Kelly the Culinarian: 2017

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Three Things Thursday

1. A great way to recover from a marathon is a full day of yardwork. Six hours, 50 bags of mulch, 40 bags of rocks and three trips later, we have a very nice-looking yard complete with vegetable garden and a fresh set of perennial bulbs. We're good grown ups.

2. For the past few years, we've celebrated prEaster. It's like Easter, but the weekend before. I make bunny-shaped cinnamon rolls and we hide eggs. This is the bounty for this year's prEaster. I don't know how to adult without the dollar store.

3. Just looking through my photos, I realized that since the beginning of February, I have been to Texas, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa, and many places more than once. I'm at the tail end of a heavy travel schedule and can't wait to slow down a bit.

Monday, April 3, 2017

2017 Circular Logic Marathon Race Recap

Six-word summary: Awesome weather for my favorite race.

In the past four years of my life, virtually everything has changed. House. Job. Relationships. Goals. I have had few constants. But this race has remained. It's where I attempted a PR and we got engaged and made so many memories along the way.

This is the fourth year I've done the Circular Logic Marathon, a race of 26 one-mile loops in West Lafayette. Each year has been met with small changes and improvements to the course and logisitics. I'm loving how passionate the organizers are at creating the best hometown race possible that boasts an affordable entry fee and full support from volunteers. This is, however, the first year we've had great weather. Shorts weather! Last year (when we got engaged) I thought we'd get blown away, the year before it was 18 degrees and the first year, it snowed. Lucky us.

We've also gotten this race down to a science. We stay at a hotel that's very close to the park and allows for check out as late as 4 p.m. It's not fancy and it sure is a little weird, but that post-race shower makes it all worth it. We got up around 6:30 and had breakfast at the hotel before heading over to the start line.

Something we'll do differently next year is opt for an early start. We were at the park at 8:05, so we could have easily started an hour earlier. We didn't realize anyone could opt for the early start. The problem with the 9 a.m. start is that everyone who is trying to BQ starts then. With one third of the race field trying to qualify, that meant when we finished at a very modest time, it was as ghost town.

We dropped our labeled bottles off at the aid station and set up a box of odds and ends we might want throughout the day: Advil, gels, headphones, phones, keys and tums. Then we headed to the start with Mo and got to moving. For the first six miles, Brent's bib had the wrong name, so we had fun with that to pass the miles. We ran almost the entire first half and were starting to feel pretty worn out.

I took a Gu around 11 and then we started a regimented walk-run schedule soon after that. Mo kept time for when we walked and ran and around the park we went without much incident. By the 15-mile mark, we were far less chatty as it started to get hard. My left knee was bothering me, along with my normal aches and pains. Around 17, Mo and I both took some advil. When it kicked in by 19, we annoyed the crap out of Brent because we started to feel better just as he was feeling worse. Right around that time, we were surprised to see the Philips cheering us on. They were on their way back from Spring Break and stopped to see the end of our race. Their kids played on the newly constructed playground while we finished up.

Mark ran with us for the last 5K as the course emptied out. I felt pretty good at the end of this race, albeit tired and sore, and was happy to be at the deserted finish line. This year, the race organizers opted to eliminate finish-line food in favor of bringing in a food truck. However, one race participant was celebrating his birthday and handed us cake at the finish line. I also saw there were cupcakes someone brought, so there was plenty to go around.

We skipped the food truck and collected our stuff before a quick shower at the hotel, then met the Philips for our traditional post-race Chilis meal. We were spent, and I fell asleep in the car on the way home. Today, I don't have any chafing, but my left foot is killing me. It hurst on the sole towards the outside. Hopefully it's nothing serious, because Ironman training awaits!

Time: 4:40:20
Cost: $65 with a medal and shirt (It was under $30 without)
Pros: It's cheap, easy to get to and well-supported. The medal and shirt are great, and you're rewarded for each subsequent marathon with a charm on your medal.
Cons: The weather is really unpredictable. It's a boring course. A lot of fast people are trying to BQ, which makes me sad because I'm not fast anymore.
Will I do this again? Every year I can move forward.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Three Things Thursday

1. When I was at SXSW, I entered all sorts of contests, and I actually won one! Cuisinart partnered with Coolhaus to give away free ice cream sandwiches across from the convention center. I grammed a photo of my treat and viola, I won and ice cream maker and a signed copy of the food truck's cook book. I am in fat kid heaven!

2. We bought our house in late summer and aren't quite sure what to expect from the landscaping. Our HOA covered the lawn care, but we have no idea what might bloom this spring and summer. Our yard is currently a fun science experiment. I think these are daffodils and tulips, but we'll find out together in a few days.

