moroccan lentil salad with cauliflower couscous


I am not officially a vegan but I eat 90% vegan or vegetarian.  It is what works for me.  Too much meat and I blow up like a balloon at the Macy’s parade.  And this has happened in the past 5 years or so.  Before that I was the ultimate carnivore. But eating mostly vegetarian (or vegan) has its challenges— for me, it is recipes. To be honest most of my meals are a hodge-podge of various produce items in my refrigerator and cabinets (canned).  And I honestly don’t feel like buying a strictly vegetarian or vegan cookbook. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I received my copy of Run Fast Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan.  You probably read about it a few posts back.  Well, a lot of the recipes, if they are not vegan, they can be turn into it.  I really love the book.  It is easy to follow and the photos are beautiful. Also, there are some great stories.  Plus it is Shalane Flanagan—that’s all I am going to say.

When I first browsed through the book the first recipe that caught my eyes was the Moroccan Lentil Salad with Cauliflower Couscous. 

EVERYTHING.

IN THIS RECIPE.

SOUNDS.

DELICIOUS.

That is how strongly I feel about this recipe.  First, while it is a salad (which I personally associate with spring/summer) the flavors make it perfect even in winter. And second, it serves approximately 6 people which means, if it just for you (as in my case since the family turns up their noses at my “healthy” fares) it makes tons of leftovers. 

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 have a love for Moroccan dishes and when I saw this has ‘ras el hanout’ I was totally in.  If you have never used this spice mix you are missing out.  It gives food a beautiful warm aroma reminiscent of the Middle East.  When you this ‘ras el hanout’ think of it as a combination of cumin, ginger, salt, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cayenne for a little heat, ground allspice and cloves.  It is just delicious and it reminds me of its Indian cousin ‘garam masala’ another spices mix you must put in your cooking bucket list, if you have not tried it.

Now, this recipe is a two part process—the lentil salad AND the cauliflower couscous.

Moroccan Lentil Salad w/ Cauliflower Couscous (from Eat Fast Run Slow Cookbook by Shalane Flanagan)

Ingredients:

  •  1 1/2 cups cauliflower couscous.  For this, chop cauliflower in food processor until it resembles “couscous” grains the saute in olive oil for 3 minutes.
  • 1 cup dried green lentils, sorted and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 medium-size carrots, peeled, grated
  • 2 cups loosely packed chopped kale
  • 1/2 cup toasted pistachios or almonds, chopped (I actually used pepitas)
  • 1/2 cup dried Turkish apricots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Ras el Hanout (Moroccan spice blend)

Method:

  • Place the lentils in a medium pot, add the salt, and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until tender but not mushy, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
  • Place the carrots, kale, nuts, apricots, olives, and Ras el Hanout in a large salad bowl.
  • Add the cauliflower couscous and lentils and toss until evenly combined. Add two-thirds of the dressing (recipe below), toss, and taste. Add more dressing to taste, if needed.

Dressing:

  •  1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ½ shallot, minced
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp ground pepper

Steps:

  • Combine the oil, vinegar, mustard, shallot, salt, and pepper in a glass jar with a lid.
  • Shake vigorously until emulsified.drizzle of olive oil. Cover the salad and place in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes or until ready to serve.

Joining these awesome link-ups: Week In Review / Sunday Fitness & Food / Fit Fashionable Friday / Friday Five 2.0 / Tuesdays on the Run/ Wild Workout Wednesday / Weekly Wrap/

is there ever “too many” running shoes?

There are many things in life where you can have “too much” of something.  Running shoes is NOT one of them in my opinion.  One of the things that surprised my husband the most when we married (and actually while we were dating) was the amount of running shoes I had.  And it always struck him as funny that when I came to visit him or we went somewhere on a trip, I always packed a pair of running shoes.  But you know the saying “Have shoes, will run”. Seriously, you never know when you’ll find yourself in an awesome location where you can have an epic run.

But I digress. Running shoes.  Do you know who came up with the ridiculous idea that a person can have “too many” running shoes? A non-runner.  I am convinced.  And as for me, do I have lots of running shoes? Not at the moment.  One of the saddest misfortunes in life was losing all my belonging in a fire almost three years ago, including most of my vast collection of running shoes, especially my most favorite of all time-- Asics GEL-Noosa Tri 6.  It was an awesomely looking and was everything to me.  I have to admit that I bought them because of how they looked but once I tried them on they were perfect for me and I loved running in them.

MY MOST FAVORITE SHOE EVER!!! Too bad subsequent updates ruined it. :(

MY MOST FAVORITE SHOE EVER!!! Too bad subsequent updates ruined it. :(

Adidas Vigor Bounce

Adidas Vigor Bounce

But now I only have a few but intend in growing my collection again.  I am always on the lookout for a perfect pair of running shoes and in recent years have fallen short. From low drop to beefy ones like Hoka One One, I have found ok shoes but not one that I would rave about (except for the Vigor Bounce trail running shoe).

So, here is what’s in my arsenal (clockwise):

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HOKA ONE ONE CLIFTON 3. Love the look and cushioning but it’s a bit much. But just like the Clifton 1, it makes my toes numb. Not sure if it is the angle, but my last three toes get numb.  So I use them for walking and they are amazing.

