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5K’s and Mockingjays!

Friday afternoon, I finally got that long long long (looooong) standing goal of running a 5K over and done! Even though I finished, I definitely didn’t run under optimum conditions. My lunch was too acidic, and I got a sharp pain in my stomach halfway through. I can also say I gave it everything I had at the moment. I was a little out of training…hadn’t had a decent run in a couple of weeks. So, when I finished my left knee hurt and I might have strained a muscle in my calf. But, even though I’m a little more sore now than I should be, I’m glad I got that milestone behind me.

I hope my little success can show some of you out there that anybody can turn themselves into a runner with the right supportive shoes and determination. It’s all about initiating habits and pushing yourself a little further each time. I recommend the couch to 5K programs because they start out so easy that you don’t feel overwhelmed and the success in the beginning keeps you with the program and on to the end goal of 5K-dom.

But honestly, the whole process was a lot harder than I thought it would be….overcoming a knee injury early on, battling through a million colds and post-cold asthma-like crud for months afterwards, and times when busy schedules would delay training for a while and I felt like I was starting over again. But, in the end, I did it. I kept focussed on my goal….which is all I wanted really. And I think I knew all along that I’d get there EVENTUALLY! The next plan is to get a little more comfortable with 5K distance and then work towards 10K!

Me in all my post 5K glory, hehe

And as for my Sunday, it revolved entirely around the third (and final :/) book in the Hunger Games series: Mockingjay.



Coffee Shop:

And dinner:

I’m done now and totally have a head-ache from cabin fever and reading in the dim light. But, at least the book had a perfect conclusion. I won’t say any more because no one likes spoilers! Just read it, K? : )

Also, if you want to stay posted on my workouts, check out my dailymile account by clicking on the ‘Work Outs’ tab above. There I post all my running, biking, and swimming work outs since I don’t always get around to blogging them all.


Food, Friends, Budget Making, and Lunch

The last few days have been cheered by good food and good company! After a hot 18 mile bike ride Sunday, I received an awesome surprise when me and my bike crashed back into the door to my apartment: FOOD and friends. And it was delicious, vegetarian, fresh produce-filled goodness! It was a perfect way to christen my new silverware, tumblers, and apartment. We were even extra classy and used salad forks and wine glasses.

I love fresh basil!

And yesterday night, a friend and I met to work on our budgets! Every one I’ve mentioned this to has given me ‘crazy eyes,’ but I am happy to finally start keeping a closer eye on my finances. I just needed a little accountability to get me motivated. I have been pretty embarassed because I know quite a bit about personal finance through books I’ve read and blogs, but I haven’t implemented a lot of what I know. I need to cut back in areas that aren’t important to me, and start saving more and investing. Even though I don’t make much as a graduate student, I definitely feel like I could be doing more with what I have.

To ease the discomfort of a budget party, we made an elaborately delicious spanish themed meal with tons of fresh produce!

Fresh produce, FTW

cilantro and lime for the rice!

And, I grated cheese for the first time! Haha, whatta fun life aspiration to get out of the way!

Our crazy yet delicious Spanish themed cheese

One of the big win categories we both had when we looked at our spending is eating out. And to help us save more of our current spending there, we have started a little competition entitled: Taking Back Lunch (wait for applause).

Basically, the goal is to pack lunch as many days in a row as possible. Throughout undergrad and the beginning of grad school, I was in the habit of packing lunch every day but I feel like being social in the department has had a bad effect on me in this area. I hope I can at least go a month without eating a lunch out again and by that time I’ll hopefully be used to it and it won’t feel hard…but…like second nature!

Lunch number one was the leftovers from the night before. They were so delicious I couldn’t even wait to eat long enough to take a picture hehe.

Classes started today! I can’t believe Summer is over, it has been awesome! What are some of your favorite things to pack for lunch? I need ideas if I’m going to win this ; )

Off the grid….

Hey all! It’s been a crazy week here in Karen-land. I’m off the grid, schedule wise!

Tuesday, the local electric people cut off the power in my apartment because the bill didn’t get switched over to my roommate’s name when she moved in a bit ago. It wasn’t totally tragic, but I did end up crashing at a friend’s place for 3 nights and had to get a lot of take out. My eating and exercise routines ended up getting mixed up.

