Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Precious Pups

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App There are days I think that our dogs believe they own the house, and we are just the humans they allow to live with them. It made me smile when I walked into the living room one day last week and saw the two of them like you see above. It actually isn't that uncommon of a sight, but I did finally manage to get a picture of it. It is almost as if they are saying, "What? Don't these chairs belong to us?" Today, this was the sight I saw in the living room, the result of our two wonderful dogs having a marvelous time tearing one of their stuffed animals apart and spreading the fluff all around the room. Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App I didn't really mind, I knew that that particular toy was due to go any day since the neck had already started to open, and the last time I saw the dogs with it they were playing tug of war with it, with Roxie on the head side and Tasha on the body side. My first instinct was to grab a camera, and send the picture to Blake. He said it is his favorite picture of the dogs we have. I did tell them to sit for the picture, they had come into the room where I was reading before I walked into that room. One of these days I am going to get a picture of them playing together. Yesterday, I had so much fun watching them play in the back yard. They started with some tug of war over another toy (a circular one) and then Roxie got it, and ran away. Tasha, predictably, chased her, and they started running full speed around our back yard. At one point Roxie pulled a complete feint by dropping the toy on the ground, and staying still near it. Sure enough, right when Tasha bought it enough to try to go for it, Roxie snatched it up and ran around again! I wish I had gotten it on camera! Since I am at home, I can reasonably predict that they will have one play time in the morning and one in the afternoon/ evening. The rest of the day they spend sleeping and following me from room to room.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Workout Class Pet Peeve

I have been attending a workout class that I have thoroughly enjoyed this summer, mostly for the instructor. She manages to work out every part of my body in the hour class, and it even goes by quickly!

However, today there was a substitute. I have no problems in particular with the idea of a substitute, I am just there to get a workout after all... but I couldn't stand this one. I left halfway through because she kept doing the same super irritating thing over and over again!

Pick an exercise, any exercise. She starts with, "Let's do eight of these." Dutifully, you follow the class and the instructor as she counts down from eight, including, "last one," as you do the eighth exercise. THEN she says, "next set, eight more." ARG! I would much rather that she said let's do two sets of eight, or sixteen of these, than for her to tell us eight, and then have us keep going. She also says, "last one," and then "one more," after the last one, even in the second set, sometimes a couple times. Maybe some people need that to be motivated to go through the class, but I think it is misleading, and makes it more difficult. If you are pushing to get through eight, and then you think you have a rest, or a change in exercise, it does not motivate you when you learn you were actually only halfway done, and I know I wasn't the only one who felt this way because I saw others looks every time she did it (which was every exercise). When I decided to walk out early, two other women joined me (maybe they would have left anyways... but they did leave too).  

 The regular instructor works you, but works you honestly. She would tell us we were doing twenty of something, or two sets of eight. They were equally hard, equally challenging, but when she said last one I knew she meant it. Sigh, it wasn't even worth the workout to stay because of her need to basically LIE on every single set.

/end rant

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Deck of Cards Workout

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Since I am currently in training for three obstacle course races in October, I have been trying to mix up strength training with my runs so that I have the ability to do whatever obstacle I am faced with in those races.

I am always on the lookout for a new and different way to do a workout, and today I found one I really enjoyed and wanted to share!

It's called the Deck of Cards Workout. You start with a well shuffled deck of cards, and then assign an exercise for each shape. The goal is to choose four exercises that will give you a well balanced routine.

Then go through the deck, and the card tells you how many reps of which exercise to do. Royals are worth ten, and though the website I read said to do aces as 11, I took it as 11 or 1 depending on the exercise and my exhaustion!

I chose:
   Hearts- Basically mountain climbers, but a variation that I learned in yoga where I hold plank position and then bring my knee to the outside of my elbow, then switch legs. I counted one rep after I did both legs.

   Spades- Dips to work my triceps. I had my hands on the coffee table, with my elbows behind me, and then I raised and lowered myself with arm strength alone.

