Thursday, January 29, 2015

Paddington: a mid-week treat

Every once in awhile, we like to break the routine a little. Break up the winter doledrums, and do something fun. Treat ourselves.

Sometimes, that can be a little difficult in our small town of 16,000 people. Also, with a 3 year old. Lucky for us, Emily still thinks going to the movies is the best thing ever. EVER. 

She loves sitting in the huge chairs that her body weight can barely hold down. She loves the popcorn. OMGTHEPOPCORN. She loves that she gets her own little drink. Basically, going to the movies is best thing since sliced bread. 

So excited! That huge drink belongs to Travis - not my 3 year old. 
Normally we get one large popcorn to split between the 3 of us, but this time I splurged and got her a kiddie sized popcorn. Major brownie points for mama, holla! We save money by bringing bottled water in the diaper bag. 

No, we don't use diapers anymore. Yes, we still use the diaper bag. Do you know how much you can smuggle into the theater in that thing? Probably all our own popcorn too, but there's just something about movie theater popcorn. 

I also lied and said that Emily was 2, so she got in free. What? Don't hate. The 16 year old kids working the counter have no clue what's up, and I'm not paying $8 for her to see a movie. Although I have a feeling I won't be able to do this much longer.

Anywho...Paddington - the movie.

Having been a Paddington Bear fan as a kid, I was actually kind of excited about seeing this. If not just for the nostalgia. 

The basic premise is that after his Peruvian jungle home is destroyed by an earthquake, Paddington goes to London to find the explorer that once visited his Aunt & Uncle many years ago. He meets the Brown family, who grudgingly take him in until he can find the Explorer, and hilarity ensues with having a talking bear in a modern home. 

For the most part, the movie was cute and had some funny bits. Trav and I both agreed that it could have done without Nicole Kidman as the villian who tries to capture Paddington so she can stuff him and put him on display in a museum. That was a little mature. I mean, I can see if she wanted to put him in a zoo, or take him on a traveling road show/carnival-esque type deal. But, really...kill him? Stuff him? A bit much. 

There were also scary parts dealing with that aspect that Emily didn't like. She kept saying she had to go to the bathroom (no she didn't, we just went), and then hid her face in Trav's chest until it was over. 

We all agreed that we just wanted to see more funny bear-living-in-a-house type things. 

Given that it was a Wednesday night, and everyone is still in a tizzy over American Sniper, and we live in a small town, we were the only ones in the theater. Which is kind of cool. We could talk or make comments whenever we wanted to. Although, maybe that's not a great habit to be teaching Emily, now that I think about it. 

See? We had the whole place to ourselves!

So, even though I wouldn't rate this a 5 star movie, it was a solid 3.5 in my book. But the best part was that we all got to go together and spend time as a family. 

Have you seen any good movies lately? 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Training for Tuesday: Cross Training

Today I'm joining the Training for Tuesday link-up hosted by Tracy and Alyssa.

I have to admit that I'm a little bored with my training right now. The weather is warming up a little, but the roads are still a gamble at times. So, for the most part, I'm still trucking it out on my treadmill. I did get one 4 mile run outside last week, and my hamstrings weren't super happy with me. But I expected that. It takes a few runs for them to get back in shape.

In the mean time, I've been adding some cross training into my routine. I mentioned how I've started doing Yoga for Runners on my rest days. I really think that's been helping with my flexibility. Except yesterday I started suffering from some strange tightness in my sciatica/upper glut. I ran this morning, which made it feel better for about 30 minutes and then went right back to feeling tight. Who knows what's going on there.

I read a brief article (from where exactly is escaping me at the moment) about core strength being important when running a marathon. When you hit that wall after XX miles, core strength helps to at least keep you upright and in good form.

I started doing this 15 minute strength routine for runners from Nike. Not only does it include a bunch of core exercises (hello side planks, who knew you were so difficult!?), but it also has some hamstring/glut muscle and upper body exercises. It really only takes 15 minutes, and definitely kicks my butt.

I'm toying with the idea of signing up for RunnersConnect, after hearing a running friend sing it's praises. He was training for a marathon last fall, and shared some of the workouts they gave him with our running group. I wasn't able to make any of them due to not liking to run in the evenings schedule conflicts, but the other runners that went said they were really great workouts.

