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this year i decided to pass on another marathon. i am not ready to commit to the intense training involved.  the early morning runs, the long distance runs on the weekends that left me exhausted most of the day. the having to explain why i was late or could not do something because of the training. felt it was easier to lie in the end, sadly.

so this year on Jan 1st i signed up for the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon. the race offers a huge discount for signing up early. i couldn’t pass it up.

and today is Day 1 of another round of half marathon training.  roughly three months after my last training ended, so not too bad really.

last year while waiting for the Chicago Marathon lottery results, i was checking out the Detroit Free Press Marathon as a backup.  i researched hotels, their distance to the race, best place for burgers, brunch, etc… the important stuff.  and even though i won’t be tackling a marathon this year, i will still be running my favorite distance, 13.1.

and i am already planning the race weekend of course. that is how i roll.

this is what i found so far…

things to do:

  • a little culture: DIA.  one of my favorite places to zone out, get lost and wander.

fall is my absolute favorite.  so i am super excited to run a race, hang in Detroit for a couple of days and then head out on a little adventure… destination to be announced.

f.

The Kal – Haven Trail

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when the weather is too perfect to stay home, we try to head out on a little adventure.

so we locked our bikes onto the suv and headed west to the Kal – Haven Trail, a 34 mile limestone trail between Kalamazoo and South Haven, Michigan, formily a rail trail.

within two hours we arrived at the trailhead in Kalamazoo, Michigan. we grabbed a water bottle, packed some snacks and headed west.  no plan on how far or how long we were going to ride.  we just peddled away.

tip one:  check your tire air pressure and bring cash, including a few quarters, before you park at the trailhead and head out. once you start on the trail you are 13 miles away from a gas station to fill your tires.  

nine miles in we stopped in Kendall.  there was a convenience store to refuel and hydrate.

tip two:  if there is a spot to stop and purchase food or drink, stop. the ride is a long one with only a few towns in between to grab something right off the trail. 

we needed to fill my husband’s back tire with air, so we stopped in the town of Gobles. his tire was low for 13 miles, yikes. this was where that cash came in handy.

once our tires were filled and checked, we headed west again to the town of Blomingdale, the midway point of the trail.

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there was a gas station, a grocery store and a museum.  the museum was free and we received a tour a from a volunteer.  she asked if we wanted to sit in an antique electric chair that was from an institution, “helps with blood circulation.” we did and it still worked.

sit in it if you get a chance. not sure if it helped my blood circulate, but my whole body vibrated including my eyeballs.

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when we were ready to get back on the bikes, i was positive my husband was going to ask me if i wanted to head back, but instead he asked me, “Are you ready to go?”  i said i was, and we were off again.

almost five hours after the start of our ride we made it to the end point, South Haven.  we were hungry and ready for some food, so we continued riding into town for another mile.

we had no idea it was such a happening place.  people were out and about.  the town was packed with people.  we grabbed a lemonade and burger at Captain Lou’s, relaxed for about an hour and reluctantly headed back.

tip three:  we found biking from Kalamazoo to South Haven was a good choice.  we had to ride our bikes for an additional mile at the end of the trail, but ended up in a town with a few restaurants, people walking about, sort of a tourist area due to the beach and port. only disadvantage was we didn’t want to leave.

we took advantage of a store nearby to grab more water and headed back to Kalamazoo.

​but the ride back was rough.  we stopped in Bloomingdale again for a bit to hydrate and rest.

warning:  there is a bit of an elevation heading east.  not bad for a few miles, but after biking for 35 miles it was a bit rough on the quads.

by the time we arrived back at the trailhead parking lot in Kalamazoo and locked in the bikes, it was 8:30pm.  70 miles logged and 10 hours after we headed out.  yikes.

i was dizzy and i wanted to laugh and cry at how far and how long we rode.  my quads ached. and i hadn’t felt that much pain in my muscles since i ran the Chicago Marathon last October.

tip four: don’t underestimate the workout intensity of a long bike ride.  you should work yourself up to 70 miles, not go from 20 or 30 miles to 70 like i did.  think of it as training for a half or full marathon.  you build up the mileage.

we stopped at Chipotle to chow down on some grub, downed a couple of Advil and headed back home.

and i slept the entire way.

