(Half) Marathon Reflection Monday & Other Stuff

WELCOME TO CHRISTMAS TIME!

I will be the first to admit that for me, Christmas time started right after Halloween.  I’ve been watching those high quality holiday movies on the Hallmark Channel, listening to Christmas music, and plotting ways to make this year’s holiday season the best ever.

Aaron has very politely indulged me, even giving up his Saturday nights to watch Eloise at Christmastime and not getting mad when I switch his Pandora station to Christmas music.

But now, my Christmas cheer is completely socially acceptable.  Thanksgiving is over, so I can prance around in Christmas happiness without fear that some Bah Humbug will squash my dreams.  However, I still haven’t put up a tree unlike everyone on Instagram/facebook.  We’re real tree people, so we always wait until December to make sure it doesn’t look dead by Christmas. I’d like to think this makes me slightly less crazy.

Meanwhile, on the running/half marathon training front, things have been going ok.

On Thursday my whole family (aside from my mom who was busy on Operation Thanksgiving Dinner duty) ran our Turkey Trot 5-K.   A few weeks ago I was thinking I was going to use this race as my attempt at a sub 21.  But I got out on that course, fell into a solid 7:00-7:15 pace, and was feeling really good.  I remember what it felt like for me the one time I did hit 21:05, and I decided I didn’t really want to get that awful sick feeling again.  So, I didn’t.  Maybe not the most competitive thing I could have done, but I’m ok with it.  I dread 5-K’s more than anything, and I don’t want to anymore.  I came in at 22:18 (7:10 average pace).  Still better than my last few 5-K times, and definitely a confidence booster than I can run 13.1 miles at a 7:15 pace in a couple of months.  Plus, I think this is my first ever 5-K that didn’t make me want to hurl.

To celebrate the amazing weather we’ve been having (still in the low 60’s during the day) we decided to get one more climb up our mountain on the La Luz Trail.  Typically the top is snow covered and dangerous by late November.  It is a little sad that our weather is so dry that we don’t have any snow on our mountain but it made for perfect hiking conditions. This hike is about 8 miles up a 3,600 elevation gain.  My dad and sister made their way up for the first time!

Yesterday’s long run was a little harder than it should have been after the climb up a mountain.  We had 8 miles on the schedule, so we headed to the most flat course we could find, and knocked them out.  I had an average pace of about 8:38, so I was going a just bit faster than last week.  And definitely minutes faster than I was running a year ago.  I felt pretty fatigued, my face got sunburn, and after we finished, my calves tightened up to a point suggesting I’d run much harder/faster than I really did.  I spent the morning doing some intense rehabbing just to get myself back to walking like a normal person.  But definitely on track with where I want to be right now.

On the non-running front, I’m pretty sure I did something very close to swimming last week! I’m working on a breathing rhythm, and after a few failed attempts (and lots of inhaled water through the nose…very yucky feeling), I think I’m getting the hang of it. I’m hoping that with a few more lessons, I’ll at least be able to not look like a drowning abomination on Indoor Tri Day!

Otherwise, our Thanksgiving week was pretty normal:  I baked! (gluten free pumpkin snicker-doodles), two dinners with two families, late night Black Friday shopping, football watching (GO GIANTS!!!), and planning my annual gingerbread house (you can see last year’s HERE).

We’ll take some of that turkey, please!

Muppet Christmas Carol is a Thanksgiving tradition.

Aaron is obviously adopted

Macy’s at about 1:00 am. 

Hope everyone is having a minimally painful Monday!

P.S….there *may* be a giveaway coming later this week! (And by may, I mean I’ve already agreed to do one in exchange for free stuff, so…)

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Oh…I Didn’t Think You Were Serious About that Green Shake Thing…

You THOUGHT I was kidding when I mentioned green shakes yesterday.

(I’m not going to lie…I was kind of hoping I was too, but nope).

Aaron has been reading ultra marathoner Scott Jurek”s book Eat and Run and has decided that we are going to start trying some of his crazy so-healthy-it’s-scary recipes.

He looks like he knows what he’s talking about…right?

So, he made a list on a billion little post it notes (we have far more appropriate list  making paper, but whatever) and we headed on what turned out to be a health food expedition to Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Smiths (our Kroger store).  This shopping trip took us a really long time because we had no idea where to find most of these things like miso (tip, not in the Asian food aisle).

