Thursday, August 30, 2012

Not Strong Enough

I found myself having what I've come to call a "Dad moment" in the car as I took HRH to school this morning.  I managed to pull myself together so I didn't drive Ursula smack into the construction cones for all the tears, but it was touch and go for a bit.
It was the sudden realization that my dad would be turning 65 this October if he were still alive.  He'd be eligible for retirement, and he'd be able to take it easy and probably drive my mom up the wall if actually DID decide to retire, although I suspect that he'd have a tough go at not pestering people chewing the fat working all day.
And I can only imagine the fun of the retirement party.
What would be more fitting, then, than to have a sort of retirement party for Dad's birthday, right?  Such a great idea, although I'm not really sure what happens at retirement parties.  I suspect gifts like sock garters, sandal-sock combos, and velour track suits are given.
Celebrating my dad's birthday is something that I've always tried to focus on, rather than the day he died after a four-year battle with colon cancer.  The difficulty is that both happened in October.  As was my parents' wedding anniversary.  It's nearly impossible, then, to separate the days.  Death Day is far too close to Birth Day.  I've re-christened October as Sucky McSucksalot Month, as my heart is truly heavy during this month - in the span of 16 days, I mourn the loss of a beautiful life, I mourn a marriage that was torn asunder by that treacherous third party, and I mourn a birthday I can't truly celebrate anymore.
During a "Dad moment," I don't just cry.  My heart tightens up and tries to claw its way up my throat, which start burning like I just swallowed fire.  If I don't have something like controlling a moving vehicle to distract me, the rolling tears will turn into ugly girl crying - red, puffy eyes, snotty, running nose, and ragged breathing that can lead to hyperventilating if I'm not careful.  The grief that washes over me is powerful enough to knock me to my knees, where you'll still find me asking "WHY?"
I would love to honor my dad and the amazing work that he did in his 51 years.  I'd love to raise my glass and toast his accomplishments and tell him, even in just a symbolic gesture, that he can finally take a break and just relax for a bit.  Maybe he could finally finish the house remodeling project that he started when I was about HRH's age.
I'm just not sure I'm strong enough.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Push, Plank

I have finally accepted that the way the Hundred Pushups Challenge was designed is not for me.
My body doesn't jump from doing 72 to 80 pushups in two days.
And I'm OK with that.
I haven't thrown out the app or gotten rid of the pushups in my weekly routine.  In fact, I really like including them, I really really like how my arms are looking, and I really really REALLY like the fact that the program only expects users to use it three days a week.
So, I've been using the reset option to repeat days.
Like adding reps or weight to other cross training practices, it can take me a week or more to move from one Day to the next.  I try to maintain a balance of pushing myself along in the program with being careful not to overdo it.  I tend to spend 3-4 days per Day before moving to the next, using the final, max-out set as a guide.  Once I can max out at 2-4 pushups more than the minimum with only little exhaustion, I know it's time to move on.
Yet still I have no cheesy body-builder, flexing pose to offer you.

I can feel your disappointment from here.
To help you process your feelings, I have a snap of how many pushups I have done since I started the challenge.  I hope it's as soothing as it's intended to be.

But while I continue to incorporate my thrice-weekly pushups,  have taken another element out.
I have been intrigued with the #plakaday movement on Twitter for a while and finally decided to add it.  The concept, if you're not familiar, is to complete a plank for as long as you can, with the objective of being able to hold it longer and longer each time.
It's not that I didn't enjoy doing the daily planks.  In fact, I was able to feel a difference in my abs relatively quickly.
But unfortunately, I made the decision to participate in the hashtagging on Twitter, and that's where things went awry.
You see, someone calling himself (or herself) The Plank Police has taken it upon himself (or herself) to call people out when they miss a few days of hashtagging their planking progress on Twitter.
Thus far, I've been asked if I'm "hard core or hard snore" and if I'm "shooting planks or shooting blanks."
So basically, instead of saying, "Hi, I notice you haven't been hashtagging your plank progress every single day.  I'm sure you're busy with other things that are far more important in your life than a one-minute plank and which I have no business asking about, but I just wanted to make sure you're OK" (in 140 characters or less, of course), this person has determined that it's his (or her) job to call people out for not doing something that they aren't required to do in the first place.
Um, really?
So, two weeks was enough for me.  I called it quits on the #plankaday and its skewed definition of "support," although I am still using planks in my ab workouts throughout the week.
Call me spoiled.  The online running community is so amazingly supportive, whether I run 1 mile or 20, that I probably assumed (yes, shame on me!) that other online communities would be similar.
I'm certainly not going to apologize to this faceless Plank Police for not posting about a day or two (or seven, if that's the way it is) of my planks, but I can make the choice to discontinue an activity that is less than uplifting and helpful, which is exactly what I have done.
Thanks, but no thanks, #plankaday.  You can have your snark and pretend support.  For me, I'll stick with my #runchat, #runnerd, #runhers, and #RunningPackintheSky hashtags.  I support them, and they actually support me.  With, you know, kind words and encouragement instead of nagging.

What hashtags on Twitter do you follow?
What is a great source of support for you in your healthy efforts?

