Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Recap: Lots of food and laughter!

Hi everyone, happy Thanksgiving and I hope that you have all recovered from your food comas and had a nice Friday!  I have had a really nice past few days and am excited to recap them on here.

After I left you on Wednesday afternoon I jumped in my car to head home for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I drove to Boston on Wednesday evening and went right to my friend Erin's apartment.  I have been spending a lot of time in Boston lately and one of the reasons is because E is currently living there, along with two of my other best friends, KO & Meaggie.  I'm not sure if I've ever written about how incredibly lucky I am with my group of friends, but I have 4 best friends and we've been by each other's sides since we were very young.  You hear about them on the blog a lot... but I'm not sure if I've ever recapped just how special and wonderful these ladies are.  Erin, Meaggie, KO, and Teenie are my family. Side note: Erin is the Erin of "Erin's Artichoke Pie" from back in 2009.

I spent the night before Thanksgiving, not out getting drunk with a bunch of random people from high school, but having delicious turkey chili and some pumpkin beers with Erin and her wonderful fiance James.  The two are getting married next summer the day before my birthday and I feel blessed and honored to be a part of the big day, as one of Erin's bridesmaids along with the 3 other girls and her two sisters.  I hadn't seen James since the engagement since he lives in D.C. and it was really nice to have a low key evening with the two of them.

We also had to get up early because we had a Gobble Wobble to attend!

For the 4th year in a row, as a group of friends, the girls and I have participated in a Thanksgiving morning Gobble Wobble 5K.  We had a pretty big group this year, including Erin's fiance James, Meaggie's boyfriend Jon, and a friend of KO's who was going home with her for the holiday.

It was also an exciting year, because for the first time, my twin baby brothers participated in the kid's Fun Run portion of the race!  The race we do annually is actually right near my dad's house and for the past 2 Gobble Wobbles, my dad has brought the boys to cheer my friends and I on.  Last year, after seeing them try to break into the race and run through the finish, we, I, decided that the boys should do the kid's race!  I have been talking to the boys about this for the past year and was so excited for them to participate in their first organized running event, something that has become a love and obsession for me.

They did great and I was so proud to see them do the little run after I finished the 5K.

From the Gobble Wobble I went to my dad's (since he lived so close) to shower & change, then drove over to meet my mom's side of the family at my maternal grandparent's home.  We had a fun day that included lots of laughter, singing, dancing, eating, and of course, some shenanigans.

When we go to my grandmother's, things are usually all about tradition.  We know what appetizers to expect, we know when the different families will be arriving (who will be late...), and there are always certain rituals that need to be followed.  One thing that shook up our Thanksgiving was that our dinner included a new type of dinner roll.  It was a big topic of conversation and actually was a favorite of many.  The new dinner rolls were a hit!

I love that my family includes so many different individuals yet we all get along really great and have so much fun.  They are truly people that I am thankful for.  As well as my fabulous friends that I got to spend time with over this holiday weekend.

Thanksgiving night I spent with friends from high school -- and truly had a great time with lots of laughter.  Friday was a day for my mom and I -- which included cooking some pumpkin and cranberry risotto that was DELICIOUS.  Saturday was Thanksgiving round 2 with my dad, and lots more fun and snuggles with the baby brothers.  And now I've just been hanging with my mom on the couch (she fell asleep!)

I hope that you all had wonderful weekends and Thanksgivings with your families and friends as well.  I want you all to know that I am thankful for YOU for reading and keeping me motivated.  Love you all!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Learning to run in the rain.

Hi everyone, this will be a quick post for me but I just wanted to check in and say hello and happy Thanksgiving!  I also wanted to tell you about the most ridiculous run we had this morning.  Weather last night said a 100% chance of rain and when I woke up and headed out the door this morning, it was no lie.  The couple inches of snow we had received yesterday had been rained on all night and the ground was a slushy mess with more rain/freezing rain coming down.  The weather said something around 35 degrees.

As I jumped in my car I sent the following text to my friends:

Yup, these are my friends.  We are nuts.

