Tuesday, July 31, 2012


last week in a post i mentioned that i played kickball, so i thought maybe i'd talk more about that.  kickball doesn't always really count as "exercise" - although in some games it can (i wouldn't count it on my exercise checklist unless i stayed after a game to practice catching pop flys... which i have done...) - but it is definitely a fun way to stay active and meet people.  in fact, scott and i met playing kickball in washington dc!  i know of other couples (some also now married!) who also met through kickball.
scott and i, before we were on the same team!
 i've also made great friends, and my friends from my team in dc are some of my most favorite people and close friends, even after living away from them for three years.
my dc team at the wedding of our captains!
i know there are many different organizations you can play for (depending on where you live), but i've always played for WAKA.  in dc, i played for dc lightning, which was wednesday nights on the national mall.
some of my dc team in front of the capital

love these girls! and the backdrop :)
in durham, we play in nc lightning - the name thing is a total coincidence - and we play on thursday nights.  durham is a much tamer league overall, but we still manage to have a good time.
nc lightning kickball league
america theme week
happy birthday to me & america!
if you never played kickball in 5th grade, it's basically just like baseball, but with a big red ball you kick instead of batting.  i like kickball because most people aren't too competitive.  i mean, c'mon, who REALLY cares if you are the best ever at a sport that most people stop playing by at 11?  our team in dc was definitely not too competitive on the field - we were really there just to have fun.  in nc, for the most part we are here for fun but i think we make a much bigger effort to try to win/be strategic.  i think we strike a good balance of trying hard to win, but not getting upset if we don't. because it's kickball, and there's a bar to go to afterwards... what about that can get you upset?  for me (and scott), kickball has been a great way to make new friends and have fun.  if you live anywhere that has a waka league, i totally recommend you look into it!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

some of my favorite snacks

Confession: I'm a huge snacker.  I can eat a very balanced and fulfilling meal and be ready for a snack 90 minutes later.  I've learned to manage this by having moderate sized meals and frequent snacks.  So, today I figured I would share some of my favorite go-to snacks.  I try to make them healthy, filling, and if possible, easy to pack.
I have also recently read a few articles about "Superfoods".  I don't know a whole lot about the science behind them, but I usually consider Web MD to be a credible source.  So when writing this post, I tried to focus on snacks that included superfoods!
  • I heart fruit.  Apples* (love the apple core slicer), oranges* (Scott's favorite!), mixed fresh fruit... in the summer, strawberries and blueberries* are my favorite.  Kiwi* is another favorite, and Scott really loves grapes so we often get those as well.  Mixing them all together in a big bowl makes for a fun and easy fruit salad.
  • When fresh fruit is hard to come by, I also enjoy sugar free applesauce (~50 cal per serving) and pre-packaged pears in light syrup (around 35 cal per serving)
  • Cashews or other nuts (walnuts*, almonds, peanuts) (1/4th a cup is usually around 170 cal - so it's a lot of calories for a little bit of food, but it's good to get the protein!)
  • Baby carrots, sometimes with hummus, sometimes plain
  • Bell pepper, sliced, sometimes with hummus, sometimes with salsa
  • Chips and salsa (good when you just want some salty chips!)
  • 1 cup of plain cereal (Cheerios and Crispix are staples here, around 100 calories per serving)
  • Low fat microwaved popcorn (we buy the 100 calories bags, which are great!)
  • A handful of dark chocolate chips* (this isn't really filling, it just satisfies my craving for chocolate when I don't have the time/energy/caloric budget for a bigger dessert).
  • Slice of toast with peanut butter
  • Nature Valley Honey 'n Oats Bars (my MIL got me hooked on these)
  • Fruit smoothies (I should get back into making these!)
  • Pickles (basically zero calorie, so this is good when you want a snack but you know you don't really need to be eating)
*considered a "superfood"

Low fat yogurt is also considered a super food and would make a great snack, but I'll be honest, I HATE YOGURT.  I'm constantly trying to learn to like it - regular yogurt, Greek yogurt - any of it.  But I can only stomach it about once every 2 weeks.  It's a texture thing.  (I do like putting plain Greek yogurt on things in lieu of sour cream, somehow, in that context it's fine).

