Enjoying Holiday Craziness

I blinked and suddenly realized that I missed a week of blogging.  Things have been going so fast lately that I forgot where I was!  I’m just going to use today to do a quick catch up on what has been going on around here lately.

When we arrived back from our week of Thanksgiving festivities, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the 11 inches of snow we received had melted away.  Obviously I was thinking about how much easier it would be to run.  Now that I push Mary for a majority of my runs, I was dreading pushing her on snowy roads.  Not only did the snow melt, but the weather got pretty warm.  I spent last week running in shorts and a long sleeve.  Not a bad way to start out the month of December.

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I think this is the last of the grass for a long while!

However, as I type this we are expected to get up to 10 inches of snow in the next 48 hours.  At some point I will admit that it is winter, but I am not quite ready to let go yet.

Along with making my coasters for holiday gifts, I have been showing Mary the fun of making holiday gifts.  She has been using her arts and craft skills to make ornaments.  Nothing like letting a 16 month old play in finger paints!

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Since it gets dark here around 5:00pm now, we have traded in our evening backyard time for some inside play.  We turned on the movie screen and Mary loved her first viewing of Frozen, of course.

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I have been enjoying work at the gym.  I adore spending time with new clients and my schedule is starting to really fill up.  I worked quite a bit this week and feel like I am starting to get into the swing of things.  I am so happy to see that the cold weather has people flocking to the gym.  Staying healthy through out the holidays is such a great way to go.  If you can fit some workouts in and focus on eating well most of the time, you will find that the holidays don’t have to end with complete damage control.

While many of my runners are also working on getting a good base in this winter, marathons are starting to open up for registrations and that is keeping me busy too.  In the midst of all of this I realized that I start training for Boston the day after Christmas.  I figure that is perfect timing after the fun that is likely to occur!

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A quick shoutout congrats to Elaine who ran a 40 minute marathon PR last weekend in the pouring rain!  And another congrats to my brother and sister-in-law who had a baby boy Monday evening.  This holiday season has already been incredibly exciting!

How are the holidays keeping you busy?

DIY Runner’s Gift For The Holidays

I’m not going to lie.  I love the holidays.  We were recently at Ikea and when we reached the first floor, there was a holiday section.  Rock took one look and said to me, “Walk away.  Walk slowly away.”

Ever since I had my first apartment on my own, I have loved decorating for the holidays.  I carefully have selected my decorations and the collection has grown over the years.  I wait until after Thanksgiving and then all bets are off.

I also love gifting for the holidays.  I grew up in a family where we enjoyed picking out gifts for each other.  As a kid, I was given $20 and a trip to the mall to pick out gifts for my entire family.  I carefully scoured the dollar store and Target, and was so proud of what I chose for everyone.  I still embrace gift giving and have become a huge fan of making gifts or gift baskets to share for the holidays.

Rock and I received some very thoughtful coasters as a wedding shower present, years ago.  Each coaster was a vintage map of a place that was important in our lives.  We love these coasters and receive so many compliments about them.

I decided to try my hand at making my own version of these coasters this year as a gift for my running clients.  The results were awesome.  You don’t have to stick with race bibs.  Pictures and race maps work so well.  I did do a few bibs, but in the picture below you see that I chose to do various race courses.

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Note:  Make a copy of a race bib if you go that route.  Using the actual bib is difficult due to timing chips on the back.  The material tends to leave bubbles.  I also recommend making copies of photos, as paper is much easier to use with this project.  I would not recommend using actual photos or photo paper.

This is a great project if you are on a budget.  The tiles were 16¢ at Lowe’s and I found cork and foam backing at the hardware store about $4 for 75 pieces.

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Race Bib Coasters:

Supplies:

Bibs, pictures, maps, etc.

