Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Explosive Eighteen

Explosive Eighteen is the 18th (duh) book in the Stephanie Plum mystery series by Janet Evanovich. If you’ve not read the first 17, Stephanie is a bounty hunter working for her cousin’s bail bonding agency. She is often caught in a love triangle with two men, Morelli and Ranger. She also often finds herself caught in unlucky situations with bad guys and the people who have skipped out on their hearings.
In Explosive Eighteen, she’s gotten herself in a real pickle. A passenger next to her on a plane ride has inadvertently given her a photograph of an unknown man that many people, including the FBI, the fake FBI, a crazy man, and another lady, are after. Stephanie, however, threw the photo away and is having trouble convincing them of that fact. Additionally, she’s having trouble with the men in her life and catching her bad guys too.
Does this sound familiar to you? It should if you’ve read any of the previous books in this series. They are quite formulaic. I’m not sure why I keep up with Ms. Plum. The earlier books were very entertaining, often funny, and kept me guessing. Lately, it seems like they’re just being cranked out for the sake of it. Also, the print is so large and the book so brief that this took me under 3 hours to finish. Not a real heavy hitter here. I say even if you’ve been a Plum fan, you can skip this one. And I don’t think I’ll be waiting on hold for the 19th book whenever that is released.

Rating: * 1/2


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Vacation -- All I Ever Wanted

I am ecstatic! John and I have not one but two vacations booked for this year. I have a vacationing rule. I like to have the next one booked by the time I take the first one. Mission accomplished! In May, we will be setting off for some fun in the Florida sun. In July, we head to Vermont for a family reunion that I haven’t been to in about 8 years and John’s never attended. He better start learning the family tree now, I think. Two very different locations but equal relaxation.
Is there anything better than a trip? I feel badly for those lacking the travel bug. Exploring new places and returning to old spots always provides a great life experience. Within the Florida trip, we are also going to Key West for a couple days. This is very exciting but I need some Key West tips. Place to stay, restaurants not to miss, etc. If you’ve been, help me out! Sometimes I think planning the trip can be just as much fun as taking the actual trip. Well, maybe not just as much but, pretty darn close!
Sadie will not be vacationing with us but she is one lucky girl all the same. She gets to spend both trips with her grandma. Daily walks and a lot less crate time make Sadie a happy camper.

Speaking of Sadie……

This is what she did while I was catching up on some blog reading over the weekend. This is just her head on the keyboard. When I stopped typing to take a sip of coffee, she threw her entire body over it. OK, I get the hint. Close the laptop and play with you instead. Coming in loud and clear.

Have a super fantastic day!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I was so excited to come back to Mr. Potter after a brief hiatus. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the 5th book in the popular series by J.K. Rowling. Harry has just entered his 5th year at Hogwart's which means he and all the students are concerned with passing their O.W.L. (Ordinary Wizarding Level) exams. Unfortuantely, Harry has been haunted by strange dreams again, Dementors visited him over the summer, and a new Ministry employee turned Professor is out to cause trouble for everyone. Very few believe Harry that Voldemort has returned causing much grief to Harry and his friends. Poor Harry.

That, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg and I feel I've said too much already. I really liked this one! It's true, they get better and better. Unfortunately, I have 4 more books in line before I can move onto #6. If I haven't inspired you to start this series, PLEASE hear me pleas. You won't be sorry.

Rating: * * * *

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Recipe Reblog #7

OK, I have to come clean. This recipe is not new to me. I didn't cook a new recipe this week. I think that's the first time in 59 weeks. But, I did make this recipe which I have made many times before. I love it so much I wanted to share it with you. Aren't you lucky? If you are a blue cheese lover, specifically gorgonzola, you will LOVE this recipe. If blue cheese isn't your jam, you stink like Taleggio. Just kidding. A lot of people are scared of blue cheese. Don't be! It's so tasty. At least try it first before you dismiss a whole delicious sector du fromage.

