Monday, November 30, 2015

Monday Quickie

It took us six hours to drive home yesterday from Dallas - this trip normally takes no more than 3.5 hours.  I knew traffic would be heavy because of the holiday weekend, but add in a ton of rain and there were so many accidents, it was just crazy.  After a while I got bored and started taking some pictures while Jeff drove:
You know it's bad when you see a ribbon of bright red brake lights snaking ahead for miles...see where the blue arrow is pointing?  That would be said ribbon.

We finally cleared that mess and drove along for a little while before traffic came to another stop-and-go situation.  Two lanes, moving at most around 10 miles per hour, when all of a sudden people decided that the rules didn't apply to them and they started driving on the shoulder.  It irks me like you wouldn't believe when people do this - and apparently, it also irked the driver of a big white work truck, because he would edge his truck over into the shoulder so these rule-breakers couldn't pass.  This happened so often that I started taking pictures to entertain myself:
 There goes one car...
 And another...
 And another...
We caught up to them, and I have to say, it was very satisfying to see their law-breaking efforts stymied by that work-truck driver, who was obviously as sick of this as we were.  Honestly, I would have loved to see them ticketed, but I suspect the police were a little busy dealing with all the accidents on the road.

Anyway, that was a good part of our Sunday.  We had a great time with our youngest, who cooked the entire Thanksgiving meal!  And lest you think we forgot about the pets, even the rats got a tiny piece of pumpkin pie:
Dora appreciated the dab of Cool Whip on her piece!
Paco went into a food coma - seriously, he didn't get more than a couple of bites, but a full belly plus a huge beanbag chair meant he was out like a light!

Hope all of my American readers had a great Thanksgiving holiday - we are back to normal with a long run this morning since we missed ours over the weekend due to flooding rains in the Dallas area. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

(Black) Friday Mishmash - No Shopping Here!

Is it odd that there's nothing I want to shop for today?  I can't be the only person so overwhelmed by all the ads for STUFF that it makes me want to crawl into a hole and take cover from the madness - but then, I've never been one who loves to get out there in the crowds to shop, so there you go.  Anyway, I hope my American readers had a nice Thanksgiving and are enjoying the holiday weekend.


Last month, while Jeff was in southern California, I asked him to drive by our old house and take a picture.  I was really pleased to see that our first house, which we bought in 1986, still looked really good:
Our first home!  Lake Forest, California.

The hardscape that we put in was still there, although a lot of the landscape has been changed.  I Googled the address and found a recent real estate listing with lots of pictures, and I saw that the patio, bench seating, and patio cover that we put in (with the help of my dad and my uncle) were still there and looking nice, too.  I remarked to Jeff that the house was looking great for being nearly 20 years old; he responded with "nearly 30, you mean" - yikes.  How can I have bought a house nearly 30 years ago?? I swear, I don't feel like I've been an adult for that long!


Speaking of being an adult, our youngest wanted to host Thanksgiving this's normal to bring all of this to help out, right:
It was nice to only have to wash the dishes for a change, instead of also having to fill them with food!

Everything came out great, and we had a fun time - I think once you host a holiday meal, you're officially a grown up (forget all of that college graduation, real job, living on your own stuff, haha), so kudos to our youngest - nice work!


Also a perk of being an adult is getting to take on as many knitting projects as I want.  No guilt about finishing what I started before beginning a new project, nope - I had some projects ongoing, but saw a cute pattern for a hat, discovered that I had the perfect yarn for it in my stash, so bam, I cast on for it.  And then, although I'm already knitting one pair of socks, I couldn't resist casting on for another pair with some new yarn I bought earlier this month.  And that's how my project area came to look like this:
 Clockwise from bottom left:  hat, hat, cowl, shawlette, sock, sock.  WHAT??


Knitting and movies today, with some leftover pumpkin pie and a turkey sandwich - sounds like a pretty nice Friday to me.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Double Nickel Anniversary, Happy Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the United States, and it's also my parent's 55th wedding anniversary - yep, they've hit that magic number of the speed limit, or the double nickel.  So Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad, and Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends!  Enjoy the day, everyone.

