Friday, December 21, 2012

Illinois Marathon Training Recap Week 5

Another week, another recap.

This week went well, I managed to get in all my runs even though I had to extend my training "week" by one day.  Christmas shopping took over most of my day on Friday and then I turned around and went shopping with my family again on Saturday.  I've realized shopping wears me out, especially when I am with my family.  Thankfully, I only need to pick up a few snacks to finish out all my gifts.  Which I will be doing tonight at Hy-Vee when I swing through Dubuque on my drive to my parent's house.  Yippee!

Here's what I did for the week.

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 5 miles treadmill
  • Wednesday: Spin class
  • Thursday: 4.5 mile with 3 @9:22 with 1% incline
  • Friday: Shopping/Off
  • Saturday: 2 mile walk
  • Sunday: 2 mile walk with 0.5 mile run
  • Monday: 10 mile on treadmill around 9:40 pace
I pushed my long run back to Monday this week because I wasn't able to squeeze it in over the weekend.  I had tentatively planned to do it on Friday, but I slept too long after the concert on Thursday night and didn't want to make Matt wait around for 1.5+ hours while I ran.  Saturday and Sunday I slept too late again after being up late with the deer incident on Friday night and playing dominoes with Matt's family till 2 am on Saturday.  Doing a long run on a treadmill is not very appealing to me, but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

I spent so many weekends this past summer doing long runs on Saturday and long bikes on Sunday that I feel a bit guilty doing long runs when I am home with my family.  Not so much when we are just lying around doing nothing, but times when they want to do something.  I should just get up early on the mornings and get my long run done early, but I don't want to give up my late nights either.  I hope I am a little better about getting in my runs in the next couple of days while I am in Iowa. 

Any suggestions for getting long runs in while visiting family?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Well shoot.

Remember how I said this weekend also included some bad exciting things.  This is one of those things.

Matt and I left his mom's around 10:15 on Friday to head back to Cascade.  This was much later than I wanted to leave but this is what happens when we get together! Matt needed to be dropped off at his car parked at the mall since we drove separately to Iowa City (him from Marion, me from Arlington Heights).  While Matt was looking for his Ipod in his trunk, I got a bit of a head start towards Cascade.  He usually drives faster than I do so I figured he would catch up to me.

I've probably made the drive from Iowa City to Cascade over a hundred times.  I'm used to the roads and the towns and all that.  I'm comfortable with it.  Thirty-five minutes on a curvy, two-lane Highway 1 and then thirty-five minutes on four-lane 151.

About an hour into my drive as I was nearing the exit for Monticello, I remember thinking that I that it was odd that I hadn't seen Matt yet.  Usually he would have caught up to me by now.  It was around 11:10 pm dark and I was getting tired, but I knew that I was only 10 minutes from my parent's house.

I glanced into my review mirror wondering it Matt was behind me.  I looked back at the road and there it was.  A deer. My foot didn't even make it to the brake before I hit it.  I felt the impact, but my airbags remained safely inside their compartment.  I saw things fly off my car.  My heart was absolutely racing.  I started braking and pulled over to the side of the road.

I calmly called Matt and asked where he was--about five minutes behind me--and told him what happened.  Matt told me I should try to move my car more off the road, but it wouldn't move.  I tried to restart it. Nothing.  My battery was still connected because I still had lights, but the starter did not even make a sound.

I called my dad to ask him what I should do.   Called the cops.  My dad called a tow truck. I sat in Matt's car and my heart was still beating fast and I could feel the adrenaline in my system.

Matt tried asking me if it the deer was a buck, but it happened so fast I really have no idea.  The deer was facing right and I hit the whole back end of it on my passenger side.  Going 70 mph.  The damage to my car looks severe.

We waited about 10 minutes for the cop to show up. He cleaned up the pieces of my car off the road, took my license and registration, and wrote up his report while we waited for the tow truck.

I think the officer was confused by the multi-state system we had going on.  My car registered in Iowa with an Illinois license and Matt's car with Wisconsin plates.

The deer apparently flew off my car and into the ditch because it wasn't on the road anymore.  I'm fairly certain it did not make it out of this crash alive judging by the damage to the front of my car.

This accident happened so fast and I am incredibly thankful that I was uninjured.  A car is a car and can be fixed or replaced.

I'm also thankful that Matt was following me and that this happened only 10 minutes from my parent's.  I have no idea what I would have done if this happened halfway between Chicago and Cascade. I'm thankful for insurance and for my car being sturdy.  I'm thankful for my parents and because they are letting me borrow their car until mine is repaired.

I am also grateful that I didn't see the deer until the instant before I hit it because I know I might have swerved or slammed on my brakes and that could have been worse.

My car is being fixed and I will be driving it again.  I hope to avoid any deer in my future because the next time it might give me a heart attack.

Casey Donahew Band.

Well I had quite an exciting weekend. Some things were the good exciting and some things were at the other end of the spectrum.

