Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sailabration 2012

Quick history factoids for you:
1. The Star-Spangled Banner, penned by Francis Scott Key, was written not during The Revolutionary War, but actually in 1814 after Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.  
2. Francis Scott Key did not intend to write the national anthem when he penned the poem, "Defence of Fort McHenry."  (Not a typo, he actually spelled it as "defence" and we'll blame the Brits for it!) 
3.  The poem was printed as a song in the Baltimore Patriot and The American  on September 20, 1814.
4. Herbert Hoover signed a law on March 3, 1931 establishing The Star-Spangled Banner as our national anthem. 

Fantastic! But what does all this mean?  Well, Baltimore takes a certain level of pride and yes, even a bit of ownership with regards to the National Anthem, since it was written in Baltimore. So, Baltimore held a massive festival last weekend honoring the 200th anniversary of the bombardment of Fort McHenry, which was the inspiration for our national anthem.

The Inner Harbor was packed!  The hubs and I went down later in the day on Saturday after I ran the Baltimore 10 Miler.  We specifically went later in the day after the Blue Angels air show because I've already seen them, the hubs was indifferent, and we wanted to escape as much of the heat and crowds as possible!

I really wanted to go down to the Harbor because there were over 40 tall ships in the Harbor for the celebration.  They were incredibly beautiful, romantic, and majestic.  Even though most of these boats have modern pieces they still evoke the imagery of a time long ago. 

Don't you wish you could be a kid sometime and just enjoy splashing in sprinklers during the summer?  Man it was hot out and I was envious of the little ones.

The first tall ship in the photo above was from Brazil and she was breathtakingly beautiful.

Oh no, the Inner Harbor dragons are attacking! Run for your lives!  Just kidding. 

The National Aquarium looks right at home with paddle boats, a submarine, and a few gun ships.

Funniest sight all day (yes, even beats the people getting married at Pier 5 and their fancy guest freaking out about the crowds) was seeing these three sailors from Ecuador loading up on electronics and taking them aboard their ship.  Somehow when I think of a sailboat I don't think of flat screen tvs!

While the Inner Harbor was jam packed, the hubs and I slipped over to Mex at Power Plant Live for a quick meal and a few drinks. Air conditioning + guacamole + beer + baseball on giant tv = awesome.
I welcome any excuse to wear my favorite maxi dress from Banana Republic.  If only I felt that baby was work appropriate because if it was I would wear that every casual Friday! 

The sun was starting to dip lower in the sky and the hubs and I wanted to get home before the fireworks began.  Not because we hate fireworks we don't, but because we wanted to be home in case the pups could hear them in the distance.  July 4th is not a favorite holiday for the dogs.

Thanks for the beautiful ships Baltimore.  I don't know if we'll make it around to Sailabration 2112, but we certainly enjoyed the 200th anniversary party.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Happy Birthday Jewels!

Catching a late flight home from Phoenix on Friday night.  

Our little baby girl, Jewels, turned seven over the weekend.  At some point I know we'll have to stop referring to her as a puppy, but I just don't know how we'll ever get this image of her out of our heads:

Baby Jewels on her very first day with us.  Poor girl had never even been out of a house before and then we snatched her away from her mom and everything she knew. Holy crap we sound like horrible people!

It's okay, we spoiled her our love over the past seven years. 

This past weekend was rough.  I didn't get home until close to 2am on Saturday morning (or late Friday night depending on your perspective) and the hubs didn't get home from Louisiana until 6pm on Sunday.  It was a pretty low-key weekend filled with unpacking, laundry, re-organizing the linen closet, shopping, cooking, reading, and lots of puppy time.

What did you get into over the weekend?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Baltimore 10 Miler: 2012 Edition

Last Saturday the hubs and I woke up too early on a Saturday morning for his liking (5:45am) and then headed over to the Maryland Zoo for the start of the Baltimore 10 Miler.

