Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas time and other favorite things

We've had some lovely days here...

 
 
...and done some Christmas preparation at Fulk's Tree Farm where I caught this 4-footer white pine, last Saturday after we ran the muddy North Ridge in Weston:

 

And Nugget even followed the rules, as much as she would've liked to become one of Santa's Lil' Helpers:

 
The tree lights sure brighten the entire tiny house:


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here!

I've been indulging in the Acorn TV subscription free trial on Amazon now that we cancelled Netflix...does anyone else watch Doc Martin and imagine living in his perfect village?  I sure do...though I'd rather he not be my GP!  The way I see it, trade the Missouri River for the cliffs of Cornwall, and there you are, Leavenworth is Kansas' version of Portwenn.
 
Among other unbearable quaintnesses, we've a tea shop walking distance from home, next to a knitting shop, yoga studio, various restaurants and bars, and cupcake shop.  How this small town supports such enterprises is a mystery to me, but I won't complain.  D and I support local shops frequently, and hope lots of others do too.  We don't just buy twee nonsense in town -- our title company is downtown, our major appliances all came from Dolsberry Appliance and local contractors did all the work on our house, apart from the 150 feet of privacy fence that D built by hand in 2 weeks, after work and on weekends.
 
Last week, after our office Christmas party at Ten Penny restaurant, some galpal workmates and I walked a few blocks to The Queen's Pantry as we delayed our return to the office...how had I missed this wonderful place before?

The entryway is full of delicate china tea sets, displayed amid all sorts of treats and sweets from the UK.  Further back, an entire wall of shelves houses large jars of tea, with canister samples for sniffing each and every blend (which I did, tyvm). There is of course a corner set aside with Styrofoam cups and thermos for tasting the day's featured tea.  Boxed teas are available too, and just about any tea-cessory you'd like - cozies, towels, balls, jams, marmalades, tea cakes, fruit slices, sugar tongs.  I even spied Marmite and Colman's mustard for those of us who prefer our treats savory. 

The teas are grouped by red/black/white/green with some set-aside novelty blends featuring additions like marshmallow and chocolate chips...which I really don't like in my tea at all, but might tickle the palate for others.

Can we take a moment to talk about tea?

I have lots, of all sorts.  My ol' reliables are Yorkshire Gold, Darjeeling and Lady Grey.  I like spiced teas in the colder months, like Twining's Christmas Tea and of course Constant Comment.  Green tea is nice at work late in the afternoon when I wish to avoid too much caffeine.  I've convinced myself that it aids digestion, and it reminds me of all the time I spent in Japan and Korea years ago.

Lately I've been warding off the evening chill with the tisanes I just purchased from Queen's Pantry.  My favorites are Lemon Souffle Rooibos (creamy and lemony just as it's named) and a highly aromatic Men's Herbal Brew (yeah, yeah, so maybe I call it Men's Urkelgrue) which tastes mostly of anise, lemongrass, ginger with a pleasant cardamom (or pepper?) bite, nestled in a base of rooibos as well.  Isn't it funny and sad that after all these years I can pretty much quote every episode of the Office by heart?

And here is me not starting down the path of discussing gender-specific tea (fairly, they do sell a Women's Herbal Brew) so all you SJW can have a nice cuppa and calm down right about now!

I've enjoyed red teas for years and the new ones I picked up are pleasant excursions from the typical vanilla-dominated blends.  The rooibos are not truly teas, and have no caffeine, so I allow myself to drink these teas by the pot!

Only 938709858364+ more teas remaining from Queen's Pantry for me to try...

A tea Snellen!  I love it so much I can't bear to use it as a tea towel yet!
Though I haven't visited the Leavenworth Yoga Co-op or yarn shop (for fear of overdosing on downward dogs and skeins of merino) we've ordered cakes from Karma Cakes on several occasions.  I declare them the best bakery in town and at reasonable prices, too.  You can't go wrong with a bake shop that decorates freshly-baked cupcakes with not just homemade frostings but cookies and candies too.

