Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sunday SUNDAY Sunday

All I can really think about now is the fact that my #2 half marathon of the year is this Sunday and what if I puss out and don't hit my pre-announced goal of 2:TEENS:00.

Which I announced while clearly still riding the high of PRing in a race with hills.

I thought I'd FOR SURE run a slower race in Seattle than I did last year in San Jose for the simple fact that Seattle has hills and San Jose just has lame bands and a freeway overpass. But then, there I was, running along UP and down hills, along the lake (with the HOLY SHIT! A bald eagle!) and through the tunnel (hot, stinky, not as fun as I thought it would be) and down the freeway on-ramp (fun! Like being on the approach path to Sea-Tac.) and HOLY SHIT! (again) I swooped into the finish line in 2:23:57, which was a cool 14 seconds faster than my last half marathon and also my all-time half marathon PR.

So, obviously I immediately believed that I could become Super Woman in my second half marathon of the year all because there aren't any hills.

I think I might have even said something about "Maybe I should get a trainer" which totally didn't happen because I hear trainers tell you what to do and I DO NOT like to be told what to do.

I also didn't do the other things I secretly and quietly thought to myself I might do like lose five pounds (for streamlining benefits) or train up to 14 miles so that 13.1 wouldn't seem so bad. Kinda going off that feeling I had at the Mermaid 10K this year where I was trained up to 9 miles and felt great running 6.

Nope. I basically followed the same training regimen I always have for these halfs and now the paranoia is setting in about whether I did enough, felt strong enough, am going to shame myself publicly, be able to peel off and try trail running if I don't make my time, etc.

It's a noisy annoying place inside my head right now, friends, be glad you live elsewhere.

Thankfully, though, I have two new factors going into this race that I didn't have before. And I think these things hold some promise of making a positive difference with my time.
  1. I now have my Garmin. So it can tell me when my pace is sucking ass and motivate me to hurry my shit up OR ELSE. I wish it said that on the watch face. "Hurry your shit up. OR ELSE." That'd be motivating. Hey, Garmin people, I have a feature request for you...

  2. I discovered a new store of energy into which I can tap only during my most desperate moments. That store is called, "Let's do this, already."

    See, during my last long run, in which I covered about 12 miles, I was so done with running at mile 11 that I got annoyed with how slow I was going. I remember thinking, "Shit. If we're just going to wobble along at this shameful slow pace, we're NEVER going to be done. And I want to be done." And so, I dug down and just forced my legs to take longer strides, my feet to make full heel-to-toe contact with the pavement and my arms to stay parallel to my body in the way my Pilates instructor recommended because it allegedly is more streamliney and therefore makes you faster.

    I also forced my shoulders back, chin up and in-through-the-nose-out-through-the-mouth breathing to happen so that I had all of my faculties about me to force my woeful corpse to move as fast as I possibly could through that last mile.

    And I do believe it went by faster. And I didn't die or throw up in front of my neighbors.

So, there's that. My big great hope for PRing in this race is a bossy GPS watch and my own lack of self-preservation. Also, I cut my hair, so maybe that will help. I did cut off a lot of it, so who knows.

Those are strategies I don't read a lot about on Runner's World. Of course, I also don't read a lot about people PRing with half marathon times in the 2 hour range since I like to torture myself reading the blogs of runners who run 6 minute miles and set their predicted half marathon finish at 1:29, so it's not like I seek out information relevant to my own slow ass.

But, according to, where I can still create my own old-school-but-still-handy pace bracelet, I'll need to keep up a 10:41 mile pace in order to hit my target. Which isn't all that impressive, but still pretty impossible sounding given my best half marathon pace to date was 10:59.

And all this worrying isn't going to do me a damn bit of good because despite all of it, time is still passing and the race is getting closer and closer and my moment of truth will soon be upon me.

I guess the only thing to do is to sit back, enjoy Taper Week and hope that my training wasn't all for naught. If I have to tap into my "Let's just do this, already." stores at mile 4, then that's just what I have to do.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Next step in sucking less

Although, according to the dog, we definitely suck MORE.

When last we saw my front yard, it was looking like I'd taken to planting sod while drinking my 13th cocktail because WHOOPSY the lawn had been flipped over.

Thankfully, I meant to do that. And, thankfully, I rarely drink 13 cocktails in one sitting because - yarf.

The next thing to do, once the grass plugs showed up, was to tarp, mulch and plant the yard with the new less water sucking meadow grass and wildflowers.

And while that may all fit nice and neatly into one little sentence there, the process was nothing quite so little. Or nice. Especially when you consider how fucking hot it was in NorCal this past weekend. And if you consider that I first ran six miles (yay! Short taper distance!) and afterward I had a bachelorette party (not mine obviously) waiting for me.

I knew the exhaustion was going to be extreme. Which is why I was sort of hoping that High Country Gardens, the folks from whom I purchased my 210 (!) grass plugs, would have lame shipping practices that would result in the plugs not showing up until Monday. So that I could spend Saturday preparing for a night of binge drinking by methodically lining my stomach with mashed potatoes, dinner rolls or something equally absorbent.

But no. They're reliable over there at HCG, and when you say, "I want my stuff to ship on 9/21." It arrives the Friday of that week, just in time to be planted on the weekend and before it can totally die in the box because you're too busy working or taking the dog to the beach to do serious work like planting a meadow in your front yard like you would be if it showed up on the Monday you were secretly hoping for.

You understand - I'm lazy and I procrastinate. I was hoping their shipping methods would support these character flaws of mine. But they did not. Which, in hind sight, is a good thing since this time it would have meant a big box of dead grass and a bunch of money down the toi.

Anyway. Enough about my laziness.

Inspired by Knittah's recent comments, I'm going to press on in a sort of How To-sy way. And I'll try to add helpful nuggets in there as we go, but if I miss something, leave a comment and I'll try to answer your question if I know the answer. Which I might not.

