I Won the Lottery!!

I won the lottery!

Before you get excited, let me just say: I entered the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Lottery. This is not to be confused with the lottery that has a huge prize purse that is only marginally attainable. Instead of a prize purse, I received an entry into the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Race. Pick your pleasure, right?

From the Cherry Blossom website, it looks as though approximately 1/2 to 3/4 of the lottery's entrants were granted an entry.

Woohoo! Go, me!

No, seriously. Now, I have to go. As in run. As in train. To be able to run 10 miles again.

It shouldn't be too hard. I've got oodles of time. (The race is in April.) Plus, I've been entertaining my muscles with Pilates to get them strong. I did a 30 minute run yesterday without it being a big issue, which is a great start!

So, the plan is basically:
3 miles - December
5-7 miles - January
8-10 miles & speed work - February
10-12 miles & speed work - March
Race - April

Woop-woop! Back on the wagon.


GI issues resolved.

After a year and a half of issues, I finally went back to the GI doctor to get my diagnosis. I knew I was fine as long as I was dairy-free & gluten-free, but with the new boyfriend, new stressors, new house, etc. I wasn't adhering to my normal diet. Before my appointment, I binged for a week on gluten & dairy.

I hadn't felt that ill in a long time.

I had one more invasive exam with a few biopsies, but the results were all negative. It turns out that I don't have celiac's disease (HURRAY!). I do, however, have a gluten intolerance.

Gluten intolerance isn't an auto-immune disorder. A few online sources make it seem probable that gluten intolerance is a precursor to celiac's disease. That is the part which made me take notice. It's one thing to have celiac's disease & be required to be gluten-free for life. It's quite another to be gluten intolerant & to think that I may be able to not eat 100% gluten-free all the time. Must I really be gluten-free for life?

If gluten intolerance can eventually cause celiac's disease, then it's a good thing that I'm so body-aware. I've saved myself years of trouble.

Though, I have to mention - When I emailed my mother (the nurse) to give her my diagnosis, she said, "Looks like you had diagnosed yourself anyway - no charge."

This isn't going to be easy, but at least a minor slip-up isn't going to cause a major biological meltdown of my body. The more control that I exercise, the healthier I will be. And that's basically the mantra that I will need.

And thank god that we're an allergy aware culture!



As of Tuesday, I will be completely debt free. I've been slowly picking away at my student loan debt, but I was hoping that I'd use the good credit buildup for purchasing a house. But Jeff owns the house where we live, & I think I'm here to stay. So, I paid off my debt & am now a saving machine!!



Off & Running!!

Jeff & I went running again yesterday. He's much faster than I am, which is hil-a-rious when you think about how frequently I ran over the last few years & how he didn't. Well - at least we've made the pact: I'll get him to run more frequently, & he'll get me to run faster.

Today, we have plans to run again together. In order to run together, I have to jet to work early-early-early so I can be back home with time for a run. So, I'm getting up at 6:45 to ensure I get my run with Jeff in the afternoon.


In other news, we packed my entire apartment this weekend & moved most things to Jeff's house. Very few items from my apartment are left for the movers.

I'm almost all moved in!! Welcome to suburbia!!! Outside the beltway! Where's my paperbag for breathing into??


What a crappy day.

I had the crappiest day. It started with a bad morning at work, continued with a shitty afternoon, & ended with me realizing that I put a wedding on the wrong day in my calendar. When I got home, Jeff said, "I don't know if this is going to make you happy or not... but I was going to run for a mile or a mile and a half. Did you want to run together?"

It was great!! We only ran for a mile, but I was so happy!!


Work & other such things.

If you're wondering why the sudden surge of postings, I'll tell you - "Things" have finally calmed down. I've been working nonstop for the last few months on a project that "needs" me. While I like feeling needed, it would be nice to be slightly less needed.

Beyond that, I have a 1.5 hour commute (each way) to my client site. Initially, I loved it, & I was finishing a book every 3 days. Then, my neck started hurting from craning to read while on the bump-bump-bumpy ride with the stop&go mass transit. Now, I've changed to tolerating it, & I'm finishing the news, crossword puzzle (what's a 4-letter word used while running?), & sudoku. All on the same day! The next thing? Plan out the front garden/read gardening books. & then back to reading.

Speaking of reading, I've been exercising my library card lately. Today, I picked up 2 gardening books (one mid-atlantic region) & a strength training book. I figured that the book will be due when it's time to change the strength training program.

