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.


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.

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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.

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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?


some podcasts I like

If you are a runner and live in an area of the country where you experience winter weather, you’ve probably had to take at least some of your runs indoors this year. Before this year, I had a major issue with the treadmill – feeling so trapped, confined and bored that I wouldn’t make it through more than a mile before I’d give up. I can’t actually see over our treadmill to watch TV and music just wasn’t cutting it for me because it didn’t provide enough of a distraction.

But during this training cycle, I’ve been successfully running 10-12 miles a week on a treadmill without completely freaking out. (Let’s be honest though, 6 miles is my max on a treadmill. I haven’t even tried to think about going over that yet, though that’s probably a bridge I will have to cross at some point in training as my mileage goes up. But I’ll save that fear for another day.)

Why the sudden change? Podcasts.

I have found that podcasts keep me engaged enough to be distracted, but it doesn’t require the level of concentration that listening to an audiobook does for me (which is why I listen to audiobooks in the car). I even have some that make me laugh, and it’s rare that I ever smile when on the dreadmill so that’s a plus.

Just in case you’re in the same boat as me and grinding away on the treadmill wishing for some variety, here are some of my favorites. I listen to them on Stitcher, because I’m an Android person. I’ve put the links for iTunes too, if you’re an Apple person. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it includes the ones that are SFW and more widely appealing.

Let’s start with the NPR podcasts – which make up the bulk of the ones I listen to.


Of course I’m going to include “Serial”, the podcast that got me started on podcasts on the treadmill. I heard so much about this true crime, story in 12 parts podcast from people who work on “This American Life” that I had to try it. And got hooked. Is he guilty or not?!     Stitcher     iTunes

This American Life

Catch the episodes of “This American Life” on podcast if you aren’t able to tune in on NPR. Ira Glass hosts, and gives listeners stories on all manner of subjects that have to do with life in America. The one catch with this one is that they only have the current episode available at a time. It goes away if you don’t listen within the week that it’s posted before the new episode is there. But it’s great storytelling, which you can expect from NPR.     Stitcher     iTunes

The Moth Radio Hour

Speaking of good story telling, The Moth Radio Hour features the performances from The Moth live events across the country, where people get up and tell their stories with no notes or help. Kind of like TED talks, but with personal stories instead of lectures. Some of them are funny, some are moving and some are just normal people talking about life.     Stitcher     iTunes


This is a relatively new one, and it’s dedicated to the invisible forces that control human behavior. It’s light hearted but still fascinating. One of the more recent episodes was about the power of thought and if our perceptions about people or situations can actually have the power to change them. Another talked about the concept of quantum entanglement, which was just so sciency, I loved it.     Stitcher     iTunes

Now onto the niche ones, not from NPR.


I wrote about this one when it first started, because I listened to it way before I decided to use podcasts on the treadmill. But it’s still great. It will make you want to eat when you get done!     Stitcher     iTunes


I’ll let the description speak for itself: “comedians, scientists and celebrities discussing the intersection of science and pop culture with host Neil deGrasse Tyson.” Yes, please!     Stitcher     iTunes

Dear Sugar

If you were a fan of the Dear Sugar column written by Cheryl Strayed, you will love this. (If you have no idea what this is and want to fall down an internet rabbit hole for days, read some of them.) She’s back, with the original sugar Steve Almond, answering people’s requests for advice. This one only recently started, so I think it’s finding its stride, but it’s still really great.     Stitcher     iTunes

And some favorites from the book and comic world, all from Riot Media (Book Riot and Panels). Check those sites out if you read. They are my go-tos for books and literary anything.