Matt bought us tickets to a concert in Iowa City on Thursday evening.  I was supposed to leave work a few hours early that day to make the drive.  But, of course, I went in a half hour early, skipped lunch, and still didn't leave on time.  And I ended up working 8.5 hours.  So much for leaving early.

Thankfully, I still made it to Iowa City in time for the concert.  The show we went to was for the Casey Donahew Band with an opening act by some dude from Indiana.  I can't remember his name because (1) I'd never heard of him before and (2) I'd already had at least 2 drinks by then.  And a few more by the time he was done playing.  What can I say? When in Iowa City, do as the Iowa Citians do.  (And that's drink and party for those of you that don't know.)

Casey Donahew is a southern boy from the great state of Texas and sings "red-dirt country." You've probably never heard of him and if you don't like country then I can guarantee you've never heard of him. He mostly does shows in Oklahoma, Texas, and some in Nebraska, but was venturing north for this show.  Once Matt heard about this show he had to get tickets even if it was on a Thursday night.  He even convinced two of his friends to come to the show as well.

He writes typically country songs about guns and trucks and girlfriends and white trash stories, but he also writes about getting high.  In fact, we are convinced that he was high during the show.  His eyes were all glazed over and he had the stoned look about him.  We even took this picture with him after the show.

What do you think?

After the concert we took a cab back to downtown Iowa City.  I had grand plans to go out downtown, but of course forgot that I am old and can't party like I used to and went straight to bed once we got to the hotel.  Speaking of the hotel, I was selected as guest of the day and upgraded to the super special Club Level.  Apparently it was my lucky day! Our room was on the top floor and came with snacks (cashews, cranberries, chocolate shavings, and chocolate covered pretzels) and we had a complimentary breakfast the next morning.  Except we slept through the breakfast part.  Oops. Instead we grabbed water and snacks from the club room before leaving.

We were starving and ended up at Oasis Falafel at 11:30 to get lunch.  I loved eating at Oasis when I was in college and was excited to be able to enjoy their food once again.  Matt and I both had pita sandwiches mine with falafel and his with falafel and lamb.  They were both delicious.  Oasis has the absolute best hummus. I wish I could find a good falafel place near my place now, but haven't found anything that comes close to Oasis.

Matt's mom had invited us over for dinner later that day so we had the rest of the day to spend in Iowa City/Coralville.  After walking around downtown Iowa City so I could relive my college days we headed over to the Coralridge Mall so we could work on our Christmas shopping.  I did a great job of not buying anything for myself but Matt bought himself several things.  I was jealous.  I even ended up buying him a sweater.  Unfair! We had tentatively planned on going to a movie, but nothing we wanted to see was showing in the early afternoon so we nixed that plan and got ice cream from Coldstone.  I needed to use up a gift card from last Christmas!

When we were driving to Matt's mom's house later, Matt told me that he always finds the best deals when he is shopping with me.  I laughed because I think this translates to "You make me shop for much longer than I do on my own and we have to go to every store and through every aisle. Therefore I find more things to buy.  And you use coupons."  Matt is the kind of person that knows what he wants and goes to the store to buy it without looking around for a better price.

We had a great dinner with Matt's mom and several of her friends.  She served steak, baked potatoes, lettuce salad, raspberry fluff, and bread.  I was happily stuffed by the end.  After dinner, we sat around at talked and played games on the ipad.  It was a good night! I also played some with the cute dogs, allergies be damned!

It ended up being a late night and we didn't leave Coralville till after 10 pm.  Late night drive back to Iowa.

More of the story to come.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Illinois Marathon Training Recap Week 4

This is my first week of recapping my training, but according to my marathon training plan this is week 4.  To keep things simple for me,  I am starting to number at 4.  My training plan is 24 weeks long which is quite a long time for a training plan in my opinion, but the mileage is low to start with and isn't too challenging so far.   

I combined two training plans to come up with a good training plan for me.  I'm using the Tuesday runs and Saturday long runs from the Hal Higdon Marathon 3 Plan and the Thursday speed work runs from an individualized plan from Runner's World Smart Coach.  I liked the slower build-up of mileage in the Marathon 3 plan, but am hoping the speed work will shave a few seconds of my average pace.

This is what I have for a training plan so far.

Of course, this schedule is adjustable to whatever I feel like doing for the week.  And this week is a good example of that.  Here is what I ended up doing.
  • Monday: Off
  • Tuesday: 5 miles treadmill + pushups, squats, curls, and abs
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Zumba, 1 hour
  • Friday: 4 miles treadmill
  • Saturday: 9 miles
  • Sunday: 20 minutes on the bike trainer
This past weekend I was invited to a Christmas/Ugly Sweater  party hosted by a friend of Matt's in Cortland, Illinois.  It was a treat to see and hang out with several of his college friends again.  Of course I indulged in much too much alcohol on both Friday and Saturday nights, but thankfully didn't get too out of control this time.

I woke up around 8:30 on Saturday to head out for a run.  Another guy was running as well, but he was much faster than I so we didn't run together.  I got to run on some low traffic country roads which is one of my favorite places to run.  No stoplights, no other people, not very many cars and nice scenery.  I felt surprisingly good.

