Resolutions. 2014.

In 2014 I will …

Turn 30.

Embrace 30.

Run a half marathon in two hours.

Hike on the Art Loeb Trail in North Carolina.

Make at least one recipe each week from one of my actual cookbooks.

Judge less. Look deeper. Understand more.

Glaze Lola.

Rediscover all the best things about Indianapolis with Karl, because he lives here now.

Go outside, even in the cold, because I own a First Ascent coat now.

Buy rain boots.

Camp.

Adventure.

Write.

Photograph.

Visit one place that I love and one place that I’ve never traveled to before.

Not shave my armpits.

Run long, run far on the weekends for fun.

I Ran a Marathon. My Body is a Miracle.

I’m a woman. I’ve stood in front of my mirror and looked at my naked body and criticized. I’ve been late to work because I spent 20 minutes standing in front of my open closet, changing outfits, each one making me feel fat, making my stomach bulge. I’ve weighed myself every few days, marked down the numbers, obsessed over one pound lost or gained. I’ve not bought perfectly cute pants because I refuse to buy a size 10. I’m a size 8 damn it. Once for a year or so I dropped a pant size and I rejoiced. I swore I’d get back there again some day. I’ve talked the skinny talk. “I’m going to loose 10 pounds before attending that wedding.” “I can’t have pizza tonight. It’s soo bad for you.” “Man, I wish my thighs didn’t touch.”

I’ve never once stopped eating or purged my body of food I’d just eaten because I felt inadequate about my body, but I have definitely disliked myself a whole lot because of how I looked, because I didn’t think I was skinny enough, because the way my stomach folded when I sat or bent forward made me really sad.

One day I started running. And then another day I kind of got addicted to running. That was hard. I read magazines, blogs, articles, all very helpful words, and looked at the accompanying pictures. Lady runners have flat stomachs. They don’t have a big chest. They have small thighs. My thighs only got bigger, stronger, the more I ran, the farther I asked them to carry me. My girls have to be squashed into a sizable bra before they kind of sort of don’t bounce. My stomach? Well maybe it got a little flatter, I’m sure it got stronger, but my love of cookies was strong, too.

At first I ran to combat that love of cookies. Today I run because I love my body, because it feels great after I run, because it’s capable of doing amazing things. It does amazing things looking mostly the same way it did when I stood in front of the mirror and felt sad.

A week and a half ago I finished my first marathon, the Monumental Marathon. My body killed it for me, as in “damn girl, you killed it! That was awesome!” It not only carried me 26.2 miles from start to finish line, it hauled me through months of training, long runs, early mornings, and mental breakdowns. Today there is no way in my right mind I could look at my body and think, “I wish you were different.” My body is a dang miracle, you guys, and I am so thankful for it. It got me to 13.1 miles in 2:07. It pushed me past my house and my cheering section twice.

It started to falter in the last six miles of the race, but somehow, by God’s grace or thanks to the energy stored perhaps in my toes from all the gels I had eaten, somehow that last mile I ran hard, I flew, and I crossed the finish line in this weird mix of emotions. Exhaustion. Joy. Ecstasy. Shock. Anger. (Yep, I wish I’d gone faster.) Pride.

Today I had this epiphany while I was watching this video.

Robyn Lawley says she loves her body. Is she nuts? She’s a woman. Women don’t love their bodies. And then I realized that I do. I love my body after all that time thinking it kinda sucked, that it could be better. I can say the same thing Robyn Lawley says. I love my body the way it is for appreciating when I fill it with pasta and pie and kale and homemade soup and cake. I love it for bending as much as it can when I try to twist it into bird of paradise. I love it for hiking up mountains and through deserts and up and down my street every day behind a silly black dog. I love it for letting me lace up my running shoes every week.

I love my body because it let me finish a marathon. What has your body done for you today? I bet something pretty damn spectacular.

Yurtcation 2013. A Gear in Review.

Our favorite gear from our road trip to Utah — tested, tried, reviewed by me and Karl (thanks for helping me with these reviews!).

Mira

The odds are pretty good that you don’t have a Mira. However, if you are lucky enough to have a four-legged friend like the Mira, take him or her on a road trip with you. How do you know if your dog is good roadtrip companion material? Here’s how we knew about Mira. She loves the car….seriously, she really loves the car. Walk her out back and she thinks she’s going on a ride. The excitement, it’s very real. But it dies down once in the car. She’s a very quiet and patient car rider. And she can wait hours between bathroom breaks, which makes her an ideal road trip buddy. She also provides great protection at sketchy rest stops and gas stations. If any questionable human gets close to the car, she politely lets them know that their jugular will be hers. Remember to pack poop bags and always pick up after your dog at rest stops and gas stations. We scheduled in a few longer breaks to feed Mira, that way she didn’t feel rushed to scarf down her food at a gas station while we were filling up. She’s a nervous eater, and that definitely comes out more when traveling. Know your dog’s quirks and be prepared for them to be magnified while road tripping.

