Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year's Eve, dear bloggers!

I am really looking forward to ringing in the new year tonight. We are going to dinner and a comedy show with Trav's siblings. It is kind of rare for all of us to hang out together, sans parents and kids, so it should be a fun evening!

Besides staying up until midnight, drinking champagne, and partying, New Year's Eve is also when everyone starts rolling out the resolutions. I typically don't make hard and fast resolutions, but do give myself ideas to think about for the rest of the year. Last year my goals were to just stay active & fit, and maybe run 2 half marathons. I'd say check and check on those!

Looking back on the past year has made me a bit nostalgic. Here's some of my favorite posts from 2014:

1. January I talked about Surviving Winter (and it was a frigid one at that!)

2. In February, I started participating in the Runner's Tell All Link Up, and discussed why I started running.
3. March brought our 5th wedding anniversary. My how time flies!
4. I celebrated Easter in April with a 10 mile run and covert ops basket hiding missions.

5. Travis turned 30 in May!
6. I proudly ran a sub-2 hour half marathon in June.
7. Emily turned 3 in July!

8. August saw hot temps and running the Ragnar Relay.
9. In September we started celebrating Fall in full swing with festivities and pumpkin muffins.

10. October was full of fun with my 30th birthday and a trip to St. Louis for the Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon!
11. In November I had braces put on and started my love affair with pecans.  
12. December brought the holidays with a fun trip to see the lights, and a dinner with no lights.

For 2015, I want to continue with my goals of eating healthy, but also stay healthy and injury free, and run a full marathon. Training for the marathon will obviously be a long term goal, but eating healthy can start right now. This very second. Today! More updates to come on that front. :o)

What are your resolutions or goals for 2015? 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Merry Belated Christmas!

Well, things are finally starting to get back to normal in the Scofield household after a week off of work and school. I am actually glad to be back to our normal routine. Days on end of cold weather and being stuck in the house can get a little trying, even with tons of new toys to play with! 

We had a really great Christmas this year, full of fun festivities, food, and of course...presents! "Santa" was very good to my girl this year. We try to limit what we give her and what Santa brings to 3 presents each, because ultimately, Emily still gets a truck load of toys and clothes from her grandparents, aunts, and uncles. This year was no exception!

Pre-mayhem picture

Travis made this adorable dress rack for all of Emily's princess dresses. It could not have turned out any cuter! He also revamped an old jewelry box for her to put all her dress up jewelry in. I don't have any pictures of that, but I am super proud of my hubby and his craftiness!

Excuse my tired face here.

Emily was so excited about Christmas this year. It makes Christmas so much more fun seeing it through the joyful eyes of a kid again!

Big cheesin'!

I was most excited about this cookbook from Skinny Taste. I've been following her blog and making more of her recipes. They are actually full of flavor and really good for having way less calories. In fact, I made her Baked Pasta with Sausage and Spinach for Christmas dinner, and no one even guessed that it was a low calorie dish!

Of course, I was also super stoked about receiving new running shoes. Now I don't have to worry about shelling out for my next pair!

In the end, it took us about 2 hours to unwrap everything, check everything out, and of course - play with everything.

I had a pretty tired girl by the end of the morning. But after some breakfast and a few hours to relax a bit, then she was ready for round 2 with the extended family.

We had a great Christmas, and I feel truly blessed to have such wonderful memories made with my family.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

No power? No problem!

Saturday evening we made the trek up north to celebrate Christmas with Trav's extended family at Great Grandma Fran's house. Usually this is done on Christmas Eve, but due to many schedule conflicts the party was held on Saturday.

As we neared Gma's house, I started noticing some of her neighbor's houses were dark. The bar on the corner was dark as well. Strange for a Saturday night.

Sure enough, when we arrived to Gma's house, it was dark as well. No power! We arrived to find everyone hanging out in the (finished) basement where all the appetizers and drinks were. Also, that's where the old wood stove is. Quite literally a stove, one with burners and two oven compartments. Usually we just use it for heat and maybe some apple cider on the stove top. It's an antique, but it works great!

Thankfully most of the food was already pre-cooked and really just needed to be warmed up. We waited around for a few hours, enjoying our snacks and socializing by candle and lantern light. Someone finally made the executive decision to go ahead with re-heating the food in the wood stove's oven so that we could sit down to dinner.

I have to give credit to the grandmother's of the world that used wood stoves every day. It's not an easy task to regulate temperature in one of those contraptions! Lots of checking and a little extra time, and our food was finally done.

We had a lovely dinner of ham, cheesy potatoes, and green bean casserole lit by candle light. What an adventure that was!

Finally about a half hour after dinner, the power kicked back on. Hooray, we can flush the toilets! The evening was just beginning to wind down at that point. We stayed a bit longer, but just as we were packing up and putting jackets on - the power went out again. Our cue to leave!

