Monday, July 28, 2014

Mommy Mondays: Becoming an Aunt (again)

Breaking News!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Mommy Mondays with the latest report from Thatfamily.   On Saturday Baby B made her way into the world.

Word on the street is she came into the world  Superman style and fashionably early.  As can be expected, we are already madly in love.  Especially Thatbaby who loves "her little feet."  He's going to be an awesome big cousin.

And while I'm already an aunt to two great kids, this one is special to me.  This one will carry on my maiden name for good couple of decades at least.  This one came from one of my favorite people on the face of the universe.  This one feels more "mine."  Oh Baby B, we are so thrilled to finally meet you!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Runday: Four Legged Friends

My daily running partner is Thatdog.  And in general, dogs make great running partners.  It's good exercise for you and them, and also motivation.  One of the reasons I started running every day was because I had to take Thatdog for a walk anyway.  Our walks were 20 minutes long.  Adding on 10 minutes meant I could actually use that time for a little running without compromising the rest of my day.

But there are definitely some things you need to keep in mind if you want to run with your dog.

1) Size and age.  Running with you isn't the same as when they dash about on their own.  The same way most people can't just pick up and run a marathon even though they may run around a soccer field or basket ball court.  Distance running can be hard on a dog's joints and can actually stunt their growth, so wait until your pup is a year old before bringing them with you.  And if you have a very large breed dog (like a Great Dane) you may want to wait even later.

2) Teach the dog to run.  It sounds silly, but it's a different mentality than a simple walk.  Almost like a job.  When we run, there's no sniffing, no playing with other dogs, no horsing around.  We literally started out doing a quarter of a mile on best behavior.  If he wasn't running nicely, then we'd turn around and go home.  I continued this until he was able to do a whole quarter of a mile.

3) Increase distance.  Think of this as Couch to 5k, for dogs.  We went from quarter of a mile to a half mile, to a mile. Increase slowly - about a half a mile at a time, and not every run.  (Like we didn't move on from 2.5 to 3 miles until we had done 2.5 miles for a couple weeks).  When I first started training for a half marathon, Thatdog trained with me.  We both increased our mileage together.  He got up to 7 miles before topping out.  Anything longer than that I run without him.

4) Bring water with you - even if it's under 80, don't forget your dog is wearing a full coat, so it might still be hot for him.  Thatdog gets water every 2 miles on longer runs, but I bring it with me just in case.  He may not need it, but I have had occasion where I didn't bring it because we were only doing 3 or 4 miles and he flat out quit on me.  Sat down and wouldn't go any farther.  Poor guy was just hot and tired!

5) Pay really good attention to your pup's signals.   I can always tell when it's a little too warm for Thatdog because he starts slowing down in the shadier areas of our run.  If I see that, I'll start walking for a bit, or cut our runs short.   Make sure you're cognizant of the ground temperature since your pups don't have shoes like you do and paws can definitely burn and/or crack.  When Thatdog's feet get hot he does a little dance-y step.  (And I pour some water on his pads to cool them off and we head home).  You know your dog best, so just keep an eye on little things to keep everyone healthy.

Friday, July 25, 2014

From a Box, At Home: Homemade Hamburger Helper

As I child, I didn't grow up with "convenience meals."  Almost every meal we ate was something crafted from scratch.  No bisquik, no boxed cake mixes, no kraft mac and cheese, and no hamburger helper.  And honestly, because my parents never made a big deal about cooking, it didn't seem like these "harder" methods of preparing food were all that hard.

Thatboy on the other hand, grew up on all these foods.  Even though his father prided himself on his amazing cooking abilities, I never saw the man prepare potatoes that didn't come poured out of a box as powder.  And his mother consistently reverted to frozen lasagnas, because making lasagna yourself "is an all day affair." 

I feel as though I am constantly having to prove to Thatboy that making things from scratch isn't so difficult and tastes just as good as the boxed things he grew up with.  I have completely converted him when it comes to mashed potatoes.  Even he now recognizes it's a pretty quick side to throw together.  And this homemade version of hamburger helper also won him over.  It's the cream cheese.  It gives it that really creamy consistency that makes it taste like something decadent.  Add in the cheddar, because all pasta should have cheese, and you have a meal that can win over even the biggest doubter.

