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An Experiment in Kitchen Experimenting

Mr. B and I love to cook. And we love to try new things. That being said, we tend to get into kitchen ruts: grilled chicken, grilled pork chops, grilled burgers, grilled fish, sautéed veggies, quinoa/pasta. So, basically: protein, vegetable, grain. Add a glass of wine/beer/milk/water, and you have our traditional dinner.

Now, I used to cook — a lot. All sorts of delicious things, trying new recipes all the time. But then Mr. B and I got married, and we worked opposite shifts. So I fell out of the habit. Because it was kind of a pain cooking two separate dinners — or making a dinner that tasted good at 5:30 and at 11:30.

Lately, though, we’ve been feeling antsy to get back in the cooking habit — especially now that we have an awesome new kitchen! And there are a lot of things we’ve been wanting to try. (Just recently, Mr. B even made beef bourguignon!) Being the super-fun person that I am, I wanted to add another level of excitement to our goal to cook more for each other.

Enter playing cards. I figure: 52 cards in a deck, 52 weeks in a year. It’s like a sign.

So, Mr. B and I each got a deck of cards, and we spent one evening writing on the back of each card either one ingredient we wanted to use, one recipe we wanted to make or one type of cuisine we wanted to cook. Then, each week we’d draw a card from the other person’s deck. That would give us two meals each week that we’d be “forced” to try something new.

Cards and Sharpies

Sharpies — of all colors — are a must for this project.

The first week, Mr. B drew my “Gwumpkie” card, and I drew his “goat milk” card. Now, Gwumpkie isn’t exactly a “new” recipe — we used to eat it all the time when I was growing up. But I can’t remember the last time I’ve had it. And Mr. B? Well, he’s never had it. And, goat’s milk? Well, I think we’ve only ever had the “cheesed” variety.

I emailed Mom for her Gwumpkie (casserole) recipe. So that was an easy one. Goat’s milk, though? The options were limitless! I knew I wanted it to be something savory, though — not a dessert. A Google search led me to many, many options. I clicked and scrolled around until I found a recipe that caught my eye: Savory Goat Cheese Soufflé.

I wish I could say I came up with the recipe, but I didn’t. Honestly, I wouldn’t have known where to start. And we didn’t take any liberties with the recipe, either, since neither of us had ever eaten a soufflé before, much less baked one.

Souffle ingredients

Everything’s ready for a soufflé experiment at Casa B!

Cooking with someone else is not always an easy thing to do — tripping over each other in the kitchen, getting in each other’s way, making a mess. But, Mr. B and I do alright. For the most part, we make a pretty good team. (Though, he’s learned not to get in my way when I’m stirring — that creates a … “situation.” Right, Rosebud?)

I’ve always put soufflés up on some sort of foodie pedestal — something I’d never be able to make. I mean, they’re so hard! But, to be honest, this recipe was pretty easy. Steps were easy to follow, with pictures! And we didn’t mess it up in the least! In fact, it came out looking pretty darn good — and smelling even better!

Finished Souffle

The finished product — looked, smelled and tasted delicious!

The recipe suggested serving the soufflé with turkey, fish or chicken. Or, even, by itself with a salad. Mr. B and I opted for shrimp, sautéed with a kale, leek, bell pepper and garlic. I’m really glad we served it with something rather than making it the main feature — it was just too light to be filling. But, it did taste absolutely delicious. And, it was super-duper fancy — especially for a rainy, boring Tuesday night.

Wine and Mr. B

Good food deserves good company and good wine.

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Finding My Running Legs — Again

Since I started running, that has always been a safe place. It was where I went to process what was going on in my life. It was where I went when I needed “me” time. It was where I celebrated victories and mourned losses.

And after Penelope died, I was certain running would help me heal. And, once I got the A-OK from the doctor, I was so excited to get back out on the trail.

But, then something happened. I got back out there. And it was different. It didn’t feel like my safe place anymore; it wasn’t comforting to get back into my old routine. Rather, it was emotionally painful — almost to the point of being physically painful.

