Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The races of 2008

Now that 2008 is ending, my year of races is moving from the sidebar to this post, in order to begin the list for 2009. So one more time, here they are—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

  • 12/7/07 Las Vegas Half Marathon, Las Vegas NV, 2:07:00
  • 11/8/08 Footworx Fowl Fun Run, Mount Vernon, 54:00
  • 10/12/08 Royal Victoria Half Marathon, Victoria BC, 2:06:05
  • 9/21/08 Maine Coast Women's Half Marathon, York, ME, 2:01:19
  • 9/13/08 Fairhaven Waterfront 15K, Bellingham, 1:23:21
  • 9/7/08 Aflac Irongirl 5K, Seattle, 25:04
  • 8/23/08 Run-a-Muk 10K, Mukilteo, 52:51
  • 8/8/08 8 on the 8th Virtual 8-mile race, 1:22:52
  • 8/2/08 River & Rails 10K, Arlington, 54:34
  • 7/26/08 Anacortes Art Dash Half Marathon, 1:58:51
  • 7/12/08 Run of the Mill 5K, Mill Creek, 26:16
  • 7/4/08 Yankee Doodle Dash 10K, Everett, 53:29
  • 6/21/08 Race for the Cure 5K, Seattle, 27:01
  • 6/14/08 Berry Run 5K, Marysville, 25:28
  • 6/8/08 Hi-5 10K, Lynnwood, 53:35
  • 6/7/08 Dog Island Run 10K, Guemes Island, 53:52
  • 5/18/08 Beat the Bridge 8K, Seattle, 42:37
  • 5/3/08 Bloomsday 12K, Spokane, 1:06:52
  • 4/19/08 Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon, Boise ID, 2:15:38
  • 4/13/08 Whidbey Island Half Marathon, Oak Harbor, 2:00:52
  • 4/5/08 Tulip Run 5-mile, Mount Vernon, 42:50
  • 3/16/08 Shamrock Run 15K, Portland OR, 1:22:32
  • 3/8/08 Sunset Drive 10-mile Relay (Solo), Anacortes, 1:37:15
  • 2/23/08 Smelt Run 10K, LaConner, 54:23
  • 2/10/08 Love 'em or Leave 'em 5k, Seattle, 25:39
  • 1/1/08 Resolution Run 5k, Seattle, 26:17

Bring on 2009!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Twelve Months of 2008

In the spirit of the holidays, here is my Christmas letter to you. Actually it is my Christmas letter to my friends who live far away from me... but I haven't actually managed to send it out yet. So you, my blogging and blog-reading friends, are getting the Christmas card that my other friends are not.

It is written to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas... so sing along if you wish!

In the first month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, a 5K in Magnuson Park.

In the second month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, a 5K at Greenlake, and a 10K up north in LaConner.

In the third month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, 10 miles in Anacortes, the Shamrock Run in Portland, and a 10K was canceled due to snow.

In the fourth month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, 5 miles in Mount Vernon, a half marathon on Whidbey, six days until the next one, and the Robie Creek Half Marathon in Boise.

In the fifth month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, Bloomsday 12K! Met Kathryn Switzer in Spokane, Beat the Bridge in Seattle, traveled to St. Louis, where I ran around the Arch and Forest Park.

In the sixth month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, a Guemes Island 10K, and one at the mall! The Berry Run 5K, the Race for the Cure (but no sub-25), and a beach run from Potlatch to Tulalip Bay.

In the seventh month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, Yankee Doodle Dashing, a new style for my haircut, the Run of the Mill! A Garmin watch for running, some really sunny weather, the Anacortes Half Marathon, and a long weekend at Rosario on Orcas.

In the eighth month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, a 10K up in Arlington, 8 miles on the 8th, the start of the Olympics, Deena Kastor falls! My 43rd birthday, a PR in Mukilteo, my 25-year reunion, where I renewed my acquaintance with Rod Reed.

In the ninth month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, Kabocha Squash Soup, my father’s 78th birthday, a PR in the Irongirl, a new instructor in Yoga, the Fairhaven 15K! A 10-day trip to Maine, the Mid-Coast Maine Half Marathon, travel up the coast, and an awful lot of lobsters consumed!

