Rigatoni with Sausage, Fennel and Ricotta

SNOW DAY!!!! I am currently sitting in my cozy living room drinking a giant cup of tea while the winds of Winter Storm Stella (aka #blizzard2017) howl outside. Knowing that we would be home from work today, Matt and I decided in advance that we’d make a big dinner last night that could serve double-duty as an excellent lunch after shoveling today. We settled on a riff of Ina Garten’s Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel, a warm, stick-to-your-ribs pasta dish with a creamy, rich sauce.

Our riff originates from the first time we made this: we didn’t have the heavy cream that Ina called for but we DID have ricotta cheese so we subbed that in. The ricotta melted into the sausage and pasta and tasted amazing. So good, in fact, that we never even considered going back to heavy cream for last night’s meal.

A note about the pasta for this dish… we made it ourselves!! Matt and I got a pasta machine last winter and we make fresh pasta all the time. Like, multiple times a week. Good thing I’m a runner and need my carbs!!! Homemade pasta tastes fresher and has a chewier, more complex texture than the boxed stuff. For our pasta we combine semolina flour, AP flour, eggs, salt and water and the Philips machine does the rest. It’s really crazy to watch it pump fresh pasta right out the front of the machine. I really should have taken a video but here are some photos. I never knew fresh pasta could be so easy to make!

Rigatoni with Sausage, Fennel and Ricotta
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Cooking for Jeffrey; serves 4

Ingredients
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Fennel Bulb, chopped (about 3 cups)
1 Yellow Onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 lb. Italian Sausage, casings removed
2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon Whole Fennel Seeds, crushed or ground in spice grinder
1/2 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons Salt, divided
1 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 cup dry White Wine
1 cup Part-Skim Ricotta Cheese*
2/3 cup Half and Half
2 tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 lb. Pasta
1/2 cup chopped Parsley
1 cup freshly ground Parmesan Cheese
*To stick to Ina’s original recipe, substitute 1 cup heavy cream for the ricotta.

Directions
Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the fennel and onion and saute, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes or until soft. Add the sausage, crumble, and cook for 7 to 8 minutes or until browned. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons salt, and black pepper and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the wine and bring mixture to a boil, then add the ricotta, half and half and tomato paste and stir well.  Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer sauce for 20 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package instructions and drain. (Or go all out and make fresh pasta!) When the sauce has finished simmering, add cooked pasta to sauce and stir well to coat the pasta evenly. Cook the mixture over low heat for 5 minutes then, off heat, stir in the parsley and Parmesan, reserving some Parm as a garnish if desired. Serve immediately and enjoy!

…and, just for fun, here are a few more photos to celebrate the snow day. 😀

Zion National Park

Every January Matt and I spend a week working in Las Vegas at a big trade show. After many trips to Sin City, Vegas itself is not very exciting but that’s OK because our fun begins when the show ends on Friday. In 2014 we drove to Temecula for a weekend in southern California wine country and last year we road-tripped east through Arizona to beautiful Sedona for a few days. This year we wanted to find another 3-day weekend getaway within driving distance, so after much research Matt and I decided to visit Zion National Park in southeastern Utah.

zion-overlook

Why visit Zion from Las Vegas in January? Here were our primary reasons:

  1. Proximity: Zion is only 2 1/2 hours away from Las Vegas. You can easily drive back to Vegas to fly home, or catch a connecting flight out of the tiny regional airport in St. George, UT (that’s what we did).
  2. Off-Season: Like many National Parks, Zion is experiencing record numbers of visitors and over-crowding of the single park road, parking lots, and trails is becoming a real issue. We correctly figured that we’d miss out on all of that excitement and have the canyon more or less to ourselves during the third week of January.
  3. Weather: Zion usually has relatively mild winters and, unlike Bryce Canyon or northern Utah’s ski resorts, Zion usually doesn’t receive huge amounts of snow. We figured Zion’s winter weather would be perfect for hiking and we wouldn’t have to worry about trail or road closures in January. (This didn’t quite pan out!)