Couch surfing, indeed! I recommend this couch though! Twas comfy!

Now I’m chilling in West Virginia at my parent’s place for the weekend. Saturday I went to a beautiful wedding of a girl I’ve known since 4th grade, I believe. She’s the first person MY age that I was friend’s with to get married (that I know of…). It’s kind of weird….apparently I’m of marrying age if I so desire to do so?? When did that happen?

Me ready for the wedding!

My hot companion for the day!

The ceremony was actually my favorite of all I’ve been to. It was outside in a nearby state park, which satisfies my inner hippie. And overall, it was just short, sweet, and simple which I thought made it feel more endearing and genuine. It was about getting married and being in love, and celebrating that with friends and family.

After I had a long catch up day with a dear friend, where we spilled our secrets and current life dramas to each other over ice cream and (later) soup! I seriously could eat all my calories from soup. I love the concept of throwing lots of flavorful things in a pot and seeing what happens.

Today I did more relaxing, catching up with friends, and squeezed a mini run in a park near my house. The run didn’t go as well as planned due to the humidity…After 2 miles I just kind of felt like I was drowning and couldn’t get productive breaths in. It was not the 5K of my dreams. I think I might have to do it inside the first time. This Southern humidity is killer. Well, hopefully I don’t let today’s failure get me down for tooo long.

It’s really hard being a vegetarian in West Virginia compared to Cville, Virginia. I struggled all weekend to eat properly- and I’ve been sneaking a lot of granola bars and cashews to get through the day. I’m kind of impressed I stayed strong for the most part. My tummy is glad we’re going to be going home tomorrow though, fo sho!



A Book Review: In Defense of Food

Wow! Over 90 hits on my new bike post. I’m glad my readers are as excited about the new addition to my family as I am : ) Val and I are hitting up Skyline Drive tomorrow! I’ve never been on it, but it should be scenic, fun, and educational.

So, I finally got around to reading one of Michael Pollan’s books – I chose In Defense of Food.

Even though most of the ‘rules’ in the book were nothing I didn’t suspect or already try to keep in the back of my mind when I shopped for food, this man puts together some fine sentences. I found myself wearing out my highlighter because every few pages had a great quote I wanted to be able go back to.

The book condenses down to the following – “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The first snippet of that gets the most attention from Pollan as he details how most of our food isn’t real, but highly processed. And the food we should be eating is the pure stuff our great great grandparents would recognize as food.

I got some good insights on the history of nutrionalism and what goes into the ‘scientific’ studies of nutrition. It’s pretty disheartening and had great parallels to my biological research – keep finding smaller and smaller components, periodically declare this part is bad or awesome, depending on the label remove it from everything or fortify everything with it, and then monitor the consequences (which were rarely good, because we don’t REALLY understand the whole system).

“Like so many ideologies, nutritionism at bottom hinges on a form of dualism, so that at all times there must be an evil nutrient for adherents to excoriate and a savior nutrient for them to sanctify” – Pollan

I also really liked the idea of food synergy – that maybe a whole food is more than the sum of its nutrient parts – therefore fortifying could be a waste of effort?

Also scary to note that the food we eat now has less nutrients than it did 100 years ago!

A couple more quotes from the book that got a fist pump from me – things that annoy me about the way America eats:

“Much more so than the human body, capitalism is marvelously adaptive, able to turn the problems it creates into new business opportunites: diet pills, heart bybass operatoins, insulin pumps, bariatric surgery.”

“Apparently it is easier, or at least more profitable to change a disease of civilization into a lifestyle than it is to change the way civilization eats.”

It’s one of those books that makes me want to change the world. But, since that’s not happening today, I have renewed determination to carefully examine the ingredients in my food and make sure I’m living as clean and unprocessed as I can. It’s a book worth reading, especially if you eat a lot of processed foods now. Pollan also supports the idea of eating meat more as a side than a main course, something I wish was more poplar in this country.

To celebrate finishing the book, I had a salad using stuff I got from my crop share – All freshly picked from Virginia by the local Menonites. The mix included Bibb lettuce, blueberries, cucmbers, tomatoes, walnuts, and feta with some delicious corn on the side. The corn was so sweet and juicy that it would be a crime to put anything on it. I just boiled for 3 minutes and that was that! Nom nom!