Plain white tiles

Modge podge

Sponge or foam paint brush

X-ACTO knife

Cork or foam pads

Directions:

Place picture on cardboard or other sturdy structure that is safe to cut.  Put the tile smooth side down over the area you would like to use for your project.  Carefully trace the X-ACTO knife around the tile.  Turn the tile smooth side up and using a sponge or foam brush, add a thin layer of Modge Podge over the tile.  Set the picture or bib over the coated tile and gently smooth out any bubbles and make sure corners are flat.

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My cut out pieces, ready to place on tiles.

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After the first coat.

Gently add a thin layer of Modge Podge on top of the picture or bib.  Let dry for at least an hour before adding one more coat.

Note:  I used dishwasher safe Modge Podge.  While I would not recommend putting these in the dishwasher, I feel that this makes them a little bit more water resistant when placing cups or mugs on top.  

Once dry, place foam or cork pads on the corners of the back side.  Wrap and then gift!

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Do you like to make gifts?  What do you like to make during the holiday season?

 

It’s The Holiday Season aka Post Thanksgiving

Happy Monday!  I hope everyone in the U.S. enjoyed a festive and delicious Thanksgiving.  Our family had a wonderful time.  Last Sunday we started things off by leaving the 11 inches of snow we got the night before and headed to Chicago.

It had been a little while since we had moved, and it felt so great to be back and see our family and friends. We tried to pack as much as we possibly could into a week and I think we did so with great success.

Mary got the chance to go play with some kids and she clearly had a blast “at school.”
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Tuesday night I went out for a rare girls night out back in my old neighborhood.  I arrived early for dinner and did a tour of my favorite grocery store, Mariano’s.  I love the openness of this store, the multiple bars, carts with wine glass holders, and the incredibly affordable selection.  The whole night was a blogging fail because I didn’t take a single picture but you will have to trust me that everything was just what I loved.

Next, I walked by our old apartment.  I couldn’t see in, but it felt nice just to walk by.  This was where Rock and I first lived as a married couple.  It was our first real adult home.  It was where we brought home our dog Louie.  And it was where we brought our baby home.

I then met my friends Kim and Jennifer for sushi at our favorite spot, Fin, in Ravenswood.  I love that Chicago has so many BYOB establishments.  Fin has some of the best sushi I have had and their prices are fantastic.  They offer some really creative rolls and other delicious options.  In the summer they have awesome outdoor seating and lounge chairs with fun ambient lighting.  Kim and Jennifer got a sneak peek into just how much sushi I tend to scarf down. One time when we are at Fin after a long run, a woman gasped to the man at her table as our plates were laid down, “Did you see how many rolls they ordered?!”  #runnerproblems

I may not have taken any pictures of us but I managed to run into Kim again the following night when she brought Mary this awesome Blackhawks hat.  She gets a kick out of the fact that I am a Red Wings fan and loves steering Mary towards her team.  You have to admit that the hat is adorable!

On Thursday we ran our annual North Shore Turkey Trot up in Highland Park.  We have done this race now for 3 years and each year we seem to recruit another family member to join us.  It is a fun family tradition and a great way to come back home and eat all of the food without the guilt (or at least a little less).

I didn’t really get the chance to truly train for this race.  I have had more a lackadaisical approach to my running since my last marathon.  Between moving, starting a new job, and pushing a baby in the jogging stroller, runs are more just a part of my daily routine.

But I was feeling good and gave myself a little extra push for this race.  The night before I created a race specific playlist and threw some songs on it that had great BPM’s to allow myself to push the pace a bit.

Without pushing too hard and ensuring that I still had an enjoyable race, I was able to manage a 10k PR, 3rd place in my age group, and a 78th overall finish.  I was really excited with this run, and thrilled to then enjoy the holiday spread.

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All dressed up for Turkey Day!

We rounded the week out with some great family time.  Rock’s high school hockey team hosts an annual Thanksgiving tournament and we were able to check out a few of their games.  Mary loves hockey and we found out that she also loves popcorn!  She is truly becoming a little rink rat.  I have a feeling she will be wearing skates before we know it.

