Norton Sports Health Great Pumpkin 10K – Louisville, KY (September 30, 2017)

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Me, Melissa and Paul after a strong finish at the Norton Sports Health Great Pumpkin 10K – Louisville, KY

Race: Norton Sports Health Great Pumpkin 10K

Place: Louisville, Kentucky

Date: September 30, 2017

Time: 1:24:33*

I have actually had no intention to race these days.  Honestly, I’m still dealing with a bit of a hip twinge thing when I run at times and have been keeping each run to a basic run/walk as I continue to heal this body and strengthen my hips and core.  After giving up on my Chicago Marathon this year, I’ve been pretty down in the dumps and depressed.  I put a lot of work into training and it just hasn’t fallen right for me in marathon training in 2 full years now.  Wouldn’t you be depressed?

Honestly, I’ve felt like a bit of a failure.

There…I said it.

Sensing this, I think, my friend Melissa texted me and told me I should consider signing up and run/walking this as part of my recovery run/walks.  I ran it past Cathy, because I do get all gung-ho about running stuff and dive right in.  Cathy told me she would be okay with it as long as I stuck with Melissa and Paul and promised to run/walk.  I was going to run it past my physical therapist…but that’s a whole new blog waiting to be written.

And it will be written.

But not here. That being said, I went ahead and registered for the Great Pumpkin 10K and let Melissa know.  I also said that she now had the responsibility of making sure I didn’t overdo it.  In races, I usually get wrapped up in the hype, and yes, the competition, and overdo things when I’m coming back from injury.

As a big help, Melissa picked up my race packet for me and texted me to let me know that the race shirts were the softest fabric she has ever felt.  This was not an exaggeration.  This meant that I could go home and eat my pre-race pizza sooner, rather than later, and settle in for the night with my PT stretches and all.  YAY for awesome friends.

I was also going into this knowing that Melissa was having the worst week ever, and prior to Saturday morning, broke her toe pretty badly and fell down some stairs and busted up her knee.  We really are the same person, I swear.  We decided just to go out and see what we could do…and have some fun while doing it.

After all, if it isn’t fun, why bother?

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Parking in tall grass/weeds and a ditch

Saturday morning arrived and I ate a light breakfast at home, packing a pouch of applesauce to eat prior to the race itself.  I’m horrible about hydrating pre-race, but poured a bottle of water to take with me…which I pretty much ignored on the drive to Beckley Creek Park.  The race began and ended at the Egg Lawn…and this was the one area of The Parklands I had yet to run in.  So…I knew nothing of what awaited me.  And…Cathy, used to going to Pope Lick for me to do my runs, went the wrong way, but with some Google Maps-fu…I got us there some back roads way and we made it to the parking area, coming in the way that no one else was coming in.  Everyone else got instructions from the Web site, which Cathy had done, and was now waiting in a line at the other end of the parking area (in the grass).  So, we got right in and parked.  In a little ditch.  In the tall grass.  I told Cathy that my little Toyota might have an issue getting out of there.

We made the L-O-N-G walk to the start/finish area of the race where we were immediately spotted by Laura!  It was great to see her and we stood around and talked for a little while…about running, people, Louisville City FC (soccer!).  She needed to do her warm up and stretches and Cathy and I stepped over to a tree to wait on our friends.  They arrived and Melissa handed over my bib and shirt.  I tucked the shirt into Cathy’s backpack and she pinned me up.  It was 5 minutes to the start and the three of us gave Cathy a good-bye and and we went to get into the start corral.

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Me, Melissa & Paul before starting the Norton Sports Health Great Pumpkin 10K – Louisville, KY

The National Anthem was being sung, and soon after…the race was given the go.  And we were off.  We strolled from our start place up toward the actual start line…crossed and we were off.  Waving to Cathy as we passed.

Now…I knew that there were some hills here…but I didn’t know how steep some of these hills were.  Like…whoa.  That being said…I ran to the first hill and up it with no big issue.  It wasn’t too steep, but on the way down, I realized I had lost my friends so I turned and immediately spotted Melissa’s florescent yellow Bondi Band.  I walked until she and Paul caught me and then settled back in with them.  It was fun getting to chat and talk and hear stories of years prior to this.  They have done it the past 2 years…this was my first time doing this particular race.

Just after Mile 2…we turned around a corner and there was this MEGA-hill.  Melissa said that I needed to be very aware of my hip on this one.  I started up it. pushing off and making sure I was lifting my left knee to drive it equally…but about 3/4 of the way up, I had to stop being stubborn and walk it.  The whole purpose was to not take anymore steps back and I was going to make sure I came out of this NOT limping.  I waiting for Melissa and Paul and we continued on our way.

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Paul, Melissa & I heading out at the start of the Norton Sports Health Great Pumpkin 10K – Louisville, KY

At one point heading into the turn-around at Mile 3, I got separated from them again.  I kept going as I knew I could circle back around when I saw them at the turn-around point.  They weren’t far behind me at all…and I just looped back and we were together for the rest of the run at this point.

Melissa’s toe/foot was really starting to hurt…and pain is never good.  That’s when the dangerous game of compensation happens…so instead of pushing through it, we let her set the pace.  If she started to run, we ran.  If she needed to walk…we walked.  It was a gorgeous morning…sunny and brisk…and it made for the best time in the long run because at least we could enjoy the morning.

Just before Mile 4, Howard caught up to us and he took a moment to ask about my hip.  We talked a little bit about running and aches and pains and just how we’re happy to still be able to do it.  And he got to talk to Melissa and Paul as well.  I really need to get them into the NQRFPTR group.  In fact, Howard made me explain how we don’t use the “S” word in our group.  The “S” word, for those of you who are unaware, is SLOW.  We don’t believe in “slow” runners.  We believe in running deliberately!!  Don’t you just love that?  Howard went on to finish his run and as Melissa’s toe told her she was DONE running, we fell into step and had a nice talk and discussion as we walked the final two miles.  We did, however, run the last bit to the finish line…and the three of us crossed this bad boy together!

