Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Playing Chopped in the Kitchen

Hi Crushers!

As you know, I'm in love with the Food Network. One of my favorite shows is "Chopped". I could watch this all the time. I am always amazed at how the chefs on this show problem solve. "This is too sweet; it needs something bitter." "We'll grill this to bring out the smokey flavors." "Let's make a sauce from candy we've never heard of!" It's amazing.

On Sunday night, I looked in my fridge and realized I had some brussel sprouts that needed to be used up. Time for a chopped challenge right in my own kitchen! What to do with brussel sprouts that will keep the integrity of the vegetable and yet use them in a new and interesting way. Challenge accepted!

OK, so I think that brussel sprouts are less "sprout" and more "baby cabbage looking veggie". What do you make with cabbage? Hint: we were having pulled pork sandwiches for dinner. What's a great side for this BBQ sandwich? Coleslaw!

Now, brussel sprouts can be kind of bitter, so I decided to haul out my food processor and add some sweeter veggies to balance the brussel sprouts. I [very carefully] put the slicing blade on the food processor and started tossing in carrots, onion and green peppers. When I made the dressing, I took care to think of what would be tangy, but not over-powering. There are staples like sour cream, vinegar, pepper and such, but how about some mustard? Mix, taste and be prepared to start over!

Overall, it turned out great. The only thing is that we have A LOT of coleslaw. Fortunately, it's a pretty versatile side dish and it's got tons of vitamins and nutrients. I used the "low fat" kind of mayo and sour cream, so it's not even that bad for you. So good...
Colorful, tasty and good for you! Trifecta of an awesome side dish.

Brussel Sprout Coleslaw
1 lb. Brussel sprouts, washed and trimmed
1 1/2 medium green pepper, unseeded
4 medium-large carrots, peeled
1/2 medium onion (I wish I had had green onions, but the chefs on Chopped have to use what's in their basket!)

Dressing ingredients:
2/3 cup sour cream (I used the low fat kind)
1/3 cup mayonnaise (I used Hellmann's low fat kind)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp pepper (or more if you really like it)

Gear you'll need: Either a food processor or a sharp knife for chopping, a LARGE bowl, measuring cups and spoons

Mix all of the dressing ingredients in the bowl (no need to make a separate bowl dirty). You could mix them in a different bowl so that you could measure out how much dressing you want, but trust me, this is just enough to coat everything without having a puddle of dressing.

Get your food processor ready to slice! Carefully assemble everything without cutting yourself (otherwise, please see my kitchen first aid post here). Make sure that you have cut your veggies into chunks that will fit in the feeder tube. Then turn it on and start loading the feeder tube with your veggies for slicing. With the carrots, I actually switched the blades to the grater one. It made really nice long strips of carrots.
Tip: If you don't have a food processor or mandolin, just take a large, sharp knife and start chopping up your veggies into small, long strips or just dice the onion finely. 
When it's all sliced, dump all of the veggies in the bowl with the dressing and mix. It's so easy! The carrots and green peppers are sweet enough balance the brussel sprouts and the lemon juice gives it a nice zing. I hope you enjoy this recipe!

Faith-filled Friday (review) and Freezer Prep

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways." (Haggai 1:7)

In the book of Haggai, God's people were always doing things and yet always feeling unfulfilled or discontent. Why? Because they put helping themselves before doing what God asked them to do: repair the Lord's house (church/temple). If they had given careful thought to what they were doing, they would have realized that they were disobeying God. It almost seems that they were like a little kid who does something they know to be naughty and therefore doesn't get all the pleasure out of the action despite getting his way.

I'm not saying that if you do something wrong, God punishes you. That's not where this is going. What I'm saying is that it's important that you examine what you're doing and why you're doing it. Are you giving careful thought to your actions?

I know that I always feel better if I take the time to do something right even if it means carving out extra time to do it when I just want to get going. So instead of being the little kid who whines, "let's go-oo...", why not take the time to do what you know to be right? 

On Friday night, Steve went out to dinner with his dad to a smelt fry fundraiser for the local Lion's Club. What is a smelt fry? Smelt are gross  small fish that you usually fry whole that seem to be an acquired taste. These fish are actually pretty good for you (until you fry them), and some people enjoy eating them. Since they are ridiculously under-fished, you can eat a lot of them without feeling bad. If you like to eat them, that is.

