Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday Runday: Sweetheart 5k

The second race in my holiday series was yesterday, the Sweetheart 5k.  A Valentine's Day race with a very fitting charity, the San Diego American Heart Association.

One of the reasons this race intrigued me was that I've never run this course before.  The race was held in Kit Carson Park, in Escondido.  They described it as "cross country."  It ran through sidewalks in the park and back out onto trails.  Even though it was an open course, we didn't run into too many people clogging it up.  And it was wide open, making passing easy.  I actually really liked the course, but it was hard.  More on that in a minute.  Let me back up first.

This is the second year of the race, and it was exceedingly well run.  The shirts were couples shirts - one said "sweet" and the other said "heart."

Since I ran this solo, I just went with Sweet.  I thought "heart" on its own would be strange.  Parking was easy and plentiful, and close to the startline!  (A plus since it was 39 degrees at 7am!)

And unlike almost every other race I've ever run, this one started right on time! 

The course was pretty and I started out so strong!

The first mile was nice and flat and I finished in just under 9 minutes.  Which was probably too fast to start out, but I figured it would buy me some time if I slowed down...which I did.

The second mile was a little slower for me, right after the first mile was a small hill, and based on my speed, I thought I should slow it down a bit.  We crossed back down to the start area and over to the back side of the park.

Mile 3 was where things got ugly.  It was the mile of hills.  They had warned us about it before the start - "You're going to go up that hill and run along the ridge."  But after the hill at mile 2, I wasn't too concerned.  I should have been, that hill was killer.  And followed by another!  This is where I stopped being the pass-er and started being the pass-ee.

We ran past the Queen Califia Sculpture Garden.

And a grove of orange trees, and down to the finish.

So it wasn't my fastest race ever, but I know I can do better next year, now that I know what the race has in store.  And I do think there will be a next year!

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Walk in the Woods: Champagne Punch

Ever since I went running in Los Penasquitos I've been dying to take the boys back.  We haven't been hiking since the week Thatbaby was born and this is a nice easy path for us.  Plus, waterfall!

Finally we got there, and they were not disappointed.

Thatkid has become much easier to hike with.  He used to ask to be picked up all the time, and now he walks/runs the whole way.  Thatbaby loved looking around and taking it all in.

We didn't make it all the way to the waterfall.  It was getting late and we didn't really want to be on the trail in the dark so we headed back.  But now we have incentive to return.

We're gearing up for Valentine's Day around here.  It's definitely not going to be romantic, as round these parts its a family holiday.  So we'll do a family breakfast and family dinner.  Thatkid has already requested heart shaped pancakes.  Thatboy and I are trying to figure out special ways to celebrate the day, like splitting a special bottle of wine beside the firepit after the kids go to sleep.  Or adding a special drink to our morning pancakes.

Mimosas are a popular breakfast beverage.  The addition of orange juice suddenly makes alcohol in the morning an acceptable choice.  (Although I'm not sure this works for a Tequila Sunrise).  I love the idea, because champagne seems like such a Valentine's Day drink.  It's romantic, right?  I mean it's what you use to toast at weddings, celebrate engagements, and serve with chocolate dipped strawberries.

This punch is a twist on the mimosa.  Because not only does it have orange juice, but also apricot, apple and pineapple juice.  So super breakfast-y.  It's a great way to start your Valentine's Day!

Champagne Punch
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup apricot nectar
1 oz frozen orange juice conentrate
1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1 1/3 cup ginger ale
1 cup champagne

  1. Boil sugar with 1/3 cup water for 1 minute.  Cool.
  2. Add the lemon juice, apricot nectar, orange, apple, and pineapple juices to the sugar syrup. Chill.
  3. Pour over ice.  Add the ginger ale and champagne.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Crave Wednesday: Chicken Burgers

I'm not sure where he got the idea, but sometime in early December That kid announced, matter of factly, that you're supposed to go ice skating on Christmas Eve.

Contributing to my confusion regarding this statement is the fact that Thatkid has never been ice skating before. Every year we venture down to the Hotel Del Coronado, but he's always been too little, so the tradition involves drinking hot chocolate and watching the ice skaters.

Given his interest, I talked to Thatboy about doing our annual Hotel Del venture on Christmas Eve, and letting Thatboy have a go on the ice.  He agreed, so the boys and I headed down to Thatboy's office and picked him up on our way to Coronado.

Thatkid had a fantastic time on the ice.  It took him a bit to get around all the way, and he took frequent breaks to come sit with Thatbaby and I, but he did so much better than we expected.  He didn't give up, he listened, and he didn't even fall all that much!

Afterwards we all grabbed some hot chocolate.  (Well almost all, Thatbaby has to wait till next year).

And checked out the gorgeous tree in the lobby.

And then we headed home so I could prep our Christmas dinner.  Thatboy really wanted to spend the holiday with family, and since his family didn't want to come down for Christmas, he invited my family instead.  So Thatmom, her boyfriend, and my great aunt all came down to share our Christmas dinner.  There was prime rib, mashed potatoes, and maple glazed brussels sprouts.

