Half Marathon Training, Week 12 Update!

running

This was a crazy week as far as activity was concerned. We left on Thursday for a rock climbing trip (stay tuned for an upcoming post on that one!) so we had to rearrange our running schedule a bit to accommodate the travel time. Instead of  6 miles on Tuesday,  5 miles on Thursday and 10 miles on Saturday, I chose to run on 6 on Monday, the 10 on Wednesday and then we both ran together on Sunday. Since I shifted my days and mileage around, I wound up running 26 miles in a 5 day span-definetly a new record for me!

Monday’s 6 miles went well and I managed to stay at a 9:50 average, even though I had run 10 miles just two days prior. That is really good for me!

Wednesday I went into Seattle to run 10 around Green Lake. My hubby was at work that day and decided he didn’t need a 10 mile run this week. So, I was on my own.

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The first 5 miles I had pretty consistent splits varying between 10:04-10:08, but after that I steadily gained time to end with the 10:12 average. The next day we drove for 6 hours to central Oregon for our climbing trip-so fun! We climbed and hiked all day Friday and Saturday, so no time for running until Sunday morning. We looked for a path near our motel and found a paved trail that ran through a canyon. By this point in the trip we had seen a lot of sun, and were feeling the heat on our red skin, but we toughed it out! I ran a little over 5 and my husband went for 6 miles.

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Then we went back to the motel, showered, picked up our kids at the climbing park and rode 7 hours back home. Whew! It was a crazy trip but we fit it all in! Next week we go back to our regular schedule and have a 5 mile, 4 mile and 11 mile plan. The runs are getting longer and harder, but we are getting closer to the big day!

May 2017 Half Marathon Training Schedule
This is a blank and printable May Calendar. Courtesy of WinCalendar.com

April 2017 May 2017 June 2017
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
week 10

1

 

2

5miles

3

 

4

4miles

5

 

6

9miles

7

week 11

8

 

9

6miles

10

 

11

5miles

12

 

13

10miles

14

week 12

15

6miles

16

 

17

10miles

18

 

19

 

20

5miles

21

week 13

22

 

23

5miles

24

 

25

4 miles

26

 

27

11miles

28

week 14

29

 

30

5miles

31

 

 

Sally’s Baking Addiction, May Challenge: The Roll Cake!

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I have not made a roll cake since culinary school, and I really need more practice with them! Every roll cake I have ever made had some sort of crack in it, and this one was no exception. I am not sure why it cracks, I roll it warm right out of the oven, just like every recipe states but, inevitably it happens! So, when Sally’s monthly baking challenge came out this month I decided I would use it as an opportunity to work on two culinary issues that I struggle with constantly. One, fixing the cracking problem and two, practicing making buttercream roses to hide the crack!

I decided to divide this project into different phases and spread out the work over a couple days. I wanted the cake to be ready early on Mother’s Day, so working backwards meant that Friday was buttercream rose day. I used Sally’s Vanilla buttercream recipe from last months challenge because I knew it would pipe easily and tastes amazing!

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This was the consistency I was going for, thick enough to hold shape but still able to flow through the #104 tip

I used clear vanilla to keep some frosting white and colored other portions red, pink and green for some leaves. I did try to stripe some white icing for two toned roses but had technical difficulties with that piping bag (meaning it blew up all over me!)

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I stored the green icing in the fridge for later and set about piping roses. I watched a few youtube videos to refresh my memory but ultimately I had to dive in and just start trying. My goal was to pipe as many as I had icing for knowing full well that only a few would be useable! It might take 100 bad ones to get 3 or 4, such is my skill in this area!

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I tried to get a variety of sizes and I really had no idea how many I would need to cover the cake. So they all went into the fridge to firm up and I would have to see what I would have to work with after the cake was baked.

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Saturday was sponge cake time! My goal was to mix, bake and roll the cake which would then sit in the fridge until the following morning. I set about mixing the batter as per Sally’s instructions.

I sifted the dry ingredients together and set the them aside. The important part in making a sponge cake is to separate the eggs and beat the egg whites into stiff peaks, this will provide much of the leavening agent to the cake.

