Thursday, February 13, 2014

thinking out loud {2/13}

it feels like it has been a long time since i posted last. probably because it has! but i have an excuse this time - i cannot get my google+ to upload my photos to blogger. it stopped working after january 31st. anyone ever had this issue? i back them up and usually they just appear in the "from my phone" section of the adding photos section but now they don't show up. what gives? anyway i caved and emailed myself some photos and now i'm finally joining in again with amanda for some thinking out loud. thanks for always bearing with my technological difficulties!

houston is allegedly supposed to warm up this weekend and thank god because the whole karmic balance for dealing with hellishly hot junes and julys (is that how you write the plural of july??? i feel like i should know this as a well-educated human...julies looks weird, and it doesn't feel like it should be july's either...) is that you're supposed to have great januarys and februarys. well, it's been really cold here so i'd like that to stop. this weekend is supposed to be in the 60s which is great because we have our first track meet and we'll be outside all day. much nicer in the 60s than the 30s and raining like it has been for practice all week. 

i am obsessed with the larabar alt bars. i know some people don't like the texture but i love it. reminds me of a crunch bar sort of (i think the pea protein in there gives it the crunchy texture?) and i love the extra protein on top of the usual great and short larabar ingredient list. lemon pound cake is my favorite but all of them are really good and i've been having them after track practice when i'm either on my way to the gym or heading home from a run with the girls. perfect pre- or post-workout snack!

wedding invitations have been mailed! there's no going back now. ready to start getting those rsvp cards so that we can start doing seating plans. i know tex is super pumped to do that. he's been so amazing with helping with wedding stuff - i picked myself a good one, ladies. 

i saw this on instagram the other day (sorry can't remember who it was from originally) and it really hit home to me. obviously when i moved to texas i moved away from most of my best friends. i don't regret it for a minute but i do miss my friends constantly. it's nice to remember that even if we're far apart, not everything has changed. 

speaking of how nothing has changed...when rebs, one of my bridesmaids, came to visit last weekend she brought me bags of her homemade caramel corn. she always used to gift it for holidays or other random times when a girl needed some caramel corn and i was so happy to get a special delivery of it here in h-town. i rationed that ish like a champ and just finished it on tuesday. it was a sad moment when i was licking the crumbs from the bowl. sad on many levels, now that i put that down in words. 

this week around the tex n' frecks palace we learned that tex loves a wonton cupcake. emily makes a bunch of fun wonton cup dishes and now i'm pumped to try making some of my own varieties as well. the good news is, wontons come in huge packs so i have a lot of them. i made the taco variety this week and next week i'm already planning on making the buffalo chicken ones before i start exploring some of my own flavors. i'm thinking one with an asian flair first - maybe a play on the pf changs lettuce wraps? yum.  

the highlight of my week last week was getting my shipments of popchips in the mail. i used to order the variety pack of popchips and i found myself wading through a few flavors i didn't like and saving my favorites for last so this time i just ordered the large boxes of my faves. i complain about not having room for anything in my apartment and then i order giant boxes of popchips. this makes sense. 

how stinking cute is this bowl? i got it from my mom's friend at my bridal shower in december and i have been inviting this pig to breakfast every morning. he's such pleasant company and somehow my oats taste more delicious when they're served in a pig bowl. it's basically science. 

really excited to have a weekend at home this weekend even if it's chock full of track related stuff! last weekend in phoenix was fun but it is exhausting to travel so far for such a short trip. hope you all are gearing up for relaxing and fun weekends and that your weather is sunnier and warmer than it has been recently!


Thursday, January 30, 2014

thinking out loud

this should probably be a treat yourself tuesday post because i have been treating myself left and right lately. unfortunately on tuesday we had a snow day and for some reason when i am given endless hours to be productive, i invariably am completely unproductive and so i didn't manage to get any type of blog posting (or reading) done on my day off. 

instead, i'm going to link up with amanda for one of my favorite link-ups i've never joined in on. i love when people ramble on aimlessly in blog posts, so thursdays are some of my favorite blog reading days.

