Friday, December 30, 2011

2012 Goals

I'm lucky enough to get 2 new years every year. Of course there's the standard New Year you know of, January 1st. But I also get the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, which comes around in mid-September, to reevaluate how the year is going. For the new Jewish year this year, I started this blog. So far, so good on that goal. For long term goals I'm going to post not only the goal but WHY its a goal... so I can remind myself later when it seems to hard why I should keep trying.

I don't really like New Year resolutions. The last resolution I made, in October 2009 for Rosh Hashana, was to give up pork (to become a better Jew, of course) and since then I've only knowingly eaten pork maybe 3 times.  I say knowingly because I'm sure some Mexican restaurants around here put pork fat in their beans or ground pork their ground beef and I'm not going to become one of those people who interrogates the servers about food content. If it says there's pork, I pick something else, if it says "seasoned ground sirloin" I'm going to take their word for it. Sorry for that digression. Anyways, I like goals more than resolutions because goals are measurable. I can say I'm doing awesome at my resolution to not eat pork (despite a couple slip ups) but if I had said as a goal "Never eat pork again," then I failed. Thrice. Or more if you count all the potential refried beans. So I will set measurable goals, things I will attempt to accomplish by years' end.

For the year of 2012 I have 4 major goals:
  1. Half Marathon. I have set my sights on the Wine and Dine Half which is November 10th. But whether that's what I choose, or if I do a different one, this is the year that I will complete 13.1 miles.
    Why it's important: I want to stay fit and active. Having a race in my sights will motivate me to keep pushing myself rather than hit a plateau, or worse- quit!
  2. Home cooking. My goal is to experiment, expand my palate (especially for vegetables) and then develop a repertoire of go-to meals that I can shop for and cook without having to look up the recipe.
    Why it's important: It's amazing the amount of time I spend planning meals. I need to be able to call up quick healthy things when I don't have time to plan, so I don't resort to eating crap; especially when I'm a wife and mother one day, and it's better to start practicing now!
  3. Enjoy life. I worry too much. This will be the year that I remember that this part of life is amazing and unique, different from the last part and from the next part. I'll never be here again, and I'll probably miss some things about it that I can't ever get back.
    Why it's important: Well, so I don't die of a stress induced heart attack at 40. Also because one day when I'm married and have to share my house with a man, I might be sorry I didn't paint the bathroom lime green (actual color I've chosen is "Honeydew Melon") with bright purple towels when I had the chance.And then I saw this, which made me laugh. Source
    Maybe I should give this goal up and go about miserably forking over my money to AT&T, Nissan, Amazon, and (of course) Lululemon.
  4. Grow the blog. Get to the point where I have a steady stream of page-views (20+ on each post) and Twitter followers (goal would be 150 but that might be a pipe dream). Its nice that my mom reads my blog, but maybe someone else could read it too?
    Why it's important: Writing is a bit of a passion for me. I always wanted to write something that people would read, but I also wanted to go to space and so here I am in Mission Control rather than a professional writer. But maybe the blog is my second chance at my other love.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

10k Week 3 and 3.5 Training Recap

Since I was too busy posting Hannukah stories all last week, I'll do a combined week 3 and most of week 4 training recap together:

Sunday- Rest

Monday- 3 miles, after work. In the rain. Could be worse, but could have been better.

Tuesday- Yoga, after work. Studio has a policy where they'll cancel class if less than 4 people attend; only 3 showed up but teacher did a shorter class rather than totally cancelling. I'm glad since I am trying to fit in more yoga.

Wednesday- No work today! 3 mile run in bf's neighborhood, then delicious Panera Bread lunch before hopping a plane to Virginia.

Thursday- Rest day.

Friday- Had hoped to do the next 4 mile run, but after a late night of hard drinking, decided to sleep in instead. In the afternoon we went to DC to see some sights. We walked a bunch- to places and around inside the botanical gardens so I'm counting that as exercise!

Saturday- Hilly, cold, muddy 4 mile run. I didn't carry any water with us, and regretted it when we finished because my throat was so dry I started to cough. Thank goodness I do most of my winter running in warmer, humid Houston.

