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Friday, July 31, 2009

Running and Breakfast

What to eat before a long run?  It's an ongoing question for me.  Remember that I get up before a lot of long runs at a scary-early time...  Tomorrow, for example, I'll be up around 4:00am.  I will get my clothes on and then I'll need to eat.  I don't know if you've tried eating at 4am, but it's actually pretty difficult, as your stomach is not awake and doesn't care to eat anything.  Here's a little history...

Pre-2006 Season, I didn't eat anything before running, ever.  It never bothered me and I never worried about it, but I was also running significantly shorter distances.

2006 Season, I started my day with Clif Bars.  This worked fine for a little while.  But, by the time I was a few months into the season and I was up to 20 mile runs, my brain or my stomach or both started rejecting the Clif Bars.  I would gag on the first or second bite, and every bite after that required effort.  I remember being in a state of pure misery trying to choke down a Clif Bar the day of the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon.

2007 Season, At some point, I switched to bagels.  This worked for a while, but I don't eat bagels otherwise, so I end up buying them and they go bad, or I can't figure out what to eat on them.  Plus, they're too big.  I did go through a period where I would bring a whole plain bagel in the car and gnaw off bites of it, leaving it sitting on the seat... so that when I got back to the car I was greeted by stale, half gnawed on bagel that for some reason my pre-run self thought I'd find appetizing later.  Bagels are not horrible, but I still have trouble eating them.

2008 Season, At some point in 2007, I switched from bagels to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  This works out nicely because I usually have bread, peanut butter and jelly in the house.  I learned that I can only stomach a half of a sandwich that early in the morning, and for a long long time, it's been what I eat before every single morning run - short or long.  I think I screwed myself by switching to whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter and less sugar jelly...  As I switched to each, the sandwich got less and less appetizing to my pre-run self, despite the fact that other parts of the day I can eat all of them with no issue.  It's been harder and harder to eat the PB&J, and I've found that even switching back to white bread, trans-fatty peanut butter and regular jelly has not resolved the issue.

2009 So, imagine my delight when an impulse buy at Trader Joe's two weeks ago turned out delicious!  I bought Sunflower Seed Butter, which I'd heard about online as being very tasty.  I don't even like sunflower seeds that much.  It was so good!  Ah ha!, I thought, I'll eat this before my next long run and it will solve my long run eating problems!  Oh no.  It was so bad, so very very bad.  At 4am, my taste buds, my brain and my stomach all rejected the Sunflower Seed Butter, and deep down I know that even my normal PB&J is going to have the same result next time.  The Sunflower Seed Butter was horrible.  It made me miserable, and I felt like I could still taste its nastiness even hours later.  It's been sitting untouched in the fridge ever since and the thought of eating it makes me cringe.  The thought of eating any nut butter makes me cringe.  It was bad enough that last week, I had a bowl of cereal before my run at Loch Raven (and I never eat cereal before a run).

And so, for tomorrow's long run, I've got to find a solution.  What in the world is appetizing at 4am?  Well, appetizing and also won't make me sick during the run (which I think rules out cereal, which was fine for a short run but probably not great for a long run).  Jeff Galloway once suggested eating nothing before a run, and eating more during the run, but the thought of replacing breakfast with sport beans and gu and other disgusting things sounds even worse than the sunflower seed butter.

I think I might try eggs.  Some of my running friends thought that sounded horrible, but it may not be bad, as I love eggs.  The only reason I hadn't tried it before now was because they take so much time and effort, but I'm willing to give it a go.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Recipe: Cedar Plank Brown Sugar Salmon

At last, my salmon recipe. I don't usually measure anything, and I think the ingredients that I add to the topping will often vary. Tonight, though, I did actually measure and write down, except for the part where I forgot to check how long the salmon was on the grill. So, I mostly measured.

First, get a cedar plank. Get it from a kitchen store, or else make sure that it is untreated or else you will make poison salmon. I soak the plank in a big glass dish with an overturned bowl on top to keep it from floating. Yes, you can soak it in the sink, but my sink never holds water for longer than about 20 minutes. Soak the plank for at least an hour. I will often start soaking the plank before my run, and by the time I've run and taken a shower and prepped the salmon, it's been about an hour and a half or so.

Make the topping. Mix:
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 tsp. Dried Thyme Leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • A dash of garlic powder
  • Ground Cayenne Pepper to taste, I used about 4-5 shakes of the shaker.

Place 2 salmon filets on the soaked cedar plank. Many cedar plank recipes require you to preheat the plank, but I don't do this because for this recipe it gets to hard to get the fish on the plank. Use wild salmon for better health. Mine came from Trader Joe's.

Divide the sugar mixture on top and drizzle with about a 1/2 tsp of olive oil on each filet. You don't have to use the olive oil, but I think it's better that way.

Place the plank and fish on a preheated grill. Keep it at about 400 degrees for around 15 minutes (Like I said, I forgot to keep track of how long it was on). When it is done, pull it off. I usually check it after about 10-15 minutes.

