Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Menu Planning - November 16 and IT GOT COLD

On the weekends we typically try to incorporate some fun meals, whether it's cooking or dining out. This past weekend we did a little of both. Saturday "night" (and I use the term loosely because dinner was at 4:30p), we dined out with some friends of ours at a seafood restaurant. Oysters on the half shell, Nantucket bay scallops, and fried shrimp were in the rotation. The kid had a maki roll. My IPA made the chaos much more manageable (is my kid the only one who struggles to stay in her seat at the table?!). Overall it went well, despite the active kiddos, and they both crashed shortly after we got home. Sunday night we wanted something simple. We picked up a strong cheese, a chewy bread, and an Italian wine. To round things out, we made a fresh carrot salad that was just carrots, parsley and a vinaigrette and roasted some chestnuts for a unique take on dessert. 

bread, cheese, veggies, wine


And that takes us to this week in food. 

Monday - last night I roasted like every root vegetable known to man. Ok, it was only sweet potatoes, beets and carrots, but it was many rounds of roasting and lots of peeling, slicing, and dicing. There were purple, white and orange spuds. Golden and red beets. And orange and yellow carrots. It made for a rainbow of tasty vitamins. We topped the roasted roots with olive oil, salt, parsley and toasted pumpkin seeds. If that doesn't spell healthy, I don't know what does.

roasted root veggies

Tuesday - tonight will be a Deborah Madison recipe: braised fennel with vegetables. It's basically what you think (if you think like Deborah, and you should) : fennel braised in wine and butter / mirepoix veggies / fresh herbs. This will go over fresh egg pasta. 

Wednesday - Pizza with roasted mushrooms and onions (homemade crust and sauce, mozzarella cheese). 

Thursday - leftovers (probably will put the colorful roasted veggies over either quinoa or sautéed spinach, maybe both / possibly with a touch of goat cheese and perhaps a toasted nut or seed to give it crunch)

Friday - Spinach salad with blue cheese, scallions, cherry tomatoes. Something else TBD. 

Sat - C of Team Stick is coming!!!!!!! So hopefully a girls night out for us!!

That wraps up the food talk - now onto this heinous weather. We have just started the cold/snow/cold/snow/cold/snow/cold/snow nonsense that will be our next six months. It's been three days and I'm already over it. I can't (in good faith) run with my little one in 8 degrees (feels like negative 6) - can I?! With over a month to go before "winter," this is just not cool (pun, hahaha). I can only hope that some warm air comes our way, because if not, I might cry. 

I'll end with a few pics from one of last week's runs with Baby J. It was pretty damn cold actually (about 18 degrees), and we ended our brisk run with some chocolat chaud at the coffee shop. The weekend held two solo runs for me (five and three, respectively). And I should mention that there was a yoga class on Friday. My plank challenge is going at my own pace (read: I've skipped a boatload of days), but I'll try to pick up where I left off. One thing I've learned is that when you hold plank for 90 plus seconds, you actually break a sweat. The more you know..

cold weather runner


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

5K Revolution

I seem to mention the fact that I've been a runner for a.long.time (17 years) a lot! I am proud of that. At this point in my life, I have little to be proud of running wise, so restating the fact that I have experience on my side is beneficial for my spirit. I also enjoy reminiscing about how running was "back then" because it seemed like runners were a rare breed. And marathoners were even rarer. When I ran my first marathon, no one knew what the hell that was. Few could fathom running 26.2 miles (or running any distance in miles for that matter); no one pictured a marathon in their heads. Because it wasn't popular or mainstream. About 700 people ran with me during my first marathon in 2000. And it was no problem to register for most marathons in the days leading up to it, or even on race day itself (Boston still had qualification times, but even that process has gotten quite complicated). The cost to run wasn't cheap (maybe $50/60), but definitely not a bank breaker. And runners always said hello to each other in passing. No matter what. It was the law. Now running is infused in our lives; even if you don't participate in races, you likely know many who do. I love that more people are running, but I certainly feel like things have changed (corporations have taken over racing events, race costs are exorbitant, marathons fill up so fast, overcrowded races, etc). And marathon training, as popular as it is, kind of takes over your life. Putting in the miles is just the beginning. Elbowing your way into the registration field is a sporting event all on its own. And then the weeks (months) of recovery time after the 'thon can leave you with the blues. I suppose when I was young and childless, I had all the time in the world to meticulously craft my training schedule, stick to it (more or less), and then agonize over injury possibilities, obsess over the race day weather forecast, and constantly question whether or not I trained hard enough for the race. And then debrief for weeks on how the race went and what I could do better for next time. There always was a "next time," or so it seemed. Now I can hardly get myself close to a double digit run. So what is an ex-marathoner to do?