In the tenth month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, a long run on Burke-Gilman, Vice-presidential debate, Tina Fey as Palin, ferry trip to Sidney, touring Butchart Gardens, Royal Victoria Half! Tea at the Empress, prime rib at our Book Club, Neil Young at the Events Center, and a Halloween evening to remember!

In the eleventh month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, Pilates teacher injured, Paula wins the marathon, Obama wins the election, Skagit Valley 10K, California banning bake sales, running in foul weather, weekend in Rimrock! Cookie exchange at Book Club, symphony at Benaroya, countdown to Thanksgiving, and Lorraine made me a marionberry pie.

In the twelfth month of 2008, the New Year gave to me, more cookies at the office, I vow to give up cookies, my car is broken into, new license, credit cards and cell phone, a weekend trip to Vegas, I spend $15 gambling, an Eiffel Tower of margaritas, the Vegas Half-Marathon! Now it’s almost Christmas, my tree is finally decorated, the ground is all snow-covered, and I wish you a Happy Christmas and New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

1500 miles, come and gone

I passed the 1,500 mile mark this morning, covering the 1.5 miles I needed (plus 3.5 more) on my running snowshoes, in a mini-blizzard, at a pace which was, I believe, a bit slower than walking would be in less inclement weather.

Still, I was definitely running, plowing my snowshoes through several inches of new snow on top of a thick layer of older packed snow and ice. I felt a little bit like Dean Karnazes at the South Pole.*

It's like any kind of running, where the first mile or so is difficult and by the end of four or five you are ready to go on forever. Or at least a little bit longer. But so much time had passed, what with the slow running and several stops to return emails on my blackberry, that the only prudent thing to do was hit Starbucks and head home to get dressed and ready for the Christmas Eve festivities. I actually bought two lattes at Starbucks, one to drink in the morning while I was getting ready and the other to take with me to my parents for the afternoon. (Then I forgot the second one at the house after Rod picked me up and I certainly didn't have the nerve to suggest we go back, as he was slogging his car through the snowy, icy roads.)

I've spent the afternoon making lefse at my parents' house, to go with the traditional lutefisk dinner we have every year.** Lefse is kind of like a Norwegian tortilla, made with potatoes and flour, rolled out very thin and cooked on a hot griddle. You eat it smeared with butter, and most people like to put sugar on as well to make it more dessert-like.

Later Rod and I are going to church. The plan right now is to snowshoe from his house (only a block or so from the church), assuming we are not too exhausted. My parents, and my sister and her husband, are going to skip church this year because the roads are so bad. Considering the weather, it may be a very quiet service!

Right now, though, I am the only one here at my parents'. Rod is still at his parents' house, and my sister and her husband (and dog) are somewhere out there making their way through the snow. Hopefully they will stop at my house on the way, as I am expecting (hoping) a few last Christmas gifts to have been dropped on my porch late this afternoon. They all had a promised delivery by December 24, but with our weather conditions apparently all bets, and promises, are off.

Still, gifts or no gifts, and as troublesome as the weather has been in some ways, the snow has created a Christmasy atmosphere in a way that we usually don't get in this neck of the woods. (I've had my snowshoes for two years, and this is the first time I've ever used them at home. And I've been doing it for a week now!)

Whatever your weather may be, I hope your Christmas Eve, and Christmas, have been blessed and joyful, and spent with those you love. Merry, merry Christmas to all you readers, runners, non-runners, and anyone who found this post by googling "lutefisk!"

*He doesn't say here whether he ran in shoes or snowshoes, but in the book Ultramarathon Man, when he ran a South Pole marathon, he did use snowshoes at least for part of it.
**We also have a couple of other entrees, as not everyone loves lutefisk.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Living in ski country!

Okay, once again I'll admit that my little snow stories are just piffle compared to the everyday experiences of people who live in the midwest, the northeast, and other parts of the country that are regularly blanketed in snow and cold temperatures. But for those of us who haven't seen a full-sized snowman for years, this spate of wintry weather is like living at the North Pole. In a good way.

