Monday, April 30, 2012

dear may

note: this is the most random assortment of photos....whoops

dear.........may?!! What?? Where did April go?

Dear May,
hello. Nice to see you again. You bring so many wonderful things.
(hopefully) something smallish from the garden.
spring in the mountains....more open trails!
maybe camping....please?
closer and closer to summer each day. 
yay, may.

Dear April,
WHAT HAPPENED? Where did the time go? I really don't remember. I'm sorry.
There was the boy's birthday, easter, just passed too quickly.

Dear Our Giant Tree,
the last few weeks have been so fun watching you change.
bare. blossoms. full green leaves. thank you for your shade.
Dear Appendix (or as my girl calls it, "independex")
what was that all about? Seriously you are the WORST. I will not miss you.

Dear Tomatoes,
I should be able to get you in the ground this month.....hooray!! I look forward to hanging out.

Dear Trail Running (Addiction?),
you are all I think about! Must. have. more. trails.
Running this and this (please read the description of that last one.....thrilling!)
Who wants to join me?

Dear Camping,
when will you happen? I need some fresh mountainy air.......right now.

Dear S'mores,
I'll see you soon too (see above)

Dear Grilled Asparagus,
you are my favorite right now.

Dear Shadow Puppets,
you really are a good time for all.
even better when the animals "attack the world"
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Dear 7 year old,
Every year I ask the same
I love you.
Your shaggy hair. Missing teeth. Curious mind.
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Dear Attempt at a Lego Cake,
frosting marshmallows is maybe the most impossible thing,
But he loved oh well I guess.

Dear Charly,
you are THREE now!!
and you are actually turning out to be quite the dog.....
....until someone comes over and you tackle them and lick them to death.

Dear Future Guests,
watch out for our dog,
she is still crazy.

Dear Chocolate Pudding,
you really know how to cheer a girl up.
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Chocolate and Coconut Pudding
serves 4
1/2 cup sugar 
2 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder 
2 TBS cornstarch 
1/8 tsp salt 
1 1/3 cups milk
2/3 cup coconut milk (small can is 2/3 cup. I'm pretty sure if you swapped out ALL the milk for coconut milk, it would be awesome, but I just had a small can.)
 2 egg yolks (slightly beaten) 
2 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped 
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract 

Mix sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan. Slowly mix in milk and coconut milk. Cook over medium heat (continue stirring), until mixture comes to boil. Boil for one minute (still stirring) Slowly stir half the mixture into the egg yolks, and then back into the saucepan on the stove. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat and add in chopped chocolate and vanilla extract. Pour into bowls and  cover (unless you are one of those people who like the "skin", cough, mom) and put pudding in the refrigerator for at least one hour. 

Top with toasted coconut and enjoy!

Dear YOU, 
what have you been up to? 

sincerely yours/love/until next time


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

a funny(ish) and totally true story

so here I am, going about life as usual.....and the next thing I know I am being told 
that my appendix needs to come out. 
like, RIGHT NOW.

So out it went, just like that. 
(well, there was some kind of science involved, I'm sure)

So if you need me, I'll be lying around eating ice cream for the next few days 
(minus one appendix)

We will talk soon.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

dear moab, I love you

miniature me+delicate arch
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After the race, we packed up and headed to Arches National Park right outside of Moab, Utah.


Why haven't we traveled down this way before? We have lived here for 6 years now, what's wrong with us?!! It's only a 4 hour drive ( I realize to some this may seem excruciating, but since most of our roadtrips are 8+ hours a 4 hour drive is a breeze!), and it's like no other place on earth. It's absolutely incredible, and we are already planning on heading back soon--there are more rocks to be climbed, more desert to explore, and more red dust to stain our skin. We have fallen in love.

The wind was so gusty I swear it was trying to take my children away from me, so we stuck to short walks down paths to see some sights (Park Avenue, Balanced Rock, Double Arch), and our only real hike for the day was out to Delicate Arch. The hike was only a little over 3 miles, and the boy and girl had so much fun exploring the smooth desert rocks on the way up. I am so glad we hiked up to this arch--we almost passed it up when the wind was yelling nasty things at us, but decided to go for it and hang on tight. As we came around the large boulders that hid the arch for most of the hike, it didn't matter how windy it was......because THIS, my friends, is a sight to see. I have seen it a thousand times in pictures, postcards, and it's even on Utah license plates--but to stand underneath it with the world dropping off behind's quite a feeling.

