Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Mishmash

My sweet friend Fran mailed out some Dutch candy recently, and guess who went crazy for it?  I swear, I've never seen Paco get so worked up over candy, of all things:
 
GIVE.ME.DAT.
"Smells so gud, Mom"
"Look.  I sit.  I gud.  Now give me CANDY!"

For the record, I didn't share any of the peppermint discs with him - they are too good!  But the next morning, when I started to take pictures of the licorice candy, well - I'll let the pictures tell that story:
Have you ever seen a dog eat a piece of licorice?  Well, now you have.  He loved it!  Strange, strange dog.

Thank you, Fran - what a fun treat to arrive in our mailbox!  All the way from the Netherlands to the United States of America...I love how international friendships have formed via blogland!

********************

I finally printed out some race pictures and rearranged my wall o'achievement, and I'm pretty happy with how it came out.  To be honest, sometimes I look at these pictures and still can't believe that this is me, a runner...but there you go (and here I am):
The Houston 2016 memory wall of the Renegade Run Club came out pretty cute.

Closer look at my Houston wall - I had our graffiti picture printed on metal, and it came out really cool:
JAZZ HANDS!
Top framed collage is from my first year of running; bottom magnet board houses more current race picture.
 I look at this and see a lot of effort, fun, and friendship!

********************

Knitting update:  I managed to darn the moth hole in my Dad's hat - despite watching some pretty good YouTube videos on how to do this, it was still really challenging, and I didn't do it perfectly.  But after several restarts, I finally got it fixed enough...and sometimes, that's all you can expect.  Here's my process - I did this at my desk, where the morning light was bright enough to see what I was doing, and in front of my computer, so I could watch and pause the darn(ing) videos:
Here's the hole...
Starting the duplicate stitch (in purple) - I would eventually knit over this and then remove it.
After I removed the purple yarn - hey, the hole is still there!  First attempt was a fail.
This is when I called it a day - you can see it's not perfect, but the hole is closed...and it's in the back, so I told my Dad to just keep turning his head if someone happens to be standing close behind him when he's wearing the hat.

So, darning is not easy.  And it's something I hope I don't need to do very often, which also means I'll probably never get much better at it.  But that's OK - there's way more fun things to do with yarn, like making socks:
Almost finished!

I have another sock that is already completed and is waiting on its mate, and I have a plan for yet another skein of sock yarn - the knitting fun never stops around here!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

WWU - A Short Long Run

I'm taking advantage of my time between races, and am not running very far - and it feels pretty good, I must say!  My "long" run on Saturday was all of 3 miles, which, let's face it, is almost how far I run on a normal Tuesday.  The rest of my crew ran 5 miles, but they are doing a half marathon this coming Saturday, while I'm only wisely doing the 10K option - so I was good with the short long run.

I ran by myself for the long run, and it was OK, if not a little boring.  Hey, I'm in it for the socialization, what can I say?!  But several people from our group were busy doing other things, so that's how it worked out.  Ever since Houston, I've been running 2:1 intervals for my long runs and it's definitely taking some time to get used to that - you wouldn't think going from 1:30/1 to 2:1 would be that challenging - after all, it's only an additional 30 seconds of running per interval - but it is.  Or else, I'm still a little tired from all of the January mileage.  Who knows?  I can't figure out running!

********************

Speaking of races, we each received one free download of our pictures from that Texas 10 Series race, which was a nice bonus!  I still haven't purchased any of Jeff's or my pictures from Houston because not only are they super-expensive, but the shipping cost (which can't be combined) is ridiculous.  Anyway, here's my freebie:
Remember when I wrote that I stepped on it and passed a woman in the finisher's chute?  That would be her, in the blue, behind me.  Poor woman, she had no idea she was in a RACE race!

