Video Friday: Double Dream Hands!

As most of you know, this weekend is Halloween!

My neighbor, Colin, is going as this guy:

Whom you may or may not know from this YouTube sensation:

I graciously volunteered (who am I kidding, I was way more excited about this than he was) to help him learn the Double Dream Hands dance. Quite a work out! And quite entertaining.

This is may be the most frightening thing you see this Halloween.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Ice Cream Therapy

How is it possible that little crystals of milk, sugar, and in most cases (in my life anyway), chocolate contain the key to happiness. We eat it at birthday celebrations, we have socials dedicated solely to its consumption, and we even have trucks that play funny jingles devoted to selling the frozen stuff. So, what is it about ice cream that makes it so appealing?

I think ice cream has healing powers. No, really, hear me out! Nearly every single bad day, break up, or fight I’ve ever had has ended with ice cream. After eating a spoon full of my favorite flavor, the world seems a little better and my problems a little smaller. Maybe it’s all mental, but it works for me. I know somewhere in the back of my mind that ice cream isn’t the end-all-be-all to my problems; but it’s all about the little pleasures in life, right? I know many of my friends’ favorite ice cream flavors so that if anything happens I can zip on over and help out with a pint and a spoon. For me, it’s just essencial knowledge.

Ice cream is something I rarely actually have in my house. Probably because I’d be too tempted to eat the whole gallon in one sitting* which is clearly a temptation I am trying to avoid. So, why then, did I go out and buy a pint of this tonight?

Well, multiple reasons. One: it is delicious, Two: chocolate and peanut butter is the most heavenly combination in the known world, and Three: I needed a little ice cream therapy.

While I try to remain generally optimistic and upbeat in the blog world, there are just times when I’m not feeling it. This has been one of those weeks. I’ve been in a funk: I haven’t run once and I’ve eaten pretty terribly everyday. Those are two of the most telling signs that I’m stressed, frustrated, and/or upset. You won’t see any progress on my marathon training, nor any new recipes this week. Sorry, folks, maybe next week. I’m not a good enough liar to trick anyone into thinking my week has been stellar, so I’m not even going to try. This blog is supposed to be honest anyway, right?

Being a 20-something, single, career-oriented woman trying to find her place in this world isn’t always easy. I over-analyze, under-think, and sometimes just fall flat on my face.  In fact, the process of self-discovery can be downright rocky (and I’m not talking about rocky road); the world can be a really unfair place. It’s hard not to get jaded, damn near impossible to always stay positive, and I often feel that I’m running round and round in circles but never making any progress.

It feels like the world is about to crash down on me, but at the moment I’m just going to bask in the small wonder that is chocolate peanut butter ice cream and have faith that everything will somehow work out for the better.

What’s your go-to ice cream flavor?

*For the record, I totally ate a whole gallon of ice cream. Once. On a dare. It did not end well. But at least I can say I did it!

Post Race Report: ZOMBIES!

I’m happy to report that I survived a zombie apocalypse this weekend. But only just barely!

On Saturday morning, Sarah and I ran the FIRST EVER Run for Your Lives zombie apocalypse themed 5k in the small town of Darlington, MD. A few months ago, I couldn’t stop talking about how much I wanted to try out an obstacle course race; because honestly, who doesn’t want to get a little muddy sometimes? Right around that time, Sarah found out about the Run for Your Lives race which not only had obstacles, but ZOMBIES too. Of course, this was right up my ally, so it only took me about 0.2 seconds to register.

This race was super unique and unlike any I’ve run in the past. Essentially, they gave us all a flag football belt with 3 flags. These flags signify your “life”. The zombies (yes, there were real people/runners dressed as zombies) were going for your life flags. If you lost all 3 to the zombies, then you finish the race as one of the undead. If you cross the finish line with one or more of your flags still in tact, then you finish alive and can brag to all of your friends that you are now fully prepared in the event of a full-fledged zombie attack…not that I would ever do that or anything!