And on that note, of not knowing everything (shhh! don't tell!), I also don't know everything about planting a xeric meadow, even though this series of posts may lead you to believe that I do, what with the numbered lists and all, but let me make it clear that I've never done this before and don't know if it'll take so just know that I'm not saying this is The Way to do this, but rather just the way *I* am doing this, so follow my How-To at your own risk. Personally, I'm optimistic about the results.


To introduce some sort of meaning to my How-To, you'll recall that steps 1 (cut up the sod) and 2 (flip it over) were covered in a previous post in which Bubba was nearly swallowed whole by a sod cutter.

For Step 3, then: Tarp the yard

I'd say "weedblock" or "Weedblock" or "landscape fabric" or whatever, other than "tarp", here, but the fact is that you can use most tarp-like materials to perform the function of blocking out weeds and you don't need me telling you which brand or type of material to use. Also, I'm not a shill for these products and merchants I mention and I don't want you thinking I am and then being all pissed when your "Weedblock" gets a tear just because you stepped on it when it was stretched tight and now you have to cover that hole with more tear-happy "Weedblock".

Not that this has necessarily happened to me. One hundred times.

Anyway - the point here is that once you've cut the sod and turned it over so that the decomposing grass can provide a nice compost for your new plugs, you should still tarp it to keep other weeds from invading your meadow and choking out your precious meadow grass plugs. Because I hear that this can happen. And I don't want any part of it.

Also know that when I say, "you", I mean "me", but it always comes out that way.

Step 4: Get some mulch and then go for a run while Bubba unloads it onto the tarp.

This came from Mountain View Garden Center and is just thin gorilla hair mulch.

Technically, you can be a good wife and unload it from the back of the truck because he was so nice to go pick it up during the week, which involved him shoveling it into the bed of the truck while wearing his nice work clothes and shoes, but you don't have to is what I'm saying.

You can just go for your run and then come home and rake it out, making sure that he makes note of how you just ran six miles and are totally awesome for immediately putting on your work clothes and getting down to business.

And, I will say this about Bubba, he's always the first to give me credit for doing anything remotely helpful. In fact, sometimes I think he may give me *too* much credit, but let's not go spreading that around.

Step 5: Water the mulch

We've capped the sprinklers, so are using this hose stand sprinkler thingee in the mean time. It's fine.

Now, this step, and the future ones where I tell you to water things, may seem counter-intuitive to the whole "suck less water" idea, but to get these guys established, I'm told that they will need to be watered at the outset. For root establishment and what not, so just do it and then hope to hell that they do establish and grow because if they don't we'll all look a little stupid for ignoring blatant instructions.

For now though, just water the mulch. This will help it mat together and be less fluffy so that when you go to plant, you don't have to wade through quite as much mulch to get down to the tarp and dirt. Plus, less will end up in your nose and I know you'll appreciate this as much as I do.

I do not enjoy mulch splinters in my nostrils.

Step 6: Distribute the grass plugs

Go ahead and say they're "SO CUTE!" because everyone else did.

Now, if this were, say, six years ago and I was still in that phase of my life where I didn't think two minutes ahead into the future, I would have just sat down at one corner of the yard with the box of plugs and started planting away. And not until I'd gotten, say, 3/4 of the yard planted would I realize that WHOOPSY I'd been planting the plugs too close together and SHITSHITSHIT had run out of plugs altogether.

Then there'd be some pretty elaborate swearing and either some mad cap unplanting and replanting or a race to the internet to order more plugs.

Thankfully, this is not six years ago and instead of engaging in that back-in-the-day-of-Finny madness I instead thought five minutes into the future (see mom, I AM growing up) and took one flat of plugs at a time (each flat has 70 plugs) and started dropping them at random but evenly dispersed intervals beginning at the far corner.

And don't you just know that the side of the yard at which I started was much more densely populated with tiny grassy plugs than the side of the yard at which I finished. And then all I had to do was grab a few from one side and toss them over to the other side in a way that was still random but less congested so we wouldn't have any unseemly bald spots in the event that the grass actually grew in right.

WOO! I learned from past mistakes! I'm growing as a person!

Step 7: Make dip

Not Hidden Valley, but still good.

Don't be ashamed if, at this point, you'd rather go inside and make some ranch dip and sit on the porch eating it with a big bag of potato chips, because I was right there with you. All this prep work is monotonous and, with all your neighbors standing around watching you organize fluffy grass poofs in your front yard, one can get a little self-conscious and feel like retreating into a big bowl of Leave Me Alone With My Craziness, but stay with me.

This dip is for the plugs. I hear it helps keep the plugs from drying out when you plant them and helps them establish sooner so that you don't have to wait forever and a day for your meadow to prove to your neighbors that you're not a total hippie loon.

This dip is a creepy thing though, let it be known. I added the recommended 1 ounce of dip to the recommended 4-5 gallons of water in my super old ass bucket with the broken handle grip and watched in grotesque amazement as this shit congealed into a spooky mass of dirty Jell-O.

Note that the dirt was already in the bucket and I don't believe it hurt anything.

Step 8: Scratch the plugs

Now, I forgot to take a photo of this process, but let me describe it to you.

See, each plug is like a tiny plant you might buy at the nursery. So when you take it out of the tray, it's got a mat of roots at the base, just like you'd find on your average 4" petunia seedling.

What you want to do here (and thanks to my garden savvy neighbor for reminding us of the crucial importance of this step) is "scratch" or cut the base of this mat off and "scratch" or slice down the sides of the root ball so that you have an open frayed end on your seedling - still holding onto some soil - but not all bound up in there with no hope to grow.

You can do this on all your plugs ahead of time to save a step at planting time, or, if you're like me, you can enlist the help of your Scratch Happy husband to do this while you start planting so that all the plugs are scratched by the time you reach them with your trowel with the intention of dipping and planting them.

We found that a standard box cutter worked really well for this. Just don't try to catch a flight afterward, ifyaknowwhatImean.