Overall, it was a great night and definitely made for a memorable Christmas celebration!

If you like green beans but dislike the "usual" green bean casserole served at the holidays, try out this recipe from Skinnytaste:

Photo courtesy of Skinnytaste

I thought it was very good, especially with the fresh green beans rather than canned. But allow for an hour or more to make this due to all the chopping and veggie prep!

I would have my own photos of the evening, but it's a little difficult to get good shots in the dark! 

Have you ever had to party with the power out? Do you enjoy green bean casserole?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Runners Tell All: 2015 Goals

It's that time again for our monthly Runners Tell All link up! Sadly, this is also the last one. I have to thank Amanda and Beka for being wonderful hosts. This was such a fun thing to participate in, and I enjoyed making some new running/blogging friends this year!

This month, we're reflecting on our year of running in 2014, and setting some goals for 2015.

Pretending that I like trail races - I do not. 

2014 has been my biggest running year to date. Since it was technically only my third year of running, too, then that seems kind of natural. I went a little race crazy in 2014. My race list includes:

1. Hope Springs 5K
2. Sour Grapes 10K trail run
3. Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon
4. Red Ore Run 10K
5. Ragnar Relay (in which I learned that there is a thing as too much running)

6. Minnesota Mile
7. Tunnel 10K
8. Rock'n'Roll St. Louis Half Marathon
9. Gobble Gallop 5K

Just shy of 10 races!

I also set some new PR's:
5K - 25:15
10K - 53:03
Half - 1:52:49

Heading towards my Half Marathon PR!

It was a great year for me in relation to running! Although this year, I think I'm going to tone it down a bit. Just a few races. The big goal for 2015:

Run a Marathon

That's it. My one and only goal. I will do a few races along the way to help prep me for the 26.2. I already know that I'll be doing Hope Springs (free entry!), the Garry Bjorklund half (guaranteed spot!), and the Red Ore Run because it's local. Then on to the Detroit Marathon.

I have a training plan to follow. I've already booked a hotel room. It is happening.

I'm so thankful for this past year of running, which has really taught me a lot about myself. I can't wait to see what 2015 has to offer!

Come join our link up to see what the other ladies have in store for the next year!

What are your goals for 2015?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Favorites

Good morning!

It is officially less than one week until Christmas. Holy cow! How did this month slip by so quickly? It's definitely been a whirlwind of activity in our house.

Here are some of my favorites for this festive Friday:

1. Snow! I know this sounds so contradictory to what I would normally be saying, but I'm happy that we've gotten some snow over the past few days. When it was warmer last week, all our snow melted and the whole town was a brown, muddy mess. Now we have pretty, white snow just before Christmas. Really, it wouldn't feel like Christmas in Minnesota without some snow on the ground.

2. Vendors at work! I have to laugh at myself about this, but at this time of year a lot of our vendors bring in goodies for our office. We've had treats such as popcorn, meat & cheese platters, cookie trays, smoked salmon pate (that you can order here. It is so good!) and gourmet coffee. I certainly don't want to pig out on all of this stuff, but it's fun and makes it feel more festive. Plus, I don't have to bring as many snacks from home which saves me some money. :o)

3. Family! Maybe this one should be first, but I'm saving the best for last. Earlier this week, I had a wicked case of homesickness. Mix that in with a lot of stress at work, and some really cruddy weather and I was just down in the dumps. A good chat with my mom, followed by boxes from my parents filled with presents helped to lift my spirits. The best part? The boxes smelled like their house! It was really great to get a little whiff of "home".

I'm also really thankful for Trav's family. We're getting together with his extended family on Saturday for Christmas before everyone goes their separate ways. Then on Christmas Eve we will spend the evening at my in-law's house after church, and everyone will come to our house for dinner on Christmas day. All of the family parties really help to infuse a ton of holiday spirit into this time of year, and make me miss home a little less.

Are you ready for the holidays?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas House Tour

One of my fellow bloggers, The Lady Okie, recently shared her Christmas decorations with her bloggers. I thought this was such a fun idea! I love seeing into people's homes - especially their Christmas decorations. I am kind of really into Christmas decorating.

So, welcome to my home at Christmas!

We'll start in my family room. I have a ton of built-in shelving, so I get to display all sorts of knick-knacks. "Chachkies" if you will. The little figurines in front of the  picture frame to the left are all carolers. Most of what you see here was given to me by my mother. The carolers, the rocking horse, the winter town, the Santa, and the angel. I think she sends me her old stuff so she can make way for new decorations at her house. I am 99% positive this is fact.

