New Watch (and other things)

Last Monday, I finally caved and bought a new running watch from Target.  I briefly considered ordering some sort of Garmin, but I realized that for what I do, I really really don’t need one.  Sure, I could learn about my heart rate and pinpoint exact distances, but at the end of the day a $100+ watch will not make me a better runner or a happier runner.

Sorting through the watches at Target was quite honestly, terrible.  Old Running Watch (RIP) was a simple timepiece, never beeping, never asking me to do things like count my heartbeats to do heart rate math in my head.  These new watches?  All so noisy.  Beeping here, beeping there, requiring intermediary screens to inform the user that we are entering “chrono” before displaying the watch face.  Why.  Why.  Why.

After about twenty minutes of pressing buttons and investigating colors (as well as the man-options!)and comparing prices, I settled on a hot pink TIMEX IRONMAN for $32.99.  It (unfortunately) beeps, but it seems to sit on my wrist the best and from a functional standpoint, it is the least confusing.

Watch

I dragged it out for its first run on Saturday morning (because wearing a watch on the treadmill is The Most Pointless Act) and I would say overall, it was a success.  It doesn’t rub or sit uncomfortably.  I did get confused about hitting the stop button vs. the split button (it can do 10 laps worth of splits) but if that’s the biggest issue I have, I suppose I can be troubled to learn how to hit the right button properly.

Since I have, functionally speaking, been running indoors for the past few weeks there is really nothing too exciting to report.  I’ve been incorporating speedwork per my incredibly non-scientific plan and I’ve started adding an incline to my running so I can approximate outdoor running as closely as possible.  It’s not a bad situation.

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More House Admin

I feel like for the last week, this has become Kat’s Boring Blog About House Stuff.  Apparently that’s where my head is at right now.

In case you have not picked up on this yet, if I am going to deep clean and/or bake something, there is a better-than-average chance that it will happen immediately after I am done running.  I’m not sure if it’s the endorphins or what, but the urge to be productive takes hold and does not let go.

So yesterday, I got done with my three mile pace run, and then I had to clean our entire house.  As in, move everything on the counter to wipe behind it, clean all of the sinks, tackle the dust on the treadmill, clean off the faces of the cabinet/fridge/dishwasher/oven.  With 10 paper towels left on the roll, I admitted defeat and tabled the activities of The Downstairs Bathroom and Washing Our Glass Patio Door.  Marcus vacuumed and swept, so I think all that’s left for us to do is to attempt to purge some extra clutter.  It isn’t as though we’ve brought a great deal of stuff into the house over the past three-ish months, but somehow it always seems like there is more to give away and throw away.

On the financial front, while it’s highly unlikely that we will ever realize the kind of savings that we did when we slashed our cable and car insurance bills, I have a new frontier to tackle: our cell phone bill and our credit card.

We are currently Verizon users and pay them an unholy amount each month.  While we’re pleased with the devices (I am a shameless iPhone fan) and the service, it seems that there are some other options out there that are worth further investigation.  Our contract ends in the next month or so and the iPhone 6 is slated for release in September.  While we don’t need new devices this year (really, we just don’t), that would be an opportune time for a switch.  I’m currently researching Virgin Mobile, Republic Wireless and Freedom Pop.  It looks like at a minimum, we would be able to reduce our bill by at least 25%.  Over the course of a year, that’s $400.  If we actually do make a switch (or any change that reduces our costs), I’ll be sure to share what we did.

On the credit card front, currently our cards are bank credit cards.  We’re not enrolled in any supremely fancy points or cash back programs.  While we don’t rely on them for anything, if we could use them as a tool to make life a little bit nicer for ourselves as a by-product of us using them to pay our basic bills, that would not be a bad deal.  Since it’s definitely our first time at this rodeo, there is a lot to research in terms of which points/miles we would actually use as well as what type of card would be better for us in the long term (5-10 years) versus the next calendar year.  You all know that we like to travel so, waiving baggage fees, reducing hotel stay costs or just general cash back would all be a big improvement over the current system.

Are you working on any home or savings/personal finance projects?

Friday Food Round-Up!

I thought we were cooking once this week, but then we ended up cooking more.

Sunday – Avocado Tartine with Cucumber and Sesame Seeds from The Smitten Kitchen

Sunday

I’ve always wanted to try this recipe, but I am also of the belief that the last thing the world needs is more avocado toast.  I feel like we’re all already doing our part.  While the avocado-cucumber blend was really fresh, the dice of the cucumber made it impossible to eat without topping escaping.

Just call it a quick, pre-wedding lunch.

Tuesday - Grilled Chicken Thighs with 4-3-2-1 Spice Rub, Oven Fries, Corn on the Cob and Green Beans-Asparagus Salad-Style

Tuesday

Dad came over for dinner because Mom was out of town and we ate more Gregor Farm produce on the deck.  The summer meal lives on.

Wednesday – Knock-Off Mimi (Grilled Pizza Crust with Caprese Salad)

Wednesday

This summer, on Tuesday nights while Marcus has been at Frisbee, I have been popping over to Punch Pizza to grab a Mimi to-go.  Upon my return home, I unpack it on the porch and enjoy it outside as I watch the sun set.  Yes, seriously.  It has been wonderful.  But including tax, it’s $11.49 or so, and honestly this is something I could make at home.

But I haven’t, because until Wednesday, I had never grilled a pizza crust.

To summarize how this recipe differed from the oven version, I did the following: I let the dough rise once for fifteen minutes, punched it down and then let it rise for 15 minutes a second time.  I kneaded it on a floured board for about two minutes.  I split the dough and then rolled out two separate crusts.    To grill, I heated the grill to high, rubbed it with olive oil and grilled one crust at a time.  After putting the first crust on the grill, I let it cook for about 60-90 seconds and then I flipped it.  It cooked for another 90-ish seconds and then I removed it.  To finish, I rubbed both crusts with cloves of garlic and then salted them.