Anyway, since Steve, his dad and his brother were out enjoying their dinner, I went to the grocery store and for once I didn't over-buy! WHOO! In fact, I even made it to two grocery stores (one was having a sale on meat) and home in time so that I could go to the local garden store with my sister.

Since I bought more meat that we could possibly eat before it went bad in the fridge, I took what I learned from my freezer meal workshop and divided, seasoned, labeled and froze at least 10 meals worth (more if there are leftovers). Although I wanted to shove everything in the freezer and run back out the door to meet my sister at the store, I knew that if I just took extra time to prep food, I'd be in a better place later in the month when we need to make dinner.

It took me about 20 minutes start to finish and I still made it to the store's parking lot one car after my sister.

Virtual Running Date No. 7: It's OK to walk!

Less than 20 days until our half marathon! We're in the teens people! AH!

While we weren't able to get an runs in over 10 miles in the past few weeks, we did do an 8.5 mile run on Saturday. It was fantastic. Sort of...

I had to walk twice. TWICE!

If we were on a Virtual Running Date, I would tell you that I did not like it at all. While this doesn't seem like a big deal because 8 miles is a long way to go, it still is more than I wanted to walk. When I first had to walk it was because I was being a big baby and had to yell at myself about why you run:

  1. Because you can.
  2. Because someone told you "You can't."
  3. Because it feels good even on bad days.
  4. Because it's a great way to clear your mind, enjoy nature and get out there.
  5. Because it's a good prayer time.
  6. Because you're being healthy.
  7. Because one mile used to seem like a long way to go.
  8. Because sometimes you just need to get there faster.
  9. Because of that cool sound your feet make when they hit the pavement.
  10. Because you like how your clothes fit.
  11. Because you want to be a good example of healthy activity when you have a family.
  12. Because you want to be able to keep up with your future family (and your nephew who is so fast!).
  13. Because you like the workout clothes and cute shoes.
  14. Because of all the people who are amputees who can run despite challenges.
  15. Because of all the people in Boston who were hurt.
  16. Because you have a half marathon in less than 3 weeks.
  17. Because your husband is a mile ahead of you and you don't want him to think that you got lost.
  18. Because it's nice to "make a muscle" and actually see a muscle.
  19. Just because.
All of these and more ended with "Get moving girl!"

The second time I had to stop was simply because I had a rock in my shoe. Totally legit reason to take a breather. Walking is excellent exercise, too. Sometimes you need to stop and walk because your body is telling you that you need water or that a pain you're feeling is a warning. Please don't misunderstand me; walking is OK! I just wanted to keep running. 

How about you? What are the ways that you have to remind yourself to keep going? Write it in the comments!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Virtual Running No. 6: Flexibility

Good morning Crushers!

If I were running along side of you today, what we talk about? Would we talk about anything? Would we even be able to fit training for this half marathon into our busy schedules even though the race is *gasp* less than a month away?

As you have read in previous posts (here), Steve and I and thousands of other people are training to run the Cellcom half marathon on May 19. They send out a really great first-timer newsletter. Although I've run a half before, I'm still considering myself a newbie at this whole "running more than 5 miles at a time" thing. In a recent e-newsletter, they wrote about being flexible. You have to be flexible with your schedule to fit in training when you can. If you don't, it will stress you out and take over your life.

Another way that I've had to learn to be flexible is with this crazy weather we're having. Half the state got snow over the weekend, while the rest had either rain or just really creepy looking clouds. How are people supposed to handle this and do their practice long runs? I'm confused and so are my muscles. Have you ever experienced such crazy weather patterns?

In addition to the roller coaster weather, spring seems packed with more and more stuff to do and places to be. For instance, last weekend we were supposed to run 9 miles on Saturday. Well, I had an all-day practice for the Handbell Festival Concert (which rocked, er, rang), so that wasn't an option. Instead, we fit in what miles we could when we could. This week, we're going to tackle a lot more miles because we have the time to do them! WHOO!

If we were running together, I would hope that you also take the time to stretch at the end of your runs. I have found this to be tremendously helpful and I can touch my toes with ease. Steve, on the other hand, isn't much of a stretcher, but fortunately, he hasn't had any injuries! I feel pretty blessed that the worst we've experienced has been some shin splints and wind-burned faces.