Sunday- Rest and travel back to Houston.

Monday- 4 mile run

Tuesday- I had the laziest day of my adult life yesterday. I stayed in bed until 11:30, cooked myself a big ol' breakfast, relaxed on the couch until work, came home from work and went to bed. There was some laundry in there, and also a workday, but otherwise LAZY. Last time I did something like that was when I was an RA in college- weekend shifts meant you couldn't leave the building basically at all. I would spend all the time until evening office duty at 5pm in my studio apartment.

Wednesday- 4 mile tempo run. This went pretty well too, except when two little dogs chased me. First was a Yorkie, that kept its distance but actually crossed the street to come bark at me. Then 2 blocks later, I ran into a really nasty chihuahua which had scary dagger teeth and a bad attitude. I ran really fast to get away from it but it kept up- so I rounded on him, jumped towards him, and he whimpered and ran off. Jerk. Also jerks are the people who think they can let their little bratty rat dogs run wild in front of their house without supervision. Will you not learn until a car runs over your damn dog?

 I started keeping track of my workouts on Daily Mile at the beginning of December. Here's some cool stats:

45.1 miles in December! I am sure this is my most mileage ever in a month. Finishing out the miles for the rest of December (a 5 miler on Sat) will give me 50.1 miles (that 0.1 is from a 5k on 12/3) for the month.

This is pretty awesome. Also good incentive not to put off the long run to Sunday, which would be January. Might be incentive to make the 5 mile run a 4.9 mile run though, because I like round numbers.

Also look at my pace stats... steady improvement (although I'm still slow) throughout the month.

Time to start thinking about my 2012 goals!

Happy Hannukah! Day 8

Sad to see this beautiful holiday draw to a close but happy I can go to bed earlier tomorrow! Here's the full menorah shot.

You can't even tell one candle from the next, its just a ball of light. I love it.

I also want to show you this photo, which I took on Christmas Eve. Its so beautiful to me to see my menorah nestled between all the Christmas decorations. Its like a metaphor for coexistence. And maybe a sign of hope for my future half-breed children. I like it.

And now for your final Hannukah factoid (until next year, anyways):

Q: Are you supposed to get gifts on Hannukah?
A: No, this is not a traditionally gift giving holiday. In fact, Jews don't really have a traditional gift giving holiday, but do believe in birthday presents. And Bar Mitzvah presents! There are a few stories related to Hannukah about giving money as a gift including:
1. You should light a candle to commemorate the miracle, even if you have to beg for the money. Therefore in older times, beggars would go door to door in the community collecting money.
2. Gelt (money) used for playing of dreidel factors into the Hannukah story.

That said, we usually did get 8 crazy nights of presents for Hannukah- usually a check or gift from each set of grandparents and one from my great grandmother, then my siblings and I would sometimes buy little gifts for each other, and my parents would fill out the rest. The majority would all be wrapped and sitting out the first night, and we would choose and open one each night. Oh the suspense of a table full of presents- which one would you pick? Which one contained that thing that you wanted to use right now and which contained the calendar that you couldn't use for 3 weeks anyways? Sometimes my parents would give us hints (like if it was a live animal and they had wrapped the cage, or something we had specifically asked for and they felt nice) and sometimes they would watch us squirm.
Christmas was a fun experience for me... getting to open a whole bunch of presents at once, not picking and choosing and waiting.  Fun!

Here's a fun Hannukah video for you. I like it much better than Adam Sandler's Hannukah song. Super catchy! Apparently it came out last year but I just heard it for the first time on the radio yesterday. I'm slow. Matisyahu, btw, was the leader of the Jewish revolution against the Greeks that kicks off the Hannukah story. So that's cool, too.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy Hannukah! Day 7

Happy Hannukah Day 7! Almost over. As a change of pace from my exciting vacation posts, we'll now return to my regularly scheduled boring life:

Today I kicked it off with a trip to the grocery store. I didn't really have any food in the house (except a couple moldy bell peppers that I thought I threw out last Tuesday but clearly did not!) So I went and stocked up on staples. My staples for console are: Hummus, bell peppers and cucumbers for dipping in the hummus, eggs (for scrambling, hard boiling, baking, etc), apples and bananas (perfectly portable snacks!), freezer waffles, and milk (giving reduced fat soy vanilla a try this week). I also picked up the ingredients for fANNEtasticfood's Healthy Chicken Enchiladas! I love casseroles for console because they feed me for a bunch of days, usually reheat well, and are filling meals. Since I eat my dinner at work when on console, I prefer a heartier meal than a bagged lunch would normally be.

