Monday, July 29, 2013

To the Top (Someday)

This weekend, after giving myself two rest days,  I got up earlier than should be legal Saturday morning and left Zooey at home (I know - I'm a horrible dog momma) to go on a group run at South Mountain.
Everyone met up around 4:45; I had never been to that part of the park before, so I held everyone up after getting lost and confused.  Thankfully, these women, among whom are Dana of RunningMomAZ, Allison (awesome name, right????) of Parents on the Run, Ashley from She Runs Strong, and Missy over at Sugar Coated Athlete, are not only running bad asses (marathoners and Ironmen... and then me), but they were also gracious with this newbie.
The plan - run as far as you want up the hill and back, and then meet back at the parking area to head to breakfast.
Because basically, it was one, extremely long, never-ending hill.
I haven't run hills since April or May, so can I just say "OW."
I had thought I was doing OK keeping up on my running, but I admit that I was wholly unprepared for the ascent that lay in front of me.  I sucked wind.  And I just kind of sucked.
Originally, my plan was to attempt 8 miles.  Four miles up, and four miles down.  I wanted to take it nice and easy and take my time, even if I was slower (I already knew going into it that I'd be bringing up the rear).  But that was when I thought "hilly" meant multiple, shorter hills, not just one long endless one.  At some point, I just knew that 8 would not be in the cards that day, and I made up my mind to go as far as I could before turning around.
Which was, apparently, about 3 miles up the hill.
That distance offered me this view:

Good morning, Phoenix.
After I caught my breath and decided that I was, in fact, NOT going to die, I headed back down.  The temptation to pick up the pace was constant, but I worked hard to keep one that was faster than going up (I think some centipedes passed me heading that way) but that was constant and appropriate for the long, slow weekend run.
Even though it was hard and my stomach was upset (thanks, sleep apnea machine) and I felt like I was going backwards sometimes, the Running Gods were out in full force that morning, and they sent me this to remind me why I was up at 3:30:

I love you, too, Running.
I had only been back at the car for a few minutes when the rest of the group started to trickle in.  Everyone else went between 8 and 14 miles, and since they had a faster pace, they rocked it in just a little bit longer than it took me to carve out my 6.  
Here is what I noticed: everyone looked SO strong when they finished.  All of them.  It was already hot, even though we stepped off when the first rays of the sun were barely peeking over the horizon, and it's still been horribly humid for Arizona standards, PLUS we were on a hill, yet these ladies were crushing their workouts.

L - R: Me, Stephanie, Ashley, Allison, Dana, Jill, Kristi, Shelby, Missy
Photo credit: that girl in the parking lot we got to take our picture and Missy,
from whose Twitter feed I jacked this snap.
Also, no memos were sent out about wearing pink/black. That just A Thing That Happened.
I suppose that on some level, there was some frustration and even humiliation that I didn't go as fast/far as everyone else.  But that wasn't the main feeling I had while I watched everyone else come in.
I was in awe.
These women were kind enough to advertise their training run to the Twitterverse (which is how I found out about it), they were gracious enough to wait while I drove past them and had to turn around, they gave words of encouragement as they ran by me (thanks especially to Dana on this one), AND they were some of the strongest finishers I've seen.  And this was just a weekend training run!
I want to be just like them when I grow up.
More than being awed, I was inspired.  That hill totally owned me Saturday, but instead of giving up, I just decided that at some point in the near future, I'm going to make it to the top of the hill and make it MY bitch.

Of course, long runs mean breakfast shortly thereafter.  Seven of us headed over to Crackers and Co., where we demolished multiple carafes of coffee and at least two dozen eggs among us as we staved of the runger.  It was over breakfast that we got to know each other, as many of us had been complete strangers, save for a handful of tweets back and forth, until dawn.  For total strangers, we gabbed like we'd been friends for years.
These ladies are just lovely people, and I'm so grateful to them for shooting out the message and inviting all to join in their reindeer games.  It was a blast, and I can't wait to have that hill for breakfast like the pros.
And then go grab second breakfast with the ladies.