As with any newbie race, this one had its growing pains. Picture this scenario: try to cram about 10,000 people, in one afternoon, into a town built for 3,000. I’m sure that you can imagine how this is going to play out. The website told us to show up 1-1.5 hours before our heat time. We did exactly that, what we didn’t anticipate was the 45 minutes of traffic trying to get into the parking lot, and the 45 minute wait for the shuttle to the start line. We totally missed our 9am start time, but luckily, everyone else did too. After about an hour of panic, we were able to run in the 10am wave.

The race itself was so much fun! Even though I knew I was running, it didn’t feel like it. I was way too distracted making friends and strategizing with my fellow runners about ways to avoid/defeat the zombies. Turns out that running from something really brings out the survival instincts in me. I banded together with groups of strangers and charged at swarms of zombies so there was less of a chance that they could get me.

There were 12 obstacles along the course: including a swim in a lake (brrrrr!), climbing haystacks, and scaling up nets. Although, I’d have to say I think the biggest obstacle we encountered was the MUD! It was thick. I’d imagine that trying to run in that mud would be comparable to running in a big vat of pudding. It was just impossible to get any grip or stability. Plus, it took about 45 minutes in the shower to finally wash it all off!

It was so worth it. There are already talks about doing this race again next year. Hopefully with a bigger group of people, and hopefully with less traffic. Great atmosphere, fun course, z0mbies and free beer. Does life get any better?

Look Ma’ I’m COOKIN’: Chicken Florentine

The deed is done. The seal has been broken. The first meal has been made. And it was, drum roll please…

PRETTY DARN GOOD!

I mean, I can’t really say I’m surprised considering I recruited the help of my good friend and cooking extraordinaire, Kayleigh, to guide me through my first clueless time in the kitchen. She made sure I didn’t make too much a fool of myself.

Hi Kayleigh!

Really, I wasn’t quite sure how this was going to turn out because I have a knack for messing up recipes. I also wasn’t sure if I would even like the dish because it has SPINACH in it. Yes, hold the phone, yours truly is eating VEGETABLES. The nice part about Chicken Florentine is that the spinach is totally masked with ricotta and parmesan cheeses. It’s like tricking yourself into eating vegetables by convincing yourself that you’re just eating cheese. At least that’s how I rationalized it!

Under Kayleigh’s watchful eye, this recipe turned out to be a success. Today I learned that cooking isn’t like baking in that it isn’t as much of a science, it’s okay if a little more of this and a little less of that gets mixed in. So, we definitely added a few more spoonfuls of garlic in there. Good thing I don’t have a hot date tonight!

Without further ado, here is the recipe:

Chicken Florentine:
Taken from Weight Watchers, adapted by Kayleigh (and Caitlin, sort of)
Cook time: 35-40 min

Ingredients

  • 8 (6 oz) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 boxes (10 ox/each) frozen chopped spinach – thawed & squeezed dry
  • 1 lb ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt & pepper (for each breast)
  • 2 egg whites, beaten with 2 tbsp water
  • 1 cup seasoned dried bread crumbs (we used panko, but I’d like to try Italian next time)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven. Spray large shallow baking pan with non-stick spray
  2. Pound breasts until 1/2 inch thick
  3. Mix spinach, cheeses, garlic powder, salt & pepper
  4. Spoon mix onto half side of breasts. Fold over and press edges to seal
  5. Dip breasts in egg whites
  6. Coat with 2 tbsp of bread crumbs
  7. Place in pan. Cook until juices are clear

We served ours with a side of bowtie pasta with mushroom alfredo which we doctored up by adding tomatoes, garlic and italian seasoning. Judging from how quickly Kayleigh’s boyfriend, Nate, devoured the whole thing, I’d say it was a success.

So that’s it, the first meal stigma is gone. Now the question is, what should I cook next?

Things I’m Digging: October

1) My North Face Jacket

Sometime last week while I was enjoying the summer-like weather in Hawaii, October and fall sprung up on the East Coast. This week, as temperatures plummeted, I finally got the chance to pull out my dusty, old North Face Jacket which is my most over-worn comfortable jacket of the winter months. I have missed it dearly during the hot, humid summer months and I’m so glad it’s finally made its triumphant return!

