Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Q&A with a Triathlon Coach, Part 1

I may have mentioned before that my cousin Judie (our dads are brothers) is a triathlon coach. (And an engineer - I come from a very smart/talented/motivated family!) She was kind enough to do a Q&A with me over email – here is part one: getting to know Judie. Stay tuned for part two, which gets into more details about training and doing triathlons, and how they differ from running-only events.

Experience Triathlon has agreed to donate one half-hour swim lesson session with Judie to my American Cancer Society raffle! The lesson can be held in Lisle or Rolling Meadows. Every $5 donation made before February 14 = 1 entry into the raffle.

Why did you start running competitively? Was it something you picked up together with your husband?

Eric and I fell into training for our first marathon sort of by accident. I had been cycling since 2002, just recreationally. The spin instructors at the gym had a party at a local place, and Eric went with me. At the party we bumped into a friend of his from high school who happened to be teaching classes at the gym. It turned out that he was a marathon runner and ran with a group of crazy friends. So we jumped into the group of crazy friends, did a lot of running, did a lot of post-run celebrating, and caught the bug. They were all training for Chicago and New York, and since we were running with them, we signed up for Chicago as a lark. I hadn’t run competitively since junior high track, and Eric had been playing intramural football and basketball after high school into his working years, but we’d never considered running competitively and certainly not together!

What has been your experience running/racing with your husband?

Racing with my husband is something of a mixed bag. When we’re both training, it’s good because we tend to eat well and hit our workouts. It’s great to have a partner who is on the same page as far as our lifestyle stuff goes. When we’re racing the same race, though, it can be a little chaotic trying to get all of our stuff in the car the night before and get out the door in the morning. As far as pre-race anxiety ... that’s just better when one of us is racing and not both! It can be a really quiet car ride, which is just easier than fighting about what to put on the radio when we’re both really edgy.

With multisport it’s never an issue of us racing together, since he doesn’t swim, and with running races I know he’s always going to beat me, so no issues of racing together there either! The last several seasons, he has been racing cyclocross, which has a season that starts in September and goes into January. Tri season is over in early fall and road races pretty much wind up in November, so our seasons aren’t overlapping too much. It does get tough when I’m training and racing and he’s in something of an off season, it gets really hard to keep getting up early and keep avoiding the stuff I really shouldn’t be eating!

What are your long-term goals? Personally and as a coach?

This is a tough question. We’re all supposed to have long-term goals, bucket lists, big dreams … and I’m coming from a pretty simple place. I love to coach people. I love being an athlete. As long as I can do both of those things, I’m a pretty lucky girl. And if we’re ever ready to settle down and have a family, hopefully we can work in my current loves with the new ones.

My current career in bridge engineering notwithstanding, I would like to coach a handful or two of athletes, depending on what time I have available. I’d like to see them grow as athletes and achieve things they never thought possible – the best reward I could ask for! I’d like to keep learning, which is easy in this business as technology and training science keep evolving, and I would love to eventually be one of those coaches that is known for producing high-quality stuff.

As an athlete, the Boston Marathon is definitely one of my pursuits. I enjoy marathons for the sense of achievement and I do believe that there’s more out there I can achieve. I do want to do more half-Ironman distance races; those are hard but still manageable with a full-time job and a husband. And I do want to continue to get faster at the shorter distance races – a lot of people look toward going longer and longer, but there’s no shame in wanting to be good at what you do.

How often do you race (running-only and triathlons)?

During tri season, I typically will do one tri a month, when it’s running-race season I might do a couple in a month but it’s hard to do quality training when you’re racing every weekend. I will only have a couple of key races a year so I can focus on doing those well.

What's the best race (running-only or tri) you've ever done? Which races are on your bucket list?

I only have a couple of bucket list races right now, but they’re big. One of them is the Boston Marathon. It seems to be the one that keeps getting away, but one day I’ll get there even if I’m an old lady. I would also like to qualify for USAT Age Group Nationals, which is an International distance event held yearly and features the best non-professional triathletes in the US.