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The rest of the ingredients make up the base of the batter. The egg yolks, butter, additional sugar, vanilla and buttermilk are combined, then the beaten egg whites are folded in carefully. The dry ingredients are then folded into the final mixture. The batter is put into a 10 X 15 jelly roll pan that has been greased and lined with parchment paper. Bake the cake at 350°F for about 15 minutes. The critical part is next! Use a cup or so of powdered sugar and dust a clean, thin tea towel.

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When the cake is done it is immediately inverted onto the sugared towel.

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Peel off the parchment and roll the towel and cake into a tight spiral.

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The cake needs to cool in this form so that you can fill it later and re roll it. If you allow the cake to cool first, then attempt to roll it, you will have beautiful cake crumbs- I guess you could make cake pops!

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The cake went into the fridge to sit overnight

Since we had a long drive planned on Sunday morning, I also wanted to prepare the filling on Saturday.  Sally’s recipe calls for a strawberry cream cheese filling but my mother-in-law and daughter do not eat any cheese! So I opted for Sally’s Strawberry Buttercream instead. I am so glad I did! This was the star flavor of the cake. If you like strawberry this is your new go to recipe! Unlike most strawberry flavored icings it does not have jello or pudding mixes for flavor. Sally uses freeze dried strawberries and grinds them into a powder to flavor her buttercream-yum! I found some at Trader Joes but I am told there are other outlets that carry dried strawberries.

With the strawberry filling made and sitting next to the cake and roses in the fridge, all I had to do Sunday morning was fill and decorate the cake.

The cake and icing need a couple hours to come to room temperature. I unrolled the cake, and spread on the filling.

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Rolled it back up and put it seem side down on my serving tray. Everything was looking pretty good, until…

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The big crack! Every time, at least my record remains intact!

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So I pulled out my roses and started covering the cake. I had to use some warm water on the bottom of the flowers to get them to stick to the powdered sugar cake and then I used the green icing and a leaf tip to fill in the holes.

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IMG_1613It wasn’t perfect, but it was delicious! My husband who dislikes frosting in general loved the strawberry filling. I was not sure the roses would make it the hour and half drive in the car to my in laws home, but to my delight not one fell off!

This was a tough challenge for me but I am glad I gave it a go and look forward to Sally’s next task in June.

Half Marathon Training, Week 11 update!

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This is my new motto!

It’s Monday and I am a little late with this update. Normally, I would post this weekly update on Sunday, or the rare Saturday posting, but this Sunday was Mother’s Day so I was busy being pampered and showered with gifts-it’s good to be me sometimes!

We had a 6 mile, 5 mile and 10 mile run scheduled this week. Tuesday’s 6 mile was a little slow for me, for some reason. Not sure why, I know I can’t blame the weather because is was 50°F and dry which is basically my sweet weather spot for running. But Thursday’s 5 mile was closer to my regular pace. It was also a really nice day here at 57°F and cloudy. I have finally been able to put my long running pants away!

When Saturday rolled around I was a little nervous. This was the first double digit run since last fall when we ran the Vancouver Rock n’ Roll half in October. I felt pretty good about the 9 mile run last week, but this is week 11 and I have only missed one 5 mile training run because I was having so much fun prepping for my colonoscopy. We have also been climbing a lot (more on that in a minute) and I am starting to feel a little tired. I am not injured (knock on wood) but it does start to add up for me. So, when we started the drive into Seattle to run 10 miles around Seward Park, I had some concerns about my endurance. Fortunately, everything worked out just fine.

10 mile run

It was a little cooler, and the breeze off the lake was noticeable to be sure, but overall I was pleased with my pace of 10:15 as an average. I will need to pick it up if I want to finish the 13 miles in under 2 hours, but I am hoping that I will get a little faster in the next few weeks. We have another 6, 5 & 10 set for next week, but here is the problem. All four of us leave on Thursday for Smith Rocks in Oregon. We will be climbing single and multi pitch routes all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday next week. That makes a 10 mile run tough to fit in, and did I mention it will be in the 80s in central Oregon? So, the current plan is to shift the schedule around to run 6 miles on Monday, 10 miles on Wednesday and then try to squeeze in a quick 5 miler sometime during the weekend. I have already run the 6 miles today (Monday) so we will see if I can do a quick turn around and hit the 10 mark in less than 48 hours! I hope I can! My husband is taking the more sensible approach of skipping the 10 mile all together, running 5 on Tuesday and doing “some run” on the weekend. For the record, he skips runs all the time and gets stronger and faster somehow-I guess it is good to be him sometimes too!

