Sunday, April 27, 2008

Another Basic Sunday

Well, somehow 80% chance of rain turned into no rain at all for today. Not that I’m complaining, and I’m sure everyone doing the March of Dimes walk this morning was relieved. It’s a big event on my campus and draws walkers from all over the city. From our new digs we were able to see the walkers out our back windows. Why did we not walk? Speaking for myself, it’s only six miles, so what’s the point after running twenty yesterday?

I promised a spinach bread update, and it came out pretty good, although if I make it again I’ll probably double the amount of pepper in the recipe and maybe try parmesan instead of cheddar cheese. I just can’t leave well enough alone!

Here’s the basic recipe.

And if you don’t have a bread machine, it’s still pretty simple to make.

1. Heat the water to about 110 degrees or so and mix with the yeast and sugar.
2. Go do something else for about 10-15 minutes so the yeast can get bubbly.
3. Add in all the other ingredients except the spinach and cheese. Be sure to add the flour slowly, by half-cups or so. This makes it easier to blend everything together.
4. Cover and set aside, preferably in a warm place. Let the dough rise at least a few hours. I recommend letting it rise overnight so you don’t have to worry about whether or not it doubled in size or whatever.
5. Punch down the dough and mix in the spinach and cheese. Once everything is blended nicely, form a loaf and put it in an oiled bread pan.
6. Go find something else to do for at least half an hour. I took this opportunity to go run some errands.
7. Bake for about 30 minutes at 375, or until done.

This bread is very tasty toasted and with butter. Yum!

Today’s Cooking
Spinach-Cheese Bread
Pumpkin Bread (recipe makes 2 loaves)
Pumpkin-Chickpea Curry (using the pumpkin left over from the pumpkin bread)
Curry Zucchini and Onions
Fried Rice (using last week’s leftover rice)
Zucchini Chips (dehydrated zucchini with salt and spices—road snacks for upcoming vacation)

Today’s Workout
2 hour spin
Abs and weights

Today’s Link
Mine is the Featured Story in the May issue of Word Catalyst Magazine! It's flash fiction, less than 1,000 words. Go read!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Runnin’ in the Rain

It wasn’t my plan to run in the rain this morning, but since it was only a light shower and worse was predicted for Sunday, I put on one of my fancy vented running jackets and headed out. I stayed close to home, doing campus loops. After six miles I was hot and the rain had become a sprinkle, so I went home and dropped off the jacket. The rest of the run went okay but was painful at the end. I run on harder surfaces with less variety when I stay on campus, and many of the sidewalks have smooth pebbles embedded in their surface which makes them slippery in the rain. I have to alter my stride, which I think contributes to the sore muscles at the end.

Or maybe it was just one of those days. It happens.

I’ve got a new recipe I’m trying, for spinach-cheese bread. The recipe only gives bread machine instructions, and I don’t have a bread machine. But (scary realization) I do know how to make bread without a machine, so I’ve got the dough rising overnight and in the morning I can add the spinach and cheese, set it for a final rise in the bread pan, and bake. I’ll be sure to post the results, along with instructions, if it turns out well.

I also made carrot-apple loaves tonight and will do pumpkin bread tomorrow. No banana bread this week because Dan ate all the bananas.

Speaking of Dan, he’s finally going to graduate this December. It feels like he’s been on the fifty-year degree plan, so at this point I’m more relieved than excited for him. It's going to be great to be able to go on vacation sometime other than late May. And even better, I won’t get emails from him at 11:00 at night asking me to proof his paper that’s due in the morning. (Yeah, he’s lucky he’s still alive, forget graduating.)

For Dan, graduating will be quite an accomplishment, since he was one of those barrio boys tracked into woodshop and told to learn a trade. His stepfather told him college was only for “rich white kids” and it took Dan until his thirties to realize his stepfather was full of it. For me, college was a given. My father has a doctorate and I used to tag along to campus with him when he was a professor. A college campus felt as welcoming as a shopping mall to me, and far more interesting. But for Dan, this has been a big journey and a chance to prove to himself that he’s good enough, and always was. Now he’s even making noises about grad school. All I have to say is he better not expect me to proof his papers at 11:00 at night!

This Week's Workouts
Monday: no workout-stuck in late meeting at work
Tuesday: 8 mile run
Wednesday: 45 minute spin, abs and weights
Thursday: 35 minute elliptical
Friday: scheduled rest day
Saturday: 20 mile run

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Just Ducky

For today's run, I repeated last week's run to Hermann Park to see the ducks, taking my camera this time.

