Sunday, January 29, 2012

Training for a Marathon!!

Today, I officially felt like I was training a marathon. Yes, I've been training since Thanksgiving (which feels relatively substantial), but today was the first day my long run actually felt long. It was especially exciting considering that I've been sick and basically not training for the last 3 weeks.

I was hesitant about biting off more than I could chew, since the most I've done since getting sick was a short 2 miler on Friday, where I had to walk a little due to a coughing attack. I promised myself that the 3 weeks off was like a very thorough tapering, and my body should totally be able to handle double digits, so I set my sights on 12 miles.

With this winter training, and Ed being out of town, I felt little motivation to start early, so I had a leisurely morning, fueled with low fat nutrigrain waffles

topped with peanut butter (Simply Jiff),  touch of honey, and a banana around 9am. I aimed to get out the door at 10, but was still trying to figure out my Harry Potter problem.

You see, I've been using Mr. Potter to help me through my long runs, and was at the end of book 6.
However, I knew what was left on my ipod wouldn't be enough to get me through today, and I had misplaced the charger, so I couldn't add anything to it. I toyed with the idea of going without, but I just didn't know how I would do. Thankfully, I realized that Ed's very old ipod was still in working order. So, I charged it up and added the end of the 6th book and the first 3 discs of the 7th on the ipods, and loaded up my wink hydration pack that I now needed to bring to carry this pretty cumbersome but very happily brought piece of technology.

The wink hydration pack ended up being great choice - I carried more water, the food was very accessible, and it really didn't feel that cumbersome. Plus, I got to be very entertained throughout my run.
I headed out from home and headed on the Los Gatos creek trail, towards Los Gatos.

The first 5 miles took me to the end of the pavement, and I ventured from there onto the fire trail. I'll admit, sometimes I'm scared to go on the trails solo, but this is really a very safe and well populated stretch, and honestly, it was my favorite part of the run. After I got out to 6 miles, I decided I could go out another 1/2 mile and make this a 13 miler instead. Of course, this meant I had to go up a massive hill, which I *almost* ran all the way up but had to walk at the very end. Still, I got to the top, and soon after, I hit 6.5 miles and headed back.

Those next 1 and a half miles were the most enjoyable of the whole run. I was honestly shocked when I saw that I was at mile 8, since I felt like I had just hit 6 miles. I really need to run on trails more...
My legs started tiring out around mile 9, but not horribly so. I had been very good about my fueling, eating 2 shot blocks every 2 miles and a salt tab (electrolyte pill) every 45 minutes.

Around mile 11, I started wondering if maybe I could stretch this run to 14. Yes, I was tired, but not as tired as I had been on my last long run. I decided, though, that I shouldn't make that decision until I was almost home, to make sure I wasn't overly optimistic.

As I reached the outside of my complex, I was still feeling good, so I went out around the neighborhood for another half mile, and then, finally headed home.

Two hours and 40 minutes later, I had finished my longest run in over 2 years (and possibly in 5!). Finally, I feel like I'm on my way to being ready for my race. Next week, Ed and I are going to head to SF to retrace my old training grounds for 16 miles!!! So happy and excited to be doing a very long run :).

Friday, January 27, 2012

Valentine's Plans!

Ed and I are generally last minute low key kind of people for this holiday. I had one bad experience years ago where it seemed like a good decision to spend Valentines Day dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Union Square, SF back in college. Needless to say, it was an over 4 hour wait and generally miserable experience.

Since then, I've always voted to stay in, have a nice dinner together, and generally do what we always do for "fancy" evenings.

We're not shaking things up in that regard since, honestly, I do still love those evenings, but we are adding something fun and new to our celebration of this "holiday"

Valentine's Day Brunch at Sur La Table. Isn't that a cooking store, you say? That it is. This isn't us going out to brunch, this is learning how to make brunch, using the gift card that has been burning a hole in my pocket since I got it for my birthday back in September. The menu?

Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette 
 Dried Cranberry-Orange Scones 
 Bacon Cheddar Scones 
 Pancetta, Leek, and Gruyere Cheese Quiche 
 Fried Homestyle Potatoes in Duck Fat 
 Chocolate Covered Strawberries

It's pretty perfect, since Ed is excited about breakfast more than any other meals, which makes this a cooking class he's actually pretty excited about, and doing a daytime Valentines celebration just sounds like fun. So, this will be our "gift" to one another - a romantic morning, followed by a romantic evening. What more could a girl want?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


[Starting to feel marginally better, which apparently inspired me to become quite verbose and reflective :) ]

Over the last few weeks, I've been re-reading my favorite series - Anne of Green Gables.
When I read a book from my childhood, especially this one, I get caught up in all the feelings I felt reading this book as a child, all the hopes it filled me with regarding what I hoped I would be like as I got older. Anne represented what I wanted to be - a loving, enthusiastic teacher and married to the man of her dreams. In high school, I have to admit that I was a little more excited about the meeting the love of my life part than the teaching part. The career goals came a bit later :).

