Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin', Get That Pasta Rollin'...

When I was growing up, my parents had a pasta maker that was, on occasion, hauled out.  I was entranced by all its shiny, silvery parts, and I knew that when it made its rare appearance on our kitchen counter, chances were good that the end result was going to be fettucine.  Which, in hindsight, probably helps explain my ardor for a truly delicious fettucine alfredo.
I've wanted a pasta attachment for Watson, my Kitchenaid mixer, for quite some time.  Actually, I want a shiny, silvery pasta maker of my own, but our kitchen is too small and crowded already, so we certainly don't have need for yet another gadget or gizmo, no matter how pretty and shiny it is (have I mentioned it was shiny?).  But we don't have a pasta maker or a pasta attachment.
That hasn't quelled my desire to try my hand at making my own pasta.
On Sunday, I got a wild hair and needed to make that pasta.  I had, the night before, made an homage version of my favorite childhood pizza, the Gay 90's Special from Dirty Dave's Pizza Parlor in Olympia, Washington (my hometown).  The combination of pepperoni, crumbled sausage, onions, and cashews is something I must have whenever I go back home; it's not negotiable, and usually it's our first stop when we roll into town.


My version was made with soprassata, since I couldn't find any pepperoni, crumbled Italian sausage (which, fortunately, was weak on the fennel), and of course the onions and cashews.  It was good, but I"m still working on the recipe before I can call it "perfected."
Anyway, this post isn't about the pizza.  The only reason I mention it is that I had a bunch of leftover sausage and soprassata (you try easily finding amounts of each that are appropriate for one homemade pizza; I dare you).  Since I'm trying my darndest to toss out as little food as possible, Sunday, as I baked my biscuits, sausage gravy (made with breakfast sausage, not the leftover Italian sausage), and multigrain bread, I was on a hunt to find a recipe that could use both.
At first, I thought I might head out and get some wonton wrappers and make ravioli.
But then, you know, lasagne.
I could make a bolognese with the leftover meats, which would actually be easy; the majority of the time spent making a bolognese is dedicated to the "simmer, stirring occasionally" part of the recipe, so I could do other things.

LIKE MAKE MY OWN PASTA.

I opted for the whole wheat version that is given in my Food and Wine Pasta cookbook (one of the three cookbooks my dad got me as I went off to college).  I got out the flours and the extra large eggs for which I made a special trip to the grocery store, took a deep breath, and got to work.
I sifted out the flour.
I made a well.
I cracked the eggs.
I poured the eggs into the well.
I mixed the flour in.
I kneaded.
I kneaded.
And I kneaded some more.
And all the while, my internal dialogue was going "Oh, s***, this dough is SO tough, how is it ever going to be pasta?  I'm going to have to go buy a box of pasta. Oh, s***!"
Bear in mind that I was kneading for 10, terrifying minutes.
As time went by, the dough became more workable, more elastic, and I began to breath a little easier.  I let it sit as I frantically ran to the store after realizing we were out of Parmesan.
When I got back, I threw a bed sheet over the kitchen table, floured it, and got to rolling.
I rolled and rolled and stretched and rolled and rolled and stretched.
I basically got an upper body workout between the kneading and the rolling, which is another benefit of this process.  Rest day, schmest day.
When the pasta was thin enough, I cut it into large-ish rectangles and triangle-like shapes and set them aside until it was time to boil, drain, assemble, and bake.

All rolled out and ready to boil
Y'all.  Make. Your. Own. Pasta.

