To Katie, From Katie

By Katie, 8:57 am

Today is the day before my half marathon. 8-O

I’m feeling a queasy mix of nervousness and excitement. I’m trying to act like it’s no big deal while simultaneously obsessing about it. I’m being totally overly-dramatic at the same time I’m trying to convince myself to treat it just like any other long run. It’s funny how these kinds of events bring out such an emotional roller coaster in me. :-)

To help focus my thoughts a bit, I decided to write a pre-race letter to myself, and I thought it would be worthwhile to share it with all of you. So here we go.

To Katie, From Katie: A Pre-Half Marathon Letter

Dear Katie,

First and foremost, take a deep breath. There, that’s better. :-)

I want to give you some advice and encouragement regarding this little 13.1 mile running thing you’ll be doing tomorrow. You might need to read this periodically throughout the day, or perhaps in the morning before you head to the starting line. Maybe you’ll need to read it after the race is over. Either way, I hope I can help you maintain a little perspective.

There are two main points I want to make in this letter:

1. Take your expectations and throw them in the trash.

2. The battle is already won.

Regarding the first point: let’s be honest, this last week of training hasn’t been ideal. You barely slept Wednesday night, and you were sick most of the day on Thursday. Friday you still weren’t feeling 100%. In light of this, I want you to forget any hopes or dreams you may have been harboring about your overall time or pace for this half-marathon. It is your first time running this distance, and your only goal should be to FINISH. Forget the clock. Focus on going at a pace that feels comfortable for your body tomorrow, not worrying if that pace is slower than the one you kept two weeks ago.

I guess what I’m saying is, when you listen to your body and not judge yourself so much, running is FUN. Have FUN tomorrow! 8-)

Regarding point #2: You have already accomplished something amazing. The training and dedication you’ve put into this event is nothing to scoff at. During a point in your life that was filled with unknowns, you gave yourself a goal and pursued it doggedly. That effort is a victory in and of itself. So even if something goes horribly wrong tomorrow – even if for some unforeseen reason you cannot cross that finish line – you are already a winner.

Even if you totally wipe out on the slippery streets. ;-) Which is quite probable, considering the weather forecast for the morning is filled with this:

The rain doesn’t matter. The clock doesn’t matter. Your attitude is what matters. You’ve worked hard for this; now is the time to enjoy it! :-)

Congratulations!

Love,

Katie

Any last-minute tips for racing in the rain???

Firing Up the Grill

By Katie, 7:57 am

Grilling season has begun!!! 8-)

The groomsmen in our wedding went together and got us a grill for our special day – an awesome gift that we use as often as we can in the warmer months. Wednesday night we fired it up for an amazing dinner.

Well, I suppose it’s a bit inaccurate to say we fired up anything. I actually have no idea how to use the grill. :oops: I generally stick to the food preparation, and then respond to Dave’s beck and call during the actual grilling process (Honey, toss me an oven mitt! Grab a plate for the burgers!).

On the menu: bison burgers and veggie kabobs!

In a recipe I posted a long time ago for Bison Rotini, I wrote about the health benefits of bison meat. As far as red meat goes, it’s very nutrient-rich and naturally lean, so it makes a great alternative to beef.

(Source)

Plus, since we’re not big red meat eaters in general (during dinner we discussed the fact that neither of us can even remember the last time we ate red meat), we don’t mind splurging a little for the local bison burgers.

One of my other jobs on grilling day is to prepare the fixings. :-)

The bison burgers turned out perfectly!

And the veggie kabobs were so colorful and beautiful! My skewers included red onion, red pepper, mushrooms, squash, orange pepper, and cherry tomatoes. I seasoned them with sea salt, pepper, and a touch of Penzeys Mural of Flavor seasoning.

So satisfying!

I had some other noteworthy eats as well. Lunch was an overflowing salad bowl.

In the mix:

  • mixed greens
  • grape tomatoes
  • carrots
  • cucumber
  • pickled sweet red peppers
  • grilled chicken strips
  • chickpeas
  • crumbled feta
  • a dollop of Bruschetta Hummus for dressing

Along with a baked sweet potato with a drizzle of agave nectar.

