September 24, 2017

Falafel Fail (SJRNR week -2)

Last week I was moderately successful with a baba ganoush experiment (I modified the recipe to make it too garlicky -- but it was still delicious).  So, I decided to try the falafel recipe from the same site.

You only soak the garbanzo beans, you don't cook them!
Falafel is one of my favorite foods.  I try not to have them more often than once every couple of weeks because they are fried.  But the comments on this recipe indicated that some people had successfully baked these falafel and they were delicious.  I took the advice from one of the commenters and added some eggs so that they would stick together without the deep-frying and decided to give it a go.

Falafel mix, ready to cook.
I'd hoped I could just put them onto the cookie sheet but the texture, even with the eggs, made me suspect they would fall apart without some additional structure in place, so I decided to try using muffin tins.  Once I'd packed the tins, I poured a drip of canola oil over the top of each falafel to see if I could get just a slight hint of oven-fried deliciousness.

Not the perfect browned results I was hoping for.
Turns out, while the tops were cooked perfectly with this approach (400F 'til starting to brown, followed by 90 seconds of broiling), the bottoms stuck to the muffin tin, so I extracted a bunch of partially destroyed falafel at the end of the cooking cycle.

Hah!  I had a brilliant idea.  I'd put all of the leftover bits that stuck to the tins *back* into the oven and make a couple of twice baked falafel.

Did you know that Silicone bake-ware can catch fire?
(Note the oil spatter)
I put the muffin tin (not really a tin, as it was silicone, in a metal supporting rack) into the oven and started plating our dinner. 

2 minutes later, I smelled fire.

E knows the drill (I set a kitchen fire on a not infrequent basis), so he immediately opened the kitchen door and turned the hood on high while I grabbed the on-fire muffin tin with silicone hand protectors and walked it outside.  We're a well-oiled kitchen fire extinguishing machine at this point, thankfully.

See, I'd forgotten that I'd put the oven on broil for the last few seconds of the full set of falafel.  It had stayed on while I'd removed them all and re-constructed my brilliant twice-baked plan.  AND, all the small drizzles of oil were left on the muffin tin, both in the cups and on the top surface.  I'm not sure exactly how hot it got, but the flash point of canola oil is 600F.  Also, I've since learned that apparently silicone cookware should not go under the broiler.  Either way, there was a full on fire that took several minutes to burn itself out -- leaving behind white ash that clearly came from the silicone.  We did not eat any of the twice baked (and then charred in a chemical fire) falafel.

Dinner was good, though.
I think I'm going to leave falafel to the professionals.  After all this, it still didn't taste as good as when it's fried.  I have some frozen falafel leftovers, and if they hold up and reheat well, I *may* reconsider trying again (with pre-greased metal muffin tins), but it may be a while before I work up the gumption.

In running/fitness news, it was a good week.  I slept longer than usual and was hungrier than normal for much of the week, which is typically an indicator that I've got some big fitness gains around the corner (fingers crossed).

M: Finally made it back to the yoga studio.  It destroyed me.  I walked 1.5 miles there, did the 1 hour plus warm yoga high effort class, and left a sweaty, shaking mess, whereafter I walked the 1.5 miles home in shock at just how difficult yoga can be.  I bruised my arm doing crow pose, so I've been walking around with a nice blue mark that's still with me today.  Bonus, the core work was enough that I woke myself in the night on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday by simply rolling over and recruiting muscles like upper abs and obliques that were taxed beyond anything they are remotely used to.

T:  0.06 walk;
4 @ 11:56;
10 X 30s/90s paces (9:06; 8:50; 8:33; 9:17; 9:31; 9:47; 8:07; 8:41; 7:31; 8:08);
0.65 jog @ 12:42;
0.69 walk home from lunch

W: One of the best track workouts I've had in the last several years. Not because of the pacing (still very slow).  But just because it felt so good to run hard and beat the recommended BAA paces easily on every interval.
1.01 w/u @ 12:17;
0.4 drills w/u lap (9:22; 8:04: 7:13);
2 X 600; 600; 800 (t/p: 3:18/9:01; 3:20/9:04; 4:35/9:19; 3:23/9:05; 3:23/9:08; 4:35/9:16);
0.96 jog & walk c/d

Th: 3 @ 12:04;
1.66 walk

F: Exhausted.  Rest Day.

Sa: 1.52 jog @ 12:37;
1 mile @ 9:58;
5:10 walk R/I;
0.27 @ 10:17;
4+ min jog;
13 X 30s/90s (Paces: 8:31; 8:40; 8:19; 8:40; 9:07; 9:31; 7:59; 8:09; 8:06; 8:17; 8:42; 9:22; 8:31)

Su: 7 miles "long" @ 12:07 (including water fountain stops and a walk break to turn on headphones/audiobook)
0.15 walk c/d

Weekly Mileage: 31.86.  Most of it running.  Average paces, targeted high effort paces, and mass all still slowly decreasing.  Definitely feeling like it's been several weeks of consistent effort and I'm looking forward to seeing what I can manage to do at SJRNR.

