Loving. Learning. Engineering. Life.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas In Pictures

T'was a very merry and very white Christmas this year!
{Snowy Reindeer Drink Tray}

{A Family Tradition - Christmas Sugar Cookies}
{A Home-made Stocking for Georgia's 1st Christmas...Thanks Mom!}
{Christmas Day Hike with my Hunnie's Family}

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Challenge {Marathon Update 1}

With a thesis and a graduation done and Christmas around the corner (more on those later), it has been really difficult to focus on my next big challenge: My 1st Full Marathon.  I've got the hotel reservation, now all I need to do is make it through some serious mileage.  While my thesis kept me from sustaining my training, I was still able to get in some good runs and a hike with the family.  So for this week's training I'm skipping over any build-up (assuming I can at this stage still run a half-marathon) and am heading straight into full throttle marathon training.

Some of my personal goals for a successful week of training:
  1. Get at least 7 hours of sleep
  2. Ice any soreness for 10-15 minutes after a run
  3. Drink at least 4 glasses of water before AND after workouts
I'm excited to get 'er done.
Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Total
Hills/6 mi
Bikram Yoga
Tempo 5 mi
15 mi
26 mi
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Sunday, December 9, 2012

T minus 30

I may have missed the fondue party tonight because of a take-home final, and more importantly my thesis, but I found a way to celebrate the 30 hour countdown...ice cream for dinner.  I'm starting to think this gurgley stomach is actually due to sugar overflow and not nerves.  Wish me luck!

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Parallel Universe

Somewhere in a parallel universe, I have already finished my Master's thesis, with a topic of "The Implications of Basket Weaving on Modern Society."  Alas, in this universe I am no where near completion of my thesis.  One thing I am done with...class.  Yes indeedy, today I celebrate my last college class.  Forever?  Who knows what the Universe has in store for me.  While I am still leaps and bounds away from really being done for the semester, I am taking several moments today to celebrate how far I've come.  And even though I'm sleep deprived and have had no time to go running the last few days, I made an effort to commemorate my last day of class by dressing "extra nice"--a.k.a. throwing my hair in a bun and putting on one of my favority Nordy's tops.  It's the final countdown.
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Sunday, November 25, 2012

'Tis the Season

'Tis the season to send Santa your wishlist. Thank you PhD Comics for summing up my one and only Christmas wish. 

14 days until my final defense.  Bear Down!
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mom's Sweet Potatoes

Isn't funny how your favorite family recipes are always the ones with very inexact measurements?  The other night our good friend was hosting her annual pre-Thanksgiving dinner party.  Since I won't be able to spend Thanksgiving with my family, I decided to make one of our family recipes to share with friends.  So, the day of the party, I eagerly opened up an email from my mom with the subject header "sweet potatoes"...and gasp...the recipe was in paragraph format with no measurements.  At first, I wasn't sure what to do with "boil potatoes until they seem like they're getting soft" and "add enough brown sugar to the butter until you have a thick syrup".  But after seeing my mom and dad work together in the kitchen making sweet potatoes all these years, I felt I could conquer this recipe of intuition.  The truth is, sometimes cooking is more about feeling than precision.  The results were very enthusiastically received at the dinner party, and I have to say, they were pretty close (but not as perfect) as my mom's.  The recipe below has rough measurements but it's probably better to trust your gut feeling when making these sweeties.
 Mom's Sweet Potatoes
4 sweet potatoes
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
dash of cinnemon
dash of nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped pecans
Lightly scrub potatoes.  Do not peel potatoes or cut out eyes.  Place in pot of water and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, lower stovetop to more of a simmer and let potatoes cook for 20-30 minutes.  At about 20 minutes, do the poke test.  If the knife goes in, but the potatoes still seem very firm, remove pot from stovetop, drain out the water, and place potatoes in a bowl to cool.  While potatoes are cooling, set oven to 375 degrees and lightly coat the casserole dish with butter.  Once cool enough to touch, remove skins from potatoes and cut out any eyes.  Slice potatoes (about 1/4 inch thick).  In medium size bowl, melt butter in microwave.  Then add approximately 3/4 cup brown sugar and microwave for another 15 seconds.  Stir mixture and add more sugar if needed to make a thick syrup.  You're looking for a texture with the same viscosity (thickness) as honey at room temperature.  Then stir in cinnemon and nutmeg.  In casserole dish, arrange sweet potatoes in single layer.  Continue alternating until last layer of sweet potatoes has been placed in the dish.  Sprinkle pecans over top (Hint: I saved just enough of the brown sugar syrup so that I could mix the pecans into it and then spread them over the top.  Glazed pecans...delish!)  Bake for approximately 50 minutes, taking the lid off for the last 10 minute to brown the top. 
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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Half Marathon {Update 3}