I periodically went for walks, and I tentatively returned to the gym. At the gym, the same thing happened. It just wasn’t the same. And no amount of T2.5 “counseling” time could fix it.

So, I turned away from it. I learned long ago that if something wasn’t good for my soul, there was no way I could make it good for my body or my mind. 

So, I took some more time off. Some more frustrated time off. For a while, I couldn’t figure out why I was having such a hard time returning to my routine. But then, in the middle of writing Penelope’s story, it dawned on me. 

Those things? The gym. My favorite running path.  They were exactly as I had left them when the doctor told me I needed to back off the running and weight lifting. But me? I was different. Very, very different. 

And I needed something different — healing in a different way — from the gym and from running. But I wasn’t ready for it yet.

You see, the last time I’d done all of those things? I was carrying Penelope. And the grief was too fresh, too raw to be able to fully put myself back into it.

Then, I started writing a book. A book about Penelope Joy and all of the amazing things she taught me — taught all of us — in her short 38 days. And it was cathartic.

And, slowly, as I wrote the words and re-read them over and over, my healing truly began. Then, I returned to the gym to hit the treadmill for some short run/walks, and I started lifting (lightly) weights again.

And one cold, cold Saturday morning I  bundled up and strapped on my running spikes. And I went for a cold run.

A Saturday run

Scenes from my chilly Saturday morning run.

I had the trail pretty much to myself that day — it was that cold. And step after step, I found my running legs. I wasn’t as fast as I once was. And there were a lot more walking breaks that I’d have liked. But I was out there. And it felt so good.

As the “Polar Vortex” hit, I was sent back indoors for my workouts. I don’t enjoy the treadmill — never have — but it was better than nothing, and the routine was nice.

Then, January Thaw came for a visit. And it got a bit warmer. Which meant I could head back outside. So, yesterday, joined by a friend, I hit the trail again.

I felt every single muscle as they compensated for the uneven, icy trail. But between chatting and enjoying our time outside, we ended up getting in just over 7.5 miles. It was definitely a run/walk — I still have a long way to go — but it was just what my body needed, just what my soul needed.

And, so, I’m starting to feel that old passion return. Even Mr. B sees it — commenting on the dopey grin I had on my face for most of the day after my run yesterday. My excitement was clearly showing.

Running is starting, once again, to feel like a safe place for me. It is not an unchanged place; it’s different now. I am different now. I have different goals as a runner than I used to have — just as I have different goals for myself, my life.

But, for now, I’m just going to enjoy being back out there, taking it step by step.

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A Blogging Hiatus

I’ve not had much to say on the fitness/nutrition/healthy living front lately. Admittedly, my mind’s been elsewhere. With a baby on the way who has some heart issues, that’s where my … well … heart is lately.

I’m still exercising — as much as I can. Doctor said he “prefers light jogging and walking to running.” Though, I don’t know if this ever-growing belly of mine would be very comfortable for a real run anyway. And weight lifting? Limited to 25 pounds or less.

I miss it. I really, really do. And every time I see someone running, I get sad — and jealous. That’s my happy place. And I miss my happy place. And when I’m in the weight room, I feel miserably weak and lazy. Even though I know, on all counts, that I’m doing this for our darling Pickle.

So, I apologize for being “that” blogger who just leaves her page quiet for weeks on end. I think that it’s a sign I need to take a bit of a hiatus from this blog. I may be back this summer — posting periodically through the pregnancy about life and living. Now that Mr. B is on first shift, I may even have a few more recipes to share.

And I can guarantee I’ll be back after our darling Pickle is born in the fall. I’ve got a lot more goals to reach (I’m contemplating another marathon, perhaps, and some heavily increased weight-lifting goals), and I certainly have a lot more living to do. But, right now, I need to focus my energies on Pickle and on our family.

