Pesto Pizza with Bacon, Goat Cheese, and Arugula

A month or two ago, we were walking through downtown Milwaukee looking for somewhere to eat after visiting the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. We pretty much walked into the first sit-down place we saw, which was Millioke. As it turns out, we were a little out of place amongst the well-dressed businesspeople, dressed as we were in shorts and t-shirts with a toddler in tow, but they treated us well! They even gave us a semi-private room so we’d be out of the general traffic areas. (I don’t think their intent was to hide us; the room had a floor-to-ceiling glass wall/door looking out into the main part of the restaurant!)

All this exposition just to say I ordered their Prosciutto Arugula Flatbread, and it was amazing. Ever since then, I’ve been meaning to try something similar at home, and a few days ago I finally gave it a shot. I loosely based my attempt on Shutterbean’s Goat Cheese and Arugula Pizza, which uses a pesto sauce (whereas the flatbread at Millioke had a white sauce.) I made pesto from scratch using this recipe from Simply Recipes. My crust was thicker than a flatbread, since I just used the bread machine pizza dough recipe I always use for homemade pizza. I used bacon since it’s what I had in the house, but next time I’d really like to try some prosciutto. (The bacon was perfectly delicious, of course.) Oh, and I used a spinach/arugula mix because it’s all I could find at the grocery store. :-P

Not only was it the most photogenic meal I’ve made in awhile, but Kevin and Drake and I mowed through the entire thing in one sitting. Next time maybe I should make two!

Bacon Goat Cheese Arugula Pizza

Pesto Pizza with Bacon, Goat Cheese, and Arugula

4-5 slices bacon
pizza dough
3/4 cup pesto
5 oz. goat cheese
1 cup arugula
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice

Slice the bacon into about 1-inch pieces, and fry in a skillet for a few minutes (I like to stop while the bacon is still soft and chewy so it won’t get overly crispy in the oven). Roll out the pizza dough and spread the pesto onto it. Add the bacon pieces, then crumble the goat cheese over the pizza. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Mix the olive oil and lemon juice, then toss with the arugula. Let the pizza sit for a few minutes, then slice it and sprinkle the arugula over the top.

(I felt like a bit of a genius for thinking to slice the pizza before putting the arugula on, let me tell you.)


Race recap!

Saturday I ran the Summerfest Rock ‘n’ Sole quarter marathon. I woke up a little after 5 AM (!) and it was pouring. Talk about demoralizing. I had to keep reminding myself that I’ve run in worse weather than that. (I ran during a Wisconsin winter, after all!)

My mom showed up to the house at about 5:30, and I woke the boys up and we got ready to head down to the lakefront. Drake was a real champ; he usually wakes up at about that time anyway, but we usually nurse for awhile in bed. He seemed totally fine with getting ready and going in the car instead, which was a relief. Getting to see Grandma right away probably helped!

We got down there a little after 6, and Kevin dropped us off so my mom and I could go to where I was supposed to meet my running group. Unfortunately, I didn’t see anyone from the group. We waited around until we spotted Kevin and Drake looking for us, so we met up with them and then headed towards the start corrals. The corrals were in alphabetical order from fastest to slowest, and I was in corral K, which should tell you something about my running speed. :-P Corral K was for a 2:20 half-marathon pace (1:10 quarter marathon.)

There was a lot of excitement in the air as the race started, but of course I had to walk for several minutes before even getting to the starting line because there were so many runners ahead of me. I kept reminding myself to TAKE THINGS SLOW. I always seem to start out too fast at races because of all the excitement and nervous energy. Well, despite my reminders, I did the same thing this time. On top of that, the course was pretty hilly, since we were running onto the freeway and going over a large bridge. The rain had stopped before the race started, but less than halfway into the race I was wishing it would start again.

I did all right for awhile, maintaining my distance behind the 2:20 pacers (with their big helpful sign that said “2:20″) pretty well, but at around 3.25 miles or so, after we turned around to get back on the bridge (uphill again!), my energy really started flagging and the pacers were WAY ahead of me. I really tried to talk myself into running at least to the 4-mile marker, but eventually I just had to walk for awhile. I started running again when the 2:30 pacers passed me. Once I made it to the crest of the bridge and started going downhill, things were a little easier again.

