Boxing shoes and blue mascara

Recently Mike and I headed back to the midwest to visit family.  We are getting too old to take red-eye flights (although Mike has been claiming he’s “too old” for this since 2005), so we always pretty much plan on one day of travel each way.  It was great to see everyone in both Mike’s and my families and get to spend some quality time with them.  But it was definitely tiring.  When we got back on Tuesday, we were ready for a weekend, but a weekend was still several days away.

Interestingly one of the things I missed during the time in the midwest was cooking.  How random!  It is really strange that something that started purely as an “I want to eat healthy and know where the food I’m eating comes from so I guess I’m willing to cook” attitude has morphed into a “When is the next load of CSA produce coming because I want to cook immediately.  Very strange.

Anyway, I got parsnips from this week’s CSA produce which is always a red flag to make some kind of stew, because Mike loves parsnips in stews and most of the time when he asks for them they aren’t seasonable so I use rutabagas instead and hope he will be fooled (he’s usually not… parsnips have a distinct taste).  Most of the veggies this week were very fall-oriented root vegetables, so I did a lot of roasting.  I roasted up beets and leeks (a great combination by the way!  Add fennel as well if you have it!).  I also roasted up garlic cabbage, two different varieties of squash, and some cumin-spiced cauliflower.  And of course I made a pot of beef stew with the parsnips and other veggies.

Here’s one interesting thing.  As I took bag after bag of the produce out of the fridge to wash and cut and prep, I kept waiting for these yellow carrots to show up.  I clearly remember getting them in the CSA box because I thought it was weird that they had included half the carrot greens for the carrots (i.e. they hadn’t trimmed the greens all the way off, but they had trimmed all of the leafy good part off and just left the long, hard stalks).  So I specifically remember noticing those carrots.  And I went through all the bags of produce and they weren’t there.  I repeat: they weren’t there.  I literally have no idea where they went, but I have the uncomfortable feeling that I may have done something stupid with them.  Like throw them away, or put them under the sink with the onions, or… you get the idea.  If they show up, I’ll let you know.  In the meantime, I guess that was for the best because I wasn’t sure how I was going to use them anyway.  Mike prefers orange carrots and gets suspicious with me when I use carrots of other colors.  The splash of orange color is pretty nice in soups/stews in comparison to the pale yellow of the other carrots.  Also, I bet the orange carrots must have more beta carotene, but you couldn’t prove that by me.

The one thing that I somehow forgot in the hotel room in Michigan was my tube of mascara.  Not a big deal, especially since there was a new mascara brand that my hairdresser wanted me to try anyway.  I went and got some my first day back in Seattle.  I got it in Midnight (the same color name as my previous mascara).  All good, right?  Right??  Well, the next day I put on the new mascara in front of my bathroom mirror and then went to work.  Still all good.  Then I went to the restroom and under the track lighting in front of the sink I saw that my mascara was a glittery blue.  Well, well.  Fortunately the glittery blue only seems to show up under very specific lighting which doesn’t include the normal lights at work or at home.  But definitely does include the track lighting in the restroom at work.  Mike told me that it was likely due to fluorescent lighting.  I was planning to go to boxing that night and wondered whether or not my mascara was going to look blue in the gym.  I figured Mike would know.  He was out of town for work, so I texted him.

“You think the lights at the gym are fluorescent?”

“Yes.  Why?”

“Darn.  Ok.  Then I have to stop by the store before boxing to get new mascara or it will look glittery blue.”

“No, I think it’s halogen track lights that cause the glitter.  Filament bulbs like our stove hood.”

“Oh, I thought you said fluorescent?”

“I meant halogen.  But I can’t fully guarantee that.  I’m basing this on what lights make your engagement ring sparkle.”

“Yeah diamonds and glitter mascara are very similar.  ;)  Oh maybe I can test it at the our stove.  Before I leave for boxing.”

“Either way nobody would care if your mascara glittered or not.”

“I care.  It looks stupid.  Black glitter is fine.  Blue glitter… is just ridiculous.”

“At boxing nobody would likely notice.”

“Some things must not be left to chance.”

“Actually Floyd Mayweather wore gold shorts for his last fight.”

“And if I get to be as good as Floyd Mayweather I’ll wear glitter blue mascara.”

“I think I’ve seen flashier things than blue sparkle in the boxing ring.  Lol”

“Lol”

I love our text conversations.  :)

On another boxing note, I have been trying to find boxing shoes for a long time, because my running shoes really aren’t cutting it in boxing.  Running shoes are pretty much built assuming you’re only moving your feet forward and backward… not side to side.  So after only a couple of boxing sessions, I typically see my running shoes start to develop holes in the sides of the shoes (typically the outer little-toe side of the shoe) from all the side-to-side motion in boxing.  Mike and I have been to several sporting goods stores in the Seattle area looking for boxing shoes with no luck.  I basically have three issues finding boxing shoes.

  1. There isn’t actually such a thing as “boxing shoes”.  There are wrestling shoes that boxers also wear.
  2. How many female wrestlers have you ever heard of?  None?  Exactly.  So there really aren’t women’s wrestling shoes.  Women get men’s wrestling shoes.
  3. So, since I had to get men’s wrestling shoes, I knew I’d have to try them on before I bought them since I literally had no idea what size wrestling shoe I would wear in men’s sizing.

Mike and I found some wrestling shoes at a Big 5 Sporting Goods store, but the smallest size they had was a size 8 in men’s.  I tried that on, and it was way too big.  So this weekend, Mike kindly agreed to drive me all the way to Issaquah (which feels like it’s SO FAR AWAY, because it’s way east of Bellevue but is actually only 17 miles away) because there’s a big Dick’s Sporting Goods there.  As it turned out, they had a good selection of wrestling shoes!  I was pretty determined that I wanted either Nike’s or Asiics because those are the big two providers of wrestling shoes (Nike has traditionally been the main provider, but they seem to be moving out of the space and Asiics is moving in).  I found a pair of 7.5’s and tried those on.  Hmm.  They were ok… but kind of big.  I tried 7’s next.  Those were good.  I had just about decided to go with those, when Mike handed me another pair to try.  They were a size 6 and were a boy’s shoe instead of men’s and I was pretty confident they would be way too small but I tried them on anyway.  And as it turned out… they fit perfectly.  But they weren’t even men’s shoes… they were boy’s!  And they weren’t Asiics or Nikes… they were Adidas (which to me feels like a very “has-been” 80’s brand… sorry to anyone who loves Adidas or works for Adidas or is sponsored by Adidas).

I frowned down at them.

“I can’t get boy’s shoes… it’s humiliating.”

“No,” Mike said.  “It’s totally fine.  You just have small feet.”

“I do not have small feet,” I said defensively.  “I wear 8.5 in women’s running shoes.  There is nothing small about my feet.”

“Well, they’re a boy’s size,” Mike replied.  “And I like how these shoes look.  Besides, they are cheap because they’re kids shoes.  That’s nice.”

I couldn’t really argue with him, since that seemed to be the objective truth.

I tried a different tactic.  “But they’re ADIDAS!  That’s an 80’s brand!  What do they have to do with boxing?!”

“It’s pretty hard to argue with the price,” Mike shrugged.  “I think Adidas are fine.  They make a lot of soccer shoes.  See?” he said, pointing to the soccer shoe section made up largely of Adidas shoes.

I squinted at the shoes.  “All the ugly 80’s styled ones are Adidas.  The other brands are better for soccer shoes.”

Long story short, I walked out with the Adidas.  #firstworldproblems

And now I have boxing shoes!  Which I’m excited to try out Monday night!

Today Mike has been cleaning algae and gunk off of the roof in preparation for winter.  I’ve been cooking.  And Piper has been enjoying the sunshine after a week of rain!  I hope the nice weather lasts!  Our October this year was the rainiest in Seattle on record!  Typically we get 3 inches of rain; this October we got 10!  We are ready for some sunny days to offset all the water.  :)

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Filed under Cooking, CSA, Life in Seattle, Rain, Seattle

Rainy Portland Marathon 2016

Time for a race recap of the Portland Marathon!

First, I kind of wanted to sue weather.com for false advertising.  The weather report for Portland all week called for 72 degrees, partly sunny, and no rain.  48 hours before the race, that changed to 80% chance of rain.  24 hours before the race that changed to 100% chance of rain.  Well, ok then.  I had no idea how my body would feel about running in the rain for four hours, but it looked like I was going to find out.