Cons about Mira, and possibly about traveling with your four-legged friend. National parks. Whether they’re closed because of government shutdowns or not, dogs are not allowed in them. This means you’ll need to be staying in a place where your dog can spend his or her days while you explore the wildernesses that our great country have deemed worthy of protecting. The yurt provided a more permanent abode than a tent for the Mira to hang out in while we were gone. Remember that your pup may also be a bit anxious about traveling to a new place. Be sure to bring some comforts of home with you such as favorite toys and dog beds or blankets. Allowing the occasional treat such as bed snuggle time or wet food instead of dry food, may help make the transition to a different place a bit easier.

Kelty retro packs


The Kelty packs started out for us as a fun way to carry necessary items when we were having local adventures around our cities and to hold clothing as we travel back and forth between Milwaukee and Indianapolis. Even in this capacity the Kelty packs rock. One can hold an incredible amount of shit. I’ve packed all of my clothes for a weekend to Karl’s in mine. So of course they would be coming on the Yurtcation. One of our favorite things about this particular Kelty pack is the classic design. Kelty rereleased this design, which echoes the original Kelty daypack with modern updates. As unhipster hipsters we appreciate anything that suggests vintage and historical and classic.

We used our Kelty packs pretty much every day while hiking and exploring. At the parks we packed fleeces, water, my camera, lunches, snacks, and emergency items (i.e. headlamps and first aid kit) in them. The small inside organizer pocket, complete with zipper, is great for small items, like chapstick, drivers licenses, and money. We were shocked to find that the modest Kelty pack stands up to class II rapids, too! Our Colorado River rafting trip took us through a few rapids and Karl’s Kelty kept our few items (fleeces, Karl’s camera, and ids) perfectly dry. Now, I’m not sure just how much water this pack can withstand, so please don’t test fate.

Sleeping pads (trekker 1.75 REI)


Sleeping pads are a necessity for a few reasons. 1. Something insulating between you and the ground will keep you warmer, and as Bear Grylls always says, “One layer on the bottom is worth two on top.” 2. The ground is rocky. For years, like I’m talking 15, I had a ThermaRest self-inflating sleeping pad. When I finally admitted that the tiny hole somewhere in the pad was inconviently keeping the thing always inflated and set out to buy a new one, I figured I’d go ThermaRest again. Karl, however, convinced me otherwise.

Karl decided to replace his foam sleeping pad with a self-inflating one earlier this summer and ended up going with the REI brand trekker 1.75. Not only did it come in long (big points for us tall folks), but it was super soft and less expensive than a ThermaRest! Win. It didn’t take much for me to get the same one, but the women’s version. And I’ll tell you what, we have had nothing but fantastic sleeps on these things. They are incredibly comfortable and seem to be durable. The only downside? They take about an hour to self-inflate. We usually encourage them along by blowing them up ourselves.

Check back soon for our reviews of foot and legwear!

Yurtcation 2013. A Photo Dump.

In September Karl, Mira, and I roadtripped out west to Utah to celebrate Karl’s impeding 30th birthday.

Our route out took us west on I70 through Illinois, Missouri, (never-ending) Kansas, Colorado, and finally Utah. The return route took us through Durango, CO and the Colorado mountains, and back to I70.

Our digs varied from a KOA campsite in Limon, CO, to four nights in a yurt in Monticello, UT (think Genghis Kahn goes glamping), to an inn in Ouray, CO that Mira and I are convinced was haunted after a hairy mountain drive in the dark, to my cousin’s house in St. Louis, MO.

We explored Moab one day as hail fell from the desert skies and questioned Utah’s low ABV content law.

We stood under arches, marveled at nature’s ability to balance rocks on top of each other, and scrambled up rocks at Arches National Park.

 

 

We rafted on the Colorado River.

We followed cairns through Canyonlands National Park’s Needles District and off-roaded with Karl’s Subaru Forester, Jake.

We had coffee in an Airstream in Cortez, CO., ate well and hiked in Durango, woke up in the mountains in Ouray, stood on the Continental Divide, and barely made it out of Kansas with our lives.

 


What do we wish we could’ve done? Spend more time in Denver and Colorado in general, camp and explore more in Canyonlands, and visit Zion National Park and Goblin Valley State Park (but we know that Leave No Trace applies to the boulders there, *cough* *cough* Boy Scouts of America).

