Happy Friday, guys! This Fueled Up Friday post almost didn't happen--and not even because I'm not fueled up, but because it's 10:30 on Thursday night (waaaaaay past my bedtime) and I just got home from painting at a rental property that we own. Have I told you that I'm a landlord? Yeah. That's a thing. It's Dan's thing, really--he loves to own the rental properties and be the landlord, and I...am also technically an owner of that business. I don't spend nearly as much time on those projects as he does, but when it's time to pitch in, I help. I'm the brawn of the operation. And tonight there was much to be done before new tenants move into our latest purchase tomorrow, so off I went. But I will not miss a Fueled Up Friday. Just won't do it. This week, we're talking about bubble baths, sardines and Kind granola bars, and closet clean-out. Off we go!
I. Bubble baths
Earlier this week I was really struggling with super low energy levels and just an overall bad attitude. I was so tired, and so grumpy. I didn't really know why I felt that way, but I knew I needed to take some proactive steps to feel better. Getting some good sleep was at the top of the list, but a bubble bath was a close second. Something about a nice, hot bath really recharges my batteries, and it definitely helped pull me out of a slump this week. Do you like the photo above? This is the closest I could get to a bubble bath picture, friends. And it's pretty appropriate for this week: I meant to show you an enticing photo of a bubble bath, and instead you get a prime view of our toilet. This blog is all class.
II. Sardines and Kind granola bars
Listen, I know that not everyone is going to be on board with this whole sardine thing. They are very fishy little fish. But hear me out on this: sardines are basically the perfect food. First of all, they are tiny and low on the food chain, so you don't have to worry about mercury and other toxins like you do with larger fish. Second, they are sustainable and plentiful in the wild, so you don't have to worry about overfishing and environmental impact. Third, they are just action-packed with nutrients: protein, calcium, Omega 3s, Vitamin D for heaven's sake (Vitamin D is in almost no foods and you really need it if you live somewhere like Minnesota with no sunlight most of the year--or basically anywhere in the world if you work in an office all day and don't get enough sunlight exposure to get your Vitamin D quota). There are also other vitamins and minerals. (<---see how educational I am at 10:42 PM? Sorry. Google it, if you must know.) I also don't have any animal-lover guilt over eating fish, particularly tiny ones like this. Bonus!
I've been throwing a can of sardines in with my snacks for the day, and putting together a salad-bar salad at work with the sardines on top. It's a delicious, filling, super nutritious meal that has literally kept me fueled all week.
The other food that's really kept me going this week are these little Kind granola squares. They're not paleo (because grains, among other things) but I feel good about the ingredients, they're gluten free, and they satisfy my sweet tooth and insatiable craving for starchy foods (I blame you, running). They're chewy and crunchy and delicious.
Ok, I'm sorry to do this to you but I just cannot keep writing without taking a completely unrelated detour. Do you know what Chewy is doing right now?? He has his head stuck between the cushions of the couch as deep in there as he can get it (his head has been completely swallowed by the couch, he is just a furry butt now) and he is doing that smelling thing that dogs do where he is huffing and puffing and trying to blow the couch down. He apparently thinks there's something deep in the core of the couch that he just must get out, and he will NOT be dissuaded. It's very distracting. Thank you for your empathy, this is a real struggle for me (and for Chewy).
III. Closet Clean-Out
In the midst of the early-week slump, I got the urge to do some spring wardrobe cleaning. I've been hearing a lot about this book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which I have not read, but understand to basically say that you need to get rid of any items in your home that don't bring you joy. It seems like people mostly throw away all of their clothing and knick knacks when they read this book. My knick knacks aren't going anywhere, but lord knows I have some clothing to spare. Minimalists all over the globe are applauding the life changing magic, and it's been rolling around my mind for the last few weeks. My wardrobe needed some weeding for two main reasons: 1) a lot of my clothes just don't fit properly lately, particularly my work clothes, and 2) I wear really different things to work than I did a year ago, and don't have any need for some of the very formal clothes I collected for my last job. A lot of my well-loved pieces still get worn (like my favorite blazers, but these days instead of wearing a full suit I'll wear a blazer with a blouse and jeans) but I still had a fair number of things that I just won't wear anymore. And those had to go. I held on to them longer than I needed to because they're still nice, and some of them were expensive, but they're doing no one any good hanging unworn in my closet.
So, this week I went through every single piece of clothing I own and pulled out two bags of clothes to donate, and another bag of nicer pieces that I think I can sell. Getting that stuff out of the way, and reminding myself what I DO love in my closet, felt amazing.
That's it for this week! Next week I'm very excited to be getting out of dodge for a few days--I'll be in Nashville for a work conference for part of the week, and in LA for a bachelorette party for the weekend. I'm so looking forward to the change of pace and can't wait to share some of my travels with you. Have a great weekend!
Do you ever feel paralyzed by the sheer volume of information and advice that is available to you? I love the internet—I love the ability to access so many different thoughts and opinions and to educate myself on virtually any issue. But when you start digging in to something, inevitably you find that there is more than one way to skin any cat, and it can get really confusing to keep track of the “right” or “best” opinion du jour. I see this a LOT with issues of health and wellness—even if you’re seeking informed, science-based opinions from real experts, you will get a huge array of opinions about the best ways to eat and to exercise. For example, there’s a lot of science and research to support a paleo diet (if you’re interested, I highly recommend It Starts With Food by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig) and there’s also a lot of science and research to support a vegan diet. These two ways of feeding yourself seem pretty diametrically opposed: paleo diets eliminate grains and legumes, which are staples of the vegan way of eating, and vegan diets eliminate all meat, eggs, and seafood, which are paleo staples (both diets eliminate dairy, so everyone misses cheese and ice cream. A lot.) I got thinking about this again this week when I read this article about the number one piece of advice twenty-three different health bloggers would give about having a healthy diet. They are SO DIFFERENT! These are all healthy and health-minded people. And they have such different perspectives.