Well, it took me a week, but I've finally recovered from my cold and my arches have finally recovered from running 13.1 miles in minimalist tennys.  You may be wondering, what possessed me to run even though I wasn't feeling so hot...the thought of 1) having wasted all that time I spent training if I ended up not running, and 2) my parents saying "Com'on cupcake, suck it up".  So even though I was sick and it was a cold desert morning (a dry, 38 degrees), I sucked it up and headed out to the east side with my hunnie in tow.  I decided to take the opportunity to just enjoy myself and this beautiful desert town.  It ended up being a great race!  For 2 hours I enjoyed the quiet of the desert and placed all thoughts of my thesis and work on the back burner.  The best part was seeing my hunnie as I neared the finish line.  I finished with a time of 1:51:36...not a personal best...but still a very strong time.  After the race my hunnie treated me to pumpkin waffels and coffee, a true breakfast of champions if I do say so myself. 

So glad that despite my crazy schedule I was able to stick to my training and follow through with my race.  Hopefully that motivation stays with me as I now begin training for my first full marathon. 
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Friday, November 9, 2012

Half Marathon Training {Update 2}

Just a few days until my half marathon, and I realized I have not really posted a running update since my training started.  Oh well...here's the training breakdown:
  • 8 weeks
  • 129 miles
  • 5k mud run
  • Longest distance run: 11 mi
As far as the training itself, I have to admit it lacked variety.  I didn't do much in the way of speed or strength training...just running.  I always tried to incorporate at least a few hills in my distance runs.  Most of my runs took place in the morning, with start times around 6 AM.  Getting my runs done this early had many perks:
  1. Taking in the orange-blue sunrise
  2. Hearing the coyotes howl in the distance (and crossing the path of a few of 'em)
  3. Not having to deal with traffic (and wierdos who honk at you)
  4. Being done with my run before the work day (and having the evenings for hunnie + Georgia time...and homework time)
A few days ago if you'd asked my if I felt ready for my run, I would have said "yes".  Now I find myself somewhat exhausted from an intense week of Master's work.  Not to mention I woke up all achy and throbby-headed at 1 am this morning.  Hopefully the combination of Advil, Airborne, and some spicy, ginger-y Dahl (lentil soup) will do the trick of getting me back on my feet by Sunday.  Even if I haven't overcome this cold by then, I will still have a ton of inspiration/motivation on the day of the race, as I celebrate all the American Veterans that are apart of my life and all those that support and protect my country every day. Pin It

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween in Pictures

October was a great month.  So many things to celebrate.  I'm sad to see October come and go so quickly, but happy that I was able to spend so much of it with all the people (and dogs) I love.

{Enjoying hot cocoa in the Halloween mug at work}

{Going on a roadtrip with my hunnie for pumpkins and produce}

{Running 5.6 miles and hanging with Jack}

{Roasting pumpkin seeds with worcestershire sauce and butter drizzled on top}

{Carving pumpkins with my hunnie while listening to "Monster Mash"}

{Georgia Mae dressed in her "Angsty Teen" costume}

Happy Halloween!
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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Another Tale of Two Trips

Whether you're recovering from Frankenstorm or heading out to see Frankenweenie, it's pretty clear that Halloween is almost here.  It is amazing how quickly October has come and gone.  I rang in the month with a trip out to California to see my sister and then a trip to Boulder for work.  Strangely enough, I found myself closing out October just like I'd started it...only in reverse.  Last Wednesday night I was on a plane heading back to Denver International.  This time around, we arrived to experience the first snowfall of the season.  All I have to say is snow is not fun to drive through...in a Mazda rental car. 

None the less, I was like a little kid Thursday morning when I woke up at the hotel--I hopped out the bed and hurried to the window to oogle at the fresh layer of snow on the ground. 

After getting an "A-" on my presentation (my supervisor likes to tease me and say that my work is worth a grade instead of a paycheck), my co-workers and I were headed back to the airport.  I cozied up to a hot chocolate and some Harvard Business Journal articles, and a few hours later I was off to San Jose for the next leg of my trip.   

