Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Year-in-Review Post

I think 2009, for many, will go down as a rather-would-forget it year. Reflecting back, I still feel ambivalent about it all. It wasn’t a fantastic year—honestly. Though I find in life rarely are there long stretches of awesome anything. Each piece has its unique highs and lows. For me, 2009 started off rather poorly, but I had some good changes along the way, and I find myself going into 2009, like much of the country—hopeful.

 

My year started off with a pretty sucky breakup. That flavored much of the beginning of the year as I attempted to put things back together and move forward. My company lost our largest account, and with layoffs imminent, I began looking for another job. I found one, and even though it turned out I wasn’t going to lose my job, I accepted and moved towns. This required putting my house up for rent and renting a condo, but it all worked out quite nicely, as I had been wanting to move to Greensboro. I spent my summer training for another marathon, which around here, requires serious electrolyte deficiency to survive the humidity.  My family flew out and we spent a week being lazy on the Outer Banks. I began my new job, which I’m still totally in love with, and I consider myself blessed that I look forward to work each day.

 

I’ve been reunited with road biking—kind of. There are seasons here—it’s definitely not the California Central Coast climate, but when the weather’s nice, I’ve been enjoying re-familiarizing my body with a suffering quite unique to road riding. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will probably never once again experience the sheer awesomeness of collegiate road cycling and a year-round bike socialite experience, but I suppose that you occasionally have to trade in some things for others.

 

My dating life is hardly enviable, but it’s been speckled with some interesting characters. I won’t go into details—out of respect for others’ privacy, but suffice to say, I think I’ve kept my friends entertained with stories.

 

I still sometimes find it surprising that I’m living across the country, in North Carolina—and that I’ve stayed for two years. I do enjoy it here, and I consider it home.  Occasionally I find myself quite nostalgic for California—lately, actually, this has been happening a lot, thanks to Facebook.  It’s eerie how many people I’ve gotten in touch with through Facebook—people who I haven’t thought about in years. Friends from elementary school. Friends from high school, college, traveling. It makes me reminisce a lot, and when I see how many of them are still connected—because they live close by, I sometimes miss those connections and that history.

 

My grandmother passed away this month, and she will be dearly missed. She lived 90 wonderful years, touched many lives, and died a happy woman. I believe we can all envy her for that.

 

I’m curious to see what 2009 has in store. I feel a bit hardened—numb, sometimes, from 2008, so my armor is feeling quite ready for 2009. I’m hoping it will be kind

Friday, December 05, 2008

Book Reviews: A Partisan’s Daughter and The Hour I First Believed




I know that in my last post I wrote about being book-barren. Fortunately, my most favorite authors in the whole wide world recently released (like my alliteration?) new novels, which coincided perfectly with my T-giving travel plans.

Making my 5 ½ hr. flight, with layovers, much more bearable.

I started off with Louis de Bernières's A Partisan’s Daughter. I’m going to assume most of you are unfamiliar with the genius and stunning literary glory that defines de Bernières's novels. He’s one of those authors who too often flies under the radar, but his books really are works of art. He did receive some notoriety a few years back when Correlli’s Mandolin was made into a movie—but like most movies, it didn’t do justice to the book. Birds Without Wings, hands down my favorite book EVER, came soon after.

So imagine my excitement when one of those creepy Facebook ads—the kind that stalks your reading preferences—appeared on the page, announcing de Bernières's latest gift to the world.

Upfront clarification: My favorite works by de Bernières's are those that tackle wars, families being split, heart-rendering suffering—all of the good stuff. A Partisan’s Daughter, in contrast, is a short novel that doesn’t involve a graphic war, or Greek islands (again, a bit of an anomaly for de Bernières's), but it’s still lovely.

It describes a strange relationship that develops between a London man and a Yugoslov woman, whom he assume(s) to be a prostitute. The book follows their long friendship, and slowly, page-by-page, her past is seemingly told. It reminded me a bit of Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron. Both books reveal rather tragic stories of women and contain protagonists who are intrigued—and somewhat ruined—by them.

It was a quick read. I do recommend.

I moved onto a 700 + masterpiece by Wally Lamb, The Hour I First Believed. Lamb is a bit more well-known—his books, This Much I Know is True, and She’s Come Undone, received the unfortunate modern American equivalent to the Western canon—endorsement by Oprah. I’ll admit, though, sometimes she has good taste—and somehow, in-between all of her cover shoots for her magazine, she manages to read a book. (Oh, look! Oprah’s on the cover, AGAIN.)

Anyhow, in typical Lamb fashion, his protagonist is screwed-up and completely fallible, but by the end of the novel, you’re a huge fan. Lamb’s books absolutely suck me in—I get so caught up in the darkness of his plot twists, the unjust fates that afflict his characters, that by the end, I’m basically pleading with Lamb to write just ONE GOOD THING that will befall them. He comes through, but not in a sappy-feel-too-good-about-it way.

When I first read the book cover for The Hour I First Believed, I wasn’t entirely sure. Not that Lamb has ever let me down—but one of his subject matters in this book—Columbine, seemed a bit too dark—even by Lamb standards. Well, more than dark—it was real, it happened, and even though his books always deal with tragic debacles, he customarily sticks to fictional creations.

Columbine certainly influences the book—but the book is so, so much more. I found myself ignoring my family and curled up in a ball on the couch reading, digesting the tale. In the spirit of not ruining the story, I will say that his main character, Caelum Quirk, manages to befall many more tragedies than just Columbine, giving him the official seal of a perfect Lamb protagonist.

Do read it—but clear your schedule first.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Just Ordered Cable


I know that ordering cable may not seem like a revolutionary statement to 99.995% of the planet, but for me it’s effing earth shattering. I am the type of person who would proudly slap a “Kill your TV” bumper sticker on my car, if I so happened to find said sticker lying around. I have never, in my alone-living life, had cable, much less possessed a TV. Occasionally, in college a TV was part of the furniture, depending on who my roommates were, but when it’s been in my free powers, I’ve resisted the evil contraptions.

 

Which, I realize, makes me sound a bit self-righteous to the TV-watching world. Like, yeah, I’m too good to waste hours being sucked in by shitty reality shows. Like, yeah, I prefer to read and hang out in coffee shops. I realize the perception I’m projecting. People probably assume that I grow soybeans to make my own tofu and wear clothes I’ve salvaged from curtains. Which actually isn’t true at all. I buy my tofu from the grocery store.

 

So, why am I crossing over to the evil side? Bluntly: Boredom. I’ve had too many nights of staring at the walls while drinking.

 

Being that I’m single and eternally child-free, I don’t have a problem of not enough hours in a day. Al contrario, the most exciting agenda I have every evening is trying to decide between eating beans and rice or pasta. Or drinking Hooegaarden or wine. After I’ve conquered this obstacle, I’m left to figure out which wall to analyze.

 

I go through phases with books. At times, I’m perpetually book-laden, and I live and breathe whatever novel I happen to be addicted to. But then I go through dry spells, á la now, where I can’t for the life of me get excited about any form of text on any form of paper.

