Goodbye, 755

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I think this is my third attempt at writing this post.  I’m obviously having a hard time with it.  

Long story short, my parents are selling their house.  Their only house.  In Montana.  And they’re moving to Oregon.  My dad has been there for a while already.  My mom is taking care of the business end of things back in Montana.

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I’ve supported their decision from the beginning, for many reasons, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

And really, it hasn’t been “our” house for over a year already.  Renters have been living in it since last summer, and they are the intended buyers.  They have young kids, and it makes me happy that this family gets to live here and enjoy this amazing property.

houseI never really got to say goodbye.  When I was home on leave in 2011 (just before I got out of the Air Force), I had no idea it was the last time I would sleep in my room listening to the wind blow through the trees.  I had no idea that it was the last time I’d stand on our deck in the early morning (when the early morning winds kept the mosquitoes at bay) and gaze out at the gorgeous Flathead River and Columbia Mountain.  I had no idea that it was the last time I’d (most likely) see our kitty, Neko.  That trip home wasn’t as carefree as I had hoped it would be.  My mom and I were working through some issues, and I didn’t have Mike there with me.  It was the last time our nuclear family of four was together (dad and Andy came to visit for the 4th of July); I also haven’t seen my mom since that summer.  It hasn’t been intentional, but life has gotten in the way and circumstances have prevented it.

older pics collageIt’s hard to move on sometimes.  I’m not shy about how much I love northwest Montana.  And how much I miss it.  But this place (our home) has been a huge part of my life, and I feel like I need to say goodbye.  We moved here right before my freshman year of high school, and my mom pretty much let me tour the high schools and decide which one I liked best.  I made some friends for life in this corner of Montana (you know who you are).

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I ran cross-country all four years of high school.  We hosted an exchange student from Austria my senior year.

fall 2001

I dated boys (not that many).  I learned to snowboard.  I taught myself how to bake (with help from my mom) in our kitchen.  I hiked some out of this world amazing hikes with friends and family, and I’ve run to Avalanche Lake too many times to count (mostly with Kari).  Meg and I spied on cute boys floating down the river in rafts from our living room window.

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I brought my boyfriend…now husband…here to show him my favorite places in winter and in late summer.  And we married 10 miles up the road in 2009, in a beautiful meadow full of gorgeous Montana September color.  And when the essence of Nebraska is driving me bonkers, I take a deep breath and go to my happy place…somewhere in Glacier.

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I’m so thankful to my parents for letting my brother and I grow up here.  (And in Washington too, but especially here.)  I know times weren’t always smooth, but I can’t imagine a better place to live when live throws you sour apples.

It’s so weird to think of home now.  I mean, Montana will always be home.  I don’t care if we live in Nebraska for 20 years, Montana is home for me — that place I go to when my mind wanders away from the stifling midwest summer heat and humidity.  But now I won’t have that “physical” place to call home.  With a long list of family and friends to visit elsewhere, will we make Montana a priority?

But also, as much as I hate to admit it, Nebraska is also becoming a home.  The Dutchman and I are purchasing our first home in June after I return from Germany.  Maybe the physical ownership of property will help give me roots to this place I’ve lived more than five years now.  I’ll still proudly wear Montana jewelry and Montana t-shirts (and dang it, I will NOT give up my 406 cell phone number), and our dream is to someday live in the Pacific Northwest again.  But for now, we’re working on being content here.  (*gasp*  I know.)

I don’t really know what else to say.  Mom and Dad, thank you for the opportunity to live in Columbia Falls.  Thank you for choosing a spectacular house to live and raise us in.  House 755, I’ll miss you.  I’ll miss the quick walk to the river, the wildlife (and multiple bear sightings), the views, and everything about it.  But I suppose we all need to move on to life’s next adventure at some point.  I’ll be OK with the tears I’m shedding now.  I have years of happy memories here.

Until we meet again, Montana.




The pool is NOT a toilet.

This week is spring break.

Before any time off from school (or work) ever begins, I have lofty fitness goals.

“I’m going to work out every day.”

That’s lofty enough, in my opinion.

But then Saturday came, and I decided to clean the house instead of work out.  The house was gross, so I considered it a worthy exchange.  Then Sunday came.  It snowed ALL afternoon and into the evening.

I baked cookies.

I ate cookies.

Monday.  I ran 3.2 miles.  I also ate cookies.  And worked.  And watched Grey’s Anatomy.

I love that show.  I watched an episode the other day, and Christina and Meredith were studying for their intern board exams.  They were studying Virchow’s Triad.  OH MY GOSH!  WE JUST TALKED ABOUT THAT IN PATHOPHYSIOLOGY!  Grey’s Anatomy is TOTALLY a study tool.  And when Denny was going through all his heart stuff, they were talking about pulmonary edema, digoxin, and other cardiovascular related terms.  We definitely studied that in the patho cardio chapter.  Grey’s Anatomy = study tool.  (Hey, whatever it takes.)

Tuesday.  Today.  I decided to work on some homework.  And eat some more cookies.  I got distracted on Skype.  I think I mentioned three or four times to Meghan that I needed to get to the gym.  I wanted to swim today.  Swimming is good — low impact and good for the heart.

Around 1300 I finally made it to the gym.  I got in the pool.  I swam four laps.

I see the lifeguard talking to other swimmers.  He walks over to my lane.

“Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to get out of the pool for a few minutes.  The gentleman in the far lane found some feces.  That’s poop.”


I’m no longer swimming today.

Giddy with SNOW

It’s no great revelation that I love snow.  I’ve loved it my whole life.  From Montana to Washington to Montana to Colorado to Washington to Montana to Germany to Montana to California to Nebraska.  My life in a nutshell.

I love snow.

Two of my closest friends are Montana born and raised and love snow like a true Montanan should.  But two other close friends of mine fail to see my enthusiasm about snow.  They prefer beaches and sunshine to cloudy days filled with rain or piles of snow.  I don’t understand this.  Thus, as a lover of snow, I have felt it my duty to convince them that they actually do love snow.  And one of them…  I think she’s close.  I got her to admit that she might see why I love running in the snow so much.  Ha!  Haha!  She’ll convert.  One day.  She will.

All week long I’ve been hearing about this massive snow storm that will be moving in sometime Thursday and dumping anywhere from 6-18 inches of snow.  At first I blew it off and remained skeptical.  I’ve learned to do that since living in Nebraska.  But now it’s Thursday at noon, and the snow is falling.  And sticking.

I have that feeling in my stomach when I’m super excited about something, but I’m trying not to be, because far too many times I’ve gotten my hopes crushed or have been disappointed.  The gleefully enthusiastic person inside of me is jumping up and down, but I’m simultaneously trying to prepare for the disappointment.  I keep telling myself that it’s just going to snow a few inches.  I mean, we hear about storms like these all the time here.

“Oh, it’s going to snow 8 inches.”

We get 1 inch.

“Oh, it’s going to snow 12 inches!!”

We get 3 inches.

Or there’s a huge storm system that is supposed to hit us, and then it suddenly moves, and we get the outer fringe.  Oh!  There’s a snowflake.  I see it.  Floating.  Twisting.  To the ground.  Bam.  Gone.  What storm?

This is what it’s been like here the last two winters.  I have good reason to be skeptical.  But I want so badly to believe that we’re going to get a great big dump of snow.  I’ve already got a friend on standby for snowshoeing this weekend.

I just want it to snow.  That’s all.  A great big snowfall.

And I will keep looking anxiously out the window all day long to make sure it’s still snowing.

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Monday Musings

I know I’ve done a horrible job at keeping up this blog.  I never intended it to be something I did full-time by any means, but I liked the idea of contributing something mindful and worthwhile more often than every several months.  Because I love reading other blogs, I know the only way to build and keep positive readership is to post often and regularly.  Good photography is also a plus in my opinion.  I just like reading about the lives of other people I don’t know.  It might sound creepy, but maybe it’s because I sometimes feel like the lives of others are more interesting than mine.  And they make me laugh.

I know, I know.  I’m in charge of my life.  I alone have the power to make it interesting…or not.  And I know I use living in the Midwest and far, far, far away from mountains as an excuse for my boredom.  I know this.  I’ve not been shy about sharing that on my blog.  But it still makes me feel better to have an excuse.

Life is busy lately.  Full-time school continues to kick my hiney.  Right now I SHOULD be reviewing endocrine system hormones and memorizing drugs for pharmacology, but per usual, I’ve found other and more entertaining things to do at work.  Soon.  I’ll get to it soon.  I’ve been all about priorities today.  Class got out early (thank you awful Monday morning tests x 2), so I took care of some errands in town, and then I took the long way home.  When I got home, I was faced with an option.  Be studious and do homework?  Or watch the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy on hulu and eat Trader Joe’s Frosted Maple & Brown Sugar Shredded Bite Sized Wheats for lunch?

You know what I did.

Winter continues to be another great dull dud.  We’ve shoveled our driveway two times.  TWO.TIMES.  The second time I really didn’t have to, but I did it, because I wanted to pretend it was really 3 feet.  I also wished Nemo would have visited us as well.  Our snowshoes and my cross-country skies have been sitting in our garage the last several years gathering dust.  I’m not saying that I haven’t ever had the opportunity to snowshoe here, but I didn’t know where at the time, and I haven’t always had people in my life who have snowshoes(here in Nebraska).  Now I do, and does it snow?  Nooooooooooooooo.  Anytime anywhere someone posts a picture of themselves in a pile of snow…or snowboarding on Big Mountain….or snowshoeing……or something else cool…….I cry a little inside.  (Woe is me.)

If I were running, maybe the lack of winter wouldn’t bother me so much.  The last time I ran was sometime during the first week of January.  I think.  I don’t even know.  What is wrong with me?  I took my temporary leave of absence from the sport mostly because my left knee was still not completely healed, and I kept trying to force it to be better.  After the 50K (*shudder*) I didn’t do much running, but I did continue to do some running, and my knee just wasn’t having it.  No one told me to stop.  I did it, because I know I want to get running again someday, and pushing through an injury when I have no foreseeable running events or any big fitness plans any time soon just wasn’t wise.  The only true way to get over an injury is rest.  I was in the exact same situation two years ago.  I didn’t run the first three months of 2011.  I hope this doesn’t become a tradition.

