Monday, May 31, 2010

Vote for Livie!

Soooo I entered Olivia in the Parents Magazine Cover Kid Contest. She is pretty cute after all. The judges ultimately choose 10 kids to go to NYC for a photoshoot, BUT one of those spots is a Readers' Choice. Each week, showcases photos voted most liked by viewers, and of these, a weekly Readers' Choice Fave is crowned. Then, at the end of the contest, those weekly winners are pooled together for a ginormous vote-off on who gets the Readers' Choice Finalist spot.

Whew. Where'm I goin' with this?

Olivia is in the weekly Readers' Choice most liked RIGHT NOW! So go vote for her! We have until June 6th to make our lovely lady a child star. WARNING: the voting process has two parts to make sure all votes are legit! Once you hit "vote for me," you also have to fill out a short quoted phrase before the vote is submitted. This is done to make sure people like me don't set up some computer program that just votes for my kid all day.

So go! What are you doin'?!?! Vote for by clicking here. Vote often!


Meal Plan for Two

We've been doing our best to meal plan lately as a way to save money in between grocery shopping and watch our caloric intake. Well, okay, the latter is mostly for me. We've stumbled across some delicious recipes that I cut out of magazines. I thought I'd share them here. Enjoy!
Grilled Tilapia & Avocado Tostada
(a perfect early summer dish!)
Serves: 4

4 flour tortillas
3 TBSP olive oil
1 lb. tilapia filets
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
1 heart of romaine lettuce, thinly sliced crosswise
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/4 C cilantro leaves
4 red radishes, thinly sliced
1 avocado, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 lime, quartered into wedges

1. Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high.
2. Brush tortillas with 1 TBSP oil. Grill, flipping once or twice, until crisp (about 2 mins).
3. Brush tilapia on both sides with 1 TBSP oil and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt.
4. Grill, flip once, until cooked through (about 8 minutes). Let rest 4 minutes and pull into chunks with fork.
5. Place each tortilla on a plate. Scatter on onion, lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, and radishes. Lay tilapia on top. Fan avocado over tilapia and sprinkle with remaining salt and oil. Serve with lime.

Per Serving:
380 calories
19 g fat
3.5 g sat fat
55 mg cholesterol
660 mg sodium
31 g carb
5 g fiber
26 g protein
Squash Gnocchi Soup
(courtesy Parents, March 2009)

1 pkg. (12 oz) cubed butternut squash
1 pkg. (16 oz) gnocchi
2 1/2 C fat free reduced sodium chicken stock
1/4 C fat free evaporated milk**
thyme sprigs (optional)

**you can substitute tinned coconut milk for a dairy-free recipe

1. Bring stock to a boil in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Add squash, then reduce heat the medium-low and look for 25 minutes or until squash is tender, stirring occassionally. (I found I had to keep the heat higher and cook it for longer because our stove is old.
2. Let mixture cool for 5 minutes. Then, puree in a food processor or blender.
3. Meanwhile, cook gnocchi according to directions; drain.
4. Sti gnocchi and milk into squash puree and heat through. Garnish with thyme sprigs.

We found it helpful to add salt, pepper, etc. to season the soup, but it made a nice meal with the Caprese mini-sandwiches (below).
Serves: 4

Per Serving:
151 calories
0 g fat
335 mg sodium
32 g carb
3 g fiber
6 g protein
1 mg iron
96 mg calcium

Caprese Mini-Sandwiches
(from Pampered Chef Season's Best, Spring/Summer 2006)

4 flat pita bread rounds
1 TBSP olive oil
1/4 tsp Italian seasoning mix
1/4 C (1 oz) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 - 3 balls (about 8 oz) fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
2 lg plum tomatoes, sliced
1/2C lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 toasted walnuts, chopped
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/4 tsp salt
2 TBSP light balsamic salad dressing
4 C mixed baby salad greens or spinach leaves