You can see the same tension between devoted runners and crossfitters. I’ve seen seemingly-reputable science that demonstrates both how good and how bad running is for your health—even some that suggests that sustained steady-state cardio actually contributes to weight gain, rather than promoting weight loss (but…I don’t know a lot of devoted runners who are overweight, so I think that deserves a healthy dose of skepticism.)
I bring this up because I find that sometimes trying to get to the bottom of the best way to do anything—feed yourself, stay fit, manage your finances, whatever—stops me from just doing things well. It’s sort of the “perfect is the enemy of good” thing: I can spend an afternoon reading research about whether grains are or good for my health or bad for my health, and what I end up with is not a more enlightened view of nutrition, it’s a frustration that leads me to want to eat jelly beans on the couch. But both of these examples are missing the forest for the trees. Is there disagreement on whether meat is good for you or bad for you? Yes. But there is a huge amount of overlap in what nutritional experts agree on: vegetables are good for you, and more are better. Avoiding pesticides, added sugars, preservatives, and excess sodium are all good ideas. If you’re going to eat meat or eggs, organic versions that have no added hormones or antibiotics (grass-fed or free range, depending) are all better. If you’re going to eat grains, whole grains are best. I think we’ve settled the fact that healthy fats are good, at this point, but we’re back and forth on that one. Same with exercise: is weight-lifting good for you? YES! Absolutely. Lift more heavy things. Is running good for you? YES (ok, that’s my opinion, but yes). Moving is good for you. If you’re moving and using your muscles and your lungs and you’re getting sweaty, you’re doing good things for your health. Maybe this is obvious to everyone else, but that basic reminder is important to me when I’m getting really stuck in the weeds.
The ironic thing about this post is that I remember reading an article when I was in law school comparing paleo and vegan diets to try to settle the question of which is better. At that time, I remember thinking the article was absurd, because paleo and vegan diets were so similar in my mind (because…they are both sort of extreme? I don’t know.) Flash forward three years and I find myself asking a lot of the questions that article asked. I’m not an expert at all, but I think the right approach has to be a moderate one that draws mostly from the things that everyone agrees on. For me, that means focusing on eating as many vegetables as I can as often as I can, above all else. It also means eating high-quality, sustainable, and humane animal proteins (including free-range eggs, wild-caught sardines and other fish, and some free-range chicken and grass-fed beef). It means eating some gluten-free grains (usually rice or corn) and avoiding dairy as much as possible. My best self doesn’t really eat sugar, but my real self does her best to eat a moderate amount of sugar, ideally real and not-so-processed sugars. My real self also puts French Vanilla International Delight creamer in her coffee every morning, because it is delicious and I love it and it doesn’t make me nauseous (even though it is straight bullshit. Main ingredient: bullshit.)
If you find yourself overwhelmed by the contradictory and vast amount of health and fitness advice available to you, know that you’re not alone. Skim the “lose fifteen pounds in seven days” and “all-natural packaged snack cakes” advice right off the top, and land in the moderate “just eat real food and move your body” camp as much as you can. Don’t follow the grapefruit diet. Do drink more water.
Got it? Ok, good. Me, too.
You can't sign on to any social media these days without seeing some type of #goal (I feel like squad goals started this whole trend, but I am not a social media guru so I am almost certainly wrong). On my Instagram feed today I see a picture of an entry door with "front door goals" (it was a pretty door, I'll give her that) and on a video of overhead squats someone replied "sports bra goals"because she...liked the sports bra the poster was wearing? Dream big, you guys. Dream big.
I am a fan of the goal-setting. I've always liked new year's resolutions, and this year I used Nicole Antoinette's Best Year Ever goal-setting template to set my goals for 2016. Her big thing is designating "buckets" for various parts of your life, and choosing an intention for the year for each separate bucket. Your buckets can be any category of thing in your life--mine are health and fitness, financial, career, family, marriage, and community, for example (I think you were supposed to have five but I needed six). Then you set goals for each bucket, and some specific milestones to accomplish that goal (for example, my community bucket has an overall goal of "be a good citizen of my communities" and a specific goal of making meaningful contributions to my friendships and charitable causes that matter to me every week).
I also bought a paper planner for the first time since college, and I'm pretty taken with it. I love the "Goal Digger" theme--first of all because I think it's funny, and if you haven't caught on to this yet, I love nothing better than to be amused. Also, this planner is broken up in a way that I really like--it has tabs for each month, and on that tab is a two-page spread of the whole month in little boxes. Following that overview there is a two-page spread for each week, with space for each day and a space to write goals for the week at the top. At the end of each month there's a space to "recap" each week, and then a place to reflect on monthly goals (things you've accomplished, goals that have changed, and goals for the next month). I wrote my goals for the year in the front, and I make a point of reading those every week or so and thinking about whether I'm on track to do the things I want to do in 2016.
I don't use this planner as much for the daily things, but I have been making a habit of pulling it out every Monday and setting my goals for the week, recapping the week before, and penciling in what the coming week holds. I've found that taking fifteen minutes to do this sometime on Monday has helped me bring focus to my week--if I'm being honest, I frequently don't accomplish the goals I set for a given day, but I almost always accomplish the higher-level goals that are a focus of my week. For example, today I decided my "goals" for tonight were to take a bath, paint my nails, and go to bed early (I have been so low energy the last few days, and was trying to regenerate a little bit). But, instead, Dan needed my help working on one of our rental properties where new tenants are moving in on Friday. So, instead of a bath and a manicure I scraped paint off windows and vacuumed and am getting to bed later than I planned. But, I ate well today and I made time to cook dinner (which will help with this week's goal of increasing my energy) and I spent time with Dan, which was also something I wanted to do more of this week. Better to focus on the big things than the little things, when you can help it.