If you don't have a local tea shop, feel free to support mine and order online!

After all these tea parties I've been having, D and I cure our cabin fever and run the trails in Wyandotte County Park weekly as we prepare for the Psycho Wyco.  It's lovely to run in the chilly rain and just yesterday in the late afternoon, after work, I tested out some more variations of my winter gear plan.  I wore shorts (yes! this was a good move), my old trail shoes, a base-layer long sleeve shirt with zippered collar, a looser, fleecier middle layer with thumb-holes, and a light zippered jacket.  For 40 degrees in mild rain and minor winds, with the addition of a hat (the one I'm wearing in my tree-catching picture) it was perfect.  We ran one of the hilliest and muddiest segments of the race path yesterday and I could moderate my temperature well with zipping/unzipping/donning/doffing.  Learning has occurred!

Today we are off of work for the rest of the day and planning to run some errands before heading to midnight mass.  I'm not sure where we will run today.  D got called in to work at 1 am this morning and so I'm trying hard not to wake him. 

Tomorrow is Christmas brunch out with friends. 

It's a lovely day here, as long as I stay away from streaming news and thinking about work too much.

The sadness of the whole world weighs heavily, but Christmas gives us all hope that maybe this won't always be so.  I'm ever thankful for the blessings in my life and I wish the same to you.

A Merry Christmas to you and yours!


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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Pose running method...

I'm doing the clinic for Pose running this weekend...still in progress...hence my lack of mileage updates...I don't know if I love it...the evidence in its favor sure is plentiful...what do you think?  Why am I cranking my hamstrings 180 times a minute...I don't know about this...I don't know that anything was wrong with my running style before...it all seemed ok and now over the past 2 days I'm told that that's not so...what is the what...who is John Galt...more to follow when I cage my thoughts!

I have bad skin

I am exhausted from this not-so-secret secret that I have.

For well over a decade I have been fighting the ignoble acne fight, and now in my thirties I get to fight acne and wrinkles together, bonus!

This used to be professionally embarrassing to me.  I work in medicine, after all.  How can I do anything but hang my blemished head in shame with my skin the way is it?

Well, to be fair, at work I wear tasteful makeup.  Not heavy.  But enough to hide the worst of it.

Mostly, I stopped worrying so much that my skin isn't perfect.  And my story has become a story I share with patients, too - it's important to manage expectations, because what's ok to me might not be the desired end state for them.

I spent 10 years on oral antibiotics like doxycycline.  Among the many uses for this  medication, it's a malaria prophylactic, and if I stumbled on anthrax, lyme disease, or syphilis during that time well then I didn't have to worry either.  I took once- or twice- daily antibiotics for years amid creams and gels and topicals of all sorts. 

A decade of antibiotics is about 9 years 6 months too much for me, as I didn't know otherwise at the time.  Nausea and vomiting daily?  Burning skin and peeling flakes and redness and dryness and cracking?  I'm not so fond, and I was sick of using stacks of $$$ prescription products because it just made me feel like the "cure" was never in sight.  Eventually I just decided that all of this medication was too much, and my happy medium for my skin is just (significantly) less than magazine perfect.  I'm satisfied this way, blemishes and all.  And you know what?  There may not be a cure for me, but I've settled for what I think is a livable level.  And I think you should, too.  I've whittled down my medicine cabinet to one prescription topical acne product because it's affordable for me, simple, and relatively free of side effects, and I don't have to spend my time feeling -- stupidly -- like a victim of zits.  More time for running and eating Cheetos!!

Let's be honest.  The skin of your face is what the world first sees of you.  And it sucks when it doesn't look so conventionally nice.  Yes, just about any medical condition on the planet is more serious than acne, but it really stinks that it shows up and sticks around and for some of us is just going to be a part of the way we live.  I used to worry that people would subconsciously disrespect me or otherwise prejudice me for my skin, but that hasn't happened.  At least in this instance, people are less judgmental than I've judged them to be!