However, I also stopped running, because my heart wasn’t in the sport anymore.  I ran because I felt like I had to, not because I really wanted to.  Sometime last year my joy for the sport died, and I’m still trying to get it back.  The miserable, humid suck fest of a summer did not contribute positive feelings to the sport either.  I ran over 1,100 miles last year — a personal record.  While it pales in comparison to many more serious runners, it was an achievement for me.  I’m not sure if it was worth it, though.  Now I have a bum knee and lack enthusiasm for something I once loved.  The knee is healing.  Strength training twice a week and (trying) to stretch more frequently has helped.  Feeling the love?  I’m getting there.  Slowly.

My general activity level has gone way down this semester.  School is time-consuming, and not having to keep up running while also juggling school has been amazing.  And a huge burden off my shoulders.  In many ways, not running has been a blessing.  I needed to return to strength training, and lately I’ve been pretty good about doing that twice a week.  One or two other days of cross-training usually happens as well.  I normally would feel guilty for not working out more often, but I’m actually at peace with this new schedule.  (Most of the time.)  Not running every single morning has also opened up some extra time to spend time in a Bible study.  For years I’ve been bemoaning the fact that I was in a spiritual dumpster, but I wasn’t motivated to get out of it.  And now?  I think today was day #37 in a row of completing a daily study (thanks Alexis!).  I’ve also returned to church every (or most) Sundays, and that was also something missing from my life the last few years.  When half of my Saturday was spent grinding out miles, the last thing I wanted to do was spend half my Sunday at church.  Don’t get me wrong, the absence of running isn’t the only thing that has changed these habits.  Without motivation and determination from God, I’d still be whining about how I’m not getting anywhere spiritually.  Having a few strong Christian friends in my life helps too.

I’m starting to feel the twinges to run again, and this makes me happy.  Last week we had a couple of 50 degree days, and I remember really wanting to throw on my running shoes and get out for a run.  I still feel my knee on occasion, however, and I’m going to continue my break until at least the beginning of March.  Maybe even through April.  I’m nervous to find a new routine and keep my priorities straight this time.  I won’t deny that.  I have to find some way to do it without having to get up any earlier than 5AM.  Any earlier than that is just ugly.  And I’m nervous I’m going to fall back in to the bad habit of replacing my strength workouts with running workouts, so that before I know it, I’m only running and not weightlifting.  That would throw me back into some lame injury, and that just wouldn’t be cool.  I don’t think the husband would let that happen, though.  He’s been a huge motivator with my return to weight lifting.

I want to travel somewhere.  Excluding our short trip to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving (doesn’t count as real travel), the Dutchman and I haven’t been out of this area since the summer.  I had my solo trip to Canada and Montana in July.  But since then, the Heidi that gets twitchy after two months straight in Nebraska is starting to go a liiiiiiiiiiiittle crazy.  Get me to some MOUNTAINS, people!!!  NOW!!!

90 days until I leave for Germany.

Oh yeah.  I’m going to Germany for a month in May.  My husband is awesome.  Let’s have a little shout out to awesome husbands!  WOO!!!

OK, enough of that.  He’s probably rolling his eyes at me right now.

Until I chatter your ears off again…  (Or make your eyes bleed…whatever…)


Market to Market 50K

Yesterday I ran my first 50K.  It was…brutal.

I originally signed up for the 50K at the very end of April this year.  I had recently started running with the GOATZ trail running group in Omaha, and all their talk of long runs kind of inspired me.  (I only occasionally run with the group these days, but that is mostly because the trails they run on are on the opposite side of Omaha from Bellevue.)  While running some spring trail runs with the GOATZ on a 5-mile trail in Bellevue, I met Amber and Adama.  Amber recently moved here from California, and she mentioned that she was thinking about running the Omaha Marathon in September.  I looked at dates and decided that the Omaha Marathon would be a perfect “training” run for the 50K, which was three weeks after Omaha.

Amber and I began doing long runs together.  Meeting her was a blessing, because Ashley (my other running partner) was getting pregnant enough that running long was a definite challenge.  Summer came, and the Dutchman and I flew to Europe for three weeks.  Little running happened there, and I started to freak out about not getting a good running base.  Two weeks after returning from Europe, I took a 5,000 mile solo (well, except for the Canada bit) road trip to Boise, Montana, and Calgary.  I was able to get some running in on that trip, but the summer continued to fly by.

This summer, the summer of 2012, was disgusting.  Hot.  Humid.  Hot.  Humid.  Gross.  Hot.  Did I mention the humidity?  Running was work.  Our training runs got hard.  18 miles, 21 miles, 23 miles.  The 23-mile run beat me down.  It made me think I wasn’t going to finish the marathon.

However, the Omaha Marathon went very well.  I struggled with the mental running demons around mile 21, bent over and cried, and then stood up, got my breathing under control, and kept running.  My second marathon ended with a time of 4 hours, 33 minutes (15 minutes slower than marathon #1 in Missoula in 2010).  Amber rocked the race and finished way ahead of me, but I was blessed with a random race day friend for the last 3 miles, and she and I pushed each other until the end.  The weather was also fantastic — crisp, clear, dry, and breezy.

After the Omaha Marathon I wasn’t sure if I wanted to run the 50K.  I was tired.  I was burnt out from running.  Running was more work than pleasure these days, I was slow, and I just needed a break.  I’ve had some growing knee/IT band problems surfacing, and part of me wondered if it was worth it to run the 50K at the risk of further injuring myself.  But all year long I’ve been saying that once I finish the 50K, I’ll allow myself to take a break.  All year long (well, since April), this has been the plan.  Being the person that I am, I knew I would feel like I earned that sense of completion unless I actually finished the 50K.

