Wednesday, March 31, 2010

some slim postings...

Does everything always seem to happen at once for anyone else out there, or is it just me?  Let me give you a quick run-down of the events that have transpired over the last 5 days.
First, my youngest turned 2. That is a wonderful thing, except that he needs to have a birthday party, and since I am such a perfectionist (see blog description) this was a lot of work for me.
Second, we have lost one staff member at work, and with a workforce of 3, losing one means a 33% reduction in labor.
Finally, the combination of work, school, three kids and a husband, and marathon training got the best of me.  Saturday I ran 16 miles. Sunday I cross-trained and weight lifted for 2 hours. Monday I was unable to get out of bed, and my entire body was in an incredible amount of pain.  I felt like my bones were hurting.  I slept for almost 24 hours straight, and am just now getting back to my normal self.  Training for this marathon has been an enormous commitment, both time-wise and energy-wise.  I don't know good it is for my body to come in from a 16 mile run and have to hold my 2 year old all day or chase after my 3 year old.  I'm not sure how to combat this because my kids will need their Mommy.  I have come too far in my training to turn back now.  I have decided to take the next few days off (which is horribly difficult when you are used to running so many miles in a week) and get back into training on Saturday.  That way my body can have a chance to rest and recover, and I can start feeling fresh.  I will also make myself eat more.  I eat all day as it is, but more...somehow.

Friday, March 26, 2010

a bit of business...

I have maintained this blog for a good couple of months now, and haven't really mentioned anything about business or entrepreneurialism, which I kind of can't believe.  I think the marathon has been so consuming that my business discussions have actually taken a back seat.  I wonder if my husband has enjoyed the break? I am usually completely consumed with my business, aquaBling, that my family almost has to make an appointment to see me.  But guess what? I love it.  It has been such an amazing experience taking an idea from my brain and turning it into a product. Then when people love your's awesome. 
One thing that most start-ups have in common is that they are completely strapped for cash.  It requires significant capital to develop a product and bring it to market, and unless you are either independently wealthy (lucky) or well-funded (luckier), you are almost broke and have nothing left for a marketing budget.  Marketing and exposure is vital to the success of your business.  How can anybody buy your fabulous widget if they don't know about it? 
A great way to get exposure for your products for little money is through the use of social media. Yep. Blogs. There is an enormous blog world out there, and all kinds of fabulous people are in the bloggosphere hosting giveaways and doing reviews every day.  I can personally attest to success with blog product reviews.  They have driven a lot of traffic to my site, and I have made sales as a result of blog exposure.  How do you find these blogs? One great way that I have found is by using google alerts.  I simply type in a few keywords, for example at Christmas I used "stocking stuffers" as a keyword, and each day I receive a report with all kinds of websites and bloggers who are discussing stocking stuffers.  Then, a quick email to submit a product, and viola! You've got a potential audience! 
In order to really capitalize on those blog reviews, always allow them to host a giveaway, and offer a coupon code for your store.  That way you have a really great way to know how many of your sales were as a result of the blog exposure.  This is very helpful when looking at future online advertising, or to reaffirm which keywords and blogs work best for your product.
You will give away a lot of product this way.  But, look at your product as a commodity.  It is your money right now, so spend it like it's going out of style! After all, you know where to get more product, and nobody is going to get it cheaper than you!

urban fun in a rural world

Okay, I don't exactly live in Urban America.  I don't have a Whole Foods, where I can go sip trendy wines and sample the latest organic foods.  I live in a small, college town in the middle of the country.  It is sometimes difficult to find things to do in town that don't involve binge drinking Old Mill Light and eating hamburger/cheese product dip.  However, last night the local grocery store, Hy-Vee, had a wine tasting event, where they sampled 6 different wines and paired each with a different appetizer.  Since we NEVER get to do fun things like this, we decided to go.
I am so glad we did! It was a lot of fun, and I was actually able to try out a few wines that I hadn't had before, which is always fun.  Here are a few that I especially loved.  However, I must first give a disclaimer that I am, by no means, a wine expert.  I will not be describing these wines by their nose, flower, or whatever else goes into an educated wine description.  No, this is a completely ignorant lady discussing some wines she drank at the local grocery store last night.  Reader beware....

