Embracing Fall When its Still 90 Degrees Out

We’re supposed to get cooler weather this weekend (thank goodness) but just because it’s still summer outside and I’m still wearing shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops doesn’t mean I don’t also want all the fall things in my life, too. 

For me, part of embracing fall is making everything pumpkin-flavored. I tried out this recipe this week and P even was a big fan (he is not a pumpkin lover like I am). I think it worked because it’s still flavorful and you can taste the pumpkin, but it’s not overwhelmingly PUMPKIN. Plus, it lends itself really well to the addition of your favorite hot sauce (which I put on almost everything).

Sneaky begging dog in the background


Recipe was modified from here though I added probably four times as much garlic and chili powder and red pepper flakes because I like my food spicy. 

* 1 pound ground beef
* 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste 

* 3 cloves minced garlic 

* 1 large onion, diced 

* 1 green bell pepper, chopped 

* 1 red bell pepper, chopped 

* 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained 

* 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained 

* 1 (15 ounce) can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed 

* 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce

* 2 (14.5 ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes 

* 1 (14.5 ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes 

* 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree 

* 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice 

* 2 teaspoons chili powder (or more of you like spicy)

* 1 teaspoon ground cumin 

* 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste 

Directions

* Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; cook and stir the beef in the skillet until crumbly and no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes, garlic, and onion; continue cooking until the beef has browned and the onion has softened and turned translucent. Add the green and red bell pepper and cook 5 minutes more.

* Once the beef is cooked, add the kidney beans, black beans, Great Northern beans, tomato sauce, tomato sauce with garlic and onions, petite diced tomatoes, fire roasted diced tomatoes, and pumpkin puree in a large slow cooker. Season with pumpkin pie spice, chili powder, cumin, and salt. 

* Cook on Low until the chili is hot, 1 to 2 hours.

House Projects

I took advantage of Labor Day weekend by catching up on a number of house projects that have been sitting on my to-do list since I moved in. I had a master plan to get everything done before the movers showed up but I had to cut a few less-essentials and push those off. And then I kept pushing them off so finally that weekend I decided to get some of them done.

  1. Refinish the bathroom countertops. I used another kit from Giani Granite since I loved the kitchen results so much. I wanted a white counter in the bathrooms so I chose their White Diamond kit. I’m not as artistic as I wish I was, and I didn’t think it was as forgiving or intuitive as the Black Bombay kit, but overall I like it a lot better than the previous color. Also, P wholeheartedly likes it a lot better, so that’s a total win in my books.

2. Convert the spare bedroom’s closet bifold doors to French doors. I tried to see if I could just buy closet French doors, but you can’t. You can buy regular doors, bifold doors, or barn doors, but not French doors. I wasn’t interested in cutting down regular doors, or losing the entire wall to make a barn door happen, so I followed this tutorial (or rather, P did all the work and I sat there and scrolled through Instagram and helpfully held down the sides of the door while he screwed in the brackets) and am much happier with how they look and function now. I’m going to move the handles to the front of the door and paint them, but I’m debating caulking/spackling the center line where the hinges used to be. P says they’ll split but I’m hopeful they won’t.

3. I haven’t really loved the Recycled Glass color I painted the spare bedroom and what is going to be the nursery ever since we moved furniture in there. They get less light than the master bedroom and the green just looked sort of murky and sad. I had almost a full gallon leftover of Sea Salt so I repainted the nursery that and Lowe’s was having a rebate on paint so I picked up another gallon of Comfort Gray to redo the spare bedroom. I also put together the guest pop-up trundle bed so now we can actually have people over without making them choose between a camping cot or the couch.

4. Still working on the kitchen table. P is doing the sanding and staining since he’s convinced it will give me a miscarriage or something, but once that’s done we’re going to paint the bottom of it the same Dixie Belle chalk paint in Buttercream that we did six of the eight chairs already. If I have any leftover I may re-prime and redo a couple of the chairs that have tannin bleed-through. Right now I’ve relegated those to the desk and spare bedroom as additional furniture.

Maybe not the most exciting weekend, but it’s been great getting some of the longstanding projects finally done.

