Monday, April 20, 2015

Race Report: Morton Arboretum Arbor Day 10K

Six word recap: A surprisingly difficult race yields respectable time

I love the Morton Arboretum. I purchased a membership recently because it made complete financial sense: it's tax deductible and gets me unlimited entry to a perfectly maintained, eight-mile running route devoid of careless motorist, black ice and giant pot holes. Rain, shine, sleet or snow, it's open at 7 a.m. and ready to run on when I am.

The registration for this race got my a discount on membership, so I signed up as part of that package deal. I didn't have many expectations for this race, nor did I get really stressed about it. I didn't even pick up my packet in advanced.

I rolled into the arboretum around 7:30 and found it to be well-organized. The place was crawling with helpful volunteers and you could tell the parking scenario was not their first rodeo. I hit the registration tent and had my bib and shirt in no time, which I stashed in a locker that I've used before.

I have to say, this is the quintessential suburban race. Nice and small, fully contained, laid back, easy to get to and easy to park at, and also moderately family friendly. I say moderately because it would have been simple to see your runner twice on the course even with small ones in tow, and there was a mascot there to take photos, but there wasn't a kids dash or kids activities. Regardless, there were a ton of families out, lots of lululemon and plenty of excitement as newbies toed the start line for the first time.
Such elevation, so not pacing, oh wow

In the start chute, they had paces clearly delineated. The race started on time and I was fine in the first mile, smiling and chatting. In the second mile I tried to dial it in and ended up pushing too hard, which I paid for later. I run the same trail weekly and knew what to expect in terms of terrain, but it was warmer than it's been in some time. I knew I was in trouble by the end of the second mile because I was exerting myself far too much for the pace I felt. I ended up having to walk up a few of the hills, but still posted miles in the low 8s throughout, so my momentary lack of badassness didn't cost me much.

In terms of the course and support, it was phenomenal. Let me say that this place outdoes itself in terms of volunteers and support. There were two aid stations with water, which you passed by twice. Every turn was well-marked and staffed by more volunteers who were some of the sweetest senior citizens ever. If they can be out there volunteering at 5 a.m. to support my silly running hobby, surely I can finish the race. Also, the scenery was awesome. The trees were just starting to flower and the daffodils were in full bloom. It was right off of a postcard.

When I finished this race, I was spent. I was surprised at how much it took me to finish this race. But again, you get out of it what you put in, and my running has become more of a hobby than a lifestyle of late. No worries, I'm still happy with an overall 8:11 pace.

Finishers received 1 beer ticket and unlimited mini bagels, boxed water and sliced bananas. There were two tents with PTs doing stretching, the second of which people must not have seen because it was empty. Yay! There was also a band, but it wasn't playing by the time I left.

Time: 51:11 for a 5K (11/131 in my division, 37th female overall)
Cost: $35 for members, $45 day of
Pros: Photos downloads are $10, parking was free and easy, volunteers were everywhere, there were mile markers with clocks at every mile, it's very spectator friendly
Cons: No medals, slim pickings for post-race food, hilly course if that's a problem for you
Would I do this race again? Maybe, if it gets me a dis              count

Friday, April 17, 2015

Adventures in Homebrewing

My love of beer is well-documented. I don't drink often, but when I do, it's hard-to-find, highly sought after craft beer. I've thought about trying homebrewing for a while but it looked so complicated and expensive to get into that I just never pursued it.

Until I found this clearance kit. Bed Bath and Beyond clearance gets me every time. I have no idea why this stuff was priced out, but I walked out with $80 of homebrewing gear for $13. For that price, might as well. It included the ingredients and bottling supplies. The worst that could happen is I waste an evening on this.

No one told me how long of a process this was. I should have done this during the weekend. Or at least read the directions first.

So it started with sanitizing all the stuff, very similar to how my homebrew kombucha works.
Then, boil water to a certain temp and add the mash, mixing until it's the consistency of oatmeal before maintaining a small temperature window for an hour.

This next part was pretty hard. At the end of the hour, the mash has to heat to 170 degrees, while another four quarts heats to 170. Then you drain the mash with a fine-mesh strainer, pour the hot water over the mash and then strain the remaining liquid (wort) through the mash again.  I need a bigger strainer.

Then the wort gets boiled to a certain temperature for an hour, adding in 1/3 of the hops every 15 minutes. Then, it was on to cooling, straining and putting it back into the fermenting container.

Two weeks from now, it gets bottled, then in another two weeks, I can tell you how successful this experiment was.