Book Riot

This is a weekly show dedicated to what’s going on in the book world. New books, info on what people are reading, issues that readers care about. I love the dynamics of the hosts and it moves at a good pace. I always learn something new and my TBR list always grows.     Stitcher      iTunes

Reading Lives

One of the hosts from Book Riot interviews interesting people – authors, bloggers, etc. – on their reading lives. What got them into reading, what they read now, why they write, what’s important to them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a “me too!” moment listening to this one.     Stitcher     iTunes

Dear Book Nerd

This is an advice/questions column about book related topics. It’s amazing how not boring questions about being a reader are, and the host does a great job of keeping you engaged.     Stitcher     iTunes

Oh Comics!

This is my first comics-related podcast and it’s definitely introduced me to some new things. I like how much diversity is a focus of this one and it’s way more than your typical super hero comics.     Stitcher     iTunes

That probably seems like a ton of info and it is. But it’s amazing how easy you can breeze through episodes during a run. And you’ll get so hooked that you want to listen to episodes when you’re doing laundry or dishes or pretty much anything else!

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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).

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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.

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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.


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?


last week at next gen house

We traveled over a long weekend for some family stuff, so I’m feeling off kilter a bit. It’s amazing how much disrupting routine makes my head spin. I always return to my home and desk at work thinking “what was I doing again?” I have every confidence I will walk into my cubicle today and forget exactly what I do at my job.

So until I can get my head together on what we got in our CSA last week, let’s just chat.

Last Week in Running

Week 4 of training for the Pittsburgh Half brought 20.15 miles. Even though I didn’t technically have a “long” run this week due to my schedule, I managed two difficult workouts. Tuesday was my first time doing 800 repeats with my running group – on hills, nonetheless. I liked it for a speed workout and it definitely took effort to keep the pacing right. But it’s clear that my fast is getting faster and my slow is getting faster. And I’m happy with that.

The other difficult workout was in the hotel gym this weekend. 4 miles on a treadmill already approaches my personal treadmill limit, but the room was sweltering (literally 76 degrees) and my body was aching from all of the physical work I was doing over the weekend. It was at my “easy” pace, but nothing about it felt easy. But it got done. Which is exactly how I’m going to get to my goal.

Last Week in Eating

Definitely the best eating experience this week was going to lunch at Gaucho on Friday before we left town. I’ve wanted to eat there since we had a taste of their food at the Backyard BBQ even this summer. It’s Argentinian food, wood-fired. And so delicious. I could never be a restaurant critic because I have very few words in my vocabulary for delicious food besides “so good” and “amazeballs” and some various grunts and groans. But all of these apply at Gaucho.

IMG_20150123_122703Do yourself a favor, locals, and get there. (Early though, because there was a line out the door 15 minutes after they opened.)

Last Week in Homesteading

So that kombucha restart? Molded AGAIN. I have no idea what’s going on, so I need to do some extensive troubleshooting and break out the thermometers and whatnot. Maybe our house is just too cold right now for it? I’m not going to raise the heat in the house just to brew some kombucha, since that’s not remotely cost-effective. But still, frustration!

Also in homesteading this week? Shoveling snow. Hurrah!

Last Week in Reading

With virtually no time in the last four days to read, I’m still reading what I was reading last week. But when we travel in the car, we typically listen to an audiobook. We picked The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, which is apparently something I needed to consume if I was going to keep my geek street cred. What a great choice for an audiobook – the humor is especially funny when narrated by a great British reader. Happy to have had a push to start it!

Last Week in Randomness

Not going to lie. Every time we get significant snowfall, I wish we got enough to get truly snowed in, like we did back in 2010 (?). Because I’d rather have a ton of snow, or no snow at all. 6 inches at a time just makes my commute a mess. I know that big blizzards like the one hitting the east coast aren’t really a good thing – but from this chair at 5:31 a.m., I’m thinking being snowed in sounds pretty good.


So how was your week?

last week at next gen house

So what happens when you write a blog that’s narrowly focused around a sub-set of what your actual life looks like, making you run out of things to write about when you don’t have a ton of time in your schedule for new urban homesteading projects and outside it’s a frozen wasteland of gray?

