Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Menu planning - October 26

Sunday - fried chicken and salad in the burbs 

Monday - roasted broccoli on toasted bread with ricotta / salad

Tuesday - kale and chickpea dish over leftover restaurant hashbrowns 

Wednesday - stuffed acorn squash (sausage/onion/celery/apple)

Thursday - homemade pizza with sausage/onion, homemade sauce (with extra puréed veggies), mozzarella cheese

Friday - Halloween tradition of chips and guacamole and cheese quesadillas.  Beer. Trick or treaters at the door. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Trick or Treat Trot

Sunday's Kids Dash was Big Girl's second - she did it last year and can now say she's a repeat performer. It's really fun to look back at last year's pics and see how much she's grown. She was just a tiny two year old toddler last year; this year she seems much more like a little girl. We lucked out and got a beautiful day for racing and being outside. Here's how the show went down

Sunday morning was a rush of race prep, getting dressed, eating breakfast, packing for an overnight, and driving to the race. We somehow managed to arrive on time and met up with my parents, brother, and some friends of ours. It was a bit chilly but warming up quickly - the venue was gorgeous with all the fall colors and the lakefront. This autumn seems to have hit the jackpot in the foliage department.

pre race with our buddies

running buddies
Soon it was time to line up for the kids races. Big Girl took her place and did a warm up 100 yard dash with the 3-4 year olds.

at the start

finishing the 100 yard dash
Next up was the quarter miler, which was technically slated for the 5-6 year olds. But Big Girl was excited for another race - a serious race - so we lined up in the back and let the big kids go ahead. Big Girl just ran her race.

hip extension "like a Kenyon"

pacing herself

staying strong

approaching the turnaround

about to turn
She really ran a terrific race! A quarter mile is no joke, especially for those little legs. But she kept her pace manageable and maintained a solid effort. I was so proud when she picked it up for the grand finish! My brother got this on video which is just adorable. (Sorry, no video here).

the big finish

A short time after the kids dash was the 6K. Last year I had to opt out due to pregnancy complications, but this year I was officially registered. It would be my first 6K. So #autoPR. Once we handed the kids off to our families, my friend and I took some pre-race pics in our matching tanks.

we match!

at the start
My race went well; as well as it can go when I never (ever!) do speed work. I just tried to hold 8's and shot for a sub 30 minute finish time. I might have gone out a little fast with my first mile clocking in at 7:41. Perhaps the adrenaline/morning coffee had something to do with it (as a side note: I've mostly given up weekday coffee so it's hitting me harder on the weekends). It did feel good to turnover the legs like that, but I didn't think it was something I could maintain. The course was pretty sweet, weaving and winding through the Northwestern campus and along the lake. There were just the right amount of runners so there was never a bottleneck or risk of bumping into anyone. I could pass with ease and/or be passed. Just before mile two, I saw my parents and Big Girl spectating like pros. I waved and blew  kisses. I hit mile two at 8:01 and mile three at 8:09, so no negative splits. The last .72 mile was smooth but I realized I'd have to really hoof it to make that sub-30. My eyes darted back and forth between the distant finish line and my watch. I saw the seconds ticking by and knew it would be close. But the finish was rapidly approaching. I crossed with five seconds to spare giving me a final time of 29:55. Since it was my first 6K ever, it is a PR. 

Post race we all reconvened and decided to brunch it up at a local pancake house. We knew there'd be a (long) line so we didn't dawdle. The line was long, but it was simply gorgeous outside so we chatted while waiting and soon (maybe 45 minutes later) we found ourselves seated.

pancakes are coming soon

she loves her uncle (and pancakes!)
As usual, it was another memorable and fun race experience. I love that races have become family affairs with something for everyone. My Big Girl was super proud to tell her teachers this morning about her race and she will probably want to wear her new race shirt to school this week (it needs laundering before that can happen). I've already hung up her bib with the rest of them and will add her finisher ribbon to the collection. It may not look like much now, but in 20/30 years, she'll revere them as treasures (I hope). I still look at my marathon medals with nostalgic eyes and marvel at how far race tees have come over the years. As fancy as they get nowadays, I still find myself treasuring the oldies - the fading cotton ones with the ridiculous colors and terrible fit that I'd never actually wear. But they will always remind me of a race morning -  just like this one -  that sent me out on a course to make a memory. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fall Stuff and Menu Planning - October 19

