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Friday, December 31, 2010

Deadline Alert! Crescent City Classic 10k price increase!

The top 500 finishers receive a collectible poster. This one is from 2010.

Do you like to run in warm, muggy conditions? Is dodging strollers yours favorite cross-training? Would you like to run smack-dab into a walker - or ten!- this Spring? Do you feel like getting a parking ticket for parking next to 5000 cars parked in the same illegal place? Then the Crescent City Classic 10k is for you! Drawbacks aside, the CCC is New Orleans' most popular race, and it can be fun...if you like all of the above things, plus confusing shuttle bus lines. Lots of people wear bunny ears since it is the Saturday before Easter and it is really the last race in the area before the temps grow too hot for decent racing.
This year, the Classic is stepping it up by actually providing all entrants with a scoring chip, as opposed to previous years when only seeded entrants were chipped (or you could buy a chip for $5. Seriously).
Why am I already talking about the Classic? Because tonight at midnight the price increases! Register today for $20; tomorrow the price increases to $25.
Just thought I'd give you a heads-up. Happy New Year! Enjoy your celebration tonight!

Foody Friday: Savory Pies

I love making savory pies for an easy entree when entertaining. They're easy to make, so the pies simply bake while you chat with your guests or obsessively fold your napkins into fancy shapes. This Christmas I made four pies for a Christmas party, but these warm comfort foods would also be a perfect last minute dinner for New Year's Eve!
For my pies, I used pre-prepared refrigerated pie crusts. It's not my first choice, but I compromised since I had to make so many pies. I always keep some prepared crusts in my fridge or a ball of pie crust dough in the freezer that I can thaw when needed. It's a good idea when baking pies to cover the rims with foil or a pie shield so they don't get too dark - especially as well-stuffed savory pies take awhile to bake.
 I decided to share just two pie recipes here because my other two pies from our Christmas party, spinach-tofu and pork-apple pot pie, are so recipe-less that I just can't trust my memory to recreate the same dish. This is what comes of never using recipes! But the two pies features here are not only extremely easy but were a big hit.

1. Portobello- bacon pie
This pie takes almost no effort at all and makes a lovely light lunch or dinner. Mushrooms are excellent foils for alcohol, as they soak up the flavor like little sponges. You can prepare the filling ahead to develop flavors more fully; to prevent the mushrooms from overcooking, make sure they are barely wilting when you remove the pan from the heat. Put in the refrigerator as soon as possible.

1 shallot, chopped
1 package bacon, chopped
3 boxes portobellos or any mushroom, cleaned and coarsely sliced.
1 shot sweet sherry
1/3 C brandy
salt and pepper
1 Tbs whole wheat flour
Brown the bacon and shallot in a large heavy saucepan; when nearly brown drain fat completely and continue to cook so bacon starts to stick. Deglaze pan by quickly adding alcohol and stirring vigorously, scraping all the stuck bits off the bottom. Turn heat down; stir in mushrooms and season to taste; when mushrooms start to shrink (only a minute or so) turn off heat and stir in flour. Place in a pie crust; top; seal edges and cut vents in the top. Bake at 375 until crust is nicely brown.
When done, allow to sit for a few minutes before cutting. 
Because all the pie got eaten before I got a photo, I had to steal a similar picture from here.

2. Savory Pumpkin Pie
I made this up as I went along, but it turned into an outstanding dish. The pie had a wonderful flavor, and the crispy-browned sausage contrasted nicely with the creamy pumpkin. I'll definitely be repeating this one - especially since I only got a sliver as my piggy brothers wolfed the rest down right under my nose! 

1 lb bulk sausage (or sausage removed from its casing) - I use Rouse's store-made green onion sausage, buit this would also be good with hot Italian sausage.
2 eggs
15 ounce can of packed pumpkin
12 ounce can of evaporated milk
1 tsp salt (use less if your sausage is salty)
1/4 tsp black pepper (adjust based on how spicy your sausage is)
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp sage
Brown sausage, chopping up as you cook to make sure the pieces are small. When well-browned, drain completely.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl beat eggs and add remaining ingredients. Stir well to combine and pour into prepared crust. Sprinkle sausage evenly over the top (it will sink slightly but should stay near the top). Bake at 350 for 45 - 50 minutes. When cooked, you can touch the center and it will be firm. Note that the color of this pie will be lighter than sweet pumpkin pie although it is fully cooked.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Family Christmas Party

I thought I'd share a little from our family Christmas party now that obsessed hubby has finished cropping, straightening, and lightening. Two siblings couldn't make it, but the rest of us piled into our little apartment for a football game and good food. Since the party directly followed the Ole Man River half marathon, I had to pick something easy, so we had savory pies, salad,. fruit salad, and Christmas cookies. Since the pies were a great success and very easy for the hostess, I'll be sharing the recipes tomorrow. Maybe you'll be inspired for a last minute holiday meal!
Here are a few pictures from that afternoon:

We decorated Christmas cookies.

Attempted group shot...we never did get one with all 22 eyes open.

Sam and Melissa watching the game.

Matthew, Joey, Mom, and Abe posing by the buffet.

Me making a weird face...with pie.

Allowing Sam to be the photographer was a mistake.

Matthew getting Melissa some coffee. I love this picture!


Opening stockings. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year, New Habits

New habits are formed by repeated thoughts and actions which, over time, form the creases in the brain which are called convolutions.
This is very convoluted. Image from here.
 Just kidding to all of that except the last phrase. However my unloveable brother in law* actually told me the above sentence, and he teaches high school health. He actually believes that one is born with a smooth, ridge-less brain until habits make bumps and lumps on the surface of your bean-like organ.
Those poor teenagers. He probably told them that new babies are found under cabbage leaves, too. 
If you're doing the whole habit thing for New Years, here are some tricks I found that have helped me:
To form a new habit:
- Do it the same time each day. It's easier to remember something if it's in a routine.
- Using a tying mechanism: tie reading your devotion to drinking your coffee, or putting wrinkle cream on (What? I'm 28! It's time to start saving what I've got left!) to taking your contacts out.
- Make it work with your schedule. If you want to start eating breakfast but you always wake up 5 minutes before you need to leave for work, you probably won't succeed unless you pick breakfasts you can take to go.
- Have plans and structure. Buy the ingredients for breakfast, set them out, etc.
- Remind yourself with post-it notes, alarms, and calenders for the first month. After that you're on your own but your habit should be...a habit!
To break a bad habit:
- List why the thing you do is revolting. Post the list somewhere conspicuous.
- Replace the bad habit with an innocuous habit. If you constantly crack your knuckles, bite the inside of your cheek instead.
- Punishment always works. This actually works for breaking a bad habit or forming a new one. I went through a super-lazy phase during my last year of pharmacy school, during which I should have been studying for my boards but more often was not. I denied myself my evening treat (I usually have a glass of wine, or a piece of candy, etc) unless I had studied.
- Tell someone about it. Others will hold you accountable and remind you when you slip up or start to slip up. I had a coworker who said "like" a lot. She asked me to remind her every time she said the work frivolously, and I found myself constantly interrupting her in the first week. By the second week, she had dropped the juvenile "like"s!
- Rearrange, reorganize. If your bad habit is related to a thing (you eat too many chips, you read junk magazines when you should be studying, you drink too much soda, you run up too much credit card debt), make the thing harder to get at. May people have put their credit cards in a block of ice, but this could be as simple as not refrigerating your soda. If you have to go to the time and trouble to chill it, you might not want it anymore.
This year, I really want to get into the habit of taking my glucosamine sulfate. I don't take a lot of vitamins, but this would help my cartilage out. Unfortunately I always forget! To help me remember, I'm tying it to my morning cup of coffee and adding it to my Blackberry calender.
Are you making or breaking any habits this year? 
* I keep this blog semi -secret so I can say things like that I not be disowned.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Charlotte Thunder Road Marathon race review

Read my recap here. Then read the race review below!

