Category Archives: Running

A Record Number of Home Depot trips

Mike and I were planning on having a relaxing evening of watching TV shows on Friday night, but I was at the gym Thursday night and seemed to have some kind of reaction to the bleach solution they were mopping the floors liberally with, and my nasal passages were really inflamed and sore yesterday.  To make matters, I had to move desks at work on Friday, and that involved lots of moving dusty things around, which of course further irritated my (apparently) sensitive nasal passages.  If you’ve never had sore nasal passages, I can tell you it isn’t particularly pleasant.  I found myself massaging my nose on multiple occasions on Saturday.  It basically felt like the inside of my nose had gone twelve rounds in the ring and lost.  Anyway, I was also sneezing and didn’t end up wanting to do much show watching.  So I went to bed early Friday night and woke up feeling much better on Saturday, and better yet on Sunday.  In fact, on Sunday, the only remnant of my swollen nose I noticed is that when I chopped up onions my nose was slightly irritated.  Typically for some (genetic??) reason, I can chop onions all day long and feel nothing, even when Mike is really affected by them and he’s in another room.  I remember years ago, I did some volunteer work with a group of people from work where we cooked a bunch of food, and I was in charge of chopping onions.  I chopped onion after onion after onion, and everyone else in the kitchen was dying from the pungency, and I wasn’t affected at all.  So weird how every person is different!

As usual, I spent a lot of time on Sunday prepping food for the week.  I made a coconut curry dish last week that was so good I made it again this week.  I am hoping it tastes good, but I definitely neglected it while I was watching other dishes, and the kale I added to it got a little too wilted and sad.  Last week I was more on top of that particular dish since I hadn’t made it before, and I got the kale cooked at the perfect point where it was wilted, but still had some shape and body to it.  Live and learn!  Because of an abundance of turnips, I am trying out some mashed turnips because Mike likes mashed potatoes so much.  The trick here is that since turnips are slightly more bitter than potatoes, I’m afraid Mike will notice the difference and not want the turnips.  I tried to cover up the flavor with some seasonings, but we’ll see how well that goes.  I haven’t specifically told him it’s mashed turnips, so we’ll see whether I get away with this or not.  😉

In other exciting news, my parents adopted another rescue dog.

Just when you thought their rescue dogs couldn't get any cuter!

Just when you thought dogs couldn’t get any cuter!

This is Barney, and he is adorable.  He joins their other rescue dog Lady, and already seems to be bonding and fitting in well with their family.  I admit I feel *slightly* envious.  The same day they found out about Barney, I found out about a gorgeous tortoiseshell cat that was looking for a home.  She was extremely mild (necessary to get along with Piper), and I really wanted her.  I talked Mike into going to look at her over the weekend, but of course she was already adopted within a few hours of her picture going up on Facebook.  Although I guess Piper probably wouldn’t have liked another cat, so maybe it’s for the best anyway.

On another note, I’ve started reading a series of books that my grandma and mom have read, but I have not: The Cat Who books.  I have to say that I am loving them so far.  Just the right balance between mystery, intrigue, and wit.  I have also started reading the Stephanie Plum books, which are hilarious.  Mike’s dad turned me on to those when we were in Michigan, and they are pretty funny.  Also on my reading list: The Power of Habit.  It is an amazing book to help us understand how we form habits and to replace bad habits with good ones.  I’m also reading Principles by Ray Dalio, the famous investor.  It’s an interesting book so far, made up of small snippets, or principles, he has used to guide the actions in his life.  I like the way he stresses that everyone will likely have different principles, but it’s important to have principles.  i.e. how are you going to approach work?  family?  life?  Anyway, the past few years I’ve been finding myself reading more, and my books are usually divided down the middle between productivity/business/technical books, and fluffy mysteries.

