Thursday, June 4, 2015

Breakfast Soup (recipe at end. Oh, yeah, recipes!)

The last two days, I've been having breakfast soup for breakfast.  One of my favorite breakfasts ever was been grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.  Ever since the lactose intolerance, the grilled cheese is out of the picture, which leaves me needing more soup.

(I don't generally do fake cheese sandwiches.  They just aren't as good.)

Breakfast soup, you say?  Made with broth?  Won't the sodium drive my blood pressure up and send me to an early, very salty grave?  

True.  Most people have to restrict their salt, watch their sodium intake, and be careful of processed food since most of us consume way, way too much sodium.  This can be bad for a lot of reasons.

I seem to be the one person in the universe whose doctor tells me to make sure I add salt to dishes!  Over the last year, I've been experimenting, and indeed, we have confirmed what I have suspected (and what my first tri coach suspected) for a while: my body does not hold on to salt.

I have no idea why.

This could be the most awesome or the worst thing ever.  On one hand, I can eat all your nachos since it won't bother me a whit.

On the other hand, I get such disapproving stares when I go for the salt shaker.

And really, Breakfast Soup?  Is that some weird thing like cereal with toppings and you're just trying to trick us like all the other sites promising creative breakfast and just re-hashing normal breakfast?

No.  Breakfast Soup is not normal breakfast.  I don't like sweet breakfasts.  I have tried oatmeal and Cream of Wheat and grits and polenta and every other mushy cereal out there, and universally, in the morning, they remind me of snot.  At night, I've been known to make a steamed oatmeal topped with fresh fruit.  I make polenta for dinner sometimes.  But in the morning?  Get behind me, Breakfast Satan.

I typically feel a little queasy in the morning.  This can make eating or working out a challenge. Things that work in the morning tend to be eggs and vegan sausage, or an avocado quarter or half topped with salt and seeds, or a PB&J with extra salt sprinkled on it, or Breakfast Soup.  I've found that my easily queasy tummy settles down with a little salt hit.  So Breakfast Soup makes a lot of sense.

Breakfast Soup is super easy.  You can use anything you have in the cabinet that you like.  Do you have chicken noodle or minestrone?  Eat that.  You can use anything you have in the fridge.  Made a nacho soup for dinner last night?  Have some more for breakfast.  Who cares?  (We all eat cold leftover pizza for breakfast.  Why not soup?)

But what about when you have not made soup in a while and there's no soup cans in the cupboard because you just happen to make most of your stuff from scratch?  Well, here's a recipe for a quick and easy soup.

One-one-one soup.  My  mother calls this the One-one-one recipe.  Just remember: One (ish) of everything. 

Time: 10-20 minutes.  Basically, while the coffee is perking and you're yelling at your kids to get their backpacks or asking your spouse to feed that cats that morning.  

You need:
-1 TB of butter (or 1 pat). I use Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks which works great.  Not lactose intolerant and prefer to use real butter?  Go for it.  Not a butter person and want to use coconut oil?  Try at your own risk.  I made this once with olive oil and it was oily.  
-1 TB flour.  Any kind, except I have not tried this with gluten free flours.  I wouldn't use quinoa flour for this, because of the grassy smell.
-1 cup broth.  (I use full sodium broth, because of me, but you might need reduced sodium). 1 cup usually does the trick, although if the veggies are dry or you like a more liquidy soup, you might want a little extra water.
-1 cup veggie.  Any kind of cooked veggie.  If it's not pureed, it should be in big chunks.  Today, let's use tomato.  You can use tomato sauce, crashed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, pureed tomatoes, tomatoes with spices in them, whatever works.  Most other kinds of veggies work great too.  Try this with pumpkin in the fall.  Trust me!
-Bonus veggie.  I often throw in a handle of spinach or kale.

To make: 
-Get your saucepan going over medium high.  
-Melt the butter.
-Throw in the flour, and stir it around until it sops up all the butter.  Keep stirring madly.  The flour should look like a thick slurry, like thick cement.  Keep stirring until it smells a little nutty.  This step usually takes about 2-3 minutes.
-Add the broth, while stirring frantically to prevent clumps.  I usually use a small stream or a heavy drizzle for the water, if that helps you visualize.  Once you have a thin slurry or a thick broth...
-Add the veggies. Give it a few more stirs to incorporate it all.