Monday, July 22, 2013

So Easy a Caveman Can Do It - But I Can't

Over the last few months, I've realized that I've kind of plateaued in my attempt to get rid of some of that "stubborn belly fat" that all those commercials for wonder supplements and crazy workout DVDs love to talk about.  It's not stubborn.  It's an unwelcome guest, and I'm kind of tired of it having way overstayed its welcome.  
So I've been looking at how I can step it up.  Not just so I can more easily slip into a pair of pants, but also so that I know I'm healthier.
For a long while, I've really reduced my meat consumption.  I really really really don't care for chicken. When I was pregnant with HRH, it was a huge aversion to me, so much that when I tried to buy some of those pre-cooked strips for the Husband at the store one day, my knees buckled and I thought I was going to pass out.  Ever since, I can only handle it if it's REALLY well made, and I have to REALLY want it.  I also have tried to cut down on red meat, especially because of the many links between red meat consumption and a greater risk of colon cancer (among others).  
And I like most vegetarian protein sources.  I love beans.  I really like tofu.  Quinoa is great.  Tempeh - meh (see what I did there?); that's really the one thing that I've had that I didn't really care for.
But nothing seemed to be working.
I decided, then, to take a week and try a modified paleo plan.  I say modified because I did use a "paleo for runners" approved foods list, which includes more starchy veggies like sweet potatoes and squash.  Apparently a non-runners paleo diet doesn't allow for them.
Basically, the paleo diet is, from what I understand, supposed to mimic the ingredients that our very ancient, probably much hairier forefathers would have eaten.  Of course, this means no processed foods, but it also nixes all grains, dairy, and sugars (although some sites allowed maple syrup and honey because those were natural sugars, and I can totally imagine an early Homo sapiens risking life and limb for a handful of honey like he were some Ice Age Winnie the Pooh).  Probably the most restrictive aspect for me, though was that it didn't allow for legumes or beans.  Even though I love me some rice and white breads, rarely a week goes by that I don't have beans with at least two meals.  But I was determined to try this to rev up my body's vacationing fat burning abilities.
I created a meal plan for the week and headed to the grocery store.
First of all, holy sticker shock, Batman!  I haven't actually bought meat that wasn't turkey necks for Zooey or bacon in a really long time, apparently, because when I picked up a small package of ground beef, I thought I was going to have to take a second mortgage out on the house.  Yikes.
I admit that on top of my mandate that I would still be enjoying my morning coffee with half-and-half and cinnamon sugar, I did "cheat" during one meal.  One of my friends and I had lunch, and I had a beer.  Beer, as you know, is made from grains - gluten-y grains - so it's waaaaaaaay up on the Verboten Items List.  But I also don't want to be that person who puts the kibosh on every restaurant suggestion because it doesn't work for my super restrictive diet plan.  "Oh, no, that place doesn't work for me.  I can't eat anything that casts a shadow past 1:00 in the afternoon on Tuesdays."  
Interestingly enough, that evening, I felt TERRIBLE.  Like you might right before you get sick.  Achy, tired, tempting fate by trying to NOT get a headache.  Just...blah.  And then I got cranky because I didn't feel well, so it wasn't the most pleasant evening.
I can't say with absolute certainty that this was all caused by the grains.  But it was interesting nonetheless.  
At the end of the week, I knew that this plan isn't for me.  That isn't to say it's a terrible idea.  I really like certain aspects of it.  But I think that it's more of a diet than a lifestyle for me at this point in my life, and restrictive diets never work.
What I DO think I can take out of this experience is that I don't necessarily need to embrace the red meat again, but I can bid a fond farewell to grains more easily than I thought.  And that's where I think I can improve my eating habits.  While I'll be welcoming beans back to my diet very soon (hello, Cuban dinner plans), I'm not sure that I'll be so quick to nab a loaf of bread to go along with them.  I'd love to experiment with gluten-free grains and work to reduce the amount of corn-based products I consume.  While I didn't weigh myself at all this week, I do feel less full around the middle, even though I've felt like I've eaten a lot more than I usually did.
One big success is that I was able to stick to my meal plan.  I made it a lot more simple and relied a great deal more on leftovers for lunch and dinner repeats, and I think that's where I've gone off the rails before.  I'm hoping to be more consistent with that as well.

Where have you been successful in modifying your food lifestyle to make healthy changes?  What are you willing to "give up"?  What are non-negotiables for you?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Raspberry Marshmallows - Served Two Ways

Ever since I made that batch of lemon marshmallows back in February, I've been obsessed with them.  I mean, OBSESSED.  I can't stop thinking of fun, delicious flavors to try out.  So far, I've also managed to make:
  • chocolate stout mallows (for St. Patrick's Day)
  • orange mallows (not enough orange flavor, but I'll be playing around with this one)
  • strawberry mallows (same as above)
  • apple cinnamon mallows (tasty now, these will be amazing in the fall)
  • piña colada mallows (for a review of them, check out Kat's post here)
The rest of my list will keep me playing with corn syrup and gelatin for the next two years at least.  So you should probably go out and buy stock in said corn syrup and gelatin now before the share price quadruples.
It shouldn't really come as a surprise, then, that this round of Theme Weavers shenanigans sees me adding raspberry marshmallows to the list.  Happy Berry Week, everyone!