I was in Bay Area for a ladies weekend with my sis and gal pals.  There was crafting and mimosas...and mud.  Yes, lots of mud.  While some girls only got their feet wet, my gals and I went head first into the slippery, stinky, and very muddy obstacles at the Dirty Girl Mud Race.  We were Team Swamp Goddesses, and let me just say, we certainly lived up to our name. 
--Not pictured here is our lovely, leggy lady: Catherine, who was taking the picture

We had some great laughs...and a few scares on the vertical obstacles (and in the post-race spray down area...don't ask).  These awesome ladies work so hard every day, it was great that we all came together and gave 110% at the race.  By the end of the week I was so exhausted and relaxed all at once.  There really is nothing like spending time with the ones you love to clear your head and rejuvinate you for whatever's next.  What's next for me?  A half-marathon, hosting Thanksgiving, the final 6 weeks of school, a thesis, a thesis defense, and HOPEFULLY a graduation.  As we say here in Arizona, Bear Down.         

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Halloween Decor & Whiskey Glazed Acorn Squash

Fall is finally here in our little desert town.  I've been daydreaming more about pumpkins, and tall boots, and red and yellow leaves (which are nowhere to be seen here).  Last Friday my class was cancelled, opening up my schedule to check out the local discount fabric store.  My browsing led to purchasing (and boy did I get some bargains), and I found myself rushing home to decorate the house for my 2nd favorite holiday, Halloween.  (Only to be trumped by 4th of July).  As a kid we always decorated the front yard for Halloween, but since I didn't have the time to make a cardboard tombstone or a big scarecrow in red flannel and Nike tennis shoes, I resolved to making some ghosties instead.  Some white lace and fishing line and ta-da...Victorian ghosts now haunt the front porch of our little blue house.  I also bought a handful of discount ribbon and black plastic roses, which I weaved through a wreath from the dollar bin at Target.  All my hunnie and I need now is our pumpkins, which will be picking from the pumpkin patch down the road from his work. 

In addition to putting out my Halloween decor, I've been filling the house with lots of Fall smells lately.  Alongside last Sunday's dinner of lemon roasted chicken, I made Whiskey Glazed Acorn Squash and Sweet Potatoes.  The recipe is an adaptation of Guy Fiere's, only I replaced apples with Acorn Squash and made a half batch since it was just me and my hunnie.  This dish was savoury and sweet, but with a little kick from the whiskey and Cayenne pepper.  It was a spunky take on a classic, and I can't wait to pick up some more squash and potatoes to make it again. 

Whiskey Glazed Acorn Squash and Sweet Potatoes
2 Sweet Potatoes
1 Acorn Squash
1/4 cup Agave Syrup
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon All Spice
Pinch teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 tablespoon Whiskey
3 tablespoon butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

Cut acorn squash in half and remove seeds.  Bake, skin-down, along with the sweet potatoes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35-40 minutes.  After letting cool, peel and slice the squash and potatoes.  In a saute pan melt 2 tablespoons butter, lower the heat to medium, add the agave and spices, and let simmer 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add whiskey and continue to simmer and stir for 5 more minutes.  Lightly butter a casserole dish and arrange the squash and potatoes in layers in the dish.  Drizzle the whiskey sauce over the the squash and potatoes.  Finish by sprinkling brown sugar over top. 
Cover with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Pin It

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Tale of Two Trips

Aaak! So much has been going on lately and between it all it's been hard to find time to blog.  I did a bit of travelling over the past week.  First I was off to California last week for my sis's big day...her 1st Triathlon.  Unlike here in the desert, where the triathlons begin with laps in the pool at the university, my sister and her two gal pals (along with like 350 other women) swam in the ocean.  The PACIFIC OCEAN!  I could call her the crazy one, but who am I to talk, Miss Soon-to-be Running 15+ Miles.  Still, all I can think is you gotta be pretty tough (and crazy) to get in that cold water.  The race started in Capitola, and even at 7 am, skies were clear and the ocean was beautiful!     

So basically, I'm the best sister ever.  I'm her Number One fan AND her water girl.

She did the Mermaid Triathlon, which is an all women's race.  They swam all the way out past the pier in shark infested waters.  JUST KIDDING....but not.  A little ways into her swim, my sister stopped and was feeling a bit unsure.  Luckily, little sis was there to coach her on and remind her how awesome she is and how hard she had worked in her training.  I was so proud to see her throw off that swim cap and power through her swim. 

She ran up a hill barefoot, biked like 12 miles down the California coast, and then jogged up MORE hills.  Did I mention she did this hard core race while wearing her genuine pearl earrings?  She's a classy gal, my sister. 

She was all smiles and happy dances at the finish line with our two girl friends Cat & Rachel.  She had an awesome time, crossing the finish line in 2:23:49.  She may have doubted herself at times, but I knew she could do it!  My proud momma even shed a few happy tears. 