Now if it's a pureed veggie:
-Stir to incorporate, and bring to a gentle boil.  When it's hot through, it's done.

If it's a chunky veggie: 
-Do you like your veggies chunky?  Then bring to a boil, and when it's hot through, it's done.
-Want a smoother soup?  Grab your hand blender, blend it into a nice smooth soup, bring it to a boil, and when it's hot through, it's done.

Finally, if you like bonus veggies: 
-See that spinach/kale/collard/argula/dandelion greens in your fridge you've been ignoring?  Yeah, it's judging all of us as it slowly dies.  Quick, grab it before it wilts anymore, [rinse it if you need to],  and toss it in the soup.  Stir it around for a few minutes while it wilts and cooks.  When it's hot, it's done.

End story: It's delicious and makes me happy.  Please don't complain if this doesn't fit your morning schedule 'cause of work/kids/school/dog.  I don't have kids, I have a short commute, and we split animal duties in my house.  This works for me, and if you enjoy, great!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

More Speed. Bikeshare! New part time job.

So I am clipping away in the speed training.  After talking to some running friends, I jumped ahead in the program to the point where I felt I was physically.  The first three weeks were SO slow.  So I'm now doing week 4 and even if I don't gain major speed, I feel like I'm regaining form.

I'm thinking that next, I'll be adding weight training to my workouts, like I used to do in Arlington, where I would be out biking or running and would stop into the gym, do a 20 or 30 minute weights and stretch circuit, and finish my workout biking or running or walking home.

While at a work event, there was a silent auction, and I won the Bikeshare package.  Oh, of course, I had to pay for it.  That's the purpose of an auction, right?  But I WON THE AUCTION!  And it was a full package to a year's subscription to Capital Bikeshare.  I've been thinking about trying Bikeshare for a while now, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity.

Besides, the package came with a helmet, socks, a t-shirt, a seat cover, and a really cool bike tote bag that is marketed as a helmet purse. Personally, I don't care who sees my helmet (it seems to almost be a status symbol to tote a helmet around this town!), so I use the bag as a nice smallish work tote.  It holds my lunch and my iPad, and my personal stuff, and it's freaking adorable.  It looks like a little red Cyberman!

Don't you think?  Bag here.  Cyberman here. Mine is a red small bag.  It's the sort of thing that I would not have bought on my own (without a ton of dithering and months of debate) but that I would have wanted badly.  So getting both bag and Bikeshare membership... it was a great deal!

I've already been riding all over the place, trying bikeshare in all sorts of shoes (I rode today in heels, with my afternoon errands in the front basket!).  It's already proved it is worth it.  I have managed to get around some terrible traffic, and avoid a metro fire/shutdown, and it's erased any reservations I had about going to, say, Whole Foods for a speciality ingredient.  It was SO FAR AWAY.  But on a bike, it's about 10 minutes instead of 25.

Finally, one month of ¾ time work was plenty for me, and I swiftly lost my mind with all the spare time.  The first few weeks, I slept a little more and cleaned the apartment and cooked and shopped and then I died of boredom.

What with one thing and another, I decided I either needed a part time job or a volunteering gig to get me out to see PEOPLE.  I went to check out an animal shelter (because puppies, people.  Let's be real) and fell in love with a puppy.  As I was considering whether to adopt her, I wandered into this brand new pet store near my home and next thing I knew, I was applying for a part time job there.  So this week I start at the Wylie Wagg!  I'm really excited, not just because it's a job (and extra money means vacation fund) but because I really like the team and the philosophy.

I start Thursday, and I'm really thrilled to have a totally non-religious form of income for the first time in, oh, forever.

It'll be fun.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Speed Training. Hopefully the last of weird health. New commutes.