I did have to walk again for a bit during mile 6 (which, by the way, I’m pretty sure was way more than a mile. :-P Actually, I think they all were. I probably ran about 50 miles that day.) Finally I was able to run the last 3/4 of a mile or so. I passed my family on the sidelines cheering for me, then rounded a corner and there was the finish line! I finished in 1:17:18, an 11:48 minute/mile pace. Not as fast a pace as the 10k I ran in March (which was about 11:30), but not too bad considering all the walking I did.

I even got a medal, which I wasn’t expecting; I thought only the half-marathoners got those!

postrun

Me, Kevin, Drake, and the Hoan Bridge

One thing that was cool is that a woman won the quarter marathon! (No, not me. I came in 1665th place out of 2090.) It was Ariana Hilborn; she’s 32 and has run in the Olympic marathon trials, and she’s only been running since 2007! It’s awesome to see someone who, like me, didn’t run at all in high school or college, and now she’s an elite runner! I doubt I’ll ever get to that point, but it’s still pretty inspiring. :-)

Three weeks till half-marathon training starts! I’m going to try to keep doing at least two 3-3.5 mile runs during the week, and a 4-5 mile run on Saturdays, since we have to run 4 miles on the first day of training, and a mile further every week after that. I ran 3 miles today, which is the first time I’ve run since the race. Just gotta keep it up!


Robot Roll Call!

Tom Servo!

image

There are 27 Servos on this sweater. I still need to duplicate-stitch his arms and other details; first I’m forcing myself to do the (boring, boring) sleeves.

image

Trust me, not a minute goes by that I don’t wonder why I decided to make this a long-sleeved sweater instead of short-sleeved like in the original pattern. Then I remember I live in Wisconsin, and what am I ever going to do with a short-sleeved sweater?! I’ve already ripped that sleeve out once because it felt too snug. I’m glad I did, though; no use making a sweater that’s too uncomfortable to wear.

image

There’s some puckering going on. Hopefully blocking will help with that, but it’s not the end of the world if there’s a little puckering on the final product. I kind of like the 3D-ish look it gives him. Also, I ended up taking out the neck ribbing because I was already starting to enter turtleneck territory, which isn’t really what I was going for. I’m not sure how I feel about the i-cord bind-off around the neck. It doesn’t have much give; I can at least get my head through and it sits OK while the sweater is on, but I may end up replacing it with something stretchier.

Overall I’m pretty happy with how this thing is turning out. I just have to get my butt moving to finish it so I can get to the 462559140 other things in my knitting queue! (Mostly other sweaters. :-P  )


Happy National Running Day!

So apparently (as I found out this morning) today is National Running Day! In honor of that, I’m going to run 3 miles tonight. Just kidding, actually I would have been running 3 miles tonight even if it weren’t National Running Day. I’m currently training for my second 10k race (actually a quarter marathon, so 6.5 miles instead of 6.2). I’ll be running in the Rock ‘n’ Sole quarter marathon in a week and a half, which looks like a really cool course.

I’ve discovered a new favorite way to do my runs; instead of running in a big loop starting and ending at the same point, I’ve found that I really enjoy being dropped off at one location and then running to my destination. There’s sort of an element of survival to it; if I don’t keep running, I won’t get home (or wherever)! I suppose “run or die” would be a bit dramatic, since I’m usually running in areas packed full of civilization.

For example, a few weeks ago, we ate dinner at my in-laws’ house, then I left Kevin and Drake there and ran 5.5 miles home. I even had to add a few extra zig-zags to bring the mileage up to 5.5. Now that I can run that kind of distance, it’s surprising to learn how close certain places are to me. Running from my house to my parents’ house would be less than 5 miles! No problemo.

My next goal is going to be a half-marathon. I’ve already signed up for the Brewers Mini Marathon, so there’s no turning back now! (Unless I want to be out $65, I guess.) Several of the people in my current training group are planning to train for that one too, so it’ll be fun to all train together again for the half. There’s a three week gap between my upcoming race and the start of half training, so I’m going to have to be diligent about maintaining my ability to run at least 4 miles (since that’s the distance we run on the first day of half training.)

I’m a little apprehensive about running during the summer. A few weeks ago, our group run was on a warm day in the mid-to-upper 80s, and I made it about 2 miles before I had to stop and walk. I ended up hitching a ride with the coach back to the running store. (I made up for it the next evening with the aforementioned run home from the in-laws’, however.) I just don’t have a lot of heat tolerance. I realized recently that my face doesn’t really sweat, which is probably part of the reason it gets EXTREMELY red during my runs. I may start carrying some water just to splash on my face to help cool it off, and I’ll probably stick to running in the evenings or the early morning when the temperature is a bit cooler.

