27 September 2012

National Book Festival

There was a lot going on in DC this last weekend. Fall in DC is almost as enjoyable as Spring in DC, but without all the flowers. I tried to fit in as many festivals as possible, on Saturday I went to the Barracks Row Festival, DC State Fair, and 17th Street Festival. Sunday I decided to check out the National Book Festival, even though all the authors I wanted to see were there on Saturday.

I listened to two authors, Susan Richards Shreve and Justin Torres,  in the Fiction tent and will definitely check their books out.

on the mall

people in line for book signings

Susan Richards Shreve

PBS stars!
After leaving the mall I ran into some sort of Latin festival. Lots of food and music.

Inca Kola!

25 September 2012

DC "State" Fair

The big news from the fair was my cupcake win, but here are a few other scenes from the day.

announcing the bicycle accessory winners

2nd prize- reflective bicycling sweater


the knit/crochet DC flag category

honey judging

delicious fair food

23 September 2012

Chocolate and Kale match made in cupcake heaven

At some point on Wednesday while reviewing the weekend happenings in DC, I came across the DC State Fair. If you've been around this blog for more than a day, you know that I love fairs and I love competitions. Well after a little more reading it was clear that this fair wasn't the traditional "state fair", but a way to celebrate DC gardeners, cooks, bakers, photographers, and artists in a state fair way. And by celebrate... they meant compete. Sadly since I came across this group so late, most of the competition's deadlines had passed. If I wanted to compete I had to either make a bike accessory or cupcake.

With the short time frame, I settled on cupcake. Upon reading the details I discovered along with overall prizes for first, second, and third, there were two category prizes. One for most creative cupcake and the other for best vegetable cupcake. I'm not the baking sister in my family so I decided to hedge my bets and go for the veggie gold.

After sending 100  a few texts to my sister and analyzed the cupcake world with one of my coworkers, I decided I would make chocolate-kale cupcakes. 

For a brief second I contemplated fondant, but after reading a recipe online I realized I wasn't ready to buy a candy thermometer. My second idea was a chocolate decoration. At first I thought, a chocolate White House! hahahhahahhahaa yeah, that didn't work out the bets. My second idea, the DC flag, though was golden  chocolate.

can you at least tell which ones I attempted the White House on?

I melted two baking chocolate squares and used a zip lock bag with a corner cut out to pipe my designs on waxed paper. I popped them in the freezer, but later realized that was a bad idea. Simply let them sit out and harden.

I'd never made a chocolate-kale cupcake, I'm not sure if I have ever made cupcakes from scratch before,  but I was up for the challenge. I consulted many websites, mainly the following:

And then got to work.

First I prepped the kale. I went a little crazy at Safeway and bought a two pound bag of kale. Luckily I didn't go crazy while kale prepping and I only measured out two heaping cups of raw kale. First important step- remove all big stems and spines. Then I steamed/boiled the kale (bring 1 inch of water to boil, insert kale, cover, wait like two minutes), drained off excess water, cooled a bit, combined with a tablespoon of milk, and pulverized it in my mini food processor.

bright green goodness
Then I watched some TV and like any competitive baker I waited till the grocery stores closed before checking to see if I had all the necessary ingredients. The night before I purchased the more exotic ingredients, but hadn't checked to see if I had any sugar. I only had a half cup of sugar on hand, so I added a trip to the supermarket to my morning baking activities and went to bed.

Cupcakes had to be delivered between 11:30 and 12:30 for judging, so I set to work at 8:30am.

Mixing went well and baking was smooth.
cooling down
While the cupcakes were cooling I started mixing up cream cheese/buttercream icing. I made a bit of a mess.

big mess
I used the zip lock baggy method once again, but this time with a bigger hole cut out of the corner. I only had snack sized bags, which at first I thought were too small, but they worked well because my hands are a bit small.

pipping icing on

I picked the best six and started to add the decorations, only they seemed to melt when I took them out of the freezer... I reevaluated and all though they got soft, they kept their shape so I decided to put them on three of my cakes and see how they looked upon arrival.

packed for travel

Then I did something I never do before 2 am, I took a cab. It was worth it as my cupcakes arrived unscathed.

row after row of cupcakes
a judge with his helpers
While the judging was taking place I walked around the fair a bit and around the larger Barrack's Row festival. I also watched the honey judging, which was quite intense. There were at least twenty entries and the three judges were quite thorough, checking taste, clarity, and even moisture content.