It was lightly sprinkling in Seattle on Saturday (the day before the race), and I did a short run to loosen up my legs Saturday morning in the drizzling rain, and I felt strong!  Strong and prepared for a marathon the following day!  I listened to ‘Til I Collapse by Eminem and Eye of the Tiger from Rocky, and I was feeling ready to go and very antsy to get to the start line.  My typical night-before-a-long-run snack consisted of two coconut milk yogurts and either one or two peanut butter and jelly Larabars (depending on the length of the long run).  Then the morning of the long run, I typically had one more yogurt and one more Larabar before the run.  It’s important to replicate your training as much as possible in your race, so Mike and I stopped at a Fred Meyer grocery store on the way down to get a little cooler and ice for my coconut milk yogurt.

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Mike saving the day by getting ice for my yogurt

I had my Larabars and my yogurts.  And one of basically every type of running outfit available, including both my pairs of running shoes.  (I couldn’t make up my mind what I was going to want to wear, so I brought literally everything.)

Mike and I were initially planning to drive down with my running buddy and her husband, both of whom were also running the marathon, but at the last minute her husband got a bad cold.  It was up in the air whether or not he would be able to run the race, but he decided he was up to it.  However, in an effort to stay healthy the day before the race, Mike and I drove down separately.  The drive was pretty much constant (I always forget how much traffic there is between Seattle and Portland because we actually haven’t been to Portland many times… maybe 4?).  We found the hotel without much difficulty, but it was pretty packed since we were staying at the same hotel the race expo was at.  Mike and I walked over to the race expo and picked up my race packet.  We also looked for a very lightweight running rain coat that I could wear the following day, but we really didn’t see any.  Maybe everyone else had the same idea and they were already all taken?  My right hip flexor was feeling tighter than I knew it should feel (maybe from the ride down in the car?  or the cold and rain?).  Regardless, Mike and I had a quiet dinner at the steakhouse across the street from the hotel where we were staying.  My treat, since I had basically dragged Mike down to Portland to stand out in the rain taking pictures.  Mike got a steak and I got a giant plain baked potato.  Perfect race fuel!  Then we went back to the hotel, went over the race course so that Mike could decide where to take pictures.  Then I ate two yogurts from the cooler and two peanut butter and jelly Larabars.  I was ready.  I went to bed and slept like a LOG.  I know a lot of people can’t sleep the night before a race because of nerves, but I have never had that problem.  I can basically always fall asleep.  Most of the time that’s awesome, but sometimes it’s not.  Like when I’m in uninteresting meetings at work.  Anyway, I slept really soundly, and my alarm went off at 5:00am.  We were meeting my friend Anna and her husband Nick at 6am, so that gave me plenty of time to think about my race outfit.  I thought about it while I retrieved one more yogurt from the cooler for breakfast and munched another Larabar.  (People think that you run so you can eat whatever you want, but I actually find that when I’m seriously training I have to be way more careful what I eat…. the last thing you want is an upset stomach or overactive digestion during a long run or a race!  So I tend to gravitate towards the same tried and true foods.)

After sticking my head out the window to verify that, yes, it was raining, I went through all the running clothes I’d brought to try to choose what I wanted to wear.  I settled on my thinnest capri pants (which were purple, so made it easier for Mike to spot me during races… bonus!) and a running T-shirt.  I woke Mike up to help me choose which running shoes to wear.  My options were the lighter, faster, but less supportive pair that had fewer miles on them or the heavier, slower, more supportive pair with more miles on them.  I put both pairs on multiple times and jogged across the hotel room trying to make a decision.  Mike just watched me.

“You think I’m crazy, right?” I asked.

Mike shrugged.  “I’m pretty OCD actually.  I’m like this about most stuff.”

I eventually decided on the lighter pair.  I put them on, attached my bib to the front of my running capris and my timing chip to my shoe.

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Timing chip ON!  Ready to go!

 

We met up with Nick and Anna outside of our hotel and walked the few blocks to the start line.  There was a really weird corral setup where different corrals entered from different streets, so Anna and I were a little confused looking for our corral C.  We were already wet and there wasn’t much we could do about that, but on the way to the starting line Anna accidentally stepped right in the middle of a big puddle and soaked her sock and her shoe.  Running a marathon with a wet foot right off the bat sounded miserable, so we went to a little running shoe store near the start line that was open early to accommodate the marathon runners.  While Anna bought a new pair of socks and changed into them, I listened to one of the store employees stand on a bench and give a short, inspiring speech about running and having fun and focusing on the nice temperature instead of focusing on the rain.

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Focus on the temps instead of the rain?  Sure.

Then Anna and I found ourselves at the start line and I queued up my marathon playlist.  Ready to go!

And now for a rabbit trail.

As (some?  many?  most?) of you know, I have approximately a 7 year history trying to get a marathon time below 4 hours.  I started training back in 2010 for my first marathon.  It didn’t go well.  I registered for the Detroit marathon (why Detroit and not Chicago?  Why??  Chicago is a much better race.) and got IT band pain and ended up not being able to complete the marathon.  I had another false start that ended in IT band pain before finally getting to the start (and finish) line of my first marathon in Seattle in June of 2011.  I fought IT band through the race, it was miserable, I was in pain the whole time, and I limped across the finish line with a time of 4:22:14… over 22 minutes shy of my goal.

Frustrated but determined, I trained for the Las Vegas marathon in December of 2011.  It was the first year they were doing the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon series in Las Vegas, and it was rough.  My training runs had gone great with little IT band pain, but I started getting sick around mile 11 of the race.  Like really sick.  Like I wasn’t able to keep the energy gels coming in fast enough to balance the speed at which they were coming out.  Sorry, TMI, but totally the truth.  As it turned out, the race organizers were using Las Vegas city water at the water stations on the course, which made a lot of runners sick.  If I thought the Seattle marathon was hard, it was nothing compared to the Vegas marathon.  Running down the strip was awesome, but I was so sick to my stomach I couldn’t think about how awesome it was.  I was too busy looking for the next bush by the side of the course.  I basically limped weakly across the finish line of that marathon with a time of 4:35:43 (and I felt lucky to even have that time), limped right back to my hotel, fell into the tub, and lay there in the warm water trying to figure out what on earth had happened.  (I didn’t find out about the water situation until later, so I didn’t realize I wasn’t alone in getting so sick.)  The best part of that race was hanging out with my bestie Lia (who lived in Vegas) the day after and eating as much of a giant Whole Foods salad as my touchy stomach would allow.

At that point I swore off marathons.  Every runner has heard about “marathon amnesia” (i.e. you forget how terrible a marathon was and sign up for another one anyway).  I did not have amnesia.  I remembered exactly how bad it was to run FIFTEEN MILES while looking for the next bush and trying to force down energy gels that my stomach was rejecting.  Since 2011 I had run a couple of half marathons a year, lots of 15ks, 10ks, and 5ks, but I was steering clear of marathons.

Until I joined the Seattle Green Lake Running Group in April of this year.  They were encouraging, helpful, and coincidentally all training for fall marathons.  I became friends and running buddies with Anna through that group.  She had run one marathon previously and basically had a terrible experience as well (super rainy, hilly, muddy course).  Together we decided that we could run a marathon together.  After all, we couldn’t have a worse experience than our collective previous marathon experiences, right?  After checking out a couple of local-ish races we decided on Portland, an old race celebrating their 45th year this year.

And that was how I found myself at the start line of the Portland marathon at 7am on a dark, rainy morning.  My right hip flexor still felt tighter than I knew it should which wasn’t a great sign.  I heard some runner say at some point that if you’re already feeling problems before mile 8 of a marathon you’re in real trouble.  Where did that leave me, given that I was already feeling muscle tightness before I started?  Anyway, not a very encouraging thought, but I decided to be positive.  Negative thinking would get me nowhere.

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Anna, Nick, and I staying as dry as possible before the race.  Those orange ponchos ROCKED!  And were only $4.

When our corral started off, I just focused on taking it slow-ish and fell into step with Anna.  The first couple of miles we were mainly hitting our pace.  We started out a little fast according to our GPS watches, but when we hit the 5km (3.1 mile) sign on the course, our watches showed that we’d gone 3.5 miles.

“It’s going to be a long course,” Anna said.  “That’s discouraging this early in the race.”