Enter Lauren Fleshman. I heard about her when she started writing a column for Runners World called "The Fast Life." She resonated with me because she was a new mom - and a runner, albeit a professional and a fast one. But her honest discussion about working her way back into racing shape post baby was very inspiring. I enjoy reading her stuff in RW, but I've been stuck on her article about 5K's, which she wrote this past June. In short: they are awesome. And she lists a variety of reasons why this is so. Many people start their racing resume with a 5K (it's short and easily finishable), but few actually train hard and race the 5K. Because, in short: they suck. But they really are awesome. Her line about feeling like her body was engulfed in flames - and how alive that felt compared to the slow burn of the marathon. Yes, yes, yes! And the idea that you can train for a 5K and still have a life?! Yes! I'm game.

Right now I need something on paper. A training plan. Something to boost my strength, endurance, and speed. And it seems like training for a 5K is the perfect thing. Plus, if I eff one up, there is always another one a few days out. And I won't have to slog through the miles or dedicated my weekends to long runs. I was always a speedy sprinter as a kid (won the 50 and 100 yard dashes every year at my grade school's Track-a-thon Fundraiser thing). I actually remember the feeling of that leg turnover, and it was electrifying. If I tried to sprint like that now, I'd fall on my face (and I actually have, so this is not a hypothetical). But I think I have some latent fast twitch fibers that need rekindling.

C of Team Stick and I were texting about this yesterday. We both have sort of pushed running to the back burner because of life, but we are runners for life and are most definitely still in love with the sport. Though the course of our texts, we somehow decided we should seriously train for the 5K. We can do it without compromising other areas of our lives, and feel pretty badass about our accomplishment. Our arms will have no trouble lifting heavy mugs of beer to our lips post race (like they might flounder with this effort after a thon). And our spirits will soar. Mine already has. After this invigorating conversation earlier in the week, I set out Monday on a late afternoon run with Baby J (Big Girl was in Theater Class). It was hella windy and getting dark, but I added 6 x 60-90 second pick ups during a 3.5 miler. It is a start. But is was awesome to fly like that (especially with the wind!). Unfortunately, I picked the worst possible time to train for a 5K, because in Chicago, it is the tail end of racing season. But I have a Turkey Trot coming up in a couple weeks, and I'll use it to gauge where I am. Over the winter, I can use the tready for speed work and set my sights on some spring 5K's to kill. Ideally, I want a sub 22. I'd have to run 7:04 pace for this to happen. At the very least, I want a sub 23 (7:25 pace which is absolutely doable and kind of a shame I have never done so). I'll leave this post with some of Lauren's advice for how to run the perfect 5K. Here's to my next big thing!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Menu planning - November 9

First a few words about recent eats. 

This year's unconventional pumpkin squash lasagna turned out spectacular. Since I plan to make this again next year, here is what went down. Roasted the pie pumpkin, mixed the squash with shallots and cream in a saucepan to make a sauce. Also grated some nutmeg in there. Then layered lasagna noodles, squash sauce, fresh sage, fresh spinach, roasted red pepper, and fresh mozzarella cheese. I think there were about three layers. Dusted it with some fresh grated Parmesan cheese near the end as well as some fresh pepper. 


Before Saturday morning's solo six miler, I brought out the French press for some quality coffee. I've been working on my French press skills the past two weekends and still have a ways to go. But it's fun and a bit more special than drip because it's the weekend ;) 


Lastly, Saturday night's feast was a roast chicken. There's something about roasting a whole bird this time of year (& we need the bones for stock!) My husband took the helm with this one and used a poultry blend of herbs and spices to dress this one up. We also had blue fingerling potatoes and Brussels sprouts. And a Justin Cabernet. It hit the spot. 


Onto this week's menu. 

Last night we made a chili layer dip with beans, cheese, scallions and jalapeño peppers. I realize now I should have included salsa. Or thrown in some other veggies. It was still good. 

Monday - tonight is leftover pumpkin lasagna. And a side green salad. 

Tuesday - leftover chicken on sandwiches (we do classic lettuce, tomato and mayo) 

Wednesday - leftover veggies (potatoes and Brussels) with poached eggs. Possibly a fresh bread to round it out. 

Thursday - not sure but if its just me and the girls we might do salad or something light. 