Truthfully, marshmallows are not difficult to make.  They require sugar, heat, a candy thermometer, and a little patience.  And a spouse who doesn't mind that your kitchen is a cloud of powdered sugar for about 24 hours.  Once you get the procedure down, then it's a matter of experimenting with those different flavors.  As you may guess, I'm not a fan of adding artificial flavors to my foods, so if I'm going to make a flavored marshmallow, that flavor needs to come from The Real Deal.
The two traditional ways to have mallows are, of course, the s'more and atop hot cocoa.  While the former is a fantastic summer - and year-round - treat, just the thought of hot cocoa at this time of year makes me want to melt.  The good news is that The Internet has a summery option that was the inspiration for the milkshake below.
I hope that you decide to try your own hand at marshmallows; you'll see not only how easy they are but also how much more tasty than their factory-made counterparts.

Raspberry Marshmallows
adapted from the wonderful Jenni at Pastry Chef Online
  • 4 1/2 Tbsp powdered gelatin
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp cold raspberry puree (see note)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (preferably homemade)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 1 cup raspberry syrup (see note)
  • powdered sugar
  • corn starch
  • freeze dried raspberries (you can find these at Whole Foods)
Pulverize the freeze dried raspberries using a spice grinder (our coffee grinder has been appropriated for this purpose).  Add the powder to a 1-1 mixture of the powdered sugar and corn starch; this will be your coating for the mallows.  I usually use about a cup of each, but I also tend to be coating-happy, hence the aforementioned 24-hour powdered sugar cloud.
Add the puree to the bowl of your mixer.  Bloom the gelatin by combining with with the puree, salt, and vanilla.  Make sure there aren't any chunks or clumps.
Spray a 9x13 pan with pan spray or olive oil (I like to use my Misto for this).  Make sure every inch is lubed up.
Line pan with plastic wrap.  Make sure that it's firmly pressed down and that there are no bubbles.  Spray/oil the now plastic-wrapped pan again.  This might seem like a weird step.  Trust me; there's a reason.  You're not just spraying an aerosol can for a contact high giggles.  Dust the bottom and sides of the pan with the raspberry powder-cornstarch-powdered sugar coating mixture using a fine mesh strainer or sieve.  Make sure you can't see the plastic wrap through the coating.
Set the pan aside, and turn your attention to the stove top.  In a large-ish, heavy sauce pan, combine the sugar and the syrups as well as a splash of water.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Cover the pan and allow to boil, undisturbed, for about 3 minutes.  Then, uncover it and monitor the temperature.  You need the sugar to heat to the soft/firm ball stage - above 235° F but not over 244°F.  Jenni suggests the higher temp, but don't let it get any hotter, or else you'll have to start over.  That would suck.
When the temperature reaches 240°, turn your mixer on to low or medium low; you'll need to use the whip attachment.  Because you're gonna whip it good.  Actually, you're going to whip it well, but I guess proper adverbs don't sell records.
Once the sugar-syrup mixture has reached 244°,  remove it from the heat and pour directly into the mixing bowl.  Be careful; this is hot (duh), so the speed should be low enough that nothing splashes out and burns you like that acid burned Harvey Dent in the second Christian Bale Batman movie.
Once you've added it all, turn up the speed to medium and allow to whip (good/well) for a few minutes before really cranking it up to top speed.  Now whip it into shape; shape it up - get straight.

I cannot discourage you from playing this while whipping the mallows into shape - in fact, I whole-heartedly encourage it, as I do singing along to it at the top of your lungs.  I'm pretty sure it helps the process.
But I digress.
You'll know you're done whipping when the mixture is about tripled in volume and it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl in slender, delicious threads.
Turn off the mixer, and pour the mixture into your prepared pan.  A very large rubber spatula, liberally coated with olive oil is helpful to get the remnants from the bowl to the pan.  The marshmallow cream should completely fill the pan.  Spray the top of the cream to smooth it out.
Sift the coating over the entire top of the pan, making sure that none of the shiny marshmallow surface shows through.
Now here's the really hard part.  Set the uncovered pan aside for several hours so that the marshmallows can set.  I like to make them in the evening so that they can set up overnight, and then I can have marshmallows for breakfast finish the process in the morning.  I also like to keep them in the microwave, but that's really because it doubles as a coonhound-proof food storage device.  Zooey doesn't understand that the marshmallows aren't for her.
Once the marshmallows are set, you can cut them into squares.  Giant, fluffy squares of deliciousness.  I've tried a pizza cutter, kitchen shears, and a serrated bread knife.  What works best for me is the knife. Now here's why the plastic wrap layer in the pan is so key.  To remove them from the pan, turn the pan upside down on a large cutting board, and then flip it over.  Then remove the plastic wrap, and voilà!  Your marshmallows are naked and ready for cutting.
Toss the marshmallow squares (or, if you so wish, liberally oil a shaped cookie cutter and make fun-shaped mallows) into the coating mix before storing in an air-tight container for up to two weeks.  However, if you make one of the two goodies below, they might not last 2 days.

