Sunday, September 20, 2015

I just haven't felt like being here so I've been other places

There's this daily routine I have - I've had it for years - and unfortunately of late it rarely includes appearing on this blog.  I'm fond of the routine, so I'll spare you any false promises to post more frequently.  Aren't we all spread thinly enough as it is?

I surprised myself and found that after nearly a year here in Kansas, I still love my job.  I'm so thankful for it.

We took a week trip up to Alaska in August, full of bike riding, hiking, and fishing of course.

Lost Lake, we found you
He smiles because I'm the one wearing the backpack
I snuggled with this sassy innkeeper:

And we caught our limit in halibut:

Heavier than it looks!

Not as heavy as it looks!
 As always, Alaska is a great trip.  A few years ago we wrote a big check in return for a nice piece of paper saying we own a few acres of the Last Frontier, but recently over late-morning weekend coffee talk we dramatize our retirement fears and I wonder if we should sell.  I love Alaska, but I worry about the costs as well as the perceived intellectual exodus from our beloved 49th state.  It pains me to write that, but in a few years, the Army won't be dictating where we live, and I don't want to make anything less than the perfect choice, now that we'll finally have one.  

Kachemak Bay...who would not be happy here?
 During my summer blog sabbatical I ran a few local races here and there, though I failed to make the 10-miler team (again!).  At such a slow pace, I'd be embarrassed if that time had qualified.  There's always next year.  The summer bothered and exhausted me (not just due to the heat) so I have 0 feelings to report about my running performance or lack thereof.  

In other news, I don't wear Mizuno Wave Riders (or Mizunos at all) anymore, and I am blissfully in love with the Saucony Kinvara 6.  I tried them on fully expecting to hate the 4mm drop, but it feels natural and easy.  I love the price, too, a full $20 less than my last pair of Wave Riders (18s). 

To break up the routine, D and I took a 2-day trip to Denver a few weeks ago.  Our loyalty to Southwest Airlines has paid off and we cashed in our stockpiled miles for free tickets and with our impossible 47000 hotel points our trip came to a grand total of $70 for a rental car, food, entertainment.  With keen budgeting like that, we might get to retire after all!  For old times' sake we attended the Dave Mathews Concert at Fiddlers' Green (Is it called that again?  Still?) and I sniffed peevishly in an effort to avoid the expected wafts of cannabinoid fog.  It's not a scent I enjoy and to head off any questions, yes, it's virtually impossible to pop hot on a urine drug screen via passive exposure.  At the expense of revealing my curmudgeonliness, I find Dave Mathews really tedious, especially live....what with the THC and patchouli-soaked fans and endless cacophonous's no surprise then that my favorite part of the trip was our visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens. 

Before we arrived at the Gardens, we enjoyed the surrounding "moneyed hipster" neighborhood, where we stopped for lunch at Chef Zorba's.  I would eat there again and again!  D let me have the seat facing the window, and I annoyed him no end with my distracting questions, directed both to myself and behind his back: Does everyone here ride bicycles?  I drawled enviously at the passing Denverites, lean, healthy, full of nature, sun, kale, kefir, whatever.  Who are these people walking all these dogs?  I wondered, missing Nugget, cooped up at overnight campWhere are all these Vespas going? I asked of the steady stream of men, motoring down the road - hair thinning and bellies bethickened - adorning the aqua-blue scooters, zip zip. 

The DBG Offshoots CafĂ© is a treat and we enjoyed after-gyro raspberry lemonade.  We accidentally invaded no fewer than three beautiful wedding receptions, and excitedly floated from garden to greenhouse to pond.  D's favorite part?  The bonsai garden, hidden behind a corner of the Japanese tea garden. Among kare-san-sui paths, the bonsai garden displayed trees and shrubs native to the western prairie yet cultivated and "training" in bonsai pattern.  I never before knew of the tethers and fine wires pulling and tugging the tiny tree limbs, but now I am in awe of the time and orthodontia required for this art of bonsai.  Unlike D's discriminating tastes, I am a sucker for the bounty and ease of the perennial garden.  I left a little sad that we don't have the energy to recreate the intricate abundance of the Botanic Gardens at our home in Kansas, but it's only 600 miles down I-70 so we can return pretty easily on a future vacation.  I am sure we will.

