Fitness Friday – Half Marathon Training Update #1

Hi everyone and a belated Merry Christmas!

I hope you all had a nice time visiting with family and/or friends, eating good food, and enjoying the season. I know I did!


On Christmas Eve, we drove to Marin County to spend the evening with my Grandma. My mom’s family is Italian, so our own tradition is Italian food on Christmas Eve. This year, we brought that tradition to my dad’s side of family and my mom made an epic lasagna, which we enjoyed before going to church and checking out some Christmas lights in the neighborhood.

On Christmas morning, the rest of the family arrived and we had a Christmas brunch, complete with mimosas (because duh, this is me we’re talking about!) and plenty of eggy, cheesy dishes. There was no shortage of cheese this Christmas hahaha #godblessusEVERYONE!

I got a few nice things this year, but the two best gifts I got were a job offer (!!!) and my parents treated me to a new pair of running shoes.

I went to Fleet Feet to get fitted (they’re the ones putting on my half marathon!). I’d had my old shoes for almost a year, and when I got fitted last time, I told them I was running 3 miles max (which was the truth!)… this time, I made sure to get inserts and running socks as well.

Which leads me to my next subject… An update on my Half Marathon training!

I am currently in Week 4 of my “12 week” training plan. I have 12 weeks of runs planned, with 2 weeks extra in case I need to delay a long run because of travel or sickness. I actually did have a bit of a head/chest cold this past week, but luckily since I stayed in on Friday night and slept 10 hours, it didn’t get in the way of my long run on Saturday.

Last time we spoke, I had worked out a training plan…

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I have since decided to create another spreadsheet showing my actual progress where I can keep track of my pace.

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Any run labeled as “run” is supposed to be at an easy pace, and any run labeled at “pace” is supposed to be at race pace. I have basically been pushing myself to stay under 9 minutes for my race pace runs.

You can see last week my pace SHOT up after getting new shoes and replenishing my fitmixer Clean Energy supply. At this point, I think/hope I can manage a 2:00:00 half marathon time, which would be about 9:10 min/mile. We will of course see if I can keep up my pace as I increase my distance!

Thoughts After 4 Weeks:

aches & pains

I decided I couldn’t wait till Christmas to get new shoes because I had been getting bad blisters and, since increasing to 3 runs per week, a little bit of knee pain. So I went on December 18th, and learned that my right knee over-rotates a little bit, which I think accounts for most of the pain I experience. One of my feet is also SLIGHTLY (like less than half an inch) bigger than the other, which may cause some hip pain eventually. So basically I’m feeling a bit of wear and tear, but I’ve got fingers crossed that it’s nothing that will develop into a more serious injury!

Moral of the story: stretching and icing are my friends right now!

the course

For 5 miles or less, I usually just run loops around nearby Capitol Park or McKinley Park…But as my distance increases, I’m changing up my routes, because it would be a little boring to run around Capitol Park 8 times 😉 This past week, I ran on part of the actual Half Marathon course and was less than thrilled that there were a couple of hills…

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The view was nice though!

It motivated me to go for a bike ride on Sunday for my cross training, and I biked pretty much the entire half marathon route. It was extremely humbling, to say the least. There were way more hills than I expected on the bike trail that the course follows! This definitely solidified my plan to train on the actual course.

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lifestyle changes

One big reason why I decided to do this half marathon was to force myself to make changes as far as diet/lifestyle/etc goes. I’ve already started using my Saturday morning runs as an excuse to stay in on Fridays (and drink tea instead of beer 😉 ) and the result is definitely tangible. Being well rested for my long runs makes a huge difference!

I’m hoping that once I start my job, I will get back on track as far as food goes. I’ve been all over the place: some days eating cookies for breakfast, vegetables for lunch, and going out to eat a lot more than I prefer. Tis the season, right? I’m interested in seeing how much weight I lose post-holidays, if any – I’ve put on about 10 pounds, but am fairly convinced it is mostly muscle!