The Dutchman has been super encouraging and supportive all summer.  When I’d return home from a run completely discouraged and frustrated, he was always there telling me how awesome I am and that I did more in the early hours of that morning than most other people did.

And so I decided to run the 50K.

The weather the last three weeks has, for the most part, been beautiful fall weather.  Of course it had to change for the race yesterday.  Storms moved in on Friday evening, which caused high humidity and temperatures in the mid-70s.  The skies were overcast for most of the day, and the wind was God sent.  The majority of the 50K took place on the MoPac Trail, which is a converted rail trail between Lincoln and Omaha that connects several tiny farm towns.  The trail was beautiful and peaceful with the changing colors, but it was also very remote and lonely.

The Dutchman drove Adama and me to the outlet malls in Gretna where our friend Jody and her husband picked us up and drove us the rest of the way to Lincoln.  We finally got on the buses around 9:45AM, and we were bused to the starting line about 30 miles away.  Our race wave didn’t start until 11AM, because the 50K was a race in conjunction with the Market to Market Relay, a running relay from Omaha to Lincoln.  The late start was proposed so that all runners would finish around the same time in the evening.

We started running at 11AM sharp, and the first 5 miles were rough.  (That’s never a good sign.)  I am a die hard early morning runner, and starting a run of this magnitude at 11AM just seemed totally wrong.  I felt off, like my body just wouldn’t wake up.  I tried to enjoy running through the leaves and not focus on the miles ahead of me.

Fairly early on in the race, I encountered some kids marking the route.  50K this way and relay runners that way.  They were so cute and encouraging, cheering loudly and spiritedly for every runner.  I got a little emotional.

I quickly found myself alone.  There were a few groups in front of me and a few groups behind me.  I eventually fell into pace in front of a few guys running/walking.  Around mile 12 I stopped at an aid station to get my phone, and the older gentleman thought he lost me.  When he saw me a few minutes later, he said, “Oh there you are!  Don’t take this the wrong way, but we’ve gotten used to seeing your rear end in front of us for a while.”  Haha.  Whatever keeps you going, man.

The miles passed.  It seemed like there were so many looooong and gradual hills.  My left leg began to bother me.  I’ve been having some knee problems for a while now, and at the end of the Omaha Marathon, my left quad was killing me.  (I think it’s all IT band related, but I might head to the doctor this week to get some confirmation.)  It started to feel really weird in the back part of my knee (really hard to explain), so I started taking some occasional walking breaks from my shuffle run.  Then my stomach started to get crampy and bothersome.  Great.  I felt nauseous for a while, and I had that constant urge to find a port-a-potty, even though I didn’t think I’d really need it.  I snacked on some pretzels and banana pieces at an aid station, and thankfully the stomach issues dissipated after a while.

Jeff, an old Air Force friend, passed me at one point, and it took everything in my power to not crumble into a pile of tears.  We were both struggling by then.  “How’s it going?”  *cry*

I kept running.  And running.  And finally mile 18.6 arrived!  Ashley volunteered to join me at mile 18.6 and run with me to the finish.  I saw her and her family (her kids were holding up “Go Heidi!” signs), and I veered off the trail, bent over, and cried.  So emotional.  We started our run together, and it made all the difference in the world to have a friend run with me.  I honestly don’t know if I would have finished without her.  I imagine I would have quit when I saw Mike around mile 22 or 23.  Ashley talked me through my knee pain, stomach issues, and walking phases.

At mile 21 we had access to our gear check bags, so I grabbed some new fuel bottles, snacked, rested and stretched, and then we continued on.  10 miles left.
We saw Mike a few miles later, and we ran up to him and walked for a bit.  He told me how great I was doing, even though I think he could see the “WHAT AM I DOING?!” in my eyes.  And he told me I was almost there.  I told him he was lying.  It was wonderful to see him and know how much he supported me and my crazy adventures.

Eventually we passed from gravel trail to concrete around the edge of Lincoln, but we still hadn’t even hit the marathon mark yet.  The last concrete chunk of the run was probably the hardest.  I knew we were close, but we weren’t THAT close.  My knee started to bother me even more.  We finally hit the last aid station, and the Dutchman joined us again.  I saw him and openly bawled my eyes out.  (I was getting tired of the emotions at this point.)  He told me I was almost there, and this time I believed him.  But 4 miles still seemed like a long way.  But we kept running, and I tried to avoid walking.  The more I walked, the longer it would take us to get there.

I think mile 29-30 was the longest of the whole run.  We were running around the edges of the whole University of Nebraska campus, and I KNEW the finish was near.  Finally we saw the 30 miles sign.  We ran up a viaduct.  And down.  We ran down a street and then down another street.  And I finally saw the pedestrian bridge, and I ran the whole way up and down.  Ashley stopped running with me at the bottom of the bridge, and I limped/shuffled/ran the last bit to the finish.