In other news, I finally finished my Rustic X console table (inspired by Ana White).  It proudly holds our keys and odds/ends and TV.  It's a tad uneven, so it fits perfectly in the house:

Next up?!  Back to work, to running, and to a cedar-topped kitchen island, unfinished, awaiting a rainy day in my "workshop."  

Here's hoping you are well and wonderful, now and when I check in next!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Brew to Brew 2015 etc

Last Sunday D and I ran the Brew-to-Brew relay...well, sort of...

Due to last minute personnel changes and the looming thunderstorms, our team slimmed down to just the two of us, and we decided that a 44+ mile relay for two on a Sunday wasn't a great idea - especially with D leaving town early the next morning, so we relayed with each other for a few legs.  Other teams appeared well-prepared with cocktails, vans, uniforms, signs, boundless cheer, but we had fun anyway despite our low-key approach.  The whole Brew-to-Brew framework is low-overhead - only 2 race bibs per team (starting and finishing runners only), no t-shirts, no medals, no aid stations other than port-a-potties, which I thought a great way to demonstrate that this relay is truly all about supporting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  Success.

We still had a great time and I enjoyed running the hilly and somewhat lonely roads of horse-country Kansas.  Afterwards we treated ourselves to Panera for lunch.

The only way to describe spring weekends in northeast Kansas these days?  Petrichor.  Fancy-fancy.  But so apt for such a rich scent!

Today is rainy (and smells delightful) again too.

Luckily there have been a few weekdays without rain, so I've started cycling my work commute.  I used to say, "I biked to work," (explaining my tardiness, overstuffed backpack, sweat, and excess of spandex) but that means "motorcycle" to most - something I have never done, and am thoroughly pleased that D got out of his system a decade or so ago (not that there's anything wrong with it!).  I'm lucky to have a short commute (12 miles) and biking is a nice break from beating up my hamstring even more.  It's painful, sure, but the worst part is the inability to get any real power on the left leg.  This nagging unstretchable heavy twinge is my steady running companion and my wish is that cycling more will help.  I'll report back!  I also enjoy the fact that I save about $1 per day every time I ride to and from work.  Yes, I invested in an expensive headlight and tail-light at Santa Fe Trails Bicycle Shop, but my improved mood at work and home and my glee at saving the environment 12 miles of petrochemicals makes me just so self-righteously happy :)

My new favorite activity this week is morel mushroom hunting!  I learned last week that mid-April means morel mushrooms start to appear in the woods of Kansouri.  Nugget and I tagged along with some coworkers (aka experienced mushroom hunters) and scoured the woods of a nearby state park.  

The bounty - obvs not mine :)
 I didn't find any myself (hence my love of the hunt vs the find), and Nugget just found ticks (which she's been stashing in her fluff) but I resolve to try again.  It's a huge subculture (we could probably just call that "culture") here - the internet is filled with mushroom cams and maps and fungi forecasts!  Morel recipes fall off the printer tray at work all day.  Oh, and the rumors of the value of these spongy fungi -- while anything priced by the ounce is probably too steep for me, it's exciting to think about foraging for a pot of brain-like squishy gold popping up under mayapples and along the rootlines of old elm trees.  Maybe I'll take a lesson from the French their cochons and train Nug as a morel-hunting sidekick?  I think I just heard her sigh...

This is the best place to stand to gather max ticks, Mommy

When it truly pours outside, I focus on my new woodworking hobby, thanks to Ana White (DIY heroine).  She said, "let's build something!" and I sure listened because she seems so cool.

After my raised garden bed success, (the radishes are looking great, tyvm, and the dill is sprouting nicely too!) I figured, oh, why not make a 6'+ long console table to squeeze into our tiny crooked home that is already overburdened with furniture, dog toys, running shoes and [now] ticks?

Eye pro and triple-flanged ear pro, yes, but plz ignore the shaky saw set-up

D heavily encourages new hobbies that distract me from my other hobby of picking nits, so with plans from Ana, a miter saw, a bunch of wood, the help of Home Depot, and lots of youtubing for "pocket holes without a jig," I'm working on this:

What, your workbench isn't an old couch, cardboard box, and a grill?
 Once the rain stops today, it's time to add the top, run a few miles to relax, then sand, and sand and sand.  I just bought a random orbit sander this morning and am excited to try it out.  I planned to sand it by hand but I can't handle amount of eye-rolling I got in response :)

The smell (and presence) of sawdust has replaced our dank basement funk and the muddy damp floor really ties the room together.  Enticing, eh?  Well, we've really improved the place, many of the 400 million spiders have left nice comment cards and said some really nice things about the table too.