Maybe not every time you want it (it probably won't be worth it on a Wednesday night when all you want is buttered noodles), but seriously, get out your rolling pin and just do it.
First of all, yes, it's time consuming, but it's actually easy.  Why was I so terrified?  It took two ingredients (OK, technically three since I used two types of flour) and an arm workout, and it was so, so... SO worth it.
Second, it tasted great.  I knew that everything would be OK when I boiled the noodles (for three whole minutes), and they smelled like...noodles.  I started getting confident when I drained and dried them and got set to make....this:

Layers of bechamel, bolognese, and Parmesan between those noodles
Of course, the true test was to actually taste the finished product.
The Husband went back for thirds.  THIRDS!!!!!!!  He sometimes gets seconds of whatever we're having, but it is a rare occasion that he goes back a third time, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't excited.  Basically, this is how I see that meal now:



But really, who wouldn't want thirds of this lasagne, loaded down with a garlic-infused bechamel instead of the standard ricotta and a bolognese instead of just "red sauce and meat."  Oh, and homemade noodles.  A bit thicker than they might have been if I'd been able to roll them through a pasta maker, they had a great chewiness and overall mouthfeel to them that was the best reward for making them instead of calling it in and buying a box.
This was the perfect lasagne.
And it made leftovers.



Lasagne con Ragu alla Bolognese
(adapted from Food and Wine)

For the bolognese:
  • 3 slices bacon or 3 oz pancetta, chopped*
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, chopped (I like to use 2)
  • 1 rib celery, chopped (optional; I prefer to leave it out)
  • 1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage (not in casings)
  • 1/2 pound other ground meat (I prefer chorizo or lamb for good flavor)**
  • 1 1/2 cup pinot grigio (or other dry white wine)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (you can also use chicken stock if you've got it, but I think that the vegetable stock gives the end product a better flavor)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup 2% or whole milk

For the noodles:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (if using a pasta maker/attachment, at 2 Tbsp to this amount)
  • 3/4 all-purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 extra large eggs

For the bechamel:

  • 6 Tbsp salted butter
  • 6 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 4 cups (1 quart) milk
  • 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For assembly:

  • 1 cup (or more) grated Parmesan cheese
*If you freeze your bacon/pancetta/soprassata for about ten minutes before chopping with a very sharp chef's knife, it will be a much easier process.
**I used leftover soprassata, and I used whatever I had leftover, which was not equal to 1/2pound.  However, I think that would probably be overpowering, flavor-wise.

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, cook the bacon/pancetta over medium-high heat until it starts to crisp.  Remove and discard all but 2 Tbsp of the fat.
Add the butter and olive oil to the pan over moderately low heat.  Once the butter has melted, add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery (if using) and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft.  Add the pancetta back in along with the sausage and our ground meat of choice (even if you are subbing in something like the soprassata that I used).  Cook, breaking up the meat, until browned.  Add the wine; increase heat to moderately high and simmer until nearly all the liquid has evaporated.  Stir in the stock and salt; lower heat to barely simmering and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost all the liquid has evaporated (this will take a few hours if done correctly; use that "free time" to prep the pasta, etc., as well as to grab a snack and perhaps a glass of the wine you used in the cooking).  Stir in the tomato paste, milk, nutmeg, and pepper, and simmer for another 15 minutes.  Alternately, you can cover the pot and turn the heat to low to keep it on the stove until you need it.

In a large bowl, sift the flours together and make a large well in the center.  Whisk the eggs together and pour into the well.  With a fork or your clean hands, gradually work the flour into the eggs.  Once you have the semblance of a single mass, turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead the dough, sprinkling with more all-purpose flour if it gets sticky, until it forms a smooth, elastic ball (this takes about 10 minutes).  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and set aside for 10-15 minutes to allow the gluten to relax (this makes it easier to roll out; if you're using a pasta machine, you can skip this step and roll it immediately).
Turn the dough out onto a large floured surface (I covered my kitchen table with a clean bed sheet and floured that, since I didn't have a surface that was truly large enough for my needs - then I just tossed the sheet into the wash).  You can cut it into pieces to work a smaller piece at a time, if you want.
Roll the dough with a long, narrow rolling pin in a smooth, back and forth motion, giving the dough a quarter turn after every couple of rolls.
Now, ideally, you'll also stretch the dough every so often, starting when it's 1/4-inch thick.  You do this by wrapping the top quarter of the dough over the rolling pin, holding it securely with one hand.  Then, with your other hand, hold the bottom of the dough in place while you stretch it away from you.  Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat 7 times.  I was terrified of this and didn't stretch my dough as much as I should have.
Repeat the process of rolling and stretching twice more, until your dough is about 1/16-inch thick.  The litmus test is that you should be able to see your hand through the dough (I was still scared I'd rip the dough, so mine wasn't quite as thin).  
Cut the dough into large rectangles (I made a few triangles and random quadrilaterals around the edges).  Put them on a baking sheet dusted with flour until ready to boil.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter, with the crushed garlic, over moderate heat.  Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for about 1 minute.  Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, still whisking constantly.  Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Remove the garlic before using (or, if you're lazy like me, just leave it in - someone will get a tasty surprise, like an edible, garlicky king's cake treat).

