Archive | December 2012

Cleveland Marathon Training 2013 – Day 1

For those of you playing at home, today is the first day of my 21 week 1/2 marathon training program.

It was an easy 2 miles.

I want to do as much of my training outdoors as I can.  There is too much snow for me to run outside today.  So I went on the treadmill.  The treadmill is harder mentally and less hard physically.

My husband is also training but is following a longer training plan.  He’s been training for weeks already.

 

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Bad Santa

Because I am sometimes I’m a very bad mom….

I left my kids a note from Santa on Christmas Day.  They forgot to leave milk and cookies.  So I thought I’d bust their chops just a little.

It said:

Kids- 

You forgot my cookies and milk.  So I helped myself to one of your dad’s beers.

Santa

I don’t care if they think it’s funny or not.  I think it’s hilarious.

Race Training

Sunday starts the 21 training for the Cleveland Half Marathon. 

I am excited and dismayed.  I love and hate running.  Mostly I hate it.  My joke is that I hate it but I keep doing it just to make sure that I hate it.  It’s not completely a joke. 

I do much better when I run outside by myself with music.  I don’t have fancy running clothes or shoes so nothing I own is weather-resistant.  Which means, at least right now, that I’ll be training on the treadmill. 

My husband, for the first time ever, is going to attempt the half with me.  We did a quarter in May in Columbus (which we are already signed up for again, yay!). 

I hate running with my husband.  I like going with him to the race.  And I love that he is there too.  But I do not like to run with him.  I don’t like to run with anyone who can run.  I have “run” with many people who are slower than me.  That’s fine because I’m not doing something for myself.  I’m there to encourage them. 

I have a girlfriend I’ve done this with several times.  I’ve also gone with my daughters and my son; all separately.  It’s fun. 

But when I’m there to run, I don’t want to be with anyone I know.  I spend too much time concerned with them.  Am I slowing them down?  Am I breathing too hard?  Am I making strange faces?  ( I can assure you that I am).  Do they notice that my nose is running?  Because it is always running.  When I run, my nose runs.

All that in my head distracts me from performing at my best.  My best isn’t great.  But I still want to do my best. 

Well, 21 weeks is plenty of time to fight all those stupid voices in my head.  And fight them I must.  Because the reality is that I will probably be with my husband for the race.  And I probably will be spending loads of time training with him. 

And although this will be my 3rd Cleveland Marathon, it will be my first time running running.  I want to crush it. 

The best thing about starting my training plan is that after all this Christmas food, I am carb loaded and so ready to go!

Christmas Letter

The dreaded Christmas letter.  Every year I get just one.  One particularly horrible Christmas letter.  It comes from a female relative that writes it as though it’s from her husband. 

It includes minute detail about her life; an entire page front and back, single spaced.  In the entire thing there are maybe 4 sentences about the husband.

Every year it attempts to simultaneously elicit sympathy and admiration.  This year included tales of a root canal gone wrong, a car accident (with rate of speed, road conditions, and age and occupation of the other driver), and a foreclosure on a rental property.  I kid you not.  We also learned that her daughter (not his, they don’t have children together) is moving and were informed of the condo’s square footage?!?!?

Every year I wonder what set of circumstances produced this letter.  What happened in her life that she would put this out.  And what, in her immature mind, is the best outcome she could imagine from sending this out? 

I dread this letter and should throw it away.  It makes me really sad every year.  Sad for her.  Sad for her kids.  Sad for her husband.  And sad for everyone else who reads it. 

Do any of you send out Christmas letters?  What do you include in it? 

Christmas Menu

I love cooking a big Christmas dinner for my children and husband.  I usually spend a few days picking and then revising the menu.  This year I settled on the following:

Course 1

Tomato Bisque with Cheese Pops (a cheese cracker)

Course 2

Roast Chicken with rice pilaf

Course 3

Ham with macaroni and cheese and brussels sprouts

Course 4

Beef Roast with roasted root vegetables, yorkshire pudding, and carmelized mushroom gravy

Dessert

Nutella egg nog and chocolate bread pudding with spiced whipped cream

Everything on the menu is made in my kitchen.  They are no packaged sauces or side dishes.  So, imagine my indignation (and amusement) when my little son, upon seeing the menu, exclaimed “only 4 courses?”

Only? Only? I have to start preparing foods 2 days in advance to serve 4 courses.  My husband helped a ton, doing about half of the work.  And getting me calmed down when things weren’t turning out exactly the way I wanted.

The indignation is very, very brief. Much more brief than is probably indicated by that last paragraph.  I’m glad that I can give my kids these experiences.  I hope that they remember, as they grow up, the time and love that I put into these things. 