Afternoon Update:
Thanks to the retweets of a few of my Twitter running buddies, @PlankPolice (who is apparently NOT a bot) responded:

Thanks to my girls @MomonEmpty and @agirlrunner for their support here.  Hopefully we'll see some positive changes with the encouragement offered.  For now, I'm keeping planks in my cross training plan, but I'm not sure how much I'll tweet about them.

Sept 1 Update:
While Mike, one of the founders of #plankaday noted in his comment below that I have been removed from the Plank Police's list, I've since been mentioned in two tweets that are similar to above.  I will be sending a message once again requesting to be taken of the list.  Hopefully this time it will work.

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Motivational Mutt

In the past week or so, Zooey the Devil Dog has eaten (at least):
  1. Two 10-ounce Nathan hydration bottles
  2. My earbuds
  3. My headset that I use every single day for work
  4. A ballpoint pen
  5. Two 5-inch princess dolls
  6. Tissue from the bathroom trash bin
  7. Countless hair ties (I stopped counting after six)
She also attempted to eat up my Misto bottle, and she's started going after poor Holden a heck of a lot more; Sunday I had to hold her down in the alpha position for about 15 minutes before we were both calm.
Yes, she's a naughty, naughty hound dog, unable to control herself around gross, snotty tissues and miniature, rubbery-textured ball gowns.  I was always thankful for our Diaper Champ before HRH was potty trained, yet Zooey still gets her paws on the occasional training pant, usually getting caught with the trash bin lid stuck on her collar.

And yet I love that stupid mutt more than I ever could have imagined I would love a dog.

"Ai wuvs mai momma, and mai momma wuvs me!"
For all her foibles, Zooey is absolutely the sweetest creature, and I can't imagine a better first dog.  Except for the first 5 months we had her, when I was pregnant and didn't know what the heck I was doing with a puppy (we're pointing all fingers at The Husband for that timing), it's been relatively painless.

Even better - she will never say no to going for a run.
In fact, when my alarm goes off at 4:30, she is awake, ready, and panting excitedly by my side of the bed by 4:30:05.
Can you imagine her disappointment if I were to hit the snooze button?
And can you further imagine how badly I would feel were I to disappoint her so?

Regardless of how tired or sore or lazy I am at that point, once the alarm has gone off, there is no going back to sleep.  I did try that once.
Only once.
Sixty-plus pounds of black and tan coonhound jumping on you to see why you aren't getting up to go for a run is enough to teach anyone that lesson.
So, I get up and stagger to the bathroom to get dressed.  Zooey follows me to supervise and, if she's really lucky, snag a quick snack out of the trash bin.  I'm never dressed fast enough to please her, and those mornings when I fumble with my heart rate monitor are enough to drive her mad.

Why yoo iz not ready yet?
(Please, avert your eyes from the awesomeness of my legs
and ensemble; look at the adorbs pup instead)
Zooey greets every run with the excitement of a six-year-old on Christmas morning.  Once I start my GPS and take that first step, it's on like Donkey Kong, and I wish that I could explain to her the importance of the long, slow run on the weekend, as she doesn't seem to follow any training plan and just goes out 100% every single time.
My excitement level is usually more reserved, but I never EVER regret going for a run.  At this point in my running "career," by the time I'm lacing up my shoes, running isn't something I have to do; it's something I choose to do - because I love it.  And then it's on like Donkey Kong for both of us.
And I am so grateful to Zooey for that perspective.

Without her, it might be easy to say "tomorrow" every day for a week.

Without her, I could probably come up with every excuse in the book not to run.

Without her, I might hit that snooze button a few more times - and then run out of time to run.

Without her, I might not even be running.

Zooey gets me moving, and if you are looking for that motivation to move, a dog might be the just thing for you, too.
Oh, sure, my anecdotal evidence is one thing.  But several studies have proven that people with animals - dogs in particular - are more likely to get out the door and move.

After all, it's so much harder to come up with an excuse not to head out the door when this is what's looking back at you:

"What is this 'rest day' of which you speak?"
Running not your thing?  A pooch will be equally happy to join you for a daily walk or two.  Or is your mutt kind of a couch potato?  Good news - you can take a "doga" class (dog yoga) together!  There's even a DVD.
I'm considering getting it.

Of course, not everyone is in the position to get a dog.  They are commitments, emotional and financial commitments, and they require more attention than three runs a week.  If you do not think you can keep the commitment that you will need to make, please find another motivator.  But if you are ready for a canine pal, please look to adopt.  You'll not only have a new family member, but you'll be saving a life in the process.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Holy Crepe Week, Batman! Vegetarian Roasted Red Pepper, Mushroom, and Goat Cheese Crepes (Plus a Bonus!)