RunnersConnect has two different options: a custom training schedule for $40-50 a month, or personal training for $169.95 a month. Personal training is a bit out of my financial reach, but I'm thinking of doing the custom training schedule. They still provide feedback and support, and also offer tips on strength training, nutrition advice, and you have access to their chat forums to talk to other runners.

I've put together a training plan that seems good to me, but having never trained for a marathon before - what do I really know? If this service can help me be successful, then I think I'm willing to dish out the dough. I have a few months to decide, and until then I really don't even need to start officially "training". It's all (boring) maintenance miles until then.

Fingers crossed for an early spring!

What are you training for right now? Have you ever used a custom training service before? 

Come see what the other bloggers are training for and talking about on Training for Tuesday!


Monday, January 26, 2015

Weekend Recap: Bachelorettes and Brownies

Good Monday morning! For my east coast readers, I hope everyone is staying warm and safe with the impending snowmageddon that is heading your way. Essentials to have: milk, toilet paper, wine, and brownies.

This weekend was a fun one here in the Great White North! We are actually having some warm weather for a change, and little snow. I am totally ok with that.  It's maybe a little early for spring, but I'll take warmer temps at the very least.

*I'd like to pause here for a short grammar lesson. Did you know that the seasons do not need to be capitalized? Spring, summer, fall, & winter? I am embarrassed to admit that I just learned this a few weeks ago. I could have sworn to you that I learned the opposite, but it's true! So I thought I'd share that tidbit for anyone else out there that was making the same mistake.*

Moving on....

Saturday was officially bachelorette day for my friend Carol, who is getting married in 2 short weeks. It was also the last of my official duties as a bridesmaid before actually standing up in the wedding.

Carol is a year older than me, and not exactly the bar-hopping type. Instead of the traditional bar crawl with feather boas and male-anatomy paraphernalia that you typically see at a bachelorette party, I suggested that we go to a swanky jazz bar for dinner and drinks. She liked the idea, so that is precisely what we did.

First we stopped for pedicures. One of the bridesmaids had never had one, so it was funny to see her squirm a bit - apparently she is very ticklish! What a good sport. Then off we went to the Black Water Lounge. They are known as one of the best martini bars in the city of Duluth. They also have a pretty upscale "bar" menu, including sushi, flatbreads, and fondue. We spent a good 3 hours enjoying some adult beverages and way too much food. Since I planned on making the drive home (1.5 hrs), I played it pretty cool with the alcohol, opting for wine over martinis.

I'd like to think that we all had a really great time! Our pregnant friend rode with me, and needed to call the night short by 10pm. I was totally fine with that since that's way past my bed time anyway - especially by the time we got home. Apparently the bride-to-be and the rest of the group moved on to another bar after that. I hear they got home very late!

Sunday was spent just relaxing and getting some things done at home. I think I'm going through sugar withdrawals after the holidays, because I've been craving some baked goods again. I decided to whip these up since they are slightly more healthy than your average brownie.

Skinnytaste Amazing Flour-less Brownies

Besides cocoa, sugar, and eggs, they also have a couple of secret ingredients: black beans, ground coffee, and balsamic vinegar. Sounds kind of gross, right?

I promise you that they are not! They are sooooo good - even Emily and Travis ate one and requested more. The black beans (ground up well in a food processor), help with the consistency, while the ground coffee helps to bring out the chocolate flavor. I guess the balsamic vinegar acts as a leavening agent since there is no flour. Those flavors bake right out, and all you're left with is ooey-gooey chocolate flavored brownies. I also added peanut butter chips on top instead of the chocolate chips that are called for. Because I love me some peanut butter and chocolate.

At 144 calories a pop, they're probably no better than a regular box brownie, but these are gluten free and pack a punch of protein. So...they're healthy?

Would you try my brownies knowing what they're made of? Have you been to a bachelor or bachelorette party lately? 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Small Steps

As we all know, January is the usually the time of year when 99.9% of the population thinks "Oh crap! I've been eating crap for a month and feel horrible!" Then we all start making resolutions about exercising and eating healthy.

Then a few days or weeks go by and, for some, things get hard. The healthy train wants to leave the station, without most of us on it.

I try to eat healthy all year-round, but I will admit that the holidays are hard. My moderation gauge gets thrown out the window. But you know what annoys me to no end? When people start complaining about how hard it is to eat healthy, they can't lose weight, blah blah blah. I'm sitting here thinking "but it's only been a few changes cannot be done in just a few weeks!"

