Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Dinner

Since it was Easter Sunday and my parents were over at my house and they helped me plant my tree, I offered to cook them dinner.  Out of the choices I gave them of the stuff that was in my fridge, they opted for salmon.  I had the salmon in my freezer for a while and it needs to be eaten at some point, and this was perfect.  Since I bought the fish from Costco, it was HUGE.  I thought I would cook it all anyway and eat the left overs for the next week.  Easier then trying to cook in the middle of the week, especially the busy one I had in front of me this week.

I cooked the salmon in foil from a recipe that I got from  I had done it once before and not only made the cooking of the fish easy, but clean up easy too.  I threw some different spices, including my new fresh basil, squash, zucchini, and grape tomatoes.  Then I squeezed fresh lemon on it all and wrapped it in foil.

Cooked Salmon
Squash, Zucchini, and Tomatoes that were cooked with the Salmon.

While the fish cooked, I chopped and boiled some kale to make braised greens.  Once that started cooking, I put some corn on the cob in my brand new steamer.  Then I started on the hot cross buns, thinking that they could cook in the oven while we ate.  Boy I was wrong on that.  While the total time said 45 minutes, it didn't account for the hour it had to rise.  I didn't read the directions in detail earlier that day when I was pacing things out.  So no hot cross buns for the folks.

I put the cooked kale in a pan of oil and onions.  Then added vinegar as the last touch.  Surprisingly, everything finished almost at the same time, minus the corn, which I should have waited to put in, but since I'm not that skilled at cooking a meal for everyone that gets served at the same time, I'm still working on that.  Usually, I throw things together and eat what is done when it's done while I'm cooking other things.  But it's good to practice serving a meal at the same time.

Braised Greens
Corn on the Cob

I had also cut some fruit up, as I had tons, so there was a huge variety of food around.  Everyone seemed to like what was done, including me.  After they had left, the hot cross buns were just about ready to put in the oven.  Now, I'm not sure if the buns were suppose to be sweet or taste more like a role, but they tasted more like a role, when I expected sweet.  But they were good, especially with the dried cranberries in them.  I didn't bother to make the icing, as it was just me to enjoy them.

Yummy Fruit
Hot Cross Buns - minus the icing

I now have tons of food to last me through the week.

Planting a Tree

I have been wanting to plant a tree for about a month now.  I don't know where that idea came from, but as I recall, it started out small and got bigger till I really knew I wanted to.  Last week, I called my mom to see if she could help.  I really don't have any type of green thumb, in fact, I don't really know anything about plants.  But my mom on the other hand has a green thumb and loves to come over to my sunny yard and plant all the sunny type plants that she can't in her shady yard.

On Friday, I stopped by a local nursery to see what they had.  I talked to one of the employees and told her that I wanted some sort of fruit or flower tree that won't get too big.  I have enough tall and big pine and oak trees as it is in the back of my lot.  She showed me two types of fig trees.  She said something about other fruit trees needing cross pollination or something like that and said that a fig tree would be the best with my conditions.  So we picked out the best looking little baby tree.  And the best of that is, it fit in my car.  I was so afraid I was gonna have to maneuver it on its side or come back with a borrowed truck.

The Fig Tree that was purchased.

Sunday came.  Hottest day of the year so far in the upper 80's.  My parents came over with shovels and extra mulch.  I didn't buy enough soil, so my mom went to the hardware store for extra (and picked me up a basil bush since I'm cooking a lot more).  While she was at the store, my dad and I dug up the hole.  It was worse soil then I thought.  Lots of clay and rocks, not good for my baby tree.

The Fig tree in its new home, almost.

When my mom got back we sent my dad into the house to "watch" TV (when I say "watch", I mean he sat on the couch and fell asleep as he always does when the TV is on, but won't admit to his catnaps).  My mom and I rounded out the whole, put in the tree, and filled it up with soil.  I watered it till it drowned and then we covered it with mulch.  While I watered, my mom planted the basil in one of my pots.

My new Fig Tree!!

Just wanted to throw in a picture of my beautiful blooming azaleas.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Trying New Things in the Kitchen...