It was a warm day, but it's never too early to start building my summer heat tolerance. Of course, these guys had the perfect solution for staying cool.

Nothing like a duck run on a spring afternoon!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Book Meme - Tidbit

Tidbit has always loved to read, either alone:

Or with a friend:

So it was no surprise when Lola tagged Tidbit for the ever-popular book meme, to which the rules are as follows:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

Unfortunately, the book she was reading, Bunnicula had less than 123 pages, so she was forced to select from the bookcase in her room. At bunny-eye level, the pickings were grim: mostly stuff about computers, strategic planning and the like. But then her gaze fell upon Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants, which sounded like a very fine book-- so good she took a nibble off the spine just to be sure.

All seemed well, so without further ado, she chewed to page 123, where she found the following about cherry leaves:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration opposed this alternative therapy, claiming it didn't work and that there was a risk of cyanide poisoning. They took it off the market and took legal action against any doctors using it.

Yikes! Tid will not be eating cherry leaves anytime soon and strongly recommends her bunny buddies exercise similar caution!

Since so many have done this meme already, Tidbit tags whoever hasn't played yet and says to stay far away from cherry leaves!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday Check-In

Well, the stress of the last three weeks must’ve caught up to me. I have a very nasty crick in my neck. It's so bad that it was hard to back the car out of my long, narrow driveway today because I couldn't turn my head.

The funny thing is that I haven’t felt particularly stressed during this year’s budget cycle—it’s just been a constant daily overload of things that needed doing. But now I’ve got a backlog both at the office and at home, and I’m not looking forward to digging out. I carry my stress in my neck and shoulders, which is probably why I’ve got this problem now.

Since it’s Administrative Professionals week, I picked up some potted flowers, candy, and cool little pocket notepads for my staff. I took everything to the office today, since it would be a hassle to walk to work with it in the morning, along with everything else I carry. I’m always wary of doing anything for this particular holiday, since it evolved out of Secretary’s Day and some professionals are a little offended by it, not wanting to be seen as mere secretaries. But it was the efforts of my staff that enabled me to put in my three weeks in the budget trenches and I would’ve done something nice for them even if there wasn’t a Hallmark holiday this week. So there.

Not much else is happening here. I'm just trying not to worry too much about all the things I need to get done before we go on vacation in a few weeks. Vacation is so stressful that I swear if it was up to me I'd probably spend most of my vacations right here at home getting caught up on things and then getting deliciously bored so that returning to work would be a relief!

I'm all ready for the week now, though. I spent a couple hours in the kitchen today, so at least I won't be worrying about what to eat!

Today’s Cooking
• Carrot Bread
• Carrot Cookies (again)
• Penne Casserole (using pasta from a previous meal)
• Fried Rice (using leftover rice from the week)
• Black Beans with Garlic and Tomato
• Curried Zucchini
• Steamed Rice
• Hard Boiled Eggs

Today’s Workout
2 hour spin

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Running and Yogurt

The budget cycle at work is nearly over—yay! Friday evening was the first time since the start of the month that I didn’t have to bring work home and although I made myself available for this weekend’s final push to closure, I haven’t been needed. Thank goodness! I’ve done my part and the final tradeoffs are in our budget goddess’s hands, which suits me fine.

I celebrated another lovely Saturday by running to Memorial Park today. It’s a little scary how easy these twenty mile runs are getting to be, but that’s the range I need in order to enjoy some of my old running routes from before I moved last August. I don’t like driving somewhere so I can run. It makes no sense to me and adds anywhere from 30-60 minutes to my time budget, cutting into the time I could be doing some actual running. So in general, if I can’t get there on my own two feet, I don’t go.

But now Memorial Park and the Buffalo Bayou trails are doable again, and that makes me happy.

I’m managing so well in spite of my chronic hip pain that I’m even beginning to think about ultras and getting back into long course triathlons. I need to consider the time commitment, though, in addition to the possibility of making my hip worse and ruining a good thing. I’ll probably stew about it over vacation, along with some other matters I haven’t been able to ponder deeply due to the constant busy-ness of my daily life.

And now for a rhetorical question: Am I the last person on the planet to have discovered Greek yogurt?

