My friend the perfectionist

I’ve been trying to type up a race report for Big Sur Marathon for hours. This came out instead. Race report will come eventually, but for now this is where my head is ‘til the ol’ dopamine levels return to normal. (At least I’m self-aware about my current state.)

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 There’s this lady I know who I’d really love to be better friends with, but sometimes I wonder if she even likes me at all.

I know she genuinely loves all of her other friends – she tries so hard to be good to them and to help them all with whatever they might need. I see how she looks for the best in everyone and every situation. I hear that she makes other people feel inspired and motivated, and I am so proud of her for that. I know her goal is to lift everyone else up.

But me? I don’t know what I did to her to warrant it, but she doesn’t treat me at all like anybody else she knows. I’m the only friend she compares negatively to others. I’m the one to whom she says unkind things and eyes critically. I’m the one she gets pissed at for missing goals or for not being flawless, even though I know she doesn’t give a rip about that stuff with any of the other people she hangs out with. I’m the one whose writing she picks apart, whose conversations she overanalyzes. She was such a jerk when I played roller derby. She’s pretty rough on me about the other sports and hobbies I enjoy, too. I don’t think anything I do is ever really good enough for her.

I try really hard to make her proud, to impress her, to show her I’m worth her time and affection. Sometimes she seems pleased with me, but then she almost always finds something in my actions or accomplishments to complain about after the initial pat on the back. She tells me to look better, to try harder, to do more, to be more.

I get that she just wants the best from me. I just wish she’d be more accepting and try to love me unconditionally instead of making me feel bad about not being as perfect as she’d prefer for me to be.

I may never run as fast or as gracefully as she wants me to. I may never accomplish all of the things that she demands of me. But if I could just get her to ease up a bit and to see all of the good in me, I think we’d really enjoy looking at each other in the mirror a lot more.

Runner Girls Podcast!

I had such a great conversation with Katie and Sue when they interviewed me last week for Runner Girls Podcast. I talked a lot about falling in love with running as a kid, about running as a pacer and about coaching Girls on the Run. The interview can be found here:

https://runnergirlspodcast.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/season-4-episode-7-all-the-things-all-the-time/#more-1314

Enjoy!

Running Cowtown 2016 in INKnBURN

cowtownchallenge16

Race report: Cowtown edition! Over the weekend, I ran the 5K and the half marathon for the Cowtown Challenge at Cowtown Marathon in Fort Worth, TX.

The stats: this is the 4th year that I have run at least one race during Cowtown Marathon weekend, the 2nd year that I have run the Challenge (complete any two distances on Saturday and Sunday) and the 48th 5K and 23rd half marathon that I have run since I started counting in 2008 post-ORIF surgery.

Last year, the Saturday races plus the Sunday marathon and ultra were canceled due to ice and only the half marathon took place – but we were given the option to earn our medals virtually. I couldn’t get out of my neighborhood due to the ice, so I ran both the 5K and the full marathon on the treadmill (which turned out to be a great test of mental strength). This year, however, our weather was perfect!

Like my last double-race weekend in January (which I really should post a race report for, since I lovingly call it “Questionable Decisions Weekend”), I wore INKnBURN clothing for both races. I knew I needed the superhero power boost that their bright colors and patterns always give me, so I picked the Robot capris for the 5K and the full Miko kit for the half marathon. (to find their clothing, go visit http://www.inknburn.com/ and say goodbye to your next paycheck, because you’re going to want to buy EVERYTHING).

OH MY GOODNESS. I have never talked to so many people on the race course before, and that is saying a lot since I talk to nearly everybody I see during any race I run. People always want to know about my pink hair and my tattoos, but this time they couldn’t stop asking about the clothes. I wish I’d had cards on me to hand out – I shared the INKnBURN name with everyone who asked and thanked them profusely for the compliments. (one of the professional photographers even asked to be in a pic with me and took a selfie of us with his own cell phone.)

I ran the 5K alone and in my own happy little world, although I did get to talk to my friend Helen (who was running the ultra the next day) in the start corral. I was struck by how great the spectators were in the neighborhoods we ran through – children high-fiving us and adults holding up signs. I love when people on the race route are genuinely happy to see us traipsing down their streets. I also thoroughly enjoyed the fact that most Fort Worth police officers wear cowboy hats – that speaks to my farmgirl soul!

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On Sunday, my sister-in-law and best running friend Jenny ran the half with me – we also ran into our friend Linda, who stayed with us for most of the first 7 miles but pulled ahead after and finished a bit before us.

