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Watermelon Salad with Avocado, Feta, Mint and Pomegranate Dressing

2 Jun Watermelon Salad with Avocado, Feta, Mint and Pomegranate Dressing

Whew!  The blog has been silent for quite sometime, but I have a good excuse…

We packed up Baby Bird for her first international jaunt to Paris and Ireland (Yes, I realize that it sound weird to list a city and then a country as separate destinations, but I figured it was easer than listing every town we visited in Ireland!) where we all ate entirely too much bread and cheese for 15 days.  But we ran it off…

The Hubs on a morning Paris run

The Hubs on a morning Paris run

The Hubs completely dominating The Cliffs of Moher

The Hubs completely dominating The Cliffs of Moher

International travel even has a way of making ME look like a competent runner

A little run through The Burren- International travel even has a way of making ME look like a competent runner

So I guess we sort of had baguette immunity since we were running.  That’s a thing, right?

We’ve only been home a few days- we are currently struggling to get a toddler back on the correct time zone… YIKES!- and I’m trying to keep things simple, so when we got an invite to a friends house for dinner* I went with my very favorite, super simple summer combo of watermelon and feta for our addition to the fete.  Just to be fancy, I jazzed it up with avocado, mint, and a pomegranate simple syrup that were still all very easy but felt slightly elevated.

To be clear, this is the salad that will accompany me to all gatherings in the next few months.  So if you invite us over, don’t you add this to your menu and then expect me to arrive with a berry crostada embellished to look like the American flag.  You’ve been warned!

Okay, okay… if you ask really nicely, I’ll still show up with a patriotic dessert.

But you better have plenty of watermelon salad!

 

*If you invite people over for dinner after they’ve been out of town with a toddler for awhile, you are totally awesome.  Chances are anyone traveling with kids is exhausted and looking for any excuse to not have to cook a meal at home… and then clean it up!

Watermelon Salad with Avocado, Feta, Mint and Pomegranate Dressing

Watermelon Salad with Avocado, Feta, Mint, and Pomegranate Dressing

  • about 1 lb watermelon, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 avocados, cubed
  • 6 oz solid feta, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 2 sprigs of fresh mint
  • 1 cup unsweetened, pure pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

In a small saucepan, bring pomegranate juice, sugar, and maple syrup to a simmer and reduce to form a thin simple syrup.  Set aside in a container to cool.

Layer watermelon, avocado, and feta in a large serving bowl.

Pick the mint leaves from the springs and chiffonade.  Sprinkle leaves across the top of the feta layer.

Serve with dressing on the side (the most attractive presentation) or toss with simple syrup dressing just before serving.

 

2013: The Rundown

5 Jan

Even though I didn’t have this platform at the beginning of 2013 to share my goals, I thought it would be fun to look back at the year to see the pluses and deltas (the former inner city educator in me still rules my assessment technique vocabulary).  Reflection is a handy tool when setting yourself up for success in the future.

Resolutions

Running/Fitness

  • 2 Hour Half–  I was thrilled to complete a sub-2 hour marathon in March (at Zooma Texas which gave out PR medals last year… totally sweet perk!), which meant I quickly reloaded this goal to a 4 hour marathon.  Leah (my coach) and I set my training sights on a 4 hour finish at the BCS Marathon in December… which didn’t happen.  The 4 hour marathon goal will show up once again in 2014.

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

  • 25 Miles a Week– I was hoping to put in enough mileage over the year to average at least 25 miles for the year.  My actualization? 623.71 miles for the year which averaged out to 11.9 miles a week.  Weak.  464 of those miles were January-May.

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

  • Take Class–  In 2013, I wanted to commit more to taking dance classes instead of just teaching.  I did a great job during the summer when my training was stalled, but I didn’t come close to the diligence I was hoping for… probably because I didn’t really establish a measurable goal.

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

Personal

  • Personal Blog– I enjoy sharing my thoughts with the interwebs, but before when I was blogging for other people’s sites I really only got to share on a limited scope.  I wanted a platform to simply do my own thing on whatever topics and whatever pace seemed natural.  After I had surgery in June, I found the time to start this blog.  Hooray!