i got my wedding shoes in the mail the other day! despite how the box looks, they were perfectly intact. phew. in all honesty, i have no desire to do a lot of blogging about my wedding on here mostly because while i'm fine putting my own personal details out there for anyone to read, my wedding does involve another player who might not want all his business splashed all over. suffice it to say, we are coming along splendidly with wedding planning and i am getting really excited for the day to finally just get here already. 

speaking of splashing this guy on the internet...i love him a lot. that's about all. he's my favorite. 

i finally bit the bullet and got some vanilla beans to make my own extract! i'm so excited for this. i hope it works. i really feel like it's impossible to screw up...pour some vodka in a bottle, put in some sliced vanilla beans, shake 'em around every week or so and voila - vanilla extract in two months! lots of extracts add some simple syrup and i'm debating adding a little because i do tend to like things on the sweeter side, but i think for my first batch i'll keep it pure and simple. 

one of the best parts about living in texas is having access to all your favorite texas country singers in very small venues. we went to a concert last weekend and i was legitimately inches from brandon rhyder, who is the best. i tend to not like nashville country very much (omg such a snob, i know) and the more texas country i listen to, the truer that gets. anyway, i might have been close enough to take a shot with him. and also to ask him to play at tex and my wedding. oops. it was a really great night. 

i have been craving turkey wraps like crazy lately. i go through serious food cravings that some might call ruts (hello - i'm looking at you lunch) but they're usually relatively balanced so i roll with them. this wrap was inspired by heather who was talking about making buffalo wraps the other day. i made this with turkey, muenster, blue cheese, buffalo sauce, spinach and diced up celery. i think the celery really made the wrap, personally. sidenote: i had an old co-worker in chicago who used to call muenster the king of the melting cheeses and now every time i use it i have to dramatically proclaim that i am using the KING OF THE MELTING CHEESE whenever i slap it onto a wrap. tex things i'm an insane person. i probably am. 

there's probably a reason i shouldn't share all of the things rolling around in my head. oh well. 


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

houston marathon

i know that comparison is the thief of joy and all that and we shouldn't do it and blah blah blah but it's okay if you compare the person you are now with the person you used to be, right? good, because that's where i'm at right now. the houston marathon was sunday and ever since i crossed the finish line i've been thinking a lot about who i was during training, during the race and after the race compared to who i was before, during and after chicago in october 2012. the answer to that? much happier, much healthier and a far better runner. this post is probably going to be filled with lots of rambles so i apologize in advance. i still can't really get my mind around all the thoughts i have about this training cycle/past weekend so bear with me!

i went to the expo on friday during work to check it out quickly (i work about a half a block from the convention center where it was held) but ended up going back with my tex's mom and his brother on saturday to actually spend some time there. tex's bro ran also (and kicked ass!) and it was fun to have some company at the expo. besides my new bff meb who was playing it cool and trying to pretend i wasn't there. he won the half, btw, which is awesome. he is amazing. the expo itself was pretty nice but i love the nike sponsored races because the official gear is far superior than what sketchers was offering. don't get me wrong - i still bought a jacket, but i loved the nike gear from chicago. and my dad's wallet because it meant it was free for me.

i also picked up a package on saturday morning that i wasn't expecting and was super excited to find this special treat from hayley! it was supposed to come monday as a congrats gift but i much preferred it as a good luck gift instead. it's proudly displayed on my mantle next to tex's bobblehead collection. 

after the expo, the three of us met up with tex and his dad for carrabba's on saturday night and i had spaghetti with meat sauce for dinner. i wasn't super concerned about my dinner because i haven't ever really had crippling stomach issues during a race but i'm all for the chance to carb-load on pasta. afterwards tex, his bro and i headed back to our apartment to hang out, relax and try to get to sleep early. this didn't really end up working for me because i am always SO nervous that i'll miss my alarm in the morning. i tossed and turned until i got up around 4:15 and had the usual english muffin and peanut butter and some coffee before heading out around 5:30. i also packed another english muffin with some pb for the road because i wasn't sure if i'd get hungry again before the race started and i wanted something on hand in case i did (we crossed the start around 7). i ended up not wanting it and tossing most of it before we started. 

