dancing the night away.

What pulled me through yesterday’s 12 mile run:

  • Your comments!  Talk about some serious motivation.
  • Mind tricks.  I pretended that I had a rope tied around my waist and that my dad was pulling me.  This didn’t work so well when he disappeared from view, but the visual cue was still there.  It worked!
  • Bottling some energy for the last 2-mile stretch.  Another mind trick.  I didn’t “open” that bottle of energy until I needed it the most.
  • Praying!  Random people popped into my head during the run.  Twelve miles offers a lot of time to think and pray. 😀
Everything ached by the end of the run, but I was incredibly ecstatic all at the same time.  I’ve never run this far before and I never thought I could do this.  THANK YOU for all of the motivation and inspiration! 😀
And then I partied the night away at my cousin’s wedding. 😀
AJ and Stacey’s Wedding: A Photo Montage

(p.s. The secret to wearing heels when you’ve never been a “heel wearer” is to invest in a pair of comfortable wedges.  The front of these shoes was a good 1 inch or so off the ground, so even though it was giving me height, there were no weird angles!)

There’s never a normal picture with my brother and I.  Somehow we always feel the need to make funny faces. 😉

Reusable place setting tags…LOVE it!

Love.

I. Heart. Wedding. Cake.  :mrgreen:

Congratulations, Stacey and AJ!!  The wedding was absolutely beautiful and everyone had such a blast!

QUESTION: What is your favorite thing about weddings (besides the food! 😉 )

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my recent breakfast kick.

I have been on a French toast kick lately.

I think this is due in part to all of my frantic running around.  Not ever really knowing if I’m coming or going.

I mean, it’s one thing to wake up and forget what day it is.  It’s another thing entirely, to have my calendar virtually tied to my waist so that I will never forget where I’m supposed to be or where I’m supposed to go.

Yes.  This is exactly why I have been on a French toast kick lately.

Because there’s something—something—comforting about having a few spare moments in the morning to just…mmm…breathe.  I even read the newspaper(!!)

I can’t quite place my finger on it, but French toast, to me, signifies the very thought of slowing down.  It’s relaxed and easy.  Not at all fussy or needy.

Yes.  I have been on a French toast kick lately.  And I really don’t think I’ll be stopping any time soon.

French Toast

Serves 1

Everyone has a favorite French toast recipe.  This one is my favorite, go-to breakfast recipe for during the week.  It feels special.  It’s healthy.  And it’s as simple as they come.  Enjoy this breakfast with your favorite combination of fruit and nut butters.  Blueberries and strawberries would be a wonderful touch, as would a thick and creamy Greek yogurt.  Just have fun with it!

  • 2 whole eggs (or 1 whole egg + 2 egg whites)
  • splash of milk
  • cinnamon
  • splash of vanilla
  • dash of sea salt
  • 2 slices Ezekiel bread (or your favorite whole wheat bread)
  • 1 banana, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 Tbsp. almond butter
  • sprinkle of coconut
  1. Heat nonstick pan over medium heat.  Spray with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and sea salt.  Dunk in bread slices, flip to coat other side, and place on heated pan.  Place bananas in pan alongside french toast.  Let french toast cook until underside has browned.  Flip and continue cooking until desired doneness.  Bananas may be flipped at any time, as they begin to brown.
  3. Place french toast on plate, smash banana on top, and drizzle almond butter over the top.  Sprinkle with coconut and ENJOY! 😀
QUESTION: What is your current favorite breakfast?

a little extra time

When I was small, my mom seemed to always have a loaf of zucchini or banana bread tucked away somewhere in the freezer.  And if she just so happened to take out a loaf or two—if us kids saw them sitting patiently on the counter—we instantaneously understood.  It was like some unspoken “code,” which everyone naturally understood.

“Who’s coming over to visit, mom?”

The bread would be warmed and sliced into soft, thick hunks of sweetness.  Placed just so, on a tea style plate for when company would arrive.  Coffee for the adults.  Milk and juice for the kids.  And if we were really, really lucky, there would be slices of both zucchini and banana bread sitting on the table.  Which, of course, means that you can have a slice of each.  Of course.

Last night, I came home from work a little earlier than normal.  Early enough to actually do something before preparing dinner or going for a run or diving head first into homework.

First thought: I want to take a nap.  Second thought: I want a banana bran muffin.  Always place your bets on the muffin; they always win.  I never take naps, but they sure sound nice.

