Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Menu planning - Oct 4 & first month of school Lunch recap

Mid week already, but menu plans are in progress. 

Sunday night after we returned from the race, we decided the perfect meal would be mussels and beer. It required a trip to a special store, but we had some time to spare and managed to create a pretty perfect mussel dish. With a side of toasted buttered fresh bread. And icy fall beers. It was all perfection, but what we didn't consider was that 12 or so mussels, even with some bites of bread, doesn't exactly make a full meal. But we were happy celebrating fall the morning's race results.

mussels and beer

So the week so far - 

Monday - leftover tomato soup (which was made over the weekend) and grilled cheese on sourdough

Tuesday - I came up with this creation - roasted sweet potatoes topped with roasted spiced chick peas, a yogurt/dill/garlic/lemon juice sauce, and fresh cherry tomatoes and parsley. It was pretty awesome - and had tons of flavor. Could be vegan if tahini were subbed for yogurt. Big Girl was eager to help cook, so I put her in charge of spicing the chick peas (half tsp each of cumin, cinnamon, coriander, and smoked paprika with a bit of olive oil) and brushing the spuds with olive oil. She did a fab job!

sous chef

Wednesday - tonight will be big salads (boston lettuce, romaine, boiled eggs, blue cheese, scallions, snap peas and some homemade croutons)

Thursday - us girls are on our own so we may do leftovers or ham sandwiches or omelets

Friday- homemade pizza day (same as last week : peppers, onions , pepperoni)

So it's been a month of preK lunch packing fun already! I actually enjoy making Big Girl's lunch before school - she has also been a part of it, making suggestions and helping me pack. Here's a look at her lunches so far (I forgot to photograph one of them so far - but you get the idea). 

Some of the things she has enjoyed : jelly sandwich on sourdough or homemade pancakes, avocado tortillas, ham slices, cheese sticks or babybels, nut free trail mix (pumpkin seeds, dried fruit, chocolate chips), fresh fruit like strawberries, raspberries, apple slices, banana and vegetables (carrot slices, snap peas, edamame), wheat crackers, cheddar bunnies, animal crackers, and tomato soup, a boiled egg, and yogurt. 

lunch box collage

She actually eats most of her lunch! Very few leftovers come home - I don't think they allow the kids to throw food away unless it is just the garbage.  It's funny because when she comes home from school, I look to her lunch box to give me clues about her time in school - basically, the fact that she's eating well (among other things) leads me to believe that she's doing very well in school :) So far these lunch configurations have been working out well. Big Girl likes being a part of the planning and overall I think her choices are decently healthy. One thing is for sure - she is eating way better than I ever did as an elementary school student!

Monday, October 05, 2015

Phun Run 5K Race Report

With some minor adjustments, a stroke a good fortune, and a perfect running weather day, I managed to snap up another PR in the 5K at yesterday's goal race. To start, here are a few things I learned:

* A few sips of red wine the night before a race isn't the worst way to go…#antioxidants..

* Switching from dairy to a soy latte on race morning was arguably a good choice.

* The weather gods blessed us big time yesterday : overcast, chill in the air, still winds, low 50s

* My family is the best when it comes to spectating - their support is invaluable!

* PRing is definitely superior to placing in an age group and/or snagging leaderboard bragging rights.

So here's how the show went down - 

After a pretty restless night of sleep, I downed a soy latte and maybe half a banana (usually I eat more, but this race started earlier and my stomach was just done after half a banana), I jogged to the start which was a little over a mile away. I went back and forth with this choice, but the reality is that a decent warm up is probably a good idea, even if it risks tiring out the legs. I felt awesome on the jog there and then added some strides - maybe 5 - at what I imagined to be race pace. Then there was minimal stretching to shake out any remaining kinks - and before I knew it, it was time to line up at the start. 

pre race good luck wishes from Big Girl 

I lined up near the front, maybe three or four yards from the start line. Folks tend to go out fast in this race, and I didn't want to dodge people or get tripped up (literally) by a youngster. There was no elbowing or jostling for position, but it filled up pretty good. And then it began. 

