Elliptical Climb Workout

I am not the type of person who can step onto a piece of cardio equipment at the gym and pedal mindlessly for an hour… Or even half an hour… Or 15 minutes.  If I am not engaged in the workout and frequently pressing buttons to change the speed, level, etc., I become very bored.  Here’s a workout I did yesterday on an Elliptical.  It’s more complicated to explain than it is to actually do, so I created a graph (time on the bottom axis, level going up the side) :

Elliptical Graph


Basically I warmed up on levels 5-9, then at the 10-minute mark I moved to a level 10.  At 15 minutes I started the climb–each minute I’d alternate increasing the level by 2, then decreasing by 1, until I reached level 15.  At that point, I began the descent–decreasing the level by 2, then increasing by 1 until I reached level 10.  At the 30 minute mark I completed a few intervals–1 minute at level 15 followed by 1 minute at level 10.  From 35-40 minutes I decreased the levels to cool down.

It was a tough workout, but it kept me engaged and not (as) bored.  As was the case with this elliptical workout, the levels here are relative;  the peak of my climb might be your warm-up level, so make sure to adjust so that the workout is challenging for you!

Hopefully, if you are like me in terms of cardio equipment boredom, this workout will help ease some of that boredom. 🙂

Aioli and the Art of Broiling

How does one use the broiler without setting off the fire alarm or, as was the case last night, catching dinner on fire?  If there is an art to broiling, I don’t have it.  My attempts all end with an open window, a fan, and waving a dish towel in front of the smoke detector.

Here was our intended menu, and more or less what ended up on the table last night:

Broiled Salmon with Lemon-Herb Aioli

Quinoa with Cranberries and Almonds

Sauteed Green Beans

I started with an enormous piece of fish;  I took a photo of it with my hand for comparison:


After cutting it into more reasonably sized fillets, I put it back on this aluminum foil lined pan, with salt and pepper and  just a little bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking.  (Question: because salmon is so oily anyway, is the olive oil necessary?  Perhaps it was part of the problem…)

I turned on the broiler.  I placed the pan with the salmon on a rack about six inches from the top of the oven.  I set the timer for 3 minutes (just 3 minutes!)  When the timer beeped I grabbed an oven mitt, opened the oven, and smoke billowed out.  I reached in to pull out the pan, and Fwooosh! (<–That’s the sound salmon fillets make when they catch on fire.)  I pushed the pan back into the oven and closed the door.

What did I do wrong?  Was it the olive oil?  Too close to the top of the oven?  Too hot (550 degrees)?

Once I’d dealt with the fire, I decided to bake the salmon the rest of the way–450 degrees on the middle rack.  Much safer. 🙂  From that point the fillets took about 10 minutes to finish cooking, and thankfully turned out pretty well.

Now, about that aioli.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve seriously disliked mayonnaise.  Perhaps it began in childhood, eating ham sandwiches with mayo on the beach and having grains of sand blow into them as I took a bite.  Who knows?  I hated it as a kid, and as I grew up I saw no point in trying it again, as it is a fairly nutritionally-void food.

However, mayonnaise has recently crept into my life in the form of aioli.  It’s basically a fancy mayonnaise, with added herbs or spices.  Some restaurants serve a variety of aiolis instead of ketchup with their french fries, and I love it.  I hate that I love it, but I love it nonetheless.  I even put mayonnaise on a sandwich while visiting my sister earlier this month, and I liked it… I liked the whole thing!

With this new found appreciation for mayonnaise, I decided to make a lemon-herb aioli to go with the salmon last night.  We had some rosemary and sage left over from this meal, so I chopped them finely and mixed them into a small bowl of mayo with a squeeze of lemon juice.

The final product:

salmon and quinoa salmon and quinoa2

We cooked the quinoa in the rice cooker with low-sodium chicken broth, then added Craisins and sliced almonds at the end.  The green beans were frozen, and we put them in a skillet over medium heat with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Easy and delicious.

The salmon emerged from the fire relatively unscathed.  The skin was crispy, but Andrew tells me that’s something to strive for in the culinary world. 😉

Even with the fire incident, this meal was on the table in 30 minutes.  Not bad for a Wednesday night!