You can see it here, along with our delicious roasted veggie medley and grilled corn on the cob.

The finished product, delicious!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sea Things #7: Lionfish

Sea Things is a regular feature on my blog where I profile a different sea creature. Look for it weekly, or something close to weekly.

Lionfish are just terribly beautiful.  They have gorgeous spines and stripes and even before I was a scuba diver, they were one of my favorite fishes.  All of that beauty does come with a couple of problems, though: first off, they're incredibly poisonous.  Touching them doesn't usually lead to death, but can make you feel pretty horrible for a while.  The other issue is that they don't belong in the Caribbean, so we never should have seen 8-10 of them in Turks & Caicos.

First, a little about the fish.  Like I said, they're not native to the Caribbean, but to the Pacific.  They can vary in size, but can be 30-35 cm in length.  The big one pictured here was the largest that we saw in Turks & Caicos (on Le Dome in Provo), and he was about a foot long, maybe a little longer.  In general, while they're poisonous, they're not aggressive toward divers (although some message boards have reported Lionfish attacking divers on night dives).  I was able to get pretty close to the big one in Provo, and he just floated there, not even really moving besides in surge/current.  Touching one can lead to extreme pain, headaches, vomiting, and breathing difficulties.  Just generally a severe reaction that people would likely try to avoid.

The sign for a Lionfish is to thread your fingers together, and hold them in front of you.

Lionfish have been known to eat many, many fish.  They breed very quickly and easily, and this has been the main problem with them invading the Caribbean and Atlantic.  This means lots of Lionfish suddenly eating lots of other fish.  Many have questioned why this is a problem, since it's obviously not a problem in the Indo-Pacific.  The issue is that Caribbean fish don't recognize Lionfish as a threat, and therefore just sit there around them while the Lionfish gobbles them up.  In addition, Lionfish don't have natural predators in the Caribbean, so nothing is killing them besides divers.  Some have said that Groupers will eat Lionfish, but I've heard that this isn't necessarily true.  Even if it were, the Grouper population has been decimated by overfishing (another reason not to eat Grouper!).

So, where did the Lionfish come from?  Well, no one is entirely sure.  As it turns out, DNA tests have shown that while there are many, many species of Lionfish in the Pacific, there are only 3 in the Caribbean / Atlantic.  And, all Lionfish tested have descended from the same 6 or 7 Lionfish.  So, the first speculation was that an aquarium in Miami released them when it was hit by Hurricane Andrew.  Another speculation is that home aquarists grew tired of Lionfish eating the other fish in the aquarium, and they released them into the ocean.

I heard a totally  new theory while we were in Little Cayman, when we attended a presentation by the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI).  CCMI believes that Lionfish were spread into Caribbean waters by the Atlantis: Paradise Island resort.  Basically, Atlantis has a giant aquarium, which has many species of fish in it.  The method of keeping the water fresh in the aquarium is to flush the water out into the Caribbean, then bring in fresh sea water so that water is constantly cycling in and out.  Well, what happens is that Lionfish spawn in the tanks, and then the eggs (as many as 20,000 at a time) go out into the wild.  It sounds as though this is becoming the number one reason that Lionfish have come to the Caribbean, and why they're so prolific in the Bahamas.  That one presentation meant that Atlantis: Paradise Island went from a place that Todd and I were considering going, to a place that we are now boycotting.  As far as I know, the Lionfish are still there.

The fish are spawning so fast, that it is really difficult to do anything about the problem.  In Turks and Caicos, it definitely seemed that nothing was being done.  In the Bahamas, the government is trying to encourage fishermen to catch them and wipe out the population that way (You can even find some Lionfish Recipes online).  In the Caymans, they know that the fish are spreading too quickly, so divers are encouraged to watch for them and report sightings so that they can be collected and destroyed.  Hopefully, this will help slow the rate of growth, since it definitely isn't enough to stop them.

REEF's Lionfish Program

Is there a creature that you would like to see featured in Sea Things? If so, shoot me an email and if I can, I'll write about it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Todd's Pikesville 5k Photos

Better late than never!  We've been so busy, it's been hard to get photos processed.  Here is a link to the photos that Todd took at the Pikesville 5k this year.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Maryland Wedding Party

We had a wedding party at our house yesterday. Above is the photo of our wedding cake. It came from Snickerdoodles in Hampstead, which is an awesome bakery. Everyone loved it, plus we served it with ice cream from Simmons, which is the ice cream place nearby. Yum!

We also served Jerk Chicken, coconut rice, fried plantains, fresh corn & tomatoes... I was understandably nervous when I realized that my dad had brought my grandmother, who is kind of a picky eater. Well, she eats the normal stuff, but certainly not our caribbean menu. The good news is that she did like the chicken and the rice and the plantains! Hooray!

