Friday, August 27, 2010

The 1000 Squat Challenge

Want to know what I'm up to today? -- A 1,000 squat challenge. Specifically, 1,000 air squats. Dr. Garrett Smith so perfectly demonstrates the how-to here.
Normally, I would want to plan a huge undertaking like this days ahead. However, I woke up this morning and while I was eating my Kashi Go Lean cereal and checking my Twitter, I noticed a couple of hashtags that read #1000squats. I did some investigating and discovered that several of my Tweeps were doing an ass-kicking challenge (pun intended). Today, they were going to complete 1,000 air squats before midnight. We all know by now that I love a challenge, so I sent out my tweet that read: "in for this #1000squats challenge. its 8am and i have 16 hours. off to the gym. this is going to hurt today, tomorrow and maybe sunday."

Right after I committed to leaving for the gym, Katy Perry appeared on The Today Show. I love her and therefore I wasn't leaving until she was done serenating me with her new song, 'Teenage Dream'. So, I began squatting right in my living room and did 100 before I even caught whiff of the sweaty folk at the gym.

Just for fun - here is a YouTube link for Katy's new video - my current favorite song 'Teenage Dream': (It's good squatting material, so get to it!)

Did squats all throughout my workout - through lower body strength training, elliptical and stairs. I'm going to totally pay for this tomorrow. Did another 101 when I got home and I'm currently at 501 and officially more than half-way to 1,000. No time to waste - back to squatting.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Kitchen Craziness

Allow me to preface this post with the following: In the last year I have really developed a love for the kitchen – mainly baking in it. I don’t really ever cook dinner, once a month, MAYBE. Usually, I just reheat or throw together a smorgasbord of food my mother has made throughout the week and call it good. Recently, my second cousin, Jenessa, and I volunteered to attempt to cook dinner for both of our families together. We had just established that neither of us really cooks, but that together we figured we had a better chance at success. Not really sure if we thought we would actually be cooking dinner for everyone, but it happened and here’s how:

Before I go any further, meet Jenessa (Isn’t she a cutie?!):

We obviously had NO clue what to make, so I volunteered to scour the internet for a healthy dinner recipe. Pretty quickly I stumbled upon Chicken and Sun-dried Tomato Orzo – courtesy of Fitness Magazine. It looked like it had some good taste going on and would be pretty simple for not-so-experienced cooks. Jenessa agreed.

Our big day finally came. With the local pizza joint on speed dial, we began to chop, blend, clean and assemble what we hoped would be a wonderful dinner. While Jenessa started to gather all of our ingredients and cooking utensils, I attempted to chop sun-dried tomatoes. Notice, I said attempt. I passed this off to Karen – Jenessa’s beloved ‘bestie’ and co-worker (both of them teach in the same school as my mother, too). She also struggled with this and at one point handed me about ¾ of the amount we needed and asked, ‘Will this do?’ To which I replied, ‘If one of your students came up to you with a half-done test, what would you say?’ I can be quite sarcastic sometimes, but it was all with love. Karen got the hint and continued chopping. Such a trooper.

Sous chefs in action: My sister, Michelle, and Karen cleaning chicken later on. (I don’t do raw meat. It’s gross.)

Next up: combine water, red wine vinegar, marjoram, tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes in a blender. Whoops. Forgot to grab red wine vinegar, so we improvised:
You think this would be an easy step - throwing ingredients into a blender. Not so much for us. After Jenessa put in three cups of water into the blender, I so gently asked her why it ‘looked like two cups of water?’ And then we noticed the puddle. The blender was leaking!! Enter our next assistant – Jordan (Jenessa’s younger brother). He attempted to tighten the seal, which failed in the end, so we opted for the smoothie maker. It sounds silly, but it worked quite well. I’m now not-so-secretly hoping someday we will have smoothie night.

Action shot: I think I had just discovered the blender leakage. My arms tell me I am quite concerned.

