Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pink Striped Zebra Cake

I'm sad to report that I've been feeling a little under the weather this week.  I planned to blog last night but ended up taking a "nap" after getting home from 7:30 to about 10 and then going back to bed at about 11 pm.  It was a pretty worthless night.  I had to force myself to eat something for dinner when I was awake.  And that basically just consisted of a Clif Bar because I was too lazy to fix myself anything else and knew it would be easy on my tummy.  I think it is just a bad cold/virus but I have been terribly congested and headachy and achy and very tired.  So that long nap was a very much needed one.
This past weekend I had a graduation party to attend.  The graduation of my boyfriend's younger sister.  When Matt and I started dating she was still a little girl, I swear.  They grow up so fast!
Remember when I mentioned I have a variety of other skills to fall back on in case engineering doesn't work out?
Well we can add another one to that list.  Cake Decorator.
That's right, I decorate and make cakes.  I really enjoy it too.  Maybe someday I will retire from engineering and open up a cake shoppe.
Here's the cake I made.
Please ignore scary looking brother in background.

And here's a step-by-step so you can repeat!

First layer.
 9 inch round Rainbow Party Chip cake.
 Add some homemade butter cream frosting.
 Toss on another 9 inch round cake on top.
 Double decker.
Put on a crumb coat to lock in all those pesky crumbs.  And freeze it.
Yup put it in the freezer and wait a while.  Make sure you do the same with your top small cake too.
 Put on a nice thick layer of pink frosting on your top cake and a nice thick layer of white on your bottom cake.
 Smooth those babies out as smooth as possible with your metal spatula.  And then to smooth it out even further by dipping your spatula in a glass of hot water and then smoothing.  Have some patience this takes time.

Add some pretty pink zebra stripes!  Draw them on with a piping bag and round tip.  Don't go for perfectly shaped stripes, just go with it.
Go with the flow baby.
Uh, then smooth those babies out too.
Plop your top cake onto your bottom cake.
Finishing touches.  Shell or star around the bottom and on top of the little cake.
Write "Happy Birthday" or any other phrase you can think of.  Write the birthday girl's name on top.
Don't misspell it.  Or write something like Happy Bathday because you weren't paying attention.  That only happened once and I was probably 12.  But if you do happen to make a mistake pull the frosting off with a toothpick.
Finally, stand back and admire your cake.  Smile to yourself for doing such a good job.
Have your momma take picture of you with your pride and joy.  Which your brother ruins for a second time.
I was surprised with how well it turned out and it tasted great too!  Because really, what's the point of having cake, if you can't eat it too ;)

Monday, June 27, 2011

My first attempt at Tuna Steak

So there are a couple of foods that I have been wanting to try out at home after eating them in a restaurant.
One of those said foods is Ahi Tuna Steak.
I first tried this at a restaurant in New Orleans when I was there May 2010.  
It was absolutely amazing.
I want to go back to that city and stuff myself to the brim with fresh seafood and then top it off with beignets.  

Anyways, my grocery store had a sale on tuna steak so I bought two slabs.
Gather some ingredients.
 I gathered salt, paprika, and some cayenne pepper.
At this point I was also defrosting my tuna in the microwave since it was safely stored in my freezer for over a week.
 Mixed those together in a bowl.
And sprinkled it on both sides of the tuna.
And then I added the pepper.
Lots of pepper.  
And pressed it onto the surface of the partially defrosted and slightly cooked tuna.  Oops.
Then I cooked the steak in a oiled pan heated to medium high.
It cooks quickly.
Only two minutes per side so it is nice and pick in the middle. 
 I had to cook it a bit longer since it was still slightly frozen in the middle when it went in the pan.
Then I kind of overcooked it a little.  
It was still plenty pink in the middle though.
 And it was so delicious!
I will definitely be making ahi tuna steak again.
And I saved some for my lunch the next day!
It was delicious even then.