Here’s the thing. I could write post after post about why I don’t eat fast food, the importance of eating whole, real foods or why chia seeds are the most foul of the one-item health trends, but a lot of that is repeat. But while posts like that have their place since they fall right smack into one of my passions, there’s more to my life than sustainable, healthy food and canning tomatoes.

Not sure how this will exactly play out with content, because I am still staying within the theme of 2015 for me – margin. But for now, it’s Monday. Here’s some…stuff.

The Week in Running

I just completed week 3 of my Pittsburgh Half Marathon training. 5 runs for a total of 19.4 miles. I’m amping up my training plan this year in an effort to shave some minutes off my best time, not just seconds. And I’m putting my running shoes where my mouth is and hitting those workouts, even when it’s uncomfortable.

I’m still feeling really excited about training, but I know logically that not all weeks will feel like that. But for now, I’m riding that wave. I’ve also been doing daily yoga with the help of Yoga With Adriene. Those yoga videos? The only ones I’ve ever done without wanting to throw a block at the computer. It’s really helping with my stretching and keeping my legs in good shape with this added running.

The Week in Eating

To celebrate me turning 32 this weekend, we ate at Dish Osteria on Saturday night. It’s been my favorite Pittsburgh restaurant since we ate there last year. It’s a tight space, so it’s not super quiet, but the food and drink are just outstanding. I feel like a lot of restaurants have really great food, but Dish goes beyond good food – every bite and every flavor seems like it has a purpose. Mark and I both tried quail – allowing us to cross another item off our Mark & Joanna Life List (eat something that we’ve both never tried). And I even ate a big slice of golden beet. I know, right?

The Week in Homesteading

My last two attempts to grow a new kombucha SCOBY failed. The first of those attempts got moldy from being too close to other potential molds in the kitchen as well as Mark’s sourdough starter. (We think the kombucha was also responsible for the sourdough starter molding too.) The second attempt didn’t mold, but also didn’t go anywhere because the temp wasn’t right. So I started up again this weekend, trying to grow a new SCOBY by moving the jars to the warmest room in the house and keeping an eye on the temp. We’ll see how it goes!

The Week in Reading

I’m tooling along just fine on my reading goal for the year. Currently listening to the third book in the Dresden Files series on audio in my car and currently reading the sixth book in the Star Trek Typhon Pact series. Do you have a serious TBR (to be read) list and want to commiserate about that with me on GoodReads? Find me here.

Know something else? I’m happy that at 32, I can say that I’ve made it to the stage in my reading life where I realize there’s no such thing as guilty pleasure reading. I will proudly wave my Star Trek novels all over the place, leaving them out on my desk for people to see or whipping out a graphic novel in a waiting room. If it’s worth my limited reading time to consume, it’s worth letting people know that. I love what I love. I’m not in the least ashamed that I have a master’s degree in literature and consume Star Trek novels. I’m sorry for anyone who carries around book related guilt. Life is too short.

The Week in Randomness

Got a Kindle with Christmas money, thereby silencing the last vestige of book-related guilt. E-books are never going to be my big thing, but they are here and I’m not missing out anymore. Anyhow, after I get Mark’s t-shirt blanket done, I think I might make myself one of these.

Mark and I are watching our way through the old Battlestar Galactica. Which was made in 1978 but somehow has worse special effects than the original Star Trek did in the 60s. It’s so bad I think it warrants a post of its own.

I woke up on my birthday thinking that what I’d really like for breakfast was brownie edges. (Yes, I am the person that the ridiculous edges only pan was made for, though I haven’t gone ahead to buy it since I need another baking pan in my house like a hole in the head.) So I whipped these up and ate them with some vanilla ice cream from Antey’s, the world’s greatest homemade ice cream place in the West End. (We stock up on pints at the end of the season to last us through the winter. As you do.)

How was your week?