And just so this post isn't all words, here's a picture of Henry, who is one smart cat:
Jeff left his side of the heated mattress pad on, and Henners was quick to claim that nice warm bed as his...I couldn't even make him move to get the bed made, he was so content!  If the cat has it in him to be thankful for something, this would be it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

WWU - 12 MILES!!!

(I realize it's not Wednesday, but it's Thanksgiving week and my schedule is a bit wonky, so why not extend it to the blog?)

 4+4+4=12 miles!

We had our benchmark run on Saturday - 12 miles for the half marathon peeps, and (shudder) 21  miles for the full marathon group.  This is the longest run our group does before our goal race, and it's always something that I both look forward to and dread, just a little - let's face it, running 12 miles is tough, no matter how much you train for it.  But I'd be running with CC and Loretta, so at least I knew it would be fun.

Weather report:  The morning started out warm, with humidity right at 100% - I swear, we haven't been able to catch a break with our long runs in terms of perfect running weather.  About half an hour into the run, it started to sprinkle, but luckily the rain didn't last very long.  At least it was warm rain?  Toward the last couple of miles, a very strong north wind blew in, but thankfully, amazingly, it was at our backs...a true miracle in a runner's world.  We finished just as the temperature was dropping a lot, and were back at the park and able to wrap up in blankets and jackets before it got too cold.

The run:  It mostly went fine.  I tried something new, which was to take a GU right before we started running, just to see if I could get into my running groove faster.  I always run on an empty stomach, but thought this might help, and it did - I felt good almost right away in terms of my legs doing what they were supposed to be doing.  We chugged right along and suddenly we were at mile 3, which is when we normally fuel up.  I didn't feel like it, but I went ahead and took another GU, figuring I shouldn't mess with my normal routine.  On and on we ran, and then we hit mile 6, where Coach Kasey and her husband had set up an aid station, complete with Gatorade, water, extra GUs, bananas, and tiny pecan tarts.  It was nice to see them and get some encouragement at the halfway point.  I added some Gatorade to my water bottle, snagged a GU, which was nice because I was out at that point, and we ran on.  I took that GU, still thinking I should keep on the schedule, but that may have been a mistake, because my stomach never felt great after that.  I probably should have adjusted my fuel times earlier, like waiting until mile 4 to take my first one.  Oh well, this is when you are supposed to figure this out, during a practice run, instead of a race.

We had a mostly downhill run for the next few miles - ahhhh - and then we turned and went into the fancy neighborhood.  As renegades who've created our own routes for most of this season, we've only run the shortcut through this neighborhood until now, so Loretta didn't exactly know where she was going...which is notable because she ended up taking the lead!  And then, right after our last water stop at mile 10, she really surged ahead of us.  Well, me - CC could have kept up with her, but she mostly stayed back with me, as we both watched with amazement while Loretta ran those last two miles like it was nothing, and especially not the last two of twelve miles!  This was the woman who got sidelined partway through training last year with a hip stress fracture and had to have surgery and recover from that and then start back from zero...and she's done it.  CC kept looking at her and saying to me "she's ready" - and yes, I agree - Loretta is definitely ready for her first half marathon in three weeks!  We've watched her transform from someone who battled just a couple of miles to a strong, confident runner and couldn't be more proud of her!

Afterward:  We were surprised to receive finisher's medals when we were done - cookie medals!  Check out the happy runners:
Me, CC, and Lolo (her running nickname)

Loretta had so much energy afterward that she jumped right in and helped pass out our shirts:
Seriously, there was no stopping her on Saturday!

Coach Kasey had some warm pepperoni rolls waiting for us at the park, so I had a couple of them, which meant that when we finally went to Blue Baker for breakfast, I only had coffee and a chocolate milk (but my cinnamon twist came home with me for later).  We rehashed our run and enjoyed our accomplishment - for me, although I felt less than great during the last four miles, I kept doing my intervals, didn't do any additional walking, and finished the run, and that's a pretty big deal, STILL, in my little running world.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Mishmash

Super random post today - although I'm getting back into the swing of things at home, my mind is all over the'll either enjoy this post or suffer through it, haha.