It was so great to go to California for a sister weekend.  After the race was done she and I enjoyed some relaxation time, gossip time at the salon, and a few celebratory glasses of Satori wine. I even squeezed in an early 6.75 mile run last Sunday.  That evening I was back in the desert, only to have to pack my bags for an early morning flight Monday to Denver for a 4-day science team review.  There were reviews of not just a few, but ALL the science teams involved in the OSIRIS-REx project.  Presentations included build updates, analysis of preliminary tests, and comparison of OSIRIS-REx to previous asteroid missions and studies.  The review took place at the University of Colorado, Boulder campus.  The city of Boulder is beautiful at this time of year.  I enjoyed seeing the changing leaves and dribbling creeks and even caught a glimpse of a doe in a meadow. 

I got runs in on 3 out of 4 days that I was in Boulder.  It is a very pedestrian friendly town, with bike paths traversing in all directions...even up into the Rocky Mountains.  It was pretty cold on my morning treks.  Next time I'm in Denver (which is in only about 2 weeks) I will probably need my cold-weather running gear.

Boulder is also known for its craft breweries.  I think my hunnie, who was enjoying "man time" back in Arizona, got a chuckle every time I texted him about one of the beers I was trying.  This brew is the Ciel Lumineux, which is apparently French for "Bright Sky".  I thought this was a fitting selection to help celebrate the success of my 4-day OSIRIS-REx review. 

Luck was on my side Thursday, because for the first time in forever my flight left on time! I was so happy to be reunited with my hunnie and Georgia after being gone almost a week. Dorothy had it right when she said "There's no place like home". Pin It

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Half Marathon Training {Update 1}

It's Saturday morning, and I've just finished a bowl of steelcut oats with honey, berries, and some granola on top.  More importantly, I just finished my distance run.  My half marathon training is going great.  It turns out that when I started my training plan two weeks ago, I didn't realize how good of shape I was actually in.  I set out on the first of my long distance training runs last Saturday with the intention of running 7 miles.  I ended up getting past my "wall" around 5 miles and was able to run my way through to 8.5 miles instead.  That 1.5 mile microburst ended up giving me a milage surplus (a.k.a. pushed me one week ahead on my training)!  Today's run was slated to be 9 miles, but I pushed through to 9.3.  This felt substantially more challenging than last Saturday's run, probably because I'm suffering a little bit of the gurgleys this morning after drinking an entire bottle of wine with my hunnie last night.  Next week will be a bit of a challenge because its the start of a month of travelling.  My plan is to do my 10 mile run on either Thursday or Friday before I fly out for my weekend in California.  One thing's for sure...there will be no wine drinking the night before my distance run, because a gurgley stomach on an airplane just sounds like a bad time.  My goal for next week is 24 miles

Just go ahead and pretend that my legs are not kinda hairy in this picture...real runners don't worry about that kind of stuff. Pin It

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sun Dried Tomato French Bread

It's Friday.  After narrowly escaping losing his ring finger last week in a training exercise, my hunnie's healing and back at work doing 12 hour shifts.  I'm insanely bogged down between work, research, and my latest half marathon training.  Despite this, I continue to be an advocate for eating at home as much as possible...it's inexpensive and you get to make/eat what you like.  Even after a long day, I enjoy coming home and taking a look in the fridge and pantry to get dinner inspiration.  Well, let me rephrase that: even after a long day, I enjoy coming home and getting to my cooking (as I've usually already planned out the meal in my head by lunchtime).  One downfall of cooking at home is that sometimes you have to eat leftovers.  Even if the food is good, I am just not crazy about leftovers.  Earlier this week my hunnie and I cooked up a delicious southwestern style venison soup in the crock pot.  It was good...so good that I willingly took some leftovers for lunch the next day.  I came home that night desperately wanting to cook but knowing that inside my fridge was a big Tupperware bowl full of more venison soup.  When life gives you soup leftovers what do you do?  Well you could make Parmesan biscuits, or you could try this easy semi-homemade sun dried tomato french bread.  Happily, my hunnie swallowed down the remainder of the soup over the next few days while I filled up on salad and this savoury bread.

