Oxford in the summer time can get pretty taxing. I have been having trouble finding time to do everything that I want to do (this is sarcasm in case you haven’t picked up on my boredom). In fact, my time has been pretty much been filled up by the following fun activities:
So in my copious amounts of spare time, I have been pinning and pinning and pinning. Food.
First, there were the blondies. Slutty blondies, they were called. Cookie bottom crust (sugar cookie dough), Golden Oreos, and blondie batter with white chocolate chips on the top. Oh my goodness. There is a reason that I individually wrapped these, put them in the freezer, and proceeded to send at least 4 to my mono-stricken little sister.
Last week, I also tried my hand at creating homemade granola bars, which turned out pretty delicious. I got to use this Biscoff spread that I have had since winter break, and use up some of my mini chocolate chips that can be dangerous (they are also being kept in the freezer…).
And don’t worry, I had some redemptive healthy recipes to slightly repair my reputation as a health nut.
So there was this kale that I bought for the first time, and after I made a small batch of kale chips, it ended up sitting idle in the fridge, staring at me sadly each time I opened it. So I set out to find a recipe to save this poor kale from the trash can, where it may have been headed. On one of my favorite sites for inspiration (katheats.com), I found my solution. Sweet Potato and Kale Soup. I loooove sweet potatoes, in pretty much any form, so I knew this one was a winner. I also got to try out some new ingredients, which I had to hunt for in the international section of Kroger (more about Kroger later): coconut milk and garam masala. Full disclosure: I did not actually find the garam masala, but was still able to learn what it was (an Indian spice blend including both sweet and savory spices such as cinnamon and cumin). I must have looked like a crazed lunatic trying to find this little spice blend by reading every single label in the spice row and pacing back and forth (while wearing a backpack). The soup ended up turning out great, although it was very thick. I was a bit skeptical about adding the greens (I tossed in some spinach in addition to the kale), but they actually added just the right amount of texture for the otherwise smooth and sweet soup. The peanuts and coconut on top added some visual interest as well as more varying textures and crunch.
The other healthy food that I have been into lately has been overnight oats. For those not familiar, the basic concept is that you mix dry rolled oats and yogurt, with some fruit and milk, and leave it to set in the fridge overnight, and voila- you wake up in the morning with a cool, filling breakfast of no-cook oatmeal! Today, I went for a tropical feel for my oats (which I am saving for post-run because of the dairy in them), mixing oats, plain Greek yogurt, chopped mango, a little bit of sliced banana, a splash or two of milk, and some shredded coconut. I broke into these last night after a night run, and topped the bit that I ate with some nutty granola, and it was just what I needed for a small recovery snack.
Of course, this takes up much of my time, but not as much as you might think. I have found myself saving my runs for later so that I know I have an enjoyable activity to look forward to. The approximate hour of my day spent on the trails exploring or just running is usually one of the highlights, and I am using the summer to experiment with different foods before and after running. I have found that running more than 3 miles without breakfast or coffee never turns out too well, and that long runs go infinitely better when properly fueled and not run during the hottest part of the day. My best runs have been either in the morning, a few hours after oatmeal and coffee, or in the evening, when the sun has just started to go down so it’s cooler, but there is still enough light to see.
I partook in a night run just the other day, and I caught myself thinking on the way back “I should do this more often.” I ran down to the track at about 9 PM, and in a spur of the moment decision, did a timed mile to see where my fitness was at at this point in my recovery. It was…alright, I mean, nothing compared to what I could do during outdoor season when I had my steeple buddies to push me to hit the pace, but pretty decent for starting off just wanting to go under 6:30 (I set the bar high). After my timed mile, I took a bit just to enjoy being on the track, something I missed last summer when I was at home. How cool is it that I can just run down to our home track in 4 minutes, at whatever time I want, to bring back memories of track seasons and workouts. On my way back to my house, the sun was just setting, and I caught glimpses of the first fireflies of the summer. It was the kind of sight that would make you run for a while (and I would have had I not been terrified of getting shinsplints from too many miles).
3) Grocery Shopping
So this goes along with cooking, but I thought it deserved its own category.
Since I do not have a car in Oxford, I have been biking to Kroger every week, once or twice a week, depending on how much food I have left. Now there a couple things to keep in mind should you ever decide to do this: 1) Do not, I repeat, do not use a cart to shop, even if it is one of those half-size ones. You will buy too much, and get up to the register and just think “Oh crap.” Keep in mind you will have to carry all of your groceries back. I opt for the backpack route, usually fitting all of my groceries in my backpack, but on this last trip where I mistakenly used a cart, balancing some of it in bags on the handlebars. 2) Make a list. This is important not only for being able to carry all of your groceries back, but also for budgeting. No, you do not need that extra box/jar/bag of whatever. Is it on the list? I didn’t think so. 3) Kroger has a bike rack! It is kind of hidden, but I am sure glad I can stop locking my bike to the patio set on display in front of the store while I shop.
4) Crossword Puzzles
Washington Post Sunday Crosswords– I am a nerd. Enough said.
When I get bored, I like to be productive, so this has resulted in several attempts to plan out my life. I have approximately 3 calendars, 3 running logs, and several class schedule plans, complete with a few academic advising appointments. I am SO ready for the semester to start.
Well, that’s all that’s going on in Oxford for now. Fun times, fun times. Suggestions for fun activities always welcome!