Monthly Archives: November 2011

For the shower beer lover in your life

When it comes to shower beers, I was totally a late bloomer. In fact, it was just a couple of years ago that I first experienced the delightful combination of cold carbonation and hot steam. I know. I can’t believe I never did this in college, either.

(In fairness to me, I lived in a dorm for all four years of college and shared a communal bathroom with fifty other girls. When shower time came around, I was more concerned with keeping my flip-flopped feet away from whatever grossness lurked on the shower floor than I was with getting my booze on.)

Anyway, I guess you could say I’m making up for lost time, because these days shower beers are a regular event in my bathroom. (Like, at least a couple of times a week. I love them.)

Where to rest your shower beer between sips is always a challenge. It’s gotta be away from the spray and safe from flying suds, yet easy to access. That ledge on the edge of the tub, between the shower curtain and liner? Seems ideal, but it’s kind of a danger zone, actually. One too-strong swipe at those curtains and your beer is going down the drain – or all over your floor. (Shower Foul!)

Until recently, I’d just plop my shower beers alongside the shampoo bottles, which worked okay. Then I discovered the ShaKoozie.

For real. It’s a shower-mounted koozie. I love America.

Because, really, who hasn’t thought to themselves, at some point: Why don’t showers come with cup holders? I am so glad that someone decided to make a product to address this oversight.

The ShaKoozie is a two-part device. The sticky “launch pad,” with its heavy-duty velcro patch on the front, mounts to your shower wall:

Congratulations, your shower now has a nipple.

The second piece is a koozie outfitted with a drain hole and a complementary velcro patch:

Simple, but brilliant. Once that thing is stuck on the launch pad, it doesn’t move, and I was surprised to find that the velcro doesn’t seem to be affected by water.

And as a bonus, the ShaKoozie is equally at home on your bathroom counter, keeping your beverage cold while you blow-dry your hair.

What I liked:

  • Easy installation
  • Portability of the koozie unit
  • Novelty (It would be an awesome conversation starter if you happen to be sharing your shower with a special friend!)

What I didn’t like:

  • Lack of portability of the launch pad unit (once you stick it, you’re stuck with that spot)
  • Apparently the damn thing doesn’t refill itself! (Ba-dum-bum)

Overall, I’m very happy with my ShaKoozie experience and would recommend it to anyone looking to take their shower drinking to the next level. It would make a great stocking stuffer for a beer lover, and I’ll bet this bad boy would be a hot commodity in any of those white elephant steal-the-gift type games.

Want to try one? I have TWO ShaKoozies to give away!  Here’s how to enter:

Mandatory entry:

1 entry: Check out ShaKoozie on Facebook, like them, and leave me a comment saying that you did

Bonus entries (leave a separate comment for each entry, please):

+1: Tell me what kind of beer (or other beverage) you’d put in your ShaKoozie
+1: Tweet about this giveaway – “Step up your #showerbeer game. Enter to win a @ShaKoozie from @shelbyvanpelt http://wp.me/p1LeS6-1hz”
+1: Blog about this giveaway
 

I’ll pick two winners at random on Monday, December 5 at midnight.

So go get it done. If you don’t at least enter, you’ll regret it next time you lose a beer because your cat knocked it off of the toilet tank.

For more ShaKoozie info, check out their online store (and hilarious FAQs).

*Thanks to Phil at ShaKoozie for giving me a ShaKoozie to review and two to share! Aside from that, I have not been compensated for this post in any way, and all opinions are my own. There are no affiliate links in this post.

Faking it

My marathon is less than a week away. Oh, how exciting! I am going to crush it!

At least that’s what everyone keeps telling me.

In truth, here is how I’ve been feeling for the last week, in no particular order: fat, wheezy, bloated, crampy, jiggly and slow. And probably some other unsavory adjectives, too. I’ve been through this enough times to realize that this is somewhat normal at this stage of the taper game, but still. It sucks.

But instead of telling my well-wishers that I feel like someone has strapped slabs of bacon to my thighs, I just say that yes, I’m totally ready, I’m going to kill it on Sunday…while thinking to myself OH GOD why doesn’t this 9-minute-mile feel easier? How am I going to run a minute per mile for three and a half hours?