Well.  If you've been following the #CrepeWeek hashtag on Twitter, you'll know that it's been a whirlwind week round these parts.  We've got 12 bloggers, 4 cookbook giveaways, and one can't-miss crepe recipe.  Winning-er than winning, if I do say so myself.
If you haven't been in the reindeer games, let me bring you up to speed:
America's Test Kitchen has kindly worked with us this week as we all played with their fabulous, can't-possibly-screw-up-it's-that-easy crepe recipe (Don't believe me? Click the link to watch the video - you'll be sold.  And while you're there, I encourage you to sign up - ATK has amazing, time-tested recipes that you will want to use again and again).  All of us used this recipe as our base while filling the crepes with all sorts of amazingly drool-worthy recipes.  ATK has also provided four of their cookbooks as fabulous (Seriously - they are FABulous!  You want all of them!) giveaway items.
But more on the cookbooks in a minute.  First, the crepe recipes.
We paired a savory and sweet crepe each day, providing you with a litany of possible meal combinations.  It's up to you to determine which one you have to have today, and which one can wait until later today:
(Are you dying yet?  Because I am.)
Yes.  Our dinner parties would be EPIC.  It's pretty much a given that we need to all get together somewhere with a huge kitchen and basically throw down.  And then hibernate for 6 weeks while we recover from said food fest.

And don't forget to enter to win any or all (you want all) of these amazing books from America's Test Kitchen:
And that brings us to today.  I've paired up with our newbie, Ann at From My Sweetheart, and boy, oh boy, do we have some goodies for you.  Seriously.  I can't even begin to tell you about Anne's red velvet crepes with sweet mascarpone cream.
I screamed a little bit lot while typing that.  And maybe peed a little.  I'm pretty excited.  OK, a lot excited.  Actually, I had to be stopped from buying a plane ticket to go to her place for dessert.
This is clearly one of those Run-Don't-Walk-Eat-Dessert-First situations.  I mean, I like my crepes a whole lot, but we're talking red velvet here.  That's a completely different level.

Once you've snarfed those babies down, I've got a twist on one of my favorites.
When The Husband was finishing up his master's, he had a fellowship with the city of Washington, DC.  While I stayed in Michigan that last year, he was down there in a postage stamp sized apartment.  I love DC for all that it has to offer, especially the food.
Mere blocks from the apartment was L'Enfant's, a Belgian crepe bar.  We went there fairly regularly when I would come to visit, and the roasted red pepper and goat cheese was always a go-to when I wasn't sure what I wanted.  For my version, I beefed it up with a bit of mushroom.
And for heaven's sake, don't forget the Hoegaarden!

Roasted Red Pepper, Mushroom, and Herbed Goat Cheese Crepes
(serves 2)

  • 2 organic red peppers, washed, cut in half, and seeded
  • 2 Tbsp coconut milk (or organic whole milk)
  • Oregano (preferrably fresh), to taste)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 pound mushrooms, any variety, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, any variety (I prefer red onion here), chopped
  • 5 oz herbed goat cheese (or plain goat cheese that you have mixed with your favorite herbs)
  • Cooking oil (your choice)
Put your sweetie to work making those amazing ATK crepes.  The Husband is Official Crepe-Maker (hehe - crepe-maker!) in our house, so I took the opportunity to share a snap of him.

On a hot grill or under the broiler (or actually on a stovetop burner), roast the peppers, turning to ensure that the skin gets evenly charred. Remove and immediately place into a plastic zip-top bag; allow to rest for 5-10 minutes.  Remove peppers from the bag and peel off/discard the skins.
(Sorry I don't have a pic of this - my hands were covered in red pepper skin, and TH was chasing HRH around the house to keep her away from the kitchen)
Place 1 1/2 pepper along with the coconut milk, oregano, salt, pepper, and lime juice into a food processor and blend until  smooth.  Set aside, but keep warm (not hot).
Chop the remaining 1/2 pepper
In a large saute pan, heat 2 Tbsp of your favorite cooking oil (this recipe works well with canola, olive, and coconut oils) over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms, onions, and the remainder of the red pepper and saute until the mushrooms and soft and the onions are translucent.

Add mushroom mixture to a bowl where the goat cheese is already waiting and mix. thoroughly.  Adjust seasoning to taste.

To assemble crepes:
Spoon 2-3 Tbsp of the filling into each crepe and roll up.  Drizzle red pepper sauce over crepes just before serving.

For an added kick of pepper, you can add cayenne or hot sauce to the red pepper sauce and put inside the crepe with the filling as well as on top.  Which is what we did.  Because we go big.

Note - these crepes are not a looker - it's my experience that anything that is mixed with a soft cheese or  various gravies usually look blobby.  But don't you fret.  These babies might not be that photogenic, but they don't disappoint on the trip to Flavor Town.

Of course, in the Philistine house, we can't just have one kind of crepe.  Whenever we have crepes for dinner, we have to have them for dessert, too.  I'll be honest - that there were leftover crepes for my breakfast the next morning was a complete anomaly, one that I took measures to ensure would not repeat itself at lunchtime.

So here's a special bonus crepe recipe, just for you!

Pineapple Mango Crepes with Coconut Cream and Macadamia Nut Drizzle
(serves 2)

For the crepes:
  • 1 large red mango (or two yellow mangoes), roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup crushed pineapple (or chunk pineapple, chopped to be a bit smaller), drained
  • 2 Tbsp pineapple juice
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch or tapioca flour
Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and bring just to a boil.  Simmer 10 minutes and then remove from heat.  Allow to cool slightly, but the filling should remain warm.