1) While fresh raspberries would be awesome, I prefer to use frozen organic ones.  Thaw them out and puree them, with the juice.  You may need to add a bit of water as well; you don't want it to be too thick.  If you have leftover puree, it's really fantastic on top of ice cream or in a salad dressing.  Or just chugged from the blender cup.  I've heard.
2) For raspberry syrup, you could make a simple syrup infused with raspberries or make a reduction of some raspberry juice (or all natural cran-raspberry juice, if you can't find just raspberry juice).  It's up to you.  For these mallows, I went with the latter, simply for convenience purposes (we had cran-raspberry juice in the refrigerator).

Of course, homemade marshmallows are fine on their own as a complete meal snack.  But they are made even more heavenly when combined with other wonderful goodies, like these s'mores and milkshake.  The s'mores aren't really a "recipe" - most people know how to make s'mores (except for that one crazy woman on that Jeff Foxworthy baking show who didn't even KNOW what a s'more was - WHAT?), so I've basically explained the assembly steps (although that is probably obvious from the photos, huh?).  The milkshake is, in a word, brilliant.  If you use enough of the mallows, you'll really be amazed at how the toasted flavor comes out.  And since I can't wait until winter comes to enjoy a beverage with mallows floating on top of them, this is the perfect way to stay cool and get my cocoa fix.

Raspberry S'mores

Place 2-3 fresh, organic raspberries on top of a graham cracker.  And by the way, since you made your own marshmallows here, you might as well make some homemade graham crackers.  Too hard, you say? Well, if you can make a pie crust or a chocolate chip cookie, you can make graham crackers.  Try Jenni's graham cracker recipe.  I did, and I regret nothing.
On top of the raspberries, place a Ghirardelli dark chocolate and raspberry square (if you really don't like dark chocolate, you can use the milk chocolate version, but since dark chocolate has nutritional benefits, and we're using fresh fruit and a whole wheat flour-based graham cracker, basically I'm telling you that this is a health food).  Have another graham cracker at the ready.
Toast your marshmallow.  You could do this in the broiler if you wanted to, but homemade mallows have a lower melting point, so we usually bust out the crème brûlée torch.  Plus, Husband likes to set things on fire with the torch, so this is a fun activity for the whole family.  If you DO use the broiler, do NOT walk away; watch the mallows carefully.  Place your toasted mallow on top of the chocolate immediately, and add your top graham cracker.  Smoosh down, being careful of gooey deliciousness that will attempt to escape the confines of the cracker.  Devour.  Repeat as needed.
You may notice that in these photos, the top graham cracker is falling off the s'more.  It's true.  These guys are so big that you're going to need to unhinge your jaw and inhale them like a python, but in truth, you're going to make a mess of yourself regardless of how daintily you may try to enjoy a s'more.  Embrace the mess, people.  Just make sure you have some wet wipes at the ready before you do any of this.  Also a glass of water.  Maybe just sit outside and have the hose ready for when you're done.  Whatever.  It's summer, right?

Chocolate and Toasted Raspberry Marshmallow Milkshake
adapted from this version of Spike Mendehlson's Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake

  • 2 cups chocolate ice cream (if you have the room, make your own - since my freezer is full up of frozen edamame and seafood stock, I went to Udder Delights and got their version)*
  • 1/2 - 1 cup fresh milk (depending on how thick or thin you like your shakes)
  • 8-10 ounces raspberry marshmallows plus a few more for garnish ( I maybe used 12, just for good measure)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • handful fresh raspberries (for garnish)
Toast the marshmallows (see the comment above about the lower melting point of homemade mallows).
Toss the toasted marshmallows, vanilla, ice cream, and milk into the blender and mix until the marshmallows are fully incorporated.  Pour into glasses and garnish with the raspberries and remaining marshmallows.  Drink immediately.
These would also not suck with a shot of Chambord or Godiva liqueur.  I'm guessing.  I don't know.  It's just a hunch, which you may or may not want to test for the purposes of science.  Just remember to drink responsibly if you choose to take this route.