First of all, let me say that the office Christmas party came off successfully despite the onslaught of snowfall that set in Wednesday afternoon and continued into the evening. Only three of our staff (and their dinner companions) backed off due to the weather. We were, however, the only guests at the restaurant that night! I was a little amused at the way our group divided up both for pre-dinner socializing and dinner seating. At one end we had Ann and me and our boyfriends, all in our forties. At the other end were all the other attorneys and their dates, all of whom are in their twenties (except Mary and her husband, who are in their early thirties, and they sat adjacent to me, but gravitated toward the youngsters). I'm not sure if the real division was age, or perhaps "management" and "staff." Anyhow, we had a great time and everyone got home safely in the snow. (Although only Ann and I made it in to work the following morning!) (Because of the snow.)

So, once the party was done I was happy to let the snow come, even if it meant covering for people who couldn't make it in. After Wednesday night we didn't get any new snow, but it stayed cold all day Thursday and all the side roads and sidewalks remained covered in a thick layer of snow and ice.

On Thursday night I decided the time was right to try out the snowshoes again. I took out the regular snowshoes, not the running ones and headed north on my street. My jaunt was fantastically successful. I walked about a mile north and then decided to try to hurry back to get to Starbucks before closing at 7:30. I got to the door (and threw off the snowshoes) just at 7:30, and got my latte for the walk home. Since I was no longer in a hurry, I was able to take the "scenic" route home, meaning wandering around the streets some more. When I measured my route later I found that I had walked just under 3½ miles total.

With that success under my belt, my next expedition was early Friday morning, 6 a.m. in fact, in the running snowshoes. My idea was to run north for six blocks (about half a mile), then back, and repeat on parallel streets for as far as I wanted to go.

My ideas about how far I might want to run changed quickly when I learned how much work snowshoe running is. Much harder than ordinary running! By the time I finished the first mile, I was beginning to get the hang of it, but I had to stop at the house to shed a layer of fleece—I got a lot warmer than I had expected to in the rather frigid air—and, as it turned out, I desperately had to go to the bathroom. That meant taking off the snowshoes to go into the house, which slowed my trip immensely.

I did another mile loop (and as it turns out, each was a bit further than a mile), then continued on toward Starbucks, about half a mile. From there I walked home as I usually do. My total distance was 3½ miles. So much for my idea that I would go over 1,500 miles for the year last week (with a simple total of 15 miles in the week). I only managed to run 5½ miles on Monday, 4¼ on Wednesday, and 3½ on Friday. But do think that each day's route was more challenging, with snow and ice on the ground Wednesday, and then the snowshoes on Friday!

In fact, I have determined through some internet research that snowshoeing (both walking and running) burns substantially more calories than just walking and running on their own. This article has a nice chart that shows the calorie use at different levels of effort. It appears to me that snowshoeing uses about 150 calories per mile. That certainly makes me feel better about the 3½ miles. (I might even say that the extra work makes the 3½ miles more equivalent to 5 miles—but I won't.)

All though my running miles were low for the week, the snowshoe fun continued. Instead of driving to work on Friday, I walked on snowshoes. Not only was it fun and good exercise, it gave me a good excuse to wear snow clothes at work, and people were quite impressed by my adventurousness!

Keeping up the nordic adventure theme, instead of going to the Y on Saturday morning, I went out for a long snowshoe tramp around town, five miles total. After about four miles I was thinking that maybe I had gone a little too far... but I got home without too much exhaustion and in plenty of time to head back out (in the car) to get my hair done and do a little Christmas shopping downtown. I finished just before our next round of snow rolled in, snowing all evening and into the night and adding a few inches of fresh for Sunday morning.

No long run on Sunday, but instead Rod and I went out to a local park using both pairs of my snowshoes. I was happy that he enjoyed it, because—if FedEx ever comes through—he is getting his own snowshoes for Christmas! Some parts of the park were swarming with kids on sleds and other sliding devices, but we managed to have some trails to ourselves for a real winter wonderland experience.

