A Tale of Two Sneakers.

Hello loyal readers and followers!

Since I have as of late been writing a lot about running due to the fact that I’ve been running a lot, I’ve decided to branch off into a blog dedicated “solely” to that topic.

It’s called A Tale of Two Sneakers, and it chronicles the journey of two sneakers (them being mine) and the various and sundry incidents and accidents encountered along the way. So please, if you like my posts here, particularly the running ones, stop by and check it out at www.ataleoftwosneakers.com.  Thanks!!

It was the best of runs, it was the worst of runs….

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Marathon Training, Week 2: A Little Fall of Rain

 

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the aftermath.

This morning, I had the intention of running 9 miles. I find that if I don’t go out there with the distance I would like to run already ingrained into my brain, I get tired and want to stop. Telling myself before the first step that I would be running 9 is the only way I will actually run 9. So, at 8:30am, out the door I went to begin my journey.

It started off great, although a little humid (and by “a little” I mean water droplets were forming on my skin and I couldn’t see out of my sunglasses because they were fogged the instant I stepped outside). I walked the .5 miles to the park, and as I was almost there, it started to rain very, very lightly. A man in his front yard shouted as I went by, “It’s your fault it’s raining!” I assumed he was kidding so I laughed and said, “yeah right.” Then I briefly wondered if maybe it was my fault. Is that even possible? As I continued my philosophical discussion with myself, I reached the park and began the actual running portion of today’s show.

The first 4 miles felt pretty good. I was worried a bit that it was so humid I wouldn’t be able to make it to 9, but the very very light rain and the fact that the sun was mostly hidden made it bearable. I was glad it was raining, and thought to myself, “gee, I wouldn’t mind if it rained a little harder. It would feel good!”

You know how they say be careful what you wish for?

All of a sudden it started pouring. Like not just raining a little bit more, but a torrential downpour. I was nearing a tree, and worried about my iphone getting ruined (I really could not have cared less if I got wet – it was all about the phone), so I ducked under a tree for cover. I hung around for about 10 minutes, wondering in true dramatic fashion if i’d ever be able to continue, when it finally started lightening up. so I continued on, soaked but determined. It was a tad cooler (or I was just so soaked that it appeared to be so), so I picked up the pace, and did two more miles, virtually rain-free. I had to ring out my shirt about 10 times, but I finally felt like I was reaching the early stages of drying out. The 4 extra pounds of water I was now carrying did make the run a bit more challenging, but I’ve done it before, so I pushed onward.

I had just finished mile 6, when I heard a rumbling in the sky – yep, it was thunder. “Please just pass,” I begged of the Universe, however my pleas went unanswered and within a minute, it was raining again. Like “raining men” raining. It was coming down so fast, that I wasn’t even sure what to do at first. I quickly regained my wits, and headed toward a tree who’s trunk looked pretty dry so I thought I’d be offered some shelter from the storm.

I waited. And waited. And waited. The water began getting past the tree’s leaves and I was soon left with nowhere to hide. So I did what any sane person would do. I held my phone in my hands and bent over it so it wouldn’t get wet. As my back began getting more and more soaked, I again begged and pleaded with the Universe to make it stop. I started bargaining – “I’ll run all 9 miles if you make it stop now!” That didn’t work. At this point, I was the only person left in the park, so I started communicating with the Universe aloud, hoping that maybe if it heard my actual voice, that would work.

Apparently, the Universe doesn’t speak english. I raised my fist in a fit of rage as the water flowed all over me (but my phone was dry!). After about 20 minutes, I gave up and started crying. I guess the Universe felt sorry for me at this point, because it finally started to let up. I quickly strapped my phone back on my arm ran my last two miles, soaked and dying of thirst.  Although I was originally going to run 9, I settled for 8.5. My soaked clothes were heavy and so was my heart.

I finally got home, opened the door and the first thing my nephew said to me was, “Jeanine, why were you out running in the rain?”

I don’t know, but clearly it was my fault.

 

Sometimes, You Just Gotta Push Through.

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This morning, I went out for a run – a long run. I’ve officially begun training for a full marathon this November. I set out to run 8 miles this morning. The park where I run is a one mile loop – so that would be 8 times around. I don’t mind – I actually enjoy checking off each go-round in my head. It helps break down the distance into manageable increments. I’ll be sure to remind myself of this, when I’m out there running 18 loops. Can’t wait.