In a few weeks, I get to see my sister & then go to trapeze class with my friends Kerri & Casey. How exciting!!

Oh! & yesterday, I ran for 25 minutes. Because... it's time to start the habit.

Tonight, I am going swimming with my friend Stacey. I've printed out a workout for her (endurance/peak) & one for me (endurance/beginning). It should be fun!


Dangerous questions.

I'm going to visit some family in Connecticut in a few weeks, & I got this email from my sister:

"Are you bringing your bike?"


Conversation ensues about how she would bring hers if I would bring mine. & this... THIS!! is how I got into all that trouble last year with racing.

"Are you racing _____?"
"I'm not sure. Are you?"
"I will if you will."
"Okay. I registered."

At least all of my bike gear (minus the bike) lives in the trunk of my car.


Officially withdrawn.

I officially withdrew from the Patriots Half Ironman today. While I realized that I wasn't going to be able to race, I had forgotten that I could withdraw & receive a refund.

I hadn't been able to find time for training. Pushing myself to compete in the Half wasn't required. I'm tired of pushing-pushing-pushing for races, races, races. Partly because of the team environment that dominated my free time, I was enticed to enter into too many races & to practice more than I wanted. I had forgotten that I actually *like* to run, bike, & swim.

I went for a jog last Friday. The trails around Jeff's house are very peaceful. I've seen deer & other animals on the trails. (A fawn was born just beyond the neighbor's lawn in the copse!) My runs were good, overall. I just wished that I had more stamina. (& speed - but first things first)

I cleaned my bike & regreased my chain yesterday. So, there will be biking in my future. :) I'm still swimming with Stacey when I get the chance. It's a lot of fun.

I've also been spending time in the front flowerbeds. They WERE more like weedbeds, but now they're just large patches of dirt. My hamstrings were KILLING me after doing all of that manual labor.

So, that's what I've been up to lately.


What I've been doing...

I've been failing to update my blog for quite some time lately. There has been a little bit of training. But mostly - I just lack the time to write anything worthwhile. After a bit of nudging from a friend of mine, here's a brief update of what I'm doing lately.

1. Staying at Jeff's place every night since mid-May. While it is only a 15 minute commute from my apartment in Dupont to my client, it is a 1.5 hour commute to & from Jeff's house to my client in Chinatown. Let this be a testament to how much I enjoy spending time with him.

2. Due to #1, I've been reading a lot. A LOT. In the last 3 days, I've finished 3 books. Taking the bus & train to my client alleviates any stressful driving situations & lets me breeze through my stack of unread books. Also, I picked up a library card.

3. Stacey lives 10 minutes from Jeff. I never got to see enough of Stacey before, & now I get to see her more often. We've also become swimming buddies, which is hugely fun. I admit: I'm jealous of her endurance & want to be able to keep up with her (again).

4. Running. I ran once. Woohoo. A simple 25 minute jog where I explored the backyard trails (into the park) & tested my running legs. All in all, a good run.

5. Planning weekends away with Jeff. We've got 4 weekends of adventure in summer - 4th of July, 2 weddings, & one trip we took last weekend. Also, we will be attending this year's Austin City Limits Festival. Woohoo!!

6. Taking Peter to the vet. Peter has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is basically a genetic heart disease. After we found the issue (late October of last year), Peter's been to the doctor a number of times. First, he was put on a cheap medication, which stopped working after a few months. He stopped eating & being social. Now, we've changed his medication. There is a higher possibility of side effects on these, but they are controlling his arrhythmia, blood pressure, & the progression of his heart disease. Here's hoping. It's hard to deal with bcause Peter is my little buddy. Peter was always my cat, & Charles was more of my ex's. ^&YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUY&UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhbgvbhjjjjjjjjjjjjjj - Peter says hi by the way.

Charles just puked next to me. I think he sensed that I was typing about Peter & wanted some attention. Ick. Well, at least it's on Jeff's side of the bed. (Just kidding, hon!)

On that note, I'll leave it here & go clean up.


We are sooo close.

Update: I only had "a" flu this time, & I've officially kicked it.