Snacks included an apple with Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Peanut Butter.

And a Gnu bar – love these!

And, of course, dessert!

Tart fro-yo with strawberries and chocolate chips – a great way to end the day!

Have you ever tried bison?

AND

What’s your favorite food to grill?

Miss Manners 2.0

By Katie, 7:32 am

I should probably start by saying that I am in no way a stickler when it comes to etiquette. Grammar, yes. Etiquette, no. ;-)

I do, however, feel a volcano of frustration erupt inside of me when, say, a friend and I go out to dinner and she spends more time texting than conversing with me. Or when the guy on the treadmill next to me spends his entire workout blabbing on his cellular devise about the smokin’ hot date he had last night. True story. :-x

So it’s no surprise that Real Simple magazine’s Tech Etiquette Manual caught my eye.

(Source)

Some highlights:

Question: You run into someone you know while listening to your iPod. Do you need to remove both earbuds to talk to her?

Etiquette Expert Answer: Yes. People want to know that the person they’re talking to is really paying attention to them.

My Answer: 8-O Of course! (I love how the question specifies “both earbuds.” Do people really only take out one to talk to someone?)

Question: How quickly must you respond to an e-mail?

Etiquette Expert Answer: Not responding quickly―within hours and certainly by the end of the day―to any e-mail might make the other side feel as though she’s being overlooked.

My Answer: You should certainly respond as soon as you can, but I wouldn’t say it has to be within hours. (Maybe I’m just saying that because I don’t always reply that quickly! ) Sometimes when I can’t immediately respond in full, I’ll send a quick reply letting the sender know I received the message but am waiting to write a complete response until I have time to give it the attention it deserves.

Question: Is it OK to talk on your cell phone when you’re ordering food, getting your hair cut, banking, etc.?

Etiquette Expert Answer: It’s rude to talk on the phone when you’re interacting with others―no matter who they are.

My Answer: Agreed! I will admit to talking to certain people that I’m close to (read: my husband and my mother) while I’m picking up groceries or cruising the mall, but I always hang up before I reach the check-out line.

Question: You Google someone you’re about to meet for the first time. Is it gauche to bring up what you learned about her?

Etiquette Expert Answer: Finding something out about that person that would have been printed recently in the paper is OK to mention. Anything more, like where she went to high school, gets creepy. Bringing up personal information could be stalkerish. With dating, I think people expect you to Google them before a first date.

My Answer: 1. I wonder if Dave Googled me before our first date. 2. The linguist in me finds it rather amusing that “Google” is now a verb. 3. I would be totally freaked if I met someone for the first time and he/she said, “So, how’s Domino doing?” 8-O

Question: Is it OK to text-message or e-mail big news (a new job, a pregnancy, etc.)?

Etiquette Expert Answer: Since those closest to us aren’t always nearby, and getting everyone together at once can be a challenge, an e-mail is fine for good news. A good rule of thumb is that if these are people you usually communicate with via e-mail, it’s OK.

My Answer: Closest friends and family members should be told in person or on the phone, but e-mail is just fine for one’s extended circle. All others can be informed through the blog. (Ha! Just joking…kinda. :lol: )

Question: Can you ignore someone who “friends” you?

Etiquette Expert Answer: If people in your network can post and view photos and funny comments about you, it’s best to restrict access to people who are truly your friends.

My Answer: I agree with the experts, but I don’t really practice what I preach. I accept almost anyone who “friends” me, so long as I at least know who they are!

My Bottom Line: Cell phones, iPods, and laptops be darned, we should all just be POLITE and RESPECTFUL of others. :-D

Check out Real Simple‘s full Tech Etiquette Manual for more!

How would you respond to any of these technology-driven etiquette quandaries?

AND

Are there any manners issues that really get under your skin? Do you have any outrageous stories about people being shockingly rude?

