Saturday, July 31, 2010

What your parents are nutella’n you about

As a kid, I grew up in a modest household. We didn’t drive fancy cars or have the latest fashionable clothing. We didn’t go on extravagant vacation destinations. But we did have all the Little Debbie® snacks you could think of in our pantry! But no name brand sodas. But we had Blue Bell ice cream! …But no Nutella®. I know what you’re thinking: “Wait. What? How could you be deprived of that delicious hazelnut spread?!” Well, it’s simple. If my parents had given us everything we wanted (or in this case, stuff I didn’t even know I wanted!) then we would’ve grown up spoiled. So it was a give-and-take, carefully-plotted, and purposefully-chosen method they adopted to determine which junk food we were allowed to eat so that we didn’t turn out that way. Or at least that’s how I’m choosing to rationalize it to myself…

A few weeks ago, I was making my normal s-shaped route (or figure-8s or whatever you want to call them) through my local HEB…going up and down every single aisle to see what catches my eye…and I see Nutella. What heck is this? I read the label: Hazelnut Spread with Skim Milk and Cocoa. Mmmm! Every morning I get a hazelnut-vanilla coffee, so I know I love hazelnut flavoring. Skim is my preferred fat percentage of the milk family! And cocoa? Don’t get me started on my soon-to-be-lethal addiction to chocolate. So I bought the smaller size jar and tried it that night on some bread. Just bread and Nutella became dessert! I was in love with a hazelnut spread that had a super weird name and it’s been a happily-ever-after story since.

So with that intro, I feel like I need to kick off a new mini-series to The Runner’s Blotter; one dedicated to finding and exposing Nutella recipes! Or just showing you all the easy stuff you can do with it. I had a great experiment tonight, but I’ll save that revealing piece for a later date. Trust me, you’ll want to make this cookie recipe so you can see for yourself how awesome the result is!

To start this puppy off, I’ll keep it simple and easy. I expanded on the bread and Nutella dessert to make it a meal. I chose some great Mrs. Bairds wheat bread to be bearer of (good news!) spreadable wonderfulness: organic crunchy peanut butter on one side and Nutella on the other:

pb&n sandwichpb&n halved PB&N Sandwich

If you love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Reese’s Pieces, Peanut Butter M&Ms, Twix PB, then you’ll love this modern twist on the old-school PB&J. Look at how empty the rest of that plate is! No worries--this wasn’t my entire meal. I also had a granola bar. Guess what I did with the granola bar? Yup…I dipped it in the Nutella!

IMG_1443 Nutella-dipped granola bar

If you’re wondering, the answer is yes. Yes, I had a huge glass of milk accompany my Nutella quest for the night. And yes, this was an awesome dinner that I was thoroughly pleased with after finishing! I had a protein shake as well, for those of you wondering if I starve myself! haha

My mind started racing. I wanted to concoct other more-elaborate uses for this hazelnutty goodness! So I started to make a list, with the help of some others, and I plan on making everything on it! Lots of people have known about this almost-50 year old product for years. Many of them will admit they’ll just grab a spoon and eat it right out of the jar sometimes like it’s frosting or ice cream! That’s how tasty it is. So for those of you who grew up in a household like mine, put Nutella on your next shopping list. You won’t regret it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

And these are what make man great…

So the weekend is fast approaching and I’m pretty stoked. Yes, I’m incorporating surfer lingo! That’s how stoked I am! My broseph is coming to town (sorta) for his 24th birthday (sorta) and that’s always exciting. I’ve got plans to experiment in the kitchen tomorrow night. I make my FINAL credit card payment Friday...yes, I'll be DEBT-free!!?! A mid-range run slated for either early Saturday or Sunday morning. Hoping for some pool time Saturday with friends (they don’t know it yet, but I’m already creating plans for them!) and then catching a Oswalt-less ‘stros game that night. Sunday will be spent relaxing to the fullest. The weather is supposed to be pretty hot, but I’m pretty good at working around (or with) that. Mostly, I’m excited for the kitchen experiment tomorrow night, but I’ll post more about that in the upcoming weeks!

