Tastes of Spring

My office is closed today, and I’m watching the snow fall outside through the kitchen window…again.  I like snow, but I am ready for the warmer weather we experienced briefly this weekend.  It was quite the teaser!  We did manage to squeeze in a few spring activities, one of which I am so, so excited about: planting vegetable seeds!!

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Last year we took the “go big or go home” approach with our vegetable garden, tilling a 10-ft x 20-ft plot in the middle of our back yard, and we experienced surprisingly great success.  (You can check out last year’s garden updates starting here.)  We ate amazing, fresh produce throughout the summer, and we are still working our way through the veggies we froze by using them in soups and stir-fries.  It’s been wonderful.

This Saturday we gathered our supplies–some seeds saved from vegetables last year, some new seeds, dirt, a seed starting box, a clear storage bin to use as a makeshift greenhouse–and set up a planting station in our driveway.

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We planted:
-Brandywine Tomatoes
-“Sweetie” Cherry Tomatoes
-Black Krim Tomatoes
-Yellow Pear Tomatoes
-Bell Peppers
-Pimento Peppers
-Tomatillos
-Butternut Squash
-Spaghetti Squash
-Watermelon

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And now our guest bathroom is a greenhouse. 😉  In the seed starting box in the foreground, which has a clear plastic lid, we planted all the tomatoes and peppers.  For the others, we are experimenting with 1. bigger containers and 2. a bigger greenhouse: a clear, upside down storage container.  We put our space heater in the bathroom with the seeds to make sure they are nice and warm. 🙂

Even though our garden last year was a success, I feel so nervous about how well these little guys will do;  we are still rookies who just happened to have ideal growing conditions last summer.  We’ll have to wait and see what happens!

Sunday was even more gorgeous than Saturday.  With temperatures in the 70’s, we simply couldn’t stay inside, so we drove to the University of Richmond to play disc golf.   If you’ve never played disc golf before, I think it’s the perfect compromise activity for people like Andrew and me–it’s essentially taking a walk in a park with elements of competition and athletics. 🙂

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Also, we found a turtle:

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It was an awesome way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon. 🙂

And now we return to our regularly scheduled winter weather.  On the upside, I took these photos this morning of a giant hawk that sometimes hangs out in our back yard…so beautiful in the snow!

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Have a great Monday, everyone!

What’s the weather like outside your window today?
-Have you ever played disc golf?  What do you think?
-Are you growing veggies this summer, and have you started the seeds?

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10-K Training: Making It Count

I don’t race as often as many runners I know, so I feel a lot of pressure to make it count when I do.  If I’m not going to race a certain distance again for another year, I need that PR.  Last year I won a 4-year battle with the Monument Avenue 10-K to break 50 minutes, finishing in 49 minutes flat.  (You can read that race recap here.)  The race is set for March 29 this year, and while I will be content to shave even seconds off my time, I’ve set a goal to run it in 48 minutes.

Ambitious?  Maybe.  Possible?  Yes.

With just over five weeks until race day, I am getting serious about training.  To avoid injury, I only ever run three days a week, usually M/W/F.  Typically when training for a longer distance (or no race in particular), my weekly routine includes one speed workout (either a tempo run or intervals), one long run (with “long” being relative to what I am training for), and one mid-distance, mid-speed run.  However, after looking at various training plans, and considering that I am aiming for speed, I decided that I really need to make my running days count.  Here’s my weekly training schedule for the next five weeks:

Monday: Tempo Run (30-50 minutes)
Tuesday: Weights + Cardio Cross Training
Wednesday: Intervals (mile, 800, or 400 repeats) + yoga
Thursday: Weights + Cardio Cross Training
Friday: Long Run
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Weights

I’m including both a tempo run and an interval workout each week to get my body accustomed to running faster.  Here’s my tempo run from Monday:

treadmill tempIs it still a tempo run if you don’t run one pace the entire time?  I like adding in a couple of half-mile faster spurts to avoid getting bored–plus, 7.7 mph feels easy when you’re coming down from 8.0 mph. 😉  It was a great workout, regardless.

I am pumped about the race and training and all that it entails!  After work today I am heading to a local high school track to do some 400 m repeats…wish me luck!

-What are you training for right now?
How may speed workouts do you do each week?