This particular wine is a Chilean wine called Carmenere.  I had never had a Carmenere before. It is a red, and is very smooth and yummy.  I got a very strong cherry taste, with just a little bit of a spicy bite.  It was fab!  The best's under ten bucks!  I do like my wine, but I am also a bit of a cheapskate. I usually limit myself to buying wines under ten dollars.  I am sure I miss out on a lot of yummy wines, and I am sure that at a later point in my life I will change this, but since I have lots of kids and not lots of money, I stick to the sub ten prices. I could absolutely see pairing this with a nice flank steak or other red meat.  Yummy.

Another red that I really liked was the Red Diamond Merlot.  I do not generally like Merlot all that much, as I think it tastes kind of bitter, so didn't have high hopes for this one. Our wine host last night introduced merlots as a great go-to wine if you are taking a bottle for a party with lots of different palettes.  I don't really agree with this, and think that a Pinot Noir is a better choice for a go to red...but again, see the above disclosure!  At any rate, this particular merlot would be a good one for a party.  The thing that separated this from other merlots for me was that it had a very fruity taste.  I got a lot of plum in the wine, and I really liked it.  To me, the presence of fruit kind of takes the bitter taste away.  Again...see above disclosure. Another great feature...also under ten bucks!

Since we are going into warmer weather (yay), I would be remiss if I didn't also mention a white wine here somewhere. Bogle Chardonnay was my favorite white of the evening.  Although I have had this particular wine before, it has been some time. I used to be a Reisling drinker, but it has started getting too sweet for me.  I don't usually like Chardonnay (so I thought), because it usually has such an oakey taste that is not pleasing to me.  The Bogle, however, is fairly unoakey, and almost has a buttery taste, which I loved.  I will most definitely be drinking some of this this summer. This one runs slightly higher, around $11 for the bottle, but since we went to the tasting we got a discount, so I bought a couple of bottles for my sub ten price.  Yay!

The food we had to eat was yummy, as well, but only one dish truly deserves mention.  The Savory Pecan-Crusted Bleu Cheese Bites were, hands down, the absolute show stopper.  OMG can you say delicious?  I wish I had a picture for you, but I don't.  I plan to make this dish for Easter, and will definitely be getting some pics up.  Let me just say that at the tasting there were about 40 women.  When this dish was served, it was completely quiet.  Yep.  It was that good.  It's not a low fat dish, but really yummy, and a small piece won't hurt you.  Here is the recipe:

2 cups toasted pecans, finely chopped
1 1/2 oz parmesan cheese
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
4oz bleu cheese, crumbled
1/2 c sour cream
3 eggs
  1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Combine pecans, parmesan, sugar, and butter in mixing bowl, and press mixture onto bottom of medium-sized sheet pan. Bake 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together cream cheese, bleu cheese, sour cream, and eggs until smooth; pour over crust. Bake 20-23 minutes or until center is set; remove to cooling racks until room temperature. Refrigerate at least 3 hours.
  3. To serve, cut into 48 triangles. Top with thinly sliced fruit, if desired.
Again...yum.  And what a fun night!  My only complaint is that, at the end of the night, the store manager started pitching their cheap cafeteria dinners that they serve every night.  I am sure it is a great deal, but these women all just paid $10 to drink wine and eat goat cheese and prosciutto ham.  I sincerely doubt we are the same target market as your cheap meal customer.  How about maybe plugging the gourmet food and cheese section? I know my business brain works overtime a lot...but that seems kind of obvious.  Pardon the rant. Speaking of friend and I absolutely used our aquaBling...and everyone loved them.  They were a hit!  I opted for the red butterfly. It's a favorite of mine!