We had a good time. My sister brought her Welsh Corgi, Robbie. Robbie is an awesome dog, and he just wanted to be friends with the Bug... But, the Bug didn't want to be friends with him and reacted horribly. Oh well, I guess Robbie and The Bug will not be friends.
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From Random Photos 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

TIART: Long Runs

This week's theme is ... Slaying The Long Run Dragon.   What are your best tips for getting through the long, hard, hot, hilly, sweaty, torturous but enjoyable runs?

I have to admit, even though they require a severe time commitment, often force me to get up at an insane hour on Saturdays, typically ruin both my Friday and Saturday nights, and sometimes end with me totally miserable, as far as running goes, long runs are my favorite runs.  They really make me feel a sense of accomplishment, and even if I'm tired at the end, I'm usually recovered within a few hours.  Plus, I get to eat [mostly] what I want for the rest of the weekend.

Here are some tips for how I get through some of the worst:

  • Like I say for every type of run, always have water with you.  Regardless of temperature, I always have water with me for every run over 10 miles.  On hotter days, I have water with me for every run that will be longer than 45 minutes.  
  • I say "water," but I use Nuun for most of my runs.  It contain electrolytes that I need, but doesn't contain sugar.  So, I don't get that horrible "sugar mouth" that I get with Gatorade.  Gatorade's G2 is good as well, but it contains some fake sugars.
  • Once I start getting into long-ish mileage (9-13 miles, I suppose), I start eating during the run.  This is a constant source of problems, because what I want to eat during a run changes from month to month, run to run, or year to year.  Right now, I'm eating mostly Sport Beans, and have been for a while.  I am thinking of trying something new, but don't know what.  I don't particularly like Gu, so right now I'm choking down the beans.
  • Run with someone!  I love my running group and the support that they provide.  I need friends on the trail so much that I've been known to run the same 3-4 miles of trail over and over in circles in order to stay with my group (who may be doing less mileage that week).
  • If you have to run alone, and you must wear headphones, listen to a book on tape at a low volume.  I feel like talking is better than a constant beat of music and therefore safer.  However, if you are running in or around traffic, don't wear headphones at all, ever.
  • Build up slowly.  If you miss a week, don't show up with the running group expecting to increase your mileage by 5 or 6 miles.  As a group leader, this drives me crazy more than anything.  A 1-3 mile increase is all you should really be doing, and it's inconsiderate to show up when you haven't trained like everyone else has.
  • Dress appropriately!  It may seem cool in the morning, but after hours on the trail, it will warm up!  Dress in layers if it's cold.
  • Have an exit strategy.  If you can't complete the run due to fatigue or injury, what will you do?  In a group, this isn't as big of a deal, but if you're alone, have a cell phone and your ID on you.  Make sure someone knows where you are and when you are expected to be home.  Make sure that your running group knows who to call in case of an emergency.
  • Play a game with your group!  My favorite is the movie game.  It works like this.  Someone starts by naming a movie and an actor or actress in the movie.  An example might be "Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire".  Next, someone must think of an actor or actress that is also in the movie mentioned, and then name another movie that person was in, so using the example above, the next person might say "Sally Field in Steel Magnolias."  Then, it continues when another person must think of someone in that movie and another movie that they were in, so next might be "Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman."  You get the idea.  When not running, this would be something where you'd take turns, but I found that in running group it's just easier if everyone says an answer when they think of it without taking turns.  The point is to occupy your mind, not to keep score.  This really helps the miles to go by fast.
  • My group hates this, but start early.  It's not as hot, it's fun to run in the dark, and the trail is not as crowded.  We're just starting to get into the "o'dark early" time period, so get ready, group!
So, that's about it.  In the end, you just have to get those miles in, so get out there and do it!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sea Things #6: Christmas Tree Worms

Sea Things is a regular feature on my blog where I profile a different sea creature. Look for it weekly, or something close to weekly.

Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus) are really, really cool.  They are worms that live on coral heads.  What they do is stick their little plumes, called radioles, out of the coral head and use it to collect food and plankton.  If you are diving and swim up on them, they'll quickly draw their radioles back into their tubes.  If you wait patiently, they will slowly put them back out again, looking like the above photo.  This process can be loads of fun.

We've seen them everywhere, but they are most prolific (of the places we've been anyway) in Bonaire.  At some dive sites in Bonaire, they are just all over the place.  They come in many different colors, and are maybe 1-3 inches tall (outside the coral head).  That I know of, there isn't a hand signal for them.

Is there a creature that you would like to see featured in Sea Things? If so, shoot me an email and if I can, I'll write about it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Little Cayman 2009

I feel as though I should finally post something about the rest of our trip...  sorry for the long delay.  I still don't have photos, but hopefully they will be coming soon.

The Wedding
The first part of our trip was mostly all about our wedding.  We left home on Wednesday, July 1 (far too early in the morning), traveled US Airways through Charlotte, and finally arrived in Little Cayman around 5:30pm.  Our wedding took place on Thursday, July 2 on Owen Island, which is near our resort.  Our resort was Southern Cross Club, where we've stayed twice before.  Read more about our wedding.

