigerate so the verdict is still out on how they taste. But they look cute, right?
Finally, my last experiment of the night was Caramel Apple Jam. Yeah, that’s right. CARAMEL. APPLE. I’ve never made jam before, either (night of firsts for me!), but it was surprisingly easy, which I always appreciate. The recipe can be found on Bon Appetit, or just click here: http://www.bonappetit.com/columns/preserved/article/apple-jam-better-than-apple-sauce This is where I had to substitute vanilla extract for a vanilla bean, but it still tastes delicious. Boiling sugar, by the way, is way fun. In 5th grade, my friend Catie and I made “candy glass” as a science experiment and it’s basically the same idea, so I got to relive my childhood a little bit again. Plus, you get to swirl around a big pot of sugar and watch it bubble. Yes, I have a 5-year-old mentality.
It says you can add fresh ginger to it, so I tried grating some and ended up grating my thumb. Fail.
This also turned out delicious, or at least what I tasted from leftovers in the hot pot. I’m pretty excited to try it with crackers and goat cheese. I’m not sure why, but that combination sounds appealing to me.
So that is my non-running, non-traveling post. Tonight we’re grilling steak with scallions and radishes from our basket and making a rhubarb compote for later. I’ll let you know how those turn out, too!
On another note, how is everyone doing with their 50 Day Challenge? Did anyone actually try it or am I on my own here? I’ll admit, I haven’t been flawless with it. I still am averaging 4 runs a week. Instead of working on those diet books, my little sister talked me into reading The Fault in Our Stars. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t wow me like it seems to be wow-ing everyone else. So those 2 books are next up!
I’m doing pretty well with the snacking thing, so that’s good. I still eat all the freaking time, but I pick one thing that’s healthy and control the portion. With a side of chocolate, obviously. J
It seems to be a growing trend lately for couples to not take their honeymoon right after they get married. I understand that this is for a multitude of reasons: busy season at work, money, weather, etc., but I really wanted ours to be right after our wedding. Otherwise, it’s just a vacation. At least in my relatively traditional, stubborn mind. Dave and I talked about it and he agreed, so we are leaving for our honeymoon the Monday after we’re married (at the butt crack of dawn). That way, the day after our wedding, we don’t have to rush around saying goodbye to out-of-town guests and trying to get down to Philly to catch a flight.
We also agreed that we didn’t want to go anywhere hectic. Last June, we went to France for 10 days and we packed SO MUCH into those days. It was a ton of fun and we had an amazing time, but we feel that after all the commotion that goes into planning and having a wedding, that a nice relaxing honeymoon would be nice.
And we wanted to go somewhere tropical. I wanted it be to be somewhere neither of us had been before, too, so it could be a special new place for us and not one person showing the other places they remembered and going down memory lane (that’s fun, don’t get me wrong, but again…honeymoon). So, after doing some research, chasing a few places that I’ve been really wanting to go, and Dave riding along and being open to basically all my ideas (because he’s awesome like that), we decided where our little week in paradise will be.
We’re going to Turks & Caicos!!
So I admit, my interest in these islands was first sparked several years ago when I got an Essie nail polish named Turquoise & Caicos. It was a witty name and I’m a sucker for that kind of thing!
We already have flights, our hotel, and one excursion booked, and we are PSYCHED. A lot of travel sites said that if you are looking for a place with a big night life and parties, this is not it. Which is perfect for us. We are not night club type people. We want a nice beach and an easy time. Turks & Caicos seems to fit that bill. Here are some other fun things about our honeymoon destination.
Fun Facts About Turks & Caicos
Turks & Caicos is a string a 40 islands, of which only 8 are actually inhabited. The most popular ones are Providenciales or Provo, where we will be, and Grand Turk, the historic Capital Island that I hope to visit during our stay.
Turks & Caicos is not actually a part of the Caribbean. Although it certainly has a Caribbean vibe, Turks & Caicos is located north of the Caribbean, north of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and east of Cuba.
It is part of the British Virgin Islands and the main language is English. Which means no language barrier. The currency is the US dollar and the voltage/wattage situation is the same as in America. Makes life easy for us!
The temperature when we’ll be there is an average of 80° to 84°, with the ocean temps at 74° to 78°. Beautiful! But we are also going in the rainiest month (which supposedly isn’t that rainy) and the tail end of hurricane season…so there’s that.
Once a month, after the full moon, tiny bioluminescent organisms like to get busy. There are tours/cruises where you can watch these glow worms and it’s supposed to be awesome, because the water lights up from their mating ritual! Dave and I are going to be there for this and we already booked our little cruise, complete with rum punch, through Viator.com. Because there’s nothing like starting off your honeymoon by getting shnockered and watching glow worms get lucky. That should set the mood for the rest of our trip. But seriously, I am really excited for this.
There is a local bottlenose dolphin named JoJo who likes to hang around in the shallow waters and willingly interacts with humans. I want to meet this guy!! He’s officially government protected and has been around since 1980. How fun!