********************

One of the things I'm trying to work on more consistently with my running is stretching.  It seems like none of my injuries ever really go away; rather, they change from major hurting to minor twinges.  My latest one was massive pain on the right side of my upper hip - it came on in one day and got so bad that I went to the doctor, who, after X-rays to rule out anything broken, diagnosed sacroiliac joint pain.  Luckily for me, after one visit with a physical therapist, I was able to get it under control and felt much better, but I do notice it (just a twinge) when I wake up the morning after I've run...so, now I have SI joint stretches added to my hamstring stretches.  It's not a bad thing, this stretching - but it's a habit that I find hard to stick to.  One more thing to work on, I guess!

Monday, February 8, 2016

My Simple Diet Advice

Is it just me, or do you guys read some bloggers who strongly tout their way of losing weight as THE way, the ONLY way, and think that they're a little full of it?  I mean, I get it if, after many years of trying to lose weight, you finally stumble upon a plan that works for you, and of course you want to shout it from the rooftops because SUCCESS, but come on now.  Everyone is different.  Some body types respond one way to a specific diet, while others go in the opposite direction.  It's ridiculous to think that the entire population can follow one particular diet and everyone will lose weight.  And I especially don't like it when bloggers spout off scientific evidence as to why their diet is what we all should be following.  Science, schmience.  According to the diet rules, 3,500 calories equals one pound, and if you reduce your caloric intake by 3,500 calories per week, that means you should lose one pound per week...but anyone who's ever followed a diet plan to a T knows that isn't always the case.

So again, I say, if it works for you, great.  I'm happy for you, truly I am.  But your diet isn't the only winner out there.

My irritation at these diet pushers is the reason why I don't like to give a lot of diet advice on this blog.  Over the years, I've been asked many times exactly how I managed to lose weight, what diet I followed, and how can it be replicated.  The answer is, it can't be replicated - well, not exactly.  I mean, you can lose weight just like I did.  But it's up to how your body responds to what you do that is going to show you results.

I'm not perfect in how I lost the weight, nor in how I've managed my maintenance...I'm a flawed human being, after all, not a robot.  I'm still trying to figure out how to balance living a fun life with keeping my portions and treats under control.  They say practice makes perfect but I guess I'm not practicing hard enough, haha.

So after saying all of this, the most simple diet advice I can give you is to recommend that you find a way to eat that you can sustain even after you've hit your weight loss goals.  Because as we all know, if you do XX to lose weight but then go back to eating like you did before the diet, well...before too long, you're gonna need to go on another diet again.

Friday, February 5, 2016

FMM - #WelcomeToWinning!

How often do you see me use a hashtag on my posts?  Considering that I still think of them as the number symbol, hardly ever, right?  But I was offered something really fun, and the hashtag came along with the prize, so there's the explanation.

Look what arrived on my doorstep recently:
A succulent garden!  

As part of the ProFlowers #welcometowinning campaign, I was given the opportunity to choose anything from their selection of Valentine's Day flowers, and while they had me at flowers, once I saw the option of a succulent garden, I was all in!  I have been wanting one for years, but never managed to treat myself.

While February is the month for lots of big winners (Oscars, Grammys, Superbowl), ProFlowers wanted to remind us that we are all winners.  My winning comes in the form of running - not only have I found a form of exercise that I like enough to do it year in and year out, but I'm getting outside of my comfort zone with racing, which is a big deal for me...I like my comfort zone, quite honestly!  But here's where I get to pose in my Houston half marathon shirt and my beautiful bonus prize:
OK, so I managed to cover up most of the t-shirt graphic, but I know it's there.  Take THAT, comfort zone!

As soon as the delivery arrived on my doorstep (I'd forgotten that ProFlowers delivers via UPS, so I was a little perplexed when a big box came early one evening), I immediately went to work in setting up my little cafe table in the kitchen:
All set for a pretty Valentine's-themed breakfast.  Now I just need to do something about the food...

