Peanut Butter Brownie Bites

Still don’t know what you’re going to bring to that holiday party this weekend?  Try these super simple and delicious bite-sized peanut butter brownie bites!  They’re made using a regular boxed brownie mix (because being homemade doesn’t mean that it has to be labor intensive) and then topped with melted peanut butter and chocolate chips.  Yum!!

Peanut Butter Brownie Bites r

Matt and I made these for a party last weekend and they were a hit.  We actually overheard someone exclaim “Ooh! These brownie things are REALLY good!” and, since no one really knew who brought what to the potluck Matt and I just exchanged a happy glance from across the room, acknowledging our boxed brownie mix success.  We will definitely make these again!

Overhead Peanut Butter Brownie Bites

Peanut Butter Brownie Bites
(makes 30 bites; recipe adapted slightly from Family Friendly Frugality)

You will need…
1 boxed Brownie Mix (we used Betty Crocker Supreme Triple Chunk!)
Brownie Mix Ingredients (in our case, 1/4 c Water, 1/3 c Vegetable Oil, & 1 Egg)
3/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
Mini Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325°F and lightly grease a 24-ct mini-muffin pan.  Mix up the brownie batter according to the mix’s instructions, then spoon batter into the muffin pan until each cup is about 3/4 full.  Bake for approximately 14 minutes, just until the centers of the brownie bites have set.  A toothpick inserted into the center of a bite should come out slightly coated in batter.  Remove from the oven and allow the bites to cool for 15 minutes.  Carefully extract the brownie bites from the muffin pan and repeat the above process to finish baking the rest of your batter.

Line up your cooled brownie bites on a large tray or cutting board and gently press the center of each bite down to create a well.  Microwave the peanut butter for 30-60 seconds until melted, then spoon a small amount in the center of each bite.  Top with chocolate and peanut butter chips and, if desired, an extra drizzle of peanut butter.  Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Brownie Bites l

Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K

Yesterday morning I ran the Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K, the first of four races in the Athlete’s Closet Winter Series in West Chester, PA.  I ran this series last winter and had fun (despite the 10° temperature for January’s race!) so I signed up again for the whole series this year.

Annie and Piper after AC#1--

As usual, Matt and Piper came along to watch — race-spectating is a great way to socialize and tire out a puppy!  Matt and Piper went for a walk during the race and, much to Matt’s surprise, they discovered a paddock full of llamas right in the middle of an otherwise normal suburban neighborhood street!!  Piper and the llamas seemed equally fascinated by one another… the llamas trotted right over to the fence to check her out and Piper watched cautiously from the other side of the street, blurting out a few tentative “woofs” to see what they’d do (the llamas didn’t care).  Matt brought me over to the llamas to show me Piper’s reaction after the race was over.  Very funny!

Piper sees the llamas-

But back to the race… I remembered from last year’s races that this 5K course isn’t particularly exciting or easy.  It zig-zags out through hilly neighborhoods, loops around a bit and then zig-zags back to the finish.  I find the constant turns to be disorienting (I never know which direction I’m pointing until I get back to the road where the finish line is) but after running this course three times last winter I at least have a better idea of when to expect the next hill.

Athlete's Closet #1 Stats-

The first mile of the race flew by in a quick 7:29.  The second mile suddenly felt a lot harder and crept by in a sluggish-feeling 8:11.  But then my legs redeemed themselves during mile 3 when I was able to pick up my pace up a long hill (passing 2 people!) and then finish strong with a final split of 7:57.  After running two races last weekend I went into this race just wanting to have fun and stay relaxed and with a finish time of 23:55 I think I certainly accomplished that goal!

I’ll be capping off 2014 with two final events: a fun, 3 mile prediction run at The Running Place next weekend and then the New Year’s Eve 5K at the Upper Main Line YMCA.  Last year I ran a PR at the New Year’s Eve race and I’ve already set my sights on a new PR there this year!

