I am a triathlete!
May 16, 2011

Yesterday I completed my first triathlon! It was so much fun.  Of course I have to recount my experience for you (if nothing else to memorialize it for myself), as well as what I learned about triathlons.  And yes, you get to see an rare photos of the elusive Sally.  First, here is the wonderful medal/charm that all finishers got.  Yeah, I’m wearing it all day today!

It was an unseasonably very chilly day (in the 50s!), so I was a little nervous after training in warmer weather to wake up to a cold, dreary day.  I had prepared to do the race in my tri top and shorts, but had to pack a short-sleeve and a long-sleeve shirt in case I needed it for the bike ride.  I was handling my nerves really well until I was about a 1/2 dozen people away from entering the pool.  That’s the “omigod-I-really-have-to-do-this” moment, as well as the “there’s-no-backing-out-now” realization.  When it was my turn, I just got in the water and pushed off the wall.  Probably because of nerves I was having some trouble regulating my breathing the first couple laps, but got it under control and even passed a few swimmers!

Ok, you can't really see me well, but that's me swimming!

Once out of the pool, I ran barefoot while pulling off my goggles and swim cap to the very cold outdoors and onto the gravelly pavement to the transition area.  First things first, wipe off my face, adjust my ponytail, and clip on my bike helmet!  I rinsed off my feet and put on socks and shoes.  I felt ok enough to forgo the extra shirt and decided to chance it in my wet tri top.  Took my bike off the rack, grabbed my bike gloves and sunglasses, and tossed a few Sport Beans in my mouth.  Then, I ran carefully with my bike to the mounting area.  Once on my bike I was on my way.  I was easily moving along at a good clip and shouting “on your left” to several other bikers!  I was feeling really good.  I managed the hills and sharp turns well and didn’t get too winded.

On the bike!

Returning to the transition area, I ran my bike back to the rack, removed my helmet, gloves, and sunglasses.  I clipped on my race belt with my bib number and put on my running hat (hello swim/sweat/helmet hair!).  Grabbed some more water and popped a piece of gum in my mouth and ran out the transition area.  A couple volunteers shouted that I looked really strong, so that really helped boost me as I took off into the park.  Two laps, that’s all I had to do.  After the first lap, I realized I was running faster than I ever have.  I joked with myself (runners have crazy thoughts while they run) that I was going so fast because I was trying to safely skirt the dozen Canadian Geese on the path (geese are mean little creatures).  As I headed into the finish I realized I had enough steam to sprint to the finish line.  They announce your name and that you’re a “triathlete” at the finish and it really feels good!

What I learned…

  • When people find out you’ve done a triathlon, they are immediately impressed and call you things like superhuman and a machine and inspiring.  Enjoy it!
  • It doesn’t matter how bad or good you are at any part of the race, it’s the total time that matters.  You can make it up in other areas.
  • You actually have 6 different times: Swim, T1 (first transition), Bike, T2, Run, and total overall time.
  • A lot of other people out there don’t know what they’re doing, or at the very least don’t know their swim times.  You’re not the only one.
  • It is a totally achievable goal!  Pick a small sprint race like this one and go with it.
  • Things are going to go wrong.  You can let them control you or you can just ignore them and power through.
  • Seeing a familiar face as you’re pushing through the course is really reassuring.  Beloved showed up and it was nice to see him smiling!
  • This is truly an individual sport.  You most likely will not see the same people at any point in the race and will have no idea how well someone is doing based on where they are in the course.  Just focus on yourself and finish the best that YOU can.
  • You will get body marked.  But, the day before the race at packet pick up, they put a big fat 4 on my hand with a sharpie to indicate my swim group.  Just as I expected, I woke up on race morning with a faded backwards 4 on my face.  (a little rubbing alcohol will take that off)

Yeah, some of that was on my face in the morning.

  • You won’t want to wash off the body marking after the race, because it says “hey, I’m a badass, I did a triathlon!”
  • Your age according to the USAT, is whatever your age is on December 31st of that year.  Therefore, I am always a year older because my birthday is 3 weeks before the cutoff.  Also, they mark your age on your calf!
  • You will have to put a sticker on your bike and your helmet.  But don’t worry, it’s a sticker that’s easily removable.  Now why can’t the rest of the world use stickers like that?

