Monthly Archives: November 2011

Double Digit Running In A Single Digit Neighborhood

I’m in the final stretch of half marathon training and just completed my last long run before the big day this past weekend.  Nick and I were planning on going to White Rock Lake and doing our run there.  It’s 9.1 miles around and our last long run was 10 miles long so it would have been only a little bit of overlap.  We checked the weather when we got up Sunday morning and it was going to be a chilly day with the high hitting around 1PM.  I decided to head to the grocery store before the run since I figured my energy level would be shot after running 10 miles.  I left the grocery fully stocked with healthy groceries for the week.  On a side note, every time a I go to the Tom Thumb across the street I’m always frustrated that the produce is picked over or they don’t have what I need.  They had EVERYTHING I was looking for this time, so good job Tom Thumb!  Maybe Sunday morning is the best time to go.  Anyway, as I was loading up my car, I quickly decided that White Rock Lake might be a horrible idea for our running location as it was super windy and chilly and would only be worse at the lake.

After eating a small lunch and procrastinating a little while longer, I got geared up (and layered up) and hit the pavement for 10 miles.  Unfortunately, with White Rock Lake off the running agenda, Nick and I decided to stay in our neighborhood, which meant making lots of loops.  Over the long weekend, I’d filled some of my free time by reading a college sorority sister, Emily Malone’s blog.  I’ve read pieces of it here and there over time but over the summer I decided I wanted to read it from the very beginning.  Over the past couple of months, I read through about a year of her blog, all the way up to the point that she got married and I made some serious headway over the long weekend, completing another 6 months of entries.  So tying back to where I was going with this, over the weekend I read one of her old blog posts about running in her new neighborhood in Charlotte, NC and how she struggled with being able to run more than 5 or so miles in her own neighborhood.  I felt the same way.  I’ve maxed my neighborhood runs out at 4 miles before I have to start making loops.  It’s super frustrating but that’s the way a lot of southern cities and suburbs across the country were designed.  (Finally, a planning issue, right?!)

I searched and searched to find the graphic I wanted to post in my blog that will demonstrate my point of suburban sprawl neighborhoods and traditional neighborhood design, but I couldn’t find it, so this one will have to do.  (Thank you www.newurbannews.com for the graphic that I grabbed from your image library.)  Basically this is a diptych of two neighborhoods: the top is a traditional neighborhood and the bottom is suburban sprawl.  Both cover the same about of land, have the same amount of open space, the same amount of housing, and the same amount of civic and commercial space.  The top portion is drawn out in a connected manner so that if you live in the neighborhood you can easily access your neighborhood amenities such as parks, schools, retail, etc.  The idea is that you can walk from point A to point B without having to risk your life walking along a auto-oriented arterial.  The bottom image is quite opposite.  all the residential is clustered together with dead-end cul-de-sacs.  Retail is designed for the car that is traveling at high speeds along the arterial.  Parks and schools are located separately and both would require getting in a car and driving there, even if it’s a quarter-mile away.  Like I said, this is how the cities in the south are predominantly designed as are American suburbs in the south or north.  There are several factors for why development has shifted this way.  First is the development of the car and the accessibility of owning one or two or three of them in the boom of the 1960’s.  At this same time, suburbanization was the latest dwelling trend and everyone moved away from the city center to have their slice of the American dream, white picket fence and all.  Zoning regulations also play a factor in the suburban sprawl model of neighborhoods, forcing use separation.  The list goes on as to other factors of why “newer” neighborhoods are designed the way they are, but I don’t want to bore you any more.  The point is, these suburban style neighborhoods lack a sense of connectivity and encourage auto dependency while making us pedestrians feel unsafe to venture out of our own yards.