The Diving
We completed two dives the morning of the wedding, two dives on our last day (July 7), and three dives each day the rest of the trip.  Each day began with a 2-tank dive at 8am, and then an afternoon dive most days, doing one dusk dive on Sunday, July 5.

Dive conditions were fairly good.  We did have some wind, so some of the dive sites were fairly choppy on the surface, but nothing to really complain about.  Other days were not windy at all, and the surface was smooth as glass.  We had an especially green/murky dive at Mixing Bowl one day, and this happened to be a dive where Todd and I both had trouble keeping from going into deco (meaning, that we'd stayed too deep too long, and were in danger of having to do a long deco stop).  This meant that we had to hover at around 30 feet, which was maybe 10-15 feet above the reef, and then after a few minutes, ended up heading back to the boat, which was in only 15-20 feet of water.  We could then explore and have a good time around the boat without worrying about deco time.

A real treat was getting to visit Nancy's Cup of Tea and Paul's Anchors for the first time.  These dive sites are on the end of the island and are rarely dove, since they often have strong current.  Because of the strange winds we were getting, we were able to dive them with no trouble.  Nancy's Cup of Tea is a beautiful dive site, with nice swim-throughs and beautiful corals.

As for fishies, we saw plenty, of course.  We saw a lot of the "usual suspects," and lots and lots of Grouper and turtles.  I have to say that I am really impressed with how many grouper there are in Little Cayman.  Some of the groupers are big, some of them are small, but there were just tons of them all around.  This is a good thing, since groupers are generally good for the reef.  We were told while we were there that Grouper were not eating the Lionfish, which is contrary to what I've heard, but perhaps it is true, who knows.

As for the Lionfish themselves, we didn't see any while we were there.  We were constantly reminded by dive masters to look for them, but none were to be seen.  I know they've found quite a few in the Caymans, and seem to be regularly finding them at Little Cayman, though.

Todd had switched from macro (which he did exclusively in Bonaire) to wide angle for photography.  He was getting some training from dive master Mike, who even helped me in posing.   My role in macro photography is to find little things for Todd to take photos of, while my job in wide angle photography is to pose for a lot of the photos, looking at things with my flashlight, etc.

My favorite dive was probably our dusk dive on Lea Lea's Lookout.  Oh, I love this dive and this dive site.  The light is just perfect, and the fish are so active.  It's incredibly interesting.  After the dive, as we rode back towards the resort while the sun set, the boat stopped.  It wouldn't start again, and we were completely without a way to get back to the resort.  Mike radioed the resort and they sent the fast-moving fishing boat out to help us get back in.

Little Cayman was hit pretty bad by Tropical Storm Gustav in the fall.  I can't say that we really saw that much underwater that was horrible.  Things looked good - sea fans were in place, etc.  Southern Cross Club has a new dock, but besides that, everything seemed fine.  On our way home, we stopped in Cayman Brac, and we could still see that a lot of construction is going on there.

We spent a lot of time with friends Matt and Ellen, but also met a few other friends.  Lane and Suzanne (from Dallas) were very entertaining.  We also met another couple, Don and Bethany, whom we met in 2007, but they were arriving just as we were leaving.  We got to know them better, and we will hopefully see them again.

Southern Cross Club was offering a special deal for those who booked their next stay while still at the resort... Well, we decided to do it, so I'm excited to say we'll be returning to Southern Cross next year, and we should see our friends again then!

Food, Hammocks and More
We spent our non-diving time relaxing in the hammocks, enjoying delicious food prepared by the marvelous chef Ron, and drinking delicious drinks.  On our non-diving day, we took bikes up to Blossom Village for ice cream at the National Trust, but found that the National Trust was closed.  We had to settle for drinks from the local store.  It was hot, so we were excited to get back to the resort.

Of course, Saturday was the fourth of July.  Southern Cross had a lovely dinner and then we went out to the dock to watch the fireworks.  It was our second fireworks display, and it was wonderful.  After that, I spent some time relaxing on the beach while Todd took some nighttime photos.

What next?
I'm hoping to get some photos posted very soon.  My family is coming up this weekend, and we've been spending a lot of time preparing for that.  As for vacations?  Well, we are off to Hawaii in the fall, and then after that we have no plans until our First anniversary trip to Little Cayman.  Good times...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Private: Ennis Family Reunion 2009

Ennis Family Reunion 2009

Note: This part of my blog is private, sorry.  Email me if you want access.

Running with Headphones

This article makes me angry.

The summary of the article is that a 17 year old was running a nighttime race in California.  He was wearing headphones and took a wrong turn during the race, off of the course and onto an open road.  Someone yelled at him to let him know that he was going the wrong way, and he didn't hear them.  He was struck by a car and is in critical condition.