The first 100 yards were definitely crowded - though not race-killing crowded. Just a bit more people  around me (running rather slowly) than I would have liked. My main goals at this point were to stay on my feet and not hurt anyone (or myself). Mission accomplished. When things spread out, I tried to hold steady without pushing the pace too much. My first mile split was 7:19. This was good news, but with a concerning edge. I didn't want to go out too fast, which I didn't, but I also had concerns about not being able to hold on to that pace. No matter, mile two was on its way. This one was rough - as are all mile twos in a 5K - but I maintained and clocked a 7:16 split. Yes. But there was no time to congratulate myself, because I had mile three to take care of. I can't say I felt awful, but it wasn't a pleasant feeling. I picked up my leg turnover and used my arms to keep gliding forward. I knew a PR was a strong possibility; I just had to grab it. 

My dad was all over the course, spectating at various points and sending encouraging head nods along with a few motivating words. But I saw my whole family with maybe a quarter mile to go. The girls were thrilled (Baby J reportedly kept saying, "I saw Mommy!" and "Mommy running!") They took these action shots of me (obviously not staged..but luckily you can't see the expression (read: grimace) on my face).

rounding the curve
on my way 

The final yards of this race had me perpetually stealing glances at my garmin - willing my legs to fly and reciting encouraging mantras to myself like "you got this" "go get your PR" "don't let up" "believe" "make it count" "keep flying".  I gave it all I had on that last bit; 40 seconds for the .1 mile. Probably good enough for a new Personal Record?

After the usual wheezing and gasping for air that plagues me at the end of these things subsided, I was able to assess the possibilities. I had very likely PRed but wasn't totally sure. My garmin said 22:36. But you never know how accurate a gamin is. I so badly wanted my results, but I also wanted to celebrate the race, because it was one well run. A much better performance than last time. 

To pass the time til the awards were announced, the kids nibbled on donuts and played at the playground. We chatted with some people we knew, and my dad listened eagerly as I recounted my race perspective. My mom and I took some mother/daughter pics too.

Mom and Me
And these crazy kids had fun running and playing and being goofy. 

support system

This awards ceremony was quickly and smoothly presented, and before I knew it, they were announcing F35-39. I wasn't first, but I did get 2nd place! I'll take it! You never know who's going to show up on race day, and though my main goal is to race against myself, it's pretty awesome to take home some hardware. We took a family pic before departing. 

the fam

Final statistics - I was 2nd in my age group and 6th woman overall. That's pretty sweet too! 

Splits were:

mile 1 : 7:19
mile 2 : 7:16
mile 3 : 7:21
last .1 : 0:40

final time

Final thoughts - I'm happy with this result. You can't complain about a new PR. Plus, my splits were way more consistent. That was one of my big goals for this race - I think I raced a little smarter and somehow had the energy to maintain. The weather was also a huge factor - in a tank and capris, I was comfortable, but in retrospect, shorts might have been the way to go. For some reason, the pants were sliding down and at one point I actually had to pull them back up into place! #lululemonfail. It occurred to me that I might not have previously run so fast in those capris before - luckily they stayed put for the rest of the race. Otherwise, talk about a wardrobe malfunction. But I doubt I'll be wearing them again if I intend to hold sub 8s. In any case, it was a really fun time and great race experience. And a serious confidence booster. I feel much better about my potential heading into the next few races. And very blessed.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Apple Pie, the 606 Trail, Tapering again, and Menu Plan - September 27


I normally prefer cooking to baking, but given then 9 lbs of apples we picked last weekend, a pie seemed like the obvious choice. And I wasn't going to cut corners. We are still not sure how it came out so good - really might be the most perfect pie I have ever tasted. Here are the secrets: For the crust, use way more butter than you feel comfortable using (2 sticks). Make sure they are nearly frozen solid and cut them into small chunks. Drop them into a mix of 2 cups white flour and a half teaspoon of salt (or if you happen to salt it three times as much, like I did, that's ok too). Take an electric mixer to it. Add maybe a fourth cup of water slowly - so it gradually comes together into a ball you can pick up. Make two flat discs and refrigerate. If you're me, you let it sit there for a day or two because the weather is too nice to be inside baking. For the filling, peel, core and slice the apples. I used 6 apples because I got tired of peeling, coring and slicing after 6. Add spices - in this case, it was a half cup of sugar, 2 tsp of cinnamon, some grated nutmeg, and a pinch of all spice. Let the apple/spice mixture sit for a while to absorb water and get acquainted with each other. Then it's easy - roll out the first dough, put in in a pie pan, add the filling, roll out the second dough, lay it on top, pinch it shut around the edges, brush raw egg on top and make a few slits in the top. Bake. I did 20 minutes at 400 and then set it to 350 to finish it off for another 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Voila - the perfect pie. And don't ruin it by putting cold ice cream on top! IMO, that's the equivalent of putting ketchup on hot dogs! No no no.