HOKA ONE ONE CLIFTON 3. Love the look and cushioning but it’s a bit much. But just like the Clifton 1, it makes my toes numb. Not sure if it is the angle, but my last three toes get numb.  So I use them for walking and they are amazing.

Saucony Kinvara 3 - good low drop shoe and fast.

Saucony Kinvara 3 - good low drop shoe and fast.

ASICS NOOSA TRI 8. An update. Not as comfy but still a good shoe.

ASICS NOOSA TRI 8. An update. Not as comfy but still a good shoe.

Nike MetCon 3 - these are my CrossFit and strength training shoes. I love the slightly elevated platform sole which gives me stability when lifting.

Nike MetCon 3 - these are my CrossFit and strength training shoes. I love the slightly elevated platform sole which gives me stability when lifting.

BROOKS TRANSCEND. Right now, the shoe I’m using the most if the Brooks Transcend. It is the one that feels the most comfortable and less clunky.  I just wish they stopped squeaking! 

BROOKS TRANSCEND. Right now, the shoe I’m using the most if the Brooks Transcend. It is the one that feels the most comfortable and less clunky.  I just wish they stopped squeaking! 

In all the Saucony and ASICS are awesome for faster speed workouts. So in a way they all serve their purpose.  Of all your shoes, which one is your favorite? Do you have any new shoes you have your eye on?  

Joining these awesome link-ups: Week In Review / Sunday Fitness & Food / Fit Fashionable Friday / Friday Five 2.0 / Tuesdays on the Run/ Wild Workout Wednesday / Weekly Wrap

Adapting Your Workout to Your Environment + Some Serious Good Eats


One of the things that living through Minnesota winters has taught me is that you have to be able— and willing—to adapt to your environment. When it is subzero and you are not a treadmill person, the only option is to take it outside. Then you choose the proper gear, take appropriate precautions and head outdoors. But once outdoors you have to be able to be more flexible especially is trail running. I have come to really enjoy trail running since I moved here almost three years ago and I find it that is really is good for my soul. 

But in winter, uufda— the best laid plan may still not work. And so was my case this weekend.  The temperature actually warmed up to 10°F so it was like a heat wave! Go ahead and laugh.  I know I did. LOL.  I was so happy! Which is crazy because it was still pretty cold.  But after spending a week worrying and caring for my sick stepkid who has a stomach virus, I needed some fresh air and headed to Whitewater State Park in Altura, MN.  This state park is about 25 minutes from where I live and it is great any season of the year. Though beware in the summer as it is the only place in Minnesota where there are rattlesnakes.  Just a warning. :) I headed there for a little trail run that kept going back and forth between a run and a hike.  It seems that, while around my area we had about 2 inches of snow over the past few weeks, the park definitely got more. 

I first headed to Coyote Trail.  This 4Km trail is very difficult because it is an incline the WHOLE. DANG. TIME.  When you get to the top your legs are burning.  But before you get to the trail you have to cross the Whitewater River via a small bridge.  Once I did it was all good but halfway up the trail was just pure ice and I decided to head down and just run by the river bed which I find also beautiful.  I wanted to get some shots of me running but let me tell you—I suck with the selfie stick. It was hard to run and film.  Just awkward to me.

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After running there, I drove to another part of the park to hit Chimney Trail.  This one was a straight hike.  It has steps all the way to the top then it becomes dirt.  You can run it but I find the steps portion dangerous especially covered in snow.  Honestly, I did not make it all the way to the top because the sun was starting to go down and did not want to find myself alone in the woods in the cold darkness.

In the end I managed to get a good workout that, while not what I initially intended, turned out to be great. I cannot wait for this week because the temperatures are supposed to be in the high 30s and that is my prime temperature for running.  Bring it, you MN bipolar weather! Although in all fairness, it seems the entire US weather is going bonkers.  Before MN, I lived in North Carolina and I loved the weather even in winter.  The coldest it ever got there was about 25F.  Not this week!  I think one night it got down -1F.  That is insane!

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Once I was home, it was to the kitchen (ok, that sounded very 1950s...lol).  But I happen to love cooking and right now I am loving cooking my way through Run Fast Eat Slow cookbook by Shalane Flanagan. I am actually planning on doing so the entire month. I have made about ten of the recipes and they have all been yummy.  But I think my favorites are the salad.  Holy molly! They are delicious, especially the Moroccan Lentil Salad with Cauliflower Couscous (below) and the Recovery Quinoa Salad (left). They are not only packed with nutrients but are so dang tasty!  The Bust Cherry Tomato Linguine with Shrimp was pretty tasty too.

How was your week?

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I am also obsessed with the Burst Cherry Tomato Linguine with Shrimp was pretty tasty too.  It is so good and everyone in the family loved it, including the picky eaters.  For smoothies, the Beets Me Smoothie is the winner.  Now, if you do not like beets then this is not the smoothie for you.  I happen to love them and works for me.  It has been a great week of cooking.

One final thought today-- tonight is the College Football National Championship and I already have no nails left! I am rooting 200% for my Crimson Tide.  So let's do this, Bama!

So, how was your week? Did you venture into the cold for a run? Did you try any new recipes? Do you have this cookbook?

