Monday, July 30, 2012

One more step: Olympic Inspiration



The Olympics have begun! Do they inspire you to get up and move, hit the gym, maybe even run a marathon? I think this article hits on many of our Olympic fantasies - I know I love to relive my rowing days every four years when the Olympics roll around. I wish I could stay home all day and watch beach volleyball, water polo, swimming and diving. I can't get enough of the facts, stats, and personal stories that make the games so unique. You can test your Olympics IQ with this quiz about the health of Olympic athletes.

While watching the Olympics definitely inspires me, I am still desperately trying to keep up my running in this summer heat, through the chaos of our move, and with a very busy work schedule. I decided it might help if I wrote down some reasons why I like to run. Here they are.

____________________________________________


I run to feel most like myself. There was a time when I didn't like to run, and when I ran to stay in shape for other sports. There was a time when I ran fast enough to qualify for Boston, and when I ran slow enough to keep a pregnancy bump in place. There was a time when I mapped and logged every mile, and a time when I threw my watch away and just ran. But there has never been a time when I didn't run.

I run to connect with my family. I ran my first 5K when I was 10 and I grew up watching my parents run road races in the running boom of the early 80s. I remember seeing my Mom and Dad after races wearing a mylar blanket and a medal – bigger than life heroes in shiny capes. As a teenager, I learned the fundamentals of running from my Dad and I can still hear his voice in my head on a tough run, “relax your arms, put your head down going uphill, use the downhill to pick up speed.” We learned to communicate during our runs, sometimes silently, in a way that we maintain today. We ran together on my wedding day.

I run to clear my head. If I want to work through a problem, or if I want to escape my thoughts and not think at all, I go for a run. Running gets me out of a bad mood and reminds me that anything is possible. Some people get new ideas in the shower – I get mine while pounding the pavement.

I run to explore new places. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t travel with my running shoes. I’ve run through a wild boar park in Austria, got lost running in a city park in Munich, and ran at midnight in Egypt to avoid the heat. My fondest memories of living in Florence, Italy, are my early morning runs. Running at that time of day was like peering through a private world only the locals see – shopkeepers sweeping their front sidewalks, delivery trucks dropping off fresh produce, and the sun rising slowly over the Tuscan hills. Running made me feel like I belonged in an otherwise foreign place.

I run to set an example for my children. I want them to know an active lifestyle and not even remember the first time they saw me run a race, or come home sweaty from a morning run. I want my daughter to have a positive body image and to know what a healthy and fit body looks like.

I run to push my limits. Ten years ago I ran to achieve PRs with track workouts, hill repeats and two runs a day. These days most of my runs are done behind a double stroller. But whether I’m striving for a new PR or just trying to run up a big hill pushing the stroller, running reminds me that my body is strong and capable. Running reminds me of what I can do when I set my mind to something, and running gives me the confidence to take on challenges in other aspects of my life.

I run for solitude, and I run for conversation and camaraderie. I run with a running group, with my dog, my husband, my best friend and with my children. No matter what form it takes - running is my constant, my home base, and where I go to find myself. I run to feel most like myself.

______________________________________

Do Olympic athletes inspire you, or make you feel like a total couch potato? What are your favorite events to watch? Find more exercise inspiration here.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Peas in a pod

I was having technical difficulties with the blog this week, and haven't been able to post. It really bummed me out as I've come to depend on this space to reflect on, take stock of, and appreciate my days. Not checking in here makes me feel a little behind on what's happening in my own life. And there is a lot happening.

I think I recently, and foolishly, complained about having to keep our house spotless and clean while we've been showing it all summer. I don't miss the showings, but I miss the clean. These two are like mini tornadoes destroying everything in their path.


Moving update: we are moving to our temporary digs a week from tomorrow. I'm excited for our adventure...you will think we're crazy. Maybe we are.


They have been like two peas in a pod lately, getting along famously. They both think the other is hilarious and can make each other laugh like fools. I am never in on the joke. I love to watch them play together, Charlie teaching and Izzy learning.She gets knocked down a lot - he is the bull and she is the china doll in the closet. But he is patient with her and likes to show her how to do things. Above, he is conveniently showing her how to work the straw on her drink. I'm not sure she got it back, but she didn't seem to mind.


They are as different as light and dark, curly and straight, all boy and all girl. But she likes to wear hats, just like he did at her age.


And they are both clowns - him wearing his new goggles in the car, to the restaurant. They amaze me every day with their funny ways, their thoughts and their words, what they notice and what they feel. Some days it is more than I can take in and I want to push pause. But there is no pause, no slow motion. Only full speed ahead.


We haven't seen many parks this summer in the heat. We had one visit to the park a week ago when a cloudy afternoon cancelled Charlie's swim class.


 He is so physical. There is nothing he can't climb. I think he can't reach the top, but he proves me wrong every time.


There is no doubt he is fearless. Whether going up or going down, he charges forward. They might have that in common, it's a little too soon to tell. For now, she tries to follow him everywhere.


