Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I still try to do craftiness. Really, I do.

I tried to remember when I'd last posted anything vaguely crafty that I'd done and couldn't remember, so I went back and looked at the archives and LO it was in October.

Friends, I don't know about you but that seems like forever ago.

And didn't this used to be a crafty blog at one point? I mean, I thought it was. But then I also used to knit and well, that hasn't happened in youjustgofigureitoutforyourself. Yeah, that's a while.

Oh well, I'll knit again soon. And maybe a blanket! It's cold in here! Because the fancy new fireplace isn't working properly and we've resorted to blowing our faces off instead! That's a horrible story for another day!

For now though, let's look at craftiness.

Perhaps you remember the debacle with the apple pie filling, yes? Well, I'm no longer classifying it as a debacle because, for once in my life as a Professional Crafting Disaster, all the pieces fell into place without having to wreck any perfectly good supplies or hurl any scissors.

I know. It's a big deal.

See, the idea, which I'm sure you can imagine on your own but I'm going to describe for you anyway, was to dispatch a truckload of apples given to me by the Nice Neighbors in the form of canned apple pie filling via the Miraculous Apple Machine and then gift them to a chosen few friends and relatives at the holidays alongside other preserved goodnesses like pickles in relish, chip, spear, mini gherkin and whole DILL form (don't let me catch you making sweet pickles, devil people) and apricot jam and then cards outlining to whom we donated the monies we might have used otherwise to buy them shit they don't need.

Yes, we're those kinds of gift-giving assholes. The ones who give you a card saying that a "gift has been given in your name to X organization" instead of buying you a new gadget for your kitchen or sexy lingerie or whatever it is you're supposed to be giving your relatives at holiday time.

See? You don't want me giving you gifts anyway.

I planned to make fancy labels for these As Close As You're Going To Get To An Actual Gift gifts from a printing service, but when they showed up a wee small for my tastes, I decided I'd figure something else out. Eventually. And then I'd package them up somehow and send them somehow and, well...I forgot about it for a while.

And then yesterday happened and I settled all my canned goodness debts by making up some tags with good old (SHITTY EVIL I HATE YOU WINDOWS 7) Microsoft Office, some glue, fabric scraps too cute to throw out and embroidery thread I've never used.

So, the random preserves went from this:

Randomly preserved garden and neighborly donated bounty.

To this:

Suitable for door and mailbox ditching.

Not bad, right?

I mean, yes - I took shittastic photos, but it was early this morning and I just wanted to make sure I had photographic evidence of the crafting event - since OBVIOUSLY you whores wouldn't just believe me if I told you due to my latency with crafting - but still they look pretty cute.

I think.

And hopefully the contents of these pretty cute gifts will soothe the raging hatred that arises when the recipients read the We Gave Your Present To Babies With Cholera In Haiti and To A Wolf In Colorado note on top and they realize that there won't be any holly bedecked thong and push-up bra set from us this Christmas.

Not that we've ever given that in the past, but it does seem like a good way to let people down easy with regard to gift giving. In fact, we should have been doing that all along. Giving people absurd and useless gifts, I mean. Because then giving donations in their name to worthwhile organizations would come as a relief and create happiness instead of coming as a disappointment and creating homicidal tendencies.

Oh well. I can only plan so much, you know.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Trail Run #1: Too happy to fight. Too sore to walk down stairs properly.

I'm sure you remember one million years ago when I said I wanted to try trail running instead of spending the rest of my running days slamming my body and joints against concrete.

You remember.

Well, last weekend I finally - after over a year of saying I was going to and then NOT doing so - went for a trail run.

What finally got my dead ass up off the concrete and shoved me out the door at 8am on a Sunday morning bound for the Santa Cruz mountains? The cold dark foreboding threat of failure, of course.

And by that I mean that I signed up for a trail race that's in two weeks and immediately after signing up for it, knew I'd have to at least go try it out once before race day. I'D HAVE TO. Otherwise, cue the public shame and all.

After hitting 'Register' I also went and ordered trail running shoes, because my good old Brooks Adrenalines weren't going to cut it on the leafy, muddy, rocky, tree-limb ridden trails around here. Oh no. They are cut out best for dodging shitty holiday drivers making sharp rights in traffic while NOT AT ALL looking out for pedestrians.

They also work well for bumper kicking, in the event such violence is necessary (like being nearly hit by a car making a shady right turn, for instance).

But, because I have no imagination/fear change/EXTRA FEAR blisters, I just got the I'm A Tough Guy off-road version of Brooks Adrenalines - the ASRs - with the fancy leaf/snow/rain icons on the lacing rig. They're basically my Adrenaline GTSs, but with teeth. Like, the soles have teeth on them - that's not some clichelicious description of suped up running shoes because that would be sad. And unimaginative. And I don't want to be those things.

Also, comfy ankles in tall socks. WEIRD.

Anyway, I'm not going to go into a full review of these shoes right now because I've only worn them on one trail run, so I don't feel like we're BFF yet. I don't know them like I do my GTSs who are like a best friend to me. The GTXs are like a friend of a friend right now. I like them, because they are friends with a good friend of mine, but they haven't held my hair or made up a good story about why I missed work yet, so they're still under review.

But they did get me through my #1 trail run attempt without a single slip, fall, crash, slide off a mountain side or even a stubbed toe, so they've got that going for them.

My hips, quads and calves though? HOLY.

Dudes, I'm sore.

As it turns out, and much like I suspected, trail running is hard.