I could run tonight. (TONIGHT!!!!) I'm staying at Jeff's, & I've surreptitiously brought over my running gear in anticipation of unleashing my slow running capability onto the town of Herndon. I could run tonight... (TONIGHT!!!!) If only I hadn't scheduled a delivery of 150 iced sugar cookies & a groom's cake for this Saturday. I'm behind, & I'd like to be away from the kitchen on Wednesday to treat the boyfriend to a movie night.

Damn. The things me & my fat ass do when we don't triathlon...

I haven't gone for a swim in a month even though my swimming gear (i.e. suit, goggles, & cap) is brazenly hanging in Jeff's bathroom. The bike sits forlornly at my place & has a 1/4 inch of dust on it. I may need to fix all of these things soon.

Jeff says that the WOD is right near his place, & I could take it "all the way out to Leesburg", which isn't that far on a bike (about 12 miles). However, I could snag a 50 mile ride if I biked from his place to the end of the W&OD. Upon learning this & reading Athena Diaries, I realized that I do miss riding. As I can't bring my bike over to Jeff's & then say, "Gee! How'd that get here?!" I got permission to bring my bike to his place (not that I need to ask but it's always nice to ask).

Now, all I have to do is start e.x.e.r.c.i.s.i.n.g. And also not wear my cleats in the house.



My back is finally healed. As soon as I kick this version of strep (the third this year), I'll be back on my feet again.

I can't wait.


In the meantime...

While my back was healing, I went to Europe with my Mom. Pictures are on Picasa.



Back update.

Just to let you know (for those of you who don't). I've broken three bones in my back. Three of my transverse processes (tongue depressor shaped bones attached to my vertabrae) are broken. The doctor says they are very minor fractures, & that I should not be extremely worried about them.

The doctor advised that I return to my normal level of activity. To which I replied, "So, I can run?" His response, "Urrr... no. Well, maybe you could try on a treadmill very slowly & only for a few minutes. Discomfort is allowed - Pain is not." So, I decided to try swimming with my friend Stacey first.

Swimming with Stacey was a lot of fun. I had mild discomfort & slight pain when I breathed on my right side with my freestyle stroke. Trust me when I say - I took it very easy still. Even my kicking was fairly slow. I drifted to my right on plenty of occasions. I managed to do breast stroke for a while without issues, which made me happy.

This slip down the stairs has forced me into reassessing my goals for the year. I had planned on completing the half Ironman in September, but I may not be able to cycle until June/July.

We shall see.


Tomorrow starts training...

.... except I fell down some stairs yesterday.... while carrying a stack of 8 plates & 8 forks, a glass of wine, & my phone. The only thing that survived that fall-bump-bump was the glass of wine.

I had to take the day off from work. I needed assistance to complete my abbreviated bedtime ritual. Sometimes, it hurts to walk. Running tomorrow is completely out of the question. I am having the worst luck. But at least I have a good boyfriend who will sit & care for me while he was supposed to be entertaining guests.

Silver linings!


M.C. Bakes-a-Lot.

I have news. First, I wrote out my triathlon schedule for the Half Ironman in September. I haven't heard back from the doctor yet, but I feel very healthy. So, we'll see.

Second, remember my first paid baking gig (i.e. the baby shower onesie)? Well, I have 2 more paid baking gigs approaching.

The earliest one happens in a few weeks. I will be making gluten-free dairy-free cupcakes for a friend's engagement party. Flavors haven't been decided upon yet. The couple is going to let me know what they want.

The next paid baking gig is A) larger & B) more stressful. I'll be making a groom's cake for a friend's wedding. I'll also be making the wedding favors.

The groom's cake is going to be a lot of fun. My 30th birthday is approaching, & I had planned an evening or two of cake decorating as a present to myself. Now, those evenings will serve as practice for the groom's cake. Fondant, artistic decorations, etc. I'm so excited!!

The wedding favors are a little more tricky. You see - I only make cookies one time per year, & I rarely make sugar cookies. & I rarely decorate any of my cookies with icing. It'll be good practice (which I've already started). The best part? My boyfriend has offered his HUGE kitchen as my baking playground. My kitchen has one 16"x20" counter where I can work. His has .... maybe 5 times that.

So, here goes nothing (now with elbow room).


How doctors should be.

First, let me say - I dislike going to the doctor. I normally walk in the office, wait with a bunch of sick people, see the doctor for 10 minutes, get his/her advice, & then get a prescription for whatever s/he thinks is the problem (which may not be the actual problem).