Here’s the smoothie maker with all of the sauce ingredients pre-blending:

Step 3: Cook the chicken. Uh oh. Karen and I started strong – putting in the listed amount of extra virgin olive oil in the pan (about 1 tablespoon). We then agreed that something was wrong – it didn’t look like it does when Rachel Ray does it. Wasn’t coating the pan, spreading around, and the pan wasn’t hot. (Keep in mind – we don’t know jack about cooking and this will be further demonstrated.) General consensus, and by general I mean Karen and I, was to pour in more oil, let the pan heat up and throw in the chicken. Turns out we were wrong, SURPRISE! My sister, who is quite the little cook, went on to enlighten us that we were indeed deep-frying the chicken! Whoops. Thankfully, she drained the huge excessive amount of oil and took over from there. Thanks, sis! I am obviously thrilled about this, not sure she was. Haha.

Meanwhile, Jordan sets the tables:

Last batch of chicken cooking and the sauce all blended and combined with artichokes and parmasean cheese. Yummmm!

We formed quite the assembly line to plate, garnish and serve the food. Also had to do some breaking up of the orzo, which we cooked way too early, but it all turned out awesome. Here are all of us with the finished product! And it tasted great! Success!! (Notice Jordan displaying Jenessa’s lovely garden salad in the middle.)

Up close. Looks delicious because it is!

While the prep time says 30 minutes, for those of us who are not professionals, it was more like an hour and a half. But, hey, we had fun. Lots of fun! And no one got sick (that I know of). I would definitely make it again, though, so yummy! For the complete recipe, click here: chicken and sun-dried tomato orzo!!!

To complete the dinner, I made dessert – frozen pineapple upside down cake with raspberry topping and black bean brownies. Look at this cake – gorgeous! Although it was delicious, it was definitely the last time I will ever attempt this cake. My mother and I were covered in this foam-like batter and it made a huge mess!

While I may not be the next Rachel Ray, I’m trying!! With a lot of help from some great people.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The most wonderful time of the year …

Nope, not Christmas! Beach to Beacon, of course! This was my second time running this great race founded by Joan Benoit Samuelson and it was just as great as I remembered it to be. Even better, actually. Although my time was nearly three minutes slower than in 2009, I had so much fun this time around! Felt absolutely no pressure, the weather was perfect and I got to see so many people I love to run with. It is a great event and I recommend it for anyone who even remotely likes to run – don’t all get too interested, though, it fills up fast! I was one of the lucky 6,000 who got in back in March and I hope this pattern continues.

Anyway, back to race day. Stupidly decided to take the busy route this year and got stuck in traffic for about an hour. What was I thinking?! My lack of patience usually gets the best of me, so I started counting bumper stickers while hanging out on the drawbridge. Final count - '26.2': eight, '13.1': five, and 'YOUUUUUUKKK': three. Sort of helped to pass the time, but not really. I was supposed to meet up with Danielle and Co. at 7 a.m. and cruised in at exactly 7:24. Yikes! Missed the pre-race pictures, but got there in enough time for her mom to drop us at the start line. Like I said earlier, the weather was perfect. I left my house at 6:15 a.m. and it was a chilly 49 degrees – a nice change from last year, which was so hot and so humid.

The race started a few minutes late, as most do, and it took me about two minutes to actually get to the start line. We were lined up fairly close, too, just over the eight minute sign. Makes me feel for the casual joggers who do this race and line up a mile back from the start line. Crazy!

Miles one and two were like any other race – borrring. I hate the first couple miles, hence why 5K’s are not a favorite. I didn’t really get a chance to warm up due to the traffic jam and I of course had that ‘I need to pee’ sensation I always have at the start of a race. Bottom line: the first few miles feel like an eternity. Not to mention the dodging of the sprinkler, shower, hoses, etc. lined up for runners along the course. Last year I was quite grateful for them, but this year, not so much!