So, the morning started wacky and continued because I made the mistake of going to the wrong place this morning.  We meet at a certain place on Mondays and Fridays and at another location on Wednesdays.  Since tomorrow is a holiday and today is technically "Friday" I had gone to the wrong location.  However, it took me a while to figure out and I sat there for about 10 minutes waiting for my friends to show up.  While I was there waiting, I got another text message from Jess with this quote.  I am not going to lie, it was exactly what I needed to read.

Side note: I was also totally distracted by a new Christmas tree that I saw from the parking lot of our run.  I actually took a picture of it, and this is what it came out like.  Beautiful, huh?

When I actually figured out where I was supposed to be and went over to the other location, I found my friends waiting for ME.  Woops :)  AND, to my excitement, we had a newbie join our group, our friend Erin, who decided to come out for an AM run.

Well guys, I was proud of the 12 degree run we did on Monday, BUT, Monday's run was nirvana compared to this morning.  We ran 3 miles through cold, wet, inches-deep SLUSH.  With more rain coming down.  It was nuts.  My feet were frozen.  I couldn't feel them at all and the only way I knew they were actually still moving was the noise of the slush and splashing as I kept running.  We did 3 miles that way and I was so happy and PROUD to be done!!  Seriously, I could have never done that on my own and I feel totally tough for sticking it out.

I really, really wanted to just stop as soon as the wet slushiness started but my friend kept going so I did too.  I asked them at one point, "Hey guys, my toes won't actually fall off, right?  Is there a chance of me losing my feet in this run?"  They told me no, and to keep running.  I also laughed at and was so proud of our friend Erin who just joined us for the first time today.  I told her that we had some momentum of our morning runs that I think helped keep us going... whereas she chose the grossest morning to get out and join us.  Please come back and run again Erin!! You are amazing!!

We were all a little giddy/high from the run I think and it made for a fun coffee trip afterwards and fun morning overall.  (Did I seriously just describe a run in 35 degree weather through rain and slush?  What the heck?)

I swear, coffee never tasted so good!

Hopefully Starbucks didn't mind us taking off our shoes, rubbing our feet to warm up, and all over melting throughout the store :)

Monday, November 25, 2013

A chilly run, TMI & a pasta feast!

So, I've got the coldest run so far under my belt.  It was 12 degrees this morning!

Believe it or not, I had more determination to get out and run this morning than I have on other mornings.  I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this.  And I'm also terrified that if I skip a run, I will not be able to get back in the groove so I am doing my best to just keep on going.  Twelve degrees and all.

I wore lots of layers for my run, even more so than I initially planned.  Before I walked out the door this morning I snapped a picture in the mirror.

Before heading out the door and before grabbing an extra layer of pants :)
However, once I opened the door to step outside I was like, "Nope.  Need more." and turned back in for another pair of pants.  SO, my layers this morning included running tights, sweatpants, ski socks with running socks over it, a t-shirt, a dry whick long sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, neck warmer, hat, and mittens.  And I sweat through everything.  Good times.  This is going to be a season of LOTS of laundry with all the layers I am wearing every day.

Jess and I did 4 miles at a sub-10 minute pace, which, if I do that, feels like a great run to me.

Post 4-miles in 12 degree weather!
On the mornings that I run I always pack my clothes for work and shower/change at the fitness center at work (since we run close to work.)  So far I have done a pretty decent job of not having any wardrobe mistakes.  There was one day that I accidentally packed a stained t-shirt and had to call Dani to borrow one, but that's all.  Today however, I realized when I was changing that I forgot a bra.  Going braless is not an option for me, so I ended up using the blow dryer to dry the sweat off my sports bra and had to wear that throughout the day!

I was so self conscious with the smelly sports bra on and tried to keep people at a distance.  Sports bras just give that weird "uniboob" look and I just did not feel comfortable all day.  I was pretty happy to get home from work today and change in to my PJs and take off that bra!  Sorry if that is too much information, but I just figured I'd share.  Life of a runner, you know?

