Monday, March 31, 2014

Ragnar Official!

Hello friends! How's it going?

I'm feeling pretty good today, for a few reasons. The main one is that we have a pretty complete team of 12 for the Great River Ragnar Relay! "Pretty complete" means we have 12 yes's, now we just need everyone's email address to invite, then runners to accept the invite, etc. But we've paid for it! Actually, since I'm the team captain, I've paid for it. Now I just need to get everyone to repay me. :o( That may be some work.

Despite that small issue, I'm pretty excited about it. At the moment, I'm dedicated to runner spot 10, which is 17.3 miles broken up into 3 legs: 8.20 miles, 3.80 miles, and 5.3 miles. It's not the easiest of the 12 spots, but I feel like it's definitely do-able.

So, I've gone spreadsheet crazy entering in paces, leg times, finish time projects, etc. I haven't shared this with my team yet. Don't want to scare them off too soon!

I also had a pretty awesome run this weekend. The weather was really nice. Right around 30 degrees, sunny, with a mild breeze. I even impressed myself with a 9:07 average pace. Not the fastest ever, but faster than any of my other long runs this year! Speed isn't everything, but my 10K pace last year was right around 8:42. I'd like to get near that again for shorter runs before race season officially starts.

Speaking of, this year is kind of "the year of the races". So far I have dedicated myself to 4, and I know there will be another I'll do for sure.

1. HOPE Springs 5K in April
2. Sour Grapes 1/2 trail marathon in June
3. Red Ore Run 10K in July
4. Ragnar in August
5. Rock'n'Roll 1/2 marathon in October

There's another 5K in August that I may do, but I'm not sure of the date. Last year it conflicted with my training season, too. But I love to support local races, so if I can make it then I'm there!

Now I just need to keep up with training, and take care of myself so I avoid injuries.

Do you have any races planned for the year? Spill it!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Turkey Burgers

Do you know how expensive ground beef is right now? I was flabbergasted last time I bought some at the grocery store. Literally shocked at the price. For a pound of 80/20 ground beef, I paid over $4.50.

My friends, that is nuts.

In an attempt to lower our grocery bill, and eat healthy too, I thought of buying ground turkey instead. Light bulb! To my dismay, ground turkey is not as cheap as I thought. At $4.99 a pound, it's more expensive than ground beef, but's healthier. Out of the two options, I figured ground turkey was the better choice.

I had the perfect recipe in mind too. Turkey burgers! But not just your average, plain Jane turkey burgers. These delicious burgers from Food & Drink. I'm totally stealing their photo, too, because I didn't snap a pic of the burgers we made. I was too excited to eat them!

7 oz. plain greek yogurt
1 medium fresh lemon
¼ tsp minced garlic
¼ tsp dried dill
1.25 lb. ground turkey
6 halves sun dried tomatoes
1 medium red onion
2 oz. frozen spinach 
¼ cup crumbled feta
1 tsp dried oregano 
½ tsp minced garlic 
⅓ cup bread crumbs
1 lg. egg
1 med. cucumber 
6 hamburger buns
to taste salt and pepper

1. Prepare the yogurt sauce by combining the yogurt, ¼ tsp minced garlic, dry dill, juice of half the lemon and a dash of salt. Stir everything to combine and then refrigerate to allow the flavors to blend while you make the burgers.
2. Thaw the frozen spinach and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Roughly chop the spinach to prevent long stringy pieces. Also chop the sun dried tomatoes and ¼ of the red onion.
3. In a bowl, combine the ground turkey with the spinach, sun dried tomatoes, red onion, feta, ½ tsp minced garlic, dried oregano, egg, bread crumbs, ½ tsp of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Stir everything until it is evenly combined. Shape the mixture into six patties.
4. Cook the burgers on a counter top grill, a non-stick skillet or over open flame. Spread the yogurt sauce on both sides of a bun, add a warm burger and top with thin slices of red onion and cucumber.

