Saturday, December 31, 2011

Buttermilk Trail and Northbank

On Friday, our running group did our first 7-miler. This was the first time I've run that far since high school! Becky was also able to join us and she's a great motivator for me. I ran this one a little bit differently. I knew this was going to be a long one and I would have to watch how my body felt the entire time. I kept my iPod on so that when I was feeling slow I could pop my earbuds in and get a little boost. We didn't do as much talking this time, but I'm not sure how we could! There was so much elevation change; a lot of uphills then downhills. Not to mention, it was mostly a trail run with the exception of the bridges and small roads, so we really had to focus on our footing. Becky, Laura, and I ran together mostly. Becky and I were feeling nostalgic about cross country and being on a trail run, haha!

This run really made me fall in love with the city all over again. First of all, I never knew the trails were even there! It was gorgeous. There was one point on the run where we were running just past Maymont's bear cage (don't feed the animals! Or they die!) and you could see a beautiful view of the skyline, Hollywood Cemetery, and the James. Not to mention, we had an awesome view of Tredegar and Ethyl when we finished!

I took a few screenshots of the Garmin breakdown, which made me even prouder! This first screen shot shows your summary, average pace and best pace, a map of your run, and the elevation. Pretty neat! I finished hard at the end, so that's where I got my best pace. Considering the tricky footing, a few brief pit stops to figure out where to go next, and some breathers, I'm pretty happy with my 12 minute mile pace!

This shot shows your heart rate, lap breakdown, and the elevation. I think it's awesome that even with a few stops my heart rate stayed up. Also, I'm pleased with the consistency of my pace.

This last shot can actually play on the website. You can see where your pace slow down by clicking on the graph and it will show on the map. Pretty awesome! I think it's interesting that at certain times of high elevation, my pace picked up. Must have been the Lil' Wayne moments!

It probably also helped that I had a brand new pair of running shoes. I had worn my last pair way too long. I ended up getting the exact same ones because I loved them! They are Asics Gel-Kayanos. So light weight and they support the weird way I run to the outside of my feet. I need to do better about replacing them when they're worn out.

I'm going to do a hard 2 or 3 mile run today and then I'll feel really good going into partying for New Years! What are your plans?

Up next, a website with awesome running music and a break down of our night, if possible ;o)

Monday, December 26, 2011

What Gets Me Through (NSFW)

For those who don't know, I love gangster rap.  Like dirty, ghetto, nasty rap.  Rap with lyrics that would make Andrew Dice Clay blush.  Specifically, I'm a Young Money fan.  Even more specifically, Lil' Wayne.   As I've been training I've been listening to Lil' Wayne Pandora.  Every once in a while a new-to-me song will come on and give me that extra push to pick it up a little bit.  I'm going to share these now and then for those who may be interested.  I'm building a collection for my playlist on race day.

WARNING:  This is not safe for work, for children, or for most people in general.  (It's just music, but I want to give heed)

Seriously, please don't click here, Grandma...

Christmas 2012

Christmas 1: Mass with Ryan's family and Dinner at Grandma's

Our Christmas definitely began on Christmas Eve! At 7:00 we went to a wonderful Christmas Mass with Ryan's family. Last Christmas with his family was my first experience in a Catholic church. It wasn't what I expected at all! The priest is actually very funny and really makes the service fun. I choose not to take communion (and know I'm not supposed to!) out of respect for their church as I'm not confirmed Catholic. I always panic right before, which Ryan finds humorous of course, thinking I'm going to look weird sitting by myself, but no one seems to care! After mass, we went to my grandmother's house for a late dinner. Grandma always likes to have her own Christmas at her house and we never mind! We used to go on Christmas Night, but now that my brother and I are married and almost married respectively, we have to do some creative scheduling! At this Christmas we just share gifts to and from Grandma. It was funny this year because our family has grown so large that we had one main table and 4 TV dinner tables set up in the living room which we "kids" took advantage of. This Christmas didn't disappoint, as always!

I can honestly say that ever since I met Ryan, my Christmases have gotten better and better. Last year, we woke up and shared our Christmas gifts with one another before celebrating with our families. This was his idea. I have never had someone completely put me first the way that Ryan does and this was an extremely symbolic moment for me in our relationship. Anyway, mushiness aside. We woke up in our new house with our sweet pup snuggled in between us and got to say Merry Christmas to each other first, yet again. I got up and made some breakfast casseroles to take over to my parents for our Christmas Brunch and finished wrapping some presents (I know, I know...). Ryan and I only got each other a few little things, our main gift to one another was this roof over our heads! We loaded up the car with gifts and went off to Christmas number two!