Now that I'm on the other side, married and a teacher myself, it feels pretty great to feel like I got my own version of that "Anne of Green Gables" life. I even married a (soon to be) doctor - just a different kind. The book does still cause a lot of reflection for me in about my future.

In the book, one of the characters, a young neighbor girl who is befriended by Anne, is always talking about Tomorrow. While her real life is very empty and strict, in Tomorrow, Elizabeth (the girl) believes everything is happy and good. In Tomorrow, her dad (who is absent) will return, she'll get freedom to live a fun life, and basically everything will fall into place.

When I was younger, I had a Tomorrow that I dreamed about, too. In my Tomorrow, I would get to be a wife and have a house and children of my own (okay, maybe some of you had loftier goals, but my ultra-romanticized self really had little else in mind for my future). [Though, I have to say, putting that "goal" into writing makes me feel a little silly - it doesn't seemly nearly as exciting in print as it did in my head all those years.] If you've known me for very long, you'd know that I've been waiting somewhat impatiently for the time in my life when I would be old enough to make that future a reality.

Sometimes I have to be careful about Tomorrow, because I still catch myself dreaming about mine. Especially because Tomorrow is a whole lot closer at 26 than it was at 12. I keep thinking about the house Ed and I will be buying this year, and the addition(s) to our family that hopefully will be happening in not too many years, the future we'll have when we're "grown up" family people, and I can't wait. Sometimes it's hard to keep myself from rushing to Tomorrow as quickly as I can, because I know how wonderful it will be.

However, my Today is pretty amazing, too, and I shouldn't need to keep reminding myself of that. I am so happy with how my life is right now, and don't want to rush ahead if I really think about it. The timing right now doesn't fit with my Tomorrow, and forcing it to rush ahead would spoil both my Tomorrow and my Today. Tomorrow will still be there when we're ready for it, and I know it will be just as amazing as I've always hoped.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


I have so many blog posts sitting in my draft area, waiting with pictures to be written. But, all my writing energy (and energy for everything else, for that matter) seems to be hiding out somewhere, while I seem do be dealing with the cold that just will not end. Ed brought the cold home from his trip to Arizona on the 10th, and by the 11th, I was feeling "off". The 13th and 14th were the worst, with a bad fever (which made our trip to southern california for my dad's birthday less than great, despite the wonderful event). On the 15th, I thought I was getting better, but I seem to have plateaued. It doesn't ever seem like my stuffed up head, sore throat, low energy, and off appetite will ever go away. I finally went to the doctor, who gave me cough syrup, but nothing for the raging congestion.

If anyone knows anything effective for super bad congestion, send it my way! I'm not totally sure how I'm going to get through this week (which features a serious need to get back to running after 2 weeks off and the start of my Spanish class), so sending positive thoughts my way would be appreciated too :).

Saturday, January 21, 2012

New Year, New Recipes

While I've announced quite a few "resolutions" for the month, there are certainly been some unofficial ones as well. One of those is trying new recipes. Now, not just any new recipes, but magazine recipes. I have been cutting out enticing recipes for at least a year, and then, nothing. I finally have gotten myself to add them to my recipe binder, and my goal is to actually use this as a source for dinner ideas. 

This recipe was my first: a lower calorie baked mac-and-cheese. 

Verdict? Looked amazing, tasted a little dry. Granted, I used whole wheat pasta, which perhaps made it taste a little too "healthy", but this was with "accidently" adding twice as much parmesean as needed. 

Still, it made for a romantic meal to dress up an otherwise mundane Sunday night :). 

P.S. - the pasta was greatly improved by adding some alfredo sauce the following night. Probably not what the recipe creaters had in common, but quite yummy, and much creamier. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Year's Eve

With so much talk about New Year's resolution on this site, and New Year's dessert, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention what did actually did to celebrate the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012. 

If you know us at all, you won't be surprised to learn that our plans fit our normal mold for "special evenings". While we considered going out, Ed's work is keeping him out of town many nights in January, so we wanted to have a special date night just for us. 

Our menu was pretty similar to menus past (why mess with a delicious and easy, but still special feeling, plan?)

We started our evening around 6:30 (enforcing a no working from this point on cut-off, which we seem to need sometimes, so we don't fall into bad habits). I put the laptop in the hall closet, just in case, and put on some nice Frank Sinata (pandora station), and got our first course ready. 

We love our simple, italian inspired appetizers. The only slight deviation from the norm was that we got half baked bread from Trader Joe's, which we finished baking right before we ate, so that we had very fresh tasting, warm bread, and extra treat. I also got more fig butter, which I also used with our main course, which was delicious on both the bread and the apples. We had some parmesean left over from another meal, so that was an easy addition. I'm not sure when Ed and I started having this as our go-to appetizer, but I'm so glad we did. It never disappoints. 