At first, I set out to make a standard, favorite, and very well-loved version of the banana bread, but I’ve been wanting to use some of my pantry’s wheat bran for a while now.  Banana and bran go so well together, that it seemed impossible not to take the muffins in such a direction.  Impossible! Besides, I wanted my muffins to be sturdy and satisfying.  I also wanted them sweet and delicate enough to pass for dessert.  Hearty and healthy enough to be eaten for breakfast.

Banana bran muffins.  Yes.  That is exactly what I wanted.

Muffins have the glorious concept of being able to freeze individually.  They travel well, when breakfast needs to be taken on the road.  They’re versatile enough to be crumbled over oats or yogurt, slathered with peanut butter,or broiled in the oven with a pat of butter.  And while they are, of course, most delicious served hot from the oven, they can be easily rewarmed with results that are just as yummy.

You could bake them for when company comes over.  Say, you know, for brunch or an afternoon cup of coffee.  Or you could bake a batch, just because.  Just because you have a little extra time.  Just because you feel like eating a banana bran muffin.

Banana Bran Muffinstweaked from an original Eating Well recipe

If you ever want to change things up, add a sprinkle of walnuts to the batter.  Or chocolate chips.  Or raisins, pumpkin seeds, apricots, blueberries, etc.  You can make these muffins as personalized as you like.

If you’re not used to cooking with all whole-wheat flour or unprocessed bran, don’t be intimidated!  The bananas and small amount of oil help to keep these babies soft, moist and perfectly tender.  There’s absolutely nothing that’s overly grainy or dry about them.

Enjoy! 😀

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 medium, very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 c. milk with 1 T. lemon juice (or 1 cup buttermilk)
  • 1 cup unprocessed wheat bran
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • walnuts for top (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
2. Whisk eggs and brown sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk in bananas, buttermilk, wheat bran, oil and vanilla.
3. Whisk whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients; add the wet ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined.  Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups (they’ll be quite full). Sprinkle with walnuts, if using.
4. Bake the muffins until the tops are golden brown and spring back when touched lightly, 15 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen edges and turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

QUESTION: What seems to always be in your freezer?

a handful of green

I’ve been a little MIA this past week, in more areas than one.

I haven’t so much as touched the book that I’ve chosen to read during the month of March.  Aside from wearing a green scarf, I completely forgot about St. Patrick’s Day.  I’ve been living off of hummus and swiss cheese sandwiches for lunch, with raw veggies, fruit and almonds for snacks.

In other words, I’ve been kind of busy.  And I really miss my kitchen.  And I think my kitchen kind of misses me.

So as soon as the day was officially “complete,” as soon as it was over, I decided to stop off at Whole Foods and see what I could conjure up for dinner.  I felt the need for something…something…

…something green.

If you’ve ever seen a bunch of bright green garden cress at the supermarket, but you’ve  had no idea what it was or what you could do with it, you are not alone.  The flavors were a complete mystery to me until today.  I had no idea how I would use the little green leaves.  If I would use the little green leaves (!?!)

But the bright, cheery little bunch was a mere $1.00.  I’ll try anything for $1.00.  Especially if it’s bright and sunny and it makes me smile.

The sign at Whole Foods explained the leaves as being smooth, soft, bright, tangy and peppery.

“Perfect for sandwiches and soups and salads,” it said.

Perfect for tonight.

The cress bared a faint resemblance to arugula, without being over the top or in your face about it.  It’s a little more subtle.

Light and soft and elegant.

And it really does lend the most wonderful, rustic charm to a hot bowl of Mushroom Soup.  I simply chopped it up and sprinkle it on top for a deliciously healthy garnish.

You could also let it wilt by throwing in a handful or two at the end of the soup’s cooking time.  It would also pair lovely with a hummus wrap and a slice of sharp cheddar.

It felt really nice to be back in the kitchen, tonight.  Chopping and dicing and stirring and eating.  Yes.  It felt good to unwind.

Have a happy Friday!

an overabundance of herbs

I used to be of the opinion that growing an herb garden was a massive waste of my time.

You can eat a tomato.  You can roast a couple of beets.  But, herbs?  Nobody makes a salad solely with parsley.

And then I found myself smack dab in the middle of summer with a large crop of basil and no idea what to do with it.  Bunches and bunches and bunches of aromatic, gorgeous basil.

Being the economical person that I am, I decided to use it in whichever ways that I could.  And so, beyond just freezing it, I added it to savory oats and pasta and pizza.  Sushi and hummus.

And eggs.

Tomatoes and eggs go together like peanut butter and jam.  Meant to be together. The addition of brightly flavored basil makes perfection.  The heat of the pan will inspire the basil to release its fragrant oils, contributing to the most wonderful smell on earth.

And the goat cheese?  The goat cheese is just because.