Sun dried Tomato French Bread
1 refrigerated Pillsbury Crusty French Loaf
6-8 sun dried tomatoes
8-9 basil leaves
2 sage leaves
4-5 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoon olive oil (or oil from the sun dried tomatoes)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella

In food processor, combine sun dried tomatoes, basil,, sage, garlic and olive oil.  Add in Parmesan and blend until its the consistency of pesto.  On a clean countertop, sprinkle some flour and roll out the french loaf until it's roughly the shape of a rectangle.  Spread tomato pesto over the dough (as if you were spreading sauce on a pizza).  Evenly sprinkle the mozzarella over the tomato pesto.  Roll up the dough so that it looks like an extra long cinnamon roll.  Then slice the loaf lengthwise down the middle and braid the two strands (see example here).  If the dough isn't quite long enough to make a full twisted round, you can do like I did and shape it into a crescent moon shape.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

As an aside, I think I will try this bread braiding method again with cinnamon and sugar for the holidays.       Pin It

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pre Season's Over

I have spent much of the summer running casually (rather than competitively).  Well, except for the days when little Georgia wants to run at a 6:30/mi pace.  Wednesday, in the midst of a 2-day review at work, I realized that the half marathon I signed up for 2 weeks ago at the university's Running Club meeting is taking place on November 11th.  With some basic calculations I was able to determine, to my surprise, that this left me 60 days to train.  Yup, I need to be in half marathon shape in 8 weeks!  Oh, and did I mention I also signed up for a Full Marathon, to take place 21 weeks from now (on Groundhog's Day).  In typical Project Management fashion, I've developed an accelerated half marathon training plan (which then leads into my marathon training plan) in Excel.  Unlike my previous training plans, the half marathon regiment will be more fluid, as I will be doing quite a bit of travelling in October and trying to keep up with my Master's workload.  My goal for the half marathon training will be to meet my weekly numbers, but allow for day-to-day flexibility.  I'm off to a sudden, but successful start, having completed 15.5 miles in the first week of training.  This week my goal is to complete 18 miles. 
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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Soupy Days & Parmesan Biscuits

Lately the weather here has been described by forecasters as being "soupy".  If you're from somewhere like the sunny valley of Northern California, than you (like me) probably have no idea what that means.  Having no clue why our weather lady was talking about food, I ended up perhaps taking the forecast too literally, as I decided recently that I wanted to make a summer soup for dinner.  Full of squash, tomato, hatch green chili and shredded salsa chicken, I think this soup was exactly what forecasters meant when they said "Bear down for a soupy week".  Or perhaps they meant the 70% humidity?

To go along with my summer soup (recipe not included, as it's just throwing essentially whatever veggies you have in a crock pot with some broth and chicken and simmering on high for 3 hours and low for 1-2 more hours) I made some parmesan biscuits.  With my hunnie assisting me, these biscuits were prepped and cooked in under 30 minutes.  They were great with our summer soup, and I think they'll be great with some fried chicken and gravy tonight.

Parmesan Biscuits
2 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon butter, softened
2 tablespoon shortening, softened
1/2 cup shredded parmesan + 2 tablespoon
3/4 cup whole milk
1-2 tablespoon water

Sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Stir in salt.  Using a fork, cut in butter and shortening and dry mixture is crumbly.  Then cut in 1/2 cup parmesan.  Create a well in the center of the mixture and pour in 1/4 cup of milk.  Use your hands (or the fork) to mix in milk, just until combined.  Add another 1/4 cup of milk and repeat.  Again, repeat for last 1/4 cup of milk.  You want the texture of your dough to be sticky, so if necessary, add water until stickiness is achieved.  Drop biscuits onto cookie sheet or spread in a cast iron biscuit pan.  Sprinkle remaining parmesan on top and bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes. Pin It

