Friday, March 19, 2010

breakfast on the go

Kyle and I have early and rushed weekday mornings, and we need to take advantage of every extra minute possible to sleep. But we also need enough energy to get through our early morning pursuits (mine - running, his - getting reemed out) without breaking the bank. We used to turn to Clif and Luna bars, but after spending $10+/week on those I switched to generic nutri grain-ish bars. Those were way too sugary and unnatural though, and at only about 100 calories a pop, didn't provide quite enough fuel for early 6-10 milers. So, in the interests of saving money and eating more healthfully, I offer you my two favorite grab & go breakfast recipes.

Banana Flaxseed Muffins

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

1/3 cup vegetable oil (canola also works and is a tad healthier)
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt (vanilla's good too)
1 cup mashed bananas
1/2 cup rolled oats, ground into flour (I don't grind them)
1/4 cup ground flaxseeds
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I use half soy flour for extra protein)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.

In a mixing bowl, combine the oil and brown sugar. Add the eggs and beat well. Mix in the yogurt and bananas. In a separate bowl or a blender, combine the three flours, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry mixture to the banana mixture and stir just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and place the pan on a rack to cool for 10 minutes.

Thick, Chewy Granola Bars
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (use more for a sweetness akin to most purchased bars; use less for a mildly sweet bar)
1/3 cup oat flour (grind whole oats in a blender or food processor to make your own) 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts*

1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.

Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and peanut butter, if you’re using it) until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. (A piece of plastic wrap can help with this, as you press down on the back of it.)

Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little color on the tops too. They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan but do not worry, they’ll set completely once completely cool.

Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. (Alternately, after about 20 minutes you can use your parchment “sling” to lift and remove the bars, and place them in their paper on the rack to cool the rest of the way. This can speed the process up.)

Once cool, a serrated knife to cut the bars into squares. If bars seem crumbly, chill the pan of them further in the fridge for 30 minutes which will fully set the “glue”, then cut them cold. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator. They also freeze well.

*Suggestions: Dried cranberries, cherries, apricots, chopped pecans or walunts, sunflower seeds, coconut, raisins, pepitas, dried apples, ground flaxseed, or even mini chocolate or white chocolate chips.

YUM!!! Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Friday, March 12, 2010

S.P. inspiration

Finally, I've found a real image of the one that's been in my head for the lovingly named Service Porch room - really our third bedroom that moonlights as a family room so we can have a more formal living room. My sis made fun of me for using the term family room, so we settled on calling it the Service Porch, harkening back to our days of rushing home after sports practices to catch the Brady Bunch on TBS at 4:35. Anyhow, here it is.

Here are the elements that we've already got:
- grayish walls (ours are a bit darker and more on the slate/blue side of gray)
- classic styled couch in a neutral color - it's a tan canvas sleeper sofa from Jennifer Convertibles
- blue & white striped cotton rug - from WS Home. We've managed to keep it fairly clean and I actually don't mind the few little stains that have popped up. Couldn't believe we got through the aforementioned Focker Fest without any more serious ones.
- well-worn wood desk, used by my step-dad's late father for many years in his law practice. I'd say it's closest to mission style, but definitely has a touch of old-school office feel to it.
- guitar resting out of the case
- hot guy in jeans
- we also have a pretty neat old typewriter (I'm guessing from the 30's) that I picked up from a garage sale I stopped at while on a long and hilly bike ride this fall. I used my mad old man flirting skills to get it for $5.
- finally, we have a tall military green and old filing cabinet snagged when it was being discarded from one of the Baltimore City schools. That was one good outcome of Kyle's bad job experience.