absolute awesome

this pie is boss
THE 606

Besides making pie, we checked out Chicago's new 606 trail which is sort of (sort of) like New York's Highline. It's basically a recreational trail where you don't deal with cars or stop lights. It's 2.7 miles long, so a there-and-back is near 6 miles. We should have planned a family run, but none of us were up to a Sunday afternoon run and instead just walked some of it before spending the rest of the afternoon at a nearby playground.



My latest track workout was arguably a success. It was 400, 800, 1200, 1200, 800, 400. So an up and down kind of thing. Here were my stats:

400 - 1:36 (~6:30 pace)
800 - 3:30 (~7:00 pace)
1200 - 5:23 (~7:15 pace)
1200 - 5:25 (~7:15 pace)
800 - 3:31 (~7:05 pace)
400 - 1:37 (~6:30 pace)

Pretty consistent. I was hoping to smoke the last 400 but I'll take 1:37. On tired legs. It was borderline shirtless weather that day too. So now I'm "tapering" again for my second fall goal race: a 5K on Sunday. I have the same goals as last time. 


Saturday - we grilled perhaps the spiciest jerk chicken I have ever tasted. Mouth was awn fiyah. It needed somethings to temper, and we didn't really have it. We did have a killer pineapple/mango salsa, but that was spiked with jalepeno peppers, so it only added fuel to the fire (literally). We were close to stealing the baby's sippy cup of milk - it was that hot! The beers were good tho ;)

Sunday - We did salads. Just greens, cucumber, tomatoes, blue cheese, 5 minute eggs, and scallions. With fresh bread. And pie for dessert. 

Monday - Chicken/avocado wraps with celery and carrots. 

Tuesday - Tofu/broccoli Kung Pao inspired - this could be a hit or a flop.

Wednesday - Italian noodles with onions, tomato and zucchini / side green salad

Thursday - kale and chick pea dish with fingerling potatoes

Friday - homemade pizza with TBD toppings

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fall Randomness and Menu Planning September 20

* The weather has been superb! If only it was this way all year. 

* Running lately has seemed a bit tough - I think I am kind of weak. My hamstring has been noisy and problematic. As usual, I ignore it and run anyway. Luckily, L of Team Stick is a Physical Therapist, so she helped me come up with a plan to fix it. Yay!

* My family went apple picking for the first time ever this past weekend. None of us had ever been. It was a gorgeous day! We picked 9 lbs of apples and now I must make a pie. 

I thought apple trees would be bigger.

The hub and I had a date over the weekend - it was a sushi (and sake) smorgasbord.

this wasn't even all we ordered..
Fun drinks on a rooftop bar with a fab view is a great way to keep date night going after a sushi stuffing

drinks with a view
We spotted these tomatoes at the grocery with Cookie Monster on the package - I've given a lot of thought to the idea of marketing products to kids using Sesame Street or Disney or whatever. I think I've come to the conclusion that leading kids to try fruits and veggies (as opposed to sugary cereals, highly processed foods and other garbage food products) can't be all that bad. If a kid who doesn't yet like tomatoes (ahem, Big Girl) notices tomatoes and wants to try them because they look "kid friendly" then I'm all for it. Cookie Monster or Elsa or whomever is just gently nudging them in the direction of healthier eating, no? (& yes, it would have been better if the tomatoes were organic..)

marketing produce to kids

This menu plan is hilarious!