I agreed.  If it’s a long course (even if just by 0.4 miles) that tacks on extra minutes to your final time and make it harder to hit a sub 4 hour goal.

We kept running.  The first five miles or so was running around downtown Portland and the surrounding areas.  Then we started to head north towards St. John’s Bridge, and the rain started to come down harder.  My right hip flexor had progressed from tight to painful by this point (maybe because of the cold and rain?), but I was concentrating hard on keeping good running form, and the pain was manageable (unlike IT band pain which is basically impossible to run through).  One thing I have 100% learned during years of running is that good running form can help you run through a lot, and bad running form will absolutely lead to pain.  I knew that if my form suffered early in the race I would be in a lot of pain by the end.  Around mile 11, we passed Mike and I flashed him some bright smiles for the camera even though my hip flexor was painful and the rain was getting pretty old.

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Mile 11… still smiling.  And twinning.  Total coincidence that we both wore the same shirt!

Around mile 15 we started up a long slow hill taking us up to St. John’s Bridge.  We were running into a strong headwind, it was really rainy, and my hip flexor pain was starting to be harder to manage.  It was pretty clear at this point that Anna was having a better race day than I was, given my hip flexor.  She ran on ahead, and I stayed back, going at my own pace, knowing that if I kept below a 9 min/mile pace I’d finish under 4 hours, even given the long course.  The hill up to St. John’s Bridge was about a mile and a half long, but it actually felt pretty easy.  Yay for all the hill training I did in Seattle!  Running across the bridge, I was actually able to pick up my pace and my hip felt a little better.  Back to being tight instead of painful.

Once across the bridge, I hit mile 18 soon after and told myself at that point I only had 8 miles left and I just had to hang on to a 9 min/mile pace (normally really easy for me, but I was still feeling tightness in my hip).  The next two miles went by quickly and actually felt pretty pleasant.  The rain had backed off a little, so even though I was fully drenched, at least I wasn’t actively getting so much more drenched.

They say that the first half of the marathon is 20 miles and the second half is 6.2 miles.  It was with great trepidation that I hit mile 20. My hip flexor was back to being painful, and the 3:45 pace group passed me, so I knew my shot at a 3:45 time was gone (not that I was really fazed by that given that I was only shooting for a sub 4, but it was still a little discouraging).  Mile 21 was HARD.  Everything hurt.  The bottoms of my feet, there were twinges in both my IT bands, and my right hip flexor continued to be in pain.  And then Til I Collapse by Eminem came on my playlist.  I remembered running to that almost exactly 24 hours earlier and feeling so strong.  Time to keep running strong.  I picked up my pace a little and was thrilled to discover that mile 23 was mostly downhill and I managed an 8:12 min/mile pace.  Sub 4 hours was looking really attainable unless something really went wrong.  I was just about to the bridge that would cross the Willamette River back into downtown Portland.  I knew that at the end of the bridge, I would hit mile 25 (well, actually more like mile 25.5 because the course was too long), where Mike was planning to be stationed again with a camera.  I wanted to hit that point strong, but I was struggling during mile 24.  I had very little left.  Everything hurt (not just the hip flexor anymore), and I’d been pushing through rain and wind and pain for 3+ hours at that point.  But I knew I was going to finish.  And I knew I wanted to finish as strong as possible.  I crossed the bridge, holding on to my pace, and then saw Mike up ahead.  That gave me a boost, and I gave a bunch of happy smiles for the camera.

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Victory arms UP!  Only a mile to go!  Or, you know, a mile and half because of the long course.  Whatever.

It’s hilarious, because looking at those pictures from mile 25 it’s not at all clear that I was struggling to maintain pace.  I look surprisingly happy.

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At least my form at mile 25 was still great

And then I was past Mike and I had a little over a mile to go.  I had to stop quick once or twice just to stretch out my hip flexor for a second, but I made it through the last mile.  I kept waiting and waiting for the finish line to show up.  It didn’t show up and didn’t show up.  But Eye of the Tiger came on my playlist, which was more than enough to keep me moving.  My watch showed that I’d already gone 26.2 miles, but I knew I wouldn’t be done until mile 26.7 ish.  Finally I turned a corner and saw the race finish line and the giant LED digital clock.  The hour’s place still showed a ‘3’, and I knew I hadn’t started right when the clock started so I was going to come in under four hours easily.

I ended up crossing the finish line in 3:51:14.  Anna was about three minutes ahead of me with a time around 3:48, and her husband Nick had a blazingly fast, amazing race despite his head cold and ran a 3:24!  (For anyone interested in numbers, here are my final stats.)

I found them and the three of us collected our race medals, finisher’s shirts, and struggled back towards the hotel.  Ideally we would have hung out, waited for Mike, gotten him to take our pictures, celebrate in our successes, etc.  Practically, our legs were seizing up, my hip flexor now refused to contract at all, and it was continuing to rain and now that we were no longer moving we were drenched and chilled.  We limped back into the hotel, and Anna and Nick caught an Uber back to their hotel about a mile away and I forced my chilled, numb fingers to text Mike to let him know I was back at the hotel.  My hands were so cold that I had to put my race medal, bottle of water, and finisher’s shirt on the floor of the hotel so that I could use two hands to get the key card into the door slot.  Once inside, I struggled to get my drenched clothes off without flexing any of the muscles in my legs and then stepped into the hot shower.  Mike came back to the hotel a few minutes later, not quite as drenched, but still really wet.  Even his raincoat was completely drenched.  He had been out in the rain for so long that the rain literally penetrated the raincoat.  I didn’t know that could even happen, but Mike explained to me that rain coats are really just “water resistant”, not “water proof”.  Good to know!

After both Mike and I had taken hot showers we walked over to take a look at the indoor mall that was a few blocks from our hotel.  I was feeling surprisingly pretty good.  I had a bottle of water and was drinking regularly, but definitely felt like my sodium levels were out of whack.  I remembered that after my long training runs I typically ate soup, or something else high in sodium, and I hadn’t done that after this race.  Mike and I went to a middle eastern place in the food court and I ordered two fattoush side salads and also surreptitiously took 8 of their little salt packets.  I ate two salt packets just plain (yup, this is what being a runner does to you… you are completely oblivious to the strange stares you’re getting as you toss back salt packets in a mall food court), and I sprinkled the rest on my two side salads which I ate with gusto.

Although Mike and I were planning to stick around in Portland for an extra night, it remained so rainy that we were just kind of over the whole thing.  We were out of towels and out of soap in our hotel room after all our showers, and our wet clothes were dripping all over the bathroom floor from their spot on the shower curtain rod in the bathroom.

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Yup, pretty much sums up my thoughts

On the drive back, I was recapping part of the race to Mike.

“It was pouring rain, we were running into a headwind and up the hill to get us to St. John’s bridge, and my right hip flexor was in pain pretty much constantly even though it was only mile 15 and I had over 10 miles to go, and I was asking myself, Why am I doing this?

Mike’s eyebrows raised as he kept his eyes on the road.  After a brief pause he said, “And what did you come up with as a reason?  Because I can’t think of one.  I mean, sure… this time it was for the sub four hour time.  But what reason will you give next time?”

I sat back in the seat and tried to think of a good reason.  And I couldn’t come up with one.  I really couldn’t.  Not a single one.  I wasn’t even sure why the sub four hour time was important to me except that I’d started trying to hit that seven years ago.  It has something to do with the rush of accomplishment, of doing something today that seemed impossible yesterday, of breaking through self-imposed boundaries.  Ultimately, why does a man climb a mountain?  Because it’s there.  And maybe there is no other reason.

Quick addendum: The Portland Marathon officials actually came out and apologized for the long course a couple days after the race; it was a mistake on their part and they sent the runners through the wrong course in the first couple of miles that tacked on an extra 0.4 miles so they’re correcting everyone’s time.  I’m still waiting to hear my “new” official time.  Probably somewhere in the 3:48 vicinity.

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Filed under Pictures, Running, Weather

Already autumn! Scarves and rosebushes…

If you are reading this, you must be a very patient person who’s content to follow a blog for months without hearing so much as a peep from the author.  Either that or you are subscribed to the blog so you can forget it exists until an email pops up in your inbox letting you know that the author has finally awoken from her non-blogging insanity and has something new up for the world to see.