Tomorrow will be my first “furthest run ever” training run of 7.25 miles, and it’ll be a fun exercise in self control to abstain from adult beverages tonight 🙂


That’s it for today! I doubt you’ll be hearing much from me until the new year, since we are trekking out to my roomie’s family cabin on the Oregon Coast for New Years. We went 2 years ago and had a fantastic time, so I’m excited to escape to the little lakeside cabin again!

Happy New Year!

Do you have any fun Christmas traditions?

Half marathoners: How did you predict your race pace? Were training runs a good indicator for you?


Father’s Day Weekend in Photos

***If you didn’t last week, don’t forget to enter my Food Should Taste Good chips giveaway!! There are 2 days left to enter!***

Hope you all had a great Father’s Day weekend. Mine was certainly filled with good food, that’s for sure:


On Friday night, we made a deeelicious dinner. Chicken and shrimp in this soy-marmalade glaze, accompanied with sesame grilled veggies (sauteed a ton of veggies & just added sesame oil at the end), corn, and cilantro-lime rice. I love being able to make a “fancy”, more involved dinner on Friday nights. Usually during the week I only have energy to cook a chicken breast, put some fries on the side and call it a meal.

We also enjoyed some great Pinot and watched approximately 283974 hours of Raising Hope and the final season of The Office.


For the second week in a row, I trekked out (ok ok, it’s only 4 blocks from my house) to the Midtown Farmers Market. There were a few strange finds, including green cauliflower (there was also a yellow one) and a Kombucha truck that had several kinds of Kombucha on tap! I haven’t yet joined this health-food bandwagon, but if they’re there again next week I might have to give it a shot!

I also fought the urge to buy another $5 thing of Avocado-Cilantro Hummus from Zena Foods (possibly the best dip to ever enter my mouth), because I’m hoping to try to recreate it myself soon. Keep a look out 🙂

20130617-100147.jpgAfter some shopping and EDC DIY-ing with my friend Lisa (she’s the one attending EDC…I’m just helping her bedazzle her outfits!), T-Man and I saw This Is the End with our friend Amanda. Definitely worth seeing in the theater. An enormously stupid movie, but it kept me laughing the entire time! Afterwards, we grabbed a beer at a new-to-us dive bar, The Hideaway.


Had a nice hearty breakfast on Sunday morning…scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, and some cherries from the market. Then, I went to get some ingredients for Father’s Day dinner and FINALLY found some Chobani Flip at Safeway!!! Wahoo! I snagged one at Blend Retreat last month and accidentally left it in our hotel fridge haha. I haven’t tried it yet…waiting for a morning when I don’t have time to prep overnight oats the night before. #ChobaniNerd

Quick stop at kickball: {click to view video}


We almost won a game for once! We usually get creamed…like…shut out creamed. But we ended up losing 6-7 at the bottom of the 6th (which is the last inning). I think it’s because my dad came to cheer us on! 🙂 Also maybe because it was only 90 degrees outside, and not 113.


Flash forward to Father’s Day Dinner. Much like last year, most of the meal was cooked on the grill: chicken, veggies (carrots, summer squash, and green cauliflower), and Pacific snapper…because my dad loves fish but never gets it at home! I brushed a mango-cilantro sauce onto the meat…it was soooo good. Might have to recreate it for the blog soon! Finished it all off with a kale salad with strawberries, gorgonzola & poppyseed dressing. Perfect summer meal! Hope my dad enjoyed it!

What did you do for Father’s Day?

When you have time to spend on cooking, what is your meal of choice?

Mother’s Day Weekend in Photos

Happy Monday! Hope you all enjoyed your weekend, and to all you mothers out there, I hope you had a special Mother’s Day yesterday. We kept it pretty low key for my mom this year, but I hope she knows how loved and appreciated she is!