So here are some of my tips for eating healthier and staying on track:

1. Commit to making healthier choices - this seems like the most obvious one, but can be difficult. Baby steps people. Instead of fries with your sandwich, ask the waiter if you can have a side salad. Choose grilled over fried. Baby steps.

2. Keep a journal - I try to log all my food into It helps to keep me accountable and on track. You could also use a paper journal. But just seeing what I've eaten for the day, and how many calories I have left, usually helps to make better choices.

3. Pack a lunch - I know this takes some planning and effort, but home made food is always better than just grabbing something from the convenience store or a fast food chain.

4. Pack snacks - I bring a morning snack and an afternoon snack to work every day. It helps to stave off the ravenous feeling I get if I don't eat, and then I tend not to overindulge on lunch or dinner. It's usually just something small like a banana, string cheese, a handful of almonds, etc. This also keeps me from going to the vending machine for chips or a candy bar.

5. Meal plan - You don't have to get all crazy like I do in my grocery shopping process, but spending 10-20 minutes to make a shopping list and have specific meals in mind keeps us from making poor choices and saves us money. It's so simple to make a plan for the week if you take a few minutes to think about what you have going on in the upcoming week, how much time you may have, and then build a plan based on that. Don't plan to make a super complicated dish on a night where you have 12 commitments already. Make that a crock pot night! Knowing I have something at home waiting for me in the crock pot keeps me from hitting up the drive-thru in between errands.

6. Low Expectations - Don't expect huge changes over night. Yes, lifestyle changes are hard. Yes, I still struggle with making poor choices (like eating every carb in sight last night), but making small changes now eventually becomes habit. Also? I don't guilt myself or complain about it when I do make poor eating choices. The next day is always a fresh start!

P.S. It doesn't have to be all quinoa and kale for life. You can make room for occasional chips and brownies too. But by making healthier choices all day long, then indulging in a brownie isn't so bad. Or better yet: make your own brownies like these from that use healthy ingredients and are low calorie. It's win-win!

What kind of healthy choices do you make? What's one of your indulgences? Mine is chocolate!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Skinnytaste Teriyaki-Glazed Pork Chops with Pineapple Salsa

If you don't follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, then you have been spared a bit of my Skinnytaste obsession.

Seriously, it's an obsession.

Skinnytaste is a blog started by a wonderful gal named Gina. She makes recipes designed to be low in calorie, but not low in flavor. I know that sounds like a catch phrase or a sales pitch, but you guys - this ish is for real!

I started pinning a bunch of her recipes a few months back, and we started making a lot of them. 9 times out of 10 they are a hit in our household. Sometimes they have a little too much flavor for the 3 year old, so I try to give her a simpler version of what we're making. But they're healthy recipes, so you can't beat that. I asked for her new cookbook for Christmas, and was more than thrilled to have received it!

This beauty contains 150 recipes with photos that have me salivating. I have to be careful not to ruin the book! 

We've started making quite a few. Sometimes Travis cooks, sometimes I do. Her recipes are easy to follow, although I do wish she included a time for each one. Occasionally, it ends up taking a little longer than I anticipated. 

The other night I made these Skinnytaste Teriyaki-Glazed Grilled Pork Chops with Pineapple Salsa, as well Sweet Potato Wedges, courtesy of Skinnytaste. Naturally. 

Sorry for the blurry picture, I was excited to eat!

You are supposed to grill these, but I cooked them on the stove top since it's a wee bit chilly for us to be grilling at the moment.

*Pork Chops:
1/4 c pineapple juice
4 tsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
5 boneless pork loin chops (4 oz ea)

*Teriyaki Sauce:
1 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 c pineapple juice
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 small garlic clove, minced

*Pineapple Salsa
1 1/3 c fresh pineapple, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped red onion
1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
Cooking Spray

For the pork chops: Combine the pineapple juice, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger in a small bowl. Put the pork chops in the bowl or a sealable container, pour marinade over them and marinate about 30 minutes.

For the teriyaki sauce: in a small bowl, whisk together the conrstarch and 3 tablespons cold water until dissolved. In a small saucepan, combine the soy sauce, pineapple juice, brown sugar, ginger and garlic. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat and cok until reduced and thickened, about 4 min. Add the conrstarch mixture and cook until thickened, about 2 more minutes. (Took longer for me, I had to move completely off the heat for it to thicken.) Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.