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f.

A Blueberry Buckle

July’s Treat of the Month:   A Blueberry BuckleDessert for Two

 

when i worked afternoons and midnights years ago, i watched Martha Stewart Living in the morning.  i became crafty.  i baked, embroidered, sewed and hosted parties… the show inspired me quite a bit over the years.

and now that summer is here and blueberries are in season, i decided to make Martha Stewart’s Blueberry Buckle.

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i halved the recipe for two and tweaked it just a smidgeon.


 

img_1033-4   A Blueberry Buckle for Two

Batter:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 large egg*
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups blueberries

* Whisk one large egg in a glass measuring cup and use half.  It works, trust me.

Streusel Topping:

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 cup flour
  • 3 tbsp buter, room temp

Prepare streusal topping:

In a small bowl, whisk dry ingredients.

Cut in butter using a fork until crumbs form. Squeeze the mixture together to form medium sized clumps. Refrigerate until use.


Heat oven to 350.

Spray a 6-inch springform pan with a baking no-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle pan with flour, coating sides and bottom. Tap out extra flour.

In a small bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

Tip One:  I use a fine mesh sieve to sift dry ingredients.

In a medium bowl using an electric mixer, mix butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1-3 minutes.  Reduce to low, add egg and vanilla.

Add the reserved flour mixture and milk, alternating, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Gently fold in blueberries.

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There are lots of blueberries in the batter. It’s ok to squish a blueberry or two.  It happens.

Pour batter into prepared pan.

Batter will be thick. Use a knife or tap pan on counter to smooth out batter, if needed.

Sprinkle streusel topping over cake.

Bake 60-70 minutes or until cake tester/toothpick comes out clean.

Tip Two:  If buckle is not baked completely after 60 minutes, set timer for 5-10 minute intervals and recheck.  I found my buckle baked for about 70 minutes.

Remove from oven.  Leave in pan 10 minutes on a cooling rack.

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Release springform latch and let cool before serving.

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enjoy!


 

 

then brew a cup of joe and grab a plate from that set you only reserve for special occasions. settle into your favorite spot… be it on the porch, in the breakfast nook or on the balcony, and enjoy a slice or two of blueberry buckle.

and with crumbs on plate and cup empty, i am pretty sure you will be ready to tackle that day ahead.

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guess that No-Bake French Silk Pie i made last august started a trend for me, desserts for two. fun, super cute and less food in my belly.

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– f.

 

 

 

 

Treat of the Month: Chocolate Chip Cookies

two of my husband’s favorite desserts are apple pie and chocolate chip cookies.  if i want to whip up something special for him, it is usually one of the two.  and i have more than one recipe for each stashed away.

problem is, whatever recipe i use, i get a “This is delicious.” super confusing, because i honestly don’t remember which recipe i used last.

my husband is funny, optimistic, plays Christmas music in November and wakes up smiling. me? i am more of a serious, pessimist, plays Christmas music two days before and wakes up grumpy kind of girl. so he totally deserves a cookie (ok, cookies) for putting up with me.

i decided to try this recipe by Joy the Baker, The Best Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.

“Wait. Those look nothing like Joy the Baker’s cookies!”

well, you are correct and let me write to you why.


img_1033-4   What I did and did not do.

Now I could have totally retyped her entire recipe, but seemed silly since I only slightly deviated from her recipe.

  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed -> 50/50 light and dark brown sugar

I wanted to use up the dark I had already in the pantry before opening the bag of light brown sugar.

  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour -> bread flour

I didn’t have any all-purpose flour.  Oops.

  • 1 cup bitter-sweet chocolate chips -> semi-sweet chocolate chunks

Leftover from another cookie recipe.

I found the sea salt still unopened amongst our spices, while looking for coarse sea salt.

One issue I noticed using the chocolate chunks was they seemed to be competing with the pecans for a place in the scoop.

I wonder how many cookies are missing chocolate.

