Sunday, March 22, 2015

Menu Planning - March 22

Before this week's menu plans, I wanted to mention that I actually had a pretty good week running wise. There were five days of running - three with the stroller and two solos. The stroller runs were short, 2 - 4 miles each. My solo speed workout was one of my best to date: 6 x 800 at 7:18 pace. With a warm up and cool down mile, I hit 6.5 miles total. But that pace, or thereabouts, is what I want to hold for a 5K at the end of April. Today I got out for a solo 5 miler in weather more resembling winter than spring. Yuck. Anyway, onto food. 

Friday night we had a blank in the menu plans. We kind of wanted to do something fun, but since it's the dead of winter and nothing is in season, nothing seems appealing. The hub ended up bringing home bagels and lox - which was simple and good enough. With icy IPAs.

bagels and lox

Saturday night was a big cooking night with shellfish and pasta. The first course was langoustines and razor clams (the latter of which was grimier and sandier than usual). That was followed by Pasta alla Norma (eggplant, tomato, salted ricotta) - the pasta was papparadelle and the basil was a nice preview of summer.



This week's menu:

Sunday - tonight we are dining out. 

Monday - Sunday - I have no idea! It will be a surprise ;)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Running Buddy

Since moving to Chicago three and a half years ago, I've been so fortunate to hit the friend jackpot - specifically the mama friend jackpot. I fell ass backwards into the most kind, caring community of rockstar new mamas I could ever hope to find. Since my Big Girl was 5 months old, I've been surrounded by inspiring and supportive (and FUN!) mom friends. It is no understatement to say that I would not be surviving motherhood had it not been for them. Though I love them all, one friend has become extra special to me; she is all of the above, but she (literally) goes the extra mile and has become my regular running buddy. I could not have hoped for a more perfect running partner. We somehow manage to continually arrange our schedules so we can run together and we almost always have a stroller with us carrying a kid or two. 

Today we tried to gather a group of neighborhood moms to come out and run or walk with us this morning (we totally encouraged walkers, because there seemed to be a lot of interest). The Facebook replies seemed to suggest that we'd get a nice bunch together, but the wind was noticeable and temps were mid forties, so no one else joined us. We gave them the benefit of the doubt, figuring we are unique crazies who take our kids running in this weather and headed out with our giggling passengers on a fun run. (Of note: our kids were not the least bit phased by the weather - they were super excited to be out together!)

We HAD to take pictures (primarily for my job, but also because it was actually a beautiful day in Chicago) and we got a few gems (note our matching hats .. ;))

best running buddy and her awesome little

me and my two littles

During the run we chatted about all kinds of things, as usual. And our older girls had interesting intelligent conversations debating the differences between ducks and geese as well as classifying various piles of "skat" we happened upon along the way. Never a dull moment with three year olds. Baby J was quiet as a mouse and somehow managed to snag her sisters half eaten lollipop at one point - so she was quite content. 

It was truly gorgeous along the lake today, so we took a few more pictures to document our run before heading to brunch on a big stationary yacht that started with mimosas, included happy giggles (read: shrieks during a game of chase), and ended with the girls trying their hands at helmsmanship.

gorgeous day in Chi

happy runners and passengers

Such a fun way to kickoff the weekend! Thanks, S, for being such a rockstar running buddy! Looking forward to many more runs with you (with our without our entourage ) .. xo

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Running with my Girls - and Menu Planning - March 15

Well, now all four of us are runners! Baby J joined us on her first family run yesterday - check out her adorable little legs and the huge smile on her face (not to mention her sister's beaming pride)! What a gorgeous day to be outside and enjoying the spring air / celebrating St Patrick's Day & pi day (though there was no pie…).

running with my girls

Big Girl went ahead
you got this, Baby J!

finish strong!!

We spent lots of time outside this weekend - and it looks to be another nice week weather wise. Here's the menu for the upcoming week - it's mostly in an effort to use up what we have and keep things on the simple side.

Sunday - we dined out for dinner tonight.

Monday - we have family coming for the day and since the weather looks like it will reach 70 degrees, we will be grilling some burgers. A fresh salad will be on the side. A sure sign of spring!