Now, if only I could convince him that you can make pancakes without bisquik...

 Homemade Hamburger Helper
1 1/4 lbs ground turkey
1/2 lb pasta
1 can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp oregano
salt and pepper
3 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  1.  Cook pasta according to directions.  Drain, reserving one cup of pasta water.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Cook ground turkey until browned.
  3. Add the cumin, chili powder, oregano and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add the diced tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Add cooked pasta, the reserved water, cream cheese, and sour cream.  Stir until cheese melts.
  6. Cook for an additional 3 minutes.  Take off heat and stir in cheddar cheese.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Beer, Beer, and Parenting

My favorite summer time drink is without a doubt, the margarita.  The ice, the salt, the sweet lime flavor.  But also in the summer I tend to stray away from the wine in favor of a nice, cool beer.  Yeah, I drink a lot of beer in the summer.

And lately, we've been finding ways to incorporate Thatbaby while exploring new and different brews.  Like when we ventured to Plan 9 Alehouse, which has 26 beers on tap, 37 in bottles, and a play area for kids.

And thanks to SD Mom I also discovered that Stone Brewery has a farm! Which is so perfect for family outings. 

There's a tasting room, naturally, and picnic tables to sit and drink and eat.  We brought our own lunches, but there's also a pizza oven if you get there early.

And while the parents sit and drink, there's so much to keep the little ones entertained. 

The HorseWhispers met us there this weekend, and Thatbaby was happy to show Little HW the ropes.

After the two of them swung their hearts out on the playground, he took her to see the peacocks and the goats.

Dear parents, if you really want to keep your kid entertained while you drink, there's nothing better than letting them bring a friend along.  Especially if their friend has super cool parents you're friends with.

Because there's nothing better than being able to indulge in your favorite pasttime with some of your favorite people.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Spicy Breakfast: Southwestern Breakfast Burrito

Breakfast gets the short shaft around here. Dinners are lovingly crafted by tired hands and served and eaten as a family.  But breakfasts are done on the run.  Thatboy eats from time to time, a bowl of cereal.  Thatbaby is usually set up with a cereal bar or cereal or oatmeal.  Something that can be made quickly.  As for me, I tend to stick with oatmeal or egg whites.  Boring and blah.  But when we're running about so much it's hard to get creative.  And the last thing I want to do while trying to get ready and get Thatbaby ready is slave over an intensive meal.

Which is why I love these breakfast burritos.  I can make them on the weekend and throw them in the freezer for easy defrosting during the week.  I mean, sure, I could buy frozen burritos, but for some reason the tortillas never taste right in those.  Unlike these soft and pliable fresh ones which retain that pliability even when reheated.  I also like that I can adjust the filling so that Thatboy and I can have spicy ones, while Thatbaby's remains mild.

Southwestern Breakfast Burritos (From What's Cookin, Chicago)
1 lbs pork sausage
1 tablespoon taco seasoning
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1 medium onion, diced
3 eggs
salt & pepper to taste
6 burrito sized flour tortillas
1 cup shredded taco cheese

  1. Heat a skillet over medium high heat.  Cook the sausage until browned.
  2. Add onions and bell peppers; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Pour the eggs in the skillet and scramble.
  4. Add the eggs to the sausage and peppers, tossing to combine.  Let cool.
  5. Heat tortillas
  6. Place a line of cheese on bottom third of tortilla.  Top with a tablespoon or two of eggs.  Fold into a burrito by folding up the bottom third, then each of the sides, the continuing to roll the remaining two thirds.
  7. Wrap in foil and freeze.  When you're ready eat just wrap the burrito in a damp paper towel (after taking it out of the foil) and microwave for 2-3 minutes.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Choo-choo-choosing friends

Now that Thatbaby is at a new preschool, we don't get to see some of his old friends as often.  Which is sad, because I adored his old friends and their parents.  Luckily they've been really great about trying to plan times to get our kids together.  Mrs. Parrot contacted me to see if we'd be up for another outing to the train park with Little Parrot and BA.  Well of course we would!