I’m not sure where to start with Mike’s and my busy summer.  At a high level: I’m almost done with marathon training for Portland (the race is this Sunday!), Mike has been doing lots of home improvement projects, my role at work has changed to being an engineering lead in addition to my old role, Mike’s work has morphed towards more of a systems engineering role, Mike can successfully grow rosebushes, and I have been cooking up all my CSA produce diligently every Sunday afternoon and haven’t let anything go bad.  Oh, yes, and Piper has another urinary infection (UTI’s for those of us who are very familiar with the acronyms at this point).

That’s our summer in a nutshell.

I mean, there are lots of other things I could say.  It was a beautiful summer.  Lots of warm, sunny days, lots of relaxing evenings at restaurants (well, one evening a week, which is what Mike and I usually keep ourselves to), time with friends, long hours running in sweat-soaked shirts (which has transitioned this fall to long hours running in rain-soaked shirts)… and so on.

So that’s a very high-level synopsis of our summer.  But what are we actually doing?  On a day-to-day basis?  In a way that doesn’t read like a resume of our lives and a list of events (since life is, after all, much more than a list of events or a series of checkboxes).

Let’s start with the small things.  Yesterday the weather turned suddenly and surprisingly cold and rainy.  Well, I was surprised anyway.  I probably don’t look at the weather report often enough.  I ended up going to work in a thin jacket on a cold, blustery, rainy day.  I made it to work, but when I went out to grab lunch I made the decision that I was not going to spend all afternoon frozen.  I made a beeline for the shopping district downtown and walked right into Nordstrom Rack with a hunch they would have a nice scarf to keep me warm.  Just inside the door was a rack filled with the fluffiest, most giant scarves I had ever seen (slight exaggeration, but only very slight).  And they were on sale.  Very rarely do things in life line up this nicely, but this time they did.  I grabbed a green striped one, and literally three minutes later I was on my way again with the widest, fluffiest, most giant scarf ever wrapped around my head and neck.  It was so fluffy, in fact, that I couldn’t bring myself to take it off when I got back to the office.  So I took my coat off, but continued to wear my fluffy scarf.  I got so many comments on my fluffy-scarfed appearance that afternoon that I lost count.  My favorite was from a co-worker who said I was morphing into a Babushka (read: Russian elderly woman).  Right.  On.  The.  Mark.  I refused to apologize for the scarf or take it off.  I let any of the doubters feel how fluffy it was, and pretty much had everyone convinced by the end of the day that it was the best scarf ever.  It shed green fluff all over my office chair and my nice, black coat, but there is a price that must be paid for warmth and I was more than willing to pay it.  :)

While I’m on the subject of winter-wear, I have two coats for this type of fall weather in Seattle, and I’ve been alternately wearing one or the other over the past couple of weeks just depending on which one I happen to grab off the coathook on my way out the door.  One of them has a hole in the left pocket, and the other has a hole in the right pocket.  It is a constant battle of memory to make sure that I remember which coat pocket has a hole in it on any given day.  If I’m not careful, I’ll wind up putting something in the coat pocket with a hole and it’ll fall out.  The struggle is real,  people!  (#firstworldproblems)  I am pretty sure that a less lazy person would just sew the holes shut, but that is apparently not how I roll.  I prefer to look at it as a test of my memory each day.  Let’s see… phone goes in the left pocket today.

Last summer was really hot and dry and one of our rosebushes out front died.  It was a yellow rosebush but I have never cared for yellow roses, so I asked Mike if we could replace it with a white one instead.  We went to Skye Nursery (the most amazing plant haven ever!!) and picked out an Icecap white rosebush early this spring.  Mike did a bunch of research on planting rosebushes, even though I told him that all he had to do was dig a hole in the ground and stick the rosebush in it.  Technically he didn’t even need to dig a hole, since the hole was already there from the previous dead rosebush.  However, Mike persevered and planted the skinny little stalk in the perfect way at the perfect depth with the perfect potting soil, and that thing has thrived!!  It is putting all of the other rosebushes to shame and is still brightly and proudly blooming with a bunch of blossoms now while all the other rosebushes have lost their blooms for the winter.  It’s such a little beacon of whiteness from the front of the house.  I love it!!  So, in case there was any question on the matter, Mike can grow rosebushes.  Awesome rosebushes that put all other rosebushes to shame.  (And this surprises exactly no one who knows Mike.)

And what about the bigger things that are slightly more impactful than rosebushes and scarves (although honestly I feel like those are two very impactful things in my life)?

Let me talk about work.  I’m a software development engineer in test (which means pretty much exactly nothing to someone not familiar with the software field).  What I do isn’t really important, especially not to talk about on a blog.  But I do want to talk a little bit about what I’ve been working on this summer, because I’ve been working a lot on team development which is something that is a lot more relevant to most people than most parts of my job.  We had a big re-organization around the first of the year which resulted in four new teams.  A few months later, I was moved to being the engineering lead for one of the teams.  New teams are a funny thing.  All of the people on the team are trying to get a sense of where they add value, what areas they are the subject matter expert in, how to interact with all of the other team members, etc.  Bottom line: no one’s very comfortable.  Everyone’s trying to figure out the new team dynamics.  I felt a little ill-equipped to lead a team, especially a newly-formed team, since management really isn’t my thing.  It was a lot of work…. figuring out how to be a team lead, how to prepare and report weekly status, working with the program manager for my team to define priorities, estimate engineering effort and complexity for each month, serve as a buffer and decision maker for the team, make sure everyone on the team stayed focused on the right priorities, and helping all of the team members find their niche on the new team.  But the really cool part is that I feel like we are there.  When I watch the team interact in meetings, I love what I see.  All of the team members feel comfortable enough to speak up, voice concerns, have disagreements in a respectful and sometimes humorous way, no one is afraid to admit when they’re wrong, and everyone is a subject matter expert in some areas.  It makes me feel really proud of them.  And a little bit proud of myself because I feel like I helped facilitate that.  I helped create that environment where everyone feels free to speak up and everyone has a place.  In our quarterly meeting with all of the leads and managers, the manager of the program managers said that he had taken time to speak one-on-one with each member of the engineering team, and that they were all happy and feeling good about the team and about their work.  My manager attributed that to me (not strictly true, of course, because I had a great group of people to start out with… but even so, it seems as though I’m doing something right in this “engineering lead” role).  So, anyway, finally I’m able to talk about some of my work that isn’t just relegated to being some “technical” stuff that no one’s interested in hearing about.  ;)

And of course, lots of running for me this summer training for the Portland Marathon!  Some pictures from my runs:

Sailboats on Lake Union!

Sailboats on Lake Union!

 

Aurora Bridge

Aurora Bridge

 

Near University Bridge

Near University Bridge

 

Evening run....

Evening run….

 

Early morning run

Early morning run

 

Watching all the crew boats out practicing on Saturday morning on the lake

Watching all the crew boats out practicing on Saturday morning on the lake

 

From this morning's run.  :)

From this morning’s run.🙂

 

In case you weren’t aware, I seriously live in the most gorgeous city… these cityscapes just never get old for me.  :)

I also participated in the Girls Who Code program that Groupon hosted in Seattle this summer.  It’s a program that teaches high school aged girls how to code.

A picture of me and my mentee from the Girls Who Code program.  Love this girl!!  (P.S. Why do I always wrinkle my nose like crazy when I'm smiling??  I look like I'm grimacing!)  ;)A picture of me and my mentee from the Girls Who Code program.  Love this girl!!  (P.S. Why do I always wrinkle my nose like crazy when I'm smiling??  I look like I'm grimacing!)  ;)

A picture of me and my mentee from the Girls Who Code program. Love this girl!! (P.S. Why do I always wrinkle my nose when I’m smiling?? I look like I’m grimacing!)😉

 

Speaking of things I love… these two top the list!

LOVE!!  :)

LOVE!!🙂

 

And speaking of Piper… what would a blog post be without a couple cute pics?

In the sun...

Upside down in the sun…

 

On a kitchen chair...

On a kitchen chair…

 

On a laptop getting cat hair deep into the keyboard...

On a laptop getting cat hair deep into the keyboard…

 

I’ll also include a couple pics of my work in the kitchen so that everyone actually believes I’m still cooking regularly.  :)

Cooking up pasta sauce and sauteed greens.  Soup is simmering in the pot on the back of the stove.  I'm definitely a multitasker!

Cooking up pasta sauce and sauteed greens. Soup is simmering in the pot on the back of the stove. I’m definitely a multitasker!