Here are my results:
My total finish time was 1:01:56. (66th overall, out of 227, and 7th in my age group of 30 women)
Swim (250 meters): 6:25 (99th overall, 10th in my age group)
T1: 3:43
Bike (8 miles): 32:58 (60th overall, 8th in my age group)
T2: 1:43
Run (2 miles): 17:09 (46th overall, 5th in my age group)

This race was an incredible first race.  It was for women only, so that made a great environment for the nervous beginner.  Also, women athletes are usually much more supportive of each other and more likely to be polite to each other in competition.  The race was excellently organized.  I was never unsure about where anything was or how the race was going to run.  The course was clearly marked and all of the race officials and volunteers were more than available to answer questions and help.  The excitement and support on the course were amazing.  It was great to see women of all ages and abilities out there, but also to see all their friends and families out there to see them on that very early, very chilly morning.  I would do this race again in a heartbeat, or any race that the race director and their organization puts on.  If they come back again next year, I’m definitely doing it again.  I know that the bar has been set high for my next triathlons (the next one is in 2 weeks), so here’s hoping I enjoy those at least half as much as I enjoyed this one.

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Say what?
October 29, 2010

Once again, the vanity plates fairy strikes again.  This time, it is a mixture of religion and poor spelling.  And we all know my pet peeve with poor spelling and poor grammar.  Therefore, this month’s “Say what?” goes to:

1. I understand when you’re typing an email really quickly and you make a mistake in a word.  But something that will stay on your car for several years, that you pay additional fees for, I would think you would really proofread that shit several times.

Photo courtesy of Beloved.

2. And this one. I mean really, did you just give the vanity plate application to a lolcat and say…just make sure it professes my faith.

Photo courtesy of my lovely friend Miss Dallas.

I know, I know, I live in the South.  We are truly at the buckle of the Bible Belt.  But, c’mon people let’s be a little more respectful of your faith and fellow drivers.  If you really need to say it and there aren’t enough letters…Buy a Bumper Sticker!

Lobster Pot Pie
August 15, 2010

Yes, you read that right.  I not only made pot pie, but Lobster Pot Pie!  Here is the special dinner I made for July 4th for Beloved, who loves lobster.  It was a big hit and actually not very difficult.  Well, it’s not too difficult as long as you have some experience with getting the meat out of a lobster.  Fortunately this Southern Girl was actually born a Yankee and I was cracking open my own lobsters before I could even sit in a full-sized adult chair at the dinner table.  However, if you do not possess this skill or don’t have the time or patience to learn, you can usually find cooked lobster meat at a seafood counter, but you’ll have to ask nicely and probably pay a little more for it.

Lobster Pot Pie
adapted from Cosmopolitan (don’t laugh, I came across the link from another unrelated online story)

2 – 2 cup (at least 12 oz.) individual ovenproof  ramekins (These were very hard to find. I finally found them very cheap at Big Lots, thank you Lesley!)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot diced (I bought carrot sticks and just chopped into cubes)
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (or soy milk)
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth, I prefer low sodium)
1/2 lb cooked lobster meat*
1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt
pepper
1/2 of 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (keep refrigerated until ready to use and freeze the remaining)
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375°.
Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add diced onion and carrot.  Cook, continuing to stir for around 5 minutes.  Add corn and peas.  Stir in flour.  Cook for 1 minute.

Add milk and broth, constantly stirring.  Cook until sauce thickens (approx. 5 min).  Remove from heat, add lobster meat*, thyme, then salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

* Cooking lobster: If you choose to cook your own lobster, here’s how.  I don’t recommend attempting a whole lobster on your first try, but you can easily master 2-3 lobster tails to serve your purpose here.  You need 1/2 lb of meat, keep in mind that if you buy the tails, the shells add weight, but the seafood counter can help you get approximately the right amount.
Usually the tails will be frozen.  You can leave them out in your refrigerator overnight to thaw, or you can set them in a bowl of water until thawed.  Set tails top side (the dark side) down (little legs poking up) on a roasting pan, making sure to tuck in any meat into the end.

