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! :)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Wyco Lake Park Trail Run: Veteran's Day Fantastic 4 Miler

Poppies for remembrance!  Allow me to remember citing the source, here
 It's that most beautiful time of the year - fall- when mornings in east Kansas are chilly but full of sun and skies still baby blue.  There was a crunchy frost on the grass (and windshield!) this morning when D and I left home for the Trailnerds' Veteran's Day Fantastic 4-miler at Wyandotte County Lake Park.

Here we go!
 We've run with this troupe before at the saucy Mrs Robinson Romp 10K in March.  Today the Trailnerds again held a fabulous event.  The part we liked best is how the race is fuss-free and still so organized.  Registration is a breeze, the course is well-marked, the participants (human and canine) well-mannered, and the spectators full of cheer AND cowbell.  I like that these trail races are intended for runners of all abilities and ages:  young kids, older kids, middle-aged kids, and some kids who might even be members of the AARP.

The special event today was Veteran's (and public servants) Day.  For any EMS, police, fire department, current/former military, the race was FREE!  For all others, just $15!

To me the very spirit of America is that of intrepid volunteerism, which our public servants live out each day, no matter the austerity or dire nature of the situation.

Why not toast to them and those we remember with a 4-mile run?

Today's course started in the trails of the northeast corner of the Wyandotte County Lake, following the curves and the hills surrounding the reservoir.  Though the park is just one hill from I-435, it feels a quiet and peaceful world away.

View of the trail - from across the lake

View down the spillway
 D and I are same-day registration kind of people.  We arrived about 3 minutes before the start (still up for debate is who's to blame for our late departure...hint: it's not me) but we had just enough time to register and sprint to the start line.

The one thing I don't like about running (or riding) on hilly single-track is getting stuck behind a long line of runners.  It's a dicey maneuver to pass people (no matter how much verbal warning you provide) and I tripped a few times, losing footing on the shaky, slick, muddy hillsides, amid roots and rocks of all sizes.  Fallen leaves and dappled sunshine further obscured a clear view of the footpath, so I was glad I wore my old trail shoes.  Oh woe is me, to run on a perfect day in a beautiful place....

Immediately after taking this picture, D asked if I wanted my thighs in the frame....(????)
I guess he'll let me know how comfortable the couch is in the morning
Just like last time, we eagerly anticipate the race photos.  D likes to do silly poses and mostly I wonder, "there was a race photographer?  He didn't capture my snot rocket, did he?"

Many thanks to the Trailnerds volunteers, again part of why America is just so great.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Special places: Kansas City

D won't admit it but among his other hobbies, he loves botanical gardens, museums, long walks with the dog and so we had a few weekends full of these new enjoyments!

First, we visited the Overland Park Botanic Gardens.  For $3, you can stroll the grounds, hike wooded trails or meander well-groomed gardens, walk your dog, and enjoy a treat in the cafe.  We loved it.  Certainly not as extensive as the Denver gardens, but with great fall colors and late-summer blooms.  We plan to return in a few weeks when the mums (so many mums!) are blooming.  Imagine these colors, intensified in real life:

Not for snacking!

One of the last days of summery weather!

Ahh, now that looks like the fall!

Last weekend, after the Botanic Gardens, we crossed the wide Missouri for the Weston Applefest...a festival, which we both noted, had few apples and many many people.  Regardless, we had a great lunch at the Tin Kitchen where I ate the Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich with 24H slaw.  It's the best pulled pork I've ever had.  Afterwards we stumbled on a Polish pottery shop just around the corner from the restaurant.  I always associated that pottery style with homemakers and SAHMs and military spouses but I found for once that the pattern absolutely suited my taste.  The price tag, not so much, so we left empty handed.  D says we can buy Polish pottery once we visit Poland and not a minute sooner, but I can get Weston pottery in Weston if I want.  I see his point...sigh.