And, when you want to be running but you're faced with a switchbacking hillside, the act of running is almost more than my ass can muster. And then there are times when I had to resort to hiking, which is what I called it because I figured if I was in the woods and hauling my ass up a hillside, I could at least call it hiking since there was a forest and mud involved. Calling it walking would have insinuated that there was leisure and comfort involved, neither of which would have been accurate.

So, for the first mile and a half of my big old three mile run (shut up) in the woods, I hiked the uphills as fast as I could, and when the fucking thing leveled out for three steps or more, I'd run again. It went on like this for a mile and a half and when I hit 1.5 Miles on the Garmin, I turned my ass around faster than you can say FUCK THIS and ran down in half the time it took me to get to the top.

Elevation charts shaped like triangles are bad news.

And it was AWESOME.

Let me describe.

You know how sometimes you are watching one of those nature shows on, like, Discovery or something, and they show a deer or mountain lion or wolf or some kind of graceful running creature just dashing through the woods?

The thing, let's imagine it's a mountain lion because that's what I was imagining even though the thought of it freaks me out now a little bit, is just racing along with the trees blurring in its peripheral vision, the wind whooshing by its ears, its legs just kicking out the ground below and spraying leaves and dirt behind?

Yeah, that's how it felt to run down this hill. It was fucking great. Not that I looked like a graceful creature, but I felt like one and that's what matters and since no one else was out there, I'm going to pretend I did.

I'll say this - in all my time running on concrete and sometimes gravel and rarely sand, I've never felt like it was "fucking great". It's been enjoyable, peaceful, relaxing, invigorating and scenic - but never FUCKING GREAT and certainly not legitimately fun.

This was fun.
OK, it looks like "dying", but it was fun. At the end. Running downhill.

Though, the kind of fun you have to earn by first dragging your sorry rear to the top of the hill to begin with. Much like backcountry skiing, where you don't get the benefit of the lift doing all the work but do get the fun of riding down a lovely slope without a bunch of psychos littering your path.

Did I mention that I didn't see one single solitary other person when I was out there? Seriously. Not one.Though that could have been because it was 32 degrees when I got out of the car and it had rained all day the day before, making the trails muddy and slippery and covered in leaves, but whatever. I care not what keeps people out of my face.

Though I could have used some help with the camera on my phone. Slippery bastard.
Had I run the streets of San Jose, I can tell you with 100% certainty I would have seen other runners. And bikers. And people walking three abreast on the sidewalk with double decker strollers and dogs on flexi-leashes strung out over all passable walkways. And then there would have for sure been near misses with crazy holiday drivers who were hell bent on murdering people in a mall parking lot.

But in the woods, there was no one. And, to recall my scary parallel with mountain lions, there weren't any creatures to speak of, really, either. I heard a few hawks and I saw, like, two squirrels, but it seemed like the whole mountain was still hiding out after the rainstorm, so I had the hills to myself.

Which was good, because then there wasn't anyone to be all, "Why are you wearing trail RUNNING shoes if you're just going to hike, there Miss Sweaty Monster?"

And that's a relief because I didn't come ready to fight someone in the woods. I was too happy.

Don't make me fight you!

Friday, November 26, 2010


So, yes, that's a sub-29 5K PR, as I'd hoped for as a result of all my self-torture with the fartlekking. Something I decided was necessary after I tried out a 5K tester a month or so ago and found myself barely able to hold on to a decent pace that would put me even close to a sub-30 for this year's turkey trot.

As you can probably imagine, the terror was intense.

How could I go from hitting my sub-60 10K PR to blowing my 5K PR in a few short months? I mean, I know *how* - I'm lazy and haven't been training properly, just running around aimlessly and most of the time without my Garmin to scold me - but *how* I'd be able to handle it mentally, well, that was another story.

So, when I resorted to fartleks in order to get my pace down, it was an extreme moment in the world of me running. Because fartleks are painful and torturous and when I started them, it was the first really chilly morning (in the 30s) and I nearly lost my lungs in the process.

I coughed for hours. It was grody.

Anyway, the reason there's an asterisk by that time and that is because it is my unofficial time as recorded by my Garmin rather than the time recorded by the chip attached to my bib which was pressed against my chest thanks to the crush of 15,000 people trying to get across the starting line.

See, every year I've run this race it's been different. The first year, back in 2007, there were about 6,000 people (at least 1,000 more than they expected) and it was your garden variety over-attendance related shitshow. Think; people everywhere, low grade hysteria and vague smushing at the starting line.

Then, in 2008, I went to Kansas City and ran in the snow and I can't remember what my time was but I do remember that it was snowing and that was a new idea and a cold one. The race itself was pretty well organized and no smushing happened. That, I remember, because it was a first. Much like running in the snow.

Last year, in 2009, I was home and so I ran the turkey trot again here and because I'd had a lot of running going on through the year and needed something to shoot for on turkey day, I got my sub-30 5K PR. It wasn't cold at all and I was over dressed. And pretty smushed at the starting line because everyone ignored the pace signs and the stroller whores lined up at the front of the race so that when the starting gun went off, they were mowed down by a lot of people who were going for crazy PRs like sub-18. I was certain that because of that mayhem, we were going to see a little better organization at the starting line this year but HOLY CRAP was I wrong.

This year there were 15,000 people, many dressed in costume, all dressed in some variety of cold weather running attire because it was 32 degrees at gun time, pressed into an airless block of human pressed against the start line.

Large women wearing turkey hats with strollers standing on the feet of elite runners in split-side shorts and wraparound sunglasses pinched between burly firemen in hooded sweatsuits and Oldie Hawns wearing Christmas sweaters.

And there wasn't a pace sign to be seen. Not a one.

It did not bode well.

