Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sydney Dover Trails

Every Sunday, our running group (BRA) hosts a “recovery run” at Sydney Dover Trails right outside of Brandon. Usually a small crowd between 4-6 people show up to start at 7:30am (this changes according to daylight savings, so check the "rungenda" on the BRA page for the official time if you'd ever like to join some runs!). Its a pretty easy trail, 4-mile loop that we all run at a recovery pace (slow and easy). Everyone’s definition of slow is different, but the overall concept is the same - take it easy on Sundays!

Brad usually takes our largest dog, Toby (the golden doodle) with him when he goes. There is not much wildlife (that you can see) out there and Toby LOVES to run just as much as he loves people. Brad usually runs with Toby with his leash on for the first half mile or so while he gets all of his excitement out. If you know our Toby, he has A LOT of energy! Running on the trails is his favorite thing to do. We've worked him up from 2mi to 10mi over the last several years. Just like the rest of us, some Sundays his run is "easy" and other Sundays he seems to drag during the last several miles. We always make sure to bring plenty of water to hydrate him and we keep his hair cut much shorter in the spring/summer months.
Toby posing for a photo at Sydney Dover back in March
Although I gave up running last month, I have been feeling pretty jealous of Brad and Toby's runs together. I LOVE sleeping-in on the weekends (or any day of the week, really); but lately I've had a lot more energy and I'd been wishing I was out there with them. Well, this past Sunday, Hemi (our smaller dog) and I decided to join the group on their run.

I was doing the math in my head and I figured out while Toby and Brad ran 2 loops, Hemi and I can finish 1 loop. Hemi isn't as active as Toby is and I think its because he naturally doesn't have as much energy (or so I thought). Hemi is never interested in playing catch and his definition of a good time usually involves you rubbing his belly and giving him kisses. Hemi and I have run around the neighborhood a few times before, up to 1mile usually around 12-13 min pace.

So this week, Hemi and I decided we needed to up our fitness level. I packed a water bottle to run with and we started around 6:45am (so that Brad and Toby can make it back to the parking lot and begin their second loop with the group at 7:30am). During the first mile, Hemi was DESPERATE to try and keep up with Brad and Toby as they took off. He was so excited to be out on the trail that I had to keep him on the leash more than I wanted to because he kept running off to try and catch up with the boys.

Hemi admiring the scenery
I ran with music from my phone to keep me entertained for the 1hr+ it was going to take us to finish. This ended up working out perfectly because for the first 2 miles we power-walked and then ran through all of the choruses of the music playing. For the last 2 miles, we were both getting pretty tired of running so we just power-walked it back to the parking lot. Sydney Dover trails are pretty shaded in the morning so it was nice to see the sun rise without having the direct heat on your skin.
Me, post-4 mile walk/run at Sydney Dover at 26 weeks pregnant

After the run, I was ready to get back to the AC. I drank lots of water and I took it easy. So, I didn't feel over-exerted but I was definitely tired of being on my feet. Running around with 25 more pounds than you are normally accustomed to is hard work! :) On the other hand, Hemi still had plenty of energy...
Waiting for my daddy and brother...
Why did they make me go with my slow-mommy?!
We finished a little ahead of schedule and waited for the rest of the group to join us in the parking lot. Brad packed some ice-pops which were PERFECT for the HOT run! We always spend a good 10-20 minutes chatting with the group after we finish the run. It was a pretty large turn-out even though it was Father's Day.

How do you like to start your Sundays? The views at Sydney Dover are my favorite.

Pregnant-Runner Stephanie

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Prenatal Yoga is amazing

Last month I gave up on running. I literally ran/walked 3.1 miles at Miles for Moffit and then threw in the towel. I knew that running wouldn't be the same while pregnant, but I couldn't shake how stressful it felt to get dressed (none of my running clothes were fitting me anymore), remembering to charge my Garmin (this was already a problem I was struggling with pre-pregnancy) and then going outside from my cold AC to the brutal heat - oh yeah did I mention that running with 15 extra pounds felt very sluggish and tiring?


When you first get knocked up find out you're pregnant, your OBGYN expresses how staying fit during pregnancy is healthy. You read all of these articles about how you should get in 30minutes of daily exercise. And then out of no where, you begin learning about heart rate restrictions and how you shouldn't work up too much of a sweat (something about your baby doesn't know how to cool itself down when you are all sweaty). All of this new information (literally given to me around 12 weeks and after I ran 2 major races - Ragnar Relay Key West and Gasparilla 15k) made it really stressful to think about running. I was run/walking and my heart rate was still through the roof, I was run/walking with a cold water bottle and "listening to my body".. but it all started to ruin my relationship with my love for running.

So, I gave up and promised myself that after our bambino was born I would ease back into running. I also promised myself that I would find a new form of exercise. So, I found prenatal yoga! And it has been such a relaxing, fun and calm experience (although the drive from Seffner to Valrico during the prime of rush hour isn't so great).