  Diamonds- Pushup burpees. I would crouch down, then go into plank, do a pushup, and then bring my feet to my hands and jump. This was the hardest portion of my circuits.

  Clubs- I did squats with weights in my hands, and then as I stood up from my squats, I curled the weights, and then brought them into an overhead press before lowering them again.

The article I read said to do the whole deck... but after I got started, I realized that even half the deck was going to be too ambitious for me. I ended up doing 15 cards, as displayed above. So what you are looking at is actually my workout today. Notice the many diamonds in the beginning! Those were tough, and honestly on one of them I had to switch it to just push ups.

I loved my choice of cards, because it was fun to see different seashells as I did the exercises. The biggest reason that I recommend this workout is that it keeps it varied and fun, and you can be excited when you happen to draw a two!

The original website I found this on is HERE.

I also did some hill reps today on my run, trying to improve the time of my previous hill. Of the three I timed, I was successfully the fastest on the third one. My times for the three hills, up and down, was 3:17, 3:20 then 3:04! I read that hill runs can help increase your stamina for long runs. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

200th post, a 2012 Garden Update

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After slacking on picking for a few days, I finally decided that I needed to pick everything that I saw ripe in our garden. The picture above is what I got. This year has been decidedly poor for our red tomatoes, and I have no idea why. However, alternate colored tomatoes seem to be doing great!

The winner this year is our black cherry tomatoes, which besides being prolific producers (as you can see), also are very tasty. Our favorite flavor tomatoes has to be the purple Cherokees, which you can see two of right in the center. There are a number of peppers, and our yellow pear tomatoes are doing well also. However, the only red tomatoes that I could pick, even this late in July, are the two little ones near the center, and their flavor is only okay. We tried out a new variety, called black prince, and I liked the flavor, but like the reds, the plants aren't doing that well, and they just appear to be slightly larger black cherries (you can see a couple at the right). Also, although last year I had a lot of good sized pumpkins and squash, so far, I only have one... and it's already done. It is almost weird to have to contemplate making a pumpkin recipe in summer!

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In other news, for the first time our onions seem to be doing well.
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Towards the back of this photo you can see the leaves of our eggplant plant, and Blake tells me that we currently have about eight ripe eggplants that I need to work into our meals soon.
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The tallest plant that you see in this photo is our black cherry, and it is taking over many of the other areas in its determination to grow and produce tomatoes.
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My precious blood orange tree. Blake gave it to me for Valentine's Day 2 or 3 years ago, and although we have watched it stay healthy, and start with flowers, it has not produced a fruit for us yet. But... we think this may be the year!
Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App In spite of Tasha's break ins right after we got her, and her removing a few branches of the tree from time to time, it still has a few little oranges that have made it through and we hope we will get to eat them this year!

In other news, as stated in the title, according to blogger, this is my 200th post on this blog! In addition to informing others of the latest in my life without sending out periodic e-mails, I have enjoyed using this blog as a way to release stress, and just to document my life so I can look back at it later.

Friday, July 20, 2012

What I love about summer

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This was my current trip to the library. Note my diverse interest in books including ones about running, dogs, teaching, biographies and a fantasy novel. Summer is awesome!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Real and Wild Dreams

It is a five to six hour drive to Yosemite from where we live, and so we got to talking about our goals, and the things we want to do someday. For the most part, I found out that my parents are content, they both have a few goals, but mostly are happy.

Maybe it is partly my age, but there are a lot of things that I think would be fun to do someday. Some of these are more realistic than others, especially for cost reasons, but all of them float around in my head from time to time.

In no particular order:

Realistic- I would like to go on a cruise, an Alaskan one sounds particularly good. If I like it, maybe we will keep doing cruises, and basically cover my less realistic goal in chunks.
Wildest Dreams- In idle times I fantasize about going on an around the world cruise, hopefully one that makes stops in Europe as well, though those are surprisingly hard to find. I doubt I will ever feel wealthy enough to put down enough money to buy a nice car on a vacation (even as long as a world cruise) but it is one of those things that makes my someday category.