I’m gonna try to update more often, since I’m doing so poorly on my “52 posts in a year” resolution. Perhaps a picture of the Servo sweater progress tomorrow. (Yeah, that’s not done yet either.)


Perfectionism + Laziness = Procrastination

If you want to learn a lot about your personality type without taking some sort of written test, take up knitting, seriously. It’s like the hobby feeds upon your weaknesses (and strengths), concentrates them, and projects them back to you with terrifying clarity.

I can be kind of a perfectionist. My parents will gladly tell anyone about how when I was a young kid coloring in coloring books, straying even the slightest bit outside the lines was enough for me to abandon that picture forever. (On a similar note, it should surprise no one that I’m also a fairly rigid rule-follower.) Unfortunately, I’m also lazy, so I’m not always willing to put in the amount of work needed to accomplish tasks to my satisfaction. The end result is, I’m a huge procrastinator sometimes.

How about that Tom Servo sweater I posted about a month ago? Well, I made it through the corrugated ribbing and the i-cord cast off, picked up my provisional cast-on, and was cruising along on miles and miles of stockinette stitch, when the first ball eventually ran out and I attached the second ball. I noticed that the new stitches seemed a bit lighter, but continued on anyway.

Once I got about two inches along with the new ball, I moved the sweater onto waste yarn so I could try it on. I was really happy with the fit, but once I got a good look at it in the mirror…the difference in color between the first ball and the second ball was super obvious. I told myself I didn’t care, I’d be starting the Servo chart in a few more inches anyway and it would barely be noticeable.

I put the sweater back on the needles, and about a week later…I had only knit a row or two more. I kept stopping, staring at that line between the old ball of yarn and the new one. I looked at the third ball of yarn I had, and it definitely looked darker to me than the second one. I tried to convince myself the color difference wasn’t bad enough for me to rip back the two inches I had knit  and try the other ball instead, but instead the sweater just sat in time out for a few days.

Eventually I came to the realization that if I just bit the bullet, ripped out the 16 rows or so I had knit with the lighter ball, and did it over again with the darker ball, I’d probably finish the sweater faster than if I just left it sitting in time-out indefinitely. So yesterday, that’s what I did, and suddenly I’m happy with the project again, and making good progress. There’s still a bit of a color difference between the balls, but not NEARLY as obvious as it was.

servosweaterprogress

Of course, since I only have the three balls, I’m going to need to use that lighter one at some point no matter what. I think I’ll switch to that one when I start the Servo charts; I’m sure that when the blue is broken up by Tom Servos, it won’t be quite as noticeable that it’s lighter than the rest of the blue on the sweater. Then, if I run out of the darker ball while knitting the sleeves, I’ll just finish up with the lighter ball. I can live with a slight color change near my wrists a lot more than I can live with it RIGHT ACROSS THE BOOBS. (Did I mention that’s exactly where the change was?) ;-P

The lesson is, either learn to live with things being less than perfect, or get off your lazy butt and work to make things fit your vision. (Ideally, try a little of both.)


Getting Schooled

Have any of you taken a class at Coursera? It’s one of several websites aimed at offering free online college courses (Udacity and edX are a couple others, though I haven’t tried those yet) from various universities. You don’t get university credit, but a lot of the courses do offer a statement of completion.

For many years I’ve had an interest in artificial intelligence and robotics; I took Introduction to AI my senior year of college, which was hands-down my favorite class during my college career, and my senior design project was a six-legged walking robot. After graduation, though, I never really pursued those areas any further, and certainly none of the jobs I had pertained to those areas. Recently I was reading an issue of Marquette Engineer that profiled some of the new faculty, and discovered there’s a new professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department that’s going to have a humanoid robotics lab. My immediate reaction was “WHERE WAS THIS GUY WHEN I WAS IN SCHOOL?!?!”

I suddenly felt a strong desire to go back to school for an advanced degree, but with a toddler running around the house, and probable plans to add another kid to our family in the next year or so, it doesn’t seem very feasible for me right now. I’m sure if I had to, I could make it work, but I’d rather not attempt grad school with an infant. So, if I do go back to school, it will probably have to wait till kid #2 is at least 2 or 3. I can’t just let my math, programming, and general academic skills deteriorate in the meantime (any more than they already have, of course), so I decided to take a few Coursera classes.