Gorgonzola and Walnut Spaghetti: It's a Rachael Ray recipe so it's fast and easy. I mean really easy. I substituted fat free half and half for the heavy cream, my new favorite healthifying step, and it didn't suffer at all. This is a great alternative to a boring alfredo or red sauce. It feels fancy but it's not. Make it for a date night in and crack a bottle of red to go alongside. Mangia!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Injury Report

When I listed my January miles a few weeks back, I mentioned I've been having some pain in my right glute and hamstring. I went to Dr. Google and he told me it was piriformis syndrome that affects your sciatic nerve. All sources said this was manageable with specific stretches and exercises. I did these stretches and exercises religiously to no avail. It wasn't really getting better at all. I had two meltdowns about how I wasn't able to run without pain. TWO! Who am I? I never pegged myself as a person who would be upset about not being able to run.

So, I finally went to see a real doctor. He felt around my butt a bit and then made me bend over and touch my toes about 6 inches from his face while feeling my hamstring. Awkward! Good thing I wasn't wearing a skirt. He proclaimed that it was probably a pulled muscle and that I should just drug myself up prior to running. 2 Aleve an hour before I run for a couple weeks, then come back. If it doesn't work, physical therapy.

I tried this tactic over the weekend except I think I took it too far in advance. I took it 2 hours ahead and then got sidetracked and let John have the treadmill before me. (I'm so nice.) I was able to do 4 miles in 36:38 with negative splits. Good, not great. The pain didn't really show up until the last half mile and that one I ran an 8:50. That's a big improvement. I was really proud of myself until I looked at the run I had logged the previous Sunday sans Aleve and it was 4 miles in 36:36. What the what?! I remember having more pain though so I guess it worked? I'll keep trying this method until early March when I go for my follow up.
With just under a week left in February, it's safe to assume I won't be getting in 50 miles this month. But, I figured that if I ran the January totals for 10 months, I could still hit 500. So, for now, it's okay that February didn't bring as many miles to me as I would have liked.

The doctor is also making me have blood work done tomorrow because I've never had it done before (yes, even though I'm 28). He said everyone should have their cholesterol and other things checked before they're 30. I am super nervous about this. Plus, I can't eat breakfast before having it done either. I'm going to be famished. Luckily, the appointment is first thing in the morning. Wish me luck!

Have you suffered a running injury? What was it and what did you do to recover? Do I have anything to be nervous about while having my blood drawn?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spring-ter Beer

Unseasonably warm temps this winter here in Ohio mean that I'm in the mood for spring beers a lot sooner than normal. I love fall and Christmas-y beers but "winter" beers are kind of a snooze-fest. Spring is my jam. So fresh! I suppose one of these is actually a winter brew but I'm calling it a Spring-ter beer because it's bridging the beer gap from Christmas to spring. Make sense? Anyhoo........

Man, I love Instagram pics

Breckenridge Brewery can do no wrong with me. I love everything of theirs that I've ever tried. This is the Pandora's Bock that's in stores now for $9.99/6 pack. The website classifies the flavors in this as "caramel nut maltiness." I'd have to agree. I love the nutty flavors and the smoothness of it. If you're a bock style beer fan, give this one a try. I've now tried all their seasonal ales. Summerbright comes back next. Can't wait!

 Another good spring brew out right now is Sam Adams Alpine Spring. I'm sorry, I forgot to take a picture of this when I had it. This has some great citrusy flavors to it. A very bright lager. If you've got the winter blues, cheer yourself up with one of these.

And for my chocolate lovers out must try Sam's Chocolate Bock. This is available in the Winter Classics mixed 12-pack. But, I just discovered that my brand new fancy Kroger allows you to create your own 6 packs with all different varieties and this was one of the ones available. Yea! It's the perfect dessert beer. Chocolatey and rich, full of flavor. I'll be hoarding these for special occasions. It doesn't really fit the 'spring-ter' category but I thought it was worth mentioning.