For the pineapple salsa: In a small bowl, combine the pineapple, jalapeno, red onion, and cilantro. Set aside.

Preheat a grill to medium-high heat (or a shallow pan on the stove top). Spray the grill or pan with oil. Remove the pork from the marinade, place on grill or pan, and discarding marinade. Cook chops until no longer pink, 6-7 minutes per side. Spoon 1 tbsp of the teriyaki sauce over each chop in the final 30 seconds of coking time.

Place on chop on each plate, and top each chop with 1/3 cup of salsa.

Here are some tips:
- You need to marinate these for 30 minutes. Don't forget!
- Make the salsa while they're marinating. If you're pairing it with the sweet potato wedges, do that first and get them in the oven as they take about 20 minutes to bake. Then make your salsa. 
- Do the glaze and the chops at the same time if you're cooking on the stove top. Since these cook up quick, your timing should be just right. Mine only took about 5 min on both sides. 

I muddled these steps a little and ended up feeling slightly frazzled. But, everything came together in the end and the flavors were amazing. The glaze is sweet, and pairs well with the sweetness of the pineapple and the heat of the jalapenos in the salsa. 

Also, on a chilly night when I am so wishing for warmer weather, this dish was a perfect little infusion of "island feel" for our evening. 

If you're looking for some lighter dishes (even pasta!) that are still tasty, I definitely recommend trying Skinnytaste out.

Have you tried a Skinnytaste recipe? Are you sick of my Instagram pictures yet? :o)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Dancing, Dining, and Decluttering: a weekend re-cap

Happy Monday blogging friends. I hope everyone had a lovely weekend!

This weekend was particularly busy for us. I am looking forward to a weekend where we don't have any commitments!

Saturday I was up before the sun to log 8 miles in on my treadmill. Typical winter running weekend for me at the moment. Then I was off to the grocery store to stock up. We've got some yummy dinners on tap this week!

Saturday night was my company's annual Holiday Party. I was on the party organizing team this year, so I felt a little pressure to make sure that everything turned out well. I shouldn't have worried, because it was great!

You can never be sure with buffet type meals, but the food did not disappoint. We had glazed ham, BBQ chicken, vegetarian lasagna rolls, cheesy Delmonico, warm German potato salad, and several other various vegetable salads. About 1/3rd of our office is vegetarian, so this is always a big concern when planning any type of meal for the company. We also had about 6 different varieties of cheesecake for dessert. I will shamelessly admit that I tried all 6. They were small pieces though!

Then we danced the night away. It's always fun to see who will dance at a company party. There's always a few of the same characters out on the dance floor, but every year there's some new employees. Sometimes it's surprising, like when the shy, quiet types get out there and rip it up. That's always fun to see! Travis and I are no strangers to the dance floor. Although we may not be very good, we enjoy cutting a rug. Until my feet decide that they've had enough. Then it's time to go home!

After a few hours of dancing. Do we look tired?

Sunday we enjoyed a lazy day around the house. We slept in, had some coffee, and then I got busy.

I ran out of the Pecan Gingerbread Butter that I made a few weeks ago, so I made Almond Coconut Butter that I found on the Runners World website. It is pretty tasty! Not too sweet, and very nutty. It does get hard in the fridge due to the coconut oil, but you can spoon out a little and microwave it back to the right consistency.

I also decided to declutter our living room closet. This has become a catch-all for any random box that needs a home, various cleaning products, seasonal decor, and whatever else I can fit in there. It was starting to get pretty ugly in there.

I found some ridiculous items, like a blanket that I've been missing for two years. TWO YEARS. How does that happen? Also, a box of Christmas music boxes to give as gifts, complete with gift bags. More empty boxes than I know what to do with. Recycling bin, here they come! Now it is beautiful, organized, and empty box free. The best part? It took me less than half an hour.

Emily and Travis had a great time playing outside this weekend, as we were graced with some warmer temperatures. Finally! They had a great time building a snow mountain, climbing it, and sledding down over and over again.

We wrapped the night up with this warm curried carrot soup that I've shared before. I seriously love it and cannot get enough of it!

So, a busy weekend but a good one. 

I'm starting a new adventure at work this week, which may keep me a bit busier than in the past. So blogging might get pushed to the back burner. Maybe, maybe not. Only time will tell! 