These were my splits.
Mile 1: 9:55
Mile 2: 9:56
Mile 3: 10:06
Mile 4: 10:18
Mile 5: 10:05
Mile 6: 10:10
Mile 7: 9:54
Mile 8 10:42
Mile 9 10:00
9 miles, average pace: 10:07

My goal pace for the marathon is supposed to be 9:34 so I actually could be running long runs a bit slower.  I have always just tried going at a comfortable pace and that has worked for me.

I have 10 miles on the schedule for this week and I will be in the very hilly land of Cascade.  I'm not looking forward to it.

What's your favorite place to run?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

All I want for Christmas is...

well, a lot of things.

Welcome to the time of year when blogs are filled with posts like "Gift Guides for (fill in the blank)." Men, women, your favorite runner, a newbie triathlete, your brother, your uncle's cousin's girlfriend.  Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the point.  I have no gift guide for you because that crap is boring.  Instead I will tell you what I want.  So if you have a couple extra dollars (okay, maybe couple extra $20 bills) laying around, you can buy me just what I want this Christmas.

1. Bike trainer - Cyclops Fluid 2 Indoor Bicycle Trainer.

I've been coveting an indoor trainer since the weather started getting cold.  You just set up your own bike on the trainer and ride to nowhere in the middle of your living room.

Instead of buying one for myself for Christmas, I bought one as a gift for Matt.  How foolish of me!  He's been trying to convince me to give his gift to him early, but I've held firmly on the No.  Mostly because I really like opening presents on Christmas/Christmas Eve and this way, I can use his gift until Christmas.  I've already set it up in my living room.  I had to make sure it worked properly and I've already set it up for him!

And don't worry about him reading this and ruining the surprise, he already knows what I got him.

2. Running shoes - Asics Gel Kayanos (size 9)
Except, of course, I can't find any of my current version (17) in my size.

My current pair of running shoes are kaput.  I've still been running in them because I don't have anything else, but I can feel how worn out they are.  Running any longer than 10 miles in these shoes sounds like pure torture so I better get a new pair soon.

3. Running gear - Head Lamp, Reflective Vest, Running Tights

I usually just give up running outside when the sun starts setting at 4:30 pm.  But the treadmill is already starting to bore me.  With lights and reflective gear I can safely run outside after work or in the mornings before work.

I currently own only one pair of running tights and they aren't for really cold weather.  Other times I just run in capris because I'm tough like that.  Actually that's not true at all, I'm usually shivering I'm so cold.

4. Cast iron skillet

I've been eyeing these (along with everything else in the store) at Bed, Bath, & Beyond.  I've been trying to replace some of my cheaper cookware and utensils with good quality pieces and this pan is perfect.  I also like that it is so heavy-duty and that you can't scratch any Teflon-coating off - like several of my other pans.

I asked my grandma for this because she likes really specific ideas.

5.  A French press

Another thing from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  I love browsing in that store.

I think French presses are so cool and even though I only have coffee 1 or 2 times per week, I still want one of these.  My little 4-cup CoffeMate brewer from Goodwill doesn't make that great of coffee.

6. Vitamix

I didn't even ask anyone for this because they are so ridiculously expensive.  But I'm about 80% convinced that this is what Matt got me for Christmas. I asked him like a million times for a triathlon bike, but he thought it was ridiculous to spend $1500 on me.  For the record, I thought it was ridiculous too, but I thought it was worth a shot to ask.

Lest you think I am a spoiled brat, I realize this list is quite extensive and don't really believe I will be getting all of these things for Christmas.  

What's on your Christmas/holiday wish list?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

December Goals

November seemed like such a promising month for me.  The weather started off so beautifully and then it cold and then warm again and then freezing.  And now it's December and we had a few 60 degree days.  I started off very strong with my goals-yoga-ing, running, and cleaning like a real go-getter.  And then came Thanksgiving and work got really busy (I feel like I've mentioned this a couple thousand times already), and the goal getting went downhill quickly. 

Here's how the goals went down.

Goal 1.  Do yoga once a week.  2 out of 4 

When I am most busy and stressed, yoga is probably one of the most helpful things I can do, unfortunately that's also when it is hardest to squeeze in a class.  Most classes at my gym start at 6:15, which is fine for a normal week because I can still work till 5:30 and make the class.  But when I was still at work at 6 pm, it meant no yoga.  I did try out a new instructor and really enjoyed her teaching so I hope to keep making yoga a priority in my workout schedule.  

Goal 2. Follow a cleaning schedule.  Good, then very bad.

The schedule I was supposed to follow was very helpful.  And early on in the month, I had amazing results.  All I did was set the timer for 20 minutes and once it went off, I could stop cleaning.  It made a big difference in the day to day appearance of my apartment.  But I tend to lack motivation to clean after I get home at night and once I was out of the habit, the mess came right back.  

Goal 3. Keep a gratitude journal.  Fail.

This just never happened.  I didn't start at the beginning of the month and then I just let it go.  I will be repeating this goal for December.  

