Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter etc/ Menu Planning - April 20

"Birthday Season" (aka the six week period in early spring when my Big Girl and her closest buds all age up) is nearing the end. We have one more friend to turn the big 3, and then we can turn our attention away from birthday cake for a while. After all, there is Easter candy to enjoy! The latest kid birthday party included a climbing wall that I just couldn't resist. It's been about ten years since I scaled one - and if I recall correctly, I had run a half marathon that morning and was young and spry enough to climb without incidence. This time, while I made it to the top, I was immediately sore in the lats/shoulders/triceps/you name it upon completion. But it made for a humorous spectacle that my friends, their kids, and Big Girl certainly enjoyed. Next year I might have to charge a fee for the entertainment ;)

climbing wall
Big Girl's third birthday celebrations culminated with a family party last weekend. I had mentioned I was going to make quiche - my MIL's recipe. This was actually a big success and I have a picture to prove it.


birthday party quiche

We spent the past week at the grandparents' places due to some construction in our apartment. Luckily this coincided with Big Girl's spring break. This allowed for some quality family time and a bit of running for myself. Unfortunately, I had two lousy runs (four miles each) to start things off, but I finished with a chart-topping 7.25 miler on some trails..

post trail run
..and a recovery three the next day. Most of my miles for the seven were in the nine-thirty range, which I will gladly take at this point. The better weather is helping tremendously. As is coffee.

Lastly, menu planning. Our Easter weekend was full of cooking - though my husband took full charge of the culinary tasks. I wanted to contribute more, but with two sick kids, I had my hands full. Despite it all, we had some serious edible treats this weekend - 

Saturday night there was a spatchcocked chicken. Not only is this truly a fun one to say (who doesn't want to proclaim he's going to "spatch cock a chicken"?), but it's also a delicious way to eat grilled chicken. It's basically butterflying the bird and grilling it so it stays moist and flavorful inside with a crispy skin on the outside. Plus it's fun to drink icy beers while grilling outdoors on a perfect weather day. Sometimes everything just comes together. There's no pic of the spatchcocking but I can assure you it was perfection. There were also a variety of spring vegetables: grilled carrots (finished off with soy sauce and a touch of balsamic vinegar), asparagus and sunchokes, and a fresh kohlrabi salad. 

Easter Sunday was another smorgasbord that included leftover grilled veggies (see plate on the right) along with grilled brun-uusto cheese with an olive oil and basil dressing on fresh bread. I managed to get a picture before it was devoured.


Easter Sunday apps

For this week's menu plan - 

Monday (yesterday) we had fresh fruit and yogurt, along with fresh bread and a bit of blue cheese. 

Tuesday - tonight was leftover grilled vegetables (onion, broccoli, squash, zucchini) in a panzanella - bread chunks, fresh herbs (oregano, chives),  shaved parmesan cheese and a mustard vinaigrette. It was fantastic!

Wednesday - If I can get my hands on some Vidalia onions, I'd like to core them, fill them with (herbed?) butter, roast them to within an inch of their life, split them open and top with a poached egg and some bacon crumbles - maybe some chives too. (If I can't find Vidalia, I'll make do with sweet onions..) This will all go over some toasted bread to catch the drippings. 

Thursday - Pizza, sort of. I'll use my homemade dough and top with olive oil, thinly sliced potatoes, rosemary, shallot and nicoise olives. A side green salad should complete the meal. 

Friday - we might do egg salad sandwiches and edamame. We might do a red lentil spread. We might do an asparagus pasta (whole wheat pasta, asparagus, lemon zest kind of thing..). We might do BLT's. We might do a simple sandwich with roasted red pepper, goat cheese, and arugula. Still thinking on this..

Friday, April 11, 2014

Big Girl is Three

Another year - another birthday! My Big Girl turned the big T-H-R-E-E yesterday - but as I keep reminding her, three is the new two ;)

To celebrate her big day, I ran twice her age on Wednesday in some gorgeous weather! Finally, Chicago has gotten on board with spring! It was another fantastic run, and I returned feeling refreshed and not too tired. That is the best kind of run. I admit, I didn't think too much about my kids; I just tried to clear my mind in general. They say when it rains, it pours, and figuratively, it's pouring over here. But we are all safe and healthy, so it's just another challenge to get through. One step at a time (now the "step"metaphor can actually be taken literally! I plan on doing lots of running haha.)