Thatbaby was a little shy with Little Parrot.  Which makes sense, since it's been longer since he's hung out with him.  When he spotted BA however, he was overjoyed.  So excited.  And that excitement wrapped up Little Parrot in it as Thatbaby wanted to make sure both his friends were with him at all times.

The boys loved riding the train together, looking out the window and choo-chooing along.  It was a great ice breaker to remind them of how much fun they have together.  As soon as we got them off the train, they took off - running in circles and chasing each other through the park.

Eventually we got them to sit down and have a little snack, and then it was back to the racing around.

 We crossed over to a playground to let them have a free space to run where we didn't have to worry about them getting hit by a train or a car.  Then they spent the morning climbing, sliding, running, going through tunnels and just generally enjoying being together.  Thatbaby told me it was his favorite part of the weekend.  And who can blame him?  Everyone needs some good friends.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Pirate Looks At 40

I know, I was just telling you about Mrs. Pirate's surprise birthday party.  I laughed when Mr. Pirate texted me asking for help with the party, because Mrs. Pirate had already clued us all in that she was throwing him a surprise party for his 40th birthday.

On Saturday we all gathered at Mission Bay to celebrate the momentous occasion. 

 After everyone was there, Mr. Pirate showed up, blindfolded.

He told us after that he had no idea where he was going or what was going on.  Mrs. Pirate totally threw him. 

She had hired caterers who stood and grilled tacos for all of us.  And of course, where there are tacos, you can find margaritas!

Mrs. Pirate had advised us to bring some fun inflatables.  And since Thatbaby had such a blast with the blow up whale while in Palm Desert, we got him a blow-up on his very own.

Oh how he loves that dolphin!

About a year ago, Mr. Pirate got very into paddleboarding.  He is always trying to get Thatboy out with him.  He's been pretty unsuccessful with that.  I think Thatboy went out once and decided it wasn't for him.  But Mr. Pirate got a lot of his other friends interested, so there were no shortage of boards on the bay.  So Thatbaby had his first paddle board lesson.  Which pretty much meant Mrs. Pirate gave him a ride, then Thatboy took him for a paddle as the sun set.

When it started getting darker and colder, we lit a fire and roasted marshmallows.

We always love getting together with the Pirates, and celebrating a birthday makes the occasion even more fun.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mommy Mondays: Turn Around Bright Eyes

It's funny how sometimes doing "the right thing" gets you all sorts of judgment coming your way.   We're all supportive of certain parenting choices, to an extent.  Like breastfeeding.  Everyone acknowledges breastfeeding is good for babies, but do it "too long" and all of a sudden you have to defend this choice that was phenomenal a short time earlier.

Lately I've been getting all sorts of side-eyes for the fact Thatbaby is still rear-facing in his car seat.  He's the only one in his preschool still rear-facing (both his old and new preschool).  And almost all of our friends flipped their kids forward facing long ago. 

For some reason, even though no one would question having a 4 month old or 8 month old rear-facing, like breastfeeding, if you do it too long, somehow it loses all its benefits.  Except it doesn't.

So why is Thatbaby still facing the back of the car?  Because it's safer.  It's as easy as that. A child in a forward facing carseat is five times more likely to be seriously injured or killed than in a rear facing one.  Kids skeletons are still ossifying at 2, 3, 4 - and that ossification is what makes it so much more dangerous to be facing forward.  They are at a greater risk for internal decapitation, chest, rib, and internal organ damage.   It doesn't matter how big or small they are, because bones don't calcify faster based on weight or height.  That five times number is kind of crazy.  That means in 100 accidents, 8 kids in rearfacing carseats would be injured, 40 kids in forward facing carseats would be injured.

We're super lucky in that we get to experience all the terrible things you hear about in terms of why people flip their kids around.  Thatbaby is not a great car-kid.  And he never has been.  He has been a screaming maniac in the car.  He has no leg room back there.  He has fought getting into the carseat.  We have a very small car.  But even with all these things, we find other ways to deal with it so we can keep him rear-facing as long as possible. 

