Everyday Inspirations



On race day, I never listen to my music the whole time. I get a lot of energy from my surroundings--the cheering crowds, the sound of thousands of runners, the music blaring from someone else's speakers. However, a half marathon is a long distance, and by about mile 10, I'm ready to give myself a boost. That's how I came up with my "last 30" plan. I used it last year and loved it, so I brought it back for last Saturday's race.

Here's how the "last 30" plan works: As described, I spend the first 10 miles of my race enjoying the excitement you can only get on race day. Once I know I only have three miles left, I plug in my earphones and start my playlist. This playlist is a special one because it is made up of all the songs I couldn't get enough of during this year's training--the songs that I blasted at the gym again and again and again. Hearing them play me through the last minutes of my race is pretty awesome. I especially needed the music this year. After my long, emotional night, I was dragging. My playlist was like my training buddy, pushing me through just one more song... just one more song....

Best of all, a "last 30" playlist is super short (as implied, just about 30 minutes, or the last three miles), which is MUCH easier to set up the night before a race than a playlist of two hours. Actually, now that I look at it, my list is about an hour long because there were too many good songs I wanted to include. ;)

Without further ado (in case you're interested):
{ash's 2011 salt lake half marathon playlist}
Dark Fantasy - Kanye West
Even Flow - Pearl Jam
Kids - MGMT
Uprising -  Muse
Pardon Me - Incubus
Show Me the Way - Peter  Frampton
Have a Cigar - Pink Floyd
Tight - INXS
Body Movin' (Fatboy Slim Remix) - Beastie Boys
Kings and Queens - 30 Seconds to Mars
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Despite our long night and the loss of our sweet pup, the race didn't fail to disappoint. To be honest, this year was most exciting for me because my sweetie and brother ran their first half marathons and my dad ran his first full. It is beyond inspiring to see the people I love accomplish such amazing things.

Honestly, I'm still in awe over how much running has changed all of our lives.
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I have said it before and I'll say it again -- I can't help but crave dessert. Doesn't matter what I've tried, my sweettooth is ingrained in me. As it starts to get warmer, one of my weaknesses is ice cream. The creamy, coolness is pure heaven. Luckily I've discovered this great way to make some creamy goodness to fill the desire without messing with your healthy diet. It's not exactly the same, but considering it's at least 10 times healthier, makes every bite taste that much more incredible. Crumble a couple graham crackers or Nila wafers on there, and it's pure heaven.

{Sinless Banana Ice Cream}

One frozen banana (best to freeze without the peel)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons of milk
Additional flavors like strawberries, coconut, chocolate etc (optional)

Put frozen banana chunks, vanilla and any additional flavors into a blender or Magic Bullet. Add milk a little at a time, blending a little at a time until creamy. Add more milk as necessary. Let it fully set up in the freezer and serve.  
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He was the kind of animal that changed your life, one we'll remember forever because he was our first family dog and we waited several years to get him. I can still clearly recall the day my parents drove us to a little farm in northern Utah to bring home our puppy. He was a bit of a chubby pup, a sweet, playful little guy that ran and tumbled with his brothers and sisters. My brother picked him out of the pile of fuzzy gray- and silver-coated babies. He wanted to name him Tyrannosaurus Rex. That was a bit long, so we finally decided on the short, simple Buddy. Bud for short.
I was still in elementary school when we got Bud, so it is hard to imagine my parents' home without him. My life is filled with memories of him. Devoted beyond belief to my father, he was the definition of man's best friend, and he protected our little family his entire life.

He was the calmest, most gentle dog I've ever known. I remember when my parents brought home our second puppy, Beth, from the local shelter, he immediately took to his big brother role. The aggressive, nervous Beth would pounce on him, pull his ears and nip his neck, drawing blood with her sharp, tiny teeth. His patience amazed us. Never once did he growl or show his teeth. Never once was he jealous of his new sister.

Bud loved to wrestle and play ball in the backyard. (He never played catch fairly, though. Even though he'd bring the ball back to you, he never wanted to immediately give it up.) His favorite toy was a pillow my mother had given him.

He hated being left out of any situation. Sometimes in the summer we would eat on the patio and leave the dogs in the house; Bud would lick the window over and over to show his displeasure.
Bud loved the cat, Sammy, even though Sammy couldn't stand him. He would corner Sam, inch ever closer to him, and lean his face forward until the cat would bat him on the nose. Then he would turn jubilantly, smiling his doggy smile as if to say, "I got him! I got him again." (It reminded me of how my brother and I used to irritate one another as kids.)

Bud definitely had a big old grin. He was the dog who taught me the strength of animal personalities. He would sink into sadness only when my dad was gone for an extended period. Ninety-five percent of the time, Bud was happy. Four percent of the remaining time, he was out-of-his-mind happy (car rides, in particular, made him so giddy we'd often have to ask him to calm down).