For the coconut cream:
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (full fat only, please!)
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup, honey, or agave nectar
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch or tapioca flour
  • 1/3 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
  • 1/3 cup toasted coconut or dried coconut flakes
  • In a small saucepan, bring the coconut milk, syrup, and cornstarch just to a boil and reduce to simmer.  Simmer until the mixture has reduced and thickened; set aside so it stays warm.
To assemble crepes:
Add 3 Tbsp filling to each crepe and roll up.  Drizzle the top with the coconut cream, and then top with macadamia nuts and coconut.  Try to breathe between bites.

We are huge fans of tropical fruit in our house, and we especially liked this recipe because it was fruit sweet but not overly sweet.  By adding just a touch of sweetener to the coconut cream, we balanced out the acidic sweetness of the pineapple with the creaminess of the drizzle.
And then we licked the plates clean.

I hope that you enjoyed Crepe Week as much as we all did.  A huge thanks to America's Test Kitchen for helping us throw this party - the crepe recipe is amazing and easily adaptable, as you've seen, to both sweet and savory crepes that are perfect for any meal of the day!

***Disclaimer: all opinions expressed in this post are my own.  I was not remunerated by ATK for it in any way, but I just really like the show, the books, and the website, and I think you will, too!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Workout Wednesday - New Kicks!

Since Zooey ate that hydration bottle last Friday, I needed to get in to the running store ASAP to replace it.  Having one less ten-ounce bottle is a big deal when we're breaking heat records left and right around here (I'm literally praying for it to be 103 this weekend - that's insanity).
More importantly, it was also time to get new shoes as well.
Now, I haven't been a loyal shoe brand/style girl.  Until this go round.  After trying on the Nikes, the Brooks, and the Sauconys, I went with my old staple - the Saucony Guide 5 (a Runner's World editor's choice this past spring!)  I love my Brooks Cascadia for trail running and hiking, so I seriously considered them until I did a test run and had a little heel trouble.  I liked the Nikes, too, with their additional support for my pronating feet, and I am sure I would have enjoyed running in them.
But the Sauconys just felt right.
They fit my heel better than the Brooks did, they gave me plenty of toe room (no lost toenails, please!), and I know that I am not going to get injured by wearing them.  
This is kind of totally super exciting, because not only will I know what I want regardless of where I am when in need of a shoe, I can also look to ordering all the fun, fabulous colors that Saucony has to offer (hint - I totally want the yellow ones).
Mostly the shopping for pretty colors.
Of course, I feel like this is another step in becoming one of those "real" runners I admire so strongly.  It's kind of silly, and yes, I know that I'm a real runner because I run.  But the fact that I know my body - my feet - well enough to identify that the Sauconys were the right shoe for them makes me feel like I've hit another milestone, so when I say "I'm a runner," I have a kind of "proof" beyond my mileage and my compression sleeves.
They'll go great with my new hydration bottles.

Do you have an "it" running shoe?
When did you feel like a "real" runner?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hiking A Mountain With 300 of my Closest Friends

The temperatures in the Valley have been hitting record levels this last week, and right now, as I type at 10PM, it's still 107°.  

Cue the sound bite  of the (NSFW) weather report from Good Morning, Vietnam.

But when the opportunity to hike A Mountain in Tempe with Chris Powell from ABC's Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition came up on Saturday morning, I wasn't going to say no.
Chris is actually a native of the Valley, and one of the local radio stations has hosted a few of these A Mountain hikes already to roaring success.

But still, Zooey the Devil Dog, who ate one of my hydration bottles this week, needed to burn some energy, so we got up at 4:30 anyway to run 3 of the 4 miles my training plan called for.  I opted to only run 3 because of the water bottle situation as well as the fact that the hike would take place at 8AM, well after sunrise.
I took it easy to make sure that the hound's tongue wouldn't be lolling on the ground by the time we got home, where I dropped her off (no way was I taking my girl on a hot, sunny, crowded hike!), switched out my Sauconies for my Brooks trail shoes, and headed back out the door.

I was shocked at how many people - well over 300 - were there.  I had figured that the heat would keep people away, but it wasn't a deterrent at all.  That in itself is truly a testament to the huge impact Chris Powell has made on people since the show began.

Of course the event started with a few words.  But if you've watched the show, you know that Chris's words are always inspiring, and speaking to a group of several hundred was no different than when speaking to one of his clients on national television.  Chris spoke of being dedicated to making healthy choices and healthy changes, and he used the phrase "beneficial selfishness" when reminding us that we have to make our decisions for ourselves and no one else.
That rang true here.  Sometimes, even that day, I feel badly about leaving my family to go for a run when I could easily stay home and spend time with them instead.  But being beneficially selfish and going for those runs means that I'll be around to have more of those moments, and I must keep that in mind.  It's not always about the right now, and even if I'm not there, I'm setting an example to my daughter by putting my health on the list of Things That Are Extremely Important.

