Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Flashback: Driving Across America - Part 1

In December 2011, my mom and I drove from Virginia Beach, VA to Idaho.  It was a 6 day adventure, and I had always intended to blog about the trip but never got around to it....until now, of course!

So, shortly after Thanksgiving Day, we said goodbye to our family and dearest friends in VB and headed west across the state.

On the Boardwalk, saying goodbye to the Atlantic!
Of course, it is a beautiful, cool, sunny day when we leave Virginia.  The best kind of weather in Virginia, the kind that makes you forget all of the hot, mugginess of summer and without the typical non-stop dreary rain that we have during winter.  We didn't end up leaving until mid-morning, so we only made it partway through West Virginia before we decided to stop for the night.  For the first few days of the trip, we focused on getting a lot of miles under our feet/wheels to give us more time in the West for sightseeing and potential weather delays!

On day 2, we continued driving west through West Virginia.  It is a beautiful state with rolling mountains.  I went to law school close to the Virginia/West Virginia border, and in retrospect, I feel like I should have done more hiking while out there.  But, you know, it was law school after all and it's not that I had all that much free time!  ;)

Leaving rainy WV and heading into Kentucky
We spent night 2 in southern Wisconsin.  Wisconsin was another state that surprised me with its beauty.  We had driven through Illinois the night before, which wasn't very memorable, but Wisconsin had more character and interesting landscapes.
We circled around Minneapolis but stopped there for lunch at Panera and a trip to Target.  You can't be in Minneapolis for a second and not go to a Target!  We made a small detour to show my mom the lake where my husband grew up spending his summers.  In the summer it is bustling but in the winter it was just eerily quiet, and the only sound was the sound of the ice shifting!

Minnesota - eerily quiet in the winter and VERY different from the summer!
 We spent night 3 in Jamestown, North Dakota.  And this is where the trip really started to get exciting!  We had an early 6 am breakfast with our North Dakota relatives, and then continued driving West.  We had planned to turn South near Bismarck to visit the Badlands and our AAA Triptik included directions for us to do so.  The directions guided us off of the Interstate onto a state highway, which eventually turned into A DIRT ROAD!!  No joke.  Naturally, we had spotty cell phone connection here too.  So here we are: two Southerners, driving without snow tires, in December, on a dirt road between farms somewhere between North Dakota and Pierre, South Dakota.  Eventually, the road turned back into a regular highway and we did finally end up in Pierre and back on the Interstate without a mishap but that was one bizarre, nerve-wracking stretch of road!  Needless to say, it kept the trip exciting, and we were SO fortunate that it wasn't snowing!

Stay tuned for the remainder of the trip!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Summer Reading Challenge

I'm going to start a Summer Reading Challenge!

My goal is to read one book each week between Memorial Day and Labor Day --> 14 weeks = 14 books.  I love to read, but I just haven't been doing it much.   

Confession: Instead I have been watching The Hills on Netflix.  A horrible, guilty pleasure.  Thankfully it's no longer available on instant so I can't watch it as easily! 

Anyway, I love fiction and I seem to be reading a lot of memoirs in recent years (The Glass Castle, The End of Your Life Book Club, etc).  I have really enjoyed those too.  So far I have books picked out for 13 of the 14 weeks, but I may switch these around if I pick up something that I'm more interested in, or get a better recommendation! ;) 

I'm starting with books that we already own, but I just haven't gotten around to reading them yet.  I'll pick up the rest from the library.  I'm not including spiritual reading or parenting books in my book list, because I'm also going to try to continue that daily as well.  I'm also not going to go crazy and try to read something as long as War and Peace in one week.  I'm keeping my list manageable to books that I think I can accomplish during naps and at night.  This will also force me to get my chores/projects done faster and more efficiently and you know this family is all about being more efficient!

Here is my line-up for June:

Week 1) The Botany of Desire - a Michael Pollan book, my BIL and SIL got this for my birthday off of my Amazon Wish list.  Naturally, I can't remember specifically why I put it on there, but it looks interesting.