It is like people don't understand that running with headphones is dangerous.  You need to be fully aware of your surroundings, and take control of your own safety when you're running.  If you are going to run with headphones, do so sparingly and use some common sense.  Here are my rules:

  • I never run with headphones at a race shorter than a marathon.  I can run 13.1 miles with no entertainment.  If you need more entertainment, you should choose a race with entertainment on the course.  I do not and never have understood people who run with headphones for a 5K.  You can't go a half hour without music?!  Come on.  Even at a marathon, I would have to be in an extreme state to wear headphones, and actually there has only been one race that I've ever worn headphones for:  Marine Corps Marathon 2007, miles 20-25.  I now question that decision.
  • On a training run, I never run with headphones anywhere except treadmill and trail.
  • I don't worry about volume on a treadmill.  Listen away!
  • On the trail, I only wear headphones if I will be out for a long time, and I either put the headphones in only one ear, turn the volume down a LOT, or listen to a book on tape (which doesn't block out sound like music does).  I am always fully aware of being able to hear my surroundings.
  • I NEVER wear headphones when running on a road with cars.
At the a race earlier this year, there was an emergency vehicle coming through.  I shouted to a woman to move out of the way, but she didn't hear me.  She was wearing headphones.  Like I said, I don't understand the need to wear headphones constantly while running.  Let's try and put an end to this nonsense. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My Take On the 20 Most Worthless Pieces of Junk

Linked from Consumerist, I was reading this list of the 20 Most Worthess Pieces of Junk. Since I've spent the last couple years trying to declutter and really evaluate the stuff I have (and get rid of what I don't need), I thought I'd give my own special insight on each of these junky items. (or non-junky, perhaps)

#20 - Rice Cookers
I disagree, I love my rice cooker. This is one of the small kitchen appliances that I really like to have. If you read the commentary, there is an argument that rice is easy to make in a pot. This is true. However, in a rice cooker, it is effortless. I put the rice in, put the water in, hit a button and then go off and make dinner and totally forget about the rice. No stirring, no watching to see if it is burning or boiling over, nothing. It clicks when it's ready and keeps the rice warm. It's always the right consistency, and my effort can be better spent worrying about chopping veggies or stir frying awesome things. Or even doing laundry or whatever.

#19 - Shoe Inserts
Ok, I'm a runner. I have a weird take on this. In my opinion, I must have my orthotics. I have a weirdly aligned big toe joint that causes me a lot of pain, and I have custom orthotics made by a podiatrist. I love them, and I think they're great. As for "superfeet" and the inserts mentioned in the article? Not so much. I think they're a waste of money. Runners out there, go get the custom orthotics, you won't be sorry.

#18 - Polaroid Cameras
Yeah, in this day and age, useless. In 1985? Pretty cool.

#17 - The Iron
Ask my mom, ask my husband, ask my ex-husband. I don't iron except in a state of extreme duress. However, I can't say that I think irons are worthless. In a pinch, with a wrinkled some such, I'd certainly rather drag out the iron over going to the dry cleaners, which is a waste of money and bad for the environment. Now, if we're talking about my mom's insane habit of wanting starched pillowcases and sheets and the hours of my life wasted on that goal, that's pretty damn useless.

#16 - Hobby Kits
It depends on the kit. I used to really like paint by numbers. I wouldn't mind putting together a model airplane or rocket. But, you know, I'm not really a kid, so who knows.

#15 - Tie Racks
I don't wear ties. However, as a disorganized person, I do like it when there is a cheap device that might make me more organized, so I can see some usefulness in a tie rack. I suppose it depends on how many ties you own.

#14 - Giveaway Thumb Drives
I agree, but let's be honest - what really do you get as a giveaway that has any sort of usefulness??? I have a squeezy star that has the name of my former company on it. At least you can do something with a thumb drive, even if it's not much? What can I do with my squeeze star besides throw it at my co-workers?

#13 - Trade Show Shwag
Here we go! The category where my squeeze star would fit. I don't know why giveaway thumb drives needed a whole separate category. Yep, trade show shwag is pretty worthless.... although I'm guessing that's something I really shouldn't share my opinion on these days. I do have an awesome mug that came from a trade show bin, though. We get a lot of this crap from running expos - Todd has an obsession with taking band-aid holders that CareFirst is always giving away at expos. I try not to take anything that I know I'm just going to throw away later.

#12 - Bargain DVDs
We watch almost none of our DVDs anyway - just Finding Nemo and Titanic, which has become our tradition when we are on vacation.

#11 - Ear Candles
Hey, I've done these! My sister got really into them for a while, so I gave it a shot once at her house. It's totally a scam, but something burning in your ear does sound pretty cool.