Amazingly, snow fell again on Sunday night, and by Monday morning the untouched snow in front of my house was knee deep. I haven't been inside my car since Saturday. I've been snowshoeing to work, around the neighborhood for fun (seven miles on Monday with the work jaunts and an evening walk), and to and from the grocery store and Starbucks.

Today Luke, one of our other attorneys, brought his snowshoes in to work as well and we both snowshoed back and forth between the office and court! We are indeed the sporty law firm.

Today I was content to keep my hiking to trips to the office and court, and one jaunt to the grocery store and QFC this evening, before hanging up the snowshoes for the night. The top of one foot has been a little tender, I can only assume from the pressure of my shoe and the snowshoe straps. As it was, I logged about five miles total. I am just praying that the snowshoeing is making up a little for the lack of running and the constant nibbling that I seem to be doing.

I am just about a mile and a half under my 1500 miles for the year. Technically, I have a week to get it done. I am hoping not to wait too long, but rather get in a few miles on the running snowshoes tomorrow morning. I have the day off (except for a quick hearing at 1:00), so I don't need to be out at the crack of dawn. Still, I'd like to go rather early, as I'm planning on heading out to my parents' after court is done.

We still have more snow on the potential horizon—including the possibility of snowfall on Christmas morning—but by the weekend things are supposed to start to warm up. So, by next week I should be back on a regular running schedule, and winter sports will have to be confined to the ski slopes again.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Let it Snow!

Well, actually right now I wish the snow would hold off for a bit, as my office Christmas party is tonight and for the last fifteen minutes huge snowflakes have been turning the ground white again. This is after a drizzly day where most of the snow and ice on the roads from earlier had melted away.

But last night, when I woke up at 3 a.m. and saw the snow falling and piling up, I was pretty excited. I got up at 6 a.m. and there was an inch of new snow, a lot less than I had thought from what I saw in the middle of the night.

Still, I thought I'd give my running snowshoes a try for fun. So I strapped them on (using my trail running shoes) and headed out the front door.

Well, an inch of snow does not make an adequate base for snowshoeing. (Duh, you are probably thinking.) The grassy parking strips had more snow, but that's not good for running either. You really need a packed trail with a good base, I think.

I went half a block then headed home, discarded the snowshoes, and headed out for a slow run on my feet.

I only had time for a little over four miles, and it was probably only a little faster than walking. I left the Garmin at home as I didn't see any need for it.

But running in fresh snow is a delightful winter experience. I'd be happy to do more of it. Hopefully with the snowshoes sometime!

But not tonight, okay?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ice, ice, baby

I thought about adding a Youtube video, but I don't think I need it... can't you hear it in your head? "Ice, ice, baby...."

I realize that some of you face ice and snow all winter long, and a morning like today is nothing in the scheme of things. But it's not typical here in western Washington.

After our weekend snowfall, the temperature dropped last night to lock in the ice and snow we already had on the ground. When I got up (around 6:15) and dressed to go for a run, I knew it would be cold out, below freezing most certainly. I layered up in a Hind top that I sometimes use for skiing and topped it with a half-zip that matches my long skirted pants from Skirt Sports. I was pretty impressed with the way the two shirts hugged my mid-section and compressed my stomach roll, kind of like a spandex girdle (but not uncomfortable). As I looked at my unusually trim mid-section in the mirror, I contemplated taking the shirts off and wearing them to work instead!

I added my usual Brooks reflective jacket, a fleece cap, gloves, and a scarf (which I really didn't need). By the time I was all dressed and wired up with my ipod and Garmin (and managed to achieve a satellite signal), it was a little past 6:30. I knew I would need to be slow in the icy conditions, so I planned to keep the distance relatively short.

Just like last year in the occasionally cold weather, the sidewalks were alternately clear and icy in patches. The roads that I had to cross were invariable slick. I was most nervous when there was a car in the vicinity!

I followed my usual route, only cutting it short by turning for home at Everett Avenue instead of trying to go further. By adding a block or two around QFC, I managed to just hit five miles before stopping at Starbucks. Amazingly, I hit five miles at exactly one hour. So, a twelve-minute mile pace. Slow to be sure, but I really had no alternative in the ice.