After putting all the groceries away I headed out for a 4 mile run.  Finished this run a minute faster than the 4 miler in Virginia. I'm maybe slightly bummed that I didn't shave even more time off, since it was about 4 degrees warmer here and there were no hills. I also ran with my iPod for the first time- I usually don't because I have my running buddy to keep me company. But he's still in Virginia so the cheese ran alone.  The cord was a source of major annoyance to me; gotta find a better cord management method for next time. Any ideas?

Then I tackled the piles of vacation laundry while simultaneously cooking. Does it seem like you have more laundry after a vacation than you would if you spent the same number of days at home? Is it just because unpacking it and then sorting it makes it seem like more? I finished the darks, a necessity since I wore some of that load to work tonight. Then I popped in my warm wash (almost exclusively running clothes). Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to pull those out of the dryer, but I guess with running clothes it doesn't matter too much if I'm a wrinkled mess.

For the enchiladas I used a rotisserie chicken from the grocery- after pulling off all the skin and bones (and sneaking a taste or two) the whole roasted chicken was a perfect 3 cups for the enchiladas.These enchiladas were AWESOME. I don't like sour cream (the inspiration for the recipe), but adding 0% Chobani was the perfect tangy/creamy delicious touch! Snagged the pic after I had already stolen some to pack for work, but it still looks tasty!

Console foods included: some overnight oats (we'll call that meal "lunch"), a hummus/hard boiled egg mashup plus pita chips for dipping, and a serving of those enchiladas. And I had a snack left for a drink when I get home!

Here's our penultimate menorah and factoid for Hannukah 2011:

Q: Isn't Hannukah like a super important Jewish holiday?
A: No. The most important Jewish holiday is actually Shabbat/ the Sabbath, even though it comes every week. Its most important because it was the only holiday specifically commanded by God (in the 10 commandments). The other important holidays are also explained in the bible. Passover, Sukkot, and Shavuot required pilgrimages to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in ancient times.. The last two are fairly unpracticed by conservative Jews. Then there are Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, referred to now as the High Holidays. If you know Jews in the US, you probably have heard of these holidays as they are the most observed here. Yom Kippur is a fast day where we ask forgiveness for sins from the past year. We believe God passes judgment on us and signs everyone's fate for the coming year, good and bad. This is why its the most observed... better safe than sorry, and nobody wants to be given a bad fate! All of these holidays include prohibition on work, so we can celebrate and pray with our full attention.
Hannukah is one of several non biblical holidays which celebrate more recent (relatively) events in Jewish history. Since they are mandated by rabbis, not God himself, and don't have a prohibition on work, these are generally not considered major holidays. Hannukah is widely practiced, not sure whether this is because its close to Christmas or because its fun and easy.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Hannukah! Day 6

Also Merry Christmas if you're celebrating. I just got home from Virginia because I have to work the evening shift starting tomorrow. Lucky boyfriend, with his cushy desk job, doesn't have to come back til Wednesday (and even that is mostly because I asked him to come home and spend New Years with me). Tonight's menorah is looking about ready to start a forest fire... almost full!

I had to stop in Charlotte and change planes. Charlotte is a really nice airport. I got a great tour because I landed in Terminal E and left from Terminal B. It had this cute tree-lined area with rocking chairs. Southern charm!

