Now that’s my kind of race!

After a disappointing show in last Saturday’s race and a similarly disappointing day at work on Friday, I decided I needed to run a 5K this morning – I felt like I needed to prove to myself that I was still making forward progress in at least one part of my life. So I woke up at 6:00 this morning and headed out to Long Creek Vineyard near Decatur for the JWA’s Run to the Vineyard 5K. Fortunately they had race-day registration and there were even still t-shirts and souvenir wine glasses! After registering, I sat in my car for about an hour reading Laura’s copy of The Great Gatsby (which I’m actually not hating this time around) until it was time to start getting ready for the race. We got sprinkled on before and after the race, but while we were actually running, the weather was clear!

It was a road race – I’ve learned my lesson after last week’s trail run – and, despite there being an uphill section on the way out and on the way back (yes, it was uphill both ways – no, there was no snow), I ran all the way and seem to, unofficially, have set a new personal best for myself! The official race results haven’t been posted yet, but when I crossed the finish line, the 5K clock said 34:33 which is an 11:13/mile pace! I’m slowly getting closer and closer to my 10:00/mile goal!

It certainly wasn’t as fun without a friend to go with me, but I still had a good time – I only wish they’d had a glass of wine waiting for us at the finish line 😉

p.s. – I felt very color-coordinated in my pink and green shoes, pink and green race t-shirt, and pink hair. Even if I’m slow, at least I’m stylish!

What do you do with questionable celery?

Make Cream of Celery Soup! Soup is so forgiving, it’s always my go-to option for vegetables that are very nearly dead. I did run into a problem in the form of a disgusting potato (even though I’d just bought it) so Drew came to my rescue and ran to the market to replace it (and to get flour and baking powder – who runs out of baking powder?! – which allowed me to make us a dessert, too). It was not my night in the kitchen – I didn’t have enough baking powder for the Whole-Wheat Beer Bread and also had to substitute bread flour for all-purpose in that recipe, I spilled flour and butter all over me while making Orange and Dark Chocolate Buttermilk Scones, encountered the aforementioned gross potato, and may or may not have lost an earring back in a bowl of diced onions (Drew got me an onion to replace that one, too) – but somehow everything turned out all right!

The celery soup tastes like celery, but in a good way and the beer bread is a lovely combination of salty and a little bit of sweetness. Yum!

The scones are tasty, as well – I baked off two of them for us to eat that evening and the other four are in the freezer waiting for just the right moment. Can’t wait!

It’s still strawberry time!

I originally bought the strawberries that have featured in the last few cooking items to make this one recipe – the strawberries got a bit out of hand, I’ll admit that, and have found their way into pretty much every other thing I’ve made since then. But they were originally intended to be used in this Mahi with Strawberry-Avocado Salsa which turned out to be super tasty! The first night, I used the Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning that Drew brought back with him from New Orleans – it’s good but it’s very salty, so the next night, I used Emeril’s Essence instead and I think that had a better salt level. The salsa is really good – yummy on fish, but probably also just as good eaten with tortilla chips! To go with it, I also made the String Beans with Ginger and Garlic that I usually make at Thanksgiving, but without the ginger since I wasn’t sure that would go with the flavors in the fish and salsa. Still tasty just with the garlic!

Then, to use up some sour cream and cream cheese that I had around from the strawberry doughnuts I’d made, I made these Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. They turned out a little drier than I would have liked, but they’re still chocolate cupcakes, so how bad can they be! And I added a little bit of strawberry extract to the frosting, but was a little too cautious with it and you couldn’t really taste it. Next time I’ll know to add more!

Trail running is HARD!

After really enjoying the 10K trail run we did in Allerton, Mom and I were looking forward to the Buffalo Trace Trail Run at Lake of the Woods in Mahomet. We signed up for it, thinking it was a 5K, but it turns out it was actually a 5-MILE run! Oops!