Pre-race information, logistics, organization
Pros: Website gave most info you would need.
Cons: This stupid engine sound roars as you enter their website. Annoying.

Lodging and transportation:
Pros: Parking near start/finish. Lots of lodging options near the race.
Cons: Unfortunately I found Charlotte expensive, especially parking. You could park near the start/finish, but it wasn't free or particularly close.

Swag: Short sleeved tech T was it. The race bag was "online" - as in, they emailed you a link to some ads and coupons. I didn't click on a single one - what a silly idea! If I were an advertiser, I would not pay for this. Way too easy to ignore (not that this bothered me since I rarely use enclosed coupons, etc). The expo had no freebies or samples, and just the usual booths. I wasn't thrilled that you had to pay to park (we used a $5 lot but the actual convention parking was $10) and pick up was the night before only - no day-of.
After the race, there were plenty of snacks and samples although they were a little weird - gatorade, myoplex, coffee, bananas, fiber gummies, and bakery samples (who eats fiber gummies after a marathon?).

Pros: I liked the variety of neighborhoods and that you got to see Charlotte (which is pretty). Overall a nice course, nothing thrilling but not boring either. Almost every section was accessible to fans, so there was a lot of crowd support.
Cons: The entire course is rolling hills, no flat section at all. Also the second half is not nearly as nice as the first (First half: Big houses in expensive neighborhoods. Second half: Pawn shops and Boost Mobile stores).

Aid stations:
Pros: Water and gatorade every 2 miles. Shot bloks at miles 16 and 20.
Cons: Shot bloks, I discovered, are impossible to open with frozen fingers; also I think they should be given out earlier in the course. I'd go with mile 14 and 18.

Chip timed/scored.

- Bring Gu since aid is rather late on the course.
- The start is a zoo: this race is large enough to have a wave start, but it doesn't. Scoot up front if you can. No matter what it is too crowded for a fast first mile: we didn't thin out until mile three (race directors, are you reading?). I was close to the front and I still ran a 9:30 first mile just because of the crowded course.
- Get to the start early so you can get in the long restroom lines in the convention center. It beats waiting in line for a potty on course.
- You probably won't need your ipod until the second half. There are lots of spectators and plenty of other runners throughout the first half.
- Charlotte is a friendly and attractive city, so make time to enjoy your stay.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Boxing Day!

How was your Christmas? Mine was pretty fantastic.

- Bitterly cold, windy Christmas Day run. As I made my way down St. Charles Avenue I could hear the Christmas sounds from inside the houses (mansions). From some windows laughter and cheers rang out; from others electronic game noises; at some there were the unmistakable sounds of children being punished!
- My husband's giddy excitement to find a bike under the tree. I actually managed to buy him a bike and keep it a secret, a huge feat given my small house with no hiding places (I left it in my car and parked around the corner)! He told me smelling bike tires on Christmas morning was like his favorite childhood Christmases.
- Seeing David's cousin, Joe Tony (you know you're Italian when you have two names, and one of them is Tony.). Joe Tony is nearing 60 and mentally retarded. He lives in an assisted living facility in Baton Rouge, where he is able to nearly care for himself and has a job at Home Depot. I am happy that David's dad always makes the drive on holidays to pick him up so he can spend the time with family.
- Snuggling under my new Berkshire blanket (best blanket known to man. Review to come) and watching football with my darling.
- Christmas breakfast was a total flop. I usually make a fancy Christmas breakfast, and this year I just didn't plan well. Last minute I pulled some pumpkin sweet roll dough out of the freezer, but it was so cold that it didn't rise overnight. Instead it became a soggy mess, thanks to the moist pumpkin thawing (for future reference, fruit based yeast doughs do not freeze well!). Then I burned the bacon because - I am embarrassed to say - I was upstairs being vain in front of the mirror rather than cooking. We ended up with a second batch of bacon, grapefruit, and biscotti my brothers had given me. I'm glad I had a back-up, but it wasn't my usual mimosa and crepes sort of meal!
- Nate (my bro in Pennsylvania) couldn't make it in for Christmas. Neither did Johnny (my bro in Kentucky), but
 he's married so he's not all alone. Poor Nate!
FYI: Get thee to World Market. Electric Reindeer is on clearance for $2.99! My advice? Stock up and serve it in a decanter!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

How many shopping days until Christmas?

I had a really good idea for my husband's Christmas gift...until he asked me for it for Christmas. Now it's not even a surprise. I'm miffed - usually I get him good presents, especially his stocking (I have a stocking-stuffing talent), but this year I just didn't do as well selecting gifts.
I can't go into detail because he MIGHT read this blog, but probably not since I keep it semi-secret, just in case I ever have to make fun of him. But anyway, he's basically getting a few boring presents like socks and underwear.

I'm probably getting a lot of things with receipts attached; last year I had to return ALL of my gifts. Poor David! That was his worst Christmas shopping year.
The year after Katrina was his best. I had to work at the hospital that year, so we spent Christmas Eve together instead. It had been a rough year emotionally and financially (I was in school; Katrina sapped his finances while he didn't have a job and was traveling). I assumed our second Christmas together would be "small", so he completely surprised me with diamond studs.
What Christmas gifts stand out as "best" - and "worst" too, of course! - in your memory?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ole Man River half marthon race recap