Here are the highlights from Christmas dinner which featured 2 kinds of fish (Parmesan crusted tilapia and sweet chili salmon- both delicious!), and some yummy veggies. There was also an amazing-looking ham that made me regret giving up pork. I regret giving up pork about once a month, but Dan doesn't let me give in. Gingerbread house was made by the host's (Dan's parents' next door neighbors) 3 y/o grandson, who happens to live in Houston, only a couple miles from my house! It's a small world.  He also left cookies for Santa, a carrot for the reindeer, and a note telling him not to fly to fast. Adorable!

Last night I attended my first ever Christmas mass. Its pretty awesome how they bring in the baby Jesus at the midnight mass and set him in the manger. This morning was low key, but there were presents. Here's the random loot I could fit in my small carry-on suitcase (the rest will be shipped over some time TBD, or we'll buckle and check a bag one of these times):

On the left is my ornament. Dan's parents buy everyone in the family an ornament, label it with their name and year, and then hang them on the family tree every year. It was especially cool as a newcomer to see all the old ornaments like "Baby's First Christmas" for each of the kids and the ones with terribly glued macaroni art.  Its pretty cool that they got me one too. Hopefully we'll be there next year to put it back on the tree! 

Ok enough about my awesome vacation. I have to sort laundry and then get to bed. I like to sort laundry at night so I can pop some in first thing in the morning. Plus the candles haven't burned down yet, and I was only kidding about starting a forest fire I hope. Jews don't blow out candles, we let them burn all the way down. Maybe I'll explain that one some time, but in the meantime I have tonight's factoid:

Q: How do you spell Hannukah?
A: Actually you spell it like this: חֲנֻכָּה. But since we usually write things in English you can write it starting with an H or a Ch (the actual letter is a coughing up phlegm kind of sound which has no analog in English), with any number of Ns and Ks you feel are appropriate, and ending in A or AH. Spell it however you want: Hanukkah, Hanukah, or Chanukka. Whatever, we know what you mean.
To illustrate my point, I offer this Twitter Exhibit A. (FYI- Chabad is a sect of Orthodox Judaism... yes, orthodox Jews have Twitter too!)
That's right, they can't even decide within the same sentence how to spell it.

I think this is the question about Judaism that comes up most often- how to spell X holiday name. The truth is Hebrew is a language that is so different from English, that it'll never really look right. So go wild. Shove some extra N's in there if you want.

Programming note: Find past nights of Hannukah posts here.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and good night!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Hannukah! Day 5

Yesterday we went to downtown DC to do a little sightseeing. First we hit up the National Botanical Gardens for their Christmas train display. Its really cool- the train goes through a little village where the buildings are constructed entirely of plant/natural material. I think they change it every year- this year had little houses themed like various animal critters, Presidential birthplaces, and some DC monuments. Here's a small sample of what we saw:

 They had a bunch of fairies floating about made of various sticks and twigs and feathers. This one with the peacock wings was my favorite!

Porcupine Palace. Love the thorns and the little slide.
The monuments were the coolest ones, with the glowy lights coming from inside the windows. Here we are with the Capitol. I like to imagine there are hundreds of tiny Congressmen in there arguing about taxes.
Today boyfriend and I started our day with a 4 mile run. It was cold and windy and there were hills! I have never worn a fleece hat to run before. I was wearing: a long sleeve compression shirt, Lululemon short sleeved tee, my new Athleta jacket, yoga pants (I don't have any full length running bottoms), and that hat. The jacket was pretty toasty, and kept out the wind really well. The yoga pants.. not so much. Also I got water in my shoe by stepping in a puddle. Frozen toes!

Here I am freezing my ass off, but attempting to smile: It was all fine until one last GIANT hill that let off at this clearing- the hill about killed me and then the wind coming off the water was so cold!

Then we helped his mom clean up the house (pine needles freaking everywhere!) and prepare foods (cookies, entrees, bread, snacks)- they're having cocktails and appetizers here at their house, then we're all going next door for dinner. No menorah pic tonight- I'll light it during cocktails but won't have time to take the picture while everyone is over.