Goal 4. Run three times a week.  Check!

Finally, a goal I met!  With the sun coming up later and later each day, most of my runs have been on the treadmill (I don't have any running in the dark safety clothing yet).  I'm not a huge fan of the treadmill, but it is forcing me to run at a more consistent pace.  I've still been getting outside once on the weekends, for my "long" runs.  The weather has been pretty gorgeous so running has been fun.  I have a feeling I won't enjoy running outside as much when it's freezing.   

I wanted to say that I'm not really sure if December goals can go much worse than November goals, but I shouldn't say that.  With the holidays and the many holiday parties and Christmas celebrations Matt and I will have to attend, the goals could just not happen.  So as to not set myself up for failure this month, I am setting goals I think are achievable given the circumstances.

Goal 1.  Keep a gratitude journal.

I told you I was repeating this.  Christmas and the holiday season have a special ability to stress me out.  I tend to worry too much about finding a special and meaningful gift for each person and then I leave too much gift buying till the very last minute. Then I am just irritable and not thankful.  

I hope this will help me reflect on each day and keep a more positive outlook overall.

Goal 2. Make Christmas cards.

I came up with this really funny idea for Christmas cards two years ago, but have never followed through on making them.  I feel like it might be a little strange for me to send out Christmas cards just from me.  But I will probably be sending them only to friends (and not family) so they already know I'm weird.  Also, I think it would be even weirder if I sent out Christmas cards with just Matt and I.  I know some other couples do that, but that is just not us.  

Goal 3. Finish at least one craft project.

This is a conundrum I find myself in often-several partially completed projects strewn about around the apartment and neglected.  I lose interest in one project and I pick up another.  Then I become more interested in watching 100 episodes on Netflix than any of the projects.  It's time to wrap up some old projects so I can start some new ones in the new year.

Goal 4. Clean off dining room table.

Oh look, another cleaning goal.  This table is the catch all for almost everything I bring in the door.  And I hardly ever eat at the table.  Important papers need to be filed away and non-important junk needs to be tossed.  This way I can invite my friend over for dinner and not hide all the extra papers by putting them on a chair.  (I feel like I am turning into my mother because her dining room table is piled with papers as well.)

That's all the goals for December!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Schiller Chiller 10K Race Report

Another three weeks has gone by in the blink of an eye and without a whisper from me here on the blog.  What can I say? Work has been majorly kicking my behind.  Fortunately, I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But for the project I am working on, I foresee many future busy periods.  A little break will be nice though!

This weekend I ran another race.  The race was hosted by the same group that put on the Thriller in Schiller that I ran at the end of October--Muddy Monk.  Trail races are a completely different beast than road races.  The feel overall is much more relaxed (although I am never super serious at either).  I don't even know how people run fast on trails since I spent 85% of the race with my eyes on the ground and the other 15% of the time I am watching out for low hanging trees!  This might also be because I am clumsy and roll ankles like it's my job.

I showed up at Schiller Woods about 40 minutes prior to the race and breezed through packet pick-up.  The $30 registration (cheap!) included a cotton long-sleeve tee, a mug, and a shot glass. 

It was a little bit chilly so I went back to my car to warm up for about 10 minutes.  I knew I would heat up really fast once I started running so I didn't want to wear too many clothes.  About 20 minutes before the race, I headed back out to the start area to meet up with some other bloggers including a couple of new-to-me faces! 

From L to R: Kelsey, me, Charlyn, Kim, Queenie, Erin, Lindsay, and Kim
Photo Courtesy of Kim 

The 10k started at 10 am and Kim, Erin, Lindsay and I ran together.  This race was less "technical" than the Thriller 5k (that's the fancy word the experienced trail racers are using, I would say it was less "traily" but alas, that isn't a word.  In other words, there were less fallen trees to climb over or under).  We did cross under a very muddy bridge twice, but other than that nothing crazy.

I think we were running at about a 10 min/mile pace and that was comfortable to me.  I did notice that my calves and the rest of my lower legs and feet seem more tired than I normally experience on these trail runs.  I'm guessing it is from the very varied terrain instead of the flat road that I usually run on.  

By about mile 3, I started to get warm and tried to push up my sleeves.  It really didn't do much good.  I wish I would have worn less clothing, but it always hard for me to gauge what I need to wear.  

Miles 3 and 4 were super close together and, as it turned out, the trail was mismarked and we missed a half mile out and back section there.  I was wishing I had just run the 4 minute mile I've always dreamed off. 

The four of us crossed the finish line in about 56:45 (my official time was 56:53.9).  Due to that missed out-and-back the 10k ended up being more like 5.2 miles.  

We stuck around the finish line to watch Kelsey and Kim finish.

At the end of the race, there was free hot chocolate, coffee, and chili.  Due to the great weather on Saturday, many people stuck around following the race and so the lines were long.  I wasn't super hungry so I just munched on a few pretzels before calling it a day. I had book club to get to that afternoon so I couldn't stick around too long anyway.