They use a George Foreman grill, but we just pan-grilled on the stove top. I also omitted the cucumber and red onions (on top, not in the burger) and added slices of tomato and a bit of mozzarella cheese. These are so yummy! The yogurt-dill sauce really adds to the flavor as well. This is a perfect Spring/Summer dish. I can just imagine enjoying one of these on our deck with a glass of white wine. Now if only the weather would cooperate and warm up a bit!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Joy of Homeownership

Houses take work. Houses need work. Even the most perfect, custom-built, brand new house needs something. Blinds, window treatments, door handles, etc. If you are lucky, before you buy a house all of your friends and family will tell you to have a slush fund for fun little home-ownership projects. If you're not lucky, you find this out the hard way.

Travis and I were lucky. We knew that our house would need work. This is always at the back of our mind. See, the previous owners had the grand plan of "flipping" our home. I've seen the before pictures, and they ain't pretty. However, previous owners had no clue what they were doing when it came to 99% of our house. Plumbing...they sucked at. Painting...also sucky. Flooring...not so great either. So, little by little, we update, repaint, or just flat out replace things that need to be changed.

Most recently, this was our main floor toilet. That toilet was old, short, small, and had a worriesome crack on the inside. Our house is 100+ years old and while I don't think the toilet is that old, it was definitely time for it to be replaced. There was also a weird popping sound in the water line after every flush. Time to go, toilet!

Here it is, forever to be remembered as the "Squatty Potty". Goodbye, Squatty Potty, you have served us well.

Travis and I decided to go shopping for a new toilet a few weeks ago. On a Friday night. We really know how to live it up! Originally, I had in mind to just buy a simple model, for around $100. Good enough, right? But then I talked to my mother, and she's all "You have to buy a nice toilet, don't get cheap. We have a Kohler and it's great!" Yea yea, ok mom.

But then, the worst thing happened. I fell in love with the most expensive toilet that Lowe's had on display, and of course, it's a Kohler. Ok, maybe I'm being a bit dramatic. What can I say? I like nice things. Par for the course, that toilet was out of stock so we had to order it and wait a week. It finally came in, and Travis installed it this weekend!

I present to you: Pretty Potty! (Full disclosure, this is what my 2 year old calls it)

See? It has pretty detail, and it's bigger. Like, actual grown-up size. Amazing!

You know, it's really about the little things in life...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Runners Tell All Linkup: My Favorite Running Gear

It's linkup time again! If you missed my post last month from the link up, check it out here. For those of you that are like, "link up? WhatchyoutalkinboutWillis?" Here's the basic gist:

"Runner's Tell All" is a monthly linkup for runners of all ages, skill levels, and experience hosted by Sunshine to the Square Inch and The Lady Okie. Each month they'll have a different topic, and you can find all the topics listed here

This month's topic is favorite running gear. I'm currently giving myself a good dose of runner's guilt because I skipped my run this morning (I slept like crap and it was SNOWING), so talking about running is just as fun. 

It's hard to pick one thing that I love out of my running gear. Right now, since it's still winter here in the Great White North, I'm loving on all my winter running stuff. My favorites are probably my Under Armour ColdGear pants and long sleeve tees. The ColdGear Crew top is my go to baselayer for anything under 30 degrees:

Right now they're only offering it in black and grey, but I have it in bright pink and turquoise. Way more fun that boring grey. 

The ColdGear fitted tight is a lifesaver with it's soft fleece lining on the inside. Warm enough to wear alone until about 15 degrees. Anything colder and I put on sweats over them. Plus, they're a bit longer than your typical tights. 

For summer running, I love Lululemon crops. They have a special fabric that wicks away sweat and keeps them from staying stinky. Plus, they're so comfy and really like a second skin. I ran my first half marathon in my Inspire II Crops, and I just bought another pair recently. They can be spendy though, so if you're interested in winning a $30 gift card to Lululemon, participate in this link-up!!

I love these pants because they're a little longer than a typical capri length crop, they're lightweight, and they have tons of pockets. I don't often use the pockets, but it's nice to know they're there if I need them.