My overabundance of herbs—more specifically, basil—is quickly running out.  I can hardly wait until summer, when I’ll once again have a bunch of herbs that I have no idea what to do with.

Scrambled Eggs with Fresh Basil and Tomatoes

Serves 1

I love goat cheese with scrambled eggs, but fresh ricotta or mozzarella would be equally delicious.  Enjoy with a couple of whole wheat toasts and your favorite fruit for a complete meal. 😀

  • 2 whole eggs + 1 egg white
  • splash of milk
  • 1 roma tomato, deseeded
  • handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 Tbsp. onions, chopped
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • goat cheese, crumbled
  1. Spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray.  Heat over medium, add onions and cook until soft but still firm.  Add deseeded tomatoes and basil, add just a splash of balsamic vinegar and continue cooking until vegetables are tender and liquid has evaporated.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and salt and pepper.
  3. With vegetables still in pan, spray with more cooking spray.  Add eggs, and scrape down sides with a spatula, letting the uncooked eggs run underneath.  Cook until eggs are no longer runny, chopping every now and then.  Transfer to plate and top with goat cheese.  Enjoy! 😀

QUESTION: Do you grow a garden in the summer?  What is one of your favorite things to grow?

enjoying a rainy day

I used to hate rainy days.  It meant being stuck inside with nothing but homework and reading and things like that.

Nowadays, I look forward to being stuck inside with nothing but homework and reading and things like that. 😉

(source)

Today, however, I enjoyed my rainy day.  Outside.

It was pouring outside.  Absolutely pouring! Umbrellas were pointless and even rain boots would have been a futile approach to staying dry.  And so, when I arrived to the local 5k to cheer all the brave runners on, I gave up on my umbrella and decided to just embrace the rain.  I could feel the runners’ energy.  I clapped and hollered, urging on the tired runners.  To keep on going.  To not give up.

My favorite moment was when an older woman with a bright smile shouted, “this is my first!”  This was her very first 5k!  This was her marathon.  I loved that I was able to share the moment with her as she thanked me for the motivation, running on to the finish line.  It made me want to go out and run! 😀

If you’ve never volunteered at a road race, I highly recommend it!

“Breakfast of the Week”

A fruity bowl of oats sprinkled in coconut, walnuts and a dollop of raspberry jam.

Delicious.

A Fruity Bowl of Oats

Grapes are fabulous with oats.  The heat brings out their natural sweetness.  A healthy dose of coconut, walnuts and your favorite jam pull it all together.  Sigh.  What a beautiful morning.

  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 2 Tbsp. crushed flax
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 sweet banana, sliced
  • 3-4 strawberries, sliced
  • handful of grapes, cut in half
  • cinnamon and nutmeg
  • toppings: walnuts, coconut, Trader Joe’s raspberry jam
  1. Combine oatmeal, flax, milk, 1/4 cup water, fruit and spices in a microwave safe bowl.  Stir.  Place in fridge overnight.
  2. The next morning, heat for about 5 minutes or until desired consistency.  Top with your favorite mix ins and ENJOY! 😀

Question: Rainy days…Yay or Nay?

 

We. Did. It!

WE. DID. IT!!!

My dad is my most favorite running partner.  Most of the time, I hate running with other people.  I usually feel guilty for slowing them down!

But my dad runs his own pace and he tells me to do the same.  He turns around when he gets too far ahead and sometimes he even lets me choose the pace.  AND, best of all, he’s just as crazy as I am when it comes to going out for an eight mile run in icy conditions. 😉

Because, it really was super icy.  It even began to ice rain at some points.  And we were chased by a silly yellow lab.  Legs began to ache.  BUT? We. Did. It!

Pre-eight mile run:

Post eight-mile run:

(don’t let that smile fool you…I was in PAIN!)

Overall, it was a really good run.  I felt strong for the first 4-5 miles or so.  I began to tire right after that, and my entire body began to ache on the last mile stretch towards home.

And then I came home and collapsed in the snow.

“Eating For Your Long Run”

There’s a lot of thought that goes into running long miles, especially when it comes to food.  I haven’t yet reached the point where I need to bring fuel on a run, but there is a lot of pre-run fuel and post-run fuel going on.  There’s no absolute, pure science behind all of my choices, but they work for me.  The secret, I think, is to experiment a little and see what works for you!

The Night Before

Eat a light snack the night before, if you plan on running in the morning.  Cereal is my personal snack of choice.  It’s light on the stomach and it helps me sleep better.  Don’t forget to stay hydrated too!

The Morning Of

This is one of those times when I throw variety out the window and stick with what I know will work.  For me, that happens to be either (a) a bowl of oatmeal or (b) a couple of whole wheat toasts smeared with almond butter, fruit and a glass of milk.