Pasta with Asparagus and Goat Cheese

By Katie, 10:05 am

Now is the time for fresh, local asparagus, so those lovely spears are making their way into my meals and into my mouth as often as possible. That’s the thing about eating locally and seasonally – you end up glutting yourself with a certain fruit or vegetable until you’re absolutely sick of it, which is the exact moment it’s gone. By the time it’s back you’re longing for it once again.  :-)

I started jumping for joy when I came across this recipe for Pasta with Asparagus and Goat Cheese for many reasons, one of which was that it calls for chicken sausage. I am obsessed with Trader Joe’s many varieties of pre-cooked chicken sausage. When someone who is not familiar with the store asks me what I recommend from there, I always say chicken sausage.

(You could of course omit this if you’re a vegetarian; the recipe would still be rockin’!)

Pasta with Asparagus and Goat Cheese
Adapted from Pink Parsley
Serves 2

Ingredients
1 large bunch asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
sea salt and black pepper
2 links pre-cooked chicken sausage (I used Trader Joe’s Roasted Garlic variety)
4 oz. whole wheat pasta
2 oz. fresh goat cheese, softened
1 tbsp grated Parmesan
1 tbsp fresh chives

1. Preheat oven to 450º.

2. Toss asparagus with a splash of olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Cut chicken sausage into 1-inch rounds. Roast asparagus and chicken sausage on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.

3. Meanwhile, boil a pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water before draining the pasta.

4. Whisk together the goat cheese, Parmesan, butter, and 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Add a touch of salt and pepper, and stir until smooth.

5. Toss the pasta with the cheese mixture, asparagus, and chicken sausage. Add the rest of the pasta water, a little bit at a time, until the pasta is coated with a thin sauce.

6. Divide into two bowls and garnish with chives. Enjoy!

Have you been enjoying any local asparagus?

AND

If you are near a Trader Joe’s, have you ever tried the chicken sausage?

Budget-Friendly Workout Clothes! And Other Hot Links

By Katie, 2:08 pm

The Internet has been brewing with lots of interesting information on healthy living. Here are some of the links I’ve found worthwhile as of late. I hope you find them useful as well! :-)

Summer 2010 Running Shoe Guide

This caught my eye because my “reward” for finishing the half-marathon (which is coming up this weekend – eek!!!) is a trip to the local specialty running store, where I’m going to get fitted for proper shoes. I probably should have done that a long time ago – having the proper footwear is an important part of running – but better late than never!

How to Shop for Workout Clothes without Going Broke

Most of the time I head to the gym in an old, ratty t-shirt, but sometimes the fancy-schmancy stuff is nice! (And sweat-wicking materials are so much more breathable.) But let’s face it; workout clothes can be tough on the wallet (Lululemon, anyone?). Here SparkPeople shares some money-saving tips. My favorite? Visit discount stores. I’ve gotten so many brand-name shirts and shorts super cheap at T.J. Maxx!

An Ultramarathoner…and a Vegan

This dude runs a lot…and he eats a lot. Check out how he fuels without consuming any animal products.

10 Ways to Rise Above Roadblocks

Here are some great tips for finding that extra boost of motivation – whether it be for your exercise routine, your ambitious around-the-house project, or any other goal you have in mind. My favorite? Let go of the outcome. Because in the end, the effort is more important anyway.

Lack of Sleep Increases Weight

Several solid studies are showing that skimping on the zzzzzzz’s leads to an increased appetite – and hence increased food intake – the following day. Getting enough rest is just as important for your health as eating healthy and exercising!

5 Essential Habits for Balanced Living

This blog is all about balance, right? Here Zen Habits breaks the concept down to five basic habits that promote a balanced lifestyle. So simple, yet sometimes so difficult to achieve! (Especially that little one about patience…definitely not my strong suit!)

When Exercise Becomes Addictive

It is possible to have too much of a good thing. This article addresses the problem of going overboard with exercise – using it as a coping mechanism, but to an extreme. Symptoms include exercising for hours at a time, exercising even when you’re sick, refusing to take rest or recovery days, and feeling anxious or depressed when you can’t exercise.