Realistic-Learn how to play hockey, and actually enroll in the classes to do so.
Wildest Dreams- Have season tickets to the Ducks.  

Realistic- Learn how to operate a boat, maybe joining a boating club (for the price of membership, you can share boats with those club members who have them).
Wildest Dreams- Own our own boat.

Realistic- Submit a freelance article to a magazine.
Wildest Dreams- Write a book.

Realistic- Travel to interesting places on vacation for a safari, or to see ancient buildings or go on a missions trip.
Wildest Dreams- It might be interesting to go to another country and teach English there, and immerse myself in the culture for an extended time.

Realistic- Be on a school board someday.
Wildest Dreams- Take my various ideas from various readings and my own experience and make a charter school that combines all those thoughts and teaches that way.

Realistic- I would like to experience more restaurants that have earned two or three Michelin stars (very prestigious to earn those stars). To name a few in the United States:
  • http://www.frenchlaundry.com/
    • From the pictures on the website, the restaurant looks like someone's house. 
  •  http://www.alinea-restaurant.com/index.html
    • Lots of beautiful little courses
  •  http://danielnyc.com/daniel.html
  • http://www.therestaurantatmeadowood.com/
    • This place sounds incredible! They don't even have menus, they have the server come out, ask you questions, and then they create a menu based on your preferences that night
Wildest Dreams- Plan vacations around eating at Michelin restaurants. 

Realistic- Have a ranch house somewhere in the mountains with our own crops and a bunch of rescued dogs.
Wildest Dreams- Design our own house, and run a CSA style business so it sustains us and we can go there early rather than waiting till retirement to make our ranch a reality.

I don't know how much of the above will actually happen, and honestly, I am fairly content with my life as it is. I would not be surprised if a number of the realistic goals happen, and none of the wildest dreams one do. In fact, I think that some of those wildest dreams goals are things that sound good, but if it actually came down to it, I wouldn't actually enjoy because of the sacrifices they come with. Like teaching in a foreign country- I am sure it would be an experience to remember, but I would miss my family, especially Blake unless he came along. I would miss my pets, and I am sure I would miss the creature comforts of home. Same with the cruise, I think I might be ready to go home way before I made it around the world, and would actually prefer seeing the world one chunk at a time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

2012 Summer Vacations

We have gone on two weekend vacations this summer, one as a couple to celebrate our 6th anniversary, and one with my parents, my brother and sister in law.

For our anniversary, we went to Las Vegas. Unlike most visitors though, we don't like big cities, gambling, or crowds. The number one reason we went to Las Vegas is for the chance to eat at one of their upscale restaurants. As I am sure you have read on my blog, we both enjoy the occasional fancy meal, where we get to taste gourmet cooking.

So, the highlight of the weekend was our dinner at a restaurant called Picasso. There were priceless Picassos on the walls of this restaurant, and the food as well as the service was beyond compare. It is funny though, as I was telling one of my friends about how my food had such amazing flavors, she asked what I had. Surface level, most of my meal was very tame and seemingly something that you could eat anywhere- pea soup, shrimp with zucchini and peppers, deer with apples and vegetables (okay, a little less than typical) and a chocolate cake. Blake had more unusual things like oysters, pigeon, and white asparagus with truffles.  But the flavors... wow. The combination of flavors in every dish were so appetizing, I didn't want any of them to end. I found myself taking smaller and smaller bites, knowing that once I took the last bite of the food, I couldn't have those flavors again (possibly ever since this dinner was a super splurge).

Not only that, but they were presented so beautifully. It makes sense, since the restaurant is named after an artist, that they would take time to present our food nicely, but I wish I had photographed each item that was presented in front of each of us instead of just two.

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This is my deer entree.

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This is my dessert.

