So, since I’ve hung up my P90X bands, I’ve started running in the mornings. My running partner and I have yet to work out a system beyond late night texting to let one another know whether or not it’ll be pairs or singles. Unfortunately, this particular morning, I missed the text and waited like a weirdo in front of her house for 10 minutes before setting off on my own. When the newspaper delivery person rode through and chucked the paper at the house, she gave me a wide walk before hustling double time back to her car. What can I say? I’m a menace in my Nikes and my head scarf.
Of course, I know that a single female running in the dark is a bad idea. I’m by no means invincible, but seriously? It’s 5:50 in the morning. I strongly doubt that any ne’er do wells have set their alarm clocks to leap out of the bushes at me as I trot through a residential neighborhood. Besides, I’m really stubborn and if I’ve gotten up, gotten dressed, and gone outside, I’m going running.
So, I start my route, sticking to well lit streets and pretty even terrain. There was a little haze burning off from the streets since the air was warm and the ground was cool from the previous nights rain. The sky was dark, tinged with pink around the edges and the autumn were leaves sticking to the ground like post-its reminding me that fall is indeed here (you like the image I’m setting up here, don’t you?).
I like to run in the middle of the street so that I can keep an eye out for people, dogs, and other neighborhood flotsam and jetsam. Even in daylight hours, I play this game with myself where I mentally call out the make and model of the car I’m approaching so that if, God forbid, someone throws open a car door and makes a grab at me, I’ll at least know what kind of trunk I’m being stuffed into.
I’m moving right along, not quite race pace, but steady just the same. I don’t have my iPod with me, I’m just listening to my own breath and the throbbing of my blood in my veins. As I’m going, I keep hearing this “thwup, thwup, thwup,” behind me. I slow up a bit looking behind me, immediately thinking, “No, dummy! Turning around slows you down. Didn’t you see ‘Scream’?” I cast a quick, furtive glance over my shoulder. Nothing. My heart starts pumping a little faster, my strides become a little quicker, and my brain calls roll for all the whack-a-doos it can name — Michael Meyers, Freddie Kruger, Chuckie. . .
But the thing is, no one was there.
I think all the Halloween paraphernalia placed on neighborhood lawns is getting to me. I keep moving, but again, I hear, “thwup, thwup, thwup.” It’s coming at some odd intervals and now, I’m really starting to freak out. Maybe I should pick up the pace a bit. I could see one of the ROTC units from ODU up a head doing their 5 miles. If I hurry, I can catch up with the stragglers and use them for cover. Maybe trip one of them, sacrifice the youth for my own survival. I kick it up a bit.
Thwup, thwup, thwup.
Short of stopping dead in my tracks and turning in a circle à la Jennifer Love Hewitt in “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, I pump my legs a little harder, mentally recalculate the shortest distance between where I am and the house. I bee-line it for the front door.
Thwup, thwup thwup.
I’m headed home, all but in a dead sprint when I realize that yes, I’m being followed, but not by someone. It’s something. It’s something far more scary than a man with a hook for a hand or a hockey mask over his face.
It was my own backside.
A sweat-induced booty clapping chasing me down the street.
I’m still having nightmares.
The oven is on, the cookie sheet is out, so as far as I’m concerned, fall has fallen. Truthfully, the temperatures are starting to dip, albeit very slightly, but fall is right around the corner. I absolutely love fall.
I love the leaves starting to blush into shimmering crimsons and startling ochres. I love the slight bite in the air that makes you dig your hands into your pockets on the walk to school. Soccer games, football games, hearing the ODU marching band practice as the sun dips below the neighboring houses. Loving it! Crunching fallen leaves underfoot, smelling that woodsy, smoky sky — for many, this signifies the end of things. No more summer. No more long, languid days under the sun. The pool has closed, the beach is just a fond memory. For me, though, I’m just getting started.
Even though the days are shorter and the mornings are darker, I love opening the door for an early morning run and stepping fully into the crispness of a cool, calm daybreak. I don’t consider myself a nature girl, or outdoorsy by any stretch, but I really crave being outside. I’m a New Englander by birth, so I guess it’s in my blood.
