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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye, 2013!

And, from the running side of things, good riddance.
Running in 2013:
Crescent City Classic 10k

- Started out with a misdiagnosed stress fracture.
- Skipped Louisiana marathon, but David ran his first.
- Pathetic half marathon at RnR NOLA on injured legs.
- Ran two 10ks, a team effort and my PR, 40:59 I think?
- Got diagnosed with stress fracture and took a lot of time off
- Came back and did silly things: two four-mile races, a few track meets (with mile PR of 5:46), some summer 2 milers (with 2 mile PR of 12:19), and the evil midnight marathon that started me back on the injury train.
- OUCH for all fall.
- Slowly inching back this winter
- Approximately 1000 miles this year.
On a scale of 1-10, running this year was a 4. It would be a 2, but I had those PRs. 

In the rest of my life, 2013 was pretty cool:
Holding my niece for the first time

- Visited Sonoma
- Managed a pretty darn good year at work, despite huge barriers (like losing contract for employees' insurance in the hospital where I work) and got an impressive bonus
- We added a nephew (David's side) and a niece (my side)
- David changed jobs
- We drove to Louisville to visit my brother
- Joined our church.
- I got intersection syndrome, but avoided surgery.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'll give life in 2013 a 9. I'm tempted to give it a 10, since I'm just generally happy with everything, but it gets a 9 because David's job transition wasn't exactly smooth. 

Your turn! Rate 2013! And have fun tonight!

Monday, December 30, 2013

A rainy weekend

Every single weekend and day off I've had for weeks has been rainy! I'm all for a cozy book by the space heater, but geez. Give me a break. I have big plans for visiting Avery Island and a few plantations, and the weather is not complying.
I was shut-in again this Saturday. The dark skies let me sleep in a little, so I didn't get out for a run until 8:30. By the time I got back and stretched and showered, it was past 10 - so we got a late start.
I filled my day with indoor activities:
- cleaned the stupid house, boo
- did an iTunes U class
- read a book (the whole thing) at a new coffee shop with David. It's not actually a new coffee shop, just one we haven't been to since right after Katrina. It feels new to us, since we usually stick to the PJ's coffee house a few blocks from our house.
- wore my new scarf (Christmas gift from my tech) and new clogs (from David - I am obsessed with clogs.
In retrospect, wooden shoes were not a fabulous choice for a rainy day

- made all my salads for lunch the next week
- made salad dressing:
1/3 C white wine vinegar, 1/3 C olive oil, 1 tsp sugar, 1 clove garlic (minced), salt and pepper to taste, pinch of xantham gum for thickening.
- watched some Olympic trials. I love speed skating - and I kind of want to do it.
- caught up on emails
- mapped some 14-mile runs in preparation for New Years...I'm thinking about having people over for a midnight run-in-the-new-year!
- learned a new card game and had an hours-long game night with David, in which I trounced him every time.
Yesterday's forgotten gift 20 questions: Is it edible? No!
How was your weekend?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Twenty questions: forgotten Christmas gift edition!

Earlier in December, David bought me this for Christmas:
Runner powered by coffee

I know he bought it, because we were placing an order for several items at the same time, and he's not very discreet. But then he forgot all about it.
I didn't, and I'm making him play "20 questions" until he guesses what he bought me and forgot about.
Question #1: Is it running related? Yes!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The hardest thing I've ever done at work

I worked this Christmas, volunteering for an afternoon shift at a 24-hour pharmacy. It really wasn't bad. I got the whole morning to celebrate Christmas with David, then had a very quiet, easy afternoon and evening at the pharmacy. I only had one irate customer, and just as he finished screaming at me a sweet teenager handed me this:

Cookies and a $5 bill! She said her family's service project was to hand out cookies to the people who had to work in the pharmacy on Christmas day. I gave me tech the $5 but I ate those cookies - they were chocolate with crushed candy cane bits.

I bought a bag of Christmas candy while I was there, and everyone's rx bag got a candy. I do this every time I work Christmas - it just cheers people up.

But working Christmas definitely wasn't the hardest thing I've done at work. The hardest thing happened today. I had to reprimand and write up an employee - who is my peer, another pharmacist - and get her in trouble with corporate and possibly the law.