All of my research on the weather was well-intentioned, but sometimes you just can’t plan for mother nature. In the weeks before we visited, Zion received unusually heavy rain and snowfall. The rain caused mud and rock slides and, much to my dismay, a 200-ton boulder slide covered and closed the only road in and out of the canyon the Friday night before we left for Vegas. I stalked Zion’s social media all week — would we be able to get into the canyon or should we cancel our trip and plan to go somewhere else?? — and was extremely relieved when the Park Service reopened the road on Thursday, just 48 hours before we arrived. The weather forecast called for near-constant snow and rain, but once the road reopened we were determined to stick to our original itinerary.

January 2017 Rockslide in Zion NP (article / source)

January 2017 Rockslide in Zion NP (article / source)

Matt and I pulled into Springdale, Utah on Saturday afternoon, just in time to see a snow storm roll over the tops of the mountains around the canyon. We paid our $30 entry fee (good for a 7 day pass) and ventured into wintery Zion. The road along the canyon floor was wet and slushy, but the snow was sticking higher up on the canyon walls and at times the storm made it hard to see the mountain tops. Very dramatic! We hiked the short Riverside Walk trail, took lots of pictures, and ended the afternoon with an early dinner and beer tasting at the Zion Brewery.

Sunday we woke up early, had a massive breakfast at Oscars (one of the few Springdale restaurants that was open during this particular off-season week) and headed back into the canyon. We warmed up with a short hike to Weeping Rock, then headed up the switchbacks next to Weeping Rock for a few hundred yards to catch a better view of yet another storm that was obscuring the opposite canyon wall.

Next, we drove to the Grotto trailhead and hiked along the Kayenta Trail to access the Emerald Pools Trail. Lower Emerald Pools trail was closed due to falling ice, but we were able to hike right up to Middle Emerald Pool… just close enough to see a sign warning us about falling off the edge of the cliff! After a lot of snowy climbing we finally reached Upper Emerald Pool, which had a dramatic waterfall cascading off the top of the canyon into the secluded pool below. We hardly saw anyone on this hike and the waterfall was well worth the climb.

After lunch we decided to check out the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel. Completed by the CCC in 1930, this 1.1 mile tunnel is bored directly through the canyon walls. It has a low ceiling, no lighting except for a few gallery “windows” cut out through the cliff walls, and is accessed from the west by driving up a series of harrowing switchbacks on Route 9. Normally I have no issue with steep drop offs, but the precipitation that started out as rain on the canyon floor became progressively snowier as our Jeep climbed up and up towards the tunnel entrance. By the time we got to the tunnel it was snowing heavily and the road was completely covered, so entering the dark, dry tunnel was a bit of a relief… until we came out on the other side and discovered that the snow was MUCH heavier on the east end. We paused for a quick photo, then headed back west through the tunnel and down the snowy switchbacks towards the canyon floor. I think I held my breath for about 5 minutes straight as we made our descent!!

On Monday we set out on our longest hike of the weekend – the trek to Zion’s famous “Angels Landing” viewpoint. Except that we didn’t make it all the way to Angels Landing, which can only be reached by way of a treacherous climb along a narrow, rocky spine with sheer drops on each side. Due to the heavy snow that blanketed the trail and the safety chains Matt and I decided to play it safe and stopped just short of the final viewpoint at a spot known as Scout Lookout. From Scout Lookout we still had a great view of the canyon floor below which was enough for me. After seeing the many signs warning about people falling to their deaths I had no desire to try to attempt the final climb to Angels Landing!

After a satisfying lunch at Cafe Soleil Matt and I decided to give the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel one more try. Although the near-constant drizzle did change over to light snow as we ascended the mountain, the road remained fairly clear and we felt much safer this time around. We repeated the eerie drive through the dark tunnel (with no other cars in sight!) and emerged on the snowy east side again. We wanted to hike the Canyon Overlook Trail which is supposed to have great views of Zion Canyon, but unfortunately yet another storm cloud was obscuring the view. I was a little leery of the steep drop-offs and approaching storm, but Matt was undeterred and insisted we give the rocky cliffside trail a try.

Shortly into our hike we had paused for a photo when Matt excitedly exclaimed, “LOOK!! A GOAT!!!!” And sure enough, a big-horned sheep (we called him a goat the whole time we were up there) was standing squarely on the trail 20 feet ahead of us, utterly unimpressed by our presence. We cautiously watched the “goat” from our spot on the trail, wondering how the heck he managed to end up on a 3 foot wide ledge with a sheer cliff wall above him and a steep drop off below. We didn’t have to wonder for long, however, because soon he decided he’d had enough tourist-watching for one day and casually stepped off the edge of the cliff into a snowy bush for a leafy snack. It was fascinating to see him effortlessly navigate the mountainside! We carefully continued our hike and passed within a few feet of him, right before he launched himself down the near-vertical wall to some lower destination that we couldn’t see over the cliff’s edge. What a cool way to end our trip!

