Life is fair and balanced (for now)

Last month, I wrote about choosing balance as my one word of focus for the year.  I had been yearning for a change in my life and knew that I needed to bring balance to all areas of my life, so it seemed the perfect fit.  I figured that since we are almost 2 full months into the year, it was time to give a “Dr. Phil” update on “how it’s working for me”.

Truth be told, it is working fairly well…..better than I EVER expected.  Of course, there are still obligations that are out of my control, such as games and practices (and work! LOL), but I have been pleased with the choices I have made in the areas that are a little more flexible.

For one thing, I haven’t worked as many tournaments.  (I still harbor a bit of guilt over blocking off so many weekends.)  I didn’t work this past weekend and it was WONDERFUL!  I enjoyed the entire weekend with not much at all to do (OK, I had LOTS of housework to do, but I only got around to a little bit of it.)  And as I enjoyed the Spring-like weather, I was reminded that this is what balance feels like and I felt pure contentment in just being present in the moment.  (Well…..some of that could have had something to do with the fact that I had the house all to myself Saturday afternoon!)

My approach to fitness has been more balanced.  Snicker if you must, but I DO realize that, in part, this is due to my current stage in rehab and recovery.  Having said that, I AM developing a more rounded approach to my running.  Notice I even said “fitness” rather than “running”….because running is a means to being fit.  And fit can be achieved through many ways.  I am still strength training regularly and I ride my bike at least once per week.  Nature is helping me out as well.  Since the sun is setting later, I have time to get a run in on Tuesdays while Alli is at practice.  That frees up Monday evening AND I don’t feel like that practice time (for me) has been wasted.  And it’s only a matter of days until I will be able to get a run in on the Thursday practices as well! #doublebonus

I started doing yoga!!!  So my hamstrings, ankles and calves scream inflexibility, but I can bend the front side of my body like a pretzel!  Seriously, though, yoga is proving a nice tool to help me work out the kinks that I just can’t seem to get with the foam roller and therapy ball, and it is soooooo relaxing!

I still have piles of clothes that need folding (hey…at least they are clean!) and my floors aren’t clean enough for us to eat off of.  Even though I’ve never lost sleep over housework to be done, I do sleep better when it is complete!  But at the end of the day (or my life), I would rather be remembered for the way I treated people than whether or not my house was spotless every time someone came to the door.  I suspect that regardless of the amount of free time I have, housework is still going to be an area in which I’m a slacker! LOL

 

It occurred to me the other day that, even though I mention cupcakes in my blog name, I haven’t been blogging about cupcakes very often.  Today that is going to change!

Last week,  I was asked to make cupcakes for the high school staff.  I ended up settling on vanilla and snickerdoodle, although (and this is the truth), right before bed last night I realized that I used buttercream frosting instead of cream cheese for the snickerdoodle!  Oh, the HORROR!!!

My delicious vanilla batter, which I have tweaked and perfected to make my palette happy :)
My delicious vanilla batter, which I have tweaked and perfected to make my palette happy 🙂

The great thing about snickerdoodle is that you just add some cinnamon to vanilla batter.  Makes it sooooo easy to bake 2 flavors of cupcakes!  By the way, Alli noticed immediately when she came home that I had baked without her, because the mixing bowl was missing (in the dishwasher)!  Can’t get anything by that kid!

And, the finished product!

Still a little upset with myself for not making cream cheese snickerdoodle frosting!
Still a little upset with myself for not making cream cheese snickerdoodle frosting!

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Jen

Earthquake aftermath and Texas is FROZEN!

After I posted yesterday, my preacher’s wife (who grew up in Cali) promptly commented about how she was screaming at the TV when our local news outlets were reporting all the earthquakes.  Because, according to her, after the first one the rest were after shocks.  She was appalled that they were using the wrong lingo!  I hadn’t even thought about after shocks until she pointed them out (she was correct, of course), but the ground WAS shaking, so we Texans don’t really care WHAT you call it – it’s all terrible!  Perhaps I should remind her that she DID move to Texas, where we are ignorant about such things, and are all too happy to remain that way!  (By the way, ONLY in Texas would it be necessary for the news to instruct the public NOT to call 911 in the event of an earthquake, except in the case of a terrible injury!  That really happened yesterday!!)

