Friday, November 25, 2011


I haven't posted a running recap in... 2 weeks?  This is mostly because I was embarrassed to admit that I've only run maybe 2x in those two weeks. I've been really stressed with school and friends and though I know I should have fit in some runs, I just... didn't. That said, yesterday, I was thankful that Jon and I woke up yesterday morning and went for our first run together in about a month.  Three easy miles around Jon's parent's neighborhood in Montgomery, AL. Not only did I keep a decent pace after my hiatus (11:17), but it's also warm enough here to run in a tank top.

Aside from that run, I'm thankful for:
1. Being able to run at all and continue to see improvement
2. My entire family
3. Jon, who's such a great partner
4. The welcome and love I feel from Jon's family too (thank heavens I won't have terrible in-law problems someday!)
5. My amazing friends all over the globe
6. All the support everyone has given me in the past year through all the tough times and the awesome ones
7. Having a "job" even if it means I'm going to want to crawl in a hole and hide for the next two weeks
8. The sale last week via CraigsList of the mobile home in Athens that we lived in before moving to Cbus and that we still owned
9. How much happier this holiday season will be for me versus last year
10. How optimistic I am for the next year. I'm a really lucky girl.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! Check out our spread:

Not the healthiest meal, but at least a majority of it was veggies!!!

I even learned how to make pie!!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Epic Dessert Creation: The Recap

Let's just start by saying that cake-baking don't come cheap.  I think I spent at least $45 on butter, cream cheese, eggs, etc etc etc.  Still cheaper than ordering one, but still.

Since we had company in town, I divvied up the extravaganza into two days: Friday or the baking of cakes and cupcakes and Saturday for the frosting and presentation.

And now, let the photo tour of my baking extravaganza begin!

Project One: Operation 4-layer Cake and Dexter-esque Cupcakes

Greasin' my $0.97 pans

Using Melania's tip to fold the parchment paper and make a circle via the "snowflake method"

Rookie Error #1: Misunderstood directions, so I put parchment paper ALL over the pan, not just the bottom

Batter.  Since I'm unmarried and do not own a stand mixer, note the epic splatter on my microwave.  This repeated with every new mixing session.

Chocolate Batter

Finished, unnecessarily curvy cake layers #1 and #2 (there were 4 total)

Irregularities that will make icing fun... and that could have been avoided.  #CakeRookie

The cocoa/food coloring paste looked like blood.  
And stained my fingers.  
And then reminded me of the opening credits on Dexter.

Replacing buttermilk with regular milk + 1 tbsp of lemon juice.  Who knew?

Finished cupcakes.

Operation Baking : Completed.  

Project Two (the Next Day): Let's Frost that!

First time I have used my Tupperware manual food processor. 
Tough at first with the whole cookies, but worked great.

Cookies and cream frosting... Would you like some cake with your frosting?

Amber helps prepare my new cake stand

And voilà!!!


Jon was impressed.

Overall, this bout with dessert making has taught me a few things:
1. The sheer amount of butter, sugar, and cream cheese that goes into baking
2. Don't bake the cake-y parts the day before (they'll dry out)
3. Put parchment paper down on your cake stand before icing
4. It's going to be awhile before I perfect desserts.  TOO much sugar.  My body isn't used to it and Jon and I could certainly feel our poor food choices the following day on our run!

Still, I'm proud of my pretty desserts and I'm really happy that Jon really appreciated them for his bday!  

Do you guys make any fun desserts?  When you bake, do you try to lighten the recipe, or do you indulge on the buttery/cream cheesey goodness from time to time?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Weekly Running Recap

Happy Monday, all!  It's been such a busy weekend, but we've had such an amazing time.  I'll post a recap of that (and my first foray into baking) later, but I really wanted to get this post up first!  Week Two post-half and I'm still going strong!

Weekly Mileage:
M- rest
T- 7 miles
W- 3.1 miles
Th- rest
F- 10 miles
S- rest
Su- 4 miles + 4.2 mile walk w/Amber
Total Miles: 24 (28 if I count the walk, which I don't really since we were leisurely walking)

Tuesday: These 7 miles were a constant mental battle since I had to keep bargaining the distance with myself, but finished all the miles I'd originally wanted to do strong and with a nice 11:30 pace.