We put up with his screaming in the car, planning long trips for naps or bedtime.  We do a lot more night driving than we used to.  Instead of turning his carseat when he started fighting us, we turned it into a "big boy game."  Thatbaby has been crawling in and out of the carseat by himself since he was 18 months old.  And when he still doesn't want to get in?  Well, it's much easier to push up on the back of his knees when he braces against the back seat.

As far as the small car with no leg room, well we found a carseat with a small footprint to take up less space.  And Thatbaby has no problems with the lack of leg room.  He crosses his leg or puts them up on the seat, or to the sides of the carseat. 

And we do lots and lots of talking/singing in the car.  Thatbaby loves to sing the soundtrack to Frozen and have long long long conversations.  He talks nonstop in the car.  But if it keeps him rear-facing for longer, then I am just as happy to keep it that way.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Runday: Where I'm From

I thought I should share a little about how I started running.  Because like most people, I didn't just get up one morning and start running.

I don't remember if I shared this before, but when I was in 10th grade, Thatdad suffered a massive heart attack.  As part of his recovery, weight loss was important.  Thatdad was already physically active, in fact, the day of his heart attack, he had been at a karate class.  But after the heart attack, he enrolled the family in a gym and started walking 4 miles every morning.

Thatmom and I joined him.  We were up at dawn every morning.  The problem was, to keep up with Thatdad's walking speed, Thatmom and I had to run.  And that's where my running began.

I found running to be a really great stress relief for me.  I remember the day I didn't get into one of my top college choices, I went to the gym and ran for hours.  After college, when I moved back home, I used it as a way to get out of the house.  When studying for THE BAR, it was my "me" time every day that I could count on.

In 2009 I started racing.  I had run/walked races before, but this was the first race I had really run.  For time.  And I was hooked.  The adrenaline, the camaraderie, the t-shirts!  I started running a lot of races.  I decided to start building, from a 5k, to an 8k, to a 10k, to a 15k, to a half marathon.  In 2010 I ran a race every month.  Along the way I grew to love running more, develop a more healthy attitude about it (a topic for a whole 'nother post), and even get faster.  I was able to keep running all through my pregnancy with Thatbaby, and after.

So really I have Thatdad to thank for my introduction to running.  But my how far I've come!

Friday, July 11, 2014

My summer staple: Arugula, Feta, and Cherry Pasta Salad

On Saturday night, we met up with Thatmom and her boyfriend for dinner.  We headed to Thatmom's favorite pizza joint here in San Diego.  She's a creature of habit.  When we dine together in San Diego it's at one of two places, depending on whether we're having breakfast or dinner.

It's nice to have a staple though, something that you can count on.  Especially when it comes to food.  There's something comforting about a reliable dish that you know you'll enjoy.  As I said before, for me that's pasta salads in the summer.  I really think I make about one a week.

Really, the only way to eat pasta in the summer is salad style.  It's too warm for a hot and heavy alfredo or ragu.  Plus, eating it cold means you can mix in fresh herbs, which taste their best in the summer.  Horse Whisperer gave us a lovely homecoming gift that included a basil plant, so I'm making the most of it. 

Feta is another one of my summer staples.  I love it mixed with sweet watermelon, or tossed in with a green salad, or in this case pasta salad.  Something about the saltiness just tastes like summer to me.

Arugula Feta, and Cherry Pasta Salad
8 oz orzo
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 cup arugula
4 oz feta
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup basil, chiffonade
2 Tbsp pine nuts
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
  1. Cook orzo according to package directions.  Drain and cool.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Add orzo to bowl, tossing to coat in the olive oil. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Backyardigans: Chipotle Orange Pork Chops

Now that we have one, we're spending a lot of time in the backyard.  It started innocently enough - our dining room table was covered with boxes, so we started eating outside.  Every meal.  We've since moved breakfast back inside, but weekend lunches and all dinners are outside.

Next we unpacked Thatbaby's wheels.  Which meant every free moment, he was asking us to go skate outside.  He skateboards daily.  It's kind of cute and he's made some real progress over the past few weeks.

The final step towards our backyard bliss was getting the blow up pool.  We spent the entire weekend in there.  Sometimes just Thatbaby, sometimes Thatboy and Thatbaby, sometimes me and Thatbaby, and sometimes all three of us.  It's a great summer addition.