Christmas 2: Brunch with Ashley's family

We got there around 10:00 and Mom had some coffee cake out for us to munch on. Everyone was up and ready for us. My grandfather from NC had arrived the night before. Todd and Jenn arrived shortly after, followed by Grandma and her husband. We ate a delicious breakfast and sat down to open gifts. Todd and Jenn got each other and iPad for their gift, so we had lots of documentation of the day! We all had a great Christmas there. Ryan got lots of giftcards and some shirts for football games. One of the things I was looking forward to the most was my main gift. Got to get that wedding skin started!
This is a Clarisonic. You use it for 1 minute a day. It's great for getting off the extra makeup and it's a great exfoliator.
My favorite gift by far though was a surprise. Last August, we lost my grandmother to Pancreatic cancer. My grandfather took one of her favorite rings and turned it into 3 necklaces for my mother, Jennifer, and me. I'm going to wear it on our wedding day! It's absolutely stunning and obviously moved me to tears. 

This doesn't do it justice!

After opening presents, we did our usual:  The women did dishes and the men watched Christmas Vacation.  We all snuggled on the couch to finish the movie, then Ryan and I had to head out for round 3.

Christmas 3:  Dinner with Ryan's family

We took a quick trip back to our house to reload on gifts.  When we got to Ryan's house, we opened gifts with just his parents and sister.  Milk got lots of gifts there, too!  I got a wonderfully generous giftcard to Dick's which helped me buy my greatest addition to my training.  This bad boy tracks mileage, speed, elevation, hear rate, and calories burned.  Plus, I can add them onto a website to track my progress.  I'm so excited!

After that, Ryan's grandmother, aunt, uncles, and cousins came over and we had a wonderful dinner.  Then, we exchanged gifts again (!) and played Dirty Santa.  Everyone brings small gifts under $10 and we draw them in order but can steal another one if they see something they like.  It's always fun!  After that, we played a game and spent some quality time together.  Finally, it was off to Christmas 4!

Christmas 4:  Ann and Bob's for Candlewood Christmas. 

We got there late, so we only stayed for a beer.  Most everyone had left, but it's just not Christmas if I don't get to hug Bob, Ann, and Andrew's necks!  Andrew's girlfriend Lindsey and her mom and brother were also there.

It was an incredibly long but joyful day.  I'm so blessed to have such great family and friends and I can't believe I'm being welcomed into another loving, caring, and kind family.  Merry Christmas to you and yours as well!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Merry

This message is brought to you by my second favorite Christmas song.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Things We Do For (To) Our Pets...

Milk is more than just a dog. (He's actually a lot less than a dog, too....he can't fetch and he likes to stand on things. We're pretty sure he thinks he's a cat, but that's neither here nor there....) Anyway, he's a member of our family without question. He sleeps right in the middle of us every night, which is insane because I always said I would never share a bed with anything that licks it's own butt. I can't stop taking pictures of him because everything is does is the cutest thing ever. I have full blown conversations with him and pretend like he's answering me. If someone where to eavesdrop on us when I assumed we were alone, I would be institutionalized for sure! I even leave the TV on for him when I'm gone because, well, you never know. I've never been one to dress him up because I'm sure he would just tear it off, but I totally get why people do that! They are our children and who doesn't want to dress their child up in the sweetest things?!

That being said, I wanted to share some of my favorite animal pictures of friends who love their babies just as much as Ryan and I love the Milkman!  What's the crazies thing you've done for your fur child?
Merry Christmas, from Brody!

Go Hokies, from Abby!

Happy Birthday, Hazel!

Happy Halloween, from Hazel!
Merry Christmas to Milk!