2) Chick-fil-a

(source)

If we’re being really specific here (which we are), I am technically referring to Chick-fil-a’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich (hold the pickle). I had one last week and I CAN’T STOP CRAVING IT! I would eat one everyday this week if I could, but I can’t, because that isn’t healthy…and isn’t that what this blog is all about? But hey, I had one for lunch therefore I’m 1 for 1 so far this week. 😀

3) Pumpkin Carving

My friends and I dabbled a bit in the art of pumpkin carving this season. I haven’t successfully carved a pumpkin since my sophomore year of college. In fact, last time I tried the whole thing collapsed in my hands and I just threw it in the trash. This year’s extravaganza was so much fun, made for some sweet pictures, AND got me in the Halloween/Fall spirit. See if you can guess which one is mine!

4) JMU Football Games

Have I mentioned that I seriously love my alma mater? In college I lived and breathed JMU football in the fall. Now that I’ve graduated not much has changed, other than the fact that I need to put a little more effort (rather than just getting out of bed) to actually attend games. There’s just something about heading down 81, pulling into the tiny town of Harrisonburg, and entering that [newly rennovated!] stadium that just pulls at my nostalgic heartstrings. It’s pretty helpful that most of my friends also have season tickets, so it’s never hard to find people to tailgate with!

5) Self-confidence

Because confidence is sexy, right? There are a few things in my life right now that are actually finally surprisingly working out as I hoped they would. This blog being one of them! It’s nice to find a voice and the ability to express myself through writing. The more I post, the easier I find words flowing from my fingertips. Not only has the blog helped me to feel more confident as a writer, but it has actually helped me feel more comfortable with trying new foods! So, thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who continues to support this venture. Whether it’s reading my posts, e-mailing me potential topics, encouraging me to try a new food/recipe, or just subscribing to increase my numbers, the love and support from my family and friends has been overwhelming and has helped me more than you realize.

So, with that: I will try to keep things spicy (and not just in chicken sandwich form) enough for you. On Wednesday, I will be taking my first dive into the wonderful, confusing, and to me, unknown world of cooking. Operation Chicken Florentine here I come.

…and for the record, I definitely had to google how to spell Florentine. I’m in so much trouble.

Photo Friday: Graduating from the Kiddy Menu

Chipotle Edition

Disclaimer: If you don’t realize how big of a deal this post is, then let me clue you in. Just under 3 years ago my family wanted to stop at Chipotle for lunch. My family’s big fans of the restaurant which we didn’t have close to where we lived in southern Virginia. I wouldn’t eat anything there. I complained, whined, threw a fit…but they wouldn’t listen and dragged me there anyway. I refused to eat, citing that nothing on the menu appealed to me (no, not even chips). Shortly after, I found out that Chipotle could make custom made quesadillas which they technically classified as being on the Kid’s Menu. I have been ordering them (and holding up lines at Chipotle) ever since.

So, for me, this is huge:

Finding Motivation

It’s not always easy finding motivation to run. Yes, I run marathons on occasion. While I adore the excitement, hype, and sense of community surrounding actual race day, I have more of a love/hate relationship with the training that comes before it.

I would be lying through my teeth if I said that everyday I am excited to run. I would also be lying if I said that everyday I actually do run. Sometimes my legs hurt, sometimes I’m too tired, sometimes I just flat out don’t feel like it. Sometimes I can go weeks months without running at all and be completely okay with that.

This hits me hard especially after I’ve trained for and completed a large race. I’ve talked to many of my runner friends who experience the same phenomenon. After such an important goal is accomplished, the motivation to keep pushing just vanishes. In my mind, I justify it as “rewarding myself” for working so hard and accomplishing something so great; but in a reality it’s just an excuse for me to be lazy. Lazy habits don’t die easy. Getting back into running after any time over a week is hard! After my last marathon I didn’t do anything for 2 months. I went from being able to run 8-10 miles on a daily basis to barely being able to finish 3! It’s amazing how quickly the body forgets.

Recently, I’ve been struggling with finding motivation. Weather has a huge effect on my running habits and current weather patterns in DC have been less than cooperative for my marathon training endeavors. Oh, how I miss the days of college with our indoor track at our brand new gym! Gym memberships are sort of WICKED expensive! Regardless, due to the incessant rain since the beginning of September, I have been slacking. Majorly!