Anyway, here's a look back at Big Girl's past birthday celebrations:

turning ONE
about one year old
turning TWO

about two years old
turning THREE
class party
3rd bday party - 2014

We are two thirds of the way through the birthday celebrations! It's like a marathon, people! And I am about to hit the wall. But I'll keep plowing through - I've been training for this :)

Yesterday we kicked off Big Girl's third birthday with cards, songs, and school. She stayed til lunchtime when her sister and I joined the class for a little birthday treat - if you want to spice up your midday meal, share it with a bunch of three year olds; the conversation is priceless. We spent the afternoon at the park in some lovely weather with friends, and capped off the evening by ordering pizza and opening presents. 

Today (part two of three), we had a bagel birthday brunch for friends. My hostessing style has always been to keep it simple, let them play and enjoy each other's company. It's easy on me, my wallet, and the kids seems to have a blast together. This party was no different. It was also my first as a solo hostess with two kids - don't think it could have gone much better. Phew!

Sunday is the last of it with a family party. I'm going to try my hand at my MIL's quiche. She sent me her recipe, so we'll see how I do. I think that will be enough then.. otherwise we will all collapse from too much partying!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Of Defeat, Celebration, Running, and Meal Planning

This post might be all over the board -

First up, the Final Four. I have hardly followed March Madness this year, but when it became clear that the Wisconsin Badgers had a fighting chance, I tuned in (alma mater and all). We made it to the final four, which was super exciting. Baby J was able to show her support in an age appropriate manner, and Big Girl shouted, "Go Badgets!!" all the time. We even went out the night of the game to a rowdy craft beer bar to sample brews and watch basketball. The beer was outstanding, the food decent enough, the game --> a heartbreaker. At least for Badger fans :(


little badger fan

a sampling of the beer samples
Next up, Spring is trying SO hard to be here! The little plants and buds want so badly to bloom. We've had much better temps (ie not polar vortex cold), but still a bit on the cold side. At least we can get out and enjoy the weather with lighter coats, occasionally ditching the hats. I am actually up to six miles now, which calls for a celebration of its own. I went out for a wonderful "long" run this past weekend, and it felt great. What really made me feel like a runner again was getting out the next day for a "recovery" run. Yep, back to back runs. Now we're getting somewhere.

This past weekend was decent - a bit chilly, but good enough to get outside! I can't believe I got the action shot below - but this was taken when Big Girl decided she wanted to RUN. Her stride is impressive, and she's waving to the camera. It's like she knows Brightroom/MarathonFoto will someday be on the course and she better start practicing her mug now!



And lastly, menu planning - we had a menu last week but it didn't get recorded here. There was a lot going on and Big Girl has had an infatuation with our laptop - which she is not allowed to touch - so it has been "up high" and out of sight means out of mind at least for me (don't ask how many times Big Girl inquired as to the whereabouts of "mommy and daddy's computer".. but if I had a nickel for every time she did so.... Anyway, here's what we did last week:

Sunday - we had a farmers market kale and prosciutto pasta. It could probably be improved upon. The farmers market carrots were amazing - roasted whole with a light glaze and just perfect. 

Monday was meatball sandwiches - meatballs by 100 days of real food. Big Girl ate like 2 or 3 meatballs!

Tuesday - I think this was a big salad - leftover kale, greens, scallion, bacon and poached eggs. This has basically been my favorite meal as of late 

Wednesday - We got another kielbasa as a gift so we made it with peppers and onions. The secret is pimenton (smoked paprika) and soy sauce, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce - really brings out the sweetness in the vegetables. Try it. You do not even need the sausage. 

Thursday - pizza. Big Girl's is typically a small one with just sauce and cheese. She eats the whole thing. Ours was homemade sauce, shallot, bacon and eggs (we seem to have a bacon and egg problem..) but it was pretty damn good Also, we did better on the eggs but they weren't perfect - still overcooked, but not by much. 

Friday - After a somewhat draining week, we wanted to do something "fun" for dinner. We got some scallops, crab claws, and a lobster tail. Sadly, the crab claws were sub par. The scallops were good - sauteed in butter with spinach (the spinach was the best part!). And we had to toss the lobster tail - it was frozen and required defrosting we didn't have time for. Not every meal is a winner. And it has reminded us that quality ingredients are more than half the battle. 

Saturday - This was our date night so we primarily had beer. But there was food too!

Sunday - Bean spread (black beans, jalepeno, cilantro, cumin, coriander) in tortillas with fresh radish and sour cream. 

Monday (yesterday) - We ended up having pasta with a bolognese sauce (the latter from Trader Joe's). 

Tuesday (today) - It was just me and the girls so I went with salad and toasted bread with (good) olive oil. 

Wednesday (tomorrow) - Haven't nailed this down yet, but might be tofu stir fry (with scallion, snow peas, and carrots) over brown rice OR we will pick up sandwiches? 