I got my latte at Starbucks, then walked the remaining half mile home. I felt like it had been a good run, considering the cold weather and ice.

Later on, after I was dressed, I headed out to the car for work. I only live five or ten minutes from court on normal days. On a day like this, I should have allowed extra time. Should have.

I had not driven or moved the car since Saturday, which quickly became obvious. To my dismay, the front windshield was covered with several inches of snow on top of a layer of ice. To make it worse, all the doors were frozen shut. I quickly called work to tell them I'd be late. Then I got some hot water and managed to open the passenger side door, then the driver's side.

Unfortunately I had done all this without my gloves on! So once I was in the car, I turned the defrost on high and sat for a few minutes while my frozen fingers thawed. After that, I was able to crawl into the back seat (as the back doors were still frozen) and find a brush and scraper, with which I finally cleared the front windshield.

So, some twenty-five minutes after my first efforts, I was able to turn on the windshield wipers, put the car into gear, and carefully make my way along the icy streets to work.

Running was much easier.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More Christmas decor

In an effort not to appear totally useless, here are a few more pictures of my Christmas decor.

The garden room, with a snowy garden in the background.

The piano, ready for a Christmas tune.

I didn't jingle today

This morning was the Jingle Bell Run 5K in downtown Seattle, and I was not there. I intended to go—even though I am always irritated by the crowds and slow runners/walkers that clog the route—and I even made a special trip to Lynnwood Friday evening to "pre-register" before 5 p.m. That was against the (wise) advice of my boyfriend, who suggested I wait to sign up till the morning of the race. I said "that's probably a good idea" and then spent almost an hour in the wind, rain, and rush hour trip slogging my way to the running store to sign up. My theory was that I'd be motivated to go if I was already signed up, plus I wouldn't have to waste time waiting in line on Sunday morning (except for the bathroom, of course). So now I own an unused bib number and an extra-large shirt (because that was all they had left).*

But let me be clear, it wasn't lack of motivation that kept me from the race. It was this. On Saturday afternoon it was very wet outside. Then it started snowing, wet snow. Then Saturday night the temperature dropped, and the snow continued, for a bit. By Sunday morning we had a thin layer of snow on top of very icy streets.

Anticipating this development, on Saturday night I let my mother off the hook and canceled our Jingle Bell Run plans. She lives nine icy miles northwest of me and even if the road to Seattle from my house wasn't too bad (which was not guaranteed), it was highly likely that the road between us would be much less driveable. Especially for my mother, who is an ice and snow wimp at the best of times (probably wisely so). The alternative of having her stay at my house overnight was not appealing, especially with the possibility that we still couldn't go and then would be stuck here together on Sunday in the snow and ice. (Just kidding, mother, there's nothing I would enjoy more than spending a day snowed in with you. Remember 1996?** Good times.)

So while there was no jingling this weekend, there was a Christmas tree to be decorated! On Saturday afternoon Rod came over and helped me put up the tree*** and string it with lights and all my other Christmas paraphernalia. Including masses of red plaid and gold ribbons that had to be individually tied onto the branches. It creates a lovely effect, and it's really not as tedious as it sounds! Well, it is tedious, but with two people it gets done that much faster. I have dozens of old glass ornaments that came from my family and various antiques malls, plus numerous assorted ornaments that I have collected and acquired over the years. I am not one for a "theme" Christmas tree... I like the eclectic look!

Yesterday I gloomily said that if I didn't do the 5K today, I would have to go out and do a 10-mile run. I've only run 14 miles this week, 5.75 on Wednesday and 8.25 on Friday. But this morning, with the ice and snow making driving treacherous, it hardly seemed worthwhile to try to run in it as well. So I went out to breakfast**** with Rod instead, and this afternoon (since the bad roads are keeping me home instead of out Christmas shopping, as I desperately need to be), I'll try to do some work around the house and maybe attempt some on-line shopping.

Even with my short miles this week, I am now only 15 miles from my year-end goal of 1500 miles. I should easily pass that this upcoming week. And then what? Stop running and just eat cookies the rest of the year? (And you think I'm joking....) But maybe not. After all, there's another 5K coming up on January 1!