The last thing I have time to share with you today is that I'm so proud of everyone in the running community who have just mentally wrapped their love around Boston. What an amazing outpouring for those injured by the explosions! Here are some of my favorite stories:

  1. My favorite running store is doing a run tonight where ALL of the proceeds are going to help.
  2. An Irish dance school has collected t-shirts to make quilts for the sister of the little boy killed in the blasts. She is an Irish dancer, but had to have a leg amputated. She will really be "wrapped in love".
  3. A local t-shirt company has been making "Boston Strong" t-shirts. How cool is that?
  4. The organizers of the Cellcom are planning a tribute. The race director of the Boston Marathon is the mentor of the Cellcom's race director. What a great link! And yes, I might cry at the beginning of the race. I'm a wimp.
If we were running together today, what would you tell me? Have you heard other great stories like the ones I mentioned? Are you facing running injuries? Let me know!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Faith-filled Friday (plus cookies!)

Good morning Crushers!

It's been a crazy week, hasn't it? So much sadness and destruction, but there was also a lot of amazing stories of perseverance, resiliency, and kindness in the face of tragedy and danger. As sad as the loss of lives in both Boston and West, TX and all around the world is, we know that there are amazing individuals who are ready to jump in and help. Of course there are many ways that you can help by giving blood, volunteering, making donations, etc., but you can also "pray continually" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Say prayers for those who have done great things and be thankful. Pray for the safety of others and peace in our world. You can even expand your look at 1 Thessalonians 5 to the verses around the prayer command to "16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." Hear that? Take time to rejoice in the great moments and give thanks! 

I would encourage you to take a look at the whole chapter that Paul wrote in his letter because it is a great reminder to be "children of the light" (verse 5), "encourage one another and build each other up" (verse 11) and "live in peace with each other" (verse 13). I always find this to be a great reminder to "keep it up" when days/weeks are hard to handle. I hope you find just as much encouragement in these words as I do.

You know what else is a great way to relieve stress? Bake cookies. Not only will it smell great, taste wonderful, but you know that if you just follow the instructions, everything will turn out. And sometimes, just having a batch of cookies turn out well makes my day turn around. Plus, you know, you get to eat them!

As I mentioned earlier this week, our local Women's Club's Spring Fashion Show was last night. I had to bake 3 dozen of a dessert to bring as a treat. All of the ladies of the club could be kitchen crushes. They are such wonderful cooks! Anyway, my mom suggested that I bring chocolate chip cookie bars since they're easy and everyone loves them. Instead of bars, I made them in my mini cupcake tin and they turned out great! The only crazy thing was that the recipe said it would make 3.5 dozen cookies. It turns out that it made 6 dozen cookies! What a wonderful surprise!

Chocolate Chip Bites
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (you can leave this out if you use salted butter)
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks - I zapped them in the microwave for about 12 seconds each to soften them)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg (best at room temperature)
2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips (or more if you like them extra chocolaty!)

Gear you'll need:
1 large bowl for mixing, wooden spoon, measuring cups, measuring spoons, mini muffin tin, cooking spray (optional) OR skip the wooden spoon and use a mixer like I did because I was doing this late at night and didn't want to waste time on mixing it myself. Yes, that's kind of a wimp move.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cream the butter and both kinds of sugar together until it's really smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Add in all of the dry ingredients and beat until well mixed. I know some people mix all the dry ingredients together in the beginning, but I don't understand why you'd one to get a separate bowl dirty. That's just more dishes to do at the end. Once you've got a great cookie dough, add the chocolate chips and beat until it's all well mixed.

Here is the dough before I pressed it down into the tin cups.
Although there is a TON of butter in this recipe, I still gave a light coating of cooking spray to my mini muffin tin because I REALLY did not want to burn these cookies or have them get stuck in the pan. Once that's done (or skipped), roll the dough into 1-inch balls and put them in the muffin tin cups. After you fill them all, squish the dough down so it fills the bottom of the cup.
Tip: If you're like me and don't want to pull out a ruler while baking (seriously, who does?), just crook/bend your pointer finger and hold the dough ball up to the first or second section of your finger. It's about an inch long. If you don't believe me, I dare you to go get a ruler. One part of your finger will be about an inch long.
Pop them in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove them from the oven and let them sit in the tin for about 5 minutes to cool. Transfer the chocolate chip bites to a cooling rack and then repeat until you've used up all the dough. My mini muffin tin makes 24 at a time, so I had to repeat this three times. Yikes! Fortunately, that meant there were plenty for the Fashion Show and for us to enjoy at home.