This time last fall found me dutifully studying body systems and the like. I remember taking study breaks at the kitchen table while the girls napped. The sun was starting to fade, the colors of outdoors were sharp with slight softness around the edges. The neighborhood kids would be coming down the sidewalk, hooting and calling to each other as school closed up for another day. I had the windows open, but the slight chill was more like familiar fingers skipping across my arms and back of my neck. The shadows played tag across the walls, stretched lazily over the floor before disappearing altogether. I gave myself 20 minutes for throwing myself back into my work, but for those 20 minutes, I lost myself in the Norman Rockwell-esque feeling of it all.
I look forward to packing up the strappy sandals, floaty maxi dresses and piles of shorts. Opening the closet to pull out stacks of sweaters, unrolling corduroys, and polishing off boots can be a chore. Still, finding that forgotten about sweater, is like opening that last present tucked way back behind the the tree, the one just peeking out from under the Christmas skirt. “What’s this? Awww, yeah– cowl neck sweater!
The past few years, the turn of the season has found me in the kitchen, baking and using kitchen tools that I keep forgetting I have (hello, crockpot). I have a long standing love affair with
pumpkin — bread, cookies, pie — which I plan to rekindle. I got the ingredients for Rice Krispie Treats and presented those bricks of ooey, gooey goodness to the girls for snack yesterday afternoon. Sidenote: for a long time, I was under the impression that these were really hard to make. I mean, why else would my mom only reserve them for bi-annual bake sales? Surprisingly easily, as delicious as I remember, I will definitely be making these again.
I have been pulling recipes for chili, one-pot suppers, and things that involve butter, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I culled pages out of my recipe stuffed filo-fax and actually went to the grocery store with concrete dinner ideas in mind. We eat a lot of beef, probably more than we should, but I’m finicky and it tastes good. Real Simple magazine (LOVE IT) has been running a series of recipes called “10 Recipes Ideas for (insert pantry/refrigerator staple)”, which I have dutifully ripped out month after month. Seriously –who can’t use a new take on chicken cutlets, ground beef, or Italian sausage?
So yesterday, I tackled a major (overdue) grocery shopping, got my supplies and whipped up this:
Mmmm, spinach stuffed steak roulades. The recipe is here. I subbed pesto instead of olive tapenade, but really? I think it was more flavorful. It was considerably easy and super tasty. I felt very Top Chef as I filled, rolled and tied off my flank steak pinwheels. I was so determined to make this dinner, I did all my prep in the morning, fired them off on the grill before taking the girls to swimming lessons and then finished them with a quick blast in the oven when we got home. Added a nice salad of mixed field greens and some rice? Delish! I almost licked the plate.
I will definitely be going back to the well of “10 Recipe Ideas”. Next up, ravioli with grape tomatoes and wine.
Mmmm. . .wine. . . .
Anyway, the Rice Krispie treats weren’t the dessert that I had initially planned to serve up with this meal, but I was pressed for time and these pies-in-a-jar that I read about over at another awesome blogger, Gibson King, required ingredients that (for some reason) my grocer was completely lacking. Who doesn’t have pie filling? But I digress. How flippin’ cute are these things?
These definitely going into the rotation. I may invest in a special pie-in-a-jar spoon to just eat them with.
So, I am officially declaring the season of fall open to enjoy for all the goodness that it brings. We’re kicking things off with Morgan’s very first soccer game tomorrow morning — Go Larchmont Mermaids! It may be too soon to break out my Danskos and my vest– they’re talking temps in the upper 70s after all. Still, you can bet that when I lace up my sneakers for my miles through the neighborhood, I’ll take a deep breath to absorb the autumn breeze and let it fuel me in the days ahead.
Fall has fallen and with it so too has my resolve to eat more healthily. I have been steadfast in drinking my 8 glasses of water a day and incorporating my 6 servings of fruit and veggies, too. I am about to turn into a stalk of broccoli. However, when the leaves turn and then leap off of the trees, all of that goes out the window. Seriously, the weather turns a little cooler, I turn into Betty Crocker.