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frigid 5 miler recap

This year, in an effort to push and challenge myself to improve my running, I signed up to train for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon with Elite Runners & Walkers, a local running store that also does race management and training. (They won my loyalty back in 2013 when I was starting to run seriously and realized that I was injuring myself in the shoes that I bought off the rack at a store by myself. I was properly fitted for shoes at Elite and the rest is history.)

As part of the training program, they hold three races during the training months – the first of which was the Frigid 5 Miler at North Park this weekend. The race is open to anyone, but we’re encouraged to do the races as part of our training (with progressive distances). I have never raced in January before, as the last two years I have kept free of races from Thanksgiving to the last weekend in April. But I figured I’d brave the temps and get my butt out there, since after all, I am Type A to the extreme and this was part of the plan.

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It was about 17 degrees for the race, with a clear path to run on thanks to no fresh snow. I got there early and snagged a great parking spot, where I proceeded to sit for 30 minutes in the warm car and wait, wondering why I was doing this race so early in the year, entirely by myself. I got to the starting area and was thankful that I dressed the way I did because it was definitely frigid. I finally invested in a decent (albeit bright) winter running outfit, with a wind jacket and turtleneck that pulls up over my face. I wore tights, a dri-fit under layer, and the new UA turtleneck plus the jacket, merino running socks and gloves – and was definitely warm enough.

What I didn’t plan for so well was the fact that the course was entirely rolling hills, finishing with a ridiculously difficult hill that spanned almost a mile, with the finish line at the very top. I ran so strong during the first three miles (9:48, 9:44 and 9:38 according to Map My Run) that I was practically giddy with excitement, not expecting that pace once I realized that the whole thing was hills. For mile 4, it started to catch up to me and I dropped to 10:35. At this point I was still holding out hope that I could beat my previous 5 mile time (51:34), but when I passed the mile marker for 4 and headed up that giant hill, the wheels fell off the wagon a bit. I mostly ran, with two or three 15 second walk breaks, but I was plodding slowly – it felt like I made no movement at all. That mile ended up at 12:30, but I was pretty happy to see that finish line once I crested the top.

Map My Run clocked me at 5.09 miles in 53:36. Official stats were 5 miles, 53:00 even, a 10:36 average pace.

I will take that. Absolutely. While it didn’t beat my best 5 mile time, it was only off by less than 2 minutes – and I was comparing 5 mile runs with completely different courses. I also didn’t run with any music, just silence. It was nice to not be worried about getting the music to play right and to just focus on the running. I’m becoming more and more comfortable with running solo and quiet without something to distract me when I’m outdoors. (The treadmill is a different story.) It was an enjoyable 5 miles, and even when I had to start that beast of a hill, I didn’t panic. I just ran. One foot in front of the other.

It was a good race, too. After we were done, there were bananas and hot pancakes and hot chocolate for everyone, which I took advantage of, even though I wasn’t planning on staying since I was alone. I got brave, got myself a plate and hung out with my bad self. They also have live results available at their races, so I walked right up to a table and got to see my stats.

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This race made me confident that my training choice this year was a good one. I’m stronger and faster than I was at this point last year, and I think if I keep working at it, I’ll get to that PR on May 3. I will definitely be back to North Park to conquer those hills again, though. It would be awesome to get up that beast without walking at all!


Don’t forget to check out my fundraising site for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. I’m raising money to benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

running to end hunger: pittsburgh half marathon 2015

run to fight hungerIn 2014, I ran the Pittsburgh Marathon half for the first time, participating in the Run for a Reason charity program. My organization to support was the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, and my goal was to raise $350. I raised $710, more than doubling that.

I’m running the Pittsburgh Marathon half again this year, with the intention to PR (and this time, the training to back that up). And I’ll be raising money for GPCFB again. I have set my goal at $715 – I’m training to shave 5 minutes off my running PR and want to add five dollars to my fundraising goal. Of course I’ll be happy with larger PRs in either category, but this is what I’m working toward.