I'm typing this in the dark while M gets some sleep.  I'm using an app called Flux to dim the screen and prevent blue light from disrupting my circadian rhythm.  I realized about an hour ago that a certain someone had not sent me something they had promised earlier this month, and it leaves me angry, anxious, and frustrated.  It is actually all going to be OK.  But right now, I'm pretty upset that a simple task didn't get done.

Meanwhile...  In preparation for this half-marathon, I decided I wanted to shoot for a speed goal... 9:15 minute miles or better.  This is about what I can hold on a very good day for a 5K.  So I'd have some serious training to do.

Part of it is that, frankly, I slowed WAY down while struggling with e.Coli.  At my best, before Leadman, I was holding easy low 8 minute miles, with a few 7:40somethings thrown in during a hard effort.  I think I can regain that.

So I've started doing a speed work program.  Bascially, I grabbed the old Couch to 5K app... and quickly realized that weeks 1-3 were boring as hell.  So I skipped to week 4, and eliminated the walking in favor of a jog.  So it's jog and run instead of walk and jog.  We shall see.  Mostly, I need to reestablish both a habit of training and a slow-fast pattern.

I'd been chugging away at one speed for so long that I've forgotten how to do the old speed work.  I miss my "garbage runs", when I used to sprint garbage can to garbage can for intervals, and my old hill workouts, which were "run up the hill until you are about to die and then turn around and jog down until you catch your breath, then run up the hill again".  It was tough, but I had the size 8 butt and quads of steel that proved that I was a pretty damn good middle-of-the-pack-works-more-than-she-works-out-and-is-friends-with-a-chef athlete.

Aspirations, right?

Anyway, weird health.  Ultimately, I wonder if someday I will look back on the whole e.Coli episode and be thankful it happened.  I ended up with a really good doctor who understands my body.  It seems that- even after everything else is back to normal- my thyroid is just barely symptomatic as a misbehaving body part.  While I don't blame my thyroid for all my ills, I won't deny that since adding a tiny dose of medicine to my morning, my anxiety has plummeted, my energy has rebounded, and my joint pain has been melting away.  (Also melting... some poundage.  And occasionally, me.  I'm actually experiencing sweating these days, as if I were a person with a metabolism.)

From what I read, sometimes after a major illness, a person's endocrine system can get messed up and need some support to recover.  Some people need that support for the rest of their lives.  Some people only need that support for a short time.  But I think the e.Coli either accelerated or unveiled a problem that could have lived in the shadows for a long time.  So perhaps I should be grateful that this one big illness might have shown light on a problem that could have very negatively affected me over the course of the next decade of my life.

Finally, new commutes.  I started my new job at a new parish, and it is 2.6 miles away.  So this month has been all about trying the various ways to get to work.  Ideally, it is inexpensive, saves the planet, and preserves my sanity.  (And is fairly reliable... meaning that if I walk out the door at 8:15 on a Monday and get to work by 9, I want that to happen on Tuesday and Wednesday as well!)   Ironically, driving my personal vehicle might be the cheapest solution on the surface.  But it means isolating myself in a tin can and driving through some pretty clogged traffic and dealing with a series of forbidden left turns, which is tremendously frustrating.  And I swear, a lot.  Way more than a priest ought to.  Metro is OK, but not my ideal.  In the last month, I was on an escalator when it broke down in Bethesda.  I found out later that they closed the station due to over crowding after that, so if I had been 10 minutes later, I'd have been toast.  I also was lucky to miss the station fire.  It seems the bus might be the most relaxing route.

Luckily (ha ha) I also won an auction that included an adorable satchel and a year long membership to Capital Bikeshare.  So Bikesharing is now mine.  I'm actually really excited to try that.  There are stations everywhere near me, and near work. I'm thinking I might take the bus to Friendship Heights (past the worst of the Wisconsin traffic), snag a bike there, and ride the remaining mile to the nearest station across the street from my job.  Since trips of 30 minutes and under are free, my only cost will be for the bus.  And thus I get to keep my personal vehicle off the road, get outside and breathe (polluted humid city) fresh air, and get some exercise while commuting.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Half Marathon- Goal Set!

