Thursday, October 1, 2015

Oh dear, I ghosted on here again...

It has been an absolutely crazy stretch of time this summer. As indicated by the tumbleweeds blowing around this site lately.

Since my last posting, our HVAC overhaul is completed (I have photos, I just need to get them on here). I was in a (minor! very minor!) car accident just before starting a week of staycation and got to drive a tricked-out loaner car for 3 weeks while my car was getting repaired, we have traveled to Atlanta, GA for the first time, we went to one of my best and oldest friend's weddings, and I am on week 2 of a new job!

I was fortunate enough to make a dream career move into one of the residential colleges on Princeton's campus. how to explain what is, to me, a very weird concept...? I now work at Forbes College, which is not an academic institution by any means. It's in fact just a cluster of underclassmen dormitories at Princeton. Because Princeton can be large and intimidating and imposing to many freshmen (and all class years, actually!), the residential college system was set up to form little communities within the bigger orange bubble.

Students are sorted randomly into any one of six residential colleges on campus for their freshman and sophomore years. Once they are upperclassmen, then can seek other housing arrangements (in short). The residential colleges are home bases that combine students from all backgrounds, different areas of study, and different interests. One res college is not home for all of the music majors, for example. It's a bit of a weird concept, I know--just roll with it.

The story of my journey to Forbes intersects directly with my car accident, and so it kind of becomes a funny story. A friend pointed out to me just before I left for staycation that the secretary position in Forbes has opened up. It had long been a dream of mine to move into one of the res colleges, so having recently taken a resume and interview workshop that was offered by the U's HR department, I felt pretty good about my resume, so I tweaked it a bit, wrote a cover letter, and sent it off on my last day before a week off. That Sunday, John and I were in the accident when I was hit by a car that didn't yield at the sign in the circle. I'm very grateful that no humans were hurt, though both my car and the other driver's car both needed bodywork.

So that was Sunday. Monday I spent the majority of the day doing recon with insurance and all that good stuff. Liberty Mutual was fantastic and set me up with a loaner car, and even dropped it off for me and picked up my poor girl to take her to the shop. Tuesday, I checked my email and saw that I had an invitation to come in for an interview--which was a LIGHTNING FAST reaction, as I had applied like 2 business days before. I wasn't due for my loaner car until Wednesday afternoon, and was planning to go in for a Wednesday morning interview. So I got in my car, which seemed to run just fine, got me there and back safely. I got my loaner car, felt really good about my interview, and all was well.

Fast forward, I think, 6 days, and I got a call with The Offer. Again...just crazy fast! As you can imagine, I had next to no time to really process all of this, and of course it was also intense as far as notifying my then-current job! I didn't expect to hear anything about an interview until I was back from my time off, and so I had to email my office manager from vacation like, "Uhm, yeh, I just had a great interview and you'll probably get a call as a reference..." Total whirlwind.

And now I'm a Forbesian. It's been awesome, and feels both like I'm an idiot all the time because so much is new, to also feeling like I've been here forever. My former position required a lot of close collaboration with the res colleges, so I've known the staff for pretty much my whole time here. It's been a wonderful and comfortable transition.

And that is basically what life has brought us since my last post!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


This will be brief because I mentally cannot get too deep into it yet. But I need to word vomit a bit.

We are on day 3 (not consecutive) of overhauling our HVAC system. Two Fridays ago we had a whole new furnace, air conditioner and compressor installed. Then, in order to address the fact that our air flow was never complete, the guys added some duct work in order to tie the upstairs into the circuit of airflow. So day 1 was the equipment install. Day 2 was adding the duct work. And today has been fraught with more construction--a small crew of contractors are here walling in the ridiculous 10-inch wide pipes that carry air throughout our home.

I'm so ready to have my house back. We made the decision to replace the entire heating/cooling system because we knew it was nearing the end of its life, and we wanted to replace it before we had a system failure and were in an emergency response type of situation. (I still may need an ambulance to come and haul me off at the end of it all for cardiac and mental health reasons.)