Mike and I hit a new record on ‘number of Home Depot trips in one day’.  We went to two Home Depots first thing in the morning, one in Seattle, and one up north in Everett because Mike said they had a better screw selection.  Then we came home, and Mike realized he had forgotten two screws.  I’m not sure how that was possible since he bought like 30 screws at Home Depot, but he said he did.  And then after that we had to go to Lowe’s, because apparently they have better paint than Home Depot (or at least the kind of paint that Mike wanted).  Then, Saturday night when we had planned on watching a show together, Mike said he wanted to finish up some work with the light switch in the dining room first.  I said that was fine.  I didn’t realize that was going to involve him turning off the circuit breaker to the dining room/living room so that my Sonos music stopped playing, the power to the TV was pulled, and all of the lamps in the vicinity went off.  After an hour or so of working, I asked him if he was close to being done.

“Well,” he said.  “I have some bad news.”

I leaned back on the couch and prepared myself to take it.

“I want to replace this light switch.  I don’t like it.  I have to go back to Home Depot.”

There was silence for a few moments.

“I’m guessing you don’t want to come with me?”

“That’s correct,” I said.  “I think four trips in one day is crossing a line.”

Then, the following day, the first words he said to me when I returned from my run were “I have to go to Home Depot and get some blocks for my painting.”  Keeping that man away from Home Depot would be a futile attempt, so I don’t attempt it.

Mike and I have been continuing to watch the Nero Wolfe mysteries, and we have also been watching Why We Fight, a season of eight shows produced by Ronda Rousey that details different types of fighters (i.e. Muay Thai, boxing, wrestling, MMA, etc).  Super interesting!  And it’s shown on Verizon’s Go90 video streaming service (who knew they were trying to jump into the ‘streaming original content’ game?).  I haven’t quite figured out how Go90 makes money, because all of their shows are free to stream online, and I haven’t seen any commercials or ads yet.  Regardless, this show has been really interesting so far!  It’s only one season of eight episodes, and we are already halfway done with episode 6, so we are almost done.  Hopefully another season gets made.

In other news, I am now officially one week into marathon training mode.  Eugene 2018!  My running buddy and I ran 16 miles this morning.  She is running Boston in mid-April, and I will be running Eugene two weeks later, so we’re pretty close training schedule wise.  Sixteen miles is the longest that either of us have run since we did Ragnar in July of 2017, so it has clearly been awhile.  It was slightly painful, but not as bad as I expected.  I still was able to come home, shower, and then spend three hours in the kitchen food prepping standing up (which quite frankly is sometimes pretty painful after a long run).  I had a great time catching up with her, especially since she’ll be out of town next weekend, and we’ll both be out of town the weekend after that (her in Colorado and me in Boston), so we won’t be running together for another couple of weeks.

Pic from my run this morning

Pic from my morning run

I just feel so amazed that I can run four miles from my house and see this… Mount Rainier past the Puget Sound.  So grateful!!

Tonight Mike and I are planning on relaxing and watching shows, since he has been painting railings and re-installing light switches and I have been cleaning, cooking, and doing laundry.  Time for some relaxation!  🙂  Hope everyone has a wonderful week!

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Filed under Cooking, Dogs, Dogs + Cats, Food, Life in Seattle, Running, Seattle

Star Wars and Shepherd’s Pie

It has been rainy in Seattle.  I am definitely not complaining given the pictures from Boston that all of my team members are sending me of snow drifts that are up to the windowsills, but it has been putting a little damper on my commute.  As a refresher, my commute consists of two buses, so I spend a lot of time walking between buses, and consequently getting wet.  Interestingly, and somewhat ironically, I had an cheap umbrella that I really liked from H&M that was black and had star constellations on it, but it is lost.  Lost as in I have no idea where it is, but I have the vague idea that it should be somewhere.  I keep meaning to look for it, but I only think of it when I’m outside and getting wet and don’t think of it at all as soon as I’m inside again.  Maybe that will be a good weekend project.