I’m trying to fake it. I know it’s all in my head. I haven’t gained any meaningful amount of weight or suddenly developed emphysema in the last two weeks, but that not stopping me from feeling lardy and winded after a quick ascent up a set of stairs. I wish I could go back to how I felt a few weeks ago, when – paradoxically – those sixty and seventy mile weeks left me feeling lean and fresh and wanting more.

But that’s how tapers work. I will feel great on Sunday. I will feel great on Sunday. I will feel great on Sunday.

(Just easy miles last week. Throwing in a short tempo probably would have been wise. I’m hoping to hit the track for some quick 200s this week, though.)

I’m not the only one faking it around here….

I have always been staunchly pro-real-Christmas-tree. But after Aphidgate 2010, I just can’t. Yes, tromping around the tree farm with a saw is fun. Yes, the smell of freshly-cut pine is delightful. But having to evict thousands of tiny- six-legged roommates is a nightmare.

So it’s a fake tree from Target + a pine-scented candle this year. And probably every year from here on out.

Other weekend activities included traditional post-Thanksgiving sandwich construction:

I think I’ve finally mastered the art of not making my sandwich too tall. This one was an excellent combination of cranberry mayo, turkey, baby greens, oil + vinegar, goat cheese and chopped almonds.

Fully loaded, yet manageable for my jaws. It’s a fine line to walk.

And of course, beer:

Maybe it’s the unseasonably warm weather lately, but this Winter White Ale from Michigan-based Bell’s hit the spot while I was assembling and decorating fake pine.  Aside from a little hint of coriander and some sweet clementine, I didn’t much that distinguished this from a summery wheat beer, but it was tasty nonetheless. And although I adore porters and stouts, I appreciate Bell’s effort to make a lighter, more drinkable winter beer. 5% ABV.

Bottom line: A fine choice if you’re looking for something seasonal but lighter bodied. I imagine this would appeal to a pretty broad audience. (Purchased at Peace Street Market, $11/six)

Hope y’all had a great (long) weekend!

The roasted marshmallow incident

“I NEED A BLOWTORCH!” I wailed, watching a second set of slightly overcooked marshmallows puff up like little brown blowfish as I pulled them from the oven, just in time for them to turn pimply and collapse upon themselves.

“That,” said my husband – who was standing on a chair in the hallway, soothing the smoke detector by fanning it with a dish towel – “is the last thing you need.”

Gelatin-puffed sugar and heat are fickle bedfellows, as anyone who has sat fireside and watched their perfect coal-roasted golden-brown marshmallow suddenly sprout blisters and slide off the end of their roasting stick knows.

So I don’t know why I became so attached to the beguiling idea of toasted marshmallows atop Purple Yam Soup for Thanksgiving dinner this year. Everything was done. The turkey and stuffing camped on the counter under tents of foil; the cranberries waited patiently, a serving spoon sticking out of their jellied mass like a lever ready to be pulled.

Everything was done…except for the damn marshmallows. And while we should have been sitting down to eat, I was nearing tears over the failed execution of toasted sugar and gelatin, inching a bit closer to the proverbial ledge with every shriek from the smoke detector. After all, I had made a similar soup last year, complete with the same tricky topping, and it hadn’t been this difficult. (Had it?)

I brushed the sweat from my forehead with the back of my oven mitt and stuck the third batch of marshmallows under the broiler, leaving the door propped open. I didn’t take my eyes off of them as I ladled the soup in to bowls – miraculously, without any spillage. The marshmallows started to come alive: at first it was barely perceptible, their faint swelling as subtle as the breathing belly of a sleeping kitty. Their soft edges melted away as they morphed from cylinders to domes. A blush of golden color appeared first on the crown, then spread outward, deepening as it traveled to a toasty brown.

“HONEY IT’S TIME TO EAT!” I barked. “LIKE NOW!” I yanked the pan from the oven, grabbed a spatula, and began prying the toasted marshmallows from the pan, desperate to transfer them to the soup bowls before their precious window of perfect done-ness slammed shut and they deflated – again.

(As an aside, purple yams are really purple.)

“I’m sorry; I was a total bitch a minute ago,” I apologized to my husband as we savored our first spoonfuls.

“But this is really good,” he said.

And it was.  The hot marshmallow innards melted into the creamy yam soup, adding a toasty sweetness, while their “shells” provided a delicious burned-sugar crunch – perfectly complemented by the salty pistachios and butter-fried sage.

