2011-A year in Review

Here we are, the last day of 2011.  Looking back on this year, it fills my heart to know how blessed we were.  To be surrounded by amazing family and awesome friends. 

It was a year filled with lots of hugs & reunions…

The year that I married my best friend and truly had one of the best days of my life…

The year that we honeymooned & drank our way through Napa Valley…

And it was a year spent with lots of family & friends.  In 2011 I had 3 of my very good friends get married and I got to spend Christmas with my grandparents which is something that hasn’t happened in about 15 years.  For that, I am truly blessed and thankful.

As much as I hate to see this year end, I’m looking forward to what 2012 has in store for us…I know it will be BIG and just as exciting if not more.  LC and I are looking forward to starting a completely new chapter in our lives ;-)

To ring in 2012 we’re keeping it pretty low key over here.  No bar hopping or bottle service for us, we didn’t see the point in spending the money this year.  We’re going out to dinner, enjoying each other’s company, and watching all the NYE stuff on TV…exciting stuff I know! I hope everyone has a safe & happy New Year! Don’t drink & drive!!! 

Homemade Pizza Co

Happy Friday!  Even though it was a short week, the first week coming off of a 10 day vacay is always hard.  Our Christmas here was really good!  I’ve been extremely tired this week, hence the lack of blogging.  After work I’ve forced myself to do some kind of workout and after that I’m usually spent.  Last night, I allowed myself a night off from workouts and I literally came home, crashed on the couch and stayed there until I went to bed.  It was glorious.

Tonight, hubs made dinner.  Well kinda.  He picked up a pizza from one of our favorite pizza places in Chicago, Homemade Pizza Co.  I LOVE this place and I love them even more now that they offer gluten-free crust.  It’s a take and bake pizza company that offers fresh ingredients and a homemade taste.  Besides making your own from scratch, it’s the next best thing.

Because I’ve been on a veggie kick this week, I ordered the spinach pie with pine nuts, feta cheese, kalamata olives, roasted garlic and sun dried tomatoes.  It was so delicious that I ate so much and now I have a little pizza baby hanging out in my belly, but it was well worth it :-)

What’s pizza night without a movie?  Tonight we’re watching One Day.  I just finished the book which was really really good so I’m hoping that the movie does not disappoint.

I can’t believe tomorrow’s New Year’s Eve!! Honestly, where did this year go?  It seems like just yesterday LC was getting back from his 2nd deployment overseas and that we were getting married.  Lots of great stuff happened in 2011 :-) Last new year’s eve I completed my first ever keg stand…and this year I have a lovely dinner date planned with my husband and I couldn’t be more excited.  After dinner, we plan to watch the fireworks near Navy Pier…weather pending!

Trippin’

It has been a week.  On Friday, I flew from Milwaukee to San Angelo, TX.  My sister has been there the past few months for military training and on Monday she finally graduated.  I’m so proud of her!

Shortly after her graduation, we set out on what was THE longest car trip of my life.  We drove from San Angelo, TX to Milwaukee, WI with minimally stopping along the way.  I played DJ while Melissa drove most of the trip which I am really thankful for.  I’d rather play DJ and keep her company with car games than drive, especially at night.

As far as food goes, we packed a lot of snacks to munch on in the car.  String cheese, apples, and gluten free breakfast bars were crowd favorites.

Monday night, we stopped in Wichita Falls, TX and ate dinner at a place called Carinos.  It’s a chain restaurant that I’ve only noticed in Texas that is very similar to Olive (I definitely just wrote Oliver) Garden.  The food was really good!  I had an Italian pot roast served over potatoes instead of pasta.  It  was definitely more than I could eat and Melissa and I both agreed that we could have split it.  I was so hungry, that I forgot to take a pictures BUT I did get a pic of their gluten-free menu :-)

  
Tuesday, was our long day of driving and I helped this time.  We ended up in Collinsville, IL…more than 1/2 way home! We were both super tired and hungry so we just did a quick Qdoba run.

 Naked burrito bowl with lots of veggies, a sprinkle of cheese and a dollop of guacamole.  I’m a big fan of Qdoba & Chipolte because they’re both really good and can be somewhat healthy, sans the flour tortilla.  I don’t like the way the meat tastes at Qdoba but I do love their vegetable options while I LOVE chipolte’s chicken but wish they had more to choose from veggie wise.

After another restless night of sleep (I could not get any sleep on this trip to save my life), we were finally on our last leg of the trip…home! Or rather WI.  After I dropped off my sister, I then had to load up my car and drive back south 2 hours to Chicago.  Where my husband, dog & a gluten-free pizza were all waiting for me with open arms.

Although it was a long trip, I cherished the quality car time that I got to spend with my sister.  We talked about so much: life, her plans for finishing school & all the fun and exciting things we both have to look forward to in 2012 :-) This year has been absolutely wonderful but I have a feeling that next year will bring even more excitement into our lives.