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Thanksgiving is a really special holiday and we had a wonderful time enjoying it with family and friends.  Now I can turn on the holiday music without any guilt and start pulling out the decorations!

How was your Thanksgiving.  Have you started decorating for the holidays?

 

Holiday Party Survival

Tomorrow is a big day in the United States.  Whether you are from the U.S. or elsewhere, there are likely to be a lot of holiday events for you over the next few weeks.  From family dinners to office parties, there is really no way to escape it.

Holidays and parties are some of the biggest causes of stress and weight gain concern.  They can certainly pull us off of our plans.  But if you have a strategy going in, you can still enjoy some indulgence and fun.

  • Have a game plan:  Are you going to a cocktail party?  Is this an appetizer party?  Know what is going on before you walk in the door.  Map it out in your head.  “I will have one cocktail and one small plate.”  By deciding before you go in, you are much more likely to stick to your wellness plan.holidays1
  • Call ahead:  Are you going out to dinner?  Look up where you are going.  Call and ask about specials.  Look at the menu ahead of time.   Go in knowing what would work with your plan and already set to choose your meal.  If you go in with an idea, it is much easier to avoid wavering on decisions.  This can be especially difficult when you hear other people’s orders and start to think that if they can do it, you should too.  While you might feel like you are short changing yourself at the time, once you have eaten, you will feel satisfied and not leave feeling guilty about your decisions.
  • Don’t Assume.  Bring Something.  This is a great plan for Thanksgiving and other get togethers.  Don’t assume that you will get there and see things that work with your healthy living.  Consider making a veggie platter and a large salad for the dinner portion.  Fill your appetizer platter with veggies and load your dinner plate with salad and  you will fill your belly without the guilt.ThanksgivingSurvival3
  • You can have a little bit of everything but not all of everything.  Sometimes when we look at a buffet and consider all of the things we can’t have, we get overwhelmed and then eat everything in epic proportions.  Instead, take one dinner plate and fill it with small helpings off each side and entree that you like.  Don’t go overboard.  Several bites of each delicious treat will leave you satisfied more than you realize.
  • Stick to a one plate rule:  During holiday dinners and meals plan on sticking to one plate.  Pick what you would like but leave the buffet knowing that this is your meal.  Don’t go back for seconds.

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    Sometimes this is how I want to approach the holiday buffet!

  • Avoid loading up on bread:  Bread always looks so tasty.  Restaurants often offer bread in “all you can eat” occasions because they know it will fill you up.  If you can skip the additional carbs, you can allow yourself to enjoy the other options.  If you do decide to opt for bread, take a bite and savor it. 
  • Take a moment to consider how it tastes.  Is it an incredibly delicious dinner roll that you get to enjoy on a rare occasion?  Then go for it. Is it similar to bread that you eat for lunch?  Toss it to the side and opt for something you don’t get to eat very often.holidays4
  • Load up on veggies:  You would be surprised to see that there are really so many healthy options on holiday menus.  Sweat potatoes, corn, and beans are all loaded with vitamins and fiber.  Skip the gravies and extra sauces.  Avoid veggies that are laden with fat like green bean casseroles.  Load your plate with veggies and then add in the extras.
  • Before you get too excited decide if it is a rare treat.:  Sometimes we go to a party and see pizza and feel like we “have to have it.”  But the reality is, you can order pizza anytime you want.  If you see a special item on the menu that someone made just for the occasion, that is a much better option.  Analyze your options, decide what is truly special and worth it and then determine a healthy portion.  Once you do, don’t go back.
  • Do dessert but pick one and don’t go crazy.:  Odds are that if you just ate at a holiday party, you had a nice filling meal.  It’s still okay to have dessert.  But scour the dessert options.  Pick the one that is speaking to you the most and then try a half slice or portion.  Take your time, savor the flavors, and then walk away satisfied with your full meal.

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    My goal this year is to avoid this feeling.