Miles since last post: 21.4
Days since last post:  5
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.87
2014 TOTAL MILES: 1693.8

Related Posts:
•  Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7/14)
•  Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5/14)
•  Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27/14)
•  Metal Run 5K (11/8/14)
•  Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1/14)  [New PR!]
•  Bark in the Park 5K (10/25/14)
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18/14)
•  Martin’s Run 5K (10/5/14)
•  Haverford Township Day 5K (9/27/14)
•  Run A Muck 5K-ish Trail Race (9/20/14)
•  Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13/14)
•  Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28/14) [PR]
•  Radnor Red Steeplechase 5K (8/17/14)
•  Riddlewood Swim Club 5K (8/3/14)
•  Swarthmore Lions Independence Eve 8K (7/18/14)
•  Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10/14)
•  Media 5 Miler (6/20/14)
•  Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1/14)
•  Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30/14)
•  Run for Victory 5K (5/18/14) [PR]
•  Elwyn 5K (5/3/14)
•  St. Tim’s 5K (4/26/14)
•  Rick’s Run 5K (4/19/14)
•  Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/14)
•  Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4/14)
•  New Year’s Eve 5K at the YMCA (12/31/13) [PR]
•  Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14/13)
•  Turkey Trot 5K (11/28/13)
•  Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2/13)
•  Oy Vey 5K (10/27/13) [PR]
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19/13)
•  Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21/13)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Rainy Day Piper

For the past few days a cloudy, gloomy weather system has been stalled over the east coast.  It rained all day yesterday which meant that we had to tire Piper out indoors rather than in our soggy, muddy back yard.  I took the opportunity to take a few indoor shots of Piper with my 50mm lens.

Rainy Day Piper

As part of Operation Exhaust the Puppy Matt and I introduced Piper to our second floor great room which has a big area rug and lots of natural light.  Pipe typically slips and slides all over the tile floors downstairs so I think she really enjoyed the traction she was able to get on the upstairs rug.  She transformed into a wild little maniac, diving into Bailey’s old toy bin to rummage around for the absolute noisiest, most annoying squeaky toy, then zooming back and forth across the room with it at breakneck speed.  She’d then grow bored of that particular toy and go back to the bottomless bin for another squeaker and repeat the whole process over again.  (Luckily Bailey had a ridiculous number of toys so Piper will be able to keep unearthing new toys for the foreseeable future!)

Here are a few of my favorite pics from yesterday.  Keep in mind that Piper was only stopping for 2-3 second increments before zooming off to the other end of the room… that’s why she looks so devilish in a few of these!  :-)

Piper with the green squeaker

Piper whiskers

The Piper and the hedgehog

Piper

Who, me??

Keeping an eye on me
As is becoming her nighttime routine, Piper is now stretched across my lap, making sure even while sleeping to keep one paw close enough to my keyboard to hit a stray button every now and then.  I love this little pup!  :-)

Piper helping me post

Brian’s Run Race Recap

On Sunday I ran the 37th Annual Brian’s Run, a well-attended, well-organized local race in West Chester, PA.  The race went really, really well.  The sun was shining, the crowd support was fantastic, and oh yeah… I ran a HUGE PR!!  I finished the 5 mile course in 39:11, nearly a minute and 20 seconds faster than my previous best time from the Swarthmore 8K in July.  Woohoo!!

Billy, Piper and Annie after Brian's Run-

There were so many good things about Sunday’s race.  My brother Billy ran with me (well, not WITH me because he took off at the start and beat me by 20 seconds, but still, he was there!) and Matt and Piper formed our personal cheering section.  I passed them about a mile and a quarter into the race and smiled for the camera… I think my expression pretty much sums up how I was feeling!

Racing Happy!

Control was my keyword for the 5 mile course.  I have often struggled with going out too fast in a 5K and then feeling really terrible with a mile to go.  I did not want to make that mistake in a 5 mile race so I really focused on making sure that my first mile was comfortable, relaxed and under control.  I checked my Garmin throughout the first mile and knew that I was going fast (it ended up being a 7:33 split), but I felt really good so I just rolled with it.

Much to my surprise, I maintained that first mile high straight through the second mile, completing that in a time of 7:42.  Then the course plunged down a big hill and the fun began… hill after hill after hill!  (Or at least it felt that way.)  I definitely slowed down for miles 3 and 4, but I still felt strong and in control.  I’ve been doing a lot of hill work in my neighborhood so hills are no longer as intimidating as they used to be.  :-)

Because I had banked some time during the first two miles I wasn’t too worried when my Garmin beeped an 8:09 and 8:16 for my middle miles.  Ok, maybe I was a little worried by that 8:16, but by then I had just a mile to go!  After a final hill climb I returned to flatter ground and completed the race with a lap around the big red Henderson High School track.  It was a fun way to end a race!  Shockingly, I somehow picked up my pace enough during the last mile to put down my fastest split of the day.  I didn’t see that coming!