 

I recently subscribed to Netflix. I’m totally in the 90s now, which is a bit breathtaking, but I’m getting a little tired of watching movies on my laptop. It doesn’t lend itself to movies at Joanna’s house, for one, so I’ve realized that with my Netflix addition, maybe I should purchase a small, tasteful-looking TV to go along with it. Which has led to my decision to order cable.

 

I’m not going to be normal and order the full-cable package. I’m going very basic. Just $9.99 a month for 10 local channels. I figure that will still keep me within my anti-TV morality boundaries. No DVR, no fancy digital package. Just the basics, to get me through those nights when I’ve watched my Netflix movie, drained a bottle of wine, and have this epiphany that there’s a gap between my crown molding and the ceiling.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Morning Running

With the time change, I’ve had to switch my running schedule from after work to before work. Fortunately, I work in advertising, where we drink inebriating substances at the office and the work day doesn’t begin until 9 a.m, so this gives me ample time for a nice morning shot of trail goodness.

It’s really quite breathtaking to see the leaf-covered trails bathed in light as the sun comes up. The yellow hue of the freshly-fallen leaves has a bioluminescent quality, and this morning, the chilly temps caused fog to hover just above the lake. I bring Mae with me, and the two of us awaken our sleepy bodies by dodging tangled roots and tree limbs in the still-dark woods. By the time the sun is up enough for me to turn off my headlight, I’m fully awake and grateful to be starting my day on singletrack.

Getting up at 6:00 has been a bit of an adjustment, but if I preset my coffee maker the night before and lay out my running clothes, it makes it easier to go through the necessary motions of leaving my house. Plus, it’s a bonus not rushing home from work to face the prospect of running in waning versus waxing light.

I’m not nearly as bitter about the time change now that I’ve discovered morning running. I might even forgive the leaves for falling this year.

Friday, October 31, 2008

In honor of Halloween: Some scary facts about me


1.  . My freshman year of high school, I wore Wrangler jeans EVERY SINGLE DAY. I remember feeling so proud of myself for that. Never once did I let down my guard and wear something practical, like shorts, on days when it was 100 degrees. I grew up in a VERY small, redneck town. My wrangler-wearing fad didn’t even seem odd around there. That, in itself, is frightening.

2.    . In college, I dated the captain of the bowling team. This wasn’t like, intramural bowling. This was an honest-to-god official school team. He took it very seriously.

3. . Freshman year of college: I went to the bike shop, and with a straight face, asked them to install aero bars on my mt. bike. This was a few years before I joined the cycling team, and subsequently, knew anything about cycling. The mt. bike was my “get around town and excersise! bike.” The man at the shop, God bless him, compiled with my wishes and even gave me a discount and installed them for me.

4.   One of my great aspirations when I was somewhere between the age of 7 and 10, was to somehow plaster my bangs so high with hairspray that people sitting behind me wouldn’t be able to see.

5    At one point in my late teens, I thought it would be really awesome to have at least three kids by the time I was in my late 20s. I even had their names picked out. 

6.    . I really wanted to marry Garth Brooks when I was 14. 

Friday, October 24, 2008

Album Review: Rachel Yamagata Elephant…Teeth Sinking into Heart




Thank God this album was not around when I was going through my breakup last winter—I just might have attempted self-euthanasia. So, assuming you’re on fairly stable ground, and not on any antidepressants, anxiety medications, or Haldol, I highly suggest buying it. If you are taking any of the above medications, you might find yourself reaching for a plastic spork to rip out your own heart.

All sarcasm aside, Rachel’s album is hauntingly beautiful, wonderful, and dark. It will bring you back to those lovesick moments in your past when it was a struggle to emerge from the sheets each morning, and you frequently found yourself staring into space and disconnected from life. Listening to it evokes the closest sensation you will feel of heartbreak, without actually having the pleasure of feeling your insides cut in half.

My favorite track, simply titled “Duet” is a duet she did with Ray LaMontagne—who, incidentally, also came out with a new album recently. In typical Ray fashion, it makes you reach for bottle(s) of wine while listening.

The two of them together—stunning.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Official Letter to Fall

Dear Fall,

This letter is to inform you that you are in blatant violation of our signed agreement. I'll be generous here and briefly assume you lost my address. For your records, it is 1700 N. Elm St., Greensboro. If you did indeed lose it, then kindly disregard the rest of this letter.

Our agreement stated, in no uncertain terms, that you would make your appearance in mid-October and stay until January. Winter, with his powerful lawyers, weaseled in a month stay--from January until February. However, we stipulated that his stay is contingent on an agreement with the trees, promising they would not drop their leaves this year. All parties agreed.

So imagine my surprise when Winter showed up--months early, and you, friend, have been MIA. I do not need to waste time by going over the monetary damages this breach of contract will cost you--I hope you've got a nice hedge fund somewhere. (I'd suggest shorting stocks--John Paulson style. Avoid emerging markets right now--they're taking a beating.)

I am assuming Winter and his crafty lawyers have been slipping you some large bills, because otherwise, I can't imagine why you would have violated our contract. My lawyers will definitely be in contact. If you'd like to avoid going to court, we can setttle this quickly: Take your money out of the treasury bills you're trying to shield it in, and pay up.

Sincerely,
Freezing My Ass Off

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mae is highly confused


Mae, SuperMutt, is a bit conflicted at the moment. She’s not sure who she should be trying to kill bark at. When we lived in my house, it was obvious: She was the Almighty Defender of the house. Anyone walking by, or who looked in the wrong direction toward our property, got the Bark Treatment. But now, we live in this condo complex, and it’s totally thrown her off. Is she defending me? Is she defending the whole complex, or just our place? And what about all of those people walking around below, who appear to also live there? Do they need to be killed? Or are they okay?
She sits, stressed out, perched on the window sill, with her legs half on the couch. Peering out, she’s lapsed into an eery silence. I can see her little dog brain wheels in motion. BARK. no. they’re okay. OKAY, NOW BARK! no, they appear to reside here, too. THEY’RE DEFINITELY GOING TO BREAK IN AND STEAL MY STUFFED SQUIRREL! BARK. no, wait, that appears to be one of those small human beings running along.
damn it.
Sometimes, she’ll give me this look, as if to say…okay. woman. I’m trying to defend you against the evil forces in the world, but you’ve given me a territory, that, quite honestly, is too big to defend. And I’m like, dude, I know. But I’m happy for the silence.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Title

So, another perk about my new kick-ass job (KAJ, for short), is that we get to choose our own titles. So my job description is Account Executive, but that's not my title. Get it? I get to PICK my title.
Prince Charles doesn't even get to do that. "Prince" was chosen eons ago.

Take that, Royalty.

Here are some titles other office mates have:

Speaker of the House
Creative Creature
Fearless Leader
Brand Charmer
Master of Domains
Cerebral Cortex

Here are some titles I'm considering:

Squadron Commander
Czar of Bluezoomssia
Directeur Sportif

I'm currently favoring the last one. For those of you minions who don't have Velo News as your homepage, a Directeur Sportif is a cycling team director/coach. Johan Bruyneel is an example. He coache(s)(ed) Lance. Sidenote: Contador should bail and find another team.