So, for the past month I’ve been taking AI Planning and Control of Mobile Robots. AI Planning offers three levels of completion: Awareness (which involves just watching a selection of the lecture videos, and then taking an exam), Foundation (which requires watching all the lecture videos, taking the Awareness level exam, and taking a Foundation level exam with more involved questions), and Performance (which involves all of the above, plus a couple of programming assignments.) Being the nerd that I am, I went for the Performance level. I’m glad I did, because the programming assignments were no joke, and it really helped refresh my skills a lot.

I’m enjoying Control of Mobile Robots a lot too; it’s definitely a challenge considering the fact that Control Theory uses a lot of differential equations and it’s been about a decade since I took differential equations. I’m finding myself really tempted to buy a little robot kit so I can test out some of the stuff I’m learning.

I managed to finish AI Planning a week early this past weekend, which is good because this week I’m starting another course: Natural Language Processing. There are going to be a few programming assignments for this course, and while I could probably do them in C++ (the language I know best), I’ve decided to learn Python and use that instead. For one thing, it was one of the programming languages recommended by the instructor, and for another, I’ve read that it’s well-suited for NLP, and for another, I want to learn it! (In case anyone cares, I’m using the tutorials at Learn Python The Hard Way.

I’m really enjoying this format for taking classes; I can fit in my classwork during Drake’s naps or after he goes to bed, or whenever Kevin takes him off my hands. Even if I don’t ever end up going back to school formally, I’m really glad I’m doing this. :-)

P.S. Some of my hobbies (knitting, video games) have fallen by the wayside a bit, but I am trying to make time for them once in awhile. I’ll save some of that for another post, seeing’s how I’m doing an abysmal job at my blogging New Year’s resolution!


Servo Sweater

All right, there are lots of knitting projects I’ve finished over the past few months that I SHOULD be posting about, but since I haven’t gotten around to taking proper pictures of any of them, instead I’m going to talk about my current project!

Ever since I saw all the cute modifications people have made to Kate Davies’ Paper Dolls pattern, I started craving my very own geeky sweater. After giving it some thought, I decided to make a sweater featuring my favorite robot, Tom Servo from Mystery Science Theater 3000.

I made my very own super-awesome Tom Servo knitting chart:

After much agonizing over which yarn to use, I settled on Dream in Color Smooshy in Romeo Blue.

I also ordered Knit Picks Palette in Pimento, Silver, White, and Black for Tom Servo himself.

After deciding on yarn, I spent an obscene amount of time on Ravelry looking at other people’s Paper Dolls projects to learn about issues that they’d encountered or mods they’d made. As a result, I’ve come up with a  fairly lengthy list of ways I’ll be deviating from the pattern as written. (This is probably going to be boring for non-knitters [and possibly knitters] to read; it’s more of a way for me to keep track of it all.)

  • The pattern starts out with an i-cord cast-on for the body, but a lot of people seem to have had issues with it and I didn’t really want to deal with it. So instead, I’m doing a provisional cast-on, knitting the corrugated ribbing for the bottom of the sweater downwards, then doing the i-cord bind-off. Then I’ll pick up the stitches from the provisional cast-on and continue on knitting the body upwards. (Reminder to self: increase one stitch after picking up the stitches.)
  • A LOT of people had issues with the yoke of the sweater puckering, and one way they’ve mitigated that is to knit the yoke a size smaller than the rest of the body. I’m seriously considering doing this, and also redistributing the decreases in the Servo chart so that they happen a bit more gradually.
  • I’m planning on making long sleeves instead of short, and also knitting them downwards. So once I get to the  yoke, I’ll provisionally cast on the sleeves, knit a few rows, and then connect them to the body for the yoke.
  • I’ve also read that the decrease row on the chart (where half of the stitches are eliminated) is pretty extreme. I’m considering either making the decreases more gradual or moving them up closer to the neck.
  • I may also skip the last set of decreases at the neck since a lot of people complained about it being too tight.
  • I’m probably going to knit a few extra rows of yoke before starting the Servo charts to avoid the tight underarm issue.

I think that’s about it. I’m really excited to make this sweater!


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