Cooling in the tin. 
Extras for snacking!

Thank you to everyone who came to the show, volunteered, modeled, and donated! I had a great time as the emcee and can't wait to see how much we raised!
"Hi! I'm Jen and I'd like to welcome you all..."
Honestly, Steve took this picture while I was practicing.
No one was there yet!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Be extra

Good morning crushers,

I'm sure you've all heard about the horrific bombings near the Boston Marathon's finish line. Just yesterday I shared how I excited I was that my friend Cam was running the race. FYI - he finished in 2hr 33min, which is about the same time that it takes me to run a half marathon. Fortunately, I can report that he and his wife are safe. They were well away from the finish when the explosions happened. Hopefully, he can still celebrate a little for his excellent race. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about all the people who were injured or killed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by this senseless act of hate.

Whenever there is tragedy like this, I'm reminded of two things: first, one of my favorite Bible passages:
Isaiah 40:31: [Those] who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. 
We've all had the feeling that we are so tired/weary/pooped that you just can't do one more thing or take one more step. It seems like there's so much bad news lately, that you mentally might not want to move forward either. However, we can't just throw our hands up and say, "This sucks. I'm done." We have to remember that there is good. There is hope. We can move forward with God's strength.

Second, I'm reminded of Mr. Rogers. Like most caring adults, he always believed that children were meant to grow to be the best versions of themselves and he encouraged that in everything he did. Also, there are a ton of Internet memes going around right now showing him reminding individuals to "look for the helpers" in any tragic situation. He knew that not only could you be extraordinary, but that there were people out there who were willing to be extraordinary in the face of danger and destruction.

Let's all take today to do something extra. Maybe you take an extra minute to listen to a child's day or an elderly person's wisdom. Maybe you decide that today would be a great day to go give blood. Maybe you hug someone extra long. Maybe you think twice about being annoyed at someone. Maybe you say extra prayers. Maybe you make a extra meal for someone. Maybe you lace up your shoes and run or walk an extra mile today. Whatever you do, thank you for taking the time and effort to be extra.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 5: Go Cam Go!

Good morning Crushers!

Today is the day of the 2013 Boston Marathon. I have a friend, who just happens to work at my favorite running store, who is running the Boston Marathon today. Last year, Cam didn't finish due to the heat. It was 80-something. Way to hot and humid to be running 26.2 miles. He's back this year to take on the course. In case you know someone running and want to check on their progress from afar, you can go to www.baa.org and type in the runner's name. It gives you updates every 5K. How cool is that?

New shoes!
It we were running together today, I would love to tell you that someone is coming to see our house today! As I mentioned before, we are trying to sell our house. It's a buyer's market, so we're hoping someone wants to buy ours so then we can get to be a buyer! While we wait, we have been going to a few open houses to just keep tabs on what's out there. Doesn't hurt, right?

If you've ever looked at homes, what do you look for? Obviously, I check out the kitchen. Does it have good flow, does it have enough counter space? Does it have room for our small appliances? Can we have dinner parties? Besides that, I love imagining how we would grow as a family in the space. Does it have enough bedrooms? Does it have a nice yard? Could we grow our own herbs and veggies? Does the basement have a funky smell? Could these people decorate my future home since they did such a great job on this one? SO MUCH TO LOOK AT!

If we were running together, I would also tell you that it's our local Women's Club's Spring Fashion Show this week. We have a wonderful local boutique that picks out clothes to highlight. The ladies of the club supply some of the models (my sister is one), food, beverages and raffle items. It's a great time, but I'll be really glad when it's over! Now, I'm in charge of making 3 dozen of some sort of dessert. What should I make? Lemon bars? Something fancier? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Hope you are all enjoying sunny (or at least warm) weather! It is still overcast and rainy here in Wisconsin. At least it's not snow!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Faith-filled Friday (plus French Food)