Help me brainstorm, people. Send me ideas and/or vote on the three I have chosen. This is very important! This title will go on my business card! I use them all the time for free sandwich drawings.

How cool will that be when I win a free sandwich?

Quiznos: Hello, can I speak to Joanna, Directeur Sportif?

Me: Speaking.

Quiznos: You've won a free sandwich!

Me: Awesome.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Trail Marathon, deux

Yesterday I ran my second trail marathon. It was, in a word, fabulous. I can honestly say I have never enjoyed a race quite that much--the whole race I felt solid, calm, and confident. I didn't hyperventilate or cry at the end. I didn't even get side cramps.
That alone is an accomplishment. Because lately, all of my anxiety and stress seem to conveniently come out and crush me, in the form of not being able to breathe, at the end of a race. So to finish a race still breathing normally was a fantastic feeling.
I took off 23 minutes from last year's time. That still astounds me--I'm not trying to brag here--because honestly, I went into the race trying not to think about time at all--it crossed my mind that it would be nice to finish a few minutes faster than the previous year, but I wasn't focused on it during the race. I kept my pace steady by monitoring splits, but I didn't let myself get caught up in the math. I didn't follow a structured training plan this year, either. Last year my runs were organized on a spreadsheet, and I diligently followed the plan (mostly). This year, I trained by feel and ran long when I needed to be in the woods for a while, and I ran fast when I felt like going fast. I logged a lot of miles because running distance makes me happy, and it's a social outlet for me. My friend Kelly has been training for a 50 miler, so we trained together a lot, and my runs were a chance to spend time with her.

So I guess all of that is to say I went into the race feeling a bit unsure because I hadn't planned it carefully. And I am used to controlling things. Or think that I am.

So when I finished 2nd, I was truly shocked--and overjoyed. I was a minute behind the girl who won, but because there were also relay teams on the course, I couldn't tell who I was racing against.

I can barely walk today, my legs are so sore. I'm doing that whole post-marathon thing of walking down stairs sideways because my knees are screaming sailor-like profanities at me. I'm contemplating taking an ice bath, but that sounds quite, well, cold. I'm looking forward to taking some time away from the trails and putting some miles on my bike.

If you're reading this and you're a runner (of the non-trail running variety), do yourself a huge, huge favor and run some singletrack. It will change your life. I moved towns recently because there's better singletrack here. I realize that may sound a bit extreme, but running singletrack is so incomparably wonderful when compared to knocking out miles on pavement--there just are no words to describe.

That's my piece of opinionated advice for the day.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hello, Old Friend




I feel as though I've had an arm chopped-off and re-attached. Fortunately, that didn't really happen because such a procedure would no doubt leave a burly scar. No, rather than expose myself to the mysterious powers of anesthesia, I've simply sought out that re-attachment sensation by buying myself a road bike.

And now, I'm once again quite complete.

Many lovely changes have occurred lately: a new job, new town, new dwellings, and now, a new means to explore all of this on the back of a bike. My new friend will undoubtedly take me away from some trail running time, but after this coming Saturday's marathon, I think I'll be quite partial to that idea.

I'm hoping she'll introduce me to some new people and great roads. And, perhaps now that we've been reunited, road biking and me, Tom Boonen will finally realize that he and I are, indeed, soul mates.*  **



* And hopefully, he'll also stop using "recreational" cocaine. 

** I would be open to the suggestion of moving to Monaco with him.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

G-boro Bound

I'm officially moving from the Winnie to the Greenie. Next week. And I'm thrilled.
Since moving to the South two years ago, I've lived in Winston-Salem. It's a nice town--quiet, pretty, quiet. But I've had my heart set on Greensboro, 40 minutes down the road, for some time.
The 40 miles of singletrack may or may not have everything something to do with my decision. But Greensboro is a bigger town, boasts a population of younger folk who haven't been married by age 22 (must be a Southern Baptist thing that stipulates people marry so efffin young), has better cycling/running options, AND a better downtown.
Where, conveniently, I now work and will soon live. Next week.

I AM A LANDLORD, bizaaatches. That's right. I have the power to evict. After interviewing numerous potential tenants from my Craigslist listing, I picked one who seemed like she would take care of my little house, made her sign an eight-page lease, and told her I prefer to be addressed as Landlord. With a capital L. I will call her serf. Lowercase.

I rented a condo downtown, which means I will be able to ride my bike or walk to work.
I will miss having my very own backyard (where will we play Extreme Croquet?) and walls not shared with neighbors, but whatevs.

I will also respond to Ms. Landlord.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

My life is awesome


Yup. Be really jealous of me. Because my life is now officially awesome.


After two years of spending my life in a cubicle at a fairly large advertising agency, I have departed to serve at Bluezoom, the most kick-ass place I've ever hung out. It also happens to be my new place of employment. I've gone from a 250 person cubicle-filled behemoth to a 10-person shop. The most creative, talented people I've ever been around fill the place, and it feels more like hanging out and kicking around artistic ideas than being at work. But there's more.

Today, my boss asked me to help him figure out how we can build bike racks downstairs. That was step 1 of his awesomeness. Then, he asked if I would like to be in charge of hunting down used bikes/skateboards/transportation thingies that don't involve petrol, which we will store in the kick-ass space that I will help design, so if we, as in, us Bluezoomers, feel inclined to grab a bike and head down the street to grab some grub, or a beer, or whatever, our alternate means of transportation will be readily at our disposal.

I was like, dude, and can I also be the Official Extreme Croquet Tournament Organizer? Because we're so going to have to play. And he was like, cool.


So that is why my life is probably more awesome than yours.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

If this doesn't stir emotion, you must be made of pebbles and wood

I apologize in advance for not having YouTube uploading skills. But I've pasted the link below. Click and enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNJwBaYAtcM

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Jose Cuervo Classic







I've decided to begin a tradition in NC that my friends in San Luis and I faithfully carried out: Extreme Croquet. What makes it so Extreme you ask? Well, first off, it must be titled according to the beverages being consumed. So, following tradition, my first NC tournament was aptly named: "The Jose Cuervo Classic."
So, that, for one, makes it Extreme. Trying to drink copious amounts of tequila* while doing anything certainly feels Extreme.
Secondly, we played in my backyard, which is basically a downhill slope. And it was dark, so we wore headlamps. Instead of placing the wickets in neat little rows, they are scattered about, with numbers, so you smash the ball through sequentially.
And lastly, my dear dog, Mae, added to the Extreme-ness. She was quite fond of the yellow and orange balls, in particular. For Mae, we were playing Extreme Fetch. A new rule quickly became that you had to play from wherever she dropped it. The porch, in a hole under the stairs--she had certain preferences. People suddenly became possesive of their balls after striking them and began guarding them in an odd manner.
If that's not Extreme, I don't know what is.