Lilly Pulitzer After Party Sale

Today is the last day of Lilly Pulitzer’s semi-annual After Party Sale, famous for its deep discounts on a brand that never has a sale section online.

I was fortunate that Disney Springs has a brand spankin new Lilly store and this year they let the stores open their doors for the sale a day early, meaning I got to get some shopping in before we left Disney to head home. There was still a line to get in and then a line for the fitting rooms and a line for the checkout, but I appreciated being able to try things on.

I also stopped by my home store in Georgia and did some shopping online. Each experience had different things available. The items available in the Florida store were different than what they had in stock in Georgia and online so Im glad I was able to try all three.

The last day of the sale ends today and there are still tons of great options available. Since I’m pregnant, I tried to buy things that I could still wear for a bit and hopefully camouflage my growing belly.

Lilly Pulitzer APS
First of all, I loved the Bohdi skirt when I tried it on. It’s lovely and flow and plenty of stretch and I should be able to wear this the entire time I’m pregnant.
The popovers are perfect for fall and I love the extra UPF protection built in, which makes them extra perfect for fall fishing trips or anytime I’m worried about sun exposure.
I saw this Kimora Kimono dress and thought it looked so different, unique, and beautiful. It had great reviews from all different sized women so I’m really looking forward to it arriving in the mail.
Lastly, I admit to loving leggings far more than I have reason to. The luxletic leggings are so soft and snuggly. Unlike this picture, the ones I bought go down to my ankles and I think will be perfect for working out or even tucking into some tall boots for fall.
I bought several other things; I have a definite weakness for their t-shirt dresses, but these were some of my very favorites.

Camping at Disney World

My original plan was two short Disney trips in September and November, but then I got pregnant, P signed a hunting lease, and looking at the crowd calendar I realized those two trips were going to be SUPER crowded at the parks. I canceled the other trips and made a plan for a slightly longer trip at the end of August when the parks were a lot less crowded.

I also managed to swing a discounted rate at Disney’s Fort Wilderness campsites. I think most people don’t know that Disney has a campsite; I didn’t until we went to the Hoop-de-due Revue last trip there. They have everything from tent sites to RV sites and even cabins you can rent. It has water transportation to the Magic Kingdom and bus transportation everywhere else. They also have free wifi throughout the campground, which I didn’t expect at all.

We did a tent site and it was really nice. The site was really big and even had a dedicated parking space in it for our car, though another site fit two cars in there pretty easily. There’s also electricity and water at the site, and a shared restroom/shower facility, called “comfort stations” dotted around so they’re never far away. It was a little like a gym facility, except the cleanest, nicest gym showers you’ve ever had with constant water pressure and hot water. I had read that they tended to be crowded in the mornings from 7 – 9 am, but never really found that to be the case. I never had to wait for a shower, sink, or toilet but that also may have been because we were in the off-season.

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Picture from Disney’s website. That little brown stump on the right has multiple electrical outlets as well as a water spigot.

We didn’t have any issues with mosquitos, either which was my other main concern. We went cat fishing the weekend before and I got bit severely and it was awful afterwards. I brought my diffuser and diffused citronella all night and the resort also gave us free DEET wipes. I think I saw maybe one mosquito around our tent area. P got some bites on his feet but those were more likely from walking through the tall grass.

We are used to Army “camping” so our standards for comfort are significantly lower than the average person and we had the most bare bones campsite out of everyone else. I’d be willing to bet most of those folks out there have never slept on the ground in just a sleeping bag while it rained on them. Others had mosquito-netting popups over their picnic tables and a couple even had AC units that attached to their tents. The hardest thing was just how hot it was at night. P opted to sleep outside while I just took the rain fly off the tent at night to allow for more air flow. We had our sleeping mats so it wasn’t uncomfortable, just uncomfortably warm.

The resort itself is huge and has an internal bus system available, or you can rent a golf cart or bikes. We brought our own bikes but didn’t use them except for the first morning when we rode them down to the commissary for breakfast. Since we got free parking at the parks, it was easier and quicker to just drive ourselves rather than waiting for a bus. Since I’m not drinking, we also knew we’d have a designated driver each night when we drove back.