How was your weekend? 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Never Have I Ever: a link-up

I'm participating in my first Circle Link-up, hosted by Kiki over at In Its Time. The topic for this month is "Never Have I Ever".

Normally I think of this as a drinking game. Yay, college!

But I suppose there are cleaner cut versions around. Here's mine:

Never Have I Ever...

Been west of the Rockies - the farthest west I've traveled was when we went to Colorado for our honeymoon. We stayed in Estes Park, spent some time in Denver, Boulder, and Winter Park. I'm not sure which of those is the farthest west. Hopefully we're going to fix this with a trip to Seattle in the next few years.

Been to Europe - I so want to change this, with every bone of my body. Some day.

- Played a school sport - I blame private school for this, mostly. But also, I'm an individual sport kind of gal. I rode horses from middle school through college, and competed in lower level shows. But my "team" was just me and my horse. Does being the manager of the volleyball team in 7th grade count for this one? I was the first ever nerd to actually volunteer for that job. Go me!

- Broken a bone - knocking really hard on wood about this one. I've fallen off of plenty of horses in my day, and I'm pretty clumsy in general. But lucky me, no broken bones so far.

- Fired a gun - this may seem like an odd one, but hunting is really big where I live. Almost all the guys hunt, and most girls learn to shoot a gun at some point. Having not grown up here though, I missed out on this. So sad (dripping in sarcasm here). This is not really something I plan on doing either.

- Ran a marathon - I am doing this in October!

So, what's on your "never have" list?

Come see some of the other bloggers lists and join in on the conversation!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Homeowner Problems

You know, there are some days where I think to myself "I am sick of being a grown-up." Like, I wish my Adult Card could be revoked, I could move back home, and be 15 again.

Monday night was one of those nights.

Our home is around 100 years old. It has seen it's fair share of remodeling. Unfortunately, the "flippers" that we bought it from really didn't know what they were doing when it came to plumbing. We're talking breaking code laws kind of ignorance here.

Our kitchen sink is basically in an island in the middle of the kitchen. Surprise, surprise, they didn't do the piping correctly under the sink. It has always drained slowly, we've occasionally had issues with clogs, but Monday night it was game over.

While trying to do the dishes from dinner, the sink was no longer draining. We had a clog that was so large, it rusted out one of the pipes that takes the water from the sink to the main stack down into the sewer. You know what a rusted pipe equals? A hole in the pipe. Which means water everywhere.

Thankfully, in this situation, it was a very limited amount of water. But still - not something I want to deal with.

So Travis worked late into the night getting rid of the old pipe, which had to be in a very awkward spot in our basement. Of course. Then he took a half day yesterday to put in a new PVC pipe, and redo the set up under our sink, which now actually is up to code. I could strangle the guys we had "inspect" our house many moons ago. Seems they didn't know too much either.

Although Trav was working very hard, this is what I came home to yesterday:

Two days worth of dirty dishes, the crock pot from Monday night's dinner, and everything pulled out from under the sink. You can't see it, but behind Travis is every bottle of kitchen cleaner, goo-gone, Febreeze, Windex, and carpet cleaner we own. 

Thankfully, God blessed me with a handy husband. He was able to get everything put back into working order last night. Hallelujah! Also, what would have cost us probably over $500 by hiring a plumber, Travis was able to do under $60. So thankful. 

You know how great it was to use my kitchen sink this morning? Pretty awesome! 

Have you had any emergency DIY scenarios at home? Do you wish you were 15 again? Just sometimes, maybe?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Books of 2014

In 2013, I read 40 books. That, my friends, is no small feat. I recapped some of my favorites from 2013 here.

This year, I read 41. You know, just so I could do a *tiny* bit better than 2013. I wrote a mid-year check-in to chronicle my reading list thus far

That was at about 25 books. Then I read a few more:

Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl & Welcome to the Great Mysterious were recapped in the check-in post.

Just in case you were unsure, I like to read. A lot. 

We have basic cable so there's not very much junky TV watching going on. PBS for the win! I like to read before bed. I also usually read on my lunch break at work, or when Emily is watching Frozen for the 293rd time, or during nap time, or even that last half hour at work when things are kind of slow. 

So, whenever I can fit it in really. 

I think that if I hadn't read IT by Stephen King, that my list would have been longer. That sucker is over 800 pages and was no quick read. Let me tell you! I probably wouldn't recommend it either. At a certain point, it wasn't scary anymore; I just wanted it to end.