In related news, I have a winter hat with an epic puff ball on the top.  That has been keeping my head warm and dry during my commute with no umbrella, but I realized today that the puff is looking a little sad and bedraggled.  At first I was confused.  Everyone wears hats in the rain, right?  The hat (puff included) must be designed to handle rain.  But then it slowly dawned on me that I’m probably one of the few people who actually wears a puff hat in the rain.  Most people use an umbrella in the rain and a puff hat in the snow.  So I now have the disturbing feeling that I’m misusing the hat.  Maybe it really is time to find the umbrella and retire the puff hat before I ruin it in the rain.

In other (somewhat weather-related) news, my next Boston trip is planned for the end of January.  Fingers crossed their Bomb Cyclone finishes up and they get a (very) late Indian summer while I’m there.  If I can avoid snow entirely, I’m all for that.  However, I would be shocked if I’m that lucky.  It is Boston in late January after all.  😉  Mike is likely going to China again in February as well, so it’ll be a few months of travel for us again.  And I just finished using up my travel-sized container of contact solution.  Time to get a new one!

Mike and I have been continuing our Nero Wolf evening habit.  Most evenings we watch one episode, and they’re only 45 min, so they’re perfect bite-size chunks to watch.  This weekend, though, we bit the bullet and went to the movie theater to see the new Star Wars movie.  I was surprised how many people there were given that it opened a month ago.  For some reason Star Wars just has a cult following of people.  As usual, the story line was fairly interesting, although somehow it always feels a little deja vu (i.e. how is it that the Resistance never has any real ships or manpower and the Republic has millions of Storm Troopers and epic ships, but somehow the Resistance is never wiped out?  But I guess if I’m looking for realistic scenarios, Star Wars probably isn’t the place to look.  On the upside, the BB-8 droid was just as cute in this one as he was in the first one, and there was an addition of some adorable bird-like creatures called Porgs.  I understand some people felt like the Porgs were annoying, but to me they were one thing that was actually new in the movie.  And did I mention they were adorable?

On the way back from the movie, it completely randomly occurred to me that it had been a long time since I’d seen a spider in our house.  For awhile after moving in, we were seeing some pretty big ones in the basement, and while I’m not terrified of spiders I’m really not a fan either and would strongly prefer they stayed outside.  I voiced the thought to Mike that I hadn’t seen a spider in awhile, and he paused to think.

“Oh.  I saw one like a week ago.”

“What?  Really?  Where?  The basement?”

“No.  The main floor.”

“Where on the main floor?”

“The dining room.”

“Was it a big spider?”

“Not the biggest one I’ve seen in the house, but it was pretty big.”

“Did you kill it??”

“No.  It ran underneath something.”

I looked at him in disbelief.  His eyes met mine.

“I shouldn’t have told you that, should I?  It didn’t make your life better in any way.”

“Correct,” I told him emphatically.  “You could have just stayed quiet when I was talking about spiders.”

“Yeah…” he said with a grin.  “Somehow I always have the problem of telling you things I shouldn’t.”

As much as I appreciate his truthfulness, I really would have been fine with him withholding that particular bit of information.  Now I get to sit on my computer in the dining room noticing each shadow and bit of fluff and wondering if there’s a spider ready to run across my bare feet.

In other news, I have been on a huge grapefruit kick.  Maybe it’s just that citrus is in season in the winter and reminds me of summer and warmer, brighter days, but I have been eating one grapefruit a day.  Hopefully there aren’t any health-related issues with eating too many grapefruit.  If there are, I’ll let you know.  I know of at least one non-health related problem with eating grapefruit.  They are notoriously messy and seem to spray citrus juice everywhere.  Short of eating one on a sea of paper towels, I’m not sure how to avoid getting the table all messy and having to clean it up afterwards.

Mike and I went out for a quick dinner at an Indian restaurant near our house after seeing Star Wars, and that was surprisingly relaxing.  We really haven’t been going out for dinner much these days, so it felt like a treat.  I had the spicy eggplant bhartha, and Mike had chicken tikka masala and some paneer-stuffed naan, which he said was pretty good.