 

Prepping veggies!

Prepping veggies!

 

Piper likes to oversee my work from the kitchen windowsill.  She makes sure I get the job done right.

Piper likes to oversee my work from the kitchen windowsill. She makes sure I get the job done right.

 

On a completely unrelated note, Mike discovered this fall that he actually likes pumpkin beer despite not liking pumpkin (although, really, who doesn’t like pumpkin?  It’s basically just like squash and what’s not to like about squash??), so we’ve had our share of pumpkin beer around the house this fall.  I think it’s really helping Mike get into the “autumn spirit”.  How is it already almost Halloween?  The holidays will be here before we know it!  There are only three weeks left of the CSA produce, which is a little crazy.  It feels like I just started getting deliveries.

On another note, Mike has been taking bunches of pictures with his camera so that he’s all prepared for taking pictures at the marathon this weekend!  Hopefully he’ll get pics of me, my friend, and her husband since we’re all running.  In all likelihood my friend and I will run the race together and her husband will run on ahead because he’s speedier.  Mike’s all prepped with his camera to get good action shots!  And this will be a good trial run of being gone for a night or two away from Piper, since we’ll be away for five nights going back to Michigan later this month.  Hoping that she does fine with us gone and just the cat sitter coming in to take care of her and give her the daily fluids!

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Halfway through 2016! (How did that happen so fast?!?)

Here we are in the second half of 2016… wow, has time ever flown by!  And I have not been very consistent with writing on my blog (major understatement).  I have missed writing on it, but somehow I am always. doing. something.  Almost literally.  I keep thinking of things I would like to write on my blog, but then never take the time to actually write them.  So what have Mike and I been up to that I am apparently never at my computer long enough to write a blog post these days?

Well, for starters, Mike has continued to be busy with travel here and there and that keeps both of us on our toes (always prepping for him either coming or going).  It looks like that’s finally going to slow down a little which will be nice.  It’s getting difficult to keep explaining to Piper why her best friend is gone.

"I'll lay on top of you so that you can't go anywhere."

“I’ll lay on top of you so that you can’t go anywhere.”

 

I’ve also been continuing my running, and my running buddy and I had a great half marathon three weeks ago!

A 1:45 half marathon!

A 1:45 half marathon!  If we look happy it’s because we ARE!  :)

 

We’ve signed up for a full marathon in Portland in the fall and are really excited!  We’re planning to train together through the summer… we have both helped each other become much faster over the past couple of months.

I also picked up boxing several months ago and am kind of in love.  I’ve been taking 2-3 classes a week for the past three months, so at this point I’m committed.  I ordered my own pair of boxing gloves so that I can stop using the gym’s.  I ordered them partially because it’s time to take my boxing relationship to the next level and partly because my mom thinks it’s the funniest thing in the world that I’m learning to box and she wants a picture of me in Rocky shorts wearing my boxing gloves.  I’m way too embarrassed to ask someone in my boxing class to take a picture of me with my gloves on (like… do I think I’m Floyd Mayweather or something??), but if I have my own gloves Mike can take my picture himself.  Anyway, the boxing gloves are on the way, with a picture of boxing Karena to follow in the near future.

Mike and I also finally started an herb garden on our roof!  We carried tons of soil and heavy planters up to our roof.  And by “we”, I mean “Mike”.  I carried nothing.  I’m a boxer and a runner, not a weight lifter.  ;)

 "Any more sixty pound bags you need me to carry up THREE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS??"

“Any more sixty pound bags you need me to carry up THREE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS??”  Good thing this man lifts weights.

 

For the first round of the herb garden, I only planted basil, silver thyme, parsley, and rosemary.

Garden Project: Phase 1

Garden Project: Phase 1

 

Round 2 occurred when the nursery we go to had a Fourth of July sale… 40% off all herbs!!

Garden Project: Phase 2

Garden Project: Phase 2

Phase two consisted of one additional (and healthier-looking) basil plant, golden thyme, oregano, and mint.  The mint is in a separate pot in the planter because apparently that’s how you do mint so that it doesn’t take over all of your other herbs.

Mike and I also picked up hiking!  We went on a big hike up Mount Si over the Fourth of July weekend.  Eight miles roundtrip!  The website says that he first four are solely uphill, and Mike and I can vouch for that.  Four miles steadily and steeply uphill!!

Our shoes are ready for some trail miles! Eight, to be exact.

Our shoes are ready for some trail miles! Eight, to be exact.

 

The drive to Mount Si was only 45 minutes… so close!!  It was also very cloudy, but we figured that climbing a mountain is probably better on a cool, cloudy day than on a hot, sunny day.

The drive to Mount Si

The drive down I-90 to Mount Si

 

The sun actually ended up coming out, but the trail was almost entirely shaded by all of the big, old trees.  The hike was amazingly beautiful.

Lots of gorgeous, old trees!

Lots of gorgeous, old trees!

 

It's a looooong way up to those treetops! (But don't worry... we surpassed those treetops by a long way before we reached the top of the climb.

It’s a looooong way up to those treetops! (But don’t worry… we surpassed those treetops by a long way before we reached the top of the climb).

 

The view from the top was amazing.

I don't know about you, but this is why I climb mountains.

I don’t know about you, but this is why I climb mountains.  Otherwise I’d just, you know, box.

 

In other completely and totally random news, I have picked up adult coloring.  Has anyone heard of this as a thing??  The pictures have much finer levels of detail than children’s coloring books (and thus require more work to stay inside the lines).  Apparently it’s good for your mental health too.  Bonus!  I find it relaxing to sit down with my uber adult, detailed coloring book and colored pencils.  And tell myself it’s way more adult than what I did when I was five.  ;)

For the Fourth of July, Mike and I didn’t watch the fireworks (even though they shoot them off about a mile from our house so we really should have gone).  But I was really busy coloring and Mike was looking up record players online, so it was pretty hard for us to justify leaving our house.  We did go over to a friend’s house who was having a dinner party earlier in the day, though, and that was so much fun!  It is blueberry season here in Washington, so there were loads of fresh blueberries on sale at the grocery store.  So I ended up making blueberry bars to bring, and they were well-received.  :)  We ate outdoors because it was so nice outside, but it got colder as it got darker so then we all ended up inside for dessert.

In addition to looking up record players, Mike has been busy helping me with the herb garden.  (It’s a good thing someone was strong enough to carry all those bags of soil to the roof, because Piper and I certainly weren’t.)  He’s also been researching lighting fixtures because he wants to add light to our kitchen and put up a pendent light in the kitchen.  I helped select the pendent light, and then I’m staying out of it.  This is definitely a Mike kind of project.

Also, we finished watching this season of Game of Thrones.  And by the way, for a season that was as ho-hum as this season, it sure went out with a bang!!  I will NOT post any spoilers, but oh my gosh!  That final episode of this season had my jaw dropping after the first twenty minutes.

So, long story short, things are plugging along here.  Mike, Piper, and I are enjoying the summer.  Well, we mostly are.  Piper has another UTI, but at least this one can be treated with pills instead of daily injected antibiotics like last time.  And so it goes.  That poor girl.  She’s a lot crankier when she has a UTI, though, so she’s been a little difficult to live with lately.  Even more queenly and intolerant than her normal queenly and intolerant self.  :)

Our first CSA produce delivery is next week, so I’m very excited for some new cooking inspiration from all of the farm fresh produce… I literally can’t wait!  I’m so excited that I texted Mike in the middle of the workday to let him know that I was excited.  Clearly I only communicate about important matters.  ;)

And work continues to be busy for both Mike and me.  Mike is doing some work that he finds more interesting these days, so that’s nice.  And work is really busy for me too.  I somehow managed to get myself promoted again, this time to technical lead for my team.  I keep thinking about that phrase about everyone getting promoted to their own level of incompetence (is that something from Dilbert and the pointy-haired boss?  Where did I hear that phrase?).  I keep feeling like I’m going to hit that point soon if I haven’t already.  That point where I’m out of my depth and am just being incompetent at my job and really need to be demoted to get to a productive point again.

And that’s our life in a nutshell these days!  Hope everyone had a wonderful Fourth and is looking forward to the second half of 2016!

Happy 4th from my queen cat who likes to sit on dining room chairs, but only dining room chairs that have towels on them.

Happy 4th from my cranky queen-cat who likes to sit on dining room chairs, but only dining room chairs that have towels on them.