For almost a year, I have been learning how to eat healthier.  This not only has me buying more fresh food, but also has me trying out new (or any) recipes.  This past week I have come up with a few firsts.  Last week, I bought my first cantaloupe.  While most won't find this a big deal, that fruit (well really all melons) have really intimidated me.  I love the fruit, when someone else has picked it out and cut it up, but trying to pick out a good melon and cutting it really wasn't something that I felt I was ready to do on my own, till last week.  I picked up a great cantaloupe and easily chopped it all up.  I was so confident with this, that I bought a three pack from Costco this week.  Yay me.

A few weeks ago, I was able to successfully cook a fish that didn't taste horrible.  I love fish, but this has always been something I failed at.  When I cooked it, I did it in the oven wrapped in foil.  I think that is the key for me when cooking a fish, wrap it up in foil.  I've tried it a couple times with success both times.

The big thing for me is that I cooked my first whole chicken.  While I had been getting pretty good at cooking chicken breasts in my slow cooker, I had never tried a full chicken.  This I boiled as I'm still a little too shaky to try to bake a chicken.  But the chicken was moist and really good.  I'm still eating the left overs now, which I think is my favorite part.  Though I really wasn't a fan of de-boning it.

This weekend my parents are coming over to help me plant a tree, so I offered to cook them dinner.  The menu includes salmon cooked with squash/zucchini/tomatoes (in foil!), corn on the cob and/or braised greens, and cut fruit.  For desert I thought I would try to make some hot cross buns, as it is Easter.  I feel very confident that it will turn out great!

Tons of Books

Starting at the beginning of this year, I have been really obsessed with reading.  I can't get enough of the written word.  My favorites seem to by mystery/thrillers, especially when they have to do with a strong female role, especially if they are P.I.s.  I don't know what the drawl is, but it has me reading and that's great.  I use to be an avid reader when I was a teenager.  I hit college and found that I had better things to do.  A few years back, I started up again.  And this year I'm devowering every book I can find.  Here is the list of books I have read this year.

1) Eat, Pray, Love - Now not a normal type book for me but a friend let me borrow it several months before and I thought I should just get it read.  It does have some interesting tidbits, but I'm not a huge fan of the last part of the book.  And I watched the movie after I finished the book and all I have to say is that it's too long.

2) Murder... Suicide... Whatever... - This is a new P.I. writer that took a real long time to get to the jist of the story, but the last third picked up enough that I just ordered the second book in this series.

3) I is for Innocent - This book I borrowed from my mom.  I have never read the Alphabet series, but I did listen to U is for Undertow on my cross country trip last November.  Both books were light and a fun read so I decided to start from the beginning.

4) The Red Garden - I loved this book and would recommend it to almost anyone.  It's a bunch of short stories (sort of) that have to do with a town from it's founding to present day.  You follow the generations of families in this town through the different short stories and just fall in love with the town.

5) A is for Alibi - So I started the Alphabet series from the beginning.  A light quick read, that is enjoyable.  Though it is weird to read books from the '80s and see how things have changed.

6) Postmortem - This series fallows a Chief Medical Officer as she gets the mysteries that surround her "patients".  I got into this series from a recommendation from someone because it takes place in my home town.  It's real cool to read about the different parts of town and roads that I really know.

7) B is for Burglar - Another Kinsey Milhone story.  Not much to say about the series beyond they are easy and fun reads.  Though I have started to notice that the Epilogue is never even a page long, so I feel like the arc of the story comes, we find out who did it, and then that's it.  No real end to the story like I would like to see.  But the books are still fun and easy reads.

8) Body of Evidence - The second in the Kay Scarpetta series.  Same as the first, though I missed having her niece around.  She was a fun character that added balance.  This series also was first written in the 80's so I'm having to remember that cell phones were not normal and they really had to look for a pay phone to talk to anyone. 

9) Jane Eyre - This was a book on CD that I was listening to when I had time.  There are a lot of classic books that I never read and always wanted to.  I really enjoyed this story a lot.

10) C is for Corpse - Same as all the other Kinsey Milhone series.

11) All that Remains - The third in the Kay Scarpetta series.  And more of the same.

12) The Spellmans Strike Again - This is the fourth in the Spellman series that I have read over the last couple years.  I really do enjoy this series.  It's a P.I. that has grown up in a family of P.I.s.  The family is nuts and the stories are fun.  I would really recommend this series to anyone that likes a quick mystery involving crazy people.