There's a fairly high chance that we won't be able to get the console upstairs or through the doors.  I mean, I'm good at tetris, but honestly - no hyperbole - the table is only 2' shorter than the width of the house.  And I think it weighs about the's hoping my innocent hobby won't lead to structural damage :)

Enjoy your weekend, the joy of spring, and happy running to all.

October-planted bulbs, ingredients: rain and faith

Sunday, March 22, 2015

WYCO Mrs Robinson Romp

Last weekend D and I ran our first trail run here in Kansas, the Mrs Robinson Romp!

He tends to have a little more fun with these things (race photography) than I do.  I was not aware of this at the time!  I have to channel all my mental energy into preventing photographic evidence of excessive thigh jiggle.  He is not concerned about such.

We ran the first 5K together and then we parted ways so I could finish the 10K loop, which, by all accounts, including my own, was steep, STEEP!!  The Trailnerds throw a lovely and low-key trail race and we will sign up for more of their events again.  I liked that pups are welcome, for a lower entry fee, and receive their own bib and race number.  Nervous Nuggie is not trail-compliant, and though the photos would have been cute, D expressed no desire to ruck a squirmy 25 pound dog for five kilometers.

Race morning was our first trip to Wyandotte County Lake Park.  We didn't have much time to explore, but we promised that after the trail race, we'd add this park to our weekend rotation.

We returned yesterday to ride road bikes around the park periphery and discover other amenities- an off-leash dog park, archery range, a many-tentacled lake stocked with trout.  The road around the reservoir (~7 miles, we guessed) suffers a lot of vehicle traffic, but if we'd cycled earlier in the day it may not have been so busy.  Still, the speed limit is 20 mph so it's far safer than some of the wider rural roads in this part of the state.

Other weekend events - spring cleaning.  Sourdough starter starting.  Raised beds for the garden, ahem, "garden."  As we approach retirement, I've become more budget-minded and earth-friendly than ever.  I decided that we could save money, reduce waste, and improve our health this spring in a few simple ways, mostly by cooking more, reducing our "wants," and growing more vegetables.

We value our time and the freedom to make life decisions unhampered by monetary compensation.  D is closer to retirement than I - but we've focused on changing our lifestyle and recognize that retirement from work can be sooner than we thought, if we can live in a decidedly less consumerist way.  Sure, maybe I just read too much Thoreau growing up, but we have a small home, shockingly small (623 sq ft!), considering we are two grown-up professionals with lots of stuff ("beware any enterprise that requires new clothes" - LOL I say, looking at the burgeoning closet D and I share).  We eat out far too often still, but due to the proximity of our home to downtown, we can walk the dog while we pick up takeout - saving gas, while reducing our stress and exercising the pupup!) and I cook more frequently.  My work hours allow me to start the slow cooker early in the morning before I leave, and by lunchtime, D can come home to a waiting hot meal instead of spending $15.  He likes to eat away from his desk as a mid-day mental health break and I'd never insist he brown-bag at work - he deserves the respite from the office and I know Nugget likes having a mid-day potty break. Though not in the trendy (or spendy) side of town, we picked a home close to work for these reasons exactly!

I joined the local library and though I still purchase quite a few professional journals and texts, I won't purchase any pleasure reading books - not with great apps like OverDrive or the generous renewal periods for hardcopy printed material.  My library also hosts a lot of free events both on weekends and weeknights - everything from How to Grow Your Own Food to a history of the Banana Wars and possibly even Grow Your Own Bananas.  I even walk to/from the library these days because my limited carrying capacity prevents me from ambitiously checking out too many books!

Certain expenditures are unavoidable, and for years at a time, we've had to run two separate households because we were living in different places, and of course, we bought lots of plane tickets.  Those high-spending times are past (for now) but we have to prepare ourselves in case we find ourselves separated again.

I know there are super savers out there, and estimable budgeteers as well, and I am not yet one - but I'm starting now because I don't want to find myself tied to a certain minimum paycheck in order to meet my standard of living.  The freeing idea to live simply, to be happy with less, means I am free to earn less and live more.