Other than our amazing dinner, our trip was pretty simple. We did enjoy the Viva Elvis show on Friday night, and I was amazed at the strength of so many of the performers as they did their acrobatic tricks. Blake hates having his picture taken, and especially dislikes asking anyone to take our picture, but I was determined to have one picture of us together during our anniversary weekend. So when the person came around to take pictures of couples before the show started, I convinced Blake to allow him to take our picture, and then we bought it after the show. If Blake didn't mind asking people to take our picture, or if we regularly had pictures taken together, the price was crazy high... but since it is hard for me to get a good picture of us, I decided it was worth it. There is a second one, of us both facing the camera, but I think that Blake's smile is more natural in this one, and I like how I look better too.

We had a nice dinner on Friday too, but for the most part I couldn't enjoy it because I was still feeling off from the long car ride. Most of Saturday was spent at the hotel, enjoying their pool, and playing poker on the penny machines (I know... big spenders lol). Honestly, we tried a few slot machines, but found it much more fun to have at least some control over winning or not, so we mostly stuck to the penny/nickel card game machines. My big accomplishment was that I made thirty cents last as long as Blake's couple of dollars. Blake's "big" win was that he accidentally bet a dollar on one of his poker hands, and won 6 dollars. He spent it all down again, but it was pretty fun that he was able to get up that high.

We did wander around the Bellagio hotel while we waited for it to be time for dinner, and enjoyed their garden area. I thought that this picture was especially neat, with the picture being composed entirely of flowers and plants.  Photobucket Our second vacation was to Yosemite.

We were driving up on Thursday, leaving around lunchtime. We started with a slight delay because I had one of those moments where I genuinely could not remember if I turned the coffee pot off. We used to have a coffee pot that automatically shut off after a couple hours, but now we have a very basic pot that you have to turn off manually. Since we couldn't handle the thought of it being on all weekend, possibly starting  a fire or something, we drove back home after dropping off the dogs. For the record, I HAD turned it off, but we liked the peace of mind knowing it was off. Also, it was good we went back for the cats' sake, because we hadn't propped the bedroom door open, and sometime during our Vegas trip that door had closed, thankfully with the cats in it. If it had closed with them out, they wouldn't have had a litter box or food, and that would have been sad, so it was important to prop it open this time.

We only had two days of activities there, before driving back on Sunday. However, I was determined to fit as many things as I possibly could into those days and make the most of our vacation. It resulted in a very exercise intensive weekend, with my soreness lingering still through today.

Friday started with a guided morning nature hike with Blake and my dad.

Our guide was very interesting, and we learned a lot about the different trees and flowers that grow in the area, which was nice to know before going on our Saturday hike, so we knew what we were looking at as we walked that day.

She even taught mnemonics, such as the Ponderosa pine has needles in clusters of three like the three sons on the show, the Sugar pine has needles in clusters of five like the five letters in sugar, and other things like that.

Almost immediately after this hike ended, we got my mom from the hotel and went to the Mariposa grove, where you can see a large collection of the giant Sequoias. I have been there many times, and yet I never fail to be amazed at the sheer size and age of these trees.

Photobucket We took the tram tour there, and then piled back the car, had time for lunch, and then headed to the stables near our hotel with my brother and sister in law. Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket It was a beautiful hour long ride through the area near the stables, including over a few streams.Blake is the photographer, since I wanted a picture of me riding, and then he had the camera for the rest of the ride, and I think he did a great job taking pictures. The last one is of his own horse. We were impressed at the terrain that these horses can travel through successfully, over roots, up hill, down hill, etc.

As soon as we arrived back at the hotel from horseback riding, it was time for archery. We got a brief lesson, and then were able to shoot at the targets for a half an hour, rotating between Blake, myself and my mom shooting.




Blake switched to a harder bow by the end, and both he and my mom did a great job aiming and hitting their targets... while I was happy to hit the hay bale we were aiming for.

This is Blake's last grouping, very close to the center of the target he was aiming for.

This is my mom's last grouping, also nice.

