Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Five - things about me

I'm linking up again with the DC trifecta for a Friday Five post.  Thank you ladies for doing this!

Today's theme is 5 things about me as an opportunity for us to get to know each other better.  I'm a pretty new blogger so I think this is a great idea!

1.  Where I started - I was born in India, but I didn't stay there too long.  We moved to the U.S. when I was around 1 year old and I became a U.S. citizen when I was around 19.  I do love going back to India to visit extended family and I still speak Gujarati (the local Indian language my family speaks) with my parents.

Photo of Mike and my brother wandering around an old step well during our last trip to India.

2. Where I grew up - When we first moved to the U.S. we lived in New York City.  That's where my brother was born.  But around the time I was 5 or 6 we moved to Ohio.  I grew up in a very rural part of Ohio and was very eager to leave once I hit 18.  However, I have a nostalgic fondness for Ohio and enjoy visiting my family in Columbus, which has become quite the dynamic city.  Mike and I even got married in Columbus.

3.  Where I am now - I moved to DC for college when I left Ohio.  And I've stayed in the DC area ever since.  I've shifted between living in DC, Virginia and currently Maryland, since that's where my job is.  It is so much easier living relatively close to work given the state of the traffic in this area.  And we just bought a house last year, so we'll probably be staying here for a while.  I love that the house allows me to finally have a garden, unlike apartment living.

Anyone who's lived in the DC area should recognize the metro, our underground system.

4.  What's going on today - My parents are coming to visit today.  My dad and I are doing the 80's retro 5k tomorrow so I'm planning to go pick up the packet this afternoon.  I've also taken the day off from work to run various errands and clean the house before my parents get here!

Photo from my parents' wedding.

5.  Something random - I've never been an athlete and I'm not that much into sports but I've always been a basketball fan for some reason.  I enjoy both college and professional basketball.  When it comes to college, I'm an Ohio State and Georgetown fan.  When it comes to NBA, I'm a New York Knicks and Washington Wizards fan.  I've never lived in New York but my entire family are fans of the Knicks for some reason.

Photo from the last Georgetown game we went to.

I hope everyone has a great weekend coming up!  Anything you want to share about yourself?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cauliflower and Pasta Gratin

I decided to make a cauliflower and pasta gratin recipe from the Washington Post.  They've never steered me wrong before so I was excited to give this recipe a try.  Sadly, it didn't turn out as tasty as I would have wanted.  But I didn't follow the instructions exactly so it may be my fault.

The recipe starts out with making a bechamel sauce, which I did the day before.  It was 4 tablespoons of butter (sounds like a lot but it was 6 servings) cooked in a sauce pan, and then add in 1/4 cup of flour to make a roux.  Once that cooked for a few minutes, I added the 3.5 cups of milk.  I used 2% milk instead of whole milk to try to make it a bit healthier.  I also added dried rosemary and garlic powder at this point instead of steeping it in the milk to save some time.  I let it all cook together until the sauce thickened and added salt and pepper at the end.  The sauce turned out well and tasted really good on its own.  I put it away in the refrigerator to use with the pasta the next day.

Something else I changed is I used a mix of cauliflower and broccoli to add in some green.  I didn't pre-cook it as stated in the recipe because I wanted it to be a little crisper to add some textural variety.  I think this change was ok and I liked the texture of the vegetables in the dish at the end.

I then cooked the 12 ounces of whole grain pasta.  Once it was cooked and drained, I added in the sauce from the day before and the raw vegetables.  I mixed it all together, put it into a casserole dish, and topped it with the parmesan.

I baked it for the requisite amount of time, and volia!

 It was sadly only ok for the amount of time and effort that went into it.  The main problem was just that it was bland.  The sauce tasted good by itself but I guess it wasn't flavorful enough once added to the pasta and the veggies.  I'm assuming it was because I used 2% milk instead of whole and because I didn't steep the garlic and rosemary in the milk ahead of time.  If anyone tries this (or a similar dish), you may not want to skip that step.  Adding in the broccoli was a good change, though.

