The Great Olive Harvest of 2015. Or, Famous Last Words

So Colin and I bought a house last spring, and it happens to have a quite large olive tree in the back yard.  It’s a beautiful tree, and one of the things we have been trying hard to keep alive despite a) the epic drought and b) our innate lack of gardening knowledge/ambition.  Luckily, olives are accustomed to living in hot, dusty mediterranean places, so they are one of the things that can survive a central valley summer.

Last spring, the tree developed tiny green olives.  By September, they were kind of purplish.  By October, they were still tiny, but now a dark purple-black, which, we realized, means you need to harvest them now before they shrivel up and drop off the tree.


So, between a cursory google search of “how to harvest olives” and some advice from my Greek dad, we decided we were going to go for it.  Despite being olive amateurs, we knew enough to be interested in avoiding botulism, so we looked at the University of California guide to safely pickling your own olives.  We chose the “Greek Style Black Olives in Brine” because our olives are black, I am Greek, and really it was one of the simplest sounding options.

We spent a hardworking but pretty fun Saturday afternoon harvesting 3 gallons of olives and putting them in jars of brine to cure.  Here’s how it went:


We used olive harvesting rakes, which are these odd little plastic things with which you comb the branches to pull the olives off without damaging the leaves.  They are available on amazon of course, because what isn’t, and they actually work pretty well.  We put a tarp under the tree to catch the olives as they fell, which kind of worked but a lot of them just bounced off.


This is what three gallons of teeny tiny olives look like.


And here is a gratuitously cute photo of my dog in the grass.  She didn’t help with the olive harvest, but she did sit around looking adorable.IMG_20151008_213646

Once we had picked our big bucketful, we dumped them into the sink to wash, then scooped them out with a slotted spoon and put them into quart-sized canning jars.


Then, we mixed up about two gallons of “medium brine,” which means 1 1/2 cups of pickling salt (also available on amazon) dissolved in 2 gallons of water.  We ladled it into the jars until they were almost full.


Then, we put the lids on the jars loosely, and put them aside for a week until we change out the medium brine for “strong brine,” which just means a higher salt concentration.  After that, we will close the jars tightly and wait 2-3 months, after which point they should be ready to eat.IMG_20151008_214921

They may or may not be very delicious, but we at least we will have made an attempt.  So around Christmastime, hit me up if you’d like a big jar of tiny, maybe tasty maybe awful brine-cured black olives from my own backyard which will probably not give you botulism.

Or, if you’re interested in fresh ripe olives from my tree, we only picked 25% (at most) of what was actually on there.  We could have done more, but we decided that if this whole enterprise is an epic failure, we’d rather have 13 quarts of inedible olives than 50 quarts.  If it goes well, we may do more next year.

Gluten Free Zucchini-Apple Bread

It might be 1,000,000 degrees outside in Sacramento, but it’s fall somewhere (and to be fair, we actually did have some cool and rainy weather earlier this week).  Let’s hope this is summer’s last hot, arid gasp, and that apple-picking and pumpkin carving weather starts soon.

In honor of fall, I made this apple-y, cinnamon-y bread using Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking and Pancake Mix.  If you are fully or mostly G-free, Pamela’s is a very useful thing to have on hand to make easy, yummy waffles, pancakes, muffins, and quick breads.

Gluten Free Zucchini-Apple BreadIMG_20150920_165845



  • 2 cups Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking and Pancake Mix
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted but not super hot
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 small zucchini, grated (if you have one, a food processor with a grater attachment is your BFF)
  • 1 medium apple, grated (fuji, macintosh, gala or something similar)
  • 1 tsp lemon or orange zest



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a loaf pan with baking spray.  I like to sprinkle a tiny bit of flour on top of the baking spray for extra anti-stick power.
  2. Place the grated zucchini and apple in a colander and squeeze out as much of the water as you can.  Let it drain while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the baking mix, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  4. Place the eggs and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer (if you don’t have one, a hand mixer is cool).  Using the whisk attachment, mix on high until the mixture becomes smooth, creamy and almost fluffy.  Slowly drizzle in the oil.
  5. Using the paddle attachment (or a spoon), stir in the vanilla, the grated apple and zucchini, and the lemon zest.
  6. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Spoon the batter into the loaf pan.
  7. Bake in the center of the oven for 45-60 minutes (depending on your loaf pan and your oven).  It will be done when a golden brown crust forms and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.  Slice and enjoy!

HungryGirlRuns again!

I went to see the ortho again, and found out that my latest MRI (the third one I’ve had since January) isn’t really looking any better.  But this time, he said (to paraphrase) “well, it looks the same, so F it.  Maybe that’s just what your hip is always like.  Why don’t you go for a run and see what happens.”  So I did.  For the first time in almost a year since I got injured.

I ran a whole mile.

It was really hard.

And I was really sore afterwards.  Not in my hip, thankfully, but in my leg muscles, which are sadly but understandably weakened from lack of use.  Although this is a bit of a comedown for a marathon runner, it’s a start, and it felt strange and wonderful to run again.  As long as I take it realllly slow and it doesn’t hurt, I have license to run up to 4 miles once or twice a week. Up to FOUR MILES!