Merry Christmas, from Milk!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tough Runs

As I mentioned earlier, I'm training for a half-marathon.  I ran cross-country and track in high school, so I've always enjoyed running.  Unfortunately, since I was a middle distance runner and a sprinter, this is a whole new ball game!  A few of the teachers I work with have put together a training team.  We run together a few days a week and it's really great support.  For once, I'm not focused on the race and the time.  I'm more focused on getting my mileage up...the other stuff with come after that.  I honestly haven't done anything this rewarding in a long time.  There was a point where the idea of hopping up and running 3 miles would have made me laugh.  Now, I wouldn't even consider stopping at less than 4.5 which is amazing.  That being said, this makes me laugh and I have a feeling it is incredibly accurate.
This morning I ran with fellow teacher and great friend, Becky.  From the get go this was a tough run for me!  It was unseasonably warm, about 62, and extremely foggy.  The run started with an uphill and right from there I knew it was going to be tough.  The moisture in the air made it hard to breath and there were a lot of hills on our run.  Becky is a ways ahead of me in her training and can run a bit faster than me, so it was great motivation to keep up with her (I hope I didn't slow her down too much!)  We ran through Ryan and my beautiful new neighborhood to the park that backs up to it.  It's really shady and woody back there and as Becky said, "It was like the rainforest!" due to all the moisture.  We did one loop back there and headed back in.  It was tough, but I'm so glad I did it.  We ended up running 4.67 in about 47 minutes which is much faster than I'm used to, so I have to be proud of that.

After several weeks of runs that haven't been too challenging, it was kind of tough to have one that was so discouraging for me.  I just never really felt good on the run.  I guess this is one of those pivotal points in training where I can decide to give up or push through.  I'll let you guess which one it will be!

Tomorrow we are running the route for the Monument 10K.  A nice flat run to reward myself for 2 really hilly runs this week!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lasagna Soup

Over the holiday break, I've been trying to try out some new recipes to add to our repertoire. Ryan is so wonderful and he will fix dinner a few nights a week and I'll cover the others, but our meals have gotten pretty redundant. I thought this one looked pretty easy and it got great reviews from other readers. I found this recipe on A Farm Girl's Dabbles. Her recipes are so easy and rarely have the weird ingredients that you most likely don't already have. She does a great mix of baking and cooking. Love her blog.

Anywho, I suppose I should preface this with a few notes. I would consider myself a decent cook. When people ask for my recipes, though, I tend to frustrate them because I'll follow the recipe to an extent, but usually end up following my taste buds. I kind of just realized this as I knew I was going to blog my adventures with this recipe. So, what I'm going to do is post FarmGirl's recipe in black and put my changes in red next to it.

Lasagna Soup

for the soup:
2 tsp. olive oil -- I used a bit more, found it was necessary
1-1/2 lbs. Italian sausage -- I chose sweet sausage. Not one for spicy!
3 c. chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes -- Used ground red pepper
2 T. tomato paste
1 28-oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves --Cut these with scissors. Not wild about big ole leaves in my food!
6 c. chicken stock -- I used 4. Actually ran out, but can't imagine needing all 6.
8 oz. mafalda or fusilli pasta -- I used mafalda because it looks like cute little lasagna noodles. I also doubled this. It was perfect.
1/2 c. finely chopped fresh basil leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
for the cheesy yum:
8 oz. ricotta
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add sausage, breaking up into bite sized pieces, and brown for about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.

Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir well to incorporate. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomato paste turns a rusty brown color.

Add diced tomatoes, bay leaves, and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add uncooked pasta and cook until al dente. Do not over cook or let soup simmer for a long period of time at this point, as the pasta will get mushy. Stir in basil and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the cheesy yum. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

"cheesy yum"

To serve, place a dollop of the cheesy yum in each soup bowl, sprinkle some of the mozzarella on top and ladle the hot soup over the cheese.
Servings: 8
Bon Appetit!

Ryan was a huge fan. He said it was nice to do something different and he actually had 2 servings! I kept eating and thinking about what I would do differently, but still loved this.

A few things I would do differently:
-I don't really like tomato chunks, so I will run the tomatoes through the food processor next time.
-I may actually take out a little bit more of the chicken stock. I feel like it takes away some of the Italian taste to it!

Be on the look out for some more experiments over the next week and a half! Next up, homemade chicken, mac and cheese!
Full and Happy!