Honestly, one of the most fun and enjoyable runs in a long time.  Getting to do a recovery run with friends who keep you in check and keep your injury safe is priceless.  I know good people…and good people look out for each other.

After the race, we received our medals and went over to the post-race area.  They were doing the awards, but we stopped by some booths to grab some free Norton’s swag and spin the wheel to attempt to win some free Barre classes.  Melissa did.  I missed.  But they were kind enough to give me a free class pass as well.  As soon as Melissa’s toe is better, we’re going to go to a class together and check it out.  I’m pretty excited.

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Brunch Post-Race at North End Cafe…I got the Basic Breakfast with 2 eggs over easy, home fries, and fruit!

And then…after that, we went to North End Cafe (of course) for brunch before they had to head home to get cleaned up to go to the Louder Than Life music festival (because they are hard core and amazing).  Cathy and I went to hit up some Halloween stores, LUSH, Trader Joe’s and Costco.  We got the first pumpkin of the season (which has been cut open and harvested for its seeds) and I also made a homemade batch of Pumpkin Seed Butter.  YUMMY!

So…the official results of the Norton Sports Health Great Pumpkin 10K are that I finished in 1:24:33…complete with great conversation and laughs and time with friends. The struggle was real today, but we persevered and saw each other to that finish line.  I was 960/1146 finishers overall.  I was the 571/714 female finishers.  And I was 109/126 in my age division.  Melissa likes to say that this may have been my slowest race, but it was my safest.

But…I don’t believe every race needs to be a PR or an all-out sprint.  Sometimes, the best races are the ones that you spend with friends, near the back of the pack, seeing each other through struggles with hip injuries and foot injuries and knee injuries.  Talking and supporting each other through this crazy thing called life…where we have plenty of outside anxieties and stress weighing us down as well.

Finish lines…not finish times!

I wouldn’t have changed a minute of this race…nor do I regret taking the pace I did.  When you get to spend time in the beautiful Parklands with some of your most beautiful friends…that’s a win any day!!

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Paul, Melissa & I heading into the finish line of the Norton Sports Health Great Pumpkin 10K.  I had just finished doing a dance! – Louisville, KY

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Comeback Kid…Again! Week #3

There is a good possibility that I will be back to running on the streets in as little as three (3) weeks.  Yep.  That is how confident my physical therapist is with my progression.  That being said, he really put me through the wringer this past week.

My appointments were later in the week…Wednesday and Friday.  Due to his schedule this time.  Next time…it’s all me.  I have a Sting concert to attend and all…

But I digress.

That being said, it gave me the whole first part of the week to work on the marches and all the lunges he assigned me to work on at home.  And here I thought I was totally done with homework. Let me tell you…my quads were burning.  I tend to do my PT stuff twice a day.  So, that was a whole heap of lunges.

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This is, legit, one of the lunge moves I am to do to help strengthen the hip and get that hip flexor firing properly.  He also added a new resistance band move for the left hip as well…in addition to the other stuff I was doing.  OH…and the lunge matrix.  Five lunges with each leg in basically every direction possible.  It is beyond hellish.

Told you…lunge hell.  If I don’t have the best looking ass at the end of this I will be highly disappointed.

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On Friday…it got a little more real.  After going through the stretches, exercises, and adding some fun new plyometric lunges and leaps with the BOSU to help with not only the push-off but also landing.  It’s a great exercise, and I luckily own a BOSU ball, so I can do this one at home.  Outside.  I’m in a 2nd floor apartment after all.  HA!

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So, then my PT had a little heart-to-heart with me.  For real.  He said I was coming along great…and my pain was minimal these days.  So…he wanted to know how I would feel if he told me to go outside and run 3 miles.  Just go.  Right then.  And run.

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So, he asked me why I felt that way…and I told him that I was nervous about it hurting again, or doing further damage.  And that I don’t want to take any more steps back.  He said that I was ready to get on the Alter-G treadmill…and he wanted me to pick a pace I felt comfortable with and see if I could run for about 25 minutes on it.

He had to kick someone off of it, but he got me all zipped in and I got started…

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So…this wasn’t a fix.  Not at all.  In fact…I still had some twinging in my left hip flexor while doing this…and I was running with a slight limp.  He pointed that out immediately.  So, he told me to attempt to even it out as I was going, and I could keep going for the 10-25 minutes as long as the twinge didn’t escalate.  It didn’t.  So I managed 2.83 miles at a 8:34 pace for 25 minutes.  It wasn’t perfect…but look at that smile!  I WAS FINALLY RUNNING!  It had been a full month since that had even happened.

This week, I think I’ll be doing a lot of work on the Alter-G.  He had me at 80% of my body weight on Friday…and I think he’ll move me to 90% this week or next…and then…I’m on the road…IF all things go well.

That being said, I showed up for the training run for the Norton Sports Health Training Program for the Kentucky Derby Marathon/miniMarathon…and I was able to do some of the jumping jacks and other dynamic warm-ups that I had to phone-in before.  So, I do think the process is working.  It’s just slow.  But I’ll take any improvement at this rate.  I took a short walk, went and got my taxes done, and then met back up with my fellow Ambassadors at Big Four Burgers + Fries for a social.  It was the best way to spend my Saturday for sure.


