August 21, 2011

Gone

Park County authorities found a body Saturday on Bison Peak that was believed to be missing hiker Frank Stanley. Stanley, 44, set out to climb the 12,431- foot peak July 25 and sent a text message after reaching the summit — but has not been heard from since. His Jeep was found at the Lost Park Trailhead in the Pike National Forest.

That was the story that ran in yesterday's Denver Post.

These are the things the paper didn't mention: That Frank had been one of my husband's best and most loyal friends since fourth grade. That in high school he bravely stuck with Ben when the cops threw them in jail for lighting off illegal fireworks, and a few years later traveled across the country for Ben's college graduation. That he was the best man in our wedding, and how, a couple of days before the ceremony, when Ben was fretting indignantly about some perceived misbehavior at my bachelorette party, the usually amiable Frank turned to Ben, looked him in the eye, and said "Get over yourself." Which was exactly what Ben needed to hear.

The paper didn't talk about his love of music (especially the blues, and especially Stevie Ray Vaughan), or his amazingly diligent recording of sports statistics, or his devotion to and pride in the kids in his life, from his beloved nephew to his students and the girls on the soccer teams he coached. Or his perpetual drive to be outside in the mountains - skiing, biking, hiking - on pretty much any free day he had.

They didn't mention how much my kid loved his "Uncle Frank," how they bonded over soccer and how Frank, even if he was totally pooped out after a full day of skiing or biking, would always say yes to a quick scrimmage (and attend every one of Jacob's games he could get to). How my heart broke clean in two the moment Jacob realized the significance of the length of time Frank had been missing, and turned to me and said, quietly, "Don't say his name any more, Mom. It makes me too sad."

The paper didn't note the incredible grace with which each and every one of his family members said, "It's such a blessing he went doing something he loved." Or the scene last night in my kitchen, after we received the text saying they'd found him, as I watched my very strong mother-in-law weep for the first time ever in the 15 years I've known her, and heard her say, "Oh, Robyn. It's like we've lost one of you."

We have. We have lost one of us. We will miss him always.


July 14, 2011

Bloated, squishy, and cheered

So I've run two more trail races in the past couple of weeks. The first sucked. I'd not felt well all day but chalked it up to PMS (TMI? Well, we might as well get that out of the way right off the bat, no?). The course was changed to a completely different location which I was a bit disappointed about, as the planned course is one of my favorites (even though last year I went off course in a torrential rainstorm and Julie and Cathy had to sit in the car and wait for me to find my way back. I think I came in dead last). Anyway, the revised course was fine, I felt okay at the start of the race, and had a pretty strong start. After a couple of miles, though, I starting feeling really bad, and slowed to a sad little shuffle, which I barely maintained for the rest of the race even though at that point the course was mostly downhill. We went to the after-party but I felt terrible and went home to bed, where I stayed the entire next day. Blergh. Did not make my goal of finishing in the top half, of course, but honestly I was happy to have finished at all.

The most recent race was last Wednesday, which was much better. Monsoon season has arrived here in the mountains, and it was a cool, cloudy evening - my favorite weather for running. Luckily the rain held off until the very end. We did have to full-on run through a stream with water up past our ankles, though. Made for squishy socks but otherwise was kind of fun - I felt like a kid illicitly splashing through puddles. The race director changed this course too - hey, why not? - and made the routes shorter than they've traditionally been (although the so-called 5k ended up being close to 4.5 miles). I felt weak-ish at the beginning but hit a decent stride after a mile or so and settled into a nice rhythm. The girl I crossed the finish line with during my first race passed me, and then a bit later, I passed her. Then she passed me again (bitch. just kidding) and I began to slow as we reached a couple of hills. But then - THEN. The course turned steeply downhill - oh, sweet downhill, how I love you - and I was able to break ahead. I made my way down the very rocky path toward the finish and tried to keep my momentum going. After crossing the stream again (which, I admit, was more squishy and a little less fun the second time around) I began to feel really tired and done, but I wanted to finish strong. And then out of nowhere, this guy appears in my peripheral vision and started ... yelling at me. "GO, GO, GO - YOU CAN DO IT, GIRL! PUSH IT! DIG DEEP!" I was so focused that I didn't even turn to look at his face, but I can't tell you how much I appreciated his words and energy. It really does make a difference, hearing someone root for you. I crossed the finish line with a big grin on my face and turned around to thank him, but he was gone.

