Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wrong turn on the Monarch Trail

Good evening, friends! What's new? How's your week going so far? Good? Good.

Where to begin... thanks for your awesome comments on how you like your pancakes. Whether they're peanut butter-y, buttermilk 'cakes made by someone else,  or of the pumpkin or sweet potato variety - I love that with the right ingredients, pancakes can be a healthful meal (in cake-form), and fun to prepare.

So, I've got a spooky story to share with you!

Last night I had a Lakefront Marathon planning meeting to attend (yes, I'm running this year and still volunteering as marketing manager - phew), at a different location than usual. The new location is about 3 miles from my home, and I thought it might be close enough to bike to. However, I miscalculated my route, which winded through the Milwaukee County Grounds - aka a lot of open green, natural prairie-like space which earlier this century, held the Milwaukee County Almshouse (asylum) and various medical complex buildings. I'm a nature-lover, and history buff, so this all sounded great to me. The Monarch Trail, doesn't that sound lovely?
The miscalculation of the route brought me to two dead-ends. One of which was literally a dead end. A seemingly in-the-middle-of-nowhere cemetery: Potter's Field.
Picture yourself biking at about an hour before dusk, on a remote road surrounded by prairie, and coming across this creepy sign. 
I'm not usually phased by cemeteries, but being alone and stumbling upon this gave me a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. The cemetery is interesting, because it's a field without many markings, since most of the people buried there were institutionalized and didn't have money for grave stones. Do you have any cemeteries like this in your community? I definitely wasn't aware of this place before last night.

I eventually found my intended route and got to the meeting without incident, but after the meeting I had Zak come and pick me and the bike up :-) There was no way I was riding home through the same area, in the dark!

On a side note, life and work (mostly work) continue to get busier, but I'm determined to handle things like a pro, making time for myself and home life a priority. After all, this will be my 9th fall concert season and 'rock'tober. I've just never attempted one while training for a marathon. Yeah... more about that later.

Next week around this time, I'll be packing my suitcase with gear for the Pikes Peak Challenge. I can't believe it's coming up so soon! 

You do the talking: How do you weather the busy seasons of your workplace? Any tips? My advice is to approach each week in advance, get as many tasks completed in advance as possible and to be anticipate the worst-case scenario whenever possible. There's no such thing as being too prepared!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Love is a blueberry pancake

Good evening. How was your Tuesday?

Today, I opted to work from home, and had a couple of very positive conference calls. Music industry folks can get as stressed out as any others, so I always get a little anxious about phone conferences, but today's folks were awesome. Down to earth, funny and most importantly, gave me some great suggestions for the shows we have with their artists. It was Lovefest 2011, and made for an inspired and productive workday.

Zak came home with good news this afternoon, and I said we needed to celebrate. What says "congrats" better than blueberry pancakes?
Blueberries were necessary, because love is a blueberry pancake.

I used a base of Great Harvest pancake mix (purchased from KERF's OpenSky deal!), and added vanilla protein powder. 

I made a double batch to make thousands and thousands of pancakes (okay, or enough for six servings). 

What's that, you say? You'd like the recipe? Sure, why not!

Blueberry pancakes, a la Backstage Balance
Adapted from Great Harvest pancake mix recipe
Yield: 8 generous servings
2.5 cups of water
2 T coconut oil 
1 whole egg, 2 egg whites
3 cups Great Harvest pancake mix
2 scoops vanilla protein powder (I used the scoop that came in the protein powder container)

1. Heat griddle and grease with butter.
2. Whisk together wet ingredients. 
3. Add the pancake mix 1/2 cup at a time, then mix in the protein powder.
4. Scoop pancake batter, a scant 1/4 cup at a time to form pancakes. 

5. Add several blueberries to uncooked side of pancake
6. Flip and cook to perfection
7. Enjoy!

You do the talking: Conference calls, friend or foe? I don't know why, but I usually hate them. After today's calls, I feel positive about future ones! 

When it comes to pancakes, what is your ideal flavor combination? Aside from blueberry, I love chocolate chip pancakes. Or restaurant pancakes covered with a hot apple cinnamon sauce, mmm.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Road trip adventures: Grand Rapids, MI

It is 10PM.

I finished my run at 8PM.

I still haven't showered.