Recipe: Purple Yam Soup with Roasted Marshmallows, Pistachios and Fried Sage

So….

Thanksgiving 2011 Lesson One: Cooking with fussy, extremely time-and-heat-sensitive ingredients might not be the best idea in the midst of a hectic holiday meal. Unless you enjoy the sound of your smoke detector.

Thanksgiving 2011 Lesson Two: But sometimes it’s totally worth it.

Thanksgiving 2011 Lesson Three: I really do need a blowtorch. (Santa?)

Happy Black Friday!

The Frog

So I had my first marathon-related dream of this training cycle last night.

It was an out and back course. I felt great through the half. But the turnaround featured an hulk-sized toad, who was harassing the runners and even picking some of them off.

I just…have no idea. But it was a very real-feeling dream, and I remember finishing and hanging out for the awards ceremony which not only highlighted the overall and age-group winners but offered a Hunger Games-style tribute to those who had fallen to “The Toad.”

At least it’s better than the stale old “I’m trying to run but my legs won’t move!” or the standard “All of a sudden I had no idea where the course went!” race nightmares.

And I think the underlying fear is pretty clear: that something out of my control will eff with my game on race day. You know, like the weather. Or the flu. Or a hungry amphibian the size of a house.

Anyway. It was kind of an entertaining dream.  On to more important things…like foooooood.

It’s just the two of us for Thanksgiving this year, so I’m planning a very laid-back mini-feast. (No need for Critical Path Cooking this year…although I’m definitely going to try to get some prep done when I get home from work tonight.) Instead of ordering a full turkey, I went for a 5-lb bone-in breast. Never cooked one of those before, so no idea how it will turn out, but it seemed easier than dealing with a whole bird and having leftovers until Valentine’s Day.

Thanksgiving for Two Menu (which means I’m halving most of these recipes):

To start:

Sweet Potato Soup [via Food Network] with Roasted Marshmallows, Pistachios and Fried Sage. I made this last year and loved it. And since I’m not including any potatoes in the main course, it fits in perfectly!

Main course:

Bone-in, skin-on turkey breast roasted with butter and herbs

Drippings gravy (hopefully the leaner breast meat still gives off some good juice)

Cornbread Dressing with Pancetta, Mushrooms and Apples [via Food Network] Another favorite from last year, although I modified the original recipe quite a bit! So glad I have last year’s blog post to look back and see what I did….

Tart Cranberry-Onion Relish [via Epicurious]

Roasted French green beans with browned butter

Dessert:

Whatever looks good in the pastry case + vanilla ice cream. I don’t have time to deal with pie or tart making this year!

Drinks:

Hot spiked cider [Based upon my best recollection of my friend Meg’s awesome recipe, which has been a staple at many holiday gatherings of days past!]

Wine (of course!) TBD – I still need to get to the wine shop!

Happy almost-Thanksgiving! Happy traveling (if you’re on the road). Happy running (if you’re Turkey Trotting…we’ll be getting our 8K on before all of the eating and drinking begins!) And of course, happy eating!

The CIM goal post

Since we are less than two weeks out from the California International Marathon, I guess it’s time for the obligatory goal post.

(That’s always the number one goal, of course.)

A GOAL: Sub-3:35. Okay Boston, you’ve moved your arbitrary qualifying marks around, so I will, too. Never mind the fact that hitting the mark doesn’t actually get me in to your 2013 race – which is, like, so far way that I can’t even think about it at this point. But 3:35 is as good ‘o time as any to shoot for.

B GOAL: PR. 3:42 or better. That’s a soft PR compared to my other race times, and it’s been hanging over my head for over a decade now. It needs to go down.

C GOAL: There is no C GOAL. If I don’t at least manage a PR, I’ll be pissed off. I could write some crap about how “oh it will be so fun to go out to California and run this marathon and as long as I finish, that’s an accomplishment!” But it isn’t. I’ve been running marathons since I was a teenager. Finishing doesn’t really mean much to me at this point. I want to PR, dammit.

There you have it.