And I've decided to include Laura's Playground Workout here because I want to at least attempt it at some point since we've been at the playground a ton lately. I have actually done some wall squats using the swing set post while I repeatedly push the little ones on the almost looks like I'm just sitting there hanging out. But this sequence looks like it provides more variety and a plan in case you're at a loss for exercises you can do at the playground.

from Mommy Run Fast

As for some random thoughts on my training -- I need to get stronger. I think I have some weak spots that need to be addressed (quad, glutes, core, upper body, probably hip flexors because when are those ever strong enough?). I also think I need to incorporate some longer runs (ideally 6-8 milers). I have totally shied away from long runs because I don't want to run long. While I was slogging through a 6 miler this past weekend, I saw all the marathon trainees working their way through their 18s or 20s. They looked miserable. Their fuel belts swayed in slow motion and appeared to weigh heavy on their aching hips. Their faces were locked in perpetual grimaces as each overworked sneaker hit the pavement again and again. It was almost like you could feel the lactic acid building up just watching them. No thank you. This kind of training is not for me right now. There was a time when that was all I wanted; a long, slow run that left me empty and exhausted and accomplished. But I can't say I envied them at all. They'll have their glory on marathon day, but their training appears less than enjoyable. And I want each run to leave me feeling energized and alive. The burn of fast running ignites my muscles and lifts them to a lighter and more efficient stride. It's intense and painful but it's over before you know it. (faster than you can make a cappuccino, according to Lauren Fleshman..). My track workout last week was off the top of my head and a bit nonsensical: 2200, 1600, 2000. I kept all the paces under 8 min/ mile (I think 7:58, 7:57 and 7:45, respectively). It was a warmer day with blazing sun and my body was rejecting the premise. But I pushed through the longer intervals and held on. Other than that workout, I did some 5-6 milers solo and a duallie run last week. Thinking maybe 800s for tomorrows workout.

As for menu plans, I'm doing better than the sign above, but there are days when I share Saturday's sentiment.. In any case, here is this week- 

Sunday - date night

Monday - homemade chicken noodle soup in the slow cooker (used a whole organic bird)

Tuesday - tofu, broccoli and soba noodles

Wednesday - chili layer dip with tortilla chips and avocado

Thursday - spinach, goat cheese and bacon omelette 

Friday - hosting a back to school pot luck affair that will probably mean more drinking that eating..

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Second Time Around / Menu Planning September 13, 2015

My big girl is off to big kid school! Though she's still in PreK, she is attending a school that goes through 8th grade (which means we are DONE with the school search - hurray!). She started last week and has been doing great so far! (I am soooooo grateful for her two years of experience with preschool, because she clearly "gets" school and has so much confidence this time (as do I).)

1st day of big kid school
dropping off big sister

Though Baby J and I still and our days together when Big Girl attended preschool, we are now getting a (much) earlier start and it seems like we have a big chunk of morning to spend together before nap. The weather's been perfect so we've been outside a lot lately, but I really wanted to rewind to the days when it was just Big Girl and me - and redo those memorable activities with her lil sis. 

Today was just gorgeous so we headed up to Lincoln Park for the morning (here is one of many LP trips with Big Girl ) We got in a run..

little passenger

pretty view

...and went to the farmer's market. We got a few fun snacks including grapes (Baby J loves grapes!), grass fed maple yogurt, and a ciabattini (mini ciabatta).

the grapes were a hit

We spent the morning playing outside, listening to kid music and playing at the LP farm and zoo. It's interesting to notice what Baby J prefers to do, since it is often different than what her sister chose. Baby J is one active kid - doing borderline dangerous climbing stunts and giggling her head off. Big Girl loved the animals and could've spent hours watching the cows (Baby J had her fill of the cows after mere seconds).

in the egg

After all the play, I had to run us back to our car (mileage totaled four or so for the day). It was great to spend the one-on-one time with the little one. Her requests are often trumped by her sister's, so it's nice to let her call the shots every once in a while. 

Onto the week's menu plan (already in progress):

Sunday - we had pan sautéed cod along with a beet/lentil dish (basically carrots/onion/celery mix with braised beets and red lentil type thing)

Monday - Since I picked up some bagels from Sunday's race, and we had capers, red onion, tomatoes and cream cheese on hand, the obvious choice was to get smoked salmon and do a bagels and lox night. There were green salads on the side. 

