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My favorite and most loving sister tops the charts, obviously.

Where did this year go? I can’t believe my 3rd favorite holiday has already gone and passed. I love Thanksgiving.

I am thankful for my mom’s Whipped Maple Pecan Sweet Potato recipe, as well as the rest of our feastful:

I’m especially thankful for my family.

I’m also thankful for my friends…especially the ones with a new baby!

What a cutie patootie!

I’m also thankful for CHOCOLATE…thanks to the people at Adora! They gave me the chance to taste, review and let you all know what I think about this sinful, healthy, nutrient-full supplement.

Milk or Dark Chocolate. Yum.

As they say, rich, creamy, and indulgent. Adora holds true to its word. Providing 50% of your daily value of calcium per 30 calorie disk, as well vitamin D3 and magnesium for optimal absorption, this is seriously the best thing since sliced bread. With chocolate tasting this good, I won’t EVER forget to take my calcium supplement again, and that’s a promise. Is there such a thing as overdosing? I hope not. Thanks Adora for letting me try your fabulous product.

YOU can be thankful for Adora’s retail availability at CVS/pharmacy stores and Whole Foods nationwide. Go get some NOW!

I’m going to continue giving thanks and my body will thank me for the post-Thanksgiving workout I’m about to endure.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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Why hello lovelies.

Yesterday was the big day!!! Someone celebrated a big, fabulous birthday, and what better way than for me to make a cake?!

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Now, I’m all about healthifying things and even though the original recipe would have been fine and dandy, we not only were out of some of the ingredients, but in some cases, our house only hosted the healthy alternative. So, when I finally decided to get my life together, well after 12p.m., and finally realized it was my mother’s birthday (that I had yet to prepare for)…

First up, I ran to Party City.