It's not cheap, but it's also not unreasonable. We managed it be negotiating down in price, asking for a few freebies, and also scoring 18 month 0% interest financing. So all of that adds up to a manageable debt that will pay off in the long run.

As for the short run, I just want my damn house back, and I want to see the return on our next few cooling bills.

So that's what's been going on here lately. I can't wait to have time off that isn't spent sitting in the house watching my walls and floors get ripped apart.

Outside, our tomatoes are exploding! I mean...I have SO MANY. Looks like I'll be makig quite a few tomato tarts! I have a great cookbook researched and written at, and published by Rutgers University that focuses on all of the yummy things grown in New Jersey. One such recipe is a tomato tart with a basil crust. I also happen to have basil growing wild in my garden. So yeh...that's gonna happen! Stay tuned. I may parlay that into a Sunday stress buster. My nerves are so shot from the work today that I can't even bring myself to think about cooking dinner let alone making a pie crust and tart.

Pray for my sanity, folks. I worry they're walling it up with the ducts.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Independence Day

I started my 4th celebration a little earlier in the week. On Monday, I ordered--finally!--my long-dreamed upon kitchen gadget: the KitchenAid stand mixer. Amazingly, it arrived a mere 3 days after I placed my order...that's right, I had it in my grubby little hands when I got home from work on Wednesday.

Please meet Kitty the KitchenAid 5qt mixer. Isn't she just beautiful?

To christen her, I made a small batch of good old vanilla cupcakes to act as the canvas for my buttercream experimentation: roasted strawberry, as seen on Cookies and Cups, a food blog by a fellow Jersey girl!

It was surreal to just plop things into the mixer and then...stand there. My arm was like, "Wait...where's the hand mixer? I don't...I don't...have anything to do...?" AKA my upper body fitness gained by hand mixing all these years is about to atrophy. ha More reps at the gym, I suppose!

Cake batter came together in no time, and into the oven they went. While that was baking, I prepared the strawberries for roasting: sprinkle with some sugar and let them macerate while the cakes were baking up. Once the berries were roasted, I let them cool per the recipe, and then rather than dirty something else I'd have to clean (a blender), I just grabbed ye olde potato masher and smooshed the berries to puree them. (See, present me with an opportunity to use a machine and I still go for the elbow grease road. That said, I will never ever ever whip egg whites by hand. Nope nope nope.)

After reaching this point, I realized the frosting recipe was likely for 2 dozen cupcakes, so I decided to halve it, as I overfilled the cupcake papers and only got 9 cakes. But what to do with the extra puree...?

Duh...fill the cupcakes!

I then experienced the most relaxing buttercream making of my life: soft butter into the mixer's bowl, turn on mixer (using the GENIUS bowl-scraping paddle attachment that I've had since my bridal shower in 2011). Once that was creamed, dump the powdered sugar in the spout on the splatter guard, and enjoy not getting poofed with a cloud of sugar...UNHEARD OF! Lastly, I added in the strawberry puree and let that incorporate. The recipe noted that fruit buttercreams tend to get a bit curdled, but that is easily remedied by adding a bit more powdered sugar. I did that until it stiffened up to my liking, plopped it in a piping bag, and frosted the filled cupcakes.

End result: DELICIOUS. The roasted strawberries...out of this world. I'm already dreaming of doing lemon cupcakes with roasted blackberry frosting; lemon cupcakes with the strawberry frosting...oh dear, I could go on and on... But I'll stop myself and let you oogle the little darlings:

While I'm mentioning strawberries, here are some photos of the strawberry shortcakes I made at my dad's request for Father's Day. I baked the biscuits earlier in the day, and then made the strawberry filling and whipped cream just before serving. Recipe via The Candid Appetite. I shouldn't have to tell you there were no leftovers. ; )

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Da Roof

Well, our chimney has been fixed for about 2 weeks now, and for the first time in a long time we can rest easy when it rains.

It turned out to be a full day's worth of work for the gentlemen of St. John Chimney Sweeps, arriving at 8am and working on interior fixes--they added a new liner to the interior of our chimney/HVAC vent to seal it up and bring it to current code. That took about 3.5 hours between setting up and completing the actual work.