Overall it was a great race and I hope to do more Muddy Monk trail races in 2013.  For the price, the swag is excellent and it's nice to run a race every once in a while when you are running alone 95% of the time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

quinoa stuffed mushrooms

I've had this post in my draft folder for a few weeks now and I'm choosing to post it today.  I have several posts to write, but every night when I go home I either get sucked into reading Wicked or crocheting.  I recently started a new crochet project and I get so excited to work on it.  Crocheting is very relaxing and I can do it while I watch tv! Yes, I know, my life is so exciting.

I made these stuffed mushrooms to take to the blogger book club back in October.

Quinoa Stuffed Mushrooms

gluten free, vegan

adapted from this recipe from Queen of Quinoa

2 small containers white button mushrooms
1/3 cup cooked black quinoa
1/3 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 leaves sage, finely chopped
small pile oregano (very exact measurement here)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
few slices sharp cheese (I used a cave aged mellage)

Saute onion, garlic, and bell pepper in olive oil till they just start to brown.  Remove from heat and add quinoa, sage, oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.

Remove stems from mushrooms and clean with a damp paper towel.  Spoon quinoa mixture into mushrooms and place onto baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  Place thin slices of cheese onto tops of mushrooms and return to oven for 5 minutes (or omit for vegan).  Serve.  

These make a great appetizer and the red pepper gives them a great spiciness.

I love all things with mushrooms and these were no exception.  I actually have another recipe for stuffed mushrooms that includes things like cream cheese and crab and they are mouthwatering, but this version is a little more healthy.

And because I'm an enginerd I wanted to share these pictures.

Oak Park is home to the largest collection of houses and buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Frank Lloyd Wright is know for his unique and eclectic designs and is recognized as one of the greatest twentieth century architects.

I've seen a few Wright houses before in Wisconsin including the Taliesin in Spring Green. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fun Facts Friday

1.  It's almost 10 pm on a Friday night and I'm waiting for my boyfriend to arrive for the weekend.  I think it's been at least three months since the last time he was here!

2.  It's been a crazy work week for me.  I have two projects that are really keeping me busy.  I don't mind being busy but I was definitely ready for the end of the day today!

3. I've had some more random search terms this week
  • how to answer annoying wedding question (yes, you need this)
  • arg haircut (arg, that's what most people think after I give them a haircut)
  • diet mountain dew pet water dish (ummmm)
  • ragnar bathroom (ah, the lovely port-o-potty)
  • sexy triathlon girl (gee, thanks?)
  • toe hole slippers  (I have those)
4.  I finally have all my clocks turned back.  It only took me 5 extra days.

5. Dear Hawkeyes, please play a respectable game tomorrow.  Thanks.

6. I ask the boyfriend what he wanted to make for us to eat this weekend and all he requested was oatmeal bake.  Much too easy to please.

7.  Matt's here. I must go. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November Goals

Happy Election Day! This is sad, but I am excited to celebrate the end of the elections because I am very tired of the commercials, radio ads, mailers, debates and discussions.  I am very thankful to live in a country where I have the right to vote, but ready to not hear any more political mumbo-jumbo for a while. (I am extra grateful that I don't live in a swing state because they have it much worse.)

I enjoyed a very busy weekend in Iowa, but now it's time to get back in the swing of things.  Time to wrap up October goals and tell you about my November goals.

Goal 1. Budget, budget, budget. And follow that budget.  CHECK!

I was able to plan out my budget and stay within the reigns of that budget.  Budgeting is not really much fun, but saving money for a ski trip is a longer term goal for me right now.  I still allowed myself money to spend on shopping and fun things but  paid much more attention to what I was spending.  

I'll try to do a post soon on how I budget!

Goal 2.  Try a new class at the gym.  CHECK!

I went to a new yoga class at my gym.  I really liked the instructor and format and I have already gone back.  In fact, I will be incorporating yoga into my November goals as well.  The class was so tough because I haven't done yoga for about 3 months now.  

Goal 3. Send cards to 4 friends.  Fail.

I only managed to send one card this month.  I bought another Halloween card but then forgot to send it. It's a little to late now. 

Goal 4. Try a new recipe.  CHECK!

I tried several new recipes this month including butternut squash gnocchi and a butternut squash soup from my leftover squash (similar to this recipe but I made it spicy with cayenne).  I also made quinoa stuffed mushrooms for book club (which I need to blog about) and a new queso dip recipe for my coworkers on Halloween. It was a busy cooking month in October and I'm hoping to continue this in November!

November Goals

Goal 1.  Do yoga once a week.  

I hope to continue going to the Monday night class that I went to the last two weeks.  I already attended my class for this week which included lots of hip openers (last week we focused on chest openers).  It seems like this class will offer a lot of variety which I like because I get bored with the same routine in yoga.  

I am hoping that yoga will help prevent injuries as increase my mileage for the marathon that I signed up for! (Yup, I did it!)

Goal 2. Follow a cleaning schedule.  