After a safe drive through the tunnel and down the mountain Matt and I exited the Zion National Park for the last time. The storm that was assaulting the tunnel’s east side on the mountaintop was nonexistent down at the southern end of the canyon, and we snapped a few final photographs of the late afternoon sun hitting the canyon walls before calling it a night. At 5AM the next morning we headed to St. George for our flight home, very thankful to have gotten a chance to experience secluded, snowy Zion for a few days after the noise and lights of Las Vegas.

Notes:

1. We used Joe’s Guide to Zion to research hikes in advance. Highly recommended!
2. You can view my complete Zion photo album on Flickr here: Zion National Park (1/21-23/17)
3. If you’re visiting Zion in winter, consider packing Yaktrax or other traction devices. I’m glad we packed ours!!
4. We stayed at the Desert Pearl Inn which was awesome – great location, nice rooms, and friendly staff. Our favorite restaurants were Oscars (breakfast and dinner) and Bit and Spur.

Piper’s PR at the St. Agnes 5K

Today Piper earned herself a new 5K record of 22:43! That time came within 5 seconds of my own personal best, which I set on a PR-friendly, point-to-point net downhill course in December. With that in mind, I’m going to consider today’s finish at the St. Agnes 5K my own new “loop course” personal best as well, albeit with an asterisk next to it for *Piper-assisted.  😄

post-race-selfie

As the asterisk indicates, I do know that at least some of our speedy time can be attributed to the fact that Piper sets a grueling pace and pulls me forward just a little bit throughout the entire race. (Except when we passed a cat in the first mile, then she pulled left!) Piper is a very serious running buddy who never lunges at other dogs, never veers off course, and never, ever stops to sniff or pee during a run. Once we’re moving Piper rarely breaks out of her rapid-fire trot stride; all she wants to do is go, go, GO!!

annie-piper-st-agnes

Here we are near the halfway point. Piper’s tongue is making a rare appearance. (Photo credit: St. Agnes 5K)

So about the race… As is usually the case, I wanted to avoid running the first mile too quickly.  I mentally set a goal of 7:40 and began the race with Piper at my side, way out to the left of the field (the first turn is a right). Piper snorted and urged me forward but I kept our speed to a comfortable jog and let other runners and lots of kids move out in front of us. We cruised down a hill and along a flat section of road before my watch beeped a 7:19 first split. Too fast! But it felt SO EASY!

I’ve started many past races too quickly and, after seeing the first mile split, justified my actions by thinking “maybe today will be the day that I go out really fast and actually maintain it for a 5K!!” Until today, however, every time I’ve thought this I’ve been dead wrong.  Instead of magically maintaining a too-fast first mile pace I end up struggling through a painful second and third mile and later kick myself for blowing it at the start. But not today… today I actually DID maintain that pace AND got even faster as the race went on!

Piper and I cruised through some uphill and downhill during mile 2, and soon I was smiling to myself as my watch beeped a 7:18 second mile split.  I joyfully took a break from my near-constant commentary of “heel!” and “Piper, WAIT!” to tell Piper she was a good girl. Then we blasted into mile 3. At this point I knew that we were likely on pace to beat my previous “loop” 5K PR of 23:17, but I didn’t think that I could realistically manage to run any faster than a 7:18 third mile.

st-agnes-5k-stats-17_

But run faster we did! Piper and I somehow sped up, passed two guys on a long straightaway, and powered into the final incline up Market Street to the finish line. With the end of the race in sight my Garmin notified me that we had covered our third mile in an unbelievable 7:13 (7:13!!!) and that gave me the oomph to push up the hill and cross the finish line. As I bent over to catch my breath I looked at Piper and realized that she wasn’t even panting. What a show off! 😄