Now, I've luckily found a doctor that A) I like & B) is excellent. Here's how it goes down:

1. I walk into the office, talk to the receptionist, & pay my deductible.
2. I am given a pee cup, which I take care of.
3. I wait for 5 minutes in the waiting room.
4. The phlebotomist calls me, & I take care of filling a few vials of blood samples.
5. I wait in the waiting room again.
6. I get interviewed by the nurse, who takes my blood pressure, weight, & temperature.
7. I wait for a little longer.
8. I finally see the doctor, who has all the results of my bloodwork & urine. She knows what's wrong & we figure out a plan of attack.

Wouldn't you prefer the doctor's office to work that way?


Training may start again in April. I'm hoping for the first or second week. Woohoo!!



I've been sick - as you know. It seems that the infection is finally gone (*crosses-fingers*), but time will tell. I've felt better since day 2 of the 2nd round of antibiotics.

My plan is to start running in 2 weeks or so. I've got to ensure that my infection is gone for good. It sucks having an internal organ be sick.

Since I can't run/bike/swim, I've been cooking & spending a lot of time with the new boyfriend, who thinks my foodstuffs walk on water. (I've decided to keep him.) This weekend, I made a trial burger recipe that will be entered into a cookoff when I finish it, tacos, & a meatloaf. I had plans for a strawberry rhubarb "something", but I ran out of time.

The good doctor says that I lost 6 pounds during the month of sickness. As you can see from above, I'm trying to regain that 6 pounds in a weekend of eating.

The boyfriend is also worried about his impending weight gain due to my voracious cooking & baking habits. (He's also decided to keep me.) As my number 1 taste tester, the boyfriend says that we need a plan to keep him from gaining weight from all my quality kitchen time. My answer was "running." His answer was "no."

Well, a girl can dream, can't she?


Yer out.

What a bummer.

I've been decommissioned from the Cherry Blossom 10-miler. Apparently, my strep infection never went away - even though I was antibiotics for 10 days. This time, I'm to refill the antibiotics if I continue feeling icky.

No running. Therefore, no racing.

It's time for this infection to go. SERIOUSLY!!


Homemade popcorn.

My apologies for the lack of postings. I've been sick. AGAIN. With a fever. AGAIN. I thought fevers were so 1980s?

This weekend, I only had a chance to run about 1.8 miles until I had no energy, wondered what was going on, & then ... BOOM! sick!

Just before I got sick this last time (AGAIN!), I made a really fun flavored popcorn at home. Today, I saw a Chile Lime Tequila Popcorn recipe at 101 Cookbooks, & it reminded me to post this.

Smoky Sweet Popcorn

small dash of chipolte chili pepper
a few good shakes of smoked paprika
about 3 teaspoons (or more) of sea salt
a good drizzle of honey
1/2 cup of unpopped popcorn
enough oil to coat the bottom of a good pot
(& every good pot needs a lid)

So, I don't have a microwave. I do this the stove top way - which is to throw the oil into a big pot (with a good lid) & turn stove up to high/medium high. Drop 3 kernels of unpopped popcorn into the pot & close pot with lid.

When all 3 have popped, the pot is ready! Throw the popcorn into the pot & close with the lid. Lower heat. Shake back & forth periodically until popping has stopped/mostly stopped. Kill the heat. Throw in the seasonings (except the honey & remember - you can always add more but you can't add LESS), put the lid on the pot, & shake to cover all the popcorn.

Taste. Add more whatevs if you need. The popcorn should be smoky flavored & a little spicy. Drizzle with honey to complete the flavor & enjoy!!


See? I told you I could do low-cal. :)


Vanilla bean cupcakes with Nutella frosting.

This month's IronCupcake challenge was coffee. I never submitted a recipe, but I did create a cupcake & icing combo that worked really well. I'd say these are my best cupcakes to date.

Vanilla bean cupcakes with Nutella frosting!!

Here are the recipes:

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

* 1 vanilla bean
* 1 cup white sugar
* 1/2 cup butter
* 2 eggs
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (good quality)
* 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 & 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
* 3/4 cup milk


0. Two days prior to making cupcakes, slice the vanilla bean open & scrape out all of the seeds. Keep the seeds in an airtight container, & place the bean in the 1 cup of sugar in another airtight container.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter and vanilla seeds. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan.
3. Bake 30 minutes - Makes 12 cupcakes.