*I also left the running store with a hamburger and french fries from California Burgers next door. I was in a weakened condition having not eaten lunch, and with work still to do at the office, I rationalized that I needed fuel so I wouldn't have a total meltdown before I got home. I ate all the fries in the car on the way back to the office. Yum. Then the burger at the office. I haven't had a hamburger since last June (a cheeseburger at Duke's after the Race for the Cure).

**On December 26, 1996, we were hit by a massive snowstorm that dumped as much as a foot of snow in and around our area. I worked for Superior Court at the time and there was enough snow that court was actually closed the next day, a Friday, giving us a long post-Christmas weekend. (People who had taken vacation time for Christmas were quite bitter, I heard.) Anyhow, my mother was over at my house when it started snowing and ended up staying for about three days before we dug her car out of the snow and pronounced the roads driveable.)

***Noble fir, acquired at the 16th Street Market just up the road from me. It was just about the perfect size and shape (I have nine-foot ceilings) but I pruned out some of the excess branches to allow the ornaments to hang more nicely.

****So I had the post-race breakfast, just without the race. I also had the pre-race pasta last night for dinner. That was what I had planned to make, there was no changing menus at this late date! I made a variation of the Pumpkin Pasta from Rachael Ray that Laura wrote about. I modified both their versions a bit. As Laura suggested, I substituted chicken sausage for the Italian sausage (it has about half the calories, and it was Italian flavored). I browned it in some olive oil spray with just a teaspoon of olive oil. I used the spray plus the tiniest drizzle of oil for sauteeing the onions and garlic too. Instead of canned pumpkin, I used mashed Delicata squash that I had cooked the night before (that was the most interesting kind of squash I could find this late in the fall—butternut or any of my other favorite sweet squashes would work well too, I think). I used turkey broth for thinning, instead of wine and broth, and I finished with a swirl of fat free half-and-half, for that creamy touch (it also mellows the appearance). I didn't really measure things, I just glopped in the broth and squash. I also made a spinach, apple and onion salad to go with it, as Rachael Ray's recipe suggests.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Still around, just busy

What with little things like work, as well as Christmas approaching at the speed of light, I haven't had time to get together a post about the Las Vegas Half Marathon. Plus I need to figure out how to download some photos from my new camera (the origin of the new camera is part of my story). So as much as I'd like to spend several hours writing tonight, instead I'm going to be cleaning house, finishing unpacking, and getting set for a big Christmas decorating spree on Saturday.

But I hope to do some writing before I forget all about it. (But if the Eiffel Tower of margaritas didn't wipe it all from my memory, I'm sure a few days delay won't either.)

Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays and not going into a panic of unpreparedness like me!

(I have been adhering pretty well to my "no cookie" decree. I kind of forgot about it and bought a chocolate chip cookie at the airport in Las Vegas. And in the last couple days I've been excluding homemade almond roca at the office from the "cookie" category—it's candy, right? So much better. And there may have been a little bit of stress eating Tuesday night—I can't remember too well. But other than that, so far, so good!)

Monday, December 8, 2008

I only sucked a little bit

2:07. My second slowest half marathon ever—and the other one was up a mountain road. As opposed to this one, where it was flat as can be, possibly with a slight downhill incline.

However, I do have some rather amusing stories to tell on myself and my long weekend in Las Vegas.

More to come.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Six Things that Make Me Happy

My blogger friend Lisa tagged me to write about six things that make me happy. What a wonderful topic to write on! I am, and I hope it usually shows in my blog posts, a pretty happy person generally. I am definitely an optimist, glass-half-full person. I know I've done my share of moaning and complaining over slow race times, but when it comes to life in general, I admit to wearing the rose-colored glasses.

Partly it comes down to my deep-seated belief that things are going to work out okay in the end. I've always lived by the motto, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (a verse from Hebrews* in the New Testament). Certainly that can be interpreted religiously, as it was originally intended, but I think it also has a more universal meaning that anyone can embrace. If you can believe in something without demanding evidence, if you can have faith without strings, you will probably be a happier, more peaceful person.

