Monday, June 18, 2018

Ragnar Wasatch Back 2018

I went into this race so excited.  My goal was to run the biggest mountains I could find this year.  I had considered the Timp half marathon, but when the chance to do Wasatch Back came up I jumped on it.  When my team captain assigned me the biggest hills on the course I was even more thrilled!  The other runner on our team to draw a massive uphill leg was excited, but very anxious.  I sent her this the night before the race.  Unfortunately the last line didn't apply to us since our legs didn't include the thrill of swooshing down the other side.

We voted on a team name, the runner up names were a star wars theme and "I thought you said rum!".  So, I drew up a team logo that tried to incorporate the costuming and rum concepts.  My team liked this a lot and everyone wanted to dress up like pirates (except the husbands I guess, but they didn't really get to vote.)

7:30am Friday June 2.
Our team was an online running club, so we didn't know each other in person and dressing up sure made it easy to find each other!  We wore our costumes to start the race and tried to pull them together for a finish line picture (except I lost mine before we finished, so no pirate for me at the finsh line :(  As much as possible we dressed in our pirate theme the whole race.  We had so much fun at each exchange scanning the horizon for black and red!
Van 1

Van 2

Hi Coneheads team!
the first exchange for Van 2, this is where it all started for us!  (Team 409 that's a spray cleaner right?)

Here is our runner 7.  I love this lady, she has a huge box full of running costumes.  For years she ran races every weekend at lightning speed pushing special needs children and she always dressed up in Disney-ish costumes usually princesses, to make it fun for them.  This was her eight or ninth Wasatch Back.

Runner 8 another amazing lady, a coal mine engineer from Kemmerer, she put half of this team together.  Her awesome running tutu lit up like a christmas tree at night, I need one of those if I do another Ragnar.
I forget what exchange this was across the street from, it was either 9 or 10.

Ragnar Van Art.  My online running group is "Run4Fun" and we draw "4" on our calves at races to find each other.  While decorating the van we marked our legs and found Run4Funners at the very next exchange.  My 4 was sadly very small since I had to wear compression during the race to fight shin spints.
Run4Fun friends!

Our van had cowbells, but I don't think I saw any other teams with them.  I saw some fun exchanges though.  My favorite was a birthday cake with lit candles waiting for a runner.  A few teams made tunnels.  My team had a ginormous foam hand at my first exchange and cowbell of course.  My runs always ended at major exchanges and were very lively!  Cheering runners on at each exchange is important its part of what make relay races so fun.  At night this was hard to do because as the temperatures dropped into the 20's or 30's (it was debated), teammates were not as likely to be hanging out waiting.  It seemed like every third runner to come in didn't even have a team waiting.  They usually showed up eventually though.

Here is the beginning of the Ragnar Leg.  The toughest leg in each Ragnar is called the Ragnar Leg and runners get a special medal for running it.  This 7.4 mile leg included 6 miles of tough uphill climbing and a mile of downhill about halfway through.  Its pretty much like going up stairs for 3 miles a break and then 3 more miles.
I was thrilled when I checked my time on the downhill segment for this and saw I had made a 1-mile PR of 7:20!  My goal for the uphill was 12:00 miles, but I made 11:30, so that was exciting too.  I had no idea how long this run would take, I estimated 90-120 minutes and finished in 75.  I sadly have no pictures of my Ragnar Hill medal because my battery died, but I was proud and wore it to dinner at a very delicious Thai restaurant in Ogden.

A picture I took of an upcoming switchback on my run, it was green and pretty, sun was setting, so it wasn't too hot, a very nice run.

beautiful road in June, but treacherous in winter.

Okay, I may have stopped running a few times to take pictures of the road below.  The run started at pineview reservoir and had great views.

I loved these fun signs that were posted at every mile on the Ragnar leg, they made me smile.

Fancy Castle Mansion I passed along the way.

Almost to the top!

The next segmant of Wasatch Back was pretty rough for our Van.  One of our runners was in extreme knee pain and one develped a horrible migraine and had to be taken home.  A third runner dressed too lightly and cramped up due to cold during the run.  I jumped in and ran for runner 10 a 6 mile downhill segment.  It was a great leg.  I forced myself to run walk, so I would still have energy to run my own leg an hour later.

My night leg was really a sunrise leg along Echo reservoir, beautiful!  I had arranged to have a pacer for this leg.  He was hoping to run 9:00 miles, but I had already run 13 miles and didn't have it in me, so we ran 9:30 instead.  I enjoyed having someone to chat with the whole way and someone pushing me to do my best and this was an awesome leg!