I signed up for the Hartford Half Marathon in October!

You might remember I had a goal of completing a half marathon this year.  Well, here I go.  Goal set.

I know I can do 13.1, as I've already done it in an Ironman.  I want to be able to do the entire half at a strong pace and finish well.  I'm shooting for a 9:15 pace.  Yes, it's "slow" for me, the fastest I've ever held a 10K was an 8:45, so this will be a good goal.

I have a training plan I like, so I will start following that.  And yes, I have already put an app on both my iPad and on my phone that are counting down the days.

My friend K the Powerful Blonde will be pacing me.  She's become quite the badass runner, and is doing the Marine Corp Marathon, and this race falls on a day in her taper when she should be doing a 13 mile run.  Boom.  My goal pace is her take it easy pace- perfect!  My sister is also doing the MCM, so she may run as well.  But her pace is way faster than mine.

For extra bonus points, it's also my cousin's wedding weekend, so we opted to take the train to avoid any holiday nonsense on the roads.  We get that Monday off for Columbus Day (the worst federal holiday due to the guy being honored, but hey, I'll take the day off for what it's worth).  So running that half means I get to eat all the wedding food.  And we're a Portuguese family, so you know there'll be great food.

Now that my health seems to be pretty stable, I'm looking forward to a good year of training... the first consistently good year since the year I did Leadman.  (Which was the year before I got e.Coli and all the stuff hit the fan.)

I am still going to be swimming and biking.  Because I like to, and because they are free since I have all the gear.

I do need to replace my shoes (I'll be sticking with On because I like them), and probably invest in some more socks, and possibly a pair of running shorts or two.  I only have one skort right now, so I really do need some more shorts so I can rotate stuff faster.  

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Massage curing my ailing foot

Last week, after getting a bit of bad news, I decided to run through my anger. I'd been easily running the 5K loop around the block, but I needed to step up my mileage, or, you know, start following a training plan, if I want to nail that half marathon this year.  

Anger running is not necessarily good for one's training. I was so mad and upset that I ran 8.2 miles at an 8:37 pace.  That's pretty slamming.  But I have been paying for it all week with a sore foot.  

I'm also walking to the metro every day, and usually getting way over my Shine points (time to step up the shine points now!) so I have also been putting lots of mileage on my feet, and not always wearing the best walking shoes.  I'm still vain enough to default to cute-ish and "goes with outfit" over "sensible to walk several miles in". 

My left foot started protesting loudly on Monday.  The big toe joint ached, the arch felt crackly, and it just felt sore and puffy and tired.  It is very frustrating when the rest of your body says "Gooooo!!!" 

I finally got a massage (best priest gift ever!).  And the massuse went to work.  First he spent about half an hour on the bag of marbles that was my upper back.  He got his elbows in there and it was actually a little uncomfortable... Until the moment that something popped and it felt like a whole line of firecrackers went off in a row down my back and things unlinked and I swear my sinuses opened up.  

Tension, much? 

Finally, he went to work on the calves and feet.  And as he was working on my left foot, there was a similar crunching sort of pop and that feeling of a warm liquid being poured around inside, which I associate with the release of a muscle knot. My big toe shifted position (hadn't even noticed it was not where it should be!) and the arch stopped aching immediately!  

So somehow... I either dislocated my toe, or I had a huge muscle knot in that foot.  But the massage seems to have fixed it up.  I might be thinking about more regular massages in the course of training...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Birthday dinner for M

Today is M's birthday, and so I'm cooking up a feast. We've been noticing an Italian market nearby, so I stopped in for some authentic ingredients for a decidedly inauthentic , vegan lasagna. He's done with his vegan challenge, but I don't think any man would complain about lasagna!  Besides, I really wanted to try the Thug Kitchen ricotta filling.  I've been missing lasagna since I had to give up dairy a few years ago.  So it's a double win! 

I went to the gym for Balance Body where the instructor has amazing shoulders, a perky attitude, and the endurance of a hawk.  She just kept going like she would never stop! At the end of class, one lady lay down on her mat! It was a good workout. I Am mad that I left my Shine home, though. All that walking and the gym, and no Shine points for it! 

