October 31, 2011

Bubble Bubble

I have a cooking hangover. 

I spent yesterday (after a quick trip to the gym for some preemptive calorie burning) scouring four stores to pick up everything I needed...
(this represents only about a third of my purchases)
... and in the kitchen. I spent at least seven hours chopping and dipping and stirring and simmering and whipping and washing my one spatula about 17,000 times. 

Every surface was crowded with cookie sheets and mixing bowls, and my very loyal friend had to get a little creative.

He watched diligently from his vantage point for quite a while...

but eventually the need to nap got the better of him.

The fruits of this labor? 
20 pretty darn adorable cake balls,

at least 10 not-so-adorable cake ball fails,

one yummy pot of chili,

a batch of pumpkin cream cheese muffins that managed to avoid the camera...

and one very full sink.
My night included just one emergency trip to the closest grocery store, as I learned that while milk chocolate chips melt as wonderfully as you could wish...

white chocolate chips are a whole different animal. They get chunky and sticky, they seize if you look at them too hard, and they are champions at sucking cake balls right off of their sticks.

And adding orange food coloring to the mix? Forget about it. It stayed beautiful long enough for me to take a picture...

and then hardened into a lumpy mess.
But somehow everything pulled together, and except for the 2 cake balls that slid down their sticks like Times Square on New Year's Eve, I loaded 20 cake balls and a plate full of still-warm muffins in the car this morning to deliver. 
The car that, upon starting, began to emit an ear-splitting, banshee-like shriek in an apparent display of Halloween spirit that, if you ask me, went a bit too far. Looks like a lucky someone will be visiting the mechanic tomorrow morning!

I guess you can't win 'em all, huh?




October 28, 2011

Friday Favorites: The Shin Splint Edition

Yesterday after work, I headed out for what should have been the perfect short run. The weather was ideal and the fall leaves are absolutely gorgeous right now. I was excited to head over to my favorite running neighborhood, because it had been over a week since I'd been there last, and I was looking forward to enjoying the trees and some super enthusiastic Halloween decorations. I was pumped up to be feeling good after a great race this weekend (that I really will write a recap for sometime) and 8.5 good miles on Wednesday evening. Finally, I was feeling great about getting in a little speedwork as I start gearing up for my next half marathon in (gulp) less than 20 days. Everything necessary to make for a fantastic run, no?
No. Sadly, not even close. As soon as I hit the pavement, I felt the now-familiar pain and tightness in my shins. This was normal and not-so-worrisome, as said pain has been present but bearable during the first mile or so of my recent runs, but then disappeared almost completely as my legs warmed up. So yesterday I kept going without much concern, waiting for the magical moment when things started to feel good.... but that moment never came. By mile 2, I couldn't keep it up and slowed to a walk. Several times I tried to speed back up, but after 50 yards was forced to walk again, and by the time I made it back to my apartment even walking was a challenge. I was in more pain than I had felt in a long time -- even worse than a few weeks ago, when all of this forced me to take several days off.
To say that I was depressed by the time those agonizing 3-ish miles were over would be a dramatic understatement. I was angry that I was wasting such a perfect day on walking, knowing that I could be enjoying a beautiful run. I was terrified about what this meant for the next few weeks leading up to my half -- what about the long run I had planned for this weekend? What about the mileage buildup that I need to do now so that I can taper? Even though my unique backwards taper (aka no taper at all) worked fine for a 10k, there's no way such terrible training methods would serve me well for what is still a rather long race to me. And the worst question of all: what if all of this horribleness wasn't better by the time of the race? Could I make it through 13.1 miles of pain? Would I be able to live with myself if I couldn't run the race? Needless to say, my head was not in a good place when I finally slammed through the front door last night.
After some serious icing, a dose of advil, and a heart-to-heart with my training calendar, I felt a little better. Unfortunately, I know that the only way to get rid of this awful pain is to rest my legs and let them heal. As impossible as it is mentally, I know that if I don't take the next few days off, there is no way that I will be able to even walk 13 miles on Nov. 13th. So my plan for the weekend includes postponing the long run (hopefully until mid-week next week) lots more ice, lots more advil, quality time with the elliptical, and (perhaps most importantly) trying not to let myself go insane.
So in a desperate attempt to infuse some positive into my dangerously discouraged life right now, here are a few of the things that I'm counting on to keep me going this weekend:

Oh. my. goodness. When I read about these in an article about how bad they are for you, I couldn't believe I that I had let such an incredible looking fall treat slip by in my fervent-love-of-all-things-pumpkin. In the few minutes it took me to inhale my first one, I fell in love. My plans tonight include another one of these, in an attempt to lift my spirits out of shin-splint hell. What's that you say? High calorie desserts paired with days of no running might be problematic? Shhh... didn't you know pumpkin is a vegetable??