I'm not sure why everyone who was walking the trot decided they needed to be at the very front, but I have to assume it had something to do with their minds trained for Black Friday murder sprees at Wal-Mart and they'd just gotten ahead of themselves and lined up at 3am at the start so they could get across the line to be first to buy a Tickle Me Wii or whatever for their 17 kids, but I can't be sure.

The only thing I'm sure of is that they were at the front and forming a jiggly, clucking barrier between legitimate runners and the race course.

Not to say I'm a *legitimate* runner or anything, but between the stroller pushers and the families walking five abreast with their arms linked, I was starting to wonder if I was going to be able to run at all or escape from the fleshy monster of 15,000 people trying to squeeze through a space big enough for maybe a dozen people across.

It would have been super great to have some pace signs. Or even more super great to have some useful instructions coming from the overhead speaker which bleated complete nonsense for the 20 minutes leading up to the race. Something like, "If you're walking or pushing a stroller or wearing a costume that's wider than you are tall, move your ass to the back of the pack so that you don't block people who are going to try to kill you anyway."

Something like that.

But no, we were left to duke it out at the start. And we did. And because I was busy duking it out and couldn't get to the point where I could lift my arm to hit the Start button on my Garmin until I was a handful of yards past the starting line, I am using my Garmin time rather than the race time as my official time as my way of giving those race organizers the finger.

And also because this way it means I got my sub-29 5K PR.

I'm such a cheater.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A really good vegetarian thing we had in Munich. No, really. [Recipe]

I guess the first thing you think of when you're going to Munich, or Germany for that matter, isn't "Oooh! I wonder what kind of great vegetarian restaurants they have!" because, duh.

Frankly, until our local friend suggested we get on the U-Bahn and traipse across the city to this "vegetarian place that's one of only two in the city and supposed to be really good", it hadn't even occurred to me that vegetarians (or vegans, as our friend is, for that matter) could even survive in the Wurst Everywhere capital of the universe.

Seriously, friends, to estimate that I ate 50 wursts during our short stay in Germany would probably not be much of an overstatement. Also, I love wurst. And beer. And pretzels. And maybe I shouldn't get carried away here because none of those things (well, maybe beer) lived at this vegetarian restaurant we visited when we slowly stepped back from the biergartens for one single solitary meal at the behest of our lovely wurst-free friend.

I think Bubba and I would have been perfectly happy to eat wurst, pretzels, beer and maybe some Obaztda at every meal, three meals a day, for a week. Or, for that matter, the rest of our fucking lives, but it's probably good that we didn't and won't because can you imagine the fatness? Yikes. It would be extreme.
This is Obaztda and it is The One of pretzel spreads.
Anyway! One day we ate a meal that didn't have any meat, in a really nice little restaurant run by one very enthusiastic and sweet woman and in this restaurant we had a soup that we've been talking about ever since. The moment I tasted the soup, even, I knew I was going to have to recreate it at home. To the point where when the nice and very busy woman came back to see how we liked it, I very nearly held her hand while asking her for specific details about the making of the soup so that she couldn't run away.

I didn't hold her hand though, because that would be stalker-ish and I've been told that's a no-no. Also, I have been told that Germans are not "touchers" and, so, holding her hand may have garnered me an awesome kick to the face. Who knows? Those guys can be a little unpredictable what with the drinking and all. Even the vegetarians I bet.

Enough about that though. I don't want you to get the impression that all the Germans we met or left un-molested in the city were anything other than lovely and non-abusive because they were. Probably because we didn't try to hug any of them or hold their hands.

See! I can learn! Also, I learned that when you step onto an escalator, say when you're coming up from the subway for instance, you better get your ass over to the right if you plan to stand there like a useless lump because GOD HELP YOUR MOTHER FUCKING SOUL if you're standing on the left when a trainload of Munichers want to descend the escalator of their own volition and find it blocked by your dumb foreign ass.

This is Germany, friends, and there are rules and those rules are to be followed OR ELSE. You know. It's Germany.

And, as another aside, I love this about Germany because I love rules and I love them more when people follow them because then everything works so well and then you can accurately predict when your train will arrive because the schedule says it will be there at 12:03 and hot damn if it doesn't show up at the stroke of 12:03.

Not 12:02. Not 12:04. 12 FUCKING OH THREE.

Love you, German People - you make my heart sing with your efficiency. Also, your beer, wurst, pretzels, biergartens, bike lanes, Oktoberfest, Black Forest, flowers planted in every window, ham and...what the hell was I talking about again? Oh yeah, vegetarian food.

So, this thing we had at the one of two vegetarian places in all of Deutscheland was the boring sounding, "Pumpkin Soup" which sounds boring like I said.

But, I do love fall soups, soup in general and pumpkin, so I was basically already going to order it until the very nice and busy woman running this show all by herself told me that it was thickened and made creamy with marscapone and then topped with pumpkin oil and pumpkin seeds.

I would like you to sit there and appreciate that EVEN THEN, after she told me these delicious sounding details, I stillSTILL did not try to hug her or even touch her arm meaningfully as if to say, "Thank you, nice Germaness, for creating this masterpiece of pumpkinness that I am sure to love. I am certain that it will enrich my life and, in so doing, will add an unexpected element of joy to our vacation."

No, that would have been too much. So I didn't do it. And I want for you to recognize the significance of it.

OK, we're done with that now.

So, we had the soup, and it was fantastic and we also resisted licking the bowls because we were sure there must be a rule against doing that because, in addition to being Wurst Land it's also Rules Land and our working theory was that if you *thought* something might be against the rules, it probably was and you'd be best to avoid enraging the rules.