This Sunday we ran the Ole Man River half marathon.
The recap: Since we had guests (my sister), David and I stayed at his parents' house the night before the race (we have a one-bedroom so we let my sister and her husband sleep there). After clinging with our toes to the side of a twin bed all night and wishing we were skinnier/had fewer limbs, we got up and got ready to run. I skipped breakfast because I was still having nightmares about Thunder Road and a 26-mile stomach ache. We picked lil' brother Abe up at his dorm. He is STILL sick from early November, and coughed the entire way to the race! This is the race I talked my co-workers into running; it was their first half marathon. We didn't plan to meet up but I ran into them before the start and got a chance to give them a pep-talk.
The weather was cold but nice, basically perfect running weather, and I felt great. I ate a Cliff shot block at the start since I hadn't had breakfast (I also ate one at miles 7, 9, and 11 - more than I normally would since I was hungry!). I brought a 1:40 pace bracelet because I have really done well when I've worn pace bracelets for marathons. I admit that I struggle to evenly pace myself. And I refuse to buy a Garmin. Too pricey.
So anyway, I ran my first mile in about 7:04, slowed down, and rechecked my pace bracelet at mile 4. I was about on pace so I just held it steady. I was distracted for most of the race because I was looking out for so many other runners. Abe would be near the front, I assumed, and started looking for him around mile 8 when the course looped. But no Abe. Leaders passed. No Abe. Lead women passed. No Abe. Abe's teammate passed. No Abe! I was panicking! As the course veered away from the loop, I caught Abe out of the corner of my eye - well back, coughing like a TB patient. He didn't look well and if I'd been closer I would have marched over and made him quit. After that, I turned the corner myself and I started looking for David heading the way I'd just come. I saw him a little later than I had expected to, given the nice weather (David's running is really weather sensitive). Next I kept my eye out for my co-workers. This distracted me for a good long while...because they were pretty far back there. They actually ran it together in over 3 hours - not what I expected but still, it WAS their first. Right after I saw them I was basically in the home stretch, about 4 miles to go, and I glanced at my bracelet - right on target.
The rest of the race was quick and easy. I love how short a half-marathon seems the week after a full! I finished in 1:39:36, easily a PR (my fastest to date was 1:46 and some), 20th female and 3rd in my age group. I like the pace bracelets a lot, but next time I'd knock a few minutes off - that felt too easy.
Abe was at the finish, sick as a dog, poor kid, having run his slowest half ever - including any of his training runs! He ran over 7 minute miles and was hugely disappointed. I elicited a promise from him to take a break and recover. My sister and her husband came out to see us finish and we all waited for David. He finished a few seconds over 2 hours, blaming his lack of shape (the cold weather has kept him indoors), so I was the only person happy with my time.
Sadly, this is my last race of 2010 - it's been a good racing year for me. I went from a slow-poke first-timer just running to keep in shape to a race addict, er, to a gal who likes to run races a little bit and is not the slowest. My next race isn't until February, the Mardi Gras Marathon.
I keep promising myself I'll take up some other form of exercise once I have a running break. Any suggestions?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Will you be ready?

As I wait for my darling sister to drive in for a 3-day visit (which means I may be a little quiet over here for awhile), I am reflecting on my recent life-saving activities. You might have noticed that my posts lately have been very rushed and not too interesting. That's because after my insane flight back from Charlotte I've been behind on a lot of holiday things that needed to be done before my sister's visit and our family Christmas party (which I'm hosting). So sorry about that. Now that I have a bit of a breather I'm thinking back on this week and realizing...a man could have died in my parking lot without my help. Died. Dead! It was serious. In fact I glossed over the seriousness. He was cyanotic with a flutter pulse and teetering on the edge.
(If you missed it, two days ago a man had a heart attack in the parking lot at work. I ran out and gave him nitro and aspirin, stabilizing him until the paramedics arrived).
I'm trained in basic life support; by law I have to be red cross certified for health professionals since I'm a certified immunizer (since immunizations could cause anaphylactic shock we must be able to perform CPR). Actually as such I am legally obligated to offer first-responder care in an emergency, meaning that I would actually be held liable if the gentleman in the parking lot died and I had not offered care (the Good Samaritan law doesn't cover me, either, so I am not protected from litigation if I cause harm...that's a rock and a hard place for sure!). Despite this knowledge, I wasn't completely prepared mentally for an emergency. I often used to wonder, if an emergency occurs, will I be ready? Will I respond thoughtfully? Will I keep my cool and remember how to do CPR, when to do what, which recovery position is correct? Will I panic or break down?
I used to think about a story that happened to two people near to me. They were driving on a neighborhood road and saw in their rear-view a man on an ATV flip over. They turned their car around and found the man in a pool of blood. They called 911 but in the panic of wounds, blood, and lack of preparation, they did not offer first aid. The man bled to death before the fire truck got there. The story is sobering: both witnesses blame themselves, and one of them was Red Cross trained in first aid care. Years later both are plagued with guilt.
Thursday, my readiness was tested. I was happy with my quick response and most of what I remembered to do. I got someone to call 911 while I ran to the man. I introduced myself as a health care provider trained in basic life support; I got a medical history and allergies; I kept calm and encouraged those around me to stay calm and relax (the man's brother was right there but had reduced himself to a flood of tears and offered no help at all). But what is nagging at my mind now is that even though I knew what to give the man, and I had it at my fingertips as a pharmacist, I did not grab nitroglycerine as I ran out of my pharmacy. Why? I knew I had it and he might need it. My first thought was "reach the man and assess status"  - but could my delay have proved fatal? What if none of the managers had joined me outside and been able to get me the drugs? I should have though to grab the drugs first.
I'm disappointed in my lack of clarity of thought.
Today I am going to review both first-responder information and what to do in case of a heart attack, just for peace of mind. And if you're CPR trained or can offer life support, I think you should join me. We'll all sleep better.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Foody Friday: Have your own heart attack

In honor of the dude having a heart attack in my parking lot, I decided to give all of you the option to have your own heart attack (in my parking lot please, I don't do house calls) with some butter-rich jam thumbprint cookies.
This is the easiest and best recipe for thumbprints. For super-christmas-ness, you can use cherry and green apple jam (I used blueberry and peach Allfruit). You can also fill the thumbprints with Nutella if you prefer to die sooner.

Jam Thumbprints

Cut 1 cup butter (2 sticks) with 2/3 a cup sugar using a pastry cutter. When crumbly, add 2 cups of flour and 1 teeaspoon of almond extract (you may use vanilla or orange instead) and mix with a wooden spoon until homogeneous.
Form 1" balls and place on a greased cookie sheet, leaving room for cookies to spread. Make thumbprints by pushing thumb in dough from one direction, then turning the sheet and pressing from the other direction as well (to make an even well in the middle). Fill with jam of your choice. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Don't eat until cooled and set.
If you want to entertain yourself while the cookies bake, you can consider the appalling ratio of butter to flour in this recipe. Kind of makes you sick, doesn't it?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Which is why you should pay attention in that Red Cross class

Today a man had a heart attack in my parking lot. Yup. A bystander ran and banged on my pharmacy drive through window and I rushed out, calling for a manager to call 911. The man was conscious but his extremities were going blue and he was sweating profusely. I propped him up, introduced myself, asked his name, health history, allergies, etc  - all that good stuff - but I was kicking myself for running out empty handed. In minutes a manager joined me outside. Before he even got close I yelled, "Bring me a 325 mg aspiring and 0.4 mg nitroglycerine!" I knew one of my techs would know what to give him. While I waited, I talked to the man and asked him his name and if he had had a heart attack before. He could barely speak but he told me he had; actually he had two stents placed. I was more interested in talking to him and keeping him focused, because the pain was excruciating and was causing him to panic. My manager came back with the requested drugs, and as soon as I got the nitroglycerine in his mouth, the gentleman started to grow calm and his color started gradually returning. Before the requisite five minutes had elapsed before his second dose, the ambulance had arrived. I was able to brief the paramedics on his condition and tell them what he had taken so far while they hooked him up to some oxygen.
Then I went back inside and finished working the rest of my shift.
Sigh. My job is crazy! But I must recommend that if you are going to have a heart attack, please do it in a parking lot situated between a pharmacy and an emergency room.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Thunder Road Clarification

I reread my post and it sounded like I nearly died on the course or had to walk or cried all the way to the finish. It wasn't THAT bad - I did enjoy seeing Charlotte, I liked the race atmosphere, and there were moments when i didn't want to die. I ran a slow 3:47:46 and I was disappointed with my time, but just a few months ago I would have been thrilled with it. And that time includes a long bathroom line and saving a fellow runner. So it didn't completely suck.
Sorry I insulted you, Thunder Road.