 

May 2017 Half Marathon Training Schedule

This is a blank and printable May Calendar. Courtesy of WinCalendar.com

April 2017 May     2017 June 2017
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
week 10

1

 

2

5miles

3

 

4

4miles

5

 

6

9miles

7

week 11

8

 

9

6miles

10

 

11

5miles

12

 

13

10miles

14

week 12

15

6miles

16

 

17

10miles

18

 

19

 

20

5miles

21

week 13

22

 

23

5miles

24

 

25

4 miles

26

 

27

11miles

28

week 14

29

 

30

5miles

31

 

 

We will have to see how this works out next week. Either way we should have a great time climbing as a family at Smith Rocks!
 

What does an Irishman take to a Cinco de Mayo party?

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A pear, apple and cranberry crisp of course!  Well, maybe that is not so obvious to everyone, but my good friend did recognize my limitations with respect to the Cinco de Mayo party she organized last week. When I asked her what I could contribute to the dinner menu she immediately gave my an assignment that she knew I could handle. Since she was already making a tres leches cake, I was tasked with making a fruit based dessert. Thankfully she did not ask me to make enchiladas!

Originally I wanted to make a strawberry rhubarb crisp but the fruit was not quite ready here as spring has made had a painfully slow start in our area. The grocery store looked more prepared for autumn than any other season. So, I went with a no fail recipe from Ina Garten, her pear, apple and cranberry crisp is one I have made many times and it always comes out delicious, and it is fast and easy!

The “hardest” part is peeling, coring and dicing the bosc pears and honey crisp apples (2 lb. each). The diced fruit is then mixed with the juice and zest of both a lemon and an orange. I used a blood orange as that was what I had on hand.

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I added a full cup of cranberries, more than the recipe calls for but we like them, 1/2 cup of vanilla sugar and 1/4 flour.

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Next came the cinnamon and freshly ground nutmeg. This is all mixed well in a large bowl and then put into a lightly greased 9 X 12 baking pan.

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Up to this point you could argue that this is not too unhealthy of a dessert, however that is about to change. This fruit mixture is good, but it’s the crumble topping that is the real star of the show!

For the crumble combine the 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup vanilla sugar, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 cup old fashioned oats. Then add the diced, cold butter (2 sticks, 1/2 lb)

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Cut the cold butter into the dry components. Much like making a scone dough or pie crust, the goal is to have small pieces of butter throughout the mixture.

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Cover the fruit, entirely, with the crumble topping.

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Bake at 350ºF for 50 minutes to an hour. Make sure the crust is nice and brown and the fruit is bubbling.

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I transported the crisp in the pan and we served it at my friends house for a nice ending to a great meal.

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This is best served warm, but I will confess to eating it cold and having no problem! I have substituted different fruit combinations such as peaches and blueberries, plums and cherries and, of course, strawberries and rhubarb. They are all delicious using this same formula. Thanks to Ina for another awesome recipe and to my friend for opening her home to us!

 

Working on my photography at the beach

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This weekend I spent with me, myself and I. My husband went to Spokane to run in the Bloomsday event. This is a huge race that he does with his coworkers. They leave early on Saturday morning for the 1 hour flight and head straight to a golf course where they proceed to drink all day and, somehow, play a round or two. They spend the night and get up early to join the 30,000 other folks for the annual 12K (7.5 mile) run, have lunch, drink some more beverages and then fly home Sunday night. That meant that I was on my own to run a 9 mile training run so I figured that after I ran I would take off to the Washington coast and work on my photography skills (such that they are!).

I left for the shore at 1pm on Saturday and arrived at 4pm. I was staying at the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino on, you guessed it, Quinault Beach. I dropped off my bag and immediately headed out to the shoreline.

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As I exited the hotel, I took a shot before I entered the beach

 

These images were from the shore, looking back at the resort. The sky was amazing!

 

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The property had a private boardwalk to enter the beach

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It was windy, and cold to be sure, but the sun was shining.

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The tide was out quite a ways and the beach was covered with jellyfish.

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There were a few seagulls out and about. This one is the same as the bird in the picture that is found at the start of the post.