After an hour I was running short on time (I had a football game at 2pm) so I went back over to the judging table. They were eating my cupcake! One girl took a bite and did this lovely positive head nod. Then I heard her tell a fellow judge that mine deserved a five because it had kale in it (in a good way!). I couldn't leave early now! So I went to change into my athletic gear in a nearby bar's restroom. When I got back they had lined up the top six cupcakes for the final judging by the "celebrity" judges. Well mine wasn't in the top six, but I was gunning for a different prize. A few agonizing minutes later they announced that...

I won! Best Vegetable Cupcake!

I received a blue ribbon and a $50 gift certificate to Whole Foods. And my photo with the Whole Foods guy.

Because of the delay I snuck back in the crowd and literally had to run. I ran a mile and a quarter to my football game and arrived just in time.

my winnings, my new t-shirt, and one of my cupcakes
I have issues with following recipes, I don't buy enough powdered sugar, I substitute vegetable oil, I forget the salt, and I roll with it. So with that in mind I decided to share the recipe I actually made and not the one that might be most ideal (because that one didn't win!).

DC Chocolate Kale Cupcake

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup Hershey's Special DARK Cocoa
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup OlivExtra Canola/Olive Oil blend
1/4 cup kale steamed and processed into very small pieces (I used 2 cups raw kale)
1 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and fill cupcake pan with paper liners.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and kale; beat on medium speed of electric mixer for two minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin, at this point I thought I ruined everything, but don't worry). Pour batter into prepared pan. Fill cups 3/4 full.
3. Bake 20-25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Cream cheese buttercream icing*

1 8oz. package of cream cheese at room temperature
3 sticks of butter at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 cups powdered sugar (the recipe I was following called for 6 cups, I only bought one bag of powdered sugar, 3 worked fine, but 6 would of created a stiffer icing and no I didn't think to halve the recipe until my mom suggested it late that afternoon)
2 T vanilla extract (recipe called for 2 teaspoons, I misread, but was happy with the result)

1. Beat cream cheese till creamy
2. Add butter, beat till incorporated
3. Add brown sugar and beat till fluffy
4. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, till mixed
5. Add Vanilla till combined

*I don't remember where I pulled this recipe from, but since I basically butchered it, I don't feel too bad sharing.

20 September 2012

Mid-day 5K

As part of some health and wellness and team building initiative one of the divisions in my organizations put on a mid day 5K run/walk followed by smoothies in the lobby. And since a few months ago (after a particularly exciting happy hour) a few coworkers and I decided that we should form a run club, we jumped at the chance to sign up. We've been pretty consistently running once a week and were ready to put our hard work to the test. So half of our run club went down to the mall to challenge around 80 other runners and walkers.

It was a pretty casual affair and the distance ended up being .3 miles short of a 5K. I started off way to fast and ran my fastest 1K ever with my Nike+ watch.

is it wrong that I like winning fake banners?
I settled down after about a half mile and was the second female. I ended up passing that girl at about a mile, but so did two other girls who also passed me.

The course was three laps of the gravel area on the National Mall. While we were running there were 30 or so workers setting up for the National Book Festival this weekend, which meant there were plenty of trucks and people to run around. Add in some tourists and although the course was three loops, each loop brought a new challenge.

only 2.8 miles
I felt myself slow down in the third lap and with a quarter of a mile left another girl passed me and I couldn't find the will to pass her back. I finished right after her as the 4th female, the 9th overall finisher. 

super fast
 My time was 21:30, but I'm not counting it as a PR as the course was way short. Even though I'm pretty happy with my splits.

One of my friends ended up winning the race, he started slow and passed me around a half mile and I could tell he had a lot of gas in his engine. I told him to go win the thing and he did. He won a fun trophy, a old running shoe painted gold and mounted on a wooden plaque. The smoothies were also delicious, but I don't think they were very healthy.

Soon we were back at our desks, all in a day's work.

15 September 2012


I'd been wanting to do RUN! GEEK! RUN! ever since reading about it on another blog last fall. But then I had Tough Mudder on the calendar for last week so I didn't preregister and then I was feeling a little under the weather this week (ragweed allergies or cold... not sure). My geekness won out and yesterday I went to the Post Office Pavilion and registered. Got my number, T-shirt, and geek glasses. Then after I went back to work for the afternoon my health declined. I couldn't breath. Well I couldn't breath through my nose. Hmm maybe I signing up wasn't the best idea.

I spent last night on the couch and went to bed early, hoping I'd feel better this morning. When I woke up I could breathe through my nose, so things were looking up. I still wasn't feeling that excited about racing, but I got ready and took my bike out the door to head down to West Potomac Park.