Joining these awesome link-ups: Week In Review / Sunday Fitness & Food / Fit Fashionable Friday / Friday Five 2.0 / Tuesdays on the Run/ Wild Workout Wednesday / Weekly Wrap/

Update:  WE ARE THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  #ROLLTIDE

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My First Subzero Temperature Run + Shoe Review: Adidas Vigor Bounce

Welcome to the Arctic! I mean, welcome to Minnesota or as I like to call it, the “Freezer of the USA”. Normally we do not get these temperatures until the middle of January but not this year. There is nothing like spending Christmas Day holed up inside because it is so cold that the doors were frozen shut. And this craziness extended well into New Year’s Day. This last part worked well because we literally spent the day watching college football bowls and woot! Woot! My Crimson Tide won the Sugar Bowl and is headed for the National Championship next Monday! #ROLLTIDE

But back to running. These temperatures have been brutal for running outdoors. And I needed to do so. I did it… and I love it! My last run of 2017 was a chilly -7°F run on December 30th. I am writing this and cannot believe that I am actually saying this because I always swore I. WOULD. NEVER. DO. THAT. Think again. Friday after work, I got home and the sun was shining in all its glory. I did not intend to run but I started itching to get outside. Have you ever gotten like that? Just antsy to just go out and run. So I bundled up and headed out the door. Now, this was not about time nor distance. I had a ballpark distance in mind but decided to just gauge how far I would run by the signals from my body. What did I learn?

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No. 1 – Within 3 minutes of running, my sunglass lenses just froze.  Literally had a film of ice on the lenses.Which meant I could not see with them. This then caused me to take them off, which caused me to be blinded by the few inches of snow we have on the fields.

No. 2 – I was warmer than I expected. That was surprising. The entire time I was warm (most due to the layers I had).

No. 3 – The only part of my body that was freezing the last part of the run was my thighs.  They were red and when I took a shower after, it was not fun.  I wore two pant layers: a Brooks running tights and a pair of skiing pants that I found two years ago.  They are the best.  But apparently not for this subzero temperature.

As soon as I relaxed in front of the fire I did some research and found something called “thermal tights” which are made for running in the cold, but most were for up to 20°F. Anything under that temperature had to be worn with another layer.  But I found a company called Sugoi, based out of that specializes in cold weather athletic apparel, specifically tights. And they have a few that are for subzero temperatures.  I felt like I hit the jackpot! Now, I eagerly wait for these to arrive.

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No. 4 – Within 10 minutes frost covered any piece of clothing that was in directed contact with moisture and cold air. Meaning, my hat and scarves looked white by the frost. I had pellets of ice on my eyebrow and lashes. It was crazy. I think, next time I am wearing a face mask, even if I don’t love it.

No. 5–I love my trail running shoes! This past fall I made my first official trail running shoe and I wanted to give it a try in snow/ice before writing a review. My new favorite trail shoe is the Adidas Vigor Bounce.

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Immediately, you can tell this is not a shoe for the shy. It screams “Look at me!’.  The design of this shoe was the first thing that caught my eye.  It is sweet. But after that, what did I like:

Traction: One of my biggest pet peeves is trail shoes with no traction. Drives me nuts.And right off the bat this is my favorite feature of this shoe. I have tried it on the trails in dry and wet conditions, over wet leaves, in muddy areas, and now in snow and ice, and this is easily my favorite trail running shoe.  On the trails it is necessary to have a level of confidence on your equipment especially in nasty conditions and the Vigor Bounce delivers. But they really shine in snow, where the traction reminded me of  the all-terrain tires on my Jeep giving me with a secure grip on the run.  This is thanks to Adidas’ ADAPTIVE TRAXION™ outsole for maximum traction on hard and soft ground.  It is a very responsive shoe.

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Stability/Stiffness: While it is a stable shoe, it is not super stiff.  The break-in period for these was about two 4-mile runs, and they feel pretty awesome now.

This shoe is for the neutral runner, however I am a bit of an over-pronator and it works for me.  It provided me the arch support that I needed without any problem.

Since it is winter, I was a bit concerned with the ventilated air mesh upper. It has a protective overlay for support but in snow conditions, I do not want my feet freezing.  This worked like a charm.  My feet were warm just enough to give me a comfortable run. I wouldn’t recommend for deep snow though. Adding a gaiter would be necessary.

All in all— a fantastic shoes for me. 

Have you ever run in subzero temps? Do you have a favorite trail shoe?

 

Joining these awesome link-ups: Week In Review / Sunday Fitness & Food / Fit Fashionable Friday / Friday Five 2.0 / Tuesdays on the Run/ Wild Workout Wednesday / Weekly Wrap/

Adios 2017. Hello 2018.

I think it is safe to say 2017 was a challenging year overall.  In a personal level it brought some challenges mainly associated with my health and the challenges of being a full-time stepmom—which that deserves a blog of its own. But it also brought some great moments like starting a new job I love, making new friends, and finally getting concrete answers to my health issues. And even the challenges of stepmotherhood served to bring my husband and I together.

Now as we prepare for 2018, I am looking forward to the year with great expectations.  I do not like making New Year’s resolutions but I do like drafting some general goals to keep me focused, and this year they will focus on getting stronger and healthier than this past year, in addition to some awesome adventures. Furthermore, there are some events around the world that will capture my attention in 2018 and I cannot wait for those.