Since its also Christmas Eve (Merry Christmas if you celebrate!), I'll give you this factoid for the 5th night of Hannukah:

Q: Do you believe in Santa? (No joke a coworker asked me this on Monday morning.)
A: No. Jewish kids don't get presents from Santa so our parents do not have any reason to make us believe. I have always known that mall Santas are just guys playing dress up, and that there isn't actually any landmass under the North Pole for Santa and his elf sweatshop to live in, and that parents are the ones who actually buy the presents and put them under the tree. However my parents made us lie to our Christian friends that we believed in Santa so that we wouldn't cause trouble/ruin the magic for everyone else. Can you imagine the calls my mom could have gotten? "My daughter says your daughters told her there is no Santa!" She didn't wanna be that mom, so we were required to keep up the charade. For this reason I actually contended well into high school that there was a Santa, which made my non-Jewish friends think I was slow.

Nope, no Hannukah Harry either.  Source.

 Don't feel too badly for us though. We may not believe in Santa or elves or flying reindeer, but we still believe in miracles- Hannukah is all about the miracles!

Hope everyone has a lovely night, whether it's the 5th night of Hannukah, Christmas Eve, or just December 24th to you.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Hannukah! Day 4

Happy 4th night of Hannukah! Today for lunch I made some traditional Hannukah food... Potato Latkes!  Potato latkes are not for the faint of heart- there's alot of grating and squeezing and standing over a vat of boiling oil. But they are delicious! Recipe is below. First, a menorah and a factoid:

The National Menorah in front of the White House, next to the National Christmas tree. I'm impressed they had the right number of candles lit. Way to go, America!

Q: What kind of food are you supposed to eat on Hannukah?
A: Unlike most Jewish holidays, Hannukah doesn't have any special food restrictions or mandatory foods. We traditionally eat fried foods- potato pancakes (latkes) and/or jelly filled doughnuts (sufganiyot). There's also chocolate money (gelt) that people play Dreidel with or just give as little gifts and, of course, eat!
Funny story- I was given a pet Ball Python for Hannukah one year. Since they have brown spots I named mine Latke. See?

Source- that was in the age before digital cameras so I don't have any pics of my actual Latke. I'll have to collect some old photos from my mom. I used to wear her around my neck.

Potato Pancakes/Latkes:

Ingredients (serves 6):
Baking Potatoes - about 2 lbs, for me that was about 5 small Russet potatoes.
White onion - 1 medium sized, depends how much you like onions
1 egg
1/2 to 1 cup all purpose flour
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

For toppings:
Sour cream
Apple sauce
Whatever you want!


1. Peel the potatoes.

2. Using the small (shredded cheese) side of a grater, grate the potatoes. Then grate the onion on the next size up grater side. Warning: you will cry.  Keep potatoes and onions separate for now.

3. The starch starts to leak out of the potato shreds and turn the whole mess pink/purple (do not be alarmed by the bright pinkish color, that goes away when you squeeze). Set it in a strainer to get the starch out. Usually I press it into the sides of the strainer or squeeze small handfuls until they are mostly dry and white in color. This is tedious and will make your hands dry. I try to get as much starch out as possible so the pancakes don't get gluey.
4. Mix the strained potatoes with the onions in a large bowl. Add an egg. Then add flour. The point of the flour is to give it a muffin batter-like consistency, so it depends how much starch you squeezed out as to how much flour you will need. Add salt and pepper.

5. Heat olive oil in a skillet.

6. Add spoonfuls of the batter to the oil once its around 375 degrees. Use the spoon to flatten the batter into a flat pancake. Now the hard part... resist the urge to flip too soon. I always try to flip them too soon and this makes them kinda soggy (See the ones I flipped too soon?). Leave them alone for about 6 minutes, then test one. They should be a yummy golden brown (like hash browns). Flip and brown the other side, about 5 more minutes.

7. Serve with applesauce or sour cream, if desired.  We had them for lunch with veggie-filled scrambled eggs, so some people even added Tabasco or salsa. I always choose applesauce. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Hannukah! Day 3

Hello! Today I spent the day watching my boyfriend and his father wrap their giant Christmas tree in lights. It was quite a production, but turned out very pretty. My favorite are the globey lights, they  look like planets.

