Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in Pictures

Here we are at the end of another year! Where the time goes, I'm not sure. Anyway it must be time for a pictorial review of the past year.

But before I get to the pictures, I need to make a complaint. It isn't even New Years Day and already Starbucks is out of eggnog lattes! Or at least the few I visited are. And this is why you can start drinking eggnog lattes before Thanksgiving - because before you know it, eggnog lattes are over and you are still wishing for one more.

And now on to the pictures!

From left to right, starting at the top row:

1. January - My first visit to what has become my new favorite store, Laura Bee Designs
2. February - Cannon Beach, OR
3. March - Snorkeling in Hawaii
4. April - Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
5. May - Relaxing in Firastefani (Santorini, Greece)
6. June - Race for the Cure
7. July - Cinderella's Castle (Walt Disney World)
8. August - Me & my sister at her wedding
9. September - Wieliczka Salt Mine (yes, it was salty, but no, I didn't lick it!)
10. October - Me & Jana at Animal Kingdom (Walt Disney World)
11. November - Newgrange (Ireland)
12. December - Christmas

And there you have it. Happy New Year! Bring on 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Operation 5 to 10

My "training" for the half marathon has begun in earnest. I have my long runs scheduled out, taking into account a few weekends I will be out of town. The plan is to do a couple of short runs during the week and a long run on the weekend from now until March 7th, slowing building up the long run to 12 miles. I figure if I can do 12, I can do 13.1!

And what is my "worry" for this race? My concern is all about the 16 minutes per mile requirement. If you can't meet the requirement, my understanding is you can be swept from the course which means no finisher medal!! My first half I came in at over 17 minutes per mile, but that was walking only and 5 years ago (the beginning stages of my racing career). Lately I've been fairly consistent at around a 14 minute per mile pace (14.22 for the Tower of Terror 13K and 13.45 for the 12Ks of Christmas). The question is, can I keep up the 14 minutes per mile for the whole race and not get swept?

I was reading an article about running and one way to shave time is to lose 5 lbs. Okay then, it is (almost) the beginning of the year, perfect time to try and lose 5 lbs. But we'll say 5 to 10 lbs to add some leeway for the Christmas cookies and other goodies that I have consumed over the past week. So, starting January 1st (because what better time to try and lose weight?) I will be attempting to lose 5 to 10 lbs by March 7th.

Why am I posting this for the world to read? Well, mainly to keep me honest. And to, nope that is it - to keep me honest. Watch this space for updates.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Mele Kalikimaka

As Christmas Day draws to a close, I'm watching one of my favorite Christmas movies - White Christmas. Diane & I share a love of White Christmas and saw the musical earlier this week. I enjoyed the musical, but the movie is still my favorite.

Christmas morning began at the reasonable hour of 7 a.m. My brother had been threatening 5 or 6 a.m. so I was happy with 7 a.m. Chloe was very excited and enjoyed helping everyone open their presents. Her favorite? A stuffed Husky dog, which was actually one of my presents until Chloe got hold of it. For the brief seconds the Husky was mine, I named him Jake Locker. My favorite gifts - an alarm clock for my iPod, Up on DVD, and a painting.

With presents done, I braved the cold-ish weather and headed for the park. While we did not get a real White Christmas, the frost on the ground gave the impression of a White Christmas. The park was fairly active for Christmas morning. I even saw a few muskrats enjoying the sunny Christmas morning. The sun was so bright - who would have thought I would have needed sunglasses?

8 miles later it was time to head home for what has become a Christmas tradition for my family - heading to the movies. On my way, I stopped at an open Starbucks on the way home to get a hot drink to help warm me up! In line, I decided it was a good day to buy the coffee of the person behind me in line.
The movie we saw was The Blind Side, which was very good.

One of my co-workers made a really good sausage stuffing for Thanksgiving and an early Christmas dinner and brought in the leftovers. It was so good so I attempted to make it for Christmas dinner. While it was not as good as my co-worker's it didn't turn out half bad! And it also fulfils #6 on my 32 Things list! Woohoo!!

And there you have it - Christmas 2009! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Two Turtle Doves / Two Miles Run

It's Christmas time, which also means it is time for the 12Ks of Christmas run! I really enjoy this race, it is very festive with all sorts of costumes, both on people and dogs. One of these years I should run with a Santa hat.

I woke up to rain, but at least it wasn't snow! Fortunately the rain tapered off. It was getting close to the time to start and I was still in line for the bathroom, which is so unlike me. I'm usually in line waiting and waiting. I don't leave things to the last minute. Not to worry I thought - this race never starts on time! Except of course today. But I managed to get through the bathroom and to the start chute before the race actually started. I started back in the 12+ minute section, because that is my pace. However not everyone lines up according to their pace. And I had to run over a few people. Not run over literally, but dodge slower runners until the crowd thinned out. But I felt like running over them literally! Especially when it was a group of 5 that was spread out across the road.