And my skin is not that bad.  I would say I have moderate inflammatory facial acne, with hormonal flares that sometimes border on grotesque.  I'm going to spare you (and me) from sharing any photos.  I've seen patients where my heart breaks for their scarred skin, and that no one has told them that it could have possible been improved earlier.  In some cases their skin will look practically perfect after some treatments, but in many cases it's unlikely to be perfect, but maybe just better.  Is it so bad to settle for "better?"  I think not.

Yes, some people have severe scarring acne.  That is not what I'm talking about.  That likely needs specialty dermatology care, for advanced products like Accutane.  There are serious side effects!  You can go and get care and your skin will likely get much better.  Don't delay!

What about you?  I'll answer general questions/skincare medical advice but not as a substitute for your personal healthcare provider!  Don't take internet medical advice kids!!

Well that's a burden lifted...a jolly good day it is then.

Rudolph Red Nose 7.2M

Last weekend was my first (and only, likely) race for December.  I ran the Grinders High Noon Saloon Rudolph Red Nose 7.2 Tuff Miles race, here in Leavenworth.  I ran with L last year (brrr!), and loved it despite the wind and chill.  This year D and Nugget accompanied me to the start and then went on a lovely walk through downtown Leavenworth and the Riverfront and left me to run while they then headed for home.

Over the last few months, the previous establishment here (High Noon Saloon) closed, and then opened recently as a re-imagined Grinders franchise.  I was worried that the race wouldn't be offered this year due to changes in the management and ownership, but a week before the race, I spotted a sign in town advertising the event.

My goal like last year was to run in under and hour, and also to run more quickly than last year.

I had nothing but luck on my side -- warm sun, high 50s, just the faintest of breezes.  The course starts at the restaurant and travels south through the VA campus, around the duck pond, and back to the restaurant.  I love that it's such an odd distance - tough for the typical 5K crowd, and a bit of a stretch for the 10K weekenders too.  It's so much fun too because it starts eponymously at 12:00 sharp.  What a nice change, to sleep in for a run for a change!

The field of runners was so small this year, well down from about 100 last year, but the race director acknowledged that advertisement had been last minute due to uncertainty in the continuation of the race this year.  I was just so pleased that it reappeared for the 7th year.  I am so thankful to the management of Grinders for deciding to continue to support this in cooperation with the Riverfront Community Center.  It's a great Leavenworth race, and the course is hilly -- challenging for sure.  The overplayed joke is that "it's Kansas, no hills here!" and that joke my friends is still not funny!

The roads are low-traffic, and scenic, and since it is largely out-and-back there aren't too many race volunteers needed throughout the course to direct runners and traffic.  I love that all ages show up, to include my new race friend, in his 80s:

RFCC's photo of us...he's totally trying to get away from me :(
So many people wore Christmas-themed costumes!

And so many wore the cute shirt.

And others were comfortably attired in elf, kangaroo (Leavenworth's sister city is Wagga Wagga Australia, of course!) costumes and Rudolph himself made a royal appearance for pictures among us plebeians.

I had a great race, and as often happens, I luck out at smaller events and win a FOF!  I came in just under 57 minutes which makes me real happy on this rolling course.

I beat my time from last year, met some really nice runners, and am overall very impressed with Grinders.  I hadn't been there since it reopened, and the interior is much brighter and more inviting with the renovation.  I'm looking forward to our upcoming Christmas party there.  The menu looks delicious, and I will attest that the post-race pizza was fantastic, though I am always swayed by 1. free food and 2. any post-race comestibles.  I'd eat asphalt and bobby pins if that's what was offered.  The High Noon food and atmosphere are highly praised by friends of ours and I hope Grinders High Noon is here to stay, especially if they continue the Rudolph Red Nose 7.2M every year!