I strongly suggested they have another one, maybe with a grilling theme.  Maybe this is an indication of how badly I want this to be a regular occurrence....I was actually sitting at the table planning a menu for the next one.  And, I don't even work there.  Wow.  I had so much fun that I bought 4 bottles of wine to take home.  I am not sure when I will get the opportunity to drink all those, since marathon training has pretty much ruined my cocktailing.  After May 15...look out wine!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

another meal my family hates...

So, in the spirit of healthy running and living (did I mention I am running a marathon May 15? Only about a hundred times? Well...), I have been really trying to eat lots more whole grains and leaner meats.  I have to say that, by all Midwestern accounts, I have always been an extremely healthy eater.  I constantly have fresh fruits and veggies in the house, I do not allow processed meats, cheeses, or anything considered a food "product" rather than actual food near my refrigerator.  Neither my children nor my husband will never have sugar cereal for breakfast, and white bread is a curse word.  If you ask any of my Midwestern buddies, I am a pinnacle of healthy eating.  But I digress...

Over the years I have slipped a bit. A lot of that is due to the fact that we live in a small town in South Dakota, and a lot of the fresh fruits and veggies are not available to me.  I can almost never find any good fish, and if the store does happen to have it, it is outrageously expensive.  Now that I am training for my marathon (okay...a hundred and one now) I have to really be conscious of what I am eating. And, since I am not a short-order family eats what I eat.

Isn't this a beautiful and yummy looking dish? This latest creation is an adaptation from a recipe that I found in Runner's World.  While the recipe uses salmon for the protein, due to the extreme fish shortage, I opted for grilled pork tenderloin.  The yummiest part, and a first for my family, was the lentil taboule that accompanied it.  I have not had any prior experience with lentils, but I really like them and will definitely use them again, as they cook fast and have a fabulously nutty flavor.  I deviated from the recipe somewhat, as it called for cucumber and parsley and I did not have those things on hand. I instead used grilled leeks and cilantro, and it gave it a very nice flavor.   I made a homemade rub for the pork that included brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper, and just grilled on medium heat for about 15 minutes each side.  Below is the recipe for the tabouli:
1 cup lentils
3 cups water
1 tbsp EVOO
1/4 c lemon juice
2 leeks, trimmed
large handful cilantro
1 large tomato, diced
1 clove minced garlic

So, you basically just bring the water and lentils to a boil in a covered pot, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, put the leeks on the grill in foil with a bit of EVOO, and mix the cilantro, tomato, garlic, EVOO and lemon juice together. Drain and rinse lentils, and mix with EVOO mixture.  Add leeks, salt and pepper to garnish.

It was truly a wonderful dish.  The pork was juicy and tasted really good with the lentils. I ate the tabouli cold for lunch the next day, and was just as happy with it by itself.  My family was not thrilled with the tabouli, but hey...they're not cooking.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 22, 2010

We made that run our b*tch

2:07.  I ran 15.25 miles on Saturday, and it was great.  I completely shattered my half-marathon time, and we even finished the last two miles at a 7:30 pace. There is something liberating about running to a different town.  It is an amazing feeling to be able to tell people at the gas station that you just ran from another zip code to here.  They look at you like you are crazy.  But I kind of think they are crazy for not wanting to do it, themselves.  Let me walk you through my morning.

I woke up at 6am, because our run was at 8 and I wanted to have some coffee and breakfast and give it a chance to settle before the run.  Breakfast this morning was granola and milk.  Have you tried Feed granola before? It is organic, packed with good stuff, and really sticks with you.  I figured I was going to need something substantial for a 15 mile run. I also threw back about three glasses of water, just to stay hydrated.

I played with my Swiggies a bit, but I don't think I am going to wear them.  They are a little ridiculous, and uncomfortable when filled with water, as they do bounce.  Then it was off to meet the girls.

