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. 


Hooray!
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. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Menu Planning - August 23

First, a few fun things. 

I came across a recipe for vegan pumpkin cheesecake - I have never really liked cheesecake, nor am I particularly fond of vegan desserts. And pumpkin is a flavor that I could take or leave (thought I usually "take" if the season is right). But for some reason, I had an overwhelming desire to make this. It seemed easy enough and I had most of the ingredients already on hand. It seriously did not disappoint. I think it might be my favorite vegan cheesecake of all time! I dotted the creation with a few dark chocolate chips, because I finally found my fave (Enjoy Life dark chocolate chips) at Whole Foods and stocked up. Chocolate chips in everything!

pumpkin "cheese" cake

One thing I've learned about vegan creations is that (raw and soaked) cashews are a fab substitute for non-vegan things. And when you start to understand certain ingredients and combos, it's much easier to predict whether or not you will like something. These have been a huge hit and are almost something worthy of a quick breakfast. Make them. 

Second, what might have been our last beach visit of the season. The water, to our dismay, was downright arctic. Sitting on a blanket and watching these goofballs create games that didn't involve ice water was rather priceless though. They can often be hilarious and entertaining (as long as they are safe and not being a nuisance to others…so the bar for being hilarious and entertaining, as you can see, is quite high. But I digress..)

getting crazy on the beach

After we were all cleaned up from the beach (this process was quite involved due to the amount of sand they brought home), I set out to grill some turkey burgers for dinner. Since turkey burgers can often be dry and boring, it was imperative that I dressed them up with flavor and moisture. This recipe for grilled turkey burgers with cheddar and smoky aioli turned out to be perfect! I topped them with cheddar and arugula and a dollup of the aioli and they were outstanding. Our side was a caprese salad with balsamic vinegar thrown in for extra goodness. Paired with a sturdy pinot, this meal was a huge hit!

friday night turkey burgers

We may have burned ourselves out - because after Saturday's meal (jerk spatchcocked chicken and pineapple coconut cashew rice) we ended up ordering take out for Sunday. This week I'm feeling a little less energetic about knocking out terrific meals every week day, so we'll be using up what we have and trying to keep the grocery shopping trips to a minimum. Here's what we have:

Monday - leftover jerk chicken on ciabatta with arugula and tomato and a schmear of smoky aioli

Tuesday - leftover pineapple coconut cashew rice - but we're going to try a Hawaiian fried rice concept and insert pepperoni to the mix and probably top it with poached eggs

Wednesday - spaghetti with leftover pesto along with some farmers market veggies like zucchini and tomato

Thursday - either another omelette (because last week's mushroom/pepper/onion omelette was out of this world) or ham and cheese sandwiches, assuming ham and cheese remain on Thursday. Probably a salad made of whatever veggies remain on the side.

Friday - pizza of some kind. I made a fresh batch of sauce last week and have plenty of dough. So either roasted eggplant, or pepper, or maybe even something crazy like pineapple and ham (ha, never). Or manchego, peppers and onions. Or grilled corn, bacon and arugula, perhaps? What about hummus and grilled zucchini pizza? With feta, of course. I have no idea. I'll have to assess my mood come Friday.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Back at the Track

Ever since we returned home in early August, I've been consistently playing at the track once a week. It isn't always easy to motivate myself to fly solo, but I feel like I am becoming addicted to the "track workout high" - is that a thing?? While everyone else is on the marathon bandwagon, I've been reaping the joys of the short, fast stuff. And the track is the best place to capture those unique endorphins. 

Today's workout was 5 x 1K repeats. One Kay doesn't seem like much. And it isn't really. Sandwiched between a half mile and 1200 meters, 0.62 meters falls into the pace category of too-far-to-sprint-all-out-but-not-far-enough-to-coast. I was shooting for  7:15, or faster, and I was right around there with my 1K's at: 

4:42 (this was one a little long at 0.65)
4:27 
4:32 
4:33
4:35

I took this selfie between the fourth and fifth repeat. Ain't pretty, but it's realistic.
want.this.to.be.over

Once I finished the five, I felt pretty good. Of course, it would have been better to hit them at 4:21 a pop, because that is my goal race pace. But this just means I have something to shoot for the next time I choose 1K repeats. (note to self: do these again and do them faster)

my track

city track

I'd like to start picking a few fall 5Ks to chip away at my time. I think with more consistent training under my belt and some cooler, crisper weather, there is a chance that sub-22 will be mine. Even if it never is, this training has actually been pretty fun and has given me small goals to achieve and a sense of accomplishment. As most runners know, the journey is half the fun - no? :))

Monday, August 17, 2015

Track, Beach runs, air show, Menu planning - August 16

As August is already more than halfway over, I've been doing everything I can to make the most of what's left of our fleeting summer. We've been so blessed with the most gorgeous weather lately - so it only makes sense to do all the things summer. Now. 