Then they spent about 4.5 hours working on the roof--removing the old flashing and old chimney cap and making the necessary replacements.

All told, nothing looks dramatically different to the common onlooker, but from our back yard, we can now admire the pretty new chimney cap and the rather charming copper flashing around the base of the chimney. As far as the interior work, they replaced a few vent tubes and pipes in the basement and the connections to other heat-drawing things like our water heater, but otherwise it's almost as if nothing happened at all.

Except we don't have a leak anymore! What we do have, however, is a guest room in need of some serious fixin.' Since we had tarped the attic floor where the water was collecting a few weeks before the chimney guys came out, the interior damage to the ceiling and wall in the guest room hasn't gotten any worse (the ceiling has actually stopped flaking). So that's on hold for a little while, but once our pipes are repaired*, getting the guest room sorted is our next task. Of course, that will mean first getting a contractor out to survey the damage and prepare an estimate and repair battle plan. Once we have that, we bring it to our insurance company and hope to have the repairs (minus, of course, our deductible) covered. Fingers crossed!

*I've got AJ Perri plumbing coming out to the house on Friday to look under the hood and see what the heck is going on. The major problem is really more of a nuisance currently, but has the potential to turn into a big old headache if we leave it much longer. It's the dreaded air hammering! It started out innocently enough, but now it's at the point where even when no appliances or faucets are actively drawing water, the pipes be like, "BRRRRR!" It's like frigging Inception for no reason. Maybe Leo DiCaprio is in there because his kick went awry. Most often, however, it'll happen when we run water elsewhere--the toilet flushing, turning on the shower, running the dishwasher or washing machine, or sometimes doing dishes in the kitchen. Anyway, I'm hoping the fix will be rather straightforward and also rather inexpensive! I am encouraged, however, that after this and the guest room we'll be back on the offensive for a while, having played an exhausting bout of defense for a few months. Then again, I guess that's just being an adult.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

IOU: 1 of Many

Goooood morning! I'm currently at home while the very fine men of St. John Chimney are making very necessary repairs to our chimney flue and flashing at the roofline.

Since I've got a handful of hours with not much I can do (at least until they move the work outside--at the moment, they're in and out of the basement), I have finally uploaded and organized the bunch of photos I need in order to do some posting on here.

I'll slowly work my way forward, but for now here are recaps of St. Patrick's Day and Easter.

St. Patrick's Day fell right during spring break at the U, which was awesome. St. Paddy's is my Thanksgiving, my Super Bowl, of cookery. I love the chance to try out a new and authentic Irish recipe or two, and so leading up to the Big Day, I spent a few hours faceplanted in my handful of Irish cookbooks, including my latest edition, Clodagh McKenna's new book, Clodagh's Irish Kitchen. While my holiday menu was rather simple (it was just me and John--we weren't hosting this year), because I planned to make everything fresh, it still meant about 9 hours on my feet in the kitchen. Thank goodness for those kitchen Crocs John bought me for Christmas: life savers!

The menu was thus:
Guinness beef pie
Sticky whiskey carrots
Brown Bread
Chocolate Guinness cake for dessert

The feast itself was DELICIOUS and plentiful--both John and I enjoyed the leftovers as lunches for the rest of the week! I'm pretty proud, too, of how lovely it all looked laid out on the table. Like a danged magazine feature:

It was nice to spend more time on savories than on sweets for a change. I'm a baker at heart, but I'm finding more confidence in my cookery as well, and it's fun to sort of let loose where exact measurements aren't as important.

St. Paddy's dessert was probably my favorite, though--the cake was incredibly rich (let's not talk about the quantity of butter...just don't think about it...) and delicious, and of course we enjoyed that, too, the rest of the week! The cake lends itself to look like the top of a perfectly poured pint of Guinness anyway, but I chose to add one small detail: a little shamrock that nodded to the foam art you sometimes see on beer heads. What do you think:

Pretty legit, right?