Charlotte Thunder Road Marathon race recap

This wasn't my best race by a long shot. Everything went wrong. Allow me to itemize:
- I was too cold. I stayed too cold the entire race. When I finished I wasn't even sweaty.
- I tried new clothes. I borrowed Bj's shirt because my clothes weren't warm enough and it chaffed my head practically off my body, not to mention riding up constantly. And I bought a Spibelt off Ebay ($3.40 plus $2.50 shipping) to hold my oatmeal. Good thing it was cheap because despite all its claims, and how much everyone else loves it to death, it didn't work for me. It bounced like crazy and I spent 26 miles adjusting it.
Me in Bj's shirt with owner of said shirt (after the race)

- No bathroom break at the start. Racing with others is hard - my friends didn't want to do a port-a-potty run and I didn't want to lose them; I ended up with no bathroom break. That didn't work and I actually had to make a pit stop as early as mile 6! There was a line and I ended up wasting (haha! Excuse the pun!!!) over five minutes.
- I tried new fuel. The course provided shot blocks which I decided to mainly rely on. They seemed like slower energy to me and really felt like a gelatinous lump in my gullet!
- I tried new pre-race food. BIG MISTAKE. My friend Bj is a vegan, so I cheerily put agave nectar on my oatmeal and poured almond milk in my coffee. One or the other gave me a major stomach ache (probably the almond milk, since almonds give me a stomach ache). Misery.
- Hills. Honestly, the hills weren't killer. They were constant, but mostly gentle. However, if you don't run hills you don't run hills. My ankles seemed to take the worst punishment; they are still sore but started hurting early on.
- No ipod. My ipod didn't hold its charge and I lost in at mile 17. This might have been ok except I was already struggling, so I missed it much!
- Drama. You know drama follows me. Well, I actually had to stop and help a runner in distress! This was scary. I was running along somewhere after mile 17 (I know because I remember no ipod!) when suddenly, out of the blue, the woman next to me crumpled to the ground. Her legs buckled and she was down! I quickly stopped and pulled her shoulders up - I cold see that she was fading out of consciousness. Her lips and were white and her hands felt cold. I suspected low blood sugar. I quickly pulled out a Gu (I happened to have one because a neighborhood association was handing them out earlier. I stuck one in my bra and practically chaffed a boob off. TMI, sorry)...anyway, I squeezed some into her mouth and then propped her against a tree and ran to the next intersection to get the officer directing traffic. It turns out another runner had already alerted him and he was on his way with water; he had also called medical. By the time I got back the runner was sitting up by herself and could answer questions. The officer waved me on, but I worried about her the rest of the race. I couldn't remember her race number, and I was kicking myself because I could have looked her up later to see if she was ok. But actually as I finished I saw her being brought in by the ambulance and she was fine. Phew! Very scary, though!
Have you ever stopped to help another runner? What would you do if you were THIS close to a medal or a PR or a BQ and another runner needed help? Once before I gave a GU to another runner who seemed to need it, and actually once I didn't stop - but that's because a race vehicle had just slowly passed and I chose instead to catch to car and tell them a runner had fallen. I also wasn't as concerned this time because this was a slip-and-fall injury and didn't seem serious.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Worst trip ever...

Coming up will be the Thunder Road Marathon race recap and review. But first let me gripe about the worst trip ever.
To start out, I had this funny elevation post timed to go up while I was in the air. It formatted all funky. Boo. Then my host's puppy chewed up my phone charger, so I was without a phone - or internet, because coincidentally my host's laptop charging cable wasn't working (Apples have this magnetic USB port - most unreliable! So I was cut off from my hubby and the entire world the whole trip. And I couldn't check into my flight early.
So the flight back. Major drama. First, security drama. I don't do the whole body scanner thing. I have a cancer history and I prefer not to add unnecessary x-rays. So I politely requested a pat-down...and was refused! The rude and cocky security team told me they were too short staffed and I had to have an x-ray. I politely insisted (it's, you know, the law...). Meanwhile a stranger rifled through my untended baggage. I asked someone to please secure my luggage; she replied, "Only if you go through the scanner." Behind me, my friend Brett (our host for the weekend was his twin Bj) was detained because his license didn't look like him - he has gained weight due to medications he takes and the officer rudely pointed out the weight discrepancy about a thousand times. I eventually got a supervisor to hear my plight, but not before a fellow passenger had recorded the incident for Youtube (I made him promise no dramatic Youtube anti-TSA videos but he wouldn't delete it. Sigh). Brett finally got through, too, by presenting an photo credit card. DRAMA. It took the TSA over an hour to provide me with a pat-down!
Once I made it to the gate, I was faced with more drama. Apparently our pilot was a sensitive soul, because he refused to walk onto the tarmac in the snow (in Charlotte!) even though we were in a very small plane. After a 30 minute delay trying to find stairs small enough, the crew gave up and we all walked across the tarmac. After sandwiching on the plane (it was very small), we sat there for an hour. The pilot communicated not a word. The attendant kept calling him and he took the phone off the hook! We were baffled - passengers were panicking, freaking out, calling the airport, booking alternate flights, and fighting. The long and short of it is that the pilot was waiting on the plane to be de-iced, and there were technical difficulties. Rather than allow us to deplane and attempt to find alternate ways to reach out destinations, the pilot held us for 3 hours without a word of communication or even a how-de-do to the attendant, refusing the airport's radio request to allow the passengers to deplane. We all missed out flights, including 8 international connections. I stayed overnight in Miami, then flew in and went straight to work until 10 pm. I am DEAD tired. After all my complaints, though, I do want to mention how amazing our flight attendant was. She kept us all calm despite her own frustration, and distributed bloody marys and almonds throughout the cabin. What a dear! I'm definitely calling her in a compliment.
After almost 6 hours in a plane to Miami and 3 hours to New Orleans - with countless amounts of time in the airport - I am just glad to be home. I'm having a glass of Malbec and a peanut butter cup Cheers!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hello, Charlotte!

Tomorrow I'm running the Thunder Road marathon. In order to quell my high spirits at PR after PR (easy to do when you don't set your own bar that high, eh?), I chose a course that will boil me alive and eat me with a fork and knife. Please observe the elevation profile.

For comparison, this is the elevation profile of New Orleans.