3. On our epic road trip, one of the hotel lobbies had this sign. It warmed my heart.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Three Things Thursday

1. I totally recognize my content as of late has been light. I've also worked back to back conferences and am going on vacation, so it is what it is. This week's conference was in downtown Chicago and involved a lot of video and live broadcast. Both of these outfits were from Goodwill, and damn did I look sharp.

2. We've been trying to clean up our diets lately and I've realized it gets much easier with time. Even the kids are getting on board. I made this sheet pan chicken with chickpeas and tomato dish over the weekend. Initially, both kids refused to touch it. In the end, they loved the savory yogurt sauce that was served on top and ate the whole thing. I would consider this a big success.

3. I feel like I go through this with every holiday - I clearly need more decorations. But I also realize that more stuff = more to put out, clean up and put back. Ah, the choices.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Three Thing Thursday

1. My sisters and I went to Treat Yo'Self, which was put on by TimeOut Chicago. It was a blast. For $25, you got two drink tickets and unlimited tastes from a handful of dessert purveyors. There was also a DJ, fortune teller, hair stylist and massage therapist. I stuck with treats.

2. The small ones wanted to get a project at Joann's, so we tried sewing. We made pillows, a stuffed bunny and a sleeping bag for a toy. It was only slightly frustrating and they seemed to enjoy the challenge. Plus, I used my sewing machine for the first time in a year.

3. I went to SXSW last weekend (a whole post unto itself) and came home to this. I like the sad girl drawing at the bottom the best:

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Donating Bone Marrow, One Year Later

Rocking Door County Half Iron
 that summer
Running a marathon 25 days post surgery
Thursday marks one year since I traveled to Baltimore to donate bone marrow. I don't write about it very often because truthfully, I don't think about it often. The short version is that I went under general anesthesia to have marrow extracted from my pelvis. The same day, it was transfused into the recipient as a potential cure for aggressive leukemia.
My life today is in many ways no different than it was a year ago. I ran 20 miles on the treadmill last weekend (almost a year to the day from last year), I'm training for a spring marathon and a fall Ironman and dealing with the same sort of exercised-induced minor injuries and soreness.

In essence, I am physically the same now as I was before the surgery. A few days of discomfort (never any pain) saved a life and I'm happy to report the recipient today is cancer-free and well on his way to living a normal life.

Swimming across a lake a few months later
It's an interesting paradox in that for a few weeks, the surgery was all I thought about. Avoiding sick people and doing everything in my power to stay healthy was my sole focus, and it was all-consuming for some time. Then the surgery day came and went, and after the first month, I rarely thought about it at all.

My scars are still fading. I was very swollen and sore for a few weeks and even when that subsided, the incisions where the punctures were made were visible for some time. Even now I can still see then, but I doubt anyone else would know what it is.

Bottom line, I would do it again. In a heartbeat. It has given my life purpose to give life to someone else. I feel like my life was moving towards this event in big and small ways for a long time - a flexible job to give me the time to do this, a partner who would take care of me throughout, retired parents to help in the process, an extended family for support, stepkids who gave me enough bugs and viruses that my immune system was in overdrive. Not to mention the results are nothing short of miraculous.
There are very few instances in which a person is given the opportunity to save a life. Be a hero and sign up for the bone marrow registry now.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Three Things Thursday

1. I've got that new glasses swagger! These came from GlassesShop and were both cheap and fast. I may never buy glasses from a store ever again. They're so overpriced compared to these, which do the same damn thing for all of $10. Now I'm frugal AND cute.

2. We went to a Mardi Gras party this week, so I got an opportunity to wear this gold dress again. Who would have ever thought I would get so many uses from a gold glitter shift dress?

3. We went on another date night last week to a damn fancy dinner. We had an eight-course tasting at Vie in Western Springs and it was worth every calorie. I have no delusions; I know I ate an ungodly amount of butter but I also don't care. The desserts were ah-mazingly heavenly. This is the surf and turf dish, which was everything I look for in steak. Be still, my heart.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Why Streak Running is not for me

Ah, the beginning. So optimistic.
I first heard about streak running from Mo, who is several years strong on running at least one mile every day. The idea is to get up and moving and run every day until you can't.

It turns out, I just can't.

At the beginning of the year, we decided to give it a try and log at least a mile every day. I made it about 40 days before my body started breaking down. I can't be sure it was the constant running, my shoes or something else, but I know when I knocked off this constant jostling, I felt much better.

