I’m Finally Ready to Talk About It

Warning: This is a l-o-n-g post. Kind of a Part 2 to this post. And kind of the post I have been avoiding writing.

The sky was uncharacteristically dark for a mid-September morning. Steel gray clouds concealed the sunrise, blanketing the streets in darkness. I squinted, scanned the sea of runners gathered in front of me, and searched for a sign marking the entrance to corral A. Once I located it, I quickly kissed my husband good-bye.

“Good luck, Honey!” he said as he wrapped his arms around me for a final hug.

“Don’t forget to find me on the course,” I replied. He had explicit instructions to meet me at mile 6, and then every two to three miles thereafter.

I hastily walked across the rain soaked lawn, entered the corral, and wove my way through the horde of runners who were either jogging in place, or anxiously bouncing from one foot to the other, or talking strategy with fellow runners.

I looked up, and spotted a sign that said “3:45 Finish”, and I thought to myself, “Why not?”

I realized that three hours forty-five minutes was an aggressive goal, but I also knew I could back off that pace and still finish in under four hours (which was my “real” goal…you know..the one that I publicly acknowledged.) I made my way to a spot void of runners, just behind the man holding the sign. I glanced at my Garmin and realized I still had 5 minutes before the race would start.

I tried to focus. My mind started doing the math. Finishing in 3 hours, 45 minutes meant running eight and a half minute miles, while finishing in 4 hours meant I could run a little over 9 minute miles.

I figured that sticking with this pacing group would push me at the beginning of my run,  and it would be okay if I needed to slow down later. Ideally, I wanted to  run nine minute miles, as anything over 4 hours was simply not going to be acceptable.

At no time, during this thought process did it ever occur to me to simply listen to my body, and run a pace that felt right. I was on a mission. I would not be denied. I had accomplished this last year, and anything less was failure.

I smiled as I thought back to the day just one year ago. I had been on top of the world. Not only had I finished my fourth marathon, but I had PR’d by 8 minutes, and  I had qualified for Boston. The memory of that day, filled me with pride.

I had felt really good during the race. Nothing hurt. “The Wall” never materialized.  My husband greeted me at mile 25; only a mile from the finish.

“Honey, you are going to finish in under 4 hours!” he yelled, as he met my pace and kept me company.

I couldn’t believe it! My heart felt about ready to burst from the reality that I was going to PR! The fatigue that had begun to invade my body at mile 22 suddenly was forgotten.

Vivid memories of running that final .2 mile down picturesque Lakeshore Drive filled my mind.  I had wound my way along the shoreline of Lake Winnebago, taking in the beauty of the sailboats as they navigated into the open water. As I had passed through Kimberly Point,  I gazed up at the Neenah Lighthouse, and thought about how blessed I was. 26 miles will do that to you.

As I rounded the final bend, and entered Riverside Park, crowds of onlookers lined the streets and filled the stands, cheering for the runners as they approached the finish line. I took in the moment, much like I took in the moment of each of my childrens’ births. I knew I wanted to remember this feeling forever.

I caught site of the finish line and the time clock. 3:53! I couldn’t believe it. My emotions got the best of me. I felt my throat constrict, and tears of pride and joy welled up in my eyes. I was totally overwhelmed.

“I’m going to do it!” I thought with pride. “I’m actually going to finish in under 4 hours!”

This is one happy runner!

This is one happy runner!

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And then, the starter’s horn blasted, jolting me back into the present.

I soon found myself shuffling toward the start line with thousands of other runners. I crossed over the electronic mat, struggling to locate my Garmin hidden beneath my long sleeve shirt. Once I found it, I clicked the start button, signaling that my race had begun. Nervous excitement filled my body.

As loose and relaxed as I tried to be, I could not get rid of the butterflies that were fluttering around my belly as I began. You see, my knee had been giving me trouble for months. Although I had taken time off of running, and diligently followed my prescribed course of physical therapy, I still couldn’t run without pain. So after three months, I resorted to a cortisone shot.

While it did not completely erase the pain, it allowed me to resume my running. I had missed the first four weeks of the training program, and couldn’t do the speed workouts at the pace I wanted to, but I was able to get the miles in.

However, the reality was, my knee still hurt, and while I had completed several 20 mile training runs, I was unsure of how my knee would feel at mile 21.

I tried to relax. For the first mile. I eavesdropped on the conversations of other runners, enjoying the camaraderie.

“Hey…do you know why a marathon is 26.2 miles?” one runner asked.

His running buddy replied, “No, why is a marathon 26.2 miles?”

“‘cuz 26.3 would be insane!”

I laughed along with the people who were within hearing distance of the jokester.