Looking forward to moving forward some more this week.  But now…I’m off to officially cook my first Gordon Ramsay meal…Mushrooms on Toast for dinner!!  Yes…his class…his recipe…me cooking it.  Wish me luck.  I’ll need it…it involves bacon.  Not for me.  For my roommate.  Mine is minus the bacon.  Chef Ramsay has his hands full with this gluten-free vegetarian!!

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Recipe: Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

I won’t lie…I’m a carb-a-holic.  Is that really a thing?  Is that a word? Doesn’t matter.  Carbs make me happy.  Gluten-free bread, pasta, donuts, muffins, potatoes, rice…you name it…I love to eat it.

That being said, I’m doing a slight bit of overhauling to my diet this year…aiming to cut back on all those processed carbs (like…bread, pasta, donuts, muffins, etc) and try to replace them with real food…healthier choices…and something that will nourish my body more.

Before I was diagnosed with Celiac…I may have lived at the Chinese buffet at least 2 times a month.  I love Chinese food.  I always have.  But, most of it is not even an option for me these days, unless I make it.  I’m Irish…not Chinese.  My Chinese food is never as amazing as when…you know…someone who is Chinese makes it.

That being said, I’ve been craving as of late…and I finally decided to cave and give into it.  And I got out my skillet on Sunday afternoon and whipped up a healthier version of fried rice, replacing the rice with riced cauliflower.  The recipe is below:

Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

Cauliflower Fried

Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets (or one bag of cauliflower rice)
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
½ cup frozen peas
½ cup carrots, cubed
2 eggs, beaten (if making vegan, sub in tofu or just leave out)
¼ cup low sodium tamari
1 Tbsp light brown sugar
⅛ tsp. ground ginger
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp green onions, chopped (optional garnish)


Directions:

**Chop head of cauliflower into florets and place in food processor. Pulse until it starts to resemble rice; set aside.

**NOTE: If you want a less-mess, no maintenance way of doing this, go to Trader Joes, Kroger, Target, or pretty much ANY grocery store these days and they have bags of already riced cauliflower in their produce section and even in the freezer section.  I do this…because food processors are a pain to clean!  So, skip the first step if you cheat and get the already riced cauliflower.  At the end when you add it in with the sauce, cook it until it has softened.
 

Heat a large wok (or skillet) over medium heat and add 1/4 cup water. Add onion, peas and carrots and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. (Add more water as needed to prevent veggies from sticking).Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger and red pepper flakes; set aside.

Slide veggie mixture to one side of the wok and add in the beaten eggs (or tofu…or skip this step if you opted to go without the protein), scrambling until cooked through and then incorporate with the veggies.

Stir in cauliflower “rice” and pour the sauce over top, mixing well. Cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, until cauliflower is soft and tender.

Top with green onions, serve and enjoy!

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Simple, easy…and yes…super delicious!!  Oh…and only 220 calories per serving!  You can’t beat that, right?  Highly recommended to your Chinese food lovers if you’re looking for a healthier alternative!!  Or maybe you just want to try something new!

Either way, it’s an easy recipe with little to do but stir away!!  So…no excuses, friends.  Get rockin’ that wok!

A Wild & Wonderful Weekend

In the midst of everyday stresses and stressors, it’s always nice to have a little break from the things that are just…making you feel so BLAH about life and what you are doing with your life.

For me, this week, it was having my beautiful sister, Karla, drive up from Birmingham, Alabama, with her eldest son, my nephew, Landon.  I didn’t know how much I needed her and the distraction of having her and Landon here to really just allow me to relax, smile, and be me again!

Family, especially my sister, is, apparently, the cure to what ails, troubles, and bothers you.  I’ve been having…a not so amazing time these past few weeks…and, unfortunately, it’s something I am not really allowed to discuss.  Censorship sucks, yes?  YES!  But…just trust me…the type of personality I have and the person I am…it’s been bothering me on a fundamental level, which, has added a lot of added stress to my already chaotic life.

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Suckage.

But this weekend…was amazing.  I love spending time with my sister…and it doesn’t happen often enough.  So, her texts and calls that ask what I’m doing on certain weekends means…she’s coming to visit.  And I LOVE when she comes to visit.  She and I are best friends and sisters and just…have always been close.  So, me living this far away for 11 years (YES…11 years as of Friday)…has not been easy on either of us.  But here is some of the mischief that we got into this weekend, helping me to not even think about the bad and sucky things that have made a certain portion of a time of my day…a thing I have resented and even loathed at times over the past couple of weeks.

Here’s to sisters…and nephews…and family…and general FUN!  They make the world right again.

1.  Fish in the Water

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One thing Karla and I had discussed for Landon to do while here was to go to the new water park in New Albany.  Unfortunately, Friday left us with thunderstorm warnings and the threat of pop-up storms.  So, at around 3:30…when she arrived and we left the office…the lifeguards were being sent home and the park was closing.  So, Plan B…go to the YMCA and let him swim.  He was swim tested and given permission to go to the life guard chair in the lap pool and to go down the slide in the kids pool.  So, for a good portion of the afternoon…about an hour and change, that’s what he did.  Cathy, Karla, and I all sweltered to death in the humidity of the pool area of the YMCA while he played and cooled off in the pools.  It was worth it to see the smile on his face!