The leftovers did taste better the second day when I added some more salt and some smoked paprika.  I rarely cook recipes exactly as they're written and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  But at least I learn something every time :)  Anyone else make a habit of adjusting recipes or do you stick with the instructions?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Weekly review

I had an interesting running week.  Tuesday was supposed to be a track workout with the running group.  It was 28 minutes with one walk break in the middle.  However, there was still snow on the track so the coaches decided we would walk to a nearby elementary school and run around the parking lot.  Great!  Except the the parking lot was on a hill and the repeated hill climbs were very tough. After a bit I just gave up and walked on the uphill portions  and ran the downhills.  I also had a hard time breathing and kept coughing afterward.

You can see the hills and my progressive slow down.

I skipped my strength training on Wednesday but ran on the treadmill at work on Thursday.  I was determined to have a good run to make up for the bad run on Tuesday and thankfully I did.  It was 6 intervals of 5 minutes running and 1 minute walking. I felt good afterward and didn't have any problems coughing or breathing.

Saturday was another group run and it went really well.  It was a beautiful morning, around 35 degrees when we started but up to 50 degrees by the time I drove home.  We were doing 6 intervals of 8 minutes running and 1 minute walking.  I was a little worried about this but was able to do the running sections with no problems at all!
The average pace is a little deceptive as you can see if you look at the splits.
The first mile included our 5 minute warm up walk.  And we got stuck for several minutes due to some traffic near the end as evidenced by the 34 minutes per mile.  Without the delay, it was probably more around 14:30 or so.

Sunday, I was feeling a little congested and under the weather so I was thinking I might skip strength training again.  Mike and I did take a 30 minute walk around the neighborhood.  However, I was feeling better by the evening so did do a strength training routine from Fitocracy.  

So overall, it was a good week and a great weekend!  I hope you guys had a good weekend too :)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mon Ami Gabi...yum!

Just a quick stop in to share some photos from our dinner yesterday. I had the quinoa and stuffed vegetables while Mike had the steak frites.

We both loved our meals.  I felt like mine was relatively healthy too.  Of course, I ruined that with dessert, but the white chocolate bread pudding was worth every bite :) 

I was a little worried that it would affect my Saturday run badly, but (spoilers) I had a great run this morning!  And I'm definitely enjoying the warmer weather.  I hope everyone else is having a good weekend too.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday five - happy things

It's that time of week again and I am linking up with the DC Trifecta for the Friday Five!

I'm going to talk about five things that are making me happy today since it's a little dreary out and I need to be reminded of good things :)

1. Movie and dinner date tonight! My husband and I both love Miyazaki films (Miyazaki makes Japanese animated features that are softer and more whimsical than most anime movies) and we have tickets to see the new Miyazaki. The theater is plush and you can even reserve your seats in advance, so I know we have great seats :) We're having dinner at Mon Ami Gabi before hand so yay for yummy French food. Their vegetarian option doesn't even sound too unhealthy since it's stuffed vegetables, goat cheese and herbed quinoa.

2. After a bad run on Tuesday that made me question all my running plans, I had a good run on the treadmill last night. Whew! I was beginning to wonder if I was fooling myself with thinking I could work up to longer distances.

3. The snow is melting and warm weather is ahead for the weekend. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's long run in above freesing temperatures. Plus, we'll be able to go to a new location and not the usual "snow location" that we've been running at a lot this Winter. I'm looking forward to the new scenery.

4. Cuddly kitties always make me happy. Perry is always cuddly, which I love. But Shelby's been cuddly this week too. I think she missed us while we were gone. I was working form home on Tuesday and she actually came and nudged me to ask for some cuddles! She is usually very independent so that was a rare occurrence. It makes me extra happy when she wants snuggles as it doesn't happen every day.