NO. 1

Adding more strength training, cross-training, and stretching to my routine.  Right now, I rarely do any of these (for various reasons) however two weeks ago I started incorporating these into my routine and I am hoping it will pay off in June for my first half marathon.

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NO. 2

Get out and hike! Minnesota has beautiful natural preserves and state parks, and I am planning on visiting as many as I can in 2018, especially in the winter.  There is a raw beauty to Minnesota in the winter.  And as long as I am dressed properly, I am fine with getting out and exploring. And at the top of my list is Voyageurs National Park.  This park near the Canadian border is said to be stunning and pristine. 

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NO. 3

Nutrition. I have to get better when it comes to my nutrition. It is ALL. OVER. THE. PLACE.  I have a few resources that I have been reading on fueling for performance, and I think I have a better knowledge base as I move forward. Hint: one of my Christmas gifts was this book from Shalane Flanagan and it is one of the most comprehensive (and beautiful) cookbooks I have seen.  This is all about eating for performance.

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NO. 4

The Little Flower Farm.  This year was my first year with a trial flower garden and come spring, it will be time to get ready for planting the heirloom varieties I am growing this summer.  I was so happy with the results of the growing season that we decided to take the plunge and expand from the trial garden to a larger field in our farm.  Becoming a micro flower farmer is truly a passion of mine, and we are hoping to turn it into a business.  This year will be more focused on getting to the flower markets and getting ourselves known.  These are some of the dahlias from last year and while they were an intense labor of love they were so worth it.

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NO. 5

It is Royal Wedding Time!!! You may not know this (unless you follow me on Instagram or Twitter) but I am a hard core royal watcher.  I know it makes me sound like a stalker but I am not, lol.  I promise.  And this year, I am all about the royal engagement and future marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  This has been the most excited I have been since Prince William and Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, got married.  And I think I am more excited because Meghan is American. So sue me—I’m totally biased here! Come on May, hurry up!

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running into wintry wonderland / holiday card swap

Every year, I try to go running the day after Christmas.  And I say I try because since I moved to Minnesota three years ago, it seems the day after Christmas is just brutal... even when I follow my own advise on properly dressing for the elements.  And this year is no exception.  With temperatures of -5F that feel like -21F running outdoors is basically impossible, unless you are a superhero.  That or crazy.  This past week was beautiful and Friday was the last time I ran.  It was still brutal and I knew I'd be covered in frost the minute I starting heading home.

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The thing about running in the harsh winter weather is that, at least for me, it seems my muscle have a heck of a time warming up.  Ugh, it was just hard and a few times I had to walk because my legs weren't working.  I love winter running but at at 12F, that is when I knew it was time to head back home.  The entire way back was like seeing the world through sparkly lenses, thanks to the frost in my lashes (always a freaky experience). 

When I got home, I quickly took a hot shower and then relaxed in front of the fire, before finalizing some of the gift wrapping for Christmas.  While defrosting in front of the fire, I thought about my running goals for 2017 and how they basically went to shit (excuse my french).  My weird stomach illness from April until October, followed by the flu, just ate my year.  It is really crappy that it happened but such is life.  And for 2018 my main goal is simple: race the half marathon in Tromson, Norway.  The main focus will be staying healthy and injury free.  It really is a shame that so much time was wasted but thee body is feeling better and I am looking forward to 2018.

The one thing that 2017 showed me was the fun of virtual runs.  This year I did the Rock n' Roll virtual races this year and it was so much fun!  It allowed me to shift my focus from how sick I was feeling to just going out there an having fun in four separate 5Ks. And let me tell you, the medals were awesome! I love them!

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Now, one thing that was so fun this year was participating in Fairytales and Fitness' Holiday Card Swap!  It was my first time and was so much fun!  Each participant was paired with another blogger to swap cards (and a goodie was encouraged).  I was so happy when I received the cutest card from Heather at 3 Black Cat Co. and she was so gracious in sending a Target gift card (which, I am a total Target girl).  I definitely need to do more of these in the future.

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My card swap buddy that I sent a card to was Katrina from My Pineapple Ponderings.  I am excited to have found her blog because she is training for the Boston Marathon and I have a lot of respect for people who are committed to a goal like this.  The 10K is the longest distance I have run so this half marathon I am doing in the summer is way outside my comfort zone.  So when a person is so dedicated to run 26.2 miles, they have my utmost respect.  So, run girl run!

How was your holiday? Were you in the naughty or nice list?

Joining these awesome link-ups: Week In Review / Sunday Fitness & Food / Fit Fashionable Friday / Friday Five 2.0 / Tuesdays on the Run/ Wild Workout Wednesday / Weekly Wrap/

Do You Run When You Are Sick? Half-Marathon Update


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I checked at my calendar yesterday and the Midnight Sun Half Marathon in Tromsø is 25 weeks away. Seems like a long time but when you add everything else going on in life, holidays, etc. it is not.  I am actually pretty excited about finally tackling the half-marathon distance. Up until now, my races have been up to 10K but nothing above that.  I have hiked longer but never running.