Anyway, the reason I’m sharing this particular story about this particular run on this particular day is because it was different. Even before I started out, it felt different. I can’t explain why it felt that way, but I can now explain why it was.

I had planned on leaving the house at 7:30am – that did not happen. After a series of little events, including a late wake-up, some ants in the kitchen, and a nervous stomach, I finally set out around 8:30. Not too shabby – I’d still have most of my day post-run to do other stuff.

I put on this Enya Pandora station I just made the other day – it’s the perfect running music, I must say. I feel inspired and at one with the park while I’m running (or something like that). I walked the half a mile over to the park, and I started my 8 mile journey. I was about to finish 2 miles, when a crew of county landscapers pulled up near the end/beginning of the loop. They had just started setting up as I was about to run by. One older man in particular caught my attention, and as I got closer, he smiled, and said “good morning” and I realized he reminded me a lot of my dad. So I smiled back, and continued on, thinking about my dad and the nice man who just happened to be there to brighten up my run as I came by.

On the next two loops, I didn’t see the man at all – I assume he was working. Nearing the end of loop 5, I saw him again, leaning against his truck and smiling broadly as I approached.

“Thats Four!” he said as I passed by, holding up four fingers (remember, they didn’t arrive until the end of loop 2 for me). I smiled back, held up two fingers, and replied “Two more to go!” He laughed and so did I. The run was getting harder, as it had been a while since I ran some real distance, so that was just what I needed to keep going strong.

Going strong was really starting to get old though, especially when about a quarter mile in to loop 6, a very young and very fit young lady wearing only a sports bra passed me at a very fast pace. I was getting slower, and this did not help. I started feeling a little down, when I came up behind a man and his son. They were talking about walking the loop, and at the exact moment I passed by, the man said, “sometimes, you just gotta push through.”

Was he talking to me? No. But I heard it, and it meant something to me. I felt my strength coming back, and I continued on, with a new found desire to keep on keepin’ on.

I soon came around the last turn of loop 6, to where the men were working again. I saw the man from before, still leaning against his truck, and again smiling as I approached.

“One more!!” he exclaimed.

I smiled back, and said, “I’m almost done – sometimes you just gotta push through!” He laughed and so did I.

Then, I cried. I imagined my own dad cheering me. I wondered if this was somehow my dad reminding me that he isn’t far, and he is proud of me. I believed that it was. And it kept me going.

With these thoughts in mind, I ran the loop for the last time. I was getting very, very thirsty. I started to wish I had drank more water before I left. I started to wish I had driven my car instead of walked to the park so I could have a drink as soon as I was done. I started fantasizing about the ice cold water I had purposely put in the fridge for me to enjoy when I returned home after the run.

As I came around the last turn for the last time, I saw the man again, and I noticed him open the door of his truck, and appear to be looking for something. I was bummed – I hoped that he was done by the time I passed, so we could have one last exchange before I retired from the park for the day.

I ran closer and closer, and I was just about to pass the man, when he turned around, and handed me an ice cold water that he had in his truck.

I stopped. “For me?” I beamed. He nodded. I took the ice cold water, just like the one I had been fantasizing about, and I shook his hand.

“Thank you for cheering me on,” I said. “It really helped.”

“You did it!” he exclaimed.

“Yep, 8 miles!” I told him.

And just like that, our purpose in each others’ lives had been served. I will never know what my purpose in his life was. Maybe I reminded him of someone he lost. Maybe he really just wanted to get rid of the extra water. Maybe he won’t forget it, either.

The universe works in strange ways. I was reminded today that you get what you give. I’m truly sorry that I had forgotten that to begin with.

All the Rest of the Christmas Cookies.

I had this great idea.

I was going to write three posts featuring the 12 cookies I baked for Christmas this year. They were to feature 4 cookies each. It was a good idea. I even started it. I wrote one post featuring the first four cookies.

Then….life.

I was too busy working, preparing, visiting, baking, shopping, and celebrating. Not that I’m complaining about that. I loved doing all of those things. But now that it’s January 15th, my great idea is no longer relevant. No one is interested in baked goods in January. I made brownies the other day just because. No one wanted to eat them. Not because there was something wrong with them – they were perfectly tasty. They even had extra chocolate and caramel drizzled on top.