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

  • Artisan Bread Baking– I wanted to greatly improve my artisan bread baking skills and push myself to try a new type of bread baking each month.  I had visions of bigas, starters, and soakers. Empty visions.  In reality, I greatly improved my bread baking prowess on my go to bread recipe and did a great job at adapting that recipe to high altitude baking, but I didn’t really push myself out of my comfort zone.

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

  • Learn Basic French– Knowing that Baby Bird will start French school Fall of 2014 made me keen to start learning basic French in 2013.  We started working with a French tutor weekly in August and my comprehension has greatly improved, but I frequently defer to The Hubs to speak for me… even in a lesson.  I need to get braver.  I’m a big girl.

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

Parenting

  • French Vocabulary– So that Baby Bird doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the dual changes of starting school and learning a new language in Fall of 2014, I wanted to help her to learn French in 2013.  She loves her French tutor, sings French nursery songs, and surprises us frequently by incorporating terms into her daily speech so this one feels like a victory!

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

  • Number Sense– When I was a teacher, I was shocked by the number of students I would see in middle school who didn’t have a basic understanding of what numbers represented.  It was my goal for 2013 to help Baby Bird develop a basic understanding of numbers and number concepts through play and manipulatives.  I feel that she has an appropriate understanding of numbers for someone with her cognitive development level which she has demonstrated through her basic usage and actions.  Awesome!

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

  • Social Skills– More easily put, 2013 was the year of establishing “Don’t be an a-hole” social basics and empathy training.  Obviously, I’m not using the term “a-hole” with my toddler but when we boil it down, that’s what this goal represents.  We worked on empathy, affirmations, and managing and respecting big emotions.  In the end, I have a toddler who can identify and acknowledge many of her emotions, verbalize them, and let me know when she needs a quite time or to have a conversation… most of the time.  And some of the time she still melts down.  Because she is two.  All in all, she is better emotionally equipped for life than I was at 25.  Win.

2013: The Rundown- Go Running, Mama!

Race Recap

The first quarter of 2013 was packed with races.  We kicked things off with a bang at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend at which my husband ran the half marathon as an easy training run (1:25:42) and I ran The Goofy Challenge- a back to back half (2:33:01) and full marathon (5:23:57).  They certainly weren’t my fastest finish times, but the name of the game was completing each day’s race with enough remaining energy to enjoy the rest of the at the parks with Baby Bird.

Go Running Mama- WDW Marathon 2013

If you’ve never run a Disney race, I highly recommend it.  Disney puts just as much attention to detail into their race courses as they into everything else- fabulous scenery in and out of the parks, character stops (not my thing when I’m running, but a fun break for many), ample aid and restroom stations, great entertainment and music, fantastic crowd support, and tons of little magical surprises.  Once your running, it’s easy to ignore the fact that you had to get up at 2:30 am to ride the monorail to EPCOT to make your corral call time of 5 am or some such nonsense.

The Goofy was my first back to back race and marked my highest mileage week ever.  And it was HOT for a January race- thankfully I’ve trained through an Austin summer.  I was a little tired and a LOT nervous on marathon day, especially since I realized that the only way I would be able to run comfortably would be in my sports bra since I’d packed running gear for a colder temperature.  That was a big move for a woman who had a baby less than two years prior and a major “shirtless” victory for a lady with some lingering post-partum body image issues.

Additionally, I was corralled back further than I should have been and I didn’t want to wait in the corrections line at the expo because we might have missed our dinner reservations with Mickey so I decided to simply run with the corral I was assigned.  This turned out to be a blessing in disguise- since my assigned corral’s start was so delayed I was able to see The Hubs in his final miles as I was within my first five, and two days of having to run around slower people who started ahead of me provided enough of a push to buckle down in my training to start running the paces I was capable of (at least for a good six months).  All in all it was a fabulous experience that I will definitely repeat (next time with a better corral), even if I spent a good portion of down time chilling in Baby Bird’s stroller following the marathon.

WDW Marathon- Go Running, Mama!

