Al

last week at next gen house

SOME FUN INTRO. I got nothin!

Oh wait. Here’s a photo of my friend’s cute grandson’s class alligator, Al, enjoying the Pittsburgh Riverhounds soccer game on Saturday. Because it’s so cute.

I asked him how Al liked the game and he said Al missed the first half because his face was turned up and he was bird watching. No worries, Al, the second half was more interesting anyway.

Al

Last Week in Running

This was my lowest mileage week in training because I missed two runs. Finally hit my wall this week with exhaustion (you know, the weepy kind) and once I recovered from that, I decided to just go forward doing what I can until the ship can fully right itself. And you know what? I PR’d in the 5K this weekend. I am learning this training cycle that you don’t have to hit every single run and make everything perfect to meet your goals. Rest is so important and when my body screams that it needs to rest and I listen? Both times that has happened, I PR’d the following weekend. I’ll write more about that in a race recap this week, but it’s a lesson that I am always repeating.

Circumstances aligned this weekend to also put me at a place called Thick Bikes on the South Side on Saturday. And I came home with this.

bike

That’s a big girl bike. My first bike since I was a teenager. And one that actually fits me, at 4’11”. Mark has been riding a bike for awhile, doing his first triathlon last year. I was vaguely interested in biking last year, but not enough to actually go buy a good bicycle, especially with marathon training. But this year when I set my running goals, I decided to train more intensely for the Pittsburgh Half and then run more casually in a maintenance style for the summer and fall. Still running races, but not gunning for PRs or going for another full. I wanted to spend 2015 enjoying running again and get to do a ton of other active stuff this summer that I love, like camping, hiking, kayaking….and bicycling? So when circumstances aligned, I decided to make the leap. The good people at Thick Bikes spent a good deal of time with us trying to help me find the bike that felt right, especially when I was pretty wobbly at first. (And apparently my whole life in an effort to ride a bicycle with short legs, I was always putting the seat too low. On a bike that’s made for someone with a small frame, you don’t have to do that to compensate, so I felt like I was high and flying on this thing.)

Sunday the weather was so gorgeous that Mark and I got to ride together on the Panhandle Trail by our house – just under 5 miles for my first real ride on a bike in more than 15 years, but it was so much fun. So. Much. Fun. I can’t wait to spend time out riding this year.

Last Week in Eating

We had some really good meals this week, with a repeat of the Knockoff Chipotle Sofritas, but this time with black beans from Weatherbury Farm that we got through our CSA. I don’t know why I have always been afraid of cooking dry beans, but it was virtually no harder than cooking rice, except for a slightly longer cooking time and the fact that they soaked in water while I was at work. Seriously, so easy. And so cheap.

Mark made venison fajitas with a marinade that has lime and tequila in it, so no surprise those were great. I also made a broccoli and rice casserole that’s one of those delicious, cheesy comfort foods that you could eat non-stop and then realize you ate the whole 13×9 pan.

Sunday, I made a chocolate chip cookie recipe that turned out interesting – almost like shortbread balls with a ton of chocolate chips in them. Different, but good.

 

cookie balls

 

I am looking forward to a moderate amount of reasonable carbs this week. I say moderate and reasonable in the same sentence so that I remind myself that carbing up is not about eating 52 pounds of pasta.

Last Week in Homesteading

The big win of the weekend was finishing Mark’s t-shirt blanket. It was supposed full length, but apparently I measured for a full length Joanna and not a full length Mark, because it is a little too small for him. But it works as a couch blanket, at least. There’s always next time for correct measurements!

I think the next thing I’m going to sew is an apron for my niece. Just have to think about what kind of fabric to use. And which pattern to use. And hopefully I measure that project for my niece’s size and not mine…

Last Week in Reading

Still listening to Dead Wake on audiobook. It’s long, audio-wise, and several commutes last week left me without my headphones since I got smashed into place on the bus where I couldn’t reach my phone. (And one of those commutes home I got to listen to a man practice his choir piece! While he was wearing headphones! Lucky me!) I’ll get there, but it’s an interesting listen so far. I especially like the stories about individual passengers on the ship, like a famous lady architect. And the stories about espionage and code breaking.

I finished Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which was a fun and silly read. I can see why people get into it, that’s for sure.

Started reading Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed: 16 Writers on Their Decision Not to Have Kids this week and I’m flying through it. A lot of the viewpoints don’t represent me or my decision to remain childfree (at least so far), but I am encouraged by a book that seeks to make these voices heard above the stereotypes. Which I feel like I encounter in at least one form every single day of my life. And I have been called selfish, shallow and self-absorbed as it relates to my decision, so that part hits home. If you’re a parent and you just don’t get why someone would choose not to be one, this might be a good book to open your mind.

 

dino

last week at Next Gen House

The worse the winter, the more glorious the spring. And by spring, I mean temperatures over 32 degrees. We saw 40s this weekend and it felt so much like spring that I almost brushed the snow off my lawn chairs to sit outside with a book. Spring fever is a very real thing.

But here’s what happened last week – with one less hour to work with!

Last Week in Running

dinoI had 28 on the schedule this week, but ended up running 29 when my the core of my group decided to do 12 on Saturday. Even though the long run was kind of a slog, with difficult ice packed terrain, we kept an average pace of 11:41. I looked back in my records, and I haven’t had a run of that length at a pace that fast since 2013. And knowing how rough the terrain was and how it was still pretty cold, this run was the boost I needed to get through the next few higher mileage weeks. I am definitely improving this year and am finding my groove.