My mother also passed this on to me after Travis and I got married. This Advent calendar was originally made by my great-grandmother. I have picked the little ornaments out of their pockets each December for as long as I can remember. It's really old! Some of the ornaments have been replaced along the way, but some are the same as when I was a kid. 

I love having this buffet in our dining room, because it's a great place to display all our holiday cards. 

This is our fake fireplace, complete with fake mantle. The "mantle" is actually a hutch that is supposed to go over Emily's dresser. But it's been here for so long that I really can't bear to part with it. Maybe Travis can work on making me a mantle this year, so the hutch can finally go in Emily's room. We'll see. Again, my stocking was my childhood stocking. I actually had 2 - spoiled much? 

Last - the piece de resistance - the Christmas tree in our living room. I would love to have you over in real life so I could point out all of my favorite ornaments and tell you their stories. Some of them are as old as me! 

Behind the tree on the table is our manger scene - also given to me from my mom. When I was a kid, this manger always sat under the tree, right in the middle. One of my favorite things to do was lay on the floor in front of the tree and play with the animals and the little well that actually had a moving bucket. Unfortunately after one year of being at my house, one of my cats broke the bucket and couldn't leave this alone. Therefore, it's on a hard-to-get-to table for now. 

Thanks for stopping by and letting me show off my Christmas decorations!

Do you have a favorite decoration? 

Monday, December 15, 2014


I belong to a group of really great women. We were all married in March of 2009, and originally met on a message board over on the Knot - a website dedicated to helping brides plan their wedding. Many of us hopped on the message board specifically for our wedding month pretty early in the game, so I've "known" some of these girls for going on 7 years now. That's a long time! Sometimes it's hard to explain that even though I've never met any of them in real life, they're still my friends. I ask them for advice, share personal details of my life with them, and refer to them as real life friends.

Some of the gals have met in person, but since we're all scattered across the country these meet ups are usually few and far between. However, we stay connected through Facebook and chat every day about everything from husbands to kids to food to current events - you name it.

The past few years we've done a Secret Santa exchange with the help of Elfster. You can add items to a wishlist there, and Elfster draws your recipient for you so everything is kept anonymous. It's pretty cool!

This year, my recipent was one of our ladies living in Texas. I knew she liked white chocolate, hot cocoa, and "neutral" scents - nothing overpowering. This is what I got for her:

White chocolate truffles, peppermint bark, Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee coffee from Target, Sea Salt Caramel hot cocoa, and a Vanilla Snow Flake candle from Bath & Body Works. I had a hard time not eating up all her presents!

My elfster must have known that I've been baking a lot, and she also got me something off my wish list:

The Runner's World Cookbook, and a whole pail full of Wilton cookie cutters! Emily and I are making Christmas cookies next week, so this is perfect. I seriously only had like 5 cookie cutters. 

We dove into the cookbook the very next night! I already had a breakfast frittata on the menu for dinner on Saturday night, but the cookbook had one that sounded really yummy as well. It was slightly different than our version, so I decided to give it a whirl. 

More Vegetables than Egg Frittata - it calls for 6 cups of veggies. That's a lot! We used red and orange bell peppers, red onion, and mushrooms. I also threw in some chicken sausage. 

Got veggies?

 It's flatter than the recipe we normally make, mostly because there's no flour in this one to make it rise. But it was still very good, topped with a little black bean salsa. Emily ate almost all of her portion without complaint (mushrooms and all!).

The best part is that 1/4 of this is only 159 calories (without the chicken sausage - still around 200 even with chicken sausage though)! I think in the future we will stick to breakfast with this one. Our other version is a bit heartier and more suitable for dinner.

I can't wait to try more recipes!

Do you participate in a Secret Santa? Do you have a favorite recipe book?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday fellow bloggers! I'm in a good mood today. Here are some reasons:

1. Pretty Winter Wonderland Scenery:

Normally when it snows, after a day or so it just starts to look dirty and ugly. We've had some warmer weather, accompanied by one clear day and some "winter mix". Which equals hoarfrost! Ugly name, pretty in real life.

The frost has been hanging on all week, making me feel like I truly live in a Christmas movie. You know like in A Christmas Story when Ralphie wakes upon Christmas morning, opens his window, and the whole neighborhood is just quiet, calm, and frosted over in a beautiful, twinkling snow? That's kind of what it's like. My pictures don't do it justice!

2. Running Outside: with warmer weather comes the opportunity to actually run outside. Good thing, because I was just starting to get a little sick of my treadmill. I got a good 4 miles in this morning, and returned home sans icicles on any of my body parts. Huge winter running win!

3. Date Night! Travis and I are going for a turning-into-a-regular-monthly-date. This time we are going back to our favorite Caribbean restaurant, The Whistling Bird. We have a gift card, so why not? Emily is going to hang out with her Aunt, Grandma & Grandpa to help decorate their church for the Hanging of the Greens service. Good times will be had by all.