Brian's Run Stats-

I finished with an official time of 39:11, good enough for 133rd overall out of 582 runners, 31st female and 15th in my age group.  The full results are here… check out that first place finish time of 24:35, whoa!

All in all Brian’s Run was a great experience and I definitely hope to run this race again next year.  After a fall full of 5Ks it was exciting to compete at a different distance and very gratifying when I ran such a big PR.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that I totally wiped out on a sidewalk grate in Philly after a party on Saturday night, falling on my butt and side so hard that I cut my elbow through a winter jacket and sweater, so I guess I’m also thankful that I was even ABLE to run on Sunday!  (City dwellers know, I’m sure, that metal grates get very slippery when it’s raining… I learned my lesson Saturday night!)

My next race will be the first of the Athlete’s Closet Winter Series 5Ks next Saturday morning.  After last weekend’s double races I’m just planning on going out and having fun!

Miles since last post: 16.1
Days since last post:  3
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.87
2014 TOTAL MILES: 1672.4

Related Posts:
•  Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5/14)
•  Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27/14)
•  Metal Run 5K (11/8/14)
•  Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1/14)  [New PR!]
•  Bark in the Park 5K (10/25/14)
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18/14)
•  Martin’s Run 5K (10/5/14)
•  Haverford Township Day 5K (9/27/14)
•  Run A Muck 5K-ish Trail Race (9/20/14)
•  Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13/14)
•  Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28/14) [PR]
•  Radnor Red Steeplechase 5K (8/17/14)
•  Riddlewood Swim Club 5K (8/3/14)
•  Swarthmore Lions Independence Eve 8K (7/18/14)
•  Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10/14)
•  Media 5 Miler (6/20/14)
•  Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1/14)
•  Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30/14)
•  Run for Victory 5K (5/18/14) [PR]
•  Elwyn 5K (5/3/14)
•  St. Tim’s 5K (4/26/14)
•  Rick’s Run 5K (4/19/14)
•  Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/14)
•  Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4/14)
•  New Year’s Eve 5K at the YMCA (12/31/13) [PR]
•  Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14/13)
•  Turkey Trot 5K (11/28/13)
•  Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2/13)
•  Oy Vey 5K (10/27/13) [PR]
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19/13)
•  Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21/13)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Jingle Elf Run (Automatic 2 Mile PR!)

On Friday night I ran the Jingle Elf Run in West Chester, PA.  The 2 mile race circled through downtown West Chester and kicked off the borough’s GIGANTIC Christmas parade.  I had no idea how big the parade and surrounding festivities were going to be beforehand but let me tell you, West Chester takes the holidays seriously!

After driving around for 25 minutes trying to find parking (and finally ending up on the 6th floor of a parking garage because the first 5 were completely full already!) Matt, Piper and I finally arrived at Chester County Running Store to pick up my bib.  Despite a steady drizzle West Chester’s Market Street was already packed with spectators at 6:15 (the parade didn’t start until 7:30!) and there were TV lights and stages and barricades everywhere.  It was a very exciting atmosphere for a race!

Piper and Annie after Jingle Elf

Promptly at 6:30 the race began and 181 runners (many dressed as elves) surged up Market Street towards the TV lights.  The race course was 2 laps around a nice, easy-to-remember rectangular route that was relatively flat and wide with nice turns and fantastic crowd support.  We ran west on Market, turned north on New for a block, then came east on Gay Street, West Chester’s main restaurant and shopping area, before a quick turn south on Matlack which brought us back to the bright lights of Market.

I had never run a 2 mile race before Friday so I knew that whatever I ran was going to be an automatic personal best.  My goal was to beat my 5K PR pace of 7:36 but I also really wanted to break 15 minutes.  I went out FAST, knowing that I only had to maintain my speed for 2 miles instead of the usual 3.1.  I was wrapped up in the crowd and festivities during the first mile and didn’t notice how fast I was going until my Garmin beeped my first mile split… 6:51.8 !!!!!  Yep, pretty darn fast.  I was going through the TV lights when I saw that so if anyone took a picture of me I’m sure they couldn’t miss the big grin on my face when I saw that split.  :-D

Of course after my blazing fast first mile I still had another to go.  I really tried to stay strong for that final mile but let me tell you… Gay Street seemed much longer the second time around!!  With about 1/4 mile to go I saw Matt and Piper cheering me on from the sidewalk and I picked up my pace to the finish (I tried, at least).  My garmin chirped a 2nd mile split of 7:24 shortly before I crossed the finish line with an official time of 14:33.  Yes!!!