Menacing Cat

5. With the broken kitchen sink and the staycation, I haven't actually cooked in two weeks. I'm happy about the sink being fixed and being able to cook again this weekend. I'm planning on mushroom stroganoff tomorrow and it sounds yummy! It's an Alton Brown recipe and he hasn't steered my wrong yet. I'll post about it afterward.

So that's my Friday Five! I hope the rest of you had a good week and an even better weekend :) Anyone have any exciting plans?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Easy no-cook breakfast

So I haven't been cooking much in the last week and a half or so.  Unfortunately, our kitchen sink had sprung a leak and the pipes were corroded.  While we were waiting for that to be fixed we sadly ended up with a lot of take out and using disposable dishes and such.  At least I was able to come up with some no-cook options for breakfast.  It was mostly oatmeal in the microwave but I came up with this random dish one weekend morning as well.

It's two slices of toast spread with chocolate PB2 and then covered with strawberry slices.  If you haven't heard of PB2, it's delicious and a great tool for those peanut butter lovers who are also attempting to lose some weight.

It's basically powdered peanut butter that comes in two options, regular or chocolate.  I was skeptical at first and convinced that it must have a lot of chemicals or weird additives.  Nope.  It's just peanuts, sugar and salt.  The chocolate flavor has the additional ingredient of cocoa powder.  You mix 2 tablespoons of the PB2 with 1 tablespoon of water and it's ready to use.  
So what's the advantage over natural peanut butter? It is much less in calories and fat. Two tablespoons of peanut butter generally has around 190 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat.  Two tablespoons of PB2 has only 45 calories and 0 grams of saturated fat.  And it still tastes delicious!  I found it to taste a bit less sweet than traditional peanut butter, which I like.  
Peanut butter has always been an easy meal for vegetarians but I had stopped using it once I started trying to lose weight.  I was happy to be able to add it back to my diet with PB2.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Weekly review

I had a pretty good week for running. Monday was a rest day and Tuesday was a track day with the running group. I went at a slower pace than usual since I was feeling a bit under the weather.  We did 24 minutes with one walk break.  At one point, there were two deer who wandered out of the woods next to the track.  It was beautiful to pause for a second and watch them against the snow.  They wandered off soon enough with all the people and noise.

We got a lot of snow Wednesday night into Thursday morning and both of those days ended up being rest days for me, though one of them was supposed to be strength training.  Plus, my husband and I were having a "staycation" for the long weekend and there was last minute packing on Thursday while Mike shoveled the driveway.

Friday was a run on the treadmill at the hotel gym.  It was 4 intervals of 5 minutes running to 1 minute walking.  I did pretty well through all the intervals.  And I had a new book I was reading on my nook so it helped the time go by of the treadmill.  Saturday was strength training at the hotel gym using a routine a friend gave me.  I was sore the next day but it felt like the right amount of sore and I'll probably be back to normal by tomorrow.  Sunday was more treadmill running.  This was 6 intervals of 7 minutes running to 1 minute walking.  It was tough.  Intervals 2, 3, and 4 were closer to 6 minutes running and 2 minutes walking.  I did remember to take a photo that day.

I think that's around an average of 16 minutes per mile.  I've been around 14 and a half minutes per mile in the past so I'm not sure what happened here.

The plan for this week is running on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday plus strength training on Wednesday and Sunday.

We had a lovely time with our staycation downtown in spite of the snow, but I am glad to be back home with a warm kitty in my lap and catching up on blogs.  I hope all of you had a good week!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday five - valentine's day and love

Happy Valentine's Day!  I'm linking up with the DC trifecta for another Friday Five post and the theme for this week is love.

So I'm going to talk about 5 things that I love, not necessarily in any order.

1. I'll start with my husband.  He is amazing and the perfect match for me :) He is thoughtful in so many little ways throughout the day.  
Last week, he saw a popcorn truck (how is that even a thing?!?) and knowing my insane love for popcorn, decided to stop and buy some kettle corn to surprise me with.