*Another delightful ice cream flavor that you can use is a white chocolate raspberry, for (hopefully) obvious reasons.  Vanilla would also work well in a pinch; after all that's what the original recipe calls for.

Thanks for sharing Berry Week with us.  If you haven't had the chance yet, please check out the other incredible berry recipes from the other Theme Weavers:
Now, before you go, tell me - what flavor of marshmallow would YOU like to snack on?

Monday, July 15, 2013

I Knew I Was a Runner When

This weekend, I bought Body Glide.
It was something I never though I'd need to do.  I'm still confused by the concept of chafed, bleeding nipples; it's one of the running myths that are apparently actually true, which makes it all the more terrifying, and I REALLY don't want to talk about chafed, bleeding nipples from personal experience on this blog, ever.
But, apparently, nipples are not the only things that chafe, and this weekend, I needed to buy Body Glide before I had another run.
For the record, there isn't as much daylight between my thighs when I run as perhaps I'd like, especially when it's hot and humid, like it is now.  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are fine; thanks for your concern.
Anyway, when I had the realization that this was going to be a part of my running arsenal, I had an "this must mean I'm a 'real' runner" moment.  Because I never thought I was enough of a "real" runner to need something such as anti-chafing...stuff.
I've had several of those moments since I began running nearly three years ago, and I'm sure I'll have more.  
I can rationally tell you that I am a runner.  I run.  Several times a week.  I've participated in several races and events since I decided to participate in that first Undy 5000.  But sometimes, I don't necessarily feel like a "real" runner.

Of course, running master, Bart Yasso, has spoken to this notion directly:
"I often hear people say 'I'm not a real runner.'  We are all runners; some just run faster than others.  I never met a fake runner."

I KNOW I'm not a fake runner.  But sometimes, when I realize that my monthly mileage is what some people run in a week, I don't necessarily feel like a "real" runner.  I'm not exactly sure what I'd define a "real" runner to be, but I don't run fast, and I don't run that far, so sometimes, I'm not sure where I fit into the cadre, and because of that, I sometimes feel like I'm not completely part of it, like unless I hit a certain mileage or a certain pace per mile, everyone else will look down on me as if to say, "no, you're not one of us, but you can keep trying."  
Kind of like I'm Chester, and the everyone else is Spike:

But there are those moments when I've said to myself, "NOW, I'm a runner."
And since I just had one of those moments, I thought I'd take a walk down Memory Lane at all those moments I've had thus far to help remind me that I've always been a runner, ever since I decided to run on an evening walk with Zooey.

I knew I was a runner when...
  • I picked up my first race bib;
  • I finished my first race;
  • I went to a running store to be fitted for shoes;
  • I retired that pair of shoes;
  • I decided to try a 10K;
  • I completed a 10K;
  • I set a PR;
  • I beat that PR;
  • I decided to try a half marathon;
  • I obtained a training plan for a half marathon;
  • I picked up my race bib for my half marathon
  • I finished a half marathon;
  • I started keeping track of my mileage;
  • I got obsessed with my mileage and heart rate and everything else;
  • I stopped keeping track of my mileage and heart rate and everything else for a bit;
  • I altered my training plan;
  • I said, "I think I'll try trail running";
  • I loved trail running;
  • I made trail running a part of my regular training plan;
  • I had a regular training plan;
  • I signed up for a trail race;
  • I couldn't do that trail race because I was diagnosed with tendinitis;
  • I found "the shoe" I loved;
  • I mourned when "the shoe" was retired;
  • I started playing with the idea of a full marathon someday;
  • I was asked for running advice by a friend (that one felt REALLY awesome, by the way);
  • I felt confident enough in my experience to give that friend some advice;
  • I had to buy Body Glide.
John "The Penguin" Bingham, whose book (along with Jenny Hadfield) got me through my first half marathon, said this on the topic:
"If you run, you are a runner.  It doesn't matter how fast or how far.  It doesn't matter if today is your first day, or if you've been running twenty years.  There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get.  You just run."
Well, I just run.  And sometimes, I think I run far, even if it's not as far as someone else.  I never think I run fast.  But I run, so I am a runner, and I'm glad to have become one, even if I don't always feel like a "real" one.

When did you feel like a "real" runner?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Stride Box - July 2013

It feels like I just did a Stride Box post!
Oh, wait, I did.  As you can see, I'm actually sort of on the ball this month.
One of the best aspects of subscribing to Stride Box is that the company sends out an email when the package is shipped, so I know when it's on its way, so I get to wait anxiously for a few days, knowing I'm getting a present in the mail.
This month had a bit of a theme - over half the items were for hydration purposes, which, as Zooey and I had in our second 90-degree run in a row, is more than fitting.  I'm looking forward to trying these, even though I don't usually use sports drinks during my runs, usually opting instead for gels or gummies.