I got in a schweddy, schweddy run tonight. Geez it was humid. Only in the mid-80s but I think it rained a bit up here before I got started. It’s amazing how much water-weight I carry, just sloshing around in my inner-tube region mainly, because I sweat a lot on my runs in Houston. I’ll spare you details for fear you haven’t had dinner yet and I might spoil it. But I had a great run, just because there was no sun beating down on me and it wasn’t 90+ degrees. That and Mumford & Sons kept me mellow and even keel.

If you’ve not had the pleasure of listening to these English lads’ debut album Sigh No More, get out there and try it. You can buy the mp3 version on Amazon for $5. Five jorge’s people! I don’t really know how to describe them other than it’s just acoustic, mandolin, banjo, accordion, and dobro. What’s a dobro? Click on the word dobro and you can see for yourself. I honestly have never seen one of these, so I’m not gonna act like a know-it-all! Very, very good stuff though. I don’t think their songs classify as one, but each one reminds me of a fairly lengthy ascending crescendo: starts off slowish and soft and gradually gets faster and a bit louder and more awesomer. Now you’re wondering how I could possibly run to this? Well, I was just in the mood. That’s all I can say! The song (not on the radio here in the H, but is on the radio in the ATX) they’re known for is Little Lion Man and I love it. But these, my friends, are the reasons I love the group:

White Blank Page

After The Storm

Saturday, July 10, 2010

No, I think you’re a contra. (An uncomfortable rant)

Let me preface this post by saying that you’ll be reading some stuff that may be hard to stomach because it’s a bit personal (and because some of it’s just gross—see the monster at the end), but if it’s too difficult to handle turn back now. Because only three or four people read this, I don’t have to worry about too much backlash. I’ve come to grips that this is just me and that I’m not alone in the world with this feeling or having these ‘experiences.’ Also, this post is more for my sake of needing to rant (hence the unabridged, super lengthiness of what is about to follow…) so don’t blame me if you grow tired/uninterested halfway through.

Wednesday morning I woke up feeling a bit like poo…similar to the day before. But I got up and went to work like a good employee, not really thinking about how I felt. (I’ll admit I’m not a morning person and my brain doesn’t fully function at 5:30 a.m until coffee is entered into the equation.) There was a bus fire in the HOV lane that day but I never saw it—I only got the added benefits from it by getting to sleep an extra 20 minutes on the commute into town from the traffic. Hmm…guess I shouldn’t say “added benefits” as someone might have been hurt. We’ll just assume everyone was evacuated safely and move along with the story. I get to work and tell my boss I’m scheduling a doctors appointment that afternoon to see what was up with me. I’ll spare you the details of my condition, but know that I was rockin’ a pretty sexy, deep voice as a result of it (a la Phoebe in the episode of Friends when she sings “Smelly Cat” with a cold).

Turns out I have bronchitis with ear infections in both ears. What twenty-something year old gets ear infections? I didn’t feel any pain there, but the doctor said they were definitely infected. Gross. Either way, I’m contagious and this meant days away from the office. Sounds sweet, right? Sick days to do whatever I wanted! Wrong. I ended up working probably 9 hours on Thursday from home via work laptop connection. I wanted to work out at the gym, but had no energy and would’ve gotten others sick. So I finished up season 4 of Weeds and went to bed. Woke up early Friday morning and did more work from bed. I’m telling you, this is not how I wanted to spend my sick days off. I wanted to sleep and sleep and then when I woke up, go back to sleep!

Needless to say, by Friday afternoon I was slightly stir-crazy. As great as they are, you can only stream so many episodes of Arrested Development on Netflix before you start to get bed futon sores. So selfishly I set out for a quiet evening on the town at some unfortunate book store. Armed with a handmade Starbucks double-shot (not the tiny 8 oz canned version; the handmade ones are better and you get more for your buck—they’re not on the menu anymore but the baristas will make you one if you ask nicely with a smile ;), I made my way to Borders to peruse some magazine pieces…as well as contaminate the ‘hood with my doting bronchitis. This month’s Rolling Stone has some good stuff in it; Lady Gaga interview and the article that forced the former U.S. General McChrystal to resign for making derogatory comments about our commander-in-chief, et al. I’m not making any statements by saying I read those two pieces—I’m just saying they were entertaining and informative.

