#FridayFive: 4th of July!

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Once again I’m taking part in the Friday Five linkup hosted by You Signed Up for What?, Mar on the Run, and Eat Pray Run, DC. You can join in on the fun too. Visit one of their blogs for the rules, write your blog and post your link!

Let me start off by saying, Happy Independence Day!!

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Many of you probably have today off. Because Independence Day is on the weekend, we don’t get Friday or Monday off. We are allocated a “compensatory holiday” that we can use later. So when I go to use a vacation day next, I’ll get to save it and log it as a compensatory holiday instead. If Independence Day was today or another weekday, we’d have the day off.

You’re probably wondering why I keep saying “Independence Day” rather than “4th of July.” Well as someone pointed out to me this morning, tomorrow is more than just a date. It’s a part of our country’s history and should be remembered as such. Just like Memorial Day, it’s important to remember the holiday is about more than fireworks, cookouts and swimming in the pool or whatever other activities you associate the holiday with but really have little to do with it. Take some time to re-familiarize yourself with our country’s history, the good and bad, and understand the true meaning behind Independence Day. Consider how far we’ve come and how far we still can and need to go.

But anyway, I digress.

So what am I up to this weekend?

1. Studying for the NASM exam.

My test date is coming up. I’m getting nervous. It’s just a ton of information. I am really enjoying learning it though. I’m hoping to spend the rest of the month reviewing so I’ll be as confident as possible when I head to take the exam.

2. Running the Firecracker 4k as part of the Central Pennsylvania 4th Fest.

This will be the second time I’ve run this race, but not because I haven’t been in town. I just always had other things to do that morning. The first time I ran it, the course was brutal. Due to an insane amount of campus construction and road closures, the entire course ran around the big commuter parking lots at the stadium. Seriously, 2.5 miles of parking lot running on a hot July day.

There aren’t many road closures, if any, this year. The course takes you on a nice trip through campus, which means there will be some shade. It’ll also help the participants spread out a bit more since the race does attract a big crowd. It’s not supposed to be nearly as hot as past years so that’s always a bonus.

My friend, Lauren, is coming to run it too. She’s in town visiting her in-laws and has a long run planned for tomorrow morning. She’ll be running 7 miles to the race, running the race and then running 7 miles back home. She’s one of the people that keeps me motivated. She’s accomplished so much!

3. Getting in a few other workouts, including cycle and strength training.

I’m hoping after the race to head over to Anytime Fitness to get in most, if not all, of my strength training routine. I’ve discovered from my studying that the workout the trainer gave me is a horizontally loaded workout. This means I do all sets of a particular exercise before moving on to the next exercise.

In addition, Lauren and I are hitting up a cycle class at a local studio on Sunday morning. She thought this would be better than dragging all her gear up from Virginia. Since we live so far apart, it’ll be nice to get in two workouts together in one weekend.

4. Making these fun dipped pretzels for a get-together tomorrow.

patrioticpretzels

I made these at Christmas using Christmas sprinkles. They were a Pinterest find and a big hit with everyone I gave them to. I decided to do them again for this holiday weekend. We’re going over to a friend’s for a cookout before coming back home to watch the fireworks. Hopefully everyone enjoys them and how festive they will hopefully look.

5. Watching the amazing Central Pennsylvania 4th Fest fireworks show that’s set to music all from the backyard.

We have a great fireworks display here. It’s an all-volunteer event and each year they do a great job designing the show and pulling it off. The display is set to music and even if you’re not sitting near the site, but are watching from your yard or some other location with a view you can hear the music thanks to one of the local radio stations. The display is also the finale to a great day and festival with music, food and family fun.

What are your plans for Independence Day weekend?

Recipe: Fresh Corn & Potato Chowder

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We were a bit bored on Sunday so we decided to try a new recipe. On Friday I had gotten the most recent Simple & Delicious magazine. I took a look through and found a recipe for Fresh Corn & Potato Chowder. I love corn chowder so off we went to the store for the ingredients.