September 17, 2017

Home Cooked Goodness (SJRNR week -3)

One of the best things about being back in our home is being back in our kitchen.  We missed so many of our favorite home-cooked meals while we were nomads.  And since we've been back, I've made several of them.

First, and in constant rotation, of course, are all things tomato (gazpacho, greek/turkish salads, caprese, tomato-olive-oil-salt salads, salmorejo, and more).

One of many gazpachos.
A second common entrant is cheese and crackers with a side salad.  Roasted/pan-fried shishitos or pimientos de padron have been on offer every time I've found them at the grocery store or the farmer's market.

Have I mentioned I love tomatoes
(and garden buddies who give them as gifts even more!)

When I've been feeling like something more complex that requires heat, I've made a few risottos, saag paneer, red lentil soup, squash noodle puttanesca, baba ganoush, and a couple of black lentil salads.

Black lentil salad and squash puttanesca
Turns out, almost all of my favorite things to cook are vegetarian.  And quite healthy.  Which is a wonderful benefit - without feeling deprived, I've been losing about 3/4 of a pound a week.

So, apparently 1/2 a full head of roasted garlic
is too much for a 3 eggplant baba ghanoush
On the running front, this week was okay: 2 runs over 6 miles, some strength intervals, and speed work (albeit super slow).

M: Rest

T: 1.76 @ 12:31; 1.73 walk

W: Track Club
0.43 miles jog w/u and drills;
2.65 total: 1200, 800, 600, 400, 200
(time/pace 7:07/9:41; 4:43/9:32; 3:30/9:22; 2:16/9:02; 57.4/7:33);
0.66 jog c/d;
1.37 walk to and from lunch;
1.5 walk to dinner

Th: 6.01 @ 12:21 (1.75 @ 10:30 with E; rest EASY);
0.39 walk c/d;
2 miles walking between client apts

F: work all day, rest

Sa: 3 easy @ 12:02;
10 X 30s hard/90s walk (1.26 total)
(paces: 8:28; 8:44; 9:21; 9:52; 9:11; 9:24; 9:20; 9:49; 9:37; 8:18);
0.5 jog c/d @ 12:38;
0.42 walk;
1.84 walk to lunch

Su: 6.21 @ 11:48; 0.44 walk

Here's to hoping I can continue with 3 more weeks of decent running and eating.  The fitness progress is slow, but it's obviously happening.

September 10, 2017

Swimming Along (SJRNR week -4)

I'm hiding from my professional life.  I haven't made any effort to market or solicit work.  A bit has come up since some folks know I'm back and available, but I'm comfortably hovering at around 20% utilization and I'm loving it.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Jellyfish
This has left me time to deal with the annoying family and personal dramas that I'd really rather pretend don't exist.  But they do.  Multiple (okay, 2) lawsuits have been filed.  I don't like litigation... but, when I have to do it, I guess I do.  And, it's legal stuff that takes up legal time, so I'm happy to keep my actual paid legal practice on low-key level right now, because I don't want the stress of trying to balance paying clients against personal obligations.

Gorgeous Big Jellyfish exhibit

In other news, I'm making some fitness gains, and I'm very happy about it -- this was a solid week.

M: Rest

T: 1.52 @ 12:25; 9X30sprint/90sRI (1.5 @ 16ish AVG, with typical 30 sec @ low 8/mile); 1 @ 12:15; 0.44 walk

W: Track Club: 1.29 @ 12:41; 0.4 w/u drills; Cooper Test: 1.21 miles @ 9:55/mile; 0.11 walk; 0.57 jog c/d @ 12:26; 0.22 walk TOTAL: 3.8 miles

Th: 4.36 @ 11:30; 0.26 walk

F: 0.62 @ 12:30; 3.58 walk -- terrible showing, but sometimes you just have to give yourself credit for heading out.  I had a bunch of talking/ranting about family drama to manage, which I did while walking.  Something is better than nothing.

Sa: 4.43 @ 13:39 pace AVG.  jog 1.5 miles @ 12:22; strength intervals 2X0.75 (7:12; 7:23) Then 0.11 @ 9:55; walk and talk to mom; 0.16 @ 9:29; 0.27 jog; 0.55 walk home -- I was very happy about the 2 strength intervals.

Su: 8 miles long with E2 in Monterey (0.64 walk; 8 @ 12:39 including walk and water breaks; 0.72 walk) -- this is the best long run I've done in at least 14 months.  I was super happy and proud of this (not the least because if was the morning after a night of partying at the Aquarium).

Leopard Shark in the Kelp Forest

Thursday's run was one of those great medium efforts where I felt strong.  And Saturday's strength intervals were awesome.  But of course, Sunday's long run with E2 was the best - she definitely pulled me along to go faster than I would have without her.

I love turtles!

Progress feels so great: 30.36 mile week, and most of it running.  Onward.

September 3, 2017

Heat Wave (SJRNR week -5)

We rarely see triple digit temperatures.  But this week was quite the exception.  It hit over 100F at least 4 days, including Friday's and Saturday's highs of 111F under the eaves.  These temperatures are unprecedented in our town, and yes, it's outlier data, but it does make the "global warming is real and you need to prepare for it" arguments seem pragmatic, at a minimum.