Tomorrow, I get back into the car and hubs and I travel back up to WI to spend Christmas Eve with my family and then back to Chicago for Christmas day with his.  After this weekend, I’ll be staying put for a while and I couldn’t be happier about that.     

Pins & Needles

Source

Yesterday I went for my first ever acupuncture appointment.  I’ve heard lots of wonderful things about acupuncture in helping with the healing process, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

The main reason for my visit was my right ankle which I had sprained back in April.  I’ve been doing physical therapy exercises to help get it back to normal, and everything was feeling really good…until I recently started running more frequently outside.  My ankle didn’t actually bother me while I was running, it was after I was done running and into the next morning.  Another problem I have is my left knee.  A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Patella Femoral syndrome, or runner’s knee.  I went to physical therapy for it, and I really believe that doing Bar Method a few times a week helped make it stronger.  But lately, it’s been bothering me but not to the point of where I have to stop running.  I’d like to participate in more races in 2012 and I know that my ankles and my knees need to be in tip top shape when training.

I found this place while doing a Google search for acupuncture in Milwaukee.  It’s located in the Bay View neighborhood.  It’s a small little clinic that not only specializes in acupuncture but also offers nutritional counseling, massage, and chiropractic care.  This place was absolutely wonderful.  Right from the beginning, the receptionist was very warm & welcoming and the environment was instantly relaxing.  I handed her my paperwork (I filled it out ahead to save some time) and waited for the acupuncturist to come get me.

She was very friendly and made me feel really comfortable.  I was told ahead of time to wear a tank top or v-neck t-shirt and comfortable pants that could be rolled up.  She asked me what was bothering me, for how long, what makes it feel better and worse…all the basics.  After asking the general questions, she got down to business.  First, she ran an alcohol swab on all the surfaces that she planned on inserting the needles.  Next, she placed the needles into my skin.  I was really nervous & tense and tried my hardest to relax.  It was surprisingly painless.  I could barely feel anything and the ones that I did feel felt like a very, very small pinch.  After she was done inserting the needles, I relaxed and fell asleep for a good 20 minutes.  It was the best nap I think I’ve ever had in my life!  After the 20 minutes, she came back and asked me how I was feeling and then she removed the needles.  She explained that the pain would probably not go away after the first appointment and that I should come at least once a week.

After my first appointment, I did notice that today my ankle had a bigger range of motion that normal and that my knee no longer bothered me while walking up and down the stairs.  I will definitely be making this a weekly thing after Christmas & everything is done with.  I’m hoping that this will lead to a pain-free running season.

If you have any questions about the place I went to, feel free to e-mail me!

Cookie Swap Recipe: White Sugar Cookies with Pecans

When I first heard about the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, I thought to myself about how much fun this would be! Then, my heart sank a little because I didn’t know if I’d be able to participate because of the whole gluten thing.  I went to Linday’s website, Love & Olive Oil and found that on the questionnaire you fill out, there was a portion to note any food allergies and the girls who started this would do their best to match you with people with similar allergies.  A few weeks later I got my matches and not only did I have to worry about gluten, but I also was paired with bloggers who ate vegan (buh-bye butter and eggs) and corn-free. 

I took one of my favorite cookie recipes from my grandma and revamped it to meet the dietary requirements.

collection of grandma’s best recipes :-)

For the cookie swap, I selected her famous White Sugar Cookies with pecans.  I was amazed at how well these turned out.  I like them just as much (if not more) than the original recipe.  They reminded me of pecan sandies (pre-gluten free days).

White Sugar Cookies 
 Makes about 3 dozen
Ingredients
-8 tablespoons of Earth Balance coconut Spread
-1/2 cup powdered sugar
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
-1/2 cup coconut oil (melted)
-1 egg’s worth of EnerG egg replacer
-1/2 teapsoon cream of tartar
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1/2 cup organic cane sugar
-2 cups of GF all purpose flour (I used Better Batter)
-1/4 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 cup chopped pecans
Directions
cream coconut spread, coconut oil, cane sugar and powdered sugar.  Add egg replacement and beat well.  Stir in rest of ingredients.  More flour might be necessary.  Drop onto cookie sheet with a teaspoon and flatten slightly with glass dipped in powdered sugar.  Do NOT great cookie sheet.  I used parchment paper.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes until golden brown. 
Special thanks to the following for providing my house with tasty gluten-free treats:
  • Jacqueline @ The Dusty Baker. Your snowflake butter cookies were amazing!  The best gluten-free cut outs I’ve ever had :-) You can also follow her on Twitter.
  • Becca made Chocolate Puddle Drop Cookies.  These were my husband’s favorite :-) I enjoyed them as well (and even crumbled one in my oatmeal for Sunday morning breakfast). 
  • Julie @ Swim, Bike, Running on Empty made nutty chocolate pumpkin bits!  These are the perfect fall treat.  They were very moist and had a similar texture to a cake.  I loved them :-) 

Overall, I thought the girls who organized did this a wonderful job!  I was surprised at how put together it all was.  I will for sure be participating in this next year.      