There's not much bike traffic (or any traffic) Saturday morning at 7:30 am so I was down there in no time. Locked up my bike, pinned on my number, and checked my bag with plenty of extra time. I figured the bike ride was enough to wake my legs up and spent a few times watching the rowers on the Potomac instead of warming up.

As soon as the race started I could feel that my legs aren't completely recovered from last weekend's punishment. Although tight and stiff I pushed on. My goal going in was to keep under 9 min mile pace. We were running on a four lane road from the beginning so the field was able to thin out right away. I had never been past the bridge on Ohio drive, it was very pretty and I'll definitely be back. We passed lots of people out for their weekend long run, but they never really got in the way. The course was an out and back with a little loop a the end. After we turned around we were all hit with a pretty good headwind, but I kept pushing. I was able to stick around 8 min pace and despite all of my complaining managed a new 8K PR. 

Gun time- 40:20
Net time- 40:07
Pace- 8:02
Overall- 168/560
Female 20-29- 21/113

post run


geek trophies... one day I'll get one of these

13 September 2012

Annual trip to the Chilhowee Fair

Every year I try to make it home to Missouri for the World Famous Chilhowee Fair. This year it was a little more deflated than usual as Hurricane Isaac decided to attend. As disappointing as a rainy fair is, most everyone was thrilled to get rain after going the entire summer without.

Along with my normal fair entries and participation in the 5K I was also the baked goods judge and rode in the parade for the first time since I was a little kid.

my 5 year pillow won blue!

a red on my Christmas ornament
Two years ago I won best of show for the amateur flower arranging category. So when my mom called me a few days before the fair suggesting I should put together an arrangement for myself and help my niece assemble one, I was up for the challenge. The Fair's theme this year was "hunting for a good time" so the arrangement themes were centered around that them. I chose to do camouflage while Gretchen insisted on Pick-ups and hounds. We both got second (in categories with more than 2 entries!) so I think our arrangements were a success.

My mom and aunt decided that we needed to enter a float in the parade to promote my sister's new coffeehouse and bakery and dress my niece as a dog. I was nominated to hold the dog during the parade.


driver and star

we let the dog drive for awhile

dog mobile

12 September 2012

Old Drum Coffeehouse and Bakery

My sister, Beth, recently opened a Coffeehouse and Bakery in Warrensburg, Missouri. So when I was home over Labor Day weekend I jumped at the opportunity to try it out. Over the five days in Missouri I stopped by three times. I tried out a latte, cappuccino, and italian ice and they all were very delicious. I also had a kolache and some pieces of Old Drum cookie and pieces of the flour less chocolate chocolate chip cookie. Also all very delicious.

Aunt Sue enjoying a frozen hot chocolate

my Mom with a Cafe au lait and chocolate cookie

thumbs up for Lattes

the proud owner/operator relaxing after hours
We also spent one afternoon at the bakery learning how to decorate cupcakes. Beth plans on offering classes in the future. 

a few of my creations

11 September 2012

2012 Chilhowee 5K

For the fourth year in a row, I traveled home Labor Day weekend to run in the Chilhowee Fair 5K race. My middle sister, Beth, organizes the race and my entire family helps put it on, with most of us also participating. My oldest sister, Kristen, won the inaugural race, was pregnant for the second one, and was beaten by my cousin last year. She was looking for redemption. I was trying to talk a big game from half a country away, but knew I had little hope in beating her. What I did have high hopes in was a new PR.  I PR'd in my 5K in July despite a very crowded start, knowing the race field would be much smaller in a town of 335. This year Beth and Kristen designed a new course to cut down on the gravel running, which meant we ran around the entire town.

as you can see, Chilhowee is small
I started out strong, a little too strong, but settled into a good pace a half mile in. I tend to slow down during the second mile, so that was no surprise, but I was able to kick it back up for the last quarter of a mile or so, which I was happy with. Old me faded at the end.

maybe someday I'll be able to do three 7:29's
Kristen had a little competition up front, but I ran most of the race alone. My 24:28 official finish was good enough for third female overall and first in my age category!

gold medal
twins. me with the overall female champion

09 September 2012

Tough Mudder Mid Atlantic

**warning, I have lots to say and not many muddy photos, yet**

Yesterday my summer of training came to its test at Tough Mudder Mid Atlantic. I knew it was going to be challenging, but the weather decided to add some extra obstacles. First obstacle? Getting there. About six miles away the traffic just stopped. They had sent us texts warning us that there was a back up with parking and to not park illegally. Well after trying a short cut through town (and running into a street festival) we decided that a grassy embankment on the side of the highway would do just fine. What we didn't know, was that embankment was over two miles from the entrance. And the scary clouds that were predicted were approaching.