Our poor injured runner powered through her second leg in extreme agony of the knee, but she still had her most difficult leg to go.  Her husband wanted to run it for her, but he was limping after his freezing cold night run and didn't have it in him.  So now my awesome husband swooped in and saved the day, here he is coming into the exchange after a nice, hot leg full of all kinds of steep up and downhill running.  He was amazing!

exchange 31

exchange 32

exchange 34, surprise runner!  When our runner left 33, he had no idea who would be waiting for him at this exchange.  We had lots of volunteers, but here is the lucky girl!  Runner 1 from Van 1.  Our team name seemed to have doomed us a bit, but we managed to keep running, yay!
exchange 34

All that white in the background are Ragnar vans parked at the finish line, but at this point I still had 900 feet to go up and 900 feet to go down.

A runner getting ready to pass me as I turned around to check out the view.  The picture doesn't show how steep, but I can see how hunched over this lady was as she clawed her way up the hill.

Hill Star Ranch below is the white, you can hear people cheering at the finish line for almost the entire leg.

This is my next team! I'm sure the other window said David.  (right brothers?)

This was the second time in a week.  Earlier I saw a corner that had all three names together on election posters, but I didn't take a picture, this time I decided I had to catch it.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Good story time books for 5-8 year olds

Story Time Read Alouds for 5-8 year olds


Tornado Slim and the Magic Cowboy Hat

By Bryan Langdo
Vocabulary: Sarsparilla, five-alarm chili, sheriff, coyote, fiancĂ© 
Magic, humor, fun illustrations.  This book easily kept all the kids attention.


Pirates Love Underpants

by Claire Freedman
Vocabulary: Long Johns, knickers, bloomers
This book is widely read, most of my kids had heard it before.  Most of the kids needed help to understand the strategy of cutting underwear elastic.  I had to stop and explain what was going on a lot, but the illustrations were cute and as always the kids were amused by the underpants theme.

Underwater Monster: 

The Pirate Cruncher 

by Jonny Duddle
Forshadowing:  I introduced this book talking about the consequences for stealing, I tried to prepare the kids for the tragic ending and that worked really well.  We talked about the story of King Midas and the dangers of greed.

I didn't want to read this book once I saw the ending, but out of the eleven books on this list, this was the favorite of the kids.  They especially enjoyed flipping back to the beginning and seeing the tentacles on the first page and the puppet strings on the fiddler revealed.

Dragons & Knights:

Dough Knights and Dragons 

by Dee Leone
Teaches Win-Win behavior

I had 5 dragon books to choose from and although there were two others I preferred as an adult, my children ALL chose this one.  The author really gets the kids attention with the donut element added into this book.  This was a great read aloud, the kids hadn't heard it before and they were all glued to the story.  

Obstacle Course/American Ninja Warrior

Ninja at the Pet Shop

by Luke Flowers

Great ninjas aren't always great Pet Store employees.  This is in the style of Amelia Bedelia.

Not many obstacle course theme books out there, but I read this because of the page that showed the ninja training course and it looked like the American Ninja Warrior course, so I went with it.  Lots of kids had read this already because it is Scholastic.  This book was fine, not as clever as some of the other books on the list, but it worked.

Robots and Friends:

Boy and Bot 

by Ame Dyckman

My Friend is Sad

by Mo Willems

Don't let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

I Need My Monster

the 3 Ninja Pigs

Mad Scientist:
Hazel Nutt the Mad Scientist
Vocabulary: Opera Singer, Vampire, Mummy, Steinway Piano, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Boogy Man, etc.
Prepare by teaching "What if you cross?" jokes.  I didn't read all the the dry humor in the text bubbles, the dry humor took a lot of explaining, so I just chose a few.  I also didn't get to point out all the cleverness, but once the kids understood the book was about mixed up monsters, they were more engaged and appreciative of basic story.  It worked well with our mad scientist theme.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Best Gluten Free Cinnamon Roll

Gooey, cinnamony, cream cheesy goodness!
 I love a soft, gooey cinnamon roll more than anyone I know, but unfortunately, most cinnamon rolls are dry and hard to choke down, especially gluten free ones (despite the raves the recipes always have posted with them).  On Christmas Eve, a dear friend of mine who owns a restaurant saw me and my husband out on a walk and offered to send us home with two 8" cinnamon rolls for our kids to have Christmas morning (as the restaurant obviously wouldn't be open and selling them.)  My family normally won't touch cinnamon rolls, so I was about to pass, but my husband took a look at those gorgeous gigantic cinnamon rolls and said "of course!"  

