Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Meli's 1/2 year Birthday!

She's 6 months old already! Where did the time go? It seems so 'the norm' to have her around, the waggy tail when you walk in the door, the snuggles, and curled up ball of hair sleeping at you feet when you're working at your desk. Oh, and the hairs all over every last bit of clothing you own, standing outside waiting for her to pee in the cold, dark, rain (because she doesn't like the rain, so won't go out by herself if it's raining - so you have to leash her and pull her out, then stand around like a spare part whilst she does her business!!) That eager face in the rear view mirror of the car when you take a drive....!

It's already hard to remember how little she was when she arrived here! Thankfully we've come a long way since then. She's great around the house these days. We've taught her to ring a bell which we've hung on the front door to signal that she needs to go out. It's supposed to be when she needs to go out to pee...but mostly she rings it just if she needs wants to go out, or we're not paying her enough attention, or pretty much without fail if we've just sat down to eat. She's a clever little monkey like that!! She gave up her crate about 6 weeks ago. Now she just sleeps on her big girl bed in the mud room - for now there's still a gate across the doorway to keep her confined, but I'm not sure she'd go wandering anyway - she sleeps right through the night - we're normally the ones that wake her come the morning!

She's already at 34lbs, and standing around 20 inches. She's so lean right now - skinny almost - but we've been packing in the food so she certainly ain't going hungry! It's difficult to know how much more she'll grow - these days I certainly have trouble picking her up. I don't think she realises that she's gotten so big - she'll still climb up onto our laps and try and curl up - but it doesn't work quite the same as it used to!!

She wasn't the water-baby we were hoping for this summer. Pretty unsure of the water in fact - hopefully that'll change next year?! She does love the beach though - sand, fine gravel, loose dirt - she goes crazy for! Loves digging and scrambling around like a lunatic! She's been great at 'fetch' right from day one - her enthusiasm and energy for fetching sticks and balls is so far endless!

She makes us laugh. She makes our little family complete. She makes us love even more.xx (even if she does look like a Gremlin in that last photo!)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

On the menu

Once again I'm holding myself accountable to Jill and Laura's Meal Planning Challenge!!

It's been another great week of making a plan and sticking to it. This was my plan for last week;

As predicted we ate out one day - we didn't know when it would be, but as it happened we had a day out Saturday. That morning we made a brief stop at the shops to collect some picnic goodies for lunch and on the way home we stopped at a little cafe for a plate of home cooked chips and a slice of fresh fruit pie a la mode to share. With all that food in our bellies we didn't need an evening meal - just snacked on fruit.

We cooked up all the other meals I'd planned out. I made enough for second portions of the Taco Casserole, Crockpot Veggie Lasagna and the Curried Pumpkin soup so they're stocked up in the freezer ready for a rainy lazy day! (Have finally gotten the hang of labelling our freezer meals - for the longest time I rather cockily thought I would remember what was what - sadly that was sooooo not the case. Frequently we got as far as defrosting and heating up a dish that was a complete mystery to us - now things are a little better since I admitted my age and failing memory function!)

Besides the quick picnic shop on Saturday morning I once again resisted the grocery store shopping trip till Wednesday rolled around again. This is totally working for us right now. And I can really see the difference it's making to our finances - its absolutely effective in saving money if I only shop once a week and resist those 'little trips' to the store.

Success all round! Loving this accountability!

Finally this is what I've got planned out for this week;

Friday, October 26, 2012

The smell of Fall

This last week or two the weather has taken a turn. We're into Autumn for reals. For the most part I LOVE this time of year....the soups, the crockpot, candles, pumpkins, the colours, the leaves....oh I could go on and on!!

For running it's a little tougher. For the last three years my big GOAL race has always been the first weekend of October. What with the big comedown following your big race, it's also right around this time the nights suddenly start to draw in. Not to mention the mornings. All of a sudden dragging myself out of bed seems like an impossible task (yet, not 2-3 weeks ago I was up and out!) It's pitch dark when the alarm goes off, and it's still pretty dim when I plan to head out of the door. Whilst I'm more than happy to jump on any old excuse to NOT go (hey, I'm all  about!!) it really is much more of a mental game than anything else. And it's been a tough one

BUT....(And here we finally get to the point of this post) it is well worth it. I experience the most wonderful sensory overload. The cool weather (and a little rain) brings a perfect freshness to the mornings. I set off cocooned in my warm weather gear and slowly wake from my slumber to enjoy the freshness of a new day.