I still have no idea who he was, and am not actually sure whether he was a good Samaritan who saw a stranger struggling and did a good deed, or if he had just mistaken me for his neighbor or librarian (he might have called me Jean) . Either way, I was very grateful. It was awesome. And I did make it into the top half again. Three out of four ain't bad.

June 27, 2011

Effort, Renewed

Oh, hi. Is anyone still here?

I've been a lazy, lazy blogger. But, in my defense, aside from one very bizarre thunderstorm last week that resulted in three inches of snow (thundersnow!), it's been so very warm and beautiful here in the mountains that I have wanted to do little but be outside. My house is dirrrrty and I haven't been cooking much, but you know, where I live, when you run across a night warm enough to sit on the front porch after the sun goes down and enjoy a sweet tea vodka and lemonade, it's hard to get as worked up about my routine as I normally would. I just love summer.

I ran the second trail race a couple of weeks ago. Again, the courses (each of these races has two, a long and a short) were re-routed to an area with dry trails (all relative, of course, as I did at one point fully submerge my shoe into mud).  The new course followed a loop that's a nordic ski trail in the winter. Perfect, I thought. It'll be easier - cross country trails can't be that steep. I felt relaxed, strong, and even a little cocky as my friend Cathy and I warmed up at the start. Maybe I'll just keep going after the end of the short course and do the long course. Just for the hell of it.

You can see where this is going, of course.This race was tough. I'd go so far as to call it a motherfucking bitch, even. It was by far one of the hardest runs I've done in a long time. A deceptively mellow start quickly turned into what felt like an unending nightmare of long, steep grades, with downhills that felt no longer than a flight of stairs and offered little chance for recovery. It was only three miles, but it felt like ten. It sucked. My friend Julie, volunteering as a course marshal, was stationed near the end of the course and as I approached her, exhausted, she sweetly shouted out a few words of encouragement. As I passed her all I could manage was a mumbled, "I think I'm gonna throw up."

I didn't puke, though, and I somehow (just barely) finished in the top half of my age group, but I was thoroughly humbled. Since then I've worked harder in my weights classes and made a concerted effort to get out running at least three times a week, which has meant allowing myself to be dragged out on a couple of early morning runs (not my favorite time of day). Last night my husband's band played at a local music festival, and we had a few beers and a late night. All day today I felt lethargic and lazy, and kept finding excuses not to work out (yard work, grocery shopping, plucking my eyebrows). Finally, at 6:30pm, I had a stern little talk with myself and decided I'd just put on my running clothes and go, even if all I did was walk for half an hour. And I did walk for the first few minutes, but then I felt like running. And it was one of the strongest, fastest runs I've had this year. Go figure.

I'll keep going. I feel good. I've got another race this Wednesday, and I'm excited for it. But hey, cut me some slack, because I've got a lot of other things going on:

the weeds ... THE WEEDS!

the dogs and children need walking ...


little lettuce sprouts need tending ...

our state flower needs cultivation ... 








... and this boy's hair must be brought under control.

June 1, 2011

Break on Through

So tonight was the first in the aforementioned trail race series. There's still lots of lingering snow on our local trails, so they had to re-route the race, resulting in a shorter and less steep course. I wasn't complaining.

When the start gun went off and I began running, I felt terrible. Heavy, achy, slow. Got passed by dozens of people. I started feeling a little sorry for myself, wondering, why does this feel so much harder when I'm doing a race versus a regular everyday run? My arms felt heavy and started to go numb. What the hell?

And then I just ... let it go. So I'll be slow. Whatever. I might come in DFL (dead fucking last). It's okay. I just want to make it the whole way without walking. That's my goal.

When I got to the first steep hill, something clicked. I started feeling stronger, faster. I passed some of the people who had passed me. I pushed a little harder, and soon I was at the top of the hill. My lungs were burning a little, but I kept pushing, knowing a big downhill was ahead. The downhill is my happy place. I'm not hesitant going down steep, rocky hills; I fly. I flew.

