Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Camping - Family Style


I love exploring new places. I love drinking my morning coffee in the early morning sun with the backdrop of new mountains, forested hills, or mesas I've never seen.

I don't always love trying to figure out all the gear and equipment needed to safely ensure this family of 5 has fun for several days away from home. Packing it all into our SUV? Doable. Packing it all into carryons for a flight out West? Much more intimidating.

So, we opted for cabin camping when we planned this summer's vacation, which already included several generations of extended family and a half marathon in South Dakota. Our favorite chain of campgrounds (KOA - is there another one?!) offers cabins in all of the campgrounds and this saved us all the tent-camping hassle.

Plus, bunk beds!

And a porch swing!


Many people have ideas about what constitutes 'real' camping. And you know what? Not a lot of them agree. So if you're interested in exploring areas outside of major cities, saving money on hotels, getting your kids outside more, or just camping without sleeping on the ground, I can't recommend these cabins enough.


Just don't forget your s'mores ingredients!

More on the race, the the buffalo, and fun family times in the next few days!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Summer Salads - Vinaigrette Edition

Temps have been hitting the 90s here, burning away my interest in soups, lasagnas and casseroles. I don't want to turn the oven on, I don't want to stand over the stove. I pretty much just want to eat ice cream and popsicles until September.

What? It's an option.

Instead? I pull on my big girl pants and make salads. Yummy, cold, crisp salads, with tangy dressings and salty, garlicky meats. I'm going to do a series of posts on these guys, but let's start out with vinaigrette.

I make my own vinaigrette. And, before you get all impressed, it's mostly because I'm lazy and I'm cheap. It takes only a few minutes to dump the ingredients in a little mason jar, shake them up, and dump them on a salad. No oily bottles hanging out in your fridge, spilling on your mustards. No checking expiration dates.

Vinegar. A major component of vinegar is acetic acid. It's often described as 'bright tasting' and Food Network judges love to recommend a splash of citrus or vinegar to 'brighten' the flavors of a dish. (The scientist in me forced those punctuation marks, because I still don't have a viable definition for what the hell they're talking about). Acetic acid and citric acid (vinegar and citrus juices) also make foods sour, which sounds way less appetizing than 'bright.' Regardless of connotations, sour is one of the 5 tastes that humans can sense.

And taste hugely effects how hungry we are. You put a pile of poorly cooked Brussels sprouts in front of someone, suddenly they're not hungry. You toss a pile of ice cream, with warm fudge and salty nuts in front of that same person, and the stomach rumbles away.

So, when we eat a salad covered in vinaigrette, we bathe our tongues in low levels of yummy, yummy acid. If you remember much from chemistry, you might recall that acid

There's a whole apple cider vinegar diet out there, and I'm not trying it or advocating it. Why? Because the idea of drinking apple cider is super gross and I don't like super gross things. Interestingly, science agrees. In an article here (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23979220), researchers found that drinking vinegar makes people lose weight because they're nauseated. Just swishing it around in your mouth ('orosensory stimulation') doesn't work.

Wait, what was I talking about? Right. Vinaigrette.

So, in the summer I throw a vinaigrette on my salad because it makes me a heck of a lot less likely to eat a three scoop ice cream sundae for dinner, which is what I wanted in the first place.

I'm going to preface each of these by saying that I really, really don't measure. The idea is to throw these together quickly, to have something healthy and fast. So... Approximate. You can do it.

Here are some of my faves.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 c balsamic vinegar. As nice as you can use. We get ours at Costco. Because I'm totally cheap. 
  • 1/2 c olive oil. Again, Costco.
  • 1 tbs of mustard. We use homemade, but something to help your oil hang out with your vinegar (emulsify)
  • 1/2 tsp of garlic salt or 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Throw it in an old jam jar and shake like crazy. Shake it like you've had a bad day at work. Shake it like you've waited all day for the plumber and he still didn't show. Shake it like your kids forgot their massive school assignment until 9:30 the night before it was due.

Yeah. It should be ready.

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 c white wine vinegar 
  • 1/2 c olive oil 
  • 1.5 tbs of mustard
  • 1 tbs of honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste


    Sesame Vinaigrette
    • 1/2 c rice wine vinegar
    • 1/4 c olive oil
    • 1/4 sesame oil
    • 1/2 tsp of garlic salt or 1 tsp chopped garlic
    • 1/2 tsp crushed ginger (I get the little tubes at the grocery to make this fast)
    • Salt and pepper to taste


      Creamy Vinaigrette

      • 1/2 c white wine vinegar 
      • 1/2 c olive oil 
      • 1.5 tbs of mustard
      • 1 tbs of mayo
      • 1/2 tsp of garlic salt or 1 tsp chopped garlic
      • Salt and pepper to taste


      Friday, May 27, 2016

      13.1 miles of horses and bluegrass

      I have been thinking, for quite some time, what to say about our last race. And, dear blog readers, I'm going to start with the nagging secret that's been lurking in the back of my mind all week. Not the quick announcements on Facebook, or

      The Horse Capital Half Marathon, in Lexington, KY had our slowest time. 3 hours, 12 minutes. A part of me, growing smaller every year, is completely and totally bugged by that.

      Here's something you might not know about me. I am competitive as f**k.

