Thursday, March 31, 2011

Strange Things Encountered during a 24-hr trip to Milwaukee and back

As some of you may know, I've been traveling around quite a bit this week for my spring break. I spent some time with my BFF in Moline, IL before heading up to Milwaukee with mi madre for a whirlwind "foodie fun" trip. 

Our first stop: Taste of Home magazine visitor center! Rather than give you a play by play of the trip, I thought I'd just highlight the important details. Much more fun that way.

At the visitor center they have an awesome outlet store for Taste of Home products. 

Like this super-awesome "Egg Cuber." Because everyone needs to be able to make a square egg. (?!?) To be completely honest, I would probably eat hard-boiled eggs more often if they were square. And if they didn't give me gas. Unfortunately this super-fab product did not come home with me. I might have purchased 4 new cookbooks though. Whoops.

They also had a great selection of clothing at the outlet store. Forget the Limited, I'm stocking my wardrobe with these beautiful sweaters! It would work as a professional-looking work shirt, because it has a collar, right?

We stopped in a couple other foodie shops where I discovered this gem of a flavor of hot cocoa. Takes me back to just a few days ago when my Business Man's little sis gave me a bacon-flavored mint. Not the best flavor combination, in case you were wondering.

With all the walking around, we just had to stop and rest our legs at a movie. This movie theater had the largest seats I have ever seen in my life. I mean, look, there's room for my thunder thighs and my big ole' purse, and there's still space leftover. If my Business Man was along, we could've shared a seat. Would they only charge us for one ticket then?

And like all good girly trips, we had ice cream for dinner. It was $1 scoop Wednesdays! So of course that means getting 2 scoops. Brownie batter & chocolate peanut butter. It was. So. Good. And it had been 3 whole days since I'd eaten ice cream so it was like being re-united with my long lost lover.

Of course after spending all day browsing cookbooks and foodie stores we had to stop at my favorite grocery store in the whole wide world, Trader Joe's. Except we timed our shopping wrong because we went to Trader Joe's before we went to Kohl's and then had to carry 4 bags of groceries around Kohl's because we didn't want to walk all the way to the car first. (Lazy, much?)

The bags were heavy so we found a good solution. Don't tell me you've never pushed your groceries around at a department store in a shopping cart/stroller hybrid.

And to cap it all off, we stopped at the best gas station in the world on the way back today. They had samples of fresh baked cookies. Chocolate chip and white chocolate macadamia. That definitely warrants two samples, one of each. Good thing the cookie police weren't there.

And now I'm back in the Bean Town, happy to be cuddling with my sweet Business Man. Who was super-nice and took me to Panera for dinner and gave me all the pecans off his salad when mine only had 3. I think I'll keep him.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Break, baby!

Spring break! Woot woot for a week free of whining, excuses, and waking up early. ;-)

Now, spring break vacations usually mean a trip to the beach or somewhere else equally tropical. Not this year. I'm taking a grand ole' tour of the Midwest! Starting with a trip home to see my parents, then up to northern IL to see my BFF from college, and then to Wisconsin for a girly getaway with my mom. Lots of driving, yes. Lots of fun, totally!

Sadly, I am sans Business Man this week, because not all jobs have spring breaks. Who woulda thunk? I got home last night, and enjoyed a nice dinner out with my mom, dad, aunt, uncle, & cousin. One of the best things about coming home? Whenever we eat out, my meal's always taken care of. Thanks Tina & Kent!

This morning, I woke up too early, around 7. Stupid time zone difference. Oh wells. I got up and had one thing on the brain: Yasso 800's! It was too cold for it being March 27th. 23*F with a windchill of 15*F. Yikes. 

Getting ready to head out. Why is it sooooooo coooooold still? And don't ask why my hand is curled up under my chin. Apparently, I'm trying to pull off the "cute little girl" look. Not happening so much.

I headed down to my old high school track, and attempted 8x800m @ 3:20 w/ 400m jog recovery. It was pretty nostalgic running a track workout where I used to practice everyday after school... made me smile. :)

I did this workout last week, but only did 6 reps. My goal for this week was to stay near the goal time, and not go too fast too early. Because when I get too excited and go too fast too early in the workout, I have difficulty completing the workout. Duh, Sara. It's not rocket science. If you run too fast, your legs will be too tired to finish.