There's no doubt that autumn in in full swing. There's usually a sweet spot where the trees showcase the most vibrant leaves of the season - just before they tumble to the ground to create soft, scented, rustling piles that delight our running sneaks (and our preschoolers..). This past weekend was that sweet spot. We headed to our favorite off-road trails to take in the foliage in the best way possible: with a run. I logged seven beautiful miles in suburban Chicago on gravel trails surrounded by the aforementioned leaves. The only caveat was that it was raining. No matter. It still was awesome. (Of note: I am wearing a swirl gear long sleeve top which is seriously like my new fave. Perfect fit and just the right amount of "dazzle.")

trails in the rain
We headed back to the trails the next afternoon for a shake-out run which blessed us with drier conditions. As you will see below, we took the kids there as well because obviously Big Girl had to get in her run too. But first, some food talk. 

We were lucky to have two date nights this past weekend. One was really just drinks, but the other was the hub's birthday dinner date. All I'll say is that it was tapas and that there was a pretty rockin' band. Anyway, with all that dining out, we were eager to cook something ourselves. We settled on this beauty along with some creamed spinach on toasted bread. This is how we take over my MIL's kitchen -

cooking beer/cider
This one was outstanding! Vegan, too. I highly recommend it. And we have tons for leftovers.

butternut squash/onions 

creamed spinach on toast

Note on the creamed spinach: it was shallots and creme fraiche. Pinch of nut meg.

the girl running (again)

colorful leaves

Now for a few random pumpkin patch pictures - because my kids are the cutest!

pumpkins in a pumpkin patch

with their grandma
Ok, back to food. This week's menu:

Monday: I used up some lunch leftovers (it was a big veggie skillet with sweet potatoes from a resty) and added fresh spinach, chorizo, fresh avocado and a fried egg.

using up leftovers

Tuesday - last night I did a tofu stir fry. The usuals: peanut oil, tofu, ginger, garlic, dash of mirrin, some vinegar (it needed something tangy), bok choy, snow peas, and scallions. Over soba noodles. And topped with toasted crushed peanuts. 

Wednesday - tonight I'm attempting a pot roast meal (with potatoes, carrots, onions). I don't often do huge cuts of meat and/or meat based meals. But it's good to have a broader base when cooking for a family. I've gathered a few recipes and feel there is a series of common steps involved in cooking pot roast. In any case, it looks fairly easy to do. Fingers crossed. 

Thursday - if I'm going to cook a roast, it had better be flanked by two veggie dishes. So this one will be our leftover butternut squash and onion dish over cous cous topped with fresh parsley (in an effort to "wake it up"). 

Friday - roasted celery root with creme fraiche and fresh dill along (the hub made this dish last year shortly after Baby J was born and it was amazing!) also leftover pot roast.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Menu planning - October 12

The menu:

Monday - leftover Chinese food (we ordered in Saturday night)

Tuesday - chickpea/kale/chorizo/poached egg (I do this dish frequently - it's a favorite!)

Wednesday - vegetable pancakes (will shred sweet potatoes, zucchini, onion and carrots / mix with eggs, bit of flour and salt / cook in olive oil) w/ sour cream and/or applesauce. Might also do side salad of greens and pepitas and shaved Parmesan)

Thursday - grilled cheese and homemade tomato soup (for the latter - carrot/onion/celery/maybe clove of garlic, can tomatoes, stock (store bought bc we are (gasp) out of stock!), bay leaf, basil, some heavy cream to top it off)

Friday - away (maybe date night)

So here's a pic of last weeks fantastic butternut squash/italian sausage concoction which was a spot-hitter. Onions, sage and grated Parmesan. Um yeah. 

And lastly, the Chicago marathon was yesterday. We went out to cheer on the runners. Though it doesn't seem like it from this pic, Big Girl internalized this phenomenon and later that afternoon she went on to run quite a distance of her own! 

marathon spectators

I will find out the exact distance via gmap pedometer, but she likely ran a half to a full mile (taking breaks, but always continuing ..until we finally told her to stop as it was dinner time.. which naturally resulted in tears (as most activities with her end these days). 

Note; these pictures were completely natural (ie not staged). My hub took them as she approached him. I was slightly behind her but had been running with her for the majority. We talked about Halloween, which was her idea. I had front loaded our run with 3.5 miles.

go girl!

little runner

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Menu Planning - October 5

A few days late but already in progress!

