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 swing..it 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!

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Meeting and Running with Lauren Fleshman

Just over five years ago, I got to meet Kara Goucher. She was always my favorite - just a terrifically talented inspiring athlete and down to earth too. And meeting her was so awesome! I still love Kara, but lately I've been inspired by another incredible and fun loving athlete, who just happens to be Kara's teammate: Lauren Fleshman. Back in November, I mentioned my LF inspired 5K Revolution project. Basically, I've devoted this year to 5K training, in hopes of breaking 22 minutes in the 3.1 mile foot race. It's a bit lofty, but not totally out of reach (I hope). Lauren Fleshman stated, "the 5K is freaking awesome," and she is absolutely right. At least training has been fun. The track doesn't seem so intimidating or boring these days. Whizzing around the soft red surface has rekindled my devotion to challenging athletic endeavors - b/c ever since motherhood became a part of my life, marathon training just hasn't been the right fit.

I'm about to go into my fall racing season - I have three 5Ks lined up over the next few months - and over the weekend, the opportunity to meet Lauren Fleshman in person popped up. It was not something I could pass up; she was basically going to be in my backyard! She was in town for the Mag Mile Women's Half & 5k - promoting and encouraging and psyching up and motivating and having FUN with everyone. The weekend kicked off with a 2-3 mile shakeout run, open to the public, all are welcome. Yes, please! Even though I wasn't running the Mag Mile event the next day, I wanted to be a part of the energy. Runners typically welcome conversation (especially when it pertains to running) so I figured it would be fun to join in this low key event. I was so right. 

After chatting with a number of awesome runners - some from Chicago Endurance Sports - the opportunity to say hello and meet Lauren presented itself. I asked her for a photo and she said, "of course!" Yay!

pure awesome
I should also mention that Olympic Gold Medalist Summer Sanders - I remember watching her stellar swimming at the 1992 Olympics - was also there. Wow! They both provided some motivational words, and then we headed off on a group run.

athletes inspire

When we got to the lakefront, we paused for some more words of wisdom and some warm up exercises, led by Lauren and Summer.

warming up
Then we continued the run - and I actually got to run with Lauren! I listened to her tips and conversation and basically basked in her awesomeness (w/o seeming too creepy, I promise!)

right behind a pro

This one is a gem I found on instagram - someone took a selfie that included yours truly running *next to* Lauren. And Summer is in there too! Can't ask for a better shot, and even though it's blurry, I love the smiles and energy and pure joy - runners are the best!

once in a lifetime moment

The whole event left me giddy and excited and ready to rock my upcoming 5K racing season. Even if I don't nail my goal, I will have had a ton of fun trying. Meeting these elites was like the cherry on top - they are just regular people, but super talented and dedicated to their sport, and that energy and dedication rubs off on everyone they meet. I know that being in Lauren's presence will have a lasting effect on me; I hope she knows how much her efforts to inspire have paid off. Thank you, Lauren, for being so awesome.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Last Day of School Run, etc

Nearly two years ago, my Big Girl started school - her first day of school was a big day for all of us. I remember feeling nervous, proud, happy, sad and a whole bouquet of other emotions. To be completely honest, it took a while to adjust to everything - like a year or so. She was quite young when she started (2.5 yrs) and the days were long (though we started with half days and gradually increased her stay over time). And she "missed her mommy" a.lot. So many tears were shed over this intense missing of mommy - - but she eventually adjusted and grew to love school and her friends, teachers, and learning too. I used to dream of the day when she'd be happy to go to school; running, skipping and jumping her way into the classroom; smiling and comfortable and confident. I definitely got that wish because over the last year or so, she walks in there like she owns the place. The below pic is Big Girl sitting at the Director's desk acting all in charge of everything #AsIsHerWont

the "boss"

But going back to those early days - she was a brave soul, going off to school and figuring out how everything worked - that is exhausting! But after seeing her on her last day yesterday, I'd say she more than NAILED it! 

Here's a few first day/last day pics for comparison - 

The "backpack"pic - just holding her bag and posing. And the "jump and shout hooray" pic below.

 The "what I do when I enter the classroom" pic -

And the "what I do when I'm all signed in" (basically act like the teacher vs timidly checking out the scene)

In any case, she's come a long way! All the things you'd want your child to be when they leave a school - that's what she is. I thought I'd be a wreck yesterday on her last day, but the truth is, I was happy. Thrilled. And so, so proud. It was such a surprise to feel that way, since the anticipation of her last day was overwhelming. But the morning started out fab with her over the moon - perhaps relieved to be moving on, or just proud of herself too. I took this on our way to school. 

After drop off, I headed to the track. The workout for the day was a ladder - 1200, 1000, 800, 800, 600, 400. With a couple minutes rest between. I wanted to kick things up a bit with faster times, but I just didn't have the speed. I certainly pushed myself, but my times were a bit disappointing. Here's the results:

1200 - 5:27 (~7:20pace)
1000 - 4:32 (~7:20 pace)
800 - 3:35 (~7:15 pace)
800- 3:38 (~7:20 pace)
600 - 2:40 (~7:10 pace)
400 - 1:38 (~6:40 pace)

I don't know what else to say about this, because I was pretty winded and beat after each repeat. I went out hard and just sunk at the end. It was all I could do to keep the legs churning. But my thoughts weren't really on Big Girl and how her day was going - like they were on that first day of school run. I mostly thought about how the hell I might maintain such an exhausting pace for three consecutive miles on race day, which is September 13. #notlookinglikely

But time will tell. Just like it did over the past two years for my Big Girl - she rocked the school thing in style (literally and metaphorically), and just like I did for my Co-worker in New York, I wrote and sang her a song at pickup. It's not so hard when your audience is a bunch of 3 and 4 year olds; they don't judge too harshly ;)) Big Girl loved it though and that's all what matters. And then we ended the day with a blow out celebration at our friend's house - with homemade pizza, cupcakes, and some bubbly and rosé (for those of age). The girls and a blast together and the grownups enjoyed our drinks and conversation. win/win. 

In sum, I'm terrifically proud of my Big Girl!! And now we get to enjoy a few weeks of downtime until she starts preK at her new big kid school. So bring on the end of summer.