I felt sluggish, but I was not concerned. I was running at a pace that was not natural for me, and the first three miles of a run never feel that great for me, no matter how long the race. I tried settling in.  I knew I could back off at anytime. I smiled to myself as a symphony of chirps emitted from the watches of runners surrounding me as we reached the one mile marker. Predictable.

As I passed the 5 mile mark I realized I hadn’t even thought about my knee. I felt a glimmer of optimism. Painfree. Not even a twinge. At this point, I wasn’t even concerned that my body was feeling heavy and slow. Again, I attributed it to a too fast pace, which I felt I could counteract by just slowing down.

My husband met me at mile 6, providing me with my homemade Energy Bite (much needed fuel for my body). This past summer I had finally learned the importance of fueling my body during long runs. I knew it was crucial to take in nutrients and calories every 3 miles or so. This strategy had allowed me keep a strong pace on training runs. I was hopeful that I would feel a burst of energy shortly.

Somewhere around mile 8, I gave in to a slower pace. The burst of energy I had anticipated was not forthcoming. With mild disappointment, I realized I needed to ease up. I slowed down my pace and watched as the 3:45 pace group disappeared out of sight. I found myself running alone. I looked back and was grateful that the 3:55 pace group was nowhere to be seen.

Despite the fact that I was running at a slower pace, I wasn’t feeling any stronger, My body felt like it had already run 20 miles. Not good.

“What the heck?” I mumbled to myself with great frustration “Why today?”

I struggled to make it to the halfway mark (13.1 miles) in under 2 hours. I realized the only way I would meet my goal of finishing in under 4 hours would be to run a negative split. In other words, I would have to run the second half of the marathon faster than what I ran the first half.  Shortly after this realization, the 4:00 pace group passed me. Disappointment hit me like a brick to the head. I couldn’t escape the negative thoughts running through my mind.

As I approached the 16 mile mark, I could see volunteers gathered on either side of the road. Some were holding cups and yelling, “Gatorade!”, while others were holding identical cups and yelling, “Water!” Still others were holding big bowls of banana halves, and orange slices.

And then I saw my supportive husband, riding his bike, and holding a sickly sweet energy bite wrapped in a kleenex. My mind struggled for the right answer. My magical little energy bite which had never let me down on a training run? A banana? The thought of eating anything sent my insides churning. I could feel the bile rising in my throat.

“You need to eat something!” I reasoned with myself.

My gaze shifted between my husband with the kleenex and the woman holding the bowl of bananas. The bananas won. If for no other reason than I would have an excuse to walk. I needed to peel my banana, before I could eat it. I gave in.

I slowed my already slow pace, grabbed a banana from the bowl, mumbled “Thank you,” and veered off to the side of the road where I allowed myself to walk.

“How are you feeling? my husband hesitantly asked as he pedaled up beside me.

“This sucks,” I told him, without meeting his eyes.

I walked on silently. A cardboard box garbage can was 20 feet ahead of me. The banana skin needed to go in the garbage. I certainly didn’t want to be a litter bug.

I finished my banana, and flung the skin into the garbage can…and missed.

“You have GOT to be kidding me, “ I grumbled as I rolled my eyes.

“If you keep walking, it will take you forever to finish,” I reasoned with myself. I started to jog

And then, just when I thought the day could not get any worse. It happened. A slight twinge appeared in my left knee, and within a half of a mile, escalated into a sharp, stabbing pain. I changed my stride, favoring my right leg, in an attempt  to lessen the pain. Never a good idea, by the way. Sure enough, it didn’t take long for my right hip to join in the revolt.

Mile 18. Another aid station. Another banana. Another opportunity to walk. Another conversation with myself. The pain subsided when I walked.

“I don’t want to do this,” I thought. “Just walk the rest of the way,”

It was cold and windy and misting. Not a beautiful day for a run.

And then, in the midst of my pity party, I thought about how I felt last fall when I broke my elbow and wasn’t allowed to run for months. I thought about how disappointed I felt last spring when my knee pain forced me to miss running in a half marathon. I thought about a friend who had been diagnosed with brain cancer. I thought about a lot of things. And with all of this thinking,  I had distracted myself long enough to reach mile 20.

“6.2 to go. Anybody could run 6.2,” I told myself. This was a game I frequently played with myself on long runs.

I had run that thousands of times. At this point I made a decision. I would not quit. I wouldn’t even walk through aid stations. I thought about all the times I had told my children, “Pain is temporary, pride is forever!” I knew I had to keep on pushing. I had just demonstrated to myself that by crawling inside my mind, I could make the miles go by. I was not going to let pain win.

Mile 23

I looked at my Garmin and saw my time. Disappointment came rushing back. I was five minutes away from last year’s finish time, with three miles left to go. Simply finishing was not my goal, as it had been in every other marathon I had run. I wanted to run well. I wanted, no I needed to finish in under 4 hours. And I wasn’t going to be able to. I was angry with myself.