Another way I do a little #welcometowinning victory dance is whenever I manage to pull together what I own into making something pretty, be it rearranging my living room furniture and making it work without buying anything new, or like this table setting - I already had everything, and was especially pleased to pull out the beautiful antique tablecloth and matching napkins that were a gift, several years ago, from my running buddy Erica's mother, Blanche.   I love how this all came together so nicely and the pink color in the succulent garden container looks perfect with the tablecloth!  I get an extra jolt of happiness every morning when I walk into my kitchen and see this pretty setting - revel in the little things, I say!

Thanks, ProFlowers, for helping to make my February extra special!

********************

Hey, speaking of the Superbowl - here's some fun trivia:  I grew up in Santa Clara, where Levi's Stadium is located!  It's so surreal to hear all the talk about Santa Clara on the news, because back when I lived there, no one knew where it was.  I got so used to saying "it's 50 miles south of San Francisco" - and now it's all grown up!  The area where I lived is still really nice; whenever I go back to visit my BFF we usually take a drive around our old stomping grounds, and in seeing how good my old neighborhood looks, I have to say that my parents chose well, way back in 1965, when they bought their first house.  Anyway, I really don't care who wins the football game (I know Lori just recoiled in horror!) but it's great to see my hometown showcased so nicely.

********************

Today's knitting update is hats.  I got into a groove with making hats for Christmas and I pretty much had one pattern memorized:
Pattern is Hibernate, yarn is Malabrigo Chunky, for the purple (I actually made two purple hats), blue and pink hats; pattern is A Gentleman's Fancy for the brown hat - colorway is Pearl Ten, yarn is Malabrigo Chunky.  I fell in love with the squish and colors of this yarn and couldn't stop knitting with it!
A hat flower?  Colorways are Purple Mystery, Buscando Azul (blue) and Damask (pink), along with the aforementioned Pearl Ten (brown).

I sent hats to my parents for Christmas gifts:
They texted me a selfie while wearing their new hats!

And about a week ago, when it was really cold here, I got the itch to knit up another hat, so I pulled out some leftover yarn from my stash and made this:
 
Yarn is Malabrigo Rasta, colorways are Azules, Baya Electrica, and Abril (in the pompom), pattern is my own.

I don't buy yarn unless I love it, and when I've finished using it for a project, I hate seeing the pretty colors just sitting around, so I was happy to combine these three bits of leftovers into one hat.  Plus, the pink came from the hat I made for Helen, and the blue and purple came from the hat I made for Julia, so it's like I'm connecting with my friends all over again with this hat!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

2016 Texas 10 Series Race Recap!

The medal - each one has a bit of a different theme, depending on which city the race series is run in.  I'm assuming they went with a train theme for ours because College Station used to only have two things in it...you guessed it:  a college, and a train station.    (hey, where else can you come for a race recap and also receive a trivial history lesson?)

The Texas 10 Series of races has been around for about three years now; it's held throughout the year in several cities in Texas, and they have some system where if you run them all you get points and can win prizes.  I've heard about the one in my town but the timing was never right for me to consider running it.  However, my fellow renegades and I decided to sign up for this race at the last minute; the distance options fit into what we needed to run for our upcoming race in two weeks, it was local, and most of us hadn't done it before, so why not register?
Shirt front - because we registered so late, we weren't guaranteed a shirt and had to see if there were any left after the race.  I was lucky and got one for Jeff and I; several of my Renegades didn't get one.
Shirt back - this shows all of the races in the series.

I signed up to run the five miler, while everyone else did the 10 miler.  The route was a five mile loop, so I got to run to the finish line and BE DONE (whew!), while my peeps had to take a left turn and do that loop again.  Running loops in a race isn't for the faint of heart; it takes a lot of inner strength to go for that second loop, and I knew I didn't have it in me.  Plus, I don't need to be running that many miles since I'm done with longer distance races.

The race was held at in the parking lot of the Bush Presidential Library - that would be Bush 41, as he's known around here.  This is just a quick drive from our house, and the parking situation was both plentiful and easy...gotta love a low-stress start to race day, right?  The weather was decent for this race - it was 64 degrees, with 88% humidity, and there was a southerly breeze.  At least it wasn't raining, or freezing cold.  Still, it was the last day of January - a bit warm for winter!