And next year, we can have 5 courses again.  But my kids are helping with the food prep.

Chocolate Spoons – Homemade Christmas Presents

My brother and his wife both lost their jobs within about a week or so of each other. My brother knew the factory was closing, but it closed earlier than the workers were told it would. My sister-in-law had no idea. Understandably, my brother doesn’t want to exchange Christmas presents. But I still want to show my family that I love them. So I am making some presents this year.

I made jingle bell earrings and headbands for my nieces. I have a tray of Christmas cookies for my brother. But I also am going to make some cheddar cheese-topped soft pretzels. I saw a recipe for hot chocolate spoons and decided I’d try making them.

A dear friend’s mom used to make hot chocolate spoons for the Neiman Marcus catalog. Her next idea was to make bisque-on-a-spoon recipes. She’s been gone many years already, so I can’t ask for her recipe. It would be beyond perfect if I had. She was a kitchen goddess.

This didn’t work out at all as the post suggests. I suspect the issue is with the conversions. I don’t have a kitchen scale so I went online to get grams to volume unit conversions.

Here it is anyway, as I suspect with a few tweaks (i.e., correct ingredient measurements) it’s amazing. And, by the way, mine taste good, they just aren’t as pretty as they could be.

The conversions I saw were as such:

200 g chocolate = 0.88 cups
40 g cocoa powder = 1/3 cup
80 g powdered sugar (icing sugar) = slightly less than ¾ cup

The recipe calls for the pulp of one vanilla pod but never mentions using it.

I couldn’t find wooden spoons. I had a hard time finding wooden popsicle sticks. What’s the story with that?

Most importantly, who has 10 shot glasses just lying around the house? I want to party at that person’s house. I have 3. I can’t remember for sure, but I think I had 4 and one was the victim of a drunken assault. Those things can happen when people start doing shots. For the other containers, I used little Rubbermaid condiment containers and 2 large medicine cups. I made 11 “spoons” instead of 10 so that I could try one before I gave them as a gift.

I got out all my ingredients and prepared to start. In the picture you’ll see I had red crystal sprinkles. I ended up not using these. The third ingredient from the left is a couple candy canes I ground in my coffee grinder. Speaking of coffee grinder, I was out of powdered sugar. So I made my own in the coffee grinder. I’ve made castor sugar this way also. The difference is in the amount of grinding one does.

The first problem, I suspect is that 0.88 cups of chocolate chips is nowhere near 200 grams. I tried stirring in the cocoa and powdered sugar and my mixture looked like this:

That just was not going to work. I kept adding chocolate chips and heating the mixture. All in all I added almost 2 cups of chocolate chips. It still wasn’t enough to “pour” the chocolate into my various containers. So the final product wasn’t as beautiful and smooth as I would have liked. Also, because the chocolate wasn’t “liquid” enough, the crushed candy canes didn’t stick very well. If I had the same issue again, I would have packed the chocolate down well by hand. Then I would have pushed the candy cane into the top firmly before adding the sticks.

They don’t melt very easily so should be heated in the cup with the milk. They taste good and are pretty if not perfect looking.

Christmas Cookie Menu 2012

I had strong holiday traditions growing up, but once my grandmother got older (and then passed) those all disappeared. So I’ve been starting new traditions. I want my children to have that structure around them. It always made me feel more secure.

A few years ago, I decided to start making Christmas cookies. My grandmother didn’t (that I can remember). She was an excellent cook but not much of a baker. She would make brownies from the box and pizelles (pizzelles, pick a spelling) but that was the extent of it. My mother was sometimes ambitious, but still, most of her bakery was out of a Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker box.

Since we didn’t have any real Christmas cookie traditions, initially I decided I would look to ethnic cookie recipes. I picked 12 or so different cookies, each strongly associated with a particular country. They didn’t have to be “Christmas cookies”, just something traditional. It was a bit difficult because many of the well-known cookies from different countries require special molds or cookie cutters. I’m not interested in adding any more clutter through single use kitchen tools. I didn’t stick with the traditionally ethnic thing, as you’ll see below, but I do try to include some unusual items.

I won’t go through all the cookies I’ve tried. Some I didn’t include this year, but intend to try again. My goal is to come up with 14 or 15 really solid cookie recipes to make every year. I will say that one of my favorites, Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti didn’t make the list this year but will definitely be included on years going forward.

Here is my Christmas cookie menu. I’ve included links to the recipes and photos.

And this is the end result:

Well, that and about 5 pounds of stomach fat on every recipient.

Merry Christmas!