This fall was really hard for me to train. My health was not good and I made the conscious decision to get healthy before I start.  If you are new to the blog, I had a stomach bacteria that was giving me many digestive issues.  After two brutal rounds of hardcore antibiotics and a fungicide (yeah, that happened because it was so resistant to antibiotics) the bacteria died.  However, the medications made me super sick and weakened my immunity. I started feeling better and the day I finally felt better, I went for a run.  And that nigh in bed it started—the sniffles.  I caught my youngest stepson’s cold and with a vengeance.  That was the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving. I spent that Tuesday and Wednesday in bed after being sent home from work (I work at Mayo Clinic and I did not want to get people sick).  By the Monday after Thanksgiving, I was losing my voice. I am still coughing but it is finally going away.  I seriously could not even think about running.  I did go for a few hikes and my lungs were on fire after the exercise.  It is just very frustrating.

Now, the temperatures have started dropping fast here in Minnesota and I joined a gym so I can use the treadmill on those days when the weather gets below 20°F, and especially in January when it can get to -18°F.  This is the life you get when you choose to live in Minnesota. The stuff one does for love.

I have been itching to get back to running, though!My first few weeks of training will be all about getting back into the thick of things.  I have been doing buti-yoga (have you tried this workouts? They’re pretty crazy but I don’t hate them), hiking and working on the elliptical trying to sweat out the cold.  But come the last week of December it is on. I am actually going with the Jeff Galloway training plan.  My main goal is to finish the marathon. I do not want to travel all the way to Tromsø and not finish my first race of this distance.  But I also want to enjoy it; I have been told that it is a visually stunning route.  So I think this method will work for me.

Do you ever train when you are sick? Have you tried ButiYoga? If so, do you like it?

Joining these awesome link-ups: Week In Review / Sunday Fitness & Food / Fit Fashionable Friday / Friday Five 2.0 / Tuesdays on the Run/ Wild Workout Wednesday /Meatless Monday

Weekend in Review - It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas

This weekend was pretty crazy at the casa. 

1. I’m finally getting over my nasty cold.  I’ve had this thing since Thanksgiving weekend and I am now finally getting over it although the cough persists.  Still, I am feeling better, as I should considering I have taken an entire pharmacy of OTC medications for it.

2. #GOARMYBEATNAVY!!  This weekend was the Army-Navy Game, that long standing tradition of football between the US Military Academy at West Point and the US Navy Academy in Annapolis. Every year both schools go all out with team spirit videos and its awesome.  After losing for decades, Army won last year and they won on Saturday!  As a retired Army officer, I cheered for my guys hard but so proud of both schools.  They are amazing young men on the field giving it their all for esprit de corps and tradition. 

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3. Our decorations are finally up and done, and I am one happy woman!  We actually have two Christmas tree. Lol.  Here is the story.  I’ve been married for three years and my husband and his kids (who live with us full time) have their own.  My Christmas trees have always been very “Martha Stewart”, theirs is more like a tree with a collection of ornaments they have gathered over the years with odd colored Christmas lights.  Hey to each their own.  I find joy is my beautiful Christmas tree.  I also decorated the front porch and I’m very happy with how it turned out.

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4. After much debate (literally) we settled for store-bought Christmas cards.  Personally, I do not do (nor like) Christmas cards with photos for me.  I understand people who do but not my thing.  Everyone in the house wanted family portraits for the cards. I did not.  I think part of it is that this is not a very big thing for us Puerto Ricans during the holidays.  Seriously, the first time I ever saw this was being done was in 2006 when I received one.  Anyhow, this year I am in love with the red truck image with the Christmas tree on the back and found some cards with that image. Problem solved.  

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5. Coquito Time! We Puerto Ricans love Navidad(Christmas), especially the food.  This weekend I started our tradition making our Coquito.  This is a beverage we make during the holidays that is similar to eggnog, except it does not have eggs.  To me it is better.  I made mine the way my abuela (grandma) made it—heave handed on the rum and full of happiness!  Salud! 

6. Hallmark Channel Countdown to Christmas.  Christmas movies all day long—enough said. ♥ ♥ ♥ Anybody else watching?

Joining these awesome link-ups: Week In Review / Sunday Fitness & Food / Fit Fashionable Friday / Friday Five 2.0 / Tuesdays on the Run/ Wild Workout Wednesday /Meatless Monday

Last Minute Gifts for the Runner in Your Life


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Thanksgiving has passed and it is officially the holiday season!  Whether you call it Christmas or holiday, one thing is for sure—everyone is looking for the perfect gift for the special people in our lives.  And if you are like most people you 1) probably have a family member or friend who is a runner, which poses the million dollar question: what can I get them for Christmas?  and 2) probably have procrastinated.  Normally we think clothes, running shoes or gift cards to sports stores.  But maybe it’s time to think outside the box.  If you are stumped, no worries; we have perfect last minute gifts for the special runner in your life.  Whether it is accessories, running related movies, or clothes, we are providing you a few options.