Higher temps this week will bring more outdoor runs (and hopefully the melting of the ice!), which I’m looking forward to. On Saturday we ran through the South Side a bit, and took a detour to see the Mister Rogers dinosaur – which was actually created by one of the mentors in my pace group!. Didn’t hurt to see something Mister Rogers in the last mile of a long run, since I can’t help but smile and geek out a little.

On to 34 miles this week, the highest mileage week so far. Need to continue the yoga to keep my muscles happy!

Don’t forget that I’m still raising money for the Food Bank. You can donate by using the widget in the right sidebar on the blog or visit my fundraising page directly. Every dollar counts – and multiplies by 5 with the Food Bank’s resources. A $25 donation means $125 worth of food to hungry families in our community!

Last Week in Eatingbone marrow butter

On Sunday night, we made a tomato cream sauce for pasta with shrimp. We went to the Strip to buy the shrimp specifically at Marty’s Market, since I won’t eat shrimp sourced anywhere else. While we were at Marty’s, we were perusing the gold mine of house-produced items, and the owner offered us a sample of bone marrow butter on a piece of crostini. It was so amazing, we bought a container to take home. It’s like the richest butter you could imagine, so a little dab will do you. And the pasta turned out yummy too.

We also made some of my frozen swiss chard from our garden and it seemed to cook up just fine, so with excess greens this summer I will try to do the same thing to preserve them.

I made a batch of pretzel rolls on Sunday which ended up being twice the size I expected. The yeast was crazy active, I guess. That and the recipe was probably wrong about portions. Either way, they are more suited for sandwiches than anything else, but they are my preferred pre-run fuel. So now the freezer is stocked for the next month!

One of the evenings last week we had plans that were cancelled for bad weather, so we had to wing it for dinner. I had a very long day at work and wanted comfort food, which for me always involves potatoes. So I came home and roasted up some of the potatoes we got this week in the CSA with some garlic and parmesan, and used some of the Steel City Salt Company Peruvian Pink salt that Mark had given me for Christmas. Delicious! I can’t wait to try the smoked salt.

sea salt potatoes

Last Week in Homesteading

Kombucha is going strong, with a SCOBY forming with no mold for the first time all winter. Christmas lights are working!

While cooking dinner last night, I heard the chickens start making a racket, but it sounded like what one of them does when she wants to announce that she’s laid, so I didn’t think much of it. Mark looked out the window a minute later and a hawk was perched on our compost pile while the chickens were cowering under one of the big bushes along our garage. He went outside to scare the hawk away and the chickens finally got brave enough to leave the bush and go home to roost an hour or so later.

I know we can’t avoid predators like hawks – it’s the circle of life and all that. It’s the price we pay for letting the chickens run around outside like they want to. But I am glad we did not have to deal with losing a chicken last night, that’s for sure. Stupid federally protected hawks!

Last Week in Reading

To be honest, every week that I get to read is a good week in reading.

I finished a few trade volumes of some new comics, including one called Marvels that takes place in the Marvel universe but from the point of view of the New Yorkers that all of the sudden are supposed to believe that seeing the Human Torch is just normal. I also went through a bunch of first issues that I got for my birthday to determine which ones I’d like to keep reading – which ended up being all but one, of course.

I decided to bail on the audio version of Man in the High Castle since the narrator was just not holding my interest and I was wasting time having to go back to repeat sections. I’m going to finish that one in print, but for now my audiobook is What If? by Randall Monroe, the creator of XKCD. I’m listening to it on Scribd and it’s narrated by Wil Wheaton, which is the perfect pairing of narrator and book.

I’m reading a book on fermenting called Fermented Vegetables: From Arugula Kimchi to Zucchini Curry, a Complete Guide to Fermenting More Than 80 Herbs and Vegetables for an online book club.

I also started To Kill a Mockingbird this week on Kindle. It wasn’t part of my curriculum in high school, and I think by the time I got to college and grad school, people already assumed that every American student read it. So I managed to get a master’s in English without reading it. Because I’m fascinated by Harper Lee and the news that a new book of hers is coming out this year, I decided it was time to read it. So I pushed it forward on my list and I understood within a few pages why this book is what it is in our culture. If I was reading it in print, I’d be scribbling all over it.

to kill a mockingbird

I know the Kindle has a highlight feature and places to enter notes and whatnot, but it’s definitely not the same as being able to scribble notes in your own writing. I wonder if someday people will archive authors’ Kindle marginalia. Would it still be called marginalia?

Deep thoughts for a Monday.

kombucha lights

last week at next gen house

Now that we’ve turned the corner into March, I’m ready for more mild weather. I know that long winters can contribute to more gratitude for the spring. But more and more it feels like we have two seasons here in Pittsburgh: cold mess and hot mess.

While we wait, here’s what happened last week at Next Gen House.

Last Week in Running

brooks ghost 725 on the schedule this week, including the 10-mile Spring Thaw race on Saturday. That’s the lowest mileage I will run until the week of the race, since my training amps up for these last 8 weeks. Tuesday I had a really great outdoor fartlek run – and I was really glad my schedule allowed me to get out to the group workout with Elite. I am really craving running outside more and I’m thinking I need to make more of an effort to run outside my office directly after work while there is still daylight, instead of waiting until I get home. I think I might try to do that for my Wednesday run this week.

I will probably recap the race itself this week, but I ended up treating it like a long run instead of a race, which is something I only decided moments before we started. I got to meet Jennifer from Running on Lentils and we ran together! (Also, she is a lovely person and you should be reading her blog. She’s one of the official Pittsburgh Marathon bloggers this year!)