While this pharmacist was working by herself, she committed an egregious policy breach, one that I can't go into for legal reasons, and then actually let it slip in conversation. It was the kind of thing that left me speechless, mouth hanging open, and nauseated with shock. For ethical reasons, I had to report the breach. I'm the Pharmacist-in-Charge at my store, and legally responsible, so I had no choice: but I was heartbroken to get this pharmacist into trouble, possibly causing her to lose her job. I worried about it all Christmas, and filed the report Thursday.
If you want to know how bad her action was, let's just say it was worse than the second incident, which was noticed on the video while we were reviewing the security tapes: the pharmacist allowed her non-employee spouse to COUNT MY REGISTER DRAWER at the end of the night. Yeah.
Luckily I got loss prevention to get the pharmacists' statement, but naturally it was still extremely uncomfortable for both of us for me to address the issue, reprimand her, and request she file a statement. We don't know the outcome yet (but it isn't termination, I did find that out), but for now I'm faced with two terrible situations:
1. My staff pharmacist now HATES me and thinks I am the meanest person ever. It will be horribly uncomfortable to work with her.
2. My staff pharmacist demonstrated astonishingly poor judgment and ethics. I've lost a lot of trust in her.

We got through the day, with a lot of tears and unprofessional mutterings, and hopefully she can cool off during the weekend. But I'm not looking forward to future work days like this. Hardest day of work ever!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Commander's Palace Christmas tradition

Every year, David and I do a Christmas lunch at Commander's Palace. It's such a festive time of year: holiday parties and families gather in the bustling dining room while carolers sing amongst the tables.

I can't handle martini glasses, because I'm a klutz, so I get mine in an old fashioned glass.

This year, we both took off work on Friday, and enjoyed our dinner along with our $0.25 martinis (I love that the menu says, "because three is enough"!).
Our food was delicious (as always). I had the strawberry salad with pickled fennel and the open-faced oyster poboy, which was interesting and delicious. It is surrounded by a brown butter romaine sauce!
David showing off his festive bell and traditional turtle soup with sherry

Not your average poboy!
After lunch, we walked around a bit, including snooping around the "teddy bear house". It wasn't open for tours (which, by the way, are $12 a person! I don't think I'd actually pay $24 to wander around this guy's house!), but we looked in the windows. Apparently the owner collects teddy bears and creates Christmas displays each year ("With over 12,000 bears!" as his sign proclaims).

Squinting in the sun

We finished our holiday by baking Christmas cookies. I have a really good roll-out sugar cookie recipe, and we used our Star Wars cookie cutters just to make David happy. They were cute until he destroyed them by his pathetic frosting skills. 

I love the one where the icing just sadly trails off...

And in case you want the recipe, here it is!

Cream together:
1/4 C butter
3/4 C sugar. 
Mix in: 
About 2 TBS orange zest (or 1 tsp vanilla, but I like the orange zest much more)
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 2/3 C flour

Form a dough. You can add a tsp or two of milk if absolutely necessary. Wrap in plastic wrap to chill a little. Roll out a little less than 1/4 inch thick; cut cookies; bake on greased sheet at 350F for 12 minutes. 

When cool frost with royal icing:
Beat 1 egg white, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1/4 tsp cream of tartar, 2 C powdered sugar, and three good dashes orange bitters until thick. 

Merry Christmas! 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Thank you, Coeur Sports!

I'm happy that Coeur Sports was kind enough to include me as a 2014 ambassador!

That was pretty cool of them: especially considering this year's injury cycle. I'd be questioning my ability for sure!

This is the first time I've done anything like this - besides wearing singlets for Varsity and NOTC when they paid my race fees - so I'm pretty excited. I'm really excited to actually get some Coeur clothes on... see, I applied for an ambassadorship on strength of reputation only. I've never worn their clothes. But someone I know in the running circles told me about them, and said they have sports bras with pockets. As a girl who sews her own pockets into running clothes, I really liked that design...I mean, that would save me about 20 minutes of sewing and a hideously botched pocket. Plus, even though I really don't care what I look like when I run, I'm getting kind of tired of neon everything. Coeur has some nice, subtle blues and grays instead of highlighter everything.