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour (I used a little less than that and Whole Wheat flour)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I used one teaspoon + 1.5 teaspoons of Pumpkin Spice)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (didn’t have –Pumpkin Spice)
1 teaspoon ground ginger (used Pumpkin Spice)
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil (I substituted 1 1/4 cups of natural applesauce. Best decision ever. SO.MOIST)
4 large eggs (I used 1 cup Egg Beaters–that’s all we had)
3 cups grated peeled carrots
1 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

~~~

Maple Cream Cheese Topping

Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 less fat CC)
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (I omitted. Great choice. Didn’t even need it)
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F

Line 24 cupcake molds with paper fillers.

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger Pumpkin Spice in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots, walnuts and raisins, if using them. Divide batter among cupcake molds, filling 3/4 of each.

Bake cupcakes 14 to 18 minutes (I did 17. Perfection), or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let cool in pans for five minutes or so, then transfer cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing them.

Icing:

In a hand mixer beat all the ingredients together. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly. (Again, taken from Smitten Kitchen). I didn’t follow the cooling instructions, and hence the final product looking like this:

I was pressed for time or I woulda put a little more effort into finding a way to cut some sugar, but what’s the fun in that. The nut’ stats are still dec. Take a looksie 🙂

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 cupcake

Amount per Serving

Calories 152
Calories from Fat 31.0

% Daily Value

Total Fat 3.44g
Saturated Fat 2.19g
Cholesterol 108mg
Sodium 193.49mg
Total Carbohydrate 19.25g
Dietary Fiber 1.47g
Sugars 10.32g
Protein 3.11g
~~~
So after playing lil’ Rachel Ray, I sweat my butt off running to draw up a huge banner to stream across our garage, blow up balloons, write her card, wrap the gift, all before she was to arrive home around 4p.m.
Did I mention I started this all around 1p.m.? I’ve always been know for my punctuality.

~~~

Then the fun came, Mom arrived home and hugs, kisses, and gifts ensued.

After our mini celebration, the fam was off to pick up Tomo at the Airport. Let’s just say “Fashionably Late” should be our last name. This time it was unintentional, I swear.

We made it to MSP just in the knick of time. I assumed Tomo would be coming in through the International Gate. Makes sense, no? Did I forget to mention that she had a layover in Houston, making her flight to Minneapolis domestic. Oops. Well, needless to say my stiletto get up and Versace shades bookin’ it through the airport was far from classy. And my $15 shoes were not giving me legit support (clearly). A few minutes later after kindly interrogating the Continental Airline worker where the eff our passenger was, she said they had pick up their bags and cleared out already. Crap.

Then I got a call. Here I was holding the gift bag in hand, and poor Tomo was wandering aimlessly, surviving on little English and some stranger’s cell phone. Thank God for Minnesota nice, eh?! 😀

We were finally reunited. At.Last. And then it was time for a birthday dinner/Welcome to MN partay.

Lucky’s was the place to be!

Popcorn, entrees, and some birthday cake to go around. ‘Twas perfection. I’ve got a lot in store for Ms. Tomo as she spends her first American experience here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. I’ll keep you all posted for that matter. It’ll be the most action I’ve had in my life all summer! 🙂

Now back to that Twins game, which should have wrapped up 5 innings ago…

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Let’s recap a fabulous weekend, shall we?

I’ve discovered that procrastination actually does a person good. Like when you wait too long to find a flight to Chicago and then prices spike to over $300 but THEN you find out a friend also happens to be going to the Summit within a span of 2 days. Perfect timing in my book.

Road trip anyone?

Friday~

Jen, Caitlin (new friend #2), and I hit the road in the early a.m. and because I rock at life, I didn’t go to bed until well after 2a.m. and had to get up at 5a.m. Not a pleasant wake-up call. We hit up a Starbucks right in Hudson, then made our way to Chicago.

A few hours into the trip, we were playing storm chaser and caught in a monsoon, no joke. And I’m pretty sure we hydroplaned. The last time I’ve heard of that happening was in my driver’s ed book at the age of 16. It was a little freaky, not gonna lie.

Then what seemed like 8 hours later, I experienced a new definition of traffic jam. Hello city. Note to all, Chicago and Minneapolis are NOT comparable in size; a common misconception (or me in denial that I live in ‘the country’). Minneapolis: 300,000/Chicago: almost 3 million. Ok, major fail on my part!

I met up with my roomie Laura (from Pennsylvania/New Hampshire) and we hit it off right away! I feel like we’ve been friends for years! I love this camaraderie of the bloggie world. It amazes me!

Then onto the cocktails…and socializing for us two ladies. We were starstruck. Yet, meeting all these wonderful, fabulous, down.to.earth women was the most surreal and fabulous experience of the summer, and maybe my life.

I kept saying to Laura cheesy things like “Omg, I wanna meet Kath, she’s such an inspiration, it’s like meeting a famous person.”

Then, when you meet them, they were so down to earth, friendly, peppy, and just plain FABULOUS. This weekend blew me outta the water, then clear across the land (again, I’m cheesy), ha, but seriously, I had the best time.