Easter was an easy affair, as we all headed to John's grandparents' down on the SoJo coast. All we were responsible for were dessert and wine. Well, it turned out no one drinks wine, so John and I each had a glass of the white and just brought the rest of the bottle (and the unopened bottle of red) home for later enjoyment.

For Easter desserts, I almost always err on the side of lemon flavors. It just says, "Yay, spring is here!" to me, and it's also one of John's grandpa's favorite flavors, so I really can't go wrong.

Since the recipe was simple: subtle lemon cupcakes with a tangy-sweet lemon frosting, I decided to mess around a bit with decoration. I bought super fun cupcake papers and tried a new frosting technique (though it's far easier than my usual piping, so not really sure I can brag about it!) and added little sugar icing flowers. They were a huge hit!

I like to keep my decorations just enough to be special but not so much that they become cumbersome to eat. I haven't used fondant yet, and likely won't because A) I don't think it tastes good and B) it often makes things a little hard to eat.

I think for now I'm on the right track. Everyone keeps telling me I should totally do this for a living, and oh how I'd like to. But I worry it'd become a chore and then I wouldn't love it as much. I am doing some more small-batch orders for friends, which is really the best: I get to try new things, make lovelies that I know will be appreciated and enjoyed, and also I don't have to eat them all myself. haha Cuz let's be honest...I can certainly spare the calories!

I'm finally underway with laundry nook improvements, so I'll have a post on that soon, and once the chimney is under control, I can also talk about that with a nice lead-in to what the hell we're going to do about the interior water damage in our guest room.

For now, I'm sipping coffee and listening to the banging and clanging of industry in my basement. (And hoping they're done soon so I can let Hamlet out of the guest room, where I've had to sequester him while the guys are in and out. #mommyguilt


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I'd feel bad about my absence if people actually read this...haha

Hello, faithful readers? Anyone out there? Even if not, this is really just a good exercise for me to keep writing in any capacity I can.

I've got a handful of cookery things to share: St. Patrick's Day, my mom's birthday, Easter, and a cake I made for my boss' birthday at work. Coming up I have my wonderful husband's birthday and a few bridal showers I'm baking for.

On the homefront, when the sting has lessened (and maybe after we win the lottery), I'll share the chronicles of our leaking chimney and our water-damaged guest room. Once we've got that all repaired and shored up, I can FINALLY finish the space. Probably just in time to love it, get pregnant, and have to make it a nursery. Well, forget that--it'll just be a very mature nursery from the get-go. We're thinking of a nautical theme for the guest room, and what future-hypothetical baby wouldn't love to be in a metaphorical ocean surrounded by water pals? I daresay NO baby wouldn't love that! (Were those almost-double negatives confusing?)

Also on the homefront will be more gardening--finally whipping the curb appeal into shape (good news already--the irises I transplanted last year are sprouting up, so I'm hopeful they'll soon lend some gorgeous violet color to the landscape!), and an interior project to make the laundry nook a little safer for Hammy (long story) and a little more functional for me (short story).

And someday when I'm feeling particularly compelled, I'll even tell you all about my sprained back, physical therapy journey, and how I was well enough to run a pretty strong beginning-of-season 5K 2 weeks after the injury.

So lots on the horizon, I'm just a little overwhelmed at finding time to sit down here and do the creative writing I need to in order to make these posts happen. Also, organizing photos. That needs to happen, too.

Stay tuned. I promise I'll be back!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Spring Cleaning

In my mind. Of my mind. Lots to do and unload both in the physical world and the world that is within. Thankfully it's only February, so I can procrastinate just a bit more.

I'm eager to get my hands in the dirt and plant the hell out of some ignored planting beds. But first the snow has to melt. And stay melted.

I'm eager to finish our guest room, but first the water damage from a leak needs to be repaired. (Insert denial here.)

I'm eager for cooking outside, or simply being outside and enjoying it, but first we need some warmer temps, and again...for the snow to melt.

In the meantime, I'm getting as much outdoor time as I can stand. I'm eating lots of mason jar salads for lunch. I'm getting back to the gym. I'm baking less (well, spontaneous mug cakes aside) to pay penance for a butter-heavy winter. I'm trying.