I don't really mind spending so much time in the backyard.  It's nice back there - grass, cement, a pool.  And a giant orange tree.  I'm loving that most of all.  You're going to start seeing a lot more recipes involving oranges here, because it's just so easy to grab a couple and use them.  Like this pork dish.  Sure we've been doing a chipotle sauce around here for a while, but this is an orange chipotle sauce.  Which meant I got to go fruit picking while cooking.  I'm sure this would work well with other citrus too, especially meyer lemon, but using oranges has the bonus of giving it a nice sweetness which pairs well with the smokey chipotle.  Plus, we've got oranges.  Lots of oranges.

 Chipotle Orange Pork Chops (From Elly Says Opa)
1/3 cup orange juice
1 chipotle in adobo, chopped
1 tsp soy sauce
 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pork chops
  1.  Combine orange juice, chipotle, soy sauce, and garlic in a food processor.  
  2. Place the pork chops in a shallow bowl and pour the sauce over them.  Let marinate for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the broiler.  Remove the pork from the marinade and put on a broiler pan.  Pour the marinade into a small pan and boil until reduced by half.
  4. Season the pork with salt and pepper and broil about 3 minutes per side.  
  5. Brush the pork chops with the reduced marinade and broil another minute.
  6. Flip, brush, and broil another minute.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Dressed Up Simple: Chicken and Goat Cheese in Phyllo

We spent this weekend doing a lot of things we'd been putting off.  Things like unpacking, and cleaning, and getting new phones.

Yay for new phones!  I've been trying to get a new one for 2 months now.  Mine has been doing all sorts of fun things like turning off in the middle of conversations. Or telling me that my SIM card was blank or missing.  Good times. 

The only problem with getting a new phone?  I'm totally tech-illiterate.  I'm not good with change.  I'm still working out all the new features on the new phone.  And I still need to transfer information from my old phone.  Change is hard.

Which is why sometimes I stick with what I'm familiar with.  Like a simple chicken dish, dressed up to look fancy.  No really, this chicken is dressed up.  Don't you think of phyllo like a dress?  One with layers of soft tulle, dancing in the wind.  Add a little creamy goat cheese and this chicken goes from ordinary to something special.  And yet, it has all the elements that you're already familiar with.  Because sometimes, you don't want to deal with something new and different.

 Chicken and Goat Cheese in Phyllo
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 sheets phyllo dough
2 chicken breasts
4 oz swiss cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated 
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Brush phyllo sheets with butter.
  2. Place a chicken breast in the corner of each phyllo sheet.
  3. Divide goat cheese in half and place each half atop the chicken breast.
  4. Roll the phyllo to cover the chicken and place on baking sheet.
  5. Brush with melted butter.
  6. Sprinkle with parmesean cheese and bake for 30 minutes, or until phyllo is golden and chicken is cooked through.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Fourth at Home

The Fourth of July is always really hectic for us.  Usually it involves getting up at the crack of dawn so I can run a race and/or we can snag a good spot on the beach where we camp out all day waiting for fireworks.  Usually we end up tired and cranky from dealing with the crowds.

So we were really excited when we realized that we would probably be able to see fireworks from our new house, without having to pack a cooler for the day.  Some neighborhood reconnaissance confirmed that fireworks, while maybe not visible from our backyard, were certainly so from across the street, or at the top of the street.  Which meant, for the first time in years, we got to enjoy the holiday in a relaxed manor, in the comfort of our own home.

I started the day off by preparing a special Independence Day breakfast for the boys and myself.  Red, White, and Blue-berry pancakes!

Then, because I didn't sign up for a race this year, and because Thatbaby has been asking to run with me all week, the two of us went for a run.  We ran all the way to Target and picked up some flags to decorate with before running back home.  Thatbaby really got into the whole flag waving aspect of the holiday.
We spent the rest of the morning unpacking Thatbaby's room.  Because we've been here a month and it's still in boxes.  Poor kid.  

In the afternoon, we started preparing for festivities.  Which means Thatboy got his very first grill experience with our new barbecue.

And I pulled the watermelon out of the freezer. 