I’ve never thought myself a yogurt philistine, and have tried runny yogurts, creamy yogurts, sour yogurts, mild yogurts, some from cows, some from goats, some from tiny Hill Country organic farms and some from far-flung places I don’t even know if I can pronounce correctly. I even went through a phase where I made my own. But I somehow missed out on firm Greek yogurt, so when I had some left over after using it in a recipe, I tried eating it plain. OMG! This is the first plain yogurt I can truly say I love! Of course, it’s even better with a little honey mixed in, but now I’m hooked, which is a shame, since it’s four times the price of my current favorite. I may be getting back into yogurt-making if I can find a good recipe for this stuff, price of milk be damned!

Friday’s Cooking
Banana Bread
Carrot Cookies

This Week’s Workouts
Monday: 30 minute elliptical, 10 minute row
Tuesday: 6.5 mile run (went to Hermann Park to see the ducks)
Wednesday: 45 minute spin, abs and weights
Thursday: 35 minute elliptical
Friday: scheduled rest day
Saturday: 20 mile run

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Aren't You Done Yet?

Every night you work on that stupid office stuff, biped. You should work for me. Bunnies don't need budgets. ~ The Tid

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Dan found four of those disgusting tree roaches in our house tonight. WTF? There's no way to avoid them altogether in Houston unless you live in a high-rise, but four in one evening is just way ridiculous.

I can't stand them and won't even go near the repulsive things. That's what I have a husband for. In fact, insect control was one of the main criteria I had for a spouse, since sex and money are pretty easily acquired. And to give him credit, Dan does a very fine job of insect control. Years ago, I knew he was the man for me when he removed a bee from my apartment by picking it up by its wings and setting it free outside.

Tonight he dispatched all four cockroaches entirely without assistance from the cat, who is supposed to be his assistant and backup roach-manager. I must think about replacing the cat.

The bunny, of course, has no insect-management duties. Nor do I. I do enough around here already.

Today's cooking

* Rice
* Black beans with tomato and garlic
* Curry zucchini
* Fried rice
* Carrot-apple ginger bread (2 loaves)

Today's Workout
2 hour spin

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bright Sunshiny Day

Fantastic weather here, after a lot of overcast days!

I had a good run this morning—nothing like heading out at dawn with the morning sun creating patterns of gold and shadow along the trails, birds singing in the trees, robins and squirrels going about their business, mulberries ripening and the scent of jasmine and honeysuckle in the air!

I followed Brays Bayou to Hermann Park and the zoo where I ran among the trees, then into Montrose and through some of my old neighborhoods to Buffalo Bayou where I enjoyed the company of other runners hitting the hills and trails. Then I ran through River Oaks (rich neighborhood) and into one of the business areas where I stopped at my bank to deposit a check. (Nothing like a run that adds a little money to your bank account, is there?) And from there I ran home, through another nice neighborhood where the trees meet overhead, past Rice University, back around the park and zoo, then home.

Near my house I noticed the bayou was running fairly clear and I could see a lot of fish in the water. They were bigger than I had thought bayou fish would be and explains why I’m always seeing cormorants and ospreys around.

Now that we have our vacation dates somewhat decided for the latter half of May, I’m scouting for fun things to do in New Mexico. The 10K I had thought I’d like to do in Santa Fe has been moved from late May to early June, so that’s out. And although I’m intrigued by “The World’s Toughest 10K,” the date is too soon for me to train to run up a 12% grade and I won’t be acclimated even a tiny bit to the altitude. So I think I had better pass on that one. I’ll keep looking and if nothing presents itself, it’s not like it will be the first time.

I made two loaves of banana bread yesterday, adding chopped dates to the recipe. Dan says this is the best version yet and has already gone through most of one of the loaves. I suspect the second one won’t last long, either.

Oh, and in case anyone is paying attention to these sorts of things, my favorite organic wheat flour went up 80 cents in the past week, from $3.69 to $4.49 for five pounds, and I noticed that conventional flour is up, too. It’s still cheaper than buying pre-made items (which I didn’t price, but probably went up, as well), but I’m regretting now that I didn’t buy more flour at the lower price. That’s’ what you get when you put fear of looking like a wild-eyed wacko survivalist ahead of the good old common sense that got humans out of the caves and into centrally-cooled homes. Oh well.

And finally, Ironman Arizona is Sunday! Good luck to all participants!

Recent Workouts
Monday: 30 minute elliptical
Tuesday: 6.5 mile run
Wednesday: 45 minute spin, abs
Thursday: too much work to do—missed workout
Friday: scheduled rest day
Saturday: 20 mile run

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Recipe Share

I made this pumpkin bread for the second time today and since it was just as good as the first time, I thought I’d share. What I like about this recipe is that it doesn’t come out too pumpkiny. Not that it would be bad if it did, but this time of year just seems wrong to be eating something that tastes like Thanksgiving.