My goal for this week is to get back on track with my workouts. I was having tummy issues last week so I went easy on the workouts {A quick jog home and dodgeball on Thursday, an easy elliptical workout on Friday, kickball on Sunday}. I want to be in fighting shape for Blend next weekend…there are a couple of Boot Camps and a hike planned and I anticipate that I’ll probably get knocked out quickly by the elevation in Park City!

Because of the aforementioned stomachache, the doc has ordered me to eliminate a few things from my diet for a few weeks: spicy food, acidic food {tear! my beloved lemons!}, dairy, caffeine and alcohol…I have mostly been good, but as you’ll see in the photos below, I definitely needed some liquid courage to get me through Saturday night, and then I had a few indulgences on Sunday… 🙂 Definitely worth the belly ache!


Weirdest workday ever on Friday: neither of my bosses were in, and my big task for the day was to pack up our 30lb postage machine and send it down to our Santa Barbara office. Half a roll of bubble wrap later, I got it 🙂 {oh, the small victories of an administrative assistant!} To celebrate the weekend, I made a really random, but delicious! dinner: Coconut quinoa, roasted brussels sprouts & broccoli, Italian sausage, and T-Man brought some “Gorgonzola gems”, which are basically glorified Jalapeno Poppers. Yum.


We then proceeded to our friend Danny’s housewarming pub crawl, which was themed Bros vs Hipsters. Landai & I were definitely hipster’ed out; Cedric’s shirt was a bit of an anomaly…memes are pretty hipster, but the outfit was pretty broish; and T-Man had to get in on the fun by stealing my {lens-free} glasses for a bit 🙂


On Saturday night, I did solo karaoke for the first time ever at Danielle’s birthday party. After submitting my 2 song requests, I was surprisingly really nervous, even despite the fact that I am always singing. If I know the words to a song that is playing, you bet your ass I’ll be singing! After the first singers took their turns and everyone was singing along, I was much more at ease!

Top photo: Richard and I singing “A Whole New World”.. except that the roles were reversed and he sang Jasmine’s part 😉 Left: Danielle the birthday girl! Right: my song selection {kind of a lame song to choose cause it is slow and no one knows it, but I still rocked it!} and Reggie being serenaded by our whole group to “My Heart Will Go On. Don’t you see all the hands emotionally thrusting towards him?


Sunday was rough. It was forecast to be 94 degrees around the time my kickball game was scheduled. So I hacked off the sleeves of my shirt, packed up my water bottle in a bag of ice {that I later poured over my head, haha}, and slathered on the sunscreen. I only missed one spot on the back of my neck! Pale person victory.


While I was playing kickball, my family was off seeing the Jackie Robinson movie as part 1 of Mother’s Day festivities. Part 2 was my contribution: homemade pizza! I made the dough in the morning and told my mom to pick all her favorite toppings. She chose bacon, mushrooms, onions, and olives. I used some of her homemade tomato sauce and lots of mozzarella, and it turned out awesome! My brother bought the ice cream cake. We all clearly loved it.

{side note: that mother’s day card is the most perfect card of all cards that I could have given my mom. Fits our relationship to a T!}


I also made a side salad using a few of my dad’s fresh garden veggies! He has lots of beets and chard at the moment, so they both made an appearance. But now I’m pretty sure my insides are dyed/stained red. It’s okay…all in the name of healthy eating right? Can’t wait to steal corn, tomatoes, and bell peppers from him this summer.

Have you ever done karaoke? What is your go-to song?

What did you do for Mother’s Day?

Braided Lemon Bread

Springtime. Seems like most people associate Easter with Spring, and the fact that Easter came early this year means…so did Spring? Aside from an epic thunderstorm on Saturday night/Sunday morning, I’d say it’s been pretty springlike here in Northern California!

You know what else I associate with Spring? LEMON!

I love lemon everything. Lemony marinades and vinaigrettes in savory dishes…lemon poppyseed desserts…ANY kind of lemon dessert…you name it, I’m all about it.