2. I love both my kitties, even though they can be difficult at times.  Perry somehow managed to open the cupboard where we keep the cat treats, drag out the bag of treats, chew through the bottom, and precede to feast.  He's kind of food motivated, if you can't tell.  Poor Shelby had dental surgery and needed pain medicine for a couple days.  We had to squirt in her mouth twice a day and she did not like it.  She shredded up poor Mike's hand.  She still has a shaved spot on her leg as that's where an IV was inserted.
You can see the shaved spot here.

3.  My parents and brother.  They're always supportive but also provide honest and constructive advice.  Plus, we always have fun together!
If you're from Ohio, you'll know what we're doing :)

4.  Friends, especially those that are keeping me motivated on this journey toward a healthier lifestyle by also taking part in a similar journey. This includes old friends as well as new friends like those I've met through the running group.

5. Last but not least,all of you!  I love that there is this entire community out there of runners, new and experienced, that are so supportive to newcomers.  I have learned so much from reading other running blogs. Thank you for letting me be part of your community.

What are you loving on this Valentine's Day?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Becoming a runner?

I've read a lot of things saying that if you run, you're a runner. By that measure, I've been a runner since some time last year. I started running because a friend wanted to do a 5k color run. I signed up and figured I better start "practicing" if I wanted to actually make it through the race. I started just on the elliptical and then with a Couch to 5k training app. It was definitely much more walking in the beginning with a gradual increase in the amount of running. But I wasn't doing it because I actually enjoyed it. I just viewed it as something I had to do in order to get through the race.

Then I received results on my annual medical and the cholesterol was very high for someone my age. I knew that I had to keep excercising even after the color run was over in order to improve my health. Also, I enjoyed the color run so I figured another similar event would be fun and keep me motivated. I signed up for another race and kept up with the training. But again, the training runs were just something I had to do and not something I enjoyed.

I don't know when that began to change. But last week I turned to my husband and said that I feel like I'm beginning to have more good runs than bad runs now! It doesn't necessarily feel like something I have to struggle through anymore, at least not all the time. I still have those type of runs but I'm beginning to have more and more when I actually enjoy myself while I'm out there. Part of the key was getting off the gym machines and getting outside. Another key was varying the places I run and going to the various trails and parks in the area instead of just runing around my neighborhood. I never thought I'd wake up on a Saturday morning when it is less then 30 degrees outside and look forward to going running. But I do!

Camp Minnie Mickey
Hiking is probably as close as I've gotten to running in a park before.

I was talking to a friend about running and she indicated that she preferred things like yoga because she didn't want to engage in activities where she felt divorced from her body because of the pain. And I definitely felt like that when I started running. I would try to distract myself from the pain I felt in my body any way I could. But now, there are times when I almost feel more centered in my body when I'm running. I've begun to be able to embrace the physical sensations, hear my breath and my footsteps, revel in the new-found strength to do things I couldn't do 6 months ago, and really connect not only with my body but with my environment. These moments of magic don't happen all the time, but it's amazing when everything falls into place and I can feel that type of "zen."

Yellow motorcycle
Photography is another hobby through which I oddly find some peace and ability to be "in the moment."

So in my own personal definition, I think this is the year that I'm becoming a runner. It is something that I look forward to instead of something I'm forcing myself to do and that makes a huge difference in the fact that it is now something I want to identify with instead of an instrument of torture I use against myself.

Anyone else remember the transition to enjoying running or is it something that was enjoyable from the beginning?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Week in review

It was a decent fitness week.  Monday was a rest day.  Tuesday was the track work out with the group.  We did 20 minutes total with a 1 minute walk break in the middle.  No guest speaker today so it went by very quickly.

Wednesday was a strength training day.  Thursday was supposed to be a run on the treadmill day but my thighs were sore from Wednesday's squats and lunges.  Therefore, I changed my schedule up a bit and decided to do yoga on Thursday instead of run.  I did a YouTube video for strengthening yoga.  It was a fairly good core workout but I probably won't do that one again.  I didn't enjoy the instructor's style.  Perry didn't seem to like it either since he kept trying to knock me over!

