Monday, May 31, 2010

Inna Gadda De University Houses

I've been verbose in my last several posts so I'll let the pictures do the talking:

Plants (onions and carrots) + lots of weeds

More plants (spinach, red leaf and butter crunch lettuce), more weeds.

Two new pepper plants (one sweet, one hot)

Plants (spinach, lettuces, onions) with no weeds (if that were possible, ha!)

Butternut squash

Baby broccoli still tiny

Sweet potato (in the ICU, probably headed for the morgue soon)

New tomato and pepper plants

Leaves between all the rows (natural weed inhibitor)

Close up.

Even though "inmates running the asylum" was an accurate cliche to describe weeds and our garden when we came back from vacation, it's starting to look respectable again.  We already cut two small heads of the red leaf lettuce for dinner Thursday night.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Madison Half Marathon Race Preview

First of all, a huge good luck!!! to Jamie from Running Diva Mom who is running the marathon this morning.  She has had some awesome workouts during her training including massive long runs on the treadmill, for which she earns my undying awe and admiration.  I cannot imagine training for a marathon in Madison from January - March, but she has done it successfully, and I think she's going to rock the race today.

I wish I had the same confidence for myself.  I just don't feel prepared.  I ran some but not a lot over vacation so I don't feel like I've done any great training in the last two weeks, but we did a lot of walking around so I don't have that "really energetic because I've been sitting around a lot" feeling either.

But I'm going to do it because I signed up for it, and- whatever the outcome- experience racing is always good.  The truth is that, objectively, I'm really not that unprepared.  I've done many runs at 12 miles or longer.  I've done tempo runs at race pace.  I've done speed workouts.  I ran 7miles of a 20k at my half marathon goal pace on a harder (I think from looking at the 1/2 marathon course map) and hotter (jeez, I hope) course.    So it's not like I'm not going to finish with a respectable (to me) time unless something crazy and unexpected happens.  I'm even psyching myself up to run in my sports bra if it's that warm.  No, I don't have MM abs (more like M&M abs, ha!), but I don't think I'll blind anyone just this one time.

So without further rambling, here are my 3 goals- from conservative to ambitious- for the race:

1. Enjoy it.  If all else fails.      

2. 1:50.  I plugged in 1:50 into the McMillan race calculator and it's pretty much dead on with what I've been running lately for all my runs and races.  I was even thinking about running with the 1:50 pace group and then maybe speeding up later if I felt good, but I dunno.  I don't want to limit myself.  Sometimes I do surprise myself in races, so I think I'm going to go with my original plan of lining up a little bit in front of the 1:50 group and see what happens.

3. 1:48.  8:15 seems to be the pace I settle into for tempo runs, and I ran the first 1/2 of the 20k at this pace.  It's ambitious, but I still feel like it's do-able.  Maybe if I hold out the promise of a Bluephies Electric Flamingo  or Pop Star Martini out as a reward for my accomplishment, I'll be motivated to hang on when the going gets tough.

I probably won't be able to give a proper recap of the race until later because we have family in town, but I'll try to stop by and let you know how it went.  Unless it was crap.  Then I'm invoking my right to remain silent.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Around the Great Lakes in 11 Days- Part 3

We left Toronto Saturday morning and drove down to the Canada side of Niagara Falls.  It's big.  It's wet.  We rode the boat.  We took a lot of pictures.

The thing that surprised me most about Niagara was that the town was way more of a tourist trap than Sandusky- and that was on the Canada side!

After Niagara Falls, we crossed the border back into the US and headed for Corning, NY, the other surprise hit of the trip.  Corning was another coworker recommendation.  It's in the Finger Lakes region of western New York kind of near Ithaca and is "famous" for producing Corningware.  We were there to see the Rockwell (Bob, not Norman- I made that mistake) Museum of Western Art and the Corning Museum of Glass.

The Rockwell museum was in a beautifully renovated old building in downtown.  The main exhibit was of Remington and Russel western paintings, sculptures, and drawings, but there were also works by contemporary artists.

Yep, that's a buffalo jumping through the side of the building.

Sunday morning we visited the museum of glass, which was HUGE.  We saw some beautiful pieces

Can you tell I like glass?  It's pretty much the only modern art that I like.

We saw a glass blowing demonstration.

And decided to try our hand at making our own!  This was possibly the coolest part of the trip.

The finished products had to be cooled overnight and they just arrived in the mail yesterday.  What do you think?

Daniels' is the orange one on the left and mine is the purple one on the right.

After spending the morning at the museum (really you could spend a whole day) we drove to Sandusky, OH, for our last day of gallivanting.

Daniel dropped me off at Cedar Point to get my brains rattled on the roller coasters while he spent waaaayyy more time than I would have had patience for pouring over famous guitars at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.  You might not think that going to an amusement park by yourself would be all that much fun, but being a "single rider" gets you on many rides a lot faster.  Awesome, awesome, awesome rides.