I also got new shoes this week (the Brooks Ghost 7 – pictured at left!) and took them for a spin on the treadmill on Sunday. They don’t feel quite right yet, but I need to put my insoles in and give them a go outside before I make any judgments. I have to remember that brand new shoes don’t feel quite the same as ones with 350 miles on them!

Don’t forget that I’m still raising money for the Food Bank. You can donate by using the widget in the right sidebar on the blog or visit my fundraising page directly. Every dollar counts – and multiplies by 5 with the Food Bank’s resources. A $25 donation means $125 worth of food to hungry families in our community!

Last Week in Eating

We made several good meals this week, including a great slow cooker goulash, but the highlight of the week (and probably the month of February if I’m honest) was the Knockoff Chipotle Sofritas. Sofritas are Chipotle’s new vegan option – a marinated spicy tofu. I haven’t had it at Chipotle yet, but Mark did, and he really liked it. His co-worker mentioned this knockoff recipe was delicious, and actually tasted even better since the sauce is thicker and not as runny as Chipotle’s (since the tofu soaks in its sauce there like the other meat options do). I even got to use some of my frozen roasted poblano peppers from our garden.

It. Was. So. Good. I could have eaten it every day that week and was sad that I only made enough for four servings. (I used two packages of tofu and doubled the sauce in the recipe and it was perfect.) We ate it over homemade lime cilantro rice and black beans. Mark made his homemade guacamole and we were in heaven.

Don’t be afraid of cooking tofu, either. I had a meltdown about halfway through because I felt like I wasn’t frying it correctly. (It’s lightly fried, not deep fried.) But it turned out perfectly and I had nothing to be scared of. Just be fearless, like Julia Child says. Have the courage of your convictions.

collage sofritas

Last Week in Reading

I finished the third book in the Silo trilogy, Dust, as well as Bad Feminist on audio. Really liked both, but they were both heavy in subject matter, so I’m catching up on a bunch of comics this week in both trades and single issues. I also started Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick on Scribd, which imagines an alternate future where Germany and Japan won WWII and occupied the U.S. So I guess I didn’t get that far away from heavy subject matter. But I found that book after watching the Amazon original pilot that is based off of the novel. The book is fine so far, but the narrator is not so great, so I’m not sure I’d recommend it on audio. It’s crazy how narrators can make or break an audiobook for me. I guess I’m just picky!

Last Week in Homesteading

I am giving kombucha one last winter try, after many unsuccessful attempts. (I’m just not willing to keep my house at 70 degrees in the winter to sustain a SCOBY. No way.) I now have it in the warmest room of the house with all heating vents in the room open, and I tried the suggestion of wrapping Christmas lights around the jar. Which seems to be keeping it at a nice temperature. (Only after I first put LED lights around it because I am an idiot. LED lights don’t get warm.)

kombucha lights

I also had to use a thin gaiter that Mark had to cover the top until I can get cheesecloth (which we both thought was in the house, but we can’t find it anywhere). It seems to be working so far! Fingers crossed that I get some SCOBY and no blue fuzz!

apples resize

what clean eating means for me

People talk to me a lot about wanting to eat clean, but not really knowing where to start. Or they equate clean eating with the kind of diet that food marketers would have you believe qualifies as healthy and then wonder why they don’t see any of the benefits that clean eating supposedly provides.

This is what I talk about when I talk about clean eating for me.

Lots of water

I’ve been using an app for awhile that keeps track of water consumption, and it’s really helped me with its reminders to hydrate during the day. Hydration has all sorts of benefits, but one of the big ones for me is helping to curb random attacks of the munchies, since often when you think you’re hungry, you’re really thirsty. So I’m less tempted to grab candy from the candy dish at work or eat a random donut in the break room. When I get restless, I drink some more water. It also helps with digestion, and when you’re someone like me with GI problems a plenty, the importance of this can’t be overstated.

It’s worth noting that when I say water, I mean water. I do drink some coffee every day, but don’t fill up your tank with a ton of what I call “fake” water – the kind with stevia or artificial sweetners in it. If you absolutely can’t drink water without it having a fruity taste, try La Croix, which doesn’t have artificial sweetners or sodium. I like La Croix when I feel like having something carbonated and fruity. We also use a Soda Stream to carbonate regular water, when you crave the burn of a soda.

Little to no extra sugar

Sugar really gives me heartburn, so when I stop getting heartburn from sugar, I know I’m eating too much. (Hello, December.) Now that I’m avoiding most sweets, when I do have something, I really feel it, especially when running. So for me, eating clean means staying away from refined sugar. I eat at least two portions of fruit every day, so I am okay with naturally occurring sugars, but I try to keep the other junk at a minimum. I don’t eschew white bread or pasta, which I know is supposed to be terrible for me, but I don’t eat enough of it for it to cause me grief.

Lots and lots of vegetables and fruit

Eating clean for me is impossible without eating tons of vegetables and fruit. There are no fruits that I won’t consume, and I love most vegetables with the exception of beets. I eat more of them in the summer when they are more readily available, but this is a key part of clean eating at any time – and probably the one that’s the most intuitive and easy to understand. Cook them, eat them raw, snack on them, do whatever you need to do to eat that produce.

Limited alcohol

I love craft beer and red wine, and there is no existence I can imagine in which I wouldn’t ever drink them. But when I’m eating clean, I limit the alcohol. Too many empty calories and it causes me to retain water. Plus, I don’t sleep well if I’ve had more than two drinks.