Adapted from:

Nutella frosting

* 1 cup confectioners sugar
* 1 cup Nutella
* 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1/4 cup heavy cream
* <1/4 cup brewed coffee

Place the confectioners sugar, Nutella, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Put cream into a 1/3 cup measuring cup & add enough coffee to fill the cup. Add the cream mixture and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Adapted from:


Don't let hurricanes hold you back.

Oh, Triathlon. You are like the girlfriend that I just can't quit.

Here I am.
At work.
Reading all about DC Tri Club.

Looking at their race calendars.
Ogling their pool options.
Dreaming about their NW chapter.

It's official. I'm swooning for Triathlon. All I want to do is swim, bike, run.

So, maybe I'll hit DC Tri Club? Sign up for the Patriots Half? After all, I do have all of the paperwork filled out.

Bossman was right - I'm not really quitting.

Speaking of which, time to get back to work.

Marathon relay.

Edit: I didn't run for 3 weeks prior to this race due to illness. I should note that I was pleased that I even finished.
On Sunday, I relayed a marathon with my friend Stacey & her friend Paul.

Initially, I was to race with Marlene & possibly Jen. Then, Marlene & I were looking for a 3rd. Stacey joined the team. Then, Marlene injured herself. Finally, we found Paul 3 days before the race.


Race morning, I tried to stop for a red light. We were cruising downhill so fast that we ended up in the middle of the intersection. "Oh, well," I said. & we continued through the red light. Nice.

When we arrived at the race, we decided that our name should be "The Red Light Runners". We registered, estimated our times for each other, & then Stacey was OFF!

Stacey did the 9.7 mile run. When she finished her portion & arrived at the relay corral (at her time estimate), she looked exuberant & like she pushed herself pretty hard. I gave her a quick hug, took the relay sash, & was OFF!

I did the 7.3 mile run. About 5 miles into the race, I wanted to start walking. The course was ALL HILLS. When I realized that I was almost to the relay corral, I was absolutely ecstatic. NO MORE HILLS!! I was tuckered by my finish, but I still did well. (Very close to my time goal.)

I handed off my sash to Paul, & he was OFF! Stacey & I drove to the race finish - hooting & cheering to the runners along the way. Some runners gave us "the marathon stare of death", which we ignored. We changed & ate Clif bars & used The Stick to roll out our muscles & waited for Paul. Right on schedule, Paul showed up to cross the finish line. Hugs for everyone!! We headed back to the race start, grabbed some greasy chili & foodstuffs, & proceeded to want naps very badly.

Later that evening, Stacey, Paul, & I hit Adams Morgan for beers & dancing. It was a whole heckuva lot of fun. My legs surely didn't want to dance, but I made them anyways. Go figure - the next day, my legs were *almost* fine.

So, that's the story, Morning Glory. Paul's got a picture of The Red Light Runners, but I have to get a hold of him to get it. I'll post when I get it.



i got promoted today! woop-woop!



3 weeks until the GW Marathon! Yes, the marathon! Surprise! I'm running the GW Marathon!!

Okay, I'm only relaying. Still - Surprise!

& 10 weeks until the Cherry Blossom 10-miler! :)

Last weekend, I ran 5 miles. I had to walk a little as my pacing was too fast & as my heart rate monitor needs new batteries. This weekend, I'll be running 6. Hopefully, I'll be more consistent this time.

In a week, I will decide if I'll be racing the Patriots Half in Williamsburg, VA, in '09. 75% of me says that I'll be racing. The other 25% wants to ensure that my training isn't inhibited by my trip to Europe with my Mom.


My boss asked me the other day if I thought that I would "actually be quitting the triathlon stuff." To which, I replied, "I'm only relaying a marathon, doing the Cherry Blossom 10-miler, maybe an 8k in March, & possibly the half Ironman in September. That's really nothing."



IronCupcake Challenge: Wine

The secret ingredient for this month's cupcake challenge was wine. What I immediately thought of was - mulled wine. Nothing is as comforting as a warm mug of spicy wine on a frosty evening.

The cupcakes were very classic - a tried & true recipe where I substituted almond extract for vanilla. It gave the cupcakes a depth of flavor that complimented the wine icing very nicely.

I was lucky this month to have my friend Jessica bake with me, Sean to heckle us, & Hux as the remaining taste tester. We had a grand time - baking, drinking leftover mulled wine, chatting, & making an all-around mess of my tiny kitchen & living room. (All that baking cannot be contained in one room!!)

