Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring Break

Ah, spring break! Sunshine, Beaches, Mai-Tai's . . . Oh, wait , we don't go south for break. We go north, where it is colder. But I'm not complaining! We had a lovely time visiting the fams in northern Wisconsin. A road trip does, however, throw a few kinks into the training plan and there are only 191 days till the Chicago Marathon. On Friday, I traded in a workout for the organized chaos of packing. And rather than a Saturday long run, I went for a butt atrophying snack infused car ride for seven hours. Running up north presents it's own problems. The road side slant makes me feel like a peg legged pirate running on a fun-house floor. I am, however, pretty speedy up there (darn if those chipmunks don't sound like bears when you are running alone!). But no runs this time. And to make matters worse, I was presented with (gasp!) Oreos. And I did cave. It wasn't pretty.

I did, however, get in a couple of lovely bike rides with my darling sister Bert. I love biking up north! Compared to here, it is like biking the Himalayas (they are actually just rolling hills, but lets stick with the Himalayas story). And of course it is gorgeous up there!  On the first ride, we were joined by my sisters lovely friend Kristen. Kristen has changed my life. OK, that is a little dramatic, but she did change the way I make pizza. She sent me a pizza crust recipe with an amazing secret ingredient: cauliflower - no lie! I made it tonight. No one even noticed the secret ingredient (and I'm for sure not telling them – thankfully they are among the millions that don't read my blog). This will be Bert's first year doing a CSA too, so on our second ride, we biked out to the farm to check things out.  In addition to veggies and eggs, they had chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, wool, a cafe, and soon they will have some hydro-fisho-thing-a-ma-bob that will allow them to grow veggies in the winter.  AND, this summer, they will have a creamery and will be serving goat milk gelato (a summer must try me thinks)!

But the best thing about a trip up north is family. Here are some pictures from our adventures (albeit not very good ones – you will just have to trust me that we had a lot of fun).

Shockingly, this is not the worst picture I took.

Not sure what is going on here . . .

The flamingo sisters.
The happiest fighters ever.
Teague and his cheese stick.
What is with these people? (no nonsense Mike)
Uh . . . No idea about this one.

Scout and Kuzzy
Kuzzy and Daria
Dog Butts!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Night's Storm

Hello darlings! I've been thinking about Emma all day today. Emma is one of my alter-ego's. She is my most spiritual, ethereal, artsy side. She is in love with life and in love with beauty. She see's the good in everyone.  She is also suppose to be in charge of keeping the house lovely.  This frequently involves laundry and cleaning the kitchen, but despite having a particularly Emma day, I am behind on both (again).  Emma would much rather write in her journal, flip through a magazine, or toy with a poem.  I was feeling bad that Emma is so under-represented on the blog, so I'm posting a poem she wrote in March of last year (my apologies to anyone who was hoping for rhymes – it has none).   I do think it touches a little upon why I'm blogging . . .

by Emma (aka Marlene)

The night's storm has slowed to a gentle trickle
Its energy spent in bright bursts and loud claps

My own storm has gathered while I sleep
Potent clouds darkened by whirlwind thoughts

I roll out of bed to find paper and pen
And the storm unleashes upon the page

Finally, spent, it dulls to a drowsy patter
Emptied, Exhausted, I return to my bed

Sunday, March 18, 2012

MANual Entries: Agreeable Disagreements

Whenever I'm tempted to lecture the boys, I start a new "MANual" section.  They don't want to be lectured anyway.   

The MANual” is a guidebook, written with love, to help my boys become the fabulous men that they are destined to be.   It is a work in progress.  My boys roll their eyes at me, but if they didn't, it would mean I'm not doing my job right.

March 5th: WIN-WIN

4th of July 2011
I don't mind arguing with myself. It's when I lose that it bothers me.
-Richard Powers

  • Losing sucks!
  • Winning is good! But at what cost? What if the relationship with your opponent is important to you.
  • Sometimes there is a solution that is better than winning. Look for a way that both parties can leave the argument happy. Maybe it will be a compromise. Maybe you will agree to disagree. Or maybe you will find a solution that is better than you ever imagined.