Although there were originally 6 of us, one lady canceled because her kids had a basketball tournament. The remaining 5 of us met, and we were ready to go! Rachel is our resident 20 year-old, and she is as cute as can be.  She told all her friends that she was, "running with the moms today."  Too funny.  She can run forever.

Carol is an experienced marathoner and tri-athlete.  When we met at 8, she had already run 7 miles.  Because 15 is for beginners, I guess.  She is my new idol. Talk about strong.  Amazing.
Here's me!  The sun is shining on me right now, but don't let that fool you.  It was windy and cold.  If you have ever been to the Midwest, you know that it is always windy.  This time of year it can be really difficult to run in.  Fortunately for us, the wind was either blowing across us or was at our backs the whole time, so it was okay.  If we had run the other way the run would have been completely different.  It's also difficult to know how to dress on days like this.  Today I have a tank, long-sleeved wicking shirt, another long-sleeved layer, and my fleece.  It was, arguably, one too many layers, but I just hate being cold. Also notice that my clothes are all too big for me.  I have dropped a few pounds since starting training, and I have no good winter stuff.  I'm hoping to fix that with end of the season sales!

Once everyone felt ready, we were off.  You can click the link for our route.
It was a really smooth, fun, easy run.  We averaged between 8:20 and 8:40 pace, and just visited the whole time.  We only had one water stop, at mile ten, and I don't think it was enough.  I was pretty thirsty starting about mile 6, so next time will definitely drop more water.  Jayme's dad was kind enough to drop the water for us, and he just kept patroling the road, most likely making sure none of us passed out or got hit by a car.  The second half of the run was much quieter than the first, since we were all a bit fatigued and just kind of got in "the zone."  I ate almost a whole bag of Sport Beans, since I was kind of wilting after mile 11, and they helped keep me strong. Before long, we all could see the bridge that signaled the finish line, and so I pushed the last two miles in.  I always like to push at the end, and fortunately these ladies don't mind it.  Jayme and I will often race a bit, although she is usually faster and beats me by a few seconds.  I love it, though.
Once we finished, we walked a bit and stretched, then loaded up in Jayme's Dad's truck to head back to our cars.  This is Karen, Jayme, and I.  Don't we look great?  The only thing that made me mad was that my Ipod locked up on me, so the run did not register on Nike+.  This is the third long run that this has happened to me, and it infuriates me beyond words.  I am going to try to figure out what is happening.

This was kind of a tough run for me mentally, and now that I dominated it, I am no longer as scared about the marathon.  Saturday I have to run 16 miles. I know I can do it.  And, I get a new PR!  

As for the boys love them. Maybe I'll try them on a short run sometime.

Friday, March 19, 2010

hi ho, it's fifteen miles i go (no kidding)

Tomorrow I plan to run farther than I ever have before.  15 miles.  Waves of excitement of dread have washed over me all week. I think the part I am having trouble wrapping my head around is that I am actually running to another town.  Yes, I will end up in a completely different town than where I started, with a different zipcode, post office, and school district.  It's a lot to process.

Amazingly enough, I won't be running alone.  There will be 6 of us running.  Only two of us are training for the Brookings marathon; the others are just hard-core.  Seriously.  Who would run 15 miles when they weren't training for anything? My friends. Who are totally hard core.

To prep for my big run, I have been carb loading all day long.  As an example of my eating today, I have had eggs, bacon, toast, a green monster, yogurt, hummus, Italian wedding soup, and bread.  And, it's about 2:30pm right now. I plan to have a pear in the next 30 minutes or so.  Running 15 miles will burn about 1500 calories, so I need to stock up today. There is no way I will be able to make up that many calories tomorrow.  For some reason I am not hungry after a long run.  I make myself eat a snack afterwards, but I really have to force it.  How do you feel after a long one?

