Holiday Gift Guide (aka my 2015 Wish List)

Last year I rather enjoyed putting together a visual holiday wish list together, so I just had to it again.  I'm thinking this would also be a good gift guide for the mother, sister, best friend, etc., in your life.  And if you're looking for something for the book lover in your life, you should check out my gift list over at Born and Read in Chicago

Brooks Heritage Kicks 

I am a Brooks girl, and I feel as if I need to round out my collection with a casual shoe - especially since they are on SALE.


I have yet to get on the essential oils train, but one of my friends always has hers goin' and it's just so LOVELY smelling.  I really like the idea of it, but spending the cash on one for myself (plus a starter set of oils) seems overwhelming.  I need someone to gift it to me.  Please, and thank you.

Mario Badescu Anti-Aging Kit

My skincare routine is really uncomplicated, even though I did add this fabulous Paula's Choice product last year.  At 41, I'm thinking maybe I should search out a good eye cream, or toner, or...  I don't know, but this kit looked like a good place to start!

Mantra Bands All I Need is Within Me or Enjoy the Journey in gold

I've had Mantra Bands on my wish list items for awhile now, and hope to get one this Christmas!  I'm an Enjoy the Journey kind of gal, but I also love the All I need is Within Me sentiment.

We Belong in Seattle mug

Even though my heart is in Chicago, I believe in this adorable Seattle mug.

Baleen Necklace
I can never resist a chic long necklace.  There are so many cool ones to choose from at Baleen, a very cool local Seattle business.

This is another on of those things to file under: don't want to spend the money on myself, but a subscription would make an EXCELLENT gift!  Or even a Popsugar Must Have box, which is a tad more extravagant. 

Sephora Meet Your Match gift set
Or if a subscription is not your cup of tea, there are SO MANY amazing gift sets at Sephora this time of year.  Lots of opportunities to try a plethora of products at a fraction of the cost.  I will probably gift myself this one, or two...

Harry Potter Book
I know I already did the book lovers gift guide, but I was remiss in not including the Harry Potter illustrated edition of The Sorcerer's Stone.  I'm debating whether to ask for it, or get it for the kids...

Well, that was fun!  Happy Thanksgiving and happy shopping!


Cheesy Butternut Squash Quinoa Bake with Gruyere & Brussels Sprouts (And Thanksgiving Week Eats! 11.22.15)

A couple of weeks ago, I tried this DELICIOUS slow cooker butternut squash sauce from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  I was going to try it over quinoa, but it was indeed on the saucy side and went better with pasta.  I still wanted to utilize my quinoa, so I took the leftovers (there were PLENTY, even though I halved the recipe) and put together a quinoa bake that I thought I'd share.  It would be a perfect side dish for the holidays, or a nice vegetarian main course - 'cuz quinoa is a complete protein, don'tcha know.

Making the sauce from scratch in the slow cooker and THEN the bake might be a bit time consuming, but I think that picking up a store bought container of butternut squash soup and melting a little bit of cream cheese into it would work just as well.  OR you could use this fantastic Trader Joe's pasta sauce for a pumpkin version!

Cheesy Butternut Squash Quinoa Bake with Gruyere & Brussels Sprouts
(serves 2, or 4 as a side dish)

  • 1 1/2 cups of butternut squash sauce, recipe below (or 1 1/4 cups of heated squash soup with 1/4 cup of cream cheese whisked in)
  • 1 cup quinoa, cook according to package directions
  • 1 cup brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere, divided (I used Cheddar Gruyere blend)
Butternut Squash Sauce:

Saute 1/4 cup of diced onion and a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet until soft.  Add one clove of chopped garlic and 1/4 teaspoon each of: dried rosemary, sage, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for one minute. Pour mixture into slow cooker with one pound of cubed butternut squash and 2 cups of chicken stock.  Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.  Blend with an immersion blender until smooth and whisk in 4 ounces of cream cheese.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet lined with foil.  While the quinoa is cooking, toss the cut brussels sprouts with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, tossing half way through.  Once the sprouts and quinoa are cooked, mix them with the sauce and 3/4 cups of the Gruyere in a large bowl and then spread into 9x11 pan, or favorite casserole dish coated with cooking spray.  Top with remaining shredded cheese.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly and the edges turn golden brown.