Don't do it! They do not fuck around! We are told, anyway. We don't speak German, so what do we know about anything.

Anyway, as you know, we went on with our vacation and ate many other delicious things (which were mostly not vegetarian at all) and then came home and I thought about this soup.

Every time I saw a pumpkin (which is a lot because people around here grow them in their front yards and also it was Halloween and now it's nearly Thanksgiving) I thought of this soup.

Even when I saw one in a tree in Freiburg.

So, this weekend I went out on a hunting expedition for the ingredient I thought would be findable at Whole Foods, land of the niche food bullshit, but alas went home with unrequited pumpkin oil desires.

So sad.

ButBUT I did find marscapone and that's the real key ingredient here and FOR THE LOVE if you like pumpkin and you can handle marscapone (super dairy and fatness) please make this soup. And if you can't find pumpkin oil, please don't despair, because I made the soup without it and it was good.

Like, ruuuuuuuuuully good. Like, when I asked Bubba whether he wanted to have pork chops (his fave) tonight or just have reheated pumpkin soup and arugula, he didn't even blink an eye before he shouted, "PUMPKIN".

Which is big. The man loves pork chops and he's calling for pumpkin before pork chops. That's what a crazy person would say. OrOR someone who loves this soup.

And, I had to love it, one bite of the soup and I was magically transported back to that cutesy little tiny ass restaurant in Munich with the darling gal in her Dirndl offering up her little menu with Kürbis soup right on there. (For the record, I have no idea if it said Kürbis, because, again, I don't speak German, but I assume it did because that's what it was. Whatever. Stop looking at me like that!)

So, don't you want to make this? Because it's really easy. And, for real, only took about half an hour from start to finish.

AND I bet, if you don't have a starter for your Thanksgiving dinner and want to be all festive and shit, you could make a big pot of this soup and serve it up before having the barftastic turkey (if it's not smoked, I do not like it) and everyone will still be your friend even after they've eaten themselves into a painful Thanksgiving food coma.

Though, they SHOULD be your friend already if you just cooked and served them a giant meal. I mean, who are these ungrateful guests that get pissed that they're so super full from the great food you just slaved over for them? Jerks.

Pumpkin Marscapone Soup
Adapted from this recipe
My changes in bold

1/4 cup butter, salted, whole
1 cup chopped onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup dry Sherry
3 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 cups pureed pumpkin
1 cup mascarpone cheese
Much salt and some black pepper to taste 
White truffle oil
Salted roasted pumpkin seeds

To make
1. Melt butter in an 8-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until an aroma develops. Add the sherry and cook until it is reduced by half.

2. Add broth, dried thyme and thyme leaves and pumpkin puree, and simmer on medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Stir in the mascarpone cheese until incorporated completely. Add a good amount of salt (DO NOT UNDER SALT, DAMN YOU) and some fresh ground pepper to your liking and serve hot with a bit of truffle oil, fresh thyme leaves and pumpkin seeds on top. Plus, some fresh hot No-Knead Bread.

Get ready to love. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

I pre-emptively blame the Garmin for my personal failings.

Hey, remember when I said that I was going to CRAZY PART ALERT try to program my Garmin to beep me through my fartlek workout so that I wouldn't have to strain my eyeballs looking down every two seconds to see when I could stop sprinting and start throwing up?

You remember.

Well, MIRACLE, I did it. Program the watch, mind you. I did not, however, throw up - even though I got mighty close a few times.

Running at a pace that most runners find to be normal makes me nauseous, can you believe? Yes, this is because I'm very slow.

Anyway, whatever, I triumphed over the Garmin and forced it to do my bidding by acting out one of its main functions - intervals.


So, you see, when I got this watch, I basically charged it up and then ran out the door, knowing only how to set the display so I could watch my pace. I didn't sit down and have a heart to heart with it and its owner's manual as I do with most every other technological contraption that enters my house. I mean, I've even had this little Coming To Jesus with the fucking mandolin and that doesn't even have a battery. Which, thank gawd because can you imagine? It would have killed me already is what I'm saying.

But with the Garmin? Quite possibly the most complicated time telling device I've experienced in my lifetime? Oh no. "I'll just figure it out as I go", I said.

Pfffffffft. Yeah, that's been real successful.

So, you'd think that once I realized that I was in over my head with this mysterious, beeping, I Am The Holder Of Many Secrets digital GPS device, I would immediately head to the file folder of manuals in my office and sit quietly in a well-lit room with the Garmin and its manual until I could accurately describe how to implement at least two functions it performed other than Tell Me The Time and Tell Me My Pace. Right? You'd expect at least that.

Hey! Me too!

Except you know what I did?

I just found a video online for how to set the interval thing and, after not even watching the whole video, ran out the door to try it out. Yay! I watched one minute of a three minute instructional video! I know everything!

I did not know everything.

Which became vividly apparently after I'd been "Do Workout"ing for more than five minutes with nary a beep to tell me to RUN or REST or WarmUp or CoolDown.

Yeah, that's because when you set this thing to do a simple interval of 2 minutes of RUN and 1 minute of REST with a WarmUp YES and CoolDown YES, you have to actually tell the thing when you're done running your WarmUp and ready to start RUNning and RESTing for whatever intervals you set.

What bullshit that this thing doesn't read minds. It can tell you your lat/long location (or I assume it can, I haven't looked up that feature yet), speed (confirmed it does this), elevation (after the fact for sure) and recently I found that it could YAY tell you about your mile splits, but it doesn't read my mind yet? Lame.

Perhaps it's like the heart rate monitor feature - you have to have a strap wrapped around your head to get it to work...

