Running These Days

>> Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I know some of you are probably wondering if running will ever make much of a comeback on this site. The answer is yes . . . and no. When I started writing, I was in the thick of my craziest high-frequency racing phase. We would spend most weekends running local events and sign up for all sorts of bigger races up to the marathon distance. I probably used to do 20 some races a year, and I loved every minute of it. Because I had lots of minutes to spend.

After we had Ada, a lot of things changed both with circumstances and mindset. We aren’t able to travel as frequently, sleep is sometimes elusive, and money is tighter for extras. Stephen still kills it at lots of races near and far. And I, too, started out getting into running and racing again less than two months postpartum -- a 10K in 51:25. Stephen lapped me that day. Jerk.

I tried continuing my usual pace with racing for that whole first year, often pumping and dumping before the start, doing long runs during naps, and otherwise finding all the time I needed to get back out there. I did a solid job. But somewhere along the way it stopped being as important to me. And I don’t consider that defeat.

What’s funny is that nothing with my training frequency has really changed. I still run just as many miles as I used to, depending on the season. Granted, I’ve scaled back a bit recently while we’re TTC and plan to treat running much differently in pregnancy #2. But I had been running 30+ miles a week, which is pretty normal for me. I still keep up with a few key events and try to run at least two half marathon races a year to keep my motivation up. I’m still PRing most every time I lace up, but the act of racing itself holds little excitement for me anymore.

You could say my running is silent, but not stagnant.

And I sort of like it this way. Whereas I used to track my times and blurt it out for everyone to see, I’m hugely content heading out sans watch and not even tracking my mileage for any given week. I have a loose training diary online, but I keep forgetting to enter data into it. I know I’m keeping up, and that’s really all I need at this point. Running gives me something big . . . but it’s far different than it used to be. A healthy body, yes, some times to feel good about, too, but the mental and spiritual aspects are much more important these days.

So, if you’re like me and you run a blisteringly fast 10-miler but no one is there to see your time or plot your route, it’s just as important. It still happened. You’re just as much a runner if you’re not out there pounding the pavement every weekend and pinning countless race bibs onto your tech shirts. To me, running is all about me -- my journey apart from anyone else's. It gives me time to think. Time to celebrate myself and my physical accomplishments.

Yay, me!

I have this strong sense of security by now that I’ll have running with me for life, barring any physical ailments. I don’t know if I felt that way back when I was racing all the time. I want to keep a steady stride into the next several phases of my life, and I think evolving my way of thinking about the sport is all a part of that. Or maybe I’m just soft and have lost my competitive spirit.

Whatever the case, I’m extremely happy and moving my body. I feel good in my body -- head, heart, and bones. I’d say those far less tangible prizes are better than more race metals cluttering my closets! And who knows, maybe the tide will change and I’ll go crazy racer again. I’m up for anything so long as I’m still running.

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Homesteading: Natural Vapor Rub

>> Tuesday, October 21, 2014

You may have noticed that I started writing about essential oils much more frequently in recent months. They’re something that’s always sort of been in my arsenal of home stuff, but the way I use them has broadened much beyond simple defusing. Now, I haven’t gotten into consuming essential oils or learning the specific combinations for medicinal purposes, but I’m slowly educating myself.

Like anything that’s slanted toward the natural -- I’d rather try home remedies and comforts than the store-purchased alternative. It’s also pretty cool when I discover something that actually soothes me. Empowering, I guess. (Note: I gladly take the Z-pack when I get mega-sick. Thank you, modern medicine!)

Though, I’m pretty sure Veggie Pho cures all!

So, along with slowly learning to make my own baking soda deodorant and soft skin lotion cubes, I’ve been venturing deeper into other DIY skincare territory. This time, of a more medicinal nature. I’m a huge fan of vapor rubs for cough and cold. I figured -- like everything else -- this was the kind of thing I could whip up in my own kitchen. And I was right.

There are lots of recipes on the web. Here are just a few.
Of all recipes, I favor the simple beeswax with oil and essential oil combination. I know a popular cure-all blend is Thieves, which was apparently used by these French guys who robbed people during the Plague. At least that sounds mysterious and probably moves oil. Regardless, it’s hailed for fighting germs and helping with chest congestion, etc. The major oils in it are cloves, rosemary, eucalyptus, lemon, cinnamon -- if you’d like to make your own to use in place of the oils in my recipe, go ahead!

I decided to go with two that I already own -- eucalyptus and peppermint -- because they are the stars of my favorite Badger Balm (Breathe Easy). And what’s awesome is that the balm this recipe makes is almost identical in texture and scent, just for a fraction of the price.

Use the smaller essential oil amounts for a baby + kid-strength variety.

What you’ll need . . .
Method . . .
  1. Combine your carrier oil and beeswax in a small, heat-safe bowl. Heat a small pot of hot water on the stovetop and then place your bowl inside to let everything melt together. Mix.
  2. Then take off heat and add your essential oils. Mix.
  3. Pour into a glass container for storage and place in the fridge to harden quickly. You don’t need to store it in there, though. I was just impatient and wanted it to quickly firm up.

I rub this stuff on my chest when I have coughs. I let it linger on my throat when it’s sore. I slather it under my nose when it’s stuffy. I even do that trick of putting it on Ada’s feet when she’s under the weather. At very least, it’s comforting and does provide at least some relief, in my humble opinion and experience.

