Thursday, June 27, 2013
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
During Memorial Day weekend, now a few weeks ago, we spent a few great days in our hometown. We enjoyed taking sprout around to see some of the sights in his Chicago kids books, such as the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, pictured above. The weather on the pier on Friday evening was chilly (lower 40s!), but the view of the city at dusk was perfection.
On Saturday we had an amazing brunch with a friend at the French Market, and picked up some perfect macaroons.
Saturday afternoon was spent at one of my favorite museums- The Field. Sprout loved the animal exhibits, and proceeded to give us a tour of much of the first level of the museum.
In addition to these classic Chicago spots, we were able to spend time enjoying beer with friends in the 'burbs, visit with both sides of our family, have lunch at the Japanese market with friends and their new baby, and enjoy my aunt's famous cupcakes on my cousin's birthday (previously discussed here). All in all, a perfect weekend in the homeland!
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Wednesday, June 05, 2013
On June 1, I ran the Hospital Hill Half Marathon.
This was my second half marathon, my first being Rock the Parkway back in 2012. First off, let me say, I am not a natural runner. I have bad knees, and I'm not particularly competitive when it comes to sports (as opposed to political debate). But, I'm trying to be a runner, partially because I love the way it feels to accomplish something that doesn't come easy, but also because running makes me happy. It quells my anxiety, gets me outdoors, gives me some time to clear my thoughts. It gives me a sense of ease. On a day when I know I have a million things to do and what feels like a million people to answer to, I can get out for an early morning jog, and say to myself: There you go. You just ran three miles and it's only 8:30 a.m. You got this. The rest of the challenges of your day are no problem.
Running a few times a week has taken me through many of the challenges of the past few years, and in such a simple way. Strap on shoes, toss on clothes, headphones, and go. Minimal equipment, go anytime, go in (almost) any weather. I often think about the very act of running while I'm out doing it- and about an article I read a few years ago that argued that humans evolved with the advantage of being built for running distances. I like to think about the very act of movement, of running, as making us distinctly human. I feel the same way about hiking and snowshoeing. Perhaps I'm not the greatest runner out there, but doing what our ancient ancestors were built to do gives me a particular satisfaction and happiness. It keeps me balanced and focused. It leads me to sleep and eat better than if I'm not active. It sharpens my thoughts. It also brings me to a great documentary I watched recently, Happy. The film really is one you should watch for yourself, but many of the things that scientists believe make us happy are things I experience when running- the sense of community out on my neighborhood jogging trail, the feeling of physical exercise, and the exhilaration of doing something new are all things I love about running.
With all this in mind, Hospital Hill was a fantastic race. It's ranked by Runner's World as one of the top halves in the US, and justly so. The race was well organized, and the course was a great tour of Kansas City: Crown Center-> Crossroads->Power and Light->Hospital Hill->Union Hill->Hyde Park->Nelson-Atkins Museum->UMKC->Brookside->UMKC again->The Plaza->Westport->Broadway->Liberty Memorial->Crown Center. There are six named hills (but honestly I lost count), and the killer was the 8.5% grade hill (!) at mile 12.5. Though this last hill was like a million stabs to the thighs, there was an amazing view of downtown that came into view at the top along with a guy in an Elvis suit giving out high fives. There was good beer and bbq at the finish line. The race had great aid stations, and lots of spectators to cheer on the runners, as well as entertainment in a few spots from DJs and two cheerleading squads. My favorite cheers came from Joe and sprout in mile eight- complete with noisemakers and huge smiles.
While the achy knees healed after two days of rest and a Monday yoga class, and my blistered feet are just about healed four days later, the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction remains. I'm not sure if I'll do another half (10k races are more my speed), but this was a great race to finish, and a nice way to celebrate Kansas City.
Tuesday, June 04, 2013
A few weeks ago we celebrated my Dad's 70th birthday. My entire life, buying a gift for him has been difficult at best- he isn't very materialistic (really quite the opposite), and he doesn't really need more stuff. I decided the best gift I could give would be to bake a really great cake in what I believe to be his favorite flavor- lemon. So, Lemon Curd Cake it was. And it was fantastic, if I do say so myself.
My cake consisted of two lemony layer cakes made into three layers, a layer of lemon curd, and a layer of Swiss meringue buttercream with lemon curd, with more lemon buttercream frosting covering the cake. The original finicky Martha Stewart recipe called for two layers of curd, four layers of cake, and what would have been an overkill of buttercream on the outer layer. In any case, making the lemon curd was a pretty involved process, but it turned out amazing- smooth and tart, but with enough sugar to make it delicious. I'd consider just making the curd (lemon juice, lemon zest, a bazillion egg yolks, butter, sugar) for use on biscuits, in pie, or just with whip cream. The cakes were pretty standard, but with the inclusion of lemon juice and zest and sour cream, and the Swiss meringue buttercream is always a treat to whip up- so smooth and with the perfect texture- but tricky to keep at the right temperature (beware of a warm kitchen!).
Overall, I'd say the cake was a success- my Dad liked it, and so did the rest of the fam. Sprout even helped to blow out the candles. Happy Birthday to the greatest father there is- here's to so many more lemon cakes!
Also- a fun thing I found while searching for the original recipe- a blog written by a woman who is baking through the entire Martha Stewart Baking Book: http://bakingthroughmsbh.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/lemon-curd-cake/. Impressive undertaking!