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We stayed in the 2000 loop which was about 2/3 mile from the boat transportation area.

Overall, I liked it and I would stay there again but I’d do it differently. We’ve already discussed how we’re going to need a bigger tent once our baby comes and since we already have two smaller tents that are good for solo or joint hunting trips, we’d like to get something fairly large and roomy that P can stand up in and can adapt to our growing family. I would also like to look at renting either a pop-up camper or even an actual RV in the future.

I loved how affordable the campsites were. Normal pricing for the off-season started at $53/night and then we also got a reduced rate making it even lower. You also get all the perks of staying at a Disney resort, like Magic Bands and Extra Magic Hours, and can add on the Disney Dining Plan if you want. There were a ton of activities at the resort all day and into the evening and a lot of families seemed to be enjoying themselves. You could honestly just spend all your time there and never even go to the parks.

We did our last two nights of our trip at Shades of Green, a military property on Disney. I have a deep, abiding love for SOG that will never go away. They remodeled recently and now have a big, covered parking garage and remodeled rooms. They’re also right across the street from the Polynesian so we just walk over and take the monorail to wherever we’d like to go, but also have bus transportation to the parks. They have Extra Magic Hours, but don’t do Disney Dining or Magic Bands, and no free parking at the parks. I also like that the pricing is tiered depending on the rank structure and the average room can easily sleep five or more so it’s a great value for military families. SOG has been my default place to stay for years now, but I may be switching my affinity to the campsites now that I’ve got some experience under my belt there.

 

 

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You Get What You Give

I really like listening to podcasts in the car, working out, or just working around the house. I like music, too, but for long things podcasts are nice because I feel like someone is talking to me.

I’ve been a fan of Rachel Brathen, aka Yoga Girl, for several years now and she recently started doing a podcast every week. This week she talked about body positivity but also how the energy you put out is what you get back and I know how true that is.

I used to be such a bitter, deeply angry person because of my life. I was upset that my parents had been taken from me when I was younger and that I didn’t get to have an adult relationship with them, that my stepmother now held all of the things I remembered from my childhood and would never give them up, and so many other things. I felt ugly and bitter inside and showed it outside, too. I was just mean and so envious of good things in other peoples’ lives, because I didn’t have them but also felt that I didn’t deserve anything good. It was just this cycle of being angry with my life and then showing that anger to others and then being angry because (surprise) no one wants to associate with an angry, bitter person (weird).

I can’t put an exact moment on when things started to change, but it’s taken me years to let that go. Years of being miserable and unhappy and selfish.

It’s so true though that what you put out is what you get back. My deployment in Afghanistan changed me in a lot of ways, all for the better I hope. I’ve felt like a different person since I came back, and I felt differently there, too. I feel like what I do matters and that my life is in my control, which is a lot different from how I used to feel that I was powerless and poor-me-can’t-do-anything-about-it. I’ve also noticed that things that used to be hard for me are a lot easier now, either because I’m more comfortable in my skin or because I don’t make people unconsciously want to escape the room I’m in.

That’s not to say everything is perfect and I’m great now. I worry an incredible amount about things that I can’t change and have a hard time letting go of that, I’m impatient, and snap when I feel like I’m getting stressed. But I really do think that the way you put yourself out there makes a huge difference in what you get back from other people and positivity goes a long way.

Tri the Parks: Mistletoe State Park

So, after I got home Monday from the Rev3 Williamsburg tri, I worked the night shift and figured I’d just give myself the day off since I’d done a solid days’ work the day before. Then I also took Tuesday off, then Wednesday, then Thursday, and then it was suddenly Friday and I had to pick up my packet before work. I wanted to do this race because it was only 30 minutes from my house so it was super convenient. However, I didn’t realize that I was also working the night shift that week and night shift never gets off in time and then I’d have to get up early to get to the race to set up…and that I hadn’t really packed my bag or anything.

I’m usually a really excellent planner and this was one of the few times where I just didn’t really plan it at all.