If only I hadn’t walked through that aid station. If only I hadn’t pushed my pace. If only my knee didn’t hurt.

I pushed on, my anger driving me.

Mile 24 brought me into home territory.

I began to anticipate the end of the race. Despite the fact that my body was screaming for me to stop (and my knee was the loudest), my mind kept fighting back.

“You need to do this,” I demanded of myself. “You have run this route hundreds of times.”

I ran with anger and disappointment.

As I ran over the bridge, linking Doty Island to my hometown, I was greeted with “Way to go, Mrs. Hovie,” and “Looking good, Karen!” I smiled weakly refusing to make eye contact. My personal disappointment outweighed the enthusiasm the crowd was sharing with me.

The final .5 of the race is inarguably the most beautiful of the entire race. Exquisite mansions line the Wisconsin Avenue. Tall, broad oaks, on the cusp of full brilliant color, form a canopy over the narrow road that winds along the shore. A beautiful lighthouse graces the land marking the entrance of Neenah’s harbor. But I wasn’t having any of it. Last year I was enamored by the beauty. This year I was only aware of my failure.

I rounded the final curve, and the finish line came into view. I could hear the crowd cheering, as the announcer congratulated the runners by name as they crossed the finish line. I, however, fixated on only one thing: the clock and its announcement of my failure. I prayed that the announcer would skip over my name, and I could disappear into the crowd unnoticed.

But then I heard it. “Karen Hovie from Neenah!”

“Where was he last year when I totally kicked butt?” I angrily mumbled to myself.

I crossed over the finish line and hit the “stop” button on my Garmin. I couldn’t bare to look at the time. A mylar blanket was quickly draped around my shoulders, much like a queen’s cape. As I shuffled through the finish gate, I ducked my head as a finisher’s medal is placed around my neck.

The step that takes me from the street to the curb is physically painful, but not nearly as painful as my disappointment.  I force myself to keep walking; I just want to go home, take a shower, and forget about the day. I make my way to a table stacked high with t-shirts, receive my finisher’s shirt, and wind my way through the park. The lawn is trampled, and there is mud everywhere.

Exhausted runners stand in line at the food tent. But the sight of the cookies, and the smell of the roast beef sandwiches turns my stomach, and I briefly wonder if I’ll make it through the area without throwing up. I reluctantly grab a bottle of water. I search for my husband so he can take me home, and see him hurrying over to me.

At the last minute, I have him take a picture of me, with my t-shirt and medal.

 

And this is a "not so happy" runner.

And this is a “not so happy” runner.

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It has now been over two months since the marathon. And I’ve been waiting. I know that all stories worth sharing have some kind of moral or lesson learned. So I’ve been waiting for that moral or lesson to be revealed to me.

But I’m not really sure there is one. I mean sure, one could dig deep and say when I was faced with adversity, and I wanted to quit, I didn’t. I fought through the pain and finished. But I’m not really feeling that.

Or maybe the lesson I need to learn is that this was just one race, and it doesn’t define me as a runner, or  as a person.

Or maybe there isn’t a lesson to be learned.

Or,  maybe, just maybe, this isn’t the end of the story.  So for now, I’ll just add this:

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to these:

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and keep it all in perspective.

 

Raw Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls

Cookie dough. Why is it just so incredibly difficult to resist sneaking a few bites of cookie dough when whipping up a batch of cookies? Have you ever even put a pan of cookies in the oven without “testing” them first? (You know…just to make sure they’re edible and stuff.) I know I haven’t.

My love affair with cookie dough goes way back. When I was little, my “big” sister Susie (14 years my senior, but  6 inches my junior), would “invite” me over to her house and we would bake cookies!  (In reality, my mom and dad probably bribed her to babysit.) She always made sure we had enough ingredients on hand to make double batches. This way, we wouldn’t have to worry about having enough dough to put in the oven. Pure genius.

At the time, I didn’t realize what a health risk raw cookie dough was.

Today I  eat cookie dough by the spoonful, without any fear of E. coli or salmonella! And that my friends, is just one of the many benefits of a plant based diet!

I have tried many different recipes when making chocolate chip cookie dough. I lost track of where this recipe originated, as it has become such a staple at my house, that no recipe is even needed! You have to try this!!

Place cashews and oatmeal in blender. I used my little Ninja!

Just put cashews and oatmeal in blender. I used my little Ninja!

Give a whirl until fine crumbs form.

Give a whirl until fine crumbs form.

Add date sugar and salt.

Add date sugar and salt. Most of the time I just use dates instead of date sugar, but this batch was going to school, and I didn’t want to completely freak out my co-workers.

After blending the additional dry ingredients, add vanilla and maple syrup!