No processed foods

I am not fanatical about this, but I do feel really strongly that highly processed foods are not something that your body wants. I stay away from hyper processed foods all together, and will eat minimally processed things that I don’t have the time to make myself. For instance, I buy taco shells and tortillas at the store, rather than grind the corn myself at home, because ain’t nobody got time for that. I just try to stay away from processed foods with a lot of additives or unknown ingredients. My body has enough problems regulating its own chemicals that I don’t need to introduce unnecessary foreign ones into the mix.

One other part of this processed food thing is to not fall into the trap of products that are marketed to you as healthy. For instance, fat free Cheez-its are not healthy. All of those cereal bars with all the added fiber? You can get just as much fiber from an apple and a lot less sugar. Foods shouldn’t have to market their healthfulness to you – it should be pretty apparent by the nutrition label and your own common sense. I used to live a life where I ate Lean Cuisine entrees and 100 calorie snack packs all day. Sure, I lost weight pretty fast. But I was so unhealthy and I wasn’t giving my body or my taste buds what they needed. Don’t look at the terms that are called out on the boxes to give you the truth – the companies that make and market these products are not your friends, giving you loving guidance and support. They are businesses, looking for your money.

No fast food

I haven’t eaten traditional fast food in more than 3 years, and now it’s only when we’re traveling on the turnpike and I’m super cranky that I really want to eat fries at McDonald’s. Otherwise, it’s not even a temptation anymore. I’m not above eating at restaurants, though when I do, I try to eat at places where the food is made there fresh, instead of reheated from frozen (I’m looking at you, Applebees, blech). And I try to eat vegetarian unless the restaurant specifies where its meat came from – both because of my predilection to eat humanely raised meat and also because CAFO produced meat has hormones and antibiotics that I have no desire to consume, either. Plus, there are so many local restaurants doing it right in Pittsburgh that I’ve never had a problem finding some place to eat if need be.

Cook a lot

It’s not surprising that the bedrock of eating clean is cooking. (That is, unless you can eat at the Whole Foods salad bar every meal or fancy eating all of your food raw.) My diet is at its healthiest when I make a commitment to cooking most days of the week (when I say I, I really mean we, since Mark does at least 50% of the cooking if not more). We make foods that we actually like to eat, and temper recipes we know and love with new ones so we don’t get bored. And we really just love cooking. But you don’t have to love cooking to make simple, clean meals. It’s really okay if you look at cooking as a chore in the same way I look at cleaning the bathroom as one. But it’s still something that has to get done to live a healthy, productive adult life. So we do it.

Cut yourself a break

Perfection is the enemy of good. Don’t overhaul everything in your diet all at once, because you’ll not be likely to stick with it. Eliminate some stuff you know is a problem slowly, and add in the better options. No one ever died from eating an Oreo cookie once in awhile, and I do believe that you can eat some things that don’t qualify as clean and it doesn’t make you evil or weak. Just consider them actual treats – things that you don’t regularly consume. And you’ll likely find that some of them aren’t as appealing over time as they used to be.

Also along the lines of cutting yourself a break is not allowing yourself to fall into the trap of fad diets. You can find a million recipes, cookbooks and recommendations for different types of diets – grain free or dairy free or gluten free or fat free, Paleo or Atkins. If you have an allergy, sensitivity or special medical condition that requires a particular type of diet, do it. If you have moral reasons that lead you to a vegetarian or vegan diet, do it. But don’t take one person’s experience or one isolated study as proof of “health,” I am not an unhealthy individual because I choose to eat pasta (the grain! the gluten! the carbs! oh my!). Use your brain and listen to your body and you won’t go wrong.

sexist mac and cheese

last week at next gen house

Coming off of another weekend of travel and family stuff, and my brain hasn’t caught up with the mental and physical fatigue. Here’s hoping I catch up this week!

Last Week in Running

26 miles on the schedule this week, and I’ll be honest. It was hard. Too much treadmill, for one thing. I had to split up my long run miles because of traveling, since I can’t (won’t) do 10 miles on a treadmill. So it was a lot of 5 mile treadmill runs. And at the end of the week while we were traveling, I developed a lower body rash aggravated by heat and sweating. Joy. But I did all of the runs and got the miles in. Even if I had to bribe myself with pizza.

treadmill pizza

I’m getting to that point in training where I’m desperate for the weather to lift a little and to get to daylight savings so we have a little more light in the evenings. I just don’t have a safe place to run outside in the dark with the exception of Tuesday group runs, which I hope to get to this week. Next Saturday is the Spring Thaw race at North Park – I’ll be doing the 10 mile option. I know I should treat it like a long run and go at long run pace, but I’m tempted to race it. I’ll have to do some thinking on that one.

Last Week in Eating

Besides the delicious homemade pizza that Mark made on Friday night that was a great reward for a long interval workout, we also had a pretty good week for regular dinners. Nothing super special, but good standards – penne alla vodka (one of our favorite vegetarian pastas, made with our own canned tomatoes), venison meatloaf and roasted vegetables, haluski, Salad Monday and Taco Tuesday. In the last two weeks or so, my 2015 resolution to eat clean has really kicked in. I’m off sugar as much as possible (considering it was giving me some WICKED heartburn, especially on the treadmill) and feeling good.

I’m especially dedicated to this right now since I’m seeing a few signs that my thyroid is acting up again and I might need a med adjustment – fatigue, in particular. Knowing that it could be due to the combination of run training and a lot of job stress right now, I’m making sure to eat clean and also to do the daily relaxation exercises. Eating clean has so many healthy effects for me – and I know that my mood is improved when I’m dedicated. So this week will have more clean meals – including two new recipes to change it up a little.