How's your winter racing going?  I love our Indian Summer...but know it's unseasonable!  I'm sure next year will be far colder but I am looking forward to this race again already.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Inclement weather gear test 1...of many, it seems

Among the so many things for which I am thankful, I got to try out my bad/wet/cold/snowy/rainy running gear yesterday. 

The first real day of cold and wet Kansas winter weather started Thanksgiving morning, at almost exactly the moment we left our house to walk Nugget.  Not 100 yards from home, the soft rain turned cold and fierce as westerlies gusted and chilled us to the bone.  The rest of our walk became a run and Nugget, Eskimo fur and all, willingly complied with an abbreviated walk.

We waited all day for the weather to improve so that we could run outside.  It didn't! 

Instead I drove to Weston for a quick 5K with the hope that the trees would shelter the running path from the rain and more forceful blusters.    I plan on running the Psychowyco in February, so why not try out my cold/wet weather plan starting now?  I figured. 

February weather around here could be anything, so I'd best prepare!

Well, my plan sucks.  My "rain jacket" is apparently only a wind breaker.  My running tights are seemingly water-absorbent, practically sponges!  Not so nice on a cold day.  Luckily I have enough flesh on my thighs that they rarely get cold.  My thermal Under Armor turtleneck overheated me.  The turtleneck part felt like a garrote, and I wished I'd worn instead a shirt with a zippered collar or even just a short sleeve shirt.  Cheapie knit drug-store throwaway gloves?  Dual purpose...if you want the dual purposes of keeping your fingers wet and extra cold.  My hat - fleece beanie (an old PT hat)  kept my hair dry, but I was too hot a mile in and taking it off left my scalp to suffer an ice-mop of hair.  I need something breathable yet water repellent.  So, limited luck yesterday.  I wish I'd worn my running sleeves, a short sleeve shirt, and an actual rain jacket (I don't have one).  The leg sponges at least prevented water from dripping into my shoes, but a more technical/evaporative fabric would be nice. 

If I'd been out longer than a 5K, my feet would've been soaked and frozen, but that's not usually bothersome to me.  On a side note, I do look forward to a new pair of trail shoes.  My old ones are torn and tread-bare and won't hold up much longer.  I want to branch completely away from the Mizuno family and see if I am happier in a Saucony trail shoe, just like I am for my daily runners (the Kinvara 6).  I committed to the Kinvara 6 even more and bought a second pair last week ($79.99 - a great discount!) while in DC.  I did go for a half size larger which I think is a better fit for thicker winter socks.  I am exceptionally pleased so far.

Anyway, thank you Kansas for the upcoming opportunities to try out winter running gear over and over again!

I retuned home from Weston a soggy chilled mess and prepared for our Thanksgiving dinner, planned at a friend's home.  D does not involve himself in the kitchen much so he snuggled up to finish The Man in the High Castle and I made a walnut cranberry pumpkin seed salad, which seems so insufficient, and so to compensate we brought lots of wine.  And a hostess gift of our halibut, sure, it's not customary, but it is darn well received! 

I hate when a dinner party host says to "bring nothing but your appetite!" because then I am left to scramble and demonstrate not only my lack of creativity but also precisely how poor a cook I am.  My friend is tres gourmet and I ogled the Viking appliances as I helped her/got in the way in the kitchen.  This was our first gluten-free Thanksgiving experience and it was awesome!  It doesn't hurt that my friend is an amazing chef who's been dealing with true celiac for years, but I could not tell that any of the items were gluten-free and we ate too much of everything, exactly as one is supposed to do.

Today it's even colder and the overnight freezing rain sealed our cars, steps, porch in a slick glaze.  Nugget slipped down the back staircase as she scurried out for her morning pee-pee, no worse for the tumble, but we don't plan on going many places today just in case the roads stay icy.  Well, we rarely venture out on Black Friday anyway.

I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving and is ready for winter running season with at least a little more luck/preparation than I! :)