Four Years

Four years ago I finally made the decision to go vegan. After being vegetarian for 13 years and toying with the idea of being vegan for three years, I finally took the plunge in August of 2010. It has been one of the best decisions of my life. I’ve met some great people and eaten some delicious food over the past four years. And now I get to share that experience with two amazing people: E and Little H. 20140209-112103.jpg

E and Little H were born last October. We got off to a rough start with E spending almost 6 weeks in the NICU, but she was able to come home for Thanksgiving and has been doing great ever since. After many sleepless nights over the past nine months, I feel like we have somewhat of a routine now.

E and Little H have a great nanny, which has allowed me to go back to work part time, cook, train for a marathon, and occasionally take a nap. I’ve filled the blogging void with Instagram (follow me here), but I hope to get back into blogging at least once or twice a week now.

Besides baby smiles and laughs, the highlights of the last few months include:

1. Isa Does It. This cookbook is amazing. Most recipes are pretty quick, so it’s great for a week night. Everything we’ve tried has been delicious.

2. Getting back into running – the Woodstock Challenge 5K.


3. A family trip to Wisconsin and a meeting of the cousins!

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4. A road trip to Nashville to celebrate the marriage of my best friend from high school.

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(The Wild Cow)

(Khan’s Desserts)

5. A 24-hour trip to New Orleans for a bachelorette party


6. Cookies – for Christmas, Chinese New Year, the Super Bowl, Groundhog Day, and St. Patrick’s Day

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Chicago Women’s 5K


The Chicago Women’s Half-Marathon and 5K was last weekend. I ran the Chicago half-marathon last year; it was their first year (previously a 5K and 10K, but 10Ks are becoming increasingly rare these days), and well-organized. The best part was a sleeveless race shirt. Sadly, this year’s race shirt was a drab gray short-sleeve shirt.


I signed up for the 5K in February, because I knew I was pregnant and last year it was a very hot half-marathon. I figured I would just run an easy 5K, but then I found out it was twins and running more than 2 minutes makes my heartrate spike. So I decided to walk the 5K. My goal was to finish the race before the winner of the half-marathon, which had a 20 minute head start. I had a pre-race Builder bar (my usual pre-marathon breakfast) and carried a bottle of ice water. I went to the back of the start corrals and settled into my 15 to 16 minute per mile pace. The first mile was fairly shady and then we turned onto the lakefront path where there was a breeze. It was very different being in the back of the pack. Several people were doing their first 5K and were so happy to be out there. It was a bit discouraging when I got to the 1.5 mile water stop and realized I would have been done by then if I were running. When I got to the 3 mile marker, I decided to run in. Not as fast as I could go, but not a jog either. It was so fun! I miss running. I crossed the finish line in 48:52, 867th place (out of only 991). I made it easy for the twins to get a PR in their next 5K.

Here’s my professional maternity photo shoot at the finish line.


Santa Run

This weekend I ran the Kiwanis Santa Run for Kids, a 5K through Crystal Lake in a full on Santa suit.

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The sea of Santas


Me, Anne & Lauren in the start corral


I even took a picture during the race.


I am done racing for the year, so I just did this race for fun. Anne and I ran together and we obviously started in the wrong place. It took us almost 30 seconds to cross the start line, which in a race that is not chip-timed is huge. Once we crossed the start time, it was more of a slow jog than a run until we were able to break through the slower runners. Our poor start position might have cost us a minute of time.

I did not wear the pants, because it was so warm and they were huge. Plus, I wanted another excuse to wear my sparkly green skirt.


Z is for Zombie


Happy Halloween!

I was able to leave work a little early to be home in time for Trick or Treating.  I put out some pumpkins and a happy Halloween sign to let kids know candy is available! There are kids in the neighborhood, but I guess they think people in our units don’t hand out candy because some will  just walk right by our door.


We don’t get a lot of trick or treaters, so I usually have a ton of extra candy. This year I bought a lot less, but I bought quality vegan candy: Sjaaks Halloween bites (peanut butter and orange – that’s two different flavors, not a combination) and caramel bites, all with fair trade chocolate, and Surf Sweets Sour Berry Bears.