Pipe and I cooled down together, then she got to meet lots of little kids and happily accepted many pets and hugs in exchange for her hard work on the race course. Our 22:43 finish time put us 34th overall and 8th female (well, 9th for me, technically speaking) and I belatedly realized that I also won my age group. Cool! Most of all, I am just thrilled to have had such a great experience with my lovely pup this morning and I look forward to many more runs (and hopefully more races if the weather stays cold!) together this spring.

post-race

Miles since last post: 268.9
Days since last post: 76
2016 Miles: 1578.8
2017 MILES: 229

Past Races:
• February ’17:
 Pickle Road Run 5K (2/18)
• December ’16:
Jingle Elf 2M (12/2), Brian’s Run 5M (12/11), DE Downhill 5K (12/18) [5K PR]
• November ’16:
Trinity 5K (11/5), 7 Summits Turkey Trot (11/24)
• October ’16:
Run for the House 5K (10/1), True Blue 5K (10/16), Boo Run 5K (10/29)
• August ’16:
Cure4Cam Rustin (8/18)
• June ’16: Media 5 Miler (6/17), Cure4Cam (6/20)
• May ’16:
Media Mile (5/7) [1M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/13), Turtle Trot Trail 5K (5/15), Elwyn Max 5K (5/21)
• April ’16:
Evolve IP 5K (4/2), Empower the Children 5K (4/17), Haverford Twilight Run (4/23) [5K PR Tie]
• March ’16:
 St. Agnes 5K (3/5), 3-2-1 Loop 10K (3/12) [10K PR], Pickle Run (3/19)
• February ’16:
Pickle with Piper (2/20)
• January ’16:
Pickle Trail Run (1/30)
• December ’15: Jingle Elf Run (12/3) [2M PR], Brian’s Run (12/5) [5M PR], Reindeer Romp 5K (12/13)
• November ’15:
Trinity 5K (11/7), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/26) [5K PR]
• October ’15:
BAAR 5K (10/3), Double OyVey 10K (10/25) [10K PR], Boo Run 5K (10/31)
• September ’15: Run-A-Muck Trail 5K (9/19)
• August ’15:
Boxcar Mile (8/13), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/27)
• June ’15: Media 5 Mile (6/19)
• May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3) [10M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
• April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11) [10K PR], Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26) [5K PR]
• March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
• February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
• January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
• December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5) [2M PR]Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7) [5M PR], Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
• November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [5K PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
• October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
• September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
• August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [5K PR]
• July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18) [5M PR]
• June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
• May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [5K PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
• April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3), Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
• March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
• February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
• January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
• December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [5K PR]
• November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
• October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [5K PR]
• September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
• The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Review: Hurtta Extreme Warmer Dog Jacket

Hurtta Extreme Warmer Dog Jacket

In December Piper won an Instagram contest to become an official reviewer for the new Extreme Warmer jacket from Hurtta, a Finnish company that produces functional, high-quality dog clothing and equipment. Piper is one of those dogs that loves being outside no matter how cold, windy, or snowy the weather might be, so this jacket was especially intriguing to me since it would provide significantly better coverage and warmth than the horse blanket-style coats that Piper already owns.

Per the terms of the contest, I happily agreed to share a few photos of Piper in her Extreme Warmer jacket (like I need an excuse to take pictures of Piper!!) and write an honest review of the product after several weeks of testing. After reading my review, if you have any questions about the Extreme Warmer please feel free to ask me in the comments. You can also check out Hurtta North America’s complete product listing and details here: https://www.hurtta247.com/extreme-warmer

white-out-hurtta2

Piper’s Extreme Warmer arrived just after Christmas.  Right out of the box I was immediately impressed by the fabric and construction. This jacket has much more in common with a human’s winter parka than the lightweight dog coats I was familiar with.  The Extreme Warmer has a soft, foil-like inner layer to reflect Piper’s body heat inwards and a waterproof outer shell to protect her from wind and snow. Like a human jacket, the Extreme Warmer also has reflective details for visibility at night.