If you miss me and care to follow along on this part of my journey, you can find me at “The Pickle Chronicle,” where I’ll be writing about my pregnancy, Pickle’s heart defect and our family’s story.

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Because Babies Should Have Grandpas

Saturday is the Fifth Third River Bank Run. The 25k is the one local race that still remains on my bucket list. This was going to be my year to cross it off the list. More than the fact that I was ready, one of the charity partners is the Alzheimer’s Association of West Michigan. And, as you know, raising awareness and trying to fight this awful disease is near and dear to my heart. So, this race? This was my chance to tell my our story and do good while doing something that brings me peace and happiness and pride.

But then, something incredible happened. And Mr. B and I are going to be parents. In October. I’m 19, almost 20, weeks pregnant. (Still waiting for that “glow” to appear, though.) And, while I’m incredibly blessed to still be able to run while carrying Pickle, I realized during the half marathon a couple weeks ago that running long distances like that while pregnant is hard on my body.

Finish Line

Exhausted as I come up on the finish line during the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon.

And I just couldn’t see myself happily — healthily — making it through 15.5 miles. So, with a heavy heart, I switched to the 10k.

But I didn’t quit.

I will be there. Shoes will be laced up. Bondi Band will be on. Mr. B will be on the sidelines. Because this run is important. And it’s so much bigger than this one pregnant gal carrying herself over 6.2 miles to cross the finish line.

This run is about babies. And parents. And siblings. It’s about family. And friends. And caregivers. It’s about loved ones. And people we’ve never met.

This run is about every single one of us.

Because Alzheimer’s Disease knows no strangers, and it knows no boundaries. And, not to scare you, but the situation isn’t getting any better as time goes on. That’s why fundraising runs like this one are so important. Because, one day, a woman — not yet 30 years old — will see a short text on her phone from her mom. A text confirming a diagnosis she so feared: “A.”

“A” is for Alzheimer’s.

“A” is for Alzheimer’s.

“A” is for Alzheimer’s.

And she realizes that no matter what she does or how hard she fights, her dad is going to slowly forget who he is, forget who she is. And he’s going to become a shell of the person he once was. And her family will never, ever be the same. And it’s going to break her heart as everything she knew with 100 percent certainty fades into a world of gray. And she’ll have to stop thinking about the “what shoulda beens” and start thinking about the “what’s gonna bes.” Because all she can do is move forward.

To put it simply, Alzheimer’s Disease changes your life. Nothing is ever the same for the person diagnosed with this disease and for the people who love them. And, once you hear those words, “Alzheimer’s Disease,” there’s no going back — and going forward is hard. But all you can do is wake up every morning, smile and thank God for the moments you have together and get on with your day, taking it all one step at a time — together. ~”Running for a Cause

I quickly realized that I needed to talk about it. I needed to tell my story. Because that is how I fight. And unless I fight and raise awareness and raise money, so many other people are going to feel this pain. And sadness. And anger. And fear.

So many people are, like me, going to wonder whether their soon-to-be-born baby will ever get to know his/her grandpa the way he should be known — as the funnest Papa any kid could ever have (just ask all of my nieces and nephews — they’ll tell you). Luckily, and thankfully, Pickle will get to know his/her Papa. It will just be oh-so different than the picture I used to have in my head of my child playing with Papa in the orchard.

So, Saturday, when I head out on that course, I won’t be running for myself. I’ll be running for my dad. And for my mom. But, mostly, I’ll be running for Pickle.

Because babies deserve grandpas.

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A Pre-Race Routine

So, over the past few years of running, I’ve developed a routine in the days leading up to the big race (“big” = half marathon or more). I don’t often detour from this routine, as it’s as important to my “success” on race day as the months of training leading up to it.