Halloween dinner:
Black tofu, forbidden rice, orange bell pepper, and roasted butternut squash with coriander seeds (from Veganomicon) .

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While I waited for trick or treaters, I made Halloween sugar cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar:

Zombies and braaaains!


Bats, cats, ghosts, pumpkins and witch’s brooms.

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Ghosts in the graveyard with vanilla bean coconut milk ice cream


Last weekend, I celebrated  Halloween with a costume 5K and brunch party.

The Running Scared 5K in McHenry benefited Illinois Special Olympics. This was its first year, so it was not a large race, but the majority of people were in costume. I went as Robin.


And I won! During the whole race I was in front, which is a scary place to be when you don’t know the route. I have never had to worry about making a wrong turn in a race before. Turns out, I am not a good race leader. Either I missed an arrow or the race missed putting an arrow at the intersection, but I led around 15-20 people on a .3 mile detour; it was a long 5K. My official time was 24:33 and I probably added about 2 minutes by doing the extra loop.

Halloween Brunch Menu

Spooky Hummus

Caramelized Onion Quiche

Pumpkin French Toast

Gluten-Free Pancakes

Apple Sticky Buns

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins

Hot Cranberry Apple Cider

The quiche, french toast and pancakes were from Vegan Brunch; my friend brought the pumpkin muffins.

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M is for Marshmallows (and Marathons)

Allison’s Gourmet drinking chocolate with Sweet & Sara mini marshmallows (in a running mug).

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Speaking of running, here’s my very belated Chicago marathon race report.

A brief history of Chicago marathons:

2007 – my first Chicago marathon, turned “fun run” at mile 21 due to extreme heat. Finishing time – 5:10:52

2009 – There was great weather this year, but my left leg had been bothering me the for almost a month before the race. The first half went OK, but I was limping by mile 14. Found a limping buddy and we shuffled across the finish line together. Finishing time – 4:35:42 and I couldn’t run (I could barely walk) for weeks thanks to a stress fracture.

2010 – I had decent training for this race but I completely fell apart around mile 18. I didn’t just hit the wall, I slammed into it head first. It was another hot one, and I did not handle it well. Finishing time – 4:28:32

I swore off the Chicago marathon after 2010. I finally broke 4 hours at Illinois the following year, but it was a horrible experience (that wall!). So I ran Milwaukee just for fun- no time goal, no watch, I just wanted to finish strong (something I hadn’t done since Atlanta 2008). But then I was back in Chicago.

I missed out on some speed work in August as well as a couple long runs (probably made up for it with a 42 mile ultra), but besides that, training went really well. There were no injuries either. The weather forecast? Perfection!

Realistic goal- under 3:50
Happy goal- 3:45
Secret goal – qualify for Boston 2014 with 3:40.
But most important: just break the Chicago curse.

I missed my secret goal by 2 minutes, 17 seconds, but it was a 14 minute PR and the Chicago marathon curse was finally broken and I finished with a smile. I did learn an important lesson though: Garmin is useless in a marathon. It was close for most miles, but around the half it went crazy (at no point did I run a sub-8 minute mile).


Accurate 5K Splits


Race pics


Best race photo ever on the left here

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Best race moment: passing a guy in a “Fueled by Beef” shirt at mile 22 in my No Meat Athlete “Runs on Plants” tee.


Howl at the Moon 8-hour Ultra


So running kind of loses its fun after 6 hours, which I know because Saturday, I ran for 8 hours. For Walt’s 50th birthday, we went down to Danville, IL to run Howl at the Moon. It’s an 8 hour ultra. You run a 3.29 lap as many times as you can and the person with the most miles wins. You only get credit for laps completed, so at 7 1/2 hours they open up a mini (1/2 mile) course so you can get in more miles even if you don’t have time to complete another loop.



Walt’s ready to go with his party hat.