our start time was 2:30 the severe storms arrived at 1:30
About a mile into our walk to the entrance it started torrentially raining. We walked passed car after car, not moving, waiting in line for the official parking lot. When we reached the parking lot there were cars stuck on muddy hills. When we reached the registration they were announcing that the final legs were leaving immediately and the water obstacles were closed down until the storm passed. I felt a little better as the water obstacles were the ones I was fearing the most... and most of the obstacles had a water element. 
fun names = fun times
Almost as soon as we started the rain stopped and we took off through the fields. The race was set up on a farm, so we were running through corn and soybean fields the entire time. Felt like I was at home. 

first half of the course
Referencing the map above, we started at the green arrow and ran a little less than a mile before arriving at the Arctic Enema, which they decided to open back up just as we got there... With no time to think about it we climbed to the top. I waited till my teammate made it under the divider and jumped in. I should of waited a bit longer as it was the coldest water I've ever been in and I made it to the wall in seconds, but my teammates were still struggling to get out. I couldn't get out, my body wanted out, all I could think about was getting out of the frigid water. Finally after what felt like minutes, but in reality was probably 5 seconds I was able to pull myself out and roll over the side. It was still pretty warm out at this point, so my body temperature returned to normal almost immediately and we started running on to the next obstacle.

The next two, dirty ballerina (mud pits about four feet apart) and kiss of mud (barbed wire about a foot and a half off the ground to crawl under), were relatively easy. Kiss of mud was really slick & smooth, kind of like a slip in slide.

After two miles we reached our first Berlin Walls. These are wooden walls, they have a little foot hold on them, but are still pretty tough. These weren't that tall and we were able to with a little boost, grab the top, throw a leg over and get to the other side.

Next was bale bonds. These were stacked hay bales we had to climb over. These were a lot of fun, because of the rain they were pretty soft and climbing over them were pretty painless.

We passed the 3 mile mark and reached hold your wood. There was a big wood pile, everyone got to choose their own piece from a variety of sizes. I went with a medium piece. This was also where we encountered our first miserable muddy area therefore we ended up walking with our wood.

second half
After dumping our logs we had a pretty good run before the second kiss of mud, this one wasn't as fun as the mud was very rocky.

Obstacle 8 was Trench warfare, basically semi dark tunnels we had to crawl through. They put some dips and hills in the tunnels, but it wasn't near as suffocating or dark as I had feared and was actually delightful.

The next two obstacles, Walk the Plank and Log Jammin', hurt my dignity the most.

A 15 foot walk the plank awaited us. I wasn't very nervous about this one, but one of my teammates, Catherine, was and it started to wear off on me. The climb to the top wasn't easy, and then they wanted us to jump in. This was the one obstacle where the lifeguards were hard at work. It seemed like every minute they were jumping in to pull someone out. I was more worried about accidentally jumping on top of someone than my jump, this was a mistake. I'm not sure what happened but I couldn't correct mid fall and I ended up doing a face first cannon ball. Everything stung a bit, but as I came back to the surface I took a body part inventory and everything was functioning fine and it was an easy swim to the edge. Catherine ended up doing an awesome jump.

Log Jammin' were just these horizontal logs about five feet off the ground. We were suppose to go over them. The issue was 1. I am short 2. I can't jump very high 3. the area under the logs was sloppy mud. What happened? I ran jumped, slid around the log, slipped on the mud, and landed on my back on the ground. My landing was met with a chorus of UGHH/OHHH/EEEE from those waiting to go. For the next one, my strong teammate Matt gave me a boost and I was up and over with out a second wipeout.

Obstacle 11 is listed as King of the Mountain, I don't remember a mountain or hill, but that might be because my eyes were on the slippery mud the entire time... This could of been the second hay bale obstacle, the second was as fun as the first.

About 7.5 miles in we reached electric eel. This was another slip in slide type obstacle, but with the added challenge of an electric current. Luckily the current was very small and the shocks felt like a light tickle or soft snap from a rubber band.

#13 was the most pleasant obstacle of the course. We had to go under floating barrels in a pond, but the pond water was perfect bathwater temperature and there seemed to be a current carrying you through to the other side. We were all kind of disappointed when this one was over, especially when we saw we had our second set of Berlin walls ahead.

The second set were a lot taller and we own our team's success over these ones to Matt. He climbed to the top and straddled the top. While the rest of us helped boost and brace, he pulled us up until we could kick a leg over to the other side. Also at this point we were all getting a little worn down.

Mud mile was similar to dirty ballerina, but muddier. We had to climb piles of mud and slosh through mud pits... that got increasingly taller and slippier.