That ice cold watermelon didn't stand a chance.  Even before it hit the table the boys were digging in.  We blew up Thatbaby's new pool and filled it up so everyone could stay cool.

Even Thatdog got to enjoy some holiday watermelon.  But not the pool.  Thatdog hates water. He was content hanging out on the grass and keeping an eye on us.

The Ks were in town, so later in the evening, they stopped by to join us.  We threw both boys in the pool to cool down.

When it started getting dark, our neighbor came over to check in on us and bring by some drinks.  I popped open some of the glow treats I got for the boys.

Shortly before the fireworks began, the whole crew of us headed across the street to my neighbor's lawn.  They had a great view of the fireworks and had invited us to check it out.  As we sat on blankets and lawn chairs, drinking and enjoying the show, our neighbors remarked that it was so nice to have a neighborhood group to do this with.  Our own little block party, and the first of its kind in the 10 years they've lived there.  The lights filled up the sky and the young ones watched in awe.  And when it was all over, we didn't have to weave our way through crowded parking lots or busy streets.  Instead we sat talking, then crossed over to our own waiting beds.  I'm looking forward to continuing this tradition for years to come!

Monday, July 07, 2014

Mommy Mondays: Pete The Cat

It's book review time!  Only because I am obsessed with this series, and if you have a toddler, you will be too.

So this story starts with a scholastic book order.  When Thatbaby brought home his first one, Thatboy and I were so excited.  We remembered how much fun it was picking out books and waiting for them to come in when we were in school.  As we flipped through the offerings, I saw a book called "Pete the Cat."  Immediately I thought of L&O, who has a cat named Pete.  Well, Petey, but close enough.  I ordered a copy of the book for Little LO.

Of course, when it came in, we had to check it out before passing it along.  People, let me tell you - I love this book.  The basic premise is that Pete has white shoes, he keeps stepping in things and the shoes turn different colors, but instead of flipping out, Pete keeps his cool and sings about how he loves whatever color those shoes turn.   Which to me is exactly what I want my kid reading about.  My kid, who flips out if he has the wrong colored spoon.  We all need to be more like Pete.  Because when life gets rough for Pete, or something bad happens, does Pete cry?  Goodness no!  Because it's all good.

Well obviously after we handed over the book to its rightful owner.  So the next time we got a book order, I flipped through it looking for Pete.  Which is how I came to learn that there is a whole series of books!

We got Thatbaby a 3-pack of Pete the Cat books which included "I love my white shoes," "Four Groovy Buttons" and "Rockin' in my School Shoes," along with a stuffed Pete doll.

I love each and every one of these books which continue the theme of going with the flow.  In "Four Groovy Buttons" Pete keeps loosing the buttons on his shirt.  But does he cry?  Goodness no!  (This book is also great for new counters, because they can say how many buttons are left)  In "Rockin' in my School Shoes" Pete has a bunch of new experiences in a school.  But does he cry?  Goodness no!

Seriously, if you deal with a toddler on a regular basis, you know that "flexibility" only really applies to the fact that they can touch their toes.  They're not terribly adaptable.  Which is why I like this series so much.  If even a smidge of Pete the Cat rubs off on Thatbaby, I'd be one happy mom!

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Sunday Runday: Staying Safe

When I was in elementary school, one of my classmates was the victim of an abduction attempt.  They brought in people to talk to us about the whole ordeal, and one of the things I took away from it was the fact that you can't "look" like a victim.  That sounds like a funny thing to say.  What does a victim look like?  Realistically, what that means is that someone who is looking to cause trouble, would prefer an easy target, as opposed to someone who is going to be more difficult.  Makes sense right?  Why scale a wall when you can walk through a door?  And I've really taken that to heart when it comes to running.  It's a vulnerable sport, especially if you're a woman.  The benefit of running is that you can do it anywhere, at any time.  Which is also what makes it inherently unsafe. 

So here are my tips and tricks for staying safe while you're out there doing your thing:

1) Don't run alone.   I know, it's not always possible.  I run alone a lot.  But if you can, grab a running partner.   And it doesn't have to be a person, per se.  I bring Thatdog with me.  Not that he's a fearsome attack dog, but he makes me a more difficult target.  Same thing goes with running with a stroller.  It's more to contend with.  And obviously, if you do bring a friend, the buddy system is good not just for safety, but it's more fun!