Dave only took pictures while we walked, but we did actually spend some of that 8 hours running. You can kind of see that going on here:



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I ran 12 laps, plus 5 1/2-mile out & backs for a total of 41.98 miles (which I am rounding up to 42). I ran a pretty consistent race. The first 9 1/2 laps I ran with Anne and Walt, who have both done the race before. There were two parts of the course Walt designated as walking points, so even on the first lap we stopped to walk. I assumed that by the later laps I would be walking more than running, but I only walked at the designated spots. We changed shoes & socks during lap 7, so that was our longest lap. On lap 9 I was a little late in pressing the lap button, so lap 9 was about a minute and a half faster than the chart and lap 10 was a little slower. During lap 9, Walt’s knee started to bother him, so he took a walk break. Anne and I finished the lap together, but she was starting to pick up the pace. After 33 miles, she is gaining speed! I hung with her for lap 11, my fastest lap (we even stopped for Anne to get a rock out of her shoe), but I couldn’t hold that pace on the final lap. I could see her up in the distance, but was quite happy with my slower pace. I knew I wouldn’t have time to finish a 13th lap and the mini-course wouldn’t open until 7:30, so there was no point in pushing it just to stand around and wait. Which is what lap 13 is – the time spent waiting for the .5 out & back to open up. Lap 14 was 5 out & backs (2.5 miles). I was running under an 11 minute mile here with no walk breaks – that was all adrenaline and excitement about almost being done. I almost stopped at 4 laps, but I knew I had time for one more, so I pushed through. There was 2:43 left on the clock when I finished my fifth lap. Even on the best day I can’t run 1/2 mile at a 5:26 pace, so that was the end.

After the race we walked over to the barn for the awards ceremony. So many awards. I got three medals – I’m like the Michael Phelps of ultra running. The first one was for meeting my goal. My goal was 35 miles, so I completely crushed that goal. The second medal was for all runners who ran 35 miles or more in honor of the 35th anniversary of the Kennekuk Road Runners. The last huge medal was for the third highest mileage in my division (women under 40) (that’s after you take away the overall female winners; I actually tied for 9th in my division). The reach your goal award is a bottle opener and the huge age division award is a belt buckle.

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For Walt’s birthday, I made a howl at the moon cake. The cake was chocolate with mocha frosting (both from Sticky Fingers Sweets); the moon was frosted in buttercream. I found a howling wolf cake topper on ebay and she sat on a grassy cupcake hill.

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I also made some runner sugar cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade your Cookie Jar. Some of them suffered from typical runner ailments: broken leg, decapitation, but most of the arrived in tact.

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Minneapolis Half DNF

There was one other time that I didn’t finish a race. It was last fall at the Crystal Lake half, but I was just doing it as part of a training run and I ran 7 miles before the race started. Plus I was still injured. After run-walking back to the finish line park, I just walked back to my car. But this was a real race. My spring A race that I trained for. I have a million and one excuses, but it is all my fault and I learned from my mistakes. I have a new race ready to go on 6/24.

Excuse #1: breakfast. I ate too much in the morning and not enough the night before. I forgot to pick up a peanut butter builder bar (my usual long run meal), so I got this bagel at the breakfast buffet. I didn’t eat it all but it was still about 100 calories more than what I usually eat and only 45 minutes before the start.


Excuse #2: water. I didn’t drink enough of it on Saturday and was dehydrated.

Image courtesy of

Excuse #3: temperature. I wish the half and full marathons started together. Starting at 6:30 would have made a huge difference. In the sunny spots, it was vert hot at 8. The humidity was bad, too.

Time – Temperature – Dew point – Humidity


6:30 Marathon Start:


Excuse #4: the 1:40 pace group. I thought I would try running with the 1:40 pace group. It was a little faster than what I trained for, but it would be nice to run with a group. Except, the 1:40 pace group, which was supposed to be doing 7:38, was really doing 7:30 and that was 15-20 seconds faster than what I trained for. I let them get out of my sight after mile 4 and just tried to focus on running a 7:45, but it was too late.