With my next marathon rapidly approaching (November 20th!!), I need to get back in the swing of things. I need to rediscover my motivation.

So, I’ve been thinking. What exactly is it that motivates me? What are those things that really make me excited about running?

  1. Friends – Running with friends is always WAY more fun than running alone. In general, I always try to sign up for races with friends. It makes the experience of races that much more memorable and sometimes makes for a fun weekend getaway. In fact, I’ve actually met some of my best friends through running which is pretty amazing! Of course, having a training buddy doesn’t hurt either. It’s harder to convince a friend that you don’t want to run that 21-miler on Sunday than it is to convince yourself.
  2. Weight – This is sort of embarrassing to talk about, but seeing as this blog is for getting things out in the open, might as well get this one over with. I’ve never been “overweight”, but I easily could be. My family has a long history of obesity. Many of my relatives and extended family ARE obese and I definitely have the potential in my genes. I am honestly, truly terrified to turn out that way. My weight has flucuated over the years, but for the most part running is a great way the only way to keep it at bay.
  3. Strength – In general, I just FEEL so much better after I run. In college, I realized that the only reason I even venture to the gym at all is so that I can get that natural high once I’m done. I love how my legs, core, arms…hell my whole body feels so much stronger after a good run. I have an exponentially higher amount of energy which powers me through the day.
  4. Food – I’m aware that I don’t have the best diet in the world. Running is one of the ways that I can eat what I do and still maintain my weight and energy level. I’m hoping that I can take this one off the list soon.
  5. Mental Clarity – Whenever I’m having a bad day, the very first thing I do is lace up my running shoes. Everyone handles stress, trauma, and sadness in their own unique way and my way is running. Concentrating on something physical that my body is doing takes my mind away from all of my mental aliments. Running is my “me” time and I use it as a time to sort things out in my life.
  6. Finish Line – I remember crossing the finish line at my very first race. I was so excited to get there that I sprinted right on through it! Once that baby is in sight, your heart starts pumping faster and your legs suddenly feel stronger. Seeing that finish line is like confirmation that you’re going to make it and that all of your hard work has not gone to waste. Even in training, I like to picture crossing that finish line.

So, I guess that time has come. Time for me to hone in on those specific motivators. Time to get training! Yeah, we’ll see how this goes.

How do you get motivated? What sort of thing gets you off the couch and hitting the pavement?

Breakfast of Champions (or mediocre football teams)

In my [humble?] opinion breakfast is the most underrated meal of the day.

I seriously love breakfast. If I could eat it for every meal, I probably would. Imagine this, for as long as I can remember breakfast was the only meal I wasn’t picky about. I will literally eat almost every single breakfast food. French toast? YUM! Hash browns? DELICIOUS! Bacon? Don’t even get me started on my favorite food EVER! Personally, I don’t think breakfast gets enough credit. It’s the most important meal of the day, plus you can eat whatever you want because you have all day to burn it off! You really can’t beat that.

So many people (sometimes myself included) throw breakfast by the wayside due to a hectic lifestyle. However, being on vacation this week allowed me to fully enjoy my fix of breakfast. The best place for breakfast in Hawaii? Boots & Kimo’s!

All week, this was the one place that my friend Molly absolutely insisted we go. We woke up at 7:30 am (which is an ungodly hour for someone like me who loves to sleep) and even at that hour there was a 45 minute wait. Boots & Kimo’s is only open until 2:30 pm and apparently at peak breakfast & lunch times there can be over a 2 hour wait! Yet, people still wait and I quickly found out why.

The decor inside surprised me. I wasn’t sure if the place was a sports bar or a family style restaurant. We stepped inside and all of tables had pro NFL team logos, but the walls were painted yellow and were adorned with tiki decorations. It was confused, but combined 2 of my favorite things (football and the beach) so I was okay with it.

This was the table we were seated at. The (1-4) Carolina Panthers? Come on! I would have rather eaten at the Seattle Seahawks table! Seriously.

