Monthly Archives: June 2011

Working smarter, not harder

My goal is always to post everyday. Some days that’s harder than others. A couple events fell through this week and therefore my planned post shall go down with it.

As I sat here feeling more exhausted and uninspired than usual (I blame a combo of things since it’s not like me. Almost Friday + work jerk + stormy weather = 1 glum greenhorn), I doddled in the blogosphere. And found this:

Courtesy of Cely, even though she doesn't know it.

I snotted on myself from unexpected laughter. I don’t know why it struck me (the stupid cat baby talk pics usually don’t) but it COMPLETELY cracked me up.

So, rather than posting, I’m telling you to go read Cely’s post at Running Off the Reese’s instead. That way I can eat dinner and go to bed earlier than a toddler. I promise hers will be better than mine was going to be anyway.

I’ll post my usual C25K training program update tomorrow. It’s an exciting one because it’s the last run before my first competitive 5K on Monday! OK, maybe more exciting for me than you, but stop by anyway. 🙂 Have a great Friday and I’ll see you tomorrow.

A crappy conversation

So… the title is part pun, part warning.

Jeremy came in from mowing a few weekends ago with a report that moles are invading our backyard.

Small hole.

Naturally, we poked around in it with a stick and then filled in with dirt.

Unfortunately, when we walked by a few days later, it was back. Also, it was bigger.

Medium hole.

Wuh-oh.

So we did some more probing (very scientific procedures, I assure you). And upon doing so, had more dirt fall inward and make the hole border even larger.

Big hole.

Hey, you know what has a lot of water in it that is often found in backyards? Yep, septic tanks.

Now the hole is twice the size pictured above but stable. We’ve had three professionals come out to inspect it. Basically, here are the main choices they provided and some estimates:

  • Hook up to city sewer = $9,000
  • Replace the septic tank = $4,000

So, this is defintely a first time experience. By the way, when we bought the house, we were told by the previous owners as well as our inspector that we were on city sewer. Whoops.

We discovered our septic tank because the day of our wedding, after a week of five people staying with us, it backed up. No good my friends, no good at all (FYI-when you are on septic, don’t flush an.y.thing but toilet paper, k? Okay.). But my sweet father-in-law handled it, and made it to the church on time 🙂 . The story went like wildfire through our families and the ordeal even got a mention in the minister’s speech AND the best man’s toast. Ah, memories.

But overall, we’ve been fine with our septic system. It is 60 years old and still does it’s job. The system is perfect. But if the concrete tank itself may be compromised, I guess it’s time to retire it?

So, it’s sharing time. Does anyone have septic experiences? Any advice on how to flush this problem out? (yeah, I’m a 10-year-old boy and that was toilet humor)

A family reunion and technology betrayal

I had a fun weekend away at Jeremy’s family’s annual reunion. We took a long weekend out of work and out of Jacksonville to travel down to a state park in central Florida to catch up with all the family who could make it.

Two days, 37 people, four dogs, hundreds of miles, five fast food meals, countless hugs and even more pictures. Too bad 52 of my photos are now listed as errors on my camera. What the eff?!?!

I wanted to show you the cake I made! So instead, I’ll just tell you that I couldn’t have done it without Publix. For $8 and 5 minutes, they made the cake awesome by printing a photo I brought on edible icing. I was able to take it with me and just slap it on the iced cake I made. It can be kept for days in advance, it needs no refrigeration or special care. So easy!

Here is a picture from Aunt Penny (Hi Penny!) before the cling wrap was taken off.

So, I lost my hi-res, well-lit, set-up image. But even from this sitting on the table, real-time family photo, I think you can still see how great the detail in the photo of their family crest is. In conclusion, hooray for Publix and my newest way to use them. I will defintely be bringing them photos in the future for store-bought and homemade cakes.

The other bit I can share, is my first visit to Apopka, Florida’s Magnolia Park. I’m sparing you the bulk of family photos (for privacy and to protect the guilty 😉 ), but here are some of the high points of this state park and our shenanigans there.

Welcome

Clearly, Alaska was excited to visit.

We used the basketball court...even in the rain.

We enjoyed camping and BBQing on charcoal grills.

Can you spot the gator? C'mon Floridians, you should know that eye sneak from 20 paces away!

We visited the butterfly garden.

I shot up at the beautiful and old moss-filled trees.

We spotted the locals. Hello Mr. Peacock, don't mind me.

And hello to Mrs. Peahen and babies. Sorry to tell you I only have a camera and not food.

Look how well the babies blend in! They are the bird versions of John Cena, lol.

We played catch.

The pavilion his family rented also had a volleyball court, tetherball, horseshoes and more that we made use of throughout the weekend. And, in case you couldn’t tell, the park is pet-friendly! So it was so nice to have the pups, kids, cousins and adults all together.