Then I helped my bf's Mom make these delicious, festive Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies. Some have mint M&Ms, some have crushed candy canes. Two didn't fit on this tray, so she suggested we eat them. I like the way she thinks! (Click for full size)

 Quickly lit candles, now we're off to happy hour with bf's friends from high school. Rumor has it there will be bowling, so I might have some good photos for you tomorrow.  My boyfriend's mom put my menorah on this pretty plate with glass beads, way nicer than the tin foil I usually use.

 Here's today's factoid, which will answer a question tweeted at me by my good friend Meg:

Q: Do you play Dreidel?
A: So the game of Dreidel comes from Jewish kids in the time of the Maccabees. They would get together for the purpose of studying Torah (which was forbidden under Greek rule) and then if any Greek soldiers came around, they would hide the books and pull out the Dreidels and Gelt (Yiddish word for money) as a decoy.
Dreidel is a simple gambling game. Depending which side of the Dreidel landed up, you either put in or take money out of the pot. Modern Dreidels are inscribed with Hebrew letters as shown below, the first letter of each word in a Hebrew phrase which means "A great miracle happened there." We often play the Dreidel game on Hannukah, using either pennies or candies (little chocolate coins or M&Ms) as our gambling chips. Here's the way we play. I'm sure there are hundreds of variations. As long as you agree on the rules before it starts, you're good to go.
Everyone starts with 10 pieces of whatever you're using to play the game. Everyone puts in one piece to start. Then players take turns spinning the dreidel.
If it lands on...
Nun (the far right letter) - do nothing.
Gimmel (second to the right) - get the pot. We say this is because Gimmel is like "gimme." Don't know if that's the real reason why.
Hay (third from the right) - take half the pot. Or alternately, give half your stuff to the pot. Depends how fast we want the game to go.
Shin- (on the left) - put 2 into the pot.
Play continues until you get bored, eat all your candy, or everyone is out of pieces (except the winner)
Now you're ready to play! 

If you have any Hannukah questions, send them my way (add a comment, tweet me, email me) and I'll add your answer to a future night. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Hannukah! Day 2

Here we are, Day 2 of Hannukah!

Boyfriend and I traveled to Virginia today. We didn't leave til 2 but took the day off. Started with a 3 mile run and lunch at Panera Bread on the way to the airport. Then we hopped on the plane and got in just in time for dinner.  Perfect!
Obligatory plane photo:
Yes my hair always looks ridiculous/frizzy. Sigh. But check out my sweet Athleta jacket! My sister and brother sent me a giftcard from Athleta for Hannukah and I can't wait to go spend it on more running gear.

Here is tonight's Menorah:

Now I'm watching (and laughing) as my boyfriend and his father try to wrestle the Christmas tree into the living room. This is a new (and hilarious) experience for me, since we never had a tree growing up (no, there's no such thing as a Hannukah bush), and I'm pretty amazed/scared its going to fall and crush us all.

As I said last night, I'll post one Hannukah FAQ/factoid each night. So for night 2:
Q: My calendar says today is the first day of Hannukah. Why did you light candles last night? (or alternately: Why did my calendar say "Hannukah begins at sundown?" Is that like Christmas Eve?)
A: Jewish holidays always start at sundown the night before the first day. This is because of the way the bible describes creation: "It was evening and it was morning, the first day," teaching us that days are evening and then morning, not morning and then evening. This is why Jews start the Sabbath on Friday night by lighting candles and having a big dinner. This is also why the first day of Hannukah (this year) began at nightfall on December 20th, rather than the morning of December 21st.

If you have any Hannukah questions, send them my way (add a comment, tweet me, email me) and I'll add your answer to a future night. [Meg your question gets answered tomorrow!]

What I made Wednesday- Baking up a storm!

Rather than tell you all what I ate, I thought you might like to see all the delicious things I've been baking for the holidays. I still kinda ate them, though, because I always test my recipes before I feed them to others. Wouldn't want to take out the flight control team with one bad batch of brownies!