So, yay me and all the other girls! And you can read Coeur's blog here or shop here. In a few days they'll be posting blogs of the ambassadors, and that'll be good reading.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The injury puzzle

I stumbled on a link to a Competitor Group article that I actually liked (I know! And usually I'm rolling my eyes with a "Thanks, Captain Obvious, I'll be sure not to eat chili peppers cooked in Metamucil the morning of my marathon."). Of course, it helps that the author is the respected Matt Fitzgerald. I really liked his advice.
He outlines four steps that helped him overcome his chronic knee injury. I could identify with a lot of his experiences, and a lot of the solutions, too.
1. Targeted stretching: This should be obvious for me: I keep having bone injuries related to serious tightness in the hamstrings and adductors. I need to focus on stretching these muscles daily to counteract whatever it is about my running that tightens them up. I've been doing yoga, dynamic and static stretches, and rolling.
Tools of the trade...

I've been doing some of the Iron Strength workouts

2. Corrective strength training: I have weak hips, so my adductors do all the work. Then they tighten up after being overworked. Then I make them work hard again - and the tight muscle tugs the bone, leading to injury. Strengthening my hips and glutes will relieve the adductors of some of the work.
3. Gait retraining. Agh. I haven't attempted this. I do heel strike, but I don't straighten my leg when I do (my knee's bent and my leg is nearly under my body). I guess I should consider better form at some point, but it's a big undertaking.
4. High-tech nutrition. For me, this is loads of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. But it also means remembering to take my levothyroxine every day, and adding in calcitonin periodically to rebuild bone. Neither levothyroxine or calcitonin are supplements, but they are natural products!

Have you had to employ any of these steps? Have you considered them as injury prevention rather than treatment? I've been really trying to think about my running in terms of prevention - being proactive, not reactive!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

K&B purple

Since I'm a pharmacist in New Orleans, I thought it would be nostalgic and charming to have a K&B coffee mug. K&B was an iconic pharmacy chain in New Orleans, and much-loved until they sold out to Rite Aid. Their symbol is a K and B in a purple oval; that signature color is known in New Orleans as "K&B purple".

Except my mug isn't. It's pink.
Huge fail. A K&B mug that's the wrong color. I've already been mocked for it.
As one of my friends said, perhaps the color faded on the trip from China?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hot oiled hair

Good morning people!
Not a good morning. Saints were eaten alive last night, just because they could have clinched a playoff berth. I'm putting my paper bag back on.
I hope your weekend was lovely. Mine was - if only because the plumbers did a temporary faucet fix, and we get to keep our bathroom for a little longer.
And good thing, too, because I needed to shower for about 45 minutes after idiotically attempting a hot oil hair treatment on Friday.
See, I kind of hate my hair. I never do anything to it, and it's starting to look pretty run-down and dumpy.
Friday night I looked at my frizzy waves and decided that it would be a great idea to rub olive oil into them. At the time, it also seemed like a good idea to put infuse the oil with coffee grounds, because the Google suggested it.
After ten minutes to oil dribbling down my nose and greasy coffee washing down the drain, I ended up with a plastic bag on my head and a winter hat over that. And then I went to sleep.
In the morning, I brushed grounds out of my bed, put on my running shoes, and ran with greasy hair bare. I smelled like an Italian espresso bar. Then I used most of our shampoo to scrub the oil out.
Where is my amazing shine you promised me?!

Smug smug smug! Flat head. Boo. 

Whatever. It's soft, but it looks exactly the same. Fifty year old face, twelve year old hair. Something's off here. I need your hair advice. What can I do to get rid of that bleah flat look? I have a low forehead, and combined with my haircut, I look scalped. And unprofessional at work.

The rest of my weekend was a blur of cooking, candy making, grocery shopping, football, church, and Greek. I'm trying to learn Greek and Saturday I hit the wall of the third declension. I was cool with two declensions; tossing that third one in there is making me forget whatever I already learned.
Saturday night we made a pleasant restaurant discovery: a place on Magazine called Baie Rouge. We brought a bottle of dry rose from Sonoma and had the drum and duck; it was delicious food, a pleasant atmosphere, perfect-sized portions, and had no corking fee. So fine dining for $44 before tip!

Made any great restaurant discoveries lately?
Hair suggestions? Must not require much or any styling!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Perfect timing

Yesterday I woke up to weather in the low 40's and no hot water in the shower. But just the shower. And the cold water works fine. If you turn the hot water tap, nothing comes out!
Luckily, I was taking a rest day, so I didn't discover this when all sweaty after a run. But it was just too cold for a cold shower, so I had to do a sink bath (so inconvenient).
We've been having problems with our tub for years now. There is some invisible chronic leak that is soaking the floor boards, which are basically rotting out beneath our feet. The plumbers keep coming out and keep shrugging and telling us not to splash water on the floor. I am so frustrated with these guys by now: they're chosen by our landlords, so I can't replace them, but they've come to examine a saturated floor and wall several times, and still think that there is no leak. They apparently think David and I have rowdy bubble baths or shower with the curtain open, because they keep blaming us for the moisture. That just not possible. Even if we were splashy types, which we're not, we're very careful, it's simply too much water to be accounted for in that way.

