Homemade Pop-Tarts. ,

Voila! Time to dig in.

A weekend at home and a -14 degrees Sunday morning calls for some serious baking. So, I came across a recipe for homemade pop-tarts and just couldn’t resist.

The joy of baking... Using every measuring device possible.
The joy of baking… Using every measuring device possible.
Dough is cut + chocolate mousse is added.
Dough is cut + chocolate mousse is added.

The recipe says it yields 12, but I ended up making four plus a small bonus tart. (Didn’t want any dough + chocolate mousse to go to waste!)

Problem: I didn’t roll the dough thin enough. That’s fine with me, besides the slightly-doughy results, I’m not sure I could eat these for the rest of the week.

After 15 minutes in the oven.
After 15 minutes in the oven.

Didn’t bother making the chocolate icing, even though it would have made them 100 times better. The recipe asked to let it rest for an hour, and after almost an hour of prep work, we were hungry and couldn’t wait any longer. So, I just make up some powdered sugar icing and drizzled it on top to add some sweetness. It did the trick.

IMG_3274

I was happy with my results and I’m sure this is a great recipe for mom’s who want to give their kids (maybe not the healthiest), but an alternative to the preservative-packed Pop-Tarts from the grocery store. Plus, they taste WAY better fresh from the oven.

Happy baking!

~A

Miss Run-A-Lot

itsfinerantoday

Ever since I went through the challenging [and painful] experience of a half marathon race without training, I’ve been eager to start running again. All it takes is a few steps. Eventually it’ll turn into a mile… two miles… marathons!

I’m not quite to the 26.2 mile marker yet, but I’m working my way there. It’s been added to the bucket list.

26.2-b

I have seven scary, but exciting races lined up for 2015 and I’m going to kick off my training with the #WorkitOut100 challenge that everyone’s raving about. Have you seen the photos filling up your newsfeed, yet? Well, I’m signing up for the challenge but I’m taking a slightly different approach. Let’s be honest, no one wants to see my sweaty selfie.

I’m going the “motivational” route in hopes that my fun little quotes and peaceful photos will get people off their bums doing something that gets the heart a pumpin’.

In order to keep up a routine and continue to stay positive and motivated to run – I need to plan out a schedule and STICK TO IT. As easy as it sounds, it’s the hardest thing to do. When you mix in a boyfriend, family, friends, work, sleep… where on earth do you find time for everything?

Sample Week:

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 9.12.56 PM

There are so many training plans out there that may have you run 3 days / week, some want you to run 6 days / week. I would suggest not paying more than $10 for a plan, but if you need the minute-by-minute structure like myself, putting some serious time and investment into a plan may be an excellent idea.

Remember, it’s not all about the running. A healthy diet (those late night ice cream runs will have to stop) and plenty of water balances well with your favorite strength & cardio workouts.

In case you’re looking for a race or two to sign up for, here’s a few I’m planning to do. Please comment below with any courses you’d recommend – might have to add those to the 2016 list!

1. Team Ortho Series

2. Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon

3. Get In Gear

#WIO100 Day 1: Ran for 35 minutes, about 3 miles. Other than rolling my ankle, it was an extremely refreshing and lovely run through the woods. Ready for another run tomorrow with my runner-friend, Sam! #GetAfterIt

Happy running!

Fast Track Half Marathon Training

New Shoes

So, I suppose you guys are all wondering how my training for my second half marathon has been going, right? Well, to tell you the truth there hasn’t been training. At all.

Sure, I ran a few times after the Garry Bjorkland Half Marathon in June. Other than that, I’m failing at this whole “running” thing.

Who has time for running, anyhow? When you’re a busy girl like me, you have plans nearly every night of the week; happy hours with friends, shopping sprees and don’t forget those hot date nights, aka, watching our favorite shows with Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

I recently found an article on a two-week half marathon training and it got me thinking, my second half marathon is a mere 10 days away… I should probably start running.

So here’s the plan:

10daytraining


I’ve accepted this will be one of the most challenging things I will do in my life thus far. Luckily, my boyfriend will be going through the same experience.

I keep telling myself, “it can’t be THAT bad.” (Not as bad as the first race we ran together: the evening after the run, we enjoyed a little food poisoning.)

Besides a funny-looking walk and a couple of sore feet, I’m really ecstatic about this race. I hear the course is on the easier side and I’ll be surrounded by the fall colors and crisp air. What more could you ask for?