Anyway, to focus on my particular failings with the intervals feature - I went out to fartlek myself into an early grave without watching the entire instructional video, so I fartlekked of my own accord rather than with the assistance of the handy Garmin. Basically, I warmed up for a little over five minutes and when I realized that the watch wasn't going to tell me via beeping to do my intervals, I just kept an eye on the clock (so exhausting) and RAN for two minutes and RESTed for one minute and so on until I was within a few blocks of my house (and nearly barfing) and slowed it down for the CoolDown portion of the event.

Even though I utterly failed at properly utilizing the Intervals feature of my Garmin, I did fartlek and it did almost make me throw up in public and WHOA I took nearly a minute off my previous time for that same route.

I chalked it up as a minor success. Then I went inside and told Bubba I needed a stretcher ready and waiting for me after all forthcoming runs.

After that run, but before I set out a few days later for my next try at this fartlek business, I watched the next minute of the video to figure out why the thing never went from WarmUp to RUN and it told me I had to hit the Lap button to start the interval feature with the beeping and what not.

Oh. Makes sense, I guess.

So, my next fartlekky run was marginally more successful since I did a WarmUp for about two minutes, hit Lap and fartlekked myself nearly into a coma for 6 intervals (I told you I was a puss, what do you want?) before it lapsed into CoolDown on its own.

Wait? Why did it stop beeping? I thought I had one more interval to go? Yeah, no. If you program 6 intervals, thinking that it will do, say two minutes RUN and one minute REST for 6 cycles, you are wrong. It will do that for 5 cycles and on the last one it will just leave you on the rest cycle indefinitely. Then you hit Lap when you're done and only then will it play you the magical You Didn't Die! Hooray! song.


So, that took me another run to figure out, but I got it down in time for my shortish long run last Saturday and, when I completed the interval portion of my shortish long run (which was the first 5K of my 6 miles), I hit the Lap button and got to enjoy the mechanical beepy You're Done song while I walked around with tunnel vision for a few minutes before resuming my run at a more human pace in the mid 9s.

I thought I'd conquered the Intervals feature of Garmin. I was wrong.

When I went out on Tuesday for my, now totally normal, bout with fartleks, I realized during one of the REST or RUN cycles that there was an extra piece of information I hadn't set and might actually be good to have: Target.

What it said was "No Target".

Running without a target or goal is not my style, folks - as you know. And to be doing something as torturous as fartleks without a target is downright retarded.

So, my goal for tomorrow's shortish long run is to figure out how to set my 2:1 intervals with target paces for both. What will those target paces be? Who the hell knows! I mean, I can only deal with one new feature at a time, so I'll likely choose those targets at random. Like 8:30 for a RUN target and 10 for a REST target because that sounds like it would probably even out to a 9:29mm pace over a 5K distance. In my head. If I don't think about it too much.

And, while I'm not thinking about it too much, there's also the possibility that "Target" doesn't mean "pace" or "distance" but something obscure like "heart rate". Officially, I will find that annoying if that's the case. Just want to get that out there.

Sure, I *should* go figure out how to set this and what to set it at and also confirm that Target is for pace and not for something else, but that can just be the fun little thing I come back to bitch about next week.

Oh, and I got my Turkey Trot bibb in the mail yesterday, so my bitching next week may include how I fucked up my Turkey Trot 5K time by failing to master my Garmin beforehand or because there was a gang of misfit pilgrims running arm in arm in front of me or because I had a warm up slice of pumpkin pie as race fuel, but you know it will not be attributed to my failure to train properly.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

If you build it, they will maybe show up and fill it with honey.

Because I'm apparently working hard on my reputation as the neighborhood freak, I went out on Saturday and got my beehive.

No. That's not my hive. That's the President's hive and the photo was taken by "Chantal Foster, a 30-something web architect living in Albuquerque, NM." according to her blog. Thanks, Chantal! I like to fantasize about my own hive being so lovely and situated beneath such a nice tree! Because that in no way represents reality!

Right now my hive looks like this:

Yes, friends, that is a disassembled hive. To be specific, it's two disassembled brood boxes, honey super, lid and base plus 30 assembled frames and then some things that don't need assembling (THANK GOD) like the queen excluder and mouse gate. 

Don't know what the hell I'm talking about? Don't worry, you will. If you keep up with me through this process anyway. Don't know why I'm making such a big deal about assembled versus disassembled?

Let me explain.

See, I went over to my local beekeeping supply shop this weekend, which is really just a lovely older gentleman's garage, and had myself a little personal meltdown.

My plan had been to show up, point to an assembled but not painted hive, say "I'll take that one there, please." and walk out with the thing on a hand truck or something so I could go home and feel like a big man while I painted it all by myself yay!

Except that was not the case. As in so many other situations where you think there is just one product available but then come to find out there are a million variations on that product about which you suddenly have to know, care and make decisions. Much like buying our refrigerator, I didn't know that there were so many KINDS of refrigerators. 

I thought I could walk into Sears or Lowe's or whatever and just point to the one fridge on the floor and say, "I'll take that one there, please." and then walk out with the thing on a hand truck or something and then it turned into half a day of Bubba and me deciding whether we *really needed* an extra deli drawer or a shelf fit for party platters or a built in soda can rack and sub zero this and crisper that until I nearly shot myself right there in the store with a gun from the Outdoors department to end the pain and misery.

It was very dramatic and the Sears people didn't help matters with their I Will Have To Check With My Manager-ness on everything. Those people...but I won't get into that. You already know.

Well, this going to buy my beehive finally and after a long time of hemming and hawing was similar, but mostly only in the Holy Shit What Have I Gotten Myself Into way and without all the fantasizing about murdering an entire Sears sales staff. And obviously we weren't dealing with options like deli drawers. But OH there were options.