4. Weekends: We're not doing anything special this weekend, and that's totally ok. In fact, we're kind of on the downhill slide towards Christmas. I just need to wrap my gifts, which I have planned for Saturday, and get a couple of stocking stuffers. But from here to Christmas, it's pretty much all just enjoying the season. Falalalala!

What's going good in your life?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cookies - You win some, you lose some

When I saw these cookies over on Katrina's Kitchen, I just knew I had to try them! They looked so simple and easy. When it comes to baking, simple and easy is what I'm all about.

My book club does a cookie/treat exchange every December, so I try to find something that is easy to make. In the past we've always done a dozen cookies per person. Last year that didn't turn out so hot since a few people chose at the last minute not to participate. This year I suggested just doing 1-2 dozen and we can divide them up so that each person brings home the same amount. Plus, I do not need 6 dozen + cookies at home. I'm already eating too many holiday treats as it is!

This weekend I decided to whip up these Grinch cookies. I couldn't find the little heart candies, and did not feel like paying $6 for them through Amazon, so I decided to pipe my hearts on with decorating gel. Some came out well...some did not. Oh well! They taste good and that's all that matters!

I also jazzed them up a little bit by adding some peppermint flavoring. The original recipe is here.

This recipe made me exactly 3 dozen cookies. My cookies did not stay puffy like Katrina's though, even though I followed her recipe pretty exact. I put them in some storage containers that I plan on bringing to book club tonight. Over the past few days, I noticed that they've gotten soft, almost too soft. They're also pretty small. I started to feel a little disappointed and embarrassed by my Grinch cookies.

So off to Pinterest I went, in search of an easy recipe I could make in a hurry with ingredients I had on hand.

Enter the Congo Bar

Doesn't that sound exotic? They're not, I promise. These are also really easy, and like I said - I had everything in my pantry already. Brown sugar, eggs, butter, flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and semi-sweet chocolate chips. The original recipe calls for 1.5-2 cups of chocolate chips. I also added a cup of chopped pecans, because...pecans. So I reduced my chocolate chips to just over a cup. A loaded cup, if you will.

Photo credit: I Heart Naptime
You guys. Seriously. These are amazing. They are everything I want in a chocolate chip cookie, but in bar form. They're crinkly on the top, but gooey in the middle. Chocolatey. Just pure yum! I cut my bars (from a 13x9 pan) into 24 smaller pieces, and really they are so rich that a small piece is all you need.

Or a giant piece, warmed up, with a scoop of ice cream on it. OMG yum! I really don't want to share them. I want to hoard them all to myself. But I'm being kind and bringing them to book club as well, along with my Grinch cookies. Which pale in comparison!

Make these bars. You will thank me.


Do you participate in a cookie exchange? What do you make? 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Weekend Recap

Happy Monday my friends!

It has truly been a "Monday" so far in my household, and it's not even 9 am yet. So I'm hoping the day goes up from here, and am choosing to dwell on the past for a few more minutes. I had a great weekend!

Friday I got to spend the day playing a true Minnesota sport: Curling. Click on the link for a definition, but basically curling is a team sport with 3-4 players on each team. It's played on ice, and basically you slide a "rock" down what look like a bowling lane towards a target called the "button". One or two team members "sweep" in front of your rock as it slides in an effort to make it go faster or farther. Each team member throws 2 rocks, and the goal is to have the closest rock to the button and the most rocks around the button. You play 4 heats, and the winner is whoever had the most points from each heat.

Sliding the rock. This is a lot harder than it looks.
Sweeping towards the button - the white dot in the middle of the rings. 
Curling is actually an Olympic sport, and my area typically sends a good deal of players. We have Curling clubs, and it can get quite competitive!

Our Chamber of Commerce hosted a Funspiel (meaning it was just for fun, friendly competition), so my company sent a team. A coworker managed to convince me to go, so I thought why not? It was a lot of fun! Although I have learned that I'm not very graceful, and fell down on the ice a few times. I have some lovely bruises to show for it. But overall it was a fun day, and my team even won our 3rd heat!

Saturday we brought Emily to see Santa down in Duluth. This is the Santa that she's seen for 3 years now, so I figured we'd keep the tradition alive. Hopefully that Santa sticks around for a long time! I think Emily is finally realizing the importance of Santa, because she was actually pretty nervous. She absolutely did not want to sit on his lap, but did talk to him a little and posed in front of him for a picture.

Definitely a nervous smile. 

Afterward we went to a fabulous pizza place called Pizza Luce, where Trav and I each ordered a small pizza. I had the Spanish Chicken and ate the entire 10" pizza. It was so good! Trav and I traded a slice of each other's pizza so we could taste the other one. He had the Luce, which was good - but mine was better!