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Last time I paced Jenny we got her to an 8min8sec PR, but neither of us had a time goal for Cowtown – we were just out there to enjoy a nice training run together (we’re 8 weeks out from running Big Sur together).

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It truly was one of the most fun half marathons I have ever run! The spectators were great for the half too, and the police officers and volunteers were so friendly and efficient. The course entertainment was pretty stellar too – case in point:

piperjen

We finished with huge smiles on our faces and headed to the post-race food line (delicious choices – bananas and oranges, chicken noodle soup, Blue Bell ice cream, cashews, granola bars, and corn crisps), then to pick up our finisher’s shirts, jackets and medals. The Challenge yielded a special medal to join my 5K and half medals, plus a nice baseball cap with this year’s beautiful logo on the front.

challengebling

By the way, that spur actually spins! It’s the third in the 3-year series of spinning spurs that Cowtown gave out. So now I have the half-full-half medals all hanging together on my medal rack.

I've got spurs that jingle jangle jingle...

I’ve got spurs that jingle jangle jingle…

All in all, I’d say that this was probably my favorite local race weekend (Runner’s World Festival is still my all-time favorite race weekend and I cannot wait to go back in October). I highly recommend running Cowtown – and I absolutely recommend wearing INKnBURN if you want to stand out and feel like a total rockstar!

Tie-Dyed White Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

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For my daughter’s 10th birthday, she asked for “a white cake with colorful swirls and chocolate icing with green and pink decorations.” Very specific, and I aim to deliver what people ask for. Not only do I deliver, I like to over-deliver by taking the idea a bit further.

I have a basic white cake recipe that I love to make – it is so simple but so delicious. Super-moist but light, dense enough to stand up to a thick buttercream but airy enough to layer without getting too heavy. I’ve tweaked it over the years ’til I’m happy with the results every time I make it.

I took my basic recipe below and doubled it, creating four layers (two 10 inch and two 9 inch) with a different colored swirl inside each. Then I assembled and frosted it with my chocolate buttercream frosting. My daughter and I tinted a bit of the Caramel Buttercream I had left over from the chocolate cupcakes I made for the party (I like for people to have options, and I also like to stuff my guests uncomfortably full – that’s my love language) and used it to add decorations, along with roughly 2 pounds of sprinkles (I exaggerate, but that kid is seriously pretty heavy-handed with the edible glitter).

The reactions when I cut into the cake were great – nobody knew what the inside looked like until the first piece was served. The kids all went “WHOA” and one usually-hard-to-impress girl exclaimed, “that is friggin’ COOL!” Validation achieved. 😉

Let me know how yours turns out. The color combinations are endless and you can swirl together as many as you like.

TIE-DYED WHITE CAKE:

** This recipe makes one two-layer round cake (9 and/or 10 inch pan). You can double the recipe like I did if you’d like to build more layers! **

Ingredients:

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) softened (NOT melted – it makes a big textural difference, trust me) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups cake/pastry flour (lends a much lighter texture than all-purpose)
2 teaspoons baking powder (make sure it’s fresh – old baking powder yields less rise)
6 (3/4 cup) egg whites
3/4 cup milk (I use 2%)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Gel food coloring and a few small bowls to divide and tint cake batter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom of two round pans (I used one 9 inch and one 10 inch and made two batches for the layers). Line bottoms of pans with parchment or waxed paper. (I cut circles of parchment paper to fit in the bottoms of my pans. This step will really help you avoid the stuck-to-the-pan blues that often result in torn cake.)

Using your stand mixer or an electric hand beater, cream butter and sugar together on medium-high until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. In another bowl (sorry, I’m really making a mess of your kitchen) whisk together the egg whites, milk and vanilla extract.

Add 1/4 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture in the mixing bowl and beat for a couple of minutes, then add 1/4 of the milk mixture and beat ’til incorporated. Repeat this process until all dry and wet ingredients are incorporated into the butter/sugar mixture. You’ll probably need to stop the mixer a few times to scrape down the sides of the bowl so that everything gets combined thoroughly.

We’re gonna dirty up more of your dishes now. Depending on how many colors you want to make, evenly divide the prepared batter into separate bowls. Using a toothpick or the tines of a fork, dip a tiny amount of the gel food coloring into each bowl and mix thoroughly into batter. Repeat as needed to reach the desired intensity for each hue.