These are the smells of Autumn round these parts, and being present in 'that place' when I run I'm able to appreciate and savour every sense I have. It's all too easy for our senses to be lazy during our day to day living and not to notice these things. But this is yet another reason why I run -

Woodsmoke - The smell of impending Autumn if ever there was one! The smell, plus the wisps of smoke from the little chimneys - Lovely!
Apples - can't get away from that one round these parts. I adore the smell of the apples - thousands of them - on the trees, or freshly plucked and sat in their crates waiting for collection by the local Co-op
Bacon - I guess this isn't exclusivley autumnal but at 7am it's pretty darn good regardless of the time of year!! Gets me motivated to get home and have that lovely hubby of mine whip up his breakfast sandwich special - omelette, cheese and crispy bacon on a wholewheat muffin!
Tumble Dryer - Is it just me? I LOVE the smell that kicks out the vent when the tumble dryer is on it's cycle. It's so warm and homely - and somehow very 'fall-like' (on looking for a suitbale picture for this one Google images didn't come up with much to convey what I meant. It was either dull techical pictures of vents or a sad story from the Daily Telegraph about a puppy that had got it's head stuck in a tumble dryer vent!!)
Rain - or rather the smell just before the rain - that freshness and the smell of the plants as they come alive. We typically have such a dry summer the smell of rain is always a welcome sign of the season changing.

What do you sense on your runs?

I'm linking up to Jill's Fitness Friday.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

On the menu...

I'm linking up once again with the Menu Planning Challenge hosted by Laura from Mommy Run Fast and Jill from Fitness, Health & Happiness.
We did pretty good sticking to last week's plan. Once we got going with our week I realised I didn't have all the ingredients for my previously planned Crockpot Veggie Lasagna. Instead of popping to the shops I dug around in the freezer for a leftovers meal to sub and have now slipped the lasagna into this weeks plan. I did manage to resist going to the shops this week - which was big - because you never just buy what you went in for, right?!
There's a couple of recipes here I've pinned to my Pinterest board in the past - the Taco Casserole I've already tried before and was a total hit. The Pumpkin Pasta bake is going to be a new one. At this time of year, when the evenings are longer I like to try a new recipe every week or two.

This week has only six meals planned. I'm being realistic here people - we go out quite often, so I usually only plan 6 meals for a week long period ;-)

Apples are in season! So for snacks right now we've got wonderful fresh local apples (love that I live surrounded by apple orchards! - the smell on my morning runs is just lush!).

Who knew that there were so many different varieties of apples?! - so many grocery stores stock the same 4-5 varieties year round. Here in the Okanagan you do NOT buy apples from the grocery store at this time of year!! I pass about 6 farm stalls (they're not even shops - just a table in their driveway or field!) on my way to work. One is actually situated within our subdivision and each year they post the varieties they're selling on a board at the end of the driveway. The varieties start getting posted up in September, 1 or 2 to start then a couple more...we eagerly wait for the sign for 'Ambrosia' Apples - they're a little later than Macs, Spartans, Gala, Granny Smith, etc. They are my absolute favourite apple to eat - it's a local variety we 'discovered' a couple of years back - they are so delicious - crispy and quite sweet. I've also discovered that 'Honey Crisp' are super-good for making apple sauce (they break down good, and don't go brown much!)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Easy freezey 'canned' tomatoes

So I've dabbled in the whole canning malarky and I have to say it's a bit of a faff! I'm not that patient to sterlise, or boil, or pop the lids. I've made some jams, chutneys, pickled stuff and I have to say, given my slap-dash way of doing things - nothings gone bad, and it lasts just as long as I need it to!

But I do like canned tomatoes. Very much. They seem to go in everything we cook but pretty much all varieties I ever find at the grocery store have additives. At the very least salt. Even the low sodium versions. really?

In the summer I do love growing tomatoes - so really canning my own was the way forward.

Except I don't can....

But I do have a chest freezer sitting half empty!

So I devised my own little way of 'canning' tomatoes for the freezer (minus the sterlising or boiling bit!) But be warned it's still a messy, juicy job!

1) Peel skins. To do this; Prick tomatoes with a knife and cover in boiling water. I actually leave mine sat in the boiling water for up to 5 minutes (this is longer than a lot of canning recipes call for, but because I'm not heating them later when they're in a jar, this is the only opportunity they get for a lil' cooking time!) They might go a bit mushy but since I'm chopping them up I don't mind!