What have you tried and loved lately? Let me know! I'm always looking for something new.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Purge-apalooza, and other musings

I am on a mission of a purging variety. Call it early spring cleaning because of the early spring temps we are having. I am clearing the decks around here. While I don't feel I am drowning in 'stuff', I know there are items I can get OTP (off the property, as my dad would say). I used to clean my closet, discover things I forgot about, and then leave them in said closet and promptly forget about them again. Now, I'm just going to get rid of those things I've forgotten about. If I haven't missed them in the last 6+ months, then I probably don't need them anymore. Purses, shoes, clothes, old cards, movies, CDs, kitchen wares.......nothing is safe!

I'm actually pretty good about cleaning things out every season and taking loads of donations to Goodwill. Side note: I went into Goodwill for the first time this past weekend. It was scary. I was hoping to find some furniture I could paint or re-purpose on the cheap. Big mistake. We were in there for about 90 seconds when it was clear I was on a fool's errand. I digress. The other day I found underwear hiding in the very back of the drawer from college. Uh, yeah......I graduated in 2005. I haven't been wearing this underwear because I didn't know it was there but frankly, if you have underwear that's older than 25% of your age, it's time to let it go. So watch out, Goodwill. You won't be getting my skanky old undies but you will be getting lots of other things I don't need anymore.

Let this be a lesson to you all. Purge now or risk finding old bloomers in 10 years. health news.......

I am newly obsessed with two things: greek yogurt and flax seed. I'm a little late to the Greek yogurt train. It is an amazing source of protein. If you can get past the thicker texture and find a flavor that you love (honey!) then you should give it a try. Don't give up if you don't like the first brand. There are lots out there. Chobani and Oikos are my faves. I think they are the creamiest one I've tried. The only problem with the flavored Greeks or the fruit mix-in ones is that added sugar. Most of these have anywhere between 15-20g of sugar added. Yikes! One day I hope to be brave enough to try the plain variety. All the protein, none of the sugar. For now, I could eat my weight in honey Greek yogurt......but it's not advised. You can even substitute plain for sour cream in some recipes. A great way to add protein to your meals. I told you I was on a protein kick.

 Ever since I've been on my separate mission to add more protein into my diet, I've been wondering what I could mix into my green monster smoothies besides protein powder because that is expensive. Eureka! Flax seed. It doesn't have crazy amounts of protein by any means but it does have something else. It is packed with heart healthy Omega-3's. According to WebMD, it also has lignans which can help protect against cancer. But first, my friends, you must grind up the flax. If you leave it in seed form, it will travel right through your body without retaining any of its super powers. You can do this in your blender. See?

Mmm, dirt.

Freeze after blending to make it last longer. If you're blending flax and you're wondering what that putrid aroma is. Why it's the flax of course! Don't worry. You can't taste it once it's blended in with the other smoothie ingredients. There are lots of green smoothie recipes out there but here's what John does. He's the blender master around here.

1 large handful of spinach leaves, at least a cup's worth
1 cup milk
1 frozen banana
1 Tbsp Peanut Butter or Honey, or both if you like it extra sweet
and now.......2 Tbsps flax meal!

Blend until combined and smooth. Serves 2

Your banana doesn't have to be frozen but it stands in for the ice. If you use a regular banana, you will have green juice, which is fine, but not quite as tasty. Dr. Oz loves to talk about his green juice. I have yet to try that recipe.

Have I inspired you to be healthy today? The other day I asked John, "when did I become such a health nut?" He didn't have an answer for me. It's probably gotten more prevalent as I try to bust through my plateau and finish this weight loss journey I embarked upon nearly 8 years ago. I try not to be too in your face with it because people who aren't health nutty like me don't appreciate my cringing at some of their dietary choices. And let's be honest, I can put down a cheeseburger with the best of them. Mmm, a cheeseburger sounds so good right now. See, I have my weaknesses too.