We finished the day driving to an exit with good hotels on I-90 in Indiana, spent the night, got up, and drove back to Madison on Tuesday, arriving back in town around 1pm.

This was the largest, most ambitious vacation we'd ever put together, and I'm happy to say it went well.  We got to see and do stuff, but also had time (although much of it was in the car) to rest up.  While I was definitely ready to get back home by the time it was over, I can't help but prepare the next trip in my mind...    

Friday, May 28, 2010

Around the Great Lakes in 11 Days- Part 2

The crazy thing about Canada is that it's this huge country hanging out right next to ours, and (unlike our neighbor to the south, Mexico) we never really think about it.

Crossing the border was easy, and it was relatively simple to get used to the traffic signs in metric miles.  The drive into Toronto was only painful when we got to the city proper and had to fight normal big city traffic to get to our hotel.

We checked in and visited our first tourist destination: The CN Tower, which is a really really really tall tower.

 It has a glass floor.

Those are Daniel's crazy feet- not mine.  I wasn't getting near that glass floor.  The views from the room with the normal floor were very nice.

The next day we visited The Royal Museum of Ontario and walked through China Town.  Sadly I was a bad photographer and don't have any pictures from those events.

Wednesday started out with a trip to Casa Loma, a huge castle-looking home in the north part of the city.  It's nowhere near a Vanderbilt Mansion, but it is one of the largest turn of the (last) century mega mansions in Canada.  Sadly, the owners were never able to finish the design to specifications or live there for long because they found out it can be a lot harder to hold on to money than to make it.

After Casa Loma came the Bata Shoe Museum.  Yes, shoe museum.  It came highly recommended by a coworker who had visited it while in Toronto for a conference.  (Which is what I said to the border guard when she reacted with surprise when I told her that was what we planned to see in Toronto.)  You know what?  It didn't disappoint.  In fact, I'm not sure how I made it through life up to that point without ever having seen

Napoleon's socks.

Or car shoes from the 60's.  Very cute.

Thursday night we had a special anniversary dinner at a tapas restaurant where we were entertained for about 20 minutes by live flamenco guitar music.  Here's to four years!*

On our last full day in Toronto, we went to the St. Lawrence Market (sorry, no pictures) in the morning, and then drove north to a model pioneer settlement on the edge of town where I took more pictures of a beaver in a field than pretty much anything else on the trip.

The next morning we said our goodbyes to Toronto

and headed to Niagara Falls where our story continues.

* I suppose I owe you some sort of "back in the day" pictures.

Our wedding in 2006.

And some true oldies that I had to scan in from circa 2003.

PS- Thanks to Jamie at Running Diva Mom for tagging me with a Versatile Blogger Award.  I'm totally going to punt on this right now and save my 7 unusual things and passing on the award for later.   

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Around the Great Lakes in 11 Days- Part 1

View Larger Map

I got started on this and realized it was waaaayyyy too long for a single post so I'm going to write it all now, but serve it up to you in three courses.

Part 1: Minneapolis to Toronto

We made a special trip over to Minneapolis to see Doc Watson in concert.  No pictures here (my camera isn't great in low light), but we had a good time, and I think it was worth the drive out of the way.  Doc plays pretty darn well for blind 87-year-old.  You could tell that, like Peter Yarrow*, he had come to the point in life where he was going to do and say exactly what he felt like doing or saying exactly when he felt like doing or saying it.  The concert got off track with some rambling stories and a few songs Doc hadn't practiced in the last 25 years and ended abruptly when he decided he was done playing, but all in all it was enjoyable.

The next day we undertook our longest drive, from Minneapolis, MN to Sault Ste. Marie, MI.   The scenery started out as farm land, merged into woodlands and lakes, and ended with a beautiful coastal view.

During the drive we listened to various audiobook and musical entertainments including a book on CD about Mozart, who I learned was just like every character ever played by Steve Carell, but good at music.

When we arrived in Soo and perused the hotel brochure library we decided to make a change in plans and spend the first part of the day at Mackinac Island and save the Soo Locks for later.

Mackinac Island was/is a resort island hanging out between Lakes Michigan and Huron.  Here's a picture of The Grand Hotel that sits on the top of the island, looking out over Lake Huron.

And a bird perched on the head of Father Marquette (is that ever not funny?) with Ft. Mackinac in the background.  We walked through the "town" part of the island and toured the fort before heading back into town.

We drove downtown and stopped at the Soo Locks, which allow boats to sail from Lake Superior to the other Great Lakes.  The water goes down

the water goes up.

And that's the Soo Locks.

It was about 3pm when we had our fill of the equivalent of watching a giant bathtub fill and drain and decided to start our drive toward Toronto.  This change of plans led us to one of the surprise highlights of the trip- our stay in Frankenmuth, MI.

Frankenmuth was a tiny little town outside of Saginaw, MI that had designated itself Michigan's Little Bavaria.  All of the downtown restaurants and shops and even our hotel were in a German style.  This could have been really cheezy, but somehow the town stays on the cute side of the cute/cheezy divide.