I'm choosing this schedule and hoping to avoid the "all day clean-a-thon" on Saturday. If I spend just 20 minutes a day tidying up and cleaning hopefully my apartment will get clean and stay clean.  I really like the idea of setting the timer. I did my first cleaning session last night for 20 minutes.  My apartment is still a bit of a mess, but I definitely made progress.   

Maybe, just maybe, I can keep my living room from looking like this all the time.

Goal 3. Keep a gratitude journal.

This is something I've been seeing on Facebook that people are doing for the month of November. Each day I will write down one thing that I am thankful for.  It will be good to reflect on the day and think of the many positives in my life.

Goal 4. Run three times a week.

Like I mentioned above, I signed up for a marathon in April.  My running has been a little sporadic lately because I've been enjoying other forms of exercise including Zumba and several Jillian Michael's DVDs.  I want to add running back in while keeping up with strength training to keep me strong and injury-free for the next training cycle!

I've been somewhat successfully recently with getting up before work and working out.  With the ending of daylight savings time, it is so dark by the time I leave work that I don't want to run outside.  I can easily fit in 3 miles in the morning when the sun comes up.  

Like this except with a lot more clothes because it's cold.
That's all the goals I have for the month of November.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Happenings

I have lots of random thoughts going through my mind today.   Therefore, I will be sharing them with you.

1. Happy Halloween! I hope you get to eat your favorite candy today! I want some Reese's!

2.  My apartment complex has a new unwelcome visitor.  A skunk.  I've seen him at least 5 times.  The last time I saw him was when I pulled into my parking spot and he was just hanging out between my car and the door.  So I had to hang out in my car to he moseyed about 30 ft away.  Then I sprinted to my door.  Thankfully it was raining and so he didn't hear me.

3.  Now every time I leave my apartment I try to look out the window to see if he is there.  I am so afraid of getting sprayed by a skunk!

4. My brother celebrated his 22nd on the 21st of October. Check out this awesome cake my mom and I made him.  (Okay, all I did was write the stuff on top)

5.  I going to sign up today for the Illinois Marathon and Half-Marathon in Champaign before the price increase at midnight.  I can't decide if I should sign up for the marathon or half-marathon.  And I can't believe I am typing this to all the internet, but I am thinking about doing a full Ironman in 2014 and would like to do a full marathon before then.

6. Someone tell me if I should sign up for the marathon.

7.  Okay somebody slap me.  I'm obviously loosing my mind according to number 5.

8.  I made queso dip for my coworkers.  It was really delicious and just a little bit spicy.  I don't think I've ever made queso before.  They think I'm like this really great cook/baker but all I did was throw a bunch of stuff together in a crock pot and loosely followed a recipe.

9.  I made some butternut squash gnocchi from this Iowa Girl Eat's recipe.  The dough was so sticky so I keep adding more and more flour then I ran out of white flour and had to switch to whole wheat.  I guess that's why mine turned out so brown compared to Kristin's bright orange ones?

Regardless, they were still pretty delicious.

10.  This is how you heat up a bun in your car.  Turn on the defrost.

It was nice and toasty after about 5 minutes.

11. Sending my thoughts and prayers to those on the East Coast and everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thriller in Schiller and the rest of Sunday

After book club on  Saturday I headed home to finish up my costume for the race in the morning.  The Thriller in Schiller was a 5k trail race in Schiller Woods.

Can you guess what my costume is?

A replacement referee!  Why yes, I am still a bit bitter about that poor call at the end of the Packers-Seahawks game.

I ran with a few of my new blogger friends - Lindsay, Kelsey, Emily, and Katie.  

Three coneheads and a runaway bride.  

Also, I held Katie's bouquet while she tied her shoe (or something like that I can't exactly remember) and she said I was her maid of honor.  Obviously I am now the best maid of honor ever! 

When I signed up for this race, I had no idea how much of a trail race it would be.  I ran the run portion of my first triathlon on a trail and so I expected a defined path through some trees.  But this was more of a random path through trees with leaves and branches on the running path.  We had to climb over several fallen trees crossing the path and go under lots of low hanging branches. 

We even had to cross a creek!

We ran as a group for the whole race but it was pretty slow near the obstacles.  We finished with the speed demon time of 37:10.  Record breaking! 

Even though it was different than I expected it was still a great race! There was a small number of runners which I always enjoy in a race and we got a great glass to add to my race glass collection.

I'm thinking about doing the Schiller Chiller in December now!  It will probably be freezing cold by then and the snow could add another exciting element to that race!

After the race, I headed back towards the northwest suburbs to meet Amy for a bike ride.  I've been reading Amy's blog for several months and we finally had the chance to meet up.  It was a little chilly for a bike ride, but once we were moving I wasn't too cold.  By the end my fingers and toes were a little numb, but I was glad I was able to squeeze in another ride before it's too cold for me to ride.  And it was great to finally meet Amy in person!  

Yay for new friends!

After the bike ride, I stopped by the library to pick up the next book for book club The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz.  I even managed to cast my early ballot for the upcoming election.  Now I can tell everyone on Facebook to not post anymore negative political statuses because I already voted.  If only I could figure out a way to get them to actually listen to me. 