2.  SUSHI TIME!

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My sister commented a week or so ago about how delicious my vegetarian sushi looked when I Instagram-ed it and posted it to Facebook.  And then…I had a brilliant moment of brilliance.  My nephew, Landon, is a very, very, very picky eater.  BUT…he does love cheese things.  Cheese quesadillas, cheese sandwiches, mac & cheese….ALL THE CHEESE!  With the excitement over sushi on my post, I thought of the perfect place for us all to grab dinner, that even Landon couldn’t turn his nose up and refuse to order anything.  Dragon King’s Daughter to the rescue!  For those of you who are not local, Dragon King’s Daughter is an Asian-fusion restaurant with two locations…one in New Albany, Indiana, and one in Louisville, Kentucky.  The menu includes traditional fare from the Far East, as well as contemporary fare with a unique twist.  They offer classics of Japanese dining such as lemongrass miso, vegetable, and sushi rolls, as well as a multitude of new creations including a mixture of East and West forms and flavors.  On the kids menu…a cheese quesadilla…and for the adults…we all went sushi.  My sister and I figured we could get a roll each and split one…so I got the Vegetable Roll, she got the Buffaroll, and we split the Green Acres Roll.  Cathy went for the fishies…and got the Shrimp Tempura Roll and the Dragon King’s Daughter Roll.  And after that…a trip over to the Comfy Cow for an ice cream dessert.  What a great first few hours.

3.  Playtime at the County Fair

It just so happens that the Floyd County Fair happens across the street from where I life.  Convenient, yes?  After dinner and dessert, we came home and walked over to the fairgrounds to scope out some rides and the barns with Landon.  He went on three rides (he had 4 tickets, but he wanted his mom to ride with him on one he wasn’t sure about).  He loved going to see the animals.  And one of the highlights for me was seeing my sister crack up every time the goats bleating.  Her laugh is so contagious.  We all shared lemon shakeups and just walked around.  After that…it was time for showers and then we were all down on the couch to watch Zootopia and then…they took over my room and went to bed and I crashed out on the couch so I could get up early and head out for my 12 mile run and get it done before too much of the morning was passed.

4.  It Runs in the Family

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One of the best things we decided to do, was to go for a short run together.  After my 12 miler, I got home and Karla and Landon put on their running clothes.  We hiked up to Sam Peden Park and ran a loop.  It was hard for Karla, as she hasn’t run in a long while…and she’s not used to the crappy air quality of the Ohio River Valley, but she was a trooper and pressed on.  I ran right there with her to encourage her…and Landon…he was busy chasing down the Army men who were running there.  He beat quite a few.  It was awesome.  Landon has amazing speed and gorgeous running form.  He’s a natural and I love watching him run.  Needless to say, it was a great way to start the day as a family.

5.  Wild Eggs

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Breakfast was the next most important stop on Saturday.  We stopped off at Highland Coffee for some coffee first…and then took the drive over to Westport Road to go to Wild Eggs.  Landon already knew he wanted pancakes and BACON.  He made sure to tell me that if I got an omlette, he wanted my BLUEBERRY muffin.  Since I can’t eat the muffin, I was totally cool with this.  It had been forever since I went to Wild Eggs for breakfast…but it was a nice return.  They even have gluten-free bread and a gluten-free menu now.  LOVE that.  Yes…it even includes gluten-free pancakes, French toast and the like.  That was exciting.  But after 13 miles of running and a hike to and from the park…I wanted some protein.  So I ordered the Surfer Girl Omlette (fresh spinach, wild mushrooms, tomato, cream cheese and onion and topped with diced fresh avocado, pico de gallo, sour cream and fresh alfalfa sprouts. Served with skillet potatoes).  I got mine without the cream cheese and sour cream.  My sister got the same thing, just without the mushrooms (she hates mushrooms).  And Cathy got the Kalamity Katie’s Border Benedict (green chili cheddar corn cakes,topped with chorizo, two poached eggs and queso fundido, pico de gallo, sour cream, green onions and avocado. Served with skillet potatoes and an Everything Muffin).  And, yes, I got a blueberry muffin for Landon.  He was pretty full after eating the two pancakes that were as big as his face and the bacon he ordered…but he took a few bites.  The rest…came home with us and then went home with them today.

6.  Pierced Ears

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Okay, here is something that I didn’t expect to happen this weekend.  My sister and I got to talking about earrings…and she brought up how her daughter (she’s 16 months) had her earrings work out perfectly…and how my mom (whose holes closed because she stopped wearing earrings) had just gotten her ears pierced a few weeks ago.  I said that I keep saying I need to get it done but just haven’t pulled the trigger.  I think a part of me thinks it will fail again.  As a kid, I gave the pierced ears a try about 5 times, but always and an allergic reaction to them.  My sister was the same way, but it worked for her as an adult.  So, she told Cathy to pull into somewhere that could pierce my ears.  We did.  And now I sit here with beautiful 4mm white gold studs in my ears.  Karla taught me how to clean and turn the earrings every day (3 times a day)…and the rest is history.  So here is hoping that they work out this time around…because I have wanted to have pierced ears for a long, long time.  Leave it to my sister to get me to do something like this on a short weekend visit.  HA!

A shopping trip to a few of our favorite stores followed up that little adventure.

7.  Putt-Putt

Because you can’t just spend the day shopping when you have a 9-year-old boy with you, we took Landon to the Renaissance Fun Park.  We had discussed Go Karts…but opted, instead, for putt-putt.  It had been ages since my sister and I went putt-putting.  It was a lot of fun.  The easy holes on the course they put together there are actually quite challenging.  But we had a blast.  Afterwards, Landon and I took on some air hockey…which he won…and then he played a few more games after that…until the money on his card ran out.  It was worth every moment to see him out there laughing and being a competitive little boy.


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.  SOCCER!!!