Have you come across any interesting links lately? Do share!

AND

What’s your preferred workout attire? Do you splurge on the good stuff? Why or why not?

On Treadmills and Cubicles

By Katie, 1:49 pm

When I sent an email to my family and friends announcing that I’ll soon be starting a new job, one of the responses I received read:

Now your running pace will drop to 10:00 per mile and your diet will go to hell…Welcome to the rat race!” :lol:

It was a joke, of course, but I am a bit concerned that there is some truth to it. Although as a full-time graduate student my schedule was certainly hectic, entering the world of 9-5 will definitely be an adjustment. My goal is to find ways of maintaining a healthy lifestyle – complete with moderate exercise and nutritious home-cooked meals – despite the fact that 8 or 9 hours of my day will be spent like this:

(Source)

There are lots of reasons I am passionate about maintaining a healthy lifestyle once I enter the professional world – it gives me more energy, helps me manage my stress levels, and I downright enjoy it! But now I can add to the list the fact that taking care of my health will help me perform better on the job.

I recently came across a summary of a study conducted at Leeds Metropolitan University in England. Researchers had participants rate their performance, their time-management skills, and their overall output on both exercise and non-exercise days. The study found that a significant majority reported higher ratings in each of these areas on days that they engaged in some kind of physical activity.

In other words, the findings suggest that being active is strongly correlated with success on the job.

Over the weekend I briefly discussed this topic with my aunt, who works as a fifth grade teacher and has maintained a regular exercise routine for as long as I can remember. She said that she has definitely found that a healthy diet and regular trips to the gym help her be the best teacher she can be. I can imagine she needs a lot of energy and patience to deal with a classroom full of rowdy fifth graders! ;-)

So after a long day at work, when I feel that temptation to skip my workout and order greasy take-out for dinner, I am going to remind myself that resisting that temptation is not only going to enhance my life outside of the office; it will also help me succeed within it.

What do you do for a living? Do you find that exercise helps or hurts your job performance? How so?

Farmers’ Market Lovin’

By Katie, 2:32 pm

You hear a lot these days about the importance of buying your food locally; in fact, I myself posted on the topic not too long ago. I argued that buying local is a win-win situation for everyone involved – your food is fresher, better-tasting, and probably safer (because it’s less likely to have been treated with chemicals or pumped with growth hormones), it helps the environment, and it supports your community’s local growers.

Having said that, I realize that buying locally is a heck of a lot easier for someone like me, who has access to multiple farmers’ markets. In Baltimore, there are large markets open on both Saturday and Sunday mornings, and smaller ones pop up throughout the week. I just discovered that there is a small market mere minutes from my new workplace on Tuesday afternoons, and another one at the local Whole Foods (five minutes from my work) on Wednesday evenings! I am a lucky lady. ;-)

The largest farmers’ market in my area is held underneath the highway that runs through the city.

This weekend Dave and I got up early to bust out a workout (I ran 5.2 miles) and then hit up the market for breakfast and grocery shopping. We stopped in our tracks when we saw a stand selling crepes.

I debated for quite some time between #5 – with apples, granola, honey and almonds – and #6 – with strawberries, banana, and Nutella. I ultimately went with #5, but will definitely be going back to try #6!

I loved watching the man make the crepes!

It was absolutely delicious! A perfect post-workout, weekend treat! :-)

At one point Dave wandered away, then came back with a Chinese ban, which was new to me.

It was basically a big ball of dough with pumpkin inside – yum! We split it.

Some of the other Farmers’ Market highlights…

Local Strawberries!!! During the next few weeks while these are in season, I will be gorging on them. :-)

Local spinach and some beautiful lettuce.

A wide selection of honeys and jams. We picked up a small bear of Orange Blossum honey, which I’m very excited to try!

And of course, what would a market be without freshly-baked breads and pastries?

And other sweet treats! Freshly-baked pies and gelato, oh my! 8-O

Here’s the dairy where we get our local milk and eggs.

And here’s the company that supplies our local bison meat. We picked up some bison burgers to fire up on the grill this week – can’t wait!