  • Helix Elite Sunglasses (Nike, $196).  Talk about a smooth looking design. This performance ready sunglasses are lightweight and comfortable.  I love that it is a one-piece lens adding extra coverage and the use of Nike + Zeiss Optics provides extraordinary clarity and perception.  This design has cool features to enhance comfort like the ventilated and self-adjusting nose bridge, and rubber channels in the temple arms that prevent fogging and moisture accumulation.
  • Winged Foot Sterling Silver Matte Necklace (RunnersWorld.com). Let’s be honest—there is nothing more we runners love more than to tell the world about our passion for running.  And this beautiful necklace celebrates just that. Featuring the iconic track and field symbol, this beautiful charm (chain included) will surely make the perfect stocking stuffer.
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  • UNBREAKABLE The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run (journeyfilm.com, various prices).  I love me some running movies.  And this one is no exception.  It is an oldie but oh so good especially if you love trail running. The Western States 100-mile endurance run, the oldest and most prestigious 100-mile foot race in the world.  And in 2010, four of the greatest undefeated mountain runners on earth toed the starting line with one goal in mind: win.  And it is epic! From the scenery to the ups and downs of their journey—this film is AWESOME in that way only a runner can understand.  I HIGHLY recommend it. 
  • Run Fast. Eat Slow. ($16). Runners think about food all the time (I know I do).  And peak performance is what we want to achieve as runners and nutrition is an integral part of that.  What better way to say “I support your journey” than this cookbook by 2017 New York City Marathon Champion, Shalane Flanagan. Here is a cookbook for runners that addresses all the building blocks of effective fueling. And from the publisher summary, I love this line “Packed with more than 100 recipes for every part of your day, mind-blowing nutritional wisdom, and inspiring stories from two fitness-crazed women that became fast friends over 15 years ago, Run Fast Eat Slow has all the bases covered”.  So, go for it.  This will make an awesome Christmas gift!

Want to make this a sweeter gift? Throw in the Runner’s Recovery Tea as featured in Run Fast Eat Slow.  Now you can easily brew up a batch of this mineral-rich herbal drink. Read all about the benefits of Shalane's favorite tea on page 36 in our cookbook.  This tea contains hibiscus, chamomile, lemongrass, alfalfa and horsetail which inflammation-fighting trace minerals and helps the body to store more calcium for bone strength.

 

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  • TriggerPoint GRID VIBE Vibrating Foam Roller for Pain Relief, Relaxation, and Recovery (Amazon.com, $99.99) Oh, the dreaded yet necessary foam roller. I personally have a love-hate relationship with it but can’t live without it.  And this one is just too damn cool! It vibrates! This roller foam roller provides clinical therapy technology in a compact unit. And the GRID pattern mimics the sensation of a massage therapist hands and channels blood flow for muscle recovery.  I am thinking this is a must for any runner.
  • Kinda Wanna Run Sweatshirt (Sarah Marie Design, $66).  I love running but some days I’m just not feeling it.  And this super cute sweatshirt is perfect for those days when you kinda wanna go for a run but kinda wanna stay in bed. This piece is made of triblend which equals super soft and comfy.  I don’t know any runner who would not want this under the Christmas tree!
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Running is as much about nurturing the spirit and the mind as it is about the body and these two books follow that thought.

  • The Runner's Devotional (Barnes & Noble, $10.49).  Publisher's Summary "Ever wondered if there’s a purpose to your running and what it has to do with your spiritual life? The Runner’s Devotional will inspire you in your faith while encouraging you to excel at the sport you love! This book is for runners of all levels—casual and avid, competitive and recreational—who want to improve their running skills, attain personal running goals, and grow closer to God. Fifty-two devotional readings will keep runners motivated, inspired, and running in the right direction, both on and off the road, through life’s many peaks and valleys. Each devotional includes an inspirational reading, a personal story from a runner, Scripture application, running tips, and questions to consider. Additional features include health and fitness tips, and weekly runner’s logs."
  • Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor (Release Date: April 2018. Pre-order Amazon.com, $18). Deena Kastor who does not know her? If you run-- you do.  And if you do not, you should.  In her new book Deena gives us a glimpse into the "mind of an elite athlete, a remarkable story of achievement, and a fascinating primer on how the small steps of cultivating positivity can lead to outsize gains in performance (via Penguin Publishing). I already pre-ordered mine.  Have you?
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And there you have it! Some last minute Christmas gifts for the runner’s in your life.

Joining these awesome link-ups: Week In Review / Sunday Fitness & Food / Fit Fashionable Friday / Friday Five 2.0 / Tuesdays on the Run/ Wild Workout Wednesday /Meatless Monday

hiking for the soul - great river bluff state park


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Every few years I get a cold from hell that just takes me down for the count.  This year, it happened and there is nothing worse than spending Thanksgiving high on Theraflu and Mucinex. It is just not fun.  By Sunday I was feeling better and I was suffering from cabin fever.  You see. I spent the Monday before Thanksgiving and until Wednesday in bed. No joke.  On Thanksgiving Day I was feeling a bit better in the morning but by afternoon I was tired and just wanting to crawl into bed again. It was not until Sunday that I felt a bit better.  By then the need to get out of the house and just breath some fresh air was bigger than me.

As an outdoors lover, I am pretty fortunate that Minnesota has an amazing number of state parks, county parks, trails, etc.  And that is what I did-- I headed to the Great River Bluffs State Park in Nodine, MN-- about 25 minutes from where I live.  The park has two natural areas: King's and Queen's Bluff.   The King's Bluff trail has a breathtaking view of the Mississippi River Valley and it is my favorite, probably because I have not been to Queen's Bluff since it is designated as an educational area and accessible only by permit. But the King's Bluff is truly amazing. 

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The loop I normally take is about 5 miles and the scenery is spectacular.  The Mississippi River dotted with islands is gorgeous.  As points you just have to stop and take it all in.  Hiking provides lots of introspection for me.  Personally, as a Christian is where I feel closer to God.  My prayers and thoughts are more focused. I’m more me in the trails.