What are your favorite snacks?  I think I need to put some new ones into my rotation...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

crockpot indonesian chicken

Several weeks ago, I stumbled upon this recipe for Crockpot Indonesian Chicken.  I've never made chicken in the crockpot before, so I was excited to try it.  The first time around, I followed the recipe pretty closely, and used three large chicken breasts that had been defrosted.  I cooked the chicken on high for 3 hours and then switched to the warming setting until it was cooked.
okay, so that is a lot of peanut butter
Scott came home and thought it smelled amazing, so he was super excited to eat dinner.  We had the chicken with a side of rice and chowed down.  He turned out to not be a big fan - he said the peanut butter flavor was overwhelming the dish and was too strong/pervasive.  I pretty much agreed - it smelled better than it tasted, and it was a little bland for my taste... granted I didn't add the lime, red pepper flakes, or any sugar as she suggested.  So I had some suggestions for the next time around already, but I also knew I would need to make the peanut butter flavor less pervasive if Scott was going to enjoy it, and I had to try and get the chicken to be less dry.
attempt #1
About a week later, when Scott had to work an evening shift, I decided to try and whip together a new sauce to serve with broccoli as a trial run.  I used x peanut butter, x soy sauce, x rice vinegar, x sesame oil, x garlic powder, x ginger, x cayenne, and x siracha.  I liked the result, but it was definitely too spicy for Scott.
This past week I decided to give the chicken another go.  This time, I started with frozen chicken breasts, figuring they would cook slower and maybe the chicken wouldn't be as dry.  My sauce this time had:
all of the various ingredients i got out to mess around with
- 2 tsp peanut butter
- 2 tsp orange marmalade
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp lime juice
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp Spelnda
- 1/8 tsp Siracha
- Sprinkled sesame seeds
attempt #2
fresh green beans!
Tasting the sauce before I mixed it in with the chicken and cooked it, I would have said the peanut butter taste wasn't very strong and it tasted more like a sweet sesame sauce with a kick.  I powered up the crockpot, and since this got a late start, I put it on high for a few hours until we got hungry.  Then I made white rice and steamed fresh green beans (tossed in a little salt, black pepper, and garlic powder), and dinner was served!

dinner time
from another angle
The sauce was much better this time, but I think that somehow cooking it brings out the peanut butter flavor, because it was still the predominate flavor of the dish.  Scott had no complaints about the flavor though, so that was a pro.  Con: The chicken was still dry!  I think perhaps crockpots were not made for cooking chicken, or at least mine was not.  When I cook beef or other meat in there, I sear it first.  I haven't tried searing the chicken first, but that seems like a lot of work for chicken breasts.  I'd much rather just bake the chicken.  In fact, I think that is exactly what I will do next time!

I know it's hard to see, but my glass is an etched University of Maryland glass, to compliment Scott's VT glass :-)  And yes, I know I took an excessive amount of photos of this dinner, but it was our first dinner as a couple in our new place, so I was excited!

Have any of you had success cooking chicken in a crockpot?  If so, how did you do it?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

the last few weeks, in pictures

life has been crazy (not bad, just busy), so i haven't been able to do much good blogging... so here are a few photos of what i've been up to lately...

visiting the birthplace of the sorority

attending a beautiful wedding

celebrating birthdays

playing kickball

moving! more on that later...

and a liiiittttllle bit of running...
back to regularly scheduled blogging soon i hope!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

restaurant review: durham pizza

Everyone loves a good pizza, right?

When I first moved to Durham in 2009, I was introduced to the Mellow Mushroom.  I became a fan instantly.  A few weeks ago, Lilly’s Pizza opened in Durham (previously it only had a Raleigh location), so I decided I needed to taste test Lilly’s and compare/contrast the two.  I know there is other great pizza in Durham (The Loop, for starters! ...and Scott is a sucker for Pizza Hut, even if that's not really gourmet), but I'm only going to focus on these two spots!

I think my favorite part about the Mellow Mushroom is the crust.  It is crusted with Parmesan cheese and is a great texture.  My gluten free friends also have good things to say about the gluten free crust.  I’ve tried several different types of pizzas there over the years, and I’d say my favorites are the Funky Q Chicken Pizza and the Red Skin Potato Pie.   I also really enjoy the Magical Mystery TourThe Funky Q Chicken has "BBQ Chicken, Mozzarella, Cheddar, Caramelized Onions, Applewood Smoke Bacon and a BBQ sauce swirl."  This pizza is amazing.  I love BBQ.  I love caramelized onions.  Everything about it is just awesome.  The Red Skin Potato pie has "Olive Oil and Garlic base pizza loaded with Red Potato, Applewood Smoke Bacon, Caramelized Onions, Cheddar and Mozzarella cheese, sprinkled with Chives and drizzled with Sour Cream and spicy Ranch dressing."   The spicy Ranch dressing always surprises me, and sometimes I wish it was regular Ranch instead of spicy.  I do love spice, but it definitely catches me off guard with this pizza which makes me think it doesn't quite belong.  However, the combination of potatoes, caramelized onions, bacon, and chives is great.  The Magical Mystery Tour is a "Pesto base pizza and crush with Button and Portobello Mushrooms, Mozzarella, Spinach, Feta, and Jalapenos."  This pizza was good - it had a nice kick with the jalapenos but they didn't overwhelm the other flavors.  I always love the combination of mushrooms and spinach, and the pesto is delicious.