Broil on high for 6 minutes.  Remove tails and allow to cool.  Using kitchen shears, cut down the bottom side of the tail.  Remove the tail meat.  Here’s the gross part, you will need to devein and wash off the meat.  If you are ambitious you can attempt to remove the meat from the rest of the lobster.  Waste not, want not.  Cut or tear the meat into smaller bite-sized pieces.  Then add the meat to the mixture above.


Remove the pastry from the refrigerator.  Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8″ thick.  (I just love my pastry rolling pin, it also works great for the pizza rolls recipe!  If you find one of these, I highly recommend them!)

Use the top of the ramekin as a guide to cut 2 circles for the top of the pot pies, cutting a little larger than the bowl.  Spray the ramekins with baking spray and place on a baking sheet or roasting pan to catch any runoff during baking.  Spoon filling into the ramekins.


Place one circle of the puff pastry on the top of each ramekin.  Press the edges of the pastry into the ramekin to seal.

Cut a vent or two in the center of the pastry to vent air and moisture during cooking, then brush the entire surface of the pie with the egg.


Bake about 35 min. until the pastry is puffed and turns dark golden brown.  Remove from oven, allow to cool, and wow your dinner partner with this special flare on a comfort food.

Pizza Rolls!
July 8, 2010

I have made the pizza rolls from my foodie blogger friend One Particular Kitchen a couple times before.  And they are awesome.  I finally decided to branch out and try variations on her pizza rolls.  I made two!  Beloved requested a ham and pineapple Hawaiian version.  And for the second one, I was inspired by the pizzas a few weeks ago at a foodie event, and made a special veggie version too.

Pizza Rolls  (adapted from One Particular Kitchen)

Hawaiian Pizza Rolls
1 can of pizza dough
Crushed pineapple
3-4 slices Canadian bacon (or ham) (finely chopped)
1/4 onion (finely chopped), optional
Pizza/pasta sauce
Shredded cheese (I actually used Daiya cheese for Beloved)
Chopped sweet basil and oregano from my garden
Dental floss (hang with me on this one)

Baby Portabella/Brie/Mustard Pizza Rolls
1 can of pizza dough
Chopped sweet basil and oregano from my garden
3-4 baby portabellas (finely chopped)
Brie (cut into a few smaller pieces)
Mustard sauce (I used 1-2 tsp of Hickory Farms Sweet Hot mustard I had on hand and whisked with honey)
Dental floss (hang with me on this one)

Preheat oven according dough instructions.  (400°)
Prepare the ingredients.  Making sure all are finely chopped, especially any “meaty” ingredients so they are easily “cut-through” at the end.


Roll out dough on floured surface into a rectangle.
Spread a thin layer sauce (pizza sauce or mustard sauce) on dough.  Keep the sauce light so the rolls don’t get soggy.
Sprinkle other ingredients to a satisfactory level.  Less is better, because you don’t want it to be too stuffed.

Roll up the dough.
Slide a thread of dental floss under the roll.  Cross the ends and pull both ends away from the roll.  The floss will cut through the roll without mashing down the roll like a knife would! Awesome trick, huh?  Continue cutting through rolls until you have cut the entire roll.
Place the rolls in a cake/brownie/baking pan with the nice sides facing up.  Keep some space between the rolls as the dough will expand.
Top with some remaining cheese.


Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the dough appears to be baked through and a light golden brown.
Enjoy!  (And try getting a picture of the final product before it’s all eaten.  Go ahead, I dare ya!)

Blogiversary, Helpful Hints, Giveaway
June 14, 2010

That’s right kids, it’s been 2 years since Sally opened her own virtual world!  In the past year, Sally has: posted more recipes, hunted more dinos, trained for 2 very different half marathons, got a personal record running a half marathon, hula hooped 13.1 miles in a storm, bought her own home, traveled to Canada again, hula hooped with fire, got snowed in, was flooded, became a new aunt (Tante), and shared many of her Helpful Hints.