What didn't work this time:
- Dropping cherries into the cupcakes. The taste of the cherries inside was perfect. It would've been amazing, but they sank like rocks. Next time, we're going to try dusting them with flour. Word on the street is that may keep them from sinking.

- The first icing recipe. Jess & I made an incredibly delicious icing recipe on our first try, but it became hard like decorating icing. (You know - the kind that you make hard sugary flowers out of.)

What did work:

- The cake recipe. These cupcakes are nearly perfect. Not very sweet. Nicely textured - very light. Very, very good. This one is a keeper.

- The 2nd frosting recipe. The 2nd icing recipe had almost a marshmallow texture. It was a very fun purple color, & the sweet/spicy taste was nicely paired with the almond cupcakes. I really enjoyed this cupcake & frosting combination.

Here is my recipe for the IronCupcake challenge this month. All pictures from this endeavor are listed on my Picasa site.

Mulled Wine Frosting


* 1 & 1/2 cups sugar
* 2/3 cup red wine
* 2 egg whites
* 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or 2 teaspoons light-colored corn syrup
* 1/2 tsp cinnamon
* 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
* 1/4 tsp ground cloves


1. Combine the sugar, wine, spices, egg whites, and cream of tartar in the top of a double boiler. Using an electric mixer on low speed, beat the ingredients for 30 seconds to combine.

2. Boil a small amount of water in the bottom of the double boiler. Place the top of the double boiler, with the frosting ingredients, on top. Cook the frosting on medium heat, beating constantly with the mixer on high speed, for about 7 minutes, or until the frosting forms stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted. Taste. Add more spices if needed & beat in additional spices. Allow the frosting to cool; it should be slightly warm or at room temperature when you use it. Discard any leftovers. Store frosted cake in a cool, dry place until ready to serve.

Adapted from:


Almond Cupcakes

* 1 cup white sugar
* 1/2 cup butter
* 2 eggs
* 2 teaspoons almond extract
* 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 & 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
* 3/4 cup milk


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the almond extract. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan.
3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes.

Adapted from:


This is a competition, & I am competing for the following items. I do not expect to win, but I surely had a good time trying!

Our January ETSY PRIZE-PACK is from artists:

* DOGBONE ART - http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=22042
* as well as a pair of cupcake earrings from LOTS OF SPRINKLES at http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=6057281.
* PLUS, IronCupcake:Earth can not forget our good friend, CAKESPY, http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5243382, who is now going to be doing a piece for our winner each month until further notice - sweet!

As an added bonus for January, our friend at SWEET CUPPIN CAKES BAKERY AND CUPCAKERY SUPPLY will be tossing in another treat as well, http://www.acupcakery.com/index.html.

Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, http://www.fiestaproducts.com, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, http://blog.hellocupcakebook.com, JESSIE STEELE APRONS http://www.jessiesteele.com; the CUPCAKE COURIER http://www.cupcakecourier.com; TASTE OF HOME books, http://www.tasteofhome.com. NEW, BEGINNING IN JANUARY; our new friends at UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM http://www.upwithcupcakes.com/ will be providing our winner with one of their cute cupcake attitue t's! Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, http://www.1800flowers.com .


Can an administration change a city?

I asked my colleagues 4 years ago if an administration change makes a difference for the District of Columbia. Now, I know the answer.

On Wednesday, November 5th (one day after the election), I flew to London for 3 weeks. When I returned, my city was alive with positivity. Could it be the holiday season? Was my city fueled by good tidings due to holiday spirit?

Hell, no. We're not easily swayed by family, gatherings, Christmas, & good feelings! We're career-focused! We're too busy to be happy & courteous!!

For example: When I go grocery shopping, I normally move out of other shoppers' way, I say excuse me, & I am a decent human being. The unknown shoppers don't even acknowledge my existence. Once, I accidentally bumped into someone when the store was crowded. The woman that I bumped said, "Excuse you!" when I attempted to apologize. DC people - angry. Period.

When I returned from London & went to the same grocery store, someone excused himself & moved out of my way. Shocking! I pulled away, looked at him, & stuttered a thank you.

Now, I know that's not a big deal, but let's examine more evidence. I noticed that city folks chatted with each other more often & friends wanted to meet more frequently. Everyone just seemed... happier.

Happiness. In my city. It's a Christmas Miracle!!