 On my first trip to Lilly’s I split two 10 inch pizzas with my friend J.  We had a really tough time deciding what two to order – there were about 7 of their specialty pizzas I was interested in.  We finally settled on The Aristocrat and Thai Bhut.  The Aristocrat has EVOO, roasted garlic, cremini mushrooms, sharp cheddar, mozzarella, roasted organic tomatoes, roasted organic yellow onions, roasted potatoes & parmesan.  It was delicious.  The cheddar flavor really stood out, and I loved the mushrooms with the potatoes.  The Thai Bhut had Homemade Thai curry sauce, all-natural grilled chicken, roasted garlic, chili pepper, baby corn, straw mushrooms, organic carrots, sharp cheddar, parmesan, fresh ginger & scallions.  It didn’t have too much of a kick, so if you like Thai but not spicy, this is a great option.  The baby corn was delicious.  As for other pizzas, the Buddha and the Sir Walter have been recommended to me (and look incredible), so they are next on my list!  The pizza here is made largely of locally grown organic ingredients, and I love how fresh the pizza tasted.  The crust was fantastic, although it was fairly large (as in, large compared to the size of the pizza – it cooks up fairly large and sort of overpowers the pizza a little bit).  The crust is a little bit sweet and very flavorful… yummy!
Overall, I’d say I definitely like both restaurants, but if I had to pick only one to eat at for the rest of eternity, I’d have to go with Lilly’s!  Their crust is sweet and savory, and has a wheat-y taste whereas Mellow Mushroom’s tastes more like cheesy bread.  Both are great, but I’d give the edge to Lilly’s.  Also, Lilly’s has over 70 toppings (many of which are locally grown and organic), including 14 options for cheeses and 10 different sauces, which makes the possibility of pizza combinations nearly endless.  To be fair, Mellow Mushroom has 4 sauce options, 9 cheese options, and about 60 total toppings – so it is definitely comes close in variety/options… plus their crust is very different from Lilly’s and very delicious.
Both locations have a wide variety of beers including local brews - not necessarily unique in Durham, but definitely a pro for both places!
I haven't had dessert at Lilly's, but it definitely doesn't look like a place you'd order dessert - it only has three options on the menu.  Mellow Mushroom has great cookie and brownie sundaes if you have room after all the pizza!  Both locations also have salads and calzones, but I haven't had the chance to sample them myself enough to report back!

What's your favorite pizza place?  Any fun or crazy pizza topping combos out there?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

june (ish) running update

I've been back to regular running (and regular blogging!) for about a month now, so I thought I would  review how training has been going for the past month.  Overall, I'm really happy with myself for getting back into the groove!  In May, I ran less than 5 times (possibly only twice).  In June, I ran 13 times for a total of 36.8 miles.  I'd like to see that mileage continue to increase, but I'm really happy with it right now!  I've been trying to run 4x a week, but have also tried to listen to my body (aka knee/IT band) and not overdo it - and I'm feeling great!