huge compliments to houston and the race organizers because the morning of situation was so well planned. the convention center was open so we waited inside until about 6:35 when we headed to our corrals. i went to the bathroom inside but didn't wait in line outside while we were in our corral and i should have. i ended up having to stop at the first port-a-potties on the course because i had to go that badly. i'm not a person who is really worried about 1 or 2 minutes of time spent in the bathroom during a race, especially because i think overall being more comfortable (aka not having to pee so badly you're in pain) more than makes up for that time. 

the rest of the race was a blur, as most races are for me. it was incredibly hard - there were a lot of times when i thought i might not be able to finish and my goal time wasn't going to happen. i went out at what i thought was too quick a pace for me and was worried i couldn't maintain it, but looking at my splits afterwards, i was all over the place in the beginning as much as i was at the end so really i need to work on consistency. my 5k splits were super consistent but the miles within them were varying by over a minute which...meh, probably shouldn't happen. whatever. i took energy gels at mile 5, mile 10 and mile 15 and then snagged some pretzels from a spectator (not from his personal stash, i swear he was handing them out to runners) around mile 20. i just couldn't stomach another gel at that point. the pretzels would have been AMAZING if i had eaten them anywhere near a water stop but i didn't and so dry mouth made them sort of hard to handle. either way, the salt was welcome. in the future i need to plan accordingly and have some sort of real food option available for that late in a run because gels just ain't gonna do it. 

i saw tex and his parents at mile 9 and then again at mile 24. we sort of planned it that way and i knew i wouldn't see them more than that but man i could have used it around mile 15. though to be honest if i'd seen them then i might have quit so in retrospect, i'm glad i didn't. i started doing mental gymnastics around mile 18 to figure out whether or not i could make my goal and i was pretty sure i could but i also really thought i might have to end up walking. starting around mile 14, i walked the water stops (i got water at every one throughout the course but didn't walk them til about halfway through) which i think was a good call for me. like the bathrooms, it's not worth the time you save if it helps to walk them. 

i ended up crossing the finish line and i immediately started crying and called my dad. going into the race, i had a few different goals. worst case scenario, i wanted to finish with minimal walking. done. beyond that, i wanted to beat my chicago time (4:21:15). done. what i really wanted? i was dying to sub-4. i think that's why i was so nervous about this race. i haven't ever run a race and really wanted to hit a time before. i've always thought, "whatever, as long as i finish". with this race, though, i trained so hard. i finally got in touch with my body and figured out healthier eating habits and resting habits that would allow me to run the mileage i was running. i poured hours of sweat and tears (no blood, really, but lots of chafing?) into training for this race so when i finished at 3:55:52 i felt like i was on top of the world. 

i don't think i will ever do much better than that time. to be honest, i have no interest at this point. i left everything i had on the course and i could not feel more proud of myself. i know there are people who can run sub-3 hour marathons and good for them. i know that this was the strongest race i could have run. when i look back at it and think about how hard it was, i know that is because i pushed myself to my maximum and that's all i can ask. thank you to all you  treats who wished me luck and responded to my completely foul-mouthed celebratory texts afterwards. you all are my heroes and i couldn't have done it without you. 


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

wiaw: the life of an assistant coach

i have officially been the assistant track coach at my high school for less than a week and i am already in awe of anyone and everyone i know who is a coach, tex included. i have come home and said some variation of "i don't know how you do this" to him every single day since beginning. don't get me wrong - i'm really liking it so far - but it just makes my days a lot busier and a LOT harder physically. i was already coming home and having to really push myself to get my runs in because teaching on its own can be physically exhausting. now tacking on several hours of activity at the end of that and i get home at night and my body aches. i know i will adjust but i've already missed a few training runs and let me just say - i am really looking forward to next week because the marathon will be done and i will stop feeling like i have to get those runs in after practice. since my favorite posts are always day in the life posts, and that's what i did for months (can't imagine that now, though) i'm going to go back to basics for this week's wiaw. thanks for hosting, jenn!

5:00 - i recently swapped pumpkin out for banana oats and i'm glad i made the switch. i'm kind of over pumpkin at this point - i'll be ready for it again in the fall, but for now, bring on the bananas. i'm on like a two-a-day banana's hoping i do not turn into a primate. 

