Taco Soup

I found out today that my dear friend Erin has never heard of Taco Soup. Let me share! It doesn’t really have much to do with tacos – I’ve never put corn in a taco, and lettuce is missing. It’s still delish.

The other thing is that there are a hundred variations. Don’t like hominy? Add another can of corn. Try different spices. Try Fritos instead of tortilla chips.

2 pounds ground beef/turkey/venison
1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (14 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 ounces) yellow hominy, rinsed and drained (or corn)
1 can (14 ounces) corn, undrained
1 small can chopped black olives, drained (optional)
1 package chili mix (or taco mix – I even saw a variation with ranch dressing mix once)
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons dried parsley

shredded cheese
sour cream
tortilla chips (or Fritos)

Brown ground beef/turkey/venison. Drain. Mix ground beef, chili mix, chili powder and parsley in slow cooker until meat is coated. Add canned stuff. Cook on low 3 hours. Serve with cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips.

YUM. I have to make this weekend, now.

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I feel like I am no longer a runner. I feel like a failure. 

I feel like it started with my DNF at the Fox Cities Marathon in September. 

I have run one 5K since then. No other races. 

Then this Winter To End All Winters hit, and I logged less than 50 miles a month. As I start beating myself up over that, it warms up outside…

And on a Friday morning, I go out for a run, trip, and sprain my ankle. Badly. I was on crutches for five days. Three weeks later, I’m still not cleared to run. I missed my first 5K of the year. I won’t be able to run my first half marathon next weekend. 

I’m barely exercising. Yoga a couple days a week, but evening classes are hard to fit in my schedule. Spin is OK, but I can’t stand, and multiple 5:00 am wake-ups a week while it’s still dark outside aren’t happening. (And no, I don’t swim. I can not-drown, but I’m not getting in an Olympic lap pool and making an ass of myself, thanks.) 

So I am frustrated and eating my feelings and grumpy and cranky. I know I’m whining. I need to be patient, let my body heal, try to find other things to do, remember that it’s better to not run for a month and be able to run for the rest of my life, all that shit. 

Don’t care. 

I suck as a runner for the last six months. 


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Half Marathons, Here I Come

Or, Half Marathon Training, Week 7

Goal: Oshkosh Half Marathon, April 13 (5 weeks from today!), 2:05. That’s a 9:30/mile pace. Then, Door County on May 3 and Green Bay on May 18. This is the Year of the Half Marathon.

Training has been…torturous. What, the second-coldest winter in Wisconsin in the last 150 years or so? Brutal. There have been many, many treadmill and indoor track runs. I gave up one day of running a week for spin class. Instead of strength training I’m doing a power yoga class.

But it’s tough. I gained a couple pounds over this long winter, and I can feel every extra ounce when I run. Today I managed 9.25 miles. The first 6 were great. Then I headed into the wind to get home and *boom* my pace dropped like I had lead legs.

Wanted: warm spring weather, no wind, and sunshine.

How much am I really asking for?

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The Longest Winter

One blog post in three months. Ooops. This is what no racing and training from mid-September until mid-April will do to this blog. What does it do to me? Drive me crazy.

Insane, actually. Crawling up walls, talking to and answering myself, seeing shapes in the snow crazy.

On top of not having any races – not a 5K, not a snowshoe run, not a warm-weather half-marathon – it has been The Longest Winter of All Time Ever Known to Mankind. And it is still January.

I can count the number of times I have run outside in the last month on one hand, and would still be able to pick my nose if so inclined. The few outside runs have been short and left me shivering. I tried one group run with the local running group and it was a disaster that left me angry. (PaceSetters, I’m looking at you, and that email I sent you which no one ever replied to.)

I hate the treadmill. Especially my treadmill, which has been temperamental as of late, constantly asking for lube. [Insert jokes here.] I’ve taken to going to the gym and running in circles on the indoor track, or attending 6:00 am spin classes, or yoga classes. Oh, but that’s if the gym is open – they’ve closed it several times due to the cold weather. Snowshoeing can be done in 20 minute increments, but it takes longer for me to get dressed in layers and get somewhere.

Basically: I’m not working out, I’m eating a lot of junk, I’m not getting sunshine or fresh air, and I’m turning into one cranky motherfucker.

Soon I’ll be in Mexico for a vacation. I look forward to running on the beach every morning – even if I do die from shock of the temperature change. I’m going to sweat so much people will think I jumped in the ocean before running, instead of after (as I plan to d0). Cannot. Wait.

Next year: plan a long weekend and a half marathon in a warm location in January.