My favorite marathon: Green Bay, WI. It’s well-organized, the course is good (flat!!), and I PR’ed there. Beer and brats after a marathon is a good suggestion for other race directors, I have yet to find a better marathon post-race, though Quad Cities definitely is a runner up for that one.

My favorite triathlon course: Pleasant Prairie, WI. The water in Lake Andrea is great, the bike course isn’t too bad, mostly fast, and the run lets you see the finish from a long way off, also any thunderstorms that are going to blast you as soon as you cross the line (2010).

If you need help with your swimming, Judie coaches ET Masters Swim in Rolling Meadows. The next 10 week session will start April 5. Stay tuned to ExperienceTriathlon.com for more details. 

Stay tuned for part two of the Q&A with more questions about training for a competing in triathlons!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I Run Because I Can / Museum of Science and Industry

While I was out for my run today, I ran past a man walking his dog. He started talking to me as I approached, so I stopped. He said he used to run - six miles a day, six days a week - until he started having strokes. I commented that at least he's still getting out to walk his dog (3 times a day for 20 minutes, he told me), and that's something.

It reminded me that one of the reasons many of us (including me) run is because we can. And we'll keep running, until like the man I met today, we are forced to stop. A few years ago, when I lived in a different town, my typical post-work running route would take me past a house where I would often see a man in a wheelchair in the driveway, watching his kids play. It was a frequent reminder that I am so lucky to have my health, I never want to take that for granted.

Now for something completely different ... yesterday I went to the Museum of Science and Industry for the first time in years. The Sailor and I went with a few friends, one of whom brought his son. It was fun to check out the new exhibits, as well as ones that have been there for a long time.

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
I'm happy to report that the baby chicks are still there.

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Steam locomotive

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Petroleum Planet exhibit

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
This was also part of the petroleum exhibit

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
The new Science Storms exhibit

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
So if you ever get caught near a tornado, just run in laps around it?

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Transportation Gallery

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
When I grow up ...

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
They've had the U-505 sub for years, but recently opened a new exhibit for it.

What's your favorite museum? I love the Museum of Science & Industry, since I love math and am fascinated by all of the applications for it. The Art Institute of Chicago my other favorite. My parents used to take me there a lot (for many of the special exhibits) but I don't go as much anymore.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Communication Changes (Possibly Part 1 in a Series of Infinite Posts)

Can't I just work from home? I already have an assistant. 
I mentioned in a previous post that there are some changes looming in my life. I'm still not really going to go into much detail, but they are (good) changes at work. But of course, whenever things are changing, you have the chance to pause and reflect on ... well, everything. So my posts for the next few days (or however long) might be along these lines ...

For example, why do we hold onto stuff? (I've actually written about this before.) I can tell you this about the changes: my job is narrowing to a focus on the online world. Where everything is electronic. This job will also require moving offices, meaning I'm in the process of cleaning out my current office. I've been here five years. When I started, I printed and filed almost everything. Over the years, I stopped doing that, realizing we have electronic files of everything and someone else is filing the important stuff (invoices, etc). So luckily the cleaning-out process hasn't been too bad.

But, as a professional online communicator (and I don't just mean this blog), it makes me think about how we communicate, with each other and ... I guess with future generations. When was the last time you got photo prints? Other than your holiday card? One of my running friends recently posted pictures to Facebook of her 2011 Running Scrapbook (which was fabulous by the way). I thought to myself "wow, that's really cool!"

But then I realized I already have a running scrapbook - my blog. And Flickr. My world is online. I send a video holiday card. I don't buy CDs (I don't even know where my CD collection is), I download songs to my smartphone or listen to Pandora. We don't buy DVDs - it's all Netflix now. Heck, I hardly read books anymore. The only time I "read" is when I'm listening to audio books (via smartphone app) in the car during my commute.

I should be happy; this means job security for me. However, it means the exact opposite for my dad, a veteran newspaper copy editor. Luckily he is close to retirement. (And yes, Dad, I agree, there still is a place for copy editors in this world, I would just argue that as budgets are slashed, most companies can't afford a dedicated copy editor.)