Later in the weekend, we took our first-ever trip to Ikea.  Based on the number of cars in the parking lots we both dreaded a crowded tangle of shoppers inside, but instead we moved freely from store corner to corner and floor to floor thanks to the well-planned layout.  Everything there is about efficiency, isn't it?!  I imagine we'll use an Ikea design and storage aesthetic when we build our tiny accessory dwelling unit one day. While fun to look at and imagine the possibilities (storage!  bunk beds!  everything with umlauts!) it just doesn't suit our style these days, and we aren't exactly looking to over-stuff our small home any further. 

Last night we dined with friends at Tin Kitchen (yes, again!) where I ordered the same pulled-pork sandwich.  Afterwards we sauntered around the corner to the Weston Irish Festival, held annually on the grounds of O'Malley's, a great pub, brewery and restaurant with an interesting history of bootlegging, prohibition, and architecture.  This brewery, established in 1842 by German immigrants, eventually contrived itself as an Irish-style pub and remains a Weston landmark, with several levels of underground caverns creating an intimacy in the lively and rowdy bar setting.  D and friends sipped on cream ale and an adult version of root beer, and we sat in the grass listening to some great Irish bands in the cool of an autumn evening in western Missouri.  I can't drink much alcohol these days - absolutely never during the week and maybe once a year.  I just can't seem to function the next day even with a small serving of alcohol.  A decade ago this was definitely not the case and I remember fondly that late-night liquid carb-loading rarely hampered the next day's events!  Polish pottery and now alcohol intolerance...oy my youth how it dwindles... :)

On Friday we went to Joe's Kansas City BBQ (formerly Oklahoma Joe's) because it's supposed to be the best barbecue in the region, if not the country.  The gas-station-cum-restaurant's been featured in many of those Food network show-off clip shows and I think the President (or many presidents!) have eaten there too.  I'm not much for pork ribs, but D pronounced them "amazing" and I agree, the tender meat slipped right off the bone without the usual tooth-snaggling fight.  Sadly, my pulled pork and brisket plate was barely warm to the taste, salty, and the pulled pork a tad mealy while the brisket was overly fatty.  Other disappointments include the bland "spicy slaw" and the highly-praised fries which were far too salty for my taste.  Sure, it's BBQ and not haute-cuisine, and I fully admit I prefer Carolina-style over KC-style blends, but I can't see why this place earns such high marks for other than the ribs.  

Next time I'll skip Joe's for Jack Stack (KC) or Rudy's (TX).  Still, it's a must to eat at such a renowned establishment at least once while we live here, and our friends who agree with a tepid review suggest we try Q39 or Gates next once we've lost our salty, greasy barbecue bloat.  

Sauce-covered and sated we next visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, a place we've been before.  It feels like an old friend each time we return.  There were some new works of art on the lawn (which we previously skipped due to inclement weather) where we disoriented ourselves in a glass labyrinth meant to evoke man's discombobulated journey in these modern times, and enjoyed the cornucopia-like heads:
I bring horns and fruit
I bring just fruit

I would like us to sign up for art classes, but D's not so keen...he likes to paint fences and walls and our deck, and not so much the representations of them.  This visit, his favorite exhibit was the knights and armor on the far side of a cloistered abbey, and I liked the outdoor sculpture garden.  I really enjoy seeing squirrels and birds and people interact with the art in a natural, relaxed setting.

Earlier in the weekend I ran a local 10K and I placed 2nd overall for the women, but I had a mind-numbing race.  I can't get over this hamstring tendinitis so every step I take is a footfall of frustration.  My lungs and heart feel good but due to pain I can't push myself as I'd like.   I am not one who expects running to be pain-free of course but this is different, and it's been around about 18 months, and I don't like it.  Unfortunately at this time I can't stomach the idea of taking a hiatus even though rationally it's the wisest thing to do.  I think my brain would suffer such a break in routine.  

After reading this over I notice that I've eaten far too much barbecue recently and so I'm sure I'll be running again later today to sweat off the stupor.

Here's another snapshot from the Overland Park Botanic Gardens...aren't the colors really something?

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