I can see how this would be a social activity because it really does take a couple of hands to make it work, and it's easy to enjoy a few beverages and conversation while doing this. However, I was wiped out by the time this was done. Apparently Napoleon was tired from just watching.

Now onto what to do with the spent grain ...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. I got my tickets for Dark Lord Day ... sort of. My general admission tickets for this day-long release party at Three Floyds came with postage due. That means my happy little ass had to go to the post office today and pay the additional $1.63 in shipping. I already paid $10 on top of the price of the tickets for shipping and handling, so this was just lazy. Or greedy.
2. I qualified for a Hello VoxBox from Influenster, which encourages consumers to #ChooseFriendly. I'm enjoying the eco-friendly dental products and always enjoy a little something extra in my mailbox. Amazon Prime can only go so far in that regard.
2. I'm really proud of my former client, the Society of Women Engineers. While I don't work with them anymore, I worked with them after their placement on John Oliver's Last Week Tonight. I was over the moon when I got the Google News Alert this morning that the SWE President wrote the forward on Oliver's most influential person of the year accolade from Time. It's like watching your child walk the first time.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Inside our Indian Food Feast

Our Sunday dinners are getting fan-cy. I'm trying new recipes and my audience is adventurous, and hey, it's a free meal so why not.  I've used my shipments from RawSpiceBar for giveaways in the past, but I tend to go back to crock pot meals. The strategy is sound, because my Sunday dinners are open house free for alls. With a slow cooker, stuff is already prepared and the mess is long gone. They can also hold for a while if we need to push the timeline, and if people can't make it last minute or more people drop in, there's plenty to go around and the leftovers will keep.

I won a credit to Aritzone for my kale soup recipe, which I cashed in on a batch of spices and meats I don't normally indulge in. Specifically, I got a bunch of high-quality Indian spices to try a few recipes I'd been craving.

What I ended up with was cost-effective, relatively inexpensive and made A TON of food. A literal feast. People got leftovers and I'm eating it all week.  I had more than enough spices to make this all again, and every other ingredient came from my neighborhood ALDI, including the naan bread and basmati rice. Exotic is pretty accessible and inexpensive if you know where to look.

I made the chicken tikka fairly mild since we had small ones at the table, and went with a spicier lentil curry because the kids who are part of the Sunday night crew aren't fans of legumes anyhow.  I suppose you could substitute brown rice for basmatic, but ALDI already had it, so might as well go the distance.

I would say this meal could feed 8-10 people, and perhaps more if served with a salad or appetizer.  Or four plus a week of lunches, your call.

Traditional Basmati Rice Recipe
3 cups basmati rice
5.25 cups water
1 tablespoon cumin
1 Tablespoon paprika

Place the rice in a bowl and fill with water. Swirl it around with your hand to rinse it, then use a fine-mesh strainer to drain off the water. Repeat until the water is clear, which usually takes three or four times, then soak for a half an hour before draining.

Place the remaining ingredients in a rice cooker and follow those instructions. Mine took about 40 minutes to cook, so plan accordingly.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Recipe
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
2 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1  can of diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Garam masala
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Six large chicken breasts, diced into bite-sized pieces
1 onion,  chopped

1 cup coconut milk (yeah, ALDI has this in cans, too!)
2 tablespoons corn starch

In a large bowl, mix together all the spices and oil. Add the chicken and onion and toss to coat. Place in a lined or greased slow cooker and cook on low for eight hours.  Mix the coconut milk and corn starch, then mix into the chicken and allow to cook for another 20 minutes before serving over the rice.

Lentil and Potato Curry Recipe
2 cups lentils
2 potatoes, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons chili paste
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 can tomato puree

Rinse the lentils, then boil the lentils and potatoes for 20 minutes until almost cooked, then drain.

While that's cooking, in a separate pan, heat the oil to medium heat and add the onions. Cook until golden brown and caramelized, which should take just about as much time as the lentils. Combine the remaining spices in a separate bowl, then add to onions and cook for three minutes to release the flavors.

In a large pot, combine all the ingredients and cook together on low for another 20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Real-Life Captions

I was reading Katie's blog and had to laugh about her "behind Instagram" perspective. Social media is an interesting beast. It's my job. I spend 12 hours a day sitting in front of a computer watching and waiting and strategizing and posting. It's weird that it's a job to see what people share about their lives online.

And I'd guess like 80 percent of it is total crap.

People aren't live tweeting the huge fight they got into or the mean thing their client said or the reasons you're mad at someone. We're presenting our best possible selves online, or at least the version of ourselves that we think will garner the most support, love and admiration.