I like chocolate chips! 

We also ran into my uncle at Whole Foods who I thought lived in Boulder, Co (?).  He and his wife (who are experimenting with true barefoot running) have been vegan for about 15 years.  He knew all about Scott Jurek’s book and I think he seemed pleased that we were picking up an entire bag of quinoa (I left out the cheesy enchiladas I ate for lunch yesterday).  And apparently he’s working here (living in my neighborhood) and flies home to Boulder ever weekend.  So that was an unexpected run-in.

Anyway, Scott Jurek uses a lot of weird stuff in his food.  What the heck is a aduki bean? And spirulina powder? I can’t say that it smells very good, although Giuseppe seems to dig it. A quick google search tells me it is green algae.  YUM.

We got a whole wheat grass garden! It comes like a chunk of sod. 

So, why am I subjecting myself to this?

Apparently it aids in weight loss, is an excellent source of protein (good for building muscles), boosts the immune system, and is an excellent source of nutrition for endurance runners.

I guess we’ll see.

If you too would like to have your algae boost in the morning, here is the recipe straight from Jurek:

  • 2 bananas
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh mango or pineapple chunks
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons spirulina powder
  • 1 teaspoon miso

Aaron also added in wheat grass.

In honor of Halloween, I have deemed this Green Monster Juice!

Bottom’s up! (For the record, it actually tastes pretty good).

Ponds, Other Sides of Ponds, National Tequila Day, and Beating Boys

Happy Wednesday!

This morning I was watching The Today Show being broadcast from London, so not only am I getting super excited for the Olympics, but all this talk about England is also making me want to buy some Burberry and watch Harry Potter with Duchess Kate while eating fish and chips.  Is that too much to ask???

I have never been to Europe (and I pretty much refuse to have children until I do go), so my London envy is a little out of control right now.

Meanwhile, on this side of the pond…

We actually developed our own makeshift backyard pond yesterday thanks to a torrential downpour and a lightning storm directly above our house (for about 15 minutes, the lightning and thunder were coming at the exact same time).  It has been a few years since I remember it raining this much.  I’m almost at the point where I’m not as excited about it everyday.  ALMOST.  Please bear with this poor desert dweller and her excitement over rain.

And yesterday, in case you missed it as I did until about 2:00 pm, was National Tequila Day.  I love that my husband will jump up from the couch upon hearing news like that and proceed to the grocery store for margarita mix so we can celebrate! Because what kind of Americans would we be if we had knowledge of such a national holiday and chose NOT to celebrate?  We’re also been inspired by Mad Men to build up our liquor collection (for display purposes and also for when Roger Sterling visits and requests a glass of whatever on the rocks), so we bought a very big bottle of tequila at Costco the other day.  This *should* last us a few years.  Maybe.  Also used our RnRAZ shot glass.  In just a few short months I can fill it to the “26.2” level and not feel unworthy!

And because this is mostly a running blog…

Yesterday I had a fantastic tempo run.  Definitely my strongest yet.  It is extraordinarily satisfying to have some macho man think that he can catch up with me because I’m 5 feet tall and decked out in pink and sparkle headbands only to hear his footsteps slowly fade in the background!  He also got an especially smug smirk as I turned around to go back home.  Never gets old.

However, I’m having some IT band annoyance again and the heel was bugging me again last night. Maybe a bit of karma for the smug smirk?  I was hopeful because everything was holding up through the mileage this weekend. Today is a recovery day (we’ll probably do 4 miles on the elliptical), so hopefully the break along with my rehabbing will allow everything to calm down.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful day!

Bitterness Toward the Snow that Infringed Upon my Sunshine

(UPDATE: Since posting this, reports of two devestating tornadoes hitting Dallas have surfaced.  Obviously this makes my weather complaints a little overdramatic.  I hope all of you Dallas peeps are ok.  My thoughts are with you).

I knew it was too good to be true.

The last two weeks have been perfect with none of the typical March wind.  Just glorious, perfect 75-80 degree sunshine. We’ve dined al fresco, brought out the summer clothes, and put bad thoughts about the mean cold behind us.