Tuesday - leftover corned beef and cabbage (which we made yesterday in the slow cooker - we have plenty of leftovers)

Wednesday - grilled cheese (blue cheese and caramelized onions) with roasted carrots drizzled in leftover chimichurri vinaigrette

Thursday - omelette with roasted red pepper and feta cheese / spinach salad

Friday - leftovers or frozen pizza or cheese ravioli

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Menu Planning - March 8 .. and the rest..

As it goes, menu planning is the one thing that regularly gets me to post, so I'm just going to lump it all together as usual.

The Week in Running --
It was the typical bleak training week for me - a few short runs of 3 or 4 miles each; an attempt at speed work (3 x 1200s at 8 min/mile) in new shoes but the new shoes gave me such bad blisters I had to cut the deal short (I was shooting for at least 4 x1200s plus a cool down); and a scant yoga workout on Tuesday.

The little one, on the other hand, scored her first "run" last week, and I have evidence to prove it.

littlest runner

she's a natural

I think part of it was the downhill terrain she faced, but she also loves walking and couldn't help but push the pace ;) 

I heard some disappointing news last week, which is nowhere near the end of the world, but nonetheless disappointing. So I did what any self-respecting mama would do and packed up the kids left town for a long weekend. We spent Friday with my best friend and met her newest little one, who is one month old. Big Girl was so sweet with him and knew exactly what to do when he fussed on her lap.

i got this
You would think that five kids under the age of four would be a complete circus, but it was actually one of the most relaxing parenting days I've experienced to date. The kids played beautifully together. Those who still nap napped accordingly. And my bff and I had plenty of opportunity to catch up. I was truly grateful for the wonderful day with her and her gracious family. 

My next stop was my parents' house. While there, I searched for a Mr. Potato Head toy (long story) and instead uncovered some ancient Runners World Magazines in my closet - these date back to 1999 and 2000. It was pretty hilarious to see how different the covers looked then (not to mention the running fashion (those shorts!!)), but some of the stories were pretty similar to today. I took the Millennium issue with me and put the rest back in their hiding spot for another day.

We spent the remainder of the weekend with my MIL and then headed home yesterday. We were hit with some spring weather yesterday, which meant a bit of outdoor time that wasn't spent uncomfortably bundled and/or shivering. The kids got to run around and play, even though things were pretty wet and cold with the melting snow (can wet and muddy sneakers be laundered?!)

finally we are outside!

And that brings me to this week's menu. 

Monday - Since I escaped the city Friday night, I still had that night's meal available. We did a layer dip with refried beans, veggie chili, cheese, jalepenos and scallions. 

Tuesday - tonight I'm doing fish with shallot, tomato, and olives (maybe parsley) along with a roasted carrot and avocado salad I saw on Phyllis Grant's Insta. She is truly the (motherf*ckin') bomb! Basically it's roasted carrots with fresh avocado, caramelized onions and a chimichurri vinaigrette. 

Wednesday - Another recipe I found somewhere searching for ways to use caramelized onions … it includes butter beans, bacon, and caramelized onions. I think you just cook the bacon, throw in onions and celery to sautee, add the cooked beans and top with caramelized onions. I play to serve this over toasted bread. 

Thursday - a salad made of various things I feel like eating this week and/or I will have on hand: greens, fennel, chick peas, olives, tomatoes, scallions and feta. 

Friday - pizza (as per Big Girl's request when I asked her what she wanted to eat this week) The kids will have their usual spinach/cheese and we are doing spinach and artichoke.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Adidas Birthday Predictor 5K Run (March Five by the Fifth)

This year's birthday celebrations were second to none. Things really couldn't have gone better! It was a happy day from the very beginning, with both kids sleeping ALL night and Baby J sleeping in so Big Girl and I could have a lovely quiet pre-breakfast time alone together. When Baby J finally joined us, the kids shared a big bowl of oats with strawberries and chia seeds while I sipped my traditional birthday starbucks mocha and nibbled on sprouted grain toast with almond butter. There was, after all, a 5K to run!

my sweeties

The Adidas Predictor 5K run was a fun little promotional event that showcased the new Ultra Boost sneaks. Runners could try out a pair on the morning's 5K if they so desired. I chose to stick with my beat up pure flows (new ones coming soon!), but quite a few pairs were loaned to testers. Besides the shoe showcase, a unique feature of this run was that you predicted your 5K time and promised to run sans timing device; prizes were given to those who predicted the closest finishing times. 