Wishing I'd had on shorts and flip flops for the park.I try not to complain about this weather because it won't help and I would sound like a broken record. But come on already. I've had it. Bring on Fall.


He likes to help her, taking her hand up steps - he usually manages to slow her down and make her fall. But she doesn't seem to mind.




Who are these kids? They can't be mine. They are too big, too grown up. I can't dial back time, though sometimes I wish I could. I can enjoy and be grateful for every single day. I do and I am.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Little Localvores: watermelon is their fave!

Welcome to Little Localvores - a weekly series on our family's first experience with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Every Tuesday all summer long we will receive a supply of fresh produce and local foods through the Good Natured Family Farms CSA. I'll chronicle my attempts to get my toddlers (3 years and 15 months) to eat fresh and local, healthy foods.

Localvore: someone who prefers to eat locally grown/produced food.


This week's CSA bounty included GNFF cucumbers, eggplant, red onions, red vine ripe tomatoes, nectarines, Andy's candy corn, living lettuce, patty pan squash, cheddar cheese nuggets, and seedless watermelon. Instead of ground beef, we took home a second watermelon in our vegetarian bag - a good trade in our house.



Andy's candy corn was fabulous once again. This week we wrapped the ears in foil with a little butter, salt and pepper and grilled them. So easy and so good. I added lime juice and a dash of cayenne to one ear to mix things up. It tasted good, but it wasn't really necessary as this corn had plenty of flavor on its own.


We grilled the eggplant and Ryan combined it with some cherry tomatoes in a simple vinaigrette. The recipe was from Cook's Illustrated "The New Best Recipe," a standby in our kitchen and a great resource for basic recipes (see recipe below). We had these beautiful veggies alongside grilled salmon and brown rice.


Short on time with our impending move (everything is happening at once!) I made one of my favorite, no fuss salads for lunch this week. I almost always have these ingredients on hand and make this salad when I don't have time to make anything else. I used the GNFF Two Sisters lettuce as the base of this salad, added some red quinoa, toasted pine nuts (I rarely manage to toast them but it does add a lot of flavor), feta cheese and blueberries. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a little pepper is all the dressing this salad needs. Sounds like a strange combination, but it works. I found the original recipe here.



Do you know Richard Scarry's books? They are big in our house right now. We have a couple of them and "What Do People Do All Day?" is a favorite. Charlie loves this book. We read it every day.


The book is full of short stories describing how a house or a road is built, what it's like to take a train trip, or to visit the doctor. There is a story about Alfalfa the farmer and how he grows corn and sells it to his local market. When we read this story to Charlie we point out that the farmer sells his corn directly to Grocer Cat, and takes it to the market just down the road in his truck. We're learning the word 'local' thanks to Alfalfa and Richard Scarry.



I made a quick pasta dish for the kids Monday night, the last night before our new CSA share.We'd just gotten home from work/school and we were all a little tired and cranky from a long day. It was hot in the kitchen, Izzy was hanging on my leg impatiently as I tried to cook, and Charlie wanted me to play with his cars. With CSA veggies still on hand, I pulled together a healthy meal in about 10 minutes. This dish required minimal cooking - lightly sauteing GNFF yellow squash and boiling whole wheat spaghetti. I tossed the squash and pasta together with the leftover eggplant and cherry tomatoes from our dinner the night before. I shredded the last of the GNFF Cheddar Pepper Farmhouse cheese and tossed everything together with a splash of olive oil. Even without pepper, because Charlie will NOT eat pepper, it tasted really good. If Izzy had given me two more minutes at the counter before demanding I pick her up, I would have added some minced garlic to the squash for a dash more flavor.


Charlie had fun eating his spaghetti - we have plenty of time to work on table manners later.




Of course, the only problem with this laid back approach is that she has to copy her brother. As you might imagine, it didn't take long before the games began and noodles were all over the floor. Thank goodness for Roxie, our handy vacuum. 


The GNFF seedless watermelon was so full of flavor, like only a perfectly in-season watermelon can be. You know how watermelon can sometimes taste like nothing and you wonder why you bothered? This tasted like watermelon! The real thing. 







 
I had two very happy Little Localvores this week - success! Check out previous Little Localvores posts here.

Grilled Eggplant with Cherry Tomato and Cilantro Vinaigrette
From The New Best Recipe

Ingredients:
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
1/4 t salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 medium shallot, minced
2 T minced fresh cilantro
2 T fresh lime juice
6 T olive oil
1 grilled Eggplant

Directions:
Combine tomatoes, salt, cayenne, shallot, cilantro, lime juice and oil together in a medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature until the tomatoes are juicy and seasoned, about 20 minutes. Pour the vinaigrette over the eggplant and serve.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

New Beginnings

 

We got the keys to our new house last weekend and we took the kids over to check it out. A wide open, empty house was perfect for these two.


They chased each other through every room and back again.


It was so very exciting, my iphone camera couldn't capture all the action.









