Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Second Annual Arlington Turkey Trot 5K

Last year, Steven and I ran the "First Annual" Arlington Turkey Trot. (It was our first time running this race. I think the race itself has been going on for three or four years now.)

We've decided to make it a tradition (although you can clearly see I have not bought myself any new running clothes in the past year. Yes. I am very cheap.)

Steven had to sit out this year's race because of a sports injury, so Jenny and I represented the family in the "Second Annual" Turkey Trot this year!

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We trained dutifully, and as the race started, we got ourselves into a good pace. It was really fun to have our photog-husbands on the sidelines to capture the action.

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Guess who else was running the race? That's right, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, along with various elves, and I think I even saw a Gingerbread Man.

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It was really foggy that morning, but it wasn't as cold as last year's race. I think there were about 2,000 participants this year.

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I think this was around Mile One. Jenny and I grinned like this through the whole race.

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Here's the finish line, and you can see the timing clock.

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And here's the guy that won. I think his time was somewhere around 15:30, which is just obscenely fast.

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And here we come, down the final hill to the big finish! We spotted Steven and Josh in the crowd and picked up our pace even faster.

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Our goal was to finish in under 40 minutes. "Jenny! Look at the clock! We did it!"

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Kicking in to the finish line....!

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I think I am screaming "Yaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" right here.

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Um, we pretty much rule. Girl power!

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The race gives out these neat timing chips that you tie onto your shoe, so that it can track your exact time. (We got started about a minute after the first runners, so our actual time was even faster than the clock showed at the finish line. Our official time? 35:27. We ROCKED it.

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After the race, we took our obligatory photo with Santa.

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(Jenny read his info at the bottom of his race number, and it said "Male, 29, Arlington." Now we know where Santa lives. And he's surprisingly younger than I thought he was...)

To reward ourselves for such a successful race, we hit the bagels-and-bananas table.

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We had a total blast running it. I have a feeling we'll be doing this again some day.

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After all, Jenny is officially a certified road-race runner now. :) 10K, anyone?

And Then There Was Turkey...

There is, quite possibly, nothing in this world that makes me happier than the careful planning and production of a gigantic meal on an important occasion. I love the preparation, I love the meticulous timing of it all, and I especially love when nothing goes terribly, terribly wrong.

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(Also, I love Reynolds Oven Turkey Bags.)

Steven's family made the long trek out to our house for Thanksgiving this year, and we were so very pleased to have them. It was also the third official use of the dining room table. (We should eat meals in there more often, but I sort of feel like a weird old British couple when we sit in there alone, just Steven and I.)

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We did all of the dishes buffet-style, and I just left them on the countertop for folks to fill their plates and bring them back to the table. It gave us a bit more elbow room at the table that way.

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So here's the menu we had: Roast Turkey, Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes, Stove Top Stuffing (classy, I know), Sweet Potato Casserole, Green Bean Casserole, Cranberry-Sauce-Shaped-Like-A-Can, and homemade dinner rolls, from this recipe. The dinner rolls didn't come out the way I'd imagined, and I think it was for lack of a decent amount of rise time (I stuck the dough in the fridge after about an hour of rising. Big mistake.)

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Over on Table number Two, we had the "assorted snacks and desserts," including my mom's famous Spiced Pecans recipe, a Pumpkin Pie, and a Nutella Cake, a la Nigella Lawson. It was SO rich but also very good (and a little droopy in the center, but who's really looking?)

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We also made an Apple Pie that really was more of an apple pizza, from this recipe. It was my favorite dessert of the three, by far. I like it because you could make it on a cookie sheet and it didn't really matter if you couldn't roll the dough out into a perfect circle (which I totally can't).

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Here's Steven's Thanksgiving plate. (Now I know where all the gravy went...)

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And here's the happy family, ready to dig in. Another Thanksgiving meal, successfully completed, with no unmitigated disasters whatsoever. (Hallelujah.)

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After the meal, there were groans of "Oh, I'm soooooo stuffed..."

Music to my ears, people. That's the best thing a Thanksgiving cook can ever hope to hear.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hey, Who Put That There?

It feels really strange to have a high chair in my kitchen.

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I keep walking around the corner, seeing it, and doing a double take. "Wait a second, what is that?!" I borrowed it from a friend at work, because Steven's family is coming to town today (including our two young nephews) to spend Thanksgiving week with us, and I realized about three or four days ago that I have zero baby stuff. Not a pacifier, not a stuffed animal, not a baby blanket, wipe, diaper, high chair, stroller, play pen, nothing.

Luckily they are bringing most of the baby paraphernalia with them, but I did manage to commandeer a high chair and a stroller. Hence why there is a rogue high chair in my kitchen that keeps catching me by surprise.