My goal this time was to see if I could once again run 2 miles before my first walk break. I began to doubt as I ran up the first hill. But I kept putting one foot in front of the other and soon I was passing by the 1K sign, then the 2K sign, and the 3K sign and finally the 2 mile sign! Nice! And just in time to walk up the giant hill. From there on out it was run 5 songs, walk 1 song. That's right, I have improved to running 5 songs!

I have always known there are people who walk faster than I can run. And today I had it demonstrated to me. I was plodding along when a woman power walked right on by me. While I never caught up to her, I did keep her in my sights for the remainder of the race.

In some ways the race passed by quickly, in others not so much. But I kept passing by the K signs and then I was crossing the finish line! My goal was to finish in under 1 hour 45 minutes. Mission accomplished! I finished in 1 hour 42 minutes and 28 seconds!

They had a booth giving free 5 minute massages so I hopped up on the table and had a brief massage. Hm, I'm thinking Christmas present to myself might be a massage.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Twas the night before the 12Ks of Christmas

So I thought I was done Christmas shopping. Yay me! Time to pour some eggnog and sit back and watch Christmas movies! And then I went to wrap presents and realized I was not done. Two more presents were left to buy. Back out I went into the throngs of Christmas shoppers. At times I felt like a salmon swimming upstream, fighting against the masses of people. A few parking lot skirmishes - mainly conducted in my mind because let's face it I am not usually the confronting type. I survived the parking lots, the packed aisles with barely any room to maneuver, and the checkout lines that were miles long and how is it that I always choose the slowest line? And now I am officially done - well done with the shopping. Bring on the wrapping!

Tomorrow is the 12Ks (approx. 7.46 miles) of Christmas race! I love this race. It is so festive and a good length. Time to go lay out my clothes for tomorrow!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I Love Roundabouts!

One of my brother's graduation presents (from a few years ago) was enough miles for a trip overseas. Earlier this year he decided he was ready to cash in the miles and asked if I wanted to go to London. London? Are you kidding me? I'm so there. My brother loves London probably as much as I do. We decided to go to Dublin first, and then spend a few days in London.

The plane ride over was fairly uneventful, despite the pilot warning us it was going to be a bumpy ride. We landed and several hours later we boarded the plane for Dublin. If its possible to get seasick on a plane, it was on this flight. It swayed from side to side, especially on the take off and landing. But finally we were on the ground, with our luggage and making our way to the rental car. The rental car was a Toyota Corolla, so much for a European car. At the last minute, we decided to get a GPS unit which was a fantastic decision. A few roundabouts later, John was comfortable driving on the wrong side of the road.We got to the hotel just in time for the rain to start pouring. After getting situated, we set off in search of food. Fortunately the rain had subsided and we walked into town, and discovered Trim Castle was literally across the street. We ended up at a Chinese restaurant, which served margherita pizza. I didn't chance a margherita pizza at a Chinese restaurant, and instead had sweet and sour chicken.

We woke up the next morning after having listened to the wind howl all night long. After breakfast, we walked over to Trim Castle and explored. Next we set the GPS coordinates and made our way to Kells to see the High Crosses. We tried to find another castle but it wasn't in the listed in the GPS so we continued on to Newgrange. However the GPS had the wrong coordinates for Newgrange so it was back to the map. Finally on the right track, we ran into a detour. The road was flooded. But we arrived at Newgrange just in time for the tour. It started to pour as we arrived at Newgrange. Stepping inside the narrow pathway, it was amazing to think this was built prior to the Great Pyramids. And the ceiling, which was over 5,000 years old had never leaked. The ancient people (as the guide called them) had even carved gutters on the roof to drain away the water. Amazing!! Lunch was at the Newgrange visitor center cafeteria. Leaving Newgrange, we missed the detour sign and ended up going through the massive puddle of water covering the road. And then we came to the next giant puddle. Not sure if we could make it, we waved the people behind us through. They pulled up and told us they thought we could make it. After watching them go through (and their car was about the size of ours) we decided to chance it and made it through. Whew. Our next stop was the Hill of Slane, where St. Patrick lit a fire to celebrate Easter which reportedly ushered in Christianity in Ireland. Quickly running out of daylight, we hit two more ruins - Mellifont Abbey and Monasterboice, which had several high crosses. It was then time to head back to Dublin. Finding the car rental return was a bit challenging but we made it. We caught the bus into Dublin, getting off right near our hotel. Due to the late hour, we ate dinner at the hotel. I had Irish stew, which was quite yummy!

