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.  Continue reading

Advertisements

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… Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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) Continue reading

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!! Continue reading

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. 🤓

Parsley, Arugula and Ricotta Pesto

1504-parsley-pesto-pasta

I love basil pesto, but last week when I needed to make a side dish to bring to a party I decided to try something different. I paged through my America’s Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution cookbook and found a recipe for a tasty-sounding pesto with parsley, arugula, and ricotta cheese. I’ve now made this recipe two times in a week and can officially declare it a winner!

Like it’s basil-based cousin, this parsley pesto comes together quickly. Just toast the pine nuts and garlic in a hot skillet, then blend with fresh arugula, parsley, grated Parm, salt and olive oil. Then the best part… stir several spoonfuls of ricotta cheese into the pesto until the sauce is creamy and smooth. Combine with a pound of cooked pasta and you’ll have a bright, fresh, flavorful side that you’ll be proud to share with friends and family.

This pesto tastes extra delicious if you eat it while watching the Eagles crush the Steelers. Go Birds!

This pesto tastes extra delicious if you eat it while watching the Eagles crush the Steelers. Go Birds!

Parsley, Arugula and Ricotta Pesto
(Serves 4-6; from Pasta Revolution)

You will need…
1/4 cup Pine Nuts, toasted
3 cloves Garlic, toasted
1 cup packed Parsley
1 cup packed Arugula
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese, plus more for garnish
Salt and Pepper
7 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup Whole Milk Ricotta
1 pound Pasta

Directions:
Combine pine nuts, garlic, parsley, arugula, Parmesan, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a blender. Slowly pour in the olive oil as you blend the mixture for 30-60 seconds. Transfer the pesto to a large bowl and stir in the ricotta until well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Before draining the pasta reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Mix several tablespoons of the reserved water into the pesto. Add the pasta and stir well until the pasta is evenly coated with pesto, adding more pasta water if desired. Top with freshly grated Parmesan and enjoy hot or cold.

1479-pesto-pasta