The real reason goals are important is, to borrow from the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, to begin with the end in mind. Taking the time to think about what you want your day, week, year, or decade to look like help you steer toward that outcome. If you know where you want to end up, you can better figure out how to get there and you can be intentional about how you invest your time and energy. And, having your goal in mind makes it easier to push through the little tasks that stand in your way. If you can focus on what you want most, it's easier to prioritize that desire over what you want now (i.e. what I wanted now today was copious amounts of Easter candy, but I'm freshly committed improving my energy and feeling better overall, which means I need to not binge on sugar like I did last week. Tough break.) When I don't want to go for a long run on a rainy Sunday morning, what gets me out the door is my goal of finishing a half marathon in under two hours this year.
What are your goals for this week? This year? Five years from now? Do you have a plan to get there? Tell me all the things. And go get 'em, tiger.
Good morning, friendlies. I'm realizing that "I'm so tired" is becoming a theme for my Monday posts--not a particularly good one, it's not fun or funny in any way--I'm going to take a real weekend off soon, and get some rest, so my Monday posts aren't just whining about how hard it is to be a grownup. That said...this post is going to start with just a leeeeeeeeetle whining.
I had the worst run of 2016 to date on Sunday--for completely predictable reasons that were within my control and totally my fault, but it was still a bummer. And I was so very, very tired that the rest of Sunday just became a struggle. Which was an extra bummer, because we were hosting Easter lunch and I needed to get my act together. (I did! I made the pretty pretty potatoes you're going to hear about in just a minute.) The following is the list of very obvious reasons why this run was doomed from the beginning: 1) on Saturday I decided I hadn't been doing enough strength training lately, so I did burpees and squats and abs and planks and extra extra pushups. So, sort of maxed out the muscle power there. 2) We went to see Batman vs. Superman on Saturday night (Kelly thought it was "EPIC" and I thought it was "pretty good" and Dan fell asleep but thought the parts he was awake for were great) but I didn't realize the movie was going to be almost three hours long, so by the time it was done dinner time had passed, and Dan and Kelly ate a giant popcorn so they weren't really hungry....and....I didn't really eat much dinner. (<---that was just a huge run on sentence to say that I didn't eat sufficient dinner on Saturday. I'm sorry. I'm still very tired.) Not eating dinner and then running the next morning does NOT work...I know this. But sometimes it's hard to do better even when you know better. 3) It was raining and windy and COLD when I left to run. Gross. Gross gross gross. But, I needed to do a long run. A long run had to happen. So off I went.
The first four miles were tough but strong (constant mental complaining but a 9:15 pace) and then when I hit four I decided to walk for a minute, and after a minute I thought "ok, time to run again?" and my body said "nope." And that exchange happened again for a couple more minutes, and basically I ran 7.5 miles but I walked a LOT in the last three. Even Justin Bieber couldn't keep me going. C'est la vie.
Then I came home and took a long, hot shower, and made some Easter foods. Including the prettiest potatoes of ever. They're also yummy, and Whole30 compliant. Want to hear about them? Ok, good.
To make these potatoes you need an equal amount of white potatoes (I used Yukon Gold) and sweet potatoes (my sweet potatoes were huge, so an equal amount for me was about 8 Yukon Golds and 2 sweet potatoes) and then some avocado or olive oil, salt, and some rosemary.
To get the potatoes sliced really thin and uniform, I used a mandolin slicer. This is a kitchen appliance that I probably use twice a year, tops, but they're inexpensive and make quick, thin, beautiful slices. Unless you're really talented (and patient) with a knife, you're going to want a slicer for this. Buy one for yourself! Make pretty foods. Pretty foods are clinically proven to improve happiness.* (*in an informal clinical study of one person, who is me.)
Preheat your oven to 350F. Peel your sweet potatoes and wash your white potatoes thoroughly, and slice them both. Be REALLY careful with your fingers if you're using a mandolin slicer--when you get down to the end of the potato, just throw the little end piece away. Not worth the stitches.
Spray or grease your baking pan with your oil of choice to keep the potatoes from sticking to the bottom. Layer your potatoes, alternating sweet and white, around the edges and spiraling to the middle (or just in rows, whatever floats your boat). If you have some potatoes that came out oddly shaped, just find the roundest edge and tuck the weird-shaped part under the next slice.
Brush the tops of your nicely-arranged potatoes with avocado or olive oil (if you don't have a brush, you can also drizzle oil over the tops and spread it over the potatoes with your (clean) fingers. Sprinkle your salt and rosemary (or other seasoning of choice) over the top, and pop the spuds in the oven for an hour. If the tops aren't browned at an hour, leave them in for another 15 minutes or so.
These potatoes are nice and soft in the middle and crispy along the edges, and the flavors of the sweet potato and Yukon Gold are really great together. Plus, they're lovely enough to set on the table for your next fancy meal.
Enjoy! And best of luck conquering the world this week. Seize the carp. Happy belated Easter!
Welcome back! It's Friday again. Already. Is someone messing with the calendar around here? Time doesn't seem to be going its normal speed. If you've got the scoop on that, let me know. Also, yesterday my post had the same title as The Skimm's daily subject line, which was very confusing when I checked my inbox first thing in the morning. If you are subscribed to both my blog and The Skimm, we sincerely apologize for accidentally wearing the same outfit to the party, it was terribly embarrassing for both of us. I'm sure they're writing this same apology right. this. second.
In this week's edition of Fueled Up Friday, we have: 1) fast, easy, healthy foods; 2) Justin Bieber; and 3) running the mile I'm in.
I. Fast, Easy, Healthy Foods
This week flew by, and there was not a lot of extra time or energy for meal planning. Luckily, I fell back on two things that pulled me through without a lot of food heartache (is heartburn food heartache? Just wondering.) Sorry—ok, focus. The two foods getting love in this week’s FUF are really excellent eggs, and lazy turkey lunch tacos.