I got home and did a tiny bit of work putting my numbers on my bike and oiling the chain and making sure I hadn’t left my helmet in Virginia. I also hadn’t unpacked since the weekend before (I really dislike unpacking) so fortunately(?) most of my stuff was still in my car. P and I debated about whether he wanted to get up early with me and go fishing while I was triathlon-ing. Now, to me we never came to a concrete decision of yes or no but I told him I was getting up at 5:30 and leaving by 6.

I woke up at 5:30, he didn’t. I let the dogs out, fed the dogs, fed myself, and packed my bag and still no P. I figured he’d decided to sleep in. Then I took my bike out and he’d moved my bike rack onto his truck. Weird, I thought. But again, since he didn’t wake up I figured he must have changed his mind. It wasn’t until I got to the park and saw all of our fishing gear in the bed that I thought maybe he’d wanted me to wake him up…oops. Also I had both sets of car keys so even if he’d wanted to meet me out there, he couldn’t. I am pretty much the worst wife ever.

Setting up went pretty quickly for me and then I had nothing really to do but wander around and admire the other pretty bikes. The water was 84.5 degrees so wetsuits were out of the question. Fun fact: ever since I bought my wetsuit, it has been too warm everywhere I go to wear it. I guess if you want to guarantee yourself warm water, buy a wetsuit.

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Trying a longer towel method

They grouped all the women together in one big wave (SUCH a big wave!) and to avoid getting pummeled I waited several seconds after the start before heading out. Even still, there were a lot of people and everyone bunched up a bit around the first buoy. The most surprising thing to me the whole day was just how good I felt on the swim. I felt calm and relaxed and even when I got a little fatigued I never felt like I needed to completely stop and catch my breath.

I had also decided that since I didn’t do any solid prep work before this race, I wanted just do it by feel so I left my watch and bike computer at home. It was different and I felt a little naked and lost not being able to look at times, but ultimately I think I liked it better.

The distance from the transition area to the bike mount/dismount was my only complaint. It was ridiculously long. So long that I had time to wonder if the time was getting rolled up into the T1 and T2 times.

The bike course was reasonably hilly but enjoyable, except that there was a lot of drafting going on. At the first turn I tried to pass a group of people but they bunched up so much that I had to drop back because I couldn’t pass a group of six people all riding two by two.

One of the athletes had a bad accident on course and after the race one of the women said she’d been there when it happened. A truck got annoyed by the cyclists on either side of the road and tried to zip between them, went too near a cyclist, who overcorrected on a steep downhill and ended up bloody and in the ditch. When I rode by the police car had moved to block traffic around him and when I came back they were loading him into an ambulance. I really, truly hate when people are jerks on the road. As I was explaining to P about why cyclists don’t and shouldn’t ride in the shoulder, jerks think then they have enough room to pass me and get much too close for comfort. If I ride in the lane, they’re more likely to be safe when passing me because it involves them entering the opposite lane. It makes me so angry that that driver felt like he was in too much of a hurry to pass someone safely and put their lives at risk.

The run course was partially trail, which was nice, but also went down and up a very steep gully, which was not so nice at all. I was pretty done with the race after the gully and still had another 2.5 miles to go. Seriously. I stopped at all the aid stations and tried to find the happiness in running but honestly, I felt pretty crappy. I just wanted to be done. Finally I saw the finish line but I didn’t even try to kick. I was just annoyed by a lot of things that morning (neighbor playing loud reggae at 5:30 that I could hear inside my house, accidentally leaving P at home) and hungry and wanted to go home.

I cleared my things out of the transition area and checked my time. Despite going watch-less, I was pretty close to my self-estimated time of around 1:40, even with all the walking I did on the run course. I also wonder how much quicker that time may have been without the extra distance from transition to the bike mount/dismount line.

I have a couple of weeks until my next triathlon and right now I’m not sure if I’m going to do it or not. It’s an “intermediate” distance but I’m trying to just go by feel at this point. Fortunately, I’m also back on the morning shift for a while and I tend to be able to workout better on it.