Boil a large pot of heavily salted water (Mario Batali's advice is to use water that "tastes like the sea"), and cook the pasta until almost tender, about 3 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water (usually you don't drain pasta, but since we are making lasagne, all my resources say yes) and dry on tea towels (or paper towels).

Preheat your oven to 350°.  Lightly oil (use olive oil) a 9X13" baking dish.  Ladle 1/2 cup bechamel over the bottom of the dish.  Lay several sheets of the cooked noodles, overlapping slightly, over the sauce.  Spread a 1/4 of the remaining bechamel on the pasta.  Top this with 1/2 of the bolognese and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.  Repeat these layers.  On the top of the last layer of pasta, pour the remaining bechamel and the remaining Parmesan.  Bake until bubbly and starting to brown, about 40 minutes.
Let the lasagne rest for about 25 minutes before cutting into squares and devouring.  Yes, that's torturous, but this is going to be hot, and you don't want all your carefully prepared layers to go flying all over the place.


The whole process is time consuming, so it's true that for a weeknight, I probably wouldn't go to all this effort, but for a great Sunday supper or when company comes over, I have a feeling that I'll be going the distance.

Have you ever made your own pasta?

Friday, January 25, 2013

When It Gets Cold in Arizona, Make Arizona Mountain Soup

It actually does get cold in Arizona.  Many people don't realize that we have higher elevations (as a Washington State native, I just can't call them mountains, though) that host skiing and other delightful winter activities, and in the winter months, the temperatures up there get downright frigid.
But last week, it was cold all over the state, and I'm not exaggerating; the highs barely hovered in the low 40s, and at night, we dropped into the mid-20s.  Signs that it was colder than usual were all around us:
  • Rose bushes were covered with sleeping bags.
  • Scarves were seen all over town.
  • Rarely-used heat seaters were toasting buns all over the Valley.
  • Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's were beset by panicked citizens clamoring over the last pair of thermal undies.
OK, maybe that last part wasn't real, but I kind of like to imagine people, shivering in their heaviest sweatshirt, clearing out the racks of long johns.

What I do know actually happened is that in Casa de Philistines, we were going to need soup.  Lots of it.  It would warm us up at dinner time, and the making of it would keep the kitchen nice and toasty as well.  So Soup Week came at the most perfect time for us, and I reveled in the joy that was a Dutch oven on a hot burner.


I found the recipe for Arizona Mountain Soup while I was searching for an "Arizona style" soup online.  I thought it might be fun to focus my Soup Week contribution on something local.  Unfortunately, while a fairly standard recipe can be found all over the internet, I can't find any information as to why it's called Arizona Mountain Soup or how it originated.
I'm horribly disappointed.
I like to imagine that this is a "cowboy" or "wild west" version of minestrone, like some Italian immigrants who came to make their fortune in the west years back were inspired by the southwestern tastes and threw them into the campfire pot.
Yep, I know - I can spin quite a fanciful yarn, but I digress.
This soup beat away the chills easily.  I decided to healthify it a touch and add some more fresh vegetables to the original recipe, since why just use onions when you can have meeruhpwa merepoi mirepoix?
(OK, French-speaking people, how do you even get that spelling?  I'm gonna have to go all phonetically logical German on y'all - Suppengr├╝n - BOOM)


Most Arizona Mountain Soup recipes also call for dried beans that you soak before cooking.  Y'all, I have a confession: I can NOT cook dried beans to save my life.  Yes.  Yes, I know.  This should be the simplest thing.  But I...just fail.  So I used canned beans.  And I'm OK with that.  For now.
It was fantastic with a side of homemade cornbread, by the way.