One thing that I have been worried about is water.  Two weeks ago I ran 11.4 miles, and my buddy and I didn't have any water.  We ate sports beans, but were really thirsty.  I don't think I want to even try doing 15 without some water.  I also don't want to lug a water bottle around with me for 15 miles, either. I can't stand the bouncing, and I can't run and hold things.  My fingers need to be loose.  I will tighten up if I have to carry anything at all. 

I have heard about Swiggies before, as a fellow female entrepreneur invented them.  I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try them out, so I ordered a pair for my girlfriend and I to use on our run. If you aren't sure what Swiggies are; they are a small water bottle that you wear on your wrist.  Each wristlet holds 6.5 ounces of water, gatorade, or whatever you want to have. The best part is that you don't have to carry it, because it attaches to your wrist with a velcro strap.

I got my Swiggies in the mail, and I am not sure about them.  first of all, the plastic is hard, and I was anticipating softer, waterbed-like material for the pouches.  So, when I attach it to my wrist it is a bit painful.  Secondly, my wrists are very small (freakishly so, in fact), and so even though the velcro is tight, the swiggies still bounce and wobble around a bit.  I imagine this might get really irritating after 15 miles.  Needless to say, I am hesitant.  I will try to use them tomorrow, but if they are too bothersome, I will ditch them in a New York minute and just go thirsty.  I can't stand bouncing and rubbing during my run.  It is a small irritant that becomes huge after awhile.

I will let you know how it goes, but until's pear time! 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

too fun fun run

Saturday was the Sioux Falls St. Patty's Day 5 mile run, and it was so much fun!  5 of the Vermillion running ladies came to run the 5 mile race with me, and we all did great.  I had a personal best time, running sub-8 split times. Yay! Here is a picture of all of us.  I'd say we are a pretty good looking bunch of mommies!  I guess that's what running your butt off will do for you.  Incidentally, these ladies are also in the boot camp cycles, and so we see a lot of each other in the early hours of the morning.  I'm actually not sure if I would recognize them in street clothes.  Hmmm...

We all deserved either a medal or a hundred bucks each, because this course was TREACHEROUS!  We have seen record snowfalls and ice this year, and it just hasn't had a chance to melt all the way yet.  The course was on a bike path through the Falls park.  This is usually a very pretty run, but Saturday it was deadly.  Every bridge that we ran under either had an enormous sheet of thick ice over the path, or was totally submerged in water.  Both are not ideal running conditions, and it slowed everyone down quite a bit.  I managed to stay upright for the entire time, but I saw a few people slip on the ice and go down pretty hard.  I think maybe the organizers would have checked the course prior to the race and made some modifications, but no.  Or, and I don't even want to consider this...maybe they thought it would be okay to run on sheets of ice.  Although the race was chip timed, there was no clock at the finish, so runners did not have any idea what their times were when they ran in (rather upsetting for many). I cheated and had my nike+ on, but it is still nice to see that big clock when I run in.  Also, before the race we were yelled at by the police (who were at the race in full force) for standing in the road. Apparently the guy who was supposed to check the course for ice was also in charge of getting the roads closed for the race...because it, too, never got done.  We had to start the race with 300 runners crowding onto a bike path, lined up on either side of a truck and trailer that was blaring irish music.  I was all for the Irish music, but when it was in the way of the starting line...not the biggest fan.

After the race I enjoyed a couple of Killian's beers ('s St. Patrick's Day! What do you expect?) and went home.  Sunday I woke up feeling terrible, and although I managed to make myself do an hour on the precor machine (cross-train day), I was not my best.  I tried to chalk it up to maybe overexerting myself in the race or getting too cold, as there was a nasty wind that morning. Monday was my rest day, and I was still quite tired, but blamed it on the miles I have been logging.  Tuesday morning's run came, and I could barely make it.  It was horrible.  I felt awful.  By this time I realized that I had been living with a headache and sinus pressure for the last few days, and had been battling a runny nose for the last two weeks.  I'm not really one to go running to the doctor, but with my training schedule the way it is now, I figured I had better get in.