On Sunday I woke up early to a bunch of rain.  I met my running buddy at 7:30 for a run, and we went 14 miles, which is farther than we’ve gone in probably six months.  Marathon training is beginning!  The run went by surprisingly fast since we were catching up on our week’s, but those last couple of miles we were both waiting for the end.  Those are always the toughest miles when starting to ramp up the mileage again.  Next week is 16 miles, and then we drop back for a few weeks.  That’s great since I’ll be in Boston one of those weeks anyway and would probably get lost if I attempted a 14 mile run in Boston.  All of the streets there are confusing and meander in curvy S-shapes that leave even the most directionally-astute person somewhat turned around.  And I am far from the most directionally astute person.  In fact, on my last trip there, I got lost trying to find a boxing gym half a mile away from the hotel.  Multiple times.  And had to use the GPS on the phone to keep from wandering the streets of Boston all night.

I did a bunch of cooking on Sunday afternoon, singing along to songs on the Sonos speakers while I did so.  Mike is so funny.  There are some meals that he just loves, and one of them is shepherd’s pie.  I made a shepherd’s pie on Sunday, and around 6pm Sunday evening I asked Mike if he was hungry for dinner, and he said not really.  Then he wandered over to the kitchen where I had food cooling before sticking it in the fridge, and he spotted a shepherd’s pie I’d just made.  His eyes lit up.

“What’s this?”

“Shepherd’s pie.”

“Oh.  And it’s ready now?”

“Yes.”

“Can I have some?”

“Sure, but you said you weren’t hungry.”

“Well.  I guess I could have some.”

He had some.  Then he had seconds.  And when he came home from work today and I told him I’d heat up dinner for him, he asked, “Is there any shepherd’s pie?”

So clearly at least that meal went over well.  🙂

The rest of the week has been getting back in the swing of work after the holidays!  The days are still dark, but my coworker told me that we are gaining two minutes of daylight every day.  At that rate, our July days should be pretty amazing.  😉

Happy Monday everyone!

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Filed under Cooking, CSA, Food, Holidays, Life in Seattle, Rain, Running, Seattle

A Shiny New Year

How is it already 2018?   A brand new year.  Maybe it will be a year of more consistent blogging.  Why not?  It’s a time for new beginnings!

Every year I try to make New Year’s resolutions, and everyone around me admonishes me and tells me I need to focus on “goals” instead of resolutions, and I can make goals anytime; not just at New Years.  While I guess that’s true, there’s something nice about starting “goals”, “resolutions”, or whatever other terminology grabs you, on the first day of a new year, all else being equal.

My year is off to a fairly inauspicious start.  I went to boxing on the Friday before New Years, and the boxing instructor had us doing weighted squats.  I’ve done weighted squats in the past, but haven’t done them at all in the past few years, but after five sets of those combined with weighted lunges, my legs were toast.  And by “toast”, I mean that I woke up Saturday morning pretty much unable to sit down and requiring stair railings and handicap bathrooms.  To say that my glues (aka butt) was sore would have been a gross understatement.  Going up and down stairs was next to impossible, and when I told Mike my butt was sore and he jokingly slapped my butt, I let out a screech that neighbors five doors down could have heard.  I work out often enough that I’m no stranger to sore muscles, but this was different entirely.  I told Mike I was swearing off squats and even went so far as to suggest that I would get a shirt made that said “I don’t do squats.” and wear it to subsequent gym sessions.  Mike even drove me to the grocery store rather than me walking there (which is what I would typically do).