 

Valentine’s Day 2014

Valentine’s Day was full of good food and love for us this year.  My mom gave us a heart-shaped egg cooker, so Friday morning Andrew fried us some heart eggs to go with our banana muffins from earlier in the week:

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I met my good friend Kate for lunch at The Daily (the restaurant where Andrew and I had our awesome date night last week).  Kate and I realized that, for various reasons, we’ve had lunch together on Valentine’s Day for the last three years.  New tradition 🙂  We went to The Daily because I really needed some more of those Brussels sprouts:

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Mmm 🙂

After work I went for a 30-minute run–the first in my new running shoes that I bought last week!  I’m not usually a pink girl, but these are the best shoes for me, and this is the current color.  It’s tough sometimes, but I never pick running shoes based on the look!  It was festive for a Valentine’s Day run, anyway.

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Friday was a beautiful day here–I’m pretty sure the temperature was in the upper 50’s when I ran, but not all the snow had melted yet.  It feels a little funny to run in shorts with snow on the ground, but I’m not complaining!

After my run I took a quick shower and was getting ready for our Valentine’s date when Andrew arrived home with these goodies:

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Beautiful flowers and all-natural chocolate:  he knows the way to my heart 🙂

We turned to the Frank Sinatra station on Pandora and began prepping dinner.  While cooking, we enjoyed some festive pink cocktails that were quite delicious: cranberry-pomegranate juice, passion fruit rum, and lime (plus tonic water for Andrew).  Amazing.

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We tag-teamed the cooking and ended up with this very tasty dinner: steak, garlic green beans, and baked sweet potatoes.

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(I only ate about half of that giant steak :)) 

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After taking our time and really enjoying dinner and good conversation, we started watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Netflix.  Neither of us had seen it, and it was so good!  Midway through the movie, once our food had digested some, we brought dessert to the living room:

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Dark chocolate fondue with strawberries, marshmallows, bananas, and rice crispie treats

We made the fondue in our Crock-pot “Little Dipper”– chocolate chips + almond milk + vanilla.  We plugged it in while we were making dinner, and it was ready to go by the dessert course!

Overall it was a fantastic Valentine’s Day.  Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, the day before V-day we did fulfill #4 on this list:

IMG_4104We built a very lovely snow woman in our neighbors’ driveway. 😀

Have a great Monday!

-How did you spend Valentine’s Day?
-What was the highlight of your weekend?

-When buying running shoes, how much does appearance affect your choice?

Snowmageddon Chicken Stew and Other Snow Adventures

We have another snow day here in Richmond!  In anticipation of the snow, which started yesterday around 4 PM, I felt compelled to cook a lot of food.  (If that sounds familiar, yes, I did the same thing a few weeks ago.  It must be a primal survival instinct.)

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For dinner–and what will be dinner for at least two more days–I made a big pot of Snowmageddon Chicken & Rice Stew.  What makes it Snowmageddon stew rather than regular chicken stew?  The chicken is only from drumsticks because when I went to the grocery store in all the storm preparation craziness yesterday, there was no chicken remaining except drumsticks.  I am not exaggerating.  The poultry case was empty except for a few packages of chicken legs.  Chicken legs it is. 🙂

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Snowmageddon Chicken & Rice Stew
10 drumsticks (~3 lb)
8 whole carrots
4 large celery sticks
8 oz green beans
8 oz mushrooms
5 large kale leaves
2 cloves garlic
1.5 c brown rice
2 qts chicken broth
Salt, pepper, thyme, smoked paprika, rosemary, onion powder
Olive oil

1.  Chop all veggies into bite-sized pieces.  2. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and brown; add garlic and saute for about a minute.  3.  Add all remaining ingredients, including whole, raw chicken legs.  Stir.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer.  4. Check chicken in about 15 minutes.  When it’s cooked through, take all drumsticks out of pot.  Remove chicken from each leg (yes, this is very tedious), discarding the bones and putting meat back in the pot.  5.  Continue to let simmer, partially covered, until rice is cooked through (or longer).

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Best if eaten while sitting under blankets on the couch 🙂

The legs definitely give the stew more flavor than we would have gotten using breasts, so that’s a plus!

While the stew was simmering, Andrew and I tag-teamed a batch of banana muffins.  We used a recipe from a gluten-free, dairy-free cookbook we have, and they turned out pretty great:

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We added a cinnamon-brown sugar crumble on top…not the prettiest, but they taste wonderful!