* Note for future tournaments: I do not recommend drinking anything over 5 proof after doing a 4-hour run. It's Tuesday. I'm still hungover.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Outer Banks!!











So I just got back from the most fabulous week in memory--a full week at the Outer Banks with my family. We spent all day, every day, at the beach. There was no sightseeing, no shopping excurions, no touring--just beaching it. My pastry-flour white skin actually has some color now. We all emerged a bit tanner, definitely happier, and I'm imagining we'll be finding sand in odd crevices for the next week or so.



By the end of the week, we had perfected our body surfing and boogie boarding skills. My stomach is slightly sore from laughing so hard all week, and I think my face is dented from grinning.













Friday, August 01, 2008

My oven is alive and torments me

For the first second eighth time or, forget it—I’ve lost count. POINT: my oven is alive and likes to wake me up at three in the morning. No, I’m not dropping acid. It beeps, really loudly, and this is what flashes across the screen: ERROR F:11 FOR SERVICE CALL 1-800-873-9736 (Editorial note: I made that number up because my memory is not that good. Contrary to popular belief.)
And the beeping is loud. I’m half deaf and a deep sleeper and the effing oven still wakes me up. So I stumble out of bed, hit the “Cancel” button, and it stops. And I shuffle back to bed.



Note: If you know why my oven is tormenting me in this manner and/or if you’re an oven-repair man, who also happens to read my blog, please come over to fix it. Alternatively, if you’re Andy Garcia, and you happen to be reading my blog, we can just sleep at your house, and then we won’t have to worry about the oven disturbing our lovemaking sleep.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Danger! Drought!

Of the many things I find humorous about living in North Carolina, one that stands out is this constant worry that we're in a major drought. Just this morning, on NPR, the local news was all about major water conservation! Action people! We're in a drought! Don't water your lawns (Editors Note: You don't have to because it rains...a lot.) And don't wash your cars! In fact, don't even do your laundry or take a shower because we're about to run out of water! And while you're at it, make sure you buy that there bottle'ed wata' from o'er there in South Carolin', 'cause we shoore don' wanna' use up our 'heay wata'.

Um, "y'all" don't know what a drought or dry weather is.

The grass here is GREEN in the summer. We actually have rain here (a lot of rain) in the summer. And half the state doesn't catch on fire every time we have a thunderstorm. Or anytime anyone even fantasizes about fireworks. I guess the Californian in me remains quite incredulous that people here panic if we don't surpass 40 inches of rain a year.

Here are some stats:
Average rainfall in Greensboro/Winston-Salem: 44.5 inches
Average rainfall in Seattle, WA: 37 inches
Average rainfall in Portland, OR: 37 inches
Average rainfall in San Luis Obispo, CA (the hometown in my heart): 24 inches

Am I making a point? We're not in a "drought," people. We're doing just fine. So please, by all means, take a shower.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Rules for living

I don't trust people who:

A. Don't drink coffee.

B. Liked high school.

C. Think all babies are cute.

D. Aren't at least a little cynical, most of the time.

Sum-yum

I have had something(s) to drink every single night this month. No, I’m not in college anymore. If I were at the docs office filling out one of those lame “medications and lifestyle” questionnaires, I’d have to pick option D below:
How many alcoholic beverages do you consume weekly?
a. 1-2
b. 3-4
c. 5-6
d. 7-8+

I’m blaming it on the Tour de France. It’s not good and proper to watch Le Tour without a cold Hooegarden in hand.*And you can’t drink just one—just like betcha can’t eat just one! of those Pringles things. Hoogarden has some sort of jig set up, whereby opening one beer automatically pops a hole into the bottle next to it, forcing you to drink both. Quickly. So I do. Quickly.
But I don’t have a “problem” per se, with the frosties, because I’m pretty convinced that at the end of this glorious summer month, I would check the 5-6 box, if queried.
It’s been a pleasant enough summer, I suppose. I’m mad that July is almost over, though, and not just because it will take away my excuse to drink every night. August means that the fall is coming, and with fall comes the dreaded “The Dropping of Leaves” as I like to call it. That’s the process whereby the beautiful, verdant trees in these southern parts suddenly shed their foliage, leaving me quite depressed for three months. I'm especially not excited about the dreaded Winter-season of '08 that's so quickly approaching. I can already feel the pre-flashbacks that will surely strike me in January of '09 as "The Anniversary" of my breakup occurs. How convenient. It will fall during the most depressing time of the year. I'm digressing. I think it's still July.

Even though I’m literally leeching my inner parts of all their salts and fluids every time I run, I will miss the humidity once the fall comes. There’s something just sickingly refreshing about sweating out a few liters of fluid during my weekend trail runs. I feel so sporty as I wring out my shorts at the end of my runs. Of course, the fact that my pee is highlighter 80s-era neon yellow for the next three days is a bit disturbing, but no matter.

On a totally unrelated note, I’m totally enamored with dresses right now. You know, those cotton-y, stretchy numbers that are all á la mode this summer? Maybe it’s because wearing a dress takes the guesswork out of trying match my clothes. Always a struggle. I just throw on one of the stretchies, a pair of shoes that my beloved dog hasn’t chewed, and I’m on my way. Plus, now that I’m officially getting old, I figure I should show off my legs while I still got ‘em.

*Also known as the best beer EVER.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Henry



This is Henry, the Bulldog. He's my ex-boyfriend's sister-in-law's dog, whom I'm dog-sitting for the next three days.
Don't ask. It's complicated.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Tour


The tour has begunnuth. I look forward to July all year because no matter how stressed or sad or whatever it is I’m feeling, if I’m watching a cycling race, my problems are suspended for those few hours.
This will be an interesting tour. No huge contenders. I’m sure doping scandals will erupt. They always do—even though the teams (American ones, at least) are taking extra precautions against doping. I’m predicting it will be the hypocritical French that get caught with the EPO bags stuffed in the trunk. Serves em right. They’re always in denial about their own drug problems. If you don’t believe me, Google “Richard Virenque.”
I haven’t yet picked a favorite. I’d love to see an underdog win—someone come up from out of the blue. Like last year—Contador gave life to a sordid drug mess.
Vive le tour.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Debating the 40