I think we are all very ready to shake off the frost, wear fewer layers, and bring out the prettier parts of our wardrobe, the ones that skim and flounce rather than hug and shroud. I miss my toes. They've been buried under 2 (sometimes 3!) layers of socks for so long.

When I've gotten rid of a few mental cobwebs, I'll sit down and talk to you about my mason jar salads and my mug cakes. About my birthday in Philly where I ate all the things. And about how I'mbeyond  ready to dash down to Delaware for John's birthday in April, where we can borrow bicycles from the hotel, sit around the fire pit at the hotel in the evening, walk on the quiet earl-spring beaches and otherwise enjoy the non-routineness of it all.

Until then, I'm sending you warmth. We need it!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Oh, My: Pie!

Grossly overdue, but here I am to talk about the pie I baked for Christmas at my parents'.

This was my first foray into a true all-butter (as in no other fats--this broad don't mess with lard or shortening!) pie crust. Really, it wasn't as terrible as I feared, and was hugely successful and sinfully flaky and delicious. Another thing I can add to the "what took me so long?" list.

I made the crust ahead of time, knowing it would keep just fine in the fridge until I was ready. This saved me a huge amount of waiting around and work time on the day I needed to make the pie. With all the other holiday baking I had going on, anything I could do to economize on my time was certainly worthwhile!

When the crust came together, it stayed rather crumbly, but that was exactly what the recipe said to expect. And so I simply balled it up, flattened it into two disks (the recipe makes enough for a double-crusted pie), and refrigerated them both for a few days until I was ready to get my pie on.

The rolling-out is the tricky part. You've got to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin as well as the rolling surface, while also making sure it rolls into what loosely resembles a circle. Oh, and also you can't handle it too much or roll it too thin--that will cause it to tear*.

Then the next anxiety-ridden step was lifting the dough and molding it in the pie plate. Thankfully, I was able to lift and place it with no tears and no cracks. Whew! I decided on the simplest crimp for the crust, but even that took a bit of work to get the hang of--it's simply pinching the dough, but you have to make sure it holds correctly (you're pinching the "extra" dough that had been trimmed and left hanging over the edge of the pie plate). Just like using a piping bag, it took a little work (and practice on scrap bits) to get it right.

By the time I was done, I was actually quite pleased with my very first pie crust! I looked like all the photos I had seen! Thankfully, the only step left for the crust was to pop it in the fridge while I worked on the filling. This crust simply bakes with the filling, so I didn't need to use pie weights to blind bake or anything. I didn't even need to prick vents in it. I like it: keep things simple!

The filling for this particular pie was apples and cranberries. Because the recipe used 3 Honeycrisps and 2 Granny Smiths, that's exactly what I used. As well as half a bag of fresh cranberries. Perhaps the best part was that once the apples had all been peeled and sliced, you mixed them with some lemon juice and spices and left them to macerate and give up quite a lot of juice! The juice was then caramelized on the stovetop and dumped over the apples and cranberries once they were placed in the pie crust. Oh my!

Caramelizing the spiced apple juice.

Almost ready for the oven!
I think next time I make this, I will use only apples (wasn't a huge fan of the tart cranberries), and I will not use all of the caramel juice. It never quite thickened up, and so when the pie was sliced into, a lot of the juice came running out. It was delicious, don't get me wrong! But I tend to like a bit more of a gelled pie--less gooey and more thick.

Now, I said earlier the pie crust recipe makes enough for a double-crusted pie. This is just a bottom-crust pie. So what topped it? Why, a delicious crumble!

The crumble was just enough coverage to keep the apples from burning during baking while getting juuuust perfectly browned itself. Thank goodness it came out so well--I'm not scared off from making future pies! Which is good because come peak farmer's market season, it's gonna be a whole new ballgame.

*Should your crust tear, you can just use some of the extra scraps to make a little patch--once it's baked, no one will ever know.