Thursday - Big Girl's Birthday!! I think pizza, or I might try to take her out for dinner. Maybe sushi? As she seems to be dabbling in this as of late.. 
veggie sushi

Friday - this will definitely be an easy night because I am solo-hosting a kiddie party that day and will probably be pouring wine by 7:02 (or whenever Baby J's last feed of the night ends..). 

I think I'm caught up! With 50 degrees on the horizon for tomorrow, I'm really hoping for a good run! We are mulling over some possible spring races, and I really want to get excited! 

Monday, March 31, 2014

2014 Shamrock Shuffle 8K

Well, that was a lot of fun! My first race as a mom of two went very well! I had zero expectations going into yesterday's "race" except to stay on my feet and enjoy myself. I'm happy to report that both of those things happened. I was also surprised about how my run went, considering my severe out-of-shape-ness and the fact that I've run 5 miles maybe twice since Baby J was born - not to mention the severe lack of speed work. Anyway, here's the story.

I set an alarm yesterday - which is an important detail because I usually rely on the little ones to wake me up.. but I have one who sort of "sleeps in" and one who busies herself reading and singing so I really couldn't count on either of them to get me up in time. But with said alarm, I actually had about 30 minutes to myself - enough time for breakfast and coffee. In peace. Though I will admit, I did miss the big one as she is a pretty fun breakfast partner.

The start line was pretty close so I didn't have to rush to get there . I had plenty of time to find my Shamrock bib from 2000 for Big Girl to pin on her st paddy's day top as well as share hugs with the girls before departing.

pre race hugs

It was about 34 degrees at the start - but the sun was out and everyone was saying how nice of a day it was! The wind was still (a rarity) and people were in great spirits. It sounds crazy to get excited over 34 degrees, but after the polar hell we've had this winter, we will take what we can get. In terms of race weather, it was just about perfect (though I prefer warmer - like 55, cause I'm tropical like that). I had plenty of time to leisurely check my bag and stop at the port-o-pot before heading to my assigned corral.


sunny day (but chilly)
I was in Corral B again this year. I knew that people were assigned different corrals but it was a surprise that there were three waves - meaning different start times. I started at 8:30, but my friends started after 9. So I was once again solo for this race. It wasn't too big a deal since runners are friendly and I almost always find someone willing to chat before races. This race was no exception.


in the start corral

waiting for the horn
They changed the course a bit this year and to my delight, we didn't go over the Jackson st bridge that tripped me up two years ago (literally). I really liked this course and found it pretty fast. Of course, my garmin had to lose signal and wrongly ramp up my distance so I'm unsure of my splits. I know mile one was like 8:42 and mile two was like 8:25.Then I think I had a couple sub-eights in there and my last (almost) mile was like 8:16? Not totally sure but that seems about right. Really, the course was awesome and fast and the city streets were a blast to run on. Also, the spectators helped with their encouraging cheers and support. My final time was 41:44 (avg pace 8:24)

Post race I met up with the family. I heard Big Girl got plenty of running in of her own on her way to find mommy; she was super excited to wear a bib and work her (strong) little legs on the pavement! I snapped this pic of her near the finish line (on the opposite side, of course).

little runner
Then we briefly hit up the post race party (getting my free beer of course!) and rocking out to the music before we picked up my gear and headed to the coffee shop (beer is great post race, but hot coffee --> even better). 


post race brew
I'm so happy I did this race - it was all I needed to know that my legs still work and that with the right conditions, it's possible to have a good race even if you're not in good race shape. I'm pleased with my time but more satisfied that I achieved my goal to have fun. Here's a little collage of all the fun we had yesterday :)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Shamrock Expo '14

We just returned from the Shamrock Shuffle Expo 2014. I have to say, it was definitely full of smiles and laughs - and that is because we brought kids along (specifically ~3 year olds who scored tons of positive attention and extra freebies).

I remember Expos back in the day where you talked nothing but running with other runners and surrounded yourself with running apparel and shoes (I don't recall much else on the floor except maybe some power gel which was considered "innovative" at the time). While this Expo included a ton of advertising for various races (with registration price tags upwards of $80), there was also plenty of running talk and that kind of camaraderie among runners that I remember when running wasn't so trendy. Even for a BIG race, it was great to see so many happy people chit chatting about the thing we all love to do. There were also plenty of freebies (SWAG?) like clif bars, nuun, kefir popsicles, stickers, beanie babies (or at least our little ones got them), photos, and even tech shirts (or at least I got one for signing up for race info I wanted anyway). Here's a photo they took for the purpose of instagramming.. In any case, I'm calling it my official Shamrock Expo photo.

shamrock oh-fourteen

We picked a time to attend when things wouldn't be too busy - and luckily they weren't, but there were still a lot of people! While I picked up the packets (for myself and a friend), the kids ran around making sense of the place. I asked Big Girl to stop for a photo under the words "Run Fast" because obviously that is the point (even if it is relative). (Note: she wanted to wear a race shirt to the Expo - and the one she has on is her very first. And yes, it got several comments from those working the booths). 