Okay, now that I’ve FINALLY, talked about a planning issue for real and how it has impacted my life lately, I can get on with the rest of my story.  Being so cold out, I layered up, and quickly decided that all they layers were a mistake.  I took off my fleece and tied it around my waist at about mile 2.5.  Luckily, I was running in circles, so I ditched it at mile 4 (back at home) and set out for the remaining 6 miles.  Time passed and I often wonder what I think about while I run to make it go by, but honestly, if I’m not counting down the miles and time in my head, I’m not really thinking about much.  Mile 10 came and I had to walk about a half a mile home and it hit me that I had just ran 10 miles!  That’s a lot!  I haven’t celebrated any of the mile markers (literally) along the way.  I’ve just been so focused on the “end” goal that I haven’t really considered what I’ve accomplished.  11 weeks ago, I had never ran in a formal 5K race.  I’ve run 5K’s before, but never anything that was timed or drew a crowd larger than a small inter-departmental graduate school run.  I’d never done a 10K race before, and really the most I’d every really ever run was 6 or so miles.  So I’m just taking a minute now to celebrate my accomplishments along the way.  Go me.  Good job!

To round out the chilly day, I made some yummy Red Lentil Soup With Sausage, Spinach, and Balsamic Onions courtesy of Fitness Magazine- October issue.  I couldn’t find the recipe online to link it in here, but one of the pictures below is the recipe in the magazine.  Hopefully you can read it if you want to make it at home.

Sauteing the onions
Soup is simmering away
And the recipe in the magazine

Being a windy and brisk November night, I thought it was a perfect night to light a “fire” in our fireplace- which consists of lighting candles.

Our mock fire

It was the perfect way to end a long run and a long holiday weekend.

In other news, we’ve made some progress on our wedding planning.  We should have a date selected very soon!  And, I have two job interviews coming up.  More to come on those exciting items soon!

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Turkey Trot to Stuffed Turkey

Happy belated Thanksgiving everyone!  I wanted to post this on Thursday night after our Thanksgiving feast, but we didn’t end up eating dinner until our usual dinner time- 7:30 PM and the tryptophan kicked in shortly after that so we were off to bed early.  And, well, yesterday was a wash, this morning finally comes the Thanksgiving recap!

After loading up on carbs on Wednesday night (whole wheat spaghetti and bacon meatballs, courtesy of Real Simple magazine), Nick and I headed to bed early for our 8-mile Turkey Trot race the next morning.  We were able to “sleep in”, which for me is sleeping until 7:15 AM for this race, finally, since it didn’t start until 9 AM unlike our past races, which have started at 8 AM.  After gearing up, we jumped in my car and headed for downtown.  Oddly enough, it was super foggy out.  We rarely get fog in Dallas, but this is the second time we’ve had such thick fog in about a month.  We made decent time getting to downtown, but the second we exited the highway, we were in bumper to bumper traffic.  I was starting to worry that we were going to miss the beginning of the race, but once we parked and had our last-minute emergency trip to the porta-potties I realized that we really hadn’t missed much.
Nick took a quick picture of the pony ride that was set up there.
The crowd at the start line.

This race was packed!  So many people came out for it!  As I mentioned above, Nick and I were running the 8-mile race, but there was also a 5K race, both of which started together and the 8-mile race broke off from the 5K at about mile 2.5.
I was in mid-pose change in this picture, so it’s not a great shot, but you get the idea: it’s me before the race.

We finally made it to the start line, about an hour after the race began and boy were those first 2.5 miles miserable!  They weren’t difficult in terms of hills or anything like that.  They were just full of people walking and dogs on leashes and strollers.  It was nearly impossible to run!  I really wish there had been a better system for walkers and runners.  It was mostly dodging people and cutting people off for 2.5 miles.  I even saw women carrying their Gucci  or Prada or whatever $3,000 designer purses.  For real people, this is a race.  No need to sport your designer labels for this!  The moment I saw the first of several of those women, I though, yes, this is quintessentially Dallas!

After the two races split apart, I was a much happier runner.  The race took us from City Hall to Deep Ellum, back through downtown, over one bridge over the Trinity River, into Oak Cliff, back over another bridge over the Trinity River, past the convention center and back to City Hall.  It was actually a really good run after leaving those annoying designer handbag carrying walkers.  My Nike+ GPS was about 3/10 of a mile off, but it contribute that to all the dodging and weaving back and forth for the first two miles.  My chip time came back at 1:20:06.  Not too back for what ended up being 11 minute miles for the first 2.5 miles!  I grabbed a couple of bottles of water and got out of the way of the incoming finishers and headed to the side to cheer Nick on as he made his way to the finish line.
Nick, a few yards away from the finish line.