Good morning crushers,

I don't know about where you live, but we have had nothing but rain since Monday. Some people have snow, some are having tornadoes and some are just soggy like southeastern Wisconsin. I'm hoping that all these April Showers are going to bring some gorgeous May Flowers!
Fortunately, we do have one day that's only "Mostly Cloudy" that's coming up, and that's Saturday. That also happens to be the day of Gary's Gallop 5K, which is my alma mater's 5K. I've run it every year for the past 4 years. This year will be #5! I love my GG t-shirts so much because they're really comfy and I was even wearing one when we got engaged! (Please ignore the slightly blinded/crazed look. It was dark outside on the trail and that flash is BRIGHT!) I'm hoping for a new PR. I have to beat 29 minutes!
This t-shirt is perfect for camping, lounging, running, getting engaged...
I have two favorite Bible verses that I lean on when I'm either trying to just keep going (half marathon or long runs) or trying to beat a time. The first one is actually on my Road ID as a reminder!
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. The will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint. Isaiah 40:31
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 
So no matter what is thrown at you, God is there whether it is rain, rain and more rain which can drain you emotionally or if it is a physical hardship, He's there. He's right there with you going every mile to keep you and sustain you. As Gary Allen sang, "Every storm runs out of rain." Every hardship has to end. The puddles will dry up. The sun will come out. Hang in there everyone!

Remember how I said that Steve and I tried a fancy French restaurant last week? It was so good. Everything is so fresh, flavorful and French. They have a HUGE pastry case of desserts filled with everything from macaroons to citron tarts to napoleons to chocolate mousse. Sometimes I just like staring at the pastry case. I had a delightful dish of Faisan et Haricots Verts (pheasant breast with green beans served over pappardelle pasta). The au jus had a rich thyme flavor and everything was tender and cooked perfectly!

Yes, my bright camera flash startled a few people in the dimly lit restaurant.
We shared a bowl of asparagus soup as a starter and it was amazing! It was creamy, bright green and had a hint of nutmeg. I would have never thought to put those flavors together. Delicious! Since asparagus is on sale at the grocery, I'm inspired to make some of my own soup. Here is the recipe that I'm going to try from Eating Well. I'll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Easter Foods: three recipes

Hello Crushers!

About two weeks ago (yipes), we had many Easter celebrations. First, we went to Steve's aunt's house for the big family party on Saturday. It was fun to chat with all the cousins and eat lots of delicious food! At the request of Steve, I made baked mac n' cheese as one of the side dishes. Everyone must have enjoyed it because I went home with an empty pan! I base my version of the dish on my kitchen crush, Paula Deen's recipe for "The Lady's Cheesy Mac Recipe" with a few changes (scroll down to see how I made it).

Happy Easter Salad!
On Sunday (actual Easter), we went to my aunt's house for Easter dinner. For the past few years, I've hosted Easter. First it was at my apartment and then at our house. Since we're trying to sell our house and keep it as clean and tidy as possible for people who want to see it, my aunt offered to use her house, which is also wheel chair accessible for Grandma. My mom was going to make the ham and green bean casserole, but she had an AWFUL cold, so she asked if I would make it. She still made the family-secret-recipe for schaum torte, though. Some day that recipe will be mine!!!

Ok, so back to the food. I offered to make scalloped potatoes and a fresh green salad, and ended up making the baked ham (glaze recipe here) and finishing the green bean casserole. For the green beans, just use the ultimate recipe on the Campbell's Soup website. So good!

Here are the recipes that I used for the weekend of delicious Easter food:

Baked Mac n' Cheese
(Based on The Lady's Cheesy Mac)
4-5 cups cooked elbow macaroni, drained (2-3 cups dry)
2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese, separate the 2 cups from the 1/2 cup
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup sour cream
4 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1 cup skim milk
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp ground mustard
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Gear you'll need: large pot for boiling noodles, strainer/colander, 13 x 9 pan or another baking dish that will hold about the same size, a large bowl, cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

While the macaroni noodles are cooking, mix the eggs, sour cream (add more or less depending on how creamy you want it), milk, mustard and pepper in a large bowl.

For some reason, I only took one picture of the whole Mac n' Cheese process.
Here is what all those ingredients look like before I mixed them.
Cook the macaroni noodles to al dente (just done) and drain them in the strainer. Return them back to the pot (why make another bowl dirty?) and while they're still hot add in 2 cups of the shredded cheese and mix. I usually add the butter at this point so nothing sticks to the pot. When the cheese has melted, pour in the egg  mixture and stir until everything is well coated. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of your baking dish with the cooking spray. Pour everything you just stirred into the baking dish and bake for 35-40 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, top the dish with the extra cheese and sprinkle the bread crumbs over the whole thing.

Serve and enjoy!