Arizona Mountain Soup

  • 2 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed, OR 1 1/4 cups dried pinto beans
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped*
  • 1 (or 2) onions, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3-4 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (since I don't eat chicken, I used homemade veggie stock)
  • 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (if you like a little bite, or more, if you like more of a bite)

If using dried beans, soak overnight in 3 cups water.  Without draining, simmer until the beans are tender (about 2 hours).
In a large Dutch oven, cook bacon until nearly crisp.  Add onions, garlic, carrots, and celery and cook until the veggies are tender.  Stir in tomatoes, rice, beans, and spices.  Add in the stock and an additional 2 cups water (or more, should you need it - heck, I used a little bit half a bottle of wine that I had lying around).  Bring to boiling and then simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Season to taste before serving with hot cornbread (which, just as a reminder, MUST be made in a cast iron skillet).

*To make the bacon easier to cut, freeze slightly for a little bit before chopping to bits.


This is a soup that freezes really well, and I have a quart of it taking up some valuable real estate in the freezer, so even though the temperatures have gotten tolerable once again, I may have to haul it out this weekend after our "nature walk" with HRH.

Please take some time to check out the other amazing soup recipes we have going on this week; there is something for everyone, and I am somewhat sad that Arizona is already starting to leave soup season in the rearview mirror.


And tomorrow (Saturday) come back to see these three wonderful recipes, too:


There you have it - creamy soups, broth soups, sick soups, cold soups, dinner soups, dessert soups, soups for every occasion and every palate.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go turn on the air conditioning so I can have an excuse to put up another batch of one of these amazing ladies' soups right now!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Back Crackin' Good Time

I saw the chiropractor a week ago.
I had never had an adjustment, but considering my shins, my knees, and my back were all killing me (oy), I figured that my body was more out of whack than that crooked man who lived in a crooked house with his crooked cat.  Dr. Bennett could only help get me standing tall (and upright) again.
The session was fascinating.
She asked me a great deal of questions about my running, my posture, my job (regarding the fact that I sit at a computer all day), whether I pronate or supinate (I pronate) and what corrective measures I have or have not taken.  She asked me about stretching and yoga.  She asked about how I sleep with my apnea mask (I should sleep on my back, but I'm still a stomach sleeper).
Fun fact: a chiropractor practices chiropractic; the noun is spelled the same as the adjective.
Not surprisingly, I needed lots of adjusting - my lower back, my upper back, my ankles, my pelvis, and everywhere else were adjusted back into the right positions.  It didn't hurt, and it sounded just like I was cracking all my knuckles at the same time.
After Dr. Bennett was finished, I felt great - looser, a little taller, and just... better.
Her recommendation was that I look at my gait during my next run and to take some epsom salt baths on evenings after I run to help reduce inflammation and improve recovery.
More relaxing baths?  Not a problem.
She further recommended a series of gentle stretches that are more like yoga exercises, designed to stretch the entire fascial system.  Way better than the traditional "stretch one muscle at a time" thing that we all did in high school track.
Mental note: before stretching after my next run, vacuum before stretching; there is dog fur EVERYWHERE.
Even though I felt great immediately after the session, I did have some soreness the next day, which is normal, considering I've been holding myself one - wrong - way, and now I'm back to holding myself properly.  An epsom salt bath - the doctor ordered it, after all - felt soooooo good.
So on Saturday, once it warmed up (seriously; it's been freezing here in the Valley of the Sun), Zooey and I stepped off for a light weekend run to see how the shins - and the rest of my body - were faring.
My gait felt MUCH more natural.  I know now that I'd been overcorrecting somehow, probably to try to keep the shin pain from becoming worse, which only made it...worse.  I had no pain, and even though we took it really easy, I am excited to start running more miles each week now that I'm healed.
I have a follow-up appointment with Dr. Bennett this week, and then I'll look to incorporate monthly adjustments into my regular routine as a part of preventive maintenance.
Now, my husband is suspicious of chiropractors, to say the least.  He seems to have them filed in the same category as snake oil salesmen.  It's not that he thinks they can't help, but he sees going to the doctor - any doctor, really - as a means to a specific end.  Get a sinus infection? Go get antibiotics.  Break your ankle?  Go get a cast.  In his mind, doctors are supposed to cure whatever ails you.  So he considers getting adjusted regularly something that is more of a scam than actual treatment.
However, I really don't see it that way.  I sit all day, and sometimes I slouch.  I don't always have the best posture, I wear high heels from time to time, and I don't sleep in a very proper position.  I will likely need to be adjusted fairly regularly.  Further, proper adjustment can keep me in better running form and better overall health, so I'm definitely a fan.  In my mind, getting adjusted regularly, like taking vitamins and eating my greens, can be a way to keep Bad, Icky Things like the flu and injuries at bay.
Now, if only I could find a massage therapist who also took my insurance.