At the bottom of the course, I caught up to a woman who had passed me early on. We were on a single track, and every time I thought about passing her, she sped up the tiniest bit. When the trail spilled onto to the road, I dug deep for a last bit of energy and passed her, sprinting toward the finish. I sensed her gaining on me again and saw that she was sprinting, too. She caught up to me and for a moment our arms pumped in perfect unison, legs flying. We crossed the finish line at exactly the same time. Afterward, we looked at each other and grinned.

I'm not a terribly competitive person. I don't much care if others are faster than me. I do like to challenge myself, however, and get a lot of satisfaction out of doing better than I did last time. For the past two years in this series, I've been solidly in the middle of the pack (or below) for my age group. This year, I promised myself I'd break that barrier and finish in the top half.

They posted the results at the end of the after party at a local restaurant. I scanned the list, looking for my name. There were about 16 people in my age group. And then I saw that I'd tied with my finish-line friend for  ... sixth place. I did it. I kicked the ass out of that top half.

It's gonna be a great season.

May 16, 2011

Here Comes the Sun

So there sure was a big kerfuffle about Blogger being down this week. It apparently deleted a whole bunch of  people's posts and photos and a lot of bloggers were Super Pissed at having lost a lot of work.

That didn't happen to me, though, because I haven't blogged in, uh, about three weeks. Work, it is kicking my ass, and combined with my son's apparent rise to the professional soccer circuit (three practices per week plus a full weekend day requiring a two-hour drive away from the snow), I'm burned. Out. By the time I have a few spare minutes to myself at night all I want to do is cuddle up with Glee, a spoon, and a pint of this:


frozen crack

But I miss writing for fun. I miss thinking about fun things. Work is scheduled to calm down around mid-June, though, and I should have some more time. Summer is coming! And with summer comes running season! I'm equal parts excited and nervous. I haven't been running much at all this winter, and I recently signed up for a local trail running series - six races over the course of the summer. I've done several of the courses over the last two years, but this is the first year I've committed to doing all six. And you guys, I am not in running shape! I've been cross training all winter (is it still cross training if you don't do anything else?), but have only logged in a handful of miles over the past few weeks. Still, though, my legs feel strong, and I am so looking forward to being out on the trails. And getting my ass handed to me on the first steep hill will be ... good for my character. And my ass. Right? Right.

I will leave you tonight with a few mostly non-work related highlights from the past few weeks:

family ski day on Jacob's 9th bday




a pretty sea of clouds from the airplane window



 
dessert tasting at the caterer's (this was work, but not the kind I complain about)


fresh flowers

fresh haircut - and don't try to tell me YOU don't take cheesy self-portraits in the car, too

sign in local grocery store. there were a bazillion other things in this aisle, but I loved that incontinence got top billing


I also got a big mole removed from my back, but I don't have a photo of that. Sorry.

Ciao for now!

April 25, 2011

Got Time for a Quickie?

Oh, get your mind out of the gutter. I made a quiche tonight, and I was simply reminded of how when my brother was learning to read, he came across the word quiche and pronounced it 'quickie.' So sweet.

I haven't made a quiche in for-evah. But I got home tonight, having planned nothing for dinner, and realized I had leftover pie crust dough in the fridge, and although pumpkin pie sounded awfully delicious and tempting and I would so totally eat one for dinner, it takes way too long to bake. So I decided to throw together a classic Quiche Lorraine. I happened to have all the ingredients on hand, which was lucky because I'd already changed into my polka-dot fleece pajama pants from Target and I didn't want to go back out to the store.



Gruyere cheese, bacon, and a mixture of eggs, cream, milk, and spices

Pie crust. Not nearly as moldy or gangrenous as the photo might imply.    

This is really a great option for a quick dinner, especially if you have a pre-made pie crust on hand (homemade or a frozen one from the store - no judgment). The custard base is simple and is a great vehicle for a variety of fillings:  vegetables, ham or chicken, cheese of any kind. You can get fancy with things like sauteed leeks and goat cheese, or just throw in last night's leftover broccoli and cheddar.


I pre-baked the pie crust and tossed in all the ingredients while it was still hot, and put the whole thing back in the oven. Half an hour later: 





Yum. Smooth, fluffy eggs, tangy cheese, and BACON. Excellent with a fresh green salad on the side. Bonus:  tomorrow's breakfast is taken care of!