As I’m writing this, though, I remember when my preacher and his family first moved to town from the big city and couldn’t believe that the weather sirens didn’t sound during a terrible storm.  Apparently in the metroplex the sirens go off in the event of lightening and thunder, but in our little town, the sirens rarely go off unless a tornado is ON ITS WAY!  If you hear them, then you KNOW it’s time to run for cover!  And when they do go off, you must brace yourself for all the Facebook posts about it! Haha!!  I’m glad they are good sports about it and don’t mind me laughing at them! 🙂

Last night, Alli and I did this:

Vanilla on the left and Snickerdoodle on the right
Vanilla on the left and Snickerdoodle on the right

Not sure if I mentioned that one of my Christmas gifts was a KitchenAid mixer, but one of my Christmas gifts was a KitchenAid mixer!!  We have already put it to good use MANY times!  Our assistant coach’s birthday is Saturday and OF COURSE I volunteered to make cupcakes!!  We made my vanilla cake recipe, scooped out 12 cupcakes then added cinnamon to the remaining batter to make Snickerdoodle.  We frosted the vanilla cupcakes with vanilla butter cream and the Snickerdoodle with a snickerdoodle cream cheese frosting, of course!  This was our very first time using a frosting bag, and we LOVED it!  Alli knew all the ins and outs of using one, as I learned last night, because she watches baking videos on YouTube quite often!

I KNOW that complaining about 12 degree temps may just earn me a lynching from my Northern friends, but I DO live in Texas and it is freaking COLD!!!  In addition, my little area had the LOWEST temp in the region this morning!

That's me - 12 degrees at the top of the map.  I'm sure it's Oklahoma's fault!
That’s me – 12 degrees at the top of the map, right on the Red River and Oklahoma border. I’m sure these low temps are ALL Oklahoma’s fault!

Since it dropped below 20, I felt I should wear my coat.  Granted, it probably doesn’t even qualify as a jacket for people living in Canada, but it is a tad warmer than no jacket at all, which is my usual attire.  I figured Alli better bundle up as well and told her to go grab her purple Under Armour coat.  <look of confusion> Alli: “You mean the coat I got from Justice?” Me, “No, your UNDER ARMOUR coat.  The purple one.” <still giving me look of confusion>  Alli, “It’s in the bathroom and Logan is in there.” Me, “No, that is a hoodie.  Hoodies are NOT coats.  I’m talking about the PURPLE UNDER ARMOUR coat that we bought last year at the Under Armour store.  Remember?  The one we got on sale and you never wore, even to play in when it snowed??” Alli, “OH YEAH!!!!”  She wore it in the car.  Took it off before going into school.  <face palm>  We would all literally freeze to death if we lived where it was genuinely cold all winter.

Today marks the start of official games for Bonham High School 2015 soccer.  The boys are playing in a tournament and have games at 11:30 and 6:30 today and 3:00 tomorrow.  Saturday games depend on how they do in these 3 pool play games.  Yes, I will be going tonight.  I’m oddly excited, because I will be armed with my 6 blankets, mittens and hand warmers for my fingers and toes!  I’ll let you know how it goes!

Yesterday was also workout day.  I was allowed to ride my bike for 30 min and do strength exercises.  Everything was easier than Monday and I have NO issues to report!  I am beginning to get VERY excited about being able to run again soon!  I’m still planning to wait until the end of January, but am playing it by ear.  Just being able to do SOMETHING on the bike trainer has helped my mental state!

It’s Thursday, y’all, which means it’s almost Friday!

Travel: Texas (and Canadian) Style

This weekend, I had the special privilege of meeting the one and only 50StateCanuck who came to Texas to run Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio.  In the early planning stages, my daughters were both going to go with me but their schedules didn’t work out.  So I embarked alone on the 6 hour drive South last Friday morning, determined to show Jane the best of Texas.  I have no doubt that she will chronicle our time together in San Antonio and it will be more interesting to hear it told through her Canadian lens. For that reason, I won’t be going into great detail of our shenanigans,  but instead will give you non-Texas folks a lesson in travel for my great state.  (By the way, you will want to check out her blog full of professional-looking photos and a great rehash of the trip at 50statecanuck.com – be patient, as she travels back to Canada today 🙂 )

First, I will give you the Cliff Notes version of our weekend.  I arrived in San Antonio around 3:30 and met Jane on the Riverwalk for a drink.  I usually have a lot of anxiety over meeting new people, but was different with her.  She is so easy to talk to and it’s quite fun listening to her accent.  (Although, I think most people would say my accent is thicker than hers.)  I felt we hit it off right away.  (Let’s hope she says the same! LOL)  We made our plans for the evening: basically dinner and the River boat tour.  Thankfully our main goal on the tour was to see Christmas lights on the Riverwalk, because our tour guide……struggled.  That evening when we got back to the hotel, we exchanged gifts (who knew we would BOTH have gifts?!?)  I received, what I expect to be delicious, maple syrup and maple syrup candies.  If you want to see what I got Jane, you’ll have to read her blog. 😉

I don't think I've ever had REAL maple syrup.  I KNOW I've never had maple syrup candy!!  I can't wait to try it!
I don’t think I’ve ever had REAL maple syrup. I KNOW I’ve never had maple syrup candy!! I can’t wait to try it!