I also drink a small cup of coffee for the caffeine boost.

And, of course, water, water, water!

Post Run

Milk has the perfect combination of protein and carbohydrates, making it the ideal way to refuel after a long run.  Drink up!  Preferably within 30 minutes of running.

Post Run

More refueling is in order if your long runs are beginning to exceed 5-6 miles.  A cup of milk won’t exactly cut it.

Today I was craving a big ol’ salad with lots of greens and flavah!  Today’s toppings:

  • kidney beans
  • goat cheese
  • salty sunflower seeds
  • avocado
  • snap peas
  • balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil

I am absolutely obsessed with these Terra Sweets and Beets chips.  They’re addicting!

A little while later, I broke out some yogurt with wheat germ and a whole wheat blueberry muffin.  I am a bottomless pit on the weekends after a long run; I’ve learned to just roll with it. 😉

Sarah’s “Official” Half Marathon Training Plan

Week 1: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—4 miles

Week 2: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—5 miles

Week 3: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—2.5 miles

Week 4: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—6.5 miles (YIPPEE!)

Week 5: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—3 miles

Week 6: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—8 miles (We. Did. It! 😀 )

Week 7:
Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—3 miles

Week 8: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—9.5 miles

Week 9:
Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—4 miles

Week 10: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—11 miles

Week 11: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—4 miles

Week 12: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—12.5 miles

Week 13: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—4 miles

Week 14: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—14 miles

Week 15: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—5 miles

Week 16: Tues—3 miles   Thurs—3 miles   Saturday—HALF MARATHON RACE DAY!

QUESTION: Does your appetite go up on the days that you exercise?  Or does it hit you like a ton of bricks later on? My appetite definitely skyrockets on the days that I exercise.  I listen up and eat when I’m hungry so that I’m back to normal by the next day. 😉

February’s Read

I swore it wouldn’t happen.

While everyone around me was hacking up a lung or burning a fever or being plagued with strep throat, I was immune.
Totally.  100%.  Immune.

Lesson learned: Don’t speak too soon. Because lo and behold, “it” happened.  I woke up on Monday with a burning sore throat.  Eyes that felt like giant fireballs.  And the energy of a piece of spaghetti.  Totally.  100%.  Limp.

In addition to becoming best friends with the kleenex box and guzzling tons of water, I’ve also been eating copious amounts of whole wheat blueberry muffins…I followed my basic recipe but used whole wheat in place of the white.  Delicious. I may have even enjoyed them more than the original, thanks to the slight nutty, wheaty texture.

I’ve also been eating chili like it’s my job.

(FYI, I don’t lose my appetite when I’m feeling under the weather.  But I most definitely DO have a very limited number of foods that seem to hit the spot.)

Chili and muffins.  Considering the fact that I could only eat frozen bagel bite pizzas when I had pneumonia as a kid, I’d say this isn’t so bad. 😉

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Book A Month Resolution, 2011

January’s Choice: “Brooklyn”

February’s Choice: “House Rules” by Jodi Picoult

I am a huge fan of Jodi Picoult.  She really knows how to pull at my heartstrings, making me laugh and cry throughout each of her books.  Each and every one.  I love that.

Chapter by chapter, the characters become more than just fiction.  They become real. A sister, a brother, a friend.   “House Rules” follows the life of a family and a boy who has Aspergers.  A girl becomes murdered, and you’re left wondering the who’s, what’s, and why’s throughout the book.  You want to believe that someone in particular is NOT guilty, but then you’re not entirely convinced that he’s not.  And if he IS guilty, should he be charged?  Was it really his fault?

I loved the beautiful way that Jodi Picoult explained Aspergers.  I loved the way she tied the characters together, showing the strength of a family.  The frustrations.  The anger.  The sadness.  The happiness.  I loved the book.

Loved it.  And highly recommend it. 😀

Question: Do you lose your appetite when you’re sick?

Question: What have you been reading lately?

a lazy sunday afternoon.

You know what I love about lazy Sunday afternoons?

The fact that you can stay in your pj’s all day.

The fact that you can read or sleep or take a walk whenever you please.

The fact that there’s nothing on the to-do list except to “make a batch of whole wheat bagels.”

Okay.  If we’re being completely, 100% honest here, mom did most of the bagel work.

I really did, however, stay in my pj’s all day.  And I really did read and sleep and walk whenever I so pleased.

That’s what I love about a lazy Sunday afternoon.

(p.s. I promised Mom that I would help her taste test.  It’s tough work, but somebody has to do it.)