My routine:

  • Monday: The day I start obsessively checking the weather for race day
  • Tuesday: The day I start fretting about whether my training has been enough, has been good enough
  • Wednesday: The day I start worrying about fueling my body properly in the days before the race — and on race day
  • Thursday: The day I go back and forth about why I’m doing this — and if I even should
  • Friday: The day all of those worries intensify and become one big ol’ ball of nerves — and excitement — that makes sleeping difficult
  • Saturday: The day I wake up early for oatmeal pancakes and use the bathroom umpteen times before the race begins. And then I “race” — and stop at every bathroom stop. (I can only imagine it’ll be worse with Pickle bopping around down there for 13.1 miles.)
  • Sunday: The day I sleep in and, when I wake up, look back and still can’t believe it was me running that race on Saturday
Basically ...

Basically …

Just a few more days until the half marathon. I’m having very mixed feelings about it. More to come on that later. For now, I must get back to fretting — it is Tuesday, after all.

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Practicing Self Love

As Jan. 1 (FAST!) approaches, talk of New Year’s resolutions are everywhere: news reports, magazine covers, Facebook feeds, blog posts … you name it. But you won’t really see me talk about them here.

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. Haven’t really ever, and I don’t plan on doing any this year. They don’t work for me. I’m of the opinion that every day is the start to a “new year” — every minute, really. FOR ME, goals that are worth setting are worth starting right now.*

That being said, Mr. B and I have set a list of things we want to do in 2013. They range from adventures we want to have to foods we want to taste. (I have a feeling, based on this list, that 2013 is going to be life changing.)

There’s also something I have started to be more cognizant of in the recent past — and something I plan to continue to work on in the coming year.

Confession time:

Sometimes, I’m not kind to myself. I say things that aren’t nice, productive or helpful. And I put A LOT of pressure on myself for perfection — perfection I know doesn’t even exist. (Set yourself up for failure, much, Kimi B?)

So, lately, I’ve been trying to be nicer to myself by:

  • Not saying mean things about myself when I’m alone or when I’m with other people — even if it’s meant completely jokingly (It’s hard some days.)
  • Letting Mr. B touch my bare belly (Admittedly, it’s sweet, and I kinda like it.)
  • Going a little easy on myself and not fretting about an unexpected rest day
  • Actually taking rest days
  • Making “me” time that isn’t filled with “STUFF” or lists — even if it means the dishes sit in the sink for a little longer than I’d like, or the laundry remains unwashed for one more day (Reading for fun, warm bubble baths and giant sweatpants have found their way back into my life.)
  • Accepting compliments (Always a weak spot, I’m working on it.)
  • Recognizing that it’s OK to want to be complimented on things other than my brains or my sense of humor
  • Taking time to appreciate how far I’ve come and the gifts I’ve given myself over the years: education, health, wellness, adventure …

So, while I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, I do recognize that I can resolve to be nicer to myself every day of every year — including on Jan. 1.

“If someone in your life talked to you the way you talk to yourself, you would have left them long ago.” ~Carla Gordon

*Please realize that I know setting New Year’s resolutions does work for some people. And if that’s what gets someone to work toward their goals, I say “bravo!” But, it just doesn’t work for me. I know; I’ve tried.

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A Letter

As we sit down to celebrate Christmas with our family and friends, I’d like to share a quick note to those who are already looking ahead to 2013 with hopes of taking control of their health and fitness — once and for all.

Dear New Year Newbie,

Welcome! I know this was a big, scary step for you to take after all these years of saying “tomorrow’s the day.” I know because I’ve been there. It wasn’t the new year when I took that first step in to the gym. But, for me — like for you, it was a brand-new start.

I’ve walked in your shoes, and I know that it can be hard to take that step, wondering what those other people must think of you when you walk through that door. But, don’t be too scared. Most people in the gym are there for the same reason: To take control of their health and to reap the benefits of exercise.

Now, you may hear people bemoaning the presence of the “Resolutionists.” I won’t lie to you: it’s true that some people will roll their eyes or make snide comments about your presence in the gym, knowing that many who “start fresh” on Jan. 1 don’t last through February.