And we still need:
- another seating option. We do have a neat chippy old stool which migrates around the house as well as a cool leather-sling kind of stool that serves as the desk chair. But I love that wire chair and think it or something similar would be a perfect option because even though it's not tiny, it's so airy that I don't think it would overwhelm the small space. Plus, it will be sitting in front of a closet door which we rarely open, but when we must, it wouldn't be hard to move.
- I'd like to consider repainting/re-finishing (hmmm...which is the correct way to write those words? dash or no dash?) the tv stand that Kyle and his cousin made for us. I painted it white and it looks too new and fresh for the room now. I may consider a color like the one on the shelves in the left side of this room.
- industrial inspired lamp. I've got one in there now that I love, but it's too big for where it sits on the desk now, and just not the right style.
- new ceiling light fixture. We've been replacing a few around the house with ones from and may opt for another one of those. I also came across a blogger who made and gave instructions to make the fixture below, but I'm not completely sold on it yet. What do you think? (are you still reading??)

I think I might visit some antique shops tomorrow instead of doing my 22-miler in the rain, so I'll post some pictures early next week of the room today, and after the weekend if I was successful at finding anything. And don't worry, I'll get those miles in on Sunday instead.

Monday, March 8, 2010

two awesome things

1. this video

2. the fact that I figured out how to get it to show up on this blog.

Friday, March 5, 2010

bad news/good news

Which do you pick when someone asks which news you want to hear first? I'm going first with the bad here...

Soon, we won't have access to some hilarious and unbelievable emails that circulate around Kyle's current place of employment. I share this one with you today. Again, names have been changed to protect the innocent (or not so innocent).

Subject: Morning Roll Call

Starting Tuesday, March 2, 2010, and every work day thereafter I will conduct morning "ROLL CALL", at 7:30 am. Please email me and copy the Director your whereabouts at present, and your following location sites, expected times of arrival/departure, including scheduled visitations.
Thanks, Kyle's boss

What? You can't believe anyone actually gets treated like that at work? You need one more email just to prove it to you? Well, ok, you convinced me:

Ms. You Need To Find A New Job Stat, (again, names have been changed)
I spent part of my meeting today discussing keeping the original people on the email. Apparently you were napping during that discussion. This is why I had you sitting in the front. Future meetings you are to sit in front.
Secondly, I do not care who was to do what. What is troubling is that TODAY the task has not been completed. As the manager you are totally responsible. Your email should have been sent to me last week. I should not have heard through Homer Simpson. This lack of paying attention to details will not be tolerated.
Kyle's boss' boss

Whoa. Raise your hand if you would have cried/quit/spouted profanities upon receiving an email like that, with 5 other people copied, to make matters worse!

Anyway, you get the point that Kyle is not in a happy place at his current job. Sooooo the good news (which is quite out of proportion with the bad) is.....

he has a new job! Hooray! Praise God, bow to Allah, appreciate good karma or thank your lucky stars; it's a great day! He'll start on a yet to be determined date at this company:, which provides energy audits to homeowners and business and advises them on how to improve their energy efficiency. Kyle will be the one to lead the installation of whichever products/services they choose to buy to accomplish the energy savings. They are a subsidiary of a really cool commercial builder in Baltimore so even though they're new, they have a strong foundation under them. They are so new, in fact, that they weren't ready to hire for his position yet, but when they met him through his networking efforts, they didn't want to pass him up! So, we're hoping business picks up quickly and they'll need him soon. They have a great vision and growth plan and are going to provide Kyle with a lot of training, so it looks promising that he'll be able to be there for a long time, which is exactly what he was looking for.

On a totally different subject, I need to start doing some posts with pictures. Sorry about that. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

mug shot

One of my Back on My Feet girlfriends was telling me recently that she had been talking with one of the residential members one-on-one and learned just how candid they seem to be about the appearances of us female volunteers. Keep in mind that they live in a shelter with about 100 other guys, and many of them spend almost all of their time there, so they don't exactly have that much contact with women. Anyway, our buddy Keith told Shelley that she looks a LOT better in her normal clothes than she does in the morning while running, going so far to actually say that she looks "really bad" in her running gear! Lovingly, of course. :-)

I had a similar experience yesterday that was quite funny. Some background...we have monthly social events with the guys, anything from beach volleyball to pre-race potlucks and in this month's case, taking in a the Loyola-UNH basketball game. It was the first social event for a newer member, Chris, who has only been running with us since the cold weather set in. I always wear a fleece hat (like a touque, not a baseball cap) when running in the winter, so it was the first time he'd seen me with my normal hair-do. We didn't really talk much at the game because we were sitting in different sections.