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the brownies that nobody ate.

But January is not the time for brownies. Or cookies. Or cakes (unless it’s your birthday). It’s the time of year that the gym is packed, and the over-indulgence of December is weighing heavily on everyone’s mind and/or stomach.

I get it – I’m a huge proponent of eating right and treating your body with respect. I’m also a huge proponent of baked goods. So January, for me, stinks. Did I mention that I don’t like cold weather?

So, for everyone out there, who, like me, still wants to eat brownies, cookies and cakes, here’s a quick glimpse of all the rest of the 12 cookies I made for Christmas. If you just can’t look now, maybe by next December you’ll look at them and feel inspired. I’m certainly giving you plenty of time.🙂

#5. Cream Cheese Cookies. (recipe here.)

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#6. Chocolate Cottage Cheese Cookies.

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#7. Marzipan Mice. 

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#8. Jeanine’s Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies. (recipe here.)

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#9. Peanut Butter Hershey Kiss Cookies. 

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#10. Peppermint Bark. (recipe here.)

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#11. Cornflake Christmas Wreaths.

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#12. Honey Whiskey Balls. (recipe here.)

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So there they are. Enjoy them at your leisure, whenever the time is right. You have all year….

The 12 Cookies of Christmas – Part 1.

I’m not sure if I ever shared this before, but my favorite things to bake are cookies. I think it’s because they are small, and the options are endless. You can make a cookie using almost anything. I could experiment with cookies all day, if I only had the time (and a dishwasher).

Every year, I bake a whole slew of cookies for the Holidays. I have a few recipes that I do every year – Chocolate Chip, Cream Cheese, Cottage Cheese  – but this year, I really wanted to add some new players to my lineup, and bring some new life to the team. I also brought some golden oldies out of retirement, and in the end, wound up with a perfect, well-rounded team of 12.

Cookie #1: Cornbread Cookies.

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I had picked up a box of Jiffy Cornbread Mix and planned on making corn muffins for Thanksgiving. Well, that didn’t happen, so I had this great idea to turn the mix into a cookie. So I started doing some research, and found this recipe, which sounded easy and delicious! The only thing I did differently was leave off the icing. The cookies were more like corn muffins that way, and I do love corn muffins.

 

Cookie #2: Pumpkin Spice Drops.

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My mom knows better than anyone how much I love experimenting with new cookies. She had bought me a book that she was going to give me for Christmas, but decided it would be better to give it to me now, in case I wanted to try something from it. Good call, Mom. The book was called “Old -Fashioned Cookies.” It looks like this:

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In the book, the recipe is called Iced-Pumpkin Drops. I again omitted the icing. The cookies didn’t really need it. They were soft, chewy, pumpkin-y, and yummy, all by themselves.

 

Cookie #3: Breakfast Cookies.

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I actually make these every year, and have for some time. They’re like oatmeal cookies, but with cheddar cheese and cinnamon chips. This year, about half-way through production, I realized I had no oats. I had sworn there was a whole un-opened container, but there wasn’t. I really didn’t feel like running out in the midst of mixing, so I started trying to think of something else that I could use, that I did have already. I found a box of farro. I used it. It worked. I also upgraded the cheese selection from processed shredded cheddar to MontAmore (my new favorite cheese).  They’re more like a champagne brunch cookie now.

 

Cookie #4: R2D2 Ready to Bake Cookies. 

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I had to bake these. Sure, they’re easy. But with all this Star Wars talk, I felt like these needed to be part of the line-up. They came in this box, and they were pretty tasty, not to mention pretty cute. Beep boop boop beep! There was one issue – some Dr. Who enthusiasts seemed to think they looked more like Daleks then R2D2. You know what I say to that? EXTERMINATE!

 

Stayed tuned for the next installment of the 12 Cookies of Christmas, coming soon to a computer screen near you!

 

Thanksgiving Leftovers Quiche.

quiche done

Thanksgiving is wonderful – full of food, family, gratitude….and leftovers. So many leftovers. No one wants to see all this delicious food go to waste, but after a few days of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and whatever else, you just can’t even pretend to want to eat it anymore.

If there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s wasting food. I do everything I can to use up leftovers. I admit, there are things that occasionally wind up getting pushed to the back of the fridge, only to be discovered a few weeks later when the door is opened with a blaring “What’s that smell?!” But, alas, I do try.