Anyways, it was successful! The last two were hard, but that's pretty normal. I just gotta up it to 10 reps next week and see how that goes. This week's splits-- 3:19, 3:19, 3:19, 3:18, 3:18, 3:18, 3:19, 3:15. Pretty consistent. I let myself sprint on the last straightaway of the last rep.

After coming home, showering, and filling my belly, my mom and I headed to the cute lil' town square to do some browsing in the shoppes. 

Including a stop to the vintage candy store. Yummm! My Business Man and I used to walk here after school every Friday when we were in high school. Some of the best memories. I like to kid around that it's where we fell in love.

Look at all the candy!
I got some peach rings and raspberry candies. Nothing says livin' on the edge like sneaking a few raspberry gummies before lunch. It is spring break! Gotta live it up!

We also stopped into my favorite store on the square, Lori's Kitchen Store. I left without too much damage to my pocket book, with a couple packages of garlic cheese beer bread mix. Yum. And a new cupcake recipe. 

And some of the best things about being home? 

Cupcakes in the background... I don't wait long when I'm given a new recipe. Obviously.
My mom knows me too well... she bought an entire 12-pack for me, even though I'm only home for 2 days. She'll probably be a sweet little angel and let me take it back to the Bean Town with me, too.

And, this little cuddle monster.

She's such a freak sometimes. Who lays like this? But she's so cuddly and soft and cute, it doesn't even matter.

Well, that's about it for now. I'm off to visit with my Business Man's family and eat more cupcakes. Because that's what spring breaks are for: visiting family & friends and eating cupcakes.

P.S. Recipe to come later, I promise.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Simple Things

Some days, more than others, you appreciate the simple things in life.

A sunny, springtime day. (Even though it's 27*F outside... I'm wondering if the temps will ever get warm again.)

Yes, the sun is out. It is behind me in the pic.

The ability to walk down stairs without pain. Or get up off the couch without pain. Who knew running 20 miles would make someone so sore, two days later? (I think I've got a solid case of DOMS--delayed onset muscle soreness... hoping to be good to go by tomorrow.)

A relaxing morning sipping coffee with the one you love while browsing through old cookbooks.

And, finally, one of life's simplest treats: banana bread. 


I've had some ripe bananas on my counter all week, just begging to be made into a loaf of bread. I spent some time in the kitchen this morning working on a few 'projects', and this happened to be one of them. 

I know everyone probably has their go-to recipe for banana bread, but I want to share mine. I first saw this recipe over at Smitten Kitchen. (A great resource! Wonderful recipes.) She includes bourbon in her recipe, but I couldn't justify buying a whole bottle for just one tablespoon. It tastes great without it! I love the brown sugar flavor, combined with the cinnamon. I added walnuts, because I think they pair wonderfully with banana bread. I also topped it with some cinnamon-sugar before baking, to get that crunchy, crackly top layer. 

This banana bread is gooood! Perfect smeared with a bit of honey butter or even toasted with a bit of peanut butter. I made it several weeks ago when my Business Man's brothers were visiting, and we polished off the whole loaf in one sitting. And there was more to the meal than just banana bread. :-P

I'm glad I made it again when we don't have guests... more for us!

Banana Walnut Bread

  • 3-4 ripe bananas, mashed
  •  cup butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • pinch ginger
  • pinch cloves
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 2 handfuls walnuts
  • cinnamon-sugar


Preheat oven to 350*F. Combine mashed bananas with melted butter until smooth. Stir in egg, vanilla, sugar, and spices until combined. Stir in baking soda and salt. Add flour, and stir until just combined. Gently fold in walnuts.

Pour batter into greased 9x5-inch loaf pan. Top batter with cinnamon-sugar. Bake in preheated oven 50-60 minutes until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

Source: Smitten Kitchen.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

TGI (almost) F!!!

Goodness, it has been a looong week. Next week is Spring Break, and all the kidd-os at school have decided to just shut down this week... ya know, cuz' we'll be on break soon! That means they shouldn't have to do any work, or keep in dress code, or bring pencils to math class, or anything of that sort. It also includes whining. Lots and lots of whining. And not just from the students.

Anyways, tomorrow marks the last day of school before break, and we even get out early! I originally was planning on doing my long run for this week tomorrow, since I'd have extra time, but figured that I'd probably want to party hard after school (aka take a long nap) rather than go run for 3 hours.