After dinner and dessert, we suited-up and played in the still-falling snow.  We took our sleds and found the best sledding hills in the neighborhood, threw a few snowballs, and give our inner-children free reign for an hour or so. 😀

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Eating snow + Snyoga

We warmed up and capped the night with two mugs of green chai tea:

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Andrew and I are both home from work today and have one snow adventure planned so far: making an igloo.  🙂  Have a great snow day, everyone!  Stay safe and warm!

-Do you have a snow day today?
-When was the last time you went sledding?
Do you cook way more food than you actually need when it’s about to snow?

10 Good-for-Your-Heart Valentine’s Day Ideas

Valentine’s Day is approaching quickly, but who says it has to include huge, artery-clogging dinners and blood-sugar-spiking desserts?  The way I see it, the day is about spending quality time with your significant other.  Here are 10 ways to strengthen your love and your heart this Valentine’s Day:

1. Take a new-to-both-of-you class together at the gym.  Last year Andrew and I tried a yoga class on V-Day (well, technically the day before V-Day).  We had a great time laughing at ourselves because we were both horrible, and it was the start of healthy routine that we both really enjoy now.

2. Take a walk together at a local park.  V-Day is on a Friday this year, so this is probably a Saturday activity unless you both happen to have the day off work.  Hand-holding is optional, but recommended.

3. Visit an indoor trampoline park.  These places are popping up all over the country, so chances are there is one near you (we have two in Richmond now.)  Jumping on trampolines is an insanely good workout and so much fun.  For any guys reading this, make sure you know your girl before surprising her with this;  while I would enjoy it, I realize that some girls need something slightly more romantic.

4. Build a snowman in your neighbors’ driveway after dark.  This is a personal favorite of ours any time it snows, and there’s a good chance we will have snow on the ground Friday!  Building a snowman requires some physical exertion, plus, doing it sneakily is inherently fun and gives you a bonding experience.

5.  Run a Valentine’s 5-k together.  Festive.  Good for your heart.  Good for your relationship.  Bonus points if you run in coordinating costumes.  (I don’t foresee Andrew ever wanting to do either the running or the costume part of this.)

6.  Cook dinner together.  Chances are you’ll cook something far healthier than what you’d order at a restaurant, plus it gives you the shared experience and probably costs less than going out.  Cooking dinner together has my vote every single Valentine’s Day (Andrew, you’re welcome.)

7.  Go ice skating.  It’s a classic winter activity with lots of potential for romance–hand-holding, leaning on each other for balance, helping each other up when you fall, etc.

8. Go to your husband’s basketball game and sit in the bleachers with the other wives.  Wait, don’t plan on that.  That’s what we did last Valentine’s Day.  If you have an activity like this scheduled for Friday, maybe plan something special for Saturday instead. 😉

8.  Take a cooking class together.  Preferably one that utilizes a lot of whole, fresh ingredients and not a deep-fryer.

9. Go skiing or snowboarding.  Bonus romance points if this is out of town and you book a cabin for the weekend.

10. Go dancing.  Even if it’s just the two of you in your living room.

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Andrew and I are planning to cook dinner together, and we will probably play in the snow at some point if there is any on the ground. 😀

Have a great Wednesday!

Do you have any heart-healthy activities planned for Valentine’s Day?
-Anything you’d add to the list above?

Running: When Dogs Bite

I experienced a running first yesterday: a dog bit me. 

I was running on a semi-major road near my house, and I saw the dog and its owners (or more likely owner + friend) up ahead on the same sidewalk.  As we approached one another, I could see that the dog–a mutt, maybe 40-50lb–was very excited, so I slowed to a walk and tried to give it as much space as possible.  The dog was barking, and the owner pulled the leash a little tighter, and just as we passed each other, the dog lunged and grabbed hold of my thigh with its teeth.

“Oh my gosh!  Did he bite you??  Did he bite you??”

“Yeah, yeah, he bit me!”

“Are you okay??  I’m so sorry!  He’s had all his shots!  I can give you my contact information and am happy to pay any medical bills!  He’s a puppy, and he just doesn’t do very well!”

“It’s okay; I’m okay.  Thank you.  I’m sure a band-aid will cover it.  It’s okay!  It happens!”

It happened so fast, and I was wearing running tights (now ripped), so I couldn’t see the extent of the damage.  It definitely hurt, but it was also cold, so I knew my skin was more sensitive.  It was just a very surprising situation, and I didn’t think through my reaction.

I tried to resume running, crossing the street into a neighborhood, and immediately was met with a lot of pain in my leg.  I investigated as best I could without pulling down my pants in public, and the one gash I could see was not pretty.  I can’t promise that I didn’t utter a few four-letter words.  From there I hobbled home, not quite crying, but definitely whimpering.