Jeff and I, along with Julia, Cary, Brian, Cristy, Karen, and Diane, represented our Renegade Running Club.  Fun fact:  this race encourages running clubs to sign up, and somehow that's factored into their points system.  We didn't know this, so we didn't sign up with our club name, but the finish line announcer (who did an awesome job) called out each finisher's name as they came in, along with "from XXX running club" - that would have been fun to hear, so maybe next year we'll be more organized when we register.

Going into the race, I had several goals.  The first one was to not let my anxiety get the best of me beforehand, as it had in Houston.  The second one was to run 2:1 intervals.  The third one, since I would be running it by myself, was to power through the race without any unsanctioned (by me) walking, which is an easy thing to let myself do when there's no one around who knows me to bust me on that.

The race started and I ended up running through my first walk interval, just to get out of the pack of people that I was in.  After that, I ran my intervals, and I was playing leap-frog with several other women who were also doing intervals.  Two were doing 20:30, where they'd run for 20 seconds and walk for 30, and another woman was doing 30:30 - and I have to admit, it made me wonder if I wasn't taking the harder way with my 2:1 intervals, because they'd pull up even with me, or sometimes ahead of me, and then I'd run, and back and forth we went, leap-frogging down the road.

But right around the two mile mark, I finally lost them, and then something else happened that, combined with finally getting ahead of those women, gave me a big boost of confidence:  I started passing people.  I mean, I caught up to people who I hadn't been running with and actually passed them.  That never happens to me in a race!  Seriously, except for when CC and I finally managed to shake that little kid during the Houston half marathon, I am the one who is always getting passed.  This was such a different thing to be doing in a race!  When I looked at my splits afterward, I wasn't fast, but I was consistent, and I guess that was enough to steadily gain on and then run past quite a few people.

Because my Garmin mileage was so far off from the mile markers at Houston, I tried to not look at my watch during the race - I didn't want to be disappointed to hit five miles and know that I still was nowhere near the finish line.  That turned out to be a good strategic move for me, because all of a sudden I could see the finish line!  I hit the finisher's chute and saw a woman just ahead of me, and I had enough energy left to hit the gas and I passed her...now, I'm sure she didn't realize that she was racing me, but she was - and she lost.  What can I say, playing those mind games helped me get through this race!

Finish time was 1:11 (distance on my Garmin was 5.11 - not too far off); my splits were:
Mile 1 - 13:19
Mile 2 - 14:17
Mile 3 - 14:07
Mile 4 - 14:06
Mile 5 - 14:06
.11 -        1:20

Average pace was 13:56, and how about those last three miles?  I have a new middle name, and it's Consistency.  I hit all of my goals for this race - the anxiety was almost non-existent, I ran my intervals, and not only did I not do any extra walking, but I made up for walking through the water stops by running a little extra over the next schedule walking interval.  Success!

Once I had my medal and water, I grabbed my phone from the car (benefit of being able to park so close) and stationed myself at the finish line so I could watch my peeps come in:
Top left:  Brian RACED two other men to the finish line - it was fun to watch!
Top right:  Brian beat them. :)
Bottom left:  Jeff left it all out on the course and was beat coming in (I recognized that expression right away).
Bottom right:  Karen doing her JAZZ HANDS as she finished.
Top left:  Cary with such a long stride!
Top right:  Cristy with a similar long stride...you'd think they were sisters or something (they are, LOL).
Bottom left:  Julia, just strolling in, all casual-like.
Bottom right:  Diane powering through a rough race - I have to hand it to her, she's been running long distances since July and while she has her ups and downs with the races, she's still getting out there and doing them...good for her!