As if ice cream wasn't enough, I'm also planning to spend the hours I won't be running this weekend baking instead. I will be attempting to recreate some of the adorable creations above for our office Halloween party on Monday, and my list also includes pumpkin muffins and my favorite sweet-potato-meets-apple-crisp recipe. This may prove to be a dangerous weekend for my scale.

Since I'll be spending lots of time on the couch this weekend while my legs swim in bags of frozen peas, I'm lucky to have this little app to keep me busy. Also, I've been stuck on one level of the Halloween Angry Birds for three days, so there's that.

Although none of these fuzzy phone pics do it any justice, this week has been absolutely spectacular: the leaves are peaking, the sunsets have been incredible, and I've been taking the scenic route as much as possible. On a whim Monday night, I took a back road on my way home and turned into the parking lot of an old church where Dan and I used to park and watch the sunset back when we were first dating. I got there just as the sun slid below the mountains, and was rewarded with an amazing light show (viewed through just a few tears for my absent husband... I missed him more than ever that night, I think).

And finally... the best for last. Over the weekend, I was a lucky duck and received a super early birthday present from the hubs -- something I had been positively yearning for over the past year. Since I have absolutely no self-restraint (hey, the name was on the box, so there was no way I could just let it sit there for a month), I have been enjoying loving obsessed with this baby for the past week:
Ahhhh... truly everything I dreamed of. I am currently loving the pumpkin spice and cafe mocha... neither of which taste like plastic. Amazing.
So despite the fact that it looks like another loooong few days of no running, I am certainly lucky to have these joys in my life. Hopefully I'll be back on the road before too long, my recovery powered by ice cream, cake balls, and an insane amount of coffee. 
Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!



October 26, 2011

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday

[look at all those things crossed off!]

[not thrilled with the pace, but the last 3-4 miles were pretty dark, so I had to concentrate
pretty hard to stay on my feet]


one extremely clean bedroom and three loads of laundry folded and put away

a seriously productive day... and a seriously tired girl. Is it Friday yet?


October 25, 2011

Things You Learn

When life gets overwhelming, it's easier to rush blindly through the day, checking off tasks, getting things done, firing on autopilot. If you don't take the time to slow down, you find you can avoid all the messy emotions that make things difficult, brushing past the loneliness and worry and dread in a focused effort just to get through another 24 hours. Days once anticipated for their possibilities, now reduced to a string of responsibility: work, run, shower, sit at the hospital, stop by the store, eat whatever is in the front of the fridge. And somewhere in between, you sleep. When there are too many things to do than fit easily into the daylight, you stay up as long as it takes, visiting the treadmill in the middle of the night, answering emails after that. When days are empty, you fill them with naps. But first, you turn on a movie to occupy those last few moments, so thoughts won't have the opportunity to crowd in and delay the blissful silence of sleep. 
After a while, you get to be really efficient in denial, finding that each time someone asks, (on the rare occasion that the question is not "How is someone-close-to-you?" but "How are you?") the "fine" sounds a little more convincing. And even though you're not sure how you could be, there are moments when you believe that you are. If you can just keep your head down, do what needs to be done, and outpace the shadows that are constantly at your heels, maybe one morning you'll wake up to find everything fixed. Surely those flashes of pain that reach up out of nowhere to trip you can't continue forever. They wouldn't make all those promises about a light at the end of the tunnel if there wasn't really an end, much less a light.
So days become weeks and life blurs by, until without warning something unexpected makes you smile, and the movement feels foreign. You think back and try hard to remember the last time you laughed without it being forced, how long it's been since something got past that sturdy little wall you've so painstakingly built. That wall that you suddenly realize keeps out the good just as effectively as the bad. And before you know it, you are choked with laughter over something that is not even remotely funny, just because it feels raw and honest and right.
Then inevitably you encounter a few hours for which nothing is planned and nothing is required, and you get a little nervous. But you take a chance and ask yourself, for the first time in a long time, "What would I like to do?" And whether the answer is get out and just drive, clean out the closet, play some great music and dance around with the cat, or sink into a warm bath, you don't question it... you just do. You stop for ice cream and you run in the rain, you buy a candle that smells like fall and you take it home and light it, taking time to notice how it warms the room with a glow that is at once thrilling and comforting. 
At night, you turn off the TV, turn off the light, and lie there. In the few minutes before sleep comes, you finally have no choice but to be honest with yourself. Honest that things aren't okay, honest that you're not okay. Honest that it hurts, and that it's probably going to get worse before it gets better. Honest that you have no choice but to hang in there, to keep taking one day after another, refuse to let the stress snowball and be buried in that avalanche.
But with this comes another kind of honesty: that wall has got to come down. As carefully constructed and steadily reinforced as once seemed necessary, it has now become more obstacle than shelter. Despite the best of intentions, your fortifications block the rain and the wind and the sun and the warmth alike, shutting out not only bears but butterflies as well. And as you are reminded, in the brilliance of a fall sunset, the soft fur of a snuggling cat, the thrill of a perfect run: even the smallest bit of good can outshine any amount of overhanging darkness. It will always be worth a few tears to remember how to smile.