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Colorado Morning

I woke up feeling chilly this morning.  I know this must sound strange, and rest assured it's not Fall yet in the desert.  Actually, the reason I awoke wishing I was wearing socks and drinking a hot coffee is because I'm in the Mile-High City for my first business trip.  I was feeling a little nervous, but after days of reading and prepping, and a morning run through the Colorado foothills, I feel ready for my all-day meeting at Lockheed Martin.  As I've mentioned before, I'm a planner (recall the plan for our move).  So it should be no surprise that I put together a list of tips and tricks that I followed to make this first business trip a success.
  1.  To get through the airport as quickly and efficiently as possible:
    • Do carry-on only.  It saves time, there is no worry of "what if they lost my bag", and you wont have to pay extra fees.
    • Embrace the hotel samples (I'm a bit of a toothpaste snob and hotels sometimes don't provide it, so I brought my own, IN A QUART-SIZE BAG, OF COURSE).
    • Print out your boarding passes and do online check-in when available.
  2. To look your best at the jobsite:
    • Bring a business outfit that won't tend to wrinkle.   
    • Make sure your outfit meets the occassion of the business trip, but also pick something you are comfortable in.  (As an engineer in a male industry, I try to put a feminine flair on mensware--nice fitting slacks and a shirt that lets me roll up my sleeves and get down to business)
    • Bring comfortable shoes (My slacks required some height so I wore a pair of 1 1/2 inch heels)
  3. To impress your hosts at the jobsite:
    • Come prepared.  Read up on the topics of the meeting (take notes and write down questions ahead of time).
    • Smile and shake hands when you introduce yourself to everyone, no matter if its the big boss or the intern.  (This is my dad's #1 tip, and I bet it'd be your dad's #1 tip too)
    • Have an interesting, unrelated topic "on file" for lunch discussion.  (I read The Ten Faces of Innovation during the flight--it's one of my homework reads.  I figure that'll be a good conversation starter.) 
  4. If you plan to exercise on the trip:
    • Wear one or more of your workout items (clean, of course) on the plane to your business destination.  This will lighten your load.  (I wore my running tennys on the flight to Colorado)
    • Plot out your running destination ahead of time and make sure you give yourself ample time for exercise, shower, and breakfast if you plan to do your workout the morning of the meeting
  5. Don't forget essentials like your ID, cash, phone/computer charger, AND the contact information for someone at the business you are visiting (in case you get sick or lost).
Sounds like I haven't escaped the heat for too long...it's going to be in the 90's in the Mile-High City today.  Then it's back to the desert tonight. 

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Zucchini Bars

Did you know that the speed of light is 2.99x10^8 meters per second?  Okay, now pretend like you still don't know what the speed of light is, so that I can make the following statement: this last week has gone faster than the speed of light.  I realize that isn't actually feasible, but for the sake of exaggeration, let's just go with it.  Within the last week I: started school, began the transition to a new position on the OSIRIS-REx, successfully completed a major team review at work, and joined my university's running club.       

In the midst of this faster-than-the-speed-of-light week, I found myself wondering how I could cook up the remaining loot from my hunnie's dad's garden.  Even after a wok of squash stir fry and a loaf of Better Homes and Gardens' zucchini bread, I still had 3 zucchini squash in the crisper.  After a quick brainstorming session with Georgia Mae lying at my feet, I decided to make an energy-packed zucchini treat to help get me through these busy days.  Roughly adapted from KentuckyLiving.com, these zucchini bars are a great snack for any time of day, including as a pre-run treat.  Their packed with oats, pecans, and lots of dried cranberries and raisins.  After one of these you'll feel satisfied and ready to take on life at any speed. 

Zucchini Bars 
1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded, drained zucchini
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries (or mix of any dried fruit)

Grease an 8x8 baking pan.  Cream together butter and brown sugar.  Add egg until just combined.  Then add zucchini and vanilla to wet mixture.  Add in dry ingredients and mix until well combined.  Then fold in pecans and dried fruit.  Pour mixture into baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes, until edges begin to brown.  Yields about 16-20 bars. Pin It

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dog Days of Summer

These last few weeks have been going by so fast, and with classes starting next week, I don't see any sign of it slowing down.  I'm starting to realize how much time a dog requires, but it is all time well spent.  After a long and sometimes stressful day of work, I look forward to coming home for little Georgia Mae's "pet session": 10 minutes of belly, leg, and behind-the-ear rubs and verbal praise.  Despite the desert heat (and monsoon humidity) we've enjoyed many long evening walks and runs together.  A couple weeks ago I took her on her first real hike, and although she handled the terrain really well, I think the elevation gain was a challenge, as she tired after 2 miles (compared to our 3 to 4 mile evening run/walks).  With my hunnie working crazy hours, I'm so glad I have my little gal to motivate me to enjoy the outdoors every evening.  When my mom and sis made their trip out to the desert, the weekend was full of oogling over how sweet and adorable little Georgia was...well that was until she let out her wild side and tore apart her new tennis ball toy.  While they were here, my hunnie's family joined us for a BBQ, and lucky little Georgia got spoiled with a piece of corn on the cob, elk meat, and ice cold cantaloupe.  Today I started working with her on the "Stay" command.  I'm not sure if she's getting it yet, but maybe a weekend of reinforcing it with praise and treats will do the trick.  If Georgia could talk, I'm pretty sure she'd say "It's a good day to be a dog."     

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Monday, August 6, 2012

MSL Monday

Okay folks, time to take a break from those Olympics (as exciting as they are) to learn about the OTHER gold medal winner of the day.  Warning--If you aren't ready to completely geek-out right now, it's probably a good time for you to click back to the Track & Field events.

