Holiday Dinner Party – I Made Cannoli!

Life tip: Become friends with people who know how to cook. It makes for some fun dinner parties!

On Saturday night, some friends and I got together for a holiday dinner party. We had an Italian menu with some fabulous dishes.

italian dinner

Menu: Ceasar salad, ciabatta bread, chicken parmesean, stuffed shells, lemon spaghetti w/ shrimp, and bacon wrapped dates. Holy delicious!

I was in charge of dessert, and I really wanted to do something to go with our Italian theme. So, I made cannoli!



Well, I made the cannoli filling. I bought the shells, but that made for a super easy and festive dessert.

I found the recipe on Pinterest. It only needed a handful of ingredients.


I started by combining the ricotta cheese and powdered sugar.


Then I made whipped cream to fold into the mixture along with the vanilla and chocolate chips.

whipped cream

I let the mixture sit in the fridge til it was time to head out. I assembled the cannoli after dinner so that the shell would stay crispy. They turned out great! A nice sweet treat to cap off our Italian feast.


What are you making for upcoming holiday parties?

Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week 2014

This past week was Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week (Dec. 1-7). If you’re not familiar, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). They’re chronic inflammatory conditions of the gastrointestinal tract caused by an abnormal response by your body’s immune system. They affect 1.4 million Americans. Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract while ulcerative colitis only affects the colon (large intestine).

The Minnesota/Dakotas chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) had an array of activities going on last week to raise awareness about these diseases. As someone living with ulcerative colitis, I wanted to help raise awareness and support CCFA during the week.

I rocked my IBD Awareness bracelet each day.

ibd bracelet

On Tuesday night, the 35W bridge was lit up in blue and orange for IBD awareness week! I made sure stop by and take a picture while out running errands.


On Thursday night my sister and I headed to The Icehouse for a show benefiting Camp Oasis – CCFA’s summer camp for kids with Crohn’s and colitis. I had the opportunity to hear parents and kids talk about how awesome Camp Oasis is when I attended one of CCFA’s pediatric support groups to write a blog post for the chapter’s blog (it’ll be posted on there soon). It’s truly a place where kids living with Crohn’s and colitis can just be kids and be surrounded by people who totally understand what they’re going through because they live with these diseases too.


There were three bands supplying the entertainment for the evening.

benefit 1 benefit 2

They also had a raffle and door prizes. My sister and I both won door prizes!

benefit 4

It was a great event and I had a chance to see some of the people I did Team Challenge with last fall.

Hopefully, in time, there won’t be a need for IBD Awareness Week because there will be cures for Crohn’s and Colitis. Until then, events and campaigns like these will help people understand these diseases and support research for better treatments.

Turkey Trot Race Recap

For the second year, I kicked off Thanksgiving by running a 5 mile Turkey Trot in my home town. I was really excited to do this race again, but I was not excited about the weather. It was about 20 degrees last year, and I would’ve given anything for it to be 20 this year!

I woke up and saw this on my phone:

Uff Da!
Uff Da!

So, my first task was figuring out what to wear. I knew layers were going to be important. I opted for two pairs of pants (tights and athletic pants), three shirts (long sleeve base layer, half zip pullover, zip up jacket), two pairs of socks, two pairs of knit gloves, and a hat.

My family was doing the 2 mile walk while I did the 5 mile run. Being able to park a couple blocks from the start meant we could stay warm in the car for a bit. At 7:50 a.m. we headed into the cold to head to our respective start lines. On my way, I ran into a couple people I went to high school with and chatted with them to pass the time before the race started. The race started right at 8 a.m. I didn’t even have my music and RunKeeper ready when we started moving!

I started out a little slow with the initial crowd and trying to get a feel for the road. It had snowed a little overnight and I wanted to watch out for any ice. The main road we started on was pretty clear though, so I was able to settle in to a nice pace. I knew I wouldn’t be running very fast, but hoped to be somewhere around 10:30 minute miles.

The first 2 miles went by pretty fast. Around this time, the course started to go on to side roads and paths that weren’t as clear as the main road, so I had to watch my footing. That slowed me down a tad, but I was able to keep running and stay at an okay pace. Miles 3 and 4 felt like they went by kind of slow, but then I only had 1 mile to go and was able to pick up my pace a little on the clearer main road to the finish line.

I finished in 53:13 (avg. 10:39/mile). With the snow and cold, I’m happy with that!

I met up with my family at the finish line and collected my “medal.” This is the best part of this race–each participant gets a personal pumpkin pie!

turkey trot 2

My layering strategy turned out to be the perfect amount of clothing. I never got overheated and wasn’t cold. The temperature was cold, but there was very little wind which helped a lot. This was the coldest race I’ve ever run, but it felt good to know I could select the right gear to comfortably make it through!