The architects are drawing the new house as is and then we get to start the design process. We are still on track to be out of our old house by August 16. What's that you say? Where will we go? Good question.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Little Localvores: fresh from the vine

Welcome to Little Localvores - a weekly series on our family's first experience with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Every Tuesday all summer long we will receive a supply of fresh produce and local foods through the Good Natured Family Farms CSA. I'll chronicle my attempts to get my toddlers (3 years and 15 months) to eat fresh and local, healthy foods.

Localvore: someone who prefers to eat locally grown/produced food.


There was an interesting mix in the CSA share this past week: Athena (musk) melon, peaches, blackberries, heirloom tomatoes and red vine ripe tomatoes, Andy's candy corn, banana peppers, pretzel buns, pepper relish, and agave ketchup. Our vegetarian share had Cheddar Pepper Farmhouse Cheese in lieu of GNFF hot dogs.


In order to be called Farmhouse cheese, the cows must be milked on the farm and the cheese made on the farm. Doesn't get any better than that! This cheese had a wonderful peppery flavor that we really liked.


The kids eat cherry tomatoes like they are grapes. I managed to get a few of them in a salad, but they were all gone the first day we had them in the house. I have nothing to post about the peaches and blackberries this week. We had them straight up, a definite crowd pleaser.


Corn gets a bad rap, but fresh, sweet corn straight out of the husk is really good. We only buy it in season and the kids have always liked eating it on the cobb. Kids like just about anything they can eat with their hands!


Andy's Candy Corn was super sweet and really didn't need anything added to it. But I've been wanting to try a new recipe with fresh corn and it did not disappoint. This is Corn with Cilantro-Lime Salt. I boiled 5-6 ears of corn for 3-4 minutes and cut the kernels off the cobs once they cooled. I took about a cup of cilantro, zest of 1 lime and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and combined them for a coarse chop. I added a pat of butter to the corn in a bowl, topped it with the cilantro mix and voila! So simple and tasty. The recipe is from the beautiful and unique cookbook Ripe. I am really enjoying this cookbook and it has been a perfect companion for the CSA. (I mentioned the book previously on my blog and about a week later received it as a gift from my husband for our anniversary. The power of the blog!)


What little corn and cherry tomatoes I had left I tossed together with GNFF green peppers (from last week's CSA) and some GNFF banana peppers, along with a little cilantro, olive oil, salt and pepper. This would have made a great side but I wanted a stand alone salad for lunch so I added some black beans and a little cayenne pepper...


This is a pretty typical weekday lunch for us, and I like using whatever I have available from the CSA to create a lunch salad. For another salad, I combined cannelini beans with some kalamata olives, GNFF red vine ripe tomatoes, GNFF banana peppers, cucumbers and small cubes of the Farmhouse cheddar.


A little tuna would have worked well with this mix, too. Making lunches has become much easier this summer thanks to our CSA. So far, my impromptu CSA-mix salads have all been a hit. Most importantly for me, they are quick and easy to put together.



I had quite a few responses last week when I mentioned combining melon with salt. Interestingly, it seems to be a generational thing with most remembering parents or grandparents combining the two. Just for fun, I thought I would give the melon/salt combo a fresh twist by using some fancy salt we purchased on a trip to Sonoma, CA a few years ago. Combined with this Himalayan pink salt with lavender, this was not my Grandmother's melon!



With Farm to Market pretzel buns (so good!), pepper relish and agave ketchup - this week's CSA share was meant to put the hot dog at center stage. We didn't get hot dogs in our vegetarian share, so we substituted salmon sausage from Whole Foods. Not a bad trade off in my book.




How gorgeous are these green tomatoes? They tasted as good as they look! We couldn't resist the tomato and fresh mozzarella salad we made a couple weeks ago and added a little arugula to round out the plate. I could eat this every week.



I fed this meal to the kids and I'm sad to say it wasn't a big hit. Charlie goes a bit crazy with anything slightly spicy and the agave ketchup and salmon sausage did not pass his I only eat bland foods test. Since we still have plenty of the ketchup and relish, I'm going to try something like a turkey dog for him this week and see if he will like it. The foods we make at home have so much more flavor and spice compared to what he gets at daycare, that it just tastes strange to him (even though I tried to expose him to every flavor and spice from the time he could swallow!). It's a constant battle. They say it takes exposing kids to flavors and foods over and over and over...I'm going to keep at it!


Since our house has been on the market all spring/summer, we didn't plant anything in the yard other than herbs. I can't wait until next Spring when we can plant veggies at our new house - Charlie is already talking about it. This past weekend a good friend of ours was out of town and we were charged with watering his plants while he was gone. He has had a bumper tomato crop this summer.


Charlie loves to help Dad with anything and everything in the yard and he was very excited to water the tomato plants. Izzy was excited to sample them.



I think it is so important kids know that food comes from the ground and grows on vines. I also think this awareness goes a long way in getting them to like and enjoy healthy foods.


Charlie was about Izzy's age now in this photo, helping Dad plant the vegetable garden two years ago. Next Spring he will know so much more about the process and it will be fun for all of us.

Check out previous Little Localvores posts here.