2014: reflections

12 30 2014.

At the end of 2013, I wanted to be more independent and to make choices based on hope and not fear. Entering 2014, I decided to say yes to new opportunities, to try new things and do things that I was afraid to do. The result: I’m not actually afraid of nearly as much as I thought that I was. That’s in retrospect, of course – at the time, I was genuinely afraid of certain experiences on the horizon.

If I could summarize 2014 briefly, I’d say that it’s been the year of new adventures. 2014 provided so many “firsts” for me, some intentional, some not so much. In January, what started as hesitance to break out of my comfort zone soon turned into a craving to do it more often.

2014.

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I signed up for and participated in my first triathlon. I wasn’t fully in it at first, but finally when my name was drawn from the lottery, I was ready. Tri #1 led to tri #2 and tri #3.

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I hiked a lot! Still not as much as I would have liked, but I got out there way more than I had the year prior. Read about Wildcat, Webster, Tom/Field/Willey, Washington, Megunticook.

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I ran my first (and second!) half marathons with my mom – three weeks apart, completing my goal of coming in under 2 hours. Both races were two of the best runs I’ve ever had. I felt so great during them, I had so much energy! They’ve left a great impression on me and have been my jumping off point for more future races.

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(photo copyright SheJAMS.)

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(photo copyright SheJAMS.)

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(photo copyright Fleet Feet Sports Maine Running.)

I’ve met some incredible people this year. I joined two fantastic training groups: SheJAMS and Fleet Feet. SheJAMS has a special place in my heart – I trained three – sometimes four days a week with these ladies for “the event of the year” – the Tri for a Cure. I got to know some of them well and love them all so much. These women are inspiring and have pushed me to work hard. I joined up with the Fleet Feet running group back in October and I’m so so glad that I did. These runners are amazing! They’re all so different and interesting to learn about. I’ve enjoyed pairing up with runners and hearing their stories. Some challenge me to run father and faster. Others help me practice restraint, especially when tapering! I’ve made some great new friends at this group as well and will be running some races with them in the future!

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For the second year in a row, my friends and I attended the Allagash Victoria Ale release party at the Victoria Mansion. And again, we were the last to leave! This has become a regular event for us now. I love getting to sit on the lawn of the mansion and listen to the live bands. It’s a great opportunity to spend time under the sun and socialize. It’s also an occasion to dress up – which I’ll happily take!

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I experienced my first tailgate! This was a blast. There was so much excitement. Though I wish I could have stuck around for the game, I’m thrilled that I got to spend time with my family and family friends outside on a beautiful day. It’s always funny to see adults pregame. Also – my dad is the grillmaster!

bedroom

kitchen

Darren and I moved in together. This was a big step but also a good step. It’s been great. We’ve got so much living space – and that’s been perfect for Little Bug too! The apartment is beautiful and we’ve had so much fun decorating it and really making it ours. We’re now experts at hosting parties and get togethers with friends!

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I ran 100 miles in 1 month. This was actually by accident. I didn’t realize that I had run 100 miles until I went for a run on my birthday, logged my miles, and saw the September tally at 101.98! 100 miles in a month is certainly a first for me and worth remembering.

Spice & Dice was born! Finally, after years of failed blogs, I created Spice & Dice. This blog first existed in a notebook. I actually planned this out – the concept, the name, the content for a month or two before committing to a domain and creating this space. I’m so glad that I did. Reflecting on my races, hikes, recipes and life has been monumental for me. Life-changing.

Cheers to 2015!

changes around here

12 11 2014.

Hey readers! As you may have noticed over the past few days, Spice and Dice has received a face lift!

Some of you may already know – I’m a graphic designer and front-end developer. I had been wanting to give it a new look and feel for a while now but had been putting it off, not knowing exactly what I wanted to portray or what changes I wanted to make.

It started with a new brand.

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(previous logo)

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(new logo)

No more monochrome! The new logo is more bold, makes more of a statement and has some dimension. I think it better represents the energy I want the blog to have – and also the bright, cheerful color.

Next came the new layout. I love this new space. While it retains the same general structure, the sidebar has been moved to the right side, the fonts have been changed for better readability, and for the most exciting part – stylized recipes!

another cool recipe


yields: lots of fun

Ingredients:

  • this ingredient
  • that ingredient

Instructions:

  1. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Another change, which happened offscreen is that I got a KitchenAid Stand Mixer! I’ve been wanting a stand mixer for years but could never justify paying $300+ on one. I found a deal online on Cyber Monday to get one for $160 so I immediately jumped on it. It arrived last night so I had to test it out. I made the ugliest whoopie pies – didn’t quite work out since I had to make a few food substitutions. But the mixer performed beautifully. I know, this is such a silly thing to be excited about – but having my own stand mixer is actually a dream come true.

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roasted winter vegetable salad with a tomato vinaigrette  - spice & dice

Winter struck hard today. (It snowed and then it rained onto the snow. So now we’ve got about an inch of snow and another inch of ice. The highlight of the day was watching cars attempt to make it to the upper level of the office parking lot.) And when winter strikes, I crave comfort. Comfort food, cozy clothing, my warm apartment, candles, books, tea.

roasted winter vegetable salad with a tomato vinaigrette  - spice & dice

Winter almost always wreaks havoc on my dinner choices. That craving for comfort food can kill an otherwise healthy eating day. Mashed potatoes (yum!), cheesy pasta (please!), and creamy soups (right now!) are classics – but offer so very little nutritionally.

roasted winter vegetable salad with a tomato vinaigrette  - spice & dice

If it hasn’t become clear quite yet – I turn everything into a salad. (Sometimes, I even put a salad in my food.) I probably put 80% of my dinners on top of a bed of lettuce. It may be strange, but over time I’ve come to believe that almost every meal can be made healthier with a little bit of spinach.

roasted winter vegetable salad with a tomato vinaigrette  - spice & dice

(Because beets make everything red, you’ll have to take my word that there are a variety of vegetables in there!)

So between my enthusiasm for lettuce and making this coconut curry sauce at least once a week, I’ve come up with a solution to the comfort food dilemma: a winter vegetable salad with a warm dressing that’s got an incredible Indian-spiced twist. Don’t ask me how it came to this, but it just works.

roasted winter vegetable salad with a tomato vinaigrette  - spice & dice

Though beets almost always steal the show, the real rockstar of this dish is the dressing. This dressing is so good that I ate probably two spoonfuls of it while waiting for the vegetables to be done in the oven. I have so much of the dressing left over, I have a feeling that it’s going to end up on all of my meals for the next few days.

roasted winter vegetable salad with a tomato vinaigrette  - spice & dice

roasted winter vegetable salad with a tomato vinaigrette


yields: 6 servings

Ingredients:

Winter Vegetables

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1/2 pound fingerling potatoes
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 beets
  • 3 parsnips
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper

Tomato Vinaigrette

  • 1 bunch basil
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 5 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
  • sea salt & pepper

Salad

  • a bunch of spinach

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash, peel and slice the sweet potatoes, fingerlings, shallots, beets, parsnips and garlic. Toss in melted coconut oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a casserole dish and cook for 45 minutes – or until the vegetables are soft and cooked through, stirring them after 30 minutes.
  2. Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed, for roughly 30 seconds. If needed, add more olive oil or basil and tomatoes to reach desired consistency.
  3. Allow the vegetables to cool for 5 minutes before tossing onto the spinach. Top with the vinaigrette.

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We’re here – we’ve arrived at the last month in 2014. I’ll be doing a reflections post soon, but before I do, I wanted to touch on something that I personally love to do. I know many people have mixed feelings about this – but I’m going to talk about it regardless: setting New Year’s resolutions and goals.

A lot of people see resolutions as false promises, opportunities to disappoint yourself or just short-term distractions from your lifelong goals. I, however, love setting goals.

Last New Year’s Eve, Darren and I got together to discuss what our goals were for 2014. This blog actually came about as a resolution of mine – I had been wanting a creative outlet for all of my hobbies (originally to share recipes) so I created this! My goal to lose weight was once a resolution that eventually became a lifestyle choice. I’m really really good at meeting goals that I set for myself. But here’s the thing. I’m not some magical human being who is capable of doing anything and everything. I’m just good at setting realistic, tangible goals. Here are my tips for setting resolutions and goals that you can and will accomplish.

  • As I stated before, set tangible goals. When setting goals, you need to be specific. Avoid setting goals like “get to the gym more often” or “eat healthier” – as true or desired as those goals may be, they aren’t specific enough to actually yield results. It’s easy to fall off the bandwagon when your goals allow for loopholes. Well, I went to the gym 4 times all last year. I’ve gone 5 times this year so far, so I’m good! Be more specific. “Get to the gym 3 times a week” or “have a green smoothie every morning for breakfast and go meatless during the weekdays.” Those are tangible goals that you can meet. If at all possible, try to give yourself a deadline as well. I will do this by then. That way you can “chip away” at something over time, rather than let it sit or forget about it!
  • Set goals that you fully intend to accomplish. I can’t tell you how many times I hear goals that sound great at the start, but aren’t goals that anyone intends to keep. What do I mean by that? Don’t set goals just because they look good on paper or for the sake of having a goal. You have to want it.
  • Don’t set too many goals. Are you a list-maker? I’m a list-maker. The longer the list, the better. Having lots of goals can be a good thing, but when setting big goals for the year, it can be stressful to look at a long list and not know where to begin. Set just a few valuable goals. If you complete them, set a few more! Just don’t overwhelm yourself trying to tackle too many things at once. Goal-setting should be exciting, not stressful!
  • Tell others about your goals. If you verbalize it, you’re more likely to stick with it. Others can keep you accountable for these goals – and no one likes to fail! It’s so satisfying when a friend checks in on you and you can tell them about your progress.
  • Make sure that your goal is realistic. Let’s be honest. Chances are, you’re not going to be able to achieve your goals right away. Most goals will take a lot of time and effort to meet. Instead of putting a large goal on the list (ie. move to Boston), break it up into smaller goals that will assist you in achieving the big one (ie. apply for jobs in Boston, organize belongings for yard sale, etc).

Basically, you have to assume that you’re going to figure a way out of these goals. If you really want to be successful, think of your goal sheet as a contract. Make it as specific as possible – don’t allow yourself to find loopholes or make excuses.

Because I’m a big believer in goals, I figured I’d start to set some of my own as well.

My Goals for 2015

  1. Run the 2015 Sugarloaf Marathon
    Probably my biggest goal of 2015. I’m ready for this. Yes, I’m committing to training. No, I will not make excuses. Sugarloaf 2015 – here I come!
  2. Do a multi-day hike
    I wish I could be more specific with this one at this point, but ideally I’d be doing this over the summer. I’d love do a multi-day hike on Old Speck or a Presidential Traverse. That being said, I have done a few multi-days before – one being on Mt. Katahdin. I’d like to experience it again as an adult. I think I’m likely to appreciate it more and I’ll also be able to accomplish more; get more miles in.
  3. Publish my cookbook
    This has been a goal in the back of my head for a few years now. Every December, I’m reminded that I really wanted to have a cookbook of all of my recipes to gift to family members and friends. While I do have a particular theme in mind, I’m hoping that this future (2015) book can be my segue into an even more future goal of owning my own bakery. More on this later because it’s worth a whole post, not just a paragraph.
  4. Revamp my website
    This website. Not my professional portfolio website. While I love this space to pieces, I think it’s time to give it a little bit more sparkle and presence. The minimalism was intentional at first, as I wanted all of the attention on my photos and writing with few distractions. I’m starting to think that the blog is taking off in a slightly different (natural) direction than I had expected and it needs a face to reflect that!

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Last night we got our first snowmageddon of the year. My spin class for the evening had been canceled and my travel plans have been thwarted. Also, my hiking plans have to take a “snow check” as well. (The plan was to do a sunrise hike on Mt. Pierce or Lafayette in the White Mountains this morning.)

That being said, it’s so easy to feel upset and complain about these elements that are out of my control. In the spirit of Thanksgiving and the holiday season, I’d like to instead focus my attention on the good. On what I’m thankful for. Don’t worry family members, these are a little bit different from the ones that I wrote down in my Turkey Ticket, so you won’t see too many repeats!

I’m most especially thankful for:

  • My health. I feel like this one has to come first this year, since it’s something that I’ve most definitely taken for granted in the past. In the past 2-3 years, I’ve kissed my high blood pressure goodbye, lost almost 15 pounds and have gained a healthier opinion of myself. I love who I am. I love who I am becoming. I’m fully and completely comfortable with myself as an athlete, a friend, a significant other, a daughter and a sister.
  • My family + friends. This may seem like a given, but it’s oh so true. I’m thankful to have a close-knit group of friends and family to spend time with and swap stories with. From game nights to chatting around the dinner table, I love everything about these people and am both honored and lucky to have them in my life.
  • My Bugaboo. Little Bug is my first pet and she’s just perfect. (Purrrfect?) I actually adopted her a few days after Thanksgiving last year so this Thanksgiving marks one year! I’m so grateful for all of the snuggles and games she brings into my life.
  • My hobbies. In the past two years I went from having maybe one hobby (which was my job!) to having a zillion. I’m so fortunate that I’ve found things that I love to do that I can fill my spare time with. Running, hiking, spinning/biking, cooking, crocheting, photography, writing/blogging… the list continues.
  • Darren. Darren gets his own line here because he’s seriously awesome. He’s been the most supportive and fantastic guy. He attends all of my races (yeah, even the ones where he has to occupy himself for two hours before seeing me again!) and cooks dinner on the nights that I’ll be home late. He’s all around a great cheerleader – and tied with my mom as my #1 fan.
  • Running. This is a big one. This is like combining therapy, religion, fun, exercise and health into one category. It’s running. Running has been my sanity these past two years. My outlet. My social activity! I recently joined up with my local running store to participate in Tues/Thurs/Sat runs during these cold months and it’s been so rewarding and has kept me accountable.

I want to end this post with some (exciting!) news. After running both of my half marathons, I felt a little bit…I don’t know…empty? That sounds a bit strange, but having those two goals to work towards really kept me excited and moving. When I finished my most recent half, I realized that I had nothing to work towards.

So I signed up for some races.

  • Mid Winter 10-mile Classic – 02/01/2015
  • Half at the Hamptons – 02/22/2015
  • Race the Runways Half – 04/04/2015

And then I realized something. The timing of those races fits almost perfectly with the Hal Higdon training plan for a full freaking marathon. The Sugarloaf Marathon, in fact. I actually realized this a few days ago. I printed out some calendars and worked the numbers. They fit. Not perfectly, but they fit. So I let myself stew over it for a few days. I know that it’s a huge commitment and I originally wanted to do a fall marathon. I was concerned about training in the winter – worried that I would fall off the bandwagon and not be able to fully commit. Having signed up for all of the races in between, having a gym membership, and running with a training group three times a week makes this seem like a definitely reality and real possibility.

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So I signed up. Guys – I’m really doing this!!

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