On that same topic (too much information... life of a runner...), I am pretty sure I am in the beginning stages of losing a toenail on my right big toe.  It's been painful for a few days now and feels pretty awkward.  It looks like there is a blister underneath it so I am watching it closely and trying to be careful with it.  I sort of feel like this is my initiation into the running club.  Right before marathon training begins :)

Today ended with a heaping plate of pasta at Johnny's in Schenectady as I got together with some of the current members & alumni of the program I did when I began my professional career.  It's a blessing when people that you work with are friends as well.  We caught up, laughed, and had a great time.  And the food at Johnny's?  So good!  Homemade pasta is amazing, amiright?

I agonized over what to order on the menu because I wanted something healthy.  I ended up with chicken cacciatore, which came with onions, peppers, mushrooms, and at my request, broccoli as well.  The dish isn't really all that healthy but it came with vegetables at least and wasn't just a straight pasta dish and didn't have a cream sauce.  I got some protein along with my carbs too.  I dove right in and didn't look back once it was in front of me.

The work gang at Johnny's tonight!
Hope you had a great start to your short work week!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Stuffed chicken breast recipe

Stuffed Chicken Breast Recipe
Serves 4 (or more!)
Weight Watchers Points Plus: 6

1 package mushrooms
1 small onion
1/2 frozen spinach package
1 small tomato
4 cloves garlic
4 chicken breasts
Truffle salt
Poultry seasoning
Fat free hicken broth

Step #1:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook spinach according to package instructions.  I used one of those blocks of frozen spinach so I microwaved it covered for 6 minutes, stirred, and microwaved 2 more minutes.

Step #2:  Chop onion and saute in about 1/2 chicken broth (I would just pour a little into a pan and continue to add more as needed to keep the mixture on the stove liquid.  You could also use oil as a replacement but I was trying to keep this light.)  Chop the mushrooms and add to the onion and broth.  Once mushroom and onion are cooked, add garlic and cook until garlic is fragrant.  Add 1/2 of cooked & drained spinach, and tomato.  Cook the whole mixture until all chicken broth has evaporated (a tiny bit is okay... mixture should be moist.)  Add salt to taste.  Allow to cool.

Step #3: Split the chicken breasts in half, try to keep the as much of the outer ends together as possible and just cut in half so that you can stuff the breast.  Season the chicken on both sides with poultry seasoning and pepper.

Step #4:  Stuff the chicken breast with the cooked vegetable mixture.  Secure shut with toothpicks if needed.

Step #5:  Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with Pam cooking spray or olive oil.  Place chicken breasts in dish and cover with tinfoil.  Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

It's beginning to look a lot like...

How did it get to be November 24th already?  Geez louise, this year has flown by.  Despite the fact last week feels like last December to me, I am feeling ready and excited for the holidays.

I am what you might call a Christmas freak.  I love the feeling of the holiday season. I love the music, the lights, the traditions. I love the gift giving, the cookie making, and the tree decorating.  Which, is exactly what I did today at my apartment!  Yup, my Christmas tree is now up :)

I just couldn't wait until after Thanksgiving, like I usually do.  I wanted my tree now!!  I love how cozy it makes my apartment feel.  Right now I'm curled up on the couch with the tree lights glowing, apartment smelling fantastic, and am just so warm and cozy inside.  I am just as excited for Thanksgiving as I am for Christmas, but I love how my the tree makes everything seem cozier.

This weekend for me was filled with lots of activity and fun times.  Friday morning was a chilly run in the rain with my friends, followed by coffee.  We've started a tradition of going for coffee after our Friday morning runs and I have to say that it is such a treat and something I find myself looking forward to all week long.  

Running with my friends in the morning has really been such a motivator for me lately.  I guess I haven't really written about it too much, but since July I have been meeting with a few friends at 5:40 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.  It is such a fun way to start the day and I love getting my run out of the way early.  I feel so accomplished before I even go in to work.  Running with friends makes it go by faster, pushes me harder, and holds me accountable.  I'm so thankful to have them!!

My weekend was full of lots of relaxing time with friends... watching a movie, catching up, running errands, doing crafts, eating out, and also getting in the Christmas spirit.  