Tuesday - leftover late summer harvest tart with a side green salad

Wednesday - doing the spinach / chick pea thing in coconut milk, but will add corn and tomatoes

Thursday - leftover beet/lentils with yogurt and pita

Friday - might go out/might do pizza 

I'll close with this downright amazing vegan peanut butter fudge - I used a mix of nut butters (almond and peanut) as well as some sunflower seed butter. And definitely topped with chocolate chips. It is dangerous delicious. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Chase the Bear 5K race report

Yesterday's 5K that kicked off my fall racing season was a bit of a bust. Just a bit, really, not a complete bust. My initial reaction was that I blew it. But after further (read: obsessive) analysis, I think it was just one of those enigmas where explanations don't visibly present themselves. In any case, here's a breakdown of race day, what happened, and my thoughts. 

Race morning was a crisp, sunny 53 degrees. Mild winds pleasantly brushed through. My family was awesome (as usual), coming out to support me at early hours of the morning. The kids were excited and eager to spectate jump in the bouncy house. I arrived at the start after a short jog (hurray for races within walking distance), got my number, stretched and started a warm up. I had already done some glute activation exercises at home, so I just did some jogging and maybe 5 strides (like 30 second sprints). I felt warmed up and ready to rock. I had great expectations about this race given how good I was feeling. Also it was a small race, so I figured the possibility of magic was out there.

pre race

race ready

little spectator

thumbs up at the start

and we're off

During the race I just tried to run steady and comfortably fast. I didn't want to go out too fast, so I tried to pick a pace I could maintain. My first mile split was 7:04. Possibly too fast. However, I didn't feel like I was slowing. I actually felt good - obviously it wasn't pleasant to run at that pace, but it wasn't awful. I just kept moving forward. Mile two on my garmin was 7:09. This seemed awesome! I had a feeling a PR was going to happen. During most of mile three, I only looked at the distance on my watch - like how much left I had to go. I knew I could manage three quarters of a mile - even if that sort of felt like an eternity. I didn't feel I was slowing too much; no one passed me and I kept pace. When I split mile three, it was all over: 8:04. WTF. How?! What happened?! Bubeye, PR. With .1 to go, I shook it off and hoofed it to the finish. I basically felt defeat (though not enough to shed tears; honestly, I'm not going to cry over this - it's a race. That I'm blessed to be able to run. And run well.) In any case, my time was over 23 minutes - on my watch it was 23:03. Yuck. But done. And nothing I could do about that. 

I was truly confused about my mile 3 split. In past races, I've noticed the slowing down/dying feeling that mile three often evokes. But I didn't have that this time. So how did it happen? I tried not to think too much about it, joined my family and soaked up the beautiful day. When the awards thing started, I found out I was first in my age group. I was also the third woman overall - and that is pretty kickass no matter what (turns out a woman won the 5K - she smoked all the dudes! You go, girl!). In any case, it's nice to win awards, but as I stated before, a PR would be a sweeter award. 

My goal was to get over it. Move on. Think about the do over in three weeks. But I also wanted to know how I could fix whatever happened during the race (first I needed to know what happened). My sticks came through. I texted them ad nauseam about the details of the race - Mama L wanted to know if perhaps my garmin snapped mismarked splits. I checked on this - yes. it. did. Mile two was only 0.94 of a mile and mile three was 1.07. That makes a difference! I turned over this information to C (who majored in math) and she pointed out that it's possible I was running fairly consistent - and didn't bonk at mile three. One theory is that I did start too fast but then evened it out and ran a consistent race. My garmin may have misled me. Which made me consider how technology helps and hinders us. I recorded splits at each mile, but what if I had quarter mile splits?? Would that have shown a different picture? Would it matter? The final time is the final time. And on the bright side, my final time was good enough to earn me awards. 

So what does it all mean, going forward. The sticks then suggested some workouts to help me ratchet things up a bit. Track workouts on tired legs. Aiming for negative splits on intervals (and actually sticking them!). I will add - incorporating more strength training… easy stuff like pushups and planks. My upper body didn't sit this one out; it was definitely part of the action (as is evident from my sore core today). So that's where we stand - here's a little sign I saw that helped me adjust my post race mindset:

I will never give up. 