  • Plan your day out:  If you know that you are going to a holiday party later in the night, plan out how you will approach it.  This could start with a light breakfast and then a walk to work.  If you see donuts in the conference room, remind yourself that they are there all the time, but holiday parties come once a year.  Skip the afternoon treats and enjoy the party later.  Don’t forget to load up on plenty of water during the day.
  • Make time for activities:  Do a turkey trot, go for a family walk, play catch in the back yard.  Remember that any activity is better than none.  Exercise doesn’t need to be intentional.  Move throughout the day. Organize a quick walk after your meal.  The more you move, the better!

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    Not going to lie.  I have used this mindset before!

  • Always remember that a lapse is not a relapse:  Messing up once doesn’t mean your whole day, week, or month is over.  No one eats perfectly and there is no perfect way to eat.  Food is a very important part of our lives.  It is a social, cultural, and wonderful thing.  Have fun and enjoy yourself.  If you overindulge, it does not mean you are a failure.  You are human and tomorrow is another day!

How do you best prepare for holiday parties and get togethers?  Do you have one thing that really messes up your healthy plan?

Topsy Turvy Weekend Weather

Happy Monday!  I am coming off of an adventurous weekend of great workouts, wild weather, and family time.

Last week the weather went from cool-ish to surprisingly warm.  I had to work all day on Friday so I took advantage of a marvelously warm Thursday and got a great 10 mile run in.  On Friday I woke up to incredible temperatures and sunshine.  I was so envious that I would be stuck inside the gym all day.

I dropped Mary off at daycare and then took off for Traverse City, hoping to get a little Christmas shopping in before I had to go to work.  When I rushed into work an hour later, I was met with some surprised looks.  I checked the schedule and realized that I was supposed to work the full day Saturday and not Friday.  Feeling foolish, I headed back home.  I was thrilled to have an afternoon to go for a warm weather run, but annoyed that I drove the hour over and back for no reason.

It felt just heavenly to throw on a pair of shorts and my Simple Hydration Run Team tank, and crank out 8 speedy miles.  The temps were in the low 70’s, which I think is just perfect for a run.  I finished sweaty and ready to pick up Mary.

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By the time we woke up on Saturday it was rainy and light snow flakes had started showing up on our deck.  I kissed the family goodbye and drove back to work again, this time for the correct shift!

I was the only person on the fitness floor for the day and there were no managers on duty. I met with several new clients and got them started.   Since I would be closing for the day, I thought it would be great to stay busy and have the gym totally prepped for Sunday morning.

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Meanwhile, Mary and Louie watched the snow coming down.

As you might imagine, I don’t sit still well.  I decided that I would refill all of the bottles to clean the machines and equipment.  During my training I briefly learned how to use the refill machine.  I was certain I could do it.  As I held the bottle and cranked the water, I waited and waited for the first bottle to fill up.  I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working.  It took me a minute to stop the faucet and when I looked down, I realized a hose had become detached and all of the disinfectant was pouring onto the floor.

Fortunately, I am in charge of the gym towel supply, which means I had plenty of access to drying materials.  I then had to do the embarrassing walk of shame across the fitness floor with wet foot prints to grab those towels.  Anyone that I passed knew something was going on because wet shoes are a big no-no in a fitness facility.  I should have taken a picture as evidence, but I was trying to quickly forget this slip up!

The rest of the day flew by and at 6:00pm, I helped close the facility.  That was when I was met with an epic snow storm.  It had been brewing all day and had quickly turned into what looked like a blizzard.  My car was covered in snow and winds were blowing at 30 miles an hour with 50 mile gusts.

The drive home was the scariest I have ever done on my own.  Wind was swirling in circles from every direction.  Visibility was incredibly low.  Had I not grown up in the area, I would not have known where I was driving at times.  My car barely made it up a few different hills and slid around intersections.  I saw dozens of accidents and cars in ditches along the way.  My windshield fogged up at one point because I was clenching the steering wheel and had my face so close to the window.