We made some minor edits to the recipe and it turned out quite yummy. Those tips are below the recipe. I didn’t get any good pictures so I had to steal one from the website.

corn chowder

PC: Taste of Home

Ingredients
1 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb red potatoes (about 3 medium), cubed
1.5 cups fresh or frozen corn
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1.25 cups half-and-half cream, divided
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Directions
1. In a large saucepan, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook and stir 2-4 minutes or until tender.
2. Add potatoes, corn, chicken broth, 1 cup cream, green onions, salt and pepper.
3. Bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat; summer, covered, 12-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
5. Meanwhile in a small bowl, mix flour and remaining cream until smooth.
6. Stir into soup and return to a boil stirring constantly for an additional 1-2 minutes or until slightly thickened.
7. Stir in parsley.

Tips
We added ended up adding bacon to the finished soup as a topping. However, early on while cooking the onion we were simultaneously cooking the bacon. Gabe added the bacon grease to the onions and then seared the potatoes in the pan the bacon was in before we added it to the pot of soup. It added to the depth of flavor in the soup.

Another tip the magazine suggested was to let the spent cobs simmer in the pot. Pull them out before serving.

If you try it, let me know how it goes!

#RaceRecap: Crack O’ Dawn 5k

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It was another fun time at the 12th Annual Crack O’ Dawn 5k on Saturday. For the first time in the four years I have participated, it was actually a comfortable temperature. Thanks to a cold front and a huge mass of rain, the temperature was only 60 degrees. It was chilly compared to past years when it’s been 85 with 100% humidity and full sun.

I met my friend Michel at the race and also ran into my friend Amber. She has recently caught the running bug herself. There were about 50 participants in this year’s race, probably due to the rainy conditions. It was a pretty steady rain with a bit of wind. Thankfully the weather didn’t take a turn for the worse until later in the day.

The course remained the same as previous years with two nice long hill climbs. This year they didn’t feel nearly as taxing as they have in the past, which I chalk up to my strength training. I spent the first half of the race trailing this 10 year old girl who runs in the local youth track program. She will be running in the state meet. The second half of the race she took off. She was quite the runner!

I finished in 24:13 for 5th overall female and 2nd overall in the 20-29 age group. It was my best time on the course, but not a new PR. I was surprised at my time, especially since they didn’t have the big clock up at the finish due to the weather. I’ve also been battling a cold and I didn’t feel too great Saturday at all.

As usual the pancake breakfast was nice and the local Boalsburg merchants contributed a lot of great giveaways for participants. Amber and I ended up with two tickets to the summer show for VanDance, the local dance company the race benefits. We’re going to see the show this weekend. I’m hoping it’s good!

Did you race this weekend? How’d it go?

Nuts About Almonds

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A few weeks ago I learned about a project Nuts.com put together featuring almonds. As they said, “Since this versatile nut packs a great nutritional punch, we’re including it in our diet as much as possible and would love to inspire others to do the same.” I love almonds so I jumped at the opportunity to share how I include almonds in my diet.

I think I’ve always loved almonds. I remember sitting with my dad watching a movie or a favorite TV show and we’d be snacking on a package of mixed nuts. I always picked out the good stuff, like almonds, pecans and brazil nuts. My dad didn’t seem to mind, although I know he enjoyed the almonds too. Years later, if I find myself with a package of mixed nuts I am still picking out my favorites, especially the almonds.

So what’s so great about almonds?

Well beyond the fact they’re just so yummy, they offer a lot of health benefits, most of which I didn’t know until I did a little research. Check out this great graphic from the Almond Board of California.

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Pretty awesome, huh?

Now like a lot of people I enjoy just snacking on plain almonds. I have a big bag of raw almonds in my cupboard and it’s so easy to grab a small handful for a snack or to pack in my lunch to take to work. I love the crunch! But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I enjoyed them as more of a treat or dessert sometimes too! Chocolate covered almonds, especially dark chocolate, are a personal favorite and my boyfriend recently introduced me to Jordan Almonds, which I really enjoyed as well.

Another way I get some almonds into my diet are through KIND bars. I usually take a bar with me to work for a morning or afternoon snack. They’re really filling and tasty. My current favorite is the Madagascar Vanilla Almond.

Just look at those almonds!

Just look at those almonds!

I packed one today and I may or may not be counting down to when I can eat it ;-)

I’m not sure if it was coincidence or not, but right after I was contacted by Nuts.com to participate in this campaign a fellow blogger posted a dinner recipe that used almonds. It looked easy enough and so I thought it’d be great to highlight here too.

