Thursday, January 28, 2010

Red velvet is in

My camera is failing me because these pictures do not do justice to this cake. If you could only scratch, sniff and taste on the computer. I had three recipes I was torn between using but went with the one using butter instead of oil. Oil is nice but butter is better. I was amazed by the texture and structure of this cake. I'm not often proud of a baked item and maybe it was beginning red velvet luck but this cake was scientifically sound.

My next issue was what to frost it with, butter cream? Cream cheese frosting? Or an interesting pecan cream cheese frosting that seemed to be used traditionally at some point? Fortunately I was blabbing about this cake and a friend sent me her husband's grandma's red velvet frosting recipe which appeared to be less sweet than my above choices. I compromised and used grandma's as the filling for the torted layers and the cream cheese for the outside.

This was the last slice left and a less than excellent example of the magnificence of this cake. (Not to mention the apparent finger prints on the lens-Ollie!)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Project one of 2010

I've been working on this scarf longer than I would like to admit but it is finally done! I have since weaved the ends in so there are no long pieces crawling all over my brown-eyed boy. Now I need to muster up the energy to pull out the quilt top I finished some time ago and sandwich it together so it can be quilted and finished. This is the year of finishing so I can get some new things started without old things banging into my head.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

First race of 2010

Today's race didn't quite live up to it's name as there were no frozen fannies in sight but it was chilly and slippery. The course was flat (Except, of course, for the hill at the end. Why do they always plan a hill at the end?) and loopy so I was able to see my running buddies a few times. I imagine that it is a beautiful route in the spring and summer months as it appeared that we were in a park that would be lush in warmer weather.

The race was put on by the Bay Area Runner's Club and they know how to do post-race snacks. Not a banana to be found! And although there were apples, they were along side of the chocolate cupcakes with chocolate-peanut butter frosting. They even had soup with crackers and cheese but because we were headed to the Souper Cafe we opted out of the soup.

It was a great way to start out the 2010 running year!

Friday, January 15, 2010

5k fun

I don't train for 5k's but use them as speed work to train for other events. This is because I'm a wimp. Running fast hurts, not that running in general doesn't sometimes hurt but the all out effort of speed work is just torture to me so I run 5k's instead and suffer in a group with goodies to eat at the end.

This year I've set a goal of running at least one race a month and the quest begins tomorrow when a few of us will head to Bay City to run the Freeze Your Fanny 5k. We picked this one over the Snowflake Run in Flushing just so we could get a shirt with the word "fanny" on it. The 5k is a funny distance, short enough that most people I know, fit or not, could finish one (walking, running or both) but long enough that if you are serious about what you are doing you need to be smart about it. Eamonn Coghlan contends that it takes the strength of a marathoner and the speed of a miler to run a good 5k. Which in short means you need to sometimes train long, sometimes train fast and sometimes both. Although us average folks are usually just looking to run well and perhaps beat our previous personal 5k time there isn't anything wrong with having expectations. But what I've quickly learned is that you can't expect to race fast unless you train fast. All the long, slow miles are comfy but if you don't train those muscles to move it! they aren't going perform come race day.

Mileage+Speed work+Bananas+Rest=Good Race


But you need a plan, a strategy for how you are going to race that day and you need to try to stick with it, EVEN IF YOU FEEL REALLY GOOD AT THE START.

I know, because I've blown it at the beginning by starting at a pace that at the time did not feel outrageous for me but was. I always tell first time racers to be careful, don't go out too fast, and inevitably I don't follow my own advice. Eamonn further states that to run a 5k well takes an ability to get into the proper pace and rhythm over the first quarter mile, then relax and settle down. So, in addition to my monthly race goal I think I'd like to race smarter, more in control and perhaps suck it up during my training miles and toss in a little speed work, maybe.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Buchtie Day 2010

January 10th is our annual Buchtie Day and we were fortunate to have the Buchtie Master, Aunt Mary, on hand this year. I've been attempting to recreate her superb results for many years now and I think I finally did it! I made a batch of dough without her help and she made a batch of dough (In the beautiful professional Kitchenaid mixer that she hauled to our house just for the day, I was hoping she would forget it but no such luck.) and amazingly enough the end product was the same. In the Kuchar family this is similar to winning the Noble prize.