I have to say though, by far, my favorite running item is my Fuel Belt. I have the R20 Revenge Hydration Belt with 2 water bottles.
Mine is just basic black, but I added 2 hot pink pockets for a little more flair. This is where I hold all my "junk". MP3 player, cell phone, keys, cash, extra batteries for the MP3 player, energy chews, runner's name it. I use it for 3 mile runs, half marathons, and everything in between. If I could only chose one thing to run with, this would be it! 

Make sure you visit The Lady Okie and see all the other runner's favorite products too!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Baked Penne with Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I love comfort food. Cheesy goodness, pasta, potatoes, etc. I can't really eat this type of food all the time or I'd weigh 500lbs and have seriously clogged arteries. But once a week or so is acceptable, in my opinion. I exercise, I try to eat right for the most part. Except for those times when it's 9pm, I 've had a glass of wine, and I need a cookie. That happens more often than not.


Recently I stumbled across this recipe from The Art of Comfort Baking  for baked penne with chicken and sun dried tomatoes. Yum!!!

Baked Penne with Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound Penne
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 tablespoon Spicy Grill seasoning (I always use the kind for steak)
1/4 cup flour, plus 1 tablespoon
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups milk (I used 2%)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
1 cup mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 Italian seasoning bread crumbs 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a 2-quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Cook your Penne in a large pot of boiling salted water about 3 minutes short of al dente.  Drain and return to pot.  

Dice chicken into bite size pieces and toss with grill seasoning.  Cook until cooked throughout.  

In a large heavy pot or dutch oven, melt butter over medium.  Add flour and garlic, whisk and cook for 1 minute.  Gradually add milk while whisking and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently until sauce thickens, about 6-8 minutes.  Add tomatoes, cook for 1 minute.  Take off heat and add mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan.  

Add chicken and pasta to sauce and season with salt and pepper.  Pour mixture into baking dish and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and bread crumbs.  Bake for about 25 minutes until golden and bubbling.  

It is seriously, seriously good stuff. Like, I kind of wanted to just take the baking dish and go somewhere to eat the entire thing all by myself. This recipe includes all the things I love: pasta, creamy goodness, chicken, and bread crumbs. Who doesn't like bread crumbs?

The only problem? The recipe is a little putzy. Meaning, it's not really a whip-it-up-quick type dish that's good for a weeknight. My husband said exactly this "Yea, it's good. But let's not ever make this again, ok?" Say what? That kind of breaks my heart! I think it was all the whisking that did him in. So, we will be making this again, but I think it will be reserved for special occasions. However, if you have plenty of time on your hands and do not have a cranky toddler demanding fruit snacks and movies all night long, then try this! You'll like it!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Suck It Up, Buttercup

That's what I'm telling my body. In the nicest way I can, of course. "Hey body, suck it up!" You see, I went on this lovely, hard, grueling long run on Sunday. It may not have been the wisest idea to do 7 miles after running on the treadmill all winter. The treadmill works different muscle groups in your legs than running on pavement would work. So basically, all winter long, my hamstrings have been getting a bit lazy. They are the fat couch potato of my leg muscles.

My hamstrings kind of hate me this week.

But I was expecting this, wasn't I? Yes and no. Naive me was hoping all would be fine. In an effort not to do damage and let my legs rest a bit, I did not run Monday or Tuesday. By Tuesday night, I decided I've had enough of this and it's time to get back out there. Which I did, this morning. I ran 3 miles, and it was definitely work. My hamstrings weren't in pain, but they were saying "hey, what is this crap?! Can we go back to bed now?" But I have a game plan.

I try my best not to get injured while running. Injuries are common, and sometimes you can run through them and sometimes you need rest. Last Spring, I had some chronic hip pain that I ran through. Then it was tendinitis in late Summer that my doctor told me to run through as well. I read a post on Pinterest that said redheads have a higher pain tolerance, even though technically we have a gene mutation that allows for red hair. Hey, I'll buy that. I mean, everything on the internet is true, right?