Last Week in Reading

I’m still listening to Bad Feminist on audio through my free trial of Scribd (which I really like and think is a great deal for the monthly fee of $8.99). It’s an interesting book of essays – some are too tied to a critique of another piece of writing or film that I haven’t seen for me to get really into them. But some of them are just spot on.

I finished the second book in the Silo series by Hugh Howey – Shift – on my Kindle. On to the third and final – Dust – and then I’ll probably switch back to some comics and my large nightstand pile. Reading on the Kindle has gone a lot better than I expected, though it probably helps that I’ve been reading books that are so good that I fly through them without even noticing the format.

Last Week in Homesteading

I got more kombucha to start a SCOBY again – for my final try at kombucha in the winter. Going to use a tip that Deanna mentioned in the comments – to wrap Christmas lights around the jar for a bit of extra warmth. We’ll see how it goes.

Tangentially related to homesteading, I learned while grocery shopping that Manchester Farms, the local dairy that produced the non-homogenized milk that we love, has stopped dairy production. This makes me so unbelievably sad – particularly because this farm was a great example of how dairy can be done right – with super happy, healthy cows and no hormones, etc. Not sure why they closed, but I don’t know if people really appreciated the quality of this milk and why it stands out from any other dairy offering in the case. I’ll probably write a post about this, since I need to explore milk options now.

Last Week in Randomness

While traveling and getting gas, I noticed this sign outside of Sheetz.

sexist mac and cheese

I angry tweeted Sheetz, wanting to know what about me being a lady means that this large “man platter” of mac and cheese isn’t for me?  (Whether or not I would eat mac and cheese from Sheetz is besides the point.) I find this kind of gender marketing obnoxious in about 10 ways. I could eat my husband under the table in mac and cheese and it has nothing to do with my gender. Plus, probably no one of any gender needs the portion size of the man platter of mac and cheese, since it’s probably twice the daily recommended caloric intake. I want to go in the store and ask them if I’m using the right gas pump for the ladies. Perhaps there’s a pink one that doesn’t require you to squeeze as hard?

 

snowy yard resized

last week at next gen house

I feel like there’s a chill in my bones and we’ve entered the part of winter where I forget what it feels like to have warm weather. My belief that the seasons do change has been suspended and I am wearing socks entirely too often, that’s for sure.

Last Week in Running

23 miles on the schedule last week – the 7th in training for the Pittsburgh Half. I hit all of my workouts this week, even though I had to modify some mileage, running more on some days and less on others. I ran 5 times and ended up over my mileage by a half a mile, coming in at 23.5.

Most of the runs were uneventful, with the exception of the long run on Saturday. It had started to snow when I arrived at the South Side for the group run, and I didn’t bring my Yaktrax because I didn’t even think about it and also didn’t really think the kind of snow we were getting would stay (those big fat flakes that seem like they take forever to actually fall down). Well, by the time we got going and crossed the Birmingham Bridge, it was really coming down and climbing the hill to Oakland? Slush monster mess. So for all 10.5 miles, we basically had no solid footing. So shooting for an 11:30-11:45 pace and coming in at 12:06 was actually pretty amazing, considering all of the stops for traffic lights and the fact that I think it was a cross country ski and not a run.

IMG_20150214_104327

I mentioned last week that I need to get back into yoga, and that’s definitely true. I’m feeling my muscles start to stiffen more significantly and I need the relaxation too. But I also need to add in strength training in a more significant way. It’s hard to fit in 5 days of running, 2 days of krav maga, plus yoga and strength. I probably need to force myself onto Pinterest to find some home strength workouts or check out some running bloggers who share their strength routines. Goal for this week!

Also related to running, I’m only $5 away from my first $100 raised for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Check out the module on the right or visit my fundraising page. I have a long way to go to get to my goal of $715, but every dollar counts!

Last Week in Eating

Sunday Mark and I celebrated 6 years to the day since we met by eating at Lidia’s. It’s one of our favorite places to eat – fancy but affordable, with great service and a really nice, warm atmosphere. We typically don’t diverge from the pasta tasting trio (three unlimited fresh pasta dishes brought to your table in warm saute pans), and we were not disappointed in our choice. I ate an ungodly amount of carbs and probably should have run 18 miles the next day.

I also made a great new dish this week – Creamy Chicken and Dumplings from How Sweet Eats. Delish and filling. And I’m glad I took the time to make it on a weeknight. As I was heating up leftovers at work, someone said, “those are big dumplings for Bisquick!” Well, that’s because they are not Bisquick. I will never understand how Bisquick and other baking mixes are supposedly such time savers, since you still have to add liquid. Plus they taste terrible. I’ll take my couple of dry ingredients and some buttermilk any day.

For some reason I also had a craving for my mom’s blueberry muffins (which are more like blueberry cupcakes without frosting than muffins, but that’s why they are so good). Plus we still had buttermilk from the dumplings earlier in the week. So I made some on Sunday, the coldest day.

muffin resized

Hungry for muffins now?

Last Week in Reading

It was a good reading week, that’s for sure. Finished two more volumes of Fables as well as my audiobook, the third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cress. But all of that was meh compared to a book I binge-read Friday night and Saturday after the cross country ski run. Wool by Hugh Howey. I was gifted the three books in the series for Christmas by my friend T (you will recall her as the marathon angel), and after finally finishing all the books I had out from the library, I turned to the Kindle.

With my Mister Rogers mug full of coffee, my Frostbeard Studios “Old Books” candle (most amazing scented candles on the planet) and my Out of Print library card pouch that I’m using as a case until I can make one (which I received from my Book Riot Quarterly box) – I sat down on Friday and dug in.