I'd share the recipe because it isn't a secret but it is more than knowing the ingredients, it is about how to put it together and the proper consistency of the dough. Then you need to throw the dough, fill it, and top it with posypka which inevitably ends up all over the house because it is good before it is baked, even better after it is baked and falls off the buchtie as you are walking around eating one. Don't vacuum before baking!

Fergie tried to balance and catch one from her nose but failed miserably. She could hardly contain her excitement to get it onto her nose and then it flopped on the floor where she promptly picked it up and carted it off to eat as though she was at tea party. I think the poppy seed filling was a bit extreme for her.

Done on the left and waiting on the right!

The Kuchar girls will have nothing but happy memories of Buchtie Day.

By the time they made it to this plate I could think nothing but "ugh".

Keep on moving

These are my winter trainers drying in front of the wood burner after a particularly snowy run where I embraced the weather rather than cursing it . Winter running is a challenge but the victory I feel after a run in extremely brutal temps is worth it. There is nothing like icicles hanging from your eyelashes and balls of ice accumulating in the elbow of your outer layer to make you feel like a real runner. The look my husband gives me upon entering the door is anything but admiration and more like he needs to call the mental health authority, but hey, to each his own. I don't think running the snow blower for 3 hours just to hear the hum of the machine is all that sane either.

I always get the odd person that suggests I take the winter off, these people typically are not runners or even someone that exercises regularly (and that's okay, I'm not judging), but that is not an option for me. One winter I had been given a stationary bike and I was pregnant, the bike was set up in the granery (so I didn't wake up anyone in the house) and on really nasty days I would bike. It was miserable monotony. Horrible. But I got out there anyway and peddled my way to a semi-endorphin high. I have never been that desperate to avoid the elements again and instead tough it out with plenty of layers and lots of determination.

I'm a perpetual motion person and anyone that knows me or is around me often enough realizes that I don't sit still very well. Running and I fit very well together.

However, the fact that I do run and continue to run is very confusing to my doctors. When my medical problems first surfaced it was easy for them to see my labs were not normal yet when I reported that I was still running they dismissed my complaints because if I could run I must be fine. After my experience I am convinced that runners need doctors that run or at least doctors that are physically active if the actual title "runner" is not available. I recently switched general practitioners and after Googling several names I had been given I selected the person that had recent race times. She understood why back in October 2007 I went to that starting line even though I knew deep down that I shouldn't have because she would have too.

On Saturday I had an appointment during which my rheumatologist and I were discussing my hip pain and I told her how it hurts to sit, lay down, squat, etc. but that when I'm moving I feel better. It is tough to get out the door to run but once I'm going I don't want to stop because I know it will hurt worse to stop than to keep going. Running is good for my cells, it makes them work; it makes my joints lube up so they are less cranky. She confirmed this as very typical of an inflammatory joint condition and for the first time in two years my running was validated by my rheumatologist (the prior doctor suggested I quit running) as a productive way to help my condition. I guess I ought to look into running some ultras...

Friday, January 8, 2010

The not really a new year's post

I had intentions of starting the new year with one of those boring posts about all the great things that happened last year and then set up some goals for the coming year. But I realize most people don't care how many miles or races I ran, or how many scarves or quilts I plan to start AND finish this year. All those things will just be my little secrets.

The kids had a snow day today and one that couldn't have come at a better time. It has been a frustrating school year and already I find myself biding the time until it will be over. Which brings about one of the biggest issues we will face in the next six months: how our children will obtain an education next year. I'm tired of thinking about this issue and looking and reconsidering every available option because none of them are viable for the group as a whole.

When I was young we lived two houses away from the K-6 elementary school and I attended kindergarten at Lincoln Elementary knowing by mid-year that the doors would close in June for good and we would be bussed to Buchanan after that. Nobody threw a fit, enrollment was down and it just made sense to consolidate. We visited the new elementary school at some point during my kindergarten year and then spent the next six years in a building that I fondly remember and could accurately draw a map of if asked. We lived in a great school district that was well-funded with programs for students of all abilities.

Unfortunately, that is not the case where I live with my children and I have found myself in the position where I must select their educational environment and not just accept it. This decision is tougher than the breast vs. bottle discussion or the cloth vs. paper diaper dilemma. And what makes it so difficult is the lack of options, I'm capable of selecting and supporting a program but when there is only one to choose from it isn't really a choice.

So today I found myself shoveling the driveway and as I was tossing the snow out of the way I glanced up to see St. Francis shrouded in snow. Sometimes there are little surprises out there and just maybe 2010 will bring me a few more.