I'm thinking this might be our post Thanksgiving dinner, complete with leftovers!
roast turkey breast (we buy a 5lb breast and have used Alton Brown's brine recipe for about the last six years - DELICIOUS) 
classing New England style stuffing with sausage and chestnuts, I also add granny smith apples to this recipe we've been using from Cooking Light for about ten years 
hash brown potato casserole - this Cooking Light version has also been a staple of ours for many years 
mixed greens salad I use the bones of this recipe, omitting chicken/bacon and add Trader Joe's spicy/sweet pecans and apples
cranberry sauce - bought the cranberry orange relish from Trader Joe's this year
pumpkin pie - I just pick one up from the store as the kids are really the ones who eat it and they're not very particular about their pie
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, Mommy Run Fast and Jill Conyers - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!


This Weeks Eats 11.15.15 (And a Trip to Uwajimaya)

Uwajimaya, our local Asian grocer, is a place we frequent to pick up our favorite yogurt from Ellenos.  We have a routine when we visit, which is to hit up the yogurt bar, then 'oooh' and 'ahhh' and 'ewwww' over the different live seafood, and pick out a fun treat like Pocky Sticks or Hi Chews.  Recently, however, the store is undergoing construction and we find ourselves traveling different aisles of the store in order to pick up our yogurt prepackaged in the dairy aisle.  This has resulted in the hilarity of our kids gaping maws over a giant pig's head in the butcher case, glistening Peking duck and little plastic deli tubs of baby octopus.  It's highly entertaining and has encouraged good conversation about how different cultures view food differently.  I wonder when Anthony Bourdain programming will be appropriate...

On our most recent trip, we actually discovered a confection our kids do not like!  To be honest, we don't either.  Behold: Fugetsu-Do, a type of rice cake that looked like it would have a literal rainbow of flavor.  Alas, there was none.  But, it's certainly fun to keep trying different things.  Perhaps one day baby octopus?  Hmmm...
This week:

As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, Mommy Run Fast and Jill Conyers - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!


Training by Time Instead of Miles

This may be a real 'captain obvious' post here, as I'm sure many runners plan runs by time.  But I HAVE to express my enthusiasm for this practice!  I'm sort of a slave to the mileage...  Unless it's a cross or rest day, I feel like every run should be at least three miles.  I try to hit at least 20 miles a week, and at least 1000 a year.  These goals have served me just fine over the years, but I had been feeling a little blah in the last few months (I realized that I haven't raced since MAY) and I chose a plan from Jenny Hadfield that was solely focused on time. 

I found it via Pinterest, people, so we'll see if it actually gets me some results.  I'm hoping to run between 25 and 26 minutes (which is a range within 30 seconds of my PR) for my next 5K.  I REALLY want to win an age group award which is PIE - whatever my time.  Even if I don't accomplish either of these goals, I am looking forward to my workouts more these days, and that's already kind of a nice result of this plan.  Telling myself I have to run 20 minutes out and back is SO MUCH NICER than telling myself I have to run four miles.  Also, intervals are SO MUCH NICER in minutes.  If I'm running on a track, or on the trail where I've pretty much memorized every half mile marker, I know EXACTLY how far I have to go when I'm running 400s or 800s.  This is mentally rough, gazing at the end in sight.  In the last weeks of this plan, I've been doing five minute intervals and I'm often pleasantly surprised when my watch beeps.  I'm even more pleasantly surprised when I see how many miles I put in.  It takes too much mental power in the morning to ascertain how far I'll get after a ten minute warm up, followed by four x five minute intervals with two minutes of rest and a ten minute cool down.  And, lo, I ended up putting in 27 miles last week!

This way of thinking has also tricked me into a kick ass long run (pictured above).  For whatever reason, to me, looking at a progression run (what Hadfield terms a 'race simulation' workout) in terms of miles feels just so daunting.  But breaking up a run into three 15-20 minute segments?  Not so scary!  I did my longest progression run on Friday and was TRICKED into doing my longest long run in months.  I was a little intimidated by three 25 minute segments, but I figured - eh, a five minute difference per segment shouldn't be too much harder.  After a nice and easy 25 minutes, I managed a slightly slower than half marathon pace for the next 25 and slightly slower than a 10K pace for the last 20, speeding up to about a 5K pace in the final five minutes around the 8:30s.  I looked at my watch a few times along the way and thought, whoa, I'm going to end up doing over eight miles for the first time in many, many months.  AND I FELT GREAT.  If I had set off with the intention of going out for an easy long run of eight miles, even doing close to an 11 minute mile pace, I probably would have become achy and a little bored by the end.  But, damn, if I didn't feel like I could run a few more miles after that progression run.  That was my longest run for the ten week plan and I must say that I am also DIGGING 5K training.  I've never trained specifically for a 5K and I feel like my mileage is still in a good place (and the numbers on my scale), as is my strength and endurance.  