Note there is no picture of my groupings...because it would just be too sad, and at the time, there was none good enough to even want to photograph. Its okay though, it was fun trying.

Our busy day continued with my dad and I renting bikes from the hotel, and Blake getting his precious mountain bike from the car. This is the bike that Blake rides to work, and rides with me on my running days. It is a mountain bike, but he rarely gets to ride it in the mountains or on dirt roads, and the thought of being in the mountains, riding a bike, but not his bike was sad, so we brought it with us, and he guarded it closely at every stop on the drive.

This is one of only a few pictures I took from the bike ride. The way out from the hotel was almost all up hill, and it was honestly pretty difficult for me. My dad and Blake did great, but I kept lagging behind. Not to mention that flies kept going in front of my face, and I didn't have my sunglasses, so every time the flies would get near my eyes, I would get nervous because I couldn't see clearly, and then I would stop. This, in turn, would make it difficult to get going again, because starting going uphill is surprisingly hard (at least, for me).

The picture above is taken after we took a side trail that was probably not designed for bikes to a waterfall. I am wearing Blake's sunglasses, which he gave me so I wouldn't have to keep stopping from the flies. The trail was narrow, rocky, and there were a few times that I walked my bike through it. Blake never intended for my dad and I to follow him, because of how difficult this trail was for a non-experienced mountain biker, but he loved it. We went pretty quickly downhill on the way back because with our side trip we were actually a little late for dinner at the hotel.

Dinner was a BBQ buffet, and while I enjoyed all of the dinner options, the best part was that they had a fire pit and supplies set up for good old fashioned smores. My dad had never had one, so I had Blake, our resident smore expert, roast my dad a marshmallow so he could try it. I could do it too, but will openly admit that Blake was more willing to get closer to the fire to get it that perfect point of roasted but not burned.

You would think that our busy day was over at this point, but we still had one more hike to go on. We did a guided flashlight hike. It covered the trail as the morning hike, but with flashlights in the dark, and talked about a few different things, and we saw a few creatures we didn't see during the day, like a millipede and a pink rubber boa, which the guide picked up, and allowed anyone to hold it.

Guess who from our group held it?

The next day started at 5:00AM with Blake, my dad and I meeting in the lobby to drive down to Yosemite Valley Floor (our hotel was at Fish Camp, about an hour and a half away.) After using some of the most questionable bathroom facilities I've ever seen, we were ready to start our hike at 7:05AM.

We hiked up to Glacier Point on the four mile trail, though it was six and a half from where I started recording it (including the walk from the parking lot).

It was hard, long and ALL up hill. I consider myself to be in fairly good shape now, but hiking for 3 hours uphill was tough. There were countless switchbacks, and towards the end, we were hoping that at the end of every switchback we would see the glacier point area... and then have our hopes crushed that it was still just another uphill. At one point, when we thought we might be getting close, we saw a couple hiking down and asked them how far it was from the top. Imagine our disappointment when they said that they had been walking downhill for an hour at that point. Sigh. I'm tired just remembering the tiredness I felt on that hike. I actually had an additional problem of needing to use the restroom for the last hour and half. I wasn't too comfortable with just stopping somewhere on the trail anyways, but it was such a populated trail with people passing us going up and down, I wouldn't have had a chance anyways. There were GREAT views that were increasingly stunning, and even after we finished everything for the day, we loved being able to look back at the mountainside and admire just how high we went just on leg strength alone.

View from the parking lot of just how high up our trail went.









We made it! This was taken from Glacier Point (after I had a chance to use their questionable bathroom there, and be thankful for it).

We gave ourselves about a half an hour break at the top, ate some food, refilled water, and just rested. But we, at this point, were ambitious, and wanted to do the panorama trail "down." Note that down is in quotes, because this trail is not all just downhill. It has uphill portions as well. Reading about those up hill, it sounds minor... in execution, we would come to hate that uphill portion.

The trail started off great. It was a nice, gradual downhill with beautiful, panoramic views, true to its name.