Of course, we couldn't resist opening a bottle of sparkling rose to add to the festiveness of the evening. Ed and I even dressed up a bit to add to the specialness of the evening. While we ate, we enjoyed playing our newest board game. 

Dinner was also a variation on our norm. For some reason, we've gotten into the habit of lamb for special holidays, which is funny since we rarely get it when we go out to eat. I think it's because we almost never eat it anytime else, it's not too expensive (about $12 a lb for this cut) and is very delicious. 

I was supposed to make a red currant sauce, but couldn't find them, so I just threw some good stuff in a pan and reduced it. The sauce had lots of fig butter, with some port, balsamic, and a little garlic chili paste (yes, this is normally for Chinese food, but it adds just the right kick of spiciness to the sauce). For being a total guess, the sauce was right on, tasting fabulous on the lamb. 

The lamb itself I cook in the best way yet. Up to this point, every time we've made this lamb, we've cooked it on the stove, served it up, and then found it raw in the middle and had to put it back on to cook longer. This time, we just seared it for a few minutes on the stove, but then put it in the broiler for another 5 minutes a side. It was probably a fraction more cooked than I prefer (I like meat pretty rare), but it was perfect for Ed. 

We served it up with simple sides of garlic and lemon green beans, and mint and pistachio cous cous. 

After a leisurely and delcious dinner, we watched an old Alfred Hitchcock movie: The Lady Vanishes. 

Without really meaning to, we ended up staying up past midnight, ringing in the new year happy and relaxed, and ready for 2012. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Roasted Banana Pudding

Way back on New Years Eve, knowing full well that my no sweets sojurn was starting very soon, I knew I had to pick the perfect dessert to cap off our celebrations. 

Enter Roasted Banana Pudding. 

This was the dessert of my childhood. Of birthday celebrations, special events celebrations, and really any night we wanted to feel special. 

However, this recipe was a step up, largely due to these. 

Yes, they look gross, but this is what happens when you roast bananas in the oven for 40 minutes until they are a delicious, extra sweet flavor. These are mashed up and mixed into the pudding, to give them that step up. 

The other very exciting part of this recipe is that it required me, for the first time, to actually make pudding. It had really never crossed my mind that you could make pudding any way except with a Jell-o pudding box. Following this recipe, I tempered eggs, and mixed them with sugar, milk and vanilla, and cornstarch, and with some stirring over heat, over time, it magically became think, creamy, delicious pudding. 

From here, it was just like "normal" banana pudding (i.e. the family recipe) trifle, with a few upgrades. 

After a layer of pudding, you put down a layer of vanilla wafers (In childhood we used Nilla wafers. Here? Whole Foods Organic vanilla wafers. Chosen so I wouldn't have to make and extra stop, but such a good choice. Much more flavorful than Nilla wafers).

These were topped with more roasted bananas (though, in retrospect, I think I'll just use regular bananas. The texture of sliced roasted bananas were just a bit off texture-wise and regular bananas are perfect in their regular state). 

You just keep repeating these layers until you've used up your pudding and toppings (3 layers about does it). 

Here, however, was where I had to differ from the directions, because neglected what I consider to be of paramount importance to this pudding. 

The baked marshmallow topping - possibly my favorite part. So, I added that, which made all the difference in taking this dessert from spectacular to perfection.  I even went as far to top leftovers with a fresh layer, and pop them in the toaster so that I could have the same freshly cooked from the oven taste the second time around. 

And since the recipe originally called for whipped cream on top? I figured we could add that, too. 

Needless to say, after all this deliciousness, laying off the sweets for a month wasn't all that out of line. 

Recipe here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Revisiting Goals: Week Two

Since it's the end of the second week of January, I thought I should reflect on how it went. This week threw a bit of a wrench into our plans when we both came down with the flu.

Needless to say, this affected both food and cleaning. On the plus side, I was not at all eager to indulge in sweets or wine. On the downside, I had no energy to clean the house, which became very, very messy.

The other downside was that this weekend was a built in "cheat" weekend, so that I could celebrate my Dad's 60th Birthday. I was looking forward to champagne and wine and cake. Instead, I gulped down lots of water, though I did have 2 bites of the amazing cake that my mom got my dad (pictures to follow :)), and a few bites of cake from my niece Amelia's 1st birthday party. Oh well, it was better for me to abstain in the long run.

Now that we are back from our whirlwind trip down south and feeling on the mend, we've started getting things in order. The living room is clean, and the kitchen mostly cleaned. I'll finish that and the bedroom tonight and start week 3 with a clean slate. Since I more or less failed for most of last week with sticking to the kitchen clean-up, I'm keeping that as my focus again. Let's hope for better results. We're also back to eating regular food (branching away from a diet of plain noodles, toast and bananas), which is heavenly. Surprisingly enough, I really missed eating vegetables and other colorful food.