After dinner, we visited Bentleyville - which is "America's largest free walk through light display". It is amazing! You walk through tunnels lit up by Christmas lights in a circle around a huge Christmas tree made of lights. There are tons of lit displays including characters from Sesame Street, Rudolph, Santa's circus, a 12 days of Christmas display, and tons more. They also have a cookie house where you can get free hot cocoa and shortbread cookies. Halfway through you can visit the popcorn house and the marshmallow hut - where they give you marshmallows on a stick to roast in one of the many fire pits available. They also have a Santa you can visit, but the line to wait is usually over an hour long. Again, it's all free!

Emily just loved Bentleyville! I can imagine that it is just magical for a child her age with all the lights. The goodies just make it that much more fun. 

Happy girl!
Since it is all outdoors, we really bundle up. Emily never complained of being cold though, and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit! 

Sunday we just spent the day relaxing, listening to Christmas music, and watching it snow outside. I also made these:

 More to come on Wednesday! 

Did you have a good weekend? What are you doing to get into the holiday spirit?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My tips for stress-free Christmas

If you're anything like me, you're kind of surprised that December is already here in a "where does the time go?" kind of way. Seriously, wasn't it just Christmas like 2 weeks ago?

Although the time does really fly, I try to be mindful all year long about holidays and events coming up. I hate feeling stressed and rushed, so being organized helps me keep the stress at bay. Let's be honest: there's really no "stress-free" Christmas, but there are things that can certainly lower the stress level!

Here's my tips, that are probably common sense but it's always nice to have a reminder:

1. Shop Early: I seriously start my Christmas shopping in July.  Thanks to QVC's Christmas in July special, I can usually bang out a couple of gifts super early. This year I bought candy covered apples that will be delivered next week. These are intended for bosses, daycare teachers, etc. From that point on, I like to start thinking about gift ideas, and if I see something while I'm out shopping then I pick it up then. Even if it is October. This is the easiest way I've found to reducing the spending in December - which can be stressful all by itself!

2. Plan family photos in November - If you do holiday cards with your pictures on it, this is so smart. I'd love to claim it as my own idea, but I stole it from another "Stress free" type article a few years ago. This year we did professional photos with a local photographer in November. We've already gotten our photos back, I've made my cards, and dropped them off in the mail this morning. Holiday cards aren't a high priority list for some, but I really love getting cards. The best way to get them is to give them out too!

Just 1 of the 200 photos we had to choose from. Difficult process!

3. Schedule your time - This may seem a little OCD, but I started writing everything down on a calendar. Events, appointments, fun things. It helps me to visually see it in a time format. I've even penciled in my baking days. Also, when I'm going to prep any food that can be frozen ahead of time. Then I have less to do on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. But I also won't fill up my weekend with other plans and suddenly have no time to bake cookies if I have already made plans for it. Because really, what kind of December would it be without cookies!?!?

4. Make lists - Oh my goodness am I a list lover! From my grocery list to my Christmas list. I have lists for everything. No lists for lists yet, so no need to send me to the psych ward yet.

I keep a list of gift recipients, along with the idea I have for them. Then I cross it off when it's bought.

I have a list for our Christmas dinner menu, complete with drinks, courses, and groceries to be bought.

I swear I'm not crazy.

I find comfort in organization. All of my pre-planning allows me to enjoy the holiday a little more, without worrying about what I need to make for what event or where I need to be tomorrow.

Do you plan ahead for the holidays? Or do you wing it? 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Welcome December! And a Thanksgiving weekend recap...

It's here, it's finally here! The month of December! Now we can all start getting ready for Christmas. Hooray!

I enjoyed 4 whole days off of work for the Thanksgiving holiday, and it was a whirlwind weekend. I won't bore you with tons of details, so here's a quick recap:

Thursday: Thanksgiving! I started the day by running in the Gobble Gallop 5k in Duluth. I have decided that while it was fun, next year I'm just going to participate on my treadmill. It was about 2 degrees at the start of the race, and really just too cold! My friend Carol ran it, her first 5k, and did great!

So proud!

Then I made a mad dash to get home, get showered, and get our food together for Thanksgiving dinner. Thankfully Travis prepped the sweet potato casserole while I was gone, so all I had to do was add the pecan topping. Pecan and marshmallows. Because I'm an equal-love kind of gal. I also made broccoli casserole and a pecan pie that I made the day before. This was the first time I've made pecan pie, and it was delicious! I added chocolate chips to the bottom, because I believe that no dessert is complete without a little chocolate. Anyway, it was hit!

For some reason, we have zero pictures of our family from Thanksgiving. Giant fail! But trust me, there was food and family and football. Lots of each.