We set off the next morning, making our first stop at Christ Church Cathedral. In the crypt, there was the mummified remains of a cat and a mouse. The cat had been presumably been chasing the mouse when they got stuck in the organ and were mummified. From there we went to Dublin Castle. One of my favorite rooms was the Ladies Drawing Room, which was gorgeous. During a ball, the single ladies had to hang out in the Ladies Drawing room until they were asked to dance. We also learned about the whistling corridor. They were worried about servants stealing food and so between the dining area and the kitchen they had to sing or whistle to prove they weren't stealing. We had lunch at a pub near Trinity College. I was all set to have a traditional pie, but then I saw they had a cranberry and brie sandwich. Once upon a time, when I was working in London, the cafeteria had a fantastic cranberry and brie sandwich. This one wasn't as good as I remember the other one, but it was still good. John had corned beef and cabbage which made him quite happy. After lunch we headed over to Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells, which was neat, after having been in Kells the day before. Next up was St. Patrick's Cathedral before making our way over to the Guinness Brewery. At Guinness, besides learning about beer, we were able to learn how to pour a glass of Guinness from the tap. Dinner was in Temple Bar - we found an interesting place - it had a little bit of everything, including margherita pizza. This time I did have it! It was good, not the best, but still good. And after dinner? Why gelato of course, even if it did feel like it was two degrees outside!

We started off the day making our way over to Number 29, a town home decorated in the Georgian style. On our way over we passed by numerous dissenters who were on strike. We got to Number 29 and had a few minutes before it opened and so I was able to walk around the square and take pictures of doors! Not every door, but a lot of doors. The tour was interesting and on it we learned that the style back then was fairly uniform and the place where people could express their individuality was on the doors. Finishing up the tour, we walked over towards the Natural History Museum only to find it was closed for renovations. By the number of strikers around the nearby buildings, it was doubtful we would have been able to see it anyway. John wanted to have lunch at the self proclaimed "oldest pub in Ireland" so we walked towards it, doing a little shopping on the way. After lunch (of stew) we headed towards the Jameson Distillery where John volunteered to be a taster. On the tour we learned that one of the important distinctions of Jameson Whiskey is that it is distilled three times. One of things I had wanted to do was to go to one of the suburbs outside of Dublin and walk along the cliffs. Not knowing if we'd have enough time, we left it as a possibility. Coming out of Jameson, we were nearly blown over by the gust of winds. It was probably a good thing we didn't go out to the cliffs as we might have been blown over! The last thing on our list was to visit Kilmainham Jail. Deciding to chance that it would be open, we set off. The jail was outside of the city center and a bit of a trek. As we started out it started to absolutely pour down rain, along with big gusts of wind. We were almost there when we passed by another closed museum, with the now familiar picketers out front. Still holding out hope, we went to the entrance and were greeted by a locked gate, but no picketers. Our hypothesis was that the picketers were at the museum across the street as it was on a bigger street, and had some cover from the elements. Oh, well. We stopped back by the hotel to change out of wet clothes before heading out to dinner. Since it was our last night in Dublin, I had Irish Stew. Yum! And after dinner, even with the rain and the cold I stopped for gelato.

We woke up to a bright, beautiful, but very windy morning. We checked out, caught the bus, and were on our way to the airport. Heathrow was backed up, so to avoid circling endlessly, we sat at the gate. But finally we took off, you could definitely feel the wind as the plane swayed from side to side. Even with the precaution of waiting in Dublin, we still circled several times around Heathrow before landing. We checked into our hotel and headed for one of my favorite places in London, The Muffin Man, for a late lunch. Then we headed over to Buckingham Palace before going to the Cabinet War Rooms. And then it was on to the London Eye. They added a 3D show to the beginning, which was a little random. And then it was time for our flight. I love the London Eye! It's like the Peter Pan ride, only better! :) Dinner was at a pub where I had steak and ale pie and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. Yum!!

We woke up to a sunny but windy day. Breakfast? At the Muffin Man, of course! And then it was off to Dover Castle. We arrived at the bottom of the white cliffs of Dover and began the climb up. Hills, stairs, and more hills and we were finally at the entrance. We had lunch at the cafe before exploring the grounds of the castle. The Great Hall was really neat! It was decorated in medieval style. We toured the secret wartime tunnels, which are not so secret anymore. These tunnels were originally built for the Napoleonic Wars, and then were remodeled to be used for WW2. Operation Dynamo, to rescue the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, was directed from the secret wartime tunnels. After the tour, we finished exploring the castle, visiting the remaining lighthouse from Roman times and the church originally built by the Saxons. Back in London, we finished the day by visiting Harrods, which was all decked out for Christmas.