One of the main reasons my sister aimed for this weekend was that the local professional soccer team, Louisville City FC, was playing on Saturday night.  And, since Landon is a HUGE soccer fan, and soccer player himself, we thought it would be fun to take him to a match.  I said I wanted to get him a replica jersey for him to wear during the match and she picked him up a hat and then got a t-shirt for Chace.  I made sure Karla wore the logo t-shirt I owned to the match as well.  They got some pizza for dinner and we settled into our seats at midfield to enjoy.  I have never seen Landon so into an event as that soccer game.  Seriously, he was shouting at the players and the refs…and it was just magical and fun and amazing.  I bought him ice cream at half time because…it’s my job as Auntie…to spoil him and get him hyped up on sugar.  HAHA!  In the end, after a horrible call by a ref, we ended in a draw of 1-1…and Landon had hoped that some of the players would come over to the midfield (they usually do) so he could get pictures and some autographs, but they all returned to the locker room without coming over.  He was bummed, but he still had a fantastic time, and I loved seeing him light up the way he did when Louisville City scored the first goal of the match!

9.  Home-Cooked Breakfast

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I gave my sister and Landon the option of grabbing breakfast out at a restaurant before they hit the road…or having me cook breakfast for them.  Landon really wanted waffles (with powdered sugar, which he now LOVES thanks to Wild Eggs putting it on his pancakes), scrambled eggs…and bacon.  So, my sister and I hit the grocery store for bacon (this vegetarian does not have bacon on hand), eggs, and a gluten-free waffle/pancake mix.  And then, this morning, I got to cooking.  I started the waffles first, knowing that would take the most time.  He wanted the Mickey Mouse shaped waffles…so I made that happen for him.  And, because we adults weren’t too sure we wanted waffles, we had gluten-free avocado toast with our eggs.  I started cooking the bacon before Karla emerged from the bedroom, but she took over that so I could focus on toasting the bread, doing the waffles, and scrambling the eggs.  It all finished up at the right time…everything done when it should be.  Breakfast was served.  And I didn’t take a picture of it, but Karla and I cook epic breakfasts together.  And Cathy now has lots of bacon in the fridge for this coming week.  Which makes her happy.

After that…they had to hit the road and get home…

It was hard to let them go, but I know Karla’s husband and other two kids were missing her and Landon like crazy.  I just was having such a good time and all the time together went by way too fast.

They got home late this afternoon…and she said that they missed me as well.

I hope we do it again soon.

Sisters really do make everything better!

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Product Review: Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels

Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagel

Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagel

Product: Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels – $9.99

To a former New Yorker…love is a good gluten-free bagel.  And when I say good, I mean that it has to actually be NY-style bagel quality.  For the longest time, this is exactly what every single gluten-free bagel I tried wasn’t.  Not to say the big corporation names that have placed gluten-free bagels in the freezers of grocery stores and natural food stores didn’t put out a quality product.  In fact, I’ve been smitten by both Udi’s Gluten Free Bagels and the Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Bagels (EVERY. SINGLE. VARIETY).  But then…

…the ultimate gluten-free bagel tweeted its way into my life.  This is not a joke.  It literally tweeted its way into my life.

I’m talking about Sweet Note Bakery and their amazing, gluten-free, vegan, delicious NY-style bagels!  Sweet Note saw my link to my blog on the Canyon Bakehouse bagels and challenged me to try their bagels.  While I was hesitant at first, I finally decided that it was actually worth a try.  Their Web site intrigued me.  The bagels looked phenomenal…and they made traditional NY-style bagels.  Not these giant monstrosities the other gluten-free bagel manufacturers were producing…but dense, thick, and perfect NY-style bagels.  Size does matter when it comes to bagels.  An authentic bagel should be about 3 inches in diameter, have a crunchy crust and a chewy, dense center.  And this…this is what Sweet Note recreated to perfection.

Sweet Note began in 2012, when founder and president, Michelle MacDonald, stepped up to a challenge.  She had been baking ever since she was a child and was very passionate about it.  When her grandfather and sister were diagnosed with Celiac Disease, she took the first steps on her entrepreneurial journey.  Her family really missed a good New York Style bagel.  (Hey…I can’t blame them…I know this feeling all too well). So with a lot of experimentation and trial and error, MacDonald perfected the recipe, getting huge approval from her family (also bagel lovers).  Gluten-free bagels that taste good?!  It was a reality.  Sweet Note Bakery’s vision is to make gluten-free options more readily accessible.  Those of us who live with Celiac understand how isolating this disease can be, when you can’t have a meal while out with friends and family, be it at a restaurant or a ballpark, or wherever your adventures take you.  MacDonald wanted to change that…one gluten-free bagel at a time.

And she did…and now she’s delivering these bagels, one step at a time, to the gluten-free (and even the non-gluten-free community).  Seriously, purchasing (and continuing to purchase so that my freezer is never without bagels) bagels from Sweet Note was one of the best gluten-free food decisions I have made…in the history of ever!

I know that I recently reported on the latest four flavors (three of which were online exclusive), but Sweet Note has been busy prepping new flavors and have released three more!!  YES!!  And, for the record…YES…I bought them.  Like…the day that they were announced.  I am not ashamed.  I proudly wave my gluten-free bagel lovin’ flag.  A happy freezer contains a package of some sort of Sweet Note’s amazing bagels.

Well, the three new flavors are actually quite playful and fun.  They introduced the French Toast Bagel, the Sunrise Swirl Bagel, and the Unicorn Bagel (aka: Rainbow Bagel).  My Unicorn Bagels are on the way, but the freezer has been happily cradling my packages of the French Toast Bagel and Sunrise Swirl Bagel…up until yesterday when breakfast rolled around.

I came home from spin class that morning and asked my roommate, who had emerged from her room and was shambling toward the couch, which bagel she’d like to try today.  I won’t lie…I also have the Tomato Basil in the freezer…as they make amazing Bagel Pizzas.  HA!  She immediately said, “Sunrise Swirl.”  Okay…it might have been sort of sleepily slurred (she hadn’t had coffee yet), but I pulled out the bagels that were beautifully swirled with reds and oranges and yellows and set about the usual prep on a Sweet Note Bagel.