Step 9: Commence to planting

With your dip all jiggly and waiting (PORNO GARDENING ALERT), grab your pointiest trowel and get to work, already.

Goes like this:

Dig a hole
UPDATE: punching through the landscape fabric with your pointy trowel and planting the plug in the soil below.
Dip the plug
Plant the plug

Bubba and I did that 210 times in the course of about two hours. It was monotonous and it was blazing hot outside and the neighbors kept coming over with their kids to tell us how we could be doing it better, but in the end it got done and Bubba and I still speak to each other even though I had to make a sudden escape to the backyard when the neighborhood boy began telling me how we should be watering our "lawn" and wouldn't be satisfied with the explanation that this wasn't going to need to be watered for much longer but thanks for your help, buddy, and hey isn't your dad calling you?

I'll say it now, I have no patience for children and I have a really hard time hiding it. I'm sorry you had to learn about it this way.

Step 10: Survey your greatness while watering your new future meadow

Like I said before, there is watering involved in this process even though the desired end result is no watering at all.

So, now that your plugs are tucked into their own individual holes with goopy greatness covering their tender roots, you must water. And water good.

And if you know what song is going through my head right now because of that last statement, I'm glad you and I can be crazy together.

By this time it was mighty hot and I was jealous of the grass playing in the sprinklers.

Anyway, we watered (or, to be honest, Bubba watered while he shooed me off to the shower because he knew I felt nasty and really wanted to shower but was feeling guilty leaving him to water my future meadow) each individual plant and the overall future meadow until it was pretty well soaked and then, in the evening (and each with a cocktail) we did it again.

And then on Sunday, when I was in a hot rage thanks to Brett Favre and his old man football antics (RETIRE ALREADY DAMN YOU), we went out and watered again if only so that Bubba could introduce some comic relief into my life by surreptitiously watering my shoes/feet/legs/hair while pretending to water the future meadow.

He knows when I need a laugh and WOW did I need a laugh at that point. And no drinks because YAY I was hungover from the aforementioned bachelorette party and was nursing a swift little headache.

Freshly watered and ready to grow. Or so I hope.

Step 11: Wait and meanwhile order some bulbs

My plan is to randomly plant some wildflower bulbs in and amongst this meadow grass so that maybe one day it will look something like a mini meadow out there, so while this stuff decides whether it's going to live or die, I ordered a lot of wildflower bulbs.

Because shopping is the best medicine when you're worried that your big gardening bet isn't going to pay off and you might have just made a very public ass of yourself, so better to cover it with flowers.

I got some wildflower bulbs and I'm happy to say that I have managed to create a big old project for myself to dread because when these many bags of bulbs arrive I will be out in that yard for many hours getting them all planted.

But that's OK. It will give me time to talk to each seedling and remind them that they should grow big and strong and not make me look like a loser. Even though I will then look like a big freak for talking to my plants.

Take the good with the bad, I guess.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Totally inappropriate-for-the-weather meal [RECIPE]

I'm so contrary sometimes.

I start knitting when it gets hot, I pull out my flip-flops when it's cold, I run in the rain and sew when it's sunny.

It's like my inner project master is playing a prank on me, all the time.

Whatever. I guess I can't expect my inner anything to make any more sense than my outer anything given how absurd she is.

You get what I'm saying.

Well, in true Inner Idiot fashion, I decided to debut my Baked Potato Soup recipe yesterday when it was, TEE DAH, 91 degrees outside.

Which means it's also 91 degrees inside because YAY we don't have A/C. Or proper insulation. Or a fan in the kitchen.

No, what we had was an oven and stove top running full-bore and some nice healthy boob sweat.

Did I mention we also had a hangover, complete with headache and belly churning? Well, we had that, too. It was super good fun.

Actually, the soup had to happen because The Hangover wanted it, so I had no choice. Kinda like when pregnant ladies *have to have* something because The Baby wants it? Yeah, like that. Except meaner. I imagine, anyway. Never having been a pregnant lady, I can't be 100% on this. Moving on.

I have been sort of mulling the idea for this soup ever since I had a similar type soup at work and thought, "You know. This soup would be way better if they had used chicken stock instead of water as the base. And it wouldn't even make it fatty or anything. Unlike the cream I really want to use."

And yesterday, when my stomach was crying out to be coated with something starchy and absorbent, I decided I'd hatch my version of Baked Potato Soup. Even though I was already sweating just from lying on the couch and screaming obscenities at Brett Favre as though he'd just murdered a close family member of mine.

I will just say this, that man should have retired by now and, after yesterday's performance, I'm not sure he ever will and THAT bothers me on a deep and profound level. But that's all I'm going to say. Also, go Niners. BUT THAT'S ALL.

Perhaps my rage was making my stomach churn rather than the dozen G&Ts I had on Saturday night? Perhaps.

Or perhaps I just wanted potato soup because that's, like, the stupidest thing to want when it's so effin hot outside. That said, this soup came out well and I imagine I'll enjoy it a lot more when I'm not sweating into the bowl because Real Fall has finally arrived and not this Fake Fall with its 90 degree temps.

I'm just saying that someone should tell Fall that they're doing it wrong. Here, at least. Maybe it's Real Fall where you are. In which case, you might like eating this soup while wearing a sweater, maybe, and watching leaves turn red and yellow or doing something appropriately fall-like.

Baked Potato Soup

Recipe by Finny
How do you like that?

4 medium to large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
32 oz chicken broth, or enough to cover the potatoes in the pot
4 slices thick cut bacon, roasted and chopped
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped green onions
Fresh ground black pepper

To make
In a large stock pot, bring chicken broth to a boil and add potatoes. Make sure that the broth covers the potatoes in the pot and, if not, add water or more chicken broth until it does.

Boil potatoes for about 15 minutes or until they're easily smushed with the back of the ratty ladle that came from Bubba's bachelor pad.