I foam rolled and stretched for almost an hour Saturday night while Mike and I watched a Nero Wolf mystery, and that had me feeling slightly better, but certainly not back to normal and certainly not able to do any squats.  I had a twelve-mile run planned with my running buddy Anna on Sunday morning, and I really didn’t want to cancel it because of uncooperative glutes unless I absolutely had to.  Sunday morning, I felt like a long run would be doable, although probably not enjoyable.  Fortunately Anna was somewhat sore from a gym session on Saturday, so we took our time on the run.  The first eight miles weren’t too bad, but that last four miles every single muscle in my lower legs was screaming.  It had been a while since I was that happy to be finished with a run.  I got back home exhausted.  Not so much because of the run itself, but because of struggling against my sore legs the whole time.  I basically showered and collapsed on the couch.  I pulled myself off of the couch an hour later to get a slow cooker meal started for Mike, but I felt tired and out-of-it enough that it took me longer to get the ingredients together than usual.  Piper seemed to sense the way I was feeling and she mostly seemed to want to hang out on the couch with me.  I had eaten after my run, but it wasn’t until I ate an orange and a couple of handfuls of chocolate chips that my energy levels bounced back (I’m crediting those dark chocolate chips… yum!).

With my brain now powered by the energy from the chocolate chips, I realized that I had turned the slow cooker on four hours earlier but had forgotten to actually plug it in.  So I basically had four-hour-old room-temperature chicken sitting on my counter.  Oops.  I called myself all kinds of names for forgetting to plug the slow cooker in and wasting the ingredients, but Mike shrugged and told me that everyone makes mistakes sometimes and I should just forget about it.  “Unless you always forget to plug the slow cooker in,” he said.  “If that’s the case, you probably need to re-think your process of preparing slow cooker meals.”  Good advice as usual coming from Mike’s corner.

In the absence of the chicken meal, Mike and I ended up going out for New Years Eve to a restaurant near our house called Eve.  It actually worked out perfectly because they were completely booked for later times (i.e. 8pm, 9pm), but there was literally no one there yet at 6pm when we went.  Apparently everyone else wants to actually be at the restaurant when the New Year officially starts at midnight, but for those of us who can’t stay up till midnight without the help of many cups of coffee anyway (me), having a 6pm dinner and getting out of the restaurant before the NYE partiers show up works well.  🙂  We had a relaxing dinner that was really filling in a restaurant that was mostly empty.  It was a fun way to end the year!

On Monday there was a special New Year’s yoga class at the yoga studio I’ve been going to, so I went to that, hoping it would work out the rest of my glute and quad soreness.  It did, in fact, work out my soreness, but it was the hardest yoga class I’ve ever taken.  It was a special New Year’s class where you do 108 surya namaskar flows.  Just for reference, each surya namaskar includes at least one push-up… sometimes as many as three, depending on the variation.  So it was an hour and a half class in 102 degree heat with really challenging flows.  Wow!!  Great class, but HARD.  The good news is that I sweated absolutely everything out in that class including my soreness, so my legs are finally usable again.  I didn’t really think that’s what it would take to get them back to normal!

I took the Christmas tree down today, and I think Piper wasn’t really thrilled about it.  To be honest, neither was I.  It’s always a little depressing to put all the lights and ornaments away and realize that you’re still only in the beginning stages of winter and have a lot of days ahead with little daylight, lots of rain (or snow), but that you have no fun holidays or decorations to break up those months.  Oh well.  In all honesty, we were having light problems with our tree anyway, so we couldn’t have kept it up indefinitely.  Three days before New Years, the integrated incandescent lights in the top quarter of our tree stopped working, so the tree looked kind of lopsided.  Sometime before next Christmas we need to figure out if there’s a good way to fix our current tree, or whether we should just get a new fake tree.  Mike suggested that maybe we should just get a real tree next year, but I’m not super excited about killing a tree and getting pine needles all over the floor.  Regardless, we have another eleven-ish months to figure it out!

In a freak twist, we had a white Christmas in Seattle.  It started snowing on Christmas Eve, and then all of the snow melted by December 27th.  That’s just about the correct amount of snow in my opinion.  Just enough for a white Christmas, but nothing extraneous to hang around and mess up commuting.  😉

I hope everyone had an amazing New Year’s!  Here comes 2018!

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Filed under Christmas, Cooking, Holidays, Life in Seattle, Running, Seattle Restaurants, Weather, Winter

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

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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Filed under Cats, Cooking, Friends, Gardening, Life in Seattle, Pictures, Running, Weather

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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