NFL rant aside, the food was fantastic! I got a bacon and swiss cheese omelette with hash browns. Me being me, I was relatively concerned about the swiss cheese. If you can even believe it, this was the very first time I ever had swiss cheese. Yes, believe it, because it’s true.

It was SO good. I’ve only recently (ie. the past 3 years) started eating eggs and I’m so glad that I did. Eggs are now one of my favorite foods! And hey, they’re actually good for you too. The bacon in this was real, crunchy, salty, and delicious. The cheese was abundant and I was surprised at how much I liked the swiss. Molly ordered a seafood omelette which was stuffed with cheese and crab.

She was obviously very excited, the girl freaking loves her food. I tried a bite, and if you can even believe it, I liked hers even more than my own! Crab is slowly climbing up my favorite foods list.

But onto the real star of the show. Molly also insisted that we get the pancakes. I saw a waiter bring them out to another table and noticed that they had some sort of sauce poured all over the top. I was resistant, but she was relentless vouching that I just needed to “trust her”. Easier said than done.

We ordered them to split and I can honestly say that it was the best thing I had all week. I don’t really know what exactly the sauce consisted of but it was sweet, creamy, and nutty. No syrup needed on these puppies! The pancakes were fluffy and light and SO GOOD. I don’t even have the words to describe how great these were. All I know is that I was extremely full, but I just kept on eating them anyway until my stomach felt like it was about to burst.

Finished everything. Oops! But it was hard to feel too bad about it when I was here literally 5 minutes later:

Aloha au ia ‘oe, Hawaii

Aloha from Hawaii!

The last few days have been quite a whirlwind adventure for me. In fact, it’s Wednesday morning and I’m pretty sure that I’m just now starting to recover from my jet-lag. The 6 hour time difference is a killer. But it’s totally worth it!

Seriously, you can’t even tell me that’s not worth it!

Let’s start at the beginning. My trip began with a long flight from DC to Seattle where I had a 7 hour layover which allowed me the chance to see Kristina, my best friend from middle school. I only get to see Kristina on rare occasions, so I jumped at the chance to have a long layover in my old stomping grounds.

We went to Salmon Days, which is an arts festival that I used to go to every year when I lived there. Talk about nostalgia! By the time I landed, I had already been up for 12 hours without food and was ravenous. Luckily, we happened across the Issaquah Brewhouse where we enjoyed burgers and beers at noon. Don’t judge!

I wish I had gotten to spend more time, but alas Hawaii was calling my name! I hopped back on the plane filled with good food and good beer, and slept through the next 5 hours. [sidenote: sleeping on an airplane is awesome, it’s like teleportation!]

My trip to Hawaii began something like this:

Are you not surprised? Come on!

This was insanely cool. The best part about it was that on the plane ride to 14,000 feet, you could see the entire island of Oahu and the adjacent island (sorry, I don’t know which one that is) too. I guess the whole tumbling-towards-earth-at-a-soul-crushing-120mph part wasn’t so shabby either. Glad my parachute deployed…what a rush!

There’s been an abundance of sunshine since I arrived which is such a nice break from that relentless rain that was happening back at home. I’ve spent most of my time on the beach (don’t mind if I do), and so far my only physical activity has come from a hike up Diamond Head, where only <sarcasm> the most serious of hikers venture </sarcasm>. No, but really, there were 80 year old grandmothers and tourists wearing flip flops doing this hike, so I can barely even classify it as a work-out.

However, the views were amazing and definitely worth battling all of the tourists for.

Hawaii is such a unique place. It is distinctly American, yet has this great culture all its own. Downtown Waikiki may be the only place you can pass by a luau going on right next to a Buffalo Wild Wings. I appreciate Hawaii for holding on strong to its roots. I actually keep forgetting that I’m still in America (until I look up and there’s a PF Changs on one corner and a Red Lobster on another), it’s weird to think that these little islands in the middle of the south Pacific are actually part of my country. It’s paradise and I don’t even need a passport to get here!

Today, Molly has to go to work and is leaving me to fend for myself. If I don’t get lost it will be a miracle. Although, I could think of worst places to lose my way.

More updates to come!