Yesterday, while doing a 3 ½ hour trail run, I felt inspired to consider doing the trail 40 instead of the trail marathon I did last year. Sometimes I don’t think clearly when I run (for example—I cannot for the life of me figure out my splits during a race—I’ll see mile marker signs, and I can’t multiply something as simple as 3 x 8), so I decided I should sleep on it and not take my sudden inspiration seriously until I was in a post-run state.
I still want to do it. I guess because I’m just so bloody happy when I’m trail running—if I enjoy the marathon distance, why not stretch it out to 40? I’m intrigued by the training part, because in all honesty, I enjoyed training for the marathon last year much more than the actual marathon. I just love blasting myself on long weekend runs.
And blasting I will. I looked up some Ultra training plans today, and they all recommend doing a lot of back-to-back long runs. So you’d do a 2-hour run on Saturday, followed by a 3-4 hour run on Sunday. And this continues, almost every weekend. During the week, you do 6-10 mile runs, with speedwork.
In contrast, the marathon plan I did last year just had a long run on Sunday, preceded by a short (6-8 miles) run on Saturday, so you didn’t go into your long run already tired. And, there were no 4 hour runs in the plan. Interestingly, for a 40 mile distance, they recommend that your longest run be about 25-26 miles. I would have thought longer.
So as long as my shins and feet hold up, I should be okay. Last year I was struggling with a bad foot, which I had surgery on the week after the marathon, so my training was somewhat limited. I’m hoping I won’t destroy the other foot in the process of training for this race. But, that’s the beauty about trails—much easier on the body than the road. You couldn’t pay me enough to try running 40 miles on the road.
I was looking at the results from last year, and the winning time was over 6 hours (about a 10 min/mile pace.) The 2nd and 3rd places were in the 7-8 hour range. But, when you see a 12-13 min/mile, you have to take into account that for a 40 miler, you’re probably going to make some stops, so the pace doesn’t actually reflect your real running time.
When I was biking, I think the longest ride I did was in the 7-8 hour range, so I know that I can sustain aerobic effort for a long time period. Now, granted—cycling for long periods of time is an entirely different thing than running for long periods, but still. It intrigues me.
I’m excited about having something to really focus on this summer. I’ve been thinking about the marathon, and how I want to improve my time over last year, so that's something to focus on, for sure. But now that I've got the 40 stuck in my head, I'm feeling a whole new sense of inspiration.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer is itchy

I'm basically a walking welt right now. I love summer, I really do, but to keep a nice balanced perspective on everything, I feel it best to pick something to complain about.

I have poison oak, and mosquito bites and I itch so f#(&@^9 bad right now. I keep Calamine lotion in my purse (right next to my checkbook and lipstick), so I'm really trying to be good and not scratch. But aghhhh, it's hard.

The poison oak I got last week. I foolishly did a trail run and didn't shower right when I got home. I woke up the next morning with the consequence. A whole week has gone by, and the stubborn rash won't go away. I do pretty well throughout the day not scratching (the Calamine lotion does help), but then at night, totally not my fault! I scratch in my sleep and even have dreams about scratching.

And mosquitos love me. Looooove me. Especially my ankles. Even though I militantly spray myself down with bug spray prior to stepping outside, they still bite me. Maybe I need the stuff that has more Deet. Cancer schmancer.

Why is it that mosquitos don't bite some people, but others they discriminately attack? I can be sitting next to someone, and he/she will have no bites, no harrassment; meanwhile, my blood is the last supper for a few ratty mosquitos. And my skin welts so bad from bites--I get some kind of reaction where instead of just a little, discreet pin-head size bump, I get welts the size of dollar bills.

Maybe I'll just wrap myself in mosquito netting and don that the rest of the summer.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Road bike blues




I miss my road bike. I’m thinking about buying a new one. Why did I sell my last one? I ask myself this frequently. It was a great bike—it fit me well, it was light, comfortable…all the good things. But, I wanted to upgrade my mt. bike, which I don’t regret—but I sold my road bike to help pay for it.

I miss bikes, a lot right now. When I lived in San Luis, bikes were my life. Seriously. My whole social life, my friends, my free time, all of our conversations revolved around...yup. Bikes. I hardly ever drove my car—there was no need. SLO is replete with bike lanes, and drivers are considerate to bikers (usually), so unless I was buying a ton of groceries, I rode one of my three commuters around town.

Back then, I had five bikes, which were all crammed in the kitchen/living room of my small apartment. At one point, I lived with another girl from my cycling team. Between the two of us, we had eight bikes in that apartment. It was kind of a mess. But we loved it.

For a while, one of my rides was a fixed-gear--this was before fixies were all trendy to ride in cities. Anyways, one day, my buddy Chris and I decided that we should ride a century on our fixies. Bad idea. Fortunately, we scrapped that plan after a 50-mile training ride on the fixies. We realized that knees are important in life. Fixies beat up your knees big-time because your legs never get a break.

My guy buddies and I would frequently go “street riding.” This consisted of riding our bikes around town and looking for concrete to jump off of. It often resulted in scraped knees/elbows/teeth. We also played our own version of bicycle polo. At first, we thought we were so clever—like we had invented the game. But then, I happened to be browsing the Internet, and lo and behold—it’s actually an official sport in some places, with registered leagues and rules. I preferred our rules. We used croquet mallets, and we would typically set up in a field, or sometimes, if we were feeling particularly invincible, a concrete basketball court. Goal posts were whatever we could find. Then, it was basically a free-for all. The only rule was that you had to have both feet on the pedals when hitting the ball or going after an opponent. Our version involved a lot of crashing into each other. And contusions. Beer was a great antiseptic for that.

And then there was the Beater Bash. (See pics: Pic 1: Serving of refreshments. Pic 2: Me with my protective gear. Pic 3: How we got the bikes to the top of Shooters.)The Beater Bash was an annual tradition that began after the police auction—when you could buy a cheap, trashed bike for cheap. The tradition was to drive to the top of Shooters, which is a pretty technical descent (flanked by cliff drop-offs, I might add), drink until you wouldn’t feel what was coming, and then descend into the abyss. Each year got a little crazier. The year I did it, the guys had resorted to duc-taping beer cans to their legs and top tubes—in case, you know, refreshments were needed for the trip down.
Three or four hours later, we would emerge into Poly Canyon, from Shooters. Mind you—Shooters is about a two-mile descent. Three or four hours could be considered an excessive amount of time to ride down, but considering how much alcohol was consumed at the top, it makes perfect sense. The point was to crash. A lot. And hopefully not feel it.

Some people tailgated in college. I live in the South now, where my office mates reminisce about football games and fantastic tailgating parties.

I reminisce about getting drunk and riding my bike down small cliffs.

And my dating life? Never a problem back then. The ratio was highly favorable for women in the biking world. I only dated cyclists. I'm still partial to guys with shaved legs and great calves.

So now I’m kind of a runner. My work schedule, location, convenience-issues, have all forced me to switch teams. But cycling will always, always be my first love—and, I’m hoping to re-kindle that flame by purchasing another road bike.

The Tour de France begins next month. July is my favorite time of year, for that reason. If I were President, or Queen, or whatever, I’d mandate that every able-bodied person get off his or her duff, commute to work/around town on bikes, and I’d make July an official holiday so that everyone could stay home and watch the tour.

That’s my official stump speech. If anyone asks.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dad


Today is Father's Day, and though I tend to be wary of holidays that seem to be invented for the purpose of selling cards, it does seem like an appropriate opportunity to write about my dad.

I'm a lucky girl. Truly. I have an awesome dad, and I know that I don't take enough time to appreciate that fact. I know many who are not so fortunate. My dad and I are close--always have been. Maybe it's the tomboy in me that relates to him. Even if he wasn't my dad, though, he's someone I would love to know and hang out with. I respect him enormously--his work ethic, his values, his success, his competitiveness, and his optimism. He is the most carefree man I've ever met--when he's really stressed, you rarely know. I wish, in many ways, I took after him more.