Diagnosis: sinus infection.  Thank goodness!  That is probably why I have been feeling so tired!  Since this is my first marathon, I have no comparison to how one is supposed to feel, so I just kind of figured the exhaustion was normal.  It's not, and in 5 days when my Z pack is gone, I should have loads of energy.  And I'm gonna need them, because the heavy miles start on Saturday!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

a little boost's official.  I am running the Brookings Marathon on May 15th (OMG).  I am very excited about it, but also really nervous, as I am going to have to really start logging the miles to be ready in time.  Honestly, the hardest part of that is the time commitment to get it done.  I am using Hal Higdon's Training Guide, and he increases the distance on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  With three small children and a husband who commutes, I have to have my miles logged by about 6:30am on Wednesdays if I am going to get them done. That means 4:45 to 5am runs, and dragging myself through the rest of the day by my hair.  I keep telling myself that it is only for 9 weeks...but it is EARLY. 

Today was really the first day that I have really "dragged." I think the combination of all the miles, coupled with the fact that I probably don't rest like I should between runs (hello...husband and three kids?!?!) have caught up with me. About 2pm I was shot.  Although I love coffee in the mornings, I just can't drink it very often in the afternoon. I am obstaining from soda right now, so the caffeine there is out. There was just one option left: energy drink. 

I have to say that I have, for no really good reason, kind of a mental "thing" with energy drinks, like they are bad.  It might have something to do with all of the Jagerbombs I drank in my twenties, but I just can't seem to feel good about guzzling a Red Bull in the middle of the day.  Nevertheless, I was dying, and I needed some help!

I decided to try the 5-Hour Energy Shot, since it is only like 2 ounces, and if it tasted horrible, I would only have to drink a little bit.  I purchased it my local convenience store for around $3 bucks, chose the berry flavor, shook it up, and took a swig.  It certainly doesn't taste the best, but I do have to say that it did give me energy!  I was able to get through the afternoon, cook dinner, play with the kids, and put everyone to bed, all the while feeling pretty alert.   Once 9pm rolled around, I was pretty much done for the evening...but that's what happens when you get up at 5am for a long run!

I went online to see why it did the trick, and I guess these drinks are basically a vitamin-B shot.   I am now a believer in the 5-Hour Energy, and would really like to try one before my next long run, just to see if it affects my performance in any way.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

back in business

When you are in business for yourself, it is really easy to get discouraged, particularly if you are launching a product company.  When you're the new guy, everything takes twice as long and costs twice as much. Money goes out daily, and doesn't necessarily come back in.  People tell you that you are crazy.  Spouses become stressed and angry, and you really feel like you are on your own island.  Such has been my story with aquaBling.  And, I have to say that after a while it gets exhausting doing it all yourself with little help and support.  I was totally there last week.  I felt defeated and like giving up.  Then I met Lisa, and everything changed.

While getting my company up and running over the last couple of years, I consulted nearly every organization I could to learn as much as I possibly could.  I spoke with the SBDC, SCORE, and various regional and local entrepreneurial offices to ask for help in getting my business plan together, understanding what I needed to do to be up and running, and help with finding funding. After every meeting I would inevitably walk away feeling like I just wasted my time, because nobody would ever do anything that was helpful.  Certainly, I knew more about my business, but I did expect that these people would be able to talk generally about starting a business...but they couldn't.  I realize now that the reason for that is that none of the people I talked to ever started a business or worked for themselves.  They were not entrepreneurs. They just didn't get it. 

I was completely over all of those organizations, when I learned that a new counselor was working at the SBDC, a female, with - get this - her own company.  I decided I needed to at least meet with her to see if she was better than everybody else. Guess what? She was the real deal.  This woman has launched a very successful specialty food company, has gone through a round of funding, and knows the ins and outs of launching your own product business.  When we met yesterday, the passion I felt about my business returned instantly, and I am refreshed and ready to put my head down and push through until aquaBling is a success. Fabulous!