The audience was rapt.
And then Chris challenged all of us in the crowd: "Everybody must leave here with a victory."  He didn't want anyone to leave without achieving some sort of victory.  For some, he acknowledged, that would be climbing part way and using the switchback to head back down.  For others, it was heading all the way up to "Sparky's House" at the very top.  And yet others would need to run the steep, advanced trail multiple times.
And with that admonishment, we were off.
Just as a note, A Mountain is not actually a mountain.  It's official name is Hayden Butte, and while it can be steep in parts, it's not a long trail, so going up and down multiple times is definitely within the realm of doable, and the butte is used just for that by ROTC students at ASU and others who are training on hills.
The advanced trail starts off paved, but it becomes very steep very quickly, so it's a fantastic calf workout.

Tempe Town Lake and the two bridges
Tempe City Hall is an inverted pyramid.
Since I was an architecture major for 6 weeks,
I feel like I need to include this snap.
The Tempe Transportation Department building
has a green roof!  So cool!
When pavement gave way to railroad ties and rock, our trail met the switchback, and things leveled off, but boy howdy was it crowded! Some people had used the more intermediate switchback to head up sooner and were already headed down.  
But I had to make a detour at the A.

I was only about halfway to the cross bar of the A
to give you a bit more perspective.
The A is an ASU treasure, and it's fiercely guarded during the week leading up to the Territorial Cup game between ASU and UofA.  At the beginning of each school year, as a symbol of starting a new year, the A is whitewashed before getting its first coat of gold paint.  Throughout the year, various groups will paint the A different colors, but as long as it's not red and blue, we're good, and it's simply repainted gold.
From the A it's only a short climb to the top, where your view on a less crowded day will be 360°.
Not that I felt I was cheated out of any views due to the number of people enjoying the same sights and the collective inspiration.  Far from it, I was thrilled that so many people were sharing in that same moment.  Some people were so thrilled to get up to the top that it was better than some of the Olympics outcomes.  I was proud and excited for all of them, even if I had nothing to do with that victory personally.

Sun Devil Stadium, built between the two buttes in Tempe.
You can see the "other" A here.

A more expansive view - you can see the solar panels above (parking) Lot 59 to the left,
the indoor practice stadium directly behind Sun Devil Stadium (big white bubble),
and Manzanita Hall, where I lived as a freshman - it's now completely gutted,
under renovation.
After spending a little time taking in all the positive energy that was absolutely radiating off the top of A Mountain, I headed back down in order to offer a bit more room to those who were still coming up - or headed up for a second go round.
Since I had been up early and had already gotten my workout in, I opted to only go up once, but on my way back down, there was one more order of business that needed to be dealt with.

Go, Devils!
I had to get a snap with Chris and shake his hand.  Both he (an ASU alumnus himself) and his wife, Heidi, laughed heartily when I introduced myself.

Because my last name is Powell, too.

No relation (TOTAL BUMMER).
But really, what an absolutely lovely couple.  In the brief seconds I had to speak with them, it was so clear that the positive attitude Chris has about him on the show is The Real Thing.  Both he and Heidi radiated kindness, excitement, and that zest for all things healthy.
And can we just talk about Heidi's arms?  Because they are amazing.  More perfect than Mary Poppins.  A new inspiration for my Hundred Pushups Challenge.
It might be clich√©, but it really was the perfect cap for the morning.  While it was hot - already well into the 90s - I bounced down the remaining bit of the trail and hopped in the car, renewed with an excitement I don't think I had when the alarm buzzed.
Chris and Heidi Powell touched so many lives Saturday morning, and we Arizonans are so fortunate to have them as a part of our community.  They want us - all of us - to lead lives that are joyful and healthy.  How can I not be grateful for neighbors who want nothing more?
Thanks, Chris and Heidi!  
Oh, and if you're planning a family reunion any time soon, I'm sure I can find some distant third cousin that ties us together!

Who inspires you to be a better you?
What amazing people live in your neck of the woods?
What local landmarks do you treasure?
(Why do I always have to ask three questions?)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Operation: Eat it or Starve - How Do You Know You Don't Like It if You Won't Try It?

Did you hear that?
It was the sound of me turning into "that mom."  The mom who nags the kid to eat.
Yep, that's me.
Good thing I have a pair of mom shorts I can put on so I really look the part.

HRH has worked tirelessly to reject anything that isn't a strawberry, apple, or highly processed carb.  In the last week, she even decided that she doesn't like cheese anymore, which is disconcerting to me; since she doesn't eat any meat other than bacon and the occasional chicken nugget, I do want to make sure that she is getting the protein she needs.
But she's been a huge proponent of Drink All the Milk of late, and she conned her daddy into buying her orange juice, which she is drinking, and bananas, which she isn't eating.  Oh, and she also asked for peaches and green apples, which were purchased in the Not Organic Section.  Then she told us she doesn't like peaches.
Even my attempt to make a The Very Hungry Caterpillar-themed dinner fell flat.  The plum was also disconcerting to our fair princess.

It was at this meal that HRH informed me
that she no longer eats cheese.
Zooey was only too happy to help out with that.
So, clearly, we are taking the "starve" route of late.

Today, especially, was tough.  Having left early in the morning for a run and hike, I have no idea what she had for breakfast or even if she had it (The Husband is NOT a morning person and barely managed a grumble when I said goodbye, so I'm uncertain as to whether or not he was mentally capable of making a meal in such a state).