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Spring in Seattle

So let’s talk running.  I haven’t talked a lot about running in the past few blog posts, but my running has been going really well.  As in… I have never been this fast.  A friend and I ran a 15k (~9.3 mile) race last week, and we averaged a 7:45min/mile pace.  I typically don’t even run that fast for a 5k, much less a 15k.  And it’s crazy how it all seems relatively effortless.  I’ve been trying to think what might have changed, and I’ve really only changed one thing since my running started improving so radically over the past few months.  I (finally!!) took the advice of a naturopath doctor I went to two years ago who told me that my body had trouble processing B-12, and recommended a special B-12 supplement for people with the MTHFR genetic mutation (which apparently a big percentage of the population, including me, has).  Since anemia is also a symptom of B-12 deficiency, maybe this supplement will also stop the on-and-off again anemia I’ve had forever?  Regardless, the B complex vitamins affect energy levels strongly, so maybe my body finally has some methylated B-12 at its disposal and has energy to burn?  So I’m speculating that the B-12 levels are what’s making the difference in my running.

Regardless, my friend and I had a great race last weekend!!

After the race in front of Lake Union!

After the race in front of Lake Union… notice the Space Needle to the right of my head

Oh!  And in other super-fun-fitness news, a new fitness studio opened up very near our house, and they offer a wide variety of classes.  I was instantly intrigued by the boxing class they offered so I started taking that.  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  So much fun!!  I literally love it!  The hour long class just flies by without me noticing it.  The first half of the class is warm-up/conditioning (so things like holding a plank pose, jumping rope, etc).  The second half we get on our wrist wraps and gloves and hit heavy bags.  HOW HAVE I NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE??  It is absolutely a blast!  So now I’m trying to do that Monday evenings and Saturday mornings.  I’ve done cardio kickboxing before, but this is actual boxing where they talk about keeping your hands in guard position to avoid getting hit by your opponent and stuff.  It’s so much fun, and the instructor is so patient and helpful.  I already bought my own wrist wraps and I feel like a ‘real’ boxer of the Simon and Garfunkel variety walking to class carrying them, even though in reality I’m completely a beginner and still forget not to pull my elbow back before going in for an uppercut and forget my footwork as soon as I start doing punching combinations.  :)

Lest anyone think that I have a corner on the fitness-fun market, Mike faithfully goes to the gym twice a week and lifts very, very heavy weights.  I tried to get him to come to boxing with me, but he literally can’t understand the joy of hitting something hard.  I get out of work on Monday and can’t wait to get to boxing class where I can pound the living daylights out of a heavy bag, but Mike just doesn’t get that.  He wants to go to the gym and deadlift and benchpress 150+ pounds, which sounds like a huge nightmare to me.  So each to his own, right?  :)

Since we’re on a fitness roll, I’ll continue on this theme for another paragraph.  :)  Now that I’m a registered yoga teacher and a certified personal trainer, I have twice the continuing education credits to rack up every couple of years so that I can renew both.  And before you ask… no, you can’t use the same credits for both.  That would make life too easy.  :)  So I’m currently taking a class for renewing the PT certification in Corrective Exercise.  It’s a fascinating class and is making me a lot more aware of my own movements and the movements of those around me.  I’m literally finding myself riding in the car with Mike and commenting on a jogger running by who has a hip hike and a knee abduction going on that probably indicates a tight IT band and a weak gluteus maximus.  Mike patiently puts up with me.  :)

Speaking of the nice weather (was I??), it has been amazing!  The Saturday and Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend were really wet and windy and I got caught in a downpour during my long run.  I literally walked in the door soaking wet.

Running in the rain.  But with gorgeous purple flowers!

Running in the rain. But with gorgeous purple flowers!

However, starting on Memorial Day the weather has just been wonderful!  The weather has been in the high 70’s/low 80’s with just enough of a breeze to keep things cool and keep our house from overheating.

Watching sailboats on Lake Union last week with our neighbors!

Watching sailboats on Lake Union last week with our neighbors!

 

While watching sailboats, I got friendly with a couple of ducks...

While watching sailboats, I got friendly with a couple of ducks…

Piper of course loves the sun, and quite frankly Mike and I are loving it too.  We have been grilling at least once a week for the past month… we’ve already grilled our standard favorites multiple times.  We’ve grilled lots of corn, potatoes, and kale, and have also done some sweet potatoes and a pepper and onion mix.  And for the carnivores among us, we have also done chicken and beef franks and hamburgers.  And all of our leftover food always gets eaten!  Every last nibble.  Yum!!  We are definitely enjoying the grill so far this summer!

The first time we grilled franks this summer, I was trying to explain to Mike the trick to making sure they got brown all the way around and Mike just looked at me like I was crazy.

I paused.  “Do you already know how to do this?”

“I know how to do everything,” Mike replied, somewhat imperiously.  “There are multiple ways to do things and I know them all.”

Well, you can’t get much more of a grill master than that.  ;)

So, while our summer is off to a great start, it has been busy!  Mike was in California on business part of last week and thought he was going to be gone this week as well but it’s been pushed out so it will be next week instead.  So with the unpredictability of his travel it’s really difficult to plan anything.  That’s been a little draining for him, and my job has been really busy which has been a little draining for me.  I basically got promoted to senior level right when we had a department-wide reorganization and, being one of the few senior engineers in the department, I’m expected to be one of the driving forces in the new organization.  Hmm… tall order!  :)

Basically I think Mike and I are ready for a vacation but haven’t really decided how to handle that since Piper basically needs daily injections.  I think a perfect example of where we’re at mentally is when I was making Mike scrambled eggs and toast for dinner tonight.  When I cracked the eggs, they seemed thinner-shelled than normal, and I said, “hmm”.  Mike instantly picked up on that.

“Is there something wrong with the eggs?”

“No, no,” I assured him.  “They’re fine.”

Mike looked at me, kind of tired and 100% not convinced.  “Can I have a normal egg?  I’m not in the mood to weather a weird egg.”

And that’s where we are at, I think.  Totally fine but not in the mood to weather any weird eggs.  :)

In frivolous, uninteresting news, I got a bright pink workout tank top on sale.  I mean really bright pink.  Like… almost iridescent.  It looked fine online, but… in person it’s a little intense.  When I wear it I feel like I’m basically screaming for people to look at me, which I don’t really like.  Also, I was doing sit-ups while wearing it, and the towel I had underneath my back turned pink.  So basically I now know that I can’t wash it with anything else or it will bleed neon pink over everything.  #firstworldproblems!  What is the lesson for me to learn here?  ;)  Don’t buy workout shirts on sale?  At least not sight unseen?  Or only buy innocuous colors that can’t bleed over anything?  (Incidentally, I’ve tried that, but then I end up with pale grey shirts that I have to worry about everything else bleeding other colors onto.  At least the neon pink shirt holds its own… I have no fear that it will turn any other color in the laundry other than that extremely loud boisterous neon pink.

In other frivolous news, I read an article that eating pickles and pickle juice after running helps rebalance sodium levels.  Apparently vinegar is also really good for helping lower inflammation in your body after a run.  Any excuse to eat pickles and pickle juice, right?  Am I right??  Well, Mike doesn’t think so.  Mike can’t stand pickles and isn’t a fan of this new trend I’m trying.  He claims I smell like pickles the rest of the day.  One day I came home from boxing and ate some pickles and Mike, always creative in coming up with less-than-flattering nicknames, pronounced me a “boxing pickle-nose”.  So that’s my current nickname around the house.  Lucky me.  I still don’t have as many nicknames as Piper though.  I literally couldn’t count all of them.  I think the only reason Piper hasn’t learned the entire English language is because she’s kept busy just keeping track of all of the new nicknames we have been giving her over the years.

In other news, one of our rose bushes died over the winter, so a month ago Mike put in a new one.

Can you guess which one Mike put in?  If you guessed the super thriving looking one, you are RIGHT!

Can you guess which one Mike put in? If you guessed the super thriving looking white one, you are RIGHT!

 

One more thing this guy can do... grow roses...

One more thing this guy can do… grow roses…

Already Wednesday evening… on to the weekend!  Mike and I have a cooking class this weekend which should be fun called “Cooking without Recipes”.  I think that’s the next step for me in my cooking development… relying less on recipes.

I hope everyone is enjoying the start to the summer!

Puget Sound from my office building... gorgeous!