Scalloped Potatoes
8 cups of thinly sliced potatoes (I used about 8 red skinned potatoes, which is about 2-3 pounds)
1 cup diced onions (I used a red onion because I had it from the salad I made, but any kind is fine)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups milk
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
2-3 cloves of garlic, diced/crushed
1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, shredded
salt and pepper to taste

Gear you'll need: cooking spray, 13 x 9 baking dish, veggie slicer/mandolin, sauce pan, measuring cups and spoons

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Your kitchen will smell wonderful at this point, and you've just started!
In the sauce pan, heat the garlic and onions in the butter until they are soft and translucent. Add flour and stir until it's gooey. Add milk and cream all at once. Cook and stir over medium heat until it is thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and set aside while you get to the potatoes.
Be careful not to slice your fingers!
(The shadow is my arm)
Spray a light layer of cooking spray or lightly grease the baking dish with butter. Slice half of the potatoes and layer them evenly in the baking dish. Pour half of the onion sauce over the potatoes. Repeat with the rest of the potatoes and sauce. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for another 40 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

All ready for the oven!
(Again, that's my arm's shadow)
Greek salad dressing:
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic salt or 1 clove of garlic crushed

Gear you'll need: measuring spoons and a jar or container with a lid that fits tightly
All of these veggies are so excited for the dressing!
Directions: Put all of the ingredients in a container and shake it like you mean it! Pour as little or as much over your salad as you would like. You can keep this in the fridge for up to 3 months, but I have a feeling you'll use it up well in advance.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 4: What a week!

Hi Crushers,

Last week was insane. Steve had spring break so we got a LOT done around the house, which made both of us a happy camper. I am be itching to buy flowers even more now! I must confess that a trip to the local garden center felt pretty good if the only things we bought were some organic weed repellent for the big family garden and a small garden flag. However, with snow in the forecast I almost want to tell all our bulb plants to stay down! Stop popping up because there might be snow!!! Exclamation points everywhere!!!

Anyway, I promise to share recipes this week. We have some fun meals planned, and I have to tell you about the Easter foods I made. And I have to tell you about this fancy French restaurant we tried. And I have to tell you about some freezer meals I'm planning to make with my sister and mom. And... so much more. I promise that this week will be back on track!

Speaking of tracks... We did not do the 10-miler that we had planned to do this weekend. Instead we had to sneak in runs between chores, rain and delicious French food. Instead of doing the one big long run, we did two shorter runs (one 3-miler and one 4-miler).

If we were on a virtual running date, I would tell you that we had fun family news with babies! We are expecting a niece and/or nephew on each side of the family. I can't wait to start quilting a blanket once we find out if the babies will be hims, hers or one of each. I wonder if I could run to the quilting store and back? Maybe I would need to run with a backpack on? Maybe I should just run, shower and then go shopping?

If we were on a virtual running date, I would also tell you that my foot is starting to really bug me on any runs past 6 miles. I have been incorporating the new yoga moves and staying extra hydrated and eating as healthy as can be when we have jelly beans in the house, but I think this is a shoe problem. Experts say that you should change out your shoes every 300-400 miles. I can't help but think, "Man, that is a lot of miles!" Because it is! Then I did looked at our half marathon training sheet and did the math. Since January, we've run about 140 miles. No wonder my shoes are giving out!
Tip: If you are starting to notice pain that isn't a normal part of taking your training/muscles/mind to the next level, your shoes may be wearing out. I checked the bottom of my shoes and the insides to see how much tread and cushioning is left. It's not pretty. For me, I can tell that I need to visit my favorite running store when I'm starting to feel shin splints and foot pain.
In case you're wondering how I figured out which shoe to wear since I have wonky feet due to childhood foot surgeries, my first clue was that the pair I bought when I first started running was a fluke. It was a good pair of Asics, but I bought it on clearance at Kohl's. The pair only last me about three 5K races before falling apart. Literally. I tried a few other cheap shoes, but they didn't last long either.

Since I got a coupon for Performance Running Outfitters when I did a boot camp and I figured this was a sport I was going to embrace for a long time, I might as well invest in some nice shoes. The knowledgeable staff had me run for a bit on a treadmill and actually videotaped how my foot hit the surface as I ran. It was very interesting. They recommended these lovely Saucony shoes. I've been running in this style for the past 5-6 years. My old pairs turn into the shoes I keep at my desk for walking during lunch breaks or I leave a pair up north for hiking. When I can, I recycle or donate them too.

How about you? How are your fitness goals going? Do you have any recommendations for how to find great gear?