I've got to say, though, that I am starting to hit my stride with the eating and non-drinking (sickness not-withstanding). I do feel a lot healthier without alcohol and am not missing the routine of it as much. Hopefully this week will be full of great, filling, healthy meals and a clean home.

Holiday Lights Revisited

This about wraps up our Christmas visits! 

Our very last activity of the holiday visits was a bit impromptu - on the drive home from dinner, we passed by the Cambria Pines Lodge and noticed their spectacular lights. Sabine suggested that we go home, get some layers, and then head back over to enjoy the festive displays. 

This was one of the best light displays I've ever seen - made all the sweeter by capping off our Christmas celebrations and being free to boot (In stark contrast to the Los Gatos "Festival of Lights" that goes for $20 a car - apparently our pockets aren't quite deep enough for the local festivities!). 

I must have taken about a million pictures, and was just soaking everything in - I can't wait to have our own home to decorate with lights - hopefully by next year :). 

Cambria at night is spectacular, but, as we drove away, back to real life, we couldn't help but reflect that Cambria in the light of the day is pretty spectacular, too. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Evening Out

Taking a quick flashback to continue posting about my wonderful Winter Break (that seems oh so long ago....). Also, the whole food/wine commitment? Not happening at the time of these pictures :). 

For dinner our last night in Cambria, Ed and I went out with his remaining (in town) family to a local favorite - Robins. I have fond memories of visiting this restaurant 8 or so years ago on a family vacation, and it was perhaps even better than I had remembered. 

Ed and I started by sharing a garden salad - in this case with food literally from their garden. It was topped with semi-local Point Reyes blue cheese - fabulous, and topped with a perfect dressing. 

Of course, the wine was great as well - a very non oakey chardonnay. 

My dinner was spectacular- one of the best I've had. Port braised short ribs with leek and potatos and kale, topped with root vegetable chips. I think I ate almost the whole thing.

Sabine's was also great - an amazing lamb curry (apparently this place is know for currys, something I didn't know).

As stuffed as we were, we decided on one dessert to share. That is, we decided that until I saw the dessert menu. 

On it - probably one of my all time favorite desserts (that is not an option nearly enough) - hot fudge sundae. I had to apologetically tell my dining companions that the sharing option? Wasn't going to work out. I wasn't adverse to sharing, but I was adverse to sharing with 4 other people. How could you resist that hot fudge and whipped cream?

So, we also got a slice of carrot cake, and all was well. Finally, we pulled ourselves up from the table, overly satiated, but very happy and content with this spectacular meal. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Reflecting after a Healthier Week: Eating, Drinking, and Running

This part of my resolutions was harder for me than I thought it would be. Food and drink temptations seemed to abound around every corner, and my runs were some of the toughest I've had in a while. But, I perservered, and have finished feeling tired, but clearer headed, healthier, and stronger.

It made a lot of sense for me to start this healthier lifestyle this week, with my long run climbing up to 12 miles, where those choices you make before and after runs really start to count (and, of course the New Year had something to do with it :) ).

Over the last year (ever since I got married, really), I've been trying to return to the healthy, fit lifestyle I had as I got ready for my wedding. I've just had trouble harnessing the motivation. One thing Ed has trouble understanding about me is why it's so hard for me, when from his perspective I do eat pretty healthily. What gets me is the wine, the sweet treats at work, and that desire I get to "treat" myself. My day to day eating is actually pretty good - its just the extras that sabotage my good choices. 

So, with my resolution to give up alcohol and sweets, I'm cutting out the majority of the wasted calories that keep getting me into trouble. I'm finding it much easier to do this than what I've tried in the past, and am feeling much more relaxed about my other food choices, trusting that I'm still making good decisions. According to my scale (which granted, is a little finicky), I've lost a few pounds, which is pretty awesome, and hopefully that continues. 

The resolution is also a very handy way to let other people know that I'm not drinking or eating desserts is a very socially acceptable kind of way. It made it easy to not have dessert at the knitting night I have with friends, abstain from alcohol or sweets at a friends' weekly dinner, and not drink when my family was visiting (though, funnily enough, my mom had to made sure I wasn't giving up alcohol for a "medical" reason - i.e. having a little one on the way). It makes it pretty clear, though, when I say I'm planning to add some wine back in next month :). This is definitely a health/running related decision.

So, I am excited to head into week 2 of a healthier me. The 13 miler at the end of this week is good motivation to make good choices, as is the 6 miler after work on Wednesday (though, I have to admit, I'm a little nervous about that mileage after the work staff meeting, with it being very dark and pretty long for a worknight workout). 

It will be a great week!

(and here's a preview for the next month of my running - I am nervous!!!)