First up, I had a craving for a Fresca while I was visiting my parents, which is weird because I haven't had a diet soda in years...I think I drank Diet Coke for the first couple of years that I was dieting, but then I stopped using artificial sweeteners, and there went the soda.  But I used to love Fresca, and always thought it tasted refreshing and not diet-y.  So I bought a 12-pack a couple of days ago, came home, cracked one open, poured it over ice, and...blech.  It tasted like a mouthful of chemicals, which is what all diet soda tastes like to me now.  I don't know why I thought it would be different, but it was not good.  And now I have eleven cans left of the stuff!  Maybe I'll reverse trick-or-treat my neighbors and hand out some Fresca.


Sometimes, I just like to do this to my Fiestaware:

This order never lasts long, but I love opening my cupboard and seeing a rainbow of dishes.


Paco finally forgave me for leaving him - it was pretty funny, because Jeff returned home before I did, so Paco ended up bonding with him for a change and gave me the cold shoulder for a couple of days.  But now, he's back to being all up in my grill, so to speak:
If this picture had sound effects, you would be hearing "grrrrRRRRRRRR" - Paco wasn't happy that Kip was sharing my lap with him.


I put the extra large ceramic bird button that I bought at the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival marketplace on a big basket in my family room:
I am so charmed by this, it's ridiculous.  


I finished the little sock that I started in Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's class:
 A tiny sock for my tiny Christmas tree this year!

This sock is a bit of a hot mess, as I was working so fast and trying some new techniques, but I love it to death.  And see the red stripe right below the blue/white area?  That's where Stephanie, aka my knitting bestie, actually knitted some stitches!!!  I KNOW.  Best thing ever!!

Have a great weekend.  I do not even want to tell you how many miles we will be running tomorrow.  Come back on Monday to see if we survive.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

WWU - 9 Miles, Armadillo Adventures

What happens when you go on vacation and don't run for 10 days, and then, less than 12 hours after you return, you run 9 miles?  Let's just say it could have been worse...but boy howdy, I sure was feeling this run toward the end, and especially afterward.  Now, it was great to be back with my running crew - CC, Loretta and I had a lot to catch up on and the run was fun in that aspect.  It's just that my legs let me know that they didn't like going from zero to nine miles without a little bit of build up.

Funny thing though - this season, more than any in the past, I barely check my Garmin while I'm running.  Mostly I'll glance at it to see what mile we're on, for fueling purposes (although Loretta is usually spot on, within a tenth of a mile, for knowing when it's time to refuel, which I think is really great - she's very intuitive in feeling when her body needs more fuel), but I don't look at our pace.  However, as we crested the last uphill slog and I exclaimed out loud that I was dying (slight exaggeration, but runners know that feeling), I checked it and saw that we were at mile 8.25, which reassured me that I could survive for another 3/4 of a mile.  Later on while we were at breakfast, I looked at our mile splits and saw that we'd run the last four miles faster than the first five - no wonder I felt like I was dying.  And that last mile?  Fastest than our first mile by over a minute!  That was a pretty sweet accomplishment - Loretta and I high-fived over that one.

That afternoon and the next day I was pretty sore, but between taking some Motrin and using my BFF Buffer, I felt decent enough to run on Monday morning.  Loretta came over and she, Jeff, and I had a nice shake out run at 5:15 am.  Afterward, Jeff went inside the house while Loretta and I talked for a few minutes on the driveway while Paco was outside, running around like the crazy dog he is.  At one point he started barking aggressively at the gate on our side fence, so I put him back in the house - it was dark and I couldn't see much, but I figured he was just barking at a sweet neighborhood cat, Obi-Wan Kenobi, who gets picked on by all of my pets but persists in hanging around. 

Turns out, he was barking at an armadillo, and scared it into our garage.  Of course, I didn't see this happen and I went back to talking with Loretta until she had to leave to get ready for work.  She left, and I went in through the garage, hit the button to close the door, and turned to make sure it was closing all the way (sometimes our cats will bum rush the garage and cause the door to pop back up)...and that's when I saw a huge armadillo about three feet from me, walking under Jeff's car!  I also saw Kip in the garage, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I shrieked, ran inside my house, slammed the door, and yes, I trapped my cat in the garage with an armadillo. 