Have you ever made a balm like this one? 

What’s your favorite combination of ingredients? 

Whenever it comes to homemade stuff, I like to stick to as few ingredients as possible. It keeps the cost down and keeps it simple + easy to remember. I’m also trying to learn more about the use of essential oils during pregnancy. Though I’m not pregnant yet, most of the bottles of oils I have say not to use (or to consult with a physician) if you’re pregnant. Do any of you know more on that topic?

And speaking of homesteading stuff, I also mixed together another 5 gallons of DIY Laundry Detergent today! Now that we’ve moved, it’s working so much better with our new water (it’s a bit harder -- so, go figure!). Instead of the ratio of 1/2 cup borax to 1 cup washing soda, I did 1:1, so I’ll be sure to let you know if it improves or hinders the power.

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Eat Local // Sweet Butternut Squash Soup

>> Monday, October 20, 2014

Would you believe that when I started this blog back in 2009, I had absolutely no idea what it meant to cook seasonally? I’d go to the grocery store, pick up whatever looked good that week, and make whatever recipes interested me at the moment. Instant gratification at its finest. I can’t really blame myself, though. That’s how the store system is set up -- we can have it all if we want, whenever we want.

After I had immersed myself in the food world for a couple years and honed my own cooking skills, I had a sort of awakening. Or maybe it was a pretty fundamental mind shift certainly also sparked by books like Plenty (100 Mile Diet), Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and more. I started to understand where my food actually comes from and why it’s not exactly natural, for example, to slice fresh tomatoes onto my plate in the dead of a Northeast winter. I also discovered the world of CSA shares, local farmers, and buying more eats -- like eggs, honey, milk, etc. -- from nearby sources. 

I can’t say I eat locally 100 percent of the time. After all, we shamelessly stash bananas and avocados in our cart at Aldi on a weekly basis. We favor our local cafes and restaurants, but still go through the Panera drive through in a pinch. And -- yes -- I heartily eat up those supermarket tomatoes for a subpar taste of summer even on the coldest January afternoon. In my opinion, it’s all about balance and trying and budget and trying some more.

This soup was actually inspired by one of those Panera quickie experiences. They have an autumn squash soup on the menu that’s sickeningly sweet -- I knew I could do better at home using local ingredients. The butternut squash, onions, and garlic came from our farm share this week and the biggest, juiciest Honey Crisp apples came from a local orchard. There’s a satisfaction knowing these foods were grown on our native soil. There’s a soulfulness in knowing and caring for the people who work so hard to nourish us throughout the seasons. 

And eating locally just tastes better -- there’s no denying that.

Makes around 4 quarts -- that’s 16 cups!

What you’ll need . . . 
  • 3 medium butternut squashes
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 bulb (or 4 huge cloves) of garlic, chopped
  • 2-3 large apples, chopped 
  • Water*
  • Cinnamon, to taste
  • Sea salt + black pepper
*Alternatively, you can use vegetable broth. We’re just out and trying to spend $0 on food this week, which I’ll write more about in another post.

Method . . . 
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Place an safe bowl with a few inches of water in it on the bottom of the oven. 
  2. Wash your butternut squash, then chop off the top, cut in half, and scoop out the seeds. Rub down with olive oil and sprinkle a little salt and pepper before placing halves face-down on a cookie sheet to bake for around an hour, checking periodically for done-ness. (Just needs to be soft enough to scoop out of shells).
  3. Once your have your squash meat set aside, heat some olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add in your onions and garlic and cook until translucent before tossing in apple chunks. Cook until softened.
  4. Since you’re making a large amount of soup, you’ll need to puree in batches. Add around half the squash meat, half the apple mixture, and a few cups of water to a blender and blend until smooth. Repeat with what’s leftover. You can add however much (or little) water as you like. In fact, I leave it up to you since you might also want to reserve some of this puree for baby -- and a bit thicker is nicer for baby food consistency.
  5. Return everything to the stove to season with the salt, pepper, and cinnamon powder. I did around a tablespoon of salt, a teaspoon of black pepper, and a teaspoon of cinnamon. 
  6. You may also wish to stir in additional water at this point to achieve your desired consistency. Just add about a half cup at a time and stir well to incorporate.
  7. Serve with crusty bread on the side. Freeze leftovers using this simple method.


  • Use you can whatever apples you have on hand -- but I’d say the juicer and sweeter the better because you really do taste them in this recipe.
  • As noted above, you can use this soup as baby food as is or even after just pureeing with less water for a thicker consistency. To freeze, portion into 1-ounce cubes and once frozen place in a freezer bag for storage. Let thaw and/or warm before serving.
  • You can also use other winter squashes like delicata and acorn in this recipe -- the size will impact the yield and ratio of squash to apples. So, maybe three to four large delicata and 4 acorn squashes.
  • If you don’t like cinnamon or want to change the flavor, I recommend using curry powder much like we do in our Delicata Mac and Cheese recipe. Curry powder marries well with squash. Smoked paprika, too. Yum!

And head to Writing Chapter Three for a peek into the kitchen in progress. Last weekend, I painted the cabinets white and -- this weekend -- I hand-painted the tile backsplash this weekend. Some notes on how I did it, what I used, and if I like it (or not). Things are certainly coming along! Can’t wait to share the finished kitchen with you guys!

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