I'm kind of gross that way :-)

I chose to do some work (I'm sick, I know), catch up on blogs, and write this post instead of showering. Aren't you glad? (sarcasm).

How was your weekend, blog friends? Zak and I took a road trip to Grand Rapids (MI), to visit his sister and her family. We used to hang out with them frequently when they lived in Chicago, but there was something about a 700 square foot high-rise condo that didn't mesh well with having a baby :-) They moved to Grand Rapids earlier this year, and this was our first trip to their new town. 

It was also our first trip with both dogs in tow. They did surprisingly well on the road!

Here's how the weekend went: We pretty much either a) played with baby Zeke, b) went out to eat, or c) took photos with baby Zeke. It was great! 
Saturday, we managed to catch some of the Herman Miller Grand Cycling Classic (US Finals Criterium) races through Downtown Grand Rapids. It was pretty cool to watch! Team Bissel (yes, the vacuum cleaner) owned the race, at least the one we watched.
Later, we checked out Stella's Lounge, a punk rock bar with a killer whiskey list and a giant, mostly-vegan menu. We went early, and the music wasn't too loud or anything, but was pretty hilarious to take a baby there. We had to take advantage of their cool mural outside for a mini photo shoot.
Stella's menu was indeed impressive, mostly because of the 200 types of Bourbon and whiskey available. I didn't want to be *that girl*, at least not while hanging out with Zeke, so I opted to try the "Hellbent for Lentils" vegan burger with "Chronic" fries. Holy delicious.
They call these "chronic fries" for a reason - highly addictive!
Hands down, the best burger I've had this year. And 100% vegan!
Zeke said that once he can eat solid food, he will have to try this burger.
Baby fist bump!
After dinner, we headed to Jersey Junction in East Grand Rapids, for dessert: ice cream!
Cake batter ice cream. It was pretty swoon-worthy.
"There she goes with the weird food photography again..."
All in all, it was a fantastic night. More foodie adventures and Zeke photos to follow!

You do the talking: Have you ever had vegan bar food? We have a great place in Milwaukee called Palomino that is pretty fantastic, and has a similar rockin' vibe.

Are you a whiskey drinker? I seriously love whiskey and Bourbon. It's kind of my thing! Only a little bit at once, though. I'd rather order a high-quality whiskey on the rocks and sip it over a couple hours, than order beer after beer.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Who's blogging two nights in a row? This girl!

How are you doing tonight? I am relaxing with some Sour Patch Kids and the latest episode of Jersey Shore. Because it's a Thursday.

By the way... Is it just me, or does "The Situation" kinda look like 90s MTV star Pauly Shore?
No? Maybe? Hard to tell without that bandana.

Today at work, I spent some quality time with my spreadsheets, and got a ton accomplished. I sometimes think of each show we do at work as a little baby that I take care of (yes, I know that's kinda weird), and today my babies got lots of attention. Three cheers for productivity!

I'd like to share with you, my very favorite smoothie combination. There is probably nothing unique about it as many other bloggers have used similar ingredients. So I'm not claiming to have invented this beast... rather, this is my favorite mishmash of healthy smoothie ingredients!

It starts with frozen, pitted cherries, spinach and some milk.
Then, the star of the show... Cacao!
(Any Portlandia fans in here? Remember the Cacao skit? Too funny.)

Some chia seeds. If you haven't heard of these, they are the same seeds that you put on chia pets. They are full of good-for-you stuff (Omega 3's, B-vitamins, etc.) and because they become gelatinous when they combine with liquid, they aid with hydrating your bod.
Protein powdah (chocolate, of course)...
It looks like a pile of... healthy:
But once blended, has the creamy consistency and rich flavor of a chocolate milkshake. Delicious!
Healthy Smoothie, Backstage Balance-style
Serving size: Two giant glasses

1 cup milk (any kind will do - I like to use coconut milk beverage)
3 handfulls of spinach (about 2 cups, packed)
1 cup pitted, frozen sweet cherries
2 tbsp raw cacao powder (cocoa powder will work, too)
1 tbsp chia seeds
1.5 scoops chocolate protein powder

Blend milk, spinach, and frozen cherries until smooth. Stop blender and add in the raw cacao powder, chia seeds and protein powder. Blend until incorporated, then serve and enjoy!

You do the talking: What are your favorite smoothie ingredients?
I almost always roll with a chocolatey or vanilla-y smoothie. I've tried to do fruity smoothies and haven't quite hit my stride with those. 