Living across the country can be tough sometimes--I miss seeing him, especially on days like today. Often, when I'm home, I find myself tagging along with him, his shadow. I watch him work on his boat, or I go watch his swim practice and linger for frozen yogurt at the end with him and his friends. I pester him to let me drive his car. I laugh when he lights his pipe and we tell my mom to lighten up when she complains about the smoke. We sit out on the patio in the evenings, drinking beers and looking at the stars.

My dad is the reason I got into cycling, and to this day, why I still love endurance events. Skiing, the ocean, dark beer, love of travel, non-fiction books, jazz, a good game of cards--all of this, comes from my dad. I cannot imagine the type of girl I would have turned out to be had he not been around.

So here's to you, dad.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Hobby Park

I discovered a new set of trails last night—and they’re close to my house. Finding new trails (and close by!) for me is a bit like finding 20 bucks on a sidewalk. It totally makes my day.
My buddy John (my friend Kelly’s husband) and I have been trying to get in a good mt. bike ride at least once a week, and though I’ve heard of Hobby Park, I had yet to explore the trails there.
I love, love mt. biking. Esp. the east coast “style,” which is quite different from the mt. biking I had become accustomed to when I lived in San Luis Obispo. In SLO, we had wonderful, long climbs, good singletrack—and very technical (translation: super rocky) trails, so it was a great place to learn. Out here, parks with rooty, twisty singletrack abound. I like Hobby so much because it’s more technical than a lot of the trails close by here—lots of short steep climbs, followed by steep rooty downhills. The potential and probability that I’m going to eat it, hard, out there, is quite high. They’re the type of trails that you can pick up a lot of speed on, which you enjoy quite a bit, until you realize there’s a super sharp turn ahead, flanked by trees. Thank God for disc brakes.
So that’s it. I just wanted to say that I found some new trails and I’m quite pleased. Long live singletrack.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Oh, tequila





For Cinco de Mayo, that holiday that’s about as significant to Mexicans, as, say Columbus Day is to Americans, I had a party. I didn’t know I was going to have a party until, oh, Saturday night. At a bar, where many good ideas are born, Kelly and I decided that we needed to gather our friends together to drink margaritas. And tequila. So I sent out a very informal note to my work friends and running friends on Sunday night, and it was official.
About 20 of us crammed into my small house. I had never mixed my running friends with my work friends, and, interestingly, even with all of those margaritas, people remained segregated. But we had a blast—esp. when the tequila shots began. My running buddies, Diego and Fernando, brought “lo autentico” tequila from Mexico. This was not tequila you dared mix with syrupy pre-made margarita mix. So we began devising reasons to shoot our cups back and came up with multiple toasts that seemed worthy of a shot.
The night is kind of a blur after that.
But as it wound down, and my work friends began leaving (it was, after all, a Monday night), the Salsa music got turned up on my stereo, and we salsa-ed until we were worn out. I remembered, quite quickly, why I enjoyed my time in Ecuador and Costa Rica so much—the dancing men.
Ambitiously, Diego, Fernando, Kelly and I made it to our Tuesday tempo run the next evening--and surprisingly, we ran it really fast--it was my fastest time on that route. So maybe that tequila had some magic properties that enhance running. We'll have to revisit soon.
So I’ll post pictures soon. It was a fabulous Cinco de Mayo.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

SATC marathon

Some girlfriends and I are currently in the middle of a Sex and the City marathon. We’re trying to watch all of the seasons before the movie comes out in late May. There are a lot of episodes to go through—it takes a lot of planning to get the four of us together, and a lot of wine is consumed during each showing.
Ironically, I never watched SATC when it was on HBO. Mostly that was due to the fact that I rarely had a TV during my college years (and still don’t.) I first started watching it a few years ago when one of my roommates had some of the seasons on DVD. I found myself becoming strangely addicted to the world of Miranda, Carrie, Charlotte and Samantha. Their world was, and is, so completely different from mine (and their philosophies on sex), but the topics? I could, and do, relate.
So right now, the girls and I are in the middle of season three, which so far is my favorite. I’m most intrigued by Carrie and Big’s relationship. Other men come into her life--most notably Aidan--who treats her wonderfully, and is emotionally available, but she can’t shake her addiction to Big—even after he gets married, and they begin an affair. You watch it and you think, you idiot! Why are you risking a great relationship with a man who loves you for a man who is cheating on his wife to be with you, and who, when he was with you, treated you like s#*&? But I get it, however nonsensical it may seem.
Why do certain men make a woman throw out her good sense, when she knows he’s going to hurt her? Is it the rejection/still want you back element? Hard to get? The competitive factor? Or is it just simply that some men you have a connection with, and it is rare, and you realize that every other man after him will never measure up? I suppose such scenarios comprise the plot of every good love story every written.
So I’m looking forward to every get-together, when we settle in and drink our wine and watch the escapades of the four New York women. We can relate to their fears, feel--well-- slightly shocked, by some of their adventures, and even though it’s a fictional world we’re observing, it too often parallels real life to be fake.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Home Sweet Home

I returned, late, last night from a week vacation in Oregon. I stayed at my brother’s, in Hood River, with my parents. My goal was to get in as much skiing as I could, but I realized that skiing is addicting only when there are others to share it with. The one day I had no one to ski with, I only made it half day. The thrill of bombing down the steep slopes quickly diminished when there was no one to chase, or no one to follow. But the other two days were glorious—my best friend John drove up the first day, and the next day I tagged along with some of my brother’s friends.

This is how I know I’m getting older: the day after skiing with John, my back muscles were so sore I could hardly walk. Now, granted, John and I didn’t ski “light.” He’s a fantastic skier, and I’m competitive and like speed, so we did laps on the steepest runs, until we were so exhausted that a beer and chips sounded better than one final thigh-burning blaze down the mountain. It was wonderful to see him again. We’ve been friends since third grade, and ours is the sort that resumes as if no time at all has passed between visits.

I had been curious to check out Hood River and Mt. Hood; my brother and sister-in-law love it there, and I’ve read positive reviews about the trail systems there. So in addition to good skiing the area has good singletrack—that’s a recipe for a place I could live.
The timing for my visit was appropriate, as suddenly, my future is more open to possibilities. I’m no longer tied here by a relationship, and I just found out last week that the account I work on at my job is in review, meaning if we lose it, we lose a third of our business, so my job security may not be as bright as I had hoped. Anyways, I was curious to explore Hood to determine if it’s a place I could live.
It’s not.

It is lovely there. The mountains and orchards are stunning. There’s a whole mountain range that looks very similar to the San Luis Obispo mountains that I adore, and the town is clearly full of athletic, Subaru-driving folk. But it’s not North Carolina. Maybe I didn’t realize how deeply I love it here until I seriously entertained the thought of moving.