We are anxious to get back and head deeper into the park, as well as Canyonlands and put some more footprints in the red earth.
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On our drive home from Moab we took a detour and headed out to explore Goblin Valley. If you ever find yourself anywhere near this crazy place--GO! You will feel like you are on another planet (are you?) and there are more rocks than your Littles (and yourself, who are we kidding) could even dream of climbing. It's a giant rock playground for running, jumping, hiding and seeking, topped with piles of puffy white clouds.
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the end.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

alter ego

For those who come to The Blog here for pictures and food and cuteness and such, the following post is a race report for the Amasa Back Trail race in Moab, Utah. If running is not your thing (you should try it), or you just don't like reading about races (a favorite subject of mine to read about) then here is short and sweet version:

"Running in Moab is my new favorite thing."

for the rest of you, here we go.
Sometimes I take a look over my blog and I have to laugh. It looks so......quiet. calm.
Recipes and pictures of spring. It's me.....but only part of me. 
And it's 100% opposite of what I did last weekend.

The Amasa Back Trail Race.
I can't even begin to tell you how nervous I was. So nervous in fact that the night before the race I thought about, know....just not showing up. It would give our family some extra hours of exploring in Moab. I didn't need to race. I've always been a nervous racer but this was different. 
-I haven't raced in almost a year. 
-My lyme hit me hard last fall and I had to start my running over from scratch which has been not only difficult, but FRUSTRATING! (I'm yelling there). 
-And even though the course was only 9.5 miles, I knew it was going to be the most difficult 9.5 miles I'd ever ran. "Extremely challenging" and "very technical" were thrown around a lot in the descriptions of this race.
So yeah....I was nervous.

But I somehow managed to pull myself out of bed (with absolutely no sleep of course) Saturday morning, force some bagel and peanut butter down my throat, and head to the starting line with my little  cheerleaders in tow. 
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The race was friendly and small.
There were 80ish people (for the 6.5 and the 9.5 race combined) gathered around the start on a dirt road, right next to the Colorado River with giant rock towers over our heads. 
Small talk about weather and nerves and "where are you from" and soon we were
I have always had a bad habit of starting way too fast when I'm nervous, so I held back and sunk in to my 7:30 comfort zone for the first mile-ish down the road. I took a few minutes to take it all in.
This....was....AWSOME! I was doing it! I was so happy I didn't hide out under the covers that morning.
(note the rock in the background. that was the type of terrain I was on most of the race!)
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Somewhere around a mile the group had thinned out and we headed off the road on to a..........trail...? Broken pieces of slickrock and piles of sand down down down. Jumping, leaping, whatever worked best to get down. WooooooHooooooooooo! 
This is why I signed up.

And then, just like that, we were climbing. The sun had come up and was beating down as we made our way up the orange and red rock. 
From a distance I heard something.....almost like an echo....oh wait, 
it WAS an echo. 
I heard my name. It was my family! My little cheering section--they were waaaaaaaaaaaaay across a giant gorge--tiny little bodies on a giant cliff, waving and yelling for ME. 
I rounded the corner of of sight from them, and their echos continued on as I made my way up the rocky mountain.
(does this photo looks like a Bigfoot sighting or what?) 
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For those who have never ran on the trails (what are you waiting for?!) let me tell you this: It is as much of a brain workout as it is a total body workout. Yes you are working 
in your body as you twist and turn your way down the trail. 
But it really took my brain a few miles into this course to really get comfortable and just relax as it figured out the best way for ME to make it though the course. Looking ahead on the trail....but not too far ahead. Glancing up every now and then to look for course markers and easier paths that lead up, down, and over obstacles.

I was really feeling good around the 4-5 mile mark. 
So good in fact that in my blissful state of pure complete happiness and content, I followed the runners in front of me right onto the 6.5 mile turn off.

A couple minutes on that trail and I realized my mistake.

Oh dear. 
At least let's pretend that was my thought.

I turned around as fast as I could and booked it (well, as much as you can "book it" when you're headed up more hill) to make up for lost time.

The next few miles of the race kind of blur together in my brain (it was working hard, remember). 
All I do remember is that they were absolutely wonderful miles (ok wonderful, mixed with steep). This is the first race EVER that there hasn't been a section of it that I absolutely hated. Even races I love in the end, there are always parts where I wonder why I'm out running and not at home in bed, or baking cookies, or just doing anything that isn't running. If you are a runner, I know you have felt this way in a race before....right? It's hard! Yet we always come back for more. 
I kept waiting to hate something about this race, and it never came. I specifically remember a steep downhill right on the rock. No trail really--just running down down down this massive piece of earth. I was moving fast. Small quick steps over the smooth surface. Faster, faster. There was a physical feeling of happiness with each step I took and as I connected with the ground below. 
Just me, this rock, and no distractions. 
I love this.
I felt so comfortable, so happy, and at the risk of sounding 110% ridiculously cheesy.....felt so alive. 
I mean.....I was flailing down the side of a towering orange mountain made of solid rock really can't get much more alive than that.