For now: just make it through to March.

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The Great Cookbook Project

Once upon a long, long time ago, I bought a small notebook covered with a blue Asian-style print. When I became interested in cooking, I started writing recipes in it.

the notebook

the notebook

Over time, it’s been used so much the bindings fell apart. Pages are stained and wrinkled. Recipes are written and re-written and messy. It’s wonderful.

favorites are starred

favorites are starred

It’s also running out of pages. Finding one recipe in it is difficult. Some of the recipes are hard to read.

I decided on a Project: I would buy a binder and sheet protectors, type up all my recipes, and put them in. One benefit: if I spilled on pages, I could wipe them off. Another: I’d have an electronic copy of my recipes to modify, or send to friends. Or, you know, post to my blog, if there was a demand for them.

Months later, the recipes are all typed, printed, and organized in the binder!

the best section: dessert!

the best section: dessert!

It’s convenient. I can find recipes easily. But it feels less…personal. Like a part of me is lost. See, the old cookbook (which I refuse to throw out) starts with one of my favorite all-time recipes – Sour Cream Cheesecake – then quickly degenerates into some of my early favorite – but now terrible – recipes. I’ve come so far since Impossible Cheeseburger Pie and that awful Crockpot Beef Stroganoff recipe. There’s Maple Teriyaki Salmon, then Bacon Cheeseburger Soup, and now Peanut Butter Cup Cookies and Lauren’s French Silk Pie. It’s history.

So I’ve decided to start writing notes on the recipes. The first time I made it. How I screwed it up once. How it’s Justin’s favorite cookie. Who gave me the recipe. That sort of thing. And maybe, someday, my nephews and nieces will want to pore over it. And maybe, someday, it will become a family heirloom…or a published book.

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Back in the game

The last two days, I have run feeling strong and happy and like I am meant to do this. It’s a welcome change.

Saturday, October 12 I ran the St. Joe’s 5K with my friends Lesley – who is recovering from choriocarcinoma, a very rare cancer – and Melissa – who started running a few months ago. I was nothing short of humbled that Lesley would ask me to run her first post-treatment 5K with her, and overjoyed when Melissa asked if she could join us. We met at the start area. Lesley wanted to run the race at an 11:00/mile pace; Melissa said she’d be behind us and we said we’d cheer her across the finish.

You need to understand how dear Lesley is to me. When I first started running, she encouraged me. She ran with me during 5Ks. When I was training for my first half marathon, she would be out there on Saturdays, doing long runs with me. Plus, there are countless dinners and farmer’s market Saturdays and Jaycee meetings and other years of fun. Her cancer was devastating and I am so happy she is recovering. There was never a doubt in my mind that she would run again.

I told Lesley I would help her get through the race. I tried to keep her mind off it. I talked about work and travel and upcoming fun. We ran every step of it together. I could see how hard it was for her by mile 2-1/2 and I wanted to stop and hug her and tell her she could do it but that would have slowed us down, so I kept talking. You know what? That tough, amazing, wonderful woman crossed in her goal time. We just gave each other a big hug. She was teary-eyed. I was crying. That was the best run ever.

We watched for Melissa and couldn’t miss her tie-dyed t-shirt rounding the bend a couple minutes later. That woman was all focus and we screamed until we were hoarse! I’m so proud of her for picking up running and sticking with it. I hope it changes her life like it changed mine.

Then, last week I took a trip to Charlotte, NC for one of my favorite weeks of the year. It’s a nerd convention (PASS Summit) and I love it. On Monday I got time to run with my friend Rob, from Australia. We have run in races together, but never side-by-side, just the two of us, chatting. It was wonderful.

Then there was #sqlrun. The first year I went to this conference, I organized a 3-mile run the first day for everyone who wanted to run but didn’t want to do so alone, in a strange city, in the dark – like me. I had something like 40 people show up. It’s now tradition – this year we had around 70 runners and walkers. It’s amazing to see the camaraderie, and how the motto “no geek left behind” is picked up. Everyone is welcome and everyone finishes; no one alone. It’s even better to know people meet running buddies to go with other days. If I leave nothing else behind in that technical community, I’d take that event alone.

So now I am full of joy and happy memories. I don’t have any races on the calendar or goals in mind. Just run, and run, and run.

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On Language

I just fell in love with this sentence: All these meanings are mixed up in the ambiguity of human language, which comes naturally to us but is an impenetrable code to the computer.

From http://nautil.us/issue/6/secret-codes/literature-by-the-numbers.

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