13) Cruel and Unusual - This is the forth in the Kay Scarpetta series.  I am now noticing that every case she gets involved in, turns out to be all about her.  I understand that the investigator has to get involved, but the reason of these bad things can't always be because of the main character.  But over all the book was good, just starting to be a little bothersome.  I have been told her latest books aren't any good, so I'll keep reading them till I'm not happy reading them at all.

14) D is for Deadbeat - The forth in the Kinsey Milhone series.  Again enjoyable and a little put off by the lack of conclusion.  But not enough to stop reading the series.

15) E is for Evidence - The fifth in the Kinsey Milhone series.  Same as the rest.

Currently I am reading the next book after Murder... Suicide... Whatever... I'm also reading a book on a Kindle which is going slow as I save that for when I'm out of the house, and just started a book on CD which will also go slow as my commute is not long so I don't have that many opportune times to just listen to a book.  I will review other books as I finish them.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Biking for the First Time in About 4 Years....

The last time I rode my bike, I was training for a 70 mile ride that was in Philly.  All summer, every Saturday, I would meet some people and we would ride.  As the summer went on, the heat got hotter, and the rides got longer.  At this point of my life, this really was the only exercise that I was getting.  The rides were fun, but could really take a lot out of me.

Our second to last ride was a 60 mile ride and I had a new bike that I had gotten a few weeks before.  I was still playing with the height of everything and remember adjusting the height of my seat toward the beginning of the ride.  Toward the end, I kept thinking about how my knee was hurting.  What happened was that I didn't tighten my seat well enough and on that long ride it slipped down.  By the end of the ride, my knee hurt so bad that I was looking at going to the doctor the next business day. 

I couldn't get in anywhere before the race and ended up only able to do 20 miles of the 70 miles in Philly.  I was so devastated.  All that training all summer long and I couldn't complete my goal.  I let my knee heal over the winter and without the weekly meetings with others the next spring/summer, I never got back on my bike.

I still have issues with my knee, but with the ending of the Ukrop's 10K race, I tried to think of something else I could do.  Last week I brought my bike in for a tune up and was ready to try it out this weekend.

Sunday was a gloomy start to the day, but I knew it would get better.  I piled my bike on the back of my car and headed out to West Creek.  Now this is a business park with very few businesses.  It is relativity flat and a nice 6 mile loop.  I got my bike off my car, got my biking shoes on, and put on my helmet.  I was really worried about remembering how to use my shoe clips and rode around the parking lot a couple times taking them in and out.  It really wasn't something that you forget.  And I forgot how much I loved the feeling of doubling my power by being able to pull the back peddle up while pushing the front down.

I was ready, locked my car and headed out to the road.  The one thing I didn't practice in the parking lot was shifting.  I quickly figured out how to shift it one way, but couldn't remember how to shift it back.  So I rode in one gear.  When I couldn't figure out how to shift it back, I almost turned back, but knew I needed to keep going. 

I haven't used some of the muscles in a real long time that I was using that morning.  I found that I did get winded a few times.  But I loved the wind in my face as I rode.  It was so freeing. 

I finished my loop and packed up the bike and my equipment.  I knew this was something that I would want to do again.  My knee didn't hurt at all, though I only did 6 miles.  I'll have to two loops next weekend to really see.

Oh and on the drive home, I remembered that it was sliding my breaks to the side that would shift me back up.  DUH!!  But I did realize that I spent the whole ride in the lowest, easiest, gear and it was HARD.  And I thought I was in shape, but biking is a whole other story.

Ukrop's 10K Conqured

Since I have been starting to exercise on a regular bases back over the summer, I started to walk/run.  I would walk a loop that was about 1.25 miles about once a week.  Shortly as the end of summer came, I started walking two loops, which would be about 2.5 miles.  In about October, I would start running the down hill parts, but that's not many in my neighborhood.  I went to California in late October and while I was there I got about 4 strait days of running around a flat marina.  I got it up to 25 minutes before I had to stop and walk/run back to the hotel.  That was my very first accomplishment in running.  So when I got home, I started to run, not only the down hills, but the flat parts too.  I added a little more each time till I got to the point where I was running all but the up hills.  I still wasn't ready for that.