I adapted my recipe from this Seared Black Pepper-Crusted Ahi Tuna Steaks.
Try it out!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

With a side of crunchy and burnt

Tonight I made myself some stir-fry (stirfry, stir fry? what's correct?) for dinner. 
Stir fry is a common staple in my diet.  
I can just throw in whatever vegetables are in the fridge and go with it.
In the mix tonight was chicken, peppers, broccoli, and mushrooms 
along with stir fry necessities garlic and ginger.   
Usually stir-fry is so easy....
 But apparently it wasn't so easy tonight.  
That is (supposed to be) my rice. 
You know, nice fluffy soft brown rice.
Instead I ended up with this burnt, crunchy, not so tasty rice.
I don't even know what happened.
Usually I just boil it and let it simmer but tonight something went terribly wrong.  
Um, major fail.

But I still ate it anyways.  
I was too lazy to make a new pot.
Considering it takes 45 minutes to cook and I was hungry!
I will be making a new batch to go with the left overs.
And I will be more careful this time, I promise.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Saturday Afternoon Bike Ride

This weekend I enjoyed a long weekend a nice long bike ride by the river on Saturday afternoon.  
Some 30 miles of trails run along the curves of the Des Plaines River through Lake and Cook Counties.  
It was very scenic and nice to feel like I was out of the hustle and bustle of a city for a while.  Something I don't feel that I get enough since I have been living here.  
It was nice except for all the mosquitoes.  I wanted to take more pictures but it was way too buggy and if I stopped for more than about .2 seconds I was viciously attacked.  I have the nasty itchy bumps to prove it.  
I saw 8 deer and at least one buck.  I was surprised that he actually had a fairly good-size pair of antlers on him and they were still all velvety.  When I rode up to them they would just look up at me and stare.  Usually by the time I was able to get my camera out they would spook and take off.  
But I did manage to catch one of this gal from across the river.  She was just taking a little break. 
I ended up riding for about 21 miles which was kind of by accident.  I tried to take a different road back off the trail than the one I took to get on, but turns out there is no sidewalk or bike lane on that road.  I am certainly not riding with the cars because people here drive like maniacs.  So I turned my butt my bike back around and headed back up to the road I took in.  I was tired but it was a nice trip.
Except for the bug bites.  Which, by the way, I heard an interesting fact about the other day.  By the time you are an adult mosquito bites aren't as itchy as when you were young because your body builds up a sort of resistance to them after you have been stung so many times.  So when you're younger they really are itchier.  And probably why when I was a child I was more prone to scratching them till they bleed.  I knew there was something to it when I told my momma they itched so bad and I needed to scratch!

Now I need to get back to watching Bones on Netflix.  I'm obsessed.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

To my pops

Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there!
I was unable to spend the day with my dad but I know he was busy golfing anyways.

My dad is pretty awesome.  He's put up with me now for 23 years, which in itself is pretty impressive.
Some of my favorite memories of my dad are from golfing.  He taught me how to golf when I was just a wee little girl.  My brother and I had these little plastic clubs (they were right-handed even though my brother golfs left-handed) and these little wiffle golf balls.  The rule was as long as we could stay in front of dad, we could keep hitting the ball.  So we would hit the ball and then run to the next spot and hit it again.  It was a great time.
Over the years, we've spent a lot of time together playing golf and other sports.  He taught me how to play and gave me pointers, even when I was reluctant to listen.  He was always so dedicated in coming to watch me play when I was in high school too.  Nowadays, it is a lot of fun to go out and shoot a round with him, without the pressure.  I'm still working on beating him.  
He's always been my number one fan.  
During my high school basketball games, I always could tune out the crowd but my dad's voice.  He knew when I wasn't putting in 100% and pushed me to give it my all, stood up for me, and cheered for me.  

My dad has many quirks.  Such as yelling at the TV during football games almost as if the players and coaches can hear him.
I am blessed to have my dad.

Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Dear Mr. GPS, we're through

When I was growing up, I learned how to read a map.  Actually when we went on a family vacation, I often got to be the navigator.  My dad was the pilot and I was playing co-pilot.  My mom and brother probably fought in the back.  I'm not really sure if it's learned or if it's innate but I somehow ended up with a great sense of direction, a navigational beacon, if you will.  This sense has provided great help to me over the years.  Especially when driving in a new area that I am unfamiliar with.  I always like to know which way is which, unlike my mom who does not have that sense of direction.  She was so excited when she got a car that had a display with which direction she was going.
Sure I've gotten lost before a few times but I knew how to find myself.  I use the technique where I would drive in a specific direction to get back to an area, landmark, or crossroad that I was familiar with.  Before the world of GPS, I would use a map or look up directions on Google or MapQuest.  These worked wonders.
Then we entered the such-a-wonderful-world of the GPS.  Or so we thought.  I resisted for many a day, week, month, year.  But alas, moving to a new area proved to be a challenge.  I was still living life without said GPS, but my parents in that sneaky way they have, bought a GPS for "themselves" and it consequently ended up in my possession.  My mom was worried that I would get lost in the big city.
I was going to return it, but then they bought a new one.

I know a lot of people swear by GPS's, they don't know how they lived without them before, they need them.  But me, well mine kind of drives me crazy.  I think it causes problems in my life.  First of all, it broke and lost all its maps the first month I had it.  After spending almost an hour on the phone with tech support, I had to return it anyway.  And then the direction giving....Grrrrrr.  I always find it is best to take the simplest way there.  For example, do not take me on a ton of back roads with stoplights, too many turns, and slow speed limits, when there is a perfectly capable 4-lane roadway right there.  Obviously stopping at those stoplights creates a lot of delays.  Duh.  And I would prefer to drive faster than 35 mph.  Just saying.
And I cannot figure out how that stupid estimated arrival time works.  It's like it's messing with me.  When I drive the speed limit my ETA actually goes up.  But when I speed the time does not go down. Nearly never.  It's liked it has learned that I speed all the time on occasion.  I don't get it.  
I think I am going to pawn it off on my brother.  I'll take the good ole days of Google maps to find where I am going.  Or if all else fails, I will just ask for directions.

What do you think about GPS? 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Those would have been helpful

I had a wedding to attend this past weekend.  Congrats Erik and Becky!
It was all the way over in Forest City, Iowa.  In total that's about 6.5 hours away from where I live.  
Quite the drive.  Especially for me, by myself, especially when I am not all that fond of driving in the first place.  A drive that is much too long to do in one go.  
My plan was to drive to my parent's house on Friday evening and then make the second half of the trip on Saturday.  To make the trip easier, I usually just head out right from work on Friday afternoon.  It helps me avoid some of the traffic, which can be not very much fun.  That means packing up my stuff on Thursday night and getting it in the car on Friday morning before work.  Makes for some interesting mornings.  
Let's of hustle and bustle too early in the morning results in a slightly frazzled Alyssa.  

Unfortunately, because I am trying to pack up quickly, a few casualties sometimes occur.  Sometimes it's a toothbrush or a clean pair of underwear or some of my momma's dishes I was supposed to return.  
This time the things I left behind, were a little more necessary.  
I even hung them on my closet so I wouldn't forget.
This is where they were when I got home on Sunday night too.  

Yes, those were the dresses I was considering wearing to the wedding I was attending.
They didn't do me a whole lot of good when I was 6 hours away. 
I didn't even know which outfit I wanted to wear so I was taking a bunch.
My plan was to make my momma choose one, and then pick a different one.
She just hates when I do that. 
 Out of four choices, I think I could have chose one.
Look at the pretty blue flower.
After I took these pictures, I realize a lot of my dress outfits have similar themes.  
Brown and white with flowers or black bottom and a purple/pink top.  

Instead I had to scrap together clothes at my parent's house. 
I managed.  
You can see a little bit of the top portion of my outfit.  
That would be my momma's shirt and necklace.  Which I then paired with some white capris I purchased for my senior pictures in high school.  Yay for about 6 year old pants!
It made for some funny conversations.
I made do.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Post Race

Thought I would update you on how things are going since the race.  I honestly have kind of taken a break from the workout scene this week.  That's a little bit out of the ordinary for me since I usually work out a few times a week minimum.  Since I've been running and training so much, it was turning into more of a chore than a time I was enjoying myself.  I'm allowing myself to take a break, guilt-free.  I'll be getting back into the routine this week though because I am planning on competing in a triathlon before the end of summer.
A few other things have been happening post race as well.  I'm healing from my race wounds.  Although Body Glide did quite amazing things for me for the race, I missed a few spots and suffered some chaffing and loss of layers of skin. Usually this confined to my legs, you know where your thighs rub together, yeah right there. Unless you are one of those freaks who has space between your thighs.  Totally not me, I was graced with big legs.  Oh and sometimes I get some chaffing around my sports bra as well.
To avoid this chaffing on race day, I purchased the life-saving Body Glide.  Grease.  It really worked wonders.  Wonders, I tell ya.  