Here is the problem:
The trail goes all the way down to this waterfall, which is only an okay looking waterfall anyways. Then you have to hike back up, to hike back down again. This would have been fine if it wasn't for the fact that we were already tired and drained from our first uphill hike. The uphill portion was a third of the uphill that we had to do on the first hike... and this was supposed to be downhill.

By the time it finally started going downhill again, we were wiped. Not only that, but the downhill part wasn't easy either. It was extremely rocky and steep, which meant you had to go slowly, and watch your step (unless you were the crazy couple who literally ran down this trail past us).  The miles seemed to take forever.

My feet hurt, physically, totally hurt. The best analogy I can give is imagine being high fived 20,000 times. It would hurt. That was my feet. I started to dread every step, and only kept going because I knew that stopping wouldn't help anything, it would just prolong the agony. I had to continually remind myself that I could only be done if I kept going. It got to the point that even downhill hurt because my toes were hitting the front of my shoe. The trail markers lied about how far it was, so each time we thought we were close, we weren't. I cannot convey enough the total physical exhaustion I felt at this point, and how if there was any way to end it besides continuing to go down, I would have taken that option.

This is not to say that there weren't nice views, because there were. I just didn't care anymore, and we took much fewer pictures on the way down because of it.





Here is the most heartbreaking moment of the never ending hike down- miles wise, we were past the point that we thought we could stop and catch the shuttle back to our car, we had been seeing more and more people on the way down, so we knew we were getting close, and then we came around a bend and saw this:

It was a bathroom, and we thought (at least my dad and I) we had made it! Time to sit, time to rest, time to ride the shuttle back and be done torturing our feet and our legs!

However... alas... that was not the case. We were still a mile from that point. A MILE. Worse... to get to that magical wonderful stopping place required us to continue to take the trail which now ...went... up... hill. I wanted to cry. I wanted to protest. I don't even know what I wanted, but my disappointment was great. But sitting there wouldn't take away the fact that for us to be done, we had to continue, even uphill. Again.

This was still a very populated area, so as we practically limped our way through that last agonizing mile, we watched happy families pass us (including little kids), and I wished I had a sign that said, "Don't judge me for my slowness, I have been hiking for the last 7 and a half hours." Almost five hours from when we started our "downhill" trail, we finally, blissfully, made it to the shuttle. Which was packed. Standing room only. Again, that t-shirt would have been nice. Thankfully, someone in a seat had to exit at the next stop, and I snatched that seat very quickly. I have never felt as tired as I did on that day, at that time. I didn't even know you could feel that tired!

Our original plan had been to hang out around the valley till night to see the stars at glacier point (driving there this time), and where telescopes were going to be set up.

During the agony of the hike, I had decided that long drive or not, it might be worth it to go back to our hotel, and then come back later that night. If it hadn't taken us so very long to do the hike and get back to our car, we probably would have. But since it was almost five, the stars were at 8:30, and it takes about an hour and a half to get back to the hotel, it sadly wouldn't work.

So we limped ourselves over to Yosemite Village, got food just before the restaurant closed, and sat and drank water, and let our bodies enjoy the bliss of not moving.

Not during our hike, but during our drive from the Valley Floor to Glacier Point for the stars, we saw three deer and a coyote.

 We eventually drove up to Glacier point, and I did enjoy myself there in spite of how tired I was. I got to see Saturn very clearly through a couple of telescopes as well as some stars that appear to be one to the naked eye but are actually two, and as well as a nebula. We finally made it back to the hotel at approximately 10:15 at night.

I haven't forgotten how exhausted I was... but looking back over our day of hiking, my biggest lingering emotion is pride. I will never look at Yosemite pictures the same way again, knowing that I hiked all over that area. Every physical feat I push myself to do will be judged against that one, and I honestly think that most will be easier, even my marathon.

If you made it this far, congratulations! I think this took me two hours to write! Guess we did a lot. :-D