Linda over at Fabulous Fare Sisters put together a recipe for Almond Rice. I made it last night for dinner and it was a big hit. Thank you, Linda!

Check out the recipe below and don’t forget to visit Fabulous Fare Sisters for other great recipes.

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Ingredients
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 vidalia onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Jasmine rice
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 roasted red pepper slices, diced
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 cups chicken stock
3 tbsp toasted almonds

Directions
1. In a medium sauce pot, heat oil on medium. Add the onion and garlic and sautee for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the rice, parsley and diced red pepper and sautee for 1 minute.
3. Add the almond extract and stir.
20150625_1832504. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Put the lid on and reduce heat to simmer for 12-15 minutes until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
5. Place in serving bowl and top with toasted almonds.

Personal Tips/Thoughts
I forgot to buy sliced almonds and toasted my own whole ones in the oven. They worked well, but I think in the future I would like to try sliced almonds.

I added a whole onion, a bit more red pepper and parsley since I was making this more as my main dish rather than a side dish. I also think you could substitute a different flavor of stock, vegetable for example, and it would still be a great dish.

I loved the smell of the almond extract as I poured it in. It’s only a little, but it’s so fragrant. I also loved how colorful the dish ultimately was, from the early stages of cooking until the final product.

On another note, I really enjoyed working with Nuts.com. It’s a family business dating back to 1929. Definitely check out their history on their website. I personally can’t wait to try some of their products. They have such a wide variety.

Do you like almonds? How do you enjoy them most?

Friday Five: Favorite Summer Activities

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In place of my normal Friday post, I decided to join a link up with You Signed Up For What?, Mar on the Run, and Eat Pray Run DC called Friday Five. This week’s theme is Favorite Summer Activities. Make sure to check out the blogs of each host, as well as all the others who have linked up!

My favorite summer activities are a bit all over the place and some can definitely be enjoyed at other times of the year too, well depending on where you live.

1. Family beach trip to South Carolina.

Love this early morning view.

Love this early morning view.

I think we’ve been going down to South Carolina since at least 1986. My grandparents retired to Surfside Beach and so we always had a place to stay, a 5 minute drive to the beach. Eventually, my grandparents moved a bit further south to the Litchfield Beach/Pawley’s Island area. It’s a little quieter and they have strict building codes for ocean areas so there aren’t high rise condos and hotels. There’s also a large ocean front state park. While the beach is the main draw, there is still plenty to do if you want to be busy and Myrtle Beach and all its attractions are just a short 45 minute drive up the highway.

2. The annual beach trip with my college girls. 

I know, I know…it’s still the beach. But it’s different since it’s with my college girlfriends. We usually hit a beach in New Jersey, Delaware or Maryland since we all live between New York and Virginia. We’ve been doing it since the summer after freshman year of college. We haven’t all been to every trip, but it’s really become a tradition for us. This will be the 11th time and we’ll be heading to a beach in New Jersey. We picked a quieter beach this year, content to just spend time together on the beach. But if we want to go out, there is a fun trolley we can hop to hit some nightlife.

This was from 2013 in Delaware and we're missing one friend who was then living in Australia.

This was from 2013 in Delaware and we’re missing one friend who was then living in Australia.

3. Working on my garden.

While we had an herb garden last year, we decided to branch out and try vegetables this year. We have 4 types of tomatoes, 3 types of peppers, cucumbers, and spaghetti squash. So far I’ve found a cucumber, a pepper and two tomatoes growing. We’ll see what else we get as summer moves along. I’m really enjoying this new endeavor and hope I always had space for at least a potted garden of some kind.

This was taken right after planting. The plants have all grown so much since then.

This was taken right after planting. The plants have all grown so much since then.

4. Running in hot summer races.

Ok, I’m kidding about the hot part. I really am not the biggest fan of running in the heat, but I make do running early in the morning or late in the evening when the sun isn’t as intense and it’s not as warm. While there aren’t a ton of races in the summer months, we do have a few local ones I like to do. One is the Crack ‘O Dawn 5k and the other is the annual ArtsFest 5k/10k/10-miler. This year I’m opting to do the 10-miler and crossing my fingers it’s not 90 degrees with 100% humidity that morning.

This is from last year's ArtsFest race. I did the 10k.

This is from last year’s ArtsFest race. I did the 10k.