Things are really settling down here in DC.  I had this awful dream the other night where I dreamed we had moved into a new place... It had linoleum and carpet floors, and was in a basement, and it had 1,300 square feet, which more than we've ever had.  But I kept running from room to room, crying and asking the movers to stop moving our things because I'd changed my mind about moving.  I dream ran back to our current place and was lying on the floor trying to keep the movers from taking the rug, shouting "We can't move! We have wood floors!" when I woke up in a hot sweat. The bedroom was stifling. I stripped off my jammies, changed, and opened all the windows I could before I flopped down on the futon in the breezier room (the main room).  

It's true that our current place is a postage stamp, and the kitchen is weeny, and the water in the shower has a bad habit of sometimes going SCORCHING HOT then FREEZING COLD... But I love this postage stamp!  And the wood floors.  

Well, I better go wash up.  Lasagna assembly begins soon.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Rude Shopkeepers! Nice Drycleaners!

Today's adventure is brought to you courtesy of the fact that M drank all the coffee and I did not buy more coffee at the grocery store because reasons, OK?  (Mostly that I didn't know we were out of coffee because M makes the coffee in the morning, because I'm so not a morning person and I'm kind of dead to the world for the first hour after waking up.) 

I decided, since I needed coffee, that I'd head out to the new Starbucks just down the street.  I'd pick up my dry cleaning on the way.  So out I went, and on the way to the dry cleaners, right next to the fabulous liquor store, there was a sort of tchotke store.  You know them- the sort of place that sells flasks and $500 chess sets and super adorable cutesy baby clothes and that no man is ever allowed to set foot in because everything is so pretty and frilly. 

So I went in.  I'm looking for some new stationery.  I like to have pretty stationery on hand, because I like to send handwritten notes to people from time to time.  My stash is just about out, and it's time to get some new stuff.  I like nice crisp notecards with a detail like an image or an initial on them so I can use them for many purposes.  Once I splurged on this gorgeous set of paper with a single bumblebee embossed on it.  I used it for a year before I ran out and every single time, I loved writing on that paper.  

This frou-frou shop had all sorts of items, and a rather paltry selection of stationery.  Not a deal breaker... I did find a set of color-it-in postcards that I thought some of my friends might enjoy.  

And then I heard it... laughing, chatting.  I look over my shoulder, and all the shop workers are clustered in a small group, talking to each other.  

I continued to browse.  I found a few stationery things scattered throughout the store.

No one came over.  No one came to ask me what I was looking for.  

I kept browsing.  I picked things up.  I put things down. 


Now I have worked retail.  M has worked retail.  One of the big things is to ASK people if you can help them, or what they are looking for, so you can assist them to actually find what they are looking for.  

We used to get Secret-Shopped at the Sears where I worked (I really liked working for Sears, by the way).  And the Secret-Shoppers would inevitable ding us if we didn't come over to talk to the customer.  

So this shop in DC... HORRID customer service!  I was actually pushing the door open on the way out when someone finally called out, "Thank you!"  I looked at the group, and they were already back to talking.  

So they did have some potential stationery options.  But no one talked to me, or showed me if there were other options, and that's the way you lose a customer.  I felt like I was invisible to them.  And I won't be going back there any time soon. 

Now on the other hand, the dry cleaning one door down... they have WON themselves a customer.  They cleaned a quilt for me, for more than $25 cheaper than the same quilt was cleaned in Tysons Corner.  They were affable and immediately greeted me and they said nice things about the quilt.  So I'll be taking a dress to them for alterations.  

All in all, I'm really, REALLY getting to love my neighborhood.  Grocery store.  Drycleaners.  Tailor.  5K loop.

We just did some rearranging in our apartment, which I call the Beautiful Postage Stamp, because it's TEENY.  But it's getting to be so cosy and lovely... I don't want to leave!  I love my view and I love this neighborhood.  Maybe we should just stay and hope that the universe comes to its senses and stop selling the homes around here for $1.4 million...