Friday: On Friday we got to relax a bit and recover from all that food. I am totally one of "those" people that decorate early for Christmas, so Friday night we put up our Christmas tree after dinner.

The first  year or so after I had Emily, this was something I did by myself, in a hurry, during nap time. Now that she's a little older, I love having her help decorate! She goes gaga over all the ornaments, and sometimes acts like it's a race to get all the ornaments up on tree. She just gets so excited! She also likes to put all the ornaments in the same general area on the tree, sometimes two on a branch. Mom does a little rearranging after we're "done", but it's so much fun!

Saturday: On Saturday, Emily and I went shopping for our Angel Tree kid. If you're not familiar with this program, it's usually funded through the Salvation Army. Parents in need of a little help around the holidays can register their child(ren). They create an angel tag with the child's age, clothing sizes, and interests/wants. Our Salvation Army requests that you get your child two outfits and two toys or interest items (for older kids this can be something like a video game, DVD, make up, whatever).

Our Walmart has a tree with the tags on them, but my employer also takes about 20 or so tags each year to hang on our office Christmas tree. Travis and I have been adopting an Angel Tree kid for the past 4 years. Things were a little tighter this year, but we were blessed with some additional funds via me winning my work football pool for the week. What better way to spend some of that money by giving back to someone who really needs it? I love doing this with Emily so she can start to learn about giving to others.

I also got all of the rest of my Christmas decorations up during nap time. Mama score!

Sunday: Sunday was a true lazy day for us. We did nothing but finish some household chores, laundry, and hung around the house. I did get my Christmas cards made and picked them up from Walgreens. We got all our pictures back from our photographer late Saturday night, so it was fun going through all of them Sunday morning. But it was hard narrowing down which pictures to use for our cards! Too many cute pictures of my kid to choose from!

We have a pot luck tonight for our ECFE group at school so I'm making Buffalo Chicken Pinwheels and Candy Cane Oreos, which we made Sunday. The Oreos are seriously so easy, but I used Andes peppermint bark bits instead of Hershey's peppermint kisses. Cheaper!

Our temps continued to be frigid over the long weekend, so Sunday night I wanted something warm and comforting. This Gouda and Bacon Macaroni and Cheese really hit the spot! I'm sure it's the complete opposite of healthy, but I ran 8 miles yesterday morning so I felt it was justified. Of course I had the meal planned well in advance, so it was good motivation to put my shoes on and bank some calories!

Cheesy bacony goodness!

So that was our weekend. We are ready for the holiday season and all that it entails. Bring it on!

How was your Thanksgiving? Did you decorate for the holidays yet?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Brownies with Brown Sugar Icing and Pecans...and other musings

I am having a love affair with pecans. I'm not sure what it is about pecans right now, but I am craving them like no other - and no, I am not pregnant. I think it's just the time of year where all you want is baked goods and comfort foods because the holidays are upon us and the cold weather has set in. Gotta get hibernation ready!

I'm even attempting a pecan pie for Thanksgiving. What!?! This girl, who could barely get around a kitchen just a few short months ago, is making a pecan pie? Actually, it looks really easy so I'm going to give it a whirl.

Anything with pecans right now is totally my jam. From the cream cheese cookies I made last week, to just a handful of pecans and cranberries topping my salad, I'm all about that nut, bout that nut, no trouble! (See what I did there?)

Maybe my inner self is yearning for my Southern roots. Pecan trees are all over the South, and pecan pie is basically the Southern dessert.

Maybe it's because they're sort of forbidden fruit (err, food) since I just got braces put on.

Yep, you read that right. I am now the proud new owner of dental hardware. Something I should have done long ago, but kept putting off and putting off until I finally decided. It is time. So, Thursday afternoon I went in to the orthodontist after a few consultation appointments, and 45 minutes later I came out with braces on my upper teeth. They'll put the bottoms on in a few months after the tops have moved enough. Something to do with biting down on the bottom brackets, and that sounds like no fun.

I have a new list of "forbidden" foods which include:
- popcorn
- nuts
- caramel
- hard candy
- hard fruits and veggies (unless cooked or cut up)
- Butterfingers
- taffy
- sugary sweets of all kinds

just to name a few. I'll let you in on a little secret though - I'm already breaking all the rules. I've eaten popcorn, nuts (pecans, obviously), and sweets like ice cream and these amazing brownies that I made this weekend.