You may know it as Curiosity, but here in the industry it's known as the Mars Science Laboratory, or simply MSL.  MSL landed in the Gale Crater on Mars last night after what has become known as one of the most complicated space vehicle maneuvers EVER.  At a net weight of 1 ton (just a couple hundred pounds less than the weight of my hunnie's Toyota Corolla), travelling through the Martian atmosphere (which is less than 1% the density of Earth), MSL needed a variety of mechanisms to complete a safe landing Sunday night.  After passing through the thin atmosphere, MSL deployed its supersonic parachute (just like its rover predecessors).  As it descended, MSL separated from its heat shield.  The separation of the heat shield allowed the MSL instruments to begin taking readings (tracking speed, altitude...etc) which is imperative to the vehicle knowing when to start the next phase of the landing maneuver.  Remember what I said...the chute alone is not enough to slow down MSL in the Martian atmosphere.  So when the instruments detect MSL at an altitude of 1.1 miles, it ignites 8 thruster engines (imagine 8 high powered jet packs).  These thruster do just what they sound like they do--thrust the vehicle upwards (as well as left and right) to assist is slowing the vehicle further as it descends.  After the thrusters ignite, the parachute separates from MSL (because at this point it is just 100 pounds of dead weight).  Don't get too eager though, because MSL can't land yet.  The thrusters kick up so much dust as MSL descends that if it rode them all the way to the ground none of MSL's instruments would be able to function properly, as they could be fatally damaged by dust particles.  Que in the Sky Crane (I get chills just saying that out loud).  Doesn't that sound cool?  At approximately 65 feet above the ground, MSL ejected from the thruster deck and dropped towards the ground (still attached to the thruster deck by cables).  Its like the time in that one movie where that one guy hangs from they crane over the sky scraper with a conveniently located cable, waiting for the helicopter to fly by and pick him up.  Curiosity the new Tom Cruise...I think so!  As the MSL dropped down on the Sky Crane, its wheels were deployed, and after this series of maneuvers it slowed to a speed near zero and gently landed on its wheels on the surface of the Martian crater.  Pretty amazing, right?!  Engineers, scientists, astronomers, and plenty of other geeks spent the last 8 years planning this event (and thinking up preventative measures for every possible thing that could go wrong).  Please take a moment to process that you are looking at the result of all their hard work, knowledge and technological innovation...this is no movie set, it's Mars Baby! 
 I applaud you for making it through this super long post.  If your hip (hipper than me), log into that Tweeter account and look for #MSL.  So glad to be a part of this industry and that I was able to celebrate the real gold medal winner with my hunnie and co-workers at a NASA landing party last night.  It was a shining moment for America and the World. 

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Monday, July 30, 2012

A Toast to Friends & Finger Foods

With Summer being so busy, my hunnie and I haven't had the opportunity to host a housewarming party yet.  This past week was no different.  With it being the final opportunity for my hunnie and me to visit with two close friends that are moving cross country to Jersey, we decided to take this opportunity to host a "Non-housewarming, Goodbye V&I Get Together" at our new place.  After less than a week of planning, I ended up putting together quite a spread of party snacks (recipes for a few of them are below).  We were so happy to have all our friends over to toast (and roast) V and I, and V and I were happy to be able to see our place (and enjoy food and drinks with friends) before they moved. 

 Peanut Butter Fudge
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter

Cover a 9x13x1 pan with foil and lightly grease foil with butter.  In a saucepan bring sugar, brown sugar butter and milk to a boil.  Let boil for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove mixture from heat and add marshmallows, one cup at a time.  Stir until marshmallows melt and combine.  Add peanut butter and continue to stir until peanut butter melts and fully combines to mixture.  As mixture cools it will begin to harden, so as soon as all ingredients are combined, spread mixture into greased pan.  Gently use hands to level fudge in pan.  Let cool on counter for a minimum of 6 hours before serving.  Yields about 40 pieces.

 Egg-less Chocolate Cake Bites {recipe to come soon}

Summer Squash & Tomato Tart
1 Puff Pastry sheet
1 Zucchini
1 Yellow Squash
3 Tomatoes
4-5 Sage Leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Fresh cracked black pepper, dash

Set stove to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove pastry sheet from freezer and let defrost 5-10 minutes.  Thinly slice squash and tomatoes and marinate in bowl with olive oil and sage.  Sprinkle some flour on a rolling board and roll out puff pastry sheet until it is the thickness of a saltine cracker.  Lay pastry on large cookie sheet.  Use hand or butter knife to spread goat cheese over pastry.  Then arrange vegetables on pastry.  Top with feta crumbles and pepper.  Bake 20-25 minutes.  Let cool and cut into 2x2 size pieces.