6:00 - leave for school. once i get to school (my commute is easy in the morning, about 15 minutes) i get my act together for the day, wrap up grading from the previous day and try to make sure i'm not way behind. 

7:00 - before school tutoring. 

8:00 - teach some math, eat some carrots or an apple. 

10:15 - i have a pretty long break in the morning. all of my planning periods are clustered together, which i really like. it gives me time to actually be productive read blogs and twitter. i eat something during this time too, usually pretzels or crackers and hummus. 

12:15 - lunch is always some variation of salad, fruit, yogurt and popchips. especially now that i'm not home til later, i am saving leftovers for dinner meals instead of packing them for lunch.

3:15 - change and head over to the track. we practice at our brother school's track since we don't have one and the girls ride the bus to get there but i drive myself. as usual, i'm chugging water while i drive and i have been snacking on a banana on my way over (i need to join costco so i can buy bananas in bulk i guess). obviously i'm not getting an intense workout because i'm not an athlete on the team, but coaching is much more than standing around watching. geez, my perceptions were whack. kidding - i've always known it would be hard, i just had no idea how much we'd actually be doing. my legs are SORE. i've definitely been taking it much easier this week since the marathon is sunday (WTF?!?!) and the last thing i need is sore quads. sorry team, i'll be back doing wall sits with you next week. or not. 

6:15 - drive home from track and try to make myself workout. as i said before, this isn't going that well, but i'm trying. i eat a snack on the way home because i'm pretty starving at this point. 

7:15 - 8:30 - depending on my motivation to hit the gym, i get home at varying times. i've been trying to make a lot of casseroles and i've got plans to try our new crock pot (wedding shower gift - YES!) more in the coming weeks so that i don't have to cook something extensive when i get home. it's been working so far but the best plan is that tex is going to try to learn to cook some meals and he'll have dinner waiting for me once basketball is over. HAH. he's going to be my househusband and it's going to be awesome. until then - leftover ziti and easy stir fry has been a favorite. i also take about 20 minutes to shower, pack lunch and snacks for the next day and pack my track clothes/gym bag. this is tough for me to adjust to - i'm used to eating dinner at the LATEST around 7. last night i ate at 9:30. not a fan.

we are watching justified right now so i usually make it through about 2/3 of an episode before i fall asleep on the couch, get up to brush my teeth and fall into bed around 9:15. like a lot of you all, i love being busy but it's definitely hard on my body. i'm really relishing my weekends at this point - once track meets start in mid-february i'm going to become the world's biggest fan of sundays :)

that's the usual routine. i was so nervous about track but i've already discovered that it's definitely a lot more fun than i thought it would be and it's not an area of stress - rather something i look forward to everyday, which is absolutely great.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

wiaw: while i was home for break

i'm going to be SUCH a cop-out again and post a wiaw post of a bunch of random stuff i ate over break as opposed to doing a whole day of eats. you're in luck though (if you care about day in the life posts), because once i'm a little more in the swing of things with my new schedule that will now include assistant coaching the track team at my school, i'm planning on updating on what i'm doing as far as eats and working out goes. stay tuned for that riveting post. for now, you'll have to be satisfied with some of the best stuff i ate while i was at my parents. like i said in my recap post yesterday, i had a lot of really great meals. we went out to eat a lot and i don't take many pics of food out (booze, yes, food, no) so this is mostly the homemade goodness. trust me when i say this isn't even a tip of the iceberg in terms of delicious treats. as usual, thanks to jenn for hosting! 

nothing tastes better to me than chili on a freezing day and my mom's white bean chicken chili is probably my favorite. i'm not a HUGE fan of red chili unless it's on a hot dog or french fries (health freak, party of one) so this was perfect. i also think there's nothing better than cornbread from a cast iron skillet. 

i did most of (my mom might not appreciate that but i'm thinking anything over 50% is most, right?) the cooking for christmas brunch so i didn't take many pictures of the food because i was so tired of it by the time we got around to eating. we had apple cinnamon french toast casserole (my mom made this), shrimp, crab and andouille gumbo with rice, sour cream coffee cake with a pecan ripple, chicken and red chile enchiladas and some random breakfast meats. the enchiladas were amazing but i'm always most proud of the gumbo because it's kind of a tough dish to perfect and i think my mom and i have it down pretty well. she let me make it solo this year and i only screwed it up and had to start over once, which i think is a feat. anyway, none of that got photographed but for dinner that night my mom made red wine braised short ribs over gnocchi with a parsley, mint and feta chimichurri. it was about as amazing as you'd expect it to be. 