Friday was a rest day again.  Saturday was a group run and we actually ended up running 3.1 miles!  It's a little strange since we're training for a 5k at the end of March.  One of the coaches said that we would probably be up to 5 miles by the time the training group ended.  This run went ok but I had a contact lens pop out eat the beginning of the run.  I stopped to put it in and had to run a bit faster to catch back up with the group.  I think that might have tired me out a bit more than usual.  The intervals this week were 6 minutes running to 1 minute walking.

Sunday I ran in my neighborhood in the morning.  It was a really short run according to the training schedule, 5 intervals of 4 minutes running and 1 minute walking.  I was done in 25 minutes.  It was a fun run that went pretty well in spite of the cold.

I did notice that some houses had not taken down their holiday decorations, but it added nice little splashes of color to an otherwise gloomy day.  In fact, it started snowing again this afternoon.  I'm really ready for Winter to end.

Next week, the plan is to rest on Monday, run on Tuesday, strength training on Wednesday, rest on Thursday, run on Friday and Saturday and end with strength training on Sunday.  Anyone have exciting plans for the week or Valentine's Day?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Review of Penguin Pace 5k

A friend and I were looking for a February 5k and this is the one we settled on.  It is organized by the Howard County Striders and proceeds were donated to a local senior center.  Howard County is still in Maryland but about 30 minutes from me.

Packet pick up was at a running store near the race course.  They did offer same day packet pick up but I decided to drive up on Saturday the day before the race so that I knew the route.  Mike went with me and we explored a new restaurant for lunch.  Packet pick up was very smooth and there was no line at all.  I'd been wanting to try some compression socks so I picked up a pair of those as well.  The packet included a reusable bag, a long sleeved tech shirt, a water bottle, a pedometer and some coupons.  Not bad!

The race was scheduled to start at 7:45 but the roads were closed starting at 7:30.  So I wanted to make sure I was there early.  I got there at 7:00am and there was plenty of parking.  My friend was running late so I picked up her packet for her from inside the senior center.  It was a little chaotic but didn't take too long.  She got there right before the race started since it started right on time.  We were planning on starting at that back anyway so it worked well.  And then we were off.
People gathering at the starting line

The route was an out and back through a neighborhood, so not spectacularly interesting.  There were some hills but not too bad.  There was some snow on the ground but the street itself was mostly cleared.  The roads were closed so there wasn't traffic but a few of the people who lived in the neighborhood had to leave so there was an occasional car.  There was one wonderful woman standing outside her house cheering us on and she stayed there the whole time!  There was one water station at the halfway point.

There was fruit and baked goods at the senior center afterward.  The baked goods were gone by the time we got there :( I checked the results and we were 498 and 499 out of 520.  They also announced some awards  and had a raffle giveaway.  It gave my friend and I a chance to continue catching up for a bit post run and warm up before heading back to our cars.  Here are my stats for the race according to runkeeper.

Overall, it was a well organized race and everyone was very friendly.  I would do this one again if I couldn't find anything else in February but it wasn't special enough to make it a no questions asked repeat.  After all, there are a lot of races out there :)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Five Apps/websites

Today I'm going to talk about five apps/websites that have been helpful with my fitness journey.

1. The first is Weight Watchers for tracking my food intake.  It's amazing how much mindless eating I did before I began tracking.  I still eat unhealthy things some times (pizza for dinner yesterday) but at least I do it knowingly and with intention.  Of course, weight watchers isn't the only app out there that will let you do this.  I have friends that use a free site called and they're very happy with it.

2.  The second is Runkeeper for tracking my running.  It's a free app though you can upgrade to the paid version.  I'm still using the free version though I may upgrade at some point.  The free version allows you to use your phone to track your running as far as miles and pace.  You can also dig deeper to see splits and elevation on your runs.  It allows you to put in intervals for your run and it has training plans available as well.  Some of the training plans are free and some have a cost.  But this is a great way to track progress.