I was getting cold now that my sweat was drying up so we headed straight for the car to head home.  After a nice long hot shower and about two hours of relaxing on the couch to recoup, I started out Thanksgiving feast.  The menu consisted of:
Pomegranate and Arugula Salad
Herb Biscuits
Cranberry-Orange Sauce
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Four-Cheese Scalloped Potatoes
Homemade Gravy
Stuffed Turkey Breast

Not exactly the healthiest menu, but it sure was tasty.  I tried to make half-size of most of the recipes since I knew that was a lot of food and we still have a ton of leftovers.  Here are a few cooking and food pictures of the meal.
Cutting up a pomegranate for the seeds for the salad.
Reducing POM juice down for the salad dressing- a substitute for the hard to find pomegranate molasses.
Simmering the cranberries with a cinnamon stick, orange zest and juice, and sugar.
Kneading the biscuit dough and cutting the disks out with a pint glass from Brews.
The biscuits, ready to go in the oven.  5 regular sized biscuits and 1 mini biscuit.  I guess my Brews pint glass was a little too large of a “cookie cutter”.
The stuffing for the Stuffed Turkey Breast before it was all mixed together.
Sauteing brussels sprouts.
The resting turkey breast, fresh out of the oven.
And finally, the entire spread, plus a bottle of red wine that we picked up on our recent trip to California.

I hope everyone had a great holiday, enjoying time with loved ones, eating yummy food, and relaxing.  I know I sure did!  Now it’s football time.  Go Blue!! Let’s kick those damn Buckeyes in the butt!


A Late Birthday, An Early Thanksgiving

My birthday was on a Tuesday this past week, but I had commitments after work, so we didn’t really do much to celebrate.  I stopped by Luke’s Locker, a local running store, to pick up our registration packets for the Turkey Trot and while I was there, I decided I would buy myself a birthday present- new running shoes.  The guy watched me walk and had me try on three pairs of shoes that would best fit my foot type.  It was a tough decision between two of the pairs, but I decided on the Brooks.  I brought them up to the register, not even having looked at the price and I had sticker shock when the clerk rang them up, but I went ahead and got them.  It was a treat to myself and probably wise to get shoes that are fitted for me anyway. 

The rest of the week was pretty busy, so Nick and I finally celebrated with his mom and step dad, who were in town, on Saturday evening.  Every year that Nick and I have been together, we’ve gone to the same restaurant to celebrate my birthday- Suze.  It’s one of my favorite places to eat in Dallas, particularly because it has become our little tradition.  As a former devoted watcher of the Food Network Channel (we no longer have TV, so I don’t get to watch it any more), I learned about Suze through the Next Food Network Star.  Lisa Garza, the chef at Suze, was in the top three of season four of the Next Food Network Star, so of course I was eager to try the restaurant.  I picked it out as where I wanted to go for my 27th birthday and we’ve been going there every year since.  It’s a small spot in an unexpected location, but I love it.  And it was nice to celebrate with Nick’s mom and step dad this year as well.  It was a small, quiet affair, but just the way I wanted to celebrate turning 30.

Nick and I turned in fairly early in preparation of our run the next morning along with an early Thanksgiving with Nick’s mom’s side of the family.  We got up and I checked the weather- 72 degrees out and 90% humidity.  I knew right then and there that it was going to be a hot run.  Now I normally don’t start to sweat on my runs until close to a mile.  If it’s cold out, then I can make it about a mile and a half before I start to perspire.  Well, I made it about 4/10 of a mile before the sweat began to drip down me.  And I had 8.6 miles to go before I was done.  Let me tell you, it was miserable!  I kept wiping my face off with my hands and my shirt, and every time I did, I saw these black flecks on whatever I wiped my face with.  I assumed that maybe I hadn’t wiped off all the mascara from my eyes the night before, so I was wiping the mascara off.  It wasn’t until about mile 5 that I realized that it wasn’t mascara at all.  The little black flecks were gnats!  I kept running into swarms and they were sticking to my face as I ran through them!  Gross!  After that realization, I tried to look harder and avoid the swarms.  Along with the gnats, I was dying of thirst by mile 3.  There is a water fountain that I run by a couple of times, however last week I discovered it’s completely dried up.  I was so desperate for water, I wanted to ask people out in front of their homes if they could get me something to drink.  Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out very well, the few people I saw out were closing the front door or garage right as I got close enough to ask or they didn’t actually live in the house they were standing in front of- like the yard maintenance crew.  I managed to complete the 9 miles in miserable time and I probably walked 2 of the miles, but it was done and after a quick shower, it was time to start cooking for Thanksgiving round 1: Nick’s extended family.  I signed up to make gnocchi with squash and kale, and rolls. 