I have to give credit to the race organizers - this was a very well-run event.  They had multiple speakers all over so you could actually hear the pre-race announcements, they kept up the energy of the crowd beforehand, the route was well-marked and they had volunteers at every turn so there was no danger of going the wrong direction, the water and Gatorade stops were plentiful, the post-race party had some decent food (breakfast tacos, bananas, soda, water, and mini muffins), they had chairs and tables set up to eat at, and along with age-group awards, every finisher was entered into a drawing for cash prizes!  Ten people from the five mile group won $50 each, and ten people from the ten miler group won $100 each!  You can bet we stuck around for the award ceremony just to see if any of us would be a lucky winner - sadly, we weren't, but that was a nice bonus to this race!
Jeff and I waiting around to see if we were big money winners...

After the race, we went to Blue Baker - on a Sunday!  Our regular tables by the baker's window were taken, but we managed to find another place to sit and hopefully not offend too many customers with our race-sweaty bodies.  We were having a great time, as usual, when the manager came by with a plate of chocolate chip cookie dough for us...now THAT'S the perfect post-race treat!

We didn't manage to get a group picture right after the race, so when we were finished with breakfast, we gathered in front of the Blue Baker sign for one:
 Cristy, Cary, Karen, me, Brian, Jeff, Diane (Julia had gone home to eat with her family)

Another race is in the books, and I can happily say that this one went really well for me!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Making Better Choices - Update

I'm about a month into my making better choices plan for this year, and I wanted to give a little update on how I'm doing with this.  Overall, it was a good month, and I am pretty pleased with most of my choices.  I wasn't perfect, but I'd definitely give myself a "shows improvement" on my imaginary report card.

For example, I managed to hold it together for most of the meals on our annual racecation to Houston with our running peeps.  On Friday, I ate my regular yogurt breakfast in the car on the drive there, and for lunch I ordered a salad at the Mexican restaurant, instead of the cheese enchiladas, rice and beans that I've ordered far too often.  Yes, I had some chips and salsa, but not a lot, so I was happy with that.  And for dinner, I had two pieces of pizza...unremarkable except that I have been known to plow through way more than that at one sitting.  The following day I had one and a half breakfast tacos and some chocolate milk, and then an iced latte in the afternoon, followed by lasagna and bread for dinner (half marathon carb loading, not ashamed of that at all).  Now, there was an Italian cream cake that was shared and the icing was delicious and I had more bites than I should have, but hey - progress, not perfection, right?  The last day there, after the race, I had most of a biscuit, a little gravy, and some chocolate milk, and later on, half a turkey burger, some fries, and a chocolate milkshake...and that was on the day I ran a half marathon.  All food options are on the table after doing that; unfortunately, my stomach usually doesn't recover enough to want to eat much.

The remainder of the month was good.  I cooked more dinners - mostly our easy meals, like black bean chipotle veggie burgers, roasted broccoli, and a chilled grain salad:
I buy this at Sam's Club - it's easy to throw together and tastes great.

I also made soup...my old standby of taco soup, topped with a handful of tortilla chips, was a filling meal that appeared several times on the menu, and, thanks to my running buddy Cary, I discovered the Skinny Taste website and made her Turkey Sausage, Kale and White Bean soup:
I used hot Italian turkey sausage and this turned out so good, plus it had a nice kick!

I've got many more soup recipes from that website bookmarked and plan on making them this month.  And in the making better choices genre, I wanted pizza one night, but instead of ordering one for delivery, I bought a Boboli crust and made my own - it was exactly what I was craving, plus I controlled the amount of cheese and toppings, which made it a better choice.

I usually don't eat a lot for lunch, but I do need something.  I ended up going with whatever looked good at the grocery store - one week, I bought some black bean hummus and baby carrots, and that was what I ate for lunch:
Spicy and filling!  Although I'm sure it would have been fabulous with tortilla chips, I made myself eat it with baby carrots...and I didn't die.  

Another week, the Granny Smith apples at the grocery store called my name, so that was my lunch for the week - a really big apple, sliced up, with some peanut butter:
I originally bought the little packs of peanut butter for Jeff, for when he travels, but they made the perfect dipping cup and the right portion for my lunch, so he's out of luck when it comes to travel peanut butter now!