And I missed a few important steps along the way, like “remove the butter from the burner and immediately pour it into a small bowl” to stop the butter from cooking and burning.  Mine, the bits were slightly more of a really dark brown vs amber color.

Also, the only difference I could find, via internet, in regards to using bread flour vs all-purpose flour is that bread flour has a slightly higher protein content.  Super good for us runners though, right?! 😉  And that the bread flour may give the cookie a chewier texture.


i sampled three, ok so maybe five, of these cookies.

no chewy texture noted, still crispy. and the cookies baked poofier. maybe due to the bread flour?

i also think i will ease up on the amount of sea salt i sprinkle on top next time or eliminate it all together.

i will let my husband be the judge.

cookie,

f.

oh, the yield!  totally depends on the scoop size you use.  my scoop yielded 31 cookies to be exact.

Me and My Bicycle


it has been an interesting year my friends.

i could discuss my troubles and woes with you all, but we all have troubles and woes.  and i have never really been good at the discussing part.

there has been sadness, frustration and very little patience.  became so bad that i became apathetic to bad news… bring it on world!  but there was a birth, a life being created and the sun came up everyday, the flowers bloomed, the hummingbirds migrated north… life continued.  tomorrow was another day (think Scarlett O’Hara, Gone With the Wind).


life is rough sometimes, but i like to think how we deal with it is how it defines us.  so i try to keep my chin up and try to remember to filter my thoughts before they escape my lips.  eek.

so this weekend my husband and i took a time out.

Wabash Cannonball Trail

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a trail built to serve as recreation and a utility corridor along an old abandoned railroad line, Wabash Railroad.  pretty smart idea wouldn’t ya say?

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so if times get tough runner friends just go for a run, a little bike ride or a walk. ditch the phone and take a look around you.  notice that oriole or that swallowtail flying around you… that bluebird peeking it’s head out of a birdhouse you happen to see along the way.

i think you will feel a little bit better in the end.

-f

 

 

 

 

Michigan, Northwest Coast

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my husband and i are off season vacationers. less crowds and easier to take time off work. plus, traveling north during the summer, holiday weekends especially, can be a nightmare.  everyone seems to head north.

so our first vacation of the year, mid May, we packed up the suv and headed north. i was a little skeptical, it being mid May.  temps up north can be all over the place, cool or warm and humid.

our first stop was Manistee, Michigan for our first kayak trip of the season, and third year kayaking the Pine River. then we headed north to Traverse City for a little shopping and relaxation.

the weather could not have been more perfect to be on the river.

thanks to the livery, Pine River Paddlesports, they cleared a portion of the river just in time for us to start our kayaking season. and it was a four hour trip with no “tippers.”  i like that.

the weather was warm and the sun peaked through the clouds.  enough sun i doused myself with sunscreen every so often to avoid the awkward tan lines.

and we were the only ones on the river. the only sound was a scream from me, when i almost hugged a rock despite my husband’s warning.  in my defense, all he did was point to something in the water and yell something i could not hear.

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so if you decide to visit this area, i included some tips.

as for kayaking the Pine River, there are a few tricky curves, so pay attention.

tip one:  take pics when you are on a slower portion of the river. not when there is a curve up ahead or when you are about to head through some rapids. eek.  drop the phone or camera into that waterproof bag and grab that paddle. 

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Leelanlau and Benzie counties have been designated as the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  the livery driver, on our way to the drop off point, gave us a few suggestions on where to hike in the area for a scenic lookout of Lake Michigan and the dunes.

so we decided to hit the dunes and a few hiking trails the next day.

we drove up M-22 and stopped at this along the way.

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Point Betsie Lighthouse – Frankfort, Michigan
tip two: lighthouses are a plenty in Michigan, if you are interested.  they are worth a stop.  some are open to the public and some are privately owned, but there is always a photo op available.

the dunes we hit were near Empire, Michigan and involved a short hike.

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which was totally worth it.

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wonder if there is a petosky stone somewhere down there.
tip three: there are several access points to the dunes.  you can walk or climb the dunes. but if you are unable to walk or climb them, there are points you can view them.  the internet is loaded with suggestions. i would definately to try to climb them, if you are able to, however. cross training!