Sidenote: I think I'm finally ready to buy a domain and change the name of this blog. I figure enough is changing in my life, may as well change the name of my blog since I feel like "Run For Pi(e)" isn't a good fit for me anymore. When I first mentioned that on here, Amanda suggested "Mag Mile Runner," which references my name, Chicago, and of course running. I renamed the blog to that but have yet to change the URL. I want to sit on it for a little bit. So I'm a little indecisive. Forgive me.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Shifting Priorities and Visiting my Alma Mater

For the past few months, I've been trying to run 20 miles per week to keep a base (and a routine) until it's time to start training for my next half marathon (which will likely be on June 2). I needed to run 9 miles today to hit my weekly goal.

Even before I set a foot out the door, I was asking myself if I really thought I'd make it 9 miles. Not because of the distance, but because of the conditions.The streets are plowed from Friday's snow storm, but of course the sidewalks aren't. I was able to figure out a 1.4 mile loop through the side streets, but some parts were still a little snow-covered or windy, with some blowing snow.

Pretty quickly I realized the more important goals for my run were 1) don't faceplant and 2) don't get hit by a car. Also, I had lunch plans. So hitting my mileage goal was moved down on my list of priorities. After about 3.5 miles, I thought about bailing and heading home, but I still had time, so I talked myself into a few more laps around my loop. I ended up doing 7 miles, and all things considered, I'm pretty proud of that.

My lunch plans were with a college friend who recently moved back to Chicago for graduate school at our alma mater, Loyola University Chicago. She's actually living in the building I lived in my junior year. I forgot how pretty this building is! This is the lobby.

Campus Towers Campus Towers

The real appeal of this building are the lake views. I didn't take any pictures of the views, but the building is about 50 feet from Lake Michigan, and she lives on the 10th floor, on the lake side. Stunning view of the lake from every room. (Just like the apartment I was in back in 2002-2003 ... I miss that apartment!)

Like any good alumni, we had to walk around and marvel at everything that's changed, but also comment on everything that is still the same.

This attractive building is replacing an ugly one they tore down

This building used to be a lake-front lawn where we would "study" during nice weather

You can't come to Loyola's Lake Shore Campus and not take pictures of the lake ... I mean, that's why we all went there in the first place, right?

Loyola Loyola


Our freshman dorm (where we met) is now faculty offices. That's kind of sad. And it was locked, so no exploring.


And in case you're interested, we went to lunch at Taste of Peru. My not-a-foodie review: It was very good. Apparently Guy Fieri likes it too, which I did not know beforehand. Check it out if you're ever in Rogers Park.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Remember when it was in the 50s in January and we were all so excited?

Those days are over. At least my view at work is better. The empty lot across the street (that was supposed to be some kind of water park / baseball fields / hotel complex, before the recession hit) is much prettier covered in snow.




According to Facebook, everyone's commute home was like this tonight (this picture was taken at a red light). Actually this was the better part of my commute. I went down some streets that were worse. And the side streets I take to get to where I park at home weren't plowed at all and it kind of felt like I was steering a boat! Too bad I wasn't actually steering a boat. That would mean I'm on vacation somewhere warm and relaxing.


75 minutes later (to go 12 miles), I was home safely.


It sure is pretty though, isn't it? Once you are home and in sweatpants, it is.


I'll pretend that because of the snow we are staying in, but really, this would be our Friday night regardless. Side-by-side laptops in bed. Just as marriage is intended to be.


Also, another perk to living with your parents? Driving home in a snowstorm to homemade soup on the stove. AND corned beef and cabbage in the fridge for re-heating. Seriously. I don't know why more people pushing 30 don't live with their parents.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Race Report: Midwinter Cruise 5K

Midwinter Cruise 5K
Freezing at the start with Judy (pink headband)
and Kelly (blue vest)
Going into this morning's race, I wasn't really sure what to expect. Part of me was worried that my last race was a fluke and I wouldn't P.R. Not that I have to P.R. at every race, but it's fun, and I do feel like I am still improving.