My current thawing method seems to be perfect.  So, you can always give this a go too, because I expect you to order at least ONE variety of their bagels.  You won’t be disappointed.  Anyway…my currrent method for perfect defrosting in the microwave…30 seconds on one side, then flip it over for another 30 seconds.  Let it sit for a moment and then slice in half.  If you’re not into toasting (like a true New Yorker), then go ahead and schmear this bagel up with whatever goodness you like.  If you are a true New Yorker (or not) but love a toasted bagel (like me!)…toast it up.  If you have a toaster…go to town.  If you, like me, don’t own a toaster, simply put these beauties on a baking sheet and into an oven heated to 350°F for about 15-20 minutes.  I left them to toast while I showered and changed…and emerged in enough time to get my breakfast chef skills on.

An Egg & "Cheese" Bagel Sammie made with the Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels

An Egg & “Cheese” Bagel Sammie made with the Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels

Deciding to do something a little different, I (*GASP*) skipped the cream cheese schmearing this particular morning and instead, dug out my little egg pan and cracked an egg into it, frying it to perfection.  While the egg was working, I pulled some Daiya Cheddar-Style Slices out of the fridge and placed them on the bottom half of the bagels as they finished up their toasting time in the oven.  This gave the cheese some time to melt (as well as vegan cheese melts).  Afterwards, I placed fried eggs on each bagel and topped it off with the top half.  Breakfast sammies…DONE!

Even better…gorgeous breakfast sammies at that.  The colors were amazing and bright and just…beautiful in the Sunrise Swirl Bagels.  What makes that even better is that the colors (that smattering of sunshine) are added naturally to their original plain bagel recipe by using spices such as paprika, annatto, and turmeric.  Yep.  No fake chemicals, dyes, or bad stuff.  Don’t you love it?

Needless to say…the bagels are not only colorful and uplifting to your spirit on an early morning…but they taste good too.  This was the first time I stuck a fried egg between a Sweet Note bagel…but it certainly won’t be the last.  The Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels taste like an ordinary bagel, but they are extraordinary.  You’ll love how it will perk up your breakfast, whether you schmear it with butter, cream cheese, jam, nut butter…whatever floats your breakfast boat, right?  OR…go ahead and use it as a vehicle for a fried egg, or some (vegan) bacon or (vegan) sausage…layer it with (vegan) mayo and stick some tomato and greens in there.  The gorgeously swirled carb-loaded disk of goodness is your canvas…so accessorize it however you want.

Let’s discuss what goes into Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels, shall we?  These bagels are made from love (yep…actual ingredient that is…and one that makes ALL the difference), water, white rice flour, tapioca flour, sweet white rice flour, sorghum flour, sugar, cane syrup, olive oil, molasses, yeast, xanthan gum, psyllium husk, salt, paprika coloring, annatto coloring, and turmeric coloring.  As with all of Sweet Note’s bagel offerings, these are completely gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, egg-free, peanut & tree nut-free, and cholesterol free.

As for nutritional information, Sweet Note really stacks up when it comes to fueling and providing for your body.  These stats are equal to if not better than standard bagels out on the market.  A serving size of the Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagels is 4.5 ounces (128 grams) and there are four (4) servings per package.  One bagel will provide you with 290 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 170 mg potassium, 62 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 8 grams sugars, and 5 grams of protein.  The higher protein and fiber definitely helps keep you feeling full throughout the day.

Here’s something all those big corporation gluten-free bagel producers aren’t doing…they aren’t stepping outside of the box when it comes to bagels.  But Sweet Note is not only thinking outside the box, but they are stepping up and really taking charge of the gluten-free bagel market out there.  Where else will you be able to find a gluten-free bagel that is gorgeously swirled with colors…no where.  While they do offer the standards as well, Sweet Note has really stepped up and created bagels that you normally could only get in a glutenous form at a bagel shop, probably in New York City.  The Sunrise Swirl Bagel is a definite example of that.  And it is not only a joy to look at, but also to eat.  It will brighten up your morning for sure.

The Sweet Note Gluten Free Sunrise Swirl Bagel is an Online Exclusive offering, so hop on over to their Bagel Shop and place and order ASAP.  While you’re at it, try out a few of their other flavors, standard, or artisan…it doesn’t matter.  I swear, you won’t be disappointed.

Easter Treats

Last weekend I was out of town and was on the go the entire time (not a bad thing!), so sitting down and sharing some of the high points of my week was not an option.  And while I’ve been pressed for time this week…and with the fact that it’s Easter and I spent much of my morning doing meal prep for the week, and the afternoon over at Amanda & Richie’s for dinner with the family…it has left me with little time to really plot out my blog.

This week has been a big hot mess of fatigue.  My trip to New York City was amazing, but I was dead on my feet. I got in well after midnight on Tuesday, and still hauled myself out of bed early to get to my 5:30 am spin class on Wednesday morning.  I was exhausted, but I was glad I went.  Early mornings and late nights followed, trying to make up some time and work from being out of the office for 2 full days…and it all got done in the end, but it was some really busy, long days.

All that being said…there is plenty to be happy and thankful for this week.  And being tired due to having the opportunity and ability to go out of town and see places and do things…is more than enough.  It makes the overwhelming fatigue that I felt yesterday worth it.  In the end.

So, here are a few treats to share this Easter that just made me happy this week.

1. NEW YORK CITY

It was my first actual distance race back after returning to running after over a year.  A half marathon.  It was one that I had to defer last year because of the hip labrum (which we didn’t even know was the issue at that point).  The chance to run it this year had me feeling nervous and excited and happy all at the same time.  The weather was bitter cold and super windy (what’s new, NYC?!), but every mile was magical for me.  I felt good.  And definitely surprised myself when I came in to the finish line well ahead of what I thought I was capable of.