2) Roughly chop, add to large bowl and drain off the excess juices (just some -
doesn't need to be dry!)
3) Prepare your seasonings - I usually add fresh garlic and basil, but I also love oregano and thyme

4) Mix tomatoes and seasoning

5) Use portion sized containers for freezing. I have a couple of perfect sized plastic bowls (same sort of size as a can of shop bought tomatoes).

6) I fill a bowl and let freeze overnight. Then pop out the slab of frozen tomatoes and store them in a ziplock bag in the freezer.

So far I have the equivalent of 22 cans sat in my freezer and the tomato plants in my garden are still producing. This is great for those end of season stragglers or even some green tomatoes mixed in there - waste not, want not!

To use I might put the block of frozen tomatoes on defrost in the microwave for a few minutes but if I'm slow cooking or simmering a dish I'll normally just chuck the frozen slab right in there and let the heat naturally 'melt' them.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Because 26.3 would be crazy...

Oh boy, where do I start?! This time last week I was still hobbling around in Chicago on my runners high, having completed my first (and last*) marathon.

This week I'm still on my runners high, but without the hobbling! (and back at home in BC)
Why, yes. Yes it would.
Chris and I flew to Chicago on the Wednesday beforehand, where we were met by my parents who'd flown in from England. My Aunt and Uncle from SoCal would be arriving the day before the race - nothing like having the BEST cheer leading squad on hand for the big day ;-)

We went to the Expo on Friday morning. Got my race bib and bag and just strolled the expo. My folks had great fun sampling the energy bars, chews and drinks (not so much come 4am the next morning when they were still buzzing from the caffeine and energy spikes - ha!) I was happy with what I knew for the race itself (but no harm in sampling right?!). Found my name on the 'wall of fame', got my personalised message from Nike, and got a running gait analysis from Brooks (who tell me I'm in the wrong show - great! - it ain't changing now buddy!). Once all done, we left with a real sense of 'countdown' going on.....
It's nerve-wracking. All the build-up. The waiting. The anticipation. The fear. The what-ifs - particularly the what-if's (they're my speciality!). Bottom line (which I may have needed reminding of from my coach aka my husband frequently in those preceding 48 hours). It's just a run.  And in fairness I was at a point where I wasn't treating this at a super serious race. This isn't my distance. It was about the accomplishment of getting to the finish line. Heck no, it was about the accomplishment of getting to the START line! I'd come so far in my training and was always spurred on by this quote;

"I've learned that finishing a marathon isn't just an athletic achievement. It's a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible." - John Hanc (running author)
Oh Yeah! And besides, if I got to the finish line I was guaranteed a PR!!! ;-)

I think there were around 40,000 runners at the start line come Sunday morning. A fairly fresh, grey, breezy Sunday morning. Temps were around 8 degrees, with a high expected to be around 11. Chillier than I've been used to of late that's for sure. What to wear?! Ahhhhh! Seriously I think I was looking for things to fret about. And I'd packed for all weather eventualities so in the end I went for capris, short sleeved tee and arm warmers. With my windbreaker running jacket. Oh, and a brand new Walmart special dashing bright pink throw-away sweatshirt (that's what comes of having your Mum coming along - she was worried about her little girl getting cold! - thanks Mum xx)

It was weird and slightly fraught having to say my goodbyes to Chris and Mum & Dad at the gate. Only runners were allowed into the start area in Grant Park. I wasn't checking a bag so I sorted out my stuff, handed off what I wasn't running with to them, downed my pre-workout energizer drink and set off - in the direction of the toilets (of course) And BRAVO Chicago organizers - you are my heroes - ONE person in front of me in the queue with 5 minutes to the cut off time to get into your corral. Is that some sort of amazing miracle!?!

I was in the second corral of wave 2. I had signed up for a pace bunny team, but they were further back and I didn't want to switch backwards, and besides, I'd never paced before so why start now? Almost as soon as I got into the corral they closed the gates behind me and we started slowly moving forward. It was still 15 minutes to the start of Wave 2 but I guess we were bunching up a bit. We ended up crossing the start line a little over 3 minutes after our start.

I was super conscious of setting off slow. After the first mile my Nike + GPS told me I'd done an 8:30 pace - yikes - way too fast for me. So I reaaallly tried to drag my heels. By the second mile it hadn't slowed much but I also realised the GPS wasn't corresponding much to the official mileage signs. By mile 5 it was 1/2 mile out and it was around here I gave up paying any attention to the darn thing. I think it might have taken the hint coz somewhere along the way it stopped talking to me at the mile markers. Which was a good thing.