What the very nice elder statesman explained to me was that I could get a pre-built hive with brood boxes and honey supers and the frames all tucked inside and ready Freddy to go...this is when I nearly clapped my hands together and said, "Fantastic! I'll take it!"...but oh it's a lot more expensive than just building the boxes yourself. 


I was suddenly a little self-conscious about how much I was willing to spend on this thing and how much cash I'd brought into this man's garage. And I really didn't want to seem like the wussy girl that was all, "Oh, but I don't want to build things with scary hammers and wood glue" or the lazy girl that was all, "Oh but I just wanted to buy it ready built so I could go home and feel like a big man while I painted it all by myself yay!"

So, of course, I gave him the old, "Oh yeah, totally. I can build things. All that pre-built stuff is for pansies." and what not. 

Until he started stacking up all the rubber-banded parts and pieces that were going to, in theory, be constructed by my wussy girl hands into something resembling a bee hive.

Um, people, the pile was HUGE, and it grew minute to minute. 

I'll admit that when he announced that the pile I was looking at only took care of one brood box and its frames, I hit the brakes.

"Um, maybe I'll build the boxes but not the frames? What do you think?"

He didn't say it outright, but I believe the man was relieved to the tenth power. Because hauling out the stuff for one box worth of materials was nearly his final act. 

Dude's old, is what I'm getting at. And I didn't savor the thought that I was going to send him over the edge with my vain attempt at acting like a big man in his garage store. Because I'm not a big man, first of all, and because I'm of all things, lazy.

He was so nice, Mr. Beekeeper For Fifty Years, and helped me put together the parts for the boxes, lid and base ONLY and then gathered together 20 PRE-BUILT BY HIM brood frames and 10 honey frames and all the other little things I asked for.

And then I gave him every last dime I had in my wallet (seriously, thank gawd I didn't try to get the pre-built hive because I would have had to go to the ATM fo sho) and he helped me out with the boxes of Future Hive. He did, however, offer the service of a hand truck, but I declined because it didn't seem necessary given I wasn't at Sears buying a fridge. 

So. That's the explanation for why I have parts and pieces of a yet-to-be-painted beehive in my garage. Because I didn't want to seem like a wussy hammer-fearful girl OR a lazy ass, so I went with the happy medium: build the boxes myself and slide in the ready-made frames built by Mr. Beekeeper for a buck a piece.

Seems like a fair deal.

And wouldn't you know that when I was clearing off a big shelf near the potting bench for all my hive stuff, a bee ventured into the garage for the first time ever (seriously, never see one in there before) and flew right up to the frame I was holding and started picking around the cells like he wanted to move in and drop off some honey.

I'm not going to lie, I told him to come back in April and I'd have a room saved for him. And then I told Bubba that maybe, if I did a really good job building and painting the hive, a swarm would just show up and move into the hive without me having to buy package bees.
And then Bubba looked at me like he suddenly realized while all the neighbors regarded the way they did.

We'll see.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Adopt a Crop: Winner of Randomness

So, of the 21 of you who knew "what to do" after my end of season post, a random one of you will now win a random prize box of randomness from the garden.

Isn't random fun?

I think so.

Because it's a mystery. And it'll come in a mystery box. And that is all very reminiscent of one of my favorite Family Guy episodes. A reference which, in and of itself, is awash in randomness. And, if you are a fan of random shit, I might just draw some question marks on the outside of your random box of randomness just for fun. Though I won't be throwing in any free tickets to a a comedy show. Too random.

Know what else is random? The germination rate of the 25+/- fava bean seeds I planted in the garden after I tore it down. I think that maybe five have germinated and that pretty much blows in the germination department. Also random was that I rode over to OSH yesterday to get a few more packets of hopefully viable fava seeds and BOO they didn't have any.

So, now I will have to go online to buy fava seeds because, randomly, I've become attached to having fava beans growing in my garden all winter long. It makes the empty beds a little more interesting and doesn't leave wide swaths of soft dirt open for the greedy claws of squirrels who like to bury walnuts from my neighbor's tree or cats who like to bury their you know what from their you know where.

I don't need to go into specifics on that.

And if you're at all interested in the status of the final harvest, well, it's all been taken care of one way or another. We ate the last tomatoes the other night in a perfect rendition of Vietnamese Stuffed Tomatoes and they were spectacular. Then we fell into a deep depression knowing that those were the last fresh tomatoes we'd have until next summer but DON'T FREAK OUT, BUBBA we're about to enter Brussels sprouts season and, randomly, we both LOVE Brussels sprouts.

Remember this? Oh yeah, you do.

Have you had enough of my manufactured randomness? Thought so.

Random winner of random box of random garden preserves is Jenny!

So, Jenny, she of the Not Linked to Any Profile Identity comment , email me at finnyknitsATgmailDOTcom  with your full name and address so that I can send your prize of randomness.

And, if you're really into the random nature of this prize, I can even send it on a random date so that you don't know when it will show up. FUN! Is it? Yeah, I don't know either.

But still, email me your mailing details and I'll start packing a box with random.

For the rest of you then, sorry that you won't be getting random shit sent to your house, but I assume you can take solace in the random shit that I just sent to your eyeballs with this post. Yay! Everyone wins!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I'm not going to go for the easy jokes.

I almost didn't want to mention my new training method to Bubba, because I knew he would make a bunch of lewd jokes and not take me seriously, and with the pain I'd caused myself with this new thing, I really needed to be taken seriously - in the sympathy way.