Here's the recipe:

Classic Quiche Lorraine
1 single-crust piecrust
8 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and then crumbled
1 cup (loosely measured) grated Gruyere cheese
2 large eggs + 2 large egg yolks
1.5 cups half and half
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
pinch nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place piecrust in pan and line with foil. Add pie weights (or dried beans or marbles or anything else that will weigh it down without melting). Bake for approximately 15 mins until crust begins to look dry and slightly golden. Meanwhile, mix together all other ingredients except cheese and bacon.

Remove crust from oven, remove pie weights and foil, and immediately spread grated cheese and bacon (or other fillings of your choice) on crust. Pour milk & egg mixture on top and place back in oven. Bake 30-35 mins, until the filling is set. It should jiggle just like Jello. Remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 mins. Serve warm or at room temp. Quickie afterward optional.

April 21, 2011

Breakfast for One

I loved Beth's (who just ran the Boston Marathon!) recent post about doing something every day that scares you.  Not, like, bungy-jumping scare you, necessarily, but something that's intentionally different. Something to shake things up, even if it's just a little jiggle.

I am very happy in my comfort zone. I am often described as "even-keeled." I like my routine, and I get, dare I say, irritable when it's messed with. But I think this is not always good. It's good to be steady and reliable, yeah. But adherence to routine, when taken too far, is how people become cranky old ladies who live in dusty apartments and sit in the same chair day after day, glaring suspiciously at the mailman when he comes at 11:15 instead of 11:30.

I figured I'd try it, starting pretty small - maybe one thing a week? I found an opportunity last Thursday.  Due to family scheduling difficulties, I couldn't go to my early morning workout class, and I was bummed to miss it. So instead, for the first time ever, I went to the evening class (say it with me: ooooh). It was great! There were all new people there. Friendly people! I noticed I had more energy than I do at 6am, so I worked harder, and was sorer the next day. Success.

Then, last weekend, I did something ever so slightly braver. I went out to breakfast by myself. And not the Starbucks drive-through, either, but an actual sit-down restaurant where I had to interact with the server and had no table mate to banter with. Just me. There are some things I enjoy doing by myself, like going to the movies (because I get to sit in the dark and not talk to anyone for two hours, and I don't have to share the candy). I've never liked dining out alone, though - it makes me feel naked and exposed. But I was hungry, and had some time to kill, so I did it. And again, it was lovely. I ate slowly and people-watched out the window, and it was all very peaceful and I felt refreshed afterward.

a third new thing:  breaking out my phone while dining alone to take a photo of my breakfast. hi, weirdo.

What will my next thing be? Perhaps I will break out short shorts and a tube top on the next warm-ish day. I'll let you know how that goes.

How about you?

April 7, 2011

Snowballed

Where I live people focus kind of obsessively on weather. It is practically a sport in itself, especially in winter. Will it snow? When? How much? For how long? What kind of snow? Is it light and fluffy pow-pow, or slushy, heavy cement that's a bitch to shovel? Are the ski resort's accumulation reports true, or are they exaggerating? These are the topics that bond the locals in my town, over and over, at the post office, the grocery store, the bus stop.

From November through February or so, I am right there, comparing thermometer readings and secretly kind of proud of the four-foot drifts in my front yard. Our long mountain winters make us feel special and tough - exotic, even. We sit in our all-wheel drive cars, bundled up in our puffy coats, and shake our heads when we hear about the cities that shut down over a measly couple inches of snow. We've collected over 400 inches this year, and our kids haven't gotten so much as a day off school. We don't even think about gardening until mid-June.

This time of year, though, some of us start thinking, fuck special. Although there are plenty of people who are all gleeful about snow straight through until it's full on mountain biking season, there are just as many of us who, by April, have a hard time cracking a smile in response to a neighbor's cheerful  "Happy spring!" and surreptitiously kick the stupid snow shovel when passing it (what. it was in the way). Then we go down a few thousand feet in elevation to run errands or attend our kid's soccer game, and are startled by the sight of green grass and people wearing flip flops. And damn, it's ... really nice. We start to remember how lovely last summer was, how glorious to run on trails outside in shorts instead of fleece and gloves and earwarmers. We start feeling a little left out, a tiny bit bitter, and pretty soon we're all like OMG I WANT TO LIVE DOWN HERE WHERE IT IS SO WARM AND DRY AND BEAUTIFUL.