Summer is FLYING

So how in the world is it Sunday again already?! This is insane. And somehow I have yet to really get a post in about my week and eats/workouts.

Looking back, I don’t think I got as many workouts as I wanted to. Monday was classic tennis action and Wednesday I took a 15 minute nighttime run (+15ish min walk) around UVA’s campus. Tuesday and Thursday I ‘accidentally’ let bars call me away from my running shoes…

One of the more exciting meals of the week was Waffle Wednesday! My hoarder friend (hehehe) needed my judging eye to help him get rid of a ton of stuff. Having helped him move a month ago and saw the ridicule he got from all the ‘happy’ helpers, I knew he needed some serious help letting go. But, I’m glad I got a yummy waffle meal the unprocessed way.

waffle with peanut butter and berries!

And a fun yogurt mix on the side: Artificial sweetener free yogurt (which is way too hard to come by), frozen berries, coconut, high fiber cereal, and chocolate chips!

I got to test out a fun tip I read online – if you have trouble of letting go of things for sentimental reasons, take a picture of it! It takes up little room in the digital space and you’ll still be able to look at it and remember good times (or at least be comforted that you have the ability to do that….I doubt he’ll actually look at these pictures very much).

Though, I really think this was only phase 1, I’m proud he was able to trash as much as he did! Letting go of excess belongings always makes me feel a release – decreases my anxiety and I just feel less mental load. Plus, it’s way easier to keep tidy and organized and clutter free with less physical stuff.

Friday, instead of eating at my desk (ewwww), I decided to eat out in the sunshine! Why do I not do this every day?! All I was missing was a book.

Red pepper hummus + cucumbers + roasted tomatoes + house dressing on pumpernickel! Fab!

And look at the view. UVA is very pretty!

the lunch spot!

Saturday I traveled to northern Virginia to test out a bike! I did also make a last minute sanity stop at Ikea! I mean, I can’t be that close to one without going inside to ogle at all the nifty organizational tools and play bedrooms! While in Arlington, I got to eat at my first Whole Foods! My plate was pretty friggin yummy! I wish the Cville Whole Foods would get its act together and open a market.

Curry Tofu, Samosa, Vegetable Korma, Sundried Tomato Polenta, and Mediterranean Salad...Obvi I couldn't decide on a theme!

Ok, I guess I’m more or less caught up now. At least, caught up enough that I don’t feel like I wasted the effort taking the above food pics!

Today after church I got a…wait for it….2 MILE RUN IN! I went in saying I would let myself settle for 1.8 miles if I had to. And honestly, mile 15-18 were so suck inducing I thought I was going to quit. But, once I passed lap 18, laps 19-20 were cake and I finished strong : ) I’m now officially in my last week of Couch to 5K! And, I’m going to finish it this time, guys. Mark my words!

For dinner I ended up being lazy and eating a sammie at Panera since I had to go to lab later and was hungry post run. It was a Mediterranean sandwich: feta, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and such on sour dough. MMMM! I never knew a meatless sandwich could be so yummy until I became a veggie-almost-terian.

Anyway, I’m ending this disjointed post in hopes that this week I’ll be more with it!  Tomorrow I’m buying a bike! AHHH!

❤ K

Celebrate as many holidays as you can….check.

What a surprisingly exciting Bastille Day I had! I mean, I’m not French or anything, so you can argue the day is no big whoop for me, but ever since I was a young thang and watched Beauty and the Beast I’ve been a little obsessed with French culture. I remember learning French phrases on-line (I can still count to 30 or so, but that’s about it) and even dressing up as things ‘French-a-fied’ for Halloween. One year I was a French M&M, which is basically an M&M with a beret and mustache…yeah…I was one quirky pre-teen. Eventually I outgrew it though, and made the ‘dumb’ decision to take Latin in Junior high instead of French. While translating original texts is kind of fun, it would be sweet to be able to speak a different language. The current plan is to audit a course in my third year (once my heavy course load is over).