Have a happy, healthy, junk-purging Tuesday my friends!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Three Cups of Deceit

I'm sure you've all heard of the best selling non-fiction work by Greg Mortenson, Three Cups of Tea. I myself reviewed the story of how Mortenson built schools for remote Pakistan towns here. It's a fascinating story. According to Jon Krakauer, author of the popular Into Thin Air, a highly fabricated story is exactly what it was.

Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way was written by Krakauer after he started researching the Central Asia Institute, responsible for funding these schools and Mortenson's puppetry organization. Krakauer had donated a large amount of money to the work the CAI was doing because he believed in the end goal. He was also asked to introduce Mortenson at a fundraising event some years prior. When Krakauer starting asking questions of former CAI Board Members and employees, things were not adding up.

Turns out, many of the schools were standing empty and being referred to as ghost schools. They were built but the funds and training for teachers were not provided. Additionally, Mortenson would not account for any money spent during his travels. He also got CAI on the hook for paying for his press tours surrounding the books, even though they received no profits from the royalties.
A very brief (75 pages) but fascinating read. Millions around the world have been enamored with the story they read in Three Cups of Tea. To find out that much of it was completely untrue was disheartening. To learn that according to many, Mortenson has used CAI funds as his own personal bank was even more devastating. And I never even donated money! Imagine all those poor people who thought their pennies were helping educate students who never would have seen a school in their lifetime if it hadn't been for the CAI. If you read Three Cups of Tea, this is definitely worth picking up. If you didn't, then this won't make much sense.

Rating: * * * 1/2

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Recipe Reblog #6

I've never had Indian cuisine. Have you? It's one of those food genres that I've been scared of my whole cooking life. Someone told me I shouldn't be scared of it because it's not all spicy. I am a wuss when it comes to heat in my food. But, I took a chance and selected an easy recipe.
Chicken Tikka Masala: This one takes a lot of spices. Fair warning. However, they are all spices that you probably already have in your cabinet, which is a plus. Warning #2: the yogurt marinade for the chicken looks pretty nasty. Don't let that deter you, forge on. You are supposed to grill the chicken after marinating but I didn't feel like pulling out the George Foreman since our outdoor grill is stowed for winter. I also had concerns that the marinade on the Foreman would create quite a mess. Long story short, I cooked the chicken in a pan on the range. It worked out just fine. I made a few changes to this recipe. In the two separate sauces you are intended to add a total of 7 tsps of salt. SEVEN! I didn't add any and it didn't lose anything. Plenty of flavor. I also left out the jalapeno and I cut the cayenne in half but when I make this again, I'll only do a half teaspoon. It was hot enough! One last switch.....fat free half and half for the heavy cream. I have been doing this all over the place lately and I don't think the recipes suffer at all. I have yet to sub it in while baking but in savory sauces it's fine and a LOT healthier.

Final verdict: I'm no longer scared of Indian cuisine! This is a good gateway recipe. I may need some coaching on finding another one. Cook this one up!

P.S. Happy Birthday to my stepmom today!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cane River

I hadn't read any historical fiction in awhile so I figured I might as well branch out just a bit with this read. Cane River by Lalita Tademy was recommended on a book blog I read. Apparently, it was also an Oprah's Book Club choice back in the day, according to the cover picture that I found.

It begins in pre-Civil War Louisiana following one French Creole family along the Cane River for the next 100+ years from slavery through freedom. It spans four generations of strong, African American women as they try to survive and care for their children and each other. It begins with Elisabeth and her daughter, a teenager at the time, Suzette. Suzette gives birth to Philomene after having been raped by a white slave owner, a very sad and common occurence. Eventually, as Philomene becomes of age, she gives birth to Emily, who chooses to marry a white man as the laws change. Because all these women gave birth as teenagers, they're also all living and growing at the same time. In the beginning, they're trying to stay together as their owners' financial situations are in turmoil and some of their family are sold off to be slaves elsewhere. Later, children with white fathers try to gain their due respect and use their fairer skin to their advantage.