Friday reading resized
Holy cow. I haven’t devoured a book like that in a long time. Yes, I got virtually nothing done that I should have on Saturday. But what a book. It’s dystopian, but so clever. The writing is so good, I wanted to swim in it. Don’t waste time looking up a synopsis or any other info, just go read it.

So now, I’m reading the second book in that series – Shift – on my Kindle. And also listening to Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist on audio in my car through Scribd, which I’m trying out for their audiobook subscription service. So far, so great!

Last Week in Randomness

I have been behind on sewing projects because I need new needles for my machine. In a fit of laziness, I tried to order some from Amazon, but then realized they would charge me twice the cost of the actual needles for shipping alone, since I’m exactly that type of lazy person. So after almost being stupid enough to pay it, I thought better of it and told myself to just go buy them with a Joann’s coupon. But now it’s cold and my laziness and cheapness are warring against each other. Going to make it to Joann’s, just probably not until this weekend.

Next up on the list is Mark’s t-shirt blanket, followed closely by a Kindle case and a child-size apron for my niece for her birthday, so we can bake together. She tells me that we make a good team, so we should probably be outfitted like one, right?

 

cookies resized

last week at next gen house

This was a long but good week, where you feel like you do a million things but nothing that can be checked off your to do list. Ever have those weeks? I’m looking forward to a more routine week with more time at home and a quiet weekend. My 20 year old self would never believe that my 32 year old self just wants to be home most of the time.

Last Week in Running

I had 21 miles on my schedule this week, and I managed to nail each workout. Six weeks of training now completed, and I’m starting to fully adjust to a 5 day a week plan. Right now, I usually only groan about having to run on the 5th workout, which is good for me at this point. I needed to finish up some miles on the treadmill yesterday, and I was not feeling it. But I did it anyway, after adding these great shoe tags that I got for my birthday (courtesy of the bestie).

shoes resized

Next week it’s back up to 23 miles with a long run of 8-9. This week the long run was to be 8, but I cut it to just over 7 because we were so slowed due to compacted ice on the trails. So many times we needed to just stop and shuffle, and it killed our pace as well as our motivation to get going again. I can now say I shimmied/ice skated all the way from Carson Street to the Point.

It’s also back to daily yoga for me. I missed more than a few days this week and my muscles feel it.

Last Week in Eating

We had several meals we had to eat out this week, but we still managed to make some meals at home. I made my best red chili recipe (All American Chili from the ATK Healthy Family Cookbook) and it makes a ton, so we had leftovers for lunches and also to freeze once we got sick of it. It easily reheats and is filling and flavorful. Yesterday I put a roast in the crockpot using a recipe for Italian Style Pot Roast from ATK’s Slow Cooker Revolution. The prep took awhile, but the whole house smelled delicious and it was really tasty. It had veggies and a sauce with it, so we shredded the roast and mixed it back into the sauce and put it over pasta. First time I’ve ever put a pot roast on pasta, but it worked!

Sunday we had lunch with friends, and I got to request the lunch as a belated birthday celebration. I requested a comfort food dish that my friend makes that I love, which includes potatoes and beans. And then Mark made me peanut butter cookies, which are my favorite kind. Especially when you make them even better by putting the heads of the Golden Girls on them (courtesy of the bestie, again).

cookies resized

I picked Dorothy, since with the exception of her height, I’ve felt like her most of my life.

Last Week in Reading

Still listening to the third Lunar Chronicles book on audio during my commute. I finished The Chain (review coming this week) and am now reading the 15th volume of Fables, one of my favorite comics. Will probably finish 15 and 16 this week and start addressing the pile of books on my nightstand. And then there’s the Kindle. Ugh. Never enough time to read! (Though I’d never be satisfied with my available time to read unless I had at least 4-6 hours to do it a day. Basically I need it to be my full time job.)

Last Week in Randomness

Probably the coolest thing I got to do all weekend (besides hang out with my nieces) was seeing Garth Brooks in concert at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on Friday night. What a wonderful show – probably my favorite concert ever. He sang so many of his hits, and it was a definite fan centered concert. Even with new music coming out, he focused on the songs of his legacy.

garth resized

 

It was great that Trisha Yearwood sang a few songs too – “She’s in Love with the Boy” was a favorite of my mom’s and my sister and I learned it from her. I love country music and have a lot of good childhood memories tied to it, due to my grandparents listening to country radio non-stop. Lots of verklempt moments at the concert, that’s for sure. I wish it could have lasted another few hours.

 

So tell me, how was your week? Which Golden Girl cookie would you pick?

 

winter north park

last week at next gen house

It takes me longer than the average bear to recover from long, busy weekends. So this past week was spent generally trying to get my bearings and get things back into a routine. That and actually trying to clean my house.

Anyway.

Last Week in Running

Mileage went up to 23 this week, my fifth in training for the Pittsburgh Half. It was also my fifth week of running 5 days each week. Which means my calves are the size of those giant turkey legs you see at state fairs, and they are pretty much tight all the time. I did my first hill repeats with Elite on Tuesday night for a total of four miles, and I thought it went well, though I was pretty cold. But I didn’t actually know what running in the cold was until I went out on Saturday to the group run at North Park. Six degrees with a “feels like” -3. And wind. I realized that gear is what makes the difference, because the parts of me wearing good gear, like my hands, ears, torso, feet? Nice and warm, once we got moving. But my butt and legs were another story, since I’ve been wearing Walmart tights all winter (after having found ones marked petite this year). And let’s just say they are not for arctic temps, because the wind went right through and it was for the first time, actually painfully uncomfortable. So this weekend I tried to buy new winter running tights from a company that sells them. And the only company I could find with available petite length tights was Athleta. And they were $86. (Hey other companies. Don’t be telling me that your tights are “short” when I see a 32″ inseam, get out of here with that. Under Armour and the North Face in particular should be ashamed that they don’t carry even ONE line of tights for an under 30″ inseam. Let’s just say they will be hearing from me about this.)