So, I decided to do my long run today. And I ran inside. On the treadmill.

Before pic... super excited to be a hamster for 3 hours.

Did I mention it is cold again in the Bean Town? I mean, it's not super-cold, but it's cold. I spent 2 hours outside with the kidd-os at track practice yesterday and froze my toes off. Literally. I was home for an hour and half afterward and my toes were still numb. That's when I decided to take a 25 minute hot shower and I finally warmed up.

So the thought of running outside today for 3 hours was not appealing. At all.

So I decided to run on the treadmill! I've done it before, so it wouldn't be too bad adding another 2 miles. And, I haven't really watched TV all week, so I told myself it would be fun to spend some time zoning out with Oprah and Friends and Rachael Ray.

And it was! I had a great run. I stopped once at 9.3 miles to use the restroom, and then again at 16.9 to refill my water bottle. And then once I got back on, it was just a 5k to go!  

I finished in 2:44:15, an 8:12 average. My last mile was under 7:30. If only I could run all my miles under 7:30 for the marathon. Ha.

After... does anyone else run in just a sports bra at the gym? I had to shed my shirt with about 3 miles to go because it was just sopping wet with sweat. It was Dis. Gus. Ting.
You want to know the secret to my successful run? A yum-licious green drink. Nope, not Gatorade.

You see, I've been trying to cut back my consumption of Diet Dew... I used to buy one at school everyday after lunch and I haven't been lately. I've been good all week!

Until today. I was totally dragging, all day long. Even my students noticed my lethargy. One student told me I looked high because I was so tired-looking. So I gave in to the evil pop machine that only costs $1 for a 20-oz. (It's a good deal!)

Sad with myself for giving in to the evil pop machine. Do you like my super-cool calculator poster in the background? Just got it yesterday!
I knew it wasn't good hydration for a long run, but I began to feel more full of energy throughout the afternoon! (Sad, I know...) So, Diet Dew for the win again.

And now... the recipe I promised you last time: BLT Mac & Cheese.

When I think of BLT's, I'm not instantly excited. Growing up, I didn't like tomatoes, so whenever my mom made BLT's for dinner, I'd have a bacon & cheese sandwich. It's funny that I didn't like tomatoes, because I poured ketchup on everything. Green beans, mac & cheese, shrimp, steak, turkey sandwiches. You name it, ketchup would be good with it.

So, I wasn't immediately excited about this recipe when I first saw it. Until I realized there was lots of cheese involved. And it could be made start to finish in less than 30 minutes.

Now, there's no lettuce in this recipe, the "L" stands for leek. I had never purchased a leek before trying this recipe. It took us awhile to find them in the produce section. It just looks like a giant green onion.

What am I supposed to do with this?!?
The cheese flavor is pretty mild, so I didn't care for the dish too much. (I like my cheese strong and stinky!) The bacon was definitely the super-star ingredient. My Business Man gobbled it up two nights in a row for dinner, so I'd consider it a success. I think next time I would saute the leek with some minced garlic before adding it to the pasta to add an extra layer of flavor.

Also, make sure you measure your water out before it boils. You don't ever drain the pasta; the sauce just cooks up with the water, so you don't want to have too much! (Not that I did that or anything...)

BLT Mac & Cheese

  • 5 cups water
  • 1 lb. bacon, diced
  • 1 cup shredded colby cheese
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 16 oz. uncooked pasta, (penne or cavatappi)
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 large leek, diced
  • 3 plum tomatoes, diced


Bring 5 cups water to boil in large pot.

Meanwhile, cook bacon over medium-high heat 8-10 minutes until crisp. Remove to paper towel-lined plate.

When water is boiling, add pasta, cream cheese, grated cheeses, salt, and black pepper. Cover and simmer vigorously 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add leeks to pasta mixture and cook, uncovered, 5-7 more minutes or until pasta is cooked to desired tenderness and sauce is thickened, stirring occasionally.

When finished, stir in tomatoes and most of bacon. Spoon into bowls and garnish with remaining bacon.

Yummmmmmmmmmm........ bacon!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Anybody wanna Yass-O?

First of all, I want to say "Hello and welcome!" to anyone coming over from SkinnyRunner's site! Thanks for checking out my lil' blog!