Our hotel also offers complimentary bikes for use during our stay and shuttle service to the liquor store. God bless them!The water is crazy clear and therefore snorkeling and scuba diving are hugely popular here. Neither of us scuba dive, by we definitely want to go snorkeling and our hotel offers equipment for it.
There’s obviously a lot more to these islands than I’ve listed here, but these are some of the highlights that helped us decide. The liquor shuttle was just a bonus I noticed afterward, I swear.
Most of this information I got from the official Turks & Caicos website. So if you want to find out more about the islands, check it out here: http://turksandcaicos.s1045.sureserver.com/.
If you want to learn more about glow worm sex, I learned about it on this site: http://www.meridianclub.com/blog/amorous-dance-turks-caicos-islands/.
Where did you go on your honeymoon?
Has anyone else seen this glow worm ritual?
The Pittsburgh Marathon was this weekend and through my work I got to volunteer at the expo on Saturday afternoon. I also signed Dave up to volunteer with me, since he wanted thought it sounded fun. We got there early to walk around the expo a bit and tried some tasty and not-so-tasty samples. We were on the schedule to work for the guest speaker series, but when we got to our station, the next shift hadn’t shown up for the t-shirt exchange, which was ridiculously busy, so Dave hopped over to do that. Since there was really nothing going on at my spot and another volunteer was there as well, I went over to help him.
The shirts must have run small this year because everyone was coming up trying to get a bigger size. So we had piles (literally) of women’s small shirts and only a handful of other sizes. Which made it a little hectic, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. Plus, since we were right next to the speaker series, I still got to hear the speakers talk and rubbed elbows (sort of) with Bud Coates, the author of Running On Air. He explained his breathing techniques to me and let me check out his book while we were sitting there.
By the end of the day, all we had to offer were women’s smalls and one men’s XXL.
Our shift lasted from 1:30 until the expo closed at 6, then we met up with some of Dave’s friends at a new bar called Emporio: A Meatball Joint. Dave and I got there first, so we put our name in for a table and sat down at the bar just in time to see the Kentucky Derby race and watch California Chrome win. It was crazy how excited all the people in the bar got! Since it was Derby Day, naturally I had to have some bourbon. And because I love bourbon.
The rest of the guys showed up and we got our table. The idea behind this place is meatballs, obviously. They have meatball grinders, mix n match meatball sliders, meatball paninis, meatballs just by themselves. So what you do is pick what kind of meatball you want, choose your sauce, then your sandwich. I got chicken meatballs with spinach pesto sauce on a Panini. So. Freaking. Good. While all the boys had beer, I had another double Maker’s Mark, getting much more…feel good…then I intended to, since I was scheduled for a 10-miler on Sunday. Oops. Luckily, I’ve been pretty much immune to hangovers up to this point in my life.
I’ve been meaning to try the Montour Trail for a while, since running around a neighborhood cut through by busy streets can get boring (except when playing chicken with rush hour traffic). So yesterday afternoon I drove down to the closest trail entrance with no idea what to expect from my run or the trail. But I was feeling pretty annoyed with myself and my speed lately and as compared to some friends, so I really needed to just run.
It took a few miles for me to calm down (I should mention that this was following an argument with Dave that may or may not have been was definitely PMS’s fault). But once I did, the run was awesome. First of all, I couldn’t believe the porta johns had flushable toilets. I shit you not. (See what I did there?)
Second, it was SO FLAT. I didn’t know flat was something western PA knew how to do. As I was running my 5 miles out, I was thinking how the run back was going to be harder since it would all be uphill, but I swear I ran downhill both ways. Of course there were exceptions, but mostly, it was flat.
There was also this really cool tunnel I ran through.
I hadn’t really given myself a set pace to run, other than faster than my recent turtley speed. But I also hadn’t gone on a run of any distance since my marathon (my longest was 6 miles last week), so I kept telling myself that it might get bad. Because, you know, why not set yourself up for disappointment? #fail
I started out just under a 9-minute mile and at mile 5 I decided that if I kept it under a 9-minute mile the whole way I’d get ice cream or a frappacino when I was done, because I was really craving some. At that point I was averaging an 8:41 pace, but was at the turn around point thinking the uphill was all ahead of me.
I finished the run in glorious fashion, 10.1 miles at an 8:39 pace and feeling awesome, though my ass and hammies started getting a bit sore about 8 miles in. My fastest mile was mile 10 at 8:19. I walked a ¼ mile cool down and went back to my car and drove home. I talked myself out of a treat because I truly am broke…but my unexpected decently fast pace was reward enough!
I definitely will be revisiting the Montour Trail! It’s 46 miles of trail, with porta johns, a flat course and relative good looks. It’s not as pretty as Gring’s Mill, but it’s well-kept and the trail is wider, so I’ll take it as my western PA alternative.
So apparently Maker’s Mark is my new night before long run fuel? But seriously, I don’t think I’ll ever do that again. That run just goes to prove MIND OVER MATTER. There’s no reason I should have run that well yesterday, except that I was damn determined to, especially once I’d started realizing what my pace was. I need to know, for myself, that I wasn’t toooo embarrassingly slow, so I put my mind to it and BA-BAM, the perfect storm.