So without further adieu, here are the real-life captions to some of my recent photos:

Real Caption: Happy Easter, ya'll!
Real-life Caption: My face looks fat and Napoleon is judging me for my zest for Easter drinks and sister brunch.

Real Caption: Easter at Mahoney Manor starts with a mimosa bar, naturally
Real-Life Caption: Wine glasses are the same as champagne glasses, right?
Real Caption: Running to the finish to marathon number six!
Real-Life Caption: This outfit is doing me zero favors. I need to switch to light beer.

Real Caption: Taking my medal out for a beer!
Real-Life Caption: Let's be honest, I drank two of these post marathon and probably ate an entire thing of Chilis chips solo, all without showering post race.

Real Caption: This home renovation is #Yorkie approved. Watch for my big kitchen reveal later this week.
Real-life Caption: I probably shouldn't let my dog up on the counter. I also probably should actually finish grouting, and cleaning, and be done with this, if I want to take an after photo anytime soon.
Real Caption: Awesome workout at CrossTown Fitness with LifeHalfFullBlog!
Real-life Caption: If I angle this camera just right, no one will notice this shirt is unflattering and I just barely made it out of this workout alive.

Real Caption: Does this car match my lipstick?
Real-Life Caption: Does this car make me look skinny? 
Real Caption: Getting down to business at the Chicago Auto Show's First Look for Charity!
Real-Life Caption: This is why I don't wear red lips. I need my own personal lipstick concierge following me around at events and touching me up. 
Real Caption: Met some friends at the F^3 Half Marathon!
Real-Life Caption: Now don't I look cute in my post-race swagger.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Win it Wednesday: Cabot Creamery Cookbook & Prize Pack Giveaway

So tasty, so cheesy! My love for Cabot runs deep and I've pontificated on the virtues of the company's first cookbook, which is beautiful, creative and narrative as well. I actually leave it out in my living room and thumb through it for inspiration. It's a nice conversation piece for company, and has influenced many a Sunday dinner at Mahoney Manor. I especially enjoy the dessert section, but really, who wouldn't? They're creamy, rich and beautiful. I'm slowly working through the recipes and I just wish more Cabot products were available in my area. #FirstWorldProblems

If you want to give the book a whirl, I have a perfect opportunity for you. Cabot generously offered to provide one of my readers with a copy of the book along with a gift pack of delicious cheesy goodness valued at $25, drop shipped directly to your home. Rafflecopter will select one random winner in one week, and I'll announce it here. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What's in my Briefcase: Social Media Manager Go Bag

I travel for work a lot. At my height at my last job, I traveling to events and conferences once a month, visiting clients a few days a week and working from home and coffee shops a couple of other days per week. It's a lot of back and forth, and a well-stocked briefcase keeps me sane. I keep the same stuff on me all the time, so I have a bit of a mobile office on hand. These are my tried and true office items and things that make me very popular at conferences, conventions and coffee shops.

First, the bag - my dad bought me this briefcase when I graduated from Northwestern. It's perfect because it has a padded sleeve for a laptop, a small removable bag and inside and outside pockets. It also has stood the test of time. He said at the time it came from Sam's Club, so not sure where you can get a similar one these days. In it's entirety, here's what's lurking in my bag besides my laptop and wallet:

For a closer look at all the individual items, here are the personal care things I keep on board: sunglasses, a small sewing kit for buttons and hems, change for vending machines and meters, band aids for blisters, wipes, a lint brush, chapstick, a USB port, toothbrush and toothpaste, nail file, Advil and deodorant. I can't tell you how many times Advil made me a friend at a conference, or that memory stick saved my butt as a speaker.
On the business side of things, I have a highlighter, sharpies, business cards, LOTS of pens, scissors, tape, a small notepad and post it notes. The tape and scissors may seem uncommon, but I've needed them while working at booths more often than you'd think. Also, pens and sharpies, specifically, will buy you favors.
Oh, electronics. I work in social media. My phone and my ability to get online is my lifeblood. I carry a cord for my phone, a universal adapter (again, a great way to make friends at networking events), a USB splitter (for when I need to charge a few things and run off of a USB simultaneously), an external battery for my phone in case a power source doesn't exist, and headphones so I can take calls on my laptop.
The only things that aren't in this picture are my mini umbrella and snacks. When I'm traveling I'll throw those in because you never know what the day will bring, and I never want to pay $7 for a granola bar or umbrella at an airport again.

What's in your work bag that I've left out? Give me your tips and tricks!