I'm trying harder to just ride it out this year. My husband, who grew up here in the mountains, is fond of reminding me that we chose to live here and you can't control the weather, so there's no point in complaining about it. And aside from expressing sheer disbelief at the volume and consistency of this year's snowfall (which, to be fair, has been mind-boggling and record-breaking), I really have tried to be more accepting and keep my mouth shut.

But after a truly schizo weekend of Colorado weather (snow on Friday, then 85 degrees in Denver on Saturday, then a FOOT of snow and gale force wind back home on Sunday) I was kind of looking forward to my quick business trip to Washington, DC this week. It's cherry blossom season there, and, well, I've been feeling like wearing a skirt. Without tights and boots and a down jacket.

It was 80 degrees when we arrived. Sigh. Just lovely.


But the next day? 40 degrees. Rainy. Windy. Turned my umbrella inside out and soaked my laptop bag.

I'm glad to be home.

March 16, 2011

Hello?


The other night, I sat down, planning to write a blog post, and found myself spending the next two hours downloading free fonts instead. I know … fonts.  Life:  I need to get me one!

Lately I can’t seem to find an interesting thought in my head, which instead has been filled with petty concerns and, uh, blankness. Everything seems to be firing a little more slowly.
In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few fascinating distractions I’ve found while poking around the nooks and crannies of the internets:  

Phobialist.com. I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of an site devoted entirely to neuroses, but some might comfort in knowing there's a name for their fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of their mouth  (arachibutyrophobia). What’s yours?

TheBoredNinja.com, a compilation of all kinds of interesting stuff. Check out this video of The Most Polite Robbery Ever, or learn how to do Face Yoga.

Engrish.com, courtesy of my sister. If this site doesn’t make you laugh, I’m not sure we can be friends.

Damnyouautocorrect.com makes me want to text badly on purpose, just to see what happens. This had me actually crying with laughter one night. One of my faves: the one where "I've got a bad case of the Mondays" gets corrected to "I've got a bad case of the manboobs."

Another hotbed of negativity, but aren’t you a little curious about what your home state is known for being worst at? Check out the United States of Shame. (Cocaine use, Colorado? Really? We seem so laid back.)

This VH1.com feature on Basset Hounds Running on the Beach is just ... well, there really are no words. 

And lastly, my favorite, from a Facebook friend:




March 9, 2011

Salami, anyone?

I generally try to keep a low profile, and therefore have been lucky enough to have largely avoided humiliating moments throughout my life. But in the past week, I've had TWO.

The first one occurred last week at the grocery store deli counter. I patiently waited until it was my turn, and then asked the nice 20-something clerk for a half pound of oven roasted turkey and a quarter pound of sliced Muenster. When he asked what else he could get for me, I scanned the case for a moment and said, "Can I have about this much [holding thumb and forefinger about two inches apart] of your hard salami?"

*blink* *blink*

He looked at me for a moment, pressing his lips together and clearly stifling a laugh, and I immediately turned beet red and died. I calmly took the bag of sliced salami (two inches worth, just as I'd asked - what a gentleman), thanked him, and walked away as casually as I could, mumbling "ohmygodohmygodohmygodIcannotbelieveIjustsaidthat" under my breath.

I am sure everyone behind the deli counter got a good laugh out of that one. I bet it even made it back to the produce guys. 

AND THEN. Yesterday I had an all-day strategy meeting with a bunch of coworkers, and since I happened to be sitting at the head of the conference table, my boss asked me if I'd mind standing up and writing the key points on the flip chart behind me. I said sure, and proceeded to do so, tearing off paper as I filled up sheets and reaching up to tape them to the wall. After about 10 minutes he called for a break, and one of my (female) coworkers came up to me and whispered, "Did you know you have a hole in the back of your jeans?"

WHY, NO. NO, I DID NOT KNOW THAT. If I had, perhaps I would have declined to be the flip chart writer, for fear of showing my BARE ASS to everyone in my division.