 

 

2017 AJC Peachtree Road Race Recap

I’ve wanted to run the AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta for several years, but it just never worked out for my logistically to plan a trip around it. I was thrilled when I found out that I was moving back to Georgia earlier this year and immediately went to register for it only to find out I’d missed the opportunity to guarantee and entry by joining the Atlanta Track Club by about a week. Fortunately, there was still the lottery option so I entered and back in April found out I’d been chosen.

The Peachtree is held on the Fourth of July every year in Atlanta and is a big tradition. Lots of families run it together and there are many people who run it year after year. It’s the biggest sanctioned 10K in the US as well and while I’ve run big races, they’ve all been marathons so I was curious as to how they’d manage to get 60,000 people through a 10K course.

My original plan was to drive up the morning before, but since I’d registered from Alaska before I had a Georgia address, I’d also chosen to pick up my packet at the expo so it was easier just to drive up the day before, go to the expo, and spend the night, run the race and drive home the following day. I found a Hilton Garden Inn near the finish line and by the MARTA station and booked a room there. Side note: parking was $30/night and there were cheaper garages the next block over, I’d do more research in the future because $30 is crazy.

I drove up, checked into the hotel and decided to get some lunch at a noodle place near Georgia Tech. From there it was only supposed to be a 30 minute walk to packet pick up – it was a 30 minute sweat fest. It was hot, sunny, and my Jacks were not as broken in as I’d thought they were. By the time I’d marched my way to the Georgia World Congress Center and realized the expo was at the building furthest from anything, my feet were decidedly unhappy with me.

I got my packet and realized I must have thought this was a longer race and given them a half marathon proof of time. They had corrals all the way back to Z and I was in W and my corral didn’t start until 0900, when it would definitely be hot and there was a red alert in effect for race day. I already hadn’t planned on running this for time but now I knew I’d need to be more conservative than I’d planned.

I limped my way back to the hotel where I changed shoes and did some recon on the MARTA route which conveniently led me to the Lenox Square mall where I did some shopping before heading back to Midtown for dinner and an early bedtime.

I got up early as usual, which was good since the MARTA was very crowded. I got to the start about an hour and a half early and had time to eat a little breakfast and sit in the shade while watching my corral. Most people were wearing some variation of red, white, and blue and I saw a few people dressed up as characters from American history. We started promptly at nine and immediately, people were walking.

Again, I wasn’t out to break any landslide records or even PR, but it would have been nice if they’d reminded people to walk right and run left because the entire 6.2 miles was just people walking four and five abreast all over the road. It was super annoying.

There was a lot of beer and snacks offered on the course, but it was so hot that I didn’t want to eat or drink anything that might make me sick. I stopped at all the aid stations for water and walked mostly up the biggest hill at mile 3.5 because I felt like I was starting to overheat a bit, plus the people around me were slowing to an even slower walk and I was frustrating trying to run around them. I finished up around wave J, which is probably about where I would have been had I submitted a correct proof of time. At the same time, I know I put what race I was submitting included distance so I don’t know why it didn’t just go by my average pace and not total time.

Once past mile 5 it was a lot better, but right before the finish everyone just completely stopped as far as I could see. I heard that someone may have fainted at the finish line and they were trying to aid them, but everything was so backed up by that point it was insane. Eventually we made it through at a walk and I collected my t-shirt and some water and a snack box and navigated my way back to the hotel. I thanked the Ghost of Christian Past again for booking a hotel by the finish line because I was able to shower and change before checkout time which is always a huge mood booster in my book and I was thankful not to have to ride MARTA back anywhere while hot, sweaty, and smelly.

Also, I didn’t get any safety pins with my packet. Fortunately there was one in my travel kit and I used some thread to see the other side onto my singlet.


Overall, it was an okay race. It wasn’t as much fun as Disney races and I think that had a lot to do with the heat, being in the wrong corral, and just complete lack of runner courtesy and them not reminding runners of it throughout the course. I finished in 1:10, and 20,740 out of a total of 55,413 runners who finished yesterday. That is probably my slowest 10K time ever, and still middle of the pack if that says anything about the heat and amount of walkers yesterday.

I may give it another chance next year when the weather will likely be better, but it’s not at the top of my list of races I want to do.

