Falling in Love with Fall

pumpkins

I have long said, “If it could be 80 degrees and sunny year round, I would be a happy camper.”  Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved the summer months and detested the cold, bitter winter.  However, now that I’m older, I’m finally starting to appreciate Fall.  I used to sulk for the first day in September or October where I’d have to grab a jacket before heading outside.  But when the temperature dropped a few weeks ago, quite a bit earlier than it has the past couple years in Atlanta, I was ready.  There are far too many great things that come with the changing of the season…

Leaves changing colors.  Pumpkin everything.  The red cups at Starbucks are back!  Warm cardigans and cable-knit sweaters.  Halloween.  Apple cider.  Thanksgiving.  Deep fried turkey.  The sound leaves make crunching under my shoes during my early morning runs.  Hot chocolate with mini marshmallows.  Carving pumpkins.  Early Christmas shopping.  Holiday office parties.  Fall baking.  Holiday displays in all the stores.  Decorating our home for Fall.  Fuzzy slippers.  Curling up by the fireplace with a good book.  The list goes on.

fallrunning

Fall is my favorite season for running. All the changing leaves are so beautiful!

This past week was Halloween, and I was so excited to finally be able to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters.  It was just something we just didn’t get to do living in an apartment complex.  Also, you know you’re becoming a real adult when you balk at the price of candy.  I literally stood in the aisle at Kroger for a good ten minutes, wondering how in the world I was spending over $20 on two bags of candy that little fairies, ghosts and goblins would gobble up in seconds.  Thankfully we didn’t run out, and I would stand to argue that I actually had more fun than the trick-or-treaters, “oohing” and “aahing” at all the cute costumes and waving at all the families from our front porch rocking chairs.  It’s definitely a tradition I’m excited to continue for years to come.

pumpkin cookies

Iced pumpkin sugar cookies, just one of our many traditions this time of year.

Not a surprise that another one of my favorite things about Fall is baking.  There’s just something incredibly comforting about the flavors of Fall–pumpkin, cranberry, and spices like nutmeg and ginger.  I also have a lot of childhood memories of days spent in the kitchen with my Mom and grandmothers, wearing aprons too big for me and getting more flour in my hair and clothes than in the mixing bowl.  Today, whenever I make something that reminds me of a family recipe, I’ll take a picture and text it to my Mom and it feels like we’re back in the same kitchen, baking and laughing together.

My Mom’s harvest pumpkin loaf is one of my favorite things she bakes.  I always look forward to it this time of year.  Since I won’t be able to have any until we visit over Thanksgiving, I decided to try making my own version.  It’s a bit different than hers–I added cranberries and left out the nuts and glaze topping–but it smells and looks just as good!

bread

Pumpkin Cranberry Chocolate Chip Quick Bread
Makes one 9×5 loaf

Ingredients:
3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp each cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, ground gloves
1 container vanilla or pumpkin-flavored yogurt
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup honey
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9×5 baking pan.  In a large bowl, beat together pumpkin, yogurt, honey, egg and vanilla extract.  Slowly beat in flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.  Once even combined, stir in cranberries then chocolate chips.  Spoon batter into pan and bake for 45-55 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

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Atlanta Beltline Southwest 5K Ver 2.0

race1I can’t believe it’s already been a whole year since Drew and I ran our first race put on by the Atlanta Beltline Running Series. Time flies! We actually procrastinated registering for this year’s race up until just about a week beforehand. Waking up at 6 A.M. on a Saturday is not something I want to do often, but I figured it would be worth it. Plus, no doubt I’d gotten faster than last year and really wanted to see what kind of time I could pull out. No offense to The Color Run, but if you’re trying to get a PR or run competitively, that is not the race to do it.

Race day arrived, and we literally rolled out of bed, laced up our running shoes and drove out to the course.  It was the exact same route as last year, which is both good and bad.  The first part of the race started off-terrain and while Drew, a former cross-country megastar, was excited for it, I’d much prefer all 3.1 miles to be on smooth, flat pavement.  Thankfully that part of the race went by pretty quickly and before I knew it, I was within reach of the finish line.  The race seemed to go by a lot quicker than last year and when I looked up at the clock to see my final time, I understood why.  I beat last year’s time by a whopping 3 minutes!

winnermug

It was great to see and hear Drew rooting me on from the finish line.  After running the race step for step together the year before, we both decided that we would queue up together at the start, but each try to do our personal best.  Drew finished with a 21:00, while I followed shortly behind in 21:56.  Sweaty and happy, we celebrated our great runs and headed toward the post-race party for some water and vendor swag.  As it turns out, I ended up winning my age group and placing 6th overall female.  I even got a huge winner’s mug to show for it.  Drew did great as well, placing 4th in his age group and 23rd overall out of over 300 runners!

After heading back home for some much-needed showers, we walked to Piedmont Park for yet another jaunt at the farmer’s market.  I was determined to get my precious almond iced coffee since I’d missed in the weekend before.  We also headed back to the Nectar food truck for their delicious breakfast paninis.  I ordered the tried and true egg, mozzarella and pesto panini while Drew changed things up a bit with the spicy chipotle chicken.  With another race day in the books, I’ve already set my sights on another 5k in September that several co-workers are running.  Should be fun!

nectarsign

The Color Run, Version 2.0!


photo 1

This past Saturday, Drew and I forwent our usual “sleep-in day” in order to participate in the Atlanta Color Run.  I use ‘Atlanta’ loosely as the race was actually out at the Motor Speedway in Tara, Georgia.  In order to make the 45 minute drive and arrive early enough to queue up with the first waive of runners, we had to leave the apartment shortly after 7 A.M. Now if that isn’t dedication, I don’t know what is.  Lucky for us, since we ran the race last year, we knew how much fun it would be, well worth giving up a few extra hours of zzz’s.  The race definitely didn’t disappoint.

Jhana and I at the starting line. Hence the squeaky clean shirts.

Jhana and I at the starting line. Hence the squeaky clean shirts.

Jhana and Jacob all color-riffic after the race.

Jhana and Jacob all color-riffic after the race.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After seeing the massive crowds of people, I’m not surprised they moved the race location.  I’m also glad we got there early.  There had to have been at least 50,000 people which is probably double the number that ran through Piedmont Park last year.  We’d heard that residents had complained about their cars getting covered with the powder at the various color stations along the course.  Apparently not everyone wants their cars stained hot pink and teal.  I can’t complain too much; minus a short stretch of gravel, the race course at the Speedway was pretty much flat as a pancake.

photo 4

Our friends Jhana and Jacob also ran and as usual, I think the best part was the post-race color-throwing-sweaty-moshpit-dance party. With a thousand of our closest friends.  I was a bit sad to see my relatively new Brooks shoes get dirty, but I’m sure it was only a matter of time.  Plus, every time I lace up my shoes I’ll be reminded of an awesome day.  Another reminder? The streaks of purple that have remained in my hair the past couple days.  Surprisingly, I actually don’t mind them.  I may even be a bit sad when the last of it rinses out.