It was so nice spending the holiday with them!  Thatboy and I stayed up late getting everything ready for the next morning.  So we were exhausted, but it was totally worth it when Thatkid excitedly informed us that Santa had come.

 For me, it was heavenly waking up in my own bed and doing Christmas on our schedule. 
The boys emptied their stockings.

And opened their gifts.

And spent the rest of the morning playing with them while we watched Christmas movies.  We had an amazing Christmas breakfast of creme brulee french toast.  I sat and basked in the glow of my family, feeling so warm and happy watching my boys play.  There's a special feeling knowing that this is the first Christmas our complete family got to celebrate together.

Then we all took a family nap together.  After nap we went for a walk.  I fixed us dinner, and despite the nap, the events of the day wore out the oldest and youngest member of our family.  I found them like this when I went to tell them dinner was ready.

Since we did our big dinner on Christmas Eve, we went with something a little lighter and simpler on Christmas Day. I got some comments about ground chicken last week, and I guess I take it for granted that it's easy to find.  If it's not, it's pretty easy to make it yourself with a food processor.  Just make sure you pulse and keep an eye on it, it can get gummy if overworked.

When the chicken is ground with capers and shallots, it needs very little else.  No fancy sauces, no crazy toppings.  The flavor is already there - a little sour, a little sweet.  But a hit of mustard never hurt anyone.

Chicken Burgers (From Cooking Light)
1 Tbsp capers, drained
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 shallots, trimmed and peeled
1 lb skinless, boneless, chicken breasts
cooking spray
8 slices sourdough bread, toasted
1/4 cup canola mayonnaise
4 green leaf lettuce leaves
8 slices plum tomato
4 slices red onion
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

  1. Place first 4 ingredients in a food processor; process until finely ground.  Divide chicken mixture into 4 equal portions; shape each into a 1/2 inch thick patty.  Press thumb in the center of each patty, leaving a nickel sized indentation.
  2. Heat a large grill pan over medium high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add patties to pan, cook 5 minutes on each side. 
  3. Place 1 slice of toast on each of 4 plates.
  4. Spread 1 Tbsp mayonnaise over each.
  5. Top each slice with 1 lettuce leaf,  1 patty, 2 tomato slices, and 1 onion slice.
  6. Spread 1 1/2 tsp mustard over each of remaining toast slices, and place on burgers.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Mommy Mondays: Date Days

I honestly think that in order to keep a family happy, they need to spend time not as a family.

I'm sure that this is in part due to how I was brought up.  My parents frequently went away without us kids.  It gave them time to stop being "parents" and be the people they were before Thatbrother and I were born.

And that is so important.  By the end of the day, Thatboy and I are so exhausted from work and parenting.  We barely have time to talk to each other, let alone connect.

Before Thatbaby was born, the two of us would have Mustang and his girlfriend babysit Thatkid, so we could have a date night.  We'd go out and spend time talking, remembering what we liked about each other in the first place.  But with the birth of Thatbaby, we've put that on hold.  I adore Mustang and his girlfriend, but I think watching 2 kids, one of them an infant, might put them a bit in over their heads.

Instead, Thatboy and I have been taking advantage of "built in babysitting" - we've been doing day dates while the boys are in daycare/preschool.

I think I might like these day dates better than evening dates, because it puts us in the place we were before these kids came along.  We can enjoy leisurely meals, take naps, see movies and we have time to speak without being constantly interrupted.   

On our last day date we went to see Star Wars, then out for ice cream sandwiches.  There was no whining, no crying, and we got to see an entire movie, straight through!

Day dates gives us time to be without the kids, so we can be better parents when we're with them.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Sunday Runday: Weekly Recap

So I mentioned that my resolution this year was to run more, and I've really been working on it.

Last week I managed to get out for a run 3 times during the week, and 3 times the week before that.  Which is a 300% improvement over where I was.

I've also been great about doing pilates every day as my cross training.  I really need to get my core in shape.  I was reminded of that recently.

3 weeks ago I hurt my back, because apparently I am too old and out of shape to do leg lifts while a 7 month old hangs on to me.

I took a couple days off, but it wasn't enough.  A week later I exacerbated it so badly walking to my car that I was in spasm all evening.  I learned my lesson.  This week I took off from strength training.  I'm anxious to get back to it and build my strength up again.  It's so hard to feel so sore and limited!

Monday: 3 miles during work, along the coast.  It was insanely windy.  The wind was so crazy the day before that trees had been uprooted and  knocked over.

Tuesday: 3 miles during work, along the coast.  Most of the fallen trees had been cleared, so the only evidence I got was this:

Thursday: 3 miles during work, along the coast.  It was a fantastic day for a run - clear, cool, and calm!

Friday: Stretching.  Lots and lots of stretching.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Holiday Preparations: Superbowl Punch

Sometimes preparation for something is almost as fun as the thing you're preparing for.  Like Christmas.  I love decorating for Christmas, and everything that goes into that.  This year was even more fun because we got to stay home and enjoy our hard work.

There was tree decorating.