And what better way to celebrate a blogiversary than with a Helpful Hints Giveaway!  But first, here are a couple more helpful hints to keep you going!

Sore feet
Been wearing heels too long?  Or feet are just worn out from a long run?  Use a TENNIS BALL or GOLF BALL to massage those sore feet.  This can be done at your desk or while watching TV.  Just slip off those shoes, and roll your foot back and forth on a tennis ball to massage your feet.

Scratches on Wood
I hate when I accidentally ding up a coffee table or picture frame moving it around.  How do you cover that ding?  Just just a MARKER that is a similar color to the wood finish.  You could buy the fancy expensive furniture markers, or you can just save your money and buy the same thing with a different name.  I keep a black and a brown marker on hand at all times!

No Socks
In the summer, you can’t just wear socks or hose with all kinds of shoes.  Besides the weird way it looks, it is also very warm.  But how do you get your shoes to feel comfortable and to reduce the sweatiness factor?   Just sprinkle some BABY POWDER or other foot powder in your shoe and voila, instant dry fit!

Back Tension
I hate when I have a knot in my back.  It seems impossible to work it out on my own.  But I just place a TENNIS BALL between my chair or the wall and my back and roll back and forth on it, or just sit back against the ball on the knot in my back.  It really helps relieve the knot and massage your back.

Gardening
While gardening, many plants need to be staked against a trellis or other stick, but some plants are too delicate for metal or plastic ties.  Just take some old PANTYHOSE, cut off small rings from the legs and snip one end. You instantly have a gentle, stretchy tie that will expand with the plant and can be easily removed, without damaging the plant.  Next time don’t throw away that pair with the run, just put it in with your gardening tools!

Wet Shoes
In the past year, I have learned a lot about running and walking in the rain!  So, I’ve had to deal with my fair share of soaking wet water-logged sneakers.  The fastest way to dry out the sneakers (without causing any warping, etc.) is to stuff them with NEWSPAPER.  For some reason, the paper used for newspapers is very absorbent and dries quickly.  Just remember to change them out periodically until your shoes are dry.  The paper wicks away the moisture and helps prevent any mildew or mold, and means you’ll be back out running or walking quicker!

Fluffing Laundry
Do you want your towels fluffy like when you first bought them?  Throw a TENNIS BALL in the dryer with your towels (just don’t use dryer sheets – they zap the absorbency of towels and should never be used with any towels).  The ball will bounce around with your towels, make a little noise, and help fluff and separate your towels while they dry!

BLOGIVERSARY GIVEAWAY
Ok, now to the Giveaway.  I know, I know, that’s the only reason you’re here.  That’s ok, I love giveaways too, just be sure to tell your friends!  This Blogiversary Giveaway is Helpful Hints related!  Each item in the package is something I have mentioned as a tool in Sally’s Helpful Hints!  I have not included every item I have suggested because some are not very conducive to shipping (e.g., honey).

This package includes:  Tennis balls , eye drops, Friction Aid stick, cinnamon, black and brown sharpie markers, meat tenderizer, Tide To-Go stick, baby powder, pantyhose, dryer sheets, and tea tree oil stick.  And I may throw in some other bonus goodies for good measure upon shipping.

What do you need to do?  Just leave a comment (one comment only per person please) either about your favorite Helpful Hint from Sally, or share one of your own helpful hints with Sally and her readers!  The giveaway will end Friday, June 18 at 12:01AM CST.  At that point I will assign the valid entries a number and take a random drawing.

*(NOTE:  Sally does not specifically endorse any product featured on Sally’s Helpful Hints on Sallaboutme, nor has she received any special endorsements or sponsorship by any particular brand or company.  She’s just that nice to go out and buy them herself just for the readers.  Often the products purchased for the giveaway are generic brands with no particular preference to a particular company.  All uses of or participation in any of Sally’s Helpful Hints are at your own risk.  It’s the internet folks, you are always at your own risk.  Giveaway currently only available for shipping within the lower 48 States.  Rules subject to revision at any time by Sally.)