2)  Conscious Capitalism (by the Whole Foods CEO).  I have actually never been in a Whole Foods, but my mom told me about this book because she heard about it on NPR, and I've heard him speak on the news and I'm intrigued.
3) The Catholic Home - another book from my wish list, I saw it recommended somewhere and I'm really excited to read this one. 

4)With the Old Breed - my other BIL gave this book to my husband.  A few years ago we watched the Iwo Jima series, which I think is partially based on this book.  That series was incredibly profound, so I expect the book to be as well.

5) When Money Dies - my husband's book (he is not the author, he just bought it).  He is really into financial stuff and he's been recommending this book to me.  I typically don't read about financial crashes so we'll see if I get through this one!

Now that I look at this list, I don't see very many *fun* books on here!  Oh well!  This is my "brain exercise" for the summer.  =)  What are your summer reading plans?  I'd love any additional recommendations!

Monday, May 20, 2013

My Running Story: Annie the 'On-Again-Off-Again' Runner

Part of my focus with this blog is emphasizing the outdoors and how my little family tries to get out there and enjoy it.  I am the process of re-discovering that running is a great way to do that, but as an adult I've had the bad habit of being an 'on-again-off-again' runner:

I ran my first road race when I was in elementary school.  A 5k on an out/back course, a small race.  I loved it, and I started running in road races in the other towns near ours and ran in addition to doing other sports and activities that kids do.  I ran track, cross-country and road races steadily through high school.  When I went to college, I attempted to walk on the cross-country team.  That was a totally humbling experience as I quickly realized I was WAY out of my league, and promptly, walked back off.  =)

So, after that I ran off and on for fitness but didn't really do any races.  In law school, I got in to sprint triathlons and did my only (to date) marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, in 2005.  I loved the whole marathon experience, but once I started working after law school, I let my fitness fall by the wayside.  I know, that was lazy and there is no excuse for that!  In 2011 I got back on the wagon, trained for and ran, the Shamrock Half-Marathon in Virginia Beach.  This was a great race, flat and on the beach.  I was thrilled to finish just under 2 hours (1:58) and I was back in love with running again!

Now it's 2013 and over the last 1.5 years or so, we've been moving across the country, taking another bar exam, working and adopting, and running became less and less of a priority over the last two years.  But thankfully, I am back at it this Spring as I train for the Coeur d'Alene Half Marathon, and I can certainly say that getting back in shape, over and over again, is no fun.  This time, I am committed to making running a part of my lifestyle.  I feel better when I run and I am happier when I run.  I am really enjoying the variety of training that this running group provides and it has been fun to meet other folks who enjoy running.  I have learned that I am motivated by having specific races to train for, so I'm hoping to have some fall races that I look towards after the CDA Half.  I also asked my husband to make me a training plan that will get me faster this summer.  He's got a great running and fitness background, so I am excited (and nervous!) to see what he comes up with.  But that's just a little glimpse into my running background, if anyone reads this, you can keep me honest by checking back with my updates over the summer to make sure I stick with it!

Have a great week!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

9.5 Miles on the Treadmill

Saturday morning I ran 9.5 miles on the treadmill.  I've always been amazed to read about others who run double digits on the TM, I have just never had the mental discipline or patience to try to run long on the TM.  This weekend I didn't really have a choice if I wanted to get a long run in. 

It was actually kind of fun once I got in my groove.  I could people watch and listen to my music which really made the time go by.  It was kind of interesting to see who else was running on the TMs for over an hour - there was at least 1 man and 1 woman who were both there as long as I was.  I notice a lot of people in the gym with their Ironman gear, so I suspect they are getting some good Ironman training in. 

As for me, the Fleet Feet schedule called for 10 miles, so I was just hoping to get as close to that as possible.  The TM automatically shifted to "cool down" mode after 30 minutes, and I didn't know how to override that feature, so every 30 minutes I took a short walk break to reset it and bring it back up to speed.  At the end of the first 30 minutes, I was really doubting whether I could keep going, but I felt much better around mile 5 and at that point I could really just zone out, which seemed to make it all go by faster.  My last 30 minutes I was running at a 9:13 pace, which I was pleased with, since I spent the first 30 minutes running closer to a 10 minute pace.  Altogether, it was a good workout for me and today I feel very good - not sore and I pulled my little man in his bike trailer for a good 45 minute ride today, so hopefully this bodes well for the half marathon next weekend!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

If You Hurry Up and Eat

My brother and his family sent me an Omaha Steaks package for my birthday.  I absolutely love Omaha Steaks!  My dad used to get them from time to time when we were kids and I have sent their packages to other people, but until this year, I've never been the recipient.  Last night I finally got around to making the steak and dessert from the package (we had already eaten the fries - like a true Southerner, I went for the potatoes first!).