To top, I diced up a caprese salad of 1/4 cup basil, olive oil, three tomatoes, one ball of mozzarella, salt and pepper.  You can either serve this dish by tossing the entire topping mix on the crust, slicing and serving OR you can serve it on the side with a spoon to top each slice as you go.

I promise you want to do this.

 

Dead Tree: Part II

Dead Tree

In case anyone was really dying for an update, the tree has made its mind up for good.  The situation in our front yard is officially more disastrous than the dead Christmas trees that surface with the first spring snow melt.

We have received the joyous (if not wholly ambiguous) news that our HOA spoke with the tree farm and the dead trees will be replaced.  With what or when, it is impossible to know.  At this point, aside from Paul Bunyan-ing it ourselves, we are hostages to our association landscaping covenants.

We’ll save the debacle of our shredded rock bed liner for another day.

Our At Home Summer Dinner Date

In Minneapolis there is this restaurant called Broders that has been open forever.  They’re really well-known for their pasta bar, but in the summer they open a little bistro grill on their patio and offer a completely separate antipasti menu.  It’s just lovely.

This summer has been a series of schedules running opposite of one another so Marcus and I have been trying to schedule designated date nights.  Last Friday was one of those evenings.  What I was actually craving for dinner was Broders, but what I was not craving was the 30 minute drive to South Minneapolis, the wait (they do not take reservations) or the likely $80 dinner bill.  Instead, we decided to create our own little dining al fresco situation on the patio at home.

Our spread. The Spread

We grilled everything we could, because honestly, grilled things just taste better and doubly so when it is summer.  For those members of the group who have never grilled bread before, you must.  Buy a baguette.  Slice it in half.  Slather both halves with olive oil and place face down on the grill.  Grill.  Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper before serving.  You will love it sick.

And by the slice, we actioned a traditional bruschetta with tomatoes and mozzarella.

Tomatoes

I cannot remember where I read this, but apparently, when you are making bruschetta with tomatoes you should always use more olive oil and more cheese than you think.  Do that and be glad.

Grilled zucchini (which was topped with shredded parmesan immediately after this snap).

Zucchini

This was good, but definitely the most “nutritious” of the three.

Finally, grilled green onions on whipped cream cheese.

Green Onions

I know, I know.  Whipped cream cheese is not fancy.  But it was already in our fridge and (once again) $4 cheaper/tub than ricotta.  This was the combination I was the most surprised by.  The only reason we grilled green onions is because they were in the fridge already.  I would put this on the Must Do list again.

For those wondering what sort of budget this type of production requires, all of the cheese came from ALDI (even that lovely ball of mozzarella!) and we grabbed the zucchini and tomatoes from Gregor farm.  So the total cost of our meal was probably $15.  Definitely a more economical date night choice.

Do you have any favorite at-home knock-off dinners?

Kitchen Updates

I know, I know. I’m really taking this whole Conquering Our Home-thing to heart.  Some of the projects on our home improvement list will take months or years to complete.  But there are just as many little things to tackle.

Last night, on our way home from dinner, we stopped by Target to pick up a few things.  Including this.

Paper Towels

Yes, seriously, we bought a holder (stand?  caddy?) for our paper towels and no, we really did not own one until August 18, 2014.  We have been living like wild things for the past five years.  Since I didn’t technically live here the year that Marcus bought the house, he has to own that.  But the last four years?  I should have had my eye on the prize and I just didn’t.  Who knew a tiny block of wood to rest your paper towels upon could make such a difference?

That the wooden version of the paper towel holder was the lesser of two design evils is another story.  Apparently we and the good people of America have the choice of either The Current System or some sort of horrible latex-dipped steel monstrosity.

None of this is here or there, really, because peace has been restored (at last) to kitchen.  Or at least until we finally (someday) get around to tackling the horrible white laminate cabinets.

Reverb 14 | August | Transition

#reverb14 is the opportunity for us to reflect and project throughout 2014.   Each month, Meredith, Sarah and I will be posting on a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading. No matter what you choose, come with us.

Transition: Transition of seasons; from single to couple; from couple to parents; from one to many.  It’s that time of year when the high summer sun starts to sink and we all start to long for long sleeves.  How is your life changing.  How are YOU changing?

The light has changed again.  I noticed it last week.  Just yesterday, I looked out the window and noticed that the leaves on our flowering tree have started to turn yellow.  There is no turning back now.

The end of the summer has always been my favorite.  August is The Birthday Month for Billy and I.  The corn is in and the tomatoes are ripe on the vine.  It is family vacation time.  It is the start of the football season  It is back to school.  It is the nearing of the High Holidays.

Life has changed immensely in the past year.  What I cannot pinpoint is exactly how, because it has been dozens of tiny shifts that have pushed me off of the plane I called home and onto the new Out of the nest and into the air. 

The metamorphosis is over.  The chrysalis is hanging from a branch, empty.  If we know nothing else, it is that there is no turning back now.

While everything else continues to shift, life stands still in suburbia.  I never thought I would declare the M Family House a sanctuary of sorts, but it has become a quiet place amidst the chaos.

Our house is a home, yes.  But more often than not, we treat it like base camp, readying ourselves for our next expedition.  The reality is that this roof and four walls are my own personal Everest.  They are the adventure.

Would it be enough to say that I want to enjoy the things that we are surrounded by and inhabit the space that others refer to as “normal?”  I want so badly to learn how to craft.  To have nights in.  To create a routine around this place instead of fitting this place into a routine.  All of these things seem so simple and yet, being at home is old and new all at once.

We are at the finish line and the start once more.  At last, we get to start fresh.