October 24, 2011

The Backwards Taper (Also: Why Blogger and I Are Not Speaking)

Ed: This post was written, published, and subsequently eaten by Blogger on Friday between the hours of 4 and 7. Thankfully, the text was still living in the depths of my computer at work, so I'm trying this again. Sorry for the delay!

Tomorrow morning I will be up before the sunrise, grumbling as I rifle through my closet, searching for a pair of socks that actually match, sleepily pulling on layers to prepare for both frigid and sweaty (possibly at the same time), and hopefully stumbling out the door just in time to make it to the starting line. The fact that the sun is scheduled to come up at the exact same minute the gun goes off is less than thrilling. The fact that it is supposed to be 45° at that minute is downright depressing. My only consolation right now is that it is only a 10k, so barring any catastrophe, by 8:30 I'll be snuggled back up in my sweats and my biggest concern will be french toast vs. hash browns for breakfast (these are important decisions, people).
Even though this is a short race and I am fairly confident that I could make it 6.2 miles even in pretty awful conditions (Dear Racing Gods: That was not an invitation for rain, wind, or snow. Thanks for understanding.), I can't help but feel like I've done everything exactly wrong when training for this race. I have, however, discovered a foolproof way to avoid the "taper crazies" going into a race: get them out of the way early.
Last week, I struggled through several long days of no running (and all the mental anguish that comes with that) as I waited patiently begrudgingly for my shins to get their act together. I felt sluggish and guilty for most of the week, uttered a few choice words every time I walked down a flight of stairs and felt the pain in my legs reappear, and lay awake each night positive that the unanticipated break would ruin any chance at a decent race tomorrow. No amount of cross training lifted my spirits. I was cranky, stressed, and overly tired. All the horrible parts of a taper.... but no race to make it all worthwhile. Yuck.
By last Saturday, I was so determined to get in a few miles that I think I would have gotten out there even if my legs had been literally on fire. Thankfully, the pain was much better (though still not gone), and I declared myself officially cured. Looking back, I'm not convinced that I was completely healed (or that I am even now), but I wasn't having to stop every half mile to rub my shins and try not to cry, so I was happy. The plan for this week was short but consistent mileage to build my speed back up. Saturday and Sunday I forced myself to slow down, but the rest of the week I've been pushing the pace and fighting the voice in my head that continues to insist that I am exhausted. Which I am. But when you waste your taper two weeks before the race, you don't really have time to be exhausted.
I did give myself today off, so hopefully my legs will be at least a little rested by the time I hit that starting line tomorrow morning. I have a feeling that a lot of the other runners in this particular race are going to be serious and fast, so I'm hoping that their speed will push me a bit... although not too much because I'd rather not die halfway through. I do a lot of training runs around this distance but have never raced a 10k before, so I'm not totally sure what to expect and how to plan on pacing. Negative splitting is always a nice goal, but I'm not typically very good at that. If all else fails, I just want to be able to look back (over french toast... or hash browns?) and know that I ran the best race I could, despite pain and exhaustion and weird training schedules. Who knows? Maybe I'll surprise myself and have a great race... in which case you'll find me in line at the patent office on Monday, trademarking the backwards taper training method. 



