Random Thoughts about a Crazy World, Crazy Love, the Mom Squad, the Miles and Track Tuesday

Thirteen years ago, I was teaching at an elementary school is a migrant community.   After the Columbine shooting, my school district put lockdown drills into place.  We practiced those drills along with fire drills and tornado drills.

Sometime after that, the lockdown drill became a reality when a person ran through our school’s soccer field wielding a gun and shots were fired. We (the teachers) had to turn off our lights and hide with our students in our classrooms. We had to be brave for our students. We had to protect them and these students came from horrible homes and probably saw this type of thing regularly. School was their safe place, but not that day.

As an educator, I can’t even imagine how the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School felt that fateful Friday last week. I can’t even imagine what went through their minds as they tried to be brave and protect their students who thought school was their safe place. As parent, I just want to hold my babies and never let go.

God bless the teachers, the survivors and the families as they deal with their loss. Hopefully, schools can be safe places again and maybe the powers that be will make common sense gun control as common place as lockdowns.

Also thirteen years ago, I married my best friend.  It’s been a crazy, mad wild ride but I wouldn’t change one day of it, especially since my husband still has a few surprises up his sleeve.  He bought me this mirror from IKEA that I’d been eyeing for the longest time and wrote a message on it that says, “Denise, Happy Anniversary. You are beautiful and I love you. xxxx ♥ ♥”

His present is…er…um….on backorder.  Yep, that’s it!

Speaking of surprises, my husband pulled a doozy on me yesterday.  He high jacked my email and contacted Joe of 10 News to ask if he would to announce our anniversary on the air during our Moms Squad segment.  Watch it here and check out my totally surprised expression at the end.

On the subject of the Mom Squad, Joe has asked Marisa, Jenny and me to be his regular team every week, so we are officially The Mom Squad, which of course means we need our own coffee mugs since we’re part talk show television.  Plus, if I was holding a coffee mug, it would keep me from speaking with my hands.  Here’s last week segment.

I’m really struggling mentally with my marathon training.  I’m just so tired lately and as a result, my training is suffering.  Then, the Holiday Half didn’t go so well, but at least I beat my time from 3 years ago which shouldn’t been hard to do since I was pregnant then.  (More about the Holiday Half tomorrow!)

I had a really tough time recovering after the half marathon.  On Sunday I woke up with this horrible Charlie horse in my thigh I know it’s a direct result from not fueling properly after the race.  Other than a few beers, I didn’t drink any of my usual recovery drinks such as chocolate milk or coconut and I didn’t eat for hours after the race. Stupid move, I know and I definitely paid for it in the middle of the night.

Since my Mondays are Mom Squad days, I’ve also had to readjust my whole marathon training schedule.  But given the whole Charlie horse episode, I also decided against speedwork last week and just went for an easy 3 mile run.

3.1 miles
Time 31:25
Ave Pace 10:08
Max Pace 8:08

And that was the last time I ran last week, except for my 20 miler on Saturday.  Again, not my proudest marathon training moment, but it happens.  Last week was a really tough week for me emotionally and my training suffered.  I honestly considered postponing my 20 miler until the following week, but my running partners talked me into it.  Sometimes peer pressure does have its benefits.

So, I ran I went into my 20 miler with only 3 miles recorded that week and I was dreading it.  I feared the worst and I warned my running partners that I would be all piss and vinegar and cussing up a storm.

After 5 miles, I had this weird pain in the top of my foot, like my shoelaces were too tight.  I tried to loosen them but things still hurt.  Overall it wasn’t my best, but we finished just under 4 hours and I could walk afterwards.  20 miles in the books!  And even with all those weird foot pains, I found the energy to do a 5-10-15-20 dance with my running partners.

20 miles
Time 3:56: 35
Ave Pace 11:50
Max Pace 8:07

Today, I decided against speedwork but elected to do a 4 mile tempo run.  I even threw some sprints in at the end.

4.25 miles
Time 40:46
Ave Pace 9:36
Max Pace 6:47 (0.25 sprint – 7:33)

According to variety of plans I’m following to make up my hybrid plan, this week is a step-back week to 12.  I like the sound of that distance.

What’s you running plans for the week?  Got some sprints to share?  What other work-outs are you doing?

I am excited to announce a new Track Tuesday co-host!  Meghan of runMeganrun will be joining me on the track for weekly speedwork.  The “rules” are still the same, so link up and play along with us.

To join our Track Tuesday linky party, do your speed work (at least 4 quarter mile sprints) on Tuesday or any day you that works best for you, blog about your times and remember to add our cool Track Tuesday button to your post.  Then, link up your post at either runMeganrun or Run DMT to share Track Tuesday Speed Work Sessions.  To show support for our other virtual running partners on the Track Tuesday Team, be sure to visit the other blogs listed in the linky party.  Give them a virtual high-five and leave some comment love too.