An hour and a half later, I arrived home safely……and got the car stuck in the driveway.  We left it there and I scarfed down pizza with the family, until the lights flickered and then went out.

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We spent the rest of the evening gathering blankets, flashlights, and candles.  We brought the Bjorn sleeper into our room and had Mary sleep there so we could be near her.  We gathered snow in buckets, hoping we could melt it to flush toilets.  And we sat at the window and watched the storm brew and cars slowly putter by.

Power did get restored.  Rock got the chance to use our new snow blower, and after about 30 minutes he dug the car out of 10 inches.  By noon on Sunday we had pulled ourselves together and made our way off to visit family in Chicago.  It appears that fall was toying with us last week and winter has decided to pay a visit to remind us who is boss.

Did you get snow this weekend?  Do you prefer warm or chilly runs?

Cooking Inspiration and Recipe Revamp

Happy Friday!  The weekend is almost upon us and it might just snow here tomorrow.   While I am not ready for that, I do love cooking and baking when the cold weather rolls around.

Fall and winter inspire me to turn on the oven and start trying out new recipes.  Today I want to share a few of my favorite websites to visit for recipe inspirations:

Cooking Light:  I have been a subscriber of Cooking Light since I was in high school.  I even recall having all of my friends come over for lunch one day and try out a loaded potato soup that I made.  Even back then, I loved finding healthier versions of my favorite foods.  This site is easy to search.

This Brownie Cheesecake Torte from a 1997 issue is still one of my favorite treats to make!

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Six Sisters Stuff:  This is my absolute favorite website for searching recipes.  I honestly have never had a failed recipe from these ladies.  I love their slow cooker options and this is the first place I go to when I want to try a new soup.  Perfect place to visit for winter weather!

Their Nacho Grande Soup is a huge hit with our family and friends.  You can make it in the slow cooker or on the stove.  I make it with either beef or turkey and it always comes out just right.  I like to add a can of kidney beans and black beans to give it a bit more substance.

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Skinny Taste:  This is a great resource for healthy eating.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert ideas can all be found here.  I love being able to search the under 30 minute meals.  Having access to quick dinners keeps the excuses for takeout away.

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Foot Network:  Another magazine that I love to subscribe to is Food Network.  I love the variety of chefs and great ideas that come out of this magazine.  When I am not sure what to make for a party or special dinner, I turn to this site.  There are so many different types of recipes, you are bound to find something you like.

For the holidays, I love making these Peppermint Cream’s.  They are so simple and delicious.  These are the perfect gifts to share with family and friends.

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Finally, I love searching my favorite blogger’s sites for their shared inspiration.  I follow such an awesome variety of people, that my blogroll is full of great ideas.

I wanted to share my newish concoction with you.  These may not qualify as healthy, but they are the perfect occasional splurge.  These Pudgies showed up on my site several years ago.  I have since found a wonderful new twist for this fall season.  Jello-O makes Pumpkin Spice pudding mixes.  Swap the Banana Cream out for Pumpkin Spice and add a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to your dry ingredients and you will have an incredibly delicious treat on your hands!  The flavor and consistency of this treat is a favorite around here.

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What is your go-to site for finding delicious recipes?  Do you have a favorite recipe that can’t be missed?

Tis The Season For Improvements

I hate to say it, but fall is quickly slipping past us.  Most runners have just finished or are about to wrap up their racing season.  Marathons and half marathons are quickly winding down and so is the excitement of race training.  Most of us look forward to a little break this time of year.  Everyone should take some time off at some point.  This might involve a brief hiatus or a switch to cross training for a few weeks.

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Training for races can be exhausting both mentally and physically.  This is the perfect time of year to take a moment to allow your body to recover.  A break can also help bring back the excitement to run, which might have waned during your training.

The “off season” can be a restful time for some and difficult for others.  Many runners feel frustrated without a race on the horizon or some direction.