By Jan. 1, our Circular Logic Marathon training was well underway. This called for two hard run workouts a week followed by a long run on the weekends. I've followed this plan for several years without incident, typically filling the other days with cycling, CrossFit, swimming or rest. This year, I added a run and some light weightlifting for each "off" day.

My first indication this wasn't working was when I couldn't complete a simple tempo run. These runs are meant to be challenging, but attainable. I had to quit less than halfway through because I was abnormally winded. If I was less stubborn, that would have been the last day of my streak.

Somewhere near the end of the streak
Alas, I didn't stop until I had a pain in my hip that woke me up at night. It was so pronounced that it hurt to cross my legs. I rested until my next long run, which was 16 miles. I realized that if I stopped running, starting again was impossible, so I shuffled through those miles the best I could. I went to go on my run the next day and couldn't make it out of my neighborhood.

The streak was over, but the effects were still there. I got X-rays, which revealed nothing, and have cut back on my mileage. The pain has subsided, for the most part, but I haven't regained my mileage. I changed my shoes, which may have had an impact as well, but I've learned that my body is not happy when I run back to back days. I am healthier crosstraining or doing something else with my body day to day than trying to check the boxes of keeping up with a mile every day. I have deep respect for the people who maintain these streaks for years on end, because it was at times difficult to coordinate as well.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Three Things Thursday

1. If you follow me on Instagram, you know we spent a glorious weekend waterparking in Wisconsin. It was supposed to be a break from the cold, but it turned out to be nearly 50 degrees and sunny the whole weekend. It continued into the week. We've been enjoying grilling, washing the cars, sidewalk chalk and popsicles. This whole global warming thing is totally real.

2. Did you catch this story about a runner stepping on a nail deliberately placed on a trail in Tennessee? Who the hell does this? I'm sure this is the sign of someone who will develop into a serial killer. It reminds me of the time I could've gotten killed or maimed because someone thought it was really funny to place thousands of tacks at the top of a formidable hill on the Ironman Wisconsin course. Luckily, only my spirit was damaged, which was a damn miracle.

3. Napoleon has been particularly melancholy this week and we have no idea. This is just a photo of him looking cute. But this morning, he was following us around and staring intently at nothing. So either he isn't feeling great or our house is haunted. Both are equally possible.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Three Things Thursday

1. The glorious day has arrived. We have a Girl Scout in the house who is the right age to sell cookies. My foyer and freezer will never be the same. We're currently sorting and delivering 63 boxes of cookies, which I believe earned her a badge and a notebook. And me about 25 percent more time on the treadmill.

2. My monthly DeGustaBox arrived with some interesting additions. The Nando Peri Peri sauce is already a staple in this house, but these zero-calorie noodles are rather intriguing. I am very curious as to what these things will taste like, and how easy they will be to prepare. Let's find out together!

3. You might be married to a triathlete if your Valentine's Day looks like this. I am so excited - my old handheld waterbottle was all stretched out of shape, and my new Garmin requires a quick release for my bike. Because my bike frame is so small and I already have an aero water bottle, there's no place to put a bike computer or any other type of mount. More about the 920 another day.

Monday, February 13, 2017

First Look for Charity 2017

It was another wonderful year raising money for local charities while stuffing myself silly in the presence of some very fancy cars. #FLFC17 is an annual event that opens up the Chicago Auto Show to a black-tie crowd the night before it opens to the general public. The ticket prices support 18 local charities, and this year raised $2.8 million.

The transformation started with hair:

The lady who did my hair this year was not only talented but super fast. I was done inside an hour.
Then we headed downtown to check into our hotel and continue the whole getting ready process. We clean up well.

The evening started, as it usually does, with snacks and drinks.

And then we moved on to sitting in cars that are worth more than our house. It's nice to dream.

We walked the red carpet again this year:

Before I found my best friend each year, the dude at the Cadillac booth handing out fuzzy slippers.

A few foodie highlights from the evening:

This millionaire's bacon from AceBounce was incredible. I made myself stop at one because it's bacon, after all, but I wanted more.

Poke bowls and Korean barbecue sliders.

Andy's Frozen Custard custom sundaes, a favorite of mine year after year.

Smores bites, because smores + food on sticks is awesome. And I somehow didn't get a photo, but the signature cocktails this year were on point. There was any type of liquor you desire in both sweet and savory applications, as well as wine, champagne and craft beer. These people know how to party!

Photographer, career fluffer, drink transporter
I also somehow collected this lion somewhere along the way, which seems pretty fitting. 