Overall, a nice event and park (good job Shirley!). And I guess even though my original post was a bust because my pictures were sabotaged for some unknown reason (Verizon, I’ll be calling you tomorrow–please help), hopefully, you enjoyed some of the pretty sights from Magnolia Park.

Does your family hold formal, all-together reunions? My family used to and we are hoping to get together next year, but usually we just see each other throughout the year casually. (I know, I know, I said “my” family and “his” family but it helps in this story–but they are all “our” family!).

Anyone else fighting their “smartphones” or other tech devices? Please share! We’re like family after all :).

C25K: Week 8 report

I’m back on track! After last week’s bad weather, I only got in one run for the whole week–and it was a painful, sweltering, smoky one. So this week, I redid the Week 6 program.

Here’s the Week 6 Day 1 schedule:

  • 1.     Warm-up walk—5 minutes
  • 2.     Run—5 minutes
  • 3.     Walk—3 minutes
  • 4.     Run—8 minutes
  • 5.     Walk—3  minutes
  • 6.     Run—5 minutes
  • 7.     Cool-down walk—5 minutes

I did the run at 1 p.m., without eating yet that day, when it was 98 degrees. I don’t recommend that decision.

Day 1.

Tuesday, I planned to do my Day 2 run. The program looks like this:

  • Warm-up walk—5 minutes
  • Run—10 minutes
  • Walk—5 minutes
  • Run—10 minutes
  • Cool-down walk—5 minutes

But outside looked like this:

This is the city from a bridge in downtown Jacksonville, which normally provides a nice view of the river and buildings

Just for fun, here’s another shot I took two days later in (roughly) the same place on the bridge.

Hey look! You can see things!

But on Tuesday, I refused to miss another run. It’s officially hurricane season and drown-a-man humid here in Florida summers…I’m afraid I’ll be cancelling runs every week. I took matters by the horns (or some such cliche) and found a gym that offered an indoor track! I headed down after work, took a tour and got a free week pass. Score!

Unfortunately, the track was under maintenance and closed for the day. Dang. So I headed down to the treadmills and took my life in my hands.

OK, that might be dramatic. But I’ve never run on a treadmill before. The are large and intimidating. Seriously, these things were fancy! And, covered in buttons and plugs and electronics. I just wanted to run. :/

Other ladies kicking butt on the futuristic treadmills.

CNN was on the personal TV attached to my machine but I didn’t know how to change it so I just plugged into my phone for the C25K playlist and tried to ignore it. What I didn’t count on was feeling motion sick! The up and down of running while having the moving TV images really messed with me. Is that just me? I’m clearly a freak of nature. So, I put my towel over it and continued on.

Feeling confident near the end I saw the TV controls and decided to change the channel. I was sprinting in my final two minutes when I reached down and accidentally hit the emergency stop button. “Shiiiiiit! What the hell?!?!” That’s appropriate to yell indoors isn’t it? Luckily the 60-something-year-old lady next to me just laughed. “At least you didn’t fall off,” she said reassuringly. Thank you kind stranger.

Day 2 cooldown--began skeptical but ended successful.

Overall it was a really good run. I was able to complete the program as intended and my shins felt okay. Of course, all my data was erased when I stopped but I’m going to say I went far, quickly and burned a great number of calories. Go me, and no one can prove otherwise. 😉

Day 3’s program was just running for 25 minutes. Very scary. But I did that, too.

Day 3 AND week 6--check!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Progress Report:

1.     Mental

  • I noticed on the third run that I was really nervous. It was really a mental game to ask myself honestly if I *needed* to walk because I was 1) hurting 2)couldn’t breathe or 3) was just bored and used to intervals of walking out of habit. I was supposed to run for 25 minutes and I only walked for 60 seconds out of all of it. No one was more surprised than me!
  • Weekly mantra: “Your body can do more than your mind thinks it can.” <—Courtesy of the Army cousins staying with us this weekend.

2.     Physical

  • My endurance and flexibility have noticeably increased.
  • Pounds—Unchanged.
  • BMI—Unchanged.

3.     Lessons

  • How to run on a treadmill.
  • Don’t underestimate Mother Nature or yourself.

So, that’s my recap. Did you try anything new this week? Anyone ever fallen off a treadmill. C’mon, you can tell me, I won’t laugh. Have a great weekend!

If you want to read my Couch to 5K Program Challenge journey from the beginning: Here’s Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6 and Week 7.

Playing hooky…shhhhhhhh

I have a bit of maintenance to do this evening. My computer is being updated with all its goodies (Flash, Firefox, etc.) and we’re expecting company tomorrow! I’m excited about the faster, safer computing prospect as well as seeing family.

However, focusing on preparation = no real blog post this evening. I’ll be back tomorrow with my weekly Couch to 5K progress report. Big news, I got tired of Mother Nature’s interference and took to running on a, wait for it, treadmill–for the first time ever. I know, that’s weird but it was a fun experience…and I didn’t fall off! 🙂

Have a wonderful evening and a happy Friday!