1. Toast walnuts by spreading over the bottom of a microwave safe dish. (I used a small stone) Microwave on high 2 - 3 minutes or until fragrant and lightly toasted, stirring after each 30-second interval.
2. Allow walnuts to cool completely before finely chopping with the basil.
3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place pita rounds on a baking stone; drizzl with oil, spreading evenly. Sprinkle evenly with seasoning mix. Coarsely grate Parmesan cheese over pita rounds (or just use grated cheese). Bake 8 -10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown and cheese is melted. Remove from oven.
4. Meanwhile, slice mozzarella cheese and tomatoes; set aside. For pesto, place basil and walnuts together and finely chop using a food processor or handheld chopper. Combine the basil mixture, pressed garlic and salt in a mixing bowl; mix well.
5. Turn over pita rounds on baking stone; drizzle with dressing, spreading evenly to edges. Cut each round into 6 wedges (sic).** Remove half of the pita wedges to cutting board. Top each wedge with a small amount of the greens. Place one slice of mozzarella cheese over green; top with pesto and one slice of toato. Top with remaining pit wedges, cheese side up, forming 12 mini-sandwiches (sic).** Secure with sandwich picks, if desired. Serve immediately.

Serves: 12 (sic)**

**I found it easier to quarter the pita wedges (shown below), which would make 8 sandwiches/servings.

Per Serving (when making 8):
225 calories
12 g fat
5.25 g sat fat
22.5 mg cholesterol
240 mg sodium
19.5 g carbs
3 g fiber
10.5 g protein

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Broad Street

It was over 70 degrees by the time the race started at 8:30am; it had rained slightly around 8am, so the humidity was already so high that many runners had that sticky, shiny glean to their skin. Add 30,000+ bodies to the mix, and well, you get the picture. Hot.

The last time I ran this race was in 2008, just before I got pregnant with Liv. In the two years since, the race organizers added colored starting corrals. I found this incredibly helpful at having a smooth start, AND it was a nice surprise to see that my clocktime was only off by 2 minutes because they re-started the clock with each new wave. Granted, I didn't know that until late in the day on Sunday when I checked for my results, but still pretty cool. Not following? Many races do a chiptime in addition to the clocktime. The chip in the chiptime is something that each individual runner wears on them (this year, it was in the bibs) -- like an official stopwatch for each person. When the runner crosses the starting line, the chip time starts, and conversely, when the runner sails over the finish line, the chip time ends. Now, officially there is also a race clock which starts with the gun and continues until the last runner crosses the finish line OR the course closes, whichever comes first. What often happens in a race as large as Broad Street is that the runners at the back of the pack don't cross the start for a good 10 - 20 minutes (if they're lucky) after the gun signals the start of the race. Before there were chip times, these runners were officially clocked as having run a time that was 10 - 20 minutes (or more) longer than what they actually ran the course. Are you still with me? In fact, I didn't actually cross the starting line until around 9am -- a good 30 minutes after the elite runners took off (to put how fast they are in perspective, the winner finished in 48:10 -- a little over 18 minutes after I crossed the start).

Another negative byproduct of this is that runners will crowd the front of the starting corral, making the first 2 miles or so a combination of running and shoving as the faster runners try to maneuver around the slower runners or those who are already walking. It's a pain for everyone (fast or slow) and it can really screw up someone's pace (again, fast or slow). The colored starting corrals made it nice because it automatically started everyone with other runners paced similarly, AND they restarted the official clock with each new start.

So, now that all the non-runners are bored and have stopped reading this post... I was hoping to go sub-2 hours, which for most runners is pretty slow, but for me, is a nice, comfortable pace right now. I ran the race 3 years ago in about an hour and a half, but since I'm still carrying about 20 extra pounds of baby weight and am having problems with my knee, I thought less than 2 hours was a great goal. I really wanted to take my time with this race and enjoy it. I wasn't out to set any records, just to run. That's what I do. Run.

The day did not start off well when I woke up feeling nauseous and unsettled. Thankfully, nature took its course and breakfast helped, but my goal quickly lessened to, "Finish the race, dammit!" or even just, "Get to that starting line!" The forecast was gloomy: hot, humid, headwind, partly cloudy. The race organizers did a fantastic job adjusting; they increased the amount of water available at the water stops and opened up fire hydrants along the route. I found the latter incredibly helpful when for the first 3 or 4 miles, my face and neck felt like it was on fire. At most of the initial water stations, I just dumped the cup on my head in the hopes that my body would start cooling down. By mile 4, I was good but still found the hydrants invigorating. By mile 8 I was soaked, unfortunately with squishy feet -- never a good thing for a distance run. During the run, I heard a girl say, "What a waste of water." I almost yelled at her but decided it was better to reserve my energy. Moron.