So final stats for yesterday's 5K:

Mile one  - 7:04
Mile 0.94 - 7:09
Mile 1.07 - 8:04
Mile 0.01 -  0:44
Total: 23:04 (avg 7:27)

Other things to note for the future:
* maybe don't eat a brat the night before a race, even if it's a short race
* pick a playlist that has "brighter" and "faster" songs
* understand that sometimes bad (or sub par) races happen for no good reason
* count blessings - be grateful to be able to run and run well (this was my third fastest 5K to date - so be realistic!)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

All the Food

To take my mind off tomorrow's goal 5K race, I'm going to make this post (mostly) all about food. Because late summer harvest is now, and all the good produce is in abundance. It's the best time of the year to cook. We were able to make it up to the Lincoln Park Farmers Market - maybe 2 weeks ago? I ran up there (5.5 miles) and the rest of the fam met me in the car. 

We were in search of tomatoes, mostly. Because as of late August, we hadn't yet had the perfect tomato. We found the jackpot at one of the tables - and I couldn't help but notice that Big Girl assumed the proper tomato purchasing position #handbehindback #LookDontTouch. They picked us two beauties - both were delicious and simply perfection #Salt&(good)OliveOilOnly


We had a list of other things - potatoes, beans, zucchini - maybe more I can't remember. Big Girl wanted carrots, so we got a bunch. And Baby J wanted raspberries. The girls finished off the raspberries in mere minutes. We also picked up some wheat sourdough bread and a goat cheese.


The farmers market score mostly went into a french soup called Pistou. The concept is a vegetable soup finished off with a basil pesto type sauce. We omitted the pasta, but did include potatoes. Served with rosé and a side of fresh bread and cheese --> late summer perfection. I am not a huge fan of soup but this one was fab.

soupe au pistou

Very quickly, my Big Girl has her first full day of PreK on Monday, which means I will be packing lunch (and snack) twice a week. Nice to be able to ease into it. I definitely want to include some of those adventures on the blog - it may be a lot of trail and error (I presume mostly error). But she was psyched about her little lunch box and the hilarious silicone muffin liners we are going to use to hold various lunch goodies. We tried it out one day with : dates, cheddar bunnies, cucumber, chocolate chips, mozzarella cheese and mango.

lunch "bots"

Anyway, moving on to Labor Day weekend - which is always a culinary explosion for us. We go hard or go home. Here's what we cooked up for the weekend - 

Saturday night was a surf and turf theme - we started with a whole lobster. On the grill. With basil infused butter.


For the turf, we chose a skirt steak and topped it with chimichuri sauce. We also had grilled corn on the cob. And way too much wine.


Sunday's picks were two kinds of kabobs - chicken and lamb, with some kickass marinades that escape me. The side was banging - and vegan (K of Team Stick, you may be eating this when you visit in Oct ;)) It was spinach and chickpeas braised in coconut milk. Topped with pink peppercorns (but I may bump up the heat factor with red chilies next time).

spinach and chick peas


And lastly, a late summer harvest tart. Corn, onion, dill, a mix of goat and cream cheese, some eggs and fresh tomato slices. On a homemade crust that came out perfect. I think it's best served warm; we served it at an outdoor music event last night where temps dropped into the 50s. It would be ok chilled or room temp if served on a 90 degree day.

late summer harvest tart

And some funnies - my Big Girl snapped this action shot while I was running with the duallie a couple weeks ago. Usually she "DJs" pandora while the kids roll along for the ride. They do love music! But she switched it to camera mode and was like, "Smile, Mommy!" and took a running pic. Love it! This was when it was still hot - mid 80s and sun. Plus humidity.

real deal 
And yesterday post run with the girls - we all "rolled" out our legs. So obv that called for a selfie. I hadn't noticed we were all in pink tops and dark pants.

rolling out the loud parts

There has been menu planning, which I may go back and insert. But for now, I must turn my attention back to tomorrow's 5K. Here are the goals: 

pie in the sky / not gonna happen goal / mentioned in effort to "dream big" : run sub seven pace

half a pie in the sky / unicorn I will continue to chase / doubtful at best : sub 22

would be pleased and psyched : PR (and/or ~7:15 pace)

will not shed too many tears : sub 23

will probably cry into my post race beverage: 24 and over

Wish me luck!