By the time I finished getting everything on the table, M was about halfway through his meal (impatient, hungry toddler! =)) and D had already started eating too.  My finally sitting down prompted D to say to the baby, laughingly, "If you hurry up and eat, we can be finished before your mother sits down!"  Apparently, he remembered this as something that his dad used to say to him, and that D's grandfather used to say to D's dad.  We both got a good laugh out of it and it was pretty fitting because of course the minute I sit down, I remember that I need to grab something else and hop back up again.  Isn't that how it always is?  Annie, at your service!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Weekend Roundup and a Happy Mother's Day!

Happy (rainy) Monday!

How was your weekend?  Mine was a lot of fun:

Friday we met some friends at the great park downtown.  It has lots of stuff for the kiddos, even little ones like my guy.  Although he is content to just play in the mulch if I would let him! =)  We had a fun picnic with our friends and the weather was gorgeous, so it was another great day to be outside.  Then we ran home to meet my other friend so that we could watch her two kids while she took the third for a well baby visit.  These kiddos are great, and they always have funny things to say.  For example, one of them picked up the remote for our stereo and said "why do you have a remote if you don't have a TV?"  (We don't.)  I explained that it was for the radio but that must have been too confusing because she asked me again two more times about the remote.  Later she told me (while we were playing nursery rhyme pretend) that I was going to be "the old woman who lives in the old shoe."  HA!  She's keeping me humble.

For dinner we rode our bikes down to Bardenay.  M rode in his bike trailer, which is the greatest invention ever.  We are going to get a ton of use out of it this summer and Bardenay is a fun place to kick off the weekend with some apps and drinks.

Saturday morning I ran 8 miles with my Fleet Feet group.  I was pleased because I ran at a roughly 9:30 pace the whole time, without water or gel.  I usually take a gel if I'm running more than an hour, but I didn't have any this time, and I still felt pretty good.  One last long run before the Half Marathon!  I'm really hoping to run under two hours, and my PR is 1:58 so I would love to beat that.  I have (mostly) stuck with the program, but I haven't run longer than 10 miles in this training cycle, so that may do me in.  In any case, I feel blessed that I get to run where there are views like this:
We went to Mass on Saturday night because D had made reservations for a Mother's Day Brunch for us at Beverly's at the CDA Resort on Sunday morning.  BRUNCH WAS AMAZING!!!  I have never in my life seen a brunch like this.  Even better, we had a gift card from D's work to pay for it! =)  The brunch had everything: all of your usual breakfast stuff, plus oysters, sushi, 3 roast turkeys, steak, made to order crepes, macaroons, chocolate-covered strawberries, you name it.  They were also making small tapas-style plates of shrimp, scallops and steak.  Everything was wonderful, I ate too much and yet I was disappointed that I was too full to eat any more.  =)
My "Mimosa Flight"

First Round at the Buffet - I was giddy!

My Sweet One!

Scallops, heavenly!
We always remember and honor M's bio mom on Mother's Day because she is the one who really made this day possible for me.  She is incredible and we will always be so proud of her and grateful for the impact that she's had on our lives.
Enjoying some of my huckleberry crepe.

By this point he had had enough of the pics and just wanted to get home for a nap, poor little guy!

It was a wonderful, low-key weekend and we were grateful to get to spend it together.  How was your weekend?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ordinary Days

We've had unbelievably good weather for May this year.  This time last year, I was asking everyone, "is it ever going to stop raining/get warm/be nice?"  I keep pinching myself this year and we are spending as much time outside as possible.
Yesterday we had a lunch picnic in the park.  I sent this pic to my husband to thank him for working hard so we can enjoy moments like this one.  I think more food went on the ground though than in his mouth (see the upside down bowl).  =)

One of his favorite activities - pushing the empty stroller around.