OK, rant over. It was nasty cold and I did 8.4 miles. With ice in my eyebrows. For real.

IMG_20150131_095307 I keep trying to tell myself that these cold temps and nasty conditions will fade into spring eventually. And that it’s weeks like these that produce the PR, the good race, the great feeling. So I keep going.

Last Week in Eating

I barely remember what we cooked last week, which probably means that none of it was particularly remarkable. This week is another crazy one, with one or both of us gone a lot of the evenings. So it will be more easy stuff – salads and chilis and penne with defrosted tomato sauce – and nothing remarkable. But it doesn’t need to be. Even people who are crazy about food, like me, need weeks where the meals aren’t photo worthy and they mostly just do the job. To me, when the weather is nasty and work is crazy and your life is busy, just making the time to cook at home is enough.

Last Week in Homesteading

I mentioned that I tried to actually clean my house this week. Which is about as much homesteading as I got done (though thanks to Deanna for the tip on the lights around the kombucha – going to see if that helps it maintain temp).

But can I just say something about house cleaning? Just like every other facet of modern life, there are blogs and books and Pinterest boards a plenty about how to keep your house sparkling and organized, as if giving me a 30 day challenge or a fun printable can just miraculously help me get this done. I would like to see a realistic cleaning list entitled “The Minimum #$%^ You Must Do to Not Qualify as Foul.” That is what I spent a lot of time this weekend doing, and that is the free printable that I would like to see next.

Last Week in Reading

I am about 20 minutes from finishing the third Dresden Files book on audio, so by the time I get to work, that will be finished and I will have started the third book in the Lunar Chronicles. I really need to stop reading books that are first in a series of 5,000.

I’m also reading a book called The Chain, which is about the meat industry, but not from the perspective of health or animal rights, but from the workers on the line at meat packing plants. I am about 100 pages in and will officially not be complaining about my job this week, let’s just say that. Review coming when I’m done.

Last Week in Randomness

Shout out to 1 of 4*, our remaining black austraulorp, for laying 3 eggs this week, when she hasn’t laid in months. Go get it, girl.

How was your week?

 

*Oops. Original post got the name of the chicken mixed up. It was 5 a.m. What can I say?

Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge – Week 4

This week didn’t hold as much progress as last week on the challenge. We were out of town for Thanksgiving and had a few days where we ate meals elsewhere – at friends’ houses, etc. But I’m happy with the things we did use – and we didn’t add anything!

One evening for dinner, we cooked up the Ohio City Pasta – I believe we had red pepper and some sort of basil/spinach mix. It tasted great mixed (especially with a glass of leftover wine from Friendsgiving!).

ohio city pasta collage

We also needed another quick dinner one night, so we baked one of the frozen Pizza Joes pizzas. Pizza Joes is a local chain that’s centered around the area where I grew up, and I love them. My favorite pizza place ever. So when Mark travels to one particular site for work, he ends up near one of their locations and he will sometimes pick up half baked pizzas that we finish off in the oven. Much better than fully cooked pizza that’s frozen after the fact. We had the veggie ranch one.

pizza joes collage
We also gave a jar of the Penn’s Corner hot pepper jelly to a friend who was visiting to try, so that took one of the jars in the pantry. Though I’m less worried about using those up now that I know of a great marinade recipe.

So after week 4, here’s where we stand. Going to kick it up a notch this week.

Brown rice 2 portions beef stew Pizza Joes pizzas (2) (1)
Dark chocolate bar (56% cocoa) 1 portion corn and poblano chowder Cortland apples
Dark chocolate bar (75% cocoa) 1 portion mushroom bolognese Swiss chard
Unsweetened chocolate bar (1) (.5) 1 portion venison chili Thai veggie gyoza (half bag)
Penn’s Corner hot pepper jelly (3) (2) (1) 2 portions stroganoff Kaiser rolls (8) (4)
Penn’s Corner strawberry jelly 5 portions bolognese sauce Alexia french fries (1) (.5)
Penn’s Corner dilly beans (2) Hog jowl bacon Pork gyoza (half bag)
Evaporated milk Slab bacon Coconut chicken tenders
Bag sundried tomatoes Hot dogs Venison jerky
Stuffing mix (1.5) (.5) Hot sausage patties Roasted hot peppers
Honey buffalo sauce Venison sausage Roasted sweet peppers
Dried cherries with pits Hamburger patties Raspberries
CRO Bloody Mary Mix Pork shoulder Ripe bananas (1 million)
Chuck’s Hot Salsa Blueberries (3) (2) Frozen basil
Cinnamon applesauce Strawberries Apple cider
Pearl couscous Cranberries Pierogies
Maifun rice sticks Corn (2)
Rice Ramen Peas Grape juice
Orzo Macadamia nuts Homemade whole grain pancake mix (4) (3)
Braised eel Spinach and ricotta pierogies Fresh tomato sauce (2)
Coconut milk Harvest bread Roasting chickens
Whole tomatoes (2) Hot dog buns Chicken wings
Red enchilada sauce French bread Lamb chops
Whole canned jalapenos Ciabatta roll Ground lamb
Butter crackers Cheese tortellini Duck legs and thighs
Graham crackers (2) (1) Pizza crust Ham shank
Black turtle beans Ohio City pasta Kale sausage
Dried chick peas Pitas Pork neckbones
Dried kidney beans Puff pastry sheet Pork liver
Arborio rice Bear claw Pork heart
Partial dark chocolate bar (70%) cocoa PB donut Ham hock bones
Beef marrow bones Rhubarb thumbprint cookies Pork breakfast sausage
Beef neckbones Potato and pea samosas (2) (1) Country style pork ribs
Beef round steak Pork and vegetable dumplings (half bag) Chorizo
Beef soup bones Naan Puddin’
Catfish Green onion pancakes Beef heart
Beef hot dogs Oxtail (3) (1)
Beef mock tender
Beef shank Beef shank Beef cross cut roast
Beef stew meat Beef liver