For lunch she was presented with a first course (we've been doing courses so that she can't fill up on strawberries and ignore spaghetti) of fruit salad: apple, peach, cherry, honeydew, and watermelon.
To her credit, she put a piece of honeydew in her mouth.
And then spit it out with such to do that Gloria Swanson's heart would swell with pride.
No further courses were offered.

At dinner, I made her this lovely plate:

Carrot and cucumber butterflies
fluttering around a berry flower - yum!
Yes, I even gave HRH *A* strawberry in the "salad" course.
And she didn't even eat that.  Apparently the cucumber traumatized her so much that she couldn't bring herself to eat anything.
So I ate the strawberry and blueberries but left the veggies, which are really what I'm trying to focus on this week with HRH's meals.
A little later, the carrots were eaten, but still, the cucumbers continued to traumatize left and right.

So, tonight, HRH really is going to bed hungry - very little lunch (as in none), an unsanctioned glass of milk while I ran to the grocery store, and a few carrot sticks are all that she's had since this morning.

Maybe tomorrow morning I can get her to eat something.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Workout Wednesday - That Stinks!

When we lived in Michigan, my brother-in-law's hockey bag was The Grossest Thing Ever.

It was big.
It was bulky.
It was Stank Butt Nasty.

Every athlete knows that smell.  That post-workout, "The Grim Reaper would probably hand over his scythe if he got a whiff of me" smell that probably even offends the dog.  The dog who eats from the trash with no qualms.
Of course, like, oh, probably most women, I didn't think that it applied to me.  That smell was Eau de Men's Locker Room.  While I'm not a huge proponent of the "we don't sweat; we glow" argument, I was convinced that, by virtue of estrogen and ovaries, I was immune and happily griped about my brother-in-law, his buddies, and their collective stench after their games.


Have you ever run when it's 90°, at 4:30 in the morning - before the sun comes up - right after a ginormous monsoon cranked up the humidity to Ludicrous Speed?  Because if you have, you know where this discussion is going.
You probably actually would know that regardless.  I have a pretty awful poker face. P-p-p-poker face
(yeah, I went there).

Anyway, back to where I tell you about how totally and utterly repugnant I smell when Zooey and I get back from our runs.
Like to the point that HRH, in her preschool innocence and lack of filter phase of life, will merrily scream at the top of her lungs, "Mommy!  You stink!" and then not want to give me a hug for fear that she'll start attracting flies.

The good news is that I can shower and smell pretty rather fast.  I'm not a shower lingerer, so once the business of Getting Clean and Unstanky is over, I'm out and done, fresh as a daisy.
The bad news is that getting that same funk out of my running clothes isn't as easy.
There are a few reasons for that:
  • My clothes don't take a shower every day (like I do), so usually it's a few to several days before they see the light of the laundry room.
  • Zooey enjoys sleeping on them sometimes every single night (fun fact: most scent hounds have a bit of a "musk") because I keep the running clothes separate from my "civvies" - no cross contamination here.
  • I refuse to use a special "athlete's" detergent filled with chemicals I'm trying to avoid in other areas of my life.
That's right; we're back to me being all crunchy and trying to go off the grid.

But I'm holding fast to this; between The Husband and myself, we create exactly one laundry load (of six) each week that is dedicated to athletic gear.  Investing in a special detergent, which is probably just a different label and a little extra "fragrance," isn't worth my money or my health, or, quite honestly, the health of our beautiful planet.
So my challenge was to find a way that used a more natural approach but at the same time did manage to leave me with a pile of clean and neutral-smelling (no nasty perfumes here!) workout clothes when all was said and done.

Well, it took me some time, but I think I've got it.  And the process was easy, inexpensive, and you probably have everything already.  Except the natural laundry detergent that is just a step away from me making it myself, which I want to try at some point in the near future.
If you don't have a more natural detergent or, for some weird reason, don't make your own, you can use your regular detergent.  But try to make sure that you use one that doesn't utilize fragrances to perfume and cover odors (I'm well aware that I sound like a freakin' Febreeze commercial - the irony, right?) instead of actually getting rid of them and the gunky stuff that is causing that Sasquatch stink.

And, for the sake of All Stuff that is Fun, can you please imagine me giving you these directions in some sort of Donna Reed or Harriet Nelson get-up, apron and all?
  1. Turn your clothes inside out; button any buttons, snap any snaps, and tie any ties (this is actually a process that I learned from The Queen of Clean for all laundry).
  2. If clothes are, on a scale from one to atrocious, scoring at least a vile, soak them in a solution of water and white vinegar (you want to be able to smell the vinegar, but you don't want your neighbors to be able to).
  3. Once soaking is complete (by complete, I mean "when you remember that you were soaking clothes"), or if you opted not to soak them, place clothes in your washing machine.
  4. Add detergent as usual.
  5. In the place of liquid bleach, add (more) white vinegar.
  6. Set the water temperature to warm (not hot!), and use a longer wash cycle (this will make sure that the water rinses cleaner - no detergent, no vinegar).
  7. Air dry all the clothes (even socks and undies!), preferably outside, in the sun.
This strategy even worked on one of my Sparky the Sun Devil technical shirts, which would just not shake that smell for a good long time.
I'm hoping that whenever the Arizona temperatures decide to cool off in about three or four months from now, I can at least get back to the house before I nauseate myself.  But I'm definitely going to work on perfecting this.  Hey - it even worked on Zooey's collar, a haven to Hound Musk everywhere!
Go ahead - try this and let me know how it goes.  I can guarantee that you won't turn crunchy by trying.  Unless you decide you want to.

