Pumpkin Stew baked IN the Pumpkin!

A small pie pumpkin has been sitting in my kitchen awaiting its destiny for about a week. I purchased it at Giant with no plan or recipe in mind. I knew only that I wanted to cook or serve food IN the pumpkin. I pictured a stew of sorts, with sausage and white beans (two of my favorite foods), plus fresh sage and, of course, pumpkin. I scoured the internet in search of such a meal and came up empty. How has no one made this feast before??

Real recipe or not, I was determined to give my lonely little pumpkin a purpose. I found two separate recipes – one for a stew, another for how to bake a different dish in a pumpkin – and combined them into my own pumpkin creation. I sent a cell phone picture of the finished dish to my mom just before digging in and she texted back “You need to put this in your blog!!” so here ya go, Mom, this one’s for you. Continue reading

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It’s definitely time to blog: I now have FOUR PRs to recap!

I’ve been terrible about recapping races lately, but after today’s awesome 5K I have FOUR new personal bests to share. So without further ado, here they are!

Haverford Twilight 5K

April 22, 2017 | Haverford, PA | 41st overall, 8th F, 3rd AG (results)

This was my third year running this race and I really wanted it to be my best yet. Last year I tied my PR (23:17) on this course by running the first 2 miles really fast and dying in mile 3. I did not want to repeat that mistake this year, but somehow I still managed to start the race much faster than I planned. In fact, I was within seconds of duplicating my too-fast times from 2016. Whoops! Fortunately for me, I was much stronger this year and was able to run a 7:30 third mile (compared to 8:00 the previous year!!) which made all the difference. I crossed the finish line in 22:54, thrilled with my new sub-23 personal best.

(Technically I had run faster than 22:54 twice before, but both previous efforts were “asterisk” PRs. One was a point-to-point downhill course (22:38) and the other was majorly Piper-assisted (22:43). Therefore, I happily accepted this Haverford Twilight time as my “official” 5K PR.)

The Broad Street Run 

May 7, 2017 | Philadelphia, PA | 6838th overall (oh yeah!), 1627th F, 348th AG (results)

The mother of all Philly races. Two weeks after the Twilight 5K I joined 40,000 runners (see, that 6838th place looks better now) in a 10 mile run down Broad Street. I ran this race in 2015 and this time around my primary goal was to beat my previous PR of 1:23:54. My secondary goal was to go sub-1:20, but that ended up being a little too aggressive for the day. I started off on pace for a fast time, but at around mile 7 hit a wall and had to work reallllly hard to earn my new PR. I finished about 2 1/2 minutes faster than my 2015 time with a time of 1:21:28. Hurrah!

FranksWine Downhill Mile Road Race

August 24, 2017 | Wilmington, DE | 46th overall, 9th F, 3rd AG (results)

Usually I don’t race in August, but when I realized that the weather was going to be unseasonably cool and discovered that this race ended a block from my brother- and sister-in-laws’ place in Trolley Square, I figured it was meant to be. Matt and I parked at the finish line, jogged to the start, then proceeded to race the fastest mile of our lives. I felt completely in control the entire race, and happily watched my quarter mile splits tick by evenly. I sprinted at the finish and earned a new PR of 6:20, 26 seconds faster than my previous best at the Media Mile in 2016.

Pints in the Square 5K

September 9, 2017 | Newtown Square, PA | 17th overall, 2nd F!! (results)

This was today’s race and the PR that finally got me to write this recap. I hadn’t raced a 5K road race since the Twilight Run in April and I was interested to see what sort of shape I was in after a long summer of treadmill runs. With that in mind, my goal was more to run a strong race (low 23s?) rather than do anything crazy. But apparently my legs didn’t get that message.

A few minutes into the race I realized that the first place woman was not especially far ahead of me. It wasn’t time to get too excited about that – I still had 2.5 miles to go! – but this surprised me. Two more woman passed me during the first mile, but by the time I hit the halfway point I had decided that I really wanted to finish this race in the top 3.

During mile 2 I squeaked ahead of the 3rd place woman. I tried to look really strong while doing this, telling myself it would psych her out; no idea of that worked but it helped boost my confidence! As I began mile 3 I could see the 2nd place woman quite a ways ahead of me. At that point I got super corny and said to myself “I can either be the hunter or the hunted,” meaning that I could either run mile 3 like I was going to chase down that 2nd place woman, or I could run it scared and worried about who might be coming up on me.  I didn’t think I could actually catch 2nd place, but I chose the more optimistic approach and, for mile 3, I became the HUNTER!

And hunt I did. Ever so slowly I gained on her, inch by inch, turn by turn. I focused on her back and pushed with every stride. With a half mile to go she was still too far ahead for me to entertain the possibility of overtaking her, but I kept hunting. Finally, with the finish line in sight, I had pulled within 50 feet. There were two walkers on course and I made my move around them, swinging wide to the right and zooming towards the finish. I never looked to see how the other runner responded, I just sprinted as hard as I could.

Just before crossing the finish line (in 2nd place!!) I noticed the clock, ticking from 21:59 to 22:00. Wait, what??! I had been so focused on hunting that I had lost all sense of time. It was not until that exact moment that I realized I was on track to PR by nearly a minute. I bounded over the finish line and stopped my watch at 22:03, 51 seconds faster than my April PR!

Now, I have to admit that an hour later I learned that the runner I passed did technically beat me by chip time, but the race awards were given out based on gun time, so I think it’s fair to blog-brag about my 2nd place honors, don’t you? 😉

At the beer festival with our neighbor, Bob. (Photo by Roe!)

Following the race Matt and I met up with our neighbors at the craft beer festival portion of the event and, after a few hours of good beer and company, we returned home and I got right to work on this long-overdue post. It feels fantastic to finally catch up on my race recaps! Watch out world… I’m back and I am the HUNTER!  (I couldn’t resist!) 😄 Continue reading

That time Piper met a Porcupine…

Flashback to last Saturday morning. Matt and I are sitting next to an older man in the Emergency Vet’s waiting room watching a nature show on TV. A porcupine appears onscreen and the man says “Have you ever seen a dog that came face to face with a porcupine?? OUCH!” Oh yes, I tell him. In fact, that’s exactly why we’re here!!!

Piper, or Porcupipe, as she may be called from now on, BIT A PORCUPINE on Friday afternoon. Piper is fine and no, I don’t think that she learned not to mess with porcupines in the future!! We were on a hike as part of our annual sojourn to the Hunting Camp, aka Globe Run Rod and Gun Club, a private wilderness retreat located in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.  As is always the case at Camp, all dogs run free and daily activities include swimming in the lake, hiking, and logging some quality time in the rocking chairs on the front porch. But this year was a liiiittle different, thanks to Piper’s prickly new friend. Continue reading

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 Continue reading

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

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