I've learned that I will just have to brush my teeth after every meal, which is a pain but it saves me from the embarrassment of having food in my mouth. It's been an adjustment, to say the least. The bright side of this post are these brownies:

Brownies with Brown Sugar Icing and Pecans


-1 box of your favorite brownie mix (I used Duncan Hines chewy fudge brownies)

-1 cup brown sugar
-4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
-1/2 cup cream
-2 cup confectioner's sugar
-2 tsp vanilla
-1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan. Make the brownies according to the directions on the box, fill pan with brownie mixture, and bake according to directions. Let cool before you ice them.
2. For the icing, mix brown sugar, butter, and cream in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently so it doesn't burn on the bottom. Remove from heat.
3. In a large bowl, add confectioner's sugar and vanilla. Pour brown sugar mixture over confectioners sugar mixture and beat on low with a hand mixer until smooth. Refrigerate for 5 minutes to set.
4. Once brownies are cool , spread icing on top of brownies in the pan. Sprinkle desired amount of pecans on top. Cut and enjoy!

I adapted the recipe from this Pumpkin Brownie recipe, which looks amazing. I didn't want pumpkin brownies because I'm kind of pumpkin-ed out (gasp!), and I was feeling lazy so didn't candy the pecans. The icing recipe is all her though. She also used an 8x8 pan, and cut hers into 9 brownies, so you could use a smaller pan and have thicker brownies. My box called for a 9x13 pan, but I cut mine into 1 inch(ish) squares. Trust me, these are so sweet and decadent that you won't need a huge piece. Which makes them last longer!

Have you had braces? Any words of advice? What are you craving with Thanksgiving right around the corner?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Runners Tell All: Who is your #1 Running Fan?

This is the second to last post in the monthly Runners Tell All link up hosted by The Lady Okie and Sunshine to the Square Inch. Only two more months to get in on the action before it's gone!

This month, we're talking about our own running fans. Our cheer squad, our water bottle holders, our support system. 

This is easy for me. If it weren't for these two cheering me on, I'm not sure I'd have gotten as far in running as I have! 

Travis & Em waiting for me to cross the finish line at Rock'n'Roll St. Louis

Sometimes they're not waiting so patiently, but hey - 2 hours does get a little long! 

They were there at my very first race,

Red Ore Run 2012

and while they don't come to every race I run they are there at the big ones. Or the ones I travel to, because trips are fun. 

Even when the weather isn't all that great, they tough it out along with mom so that I can see a smiling face at the finish line. 

Clouds and rain won't stop me! Go Mom!

But it's not just in racing that they support my running. Travis listens patiently while I worry over weather and slight mystery injuries, or pace times and splits. They've come to accept that Mom will be gone very early Sunday morning for her long runs, and Travis doesn't complain about the time commitment that running requires of me, or the early bedtimes and early wake ups, or the amount of money I spend on entry fees (really thankful on that one!). 

When I was contemplating registering for my first full marathon next Fall, I asked Travis "do you really think I can run a full?" His response? "Of course you can." That's pretty awesome. No doubt or hesitation. Just yes, yes you can.

Emily makes comments sometimes about having "running shoes like mom" or "muscles like you, mama!". This puts the biggest smile on my face! A big part of why I run, and run long distances, is to set a good example for Emily about exercising, being healthy, setting goals and sticking with them. So to hear that my choices are resonating with her already is kind of big. 

Also, when she says "good job mama!" - that's kind of huge. 

I am incredibly thankful for my 2 biggest supporters, and really, words cannot express that enough. 

Who are your biggest supporters? Link up and tell us all about them!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Talk the Talk

Walk the walk?

After my post on Friday about running in my Yaktrax, I was pretty gung-ho about doing my long run outside this weekend.

Sunday morning I woke up bright and early, had my coffee, and got myself ready to go. I was all dressed in my 500 layers of clothing and feeling prepared. I knew it was about 6 degrees, real feel of about -4, but the sun was out and I was pretty determined.

Until I got outside and felt the wind. The wind which was nearly knocking me over and biting into me despite all my layers.

So I turned around and went back inside.

The only minor success for me was that I got changed and ran on my treadmill instead. Preferable to outside? No. But when the elements are against you, I think it's a perfectly fine alternative. I'm trying to be nice to myself here.

I settled down with the Gilmore Girls to while away my morning as I jogged for an hour and half in our basement. I found that I can get through 2 episodes in that time, and those chatty girls keep me pretty entertained.

I had just read The Lady Okie's post about getting over a running slump, and it made me realize some things:

1. I may not be in a slump, but the weather sure affects my motivation.
2. It's ok that I don't run outside all winter long. Running is not my job. It's a hobby that's supposed to be fun while keeping me fit.
3. I should be nicer to myself and accept defeat modification to my workout when the weather is uncomfortable.

Does that mean that I'm totally giving up on winter running? Not at all. But it's ok if I swap back and forth depending on the weather, my mood, the time of day, etc. There's no point in beating myself up or risking hypothermia over a hobby.