Hidden Kiss Cookies. Chocolate chip cookies with a Peppermint Hershey Kiss inside. I made them in mini-muffin tins and my coworkers were very belligerent about me calling them cookies when they look like muffins. So then, "Hidden Kiss Cookie Muffins" they are now called.  The first time I made them with store-bought dough, to try it out. This weekend I made it with homemade dough, following the directions from the chip package but I used mini-chips and only half as many as needed to make room for the kisses so they could be better hidden. Success!

 Chocolate Chocolate Chip Dirt Cupcakes. Recipe here, add a bag of mini chocolate chips. Chocolate-lovers' dream- moist cake, fudgy frosting, you might die and go to cupcake heaven.

 Peppermint bark. First layer is half milk and half dark chocolate.  Then topped with white chocolate and crushed mints. After it sets, peel off the foil and hack into chunks. Eat all the crumblies. That's my favorite part!

Cinnamon Walnut Cookie (balls). Were supposed to be balls but flattened in baking and became lumps. Also a little crumbly. Yummy but not easy to eat because of the crumbling. I was going to bring them to my boyfriend's family for Christmas but since they turned out as crumbly lumps, the office gets them instead. Bf's family gets Hidden Kiss Cookie Muffins instead. Score one for the office- One woman's baking fail is another man's Monday snack!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Hannukah!

Tonight is the first of the 8 nights of Hannukah. While off in Virginia celebrating Christmas with my awesome (non-Jewish) boyfriend and then holding down the fort in Mission Control, I'll also be celebrating Hannukah by lighting candles every night.

Check out my Menorah, which I've had since I was 13 (2 candles tonight, add a new candle each day):

Since one of the main obligations of Hannukah is publicizing the miracle (putting your Menorah in the window, lighting them in public squares, etc) I'll post one Hannukah FAQ/factoid each night.

Here we are, for night 1:

Q: Whats all Hannukah about?
A: We celebrate that the Jewish forces (the Maccabees) defeated the Greeks, and took back the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, even though outnumbered. There they found only a little bit of oil left for the Temple's Menorah (which was lit daily in the Temple sanctuary). The miracle is that the little bit of oil in the Menorah burned for 8 days, until more oil arrived. The name Hannukah comes from the Hebrew word for dedication, a reference to how they had to rededicate the Temple after Greek soldiers defiled it and outlawed its use. In grand Jewish Holiday tradition, the Hannukah story follows this simple formula: They tried to kill us. We won. Let's celebrate! (See also: Purim and Passover)

If you have any Hannukah questions, send them my way (add a comment, tweet me, email me) and I'll add your answer to a future night.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Store-bought Italian Night

Just a quick one tonight, 3 things Monday:

1. Store-Bought Italian Night
We're headed out for Virginia in 2 days so I didn't want to cook something that would yield too many leftovers. I opted for frozen chicken raviolis that have been in my freezer for awhile. To use up an onion and bell pepper I chopped them up and added some to a jar of tomato sauce to saute. Then I added the rest to a bag of spinach with some Italian salad dressing. For an almost-entirely prefab meal, it was quite delicious.

2. Thanks to my awesome boyfriend who helped me rewire a switch to my front lights.
I had a timer installed and it apparently chose to die TODAY. I don't feel so good about going away for several days without front lights (just makes the house that much more vulnerable) so we put the original switch back on. I'll have to put a new timer on next week. This is the second timer to die in that same location and I've only had the house for a year and a half. Weird.

3. I am preparing a Hannukah series for the next 8 days (Hannukah starts tomorrow night). Do you have any questions about Hannukah or Jewish stuff that you've always wanted to ask? I'd love to answer them. Don't be shy.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

10k Training Wk 2

So, for this week I was to stick to "the plan" and also get 2 nights of yoga for 5 days of exercise this week. How did that go?

Monday- 3 mile run. Even though 3 miles is less than the 4 we've been doing, this run still felt fairly long and hard (that's what she said?). I had taken the day off after working the weekend, to accomplish some errands and baking, then met my bf when he got out of work for a run. And he made slow cooker brisket for dinner--  good man!