Do you see the resemblance between The Situation and Pauly Shore? I realize it may not be super obvious but was seriously giggling over putting their images side by side :-)

I did another Google image search and found another comparison! What do you think?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Joe Rogan = awesome

Good evening, friends. How's this week treating you?

Mine has included working on plans for several interesting shows... for privacy purposes I won't mention artist names just yet (not until the night of the concerts, yo), but I've spent the most time on a) an alternative rock band I swooned over as a teen, b) some righteous guitar dudes, touring in a pack and c) an awesome singer-songwriter chick. So 

Oh, and last weekend at work, we had a show with Joe Rogan. You know, host of Fear Factor (which is coming back this fall!) and announcer for the UFC. He also does standup, and he ruled. 

Zak and I checked out his show as a quasi-date night. We stopped in to work before the show to make sure everything was good to go... and took advantage of a photo opportunity (of course)...
Then, we grabbed a drink at Rock Bottom Brewery...

Their IPA rocks my taste buds. The last time I visited RB, I had been dressed in sweaty running clothes and fake blood, so it was funny to reminisce about that.

Fast forward to a little while later, after doing some top secret birthday mission stuff (it was Joe Rogan's birthday last week), it was time for the show!

You can check out two videos from his experience at the venue I work at:
Joe Rogan giving love to the Pabst Theater security team (hilarious)
Joe Rogan: Happy Birthday from Milwaukee 

Again, I gotta be private about some things but I will say this: after the show, Zak and I had an absolutely incredible / surreal night. I'll have to tell you the rest of the story in person when we hang out :-)

You do the talking: Did you watch / get into Fear Factor? It used to totally gross me out but now I must be desensitized or something because the stunts don't really seem that bad. I think I could temporarily eat just about anything if I did the whole mind over matter thing... how about you?

Do you like Mixed Martial Arts / the UFC? I am squeamish about how graphic it can be, but think that the training, artistry and true grit of the fighters / sport is pretty incredible. Plus I feel that it's safer than boxing - there are only three rounds, and the fighters always have the option of tapping out to end the match. We went to UFC Live in Milwaukee on Sunday and it was pinch-yourself cool to be in the live audience of the globally broadcast event.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Four weeks 'til Pikes Peak

In exactly four short weeks, I will be crashing on my sister's futon in Colorado Springs, resting up for our 3AM wakeup call for the 2011 Pikes Peak Challenge

This event is a 13.1 mile hike to the summit of Pikes Peak, one of America's most iconic mountains. Funds raised by hikers benefit victims of traumatic brain injury, through the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado. An important cause, and the hike is a beautiful tribute. 

This will be my second time participating in the Pikes Peak Challenge, and my second ascent of the mountain. I'm really looking forward to it!

My posts from last year's training and event:
Stepping it up for the Pikes Peak Challenge
The Final Countdown (training outline for final 16 days leading to hike)
Pikes Peak Challenge: A little humor, and those famous donuts
We made it!
Pikes Peak Challenge Recap: Part 1
Pikes Peak Challenge Recap: Part 2

While training for last year's hike, my main goal was to get fit in general. I was transitioning out of a more sedentary lifestyle, and trying to wrap my brain around what was necessary for conditioning my body for the hike. I ended up doing a lot of walking and jogging, but not much else. Once I was actually completing the hike on the day of, I quickly realized that strength training and some agility training would have greatly helped me navigate the rocky and steep terrain.This time around, I have focused mainly on running (thanks, marathon training) but clearly need to get aboard the strength training and agility exercises train. I've got four weeks to make this count, and am going to figure this out asap. More on the specific training plan to follow!

My overall mood for this year's hike is excited / laid back, now that I know what to expect. Last year, I was nervous / excited... also freaking myself out, reading stories of horrific accidents in Yosemite on Half Dome (which does not at all compare to Pikes Peak, it's way more dangerous), and the high risk of lightning strikes (which can honestly be said about any mountain of the same elevation). I panicked about my gear, driving my sister crazy with questions like "Annie, will I need technical fabric underwear?" I distracted myself with funny stories about Pikes Peak, like the famous donuts served at the summit house.

I've got my work cut out for me, but am so, so excited to get back on the trail.