Black out curtains coupled with modern building materials from the remodels 
(insulation under the fiber cement siding, reflective vinyl over high R foam roof, double paned windows)
keeps much of the crazy heat out.
Spending a week in South Carolina and Georgia during their August heat wave did help make the bay area version much more palatable -- humidity is *the worst* and dry air with large temperature swings downwards in the evenings mean it's tolerable (but not pleasant) to wait out a heat wave without air conditioning.  Even on the night where we had the highest low, we still had a 39 degree drop overnight from the day's highest high.

This week was the first full week at home where I could focus on running in 4 weeks.  I did a decent job, but nothing spectacular.

M: rest.

T: 4 @ 11:42; 0.45 walk c/d. 1.37 PM walk.

W: Track Club
0.3 jog; 0.37 drills/wu;
2.98 total speed and recovery
4X200; 3X400; 4X200; 2X100
(54, 57, 56, 58; 2:08, 2:14, 2:12; 57, 57, 62, 63; 22, 20);
0.3 jog c/d

Th: 1.01 easy @ 12:26.  1.5 walk.  1.1 pm walk.  I didn't get out early and let the heat tell me I was better off taking the day easy and getting up early on Friday.

F: 5.29 miles with M, who does 5 min run/1 min walk intervals.   We were out early and it was only 80F by the time we got back.  A nice easy workout at 13:55 avg min/mile pace.

Sa: Given the heat, I really wanted to bail on the workout entirely -- it's just a pre-race shakeout and only 2 miles total.  Except I forgot that I needed to try out my new shoes before Sunday's race, so I finally got myself out the door just before noon for 0.5 jog; 1 mile @ 10:17; 0.5 jog/walk recovery.  It was 98F when I left and 100F when I got back.  I was surprised that I could do a mile at 10:17 without too much effort in that heat, but given how hot and sweaty the jog/walk recovery was, I'm guessing if I'd tried to keep running I would have started to slow very quickly.

E2 stayed with me 'til mile 3 and then 
dropped me by *8* minutes by the end.
Su: Race to the End of Summer.  I'd hoped I could do something sub 11 min/mile, but it was not to be.  I averaged 11:24/mile according to my Garmin, which is 13 seconds per mile faster than Wharf 2 Wharf.  Only it was 57F at the start of Wharf to Wharf and 84F today.  So, that's obvious fitness progress, and I'll take it.

It was *hot* (and oddly humid) but we did it.
The best part of the week, hands down, was hanging out with my fellow runners and having brunch post-race.  I adore my running friends -- in addition to sharing a passion for running, they are all so smart, thoughtful, and interesting, plus they just get me.  These ladies were one of the things I missed the most about our year away, and I'm so very happy to be able to hang out and run and chat and eat with them today.

Mimosas and salmorejo and bacon and cheese and meats and fruit and more...
Mileage total for the week: 27.72.  But my ratio of walking to running is going down and my average running pace is as well.  Oh, and so is my body mass.  Consistent training plus eating out of our own fridge means that it is much easier to be calorically deficient than while on the road.  I'm hopeful I can keep the trends continuing in positive directions on all fronts from now 'til SJRNR.

September 1, 2017

It Was Bound To Happen

I learned some shocking (to me) news this week about someone I thought I knew (or at least sort of understood).  Turns out, their life changed in totally unpredictable ways while we were away, and in connection with those changes, their behavior changed drastically as well.

It's like I never even knew them at all. (In fairness, there appear to be many people who feel this way.)

When I've brought this up with friends, many of them have mentioned similar surprising evolutions on the part of their parents or other close family or friends in recent years.  The term "mid-life crisis" has come up more than I'd like to admit (Because really?  I don't want to think about the definition of mid-life, okay?).  Regardless of what you call it, it's just odd and challenging to have to recalibrate your relationships with people when they decide (or are forced) to reboot their lives in a way that is very foreign to your idea of who they are.

At one of our BBQs, a long lost friend reappeared.  She'd decided a few years ago to put some distance between us because we were close friends with her ex.  But then, out of the blue, she showed up. With a baby! (I'd heard she'd gotten married, but a baby? Wow!)  Apparently, enough has changed for her, that she no longer feels any need for distance or avoidance of the ex, which is wonderful for us, as we'd missed her.

In the face of all of these surprising developments, despite my hopes to the contrary, one of my family members continued to behave in annoyingly predictable ways and after 5 years, it was too much.  I finally had to double down and legally engage with serious drama that I'd really hoped I could avoid.  I suspect this family member viewed this move on my part as a serious change, whereas I simply saw it as the necessary last escalation that I'd been trying so hard to manoeuver around.

People are full of surprises, except when they aren't.

Either way, it's weird to be slowly reintegrating back to our home-based lives and observing the evolutions that happened (or didn't) in our absence.  We experienced many things that changed us on our sabbatical year, but it turns out, some of the folks we didn't see in the year (or longer) went through larger transformations.