More ups and downs over the slickrock. Watching the miles tick away on my watch and not wanting the race to end......slow down! It was all going by too fast. The final descent was a teeny little trail right on the edge of a massive cliff with the mighty river below. Had I not been so high on life at the moment, I might have been a little bit nervous about how far above the ground I was. Switchbacks down down down. Over more broken rock making my way to the bottom. I could see the finish. 
Hear the cheers. 
Across a barely-there creek and I was done.
And ready for more.
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time: 1 hr 42 minutes for 9.9 miles.....haha next time I'll pay better attention to the course so I don't run .4 extra miles.
place: 3rd overall of women. yay for small races!
elevation: 1841 ft gain
thankful I:  ran/jumped stadium stairs a few times before this race! There was SOOOO much jumping involved, and the smooth trails I run on didn't really prep me for that. 
favorite part: every moment of running on the rock. This was a first for me and I can't wait to get back and do it some more.
still aching: my calves. I don't actually have calf muscles in my chicken legs, so let's hope maybe they grew a bit after this race. 
wish I would have: drank more. My legs cramped up in the last mile--I know it's because I hardly drank anything. I have always liked my fuel belt but this terrain was too bumpy to get the bottle in and out easily, so I just didn't (smart, I know). Anyone have a recommendation for a favorite hydration product?
special thanks to: my own personal race photographer. my own personal cheering squad. 
myself for not chickening out.
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the bottom line: I really, really, really really loved this race. 

Anyone have races coming up? What are you running? 
I can't wait to get out and do it all over again.

edited to add: lots of running questions coming up here. Check out these two posts
Running 101
Running 201
I've changed alot about my running since I wrote these posts-I mostly run trails now, don't listen to alot of music, etc....but the basics are all there. And be sure to read all the comments--lots of helpful tips!

more moab on the blog tomorrow!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

oh whoops, I forgot to blog

me. arches national park.
It's been busy, let me tell you.
Last week was nothing much, but the

It involved a race. maybe my favorite ever.
jumping over rocks and cracks that fell to the center of the earth.
and then hiking across the slick rock of the desert with my family.
climbing up and over boulders.
red sand in our shoes up to our noses.

I'll be back to business as usual......shortly.

Monday, April 9, 2012

how we weekend

This weekend was made of up everything a weekend should be made of. 
sleeping in
a perfect trail run through the stickiest of mud
firing up the grill
staying out until sunset
bike riding
skate boarding
(both resulting in skinned knees)
staying up too late
adorable Littles dressed up for church
an Easter feast!
egg hunting
chocolate cake
kite flying over snow melting on mountains...
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this weekend just made me so very excited for summer to get here so we can have weekends like this every week. over and over again.
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I think my favorite thing about this picture of my and my girl, is that under our easter-eggy sunday best we both have the grossest bruised and bloody legs.....we play a little hard around here.
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and.....last but not least....The Cake. 
As of Saturday night I still wasn't sure what I was going to make for dessert. I knew I wanted to make a cake of some kind, so I just started making chocolate cake and let it figure itself out from there. 
I wanted to keep it simple, so I opted for one layer, and ended up just doing simple chocolate whip cream to top it. very easy.
chocolate cloud cake
Chocolate Cloud Cake
named by The Children
this cake could easily be made into two layers, but I poured the batter into one 9" round pan, and then had enough batter left over for four cupcakes.

Chocolate Cake
2 ounces semisweet chocolate
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup boiling water
6 TBS butter, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
2tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line bottom of one 9" pan with a round of parchment paper. Butter paper, and sides of pan.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with boiling water and cocoa powder. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

In a bowl add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat butter and sugar until combined. Add eggs (adding one at a time) until thickened slightly and light colored (about 3 minutes). Slowly add buttermilk, sour cream, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture, beating until combined well. Add flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.

Spoon batter into pan, Fill about 3/4 full.
Pour remaining batter into cupcake liners.
Bake cake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25-28 minutes. 
Cupcakes should be done in about 13-15 minutes.