#10 - Books in a Kindle World
Yeah, totally disagree. I'm a bookworm, and I'm intrigued by the Kindle. But let's face it, it's expensive. You can buy a kindle for $300, and then guess what? You still have to pay for the books you want. I'm suspicious about the pricing scheme, the DRMs and licensing, and I just think that for $310 I can have a Kindle and ONE book, or I can go to a used bookstore and leave with two shopping carts full of interesting books. Books are cheap, books can be resold, books can be taken on vacation without worrying about them. I would worry that I would drop the Kindle (I dropped a book in a toilet once, it was gross. This is probably something I shouldn't share publicly, but whatever). I would worry about taking a Kindle on a beach, or throwing it in a bag with a bunch of other crap that might get crushed. I would worry about leaving a Kindle in an airport, or on a plane, or in a hotel room (done all of those with books). It's one more electronic thing that I have to deal with, worry about, support and pay for. Maybe someday, but for now, I'll take books.

#9 - Home Theater Sound System
I kind of agree with this. We have a nice sound system, and we use it sometimes. It's great when we're using it. We don't go to the movie theater except once or twice a year, so it's nice to get that theater experience at home. However, I can't see myself getting so excited about having a sound system that I'd go out and spend a bunch of money on one if we didn't already have it.

#8 - Ice Cream Makers and Bread Machines
I used to love my bread machine, and I used it a lot. I especially liked using it to make pizza dough, where I could set a timer and have it all ready when I got home. But, frankly, I wasn't using it enough to justify the amount of space that it takes up on the counter. So, I moved it away. Now, when my family asks me to bring rolls for a family dinner, I buy the bread machine mix from the grocery store, but mix it by hand rather than messing with getting out the bread machine. Far easier. As for ice cream makers... eh. We have two and we use them periodically. I like having it, but for some reason we keep the bowl in the freezer for the one time a year that we actually will use the thing. Unnecessary. I don't think ice cream makers are totally useless, I think the ice cream they make is awesome and there is something satisfying about making your own ice cream. Not to mention that it's not something you can easily do another way, like with bread. Cooking Light has some really interesting sorbet recipes, too.

#7 - VCR+ Capabilities
Yeah, I had to read the article to even remember WTF VCRPlus was, so I guess it's pretty useless. But, so what? It's outdated, like a lot of things.

#6 - Ionic Breeze
Yep. Useless.

#5 - Single-Slot Piggy Banks
Well, yeah. But, aren't these more of a decorative item anyways?

#4 - Ab Rollers
All of the ab gimmicks are useless. Do some crunches and like it!

#3 - Radar Detectors
Just do the speed limit and pay attention. Or, just drive reasonably, how about that? I don't always do the speed limit. There isn't a need to go speeding around anywhere, and there is just something weird about owning something meant to help you break the law.

#2 - Wipe Warmers
I don't have a baby. Do people really own these?

#1 - Happy Meal Toys
Here's an idea - save all of your Happy Meal Toys and then give them away to trick or treaters.

Now, there are some horrible things that are not on the list.... My most worthless list?
  • Waffle Irons - Stupid. No one makes waffles that often.
  • Popcorn Poppers - Get the microwave kind.
  • Devices to make pancakes into shapes - Because three circles to make a Mickey head is all you need.
  • Double Boilers - Is there something that exists to replace these? Do people still use them? I only mention this because there's a recipe I want to make that claims to require one, and I need another method.
  • Avocado slicer - this was an impulse buy at the grocery store that I sort of regret.
  • Bagel slicers - what, a knife isn't good enough?

Sea Things #5: Blue Tangs

Sea Things is a regular feature on my blog where I profile a different sea creature. Look for it weekly, or something close to weekly.

From Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)

Sometimes, you'll be diving.  Just swimming along, you know?   And suddenly, there's this big throng of fish, like this huge cloud of fish swimming your way, looking all crazy-like, eating on things and just parading through the reef.  If they're blue, it is probably a school of Blue Tangs feeding.  Sometimes, there are other fish with them, who I guess want to be included in the feeding frenzy.  It happens.

Blue Tangs, at least in the Caribbean, are Acanthurus coeruleus.  They feed on algae in large groups, and it's always a cool sight.  You may hear them called other things - surgeonfish, doctor fish, blue doctors, and more.  I call them Blue Tangs.  The are in fact blue, and they have a yellow mark on the base of their tails.  They mate at dusk, so on a dusk dive you can frequently see them turn almost white, which is typical for when they are mating.  When they mate, they hook up together and rush to the surface, which is when they release eggs and sperm.  Sexy, yes?  Interestingly, the juvenile Blue Tangs aren't blue at all - they're yellow.

That I know of, there isn't a hand signal for Blue Tang.  They're sort of common - you see them all over the place, so I can't imagine anyone pointing one out unless it's part of a big school.  And then you just point towards the big school, as they're hard to miss.

Take note that while Dori from Finding Nemo is a type of fish often referred to as a Blue Tang, she was not this type of Blue Tang that I'm reffering to here.  Dori's species is more commonly referred to as a Regal Tang, and is a Pacific fish (hence, I've never seen one while diving).  I'm not sure whether the Atlantic Blue Tangs suffer from short term memory loss or not.

