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Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Restart

I was looking for running blogs this morning, and through the magic of internet surfing, found www.tickerfactory.com which allows you  to create a ticker for anything from exercise goals and  money goals to more personal goals.  I happily created a ticker for myself for a running goal of 20 miles a week.  It's very doable, since I've done it before, and if I put it on my blog, I know someone is watching to see if I do it every week!

I also drank too much coffee this morning, and am waiting for it to settle before I go out and run.  It's a beautiful, coolish morning--much better than yesterday's hot and muggy enough to be icky weather.  I have a few days off in a row this week, and a few night shifts at the end of the week, so I will have plenty of running opportunities!  I am participating in the Run The Flood race on June 12th.  It is a 7 mile run through areas of Cedar Rapids which were horribly flooded in June 2008, and my entry fee goes to the Block By Block Organization which helps to rebuild devastated areas one block at a time.

I ran this race last year, and was happy with my 71 minute time.  The route is very flat and winds through neighborhoods and downtown near Mercy Hospital, which all was under water just two years ago.  It's great to run a race in Cedar Rapids, where I only have to drive a few minutes to compete and not stay at a hotel!

So, here is my question:  There is a half marathon Sept. 5th in Cedar Rapids.  As far as I know, it's the first half marathon in CR!  Should I do it?  I am running the half marathon in Des Moines with my friend C-Joy in Oct., so if I do this, it will be three half marathons this year!  Since my unpleasant and frustrating half marathon last weekend, I need to prove to myself I can do better.  I have a few weeks to decide.

So, blog followers, I need your input.  Yes or No?  Go for three half marathons this year or just do two?  Just so you  know, I am leaning towards doing three.  Of course, I would hope to see friends and family at the finish line in Cedar Rapids.  It ends at the Chrome Horse Saloon, so beer for everyone afterwards!  Or, I suppose a mixed drink would be ok, too.  I will have beer.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cruncha Cruncha Cruncha Onion Rings

Bud loves onion rings.  He will always order them with his meal if they come as an option.  I like onion rings, but would rather have french fries.  I have been toying with the idea of making homemade onion rings for Bud for quite some time, and I finally took the plunge last night.  


This recipe was from the Barefoot Contessa, and they're quite simply fantastic.  Cornmeal Onion Rings have such a crunch! I read the reviews, and they unanimously received a thumbs up from everyone.  They're very simple to make; the cooking in batches in the only thing that takes awhile.  I used Vidalia onions instead of Spanish onions.   The result is a super crunchy, tasty onion ring.  Bud ate the whole plate.  I actually stopped eating and looked at him because the crunch was so loud!  Keeping them warm in the oven didn't take anything away from the taste or texture; they weren't greasy at all.


Try these with a great grilled steak, or burger.  A nice alternative side dish that will wow your family and friends--or at least put a smile on your sweetie's face.  Now, if I could only make a decent stir-fry!  

Friday, May 28, 2010

What Do You Have In Your Cupboards?

As I've said before, I have a teeny little kitchen, with not much space for pots, plates, or food storage.  There are a few things I always have on hand, though, to make some quick meals when I'm in a rush or just too darn lazy to cook anything that requires much effort.

So here's what I like to always have on hand, and find in my grocery cart most every week when I shop:

Olive Oil
Garlic
Lemons
Limes
Basil
Dried pasta
Canned artichokes
Canned black beans
Tortillas
Shredded Cheeses:  Cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan (never the stuff in the green can--ick!)
Fresh Veggies--mostly broccoli, bagged and washed spinach, peppers
Salsa

I can usually find strange new ways to mix it all together.  Of course, these are meals I eat by myself, cause I'm pretty sure Bud wouldn't touch some of my concoctions!  Cheese and bean quesadillas and a quick lemon pasta with assorted veggies tossed in are mainstays for me.

I have tomorrow off, and plan a scrumptious dinner of kabobs and homemade onion rings.  I found a recipe for pomegranate margaritas, and I think it will be a delicious dinner for Bud and I.  It will be a  nice conclusion to what should be a beautiful day having lunch with my friend C-Joy and little  Turtle, maybe a wine tasting thrown in, and a quick run early in the morning.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Where, Oh Where, Is the Next Water Station?!

Sunday I traveled to Council Bluffs, Iowa with Bud for my half marathon.  It was the second year for this race, and since it was in May and not in October (prime deer hunting season) I thought I would get my race out of the way for the year and Bud wouldn't miss any hunting time in October.