Cane River tells a lot of sadness as families are torn apart and disease sweeps their quarters. These four women remain strong and teach each other much about life and survival with the changing times. I enjoyed this read. Tademy did extensive research on her family's history and printed copies of documents she found from those times about the sale of slaves, letter written to one another and the few pictures they had. Tademy writes beautifully of her lineage giving formidable character to each voice. Give this a shot if you're looking for something different.

Rating: * * * 1/2

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Lover's Dictionary

A book about love on a day about love. Fitting, no? The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan was recommended on one of the book blogs I read, Lovely Little Shelf. I wasn't sure what to expect but it truly is a dictionary of sorts. Levithan writes of a relationship between two unnamed people using very specifically chosen words to describe what passed between them. There are vignettes to define each word that will make you laugh or make you sad. Very clever.

This was a small, fast read for logophiles. Even if you are not a lover of words, you might enjoy this all the same. It had a great flow to it which I really appreciated. Sorry about this short review for an even shorter book.

Rating: * * * *

      Happiest of Valentine's Days to you!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Heatless Curls

My hair is stick straight. Zero bend whatsoever. If I try really hard and use lots of product, it will hold the curl given from a curling iron but it does nothing on its own.

I followed the steps in this tutorial that I found on Pinterest and a number of blogs last year. I tried this when I first saw it last summer but my hair was too short. Your hair needs to be at least shoulder length or maybe slightly shorter. Mine currently just brushes the tops of my shoulders. You take a thin, stretchy headband and wear it across your forehead, sweatband style. Then you wrap sections of damp hair around it until it's all tucked up and you look like a Swedish  milk maid. (Halloween costume idea?) Then you say nighty night and sleep on it. This wasn't uncomfortable like I thought it would be, or maybe I was just tired.

When I took the stretchy headband out in the morning, I think John had to stifle laughter. You don't like it? I asked. Very 70's, not my style, he replied. Oh well. I wasn't about to redo my hair before work so I did what any normal girl would do, handed my phone to my husband and said, "take my picture."

Disco inferno!

Oh, I got curls all right. Big, bouncy ones the likes I've never seen on my head before. The problem is the top half of my head was all straight. I had to pin back the sides so it wouldn't look as foolish in the back.

Charlie's Angel

Later on, I went to a special event at my salon. My hair dresser was shocked that I had those curls without any heat. They relaxed throughout the day a bit but were still there by 6:00 pm. She thought I looked like Kitty from That 70's Show. You be the judge.

Despite mixed reviews, I would definitely do this again. I think the 70's-ness won't be as prevalent when my hair gets longer. And it would make for a cute, curly ponytail too. It was so easy and fast too. So this Halloween, Swedish milk maid or Kitty? Fingers crossed, I'll get invited to a costume party!

P.S. No fooling. On Thursday I had made a Whitney Houston station on Pandora and was totally rocking out to it. Then this weekend, she passes away. What timing. Growing up, we had her first album on cassette tape. Safe to say, I Wanna Dance With Somebody was one of my favorite songs when I was 5. RIP Whitney.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Recipe Reblog #5

I woke up Saturday morning, saw John had already eaten toast for breakfast and thought, "We can do better than that."

Low-fat Maple Cinnamon Muffins: I found this recipe with some quick Googling. I picked it over others because I happened to have all the ingredients on hand, also because they're supposed to be healthy. They probably are healthy if you substitute applesauce for oil. Applesauce was the one thing I didn't have, but I did have oil. Since I cut the recipe in half and made only 6 muffins, I took one for the calorie team and used the 2 Tbsps of oil anyway.

                                   Look at the height on these babies! Too much baking powder?

These were not really that sweet. No sugar at all, in fact. But, they tasted pretty good with a little butter on them. I'd try them again in a pinch.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Light Me Up!