Afterwards I made my way over to HEB, my favorite grocery store in the area (second only to Whole Foods). I’d been jamming out to some Vampire Weekend Contra, so walking through the store I’m singing the oh-OH-oh-OH chorus part of “Diplomat’s Son.” If you’ve heard this song, you know it has a indie-pop little bounce to it. It reminds me of the west coast, which is odd considering these guys are from New York, I think. If you’ve never heard of these guys’ music and you’re a fan of a modern-day Paul Simon sound (or even if you’re not…), they’re definitely worth checking out. They’ll be in Houston the first week of October if you want to see them live. Anyways, back to the indie-pop bounce of the song…it was causing me to walk with the same rhythm and skip in my step. I’m sure it was amusing if you were watching, but I was off in la-la land. I looked like a vagrant—jeans tattered with holes, an undershirt and driver’s cap (flat cap/newsboy cap/ivy cap/whatever) to cover up the matted bed-head hair. I haven’t shaved or trimmed the beard in days. Obviously my condition had affected the part of the brain that says: “hey bum, you’re going out in public—look respectable!”

I pass through the juice aisle and see a cute girl checking out the selection. I pass by her and take note. Do I say something witty and cavalier like “Impressive, isn’t it?” Nope. Do I say anything at all? No, I pass right on behind her with my mini-cart filled with next week’s lunch and hoard of dark chocolate pudding. Sometimes when I don’t make a shopping list, I just go up and down every aisle and look at everything until something catches my eye and reminds me that I need it. This can be a great technique if administered appropriately, but usually just yields $100+ grocery sprees. What was great about it tonight, was my figure-8’s of the grocery store aisles were causing me to intersect the cute juice girl’s path. We would exchange glances and small, innocent smiles when we’d bust each other looking and then move along to the next aisle…like it was a game or a dance that insects do during mating courting season before the deed is done courting takes place.

But then the sad part of the story comes into play: we ran out of aisles to pass each other on. I never saw her again…and I didn’t go looking for her for fear of looking like a creep-stalker. Did I choose the longest line of all the checkout lines in hopes of stalling a bit and running into her again? You betcha. Did I see her again? Would I be writing this terribly sad post if I had?

This is where the post gets a little hard to stomach. You know those guys on television or in the movies that are awkwardly shy around the opposite sex? The ones that make you cringe when you watch their inelegant handling of women? I’m thinking Steve Carell as Michael Scott in The Office. Ben Stiller as Greg Focker in the Meet The Parents movies. Michael Cera as…well every roll he’s ever played. (Man—poor guy has definitely been type-casted a lot.) That’s me. Not always. I’m okay most of the time. But there are times, like tonight, when I’m a bumbling idiot displaying my amateur ranking with no apprehension. I should’ve said something, like a simple “hi” but didn’t. Why? I don’t know—it plagues me once every few months when I actually see a girl that tickles my fancy.

I know I’m not the only one that struggles through the ordeal of figuring out possible clever/cute things to say to a pretty girl. And they’re only human after all, like me…right? Plus this girl was actually smiling back and obviously doing this crazy figure-8 aisle dance with me; a guy who looked like a bum. I probably could’ve said anything, even clumsily, and still been okay. What am I scared of? Was I brought up to be scared of failure? I don’t want to be scared of failure—it’s a part of life. An integral one. It’s a part of life everyone needs to experience to be whole, humble, human.

Sidebar: It scares me that society has shifted to the point where all kids get trophies now…no matter what place their little league team actually placed. Kids need to realize that if you get last, you get nothing. Maybe a pat on the back and say “Better luck next time.” But they need this lesson to learn that life isn’t fair and that you have to work hard for what you want. If you want to be the best, get out there and earn it. You’re not going to graduate college and then be magically presented with a job because everyone gets one. Only the best get a job (or “trophy,” c’mon…keep up with the metaphor)! Okay, end of tangent.