Bud and I had a lovely time in Council Bluffs and Omaha, NE which was literally across the river and about two minutes away from our hotel. I picked up my race packet at Harrah's Casino, and we ended up in Omaha for dinner.  Downtown Omaha was a pleasant surprise.  There's an area called Old Town, which is about 4 blocks of restaurants and odd little shops.  A great place to walk and browse with your sweetie before picking a restaurant to eat.  We ate at an Italian restaurant which I would have liked to move back home!  Our pizza was scrumptious--pesto, chicken, sundried tomatoes, fresh basil, and alfredo sauce.  Very light crust and very yummy.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Race day dawns windy, very humid, and warm.  The kind of conditions I dread.  I'm a cool weather running kind of gal--60-65 degrees is ideal for me!  So I was prepared to sweat, and Bud brought his bike to follow me along the route (not with the runners, but on the sidewalks).

What a mess I quickly became!  I made it five miles before I had to stop and walk for a few minutes.  I was running directly into the wind for awhile, then having the wind hit the side of my body for another few miles, all with the sun popping out to beat down on all the runners.  I had sunscreen on, which was a blessing since I think I would have had a fierce sunburn without it.

Anyway, I finished, but way past my goal time.  I was pretty disappointed, but very much a happy camper when it was all over.  Bud was my wingman, telling me I was doing well even though I wasn't, and there at the end to give me a hug and his special smile.  After shedding a few tears over my showing, we headed out  (I hobbled) to the post party, which wasn't much.  I had a quick sample of beer--it was the only ice cold thing around!  Bud ate a bunch of peanut butter cookies.  My appetite was shot, and sweets just did not sound good.  I know, I know, it's a miracle--I didn't want sweets!

After a cool shower, I felt better, but still no appetite and golly, my knees and feet hurt!  On the way home, we stopped in Des Moines, and by that time, I was ravenous.  I wanted Mexican, so that's what we ate before making it home last night and collapsing on the couch.  Both Bud and I were tired, but happy to have spent the weekend together.  Now I have another run on June 12th--the Run the Flood Race in Cedar Rapids.  It's 7 miles.  I ran it last year, and did pretty good for myself.  I'll shake this run off, and work harder for the next one.  This is probably the first race I've ever run where I really wasn't as well prepared as I should have been, and the weather was not ideal.  I can only improve, which is what I plan to do!  I can't have the shame parade come to my house again :)

Today, I feel pretty much back to normal, with just a few aches.  Back to running this week!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Beauty and the Beast: My Yard



It's been a crazy week, it's Friday, and I've got plans for the weekend that don't include my yard.  So, I rushed home from work, finished planting tomatoes in my container garden, put my screens in my windows for some extra breeze, and decided to check out the garden.

Oh my.  I haven't mowed all week, I haven't weeded, and while Mother Nature generously gives with one hand, she taketh away with the other.  The daisies are blooming, my lavender is showing signs of growth, but the weeds have come to party.
I took a few moments to pull the most obnoxious ones--those that blocked the view of actual flowers.  Within a few moments, I had a pile on the grass.

The grass.  Man, what a mess!  I'm afraid this weekend's extreme heat and humidity will accelerate the growth into a small jungle.  I hope my mower is up to the task on Monday!

My pink  peonies are getting very close to popping open.  I love the fragrance and the look, but hate the ants crawling all over the flowers.  I know it's a necessary part of the process, but ick.  One good storm and they will be drooping.












My Dad's tree is doing marvelously well again this year.  Each year I step outside after a hard winter and check to see if it's made it through another season.  I like to think the tree is just as stubborn as my dear Pops was, and so far it looks to be that way.  I love the color, especially when my baby blue flowers bloom--and that will be soon!


I did find some whimsy in the garden:  my friend Freddy the Frog decided to wear a hat today and put a smile on my face.  

So the battle continues, and  the score is:  Suecaboo: Zero;  Mother Nature: Eleventy Billion.  

I have another side flower garden to plant, and general maintenance to attend to next week.  I'll take a few days off from running, and straighten up Freddy's home.  

Have a great weekend!  And if you're in Iowa, stay cool!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dalai Lama Day


Today the Dalai Lama came to Iowa and I got probably the only chance I may have to sit in the audience at the University Of Northern Iowa and listen to him speak.

It was a beautiful day, people were all very nice and I didn't have to take my purse back to the car thanks to a very kind security guard.  This did not sit well with the lady who came out before I came in, telling me I would have to take my purse to the car since it was the same size as her purple monstrosity.  I decided to just wait until I got up to the security gates, and politely asked if my purse fit the allowable size into the auditorium.  Guess what?  It did.  And guess what else?  The lady with the purple purse had come back and was standing next to me when I got the good news.