A first for me was an experience in some crazy recovery compression boots! They basically filled with air and compressed your muscles - supposedly easing muscle soreness and aiding in recovery. While I can't say I noticed any major differences after being in the boots for ~ 5 minutes, it was pretty relaxing. Note: they don't sell these, but you can use them after races and in PT I believe (and you typically use them for much longer than 5 minutes). 



The rest of the time we browsed the aisles, spinning those wheels for giveaways and chatting with reps about their products (typically future races and the likelihood of me doing them - most were fairly unlikely). The kiddos were adorable and humored us with pictures (this one by the "Run for the Zoo 5K"'s tiger)..




..and this one of them holding hands with their newly acquired beanie babies.



I'm so happy that our morning event at the Shamrock Expo was fun-filled and productive. The only downside is the friend I was planning to run with on Sunday has an entirely different start time than I do - we start 45 minutes apart due to their wave system :( In any case, I'm looking forward to the race even if I won't be "racing" on Sunday. Bring on Shamrock #5!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Short Stick Visit (but Sweet!)

I was absolutely flattered and psyched when L of Team Stick told me she would be in the middle of the country and wanted to make an extra trip down to Chicago to see me (and my family!). It was short, but everything worked out perfectly - we even squeezed in a run together this morning (albeit a short one on the treadmills due to the weather  (it's awful again today!) and baby factor - but still, a run is a run, especially with a Stick!).

L and me with Baby J post run

I have to say, running has been quite challenging for me lately. Barely a mile in to this run, I was already struggling. If not for the conversation, I would have had a very miserable run. Luckily the company helped a.lot. I've been feeling this way on almost every run lately - and even though I'm trying not to make excuses due to the weather or the baby(ies), I do think that if we had milder temps and I got more rest, I wouldn't be feeling this way. In any case, I still feel lucky to be able to run, even if it is short and slow - and I'm looking forward to running in Chicago's Shamrock Shuffle this weekend. My goals are to 1) finish and 2) run at a faster pace than I have for marathons (ie faster than 8:59/mile). Aiming high. Yeah. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Menu planning - march 23

Our weekly dinners are already up and running. Here's what we got this week:

Sunday - we started with raw vegetables and a locally made dressing (pigtail twist - id link it but im on my mobile) then we did a simple guacamole (avocado, scallions, jalepeno pepper, cilantro, lime) with chips.

Monday - we used up the leftover caramelized onions in an omelette with bacon. This was served with a side of greens with mustard vinaigrette.

Tuesday - last night we had wild salmon (with shallots and dill) with a side of yogurt/cucumber/dill sauce. Here's what I have to say about that - I effed up big time buying "previously frozen" fish. I didn't want the fresh farm raised stuff because of the high mercury content etc, and we needed salmon for this particular dish. As I was ordering, I knew it was a mistake, but I had a (vocal) infant with me and a time crunch so I went with it. After one bite, it was obvious that this fish was just terrible (and normally I have a decently high threshold for any kind of seafood). So we slathered the sauce all over it to try to mask that awful "fish" taste and discussed what we would do if this happened in the future and the girls were dining with us. Would we make them eat it? (no) Would we ourselves still eat it? (probably some of it at least) Would we explain why this fish was so awful due to the imperfect system we have for getting fish from water to table, especially because of where we live? (absolutely) Would we then only buy wild salmon when fresh and in season? (yes yes yes!) So we learned something valuable from this terrible meal - and though it was one notch shy of inedible, we still felt grateful for the opportunity to take something good away from it.

Wednesday - tonight I'm doing whole wheat pasta. I'll make a "sauce" consisting of carrots, onion, & celery softened in butter and cooked in stock. Then I'll add spinach and cherry tomatoes to the mix. Possibly top it with toasted pine nuts.

Thursday - big salad with mixed greens, bacon, scallion, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, whatever else is in the veggie drawer / homemade vinaigrette

Friday - lentils or crab cake sandwiches or we will order something (a friend and her two kids will be hanging with us so we might not want to subject them to lentils..)

Ill leave you with this picture of our never ending winter - frozen Lake Michigan trying its hardest to defrost. It's pretty but my gawd - we are sick of the constant cold/snow/cold/snow sequence!