Jingle Elf Stats

If someone had told me that I needed to run 2 miles with a 7:08 average pace I probably would have been a nervous wreck before the race.  But just going out there and doing it felt great!!!  I ended up 34th overall, 11th woman and 3rd in my age group.  Also I got to hold a snuggly, sleepy Piper on my lap on the drive home so I definitely went home a winner.  :-)

My next race starts in 2 hours… it’s the 5 mile Brian’s Run, also in West Chester.  I think my legs have recovered from Friday and I’m hunting for another PR… wish me luck!

Miles since last post:  36.3
Days since last post:  8
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.87
2014 TOTAL MILES: 1656.3

Related Posts:
•  Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27/14)
•  Metal Run 5K (11/8/14)
•  Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1/14)  [New PR!]
•  Bark in the Park 5K (10/25/14)
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18/14)
•  Martin’s Run 5K (10/5/14)
•  Haverford Township Day 5K (9/27/14)
•  Run A Muck 5K-ish Trail Race (9/20/14)
•  Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13/14)
•  Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28/14) [PR]
•  Radnor Red Steeplechase 5K (8/17/14)
•  Riddlewood Swim Club 5K (8/3/14)
•  Swarthmore Lions Independence Eve 8K (7/18/14)
•  Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10/14)
•  Media 5 Miler (6/20/14)
•  Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1/14)
•  Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30/14)
•  Run for Victory 5K (5/18/14) [PR]
•  Elwyn 5K (5/3/14)
•  St. Tim’s 5K (4/26/14)
•  Rick’s Run 5K (4/19/14)
•  Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/14)
•  Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4/14)
•  New Year’s Eve 5K at the YMCA (12/31/13) [PR]
•  Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14/13)
•  Turkey Trot 5K (11/28/13)
•  Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2/13)
•  Oy Vey 5K (10/27/13) [PR]
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19/13)
•  Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21/13)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Piper goes Viral after hiking Crum Woods

Holy Cow.  This photo of Piper has received over 23,000 views on Flickr since yesterday morning:

Piper's Famous Photo

I wonder… does having 23,000 views qualify as “going viral”?  It is certainly the most buzz any content that I’ve ever created has garnered in a short period of time!  To her credit, Piper is pretty freakin’ adorable in this photo so I don’t blame those 23,000 people for clicking on her photo.  😉  The full resolution image can be viewed here if you’re interested in seeing it in all its viral glory on Flickr.

~~

Anyway… I took The Photo while hiking with Pipe and Matt in Crum Woods.  This 220-acre woodland is situated on the western edge of Swarthmore College’s campus in Delaware County, PA.  It features 3.5 miles of hiking trails, fantastic views of Crum Creek, and a giant railroad bridge that carries Septa’s Media/Elwyn line over the creek.

To access the Crum Woods trail we parked on the western (opposite) side of Crum Creek at the Leiper-Smedley trail parking lot off of Avondale Road and walked down Avondale to Yale Ave.  The trails in this southern section of Crum Woods were dotted with tree roots and sloped steeply down to the creek, but the path evened out to a nice walking trail once we made it north of the trailhead by the Swarthmore College fieldhouse.

I love train tracks and bridges, so it’s no surprise that my favorite part of Crum Woods was where the Septa rail line crossed Crum Creek.  Just before reaching the bridge the trail emerged out of the woods into “Crum Meadow,” where Piper licked her first frozen puddle and we had great views of the trestles crossing the creek.  The view from under the bridge was even more impressive and I may have made Matt and Piper wait around for 5-10 minutes just in case a train came along while we were under it.  (Sadly, we did not see a train.)

Leiper-Smedley Trail

After reaching the northern terminus of Crum Woods, we decided to make the hike more interesting by looping back to our car via the paved Leiper-Smedley trail on the other side of the creek.  Unfortunately Crum Woods and Leiper-Smedley are not officially connected on the northern end, so in order to access L-S we had to jog a short stretch of Plush Mill Road and skirt along the shoulder until we reached the trailhead.  We were lucky that Piper was still small enough for Matt to easily carry her during this stretch… this impromptu trail connection would not have been ideal if we had had a larger dog or small children in tow.