For one thing, Hood River doesn’t have much job potential. I could get a job there, but I wouldn’t make much, and I certainly couldn’t afford a home for a while. I love being able to afford a home here, even without a big income.

There’s something about this area of North Carolina that has a tight hold on me. I love how orderly it is, the cleanliness, the beautiful green, and my freedom here. I don’t live in the shadow of anyone, or any memories. I have made deep friendships. I have trails to run on, no traffic to contend with, and a routine that gives me peace. Even with my job security in question, there are other agencies around. And being across the country has taught me this: I’m more confident of what I can get through. I have been tested, and the events that I thought would flatten me have made me reach deeper. My family is far away, and I like the independence that comes with having to depend on myself when life gets wrinkly.
There are certainly advantages to living close to family, and if I had children, maybe I’d feel differently, but right now, a plane trip across the country a few times a year isn’t a bad thing. I’ve learned to be more resourceful without family support to lean on.

I don’t see myself staying in Winston-Salem long term, but I really love Greensboro, which is just a half-hour drive away (and, conveniently, home to the trails I run on), and Raleigh is a great town. Both possibilities have much more appeal than trying to move across the country again. Especially now that I actually own furniture.

So I feel very much at peace with the fact that I’ve seen Hood River and checked it off my list. It helped, of course, awaking here this morning to blossoming trees and white and pink buds replacing the grayness of the winter trees. Spring here is so indescribably beautiful that being outside temporarily washes away any doubts or hurts I may be carrying.
So no regrets. I’m so glad I moved here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Trail-ation

I haven’t done a solo trail run for a long time, so this past weekend’s run was especially satisfying. Typically on the weekends, I run with my dear friends Kelly and John—well, Kelly and I run together, John runs way ahead, but we figure out which trails we’re going to do, pile in the car, run, eat, drive home. It’s a good routine. So on Saturday, with them out of town, I drove out to the Greensboro trails for my own run.

I typically prefer group runs when I’m on the road. Road running is okay—I do it almost every evening, and I definitely enjoy it, and I’m, well, okay, addicted. So with great trails a 40-minute drive away, I settle for the convenience of the road and meet up with my running group after work. But for me, comparing road running to trail running is like comparing grape juice to wine. I like grape juice. It's sweet and healthy, but wine--wine--is literally and figuratively intoxicating. Trail running is my wine.

So given the opportunity, I’d run on trails every day.
Trail running and mountain biking are very similar: I prefer to be alone—usually. I listen to my music, I concentrate on the roots and twisty singletrack, and I let go.

So back to Saturday’s run. I was feeling quite, well, sprightly, so I filled my camelback with water, packed two energy bars, and set off for a three-hour run. I cannot describe the feeling of contentment that it gave me. I know to some it may seem odd that the highlight of my week is a three-hour run, but it was absolutely fantastic. I usually try to pick up the pace on the last third of the run, and this time, I felt like a kid playing in the trees. Just running, dodging branches, celebrating how good it feels to be physical.

I’m not training for anything right now, specifically, so I really don’t know why I feel compelled to put in so many weekend miles, except for the sheer reason that it’s good for my soul.
And that, I believe, is the best reason of all.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cooking is healing

Right now, the thing that brings me the most joy is cooking for people. I love having people in my kitchen, chatting, while I slice vegetables and sip wine. And the dinner, of course, eating together and conversing. I love the feeling of feeding friends, and in that act, orchestrating community.
I’ve always enjoyed dinner parties, but lately, I find I need them. And, fortunately, my friends oblige and lend me their company and appetites.
With my new food philosophy (I’m trying to eat only whole foods, not packaged, preservative-heavy foods) cooking takes on a different meaning and care. Cooking is now an act of assembling dishes that not just taste good, but are made from fresh ingredients, preferably organic, and ideally local.

My preferred soundtrack right now for dinner parties: Jack Johnson’s new CD (he continues to impress me with his music) and all of Jack’s soundtracks to his surfing movies—Thicker than Water, A Brokedown Melody, and The September Sessions. The mellow vibes make for a fantastic background.

I've been experimenting with more meat dishes--I've never been much of a meat eater, and cooking it always intimidated me, but I'm finding it surprisingly simple to make. My favorites so far have been lamb coated with garlic and rosemary, and a peppercorn steak recipe that I attempted. My secret? Cooks Illustrated, which is a monthly magazine (I've bought one of the cookbooks that has all of the annual recipes)that shows you, scientifically, how to cook. They test hundreds of techniques and recipes before presenting the "winner," and the steps are explained in a way that makes perfect sense. It's a rather foolproof way to cook.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Myrtle Beach weekend



I spent this past weekend in Myrtle Beach with a big group of girls from my running group, and predictably, we ran. We competed in the Myrtle Beach Relay Marathon, which was quite fun. I’ve never done a relay before, but I quite enjoyed it. (Save for the last mile.) We divided it up into chunks of five miles, with the last being a 6.2 mile leg. Since there were only four girls on my team, our best runner, Sarah, ran 10 miles.

Almost as fun as hanging out around so many athletic people (I think there were 11,000 entrants?) was the navigating-to-our tradeoff spots. Many roads were closed, so it was more like orienteering as we found our way to each spot, deposited a runner and picked one up. The weather was beautiful for running—in the 60s. Well, okay, by the time it was my leg to run, it was in the 60s.

I haven’t done a 10k since September, pre-surgery, and I was disappointed/okay with the fact that my time was exactly the same. I suppose it’s okay because I did take a few months off, but, I just feel faster right now, so I was hoping for a better time.
I did feel slightly guilty passing so many true marathoners, who had run 20 + miles by the time I was beginning my first. I remember being totally demoralized at the trail marathon I did when relay-ers would pass because it was never entirely clear if they were running the relay or the full thing.
I’m rambling.

Mostly, it was great to get out of Winston and away from a very bad week. I spent time with girls I really enjoy being around, danced in a rather, um…typical Myrtle Beach club, and drank enough to make it fun to dance in said club.
For those of you who don’t know, Myrtle Beach isn’t exactly a “classy town.” No, try over-touristy tacky strip malls, big hotels, and the token “Planet Hollywood” restaurant town. But no matter. It was a good weekend.

And now it’s Monday. I’m getting through it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A difficult undertaking


I’m reading a most excellent book right now: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. Normally, I’m not much of an alarmist when it comes to reading books that expose industries. I will generally feel brief shock, but commence on my merry way with little lifestyle/habit changes. Even after reading Fast Food Nation, I felt disgusted about the thought of eating fries or hamburgers again, and though I rarely, rarely eat fast food, I do confess to still ordering fries. Pollan has me thinking differently.
Pollan exposes the corn industry. I won’t do a full book review here, because he goes so in-depth that I couldn’t do his research justice, but Pollan artfully exposes how the majority of our food is corn-product laden, thanks to generous corn subsidies and industry giants Cargill and ADM. He also goes in-depth on the meat-processing and farming industries.
We were not designed to eat processed, chemicalized corn-processed food, in the quantities that we do. Nor were the cattle we eat. They should be eating grass; not forced to consume mass quantities of corn when they reach the feedlots. A good portion of this country’s health problems can be traced back to high fructose-corn syrup, copious amounts of corn-fattened beef, and food composed of chemicals that only chemists can decipher.