From Belize 2008 Underwater (sized)
Is there a creature that you would like to see featured in Sea Things? If so, shoot me an email and if I can, I'll write about it.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Recipe: Tomato Mozzarella Pie

Initially, I didn't want to post this recipe because it came from a cookbook and I don't like copyright infringement. However, I've made 3 of them now and feel like I've changed the recipe enough to call it mine. It originates from the resort where we stayed in Belize, and when we had it there, we had it as an appetizer with a small Caesar salad on the side. I think a larger piece would make a nice lunch or light dinner, with a little Caesar salad and maybe a grilled chicken breast or tuna. I haven't had it that way, I've mostly brought it to potlucks (I brought it Saturday to my family reunion).

For the pie crust, I've always been lazy and used a pre-made refrigerated crust, but you can certainly use a homemade one if it's what you prefer. If you like to use fresh garlic (I do not), you can use 4 garlic cloves and chop them. I've used reduced fat mozzarella, but I always use real mayo (light mayo often sucks). You probably could use light mayo if you really must. I use a deep dish pie plate, which means I often have to add extra of all of the ingredients to really fill it up (so buy extra if you do this). That also means that a Pillsbury pie crust will be a tad too small, which I really like because I don't like a lot of extra crust. You can see what I mean in the photo below of the pies I made for the reunion.

Tomato mozzarella pies. on Twitpic

Tomato Mozzarella Pie
Serves 8

1 pie crust
4 medium sized tomatoes
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons bottled chopped garlic
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
fresh ground pepper

Bake the pie crust according to instructions for 8 minutes (so that it's a little cooked, but not fully cooked). Make sure you pierce the crust with a fork. While it's cooking, chop the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and place in a collander over a bowl. The goopy tomato juice and seeds will drain out, which is great. As you chop the tomatoes, turn them in the collander so that more juice will drain.

Once the crust is done and has cooled for a few minutes (it doesn't have to be completely cool), sprinkle a thin layer of mozzarella cheese in the crust. Top with the tomatoes so that the pie crust is about 3/4 full. Chop the fresh basil and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Sprinkle the garlic on top of the tomatoes as well. In another bowl, mix the mayo, parmesan cheese and the rest of the mozzarella. Spread on top of the pie. If there are holes in the cheese layer or if you can still really see the tomatoes, you may need to make and add extra of the mayo/parmesan/mozzarella mixture on top (this depends on the size of your pie plate as well). Grind some fresh ground pepper on top, to taste.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. About halfway through cooking or so, you will need to pull the pie out and wrap the crust in foil so that it will not get too brown or burn. Pie will be bubby and brown on top when it's done. It can be served warm, but not too hot. It goes super-fast when you bring it to a party.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pikesville 5k 2009

Since I haven't been running, or working out at all beyond scuba diving while we were away, I wasn't expecting much out of this 5k. My last run was on the trail on June 27. I wanted to run Thursday or Friday, but just didn't have the time.

This is the race I've run the most times -- this was my 5th year in a row running this race. I planned on doing a training run speed, and just running with whomever in my group wanted to run with me. I started with Kristy, who is still nursing a hurt ankle and was also sick (double-whammy!). We did the first mile in about 12:45 or so, keeping a comfortable training pace. Kristy then was feeling bad and needed to walk. She told me to go ahead. Since I didn't have anyone running with me, and since the No Boundaries (beginners 5k training program) folks were beating me -- well, I had to go.

I ended up doing the second mile just shy of 11 minutes, pretty fast for me. This was not that great of an idea, as this race is hot and hilly and miserable, and I felt horrible - stomach cramping. I slowed down some for mile 3, but still needed to be reasonably fast to keep those pesky No Boundaries folks behind me. I ended up finishing around the 37 minute time, which falls right in the middle of my 5k times, and faster than last year (when I think I pushed harder... I can't remember).

All in all, a decent or mildly ok race. I wasn't in the mood to run this weekend, so at least it got me out there. Todd was out taking photos, so we will see if we can get some good shots posted. We're very behind on posting photos - since we have photos from vacation, underwater photos, photos from yesterday's family reunion, and photos from today's race all in the hopper. Expect many blog posts this week, if I get the time to post.

Race Results (using the new name!!)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Our Wedding: July 2, 2009

We arrived in Little Cayman on Wednesday, July 1. In the airport in Grand Cayman, we met with our pastor, who would be going to the government house in Grand Cayman to apply for our marriage license. We gave him our documents and signed some paperwork, and then bid him farewell. We took the twin otter plane to Little Cayman, where we would be getting married.

We were staying at Southern Cross Club, and this was our third trip there. We first visited Southern Cross in 2007 on a whim vacation over the fourth of July. We love it, and consider Little Cayman "our" place. There wasn't a more perfect place for our wedding.

The next day, Thursday, July 2 was the big day. We started out the day perfectly - some breakfast, two dives on Bloody Bay Wall, some lunch and then a nap in a hammock. Our room had an outdoor shower, so while I was getting ready for the wedding, I watched the dive boat come back from the afternoon dive.