No Knead Onion Rolls- The yeast is getting activated
The dough is starting to rise
Dough is formed into balls
I didn’t get a final shot after they came out of the oven since we ended up going over to Nick’s grandparents place and I finished them there.  It was a little too chaotic for a food photo shoot.  I ended up using whole wheat flour instead of regular flour so they came out pretty dry and not particularly popular among Nick’s family.  Oh well.  I should have followed the recipe exactly for better results, but if you are interested, click here for a link to the recipe from Real Simple Magazine.

The Gnocchi with Squash, and Kale turned out well.

sauteing the squash
Gnocchi with Squash and Kale ready to go in the oven for the final touch
Again, I didn’t get a picture of the finished product, but it was almost done in this last picture, so hopefully you get the idea.  I found this recipe in a recent issue of Food Network Magazine, but you can click here to see the online recipe.

Thanksgiving with Nick’s family went well, although I get very overwhelmed any time there is a big holiday event with all of them.  Growing up, we had a lot more immediate family meals than getting together with extended relatives, so I’m not used to huge family gatherings.  Every holiday that Nick’s family gets together, I really want to be more outgoing and friendly, but every time we get there, I become so overwhelmed.  They must think that I’m very cold and recluse.  When it’s fewer people, I feel much more at ease and friendly.  (To Nick’s extended family, if you are reading this, I’m sorry, I’m just overwhelmed by large family gatherings.  I promise, I’m a friendly person!)

After we got home from Thanksgiving round 1, I had to prep for Thanksgiving round 2: Office Thanksgiving Lunch.  I signed up to bring an appetizer and decided to make sausage balls a family favorite from growing up.  It has sausage and cheese- a typical crowd pleaser.
Sausage balls fresh out of the oven
Nick ate about half of them, so I figured they must be good.  And as it turned out, they quickly disappeared at the office lunch, along with most of the left over No-Knead Onion Rolls from Sunday’s family Thanksgiving.  So it’s been a successful kick-off of the Thanksgiving overindulgence week.  Next up will be a nice, quiet Thanksgiving dinner at home with Nick after our 8-mile Turkey Trot Race.

A Final Farewell To My 20’s

Today is my birthday.  I’m officially 30.  Turning 30 hasn’t been a huge deal for me.  Since I was about 27, I really looked forward to being in my 30’s.  Life at that point seemed to be going so slow and I imagined my 30’s would be more robust.  I thought I would get married in my 30’s and potentially have kids in my 30’s.  I thought my career would take off in my 30’s and I wouldn’t be as financially strapped.  For the past 3 years, I couldn’t wait for this day.  But today is just like yesterday and the day before that.  Now that I am engaged, I will for sure be getting married in my 30’s.  As for having kids, well, the jury is still out on that one.  I’ve got to get through getting married first.  I really hope my career takes off in my 30’s and with that, hopefully, there will be a little more financial freedom.

Although I really am looking forward to all the great things that will come in the next decade, I wanted to take some time and reflect on the past 10 years.  As eager as I was to get the 20’s over with, I accomplished a lot and had fun along the way.