This method didn't seem to work for me.

Darn.  This was my first time voting as an Illinois resident so that was exciting.  I will be very happy when the election is over, mostly so we can get back to normal commercials on tv.  I will encourage everyone to vote in the upcoming election! But that is as political as I will get here on the blog.  

Peace out.

Edited to add: Thanks to Lindsay, Kelsey and the Muddy Monk facebook page for the pictures 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Blogger Book Club October - Dark Places

This was the second month I was able to attend blogger book club and again I had a blast.  Diana hosted for October in Oak Park so I made the trek down there for the afternoon.  Oak Park seems like a great neighborhood and I saw a lot of people out walking and running on my drive through.

The food was delicious once again.  Some of my favorites were this great Butternut Squash and Cranberry Quinoa (made by Christina) and a Maple Butternut Squash & Apple Casserole (made by Jeni), but everything was else was delicious too.  

This month, we read Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.


Dark Places is a mystery thriller type of novel and towards the end definitely kept me on the edge of my seat.  Libby Day is the survivor of a murder that left her mother and two older sisters dead.  With the help of some convincing from the police and psychiatrist she fingers her older brother Ben, then age 15, as the murderer.  The story is told from the perspective of Libby 25 years after the murder along with Ben's and her mother's perspective from the day of the murder 25 years ago.  Ben and Patti (the mother) progress the story closer to the time of the murder while Libby digs up more information leading her closer to the truth of what happened that night.  With the help of the Kill Club (a group that researches unsolved murders), Libby hunts down people from her past to learn the full story of her life back then.

Gillian Flynn does an excellent job of foreshadowing without giving away the ending. I found myself saying as the book was concluding, "Oh that's why she mentioned XYZ there." The ending will definitely surprise and disturb you.  I wasn't a huge fan of the characters in this book, but I feel like that was part of the author's ploy.  The author definitely has a dark perspective and this is an unusual book to read in that aspect.  But I am looking forward to reading the author's other books, Sharp Objects and Gone Girl.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tomato Soup

My family was always a Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup kinda gang.  I'm not sure if we ever had the tomato soup version.  I vaguely remember someone complaining that tomato soup tasted like watered down ketchup.  If this one anyone in my family, it was most certainly my dad.

The first time I remember trying tomato soup was when I was babysitting at 13.  I really didn't even know how to make soup back then.  It was paired with grilled cheese.  Probably the most classic soup pairing ever. Campbell's, however, is less than impressive.  And I can understand how it would remind someone of watery ketchup.

Through the years, I've tried some much more tasty options.  Progresso makes a good version of tomato basil and MiaZa's had a great version.  But as with most things, none of these things compare with the homemade version.

I made this version about a week ago.  I froze half of the recipe and it still fed me four times! And it does perfectly pair with a gooey grilled cheese!

The ingredients list is a little long but it is very worth it.

The stars of the show are garden tomatoes stolen from my mom.  

The vegetables are all sauteed with a bit of olive oil.   

It took about 15 minutes to cook all of the vegetables since I had a lot.

Once the veggies are cooked down, add in some chicken broth to give the soup some flavor.

I used 8 cups of tomatoes that I had already boiled and removed the peels from.  

I also added in the rest of my sad looking basil that I pulled from plant.  While I was out there I also gathered some rosemary and oregano.  

Let all those spices marinate and simmer for 40 minutes.  

Now comes the tricky part. Pureeing the soup.  If you like your soup chunky, you could just leave it at this stage but I prefer my tomato soup smooth and creamy.  

Hot soup is hard to blend because it is creating a lot of steam and wants to pop the lid of the blender.  And threatens to splatter everywhere.  So start with a very small amount.  I used about 2 cups in my 8 cup blender.  I transferred my soup from the blender into another container to make sure all the soup went through the blender before transferring the pureed soup back into the pot.  

Tomato soup was splattering everywhere during this process, but it was still worth it.  

To give the soup a little more creaminess, I added about 1 cup of milk (almond because that is all I had).

Serve with a little cracked pepper and a gooey grilled cheese!

Make sure to refill your bowl at least once, minimum.  

Tomato Soup

1 leek
1 shallot
1/2 red onion
1 bell pepper
1 jalapeno
1 other hot pepper (I don't know what kind this is, my dad gave it to me!)
3 cloves garlic
Olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
8 cups tomatoes, boiled and peels removed
basil and herbs, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 cup milk or cream

Chop first 7 ingredients and add to large pot.  Add enough olive oil to saute.  Saute till vegetables begin to brown, about 15 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer approximately 40 minutes.  Puree soup and return to pot.  Add in milk or cream.

Serves 8.

Next time I make this I would also consider adding carrots and celery.  Carrots will add a nice sweetness and I enjoy the taste of celery in things.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Remember that time...[ahhh! my finger]

I hate writing titles of these posts because I don't want to give away the whole story but I need a title that is leading enough to remind me of the story when I'm looking at the titles later.  It's really hard to recall the memories I've already written about and which ones I haven't.  I should keep a list, and I did start one in fact, but then I misplaced it.  Figures.  So know every time I go to write one of these posts, I have to look back through my archives.