January came around and talks of the Ukrop's 10K started to surface everywhere.  This is one of the biggest 10Ks on the east coast.  Now, 4-5 years ago, I did participate in the 10K a few times.  The first time I was going to walk it and decided that it was just a walk and I could easily do 10K.  And there were so many people there that I had to park like a mile away and then in my first mile, I pulled a leg muscle.  So I limped the whole way through the other 5 some miles to the finish line.  Then I limped another mile to my car.  I was not a happy camper that year.

The second year, I decided to join the YMCA 10K Training team.  I was still just going to walk it, but this time I was gonna get some extra exercise from it and really prepare myself.  I really did well and sped walked it.  It was really good.  The next year I did the same thing, joined the YMCA 10K Training team, but didn't keep up with it.  Then it took me almost an hour to find parking, which I never did, and I missed my wave start time even though I showed up extra early.  I went home mad and did some gardening.  I vowed that I wasn't going to do the Ukrop's 10K again till they fixed the parking issue.  That was about 2 years ago.

I have been exercising regularly with a group of people from work.  We talked each other into joining the race this year.  My thought was that I could make someone else drive so I didn't have the stress of parking, or maybe getting one of my parents to drive me down and drop me off.  I joined the 10K Training team again this year, too.  The goal, run the whole 6.2 miles.

Each week, on Saturday, I would go up to the Downtown YMCA (they actually training on the roads the race was going to be on) and run with them.  Started out with a mile, then 2, then 3 for a couple weeks.  I knew I could do the first couple weeks, but was going to try my best the rest of the time.  I set up my schedule to run on Saturday with the Y and then Sunday on my own.  Monday and Wednesday is my Adrenaline Exercise class.  Tuesday and Thursday were my palates classes.  It was a full week of exercise.

We started a few weeks in to 3 miles.  I wasn't sure if I could do it, but the stubborn part of me wouldn't let me stop and walk.  The same for the week we started 4 miles.  I couldn't believe that my body was able to do it.  The week with 5 miles was one of the hardest as I planned on running 5 miles both Saturday and Sunday.  But I was shocked that not only did I run the whole 5 miles on Saturday, I turned around and did it again on Sunday.  I knew if I could do two 5 mile days, then I could do the 6 miles the next week.

Now let me tell you, I wasn't really loving the running, the distances or the amount of running I was doing in such a short period of time.  But I had a goal, and my mind was set.  My stubbornness kicked in each week and made me accomplish it.

Two weeks before the 10K, we had a "dress rehearsal" at the Y.  We were to run 6 miles that week.  The first couple miles were horrible, as usual.  The middle of the run came up and I was thinking that maybe I could do it.  But the last mile or so was really hard.  I was tired and in pain, but I knew I was close to the end, that I couldn't give up no matter what.  I just kept running.  And up came the finish line and I was done.  I ran my first 6 miles (no stopping, no walking) ever.  I knew I could do the 10K and finish it.

Race day came.  I got a ride from my parents to the race with someone else with us.  Mary and I got all ready and had our bibs on.  We checked our bags and sort of made it over to the start line (we had to walk extra around the kids race).  We were about an hour early so we walked up and down the waves and started to stretch.  We only saw one other person we knew, even though we knew tons of people participating.  But it's kinda hard to find people that you know in the middle of 40,000 runners and tons of spectators.

Me and Mary before the race.

Our wave started to come up.  We got ready with our headphones and made sure our shoes were tied tight enough.  And before we knew it, the race had started for us.  We stayed together for little under a mile and I started going a bit faster than her.  We already knew I would go faster than her and she was fine with me leaving her.  I needed to do this at my pace and my time.

The first mile marker came up out of no where.  I couldn't believe that the first mile was over with already.  1/6th of the way done.  As I moved on to the mile 2 marker, I was sure they forgot to put it up and I would soon be upon the 3 mile marker.  What seemed like ages I saw one of the markers, but to my really big disappointment, it said 2.  I was sure that what I had just done was more then that.

I kept running, weaving in and out of walkers.  The water stops started and that was more weaving as people stopped to get water.  I had been training without drinking druing the race, so I planned on not stopping for water this race.  I knew if I stopped or walked at all, I would lose all my momentum.

The third mile came up as we started our turn around.  That mile went a lot faster than the second, thankfully!  The half way marker came up after the turn around.  I was expecting to see a clock to see how long it's been since the start, but they didn't have one there.