As a coach, I think this is a wonderful time in your training.  Many runners come to me when they have a race in mind and we build a plan and work together toward that goal.  However, we are limited by their current running status.  While improvements can be made, changes in gait, form, and even speed can take a much longer time.  In fact, much of this takes quite a long duration and I think it is rather unsafe to start working on changes in gait or form during a training cycle.  There is far too much opportunity for injury.

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I absolutely love working with my runners this time of the year.  The off season is an amazing time to sit down and look at your big picture goals.  You can then break those larger goals into much smaller, easily attainable plans.  This will help you maintain your enjoyment of the sport as you continue to find motivation along the way.

Off season running should involve fewer but much more intentional mileage. More of your time can be spent focused on strength training and conditioning.  Less time needs to be spent on long runs.  Many runs should focus on easy, slow paces to increase aerobic efficiency.  One or two runs per week should be focused on speed work and interval training, if that is your goal.

That extra time not spent on long runs can be focused on strength training that will make you not only a stronger runner but also healthier and less susceptible to injury once you begin race training again.

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My other favorite form of cross training!

Any inefficiencies that you have noticed during your training can now be attended to if necessary.  However, I often recommend that unless you have a quirk in your running that is debilitating, consider making either minor adjustments or none.  For instance, I supinate when I run.  It is obvious, but has not inhibited my running in any major way.  The time spent changing my gait would take away from other goals and those adjustments, even minor ones, could lead to injuries along the way.

The off season is also a great time to work on a fueling and hydration plan.  Focusing on drinking throughout the day and eating a healthy diet is much easier to do when you are not ravenous in the midst of training.  Taking the time now to work on healthy habits will make everything much easier in a few months.

Off season running doesn’t need to be boring.  So many improvements can be made with short mindful workouts.  Over the next few weeks I will be adding various posts on how you can make small improvements before spring races and training return.

How do you like to approach the off season?

Dining Out And Treating People Well

Happy Wednesday!  I hope you had a wonderful weekend (clearly I’m a little slow this week).  We enjoyed a lovely few days of sunny weather, leaf cleaning, running of course, and some family time.

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Shorts in November is the way to my heart!

As new parents, we have been avoiding going out to dinner.  For awhile, Mary was testing her vocal chords and attempting to see how much attention she could get in public.  These days, she just likes trying out her new words and waving/blowing kisses to everyone.  She’s adorable but also a ticking time bomb.  At any moment, we know everything could turn into a nuclear meltdown.

Just over three years ago, Rock and I got married.  Among the lovely gifts we received was a gift certificate to a restaurant.  That card has survived multiple moves and shifts among different bags and wallets.  We finally decided to go out and use that gift as a family and cross our fingers.

At the perfectly hip hour of 5:00pm on a Friday night we arrived for dinner.  It had been a long time since we had been out for a family meal.  I was looking forward to not cooking or cleaning up and also having a nice big fat steak.  It was going to be my splurge night.

Mary had a blast eating our appetizer and coloring with crayons.  It was great.

The couple across from us ate their dinner and had a pleasant conversation.  Then they asked their server to bring over the manager.  Having once worked in the restaurant business, this always piques my interest.  We run a business where customer service and satisfaction are essential.  We both leaned in a little bit to hear what was going on.

One of the patrons at the other table explained to the manager that while they love this particular restaurant, their entree was overcooked and it was not what they were looking for.  The manager kindly mentioned that they finished the entree and asked how they had asked for their meal to be prepared.  The patron responded that they wanted a steak made medium well.

The manager was gracious and didn’t even bother pointing out that a medium well steak might be tough. They were given a new meal to take home and not charged for that entree. We then overheard the customer hand over a gift certificate for three times the price of their dinner.  They asked if they could tip from the gift card and then stated they would be generous and leave the server $2; less than 10% of the cost of the meal.  Let me also note that they mentioned several times to the manager that they had fantastic service.