I deliberately did not buy any Veggie Straws this month, because I felt like I was kind of overdoing it with junk carbs over the last couple of months.  Again, I didn't die.

The last thing that I needed to work on was to curtail the treats.  I wanted to limit them to a once per week thing, and I will admit that there were a couple times when I would have jumped at the offer of going out to DQ for a dipped cone, or to Blue Baker for a cookie, but I did really well with restraint in this department (I'm not counting the goodies that the baker gives us at BB on Saturday mornings - those are bonus treats that come with running).  I was having a really bad bout of SI joint pain a week ago and went to the doctor for that; afterward, when Jeff and I walked into Target to pick up a prescription for pain meds, he asked me if I needed anything else, and you know, I needed a Heath bar really badly.  So I had one in the store, while we waited for the pharmacist; what can I say...sometimes chocolate is curative.

And now, it's February - month two of my year of making better choices is happening!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Mishmash

I had my highest Words With Friends score the other day:
That would be 155 points right there!  Had no idea GLAZIEST was even a word, but I threw that G on there at the last second, which ended up being a good decision.

********************

I've been remiss in posting my knitting pictures - time to remedy that.  First up is this one:
Henry attacked my sock yarn!  He's never done that, and I don't want him to get the idea that this is OK, but he was so cute I had to take a picture before I untangled him and made him stop playing.

Socks!  Can't stop won't stop knitting socks!  Here's one pair:
Yarn is Schachenmayr Regia Pairfect, colorway 7125, pattern is just a basic cuff-down sock pattern.

So the deal with this yarn is that you are supposed to make a matching pair of socks out of one skein, because it has a yellow "lead" yarn that tells you where to start.  I'd read about this yarn and was happy to find it at a yarn shop when I was in Oregon last November, so I bought a couple of skeins.  As you can see, my socks are not exactly matching, despite keeping track of rows, etc.  Plus, I knitted these cuff-down, as recommended, but I don't like doing that because I never know how far I can knit before starting the heel, as I don't want to run out of yarn before I hit the toes:
 
At this point, it was too late to make any changes - I'd turned the heel, and there was no way I was going to rip back the yarn that many inches.  But these socks ended up being shorter than I usually knit - I prefer mid-calf.

I'd forgotten how to do the toe decreases, so I relied on my famous knitting bestie's book for tips:
The iPad was helping to hold the book open...expensive book stand, LOL!

I have another skein of this yarn in a different colorway, and I think I'll wind it so that I can knit that pair of socks toe-up.  Live and learn...

Here's another pair of socks that I finished:
 
Yarn is Knitted Wit Victory Sock, colorway is PDX Carpet, pattern is my standard toe-up sock with fish lips kiss heel.

I bought this yarn several months ago, online, from a yarn shop in Oregon.  They made it as a tribute to the carpet at the Portland, Oregon airport that was familiar to so many travelers...the carpet was replaced about a year ago, but the colorway lives on in this yarn.  I planned on knitting the socks while I was visiting my mom, so that I could try them on her feet as I went to make sure I was on track with the right size.  I cast on as I waited to board my flight from College Station (airport code is CLL), knitted while I was in Oregon, and continued knitting them as I waited to board my flight in Portland (airport code  is PDX) for home...hence the name of the socks.  I really like how they turned out - the yarn knit into a solid fabric that I'm hoping will hold up with wear for several years.  As it happens, I have another skein on hand, waiting to be turned into PDX socks for me, so one of these days my mom and I will be matchy-matchy.

I'm also attempting to fix a moth hole in a hat I made for my Dad a couple of years ago.  I have the leftover yarn, and I've looked at darning tutorials on YouTube, but I haven't quite figured out how to make it happen.  It's a challenge, but I will not let it defeat me ::raises fist-clenched knitting needles in air:: - surely I can make this work, right?

********************

Have a great weekend!