3:35 should be well within my capabilities. Last year at Chicago, I think I made the mistake of setting my goals a little too high: I was shooting for sub-3:30 and ran a 3:49. Yes, in theory I should be able to run in the mid-3:20s (McMillan says 3:23 based on a recent 5K time and 3:26 based on a half from earlier this year), but if I set the goal there, I’ll end up going out way too fast (this always happens) and then crashing in the later miles (this always happens, too).

(So I guess a corollary goal is to negative split this thing. I have a hard time imagining a scenario where I negative split it and don’t at least get a PR. But I’ve never managed to negative split a marathon, so who knows.)

Last week’s training stats:

I never got my final 20-miler in; I simply ran of time last Friday morning. We had to be on the road at noon and I had put off things like buying cat food and getting the car’s oil changed until…Friday morning. Totally my fault, but oh well. I did three twenty-plus runs in this training cycle, so I’m not gonna sweat it.

Visiting our friends in Atlanta was, of course, a great time – including a fantastic 12-miler on Saturday morning with Gesina, who is going to absolutely smash her 2-hour half-marathon PR at her race this Thursday!

I’ll leave you with this picture from the weekend:

Barney the Westie is an easy lay. Don’t tell Parker and Emmy.

Happy Monday! Hope everyone had a good weekend.

Velma or Daphne?

Tonight, in conjunction with our shopping center’s OMG CHRISTMAS IN NOVEMBER (cue: me hitting things) Open House, we had a “Human Highlighter” Fun Run at the store. For which we asked all of our participants to wear as much highly-visible clothing as possible. All at once.

For as much effort as I put in to planning and promoting the event, this caused something of a problem for me. Because I don’t have a ton of high-vis stuff. I probably should. I mean…yes, I should. It’s stupid to run at night without one of those crossing-guard-style vests, even if they’re totally dorky.

But I still wanted to set a good example for all of our customers. So I adorned myself with every neon-colored item of clothing I owned. And, for good measure, put a defunct light-up ankle-band around my neck.

(Me on the right; co-worker Alli on the left)

But instead of being all neon-awesome-lisciousness, all I got was: “You look like that chick from Scooby Doo.”

To which I replied: “Um…which one?”

I mean…Daphne was the one with the headband, and obviously the hot (although vapid) one. But she was a blonde. Velma, like me, was brunette and was clearly not as cute, but brought way more to the table in terms of actual crime-solving skills, and didn’t rock the headbands. So…what the hell does the Scooby Doo comment mean? Does the headband make me hot and stupid or dowdy and brainy or what?

(Don’t answer that.)

I’m going to go with MODERATELY ATTRACTIVE AND HIGHLY VISIBLE TO PASSING CARS, as that was the point of tonight, anyway. Running in a big pack of runners theatrically adorned with glow sticks and high-vis running gear definitely brought that home. We were unmissable. And I need to get better about making sure I’m seen when running in the dark.

Anyway. Since the temperature here has dropped thirty degrees in the last twenty-four hours, how about a holiday beer?

I actually reviewed this Bison Organic Gingerbread Ale last year, too. And my impression of it remains largely the same: I get a bit of the gingerbread, especially on the finish, but mostly it tastes like a lighter and bubblier version of Guinness. Which isn’t entirely a bad thing, but…definitely more mellow on the holiday flavor than I expected! 6% ABV.

Bottom line: Honestly, I enjoy this beer, even though I don’t think it tastes particularly gingerbread-y. It’s dark and satisfying without being thick. (Received in a beer exchange, goes for about $2/12 oz at specialty shops)

Time for me to pack my shit and go to bed. Tomorrow morning brings a 20-miler (I SWEAR FOR REAL THIS TIME) and then a road trip down to the lovely state of Georgia for the weekend.  Good night!

Do not touch

I have the hardest time leaving my food alone while it’s cooking. Maybe it’s from watching too much Iron Chef.

For some reason, when I put something in a hot pan, I feel the urge to wave the pan around: a circular flourish, flames kissing the bottom of the skillet as I toss its beautifully-browned contents (exotic secret ingredients!) into the air and then effortlessly catch them again.

But of course, I’m no Iron Chef. And there are no flames leaping from my electric stove. And I don’t cook with exotic secret ingredients. And lord knows I cannot catch.

It’s kind of funny how the urge to stir and toss strikes when it’s exactly the opposite that’s needed. Tonight, as I hovered over a pan of cubed tofu, I had to constantly remind myself: Do not touch. Do not move that food. No spatula. No touch, no touch, no touchy touch touch.