We had a ton of Thanksgiving leftovers as usual. After two nights of eating them as-is with just a mere reheating, I wanted to think of something more creative to do with them. And suddenly, I did: a Thanksgiving Leftovers Quiche!

I’m sure I’m not the first person on the planet to think of this very idea, but I thought I’d share my version, in case there are others out there who have tired of turkey but can’t bear to toss it.

I started with a from scratch pie crust (10 oz AP flour, 7 oz shortening – cut in, 3 oz cold water with 1 tsp kosher salt dissolved in it) pre-baked at 375 for 10 minutes.

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Where the magic happens.

Next, I threw in some leftovers. We had turkey, mushrooms and asparagus.

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Insert your leftovers here.

Next, I shredded (ok, my husband did the actual shredding) some MontAmore cheese, and sprinkled it on top. By the way, MontAmore is my new favorite cheese. You need to try it. I don’t mess around when it comes to cheese.

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MontAmore = love.

Finally, I made a simple custard (3 eggs, 1 cup milk, a little bit of salt), and added that to the party.

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Party in a crust.

Next, I baked it for about 40 minutes at 350.

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A quiche to build a dream on.

Finally, we ate it. And it was better than any Thanksgiving leftovers I’ve ever had before.

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Looks like Pac-Man, tastes like heaven.

Pumpkin Sweet Bread…Or Is It Cake?

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Everyone knows that bread and cake are two different things. You use bread to make a sandwich. You serve cake at a birthday party. You wouldn’t use one in place of the other, right?

Yes, there are some breads and cakes that do fall squarely into each category. But sometimes, you wind up with a magical creatio that falls somewhere in between. Enter Pumpkin Sweet Bread.

I really wanted to make a pumpkin bread, but I was tired of looking at all the existing recipes on the internet (and there were oh so many). I wanted something new – something I could call my own. So I hit the old pastry school text books for some basics to start with, and built my very own pumpkin sweet bread recipe from scratch.

The dough was wonderful. I could not stop eating it. It reminded me of a thick cake batter. It was then that it hit me: this was no ordinary sweet bread. This was some sort of bread/cake hybrid that could be sliced and used on a sandwich OR frosted and jabbed with some candles as a birthday tribute.

the bread of frankenstein.

the bread of frankenstein.

I had successfully created something new. My work here is done.🙂

Pumpkin Sweet Bread/Cake.

What you’ll need:

1 lb 4 oz Flour

10 oz Sugar

1.75 oz Baking Powder

.25 oz Salt

6 oz Eggs

14 oz Almond Milk

.5 oz Vanilla

8 oz Melted Butter

1 cup Pumpkin Puree

1 cup Pumpkin Chips

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 375. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, almond milk, vanilla, melted butter, and pumpkin puree. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix until just combined. fold in the chips, but be careful not to over mix – the dough/batter should be lumpy. Grease two 9×5 loaf pans and divide evenly between the two. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. The outside should have a little bit of crust, the sides should begin to pull away from the pan, and a toothpick inserted should come out clean. Serve alone, with a giaze, as part of a sandwich, or frost it for a birthday. The options are endless!

a happy birthday sandwich?

a happy birthday sandwich?

Another Day…Just Breathe.

October is Healthy Lungs Month. Today, October 28, is Lung Health Day. I never gave these much thought, until this year.

Last April, I lost my Dad to a combination of many things, but the main ones being COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and ultimately, lung cancer. My Dad was a smoker for almost 50 years.

I love my Dad, and I miss him everyday, but he did not take care of himself, no matter how many times we asked him to. Sometimes, with enough urging (and some yelling) he would try to do better. But he always seemed to eventually go back to his old ways. “I’ll do what I want” seemed to be his mantra. You don’t get the nickname “Wild Bill” for nothing.

Me and Wild Bill, cowboy hat and all.

Me and Wild Bill, cowboy hat and all.

My Dad was stubborn (just like his daughter) and he lived his life the way he chose to and by his own rules. In many ways, I admired that quality in him, and hope that I, too, can live my life they way I see fit, and not how anyone else tells me I should. There were some times though that I just wish he would have taken the advice of others, mainly regarding his health.