AND THE WINNER IS…..

Nate Baker! Congrats Nate!  I’ll email you very soon and get your package to you!  Thank you to everyone for playing along!  There are some really great hints below, check them out!  And look for them to appear in future Sally’s Helpful Hints posts!

(Note: Many apologies to Gareth, one of my most faithful readers.  He lives on the other side of the pond, so he was disqualified from the Giveaway.  But you should go check out his blog and send him a little love from this side of the pond…especially after the world cup game the other day…)

Burger Debate
June 9, 2010

No, I did not debate the merits for or against hamburgers.  And no, I did not eat a hamburger.  But my friend Coco has been running this local “Burger Debate,” and I find it fascinating even if I don’t eat burgers.  So, recently she added the new local, (way) upscale joint Burger Up to her list for Burger Debate.  I have been wanting to try it for some time, because it is owned by the same people who run one of my favorite local coffee shops, and I’ve heard lots about the veggie burger.  It helps that I got a glimpse at the menu and it looked fantastic.  So, I added myself to her list and promised to help out with the Veggie Burger Debate end of the taste test!

That evening, I also had another foodie event at one of my favorite local Italian restaurants.  We had plenty of wine and some amazing food.  I was able to catch up with or meet some of my online foodie bloggers that I love!  Among the food that I loved was the flatbread pizza with portabellos, brie, and some kind of light mustard sauce, as well as a chick pea cake thing that was fantastic.  I wanted more, but I knew I had to save room for burgers.

By the time we arrived at Burger Up, I knew that unfortunately I wouldn’t have room to try the tasty appetizers, but I’ll come back and try them next time.  Everyone ordered and we were on our way.

I, of course, ordered the Marathon veggie burger that is made with quinoa and black beans.  (2 of a veggie’s favorite things)  It was a whole lotta burger!  I was completely stuffed by the time we left.  The bun was good, but it was pretty thick and took away from the burger.  The burger was incredible, don’t worry you won’t go home hungry it was very filling.  However, I wished it had more condiments on it.  It was an interesting touch that they put what seemed like sour cream on the bun, but there wasn’t enough.  Turns out it was a “cilantro lime creme fraiche,” but it didn’t taste like anything other than sour cream.  It was pretty dry and I’m somewhat of a mustard lover, so I could have used a little spicy mustard or some sort similar addition.  The fries were incredible and the ketchup that they bring is homemade, so very nice too, but not exceptionally different from other ketchups.  Then again I’m not much of a ketchup girl.

Beloved ordered the Woodstock burger and the onion ring tower.  The onion rings were really good.  He only let me try one bite, so you know they were good, no sharing.  He said the burger was pretty good.  Maybe in the top two or three he’s tried.  The sauce that comes with the onion rings was phenomenal.  Probably my favorite part.  I kept dipping my fries into it.  According to the menu it is a spicy lemon lime remoulade.  It is yummy, that’s what it is!!

However, after our dinner, I experienced a bit of indigestion the entire next day.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one.  At first I assumed it was from the double-duty foodie night.  But others from our group, friends who also dined there earlier that night, and other people I know who’ve eaten there before have experienced this.  It was nothing terribly uncomfortable, and certainly nothing that would prevent me from trying it a second time.  Speaking of, I would like to go back and try their portobello sandwich….and their fried shrooms…and….and….

I have heard that many diners experience very slow service.  We had exceptional service, especially since we had a large group.  That may have been the product of growing pains of a new business, that had been worked out by the time we arrived.  The only complaint I had was the noise level.  The layout of the restaurant is beautiful and I love the decor, but it does not do much for the acoustics.  But I have heard the owners are working on fixing that in the near future, so that’s a bonus!

Eat Out For Nashville
May 17, 2010

Today is a special day for foodies and people who like to eat.  Yes, that means you!  While most of the flood waters have receded, people and businesses are still working on rebuilding.  While not everyone has the time or money to donate to help out others, we all need to eat, right?  Why not visit any of the wonderful local restaurants that are donating 50% of their proceeds today to the Tennessee Emergency Response Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee?  That’s right, 50%!  Most restaurants are only participating for dinner, so check the details carefully.