Let’s start with the eggs. Guys, I love eggs. I eat them every day, and I would eat them for every meal except everyone agrees that’s excessive. So I just eat them for breakfast but they’re a real highlight, every time. I always buy the best eggs that are available to me (you know, the kind where the chickens have real grass to roam and paid vacation and a respectable 401k match) but this week the eggs I bought were particularly good. They have bright orange yolks that stand up nice and tall when you crack them, and they are soooo yummy. I bought them at Target, which has really stepped its grocery game up (have you shopped there recently?? They have tons of grass-fed beef now, and these eggs, and they also have these amazing Biena chickpea snacks that I can’t stop eating). Buy these eggs. Thank me later.
The lunchtime equivalent of eggs (delicious, nutritious, forty-two seconds of prep time or less) are these turkey tacos. They’re made with deli turkey (look for antibiotic free and organic when you can—I also look for “humanely raised” labels because I am soft-hearted and like to give away money based on unsubstantiated claims). And then you put sweet potato and avocado in the turkey and wrap it up like a taco and eat it. That’s it. You can make the sweet potato in the microwave for 6-8 minutes in the morning and then throw it in your bag. These are more delicious than they have a right to be, and even if I don’t have leftovers or the will to make a meal I can bring this for lunch.
II. Justin Bieber
Like the rest of America, I have been listening to a lot of Justin Bieber's sort-of-new album Purpose over the last few months. I love it deeply and am ashamed of my love in nearly equal measure. But love wins. Here's why:
1) The music is objectively beautiful-sounding (i.e. if The Biebs were singing in a foreign language, I would have no shame whatsoever in proclaiming my love. Everyone would proclaim their love. His voice is beautiful and the melodies on this album are good. Great, even, maybe.)
2) the lyrics are so quintessentially 22-year-old-boy, and they amuse me to NO. END. This album is the essence of a 22-year-old man child, boiled down to its most potent form (that almost certainly smells like a dirty gym sock).
The song "Love Yourself" is the ideal example of both these points. If you did not speak English, you would think, "This is an AMAZING song! It is DELIGHTFUL to my ears! I will post this to Facebook immediately and everyone will be impressed with my great taste in music!" But you do speak English, so you understand what JB is saying in that song. And what he's saying is this: "I didn't want to say anything about you...because I didn't want anyone to think that I care...because I do NOT care...YOU are the one who cares...AND my mom doesn't even LIKE you."
If you don't think that's hilarious, I cannot help you.
III. Running the Mile I'm In
Earlier this week, Jenny commented on the Hot Dash recap that a phrase she thinks of when she's running is "run the mile you're in." I'd never heard this pearl of wisdom before, and I love it. First, because it's surprisingly helpful when running (instead of doing the "just run two more miles and then three after that and then there's only one left" thing, just...run the third mile. Worry about the fourth mile when you get there.) Is it painfully obvious to point out that this is also a universal life lesson? Just get through today. Hell, just get through this hour. Worry about the next hour when it gets here. I love this. I am thinking about this all of the time.
That's all for this week, friends. Same time next week? I'll be here.
Alllllllright, it’s time to talk about Casa de Cocoa & Cotton. House stuff has been dominating my life for the last few months so I’m excited to share some more details and photos of what we’ve been doing—I’ve held off because my plan was to reveal each room one at a time as they were really finished, but as everyone knows a new house doesn’t really get to “finished” in the way you want it to very quickly. So we’re just going to jump right in—more pictures will be shared as we get closer and closer to the true “after” stage.
Before we bought and moved into our new house, we lived in a duplex not far from where we live now—our move was less than a mile altogether. We loved our old house, but didn’t love the block that it was on (mostly apartment buildings, some not very well cared for) and the immediate area was just sort of high shenanigans. We moved from the outskirts of uptown into more of the heart of uptown, and now we’re in a neighborhood we love, very close to Lake Calhoun, and our favorite restaurants, and parks, and general Minneapolis loveliness. Our house is also a duplex, so we rent out the upper apartment and live on the main floor. Eventually, our plan is to convert the house into a single-family home, so this is the house we’re planning to stay in for the foreseeable future. I LOVE living in a home that we don’t plan to move out of, and making it our own has been exhausting and wonderful.
What we immediately loved about our house when we saw it was the 1920s classic Minneapolis feel—it has gorgeous wood built ins and details everywhere, giant original cabinetry in the kitchens, tall ceilings (important, when your husband is 6’9”) and wood floors throughout. Most of the wood is in remarkably good shape, considering it has been a rental for so many years, but some of it does need some love (luckily, that’s a passion of mine—inherited from antique-loving parents—so we’re happy to tackle some TLC for the windowsills and door frames that need it). So, we saw this beautiful, well-preserved 100-year-old house…but we also saw that it was pretty filthy and needed some shining up. We decided to do some immediate renovations, starting with refinishing the wood floors throughout and then basically gutting the bathroom and renovating the kitchen (re-doing basically everything except the cabinets, which we love—new floor, new appliances, new countertops, new backsplash). We hired a contractor to do everything except painting—we re-painted every room in the house before we moved in, except the bathroom and kitchen, which I just painted last weekend after the renovations in those rooms were finished. Dan and I are going to tackle the backsplash ourselves, so that still isn’t done, and we’re replacing light fixtures and outlets/switch plates ourselves. Alright, that’s enough words—ready for some before pictures?
