Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Crafty Christmas

A couple years ago my husbands family started this gift exchange where you had to make your recipient a gift.  I hated it.  We did it twice and I hated it.  We drew names at Thanksgiving and the time between then and Christmas is so short and so busy that I felt too much pressure trying to come up with something to make.   This year they let us opt in or out of the gift exchange and it didn't have to be made.  But we opted out.   I was done with the gift exchange thing.  

But then it turns out that my husband and I got our craft on.  

First it started in November when I decided I was making every girl in our families some vanilla extract.

First you buy a LOT of vanilla beans (I had to order more).  And you slice them (but not completely) to open them up.

We bought 2 big bottles of vodka from Sam's and I wanted to make it in two big batches, but we didn't really have big containers.  So we decided to put the beans straight into the vodka bottles.   We lost some vodka that way, but it was the easiest and we were pushing a deadline of it being done in time for Christmas. 

We sat the bottle in the sink and dropped the beans into the bottle letting it overflow as necessary. 

This is a bottle full of beans!

This is after we shook it up.  

The bottles sat in a room we don't really use, covered up.  It said a cool/dark place.  We shook the bottles twice a week to agitate the beans.

On Christmas Eve we got the bottles out. . .  look how dark they were!  You couldn't even see the beans.

We tried straining the vanilla through a coffee filter. It didn't work all that well.  Some people say you want the bean floaties cause that's where the flavor is.  We met in the middle and did some straining, but it wasn't that well done.  I'm ok with the bean floaties though.  I want that vanilla flavor.

We started bottling them up. . . 8 oz in a bottle.  I was worried I wouldn't have enough and I did really cut it close.  I actually put a few pieces of beans in the bottles.  Just to increase the flavor a bit.  As long as the beans stay covered in vodka they are good.  So I put pieces instead of a bean standing up in the bottle.

Then they got labels and cutesy ribbon.

I will admit that I tasted it.  I will also say that I never tasted vanilla plain and not in a baked item before.  Lol.  I also tasted the store bought vanilla in my cabinet.  I didn't like either.  I liked mine better but barely.  Lol!   So. . . . it smelled wonderful and I hope it's good when it's put in a cookie.  But I won't be drinking it any time soon.

I ordered my beans here.   If you wanted to try this on a smaller scale you could order this kit.

Then last week my husband decided to get crafty. . . he made his family members these little snowmen. Each family got one.

We did the same for my family - giving them to the girls.  We did a slightly bigger version for my family.  I just wanted my mom to have one and her house is big so a bigger version would look good standing in her house. . .  but he made three so everyone got one.

This is my mom's.   Might be hard to tell the size difference in photos but this one is about twice the size of the ones in the above photo. 

I was joking with my husband and I said clearly when the pressure is on we suck at being creative.  But when we aren't being forced we rock it!!!  Next year we'll go back to being boring and uncreative :) 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas Eve!

It's Chrismas Eve and I feel like I'm about to lose my mind! I over committed to too many things.  I'm tired. Legit tired.  I wake in the AM and I feel like I'm melted into my bed and I can't move.  I think it's just stress and too many commitments.  

Our PTO cut off was the 18th.  So I was off last week, but I'm working this week.  The PTO policy at my work is such a pain in that way.  And I don't want to use 2016 PTO while it's still 2015! So here I am at work this morning - for 4 hours. We have an amazing owner that often gives us "early shoves" when there are holidays.  Today we get 4 hours off.  So I came in at 6 Am so I can leave at 10 AM.  Why?  Because we have to drive to Columbia MO to get Eli from the Mizzou vet clinic.  Last week Tuesday (when I was off) we took him to the vet for further evaluation and we couldn't find anything.  So the next step was a bone scan.  But they didn't have any appointments till Monday.  So we brought him home and took him back on Sunday.  Ugh - just what I wanted to do my last day off work and just what I wanted to do today on Christmas Eve.  But the bottom line is that I will do anything for my pets.  I just didn't "plan" this and so I have to fit it in.  What it really means for me is no relaxation.  I have every minute planned from now till 11 AM tomorrow when we have to be at my mother in law's house for Christmas.   That being said - the bone scan for Eli revealed neck and back arthritis and he got both injected.  That's all we can do.  If that doesn't help him he will be on a daily anti inflammatory to keep him comfortable. 

In the meantime I've been trying to finish Christmas shopping and wrapping and baking.  I *love* wrapping gifts.  I have most of them wrapped.  I also love baking and I hate that Christmas is a Friday this year.  With working all week I've been baking at night.  I felt like last weekend was just too early to bake it all and keep it fresh. 

Last week Friday I made this cake for the barn where I board Eli.  It's a Tie Dye Christmas Wreath Cake that I make every year for the barn.  I love it!  It's fun to make and I add some almond extract.  It was yummy this year and it's gone in the blink of an eye. 