There are two major things my Dad taught me (in addition to learning how to drive): always be yourself no matter what or who says otherwise, and to take care of your body. Sadly, I had to learn the second one by watching him do the exact opposite and slowly suffering over time. Sometimes I think I didn’t try hard enough to get him to do better. Sometimes I think he must not have cared enough about me to do better. Sometimes I realize that there was nothing I could do and he did the best he could. And it had nothing to do with me.

As I mentioned, I have worked hard to take care of myself. I never smoked (ok, I did once in my best friend’s backyard in high school but that was it, I swear). I hardly drink. I watch what I eat (to a fault sometimes). I work out in some way every day and have for the past 17 years. I’ve run 6 half marathons and countless other races. I do yoga. I think about my life and how precious it is. I try not to waste a single second (I don’t always succeed, but I am forever trying). In a way, I have my Dad to thank for this. It’s not the happiest motivator – but I do believe he was very proud of me, and hopefully he knew how much that meant to me.

Thanks, Dad.

Thanks, Dad.

Although my Dad was too stubborn to accept any help, I’d like to think that there are many others out there who can still be helped, and that maybe, just maybe, I could help them. Not only do I have a passion for treating myself right, but I’m even more passionate about helping others to live better. So for National Lung Month, I’d like to tell everyone to get out there, get moving, and keep breathing. Check out some online resources (and there are many), like Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, to learn more about lesser known dangers to lungs like asbestos which is known to cause a rare cancer called mesothelioma, and most importantly, spread the word. We can all live better, if we work together.

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Be excellent to each other.

For the Love of Pumpkin, Cheesecake, Whipped Cream, and Gingersnaps.

Last week, my husband sent me an email. There was no personal message, no story; there was only this link:

http://www.saveur.com/article/recipes/pumpkin-cheesecake-tart-with-gingersnap-crust

I read over the recipe and thought to myself, “hmmm…this sounds pretty good…maybe I should try and make that….in fact, I think I will make it!”

My husband knew exactly what he was doing. His diabolical pumpkin-cheesecake-tart-with-a-gingersnap-crust-making plan had worked out exactly as he had envisioned.

I bought the ingredients that evening, and got down to business the very next day. It baked up real nice.

Pretty in pumpkin.

Pretty in pumpkin.

The gingersnap crust was the ringer though. I never would have thought to use gingersnaps, but they made all the difference. We went to dinner at my mom’s house that next night, and brought the tart. It was the perfect compliment to my mom’s beanless chili.

A good compliment goes a long way.

A good compliment goes a long way.

We sliced it up, and topped each piece upon serving with a hefty dollop of my homemade cinnamon whipped cream. The only thing missing was my dad. He wasn’t a dessert guy, but this one he would have liked – he loved gingersnaps. I wish he could have enjoyed it with us.

For you, Dad.

For you, Dad.

As I took my first bite, I raised my fork to my Dad – a man who’s taste in desserts was as unique as he was.

And it was delicious.

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Cinnamon Whipped Cream.

What you’ll need:

1 cup heavy cream

1 tblsp confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

What you’ll do:

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and cinnamon. Whip until stiff peaks form. Chill, and serve.

It’s a Cupcake Graveyard.

I love Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday. Anyone who knows me, wouldn’t have a hard time figuring that out – I love dressing up and I love candy. But I also love Halloween-themed desserts. For me, they are the most fun to make. I’ve already started this year, with my first batch of sweet Halloween fun, in the form of Graveyard Cupcakes.

Rest in delicious peace.

Rest in delicious peace.

I used a chocolate cake for the cupcakes themselves, and made my soon-to-be-famous cookies and cream buttercream (a girl can dream.) I piped large uneven dollops of the icing on top of the cupcakes, making the perfect base for a cookie grave.

Soon.

Soon.

Then, I wrote on the cookie tombstones, and put them into place on the tops of the cupcakes.

Death by Chocolate?

Death by Chocolate?

The result was a Halloween treat to die for.

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Jeanine’s Soon-To-Be-Famous Cookies and Cream Buttercream.

What you’ll need:

8 oz butter

5 oz shortening

1 lb 4oz confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 tblsp water

8 crushed oreos (or faux-reos)

What you’ll do:

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and shortening. Add the sugar, vanilla, water, and crushed cookies. Beat until smooth, light, and fluffy (about 5 minutes).