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.

Shema. Hang Ups All Up in My Head.

I’ve got this hang up when I go to Friday night services at temple. I like closing my eyes during the shema. I feel closer to myself, closer to God maybe, when I sing those most sacred words in the privacy of my own head. But that meditative, personal moment is always interrupted when I start to worry. Is everyone else opening their eyes? When should I open mine? I can’t be the only one with my eyes shut! What if I miss the moment when everyone sits down? I’ll be standing up alone. This is what the inside of my head looks like. It’s filled with what do I look like to the outside world thoughts. In a moment when I want to get in my head for some peace and introspection, I end up deep in my head filled with hang ups.

I do this a lot. What will the other runners think if I show up to an Indy Runners run, don’t know anyone, and run all by myself? What will my Facebook friends think if I post one more picture of my freaking dinner? Will the lovely couple who owns Nicey Treats think I’m nuts if I show up to their truck one more time for a dreamy popsicle? Do I look like a complete amateur when when I pull out my fancy camera and attempt to take a picture?

Of course, no one is paying that much attention. Most people are just wrapped up in their own world, because that’s just how people are. Maybe human nature to pay attention to ourselves first?

Self consciousness. I’m overcoming it. Comfort and confidence in your own skin. I started to learn how it fit on me at camp as a kid. Not comparing or worrying about looks. Every time I get on my mat in yoga I leave that farther behind. It’s about what works for me. For you. Then I’m pretty sure somehow you’ll end up looking like the best version of yourself to everyone else without even trying, without any hang ups.

On Friday night I stood in temple and sang the shema, eyes closed.

Spring Salads, Songs, and Spirit Squads

Spring, I think you’re here. Finally. Why did you make us wait so long? You’re going to stick around for awhile to make it up to us, right? We’ll now be blessed with endless 70 degree days with light breezes and lots of sunshine.

Sweet relief from the cold means I’ve been celebrating in lots of ways. Running in shorts (miracle!) and with the Indy Runners group. I like having running companions to keep my mind of off the actual run some days. Yesterday I showed up for the Tuesday run at Hinkle Field House on Butler’s campus ready to do four, maybe five, miles. Thanks to the girl I ran with, I ended up going six miles!

 

May is Race Month in this fair city and the Mini-Marathon is the kick-off for a month of festivities leading up to the Indy 500. Biggest half marathon in the country, what what? I opted for the role of cheerleader this year instead of runner, which I thought would be very difficult. I’m a pretty competitive person, especially when it comes to races. But I remembered how much I appreciated the support of my friends along the race course last year, and I was excited to cheer extra loudly in the places where I remembered feeling the most tired. My friend Sam and I biked to around mile 9 and then maybe .25 mile before the finish line. Extra perk? En route we go to see the wheelchair racers and the insanely fast top finishers (can you imagine running 13.1 miles in just over an hour?!), a part of a race that I never get to see as a participant. The sheer athleticism of these men and women blew my mind.

 

Our posters (yes that’s Ryan Gosling and Bob Dylan) got plenty of head nods and smiles from random runners, but we cheered extra hard for our friend Marnie and her fiance Jannson and my two other friends that we happened to see run by. We even ran along the sidewalk for the last .25 miles with Marnie, screaming her name the whole way. I am beyond proud of these two!

Can we talk about driving with the windows open and music blaring? It’s one of my favorite warm weather pastimes. Right now I could listen to Patty Griffin’s new album American Kid all day. The first song feels like the perfect summertime folky anthem to me.

Back to running. It’s cool, it’ll lead to epic spring food. In starting to think about training for the marathon I’ve signed up for this fall, I’m considering my diet. I know that the more miles I log, the hungrier I’ll be, but I do not want to just stuff myself with tons of pasta, as amazingly appealing as that sounds. So I’m focusing on fueling with lots of fruits and veggies and healthful proteins like beans and lentils. To kick start this fresh new diet I did a really great three-day juice cleanse from Natural Born Juicers. If you live in Indianapolis I highly recommend checking them out. I’m now a few weeks out from having finished the cleanse and am back to my marathon fueling diet. I’m actually really missing my morning juices and how awake and strangely full they made me feel, so I’m thinking of going in on a juicer.

On top of that spring has brought the most magical produce to the farmers markets. Slowly at first, but surely. A few weeks ago radishes and pea sprouts started to show up, and so I rejoiced. This time of year is perfect for buying lettuce and any other awesome vegetables that catch your eye and making a huge salad.

I’d love to give you a recipe for this, but I feel like that would just be limiting, so here’s a basic guide.

Pile your plate with lettuce (mine, year round thanks to hydroponics in greenhouses, is almost always from Eden Farms). I like a mix of lettuces to give my salad a little more flavor and depth.

Chop up a variety of vegetables, whatever is pretty and bright and catches your eye at the store or market. I went with pretty pink and white radishes and sweet pea shoots from Harvestland Farms. Never had pea shoots? Me either until this salad! They taste like peas, not surprisingly, but before peas come around. Like a pea preview. Maybe add a squeeze of lemon over things now. Add some fresh herbs if you have them on hand.

Any good salad, or meal in my opinion, is topped with a soft yolk fried egg (my eggs always come from Schacht Farm, I love them, eggs and people, so much). Fry one up with a bit of salt and pepper, or poach it in olive oil like Oh Joy, which is what I tried out for this salad. I liked this cooking option, because it a nice amount of olive oil to drizzle over the salad as dressing.

Break open that egg and let the yolk get all cozy with the lettuce. Heck yes, spring!