After blending the additional dry ingredients, add vanilla and maple syrup!

Process until dough forms.

Process until dough forms.

Add some mini chocolate chips, and stick in the fridge.

Add some mini chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips), and stick in the fridge.

Roll into balls!

Once the dough chills a bit, just roll into balls!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls

1/2 c. old fashioned oats

1/2 c. raw cashews

2 T. date sugar

1/2 t. sea salt

1 t. vanilla

2 T. maple syrup

handful of chocolate chips

OR

skip the date sugar, add 3 plump dates, and add maple syrup only if the dough is too dry or you desire a little more sweetness. This is my favorite way to make them!!

Place oats and cashews in processor and process until fine crumbs form. Then, add the rest of the dry ingredients (minus the chocolate chips.) Process. Add liquids and process until blended. Stir in chocolate chips and place dough in the fridge to chill. Then roll into balls!

If you really want to impress your friends, dip the cookie dough balls in chocolate (melt chocolate chips with a smidge of coconut oil). This was INCREDIBLE. So incredible, in fact,  that I failed to take a picture. :(

I need to work on self control.

 

 

All Hail to the Powerful Kale!

I’ve loved green, leafy vegetables for as long as I can remember. Heck, I ate them before they became trendy. I didn’t even know they were good for me! In the summertime, my mom would make spinach salad with fresh picked spinach from our garden, hard cooked eggs, bacon, and a hot bacon/vinegar dressing. This was one of my favorite meals!

I even ate cooked spinach as a kid! (With butter of course…not that that would make it any less weird, but still…)

And beet greens? OMG!

Kale, however, wasn’t on my radar until a couple of years ago. I can’t even remember how I first tried it. It must have made quite an impression on me though, since I proceeded to plant some kale in my own little makeshift garden a couple of summers ago.

I never ran short of kale eating ideas.

I rubbed the leaves with olive oil and sea salt, and baked them into kale chips.

I massaged the leaves with avocado, lemon and sea salt for salads.

I blanched the leaves and used it as a base for my “decomposed casseroles” (bowls).

I blended it into my smoothies.

And now, my latest addiction is steaming it with liquid aminos and nutritional yeast!

You just can’t go wrong with kale!

Check out the dv’s (daily nutritional values) for one cup of chopped kale:

5% daily fiber

4% protein

206% vitamin A

134% vitamin C

684% vitamin K

9% vitamin B6

9% calcium

6% iron

Dang! Tons of nutrition AND it’s super easy to include in any meal of the day, from breakfast, to snacks, to dinner!

Here’s my “recipe” for steamed kale!

Start with a bundle of kale...

Start with a bundle of kale…

destem, tear into pieces, and rinse...

destem, tear into pieces, and rinse…

place in a pan, drizzle in some water, and cover with a lid...

place in a pan, drizzle in some water, and cover with a lid…

Cook on medium low for about 10 minutes.

Cook on medium low for about 10 minutes. (The steam messed with my picture taking.)

A little liquid aminos, and a little nutritional yeast...

Add a little liquid aminos, and a little nutritional yeast…

douse liberally...

douse liberally with liquid aminos and nutritional yeast…

Cover with a lid and turn off the burner.

Cover with a lid and turn off the burner.

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Place in a bowl, and sprinkle with more nutritional yeast!

So now you have a super kale side dish, as the liquid aminos and nutritional yeast add another powerful nutrition punch!

How do you like to eat your leafy greens?

 

Cocoa + Coconut Almond Butter Shake

Look what I made!

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Meet my inspiration…

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I love nut butters. I currently have 4 partially used jars sitting in my pantry. And yes, I realize that I should probably keep them in the fridge, but I don’t like it when they get all hard and crumbly…I like them smooth and creamy! And it’s not like they’re going to go bad. They don’t last long enough for that to happen

Typically, I stick to the basic, plain butters: peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, and sun butter. These are all staples at my house. Excessive? Yeah…probably. Clearly, I have a problem.

I even make my own nut butter! You can read about that here.

But occasionally, I can’t resist trying something new and exciting! This little jar leaped off the shelf and into my cart when I went grocery shopping last week. Since that time, I have been finding all sorts of ways to use it…”frosting” for my donuts, a topping for my oatmeal, and now….

the inspiration for a shake.

Introducing…my Cocoa and Coconut Almond Butter Shake!

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The coconut flakes are so yummy when slightly frozen!!

Cocoa and Coconut Almond Butter Shake

1 1/2 frozen bananas (I keep chunks of bananas in the freezer)

1 -2 T. Cocoa + Coconut Almond Barney Butter

1 T. cacao powder

1/2 – 1 c. coconut milk (the kind in the carton)

1 T. unsweetened coconut flakes

optional: I had some homemade chocolate (cacao powder + coconut oil + maple syrup) laying around. I put a few slabs of that in as well. I imagine chocolate chips would fit the bill also!