One of my favorite stops is the mushroom stand; they sell all different varieties – a mushroom-lover’s dream!

We saw a ton of beautiful, local rhubarb, so we bought about a pound of it. I have never made anything with rhubarb before! I know it’s often used to make strawberry-rhubarb pies, so I’m thinking of giving that a shot. I’ve never made a pie in my life, so it should be an adventure! :-)

There’s also this great stand that sells all kinds of pickles and pickled items. We picked up some pickled sweet peppers.

And check out this hummus stand! Have you ever seen so many flavors of hummus?!?! 8-O

They were good salespeople, offering lots of free samples. I picked a small container of Bruschetta Hummus, which is as delicious as it sounds.

And you know I immediately combined those last two purchases in a sandwich. No surprise there! ;-)

I’m so grateful for the wonderful farmers’ markets in my area; they definitely make eating locally easier…and a whole lot of fun! :-D

Do you have a local farmers’ market in your area? Are you able to shop there often? What sorts of items do you buy there?

Low + Slow Convert

By Katie, 7:09 am

I’m a touch hesitant to write this post, lest you think that all we eat in my household are sandwiches. That is not the case, and I promise to highlight a non-sandwich meal soon! But last night’s dinner was just too tasty not to share immediately! :-)

That would be a chicken sandwich with apricot sauce, inspired by the ever-inspiring Pioneer Woman.

The sauce was just a simple mixture of apricot preserves, coarse-ground Dijon, plain Greek yogurt, and a hint of cayenne. (The Pioneer Woman calls for mayo, which I would have used except that when I pulled it out it was past its expiration date. Yeah, we don’t use mayo that often. The yogurt made a perfectly suitable substitute!)

All mixed together.

The sandwich took no time at all because I used Trader Joe’s fully cooked chicken breasts, which are highlighted in the flyer this month. I also used two slices of Trader Joe’s whole wheat Tuscan pane. Can you tell where I do all of my grocery shopping? ;-)

After a light grill in a skillet and the addition of some baby spinach, this delicious sandwich was ready!

To make the meal even more fantastic, I made some sweet potatoes using the Low + Slow method. Honestly, I thought the Low + Slow method was just a bunch of hype; how could it really be that much better than the various methods I was already using? Well, turns out I was dead wrong. This is the method for cooking sweet potatoes! SO GOOD!

All around an awesome meal!

I’m off to watch my cousin graduate from my alma mater! It will be fun to be back on my old campus!

Have a wonderful weekend! :-)

One Day of Rest

By Katie, 3:27 pm

A friend of mine once asked me why I enjoy being a Christian so much if it means I have to follow a ton of rules.

I responded that there actually aren’t a lot of rules involved, and they can pretty much all be subsumed under the heading “Love God, and Love Other People,” which certainly doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. :-)

Of course there are some other important guidelines, regarding such moral issues as lying, cheating, stealing, etc. But these guidelines or rules or whatever you’d like to call them don’t exist to make life a drag; rather, they exist because they are for our own good. It’s just like parents and children – most parents put rules in place (like “don’t play with matches” or “don’t eat an entire tub of ice cream in one sitting”) not because they’re cruel human beings, but because they want their children to remain safe and happy.

Take, for example, the Bible’s commandment about the Sabbath. God made a “rule” that one day a week should be set aside for rest and worship. It should be a holy day, set apart from the ones that are overflowing with work and responsibilities and stress. As I approach the beginning of yet another hectic weekend, I’m reminded of how often I break this rule, even though I know I would be a better, happier person if I followed it.

Because don’t we all need one day, one 24-hour period during which we reject the go-go-go mentality and put on the brakes instead? Don’t we need a scheduled time when stopping to smell the roses can be a pleasure instead of an inconvenience? Aren’t we much happier and healthier when we remember to think about the big picture, when we get in touch with our beliefs and values, when we reconnect with our broader purpose instead of focusing only on the day-to-day rat race?