So when my lovely boyfriend brought me half a dozen lemons fresh from his coworker’s tree last week, I knew I had to make something carby and lemony for Easter Brunch. All I knew was that I didn’t want it to be too desserty for 11 in the morning…and then I saw Deb from Smitten Kitchen’s Braided Lemon Bread.



Besides pizza dough, I have only made a couple of breads from scratch before. One was Bacon & Cheese Bread last year on Easter, which I made the mistake of making with whole wheat flour and it ended up tough and dry. This year, I had a secret trick in my arsenal:


White Whole Wheat Flour has the same taste and texture as all purpose white flour, but nearly all the nutritional value of regular whole wheat flour. Score.

In addition to whole wheat flour, I also used 1/3 less fat cream cheese in the filling, and nonfat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. Not huge alterations that would change the integrity of the pastry, but it made it feel just a little less guilt-inducing.

Baking your own bread isn’t nearly as hard as it sounds. Just takes a bit of patience to wait for the yeast to activate, and the bread to rise. Not to mention a bit of elbow grease if you don’t have a stand mixer to knead the dough 😉


All you need is your two hands. (complete with a reminder scrawled on one of them to pay your rent)

Try it yourself! And reap the benefits. This was so delicious.


{note: if you don’t have a rolling pin, a wine bottle will do juuuust fine}





I was freaking out the entire time I was braiding this puppy. It is such a beautiful pastry; I can’t wait to try other fillings!



One side was totally more flour-y than the other. Easily fixed by dusting it off with a pastry brush! {seriously, who has a pastry brush and not a rolling pin?!}




Here’s how our entire Easter Brunch spread ended up:

The baked and stuffed bread joined a fruit salad (with a simple lime juice/honey/fresh mint dressing) and my dad’s famous Chile Egg Puff



{also, adorable Peeps Sushi that my parents brought home from church!}


Perfect balance of savory and sweet!

Braided Lemon Bread
adapted from smitten kitchen’s Braided Lemon Bread

6 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast {I actually added an entire packet of instant yeast, which worked fine}
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Sponge (above)
6 tablespoons plain nonfat yogurt {or sour cream}
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg, + 1 egg white to brush bread with
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Sugar, for sprinkling

Lemon cream cheese filling
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) cream cheese, softened {feel free to use 1/3 less fat cream cheese}
2 tablespoons (5/8 ounces) sugar
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sour cream
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (2 ounces) homemade or prepared lemon curd

To begin, make your sponge:

Combine all 4 ingredients (make sure water is not too hot) together in a small bowl, mixing well to combine. Let sit for 10-15 minutes until yeast has proofed and the mixture looks frothy and smells, well, yeasty.

To make the dough by hand: {see Deb’s original recipe for how to make in a stand mixer}

Mix together wet ingredients (yogurt, softened butter, egg, sugar and vanilla) in a large bowl until well combined. Stir in the sponge. Next, add both kinds of flour and do your best to combine it all with a wooden spoon. It won’t come together super easily, so your hands will probably work best here. Once most of it has formed into a shaggy ball, turn the dough and any other scraps out onto a well-floured space. Knead for 5-10 minutes until all the pieces are incorporated and the dough has become smooth. Add flour or water to your hands if necessary. Place the ball of dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and place in a somewhat warm spot to rise for 60-90 minutes, until it is puffy and nearly doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, make the filling (see instructions below).

Deflate the dough by pushing it down a bit, and roll it into a 10″ by 15″ rectangle. **Make sure the dough is on some sort of portable surface, such as parchment paper or aluminum foil, or you’ll regret it later!** Use your hands to press lines into the dough that equally divide it into three columns. Spread the cream cheese filling down the middle column, leaving ~2 inches free toward the top (see photos above). Next, spread lemon curd over the cream cheese filling.