In addition to getting my tree today, yesterday, I joined one of my running buddies, her husband, and two kids to go on the Polar Express train to "the North Pole."  It was such a cute family event I have heard about for years and because I am a big kid myself, jumped on the chance to join Jess and her family.  

We went to the local train station, where they were fully decorated for the holidays and boarded the "Polar Express."  The train itself was so festive and once we boarded and the train started moving, they served hot chocolate and cookies, read the book aloud, played the music from the movies, and drove through the "North Pole" which we watched from the windows and was full of lights and holiday magic.  The kids had a special treat as Santa was able to board the train and say hello to everyone!! :)

Santa!! I know him!
The North Pole
I love the look of excitement!
It was such a fun night and there was even some beautiful snow yesterday evening to make the night even more magical.

*sigh* I love the holidays.

I am pretty proud of some of the eating choices I made this weekend.  For example, on Saturday night we went out to a Mexican restaurant for dinner where they give you free chips and salsa -- which I avoided completely!   I also didn't have any alcohol this weekend.  

I've been doing the Advocare 10-day cleanse, that I did previously in June and really tried hard to stick to the rules.  I cheated a bit on Friday with some popcorn, Saturday with some hot chocolate and a cookie on the Polar Express, and today when I ate lunch at a friend's for a party she was having.  However, I am proud of many decisions I made so I am trying to focus on that and finish off the rest of the cleanse as best I can.

To help with the next few days, I made a delicious meal tonight.  I fed myself and my friend Kevin who helped with setting up my tree for the 2nd year in a row.  We had chicken stuffed with spinach, mushrooms, onion, garlic, and tomato, along with baked sweet potatoes and asparagus.

I will be eating this for the rest of the week, so go right ahead and be jealous now.   As for exercising this weekend?  It was non-existent as I am trying to rest up before my training starts.  It will be one of the last weekends in months that don't include a frigid run.  Ugh, okay, go back to not being jealous anymore.  Wahhhh!

Hope you had a fun weekend as well and happy holidays :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Time to be thankful.

Hi everybody, I hope that you have all been doing well.  I've meant to come here and write so many times and it is one of those things where the longer you stay away, the harder it is to come back.  So I'm sorry, mostly to myself, because I have not only lacked the discipline in writing lately, I've lacked the discipline in eating right and taking care of myself.  So that's something I am planning to work on nowadays and I am hoping to keep track of it all right here.

Also, one of my readers, Malory, posted over a month ago asking how my half marathon in September went and it made me so happy.  Every time I went to write I would think about that comment and it is one of the things that I thought about when I came back to the keyboard now.

So, for those who I haven't talked to... my half marathon back in September went great.  I had a PR of about 16 minutes, finishing the race in 2:03:41.  I really pushed myself hard throughout the race and started with a crazy fast pace that I was able to keep up for a while -- until the last few miles when I just DIED.  It was all I could do to keep my legs moving through the last 2 miles of the race, but I am so proud that I did.  Having such a strong PR felt great and really proved something to myself.  The other thing that made the race so amazing was having support from my family and friends.

Well, not that I didn't have support the first time around -- I know, that I could not have gotten through the Nashville race without everyone's support.  No, if anything else, I felt more of my own determination doing this half marathon, but this time around, I had a cheering squad!  My parents, siblings, and some friends all came to cheer and seeing them on the sidelines and having them to hug at the end made it so, so amazing.  I'm so grateful to everyone who has been with me throughout my journey over the past few years.

This past year has been incredible.  I ran TWO half marathons.  I completed TWO sprint triathlons -- one on my birthday.  And I did something else you guys.  I am officially registered for my first MARATHON.  Ahhhhh!!!!!!!

AND, that marathon is in Paris, y'all.  Woooo hooooo!

My training starts on December 1st.  It is going to be a long and cold winter and it is going to be terrible and I'm going to hate it and I'm going to cry.  But I'm going to do it.

So, if you're not feeling too abandoned by me so far, stick with me here.  Because there are some intense months to come!!

Thanks for everything, everyone :)