Off to the 4th mile marker and that mile wasn't too bad either (from mile marker 3 to mile marker 4).  I was really noticing the hills at this point.  Anything that made me work harder was evil.  Once I hit the 5 mile marker, I knew I was getting close.  I couldn't wait for that last 1.2 miles to be over with.  This last mile really was long too, cause I wanted it to be over.

I kept looking for the camera guys.  They always are there at the very end taking photos close to the finish line.  About this point some woman with a jogging stroller comes running in front of me to where I had to weave to avoid her.  She went over and I guess ran with her husband some.  Two things that you were not suppose to do: family was not suppose to run with the runners at the end and there were no strollers allowed.  I did yell toward her as she almost tripped me up that there were no strollers allowed on the course.  How rude.

I finally got to where the official cameras were.  I waved up to them excited to be close to the end.  I could now see the finish line.  At that point, I took off.  I knew I could use the rest of my energy that I might have had left.  As I crossed the finish line, I looked up at the clock.  I calculated my time to be about 1 hour and 10-15 minutes.  That was not right in my head.  I was sure it would take me about an hour and a half, but I would find out my official time when I looked it up.

My official race photo just before the finish line.

A few feet from the finish line I moved over as quickly as I could so that I could stop out of anyone's way.  I bent over and tried to catch my breath.  I had used everything in my tank for that last few hundred yards.  I was spent.  A lady in front of me asked if I was alright, I said yes, I just needed water.  I walked toward the exit area and passed someone puking.  At this point all my emotion of the last two months of training and the last hour of the run came flooding out.  I was holding back tears.  I was not only physically spent, but emotionally as well.  I had put in front of me a goal to run 6.2 miles and I just completed that.  It took 2 months of training and a bunch of fortitude to complete and everything just rushed to me.

I got my water and got the food that was offered.  I headed for my bad and called my dad to tell him that it was time to come pick us up.  I walked over to the T-Shirt stand that was selling VCU Final Four shirts and bought a couple.  Then walked over to the finish line and took some photos and waited for Mary.

The finish line.  Can't see the runners through the spectators.

Not long after I got to the finish line and took a couple pictures, Mary called and told me that she was done and at the baggage claim area.  I headed over there and the two of us headed to where we were going to meet my dad.  My dad was already there and waiting - he made great time getting back there.  Mary and I went up to my moms office to say hi and go to the bathroom.  After we left, we headed to the Waffle House (basically my dad's favorite restaurant) to have lunch.

 Me and Mary after the race.

Overall it was a pretty good day.  I didn't do much but shower and rest the rest of the day.  But I was glad I did it, but am really unsure if I ever want to run that far again.  I didn't like the training - running so many long distances in a short period of time.  Though, I'm already signed up for a 5K in a few weeks.  I can do that with no problem.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Granola Bar Triumph!

So, I was inspired by Julie's post about the baking she did the other day.  I really was in the mood to make some granola, which I have never done before.  I'm not much in the kitchen, but I have been trying a lot more in the last year.  I have always been really good at chili and nacho type things, where you just throw a bunch of things together.  Never followed any type of recipes for those types of things.  But now I'm trying to eat healthier and with that comes trying to prepare fresh things from scratch.  I took a couple days looking at different recipes, especially on Allrecipes.  I found what looked like a real easy recipe and read some reviews that helped me make it just a little more healthy.  So I took this recipe and modified it just a twinge.

I lowered the brown sugar to 1/2 cup.
I upped the cinnamon to 1 teaspoon.
Used whole wheat flour instead of all purpose.
Instead of the raisins, I used 1 cup dried cranberries and 1 cup walnuts.
Instead of honey, I used 1/2 cup Splenda.
Instead of oil, I used 1 cup applesauce.

I could only find my 9" circle pan instead of the 9"x13" pan, so even though others recommended a shorter cooking time, 30 minutes was perfect.  It came out crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  With the changes it came to 125 calories for 24 pieces. 

These were so good that when I realized that I was gobbling them down, I would have to hide them and bring them into work to share so I didn't eat all of them.  Next time I cook/bake, I'll have to take a picture to share.

What I'm About...

Not sure really what this will be about, but I've been wanting to do something that lets me share my random thoughts, mostly to get them out of my head.  I thought I would include topics like, the books I have been reading, activities that I have been engaged in, and cooking triumphs and catastrophes.  I hope to have fun with it.