To make the swirls: You’ll need small scoops, measuring cups or spoons for each color (more dishes to wash, hooray!). I use 1/4 cup scoops for mine. Using your scoop/cup/spoon, place a dollop of one of the colors of batter in the center of each pan. Give it a minute to spread out a bit, then scoop a different color and pour it directly on top of the dollop already in the pan. Don’t mix them together! Let the batter spread a bit before adding the next dollop, again to the center. Keep repeating this process until you have concentric rings in each pan, like a bulls-eye dartboard. Don’t mix them together, although you can use a spoon to lightly push the edge of each new dollop out so the mixture continues to spread to the edges of the pan. It’ll look like this when the pans are full:

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Bake cakes about 22 to 25 minutes on the middle rack of your oven (or until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean). I turn/rotate them halfway through to ensure even baking.

Cool in pans on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto rack (I like to put the rack upside down across the top of the pan and hold them together as I quickly flip the pan so that it drops easily onto the rack), remove the parchment/waxed paper and let the cakes cool completely on the rack before frosting.

CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:

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Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened (NOT melted – you need the structural integrity of soft butter to make this frosting set up right)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 pound confectioners sugar
1/2 cup milk (I use Horizon 2% chocolate milk just to pump up the cocoa flavor a bit more)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method:

Add cocoa powder to bowl of stand mixer or large bowl that you can use your electric hand mixer in. Whisk powder thoroughly to remove any lumps.

Using your stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat softened butter into the cocoa powder at medium-high speed for about 5 minutes – you want the mixture to be really creamy and fluffy. (I use the paddle attachment in my Kitchenaid stand mixer for the best results.)

Reduce speed to medium and add 1 cup of the sugar and 1 tablespoon of the milk, then crank the speed back up to high for a minute or two until well-combined. Repeat this process, slowly incorporating the sugar and milk until it’s all combined with the butter (you’ll need to frequently stop the mixer to scrape down the sides and beater with a spatula). Add the vanilla extract and beat on high for another two minutes.

** If frosting is too dry/hard, add a little more more milk – a tablespoon at a time – until it reaches the right consistency. If it’s too wet/soupy, add a bit more confectioner’s sugar – again, a tablespoon at a time – until the texture is right.

To assemble cake: using a spatula, spread a thin layer on the underside of the bottom layer of cake to “glue” it to the cake board or plate, then lay a nice thick layer of frosting over the entire bottom layer. Frost the underside of the next layer so it’ll stick to the bottom layer better, then set it in place and frost it entirely too. You can then smooth out the frosting, add a thicker coat to hide the “seams” of the separate layers and/or put additional frosting into a decorating bag with a piping tip to embellish your cake. (My daughter chose the large star tip to outline the layers and to write her first initial on top of the cake before dousing it liberally with sprinkles and colored sugar.)

cake

Let me know how yours turns out! I’d love to see pictures. (I really need to start taking more “process” pictures of my own recipes! I always forget or take sloppy ones.)

Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Let me just state from the very beginning that this is not a clean-eating, healthy-living recipe.

I have plenty of those and I love to share them – roasted veggies, salads, lean proteins, etc. But when your 10 year old asks you for cake with “that really good frosting you made last year,” you deliver, calories/fat/sugar be damned.

So yeah, this definitely qualifies as a “sometimes” food. But sometimes you just need a really great buttercream frosting – the thick, rich stuff that spreads and pipes beautifully and sets up nicely in the fridge and holds its shape.

Per my daughter’s request, I made a white cake with chocolate buttercream frosting for the main cake – it was 4 layers tall and each layer was swirled with a different color to resemble tie-dye. I’ll post the recipe and method for that soon too, because it was majestic and I am absurdly proud of the reactions it garnered from everyone who saw and tasted it. I wanted to provide a little variety though, so I also made chocolate cupcakes and frosted them with caramel buttercream frosting.

It’s a very basic buttercream recipe, but it requires the addition of my salted caramel, made with an extra two tablespoons of cream so that it was more saucy than I make it when I’m molding it for individual candies. (If you don’t want to take this extra step, then you can use store-bought caramel sauce and it will still taste great! I was just dead-set on it being 100% from scratch.)

I usually make this frosting a day or two in advance and store it in a plastic bag (with as much air squeezed out as possible) for a day or two in advance. When it’s time to use it, I plop the mass of chilled frosting back into the bowl of my stand mixer and whip it back up with paddle attachment until it’s fluffy and smooth enough to spread or to spoon into a decorating bag.

Let me know what you think! As always, I welcome feedback. BTW, if you’d like to make this a basic buttercream without the caramel, omit that ingredient and just add a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract instead.