Wednesday: In an effort to up my mileage this week, I added a fourth run, something I haven't done in awhile.  Great morning run before class (something I rarely do, but plan on repeating) with an 11:06 pace.  Woo!

Friday: Moved our long run to Friday so we didn't have to worry about abandoning our visitors over the weekend.  Jon and I ran the first 3.5 together with Sahara, dropped her off, and then went our separate ways.  Beautiful weather.  Stopped a few times (including at home and a potty break) and still got my 12:18 pace.  I felt great and like I definitely could have gone farther—That's the first time I've ever had THAT feeling at on a double digit run, so I'll take it.  Plus, the irritating blister on my right baby toe is back.  Joy.

Sunday: Wanted to get in an easy, shorter run to bring up my mileage into places it hasn't been before (or, if not, in a REALLY long time pre-Daily Mile).  It's so easy to tell when I've been eating poorly because my running suffers.  After the indulgences of this weekend, my legs felt like lead and Jon and I both had a hard time pushing ourselves.  Ran (literally) into a friend visiting from out of town who was on a walk with her brother, so we stopped and talked for at least 15 minutes.  Forgot to turn off my Garmin while talking, so our pace reads as a 16:00 mile average.  Guess the real pace will remain a mystery.  But hey, 24 miles for the week!  Boo.  Yah!

The goal this week is to get up to my goal base mileage of 25 miles per week for the winter.  Looks like a good break down might be 7/3/10/5 or something similar.  Feeling good and am excited that this nice weather looks like it's sticking around for most of this week.  Not gonna lie, I'm really nervous about my first Winter running in Ohio.

For those of you who live in colder places for the winter, do you have any good tips for Winter running (clothing, habits, fuel, anything)?

PS: Super congratulations to my friend Christina @ Just Running who completed her first ultra marathon at the Taterbug 30 this weekend!!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nicky and an entry into baking...

I know I just posted about "baking" pizza crust.  IMHO, not the same thing as pastry baking.  For some reason, baking desserty things just kind of terrifies me.

That said, my handsome man is having a birthday on Saturday and we have some very good friends coming into town from Alabama to celebrate.  SO, I'm facing my fear and have planned two dessert recipes to feed the hordes (ie. 10ish people) that will be stopping by Saturday for dessert, singing, and hopefully watching LSU beat 'Bama.  (Fingers crossed!)

At the birthday boy's request, I'm endeavoring to make a cookies and cream cake AND red velvet cupcakes.

Photos from the below websites... 
Highly unlikely anything I make will be this pretty.

I found this recipe for the cake, and after interrogating my baking extraordinaire friend (seriously, she's made homemade croissants before), she suggested substituting this recipe for the icing.  Then, for the cupcakes, I plan to use this guy.   I know they aren't at all "healthy" or "light" recipes, but your handsome man only turns 30 once right?  Plus, I don't do this kind of thing all the time (clearly), so my waistline will survive.

I'm very nervous, but Melania assures me I can pre-bake things then ice the day of, so at least I'll have time to buy a cake mix if I totally burn everything.

So, there you have it.  Here's my next challenge.  I'll let you all know how it goes.

On that note, off to the store (and then hopefully off for a run)!

Pizza, Pizza

Ever since we met, Jon and I have been on a kick to make food/sauces ourselves rather than buy the canned/pre-made version.  First we conquered spaghetti and pizza sauce.  Then pancake mix.  Most recently, alfredo.  Then, this weekend we were walking around Kro-zjay (Kroger) and decided it'd been a long time since we'd made homemade pizza.  Well... mostly homemade.  Up until now, we've made our sauce, but then just bought the mixture to make the crust.  So, this time, we decided to make the pizza from the ground, er... dough up.  I have to say, it's just really nice knowing everything that goes in your food.  

After some googling, I decided on this recipe, but with some change and additions.  So, here is the Nicky-fied version.  It turned out great (and is vehemently hungry boyfriend-approved).