I'll be completely honest, I haven't been running enough recently to warrant racing ten miles.  Then, the weather forecast called for a hot and muggy day and I decided that this was going to be a fun run!

Two amazing things did happen on Saturday morning: the hubs not only came to a race, but he actually took pictures!  The guy hates cameras and I was so impressed he actually snapped a few pictures.

I'm actually in that picture above! It's like Where's Waldo game.

The race started ten minutes late because of a traffic accident on the course.  That was just ten more minutes the world had to get warmer!

I thought it was really cool that the first wave was actually a wave only of police officers who were running the race.  It was an amazing way to honor the folks who work to keep Baltimore safe.

The leaders.

First time seeing the hubs on course! I think I might have snuck up on him :)

Went old school and wore my old college soccer warm-up tank top. During the race people kept cheering, "let's go Wesleyan!"  At the finish line someone yelled out, "Go Bobcats!" and we found each other at the finish festival.  Turns out he was an '86 alumni and just wanted to know if our little West Virginia town looked the same.  It was fun chatting with him for a few minutes and reminiscing about our college days.

Post race! You gotta love any race that gives you not one, but two beer coupons on your bib!  I totally forgot to take a picture of the race premium, but it's a gorgeous white long-sleeve with a half-zipper pullover.  It's going to be a favorite come fall marathon training time.

Okay, one thing I am not good at doing is downing two beers prior to 10am.  It's just not my thing. Thankfully I have a beer drinking backup!

Overall: a good time! My slowest 10 mile time yet, but it was deserved because I just haven't been doing any mileage lately.  I hope to get back next year and tackle the hills a bit better.  They're everywhere you run in Baltimore!  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dark Chocolate Mini Cupcakes

I whipped up these simple dark chocolate mini cupcakes the other night and added my go-to vanilla frosting. They were super easy, super yummy, and the perfect birthday treat for a co-worker.  The only downside is that I gave the hubs a container full of cupcakes to share at work and now his office is asking that I bake for them as well!  Now I have two offices I have to bake for and keep coming up with something new to make!

I used directions for the Hershey's Especially Dark Chocolate Cake found here: recipe  As much as I love butter I was really keen on this recipe because it didn't include any butter! That meant I could justify using all the butter I wanted in the frosting! (insert evil laughter here)

The only difference I made to the recipe was altering the cooking time to adjust for the mini cupcakes rather than the larger cake pans.  I was able to make 48 mini cupcakes and still have a tiny bit of batter left over that I froze in my freezer for a rainy day.

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill mini muffin tins with paper liners.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs,
milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be
thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 18-22  minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes;
remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

4. Frost!

5. Eat!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New Orleans: An oldie, but goodie

I was exceptionally fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to New Orleans for work.  I had my butter quota filled for the next three years in the 44 hours I was in the City's limits.  However, I was there on Halloween night, which was awesome.  It also didn't hurt that I got to run a few times in 70 degree weather at the end of October and beginning of November.

I kind of started this blog post and then forgot about it.  Meaning I dumped some pictures into a post and then never labeled them!

If you've been to New Orleans and I screwed anything up, please leave a comment and let me know!

Just a few hours on the ground in NOLA and I headed over to Bourbon Street.  I am totally comfortable admitting that I stopped on a corner and took the two photos above. I then promptly buried my camera into my bag because even though it was only 9pm it was already getting a bit rough.  Turns out there was a bit of a shooting spree later that night, while I was asleep, and a few people were killed. I never felt afraid for my personal safety, I just knew my lack of coordination coupled with the high drinking levels of the crowd meant it was ideal conditions for me to fall over and possibly break something. 

Possibly the best name for a beer, although I might be a tad bit biased. 

Marry a bridge engineer and it becomes mandatory to take a picture of any decent sized bridge!

Need help!  These were some kind of really cool art down along the river near the casino and aquarium.  Anyone know what these are called? 