Here's the restaurant where we ate dinner when we stopped for the night.  I had fish as my meal, but Daniel deemed the German food served better than the German restaurant in Madison.

We spent our last night in the US and prepared for our first foray into the mysterious land up north: Canada.

*Who, after singing 3 new verses at the end of Puff the Magic Dragon said, "Yeah, I changed the ending.  I wrote that song.  I can change it if I want to," when we saw him play at Barnes and Noble last winter.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I'm baaack

We arrived back in Madison yesterday a little after noon and have been slowly getting back into the groove of normal life.  Vacation was fabulous, and it was long enough and we got to do enough stuff that I was actually ready to be home yesterday.  It was also a vacation from the computer so I'm way behind on what has been going on with all of you.  Fortunately I am off for the rest of the week so I have time to get caught up on the laundry and everything else that needs to be done before we have visitors this weekend and I return to work on Tuesday.

Here's a summary of upcoming posts:
  • Vacation pictures and recap
  • The garden
  • The first installment of baking through Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for More Food (his baking guide)
And a vacation teaser photo:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A journey of 1000 miles begins

With a 15-mile run.  This is the last thing I have to check off my list before we leave.  We have snacks, we have maps, we have books on CD, we have music on CD, we have gas in the car and air in the tires.  It's go time.

View Larger Map

Fortunately it's a beautiful morning.  It's cool with no wind or rain.  I'm finally going to go out to the Military Ridge trail to run.  At least I hope so.  The website and map I found describing it says the parking is in two different places, and both descriptions are quite vague.  Google maps wasn't much help either.  So hopefully I won't be back here in an hour doing an abbreviated long run on my old course.

This will be my last post for awhile.  See you on the other side!

Friday, May 14, 2010


I wish I could tell you all about how productive I'm going to be on my last day of work before vacation, but truthfully my mind is already on its way to Minneapolis.  It's even harder now that D is officially done (his last final was last night) and my work buddy is taking a half day today.  There's one project I *should* wrap up today, and one I *could* start.  Hopefully the chatting/internet demon that sometimes likes to perch on my left shoulder will be counteracted by the angel on my right shoulder who likes to have everything done, clean, and well documented before I leave.

I'm headed out for 6 easy miles this morning and have a 15-miler planned for tomorrow.  It looks like the weather has finally decided to behave itself, and I'll get to enjoy two beautiful runs, slightly breezy in the 40's.  'Bout time.

And last, but certainly not least, a special surprise came in the mail yesterday.  Well, it wasn't really a surprise because I knew it was coming, I just didn't know when.  It was the Subway gift card I won in Dr. TriRunner's giveaway.

Yay!  I ate a lot of Subway in college.  Brings back memories of 2-for-1 six-inch sub coupons in the Gator Greenbacks.

Did you know that it's really hard to take a picture of yourself kissing a little plastic card?  I was not going to post these, but since it's Friday, I'll share the outtakes:

Have a good day, all!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Like woah

It is rain city around here.  In fact we are under a flash flood warning.  I guess that's good enough reason to schedule the gym for today and running for tomorrow and Saturday when it should *finally* clear up a bit.  I'm reluctant to leave  my warm apartment to go out in the cold and rain either for the gym or for work.  The climate control system for my office is messed up so the air conditioner is still pumping out cold air despite the fact that my thermostat is set to 85 and its 45 degrees outside.  Fortunately someone dug out a space heater for me to snuggle up to during the day.

It just makes me all the happier that I have 2 days until vacation!!!!!!!!

Despite being menaced by 2 geese yesterday, I had a great tempo run.  Maybe it was thinking about how great a new goose down coat would be...  Those babies look awful soft and fuzzy...

My warm-up mile was really slow, but once I started the tempo part, everything fell into place.  I had my Garmin take lap times every 10 minutes of the 40 minute run so I could see how consistent my pace was.  The paces were 8:08 min/mile, 8:12 min/mile (steep incline and 90-degree turn around), 8:06 min/mile, 8:15 min/mile (some traffic issues and a 90-degree turn around right before I finished - should have just kept going).  So while this is at the upper end of my tempo run goal pace range (8:10min/mile average for the 40 min), it was much better than last week.

Last night's dinner was another effort to clean out the kitchen.  Stir fry with the last of the spaghetti and left over chicken I cooked when I made D's BBQ chicken pizza for lunches.  Not super exciting, but it got the job done.  D has his last exam this evening so we will probably go out afterward to celebrate the end of the semester for him.

Have a great Thursday, all.  And if you're in Madison, stay dry!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dear Wisconsin

This was the outfit I had to wear to play beach volleyball last night (including the shoes):

Could you do me a favor and warm up?

PS- Do you like how there's a fire alarm right inside our front door?  I wonder how many times people accidentally turned on the fire alarm instead the light before they covered them with plastic boxes.

Vacation countdown: 3!