So here they are, six things—out of many—that make me happy.

1) Myself, my life, and the person I am today

At the risk of sounding completely narcissistic—and perhaps I am—I have to begin with me. At the age of 43 I am almost completely contented with the woman I am—runner, wannabe yogini, writer, lawyer, daughter, sister, girlfriend, friend. Looking back at past eras in my life, high school, college, law school, there were always highs and lows and even though I had a lot of fun, and remember those days fondly, there was plenty of unhappiness along with the good times. I'm not saying I don't have my moody moments even now, but overall I just really like the person I am today and the life I lead. I may complain (frequently) about wanting to lose ten (or twenty) pounds, but even so, when I look into the mirror I like what I see. Not just the body and face and hair and clothes, but also the spirit and soul that I hope others can see as easily as they see the body, face, hair and clothes.

2) Gardens, plants, and flowers (and nurseries)

A GARDEN is a lovesome thing, God wot! Not my words, but the first line of a poem by Thomas Edward Brown. Lovesome just means lovely. And although I've sadly neglected my own garden to spend more time running and going to races over the summer, lovely gardens still bring joy to my heart. Butchart Gardens, the Arboretum at Legion Park, all the gardens I've visited in England, Christianson's Nursery dressed for the holidays, a late spray of roses on my Graham Stuart Thomas rosebush, bringing a splash of gold to my autumnal garden.

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving my mother and I went up to Christianson's for their holiday tea, which they hold every year in an old schoolhouse that they moved onto the property. After enjoying our little sandwiches and scones, we took a walk through the nursery before we left. Every time I go up to Christianson's it is more delightful than before. Some of their buildings are reconstructed from pieces of other old businesses, like the counters and fixtures from Tillinghast Seed Company, or the conservatory-like greenhouse walls from an old nursery in Seattle. Every space is crammed with beautiful plants and accessories, and white lights twinkle everywhere. When we walked into one propagation house, I was so overcome by the loveliness, that I said, quite sincerely, that I wished I could move in and live right there with the plants. That being an unlikely prospect, I will instead return to purchase and plant some (semi) hardy begonias, a charming evergreen plant that is almost like a shrub (picture at left).

3) Books

Books have always been a great joy to me, and, I admit, something of an addiction as well. I can't walk through a bookstore without buying something, and I have a very intimate relationship with Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I admit I've betrayed my loyalty to independent bookstores thanks to the vast quantity and cheap prices of books offered by Amazon and B&N. But I'll buy from the small bookstores too. And used book stores like Half Price Books and Powell's in Portland. Really, I'm just a book slut, extremely promiscuous with my affections. And yes, even at this very moment I am surrounded by piles of books, some read and others not yet read, some of which I don't even remember buying and am at slight risk of repurchasing, should I see them in another store and once again find them appealing and interesting.

4) Writing

I would guess that many voracious readers, like me, harbor a deep desire to write as well. As a child I always wanted to be a writer, to write books that would be published. These days I'm not so sure that fiction writing is in the cards for me. I kind of suspect that years of working in law may have drained any creativity out of me that still remained after seven years of post-secondary education (college and law school).

But even as I let go of the dream of writing a great (or at least publishable) novel, I have embraced the hugely satisfying genre of non-fiction commentary and memoir-style writing, otherwise known as blogging. (Perhaps you've heard of it?) I first dipped my toes into the blog-arena with my England travel blog, Travelling the One-Track Road. I spent hours during my 2007 trip writing about our travel adventures and the places we visited, lavishly illustrated with photos and filled with supplemental research conveniently found on the internet. My audience was friends and relatives back home (as well as in Norway).

After I came home, though, it proved difficult to continue writing about travelling in England (not surprisingly), and I started writing a little bit about races I was doing. Eventually that turned into this running blog. And because I can't help myself, I write not only about running, but anything that catches my fancy. Including travel in England. (Although I'm firing up the One-Track Road when I go to Bath for the half marathon in March.)