Really cool chandeliers at the Audubon Nature Institute.  They were shaped like bugs and venus fly traps. 

Mmmm, I don't know where those beads came from.

St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Park which at night was really pretty.  I could spend all day there.

Mmmmmmm rock candy at the outdoor market. 

You have to love a city that decorates to the nines for Halloween.  There were even decorations at the airport.

A trip to New Orleans wouldn't be complete without stopping by Cafe Du Monde for some coffee.  It happened to be incredibly hot outside and I didn't have time for beignets, but I did grab a gigantic iced cafe au lait and brought home a whole canister of coffee for my office mates. 

St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Park. I wish I would have seen the stairs at night so I could have taken this picture in the dark! Next time!!!

New Orleans is definitely on my list of places to go on vacation and really give the City a proper visit.  Anywhere you can grab a drink where Napoleon used to frequent is an okay place in my book. 

Any other must sees in New Orleans?  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Thank you History Channel

It was another scorching hot weekend in Baltimore.  It's not the heat, it's the humidity that really gets me.  The hubs and I cooled off by looking for a couch in almost every furniture store the Baltimore area has to offer.  However, we think we found a couch! Even better it is under budget!!!

Weekend highlights included: yummy goodness at Thai Yum in Federal Hill, watching the Germany/Portugal game at The Phoenix Emporium in Historic Ellicott City,  cheering on the hubs at a baseball game (I was protected by the blessed shade of a giant tree!), enjoying the backyard with the dogs, and finally watching the Hatfields & McCoys.

Seriously, if you haven't watched the Hatfields & McCoys three part miniseries done on the History Chanel you're missing out.  I don't know if it's our ties to West Virginia or my inner-history buff, but it was amazing.  The hubs started to fall asleep during the first few minutes of it and the next thing I know it's almost midnight and we're debating starting the next part or waiting until Sunday to finish the series.

In a nut shell: the hubs picked finishing the series over watching a bit of the O's game.  That should say something.  After every few murders we would vocally go over the death count tally to see which family was outgunning the other family.

Kevin Costner, I have officially forgiven you for Waterworld.  You gave the hubs Bull Durham and For Love of the Game, so you can do no wrong in his mind, but I still have Rumor Has It stuck in the back of my head and you still owe me for that one!

What did everyone else get into this weekend?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Flowers should always be on the list

The hubs isn't much of a flower guy.  By "much" I mean he's bought home flowers twice, on his own, in the ten years I've known him.  Last weekend I put "flowers" on the grocery list and sure enough, he came home with very pretty and colorful flowers.

Part of me wants to test out this "Anchorman" hypothesis, but the more responsible part of me knows better than to mess with people.

I don't know. I'm tempted to put Chanel on the list and see if he comes home with anything.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

First 5k with the family (PRs included!)

My sister, nephew, dad, and I post-race at grandma's birthday party.  We brought our shirts to take a quick picture. 

As alluded to in yesterday's post, I ran a 5k over the weekend with my dad, sister and nephew.  My sister and I tried to talk my brother into doing it, but running just isn't his thing.  Tearing his MCL once and ACL twice will do that to a guy.

My twelve year-old nephew has been bit by the running bug.  He ran his first 5k ever a few weeks ago and took home second place in his age group.  Of course he was devastated that some punk 10 year-old beat him.  The kid was looking to improve his time from his previous race and place in his age group.

So Sunday morning, the four of us piled in my sister's car and headed over to the race.  I've got to say, after doing big races with thousands and tens of thousands of runners it was really nice to run a small race.  We got an amazing parking spot on a side street mere steps from the finish line.  We had so much time to kill after picking up our packets pre-race that we went back to the car to get out of the slightly chilly June air.

Then, came race time.  There were two races that morning: the Rowley 5k and the Classic 10k.  Thankfully, the 10k was the main event and the starts were staggered so that the 10k runners could cheer for the bulk of the 5k runners as they finished.  My sister and my dad were walking the 5k race, so I took the kid up to the front of the pack.