You do the talking: Do you like hiking? There aren't many rigorous trails in SE Wisconsin, but there's one super hard one that I can't get enough of (TWSS!), it's my favorite. It's the black loop at the Lapham Peak Unit - Kettle Moraine State Forest, for you locals.

Have you ever visited Pikes Peak? 
A fun story: One of my favorite bloggers, Kath, has a special connection to the mountain. Her mother wrote a book, Purple Mountain Majesties, about the woman who visited Pikes Peak and wrote the poem that inspired "America, The Beautiful." Neat, huh? When Kath blogged about the book, I left a comment and her mother was so sweet to respond. This year, I'll carry a copy of her book in my pack and take a photo with it at the top!
Side note: In researching a link for Half Dome (Yosemite National Park, California) I came across a remarkable essay from Gina Bartiromo, who survived a fall from the cables and recovered from TBI and other injuries. Her story is truly incredible and inspiring!

Monday, August 8, 2011

All in a day's eats.

Happy Monday, everyone. How was your day?

Mine was okay... I finished about 80% of what I set out to do at work, survived a technology fail with my laptop (knock on wood!), while nursing a sore IT band / knee with a bag of frozen peas under my desk (classy, I know). More on the knee issue later. 

Not to whine, but it was kind of a rough day. Tonight, I arrived at home absolutely famished. I really didn't help myself in that department. Breakfast was typical, 1/2 a PB on whole grain bread, with a giant iced coffee. 
Consumed while driving, tsk tsk.

Later, I had a Clif bar - the new Coconut Chocolate Chip flavor - delish! Also, carrots and a greek yogurt, both of which I ate so quickly I didn't think to snap a photo.

Once I arrived home, I was craving a pasta and veggie dish, and whipped up a quick Laura Pad Thai. I used loads of veggies and regular enriched pasta, added some extra egg whites and thinned out the peanut sauce with coconut beverage. Mmm!
Does this photo look blurry to you? My point-and-shoot camera is on its last leg :-(

I go through phases where I like to photograph and journal my food, to help me keep on track with a) focusing on nutritious foods and b) eating enough in general. When I get stressed, I tend to eat poorly. Hopefully food journaling will help me keep on track this week!

You do the talking: How was your Monday? Have you tried food journaling? 

Fellow bloggers, what are your thoughts on posting daily photos of your meals / snacks? I go back and forth on it... sometimes I feel that my meals are so boring (which they absolutely are), but I like sharing photos of interesting-looking dishes (like the Laura Pad Thai tonight). 

I'm off to read this lovely book:
Foodie books are my preferred relaxation method as of late. How about you guys, have you read anything awesome lately?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Healthified Pizza + Encino Man Musings

How's everyone doing?

I loved reading all of your comments from my Challenge Nation race recapAnneAlison, Paige, Steph, & Sarah - holla :-) One thing that's stinky about using Blogger is that there isn't a way to reply to each comment. I am working on switching over to a different blogging format altogether - a format that allows replies to comments - so stay tuned!

We are having some funky weather in the Milwaukee area tonight. Check out this weird, spotlight-like cloud: 
Creepy, right? 

Anyhow, tonight I was in the mood for pizza. So I made a healthified version!
Toaster oven pizza: whole wheat tortilla with sauce, green pepper, spinach, scallions, green olives and good ol' aged parmesan. Delicious and (for the most part) nutritious!
And covered with the strong stuff. Can't forget that. Recipe to follow!

Tonight, Zak and I are relaxing with a classic movie: Encino Man. Remember this one?
What's not to love about Pauly Shore and Brendan Fraser, early 90s pop culture references and of course - those ridiculous hairstyles? I remember loving this movie in 5th grade, and laughing over the quotes with my friends at Girl Scout meetings... especially "Aw-oooo! Bud-dy." 
They even ended the movie with that same reference. Awesome.

Have you seen Encino Man? If not, you probably think I'm cray-cray right now :-) If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and watch this YouTube of the prom scene, right now. Trust me.

You Do the Talking: What's your favorite 90s movie? Encino Man is probably my favorite, but there are so many other classics out there... PCU, Clueless, The Baby-Sitters Club. Man, my mind was nearly blown when the Baby-Sitters Club movie came out! I just couldn't believe it! 
Oh, and we can't forget Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That one was epic, and without it we would have never had the Sarah Michelle Gellar TV series!