Why the big deal? A few years ago at the Chicago Marathon, the temperatures were so high that at least one person died running the race. Runners at the back of the pack complained about lack of water at hydration stations and the finish line. Many of the runners didn't finish at all, and organizers took a lot of slack for being ill-prepared for the disastrous situations. Even with all the added measures taken by the organizers of the Broad Street Run, many of the runners did not finish. There were over 30,000 registered runners, and to date, according to the website, only about 26,200 finished.

I digress. In light of the weather, I opted to run at an even slower pace than my goal (and who knew what my stomach would hold). Helping this was the fact that I forgot my watch and had no way to anal-retentively mark my splits and obsessively track my progress. So, I decided to just let it all go, enjoy the view, and run. Crazy, I know.

And it ended up being the most enjoyable Broad Street Run I've done! According to my neighbor's watch, we hit mile 1 in about 10:30, so I hit the brakes and allowed her to surge onward. I tracked my approximate splits by remembering what the official clock said from the last mile. My pace was around 12 to 13 minutes each mile, and I felt great. I walked through all the water stations save one because it seemed to come on the heels of the last one. I took a swig and then dumped whatever I didn't want directly on my head. I paid attention to the crowd, the other runners, and most importantly, my body.

Running through North Philly for the first 4 miles was my favorite section. By choice or chance, the on-lookers there are the best. There was a group of older gentlemen sitting in beach chairs right near the road screaming, "They went that way!" and "That way to Albuquerque!" There was a woman who came running down to the road asking, "What's going on?" I guess seeing over 30,000, by this point mostly white, runners headed down Broad Street is odd. She then proceeded to yell at someone [I couldn't see] and cuss him out. Aaah the drama. And there was the woman between mile 3 and 4 who told us we "were more than halfway!"

After running through a few hydrants and getting my skin temp regulated, I could clearly see City Hall on the horizon. It looked fantastic, and I just kept thinking, City Hall is so incredible from this view -- keep going! So I chugged along through mile 6 and found my stride and an energy gel. Runner's high, exhaustion or the need to urinate kicked in and miles 6 through 8 came easily. I was hoping to see the vice-wife with Riley at mile 8, but apparently the wedding festivities from the night before were too much to overcome, and her lazy butt didn't get out of bed until around the time I finished the race. Either way, the possibility of a friendly face made mile 7 go by pretty quick. At mile 8, my legs started to stiffen, but with only 2 miles to go, it was mentally easy to keep moving. By this point, the street became lined with spectators, which no one wants to walk through. There are little things that pop up in the last 2 miles that make for great milestones: the interstate overpass, the stadiums, the race photographers, and the entryway to the Navy Yard. It's easy to get swept away in it all, so I tried to maintain my pace until the point at which I knew I could sprint a little. But, honestly, my sprinting after 10 miles is as fast as Olivia's crawl. It's also easy to start speeding up too soon and run out of gas just before the finish line, but I timed it just right. In my mind, I was running as fast as a Kenyan.

Chip time: 2:02:45
Clock time: 2:04:15

Walk back to car: forever.
Number of Motrin taken that day and the next: A lot.
Feeling when I crossed the finish line: Priceless.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Skinny News

Oh and by the way, did I mention that I'm down to a 27.14% BMI??? That's right, Wii Fit, eat your heart out. Yesterday morning it actually told me my posture had improved. Is it healthy to be completely satisfied about putting a cartoon, video game character in it's proverbial place? Didn't think so.

I would also like to brag that I finished The Narberth Run - a hilly, 5 mile course - last weekend in 54:43, chip, and 55:23, clock, with an 11:04 (clock-time) pace AND sprinted the last bit, passing 3 people. In fact, my last mile was in 9:46! I even got a high-five from a race volunteer with a "You did awesome!" Because I DID! I'm gonna rock Broad Street tomorrow. Or die of heat exhaustion due to high temps and a headwind but where does pessimism get you? Certainly not 10 miles!

So, be sure to keep an eye out for running photos. Once I find the energy to download them from mine or Frank's phone and then edit and upload. Given my recent track record, this could take some time. Stay patient, friends, stay patient.
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