And as for that other crust left waiting in my fridge? I used up a few leftover ingredients in the pantry/fridge to make a lemon buttermilk pie with an orange cranberry jam sauce on top. MMM MMM!


Monday, January 12, 2015

Porridge is the best breakfast on a chilly morning!

This post is mainly for my mom, as she's often curious what I mean when I say I had some porridge for brekky.

What I really mean is that I had "complicated oatmeal." It's sort of like you can have tea or you can have Tea: the first is a simple cuppa, brewed up in a lovely ceramic mug and sipped while watching TV or having a workday morning brekky of cold cereal; the latter is more of an experience--a fancy teacup, perhaps with a saucer situation going on, and a little pitcher of milk rather than glugging some in from the carton in the fridge. Both drinking experiences start the same: water is boiled, tea leaves are steeped, and their deliciousness is ultimately consumed. The difference is what you make of the whole experience. Do I always want to, or have time to, set out a giant Tea spread to make the English gentry proud? Hell to the no. But when I do, I love to make a true experience of it. It's a reminder to slow down and enjoy things rather than shovel things in my mouth before rushing off to do my next task.

Likewise, there is oatmeal, and there is porridge. I'm going to sound like a math teacher here for a second, but bear with me: all oatmeal is porridge but not all porridge is oatmeal--think of those little ven diagrams or whatever you looked at in math class for these kinds of comparisons. To wit: porridge is basically just hot cereal--it can be oats, millet, barley...anything you cook up with a liquid and eat hot off the stove (or out of the microwave). Oatmeal is called oatmeal because it's made from oats. Quinoa is currently having a moment where it is leaping from dinner plates and finding itself served in the morning hours with fruit, almond milk, and tea (or Tea).

So that aside, when I say I make porridge, I use oats, and so yes, I am having oatmeal. But "porridge" just sounds fancier and sets it aside from the instant stuff. I pour out these oats, not from a little brown paper packet, but from a box where I have to actually measure out each serving. (My favorite brand is above.) I dump the oats into a pot on the stove--if I'm making enough for me and John, I'll use my trusty 2-quart saucepan; if I'm making enough just for me, I'll use a cute little Corningware ceramic pan. Rather than cooking the oats in water (which never tasted good to me, and may be why I've always hated the over-sugared packet oatmeals), I cook them in milk--cow's or almond. Regular old cow's milk, of any percentage you like, makes not only a thick and luscious bowl of oats, but it also adds a subtle sweet flavor, much like the sweetness milk takes on when you steam it to add to your coffee. I've also used vanilla almond milk, and this, too, makes it feel like a special meal. The whole cooking process takes about 10-15 minutes, so again, not really the thing to do if you need to dash out the door, but if you've got the time, it is so well worth the effort. See? It's complicated oatmeal.

A few of my favorite servings are thus:
  • Brown sugar
  • Jam/compote
  • Fruit butter
  • Honey
  • Chopped nuts

These can all also be mixed and matched. And I've recently gotten into savory porridge as a fabulous new idea for breakfast for dinner (or a nice brunch option). I cook it the same way (using milk on the stovetop), but then I will cook a sunny-side-up egg and plop it on top and season the oats with salt, pepper, and whatever other savory spices speak to me.

I hope this inspires you to make some complicated oatmeal and start the day nice and warm!

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015: The Year to Keep Rolling

I started a lot of good habits in 2014: I joined a gym, I completed ambitious races, and I made a commitment to better eating habits.

And so in 2015, I hope to further these endeavors and continue building my body back up. I realize that while, no, I haven't totally let myself go, I am entering an age where it will be harder to get fit, to lose weight, and to maintain healthy choices if I don't lay out some hella foundations now.

I've been impressed (and depressed) to see friends who have had kids grow with their babies, and then snap back pretty immediately. I mean...what the hell? I have no kids, and don't look that good! Then I realized the snap-backers were healthy and fit before kiddos, so of course their bodies remembered what to once they were no longer a human garden. I need to be that girl.