And here’s a serious plug for the best.book.ever. See above. That’s Caitlin. If you don’t know her- here’s the best way how: Operation Beautiful. The site + the book. Go buy it. Changed my life, hers, and thousands of others around the world.

And then, just when we thought the party was ovah…think again…we ran into Angela and got the party started. For real.

1a.m. was waaaaaaay to late for this granny (me), and 6a.m. came waaaay too early.

Saturday~

I’m surprised my mascara-crusted eyes were able to stumble outta bed and make it to the lobby by then. Like always, I’m so glad I went. There was a group of about 6 or 7 people, and by mile 2.5ish, Angela and I split off, hijacked a running clan, and made our way around the lake, through the woods, and along the city streets until we made it back to the hotel.

Ok, full day ahead of us, and FULL recap tomorrow. My blog says I reached my picture quota, eeep. Does this mean I need to buy more space?! I better get on that!

To all you fabulous ladies I met this weekend, I had a blast and can’t wait to see you again!

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Over a week ago I had my last day at the Junior High. As I walked out the door, several teachers followed me, as I was sobbing (no lie), out of the office, down the stairs and waved to me as I said my final sayonara.

After the tears had dried, I made my way to Tomo’s house where her family had put together a goodbye barbecue for me. Now, what do you think of when you think BBQ? Hamburgs, dogs, chips, pasta salad, baked beans, the loot? Well, things go a little differently here in Japan, but oh so scrumptious. I love me some cultural foods, yum yum. First up, sushi. I even learned how to roll my own!

It was an epic failure, so luckily I was only allowed to do one!

Not only was there mouth-watering sushi, but lots of other grillable goodies as well.

The Grill Master at work (Tomo’s dad):

Miss Tomo enjoying the summer evening weather.

And Tomo’s mom even bought chicken especially for me 🙂

Tomo’s dad had met Rach at one of her visit schools and wanted her to join in on the festivities, too.

When it was time to catch the train back to Hirosaki I couldn’t help but shed a few tears of sadness. Tomo’s mom was crying too. Her family was so good to me this past spring! I’m really looking forward to Tomo’s visit at the beginning of September! I better get some planning going! Minnesota festivities, here.we.come.

But first, a full recap of India to come!

I’m about to take-off, Goodbye Tokyo, hello Minnesota!

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HOT.MESS.

Source

Don’t think that I can’t keep up with the gossip all the way over here in Japan…

——————-

HOT.MESS.

Molly walking to the station at 6:15a.m. after a fresh shower in this humid, tropical island known as Japan.

No visual, sorry.

——————-

HOT.MESS.

Ms. ichi-nensei hands me my English-written speech which she graciously translated into Japanese. Hiragana to be more specific. –> こんにちは。Yea. Had to translate three pages of that bad boy into Romaji. Luckily it only took me ~10 months to learn that syllabary.

——————-

HOT.MESS.

Reading over my goodbye speech and already crying. 14 days from now is going to be taken to a-whole-nother level of HOT.MESS.

——————-

HOT.MESS.

Thinking and DOING my to-do list in my last 2 weeks in Japan (+ 1 week in India). Hmmm, what lies ahead?:

  • Pick up a few groceries today (unfortunately at 3 different stores)
  • Go to doctor and get shots for India
  • Get heated table (kotatsu) from Owani–>Hirosaki–>Aomori to sell.
  • Order bus ticket for Hirosaki–Tokyo–Hirosaki (India trip)
  • Pack for India
  • Transfer money back home after July 21 (close bank account)
  • Cancel cell phone on Aug 2nd (must wait until the day before I leave for the U.S.)
  • Move leftover food to Alesha’s
  • Get bike/sell to another ALT on either July 23rd or August 2nd.
  • Pack up desk
  • Pack up EVERYTHING at granny’s. Can’t leave anything.
  • Tax paperwork
  • Goodbye letters/contact info of teachers I like
  • Pack Thursday for Friday’s goodbye party in Aomori. Stay till Saturday a.m.
  • Goodbye parties

There’s more. I just know it. But only one way to handle it:

Source

I’m off to the gym, since I’m already sweating in the office, groceries, bike back to granny’s, do laundry, start packing… Wish me luck. This is going to be a little harder than I thought.

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Happy 4th of July America! And Congrats to Amanda and Jeff on their wedding over the holiday weekend!

This was an interesting weekend to say the least. Really fun, but it took a turn from the original plans. That’s okay though, just live in the moment, right. Only got 29 more days over here to do that!

So, Friday night I was a complete bum. I’m trying to remember if I went for a run or to the gym. I forget now, but I’m hoping I did. Meh, oh well. I made it to Alesha’s to house-sit some more, and watch/drool over:

I wouldn’t mind a silver fox for my next catch, just sayin’. 😉

Saturday came with a 4a.m. sun wake-up call, as per usual, and after a glorious 3-hour Skype sesh with Ma & Pa McG (mostly Ma):

I was not really feelin’ this whole Half-Mary thing. Mom said: don’t run, it’s okay. I think: well, I don’t wanna disappoint people (that’s a funny attitude to have, but I always think like that). I finally peeled myself off the couch and away from my silver fox, and decided to head up to Aomori, if not to run, at least to see good friends.

In my freshly-showered attire, I bike back to the minami side of town. If not the ride, the stuffy, no open-window ‘apartment’ aka granny’s abode, was stifling. That’s an understatement. Instantly pouring sweat. Gross. I gathered my race gear: gatorade, running stuff, shoes, entry card…the loot.