Halloween 2011

When I'm getting ready to reason with a man,
I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say
-- and two-thirds thinking about him and what he is going to say.
-Abraham Lincoln

Make an effort to understand your opponent. Really listen and try to understand their point of view. Find some common ground. Find a way to validate something he or she said. If they feel like they have been heard, they are more likely to hear your side.

Crazy Folks!

If you want to win an argument, treat your opponent with respect . . .
  • Do you like to be interrupted? Then don't interrupt.
  • Do you listen to crazy hysterical people? Then try not to sound (or look ) like a crazy hysterical person.
  • Do you like it when people insult you or your opinions? Then don't them or theirs.

A deep thinker

Truth springs from argument amongst friends.
David Hume

Now, this section might not be necessary for a regular boy, but you are no regular boy. You are an incredibly intelligent boy and you know it. That is the problem! You do not realize that you can continue to grow in your fabulousness and knowledge. Keep an open mind, and you may learn from your opponent and come to an even deeper understanding of the issue.

March 9th: WHY ARGUE?

It's “affect” not “effect” you idiot! (Scout and Cuzzy)

Arguments over grammar and style are often as fierce as those over IBM versus Mac, and as fruitless as Coke versus Pepsi and boxers versus briefs.
-Jack Lynch
Whenever two good people argue over principles, they are both right.
-Marie Ebner von Eschenbach

It is impossible to defeat an ignorant man in argument.
-William G. McAdoo
I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don't even invite me.
-Dave Barry

Chocolate Syrup Challenge

I know, I know – another Sophie's kitchen post.  But since I do need to feed the fams EVERY SINGLE DAY, I can't help that food is on my brain. Today we have the chocolate syrup challenge – store bought vs. homemade.

Here is your side by side comparison . . .
Home Made Chocolate Syrup Store Bought Chocolate Syrup
Sugar (1 2/3 cups)
Water (3/4 cup)
Unsweetened Cocoa (2/3 cup)
Milk (1/2 cup)
Vanilla (1 tsp)

(you just melt together the first four ingredients on the burner and then add the vanilla at the end)

Cost per oz: 6
(it was actually only 4, but I'll pad the cost because I may or may not be inclined to eat some while I make it)
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Corn Syrup
Potassium Sorbate (Preservative) (2% or less)
Salt (2% or less)
Mono- and Diglycerides (2% or less)
Xanthan Gum
Polysorbate 60
Artificial Flavor

Cost per oz: 10

We poured some in a glass of milk, because what really matters is the taste test.  Will he like it . . .

 Hmmmm . . .
It's good!
Why didn't we do this ages ago!
I declare it to be quite delectable . . .
So there you have it, home made was the hands down winner.  I was trying to think of what the drawbacks might be, but I could only think of two:  1) the time and effort to make it and 2) that I'd have to be conscious of when it was made and when it might go bad.  Out of curiosity, I looked at the date on the back of our store bought chocolate syrup – it was May 2010! EW! I think it is time to clean out the fridge . . .

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Happy Pie Day

Nut Crust Chocolate Coffee Chiffon Pie (Gluten Free) (I need a better name for this)

If only I hadn't gone to spinning yesterday, I'd have no idea that today is pie day (or rather pi day - you know 3.14 - March 14th). Why why why (shaking fist in the air) did pi day have to come up in spinning class? You are suppose to be spinning, not guilting me into making pie. Granted I'd have nothing to post about, but I'd also be caught up on laundry and would NOT have changed into stretchy pants (to make room for all of the pie filling I ate).  Anyway (grumble grumble grumble) Happy Pie Day (I've got to go clean the kitchen now) . . .

While I do that, you can peruse some pics from my adventure . . . 

Do you know how bloggers get those really cool pictures where amazingly delicious ingredients are pouring into the bowl.  I tried to get one of those pictures - I missed the bowl . . .
It would also appear that I need more practice separating eggs - I had to go through more than the recipe called for.  Oh well, I had an omelet for lunch.