Let cake cool for about 5 minutes and then remove from pan onto cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting. 

Chocolate Whipped Cream
this is easy to play around with and you can add more cocoa/sugar depending on how sweet/chocolaty you want it.
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup powder sugar
1/4 + a few TBS unsweetened baking cocoa
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Beat with electric mixer for a few minutes until you reach a thick whip-creamy consistency 

Spoon onto cake. 

Dust with cocoa powder.
If you want to add a few chocolate pieces for decoration (and eating of course) melt down some good semi-sweet chocolate and spread it thinly onto a piece of parchment paper. Pop it into the freezer for a few minutes until it has set back up. Break it in to pieces and VWALLA!! fancy cake topper.


How was your weekend?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

this weekend.....

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aaallllllmost weekend.....where has my week gone?
School has been out and I don't think I'm ready to go back next week.....can't we just start our summer vacation now?
What are your plans for the weekend?
I am currently planning out our Easter feast, and the only thing I know for sure is that we will most definitely without a doubt be shoving our faces with these potatoes.
We had them last year and I have constantly thought about them since.
The kids have requested artichokes, and I am dreaming up something for dessert.
What are you making for dessert? Decisions decisions.

I am checking out early for the week--trying to take advantage of 
extra time with these adorable children I have.

May your weekend be filled with sunshine, colorful eggs, kite flying, bubble blowing, fresh flowers, and Easter feast eating. And if you have a few extra minutes, take a peek at this video
so we can all remember that HE is the reason we celebrate this wonderful day, 
and not the terrifying mall easter bunny.

Happy Easter!

If you too are still looking for an Easter dessert......maybe try
-this cake with strawberry buttercream ruffles if you are lucky enough to have fresh strawberries where you live

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

a healthy budget

I realize that slowly making changes to your eating habits can seem overwhelming in several ways. For instance, if you decide one day to head into a "health food" store at start looking at "health food"it's going to seem ridiculously expensive.
So I've tried to break it down into a few steps so you can eat well on a budget.
These are all things that I do, so I can try to feed our family the best I can, without spending too much.

Shop. Everywhere. 
This is a huge reason I am so thankful to live in the many stores to choose from, not too far from my house. Yes, it takes a little more time and planning ahead to hit up a few places, but it's worth it. I have a small handful of stores that I visit, and each provide me with different needs at the best prices. I follow my favorite stores like Whole Foods and Sunflower Market on facebook--they are constantly updating with sales so I can know what's there before I go in. When shopping at pricier stores (hello, Whole Foods) you HAVE to go in with a plan...or at least a semi-plan, or you will end up spending waaaaaaaay too much. MY personal plan is to only shop the sales--there are awesome deals to be found if you are looking. If I have items on my list that aren't on sale, most times I will swap them out for something that IS on sale.

Go easy on the weekly meal plans
So if you are shopping like I do--looking for the best sales, it's hard to make a weekly meal plan. You'll have your grocery list made up for your week, and then show up to the store and half of your items aren't on what? I usually plan my meals on the day I shop for my produce. That way I can get the best deals, bring it home and turn it into meals for the next few days. In the summer when we have our garden and I'm frequenting the farmer's market, I find it easier to plan out my meals because I know exactly what I can get.

Dumb it down. 
Sometimes I stumble upon someone's weekly meal plan and (while drooling) I can't believe how much food people eat. A mouthwatering meat dish with several sides to go with it......every night of the week. I can't help but wonder what is happening with all the leftovers? And how much does it all cost?! I love making full-on delicious "fancy" dinners for my family, just not every night of the week. Most nights we eat very very simply. Simple soups, pastas, sandwiches, salads. Lots of whole grains, beans, vegetables, and less meat. Keep it simple.

Stock up on staples
Items I ALWAYS have on hand and can be turned into dinner quickly.
Beans--for soups, salads, tacos, burritos, hummus.
Whole grains--like pastas, brown rice, bulgur, barley, quinoa. Mixed with veggies, meat or fish for main dishes, perfect for sides or salads or thrown in soups. Oats and steel cut oats for breakfast.
Bread and tortillas. I got an email a few weeks back asking what bread I like, and I really don't have any favorites. I love to make bread, but I have to do so sparingly....I've found when there is homemade bread in the house we eat it, oh, in about a day. There is a local brand that I like to buy when it's on sale, and other than that I look for sales on loaves that have the least ingredients. I like Whole Foods whole wheat tortillas.
Canned tomatoes and tomato sauce for soups.
Chicken stock--both from the store, and stock I've made after we eat a whole chicken--I keep this in the freezer with chicken, beef, and fish.
Potatoes. They store well and can be served with just about anything.
Frozen berries for smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal.
Eggs for breakfast burritos or sandwiches.
Having all these items on hand, I know that there is always SOMETHING for dinner, and depending on what produce or meat I may bring home, I always have something to go with it.