When I turned 20 I thought it was utterly depressing.  I was no longer a teenager, yet I couldn’t legally drink.  20 was a blur as a Sophomore in college.  9/11 happened shortly before I turned 20 and that stirred everyone for a while, but we all got through it together.  21 came and that was quite exciting!  I was the oldest of all of my college roommates, so that meant I was designated the one to purchase alcohol from the grocery store.  My roommates and I had a great time together our Junior year.  22 brought Senior year and college graduation.  We had to say farewell to our home in Granville, Ohio and move apart from one another to begin a new phase in life.  I headed to Ann Arbor, Michigan to pursue a Master’s degree.

At 23, I struggled with the Michigan winters and the loneliness from missing my college friends that I took off and went to Jamaica for a week.  A crazy and spontaneous act, but well worth it!  After returning from Jamaica, I began to focus my sadness into running as a way to help me get through the dark cloud.  I headed to North Carolina for the summer as my first year wound down and spent the summer lifeguarding on the beach with good friends that I had made in summers past.

24 brought a more fulfilling year.  I moved into a house with four other classmates and I was super focused on my academics and my running.  I started to enjoy Michigan more and took advantage of student life on campus.  At 24,  I received my first Master’s degree and at the very last minute- literally the week of graduation- I decided to stay for another degree.  I spent my 25th birthday flying back from a department trip to Venice, Italy.  25 brought long nights on the 3rd floor of the Architecture building at Michigan with my 12 other classmates in the Urban Design program.  It was a challenging academic year that forced me to put my running aside.  25 also brought me a second Master’s degree and my first real job.  I packed up 2 months after my second graduation from Michigan and headed to Dallas, Texas.

26 was spent finding my way around my new home and making new friends in a foreign place.  I made a good friend and roommate in an unexpected way and it gave me faith that in a superficial city, there are still down to earth people out there.  27 brought the recession and uncertainty of the future.  (Perhaps this is why I had a strong desire to get out of my 20’s).  I had to say goodbye to fellow coworkers as I gripped onto my job for dear life and worked on my professional development by taking and passing the LEED AP exam  Despite all the uncertainty around my job, I found Nick.

At 28, my relationship with Nick grew and I moved in with him.  We began our many travels for weddings.  My graduate school roommate, Anna, got married in March.  My other graduate school friend, Austin, got married in May.  Nick and I went to Washington to visit his family and had our first international trip together to Canada.  Work had become a little more stable, although my salary was still reduced.  Still working on my professional development, I took and passed my AICP exam.

At 29, the economy started to balance out and the daily fear of if I would be next to be cut had subsided.  I took and my last (for a while) professional exam- the CNU-A exam.  Nick and I continued to travel- some for celebration of weddings like my friend, Caitlin, and his friend, Dave; some to visit family; and some for loss of loved ones.  The biggest and best of our travels, though, of course was our first trip just for us- no weddings, no funerals, and no family time- just us, and that’s when he proposed.

In all, my 20’s have been very eventful.  There was lots of laughter and plenty of tears.  I had my heart broken more than I would have liked, but I also found my perfect love after all the heartache.  I obtained 3 higher education degrees by the age of 25 and launched my career in a new and strange place.  As eager as I was for today, the day I finally turn 30, I look back and see how much I’ve done and I know that had any of the past 10 years been different, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  Now, my life is far from perfect, but I am blessed to have so many loved ones in my life and to have the support from Nick, my family, and my friends as I make my way along this journey.  Thank you all for being there along the way!

From my 20’s to my 30’s, here I come!

Jetsetting Stop 4- Cancun, Mexico

After a 7 mile run Saturday morning, Nick and I headed for the airport to depart on our last major trip of the fall.  I’d been beyond excited for this vacation.  My best friend from growing up, Caitlin, was getting married and we were heading down to Mexico to help celebrate her big day.  Nick and I have really been playing up other people’s weddings in beautiful places by making whole vacations out of them.  The perk of this vacation, besides being in Mexico, was that we’d be staying put for the week.  If you remember back in September, we went out to Northern California for Nick’s childhood friend’s wedding, and we maximized the Northern California exposure by meeting up with one of my college friends, going wine tasting, and spending a few days up at Lake Tahoe, all before heading back to the Bay Area before the wedding.  I was very much looking forward to unpacking my bags on this trip and relaxing.  When we got there, though, they put us in a room with two double beds instead of one king size bed.  Nick and I have become very accustomed to sleeping in a king that I was worried that the bed would be way too small for us, which normally it would be, but the air conditioning in that room was so cold- even though we turned it all the way up- that sleeping so close together kept us warm thought the night!  Then next afternoon, they finally switched us to a room with a king size bed and better air conditioning control.