How do YOU get the stink out?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sweating My Thorns Off - for Buddy

I've really enjoyed connecting with fellow runners in virtual events this year.  From werrunners's Twitter Charity Run to I Run Because's Twitter Road Race, the cameraderie of the online running community always warms my heart and makes me feel that I'm running with friends even when Zooey and I are alone on the canal.
So of course I was looking forward to participating in (and dare I say winning a fabulous prize from?) The Boring Runner's Sweat Your Thorns Off 5K, another virtual run that takes the Arizona heat in stride.  Because did I mention that Adam lives here in the Arizona as well?  So that makes him cool as well as hilariously boring (or boringly hilarious?).  Bonus - 3.1 miles worked in well to my plan for half marathon training, so it was basically a win-win situation in a race that wasn't a race so I'd win that, too.

And then I learned about the Buddy Run 5K.

Buddy Hopkins was on a run when he was killed in a hit and run accident.  He was a devoted husband and father, and he leaves behind a wife and four beautiful children.  In the five weeks since Buddy was killed, his community in the Dallas-Fort Worth area came together to plan a 5K to honor his memory and raise money to support his family and the causes he loved.
Buddy's sister Cassie is my friend and co-worker, and when I heard about what happened to Buddy, my heart just broke for the family.  I mean, what can you say in that situation?  "I'm sorry"?  That's what HRH says when she gets caught doing something she's not supposed to be doing; it's not what you say to someone whose baby brother was suddenly snatched away from his loved ones.
The absolute least I could do was participate in the event organized to support the family, and I told Cassie that I would run with her as part of the virtual 5K that was offered to Buddy's Run participants.
So, this past Saturday morning, I got up bright and early, donned my new crimson technical shirt, and left a crushed Zooey behind (it was going to be too hot for my black and tan girl) to head out to San Tan Valley in order to run a 5K with Buddy's Arizona family.
Cassie is one of the group of ladies who participated in the 2011 London's Run with me, and she's been running off and on since then.  As you might imagine, her training this summer has been interrupted, and she told me that she'd probably be walking a good deal of the 5K while I would probably leave her "in the dust."
Well, yeah, I can run a 5K easily at this point in my running career, so I likely could have left Cassie in that proverbial dust.
But that wasn't why I participated in this 5K.

If I had wanted to do speed work or try to get my fastest mile ever in, I could have stayed home and run my familiar canal route.
I ran and walked with Cassie and asked her to share her favorite stories about Buddy, which she gladly did.  It was one of the most fulfilling 5Ks I've ever completed, even though it was also one of my slowest at 48:26 (15:32 average pace).  We probably walked more than either of intended to, but we were both so engrossed in our conversation and the stories Cassie was telling that we didn't want to shorten the experience.  Truth be told, I could happily have walked the entire thing in order to have the time to hear one more story before our finish line, and I will be forever grateful to the Hopkins family for allowing me to be a part of their morning and sharing Buddy with me.
Of everything we talked about, one story she told me is one that I don't think I'll ever be able to forget.

Buddy was a runner; having recently completed the Dallas Rock and Roll Half Marathon, he was training for the Dallas Marathon (held in December) when he was struck.  He also ran with his 9-year-old daughter, so he'd often tell people that when he began running, he ran "at the pace of an 8-year-old girl."
I love his sense of humor.
That Buddy was a runner made this 5K all the more meaningful; losing a member of this community I have come to hold dear tears me apart.  But he wasn't just your average "I think I'll run a half marathon before I'm 40" runner.
You see, Buddy was born with club feet.  He required a great deal of therapy and treatment as he grew up in order to walk comfortably, and until the day he died, you could probably tell that walking was still somewhat difficult.
While he was training for his half marathon, his wife, Heather, decided to go for a run with him.  As they got ready, he told her that he had to walk a little bit to be able to run.  His feet and ankles weren't flexible; walking helped him get to a point that he could run.
At first, Heather thought nothing of it, thinking that they'd walk to the end of the block or something.  After all, lots of people walk to warm up before they actually start running.
Buddy had to walk for about 9 minutes before his feet were at that point.  Only then was he able to begin running.  Heather asked him if he did that every time.
His response: "If I want to run, I do."
So, 9 extra minutes each day he ran that Buddy had to budget in to get his body to cooperate with him in order to do what he wanted it to do - run.  And yet he did.  He got up and ran despite the fact that it didn't come easily, and it very well may have been a little painful each and every time.

Walking there with Cassie, I was humbled by this man I will never have the opportunity to meet.  While I often speak of how blessed I am to be able to run, I still tend to take rolling out of bed and heading right out the door for granted.  I'm not the fastest runner out there, but I run with relative ease and am able to get out of the gate without much more preparation than lacing up my shoes.  And to this aspect I have given little - if any - thought.
But you can bet your compression socks that tomorrow morning - and every morning I run - that I'll be thinking of Buddy as I lace up those same shoes and hook Zooey into her leash.  I am thankful for EVERYTHING about running.  That I can run.  That I can run with ease.  That I can run without pain.  That I can budget 30 minutes - and not 40 - when I plan a 30-minute run.