Our photographer met us in the late afternoon, and he worked with us for about an hour or so on the beach, taking photos. Here are a few:

During the photo shoot, my flower bouquet arrived! When we arrived on Wednesday, I was absolutely delighted to hear that Brigitte Kassa was the one who would be making my bouquet. We have met Brigitte a few times, and I think she's terrific. She is a Little Cayman legend, that is for certain. She is known as the first woman on Little Cayman, and runs the National Trust at the Booby Pond in Little Cayman. The flowers for my bouquet came from Brigitte's garden. She asked me on Wednesday what type of flowers I'd prefer and I just kind of shrugged and told her to just make a beautiful mix. She certainly delivered and exceeded my expecations.

For all of the lamenting that I did about my wedding shoes, I actually only ended up wearing them for about five minutes before I kicked them off... They were still perfect, though, and I was glad that I had them - just in case.

I love this next photo because I know what was going on in the picture. The photographer asked me to whisper something in Todd's ear, and so I used our "The Bug" voice that we have and talked to him about The Bug. It got a laugh :)

We met up with our diving friends, Matt and Ellen, who were our witnesses, to head to Owen Island. We met Matt and Ellen at Southern Cross Club in Little Cayman in July of 2007. This was our fourth dive vacation with them, and we were excited to have them join us for our wedding, especially since our families couldn't be there.

The wedding took place on Owen Island, which is a small island within sight of Southern Cross Club. Southern Cross sits on South Hole Sound, and Owen Island is right at the entrance to South Hole Sound. It's small and uninhabited, but has a beautiful beach and a variety of birds. We took Southern Cross Club's pontoon boat out to Owen Island - it's a pretty short ride.

Here we are on the pontoon, where Matt said he was stealing both ladies away from Todd:

On Owen Island, the club had set up a very simple setting with flowers (again from Bridgette's garden). It was absolutely perfect.

Ellen started tearing up right away. I had to tell her to stop or I was going to cry also, and I really wanted to keep my makeup on. The pastor read from I Corinthians (one of my favorites):

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

First was the declaration of intention, and right as Todd was about to say "I Do," a wave came up and washed over Pastor Henriquez's shoes. He didn't miss a beat though, and it was soon time to say our vows. Todd was serious in everything that he said, and I tried not to cry both while he said his and while I said mine...

I, Todd take you, Kim, from this day forward as my wife, partner and best friend. I promise to take you to my heart – as you are and as you will be. I promise – to walk by your side forever – to grow together with you – and to be more in love with you – than I am today. I promise – to support your dreams – and to be there for you – for the rest of my live.

And then we exchanged rings...

...With this ring I thee wed. I give this ring as I give you my love. It is a symbol of the trust I have in you.

A word about my ring... The setting is called "Champagne," and the cluster of little diamonds on the setting are meant to look like champagne. I had thought of it this way up until a conversation that I had with fellow diver Bethany at Southern Cross Club. She said, "Oh! The diamonds look like scuba diving bubbles!" I like that definition so much better.

Pretty soon, the ceremony was over and we were married and it was time for our first kiss...

We took some more photos on the beach on Owen Island. Some in the water, some out.

Then, of course, Todd will be Todd... I love this photo because it really shows US. Todd being himself (a goofball), and me shrugging and saying "yep, that's my husband..." :)

Since we're runners, the photographer got some shots of us running on the beach:

And there was a beautiful sunset:

We boarded the pontoon again to take a sunset cruise around South Hole Sound, where we sipped champagne and signed our marriage license. Ellen gave a lovely toast, as well.

Finally, it was time for dinner. We shared even more champagne (I think between the four of us we had three bottles... or was it four? Who knows). We had grilled prawns for dinner, and Chef Ron made us a lovely wedding cake.

And as we cut the cake, the resort shot off a special fireworks show just for us. Todd had won the fireworks display in a photo contest, and we thought it would be a perfect time to have a fireworks display. So, we stood on the beach with glasses of champagne and celebrated before finishing our cake.

After dinner and cake, we headed back to our room for a special surprise. On our bed was a framed photo of us taken earlier in the day, as well as our flowers from the ceremony. Covering every surface in the room were tealight candles. It was very, very romantic.

Our day was lovely. We do wish that our friends and family could have been there with us, but it was very important for us to have our ceremony in our special little corner of the world, and as simply as possible. Each and every one of you was there with us in spirit, though. The UMBC Gang was celebrating at J. Patrick's Pub, and I got an awesome photo from them (and a text from Nick -- LOL -- I need more details of that one). Our original plan had been to just elope without telling a soul that we were getting married, but after three months of knowing when and where the ceremony would be, I just had to tell people. I think we succeeded in our main goal - a simple ceremony that was about our love and us. Later, we will have a celebration with our families.

Tonight, I'm the luckiest girl on the planet. I've finally found the one who is right for me, and I couldn't be happier to spending the rest of my life as Mrs. Todd Krebs.

Wedding Best Of

More on the rest of the honeymoon at a later date...
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