October 17, 2011

Ah Monday... We Meet Again

It's a Monday. Monday's aren't generally good for much. Or maybe it's that I'm not generally good for much on a Monday. Yep, I think that's more accurate. Bullet points seems to be all I can muster today. If you're looking for something weighty or inspirational... keep looking. Sorry about that.
 -- Apparently today is Eminem's birthday. I was never much of a fan, but songs like this take me right back to middle school. Why am I sharing? Because he is turning 39 today. That's just one year shy of the big 4-0, folks. Does that frighten anyone else?
 -- I just started out this list with a controversial, offensive, and possibly downright crazy white rapper. If you are still reading, I salute you -- it can only get better from here.
 -- This weekend, I was a complete waste of space. The only time I left the apartment was to run, and otherwise Toby and I took our job of holding down the couch quite seriously. I read an entire book and started another, watched this movie (which was pretty good but left me exhausted), and took several naps. It was glorious.
for best results, only attempt cat-naps under the watchful eye of a certified feline
 -- The book I read has gotten mixed reviews, but I thought it was pretty fantastic. I saw a few of the twists coming, but surprisingly that only made me want to keep reading. Definitely a good quick read.
 -- After running only a very painful half mile between last Monday and Saturday, I finally made it out for some decent mileage this weekend. My legs aren't back to 100%, but they are about a billion times better than last weekend, thank goodness. I'm forcing myself to take things slowly for now, but couldn't help feeling encouraged when my pace kept creeping faster yesterday. This painful little hiatus has left me a little nervous about the 10k I'm running this Saturday... and the fact that my second half-marathon is less than a month away. I have quite a bit of work to do in the next few weeks.
 -- My stomach has officially found its soulmate: the rustic sourdough bread from Whole Foods. I may or may not have made an entire meal out of several slices this weekend. But certainly not twice. Nope, not a chance.
 -- I am about to keel over with the effort it is taking not to buy myself a Keurig. The lovely (and expensive) coffeemaker I gave Dan for Christmas is now celebrating its 10th month of coffee that tastes like melted plastic, and I. have. had. enough. A few nights ago, I stopped at a gas station on the way home to get a cup of coffee just so I didn't have to drink sludge. My will-power on this one is truly circling the drain.
 -- And just because it's always nice to end on a good note, I leave you with these two crazy/amazing stories: the lady who ran Chicago at 39 weeks pregnant, and the man who finished the Toronto Marathon this weekend at 100 years old.



October 14, 2011

Friday Favorites: Fall Things

Ahhh... nothing better than a Friday afternoon in the fall. Today seems even sweeter after several days of miserable rain and long hours at the office this week, and I am so ready for a few days off to enjoy this gorgeous weather and take full advantage of a few seasonal activities. Here is how my weekend is shaping up:

I'm getting started on the indulgences early and enjoying some of this at my desk this afternoon:

... a pumpkin spice latte and some Halloween candy (those monsters and goblins had better get moving or it will all be gone by the time they ring my doorbell). Yum!
This evening, I am looking forward to cuddling up on the couch with these:

... a cozy blanket or six, another cup of coffee, this excellent book which I am having a hard time putting down, and that cute little face, who will alternate between napping on my feet and vying for a spot on my head.
Tomorrow morning, you will find me:
before settling in for some serious college football:
(just a small sampling of the teams I'll be rooting for tomorrow)
Finally, if I can manage to track it down, I'm hoping the weekend will include a little bit of waiting for the Great Pumpkin:
... perhaps while carving the one that I adopted yesterday:
Pedro (L -- Dan's masterpiece) and Pete (R -- my creation) from last year

What do you have planned this fall weekend? Hope that it is full of cool breezes, fun traditions, and lots of pumpkin and spice!