Anyway, with my hamstrings, I'm not so sure. I've heard of people getting more severe injuries from doing exactly what I did. But I thought I was invincible and went running anyway. Now I have to allow for annoying pain. Now I have to plan shorter runs and slower runs. But that's ok, because at least I'm still running. So, my plan is to take another rest day, then get out there and do some hills. Hills make you stronger. Hills make your legs push. Hills also give you a nice tush. I'll buy that, too.

Have you had a sports injury? How did you work through it?

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Road Run - Finally!

We have finally been blessed with some warmer weather. PRAISE THE LORD! This weekend we saw temperatures hovering right under 50 degrees.

Did you read that correctly? 50 FANTASTIC DEGREES!!!!!

I'm sorry for the excitement, but it's been a long winter. Nope, not sorry. Deal with it.

I was finally able to lace up my shoes and hit the road, although I did have to strap on my Yak-Trax as there is still some snow and ice in parts. It was also a bit chilly when I started out, but pretty comfortable for most of the run. Half-marathon training is officially in full swing, so I planned on doing 7 miles. Gulp.

I was a little nervous about starting out again on the road and doing 7 miles. I thought maybe I should a few shorter runs to get my feet wet again. But, I've been running up to 60 minutes on the treadmill all winter, so I knew that I could handle it from a cardio standpoint. I was just worried about my poor legs.

Let me tell you, they are not happy with me. The entire run was definitely work. I forgot about a couple of hills along the way that made things a bit hairy. But I just kept plugging along and stayed with it. I'll be honest, there was one point where I thought "I could just walk now. It would really be ok." But that would just prolong things, and at that point I just wanted to be home. The nice thing about the route I took was that the entire last .7 mile is all downhill. That's fun :o)

Here's my stats:

Side note: I love my Garmin Forerunner watch. It is a cool little gadget that shows me my overall time, pace per mile, and how many miles I've gone. No more fumbling with my phone and the inaccuracy of MapMyRun! Anyway, not too shabby with an overall pace of 9:23. Although, let me tell you what. I am paying for it today. My leg muscles are not to happy with me. But you know what I say to them? Get over it, legs! This is just the beginning! We've got work to do!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

5 years

Today is my 5th wedding anniversary. How did that happen? Seriously. Just yesterday we were two kids playing house and wrapped up in wedding planning. Now we have a kid, and play "house" with plastic teacups and baby dolls. Where does the time go?

This picture was taken about 6 months after we started dating in 2005. I was 20 and Travis was 21. Ignore all the beer bottles - it was a typical college party. We look so young!

We were still living in Florida, not really considering moving anywhere. But the world was still our oyster then, and anything was possible.

Fast forward 4 years, and we're living in Missouri and getting married!

Our wedding was fun and amazing, and I was so relaxed that day. My maid of honor even forgot Trav's ring and I had no idea until much later. Apparently, my brother snuck out and found it in my day-of bag. He saved the day! It's so funny! I did a lot of pre-planning, and it really helped the day go smoothly.

Shortly after the wedding, we ended up moving to Minnesota. If God himself had come to me when I was in high school and told me that I would end up getting married and moving across the country, I'm not sure that I would have believed him. But here we are, nearly 5 years later. Living in the Great White North, with a toddler, real jobs, a mortgage, etc. Playing house has become real life.

I'm starting to feel like a bit of a veteran in married life. We're at a comfortable stage in our relationship, and yet still have fun, and have new things to talk about. I think it's important that we have different interests, but are interested in hearing about the other person's interest. Comprende? Or maybe I just try to convince myself of that when I'm rattling off about running and races I want to do.

That's not to say that being married is all fun and games. It's still work. There are definitely times when I sit back and realize that I'm not being a full participant in "us". Sometimes I leave the parenting to Travis too often, or even take for granted that he'll be there when I get home and need him. It's times like those that I make myself step up to the plate and be more involved. Because I want to, and I'm one lucky lady that my hubby is a patient man. And our life together is better than anything I could have ever imagined.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Relay, anyone?

Ok, so after my last blog post all about brownies, I realized that maybe you think I've gone to seed, and am just sitting here not exercising and getting fat.