As I mentioned in a previous post, we were without a shower for a couple of weeks while our bathroom was torn apart (luckily there’s a weird bathroom in the basement with a toilet and no sink. Super cool.) And we had a lot of takeout nights between missing kitchen counters and not having new appliances installed—and, of course, when our new appliances were installed they kept tripping the kitchen fuse just by being plugged in. So some electrical work needed to be done to remedy that. Here are some “work in progress” photos (you can also see that our house was just a mess during this time--hard to keep things organized when you keep losing cabinets and counters):
We did have the contractors raise the cabinets over the refrigerator and the stove by a few inches so that we could fit a full-size refrigerator in that space. I’m really glad we ended up doing that—it makes our kitchen much more functional, and makes it much more likely that we won’t need to touch the kitchen again in the future. We ran into typical problems while the renovation was happening—turns out the sub floor in the bathroom was completely rotten, so we had to pull out the entire subfloor and ended up replacing a bathtub that we were going to leave (which is for the best, because now our tub is nice and deep and great for soaking…but the subfloor was an added expense). Aforementioned electrical issues were what you would expect for a 1920s house, and also needed some (expensive) love. Things took much longer than expected. Our house was a disaster area for quite a while. By the end, I was really sick of the contractors showing up at our house at 7am (thanks for being so prompt and eager to get started…give me a sec to put a bra on…) but I really love the choices we made in the bathroom and kitchen (and for the color of the wood floor) and I’m so happy with how everything is coming together. The never-ending “to do” list is down to basically the backsplash, hanging some shutters in Kelly’s room, hanging a mirror in our bedroom, and finding a cool chandelier to replace our bedroom light fixture (at some point). Oh, and we need to figure out what we’re doing with our bedroom closet…it needs rods, and organization systems, and….stuff. It needs some stuff. But that’s basically nothing, compared to what we’ve done!! Here are the “almost after” pictures.
I love how our furniture and décor from our last house have transitioned to the new space—our dining room table is a refurbished farmhouse table that I bought at the Junk Bonanza last year (and added those tall wheels so Dan’s long legs can fit underneath) and I swore I would never move to a house where that table wouldn’t fit, because I LOVE it. I also love the radiator covers with the punched-metal grates, and how they fit in with our artwork and lamps. Overall, I’m so happy to be in the house and to for things to be settling down so we can relax and enjoy it. Stay tuned for more detailed room reveals as we finish things up!
Did you guys hear about Boaty McBoatface? Allow me to summarize: the Brits are christening a new research ship, and someone had the brilliant idea to let the internet vote on the name. They had some suuuuper British proposals to get things started (Shackleton, Endeavour, Falcon) but the internet, being who he is, was like "I know what we're gonna call that there ship: R.R.S. Boaty McBoatface." As it stands now, R.R.S. Boaty McBoatface is the clear winner of the contest. Describing exactly how hilarious I find this is a serious literary challenge. I can't think about this story without laughing. I get the "stop giggling it's not that funny" giggles that you get when you're trying to stop laughing at something but you just cannot...like when you're in a very crowded meeting, or a classroom, and you're delirious and it's too funny to stop the giggling and your face hurts and you have to look at the wall and hold your breath and GET AHOLD OF YOURSELF, WOMAN. Boaty McBoatface. Laughter is the most important thing, friends.
The second most important thing is these brussels sprouts. And if you think you don't like brussels sprouts I'm going to sit you down at my table and put a steaming plate of these bad boys in front of you and force you to eat one, and your mind will be changed. Just like that. They make your whole house smell good and they taste like vegetable candy (<---that sounds gross but it's not because they're amazing). I served these at Dan's birthday dinner and I could tell everyone was like "why would you make me eat brussels sprouts" as they put three little pieces on their plates to be polite, but without fail every person was like "oh wow, these are really good." Including the children! Even the child who hates vegetables with a fiery and indignant passion. Magic, I tell you.
Shoot, I haven't even told you the flavor of the brussels sprouts yet. These are apple cider brussels sprouts. The inspiration for this recipe came from a dish I had in a restaurant in Madison last fall, and they served them with bits of bacon and melty lumps of goat cheese. That was pretty heavenly, but they can hold their own without all that decoration. Here's what you need:
Spiced Apple Cider Brussels Sprouts
2 cups of spiced apple cider (or 2 cups of pressed apple juice with 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg added)
3 small bags (or one larger bag) of brussels sprouts (about nine cups)
Avocado oil (olive oil would also work)
1. Pour your apple cider into a small saucepan and place it over medium heat. You're going to simmer the cider until it's reduced to a thick, syrupy, almost caramel-y consistency. At first you can just let it come to a simmer and leave it alone, but as it reduces more you're going to need to stir so it doesn't burn.
2. While the apple cider is getting started, preheat your oven to 375F. Trim your brussels sprouts if needed (if they're looking really rough you can pull off the outside leaves and trim the bottom--sometimes I do this, sometimes I just use them as they come, depending on what sort of shape they're in). Cut each brussels sprout in half and put them on a baking sheet.
3. Toss the brussels sprouts with a few glugs of avocado oil (enough to coat them) and sprinkle generously with salt. When you toss the sprouts in the oil, some of the outside leaves will separate--that's ok, those leaves will get burnt and crispy, which is delicious. Put your cookie sheets in the preheated oven to roast.
4. Check on your apple cider, which should be bubbling away at this point, when it starts to look like the liquid level has gone down, start stirring the apple cider (I like to use a rubber spatula to stir). Keep stirring and simmering until the apple cider has thickened to the consistency of honey, and when you stir with the spatula it parts for a second before running back together.
If you haven't played around with reducing juices (or liquids in general) there's going to come a time where you're stirring and you think, "Mine isn't working--I don't know what this blogger is talking about, this will never be the consistency of honey." PRESS ON through that moment, my love. It takes a while (like, maybe 40 minutes) but it will happen, and the wait will be worth it. If your apple cider doesn't look like Aunt Jemima's syrup, you ain't done yet. Right before it's done, it will bubble up and get puffy like the picture above. Once that happens, stir for another minute or so and then take your cider reduction off the heat.
5. Roast your brussels sprouts for 15 minutes at 375F and then give them a stir reduce the temperature to 350 for another 10ish (depending on how big they are) until they are nice and soft and brown/crisped on the edges and bottoms. You want them to be well-cooked for this dish, because undercooked brussels sprouts can have sort of a horseradish taste, and you don't want that. You want nice, crispy on the outside soft on the inside brussels sprouts.