i ate a crapload of pretzel chips and hummus too. there's a mediterranean place near my parents that makes amazing hummus so i think i handled about 4 tubs of that on my own. 

i know - lobster is about the ugliest thing to photograph in the world, but butter poached lobster cannot go unmentioned here. for new years' eve, my mom and i made butter poached lobster tails and short rib lasagna (see below). because why the hell not have two completely decadent entrees?

followed that up with what is quickly becoming my go to dessert: molten chocolate cakes. this time we topped them with ice cream and a homemade raspberry compote. i think i'm about 2 iterations away from totally perfecting this dessert and next time i do it i want to try it with a cayenne whipped cream...only i won't tell anyone because they would probably think it was weird. so shhh, our little secret. 

we had a TON of leftover spare rib meat so when my mom and i were plotting our new years meal we decided to use it up in one of our favorite lasagnas from fine cooking. it's not your typical super cheesy affair but it's incredibly rich from the short ribs and the porcinis. i highly recommend, though it's definitely a time intensive dish. 

the last night i was in chicago, my mom and i went to the chopping block to take a cooking class together. this was my christmas gift to her and it was really amazing. what i did learn (that surprises no one who has met me) is that i am such a control freak in the kitchen that cooking a meal on a team of four people, two of which i didn't know, had the potential for disaster. luckily these two didn't cook at ALL but were really hoping to learn so my mom and i got to kind of take the reins and help them out. we made chicken and andouille gumbo (mine from christmas was better), crab cakes and this beauty - bananas foster bread pudding in a cast iron skillet. biggest thing i realized over break - all things should be cooked in cast iron. it was SO amazing, not to mention the evening was the best way to end my break - hanging out drinking wine and cooking with my mom. my favorite. 

what was the best thing you ate over the holidays?


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

back in action

and just like that, we're heading back to real life. tex and i flew back to houston on saturday after an extended break in the midwest with my family. there is always something so rejuvenating about being home with my family, and this break was no exception. i was glad that we planned on flying back a day before break ended not only to give us a little time to readjust to being home but also because (as you might have heard) weather took a nosedive and i'm pretty certain we wouldn't have made it back nearly as quickly as we did if we had left on sunday. hope you all are staying warm in other areas of the country - people in houston are freaking out at the temps in the 20s and i'm just laughing and thinking about how much my brother in minneapolis would love anything in the above 0 range. there's so much to recap that i'm not even going to try but i'll share some of my favorite vacation moments with you. 

my mom's friend hosted my first bridal shower the day after i got home. she's a fellow pig lover like me and she made these pig cupcakes to celebrate the occasion. they were strawberry cupcakes with homemade buttercream frosting. never underestimate the power of a homemade buttercream - i'm pretty sure it could solve all the worlds' ills. 

after the shower, we headed back to my parents' house for my extended family christmas party. i am glad i got the chance to wear my bridal shower dress and get some pictures in it because i promptly poured bbq shrimp all over it during dinner at the party. despite the best efforts of laurel and bleach, this dress had to be pitched after only being worn once. despite that snafu, the rest of the party was wonderful. great food, lots of family, and i couldn't have been happier than i was to be able to get to spend the time with everyone. 

i also learned that running in yaktrax is not only comfortable but seriously necessary. thanks to these guys i didn't break an ankle while running outside. i'm pretty proud of myself that i only missed one marathon training run (a random 4-miler that i'm not at all worried about missing) while i was home. i did 4 runs inside but the rest of them outside which i was even more proud of. after running in houston i was worried i wouldn't be able to hack it outside in the midwest but i did it. only some mild frostbite on my hands and feet, other than that i'm no worse for wear. 