I made these cookies.  They are called Almond Balls, but I need a new name.  They are like a sugar cookie with almond extract.  I got the recipe from a previous coworker.  I hate calling them almond balls because people seem to think they are full of nuts and they aren't.   Have I mentioned I love almond extract. I could drink the whole bottle!  As it is I double (at least) the amount in every recipe.  I count like this: 1 tsp . . . 2 tsp . . . whole bottle.  Ha ha! :)  That stuff is the bomb!

Then I made my Grandma's thumbprint cookies.  She made these every single Christmas when I was a kid.  They bring back such memories and now I will carry on the tradition.  

And last night I made these cream cheese rollups.  They are made with white bread if you can believe that.  I don't have a nice fancy photo of them cause I was cranky as heck last night and snapped a pic when they came out of the oven. I could have used some help from my husband last night make these, but he sat in the recliner surfing facebook on the iPad.   I got this recipe a *long* time ago from my Aunt. She passed away 12 years ago when she was 36.  So this recipe has been around a long time. They remind me of her and while they aren't hard to make and take very little ingredients,  making them alone sucks. 

So the clock is ticking and I have 3 hours till I can leave work and go pick up my baby!  I promised him he'd be home for Christmas.   

Merry Christmas everyone!  Hope it's an enjoyable time with the ones you love. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Hot Chocolate 15K 2015

This was my third year running this race.  I LOVE this race!  This year when I got sick (first post here), I had already signed up for this race (we signed up in May).  I was worried there was no way I'd be able to do this run.  But I was determined that somehow I'd cross the finish line.  

The first year I did this race, the high was 20 degrees for the day and the race was under a weather advisory.  This year we are unseasonably warm with highs in the 60's (yesterday we hit 70) and today's forecast was all rain.  It's grossly hot in my opinion and unhealthy for animals, but many people are happy that it's this warm.  I was really worried about the rain and watched the forecast non-stop.  I was so worried about getting soaked.  I've been caught in the rain, but never voluntarily started a long run knowing I'd be rained on the whole time.  Needless to say I was stressed. 

Yesterday we went to get our packets.  If you were in the first 15% to sign up, you got special city embroidery on your jackets. 

See the "St Louis 2015 Finisher" below the Hot Chocolate logo?  I thought the StL skyline was nice addition as well.  I love this race - it has one of the best goodie bags that I've ever had. 

We got up bright and early this AM, and it wasn't raining.  Woo hoo!  But the forecast was rain and the radar didn't look good.  I forgot to take a screenshot of the radar before the run - but this was around noon and you can see that basically we are having an all day rain. 

We drove to St Louis for a 7:30 start time and it was dripping by the time we got there.   I started to worry about how exactly I'd get through 9.3 miles with wet shoes/socks.  We walked to the Soldier's Memorial, where the race and post-race set up was.  We immediately used the ports-potty and it was about 7 am.  It was windy, damp and I was chilled.  We headed towards corrals but I wanted to use the bathroom one more time.  It was the whole "I'm cold and need to pee" feeling.  We got in a line and I knew there was no way we'd be able to make it before the start.  So we gave  up and got in our corral.  We were in corral B and I'm not sure why.  There were pacers from 10:30 - 11:30 in our corral, but there were pacers in the 9:xx range in corrals behind us.  I didn't understand that and when those group passed us on the course it really wasn't all that cool.  I felt like I was getting passed by a large crowd. 

The race started on time and it was dripping. I made the dumb decision to put a plastic poncho on while waiting in the corral.  That didn't last the first mile.  I felt like I was in a sauna.  I took it off and trashed it.  I basically got too hot to start and I paid for it.  My face felt like it was fire red through mile 5-6.  My husband ran the 5K and we didn't stick together at the start.  I can't stick with him knowing I have such a long race before me.  But I have to admit that he did amazing and we actually both crossed our respective 5K markers (the course split at mile 2.6) at the exact SAME time.  I thought that was CRAZY.  The time (the actual time of day) was 8:08 that we both crossed our 5K markers.  34:43 was my time.  His was 1 second behind me, I think cause he was a second later across the start.  My husband does NOT run or train at all.  He just does these runs with me for fun and he rocked this 5K.  I was kind of jealous of his time.  I train for this and he practically beat me!

I did really well through the 6 mile and 6.2 mile split.  But then things went down hill.  I walked a few times and then right after I crossed the mile 8 marker we hit a rather long hill.  I think it was about 1/2 mile of hill.  That's why mile 9 was the worse time.  All StL races that I've done end up hill.  Once we got over this hill and headed back near the finish we had a few small hills including up to the final turn to the finish.  It really sucks when you have 0.2 miles to go and are just getting killed by a hill!  I was really proud of my splits through mile 6.  I really need to train on hills more often in order to really improve my time in this race. 

 I beat last year by 52 seconds.  That wasn't as much as I hoped.  But I will say that my only goal was to finish this race!  I always want to beat the time from the previous year, but I was so thankful that I was healthy enough to run this race. 

The chocolate fondue finisher mug is fantastic.  This year it was hard to eat because we couldn't sit on the ground - it was a muddy mess. So holding the mug and eating was a challenge. I should say that the weather held out in the sense that there was never more than a light drizzle.  My shoes only got wet really when I stepped in a puddle or kicked water onto my feet myself.  I'm so thankful for that!