But this was more than just the race.  I got to meet up with my friend Ellen (who was also running) the day before the race.  And…I got to see my friend from high school, Marisa, not once, but twice.  I love seeing Marisa when I am in the city.  She knows all these great places to check out and has suggestions about things to see when we are in various areas.  I drank in every bit of NYC…enjoyed amazing food…great company…and yeah…went on a little run.

Finishing the race was a gift in and of itself…finishing it faster than I thought I was capable of…a surprise…being uninjured at the end and able to wander around NYC for the rest of the day…a blessing…hanging out with good people who make my life better…priceless.

Can I go back now?

2.  Gluten Free Easter Treats
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My allergen-free bakery is at it again for the Easter holiday.  They often do up a good number of Easter treats, and this year they had some new ones to indulge in.  You better believe I ordered some of everything.  Two egg sugar cookies, 2 chocolate bunnies, and 6 sunbutter chocolate truffles.  I’ve already indulged more than a little.  As always, Annie May’s Sweet Cafe makes the most delicious treats.  They go all-out for these holidays and I’m proud to support them and indulge myself in the amazing goodness they put out on a daily basis.  If you are in Louisville, Kentucky…you need to stop in.  Their gluten-free pizza, soft pretzels (only on Wednesday) and all their standard goodies…are fantastic.  You can even order some of their stuff online.  DO IT!!

3.  Back On Track With Home Cooked, Fresh, Vegan Meals
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While I am never one to deny myself good food and treats while I am on vacation…often the week I get back, I’m living off the stuff in my fridge and my pantry.  This morning, I enjoyed spending 3 hours of my time prepping healthy, plant-based meals for the rest of the coming week.  I have soups, pasta dishes, sandwiches, and some rice dishes planed.  All healthy.  All vegan.  All completely and totally YUMMY!  It feels good to get back to cooking my delicious and healthy foods up again to enjoy for (sometimes) breakfast, lunch and dinner each day of the week.  Easy to enjoy as I do all the work ahead of the time.  Makes those crazy hill repeat days and spin class days and just…hectic days that much easier.  Cooking is love.  Eating is fun.  And this kind of food makes me feel better about myself and how I am fueling and feeding this body.

4.  Zootopia Dress and Officer Judy Hopps
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While in NYC, Cathy wanted to buy me a present for finishing a great NYC Half Marathon race.  So…I thought about getting the stuffed animal from the Disney Store in Times Square of Officer Judy Hopps in her uniform.  She is apparently very popular…they kept selling out.  Judy is apparently very popular.  So, we ended up getting her back in our Disney Store in Louisville.  Super happy.  I love her.

And then, later on that day while making a random stop at Target, I noticed a dress in the girls section of Zootopia.  It was totally adorable.  It was also an XL.  And I held it up and thought…”I wonder if this would fit me.”  Well, I took it to the dressing room, so ready to be disappointed…but…IT FIT!!  So, I bought it.  Yep…I’m 35 years old and shopping in the girls section.  Seriously…I wore the dress today with some leggings.  TOTALLY adorable.  So much love for Zootopia.

5.  Glow In The Dark Easter Egg Hunt

I love my downstairs neighbors.  They’re the best.  They are also moving…(seriously…this bums me out!).  Not far…but they won’t just be a staircase away anymore.  Anyway, they invited Cathy and I out for a glow in the dark Easter egg hunt on Friday night.  I had SUCH a blast.  So much fun.  I’m so glad they thought to have us out so we could hide and seek eggs with them, and their adorable and awesome son as well.  Yep…it’s going to be hard to let them leave.  But, we’re already talking about all the get-togethers we’ll still have.  And girls nights.  Those are important too.  It just will involve some drive time.  We’re totally making this work.  Anyway…glow in the dark anything is awesome.  Easter egg hunt…a total blast.  Even in the cold night air.

6. A New PR

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It was one of those runs that I end up running faster than I feel I am running.  The Papa John’s 10 Miler felt so EASY to me.  The hills are always hard…but I climbed them.  I beat them.  And I had so much left in me at the finish line.  AND…I had a new 2 minute PR…in a race I was just running as I felt.  I wasn’t trying for a PR or trying to run fast.  It just happened.  Even with the hip protesting for 8 of the 10 miles.  I am shocked and surprised.  But what a feeling.  I hope, one day, to feel comfortable to push like I used to.  Right now, running what I feel has shown me that I still have more in me.  One day I’ll harness it.  I’m just not ready yet.  But a new PR is a new PR.  And I’m proud of it and happy to have it.

Life is sweet…and hopefully only getting better!!

How was your Easter week?

Product Review: Bake Me Happy Blueberry, Goat Cheese & Basil Take & Bake Scones

Bake Me Happy Blueberry, Goat Cheese & Basil Take & Bake Scones

Bake Me Happy Blueberry, Goat Cheese & Basil Take & Bake Scones

Product: Bake Me Happy Blueberry, Goat Cheese & Basil Take & Bake Scones – $10/box

Scones.  To quote the minds behind Thug Kitchen, “Scones are the bastard blend of a biscuit and muffin. They sound so wrong but taste so right.”  HAHA!

YES!

I have a deep, passionate, never-ending love for scones.  No joke.  They were one of the first things I ate when I went to Europe…Ireland, to be exact, and I’ve been in love with them ever since.  I’ve attempted to make gluten-free versions of scones in my own kitchen, but nothing has ever quite lived up to the crumbly, golden, amazing food profile of a scone.

Until…Bake Me Happy stepped up to the plate…and hit a home run…all the way over the center field wall.  It’s true.