{Taken less than 48 hours ago when we sat outside in our summer clothes at the winery}

Because the weather had been so nice,  last weekend we went to Lowe’s and went a little plant crazy. Aaron let out his inner farmer and got all sorts of veggie seeds, and I pretended that we didn’t live in the barren desert and bought some tropical plants for the yard (if you water them enough it should work, right?).

{Only appropriate that I have a lavender plant I think}

Last summer was kind of a garden dud.  Albuquerque had one of the coldest winters on record after a few weeks of warm (in other words, plants came out of hibernation and then froze to death) followed by one of the driest summers on record (we had no moisture for about 3 months straight and when it did rain, it was more of a spit).  Plus, we had  just gotten a puppy whose whole purpose in the dog world is to dig out mice from the ground (but really, he’ll dig holes for any reason). So, not only did we not have a garden, but whatever plants/trees we did have pretty much decided to head to the great big nursery in the sky.

But this year was different.  We were going to have an amazing backyard and host amazing backyard parties, and everything would be perfect. 

But the weather decided to throw us for a loop.

We’ve been watching the temperature closely these last few days.  Since Sunday night, the highs have dropped about 20 degrees, but the lows were staying in the high 30’s. I figured we (and our little veggies) would be ok.

All was good until I woke up this morning to SNOW!

Not just a few flakes here and there.  This by far is the most snow we’ve had all year.

I went into full on panic mode this morning and did a frantic rescue effort.  I ran outside in whatever clothes I found first on the floor (sorry you had to see that, neighbor lady).  The tomatoes, ferns, and strawberries got hauled inside.  The veggie garden got covered with every spare blanket and towel I could find.  Poor Giuseppe even had to sacrifice his blanket to the cause (he wasn’t too happy about it).   

Then, after trying to organize the frizzy hair mess into a bun, I had to pull out some winter weather gear (my body did not like the idea of being stuffed into skinny jeans and boots after living in skirts and dresses) while trying to stop Giuseppe from eating the plants that are  now taking up my living room.

Our run tonight might be very muddy and cold.  I’m already dreading it.  And making up excuses to sit on the couch with some soup and a snuggly blanket…if only they weren’t all keeping the lettuce sprouts warm.

And if this wasn’t crazy enough, tomorrow is supposed to be back up to 70.

DUMB.

Also dumb are my protective instincts toward plants. 

And, in case you were wondering, I didn’t win the lotto (or even get two right numbers on the same ticket).  If I had, I would be at some lovely beach resort instead of blogging during lunch in winter wonderland.  I’m pretty bitter toward machine generated lotto numbers right about now.  Guess I’ll have to buy that DeLorean some other day.

Drinking Wine, Playing with the Camera, and Pot Shopping

Saturday was National Drink Wine Day!

I honestly don’t know how such an important holiday went under my radar for this long (though it is quite possible that this was the first ever National Drink Wine Day), but luckily I was informed with enough time to celebrate adequately. 

Would I have drunk some wine on Saturday anyway?  Most likely.  Is drinking wine more fun when you are obligated by decree of a national holiday? I think yes.

Saturday was one of the nicest days Albuquerque has seen since fall.  We had blue skies, perfect springtime temperatures, and no wind (unlike today). 

We started out the day with a 6 mile kick-off run. After a month-long break, we have a 10 miler in March and a half-marathon in April to start getting ready for.

Then we headed to our favorite winery hangout, Casa Rondena (where we did our grape harvest and stomp last September), did a quick tasting, then shared a bottle of Meritage in the vineyard. 

The property is beautiful (well, right now the vines themselves aren’t so fabulous). Almost like having a little bit of Napa here in the desert. A friend is thinking about doing her wedding here which will be quite lovely.

I sat back and enjoyed the afternoon while Aaron fiddled with our camera, experimenting with different colors, soft focus, and who knows what (two months after getting the camera, I’m still using auto setting).  I asked him to figure out how to make retro looking pictures.  I think we’re getting closer. At least we’re more aware of the possibilities. Someday, we will understand what all those little icons mean.

{Auto -Setting Aaron}

{Soft-Focus Amy}

{Warm-Toned Amy}

{High-Contrast Amy}

{High Speed Wine Pouring}

{Playing with shadows}

This morning when we were downloading the pictures onto the computer, we noticed that there was a smudge on our lense.  So almost every picture has a little blurry spot. Either that, or we had a little winery ghost following us around. In any case, picture-taking fail.