-2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (aka one 1/4oz packet... I had to google it to make sure)
-1/2 tsp brown sugar
-1 1/2c warm water
-1 tsp salt
-2 tbsp olive oil
-1c whole wheat flour*
-3 1/3c all-purpose flour*
-corn meal (and extra flour) as needed
-parchment paper

1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and brown sugar in the water and let it sit for 10 minutes (I forgot to let it sit and just realized it... oops.  Oh well.)
2. Add in the salt and oil to the yeast mix and slowly mix in the 2 1/2c of the flour (I used 1c ww and 1 1/2 white)
3. To make less of a mess, cover a bit of open counter with some parchment paper.  Sprinkle some of the remaining flour on the paper and then turn out the dough onto the paper.  Knead the dough (and keep adding flour) until the dough is no longer sticky.  If you want to make two normal-sized pizzas (rather than one "giant" one), divide the dough into two balls and knead accordingly.

4. Place each dough ball into a well-oiled bowl and cover with a kitchen towel.  Let rise for 1 hour.


After! Ta-Da!

5. Preheat the oven to 425º.  If you're using a pan, oil the surfaces, if not, just get out your stone.  Sprinkle corn meal as desired onto the pan/stone (I like to have a thin coating).

I ended up adding more than is in this photo, FYI.

6. Turn the dough ball out of the bowl onto the baking dish and spread it out to the desired size.  (If you're using a pan, it suggests that you let the dough sit in the pan for 20 minutes before adding toppings... I didn't and it turned out just fine).  Then, add sauce, toppings, and cheese.
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese and crust are golden brown.
8. Enjoy!

Jon and I opted for both a stone version and a pan version to see which we like better.  Both turned out really well, but the pan version was harder to cut (and eat without a fork).  I'm lame and forgot to photograph our pan crust pizza, but here's our stone version with ham, pineapple, and olives.  Yum!  PS It even passed the cold pizza test.  Had it for lunch yesterday.  Mmm I love cold pizza...

What are your favorite pizza toppings?  
Are there any foods that you much prefer to make yourself rather than buy pre-made (or vice-versa)?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkin Grilled Cheese (and other weekend shenanigans)

As I've mentioned before, I have a slight problem obsession with Fall squash recipes.  So, of course, when I saw Hungry Girl's recipe for Pumpkin Grilled Cheese, I *had* to try it.  It didn't hurt that I'd made us Pumpkin Waffles for breakfast and had half a can of pumpkin left over that needed to be used either.  I won't post the waffle recipe because it wasn't stellar (needs some work), but the grilled cheese will definitely be repeated.  I sadly, didn't have all her ingredients so I improvised like this:

Ingredients (makes 2!):
-4 slices of bread
-buttery spread 
-2 slices mild cheddar cheese
-1/4c shredded cheddar cheese
-1/4 onion finely diced (my onion pieces weren't as small as I now wish they'd been)
-1/2c pumpkin
-cayenne pepper
-black pepper
-red pepper

1. Heat up that skillet to optimal grilled cheese temperature--add in a tsp of olive oil and your 1/4c onions and sauté them until the onions are nice and soft.  
2. In a bowl, mix the pumpkin, spices (to taste), onion, and 1/4c shredded cheese.  Keep the pan on the burner though so it keeps heating up to that optimal grilled cheese temp!

3. Butter your bread as normal.  
4. Now, it's grillin' time!  In addition to the slice of cheese, also scoop half the pumpkiny mixture onto the sandwich as well before placing the other piece of bread on it, and throwin' (i.e. gently placing) the grilled cheese in the skillet.  Be careful when you flip it because unlike with melted cheese who holds the slices together, the pumpkin just kinds of hangs out!

5.  Enjoy your cheesy, pumpkin-y goodness!  

Jon and I really liked this recipe.  It was hearty and more filling than a regular grilled cheese, that's for sure!  Plus, it's a great way to use up any leftover pumpkin you might have from another recipe.  If I ever get the Laughing Cow cheeses, I'll be really interested in trying the actual HG recipe to see how we like that!

Aside from eating pumpkin-inspired recipes this weekend, we also finally semi-finished our patio!  We've been storing things (tailgating chairs, AU tailgating tent, coolers, yard tools, etc) out there out in the open since we moved in (which is unsafe for your stuff when you live in a city) and have been trying to decide what to do to store it.  Thankfully, we found a storage closet on an end-of-season sale at Sears and got it all set up this weekend!  We also got rid of a rose bush that made our patio look tiny (and kept poking us when we moved things) and got some of the digging ready for our garden we hope to plant in the Spring.  Check it out!