 

Thankfully, that day the temperature was in the high 40F with a light breeze so it was not cold.  And as I always do during this season, I dressed in layers, which proved smart. My lungs with their congestion were not ready for running—I knew that. But all in all, it was a great little hike and just what I needed.

Do you like hiking? Are there any “dream” hiking spot you want to visit?

Running in Winter Wonderland – Five Tips for Extreme Cold Running


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For a Puerto Rican girl, winter can seem like a daunting season full of “Do I really want to go out into the cold?” and “Maybe I should just skip a walk because that would require bundling up and I just do not feel like it” kind of moments.  Here in Minnesota, those thoughts can multiply… unless you love the snow.

Any Gilmore Girls fans?If you are you remember that famous phrase by Lorelei “I Smell Snow”.  No, not the illegal “snow” but rather that feeling and smell in the air, right before it snows.  The air changes and there is this barely noticeable “smell” of snow.  I am that kind of person, attune with the weather and snow makes me happy. How did that happened? Back in 2000, I was in a peace keeping operation in Bosnia, and one winter's day I went out for a run.  As I started my run, it started snowing.  I will never forget it.  There was nobody else walking around our base of operations.  I was the only crazy running.  The snow intensified and the biggest snowflakes I had ever seen started falling.  To this day, if I close my eyes, I can still hear the snowflakes falling.  I can also hear the muffled sound of my footsteps in the snow.  It was the most peacefully surreal moment I have ever had… in a good way. 

In that moment I fell in love with running in winter.  Yes, I am that crazy that will run in 12°F or when it is snowing. For the purposes of this post extreme weather = 30°F or below.  In my case, this temperature comes with winds and it is brutal.  All this being said, I am not immune to the elements and running in extreme weather requires preparation and making sure you are protected, and today I am sharing with you my top five tips for extreme cold weather running. 

Photo by Isaac Wendland on Unsplash

1. Layers Are Your Friend.  The key to successful extreme winter running is layering.  If you remember nothing else, remember this.  My initial impulse when dressing for running in the winter is to bundle up, only to sweat once I start running.  Layers allow you to shed what you do not need.  I really the tip from Runner’s World about dressing in layers: The rule of thumb is to dress as if it is 20 degrees warmer.  What does that looks like for me?

• Wicking base layer (sports, bra, long-sleeved shirt, underwear, socks).  For me, any piece of clothing in direct contact with skin is a base layer. The key is comfort and breathable.  Some people like merino wool while others go for polyester.  The choices are as endless as your budget is.

• Wind resistant softshells are awesome especially if you hate wind.  Makes all the difference.  I like to wear a form fitting one.

For socks, I like them warm but light (thank goodness for Smartwool) to cover my knees because of my arthritis. Look for blends that will keep your toes warm and cozy.

• Running Tights.  There are tons of amazing running for running in the cold but for me, the tights that work are skiing tights because they have a panel in the thigh area to protect from the wind.  And we have terrible wind in my area.  I have yet to find running tights that compare to skiing ones.

• Running gloves and hats are a must! They protect you!  But make sure your hat isn’t too heavy or you will be sweating like crazy.  Go lightweight here. Did you know that thebody loses the majority of its heat through any exposed skin? So cover up as much as possible.

• Sunglasses—DO NOT FORGET THEM! The first (and only time) I ran without sunglasses, I was miserable, as the sun reflected on the snow.  My eyes were crying the whole time, and I think at times I was running with my eyes closed for some relief.

• Running Shoes—the best for last, right?  Water-resistant but breathable is the key. Don’t follow this and your feet will be very uncomfortable.  Even for road training, if itssnowing, I like to use a trail shoe because they have traction. Wearing gaiters over your calves will keep your ankles and legs dry when the snow is deep.

Let’s talk icy conditions, because we get lots of that here in Minnesota.  The best item I found are Yaktrax straps.  You hook them to the front and back of your running shoes and it gives awesome traction when running in icy conditions, so you can avoiding slipping on hard snow or ice like on a scene from Home Alone.

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2.Get Warm.  During winter running, but especially extreme cold, warm-ups are mandatory for me especially because I do have some arthritis in my right knee.  Seriously-- do not skip this part.  Warming up your muscles is key to avoiding injuries.  You can do a pre-warm up inside and then take about 15 minutes outside for a slow jog to get the muscles warm and loose.  Then feel free to bring it!

3.  Cover any Exposed Skin.  The most painful part of extreme weather running is the exposed skin, so I leave none.  When it insanely cold, I wear a face mask or balaclava.  I make sure my hat covers my ears and that my neck is also covered.  For any other areas of the face, if it is windy, I rub a bit of Vaseline to protect against the elements.

4. Safety:  We have a saying in the Army—Safety First—and this is no exception.  This is very important to me because I live out in the country and if something happened they probably would not know where to find me.  A few simple rules I follow—

• Map my route with a Plan B in case I need to cut the run short.  I use Map My Run and when I go on longer runs, I print the route and stick to the fridge so hubby knows where I am going.

• Bring your cell phone AND make sure you keep it in a pocket where it will stay warm.  When the phone gets cold it will drain the battery. So keep it somewhere it will stay warm.