I am super excited to have family visit. I've made a big meal plan for the week, complete with a (very Southern) Thanksgiving Day meal. You can tell its Southern because its basically a turkey and then a bunch of casseroles. Steven and I spent a solid half-hour standing in Target hemming and hawing over the kids' toys, trying to pick out the correct "Lightning McQueen" for our older nephew, Jay. (And I'm still not convinced that he doesn't already have this one...)

The impending descent of many family members has also been very motivating for me to clean up the rest of the house. I am up early and ready to clean like there's no tomorrow... except maybe just after I write this blog and have another cup of coffee, and oh look, the Williams Sonoma catalog came in the mail!

Hmm.

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We found these really neat coffee mugs on clearance at World Market. They say "Florence" in Italian, and on the other side, they say "Hotel Palazzo Vecchio" which is very close to where we stayed. So we bought two of them. Best part? They hold practically a gallon of coffee.

And now I will go drink that gallon of coffee. And then I will do the dishes and finish the laundry. Yes, I will. Maybe. In a minute or two. :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

And You Thought We Were Done Painting

When we first moved into our house in December of last year, our basement had circus stripes.

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Crazy, orange-and-yellow, makes-you-squint circus stripes.

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And back when we moved in, we figured it would take us a good solid year to get the whole house painted.

I am pleased to report that we are (barely) ahead of schedule.

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And we're really getting this whole painting thing down to a science. Steven does the roller on the walls, and I follow behind him to paint the borders. (We hired a guy to do the trim and the ceilings. It was either that or build a Sistine Ceiling scaffolding and paint the ceilings ourselves. And Michelangelo we are not.)

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So now, instead of an insane circus, we have what seems to resemble a livable basement now. Albeit, no furniture, but we could sit comfortably on the floor and not go cross-eyed looking at the walls.

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And I find that to be quite an improvement.

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Its just in time, too, because we have the masses of family descending upon our home for the holidays (we are hosting BOTH Thanksgiving and Christmas this year!), so this basement will give us ample room to let the little kids run around without fear of knocking anything over or falling on the hard floors.

And now I'm off to finalize the holiday menus!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

So, I'm in need of some opinions.

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How do we feel about this color? Pattern? The psychological ramifications of doing anything other than stuffing our paychecks into our mattress and refusing to spend a dime until 2013?

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I know, I know. I'm so torn. On one hand, I would really like to have granite countertops. It would add value to the house and its probably the cheapest and best deal we'll be able to get for granite, since the seller is bending over backwards to get people to buy countertops right now.

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But, on the other hand, my raisin half thinks it would be highly illogical when we could really just save for a rainy day instead. And its been rainy a lot here lately.

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And so, I sit and look at this little slab on my countertop, and I ponder and hem and haw, and the guy from the granite place calls and I can just hear him rolling his eyes on the phone when I say (again) that I'm "still thinking about it."

But its true. I am still thinking about it. And thinking, and thinking, and thinking.

So what do you think?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bam!

We've been having difficulty getting weeknight meals prepared in a timely fashion over here at the Steele house lately. This is partially because I worked late a few nights last week, and partially because cooking just takes time, which is a difficult concept to explain to someone who hasn't really cooked that often.

In an effort to solve this dilemma, I wrote up a little schedule that said, "Steven cooks Tues/Thurs, Heather cooks M/W/F," but after lengthy negotiations over coffee at Panera last Saturday, my schedule was soundly rejected by the Master of the House. (He did have a point -- what if I have to work late on a Wednesday, but I'm home early on a Tuesday? Might be better to just have him cook whenever I'll be home late....)

But then we had to vanquish the task of "Steven Cooking." We've broached this territory before, and it was uneasy ground. However, I am pleased to inform you that Chef Steven (a/k/a Emeril) is in the house. Tonight's menu? Asian Chicken with White Rice and Green Beans

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He did an excellent job of following the recipe, even when he got slightly spattered with hot oil while cooking the chicken. (I told him, "Now you know why I randomely yelp in here sometimes. It hurts!")

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I was complaining to Mom telling Mom about how hard it is to whip up a meal on a weeknight, and she thoughtfully sent me this cookbook for weeknight cooking.

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Thank you Mom, I'm going to cook out of it all next week. Or maybe more accurately, we're going to cook out of it all next week.

In addition to discovering Steven's latent cooking ability, I have made another important discovery: Harris Teeter Online Grocery Shopping.

Now, for all of my midwestern friends, I do apologize, because this is apparently only available on the East Coast, but it is my NEW MOST FAVORITEST THING EVER. You just log on, pick out exactly what groceries you want (I do this with the recipe book right next to me, so that I can be sure I've ordered everything I need), and then set a time to go pick up your groceries. You drive up to the curb, push a button, and they bring the groceries out to your car.