Drain about half the liquid from the pot KEEPING THE POTATOES IN THE POT until you can see the tops of the potato chunks peeping out.

Using an immersion blender, puree the potatoes and chicken broth until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Thin to your preferred consistency with more chicken broth if you want to be a pansy like that.

OR, if your mama didn't hand you down her old immersion blender and all you have is a regular old blender, blend the potatoes and chicken broth in batches until you have a consistency to your liking.

Also, don't try asking my mom for hand-outs. I've called dibs on all the good stuff already.

After that, you really only need to dress it up to your liking. Me? I had already had a BLT for lunch, so wasn't feeling like I should really be dosing myself with more bacon, but I had a little. I did, however, feel like I needed a lot of onions, so on they went, with some cheese and a lot more pepper.

If you're Bubba though, you fill your bowl to within two inches of the rim and then fill the remaining space with the rest of the bacon and a pile of cheese. I wish I'd taken a photo of his soup. It just looked like a bowl of shredded cheddar.

We are the classiest.

And then, because it's 90+ degrees in your kitchen and house, you take this very winter-like dish out to the backyard and serve it with a tomato-heavy salad so that you don't spontaneously combust from the heat radiating from within.

And in case you didn't already know this, and I'm not sure how you would because I don't usually tell people because it makes me seem insane, I'm pretty paranoid about flies on my food. So I have a bunch of these food cover things that go immediately over any plates that go outside.

Just so you know. And don't think I'm the kind of crazy person that serves food under a silver dome or something like in those fancy restaurants. I'm just the kind of crazy person that finds flies repulsive.

That's all, then.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

And you didn't think I'd really do it.

I was going to wait until I pulled the garden completely to give you a "Hey, guess how much I've harvested?" update, but the numbers I was waiting for came in and I can't wait for all that.

Especially given that the tomatoes are still producing and I don't want to wait to share the exciting news (it is for me, OK) until I after I pull the garden, but also I don't have the heart to tell them it's time to go to bed for the winter because they'll be all "Come on, mom! Five more minutes?!" and I'll have to get all I'm the boss of you on them and, well, this makes no sense.


The numbers I was waiting to say were:

1. I've harvested more than Bubba's body weight in vegetables


2. I've harvested more than my body weight in tomatoes

I'm happy to say that we've got both, and with enough overage so that I'm not actually sharing my body weight with you on the Real Live Internet for everyone to see because I'm totally not doing that. I feel like it's enough that you've seen my melons.

But I will say that, so far this season, I've harvested more than 217 pounds of vegetables - which is far and away more than Bubba's body weight - and 152 pounds of tomatoes - far enough away from my body weight.

And, more importantly, this extreme vegetable harvest weight means I've reaped far FAR and away more than I sowed in this garden in the first place.

Which was the point. Remember?

Specifically, I sowed $91.34 into the garden at the beginning of the season by buying things like a new soil test kit, some seedling plants, seeds, irrigation replacement parts, water and so on. And I've reaped (and remember, this is only "so far" because the tomatoes are still producing. Freaks.) $940.50 in harvests - with the garden's net value at $849.16.

If you want to get down to cost per pound (and don't we all love analyzing data to the point of mental numbness? I know I do.), I can say that this garden has cost me $.42/lb to grow.


That's a lot of vegetables.

A lot of vegetables that I didn't have to buy from Whole Foods or a farmer's market or *GASP* Safeway.

A lot of vegetables that were grown without chemicals or pesticides or other forms of evil other than the grody EVIL chard that was a big component of the compost. And that is also pretty cheap. Especially when you consider that going to Whole Foods or a farmer's market would have set me back a whole lot more than $.42/lb for any of the vegetables I grew except maybe corn.

Corn is really fucking cheap, I noticed. Like, "Get 10 ears for $10!" cheap. That's ridiculous. I'm not growing corn anymore.

In season cherries, though? PRICEY as all get out. Like, $6.99/lb for local, organic Bing cherries. So worth it. That tree is going to be our new retirement plan.

Not really.

Anyway, I'll do a real final recap of the garden's harvest value when the garden is actually done putting forth tomatoes (don't hold your breath), but I thought you'd like to know that if I had wanted to build a life-sized Finny statue from tomatoes, I could have done it and then some.

I'll just let that image simmer in your mind for a while. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

We suck less all the time

We got to play with a new yard toy this weekend and, while it looked like a pain in the ass (Bubba wrestled with it while I performed other equally important tasks, uh huh), it sure did get the job done.

And the job was? (Said like on Family Feud when they go, "Survey says!...")

Ripping out the lawns.

Because I think lawns are mostly stupid and have spent the last four years in this house slowly whittling away at Bubba's Midwestern affection for The Ultimate Lawn by quietly removing a bit here and there until TEE DAH they'll be gone and replaced with something that doesn't suck so much muthereffin water and time.

Not to mention who the hell wants to mow and trim all that grass? Not Jada, and she's the one who uses it the most, which would normally land her in the "If you want it, you take care of it" category, except she's a dog and without opposable thumbs, is going to have a hard time getting the mower pull-started.


She's actually the main reason we are even going to have grass left at all. Because she loves it so visibly and enthusiastically that, with the lawns currently missing, she's taken to rolling on our neighbors' lawns as we are out on our walks.

Here she is being a Lady in the middle of our soccer playing.

I know they think that she's going to pee on them (or take a massive dump - given the way their eyes bulge out from their living room windows) but all she does is nose dive into the grass, roll around a lot, sit up and pant appreciatively and move on to the next lawn.

No massive dumps in sight.

And I will not be made to feel bad for messing up somebody's carefully mowed criss-cross pattern because my dog rolled it away. Perhaps if she took a big steamer and then I didn't pick it up - OK - but messing up a mowed pattern in grass is no reason to yell.

Just saying.


Last weekend, after I put in my miles on the streets, Bubba and I put in our miles behind this beast of a sod cutter.