Our return trip along the Leiper-Smedley Trail was uneventful and mostly downhill, woohoo!  I’ve run on this trail several times, most recently going UP the trail in the other direction at the Fueled Up and Fired Up 5K in September.  The trail is well marked and has a much less exciting train bridge on it than Crum Woods… but it’s a train bridge nonetheless, so of course I took a picture!!

I definitely enjoyed our Crum Woods hike because I had never been to Crum Woods before, but overall it was a bit of a choppy walk and there are probably better hiking loops in the area.  The southern portion of the trail was a little treacherous and the northern end didn’t technically connect to Leiper-Smedley, but with good hiking shoes and a quick jog up Plush Mill Road we made it work.  Plus, Piper thoroughly enjoyed herself and was very tired afterwards… Mission Accomplished!!!

Piper having fun on the hike

Useful Links:
Crum Woods Web Site
Official Crum Woods Trail Map & Brochure (PDF)
High-res version of Crum Woods Map with our 4 mile hike overlayed (JPG)

Turkey Trot, 2014 Edition

Yesterday morning I kicked off Thanksgiving with a turkey trot 5K race in Chesterbrook, PA.  This was my second year running the Seven Summits Turkey Trot and I’m pleased to report that I finished nearly 2 minutes faster than last year!  Also, I had a fantastic cheering section… Matt and Piper came to watch!

Piper and Annie Turkey Trot

The park was covered in snow from Wednesday’s storm and the weather was a brisk 34°, but the paved course was clear and I was dressed warmly in my new birthday tights and vest (thanks Mom!) so I didn’t mind the conditions.  The race began at 9:15am and I took off with 553 other runners, eager to put down a good time on the relatively flat course.

I completed the first mile in 7:24 which is actually a little slower than I was hoping to go out.  I remember thinking that I wanted to go faster, but my legs felt sort of stiff and heavy and just didn’t want to pick up the pace.  (I guess due to the cold?? I warmed up but then stood around waiting at the start for a long time.)  Mile 2 was a similar effort at 7:36 and Mile 3 ended up a little slower at 7:54.  (In mile 3’s defense, however, it was all uphill!)  Despite the slow down in mile 3 I still managed to cross the finish line with an official time of 23:40, just 8 seconds slower than my personal best!

Turkey Trot Stats

Matt and Piper were waiting for me at the finish line.  Piper had kept herself busy during the race greeting dozens of people and meeting a few other spectating dogs (even one GSP!) so she was quite content to curl up on my lap on our drive home.  All in all this was a great way to start off the holiday and I definitely hope to keep doing turkey trots on Thanksgiving mornings in the future!

My next two races are both in West Chester, PA next weekend.  I will be running the 2 mile Jingle Elf Run on Friday night and the 5 mile Brian’s Run on Sunday afternoon.  Hopefully my legs will feel a little quicker for the short distance on Friday!  :-)

Miles since last post:  95.1
Days since last post:  19
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.87
2014 TOTAL MILES: 1620

Related Posts:
•  Metal Run 5K (11/8/14)
•  Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1/14)  [New PR!]
•  Bark in the Park 5K (10/25/14)
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18/14)
•  Martin’s Run 5K (10/5/14)
•  Haverford Township Day 5K (9/27/14)
•  Run A Muck 5K-ish Trail Race (9/20/14)
•  Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13/14)
•  Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28/14) [PR]
•  Radnor Red Steeplechase 5K (8/17/14)
•  Riddlewood Swim Club 5K (8/3/14)
•  Swarthmore Lions Independence Eve 8K (7/18/14)
•  Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10/14)
•  Media 5 Miler (6/20/14)
•  Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1/14)
•  Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30/14)
•  Run for Victory 5K (5/18/14) [PR]
•  Elwyn 5K (5/3/14)
•  St. Tim’s 5K (4/26/14)
•  Rick’s Run 5K (4/19/14)
•  Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/14)
•  Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4/14)
•  New Year’s Eve 5K at the YMCA (12/31/13) [PR]
•  Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14/13)
•  Turkey Trot 5K (11/28/13)
•  Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2/13)
•  Oy Vey 5K (10/27/13) [PR]
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19/13)
•  Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21/13)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)