Having a PR in the half marathon after a crazy running year in 2014 is really important to me. Important enough that in the year of ‘margin,’ I’m calling it a big goal. So I am putting my legs where my mouth is and amping up my training. I’m participating in a training program with Elite Runners & Walkers that has amped up not only my days of running each week, but my mileage and my concentration on form and pace.

But at the end of the day, I acknowledge that running is a privilege. It’s a privilege for me to have enough food at my house to carb load before a long run and to never worry about where that post-race meal is going to come from. Let alone a regular dinner on a regular day.

That’s why it’s really important to me to support the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. I’ve written about this before – about why whether or not we eat should not based on what we deserve. There are people in our community – probably people on my own block – who don’t have their basic needs met.

And because of the work of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and its member agencies, 26.5 million pounds of food are given annually, to 360,000 people. That should shock you for two reasons. One? That’s a LOT of food. They do amazing things with what they have. Two? That means at least 360,000 people in our southwestern Pennsylvania, 11-county radius were hungry last year. And there were likely many more. 360,000 people with faces and lives and families and stories. Who didn’t have enough to eat.

Please consider a tax-deductible donation to support the GPCFB through my attempt to PR on May 3. You can use this link, or use the sidebar over on the right side of the page. Lest you think I don’t put my money where my mouth is, I’ll be making my own donation in mid-January, in honor of my 32nd birthday.

Just as a running PR of one second is still a PR, a donation of any amount matters – especially since the GPCFB makes the money go so far with its programs and partners. Consider even just $5- and thanks for your contribution of any size!



2014 resolutions – how did I do?

We’re finally to the last day of 2014.

Before I can finalize my goals for 2015, I need to check back in on 2014 and see how it went. You can see the other goal posts for 2014 here: January, AprilJuly and October.

Here’s how I did!


Read 75 books.

Knocked this one out of the park. As of right now, I’ve completed 99 books. There is a high likelihood that if I get to take a lunch break today, I’ll hit 100. I didn’t anticipate blowing this goal so far out of the water, but I shouldn’t be surprised. Reading is like plugging myself into the Joanna charger. I only feel like me when I have a chance to read every day, even if it’s only 5 pages. I read some truly great books this year, which is a post unto itself. I didn’t finish the two sub-goals of finishing Atwood’s canon and reading a Russian doorstop, so I am considering whether or not those are still goals for 2015.

Write letters on three issues to my elected representatives.
I wrote one in April on the DARK Act, and I wrote again in the fall regarding funding for food assistance. But I didn’t hit the third letter. Fall was a very busy time for us – the craziest of the year – so my ability to read up on the current food issues was somewhat limited.

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Run a marathon.

Done. Boom.

Drink 64 ounces of water a day.
This has been pretty close, so I’m calling it a win. I am trying to turn to water when I want coffee in the afternoon at my desk and I’ve done that more often than I’ve given in, so that’s a win too.


Start my home brew kombucha.
Finished this one earlier in the year, though I need to get a better restart going. I tried to do one after the marathon was over, but the room wasn’t warm enough to inhibit mold growth. So I think I’ve found a warmer spot and will try again soon. This will be ongoing.

Sew a t-shirt quilt.
Did this. And also sewed this Star Trek Quiet Bookt-shirt blanket resize

Can one new thing.
We made one new variant of jam this year, but mostly we canned the usual.
Plant a bee-friendly flower garden.
I didn’t do as well with this one as I would have liked, but most of my flowers stayed alive all season, so that’s huge progress for me.
Make the chickens some treats.
Done. With two days to spare!

Organize the basement.
I did this. And then it creeped back to cluttered, and now it’s a mess again. I think when we put away the Christmas decorations, I’ll take that opportunity to work on it again. We’ve given over the larger room to Mark’s work space, so I need to make the best use possible of the remaining space. Definitely an ongoing challenge.