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 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!

*** No affiliate links or sponsoring whatsoever ***

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 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! :)

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

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!