Dump your brussels sprouts into a serving bowl, and use your spatula to drizzle the apple cider reduction over the top (scraping down the sides and bottom of your saucepan so you don't miss any of that cider goodness). If your reduction has been sitting for a while it's going to be really thick and gooey--if it's too hard to get it all out of your saucepan, put a cup or two of brussels sprouts into the saucepan and toss them around to deglaze the pot. The reduction will liquefy again when it's combined with the sprouts. Mix everything up until the sprouts are all well-coated, and serve warm.
The tart-sweet flavor of the apple cider, with the spices, and the salt, and the warmth of the brussels sprouts...it's really just the perfect combination. I'm going to use this recipe to bring brussels sprouts to the masses. They'll call me the patron saint of the sprouts. These are great as a side dish (ooooor as a meal. Shhhhh.) But they're also great added to a salad the next day, with some pieces of torn up prosciutto and arugula and pistachios...my mouth is watering. Enjoy!
P.S. Tomorrow is finally the day when I'm sharing some house pictures! Don't believe me?? That's fair, I've faked you out about house pictures many a time. This is the end of that deception. You have my word. House photos will be distributed TOMORROW. Be there, or be square.
Huzzah! Everyone made it through the Hot Dash. As I write this, I'm sitting on my couch taking inventory of my aches and pains...my back is pretty sore, my legs are achey (though better than they would have been, because I used a foam roller on them yesterday) and I have a blister on my left big toe that's pretty whiney. But I am filled with pride and happiness, because I can report that I beat Dan handily at the Hot Dash, finishing with a total per-mile time of just under nine minutes per mile. My splits ranged from 8:45-8:59, which is very strong for me and also very consistent (consistency is not always my strong point) so I am quite happy. This was also the first race I've finished where I didn't walk at all, so that was a cool accomplishment.
As I ran, I was thinking about some of the strategies and tricks I've developed to get through long runs. In case some of those ideas could be useful to you, lovely readers, today I'm sharing the recap from the Hot Dash along with some of the running strategies that work for me. Let us begin.
I woke up pretty nervous about this race--I usually get some butterflies before a race starts, but Dan upped the ante on this one by talking all of his "I'm not going to let you beat me" trash. I like to eat some carbs for breakfast on race day, so I had a small bowl of oatmeal with a banana and a spoonful of cashew butter mixed in, and two hard-boiled eggs. There were a few inches of snow on the ground and it was thirty degrees the morning of the race (after being in the fifties for several weeks). Dan hopefully asked if the race was canceled. It was not.
We headed over to Northeast for the race (which runs along the river, crosses over between miles 7 and 8, and then crosses back over the Stone Arch bridge and finishes along the cobblestone river walk). Dan asked how fast I was planning to run, and I told him I was hoping to keep it about 9:30 per mile, so we lined up behind that pacing sign. I started my "run run run" playlist, we took a selfie, and the race started.
The beginning of a race is always tough because it's so crowded, and it's hard to find a spot to run and the right pace with all those people and all that excitement. We settled in and finished the first mile at 8:59, which is a quick-ish pace for me but not a bad place to start. Plus, I really wanted to show Dan what I'm made of, so I decided to hold on to a strong pace as long as I could.
The second mile was also pretty uneventful--we passed the 9:30 pacer and kept up an 8:59 pace. Between miles 2 and 4 I started to panic a little bit--I've learned that my running struggle is much more mental than physical. My mind starts to worry before my body does, so I have to find ways to calm myself. In this case, it was still very early in a fairly long run, and my thoughts started reeling ("this is too fast," "this race is too long," "what if I can't finish," "what if I have to walk and tons of people pass me," "I'm getting tired, it's too early to be tired"). Trick #1: When my mind is freaking out about my body's ability to continue running, I give myself permission to run as slowly as I need to. I tell myself that it's alright, I can run a twelve-minute mile if I need to do that, but that I'll continue running at whatever pace I can sustain. I've noticed that when I do this, even if I think that I slow down after making that decision, I usually keep running at exactly the same pace (because my body was fine to begin with, it was my mind that thought I couldn't do it). By giving myself permission to slow down, I take away the panic.
Trick #2: I'm pretty sure every runner on the planet does this, but I always break my long runs up into chunks mentally, so I'm not thinking about the whole ten miles at a time (this is like that old saying about how you eat an elephant...one bite at a time. Don't eat elephants though, ok?) How I think of the segments of the race varies during the race--at the beginning of the Hot Dash I thought, "Ok, you're going to run three 5ks and then you'll just have a mile to go." I told myself that at least the first 5k would be fast, and that I could reevaluate my pace at the three-mile mark if I needed to. As I kept running, I started thinking about four-mile chunks instead. On my nine-mile training run I met up with my friend Jenny after about four miles, so I told myself that I would get to four miles running quickly and then I'd see how it went. At four miles, I told myself to just do one more and then I would be halfway. At five miles, I told myself to just get to six and then I would only have four left (four is a common training run distance for me, two out and two back, so once I got to six I started thinking of the last four like a training run--just run to eight and then that's like the turnaround in your weekday run, and you only have two left). At five I also told myself to keep the pace strong until 6, so at least I'd have a great 10k time even if I couldn't maintain that speed all the way through ten miles. It's all mind games.
Speaking of mind games, I really realized on this run that I use walking as a mental reward, but that I don't actually need to do it physically. I walk at least a little bit on almost every run that I do--I tell myself that if I run to five miles I can walk, or four miles, or six miles, and then I walk for a minute or two before I continue running. I have nothing against walking during runs, and my theory about exercise is that if you're moving forward in any way, you're doing your job. But I've realized that these little chunks of walking are more for my mind than they are for my body (unless I'm walking to work out a side cramp*. That's crucial, and physically necessary). Yesterday I ran an entire 9 miles at more than 30 seconds per mile under my training pace, with no walking breaks, and I was fine. It was hard, and I was tired, and I'm sore today, but it was fine. I could do it with no problems. That's pretty cool, and it tells me my body is capable of more than I thought it was.