 

The Elusive Runners High

I’ve been running for about five years. That’s like minuscule in the grand scheme of running. The group of older guys who run regularly with the Indy Runners group have been lacing up since before I was born. In my five years I’ve heard about this thing, the runners high, from fellow runners and in articles I’ve read online. You get this feeling supposedly of flying, of harmony, of each step coming easily. You’re in this other worldly zone.

I’ve never been in that zone. I’ve had highs on a horse, on top of a mountain, in yoga, but never while running. This sport HURTS. It does not make me feel naturally high.

So why in the world do I run? To chase that high, because I’ve had glimpses of it. And because on Sunday I was there, I felt that runners high, and it was glorious.

Training for a marathon can almost kill a person. It doesn’t start badly. Midweek runs of 4 to 6 miles, weekend runs of around 10. Then you’re suddenly pumping out at least 30 miles a week … trying to squeeze one 8 mile run into a weekday and out sweating and pushing yourself for multiple hours and nearing 20 miles on the weekends. This is time consuming. It requires planning. It makes you want to eat everything in sight. After running 17 miles on a weekend your body hates you for two days. Muscles hurt, knees ache and pop, shoulders are tight, and feet groan at walking.

But my God, there is very little as satisfying as collapsing at the end of 17 miles and thinking, “I did it. I just pushed my body and my mind past the point I thought possible. Fuck yeah, bitches!” And it makes those eight pieces of turkey bacon that I scarf down feel guiltless and the foot rubs from my boyfriend feel well earned.

And then last Sunday it happened. The runners high. I caught it and was all up in it. And it makes all the painful miles worth it. Around mile 13 of 17 I suddenly felt like putting one foot in front of the other wasn’t hard at all. In fact I barely felt my feet touching the ground. The soccer fields and trees and cars around me disappeared. I only saw the road in front of me and I wanted to fly toward it, take it on. It’s hard to describe I guess, but it’s basically the complete opposite of how I feel when I am certain I can’t take one more step forward, when I wonder why the heck I even run because it’s so hard.

Today I set out to do 18 miles by myself, no company. I was nervous, but I had motivation—to chase that runners high. I didn’t find it this time, but I’m pretty sure it’ll come again. After all I still have seven more weeks of marathon training and a lifetime of running left.

On Busyness. Maple Granola.

My first instinct was to spell busyness like this: business. Then I realized that’s an entirely different word. This post is about business, the business of my life for the past few months, but business sounds very coat and tie and heels, and, well, I’ve been busy, but I haven’t been business. I’ll never be business.

Being busy. That’s where I’ve been. Busy living my life and not telling you about it. Busy testing cupcake and salad recipes for bridal showers. Busy being an editor again while being busy being a marketing director by day. Yeah, that’s right, marketing director by day, editor by night. I am a super hero. Busy running my brains out, racking up the miles, looking to 26.2 miles in November. Busy making pasta with fresh peas from my garden and drinking bourbon ginger ales. Busy cooking brats over an open flame.

Busy exploring my city like I’ve never lived here before. Busy following the signs. Busy drinking good beer, listening to good music, and watching fireworks explode in the night sky.

Busy doing all this with this guy who keeps me busy every day with thinking how lucky I am to have bumped into him in this busy sea.

Busy. Have to remember to stop and take a breath sometimes.

Take a breath and look up at the stars and the moon, dip your feet into a lake, watch relationships being built.

Enjoy a cup of coffee, or three, with the person you love while the sun shines down. Take a breath and remind yourself why you’re doing all these things that keep you so busy. This relationship, even though it requires some driving, is inspiring and makes me believe in so much again. That second job surrounds me with people who are strong and courageous in a way I am certain I could never be. They are my heroes.

The busy is worth it. Every second.

So maybe you’re busy, too. Summer can be like that. It’s a funny season. The air is hot and thick, and the days are longer. Everything points to slowing down, yet summer always seems to be full of activities, of trying to cram as much into these warm, lazy days as possible.

This summer I’ve discovered the best food: homemade granola. It’s not crunchy and granola as in you’ll be a hippy making your own granola in your oven. It is crunchy and granola as in it bakes up into clumps of sweet, oaty goodness that wants to be covered in almond milk, yogurt, fresh summer berries, and really eaten right from a jar.

Did you know that granola is ridiculously easy to make? It is, and I feel someone really mean and selfish has been withholding this beautiful knowledge from me. Granola takes one bowl, one spoon, a measuring spoon, and one baking sheet to make. It doesn’t even take measuring cups if you have a kitchen scale (and I say, get a kitchen scale, because it’ll make you love cooking even more than you already do, and it’ll make all your measurements so much more accurate. Deb convinced me with her cookbook full of ingredients in weights finally.) This granola unassumingly sits in your oven, filling your house with a cinnamon maple smell.