Do you have any broiling tips that could keep me from setting off the smoke detector next time?

Weekend Highlights

We had a very full weekend here, and while I know this post is a little late, I wanted to write about some of the highlights.

Thursday Night–(I know, not technically the weekend… but close enough.)  Andrew’s church league basketball team progressed to the championships last week, and the final game was Thursday night.  The guys played well…and won!

bball champs

Our good friend Kevin, who lives in Dallas, was in town for a meeting that day, and he was able to make it to the game and cheer on the guys.  We enjoyed visiting with him for a while after the game!

Friday–My alma mater, James Madison University, played their first and only game in the NCAA tournament.   They got their butts whooped, as expected, but I was still excited that they made it to the tournament.  There was a small part of me that held onto hope that maybe, just maybe, they’d be the first #16 seed to beat a #1 seed 😉


I was really excited, okay?

On Friday night we took a youth group trip to Jumpology–a new indoor trampoline gym in town.  It.  Was.  Awesome.

jump4 jump5 jump jump2

The room was essentially wall-to-wall trampolines, plus areas for basketball, dodgeball, and a foam pit.  It was quite a workout!

Saturday– Yesterday I recapped the 5k I ran with my brother; you can check it out here. The short version:  we kicked butt.

Rebel Run

In the afternoon, our friend Andrew came over to watch the VCU basketball game.  Unfortunately, no havoc was wreaked.

Later in the afternoon I helped with a youth group service project.  Once a month we help wheelchair-bound adults with disabilities (residents of the Virginia Home) enjoy an afternoon of bowling.


Everyone–youth and bowlers–had a great time!  I love to see how excited they are, not only when they do well, but simply to be there bowling.

When I arrived home, I found that Andrew had been hard at work in the yard and made some awesome progress on the garden:

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Doesn’t it look great??  We cannot wait to start planting.

Saturday night our friends Amanda and Diron came over to watch some more basketball.  With JMU out of the tournament and VT not in the tournament to begin with, we were not particularly interested in any one game other than for the sake of our brackets, but we had a great time hanging out!  Amanda and I have been friends since college, and for a long time would say, “We need to go on a double date!”  When the four of us finally hung out a couple of months ago, we realized just how similar we are, and now we get together often.  We laugh a lot, although I think it often centers on how neurotic Amanda and I are 😉  Regardless, we are very thankful for these “new” friends in our lives!

When Amanda and Diron left, we continued watching TV, and I fell asleep on the couch, as often happens (I think I inherited this ability from my grandmother.)  It doesn’t matter what time of day it is or how interested I am in what’s on TV–the couch + the sound of the television are my personal recipe for sleep.  Andrew finally turned off the TV, and the instant the sound was gone, I sat up straight, opened my eyes wide, and said, “We should go to sleep!”  Andrew started laughing and said, “Oh you think we should?  You think we should go to sleep now?”  😀

Sunday– We had a pretty typical spring Sunday until the evening when…it snowed?

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It started sticking to the ground in the middle of youth group, so I decided to send everyone home early just to be safe.   I know everyone is saying this, but I am very ready for spring to actually be spring.  Snow is great–in January–but I am so ready for warmer weather.

Even so, a blanket of white was not a bad way to end a great weekend!


DSF Rebel Run 5k

On Saturday the high school I attended held a 5k to raise money for their athletics program.  I don’t run many 5k’s, but with the Monument Avenue 10k a mere three weeks away, I figured I could use it as a practice race as well as a chance to do some speed work.  Plus, the school’s athletics program is definitely a cause that I support!  (I ran cross country and track in high school.)  I talked my brother into running with me, as he is training for the same 10k and also benefited from this school’s athletics program.

Rebel Run

It was quite chilly standing around before the race started, but once we started running we warmed up pretty quickly.  I honestly didn’t know what to expect in terms of how fast I could finish the race–the last 5k I ran was almost a year ago–but I decided to aim for an 8-minute mile pace.  Unfortunately, my Garmin watch broke that morning as I was putting it on, so rather than knowing my minute-by-minute pace, I had to rely on a regular stopwatch and how I felt (I know… horrible.)