So I tried to be all, "Hey Bubbs, can you hand me the remotey because I'm so wrecked from my run this morning that I can barely blink my eyelids?"

But, of course, he was all, "What happened this morning? Did you run farther than normal?"

And I was all, "No, I just tried this new training thing and it tried to kill me."

And he looked at me with the suspicious raised eyebrow of someone who doesn't understand why someone else is inflicting so much pain on themselves when they had every ability to avoid it and was all, "What is this thing and why did you do it?"

And I was all, "Oh, it's this thing where you run super hard for a set period of time and then slow down for half that time and then repeat, sort of."

The raised eyebrow did not come down. He just continued staring at me trying to tilt and lean my unbending body toward the remote.

"Uh huh. Sounds complicated."

"It's called a fartlek and I don't know what it means and it's awful and I'm really sore so just give me the remote and stop staring!"

OK, so I lost it. I really wanted the remote. And I knew that someday I'd say the word and have to face the jokes, so I just decided to jump in front of that bus sooner rather than later.

You know, the Fart Licking, Stink Liking bus. The one that requires beans for fuel and sounds like vvvvvvvvvvvvvrrrrrrrrrrrttttttt when you're doing it and so on.

Oh yes, the jokes were classy. And just as bad as I knew they would be. Because it's impossible to take something like a fartlek seriously until you go try it and then you know - it is seriously painful.

And, for the record, "fartlek" is a Swedish words that means, "speed play", which is appropriate because when you run fartleks or you fartlek or you're fartlekking (I have no idea how to conjugate this word or what part of speech it belongs to) you're sort of playing with your speed. Essentially, you alternate running at your fastest pace with running half the time you ran your fastest pace with your slowest pace. And you repeat until you're nauseous, jelly from the waist down or dead.

I was a combination of the three when I rolled into the driveway after Tuesday morning's piddly 23 minute run. During which time I did the following:

1 min: Warm up at 9mm pace
2 mins: Fastest pace (somewhere between 7 and 8)
1 min: Slowest pace (almost walking)
2 mins: Fastest pace (somewhere in the 8s)
1 min: Slowest pace while trying not to throw up (jog barfing)
1 min: Slowest pace while trying to get my pace back to respectable levels (between 8 and 9)
2 mins: Fastest pace (in the 8s)
1 min: Slowest pace while contemplating throwing myself in front of the city bus (probably somewhere in the 10s)

And so on until 23:35 had passed and I'd arrived THANK GOD WHY AM I DYING? back at my driveway.

Plus, it was around 39 degrees when I was fartlekking about town and it was the first time I'd rocked the running tights and my hamstrings were still way sore from all the yardwork I did over the weekend when I had to prune back my meadow (sounds weird and porny, right? I know I'm not the only one that thinks that.) for winter and and and and and it hurt.

I even had that same tunnel vision, wandering the yard aimlessly while groping at inanimate objects for support, ripping clothes off experience that I usually only expect after a race. And, honestly, this probably goes to show how ineffectively I'm pushing myself normally, if one fartlek run can put me in the infirmary. I even had that burning lungs things going on, and I hardly ever get that, though it could have been because it was so cold out.

But, and for this nothing else matters, I took a minute off my previous time for this route.


Which means that, if I don't puss out between now and Thanksgiving Day by reverting back to my lazy No Garmin No iPod Run At Whatever Comfortable Pace ways, I can best my 5K time from last year's Turkey Trot.

And that, folks, is my sole training strategy right now. I just don't want to blow my 5K PR.

But, since I've been so whimsical and lazy about my running strategy lately (specifically, I have not had a strategy and have decided my route and distance based on the number of cute dogs I see along the way), I had to come up with something extreme.

Running fartleks seems to take care of that requirement rather handily. Because it feels pretty fucking extreme when all my parts are screaming at me to STOP GOD DAMN YOU and I keep going as my vision narrows to a pin point on the horizon and I hope to hell I don't crap myself or trip on the crack in the sidewalk I can't see because of my exertion-related vision loss.

I'm not usually this extreme with things, but this ongoing desire to improve my pace has me doing crazy things.

Speaking of which, I plan to fartlek again tomorrow morning and, Crazy Part Alert!, I will be fiddling with the Garmin tonight to get it to beep at me at 2 mins, 1 min, 4 mins, 2 mins and so on so that I don't have to waste the energy of swinging my eyeballs down a million times to check my watch as I run and barf.

Apparently, I hate myself.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Flip-flops: The latest in winter wear.

Remember when I told you the big news?


You know...about our fireplace? The new one?

Still, no?

With the remote control that will keep me safe from blowing off my face?

Really? Still, no?

The one that will retire the Ugly Librarian Sweater?

Oh yeah, NOW you remember. You're just like Bubba. I can say a million meaningful things but the second I mention that, "blahblahblah I don't think I'll need the Ugly Librarian Sweater anymore blahblahblah", his eyes light up like it's Christmas friggen morning.


Anyway, so the new fireplace. It's in.

The sub-contractors who came out to professionally torture me with their Down With The Sickness ringtones also happened to install our gas insert over the course of, like, five hours, so now I get to push ON with delight and watch my fireplace do something that used to take at least 20 minutes, a change of clothes, a hike to the backyard (usually in the rain) and a few tries to get going.

POOF - on. I love that.

And, an announcement that may be of greater importance than the potential retiring of the Ugly Librarian Sweater - I can possibly wear flip-flops year round now.

SERIOUSLY! That is big news right there. Not that I'll be able to work on my flip-flop tan in the winter months since, while I can be warmed by this fake fire, I can not actually be tanned by it, but still - big news that I won't have to maybe wear socks and leg warmers and slippers all at once to keep my toes from freezing off from November - April.