The reward was well worth a little patience: perfectly browned cubes that had no problem standing up to a hearty curry sauce.

Recipe: Curry Noodles with Tofu [Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe for Vegetarian Red Curry Noodles, which I would argue is not actually vegetarian because it contains fish sauce…not that I really care, but DERP, F&W, get it right!]

Using pre-crushed garlic, ginger and lemongrass, this dish came together very quickly and was bursting with flavor: more like a spicy stir-fry than a traditional soupy curry.

A crisp white always goes well with spicy food:

This Cottesbrook 2010 Sauvignon Blanc was a good match. Tropical flavors dominated – pineapple, grapefruit, guava – which played nicely with my coconut-based dinner. Very much on the sweeter side of the scale, with a little hint of earthy gravel, and really none of the spicy green pepper that you often get from an SB.

Bottom line: If you don’t mind a sweeter/fruit-forward wine, then get it! (Purchased at Total Wine, $10)

Weather weirdness: today, it was eighty-something degrees. Tomorrow, it will be forty-something degrees.

HEY WEATHER, KNOCK IT OFF.  I don’t need to get sick two weeks before my marathon….

The official fifteen day taper plan

Today, in the wake of what was termed a “holiday decorating emergency,” my purported feminine touch was recruited to oversee-slash-execute the important task of jazzing up the store with decked halls and shiny balls.

Yes, it’s November 15. That’s a little early for me. But in retail-land, it’s never too early for Christmas. In fact, our shopping center is hosting an Open House Night this Thursday, complete with Santa and fake snow and holiday carolers and all that.  And on Saturday, the City of Raleigh hosts its annual Christmas Parade.

(Christmas Parade. Saturday. I know. OMG WTF BBQ!)

The whole thing is a touch annoying, given that I haven’t even figured out my Thanksgiving plans yet, and also, it was close to 80 degrees today. But whatever. I got paid to gussy up a pine tree with packets of Gu and make a garland out of old race bibs. If that counts as work, I’m not going to complain about it.

Stringing up Christmas lights on the heels of Halloween might not be perfect timing, but I’ve come to accept that sometimes you’ve gotta deal with the timing you’re dealt.

Like with this CIM tapering thing.

Following a “traditional” three-week taper schedule, last week would have been my last “big” week and last weekend would have been my final 20-mile run. But I started to get sick and backed off, so it didn’t happen that way. At all.

Hmm. 50 miles a week is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but it wasn’t the 60+ I was looking for, and there were a whole lotta easy miles in there.

Maybe it’s just the paranoia of the impending marathon taking over my brain, but I don’t feel very confident coming off of that week of training. Not like I did coming off of 70 miles the week before.

So…modified taper, anyone? I’ll get my last high mileage (60+) week in, get that final 20-miler done, and then taper for two weeks and one day.

Why not?

For all nine of my marathons, spread over a decade-plus of marathon-ing, I’ve always done a three-week taper. And I can’t say it’s ever worked out all that well for me. (Meaning: I’ve never run a kick-ass marathon, not one where I’ve performed to the level I believe I’m capable of.)

I feel like the conventional three-week taper wisdom is often based on the assumption of a milestone twenty-mile-plus effort, built in to a milestone mileage week, from which the runner needs lots of time to recover before race day. But…I’ve been doing this for years. And with this training cycle, I’ve been doing twenty-milers, specifically, since late September. I shouldn’t need quite as much recovery time…right?

So I’m pushing forward, looking at this Friday as the peak of this thing. Just fifteen days before race day, instead of the requisite twenty-one.

Perhaps that’s dumb – but so is tacking boughs of holly to the wall in mid-November. And yet we do it anyway.

Thoughts on the two-week versus three-week taper plan?

Prairie dawn

I’m home again after a quickie trip to the Chicago ‘burbs and back.  My husband’s family is from there, so I’ve spent a decent amount of time in the area over the years.

Which is why I am astounded that I had never discovered this before:

I almost ran on the hotel treadmill on Saturday morning. Almost. It was 28 degrees outside, and although the sun was shining, I’d neglected to pack tights. And the thought of running around the area’s subdivisions with numb purple thighs was almost as unappealing as pounding the mechanical belt.