Finally, our King size bed!

And the view from our room… on a cloudy morning.

Sunrise on the beach

I didn’t take very many pictures with my digital camera on this trip, but as part of our welcome bags from Caitlin and Peter, we got a disposable camera.  Once I get that developed, I’ll post those pictures. 

Anyway, the weather wasn’t nearly as hot as I thought it would be.  A hurricane came through the week before we arrived and flooded the mangroves, which poured out into the gulf, turning the water red.  In addition, all the seaweed got pushed ashore, so it was murky as well.  Not ideal or picturesque, but as he week passed, the water became more and more blue. 

Caitlin, Peter, and the rest of the wedding party arrived on Tuesday and Wednesday and Nick and I had fun meeting the grooms side as well as spending time with the bride’s side.  The wedding took place on Thursday evening at sunset.  As Caitlin and Peter said their “I do’s” the full moon popped through the clouds and lit the beach.  It was a very romantic backdrop.  I promise, I’ll have pictures soon.

Other than that, Nick and I pretty much hung out.  We spent some time talking about our own wedding, but I don’t have any major announcements to make yet.  I was able to stick with my training though the week, hitting up the resort gym every day.  All in all, it was a nice getaway.  It was hard to come back to Dallas as that closes out our traveling for a while, but before we know it, we’ll be off jetsetting again!

Two Months of Engagement

Today is a big day.  It marks two months that Nick and I have been engaged.  It is also the day that I reached 100 miles ran during my half marathon training.  I recently did the math and it’s taken me eight weeks to run 100 miles and in the next four weeks I will run another 100 miles!  In honor of completing 100 miles today, here is one of the pictures from the Santa Fe 5K from a few weeks back.  (Like I said in an earlier post, I felt like my cheeks were all puffed up like a squirrel stocking up for winter).  You can check out the other two pictures of my by going to the photographer’s link here.

Crossing the finish line of the Santa Fe 5K on October 13th

Anyway, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about how the wedding planning is going so now that it’s officially been 2 months since Nick popped the question, I’d give a little update in the blog!  And the big news is…. we haven’t started planning!  We don’t have a date set.  We don’t have a location picked out.  We’ve barely talked about a budget.  But we do know a couple of things.  First, since neither of us are from Texas, we don’t plan on getting married in Texas, that is unless we decide to not deal with a wedding and just go to the courthouse and get married, which isn’t out of the question at this point.  If we have a wedding, though it will most likely be outdoors and the ceremony won’t be religious, since neither one of us is particularly religious.  I know my mom really wants us to get married in Hawaii, but that isn’t really on our list of destinations.  Hawaii is very beautiful, but if we had a list of destinations, it would be low on the list for various reasons.  (Sorry Mom.)  I am, however, excited to see my dear friend Megan and her fiance Mark get married in Hawaii next summer! 

I’m sorry if my wedding planning news comes as a disappointment.  I feel as though it’s taboo that we’ve been engaged and haven’t planned a single thing.  At least that’s how I feel when people ask me about the wedding plans I a tell them we don’t have any yet.  I often get the “Oh” with a look of disappointment and “what the heck is wrong with you” written all over their face.  To be honest, I’m not in any rush to plan a wedding.  As a kid, it always seemed like it would be so much fun, but now that I’m engaged, I’m not that excited about planning a wedding.  I’m excited to be married, but a wedding sure seems like a lot of work and a lot of money, all for just a few hours.

At any rate, we are headed to Mexico this weekend to go to my friend, Caitlin’s wedding, so we are going check it out to see how we feel about doing an all-inclusive destination for ourselves and we’ll go from there.  I’m sure as the holidays near, family will be questioning us a lot, forcing us to start making some plans, so stay tuned!