Wish me luck! I’ll be praying to the recovery gods every step in every mile during the Centurylink WhistleStop half marathon.

PS. If you have any pointers for the procrastinator runners like me, please share in the comments below!

Social Media: Baking Up a Good Strategy

S'mores Cupcake

Ever wonder why your posts are being liked and your followers aren’t commenting and sharing? Welp, you should take a closer look at your insights and do the following.

I’m the Socialista at Swim, but I’m also a damn good baker. People always ask how I make such great goodies—and my answer is simple.

I test out different recipes until I find the perfect one.

This same strategy aligns itself with social media tactics and best practices, too. The main objective of social media for any business is to gain brand evangelists and build engagement. So, how exactly do you figure out the type of content that grabs attention and keeps people coming back again and again? You try out different social recipes.

Here are the ingredients to build an effective social strategy:

  • Know your brand’s voice, message and goals.
  • Layout a timeline for at least six months.
  • Post two to three times/week—relevant, educational, informational, trending and cultural tidbits.
  • Follow up and maintain comments.
  • Check your insights—time of day, demographics, post engagement, etc.
  • Re-evaluate and refine every few months.

Once you have a strategy nailed down, raise exposure:

  • Spend a little dough on paid advertising. Pair routine posts with promoted posts.
  • Blend your presence with strong copy and vibrant photos.
  • Post when your followers are looking.
  • Measure engagement carefully. Who likes your content? What content gets the most love?
  • Encourage your fans to share the goodies with their friends. The more shares, the more shows.

At the end of the day, the number of likes, shares and comments boil down to how awesome your social strategy really is. If your social media is lacking striking copy, eye-catching graphics, or engagement with your audience—no one is going to seek it out or request it again.

Read more articles here.

First Half in the Books

… And I’m ready to run another one!

New Shoes

I have to say, a year ago watching the runners throughout the course and seeing them hobble around afterwards, I thought, “No thank you!” I never saw myself running more than 3-4 miles at a time. Even that was a struggle, not because I was out of shape (I was a little), but because I’m too dang lazy. I would much prefer sitting on my couch watching marathons of my favorite TV shows than training for a marathon. Who’s with me?

However, things changed when my incredible boyfriend ran his 3rd half marathon in 2013. That is the moment I decided to step up my game and train for what became this year’s race, aka my first half marathon. Before this epiphany, I had only ran a couple 5Ks since the days of high school soccer. #lackingexperience

Training

The training program didn’t get going full throttle until February of this year when we bit the bullet and signed on for a gym membership. It’s a little difficult to run in -20 degree weather, don’t you think?

I have to admit, I saw those brave soles out there running on snow, ice and in miserable conditions. Props to you guys, making me feel like a wimp!

The first month was the absolute worst part about training. It became much easier when the routine was a habit. Before we knew it, it was April. Three months into training and running on a treadmill… it was time to get outside!

We’re so lucky to live in America’s Best Outside City and have access to hundreds of trails and routes right outside our front door! I noticed that hills are bound to happen no matter where you are in Duluth, so I devised this theory to prep for Grandma’s 2014:

When you know the race course has little to no hills, train with hills. It’ll strengthen and prepare the legs for hills, making the course with no hills a breeze!

Overall, training went better than expected, but not good enough. We were scheduled to run 6 days each week and that turned into 3-4. They say you should do some yoga, biking, and other sports… that also did not happen.

However, if I were to guess how much I would have put into training a year ago, this was by far more than that. My first thought when my legs start to give is “okay, let’s walk.” Did I ever walk during my training runs? NOPE! And I’m proud of it! The pushing the limits, running til’ your numb, “get after it” momentum got me this beauty.

GB Half Marathon Medal

What was the best part about the race? 

How undeniably easy it was. I swear the first five miles felt like 15 minutes. They just flew by. Then we got into town with the crowds of people cheering us on and sometimes bringing entertainment to the course, like beer bongs. Plus, the weather was absolutely perfect. 45 degrees and cloudy with a very slight breeze to our backs. Oh, and the feeling I had once I crossed the finish line. That was exhilarating.

What was the worst part about the race?

After the race was over, when your sweat dries up and you can’t get warm enough. During the run, I may have pulled a muscle, but that doesn’t compare to being cold. In the end it was all worth it. And the free beer was pretty good, too.