This used to be my usual no-sweat weekday morning distance, and now it seems barely attainable.  It will take me a good long while to work up to, but I’m excited, especially now that the weather is (finally) cooling off.  I just have to wait until the smoke clears up from the wildfires that threaten to turn my entire state to a smoldering heap of ashes.

Also, unrelated to running, I just found out about the amazing Isabel Foxen Duke and her blog about intuitive eating which is funny, and real, and totally great.  Check it out sometime, if you’re a person who eats and sometimes has irrational thoughts about eating, which you might not even realize are irrational until you read this actually quite entertaining blog.

Fresh-From-the-Garden Salsa, Two Ways

Over the summer, without us doing anything in particular to make it happen, our garden exploded.  The squash and zucchini died without warning and without having produced anything, but the tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers went absolutely nuts.

So, in order to use up large quantities of these vegetables without having to do any intensive cooking, I made a LOT of salsa.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa



  • 4 cups fresh tomatillos, husked and washed to remove weird sticky sap
  • 3 fresh fresno chiles
  • 1 fresh banana pepper
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 onion, roughly chopped
  • Juice of 1 large lime
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp cumin
  • salt to taste




  1.  Place the whole, husked, washed tomatillos on a cookie sheet in a single layer along with the peppers.  Place in the oven and broil on high for 5-8 minutes, or until blistered and slightly blackened on top.
  2. Remove from oven and flip the tomatillos and peppers over with a spatula.  Broil for the same amount of time on the other side.  Remove from the oven and let cool
  3. Using a food processor, add the clove of garlic and process until minced.  Add the roasted peppers (stems removed), onion and cilantro and process for a few seconds until finely chopped.
  4. Add the roasted tomatillos and their juice, lime juice, vinegar, cumin and salt and process until smooth.  Enjoy with chips, on tacos or enchiladas.
  5. Note: This will make a lot of salsa, so feel free to halve the recipe.  Also, after it’s been refrigerated, the salsa will congeal into a strange jelly-like texture.  To help it regain its salsa nature, just add a little bit of warm water and whisk it until it is liquidy again.

Garden-Fresh Tomato Salsa



  • 2 cups cherry or roma tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 onion, roughly chopped.
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1 fresh jalapeno or 2 fresh fresno chiles
  • Juice of 1 small lime
  • Salt to taste



  1. Using a food processor, process the garlic and the pepper(s) until minced.  Add the tomatoes, onion and cilantro and process to your desired consistency.
  2. Add the lime juice and salt to taste.  Enjoy with chips, on tacos or a burrito.

Summer is for Playing Outside, in Oregon

My husband and I took a whole week off (something I hadn’t done since 2013) and spent it running around in the great outdoors in my second favorite state (behind California, which is inarguably the greatest): Oregon.

Colin will perhaps disagree with me, because having grown up in Oregon he fosters a deep, nostalgic love for his home state.  I joked that when it was time to leave he was going to climb up into a fir tree and refuse to come down.  He didn’t, but he did buy this bumper sticker for his car:


Weirdly, this is less a photo of the bumper sticker than it is a photo of me photographing the bumper sticker. So meta.

I, too harbor significant nostalgia for Oregon, mainly because of a somewhat magical few weeks I spent there visiting Colin the summer I was seventeen.  I hadn’t been back since, and I was a little worried that the Oregon of reality was not going to live up the Oregon of my memory.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that it did.

One of the main things Oregon has over California is the weather in the summer, which is fabulous.  This is in contrast to the weather during the rest of the year, which consists of rain, clouds, and more rain.  We had postponed our trip by a month, because of a terrible heat wave that hit the Northwest the week we had originally planned to go.  This worked out perfectly, because the week we did go it was sunny with highs in the mid-80s, which, if you are accustomed to 100 degree central valley weather, is just delightful.

We did some incredible hiking:





In Eugene, we rented bikes and spent a day riding on the river trail, which is where Colin taught me once and for all how to ride a bike that same summer when I was, yes, seventeen years old.  My failure to master the bicycle as a child was once a deep, dark secret of mine, but now I’m older and I give a lot fewer f*cks, and I’m also pretty okay at riding a bike.


We did lots and LOTS of beer tasting everywhere we went, one activity that was not available to us as teenagers during my past visits to Oregon.  Colin is kind of obsessed with craft beer, so he did a lot of tasting.  I’m not so into beer, because gluten, but I did a little tasting too.


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My favorite was Stormbreaker brewery in Portland that had beer and whiskey pairings:


And some excellent regional wines we tasted in Eugene:


We ate awesome food too, which I didn’t take pictures of.  However, one of my most favorite Oregon memories from that one magical summer involves a specific ice cream flavor at Prince Puckler’s ice cream parlor.  I was beyond thrilled to find that they still had it, and that unlike many things in life it was JUST AS GOOD AS I REMEMBERED.