CARAMEL BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

Ingredients:

12 ounces (3 sticks) softened (NOT MELTED) butter (I let mine sit at room temp for about an hour before I start)
1 pound confectioners sugar
2-3 tablespoons caramel sauce (store bought is fine, but this caramel recipe made with an extra two tablespoons of cream added to the 1/4 cup it calls for will really elevate the flavor and texture)

Method:

Using your stand mixer or an electric hand mixer, beat butter at medium-high speed for about 5 minutes – you want it to be really creamy and fluffy. (I use the paddle attachment in my Kitchenaid stand mixer for the best results.)

Reduce speed to medium and add 1/2 cup of sugar, then crank the speed back up to high for a minute or two until well-combined. Repeat this process, 1/2 cup at a time, slowly incorporating the sugar until it’s all combined with the butter (you’ll need to frequently stop the mixer to scrape down the sides and beater with a spatula).

Turn mixer off and drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of caramel sauce into frosting (you can add a bit more cream by the teaspoon if it’s not thin enough to drizzle in – you want it to be liquidy enough to blend into the frosting completely). Turn the mixer back on and beat until caramel is fully incorporated and frosting is light and fluffy.

From here, you can tint the frosting if you like (I use gel food coloring when I tint mine, adding a teensy bit at a time to the mixer). Spread on cake with an offset spatula or spoon into a decorating bag with a piping tip attached and squeeze to your heart’s content.

BTW, a light sprinkling of sea salt on top of the frosted product is pretty spectacular, especially if you’re frosting something chocolate – I love how the sweet and salty complement each other.

Peppermint Sugar Cookies 


Every Christmas, my domestic side kicks into high gear and I make a ton of treats for friends, family & neighbors. I have a few old standards that I turn out each year (like my salted caramels), but this time I added a new treat to the mix: peppermint sugar cookies.

Like most of the things I make, it’s an easy recipe that tastes fancier than it really is. I used the basic sugar cookie recipe that I’ve been baking for years & just tweaked it a bit. The result: soft, melt-in-your-mouth cookies with flecks of peppermint in every bite.

I’m including a recipe for a minty royal icing if you want to add a glaze to dress them up a bit. It’s not necessary and I skip it if I’m baking multiple batches (I’ve baked 30 dozen so far this year), but it does add some eye appeal and you can even sprinkle on a little more crushed peppermint before the icing hardens if you want to make them extra-fancy.

This recipe makes 5 dozen small cookies; if you keep them bite-sized then each cookie contains about 85 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 12.5 grams of carbs & 1 gram of protein.

Peppermint Sugar Cookies 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, softened (not melted – that will change the texture)
  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon peppermint extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup crushed peppermint candies (or 4-5 crushed candy canes) – I use a food processor or put them in a plastic bag & beat ’em up with a rolling pin
  • 1/4 cup Andes peppermint crunch baking chips  (if you can’t find them, just double the amount of crushed peppermint)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F & line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set out cooling racks if you have them (the air circulation makes a difference in the texture of the finished product).

Cream together butter and sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add egg and extracts and mix until combined. A cup at a time, add the flour until just combined, then gently fold in crushed peppermints and baking chips until they’re incorporated into the dough. Don’t over mix!

Roll dough into 1 inch balls and evenly space apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper (I can fit 15 – 5 rows, 3 columns – on each sheet).


Bake cookies for 10 minutes. They’ll still be light – browned edges mean they’re overcooked.

Cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes, then move cookies to your cooling racks until completely cool.


Minty Royal Icing & Crunch Topping (optional):

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 3-4 tablespoons crushed peppermint candies (or red sugar sprinkles  if you’re tired of crushing mints at this point)

Directions:

In a small bowl, whisk sugar, water & extract together. Dip tops of cookies in icing or brush on tops of cookies with a pastry or basting brush, then sprinkle each cookie with a bit of crushed peppermint or sugar sprinkles & let the topping harden.

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That’s it! These cookies taste great with my peppermint cocoa, by the way. But that’s a post for another day!

Episode 106: Dara O’ Bannon is on Fire!

The wonderful hosts of the Back of the Pack Endurance podcast interviewed me last night about running, roller derby, aerial arts, my experiences as a first-time race director and my upcoming gig as a balloon art model. I come in around the 1 hour mark in this episode and they let me ramble and giggle to my heart’s content!

Source: Episode 106: Dara O’ Bannon is on Fire!