I'll start with a pretty nice track workout that happened on Thursday (earlier runs in the week were stroller runs). After a mile and a quarter warm up, I started 10 x 400s trying to keep consistent. They were in the range of 1:35-1:41 with the last one coming in at 1:36. So around 6:35/6:40 pace per mile. I'd say most of the repeat felt comfortable, but a few in the middle were tough, especially with the sun out and the 80 degree temps. But I made it through all ten and had enough in the tank for a proper 1.25 mile cool down. 

Friday was a beach day for my girls and me along with S and her lovely daughter. We had great beach weather, the girls loved the sun and the cool, refreshing lake water, and we were treated to the Chicago Air Show rehearsals. Can't beat it. 

afternoon at the beach

Post beach we decided to extend the playdate by having them over for dinner. The girls were phenomenal playing together, and we mamas could enjoy some chilled bubbly and rosé. This is perhaps the perfect way to kick off a summer weekend!

I have to include a few of these sailboat pics - we got to play on a sailboat Saturday afternoon. The girls enjoyed themselves again, and I got some fun shots of them playing.

sorry she is on the wood, S!!

we weren't underway, but it sure looks like she's trimming the jib

who's going to go down the hatch? 

Sunday was more airshow. I decided to squeeze in another beach visit with Big Girl while Baby J napped and my husband worked at home. It was another gorgeous summer day and the whole world was out watching the planes. We ran to the beach, swam, played catch in the water, built a sand castle - it was a blast! We even ran into some friends there too.

beaching with planes overhead 

A beach day like that deserves to be celebrated with some peel and eat shrimp. We also had sour beers and a side of a D. Mad inspired spicy cucumber salad.

sour beer

cucumber salad

how you properly end a beach run kind of day

Moving forward with this week's menu plan - here's what I have so far. 

Monday - sautéed zucchini with a spinach basil pesto over whole wheat pasta (snagged the idea from Laura's page)

Tuesday - big salad (dark greens, carrots, scallions, 5 minute eggs, blue cheese) and fresh bread

Wednesday - big omelette with peppers, onions, mushrooms and goat cheese

Thursday - beet panzanella (roasted beets, tomatoes, vinegared onions, goat cheese)

Friday - homemade pizza with roasted eggplant, onion, basil and mozzarella OR turkey burgers on the grill 




Monday, August 10, 2015

Menu Planning - August 2015

Our first week back in the city was a whirlwind - and we are still working on getting everything unpacked and organized. So we did our best to make dinners that were quick and easy.

Monday - hummus with cucumbers, tomatoes, goat feta, and peppers on pita

Tuesday - beef and tofu stir fry with soba noodles (I tossed the beef and tofu in a ziplock with soy sauce, oyster sauce, a dash of coconut sugar, and some minced ginger and garlic to marinate). 

Wednesday - panzanella at an outdoor concert (also way too much wine)

Thursday - kale and chickpea dish with eggs

Friday - homemade pizza - roasted farmers market peppers, onions, and a mix of goat cheese and mozzarella (and basil)

Saturday - grilled stuffed farmers market banana peppers (sautéed eggplant and tossed in feta cheese, basil and mint to use as stuffing) and grilled salmon with an apricot soy marinade (also way too much sake and wine)
patio eats - stuffed grilled peppers and salmon
salmon topped with scallions..
Sunday - no cook cheese platter with wafer thin crackers, a fresh tomato (sliced, salted and splashed with olive oil) and olives (also the right amount of chardonnay - finally). 

This week is still in the works - tonight will be hummus again, but probably in a wrap with leftover eggplant/feta/herb mix thrown in there. 

I am really out of ideas for the rest of the week. So I'm going to browse and edit..

Back to edit - menu plan for August 10

Monday - as mentioned, hummus with leftover eggplant/feta/herb mix

Tuesday - lima beans/corn with onions, bacon, parsley, and chives. Probably topped with five minute eggs (sort of like succotash but with some additions)

Wednesday - black bean and ground beef layer dip (black beans, seasoned ground beef, avocado, salsa, jalepeno, sour cream, scallion and tortilla chips)

Thursday - BLTs on sourdough with a side of spinach salad

Friday - whole wheat pasta with mushrooms and spinach (sautéed the mushrooms in garlic, adding coconut milk and cayenne, a dash of salt and wilting the spinach last minute to make a creamy sauce). Maybe half an onion in there too.








Saturday, August 08, 2015

Summer Stick visits

Team Stick. My Sticks. They are the greatest. And visits, while short these days, are full and packed and kind of like mini whirlwinds amidst the overarching whirlwind life we lead these days. With our apt packed up and under severe construction this past July, we were unable to host Mama L of Team Stick. She had planned a visit to Chicago, but we had to think outside the box. So we met in a random suburb and took advantage of a most gorgeous sunny summer day with play-grounding, splash pads, swimming, and treats. The pool was fab - with the zero entry phenomenon and a frog water slide that Big Girl couldn't get enough of. Mama L and I tried to catch up while we simultaneously supervised, splashed, and lifeguarded the kiddos.

pool time

awesome slide

Post swim, we stopped for some sweet treats at a local ice cream shop. And some Stick pics, as is customary.

cones with sprinkles

the oldest sticklings

group pic (Baby J stayed back with Grandma)

photo cred to Big Girl
The visit was short (mere hours) but it was great to see Mama L nonetheless! I loved catching up with her and seeing her beautiful family!