To make the braids, cut 1-inch strips on each side of the middle column. Make sure each strip has an equal-sized corresponding strip on the opposite side. Cut off the “corners” that will be leftover – the space between the 2 inch flaps you left above and below the filling, and the strips. To begin braiding, flip the flaps (lol) over the filling. Next, fold first strip on the left side diagonally over the filling. Repeat with the corresponding strip on the right. Lather, rinse, repeat, until you’ve gone all the way down the braid. Set aside for dough to rise for another 45-50 minutes, until it’s puffy.

Pre-heat oven to 375F. After it’s done with its second rise, brush the dough with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake about 25-30 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for a bit before serving.

To make the filling:

Combine all the filling ingredients (except the lemon curd) in a small bowl, mixing until smooth and lump-free. Set both the cream cheese filling and the lemon curd aside until ready to fill the braids.

Notes: As Deb points out in her recipe, you can make this ahead of time and put the bread in the fridge overnight if needed. Just make sure you leave enough time to bring it back up to room temperature before proceeding with the next steps. I put mine in the fridge once the braids were done, then I brought it out on Easter morning and left it in a warm place to come to room temperature and do its second rise. Also, click the link in the recipe to see how to make homemade lemon curd- it is actually quite easy!

Have you ever baked bread?

What’s the coolest/most impressive thing you’ve ever made from scratch?

Christmas Recap + Elf 4 Health

Merry Day-After-Christmas, everyone!

I hope none of you are, like me, sick and at work this December 26th. What started as feeling just a little under the weather on Sunday has grown into a full-blown cold that exploded on Christmas morning and is still lingering today. Luckily, I’ve had my friends DayQuil and NyQuil to make the days a little brighter 🙂

This was probably one of the best Christmases my family has had in a long time…Instead of breaking out into a fight as early as dinnertime on Christmas Eve, we had no squabbles until after returning home from Grandma’s house last night 😉 A new record!!!

I got a lot of items on my list, and even a few that I didn’t ask for (like new socks…because my mom saw the ratty ones I wore to the hospital during my tests and felt a need to replace them, haha). Lots of kitchen goodies, and a few gadgets for my bike too!


On Christmas Eve, I arrived at my parents’ house with all my baking in hand, but my mom wanted to add some of her own cookies to the mix too. So we baked together and snacked on wine, hummus & guac. Snacky meals are kind of our thing 😛


I tried my hand at baking my Grandma’s favorite Lacey’s Cookies. They turned out pretty good, and I sandwiched melted chocolate between them so they were just like the store-bought kind 🙂


In a break from the normal Italian cuisine, Mom made Monterrey Chicken with a side salad and (can-shaped) cranberry sauce. That bottle of wine is one my parents bought when we went wine tasting with T-Man’s mom to Jessup Cellars in Napa. So good!

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A bit of the loot I accumulated…that wheel is to replace the one that was stolen right off my bike around Halloween – I’ve been bikeless ever since! (And UMMMM how epic is that nonstick pan!!! What a lucky girl I am!!)

Christmas Morning- off to Grandma’s house!



Look! I don’t have to steal T-Man’s anymore!


Me and my brother & some of my cousins (+ Grandma in the bottom picture) wearing the crewneck sweaters that Grandma bought everyone. She found them on sale at Target and bought 17 of them…Can you imagine what a sight that must have been???


Om nom nom. Rolls, ham, sweet sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and a green salad (the only thing I went back for seconds on, thankyouverymuch!)


Grandma’s tree, and an…..interesting snowman ornament I made for my grandparents in 1994, haha.

The other thing I’ve been trying to keep up with this week is the final round of Elf for Health, which I finally got on board for!

I wanted to sign up for this weeks ago, but with my health issues being how they were, I haven’t been exercising much and a lot of the challenges are fitness-related. However, I am all in for this week and next!

Week 5 Challenges


Call a friend just to chat! Go through your list of contacts until one of them answers… then you can look forward to getting call-backs all week.
Bonus points for a handwritten note too!