Inside the water bottle:

  • Gu Brew electrolyte tablet - I've had the Gu gels before and have struggled with them - too thick to "drink" but not really "chewable."  I like the fruit flavors, though, so I'm hoping that I like the drinkable stuff, too.
  • HDX hydration mix - I've not heard of this before, so we'll see how tasty it is.
  • Healthy to Go! acai energy drink mix - I have mixed feelings about acai; I know it's a "super fruit," but I have had some acai in smoothies that didn't taste all that great.  I've got higher hopes for this.
  • Nuun electrolyte drink tab - I follow a LOT of people on Twitter who love the Nuun Hydration drinks. This is my first chance to have it, so I'll finally see what the hype is about.
  • Vega Sport electrolyte hydrator - This one I admit that I have already tried, and while I'm sure some people find the lemon-lime flavor tasty, unfortunately, it tasted (to me) too much like that solution pregnant women have to drink when taking the blood glucose test to check for gestational diabetes.  I had to take that test twice, so having that flavor hit my tongue again was unpleasant.  I don't fault the people over at Vega Sport; it's just one of those memories that makes the experience less than what it should be (honestly, just thinking about that solution and that test again engages my gag reflex).
  • Zym Catapult sport drink tablet - I am in intrigued with anything having to do with catapults.

The rest of the goods:
  • Bearded Brothers natural energy bar - hand-made, picture of two dudes with beards, vegan.  As the child of two former hippies, I'm pretty stoked for this bad boy.  Bonus - the wrapper can be composted!
  • Body Glove Surge gel - Like I said, I struggle with gels, but I am willing to try it.
  • PR*Bar apple pie nutrition bar - I'll be honest.  Some of the ingredients in the hydration mixes and gels concern me a little bit, so I need to do research before I become a customer that uses anything I can't pronounce.  However, this bar contains partially hydrogenated palm oil.  The term "partially hydrogenated" is code for "this has trans fat in it."  Hydrogenating oil makes an item more shelf stable, but trans fat is, as you probably know from following the news, a very dangerous saturated (artery-clogging) fat.  While I'm sure a bit may not lead to my ultimate demise, it makes me uncomfortable that a bar calling itself "natural" and "healthy" would even use this.  Additionally, I'm trying to cut palm oil out of my family's food supply completely because of the environmentally unfriendly harvesting methods that are leading to both deforestation and possible extinction of the orangutan.  This is a bar that I will be placing aside (along with any other item that has ingredients with which I disagree).
  • SpiderTech X Spider pre-cut kinesiology tape - I am intrigued by K-Tape, so when I feel the need in my legs, I'll allow this spider near me.
There you go.  Have you found any ingredients in your nutritional supplements to be lacking?  What do you look for when it comes to hydration?  Are there flavors you love (or love to hate)?  Cheers!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Even God Rested

After shin splits, tendinitis, and strep throat this year, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to beat my mileage from last year.  Even my attempt at a month-long run streak was cut short (Thanks, tonsils.  Jerks).
In an attempt to make sure I don't fail my body (and vice versa), I'm trying a little something new this month.  I'm calling it the "Even God Rested" plan.  If all goes well, I'll be running 2-4 miles Monday through Saturday.  Sundays will be reserved for sleeping in and resting.
Note to self: spending all day cleaning and de-cluttering a bedroom does not count as "rest."  Plan for a nap in that case.
Before I decide on my miles/route for the day, I have to take into consideration the following:

  • how much sleep I got that night
  • quality of said sleep
  • temperature outside