Beer Here

Grandma’s Weekend

We also had some fun with the #GrandmasSelfie #Verizon contest during #Gmas14. I never had so much fun taking so many selfies. Here’s one of my favorites as we were cheering on my boyfriend’s parents and the other 5K runners.

Grandma's Selfie

A Fitbit is on the line. Still waiting for them to announce the winners this week. My fingers are crossed! I’ve been wanting a Fitbit for a long while now.

At the end of the day, I was ready to sign up for another one. However, I’ve been warned to wait a few weeks to make any big decisions. I guess this is what they call the runner’s high. It’s fun. You should try it.

Bib and Medal

Future Plans

I have three short runs in July that I’m stoked about. First one up is a Fire Cracker 5K to kick off the long holiday weekend. Next up is the MLB All-Star Color Run. (We’re collecting donations to charity, so feel free to support out team!) Lastly, in July we’re going to try out the Park Point 5-Miler in Duluth. All will be a blast and will help me stay focused and motivated on running.

Up next: Great Lakes Marathon Series

Cheers,

Amber

 

About That Running…

Since mid-February I’ve been a member of a gym, because we live in the tundra and I’m much too wimpy to run in the cold. I kicked the habit of being lazy and got moving with my better half, who mind you, has ran Grandma’s Garry Bjorkland Half Marathon the past three years.

Running has been going OKAY. I’ve noticed improvements in my running form and muscle is building throughout my body, making it easier to open a can of pickles. Here’s my progress so far, ramping up more miles each month.

February
February

March
March

April
April

Slowly, but surely I’ll get to 13.1 miles.

The biggest challenge of training so far: finding time to run. As you can see, some time was taken off during training and it was so difficult to get back in the swing of things. Lesson learned.

However, I have to admit, I’m extremely proud of myself for being where I am today. Before the training started up, I had a hard time motivating myself to get out and run. I guess all it took was an $85 registration fee, a boyfriend that runs like the wind and the desire to get in shape since that World Beer Tour was catching up to me. :)

Three months into training and just about a month until the big day this is where my training is at today:

Longest run — 7.02 miles / 1 hour, 20 min / 10’48” pace
Most (girl) push-ups in a row — 10
Crunches capacity — 30

Let’s see where these stand in a few weeks. Until then, get after it!

Knitting 101

So about a month ago a friend asked if I would join a knitting class with her and another gal. I was hesitant at first, but said “what the hell, it could be good for me.” I’ve been trying to finish a scarf for over a year now after being taught the basics from my boyfriend.

Yes, my boyfriend knows the basics of knitting. His grandmother owned a yarn shop so he learned a few things growing up.

Hat in Progress

I went into the class not knowing much, but when I left the class 4 weeks later, I learned SO MUCH including:

– Casting on
– Knit stitch
– Purl stitch
– Garter stitch
– Increasing & Decreasing
– Seaming

And voila! I had a wearable, comfortable, great-looking hat that I choose to wear now over my other “store-bought” hats. After my first completed project I’m being so obsessive about trying to make everything, which I know is extremely hard to do. I learned that the hard work that went into the hat made it so much more enjoyable to wear.

A Wearing Hat

When I fell in love with the hobby and before I finished the hat I decided to sign up to donate a scarf to the auction for a pre-school I work at. This auction is next Saturday. (Thinking to myself… what did I get myself into.) In the process of making this scarf I’ve taught myself how to knit in the round and also a new stitch, the slip stitch. I never knew there were so many different ways to knit!

Scarf in Progress

I’ve also learned that I can knit AND watch marathons of Dexter, Mad Men and House of Cards at the SAME TIME. Hopefully keeping the brain cells at an equilibrium, balancing out the complete laziness with the focus and concentration on my project. It works.

It’s safe to say I’ll be knitting for awhile. I’ve already begun mapping out Christmas gifts for family, friends and co-workers.

If this post sparked your interest in knitting, I’d recommend stopping by your local yarn shop to see if they offer any classes or friend an expert. YouTube videos definitely help, but I can’t say I would have enjoyed my first project without the help from the class and a teacher there with me every stitch of the way.

Also, a great tool I’ve been using to find new patterns is Ravelry. It’s like the Pinterest for knitters. They have millions of patterns that are free or paid ranging from beginner to expert.

It’s always great to have a new hobby, especially when you find yourself stuck indoors for half the year because it’s too darn cold out.

Stay tuned for more projects. I may even surprise myself and create my own patterns. Thanks for reading!