We also ate Voodoo Doughnuts, which are not gluten free but are kind of amazing:


And we saw a lot of beautiful, beautiful views:

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Back In Action


For a while, I haven’t been posting much of anything at all.  Truthfully, this is because for the last few months,I haven’t really felt like I had anything worth writing on my fitness blog because I haven’t really felt, well, fit.  My post-running fitness routine of biking, pilates and ballet was fun at first, but after a while I found myself in a bit of a rut.  I wasn’t really getting the level of cardio that I had become accustomed to when I was a runner, which didn’t feel great, physically or mentally.

It didn’t help that during our outdoor adventures in Oregon, it seemed like everyone we encountered, regardless of their age, was a super toned, super tanned trail runner in boutique activewear.  Every woman who passed me in a sports bra with a six pack (at a sprint, while I was struggling up a steep, rocky incline) heightened my insecurities just a little bit more.

But then I thought about it, and realized that (duh) this blog is supposed to be a regular person’s guide to fitness, and that regular people have ups and downs and get injured and recover and sometimes they feel bad about themselves, and I still have things to say, damn it.  The blog is back in action, and so am I.

After we got back from Oregon, Colin and I decided to join a local fitness club.  It’s not super fancy, but it has indoor and outdoor pools, machines, weights, and group fitness classes, which is all we really wanted.  Also, the clientele is non-threatening, mostly families and older people instead of the weight-dropping bros and juice-cleansing trophy wives which we were a little afraid we would find.

I’ve started swimming laps in the outdoor pool, doing yoga and working out on the elliptical, which gives me the low-impact cardio I really needed.  I don’t think I’ve had this much variety in my workout routines since before I started long-distance running, and it’s really refreshing to mix things up a bit.  Even though there are still a lot of things I can’t do because of my hip, there are enough options that exercising feels less like a chore and more like a fun activity.  Which is how it should be, whether or not you have a stupid six pack.

Summer is for Playing Outside

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Even now that I’m an adult and I have to work full time year round, summer is still a magical time.  A time of vacations, BBQs, fireworks, ice cream, sunburns, flip flops, patriotism, wildfires, bikinis, bug bites, minor league baseball, and most of all, lots of time spent playing outside.  As usual, it is hot as all balls in the valley, but as long as you’re not trying to go running (which I’m not, for the first time ever!) there are tons of fun things to do outdoors.  Biking!  Hiking!  Swimming!  Rafting!  Stand up paddling!  There are as many possibilities as there are flavors of ice cream at Gunther’s, which you will have earned after a day spent burning calories while getting fresh air and having fun.

I’ve spent the past few weekends going on long, amazing bike rides out on the river trail, and last weekend my husband and I went stand up paddling on Lake Natoma.  The weather was gorgeous, the lake was beautiful and it was nice and cool on the water.  I was even cooler because (more than once) I lost my balance, fell in and had to scramble back up onto my board.  There was quite a strong wind that pushed us waaaaay out into the middle of the lake and made it something of a challenge to paddle back in, but we made it and it was a really, really good workout.

It seems like any time Colin and I go away in the summer, instead of lying on the beach relaxing with a cocktail like we’re supposed to, we spend the whole time running around getting scraped, sunburned and dirty outdoors.  It’s not what most people consider a vacation, but it’s what we do.  Our honeymoon featured an all-day, partially-off-trail-because-we-got-lost hike through Waimea canyon and an incredible but exhausting and sunburn-inducing 16 mile sea kayaking adventure.  Our usual formula for an anniversary celebration is long hike + shower + good food, and it always turns out to be a good time.  The shower part is key, though; while I enjoy the outdoors, I equally enjoy washing off the dirt, eating a hot meal and sleeping in a real bed safe from rattlesnakes and bears at the end of the day.

The big vacation we planned for this summer was a trip to Oregon, including two days in Portland, a day in Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood, and two days in Eugene.  Because the weather in Oregon is so nice in the summer, the plan was to spend almost all of our time outdoors, biking and walking around the cities, visiting beautiful parks, and hiking.  We going to drive up this week and we couldn’t wait to leave.  Yesterday, I called and confirmed my hotel reservations and was getting ready to pack when I checked the weather so I could decide what to bring.

I opened my weather app and typed in “Portland, OR.”  When it showed me temperatures over 100 degrees every day of our trip, I assumed it hadn’t registered and was still showing me the Sacramento forecast.  I tried “Eugene, OR” with similar results.  Then I saw the article about the horrendous, horrific, historic heat wave hitting the Pacific northwest and the “extreme heat warning” in effect for Oregon and Washington.  They were urging people to stay indoors out of the sun.   Our much-anticipated outdoor vacation was going to be a sweaty, miserable disaster.

So we made a last minute executive decision, and three hours and lots of phone calls later, we had cancelled all of our reservations and rescheduled everything at the last minute to the first week of August.  We couldn’t get any decent hotel reservations, so we booked everything on Airbnb and it will be an adventure.  We also decided to screw it and take a whole week off of work this time so we can also spend two nights hiking, biking and drinking beer in Bend.  It’s also our wedding anniversary that week, which will make it all the more fun.  Let’s just hope the weather cooperates the second time around, because summer vacations are for playing outside, and playing outside is what we’ll do.