Oh, I can’t wait to start baking.
I was cleaning out the pantry, looking for cans of forgotten veggies and fruits to donate to the local food bank when I found a 16oz can of pureed pumpkin. Awwww, yeah! I can’t believe I had forgotten about this! And once October rolls around, you can’t turn a corner without tripping over an orange gourd! I love pumpkin – pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin flavored coffee-drinks, pumpkin scented candles, pumpkin and bacon sandwiches (kidding, kidding).
I decided Mo, Co, and I were going to make some pumpkin walnut glazed cookies. Mo had no school on Friday, so I took her for some quality mommy-and-me time at our local Starbucks/Target combo to pass our morning. Miss Mo was easily placated with a kiddie cocoa and a vanilla scone. She’s very much into Fancy Nancy, so when I told her a scone is a fancy breakfast treat, she all but Hooverized it. For me, I kicked off the fall season with a pumpkin frappuccino. I have to say though, I was left wanting. It was as if they just took some pumpkin essence and waved it over the top of the coffee. I think I could have gotten more pumpkin flavor dropping in a handful of mellow-cream pumpkins!
After we picked up C0, we headed home to fire up the oven. I was so excited to bake with the girls, the night before, I got all Martha Stewart-y and pre-measured the dry ingredients, set aside the wet ingredients so that all we had to do was pour, stir, roll and bake. So much easier, so much more fun. The girls were excited and 3 dozen cookies later, we were in pumpkin bliss.
My neighbors have come to realize they are going to be lucky
guinea pigs recipients of this baking bounty and were only too glad to give me requests for more baked goodies. Last year, I made some rum balls that gave my one neighbor a two-day hangover (I am totally making those again!). That 16oz can of pumpkin puree enabled me to make 3 dozen cookies on Friday, make an additional pound of cookie dough for freezing, AND allowed me to make some pumpkin walnut pancakes for breakfast this morning. Incidentally, pumpkin walnut pancakes also make for an excellent brinner! For someone who is a notoriously finicky eater, once I get a hold of a recipe, I am ready to challenge Tom Colicchio to an Iron Chef match.
And let’s not even talk about Halloween – okay, well for just a minute.
Every year I tell myself to buy the candy that I don’t like – Almond Joy, Skittles, Starbursts that kind of stuff. Every year, I buy Snickers, Reese’s Cups, and Kit Kats. Last year, I bought Reese’s Fast Breaks and holy mother of pearl, I was eating those things like Tic Tacs. This year, DH had gotten some World’s Finest chocolate bars to give out, but, as I gently reminded him, we live in a kid heavy area and Halloween is K.O.B.D – kind of a big deal. So, off to the Rite Aid I went, with every intention of coming back with Sweet Tarts, Dum Dums, and Tootsie Pops. Well, we all know what happened. I think if I sneeze, a Reese’s cup will fly out of my nose,
I got my Thanksgiving issue of Real Simple in the mail the other day and had paryoxms of glee at all the recipes I can try. I made this one recipe of ravioli, spinach and bacon (cue “My Favorite Things”) and by the time I was done, the recipe page was smudged, splattered, dog-eared, and greasy – telltale marks of a cook hard at work. For as much as I enjoy cooking, though, I doubt I will ever tackle a Thanksgiving turkey. I prefer my turkey from the deli, thank you very much. Besides, I much prefer the side dishes (green bean casserole, anyone?) to the main event. My family eats Chinese food for Christmas dinner; it’s highly unlikely a turkey is going to get introduced to our oven any time soon.
Even with all of the impending holiday eating that is bound to occur between now and New Year’s Eve, I am still mindful that while my pants hang low on my hips now, they can easily succumb to the crazy phenomenon that shrinks my clothes every time I leave them unattended in the closet. Seriously, one size goes on the hanger and a smaller size comes off the hanger. I think it has something to do with the my carbon footprint or something, but that’s another topic for another day.