Place bananas, Barney Butter, cacao powder, and coconut milk in a blender cup. Blend. Add more frozen bananas if you would like it thicker. Add more milk if you like it runnier. Sprinkle with coconut flakes! Enjoy!

A Warm Heart and A Warm Belly

Enjoy!

I’ve been neglecting my blogging life these past few weeks. As much as I have been itching to write, my adult self (you know…the responsible one) knew I needed to adhere to the old  “business before pleasure” adage. The business being correcting 110+ 6th grade personal narratives and 110+ journal responses, and writing 110+ report card comments.

Despite this occasional overwhelming amount of correcting, I continue to absolutely love teaching middle school language arts! You may remember this post, where I wrote about the internal conflict I felt when wrestling with the decision to leave elementary school. I am happy to say, I am conflict free!

As I conferenced with students about their personal narratives, I was reminded of just how connected I am to my students. Many shared personal parts of their lives with me. Far too many wrote about their parents’ divorce, many wrote about a time in their life when they experienced failure, some wrote about the death of a pet, and tragically, one wrote about the death of his father. I felt truly honored that they shared these intimate moments with me. Several papers brought tears to my eyes.

(Now don’t get me wrong, there were also plenty papers that made me laugh. And not necessarily because they were funny.)

Anyway, the best part of our study of personal narrative was  “Author’s Chair”, when students shared their writing with the rest of the class.

The night before “Author’s Chair”, I started to feel somewhat uneasy with the content of some of their personal narratives. As many students wrote about very personal times in their life, I decided to give them the option of sharing a different piece of writing. After all, these were 6th graders. Middle schoolers are not always the kindest to each other. And “Author’s Chair” involves peer feedback.

Turns out I didn’t need to worry. As student after student shared, I became more and more impressed with the feedback they were giving each other. No matter how well the paper was written, no matter how popular the author was, there were always hands up eager to compliment the writer. Most of the compliments focused on the skills I taught over the course of the study. But a few comments went much deeper than that.

Imagine Brian, an overweight boy with little writing confidence, and few friends, sharing his story about his dad’s death. Imagine his voice breaking as he shared the following:

My dad was addicted to alcohol and he died from that and that is a lesson…to never drink because it might kill me…He knew he was doing something wrong and he couldn’t stop because it was an addiction. ..My mom said, “he was a wonderful man,” and that she misses him very much.

I was afraid to look at the class, as I wasn’t doing a very good job of keeping my tears in check, and I wasn’t sure anybody was going to respond. And Brian desperately needed somebody to respond. When I finally got the courage to look up, I was overwhelmed. Almost everybody in class had their hand up. Some had tears in their eyes. And the first person Brian chose to compliment him said this…

“You made me feel. And good writers touch the hearts of others.”

Well said, Jasmine. Well said.

The warmth I felt in the classroom at that moment was incredible. I was so incredibly proud of my class!

And now,  I want to share the beverage that kept me going while in the midst of hundreds of pages of correcting. It has become my new addiction. This recipe is based on a recipe by Kathy Patalski of Healthy.Happy.Life. It makes me feel all warm and cozy inside. Much like I felt the day Brian shared his story.

The star of the show is fresh ginger!

The star of the show is fresh ginger!

Cut off a 1" - 2" chunk and peel away the skin.

Cut off a 1″ – 2″ chunk and peel away the skin.

Chop!

Chop!

Put in blender with 2 cups of water.

Put in blender with 2 cups of water.

Blend for a minute or two.

Blend for a minute or two.

 

After blending, place in a pot with 4 cups of water. Throw in a cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

 

Juice 2 lemons, chop one apple (no core or seeds), add honey and cayenne.

While ginger mixture is doing its thing, juice 2 lemons, chop one apple (no core or seeds), add honey and cayenne to blender.

Add ginger water mixture to the blender. It's probably a good idea to let it cool a bit before blending. Live and learn.

Add ginger water mixture to the blender. It’s probably a good idea to let it cool a bit before blending. Live and learn.

Pour into a pitcher, straining the pulpy stuff out.

Pour into a pitcher, straining the pulpy stuff out.

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

Ginger Tea

1 1/2 T. fresh ginger, chopped

6 cups water, divided

1 cinnamon stick

2 lemons, juiced

1 apple, cored and chopped

4 shakes of cayenne pepper

2 T. sweetener (honey, maple syrup, agave)

Put chopped ginger in 2 cups of water and blend. Add this mixture to a pot with 4 cups of additional water. Put in cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes.

Place lemon juice, apple, cayenne, and sweetener in blender. Add ginger mixture. Cool a bit, then blend. Strain out chunks. Drink immediately, or store in fridge! This can easily be rewarmed.