• I always let someone know where I am going.  I even let my mom know when my husband is out of town.  Just let someone know in case of emergency.

• Run mid-day when the temperatures are warmer and there is plenty of light. It is my favorite time of the day to run.

5. Use Common Sense:  Yes, I love to run outside in the winter but sometimes it is too damn cold!  On those days I just know how my body will react, and so I stay indoors and run on the treadmill or elliptical at my work gym.  You just have to be flexible and change the plan.  No run is worth you getting injured. No run whatsoever. 

Happy Running! Stay safe! 

xoxo

 

Joining these awesome link-ups: Week In Review / Sunday Fitness & Food / Fit Fashionable Friday / Friday Five 2.0 / Tuesdays on the Run/ Wild Workout Wednesday /Meatless Monday

thankful tuesday {autumnal winter in minnesota}


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It may be autumn in the calendar but it is definitely not weather speaking. Two weeks ago from 60F weather to snow, to freezing temperatures. Literally, the past week has been between 20s and 10s.  It is insane because we are just in the first part of November; not even December. I hope the Farmer's Almanac is wrong because it did predict a long and cold winter. 

Now, I have to clarify something.  I do not hate winter.  I actually love it.  It just feel it is too soon.  The seasons are about the joy of letting them wrap you in their individual uniqueness and everything that is special about them.  This fall I was only able to go on a fall walk through the woods only twice.  That is a shame because it is my favorite season of the year... followed by winter. 

People always ask me how can I, a girl from Puerto Rico, love winter so much.  The answer is simple: I just do.  I have ever since I was a little child celebrating Christmas in 80F weather.  I remember asking my parents for a pair of red mittens for Christmas when I was like seven.  And now that I live in Minnesota, while I complain about winter, I do secretly love it. 

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When winter arrives, I feel a kind of expectation akin to Lorelai Gilmore's "I smell snow" quote on Gilmore Girls.  Winter, symbolizes new beginnings and with it comes a human need for coziness and warmth.  This is when  the magic of hygge happens.   Because it has to happen on its own.  You cannot force it.   One may have a need for that hygge feeling, but when you force it feels fake, which totally defeats the purpose.

As I mentioned, I am an island girl from Puerto Rico who, after a career in the military, married the most amazing husband and moved to the middle of farm country in SE Minnesota.  My husband's family is originally from Norway and in researching more about this culture and his own family, I once came across a little term called 'hygge'.   The word has been made famous by the Danish but in truth, it originates from Norwegian to mean 'well-being'.  But in the current context is refers to 'that feeling of coziness and comfort'. 

The more I read about it, the more this term reminded me of the German concept of 'gemütlichkeit' which convey the idea of a feeling of warmth and good cheer. Of coziness, peace of mind, and well-being.  During the time I was stationed in Germany, I came to love winter and that amazing feeling this word conveys.  And now living in Minnesota where the winters are harsh and long, I have come to truly embrace these concepts.  I have tried to explain this to people who ask me for a specific definition and the best I can say is "You Don't Spell It, You Feel It". 

And so, as this autumnal winter starts wrapping the state of Minnesota let us prepare for the season ahead.  In a few weeks it will be Thanksgiving and then the season of Christmas will start.  I always make a point of reminding myself about what is truly important and let that be the warmth that feels my heart when the weather outside is frightful.  Remember, let it fill you and you will feel it.  May you be able to do the same. 

xoxo, Maria

gearing up for half marathon training

This last summer with the micro flower farm trial garden (click on Tales from the Flower Farm for more) running took a back seat. I was not as consistent as I wanted to be. Then dealing with major stomach issues also added to the stress. 

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i was diagnosed with a stomach bacteria call H. Pylori... and it’s a MOFO (excuse moi). Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). These germs can enter your body and live in your digestive tract. After many years, they can cause sores, called ulcers, in the lining of your stomach or the upper part of your small intestine. Infection with H. pylori is common. About two-thirds of the world’s population has it in their bodies. For most people, it doesn’t cause ulcers or any other symptoms. Here’s the kicker— while there are medicines the bacteria is resistant.

Last week I went through my second antibiotic treatment and this second one was AWFUL. So much that the enzymes that my creatine test, which shows muscle inflammation, were three times what they should be.  Worst joint pain EVER. Thankfully, it worked but it resulted in a mandatory test for another week and a half to give my muscles time to rest.  

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Once the next two weeks are over, I am switching gears and ramping up my half-marathon training. Up until a few months ago I had a running blog and have neglected it bigly.  But back in July I felt that my running was sort of blah and I needed something to motivate me and give me a goal. And so I decided to dust off my old running bucket list on went ahead and signed up for my first half marathon... in Norway. Hubby and I talked it over, and he is totally supportive of the idea so we will make it the most epic racecation we can.

My friends think it is crazy for me to do my first half marathon overseas. What if I get a DNF? All those kinds of questions that make me want to say "Really guys? How about some support?". Thankfully it is not for another year (I gave myself plenty of time) plus I hired a running coach for training, which I am so excited for since I sometimes need someone to push me. So, yeap... we are doing this! And the training is about to get real.

Week In Review / Sunday Fitness & Food / Fit Fashionable Friday / Friday Five 2.0 / Tuesdays on the Run/ Wild Workout Wednesday /Meatless Monday