And really, by the looks of this video, you can see who was really putting in the cutting miles and it was not me. No, I am too puny and weak to tame this sod cutting beast of a hellhound, so Bubba was left to throw his 170 lbs against its awkward and bulky frame and wrestle it through our yards, cutting up rolls of dried out sod as it went.

My glamorous job (and really the only one I was physically able to do given my two hours on the road) was rolling up the sod after he cut it. Glamor! Aching hamstrings! Glamor some more!

Before: A lovely dog-friendly WATER SUCKING lawn.
After: An ugly ass soon-to-be-improved dirt hole.
I'm so glad we did this.

The plan is, now that the back lawn is out, to let Bubba take out all of his pent up rage on the lingering Bermuda grass and then maybe make something attractive grow in its place and for the enjoyment of the dog.

I'm leaving him to his madness as I have work to do in the front.

See, my first step in banishing the lawn came a few years ago when we cut the corners off the thing and planted some trees and those grassy shrubs you see there.

And I will admit those pumpkins, while cute, stayed out a tad too long until Bubba noticed they were out of season which might have been in February sometime.

Before: Something we had to mow and water all the time.
After: Something that has explaining to people that, Yes, we know that sod goes grass side up.

So, the next step in Bye Bye Sucker Lawn was to cut up the sod, till the soil beneath, flip the sod over and TEE DAH plant a low water meadow where the lawn used to be. Like a lumpy meadow with some bulbs and wildflowers like you might expect to find in a forest clearing or in front of a house inhabited by people who don't want to mow or water anymore but still want a pleasing front yard.

And in case you are confused by the photo and think that is the meadow of which I speak - don't worry, it's not. No, that comes next.

We'll cover it with landscape fabric and gorilla hair and then I'll summon all my hamstring strength (hamstrength? I don't know about that one.) and plant 100+ Blue Grama grass plugs out there to commence the growing of my future meadow.

And then you know what I'll do with the front yard? OH NOTHING THANK YOU SO MUCH.

That's right. It'll be on its very own to just grow and be and live without me or the sprinklers having to water it all that much because it will be fall and then winter when the rains come and by the time spring rolls around it'll be established and won't even need that first spring mowing WOW.

That's awesome.

And all this will be happening right next to my Also No Water Required sidewalk patch full of self-seeding $.99 wildflower landscaping.

I guess I'll just have to sit here and think about what we'll do with all the water and money and time we'll be saving since the front part of the house will be pretty independent of all those things.

Perhaps I need to put another vegetable bed in the garden?


Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I feel like I'm sober enough, and have digested enough, to finally discuss our Oktoberfestivities.

Firstly, and of great importance, there was the pre-Oktoberfest German Lunch Date with my dear friend and genuine Germaness, Elkit.

She has been my chaperon into the world of authentic German cuisine and I will tell you what, this gal pal of mine knows her way around a cut of meat. And twist of pretzel. And slice of strudel. And brine of pickle.

Plus, she teaches me totally irrelevant words to present to the nice women at Esther's where they are so sweet and of such good humor (though I was told Germans weren't allowed to have a sense of humor - lies!) that they giggle, give Elke a smirk and then graciously retrieve whatever six items I'm pointing at when I tell them I want three scheibenwischer and three arschgeweigh.

Real words, too. Look 'em up.

Pretzel is just "Bretzel". Handy, that.

I would have taken a photo of the spinach and cheese strudel and green salad (seriously, an awesome salad) that I ate for lunch on our pre-Oktoberfest lunch date, but I was so consumed with love and devotion for this plate when it arrived that I shoved it down my gullet faster than I could say, glockenspiel. Which, incidentally, is the other word I know in German, and is in no way relevant to food or our circumstances.

Anyway, after our lunch of a thousand Käse Brezels (this was my new word for that day), we headed over to Dittmer's German Butchery and Land of Mammoth Dog Bones to procure our OktoberFEAST. See, cuz, we weren't just going to put some brats on the grill, crack open some cans of Coor's Light and call the driveway a beer garden.


This is Sydney.
He thought Andy was a sheep. There was much subsequent herding around the keg.

No, this was going to be a Munich cum California-style Oktoberfest where we only strayed from the traditional Oktoberfest food traditions by putting the various meats on a grill rather than in a bath of beer.

Course 1: Many brats.

Other than that - it was going to be fairly legit. And our friend Mike helped us down this road to obscene pork consumption quite stealthily. Especially when Elke just told him to "Do whatever you want. You know what I like."

Elke apparently likes meat in all forms. Particularly bratted, smoked and sliced.

Well, OK, but that meant that suddenly we had a handful of purportedly delicious small sausages, some weisswurst (which is a white sausage made, I believe, from veal), some big sausages from elsewhere (they were conducting business in German and clearly my grasp of the language is not a strong one), some slices of Leberkäs which translates to "liver cheese" even though there's not liver OR cheese in it but instead looks like spam and a stack of smoked pork chops the deliciousness of which I had never fully understood.

Slices of Leberkäs looking like toast on the grill.

Leberkäs - or as we took to calling it, Curly German Spam.

What I'm trying to tell you is that we had a lot of meat right there and then I bought some dog bones for the dogs who would be OktoberFEASTing with us and HOLY were they also bigger than anything I'd ever imagined could come from a real animal. One observant commenter suggested they may be courtesy of a hobbling mastodon and I can't honestly rule that out. Big, people, they were BIG.

Adelaide was up to the task of taming this beast. I heard her bitch slap it before she started chewing.

And so the dogs behaved for five minutes so that we could eat with all of our might.

Jada whispers sweet nothings to this bone. Her battle strategy is a strange one.

Now, of course, I have said nothing yet of the beer. And the beer was a crucial, if not monumental, element of the event. The monumentalness coming from the fact that our host, being of sound mind and Oktoberfest planning ability, booked a keg (yes, for 8 people, we likey to drink beers) of Spaten Oktoberfest in advance to ensure the consistent German authenticity of the day.