The last time they came, they replaced the faucet to "see if that would help" and now water gushes from the faucet all the time. It never turns off. That, plus the fact that the bathroom is about to fall off the side of the house with rot, prompted our very good landlords to plan to replace the entire tub, pipes, and floor. It's going to be a big project, so they put it off until after the holiday. But now we have to speed that up: and I have no hot shower, cold weather, and they might as well tackle the whole project now. Looks like I'll be at the in-laws house this Christmas!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas gift boxes 2013: not food.

In a stunning turn of events, this year's Christmas boxes do not contain food! (I always made gift boxes for my very large family and hard-to-shop for friends).
Instead I made "game night" boxes inspired by Design Sponge (P.S. Stay away, it's worse than Pinterest).
The boxes contain domino coasters and card-motif highball glasses, plus a pack of cards, peanuts, and some card game instructions.

I'm not sure what my Church of God grandmother is going to think about these, but I think they're just adorable. I used a strong waterproof glue to adhere the wooden dominoes to sheets of cork. The dominoes are from Tin Toy Arcade, and weren't expensive at all. The glasses were $72 for a case (which made 8 sets) at Caire restaurant supply in midcity. I painted them with food, dishwasher, and microwave safe glass paint (I did do some sets in gold like Design Sponge's, but the paint was very translucent and I didn't like it as much as the red and black).
I'll let the reviews come in before I decide if I should go back to food gifts for next year.

What are you gifting coworkers/family/hard to shop for types?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dear Santa,

Do you think you could bring me sone running socks?

Love, Grace

Monday, December 9, 2013

Gingerbread masterpieces

Almost just "pieces". Our house is still clinging together, but I feel it's not long for this world. It's just so hard to make gingerbread in this humidity!
I decorated the front.

David decorated the back.
Of course, my friend had Pinterest pulled up on her phone while we were decorating, much to my chagrin. Obviously our creations look nothing like the Pinterest versions! Next time I plan to play a slideshow of New Orleans blight to make us feel better while we decorate.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Building gingerbread houses

My friend and I get together every December for a gingerbread house party. This year I faced the challenge of 70-80F temps all week plus insane humidity; today it's going to rain all day. Not exactly great weather for cookie wall integrity. My houses look like they feature Chinese drywall.

I have a few tricks up my sleeve: the first is to put them on a cardboard base. I cover the base in foil, but remove it inside the house so the cardboard is exposed. Anyone who's ever worked in receiving or retail can tell you that cardboard is extremely drying!

And the second trick is to swipe some desiccants out of pill bottles at work and throw them in the center of the houses to suck up some moisture.
Not food safe. Not planning on eating my house anyway.
(Before I removed the foil inside the house)

So far it's working. My houses were built last night, ready for decoration this evening, and they haven't collapsed yet!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

It's December?

Yesterday's forecast was 70's with humidity reaching 97%.

That was just the forecast, though. In reality? It hit 80 yesterday!

It looks like almost no wind was forecast, but at 8 am it was breezy in the park. In this warm and gusty weather, I decided to chance a little speed. I've been running very slowly since coming back, with the exception of the Turkey Day race (which, although not blazing fast, was fast for me). Of course, I haven't been wearing a Garmin or watch, so I'm sure there were days when I was a little more peppy thanks to nice weather or something. But overall, quite slow.
Yesterday I thought I'd try some easy speed and see what happened to my leg. So I decided to do my regular slow 3 miles, but throw in two half-mile repeats of whatever fast felt like.
Naturally, when mile one beeped and I sped up, I was facing right into the wind, so it started out rough. But I managed to do two half-miles with a minute standing rest for a total of 6:38 running time (I didn't record the half-mile splits). And it felt hard.
Then I jogged home, stretched, rolled, and babied my leg. I feel good today, so next week I'll add a little more.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go turn the AC on.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Travel tree

Every year I theme my tree. This year, it's travel: all the ornaments we've picked up on trips and vacations.
 We *try* to buy an ornament for each place we travel, but we failed miserably in Paris (too many tacky souvenirs!) and ended up making a photo ornament with one of the pictures we took, but usually we managed to get an ornament at some point during the trip. Here are a few we've picked up through the years:
Near where I lived as a child (Middleway, WV)

I can't remember where we got this one

Sonoma: drunk nutcracker

A covered bridge!