How are you being kind to yourself lately? 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Favorites: Yaktrax & Cookies

Happy Friday!

This week has been nothing short of pulling-my-hair-out-driving-me-to-drink crazy, so I am so very thankful that it is nearly over.

I'm also very thankful that I run and that it reduces stress. I turn less to food and alcohol during stressful times, opting instead to go for a run.

Which is precisely why I was running this morning at 5:00 am through the snow, in the dark, while it was actively snowing. Sometimes you just do what you gotta do. I ran on the treadmill yesterday morning and couldn't face it 2 days in a row yet.

Although we haven't had much snow yet, it's still a little thick in spots and icy in others. But with these bad boys, I feel like I'm invincible!

My route wasn't bad at all this morning, except one street in particular. I nearly fell about 4 times, but since I had my Yaktrax on I just kept trucking along. Seriously, if you are a winter runner then you need a pair of these.

I would be totally lying to you if I said that I don't eat baked goods (or drink) during stressful times, but I do try to be conscious of whether I'm actually hungry or not. Put the cookie down, Alison. Put it down!

I did some baking with Emily last night, and I think that may be the ticket. Focusing on making something, measuring ingredients, setting timers, and giggling with my daughter are much better ways to take my mind off things than mindlessly eating. So when these cookies came out of the oven, I didn't need one right away! I did eventually eat one though - hey, I put in all the hard work!

My inspiration came from this recipe on Tablespoon. But I thought it sounded a little boring and plain with just the pecans and chocolate drizzle, so I jazzed them up a bit.

Pecan Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies (whew!)
1 package Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie mix
1 8 oz package of Neufchatel cheese, softened
2/3 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, mix cookie mix with the cream cheese. I used a hand blender because it took a lot of muscle! You will get a very thick cookie mix, so don't be alarmed.
2. Mix in pecans, cranberries, and chocolate chips with your hands. This takes a bit just to get everything in there. Lots of kneading and crushing and kneading with your fingers.
3. Once well combined, split dough into two and roll out two logs. Then cut the cookies about 1/4 of an inch thick. Make sure to reshape them so they look pretty!
4. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and bake one sheet at a time for 10-15 minutes. Make sure to check them! The original recipe says 6-9 minutes, but mine were not even close even at 9 minutes, so I kept them in much longer. They should be lightly browned around the edges and underneath.
5. Let cool for about 5 minutes before transferring to a plate, cookie jar, or to be enjoyed!

Feel free to change these up any way you please. I would suggest chopping up the ingredients smaller than what is seen in my cookies. I accidentally bought mini kisses instead of chips, which are actually bigger than even normal sized chocolate chips. It's ok, but I think I'd prefer the smaller ones because they melt better in a cookie. Either way, these are pretty tasty!

Are you a crazy winter runner? What do you do to relieve stress?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Spill your bag, ladies!

I was recently contacted by RueLaLa on writing about their new Handbag Style Guide, or Handbags 101. I've seen some other bloggers posting about their handbag essentials lately, and I thought it would be fun to combine the two.

If you don't know about RueLaLa (because you're living under a rock), it's a flash sale site offering designer brands at deeply discounted prices. I have bought a few things from them, and can honestly say it's the real deal. Great prices, great designers, and great customer service. 

They've introduced Handbags 101 to help those of us that are not the savviest get to know purses a little better. Type, hardware, brand names, and even care tips - they cover all the bases! 

What type of purse do you like the best? Being a working mom on the go, I'm a fan of totes and hobo bags. But not super huge that you lose your kitchen sink in it. I think both Travis and Emily think that my purse is a mythical place where just about anything and everything can be found. The new bag that I received in my last Stitch Fix box is probably the largest bag that I'm comfortable with.

So, what's really in mom's purse? Here are my essentials:

1. Wallet with a wrist strap that can go on it's own if need be. 
2. Cell phone
3. Keys
4. Water bottle - gotta stay hydrated.
5. Vera Bradley pouch to contain all the chap stick and lip gloss that would normally fly around at the bottom.
6. Tiny nail care kit - for when you have those annoying hang nails that catch on everything!
7. A book. Whatever I happen to be reading at the time. 
8. Traveling wine bottle opener - you would be amazed at the number of times this has come in handy. Or maybe not so much if you know how much I like wine. *wink wink*

Also included at any given time: band aids, flash light, wipes, sippy cups, iphone charger...the list goes on and on! 

See why I need a big purse? There's a lot that goes in to being a well-prepared mom on the go! Not sure what type is best for you? Go check out RueLaLa's Handbag Style Guide to get some ideas.

*disclaimer: Although I was contacted directly to write this post, I was not compensated by RueLaLa in any way. All opinions are my own.

What's in your bag? Spill it and tell us!