Of course, as I've increased my running distances and goals, I've realized I really do need to integrate a more rounded (pun intended) approach to my overall health. Joining the gym as my outdoor running season came to a close means that I can build up the muscles I don't use as actively when running--aka my entire upper body. I need my midsection to become more of a power house to carry me over long distances; I need my back to be strong to maintain my posture and form while running (and perhaps even more so when I'm at my desk at work or logging hours in the kitchen I won't be aching at the end of it); I need my arms to be stronger and leaner to propel me during bursts of speedwork, but I am also fighting the good fight against the lady-wobbly-arms. Oh gosh, when I forget to pose in the "skinny arm" stance in photos, I kick myself.

And the truth is, I love going to the gym! I love using the machines. The monthly fee makes sure I am guilted into going at least 2 days a week (though ideally, I'd love to be there 3-4 days during my off-season). What is hardest is running on the treadmill. Because I knew I would hate it, I set myself very moderate goals for treadmilling it in my off season: run 2 miles at the start of every workout. 2 miles is my limit, guys. It's pretty much like adapting the marathon motto and shrinky-dinking it to miniature size: I run the first mile with my head and the last with every shred of heart I have. It is the slowest damned 2 miles I have or will ever run. But it is important. I have already far outrun my mileage last winter, which I hope is a stab in the dark at maintaining my baseline running fitness. What I am most hoping to see results from is the ability to set a consistent speed. I'm still monkeying around with what is most comfortable while still presenting a challenge, and trying to find what is most similar to my road speed. I truly hope that when I again hit the pavement, I'll have better stamina and better form. Because I don't have to worry about avoiding pot holes, cars, intersections, or changes in incline, I have been able to focus on keeping my form true for the duration of the robotic runs. Coupled with the strength training I am subjecting the rest of my body to, I am both eager and nervous about getting back into my seasonal training, as March 14 is the start of race season. I've got some good PRs to beat, and I think this will be the year I really impress myself.

I should also say I'm not expecting to come out of this a fitness champion. My middle will still be flabby and somewhat like an inner tube. I loathe ab workouts. I've yet to find one that doesn't make me want to cry from boredom or pain. I know those are exactly the workouts I should suffer through, but I just can't. When I run, the tiredness and pain feels good because I enjoy their cause. My my arms get the crap beat out of them from weight lifting, I love that ache because I enjoy its cause. I can't find a cause to justify the abdominal discomfort. Which is unfortunate because the discomfort of tight pants is pretty intense. The discomfort of not liking myself in a bikini anymore is fierce. So I use a few of the ab machines at the gym until I want to cry and then just cross my fingers and hope the rest of the exercise I am doing will make up some of the difference.

I've also been eating better...ish...betterish. I sometime wish I didn't love food so much. It would make things so much simpler. But I do love food. I really do. And so instead of cutting myself off, I'm just trying to have a healthier attitude about that intense devotion to meats and butter and cheese and sugar. I hope in 2015 to master the art of the salad-as-meal. I've already stepped up my breakfast and snack game, so if I can transition to salad-meals as my workplace lunches, I'll be gaining good ground. With the help of Blue Apron and feeling more confident in my savory cookery, dinners have been getting healthier, too. Thank goodness for my better breakfast choices--it really is true that if the first food decision you make is a good and considered one, the rest of your choices will follow suit. Or will at least be balanced if you "accidentally" eat 2 extra slices of pizza for lunch. I'm only human!

2015 is also the year I hope to shake off all the bad things that came about in late-2013 and persisted through much of 2014. I will very soon (by month's end) be getting my second tattoo, an idea I have been planning on for a while, but was finally struck with inspiration on my way home from work one day in early September. And so getting the tattoo will symbolize the true fresh start for me, and will be something I can point to as a physical reminder that I am strong, and that I can keep rolling on.

Stay tuned, friends, for my progress.

In other news, we get our second Blue Apron delivery this week, and I have quite a few holiday baking adventures to write about, too. Which is good cuz I'm taking a bit of a baking hiatus (see above about bettering my relationship with food), but am glad for things to write about and pretty pictures of tasty treats to share.

Happy January, y'all.