Well, boo. He showed up to get the keg and NAUGHTY they'd sold our keg of Oktoberfest to some other super lucky and SUPER SNEAKY Oktoberfester. Jerks.


Well, if you're me, you go ahead and lose your shit at the manager and then demand things like free beer, newborn child naming rights and a free kick to the crotch for the one found responsible, but if you're our host (and let's hope you are because my methods aren't always super effective) you calmly suggest that they might instead regain your love, devotion and future patronage by giving you a keg of whatever the hell else you desire at the price of, say, Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Thankfully it still tasted like Spaten.

Which they did. So, we spent our day guiding various grilled German delicacies down our throats with the assistance of a good deal of Spaten. The regular old good kind that, I hear, is still acceptable to drink at Oktoberfest even if it's not the actual Oktoberfest variety. And since it was available for the low low price of cat piss (PBR), there happened to be a second run to Dittmer's for additional meat because what if we run out of bratwurst?

You might not think 8 people can eat all these brats and go back for pork chops, but you would be wrong.


Also, let it be known that there was also a fine, fine Kartoffelsalat (potato salad - see, I'm learning some words, here.) handmade by our resident Germaness, a tomato cucumber salad, a few varieties of pickles courtesy of moi, a tower of freshly baked pretzels, a dozen kinds of mustard and beer. Plus, some beer. And then some meat. And beer meat. You see where I'm going with this.

Kartoffelsalat. Say it with me.


And all this was had and enjoyed in the relaxing atmosphere of our hosts' backyard, under the canopy of a blessedly large umbrella which shielded us from the preposterous early fall heat wave beating down on our town. The dogs were able to frolic and herd (Aussies are so herd-y!) and chew their big ass bones. The people were free to make grotesque monsters of themselves as they ate enough meat and drank enough beer for two dozen normal people.

Three of the eight Festers readying their bellies. Prost!

The pretzel was bigger than my dog.

I feel our beer garden was fairly authentic in this regard.

And for anyone worried about the calorie consumption for the day (though I'm not sure why you would be but it gives me a chance to reassure myself), I'll have you know that I did my 12 mile training run that morning and cooled down by doing about five hours of yard work with Bubba in which we removed both front and back lawns.

So, by the time we arrived at Oktoberfeasting, we had probably, together, burned around 7 million calories. I imagine. It's a ballpark guess.

And I have a newfound love for Oktoberfest because the food can be, and should be, really really good.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Don't-lose-your-shit stitch holders

There's other stuff on the docket for me to bang on endlessly about this week, but all of it can wait because LO I have discovered an amazing thing.


And when I say *discovered* I mean that I've discovered something new to do with them while I await the dawning of the great project idea that's had me collecting jars and buckets of corks all this time.

True to form, I will now tell you the story of this Cork Discovery because that is my way, even though you can probably already guess from the photos what this discovery was all about.

Don't care - forging ahead...

Once upon a time yesterday, when I sat down to begin the permanent formation of my ass print on the couch for all-day football watching, I also took up my current knitting project which was sitting conveniently by the couch right there.

During the early game (Chiefs v Raiders - awful) I made some decent headway on this sweater thing and, around the 3rd quarter I believe, I had the bright idea to try it on. Now, given this is a knit-from-the-top-down sweater and I can't begin to get the 24" circular needles holding the bottom hem over my head and shoulders, I had to do some improvising.

This improvising looked a lot like me slipping my left arm into the left sleeve by way of the neck hole and admiring the look of the raglan shaping for a moment before attempting to slip my right arm into the right sleeve also by way of the neck hole which immediately felt and looked wrong and resulted in a SHIT SHIT SHIT moment of me dropping about a dozen stitches off the end of one needle and about five off the other because duh I'd forced the sweater to stretch too much with my inane trying-on maneuver.

As you can imagine, this pissed me off. Even though I knew I was doing something stupid that wouldn't result in any useful fit information but was more for the satisfaction of just making sure that the sleeve holes were big enough for my arms (they are) and that the neck hole will serve as an adequate escape route in the event of a sweater-wearing emergency (it will)(and what is that?) and to distract Bubba while his team failed to convert another hard-fought drive (it did).

After fixing my stitch dropping no-no and continuing on knitting in the round until I perish, the thought of stitch holders came back into my mind again, and for the billionth time.

Because that would have been handy. To have stitch holders on the ends of these needles to keep me from losing my shit (the stitches) during my tomfoolery with the neckhole-entry-trying-on and to keep me from losing my mental shit when they inevitably did exactly that.

But every time I've seen these things I've stopped myself from buying them because it always seemed dumb to pay $6 for plastic triangles just because my reckless self couldn't keep the damn yarn on the damn needles. I'd just be more careful.

Pfffffffft. Clearly that strategy has worked well and successfully.

Well, as it happened, I was sitting there on my Custom Formed For My Ass couch as I re-began this thought process yet again, when I happened to turn away from the game (I caught a glimpse of a fully-decked Raider fan in the end zone seats - sometimes I have to shield my eyes) and then landed, TAH DAH!, on the answer to my endless quest for stitch saving:


People, I have a lot of corks. Let's just put it that way. From wine, champagne, booze and so on. They pile up in bowls and hurricane vases and jars and drawers to the point where, in the absence of having a Real Project in which to use them, I've started using them as decor.

Don't laugh at me.

But finally (now) I have a Real Purpose for Corks, even if I can only use two of the million corks I have - they act as fully functional stitch holders.

Fully Functional Free and Readily Available Stitch Holders.


Yes, yay.

Just grabbed a few from the bowl, I did, and jammed them on the ends of my needles. They stuck. They didn't fall off. Even after I re-tried my neckhole trying on method.