Here’s the tragedy: Finding relatively un-processed, non corn-product containing food is a difficult undertaking. Americans, alone, suffer this obstacle, though we’re rapidly spreading our food processing techniques elsewhere. Even so-called “organics” are stuffed with corn by-products and now controlled by behemoth companies.

The best I’ve ever felt, and the most nutritious, consistent diet I’ve had, occurred when I spent a summer in Costa Rica. My daily eats consisted of black beans and rice, florescent tropical fruits, and rich coffee. I rarely ate meat, occasionally splurged on fish. My diet was wholesome, genuine, and pure. I did not feast on an amalgamation of ingredients from various regions. I ate locally and traditionally.
I’ve also felt/ate great while traveling in Europe. Switzerland and Germany, in particular. Local dairies produce the milk and yogurt products. You see the actual cows grazing on, shockingly, grass! Artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and stripped grains are not main ingredients in food. Local bakeries produce bread, not General Mills. (I'm being simplistic with that statement: of course there are large mills, and American products, but it is just as easy to come by locally baked products.) People eat the way they have for centuries, and though they may consume large amounts of cheese and butter, the purity of their food, and the fact that they walk to their destinations, contributes to their healthier lifestyle.

I’m feeling pronounced sadness reading Pollan’s book. I find it shameful how ignorant most of us are about what goes into our food. I find it alarming that it is so hard now to find pure, unadulterated food—even in so-called “healthy” products. Seeing so many overweight people around, mindlessly consuming plastic-encased “food,” is a shame. As a society, we’ve gotten incredibly off-course on one of life’s greatest pleasures: eating wholesome, locally grown food, exercising and strengthening our bodies, and respectfully growing food in ways that are sustainable and humane to animals and the environment. I love my country, but I hate the type of consumers we’ve become.

So here’s how I’m changing: I’m making an honest effort to eat wholesome food. I’ve gone back to the rice and beans that sustained me in Costa Rica. I buy plain, organic yogurt, fruits and vegetables that are in-season, bread from local bakeries, and most of all, I read labels. I want to see a minimum of ingredients on labels, and if corn-products in processed form grace the label, I put it back.
I find that grocery shopping is taking much longer. Even pasta sauces—high-fructose corn syrup. Most “whole-grain” breads. Yup, corn syrup. It’s everywhere.
I find that I’m not even tempted right now to eat candy around the office or put jam on my bagels. The artificiality of it all disgusts me.
Food is so essential to cultures, customs, unity, and bonding. Trying to eat well is a challenge, and I don’t want my new habits to alienate me from those I love and rituals I enjoy. But I will proceed cautiously and mindfully, eating food that is as un-processed as possible.

T&J do NYC






I spent four fantastic days in NYC with my sister last week. It was my first trip to the city. She’s a bit of a city veteran, so she guided us to the best bagel shops, restaurants, and sights. I loved the energy, the expansive forever-ness of buildings, and the ingenuity of a city so large. We shopped in fantastic consignment shops, ate flavorful ethnic food, and walked our legs off. We got caught in a deluge on our way across the Brooklyn Bridge. We were too soaked and freezing to continue, even with the promise of pizza on the other side, so we caught a sub and made our way back to the hotel for dry clothes.
It was fantastic to spend four days with my sister, whom I rarely see, due to us living on other sides of the country.
It will definitely not be my last trip to the city.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A little piece of Europe





I’ve begun a new habit: Stopping at Ollie’s Bakery on my way to work for a soy Au Lait and French Roll. Ollie’s is as close to a European bakery as they come on this side of the pond. Truly. Their selections are small, but the breads are crafted in the European tradition, and each morning, there’s a new rotation of specialties: croissants, scones, popovers, long baguettes, round floured bâtards. I adore bakeries—not pastry bakeries, but true bread bakeries. Ollie’s gets it.
I’ve had a flair for baking for the past four years. I began tentatively experimenting with plain, yeasted loaves, and gradually moved on to sourdoughs, foccacias encased with garlic, and French doughs that need days of maturation before they can be baked. I secretly desire a brick oven in my back yard, just for bread baking.
“Give us this day our daily bread” is my mantra. I would happily survive on just bread—but I mean good, quality, European-style breads. I love baking them, eating them, and inhaling the aromas.
Which is why I love Ollie’s. Conveniently, Ollie’s is on my way to work, and I’ve gotten to the point where they know exactly what I want, as soon as I come in. I hand them my mug, and they make me the perfect Au Lait. I buy my little French Roll, for $.85 cents, and my day takes on a better feel.
For some reason, that simple act—stopping in for good coffee and bread, starts my day off just right.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Winston-SalArctica

Okay. I’m sick of the cold. I am craving sunshine, leaves on the trees, humidity. I cannot believe I ever complained about it being “too hot.” Ha. It is currently the same temperature here, in Winston-Salem, NORTH CAROLINA as it is in Moscow, RUSSIA. What the hell?
I can take a few days of cold, the single snow day. It’s kind of fun. Novel. But we’re going on week 3 of temps in the teens-30 degrees. We’ve had snow. Today it’s freezing rain. Enough already.
I know that in places such as the Northeast, or Midwest, our current temps could be considered balmy. I specifically did not move to those regions because of their definition of “balmy.” I moved to temperate NC.
I’ve commenced running again, which is fantastic, and my foot feels far better than it did pre-surgery. However, running in the cold isn’t my favorite pastime.
So, Mr. Sunshine, come back and visit us. I miss you.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

There's too much candy in this place

At work, I sit right near the giant Jelly Belly jar. The jar is never empty—it is constantly refilled, courtesy of office management. Below the Jelly Belly jar is a drawer full of mini chocolate bars—also refilled consistently, courtesy of the management.
At times, I’m quite grateful for the endless supply of sugar around the office. Sometimes, chocolate helps me through my day like nothing else can. Other times, I’m not a fan of the endless sweets. For one, it’s entirely too tempting to pass the jelly beans without grabbing a few. Secondly, I’m sure my teeth (and my bum) would appreciate it if I’d lay off the suga’.
I have horrible self-control (as in, barely none), when it comes to sweets. I like quality sweets, though: decadent ice cream, dark chocolate, and—not so quality, perhaps: cookie dough. But around here, I satisfy my craving with itty-bitty, odd flavored jelly beans.
Sometimes, I like to convince myself that they’re catabolic. I think I heard somewhere that Jelly Bellys only have, like, 6 calories per bean. Surely it takes 6 calories to digest one bean?
Somebody—take them away…

In totally unrelated news, check out Sara Tavares. She's a singer/songwriter from Portugal, but her music is infused with African/island rythyms. Her voice is soulful and smooth, and the beats behind her voice definitely ring of island influences.
She's lovely. Much better than jelly beans.