One of our Boston trips...

Merry Christmas season!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Myrtles: the exercises with the funny name that are keeping me out of a nursing home.

Perhaps I should let you all know that I've been diagnosed with both I-don't-know-what's-wrong-with-you and there's-nothing-wrong-with-you, two conditions common in the medical world (contrary to every episode of House).
In short form, here's what's up: Really unusual complete stress fracture of distal femur in late 2012; very long healing course; too-soon return to running; re-injury summer 2013; since then edema in femur and constant pain.
Two doctors have cleared me as totally healthy (both tell me that the bone, although it has a 2" area of cortical thickening, should be totally fine and painless). 
Yet my left leg still hurts. Luckily I, with the help of my PT, was able to dig a little deeper. 

I have some serious adductor issues! My adductors are very tight all the time, and paired with weak abductors, they're pulling on both insertion points (groin and femur). This causes a throbbing bone pain and probably caused last year's stress fracture. When the pain is in the groin, it doesn't bother me at all. I don't even notice it. When it's in the leg, though, I do - and it wakes me up at night.

To the rescue: Myrtles. This funny little clip has the perfect, easy-to-complete, short routine for hip strengthening. Coupled with adductor and hamstring stretches, it's doing the trick. Now, I do this routine every morning and every night, doing double on the left side, where most of the weakness is. I also printed out the list of exercises for ease.

I've noticed a big difference already! In fact, just 48 hours after first starting, the pain subsided and I was able to go for a (ten minute) run. I really couldn't believe it.
Dr. Jordan Metzl (of the Iron Strength workout) teaches that you can control pain with strength. and it's certainly working here. Hurray for therapy that works!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Turkey Day race 2013: I discovered I have a pride problem

Even though I hadn't quite worked up to five miles yet, I decided to run this year's Thanksgiving Day race, a 5-mile tradition for over 100 years. I knew I could just take it slow, and I offered to pace David to a PR. He turned me down. I insisted. He told me he was out of shape. I pressured!
He still told me no, but I planned on doing it anyway. There's no better way to start Thanksgiving day than yelling at your spouse for 40 minutes, right?!

So, with that in mind, I got to the start of the race and pinned on my bib. But I left my D-tag in the car. David noticed it was missing. "You forgot your chip! You really have been out of running for awhile!" I hemmed and hawed. "Oh, it's too far to go back to the car," I said. But really I was too proud to put my tag on. I knew I'd be slower than usual and I kind of didn't want that time recorded. As I stood in the bathroom line a few minutes later, I realized what I was doing. I mean, how silly! I was proudly refusing to record a slower time.

But that's how I run now.
That's what I'm capable of now.
And we all have fast days, slow days, injury days, and healthy days.

If I left off my tag, I'd be pretending I was "really" faster than my speed today. I'm not. This is as fast as I am right now!

So, humbled, I went back to the car and put my chip on.
Post-race proof!

And humbled I should be. I was slow. I didn't pace David: we started together, and I ran 7:30s like a stopwatch (which is fantastic, since I didn't wear a watch or Garmin) for the first two miles. Then I turned around and realized David was gone, like long gone, and who knows how far back he'd left me??
I'd purposefully started well back from the fast people at the start, even though I usually try to get up front at NOTC races since they are chipped, but not chip timed (they only have a timing mat at the finish, so your chip records gun time. Weird, I know.). But this time, I wanted to avoid the pressure of faster people at the start. The result was that I spent the last three miles either passing people or all alone. And then I was done. 35:55. Yes, I cringed. Yes, I'm kind of sort of a little cringing to type it now! But my time really doesn't matter. For one thing, I bet you don't even care! And for another thing, I didn't get HURT running the race. That's for more important to me. And from that perspective, I'm happy with the race.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving!
We slept in a little before heading to the very under-attended Thanksgiving Day race, a 5-miler that's usually packed with people. Yesterday's 35F weather at 8:30 definitely turned people away: Ive never seen so few lines at the race. I'm writing about the race separately, but it's my favorite way to start the holiday, and I enjoyed seeing many friends out there (despite the cold, which meant no one stayed at the after-party very long).
Heading to the race. I took the jacket off, but I ran in hat, gloves, tights, and long-sleeved shirt! 
As soon as we got home, I got cooking: I wasn't making much, but because of my arm braces, everything takes me forever so I needed plenty of time. I attempted to roll out pie crust and completely failed (the rolling movement is way too close to a paddling movement and totally aggravating to my injury!), so I ended up making a press-in-the-pan crust instead.
Here's what I brought:

Kale salad: Lots of kale, rice vinegar, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, garlic, a little soy sauce. Wilted and massaged a little. Not my favorite salad, but it holds up well for hours of buffet time.