These sort of experiences used to make me burn with shame and horror, inspiring a physical cringe every time my traumatized brain dredged them up again. Now, not so much. Maybe it's my advancing age, or increased apathy, but I think it has more to do with a slowly acquired understanding that it's just a dumb waste of time to take myself too seriously. I mean, what's the worst that will happen if I slip and say "sex" instead of "six" to the chairman of the board, or tell my friend at the party I'm glad she didn't bring that loser she was telling me about, only to be introduced to him seconds later? Yeah, I might get a startled look or two, maybe some laughs behind my back. But I think mostly people will just be glad it wasn't them, and then they'll forget all about it. I'll go back to being the mostly-dignified person I always am. And I'll have a good story. 

Today the office supply delivery guy stopped me in the hallway and said, "YOU look fantastic today." Now, I have come to understand that this guy is a a little, um, eccentric. When he first started delivering to our office, he developed a crush on my poor coworker, who was pregnant with TWINS, for god's sake, and would bring ALL the office supplies down to her office whether they were for her or not, just so he could talk to her (AT LENGTH. Eventually she started arranging for deliveries on her day off). He tells strangers way more than is appropriate about his personal life. Today he announced that he'd recently done an on-the-spot astrological reading for someone in our office hallway (the one dressed all in gold, he breathed, fluttering his hands. We have no idea if this is actually a real person.). So, yeah. He's out there. But he's also kind of endearing. He clearly doesn't care what anyone thinks about him; he is who he is, and he seems pretty happy about it. You gotta admire that.

February 28, 2011

Re-Entry's a Bitch*

Helloooo, lovelies. I'm back, and none too happy about it, if I'm being honest, because Hawaii was a dream. Truly one of the best family vacations we've ever had. Why, you ask? Well, there was this:

the view from our room. I don't blame you for wanting to slap me a little right now.



And this...

just look at those broad shoulders waves









Lots of local color:

hibiscus. I think.

artsy-fartsy Haleiwa, the Breckenridge of Oahu

at the open market in Honolulu's Chinatown. pret-tty sure this guy is stoned.


Fabulous food:

suuuuushiiiiiii
famous North Shore shrimp truck. Each serving comes with seven pounds of butter! (approx)

Happy, relaxed boys:

a boy and his dad
freckles to die for

And a whole lotta this:

does this beach towel make my leg look fat? oh, who gives a crap. someone bring me another margarita, stat.

The air there is ... perfect. Soft and gentle, and the ideal blend of warm and cool. And there is actual moisture in it, unlike the air in my home state. The few times I ran, I felt like superwoman in the midst of all that oxygen. The people are laid back and super friendly and everyone says aloha and mahalo all the time.We saw miles and miles of beautiful pineapple groves, uncrowded beaches, and green, green mountains. I got to wear nothing but bikinis and sundresses and flip-flops for a whole week, and I didn't even bother sucking my stomach in. We all slept deeply and uninterrupted every single night (this is VERY unusual in my house).

I'd love to tell you more, but I have to get up at 4:00 a.m. to board another plane, this time to Washington, DC for work. I am trying hard not to be bitter - to be grateful, instead, for the gift of the lovely week my family had together. But I can't say I won't be tempted to tap on the cockpit door and ask the pilot if maybe he'd consider flying in the opposite direction. 



*I'm finding one-word post titles a little boring, and difficult for wordy me. Hang with me, won't you, as I experiment.

February 17, 2011

Aloha!

You guys. In a little over 24 hours, I'm headed to Hawaii.



maybe I'll see Obama at the luau

It was sort of a last minute trip - it's my son's winter break from school next week, and we haven't taken a beach vacation in forEVER, and the boys voted on Hawaii (it was number two on my son's travel bucket list, right after Macchu Pichu). So ... off we're going.

I had to do a little girly prep for the beach. My body is nice and strong and pretty fit, but right now, in the middle of the coldest winter we've had in 30 years, it's also white and scaly and not looking terribly beach-ready. And I am ready to feel some sun on my skin, so the bikini will be making its debut.

It's been a humdinger of a week at work, and the only time I could manage to sneak out was this afternoon. So I decided to go for it all at once and booked appointments for a bikini wax, a pedicure, and a spray tan, all in a row. I've only had one other bikini wax in my life, and that was nine years ago for a trip to Florida. I got pregnant on that trip, come to think of it, so let's hope to jeebus there's not some sort of weird cause-and-effect thing going on there.