Puget Sound from my office building… gorgeous!

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Winnie-the-Pooh and brown sugar bears

We have been having the most gorgeous weather in Seattle!  On Friday it was 82 degrees and sunny… perfect for being outdoors!  I went on a run Friday morning with the run group I’m part of, and the weather was literally the best running weather ever!  After work, Mike and I definitely took advantage of it and walked down to downtown Fremont and went to Eve, a new restaurant that opened a couple of months ago!  It was our first time there, and it was a really fun, relaxing evening.  On Saturday morning the weather was still ok and I went for an 11 mile run in the morning, but by the afternoon it was cloudy and rainy so Mike and I drove around running errands.  We were cold and a little wet, so around noon we stopped for lunch in Everett at a Thai restaurant that Mike recommended and it was so good!!  Mike had the green curry with chicken and I had the yellow curry with veggies and the food was so good!  I had them spice my food to a level 5 (according to the menu 5 was VERY VERY spicy, but fortunately it was all good.  Typically Thai food isn’t uber spicy, and a 5 star Thai spice is nothing like a 5 star Indian spice (which would probably kill me on the spot).  It was so nice to have traffic back to normal this weekend!  For the past week or two all of the traffic in Seattle has pretty much been at a standstill because one of our only two north/south highways was closed.  The WA-99 viaduct is hard for me to explain, but this wikipedia article does a good job.

Life has been busy these days!  Mike’s job has been keeping him busy and he’s still got business trips to California about every other week, so we’re always thinking about the next trip to the airport.  He’s also been cleaning out his office room and selling stuff on ebay/craigslist and getting that room more livable.  Work has been really busy for me too, and my manager is out for a couple weeks which definitely makes everything busier.  I’ve also been studying for the NASM corrective exercise specialist certification in the evenings/weekends.  That will let me renew my personal trainer certification for the next renewal cycle, and it’s awesome knowledge both for my own fitness and for the yoga teaching I’ve been doing.  Basically, the goal of the course is to learn how people’s muscle imbalances manifest themselves, how they can get injured as a result, and how to correct the imbalances through targeted exercises.  I’m finding it fascinating, and it’s a good review of all the muscles in the quadriceps and hamstrings muscle groups… somehow I never seem to remember all of the muscles in those groups.  :)

I’m also still spending time taking care of little Piper!  I’m now giving her fluids and a pill every day and putting special phosphor-reducing powder stuff on her food daily.  She’s doing really well on the new plan, though, so that’s great.  She definitely was enjoying the hot sunny weather last week and spent lots of time on the couch in the sun!  :)

Happy Sun-Cat

Happy Sun-Cat

I’ve also been doing cooking on the weekends.  The past two weekends Mike and I did a lot of grilling… yum!  The first weekend, I baked up parmesan chicken and Mike grilled corn, potatoes wrapped in foil, and a foil packet of chopped green peppers and onions.  The second weekend, Mike grilled beef franks, corn, and sweet potatoes, and I made baked beans from scratch (including soaking the navy beans the night before, boiling them, slow cooking them, etc).  The baked beans turned out pretty well, but honestly I was a little underwhelmed.  I mean they were fine, but honestly canned/boxed baked beans are really just as good.  Maybe because they make them in such a bulk process that they’ve totally got everything figured out??  Regardless, it was fun making them from scratch for once, but I don’t think that will be our new norm.  ;)

This weekend it was too rainy to grill so I cooked up some roasted veggies and some chicken risotto.  I’m thinking about making up a lentil veggie soup for me too, but haven’t decided yet.  I still have some leftovers to finish up!

In other cooking news, I was really looking forward to getting CSA vegetables this spring, but the farm I’ve been going through the past couple of years isn’t offering a CSA this year.  :(  So I’m going to try a new CSA and hope that it’s as good.  The one I’m going to try doesn’t start until early July, though, so I’m going to have to buy my own produce at the grocery store for another month and a half.

In other news, I’m afraid I lost my brown sugar bear.  If you aren’t familiar with brown sugar bears, you are either completely missing out or you have never used brown sugar.  Basically, the brown sugar bear is a terra cotta, clay-looking bear that you soak in water and then put in your opened bag of brown sugar.  And somehow the brown sugar absorbs the water from the brown sugar bear and then it stays moist instead of getting super hard.  I am in general not a fan of really specific kitchen utensils and prefer more general purpose ones, but I 100% make an exception for the brown sugar bear.  This thing is magic and awesome.  When I told Mike I lost my brown sugar bear, he looked at me skeptically.

“Where could you have possibly lost it?”

What I didn’t particularly want to admit to, is that I had a feeling it was still in my bag of brown sugar but had gotten buried and was no longer visible.  One of my to-do items today is to sift through my brown sugar looking for the bear.  Because honestly if it’s not in the brown sugar I have no idea where it is.  I noticed that in the Amazon link for purchasing the brown sugar that I linked to above, there’s an option for buying a set of two brown sugar bears.  That makes me wonder if I’m not alone in losing the bear.  Maybe it’s a common thing for it to become buried in brown sugar and stay “lost” until a great deal of brown sugar is consumed and it surfaces again.  Either that, or it’s common for people to have two open bags of brown sugar and need one brown sugar bear for each bag?  I would scoff at this idea except that I happen to have two open bags of brown sugar right now (I opened one at some point without realizing I already had an open one.  This is compounding my lost brown sugar bear problem because I’m going to have to sift through two bags of brown sugar looking for it.).

Mike spent some time on the landscaping last weekend and he was intensely precise with spreading beauty bark (aka mulch) around the rose bushes.  I argued that he shouldn’t have to be such a perfectionist with everything he does and that the quality of the beauty bark spread wasn’t worth his time.

“I can’t help being drawn to quality,” he said, his head near the base of the rose bush.  Then, after a pause, he turned to look up at me with a roguish smile.  “That’s what drew me to you.”

I opened my mouth to respond and then shut it again.  Well.  Hmm.  Hard to argue with that logic.  That took the wind out of my sails, even though I know Mike well enough to know that he was just trying to get me on his side about the importance of the mulch around the rose bush roots.  ;)  In other news, though, the new rose bush Mike planted looks great and has some lovely roses on it!

Gorgeous!!

Gorgeous!!

Piper has been such a lap cat lately!  Maybe because the weather has been warmer, she’s been less active and has spent more time lounging in our laps.  As I type this, she is literally lying with her rump in my left elbow and her chin on top of my right wrist.  In case you’re wondering, yes, that makes typing difficult.  ;)  However, when I try to get a picture of her and me together, she still always tries to get away.  She is so photogenic, but hates getting her picture taken!

The look on Piper's face is priceless!

The look on Piper’s face is priceless!

What I’m listening to lately: Everything.  Music from the 60’s through 2016.  For some inexplicable reason I have been coming back to the Smashing Pumpkins pretty regularly and have been listening to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness at least a few times a week.  I’m not sure why.  For some reason their music has been resonating with me lately.  Also, did anyone notice that Kygo came out with a new album on Friday?  Most of the songs had already been released as singles, but it is still worth a listen if you’re a Kygo fan (which I kind of am… not a rabid fan, but a reasonable fan.  Is there such a thing?)  :)

Completely unrelated to anything else, Mike and I got in a Winnie-the-Pooh discussion yesterday.  I love Winnie-the-Pooh but Mike wanted to know what is up with a bear who only wears a shirt and no pants and who is called ‘the Pooh’.  What’s ‘the Pooh’?  I tried to convince Mike (unsucessfully) that the books were better than the cartoons but I didn’t succeed.  And honestly I haven’t read those books in so long that maybe they’re actually not good and I only remember them as being good.  Who knows?  :)  Any strong thoughts one way or the other on Winnie-the-Pooh?

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Filed under Cats, Cooking, CSA, Food, Life in Seattle, Pictures, Weather, Work

Cooking, running, and filtering

Spring (summer?) finally came to Seattle this past weekend!  We were getting temps in the 70’s and everything was sunny and warm!  It has been so nice that I have been walking some extra blocks before catching the bus so that I can enjoy the weather longer.

Mike and I had probably our most relaxing weekend in recorded history.  For once we had nothing that needed to be done… only minimal chores.  I ended up going for a run on Saturday morning and inadvertently ran into a race.  It was actually a race that I had considered running and then decided against.  So I got to run part of it anyway.  :)  About the most ambitious thing we did was get a car wash.  Our car was literally coated in pollen, so a carwash definitely seemed appropriate.  Unfortunately we neglected to take into account that there’s still plenty of pollen floating around the air, so by the following morning our car was covered with pollen again.