i live in a super small town in northwest indiana (so yes, technically when i say i'm going to chicago i'm lying - it's about 45 minutes outside of the city) and they have this light festival every christmas. something about it just makes me feel like the holidays are here. when tex and my brother and his wife flew in on christmas, i made my dad drive us through the festival on our way home from the airport. nothing says christmas like a lit up stegosaurus and a saguaro, right? random small town shit cracks me up because it makes me feel like my life is a little like gilmore girls.  

i didn't do any holiday baking on my own in houston this year so i made my mom promise to let me bake most of the cookies when i got home. she was happy to let me and the first saturday i was there i made five different kinds of cookies to add to my mom's tins. then i ate them for most of my meals for all of break. i love christmas cookies. 

i also love christmas brunch with my family. we're getting pretty close to overflowing the dining room table, but until that happens we'll keep packing together around it. 

it was also absolutely amazing to have tex with me for christmas. he flew in on christmas night because my family celebrates on the 26th. that way, he got to have christmas morning with his parents and our family's christmas morning with mine. it was wonderful. 

besides christmas brunch, my other favorite part of christmas is sibling dinner. a couple of years ago, my brothers and i decided to stop giving each other christmas presents and instead go out for a nice dinner together while we were all home. we very rarely get to hang out together since we all are strewn around the country, so it's awesome when we can. my oldest brother sean and his wife live in chicago so they met us at the restaurant for dinner which is why they're missing from the pic. we would have taken pictures at the restaurant but after many bottles of wine and an epic quest for gelato, we forgot. best laid plans. 

those were the highlights. lots of time was spent on the couch keeping warm, lots of great meals, lots of fun cooking with my mom and overall a great way to wrap up 2013.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

be gone, sickness.

i've always wanted to copy-cat allison and do a post where i use just one or two words to describe a picture but every time i set out to do that i realize i am too wordy to limit myself to just two words. or three. or even like 84, so instead i'll just have my own little talkative thursday post where i tell you way more than you wanted to know about whatever pictures i feel like sharing. 

i've been sick this week. thank you all for your well-wishes on instagram - i think they helped. after my long run on sunday and cooking all day long (as well as several glasses of wine with dinner) i think my body was a bit overworked and when monday rolled around i woke up feeling like crap. i went to school, proctored some midterms, gave my own midterm and then called it a day and went home sick for the afternoon. i had some spaghetti squash and marinara for lunch and then decided i needed the most comforting food known to man - an english muffin toasted with butter. and then a series of naps. i'm feeling about 85% right now. my mom told me under no circumstances am i to come home sick so i'd better knock it out by tomorrow. 

we had a lot of leftover beef tenderloin after sunday's feast. i knew i'd have to contend with the fact that tex doesn't love leftovers, so re-purposing the meat was the only option. beef tenderloin basically cannot be messed up so i sliced it up, threw it in a pan with a random mix of seasonings and caramelized peppers and onions to make steak fajitas. tex said it wasn't like having leftovers at all and none of the meat went to waste so i'd say this was a win win. 

interesting fact about middle-school students: when they give you christmas presents, it is almost always some variation on a body wash/lotion theme. if it's not flowery smelling gels, it's probably a stuffed animal. high schooler's step up that game in a big way. these macarons were one of the many gifts i've gotten from my girls this week and (not to play favorites) they were by far the best. i love vanilla bean and the peppermint were a nice surprise too, since i was expecting strawberry. 

the day i get tired of these mix-ins in a salad is the day hell has frozen over. plus they're almost christmas colored, right? when i prep my lunch the night before i toss these in the bottom of my bowl, chop spinach and fill the bowl, and then toss it with dressing at lunch the next day. never soggy, always amazing. 

speaking of fun gifts and treats - allison sent me a christmas care package with some love from the good bean! i've never tried these before so i immediately broke into one of the bags to sample and i'm thinking the only thing that might make the above salad better is using the smoky chili & lime chickpeas in place of the black beans. i'll let you know how that goes. 

t-minus 36 hours until i'm home! i think there's a bit more snow there by now, but i'm looking forward to it. i just made my packing list and to no one's surprise, my running gear section is about 3 times as long as any other section of the list. i'm not ready for the sub-freezing temperatures, especially since our high in houston today is 74*. wish me luck. 

hope you all are getting ready for a nice christmas break!