Pinterest Inspired Chalk Board

After we first moved in and got all the furniture set, things put away, i's dotted and t's crossed, I started noticing some holes that needed the be filled. There was a large space on the wall in our kitchen that needed something. I wanted it to be something cute but still functional. I'd seen these before but recently saw it on pinterest and decided it was just what we needed! We were Christmas shopping and picking out wreaths at Michael's when I saw the frames for 50% off! It was my sign to start the project. I picked one out that was a little more antique-y and a neutral gold color. The next day, I went to Lowe's and picked out a piece of galvanized steel, primer, and chalkboard paint. I chose to go with steel because I wanted it to be magnetic as well.

The first step was to prime the steel.

Of course, living with the Milkman always keeps you on your toes.

The next night, I put on the first coat of Chalkboard Paint. It requires 24 hours between coats so this was a process.

The original plan was to screw the steel into the frame, but I didn't think that one through very well. It cracked the sides of the frame, so I had to move on to plan B. I used points to hold the steel in instead. A lot of points. It's holding up well though!

The final step was to hang it. We used 2 100 lb pictures hangers. The whole thing weighs about 30, but I wanted to be sure!

This whole process took about 2 weeks. Took a few days off after the frustration of cracking the frame. Needless to say, I think Ryan was pretty happy when I was finally finished! In fact, he decided to be the first one to write on it!

Magnolia Design & Photography

So I have to take a minute and brag on some fellow Alumnae who have started this amazing, talented and growing business for themselves! For those of you who don't know, Ryan and I both graduated from East Carolina University (Go Pirates!) but didn't really know each other while we were there. We met and fell in love several years after graduation. When we got engaged, we decided that it would be really special if we had engagement pictures taken at our Alma Mater. I e-mailed some photography professors at ECU and told them what we were looking for. I immediately got some great responses. We decided to go with Magnolia Design & Photography because they already had some amazing work to show. We negotiated a deal and set up a time during football season to get some shots.

Flash forward to the big day. We met at the stadium and we weren't quite sure how this was going to go. Michele stayed outside to watch the car (all Pirates know, they are no joke about towing on campus!) and Jana cruised right in like she owned the place. We were really nervous, but Jana's confidence made everyone think we were supposed to be there! We took some really cool shots in the stadium, one of which we actually used for our Save the Date! We continued on to campus and took pictures at the Library, the Cupola, Wright Fountain, and the Science and Technology Building. We really enjoyed working with them! Jana and Michele work so amazingly well together and make sure to get all the shots they need. You can tell that they both see things in two different ways which ensures amazing shots. They are a great team and I could not be happier with how things turned out!

A few weeks later, we met up at another tailgate and they gave us a great CD with several High Resolution images for us to keep. They also put together this AMAZING accordion album for us, too!

If you are in Eastern North Carolina, I cannot tell you how highly I recommend them! They were so professional, but easy to work with. Here are a few of our favorites:

Monday, December 19, 2011

My Name is Ashley and I'm addicted to Pinterest

Well, first off, FOLLOW MY BOARDS! So it's true. Like most women, I am addicted to Pinterest. I've dabbled in a few projects; some successful, most not. My main pride and joy thus far will be featured in an upcoming post! I'm engaged (!!!) and Pinterest has really helped me come up with a few ideas I like, some I HATE, and others that make me hands down burst out in laughter. I now live with a boy (!!!!) (coincidentally, the same one I'm marrying) and I'm in the middle of trying to trick him into thinking I'm domestic, so a lot of my searches are for recipes and homemaking tricks that I can pretend to have always known. I also find animals acting like humans unabashedly humorous. Seriously. Ask Ryan (see previous mention of roommate) how hard I laugh at commercials with personification like this one or this, so obviously many of my repins are mind-numblingly stupid in that same fashion. Lastly, I'm also training for a half-marathon (......) therefore, I'm also spending copious amounts of time looking at skinny people and blurbs of know, as I sit on my ass with a computer in my lap.

Welp, there you have it. Pinterest addiction. I think this sums it up the best:

BTW: I found that on Pinterest

Here we go again...

So, I'm the one who has tried and failed at this blogging thing a few times now. I've usually tried to focus on one main theme and really face a target audience and all of a sudden it's time for my second post and my mind is elsewhere. Finally, I've had one of those face-to-palm moments and realized "Hey, kid! You're one of the most unfocused people EVER. Why do you expect your blog to be?!" Now, here we are. Getting ready to venture into the bizarro land of blogging and the even more bizarre land of my mind and my thoughts, which if you know me, are random and nonsensical in the most delicious, bacon wrapped way. Here we go!