So, yeah, that's what's more important than recounting the debauchery of Oktoberfest, dishing on my last long training run and sharing photos of how we wrecked the yard with a new incarnation of heavy landscaping machinery - corks holding my knitting on the needles so that I can perform ridiculous stunts for Bubba's entertainment while his team loses to their rivals on our TV while not losing my shit (stitches and otherwise) on an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon.

I'll remind you - My life is very glamorous.

Friday, September 18, 2009

On marathons

I always said that I, "did not run." Like, as a rule.

I mean, I would run when necessary - during my many years of playing soccer or when being chased by something large and threatening, but when it came to Methods By Which One Gains Fitness, I, "did not run."

Because running sucked. A mile tried to kill me.

I remember being floored once, by a friend of mine who was training for a marathon, when she told me that if she could do it I could, too! Yay! After which she told me that all you have to do to start is be able to run three miles. After which I had to force myself not to slap her.

Three miles? Without stopping? Running all the while? Pffffffft - That's not happening.

I mean, not that I was starting to think I would want to run a marathon, but that sealed it, I couldn't imagine running a full mile (save for the instances described above - large scariness bearing down upon me, etc) and so would not be running any marathons.

Plus, and for me this is crucial, I didn't want it bad enough. Which is to say, not at all.

And to me, wanting something is the key to getting it. Not in the, Willy Wonka, "I want it NOW!" kinda of wanting it way, but in the, if I think about it long enough and keep working toward it long enough, I will get it, kinda of wanting it way.

You see.

Things like wanting to do a certain job, climb a particular route, knit a useful garment - that kind of thing. Sort of along the lines of the thing your mommy would tell you when you were a kid that you could do/have/be anything you wanted when you grew up if you "put your mind to it."

Well, to put it one way, I've spent a lot of time putting my mind to things, and running had never been one of those things. Mostly because of the agony involved, I'll be honest. And the fact that, who cares to be a runner if I have fitness things like step aerobics and yoga and free weights and kickboxing and mat Pilates and the StairMaster and the treadmill and the elliptical machine and the rowing machine and and and...I got bored.

I got bored of having get in my car and drive somewhere and having be to this place at a certain time and with 30 other people and with a gym card carrying my ugliest photo and a combo lock for the rickety gym locker and the boring ass routine of a warm up, workout and cool down in the going-through-the-motions mindset that I lived in at the gym.

I started to dream of simplicity.

Walking out my front door in my workout clothes and just going for a run.

Because it sounded simple and uncomplicated and solitary and sort of peaceful in a sweaty way and just WAY less of a pain in my ass than all that shit I said before involving the traditional idea I had about how one works out.

And, hey, running is healthy. Runners certainly LOOK healthy. And, that one time, my friend talked to her doctor about what she should do to get in shape and her doctor told her, "You could try running because, you know, you never see a fat runner."

And so the seed was planted, when all this came together in my head, and I began putting my mind to the idea that I, the "I do not run" girl, could, in fact, run.

When it all started to sink in, not only did I know that I would shed my Do Not Run status, but that I would, indeed, be a runner. Even if I wasn't a fast one.

Because now I WANTED it. I wanted to be able to run - a mile. That's it. Not even the three miles that would have put me on the Active list for potential marathon trainers everywhere.

I just wanted to be able to run a full, solid mile without collapsing in a heap of sweaty shame.

That took a while. Not a long while, but a meaningful one. In which I found out a lot of things like how New Balances are not for my narrow feet, how one shouldn't wear shoes with too much arch support, how one should never try running with unhealed blisters or without adequate boob support when your cans are as big as mine.

And when I ran that first full mile without shame heaps or collapsing or any other unflattering thing happening, I then wanted to be able to run three.

This is basically what started the whole slide into Running As I Now Know It. Which isn't to say that now I'm a super fast runner placing in all the local races and basically kicking all the Kenyans asses (as Bubba would say) in half marathons, but that initial wanting to run three miles lead to my wanting to run six miles and then wanting to run a 10K race, then wanting to challenge myself to a half marathon and then another and another and, well, here I am.

I am two weeks from my fourth half marathon and now I want something else.

And it's NOT to run a marathon. But thanks for asking. All of yous.

I have no plans to run a marathon.

Yes, I am serious.

No, I don't really think I will.

No, I don't really think about it.

No, not even after I've just finished a half marathon and am staggering around looking for an orange wedge and being accosted by those fools at the post-race booths who take advantage of your weakened mindset and inability to reason properly due to all the "I Can Do Anything" juices flowing over your brain cells blocking out rational thought to sign you up for Your Next Big Accomplishment because look at what you just did and YOU CAN DO ANYTHING GIVE US $150!

Not interested.

You know what I think of during these moments of running drunkenness? THANK GOD I DIDN'T SIGN UP FOR THE FULL.

I also thought that (perhaps out loud) during my last half in Seattle when I came upon the fork in the road and could take the "<----Half Marathon" route rather than the "Full Marathon ---->" route that took an abrupt and sharp turn up a hideous hill.

I believe my exact thoughts were, "Thank God I didn't lose my mind and sign up for that bullshit." and then, to keep myself in-line during future moments of weakness, "Hey, MIND - remember that you NEVER want to do that. Remember that at 12.5 miles or wherever this is, you were SO relieved to turn left rather than right that you should NEVER sign up for a marathon. ARE YOU LISTENING? Remember. And get me an orange wedge."

It's funny how when you tell someone you're running a race, of any distance, they ask you if you're going to (or if you have) run a marathon. As though that is the only distance of merit and by running anything less (or aspiring to less) you're a disappointment of some kind or at least have given yourself a nice ding on your ambition record.

To me, the fact that I went from being a person of "I do not run." status to being a person of "I have run multiple half marathons and various shorter distance races, and hey let's not forget when I first was able to get through a 3 mile run without walking while we're at it." status is plenty good.

In fact, the thing I ever really wanted was to finish 1 half marathon.


And now, I'll be running my fourth and thinking about what I want now. Which is to try trail running.