Monday - homemade chicken soup (due to hub being a bit sick)

Tuesday - leftover meatballs and sauce (from my mom) with swiss chard mixed in over whole wheat spaghetti

Wednesday - butternut squash/italian sausage/sage concoction - kind of like this recipe - perhaps with leftover spaghetti, but maybe on it's own

Thursday - salad with serious greens, five minute eggs, toasted nuts, goat cheese and homemade croutons (stale bread tossed gently in olive oil and baked in oven) homemade vinaigrette obv

Friday - not set in stone - i might be going out or we might do a chili layer dip

Also, I want to do this Phylis Grant fig concept so badly - maybe as an app on saturday..
"fig party"
figs, balsamic, olive oil, salt, prosciutto, and rosemary (into the oven it goes).
add goat cheese at last minute and broil.
smear on toast.
(this woman is genius)

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Phun Run 5K - 2014

Yesterday's 5K race was full of fun surprises, but it was also just what I needed to pull me up and out of this funk I've been in. My legs have mostly felt dead and uninterested on recent runs; they just don't wanna. So I focused all of my energy last week on taking naps (which is actually quite hard since napping doesn't come naturally for me). I also forewent the java in an effort to help me nap. And obviously, I stayed away from booze. It was a boring week, but apparently it was just the kind of "training plan" I needed to rock this race.

The earlier part of the weekend included a short four mile run Friday afternoon with my dad trailing me on his bike (talk about a rockstar - my dad is something!) and I got to spend the rest of the day alone (i.e. not with my kids) actually thinking thoughts. Saturday included some solo time as well - a "coffee" date with a friend (no coffee was consumed by yours truly but we chatted plenty). And Sunday was race day. 

I'll start with the fact that Baby J decided she was an infant and woke multiple times during the night. It wasn't a good night of sleep for me but I tried to go with it. The funny thing (and not "haha" funny) was that Baby J actually slept in on race morning. She was up at 5a but then went back to sleep - and didn't even stir when my alarm blasted at 6:20a. Seriously. It's like they know.

So, race morning began with me chugging some chilled coffee (omg was it good!) and a processed sugary cereal bar - I don't know ..  high glycemic and easy to digest? I had to wear tights and a long sleeve shirt under my tank because temps were barely kissing 40. We didn't have to travel far to the race and parking was a breeze. It's the little things. There was some sun and winds were light, but it was definitely chilly. And there was enough time for a few pre-race pics before I headed to the start corral. 

I should mention that my family is second to none and everyone was out there for me. I am beyond grateful that they came out to cheer me on and were so positive about the early morning hour and cold weather. They are the best!!

my beautiful family

my mom, hub, and the girls
Rookie spectator
My race "strategy" was to stay on my feet, maintain a comfortably hard pace, and try not to hit the wall. I wasn't sure what pace I could hold given that my recent paces have been snailishly slow, but I wanted to at least try for something respectable. When the gun went off, I just ran, trying to find a rhythm. Before I even got a tenth of a mile in, I spotted my dad. He rides his bike around the course and give me high fives every time I run by (because he's awesome like that). Seconds after I passed him, I felt a poke on my back. I figured some damn kid had knocked me, but when I turned around, I saw it was a friend from grade school. Someone I hadn't seen in years! I recognized her immediately but it was out of context, so I muttered something about being out of shape and that I would try to find her after the race. So that was cool, but I had a race to run. 

The miles came quickly - mile one flashed 7:52 on my garmin. This was pretty good, but I knew it was closer to eight. I just tried to maintain. The course rolls and turns gently and there were just the right amount of people out there. I was huffing and puffing a decent amount and I spit on myself at least once. But I kept on. Mile two was 7:53 on the garmin - but again, probably closer to eight. The last mile wasn't bad because I didn't push it. I just kept things even and tried to remember that this was supposed to be fun! I knew I'd see the kids soon and I wanted to appear strong and happy when I passed them. Close to mile three, I spotted them and managed to high five Baby J and Big Girl. Baby J was like "wtf was that" but Big Girl was nothing but smiles. She loved it (and I believe she shouted "Go, Mommy!" or something to that effect). Mile three was 7:58 and the last .1 was 1:08. And then we were done. 

My lungs were a bit rusty from the effort and the cold factor didn't help. I shook it off and looked for my family. I saw them coming but then I saw my friend cross the line. We were able to chat for a bit and she got to meet my kids. That was a great surprise because I usually don't know anybody at these races. And how fitting that the race was put on by the elementary school that we both attended!

old friends

While we chatted, Big Girl did some strides, high-fiving me as she passed, because that is what she assumed one does during races.

hand out for a high-five

ready to high five!