Speedwork has been going well, and last week M even called it fun.  (Danielle, are laughing while reading that?)  Here's a recap of my speedier workouts in June:
  • June 5: Interval training in pyramids (1/1, 2/2, 3/3, 4/4, 3/3, 2/2, 1/1 minute slow/faster intervals): 3.3 miles, 32 minutes, average pace 9:42.  I did this on the treadmill and my slow paces were 10:43-10:54, while my fast paces were in the 8:00-9:00 range.  I wasn't structured about how fast I was trying to go for the fast intervals, and in the end this workout only  felt moderately challenging (probably because the fast intervals at the beginning weren't fast enough).
  • June 12: Interval training in pyramids - same as the week prior, but with the slow paces at 10:43 and the fast paces at 8:49.  This workout KILLED me.  I really thought I might fall off the treadmill and/or throw up for much of it... but somehow, I survivied!
  • June 20: Tempo run, on the treadmill: 6-7 min. warm up, 1.5 miles @ 9:20 pace, 8-9 min. cool down, 30 minutes / 3.1 miles total.  Outside/with hills I think 9:20 is a great tempo run pace, but inside on the 0% incline treadmill I think I could have pushed myself a little more.
  • June 27: Interval training OUTSIDE!  We used M's Garmin to do 0.25 mile intervals with 0.25 jogs in between, 4x.  Warm up: 0.5 mile jog.  Intervals: 8:29, 8:43, 8:10, 8:41 (with sloooow jogs in between).  Cool down: 0.8 mile jog (until we finished the 2nd lap around East).  This workout was great.  I kind of wanted to die during the first interval, the second wasn't so bad (probably because we slowed down), and the third felt incredible!! Granted, the third was probably the most flat, but I still felt fantastic!
Even though it sometimes (usually? always if you are doing it right?) hurts, I do enjoy speedwork!  It's a nice way to switch things up.  We definitely saw that it paid off between our half marathon and the 15k, so I'm hoping this is laying nice groundwork for our next half.  So, did I get any faster in the month of June after doing all this speedwork?  The plan was to time a 2nd 5k on July 2nd, but... well... I've been pretty bad at running the last week and a half.  So, I finally got around to timing a 5k today, and here's how they compare:
  • June 2nd 5k: 31:20, 10:06 pace
  • July 10th 5k: 29:50,  9:38 pace
I know that cutting almost 30 seconds off your time is something to be happy about, but honestly, I feel like I should have been able to do better!  There are lots of reasons why this "race" might not have gone as well as I would have liked, though.  First, I've only been running two other times in July so far (the 2nd and 4th of July).  Second, I timed this 5k at 2:15pm in the afternoon on a relatively hot and extremely humid day.  Third, I realized about 1 mile in that I hadn't drank any water yet today.  Whoops.  Anyway, I still can't be too mad about seeing that improvement in my pace, and this is just motivation to make sure my August timed 5k is even more spectacular!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

happy garmin birthday!

Hope y'all had a fabulous Independence Day.  I slept in, went to a coffee shop to do some work, and then tried out my new birthday present:

Happy birthday to me!! EEK! It came in the mail on Tuesday, but I had to charge it before I could use it.

I was hoping that I could wake up and beat the heat for a run on Wednesday, but I was out a little too late on Tuesday night ringing in my 27th year :-)  So, I waited until it wasn't too hot (it got up to 105 here on Wednesday, but it was only 90 when I headed out, sooo yeah) and decided to go for an easy two mile run.

I'm SUPER excited.  So far, I'm happy with my choice of getting the 210.  It doesn't feel bulky or heavy on my wrist, and it seems very user friendly!  So, how did my first run go?  Well, Garmin Connect can tell you!  I set autolap to 0.5 miles, so we have splits for every half mile:

(avg. paces were 10:46, 10:26, 10:36, and 8:52).

We also have timing and elevation:

I swear it seems hillier than this elevation chart would tell you

I'm super excited to start using the Garmin and to be able to track all of my runs!  Woo!  In other news, my work outs in general have not been, umm...err, as disciplined as I would like:

Thurs. 6/28: NA
Fri. 6/29: 3.5ish mile run
Sat. 6/30: a few sit ups and a little bit of walking around outside... basically a rest day
Sun. 7/1: NA
Monday 7/2: 3 mile run on the treadmill
Tuesday 7/3: NA
Wednesday 7/4: 2 mile run outside (see above) + light arms

Sooo, I've been bad at cross training and strength training... but today is a new day, right?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

birthday dessert

In honor of my birthday, I thought I would share my favorite spots to get a sweet treat in Durham (because, you know, everyone needs a sweet treat on their birthday!).

Locopops is a Durham staple.  I've often enjoyed my locopops on campus or at a graduate school event, but when Kimmy visited recently I decided to take her to the store.  K tried Mango Chile and Cherry Lime; I had Pomegranate Tangerine.  The Mango Chile was too spicy for her, but she enjoyed the Cherry Lime and I always love the Pomegranate Tangerine!

Mad Hatter's
This coffee shop / bakery is right by my work, and we often get cakes from there for office celebrations.  Their cream cheese brownies are one of my favorite treats - I am a sucker for chocolate!  I also enjoy their muffins when I'm there for breakfast!

Local Yogurt
Frozen yogurt is so trendy right now!  I love Local Yogurt.  I think the favorite combo I ever had was blueberry froyo + kiwi topping.  Delicious!

Places I need to try:
Tutti Frutti: another froyo place.  The kids I babysit for often get Tutti Frutti if they are good, and their creations always make me jealous!
The Parlour: an ice cream truck that apparently has the best salted caramel ice cream ever.  Salted caramel is so amazing.
Daisy Cake: new bakery in town, known for their cupcakes!

All these places are delicious - either from first-hand knowledge or from review of friends.  Now I just have to decide where to stop in today for a birthday treat. Suggestions anyone?  What is your favorite sweet treat?