If you like historical fiction, I would suggest The Invention of Wings. Set in the early 19th century, Kidd chronicles the lives of an upper class white girl who is given a slave for her 11th birthday. 

Personally, I loved The Whistling Season. Loved. Here's my review from Goodreads:

"I love this book. It is so beautifully written, and the series of events are surprising and natural at the same time. I couldn't put it down, but didn't want it to end at the same time. Paul is the epitome of the older brother, ever watchful, while Damon is feisty and fun and Toby is just young and adorable. You can't help but fall in love with these honest characters, so accurate and honest in their depiction of 1900's homestead lifestyle."

Of course, I loved Tana French's The Likeness, which is the second book in the Dublin Murder Squad series. French can do no wrong in my eyes. Some of the same characters pop up from novel to novel, but each one is different enough that you don't feel like you're really reading a series. 

I would also really recommend War Brides. It's another historical fiction about a group of women thrown together during WWII while the men are off at war. But I'm a WWII junkie, so there's that. 

The rest of the books on my list are kind of "eh". Mean Streak is about a marathon runner, and apparently it's one of top selling books of 2014. But it's your typical mystery/suspense book with romance thrown in, and not super believable. In my humble opinion. 

So what's up for 2015? 

Currently, I am reading The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. Goodreads says I'm 68% done. I feel like it could end any day now...

On tap is Daniel Silva's The Heist, for bookclub. 

What are you reading? Any new suggestions for me?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday, dear friends!

I have to share this nifty little gadget with you. My Mom & Dad gave it to us for Christmas, and I love it!

It's the Markcharles Misilli Egg Cooker. Of course, it came from QVC. Because my mom is a QVC junkie.

Let me tell you why this is so cool. You can hard boil eggs with it, make omelets, poach eggs, and make deviled eggs. It comes with a handy little instruction booklet with some recipes. You fill the little cup with water according to the appropriate line on the cup for what you're making.

Personally, I really like it to make omelets in the morning. This is my new breakfast craving. You pour the water from the cup into the base, and sit the omelet dish on top of the hard boiled egg tray. Fill the cup with your eggs (I usually just do one) and whatever mix-ins you'd like. I normally add some diced bell pepper. I've also added red onion and mushroom, and some cheese. 

Then just pop the dome top back on, hit the button, and wait for the light to turn off! It's so simple! It normally takes about 6 minutes for my omelet to cook. It all works by steam, which I think is so neat! While it's cooking, I have time to get coffee going, or finish packing my lunch for the day, or whatever. I don't have to stand over it and watch it cook. 

Here's the finished product! Because the steam keeps things kind of damp in there, the omelet just slides right out onto the plate.

Voila! I like to top mine with a little black bean salsa. I haven't tried hard boiled eggs yet, but Trav has done a poached egg and said it was very good. I like that it is so quick, and I don't have to mess with the stove top and hot pans that early in the morning. If you're anything like me, mornings are all about whatever is easiest and fast. Done and done baby!

Do you have any fun gadgets that make your life easier in the kitchen? 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Yoga for Runners

As a runner, I know that I should do some cross training to increase my physical strength. Something like light weight lifting, biking, swimming. Something that uses my body in a different way than just a forward motion. I am totally guilty of slacking in this area. As a working mom, it's an effort just to make time to get my runs in, never mind all this other stuff.

But I started to have a problem. I began noticing that I was really stiff all the time. Sure, I could run a half marathon, but sitting cross-legged on the floor was starting to become difficult. I can touch my toes when I'm standing, but I can barely make it past my knees when sitting. I will be honest that it took me awhile to come to the conclusion that yoga may help.

Like I've been running for nearly 4 years now, and I just started about a month ago.

*hangs head in shame*

Yoga is not exactly strength training, but yoga is beneficial to a runner for several reasons. Mainly, yoga helps loosen up stiff muscles (like your hamstrings, hello!), and helps runners avoid injury. Loose, limber muscles are less injury prone than stiff ones!

I found a great intro DVD that I can do in the comfort of my own home (read: pajamas), called Yoga for Runners by Christine Felstead.

I started with the Essentials DVD that is really very basic. Felstead starts with breathing and foundation poses, then moves to back, hamstring, and hip poses.