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tip four:  for exploring the dunes i love these Keens. water shoes you can hike in and get wet. they dry super fast and make it easy to shake that sand out. recommend these type of shoes over flip flops or tennis shoes.

we also learned there is a portion of the NCT (North Country Trail) that runs through Manistee County. yeah, no clue here.

somewhere during my search for where to hit the NCT near us, i found an article on a wooden suspension bridge near the Hopendyl Dam. so of course we totally had to check it out.

the bridge was a little tricky to find.

tip five:  if you end up at the dam, you went to far.  turn around and turn left at the first dirt road you come to heading back.  it isn’t marked “suspension bridge this way.”

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the bridge was pretty sturdy.  it felt a little wobbly while walking across, but these guys helped hold it into place.

super safe.

and over the bridge the NCT trail continued on.

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i started to walk down that path.

and i wondered how far i would have walked until i decided to turn back…

idea for future (cross training) post:  backpacking the NCT in Michigan.

stay tuned.

-f.


Manistee, Michigan

  • Hotel:  Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndhum – Inexpensive, clean. There is a microwave and refrigerator in the room. Plus, outside there is an outdoor faucet to rinse those water shoes off before entering the hotel.
  • Livery:  Pine River Paddlesports
  • Restaurants:  Ramsdell Inn and BlueFish
  • Shops: Snyder’s Shoes, Ideal Kitchen, Northern Vintage Decor
  • Movie Theatre: Vogue
  • Petosky Stones:  A rock containing fossilized coral. Sold everywhere in that part of the state, unless you are lucky enough to find one while wading near the lakeshores of Lake Michigan.

Petosky Stone 2007

🙂

my husband found one near Grand Traverse Lighthouse in 2007.

A Mother’s Day Brunch

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i love planning small, intimate brunches. my absolute favorite.

so i started a Mother’s Day Brunch tradition a few years ago, and since then i have held it at my house every year and at two different homes.

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a butter flower served on my mom’s china – an espresso cup saucer.

 

 

it’s my opportunity to make a meal all fancy (or Martha Stewart-y depending on who you talk to).

a place card just for mom using stamps and stickers from all those crafty years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the meal is pretty traditional. there is a frittata (lots of protein), baked cranberry/orange muffins (carbs), a berry fruit medley (carbs), earthy bread for toast (carbs) and good, strong coffee (for sanity) served.

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i use a pretty tablecloth, my best dishes and flowers.  the tablecloth varies, the flowers vary, but the dishes and menu stay the same.

 

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sometimes the butter shape varies also.  this year i decided to serve a butterfly flower.

big flowery hats are optional.

then with our belly full we head out to a greenhouse or two to buy flower and vegetable plants for our gardens for the season.


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A Mother’s Day Sausage and Vegetable Frittata

adapted from William Sonoma’s Summer Vegetable and Sausage Frittatas recipe

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/4 lb of cooked ground sage, pork/breakfast sausage*
  • 1 cup peeled, diced zucchini
  • 1⁄2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1⁄2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1⁄4 cup plus 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1⁄3 cup crumbled goat cheese

Tip 1:  If you cannot find pork sausage with sage at the grocery store, buy pork sausage and mix in dried or fresh sage to taste.

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Tip 2:  If you are like me and prefer to prep as much as possible in advance, cook the sausage and dice the vegetables an hour or two before hand.  Cover each with plastic wrap and place in the frige until use. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray an everyday pan with a no-stick baking spray. (Makes one large frittata that can be cut into wedges.  I don’t own oval gratin dishes at the moment.)

In a large bowl whisk the eggs.  Whisk in the cream, salt and pepper.  Add the cooked sausage, zucchini, bell pepper, onion, parsley, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and goat cheese. Mix until blended. Pour into the everyday pan.  Sprinkle top with 2 heaping tablespoons of parmesan cheese.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Frittata should be puffed and golden brown.

Serve warm.


While the frittata cools slightly, toast your bread.

And “Mangia, mangia!” as my little Sicilian mamma and Nonna would say.

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my litle Sicilian mamma

Happy Mother’s Day!

-f.