We finished, but it wasn’t pretty. I managed to run the first 3 miles, but then I pretty much staggered the last 2 miles. Mom was doing really well and eventually I convinced her to leave me and save herself, but even she sort of pooped out on the last half mile or so. Her time was around 1 hour and 5 minutes and mine was about 1 hour and 6 minutes, so our mile pace was slower than it has been for our 5Ks but better than the first 10K we did.

I definitely prefer running on plain, old pavement or at least a very packed-down trail (like the ones in Allerton) – running through grass and uneven ground was just enough extra exertion to make it difficult! Mom didn’t place in her age category this time which was a bummer since the trophies were cute buffalo trophies, but according to her “These old ladies are fast!” We don’t think we’ll do this one again, but once we shave a few more minutes off our pace, we may try again and see if Mom can get her buffalo trophy after all.

I can’t get a good picture of it, but…

…I swear my hair is pink now!

I’ve always wanted super pink hair, but just haven’t even gone for it despite having had blonde, black, red, and even blue (well, highlights, but still!) hair. I thought a good way to ease into it would be to have this pretty rosy color and work my way up to hot pink. 😉

Congratulations, Dr. Drew!

Last weekend was graduation here at the U of I and Drew was graduating with his DMA! Mom and I went to see him at the big university-wide ceremony – they just do the undergraduates as a big group, but the doctoral candidates get recognized individually, so it was really exciting to hear them call his name in front of thousands of people. We woo-hoo’d for him!

Then Mom and I picked up Drew’s dad who had driven down from Michigan for the smaller School of Music graduation ceremony and met Dad over at Smith Memorial Hall for the ceremony. It was packed! We weren’t able to sit together, but that’s okay – we still got to see him walk across the stage and get hooded (again – they did that at the big ceremony, too). Very exciting!

Cleaning and baking, oh my!

Today is graduation day here at the U of I and Drew’s dad is coming down for the ceremony, of course, so after I got back from the Kirby Derby, I immediately got to cleaning. I don’t want him to know how we live! So I did many, many loads of laundry, hoovered, cleaned floors and the bathroom, took stuff down to hide it in the basement storage unit, and then after I was done with all of that, I baked a loaf of Whole Grain Strawberry-Banana Bread.

I love bananas because they’re so easy to eat, but I only like them for a teeny, tiny window of ripeness – as soon as there’s even the hint of brown, I can’t eat them anymore. Which means that our freezer is full of frozen, black bananas. The fridge is also full of huge strawberries, so this bread was the only logical choice for getting rid of a lot of both.

It’s so super tasty! Drew and I each had a slice this morning (well, I went back to eat the heel slice – it was worth it, I tell you!) and it’s lovely and sweet and very moist – and it smelled great while it was baking. I think it would make yummy French toast, but I don’t think it’s going to last that long. 😉

Triple Crown #2: Kirby Derby

Mom and I are two-thirds of the way to our special Triple Crown sweatshirts! Yesterday was the Kirby Derby out in Monticello and Mom and I did great! They had a great turnout for the race – between 900 and 1000 people! – and the money raised is going to build a 1-mile walking path with stretching stations around the hospital which seems like a good idea and a good cause.

There was a 5K run, a 10K run, and a 5K walk – our goal was to finish before the first 10K runner. And we were sooooo close! SO close! As we were running toward the finish line, up over the hill ahead of us appeared a 10K runner and he beat us by about a minute or so. We actually set a new personal record: 35:25 for an 11:23/mile pace! We did even better than we did at the marathon 5K! I was really proud of us – it seems to be getting easier slowly but surely. I’m sure we’ll plateau timewise soon and then we’ll have to actively work on improving our speed, but for now it feels like a big accomplishment each time.

Mac and cheese with a kick!

We love Mexican food around here, so when I stumbled across this recipe for Macaroni and Cheese with Black Beans and Chipotle, I immediately added it to my to-make list. It ended up taking me a while to get around to making it, but it was super tasty when I finally did! Instead of American and cheddar cheeses, I took the opportunity to clean out our cheese shelf in the fridge and used a combination of cheddar, pepper jack, and queso fresco cheeses which worked just fine (though the queso fresco, known as a melting cheese, just did not want to melt!). I also added some sliced grape tomatoes to add a little cool, crisp flavor to the warm, rich cheese. Tasty!