This morning M and I went to our first little "Tiny Tots" class.  Apparently he was the only one signed up for the 1-2 year old class so we "skipped a year" (ha!) and went into the 3-4 year old class.  He didn't get trampled today, so I consider that a success.  Half of the class time was "craft time" and there were 3 crafts: a coloring station, a station where the kiddos glued multi-colored tissue paper onto pictures of fish, and a station where they put fruit loops on pipe cleaner necklaces.  Needless to say, we did not advance from the coloring station, and succeeded in coloring on a chair, nearly pulling the table cloth off of the table, and chewing on the crayon.  Whew!  But I think he had fun and was all smiles the whole time.  Bubbles were clearly the highlight and M was clapping like crazy for them.  It was adorable.  We're doing this so he can get some interaction with other kiddos, so we'll see how it pans out.

This afternoon we went down to a little park on the river and put our toes in the water.  It was FREEZING!  But M loved it, he probably sat there for 15 minutes just playing with the rocks and the sand, babbling away. 

I didn't run today, I'm fighting a cold and sore throat so I figured I'd better rest and save up for tomorrow's track workout, which will likely be a hard one.  We did get a 2 mile walk in though, so that was nice to stretch the legs and have some prayer time.

 I'm so grateful for days like these.  I know that I am lucky that my husband is working hard so that I can spend so much time with M.  M won't remember these early days, but I will, and so in that sense, I see them as wonderful, generous gifts of time from my husband to me.  The house may not be perfectly clean and many projects left incomplete but I am so grateful to have made these memories.

What does your ordinary day look like?  Share with me, I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bloomsday Re-cap!

Spokane's Bloomsday run is definitely something that should be experienced at least once by every Northwestern runner.  It is a HUGE race, with almost fifty thousand runners and it is pretty amazing that the city pulls it off so well and with such fanfare.

Here's how Bloomsday weekend went down for me: 

On Friday, Michael and I went to the expo in downtown Spokane to pick up my race packet.  I was surprised at how many other people were also there getting their packets because I thought most of the crowds would be there Saturday.  We had to park a couple of blocks away and walk back to the convention center, which was kind of a hassle with the stroller and digging around to find small change to pay for parking.  Once inside, they had a TON of tables set up for registration and so many volunteers working registration that most tables had no wait line.  My camera battery was dead and I forgot my phone in the car so I wasn't able to get a picture.

We had a good time walking around the expo and checking out the vendors, and Michael particularly loved the free cookies.  Btw I was surprised to see cookies and donut holes at the very first booth!  There was also chocolate fondue at the booth for the Seattle Hot Chocolate Run!  Not your typical runner food, haha!

I was seeded in the green group because I had never done the race before, but after talking with some of the other women from running group, they said I should try to move up into the yellow group because the green would be too slow.  So I took proof of my Shamrock half finish and the nice volunteer lady bumped me up to yellow, but she made a funny comment like "well, under two hours for a half marathon, that's not too bad."  I was thinking, hey that's my pr, what do you mean, not too bad!

Saturday morning I took Michael to running group with me and we just did two miles with him in the BOB.  Everyone else there was running ten miles since all of the other Bloomies didn't show up to group.  Michael had a good time getting to see other runners while riding in the stroller.  Normally it’s just the two of us so he loves to have stuff/people to look at and to say "bah bah bah" to!

Sunday morning was RACE DAY!!  The race didn't start until 9 so I actually didn't even have to get up early to go.  My friends Andrea and Kyle picked me up at 7:30, but you know my little guy woke us up long before then!  We drove over to the Spokane Valley Mall parking area and arrived shortly after 8 where there were several thousand people there waiting to board the buses.
Waiting to board the bus to Spok-angeles.