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24 hours later–Tilt your computer screen as needed to get the full color-effect of that bruise 😉

After inspecting the wound, I sent a picture to Andrew, my mom, and a couple of friends in the medical field, and they all urged me to go to the doctor just to get it checked out.  Friends, that was a funny telephone call:

“Hi, I’m a patient of Dr. So-and-So.  Um, I just got bitten by a dog.  Is that something she could take a look at today?

They were able to to see me right away, and said it looked all right, and it was time for me to get a tetanus shot anyway.  They gave me the shot and some heavy-duty antibiotic cream, and sent me home.  The left side of my body–my leg where I was bitten, and my arm where I got the shot–is super sore today, so I am going to take it easy for a few days, but otherwise, I think I will be all right.

After the incident, I did some research to learn what one is supposed to do if bitten by a dog.  If you happen to find yourself in a similar situation, here’s what to do:

To avoid the bite:
-Slow your run to a walk so you are less threatening.
-Don’t stare, but keep the dog in site.
-Walk in the opposite direction of the dog.

After being bitten:
-If the owner is present, take the contact info!  (I am kicking myself for not doing this!)
-Apply basic first-aid: wash the area with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment and sterile bandage.
-Go to the doctor.  Just in case.  I know it’s a pain, but why risk it?
-If you took contact information, ask for proof of up-to-date vaccinations for dog.
-Report the incident to animal control.

Stay safe out there, friends!

-Have you ever been bitten by a dog while a running?  How bad was it, and what did you do?

Spinach, Mushroom, and Goat Cheese Lasagna (Gluten-Free)

Sometimes you decide to cook a certain meal for dinner because you are craving a specific flavor.  You can’t get your mind off that one meal, and any other meal will not bring you the same satisfaction.  It’s decided: you will have that for dinner.  You know what I’m talking about, right?

And sometimes you decide to cook a certain meal because your husband opened the wrong can for a recipe earlier in the week, and now you have to use its contents before it goes bad.  We fell into this category this week. 😉

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Doh!

On Saturday Andrew opened a can of tomato sauce rather than diced tomatoes when we were making our Brunswick stew, so we decided to use it with some kind of pasta dish this week.  I didn’t feel like making plain ol’ spaghetti, and I recently found gluten-free brown rice lasagna noodles on manager’s special at Kroger, so I thought I’d give it a try!

We only used ingredients we had on hand, so you can tweak it depending on what’s in your refrigerator.  It’s not technically dairy-free, but if you are like Andrew and can tolerate goat cheese but not cow cheese, this may be a great recipe for you!

Spinach, Mushroom, and Goat Cheese Lasagna

1 lb ground bison (or beef)
2 15-oz can tomato sauce
8 oz sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c fresh spinach
5-6 large basil leaves, chopped
Salt, pepper, oregano, red pepper, onion powder to taste
Olive oil
6 oz goat cheese
Almond milk (splash)
9 GF lasagna noodles

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and brown.  Remove mushrooms from pot.  2.  Add more olive oil if needed, then add ground bison to the pot, and cook until brown.  3. Make room in center of pot, and add garlic.  Cook until fragrant.  4.  Stir and add tomato sauce, mushrooms, basil, and spices.  5.  Reduce heat, and let simmer.  6.  Meanwhile, cook lasagna noodles according to package instructions.  Preheat oven to 350.  Add a splash of almond milk to goat cheese and mix well to give goat cheese a creamier consistency.  7. Add spinach to sauce and stir.  8.  In a glass baking dish (9×13) layer sauce, noodles, cheese.  Repeat for 3 layers and finish with sauce on top. 9.  Cover and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove cover and bake for 10 more minutes.

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Oh man.  This tasted so good.  I am not ashamed to say that we ate half the pan that night!  I’m a huge fan of brown rice noodles too–I like that they are whole grain but taste exponentially better than whole wheat noodles.  The texture is way better than regular pasta too.  So good.

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Mmm 🙂

While I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of having pasta when Andrew opened that can Saturday, it did push me to try a new recipe–and the end result was fantastic!  We will be making this dish more often!

Have a great Thursday!

-What are you cooking tonight?
-Have you ever been forced to cook something because you accidentally opened a can/package?  😀
-Do you prefer brown rice, whole wheat, or regular noodles?