After tomorrow's 12 miler, next week's Tempos, a week of Tapering and the race on 10/4.

So, I apologize to you guys. Because I said I'd talk about something other than running, but here I am, just all talking about running and you all probably were more interested in knowing that Bubba tried to slice off his arm with the wheel attachment on the grinder while I was at a bridal shower last weekend, but don't worry!, he's OK and was leaving for his tetanus shot when I got home.

And as far as the I Thought I Was Having A Heart Attack Thing, well, I had my first run-in with indigestion and it was a scary moment of Am I Dying/Getting Old/Dying, after which (and after a Pepcid - thank you, mom, for sending me home with a box of these back in the day!) I was reassured by Bubba and my neighbors that I was just getting old and try not to have a huge lunch and then lie down on the couch.

So, there you go. Running and Other.

My job here is done.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Running update: Just try not to be bored by this.

Hi. Are you bored of my new watch yet?


Good thing.

Although, you may be by the time I get done here.

I guess I managed to arrange my spells in the right order because my hocus pocus has finally resulted in all devices involved (Mac, PC, various softwares, watch, USB stick, The Internet) working together in harmony.

Harmony being the watch tells the USB stick which tells the software on my computer which tells my Garmin dashboard on the Internet what the hell it is I think I've been doing on my runs for the last few weeks.

What? That's not what you consider harmonious? Well, you should hear the watch beeping during this process. Now, THAT is harmonious.

But what do I know from harmony, anyway? Not much.

What I do know are charts. And graphs. And anything spreadsheet related. If you're just learning this about me right now, feel free to get a whiff of this character flaw from my garden tracker. And if you still don't get it, let me just tell you that I manage our household finances by way of a spreadsheet that dates our expenditures back to 2001 and comes complete with Pivot tables and trending graphs.

See? I'm a loser.

I'm not sure why I'm trying so hard to make this point.

Anyway, let's embrace our inner spreadsheet nerd and look at some of the fancy soul-crushing data that's now available to me with the Garmin.

First off, there's the dashboard, which is sorta the summary of all your runs.

The beauty of this is pretty self-explanatory, but when filtered, lets you compare similar runs side by side.

That's kinda fun. If your idea of fun involves scrutinizing personal failures as you approach race day. (How, may I ask, is it possible for me to gain 306 fewer feet when I'm running the same course while running nearly a full minute slower?)

But really, how fun are just plain old numbers and letters? Not. I like pretty pictures and buttons to push and sorting abilities and lots of little rollovers that let me zero in on the minutia of my slow ass running career.

Oh, and so you know, you can view this map in map mode rather than satellite mode, but I don't necessarily want to be publishing my exact running route for the whole wide world to see, so instead of street names, you get vague gray shapes and the red outline of my path over a Mysterious Route. Sorry.

What you may notice from the jumpy graph at the bottom there is that the AutoPausing feature of the watch, which automatically stops the timer when you, say, encounter a stoplight, takes pride in totally hosing my overall average by continuing to run for a few seconds after I stop and then generously adding a 20:19 minutes per mile pace to my overall average.


I guess it is vaguely satisfying to look at the timing graph and be able to pick out where the three stoplights are on my regular morning route. What's not satisfying is realizing that three very slow (because I was stopped - come on, now) pace times are being added to my overall average.



To cheer myself up after this realization, I go fuck with the Player. That's the thing that shows you the map (again - satellite, no stalking!) and your route and when you click the play button, it runs along the map showing you, concurrently, your elevation, pace, distance and total time.

You'll notice I chose to highlight a moment when I was not standing at a stoplight with a 20:19 mm pace, thankyouverymuch.

I also like that I appear to run off a cliff about 2/3 of the way through my run when the road drops off into the never-never and I plunge 600 feet to 24 feet below sea level.

I have no explanation for this series of events because in all my running of this same route for three years, I've never encountered this cliff nor have I suffered the agony of careening nearly 700 feet to my death.

There are apparently a few things about elevation charts I don't understand.


Let me change the subject to something fun and happy. First, hearken back to the dark days of the inception of my Supah Technical Training Schedule when I referred to a paper calendar printed on the back of an old Amazon receipt to tell me how far to run and when.

Go ahead, hearken...

Now, think about how that might look if technologically advanced space aliens were in charge of my Supah Technical Training Schedule and could not only tell me when to run and how far to go but also how far I've gone this month, how fast I went and could then link me to all the information about those runs.

Think no more. It's here. And it's called the Calendar feature.

Groovy, yes. It fulfills the list checker-offer inside of me who likes to feel fulfilled and satisfied with life by way of viewing lists of fully checked off items so that I can feel productive and like I haven't been a lazy lump in recent documented history. Such as this, a calendar month of "Hey, I did that!"

Granted, I haven't had the watch running on all my outings, and the first few were fucked due to the locating of satellites and my own learning curve, but I see good things from this.

And on the, not-perfect-this-month-but-wait-till-next-time note, you can also look at a summary of your progress and feel good about all the calories you burned, miles you traveled and hours you spent running around rather than, I don't know, contending with the laundry piling up in the closet.

If you're wondering how I managed a 5.6 mph pace, well, that's because I was trying to teach myself how to use the GPS while I was driving through San Francisco, so, you know, it's a *tad* faster than my usual running pace given I was in the car and, for once, there wasn't a ton of traffic on 19th Ave.

It was cool to see the pace read out at 2:25 though. THAT is fun.

And before you abandon me forever because of boredom and boredom, I'll show you this fun nugget where you can set up goals (in this case, miles run per week) and see how you're tracking as you go.

Right now this looks sucky because I'm only 15% of the way to my goal, but after my 12er this Saturday, I'll be at 100% to goal and that is a very satisfying thing if you're an A/R list checker-offer like I am.

OK - that's it.

You're free to go.

I promise to talk about more riveting things soon. Like how I thought I was having an actual heart attack and how Bubba tried to sever his own arm while I wasn't there supervising.