Donuts

I love donuts!

When I was little, it was tradition for my mom and I to stop at the local Mister Donut on our way home from church each Sunday. I’m sure many Sunday school lessons went “unlearned”, as I couldn’t possibly  keep my mind on Moses or Abraham, when donuts were on my mind.

I could barely contain myself as I skipped through the doors of the donut shoppe, my shiny black shoes clickety-clacking on the tile floor. The yeasty, sweet smell teased my senses.  While my mom picked out “normal” donuts (you know…cake donuts and chocolate long johns) from the floor to ceiling racks behind the counter, I was mesmerized by the fancy donuts displayed in the glass case, strategically placed at my eye level. Decisions, decisions, decisions!

My mind needed to be made up by the time my mom finished selecting the donuts we would bring home to my dad. Typically, I was lured in by  vanilla donuts, filled with a creamy custard, and covered with tons of thick, sugary, vanilla frosting. If it were close to a holiday, the frosting would be tinted vibrant colors, and decorated accordingly.

Once I finally made my decision, I would bashfully point to the donut I wanted, and the man behind the counter would carefully place it in a special little box…just for me.

I held that donut on my lap all the way home, which felt like an incredibly long way, as all I could think about was eating that donut!

Once I got home, I quickly changed out of my church clothes. I then ceremoniously placed my donut on a plate, and dug through the Sunday paper until I found the  “Funny Papers”. I tucked the paper under my arm, and took my donut into the living room, where I spread the paper on the floor, and plopped myself down with my donut. Funnies AND donuts. I loved Sundays! My first bite was heavenly. I savored that donut, nibbling around the sides, keeping the custard and frosting for my last bite.

One Sunday, when my favorite aunt was visiting, my dad decided to play a trick on me. While I was changing, he hid my donut!! THAT was NOT funny! This memory sticks with me though, as it was also when my aunt “taught me” to protect my donut by licking it when everyone was watching. That would prevent any future donut snatching!

Becoming vegan definitely put a kibosh on my donut eating! Sadly, there are not a whole lot of vegan bake shoppes in my area.

Luckily…

photo 1

my son, who is attending school in St. Paul, Minnesota, introduced me to this place! Glam Doll Donuts!photo 2

Vegan donuts!! Here you have the Dark Angel and the Femme Fatale! Words cannot adequately describe how incredibly delicious these are!

Well, fortunately, these are special treats, as St. Paul is 4 hours away.

I have discovered, however, that I can make my own donuts at home! And these, my friends, are not only vegan, but quite healthy as well!

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Spelt flour, baking powder, date sugar, and salt…

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almond milk, vanilla, apple cider vinegar, and coconut oil…

Add wet to dry and mix well.

Add wet to dry and mix well.

Scoop dough into a quart size baggie. Cut off one of the bottom corners, and squeeze into donut pan.

Scoop dough into a quart size baggie. Cut off one of the bottom corners, and squeeze into donut pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, and then flip then onto a cooling rack.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, and then flip then onto a cooling rack.

Perfection!

Perfection!

Frost! For this batch, I used cocoa + coconut Barney Butter and Sprikelz!

Frost! For this batch, I used cocoa + coconut Barney Butter and Sprinkelz!

Breakfast is served!

Breakfast is served!

Sometimes I get fancy and make vanilla and chocolate glazes!

Sometimes I get fancy and make vanilla and chocolate glazes!

This recipe is based on a recipe by ChocolateCoveredKatie.

Donuts

1 c. spelt flour

1/2 T. baking powder

1/3 heaping c. date sugar

1/4 t. salt

3/4 c. almond milk (room temperature)

3 T. coconut oil (melted)

1 t. vanilla

1 t. apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients. Whisk together until blended. Combine wet ingredients (make sure your milk is room temperature, or coconut oil will solidify). Add wet to dry. Or dry to wet…I can’t tell the difference. Stir until just combined. Place batter in quart size baggie. Cut off bottom corner of bag, keeping the size of the hole the size of the desired donut. Squeeze batter into donut pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before turning onto a cooling rack. Frost as desired!

Happiness Is…

an empty nut butter jar. Seriously. I kid you not.

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Or more precisely, an almost empty nut butter jar. Because then you have a reason to make overnight oats. Which, by the way, is a win-win-win.

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Win #1

Breakfast is made the night before. Therefore, with your “extra” time, you can A. Sleep later the next morning. Or B. Curl your hair. Or C. Leisurely eat your breakfast while reading your favorite blog. I have done all three (not all on the same morning, mind you), and there is not a bad choice.

Win #2

No dishes. Once you eat, rinse out the jar and toss in the recycling. You probably should wash your spoon, though. Just sayin’.

