Monday, June 30, 2014

Cooking in Jackson

Couscous stuffed bell peppers!
Black bean and spinach enchiladas!
Baked couscous with asparagus!

What do these things have in common?  Is it... A) that I cooked them all this week, B) that they are all from the Betty Crocker cookbook that I started this blog to cook through, C) foods that Scott would refuse to eat if he were here, or D) all of the above?

If you selected D, you are correct!

One of the "perks" of living apart from Scott for the year is the opportunity to cook a wider range of food, since I don't have to cater to Scott's picky eating habits.  I started my first week off right by cooking three meals he would turn his nose up at.  First up: bell peppers stuffed with couscous.
This is a relatively simple recipe that includes ground beef, onions, couscous, and tomato sauce, all mixed together and stuffed into a bell pepper.  Then you put the stuffed bell peppers in the slow cooker for 5-7 hours, and out pops one of my favorite meals.  Yum.
Up next: baked asparagus with couscous.  This is another relatively simple meal, that is essentially a vegetarian casserole.  Carrots, onions, asparagus, couscous, some broth and cream of whatever soup...  boom!
This week when I went to grocery shop, I couldn't find bread crumbs, so I ended up toasting and making my own.  A bit more work, but don't they look beautiful on top of that casserole?  Also note, this was the first dinner I got to eat at my fancy new farmhouse dining room table.  It's 8 feet long, which will be perfect for potluck dinners with our 11-person resident class.
Lastly, unpictured, I made a casserole of enchiladas.  Pretty standard eating for our house, but I was able ot pack in black beans and spinach since I wasn't sharing with Scott.  And so you have my first week of cooking!
As an aside, I HAD planned to make a vegetable lasagna this weekend, and then freeze some of it for the future, but something happened with our electricity/circuit breakers and our oven is currently out of commission.  This house/move has just been one adventure after another... stay tuned for more!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Exploring the Neighborhood

Despite working out almost never for the first three weeks in June (oops), I manage to go for a walk or run/walk three out of the first four days I lived here.  I'm still having some foot pain and I'm not in the greatest shape right now, so I'm continuning the run/walk intervals.  I tell myself that Isis appreciates them too, since she is still getting in the running groove.  On Wednesday, I decided to try for 3 miles with a pattern of 3 minutes running, 2 minutes walking.  Garmin can very clearly illustrate the intervals for you:
In case you didn't know, Mississippi is HOT.  Moreso than hot, it is very, very humid.  So in 85+ degree weather with intense humidity, three miles is pretty far.  I didn't want to overheat Isis (or myself) so I decided to do two 1.5-ish mile loops with a water break at the house in between.
That "water break" after the first 1.89 miles turned into a 20 minute respite - Isis was panting, I was dripping, and I needed a mental break to convince myself that I could, in fact, finish 3 miles.
Our second loop turned out to be an out-and-back, since I was exploring my neighborhood and didn't want to head onto the nearby main road.  It turned out perfectly, because the out and back was 1.27 miles for a total of 3.16 miles in 44 minutes.  We aren't breaking any records down here, but that's the highest mileage I've logged in a while, so I'll take it.  I'll have to start using the 'lap' feature on my watch so I can see how fast my running intervals are, but I'm honestly not all that concerned with my pace right now.
My new running route!
After a bit of neighborhood exploration, I'm happy to say that my neighborhood seems well-suited for running: not too many hills, sidewalks when you get to bigger roads, and a decent amount of shade from tree coverage.  My plan for now is to try to run/walk 3 times per week and do strength training the other 3 times per week.  We will see how it all pans out once I get used to my new work schedule!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Adventures in Mississippi, part 1 of many

Hello, lovely readers, from Jackson, Mississippi, where I will be living for the next year as I finish my last year of graduate school.
My new desk, where I am writing this post!
I've only been here five days and I've already had a few adventures I thought I would share, in cooking, running/walking, and in life in general.
This is the house I will be sharing with two other ladies for the year - we've all left our husbands in other parts of the country and will be roommates during internship year.  Adventure number one: finding out that all those beautiful trees in my yard are likely inhibiting my ability to get Direct TV, which is going to seriously alter my quality of life come football season when the Sunday NFL Ticket isn't available to me.  But, at least I have a shady back yard for Isis to play in.  (Feel free to contact me for a long rant about how the Direct TV people on the phone are FABULOUS, but the in-person technicians are the ABSOLUTE WORST... so angry!).
View of our backyard from my bedroom window!
I'm so very grateful to have a fenced in yard and great walkable neighborhood for my pup, but it does come with some minor drawbacks. Apparently, everyon in Jackson has a dog.  That's awesome, because Isis loves making friends.  However, most of my neighbors apparently see dogs as "outdoor only" pets, which means every time I let Isis out or we go for a walk, she encounters a minimum of two other dogs barking at her.  Two dogs in an adjoining yard have literally been outside nonstop for all five days I've lived here from what I can tell, and they bark every time I let Isis out.  Sorry, peace-and-quiet-loving neighbors.

While there are many perks to this backyard-with-a-fence thing, in adition to the barking neighbors, we ran into a bit of trouble on Monday.  Warning, this is kinda gross. I have been letting Isis play out in the yard for short periods of time with me being inside.  This works well because I can watch her play from my desk in my room and mostly keep an eye on her.  On Monday, I saw her jump at / bat at a bird.  I didn't think much of it, because, c'mon, a bird is going to get away from her with it's wings... right?  A moment later, I noticed she was intensely digging/exploring in a part of the yard she hadn't really been interested in yet, so I went outside to check on her.  As I emerged, she excitedly picked up something in her mouth and joyously began sprinting all around the yard.  The item in her mouth was grey-brown, and I hoped she had just found the most exciting stick on the planet, but once I got close enough to inspect the situation, I found out I was wrong.  To my horror, my little girl was carrying a dead bird around in her mouth.  EWWW. ISIS, WHAT THE HELL???  I was not pleased.  I eventually got her to drop the bird and go inside, and then had the pleasant task of disposing of said bird.  Seriously hoping this does not become a common occurence.

