Saturday, November 22, 2014

Strategizing for my First Friendsgiving

New me, new traditions. This year, I'm hosting a Thanksgiving friendsgiving for six to eight people and am already deep into the planning stages. I do this because I enjoy it, and when I plan in advance, it's not much more work than making our Sunday family dinner that we've settled into over time.  I'll be using three crock pots and disposable cookware so I can enjoy the holiday rather than stress and sweat and clean and muss.

1. The turkey is purchased. A grocery store near here offers turkeys for $.69 per pound if you make a separate purchase of $30 ... before coupons. Time to cash in all those coupons for free stuff! So I bought an 18-pound bird because I LOVE leftover turkey.

2. I'm going to try spatchcocking my turkey this year. It seems legit - crispy skin, moist meat and less time in the oven.

3. Additionally, I'm going to brine my turkey in a cooler on my porch for 24 hours. It's cold enough here the meat will be fine, and it frees up room in the kitchen. So tomorrow, I'll unwrapped the thawed turkey, remove all the nasty parts and get it in the brine in an oven bag to reduce any mess or cross contamination concerns. Monday night, I'll remove it from the brine, then butcher it and salt the skin. The whole thing will go in the fridge until Thursday morning so the skin can dry out.

3. My sisters are each bringing a pie, which frees up the oven.

4. I'm going to chop veggies, make the brussel sprout salad with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and brown the sausage for the dressing and set the table Wednesday night.

5. Thursday morning, I'll start the mashed potatoes in one crock pot and the stuffing in another before heading out to run a half marathon. A girl's gotta run to eat. I'm using crock pot liners to keep the mess down.

6. When I get back, I'll start the cranberry sauce in my small crock pot, then get cleaned up.

7. We're having dinner at four, so I will likely nap and relax until 1, then get the turkey in the oven (in a disposable pan for clean up) and wrap up the rolls.

8. I want the turkey to come out of the oven by 3:30, then put the rolls and pies in the oven to warm. I'll mash the potatoes at this point, too.

9. Pour myself a glass of wine and carve the turkey at the very last minute.

10. I'm going to set up a buffet style serve-yourself deal on the kitchen pass through window so everyone can get what they want and the crock pots stay warm. I also have a warming tray, which I'll set the turkey and rolls on to stay warm.

11. Eat, drink, enjoy pie and get to bed to head out early for Miss Alyssa's big day! I'm going to miss my traditional Black Friday Waterfall Glen loop, but I can't wait to see my Ironman mate to say I do.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

6 Reasons to Sign up for the Circular Logic Marathon

And no, they did not pay me to write this. I've already paid my way for the Circular Logic Marathon at the end of March. I've told so many people about this race and encouraged them to sign up that I figured I should collate all my responses in a single place. Yes, it's a marathon consisting of 26 one-mile loops. And yeah, it was cold last year. But, the benefits of this race have me convinced it's worth going for a repeat.

1. It's cheap. I've run 5Ks before that are more than the $45 registration fee for this marathon. You really can't beat the value (for reference, the Chicago Marathon is like $185. Ironman is $700).
2. It's easy to get to. West Lafayette, Ind., is two hours from Chicago. If you didn't want to stay the night before, you could get up at about the same time as you'd have to get up for a city marathon and still get there in time.
3. It's flat. It's a circle with absolutely no incline. It's also a Boston Qualifier, if you're into that sort of thing.
4. Great swag. Last year's shirt was personalized with all the attendees names (the same name shirt on the Ironman website costs about the same as registration for this race). The medal is really cute, and I hear this year will include a custom ribbon, and repeat racers get a little charm on their medals. Also, you get to choose your bib number and you get two custom bibs, one for your front and one for your back. Or one for your desk and one for your medal collection later.

5. It's green. There's no bulky race packet full of crap you'll never use. They even recycle the envelopes your bib comes in and forego cups and crap at the aid station. This means you bring your own bottles with your own special potion and volunteers will refill them.
6. You can split it up. This is the easiest relay ever. If you want to run a half and have three friends who aren't quite there yet, you can split up all the miles in the way you wish. I even saw a kids' track team  running laps as they could to finish the race. It was adorable, and made me think anyone could tackle this race.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1. I had my first bout with insomnia since I returned to Chicago. It was the most productive night ever. I, in order, filed a report for work, did research, put up my medals, cleaned the stove, emptied the dishwasher, scrubbed my crock pot and took my dog out. At 3 a.m. Napoleon was very confused. Here's hoping for a less productive night tonight.
At least someone looks crazier than me at 2 a.m.
2. In my cleaning craze I was putting away keepsakes and filing papers and found this gem. It turns out I was always the life of the party, even at 7.
3. Napoleon also got his first Klout Perk! He received a box of breakfast treats from Hill's Science nutrition, and he's pretty thrilled about it. Well, mostly that all his blogging work/medal modeling is finally paying off.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Yelp Elite Party at Peet's Coffee and Tea in Wheaton

Sweet samples
Eggnog blended ice drink thingy
There's nothing quite like downing 482 samples of coffee right before bedtime. After this party, I went grocery shopping, watched TV, put away laundry and organized my closet. I was a buzzed, productive little hot mess.