We went out Friday night and went downtown to the Belltown neighborhood and had a blast.

We walked past the new biospheres that Amazon is building downtown so that Mike could show them to me.

Mike and biodomes

Mike and biospheres

 

We also went out to eat at a really nice pizza place that had an amazing bar!

Pizza and old-fashioneds.... yum!

Pizza and old-fashioned’s…. yum!

I have been doing a lot of cooking lately.  This weekend I made chicken parmesan with spaghetti squash and carrot cumin coconut soup.   I also cooked up some acorn squash and roasted up some vegetables.  I had made the carrot soup before, so I knew how amazing it was.  I did one weird thing making it though.  I decided I wanted it to be more brothy and less lentil-y this time than last time so I decided to add more broth.  However, I wanted to keep the cumin and coriander proportions right, so I ended up doubling the amounts of everything that went into the soup except for the lentils.  After I had doubled the carrots, garlic, celery, and onion I stopped to think about it and realized it would have been much easier to just make the recipe as-is and halve the amount of lentils rather than double the entire receipe except for the lentils.  Oh well!  It’s so good that I definitely don’t mind having the extra soup!

The chicken parmesan was another story.  It was full of unknowns.  I’ll start at the beginning.  The natural foods grocery store that we go to offers a lot of cooking classes (a couple a week).  Mike and I signed up for one called “Mastering the Pan” that showed you how to sautee, sear, and other pan-related techniques.  The class was so much fun!  It was a hands-on class where we all helped out chopping things up and cooking them under the instructor’s direction.  The instructor for the class is actually a chef, and he was extremely knowledgeable!  He was so knowledgeable that I trusted (almost) everything he said about cooking.  Well, one of the things he said is that you should always use stainless steel pans rather than non-stick.  He said that when you burn something or something sticks to the pan when you’re using a stainless steel pan, it’s not the pan’s fault… it’s the cook’s fault.  As someone who has only had a few brushes with stainless steel pan cooking, I felt like he was talking directly at me.  He taught us how to gauge the heat of the pan by listening to the oil and other techniques for cooking with stainless steel pans.  As it happens I have a nice stainless steel pan, but have mostly been too afraid to use it because whenever I cook with it, it seems as though everything sticks to it.  So I decided that I should put my new cooking skills to use while they were fresh in my mind, which was why I decided on the chicken parmesan receipe.  It involved pan searing chicken followed by baking the chicken in the oven, which was exactly like one of the things we’d done in the class.  So it felt mostly within my comfort zone.  I was intimidated enough by the whole pan searing in a stainless steel pan thing that I cut and chopped all the vegetables for the recipe and prepared the breading for the chicken before I even so much as turned the stovetop on.  Then with bated breath, I turned on my burner, liberally poured some oil in the bottom of the pan, and waited anxiously to see the oil form ‘legs’, a term we had learned in class that meant the oil was forming lines moving vertically up the sides of the pan and was ‘medium-high’ heat.

“Hey,” Mike said.  “Why is your pan starting to smoke?  Do you have the heat on too high?”

I had been so intent watching for ‘legs’ that I had barely noticed the smoking.  I stared at my pan, trying to figure out why it was smoking so much more than the instructor’s pan.  As I glanced at my bottle of olive oil on the counter, understanding dawned on me.

“I used olive oil,” I said, slightly ashamed that I had already forgotten that the instructor had specified that olive oil is not good for searing because it’s not a high heat oil.

“That’s not a high heat oil.  It smokes,” Mike said.  “You better open the windows and get that off the stovetop before our smoke alarms start going off.”

Yup.  And time to find the sunflower oil.

Fifteen minutes later I had cleaned and dried my pan, rid the kitchen of smoke, and was ready for round two against the stainless steel pan.  Did I say ‘against’?  I meant ‘with’.  Clearly.

I dunked the chicken in my egg mixture and then in the breading.  Then I tossed the first three pieces into the pan.  First of all: don’t ‘toss’ chicken into a pan with hot oil on it.  I got a few oil drops on my legs and it wasn’t the best feeling I’ve ever had.  Then I went to prep the other pieces of chicken in the breading mixture.  That only took me a few minutes, but before I had even finished, Mike spoke up again from behind me.

“Is the chicken burning?  It looks like it is.  Remember this isn’t like in the class where we were searing chicken with the skin on.  This is skinless chicken breast with a breading on it.  Searing chicken skin takes a lot longer than browning a breading.”

The chicken was burning.  I whisked it out of the pan and onto a baking sheet.  I carefully inspected it.  The side in contact with the pan was darker than desired, but it was still ok.  I stuck it back in the pan, turning the other side down to sear (this time making sure that I only let it sear for a minute or two).  Then I popped the whole set of chicken pieces in the oven.

And realized that I was kind of left with a mess.  Searing chicken in a pan results in lots of pops of oil that render your stovetop kind of a mess.  I had pretty much decided that I was done with the whole stainless steel pan experiment (it was fun while it lasted… it’s not you, stainless steel pan; it’s me!).  But then Mike tried the chicken.  And he really liked it!  And had seconds.  And then thirds!  Unprecedented!

So, I think I need to keep the stainless steel pan along the sidelines, ready to come to my aid for the occasional seared or sautéed dish that can benefit from some heavy heat.

You’re probably wondering what Mike was doing all the time I was cooking (besides showing up occasionally to let me know what I was doing wrong… I swear he has like a sixth sense when I don’t know what I’m doing.  He never hangs around when I’m cooking stuff like veggies that he knows I can handle in my sleep.).

Well, Mike was installing a water filter inline with our refrigerator so that the water and ice cubes that come from our refrigerator are now FILTERED.

This was my idea (so that we can have the clearest, cleanest water possible), and Mike spent like a month researching how to do it and the best filters and everything, and then he got ready to work.

Every conceivable tool. Actually, not every conceivable tool. I've been in Tool World in Lowes and Home Depot way too many times to think these are the only conceivable tools.

Every conceivable tool. Actually, not every conceivable tool. I’ve been in Tool World in Lowes and Home Depot way too many times to think these are the only conceivable tools.

 

He also got out all the flanges and bolts and screws and farrells he needed.

Bolts and screws and... yeah. Lots of stuff.

Bolts and screws and… yeah. Lots of stuff.

And then he got to work hard-core.

Working hard. And thoroughly. And one-track-mindedly. I couldn't get him to respond much during this time.

Working hard. And thoroughly. And one-track-mindedly. I couldn’t get him to respond much during this time.

 

Piper wondered what all the cooking and plumbing fuss was about.

Actually she didn’t wonder at all.  She napped in the sun.

SO much more fun than working!

SO much more fun than working!

 

And eventually Mike had an awesome setup and the filter project was finished!

A filter! And a water regulator and a gauge. Because what's the use of anything if you can't measure it?

A filter! And a water pressure regulator and a gauge. Because what’s the use of anything if you can’t measure it?

 

I finished cooking way before Mike finished, so I went on a run in the gorgeous weather and saw lots of cool stuff.

This flowering tree had the most beautiful flowers! No idea what kind of tree it was...

This flowering tree had the most beautiful flowers! No idea what kind of tree it was…

 

This St. Bernard puppy is already as tall as my knee and already weighs like four times what Piper weighs. SO CUTE!

This St. Bernard puppy is as tall as my knee and already weighs four times what Piper weighs. SO CUTE!

 

Crossing the Aurora Bridge at dusk... I love my neighborhood!

Crossing the Aurora Bridge at dusk… I love my neighborhood!

 

And then later, Piper and I had to cuddle up for a selfie!

Say 'cheese' Piper! Piper? Piper?

Say ‘cheese’ Piper! Piper? Piper??

Unfortunately the weather was really too good to last given that it’s only early April.  Monday was significantly colder, and Tuesday was colder yet along with a lot of rain.  Ah, well.  It was a taste of summer, so hopefully we have a beautiful summer to look forward to!

And that’s all for this blog post!

I love this cat.  Which no one who reads this blog knew previously.

I love this cat. Which no one who reads this blog already knew.  ;)

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Filed under Cats, Cooking, Food, Life in Seattle, Pictures, Running, Seattle, Weather