She was the only unpleasant person there today. :}

I went with a lovely group of ladies, and we had, quite frankly, awesome seats.  Right on the floor, row 5 and dead center.  We could take pictures, so I took a lot of pictures of the Dalai Lama as a blur, as a man with arms moving around, and turning away just as I clicked my camera.  I did manage to get a few pictures, so I am happy.

It was an interesting panel discussion on violence in the world today.  The Dalai Lama's message is quite simple:  we are all human beings, and should show compassion and love to each other regardless of religion, race, class, or country.  We are human beings first; the rest comes after.  He came across as a very human, modest, incredibly decent man.


So that was my day.  I bought another set of mala beads, some incense, and enjoyed the experience--it was a very nice day off!  Tomorrow, back to the madness!

Friday, May 14, 2010

I Have Some Work to do

It's been close to a week since I've actually been outside in my yard.  Between work, running, and the rain, the most attention I've paid to my yard has been a cursory glance as I walk to my truck to leave.

Today is the first beautifully nice day we've had for quite some time.  The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, the wind is very light, and it's warming up quickly.  Time to mow the yard.  Amazing what rain will do for growing grass.  I generally mow with half my attention on the mowing bit, and the other half looking around my yard and seeing what needs to be done.  There is so much to be done in my yard, it may very well take me a solid week of work to get everything in order.  Weeds are now taller than plants.  Some weeds I can't tell apart from stuff I want in my garden.  Daisies needs to be dug up--somehow they have taken over everywhere.  I still need to buy some annuals to plant around the yard, and flower baskets for the front porch.

This is usually how it is--a slow, steady showing of flowers, then Bam! It all explodes into  chaos.  Bud points out that I wanted flowers and a garden, so now I have to maintain it.  Well, really what I wanted was not to mow so much lawn! So, this weekend, between a good long run, working both days, and dodging a chance of rain, I will venture forth again to attack the weeds and dig up the daisies.  I can't wait to plant some yard "bling" in the next few weeks!  Stay tuned for pictures.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hall of Shame-Egyptian Style



There aren't many things in life that can make you a Pharaoh,  but I can officially say, I am one and have been one for about 6 months now.  How so, you say?

Luxor 2.  It has been on my computer for about 2 years, and I still cannot finish it.  It is maddening.  I have been on level 10 for the last year, and usually every day I spend about 15 minutes playing the game.  It's pretty simple:  just shoot colored balls with your mouse into a rapidly moving line of other colored balls.  Match 3 and they explode.  Your goal is to obliterate all of them before you lose any lives and the balls roll into either a pyramid, a strange creature, or a mysterious entrance to somewhere in the great Egyptian beyond.  There are ten levels, each with 10 games.  When you pass the whole level, you move onto a more difficult and faster level.  

So far, I have managed to achieve 10.4; which I have lost over 200 times, and only won 3 times.  I have played this game so many times, and accumulated so many points, that I have risen from a lowly brick layer,  a scribe, and a fan waver to the ruler of my kingdom--a Pharaoh.

I have another game similar to this--it's pirates and cannon balls.  I haven't downloaded it to my computer yet, because I feel enough failure at Luxor 2.  It's still sitting in my cabinet, wrapped up, and patiently waiting.  I would love to be the captain of my own pirate ship, but right now, ruling my Egyptian kingdom is proving somewhat more difficult than I imagined.  How did Hatshepsut do it?!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Herb Day!

Today I decided I should get my herbs planted.  Mother's Day is this weekend, and I was worried I might not get the herbs I wanted this year if I waited any longer.  I also knew I just couldn't wait to walk around and look at all the flower, herb, and vegetable plants one more minute!  Talking to myself in my truck beforehand, telling myself I could only buy so much, helped keep me focused, but it was very difficult to reign myself in and stay with the herbs.  I  discovered this about myself today:  flowers and books have similar effects on me:  I find myself lingering, planning where I can move stuff around to make more room.  Both are dangerous to my pocketbook, but I just can't help myself.  Who needs lots of purses and shoes when there are books and flowers wanting a good home?


I bought cilantro, basil, lemon thyme, rosemary, thai basil, and french tarragon.  Last year was my first year planting herbs in pots and I had great success with all of them.  Regular watering, plenty of sun, and feedings of Miracle Gro made my basil, rosemary, and oregano huge!  
So why mess with a proven winner?  I'll continue to do the same this year.  Bud and I will be making pizza on the grill this year, and I can't wait to use my fresh herbs for pizza, marinades, and salsa.  

It's amazing what a simple thing planting herbs did to lift my spirits and make me happy today.  And.....a lovely surprise in the yard: