January 31, 2022

Racing Plans

Like I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I'm ready to sign up for a race--if only to push me to start training for *something*. An actual reason to lace up 3-4 times a week! 

My sister is the one who actually brought it up to me--she suggested that we do the Toledo Glass City Marathon Relay. I've done this race at least twice before and it's a great course.

For Jeanie's first marathon, she had a relay team set up to run along with her--so each of us took turns running a leg of her marathon next to her. I did the final leg, crossing the finish line with her, and it was awesome. She made it look so easy! (She actually wrote a guest post about her first marathon, which you can find here; she includes a lot of tips for first-timers.)

This time, there is no real special reason to do it. I just haven't run a race since 2018 and when she mentioned it, it got me thinking about it. The first thing I always tell people when they tell me they want to start running is to sign up for a race! It will be the push you need to do the work.

So, I took my own advice. If the relay with Jeanie didn't work out, I had a back-up plan (the Martian Meteor 10K (which is a race I've done several times and I really like it). However, Jeanie is still up for the relay. The relay is a five-person team, so we will have: Jeanie, me, Jerry, Audrey (who I've mentioned several times in the past), and possibly Nathan (my brother). I think it'll be super fun! And this team is one that couldn't care less about pace or our finishing time. We're all slow! (Well, except for Nathan.)

The race takes place on April 24, 2022, which is 12 weeks from now. Ordinarily, I would have written my training plan to include all 12 weeks, but since I thought Jerry and I would be running the Martian race, I thought we only had 8 weeks. So, I have two options: 1) just write up 4 extra weeks that we can do now to work on running 4 days a week before we start my Beginner's 10K Plan; or 2) start the 8-week plan now and then continue on in order to be more prepared for the relay. I'm learning toward the latter.

The distances are 3.4, 4.9, 6.6, 5.3, and 6.1 miles. So maybe I'll train up to 8 miles for my long run and then do either the 6.6 mile leg or the 6.1 mile leg. Once we know if Nathan is going to commit, we can plan out the legs and I can have a better idea.

(If you're unfamiliar, the way the relay works is that you have a team of five people who each run a particular distance (see the leg distances above) on the course. The first person starts at the starting line of the race, and then 3.4 miles in, the rest of our team will be waiting for them. That person stops and the next person starts running. And so on. Then the last person crosses the finish line.)

I really hope Nathan decides to do it--it'll be super fun with him! I can't really say that I miss racing, but I actually do miss the way it pushed me. Even when I didn't want to run, I just did it anyways because I had to in order to prepare.

It's like this DietBet Jerry and I are doing. Our first weigh-in is tomorrow, so even if I wanted to eat everything in the pantry tonight, I know I won't do it because I want to hit my weigh-in goal. I've had a really great week; even when we went out for pizza, I only had 1-1/2 slices. I'm hoping I get to see the 140s soon! Maybe by Valentine's Day.

I'll be doing almost all of my training on the treadmill for a while. Check out this snow we're supposed to get!

Nope nope nope! I'll find some good books to read and I'll do my running on the treadmill. I actually read SIX books this month! That's totally unheard of for me. (Unfortunately, I read them on the couch and not on the treadmill, but it's a start--haha.)

I'll end with the random fact of the day:

Tomorrow is February! I can't believe it.

January 30, 2022

Pets' Profiles

I'm going to start with the random fact of the day (mainly because the picture is square and it fits better!):

I used to eat pollution popsicles all the time when I went for my long runs in the snow--oops! (It was so much more convenient than carrying water)

This was a fun post to write! I've written a TON about my pets over the years, but I liked this way (Jerry's suggestion!) of bringing it together. Well, Jerry's suggestion was actually to make a mock-Tinder profile for the pets and I actually loved that idea. However, once I started working on it, I really wanted to make it more detailed than a typical Tinder profile (I actually had to google what one looked like, hahaha!)

Instead, I just made a little profile that kind of reads like the good old fashioned classified ads (except the pets aren't "seeking" anyone). It's just as much of their personalities as I could squeeze into a teeny tiny nutshell. (They are SO much more than what I've written here, though!)

Each one of them has such a unique personality! (Sorry for all the typos/grammar--I didn't save these as drafts as I was making them, so to fix errors would require making each one all over again.)

January 29, 2022

HERITAGE RECIPE : Perfect Dumplings

This is another of those recipes that does not look pretty at all--but I'll spoil the ending and say that this was delicious! SO much better than it looks.

I've been wanting to make this recipe for a while because the person who submitted it happens to be my elementary school bus driver. And let me say, the fact that I came from a very small town means that the bus driver could as much of a mom or grandma as could be before and after school.

This recipe was submitted to the Rockwood, Michigan Area Historical Society by Joyce Laura in memory of Elza Raymond. I was a little confused at first while googling, because Joyce's maiden name was Raymond; and she married Raymond Laura. Once I sorted that, it made sense ;) I'm assuming that Elza was Joyce's mom.

You know how you go through life and there are certain random people tucked into the back of you mind that bring a nostalgic smile to your face when you think of them? I don't mean the people that do these spectacular well-known things, but rather the everyday people that you encounter for one reason or another.

Joyce Laura is one of those people who is tucked into the back of my mind. I honestly can't say I remember much about her! She was my school bus driver all through elementary school, and all of us kids absolutely loved her. I do remember her giving us treats once in a while (cookies or something). But she treated us like her own grandchildren (of which she had many--she was born in 1927 and when she passed away in 2016, she had 14 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

The same kids would ride the bus together every year; we all lived in the same neighborhood, played together all summer, and even though there were certain kids we didn't like, we were a sort of family in a way. And I think Joyce thought of us like that, too. She liked seeing us grow each year and she took some pictures of us in front of or inside of the bus. (She actually did have a grandson who rode the bus with us!) She made each of us feel special in our own way.

I could still tell you all of their names and I am still friends with some of them today. I asked some of my childhood friends today what they remember about her, and they all said the same thing: "She was just so NICE. Even with some of the morons on the bus, she was so NICE to everyone."

I remember one specific incident when we were pulled over by the police. Apparently, a boy named Eric, who was known for being a troublemaker, threw his hat out the window at a cop car. So we were pulled over and the cop came on the bus to talk to him. Joyce was as calm as could be; I learned later in middle school, that most bus drivers are NOT like that!

Joyce submitted this recipe in memory of Elza Raymond--because Elza was her maiden name, I'm assuming that Elza was her mother, but I can't be sure. I cannot find that simple piece of info online!

Anyway, even though this recipe is simple, I just couldn't help but make it in memory of Joyce. An elementary school bus driver that sticks in the minds of kids 35 years later is a special bus driver indeed.

As always, I am typing out the recipe here exactly as it is in the book; the "printer-friendly version" was re-written by me to include any notes or clarifications. I did not make any modifications or substitutions while preparing this recipe.

Here is a printer-friendly version!

Perfect Dumplings

1-1/4 c. flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 well-beaten egg
1 c. milk

Mix well. Drop by spoonful into boiling liquid. Keep boiling continuously. Steam 15 minutes.

My Notes:

This recipe is super straight-forward. The only thing I wasn't sure about was the steaming. Steaming usually involves covering the pot to hold in the steam. So, here is how I read into it: I dropped the dumplings in as the liquid boiled continuously. Once all the dumplings were dropped in, I covered the pot and lowered the temp to medium, and let them steam for 15 minutes.

It says to cook in liquid, so I imagine you could use whatever liquid you like. I made them in French onion soup (just the powdered mix with water). 

These were definitely NOT pretty. The batter looked very thin when I was ready to drop it into the soup. Still, I took about a teaspoon or a little more at a time and dropped it in. I could see they were coming apart when they hit the boiling water. Look how bad they looked in the pot! (I probably should have used a wider pot as well.)

This was after steaming

I imagine that I was probably supposed to drop bigger spoonfuls. Or maybe if I lower the water to a simmer rather than a boil. I know they would stick better with more flour (a thicker dough) but I didn't want to alter the recipe at all. There are several things I could adjust a little to keep them from coming apart.

HOWEVER... despite how not-pretty this recipe is, it was absolutely delicious!! The onion broth was a great choice. And while my favorite part was the large dumplings, the smaller pieces really thickened up the broth. Next time, I think I'll try lowering the water to a simmer and trying everything else the same. If that doesn't work, I'll make bigger spoonfuls. As a last resort, I'll add more flour. Really, the flavor and texture of these dumplings is truly "perfect"!

January 28, 2022

Friday Night Photos

Happy Friday! This weekend feels like it snuck up on me--the week went by so fast. I had a very uneventful week, so I actually don't have many photos today.

We went out to dinner tonight, and I think it's the first time I went to a restaurant since Eli's birthday LAST year--so a little over a year ago! My parents wanted to take us out for pizza, so we met up with them, Nathan and his girlfriend Alex, Brian, Becky, Luke, and Riley. 

The only photo I took was when Brian was showing Luke and Riley the "rubber knife" trick (when you hold it gently between your fingers and move it up and down and looks like it's wavy--like it's made of rubber). They were super impressed with the magic, hahaha.

This morning, I was barely awake when I did the Wordle of the day (it wasn't even 5:00 AM). Imagine my shock when I guessed the word on the SECOND TRY! (If you don't know what Wordle is, I wrote about it here.) That will likely never happen again, but I was pretty excited!

I usually am terrible at word games--I've always hated Scrabble and I was terrible when I tried playing Words with Friends. But I'm pretty good at this one! I started playing 12 days ago, so it hasn't been a super long time, but I'm impressed with my stats ;)  Jerry used to kick my ass at Words with Friends, but he actually quit doing the Wordle because he was pretty bad at it.

Speaking of games with Jerry (he took this pic), we decided to go through our card and dice games to play them and see what we want to keep and what we want to get rid of. We have a lot of games we don't ever play and they're just taking up space. This was a Monopoly card game. It was just okay--we'll probably try it a couple more times before deciding whether to keep it.

I made an impulsive buy at Petsmart when I was buying supplies for Duck when he was sick--it's this stupid fabric bag that has some really loud, crinkly material on one side. Chick really loves playing inside of bags (paper or plastic, he doesn't care) and I thought he'd love it. It ended up being much smaller than I thought and it also wouldn't stay open--so none of the cats touched it. I was going to throw it away when I had the idea (again, this was before 5:00 in the morning! haha) to cut the rim off of a gallon-size bucket and hot glue it around the opening of the bag. That way, the cats can actually go inside the bag poke their heads inside the bag.

Like I said, it was an impulse buy. Chick is more than happy when I give him paper grocery bags to play in. I don't know if I'll keep this, but I figured it was worth trying!

Speaking of Chick... he scared me half to death when I found him on this shelf! I've been reorganizing and moving things around, so I have this shelf in my bathroom temporarily--it's directly across from the toilet--and when I went to the bathroom, I was totally oblivious to the fact that I was directly eye-level with Chick. Hahaha! I would not have been surprised if I'd found Phoebe or Estelle there, but Chick took me off guard.

I got in a conversation about fruit snacks (yes, fruit snacks) yesterday and I was reminded of the very first fruit snacks I ate. My grandma used to buy them and keep them in her cupboard; when we went to her house, she would ask us if we wanted a "treat" and she'd give us a package of these. THESE were the best fruit snacks--the texture was super dense (like fruit leather) and they were shaped like beans. They were in these little pouches that were paper on the outside with a foil interior. The ad made me super nostalgic! 

I could not. stop. laughing. at this meme! Read it out loud and it's even better.

I've been forgetting to include the "random fact" calendar pages, so here are the last couple of days':

The one about the Dum Dums is super interesting! I always thought the mystery flavor was just one of the regular flavors, except you didn't know which one you were getting. I never have Dum Dums, but now I am going to try the Mystery Flavor the next chance I have.

Finally, here is a video. When we were at dinner tonight, I was telling my parents about the Progressive commercials about "un-becoming your parents". I usually mute ads when I'm watching a show, but I LOVE these ones and I actually watch them! This video is a mash of all of them, so it's kind of long--but if you're looking for a few minutes of entertainment, look no further. This is so funny!

And that's all I have. Hopefully this week will be a little more exciting--have a great weekend! xo

January 27, 2022

A Simple Beginners' 10K Training Plan

I mentioned signing up for a race in the next few months for the sole purpose of that sense of discipline that comes with following a training plan. Knowing that I have to train for a race is what will make me do it when I just don't want to run.

I was looking at 10K races because 1) It's always been my favorite race distance; 2) I think it's a good distance to work toward over the next few months, and 3) I don't really have a desire to run farther than 10K at this point. My body has gotten all sorts of messed up in the last few years and I think running is great, but I don't want to push it.

I was shocked when I went to my training plans page and saw that I don't have a beginner's 10K plan! I highly recommend my "Your Best 10K" training plan when you are going for a personal record; but that is meant for seasoned runners with lots of training under their belts. Right now, I am back to being a beginner for the most part.

For the purpose of this plan, I'm defining a "beginner" as someone who can run--no matter how slowly--about three miles without stopping (or with just a couple of short walk breaks). It would be great for someone who just completed the Couch to 5K plan and is looking to train for a 10K. So it's not a "Couch to 10K" plan, but a plan to get you from running about 3 miles to running 6.2 miles over a period of 8 weeks.

(If you are a true non-runner that wants to look train for a 10K, I would start with one of my beginner 5K plans; then, when you are able to run 5K, switch over to this plan.)

I wanted this to be very beginner-friendly; if you only want to run three days a week instead of four, then just skip Thursdays' runs. If you hate speed work, then just turn that into an easy three-miler. If you'd rather do run/walking, then go for it!

I also kept this extremely simple as far as numbers go--no heart rate training and no worrying about the "80/20" rule here. It's still very balanced and is heavy on the "easy" running.

There are three days for easy runs and just one day of simple speed work. The speed work alternates each week between intervals and tempo runs. There are four effort levels:

E - Easy (a pace that is barely faster than a walk; you should be able to have a conversation with a friend at this pace).

T - Tempo (this should feel "comfortably hard" where you could only say 1-2 words at a time; you should feel like you want to slow down, but you know for sure you could finish it). 

H - Hard (this is where you can run as hard as you want--the highest effort you choose to put in).

W - Walk (walk as quickly or as slowly as you like; the walking is in between the hard intervals, so I like to run the hard part as fast as I can and then I walk this part very slowly to recover).

Here is a glimpse at the first couple of weeks:

All of that said, here is the printer-friendly plan! 

It should be very straight-forward, but let me know if you have questions. I *think* I've chosen a race for Jerry and I to do (if we don't end up doing the relay with my siblings) so this is what we'll follow. Since we'll likely be doing a lot of treadmill running, I wanted to make this as simple as possible (running by feel instead of heart rate and keeping it very beginner-friendly).

If all goes well, Jerry and I will be running a race together soon--the last time we did that was in 2015! We trained for a half-marathon in 2018, but had to cancel at the last minute. So I'm looking forward to this :)

January 26, 2022

Wednesday Weigh-In : Week 35

I LOVE this super comfy shirt and I've missed wearing it. It has a little spaceship on it and it says, "I NEED MY SPACE"--perfect for introverted me ;)  I'm loving being able to wear clothes I haven't worn in a long time.

Duck was (as always) trying to get my attention while I was taking my token Wednesday Weigh-In mirror selfie. It's so funny how he KNOWS when I'm going to be doing something that keeps my attention away from him for a moment, and he can't stand it. When I ignore him winding himself around my ankles or reaching up my leg, he then jumps up on the counter right next to me and stares me down...

When I turn away from him, he starts reaching his paw out to grab onto my phone, which is right next to him while I'm trying to take the picture. (I get many blurry photos this way, haha). He is just always determined to hold my attention.

It's hilarious how all the cats are attracted to my bathroom when I'm in there. It's like they think I'm throwing a party and they're all invited. Even Phoebe will join in sometimes. But Duck is the very pesty one!

Anyway, after last week's 3+ pound loss, I wasn't expecting a big weight loss today, but I was bummed to see a somewhat significant gain...

I was at 154.8, which is up 1.2 pounds from last week's 153.6. I'm actually not worried about it, though; I was at 153 and 153.2 all week long, and then after eating a fairly large volume of food yesterday, I'm not surprised to see the scale is up a bit. I'm sure that it'll be back down in a day or two. When I eat a larger volume of food (even if it's the same number of calories as a typical day) I tend to retain water. It's just something I've noticed after weighing myself almost daily for years.

My body definitely feels best when I eat lower volume, higher-calorie foods! Yesterday, my stomach felt like a bottomless pit--I was ravenous all day, so I grazed from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed, pretty much.

Something I've been doing this month that I've really liked is eating foods that are higher in fiber. I had no idea how little fiber I was getting until I started paying attention to it this month. (One of my "new year's goals" is to eat more fiber. The recommended daily intake is 25 grams for women.)

I still only want to eat foods I love and not force myself to eat foods I don't, so the changes haven't been drastic. Also, I don't want to eat the "fake fiber" foods just for the sake of getting in fiber. I want to just eat more of the the high-fiber things I already eat anyway--like beans, lentils, berries, oats, peas, bran cereal, etc.

I've been eating Asian pears ever since my mom found some at Costco (they are high in fiber). I've also been making my Cold Almond Joy Oats every day for lunch (it's SO good!) and that has 11 grams of fiber (45% of the daily recommended intake).

I'm sure you've heard of "overnight oats" recipes, but I never make them because I always forget to do it ahead of time. Instead, I use chia seeds to thicken the whole thing in about 15 minutes (and they add a lot of fiber!). (Here is a post where I listed 10 of my favorite cold oats recipes. They all have a ton of fiber!)

This is how I make the Cold Almond Joy Oats:

40 grams dry old fashioned oats
13 grams chia seeds
8 grams brown sugar (or pure maple syrup--I've used each and can't tell the difference)
8 grams shredded coconut
10 grams mini chocolate chips
5 grams of cocoa powder
4 fluid ounces of whole milk
A few drops of coconut extract
A few drops of almond extract

Put everything into a mason jar and shake it up well. Then set it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes (I've left it in there for 24 hours before, though, and it was still really good). The chia seeds will have thickened everything.

(It has 373 calories; for those of you that count macros, it has 13 grams of protein, 50 grams of carbs, and 16 grams of fat.)

I don't know if eating the RDI of fiber every day is actually doing anything for my body, but I like to imagine that it's good for my digestive system if nothing else. I've been feeling really good!

February 1st is when Jerry and I have to do our first month's weigh-in for our six-month DietBet. He's 0.4 pounds from his goal right now and I've already passed mine. So I think we'll do fine :)

January 25, 2022

Transformation Tuesday #57

I have some great transformations to share this week! This first one is actually mine (well, Jerry's). Noah and Eli bought him a LEGO Star Wars - Yoda set for Christmas. I don't know that Jerry's ever actually put together a whole set before (he hates reading/following instructions for anything!) but he sat down and put together this whole set (1771 pieces) on Christmas Day.

(It was funny--before the kids got it for him, they asked me if there was a place that I would "let" him display it--hahaha! Jerry would display Star Wars stuff all over the house if I was cool with it (I'm not a Star Wars fan). I assured the kids that we would find a spot for it (I would not put it in the back of a closet, in other words). So they went ahead and got it for him--they were SO EXCITED for him to open it!

He's very lucky; when I was vacuuming, I found two pieces of the ear that had "come off" (I put that in quotes because I can guess with 99.9% accuracy that Duck probably bit the pieces off). Thankfully, I grabbed the pieces before the vacuum got them and I was able to put them back on.

Here are a few readers' transformations...

I sell doors and windows for a living, usually helping clients who are building new homes to pick out their doors and windows. I was thrilled when my sister bought her first house this summer--she hated the front door and wanted help picking out a new one. She had two narrow doors, so we changed the configuration to one large door with two narrow Sidelites. As her birthday gift I painted them red for her. Such a huge difference!

Before - solid 60s style with storm doors hiding them
After - lets in natural light and makes a welcoming statement

- Valerie, Oklahoma

Valerie, the new door is beautiful!! What a drastic update to your sister's home. It looks so welcoming, and I love the shade of red that you chose. My doors need an update now--along with the rest of the exterior of my house!--and this is inspiring. I am sure your sister loves it! - Katie

I hope you mean it when you say you’d like to see even the smallest transformations! 

I am a reseller of vintage treasures on Instagram (@Freckle_Face_Finds), so I spend a lot of time digging around at estate sales and flapping my number at auctions. I loved this little dude when I found him at an estate sale, and then the daughters running the sale told me all about how their mom made him in ceramics class long ago and how proud she was of her creation.

Of course I had to scoop him up, but what to do about his broken heart? I decided to seal the outsides of the hole with Modpodge and then hot glue a red felted heart over the hole. I’m still trying to decide whether to include him in a future sale or to keep him for myself.

- Jennifer

Jennifer, he is adorable! I definitely think you should keep him for yourself. It reminds me of a review on Amazon for these silly squirrel finger puppets; someone at an auction bought a taxidermied squirrel that was missing its arms because they just couldn't stand the thought of him getting thrown away. So they bought the finger puppets to put the arms on their squirrel, and I thought it was the cutest/funniest thing! I love things like this with a story behind them. Now, what are you going to name him? ;)  - Katie

Above the kitchen cabinets redo/clean up:

I have had a “strawberry” kitchen since being married (so 21 years and 3 different houses). Originally, it was fun to find strawberry stuff—my friends and fam would get me anything strawberry-related as well. I’m not putting down themed rooms (and I didn’t throw away all of my beloved strawberries—some went to Goodwill and some went into a tub for storage), but lately I hated to look above the cabinets because it just looked junky.

Also, I have to force myself to clean up there. I don’t do it nearly enough because there are so many pieces to take down, wash, reset, ugh. SO, I scoured Pinterest for ideas and went more minimalist with my shopping choices for a more uniform-ish look. It cost a little under $300, and it makes me so happy to walk in there now. Nearly everything came from Big Lots with just a few items from Hobby Lobby and Burkes Outlet.

Amy from Piketon, Ohio…bargain-shopping amateur decorator who hates to clean

Amy, what a lovely change! I think the strawberry theme was cute, but I know what you mean about it getting tired after a while. I can also see why it would be daunting to clean everything up there! I think the new, more minimal decor not only looks great with your cupboards, but will be much easier to clean. (I'm pretty sure that NOBODY enjoys cleaning above their cabinets!)  - Katie

Thank you so much to everyone for sharing your transformations! Please keep them coming so I can keep posting Transformation Tuesday. I love seeing the things you come up with to transform. To submit a transformation, just send a before photo and an after photo to me at: katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com. Include your name and a description of your transformation. And like Jennifer mentioned, I don't think any transformation is too small!

January 24, 2022

A Cute "Fun Fact" Story

The past couple of days have been kind of a mess for me. I had been planning to go to Jeanie and Shawn's house this week (my sister and her husband) in Rockford, IL. Jeanie was actually going to be in Vegas, but I figured I'd still go visit Shawn and just get away for a few days. I REALLY feel like I need to get away--I haven't traveled anywhere since May 2019 (thanks to COVID).

Traveling to or from my sister's house from here in winter is always a huge gamble with the weather. When it snows, the expressway is a MESS (if you've been stuck in a snow storm on I-94 in western Michigan, then you know how notorious is it!).

The weather was looking good for the six-hour drive until a couple of days ago--and on Saturday night, the night before I was supposed to leave, we got a ton of snow. We accumulated about 5-6 inches; I'm not sure how bad it was closer to her house, but I did not want to be driving in a snow storm. So those plans went out the window.

I was feeling bummed about it and yesterday, I tossed around the idea of flying to Phoenix to visit my friend Sarah today. (By using a buddy pass from my brother, I could travel stand-by so I wouldn't need to buy a ticket.)

For some reason, I had serious anxiety about going away. It wasn't the flying (which is what usually freaks me out); I think it's just that I've gotten so used to being home that the thought of being out of my routine would make me feel really uncomfortable. It's like I've forgotten how to do something as normal as traveling to visit a friend!

I'm not going to throw the idea out completely; I'll just try to plan it out with more notice. Sarah would still be working this week (she's a teacher) so it wouldn't have been ideal anyways. I can always try to go out when she's on break from school. My anxiety has just been so bad for the last few months; I hate that it stopped me from a short trip to Phoenix. The weather here really sucks right now and I could definitely use some Arizona warmth. 

Anyway, on a lighter and more fun note, here is today's random fact of the day. It's very fitting for my blog!

I thought this was so cute that I had to look up the story. You can find the whole story here on Bark Post.

Here are a couple of photos from the post:

How funny is that?! I love that she got a medal. Just imagine what she was thinking... "Look at all these people! They must be going somewhere fun! I want to go with them!" Joey wants to follow us everywhere, and I have no doubt he'd do the same thing... although I think he'd get a DNF for his finish time, haha. (DNF=Did Not Finish. He's not exactly in half-marathon shape.)

I loved this cute story! :)

January 23, 2022

My Top Ten Favorite Romance Movies (from someone who dislikes romance movies!)

I was at a loss of what to write today, and after yesterday's post about the Sweetheart Coffee Cake recipe in honor of Valentine's Day, I thought I could do another love-themed post. And since I love lists, here is a list of my top ten favorite romance movies.

Now, I have to say--I am not a romantic. At all! I don't like the token flowers or jewelry, long walks on the beach, cuddling in front of a fireplace on a faux fur rug, or candlelit dinners for two. When choosing movies, I always choose horror or thriller over romance.

Jerry happens to be a total romantic at heart, so I'll indulge him with romance/romantic comedies when we watch movies sometimes. They're never my first pick, but a lot of times, I end up really liking them--even the sappy, predictable endings! It's all about the rest of the plot that makes the movie interesting or not, though. I prefer movies with romance on the side rather than as the main course ;)

So, here is a list of my Top Ten Favorite Romance/RomCom Movies. Once I started writing this, I actually came up with so many that I had to narrow the list down! I want to rewatch a lot of these now.

Here they are, in no particular order. I included the trailers rather than trying to type out a description of each movie...

1) You've Got Mail - This is Jerry's very favorite romance movie, so I think that's why I had to include it. I love how giddy he gets to watch it! Haha.

2) Brokeback Mountain - I adored both Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in this movie. Their love on-screen was so believable and the storyline was heartbreaking.

3) Titanic - I think I saw this probably 10 times in the theater. I LOVE this movie!

4) Return to Me - A bit cheesy, but I love the old guys that play cards together. Their humor helps with the cheesiness.

5) Armageddon - I love end-of-the-world movies, and the love story in this one fit in really well. You can't have an end-of-the-world plot without a love story in there!

6) Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken - This is a not-very-well-known Disney movie that I became obsessed with after I first watched it in 1991! It remains one of my favorite movies of all time.

7) The Proposal - I think Ryan Reynolds is why I like this so much ;)  (Aww, I just remembered that it has Betty White in it, too!)

8) Boys and Girls - This one is nostalgic for me. Jerry and I watched this when we were dating. Like I've said a hundred times, 1999-2001 were the years for the best teen films ever made! 

9) 10 Things I Hate About You - I kind of hated to include this one because it's very cliché for lists of romantic movies, but I HAD to include it. Because there is a reason it's included on every list!

10) City of Angels - This one is a little dark, which is probably why I watched it in the first place. It's also kind of overdramatic, but when you look past that, it's a unique storyline.

And an extra one, because I just couldn't decide which one to get rid of...

11) Pearl Harbor - Not only is this a heartbreaking war story (the bombing of Pearl Harbor), the love triangle is is agonizing!

Watching these trailers makes me want to rewatch several of these now! I think I may watch Pearl Harbor tonight :)

What are your favorites? Please share!

January 22, 2022

HERITAGE RECIPE : Sweetheart Coffee Cake

When looking for a heritage recipe this week, I found one that was called "Sweetheart Coffee Cake"--and since Valentine's Day is coming up, I thought this would be a great recipe to try!

Now, I am the first to admit that I did a terrible job with the presentation! Hahaha, it's not nearly as pretty as I hoped it would be. But hey, if it tastes good, that's what matters most.

You'll see there are two different versions that I made, and I'll explain that in my notes after the recipe.

This recipe was submitted to the Rockwood, Michigan Area Historical Society by Peggy Laginess in memory of her mother-in-law, Helen Laginess.

Now, when I googled Peggy and Helen, I discovered something very interesting. I read Peggy's obituary which named one of my uncles (my mom's older brother) as a surviving relative. This is confusing, but here is what I learned:

Peggy (who submitted this recipe) was married to Robert (who has passed away).
Robert had a sister named Lorraine.
Lorraine is married to Dan--and Dan happens to be my mom's brother (my uncle).

I'm not sure how that makes me a relative to Peggy (through marriage), but I found that interesting! Anyway, Peggy submitted this recipe for Sweetheart Coffee Cake in memory of her husband Robert's mother, Helen. Helen was born in 1912 and passed away in 1997 at age 85.