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Here is where I have an issue: Why would you eat your entire meal and then flag down a manager after you were finished to let them know that your meal wasn’t satisfactory?

Restaurants are in the customer service business.  It is their job to make sure you are having a great experience.  My first job ever was as a hostess of a very nice Italian restaurant.  I am still forever grateful to that company for taking a leap and hiring me.  The general manager was a wonderful man who taught me so much about customer service.  He graciously showed me how to answer a phone in a pleasant and professional manner, and how to deal with multitasking and “difficult” customers.    It is not a surprise to me to see that he is now a top restaurant manager in Las Vegas for a large corporation.

Here is what I learned:  When you go out to eat, your server basically makes no hourly wage.  It works this way because the industry assumes that you the consumer will compensate by tipping.

I know this infuriates some and you say that the restaurants should compensate the server so that you don’t have to.  That is how it works in Europe and other countries.  While that is a great concept, our government has not made that a law.  Employers can pay servers $2 or $3 per hour, meaning servers rely on your tips.

This works in your favor because most servers want your gratuity.  They are going to do everything in their power to give you a wonderful dining experience.  This also means they are freaking out when the kitchen is working slowly or providing you with subpar food.

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Here is what you get:  When you dine at a restaurant, you are paying for the experience.  You are paying to view a menu and choose what sounds good at that moment.  You are paying for someone to call in your order, bring the food to you, clean up, and make sure your drinks are full.  You don’t have to cook, clean, or do the dishes.

There is also a full staff working with your server.  Bartenders, bussers, and assistants delivering food to your table are all part of the team.  Your server often has to share a portion of their tips with all of these people.   So when you stiff their tip, everyone is getting slighted.

Please be patient and considerate when things aren’t perfect.  Sometimes we get bad service.  When this happens, it is important to sit back for a moment and look around.  Does your server have 10 tables and everyone is asking for something or waiting for their meals too?  Is the meal taking a long time?  Remember that your server doesn’t have control over a slow kitchen.  Keep in mind that sometimes a hostess can get a bit hasty and seat too many people in your server’s section at once and they are bogged down or overwhelmed.

I honestly believe that most people are good and they want to do well at their jobs.  Your server is likely not trying to provide you with a poor experience.   They want your tips and want to do well by you.

If you see that they are trying but  very busy, maybe new, or perhaps the kitchen is at fault, please don’t discount the tip.  These people are working very hard and rely on your gratuity.

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My golden rule for going out to dinner is that if we are going to afford paying for drinks and food, we walk in knowing that we are also paying for the gratuity.  If we can’t afford to properly tip, we shouldn’t be dining out.

How do you feel about tipping or dining out?  Have you ever worked at a restaurant?  Do you have a toddler (or other family member…haha) that you fear will erupt at the dinner table?

Simple Brie and Herb Sticks

It’s cooling off and that means I’m spending more time in the kitchen baking and cooking.  Last night we popped a big tray of spaghetti pie out of the freezer and into the oven for a delicious leftover treat.

We rarely do spaghetti or any other pasta, but when we do we like to go for it.  Nothing goes better with a pasta dinner than some garlic bread.

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However, I have been craving a treat that I used to enjoy back in college.  This randomly came to mind the other day and I looked to see if the Silver Moon Bakery was still in operation on the Upper West Side of NYC and sure enough, it is!  When I was in my early college years and living on a pretty tight budget, I would walk by the Silver Moon with envy on weekends as I trudged to work.  Everyone would be sitting outside sipping coffee and eating pastries.  I couldn’t wait for a day when I didn’t have to work weekends and had some spare cash to dine out.

When I graduated and had a bit more free time, I would swing in after church on Sundays.  This was when I discovered their amazing brie and herb breadsticks.  I would base what I made for dinner that night to pair perfectly with these delicious treats.