And, SR said I'm from Boston, the Beantown. Not exactly... I'm from a small town in Ohio named after a bean, hence the "Bean Town". 

Here are a few links to some of my race recaps, if you're interested. :-)

BBO 4-Mile (3/12/2011)
Indianapolis Monumental Half-Marathon (11/6/2010)
Run Clark Lake (8/7/2010)

As I've just got 6 weeks to go until the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon... I decided I'd better pick up the slack on my speed workouts. I started out the training cycle super-strong, with a tempo workout and interval workout each week. That slowly faded to just a tempo run, and then now, just easy runs. Not cool.


So yesterday I decided to give Yasso 800's a try. The idea of the workout is that you take your goal marathon time and run it as an 800m interval. Then a 400m jog recovery. Repeat times 10. Yikes.

Using my "Marathon Pace" from this workout, I decided to do my Yasso's with a goal time of 3:20. According to the workout, if I can run 10x800m @ 3:20, then I should be able to run a 3:20 marathon. Riiiight.

I decided to just do 6 for my first try, and build up to 10 in the upcoming weeks.

I had to help out with track practice yesterday afternoon, so I decided to do my workout while the kiddies did theirs. I actually ended up running with the high school guys on a few of the reps which was fun!

Here's my splits:

3:17-- Well, I didn't quite hit 3:20. But close enough.

3:15-- Okay, not getting closer. I guess it's better to be fast than slow? But what if I can't hold this pace?

3:18-- Getting tired but the third rep's always the hardest, right? At least that's what my coach in college told me.

3:15-- Ran with the boys and picked up the pace. Those high school boys don't want their teacher beating them I guess. And I don't want them beating me either. Ha.

3:15-- Attempted to slow down a bit, but oh well, just went with it.

3:15-- Last one! I must have looked pretty tired, because one of my students hollered at me, "Man, Mrs. A..... you be doggin'!" Haha... nope, just workin' hard.

Overall, I think it was a successful workout. Could I have done 4 more reps yesterday? No, probably not. However, I think if I could find my 3:20 pace and maintain that for all the intervals, it would be much easier. 

Goal for next time: Run the actual pace! Don't race the high school boys!

Did I mention it was 70* and sunny today? In Ohio? In the middle of March? It was wonderful! I actually produced some sweat when I ran! It reminded me of this lovely day below... 

We were on vacation in Wisconsin a few years ago... I just finished a 5km race. My Business Man was obviously distracted by something. Hmmm... I wonder if he was deciding if he really wanted to pop the question later that night. Good news! He did!

I'm off to replenish my muscles with some BLT Mac & Cheese... yummy! Can anyone guess what the B, L, & T stand for? Recipe to come at a future date!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Quickie Road Trip

This past Friday night, my Business Man and I took a road trip north! One of my BFF's from college (Kristi) and her husband just moved back up to Michigan about a month ago, when he finished his training with the National Guard. I hadn't seen Kristi or her sweet babe since October, and her husband (Clay) since last July at our wedding! We were long overdue for a visit.

We took off as soon as school let out, and got there in time for din-din, and were served some dee-lish fish & chips. They then introduced me to a new game, Settlers of Catan. Now, sometimes I get a little confused with games that require a lot of thought and strategy. I thought for sure that I would not like this game. But once I got the hang of it, it was super-fun! Now I can see why people can play it for hours on end. I did not win, but I did win the award for Longest Road. That's gotta count for something, right?

Sweet, sweet victory!

The next day, we got up and went for a run. Obviously. (We ran together on the team in college.) It had been so long since I'd run with people! Let me just say... running with your friends is the best way to run. I miss it so much. Talking and sharing thoughts and emotions just comes so naturally when running. It's the ultimate friendship bonding experience. Ok, enough sappy stuff for now.

We set out to do 7 miles and got lost and ended up doing over 9 miles. But it didn't even matter because the miles flew by because we were having so much fun. We also ran through an awesome castle-looking thing. And of course had to go back later and take pictures.

Doesn't it make you feel like you're in Ireland or something? Nope... just Michigan.

And of course we had to re-enact the running portion as well.

After our run, we made pumpkin scones for breakfast. Kristi & I always bake when we are together. Back in college, every Tuesday night I would go to her house and we would bake brownies or something equally delicious and watch the Biggest Loser together. Because watching the Biggest Loser would cancel out all the calories in the brownies. We would also try to make each other do abs during commercials, but that didn't always happen.