If I didn't sleep well or much, or if the temps are too hot, I'll stick to the shorter quantity.  If I slept well and the temperatures are tolerable, Zooey and I will trek out for a bit longer.  I'm hoping to keep my weekly mileage between 15 and 20 miles.
In some ways, that doesn't seem like very many miles.  I see people on Twitter who post that mileage on practically a daily basis, and here I am hoping for that much in a week.  But at the same time, it's hot, I refuse to put my dog in danger, and I'm not training for anything at the moment, so my miles are to keep me in shape (especially after that milkshake I just had - shhhhhh!) so that when I do start training again, I'm not starting from scratch.  Heaven knows I don't want to get hurt again this year.
Of course, I don't want Zooey to get hurt or sick, either.  In order to make sure that we avoid heatstroke for her, I take quite a few precautions.  Naturally, the shorter miles are a part of it.  If it's really hot, I hose her down before we leave, making sure to get her chest.  We take frequent water breaks (two of my four water bottles are reserved for her until I can find her doggie backpack again, at which time she'll carry her own water), during which time I try to check her tongue and nose (if her gums and mouth are red, or if her nose is hot and dry, she's getting heat exhaustion) .  We run more slowly than we do during the cooler seasons.  When we get home, I take a cloth that I've wet and left in the fridge while we were gone and apply it to her chest and belly while she lays down under a fan (I have a cloth for myself, too).  Once she's cooled a bit this way, I offer her an ice cube or two, which she generally takes.
When we do head out for 4 miles, I will even let her splash in the canal for a minute.  This is not something I will do on a regular basis, as who knows what sorts of disgusting things live in those canals, especially around all the duck poop.  But if it cools Zooey's paws off a little bit, I'm willing to let her get in for a minute before we shove off again.
My mileage for June was 52.5 miles.  I'm hoping to get over 60 this month.  Hopefully resting more will end up adding more miles to my tally.

What's your running/resting schedule?  Have you found that resting more helped you physically (or mentally)?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Eat it or Starve: Patriotic Princess Edition

I'm so excited that HRH's school has begun to help me in the Eat it or Starve Battle that we wage in the Philistine house on a daily basis.  Recently, her teacher has begun to offer a once-a-week cooking class in the afternoons.  Now, this is a bunch of four-year-olds, so my kid is not going to be learning how to prepare and present a pressed duck any time soon, but it's a start.  The rules are that nothing will have any tree nuts or peanuts in them, since those are big no-nos in the daycare syndicate, as you might imagine.
HRH had to miss the first two classes due to her swim schedule, so last Thursday's class was her first.  She wasn't particularly keen on joining until she learned that her BFF K was in the class, and then she was over the moon.
In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, the class made Fireworks Pretzel Sticks, Red White and Blue "Parfait," and fancy water with (gasp!) star-shaped ice cubes.
The overall goal is to get the kids more inspired and excited to help out in the kitchen and to try new foods, so after last week's class, I asked HRH if she wanted to show me how to make the treats for the Fourth of July.
"Yeah! Let's make them again!"
So today, we did.

Now, this is not going to be a post in which I give you a recipe for making Fireworks Pretzels, Et Al; I'm sure by the photos you can gather the various elements and what the procedure to assemble is.  If you need a recipe for something this simple, there are quite a few blogs out there who appear to think poke cakes with a box of Jello are the most ingenious creation ever, so you can catch those instead.  
(sorry for the snark - I'm not a fan of poke cakes and don't understand why people feel the need to post recipes that use boxed everything)
This is simply a post of how, little by little, my daughter is becoming more adventurous AND more helpful in the kitchen, and as such, becoming a young lady conscious of the foods she chooses to eat at a much earlier age than I was.

The things I did:
  • Cut the butter for the frosting into cubes
  • Monitored HRH around Watson (our KitchenAid)
  • Helped HRH measure powdered sugar
  • Measured vanilla extract
  • Sliced off "the green part" of the strawberries
  • Washed all the fruit
  • Monitored the quantity of frosting onto the pretzels
  • Whipped the cream (well, Watson did most of the work here)
  • But water into the star ice cube trays and threw them in the freezer (still currently under construction as of this posting, but they are ice cubes in the shape of stars, so I'm sure you get the idea)
The things HRH did:
  • Added the powdered sugar to the cream cheese icing
  • Cut up the strawberries (with a kid-friendly knife, but a real knife) into bite-size pieces
  • Put all the berries into the bowls
  • Spooned the whipped cream over the berries
  • Added the sprinkles to the whipped cream (she's a student of the Kat School of Sprinkle-ology)
  • Applied frosting to the pretzels
  • Applied sprinkles to the frosting'd pretzels
  • Ate copious amounts of frosting and sprinkles (like I said, she's a Kat protege) 

This might not be my favorite thing for HRH to make and eat, considering the horrendous ingredient list on the pretzels (it's not easy to find more naturally made pretzel rods) and that both items had their fair share of sugar, but it's a step in the right direction (I am also terrified of the sprinkles ingredient list, but we wont go into that right now).  What I bear in mind is that this does some healthy foods, too, and as this is a holiday, I'm going to hold my tongue rather than give a dissertation on Red Dye #40.
She's not going to be eating Pad Thai, prosciutto-wrapped figs, or zucchini gratin any time soon, but that HRH was excited to eat some blueberries shows me that she's starting to realize that not all good tasting foods are not chicken nuggets and French fries.
This week, naturally, there's not a class due to the holiday, but I'm looking forward to finding out what treats we'll be whipping up soon.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Stride Box - June 2013

Yes, I know it's July.  Let's just say June got away from me.  I'm blaming it on the strep.
This is my second Stride Box, and it really is perfect for summer.  There's even a runner's icy pop!