A photo from a few weeks ago when a squirrel decided to use our piled stuff as a perch:

Pre-digging, post-moving everything inside:

Future home of the storage unit:

Jon 1-Rosebush 0!

 Voila!  We'll do some gardening where the rosebush was in addition to that little strip there under the window.  So excited!  Not only is it cleaner and more open, but our stuff is safe!

What did you get accomplished this past weekend?   Not going to lie, there's just something really satisfying about getting jobs done around the house!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Weekly Running Recap

First off, Happy Halloween!!!  This past week was a decent running week post half.  I can't believe it's only been a week!  I've been so excited about running and training this week and I think it shows in ALL of my runs this week.  I've even started looking at runs for next year and have started putting runs I hope to register for in the 2012 part of my "Races" tab.

Weekly Mileage:
M- rest (at home squats/floor workout)
T- 4 miles
W- 1 mile warm-up run + weights/floor workout w/Katie
Th- rest
F- 5 miles
S- rest
Su- 6 miles (meant to do 10... then ran out of time)
Total miles: 16

Not as many miles as I wanted for this week, but they were three solid runs that I'm very proud of... So, I'm going to quickly talk about them.  My main goal after the half is to finish my runs stronger, and I'm proud to say that ALL of my runs this week finished with a faster mile than they started.  Big improvement for me already!

Tuesday (4):  My calves were still really tight from the half, but I decided to run up to campus and check out Mirror Lake and the Oval.  After starting, my goal was a sub-12 pace, and (even with a few walk/stretch-my-calves breaks) I pushed myself and got a 11:51 pace overall.  Woo!

Friday (5):  Didn't want to run at all.  Jon and I stayed in our PJs until far past a socially acceptable time, but I got out there, and I'm really, really thankful I did.  I started out with a quick(er) pace and felt really good, so I headed to the Olentangy Trail and dared myself to keep up this good 11:16 pace for the whole run, rather than tiring myself out and slowing down like I usually do.  It was hard, but I pushed myself and was ASTONISHED to see that my overall pace was 10:56, with my last mile in 10:31.  I checked back in my Garmin logs and I've never run ANY distance with a sub-11 pace.  I actually might have teared up a bit when I realized that.  Puh-ro-gress.  Felt AMAZING.

Sunday (6):  I had a fun 9.5 mile loop planned out, but then got nervous about not having anywhere to use a potty mid-run and hadn't had the necessary trip pre-run yet, so Jon and I decided to drink some coffee and clean the apartment for the Mary Kay party I had today BEFORE leaving for the run rather than after.  It took a bit longer than expected to get everything clean, but we got out there and ended up having to cut the run short to make it home in time.  That said, it was great running with Jon on this beautiful day and he really pushed me to stay fast.  The pace overall was 11:34, but we stopped to take these photos of the gorgeousness here in Columbus (which brought our pace down):

He pushed me and I often looked down at Mr. Garmin and saw a 10-minute (or even high 9:xx) pace on my current pace!  The last two miles were 10:57 and 10:47, so I am really proud of this run, and, most importantly, I got to spend some quality time finding new places to run with my honey.  ;)

Oh, and we also got home in time to shower and look presentable so that I could host a Mary Kay party for my friend Chris, who's a new consultant:

Doesn't she look official?  
I stole this photo from Bailey since I'm lame and forgot to take one.
(And my baker's rack needs some organizational love)

All-in-all, a really great running week post-half.  Instead of beating myself up over my short "long" run, I'm choosing instead to really celebrate how much I was able to push myself on ALL of my runs this week.  Can't wait to see what the next week of training brings!  Plus, it looks like we might have TWO 5ks in November, so maybe I'll even be able to set a PR!

Have a great Monday!!!

PS- Have any of you seen that new TV series on ABC "Once Upon A Time"?  Jon and I started watching it this weekend and we're hooked!

Friday, October 28, 2011

I've Caught the Bug

This is what came up when I typed this post's title into Google.
Fitting, no?

It's true, once you complete your first half marathon, you can't go back.  It's only 4 days post race and I'm already thinking about possible upcoming races and ways to improve my form and speed.

That's where you guys come in.  I've been doing some reading on Runner's World (because, let's face it, who doesn't?) and have been trying to come up with my next PoA (Plan of Attack) to get my speed up and to finish long runs stronger.  Then, I thought to myself, who better to ask than all you people who read this blog (all that handful of you) and definitely run faster than moi.