Writing makes me very happy. I write for the pure pleasure of doing so, and satisfaction of having a way to express myself and memorialize my thoughts, as well as important events in my life. I will admit, though, it is pretty nice knowing that there are at least a few people who read what I write. I know some of them well, thanks to their regular comments (and many thanks to all of you). And it is an even bigger thrill to get a comment from someone I haven't heard from before!

5) Running**

Yes, I'll admit it, running makes me happy. I'm not always (hardly ever) happy to get out of bed at 6:00 in the morning to go do it, but after the kinks work out of my legs and my body loosens up, running does bring me joy and satisfaction. I have never, ever finished a run and wished that I hadn't gone running. Fast or slow, I am invariably pumped up and cheery by the time I slow to a walk. And if that final walk is accompanied by a latte from Starbucks, so much the better. (See, I managed to squeeze in an extra "happy thing"; Starbucks lattes do make me quite happy, as well as caffeinated!)

6) My boyfriend RR

Okay, I know it's cheesy and predictable (though not as predictable as running), but he does make me happier than I could have imagined possible. His affection, appreciation, and attention makes each day a little brighter (am I corny or what?). I do feel very lucky to have someone so very special in my life. (And he just edged out Barack Obama on my Happy List!)

There are so many other things I could include—for example, my cats, various favorite foods, music, travelling in England—if I thought about it I could come up with a whole laundry list, in the style of "Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens." I do have a lot of favorite things. But I think the ones I listed here really are the tops of what makes my life the satisfying, joyous experience it usually is. And I hope they all remain part of my life for a long, long time.

*Hebrews 11:1
**Am I not supposed to include running? Oh well.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December is no (more) cookies month

In the spirit of "June is no cake month," I have now decided that December will be "no cookies month" until Christmas Eve. By all logic this should have started yesterday, on December 1, but yesterday was our office cookie exchange, which involved prodigious tasting of the cookies, which actually led to my determination that all this must end, now.

So my cookies from the cookie exchange are all nicely packaged up and stored in a big tin, where they will safely remain until December 24. I'll bring them to my parents' house for Christmas Eve dessert.

I thought about finding some kind of a bracelet to commemorate my "one day at a time" approach to shunning cookies, but after a couple of futile stops at Walgreens and Bartell's I decided to go with the honor system. That is, I'll just remind myself "no cookies" whenever a sweet treat presents itself.

This will give me 22 days "cookie-free" by the time Christmas Eve rolls around.

Let me just tell you some of the delicious cookies that were shared at the cookie exchange. Molasses cookies* and Russian teacakes (powdered sugar balls)** from me. Chocolate dipped biscotti from Ann. Spritz from Jennifer. Another kind of molasses cookie from Luke. Homemade almond roca from Tonna (that one was possibly my greatest downfall yesterday). Chocolate chip cookies from Jasmine. Pumpkin bars (more like cake) from Lorraine (those are in the freezer). Jam sandwiches (cookies with jam between them) from Mary. And from the book club cookie party I still have some date pinwheels, another kind of jam sandwiched butter cookie, and a few of my own sandbakkels. Plus my parents have a plate of krumkake that I made with the boyfriend's family after Thanksgiving.

Are you feeling diabetic yet? (I am, a bit!)

Although I sure that despite my virtuous proclamations today, there will be many a cookie tempation in the three weeks to come (yes, Christmas Eve is three weeks from tomorrow). Let me just repeat, NO COOKIES UNTIL CHRISTMAS EVE!

*This recipe makes a very soft molasses cookie. So soft, in fact that you really need to add a bit of extra flour to the dough to make it rollable. I also added a bit of finely ground black pepper and a bit of cardamon to spice up the dough even more.

**These are known as Mexican Wedding Cakes in Rose's Christmas Cookies, one of my favorite baking books. Her recipe is a little more complex than the typical version but it is light as air and truly melts in your mouth.

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's not Thanksgiving any more

Friday, November 28 — 14.44 miles.

Sunday, November 30 — 7.45 miles.

Monday, December 1 — 5.8 miles.

I'm tapering.

Sunday, December 7 — Viva Las Vegas!