{HUGE left hand side smudge}

After visiting the winery, Aaron was in a good mood.  I was happily surprised when he pulled into the Jackalope parking lot and offered to buy me a pot for our living room.

A couple of January’s ago, in order to fill the Christmas Tree void, we bought a palm tree type plant, but it has been living in an uninspired, plastic, planter. I’ve been talking about getting a prettier one for a while.

Jackalope is the perfect place to go pot shopping because they have a huge selection.  Plus, you can pretend to be a cultured tourist browsing in a foreign Mercado (they have “global” music blaring in the background) but without the ability to bargain over the price. 

I’m in love with our new pot.  It has just the right amount of imperfections to make it charmingly authentic, and I think it fits well in our living room.

So this weekend has me excited for Springtime.  Being able to hang out outside on a Saturday afternoon and enjoying the New Mexico landscape only made me more anxious for warmer weather.  But first, we’ll have to deal with a few more months of unpredictable storm systems and lots of wind.

A Lovely Christmas Weekend

December 26th is one of the worst days of the year.

The radio stations have stopped playing Christmas music.  Everywhere, people are (prematurely in my opinion) taking down their lights from their houses.  The presents have been opened.  The cookies have been eaten, and now I just feel fat. 

And the weather is cold.  Around Christmas, it is acceptable.  Now, I’m miserable and so ready for Springtime.

At least I have the memories of this weekend to reminisce on.

Friday night we had our friends over for a small gathering.  Our signature “Poinsettia Cocktail” slightly based off a Martha Stewart recipe was a big hit! (Vodka, cranberry juice, Martinelli’s, and orange zest). 

Saturday night we took Giuseppe and walked around the Ridgecrest neighborhood to see the traditional New Mexico luminarias. Ridgecrest is a very charming old neighboorhood, and the medians are lined with little bags of light.  It was pretty cold, but definitely worth it!

Sunday, Christmas Day, bright and early, we went over to my parents’ house (in our Christmas pajamas) for presents, brunch, and the Disney Christmas Parade.  Then we went to Aaron’s aunt’s house (after changing out of our pajamas of course) for Christmas dinner and board games. 

Instead of buying each other gifts, Aaron and I opted to each put in half toward a fancy Canon Rebel EOS T3i camera.  (Silly Aaron bought me something anyway which was against the rules!). I am amazed at the difference in picture taking between this camera and our little old one.  I suddenly feel like a real photographer!  I am a little intimidated by it though.  So many settings and options that I don’t understand.

We were able to get some pretty good pictures of our Christmas weekend, even if we did stay pretty much on the automatic setting!

Tomorrow, it’s back to work, back to a diet that isn’t completely cookie-based, and back to our half-marathon training regimen.  Today’s 11.1 mile run was a little torturous after all the merriment.

I hope you had a lovely and merry Christmas, that you got to spend time with family and friends, and got everything your heart desired!

Eve of Christmas Eve! (And a Completed Gingerbread House)

In the word’s of one of my favorite literary heroines, Eloise, “It’s the Eve of Christmas Eve!”

I discovered this year that The Plaza Hotel unveiled their Eloise tree, designed by the Queen of whimsy, Betsey Johnson.  AMAZING!

In other news, I finished my Gingerbread house this morning! This will mark the first year since 2007 that I actually followed through the whole project.  Aaron will be happy that no miscellaneous gingerbread parts will be laying around the kitchen until April.  He’ll get a fully constructed house instead!

I baked and constructed and frosted and decorated, and ate a lot of raw gingerbread dough (and fondant) along the way.

I kept taking pictures of the progress, afraid that I would come home from work to find it collapsed and lost forever and we’d have another year of an unfinished product.

But, after 6 days of waking up at 5:30 a.m. to work on it, working on it during my lunch hour (and returning to work covered in flour), and spending every waking hour since Saturday morning working on it, I am finally finished!

Now I have to go be a good little elf and clean/bake non-gingerbread things/cook/shop/wrap presents/frolic (run) in the snow/sing Christmas songs loudly to spread Christmas cheer/and of course get the obligatory Christmas mani/pedi!

Only 2 days until Christmas!

(Is everyone else this excited?!?!)

 

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Can you believe it?

In one week from now, the Christmas parties will be over, the presents will be opened, the cookies will have been eaten, and the magic, engery, and excitement will be fading.  I’m trying really hard not to think about it because it makes me sad.