Then, I remembered that last Christmas DC wasn't that happy. We were still too busy & bottled with road rage anger.

I was hoping that the remembrance of how to be well-mannered, polite, & nice was related to the upcoming Obama administration & our new leader's character. Now, we've remained happy until today, which was Obama's inauguration.

I hope, dear readers, that we stay happy, focused, & courteous for many years - regardless of the reason & no matter what the future may hold. & if it is due to Obama, I hope that our leaders continue to inspire us to become better people.


Weekend update: Pilates & Striptease 101

Yesterday, I hit my first Pilates class. It would've been amazing if my glutes & thighs weren't already overworked from my home-grown strength training plan. Pilates was very fun, & I think I'll be attending every Saturday.

Today, I hit Striptease 101 with JKo. The instructions said to wear tights with boy shorts & heels. Wearing that crazy outfit & walking through Bally Total Fitness was unnerving. All the dudes on the machines were like "Baroo?"

Though, that was nothing compared to what happened when 10 Striptease ladies started working out in the aerobics room. JKo & I were laughing about it - "Man, I love this abs machine. I've been on it for an hour & a half with my mouth agape."

In class, we didn't remove any articles of clothing. Instead, we learned some challenging moves that seemed perfect for a striptease or erotic dance. Let me tell you - It was HARD. Think of it as Pilates with a sensual twist. You have to move confidently without effort, with attitude, & not look like you're going to fall over. We wouldn't want the men laughing in the middle now, would we?

We even had to pick stripper names, who we were dancing for, what we were wearing, etc. etc. I just (internally) giggled & giggled & was glad I was only asked for my "name." Creating a mental scenario helped get everyone focused. The next time we went through the routine, we looked like two rows of serious dancers. It was great!

I definitely want to take various types of dancing classes. It was such a blast. & the whole time, I was in heels - Not too shabby!


Recipe: Pasta sauce.

In 2004, I spent a summer with my friend Julian where we made pasta sauce at least once per week. I thought we had perfected our sauce every week. Now, I think I've managed to top that.

Ready? Here we go.

A Better Keri & Julian's Pasta Sauce
(based on K&J's pasta sauce & Giada DeLaurentis's Lamb Ragu)

2 shallots, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 jar of pasta sauce (or more) (or homemade)
12-14oz of chopped canned or boxed tomatoes (Muir Glen or Pomi)
1 cup of red wine
1/2 bag of frozen spinach (used Whole Foods loose, frozen spinach)
olive oil
1/4-1/2 tsp basil (optional)
1/2-3/4 tsp oregano (optional)

Place olive oil into very large skillet on high/high medium heat. Place garlic & shallot into the skillet & cook until softened. Add beef, salt, & pepper. When the beef is brown, add the cup of wine & reduce until almost non-existent. The beef is so flavorful at this point that you could probably use it for other dishes such as ground beef sandwiches, chili, shepherd's pie, etc.

Add the pasta sauce, tomatoes, & spinach. Heat thoroughly. Taste & add any required seasonings (more salt, basil, oregano, etc. etc.) Julian & I would sometimes add a little sugar. I didn't think it was needed in this case as the Muir Glen tomatoes were very sweet.

I ate this chunky sauce over rotini with dollops of ricotta cheese. Very tasty.


Living up to my nickname.

Hello, New Year! I have big hopes for you. If you're anything like 2008, we're gonna be good pals - I know it.

At the end of 2008, I quit my triathlon team, signed up for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler, went to a culinary class, cooked for a family of 10 three times in one week, finally visited South Of The Border, visited my family, listened to a violinist play on a beach under a lighthouse, & saw Cirque Du Soliel.

Not bad for a year's end.

For 2009, I finally attended a Yoga class at Yoga District - which was playful & fun. I reserved a spot for Saturday's Pilates class at the same studio. I've always wanted to do Pilates!!

Sunday, I'm attending a Striptease aerobics class. No, I'm not kidding. Yes, I am bringing a friend for this one. It's supposed to difficult but fun - Plus, I have to do my aerobics in heels. Don't fret - I have my physical therapist on speed dial.

Also, I found a Trapeze class in Baltimore. Think of it: Keri on the Flying Trapeze! (I hope I don't pee myself in fear.) I tried to wrangle my friend into this too, but she told me that we need to pace ourselves - maybe we'll do one crazy & new thing every month.

Sounds like a good resolution to me.