As always, I'm copying the recipe here exactly as-written in the heritage book and I made it without modifying or substituting anything. If anything was unclear, I made my best judgment and I wrote about it in my notes. (The "printer-friendly" version below is re-written by me with my notes included.)

Here is a printer-friendly version!

Sweetheart Coffee Cake

3-1/2 to 4 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
2 pkg. RapidRise yeast
2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. butter
2/3 c. milk
1/2 c. water
2 eggs

Set aside 1 cup flour. Mix flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Heat together water, butter and milk until hot to touch. Stir hot liquid into dry mixture. Mix in eggs. Mix in enough reserved flour as necessary to make a stiff batter. Knead on floured surface until smooth, about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl and cover; rest 10 minutes. Divide dough in half and roll out 1 portion to 15 x 10-inch. Brush with 1/4 cup melted butter. Combine filling and sprinkle 1/2 of it over dough. Roll up as jellyroll from long side. Place on greased baking sheet. Fold half of roll on top other half; seal ends together. Starting at folded end, cut lengthwise down center of roll with scissors to within 1-inch of sealed end. Turn cut halves outward, cut side up, to form a heart. Repeat with remaining dough for second loaf Cover and let rise until light and doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Bake at 350 F for 20 to 25 minutes; remove from baking sheet.

My Notes:

Okay, lots of notes here! The biggest issue I had with this recipe, which almost kept me from trying it, was the fact that there isn't any specification of what the "filling" should be. The recipe just states, "Combine filling and sprinkle 1/2 of it over dough..." but there is nothing anywhere stating what the filling is.

From what I know of coffee cake, the filling is usually a cinnamon + sugar mixture. So, I decided to go with that. However, since there were two loaves, I thought it might be fun to make one red (for Valentine's Day) by using strawberry jam for a filling. Jerry thought it was a good idea, until I prepped the loaf and he said it looked like I was making a vagina--hahaha!

In total, I probably ended up using 4 cups of flour (including the flour I spread on the counter to roll the dough).

I heated the water, butter, and milk in the microwave; I probably should have used the stove, considering this is such an old recipe, but I made sure to stir it often and make sure it didn't get boiling hot.

Rolling out the dough was very easy once I had enough flour mixed in. I made it as rectangular as I could.

It took a lot more jam than I thought it would--probably about 3/4 cup to 1 cup? (It looks like ketchup, I know!)

For the one with the cinnamon + sugar mixture, I melted 1/4 cup of butter as specified in the recipe, and then liberally sprinkled with a combination of the cinnamon and sugar. (I keep cinnamon and sugar mixed together in a shaker jar--probably a 4:1 sugar to cinnamon ratio?). I made sure to spread the butter and the cinnamon mixture all the way to all the edges.

To roll it, first, you start at the long edge. You roll it up tightly (which is kind of hard because it's slippery with the filling). 

Then I put the seam-side up, took one end of the roll and folded the roll in half (with the seam sandwiched in the middle) and I pinched the two short ends together. 

Then, starting at the fold, you use scissors to cut through both layers of the roll. The sides will just kind of fall into position, but it basically looks heart-shaped when you're done.

The recipe specified to cut to about an inch from the short (pinched) edge, and after taking the photo above, I ended up cutting it a little farther because it didn't seem like it was cut far enough.

I baked the one with jam for 22 minutes before deciding it was done, and then set the timer for 22 minutes for the cinnamon + sugar one. I think I baked that one too long--I should have only done 20 minutes. It didn't burn though.

I was very surprised to discover that I liked the one with jam better. I'm usually not a jam person, but I liked that it was more moist and I thought it had more flavor. The cinnamon + sugar one was pretty dry. It definitely needed some frosting! ;)

Overall, I wasn't crazy about these Sweetheart Coffee Cakes. I wouldn't make them again. (And I actually wasn't even tempted to eat more than a couple of bites to taste-test.) Maybe I'm just missing out on an amazing filling that I don't know about--I'm super bummed it wasn't in the book!--but everyone in the family thought they were just okay. And definitely not pretty enough for Instagram or Pinterest photos!

If you happen to make this and have better luck with the filling and/or the presentation, please email me a photo! I'd love to see.

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