Was there ever a doubt that I'm a natural red head? 

There were quite a few high school track teams represented on the front line, so the kid and I were satisfied standing two rows back. The pre-race pep talk was done by Frank Shorter, who won Olympic Gold in the 1972 marathon, and I told the kid at the end of the speech, "you're going to beat a guy who won an Olympic Gold medal."

The kid was giddy.

Then, the gun went off and the kid took off like a bat out of hell, which is exactly how 12 year old boys run.  Now, I ran a solid 10 miles COMBINED last week after taking three weeks off from running, so needless to say I was out of running form.  So when that punk kid went out at a 6:00 mile pace I was not happy.  Since this wasn't a race in his hometown I wanted to stay within eye sight of the kid the entire time.  Call me a helicopter aunt if you will, but I wasn't about to let the kid run around all by himself. However, I didn't want to run right with him because I wanted him to feel like a kid and have fun by himself.

Mile 1 -  7:35.6

I'm keeping the kid within my sight for the most part.  There are quite a few turns through the course and I do lose the kid when he makes a turn.  For the most part I'm 100 - 200 yards behind him.  He definitely doesn't know I'm there, which is exactly what I wanted.

Mile 2 -  8:17.7

Thank goodness the kid has slowed down!  We've come across some rolling hills and I can tell the kid doesn't share my love of a nice hill.  He's not charging the hills and I've cut his lead down a bit.

I see my dad and my sister at the water station.  They're heading out and I'm heading back in.  I made the mistake of reaching for a glass of water as my dad yells, "don't let that kid beat you!" which makes me laugh and causes me to stop and drop my water all over me.  Excellent.

The kid is now mixed up with a few other runners and I can't tell if it's him or not.  Kid is running in a white t-shirt and I definitely need to get him some brightly colored running gear and ASAP!  Of course I'm wearing my beloved Baltimore Half Marathon shirt and it's so bright and orange you can see me from outer space.

At mile 2.7 I decide to turn it over.  I start passing people left and right. It's crazy because I NEVER pass that many people.  The kid definitely slowed at the beginning of the mile and I think even he realizes we're getting close to the finish.

Next thing I know we're coming up to the school complex where the race finished.  We run into the track and football stadium where a loudspeaker announces the kid, "Here comes our youngest finisher yet, THE KID, age 12!"  It was really awesome because people started cheering for him.  The kid, however, was looking beat entering the track and he was not kicking it to the finish.

I'm coming up hot and heavy and SCREAM to the kid, "KICK KID! KICK!"

Swear to goodness, he turns around, sees me, realizes I'm coming, and then hauls ass down the straightaway of the track.  Okay, I might have yelled so loud that the guy 15 yards in front of me turned around.  Whoops!  I quickly overtake that guy and as I'm going around him I say, "just come with me, all the way to the finish, let's do this!"  We had been passing each other throughout the race and it was kind of awesome to all out sprint to the finish line.

Dude didn't pass me.

Final splits (damn you weaving all over the course!).  So, let's talk positives.  The official results had my time as 25:07, which is a new adult PR for me.  The 8:07 mile average was nice.

Negatives: SO CLOSE to running sub 8:00s!  So CLOSE!  Honestly, I can't blame the kid because I don't know if I would have ran so hard for a fun run.

Oh yeah, the kid beat me by 12 seconds.  He got beat by a 13 year old and a 14 year old and the kid was comfortable losing to people who were older than him.  He was really upset that his time was slower for this race, but my sister told him over and over again that this course had more hills on it.  The kid was put in a good mood when he looked at the results and realized he beat his friends :)  Classic boy behavior.

While waiting for my sister and dad to finish the kid and I hung out and walked around the complex.  We ran into one of my friends from high school who kindly pointed out that if I didn't yell at the kid to kick at the end I probably would have beaten him.  Yeah, I'm okay with losing to a 12 year old.  My friend who was running the 10k that day and told the kid to come on by anytime and they could go running together.