I made my way to the station, with a quick pit stop at the local ATM. I still have yet to pay my phone bill (I like to think, the longer I wait, the less it will be that I have to pay…or maybe the phone company will just forget about last month’s bill. This is wishful thinking. And stupid thinking). I made a bolt for the station, only cutting into the traffic lane a few times and swerving out of another bikers way once. (I’m a terrible biker evidently).

I got all the way to the station to buy my ticket and couldn’t find my wallet!!! After a minor heart attack, I rummaged through everything, not knowing how it could have fallen out of my bag (possibly during the swerving in and out of traffic and fellow bikers?) All of a sudden I get a call. I knew it had to be my wallet. All I comprehended was ‘King’s’ (which is a Pachinko place back by my house and the bank). I made a mad dash back there, hoping and praying the money I just withdrew was still in the wallet. Oh for Pete’s sake, why am I so irresponsible at times? Well, I made it to King’s and saw three old women standing in the parking lot. They must have seen my wallet fly from the granny bike basket and in my mad rush, couldn’t catch up with me to tell me? My phone number happened to be on a document in my wallet –something I should have thrown out a long time ago, but never did. THANK THE LORD! All the money was there and I was instantly relieved. Wowzers, sometimes I get so lucky.

This is turning out to be a really long story. But, I made a mad dash again, totally negating the shower I just took, and made it back to the station just in time for the next train out to Aomori.

Melissa picked me up at the station and we headed back to her apartment for the night. I was ALL READY to run (mentally too…which I knew would happen once I got up and out of the apartment back in Hirosaki).

BUT THEN IT HAPPENED…

I was putting my things in order and had the race info, one shoe out of the bag, followed by a running shirt, shorts, sunglasses, watch…but wait….where’s the second shoe. Oh dear.

Yup. I missed the race because my freakin’ running shoe was somewhere on the side of the road in Hirosaki. Now I was majorly bummed. However, a night of House, grilled cheese, and no early bedtime. Well, it didn’t turn out soooooo bad.

It would have been a great day to run too, since there was practically no humidity and those predicted T-storms didn’t even show up for the event…or the entire day for that matter.

Melissa and I had a great time hanging out and in these last few weeks, that’s what it’s all about anyway! Guess I’ll have to wait till the U.S. of A. for that first half-Mary afterall. 😀

Lesson learned: put the important things in a zipper section of your bag, and 2.) check 5 million + 1 times that you have EVERYTHING you need. 🙂

I hope everyone had a safe, relaxing, and festive 4th of July! 29 and counting…

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Did you miss Part 1 leading up to the race? This post does have pics, fear not, but it’s also slightly word-heavy, more for my memory than yours, so if you happen to get bored, you can scroll to the very bottom to see the outcome of the race…if you didn’t see it here. 😀 I’ll enlighten you with chapters for your reading pleasure.

Ch.1: Pleasant Surprises

I stepped off the train, a bit disheveled from my frazzled self nearly missing the ride, coinage flying everywhere trying to tardily pay for my fare, handing over the yens to Mr. train conductor, and was halfway out the door when I heard a faint: “Mori” (that’d be my name in the Nihon-language). Huh, who’s that? Mr. Kase? (That’d be Tomo’s dad, the student teacher from the Junior High who I run with and have dinners with at her family’s home). Yup, it was my very own supportive, Japanese adoptive father. I couldn’t believe my eyes!

Earlier in the week Tomo told me she would be too busy with school paperwork and writing letters, essays, whatnot to be able to come cheer me on at the race. My friends were out clubbing the night before with the Bri-ish guests of honor, and we all know going to bed at 5a.m. may make it difficult for making a next-day appearance, however, I know they were there in spirit. 🙂

So, as you can imagine, I was really surprised to see Mr. Kase in his car. Mind you, he knows a smidgen of English, so it was bound to get interesting. I thought he was just going to bring me to the Junior High in Ikarigaseki and drop me off. Nope, wrong again. He brought me there and said ‘starto‘. Then he proceeded to drive out of the lot and disobeying any and all traffic laws, directors with batons and police. He swerved in and out of the lined cones to take me on a ‘course preview,’ since the weekend prior, I had to work and couldn’t do a practice run with the fam. I’m REALLY glad he did this. Because I would not have known what was in store when he said the course is ‘hilly’. What he really meant was–the course was on the mountain, as in, up it. Great. So, markers had been laid, and we drove along, winding alone, up, up, up…up never seemed to end. We’re not talkin’ a gradual incline either. Straight up hell, for 3k of the race (at least it was less than half, eh).

Ch. 2: Pre-race jitters + feeling like death

Upon returning to the school, now getting nervous for what I was really in for, I could feel that beer from the night before, and ham pizza, and gnocchi, and far too much cheese for my own good. Molly and dairy before running = maayjah stomach war. The bathroom worker ladies new me by name and race number by the end of the day. However, I had to pull myself together if I wanted any sort of a chance to finish the gruesome trail. I came out from bathroom trip number one or two, I forget, and guess who was there?! Tomo, her mom, and her mom’s friends!!! All to cheer ME on! Turn that frown upside-down, you have an entire brigade!!! Oh and turn up the nerve-notch to about 70 while you’re at it.