5. Visiting the apiaries where Gabe does his research.

I never thought I’d find myself surrounded by hives of buzzing honeybees. But I’ve learned so much about them and so many other insects. It’s really an enjoyable part of the summer to go help Gabe out in the lab or with the hives. They’re fascinating little creatures!

Never thought I'd do this either!

Never thought I’d do this either!

While I don’t get summers off, I do enjoy attempting to make the most of these months. There are a lot of activities I could have highlighted here in this list…going to the pool, hiking, going to weddings (that has definitely been a constant for the past few summers), traveling, camp fires, and so much more. The list might be never ending!

What are your favorite summer activities?

A Need for Speed

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Oops, it’s been a bit since my last post. Sorry about that! Life took over and I just didn’t have a chance to post.

So since I made the decision awhile back to focus on shorter distances in my running, specifically the half marathon for much of the remainder of 2015, I was trying to figure out ways to improve my speed. I’ve done hill repeats and interval runs on the treadmill, but I had hoped to be more focused. Sadly hiring a running coach is not an option.

I got lucky though when a trainer friend of mine offered me a training plan he’d put together to improve his speed. It’d be tailored to me based on my 5k time. It has a track workout, a short run and a long run each week. I could probably add in an extra short run, but I’d say three runs a week is pretty normal for me. My shins get a lil upset when I run too much so I’ve learned keeping runs spaced out during the week keeps them happy. I also strength train, do circuit training, I’ve recently added yoga to the mix and occasionally I sneak in a cycling class.

Even though my PR in a 5k is 23:37, we plugged it in as 25 minutes in the excel spreadsheet because it is summer time and I don’t like the heat. Who does? I did my first track workout last night. It was beautiful out, even with a small passing rain cloud. The workout was 8×400 with a 1:51 pace per lap and a 1 lap recovery walk or jog. My friend Ivy tagged along and we ended up cutting the recovery walk down to only a 1/2 lap walk. Maybe it was a fluke, but we averaged probably 1:47ish per lap. We had two over 1:51, the first one and the second-to-last one. I was happy with our overall consistency. It was challenging, but felt good.

A beautiful view of Mt. Nittany at track level.

A beautiful view of Mt. Nittany at track level.

While I don’t have a half marathon on the horizon, I am planning to run a 5k at the end of the month, as well as a 10-miler in mid-July. It’ll be interesting to see how those go if I can keep up with this training plan.

Looking forward to some circuit training today, as well as a short run after work.

Are you running this week?

It’s National Running Day!

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The wait is over! It’s finally National Running Day! For some reason I’m extra excited this year and can’t wait until the workday is over and I can go get in a few miles.

I’ve seen so many companies and organizations getting into National Running Day this year. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this graphic, for example.

11391439_499506613558930_3562830716568731715_nThis made me think. Why do I run? I think it’s for a lot of reasons. I run…

  • because I enjoy it.
  • because I want to be faster.
  • because I want to be fit and healthy.
  • because it provides challenges I want to overcome.
  • for my buddy Lorinda through I Run 4 Michael.
  • because I like my sweets.
  • to spend time with friends.
  • to spend time by myself.
  • because I can.

I could probably go on and on but I’ll save you from that :)

Why do you run?

I also wanted to take this opportunity to share links to some great National Running Day social media events, as well as discounts, deals and giveaways some companies are offering.

ASICS is my preferred running shoe. They’re celebrating today using the hashtag #gorunitJune3. Show ASICS how you will #gorunitJune3 on social media and you might be featured on their social media channels and you’ll be automatically entered into their sweepstakes. For everyone 100 tweets that use the hashtag, ASICS will give away a free pair of shoes to a random winner. How awesome would that be?!? They also have a great badge you can share after you get your run in today.

Brooks is also celebrating National Running Day on social media. Tag @Brooksrunning and use the hashtag #thankyourunning. They’ll be regraming and retweeting their favorites all day. It also sounds like they have a few special things planned for the day on their channels so keep an eye out.

Finally, a link I found that you might want to check out is a list of all the deals, discounts and giveaways currently being offered in honor of National Running Day. There are discounts from Lole, Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series, Hyland’s, Women’s Running magazine and more!

So go hit the treadmill or the road or the trail and get in some miles today! Oh, and don’t forget to share it :)

How are you celebrating?