Buy in bulk
Bulk bins are my favorite. You can get as much (or as little) as you need, and get a good price because you don't have to pay for packaging. 
I love buying nuts, seeds, rice, flours, lentils and grains in the bulk bins. 
Shop Costco.....cautiously. It's easy to buy something because "it's such a good deal!" and then it ends up going bad and is wasted. But there are lots of (giant) options to stock your pantry and freezer. I also feel like Costco is getting more and more healthy options each time I shop. 

Know how to eat leftovers.
Chances are, you won't have enough leftovers for another full meal the next evening. So I usually eat leftovers for lunch the next day (or two). Look for ways to incorporate your leftovers into a totally different meal. With this taco recipe below, I had extra filling so I added it to some spinach for a twist on a taco salad. 
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Black Bean, Bulgur, and Lentil Tacos
this recipe is friendly on your wallet because it doesn't have meat in it, and the filling is made straight from the bulk bins.
the best thing about recipes like this is how interchangeable they are. 
You can use any combination of beens/grains/lentils that you have. 
Swap the black beans out for pinto or kidney. 
Swap the bulgur out for brown rice. 
Swap the yellow split peas out for red lentils.

2 cups of prepared black beans
2 cups prepared yellow split peas
1 cup prepared bulgur
large handful of diced onion
large handful of diced red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
pinch of cumin
salt and pepper

saute onion and peppers until tender. 
add remaining ingredients and cook through until heated.

Avocado and Cabbage Slaw
1 avocado, diced
a few handfuls of shredded cabbage
3 green onions, sliced thin
juice of one lime
handful of chopped cilantro
salt and pepper

Serve in toasted corn tortillas with pepperjack cheese, sour cream and lime.

When it comes down to it, we need to remember that it's our health we our talking about.
Providing healthy fuel for our bodies, instead of junk that may harm them or slow them down. Isn't that worth taking a little more time to check the sales, or putting a little more effort into making a simple meal, rather than buying a pre-made meal? I think so. 
How do YOU save money when it comes to eating healthy?

Monday, April 2, 2012

beet it

Did you know they are rich in dietary fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, and C? It's true. 

A few summers ago I was wandering the farmers market and saw a pile of purple and gold beets overflowing a little farmer's table. 
They were beeeeaaauuuutiful. 
I had to have them. 
I had never had beets before (unless you count the canned variety, which I always passed up thank you), and didn't really know what to do with them. 

So I prepared them like I would any vegetable I'm not sure what to do with...... I roasted them. 
Slice them up, toss in olive oil, salt and pepper, maybe a few herbs and roast them at around 400 or so until they are fork tender. 
They can be eaten straight off the pan, or tossed in to a salad.
And did you know you can eat the beet greens!? Yes.
Just saute' them in a little olive oil, or use them like you would any of your other greens.
Beet greens actually have more iron and calcium than eat up!

I wanted to branch out and try something different than roasted beets, and I had recently heard mention of beet chips.....
so here is my take. 

Lemon and Cracked Pepper Beet Chips
zest of 1/2 lemon
lemon olive oil (or regular if you don't have lemon)
coarse salt and cracked pepper

-remove beet tops (eat your greens!)
-peel beets (your hands will turn pink!)
-slice as thin as possible (maybe you have a mandolin slicer,
I used the slicey side of the cheese grater (actual term))
-toss in lemon olive oil and lemon zest (your hands will get pinker!)
-spread out on a parchment lined baking sheet (for 3 beets I used two baking sheets)
-sprinkle with salt and pepper
-bake at 350° for about 30 minutes. 
-make sure to CHECK your chips--the smaller ones may have to be taken out sooner--
don't let them burn. 
-remove when chips are crisp. 
Don't leave the room--they disapear too fast.
We ate 3 beets in about 3 minutes. 
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Beet juice can be used as a dye as well. 
Use it to color your Easter eggs this weekend. 
I've seen pasta cooked in beet water for pink pasta. 
Cute Vanessa used it for a homemade cheek stain

for more beet action use your easter eggs to make robby's pickled eggs or
this salad with goat cheese and avocado looks amazing.

How do YOU like beets?