So until then, I plan to cram as much Holiday Cheer as possible into my hours.

We’ve made our wine stop at our favorite winery, Casa Rodena, which was decorated for Christmas!

My house is finally all decorated.

The Christmas shopping is *almost* done.  I only have 1 more thing left to buy. Aaron on the other hand hasn’t even started…. (typical).

The Christmas cards have been sent.  And thanks to my mom the photographer, and Minted the amazing photo card design company, they are looking quite spiffy I must say.

Project Gingerbread house is on schedule to be finished by Friday evening.

Now all I have to do is wrap presents, and watch Love Actually/It’s a Wonderful Life/Miracle on 34th Street/Home  Alone/Eloise at Christmastime/The Polar Express/How the Grinch Stole Christmas/The Christmas Story.  In fact, the only Christmas movies I’ve watched this year (aside from the Hallmark Channel/Lifetime ones) is Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and The Holiday.  I have a lot of  catching up to do.

And baking.  My goal is to make 2 varieties of cookies and 1 batch of cupcakes by Saturday. Sometime, in between work, sleeping, half marathon training, finishing my gingerbread house, cleaning the house, hosting some friends for a gathering, prepping some food for said gathering, wrapping, and helping Aaron with his gift purchases, I will do the baking!

Christmas music will be played non-stop unless a Christmas movie is on. Here’s to a very Christmas 7 days left of Christmastime!

The Art of the White Elephant

Tis the season for lots of Christmas parties.  Whether they be office, friend, or family, it seems like our whole December is filled with them. 

Where the idea of a “white elephant” gift exchange came from, I have no idea (I’m sure it would take about 5 seconds on google to figure it out).  Sometimes, the gift exchange is cordial.  You give fancy chocolate sauce, a bottle of wine, or gift certificates to Starbucks.  While the gift is typically useful and appreciated, it is also very boring.

Sometimes, the white elephant is tacky.  The purpose is to hand off some terrible present that you’ve received in exchange for something equally terrible that someone else didn’t want.  Useful, no.  Entertaining, you bet.

We went to one of those last weekend. 

Aaron and I don’t have a lot of terrible gifts in our house, and the ones we do have were given to us by very nice people, and we’d feel bad if they ever knew we gave their treasured gift away in a white elephant gift exchange. So, we had no choice but to head to Goodwill and do some treasure hunting.

I don’t really go to thrift stores too often, but maybe I should start.  Where else could I find some of these amazing treasures! If I ever need a VCR, a figurine, or some vintage 90’s decor, I know exactly where I’m going!  In addition to getting some pretty marvelous White Elephant presents, I got a $6 tennis racket in great shape, and a $1 vase.  Can’t beat that!

This was one of the winners!

This was another winner!

I don’t even know what this is…

One of the rules of White Elephant is that you can steal other people’s gifts, but usually the gifts are so hideous, no one wants to do any stealing.  Apparently that didn’t apply to the ones I chose.  My gifts got stolen TWICE.  First, I was deprived of a genuine Village People Live and Sleezy record. I guess there will be no dance parties at Amy’s house anytime soon.

THEN (and this one hurts), a bottle of rum was stolen from me (the person who brought this obviously thought this would be a cordial White Elephant exchange).  We ended up leaving with a lovely mermaid figurine that is meant for hanging (don’t think that it isn’t!), and a lovely box full of incense should I ever need to conceal certain aromas. 

Lesson learned from all this….Goodwill is a good source of entertainment.  So are white elephant gift exchanges!

River of Lights

I am on a mission to be as Christmasy as possible.  This weekend Aaron and I went to River of Lights, which is Albuquerque’s version of a large scale light display of happiness hosted by the Botanic Gardens.  Neither of us had been in years, and it looks like Christmas light displays have come a long way since then.  Before, there were a lot of flat light displays.  Technology now allows for 3-D animated light figures! My newly discovered “night scenery” camera mode was in picture taking heaven!

The River of Lights opens at 6:00 p.m. daily and runs through December 30 (closed Dec. 24 and 25).  Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.  Adults are $8.  There was plenty of parking when we went and it was free.  Hot chocolate is available throughout, which is nice because standing outside for over an hour at night makes for some very numb fingers and toes.

Cactus