SIZE AND FIT

The Extreme Warmer is sized based on a dog’s back length. Piper measures 22.5″ from the base of her neck to the base of her tail so we opted for size 55 cm / 22″. Fine-tuning the fit of the Extreme Warmer is accomplished with several cinches and an adjustable belly strap. Piper’s tail is usually up when she’s romping around the yard and I was pleased to find a bungee adjustment on the back of the Extreme Warmer that allowed me to tailor the length of the jacket so that it ended exactly at the base of Piper’s tail. Getting the fit just right took a few tries – Piper came in with rubs on the front of her legs after the first wear because we hadn’t tightened one of the neck bungees enough – but after some final adjustments the Extreme Warmer fits perfectly, doesn’t rub, and is easy to put on and take off.

sass-mouf

EXTRA FEATURES

In addition to its parka-like technical fabrics, the Extreme Warmer has a few other features that set it apart from other dog coats I’ve owned in the past. First, this jacket has a large flap that goes between Piper’s front legs and covers her whole chest and rib cage area. The Extreme Warmer also does an especially good job of covering Piper’s hind end, thanks to generous flaps of layered fabric and two soft leg straps that her hind legs fit through. And don’t worry… all of this rear end coverage does not make the Extreme Warmer susceptible to getting peed or pooped on. The design is such that the jacket somehow stays perfectly out of the way when Piper is doing her business. (Thank goodness!)

The most exciting and undoubtably most entertaining feature of the Extreme Warmer is the jacket’s snood*, which provides maximum coverage of Piper’s neck and, if the weather warrants, even her ears. This adjustable inner hood can be kept loose and nearly out of sight for warmer winter days, but I love that I have the option to cinch it up if Piper’s going to be spending time outside in really cold weather. Piper doesn’t seem to mind the snood nearly as much as I thought she might; I think she must realize that it does actually keep her head and ears extra toasty.

dr-seuss

*No matter how many times I see the official pronunciation of snood online (/snuːd/), I will always pronounce it like the colorful puzzle game that Matt and I were addicted to in college. Plus, “snewd” sounds cuter and slightly more ridiculous, which seems like a better fit for this jacket feature.

PERFORMANCE

The Extreme Warmer absolutely lives up to its claim of being extremely warm. I always run my hand over Piper’s fur when she comes inside and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that her back, neck and chest are always warm to the touch after she’s been wearing her Hurtta.

In addition to its excellent cold weather performance, I also love that this jacket allows full range of motion and stays on securely. Thanks to all of the adjustments and straps, Piper can gallop around the yard at top speed without me worrying that the Extreme Warmer will start sliding around or loosen. Piper’s velcro-closure coats, on the other hand, can come detached if she runs or plays too roughly in them.

galloping

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, I am extremely impressed by Hurtta’s Extreme Warmer. It is stylish, high quality, and very warm. Knowing that Piper is outside with her Extreme Warmer on gives me peace of mind, especially on those cold evenings when Piper gets the zoomies and refuses to come inside when I call her. If she’s going to spend an extra few minutes out in the cold at least she’s doing it with a full parka on!

Plus, the snood is really, really cute…

snood-dog

I received Piper’s Extreme Warmer for free from Hurtta North America in exchange for my fair and honest review. I have to admit though, that after seeing how warm it keeps Piper I would gladly pay for it! The Extreme Warmer is available for purchase in the US/Canada from Hurtta North America and around the world; just visit Hurtta’s web site to find a local retailer.

winter-wonderland

When the weather outside is frightful, make peppermint patties!

I woke up last Saturday morning and looked outside to find every tree branch, pine needle, and berry encased in a layer of wet, glistening ice. The 5K I had planned to run had already been postponed until Sunday, so Matt and I decided that we didn’t need to brave the slick roads and instead would spend the entire day at home baking holiday goodies.

I kicked off the bake-a-thon at 10AM by making blueberry-lemon scones for breakfast.  Matt and I then baked a double batch of sugar cookies before launching into the day’s big project: homemade peppermint patties. The goal was to make enough patties to share with our neighbors and friends, and 12 dozen chocolate-dipped treats later I think we succeeded!