  All shapes and sizes were heading down to Spokane for Bloomsday.  Tons of families with strollers, old men in jeans, and I even saw one lady with a huge hiking baby carrier, wearing street clothes and ballet flats.  Surely she wasn’t going to be walking!  It was going to be such a warm day!  Yikes.
Thankfully we only had to wait about 20 minutes to board a bus because they had a lot of buses there and since we were willing to stand on the bus, got to skip a few of the folks in line ahead of us.  It was about a 15 minute ride to downtown, which was swarming with runners and walkers!  I have never been in a race this big, but I was continually impressed by how organized everything was.  You had to enter your color group through a chain link fence, and they closed the gate to our color group about 10 minutes to 9.
The starting line is up there...somewhere...

  Andrea and I ended up at the back of the yellow area so next time I think we will try to move up a little further.  We heard the gun go off for the elites at 9 and started to move up shortly thereafter.  Around 9:10, we crossed the start line and we were off!

The first couple of miles were slightly downhill through downtown Spokane.  The streets were so crowded that some folks were running on the sidewalks - dodging spectators and sometimes running into them too, yikes!  It was so crowded that we were running slower than I would have liked, but I quickly realized that was just how it was probably going to be, so I should just relax and enjoy the show.
First musical act: the Cathedral Choir!

As we got further away from downtown, we had some up and downhills.  The first half of the course was much hillier than I expected and lots of people were walking only a couple of miles in!  There were 28 bands along the course and lots of people cheering so it felt like a party the whole way.  

Shortly after mile 4/5, we had a nice down hill to cross a bridge and then we had to tackle the infamous “Doomsday Hill.”  The hill looks more intimidating than it actually is because you can see it coming and you see all of the thousands of folks tackling it before you.
You can just barely see "Doomsday Hill" off in the distance - we are going downhill here, approaching the bridge that crosses the Spokane River.

Doomsday is actually not terribly steep but it is about a half mile-ish long.  There were folks really struggling to get up it, particularly because it was getting warmer and warmer and you really had to dodge the walkers if you wanted to keep running.  At the top there was a guy in a vulture costume "circling his prey."  Clever, but probably not appreciated by the folks who barely made it up the hill, haha!
Well, you know he was feeling the heat too!

After this we had about 2 miles of flat/downhill running.  We got to run through a beautiful neighborhood lining the Spokane river before turning back towards downtown.  We ran down Broadway and then turned right to the finish line!  I was giving my super cheesy smile and giant wave for the photographers, so my pics should look pretty ridiculous.  
The finish is within sight!
 This is the first race I’ve done where it is just about as crowded at the finish as it is at the start.  But everything was so well organized and I never worried about my safety.  Obviously, I was very impressed and enjoyed my experience.  I’m not sure that I’ll do it again in the near future because with the crowds, it is actually hard to use it as a training run if you want to stay on a particular pace.  This is more a run for the experience than a run to race it.  Unless you’re like this guy, and just have a streak to keep up!

  • Lots of great entertainment on the course – you honestly don’t even feel like you’re doing a workout!
  • Incredibly well-organized, from transportation to the start line, to the plentiful water stops, to picking up your shirt at the finish
  • If you’re not used to running more than 4-6 miles, this is a great race to try a longer distance because with so many other folks, there’s so much to see to keep your mind occupied
  • You can't beat the price!  Registration was around $17 I think, and that included the cotton finisher shirt.  And it's fun to wear your shirt around town with your other 49,999 new friends!
  • It was hot!  (I know, it’s ridiculous for a Floridian to be complaining about the heat in May in WA state!)  But maybe it just seemed hot because there were so many other sweaty runners all around?  I don’t know.
  • This is a fairly hilly course, so hill training really helps, especially if this is your first time running this distance.
  • With so many runners, it is difficult to try to stay on your own pace.  We were constantly dodging around people the whole time, and the color groups are still so big that there is a wide variety of paces lumped into one color.  If you want to PR at the 12K distance, I’m not sure I’d recommend this as the race to do that.  There are just too many people if you start anywhere other than the front of the yellow group (or further up!).
All that said, I had fun at this race and felt like I got to participate in an event that is one of the hallmark events of the Inland Northwest.  We'll see if I do it next year, I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

How to Live in the Northwest Rule #1: Frequent the Coffee Shacks!