I crossed the line and was almost immediately overcome with emotion.  I was bawling my eyes out as they put the finisher’s medal around my neck and they took the timing strap off my ankle.  A guy helped me walk around the finisher’s chute and gave me water and Gatorade and helped me find Mike.  He came back a few minutes later with an emergency blanket and made sure I was fine.  The support at the finish line was really amazing.  I saw some of my friends across the fence at the finish, and after reuniting with Mike and Ashley, I found them again.  There weren’t really words to express how thankful we all were to be done.

My official race time is 6:52:37 with an average pace of 13:17.

The Dutchman waited patiently while I got a post-race massage.  It was great, but I feel like I could use another one every day for a week.

When I finally got myself together enough to leave, I limped around the area, and Mike got me a few pieces of pizza.  I picked up my gear bag on the way out, and we made our way to the car.  Once settled the car, I devoured the pizza.  It was the best ever.  Pizza is my go-to food.  Really.  But my stomach is often very picky after running, so that’s all I ate until breakfast today.

So now I’m done.  I’m so relieved.  I won’t say that I’ll NEVER run a 50K again, but I don’t think I will.  Even the marathon just doesn’t do it for me.  I wish it would, but I really want to enjoy running again.  I’m planning on sticking to half-marathons for the next few years, and then we’ll see.  Half-marathons are fun.  They’re an easy travel race.  I don’t stress out with a half-marathon, and my body does better with the training load.

I really want to say thank you first and foremost to my husband.  Thank you for always supporting me and encouraging me.  When I didn’t think I could do it, you were always there telling me I could.  Thanks for being my chauffeur, race day photographer, and post-race “can you hold this” coat rack.  I love you!  I also want to say thank you to Amber and Ashley.  You two have been wonderful running partners this year, and I don’t think I would have made it through marathon/50K training without Amber and our long summer runs.  And Ashley, you running with me yesterday helped me more than you know.  And thanks to all my family and friends!!!  You guys have been so encouraging and awesome this year!  Hopefully I’ve inspired a few people out the door to run.  It is motivating for me when I hear that my running (however slow it might be) has motivated someone else.

Death by Cheesecake

Pinterest.  It’s evil.  Anyone who is on Pinterest knows exactly what I’m talking about.

I find things like this Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake from Call me cupcake! on Pinterest.  Then I think about the delectable picture I saw for days, and before I know it, I’m driving to the store with the sole purpose of finding ingredients for a new baking adventure.  Or cooking.  I cook things I find on Pinterest.  I try to cook healthy things.  But baking is fun!  It’s more rewarding.  And delicious.

And that’s why I run.  Well, kind of.  It’s one of the many reasons I run.

After drooling over the cheesecake, I decided to have a girls’ night and make the cheesecake.  Only one person was able to come, but we sure enjoyed the heck out of that cheesecake.  Mine didn’t turn out quite as pretty as the one from Call me cupcake!, but I’m pretty sure it tasted the same.

Cheesecakes are one of my favorite things to bake, but I usually only eat a small slice and leave it at that.  It isn’t my favorite dessert.  I’m more of a cookies and brownies kind of girl.  The Dutchman, however.  He LOVES cheesecake.  I think I like baking them so much, because it’s usually a contest with myself to see if I can out-bake my previous cheesecake efforts.

And moving on…

As much of the recipe is in metrics, I converted the measurements as best as I could to US measurements.

(And honestly, I wish we could just be like the rest of the world when it comes to measurements.)

This recipe also requires a chocolate ganache and a caramel sauce.  The ganache is a cake walk, and I used the recipe attached to the cheesecake.  The caramel sauce, however…  I’m quite certain I attempted 5 batches of sauce, and I finally found success in the last batch.  Caramel is a tricky beast, and it definitely challenged me in the kitchen.  All day.  The Dutchman came home from work and asked how my day was.  I gave him “crazy baker eyes” and pointed out the gnarly piles of brown to black lumps of failed caramel.  I will include a recipe different from that included with the original cheesecake, because I found it much easier to use.  After giving up on the original sauce, I discovered there are two different kinds of caramel sauce: dry and wet.  Dry sauce uses only butter, sugar, and cream.  Wet sauce uses sugar, water, butter, and cream.  The water made a huge difference for me.

A quality candy thermometer would also help, but I used to microwave timer and had success with that.

I’m including the metric units after the ingredients in case you have a kitchen scale.  I approximated US measurements, and it turned out great.

Another note is about the water bath.  Most cheesecakes require being placed in a water bath during baking, and the humidity from the water ensures even baking of the cheesecake.  I got irritated after ending up with a very soggy crust once, and I read about how placing a pan filled with water on the shelf below the cheesecakes also works.  I usually bake my cheesecakes outside of the water bath, but I decided to place my cheesecake in the water bath this time.  I was diligent about carefully wrapping the bottom of my pan with foil to make sure water didn’t leak in.

Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake
Adapted from Call me cupcake!


Oreo Crust:
2 1/2 cups Oreos (300 g)
1 cup butter, melted (100 g)

3 packages cream cheese, at room temperature (600 g)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup sugar (1/2dl = 50mL)
4-5 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
100 g dark chocolate, 70%


Pre-heat oven to 320 F.

Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.  Wrap the bottom of the cheesecake in aluminum foil at least three times — ensure the foil comes close to the top edge of the pan.  (The pan will be placed in a water bath, and you want to be sure water does not leak through the bottom of the pan into the crust.)

Combine the Oreo crumbs and butter in a bowl.  Press the Oreo mixture evenly into the bottom of the springform pan.  Place the pan in the fridge.