Now, the sane person would have cracked open the door, reached out and hit the button to reopen the garage door, but HECK NO WHAT IF THE ARMADILLO WAS RIGHT THERE AND TRIED TO COME IN THE HOUSE???  Not. An. Option.  The other choice was to go outside through the front door, open the garage door using the keypad mounted on the side of the door frame, and run like hell back toward the front door.  Luckily, I had a third choice, which was to go make Jeff deal with it.  Also not ashamed of that...he's not always home, but when he is, I will gladly surrender any and all dealings with wild animals to him.  With the help of our Webster (good for sweeping cobwebs, ceiling fans, and armadillos), he got the armadillo out of the garage.  Whew!

And that's how I got a double cardio workout on Monday.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival

About 10 days ago, my mom and I attended the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival - it was held in The Dalles, Oregon, which is near where my parents live.  This was a belated Christmas gift from my parents, and it was worth the wait!  I got to take three knitting classes, attend the dinner banquet, sit and knit with friendly strangers, and of course, shop the Marketplace...everything a knitter could want!

The CGFF started on a Friday morning, so I flew to Oregon on Wednesday.  That took all dang day, as our flight out of Dallas had what turned out to be a non-issue regarding a hydraulic fluid leak, but the pilot wanted to be extra cautious, which of course I appreciated...better safe than sorry.  When the delay stretched into a couple of hours, I was extra glad to have a buffer day of travel, just in case.  Luckily I made it to Portland that night, and got to spend Thursday doing fun stuff with my mom.

Packet pickup (just like a race, and of course I bought the festival t-shirt for both of seemed fitting) began at 8:00 am on Friday, with classes beginning at 8:30 am, so we were up early for the 40 minute drive to the venue.  My mom took an all-day class on fiber felting, which is what she's been into for the last few years (I'll have a post on that soon).

My first class was with the Yarn Harlot, aka Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, and I was practically giddy with anticipation - I've read her blog for years, rely on her book Knitting Rules! for all things knitting, and am just a huge fan.  She lives in Toronto, Canada, so the fact that I was getting to take a couple of classes from her was really special for me.  This class was called Knitting for Speed & Efficiency, and it was fascinating.  Stephanie went over the history of knitting and then demonstrated how people (men, women and children) used to knit with really long needles, using the lever method.  Women carried their knitting with them at all times, so they could churn out projects quickly.  They used a leather pouch/belt system, which she happened to have (uses for certain projects).  She put one on and her humor came through right away:
Can you see the long pointy knitting needle sticking out of her waist belt?  We were all laughing as she waved it around, like she was fencing without using her hands.
At this point, she'd added her knitting project and was walking around, knitting and saying "en garde" in her lovely French accent - I was cracking up!

She had us cast on and knit several rows of garter stitch while she was talking about the history of knitting, and then we did a speed test.  Spoiler alert:  I am not very fast...which I already knew.  But she showed us how to count rows (you count the bars between your stitches, like in the upper right picture below), which I'd always been a little confused on.  And she showed us a different way to wrap the yarn around our fingers so we wouldn't have to slow ourselves down by constantly rewrapping - her reminder for which fingers to use were "peace, rude, ring" which I took pictures of so I could better remember.  Then we started lever knitting, using the 14-inch long knitting needles we each brought.  It was interesting and definitely will take some practice - you can see in the bottom left picture how my gauge tightened up a lot over the last few rows, which were done lever-style.  That is not particularly a good thing, but it comes with the territory of learning something new - I'm a tight knitter to begin with, so that part got worse the more I concentrated.
The morning flew by and before I knew it, class was over.  I was sad!  But I knew I had several more Yarn Harlot moments still to come, so it was OK.  I met my mom for a quick lunch and then she went back to her class, while I had a couple of hours to kill before the Marketplace opened up.  I found two couches with a view, so I sat down to knit:
View of the Columbia Gorge and river...