Peppermint patties are surprisingly easy to make. Just combine peppermint extract, softened butter, corn syrup, and lots of confectioners sugar. Form this “dough” into balls and press the balls into discs on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat with melted chocolate and, voila! You now have homemade peppermint patties! If you’re feeling extra creative, add some green food coloring to the filling or sprinkle the freshly-coated patty with chocolate jimmies. (But a note of warning… don’t get so excited about your batch of green-filling-patties that you totally forget to put the peppermint extract in. I might have done that on my fourth and final batch. Sorry to any neighbor who bites into a green one and realizes that it just tastes like buttercream candy instead of peppermint!) 😁

1561-peppermint-patties

Homemade Peppermint Patties
(From Butter With a Side of Bread; makes about 3 dozen patties)

You will need…
1/2 stick (1/4 c) Butter, at room temperature
3 cups Confectioner’s Sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Peppermint Extract (adjust to taste; we liked this amount)
1/3 cup Light Corn Syrup
2 cups Dark Dipping Chocolate (we used Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Melting Wafers, yum!)
Green Food Coloring to make the filling green (Optional)
Chocolate Jimmies for Sprinkling (Optional)

Directions:
In a stand mixer, combine the butter, sugar, peppermint extract and corn syrup. Mix for a few minutes until the filling forms a thick, paste-like consistency.  Break off small pieces of filling and roll into 1″ diameter balls. (They will look deceptively like mozzarella balls at this point.) Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet and use your fingers to flatten them into discs. Freeze the discs for at least 20 minutes before attempting to dip them into the chocolate. The harder they are, the easier they will be to dip!

Melt the chocolate according to package instructions. We used a double boiler which kept the chocolate at the perfect consistency as we dipped batch after batch of patties. Use a fork or a special chocolate-dipping tool like these Wilton candy dippers to dip a frozen patty into the chocolate. Coat both sides, tap off any excess chocolate, then transfer the coated patty to a parchment-lined tray. (Or, if you’re making a quadruple batch like us, just cover your counters with wax paper and line up the patties there!) If using jimmies, sprinkle them over the patty immediately after you coat it.

Allow the chocolate to harden completely, then transfer the patties to an airtight container. Share them with friends or save them all for yourself, your choice! 😄

1580-peppermint-patties

A New PR at the Delaware Downhill 5K!

This race almost didn’t happen. And no, it wasn’t because our area was hit with an ice storm the morning the race was originally scheduled for. That was easy to predict and the race organizers gave everyone plenty of notice when they (wisely) decided to postpone the race by a day. No, the reason I almost did not start today’s Inaugural Delaware Downhill 5K was that my CAR decided that it did not want to start!!

Saturday's weather

I think the race organizers made the right call by not holding the race Saturday.

As usual, I had my pre-race morning planned down to the minute. I woke up at 5:45, let Piper out, had a light breakfast of coffee, cereal, and a clementine, let Piper in, wiped the mud off Piper’s feet and belly for 3+ minutes (that I had not planned for, ha!), then foam rolled, stretched and read for a while before waking Matt up. The race started at 9:45 so I figured leaving the house at 8:25 sharp would give me plenty of time to get there and get warmed up. Until we went out to our (only) car, turned the key in the ignition, and the engine wouldn’t start!!

Let me back up and tell you about this race. It’s a DOWNHILL, point-to-point course with 230+ feet of elevation loss, meaning that a PR was going to be extremely possible. The race t-shirt was billed as an ugly sweater tech T (awesome), and today’s weather was PERFECT racing weather — mid-50s and overcast. I really, really wanted to run this race, so imagine how sad I was as Matt and I sat in the cold garage, paging through the car manual and trying to figure out what was wrong.

While Matt checked the car battery connections under the hood I posted a defeated message on my run club’s facebook page. No downhill race for me today, boo. But then Matt tried the car again (using the “two foot” method, apparently?) and after many terrible-sounding cranks IT STARTED!!! It was 8:55 and we had a 40 minute drive ahead of us.

We zoomed down to Delaware in record time. Matt dropped me off right by the start and I found my run club friends almost immediately. They had my bib and ugly sweater shirt for me (thanks, Lysa!!) and within minutes of arriving on site I was standing at the start line, utterly unwarmed-up but very grateful to be there.

Going into this race, my PR was 23:17, which is an average page of 7:29 per mile. With this in mind I figured I should start out fast but not too aggressively, maybe with a 7:20 split. But then the race started and I was swept up by the festive runners in costumes and gradual, wonderful downhill, and before I knew it mile one was over in 6:59. So much for my plan!

Although this course is net downhill, mile 2 was mostly flat and even had some short uphill sections. After my blazing fast first mile I was not expecting this lack of descent and I struggled through this mile just a bit. But I knew that there had to be significant elevation loss waiting for me in the final mile so I wasn’t too worried when the middle mile beeped by in 7:43.

brandywine_

Next to the Brandywine River after the race.