By obstacle 15 we had run 8.5 muddy miles. Most of the obstacles were easier if you were taller, this was the one exception. The Boa Constrictor was a downhill drainage tube, a small, water pit, into an uphill drainage tube. I had no problem on these as I could crawl on all fours and brace my back against the top of the tube. The taller guys had to army crawl in the slippery tube.

Funky Monkey was one of the obstacles I knew I had a slim chance of completing successfully. I was amazing at monkey bars as a child, but I guess if you don't keep it up, you lose it. To make it a bit more challenging, they went up and then down... and of course they were wet and muddy. Some people were making it across, but even more were dropping into the water. I made two and then fell in.

Twinkle toes... or a balance beam across water, is one I think I could of done better. You had a two inch board to walk on, but after you got out a few feet it started wobbling pretty good. I made it maybe a fourth of the way and then started to lose it. My poor falling skills earlier were also on my mind at this point so I jumped in before I did something stupid. Next time though I would like to fight for it.

We were almost to the end, but with two of the most daunting obstacles left, Everest and Electric Shock Therapy.

Everest is a gigantic half pipe. When we arrived there was a huge back up of people waiting to get up. The half pipe was covered in slick mud. Half of the people were running up and jumping into people's arms and then struggling like crazy to get over the top. The other half were forming human chains for people to climb up and then get pulled up over the top. We stood around for a bit discussing what we should do. Honestly I wanted to go around. Watching people hanging by their feet and falling back down the ramp wasn't encouraging. But Becky was intent on going. So they made a chain. Matt on the bottom, then Jeff, then Becky. Laura went first climbing up the chain and grabbing on to people's arms from above. And they pulled and she pulled and kicked her leg up and they pulled and pulled. And the super light and athletic Laura finally got up. This was kind of discouraging, but Catherine wasn't discouraged and went. Catherine was pulled up with less trouble, so when Becky looked at me and told me to go, so I went. First climbing over Matt, then to Jeff's hands and shoulders, and then to Becky's shoulders. I ended up having to crouch on Becky's shoulders for a minute while the girls up top found a new guy to help them haul me up. It couldn't of been comfortable for Becky. They found a guy and started pulling me up. I had no strength left to try to pull myself up and every time I kicked my foot up, it was just millimeters out of reach. I admit as I was hanging there I reached a point where I was just feeling like it needed to end. I didn't want to drop down and hit someone, but I didn't know how much longer I could hang. Then finally the guy got an extra wind from somewhere and they pulled me up and over. Once I got my chest above the ledge I was able to get up and finally breathe. But then we had to get Becky up, someone replaced her in the ladder and we searched for another guy to help us and after a few pulls, she was safely to the top. The boys decided not to attempt the wall. We weren't strong enough to get them up, and Matt's shoulder was bothering him, impeding him from a run and jump.

Catherine's parents and aunt were there as spectators, which with the severe weather makes them extremely tough too. So after Everest we stopped for a photo op. You can tell I was feeling exhausted.

Matt, Me, Catherine, Laura, Jeff, and Becky

The last obstacle was Electric Shock Therapy. There was muddy water to run through with electric strings hanging down. The light shocks of the electric eel made me go into this one with no fear... When I should of had some fear. I was shocked three times and this time I could feel it. These felt more like "OMG what just happened" I wasn't tossed to the ground, but it did make you twitch and stop for a half second.

After the shocks we were done. They planted a headband on us, handed us a heat blanket, a t-shirt, water, an oddly warm banana, and finally a beer. After enjoying our beer we grabbed our clean stuff only to find out that they ran out of water for the showers. So we tried to rub the drying mud off of us and put on some dry clothes. I tossed my shoes this time in the donation pile, I kept my shoes after Warrior Dash, but then ended up trashing them anyway. 

The after race party was pretty much shut down due to the earlier storms so we set off walking back to the car... another 2 miles away . On the way back to the car we saw a rainbow.

double rainbow (photo cred to Catherine)
The aftermath-
The traffic and storm were a bigger mess than we even knew at the time. They ended up canceling the Sunday event (due to the extra mud and flooding and ruined parking area) and we have received several emails apologizing for the mess and promising refunds and free transfers for those who did not run and discounts to future events for everyone experiencing traffic delays (which I think was EVERYONE).

My body woke me up at 7 am, too sore to sleep. And I'm covered with bumps, bruises, and scratches, but nothing serious.

my poor elbow
bruised and battered legs 
 Lastly, thanks to my amazing team. They all took a turn pushing, pulling, and cheering me on.

Now if you need me I'll be on my couch trying not to move while finding more and more mud hiding on me.