Also, this was a small local race, so good chance for an age group award, but you never know who is going to show up. Now that I'm starting to meet a lot more local runners, I know who is fast and in my age group. Plus there is always the unknown of who is going to show up that I don't know yet?

Anyway, my point being, I tried to go into this race as I do every other race, without any expectations. Just run my best based on my own personal effort and see what happens.

It was a bit chilly this morning (I didn't check the temps before I left the house, but yup, winter is here for sure). I went for an easy run yesterday (running on part of today's course) and it was supposed to be a couple degrees warmer at the start of the race than when I went for yesterday's run, so I planned my outfit accordingly.

Of course the wind changes everything. Yesterday was sunny with no wind. Today was partly cloudy with WIND. I wore my sunglasses because it was sunny when I left the house (plus with the snow it gets bright), but it clouded up by race time. I took them off for my husband to hold while I ran, but realized they were protecting my eyes from the wind so I left them on.

Midwinter Cruise 5K
Just past mile 3. I knew Kelly was behind me, but I didn't
know there was someone on her heels that looked to be
in our age group. (She was. Good race!)
We lined up at the start behind a kid in shorts and a short sleeve shirt and some pretty killer legs who looked like he could be related to Abdi Abdirahman. (Spoiler: He was 16 and won the race in 17 minutes and some change, I think.)

The course was a double loop and flat as flat can be. Kelly, Judy and I started together, but about a half mile in, I checked my heart rate and knew I could pick it up, so I did. Kelly stayed with me.

There was a guy who ran with us for much of the race, I secretly hoped I could chick him at the end, but he picked it up in the last mile and there went that goal. (I'm starting to realize local strangers are reading my blog, so if that was you and you're reading this, good job!)

I spent most of the race monitoring my heart rate and trying to push it to "almost puking." I did a good job.

My Garmin time was 23:28. Yes, another P.R.! I've P.R.'d every race (of a distance I've raced before) since April. It never stops feeling good, but I know it won't last forever.

Kelly finished two seconds behind me (I really think that will be our thing, flip-flopping and finishing within seconds of each other ... but in eight months I'll be 30 and we won't be in the same age group anymore, but hopefully we'll still push each other in races).

We watched some of our other friends finish before we got cold and headed inside for all-you-can-eat-pancakes and sausage! Yup! Pretty sweet. I also won a $15 gift certificate for a Road ID. (Once again, Hot Chocolate races, you have NOTHING on small local races. A fraction of the price and way more swag. Thank you, Park Forest Running & Pancake Club!)

Midwinter Cruise 5K
Age group awards! Judy, Kelly, me, Amanda.
They did five-year age group awards 2-deep, and Kelly and I placed in our age group! They also let you pick your own trophy which was kind of fun. Most of the trophies had little cruise ships on them which I found totally amusing (since it was the Midwinter Cruise ... they also had leis and goofy hats and decorations, some of which you can see in the photo above ... very fun).

Time: 23:29, 7:35 pace
Overall: 33 out of 189
Females: 4 out of 99
F25-29: 1 out of 6

Friday, January 13, 2012

Why a Resolution Can Be a Good Thing

Now that we're two weeks into 2012, almost every [running] blogger has posted their 2012 resolutions and/or goals. Almost everyone prefaced their post with some kind of "I don't normally make resolutions ..." or "I think resolutions are silly because ..." (yes, including me). I've also read a million Facebook posts, tweets, and mentions on blogs about how the gyms are crowded because of the resolutioners, and can't they just give up like they inevitably will so you can have your gym back? (PS they pay a monthly fee just like you, in fact the ones who pay and never show up are probably how your gym supports itself, so you NEED those resolutioners to keep your gym swank.)

However, resolutions aren't bad. Even when they are actually goals.

Back in January 2010, I made it my goal to run my first half marathon that spring. Prior to January, the extent of my running experience was doing a couple 5K races, in fact, I think 3.1 miles was my personal distance record at that time. I was running very sporadically, and probably wearing 100 percent cotton.