The fam + fans:

I ran into a few of my students too, who were running the 3.5k. Can I swap my number for a shorter race. 😉

I tried to stay out of the heat/humidity, as I learned in high school track, the sun/heat drains you of your energy. True story. It was sweltering outside, overcast (which was better than the blazin’ rays) but man, sticky and hot (probably around 24 degrees Celcius). Here in Japan, evidently they schedule race times based on distance, making the 10k last. At 11:15a.m. That means I’d be finishing around noon, in the dead of the heat. Could I have more odds stacked against me?

Ch. 3: Moments before the gun

Five minutes till race time and I’m in the restroom, again, emptying the 5 gallons of water I seemed to have consumed in the 2 hour grace frantic period before the race. Now feeling nauseous, I realized I needed to man-up, suck it up, and put my game face on. Who cares if I didn’t do that well. I’m running a 10k (besides my 2 full Marathons) I hadn’t run any other long races. Finishing, was in and of itself, an accomplishment. I had a support system, slight drizzly weather (which is quite refreshing), and healthy legs, lungs, and the mental attitude to get through it.

I looked down at my watch- 11:22a.m. Laced up and ready. And we were OFF!

Ch. 4: My brain during a race

Right off the bat, I got behind girl in pink. I always pick a target, and run at their pace, as long as it’s challenging me, but still  keeping my body strong and well-paced, so I don’t putter out before the half-way point. This was my first mountain race (and God-willing, my last) ha, but I wanted to follow this chicks pace, because she’s from around here, therefore most likely has run up a mountain before. I trusted her pace and went with it. Hello 40% incline, my ass is thanking you today…

All of a sudden I saw Mr. Kase around the first loop and right before the hellish inclines proceeded one after the other. He pointed to girl in pink and said “#1 runner”. Then pointed to me, “#2 runner”. What, no way. Ok, girl in first is right in front of me. I could smell the victory (not really, I’m just thinking about not collapsing at this point).

I was feeling like a million bucks going up the incline, or as much as could be expected. I briefly contemplated passing said girl in pink, but didn’t wanna get ahead of myself. Then, it happened. I was feeling confident, strong, and motivated. I took a few long strides and left her in the dust. I wasn’t convinced that I was in first for the women, in fact, I swear I could see a few up ahead. I kept running strong, but smart, reciting in my head: “listen to your body Molly, you’ve got this, breath in through your nose, out through your mouth, pump your arms, lift your knees”. The air was hot, breathing was a challenge, but I wasn’t feeling tired, or slow…yet. I just kept pushing through, knowing I just had to get to the 3k mark and it would be steady, long strides on the down hills. The 3k mark seemed to come faster than when we drove it a few hours beforehand. I couldn’t believe it. I still didn’t turn around to see how close any other women were behind me. I didn’t want to get cocky if I was really far ahead, or discouraged if they were gaining on me. At this point I felt good and strong too, taking in the beautiful pines surrounding me, as well as the misting, foggy air. I felt like like it was a scene straight out of Lord of the Rings. I didn’t spot any Ents though ;).

The middle part of the race was kind of a blur, I was going strong, watching the clock, and taking in all of the support from grandmas, parents, students, townies, everyone. They kept saying I was in first, even though I didn’t believe it!!!

I felt amazing until probably 7k. I knew I was finishing up and had to keep going strong, I was giving it 97%, leaving that last 3% for my kick at the end. I took a quick peek behind me, just in case I had jumped the gun and gone too fast off the bat, causing the women to gain on me. I had a brief freak-out when I saw girl in pink. Not quite able to judge her distance behind me. I really kicked in in gear, now really struggling to breathe, then I saw another hill. In the practice run, ‘dad’ took me right, but the course veered left. Uh oh, I don’t know this way of the fork. He was there at the point and had water in hand for me and said sorry, go left. I would push through it, I had to. I just put one foot in front of the other, the next step stronger than the one before.

Coming up on the end, approaching town again, now I couldn’t even see pinky behind me, but I was tricking my brain saying I had to catch the next girl ahead of me (even though I was in first).

*I’m the one in gray with the pink bib…and I passed those guys 🙂

I came around the last corner, saw an O-Town teacher, he started to cheer, then I gave it 110%…little did I know the end was still about 400m away and I was sprinting all-out thinking it was less than 50m till the end. That’s when I thought I was going to pass out. I pushed every ounce of my being into the finish and then felt a huge wave of accomplishment. I’ve never won a race before! Sure, it’s a short race, but I WON!!! A victory pic with Mr. Kase, my Japanese dad. 🙂

What’s a Takenoko 10k, without some delicious TAKENOKO!!!??? *bamboo shoots*. Most delicious creation in nature. YUM!

Then came the awards, this was such a fun, surreal experience for me and I soaked in every ounce of it. To have the support of my Japanese family, students, teachers, friends, it just made the whole day really special!!

And what’s a day without some victory cake!!!

The night was spent with good friends, sushi, and an ice bath, never mind, I wished that part. Only 7 short days until the AOMORI HALF MARATHON!!!


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