Soon the couches were filled with knitters, and strangers became friends as we compared notes on classes, what we were working on, etc.  Knitting is a great ice breaker!  A husband and wife sitting across from me had just moved to Oregon from the Bay Area, so it was great to hear about my old stomping grounds.  Plus, it was really nice to see a man knitting - he said he'd been knitting since the early 1970s!  I ran into them after the Marketplace opened, and we both ended up buying the same colorway of yarn:
Me, Lauralie, and John - happy shoppers!

My mom finished with her class and then it was time for my next moment with the Yarn Harlot - she, along with several other teachers, were doing a book signing.  I brought my highlighted, dog-eared copy of Knitting Rules! for her to sign, as well as her latest book that I haven't read yet:
Stephanie and me!  

The next day I had another class with Stephanie, called Grok the Sock - it was another fascinating morning spent learning, and bettering, my sock techniques.  We knitted up a little sock, and there was one point when I got stuck on picking up stitches for the heel (I hardly ever do a heel flap, so this was still tricky for me) and Stephanie worked her magic on my inner fangirl was squealing in delight - I have Yarn Harlot stitches on my little sock!!!  I don't have a picture of the sock yet because I haven't finished it - I had another sock that I needed to work on while I was in Oregon.  Soon, maybe even by the end of today, I'll get it done.  Again, this class could have gone on all day and I'd have been a happy camper.  If any of my knitting readers ever get a chance to take a class from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, jump at it - you'll be happy you did.

After more shopping at the Marketplace, we went to the dinner banquet, where GUESS WHO was the keynote speaker?  If you guessed Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, you win.  Wait, I won...along with everyone else in the room.  She gave a great talk and was so funny that I was laughing so hard I was crying.  It was wonderful.
My mom's friend DonnaLee, me, my mom.  Each of us wearing something we'd made.
 Centerpiece at the banquet - because of course!  Perfect for our crowd.

Rainbow on Sunday morning just before class began - view from our window.

The last day of the CGFF had me taking a class with a different teacher - this one was called Patty's Bag of Tricks, taught by Patty Lyons.  She went at the speed of light and I got a little frustrated at times because I'd get lost and she just kept moving on.  She gave the class a break at the halfway point, and outside of the room, another knitter confided to me that she was lost, so I felt better (not gonna lie, a bag of M&M's from the nearby vending machine also helped)...but still, it was quite a different experience from my other two classes.  Toward the end of the class Patty did say she was trying to cram six hours worth of information into the three hour class, and if that was the case, I'd rather have had less info but understood more of it.  She gave us handouts of the tricks and techniques she was teaching us, which was a good thing because there wasn't time to take good notes.

Of course, we had to finish the festival with another trip through the Marketplace.  It wasn't overwhelmingly large, and we were able to chat with the vendors and hear about their dying techniques and all things creative.  I visited one shop so often that the owner hugged me around the third time I came by!  What can I say, I was really drawn to her work, and I couldn't decide what to buy, so it took several visits.  I ended up buying way less yarn than I thought I might, but what I got, I love.  Here's a couple of collages of my bounty:
This is all the yarn I bought while in Oregon, but I didn't get it all at the CGFF - we managed to visit a few yarn shops while I was there, too.  Most of it is sock yarn (no surprise there), but the aqua blue gradient kit will become a cowl for my mom at some point.
Non-yarn goodies include a hand-thrown pottery yarn bowl, a soap/lotion dispenser (both by Kunihiro Pottery), ceramic buttons (for a sweater that I've got the yarn for - just need to (wo)man up and start it), a giant bird button that I didn't exactly know what I'd do with, but I couldn't stop thinking about so I finally bought, a sheep ornament, and a cute snowman pin, all from One of a Kind.
Stephania, from Three Fates Yarn, was in my Friday morning class.  I loved her yarn and had such a hard time deciding which colorway to buy - finally went with this beautiful purple. 

My first time at a fiber festival was great fun and I am glad I got to do this, especially with my mom.  We are already thinking about where to go next year!