Win #3

Overnight oats are so good. And so good for you. And so versatile. You can dress them up however you would like! There are some sure fire combos that I highly recommend. Peanut butter pairs well with banana, cacao, and chocolate. Almond butter, on the other hand, I prefer to pair with blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and cinnamon. I love an empty cashew butter jar. Everything goes well with cashew butter. And sun butter? Sun butter is especially tasty with more sun butter. Really.

The ingredients are few; oatmeal, chia seeds, almond milk, and banana!

The ingredients are few: oatmeal, chia seeds, almond milk, and banana!

Put everything into your "empty" jar!

Dump everything into your “empty” jar!

The next morning...ta dah!

The next morning…ta dah!

Yum!

Yum!

Vegan Overnight Oats

1/3 c. old fashioned oats

2 T. chia seeds

1/2 banana chopped

1 c. almond milk

An “almost empty” nut butter jar

Put all ingredients in your “almost empty” nut butter jar. (Almost empty to me means about 2 T. of nut butter is still hiding in the jar.) Stir, scraping the nut butter into the mix. Place the jar in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning your breakfast is ready to eat! I always put mine in the microwave for a minute or two to take the chill off. Then, I add  my toppings: fruit, nuts, coconut flakes, chocolate, cinnamon…the options are endless. If you are adding cacao powder or any other powder (matcha, maca, acai, etc.), add the night before…it’s easier to blend in.

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And just in case you were wondering, you don’t need to have an empty nut butter jar. That’s just an excuse. I usually make my own nut butters. Simply put all ingredients into a container the night before, stick in the fridge, and add your nut butter of choice the next morning.

My kids love overnight oats! Whenever they are home, I find myself mixing up individual size servings for each of them quite frequently! I hope you are as enamored with them as we are!

Pumpkin in My Bread Pan

And you thought I had probably run out of titles like this one!

Anyway…

As I may have mentioned in the past, my cooking/baking skills have never really been up to snuff. But when I switched to a whole food, plant based diet, something clicked! Or maybe it’s that I couldn’t go wrong when I cooked and baked with plant based, whole foods! Suddenly I was able to put together meals that the whole family loved!

BV (that’s Before Veganism), I followed recipes to a “T”. I measured ingredients scientifically, crouching down and making sure liquids were at the exact level they needed to be. I carefully used a knife to level dry ingredients. (Because a teaspoon was supposed to be exactly that. A teaspoon.) I would have never dreamed of deviating from a recipe. My husband use to make fun of me. He tried convincing me that the measurements given in recipes were  approximations. Ha! I wasn’t buying into that one.

Well, I am proud to say I have come a long way. I know now how to add a little of this and a little of that. I taste everything along the way. No worries about salmonella from eating raw eggs!  The only trouble I have been having is with my baking. Even when my batter has tasted out of this world delicious, what came out of the oven sometimes was anything but. Definitely a learning curve.

Which brings me to this recipe. Inspired by many of the fall recipes floating around out there, but probably mostly by Kathy Patalsky at Healthy.Happy.Life.  This took numerous attempts to get “just right”, but I am thrilled with the end result.

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The aftermath.

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At this point, I was thinking that I may have finally gotten it right!

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Because how could anything that looks this pretty not taste good?

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It came out of the oven still living up to my expectations!

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It’s still pretty hot at this point, but I simply could not wait any longer!

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And a little bit of Earth Balance sent this over the top!

Chocolate Swirl Pumpkin Bread

2 1/2 c. oat flour (I grind whole oats in a blender)

1 T. baking powder

3/4  t. salt

1 t. cinnamon

1/4 t. nutmeg

1/8 t. ginger

1 T. ground flax seed

1 c. almond milk

1/2 c. maple syrup

1/3 c. coconut oil

1 t. vanilla

1 1/4 c. pumpkin puree

3 T. cacao powder

1/3 c. chocolate chips

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in a large bowl. Whisk to combined. Warm all cold liquids. Place almond milk, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, flax seed, and pumpkin puree, in a blender. Blend. Pour liquid mixture into dry mixture. Stir. Pour batter into a greased bread pan, RESERVING about 1 cup of the batter. Into that 1 cup, add 3 T. cacao powder. Combine. Add chocolate chips to the chocolate batter. Stir. Place four 1/4 cup blobs into batter that is in the pan. Swirl a knife through the batter. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes before removing from bread pan.

Sticky Note Poetry

Before I started blogging, I did a lot of blog reading. As I teacher of language arts, I understood the importance of  mentor texts (or perhaps I should say mentor blogs). Before I began creating my own blog, I knew I needed to see quality examples of what I wanted to produce.