But, I also promise you: it’s not everyone. Some people will welcome you to the gym and provide encouragement and advice (sometimes unsolicited). A majority, though, will go about their business, lifting weights, running on the treadmill or punching the heavy bag. They probably won’t even know you’re there. Because when they’re in the gym, they are there to do work — and, truthfully, they don’t care what anyone else is doing.

That last type? That’s me.

I go to the gym to get stuff done. Don’t be offended it I don’t make chit chat or approach you and say hello. Granted, if we make eye contact, I’ll absolutely smile and say “hi.” And, if you come up to me with a question, I’ll take out my headphones and answer. (OK, if I see someone looking really lost, I’ll ask them if they need help.)

I do know it’s scary to go to the gym alone because you’re afraid everyone’s looking at you, judging you. Rest assured, they’re not. Most people are like me: They want to get a good workout in, so they’re really not judging (or even noticing) the other people who walk through the door.

But, I do offer a few words of advice to make your first days in the gym a little smoother:

  • Learn the gym’s rules. If there’s a 30-minute limit to the cardio equipment, observe it. If you have to pre-register for a spin bike, do so. If there are certain lockers reserved for specific members, don’t use them.
  • Learn the “culture” of your gym. There’s a certain cycle/personality of every gym at different times of the day. For instance, I’ve learned that I’d rather lift in the morning because that’s when people are less chatty and more business when it comes to the gym. And I seldom have to push through a crowd of gossiping guys (and, yes, at my gym, it’s always the guys) to get to the weight bench. It may take time to really figure out the pulse of your gym, but you’ll be glad you did.
  • Use common courtesy. Don’t stand around blocking equipment while you’re chatting or resting or (for whatever reason) texting/gabbing on the phone. Be aware that there are other people in the gym, too. And be respectful. Oh, yeah, please (dear, God, please) wipe down the equipment after you use it.
  • Take advantage of the gym’s resources. Many gyms offer information, get-to-know-the-gym sessions, classes and nutrition resources that will help you reach your goals. What’s even better? Most of it is free.
  • Learn how to use the machines or weights or whatnot. If you don’t know how, ask. You’ll save yourself a lot of time — and injury. There is gym staff for a reason. And, if they’re not helpful, find another gym (if you can) where they are. Other gym-goers will most usually help when you ask them — as long as you do so courteously and appropriately.
  • Have confidence. Know that you’re there for one reason alone: you. And have faith in your own strengths and abilities. One thing about this new life you’re stepping into: You’ll quickly learn that you’re stronger than you ever imagined.
  • Forget them. Stop worrying about what other people in the gym are thinking about you and do what you know needs to be done. Once you get past that “ohmigoshwhataretheythinkingaboutme” hurdle, you’ll have a much more pleasant gym experience. Trust me. As soon as I realized no one really cared what I was doing in the gym (unless I was in their way), I stopped dreading the trip and started looking forward to it.
  • Don’t quit. You’re not going to be perfect at everything you attempt in the gym. I’ve failed at a lot — T2.5 often has to teach and reteach (and reteach) me how to do a lot of things. As someone who strives (STRIVES!) to be perfect in everything, this is hard for me. But, I grow so very much in the learning that it’s worth every failure when I finally succeed. So, please, please don’t give up. Love yourself to know — truly, deeply — that this is the best gift you could give yourself. And you are worth the work and the time and the money.

So, please, try not to be too nervous about the gym. I know that it can seem to be an intimidating place. But, once you get to know your gym, you’ll grow to love it and the feelings of empowerment and strength it can help you realize. And, if you ever doubt your strength — or your place in the gym — tell yourself, “I am worth this. I deserve this. I belong here.” Because you are, and you do.

I’m not an expert by any means, but I do know about my experiences (and my successes and my failures). And if you’d like to reach out and ask questions at any point along your journey, I’d love to answer them.

Love,

Kimi

P.S. I’m really proud of you for setting these goals and making this commitment to yourself. You deserve only the best, and I’m excited to see how far you can go!

NApolean New YEar

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