My awesome friend S joined me yesterday morning to run, which was super fun because it's always great to have a buddy at these things. Shortly after we showed up, we picked up our bibs and carefully chose our predicted finish times. I picked 24:00. Then we took a pic ;)

pre race

The sign up page for this run said it started at 9:00a, so we showed up around 8:30a, thinking we'd have a good buffer before the chilly run. But the actual run didn't start til 9:30a, which meant we had more than enough time to hang out in the store. My caffeine buzz was starting to deteriorate, but I kept the energy level high by drawing on some birthday excitement adrenaline. While we were waiting, there were lots of announcements about the adidas products and the course, among other things, and then we all assembled for a picture. 

group shot

Finally it was showtime. From the store, we jogged over to the start which was along the lake. It was about 25 degrees and light flurries floated about. Winds were still, but the air held a damp chill that went straight to the bones. The warm up jog was good, and soon we were on the line. We were given another brief course description (it was an out and back with a hairpin turn) and someone said, "GO!" We were off.

I basically tried to run at a comfortably fast pace. Without a watch, I had no idea what pace I was holding. I did start my garmin but I did NOT look at it once during the run, not even a glance, though I was highly temped to do so at many points. It was really hard to run by feel! The only info I had was that the turnaround would be the halfway point. And that turn came surprisingly quickly. On the way back, I tried to match my effort and keep things consistent. It really shows how much you depend on a watch (and mile markers!) to help with race strategy. When I got to the finish line, I was told my time: 23:48. Only 12 seconds off my predicted time. And pretty much right on with my goal for this 5K (a sub 24 finish).

After they recorded my bib and time, I was able to look at my race stats.

Mile 1: 7:25
Mile 2: 7:45
Mile 3: 7:50
Last 0.1: 0:48

So basically 23:47 - about what they told me my time was.

I can't help but notice my positive splits. Even though I tried to stay steady, I likely started too fast. Would mile markers have helped? Would constant garmin checks have helped? I'm ok with the middle mile being a bit slower, but going forward, I'd like to kick it up on the third mile. But overall, I'm pretty happy with this effort.

Back at the store, I met up with my friend and we sampled a few of the many breakfast items offered at no cost. Unfortunately, they were in no hurry to announce results or give away prizes, and we had to leave. But I did hear that someone was three seconds off and another person was 6 seconds off. So my 12 seconds probably wouldn't have landed me any prizes. In any case, it was really fun to be a part of this!

The next part of my day included a massage at a local spa and some cupcakes with my family. Big Girl could hardly contain herself re: the cupcakes and Baby J enjoyed her very first mini cupcake (which was evident from the amount of frosting that ended up all over her face!).

happy birthday time

And later that afternoon, we got the chance to step out kid free for some celebratory bubbly. We are lucky to have a number of champagne bars in Chicago. Our server was fantastic and knew TONS about champagne and she humored us by answering our MANY questions about the sparkling wine. I seriously learned so much, and she even gave us a handout before we left with recommendations and notes. High quality service. The best.

champagne bar

The best way to celebrate

We also had to hit up a nearby cheese counter (with a beer, of course) as well as sample some crudo before heading to a sushi restaurant for take out. We figured the best way to do dinner was to pick it up and eat at home - when the sitter had put the kids to bed and the house would be quiet ;)

fancy cheese

Overall, it was a fantastic day! I enjoyed all the kind birthday wishes as well as the fun I had with friends and family. It was exciting, relaxing, interesting, joyful, educational, peaceful and memorable. So, basically it was perfect. Bring on 36. 