Georgia Bucket List

When I moved to Alaska I made a big bucket list of all the Alaskan things I wanted to do. I didn’t get them all (partly because I didn’t truly understand how enormous Alaska actually is) but it was a lot of fun to make the list and try to cross things off.

There are already so many things I want to do in Georgia. Here’s the very beginning of my list:

  • Volunteer at a race – volunteers are so important to races going smoothly and I would like to be more involved on that side of the event
  • Volunteer with Girls on the Run – I didn’t start running competitively until college but it made a huge difference in my grades and time and stress management. I want to be able to help others find that same release and confidence in being able to set and achieve their goals
  • Join a running/tri club – because moving means I have to make new friends >.<
  • Run the Peachtree Road Race – the world’s largest 10K
  • Finish the Ironman 70.3 Augusta – because how often do you get to do a big race in your hometown? I love that I could sleep in my own bed and be home in time for dinner
  • Run Currahee – I’ve loved Band of Brothers for years and it would be fun to run the same route. There’s also a Currahee Challenge that runs every year, “three miles up, three miles down”
  • Bike commute regularly – now that I live closer to work and it will be more temperate (though hot and humid), I’d like to try bike commuting for extra exercise and more fun
  • Catch a catfish. I tried a couple of years ago down in Columbus and successfully fed an entire container of chicken livers to the catfish while catching none. I have a few more tricks now that I’m eager to try out.

I am Queen of Excuses

I had a pretty bad week of training last week and even the weekend before. I skipped my Friday workout because I was headed to a triathlon, Saturday was the triathlon, and then Sunday I felt justified in being a slug. I was on a different schedule than normal and it really threw off my groove, plus home stressors just ate away my willpower. I just kept making excuses about how I felt tired and didn’t feel up to the workout planned. Basically, I was being a whiny pansy.

So. Where to from there?

Well, I realized I needed to get back on the train so I committed to solid workouts during some unexpected free time I had at the end of the week and I pushed myself out of my comfort zone with an out-of-the box workout on Sunday with an open water swim (and learned that I am apparently slightly scared of what might be swimming around/under me if I can’t see it) and park bike ride.

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This week I’m committed to getting the work in as prescribed. It helps that I’m back on a more predictable schedule again, but I also know that I can’t give up just because I had a couple of bad days, or even a bad week.

In fact, I had a really excellent swim workout today where I surprised and impressed myself with not only how fast I could swim but also how easy and powerful I felt in the water – I guess all those laps and scary open water swims are paying off!

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This week Training Peaks reminded me, “He conquers who endures.” Yup, I’m going to endure.

Summer Dinners For When It’s Too Hot in the Kitchen

When the summer heat is just too much to even think about having a hot meal (is it really only June here?) I have a few recipes I go to for dinner that are filling and won’t make me feel even hotter than I already am.

Cubed, hacked caprese salad from Smitten Kitchen. I have been a follower of Smitten Kitchen for years now and I love her food. This recipe is absolutely perfect for summer weather and has all the classic bits of a caprese salad – mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, balsamic – but also delicious extras like cannellini beans. I usually just eat this with a spoon and sometimes also throw in a cubed avocado.

Okroshka. This is a Russian soup served chilled, like gazpacho. I like it because it has meat which makes P happy, and lots of veggies which makes me happy. I don’t like the yolks of hardboiled eggs so I just leave those out. It’s also great because you can make it in the morning and leave it alone all day and eat whenever.


Watermelon gazpacho. I feel like gazpacho is a summer staple and so is watermelon so this is just a perfect union of the two. Not to mention that this is the perfect weeknight dinner because it’s just throwing a bunch of ingredients in a blender and that’s it. It dirties almost nothing and is ready in the time it takes you to blend it together. I used a quarter of a watermelon for two adults, so a full-size watermelon would probably be good enough for a family of four. 

Shrimp ceviche. I am 85% certain that my husband first fell in love with me because of my shrimp ceviche. I always add extra avocado and serve it with corn tortilla chips and it’s my signature dish for parties and tailgates. It goes with everything and I never have any left to take home, much to P’s disappointment.