My Running Epiphany

After work today, I headed down to Milwaukee’s lakefront.  It was looking pretty bleak and I thought to myself, “Where are all the runners?  Am I crazy for wanting to run in this?”  Then I saw a runner and I thought okay, I’m not the only person wanting to get a run in on this freezing cold day.  Then I saw a man running in a t-shirt and shorts…he definitely won the crazy award.  

I parked at McKinley marina and started my run Lafayette hill by Alterra.  Nothing like jumping right in!  If anyone’s familiar with this hill, you know what a killer it can be.  The thing I love/hate about Chicago is that it’s so flat. Love because it’s great for speediness, hate because it gives me zero hill training.  Needless to say I had to walk for a few seconds when I was done running the hill…but hey, I ran it!  
When I set out to run today, I had no path layed out.  My initial plan was just to run, enjoy it, and look at some Christmas lights (and glimpse inside those big fancy east side houses).  I left my Garmin in the car, so I had no sense of how far I had ran since it’s been a while since I’ve ran this route.  After running for a while I found myself somewhere very familiar. 

My old stomping grounds.  It felt very nostalgic to be running around my old college campus.  It brought back lots of great memories and very little has changed in the past (almost) 4 years since I graduated.  As much as I enjoyed my time in college and the friends that I made, I’m very happy that that chapter in my life has closed.  I’ve grown up so much in the past 4 years and I can’t believe everything that I’ve accomplished after leaving school.  I must say, that I’m very proud of myself :-)

I’ve been struggling with trying to figure out my career and path in life.  I’ve been at a job that I don’t really care for for the past 3 1/2 years and tonight, I realized that my job does not define who I am.  My career doesn’t make me any better or any worse than anyone else.  I need to remind myself of this from time to time because I have a tendency to compare myself to others who have, should I say, “fancier” careers who graduated at the same time as me.  Sure, some people might have better paying jobs with distinguished titles, but are they happy? Did they run 3 1/2 marathons in the past two years or have a beautiful wedding to a wonderful husband? Or did they get to pet a camel in Qatar or swim the Mediterranean Sea in Turkey?  Yes, I’m not where I want to be job wise, but my life has been pretty damn awesome post college graduation. 

After I circled the campus, I started to run back to my car and spotted some nicely decorated houses on one of my favorite east side roads.

FYI, these pictures don’t do these houses justice.  Mother nature can bring on the snow any day now.  I’ve been patiently waiting.  After my run, I stopped by Whole Foods and stocked up on some hotel friendly meals for the rest of the week.  I was so happy when I found a rotisserie chicken meal for one:

I decided to give glutino’s frozen macaroni and cheese a go. Verdict? Eh.  So far, I’ve been really satisfied with all of their other gluten-free products that I’ve tried, but I wasn’t loving this.  I felt like it was missing something.  Tomorrow, I’m headed west for a home cooked meal and to spend some time with the ‘rents! Enjoy the rest of your evening, I’m off to drink so tea, read and then bed.

Frozen Tundra 100 challenge update: 10.37 miles complete; 89.64 left to go!

Oh, Snap!

This past Saturday we got out of drill early because of the family Christmas party.  Because this is a rarity, LC and I didn’t know what to do with ourselves so I suggested we venture out to Sports Authority.  Damage done:   
 
New running shoes.  Hubs and a friend of mine swore by their Zigs and I was in the market for new running shoes with lots of ankle support.  These babies delivered.  I ran 3 miles outside today free of ankle pain.  Things are looking up and I think 2012 is my year for the Chicago marathon :-)  I really love these shoes.  They’re light in weight, yet offer a lot of support for my weak ankle.  Win & win.

 

Mondays around here are normally meatless, but tonight I was craving fish.  Inspired by How Sweet it Is, I created Gingersnap crusted salmon.  Deliciousness. 
Everytime I see gluten-free cookies at Trader Joe’s, I feel the need to purchase and try them.  I’ve finally reached my cookie limit.  The gingersnaps were my first purchase.  Although they were really good, I could only eat so many of them.  One day, I was browsing blogs & came across a recipe for gingersnap crusted salmon.  A solution for too many gingersnaps.    
source
Here’s how I made this awesome salmon.  I beat two eggs in a bowl and dipped the salmon in them.  I crushed up the rest of my gluten-free gingersnaps (about 10 cookies).  Seasoned with Mrs. Dash, pepper and sea salt.  Then, I baked the two salmon fillets  at 400 for about 30 minutes.  Served with rice & asparagus.  Perfect Monday night dinner, and now I know what to do with those leftover cookies (a rare occurrence in our house).  
I’m off to relax & watch Water for Elephants! I’ve been waiting since forever to see this movie! I loved the book so I’m hoping the movie doesn’t disappoint.  Have a great night!