*Trick #3: you can get rid of a side cramp, or stop one from getting worse, by making sure you're exhaling really deeply (blow out forcefully on your exhale before you start to breath in again). In swimming, the coaches would tell us to make sure to "blow out all your bubbles" on your exhale before you took another breath, and that's still the image I use when I'm running today. If you start to feel a pain developing, take deep inhales and blow out, hard, for a few rounds of breath.
Also, it's important to note, I am pretty motivated by competition. A huge reason I performed well yesterday is because Dan lit a fire under my ass, so thanks to him for doing that (even though it was annoying). This is another lesson I need to take forward--fighting for PRs and goal times will keep me running faster. And, while Dan did take an L, he also deserves some kudos because he stayed with me for almost six miles, at a pace that was much faster than his training runs (and six miles was the longest he ran prior to race day). Even after stepping off the course to take some phone calls and answer a few emails, he popped back on and finished with an overall pace around 10:00 per mile, which is great. Waaaaay faster than he ran it last year.
At the finish line, I met a friend of mine who also ran (but she is a gazelle who runs under eight-minute miles, so she had been finished for a while) and wondered where Dan was...he tapped me on the shoulder to let me know he was "out" just before six miles and I saw him walk off the course, so I thought he had decided not to finish and I expected to see him at the finish line when I got there. He wasn't there, and wasn't answering his phone, so I was starting to get a little nervous until I heard his name called as he crossed the finish line (ah! Bravo, my dear. Way to get back on that horse.) We grabbed our bananas and Old Dutch potato chips (never, in the history of ever, has a potato chip tasted so good) and headed back to our car, freezing our tails off. The weather was not terrible for the run itself, but after we stopped running (and were sweaty) it was SO. COLD. Cold enough that I got home and took a hot shower and my lips were still purple when I was toweling off. Oh, Minnesota. You silly goose.
Now I'm on to thinking about the half marathon we're running in four weeks (yes, Dan is also signed up for the half. See previous post re: his incredible willingness to sign up for stuff.) One of my resolutions for 2016 is to finish a half marathon in under two hours--I didn't think that would happen on this run, and was thinking I'd make that a goal for a later-season half. But, after yesterday, I feel like I need to put the pressure on for these last weeks of training and swing for the fences on this one. Stay tuned.
You know what? Mondays are hard, and being an adult is hard, and we're going to just go ahead and be adults on Monday anyway. I read a blog post recently where the author posited that you can tell if you really love your job if you wake up excited on Monday morning, and at the end of the workday you feel energized, and no disrespect to that blogger (she's obviously Superwoman, so good for her) but I just don't buy that. I regard myself as basically the luckiest lawyer on earth--I find my job both interesting and (mostly) enjoyable, it pays me well, and I feel like I'm contributing to the greater good through the work that my company does (let's call this the trifecta) but you know what I feel like on Monday mornings? I feel like I'd really love for it to be Sunday again. I feel like there isn't enough coffee in Costa Rica to tackle my inbox. I feel like I didn't get enough time to snuggle Chewy's soft face and tuck into whatever book I'm reading. Does this mean that I don't love my job? Nope. Does it mean that I love my house and my yoga pants? It does. It does mean that.
That is not what this post is about, but it needed to be said. This post is about a new idea that I had. I'm calling it a challenge, because isn't that clever. Challenges are fun, mais non? (That French just came out of nowhere! I googled it. It's not really what I meant, which is such a perfect representation of my French that I'm leaving it. Moving on.)
The challenge is this: I'm not going to buy any *new* clothing or accessories. If I want to add something to my wardrobe, I'm going to purchase it from thrift or consignment stores. I don't know how long the challenge is going to last (mystery is also fun, FYI) but here's why I'm doing it:
1. A lot of my impulse purchases are made online, so cutting off the option to online shop will help drastically reduce the shopping that I already didn't need to do. I'm not opposed to adding items to my wardrobe, but I want my purchases to be more thought-out, and less, "Ooooh, Banana Republic just sent me a 40% off email..."
2. Thrifting is better for the environment. Hoarding clothes is materialistic, and bad for both my bank account and the planet. Plus, lots of people have problematic shopping habits and I can benefit from their mistakes by purchasing them at thrift stores that are overflowing with gems.
3. I really don't need any more clothing, but I find that "don't buy any new clothes ever" is a resolution that doesn't stick for me. I like clothes, and if there's something that I truly want I'm fine with buying it. But, with thrifting, I might have to look a little harder for the item I want, and I see that as a good thing.
4. I will save money, which is great because buying a new house and putting things in that house are expensive endeavors.
5. Sometimes I shop because I'm in a bad mood ("retail therapy" is a saying for a reason, yes?) and this challenge actually still allows me to do that, I'm just going to drive to different stores, and (hopefully) get better deals.
One exception to this rule: I'm going to need a new pair of running shoes this season, so I'm allowed to buy those. Those cannot be purchased secondhand.
Who wants to join me in the challenge? If you sign up now, you can get the special $0 down enrollment fee and the great rate of $0 per month to participate. Let's do it.
If you came here thinking you were going to get a recap of the Hot Dash race, fear not--that's coming tomorrow. Spoiler alert: I WON. (The race with Dan. Not the whole race. Obviously.)
You guys…if today is Fueled Up Friday that means we survived the week! And now the weekend is coming! Hallelujah, puh-raise the lawd. At the beginning of this week I was all rested and optimistic and thinking that this would be the week that I would really get my act together and finish some nagging items on my to-do list around the house (wallpaper the kitchen…finally replace some outlet covers that have been missing since we painted two months ago…hang the light fixture in our kitchen that has been sitting in a box for weeks…) but then, I didn’t really do that. I did try the wallpaper thing. We all know how that turned out (hint: NOT WELL). But this weekend, with Chewy as my witness, I truly am going to finish up some painting and house detail stuff and then I am going to show you all some photos! I can’t wait to share our new space with you. But, in the meantime, you came here for fueled up Friday and that is what you shall receive. Up this week: peppermint essential oil, Bloglovin’, and the Hot Dash 10 mile race. Let us begin.