But, France is back in my good graces after sampling some of the best wines I’ve ever tasted yesterday evening at a special Bastille Day wine tasting in Richmond, VA. Lately, I’ve become a total red wine convert, but yesterday I had some fabulous whites. These wines had so much more character and complexity than the wines I’ve been tasting around Virginia. And the bottles were so pretty! I may soon become a France junky again! The food, the wine…ahhhhh. I’m currently reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food and he credits the French for eating less food and higher quality (Re: more expensive) food than Americans, which has made them an overall more healthy country than us. I’m sure I’ll have more to say when I’m done with the book, but I really think more people in this country could value what they decide to fuel their body with, realizing food is one of the key things we ‘do’ to stay alive. We should treasure ourselves and realize we deserve premium grade nourishment, eh?

Speaking of premium grade, at BarrelThief I also had the best grilled cheese of my life – Gouda with pear chutney – ooh la la!  Small portions and shamazing quality ingredients – in typical French style. It’s OK to eat this fatty morsel so long as you keep the portions in check and don’t do it every day! And let me tell you, this cheese was infinitely more satisfying than a Kraft singles slice, so I was very satisfied…very very!

After that, I went to my first country music concert with a friend. Wow, there was a lot of local color! But, honestly, I was getting really in to it when he sang ‘Redneck woman’  and ‘Hillbilly Bone’. I mean, I’m from West Virginia, I had sufficient ‘cred’ to be there.

The man of the hour: Blake Shelton

Lots of local color!

A cute honky tonk couple

Fun night! That ended with me picking up my bi-weekly crop share : ) I have a few days of crispy crunchy delicious fruits and veggies ahead of me courtesy of the local Mennonites! Glad I can support organic farming and enjoy the harvest myself! This week I got blueberries, peaches, nectarines, bibb lettuce, cucumber, tomato, squash, and corn!



Coffee is my vice, and I’m cool with it.

Today was definitely a “Because you’re worth it!” Sunday morning! I treated myself to some delicious breakfast in bed action. So, OK, not really the same because I had to get up and make it, but it was still a delicious experience compared to the usual banana/granola oats. The menu: 2 eggs scrambled with feta, a slice of perfectly browned toast, and a Christmas mug full of starbucks coff-ay (<- I pronounce it that way because I’m a classy betch)!

So, captain obvious called today – he said, “Yo, Karen, if you follow the directions on the bag of coffee, drip coffee actually tastes purty fine” I always thought drip coffee was more akin to coffee-flavored water than the good stuff, but, noooooo! It was perfectly strong and I’m feeling AWESOME! 11 hours of sleep + coffee = mental bliss!

Another good thing about coffee addiction, the more coffee I drink, the less crap I need to put in it! Right now, a splash of almond milk is perfection. I gave up artificial sweeteners at the beginning of the year (which sadly means no more yoplait : / damn aspartame, but I’ll end this rant before I get out of control) and am gradually cutting out the ‘half and half.’ Maybe I’ll be drinking my coffee ‘Jacob from Twilight’-style soon – Black! And wow, possibly the most geeky thing I’ve ever said! But, then again, I just cracked myself up and kind of want to say it again….

Lunch was an Amy’s Samosa, then it was off to play a game of kickball. After the game, I convinced myself to get another run in for the Hell of it!

I mean, I was wearing workout clothes, why not?! So, I ran 10 minutes as fast as I could, walked it out, then ran another five and quit because I was having asthma wheeze. I really had some doubts about my whole running thing after my workout yesterday. I feel like I have all these body quirks that just hold me back. Let’s face it, these issues are why I never ran in the first place unless some gym teacher in junior high school was forcing me to. But, today I discovered a new blog, and this girl seems to have dealt with all the stuff that I am right now (exercise induced asthma and other biomechanics issues), and today she completed a half iron man. I saw an old post where she was ecstatic to just run 8 minutes, and now she has accomplished something that big. I feel the same way about my ‘relatively’ short runs. As I blog, one part of me feels silly saying run 15 and feeling good about it. I remember being in disbelief the first time I ran 10 minutes in a row…

I just need to focus on my own journey and get out of the destructive habit of comparing myself to others. I need to listen to my body and push myself the most I can so I can move my life the direction I want. I need to focus on what I can do now that I couldn’t in January, not what I can’t do or what other people can. Finding inspirations like her help a lot too. Hopefully in a year or two, something like a half ironman won’t seem like the impossibility it does right now.

Dinner was a stir fry with Thai red sauce, tofu, and veggies. Delicious, simple stuff! I’m glad I’m getting the food part of my life back on track!