I know that Jane is interested in history wherever she goes, so I suggested early on that we tour the missions.  The missions are my favorite part of San Antonio, hands down, and the reason that San Antonio exists today.  The tour was amazing, and even I learned some new things this time around. 🙂   One thing that saddened me, however, was the renovations done to Mission San Jose.  Since it is an active congregation, the parish keeps up the inside of the church and the parks department maintains everything outside the church walls.  I personally felt it didn’t keep with the mission traditions, but it is still a beautiful building.

On the left: Mission San Jose sanctuary while I worshiped there in 2009. On the right: the updated sanctuary.  It is so ornate that it doesn't fit in with the simplicity of mission life.
On the left: Mission San Jose sanctuary when I worshiped there in 2009. (Shhhh -I took communion and I’m not even Catholic!)
On the right: the updated sanctuary. It is so ornate not that it doesn’t fit in with the simplicity of mission life.

Saturday evening concluded our time together with a trip out to Gruene (pronounced Green), Texas.  If you are a country music fan, chances are  you have heard of Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas.  Many up-and-coming artists play there regularly, as well as established artists.  Somehow, successful country singers make their way onto the Gruene Hall stage at some point in their career.  If you’ve been to Gruene, I’m sure you have eaten at the Grist Mill, as we did!

Sunday morning I got up and ready to send Jane off to her race.  It was such a fun weekend, but too short, in my opinion, and it was difficult to say goodbye.  I was on the road by 7:45 to make the trek back to Big B and made great time because hardly anyone travels that early on Sunday morning!

Now, on to my Texas Travel Tips:

  •  If you are going to travel in Texas, DO NOT drive in the left lane unless and until you are prepared to drive AT LEAST an average of 20 miles over the speed limit.  On Texas freeways, speed limits are guidelines, really, open to interpretation and our interpretation is that the posted speed limit is much too slow.  (Hint: If someone is riding your bumper, you should probably move over.  If you don’t feel like moving over, just remember that we all have guns.)
  • You MUST stop in West at Czech Stop, going AND coming.  It’s the law. (If you don’t agree, we can’t be friends.)  By the way, West was famous in Texas long before the fertilizer plant explosion, which was just days after the Boston Marathon bombing.  But now, it seems even more special when I’m able to stop.
    The BEST bakery in Texas!
    The BEST bakery in Texas!
    I had some difficulty choosing the kolaches. Let's just say I bought "a few".
    I had some difficulty choosing the kolaches. Let’s just say I bought “a few”.
    OK, I didn't have trouble here.  These have meat.  And I didn't even photograph all the breads.
    OK, I didn’t have trouble choosing here. These have meat.  AND I didn’t even photograph the breads.

    I brought Jane a pecan (puh-cahn NOT pee-can) pie.
    I brought Jane a pecan (puh-cahn NOT pee-can) pie.
  • If you stop in Georgetown for lunch, you might stumble upon a cupcake shop by accident!  Thankfully, I found this or my whole trip might have been a waste.  Jane clearly doesn’t understand the importance of eating cupcakes in every city you visit.

    Seriously was soooo delicious.  Oh, and the salted caramel I saved for later was TO DIE FOR.
    Seriously was soooo delicious. Oh, and the salted caramel I saved for later was TO DIE FOR.
  • DO NOT drive through Austin; take the toll road!  I have to admit that I made this mistake on Friday.  Set me back at least 30 minutes.  Austin traffic is terrible…..ALWAYS.
  • Do not stop at any Shell station in Round Rock.  I pulled up to the pump, got out, and all the pumps turned off.  I know I was 4 hours into my trip at that point, but I didn’t realize I looked that road weary.
  • Not even Texans know what those caterpillar/worm buildings are between Waxahachie and Italy.  It’s just best not to spend much time thinking about it.  The most likely explanation is alien activity, but you can’t talk about aliens in Texas.

    Pic courtesy of:
    Pic courtesy of: Roadside America
  • No matter what your destination, you must ensure that your route takes you past a Buc-ee’s.  If you don’t know what Buc-ee’s (pronounced Buck-ee’s) is; I am sorry and I hope that you actually live life one day and stop at one.  It is a rest stop/gas station/convenience store/clothing store/kind-of grocery store with more bathroomsthan you’ll ever find in one place AND they are all clean!  (HOW do they keep them so clean???)  Half the store is dedicated to every kind of trail mix/snack food currently available to modern man. Seriously, amazing.
    That's 120 gas pumps and the building is as big as a grocery store.
    That’s 120 gas pumps and the building is as big as a grocery store AND usually so busy that you have to wait for a gas pump.