Has anyone had a Garmin break like this before?  The rubber holding the metal piece just tore, so there was no way I could wear it!  Does anyone know if Garmin can/will replace that segment of the watch?  I was pretty bummed.

The course itself was a nice trip down memory lane–we ran through the neighborhoods by the school where we used to do our cross country practice runs.  Ross and I maintained a steady, but quick pace, and judging by the mile-markers, we determined we were running just faster than goal pace.

As we emerged from the neighborhood and approached the school grounds (probably a quarter mile from the finish), we gradually passed two high school girls.  Moments later they passed us, having clearly picked up speed and decided we were their “don’t let them beat us” people (Runners, you know what I’m talking about.)  Ross, sensing a challenge and being competitive to his core, asked if he could take off toward the finish.  He passed the girls quickly, and I was not far behind.  I heard them mumble something as Ross passed, and then again as I did.  Sorry, girls. 😀

My official time was 23:47–a personal best for me!  (Hey, I said I ran cross country in high school… I didn’t say I ran it well.)  My average mile pace was 7:40, and of that I am pretty dang proud.

The race provided some good quality time with the bro, boosted my confidence for the upcoming 10k, and made for a generally pleasant morning.  I just may incorporate more 5k’s into my life from here on out. 🙂

Do you run 5ks regularly?  What is your favorite race distance?  

Breakfast for Dinner (BFD) + Long Run

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I am officially in 10k training mode.  My runs must be more intentional now, including fewer 30-minute-just-for-fitness-run-walks.  On Wednesday evening, I set out on a long run.  Now, I suppose long runs are relative to the distance one is training for, but I feel a little silly calling 5.5 miles “long.”  Still, having been in a 3-4 mile routine for quite a while, 5.5 miles was tougher than I’d anticipated!

As I neared the end of the run–around mile 4 or so–I began thinking about dinner.  I’d planned to make a curried pork stir-fry, but with tired legs and sweat dripping off my face, all I could think about was pancakes.  And eggs.  And bacon.  Mmm… must. run. faster…

Because I typically say no to BFD (breakfast for dinner,) Andrew was thrilled when I suggested it.

On the menu:

Eggs (hard-boiled for me, fried for Andrew)

Turkey Bacon (all natural)

Pancakes (gluten-free, dairy-free; we like Bob’s Red Mill pancake mix)



It totally hit the spot.

Sometimes bananas and eggs upset my stomach separately, so I took a big risk eating both with this meal.  Thankfully, I felt fine!

Are you a fan of BFD, or do you prefer to keep your breakfast foods in the morning?

Treadmill Tempo Run

Yesterday I finally registered for the Monument Avenue 10k–one of the largest 10k’s in the country with over 40,000 participants, and an especially great race in a city known for doing races very well.  On April 13, a large majority of Richmonders will be running, walking, or spectating.

While I only registered yesterday, I have officially been training for a couple of weeks, and have assumed I’d run the race since last year…and the year before.  For someone who loves running, this is not a race to miss.

Four years ago, I surprised myself by finishing this 10k in 50:03.  I had no idea I could run that fast and gained a new running confidence as a result.  The next year I did not run the race.  In fact, I only ran at all three times in the period of about six months, but that’s another story–one that involves a scarring 20-mile run with 25 mph wind and bad directions.  I digress.  The following year (two years ago,) I made a comeback and finished the race in 50:28.

Last year, having been so close to running sub-50 minutes in the previous years, I trained hard.  When race day arrived, I was ready.  My legs felt good, and I was completely confident that I’d see  49:__ when I crossed the finish line.  I ran my the first four miles at approximately a 7:55 mile pace, which  would put me well under 50 minutes at the finish.  Then, just after passing the marker for mile 4, I felt a sharp pain in my side.  I slowed down to allow the cramp to work itself out, but it only worsened.  I walked.  I stretched and took deep breaths.  When the pain subsided a bit, I began running again, knowing I’d banked enough time to still achieve my goal.  Unfortunately, the pain kept returning (and it was not a pain I could push through.)  Severely disappointed (and a little embarrassed), I walked/jogged/hobbled the last 2.2 miles of the race, finishing in 55:03.  