Huge thanks to the Chicago Auto Show for inviting me again this year. While my ticket was comped, the opinions are all my own and trust me, it's as awesome as it looks. Check out my recap from 2015 and 2016 for confirmation.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Three Things Thursday

1. It's been almost exactly two years since I met what would one day be my stepkids. For the uninitiated, here's what life with kids looks like. Three bites from an apple and a kid in the wash machine, because why not. My life will never be the same, in the best way possible.

2. We spent a long weekend in The Villages, which is always an enlightening experience. There's live music and drinks specials every night and people get to and from with super customized golf carts. There are tons of pools to visit and shuffleboard is a legit league sport. Not a bad way to live, that's for sure.

3. I tested my make up for tomorrow's First Look for Charity. I think I'm ready to slay tomorrow.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Three Things Thursday

1. If you follow me on Instagram, you know we're not in Kansas anymore. In fact, I've spent a glorious week in Fort Lauderdale. It's been amazing for so many reasons, not the least of which being we went to a mermaid bar! The Wreck at B Ocean has a mermaid show on the weekends and it's amazing. There's no cover, tickets or drink minimum and these ladies are impressive.

2. We came to Fort Lauderdale to celebrate my mom's birthday (Happy Birthday, Mom!) and since then, I've stayed with family. My aunt made me lunch everyday and man, she should consider this whole food blogging gig. Her plating game is amazing.

3. When my sisters were here, we went to Funky Budha and I'm so glad we did. The place is massive, the food is delicious and the Maple Bacon Coffee Porter is where it's at. This burger was phenomenal, and there was a burrata cheese appetizer that could have been a meal unto itself. 11/10, will eat again.

Monday, January 30, 2017

How We Saved Money at Disney With Kids

It's been almost a year since we surprised the kids with a trip to Disney. Now, there is no way to do Disney on the cheap. It is a Bremuda Triangle for your bank account. Just walk in the door and *poof*, you're $800 lighter than when you started. That said, there are a few things we did to take the sting out of the pricetag of Disney so that we could focus on enjoying the experience rather than dissecting how much we were spending.

First, we chose the low-point of the season. I'd love to say it was intentional, but it wasn't. First, we found cheap airfare, and then we looked to see if we could do two days at Disney. We went right around Martin Luther King Day, which was cold, but the parks were empty and hotels nearby were cheaper.

Next, we ordered gift cards for both kids in advanced through Disney. Each card had $25 on it. The kids could spend it any way they wanted, but when it was gone, it was gone. This eliminating the kids constantly asking for stuff from street vendors or the gift shops that were ubiquitous. We would ask, is that how you want to spend your gift card? It also took the pressure off our family, too, because when you're swept up into the manufactured magic of the moment, it's hard to say no.

B spent his giftcard on this sword
The note from Mickey
Then, we went to WalMart and bought a bunch of Disney stuff in advance. When we arrived at our hotel, we went down to the pool and the kids returned to a note from Mickey Mouse and two small trinkets that were purchased without the Disney mark up. It was a fun memory and gave them T-shirts to wear and souvenirs to remember the trip. They didn't know it was 1/3 the price of everything at the park. I found Disney shirts, notebooks, a kids' handbag and stickers for a grand total of $15.

We packed a bag into the park wisely as well. Each day, I carried into the park a backpack with an empty water bottle, glow sticks, snacks, bandaids, suncreen, ponchos, extra socks, another set of clothes for the youngest and several ziploc bags. Most things are obvious, but the dollar store glow sticks were crucial. When the kids asked for a balloon or some knick knack during the parade for $8 a pop, we gave them 10-cent glow sticks instead. It worked like a charm. And the ziploc bags were great for wet clothes or in the event we bought a snack and couldn't finish it (Mickey pretzels or whatever).

10-cent ponchos in action!

We chose our food splurges wisely. We ate a few things in the park, but we didn't waste our time and calories on stuff that wasn't notable. If we weren't by waffle sandwiches or roast beef-topped macaroni and cheese, we either filled up on snacks to keep going or ate in our hotel room. We had a room with a kitchenette and bought cereal, milk, yogurt, cheese and beer (believe me, this was critical).

Finally, we took advantage of food delivery. After the first night, we were exhausted and undecided on dinner. After going back and forth and reaching a frenzied state of hangry, I called a pizza delivery company. For 1/6 the price of a character dinner we couldn't get reservations for, we were fed, happy and off to bed for another day of adventure.

Waiting for our pizza delivery
Disney is a financial black hole, but there are ways to cut corners here and there. And I'd say we had a more memorable, pleasurable experience as a result.