He could read us like books. I've spoken before of situations in which my mom or I was upset and how our sweet puppy would rest his head on our shoulders and let us sob into his neck. He was a snuggler. He loved to lovingly nip at my mom and dad's faces to show his affection. He would play jealous whenever someone was giving a hug that didn't include him.

He was nothing short of the word my mom used to describe him his entire life: awesome.

After work on Friday, Dan and I arrived at my parents' house so that we could all travel to the race together on Saturday morning. We walked in and knew Bud was having a rough afternoon. Over the past few weeks, he had been walking the line between a normal and happy, albeit extremely tired, geriatric dog and a dog we knew would be leaving us soon. Unfortunately, Friday was another bad day for our Bud. He was standing the foyer in a way that told us putting weight on his hind legs fatigued him. He was breathing heavily through his open mouth, often dropping dots of drool on our clothes as we held him. His eyes were at half mast, and he only wagged his tail halfheartedly, as if to say, "Hi guys, I love you and I'm so glad to see you, but boy, I'm tired, so please excuse me if I don't run around with you today."
We took pictures with our boy, whispered in his ears that it was okay, that we would be fine if he needed to leave us, that we understood he was tired. We hugged him and held him, rubbed his soft ears, kissed his forehead. We pulled him close to fill his coat on our cheeks, let him drool all over our sleeves. We let him know he was the best puppy a family could ask for, that he made our lives beautiful.

That night, I climbed into bed around nine to get some sleep for the race. My head racing, my heart tight, I tossed and turned for hours. I was too hot, so I cracked a window. I was too uncomfortable, so I moved to the floor so the cool air could touch my face. Around 1:00 a.m., distracted by outside noises, I made my way downstairs to make a bed on the couch. Frustrated by my racing mind, I read. When that didn't work, I finally broke down, cried into my pillow, prayed for the ability to sleep.

When I finally gave up on the basement around 1:30 and made my way upstairs, I realized my parents' light was on and the car was gone. "Shit," I mumbled. I called my mom, who said, yes, they were at the vet and that she would let me know what was happening. She was crying. I offered to come take my dad's place so he could sleep. They, of course, refused. "I know you can't sleep," she said, "but please try to rest."

I tiptoed into the spare room and patted Dan, told him the news, broke down. He held me tight, let me cry against him. I settled next to him and closed my eyes. Somewhere after 2 a.m., I slipped into a deep sleep. I didn't know it at the time, but a few miles away, around the same time my heavy heart and racing mind let me fall into the sleep I had been praying for, our Bud took his last breath.

Friday, April 15, 2011. I love my boy.

Losing our dog the morning of our race (including my dad's first marathon) was beyond exhausting, and I want to say thank you to my family and friends for the kind words and love that got us through the day. I will definitely be writing about the race on Monday, but I knew today had to be about Bud. He was beyond inspiring and we will miss him more than words can describe.
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Sorry for the tardiness of my post (only 15 hours behind deadline). I got a bit caught up with, well, taxes. I guess a little procrastination leads to more lateness. I did them all by myself for the first time (with a bit of assistance from my brother over gchat). I guess I am finally embracing adulthood. Taxes are filed and now I can breath a sigh of relief. 

So what better way to celebrate my joy than to eat some of these colorful Cadbury Mini Eggs? I have been avoiding buying them all spring, but I finally gave in to reward myself for getting my taxes done. They just happened to get thrown into the cart along with some other tax refund celebration purchases (yay for refunds). Now here I am a few hours later and it's all I can do to stay away from that little crystal bowl of eggs. My bikinis do not thank you Cadbury! Maybe I need to go for a run in this sunshine instead. Happy weekend! 
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Is it clear to anyone that the title of this post is from the Dixie Chicks song? I hope so, because otherwise that's just an obnoxious amount of "ready"s.

I stayed busy tonight picking up my race packet, gathering my gear, and adding healthy groceries to the fridge for tomorrow's carb load menu (the good kind, not the Michael Scott kind).

I cannot believe I'm less than two days away from my third half marathon. I'm definitely in pre-race mode... excited and a little bit sick to my stomach. ;) This year is going to be extra fun, though, because it's my brother and Dan's first half and my dad's first FULL MARATHON (rock staaaaar).

I can't wait to get back on here Saturday and let you all know how it went. Lots of love to my friends racing this weekend, and if you're a Salt Lake reader and will be running, let us know!
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April showers
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A few of you may remember my post about my favorite earrings. I am so very sad to report that I now have only one favorite earring.

It really was a bummer, that moment when I realized I was wearing only one beloved earring. I had dropped the other in some dressing room after a night of shopping. I mourned a bit in the car (really, I did), then decided I'd have to just turn the earring into something else...
One lonely earring plus one unused chain equals a new piece of jewelry!

Since I'm in no way a jewelry making expert, I just used stuff hanging around my house to twist the earring post into a loop to thread through the chain.
Um, I don't think this is what this tool was intended to do...
I formed the earring post into a kind of cursive S-shaped loop:
I then easily slid the earring-turned-charm onto the chain. Voila!

Three reasons why this project rocked:
- I saved my favorite earring from a life of sitting alone in my jewelry box.
- I found a job for an unused chain.
- I spent no money and have a new necklace. Woohoo!
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Remember last week when I didn't quite know about the little, green, squash-looking vegetable that arrived in my Bountiful Basket? Well thanks to the peeps over there, I was able to discover what it is--the chayote

Um, the what? If you haven't heard of a chayote it's basically like a pear, zucchini and cucumber mated in flavor and had a wrinkly, pear-shaped baby. It has a light, slightly sweet flavor and can be used in much the same way as cucumbers raw or summer squash cooked. The seeds, skin and fruit are all edible. It also happens to be low in calories and full of amino acids, vitamin C and fiber. Oh, and did I mention they are generally pretty cheap? 

So now on to cooking them. I took this new veggie and challenged myself to come up with three different recipes with different styles of preparation: raw, sauteed, and baked in a side dish, entree and dessert. I wanted to do this serious Iron Chef style after all (minus the time limit and the only judge would be my husband). 

This is the first installment with the salad and entree. Here are my recipes for chayote, chicken and tomatillo tacos and ensalada fresca with cilantro-lime vinaigrette.

{Chayote, Chicken and Tomatillo Tacos}

Chayote tacos
1 medium chayote
2 tomatillos, diced
1 chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 jalapeño
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon lime juice
fresh cilantro leaves
salt to taste
olive oil
toppings as desired (cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc)

To prepare the chayote, slice in quarters and remove center, similar to cutting a pear or apple. Prep all other ingredients. Saute onions and jalapeño in olive oil on medium heat until onions are clear. Add chicken and stir until fully cooked. Add chayotes, tomatillos, salt, cumin, sugar and lime juice. Cook until chayotes begin to soften. Serve on tortillas with fresh chopped cilantro on top. 

Chayote salad

{Ensalada Fresca with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette}

For the dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/4 cup cilantro
juice from one lime
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon honey
1 jalapeño

For the salad:
1 chayote
1 red bell pepper
4 vine tomatoes (or 1 larger tomato)
1/3 cup pineapple
1 avocado

For the dressing: 
Add all ingredients together in a blender or food processor (my Magic Bullet worked like a charm). Blend until creamy and smoothe.

For the salad:
Dice all ingredients into similar-sized pieces and mix together in a bowl. Add dressing and let marinate for at least 20 minutes before serving. 
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After Saturday training runs, Dan and I like to grab lunch on the way home. We often find ourselves at Salt Lake City's Whole Foods market because they have a variety of quick, healthy options that don't make us feel like we've undone all our hard work.

When we walked in yesterday, I saw a special on artichokes. "Dan!" I called. "We have to make artichokes tonight." I excitedly picked out two of the biggest, most beautiful green artichokes.

I don't know about you, but I didn't grow up eating entire artichokes like this -- leaves and all. I had to learn how to make them later in life (I remember I used to look forward to picking up an artichoke for dinner during my senior year of college). Dan had never prepared one himself, and said what I think most people say when encountering this strange looking vegetable: "I wouldn't even know where to start."

{Easy Artichokes}
Serves 2

- 2 large artichokes
- 2 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 2 bay leaves
- Kosher salt
- Melted butter for dipping

To begin, put a large pot of water on the stove. Toss in the kosher salt, two smashed cloves of garlic, and two bay leaves (these ingredients will season the artichokes as they cook). Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, rinse the artichokes in cold water and cut the stems with a knife so they're only about an inch long. You're also technically supposed to trim the points off the leaves at this time, but since I didn't have kitchen scissors, I ignored that step.
'Trim me!'
When the water is boiling, drop in your artichokes and cover the pot with a lid. Let the artichokes cook for 25-35 minutes, or until you can easily insert your knife into the bottom of the stem (mine only took 25 minutes). Remove from water and let cool. Serve with a side of melted butter.

Wait, wait, wait. How the heck do I eat this thing?

If you've never had artichokes before (or, at least, have never had them like this), you may look at it and think, "You have got to be kidding me." (The veggie is even more intimidating with a certain cook has ignored the trimming step and left the artichoke looking all fierce and pointy.)

Pull off one leaf at a time, starting with the lower outside leaves. The artichoke meat is at the end of the leaf --simply dip in butter and let your teeth scrape off the flesh (discard the rest). Repeat until you get to the core, the heart of the artichoke. The heart will be covered with soft, hairlike thistles. Peel back or scrape off the hair to enjoy the rest of your artichoke.

What do you like to dip your artichoke in? I'm a pretty simple gal... I love a dish of melted butter. I also know mayo is a favorite, but I'm not a big fan of it. Let us know if you have a to-die-for dip for your 'chokes.
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