Menu planning - March 1

Real quick -

Monday - roasted veggies (carrots, broccoli and cauliflower), fresh bread and cheese 

Tuesday - Moroccan chicken in the slow cooker with whole wheat cous cous and whatever leftover veggies remain from Monday (will provide link when I can get on laptop..) 

Wednesday - salad with greens, bacon, five minute eggs, blue cheese, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and scallions 

Thursday - leftovers or grilled cheese or BLTs (hub is out this night)

Friday - a healthy layer dip (polenta, leftover vegetarian chili from the freezer, sour cream, jalapeƱo peppers, cilantro) with tortilla chips maybe

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What the Emergent Eaters are Eating .. plus workout(s)

We continue with the cold/snow/cold/snow sequence that defines the quintessential seemingly endless Chicago winter. The chilly season has meant a lot of time at home snuggling with my sweetie pies. It seems (and I hope I'm not speaking too soon) that my #threenager is no longer a classified #threenager and instead has transformed herself into the sweetest, most fun, cooperative little angel (we are enjoying it while it lasts..). And she has been a terrific big sister to Baby J! When you get in a phase like this one, you enjoy it and enjoy it good. Because it could turn on a dime. 

So, with all the time indoors, I thought it would be fun to document a "What They Ate" day, because feeding little ones can be a challenging, frustrating, crap shoot that rarely land a hole in one.. but it can also bring great satisfaction if (gasp) they actually eat the healthy meal you prepared. I keep trying though, and to be honest, they are doing pretty well, expanding their palates at their own pace. A couple days a week they are both home with me, and since we had very few plans on Monday, I snapped pics of their three main meals. 

Breakfast - I made a fresh batch of homemade pancakes because our freezer stash has been long gone. And we were not in any kind of rush Monday morning, which is paramount if you plan to make pancakes. This also meant that I had time for coffee - but if I'm being honest, I sporadically slurped it down while simultaneously flipping flapjacks over the hot stove and balancing Baby J on my hip while she pointed at the pan and remarked, "hot" every so often. Just in case I was unaware that the stove was hot. Big Girl was running wild (and loud) around the house making all the messes everywhere, but she was in good spirits so I'll take it. Making a leisurely homemade breakfast for tots is not as glamorous as it sounds, nor is it by any means leisurely. But both of them loved the 'cakes. So it kind of makes it worth it. We drizzled minimal maple syrup over the pancakes, and I believe they also had some applesauce, but that may not be pictured. At the moment, Baby J is the more attentive and gracious eater. Her sister prefers to grab mouthfuls while playing (read: making messes). Incidentally, they have both been eating their meals at their little table - Baby J just despises her highchair, so if the meal is not too messy and she doesn't climb up and start walking all over the table, I let her sit there. For the record, they both ate three pancakes.


Lunch - I took a risk and gave them some leftover brussels sprouts that we had braised in leftover pulled pork sauce. They both tried it; Baby J spit hers out, presumably because she only has 1.5 teeth and had trouble chewing the spouts? and Big Sis followed suit (presumably because she is less adventurous when it comes to eating - her full set of teeth could have easily managed). They also had fresh mozzarella cheese drizzled with olive oil and some whole wheat bread.


And dinner - homemade hummus and pita, cucumbers, and yogurt. Big Girl prefers tortillas to pita and she also had some avocado, which Baby J does not yet like (but she apparently likes yogurt..a lot..)


Snacks are not pictured but they tend to be fruit (bananas, berries, and pear are current favorites), fruit and veggie squeezies, cheese and crackers (usually Triscuits), dry cereal, homemade muffins, or graham crackers. Neither of them are big meat eaters, but they do like tofu and Baby J will dabble in red meat. It's been tricky to put together balanced meals that both of them will eat - but it's a puzzle that I will never give up on. They are also two of the smallest people around, so they typically eat tiny portions at meals. I've found that when I put a very small portion on their plate at first (like laughably small), they tend to eat more overall. And sometimes they blow me away with the amount of food they gobble up at one sitting - like more than I do! In sum, they are both doing great and learning more and more about food and healthy eating every day. 