 

*Also linking up at*

Stacy

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

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Pinning and Planning – December 16

With Christmas only 10 days away and one more week of school left full of holiday children’s parties and playdates, I was already feeling a little overwhelmed.  Then, the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary unfolded and everything seemed so trivial.

Though I’m finding it difficult to focus, I need to be here for my family.  I need to keep on running, planning dinners and play dates to keep things as normal as possible for my family.  I need to keep the magic and joy in Christmas.  And each of us needs to hug our babies a little tighter.

S – Leeky, Creamy Chicken and Dumpling Stoup

M – Sautéed Tilapia with Lemon and Capers on a bed of couscous

T – Anniversary Dinner

W – Cumin Lime Zucchini Quesadillas

Th – Chicken Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes Ravioli (BOGO this week at Publix)

F – Pizza

What things are you cooking up this week?  Link up and share the delicious dishes you are pinning and planning to serve this week.

Plan your menu for the week and if you have some favorite food pins, add those too. Then, link up and share your post. If you’re not on Pinterest, send me an email and I’ll send you an invite.



Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Everything But The… Cookies

PhotobucketEither my oldest daughter is obsessed with food as I am or she is one very creative kid.  We’ll go with the latter.  Either way, she does have some delicious and ingenious ideas when it comes to cookies.

We’re huge ice cream fans, especially Ben & Jerry’s, however, we only splurge on the Cadillac of ice cream when it’s on BOGO at our local supermarket.  Thankfully, that hasn’t happened in a while.  Though my taste buds miss the ice cold delicacy, my thighs can do without it.

Then, one day in a sad we-miss-Ben & Jerry’s moment, Allana says, “You know what would be really good?  An Everything But The… cookie.”

“Oh my God.  That’s genius!”  I felt a twinge in my thighs when I said it.

Then in like an ironic twist of fate, I woke up in the middle of the night with a Charlie horse in my right quad.  My thigh was already Jonesing for the chocolaty goodness.

These ice cream inspired cookies came out better than Allana and I imagined.  I just hope my thighs don’t beg for them in the middle of the night again.

Everything But The… Cookies
Ingredients
1 stick unsalted butter, cold
¾ cup white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup chopped almonds
½ cup pretzel sticks
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup white chocolate chips
½ cup Heath English Toffee Bits
½ cup Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Minis

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.

Using a standing electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar.  Then add eggs one at a time and beat until well blended.  Mix in vanilla.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  Add flour to wet ingredients a little at a time and mix on a low speed until well combined.  Mix in pretzel sticks and almonds.

Remove bowl from mixer and fold in chocolate chips, Heath bits and mini peanut butter cups.

Drop about a tablespoon amount of dough onto baking sheets about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 13-15 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for five minutes.  Then, move cookies to cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes approximately three dozen.

Thanks for joining our weekly Friday Food Fight! Can’t wait to see what everyone is flinging this week!

And while here, don’t forget to toss some cookies at The Ultimate Virtual Christmas Cookie Swap!



*Also submitted at*

Sweet Tooth Friday

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

A Holiday Sampling at Datz

Last Wednesday, Christmas came early when Chef Jason and our friends at Datz prepared a holiday tasting for the Tampa Bay Bloggers.

As usual, Datz rolled out the red carpet with chilled cocktails ready and waiting for us.  This holiday cocktail, Wreck the Halls, mixes 360 Madagascar vanilla vodka, Kahlúa peppermint mocha and Adult Chocolate Milk, which made our evening very merry and bright.

For our first course, we sampled Flatbreads topped with fig, pear, goat cheese and arugula.  The combination of tangy fruits and goat cheese with the crispness of the flatbread bundled a bit of Christmas flare in every bite.

Then, we nibbled on new-to-me dish, Poutine.  The gooey, gravy goodness and the fries were a meal in itself. (After all, chips and gravy is a British delicacy.)  Toss in some cheese curds and a fried egg on top and now you have a complete dinner.  But ours didn’t stop there.

Next, we noshed on Corn Fritters with Powdered Sugar and Jalapeño Maple Syrup.  The heat and sweetness of the jalapeño maple syrups finished the fritters off perfectly.

Photo credit to Datz

Our holiday sampling quickly became a feast once the main course arrived, Black Tea-Spiced Baby, Free Rage Chicken with Asian Pear Chutney served with Curried Vegan Winter Stew.

 Just when we thought we couldn’t possible eat another bite, Chef Jason saved the best bite for last: Battered and Fried Oreos.  It was deep fried slice of heaven.

But our evening didn’t end with dessert.  To wrap up our tasty evening, the Tampa Bay Bloggers and I participated in a Secret Santa Swag Swap.  Upon arrival, we placed our gifts under a slim Christmas tree, a beautiful centerpiece.