Using a mixer (or hand mixer or food processor), beat the cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk until it is smooth and creamy.  Add the sugar, lemon juice, eggs, and vanilla extract.  Beat together until smooth and fully mixed.

Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate and let cool.

Add 1/3 of the cheesecake batter to the chocolate.  Mix well.

Fetch the springform pan from the refrigerator and evenly add the chocolate cheesecake mixture into the pan.

Pour/spoon the remaining batter into the pan.

Place springform pan into a large roasting pan or cooking sheet.  Boil water, and add it to the pan until the springform pan is 1/2 inch deep in water.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the cheesecake is set.  It should move just slightly.  Cool the cheesecake completely, cover, and place in refrigerator overnight or for at least 8 hours before serving.

While the cheesecake was baking, I cleaned up the kitchen and prepared for the caramel round.  I had no idea it would take me most of the day, with some attempts turning out like this.





And this.





Like I said earlier, I ended up finding a different caramel sauce recipe to use, and I had great success with this Salted Caramel Sauce from the Cooking Channel.  I also had to borrow a copper-bottomed stainless steel pot from a friend, as all my pots are black, and it is MUCH easier to gauge the progress of caramel sauce in a stainless steel pot.  If I continue more candy-type cooking (not likely), I might have to invest in a good stainless steel pot.

Salted Caramel Sauce
Adapted from Kelsey Nixon at the Cooking Channel


1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp sea salt


In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves.  Increase the heat and bring to a boil, without stirring.  If necessary, use a wet pastry brush to wash down any crystals on the side of the pan.  Boil until the syrup is a deep amber color, about 5 to 6 minutes.  (I set the microwave timer for 5 minutes and hovered around the kitchen until it beeped.)

Immediately remove from heat and very carefully whisk in the heavy cream.  The mixture gets a little angry here, so expect lots of bubbles and excitement.  Stir in the unsalted butter and salt.  Transfer to a dish and cool.

Dark Chocolate Ganache


100g dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream


Finely chop the chocolate and place it in a bowl.  Carefully heat the cream in a saucepan (or in the microwave) until it is very hot, but not quite boiling.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and let it sit for about 30 seconds.  Carefully stir the chocolate and cream until the ganache is shiny and cool.  Let cool.

And then.

When the cheesecake is ready.

And then cut out some slices.

And make magic.

I hope you enjoy the cheesecake!  It’s worth the time.

I’m off to a trail run soon, so I wish everyone a happy evening!


Upper-body Circuit

I visited the gym (not including pool visits) for the first time in several weeks a few days ago.  It felt good to lift heavy things again, but I felt kind of sad having to decrease the weight on some exercises.  Oh well.  At least I was there, and the field house gym is amazing.  And I actually did an Elliptical workout from Fitnessista.  I usually hate cardio machines, and today was no exception.  However, it did feel good to do something that wasn’t running.  And I’m still sore a few days later.

I’m not a personal trainer in any way, but I wanted to do a circuit workout of some kind and kind of invented one as I went about the gym.

It’s mostly focused on the upper-body, but it’s very easy to add some lower body work into the mix.

Upper Body Circuit #1

Complete 3 sets of 12 for the weight exercises.

Incline chest press
Incline flies
10 burpees


Standing shoulder press
Standing side lat-raises
10 mountain climbers


Lat Pulldown
Seated row
30 second plank


Bicep curls (standing on one foot)
Overhead dumbbell triceps extensions
10 burpees


Leg extension
Leg curls


Weighted lunges
Wall squats

I did this workout two days ago, and my upper-body is still crazy sore.  It’s probably mostly because I haven’t lifted in a while, but I just won’t focus on that.

Happy lifting!!


Not the answer I was looking for…

Apparently I’m not as good at multi-tasking as I thought I was; that’s evident in the fact that I, once again, fail miserably in an attempt to keep up my blog during class sessions.  I’ll try this again.

In the meantime, I figured I would update everyone on what’s going on with us.  I know I’ve hinted to some things on Facebook, and while everything still isn’t 100% certain (I guess nothing is ever 100% certain in the life of the military), it seems to be pretty decided.

It’s no mystery that we don’t really like Nebraska.  We’ve lived here 4.5+ years now, and we’re both ready for a new adventure.  The Dutchman would like a new job within his current career field, because the options here in Nebraska are, well, less than ideal.  He’s been trying to get orders to either Florida or Arizona, and he’s recently had renewed hope in the Arizona direction.  I’ve been praying for direction, that God would show us where we are supposed to be and that we would understand and be content.  And lately it has seemed almost overwhelmingly obvious that Nebraska is where we are supposed to be.

A few days ago we found out that a hoped for switch with someone in Arizona fell through, and because of the way things are in the Dutchman’s current career field right now, it’s definitely a long shot to expect anything promising in the change of duty station hope anytime soon.

Any time he tries to do something that would enable us to leave, something happens to keep us here.  A class got canceled, the guy got transferred somewhere else, and despite his desires on his “dream sheet” and other people getting orders, NOTHING EVER HAPPENS.  We keep fighting it, despite what I’m coming to believe is what God actually wants for us.