Friday - still thinking..and I may be going out #girlsnight

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Menu Planning - November 2 and Plank Challenge

As mentioned, we celebrated our Baby Girl's first birthday on Sunday. Big Girl ended up going to Camp Nonna after the party so we had a quiet night at home after the birthday girl went to bed. We ordered Indian food and watched the amazing Nik Wallenda walk on a tightrope between Chicago skyscrapers. While the food was delicious, the tightrope feat was exciting because we were actually able to see him between buildings by looking out our window! Two comments on this: it helped to watch the nearly two hour lead up to the feat because we got a better understanding of Nik and this undertaking. The context helps minimize the crazy a little. Also, there was a significant delay between the live action and the broadcasting…just in case anything happened. Anyway, we were astounded as only one can be watching such a thing. So our menu..

Sunday - ordered in (Indian food)

Monday - salad (greens, grape tomatoes, scallions, blue cheese, homemade croutons, and homemade black currant balsamic vinaigrette)

Tuesday - leftover quiche and sourdough bread. Possibly side salad of raw spinach. Maybe some pumpkin seeds to top this.

Wednesday - roasted pie pumpkin made into a sauce with cream, shallots and sage to top whole wheat pasta. (did this last year - it was great!)

Thursday - leftovers

Friday - i might be out? or we will think of something. I'm also planning the unconventional pumpkin squash lasagne so that might make the cut for Friday.

And lastly - this Plank Challenge.

I happened to come across this outline on Facebook.

It seems simple enough and gives me something to strengthen my core (pilates has been out due to babysitter/school conflicts..). I'm on day 8 and so far Big Girl has been counting the seconds for me. I figure it's like a fitness routine/math lesson all in one ;) I have no idea how I'm going to plank for two or three (or four or FIVE!) minutes straight. I think I may alternate front and side planks because there are obviously no rules and this is just for "fun." There may also be some resting in between seconds.. But so far it's been working and hopefully it's helping me get stronger!

Monday, November 03, 2014

Baby J is ONE

My baby turned one yesterday! That's a big milestone and always a fun day to look back on the past year and see how far she's come. Once Halloween was over, we went straight into birthday mode for the wee one. My MIL was here for the weekend, and she was a BIG help in orchestrating everything. Saturday morning I was able to take a nap before 9a, make some french press coffee with espresso beans that K from Team Stick sent me from India (a very sweet surprise gift along with a Starbucks mug from India - thanks, K!), and head out on Baby J's birthday run. It was a six miler in chilly conditions, but there was sun (Side note: Halloween weather this year  in Chicago was intense. The wind was so strong I literally nearly lost my stroller to a gusty! So Saturday's breezes seemed mild in comparison). It was nice to get out there for a decent distance and think about the previous year when I held my TINY newborn (all 4 lbs 7oz) before she was whisked away to the NICU. She was a sweetheart from the get go and continues to be - flashing her toothless grin and giggling away. I realize that when Big Girl turned one, I headed out for a twelve miler. I'm nowhere near that kind of shape right now. I was just determined to make it to six - at least half as much as I did with only one kid. I have come to terms with the fact that I need to recognize my current capabilities. And pushing it right now isn't wise. But six miles was perfect; just enough to feel accomplished, but not too much to knock me out. I think it took me about 56 minutes. 

Sunday was Baby J's big day - her party was small and included only family. In my opinion, first birthdays are for the parents (read: the mama). I just wanted something simple and sweet that would mark the occasion with no added stress. My MIL contributed her delicious spinach quiche, my parents brought a stunning fruit tray, and we added some dressed greens, sourdough bread, and coffee to the mix. Just perfect. 

Baby J wasn't sure what to make of all the fuss, but she humored us with some photos to mark her big day. 

1st birthday

big baby blues


grandmas and mama

I did not give Big Girl a "smash" cake for her first birthday; she wasn't into that kind of thing and I thought it was silly (why give a one year old a cake to destroy, not to mention the sugar content, all because of a nonsensical tradition?!). But this year Big Girl is truly into baking and cake decorating, so we made a box cake and let her decorate it for her sister. I thought I'd let both of them "have at it" and smash it to smithereens, but in the end, neither one of them ate it nor did they get messy. Win/win.

"smash" cake concept

Big Sis admiring her handiwork

Baby J ended up in tears after this display and shortly thereafter went down for her (badly needed) afternoon nap. The rest of us opened her presents and visited. It was a peaceful and low key afternoon. Fun and perfect. As usual, we are so grateful for our family and all the opportunities to spend these happy occasions together. Happy birthday, Baby J! Thank you for being you xx

Lastly- I cannot believe I never pointed this out before, but November 2 was also the nyc marathon this year (yes, we watched it on TV yesterday!). And it should be noted that on November 2, 2008, I ran the nyc marathon along with Team Stick - which makes that date a very special one indeed. Maybe someday Baby J will get to run nyc on her birthday?!?

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.