If I can even finish, I probably won't be walking on Sunday!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Runing with others

Last night I attempted a group run at the Louisiana Running Company. They hold runs after the store closes each Monday and Wednesday. Since I work until 6 on both of those days, I had to change at work and quickly make my way to mid-city. I would have been on time except that unfortunately Google maps mislocated the store on the opposite side of Canal, so I had to rush back to the car and find the correct location. It took me several trips around the block to find it in the dark (and all the streets are one-ways!) and find parking. By the time I parked it was pretty late but I saw one runner standing outside the store. We decided the rest of the group was already running and took off on our own. I was hesitant to run with someone out of the blue like that - if it was a group, we could all settle into our own paces and spread out if need be. But I felt obligated to stick with this guy since it was just us. At first he started out much faster than I'd planned to run (I have another marathon this weekend), but I kept the pace up and after a mile or two he slowed significantly. Actually he added about a minute per mile (by my guess) which I found odd. We finished and the rest of the group was back drinking water so I met a few other runners before quickly heading home to make dinner. As I drove, I thought about running with a group or with others:
On the plus side, it's motivation, it adds interest, and it's simply a social thing to do.
On the negative side, it's tough if you can't get your paces right or if one of you is having a bad day and needs a walking break. Or what if you feel fantastic and want to speed up, but your group/partner doesn't?
I have little "group" experience, but I have run a few times with the hubby (DOES. NOT. WORK.), Shelly at Decayed Gentlewoman, and Jen at Pretend this is Real. Shelly and I had a really nice long run: long runs are perfect for running with others because you are all going a long, slow distance so pace is not so important. Also a good time to chat. I talk ... a lot!  Jen and I have run together a few times and I think are paces are exactly spot-on, probably helped by the fact that we're similar heights. Running with her helped me get a handle on pacing myself throughout a run. She kept telling me, "Slow down, you're a little fast, we have 8 miles to go, " etc. I credit her with my good race at Harrisburg because even feeling poorly I kept a very even pace (minus, ahem, the hills). I definitely picked her running brain a little! So I can say that my experiences have been positive in small groups, or with just one other running buddy.

If I make it back out to the running group, maybe I'll have a new perspective on actually running with a group instead of another lone straggler.

How about you? Do you have a running group? Do you like to run alone or with others? On a related note, if you run a race with someone, do you stick with them or do your own thing?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cheap Date Wednesday: New Orleans Christmas Edition!

Ha, what a joke. I used the word "cheap" in a Christmas post! Nothing about Christmas is cheap!  But if your gift lists have already thinned your wallet, here are some ideas for less-expensive ways to celebrate the season in New Orleans.
Of course you have to do the Christmas traditions. On Sunday the 19th you can actually spend the whole day in celebration. Park in the quarter early to get a spot and take a French Quarter Christmas decorations walk as the sun goes down. Make your way to St. Louis Cathedral by 5 pm for the Cathedral Christmas Concert. As soon as you leave, cross the street and join the carolers in Jackson Square for a chance to make your own music and listen to local celebrities and politicians attempt to carry a tune. You can buy hot chocolate there, but if you're still cold when you leave, may I suggest Sucre? It's not even remotely cheap, but it's cheaper than (some) dinners, so if you skip a meal you can maybe afford one little cup of cocoa. TOTALLY WORTH IT. While you're there you can pick up gifts for the hard-to-shop-for.
If you have kiddies, you could start your celebrating a little earlier: City Park is having a snow day on the morning of December 19th at Dreyfous Meadow. It's free, it opens at nine, and you can stay until the snow melts.
Perhaps you don't have kids, but maybe you have guests. Or maybe you were planning an extravagant celebratory dinner with your insignificant other. You must try a reveillon menu! Select from participating restaurants here. You get a splurge dinner for a slightly-less-than-splurge price. For a lower-cost option, enjoy free live jazz by the amazing Jeremy Davenport at the Davenport Lounge in the Ritz-Carlton. All you have to do is find your own parking and buy the cheapest drink for this to be a $20 date (Pretty sure the beers are $10 at the lounge). But what could be more special than the Ritz-Carlton at Christmas? An even cheaper alternative is the Christmas Choirs at the Hotel Monteleone. Admission is free to hear high school choirs throughout the season. I imagine some of them are pretty ghastly but you'll feel good for encouraging budding musicians.
It's a tradition to take family and friends to Christmas in the Oaks at City Park, and at $7 for a walking tour it's not pricey. Basically it's lots of lights and kids and Mr. Bingle. It's less crowded on a week night. Instead of buying expensive coffee there, go to Brocato's when you leave...with everyone else. Seriously. The line will be 700 people long, but it moves fast and you can get spumoni, which I would kill a puppy for.
A more-tacky alternative to Christmas in the Oaks is the Miracle on Fulton Street. The miracle is fake snowfalls and lots of pink and purple gauze. Not top on my list of Christmas things to do, but if you're there at the right time there's live jazz on the stage. Check the schedule out before you go.
If you still need to get some shopping done, go to Magazine street on the weekends. They're hosting "Merriment on Magazine" which is basically...nothing...really, it's just a Christmas-themed attempt to sell you something. But Magazine is always fun for window shopping, too.
And of course, there's the Christmas Tradition, as David calls it.  When he was growing up, his Dad would take the kids out on Christmas Eve (no doubt so his mom could finish wrapping!) and bring them to the Roosevelt hotel to admire the Christmas tree and other decorations. Then they'd stop at Langenstein's for fancy pre-prepared food and cold cuts and make a picnic dinner at the park. Now that the Roosevelt is reopened, we can make this a tradition again.
What traditions do you celebrate each year?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Gulf Coast Marathon review

Boy, this is going to hurt me. I really hate to do this. But I have to do a negative race review.
I didn't want to dislike this marathon! I wanted to be able to say, "this is a teeny tiny hidden gem race that only costs $5 and the finishers medals are real gold oh and by the way Brett Favre happened to be in his hometown on a bye week and personally cheered me on and asked for my autograph." Alas, no. I want to love this marathon: I PR'd, won first in my age group, and it's close by. I should be infatuated. Instead I'm unimpressed.
So here's the deal. The Gulf Coast Marathon is tiny, it's cheap, and it's totally flat. Those are the good things. But it is the most boring course ever. The gulf coast is pretty, but for some reason this race is run around the Stennis Space Center instead of on a beach or in a quaint town. So if you like looking at the backs of ugly buildings, this race is for you. It's a double loop (dullsville) and there are so few runners you're often by yourself. You don't have any fan support (literally there was not one single spectator in 26 miles; I was alone for so long I practically lost my language skills and used pigeon sign language for the rest of the day). This is because the space center is a secure facility - you have to go through security and show ID and insurance and explain why you're there, blah blah. Who's going to do that just to watch a race?  It's nice that you get a long sleeved T and a medal, although there have been misspellings on the T or the medal for the past two years *tacky*.
My real gripe, though, is the course support. Yeah, not only am I insulting a small-town marathon, I'm actually insulting the VOLUNTEERS. Now I totally feel like a turd. See, before the race we were promised a Hammer-gel stop. There was none. I spoke to five of  the top six finishers and none of them had seen any at all (Abe actually asked for gel on the course and was told "All we have is hard candy."). There was some gatorade on the course, but it was 50% water because one of the volunteers bringing the gatorade didn't show. Frankly, half-water isn't enough calories if you don't have gels either. Now while I'm talking about gatorade let me talk about the water stops. OMG what a cluster. It seemed that none of the volunteers had worked a water stop before. No one was holding out cups - they were just standing there. I would kind of call out, "Gatorade?" and they MIGHT hand me one (I usually drink two) or they might just motion me to the table! And in many instances volunteers were actually in the race way, blocking the water, and I had to stop and go around them to reach a cup. I've never seen anything like this. At several stops people were getting backed up and having to completely stop, especially while the half was still going on. Lest you think I am making this up, I actually got this pic straight off their website: See? Not lying.