I saw this picture on Pinterst, with the user-added caption "Don't just make it your 2012 resolution!"

I realized that two years ago, I made a resolution to start running (via my goal to finish a half marathon). Two years later, despite some dips my my mileage, I'm still running. I'm running more. And faster. And I love it. And I've made friends because of it.

Honestly, you could say that running has changed my life, or at the very least, changed my outlook on life. I am no longer afraid to try. I know that without trying, you won't achieve anything worth achieving. Without trying, you will have nothing to be proud of. I feel like my [semi-] fearless approach to running is starting to carry over into other areas of my life.

Anyway, the point of this post is that it all started more or less with a resolution. Sure, it was more of a goal of doing a half marathon than a vague resolution to "exercise more." But it forced me to change. It forced me to get up off my ass and exercise more. It gave me something to work toward. And when race day came, and I finished those 13.1 miles in 2 hours, 48 minutes and 53 seconds (yes I realize many runners can finish a marathon in that time), wearing a cotton workout tank from Old Navy, with chafed thighs and bloated fingers, I realized I did it. On my own. Back then I didn't have a running group. I had this blog, but very few followers. The only running blog I read was probably Angry Runner, only because I've been following her since the days of Live Journal. I had BFF Ultra Vera to turn to for advice, but I didn't know which questions to even ask.

So, the next time you are at the gym, complaining about the resolutioners, be a little bit nicer. The next time you read the millionth running blog post about New Years resolutions, don't roll your eyes.

Sometimes resolutions stick. And give them credit for being brave enough to want to make a change - and work toward it - in the first place.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Don't Be Afraid of Winter

F'N Runners
Bring it on, winter!
Many of the runners I know embrace winter running. Some of my running club friends are already posting pictures from today's snowy runs.

But I know of a few runners who are scared of winter running. (I've seen yours posts on Daily Mile and on your blogs, don't try to hide!)

I don't know if it's a fear of the unknown, or lack or preparation, or just generally being a wimp (sorry, calling you out). Why resign yourself to spending a third of the year indoors on the treadmill? Personally, I can't think of anything worse.

I feel like it is my duty, as a pro-winter runner, to try to encourage everyone to step away from the treadmill, throw on a couple layers, and head outdoors. Why?

1. You will feel hardcore. I know it's simple and silly, but it's true. While everyone else complains about just walking outside to their cars in this weather, you are intentionally spending extra time outdoors, in the freezing temps and harsh conditions. I guarantee you will feel slightly more like a badass than you did before the run.

Tell me this doesn't look awesomely peaceful.
Source: TooTallFritz.com
2. It's peaceful. Everyone's inside. The screaming children and barking dogs are (mostly) inside. Even if you live in the city, you can usually escape to a park or running path and have only the ambient city noise. Personally, I don't run with music [outdoors], and I find running in silence or near-silence to be a great way to clear my head. And if it's snowing (but not too windy)? It's even more amazing.

3. It prepares you for race day. Even if all of your races are between April - October, you never know what weather you will have. I've seen snow in May in Chicago, and also as early as mid-October. If you continue training outside all year, you will be ready for whatever the weather is like on race day.

4. It (usually) doesn't smell. Luckily my current gym doesn't smell too bad, but I've been a member at some pretty crowded gyms that have the gross, sweaty, recycled air smell. When you're outside, you're breathing fresh air, and it usually smells fine. (Yes, sometimes you run past something that doesn't, but it's fleeting.) Speaking of the gym, you can avoid the resolution crowds by ditching the gym to run outside.

5. It's really not that bad. I promise. You just need to learn how to layer properly. If you do, once you get moving, it doesn't feel cold. It actually feels really great. And you won't overheat or sweat as much as you will at the gym.