While the light fixture above our dining room table wasn't terrible, I really wanted something that fit the design aesthetic of the room a little more. This is what was hanging there.

Sorry so dark
 I searched for a really long time. I mean months. Every time we were at a home improvement store of any kind, I made John look at every single fixture available hoping to find one that was beautiful and reasonably priced. My search also extending to hours and hours online. I love buying things online but with something like this, I really wanted to be able to see the fixture in person.

I really wanted an Edison light but John said no dice. However, I kept coming back time and again to the Carriage House Chandelier from Ballard Design. It comes in two sizes (small and large) and two colors (cream and oil rubbed bronze). The large is 14" whereas the small is only 8". This is $199 for the large online. Not terribly expensive although a little more than I wanted to spend because I'm cheap when it comes to house stuff. I probably shouldn't be but house fixtures are not as fun to buy as purses or jewelry.

Buy this online here

Luckily for me, we live about 30 minutes from a Ballard Design outlet. We ventured down there a couple weeks ago to see if we could find a light fixture that might work. There were actually a few others that I liked too like this one and also this one. The orb ended up being far too expensive and the Eldridge was too much like an Edison light which had already been nixed by my other half. So, after much discussion, we ended up with the Carriage House for $150, a full 25% less than they're still currently selling it for online. We won't talk about how 8 days later we received a 20% off coupon for the outlet. And we certainly won't talk about the rough language that came out of my mouth when I saw the flyer in the mail that day. It would have saved us $30! But, I'm not really over it.

Some assembly required

It took us an hour-ish to put together the fixture, take down the old one, have me whine about holding up the new fixture while John monkeyed around with the screws and re-attaching the electrical wires, and turn it out for the first time.


All lit up - love the shadow it casts on the ceiling

Extreme Close Up 

We were worried the light wouldn't be enough for the space. Max wattage on those bulbs is 60. Well, I'm here to tell you that there is PLENTY of light. So much, in fact, that we are going to install our first dimmer switch (and by we, I mean John) in the dining room. Yes, I could just buy a lower watt bulb but I like the ambiance of a dimmed light in a room that we only use when we have guests.

One more thing to cross off the list and we've already completed a house-related project in the first week of this month. That means I'm upholding my household resolution so far for 2012. And yes, we've been doing a better job of keeping things clean too. Thanks for asking!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Round these parts...

Lots happening here lately, folks. First and most importantly, Sadie......

Got a long overdue hair cut.

Look, Mom, I have eyes!

Well, it wasn't really overdue. I have been trimming the fur around her eyes so she can still see. John and I love her long hair though. She is one sassy lady. When she has short hair, she's kind of a jackass. She runs around much faster than when she has a fluffy mane weighing her down. We had to be very specific about not having her cut by Rick this time as last cut, he butchered her tail. She looks much better now and even got a heart bandanna that she can model during game night this weekend.

P.S. I played around with that second photo in Photoshop on my phone because Instagram kept shutting down inexplicably. Both are fuzzy, my apologies.

Speaking of phones......

John and I have finally finished suffering through AT&T for a 2 year contract and can switch back to Verizon. It's true what they say about AT&T, the service is TERRIBLE! My daily commute is mostly driven on a major interstate highway. I drop my call no fewer than 3 times, every day. It's extremely frustrating. I also drop calls in my kitchen...? So, now that our contract is up and Verizon sells the iphone, we are switching back. That's a done deal. However, I've heard rumor that the iphone 5 is to be released this summer. This puts us in a quandary. Do we switch now anyway and get the iphone 4S or, hedge our bets and go month to month on AT&T (Can you even do this?) in the hopes that the 5 will indeed come out this year? Are you in this same situation? What are you doing or what do you suggest? All opinions welcome!

And lastly, a confession. I am terrible at makeup. I feel like I never really learned how to put it on and am just flying by the seat of my pants every time I pull out the blush. I never think my make up looks particularly exciting so I tried to jazz it up a bit. Step outside of my comfort zone, if you will. 