Although I have technically lived below the Mason-Dixon Line for my entire life, even in Durham I didn't feel like I was truly "in the south."  Yesterday, I knew for sure that we were truly amoung southerns when my roommate and I went to purchase a farmhouse table off of Craigslist.  We got the top strapped to her car just fine (our husbands would be so proud), but the base of the table was shaped in a way that we couldn't balance it on the car without hiting the windshield.  Luckily, the next door neighbors of the people who were selling us the table had a truck, and the man who lived there was willing to drive the table base to our house for us.  Yes, it was only a half mile away and took him less than 10 minutes, but as I watched him strap in our table, I knew I was finally, truly, in the south.
We successfully attach the top of the table...
We have a table.  And one chair.
Stay tuned for more adventures in cooking in my new kitchen and exploring my new neighborhood by attempting to run in extreme heat and humidity!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

a bad run.

Today, I was scheduled for 30 minutes of walking/running.  It was in the high 80s, extremely humid, and possibly going to storm, so I was a bit apprehensive.  Luckily, the storms came and left by around 6pm, so I had plenty of time before sunset to get in a run.  I waited as long as possible so it would be slightly cooler and slightly less sunny, and then around 7:45pm I headed out for a run.

Isis was apparently not in the mood to join me - she refused to come to the door when I called her, so I decided to leave her home and go solo.  I've been using RunKeeper on my iPhone because of the intervals feature, and I decided to stick with my 90 seconds running / 60 seconds walking intervals.

I started out feeling pretty good, and I knew my running intervals were faster than my usual pace.  Without Isis, I could focus more of my attention on form and breathing, which was nice.  However, somewhere around the 12 minute mark, the pain started.  I'm kind of used to it by now - usually around 12-15 mintues my calves start to ache and feel tight, so I stopped to stretch.  Usually, this helps and then I'm able to finish out my 30 minutes without much pain, if any.

Not today.  Every time I started running again, my calves ached.  Then I started to feel it in my anterior tibs, or on the front of my foot.  Even when I stopped to walk, I still had pain shooting up the front of my foot, and no amount of pausing to stretch seemed to be helping.  I managed to push through and finish all 8 of my running intervals, but I was definitely hurting.  During my walking cool down, the pain continued, and then the bottoms of my feet started tingling/feeling numb.

Not good.  After I came inside, it took several minutes of me massaging my ankles and stretching before the pain subsided, and it was still achy/uncomfortable 20-30 minutes later.

Suffice to say, today I had a bad run, and now I'm grumpy.  That's all I got right now, sorry y'all.

Monday, June 2, 2014

wrapping up May

As May winds down, I'm actually fairly proud of how I've done on my goals.  Since my last blog post, I've mostly stuck to my exercise plan and done something nearly every day:

May 19 - 30 day shred, level 1
May 20 - 30 minute run/walk
May 21 - 30 day shred, level 2
May 22 - 30 minute run/walk and played kickball
May 23 - 30 day shred, level 2
May 24 - 30 minute run/walk
May 25 - moved a lot of heavy furniture / rest day
May 26 - 30 day shred, level 2 and 20 minutes of yoga for runners
May 27 - biked on the stationary bike for 30 minutes (thunderstorms)
May 28 - 30 day shred, level 2
May 29 - ran 1 mile, played kickball
May 30 - 30 day shred, level 2
May 31 - 30 minute run/walk

If you count kickball and moving heavy furniture, I've done 30 minutes of some sort of physical activity every day since May 8th.  That's a massive improvement from my April.

Meanwhile, running is HARD - I'm still doing 90 seconds running, 60 seconds walking, and I'm still feeling a lot of tightness in my calves.  Right now, my plan is to not increase my running until I have less pain, but I was hoping I'd see improvement more quickly than I have. I was able to run a full mile last week in 10:23, although I did stop to stretch at the half mile mark for a minute.
I've also been pretty good at tracking what I'm eating.  I haven't been perfect every day, but I think logging just heightens my awareness and helps me eat closer to the 'right' amount for me.  This weekend was tough because I was out of town, but I still think I managed to do alright.

I prompty broke the streak by not working out yesterday - we spent the day with my parents and then drove back to Durham, and didn't get home until 10:30pm.  Oops. I did work out today, though, so I don't feel too bad about it (level 2 of the shred - which is finally getting easier - might be time for level 3!).

So, I should probably commit to some June goals, but I'm not sure my goals are all that different than May, especially since June is going to be a busy month for me.  I'd like to...

  • Continue getting 30 minutes of exercise daily, or as close to every day as possible (target: at least 6/7 days)
    • Run (err, run/walk) at least 3x per week - hopefully increasing my running over time, depending on how I feel
    • Strength train at least 3x per week - whether that continues to be the 30 day shred or something else, we shall see
    • Yoga (or yoga/pilates) at least 3x per week - probably the Yoga for Runners video I found, but maybe I'll get more adventorous
  • Continue to track what I'm eating and stay within my 'caloric budget' most days.  I want to be flexible when I am on trips/etc., but I also don't want to go way over every time I eat out.

Lastly, as I prepare to say farewell to Durham, I thought it would be fun for me to review some of my most favorite restaurants... so look forward to those posts throughout the month of June, alongside updates on my running progress and other goals!

Anyone else have June fitness goals, or suggestions for things for me to try?