A few months ago we sat down and talked about maybe staying here.  Maybe if we bought a house, we could claim some kind of ownership to this area.  I was hating my online classes (still do), and was considering other educational opportunities.  The husband has some educational/career goals as well, and there are lots of educational opportunities around here for what he wants to do.

But then we had a chance encounter with someone who is higher up the Air Force food chain, and he had the potential to get wheels rolling for us.  And we got our hopes up again…

And now it looks like we’ll be here for a while.

Regardless of whether or not we are going to move, I decided to quit my online degree program.  The style of learning doesn’t work for me, and I haven’t enjoyed school in a long time.  I have over 150 credits, but I’m still about 33 credits (11 upper level classes) short of a Bachelor’s degree, and I really don’t want to start over somewhere else.

Torn about what to do, I decided to apply for a few Physical Therapy Assistant programs at a few schools in the area.  The average PTA program is two years (two traditional school years + one or two summers), and upon graduation I would have an Associate of Science of PTA.  I still wouldn’t have a BS, but the career outlook for a PTA is pretty good, and I know once we start having kids (not for a while…), I won’t want to work full-time.  I’m questioning the importance of an actual degree in my life as opposed to a decent career and a future family.

That being said, I have been officially accepted to Nebraska Methodist College in their PTA program, and I am awaiting news from Clarkson College about my application.  Regardless of which school I attend, I will be starting class towards the end of August.  I’m looking forward to returning to the traditional classroom environment, and I am hoping for a more rewarding educational experience than my online one.

So that’s the latest.  I know we probably sound silly and petty to some, but we feel we’ve paid our Nebraska dues and should be able to move somewhere else.  Someone reminded me about the silly catch phrase about Offutt Air Force Base yesterday, and I wanted to punch him in the face.  “Once you get to Offutt, you can’t get ‘off it’.”

Thanks for the reminder, man.  Thanks.

And so we’ll carry on (dramatic, I know), trying to make the most of the (very blessed) life we live in Nebraska.  Maybe we’ll find a new place to live.  A change of home scenery would be awesome…

That’s it for today!  I’m hoping to get a cheesecake blog out soon!


Winter Running: The Clothing Conundrum

Figuring out what to wear for a winter run is a never-ending battle.  I don’t want to wear too little and end up freezing my rear off, but I also don’t want to be too warm.  Winter time is all about layering.  Layering is the key to any outdoor activity any time of the year, to be honest.  I personally would rather be able to shed layers than be one layer too short; this is especially true if I’m in the mountains hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or snowboarding.

Mountains…  Sigh…

Sorry, I got distracted.

I can’t even begin to describe the numerous materials out there today that make fantastic active wear.  The most important rule of thumb, however, is DO NOT WEAR COTTON!!!  Cotton is lovely, but it is the devil of all workout apparel.  When worn during a workout, cotton will retain the moisture (sweat) given off by the body, and this can great a cold and wet feeling during activity.  Technical performance fabric, on the other hand, is designed to wick the moisture away from the body.  This aids in keeping the body temperature more regulated.  Also, technical fabrics try much quicker than cotton — I notice this the most in the summer time while hiking or doing other like activities.

Some technology, like Mizuno’s Breath Thermal, turns the moisture created by the body into heat.  (I’ve personally never worn it, but I’ve heard it’s great clothing.  Peak Performance carries several items, and I’m thinking of investing in a Breath Thermo base layer.)

Another technology (or rather, fabric) to consider is merino wool from brands like Icebreaker or Smartwool.  Merino wool is lightweight, dry, breathable, and it resists odors.  According to Icebreaker, “Icebreaker merino pulls moisture vapour to the surface of the fabric, where it evaporates before the vapour turns into sweat. It can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in moisture before you even start to feel wet, and it dries fast.”  The wool is also breathable, because “the fibre as well as the fabric breathes to prevent you overheating.”  I actually own several pieces of Icebreaker clothing, and it was AMAZING stuff for hiking in the Olympic Mountains in Washington during our honeymoon in 2010.  I wore a 200 weight base layer and a 150 weight t-shirt over the top of it, and even though the day was warm, I didn’t overheat or feel the cold/moisture of the sweat from my body when we stopped for breaks.  I’ve not yet run in the clothing, but I think it’s more because I want to save my merino wool for hiking.  I plan on testing my Oasis shirt soon, though.  The biggest disadvantage of merino wool products is the cost, but I consider them worthwhile investments to my outdoor activity gear.

As mentioned previously, winter running is all about the layering.  Depending on the weather, one or more layers  will be needed.  This is how I layer my upperbody:

Base-layer: Tight fitting layer, closest to my body.  I prefer shirts with a long torso and long sleeves with thumb holes.  My favorite (so far) is the Nike Pro Hyperwarm Crew.  The shirt is very form fitting, is long enough to tuck into my tights (help keeps cold air out), and the fuzzy inside feels like the inside of a sweatshirt.  This layer also works well as a stand alone layer when the weather is in the 40s or 50s, depending on wind and elements.

Mid-layer: This layer is looser fitting and often acts as my top layer.  A thicker fleece-like layer with a 3/4-length zipper in the front is a great option.  I currently wear a 3SP Sporthill top, with 3SP in the upper arms, front, and shoulders and fleece on the under arms and back.  It’s been a great piece of clothing and a good addition to my winter running collection.  I’ve also worn an Under Armor Hoodie, but I prefer the extra features and partial wind protection of the Sporthill top.