    Your convenience store doesn't have a beaver statue in the center of a Texas star??
    Your convenience store doesn’t have a beaver statue in the center of a Texas star??

 

Seriously, though, this trip was exactly what I needed.  Of course, the BEST part was meeting Jane!  She is just as amazing, fun, kind and sweet as she comes across on Twitter.  But I needed a reprieve from life.  It’s hard to explain, but I have had a mental disconnect with my upcoming race yet at the same time I am a ball of nerves.  I was much more confident before I started having these ITB problems.  I worry (pretty much all the time) that my ITB is going to REALLY affect the race.  So I try not to think about it because it is unpleasant (that’s how I deal sometimes), but I’m usually unsuccessful.   However….I didn’t think about the race or my ITB all weekend, thanks to Jane!!

Spending time with her got me to thinking about my friends, though, because she really is loads of fun.  I am blessed with some very good face-to-face friends as well as friendships that have developed via Twitter through a common love of running. I am even more thankful for these friends now, because I have been struggling of late about what my friendship means with some of my friends.  There is one friendship in particular that I have been mourning: my running partner.  And while I know and understand that she is the type that moves from friend to friend, I have still been very hurt by the fact that she won’t even discuss with me how my training is going – yet she still calls to talk about anything BUT running.  Thinking about that on the drive home caused me a bit of sadness.  When I got home, however, I had a package waiting from my friend RunCarli.  She mailed me a note of encouragement for my upcoming marathon AND included some of her favorite gels.  The timing was perfect to remind me that it is natural to have people leave your life after a season, but new, sometimes more special ones, enter your life at just the right time!

Blessed by kindness!
Blessed by kindness!

I want to close with a BIG thank you to my husband, Bobby.  I am so blessed because he is so supportive of my running, and anything I want to do, really.  This weekend wouldn’t have been possible without his support.  He kept things going at home and put on the hat of Taxi Mom for all of Alli’s activities.  I appreciate all he does for our family very, very much!!

6 days until Dallas!!

Later, y’all!

Avoiding another crack cupcake debacle

This post should shed a little light on the “cupcake” part of my blog name, and hopefully explain some of the “crazy” as well.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I LOVE cupcakes and look for reasons to whip up a batch or experiment with new flavors.  Around this time last year (when I was training for the marathon I would never get to run – I’ll get to that in a future post) I was asked to bake cupcakes as part of Teacher Appreciation at my son’s high school.

Since it was Fall and I am obsessed with all things caramel, the obvious choice was a caramel cupcake recipe I found.  The cake itself was caramel as well as the frosting.

The evening started innocently…as mundane as any other baking of cupcakes had been.  But after I mixed the batter and got the cupcakes into the oven, the insanity began.  I always lick the bowl.  ALWAYS.  You can go on and on about raw eggs and salmonella and I really don’t care.  It’s just too good.  So, I licked the bowl.  OH.  MY.  GOODNESS.  It was so delicious!  There was not a trace of batter left in the bowl by the time I was finished!

After I regained some composure from the batter-bowl licking sugar high, I began making the frosting.  The base of the frosting was butter, melted over medium heat, with brown sugar, vanilla and cream.  After the mixture cooled, powdered sugar was to be added until the right consistency was reached.  Naturally, I licked the pan in which the base was made.  How could I let that sweet elixir go to waste?  (It might be important to note that, at this point, my stomach was a little unsettled.)  I plowed on, finishing the frosting while the cupcakes were cooling.  I wouldn’t have been a very good baker had I not tried the finished frosting, right??  Of course I tried the finished frosting!!

By the time I had frosted the cupcakes, my stomach was in full-blown panic mode.  However, since I am the Queen of Stupid Sh*t and rarely listen to Rational Jen, I decided that any decent cook would taste test her finished product.  I figured that 1/2 cupcake would be sufficient and small enough not to cause any more problems.  So I ate my 1/2 cupcake and immediately devoured the other half, without any consideration for calories or upset stomachs or anything of that nature.

My "Caramel Crack Cupcakes", as they became affectionately called.
My “Caramel Crack Cupcakes”, as they became affectionately called.

It only took my a matter of minutes to realize the mistake(s) I had made.  I was miserable and sick to my stomach for three days after, barely eating soup and crackers.  As I described the events to my running partner, I told her that I attacked everything like a crack whore.  And that’s how it came to be known as the “Great Caramel Crack Cupcake Debacle”.

I was asked yesterday to make cupcakes, as Teacher Appreciation is tomorrow.  I’m telling this story, in part, to remind myself how horrible I felt so that maybe I can exercise some self control in the kitchen this time around.  But I think I’ll still steer clear of making those Caramel Crack Cupcakes!