If not intimidated by the thought of failure, then what? Was I just being polite by not getting close enough to infect her with my illness? Pffft! What am I, a leper? No. Was I just being polite by not hitting on her while she was grocery shopping? Maybe she gets hit on all the time and doesn’t want to be bothered. Maybe she never gets hit on and she would’ve liked that I said hi…

See—does this banter not make you feel uncomfortable? Like you’re watching Michael Scott or Greg Focker? It’s painful. I’m sure you can’t find a comfortable way to sit while reading this…like you empathize with the guy but still don’t like to see it. This is when misery no longer loves company. No one wants a part of this.

And it never fails: when this joyous occasion happens to me or my brother (read: strong sarcasm), we always immediately call the other and ask why this happens to us. WHY?! we exclaim, as if the other has all the answers. I guess it’s rhetorical for us and more therapeutic to ask another than to toss the idea around in your own head where you already know you don’t have the answer. We don’t want to play the victim, but it’s as if we have no control over it.

You have to keep your head high though. Have faith that one day things will work out and you’ll meet that special someone when the time is right. Then you’ll never have to worry about those silly supermarket encounters again. You’ll just walk by the lady, remember how awesome your girl is back home, and move along past the juice selection. So I think I just remedied my worries: forget about tonight’s possible missed shot…someone great is still in my path, we just haven’t crossed yet.

For being such a great listener and actually following along to this point, I’m offering up a contest. Correctly identify this absurd stick bug that was found in the kitchen sink tonight after I unloaded the groceries and I’ll buy you lunch next week (when I’m healthy again! horray):

2010-07-09 21.55.33 yes, that’s a baby stick monster riding the back end of it’s mother’s/father’s abdomen

Don’t worry, bug-lovers. This duo was safely transported back outside and not harmed in the process. I have no clue how it actually got inside though. So to be eligible for the free lunch, the first one to leave the correct answer as a comment on this post wins! Good luck peeps. Update: This is not a baby and parent, but rather a male and a female involved in a procreative act. My apologies to my underage readers for posting such a lewd picture!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fairfax™ CamelBak Hydration Pack for Runners - Review

The summers and the runners of the south are not always the best of friends. Coastal cities like Houston are bombarded with extreme heat indexes thanks to 100% humidity. Running along your favorite route becomes next to impossible without the aid of either some strategically placed water fountains or some fluids strapped to your chassis.

What if there are no water fountains? I can remember riding along with my dad as a child in his pickup truck as he placed large water bottles in the ditch along his biking route out on country roads. He didn’t have to worry about some adopt-a-highway clean up crew finding his bottles and throwing them away. He had water every couple miles and never had to worry about being dehydrated. Living in the city, I don’t have this luxury. Plus I don’t like to stop running when I’m going because it’s too hard to get going again. I also don’t like to carry most forms of water bottles—grenade belt style or handheld.

hydration belthandheld bottle

Hydration Belt & Handheld Water Bottle

If I’m wearing some sort of gear belt, it’s my SPIbelt. I’m a minimalist through and through and so the smallest/lightest option I can find is the one I’m choosing. Carrying stuff in my hands? No. I want to be free when I’m running—not handcuffed to a water bottle. Thankfully, CamelBak has another option. Aptly named after the water-retaining beast of burden, they’re the “originator and world leader in hands-free hydration systems.” That sounds like my cup of tea!

You may think of CamelBak as a company who makes backpack-style hydration packs for bikers or climbers—people who can’t afford to take their hands off of what they’re doing and but still need fluids. Well they make hydration packs for runners as well! I just have a few requirements though… Requirement #1: can’t be bulky. Requirement #2: can’t bounce around while I’m running. Requirement #3: can’t be heavy. Requirement #4: can’t be annoyingly irritating. Requirement #5: can’t be expensive…we’re in a recession ya know.