And house decorating.

And we found a home for the million arts and crafts Thatkid brought home from school.

Speaking of Thatkid, he did a lot of his own holiday preparations.  He decorated the gingerbread house.

And made the cookies for Santa.

And he helped me prepare the gifts for his teachers, the daycare providers, and our mailman, UPS man, and garbage men.

Some of my preparations took a while.  I managed to finish Thatbaby's stocking on Christmas Eve.  JUST in time for Santa to stuff it.

Right now we're preparing for the next big event- the Superbowl!  There's no decorating, and really, neither Thatboy nor I have a dog in this fight, so we're preparing for the most important part of the big game.  The food!  Right now there's a big debate about where we're ordering pizza from.  The shopping list has been made.  And the drinks have been determined.

As I mentioned, we're not super fans of the Broncos or the Panthers, so no lines have been drawn in this house.  And since both teams have blue as one of their main colors, I thought a blue drink would be fitting.  Because it represents both teams.

Curacao always makes things seem very tropical to me, and this is a twist on our signature drink at our wedding, the Blue Laguna.  But with more of a wine base.  The champagne and sparkling water gives it that fun carbonation, which I think is essential in a good punch.  Because everyone knows both a good football game and a good drink are dependent on a little kick.

Superbowl Punch
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups white wine
1/3 cup curacao
1/4 fresh pineapple
2 cups sparkling water
1 1/2 cups champagne
1/2 cup strawberries
  1. Stir the sugar into the wine and curacao until completely dissolved.
  2. Shred half the pineapple.  Cut the other half into slices. 
  3. Add the shredded pineapple to the wine mixture and pour over ice.
  4. Add the sparkling water and champagne. 
  5. Float the pieces of pineapple and strawberries on top.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Crave Wednesday:Chicken Parmesan Burgers

I was pretty disappointed in SeaWorld's Halloween event.  But that did not deter me from wanting to check out the park decked out in its Christmas finest.

Unlike Halloween, there was no gimmicky trick-or-treating, just lights, lights, and more lights.  Which is one of my favorite things about the Christmas season.  That and the music.

In order to take advantage of these lights, we headed to the park after nap, so we could be there into the evening. 

The 320 foot "Tree of Lights" which is recognizable to any San Diegan who drives on Interstate 5 is the largest Christmas Tree in all of Southern California.   During the nightly "tree lighting" the lights are syncopated to Christmas music.

And there are Christmas trees throughout the park.

The palm trees throughout the park are also lit up, which lent an air of magic to the rides. 

The biggest part of Christmas at Sea World is found in their "Christmas Village."  This is where the dancing Christmas Tree is, along with a dance floor.   We should have stopped here first, before dinner, but we didn't and we missed out on all the Christmas-y food.

This is also where Santa was hanging out, but Thatkid did not want any part in Santa.

Although he didn't mind spending some time watching the reindeers!  I guess they're less scary than the man in red.

He also didn't mind playing some of the Christmas-themed games.  He's really good at these games of chance, if it's possible to be good at games like that.  Maybe he's just a lucky kid.  By the way, he named this guy "Christmas Penguin."

After my Halloween disappointment, this was a delightful experience.  One of my favorite Christmas memories of the year.  We had so much fun roaming around as a family - drinking  hot chocolate, listening to music, checking out the lights and animals.   We will definitely be back next year.

I mentioned that we missed out on some good food that evening.  We ended up eating tasteless chicken sandwiches from one of the regular Sea World establishments.  They were awful.  Thatboy's biggest complaint about Sea World is the food.  But really, he's a bit spoiled.  Because when we have chicken sandwiches at home they are bursting with flavor - cheese, basil, tomatoes, garlic!

Typically, our chicken sandwiches are made with chicken breasts, but I really like this ground chicken version.  Since ground chicken is usually dark meat as opposed to breast, it retains a lot more of its moisture and flavor.  It's also very easy to infuse the meat so that you're not stuck with a great crust, and tasteless middle.   This is a twist on the classic chicken parmesan, turning it into a chicken cheeseburger.  Easy to eat and beloved by all.

Chicken Parmesan Burgers (From Cooking Light)
2 square ciabatta rolls
1 garlic clove, halved
8 oz ground chicken
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp low sodium marinara sauce, divided
1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
salt and pepper
1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
8 basil leaves

  1.  Preheat broiler. Cut rolls in half.  Place rolls, cut sides up, on a baking sheet.  Broil 3 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove bread from pan.
  2. Rub each half with cut side of garlic.  Set aside.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 375.  Combine chicken, 1/3 cup marinara sauce, and next 5 ingredients. Divide into 2 portions, shaping each into a 1/4 inch thick patty.
  4. Heat an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.
  5. Add patties to pan; cook 3 minutes.  Turn patties and place in oven.  Bake for 8 minutes.
  6. Top each patty with 2 Tbsp cheese.  Bake 1 minute.
  7. Layer bottom half of each roll with 2 basil leaves, 1 patty, 1 Tbsp marinara sauce, 2 basil leaves, and roll top.