The ingredients do look lovely here I think . . .

And finally, the recipe that I begged off of my mother in law yesterday (with minor modifications) . . .

Nut Crust
  • 2 c walnuts or pecans (chopped finely)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 Tbls sugar
  • 2+ Tbls soft butter
Grind Nuts; Mix ingredients; press into lightly greased pie pan.  Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

Chocolate Chiffon Pie Filling
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 2 squares unsweetened chocolate - grated (with the grater my mommy gave me - hi Mom!)
  • 1/2 cup hot double strength coffee
  • 3 eggs separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Sprinkle gelatin over water to soften (5 min).  Melt chocolate into hot coffee.Stir gelatin into chocolate mixture till dissolved.  Beat egg yolks lightly and stir into chocolate mixture along with 1/2 cup of sugar, the salt and the vanilla.  I actually heated this mixture since I was not speedy enough for the eggs to get cooked by the hot coffee.  Set aside to cool.  Beat remaining 1/2 cup sugar with egg whites until stiff.  Fold into cooled chocolate mixture and then into the crust.  Chill till firm.

Happy Pie Day!!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Freezer Jam

I should be working out.  I really, really should be working out, but it will have to wait.  This is too good not to share.  I . . . MADE . . . FREEZER . . . JAM!  I'm like Martha F$#^%ing Stewart!  I just can not get over myself.  And I can get no reaction out of my family (they claim they already knew I was awesome and Martha Stewart like even before I made freezer jam).  So, be excited and surprised for me.   Trust me, this is big!  So, here are a few pictures from my adventure.

As directed by the lovely folks at serious eats, I mashed myself up some fruit - gotta love strawberries!

I made a bit of a mess in the process . . . 
It was a little late, but I put on an apron . . .

I did make the mistake of adding the sugar before mixing it with pectin - oops.  And I made more mess (but no you did not see me licking the counter - that is a lie - although I did consider it - you can't beat sugar and strawberries) . . .
But look what I ended up with.  I'm very proud.  You can congratulate me now.  
Oh - I almost forgot - I got the adorable labels from PoppyTalk.   TTFN!!!!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Food Victories

On Friday, I was chatting with some PTO gals  about food at school events. I was explaining that we'd best avoid food since it is such a controversial subject. They looked at me like I was from Mars! Food is controversial? Obviously, they don't have loved ones with food allergies or diseases that require a specific diet. They have not questioned the validity of the government's food pyramid or wondered how their paleo and vegetarian friends might get along. In their eyes, every school event should involve wheat, sugar, food coloring, and chemicals (aka cookies).

How can they be so oblivious when the food landscape is so complicated and convoluted?

I am no expert on food. In fact, the more I learn, the more confused I get. But I sure as hell know that our children DO NOT need more wheat, sugar, food coloring or chemicals. Oh well – I am too early on this path to change the school.  For now, I'll focus at home. My family still gets it's share of bad food, but I am trying. I'm learning as much as I can and I'm changing things up a bit – in baby steps that my family can handle.

I have recently scored some amazing victories on the food front (please hold the applause until the end) . . .
  1. I have changed up my youngest son's lunch box. I got a planetbox so that I could move away from prepackaged food and towards healthier options. This picture was taken on the very first day he used it. I included the chips, bar, cookie, (and the capri sun in the pocket) to ease him into the transition. Now he has less grains,more fruits, more vegetables, and organic chocolate milk. It takes longer to make his lunches, but I feel soooooo much better about the food he is eating.

  1. I have not eaten grains for an entire week! Just don't ask me about drinkable grains (I have a weakness for beer).
  2. I ordered some Klean Kanteens so that we can move away from capri sun, plastic leaching water bottles, and pop. I should get them by Wednesday – yay!
  3. I ordered these LunchBots. My 12 year old was refusing to bring them to school (he is too cool for any type of "Bot" apparently). However, I cleverly re-branded them (see right side of picture).  Now he is all in (his is the "Umad Bro" one - which is apparently hilarious - I think you have to be a 12 year old to understand).