I missed a few places though.  There was  a spot on my legs that I missed.  And a line where my armband for my Zune was, on the under side of my arm near my armpit.  And two marks where the top of my sports bra was rubbing on my chest.  But the worse place was one I did not expect.  I bought that new green tank top you can see below for the race.
It turns out that it has a seam right in the center of the v-neck part.  
And that little piece of fabric wrecked some havoc. 
See that nice little mark in the middle of my chest.  
It actually is looking a lot better today.  
It's already been a week and a day though.
Before it was way way scabbed over in a dark nasty scab.  
Some of my coworkers didn't believe my story about the half marathon and instead decided I was overtaken by aliens.  
Likely story.
Last night, I was wearing a necklace to try and cover up the scar.
But someone caught a glimpse and asked me why I had stitches.
Hmm, it must look bad.
Then of course I had to explain it was from running.
And that I ran a half-marathon.
Then they really thought I was crazy.
Why would you run a half-marathon?

Sometimes I ask myself the same question.
I don't have an answer really.
I won't show you any more pictures.

I have some nastiness going on on my feet and toes.  It's gross and I definitely won't share.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

13.1 Chicago, Part Two

The morning of the race started off bright and early.  We popped right out of bed at promptly 4:15 am.  Wait a sec, that isn't how it happened.  More like, we crankily had to force ourselves out of the comfortable bed that we longed to get back in.  Yes, that's better.
All our stuff was dutifully packed the night before because I knew I would be in no mood in the morning,  I was correct.  Packed, dressed, and still way too tired, we were in the car and on the road to Chicago at 4:45 am.  On the way there we each chowed down on our breakfast, a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cliff Bar for him and a White Chip Macadamia Cliff Bar for her. 
There was actually one point were we ran into traffic.  Traffic! At 5 am! Who drives at these hours on a Saturday?
Since there was no parking at the start, we parked at the Museum of Science and Industry and took a shuttle to the start.
 We were still a lot a little sleepy and cranky.
 Once we got to the start we ended up meeting up with my friends Rachel and Mike and a few of their friends.  Running this half marathon was their idea, by the way.
 Obviously this is a before picture because we are both still smiling.
There was plenty of time before the race began to check our gear, run a little warm-up, stretch, drink some water, take a bathroom break, etc.  The boy was in a much higher corral than me so we split off before the start so he could run with the faster people and I could cruise along with my slower-paced homeys. Rachel, Mike, another friend, and I all started back in corral I.  The race started in waves so there wouldn't be a huge clump of people all running at once together.
I was so anxious just to start running since we had been at the start area for about 1.5 hours by now.  Finally we were off!  I lost Rachel and Mike at about mile 2.  See ya later! They were a little too fast for me.  The first two miles I was going fairly fast but slowed down a bit for the next few since I knew I had a ways to go.  Plenty of aid stations offering Powerade and water lined the course which followed along Lake Shore path.  The view was great and the route was nice and flat.  The first 6 miles went by absolutely fine for me.  I knew the turnaround was just past mile 7 so I was definitely bargaining with myself to just make it there.  A cold towel station was also awaiting me there.
It was really hot and humid on race day, already temperatures in the 80s so cold towel felt amazing.  It really helped cool me down and give me some go for the second half of the race.  Back on the inbound track, I was refreshed and kept my pace around a 10 min/mile.  At  this point, I hadn't walked yet except through some of the water stations to drink some water and/or Powerade.  I was feeling good but a little warm.  Around mile 8 or 9, I noticed they had put up the red flag which meant they had stopped official timing and were encouraging people to slow down and take in plenty of fluids.  Sadly this meant they had turned off the clocks at the mile markers, luckily I still had my watch on so I knew about what time I was at.  I was still going okay at this point and kept running.  I really started to get tired around mile 9.5 so I decided to take some walking breaks.  Walking 2-3 minutes to give myself a rest, then running 10 minutes or so if I could.
Then at about mile 11, I saw they had raised the black flag.  Basically it meant that the conditions were bad enough that they didn't want people running anymore.  They had people yelling at participants to walk and not run.  I felt okay so instead of listening I mostly just continued on with my walk/run stint.
And finally I was nearing the end.  My feet hurt and I was exhausted but I picked up the pace to run to the end.  I felt like I could see the finish line forever before I actually got there.  Apparently I was going not as speedy fast as I thought.
But then I made it to the wonderful finish line! Done, done, done!  After crossing, I was bombarded with water, more Powerade, banana, granola bar, pictures. blah!  My legs were sooo tired and starting to cramp so I just kept walking.
Then I walked some more looking around for the boy.  But I could not find him anywhere.  He wasn't at our designated meeting spot.  I finally had to stop and stretch my legs and hit the bathroom.
Finally, I ran into the boy.  Turns out, he had to make a trip to the medical tent due to some dizziness and sickiness. They wouldn't let him leave because his heart rate was too high.  He is recovering fine.
Here are some pictures after the race.
 Exhausted and sweaty. Gross.
 My time was 2:23:48! Yippee for completing my first half!
 The boy took off his stinky shoes.  I was afraid mine wouldn't go back on if I did so.
 The boy's time was 2:20:57!  I was so close.
 My poor tired legs and feet.
You can see more pictures of me here.  13.1 Chicago was a huge success!