A mini food party!

To celebrate the season finales of Parks and Rec and Happy Endings, Jillian and I decided to have a mini food party! She brought her specialty, the famous Cheesy Bread, which is OMG, so good! I always eat way too much of it, but it’s just so tasty. Her three tips are to add a little extra garlic, change the cheese ratio from 2 parts cheddar and 1 part mozzarella to 2 parts mozzarella (since it melts better than cheddar) and 1 part cheddar, and bake it first to get the cheese melty and then broil it to get some lovely bubbly, brown parts on top.

I was very intrigued by these Strawberry Thyme Olive Oil Cupcakes with Balsamic Frosting. They’re…interesting. And I really mean that – I can’t decide whether or not I like them (I’m not entirely convinced by the thyme and might try it with some different herbs next time and I think the balsamic frosting needs a little more sugar even though I added an extra cup already) – but I certainly can’t seem to stop eating them!

I also made these Brown Butter Strawberry Streusel Bars which are oh, so good! I halved the recipe which seems to have worked out just fine apart from having a little too much of the topping left – next time, if I halve the recipe, I don’t think I’ll put quite so much on top, or at least I’ll clump it together a big more before I do. Still, they were a hit – the filling is perfect!

Then, if you can see a theme, I made us this Strawberry-Jalapeno Martini. The jalapenos just float in the martini and I was thinking that next time I might try infusing the strawberry simple syrup with some jalapeno slices next time, but the longer the drink sat, the spicier it got! Well, spicy isn’t really the right word, but there’s definitely some heat there and you can feel it! Very tasty.

And finally we had this Strawberry Gin Smash Cocktail which was very tasty, but very strong! I measured everything, but maybe the shot glass I used was too big (though I used the same one to measure out the martinis and those were of the correct strength). So, yes, very tasty, but pour lightly!

Close encounters of the double bass kind…

So something unintentionally hilarious just happened.

I’m baking some strawberry cupcakes for when Jillian comes over tomorrow to watch the Parks and Rec season finale and used up all the strawberries in the container, so I open up the front door to toss the container into the recycle bin. Just reaching the landing at the same time is a young blonde lady (probably a college student) with a double bass.

“Hello!” I say, brightly, being the friendly person I am (Ha! Honestly it’s because I can’t remember what my neighbors look like so I try to be blandly pleasant whenever I come across someone in the building.).

“Hello,” she says.

I toss the container into the bin, but it bounces out again. “Well, that didn’t work at all,” I mutter, leaning awkwardly further into the hall to retrieve it.

Why awkwardly, you ask? Because she seems to be wheeling the double bass toward me and now she’s very close to me. I figure she’s doing some sort of three-point turn to try to get it up to the door of one of the apartments on either side of mine. At any rate, I grab the container and drop it into the recycle bin, then pop back inside and shut the door behind me.

And I pause, thinking for a moment. I peer back out through the peephole and, sure enough, she’s standing right outside the door, looking very confused by what just happened.

I realize that if I hadn’t been in her way, she would have come on inside my apartment. After a few minutes of checking on the cupcakes, I sneak back to the peephole.

She’s still there. She’s on her phone now, so she’s clearly decided, like me, that something strange has just happened and one of us is at the wrong apartment. (As far as I can tell, it’s her.)

I text Drew, thinking maybe he knows what’s going on:

Eventually she made her way back down the stairs – I’m still not really sure what was going on, but I find the idea of the two of us standing on either side of the door, trying to figure out what just happened pretty funny!

So if you’re a blonde double bass player, I didn’t mean to slam the door in your face – I didn’t realize you thought you were expected! I hope you figured out where you were supposed to be and are having a good laugh about it with your friends!