The hardest part will probably be finding unsweetened coconut flakes. (I found mine at Whole Foods in the baking section.) The second hardest part will be believing that you made granola that sticks together in lovely clumps. The secret is the egg white (or 3 tablespoons of water + 1 tablespoon of flaxseed if you’re the vegan type).

In between all of the rushing around I’ve been doing, I manage to always make batches of this granola. My big glass jar is always full of it. Trust me on this one.

I would like to give credit where credit is due. The food styling in these granola, yogurt, and blueberry photos was all done by my boyfriend, Karl. I got a ridiculous amount of pleasure watching him lean over the bowls and carefully sprinkle granola over yogurt and place berries on top without any guidance from me.

Crunchy Maple Granola
Straight from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients
3 cups (240 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup (50 grams) unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
1 cup (100 grams) walnuts (or other nut of your choice), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (25 grams) toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups (215 grams) dried cherries, cranberries, or other dried fruit, diced into large pieces

Preheat your oven to 300°.

Combine all ingredients but egg white and dried fruit in a large bowl, tossing to coat evenly. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until frothy. Stir into the granola mixture, distributing it throughout.

Spread granola mixture in a single layer onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. (If you don’t have parchment paper, don’t line the baking sheet with anything. You’ll just have to do some scraping of granola bits when you wash the baking sheet.)

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes. About halfway through the baking time, use a large spatula to turn over sections of the granola as carefully as you can. (I break the big chunks up accidentally often and sometimes lose track of what I’ve flipped. It’s OK. Flip the majority as best you can.) Rotate the pan.

When the granola is evenly browned and feels dry to the touch, transfer the pan from the oven to a cooling rack. Cool completely.

Once it’s completely cool, break up granola into whatever size clusters delight you. Sprinkle in dried fruit.

This granola will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 weeks. It keeps even longer in the freezer.

I Would Run 198 Miles Just to be the Cow Who Winds Up in Your Van. Ragnar.

Last weekend I was a cow.

Wait, wait. Let me be more specific. Last weekend I was one of 12 Dairy Queens. Not the place that sells Blizzards. The Ragnar team called the Dairy Queens. Dairy as in cows. We are 12 runners who have gotten together in Wisconsin the past two Junes to run from Madison to Chicago while making ridiculous cow jokes. It’s basically the coolest thing I’ve done as an adult since Green Cove.

So if you don’t know much about a Ragnar Relay, let me explain for a hot second. Ragnars are run between two towns, places, cities, whatever, and are around 200 miles. Teams are made up of 12 runners (or 6 if you’re extra crazy), each of whom run three legs over about 30 hours give or take over a Friday and Saturday. Your team runs straight through the night on Friday and into Saturday and is divided into two vans, six people per van.

Everyone in van 1 runs first.Then van 2 takes over. That goes on two more times.

This whole thing, this being jammed into a 15-passenger van with five other stinky, sweaty people who are running 15-25 miles on more or less no sleep, sounds fairly horrible. I swear to you though, it’s not. You cheer each other on. The support is beyond any other I’ve found in running. Typically runners are nice. They smile at each other on the street and give each other encouragement. My Dairy Queens though, they sped ahead of me to give me water, to pour it over my head if I needed it, to high five me, to moo and scream at me, to cross a street waving an orange flag. We stood in a swarm of mosquitoes to cheer each other on.

They let me use their toothbrushes, slept with me in sleeping bags on the grass by a parking lot, opened their lake house for me, and washed my cow print socks. They ran with me at 1:30 a.m. through winding Milwaukee roads and spotted a deer standing just six feet away. My fellow Ragnar runners who weren’t on my team cheered for me from their vans as they drove past me on hot country roads. They offered me water. They laughed when they read “Show Me Your Udders” written on the side of my mode of transportation. Ragnar is this weird community of runners who come together in a team for what is normally a fairly individualistic sport.

And the amazing thing is at the end of it all, you want to do another one. You have pounded your poor joints, you sleep either for only about three hours during the night or during times of the day when sleep seems ridiculous, and are then expected to wake up feeling like warm poop and run another dang leg. You smell. Your van smells, mostly like feet.  You get confused about which direction you are driving and which direction Lake Michigan is in relation to Chicago. You stare at said lake and forget which lake it is exactly, because you can’t think straight at 6:00 a.m. after only three hours of sleep.

And you’ve eaten like shit while attempting a decent amount of physical activity. But when we crossed the finish line on the beach by Lincoln Park in downtown Chicago as a team with our Cow 12, I felt nothing but joy.

Yeah sure, joy that the whole thing was over, but also joy as in I was proud of what we’d accomplished, proud that we’d pushed ourselves together, and happy that we’d bonded over stupid things like a spicy meat stick and a vomiting stick cow.

A few days later we’re already planning our next relay. I once heard that running is addictive. That’s a pretty true statement.