Okay, I'll stop gushing about what a revelation this has been for me.  Even after a good five years of taking this running thing somewhat seriously, and hanging out with a bunch of runners, I can still learn something new.  So, if you're also late to the game on giving this way of training a try - I HIGHLY recommend it!


This Weeks Eats 11.8.15

Are there seasonal foods you get excited about seeing in the grocery store?  When I start seeing bags of cranberries, I get absolutely giddy.
Time for cranberry bread soon!  And so. much. squash.  
Gotta put some in the menu this week.

Well, and of course, there are all the freaking Trader Joe's goodies that are starting to appear.

Hopefully I'll find some new favorites to share soon.  In the meantime...

This week:
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, Mommy Run Fast and Jill Conyers - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!


November Goals and October Recap

There's a chill in the air and the holidays are almost upon us!  I just love this time of year.  But first let's see how I fared on what is probably one of my least favorite months...

October Goals

Get the kids (and ourselves) scheduled for flu shots.  
Oof!  This is definitely done, but there seemed to be a shortage of the flu mist for the kiddos and there were a LOT of tears shed this year.

Get cracking on Halloween costumes, decor, carving pumpkins, class parties, trick or treat plans on the same night as a soccer game, blahhhhhh. (I kinda hate Halloween.)
As I noted in the last couple of menu posts, we successfully carved pumpkins and navigated a crazy afternoon of rain, soccer and trick or treating.  Costumes were the EASIEST this year, though.  Big kid is now into the idea of scary costumes and wanted to be the grim reaper.  Little kid wanted to be a cat!  Ten seconds, and very few dollars, on Amazon and I was DONE.
Okay, the working the kindergarten party was pretty cute - exhausting, but cute.

Finish up fundraising/paperwork/volunteering for the kid's jog-a-thon.
Success!  And fun!

Schedule the dogs for boarding and get ready for another trip to the Great Wolf Lodge.  
We had a lovely time, but Vader would probably not say the same of his stay at the vet...
We killed two birds with one stone, or maybe two stones? There's a bad joke in there somewhere.

Start training for a 5K!  (the Redmond Turkey Trot) 
I found this 5K training plan online from Jenny Hadfield.  It really appealed to me because the running is focused on time in lieu of miles, which is something I've never done exclusively before.  I'm kind of digging it!

Finish up Once A Runner and prepare for the wrap up of Oiselle's inaugural Long Distance Reading Club. 
 Success!  You can see our discussion on Twitter via the #LDRclub hashtag.  

November Goals
  • Get some more content going over at zee new blaaagh! Yes, I started up another blog for funsies over at Born and READ in Chicago.  I'm still in the midst of sprucing it up, writing some more posts and updating the reviews by author.  But, if you enjoy my book posts, gimme a follow over there!
  • Thanksgiving prep!  It's just the four of us, but we like to make a big production.
  • Participate in Oiselle's #Chasethebird challenge: commit to 15 minutes of exercise a day from November 1st until Thanksgiving.  This is kind of a gimme, since I'm still doing the run streak - day #528 today!  But I may add on a half mile or some extra plank work on my 1 miler days. 
  • Do what I can to get ahead of the game for Christmas this year.  Make gift lists by Thanksgiving, decide on teacher gifts and perhaps buy a few things before December. 


This Weeks Eats 11.1.15

We made it through another Halloween and now we can start thinking about the REAL holidays!  YAY!  Although, I do like to kick off food traditions with a doughnut and hot chocolate during our favorite local downtown Halloween celebration.  The weather was rather spotty this year, but we went during a break from the deluge and the line for those doughnuts was nice and short. 

Now only 25 more days until my favorite menu holiday.  Until then...

As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, Mommy Run Fast and Jill Conyers - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!