When I make this pumpkin bread, I substitute one cup of unsweetened applesauce for the oil and six packets of stevia for half of the sugar. For the optional goodies, I use pecans and golden raisins, as recommended, and dried cranberries. The result is a moist, fruity bread that’s yummy for breakfast or anytime I want a snack.

There’s another reason I like this recipe. Once I’ve got the pumpkin bread in the oven, I make a curry with the remainder of the can of pumpkin. I just sort of throw it together, so I can’t give exact measurements (spice is a very individual thing, anyway), but the basic recipe is:

• whatever is left in can after making pumpkin bread
• half the pumpkin can of water (chicken or vegetable broth would also work)
• one can of garbanzo beans, drained
• sautéed yellow onions (or onion flakes to taste, if you’re lazy)
• salt, white pepper, coriander, cumin and lots of curry, to taste

This makes a very nice dish served over rice.

And finally, I tried these carrot cookies this weekend:

This isn’t the recipe that’s given me fits for the last two weeks. The resulting cookies are very tasty but quite different from the crumbly shortbread-like carrot cookies I’ve been trying to get right. These cookies are more like little carrot-cakes, which can be good or bad depending on how tempting you find a cookie jar full of mini-carrot cakes.

I did a lot of cooking this weekend, but I’m set for the week now with home-cooked meals and snacks for every day. From here ‘til Friday, it’s me and the microwave!

Have a tasty week, friends!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Weekend Update

I got an interesting start to my weekend when my toilet stopped flushing on Thursday night. The water swirled around but wouldn't actually go anywhere. I had already been thinking about taking Friday as a work-from-home day, so that pretty much nailed my decision. We do have the studio apartment we can use in a bathroom emergency, but this is not Little House on the Prairie. Traipsing across the yard to answer the call of nature is not acceptable as a long-term solution.

Friday ended up being super-productive. I started working at 6 am and finished the salary/benefits portion of next fiscal year’s budget just before 5 pm. I took about an hour in the middle of the day to wash the dishes, make banana bread and start the laundry, but other than that and opening the door so someone could come in and fix the toilet, I was head-down the whole day and by 5 pm I was hungry and brain-dead. But my portion of the budget is now done, I have clean clothes, tasty banana bread, AND my toilet is flushing normally—the problem was a partially clogged line. Apparently this isn’t an unusual problem in these older houses, where buildup accumulates in the pipes over the decades.

This morning I was up early and went for a run on approximately the same route as last week, starting with a loop around campus while waiting for the sun to come up before heading out toward Hermann Park, Rice University, and eventually Buffalo Bayou. At one point I encountered a group of runners, one of whom was running on one of those curved-blade prostheses that runners use. I’ve seen these in the running and triathlon magazines and of course there was the recent fuss over whether double-amputee athlete Oscar Pistorius was getting an unfair advantage from his prosthetic legs.

I had never seen anyone IRL with one of these, so my first instinct was to go chasing after the guy so I could tell him how cool his leg was and ask how it worked. Of course, I did no such thing. He might feel self-conscious about it. But it did get me thinking how far we’ve come in technology and as a society when the reaction to a prosthesis is: OMG! Cool alert! Lemme see, pleeeeez???

Oh, and did I mention the guy was nice to look at, too? Buff and blond, about half my age, but none of us is getting any younger, right? Right.

Moving right along, now.

My next-door neighbor, for reasons known only to her unemployed self, has decided to engage in home improvement projects. This would be good, except that they seem to always involve noisy power tools. I was very suspicious when we got back from having Indian food and there was a backhoe in front of her house and an assortment of lesser noisemakers in the yard. Nice. I was up at 6 am, ran 20 miles, and now I was going to be deprived of an afternoon nap? Luckily the noise didn’t start up right away and I was able to sleep for a couple hours, but if she’s fixing up the house to sell, I hope it gets purchased by Orthodox Jews. Then I can count on quiet Saturdays.

Just now, Tidbit managed to fall out of her litterbox. I have no idea how she accomplished this, since it’s a high-wall box and she fell out of the side. She lay on the floor for a few seconds with a surprised look on her face, until I put her back on her feet, watched her hop around, then gave her a treat and rubbed her ears. I love you, Tid. Even if you are a klutz.

Recent Workouts
Monday: 35 minute elliptical, abs
Tuesday: 6 mile run
Wednesday: 40 minute spin, abs
Thursday: 30 minute elliptical
Friday: scheduled rest day
Saturday: 20 mile run