Triple Berry Slab Pie {recipe to come soon}

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cornbread Muffins

Busy days don't leave me much time to cook dinner.  Although generally less exciting than a freshly prepared meal, it's always great to pull something home-cooked out of the freezer and know that when work/exercise/errands end all I have to do is reheat on the stove top (or microwave).  We had some leftover turkey chili in the freezer this week, and after a full days work, spin class, and walking/jogging with little Georgia, these leftovers made for a quick and easy dinner.  To make things more exciting, and in an attempt to bulk up the meal for my hunnie, I decided to make cornbread muffins.  Unlike my buttermilk cornbread, this recipe is on the lighter side (no buttermilk needed).  Not to mention, I was able to throw these together in under an hour as I got ready for work yesterday morning.  These cornbread muffins have the potential to rejuvenate just about any plate of leftovers without spending hours in the kitchen.

Cornbread Muffins
1 egg
1 cup 2% milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly grease muffin tin with shortening.  In mixing bowl, beat together egg and milk with a fork or whisk.  Then whisk in honey.  Pour all dry ingredients into bowl with wet ingredients and mix until well combined.  Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full with batter.  Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of muffin comes out clean.  Let muffins cool; then use knife to loosen muffins from tin.  Yields 6-8 muffins.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Pup at the Lake & Perfect Brown Rice

After 11 straight days of work, my hunnie finally had the day off on Sunday, so we headed up to the lake to visit his folks and introduce them to their first grand-pup.  We're finding out she loves being in vehicles...a true engineering pup if ya' ask me.  She loved being in the boat and watching me stand up (and fall) on my first attempts at water skiing.  I'm finding out that with rescue dogs, the key is exposing them to as much as possible, but doing it at their pace.  We're pretty certain Georgia had never been in water before, seeing as how she's a desert pup.  It took more coaxing to get her to step in the water along the shore than it did to get her in the boat.  I got her through it in puppy steps...I'd take two steps into the water, wait a bit, talking to her the whole time...and then eventually she'd take two steps into the water.  With the water halfway up her legs, I took off her leash, and within 30 seconds she dove towards the deep end of the lake and started doggie paddling.  I felt like a proud mama watching little Georgia swim.

We're back in the desert and I have to admit, I'm a bit sore from our water skiing adventure.  The thought of making a complicated dinner made my muscles ache even more, so instead I went for something easy after work today.  Brown rice can be a challenge to get right, especially if you attempt to cook it the same way you cook white rice.  I've come up with the perfect brown rice recipe, which by the way does NOT require you to hover over the stove top, stirring for an hour.  Meaning you can turn on the heat, sit down and rest those achy muscles (or be productive if you so choose) for near an hour. 

Perfect Brown Rice
1 cup brown rice
2 1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon butter

In a saucepan, pour 1 cup of rice.  Pour about 1/2 cup of water into pot and use fingers to move rice around.  Then use your hand (or a strainer) to drain out all the water and any gritty stuff from the rice.  Add 2 1/2 cups of water and the butter to the rice in the saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until water begins to boil.  Stir rice with spoon; then reduce heat to low, place lid on saucepan, and let rice simmer (undisturbed by fork or spoon) for 45-50 minutes.  Serve with sauteed veggies and/or meat. Pin It

Monday, July 16, 2012

50-day Fitness Challenge {Week 7}

The 50-day fitness challenge is officially over tomorrow.  Week 7 was a change of pace to say the least, but no less successful.  Here's the overview of Week 7:
  • Ran 9 miles
  • Walked 12 miles
  • Outdoor workouts 6 of 7 days
You may be wondering why all of a sudden my workouts are taking place outdoors.  Well, there's a new someone in my life (and my hunnie's) and she's got quite the energy.  Please meet our Queensland Heeler rescue pup, Georgia Mae. 

She's a bit of a scaredy dog (especially with the thunder that rolls in during the monsoons), but a true athlete.  My hunnie and I take her out twice a day, and she can keep a jogging pace for a good 20 minutes or so.  I honestly have a little trouble keeping up with her sometimes...especially when she's chasing lizards down the desert paths.  Did I mention she's pretty?  She gets compliments from people at the park all the time (and lots of barks from the boy dogs).  As with any rescue dog, she's going to need some extra time and attention, but as with most dogs, time and attention is exactly what she wants.  With the 50-day Fitness Challenge near its end, I'm ready for the new challenges that Georgia will bring.  It'll be a learning experience for us both.   

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