Jina of Behold the Turtle took home my Turbie Twist.

I scored some lovely lingerie from Raffi of Running Betty.  Thanks to this sexy little number, I’ve been added to Santa’s naughty list for sure.

The evening was epic, but don’t take my word for it.

For more reviews of our Datz holiday sampling and our fun Secret Santa Swag Swap, visit my fellow Tampa Bay Bloggers.

Running Betty

My Fascinating Life

By the way, the Tampa Bay Bloggers are so tasty, we were featured in the menu just below Eddie Vedder.  Yep, we’re as hot and juicy as Eddie.

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Tinsel and Lights and Happy Hanukkah

The other day I heard a Christmas song and the singer’s enchanting voice unhinged a memory.  I saw myself driving on a country hillside road on a long commute to work.  Almost as clear and haunting as the vision, her voice gave goose bumps similar to the ones that appeared when Allan and I first started dating and we would listen to Everything But The Girl’s Acoustic on long car rides while holding hands.

Tracey Thorn, the lead singer of Everything But the Girl, has released a Christmas album entitled Tinsel and Light.  The first song I heard off the album is the very same song that transported me to a time before parenthood.

I realize when artists go solo they despise being linked to their former band life, but Tracey Thorn’s Tinsel and Lights does just that.  The entire album reminds me everything I loved about Everything But The Girl but sprinkled with Christmas goodness.

You can listen and download entire the album on amazon.

While searching around YouTube and the internet for Tracey Thorn and Everything But Girl, I found this really fun interactive Tracey Thorn Advent Calendar full of videos, music, photos and Christmas cheer.

And on the subject of downloads, here are two you can’t pass up because both downloads benefit great causes.  Matisyahu released a new song for Hanukkah appropriately entitled Happy Hanukkah.  All proceeds go to the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.  Download and donate here.

Then, download O Holy Night  performed by Ladywell Primary School from iTunes to help raise money for meningitis research in young Caden’s name.

For the next two Mondays leading up to Christmas, I will be sharing my favorite Christmas songs.  I would love for you to join in the merry music making by linking up and sharing your favorite holly jolly holiday tunes.



Visit Xmas Dolly and Jade Louise Designs for more Music Monday.

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

A Healthier Holiday Table with Spinach Chicken Sausage Egg Cups

ACS-BadgeWhen the American Cancer Society asked me to contribute a recipe for A Healthier Holiday Table, I was honored.  After watching my aunt lose her life to cancer, it became my goal to educate myself and others about ways to live in a word without cancer and ultimately celebrate more birthdays.

Here are a few easy steps to reduce your risk so that you and your loved can celebrate more birthdays together:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of many types of cancer. Here are ideas on how to eat healthy and get active.
  • Did you know that eating lots of fruits and vegetables can help reduce your cancer risk? The American Cancer Society recommends eating at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day. Here are two resources filled with ideas for upping your fruit and vegetable consumption through the day.
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products. Here are some innovative ways to add more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to your day while watching your refined carbohydrates, sugar, and fat intake.
  • Limit how much processed meat and red meat you eat. Some studies have linked eating large amounts of processed meat to increased risk of colorectal and stomach cancers.
  • Drink no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 per day for men. Alcohol raises the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), esophagus, liver, breast, and the colon and rectum.
  • Stock your kitchen with a variety of foods that you can throw together for healthy meals in a hurry. Keep these foods on hand for fast meals on busy nights.
  • Did you know that being physically active can reduce your risk of several types of cancer, including breast, colon, endometrial, and prostate?  The Society recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week. Here are some tips to help you fit exercise into your busy schedule.

However, holiday office parties and last minute marathon shopping can often make it difficult to adhere to the previous checklist.  By preparing quick and easy healthy meals, you can maintain a healthier table during the holidays.

My Spinach Chicken Sausage Egg Cup recipe is perfect for potlucks and since these egg cups freeze nicely, they’re great for quick breakfasts on the go.  Simply store them in freezer-safe food storage bags and heat them up when you want a healthy breakfast bite in a pinch.

Spinach Chicken Sausage Egg Cups
Ingredients
2 slices whole grain bread
½ cup baby spinach
2 Tbsp reduced fat cheddar cheese
1 link al fresco Country Style Breakfast Chicken Sausage, quartered
2 large eggs
2 egg whites
1 Tbsp non-fat milk
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

Using a 2-inch cookie cutter, cut two circles in each slice of bread.  Lay one circle in each prepared muffin cup.

Lay one to two leaves of baby spinach on top on each bread circle.  Add a few pieces of sausage and a few sprinkles of cheddar cheese.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites and skim milk.  Add cayenne, salt and pepper.  Pour a quarter of mixture into each muffin cup.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until firm.  Serve with avocado slices and tomato like from Pearland TX.

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+