Now, I'm not saying you should throw all reason out the window. I take it indoors in the following conditions:
  • If the roads, sidewalks and trails are icy. (I don't own Yaktrax.) During the day you can run on quiet streets after they've been plowed, but it's tricky at night when you can't always see the icy patches. (Don't forget to wear your reflective gear/lights/headlamps when running at night, even on sidewalks.)  
  • If a blizzard is happening. If visibility is low, cars and snow plows can't see you. Even with reflective gear and blinking lights, that's not safe. 
  • If the wind chill is below zero. There's cold, and then there's dangerous.
  • If it's raining (more than a drizzle). I don't mind being cold, and I don't mind being wet if it's warm, but I don't like being both cold and wet. This is the one weather condition where I'm not afraid to let my friends be more hardcore than me. 
In other news, Kelly discovered that the official photos from our last race are up. While there are no pictures of us running (or finishing almost together), we seemed to be unintentionally photobombing a lot of people ... whoops. Here are some highlights: 

I'm in the fuchsia/paaaank. 
With Kelly in the blue vest. 
On the right. Me, Kelly in blue vest, Kate in gray vest
I'm sure what is happening here is me saying
"Hey we're wearing similar outfits, let's be friends!"

Also! I am doing another ACS raffle, but this time not for running gear, but for cash! Email me if you are interested (no obligation to participate). 

Here's a hint ... and an excuse to post a picture of Aaron Rodgers: 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Being Harcore

The other day, Megan at Watch MeGo Run posted about Operation Hardcore Fit, which in her words is a yearlong effort to push yourself towards your fitness goals - one big one and several smaller ones to try to achieve throughout the year.

I like this idea of pushing myself toward my goals. Ever since I started seriously considering doing the marathon, I've been thinking a lot about what it means for other areas of my life. My mom (and I'm sure everyone's mom) always said if you're going to do something, do it right. If you're going to do it half-assed, why waste your time?

So, I've been thinking about all the things I can do to prepare, things like losing a few more pounds so that I can run faster. But also modifying my diet so it will provide the best fuel. (Meaning I need to lose the weight now so come marathon training I can focus on proper fueling and not weight loss.) And cross-training to increase/maintain fitness, and strengthening and stretching. And cutting back on my social life during the summer so I am well-rested for all the training.

It will be hard. I know I'm going to deal with people questioning why I'm doing this at all, why I'm going to give up things like late summer nights, beer and who knows what else, and running through a (probably) hot Chicago summer just to run 26 (point two) miles and I'm not even getting paid to do it! I know I'm going to want to talk about running all the time and most people won't really care. (Sidenote: so happy for running friends! And this blog!)

So why am I doing it? Well, to follow BFF Ultra Vera's lead, I want to see what my body is capable of. But I also want to see what my mind is capable of. I know training for and finishing a marathon will be just as mentally challenging as it will be physically challenging. I want to prove that I am hardcore enough to not just do it, but do it to the best of my ability, even if I don't know what that ability is yet. That I'm hardcore enough to find the limits of my ability ... and see how far I can push them. It's kind of exciting to think about.

Good turnout for Saturday morning's run. We had everything from a run/walk group doing 3 miles up to
folks doing 10 miles. I'm in the back, second from left. BFF Gennie is directly in front of me.
Also, in order to get everyone in one photo, someone had to be photoshopped in. Can you tell who?
Source: Amanda (TooTallFritz.com), the gal in front in blue.

Related, I had a great running weekend. On Saturday morning I ran with the F'N Runners - 8 miles at a 9:08 pace, which is the fastest I have ever run over 5 1/2 miles. My half marathon PR is 2:22 and lately I've been wondering if I can pull off a sub-2 hour half at one of the spring half marathons I'm doing. I felt like maybe a 22-minute PR is too ambitious but after yesterday I'm starting to think it's doable. Maybe even too modest of a goal?

Also, my BFF Gennie came out to run with us! I am so proud of her. She has so much on her plate, so I know it is hard for her to add running to her life, but I am so proud that she is! And she's not letting lack of running experience or intimidation hold her back. (Related, Amanda at TooTallFritz has a great post on this topic.)

Anyway, on Sunday I wanted to go for a run - 5 easy miles. Well, we went out on Saturday night. (And I wore actual pants! Not leggings! Sorry, that doesn't happen often when I'm not at work). I wanted to get a decent night's sleep, so I wasn't sure if I would have time to run before I needed to start cooking for Sunday morning's family breakfast. Well, I didn't have enough time, so I told myself I could run later in the day, after everyone left.