Saw a sign at mile 3 that said, ‘Go Shockers.’ Hmmm. I think I’ll just leave that one alone. Just a few minutes after I saw that sign, I thought to myself, ‘I bet the winner is done already.’ Yup, I was right. He finished in a blazing 27:40 and was pretty much done when I hit mile 4. Ridiculous. Here are the top overall male and female finishers. I’m not going to bother spelling their names, just know they are not from Maine, or the U.S. for that matter.

Caught up with Misty around mile 4 and we entertained each other for a while, pointing out potential houses we could party at. Seriously, she is great! (Fun fact: Misty just signed up to join our Reach the Beach Relay team, Yay!) I also wished I had brought my phone with me to snap a picture of the enormous American flag hung by two fire trucks over the course. It’s such a cool thing to see and makes you realize how lucky we are.

This is me at mile 5. Someday I will learn to look out for cameras so I actually have a decent race picture because this is the best one and clearly not a good one. Blue shorts, black tank :)

And now, the last mile. Surprisingly, I felt great! I had so much energy and even thought about doing a pre-race cool down. (However, I caught eye of some food and so that didn’t last long.) I was doing just under 7:30 at one point – if only I could sustain that for the entire race I would get a serious PR! Aside from the fact that I’m almost done, I love the last mile of Beach to Beacon. It’s gorgeous and there are people lining the course about three-deep – kind of makes you feel bigger than you really are.

Anyway, here Danielle and I are post-race. Can’t tell her 7-foot tall fiancĂ© took this picture, can you? It’s like a bird’s eye view!

Mmmmm cookies. Apparently, this is the only reason Melissa does this race.

Funny story here: There were like six of these guys that ran in that exact smurf outfit – face paint and all. I saw them mid-race and told myself I would definitely get a picture with one of them. So, I told this to my picture-partner-in-crime, Danielle, and she immediately shot down the idea. Well, turns out she knew the kid. SCORE!

While we had the luxury of a start line drop-off, the same cannot be said for the finish line pick-up. The line to board the buses back went forever! See for yourself!

So glad we decided to walk the mile or so out to meet Danielle’s brother, who so kindly picked up six smelly, sweaty runners off the side of the road. Look how snuggled together we are, and happy about it!

And of course, Tyler has to make some ridiculous face:

Overall, GREAT day. So much fun, as always. Next up: Tri for a Cure and possible Chad Hero Half Marathon (They are going for the Guiness World Record of Most People to Race in a Superhero Costume – just might have to bust out the Super Woman.) Also got offered a free entry for the Tough Mountain Challenge - a crazy 10-obstacle course - its only 3.1 miles, but a messy 3.1 miles. Hmmmm. This could be fun.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Words to Live By

I have been meaning to share this since I found it in Boston a couple weeks ago, but better late than never, right?

I love motivational quotes. They are inspiring, uplifting and can help one look towards a better future. However, I have definitely seen a lot of repeats throughout my window-shopping life and rarely find something I am in love with. But, this one was different - I had never seen it before! I immediately whipped out my phone and snapped a quick pic so that I could do just this with it. It's also the current background of my cell phone, so I read it quite often.

"This is your world. Shape it or someone else will." How true. Mr. Lew's two short sentences say a lot when put side by side - take charge of your life, make the most of what you have, strive to achieve more, do what you want to do and don't let others dictate your life. This may sound weird, but I really felt like it spoke to me. (I didn't really hear anything, but, really, if you have read any posts leading up to this, you know why.) This year is my year and I'm doing exactly what Mr. Lew suggests! I decided to put me first back on New Year's Day and I think I'm doing a pretty good job of it.

On a lighter, more humourously-great note, this car was in front of me this morning. I pretty much freaked out, because, well, LOOK AT THE LICENSE PLATE! It says 'glam'. Clearly, the glam gods have been throwing things down at me, as this is not my first recent glam encounter. (I know my photo sucks, but I was on the highway ramp.) Hope it makes your day just as it made mine!