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I really love the cloud cover. Part of our photography class is playing with the white balance. We are learning how to shoot in cloudy and bright conditions. I played around with this function to get this image.

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Another area of focus in the class is depth analysis. Here I tried to capture the different growth levels of the plant both above and below the surface of the water.

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I switched to my zoom lens to get a little closer to the waves and this seagull.

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By now I was quite cold and ready to head inside for some hot coffee. Sunset was at 8:34 and I had just enough time to settle into my room, have dinner and get back out to the shore with my tripod in tow.

It was extremely windy and the sand was really blowing along. I tried to capture the feeling of movement by using a longer exposure setting. What do you think? Can you see the sand moving?

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I will keep working on that!

These next shots were on aperture priority setting, and the white balance was set to cloudy to make the colors more visible. I should also say that I did not use any filters.

 

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I decided to swing around and look at the clouds in the east as well.

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Moving back to the west again, I tried positioning the sun in different fields of view.

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That was a long as I could stand the cold! I went back to my room and had a hot bath, read a good book and had a great night’s sleep!

The next morning I went for a long walk on the beach sans camera. I just wanted to absorb the beauty, breath in the salty air and stretch my sore muscles-they were definitely feeling that 9 mile run the day before! With my soul refreshed I packed up, checked out and went 5 miles down the road to the city of Ocean Shores. This was a completely different experience! Where Quinault Beach was quiet and mostly deserted, Ocean Shores was crazy, populated and chaotic. There were cars on the beach driving around, horse trailers set up for tourists to ride on and motorized bicycles buzzing around. Why would anyone want to drive all the way to the shore to then drive on the beach! What happened to listening to the waves, feeling the sand in your toes and getting away from it all? I didn’t get it!

There were some standard sights that you usually get at the beach, such as people flying kites.

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And the ocean here looked a lot like the last beach, but the clouds were not as impressive today. At least it was warmer, and I did appreciate that.

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The birds here were insane. Maybe it was because there were so many people around who left their food unattended. The flocks were massive and the small birds were wicked fast. I decided to try to capture some the fast moving objects by moving into shutter priority mode and set it to 800. I can’t tell you how many shots I snapped trying to get a sharp image, but I got a few to my surprise!

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I was getting a headache trying to catch the little birds so I turned my attention to the slower, gulls. I managed to get a couple good ones.

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Then, out of nowhere one of the flocks turned right at me!

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They veered off at the last second, thankfully!

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That was enough for me-I am not really all that comfortable around birds. Especially when there are so many of them. I decided to pack it in for the weekend. I made one last stop for lunch before the long ride home in Sunday traffic.

 

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This granola with greek yogurt and berries was delicious! I had a great, albeit short trip and had a lot of fun with my camera. Next time I think I will skip the touristy beach and just hang out on the calm, serene shoreline. Minus the deadly attack birds!

Half Marathon Training, Week 10 Update!

My Nike+ app has a “just do it Sunday” tagline. But, for me, Sunday is a rest day so I am going with “Crush the crap out of it Saturday” instead as Saturdays are our long run.

The week went pretty well and the weather is actually starting to help out! No rainy runs this week. We had the second of our 5, 4, & 9 scheduled weeks. Tuesday was good as it was a 5 mile run with a 9:34 average pace, so I was happy with that. Thursday’s 4 miles was a little slower at 9:41, but ok. Most importantly for this run it was warm enough to finally get out of long pants and wear some shorts for a change!

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I was so excited that I posted this on Instagram, with my freckled legs and all!

Then we went out Friday night! I usually do not drink the night before a long run, and I do consider 9 miles long! But this was a special occasion and we did have a great time. Unfortunately, we did not get to bed until (almost) midnight and then up at 5am. I had to get my husband to the airport Saturday morning because he is running the Bloomsday event in Spokane. The is a massive event with 30-40 thousand people. He goes with his work friends. They leave Saturday morning, play golf and drink all day, spend the night and then get up early on Sunday for the 12k (7.5 miles) run.  Somehow they don’t die! That left me here to run my 9 miles on my own, after margaritas (it was Cinco de Mayo) and 5 hours of sleep. I had serious doubts regarding my survival, which explains my choice of the featured image for this post, but it went really well! I had my fastest 9 miles ever at a 9:47 pace!