Monday, January 7, 2013

My Monday Motivation - January 7

With an injury, I am even more acutely aware of the fact that I'm never going to pace the likes of Tika Gelana (2012 Olympics gold medal in the marathon).

Original source

And I'm OK with that.  I just want to get back out there.
I've got two slow miles planned for tomorrow to test out the shins (as well as my back, which I tweaked the other day).

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Eat it or Starve: Two Meltdowns for the Price of One

Despite my best efforts, HRH has steadfastly refused to expand her palate much further than allowing her dad to put butter on her toast.  Peanut butter is, apparently, the Devil.  Pomegranates, while interesting and acceptable in kefir form, are "sour" and "yucky."  Cheese is no longer en vogue, although yogurt has once again become the new black.  It's a cyclical fashion world we live in.
Her new favorite thing to do when resisting "go" food is to say "I want something from the pantry."
This is preschooler code for "I want a piece of chocolate that I know is in the pantry."
I pretend not to know the code.
"Would you like Craisins?"
"No."
"Would you like crackers?"
"No."
"Would you like spaghetti?"
"No." (I know this is going to be the answer - spaghetti went out of fashion with cheese)
"Would you like some peanuts?" (she'll still eat peanuts if they are not yet in butter form)
"No."
"Well, what from the pantry would you like?"
"I don't know."
She knows.
A few nights ago I gave HRH some vegetable soup (which I was also having), and you'd have thought I spiked it with equal parts Bubonic plague, arsenic, and dog poop, based on her outrage at having such swill placed in front of her.
She went to bed without formally eating dinner, one of what I foresee as only one of many peaceful protests in which she will likely participate over the course of her life; she is especially gifted, even at a young age, at the "go limp when they pick you up to arrest you put you in time out" move.
Move over, Hanoi Jane.

HRH has made some resolutions herself this year, although she isn't totally cognizant of The Big Plan around which these resolutions revolve.
OK, actually, she doesn't know she's made these resolutions.
OK, I made these resolutions for her.
About her.
Whatever.  This is what she is going to do this year:
  • Unless we have something for dinner that is above 900 on the Scoville scale, all three of us are having some of our main course plated in front of us.  For a while, I tried hard to get her to eat ANYTHING without thinking the consequences of what modeling "you get to eat this, and we get to eat something completely different" would do when we finally present her with "completely different."
  • She doesn't have to eat it, but that's all she's getting (this is a continuation of Eat it or Starve; it's Eat it or Starve 2.0).
  • Momma is taking note of when snack times and meal times are at school, and they will be copied at home so that the routine is more consistent each day rather than on school and then non-school days.
  • And finally, she's learning how to dress and undress herself fully.
That last one isn't really related, but it is, if only in my head (don't try to make sense of it up in there, gang; not even leaving a trail of breadcrumbs is going to keep this ship from going off the wheels faster than you can say "mixed metaphors").
We've had more than our fair share of food tantrums of late, including the "I'm hungry for something from the pantry" banshee jam session in our kitchen this afternoon.
But we have also had plenty of "I can't do it" meltdowns that have been wholly unexpected, mostly because the Baby Center emails I continue to get have basically guaranteed that all children HRH's age ALWAYS want to "do it myself."
Apparently, in HRH's case, this desire does not extend to shirts or anything with buttons.
Bath time came and went tonight with nary a splash to be had because of this shirt taking off business.  She screamed.
I smiled and repeated myself.
She screamed some more.
I smiled again and repeated myself some more.
Teachers are well-versed in the "broken record" form of classroom management.
Works for your own kids, too, although they tend to be a little a lot exponentially more resistant to any sort of inclination toward following direction when all riled up.
Thirty minutes after we began the clothes taking off process, it was finally complete.
Unfortunately, the time for the bath had expired, which triggered another round of tears, but this time I got a full moon from the now-naked writhing-on-the-floor head-spinning-and-pea-soup-spewing Devil child.