And when the time came that everyone was leaving, I was starting to think about heading out for a run. I didn't say anything, but I must have looked out the window a certain way, and my mom said "you're going to go for a run, aren't you?" Sometimes it seems like she doesn't know me at all, other times it's like ... whoa. She really has spent 30 years watching and observing me (and my brothers too I assume) and really knows me.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Will Run for (Turkey) Bacon and (Kale) Chips

Today was my immediate family's Christmas. Will all our scheduling conflicts, my parents, my brothers and me and our significant others could not find a few hours around the holidays to gather and exchange gifts at the same time. Today was the earliest day we could all get together.

I offered to make breakfast for the occasion. I wanted something quick and easy that didn't require a ton of prep and wouldn't leave me trying to scramble 16 eggs and fry two packages of bacon all at once. I ended up making bacon-wrapped eggs in a cup, which I think I originally found on this blog but have also seen variations on Pinterest. I also made homemade kale chips and homemade tortilla chips. There was other food, but it wasn't quite as blog-exciting, so who cares.


If you've never made kale chips, they are super easy. I try to buy kale that's already cut into pieces to save time. Just dry off the kale (pat down with paper towels), put in a big bowl, drizzle a little olive oil and some salt, shake to coat all the pieces, then spread on a cookie sheet covered in wax or parchment paper (I used wax because that's all we had). Bake in the oven until the "chips" are crispy. I did 350 for 5-7 minutes I think. I still have a ton of kale leftover so I'll be making this a few more times this week. Or maybe I'll get really inspired and make my favorite soup again. We do have some sausage leftover from today, and I know we have potatoes ...


Homemade tortilla chips are also really easy. Cut corn tortillas into wedges (I did sixths), lay out on a cookie sheet, spray with non-stick cooking spray, turn them over, spray the other side and sprinkle with salt. Bake in the oven at 350. I think I did 6 minutes on one side, pulled out the sheet, flipped each chip, sprinkled that side with salt, then baked for 4 minutes more and that worked pretty well. (I wonder what else you can bake into "chips"? Besides potatoes of course.)


Moving on to the main course, the bacon-egg cups. I did half with turkey bacon (the good stuff shown above), the other half were mostly regular bacon, but I ran out and did a few with lunchmeat ham. I pre-cooked the bacon for about 5 minutes - the turkey in the oven at 350, the regular bacon on the stove so I could drain the fat. Make sure to spray the muffin tin with non-stick spray first.


After the bacon is partially cooked, assemble. I did one egg in each, topped with green onion, a mix of chopped fresh basil and fresh sage, a little piece of mozzarella (I don't think it was low-moisture but it wasn't high-moisture ... maybe medium moisture? I found it in the fridge, I think my husband bought it), and fresh grated Parmesan. This is one of those recipes where you can get creative. As we were cleaning up, my husband asked me why I didn't put kale in the egg cups. (Which surprised me, he normally has an aversion to "weird healthy food.")


The recipe I was following called for 12 minutes at 400. About halfway through I realized the oven was still at 350, so I bumped it up to 400 and added a few extra minutes. Basically, cook it until the eggs are done to you. Some of the eggs were a little bit overcooked for my preference (I like them cooked so they aren't super runny but aren't hard) but they were still delicious! You can stick a toothpick in to see if they are cooked to your liking. (The toothpicks in the photo below are to indicate which ones have no onion and were for one of my sisters-in-law.)


Meanwhile ... my "lil chef" was preoccupied with her own dinner hopes.


It was a family gathering, so time for pictures of my niece!


Big news: she has enough hair for pigtails!! She was born bald like her dad (and also like me) so even though she is 22 months old, she just now has enough hair for pigtails.


My mom wanted to see the cat in her Christmas costume. Oh boy did she hate that.


Also, this is the closet thing to dolls in the house.

I have running-related stuff to post, but I'll put that in a separate post.