Tuesday- As explained in this post, I decided to just sit in traffic and miss yoga. That's ok though, because I needed to pick up some display items for my dessert competition entry, make the frosting, frost and decorate the cupcakes, and I kinda needed the night off.

Wednesday- Bf's work holiday party. No time to run but we did go for an after dinner walk in his neighborhood to look at Christmas lights and enjoy some fresh air.

Thursday- Someone was driving so fast on a wet and curvy road Wednesday afternoon that they lost control, crossed 3 lanes of traffic and a median, and then took out a power line support separated from the road by at least 30 feet of grass. I have to imagine he was going over 100 mph to accomplish this. Because of the precarious nature of the leaning power line support, they needed to turn off space center power to erect a temporary pole, so we didn't have to report until noon- don't worry though, Mission Control has backup diesel generators to keep the critical equipment running. So we got a bonus sleep-in day, and we got our 4 mile tempo run in before work. I hate morning running and it was pretty warm and humid- not pleasant at all. After our 2 tempo miles at 12:09 or better pace, we did stop to walk briefly before running the rest of the way home. Here's the Garmin stats:

Looks like we did a good job staying under 12:09 except for one brief incident at 1.75 miles. After a short work day I went to yoga, and a coworker/friend came with me. I like having a yoga date, especially because this teacher likes to do partner stuff and I feel much better partnering with not-a-stranger.

Friday- Fridays are almost always rest days, and this was no exception.  We ate the prettiest sushi for dinner.

We went for a short walk around my neighborhood to look at lights afterwards, but it was cold so we only made it for like half a mile.

Saturday- 5 (!!!) mile run. 5 miles is not only my longest run of the plan to date but my longest run ever. I was not really looking forward to it, because I have never in my life run 5 miles. However, it was a beautiful, sunny day and we did a good job not going out too fast. End result: 5 miles in 1 hour and 4 minutes with NO walk breaks! I'm pretty impressed with us- running a whole hour straight is something I did not think I'd be able to do! 

 Afterwards, we grabbed brunch at a Cajun restaurant. When we go running in Houston proper, we like to check out cool new restaurants up there- there's many more options than in our smaller, chain-filled suburbs. I had a mimosa and Bananas Foster french toast:
 My boyfriend ordered Wings and Waffles (a twist on southern staple Chicken and Waffles). You would not believe how good these wings are. We ordered more for dinner. Seriously amazing.

Next week is a light week, convenient since we are going to Virginia for Christmas: 3 miles, 3 miles, and 4 miles.  I'm not worried about the distance but I am worried about the cold!  I will also attempt to fit in some yoga. Then I'm back on Christmas Day to work the following week on console.

Friday, December 16, 2011

December 2011 Goals Update

Already over halfway done with the month, and in a few days I'll be heading to visit the bf's family in Virginia for my first real Christmas experience. Excited! But also a little afraid I'm gonna freeze to death.

So lets check in on those December Goals:

1. Stick to my Smart Coach plan and exercise 5 days a week.

Averaging more like 4 times a week, still. Gotta try to fit those nice low-impact activities in for active rest days.

2. More Yoga. 
Major fail here. Neither of the past 2 weeks have I gone to yoga twice. Next week I will only be able to make once before we leave. And I just found out that the Yoga studio is closed the week between Christmas and New Years so it isn't looking good. On the bright side, I read on Fitnessista about and downloaded a couple workouts to my Ipod, including an office chair one that I might try to do on the plane. So all is not lost.

3. No more sweets snacking at work. Avoid everyone's goodies!
I've overall done pretty well at this, minus one slip-up on Wednesday. It was the Dessert Competition and after going down to set up my entry, I really wanted to check out what everyone else made. I took a tiny bit of everything that looked good... and it was, indeed, all fabulous. I lost, though. Bummer. I'll be doing a post soon on the fabulous Chocolate Dirt cupcakes I made... they may not be winners, but they are still pretty awesome. Here's my entry  (love the classy shipping crate in the background!):

  And here's a picture of the spread. Yum! Who could resist?