  • Skratch Labs lemon-lime hydration mix - lemon lime is basically the only flavor of Gatorade I have ever liked, so I'm sure I'll like this (and I like the ingredient list better than I like Gatorade).
  • Pocket Fuel banana blue berry almond butter (two of 'em!) - right now, I'm not sure I could handle a nut butter while running; it's just too heavy for the heat (the lows are in the high 80s right now), but I can't wait to use it when the weather cools down again.
  • Electro Delytes citrus bar - this also looks delicious, and the citrus is certainly on my favorite flavor profile.
  • PowerICE frozen electrolye bar - I am TOTALLY using this bad boy after a hot run, and I'm on the lookout for these so I can stock the freezer with them ASAP.
  • Blue Steel Sports anti-chafe cream - I can't say I've had this problem much, but high temps plus sweat plus sports bras is NOT the best equation for avoiding The Chafe, so I'm sure I'll get to give this a test drive before long.
  • Due North Foot Rubz foot massage ball - HRH thought this was one of our dryer balls, so I've kept hidden away, but I am using it to make sure that tendinitis is held at bay; it feels reallllllly good!
  • Lock Laces no tie shoe system - I don't mind tying my shoes, and I can tie them quickly in a basic slip knot without concern that they'll come undone during a run, but as I've recently learned about the duathlon (run-bike-run event), I think these will come in handy, since getting in and out of the running and cycling shoes can, if done poorly, add a good chunk of time to the totals.

I'm loving these monthly gift packages that are designed to help me be a better, stronger, and healthier runner, and it's helping me learn about more incredible products (even ones that I may end up not caring for); anything that can broaden my running horizons is surely only going to benefit me as a runner.  
So - bring on Stride Box July!

Monday, July 1, 2013

One Kitchen, Many Hearts - Picnic Time

I'm not sure I would want to have that face looking back at me while on a picnic, but they are SOOOOOO FLUFFFAYYYYYY that I couldn't help sharing it.
It's time for another OKMH gift exchange round-up.  The theme for this month is all about picnics.  I love picnics.  HRH does, too, and she's been begging me to take her down to the park at the end of the street to have a picnic again.  I would love to, but I'm not super keen on having my picnics when it's over 100°, so we likely won't be heading out again until....November.
Fortunately, when you have a fun group of friends, a picnic is basically ready made, and I don't have to schlep a basket to the park in the sweltering heat.

This month my girl Megan knew just what I needed: beer, jam, chocolate, and Pretty Things.  All of which are, naturally, PERFECT for a picnic.  Even if I take myself on a solo picnic and don't share the chocolate with anyone.  Just don't tell HRH that I didn't leave her any chocolate, OK?

The beer - Washington brews, including a Pacific Northwest Kilt Lifter in return for the Four Peaks Kilt Lifter I sent her last year.  I haven't cracked it open yet; I'm hoping to nab a bottle of the local label and do a taste test.  
The chocolate - Megan's own homemade Magic Shell.  My plan is to obtain a pint (or quart...whatever) of ice cream and indulge some evening after HRH has gone to bed.  No, Mommy doesn't always share.  She's just too young and hasn't developed a palate that would truly appreciate this deliciousness.
Various and Sundry - two homemade photo frames (she cooks, the crafts - she's the whole damn package!!!!), some decorative toothpicks (with which HRH absconded, determined that she use them on her strawberries), baby jams, a ceramic strawberry basket (which I adore - I have plastic ones, but this one is so sturdy - it's totally becoming a centerpiece for the summer!), and a some gorgeous picnic linens, all in bright colors and vibrant patterns.
I'm imagining myself sitting in the cool grass with some berries and still-chilled ice cream, onto which I might pile those berries, the jam, and the magic shell.  And then I'll wash it down with a beer.  Or two.  I'll let you know how that goes.
In the meantime, make sure that you check out the other picnic goods that were sent across the globe this month.
You'll want to see what I sent Kat.
And what Kirsten got.
And what Jeanne got.
And what Mads got.
And what Beka got.
And what Megan got.
And while it's too hot for a picnic here in Phoenix right now, I hope that you've been inspired to take yourself (and maybe your loved ones, if you're so inclined) on a picnic.  Pack yourself up some goodies and nibbles, and head out on the lawn!