Bruleed whisky-sweet potato pie: Now this one is conglomerate of several recipes I read online, or heard on a public radio bit. I made a crust (making sure it was more of a salty than sweet crust since the filling is very sweet - no cookie crusts), then filled it:

1 large sweet potato, boiled, peeled.
About 3/4 stick of butter, softened
Mash together well, then whisk in:
2 eggs
1 C sugar (scant)
1/2 C milk
1/2 C whisky
1/2 tsp each nutmeg, cardamom, and cinnamon
 Bake for an hour; let cool.
Sprinkle 1/4 C superfine sugar on top (I put granulated sugar in the coffee grinder for a few seconds). Stick under the broiler for a minute or two until top forms a bruleed crust.

If I do say so myself - delicious. And I feel like a very accomplished Yankee for making sweet potato pie.

We spent the rest of the day with David's family, and I snuck my braces off so I wouldn't have to compare injuries with all his elderly aunts. These two poorly-taken pictures are meant to show my perfectly autumnal outfit: wine-colored waxed jeans, dark brown sweater, gold scarf.
Picture from way below

Picture from way above. David insisted on taking pictures in the only warm spot in the house, the stairs!

And my awesome Salvation Army shoes (yes, my toes were cold. Worth it, cutest shoes ever).

We finished the night with a glass of wine and a pretty exciting football game, and now I'm in a line of 7000 people waiting to buy useless crap. Kidding. I'm drinking coffee and getting ready to go to work! Hope everyone working today has an easy day and those who are off enjoy the extended weekend!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How to do wine country for cheap

I'm super cheap, in case you hadn't noticed (typed the girl who buys clothes at the Salvation Army, but only on Wednesdays when they're half-price, then resells them on Ebay). So, even though I treat myself when I'm on vacation, I don't like to waste money. So here are my money-saving tips for Sonoma.

1. Rent a car. It is far more expensive to get a taxi all the way from SFO to Sonoma, and a car service or shuttle from vineyard to vineyard isn't necessary. If you're just tasting, not drinking, you won't get tipsy - especially if you take your time and enjoy the scenery after each tasting.
2. Stay centrally. Cut down on gas and costs by staying in an inexpensive hotel in Santa Rosa. You won't be in it for more than sleeping, and it's a short drive to most areas.
3. Do your homework. I picked out 4 - 5 tasting rooms that offered free tastings for each day. We usually didn't make it to all of them, but it gave us options. I see no reason to pay for tastings: small, quality vineyards want you to taste their product, and will tell you all about it. Larger, commercial productions charge $10 to $20 a person and aren't as personal (and really, who wants to taste Coppola wines? You can buy them at the grocery store).
4. Bring a big, nylon check-bag. Bring it empty, and stuff it in a carry-on for the ride up. Some tasting rooms charge $10 a taste - waived with a purchase. Use this as a reason to buy wine for yourself and as gifts - whenever there's a waivable charge, buy a bottle. Then ask a restaurant or grocery store for an empty wine box and paper and pack it up with all your bottles before zipping it into your luggage. You save the tasting fee, and rack up on all different types of wine. Keep the tasting going!
5. See the outdoors. Absolutely hike in Armstrong Redwood Park and absolutely spend time at several of the Pacific beaches. Breathtaking beauty at both places and of course, free. Pack a picnic!
6. Bring a book to Preston winery. Taste the wine, then have the fee waived when you buy a bottle of sauvignon blanc. Their bakery makes great sourdough bread and their farm produces fresh produce - you can buy a whole lunch for two (with leftovers!) including the wine for under $40. Then sit outside for your picnic and read the afternoon away, sipping wine.
7. Plan to visit some tasting rooms that are open late. There isn't a lot going on at night in Sonoma most of the time, and if you've been tasting wine all night you might not want to spend the evening in a bar getting another drink. But you're left with a lot of time in the evening: if the tasting rooms close at 4 or 5, you tend to find a restaurant and eat early - then you have an empty night in your cheap Santa Rosa hotel room. Instead we tasted wine at some Healdsburg locations downtown - there are some open until 6 or 7, and then we'd walk the square a little before a 7:30 dinner. If you go to the Williamson Winery tasting room, you can enjoy tastings paired with food!