Until 2011, I spent all my life on the East Coast, and most of that in the South (GRITS!  If you don't know, just go to Cracker Barrel and check out the t-shirts!  =)).  Since we moved to the beautiful Northwest, it seems like every day is a study in the contrast between life in the South and life up here.  Both great and amazing, just much more different than I expected.

So here is Rule #1 about how to live in the Northwest:  you got to learn to drink the hot brown stuff.  I was never a coffee drinker before I moved to the NW.  I drank Diet Coke by the bucket and supplemented with sweet tea from Sonny's - it was hot outside nearly all the time, so why would I want to drink something hot?  (Side note: If I were going to do a series on How to Live in the South, Rule #1 would be that you have to go to Sonny's on Sunday after Church.  Don't worry about the calories, that's what your long runs are for!)

Anywho, about a month after I moved here, my dear friend wisely said that she knew I'd be converted to coffee in due course, and low and behold, she was right - I'm not firmly in the "coffee is delicious" camp!  And, to make things even better, the NW has tons of funky little coffee shacks with their own flavor and devotees.

Now, I still drink and love my diet coke and coke zero, but I've cut back and here's why I think coffee>diet coke:
  • More caffeine!  yay!  who doesn't want to be more productive?
  • Warm drinks really ARE better on frosty mornings - and we have frosty mornings up here from September to May!   
  • love that delicious smell of coffee when you wake up!
And I know there are a lot of other reasons too. But surely you are rolling your eyes at me and this ridiculous post by now, but here's the important part:  Dutch Bros. is donating proceeds from drinks sold tomorrow (FRIDAY) to the Muscular Dystrophy AssociationMDA works to fight ALS, which is an incurable disease that cuts many lives short, too soon.  If you live in the NW, get yourself a DB treat tomorrow and do some good.  You can bet we'll be there, and I hope you will be too!

Have a blessed Thursday.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Spring: Northwest Style

I love Spring but Spring in the Northwest is bizarre!  Last week temps were in the 70s, this week it will snow one minute and be clear the next.  We've even had a thunderstorm - I know this isn't anything new for East Coasters but this was the first thunderstorm I've experienced here since moving in 2011.

Last night was another perfect example of crazy Spring weather:  I joined my Fleet Feet running group for an easy 4 miles on the Flaming Turd Trail.  (Not the formal name of course, but the most accurate!)  My running buddy Andrea and I were moving along, chatting as we usually do on easy days and halfway through the run it began to "graupel."  This is like Dippin' Dots falling from the sky, minus the strangely addictive deliciousness of the ice cream of the future and simply leaving you soaked.  I didn't have my phone on me, so no pic, but we were drenched from running in it for only 5 minutes.  During my 4 years in the Northeast, I don't think we ever had this kind of snow (snow pellets, to be more accurate?), and wouldn't you know, less than 5 minutes later, the sun was back out!

Today, on the other hand, it was a 54 degree bluebird day, and Michael and I got in an easy 3 miles in the sunshine:
Tall trees on our running/bike path.

I'm excited because I'm getting a little bit faster pushing the stroller while running.  Notice that I did not say that I'm getting better coordinated!  =)  My husband always wants to barf every time I am driving the car and he is riding, so I am quite proud that my son has not once barfed in the stroller due to my crazy steering while running.  LOL!

Enjoying a little walk with Dad after dinner - we usually run during the morning.

All this awesome time outside is making me look forward to summer hikes and bikes, camping and lake days.  We didn't go camping at all last summer (new baby in the house!) so we have got to take advantage of our beautiful surroundings this time around and get OUT there!  I want to get some new hiking/beach sandals and I'm considering both Chacos and the Keen Whisper sandals.  My friend loves her Chacos but I might want a little more toe protection.  We've also got trips to FL and MN coming up this summer, and I want to be able to use the shoes both on the beach and on the MN lakeshore.  Do you love one or the other?  Let me know - I'd love to hear your feedback!

Looking forward to some great conversation with my mom's group tomorrow morning, it's always fun to see these great gals and eat some delicious breakfast!  Have a great Thursday, the weekend is almost here!