I bought this multi color pack from Ulta before Christmas. Can you tell my eye shadow is dark green? Probably not. In person you really could and John said it looked fine. I'm on the fence though.

It was Shamrock from Ulta. See how dark?

Anyway, I guess it was a success. I won't get any better at applying it unless I keep trying, right?

OK, party people. That's all I got for today.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Litigators

The Litigators is the latest release from legal fiction juggernaut John Grisham. David Zinc works for Rogan Rothberg, a big time fancy law firm in Chicago. One day he decides he has had enough, walks out the doors and spends the day in a nearby bar. Eventually, he , quite inebriated, into the "boutique" law firm, Finley & Figg. Two ambulance chasers, Wally Figg and Oscar Finley agree to take David on their staff. They try to tack their firm and a few clients onto some mass tort litigation against an allegedly harmful drug, Krayoxx. Eventually, they find themselves as the sole litigators on the case when none of them have ever practiced this type of law before, or really set foot in a courtroom to argue anything other than divorce cases. What ensues is a fight for their lives and the lives of their clients against Varrick Labs, makers of Krayoxx.
I really like Grisham but I think he's lost a little bit of his mojo. Perhaps cranking out a book a year for the last 20 years will do that to an author. But, his more recent works don't seem to have the spark that some of his earlier ones did. Books like The Client, The Firm, A Time to Kill, Pelican Brief were all great storytelling, so great that they were made into movies. One of his books hasn't been made into a movie in many years. I will still continue to read Grisham but, I hope the spark returns. You can probably skip this one.

Rating: * * 1/2

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Recipe Reblog #4

John and I hosted a Winter White Wine Night with our wine club foursome last weekend. More on the wines next week because I think it would take too long for you to read. Sometimes you daydream when you come here, don't lie.

But, I did make a bunch of new recipes to pass along. Emily Post would say not to test out new recipes on guests. I say forget that! The women of the wine club plan the menus and we say, Bring on the new stuff!

Cheesy Beer Fondue: Sandra Lee, you get me. Cheese and beer in one, AND I get to dip stuff in it? Fondue, party of Ashley! This was a quick cheese fondue recipe that I made on the stove and then kept warm in my Little Dipper. By the way, a 2 lb brick of cheese shredded up is PLENTY. Be sure to measure the necessary 4 cups, or just buy it pre-shredded. We dipped sourdough, pumpernickel, green apples, carrots and celery.

Roasted Broccoli: I love broccoli. I really like it simple steamed but this could not have been easier. Broccoli, oil, some seasonings and pop it in the oven. Tastefully delicious!

Chicken Meatballs with Sweet Peanut Sauce: This recipe can be found in Rachael Ray's magazine, Everyday. I made these according to the recipe in the pan and then left them on the warming setting in my crockpot. I also doubled the sauce recipe, everything except the sugar. I wanted them a lot saucier and I figured they'd be sweet enough. I was right. This was the only actual recipe that was meant to pair with the wines. These winter whites went well with Thai cuisine.

Three Cheese Mini Macs: I am a sucker for mini foods, and mac & cheese. Put the two together and we have a winner! Sort of. You make the mac and cheese on the stove top first and then put it in mini muffin tins to crisp up a bit. I had really high hopes for these but it needed a lot more seasoning. The flavor was a tad on the bland side. Sorry, Food and Wine. I would make these again because they were super cute but add more spices and maybe more cheese for it to be creamier.

I also served a white pizza with sausage, pear, sage and gruyere cheese. It was amazingly savory. The perfect winter pizza that I dreamed up all by my lonesome.

And for dessert.......

Individual Peanut Butter Pie: A sad story behind a sweet dessert. Last year, the originator of this recipe lost her husband to a sudden heart attack at a very young age. Afterwards, the outpouring of support from the blogging community prompted her to ask everyone to make his favorite recipe to celebrate his life. This individual pie is an adaptation by My Baking Addiction. The original recipe is for a full pie but I'm a sucker for a mini dessert too and I got to use my trifle bowls. I tasted this filling and told John it was the best dessert I'd ever made. That is not an exaggeration. Please make this. For you and for Mikey.