~I think having 9 friends over for brunch and Secret Santa gifts on Monday definitely fulfills this challenge! Most of us don’t see each other often during the year, so the fact that we always make time to meet up for Secret Santa every year is really special. If you didn’t see it on Monday, check out all my friends in my living room:



Go for a walk with a family member!
Bonus points for fitting in a workout before your Christmas feast.
~Unfortunately, this was quite impossible yesterday, as Northern California experienced a ton of flooding from all the rain we got! Fortunately, my head cold kept my appetite down and also kept me away from the wine supply, so I didn’t overeat (or drink) like I think most of us usually do!



Look at yourself in the mirror & find THREE things you love about yourself.
Show us what they are!

~I was a little bleary-eyed when I woke up this morning at my parents’ house and didn’t have it in me to even pass by a mirror on my way out, haha. Now that the DayQuil has hit me, I’ll have to do this when I get back to my apartment. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram, or follow the hashtag #elf4health to see what I decide 🙂

Remembering What’s Important This Holiday Season

This time yesterday, I was worried about Christmas presents. I was stressed out because I spent ~$200 in two days on gifts and decorations. I was trying to figure out how T-Man and I are going to be able to fit in seeing our families, each other, and each other’s families between December 23rd-25th.

Today, I’m just grateful that my family and friends are all still here.

us & macy

My cousin Macy is 9 years old and goes to school in West Hartford, Connecticut. It’s a whole 45 miles away from Newtown, Connecticut, but that is still close enough that I had a good scare this morning when I woke up, rolled over to read Twitter on my phone (What? You’re tellin’ me not everyone reads social media first thing in the morning?) and saw that there was a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.

I texted my aunt, who confirmed that everything was OK in West Hartford, but said that there were police at all the schools. Better safe than sorry, I suppose.

me n macy

Children bring a joy to life that I believe can combat many ills. They’re not jaded like the rest of us, they represent both a youthful innocence that most of us have lost (haha) and a genuine curiosity that few people maintain throughout the years. Some, like Macy, are smart beyond their years. That anyone would wish to harm children is a heartbreaking thought.

I may only have one elementary school-aged child in my close extended family, but today’s events bring to mind another fact: there were also school teachers and administrators killed.

My best friend teaches 3rd grade at an elementary school in Brooklyn. My oldest cousin teaches Special Ed at an elementary school on Long Island. One of my closest friends from college teaches 3rd grade in the Bay Area. My family is full of educators (my mom and her sisters work in education, and my grandmother was a school counselor) and I have never thought their choice of career put them in danger. I admire my friends and family who dedicate their lives to educating others and enriching the lives of future generations. That anyone would wish to harm teachers is an equally heartbreaking thought to me.

There has never been a better day to tell the young ones and educators in your life that you love and appreciate them.

gchat with joan

…Even if the way you choose to express it is a little silly 🙂

Being that I am a politically-minded individual (I am an assistant to 2 lobbyists after all, for those of you who don’t know), I am also closely following the political commentary surrounding this tragedy. Though I personally do have a pretty specific opinion that follows my party lines, I completely respect both sides. I also think that if this is the time we take on gun control, it’s going to be a very difficult issue to legislate, especially in today’s congressional climate.

There’s a simple reason for this. There are two very natural instincts to any kind of attack. One is to disarm the person that is attacking you: karate kick the gun out of their hand, somehow knock away their knife, or chop off their punching fist or something. The other is, of course, to fight back: engage in a standoff or a firefight, return their left hook with a right jab. (Sorry, I really don’t know anything about boxing, haha)

The issue with these two natural instincts, and the reason why I think gun control is a very touchy issue, is that both instincts are right to the person who experiences them. Rachel Maddow would feel better taking the gun away from potential mass murderers, AND Bill O’Reilly would sleep better at night knowing he has a carry permit and could use his gun in self defense, if needed.

Alright, enough political talk. Please hug your loved ones this holiday season.

I leave you with a semi-funny article from the Onion on today’s events! Watch out, lots of bad words in that one.

Weekend in Photos + Rain

Would you believe me if I told you it was 89 degrees here just last week?