As we walked home I started planning out the ultimate gluten free cinnamon roll recipe in my head.  I was going to make one exactly like we had in our hands or better.  
 I threw some ingredients in the bowl that afternoon, rolled up the cinnamon roll at dinnertime and baked it just before I went to bed.  Sure enough, Christmas morning dawned with the best gluten free cinnamon roll ever!  All the cinnamon rolls I've had in the last 7 years have been 1 star, but this was 5 stars for sure!  The long rise time make these rolls super soft and light.  The eggs and xanthan gum mimic the gluten in traditional cinnamon rolls.

my roll dough in a 5x14" rectangle, spread with melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon
starting to roll the jumbo cinnamon roll.
when you get to the end of one strip of dough, set the cinnamon roll
down at the beginning of the next and keep rolling, pinching the dough together at the seam.
When you are done transfer your giant cinnamon roll to a lightly greased 8" cake pan.   Gently press down with a spatula to fill the whole pan.

All ready to let it rise 4-6 hours.
gluten free in the foreground and gluten-filled in the background,
they looked nearly identical, but the gluten free had the best texture!  

makes a great Christmas breakfast!  I cut it in fourths
because as you can see it was humongous.
The background shows my inspiration jumbo cinnamon rolls of the gluten-filled variety.
 Then in front you see my fabulous gluten free cinnamon roll hiding under
a generous amount of cream cheese frosting.
Best Ever Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls

These are slowrise cinnamon rolls like you get at the mall.  I like to start these in the afternoon, roll them out at dinner time, and bake them at bedtime.  I frost them in the morning, reheat them a bit in the microwave, and eat them for breakfast.  

You could also start them at dinner, roll them up at bedtime, and then get up early and bake them in the morning.  Every step is EASY, they are just spread out a lot.

~4 large cinnamon rolls or 1 jumbo cinnamon roll
12 hrs, prep time 18 minutes bake time

1 tsp active or rapid rise yeast
1 1/3 Tbs warm water (115 degrees)
2 2/3 tbs butter, melted
1/4 cup milk, scalded (nearly boiled)
2 2/3 Tbs sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, well beaten plus
3 egg whites or 1 ½ eggs, well beaten.
1 1/2 cups flour (I used the Costco all purpose blend which includes xanthan gum) 
½ Tbs xanthan gum or onlly ¾ tsp if using a flour mix already containing x.g.

2 2/3 Tbs butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar plus more if needed to thoroughly cover the dough
2 tsp cinnamon plus more if needed to evenly cover the sugar

1 1/2 Tbs butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 oz cream cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 Tbs milk (2/3 Tbs-2 1/2Tb)

Soften yeast in warm water.  Combine melted butter and scalded milk.  Stir in sugar, salt and eggs.  Cool.  Stir in softened yeast and flour.  Cover; allow to rise in cool place for 4 to 6 hours (room temp in the winter is fine).  Turn out onto lightly floured board roll to cover with a light dusting of flour and gently form into a long rectangle (mine was about 5x14").  Dough is very soft and should remain so, if it is sticking to your hands or roller you can dust with flour or slightly moisten your fingers.  Cover the rectangle with 2 2/3 Tbs melted butter.  cover the butter with a generous coating of brown sugar (so no roll dough is showing through.)  Then sprinkle with a generous amount of cinnamon.  

for a jumbo cinnamon roll:
Cut the rectangle into strips about 1 1/4" tall.  Roll each piece loosely, as you finish one strip of dough move it to the end of another strip and keep rolling so that you make one gigantic roll.  Set the roll into a lightly greased 8" cake pan.  if the roll doesn't come all the way to the edges of the pan you can flatten it a bit with a spatula.  

four smaller cinnamon rolls:
for smaller cinnamon rolls, cut the rectangle into 4 strips and then roll up each cinnamon roll and place in a lightly greased 8" square pan.

Allow to rise in cool place 5-6 hours.  Bake at 375F approximately 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cover with foil after 10 mins if needed to prevent burning, bottom of rolls should be golden brown.  

Cool slightly and frost.  I highly reccomend reheating a bit in the microwave before eating!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Unique Graham Cracker Houses

My kids never seem to want to decorate a regular house, they always want something unique.  I just use a serrated bread knife and carve whatever shape they ask for out of the crackers.  I glue them together with melted sugar that I have heated on medium heat in a frying pan.  It works like hot glue.  This year I had two boat requests, so I made some blue butter cream frosting as well as the traditional royal icing and this is what we ended up with.
Flower garden with wheelbarrow and gated fence, daughter age 10

candy and graham crackers

Gummy Bear House, my son age 4
Chinese Dragon, son age 13 "Scary Christmas!"
Fishing Boat, son age 8 "Fishing You A Merry Christmas!"

Viking Ship, daughter age 15, since we live in a town settled by Icelanders,
viking ships are kind of a special around here.