The bagels were beyond delicious.  And that’s the honest truth.

Whole Wheat Bagels–adapted from the original “Bernard Clayton’s Book of Breads” homemade bagel recipe, as seen on this website.

We made several variations in this recipe.  Cinnamon raisin, in which some of the dough was mixed with cinnamon and raisins before being dunked in the boiling water.  And poppyseed studded bagels.  My personal favorite, however, were the onion bagels.  They’re amazing and would make the perfect egg sandwich.

These are fun to make.  Even funner to eat.  I hope that you find yourself with some lazy Sunday afternoon so that you can stay home in your pj’s, do as you please, and have nothing on your to-do list but to “make a batch of bagels.”  Enjoy!

(p.s. Don’t let this long list of instructions scare you…bagels are quite simple to make and they’re not overly fussy.)

  • 3-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 cups hot water
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 egg white, beaten, mixed with 1 tsp water
  • Toppings of choice (raisins, poppyseed, garlic powder, dried onion flakes, etc.)
  1. Sprinkle a baking sheet with ground cornmeal.
  2. Into a mixing bowl, measure 3 cups whole wheat flour and stir in the dry ingredients.  Pour in the hot water and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon.  Add the balance of the flour, a small portion at a time; stir by hand.  When the batter gets thick and heavy, lift from the bowl and place on the floured work surface.
  3. Knead for 10 minutes, adding flour if the dough is too sticky.  Dough should be firm and solid when pinched with the fingers.
  4. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in volume, about 1 hr.  During this period, bring the 3 qts of water to a boil in the large saucepan.  Add sugar.  Reduce heat and leave at a simmer.
  5. Turn dough onto a flour-dusted work surface and punch down with extended fingers.  Divide dough into 17 pieces.  Shape each into a ball.  Allow to relax for a few minutes before flattening with the palm of your hand.  With your thumb, press deep into the ceter of the bagel and tear the depression open with your fingers.  Place the bagels together on the work surface.
  6. Cover the bagels with wax paper and leave at room temp only until the dough is slightly raised, about 10 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 400.
  8. The water should be simmering.  Gently lift one bagel at a time with a large skimmer and lower into the hot water, 2 or 3 at a time.  Simmer for 1 minute, turning once.  Lift out with the skimmer (or tongs), drain briefly on a towel, then place on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with all bagels.
  9. Brush bagels lightly with the egg white-water glaze and sprinkle with favorite toppings.
  10. Place bagels on the baking sheet and bake on the middle oven shelf for 25-30 minutes.  When bagels are lightly brown, turn them over to complete baking.  Remove from oven when shiny and brown.
  11. Place on metal rack to cool.

Question: What do you usually do on a lazy Sunday afternoon?

Hello, winter.

Hello, Winter.

Apparently, winter isn’t through with we New Englanders.

Ice.  Snow.  Wind.  Frigid, frozen temperatures.

This morning, I ran under a canopy of white.  I heard and felft the crunch of snow beneath my feet.  One step after the other.

Crunch.  Crinkle.  Swoosh.

I watched the icicles dance with excitement after they met the sun, sending their sparkles of light here, there, in every which direction.

There’s a fresh snowfall, here in New England.  And today I was the first—the very first!—to spread footsteps across a snowy path.

Sigh.

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything quite as peaceful.  I don’t think I ever will.

And you want to know a secret?

I kind of, sort of, maybe, almost enjoyed my morning run.  Despite (because of?) the frigid cold temperatures.

I don’t always know why or how to explain it, but sometimes I find myself falling absolutely in love with winter.

For such a snowy morning, I figured breakfast may as well include a bit of snow as well.

In the form of coconut, of course.

There was exactly one jam filled muffin left in the freezer.  And it was practically begging me to crumble it into a morning bowl of yogurt.

I just couldn’t say no.

Muffin Crumbled Yogurt Bowl

Crunchy walnuts.  A snowing of coconut.  Warm, jam-filled muffin crumbles.  And a dish of thick, creamy yogurt.

This is one of my most current favorite breakfasts.  I think you’ll love it too. 😀

  • 6-oz plain yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup chopped grapes, banana, apricots, or other favorite fruit
  • 1 jam-filled muffin (or other favorite muffin of your choice)
  • 2 Tbsp. granola
  • 2 Tbsp. walnuts
  • dusting of coconut
  • drizzle of honey (optional)
  1. Combine yogurt with wheat germ and fruit, and place on bottom of bowl.
  2. Top with muffin, granola, walnuts, coconut and honey if using.  ENJOY! 😀

Question: Is it still officially feeling like winter where you live?  What is your favorite season?