I would say I think this means fall is here to stay, but it’s supposed to be in the mid 70’s later this weekend, so I just don’t know what to think anymore.

Alls I know is I had to bike to work today, and it looked a bit like this:

Fortunately, I’m experienced in the art of biking in the rain…It happens a whole 4 times per year down in Santa Barbara 😉

My strategy is to wear as light of clothing as possible while I bike, then change into warm dry clothes at my destination. Mission accomplished this morning…except that I acquired what we referred to at UCSB as a Freshman Stripe…a strip of water that gets kicked up by your bike tire if you ride through puddles (or haven’t bought fenders for your tires yet), usually found on the backs of Freshmen. And me. Womp womp.

Luckily, it wasn’t like this all weekend:

On Friday, I went to our local YMCA’s annual auction. My family is kiiinda heavily involved with the organization. My dearly departed Papa (whose service is being held at a YMCA), my dad (who helped organize the auction), and even my brother (the one holding up the sign [the job was a perfect fit — he’s 6’3″]). There were lots of tastings from local wineries and catering companies, and both live and silent auctions!

The only auction item I won was a gift basket with moscato & Girl Scout cookies (score!)…but as you can see, my family made out with a fair amount of loot. And my mom gave me one of her boxes of Tagalongs, so generous she is!!

For the first time in months, I slept in on Saturday morning! (T-Man’s campaign schedule isn’t exactly conducive to sleeping in) — When my lunch on Friday consisted of quinoa and chickpeas (because it was all I had left) I knew it was time for grocery shopping…. — and baking! This Apple Goodie is a Grandma Hanzlik recipe…. to be shared soon!

Late Saturday night, we redeemed some Groupons for a Haunted Corn Maze in town. It was AWESOME! And pretty terrifying. It helped that we were led through by someone who works at the farm…but there were literally dozens of actors that kept jumping out or (even worse) creepily coming out from behind us. Definitely check it out if you’re in the Sacramento area!

To keep with the scary theme, I took a picture with one of T-Man’s creepy pirate ship paintings.

The weekend ended with dinner & the Giants game at my parents’ house… I was shocked to see the dozens of sympathy cards that had come in for my dad. — The Giants forced Game 7! So so so hoping they make it to the World Series. My Papa would be so excited! — For dinner, I cooked a spaghetti squash with my momma’s homemade meat sauce. None of us had tried it before, and we all liked it! Though I’d warn to those wanting to try it that it isn’t as filling as regular spaghetti, so we paired it with a couple nice slices of French bread!

Hows the weather in your neck of the woods?

Pumpkin Bread for Papa

Grandparents are a blessing.

Being able to know and love all four of my grandparents has been a blessing…But it makes losing them harder as well. Just weeks before my 18th birthday and my move down to college, my maternal grandmother passed away after a long battle with cancer. Since then, I’ve learned that the sadness goes away, but missing them never really fades.

Just 2 Grumpy Guses!

At least four times per year, we gather at my paternal grandparents’ house in Marin County to celebrate birthdays and holidays. Most summers, the whole family (all 16+ of us) go camping in Burney Falls, Hat Creek, or Bodega Bay. When we arrive at my grandparents’ house, my grandma is always there to greet us with cheese and crackers (if it’s the afternoon) or coffee cake (if it’s the morning), and my grandpa is always there to chow down with us.

Over 70 Octobers ago, my Papa was hit by a car. As the story was reported and often retold, he was near death and as a result, his leg was amputated. One of my favorite (and most twisted) memories as a kid is hanging out in my grandparents walk-in closet and making my 5 boy cousins play dress up — the highlight? Playing with Papa’s alternate prosthetic leg, which sat right next to all his shoes.

That never stopped him from dancing!

This October, my Papa had another near death experience. But at age 86, his body wasn’t as capable of recovering. And early Thursday morning, my family had to make the difficult decision that everyone dreads making…they took away his pain.