Peppermint Essential Oil
I ordered a big starter set of essential oils at the end of last year because that just seems like something that would be right up my alley. Do I know anything about them? Heavens to Betsy, no. But I want to learn. I think my best self uses essential oils, but I can’t keep track of her long enough to ask. She’s tricky. So, I have this cute set of essential oils that I’ve used a few times and big plans to unlock their secrets at a later, undisclosed date. But this week I discovered that peppermint oil is amazing. Mostly because it can be used to treat my two mortal enemies: headaches, and upset stomachs. I have been getting terrible migraines since I was a kid, and this week I had a few nagging headaches that threatened to become full-on “I can’t stop crying it hurts so much” migraines. So, I put a drop of peppermint oil on my fingers and rubbed the oil on both temples and in between my eyebrows, on the area where my nose meets my forehead, and it really helped! I don’t think it would stop a full-blown headache in its tracks, but it makes enough of a difference that I could finally fall asleep, or take the edge off the pain enough to make dinner. This is a small miracle, and small miracles will be celebrated.
I also learned that peppermint oil can help relieve a bloated, upset stomach. I was feeling a little queasy because I ate too much cheese this week (yes, I know better, but there’s brie in my fridge and I’m only human) so I put a few drops of peppermint oil on my tummy before bed and rubbed the oil in to my skin. It’s harder to say how much of a difference this made, but it seemed like it helped (and definitely didn’t hurt) so I’ll take it. If you have tips on your favorite uses for essential oils, I’d love to hear them!
One of the tools the Weebly blog platform offers is the ability to see how people are getting to your blog if they came from somewhere else (like a Facebook link, or Pinterest, or whatever). I noticed that Bloglovin’ was showing up on this referral list, so I clicked on that link out of curiosity…and accidentally discovered my new favorite productivity-killer. Bloglovin’ is a platform that allows you to select blogs you want to follow and add them to a feed that looks a lot like Pinterest (my previous favorite productivity-killer). Once you collect blogs that you like, it recommends similar bloggers that you might be interested in, and also offers the ability to browse by category or just scroll through popular posts. The feed shows you a snippet of the post so you can decide if you want to read more, and then if you click through it will take you over to the blog. The blogs that you choose to follow will show up in your personalized feed so that you never miss a blog post (and can do all your reading or skimming in one place). I’ve added my favorite bloggers, along with some new awesome-looking blogs that I just discovered today, and I can’t wait to use this tool more. I’ve also added a Bloglovin’ button on the right-hand side of this page (all the way at the bottom, if you’re reading on your phone) so you can easily add Cocoa & Cotton if you’re already a Bloglovin’ fan! And if you’re not already, I suspect you may become one in the future. Check it out.
Looking around Bloglovin' also got me inspired to up my game in the social media world, so I signed in to my never-used Twitter account and wrote my first-ever tweet. I…don’t understand the Twitter. I’m lost over there. I need assistance. If you’re on Twitter and you love it, I also added a Twitter button next to my Instagram and Pinterest links (again, on the right-side of your screen if you’re on a computer, or all the way at the bottom on your phone). Please send help. Or be my friend, or whatever. Help me follow you. I can’t find anyone.
Thus concludes my foray into twenty-first century technology...we will now resume your regularly-scheduled programming.
The Hot Dash Ten Mile Race
The Hot Dash is happening tomorrow!! I’m so excited I could pee a little. So, this ten-mile race is one that Dan and I also ran last year, but we didn’t train for it at all and I walked off the course at the seven-mile mark. NOT SO this year, amigos! I have totally been running and I am ready to kill it.
I’ve gotta pause here and give a shout out to Dan, before I tell you that I’m definitely going to kick his butt at the race. Dan was a professional basketball player for many years (and a D1 college basketball player before that) so he’s always been in great shape. But basketball is a totally different kind of running, and he was never a distance runner. Last year, when I decided to sign up for this ten-mile race, I let him know that I was doing it just as a heads-up. “Hey sweetie, I’m going to sign up for this ten mile race in March so that I do some running this winter.” Without missing a beat, Dan was like, “Sign me up, too.” This, coming from a guy who had never run more than four miles at a time, was a surprising reaction. But hey, you wanna run the race? You get to run the race. (YOU get a race, YOU get a race, EVERYBODY gets a race!) And he totally killed it! Neither of us trained, but Dan’s competitive spirit flared up pretty early and he made it through to the end (fighting tooth and nail with a couple of grannies for the last few miles, but he crossed that finish line). I don't know any other person who is so willing to commit to physical challenges outside their comfort zone, so kudos to you, husband.
Fast forward to this year, I asked Dan if he wanted to run the race again and he immediately said yes. I assured him that we would actually train this year. The first few weeks we did some short runs together, but Dan likes to run first thing in the morning and I…don’t. So we started each doing our own thing. And my thing involved a training schedule that I followed pretty closely, and Dan’s thing mostly involved a handful of four-mile runs here and there. As the race got closer I started to bug him more about training ("Hey…you…ya gonna go for a run today? Gonna maybe do a longer run this week?") And Dan always said, “Of course!” And then mostly didn’t. But last week Dan insisted that he would not be outdone at the Hot Dash. Despite my clearly superior training, he was adamant that he would be finishing the race at my side. Which I obviously found incredibly offensive. So, the stakes have been raised in our house, and tomorrow is the day of judgment. Always fueled by competition, Dan did go for a six-mile run this week and came out at 9:30 a mile, so maybe he’s going to be more competitive than I thought. Then again, I'm pretty competitive myself. Stay tuned for the recap next week.
That's all for today, ducklings. Have a wonderful weekend!
P.S. As a reward for making it all the way to the end of this post, you get a sneak preview of the house reveal. This is a before/after of one of the areas that fell victim to the wallpaper fiasco, but from this distance you can't even see the bubbles. Good thing the "before" set the bar so low, eh?