Anyhow, I scored an invite to the Yelp Elite event at Peet's Coffee and made my way to Wheaton in order to fulfill all my caffeinated dreams. The store was shut down for the shin dig, which featured samples, demos and a photo booth.

First off, employees were all over the sample game, hooking us up with tiny tastes of the sea salt caramel mocha and eggnog blended coffee drink. The samples just kept coming - cowboy cookies and brownies and sandwiches and cheese. I actually ordered myself a full sandwich because I skipped dinner - the turkey flatbread sandwich was pretty tasty, and helped soak up at least some of the coffee I was consuming.

Show me the ways to delicious coffees please
This party was all about learning about coffee, though, including the finer points of bean selection, grading, roasting and brewing. What Peet's wants to be known for is quality above all else - they want the flavors of their coffees to speak for themselves. The people here are passionate about the perfect cup of joe, providing samples of all their beans and sending us home with care packages and enough samples to keep me moderately caffeinated for the balance of 2014.

Pssssst: Follow me on Yelp or learn more about how to get invited to Yelp parties.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1. I had a birthday party a week ago for my long-past 30th. I was traveling for my actual birthday, so I missed it entirely. This very subtle M-dot sweatshirt was a generous gift from college roommate and GFBF Alissa. I do love purple lots, and strive to own a wardrobe packed with Ironman gear.

2. I completed the Cabot Legacy Virtual Race and they sent me a super cute medal. Napoleon dearly misses being my medal model, even if you can't really tell ... 

3. I need to find the time to sit down and write about my second-annual sister retreat. Mandy and I went to Seattle and Portland last year, and this year, we went to Phoenix and Sedona. I'll get around to it this weekend, because it really was an adventure, complete with beauty

and mishaps.
Stay tuned .... 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cooking with Kelly: Light Crock Pot Peanut Thai Chicken Recipe

Crock pots are electrically powered magical devices. So little work, so much reward. This Light Peanut Thai Chicken Recipe was a recent experiment that went so well I plan to repeat it again and again. Because the crock pot does all the work, I find it faster than carry out. When I came home, the house smelled delicious and with the help of instant brown rice, I was ready to eat in five minutes. It's my kind of meal.

Another bonus feature of this meal is its versatility. The first night, I had the shredded chicken over rice with cilantro and crushed peanuts. The next day, I wrapped the chicken in a flatout wrap with lettuce and hot sauce for a fast lunch, and then followed that up with lettuce wraps for a side dish with dinner the next night.

A word on the peanut sauce: I love, love natural peanut butter, but regular peanut butter works just the same in this context because it's cooked. I tried to use up the last of some peanut butter I had hanging around and it worked out just fine. I only wish I made a touch more to use as dipping sauce for the lettuce wraps.

Light Crock Pot Peanut Thai Chicken Recipe

4 chicken breasts (frozen is fine)
1 red pepper chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1/2 cup peanut butter
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup broth (vegetable or chicken, it's all the same here)
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 Tablespoon sriracha
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Lime wedges
Chopped cilantro
chopped peanuts

Place the chicken in a single layer on the bottom of your crock pot, then cover with the chopped peppers and onions. Mix together the peanut butter, lime juice, broth, soy sauce, cumin, sriracha cilantro, then pour over the remaining ingredients. Cook on low for eight hours, then shred the chicken and serve over rice with chopped peanuts, cilantro and a spritz of fresh lime juice.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Suddenly Single: New Me Manifesto

New me
I've danced around what's going on and flat out dodged it by not updating my blog at.all. I don't like it. I've never been exactly transparent but it's time to come clean and face this all with a little bit of grace.

I'm divorced.

I'm not about to get ashamed. Despite the fact that the majority of marriages end, we don't ever talk about it. I refuse to accept this as part of my identity. It's something that happened that was unpleasant but is over.

So moving on, it's time to recalibrate. Heal. Focus on me and what I want. We all get so caught up in setting resolutions at the beginning of the year. How about resolutions for the beginning of a new me. I've thought long and hard about what I'm going to need to do to be happy move forward, and here are the things I want to change about me and my life.

1. Lose the divorce weight. I haven't weighed myself for months but I know I wouldn't be happy with the results. I want to go back to Weight Watchers and drop the 20ish pounds I packed on through this process.
2. Appreciate me. Even at my thinnest, I didn't like the way I look. At 30, I'm sick of being that person.

3. Be closer with my family. I now live within miles of both my sisters. My mom always told us that once they're gone, we're all each other has. They've helped me immensely through this unimaginably rough period and I want to ensure that continues.
Sisters do silly things together
4. Blog more. Through the darkest days of this I had nothing to write. My life was one big churn of change and decisions, but nothing I wanted to share. I'm re-emerging and ready to share again.