The funniest moment of the day was when my dad and sister came onto the track.  The kid and I were cheering on the first turn and my dad goes, "What do you think, should I beat her?"

I said yes and then my dad took his 6'6" long-self and hauled ass down the track.  My sister was not amused.

After the race we hung around because we had a pretty good idea that the kid would have placed in his age group.  We watched the finish of the 10k and the kid was pretty amazed to see the elite runners finish.  We had bumped into a few of the elites in the bathroom line right before the race and the kid was pretty excited to be so close to them.

The kid was psyched to see that during the 10k a 15 year old kid who ran at the local track finished the race in 18th place in a time of 34:13.  To see another "kid" finish with the elite runner was pretty cool.  I was amazed when Lindsey Scherin, of Fayettville, NC, won the women's 10k in a time of 33:29.  Everyone in the stadium stood up to cheer when they saw her 30 seconds ahead of the other elite women.  She was the first American women's winner to win the race in 30 years!

The only downside was we had to go to grandma's birthday party and that meant we couldn't stay for the awards ceremony.  As the moments trickled passed we realized we had to head back and get ready for the party.  I hope the kid gets something in the mail for kicking butt in his age group.  Okay, I hope I get something too!

Final results for the day:

The Kid:
24:55 (8:01 average). 3rd out of 20 in age group.  Overall: 43 out of 350.

25:07 (8:07 average). 2nd out of 23 in age group.  Overall: 45 out of 350.

We're going to make it a family event to run more races together!

My dad gets an instant PR for running his very first race at the young age of 54.  Seriously people, you're never too old to try something new.  The dude picked up a year-long marathon training program information packet at the expo that starts in October 2012 to run a first marathon in October 2013.  I can't even put into words how amazing it would be to run a marathon with my dad in October 2013.

I've never run a race with anyone in my family besides the hubs.  This was really cool to run the same course as everyone and share funny moments with each other before and after the race.

The family that runs together, stays together!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Happy (Belated) Birthday Grandma!

My sweet grandma turned 80 this past February.  Normally, planning a large family gathering in the middle of winter would be a logistical nightmare, so my aunt decided to post-pone the big formal party until the summer time when travel would be easier. Don't worry, there was still a party for grandma in February! She's so cool she gets TWO parties for her birthday.

This weekend my brother and I road tripped back up to NY and NJ for a quick weekend with the family and lots of laughter.  Mother nature threw a monkey wrench into our plans with a tornado and hail filled storm on Friday night, so we didn't depart until early Saturday morning.  Two authentic NY pizzas later we arrived in style for lunch on Saturday. Throw in a black and white cookie later and I was good to go.  Oh, my sister and I baking mini German Chocolate Cupcakes for grandma's party certainly didn't damper the mood.

Being in a red head majority was awesome :)

Sunday morning my dad, sister, nephew, and I ran a local 5k. Full post on that coming tomorrow.

Then, it was down to NJ to meet up with crazy family members from as far as Colorado and Texas to celebrate grandma's 80th birthday.  It was hilarious to hear the five remaining kids, out of ten,  argue about who came next in birth order. I think I yelled at one point, "everyone pick a number and stick with it!"

TEN KIDS! My hips hurt just thinking about it. Whew, my great-grandma must have been a crazy broad.  Looks like it runs in the family.  Add in some good food, adorable little kids, a whole lot of family members and it was an amazing weekend.  I hadn't seen some of my far-flung family members since I was a little kid and it was kind of funny to hear, "which one are you?"  My sister, cousin, and I all have red hair, yet my sister and cousin looked like the sister pairing, so I usually get mistaken for my cousin! It's all good, no worries.

One of the perks of spending 10+ combined hours in a car with one's brother is you get to ask him the really uncomfortable questions. Like, why haven't you and your on- and off-again girlfriend of three years been able to figure it out yet?  He was trapped in my Prius and knew he had to answer that question!