Yoga is literally the one hour of the week that I avoid speaking. Its pretty amazing what a little bit of silence will do for your life :)

It has been such an enjoyable experience that I make a list of things I need to do in order to prepare:
  1. I avoid traveling to Orlando for work on Wednesdays
  2. I plan what Brad (my husband) is going to cook for dinner when he gets home from work at 4pm so that I can continue working (and eat something) before I need to leave the house for yoga class.
  3. I give myself plenty of time to arrive at yoga. When I am driving in a rush, I arrive at the studio all flustered.
  4. I try my best to be in the moment of the class and relax (just like yoga teaches you)
This is literally how relaxed I feel when doing prenatal yoga

Holy moly! I am sure that prenatal yoga is much easier than regular yoga, but I'm really enjoying it. Last night I attended my 4th class and I plan to go as much as possible until I deliver. Now, if only I could find a studio closer to my house which offers more than 1 class a week. Any recommendations are welcome!  :) :)

Yogi Stephanita

Monday, June 8, 2015

Heath Bar Bits Cheesecake

My nephew was born when I was 16 years old. At the time, I felt like I was the youngest girl to become an aunt and so they named me "titi" which is short for "tia" (aunt in spanish). It's like "little aunt". 11 years later, they still call me "titi" but now I have 6 nieces and nephews - 2 from my sister, 2 from my brother and 2 from my husband's side of the family (I somehow convinced my non-spanish niece & nephew to call me "titi" too! :) ).

Anyways, for the last few years I've been trying to use their birthdays and special events as an occasion for them to request for me to bake them anything they want. The first year this concept was very challenging as I barely knew the difference between a tsp and a Tbsp (I finally learned that the "b" actually means something and isn't just a typo on the handle.. and that the T is usually capital in the tablespoon designation...ha). After lots of trials and errors, I've come a LONG way in both taste and presentation!

Vinny (my sister's son and the first of the bunch who taught me how to be an auntie/titi) just turned 11 last week and he asked me to make him a baseball glove out of cheesecake this year. I'll have to go back in time a few years for you to really understand what "a baseball glove" means for him in the world of desserts. Vinny is a hard-core baseball fan and I still remember when he was just a toddler (and I was still in my teens) and I'd visit him and he'd make me watch The Sandlot on repeat with him. I didn't really understand this obsession until a few years later when he was playing on an actual baseball team every.single.weekend.of.the.year!

In 2012 Vinny turned 8 and I was surfing Pinterest when I found a picture of a baseball glove made out of cupcakes. I thought it was the MOST AWESOME thing that I could make him (because of his baseball obsession and all) and so I attempted. I had a lot of help from my husband (boyfriend at the time) and it was like a 2-day process. I have to admit Vinny was a lot easier to impress at the age of 8! Here is how it turned out :)

Instinctively, Vinny asked me to make him the same thing this year but he wanted the cupcakes to be cheesecake. Well, the hormone-driven auntie that I am was in the mood for HEATH BAR in her cheesecake so I found a recipe here that was centered around heath bar. I seriously considered making the presentation a baseball glove (just like he asked) but then realized that what brings the cupcakes together is the icing and icing on top of cheesecake was just unheard of. I couldn't come up with a way to arrange the cupcakes with a topping that didn't ruin the actual cake... so I nixed the glove idea and went running with the added-heath bar.

Step 1 (Friday 5pm) - mix all of the ingredients in the order that the recipe describes. I thank the baking Gods for whoever invented the KitchenAid. Pre-KitchenAid my husband use to do all of the hardcore, hand-mixing mixing for me :)

Step 2 (Friday 6pm) - prepare your pan with the crust. I actually forgot to take a picture of this step but it pretty much looked something like below. Brad crunched up a bunch of graham crackers in a gallon-sized ziplock bag for me, I mixed it with melted butter and I spread/mashed it into the spring-form pan. The only thing missing is the parchment paper that I used to layer the pan so that it wouldn't stick.

Step 3 - (Friday 7pm) layer your cheesecake filling with the Heath Bar bits! After I put down the crust, I poured half of the cheesecake batter into the pan and then generously sprinkled Heath Bar bits over it. Then, I poured the rest of the batter over the Heath Bar bits.
I tried to wrap the bottom of the pan with aluminum foil to prevent water from
getting into it. Spring-form-pans have a tendency to allow
water to enter which makes your crust SOGGY! (this was a tip from Brad)
Step 4 (Friday 7pm) - place your cheesecake into the oven and bake in a water-bath. This was a new thing for me! I didn't realize that some desserts baked/cooked in a "water-bath" .. this allows for there to be moisture in the oven while baking and possibly prevents them from being "dry"? I'm sure there are more technical reasons why people use water baths for baking certain recipes but those two were good enough for me.
My helper/husband (Brad) pouring boiling water
from the kettle into our roasting pan.
Step 5 (Friday 9pm) - refrigerate over night! I believe the recipe says 6 hours but who can wait that long? Just go to bed and forget its there :)

Step 6 (Saturday 5am... yawn!) - "make it look pretty". We removed the parchment paper and put it on a cake-round made out of cardboard box and covered with aluminum foil. Let the cheesecake sit in the refrigerator until its ready to eat.

Step 7 (Sunday 7pm) - Sing Happy Birthday and devour the cake! He didn't even notice that it wasn't a baseball glove ;)

The cheesecake was a major success! Everyone thought it was delicious and I even got to bring home 2 slices as left overs so that when I'm craving Heath Bar again, all I have to do is open the freezer  ...I even got to enjoy a slice while writing this :)

Pastry Chef Stephanita