I have no idea what was going on with this, but David reminded me that when we ran a 10k last year hosted by the same group, the water scenario was the same.
My other complaint is that at one point I got lost because a volunteer was sitting on the arrow-cone, so I asked for directions. He looked confused but told me to go straight, which was not correct. But worse is that when I and another lost runner asked for directions once we realized we were off-course, FOUR volunteers could not tell us where to go. They did not know the course at all, and the one who had been sitting on the cone could not remember which way the cardboard arrow had been pointing. So we got lost and then had to guess the correct direction! This wasted a lot of time - not just running the wrong way, but standing around debating what was the right way (I studied the course map before the race but since most of the roads aren't marked, it didn't help a lot).
So those are my gripes. I love the idea of a small, close-by marathon, but it really really needs better organization and effort. If that means upping the price, I'll pay it.
PS - the race director himself has won his own race two years in a row. Is he encouraging poor course support to give himself an advantage? Something to think about. Right after I think about who really shot JFK and consider if we ever landed on the moon or if those pictures are photoshopped.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Foody Friday: What foods do you miss?

Yesterday I got a very heavy box in the mail from an old friend. I opened it (which judging by its appearance, so did the post office) and found it full of my favorite things:

A big bag of apples and a McIntosh scented candle!
You see, I adore McIntosh apples but since apples don't grow anywhere near Louisiana, we only get them for a few months each autumn. When they're available, I eat three or four a day. I'm eating one now actually.Of all the things, it turns out that I miss McIntoshes more than anything else (except maybe fall leaves) since I moved from New England. I must have mentioned that to my friend because she found me the perfect Christmas gift!
Are there foods that you "miss"? Either because you moved...they aren't made anymore...or your adult sensibilities won't allow you to eat large quantities of concentrated sugar? There was a beloved New Orleans bakery called McKennzie's that was famed for its "blackout cake" before it went out of business. David obsesses about blackout cake at least once a week and nearly every birthday his family attempts (and fails) to recreate it!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I'm so cheap.

I'm so cheap that I opened 14 leftover ketchup packets this morning to make my barbecue sauce, so I wouldn't have to buy ketchup (which costs $1.79).
I'm so cheap that I bought the wrong-size exercise capris because mediums were on clearance for $4.99, but smalls were $6.99. I saved $2 and altered the waist band so they'll stay up.
I'm so cheap that when I realized I forgot my water bottle yesterday I drank water out of a large Rx vial all day instead of buying a bottle of water. Why would I pay for water? Isn't water supposed to be free?
I'm so cheap that I don't just save ribbons and bows, I save wrapping paper. If you ever give me a gift, go easy on the tape please.
I'm so cheap that I'll freeze to death rather than turn on the floor furnace. Proof: I'm doing it right now. It's taken me an hour to type this far because my fingers are frozen.
I'm so cheap that I save my junk mail envelopes for writing notes and making shopping lists.
I'm so cheap I water down my salad dressing. It's too strong anyway.
I'm so cheap that I bought a gross of clear tape when I was sixteen because a local office supply store was going out of business. I got 144 rolls of tape for $3.00, and I lugged dozens of tape dispensers around with me over seven moves. I still have a box under my bed.
I'm so cheap that if the last inch of milk spoils I make biscuits just so I won't have to waste it. 
I'm so cheap that I will gladly be two years behind on all the movies, TV shows, and best seller books in order to get them free from the library.
I'm so cheap I have a jar of coffee leftovers in my fridge in case I need it for a recipe or iced coffee. I never throw the pot dregs away.
I'm so cheap I super glued my $3 sunglasses when the frame broke instead of buying a new pair.
I'm so cheap I only buy scallions in bunches instead of pre-bagged at the grocery store. The bunches are rubber-banded together so I score two free rubber bands.
I'm so cheap I actually still bake my own bread. In fact it's time to go punch down the dough.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Harrisburg Marathon: Race Review

I already posted the recap of this race, but for those of you who might be considering running it, here's the review:
The Harrisburg Marathon takes place in mid-November each year in Pennsylvania's Capital.
I ran it this year and I have to give it 5 stars!
The race: It's a small marathon, about 1000 runners, with a relay option. Next year will be its 39th year, so the organizers have pretty much worked out all the kinks.
Registration and cost: Cheap! $55 with early registration, but registration is available on day of the race for $60. You can pick up your packet the night before or the morning of the race, which is nice (and the process, which I observed, is completely hassle-free).
Swag: Long-sleeved tech T (with a zippered pocket, cool) which I discovered runs pretty small as race T's go. Basically order the size you'd order if you were buying a fitted blouse. I was so impressed with the swag bag - for a tiny marathon with no expo, I got Gu samples, fruit and yogurt bites, a magazine, a gift card, granola bars, chips, a handful of candy,and a cytomax sample. There's a finisher's medal, too, if you collect those.
Course: It's the course that makes the race. The website advertises the race as mostly flat with a 2 or 3-mile hilly section. This is pretty true, except the flat part is not completely flat. There are enough hills for a New Orleanian to notice anyway! But the happy part is that the course is varied enough that you can't get bored. It goes through a college campus, the city of Harrisburg, an industrial park, several bridges, a wooded area, a gravel trail, along the river, and in a neighborhood. It is mostly a beautiful course and it keeps you interested. I was worried about the course being confusing - there are lots of turns -  but it was very well marked and volunteers called out directions.
Harrisburg PA
Support: The volunteers were pretty great and the race went off very smoothly: started exactly on time, plenty of aid at all the stations, well-organized. Aid stations had water and most had Cytomax, too. Cytomax makes my stomach cramp, but I dealt with it. There were two Gu stations, although the website only mentioned one, plus volunteers who I don't think were associated with the race were giving out pre-opened packets at mile 15. As far as fan support goes, I was surprised by how many spectators were out on a Sunday morning. In fact the only empty sections were in the woods and in the industrial area.
Funny story: I saw a few kids trying to get high-fives on the course and all of the runners were passing them by. I decided to give them their desired slap and I knocked the kid over. He was like, twelve. I guess I was running really fast, haha!
Post race: Dunkin' Donuts coffee and donuts, chicken broth, sandwiches, yogurt, fruit, more granola bars and chips,cytomax and soda. No beer, shocker. This is the first non-alcoholic race I've ever run.
Etc - There is a pasta dinner the night before, a gear check, a walking option, and a relay option. There isn't a half option or a 5 or 10 k. There are plenty of porta-potties at the start. Runners can use their number to get into the YMCA and shower after the race. Race is chip-timed (disposable) and there is time on the course. Parking is easy and plentiful. If you're traveling, there are several sponsor hotels with great deals. There is a heated, sheltered area at the start so you don't freeze before the race. Of interest, the marathon starts at 8:30 - I thought that was late, but it would be ideal for those of us who aren't morning people!
So overall? I highly recommend this race if you're even slightly nearby. It's obvious that all the kinks have been worked out over the years and these guys know how to run a small successful race. I was so impressed that I might consider doing it again, especially since we have friends nearby.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Is it worth it to buy a City Pass?