Monday, November 25, 2013

No news is good news?

Let's back things up a few weeks to my last doctor's appointment. I went in hoping to hear something, but instead I news.
I felt pretty much the same as before. My doctor not-so-politely told me that I was probably just a wimp, that my leg was no doubt fine, and that my bone probably always looked like that - some kind of structural anomaly (not true, I have x-rays from a few months ago). He was out of options.
He told me go see an endocrinologist, a spine guy, and a surgeon. He dropped the oncologist recommendation since I pointed out that I already had all that labwork done and nope, no cancer.

So, I really didn't know what to do. But about this time I emailed Camille Herron and her reply was incredibly helpful. Basically she told me - femur fractures can take a long time to heal, especially if you re-injure them! She also recommended I work with my PT to determine why a healthy person like myself would experience these fractures.

So I made a tentative plan:
- Rest until bone pain goes away.
- Determine problem areas
- Once pain free, work on problem areas (week hips, tight adductors).
- Gradually introduce running when feeling stronger.
- Go slow! Ten minutes running to start; work up a few minutes at a time.

In the meantime, take calcium and vitamin D and all that and do core work and upper body to keep from going crazy.
All the rooms in my house but two have beautiful hardwood floors. I always take pictures in the other two.

So that's what I did. Or rather, what I'm doing, since I'm still in the "go slow" part. Total rest (plus calcitonin) healed up my bone; in fact, it felt better in just a few days of rest. I used those days to test muscle strength and try to learn my body better. Next I found exercises and stretches to fix problems I suspected, and only then did I try to run.
I had several good days of ten-minute runs, but I had set-backs, too: one day I felt pain at the femur site again, and rested it for 4 days break. Now I'm still just gradually working back. I don't think I'm out of the woods yet: I feel like I definitely have a tendency to injure the same area again. So I have to be incredibly careful. As far as I can tell, my problems stem from some muscle or tendon issue that causes it to tug on the bone... but I still don't know how I went from totally healthy to acute injury to chronic pain in one year! Crazy!
But I'm doing my best to heal up, so wish me luck, and share all the advice you have!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thanksgiving letters and family closeness

My grandmother on my dad's side has written me a Thanksgiving letter for the past several years. Actually, she remembers every holiday, and often sends cards for Memorial Day or Easter! Very sweet. Her cards are the only contact I have with her, and the correspondence we've established is the only way I know her at all.
Pages of tiny writing!

See, apparently my dad was not close to his mother at all (maybe his father, too, I don't know - his father died before my parents married and I've never heard a word spoken about the man). We visited my dad's family only a handful of times ever growing up - perhaps three or four times. I only remember three visits, but there may have been others before I was born or when I was an infant. This lack of contact was the norm in our house - we didn't exactly see my mom's family much either, and she was really terrible about staying in touch (once my grandparents found out my mom was pregnant after the baby was born!).

My parents are just really bad about communicating with family. And that taught their kids, by example, to think family was unimportant. We never sacrificed to help a family member. We never let a family member offer help, or bear our burdens, or do us a favor. We never put family first. It never happened then, so it really doesn't happen much now. It's sad that none of my grandparents have ever met their youngest grandchild, and it's sad that my parents never call their children (or their parents!) on Christmas.

So I'm trying to coax the family out of that mold. I go out of my way to be the sibling who calls everyone else, who sends Christmas cards, who visits. I ask the other kids, "Have you heard from so-and-so?" to remind them to call their brothers. I gave up on trying to involve my parents, who are quite crazy and a lost cause, but I don't want all of their kids to continue the pattern. My childhood was bizarre in a lot of ways, so I always told myself growing up, "You can't change how you were raised, but you can change how you let it shape you." I don't let the unusual family communications affect me, and I'm happy my grandmother and I have been able to establish a relationship, even though it really began when she was in her 80's and I sent her a wedding invitation!

How about you? Is your family close? Who are you seeing or calling for Thanksgiving?