The Arizona virtual run participants after we finished -
the crimson technical shirts were a sweet nod to Buddy's favorite team,
the Alabama Crimson Tide.
I would be remiss if I didn't note a few things about the accident.  The police told Buddy's family that, as a runner, he was doing everything right.  He was running against traffic, and he was off to the side of the road.  There was nothing more that he could have run to prevent what happened.
Those of us who run along streets and/or during the early morning or evening hours when it's dark know full well that we take a risk every time we go out on the road.  The best thing we can do is be prepared - by having identification, reflective gear, and (especially for women) self-defense measures.  Sometimes we might get caught up in making sure we have our water, gels, and playlists that we forget that these essentials aren't the only essentials; hopefully Buddy's story will ground me every morning to take all the precautions I can.
But at the end of the day, tomorrow is never promised, so the important thing is that I tell The Husband and HRH that I love them before I leave the house so that there is never any doubt.  No one doubts that Buddy loved his family, and through that, he'll always be there.

Do you ever give a moment of thanks (silent or aloud) for being able to do the things you love?
What measures do you take to stay safe when you're out on a run/ride/hike?
Have you ever participated in an event to remember someone?  What made the event special?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Eat These & I'll Shoot You Dead Retro Cheese Cookies - It's a Bridal Shower!

Our friend Megan is GETTIN' HITCHED!

Weddings are, of course, exciting and a great excuse to put on some fancy kicks and show off your rendition of Ross and Monica's routine.
But before you scar the happy couple for life with your dance floor moves, it's all about throwing the bride-to-be a proper bridal shower, and a proper bridal shower is what we have today, hosted by her blogging besties!


Now, a proper bridal shower needs two things:

 1) Uh... entertainment...

Excuse us, ladies, we hear there's a fire needing to be put out?
How can we be of assistance?
(photo credit: Pinterest)
2) Tasty nibbles.

Thankfully, a group of food and food-loving bloggers is exactly the group of ladies you want to throw a surprise virtual bridal shower.  We came to play eat.  Just reading the menu makes me feel like I need to pull out my fat pants instead of the nice skirt I decided to wear for the occasion.

We have a lovely assortment of amuse bouches to start:
Of course, with the nibbles, we need some sips:
Then we move onto the main fare:
And of course, we can't celebrate a coconut curd-loving, Boston cream pie pancake-making bride-to-be without desserts:
My contribution to the shower is a recipe that my mom has made for years.  It certainly doesn't fit in with my general "make it healthier whenever possible" rule, but these snacks are one of the few items I consider almost holy and wouldn't blaspheme by healthifying it for fear of going somewhere hotter than Arizona for all eternity.  This makes them a special event treat, and if ever there was a special event for which I was going to pull them out, it's today.  
In fact, The Husband was so excited that I was making these cookies for Megan (a fact that he overlooked in his eagerness to Eat All the Things) that I had to impose a rarely utilized death threat to keep him from eating them all before I managed to take any photos of the finished product.  Considering the break from his usual detached approach to my cooking, I felt that renaming the final product was appropriate, in the spirit of martial bliss and all that.  I hope that Megan is able to threaten Ben in a similar manner for years to come with all of her tasty treats.
It's really the perfect recipe for Megan; she kills me with her delicious posts that show no fear of buttery cheesy goodness, threatening to require extra miles EVERY DAY (they would be so... SO worth it).  And if you follow Megan's blog, Wanna Be a Country Cleaver, you know how much she adores that June Cleaver era of American cooking (she even can look the part).  That's exactly when this appetizer was in high fashion.  I'm sure that Walt wouldn't come home late if he knew these were going to be on the table, if just to make sure the Beav didn't get his grubby mitts on them first.

Eat These & I'll Shoot You Dead Retro Cheese Cookies

  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese (Megan will probably tell you that you should get Cougar Gold, and I agree - it's worth ordering; I had to slum it with Tillamook)
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose (or whole wheat pastry) flour
  • 1/2 butter, melted (since you're using olives and cheese, I would go with unsalted, but it doesn't really matter)
  • 24 green olives, well drained (or more - I subscribe to the "one for the recipe; one for me" policy)

Mix cheese, flour, and butter with a fork until dough is well blended.  You may want to use your hands to get all the small pieces mixed in.
Flatten a walnut-sized piece of dough in your palm; place an olive in the center, and enclose it with dough.

Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Cover and chill for at least two hours.
Bake at 300° for 15-20 minutes; cookies will still be slightly soft.  Cool completely on cooling rack before enjoying with a frosty adult beverage (these goes great with a Shiner Bock).

Please join all of us in wishing Megan and Ben a lifetime of happiness and tasty eats.  We love you, Megan!  May you come out victorious in any marital spat, and may your pantry always be as full as your hearts!

***NOTE - Some of the links were broken, but I went through and changed them to make sure you have access to everyone's delicious treats.  After all, since we're celebrating the bride, there are no calories today! #fact