This memory is a great example of my over-reactive tendencies, but I swear it was still very traumatic.

Remember that time when...I was arguing with my mom in the kitchen about something petty.  Possibly the argument was about the fact that she was burning dinner or having cake for breakfast again.  Or something equally unimportant.  But really Mom, stop eating cake for breakfast.  

I get my very animated talking skills from my mom.  I know this because as we were heatedly discussing our issue she was waving her hands around trying to make her point.  And I was waving my hands around as well.  I was very unprepared for this argument though.

See my mom came prepared with a steak knife.  And like the saying, "Don't bring a knife to a gun fight", don't bring your hand to a knife fight.

As the conversation started picking up speed so did the knife waving.

And before I knew it, the knife was in my finger.  MY OWN MOM STABBED ME! I started freaking out and crying before I realized that the "stab" was more of a poke and the cut was only about an 1/8 inch wide. But that is beside the point, my own mother stabbed me!  The betrayal!

To this day, my brother and I still bring this up to my mom.

"Yeah, well, at least I didn't stab my own child."

Seriously, it was a traumatic experience.  I thought she cut my finger off.  But I'm happy to report that I have full functionality in my finger.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Weekend with my parents

Last weekend my parents came to visit.  It’s been quite a while since their last visit probably almost a year.  When I have visitors, I like to have some activities planned to keep us occupied and that way I get to go out and explore more of the area. 

Although my mom told me they would be arriving by 11, as in typical my mom fashion, they arrived almost an hour late.  Then she tried to blame it on my dad, of course I saw right through that.  We still had time to catch the tail end of the Arlington Heights farmer’s market.  We snacked on some muffins while we bought enough vegetables to feed me for a weeks (no really, there are still some remaining in my fridge). 

I had something planned for Sunday, but we were still looking for something to do on Saturday night.  After some internet searching and debating, I purchased the three of us tickets to an improv show at Laugh Out Loud Theater at Woodfield.  Since it was still pretty early in the afternoon, we headed out to do some shopping first.  My dad requested we go to Marshall’s because he needed new sweatshirts.  With hundreds of stores at our disposal and we chose to go to Marshall’s. I know.  But they have very affordable stuff and I honestly don’t care what I look like at work.  I got an awesome pair of tall brown boots!  We still had some time to waste, so we walked around Woodfield Mall for awhile.  Why is that place always so crowded?

The show we went to was entertaining.  Unfortunately we got tickets to the early show which is the “family friendly” show.  There were quite a few young kids attending so everything was kept very PG.  It was still funny and there was quite a bit of audience involvement.  I would definitely like to go back sometime to see the later show. 

Sunday was the big day to go to the Chicago Botanic Garden.  The weather turned out to be beautiful.  It was a little bit on the chilly side but the sun was shining and as long as we were walking, we stayed warm.

I took about 100 photos, but I won’t bore you with them all!  Although the gardens were gorgeous.  We spent several hours at the gardens and didn't even see all of the grounds.

In the fruit and vegetable garden area, they were hosting a Food Network cooking demonstration with Chef Nell Funk.  Nell made a great vegetable stew from lots of fresh produce she bought at the farmer’s market the day before.  The stew had a great bunch of vegetables including butternut squash, sweet potato, tomatoes, onions, and leeks, and was served over rice.  At the end of the presentation, we each received a sample and a canvas bag with several freebies-magazine, dish soap samples, and a coupon for a free Minute Rice.  I will definitely be trying out a version of this stew this fall. 
We walked around the fruit and vegetable gardens for a while after the presentation.  One of the great things about the garden was they had a lot of informational signs up about how to care for your own garden and interesting facts about the produce. 
Their gardens still some excellent looking produce including this ginormous tomato.
The fruit and vegetable gardens were one of my favorite gardens. 
We also walked through the waterfall gardens.  I’m unsure of how many waterfalls there were in total, but some of them were quite impressive.
I have a feeling that going to the Botanic Garden at different times of the year would result in a different experience each time as things come into and go out of season. 
The flowers were absolutely gorgeous and I enjoyed walking the grounds. 
I loved that many of the exhibits were educational in nature like this vertical garden.
My parents both said they enjoyed the gardens as well.
I can’t wait till I am able to go back and explore more of the exhibits.

It was getting pretty late in the afternoon and my parent’s were getting eager to get back on the road to get back home.  Apparently they don’t like my method of leaving super late and getting home at 11 pm and collapsing into bed without unpacking anything.  But we did squeeze in one last meal at Lou Malnati’s.  I really enjoy a Chicago style pizza but only ever enjoy it when I have company.  We ordered a medium pizza and a salad for the three of us and I had leftovers for two days.  Sweet!

It was a great weekend with great company.  I love having my parent’s visit and can’t wait till they come back again. 

Do you have any great activities for your visitors?

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