Monday, June 6, 2011

13.1 Chicago, Part One

So I did it! I ran and completed and survived my first half marathon!  It was actually quite an adventure.
On Friday night, the boy and I took the train into the city to pick up our race packets.  Of course I had looked up directions on how to get from the train stop to the store where our packets were, but I didn't have all the walking directions written down.  However, I did write down the directions for which bus to take and where to get off, but I didn't know the bus times because we ended up taking a later train than I thought.  The Garmin was supposed to be my lifesaver, but just as I turned it on, it turned off due to no battery charge.  Second backup plan was to use the boy's Blackberry to Google directions.  In a wicked turn of events, that was also out of battery and back at my apartment.
Instead, we took a chance a relied on my innate sense of direction.  Thank goodness, we somehow managed to find our way.  Nothing short of miraculous. It ended up being about a two mile walk, at least and I was hungry, thirsty and irritable.  (Duh that's what happens when you don't feed me!)
Finally the packets were picked up and we were on our way back to the train.  Did I mention I was hungry?
With some time to spare before the train, we were finally able to stop and get some food and drink! Yay! Since we were running the next day, we decided to beef up on some carbs on Noodles & Co.  It was our first time there and we are happy to say it was delicious!  It reminded me a lot of Z'mariks for all you Iowa City-ers, ites? -ians?.  I had a small pasta bowl of a spicy peanut sauce pasta with chicken and a side of tomato basil soup.  The boy had a larger bowl of another Asian-inspired bowl with shrimp.  Since, pop can give runners side stitches we opted for some Powerade and Light Lemonade.
With our tummies all filled up, we boarded the train to go home.  It's about an hour ride, which leaves plenty of time for all sorts of spectacles.
 Would you like to guess who had the blue Powerade at dinner?
Once we arrived back in Arlington Heights, we made a quick stop at Target to get some new running gear for the race.  Since the weather was going to be so hot we wanted to make sure we had the proper attire.  I bought a new sleeveless running tank and the boy bought a tech t-shirt.  Running in style.
We were then headed home to go to bed since we had to get up bright and early for a 7 am race!
Part two of the race recap tomorrow!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Half Marathon

I'm still here.  Did you miss me?
I completed my very first half marathon Saturday in the very hot and humid weather.
This is obviously a before picture.  Know why?  We are both still smiling and without sweat.
I am very glad I did it and even more glad it's over.
I will be back with a race update tomorrow! Along with a few other updates.
Too tired tonight, still exhausted from the race.
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