One month later, I ran the Austin Half Marathon (2:24:59) pacing my dear friend Rachel through her first race ever (That’s EVER y’all… no 5k or middle school track meet to speak of in her past!).  Her goal was to finish in 2:30 or better, so 2:24 was an awesome result.  I hadn’t had much time since WDW to make any real progress which was fine since that race was about Rachel and not me.  Even better than sharing a personal victory with one of my closest friends was the fact that The Hubs finished the marathon in 3:00:07, securing his BQ for 2014.

Go Running, Mama!- My BRF's Runiversary

Once Austin was over, my amazing coach Leah helped me buckle down and make some serious progress.  My goal was to run a sub 2 hour marathon the next month.  A PR by 23 minutes is totally reasonable, right?  When I joined my girlfriends for Zooma Half Marathon (1:58:34) in March is was ready to make the most of any improvement that could be made from a month of hard work.  My mama friends and I stayed at the Hyatt Lost Pines the night before the race and had a wonderful, relaxing girls’ night out before race morning.  With the support of my good friend Casey who met me on the golf course and paced my last few miles after her 5k, I managed a sub 2 hour finish followed a lot of happy tear and hugs with Casey and a fabulous brunch with the ladies.

Go Running Mama- Run Gorgeous

After my Zooma success, I buckled down ready to try my hand at some night trail races during the summer to vary my training before my fall race schedule, but that didn’t really end up working out as planned.

Bumps in the Road

Once I’d really built up some great training momentum in June, I had a brush with melanoma and had to have surgery.  Total bummer!  My incision was on my abdomen, right where my running shorts rubbed which further delayed my training.  When I could finally start running again it was in the dead heat of Austin summer… pretty oppressive.

In September I was diagnosed with mono and a severe Vitamin D deficiency which once again stopped me in my tracks.  Fall races? Cancelled.

In November, Baby Bird got pretty sick and our family was introduced to febrile seizures.  As every mama knows, the health of your family trumps all “me” time activities so there was no time for stress reliving activities but plenty of stress… which led to some time at the cardiologist for me.  Makes total sense for a marathon running, health conscious (moderately) young woman.

It’s all made it interesting and made us really flexible.  And compared to the hardships faced by multitudes of families these were infinitesimally small challenges.  And they will make the high points of 2014 even sweeter!

Relax, Mama: Sun, Run & Fun

29 Jul Go Running, Mama!- Run, Sun, Fun during family vacations

It’s summer.

It feels like summer outside, but it doesn’t feel like summer in my mind.

Does that make sense?  It probably makes sense to most moms.

I started the summer with a sizable list of things I wanted to accomplish, and the list has grown instead of receding.  Not only are the to-do’s piling up, but I feel like I haven’t managed to squeeze in any of the fun summery things that make me love Austin oh-so-much.

*sigh*

During summer weekdays, the Baby Bird and I have only managed to make it to the pool once, Deep Eddy once, and Barton Springs once.  We haven’t made it to Art Park at all this summer.  We’ve squeezed in a bare minimum of green market visits.  We’ve yet to make it to visit the dairy goats to see “other mama’s who make milky.” (Oh yeah, I’m still nursing a toddler.  I may have neglected to mention that previously.)

It’s possible that my little scheduling blip while I had surgery several weeks ago is partially to blame.  It’s also possible that I’m learning to let go of all my highly idealized view of immersing my daughter in every experience under the sun to ensure she has the “best childhood possible” and instead am living in the moment with her more and more each day.  If we don’t get to take a “zoom zoom bus” ride through downtown to go see the “Texas Castle” (Capital building) and I don’t manage to have pictures of this fantastical journey to someday artfully arrange in her baby book we will all survive.  After all, you don’t have to have plans to make memories.

Relaaaaaax, Mama.

It’s a lesson both Baby Bird and the hubs are working hard to drive home for me which is good… because I’m a planner over-planner.

Sometimes my type-A tendencies can beat my hippie lala leanings into submission.