I’m so glad I decided to sack up and run outside, though. Quite by accident, I stumbled upon this gorgeous trail.

Apparently the Illinois Prarie Path has several branches that run all over the western suburbs. How have I been missing this all of these years?


My legs were a little chilly,  but my feet were toasty inside these Gore-Tex Nike Pegasus sneaks that I got a couple of weeks ago. I’ll admit: I totally brought them because they seemed to look relatively un-dorky with the jeans and hoodie I wore to the airport on Friday (I travel in style!) but they were great for crunching through frosty leaves, too.

Anyway. I ran eight lovely miles and was back in time for breakfast. It was a gorgeous day and I’m so glad I got out to enjoy it before spending the rest of the day trapped in a conference room.

(At least there were chocolate rocks in the conference room!)

And, lastly, no out-of-state trip is complete without local beer.

Three Floyds is actually an Indiana operation, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sample one of their beers, having seen them featured regularly on Marie’s blog before she went and got herself knocked up. The Pride & Joy is an American Pale Ale that’s billed as a “Mild Ale” – mild referring to the relatively low alcohol content, not the flavor. Because there was lots going on, flavor-wise: perky hops, puckery pine, summery grass, and even a little sweet citrus fruit. Lots of bubbles. It was the sort of beer that made you kind of want to hold it in your mouth for a while (shut up) so you could process everything that was going on with it. Very interesting, very enjoyable. 5% ABV.

Bottom line: Definitely worth trying if you can find it! (Purchased at a bar in Naperville, $6/12 oz)

Overall, it was a pretty good weekend. And the dry cough that was bugging me all week last week has disappeared, so guess who gets to make up that 20 miler tomorrow?

So you want a sneak peek?

Okay. But first…

If things had gone as planned, I would have been on a plane to Greece right now. Still kinda bummed about that, but oh well.

(Incidentally, I have some family stuff to do this weekend, so I am still getting on a plane today. But this one is bound for the great state of Illinois, where I hear it is snowing. Awesome.)

And if things had gone as planned, part two: I would have been in the middle of my last 20-miler of CIM training right now, a tightly-scheduled affair which was to start before dawn and end with a direct report to the shower and then to the airport. Not a minute to spare.

Instead, I did an easy 8-miler and am now sipping coffee and relaxing before heading to RDU. I’ve been battling a dry hacking cough since Sunday’s race, and it just seemed a little unwise to beat down my already-marginal immune system with three hours of running and then jump right on to a germy airplane.

Excuses, excuses.

It was actually kind of hard to let this one go, though. I was looking forward to having it done. But my work schedule for next week is arranged such that I can easily do a 20 early on, so assuming I can kick this little cough to the curb, that is what I’ll do. I’m perfectly comfortable with a 2.5-week instead of 3-week taper.

Anyway.

A few of you asked for an excerpt of my NaNoWriMo project, so here ya go. (Congratulations, you lucky bastards: you’re getting a sneak peek at the opening lines of a New York Times Bestseller! Written by a lottery winner! Who can fly!)

* * * * * * * * * *

It’s creepy here at night.

If I’m telling you the truth – which I promise, I am – I shrieked like a girl when I heard a rustle over behind the trash can last night. It was a mouse. Go figure. Right under the big glass tank full of sharks. I wonder if the sharks knew that there was a little warm-blooded mammal picking around right under their noses. I kind of doubt it. The sharks don’t seem to be very smart.

I never know when I’m going to have to stay here late in to the night. It all depends on Art. That’s what we have to call him, even though he’s our grandpa. Our mom’s dad. I don’t remember what mom used to call him because she didn’t talk to him very often. I don’t think she called him “dad” but I don’t think she called him “Art” either. Occasionally she called him “that jackass” which is a pretty mean thing to say, but I can see why she said it.

Last night I forgot to bring my iPad and when Art disappeared behind his office door after Michaela went on the intercom and said we were closing in twenty minutes, I knew it was going to be a long and shitty night. Jesus Christ, I didn’t even have a book to read. I was stuck here, walking in circles around the big glass tank in the middle of the building, following the fish as they drifted along on the fake current, until almost midnight. That jackass.

* * * * * * * * * *
Happy Friday and Veterans Day and day of elevens!