We all got cleaned up, watched some of the Macy’s parade, finished some food prep and then headed to my Aunt and Uncle’s. It was a great afternoon with family (and food) :).

The rest of the holiday weekend was spent decorating for Christmas, spending time with family and this cute pup…


…cheering for the Gophers against Wisconsin (even though they lost)…


…and relaxing. It was a lovely weekend at home. Thankful for my wonderful family and friends!

Now, I’m turning my attention to my favorite time of the year and getting in the holiday spirit by decorating my apartment and listening to Christmas music. Tis the season!

Did you do a Turkey Trot? What’s the coldest race you’ve ever run? 


Volunteering and Fun Run

I scored a pretty sweet volunteer gig – if I do say so myself! I’m helping to write some blog posts for the MN/Dakotas Chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). I’ll be writing patient and volunteer profiles and highlighting some of the CCFA services and events on their blog: Digest This — Stories from IBD Patients.

It’s pretty sweet because, if you’re reading this, you already know I like blogging. ;) I also love the idea of helping to share stories about people living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis as well as the volunteers who support CCFA. This past weekend I got to attend a CCFA Pediatric Support Group to write a blog post about it. It was humbling to hear the stories of these young kids and their parents as they navigate their way through the ups and downs of these diseases. (P.S. The kids are rock stars!) The group offers a great opportunity to get questions answered and make connections with others so they know they’re not alone. I wish I had known about a group like this when I was first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, but I’m grateful that I’ve found resources now and that I’ve always had family love and support.  I just submitted my first two posts, so I’ll be sure to let you know when they’re up on the blog!

Speaking of CCFA, I did a fun run 5K on Sunday to help raise money for a friend running the half marathon in Las Vegas with Team Challenge next weekend. I met her and her husband when I did Team Challenge last year. Check out those recaps here, here, and here. Since they’re heading to Las Vegas, there was a really cool activity during the run. When we got to the start, we drew a card from the deck. Then, at three more locations on the 5K a volunteer gave you another card. You got your final card at the finish. They had prizes for the best poker hands! There was also one Joker card, and if you drew that you automatically won a prize. Guess who drew the Joker – me! I got this cool wine carrier complete with a bottle of wine.

wine prize

Hearing people talk about heading to Las Vegas with Team Challenge makes me reminisce about last year. Still, hands down, one of the best race experiences ever. I’m starting to think about when I can do Team Challenge again. Not sure if the Las Vegas race will fit with my other 2015 race goals (more on those later) because of the timing in the fall, but Team Challenge will be going to the Jamestown half marathon and Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country half marathon in July, so those are contenders.

What volunteer activities do you do? Have you ever won a cool prize at a race?

Cauliflower soup recipe

I have failed miserably at my 2014 goal of trying one new recipe each month. Oh well. There’s always next year. ;) I’m hoping the cooler temps will make me want to spend a little more time in the kitchen trying out a few new recipes.

I did try out this cauliflower soup recipe on Monday. It was a Pinterest find. The thing that attracted me to it was the description that said it was 0 Weight Watchers points! You could make it with broccoli too, or a combo. There aren’t very many ingredients, and most of it is stuff you probably have around.

cauliflower soup

The broth is basically water that’s flavored with chicken bouillon cubes and dried basil and oregano. The rest of the soup is veggies: cauliflower, carrots and onion. You simmer all of the ingredients together until the veggies are tender.

The recipe then says to drain off and reserve the liquid and put the veggies in a food processor to puree. I don’t have a big food processor, just a small blender thing. I had to blend up the veggies in batches and unfortunately they didn’t really get pureed. But, I actually kind of liked having larger chunks of veggies in the soup, so you could do whatever you prefer. After that, you add back in some of the liquid you reserved. I put about 2/3 of it back in, so it wasn’t a thick soup.

The chicken bouillon flavored everything really well. I had made a loaf of beer bread on Sunday, so I had a slice of that with it. Don’t be too impressed by the beer bread, it was from a mix that you add a bottle of beer to. But it still tastes good, and is perfect for slopping up soup. :)

What new recipes have you tried lately?

TC 10K, 5K and 10 mile race recaps

A lot to recap from last weekend! Here goes…

TC 10K

This was the first race of the TC Loony Challenge. I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. so I could get up, get dressed, and eat something before heading out. The race started at 7:30 and I had access to a parking ramp right by the start/finish area. I was early, so I hung out in my car for a bit to stay warm. The temps were in the mid-30s. Great for running, but tough for waiting around.

At 7, I headed over to the start area. No corrals or pacers for this race, so I just lined up somewhere in the middle.

TC 10K start
TC 10K start

My goal was to run about a 10-10:30/mile pace for the 10K. At the beginning, it was the normal weaving around people until the field thinned out a bit. My legs felt good as I got going. We headed away from the Capitol, past the St. Paul Cathedral, and eventually on to Summit Ave. The trees on this street were beautiful on a crisp fall morning.