Bake Me Happy was started by the lovely Wendy and Letha, committing themselves to making each and every bite that you have from their products the most decadent thing you’ve had since sliced bread.  Sliced bread, however, is not on their menu.  After being self-diagnosed with gluten intolerance in 2006, Wendy immediately felt relieve from a life of digestive issues.  The only problem was…the gluten-free food choices available lacked flavor and texture, seriously limiting what she would be willing to consume (and who can blame her!?).  After many years of self-study, she decided to take the plunge and signed up for an immersion course at the Culinary Institute of America, experimenting with recipes and trying them out on unsuspecting friends.  Soon, both friends and family began requesting her treats for parties, and none of them were gluten intolerant.  From there, Wendy expanded and began offering her products to the public.  And from the huge response she got from her goodies…Bake Me Happy, the bakery, was born.  And because Wendy understands what it is like to have a food intolerance , you can guarantee that she takes great care and pride in the products that she puts out for the public.  Not only does she understand the importance of what she does, she also knows that a perfect recipe cannot be rushed and that the best things in life are worth waiting for.

Perfection is key, and perfection is what they managed with their scones.  The scones at Bake Me Happy are available to purchase already cooked and ready to eat…or in their Take & Bake versions.  When I was up in Columbus, Ohio over Halloween, we dropped into the bakery and purchased one scone to devour on the go…and then my roommate promised I could select a Take & Bake variety to bring home.  At the bakery, I chose the Almond, Coconut and Chocolate Chip Scone to devour on the way home.  So, that being said, my roomie (who was paying) decided that she would choose the Take & Bake version…and as there was only one other vegetarian one…she lunged at the opportunity to try the Blueberry, Basil & Goat Cheese scones.  Besides, she’s a happy girl whenever goat cheese is involved.  Note…the Take & Bake Scones do contain butter, sour cream and 3 of the 4 flavors contain cheese.  All of them contain egg.  So…not vegan.

I am not (completely) vegan as of yet.  Maybe one day.  That being said, I do still eat eggs and use eggs in my own baking at home.  I am, however, lactose intolerant, so I had to be sure to take something prior to consuming this delectable treat.

Let me start off by saying, I actually ate these before the holidays.  Life has been insanely busy with me starting physical therapy again and…in general…the holiday madness that happens from Thanksgiving through the New Year.  So, yeah, I am a bit delayed on getting this review up.  But good things come to those who wait…

And I can’t say enough good things about these amazing scones.  The Bake Me Happy Blueberry, Goat Cheese & Basil Scones are fantastic.  I mean, they are just as good as the scones that hooked me on eating scones when I went overseas.  And the Take & Bake versions are just as amazing as the ones they have ready at the bakery.  And it’s not hard either.

Simply thaw the scones in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours, or at room temperature for an hour.  Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Place the desired number of scones on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until baked through and golden brown on top.  Allow to cool and enjoy!  Yep…that easy.  And they really are that easy to bake too.  Mine came out of the oven smelling like blueberry heaven and all golden and crispy on the outside.  I was impressed.  It is SO rare that gluten-free baked goods get that amazing golden color.  This was a nice treat.

Even more of a treat was what I discovered when I took a bite.  The Bake Me Happy team made sure each scone (there are 5 per box) was loaded with plump blueberries, creamy goat cheese, and fresh basil.  Each bite was a little savory and a little sweet.  Each scone was crispy and golden on the outside and light and flaky on the inside.  No gluten-free scone I have had before this or attempted to make myself has been anything like this.  I was blown away.  The sweetness of the berries paired amazingly well with the tangy goat cheese and the herby flavor of the basil.  It was a flavor explosion in each bite…and I kept wanting to take more and more bites.  And soon…my scones were gone.  Not all in one sitting, but within 3 days.  HA!  Then I wish I had shelled out some money for more.  I mean…HELLO!!  It doesn’t get much better than this.

No other scone will ever come close to living up to the standard Bake Me Happy has set.  I can pretty much guarantee that.

So, let’s talk about the ingredients that Bake Me Happy put into their Blueberry, Goat Cheese & Basil Take & Bake Scones, shall we?  These delicious pastry hybrids are made with Bake Me Happy’s top-secret flour blend (sweet rice flour, brown rice flour, sorghum flour, tapioca starch, cornstarch, white rice flour), butter (sweet cream, natural flavoring), sour cream, blueberries (blueberries, sugar, sunflower oil), goat cheese (pasteurized goat milk, culture, vegetable rennet, salt), sugar, egg, basil, baking powder (cornstarch, bicarbonate of soda, sodium aluminum sulfate, monocalcium phosphate), xanthan gum, salt, and baking soda.  These scones are completely gluten-free.

As for nutrition goes, well, butter, cheese, and sour cream are involved.  You do the math!  That being said, I have scones as a treat…like Sunday breakfast or something.  Or…post-workout (you think I’m kidding, but I’m not).  The Bake Me Happy Blueberry, Goat Cheese & Basil Take & Bake Scones serving size is one (1) scone and there are five (5) scones per box.  One scone will fill you up with 390 calories, 20 grams fat, 12 grams saturated fat, 0.5 grams trans fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 430 mg sodium, 48 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 14 grams sugars, and 6 grams of protein.  They are hockey-puck sized and…seriously…worth the calorie overload for breakfast every now and again.  Trust me, I love to eat fresh and clean…but sometimes, you just need to have a treat.

This is one of my new favorite treats.

So, ladies of Bake Me Happy…I love you.  I love your scones.  I can’t wait to come back and buy out half your bakery again.  Because…that’s what I do.  That’s how I work.  And with scones waiting for me to take and bake…well…it should be sooner rather than later.

Brilliantly done Bake Me Happy.  You definitely have baked up one happy customer here!