And just the other day, C stopped by in Chicago for a night out and a Friday packed with fun! She arrived late Thursday but it was so nice out we decided to chat at a trendy rooftop bar with a fab view!

night out with a view

And Friday morning we packed up the kids (and snacks and all that jazz) and headed out on a four mile run on a sunny, but beautiful day. Somehow, my kids zoned and chilled and allowed us precious (uninterrupted!) time to chat on this run. That was amazing in an of itself!

mid run pic with the skyline

We spent the rest of our time together sipping coffee, attending a brief preschool function at Big Girl's school, and doing some shopping in the city. As usual, it was great to have C over!! 

I had a full week of moving back into my apt and fitting in some workouts. My toughest one was Tuesday - 5 miles with 3 miles at 7:13 pace. Mile repeats have always intimidated me, but I was eager to ramp things up, so I knocked them out with the help of some encouraging mid-workout texts from Team Stick. Thanks, "coaches" :)) Thursday was just a solo five miler and yesterday was four with C and my girls. I was feeling pretty drained by the end of yesterday so I'm not sure how the weekend will go workout-wise. One thing I have learned to accept is that when I spread myself thin with all things life, I need to slow down and take the time to rest and recover. But I'm glad I got to see some sticks - love you ladies xx

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sun River - part two (& beyond)

Good Eats. Seriously, we ate well on this trip. Cooking didn't seem like a chore; instead we got excited about what we could make that would be moderately healthy and delicious. And I have to say, we nailed it. Here are some of the goodies we enjoyed in Sun River. 

As usual, each family was responsible for cooking one dinner (for 21 people) on the trip. We were on our own for lunch, so that's when we really rocked it out in the kitchen. Our first lunch was the green bean/tomato dish we frequently make. It's simple, fresh and easy. We severed it over whole wheat spaghetti with fresh parsley. And dined outside. With chardonnay.

green beans/ pasta
Breakfasts were early - this is just a snapshot of one morning with steel cut oats topped with fresh strawberries.  (and pre coffee shop coffee..because let's face it, I need coffee just to get me to the coffee shop!) 

oats and berries
Another lunch - this one was the kale and chick pea dish with chorizo and poached eggs. (we were limited on spices so we had to be creative about how we added flavor - chorizo took the place of spiced paprika and added some heft to this dish).

kale/beans/eggs
And a photo of this tasty drink - the Mother's Helper (detailed in the previous post).

refreshing pool bevie
Another lunch - Leftover green beans/tomatoes on grilled bread topped with goat cheese and avocado.


And then it was our turn to prepare dinner for the crowd. We picked burgers because it is easy and a crowd pleaser. Our side was the beet and potato salad - prep work for the salad seen here.

potatoes, celery, herbs, and onion
Dessert was grilled peaches. And a selection of chocolate bars.


grilling peaches
And our appetizer was a grilled pepper / smashed avocado (meyer lemon/salt) crostini topped with fresh mint and basil. 

apps
Burger toppings included lettuce, tomato, raw onion, pickles and bacon. It was clearly a smorgasbord!

Buffet line

beet and potato salad
A couple kids about to dress their burgers.

family style
And dessert was a huge hit! We topped the peaches with a bit of whipped cream and fresh mint.

peaches and cream
And here's another lunch - braised beet greens (left from the beets used in our salad - we waste not) with bacon and onion. Topped with poached egg.

braised beet greens
We went out to lunch once (with the whole family) and out to dinner once (on the last night, with the fam). So I feel this was a huge gastric success! However, there was an abundance of Oregon pinot noirs on hand each night in addition to a nice selection of Deschutes beers. #drinklocal #partyresponsibly


When we returned to Chicago, we wanted to keep the goodies coming. Sunday was a pool day, a run in the woods (3.5 miles) and a grilled shellfish extravaganza. It started with clams dusted with rosemary infused butter.

clams
The next course was gulf shrimp with basil infused butter. And a grand cru chablis #splurgebottle

shrimp
Sides were grilled corn on the cob and a broccoli/red pepper salad (D. Mad  recipe with olives, capers, red pepper flakes, fresh herbs).

sides
And lastly, scallops. With thyme.


It seems like a lot of food (and it is) but really it's a few bites of seafood per course. We like to think of our cooking nights as an event - and we drag it out for hours, sipping wine, bringing out each course, sitting outside and chatting. We've been lucky to have some fabulous summer nights, so these meals have really been awesome. We did it again last night with a grilled shrimp course and steak fajitas. And we will likely strike again - summer is short. Live it up.