I don't mean to end on a sad note. 6 new recipes in one night! I must have been on something when I planned that menu. It involved a ton of prep work the night before and the day of. Luckily my sous chef took off his apron and cleaned the whole house while I cooked away. I think everything turned out great! As always, good food, good wine, great friends!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


A couple Sundays ago I did not want to leave the house for anything. Both Friday night and Saturday were quite busy and I wanted some laziness. Unfortunately, I had to go buy deodorant at the drug store. I really tried to get out of making this trip as I stash emergenxy deodorant at my office. John says, "Just put it on when you get there tomorrow." Then I reminded him I had to work out still and might be a tad ripe. I digress. Because I had to put on real clothes, I decided to treat myself to some new nail polish.

This is Lilacism by essie. It's kind of a matte purple, although it looks slightly grey in the picture. It's decidedly purple in person. I dig it. I wanted a lavender shade because I don't have any lavender in my nail polish wardrobe. Lilac was close enough, I suppose. I've never used essie before being a strictly OPI girl. I rather liked the coverage of this though and I think I'll buy essie again in the future. Yes, it's winter times and this is a springy color. I make my own fashion rules.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January Running Round-up

Hello February!

First month of 2012 done and I'm really pleased with my running progress thus far. I am right on target for my 500 miles run in 2012 goal.

Here's how my workouts played out:

Jan 1: 3.25 mi in 30:00
Jan 3: 3.4 mi in 30:00, fartlek
Jan 7: 3.45 mi in 30:00 (7mph)
Jan 8: 6 mi in 53:39 neg. Splits
Jan 11: 3.25 mi in 30:00
Jan 14: 3.5 mi in 34:00. :(
Jan 17: 3.4 mi in 30:00
Jan 21: 4 mi in 34:24 (8:35 pace)
Jan 22: 5 mi in 47:20 - sloooow
Jan 26: 3.5 mi in 30:00 - tempo
Jan 28: 3.3 mi in 29:45 - didn't fuel properly
Jan 29: 5.5 mi in 52:30
Jan 31: 1 mi in 10:00, injured

48.55 miles total (slightly under the 50 I wanted but over the needed amount)
This month, I was really focusing on upping speed by throwing in some fartlek (speed play) workouts and really pushing myself when I was feeling it. Unfortunately, I lost some running mojo in there and there were some days that were much slower than I would have liked. But, I also did something I had never done before, negative splits. When you're running, you are supposed to get faster as you go along so you can save some steam for the end. Or so I keep reading. Having only run one race I don't have much experience.

I'm also learning that the more miles I run, the tighter my muscles seem to get. I know yoga is good to combat the tightness and stay super loose but I can't help but feel like it's a wasted workout. You don't burn nearly as many calories as with cardio or strength, at least not with the yoga I've been doing. I need to get over that mentality because it will help in the long run. Ha! Long run.

Here's the problem that has recently arisen....piriformis syndrome. At least that's what I've self-diagnosed. It's a tightness in the hamstring and an acting up sciatica, and I have pain from my right buttock down my hamstring and stopping above my knee. It started in earnest about a week-ish ago when I went over 3 miles. Now it's a lot more prevalent and I don't know what to do about it. I'm hoping extra stretching will do it. If I'm lucky.

Sadly, I haven't lost any measurable weight. I just keep gaining and losing the same 3 lbs. However, I did re-measure myself from the last time (2 months ago) and I've lost a total of 4 inches. Unfortunately, some of that was from my bust, a place I can't afford to lose anything, if you know what I mean. Thanks a lot, strength training. Let's hope that was all back fat.

Stay tuned! More miles to come in February even though it's a short month. Hopefully I'll stay on track, especially with this injury.