Martin N. Hanzlik
6/13/26 – 10/11/12

I spent all day yesterday with my grandma, dad, aunt, uncle and cousins. We laughed, we cried, we planned. We watched the Giants win and couldn’t help but think that my Papa must have had something to do with it. He did root on their win the day before from his hospital bed, after all.

But most importantly, we remembered.

This August, my grandparents celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary!

(Why no, no I did not know how to smile properly for family photos.)

Celebrating their 50th anniversary in Hawaii!

My dad speaking at their 50th Anniversary Celebration

Christmas 2011. We’ve gotten better at the whole picture taking thing. (Except that my cousin Macy is giving her penguin bunny ears…)

When I think back to my favorite memories with my Papa, 3 things come to mind:

1) Him teaching me to drive in the parking lot of the high school my dad attended right after I got my Learners Permit. Papa had tons of patience. He was a patient man in general, and had a kind heart. (His entire career was spent working for the YMCA, where he mainly served others.) And he had some balls…I really wasn’t that great of a driver.

2) Celebrating my college graduation in Santa Barbara on the same day as his 84th birthday. We were all so caught up in the craziness of my graduation that we didn’t even remember to tell him happy birthday until after the ceremony was over. He didn’t once complain that I stole the spotlight. He only told me how proud of me he was, and how happy he was that they got to be there.

3) Eating together. Always eating, always enjoying time with the family. Also…drinking.

papa drinking ALLTHEMARGARITAS at my grad dinner

In honor of that 3rd one (you know, about the food), I’d like to share the recipe for what I made at my grandparents’ house yesterday.

In our time of struggle, I didn’t really know what to do besides make food. I brought snacks and homemade pumpkin puree, and decided I’d bake something for the inevitable slough of guests who would be coming through the house I consider one of my second homes.

So I made pumpkin bread. With chocolate chips.

And for a second, everything felt better.

You don’t have to wait till your grandpa dies to make this pumpkin bread…In fact, you should bake it and bring it to him today. Then go into his closet and play with his fake leg.

….Or not. Maybe that’s just a me thing.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
makes 2 loaves

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oats (I thought considering the circumstances I’d make these a little heart healthy :))
1/2 heaping tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
2/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 heaping teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Notes: This was adapted from Two Peas and their Pod, whose recipe yielded 3 loaves. Hence the weird measurements and “heaping” half tablespoons.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In one bowl, mix together dry ingredients: flour, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In another (larger) bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients (except chocolate chips). This is easily done with a whisk…No hand mixer needed, just some elbow grease.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients, making sure everything is incorporated with a fork or spatula. If you wish to add chocolate chips, now is the time! (I made one loaf with and one loaf without) Toss the chocolate chips in a small amount of flour (it helps them not sink to the bottom) and fold the chocolate chips into the batter.

Spray two 9×5 inch loaf pans with cooking spray, and evenly divide the batter between them. Bake for about 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Start checking them after 45 minutes.

When still warm, plop the loaves out of the pans to release them, then put them back in. Wait until they cool down a bit before slicing and serving!

The real question now is, who’s going to finish this puzzle that Papa left behind for us?


In true Papa fashion, he started a puzzle by doing all the easy parts himself and left us the hard parts!

Thanks for all the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram lovin’ yesterday, friends. Enjoy your weekend.

Cooking Class at the Co-Op

Exciting times, guys…

Last night, my mom and I took a cooking class!

So, I bought this LivingSocial deal about 4 months ago thinking it would be a lovely date night idea for me and T-Man. After showing him the class list about every other week for several months (and, “oh, I dunno, whatever sounds good” being his usual response), Mother’s Day rolled around and I thought of someone else who might actually really enjoy a cooking class!

My mom on the far left enjoying her Mother’s Day gift

The class was at the Learning Center of the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op, where they offer classes almost daily in a small room adjacent to the Co-Op. So we picked a class that worked with both of our schedules (Vegetarian Middle East Feast) and it was a date!

Check out our menu:

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