Moving on to workouts, there has been a total of one workout for me this week (besides abs). The relentless cold/snow/cold/snow sequence has wrecked havoc on my ability to run outdoors with Baby J, and we've also had a number of evening events that have made evening runs impossible. Today was actually my first real workout of the week : 8 x 400 at 7:03 pace. With the warm up and cool down, it totaled 5 miles. That is kind of pathetic, but it is what it is. 

For an afternoon snack today, I made some killer hot chocolate, which was just perfect for the cold, snowy conditions outside. It contained: 

2 cups of vanilla almond milk
1 TBSP cocoa
1 TBSP melted coconut oil
1 TBSP raw honey
(an optional half tsp of cinnamon which I omitted)

Basically you heat the milk on the stove and then add it to the rest of the ingredients in a blender for a minute or so. Truly fantastic. I gave Baby J a taste with extra almond milk and she declared it something not worth spitting out. Big Girl downed her share proclaiming it "yum." 

hot cocoa

And that brings me up to my birthday weekend. I have a few fun plans in the works and will fill in the blanks accordingly. Happy almost Friday ~

Monday, February 23, 2015

Menu Planning ETC

Here we go again - another week of summary and meal plans. As usual, it will be all over the place (like my head these days..) 

1) C of Team Stick told me about this fun little app and I decided to include it in one of last week's dinners. It's a roasted sweet potato and goat cheese crostini with fresh parsley. As easy as it sounds (roast the spud, puree with goat cheese, add salt, pepper, sage or whatever, spread on bread, bake or broil, top with fresh parsley) and delicious.

sweet potato/goat cheese

2)  some baking on a(nother) freezing snowy day. Winter has settled itself for sure. It's like 0 degrees as I type. When my Big Girl is at school, the little one often lends her hand in some of the baking. She loves putting the muffin liners in the pan - almost as much as she loves emptying the dishwasher. We ended up baking pumpkin chocolate chip muffins (not pictured) -  and they were devoured in mere days.

doing her share

so proud of herself!

3) One of my best friends who happens to live next door to me is moving to California at the end of this week. I am heartbroken and will miss her and her awesome family dearly. But one thing I've learned from the experience of several cross country moves is that life goes on and we will always have the memories we made together. To celebrate our time together, we went out Wednesday night last week - which was great fun (so much fun!!) but too much fun and left me suffering the next day, which is usually my hard workout day.

many, MANY, bottles of prosecco

i love these people

So instead of rocking some speed work while the sitter watched my little one, I took a two hour nap and then enjoyed a burger, fries and a milkshake for lunch. And I have no guilty feelings about this whatsoever. It happens. And as L of Team Stick pointed out, I never just bum around, so I was due for some bumming ;) 

4) To make up for the bumming, I did my speed work on Friday since my parents came over for the morning and watched the kids. It was one I've done before that included various intervals of speed at 10K pace (8:00/mile) and half mary pace (8:30/mile) - about 6.5 miles total. The difference was that I felt great!

5) I finally got outside for a run yesterday - about 5.5 miles I think. My pace was about 9:20. It was still in the teens and downright frigid but compared to what we've been experiencing (i.e. "a cold, gray, bucket of suck") it was manageable. 

ain't that the truth

6) Menu Planning time

Sunday - last night we pulled out the Texas Red leftovers from the freezer. It seemed appropriate for a cold Sunday night dinner. I was shocked to see that Baby J ate an entire (child sized) bowl of it! Her sister tried it but preferred avocado and tortilla. Toppings were sour cream and green onions. 

Monday - Tonight will be homemade hummus with goat feta, cucumber and tomatoes in toasted pita

Tuesday - leftover homemade chicken noodle soup and fresh bread with a soft cheese

Wednesday - I actually have a work event this night.. But the fam will have the kale/chick pea dish I love so much and I'll add fingerling potatoes to make it more substantial. 

Thursday - the hub is out this night so the girls and I will have grilled ham and cheese on sourdough

Friday - homemade pizza with onion and calabrian chilies topped with eggs (the girls have spinach and cheese usually)

Saturday - maybe a tofu stir fry

and that takes us to Sunday which is my birthday - more on that later.

7) Ab Month is still going strong. One more week!