The hubs and I had a beautiful, organic, dog-friendly, earth-friendly, locally sourced wedding.  I planned it.  And the entire wedding party may have had color-coded schedules telling them where to be by the minute for three whole days.  And some of the guys still drank too much (that was NOT on the schedule) and were late to the rehearsal… and the wedding.  Guess what, Mama (See how I’m talking to myself here!?)? It didn’t detract from the experience or the memories at all.

Go Running, Mama- Sun, Run & Fun

When Baby Bird turned two I decided to scale back from the soiree I threw for her first birthday and just have a little play date lunch party at home. I made individual sized pizza crusts in the shape of Mickey silhouettes in that each child could customize for lunch (you know… totally laid back), created a craft, and made four dozen Mickey silhouette cookies iced in plain-white so that kiddos could decorate their own cookie with food markers. For an hour and a half long lunch party.  For two year olds.  The kiddos slapped together pizzas, ravenously gulped down Mickey faces, and then had playtime free for all.  Not a single cookie was decorated by a toddler.  No one left with their craft.  Guess what, Mama (reminder to me, once more)? It was fabulously fun and the Baby Bird still talks about it.

Go Running, Mama- Sun, Run & Fun

Even when we visited Walt Disney World for Marathon Weekend- a place where hyper planning with a toddler in tow makes you a genius instead of a nuisance- I managed to go a bit overboard with excel files, itineraries, and an ADR schedule truly unrivaled in quality and value (How do I know, you ask?  I created a spreadsheet, studied menus and costs, and basically became a WDW ADR actuary.  Is that a thing?  It should totally be a thing!).  And though the memories created by my countless hours of planning are priceless, I’ve come to realize that the little one would have been just as happy waving at characters in passing and the parking herself on a curb near the castle to spend the day watching stage shows and passing parades.  And those memories would have been just as magical (although not nearly as tasty and value-packed).

Go Running, Mama- Sun, Run & Fun

I’m letting go of the schedule reins just a bit.  I promise.

Thankfully, the people I love most give me little pauses here and there that help me remember how fabulous life can be when we get to enjoy just being.  The past weekend, my little fam got the chance to join my parents at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort for a mini-vacation… and a chance to refocus on such moments.

Having grandparents with us also gave us the added bonus of couple time without having to take a “couple” trip- we could hang out withe Baby Bird but also spend time on our own while the little one napped or needed quiet time.

I, of course, prepared for the weekend by creating a mental checklist of everything I wanted to do while there- run such-and-such distance at such-and-such pace each day, workout early each morning, study my French, menu plan for our big vacation trip, menu plan for the next few weeks……….

Go Running, Mama!- Run, Sun, Fun during family vacations

What actually took place on vacation strayed from my list just a bit.  I didn’t menu plan.  At all.

I didn’t study a single French term.  Or even read.

I didn’t write.

I didn’t even run all of my runs the way they were set on my training plan.

Go Running, Mama!

I did run though.

I ran once once treadmill (Yuck! I had forgotten how much I hate treadmills!) because of the temperature and once with my husband (HUGE luxury we don’t frequently get with a toddler at home). We also enjoyed the opportunity to work out in a gym each day while grandparents played with Baby Bird on the beach at the pool.

Beyond that, I spent a good deal of time enjoying the company of my daughter and husband in the sun (which for me means frequent layers of SPF 70 , a sunhat, a nice shady spot given my Melanoma situation.)  I closed out the weekend blissfully slowed down.

Go Running, Mama!- Run, Sun, Fun during family vacations

Perfect timing too, because this week is a “dead” week for us.  No playgroup, no dance camp, no parties to plan- just time with the Baby Bird!  Normally it’s the type of week where I would be inspired to dust off the list of things we haven’t accomplished yet this summer, but thanks to my weekend reminder of the beauty of each moment I’m planning for our week off to be a bit different.

We aren’t going to be held hostage by anything- today that means Baby Bird is building castles around her beagles and sporting pink training panties, I’m fitting in exercises amidst spontaneous activities,  and I’ll be running in the evening instead of the morning.

Tomorrow?  Who knows.

All I know is that it should be glorious.

And memorable.

I’m planning on it 😉