      Growing up female, I would often try to couch this in non-confrontational terms, but it always laid underneath. Best test scores. Best jeans. Coolest hobbies. Being competitive drives me to do all kinds of things that I love (knitting aran sweaters, running marathons, cooking nearly everything from scratch!) but it can also be paralyzing. Why run, if you can't be the fastest? Why try, if you can't be the best?

      That's the dark side of this drive and one that I try, nearly every day, to avoid. So, for the part of me that's a little pissy we finished in almost 3 1/4 hours, I present this:
      The 8 year old that sprinted to the finish line with me, despite panicking near mile 9 that we would never finish. 

      The 11 year old that chats non-stop while we run, and carried her stuffed horse the whole way, and glows with confidence after every race.

      And this, best of all. The five of us, together. And happy. And proud.

      We're all running our own race. Some days I lose sight of this fact. It doesn't matter if I'm at the front of the pack or the back of the pack, as long as I'm with this pack. 

      Tuesday, May 17, 2016

      Garden Pot Painting

      I love kids' hand print crafts. The small, personal feature captured forever... It gets me every time. We have framed hand prints, clay impressions of hand prints, even a class plate with a painted hand print. 

      So, when these cheap pots went on sale, I ran out and bought my favorite shiny paint colors. A fun out of paint, handprints, and way too much mess followed. I got these at Michael's, bit any craft paint should work. As long as you seal it.  Seriously. 

      Don't skip the sealant step. Like, really, really don't skip it. Otherwise the paint flakes off, gets in the potting soil, and you've got a big mess! Believe me, impatient moi tried skipping that step and I had to redo the whole thing. 

      Tuesday, May 10, 2016

      Half Marathon Family

      I run half marathons. With my kids and my husband.

      People think we're kind of nuts. I can see it, when they shake their head or shrug their shoulders. They can't imagine why an 8 year old would want to run that long, or why a preteen girl would spend that much effort on something. Or maybe running is their 'alone time' and they can't imagine their kids yakking at them the entire time. I get that.

      Here's why I do it:


      It started with my first half marathon, a year ago on Mother's Day. It was a special thing, a big thing, a kinda scary thing that I wanted to do for myself and have my family at the finish line to cheer me on.

      When I crossed that finish line (a whisker over 2 hours!!!), with tears, and pride, and more than a little disbelief, they were amazed. My daughter said that she thought I was totally hardcore. I hugged her, said that she was, too.

      Two months later, she ran her first half. And it's all snowballed from there. Weekends are now sacred for Long Run and Sushi Sundays. We chat about fueling plans while grocery shopping. Pacing and goal setting are normal parts of our conversations.

      A year has gone by. I love what running has done for this family. My 8 year old sleeps better than he ever has. He's learning focus and drive and that it's okay to be tired and work hard. My 11 year old has so much pride and confidence as she heads toward her teen years. She wears leggings and race shirts to school and looks forward to gym class just as much as she does math class.



      And my husband? Well, he and I now have his and her medal hangers. He'll tell you that I'm dragging him out for his first marathon next fall. But when he says it, he'll have a smile on his face. I think he's secretly coming to like it, too.

      Thursday, April 28, 2016

      What I have learned from from #5amwritersclub

      I write. In grade school, I carried around blue notebooks in which I would scribble down notes, conversation, plot lines. In high school, I would pound out dramatic thoughts on our ancient Apple. In college and grad school, late nights found me tinkering with characters and scenes for hours.

      Life gets busy.  Three kids, (more than) full time job, marathon training busy. But ideas still come - conversations, characters. images. So I find time. And for me, that time is 5 am. It may sound crazy, but here are some of the things I've learned from months in a twitter group with the hasthag #5amwritersclub

      1. Dragons, jewel heists, and interdimensional graduate students seem less ridiculous at 5 am. 
      2. Scheduling time to meet your muse makes me much more likely that the fickle lady will appear. 
      3. Sometimes your muse doesn't show. But, there's coffee, so you write anyway.
      4. Self doubt likes to sleep in. If you can sneak in ~1000 words before self-doubt wakes up, you're ahead of the game. 
      5. Twitter can be a kind, warm, and welcoming place. But mostly at 5 am. 
      6. Toddlers also like 5am. Mostly when great ideas strike. 
      Do you write? What do you write? When do you write?

      Tuesday, April 26, 2016

      Book Commitment.

      I don't read fiction as much as I used to. By a lot.

      I used to have a 2-3 books a week habit. Mostly fantasy, some sci fi, occasionally a crime procedural or romance. Almost entirely genre fiction.

      Now? Maybe 1 a month, if I'm honest. And lucky.

      Is it because, as an adult, there are so many other demands on my time? Is it because, as a parent, my little ones interrupt and constantly steal my bookmarks? Is it because, as a smart phone owner, I have developed a shorter attention span?

      Whatever the cause, I have a hard time getting engaged in so many books these days.




      Tonight I'm reading this: Twelve Kings by Bradley Beaulieu. I've enjoyed some of Mr. Beaulieu's earlier works and I was hoping this one would suck me in just as easily. It hasn't - several chapters in, and I'm debating whether it's worth the time to finish. It feels cinematic, tightly edited, very active... but not engaging.

      What books are you reading? Why do you love them? Why are you reading them? Inquiring minds want to know. Because I've committed to reading 16 fiction books in 2016, and I haven't made it off to a good start!