Another sunny, windy day and the Muffin Man for breakfast (sound familiar?). And then it was off to Stonehenge! We alighted from the train and caught the bus to Stonehenge. If I thought windy before, it was nothing compared to the wind at Stonehenge! Bone-chilling wind! What was interesting was seeing Stonehenge after seeing Newgrange as they were built in similar time periods (5,000 or so years ago). The rocks are so immense, it boggles the mind how these stones got here. Finishing up at Stonehenge, we got off the bus at Old Sarum, the original town of Salisbury which was abandoned. Not much was left as the stones and other building materials were re-appropriated. Back in Salisbury, we walked around the town and the cathedral. The cathedral has one of the tallest spires in Europe. It also houses one of the original copies of the Magna Carta. Back in London we visited King's Cross and platform 9 3/4 before heading back to the hotel to pack.

Last day, last breakfast at the Muffin Man and then it was time to leave. Farewell London, I'm hopeful I will be back soon.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Three French Hens

I am thisclose to being done with Christmas shopping!! I have a few more gifts to buy before I can move on to Christmas wrapping and Christmas mailing. Some of my Christmas shopping was done online and are supposedly on their way. Although they don't always show up on the various trackers. Not that I'm checking.

No, I'm not checking every hour to see where my packages are now.

Well maybe I am a tad bit curious as to where my packages are.

Where are they you ask? Well, 1 came yesterday (but never did show up on the USPS tracker), 2 left Earth City, MO this morning at 3:36 AM, one isn't in the system yet and another says its shipped but I got nothing - no tracker or anything. Who doesn't offer tracking on packages? Don't they know I need to know!!

Let's see, what else is going on besides calmly awaiting packages? My office feels as if it is at the North Pole, or the South Pole, whichever is colder. The windows that suck in the heat in the summer, suck in the cold in the winter. And while I know there are much colder places than Seattle, it should not get this cold in Seattle!! Isn't this supposed to be a mild temperature zone?

The treadmill and I are in a love / hate relationship right now. But I'm feeling fairly good about the 12Ks of Christmas (a week from Sunday!!).

Monday, December 07, 2009

Mickiewicz & Mickey Mouse

My dreams of every writing up my trip to Krakow and Paris are going by the wayside. But I did want to at least post a few pictures and commentary from the trip. So here we go - in pictures rather than words this time.

Main Market Square - we spent a lot of time here. Krakow was a very charming city.

We weren't sure what the purpose of the animals were - we started calling this ferret square.

After pouring rain, the sun came out at Wawel Castle.

Kazimierz - the former Jewish community. During WW2, Nazis destroyed the cemetery and gravestones. After the war, remnants were pieced together to form a mosaic wall.

Oskar Schindler's factory

Auschwitz - the sheer size of Auschwitz & Auschwitz II is absolutely overwhelming. At Auschwitz I there were rooms filled with eye glasses, suitcases, and shoes of the victims. At Auschwitz II, the rows of barracks seemed to go on forever. I thought it was a little more clinical than my visit to Dachau, but still very moving.

If you look closely, you'll see the "B" was welded upside down, a small piece of rebellion.

Wieliczka Salt Mine - I felt a little like Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs, deep in the mines. Lots of statues and chapels carved out of salt. Below is the Chapel of St. Kinga which was incredible!
A different view of the Main Market Square, from the top of St. Mary's Basilica (239 stairs up)

From Krakow, we flew to Paris.
Inside Notre Dame

We took the bus out to Malmaison. Josephine bought the house for herself and Napoleon. She kept the house after their divorce and lived there until her death.

Orangerie Museum

A trip to Paris wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower! We were in line when the sparkle lights went off so did not get to enjoy the sparkle lights fully. Overheard while we were in line - Pilier Est? Is that estimated?
We were so close to Paris Disney, so why not visit?

The roller coasters (specifically Rockin' Rollercoaster & Space Mountain) were 14 times scarier than Walt Disney World, if by 14 you mean 1,000,000 times scarier!!
And we finished up our trip to Paris, wandering around the Latin quarter. We visited the Pantheon (below), which houses Foucault's pendulum and the resting places of a number of famous persons (Alexander Dumas, Victor Hugo and Marie Curie to name a few).

And a stroll along the Seine to visit my favorite pont (bridge) in Paris - Pont Neuf.
Our last night we had dinner in a super tiny restaurant, which was so good!!

A little different, but hopefully it gives you a flavor my trip.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Five Senses Friday #12

* Chloe in a new sweater. I'll see if I can get a picture of her and post it.

* Christmas music! It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Deck the halls!

* Nothing is coming to mind or to nose as the case may be.

* Thanksgiving leftovers - the downside to being away during Thanksgiving is no Thanksgiving meal. But my mom saved me a plate. Thanks Mom! And then a co-worker brought in leftovers as well to share. I love when she brings in leftovers because she is such a good cook!

* Cold - wow the temperature dropped! Time to dig out the winter coat! That and buy a portable heater.