I really love the "Pigeon Pose" which is great at stretching the hips, but also the pirioformis muscle which I have trouble with

It takes me about 45 minutes to get through all 4 sequences. I've started doing the DVD on my non-running days. I just get up at the same time as I would for a run, walk downstairs, pop in the DVD and 45 minutes later I'm feeling pretty good! 

Felstead also has an Intermediate DVD for those that maybe already have a good yoga base. I am no Yogi, clearly, so I bought this one too with the idea of working up to it. 

So far, I have to say that I do think it's helping. The poses are getting easier to do, and I don't have as much tightness after a long run right now. Although, all my long runs are on the treadmill at the moment due to weather. The real test will be once I start pounding the pavement again.

Are you a yoga fan? What kind of cross training do you do if you're a runner?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Pecan Butter - yes really!

Since one of my goals for 2015 is to eat healthier, one of the ways I plan on doing this is by cooking more at home, which we've been doing a good job of the past few months, but also cutting out a little bit more of the artificial ingredients and chemicals in our diet. I'm not going full-boar on this, but just trying to keep it in mind when buying products.

Which is why I am still so excited about receiving a food processor for Christmas. We eat peanut butter like it's going out of style, so I wanted to try my hand at making some of my own nut butters. Last week, I made pecan butter.

No, not peanut butter. PECAN butter. Remember how I said I was craving all things pecans? Well, that has not gone away, so I whipped some of this stuff up after finding the recipe on a blog called Ari's Menu.

The recipe is really simple:

Gingerbread Pecan Butter
3 cups toasted pecans
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp molasses
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cloves

Pre-step: toast your pecans in the oven at 350 degrees by spreading them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and baking for 6-10 minutes, stirring them around once about half-way through. You should be able to smell them; that's when they're done.

1. Blend pecans in food processor until smooth. About 3-5 minutes.
2. Add all the other ingredients, blend for another minute or so.
3. Using spatula, spoon into some kind of container. Store in fridge for 3-4 weeks.

This stuff is so good! It's also getting better by the day. I think next time I'll add a bit more of the spices, but the flavors are really great. It's perfect on a piece of toast, or on apple slices. OMG, is it ever yummy on apple slices. You must try that.

I'm also excited to try almond coconut butter, and will definitely try making peanut butter.

Do you make your own nut butters? Do you have a good recipe for me to try? 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Friday Favorites - Pizza!

You know, there are just some days when you come home and the thought of cooking something is just a chore. Ordering a pizza would make life that much easier.

I have these thoughts quite often, but then I think about how gross a pizza from a chain restaurant would really be and how I don't actually want to eat something that's not really great. For times like this, I keep a recipe like this in my back pocket.

Marinated Chicken & Gouda Pizza

Oh hello, beautiful pizza!

This is a copycat recipe from a really great joint down in Duluth, Pizza Luce. We went there a few weeks ago, and I was blown away by how good their pizza was. Since it's a bit of drive to get down there, I thought maybe I could recreate the "Spanish Chicken" pizza I had there.

My only problem was that I couldn't figure out what they marinated their chicken in. It wasn't spicy like you would think with "Spanish" being in the name, and the gouda cheese gave it a nice, earthy taste. So here's what I came up with:

Marinated Chicken & Gouda Pizza
2 chicken breasts
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tbsp garlic
1/2 tbsp cumin
1/4 tbsp oregano
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, diced
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup gouda cheese
1 cup pizza sauce
pizza crust

1. Cut your chicken into bite sized pieces. Marinate them in the spices for about an hour. 
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook marinated chicken on the stove top until heated through - about 5 minutes. 
3. While chicken is cooking, prep your veggies. Place pizza crust (homemade or store bought) on cookie sheet or pizza stone. Read instructions if you're using store bought! Ours required pre-cooking the dough for about 8 minutes. 
4. Layer pizza sauce (store bought or homemade), chicken, veggies, and chicken on pizza crust. Bake in the oven until cheese is melted and slightly bubbly. About 10-15 minutes. 

I pulled it out and added some olive oil and Italian seasoning to the crust, then popped it back in the oven for a minute or two to let that set. 

I'll tell you what, this pizza is great! Served with a side salad, it really hit the spot on a cold Friday when I didn't really want to cook. Even though it took a little prep work, it really was an easy meal, and 100 times better than delivery pizza. Or frozen - yuck!

Do you have a yummy pizza recipe? What do you usually make when you don't feel like cooking?