The finish area was pretty stocked and we grabbed some munchkins (Big Girl had three of them) and then headed to the playground. The kids got to do some swinging and playing, but they started announcing awards so we headed back to the finish line. I took this pic of all the shirts from previous races - this was the 20th year for this race. I have eight of these tops.

race shirts

Because I had placed in previous years, I thought there might be a chance that I'd get third place or something. (of note: I placed third in my age group for this race while pushing Big Girl in the Bob one year and last year as an eight month pregnant mama runner - so, it was a possibility). It took forever to get to the F35-39 age group (because I am old now), but it was worth the wait. I got first. And no matter what, first is awesome. I can honestly say "I won" because I did win (my age group).

1st AG
How fun to score some hardware in a race that let me know my legs are still there and they can turn over at an 8 min/mile pace. My total time of 24:53 might have been one of my slower 5K times (not counting pregnancy or Bob pushing..), but it is still pretty decent, at least in my book.  It made me wonder what I'd be capable of if I could actually sleep more than 3-4 hour stretches at night and/or find the time to recover after hard efforts (as of now, there are no hard efforts because I have no opportunity to properly recover). But in any case, I'm so glad I participated in this race - I really love the road racing scene. And they are especially sweet when they end with a medal ;)

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Importance of Menu Planning

Allow me to go off topic (not really for a change, because, who am I kidding?! My runs are crap these days..), and talk about why I think menu planning is so important. Mainly important for my family - which includes me, my husband, Big Girl (3.5yrs), and Baby J (11 months).

For starters, it gives my husband and me something to talk about other than the kids. With two little ones constantly vying for our attention (the Big one gets particularly irked if we dare so much as attempt to have a conversation that doesn't include her), it's hard to come up with topics that pique our interest. Though Big Girl's #threenager phase offers endless hours of conversation, discussion about her  mysterious, baffling behavior often leaves us more exhausted and depressed. We sometimes try to chat about fun weekend plans or Chicago real estate (and the state of this city in general - it seems like things are booming here and there's always something new to dissect). But it mostly comes back to food. What are we having for dinner - and what fun thing will we be cooking over the weekend. And when, if ever, we will attempt bouillabaisse again.

My husband and I used to sail. On a sailboat. Like a 40 footer (or thereabouts). By ourselves. We earned certifications in keelboat sailing and chartering so we could go sans paid captain. These adventures always required a serious team effort - a commitment to working together to ensure we had fun while traveling from island to island (and stayed alive, obviously). We had our roles, our specialities and we divvied up the remaining tasks accordingly (like pulling that damn outboard up and off the dingy and securing it to the stern on the starboard side. Side note: this is a task we one day foresee Big Girl doing -- haha, not really, but kind of). Anyway, we worked well together and that collaboration brought us great joy as we maneuvered our boat across the islands of the Caribbean. Now we talk food (but hope to someday return to the sea - with or without the kiddos).

So not only is menu planning a good investment of time and resources - because let's face it, we all have to eat, so why not make cooking healthy and fun and something that we can pass on to our kids. But it's also a source of conversation that seems to provide endless hours of fun for the hub and me. Over the years we have merged our love of food with the changing seasons and seasonal events that call for a particular fare. For example, it's nearly fall. We are already talking about making stock, favorite squash dishes, and things that beg for sage. And we are planning pilgrimages to the burbs to run in fall foliage and the meals (and beers) we can indulge in post run. We don't even limit the food talk to our own cooking; we are also planning a "ramen run" which means we will end a run in a neighborhood that has especially good ramen.

I don't know what other couples do, but we talk food. And the weekly menu plans have helped us create a scaffolding from which to build our toolbox of culinary know-how. While we have old standbys, we also try to prepare a dish or attempt a technique that broadens our cooking skills. These can be risky, but often they are worth the gamble. I'm not sure if it's admirable or pathetic that we enjoy discussing and creating flavor profiles that will potentially make a dish rejoice (or die, depending on how it goes). But that is what we do. And I believe that it's very important for spouses to have something to talk about other than the kids (preferably something both are passionate about).

Someday we (read: I) may go back to talking about training plans, race strategies, taper woes, long run routes, etc.. but for now, serious running has taken a back seat to the immediate task of putting (healthy and delicious) food on the table for our family day after day after day.