I'd never really run without some indication of how I was doing. I don't wear a watch so it really was a first 'naked' (sans electronics) run for me. And you know?, it was just fine. I had my music but I kept the volume low and soaked in the crowds and atmosphere. There were reports of up to 2 millions spectators - it certainly sounded like it!!

I kept my earbuds in, so Chris was able to call me once my cheerleading squad had got into position. He'd tell me the mile marker, possibly a landmark or cross-street and the side of the road they were on. This was brilliant. It gave me something to look forward to - to see their smiling faces cheering me on. And it was SO important to me, that I saw them, and they saw me (after all they'd travelled all this way for me, and for this) I never missed them. (Difficult since they were wearing Union Jack bowler hats and waving red, white and blue balloons!!) I think I saw them 4 or 5 times along the way. Chris tells me, they probably banged out at least a 10km themselves that day with all the jogging around, on and off the transit!!
Practicing their moves in the hotel room the night before! These are MY heroes of the weekend.
My wonderful cheerleading squad - Love you guys .xxx

Things got tough in the late teens (well, duh, I guess I'm hardly special there!) All my runs in excess of around 18miles have been hard. But not in terms of cardio - just really, really heavy legs. I had a happy moment coming through Chinatown with a bunch of oldies on the sidelines dancing Gangnam Style - that song always makes me smile and they were just too funny!! Apparently I was looking a bit beat up at this point according to Chris when I passed them just at the Chinatown Gateway. The pace bunnies from way back started passing me. Some of them I was expecting. Around mile 17 the 4:25 bunny came bouncing up and I tried to stick with him. I did for maybe 5 miles, but eventually had to let them go if I was going to finish without walking. At that become my goal. To finish without walking. And boy, did I ever want to just walk for a few minutes.
I saw the cheerleaders for the final time at mile 25. Even then I was seriously contemplating just a 'little' walk. I'm not honestly sure at that point that my run was much more than a walk anyways!! But it my mind there was a big difference! And just when I realised I hadn't heard my current favourite song on my playlist right now (Call me Maybe) it came on, and helped push me on with a final surge to the finish line.

And then it was there. The finish line, and whoosh. It was all over.
And it is all over. It's quite emotional really. So many months of training, and build up to this moment. And in 4 hrs, 34 mins and 38 seconds it was done. I'm so, so proud of myself.

*They say running a marathon is like childbirth. Once the memory of the pain fades it doesn't seem like such a bad idea after all. And so on that note I am never saying never (you heard it here first!)

I'm linking this (belatedly!) to Jill's Fitness Friday

What's for Dinner?

After a couple of 'odd' weeks this last fortnight what with our trip to Chicago and a lil' ole marathon (!) I'm happy to be joining in with Laura from Mommy Run Fast and Jill from Fitness, Health & Happiness and their Menu Planning Challenge.
Menu Planning Challenge
This is our first full week at home and a little easier to plan for than those whilst travelling. I normally try and do our grocery shop mid week just so I can keep weekends free for 'fun' stuff (or pure self-indulgent lazy time!!). So I tend to plan out our meals then aswell. My method is ridiculously basic. This is what is looks like;
It's a screenshot of a reminders page on my iPhone. I plan out 6-7 meals to see us through a week. Then I check what we've got in the fridge/pantry/freezer already and write out a shopping list based on what we need to get in to make those meals. In an ideal world it would mean I only shop once a week (we're working on that part!).

I don't plan out meals each day. Once we know we've got everything in for any one of those meals we tend to 'go-with-the-flow' day by day and pick something we fancy. (Like today is chilly, grey, rainy and a little bit miserable - perfect for a cosy evening and a good bowl of soup! - BBQ somehow just doesn't really appeal - right?!) Some meals Chris typically cooks, and some are 'my' meals - and that can also dictate what we have when if I'm working a long day. If it's a crockpot meal then I normally decide the night before so I know I have to allow time to prep before I go to work, but usually what we are having that night is a texting topic at some point during the day!! ;-)

I 'tick' off the meals each day when we have them and we know what we have left. It's been our tried and tested method now since probably the beginning of this year and it really does work pretty well for us :-)

Tomorrow we'll be having my Crockpot Veggie Lasagna - you can check out the recipe for that here.
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