My first runkeeper entry

3.  Next, I love my fitbit!  There is an initial investment as you have to buy the fitbit.  The fitbit syncs wirelessly with your mobile device and you can see your steps for the day.  Some models also track things like stairs or sleep as well.  This allows me to see how active my day is outside of exercise.  I try to get at least 5000 steps per day with just my daily activities, so I take extra walks at work, park further, etc.  My overall goal is 10000 steps a day which I generally make on days I run but struggle with on other days.  You can link up with friends and see who's winning on number of steps so it has a social element as well.

Almost hit the goal this day!

4. This is a new one for me so I'm not sure yet how I'll like it.  It's Fitocracy and it's an app which makes fitness into a game.  You get points and can level up for logging activities that you've done.  You can also engage in challenges, earn badges, etc.  The reason I joined is because I wanted a way to track my strength training activities, and this should work for that.

5.  Facebook doesn't technically have anything to do with fitness, but I find that a lot of people share interesting things on there, whether it's personal accomplishments, tips, motivations, or articles.  This definitely helps to keep me engaged and inspired!

Any apps/websites you would recommend?  I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Interesting running articles

A friend of mine shared this article with me and I thought it was a great read for people who started running as adults.  Plus, it has fun little cartoons :) She calls it her "Ode to Adult Onset Runners."  I definitely agree with her section on these individuals being inspirations for others.  I don't know if I would have began running without hearing inspiring stories from others who came to running late and still managed to find a love for it.

Running with the falling leaves
He is not an Adult Onset Runner!

Here is another interesting story about running.  This one is about why the author runs long distances (more than marathons) told mostly through comics.  This one isn't as personally applicable since I don't think I ever intend to run such distances but it's very interesting to hear an this reasons for doing so.  And again, fun comics!

Lastly, blogger is giving me some difficulty :( Comment Luv has randomly disappeared for some reason.  I'm not sure what's going on but I'm hoping to figure it out this week as well as make some other adjustments.  We're expecting ice tonight so I'm glad I got a run in this evening and have strength training planned for tomorrow.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Week in review

The week went ok, but got better as it went along.  Monday started out with a weight training class during lunch time but as I talked about last week, it was too shout-y for me.  I was also super sore.  I actually remained sore until Friday because of this class :(

Tuesday was a track workout with the running group.  They had a physical therapist come in to talk to us before the run.  She talked about stretching, warm up, injuries and then told us we could feel free to contact her with any questions.  The run was just 17 minutes around the track with a minute walk break.  I forgot to turn on runkeeper but the run went ok in general.  I had some difficulty breathing because of the cold but it wasn't too bad.

Wednesday and Thursday were both rest days because of how sore I was.  I actually scheduled a 30 minute massage on Thursday and that helped a lot.  Friday was some light yoga.

Saturday was a run with the group.  We did intervals of 5 minutes running to 1 minute of walking.  I had been doing 4/2 so this was a bit more running that I was used to.  But it went really well!  I was able to jog all the running intervals.  It was a little cold, but not as bad as Tuesday.  Here is a photo of some ducks swimming in the partially frozen stream I saw before the run :)

And here is a picture of the building where we meet and have a snack after the run.

Here is a runkeeper entry for that run.  This includes the 5 minute warm up and 5 minute cool down walks.

Saturday was the penguin pace 5k in Columbia, MD.  I ran it with a friend and we had a great time!  I'll be reviewing it soon, as well as my performance, but for now I'll just say I was happy with my results :) Here is a photo of me and my friend warming up after the run.  I'm the one on the right.  I love that I've found a way to socialize with friends that involves a healthy activity and doesn't revolve around food.

Sunday wrapped up with a skype call with old friends who have moved away and a Super Bowl party with a small group.  The game wasn't too interesting but at least the company was!  And there was delicious homemade cornbread and two types of chilli (veggie and not) with tons of toppings.

This week will be running on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  I'm thinking strength training Wednesday and Sunday.  Today and Friday will be rest days.

I hope all of you had a great weekend and a good week ahead!