At the start of mile 3 I ran past a volunteer who helpfully told me “It’s all downhill from here.” He was right! The course turned into the parks along the Brandywine and before I knew it there was just a half mile separating me from a new PR. I pushed hard down the final hill and spotted the finish with several hundred yards to go. Mile 3 was over in 7:18, a good improvement over my second mile.

delaware-downhill-5k-stats_

I knew I was on track to PR, but I thought I was going to be much closer to 23:00 and really wanted to break 23 if possible. I flew through the homestretch and crossed the line with an official chip time of 23:38… a 39 second PR!!!

pr-bell_

I had never seen a “PR Bell” in person, but, as luck would have it, there was a bell at the Delaware Downhill! (I guess this wasn’t luck… the organizers probably knew that there would be a lot of personal records on their PR-friendly course.) I collected my 3rd place age group award and happily rang the bell. Although my morning didn’t quite go as planned, I am very thankful that I was able to make it to the race and get the chance earn a new PR on this super fast course. 22:38 is going to be really hard to beat on a regular course!

As for the car, we still don’t know what was wrong. Matt kept it idling the whole time we were in Delaware and only turned it off (and back on again, just to see what it would do) when we were safely home after the race. We’ll see how it’s doing when we head out to Matt’s parents’ house for dinner tonight. Wish us luck!

Miles since last post: 311.6
Days since last post: 104
2016 MILES: 1538.9

Past Races:
• December ’16:
Jingle Elf 2M (12/2), Brian’s Run 5M (12/11)
• November ’16:
Trinity 5K (11/5), 7 Summits Turkey Trot (11/24)
• October ’16:
Run for the House 5K (10/1), True Blue 5K (10/16), Boo Run 5K (10/29)
• August ’16:
Cure4Cam Rustin (8/18)
• June ’16: Media 5 Miler (6/17), Cure4Cam (6/20)
• May ’16:
Media Mile (5/7) [1M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/13), Turtle Trot Trail 5K (5/15), Elwyn Max 5K (5/21)
• April ’16:
Evolve IP 5K (4/2), Empower the Children 5K (4/17), Haverford Twilight Run (4/23) [5K PR Tie]
• March ’16:
 St. Agnes 5K (3/5), 3-2-1 Loop 10K (3/12) [10K PR], Pickle Run (3/19)
• February ’16:
Pickle with Piper (2/20)
• January ’16:
Pickle Trail Run (1/30)
• December ’15: Jingle Elf Run (12/3) [2M PR], Brian’s Run (12/5) [5M PR], Reindeer Romp 5K (12/13)
• November ’15:
Trinity 5K (11/7), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/26) [5K PR]
• October ’15:
BAAR 5K (10/3), Double OyVey 10K (10/25) [10K PR], Boo Run 5K (10/31)
• September ’15: Run-A-Muck Trail 5K (9/19)
• August ’15:
Boxcar Mile (8/13), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/27)
• June ’15: Media 5 Mile (6/19)
• May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3) [10M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
• April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11) [10K PR], Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26) [5K PR]
• March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
• February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
• January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
• December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5) [2M PR]Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7) [5M PR], Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
• November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [5K PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
• October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
• September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
• August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [5K PR]
• July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18) [5M PR]
• June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
• May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [5K PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
• April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3), Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
• March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
• February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
• January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
• December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [5K PR]
• November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
• October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [5K PR]
• September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
• The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

The End of Blog-Crastination

Is it possible that I haven’t blogged since September? Yup. And the worst part is, the longer I wait to compose a new post, the harder it becomes to get motivated to actually sit down and write! Case in point: I have now run seven (SEVEN!) races since my last race recap. I’m a stickler for chronological recaps, and knowing that I need to reminisce all the way back to a mediocre race in early October before I can regale you with tales about my first California race (in San Diego!!) and my most recent 5K with Piper makes it that much harder to buckle down and get the writing done.

But today I’m putting an end to my blog-crastination! I am ignoring all of those accumulated races and turning to my favorite four-legged friend for inspiration. So without further ado, here’s a selection of photos (in chronological order) of Piper doing her thing from May thru December. Enjoy!

Did you make it through all of those photos? (Thanks!😉) Which is your favorite? I’m partial to Piper in her orange goggles. 🤓