My own patience has been tested with HRH's reserved palate as well as her recent behavior, which is anything but gracious and patient.  When she wants something, whether it be chocolate or to play a game on my iPad, she wants it now, and regardless of the time or the reason (like I need a reason to keep my iPad to myself), if the answer is "no," there is ugliness.  I want my child to be kind, to be patient, to be a listener, to know that the world is greater than herself.  This year might be filled with some tough lessons (the chocolate in the pantry is probably going to disappear this week, and I mean in the trash, not down my maw), but it's my hope that she can be that gracious, patient soul who not only eats what she is offered but is willing to wait her turn on the iPad.
And, for heaven's sake, take of her own shirt.

Parents, what challenges do you face in encouraging your child(ren) to try new foods?
What behaviors are you trying to promote, and which ones are you trying to discourage?
Non-parents,  how do you plan to promote good eating and good behavior?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

More Ice, Please

My shins hurt.
I've been resting since a lame two-mile run on Wednesday, during which my anterior tibialis (outer shin) muscles, had they been people, would have been screaming bloody murder and on fire.
Ouch.
So, I've been resting my body, doing lots (and lots) of foam rolling, stretching, and icing.  I'm also working on tracking down a chiropractor as well as a new family doctor (seeing as mine retired last year).  I had thought I found one chiro, but they are "out of network" for my insurance plan, and their use of thew word excellent to describe their cash rates had me wondering if the woman with whom I spoke knew what the word actually means.
Of course, this isn't really the "more" I'd been hoping for in 2013, but if I do want to run more miles this year, I have to be cognizant of my body's aches, pains, and twinges and to be take care of myself so that I can log those miles.  I took plenty of time off in 2012, so a week right now won't derail that plan, and I am optimistic that all I needed was a little rest.
The good news is that since I've been spending a little more time sitting, legs elevated and immobilized by the free Similac ice packs we got at the hospital when HRH was born (they offered us formula, too, but we only took what we figured would be useful), I've been able to find some races that I want to run - including, possibly, my first trail race - and some events that I think would be great family outings for us.  I even bought a planner that I've color-coded to make sure that proper planning can be done in order that I do get more out of this year.
At the end of this week, hopefully my legs will be rejuvinated, and I'll have started plotting out some specific training in that planner in order that my goal continues to be attainable.
Also, one of the family events I have is doing an animal feeding at the zoo, so I need my legs to be in top shape in case the elephants decide to charge.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

More

More is officially my Word of 2013.

Not in the traditional American "earn more, get more, buy more, have more" mindset.  But sometimes, more is better.

I'll be using more in terms of sentence formulas in order to achieve a few SMART goals I have set for myself.  This brings together my love of diagramming sentences (yes, really) with the ever-popular concept of improvement.
SMART goals are appropriate for any time, and they are highly beneficial in the professional world.  I used to have students, as a part of their individualized learning plans, create SMART goals so that they would have a plan of attack from freshman year through senior year.  Even if their larger objectives (college of choice, major, job, etc.) changed in those four years, they could take steps to graduate successfully.
In the interest of attempting to complete Twelve for 12, I couldn't put these into effect until today.  Yes, it's kind of like a new year's resolution.  But look at it this way, too: today's Tuesday, and it's time to start SMART.  Now.