Anyways, the first batch of pumpkin scones did not turn out so hot because I forgot to add the baking powder. Me? The queen of baking? Yes, I do make mistakes. More than you probably think. ;-) 

The second batch turned out much better, and we drenched drizzled the scones with a nice cinnamon glaze and sprinkled them with pecans. As Kristi exclaimed, "The house smells like Christmas!" 

Yes, those scones are swimming in a pool of cinnamon glaze. And yes, they were delicious. And please, ignore the wet hair. We were hungry.

I will share the recipe at a future date, I promise, probably in the fall when it makes a little more sense to make pumpkin scones. However, if you are a pumpkin fanatic (like myself & Kristi & this friend) feel free to comment and I will give it to you. 

After another round of Settlers of Catan and a trip to Target (there is no Target in the Bean Town, tragic!), we headed out to a late lunch.

Cora decided that she'd drive.

Isn't she precious? She handled the car quite nicely, too.

We hit up a local sandwich shop downtown, called the Pickle Barrel Deli. It was too cute! Tons and tons of choices. The menu was huge. I went with the the Fields Veggie--lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, cucumber, avocado spread, sprouts, cheddar, and hummus on sourdough. Yum-O!

My sammy!

After lunch, we walked around downtown for a bit and checked out some art galleries. Too bad they were closed and all we could do was look in the windows. 

Sadly, then we had to leave to go back to the Bean Town. We stopped at our favorite drink joint on the drive back............... Sonic! Three cheers for cherry lime-ade!

It was sunny enough that I needed my shades! Spring is coming!

Thanks for a great weekend, Kristi & Clay! It was a blast. Can't wait to show you guys around the Bean Town!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Today's Long Run, in Numbers

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Did you wear green?? I sure did! I didn't want any students pinching me... that could make for some awkward situations.

Please ignore my super-shiny face. This was after a long day of work.

Funny story-- I reminded my students yesterday that today was St. Patrick's Day, and told them "Don't forget to wear green!" And then I realized, they have a uniform/dress code. Green is not an acceptable color. Woops. I felt a little bad, rubbing it in that they couldn't choose what they wanted to wear. One of my students saved me and said, "You mean green jewelry and socks and accessories, right?" I nodded, "Yes, of course that's what I meant, all along!"

After school today, I set out for this week's long run. I thought I would give you the highlights of today's run, just "the numbers". :-)

65: Temperature that it was outside today when I ran! With the sun!! Woo hoo!

17: Speed of the wind in miles per hour... made for some tough stretches when the wind was in my face. Wish my Business Man could have dropped me off somewhere with the wind at my back the entire way. Ah... we can dream, right?

18.45: Miles I ran today.

20: Miles I was supposed to run today.

7.75: More miles I need to add to today's run to reach full marathon distance. Yikes.

2:29:22: Amount of time it took me to run my 18.45 miles.

16.9: Ounces of water I carried on my run today.

202,318: Times I wanted to chuck the water bottle across the road because it is annoying to carry things when you run. I'm glad I didn't though, I would've been really thirsty.

3: Number of Clif shot blocks I ate on my run. (I tried a new flavor! Tropical punch... I liked it better than strawberry. And it's blue!)

6: Number of Clif shot blocks I probably should've eaten on my run. I hit the wall, big-time, around mile 15. Hence the not quite making it to 20. My legs were shot. Pun intended.

41: Number of songs I listened to on my iPod during this run.

Thank you for providing me with entertainment today.
14: Approximate number of Christmas songs included in the playlist. (I put my iPod on shuffle. It does not have that many songs because I recently got a new iPod because a certain someone sent me old one through the washing machine. Let me just say it wasn't me. My songs are all on my old computer, which has been donated to mi madre, so I don't have access to all my songs. So hence the plethora of Christmas music.)

20: Ounces of Gatorade I chugged as soon as I got home. It was lemon-lime. And yes, I promise it was Gatorade, not Diet Mountain Dew. 

3: Scoops of ice cream I will probably eat after I hit 'publish'. Chocolate moose tracks is where it's at, oh yea.

And that's all folks, off to eat my ice cream and head to bed. G'nite!

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