We really had a great time and are already talking about next year.  I asked my hubby if he wants to do the 15K?  Ha!!  Or if he actually trains for the 5k - he'd whoop my butt!!!!

My final finish time was 1:47:06 and a pace of 11:30/mile.  My Garmin was actually pretty close this year.  I tried not to weave like a crazy person through the crowds. 

Here is a close up of my medal and my jacket embroidery:

We continued our tradition of eating breakfast at Cracker Barrel following this race. I always get Eggs in the Basket.  I call them Hole in One Eggs when I make them at home.  I get them with runny yolks and it's so good.  I get turkey sausage cause quite frankly their turkey sausage rocks and their regular sausage does not!

They say that time heals all wounds.  Well it also fades your memories a bit.  I sometimes tend to "forget" just how much pain I was in during that time I was sick.  I tend to forget how painful it was to put my feet on the ground in the morning.  There were mornings I couldn't put my hair in a pony tail.  There were morning I couldn't get my hand to my mouth to take medicine.  I had pain in almost every single joint.  It was horrible and I think about it and try to take myself back to that time every now and again to remember just what it was like.  People are sympathetic to those with chronic pain, but until you experience you really truly cannot imagine what it's like. Even now. . . even when I've experienced this. . . it's faded and I take my health for granted somewhat now.  Whatever I had hit me with no warning.  I know the date, time and exactly what I was doing when it hit.  I have no clue if it can happen again.  Not getting a diagnosis sucks cause I just don't know what happened or if I'll have to go through that again.  I'm so thankful I'm "healthy" right now.  I'm so happy I was able to run this race.  Don't take your health for granted.  And if you are thinking of taking up an activity like running - do it!  Start small.  But just do it!  There are people that wish they could and they can't.  Be thankful for every little step you can take.  Doesn't matter if you walk or run.  Doesn't matter if you move 1 mile or 9.3 :)  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Pre-Race Update

I'm 3 days out from the Hot Chocolate 15K.  Training wise I'm doing really well.

I had my last long run this past Saturday.  What a hot mess that was.  I woke up to a dense fog advisory on my phone. I rolled over and thought "let the sun burn the fog away".  I couldn't really relax enough so I got up 20-30 mins later.  No fog!  Told my mom when I was leaving (she was going to pick me up in town at the end of my run).  I over dressed.  At mile 1 I was ripping off my hat and jacket.  I was sweating as the sun was on my back.  At the hour mark (mile 5-ish) I was freezing cause I was in the shade.  Suddenly I realized there really wasn't any sun and the fog was rolling in.  WHAT?  Usually the fog happens in the morning and the sun burns it away.  So I had 3 more miles (about 30 mins) of running in cold damp fog.  My hair was so wet I was surprised I didn't have icicles.   I was so happy to be done and so super surprised to see my pace.

So Saturday we pick up our packets and on Sunday we do the run.  And the forecast is all rain on Sunday (starting Sat night).  So I'm freaked.  I've been caught in the rain before.  In the summer.  I haven't chosen to run a full 9.3 miles in the rain.  I don't have any waterproof running clothes. :(   I'm not really sure what we will do.  This is my third year running the 15k.  This is my hubby's 2nd year running the 5K.  I want to run. But I don't want to be miserable.  We are having unseasonably warm temps so maybe it'll be ok, but if it's truly raining I'm not sure.

Life has been crazy busy.  I had a few days home alone when my hubby went to a tractor pull in Mississippi.   I enjoyed that.  I didn't even talk to him while he was gone.  I didn't want to know if he was drinking.  I'm not saying he's an alcoholic.  I'm saying it's caused problems and I wish he just didn't drink period.  There are people that don't drink a sip. That would make our life easier cause right now our marriage is rocky as hell. 

Last night we went with my parents to the St Louis Zoo Wild Lights.  It was a nice night (55 degrees) and the lights were beautiful.  You could see the Sea Lions, the new Polar Bear and the Penguins/Puffins.  The sea lions were really really hard to see.  The walkway you walked through was lighted and the water the sea lions were in was not.  You mostly saw your own reflection.  The polar bear's home was also dark.  We got to see him for a few minutes before he went and laid down to sleep behind a rock out of the eyes of the public.  We got lucky there.  The penguins were fun though, even though no one was swimming or moving around much (last time they were and that was a blast). 

I wore my new tall boots with my skinny jeggings that I never wear.   I wish the boots were a bit taller (the pains of being 5'10") and I got blisters.  Probably not the best idea to wear them the first time to walk through the zoo.  Oh well! :)   And that's some hot chocolate with Bailey's.   Yum!

I'm gaining weight and was 191 earlier this week.  Not cool.  I'm trying not to stress.  I know I will do the cleanse or the full 24 day challenge after the new year.  I'm just trying to say in the 180's till then.  189.4 this morning! :)  It's a tough time of year.  I'm staying active and trying not to stress too much.  Long runs always seem to bump my weight up for a few days anyways.  So having 7, 8, 9.3 three weekends in a row is working against me.