Before I knew it, I looked up and saw the flag for mile 1. For a second I thought they had messed up and put the flag in the wrong spot because there was no way I could’ve run a mile already. But, a couple seconds later my watch beeped, so I knew it was correct. My pace was where I wanted it to be and it’s always a good feeling to have run further than you thought!

At the first water stop, I did slow down and walk for a few seconds while I got out a couple of chomps, but that was the only walking I did during the race. The out-and-back course continued up Summit and it wasn’t long before I saw the turnaround. Around mile 5, my shin started to bug me a little, but nothing crazy. The last part of the course is mostly downhill which helped for one final push to the finish line.

10K finish

I crossed the finish line in 1:03:36 (10:15/mile) – perfect! It was just after 8:30, which meant I had about 25 minutes before the 5K started. I got my medal and put it in my spibelt. They had all of the usual post-race food and water. I didn’t want to eat much, but I was feeling a little hungry so I grabbed a small banana and had a Gu with some water. Then I hit the restrooms before lining up again.


The 25 minutes was actually just the right amount of time between races. I started to cool down a bit and was anxious to get running again. I lined up around the same spot I had for the 10K, and pretty soon we were off. There was more weaving around people at the beginning of this race because there were walkers, so I probably could’ve started a bit closer to the front.

5K start

As we got going I realized my shin wasn’t hurting anymore, so that little bit of rest seemed to help a lot. My legs still felt good, but I forced myself to keep my pace somewhat conservative. I was going to have to do 10 miles the next day after all.

The course was the same as the 10K – but obviously with an earlier turnaround. Once again, the mile 1 flag showed up faster than I expected. I worked on keeping a leisurely pace and coasting to the end of the race. My legs were feeling a bit tired and heavy near the end, but I still ran the whole way.

I crossed the finish line in 33:31 (10:48/mile). I picked up my second medal of the day and made my way past the food and water. This time, I wanted all the food. :) Then it was back to the car and home to rest up for Sunday.

10K and 5K medals

TC 10 mile

After running 9.3 miles the day before, the 4:30 a.m. alarm came very early. I repeated my routine of getting up, getting dressed, and getting something to eat. The start of the 10 mile is in Minneapolis, but the finish is in St. Paul. I headed to my same parking spot to be near the finish line and hopped on the light rail to head to Minneapolis.

When I got there, I had time to hit up the bathroom and hung out a bit before dropping off my sweats bag. I had brought an extra throwaway shirt, but at the last minute I decided I didn’t want to deal with it, so I left it in the bag and headded to my corral.

The race started at 7 a.m., but my corral wasn’t released until 7:12. As I crossed the start line, I was really worried that my legs would be super tired and heavy. Not the case! The running Gods were with me and my legs actually felt great!

10 mile start
TC 10 mile start

The course started by making your way through part of downtown Minneapolis. Part of the course felt a bit narrow for as many people as there were, so it was the usual zigging and zagging to end up in a spot where you can just run your own pace. Once again, the mile 1 flag surprised me with how fast it appeared. Only this time my watch didn’t beep. I looked at the distance and it said .90 miles. Hmm. A bit off, but I had hope it would work itself out as the course went along.

I found a comfortable pace and kept ticking off mile after mile. We made our way to West River Parkway and through part of the U of MN campus. Then it was on to Mississippi River Blvd — a running route I’m very familiar with. Around mile 5, we were back to Summit Ave. To get on to Summit, you have to go up a bit of a hill. This is also part of the marathon course, only it’s around mile 21 for them. The “Summit hill” is commonly referred to. I get it. My legs were feeling it as I made my way up the hill, and I can only imagine how tough that hill is in the marathon.

Making my way onto Summit felt like familiar territory and it was the home stretch. My legs were definitely feeling all the miles at this point, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I knew Hyedi was spectating around mile 8 which gave me some extra motivation to keep going. I gave her a high-five as I ran by.

Then, for the third time in two days, the cathedral and capitol were in sight. I saw the finish line and the growing crowd of spectators. My legs got a bit of a second wind and I kicked it up a notch.

I crossed the finish line in 1:46:57 (10:42/mile)! I’m actually really happy with my pace for this race and the whole weekend. My legs held up so much better than I thought they would!

I  picked up my medals – one for 10 mile and one for completing the Loony Challenge!

10 mile and loony medals

Oh, I do have to go back to the mile marker issue I noticed early in the race. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work itself out by the end of the race. My Garmin said 9.95 miles at the end, and then Twin Cities in Motion notified runners later that an error with the lead car cut the course by about .10 miles. Kind of a bummer, but not the end of the world.

Overall, an outstanding weekend of running. I had a lot of fun and feel great about conquering another big running challenge! Signing up to run three races in one weekend is a little crazy, but I’m thinking it’s okay to be a little loony. ;)

loony challenge medals