That is awesome.

Unfortunately, we haven't quite mastered restraint with the push button greatness of this fireplace yet and so ended up cooking ourselves into a Finny and Bubba stew yesterday as we watched Sunday football and made up for a Saturday off of NaNoWriMo by writing 3K+ words in one sitting.

It's possible that my novel has taken on a football theme, though I can't be sure since I refuse to go back and read anything I've written because I'll be too tempted to edit. And you can't edit during NaNoWriMo!

I mean, you can, but then you might kill your word count and no one wants that.

So, yeah, this post isn't really all that substantive, but I thought you should know that I will probably be wearing flip-flops all winter long when I'm at home, while NOT wearing the Ugly Librarian Sweater as long as when the gas bill arrives it doesn't rival our mortgage payment.

Because we fully realize that we're riding the sweet spot with the new fireplace right now. That time after it's arrived BUT before you get the bill, so you *don't really know how bad it will be* so you just crank it up and then, when it gets too hot, you turn it off and open the front door to catch a breeze as though it's the middle of July.

Yeah, we've been bad. But I'm sure that first bill will set us straight.

So, on second thought, the Ugly Librarian Sweater may be back IN and the flip-flops may go back out into the garage with the off-season clothes, but I'm waiting for that first bill to decide. Don't tell Bubba.

And sorry for the bizarre posts this month, you'll have to bear with me, as NaNoWriMo is working in tandem with the fireplace to cook my brains.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Trick or trout

I'm really getting a lot of use out of that title I ripped off from a friend of mine (Hi Jason! I love this!), but it's such a fitting way to wrap up our second Arkansas fishing trip of the year since it happened over Halloween and I caught a bunch of trout.

No trout in this photo, but I like it anyway.

The added trickery?:
  • We avoided having to hand out candy at our front door. Trick's on you, kiddos! No showing up at Finny's house on Halloween without a costume but WITH a 19 year old face and a Safeway bag. Suckahs.
  • I didn't have to endure the raised eyebrows from parents when I propped up my jack-o-lantern with "Get Off My Porch" carved into the front. Trick's on you, Judging Parents of Freeloading Kids!
  • We didn't have to come up with any reasons for not dressing up on Halloween at work because WHOOPSY not going to be in the office. Trick's on you, Work!
  • We didn't eat a boatload of candy because OH DARN all the Halloween candy was sold out by the time we got back into town and, since we weren't doing trick-or-treaters, I didn't buy any to begin with. Trick's on you, Safeway!
  • The dog didn't have to endure the costumed abuse of previous years. Trick's on ME! Whoops.
Yeah, it was delightful. We stranded ourselves just far enough into the backwaters of Arkansas to avoid Halloween and all of its various and sundry annoyances BUT stayed close enough to civilization to still get the World Series (WHICH, BOO YA! THE GIANTS TOTALLY WON! I'M STILL GLOWING ORANGE FROM IT ALL!)  at the cabin.

Score one for the Finny/Bubba household.

So, what great and embarrassing stories do I have to tell you? How nice of you to wait around for me to amuse you with my personal trauma.

To begin with, I am a tard. Which you probably know all too well by now. But, what you may not know is that my tard level rises significantly when I get overly excited about things and, let's put it mildly by saying that I get VERY excited for flyfishing.

This was approx. 5 minutes after arriving at the cabin and, yes, I'm still wearing my clothes from the plane. LET'S GO!

So, what does one massive tard do when all hopped up on the Let's Go Fishing idea? One gets out of the truck, watches intently as her fishing buddies get all wadered up, even going as far as helping one of them untangle their wader suspenders, and then one strides right out into waist deep river water to discover that HOLY SHIT THAT'S COLD AND Oh goodie, my shirt is wet because TEE DAH I forgot to put my wader suspenders up.

See those suspenders around my hips, there? Yeah. They were still there when we waded out the first time.
Oh hooray. Now I will stand here in the very cold water, finagle my suspenders up and over my shoulders, put my vest back on and pretend like I'm not wet around the middle all day. Yay. Also, my elbows were wet because I forgot I had long sleeves on and when they get wet, they stay wet.

Beyond that, though? I'm sorry to disappoint you by saying that nothing else really incredibly stupid was done by me. I didn't manage to snag myself, Bubba or any of our friends with my line. I didn't fall in, wade out too far and end up with a wader load of river water (except for that one time), trip and tear the ass of my waders as I'm prone to do with most of my hiking and climbing pants or even drink too much and give myself a crippling hangover.

Though, of course, there were drinks. I mean, obviously.

Yeah! I know! That sounds like a pretty successful fishing trip! Add the Giants winning the World Series on top of all that (which I realize didn't happen until we were back in town and I could cheer and cry from my home town, but still) and, I'll say it, the friggen trip was a home run.

You can tell that this was Day 2, because my waders are UP.
One must always pretend to make out with the first fish of the day.
This place sucks.
Back into the river with you, sir.
This is all I saw this man do all weekend. Catch fish. Terrific.
I like to think that I spent a good amount of time catching fish, too, but I also did a lot of standing around.
This was one of my bigger fish which I landed on a fly of my choosing. Sometimes I'm not a tard.

We have already started planning our return trip and have made official our plan for this to be a yearly event. My only hope is that one year I'll actually catch one of the famed HUGE brown trout in the White River, but I will continue to be overly excited and pleased to reel in a beautiful rainbow.

Just a baby, this one.

So, yeah - light on embarrassing stories, but heavy on fish photos. I feel good about it.