2) Tell someone where you're going.  Especially if you're running alone.  I know some people who leave sync their computer and phone with a running/mapping app so the computer shows where they are at all times.  Similarly, programs like "Map My Run" can be accessed from the computer and show where your most recent route is/was.  As for me, I go old school.  I tell Thatboy the route I'm taking, and when I expect to be back before I leave the house.

3) Vary your routes/times.  Running the same route over and over again at the same time lets someone know when to expect you.  Change it up!  Be different!  I have a couple of routes I run, and I alternate them, so I'm not always in the same place at the same time.  Even if it's just running the same route backwards. 

4) Keep your hair low or close.  The girl in my class who was nearly abducted was grabbed by her ponytail.  Which is one of the things the speaker talked to us about.  Ponytails make you very easy to grab from behind.  Which poses a conundrum, because most of us want our hair up and out of our faces while running.  My solutions are to either do a low ponytail at the nape of my neck, so it lies flat against me, or a bun up high, which is less of a handle.

5) Be aware of your surroundings.  Pretty basic advice, but it's easy to zone out when you run.  When I run by myself, I only use a single earbud, with the music turned down, so I can hear things going on.  And do visual scans, looking for anything that seems out of the ordinary.

6) Eye contact.  Make eye contact with people you pass.  It doesn't have to be anything big, or striking up conversations, but if you make eye contact, it's that whole "not a victim" thing.  Makes you look less vulnerable than someone staring at the ground.  Plus, then you have a heads up on identifying people, which makes you less attractive.

7) Bring a phone!  I was talking to some friends about this yesterday.  Some people hate running with their phones.  I get it, phones are getting bigger and bigger.  And they're clunky.  But take it from someone who's sprained their ankle while out on a run, you want something with you in case anything happens. 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

My new favorite baby: Steamed Chocolate Cake

Sunday was UDubb's baby shower.

I don't know if I've really expressed it, but I adore my sister-in-law.  And I am beyond excited for my new little niece.  I'm excited for UDubb, because I think she's going to really enjoy having a little girl and all that entails.  I'm excited for Thatbrother, because he is going to be such a great girl's daddy.  And I'm excited that this new little princess is going to be spoiled beyond belief by our family.  We've very low on girls in my family, so this will be a nice change. 

UDubb's shower was just as adorable as she is.  Her friends went all out in decorating in a very shabby-chic way.  Since the baby's nursery is pink and grey, they used those colors to set the stage.  The food was fantastic, with a make your own mimosa bar, sandwiches, salads, and an ombre pink cake made by one of her friends. 

The pink cake was a nice touch for a girly shower, but in truth, UDubb loves chocolate.  I was pretty surprised there wasn't a chocolate cake, a rich, fudgey chocolate cake.  Personally, I like my chocolate cakes less rich, which could be why I'm such a fan of red velvet, which has just the barest hint of chocolate.  This steamed chocolate cake is right up my alley.  It's not overly sweet, and the steaming ensures it's not overly dry.  Just a nice, spongey cake that is chocolate without being overwhelmingly so. 

I made mine using a pyrex dish with a lid, but any lidded mold will work.  The idea is based on Boston Brown Bread, which is a loaf cooked/steamed stovetop.  It's a concept that doesn't seem like it sound work, and yet it does.  Every time I use the method I expect I'll end up with a liquidy consistency, but that's not what happens.  Instead, it's exactly what you would expect from a cake - without heating up your entire home with a hot oven.

Steamed Chocolate Cake
1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
  1. Butter a 1 qt mold that has a tight fitting lid. Heat water in a pot large enough to hold the mold.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a small pan.  Remove from heat and pour into aan electric mixer.
  3. Stir in the sugar and egg, beating until smooth.
  4. Add the milk and vanilla.
  5. Stir in the flour, baking powser, and salt and beat until smooth and creamy. 
  6. Spoon in the mold and cover.  Put in the large pot, cover, and steam for 1 1/2 hours.