City pass review
Before our vacation to New York, my hubby bought two City Passes to save us some money. You have to try to save money in New York because everything except the street food is overpriced. Basically, City Passes are tickets to the main attractions in a particular city and they save you 40-45% off the regular price of admission. We decided it was worth it to buy the pass for New York for two reasons: One, New York's attractions are mostly expensive and the only free ones are Central Park and Times Square. If you want to do the tourist circuit, you have to pay. Two, we were planning very last minute, and it's hard to find deals last minute. You kind of have to make this call yourself, and check out the options for your destination city, but here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Your NPR/AARP/AAA/NRA/Y2K membership might provide discounts to some locations, and most discount student and veteran/military tickets.
- Were you actually planning to go to the places listed? NYC's list is pretty well-rounded, but others - like Houston - feature lesser-known attractions that may not have been part of your plans.
- The coupons expire in 9 days, so don't buy a book intending to use it throughout your two-week winter break or something.
- You have to leave the coupons in the book - don't tear them out before using them.
- Having a City Pass often entitles you to skip lines and offers discounts, too. It was very convenient to skip lines at the Metropolitan Museum of art and the Empire State Building, where lines were long.
- If you're going to a city with a lot of history like Boston or Phillie I wouldn't bother. Most of the historical attractions are free. And who wants to go to the Boston museum of fine arts anyway?
- Want to relax on your vacation? Then don't buy one. It gives you an agenda!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Gulf Coast Marathon Race Recap

There are too many races to recap these days! The recap is - I ran a 3:36:11 and was second female overall! The marathon only awards first overall and each age group, so I got a first in my age group award - and so did lil' brother Abe. That was kind of neat. I started the race way too fast - at 6 miles I was under 42 minutes - and a little after that a fast looking chick passed me. I decided to slow down once I saw her - she looked way faster than I and if I had been leading her I must be going too fast! I slowed down and slogged through many boring miles (see race review to come...after I put up the Harrisburg review...I know, I'm so far behind!). I kept waiting for the Hammergel they promised at the start, but it never materialized. So I ran hungry, which made me grumpy. What made me grumpier was getting lost at mile 17 because some non-bright volunteer was sitting on the arrow cone. Since I couldn't see the arrow I asked the volunteer, who directed me forwards. I should have turned. I quickly realized the mistake, but it cost me about 0.4 miles. BOO. Until then I was on pace for a 3:33 but, eh, oh well. I was slowing down anyway. I plodded on and as I neared the end - 23 or 24 miles? - a volunteer told me I was the second female. Wrong thing to say to a tired marathoner. I looked behind me and there were no women for miles, so I slowed it way down. I felt pretty bad - majorly underfueled - and I walked a little after the last water stop. I teased the volunteers not to tell anyone I walked! I didn't plan on sprinting to the finish but it felt good to hear my name over the loudspeaker and "Here comes the second place female!" so I kind of did. Abe met me at the finish with a sweater and water, which was nice. He had a bad race - he didn't bring any gels or fuel at all but expected to get one on the course. He didn't. He also didn't train at all and is getting over strep, but he didn't love his 2:51 time. I'm still impressed. Fourth overall and first in his age group. We celebrated our victories with a walk on the beach and a trip to the outlets (Abe's jeans were starting to look like Goodwill rejects).
First place age group finishers! Yeah, I ran in my pajamas BTW.

So overall? Nice time, not so nice race.
Lately I am a gazillion times faster than I used to be. Today I thought, "Guess I'll run a 3:36" and, well, I did. I have no idea what's come over me, but since last February I've taken 32 minutes off my marathon time. My husband is accusing me of over caffeinating...but I'm not complaining. I'm baffled but enjoying it!
I PROMISE you'll get the race reviews and a guest post from Abe coming up. Have a great Sunday!

Friday, November 26, 2010

What do you do when you have a day off, your husband has to work, and it's pouring rain?
You stand in line for five hours at Best Buy to purchase some this-will-be-outdated-by-2011 electronic for $10 off! Nah. I don't. Black Friday is for people who like close proximity to other people and that's not for me.
Instead, this is what I did. Still in my pj's, hair a mess, face not washed, coffee getting cold.

Now I'm going to go pick dried paint out of my eyelashes and reposition the centerpiece to cover the suspicious light blue smear on the dining room table.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Quick, name one thing you're NOT thankful for but you SHOULD be!
Me? I never think about how amazingly blessed we are to have such good health, but I should. I can't believe I complain about acne and fat thighs when I have only had to take an antibiotic twice in my life.*  My husband's ancient, like antique, and he's in brand-spanking-new condition. I need to be more thankful for our consistently good health!
In an effort to keep that good health, we ran the local 5-mile Thanksgiving race this morning. When we arrived I realized we'd never registered for this race. I can't believe I forgot! But we've run so many races this fall I thought I had. All those check to the New Orleans Track Club are blurring together in my mind.We registered with the no-Tshirt option.
It was hot and humid today, upper 70's at the start and moist. It was 80's at the finish and the wet weather brought a brisk head wind. Not very good running weather, and I wore my Karhus, which have zero tread and would make great ice skates. I wanted to go slow today since I have a marathon on Saturday, but I started too fast - first mile under 7 minutes - so I had to slow down (not that I could have kept that pace up anyway). I finished in 37:40 but here's the big news - David ran 41:55! Super fast for him!
The Saints game almost gave me a heart attack and made me quite hoarse. Hartley is returning slowly to my good graces.
I want to buy these jeans but I'm afraid that, like all GAP denim, they'll bag out after a few hours of wearing. I don't like saggy-butt. Has anyone had any experience with this style? If I spend this much on jeans they better be awesome (my other jeans are $12 Forever21 and $9 Ross styles...).
I talked little bro' Abe into running the half marathon this weekend while I run the full, but today he told me he might run the full. I love how he can just casually decide to run a marathon two days in advance.
I hope you all had a stupendous Thanksgiving!!! I'm going to go roll onto the couch and vegetate now!

* This excludes the antibiotics prescribed for dental work that I never take. Don't tell my dentist.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New York Vacation

On our New York trip we did all the tourist things. This is because my husband has done all the NON-tourist things many times when a close friend lived in NYC and he used to visit all the time. This was before I entered the picture and began making all his choices for him.
We kicked the trip off with a Circle Line ferry tour, which was beautiful. I recommend a 4 pm tour if you go, so you can see the city in daylight, sunset, and night - three for the price of one!

After our brief Philly detour, we returned to NYC for several more days. We had purchased City Passes, so we were on a tight museum-seeing schedule. We were across the block from the Museum of Modern Art. One-sentence review: I hope you like Picasso. Our trip also took us to the Guggenheim (One-sentence review: If you don't want your walls and floors to crack, consider more angles in your building construction) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (One-sentence review: Go ahead and buy a year's membership and just sleep in the lobby if you want to have time to adequately appreciate the art).
The Metroplitan Museum of Art - at night
We went to the American Museum of Natural History briefly. One sentence review: I've been to small-town science fairs with better exhibits and fewer grammatical errors in the informative placards. I honestly could not believe the lack of quality and interesting displays, and I think I was actually less-informed when I left. Don't waste your money here. You'd do better to buy a train ticket to DC and go to the Smithsonian for free.