Enter: Fairfax hydration pack. I was able to purchase one last week and armed with a concoction of The Black Keys, AutoVaughn, and a Hammer Gel pack was able to test it out this weekend on a 5 mile run.

camelbak fairfax 2010 Fairfax by CamelBak


Minimalists rejoice! This thing is small enough to not be annoying. It hugs your back and doesn’t protrude like a huge hiking pack. It has a 50 oz reservoir for fluids (that’s about 1.5 liters, for my large population of foreign followers), which is plenty for an hour or two of running. Yet even with it’s small size, you can still store your keys, phone, carb gels, mp3 player, etc. Not just one of those things…all of them at the same time!

fairfax1 Fairfax in action

Bouncinessbody glide

While running 5.1 on Sunday, not once did this pack bounce. It was like a baby spider monkey clinging tightly to his mother for dear life. It was great! But being so snug, I could see how chafing could be an issue. I didn’t experience this, but if you do I’m sure it’s nothing Body Glide’s Liquefied Powder couldn’t handle. (That stuff works wonders on your toes as well if you happen to blister easily. Either that or TriSlide, according to Chic Runner.) But since I didn’t experience this, I’d say that’s a plus for the product. A snug fit = awesome.


Weight? What weight? It feels like maybe an extra 2-3 pounds…woopty. And if you’re in to resistance training, well you can make believe that 2-3 pounds is a part of your training! This thing is light and pretty much non-existent. A+! CamelBak definitely makes larger packs with more volume and more storage space, but those would be more suitable for hiking or something else. This is their lightest backpack and it works great for running.

Annoyance / Irritation

Because it’s a snug fit, sweat build-up between the runner’s back and the hydration pack could be annoying. But the meshing on the back side keeps ventilation perfect. Plus your sweat is not absorbed into the meshing so cleaning is a breeeeze. We’ve already covered the non-chafing aspect. The hydration tube doesn’t get in the way when you’re running. If you want it to flop around in front of you, you can let it do that. But there are straps on the shoulder strap that hold it back and out of the way for your bouncing/running pleasure.

fairfax3fairfax2 CamelBak’s Big Bite Valve

CamelBak also has this great invention called the Big Bite Valve—a device that has no movable parts so you don’t have to worry about whatever fluid you put in your reservoir leaking, which would definitely be annoying. Because of this sweet valve that only releases the liquid when you bite it, you can drink as much or as little as you want whenever you want. If you want douse your face or spray your back with some refreshingly cool water while you’re running, just squeeze the value with your fingers. To me, this feature is the opposite of irritating. So far, four of four checks.


I was able to buy one at REI last week for $48. This is a little more than I’d like to pay, but it’s doable. If the previous four requirements hadn’t been met, I wouldn’t like that I’d paid that much. But considering how great it is and how it makes my summer runs better, I’m happy with the investment. Plus a cold water stream that can be accessed whenever you want? Ahhh, makes me want to find more uses for it…like hiking? Or maybe fill it with beer and use it to bowl? The possibilities are endless...


I run maybe 5-6 miles a week in the summer time, a reduction from the norm due to the unspeakable heat. And this includes having to wal7-4 tempk sometimes to cool off and fantasize about water. I actually hate running in the summer time and do zero fun runs—I call May through September the “off season.” With this CamelBak though, I love that I can run without having to stop to walk and cool off. Not having to stop is a-okay in my book. Staying hydrated and not feeling like I’m dying in the Mojave Desecamelbak3rt is a-okay in my book too. 

Sunday’s run was in 90 degree heat with 100% humidity, so if I hadn’t had this puppy strapped to my back I wouldn’t have been able to finish the 5-miler without stopping and possibly passing on to the afterlife. I realize 90 doesn’t sound that hot, but with 100% humidity it feels MUCH hotter than that. Think about August when it’s 100+ WITH humidity! Nuts.

The tips on the CamelBak website are pretty great too—especially freezing half the reservoir the night before and how to keep water out of the drinking tube so that you always get a cold sip.  And don’t worry ladies! CamelBak had you in mind when creating this pack too. The Annadel has an S-Curve harness to give you a better fit in the chest area and comes in three colors: pink/graphite, azure blue/graphite, and solid black.