Well yesterday morning when we were stretching in our circle after the run, he said to me "was that you with the curly hair and glasses at the basketball game?" I confirmed that it was, and he went on to gush about what a "beautiful head of hair" I have. Very complimentary at first and I accepted appreciatively, and then he went on to say, "I mean, in the mornings here you look like you're in a mug shot!".

Thanks for the warning, Shelley, now I see what you mean! And you're almost there Chris...just need a little polishing before you're ready to re-enter the real world. We'll help you get there. :-) He is probably right though...see the picture below for the telltale evidence - I'm muggin' it up front and center on a recent coooold morning. And Mom, thanks again for the jacket; it's been a lifesaver this winter!

Monday, March 1, 2010

a good day

Sorry, Saturday - your place in my heart has been stolen by Sunday. I still love your long runs in the morning, and your occasional evening out, but you've got nothing on Sunday anymore. Now that I have a job which very rarely activates the Sunday blues, I love the (relatively) late mornings in bed, the chance to enjoy a cup of coffee with Kyle, an uplifting church service, and lazy afternoons.

This Sunday was missing a few of those elements, but it was a good one nonetheless. I was up at 6 to head to a 7:30 race just south of Baltimore, the first test of my arduous winter training season. It was a hilly 10 miler and I was shooting for 8 minute miles, and I felt a little intimidated by the women in their fancy arm warmers, discussing their anticipated 7:40 pace.

Well, it turns out that I showed them, finishing up in a very surprising 1:13:14 - 7:19 pace. I knew after the first 6:45 mile that I had to either drop back or commit, and opted to see if I was up for the challenge. My last couple of miles were around 7:30 so I slowed down a little, but was really thrilled overall. Take that, arm warmer ladies!

I carpooled down with my buddy Dan, a social worker therapist at Hopkins a little younger than our parents, with whom I volunteer for Back on My Feet. I told him I'd drive him if he let me pick his brain about counseling for part of the 30 minute ride. He was extremely receptive and helpful, already trying to figure out how he could help me land an internship that's more than 2 years away. We decided to establish a casual mentorship and I'm really excited to call on his experience and local connections as I finish up the second half of my master's. (Is that proper use of the apostrophe? I never know in this case! Please tell me if it's wrong...using those incorrectly feels to me like having something stuck in my teeth or my zipper down and nobody telling me!)

We hosted "Focker Fest" for Kyle's roller hockey team, the Fockers (as an mother-in-law asked if she could get a Fockers jersey and wanted it personalized. Kyle told her ok, but it would have to read Mother Focker). It was a tightly-packed service porch (family room for those of you who missed that post) for the vieweing of the heartbreaking US-Canada gold medal hockey game. I enjoyed witnessing the differences between girls' and guys' get-togethers:

- girls wait until the food is served to indulge, and even then usually have to be prodded to serve themselves; guys dig in before you've even got it on the serving platter

- guys burp, belch and fart at will, without exclusing themselves (occasionally congratulating each other on "a good one"); girls never burp, belch or fart - everyone knows that. ;-)

- girls offer to help the hostess clean up; guys retreat to the basement to check out the host's stuff, and make more of a mess when they track the dirt back upstairs.

It was a great time though, and I felt fully justified in partaking in the wings, ribs, pizza and beer due to my earlier run.

Almost done... it was an excellent day because of the anticipation of good things to come this week for Kyle. He has two companies vying to gain him as a new employee, and either would be a good long-term career move. He'll get the second official offer tomorrow afternoon so we're praying it's a good one and the decision will be easy!

Ok, finally...the 8:30 bedtime. aaaaaaahhhhhhhhh.