Goal #1
[verb] + more + [noun]  --  run more miles

I ran 700.4 miles in 2012.  To put it simply, I want to run more miles than that this year.

SMART Criteria
Specific: Mileage must be > 700.4
Measurable: This one's easy - I'll measure it by miles logged, using my favorite iPhone apps.
Attainable: - Hell yeah - if I could increase my miles by over 50% in 2012 from 2011, of course I can do even 10% more this year!  I need to obtain a calendar to plan out my training and events for the year - it's easier when I can see it.
Relevant: Running is what I can do for my health without a gym or trainer and within my schedule of working and being a mom.
Time Frame: My firm deadline is December 31, 2012.


Goal #2
[verb] + more + [noun] + [adjective phrase]  --  spend more time with family

This is kind of intangible, which generally isn't the best type of goal to set.  However, with The Husband's work schedule being what it is, this is something that we need to do.


SMART Criteria
Specific: Time spent should be away from the TV but can include activities at home or away from home.  While some occasions can and should include other family members and friends, several should also just be the three of us.
Measurable: How much? Minimum one weekend day a month of "fun things."  
Attainable: - This will require communication and planning so that time can be spent joyfully.
Relevant: Even more than running, this is incredibly worthwhile.  It's not about the things we buy HRH; it's about the experiences we build.
Time Frame: The soft deadline is December 31, 2012, but by then it should be a habit and ongoing.



Goal #3
[verb] + more + [adverb phrase]  --  participate more in my favorite charities

There are several charitable organizations that are dear to my heart, and even more that are wonderful groups intent on making our world a better place for all of us.  The important thing to remember, though, is that even if I choose ONE charity to focus on, I am helping move the energy of our world in that positive direction.

SMART Criteria
Specific: There will be 4 groups to get my main attentions this year (of course, "things" come up, so I don't want to limit possibilities): 
  • United Blood Services - I'll continue donating blood this year, and I hope I can convince some of you to do so, too.
  • Colon Cancer Alliance - I'll fundraise for the Undy 5000 as well as with other events.
  • Arizona animal rescues - whether it's coonhounds, orange cats, or other critters, animals are part of our world, and they should not suffer at the hands of humans.
  • Heifer International - Improving life in the United States is important, but the world is smaller now, and staying within national boundaries are really ridiculous when it comes to doing good works.

Measurable: Each group will require some measurement:
  • United Blood Services - I need to donate a minimum of twice.
  • Colon Cancer Alliance - Last year I raised $550; this year I want to sent at least $750.
  • Arizona animal rescues - When I took Frye Guy, the little stray kitty who had been living in our backyard, to the Humane Society, I was beside myself.  I took him there because all the other rescues I contacted were all full.  Donations to AHS and the AZBARC, as well as advocacy for adopting pets from shelters and rescues, are a part of this.  I want to give the equivalent of a full sponsorship, $300.
  • Heifer International - rather than purchasing gifts for some friends and family, donations will be made in their name for this group's various projects.
Attainable: - This will require proper budgeting, and I'll need to rotate my focus throughout the year so that I'm not spread thin financially or time-wise.
Relevant: In the same way I want my daughter to know that Cinderella is "better" than her step-sisters because of her kindness rather than because of her beauty, I have a duty to share with her the responsibility of being a member of our community (local and global).
Time Frame: The soft deadline is December 31, 2012, but, like my previous goal, by then it should be a habit and ongoing.


Of course, in order to achieve these three goals, I'll have to do without buying and having more.  But in all reality, I don't need more stuff.  It's just stuff.  I can't take that stuff with me, but I can leave an imprint on the world when I give a little more instead of have more. 

How do you plan to achieve goals for the day, the year, or the decade?
What goals have you before yourself today?