I made this raised bed last week to provide a cozy home for radishes, jalapenos, cucumbers, red bell peppers, dill, and beans.  I love gardening and though we have half an acre, it's clay.  Solid clay.  And hilly.  I made this raised bed to fit within our chain-linked dog run.  This keeps the neighborhood critters at bay.  Close to the house, it's a little warmer than other spots in the yard, and also sheltered from the wind, but has great southern exposure.  I planned that the stair railing could be used as a trellis.

Ta-Dah! I did something and it didn't suck completely!

It's roughly 2' x 4' and about 12" high.  I cut three 1" x 6" (8') into the panels and then screwed then into the corner 2"x2", which are each 14" long.  I used some old 1 1/2" screws, and the wood came from Home Depot, for about $18.00 total.  Now I don't know much about these things, but I don't think that a 1" x 6" is actually 1" by 6", it seems a little less, but on this manner of project, it doesn't matter at all.  I stained with what we had leftover from the fence and then nestled it into the slope of the dog run.

Veggie house

It took about an hour, start to finish.  D came out to monitor my progress midway and was impressed...which surprised me...

Is this what he expected?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Brew to Brew and bullriding too...

I keep finding great things about where I live!  

As usual, I responded to a friend's text of "Brew-to-Brew?" with "sure!" even though I was not at all sure if I was agreeing to a beer fest or tea pot meetup or, as it now turns out, the annual Brew-to-Brew relay for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  

This April relay marks the start of spring running here in eastern Kansas.  I've never done a relay before -I just haven't imbibed the Ragnar Kool-aid or really had any success with sticking to relay plans (a la Transmountain Challenge of 2012).  No reason for me to recap the helpful website for the Relay (Brew-to-Brew) but please if you are in the local area, consider either a hard-core solo run or dredging up a few running mates for a fabulous cause and an adventure. 

My weekend was low on running  mileage, but we did ski at Snowcreek, walk the Weston Bluffs Trail, and then attend the Professional Bull Riding event at the Sprint Center.  I've ridden horses but that's where my familiarity with this sport and lifestyle ends.  I loved it all -- the bulls, the riders, the rodeo clowns, the safety horse-mounted rider, the fact that these skills are part of other people's daily lives, even if only 8 seconds at a time -- and I loved that the PBR website addresses the humane treatment of the bulls.  I was unnecessarily worried beforehand that there was a dog food factory hidden behind the pens but these bulls (and their gametes of course) are so highly prized that they receive rather luxurious care (including acupuncture and chiropractic!!!) and yes I am purposefully avoiding extrapolating the irony.

Luckily for me, agreeable D indulges my need to attend events like this and soak in the culture surrounding a way of life vastly different from my own.  We already punched the NASCAR and monster truck rally cards!

I honestly didn't pick up on the subtleties of the riders' skills much less the scoring rubric but when done elegantly, even I can tell.  Here's the YouTube clip of the highest-scoring rider.
And, I leave you with this, a tidbit from last night's festivities that everyone can appreciate even if you don't much about bulls or tight ends or rodeo clowns or devoted fans...enjoy!

A great week to all - I can't believe March is almost here!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Weston Bluffs Trail

Sunday afternoon Amon-Ra unleashed an unseasonable treat on this little corner of eastern Kansas.  The sun shone, the birds chirped, and it really did smell like earthy early spring.  I think temps almost reached 70F!

I celebrated yesterday by crossing the wide Missouri River and running a 6.5 mile roundtrip Weston Bluffs Trail at Weston Bend State Park.  The trail is a straight shot between two small towns on the outskirts of the state park- Beverly in the south, and Weston, at the trail's northern terminus.  I parked in the middle, and started from within the park, first heading south and then turning north.  The trail rolls along the south-coursing river, parallel to train tracks (frighteningly close to the train tracks in fact!).  To the south from the park trailhead, the path is pea gravel and sand.  To the north, it's paved. 

Afterwards, I took all these pictures...of another trail nearby.   

Sometimes I take Nugget to this park for a walk, and sometimes D and I run the hills on the paved bike path.  I think our trail loops and out-and-backs have covered almost every path option in the park.

A hidden gem, just 10 minutes from home.  

State Parks are a treasure! 

Today the weather remembered it's still February and I zip up my fleece outer jacket and leave for work in the dark. 

Happy running!