  4. I have finished reading Little Changes. Or rather listening to it. This inspiring thought provoking book is a big part of my journey (food related and otherwise).   I strongly recommend you get yourself a copy.  And I'll be sharing more about it as well :)
  5. Finally, most exciting of all, I have joined a CSA!  My friends and I have gone in together on vegetable, fruit, and egg shares. It does not start until summer, but I am over the moon.  I expect there to be many more posts about this in the near future.  In the meantime, I'll leave you with my workouts for the past week (I know you are all fascinated) . . .

Monday 4 miles speedwork
Tuesday Yoga Class, Spinning Class
Wednesday 6 miles tempo run (only 2.5 at tempo pace)
Thursday Spinning Class
Friday Rest
Saturday 11 Mile Long Slow Run
Sunday Nothing yet – hope to do some strength work

Friday, March 9, 2012

The MANual: Blissful Sleep Entries

The following are entries from “The MANual.” “The MANual” is a guidebook, written with love, to help my boys become the fabulous men that they are destined to be. Please note that it is a work in progress. This is because I am a work in progress too. By writing the manual I am gathering my thoughts and working towards becoming a better mom and a better person. I'm hoping the boys will consider my advice as well. They may roll their eyes now, but long after I am gone, I hope that these words will remind them of how much I love them, how proud I am of them, and what a privelidge it has been to have them in my life. 

March 1st: Good Morning: Can You Guess What We Will Be Talking About Tonight?

The Land of Nod
by Robert Louis Stevenson

From Breakfast on through all the day
At home among my friends I stay,
But every night I go abroad
Afar into the land of Nod.

All by myself I have to go,
With none to tell me what to do--
All alone beside the streams
And up the mountain-sides of dreams. 
The strangest things are there for me,
Both things to eat and things to see,
And many frightening sights abroad
Till morning in the land of Nod.

Try as I like to find the way,
I never can get back by day,
Nor can remember plain and clear
The curious music that I hear.

March 1st: Good Evening: Lets talk about Sweet Fabulous Blissful Sleep
I have the great honor of helping care for one of the world's most fabulous assets: YOU! Let's face it, you are truly and legitimately awesome. My goals is for you to be as happy and healthy as possible so that all of your dreams can come true. So . . . how to keep you happy and healthy? There are actually tons of different ways, but lets just focus on one at a time. For the next few days, lets talk SLEEP! Tonight, just realize that you are worth it. Set the intention. You deserve a good night's sleep. Plan on giving yourself this gift. Sweet dreams and HUGE hugs!

March 2nd: Good Morning: Laugh Every Day

Everyone has stress in their lives – the right level of stress can even be good for you. A little bit of nervous energy before an exam or athletic event can help keep you be on your toes and motivated to do a good job. Too much stress, however, can result in a plethora of negative physical and mental difficulties – including sleep problems. One of my favorite stress-busters is laughter. It feels good, it reduces stress, and its fun. So take a few moments today for silliness and laughter. Maybe watch a silly video or spend some time laughing with friends. You have your marching orders – off with you – have a great laughter filled day!

March 2nd: Good Evening: Conventional Sleep Wisdom
Life doesn't always stay on schedule – it would probably be pretty boring if it did. Nonetheless, try to keep to a fairly consistent sleep schedule and build yourself a nourishing evening routine. It might include some consideration for the state of your stomach (too hungry, too full, just right) or perhaps even thoughts on how your next dentist appointment will go (what! I'm a mom! I can't help myself). If you do the same few things each night before bed, eventually, your body will take the cue and start getting sleepy as soon as you start. So, tonight, think about how you would like to design your evening routine – maybe even take a test run. Sweet dreams!

March 3rd: Good Morning: Hugs and Snuggles

We need 4 hugs a day for survival.
We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance.
We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
    - Virginia Satir

Grab a loved one, a pet, a stuffed animal. Enjoy a few hugs today. I am always happily available for this – even if I'm not right with you – just picture me in your mind – I love you so much that I can give you hugs through time and space whenever you need it – I'm magic like that.