Side note: last week it was really windy out, so I didn’t want to wear my usual ball cap, but it was also really sunny. I’d bought a cheap (under $20) pair of Nine West sunglasses from Boscov’s the weekend before that fit pretty snug, so I thought what the hell, I’ll give them a try. I always thought I’d hate sunglasses while running, but these are amazing. They don’t move, they’re really dark, and I basically don’t even notice them. I love it!
Do you have a favorite trail to run?
How did you celebrate Derby Day? With some good ole bourbon or do you have another favorite?
I’ve got good news for everyone! Summer is Only 50 Days Away!!
I’m celebrating by painting my nails bright and wearing some spring-colored shoes today.
But let’s focus. How many of you made a new year’s resolution (or multiple) this year, but kind of bombed on sticking with them? If you did, don’t feel bad- I don’t even remember my resolutions. I’m pretty sure they were “run 1000 miles a week and stop eating junk food.” So we’ll say that I totally bombed mine, too. I am the type of person, like so many, who dreams big and sets resolutions probably unrealistic and vague, then just kind of cheats and lets them slide. Then I get frustrated and grumpy because I feel like I failed. That’s my Friday Confession. So here’s the plan…
50 Day Lifestyle Refresh!
I work better with goals. I run more structured with a race looming over my head; I work and write more consistently and efficiently with a deadline set. So I am giving myself 50 days to refresh my lifestyle of sorts. Which will bring me right up to the beginning of summer. Coincidence! Convenience! Possible over-confidence!
If your resolution train derailed or you simply want to set a new goal, I encourage you to try this out with me! Here are the rules:
1. Pick an area of your life that you really want to refresh.
Don’t go overboard with this. You’re not going to lose 100 pounds in 50 days. You are not going to become an ultramarathoner or a Bostom Qualifier if you haven’t been a regularly running. Keep this goal challenging, but realistic.
2. Acknowledge that you have a set deadline.
Unlike New Year’s, you can’t push off starting because you think you have allll this time. You have 50 days. But, I think that 50 days is A LOT easier to work with than 365. It’s a manageable hunk. It’s long enough to accomplish something, but short enough to see the end of it right now, so you stay motivated. Maybe you won’t accomplish as big of a goal in that time as you would in a year, but look at it as a step toward your bigger goal. Instead of losing 100 pounds work on losing 10. Instead of a BQ, create a weekly mileage goal or a goal to lower your average pace. Be honest with yourself now, so you’re not stressing about it later.
3. Create a plan.
This doesn’t have to be an inked and notarized day-by-day schedule. Or maybe it does. Write a day-by-day plan, you just pencil down what you want. Do what you’ve found works best for you. If you are aiming to refresh more than one area of your life, try starting them at different times. Maybe work on eating healthier for a week or two, while maintaining your same exercise routine. After those two weeks, continue your new eating patterns, but start adding weekly mileage. This will keep you from feeling overwhelmed right from the get-go.
4. Treat Yourself.
When you set this goal, promise yourself a reward at the end. Maybe it’s something small, like a new nail polish, or something bigger, like a new running outfit or fancy sunglasses (Oakleys come to mind). You don’t have to do this, but it will give you extra motivation for those days where you really just don’t want to lace up your sneakers and figure, “well, really, what’s it matter anyway?”
I came up with a list of things I wanted to refresh in my life, but it was about 20 items long. I realize that is just not plausible. So I looked it over again, deciding what do I want to do MOST and what do I need to do first for the other things to work out. Here’s my final list.
1. Get up to running 5 times a week. I’m usually a 4-day-a-week run, but I’d really like to try to add another day. Especially since I’ve fallen back to lower mileage since my marathon.
2. Eat a healthier after work/pre-dinner snack. I always raid the kitchen when I get home from work or after my run and that’s just no good. So I want to dial it down and eat a healthier snack.
3. Control that late night snacking. Yeah, I eat a lot. And there is a lot of chocolate and cookies in the house because of Easter. I want to work on only one dessert, or if I’m still really hungry, a better late night snack…apple and almond butter, anyone?
4. Improve my posture. Because it seriously sucks.
5. Read The Specific Carbohydrate Diet and The Paleo Diet for Athletes. I bought both of these books in the hopes to figure out a way of calming my colitis, since both diets have a lot of success stories from other sufferers. Unfortunately, I’ve barely cracked the spines. This is the perfect chance to read them!
Now maybe that seems like too much or maybe you think they’re too easy. But for me, they are five things I really want to work on and for where I stand right now, are absolutely doable. It’s going to take determination and conscious effort, but it’s nothing impossible, which is the point here.
My reward? I just splurged on Groupon and got 2 weeks of unlimited classes at a Pure Barre studio that I’ve been itching to try. But I can’t use it unless I finish my challenge!
Are you going to try the 50-Day Refresh Challenge? What are you going to try to refresh about your life? Let me know and let me know how it goes, so I can give you a shout-out on here!
Has anyone seen the Justin Timberlake May meme? Can you explain it to me?