For the most updated lists of participating restaurants, please visit a couple of my favorite blogs and websites.

Nashville Scene Bites

Eat. Drink. Smile.

Erin’s Food Files

Nashvillest

The owner of Amerigo, one of my favorite local restaurants, organized the event.  It is also where I met Beloved 6 months ago today, so naturally we are going there tonight.  Where are you going to eat?

Beloved Cake Balls
February 12, 2010

A few weeks ago, I went to one of our fabulous locally owned coffee shops for a bake sale to benefit the Haiti relief efforts.  I picked up several goodies, but the little baggie of “cake balls” was the biggest hit.  So much, that all I heard about was the beloved cake balls from my Beloved.  I corresponded with the original baker to get some tips on recreating her treat.  So when we were snowed in a couple weekends ago, I promised to make them.  What else was I going to do all weekend?  (Besides drink hot toddies and bust my back on a sled.)

A few warnings about these cake balls.  1. They are beloved by everyone.  You will have a hard time getting them done without several “stolen” from the pan.  2. The cake recipe below makes a LOT of cake, feel free to cut it in half.  3. You will need to run several extra miles after eating these, but it’s so worth it.

Beloved Cake Balls

(*Haitian Cake recipe adapted from CrumpyCakes, Cake Ball recipe adapted from CrumpyCakes and AllRecipes.)

2 cups softened butter
2 cups sugar
8 egg yolks
8 egg whites
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp Rum (optional, or if you’re me…required and you’ll put in a couple tablespoons)
4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lemon zest (required for lemon flavor)
1 cup milk (or soy milk)
1 container of white frosting (I opted for “butter cream” flavor and I think it was the perfect flavor complement!)
Blocks of chocolate candy bark (chocolate or white or both depending on your preference)

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Start with a very large mixing bowl.  Cream the butter (using a mixer, beat butter with sugar, gradually adding sugar, until light and fluffy).  Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl.  Gradually add egg yolks to the butter/sugar mixture.  Stir in vanilla and Rum.

In a medium bowl sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest).

Alternately add small amounts of the milk and dry ingredients to the batter until it is all fully mixed.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Pour the batter into a cake pan that has been greased and floured.  (Note if following full recipe above, I used a deep 9×13 pan and it baked about 3 inches thick.  Make sure you have at least a 9×13 pan if you plan to bake it all at once.  You can also use several small loaf pans or several round cake pans.)

Bake for at least 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  (I actually needed closer to an hour because the cake was so think, but might need less in a larger pan or split up into several small pans.)  Let cake cool in pan for a few minutes.  Turn out onto a wire rack to cool more until it can be handled comfortably.

In a large bowl, crumble the cake while still warm.  I started with 1/2 of the cake, slicing into strips and crumbling the strips.  Add the entire tub of frosting and mix with cake crumbles.  Add more cake to reach a good consistency.  I actually ended up using only about 2/3 of the cake.  That’s a lot of cake!

Using a melon baller or (my favorite) a rounded teaspoon, scoop out “balls” of the cake-frosting mixture, rolling in your hands if necessary.  Place balls on a wax paper covered baking sheet or other easily stackable flat surface that will fit in your freezer.  Place sheet with balls in the freezer for at least 30 minutes until hardened.  (Note they can be left in the freezer for longer.)

Melt chocolate bark according to instructions on package on very LOW heat.  (Note if you’re using white bark, keep stirring and make sure it doesn’t get too hot; it will scorch and will turn brown.  This isn’t as much a concern with the darker bark, but you’ll have to throw out the white if it scorches.)  Remove from heat.

With a fork, dip the balls in the chocolate to coat.

Shake off any excess chocolate and run tines of fork across pan if necessary.  Place on clean wax paper to set and dry.

Continue until all balls (or desired amount) are covered.  Store in fridge or freezer in airtight container once dry.  I also like to make both colors and run the tines of the fork across a different color ball for an added effect.