 

 

Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge – Week 3

This week we chipped away at more items from the pantry and freezer, making more progress than I anticipated. We were able in some cases to strategically use recipes for the things we wanted to eat that included some ingredients we already had. Which I guess is exactly the way you do this!

I made a delicious winter squash chowder with some butternut and acorn squash and kale from our CSA, and I toasted up the one remaining ciabatta roll for us to split as a side to dip. It actually went really well with the chowder!

winter squash chowder

When I posted last week that I was having trouble finding ways to use hot pepper jelly, Penn’s Corner tweeted me this link to a recipe for Spicy Pepper Jelly Marinated Pork Tenderloin. So I made that, with some roasted turnips and brussels sprouts and some bagged stuffing  from the pantry as a side. I highly recommend the marinade if you like spicy, flavorful marinades.

stuffing and pepper jelly collage

Friday night, I roasted two heads of garlic and took the leeks from the CSA and the bacon from the freezer and made toppings for Mark’s sourdough pizza crust. (He’s the pizza guy in the house.) Delicious, but let’s just say that using two heads of garlic as sauce, where we each virtually ate a whole head of garlic, was a bit….much.

bacon and leek pizza

One night we had burgers and fries, so we used up half of the kaiser rolls and half of the bag of fries.

fries and buns

Sunday night we had our annual Friendsgiving dinner with our best friends. Instead of a turkey, which we will all be eating this week, we decided to make prime rib. Mark did the prime rib, and chose a recipe that required roasting some other meat with it – so we used an oxtail, a beef shank and beef soup bones.

I did the dessert, and sort of lost my mind. I decided to make pumpkin brownies, which used up half of the unsweetened chocolate bar. And that’s when I jumped off the deep end and decided to make 3 homemade ice creams from the Jeni’s cookbook: salty caramel, maple with buttered nuts, and sweet potato with toasted marshmallow. And then make them into terrines. But I forgot that a mini loaf pan might be “mini” when it comes to breads, but when it comes to ice cream, it’s a LOT. And so it looked kind of like a giant brick on the plate. But it was delicious – just ridiculous.

We were so hungry I didn’t take much time to take good photos, but it was all great.

friendsgiving

So here’s where I stand now after three weeks. Made a lot of progress this week, for sure!

Brown rice 2 portions beef stew Pizza Joes pizzas (2)
Dark chocolate bar (56% cocoa) 1 portion corn and poblano chowder Cortland apples
Dark chocolate bar (75% cocoa) 1 portion mushroom bolognese Swiss chard
Unsweetened chocolate bar (1) (.5) 1 portion venison chili Thai veggie gyoza (half bag)
Penn’s Corner hot pepper jelly (3) (2) 2 portions stroganoff Kaiser rolls (8) (4)
Penn’s Corner strawberry jelly 5 portions bolognese sauce Alexia french fries (1) (.5)
Penn’s Corner dilly beans (2) Hog jowl bacon Pork gyoza (half bag)
Evaporated milk Slab bacon Coconut chicken tenders
Bag sundried tomatoes Hot dogs Venison jerky
Stuffing mix (1.5) (.5) Hot sausage patties Roasted hot peppers
Honey buffalo sauce Venison sausage Roasted sweet peppers
Dried cherries with pits Hamburger patties Raspberries
CRO Bloody Mary Mix Pork shoulder Ripe bananas (1 million)
Chuck’s Hot Salsa Blueberries (3) (2) Frozen basil
Cinnamon applesauce Strawberries Apple cider
Pearl couscous Cranberries Pierogies
Maifun rice sticks Corn (2)
Rice Ramen Peas Grape juice
Orzo Macadamia nuts Homemade whole grain pancake mix (4) (3)
Braised eel Spinach and ricotta pierogies Fresh tomato sauce (2)
Coconut milk Harvest bread Roasting chickens
Whole tomatoes (2) Hot dog buns Chicken wings
Red enchilada sauce French bread Lamb chops
Whole canned jalapenos Ciabatta roll Ground lamb
Butter crackers Cheese tortellini Duck legs and thighs
Graham crackers (2) (1) Pizza crust Ham shank
Black turtle beans Ohio City pasta Kale sausage
Dried chick peas Pitas Pork neckbones
Dried kidney beans Puff pastry sheet Pork liver
Arborio rice Bear claw Pork heart
Partial dark chocolate bar (70%) cocoa PB donut Ham hock bones
Beef marrow bones Rhubarb thumbprint cookies Pork breakfast sausage
Beef neckbones Potato and pea samosas (2) (1) Country style pork ribs
Beef round steak Pork and vegetable dumplings (half bag) Chorizo
Beef soup bones Naan Puddin’
Catfish Green onion pancakes Beef heart
Beef hot dogs Oxtail (3) (1)
Beef mock tender
Beef shank Beef shank Beef cross cut roast
Beef stew meat Beef liver