October 12, 2011

I Am A Mess Today

What a glorious Wednesday... for a duck. I'm usually pretty excited for rainy days, but today I am just not feeling it. I need a little sunshine to wake up my brain, which I'm pretty sure I left in bed this morning. Needless to say, this morning has been rough:
 -- I slept straight through my alarm this morning and was just lucky to wake up 15 minutes before I needed to leave. (For the record, I did make it to work on time. And I did shower. Small victories, people.) This is worrisome for two reasons: I went to bed early last night and got plenty of sleep, and this is the second time this has happened in as many weeks. If only I could program the cat to wake me up....
 -- Speaking of furball, he has apparently decided that the prime sleeping spot in our rather empty bed is exactly where I am. For the past few nights, moments after I have turned off the lights and snuggled up, I've felt the little pitter-patter of razor sharp claws climbing my back. After several minutes of back-and-forth in an effort to find just the right spot, he curls up right on top of me, just south of my chin, to stare creepily into my eyes until we both fall asleep. He's lucky that he's the only thing I have to cuddle with right now, otherwise his clammy little nose would find itself on the couch.
 -- I have not gone for a run in 42 hours and counting. To put this another way: I am dying. I started feeling some rather severe pain in my shins over the weekend, and by Monday I knew that I could no longer pretend that it wasn't happening. Whatever the cause, I am hoping that a few rest days will knock it out. Translation: I'm giving it until Friday and if it's not gone, I run through it. This all makes me a little nervous because I have a race in a week and a half that I'd really like to enjoy. Translation: I want an awesome PR. 
Dear legs, Get it in gear. Love, the rest of me.
 -- This morning I ate salad for breakfast. Groceries have become a bit of a precious commodity around these parts, and all I was able to salvage from the ruins of my refrigerator this morning was last night's leftover salad. So when I got hungry at 10:00 this morning, my options were a little limited. Now it's lunchtime, and all I want is a cup of coffee big enough to swim in. My brain hurts.
 -- When I got to work this morning, I found that Pandora had been playing on my computer (through headphones, thank goodness) all night. I am still in mourning over all the great songs I've missed.
 -- Have I mentioned lately that I haven't seen my husband in 80 days? Enough said.
So yes, I am a certifiable mess this morning. Luckily, things are looking up...
 -- My mom and I have a hot yoga date this evening (hot date, not hot yoga.) I haven't taken a class since college and I am super excited to try out a new studio and get back into it. Fingers crossed that I'll be able to silence my thought for long enough to really enjoy it.
 -- My sweet hubby always seems to know when I desperately need a smile: he sent not one, but two gorgeous flower arrangements to me today. I have no clue why he decided that one was not enough, but I am not exactly complaining.
(or something equally cheesy)
Here's to making it through today!


October 10, 2011

(Mostly) Silent Sundays

What's that? It's not Sunday? Well..... just work with me here. These pictures were taken on Sunday, so I think that counts.

My mom and I headed out yesterday to do a little wedding venue shopping! After some very serious preparations (ie brunch and a beer from my favorite brewery), we headed for vineyard #1 and enjoyed a fantastic glass of wine with this gorgeous view...

Then we headed to vineyard #2...
... and somewhere between the incredible petit verdot cupcakes and the adorable atmosphere, I fell in love. They have a gorgeous view of the mountains, the perfect amount of space (plus a "bridal suite" loft), and excellent wine.
If you need me this week, I'll be daydreaming....


October 7, 2011


Somehow, the past six days, spent crammed into a tiny hospital room with a constant rotation of nurses, PCAs, students, family members, friends, and the occasional crazy food services worker, have left me slightly less than energized. Somewhere under the cover of beeping IVs and whirring blood pressure cuffs, or along the lengthy trip between parking garage and top floor, far corner, or possibly while I was trying desperately not to pass out at every mention of needles, my sanity executed a perfect "ditch-and-run." And despite the fact that my dad is finally home and resting, I am still left searching for it, checking under the rather large stacks of work on my desk, peering into the precariously balanced sink full of dishes, and poking around the dusty corners of this neglected blog. I've been trying desperately to lure it back with long runs and generous amounts of coffee, and I'm hoping that it has the good sense to return home at some point during this long-anticipated three-day weekend... we will see.
It has certainly been a trying week, but thankfully, we have all somehow limped across the finish line. Some of us are a bit worse for the wear, but we're all still pushing forward, thrilled to have made it through this first stretch, and trying not to think to hard about the second starting line, looming in the distance. Luckily, my dad will have the rest of the month to recover before heading back in for round two.
Thanks for bearing with me as I attempt to get back to blogging as quickly as my sleepy little brain will allow. And just in case your weekend needs a little happy...

... we've got you covered.



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