This year I want so badly to break the 50-minute mark, and I am kicking myself for only beginning training a month before the race.  (I do run regularly, so I am not starting from scratch, but still…) Believe it or not, the purpose of this post was not to give a four year race recap, but talk about a specific training run 😉

The Tempo Run

The short: running at a tough, but manageable pace for 2+ miles, to train your body to maintain speed at longer distances.

The long: Eh, just read this article.

Tempo runs are a great tool for getting faster, which is exactly what I want to do, so I have been incorporating them into my 10k training.  Here’s what I did last week:

Treadmill Tempo

Hopefully I will be able to run the tempo miles faster in time, but this is where I am at the moment!

Anyone else running the Monument Ave 10k?  Do you have a goal time?

Happy running!

Baked Rosemary Chicken and Vegetables

My preferred cooking style is one that creates plenty of leftovers.  Generally we cook Monday, Wednesday, and either Friday or Saturday (and go out to eat the other night,) and eat leftovers Tuesday*, Thursday, and Sunday.  As much as I love cooking, I think I’d go crazy if I had to do it every day!

(*Of course, we make exceptions for Stewsday ;-))

This was our cook Monday/eat leftovers Tuesday meal–great for a week night because other than slicing a few vegetables, there is very little prep:

Baked Rosemary Chicken and Vegetables

1 1/2 lb chicken breasts

4 carrots, peeled & sliced

4 celery stalks, sliced

15 grape tomatoes

12-15 gold potatoes (the small ones), quartered

12 oz green beans

3 cloves of garlic

1 c chicken broth

1/4 c dry white wine

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Rosemary and Sage, 1 sprig each, fresh

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

 1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line baking dish with aluminum foil.

2. Place potatoes in pan.  Drizzle with olive oil, and mix to coat.  Spread potatoes evenly on pan.  Place in oven for 10 minutes.

3. Remove pan from oven.   Add all vegetables and liquids.  Place chicken breasts on top of the veggies, and sprinkle everything with salt and pepper.  Divide rosemary and sage evenly on top of each chicken breast.


4. Cover with foil.  Place in oven for 30 minutes.

5. Remove foil.  Place back in oven for 10 minutes.

6. Remove from oven, check that chicken is done, and enjoy!


We used more chicken broth than I indicated above, and found myself wishing the meal were more roasted and less boiled;  1 cup of broth should be the perfect amount!  Also, the amounts I indicated for the vegetables are estimates (as usual.)  As Andrew put it, “Just fill the pan!”  You’re not going to mess it up.

All in all, this meal was a success!  Happy cooking 😀

The Garden Bed: A Work in Progress

On Saturday, during the few hours of warmth before the cold and rain blew in, Andrew and I began work on our vegetable garden bed.  As I’ve mentioned before, last summer we grew our vegetables in pots, and while we experienced mild success, we have been dreaming much bigger for this season.  Rather than pots, we measured and marked a 10 ft x 20 ft plot in the back yard for the veggies.  Because that is a relatively large area, we rented a rototiller to help with the digging.

The before:

back yard before2   back yard before

Don’t be fooled by the greenish hue you see;  it is not grass, but moss. 🙂  First, Andrew dug a few holes to find a cable line we knew was buried so we could be sure to avoid it.  Then we brought out the big guns:

 tiller   rototilling

Using a rototiller is NOT easy.  I had no idea.  Andrew did most of the hard work of breaking up the ground, which was predominantly clay.  A few hours, a lot of rocks, and one hidden tree stump later, we had this:

garden bedPlease note the piles of rocks and roots.  We discovered lots of treasures, including large chunks of cement (seriously?  Why were those buried in the back yard?) and the aforementioned stump from a tree that the previous owners had obviously removed.  That alone was an hour of fun, axing, and shoveling 😉

Next, we amended the soil clay.  We added gypsum to break up the clay and organic compost to add more nutrients.  Let me remind everyone at this point that Andrew and I have only a vague idea of what we are doing.  It’s very much a learning process.

I used the rototiller to mix everything together, which was not as difficult as the initial breaking-up of the soil, but it was still a full body workout!