It's not true! I'm still running on the treadmill, as much as it pains me to say that. With cold temps hovering around zero (or less!), it's really difficult to even think about getting outside again. I'm hoping that since it's March now, maybe the weather will start to warm up again. I mean, come on, Spring officially starts on March 20th! It needs to warm up at some point, right?

This past weekend, I was asked to be part of a Ragnar Relay team. This 200+ mile race consists of 12 person teams, each running 3 legs over a period of 24-48 hours. You travel in vans, you shower in schools and community centers, you sleep when and where you can. You will run at night at some point. Honestly, not many of these things, individually, sounds very appealing. I mean, let's be honest here. Also, there will be porta potty use at some point. Not my favorite thing.

But all together? This race kind of sounds like it ROCKS. The legs are anywhere between 3 and 9 miles, and vary in difficulty based on the terrain. The race we're looking at is the Great River race that goes from Winona, WI to Minneapolis, following the Mississippi river for much of the way. And really, you're only running for maybe 2 hours total for the whole journey. Not even all at once. The rest of the time is spent in camaraderie with your teammates.

I kind of can't wait.

The race is in August, which means it will likely be hot and muggy. Hmm, that's ok in the grand scheme of things. Better than freezing cold, right?

So now we're trying to amass our team together. So far we have a definite 6, maybe 7. I asked a co-worker if he'd like to join up, but he's unsure about the timing. He's racing the Hardrock 100 in July. He might still be a little tired come mid-August. Well, that's what I'm assuming. His main concern was having enough vacation time. Ok, let's all giggle a little about this and then realize we're all lazy couch potatoes in comparison.

Have you heard of Ragnar? Would you consider running in one? 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Calling all Brownies!

I have had a hankering for brownies lately. Good, warm, ooey-gooey brownies. No, I'm not pregnant, so let's just get over that. I just want a dang brownie!

My Grandma used to make the best brownies with cherries in them when I was young. They were so good! But now, in my old age of nearly 30, I don't really like to mess my desserts with fruit. Just give me chocolate, straight up. I also want to be slightly health-conscious because I'm watching my girlish figure and all that. So imagine my surprise and delight when I found this recipe for 37 calorie brownies! That sounds like a little brownie gift from God, no? Here's the picture in the link:

I mean, come on...37 calories? I've got to try these! So, last Saturday I decided to whip them up with the help of Emily. They have weirdo ingredients like applesauce, greek yogurt, rolled oats, and Truvia instead of regular sugar. I figured we could at least try them and see how they turned out.

In a word...gross. They were flat, and not very sweet. Kind of like eating baking chocolate. Yuck. We each had one and then I promptly threw the rest of the pan away. Here's a picture of what they actually look like:
Photo credit to Making Memories With Your Kids, who also thought these were disgusting!

Some people may like this kind of thing, but my opinion: blasphemy!!

So, with my craving for brownies not quite fulfilled, I made a pan of simple box brownies. That was ok and they were good and all. But then I saw this recipe for Nutella Brownies. Say what!?!? That's like combining all of my favorite things in one nice little package. I had to try them!

The recipe says to use a 9x13 pan. My immediate thought was "oh yea, we're going to have lots of brownies!" Then you mix together 2 sticks of butter, 2 1/4 cups of sugar, a bunch of cocoa powder (2 kinds!), an entire jar of Nutella, and lots of chocolate chips.  So, not so healthy. Even I was starting to laugh a little at the ridiculousness that was Nutella brownies. But then, they come out of the oven and it's hard not to imagine eating the whole pan with a bucket of vanilla ice cream while you happily gain 50lbs.

I present to you, the Tower of Brownies:

Yum. I eventually decided to put most of these in the largest tupperware container I own so they stay fresh. I will admit, I overcooked them a little so they're not quite as fudgey as I would like. Which really means I just have to make them again to obtain perfection. A little precaution: you will need a glass of milk while eating one of these bad boys. It's ok, you can thank me later.

What is your favorite dessert?