I stopped for about a minute before stopping my watch, stretching my calves (as if that was going to help).


After the race, we went to Cafe Luce, which offers vegan pizzas (gluten-free is also available).

The post race pizza that made everything better; the Rustler with rinotta (not ricotta) cheese. I don’t care for pineapple (and I did scrape some off), but this was so good!


The peanut butter bar that helped me create an awesome marathon schedule.

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Kiwi Strawberry Crêpes & Heritage 10K Race Report

It’s been a while since a meal received the coveted “H’s favorite” label and never has breakfast won such an award, but Sunday’s kiwi strawberry crêpes were a huge success.
I made this vegan crêpe recipe, which tasted good, but it’s very thick. I even added some extra water to thin it down. I don’t have a special crêpe pan, so they weren’t beautiful. They did taste good with organic strawberries and kiwi. I topped them off with chocolate sauce and soy whip cream.

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After breakfast, I put on my new Lululemon skirt that I bought as a reward for qualifying for the C corral at Chicago and drove up to Rockford for the Heritage Run 10K.

A 10K was on my Hal Higdon half-marathon training plan that I am (very) loosely following for the Minneapolis Half, but I felt good and the weather was nice. It was a 1:00 p.m. race with race day registration available, so I made the last minute decision to try for faster 10K time. My previous 10K best was at the same pace as my fastest half-marathon, so I knew I could do better. Other goals were a top 10 finish and placing in my age group. The McMillian calculator said I should be able to run a 10K in 46:01 (7:24 pace). I thought I would go for 7:30s and pick it up at the end if I could. But of course, I went out super fast for the first mile. Got back on pace for mile 2. Suffered through mile 3 when we were running into some wind. I was looking forward to the turn around so the wind would be helping me out, but the run back was not very windy.At least I wasn’t running into it and was able to get back under 7:30. I counted the fast women before the turn around and I was in 6th place. There was only one woman who was even close behind me and unfortunately, she was able to pick it up and pass me. The last two miles were consistent, so I was happy with that. I ran as fast as I could once I got to mile 6. There were lots of people cheering at the end, which was nice.

My final time was 46:19 (7:28 min/mi), so just a tad slower than McMillian predicted, but a PR by 3 1/2 minutes. I came in 7th and 2nd in my age group. I stuck around for the awards ceremony and got my second place medal.


Eggshell Shuffle Half Marathon

After disappointing conditions at March Madness, I decided to try again for a Chicago Marathon C corral at the Egg Shell Shuffle. It was a flat course; the weather was perfect and the course was on a scenic paved trail through Busse Woods. I needed a 1:45:59 for a C corral, but I wanted to break 1:45 (my new year’s resolution).

I finally got to try out my new Oiselle armwarmers, but I got too hot by mile 2 and had to take them off. They are fun to wear though. And they go well with the stripey simplicity tank.

I started out a little fast and had to tell myself to slow down on several occasions. Miles 2-8 were pretty consistent and enjoyable. Mile 9 was out in the open and we were running into the wind, so that was a challenge. Once we got back into the woods, it got a little easier. By mile 10, the point I usually feel like quitting, I knew I could make it under 1:45. I could even slow down a bit. The desire to quit hit me at mile 12.6, but it’s easier to push yourself 1/2 a mile than 3.1 miles. And so I made my goal with 9 seconds to spare!


After the race, there were two Easter egg hunts. One for kids and one for adults. Twenty-five eggs had fancy prizes, but I just got candy.

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However, the race did give out shorts instead of t-shirts and a festive medal.

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The Running Depot


Besides Expressly Leslie, the other great thing about living in McHenry County is The Running Depot. I’ve met many good friends while running from the store. We had a Pam (the owner) appreciation event this morning. Unfortunately, I could not attend, but I sent a cake instead.

It was vanilla cake frosted with vanilla buttercream and a lemon buttercream filling.

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The cake got a little messed up in transport, but this is what it looked like at home (in bad lighting).