Outer-layer: This is a layer I wear only in extreme situations.  Such situations include: strong wind that brings the wind chill down to obscenely low temperatures or cold temperatures 10 degrees or below (unless the windchill is there with higher temperatures).  Sometimes I’ll wear my base layer and outer layer without the mid-layer, especially if I need protection from rain or sleet in temperatures that aren’t extremely cold.  My two outer-layers of choice are my Mountain Hardware Epic Jacket and my other Mountain Hardware jacket that looks something like this.  The Epic jacket is a thinner rain jacket, and the other jacket is a waterproof softshell with a hood.  I haven’t worn the softshell yet this year, and I’m dreading the day I have to.  (It’s not that I don’t love the jacket; it just means the weather will be cold, cold, cold and the wind evil, evil, evil the day I wear it.)

On my lower half, I wear a base layer tight that I have from Nike (that I got at TJ Maxx).  They are made out of the same fabric as the Hyperwarm Crew, and they’ve been a great base layer for winter running.  As with the long-sleeve shirt, I often wear these alone without any other layers.

My personal mid-layer on the bottom is not technically a mid-layer.  My Nike tights aren’t adequate enough to deal with the fierce wind around here alone, so I started looking for a wind resistant outer-layer** or additional tight.  I finally found a pair of The North Face Apex Climate Block Tights  on Ebay that didn’t cost a gazillion dollars, and the performance has been so-so.  They work better when worn over my base-layer Nike tights.

**As a side note, I would like to express my frustration with the design of wind resistant bottoms.  When I run with wind, my thighs and butt get really cold.  I don’t know if they are more exposed in some way than other areas of my legs, but that’s the truth.  So many of the bottoms I found contained a windproof element in only the front of the legs and the back of the calves.  Even in the North Face tights I ended up choosing, the windproof elements exists in the thighs, shins, calves, and butt, but the side of the legs are not covered in the material.  Do the designers of these tights not run?  Do they think the leg sides are immune to cold winds?

My lower body outer layer has most often been worn with just the tights underneath.  The North Face windproof tights were a new addition to my running wardrobe this year.  I wear the Sporthill 3SP XC Pant or a pair of fleece pants I got at Costco years ago.  I have mixed feelings about the Sporthill pants.  I have no doubt about their awesomeness, but I think I will feel better about them once I run in all three pant layers.  With just the tights, I don’t feel like they block the wind particularly well.  (I would love to wear then snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in Montana where the wind would not be as much of a factor.)  Maybe my legs are just pansies in the cold.

Socks: I usually wear my normal running socks in the winter.  Sometimes, on the really cold days, I’ll throw on a pair of Smartwool hiking or running socks, but I still prefer my Balega socks.  I’ve been running in them since 2006, and they make my feet happy.

Shoes: I have some Gore-Tex trail shoes, but I honestly prefer to run in my normal running shoes.  I bought a pair of trail Pearl Izumi Syncro Fuel II shoes for running this winter, and I hope they serve me well.  I have been running in the first road version of the shoe, and I wanted to get the trail version for the tread.  It adds some traction when running in snow.  I have a pair of the STABILicers Lite, and I use these occasionally when the roads are icier.  However, I usually end up taking them off by mid-run.  I personally think they’re more fitting for walking, but these particular ones fit really well on the shoes.  If you’re nervous about ice, I’d definitely recommend a pair of them or something similar, like YakTrax Pro.  Peak Performance is getting a different style in this week, but I’m not sure what they are like yet.  Apparently they are much better than the STABILicers.  Another idea is to “screw” your shoes.  I’ve never done it, but my dad has done it with success, as far as I know.  Here is a good guide on how to “screw your shoes”.  If done, this pair of shoes would obviously used only as a winter running shoe.

Head Gear:  I’ve had the best success with a simple ear band.  I wear it over a cap, my Brooks beanie, or sometimes even under a thicker hat.  I’ve considered getting some sort of face mask, but I honestly can’t stand stuff on my face when I run.  I breathe into it, and my face gets moist from my breath, and then it freezes.  Sometimes I throw on a fleece scarf (just a simple strip of fleece) around my neck when it’s really cold; I can adjust whether or not I want it tight or loose.

Gloves: As long as my hands and ears are warm, the run usually goes better.  But the hands are most important.  Like I said in my illumination post, I wear Saucony’s Ulti Mitt II the majority of the time.  If it gets real cold, I plan on throwing on another pair of fleece mittens.  I think my snowboarding mittens will be a bit too warm.  I’d like to get a pair of wool mittens and wear some thin liners under them for the super cold days.

And there it is.  Like I’ve said before, this is what I wear for winter running.  I don’t claim to have it all figured out, and it’s always a mental battle before heading out on a winter run.  What’s the temperature?  What are the roads like?  Is it icy?  Is it snowy?  What do I need to wear?  How many layers?  Is it windy?  Even though I love running year round, sometimes the summer is just easier.  No matter what, I’ll still sweat like a pig.  Ha.  But I still get out there and run in the cold; if I need to, I’ll shed layers and wrap them around my waist or tuck them in my running pack.

I hope this was helpful for at least one aspiring winter runner with no clue what to wear.

In the meantime, enjoy this picture of my Dad after a run, and think about all the fun you’re about to have!!!