Change. Orange Bran Muffins.

Change tends to come quickly. Maybe it takes you by surprise. Lately change has been sneaking up on me.

Two weeks ago I was running in full winter gear as snow flurries fell onto my tongue. This week I’m wearing shorts and tank tops. Not together. Let’s not get too crazy. Two and a half months ago I had my heart broken. Talk about chaos. A week and a half ago I remembered why I loved the mountains and a barn filled with horses—peace. And five days ago I crossed the finish line of the Shamrock Shuffle with a new personal record and the Chicago skyline rising in front of me. I felt this overwhelming sense of luck and joy, and that feeling just hasn’t gone away yet. Change is sticking.

I once thought bran muffins were ridiculous. I worked at a coffee shop in Raleigh and we sold muffins. The bran were always left at the end of the day, and honestly I didn’t blame our customers. Why would you opt for healthy, tasteless bran when you could go the blueberry or carrot?

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Here and Now. Buttermilk Skillet Cake with Praline Topping.

This weekend I am focusing hard on the here and now, not on the what I wish and what should have been. Because in reality what should have been is right where I am here and now.

Here is a snoring pup and a snoozing cat. A gin, tonic, and mango juice beverage. One pound of bacon vs. one girl. The Rhythm Center with one of my favorite almost-four-year-olds. March Madness. And cake, because as Julia Child said,

I have a cake recipe for you to, you know, help you avoid meetings. It comes to you from the Joy the Baker Cookbook. I’ve passed the recipe over many a time, probably because it looks so simple. I’ve passed it up for the fancier carrot cakes, avocado cupcakes, brown butter chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chocolate muffins … uh, maybe I just passed it up for chocolate.

You should probably bring this cake to your next meeting at work, because every office could use a midday party. And it is the perfect cake for a spontaneous meeting-gone-party. So simple and unassuming in its cast-iron skillet (though you can make it in a cake pan, too). It most importantly is easier to make than going to the grocery to buy a cake. If you bake or want to start baking, the ingredients in this recipe are ones you either always have in your kitchen or ones you should buy, because you will use them in any other recipe you’ll make. It smells just like a simple, perfect cake should—buttery, warm, vanilla-y. Buttermilk is key here, making the cake lovely and tender.

And the praline topping? It looks like caramel, but it’s so much easier. Trust me. Caramel and me do not have a good relationship.

But as this topping boils on the stove, your kitchen starts to smell like a candy store. I may have stood over the pot just breathing in the sweet scent.

Sweet and simple cake like this is perfect with a cup of coffee after family dinner on Sunday night. I guess that makes family dinner a party.

Here and now is pretty good.

Recipe after the jump!

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Weekends. Sanctuaries.

Coming at you with a weekend.

I play music as I do things around the house on this unrushed, mostly unplanned Sunday morning. Lately I think I’ve been trying to catch the wind. Futile most likely, but for some reason I can’t seem to stop. Wind, leave me alone. Come back when you’re a pleasant breeze.

Sunday is pancake day. This morning pancakes broke me. (Sorry Joy the Baker, I cannot get your single lady pancakes to work!) In one stupid moment pancakes almost ruined my entire day. Just breathe, though, right? Turn to a favorite pancake. Funny how the same food that brought me to tears one minute, is perfectly golden and doused in maple syrup the next. Sometimes it’s good to stick to our favorites.

Sunday needs to relax, because Saturday was spent being busy. When one of your best girls is getting married in August some Saturdays are busy. Find bridesmaids dresses, have margaritas and beers, accidentally make off with diamond bracelets from my parents’ jewelry store, visit the reception location.

This is The Sanctuary on Penn.

Stained glass windows everywhere.

Even the bathrooms were lovely.

Have you ever been somewhere that just breathes a person? The Sanctuary on Penn fits my friend and her fiance perfectly in the history, the stories, the details, the scuff marks, the light, the many rooms, the leather chairs and dark wood bars, the fact that I can say bars plural.

Good luck penny floors.

Perfect. Wandering around this old church and picturing it filled with their guests was easily my favorite part of the day.

Comfort. Crusty Bread.

What do you gather around you when you need comfort?

A mug of tea or a cocktail? A favorite sweatshirt or song? Your friends, your family? Pasta or cookies? Maybe even a memory?

Sometimes the memories, those are the worst when you’re searching for comfort.

Smells comfort me. My running shoes and my yoga mat bring me comfort. So do family and friends and my dear, sweet Mira and Lola.

And food, though different food for different situations. Sometimes I need a fresh loaf of bread. It’s homey, warm, simple, and good. And no matter how many loaves of bread I make, I still feel an incredible amount of satisfaction when I take the bread pan out of the oven and slice myself a piece. It’s a miracle to me every time that I can get the yeast to work.

I was out of bread last weekend and craving something different from my usual whole wheat sandwich bread. Something white and crusty. I found a recipe for a no-knead bread via Pinterest and decided to give it a shot. Not many ingredients, no mixer or kneading required, and I could let it rise its required 12-18 hours overnight and put the loaf in the oven in the morning.

Nothing beats a house filled with morning sunshine and the smell of baking bread. Wait, warm-from-the-oven bread with avocado and a runny fried egg—that almost beats it. Talk about comfort, plain and simple.

I’m on my second loaf of this crusty gloriousness, and I’m going to tell you, it cannot be easier to make. You may say yeast scares you (please, no yeast jokes, I know at least one of you is making one in your head.), that making bread is a difficult process. Trust me, it’s not.

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