Of course we did the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I realized while I was there that I always associate Lady Liberty with immigrants embarking on a new life, but that perception does not accurately reflect the meaning behind the statue. It was originally meant to celebrate the liberty we have in this country (really more in a military sense), but thanks to its location it became a symbol to the thousands who entered the USA by Ellis Island.
Central Park was lovely and we got a run in and a few walks.
And we braved frigid temperatures at the top of the Empire State Building one night.
I indulged my addiction to libraries and visited the famous lions. What a beautiful library this is!
Best of all I got to see autumn again! I've missed having four seasons!
Later, I'll review the City Passes we bought for our trip.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What am I making for Thanksgiving?

The scenario: I fight the crowds of hemp-wearing, hatch-back-driving, green tea-drinking, bjorn-toting mommas in Whole Foods to snag this pile of ingredients:

Pomegranates, feta, creamed goat's cheese, walnuts, and spinach
The plan was a nice Thanksgiving potluck salad (with a white balsamic vinaigrette including THE SECRET INGREDIENT). But then the FIL called and told me that two others had already volunteered to bring salads.
The challenge: Turn these ingredients into another potluckable dish....and you can use any other ingredient already in my well-stocked kitchen (basically everything).
My first thought: Pomegranate-walnut mini pizza appetizers.
Start with a soft pizza dough. Form small circles, about 1.5" across, and top with several spinach leaves. Bake at 400 F for about 8 minutes or until nearly cooked. Spread with goat cheese (pre-mixed with a little balsamic and black pepper), then sprinkle with feta, pomegranate arils, and roasted walnuts. Broil for a minute or two to slightly melt cheese.
Or leave off the spinach and top with raw sugar crystals and vinegar before broiling to make a slightly caramelized top.
If you have a better idea...I will love you forever.
What are you making this Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Christmas cards for charities

Sometimes I buy Christmas cards. Sometimes I make my own. Sometimes I don't send any, then spend the holidays in spasms of guilt each time a card arrives to me (I imagine the sender quietly pining away, waiting for my reciprocal card which never arrives).
This year I think I'll send Christmas cards that benefit a charity. Many charities and institutes design Christmas cards as a fundraiser, and you can find a large list here.
There are a few of my favorites:
Angel Covers, benefiting a school for deaf children in Narobi.
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. How could you resist a triptych card?
Ten Thousand Villages supports third-world artisans - look at these beautifully crafted cards! This one is painted on papyrus.
MD Anderson features many cards, but I like this fun ornaments design by an aspiring graphic artist!

The question now is, which to pick?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harrisburg Marathon: Race Recap #2

I survived my first day back at work and I'm here to finish my race recap!

My hubby - who insisted on accompanying me to the Harrisburg Marathon and went to mass while I ran! - took this picture from above. Aren't you feeling the short shirt?!

I left off eating Gu around mile 14 and had just decided to suck it up and finish the marathon. Around mile 15 two awesome things happened. I had been slowing down, but then we entered a spectator-filed parking lot and this little boy handed me a pre-opened Gu. Pre-opened Gu is the BEST! Who cares if it was a little gravelly? And then I passed this guy in front of me who was running with a Chinese flag in his compression sleeve. Ok, I am not an imperialist, I swear, but can I tell you that felt like winning the Olympics? I swear I felt like I had just single-handedly re-valued the yen. I sped up. I felt pretty good, and I actually glanced at my pace bracelet to see if I had a chance. Unfortunately, I had spilled on it and the ink had run. It was illegible. Brilliant. I tried to do the math in my head but decided to give up and just run at a pace that felt good.
Then I hit the hills. Now the Harrisburg course is advertised as mostly flat, with one hilly patch. Really, it was not bad - and you can read all about it in my detailed race review to come - but miles 17.5 to 20 or thereabouts are a pretty hilly section. I don't do hills at all. I lost oodles of time here and trashed the BQ idea. I considered a new goal of under 9 minute miles, but I was going so slow that I didn't think I could promise myself that, either. I decided to return to my original under 4-hour goal. I was slogged on, made it out of the hills, and headed towards the finish. I was definitely feeling tired again, and even though I had promised myself no walking (and I ran all the hills), I walked the water stops - until I came up to mile 23. As I approached the sign for mile 23 I read 3:17 and some on the clock. Wait, I thought, that's better than I thought! Could I possibly make the 3:40 cut-off? I tried to read my pace band... and couldn't because it was all covered in pink Cytomax. I roughly guessed I'd have to break 8 minute miles for the rest of the race. Was that possible? Was 3:40 even BQ time? It had been so long since I'd printed the pace bracelet that I wasn't even sure this was the time to beat. But what did I have to lose? I hit the gas and tore past mile 23. I was so tired by now but I basically sprinted the last three miles. As I neared the 26 mile sign I realized I was already at 3:40 - no chance now. I was disappointed, but I shrugged it off and finished in 3:40:50. I felt a little weak and crampy - in fact for the first time I actually felt like my legs might buckle at the finish - but David was there to bring me donuts and water! He was telling me how I had finished so much sooner than he expected and that cheered me up. In fact I started to realize that I'd cut 20 minutes off my marathon time, BQ or no, and I remembered that I hadn't planned to qualify and that had never been a goal of mine. So I decided to just enjoy the faster time. But I DID Google BQ times while driving back to our friends' house, and was distressed to realize that I really had missed the cut-off by less than a minute. I was mentally preparing a blog post about how that was ok, I was happy with my time, etc etc, when a Dailymile friend made a BQ comment. Wait...did Boston give a few extra seconds? I checked again, and they do! So I sort of qualified, if by the skin of my teeth. Personally, I think that's cheating. And it sort of robs me of any feeling of accomplishment. I like to set a goal, work towards, and achieve it - not squeak by and obtain a goal that wasn't even mine to begin with. Does that make any sense? I would have rather decided to qualify for Boston and worked hard towards that goal. Then I would be all kinds of gratified when I reached it. It's just more satisfying.
Thank you all very much for the congratulations, by the way. Not many people in my circle run or understand much about running, so it was so nice to read all those blog comments!
The recap summary (REDUNDANT!!!):
What I did right:
- Running tights. So comfy!
- Rested legs. I resisted the urge to walk all over NYC the day before.
- Perseverance. I always feel better several miles in.
- Water stops. I lost a lot of time at water stops in my past marathons. This time I grabbed two cups and drank as I ran, with the exception of two stops I walked towards the end.
- Gu grabbing. Everywhere there was Gu on the course I grabbed it, plus I had some oatmeal. I usually pass on the Gu and then I'm sorry later!
- Fast finish. Why not speed it up? Unless you're walking 15 miles to your car you might as well use up whatever energy you have left.
- Walking later. Following the marathon with lots of NYC walking practically cured the soreness!
Lessons learned for next time:
- Laminate the pace bracelet. Obviously.
- Plan better if traveling - for food, hydration, pre-race run.
- In retrospect flaming chicken wings were not an outstanding choice of food. In the future I'd bring oatmeal bars or something to eat before bed.
- Bring a starting-line garbage bag to avoid freezing to death.