In this case, fire is my face after running, and my lungs burning while running. While not pretty, it’s an exhilarating feeling.
Ice in this case, is ice cream, in particular a batch of homemade ice cream that I made on Saturday morning. A summer tradition and treat.
Early this Sunday morning, my alarm went off at 5:30. I had good intentions to get up early to run and then go on about a busy, productive day, which included cleaning, writing, rearranging my room, and wrapping up some work stuff. The night felt too short, the alarm felt too soon, so I reset it for 6:30. I turned over and enjoyed another hour of sleep. This time, I was ready to get up and greet the day at the call of the alarm. I slipped into running clothes, pulled on socks and shoes, and quietly made my way into the kitchen to fill up a metal water bottle and poured a fruit and vegetable smoothie into a plastic cup for the car. Juggling the bottle, cup, keys, and a giant tube of sunscreen, I tiptoed out the door, not wanting to wake my hard-working sister roommate.
Part of the reason for going early, besides avoiding the heat of the day, was to combine my running with an errand to the office. I have had the entire summer off (read: seasonally unemployed), with a few work projects to do from home, and have only been to the office twice. I wanted to drop off a few things so people, whom I work with, would have them at the beginning of the week on Monday. I’ll be in the office in a few days, but it helped to get this little errand out-of-the-way. I know it’s consumptive and not sustainable, but I do enjoy driving, especially on a quiet morning with no traffic. I tuned into NPR and stopped for coffee at my favorite neighborhood joint. It’s rare that my every-other-morning-or-so coffee habit comes from somewhere besides my own kitchen, so I relished the smell of freshly brewed beans and the steamed milk that I never attempt at home. Taking sips between multiple morning beverages, I drove into Boulder. The highway was pleasantly empty, except for me and a few police cars, because today was the Ironman Boulder 70.3 (a triathlon of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, followed by a 13.1-mile run) which I had forgotten. Watching those athletes making their way through a multi-circuit route for the bike ride was inspiring as I made my way to work. Maybe some day, I thought as I unlocked the office, checked my mail box, and dropped off the documents and things that could not be e-mailed.
Errand complete in a three-minute visit, I was glad to get to my own workout. I headed back to Longmont to my neighborhood middle school track. Usually Sunday mornings are quiet at the school, especially in the summer, but the playing fields are sometimes the locale for weekend soccer and pee-wee football games, so I wanted get in and out before the small crowds might gather. I’m following a get-off-my-duff-and-run plan that’s all about establishing habits and workout patterns, as I get back in shape and prepare for a 5K race, assigning certain days to specific activities. Sundays are for track workouts, which I love because it reminds me of high school track time. I walked a warm-up lap and then huffed and puffed my way through six laps of running the straights and walking the curves (picturing the oval shape of a running track will help in understanding the activity). I dropped my keys and water bottle at the end of a curve, so I could stop for water and gasp for air as needed. The sixth lap seemed impossible, so I inserted an additional walk lap, before taking on the last running-walking lap. Then I luxuriated in a full walking cool-down lap, water bottle and keys in hand. Most of the minutes I had the track to myself, but did share part of the time with a couple of women walking their dogs. The track is one of my favorite spots, because it’s close to my house, but in a different neighborhood offering other views. It’s also soft, with no lanes marked, just small crushed rocks and no competition for space.
One of the reasons I love running is how little equipment or infrastructure is required. There are at least four or five tracks in Longmont I can use (at least when school or practices aren’t in session), but even the small towns I grew up in had running tracks. Without a track, I could easily measure off a section of road in my neighborhood to complete the task and distance, but I like the circular structure of once-a-week sessions. It returns me to childhood and it returns me to myself, literally as I make the rounds.
By the end of the last lap, I was hot and happily tired. My lungs burned from the effort and my face was flushed red. I zipped home for more water and the day’s chores.
Sometime in mid February, I heard a great story on the radio about preparing a Valentine’s Day feast with the help from Nigella Lawson’s recipes. When I used to watch TV, Nigella’s cooking show was one in a row of three that I tuned into on Saturday mornings as I cozied up with the weekend paper. I always appreciated her throaty British voice and her recipes which varied between crazily simple and easily complicated. The radio story focused on a multi-course meal for lovers, but I fixated more on the recipe for a no-churn, simple ice cream recipe. Lawson emphasized that it took only minutes to prepare and just a few short hours to freeze. Later in February, I chased down the recipe and made it over a wintry weekend.
I was pleased that the ingredients were easy to gather, even if high in calories and richness: sweetened condensed milk, heavy whipping cream, instant espresso powder, and coffee liqueur. Basically, you take two bowls, one with condensed milk and espresso powder mixed together, while in the other bowl you whip the cream until soft peaks form and then add the liqueur (or omit for the young ones and add a tad more espresso powder), before combining the mixtures and lightly stirring them together. After that, pour it into an air-tight pint-size container and toss it into the freezer for at least six hours. I used an old plastic ice cream container and a reused plastic deli tub to make two extra-large servings for private-spoon-in-the-tub-tasting advantages. The results were successful in February and then I put the recipe on a card in the back of one of my recipe boxes and shoved the ice cream experiment to the back of my mind. Ice cream, while delicious, is not my favorite dessert and is easy to ignore for a few months.
A couple of hot days in July, though, had me scrambling for the recipe and the ingredients again. I followed the recipe on Saturday, half-way filling two used plastic tubs before shoving them in the freezer. The only problem with the recipe is I was left with a partially full can of sweetened condensed milk and a partially full carton of whipping cream. Nothing in my day-to-day life calls for those ingredients, but after some mad-minute-math, I figured the remaining amounts of cream and condensed milk were enough for a smaller portion of ice cream. Opting out of coffee flavor this time, I dropped in a sprinkle of vanilla extract into the mixture before stirring and freezing. Having already consumed my breakfast, when I got home from the track, I snuck in a spoonful of homemade vanilla to taste. My inner food critic deemed it “delightful.”
We have the heat of summer, balanced with the cold of winter. The heat of exercise exhaustion, balanced with cold water and the treat of homemade ice cream. We have the health of exercise and the health of a dabble of dessert. We have love, we have heartbreak. We have joy, we have sorrow. We have hello, we have goodbye. With the balance of fire and ice, we have lives of pain and sorrow and healing and love. Sometimes it’s altogether in an exquisite turn around the track and in a delicious spoonful of ice cream.