March 3rd: Good Evening: Squirrel Brain Remedy
Let's talk about one of the most dangerous and formidable challenges of our time (cue horror movie music here): SQUIRREL BRAIN! I also sometimes refer to it as Monkey-Brain. It is what happens when there are so many thoughts and ideas and worries swirling around in your head that you just can not fall asleep. Somehow, you need to figure out how to put those thoughts away. Take them right out of your brain and set them aside for the night so you can sleep. I recommend journaling or a worry doll (What? You're too manly for a doll – fine – we'll call it a worry dude – or whatever). Before you go to bed, put your thoughts into your journal (or your worry-dude's ear )and then LET THEM GO. Release the monkeys and squirrels out of your brain. The journal or worry-dude will hold onto those ideas for you – they will be waiting for you in the morning if you wish to retrieve them. For now, it is time to sleep. Sweet, fabulous, wonderful sleep!

March 4th: Good Morning: Treat Yourself Right

There are lots of things you can do during the day that will prepare you for a good night's sleep in the evening.

For Your Brain: Be Proactive
Consider the things that keep you up at night. What can you do during the day, so that these thoughts don't haunt you at night.

For Your Body: Hydrate. Nourish. Exercise
I know you do not need to hear a lecture. You know what your body needs, so I'll leave it at that. Hydrate. Nourish. Exercise The End.

March 4th: Good Evening: Burrow In and Surrender to Sleep
Look, I'm not suggesting that you get a pink four poster bed filled with stuffed animals, but I am suggesting that you consider your comfort when it comes time to your bed. Sleep is a time for your mind and body to restore itself. Where you sleep is worth a few extra splurges. So grab an extra pillow (or three) and your favorite blanket and spoil yourself with a seriously comfortable bed. You might also consider some relaxing music or meditation or you could even listen to some Louise Hay (“Good night. Sweet Dreams. You are Very Safe. All is Well.” - Louise Hay; what can I say – it works for me – find out what works for you). Good night!


Friday, March 2, 2012

My Top Ten Food Failures

So, the local newspaper asked: “Have you ever made a meal that just didn't quite work out?” Your kidding – right?  Pretty sure I could be the poster girl for that. So, for your reading pleasure, I have outlined my top 10 food related failures . . .

10. Leaving the veggies in the microwave (overnight).
9.   Setting off the smoke alarm (admit it - you have done this too).
8.   The numerous times I have been required to change the name of a recipe (because the final product was so far off it's originally intended form)
7.   Forgetting to plug in the crockpot.
6.   Math malfunctions when doubling cookie dough recipes.
5.   “Chocolate” taco shells – that is what they look like if you leave them in the oven long enough
4.   Pizza Muffins made out of cooked Quinoa – need I say more?
3.   The Pumpkin Soup Experiment (picture soup covered walls)
2.  The Hamburger Helper Science Lesson: if you put a tightly fitting lid on a hot pan and let it cool long enough, the lid will never come off – ever.

and finally, the top food related failure is . . .

1.    The Finger Cookie Fiasco
In my defense, I was just a kid . . . One day, my sister and I decided to make cookies.  She was demonstrating a very creative technique for getting cookie dough to eat.  It required putting a finger in the dough while the mixer was still running.  There was an accident.  For reasons that I can not explain, I finished making the cookies while she went to the emergency room.  I'm ashamed to admit it, but I actually ate a few cookies before discovering the small lump of fingernail and skin in the dough bowl.  The end.


I don't like being told what to do; even if it was my idea in the first place. As a result, this week's workouts did not go as planned:

Monday: planned speedwork; did yoga
Tuesday: planned spinning; did nothing (oops!)
Wednesday: planned: tempo run; this was my first run since Matt's surgery, so it was actually a very easy slow run
Thursday: planned: spinning; by some miracle I actually did this!
Friday: planned rest; did yoga
Saturday: 8 – 10 mile long run (we shall see what actually happens)
Sunday: swim (this will not happen – I heard the pool was closed)