Anyone else meet up with family over the weekend? Run any races? Road trip anywhere?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Let's do this thing, 2012 remix

In February of 2011 (yes, last year!) I proudly proclaimed I had five goals for the 2011 running year.

Yeah, I only accomplished one of them and that's only because my Garmin tracks all my darn runs.

Let's revisit that list shall we.

1.  Track all runs

Verdict: Done and it isn't pretty!

2. Break 8:00 minute mile overall average for a race

Verdict: Not even freaking close! To be somewhat fair on myself I've only run two 5ks since I made that goal and both of them were St. Paddy's Day fun runs.  Like I don't think I broke a sweat in either race because the day was all about having fun.

Sure, I happen to be running a 5k this weekend, but I did just take 3 weeks off from running after my latest marathon mishap, so I don't think sub 8s are going to happen this weekend.

However, I am going to start running one bloody 5k a month until I hit that mark.  It's on like Donkey Kong!

3. Run Topless

Verdict: So did not happen!  Again, with an excuse, but I had the Annapolis 10 Miler in August 2011 mentally penciled in as the race for this to happen. You know, run sans t-shirt. Be comfortable with my paleness and lack of a six-pack. That whole thing.

Then, Hurricane Irene decided to blow into town and the organizers of the race properly decided that during the time of a natural disaster it probably wasn't the wisest decision to have the City's police and fire department pulled away from hurricane detail to ensure traffic patterns were followed for a race. I can't fault them for that because it made sense to me. I'm sure the torrential downpour and downed trees didn't help either.

4. Get the Hubs to run a 28-minute 5k

Verdict: Not there. Yet.  He's getting closer, which is fun, but he's not quite there yet.

5. Run a 4:10 Marathon

Verdict: Not even freaking close! Up next is Marine Corps at the end of October and I seriously hope to accomplish that sucker.

In order to achieve these "goals" I've done the following:

1. Bought a treadmill.  The hubs and I snagged a great deal on a treadmill on Craigslist.  Any and all weather related excuses have been officially eliminated.  The hubs has been running a ton on the treadmill and it's been great.  His farthest run to date has been 6 miles on the treadmill.  I did 12 miles on it the day after we bought it.

2. Started running in the morning.  I used to run at night and if I'm completely honest I've skipped more runs than I should have over the years.  Now, I get up in the morning and go for a run.  It took some time to adjust, but it's actually better. I don't have a run hanging over my head when I get home at night. I'm not going to lie, waking up at 4:30am sucks sometimes, but each week it gets easier. It's definitely nicer now that the sun is up for most of the runs.  Running in the dark just sucks.

3. Bought more running gear.  Seriously, things like purple shorts with neon trim get me excited. Don't even get me started on how much I love my new yellow shorts. Or that purple sports bra, because I could go on and on about those suckers.

4. Signed up for more races.  I'm hoping to do a race a month for the rest of the year, which I hope will keep me more honest when it comes to running.

5. Joined a running group.  I've officially joined the Annapolis Striders!  I really did it because they offer a free marathon training program to members and the yearly membership fee is only $15 for an individual, which makes it officially the cheapest group training fee of all time.  I looked at other marathon training programs in the Baltimore area and some of them charged over $100! That's crazy!!!

I'm hoping to meet up with other Striders for Saturday long runs.  The marathon training program doesn't start until August and I know it's going to suck to wake up at 5:45am on Saturdays in order to eat and meet up for 6:30am runs, however I'll be done and home before lunch time.  I've told the hubs to count me out for any Friday night happy hours, but I'm more than ready for Saturday nights out since I won't have to run on Sunday mornings.  Plus, I'm hoping to meet some other local runners and have people to run with throughout the year.

Anything else I should consider adding to the list so that I meet my goals?  What do you do to help with your running routine?