Yesterday I wasn’t quite in the mood to actually bake bread.  So while I was at the store, I opted for a speedy version of this delicious treat.  While these are super simple, they taste like you toiled in the kitchen all afternoon.  Perfect with a pasta dinner but also great with any entree.  Make these ahead of time and impress your family or guests.  Or just horde them for yourself.

Ingredients:

2 tubes of crescent rolls

1 triangle of brie cheese

Herbs de Provence

Optional: Peppermill

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Unroll the crescent crust but keep flat and do not separate.  Keep 2 triangles of crust together to form a rectangle.  Lay flat on an ungreased baking sheet.  Slice a thin piece of brie and lay down the length of crust.  Sprinkle generously with Herbs de Provence.  A little fresh pepper can add a great zest too.

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Place another rectangle of crust on top.  Repeat until you have used all of the crust.  Bake for 11-13 minutes or until golden brown.  Slice diagonally to make sticks.

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Enjoy!

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These were a hit with Mary.  She kept asking for more.

Where is your favorite bakery?   What is your favorite bakery purchase?

Life Lately

Hello!  Given the craziness that is going on these days with elections and marathons and all that nutty stuff; I opted for a little lighter post today.  I’m going to take a quick moment to catch up on what is going on in life lately.

I had the most amazing week hanging out with Rock in NYC.  We had a blast working our tails off and eating plenty of delicious food.  I even took a nice break from running.  I will have another post about this soon, but that hiatus and alternative active time left me refreshed and feeling great.  My mileage is back up and my pace is working wonderfully for me.  I’ve noticed that my stride is starting to get back into that great place it was at back when I was near the end of my training for the Poconos Marathon.

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My last morning in NYC. How about that for an office?!

When I returned to Michigan, it was so wonderful to see my Mary again.  But the reality of home ownership quickly settled in.  We have a great backyard with a gorgeous black walnut tree right off of our kitchen and deck.  I quickly fell in love with this tree and for a long time, I was collecting the nuts and harvesting them.

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If you are not familiar, walnuts are encased in a green hull that has a lovely, almost citrus fragrance.  However, looks and scents are deceiving.  If you touch the flesh of the husk with your fingers, they immediately turn black for days.  Therefore, I had to collect the nuts when they fell before Mary could get her hands on them and then harvest them while she was napping.

Harvesting these things requires running over them in the driveway with our car and then peeling the husks back and  drying the shell.  It is definitely a labor of love.

Imagine my horror when I came home to a yard full of walnuts!  My first day back, I picked up over 4,500 walnuts and dumped them behind our barn for the squirrels to forage for winter.  The problem with having a smart little toddler is that she once saw me picking these up and now grabs them herself.  Nothing like explaining to daycare why her fingers are all black!

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That’s over 4,000 walnuts!

One thing that I am super excited about is that I got an interview at the local YMCA in Traverse City.  I was online earlier this fall and saw that they were hiring a Health and Wellness Coach.  I applied and was thrilled to get a call a few weeks ago asking if I would come in for an interview.  Um, of course!  The interview was great and I left not only as a Health and Wellness Coach but was also asked to be a Personal Trainer.

I am so excited because this facility is practically brand new and has a few great locations in the area with over 10,000 members.  Working in a space full of wonderful people and incredible equipment is pretty awesome!  I have had a blast meeting with new members and getting them started on their path to a healthy lifestyle.

We spent Sunday glued to my phone tracking a few runners at the NYC Marathon.  Marathon weekends are always exciting events with us.  The season isn’t over yet with a few more races and runners in the next couple of weeks.  It’s always running season in our house!

I of course made it to the polls and did it Coach Sarah style.  I ran to and from the polls.  You have to love small town living when you walk inside and half the people know you and tease you for getting a run in despite the rain.  Happy to say I voted!

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We finished yesterday off with Mary’s swim class and then Subway for a lazy dinner.  We all hung out and watched the news for a bit and then some snuggles.  Life is good these days when we are all snuggled up together as a family!

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Did you run to the polls?  How about a fun life update?