As someone who's pretty much detested the idea of speed workouts and generally "uncomfortable" workouts, I have no idea where to start on this quest to become a better, faster, stronger runner.  So far, I'm planning on continuing to run 3-4 times a week with at least 1 double digit run on Sundays and incorporating weight-lifting/floor exercises at least 2x week (Monday/Wednesday).  Now, I just need to figure out what kinds of other runs I want to add in to help meet my next goal of a sub-2:40:00 half.  At least.

So, that's where you come in.  Do you have any tips, workout suggestions, or book suggestions for things I could do/read to help inspire and get me to go from my 12-12:30 average pace to a steady 11:xx pace?  

I can't wait to hear your suggestions!

PS-- Currently:

Eating: Homemade Pumpkin Waffles (recipe to come)!
Running: Off for a 5mi run with Jonboy!
Reading: La Place by Annie Ernaux and Le Neveu de Rameau by Diderot (oh, grad school!)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Race Photos & Stuffed Acorn Squash

Happy Thurfriday, all!

If you're in my household, you're lucky enough to have Fridays off, which make Thursdays one of my favorite days of the week.  Plus, I just picked my classes for winter quarter and it looks as though this 3-day weekend business will be a part of my life until at least March!  Bonus!

Want to know another bonus?  They posted the official photos from the half last weekend!!!  Check 'em out!  I apologize there are so many, so just skip down if you get bored and want to just see the recipe!

Jonboy thinks he looks "like a tool" with the layers, but I told him he looks like a hardcore runner.
At 9 minutes miles, I think he definitely is.

Look at that determination.

This is what a sub 2h half looks like.

Determination.  Any carrying my cell phone.  fun.

Thought I looked much cooler in my head than I did in reality...

I have a lot of hair.

Leaving a happy Jon in the distance to sprint to the finish.  
Look! I'm flying!

Success! In my mind, I looked way more triumphant that I do in this photo.  Oh, fatigue.

Jon crossing the finish for the 2nd time

Distance shot!

Like Christina posted last week, I wish race photos weren't so expensive so I could buy a few.  Bummer.  Still, makes me look like a pretty hardcore runner!

Anyway, here's another delicious Fall recipe to share: Stuffed Acorn Squash.  It's another old WW favorite (so I didn't make it up), but it is DELICIOUS.  The department chair/my professor at work even asked for the recipe!

The perfect size to be reheated for lunch!  
Sorry I forgot to take a photo of them fresh out of the oven! Oops!

-2 medium acorn squash
-Nonstick cooking spray
-8oz cremini or button mushrooms, thinly sliced
-3 medium scallions thinly sliced (I substituted this for 3 shallots, which I really liked)
-2 cloves of garlic, minced
-2tsp Worcestershire sauce (PS British friends, how do you pronounce this?)
-1/2 tsp dried rosemary
-1/2 tsp rubbed sage
-1/2 tsp dried thyme
-1/2 tsp ground black pepper
-1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
-1/4 cup grated parmesan (Fresh is best, though I used the pre-grated stuff)
-3 tbsp dry white wine

1. Preheat the oven to 375º,  Also, so you don't forget to cook the rice before you want to bake it with the squash (like I did), go ahead and get out a pot and get the water boiling for that brown rice (mine usually takes 45-50 minutes to cook).

2. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and place the halves on it face down (sometimes I like to put a bit of water on the tray too) and bake for approximately 50 minutes (or until tender)

3.  Hang out for a bit (or cut up your veggies if you haven't yet).  Then, when you have maybe 20 minutes until go-time (i.e. when the squash will be out of the oven), spray a skillet with some cooking spray (or add some EVOO) and sauté the mushrooms, scallions (or shallots), and garlic over medium heat.

4.  Once the mushrooms look like they've started to give off some liquid, stir in the Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, sage, thyme, and pepper.  Cook for a minute or so.

5.  Take the pan off the heat and add in the rice, cheese, and wine.

6.  Then, remove the squash from the oven, flip them over and fill each with the rice mixture.  Replace the filled squash in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes.

I think this is a great, hearty Fall dinner!  It's really savory and filling and it almost feels like there's meat or something in it, but there's not. It's delicious.

Have a great Thursday all!!! :)