This might sound like the epitome of laziness to some folks, but for me, this is absolutely perfect. I can pick up the groceries on my way home from work on a Monday night, and there's no more having to whine about spending an hour trudging through the aisles on the weekend. I am still getting the hang of it, and the goal will be to set up a list of all the stuff we always order (milk, cereal, etc.) so that I dont have to keep searching for it each time. But so far, I'm loving it!

(Also, the very nice Harris Teeter lady who assembled my grocery order last time sent me a handwritten thank you note, and really, who can resist a handwritten thank you? I certainly can't. My order for Week 2 is winging its way to Harris Teeter right now.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In Which I Am Delightfully Inconsistent

Thanks everybody for the responses. Apparently I just needed send a little vitriol out into the world. I feel much better now. And in fact, I was tempted to post a status update this morning about an unintended benefit of my new commute: I've learned how to say "used tires" in Spanish. ("Llantas Usadas!") So I have a feeling I'll be back haunting Facebook before you know it.

And Daniel Jay, can I just tell you that I am STILL cracking up at your magnifying mirror. :) Hilarious.

And, of course, the blog isn't going anywhere. I think I'll always need an outlet in which to organize all my varied and sundry interests, you know.

Like the knitting. We haven't seen much of it lately, and that's been partially because my hands have been busy typing things like "demurrer" and "admission" and "objection, not reasonably calculated to lead to discoverable evidence" and the like.

But, since Marci has been gracious enough to keep reading the blog and not once nagging one tiny bit about the sweater I owe her, I figured I'd give you all a sneak peek.

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Hey hey! Bet you thought I'd forgotten about it! Turns out I'm just reeeeeeeeally slow at this whole stitch-by-stitch construction-of-clothing thing. :) Tell that kid to stop growing for a few months, ok?

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And just to round out the random, I made pumpkin pancakes this past weekend:

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And verily verily, they were delicious. This setting is one of my favorite moments of each day.

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Thanks be to Mom Huff for sending us the delicious pancake mix. Breakfast totally rules.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Apples and Nuclear Fission.

On the radio this morning:

"Its not even like comparing apples and oranges. Its like comparing apples and . . . and watermelons!"

Yeah, I thought, but they're both still fruit. It would be more effective to make the comparison just ridiculous.

Comparing apples and television remotes.

Apples and lightbulbs.

Its like comparing apples and . . . and the Horsehead Nebula.

And it was this random train of thought that got me started thinking all day about comparisons. Comparisons are unfair things. As individuals, we are unlike anyone else in the world. No one has the same background and experiences that you have. Even identical twins aren't the same person.

Therefore, it is impossible to make an accurate comparison from one person to another. And yet we keep trying. Not even so much comparing other people around us to each other, but comparing ourselves to everyone else. We do this, knowing how unfair it is, and yet somehow we can't stop. Well, she's got such a nice coat, and he's got such a great career, and oh, look how cute their kids, house, dogs, cars are!

I have discovered one of the worst offenders feeding this comparison-obsession is also one of my favorite evening leisure activities: Cruising Facebook.

Yep, scrolling through page after page of the excruciating minutae of my close (and distant) friends is slowly making me insane. Because from my vantage point, it looks like everyone is on vacation all the time. Everyone is having their second (or even third) kid. Everyone is going to parties and climbing mountains and running races and generally just doing stuff that I'm not doing (as I sit on my couch and troll through Facebook....)

And as inaccurate as that perception probably is, when I compare my everyday moments to the adventures posted online by the collective consciousness, it just doesn't match up. So I'm calling Facebook's bluff. I'm disconnecting from the neverending addiction to comparison. Maybe its just me -- maybe all of you are perfectly well-adjusted and maybe your teeth don't grate together like mine when you see another smiling chubby cheeked baby picture pop up on the screen, or read another update that says something like "Gosh Bermuda is so beautiful this time of year!".

Or maybe you're more like me than you thought, and maybe you had those same feelings when you saw our Italy pictures. And I wouldn't blame you. Because I had those same feelings when I saw your beach vacation pictures. Or your skiing pictures, or your theme park pictures, or whatever the heck you did that I didn't get to do.

Facebook forces us to compare ourselves with our friends. It forces us to read all about our friends' lives, and we end up taking the measuring stick to ourselves based on what we've read.

And I, for one, feel like I just can't quite measure up. So I'm calling it quits. I'm detoxing from Facebook. I hereby refuse to compare myself to you people. Because I'm different. And you're different. And your choices are not my choices, and your path is not my path.

And that's okay. Because we aren't all mindless drones. (Okay, Pelosi, you might be an exception to the general rule...) We're people. People with unique thoughts, goals, plans. People with individually distinct lives. We aren't some crazy mash up of everyone's collective vacation pictures.

And to compare my life to your life would be like comparing apples and oranges.

Or apples and nuclear fission. Or something. :)