Oreo sandwich cakes

I have another recipe today (I told you I was had baking fever 🙂 ). Inspired by one more recipe I saw on Bakers Royale, I had to make these. OK, in full disclosure, I was attempting to make her Mini Chocolate Oreo Cakes. However, it required both cake and icing to be made from scratch…After just covering my kitchen in a fine flour dusting just the day before while making s’more cookies, I got excited about a shortcut.

Thanks to a high-value coupon in the May Smart Source newspaper insert and a Winn-Dixie BOGO deal, I decided to cheat.

Icing

+

Cake

+

Mini cheesecake pan

= one tasty plan.

I made the cake mix according to the directions on the box except I used a fork for double the time rather than a beater or stand mixer.

It isn't as purist, but it means a lot less clean-up.

Just a few minutes and only one dirty bowl later, I was ready to fill the cake wells in my wonderful Chicago Metallic cheesecake pan (that I don’t get to use as much as I’d like).

Mmmmmmm, and it's not even baked yet.

Baked, again, according to Betty’s on-box directions. I was really getting excited and my whole house smelled like warm chocolate.

Baked.

Unfortunately, I way underestimated how much the cake would rise!

*That's* a muffin top.

The whole point was to make these tiny little cakes totally covered in icing. So I went all Queen of Hearts on my desserts.

"Off with their heads!"

That left me with the perfect cake bodies. So, I started to cover them with icing. Too bad the (not home-made whipped) icing was really thick and just tore the delicate and fluffy cake apart at every stroke. Plus, it’s really hard to handle cake that has no icing free sides.

Holy crumbles, Batman.

Criminy. Mid-game switch! Yep, the Oreo icing is in a nice squeeze pouch with a re-closeable cap! So without having to use a knife to spread, I filled the cake tops and made a cake sandwich.

Messy at first but still delicious and no waste.

My coworker said they reminded her of a thicker whoopie pies. But wither way, they were delicious! And easier to handle…which means easier to eat…many.

I even got creative and used some leftover marshmallow creme and graham cracker crumbs to make a s’more cake sandwich.

Playful finish.

Have you tried anything new lately? Any happy turnouts in your kitchen? Let’s dish!

I want s’more and I want it now

🙂 Happy Tuesday! Thanks to Bakers Royale, I took on the most delicious looking cookie recipe this past weekend–s’more cookies!

Although I feel like s’mores are a quintessential summer dessert (camping, beach bonfire BBQs), they are also a fantastic winter dessert with their warm, gooey goodness (huddled around a fireplace). So in conclusion, they are a one of my favorite dessert treats any time of year–or day. Here is the recipe to morph them into cookie form.

Supplies

Original recipe slightly adapted as noted below.

Servings

  • Makes 12 cookies (or 18 if you’re me).

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup confectioners sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 7-oz. jar marshmallow creme

Directions

  • Cream butter with confectioners and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.

Step one.

  • Add salt and vanilla extract and beat to combine. Sift flour and cocoa powder together and whisk to combine.

Step two.

  • Add flour mixture to remaining butter mixture and beat to combine.

Step three.

  • Roll dough into 1½-inch balls and then roll in crushed graham crackers.

Uh-oh.

Praises to Pillsbury.com via Google for saving the day! Their website stated, “Cookie dough too dry? Mix in 1 to 2 tablespoons milk until dough holds together.” In case yours turn out like mine did…

  • Add 3 tbsp 1% milk, one tbsp at a time until dough has desired consistency.

Unexpected step four.

  • If you haven’t already, NOW roll dough into 1½-inch balls and then roll in crushed graham crackers. .

Step five.

  • Use the back of a teaspoon or your thumb and press it slightly into the dough ball to create a shallow well. Refrigerate for 20 minutes before baking.

Step six.

  • Entertain a desperately neglected canine while chilling cookies.

Step seven (optional).

  • Remove from refrigerator and bake at 350°F for approximately 7-10 minutes (or up to 25 minutes if your cookie centers are just.not.baking. like mine). Allow to cool completely on wire rack.

Step eight.

  • Fill wells with marshmallow creme. To smooth out the top, dip finger in warm water and lightly rub tops until marshmallow creme is nice and smooth.

Step nine.

  • Eat one right away just to be sure they are acceptable before the final step.

Step ten.

  • Place marshmallow crème-filled cookies under the broiler for 30-60 seconds for roasted marshmallow appearance; alternately, use a handheld flame torch to finish the tops.

Ta-da!

 

The exact post for her s’more cookies is here but I highly recommend getting lost in her blog for everything delicious and decadent, from blackberry prosecco popsicles to cheesecake-stuffed chocolate-covered strawberries.

I’ll be back soon with more sweets from the kitchen. I just love trying amazing recipes! If I wasn’t the messiest baker ever, I’d be tempted to have a little masterpiece bakery of my own.

Have you tried anything new lately? Anyone else bitten by the baking bug lately?