Andrew brought home some scrap stone from work (one benefit of being married to a mine engineer) that we used to create a mosaic path through the bed, forming two 4 ft x 20 ft beds.

garden path

Now we wait for slightly warmer weather so we can actually put some plants in the ground and not just have a backyard mud pit (which is exactly what it is at the moment after all the rain we’ve had since Saturday. :))

It is a work in progress, but we are pleased with how it looks so far!

Simple is Better (Date Night Steak Dinner)

Between birthday dinners and our recent trip to Colorado, Andrew and I have gone out to eat for an absurd number of meals in the last few weeks, so when the weekend arrived, a home-cooked meal sounded like a pretty fantastic date night plan.  Plus, with the warmer weather and extra light in the evenings, we were eager to bring the grill out of hibernation.

We went to the grocery store with the plan to buy chicken or pork–something lighter, as we’ve been eating a lot of heavy meals–but the organic steaks were 50% off.  How could we pass that up?

Back at home, as we were preparing the meal together, something occurred to me:  simple is better.  As much as I love cooking, creating, and trying new recipes, often the meals I find most satisfying are those that require the least preparation.  A little olive oil, salt, and pepper go a long way!

Here’s what was on our simple menu last night:

Grilled Strip Steaks

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Sweet Potatoes

(Plus grilled mushrooms and onions for Andrew…because he wanted to cook more things on the grill ;-))

The preparation:

Sweet Potatoes: 1. Wash.  2. Poke holes with fork.  3. Put in oven at 425 for about 45 minutes.

Brussels Sprouts: 1. Wash.  2. Cut off bottoms and remove any bad-looking outer leaves. 3. Slice in half.  4. Place sprouts in a bowl, add olive oil, salt, and pepper, and mix well.  5. Place in a foil-lined baking pan, and put in oven for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  (*I’d normally cook them at a lower heat, but because the sweet potatoes needed to cook as well, we rolled with it.)

bsprouts bsprouts2

Steaks- 1. Coat with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  2. Place on grill at a medium heat for about 20 minutes.

steaks grilling

So simple.  All that’s left to do is enjoy!


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We each only ate about half of our giant sweet potatoes;  Andrew made it a little further with the 1/2 lb steak than I did, but we definitely have some leftovers. 🙂

Don’t underestimate the value of olive oil, salt and pepper;  simple is often better when it comes to creating a delicious meal!

The Sandwich-Hater’s Lunch: Leftovers

My birthday was on Monday, and with birthdays come dinner celebrations.  For someone my size, dinner celebrations almost always produce leftovers: a sandwich-hater’s dream come true.  Here’s what I’m eating this week for lunch:


Salmon, steamed broccoli, and green beans from Bonefish Grill (Monday night with friends)


Spinach & arugula salad with goat cheese, pecans, pineapple, craisins, and a citrus vinaigrette from Baker’s Crust (Tuesday night with Andrew’s mom)


Three cheese ravioli with pesto-alfredo sauce from Maggiano’s (Wednesday night with my mom, brother, grandmother, and uncle)


Bowtie aglio with broccolini, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and parmesan cheese from Maggiano’s (Wednesday night with my family)

I hadn’t been to Maggiano’s in close to ten years, but I’d like to sing their praises for a moment:

1. Anytime we go out to eat, we have to consider Andrew’s gluten and dairy intolerance.  We’d heard that Maggiano’s had gluten-free pasta, and we were curious to try it.  Not only did they have GF pasta, but a chef came to our table and talked with Andrew directly about how he could tailor each dish to meet his needs.  It was far more reassuring than a waiter saying, “Umm, I don’t think that has any bread in it…”

2. Maggiano’s offers a “buy any classic pasta, take another one home for free” deal all the time!  $13 buys you two large portions of really good pasta.  I can easily make five meals out of my two dishes.  You’ll pay more per meal at any fast food restaurant, and the food won’t be nearly as good.

Both pasta dishes were pretty heavy (“pesto-alfredo” means “alfredo with a little basil”) so I am pairing them with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in hopes of keeping my triglycerides at an appropriate level. 😉

I’ve felt very loved and celebrated on my birthday week… and my sandwich-hating self has been extra content to have so many lunch options!