What I’m saying is this: the Bible’s commandment about a day set aside for rest and worship is not meant to constrain us; it’s meant to liberate us. It’s not about following a rule, it’s about carving out space for rejuvenation through connection with our greater spiritual beliefs.

Regardless of whether you are a Christian or not, or whether you subscribe to any spiritual system or not, I bet we can all agree that taking one day of rest out of seven doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. :-)

Do you purposefully set aside a day to rest and rejuvenate? A day to connect with your spiritual beliefs? If not, do you think you could benefit from doing so?

Ten Recent Obsessions

By Katie, 2:24 pm

So I have oodles of random tid-bits I want to share with you, all of which fall under the category of “Recent Obsessions.” When you see just how random these obsessions are, don’t say I didn’t warn you. ;-)

Obsession #1: Peanut Butter Puffins

I’ve been a die-hard Original Puffins supporter for at least a year now, but I just recently bought a box of the Peanut Butter variety. It was love at first bite. :-)

These pillows of peanut butter goodness have been enjoyed dry, with milk, in yogurt, and most recently on top of tart fro-yo.

Obsession #2: Xanthan Gum

For awhile I struggled with how to make my smoothies thicker without simply adding more ice. While ice certainly does the trick, it also waters down the flavor of the smoothie. :-?

Then I discovered this odd little product. Adding just a touch (literally about 1/4 tsp) makes my smoothies thicker and more frothy. For example, this Chocolate-Strawberry Monster, inspired by the always-lovely Heather.

That particular smoothie consisted of spinach, almond milk, a cup of so of frozen strawberries, 1-2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, a packet of stevia, and a touch of xanthan gum. Perfect!

Obsession #3: Suits

As I mentioned in another post, I had a job interview last week. Of course I wanted to look and feel my best, so I broke out the professional attire.

Interview Outfit #1:

I must have said something right because they brought me back in for the second round.

Interview Outfit #2:

That one must have been the clincher because I GOT THE JOB!!! I am officially employed! I graduate with my master’s on May 21 and officially begin the job on June 1 (although I will actually be going in the week of the 24th to begin some training).

Naturally, we celebrated with dough and sauce and cheese and grease. :-)

Obsession #4: Mini Veggies

There’s just something about taking a large carrot or zucchini and shrinking it that makes eating it that much more fun. :lol:

Obsession #5: “Healthy” Chocolate

I recently won some Attune bars in a blog giveaway. These little chocolate treats supply a good dose of probiotics, which promote healthy digestion. Usually when it comes to chocolate I prefer to stick to the real thing – no healthy-additions needed – but since I got them for free I’ve been enjoying them regularly. They’re actually quite good!

Nicely portioned, too.

Obsession #6: Philosophy Body Wash

My mom totally got me hooked on these Philosophy products; they’re all-in-one shampoos, body washes, and bubble baths that come in a wide variety of fun scents. I’ve already enjoyed Vanilla Birthday Cake and Crème Brulée, and I’m currently lathering up with Cinnamon Buns. Next on the showering agenda are Apricots & Cream and Fudge Cake!

If you’re interested, here are all of their amazing scents (or should I say flavors?!?! :-) )

Obsession #7: Dried Plums

Yes, that’s right, they are now officially called dried plums…NOT prunes!!! But apparently Trader Joe’s hasn’t gotten that memo yet.

I honestly don’t know why everyone shrivels their noses at these! I think they’re delicious!!!

And enough with the prunes-are-for-old-people stuff. I just turned 25!!!

Obsession #8: Not Doing the Dishes

Proof. 8-O

In my defense, my dishwasher appears to have been designed for David the Gnome, making it very difficult for me to keep up. Oh, and I hate doing the dishes. Enough said.

Obsession #9: Annie’s Bunny Grahams

Especially when they come in a mixed-variety box!

Honey, Chocolate, AND Chocolate Chip…oh my! Shown here, mixed with Greek yogurt and banana slices.

Obsession #10: Cuteness

Let’s face it, this is not a recent obsession…more of a life-long one. ;-)

What are your recent obsessions, health-related, food-related, or otherwise?

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