Next week we start the first of two 6, 5 & 10 mile training run weeks. Yes, that is 21 miles on the schedule! We also have a rock climbing trip set up and will have to work that out as well.

 

May 2017 Half Marathon Training Schedule
This is a blank and printable May Calendar. Courtesy of WinCalendar.com

April 2017 May     2017 June 2017
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
week 10

1

 

2

5miles

3

 

4

4miles

5

 

6

9miles

7

week 11

8

 

9

6miles

10

 

11

5miles

12

 

13

10miles

14

week 12

15

 

16

6miles

17

 

18

5miles

19

 

20

10miles

21

week 13

22

 

23

5miles

24

 

25

4 miles

26

 

27

11miles

28

week 14

29

 

30

5miles

31

 

 

Since I am on my own this weekend I decided to refuel my soul at the ocean, which is my “happy place” So I will leave you this image of Ocean Shores and look for a travel post soon!

Happy weekend everyone!

ocean shores

Cinnamon Apple Babka

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As you well know by now, I do love to bake bread! I have been wanting to try a babka for some time and finally got around to developing this one. This is a bread that is slightly sweet and you can amp it up with more filling but we like a little less fruit and more of that bread flavor! I had a lot of apples after a recent Costco trip so I have been working them into every dish possible! This recipe can easily make two loaves, and I have included those options in the recipe located at the bottom of this post. Today, however, I decided to make a large, braided loaf and have also included that option, should you feel the need to have an enormous sweet bread centerpiece for your table!

This enriched dough begins with the making of a sponge, which is just water, yeast and sugar that has time to allow for the yeast to activate. Start by combining the yeast, brown sugar and temperature controlled water and let is sit for 30 minutes.

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After blooming the surface will have small bubbles and there will be a yeasty aroma

Next add the flour, oil, salt, egg yolks and eggs to the sponge.

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Knead the dough until a smooth, but slightly sticky ball forms and place in a lightly greased, large bowl. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

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While the dough is rising, prepare the cinnamon and apple filling. Whisk together the cinnamon, sugar and flour in a small bowl and set aside. The most important part of preparing the apples is to extract as much moisture as possible so that your dough will not be soggy. I did this by peeling, coring and grating the apples then placing them in a double lined paper towel and squeezing the water from the apples. There is a surprising amount of water that will drain out. I did this in small batches and cheesecloth would work well, but I didn’t have any on hand, so paper towels it had to be! Place the dried apple pieces into a bowl and immediately add the lemon zest and lemon juice, tossing to coat. Then add in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Set aside until the dough is ready.

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Now comes the tricky part of shaping and filling the bread. I will refer you to this excellent tutorial from King Arthur Flour on how to shape babkas. This site has all the options that I mention in the recipe with step by step instructions and pictures. At this point you need to decide if you want two loaves or one braided loaf. In either case you begin the same way, divide the risen dough into two equal portions.

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Roll one portion out to about 9″ X 18″ and spread half the cinnamon apple filling over the rectangle, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the perimeter. Start with the long side and roll into a log shape, much like you would if you were making cinnamon rolls. Pinch the bottom seam and the ends shut to contain the fillings. Repeat with the second portion of dough.

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At this point you may opt to make two loaves using the classic twist, or the sliced braid methods discussed on the King Arthur site and my recipe write up, I will discuss the process for making the single, braided loaf.

Begin by slicing the log lengthwise to form 4 “ropes”.

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Working with the filling side up, make a plus sign with the intersection at the middle of each rope. Then repeat with the other two strips to form a second plus sign that interlocks with the first one.

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Working clockwise, fold every other strip over the neighboring end, then repeat with the ends that extend but go in the opposite direction (counterclockwise) this time. Here is the  King Arthur photos for reference (they use their chocolate babka).

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You will have some ends left over, just tuck them under the loaf. Place the loaf onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover and allow to proof for another 45 minutes.

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Preheat the oven to 350°F and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and baked thorough the center.

While the bread cools mix the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, cinnamon extract, vanilla seeds and slowly adding enough milk or water to create a drizzling consistency. When the bead has cooled completely, drizzle with the glaze.

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I know that there are a lot of steps for this but it is so worth it! If you are not up for the braid, then try the simple loaf shapes highlighted on the King Arthur site and let me know what you think! Happy baking!

cinnamon apple babka recipe