During this process, I stumbled upon the blog A Fullness in Brevity by Adam Byatt. This was the first blog that I had explored that was not health/food related. I felt like it was fate. The first post I saw was all about “Post It Note Poetry”. I was instantly enthralled and excited. The wheels started spinning…I had just landed my dream job-middle school language arts (you think I kid, but I kid you not!)-and I knew this was an activity I wanted to incorporate into my classroom.

You see, teachers by nature, are control freaks. (Don’t tell one that I told you this.) They tend to prefer order and routine. Uncontrolled chaos (and if you’re a teacher you know the difference between controlled chaos and uncontrolled chaos) makes them feel extremely anxious. Organized chaos…doable. And what you really need to know, is when I say “they”, well, I really mean “me”. Anyway…

At the beginning of the school year, I introduced  Adam’s Post It Note Poetry. (I respectfully renamed it “Sticky Note Poetry”, as kids gave me a blank stare when I said “Post It Note”).

Now, each day when they explode (yes, explode) into the classroom, they settle in while I take attendance and deal with the little issues that arise, by writing sticky note poetry.

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And for those of you who are missing it…that tree in the upper right hand corner? It’s a Poe”tree”. Get it? Poetree? Poetry?

I was amazed at the excitement the sticky note poetry created. Students who I would have never expected to participate in poetry writing (at least not by their own free will, anyway) were waving their hands begging for me to let them share what they created. This includes students with autism, ADD, ADHD, and students with other special needs.

Could it have been that since a “grade” was not part of the experience they felt more freedom to write? In this instance, creativity trumped spelling and structure. Now, hear me…I am not throwing spelling, or poetry structure out the door…I am just saving it for when I formally teach poetry. For now, I just want the kids to enjoy the process of creating poems, and to develop a love and appreciation for the written word.

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This was Caleb’s acrostic poem “SCHOOL DAY”. What strikes me most is that I never in a million years would have thought Caleb had this positive attitude toward school and himself. I am grateful that I was able to learn more about Caleb via his poem! His last line is: You are as smart as everyone else.

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Thank you, Adam for sticky note poetry! You are helping me create classrooms of poetry lovers!

 

 

Sorry, Cinnabon…

I’m in a healthier relationship. I’ve met someone who does not have 880 calories, or 36 grams of fat (17 of which are saturated). And even though they cannot compare to your 59 grams of sugar, I still find them incredibly sweet.

Cinnabon. My husband and I spent so much money there during my first pregnancy, that we probably should have bought stock in the company! I craved those soft, gooey rolls, and my husband was a huge enabler. We indulged so often that he claimed his “baby weight” was Cinnabon induced. Quite conveniently, there was a Cinnabon at our local mall. I would be embarrassed to admit how frequently we stopped by. And we didn’t share.

Over twenty years have passed since my first pregnancy. We still laughingly recall how one of the workers exuberantly rolled out the dough, rocking her whole body back and forth with the motion of the rolling pin. After forming a perfect rectangle, she would slather the dough with a buttery concoction. Then, she would pile on the sweet, “cinnamony” goodness, before carefully rolling the dough up into a log. What a production! Very theatrical. It’s a wonder she never threw her back out!

I miss those rolls. But I certainly don’t miss how I felt after eating one. Talk about a sugar and fat induced coma! Blah!

Cinnabon is definitely not whole foods, nor is it vegan, so it has been a long time since I have indulged. Fortunately, I found something even better!  Not only is it to die for good, but it’s comparatively quite healthy! It fills me up, and gives me energy! Definitely a win-win!

Last Saturday, I woke up craving something sweet, warm and comforting.  But, I also knew that I wanted to go for a run once it warmed up outside. (There’s nothing more beautiful or energizing than a run on a sunny, October morning in Wisconsin!) After browsing through some of my favorite blogs, I decided to go with what I knew. I have had this delicious baked oatmeal numerous times in the past. I knew it would take care of my craving, but not interfere with my mid-morning run. I quickly threw  the ingredients together and slid it into the oven. Within a half of an hour I was savoring this delectable bowl of oats.  I went for a run a couple of hours after breakfast and I felt on top of the world!

Oatmeal, cinnamon and sea salt...

Oatmeal, cinnamon and sea salt…

almond milk, vanilla, and maple syrup...

apple sauce, almond milk, vanilla, and maple syrup…

Dry...meet wet, wet...meet dry...

Dry…meet wet, wet…meet dry…

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And then...a little "cream cheese" frosting...

And then…a little “Cheesecake Sauce”…

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Bon appétit!

Bon appétit!

Typically, I putz around with recipes, personalizing them to my own tastes. This, however, was perfection from the start. Chocolate Covered Katie knows her stuff! Especially when it comes to Cinnamon Roll Baked Oatmeal! And the Cinnamon Bun Frosting? I wouldn’t even need the cinnamon roll to put it on. It’s that good!