Though I know it's vain, I feel better with a little color on my skin - a little healthier, a smidge tighter, more confident. Unfortunately, I have the type of skin that burns and burns and burns again, and then maybe will reluctantly begin to turn a reddish shade of brown after a week or so of exposure. I don't have that kind of time, and it's health hazard anyway, so over the past couple of years I've done the tan-in-a-bottle thing. Usually on my own with drugstore stuff, because I'm cheap and want instant gratification. But someone told me recently about a local spa that does it for you by hand, and it wasn't expensive, so I figured I'd give it a shot. I wasn't sure what to expect. I kind of envisioned being back on the massage table with some nice music playing, while a silent attendant slathered me up - first one side, and then the other. That was, uh, not how it went down. Instead, I walked into the place and was greeted by the owner, whom I'd met before - she lives in my neighborhood. She informed me that she would be doing my tan, and directed me to the bathroom, where she told me to remove all my clothes except my bikini bottom, don the shower cap she'd nicely laid out for me, and stand in the open tile shower with my arms held out. Then she turned on what looked like one of those big house-painting machines, and well, she painted me from head to toe. With this big airbrush thing. When she was done she handed me a hair dryer and told me to blow dry myself. Which felt kind of nice and I might actually do that part again. But maybe at home.

I won't say it was an unpleasant experience, because it wasn't. She was extremely professional and set me at ease immediately, and the actual tan turned out great, just a nice little touch of brown, not fake-looking at all. Still, though ... my neighbor has now seen me topless. Wearing a shower cap.

I might need a couple extra mai tais to dull the memory.

I'll have one for each of you, too, my beloved four readers. See you in a week or so!

February 13, 2011

Hatched

The Grammys are on tonight. We don't have cable so I'm not watching (which I must admit I'm a little bummed about that, as would have loved to see the Cee Lo/Gwenyth duet, and I am not even being sarcastic) but I was looking at the red carpet photos online, and let me just say, damn, there are some whack ass people in Hollywood. The hair! The stoned-out eyes! The mummy dresses with all the skin peeking out! This show in particular brought together a very strange mix of young people I have never heard of and all these raggedy-looking 80's dudes, like Ricky Skaggs and the guys from Megadeth and Neil Young (who Yahoo mistakenly labeled as Paul Young, oops, who I had to look up to remember he was a one-hit wonder from the 80's - remember 'Every Time You Go Away'? - you take a piece of meeeee with yooooou). And an anorexic-looking Barry Manilow. Shoulder pads and waist-deep necklines seem to be making a comeback along with the old-timers. Jennifer Lopez appeared to have ditched her pants. And all I can say about Lady Gaga showing up in an egg is that upon seeing it all I could think about was one of my favorite childhood books:  How Fletcher Was Hatched. Which was a sweet and heartwarming story (much as I expect Gaga's will be).

I love fashion and enjoy voyeuristic looks into world of celebrity just as much as all the other subscribers of US Magazine, but I also like living far from that world. I went for a run today, and instead of duck lips and bustiers, this was my view:

not a boob in sight


Last night Ellen and her husband force fed me three of their award-winning, lethal margaritas (served with olives, like a martini. I KNOW. You have to try it.), and then she tried to strong arm me into agreeing to skin up the mountain at 6:30 a.m. But I decided that no one is going to make ME go on a beautiful, soul-stirring sunrise hike, dammit, so I declined, choosing instead to sleep in and have Sunday morning pancakes with my family. Which ended up being a pretty good decision, after all, and then later, when I felt like it, I went for a run. It was a good run. Five miles. I felt strong. Not fast, but I'm never fast, and I didn't struggle or have to tell myself just keep going, it'll be over soon. I felt relaxed and at ease and I enjoyed listening to my music and the slap slap of my trail shoes as I tried not to slip and fall on my ass on the snow-packed road.

I didn't work out last week, because my husband was out of town and single parenthood required that I miss my usual 6am stints at the gym. And I missed them. I really missed them. It's taken me until now, in my 40's, to get there, that point where exercise is not something I make myself do to stay slim or keep up with the cool kids (and yes, if I'm being honest that's pretty much what it was for me until a few years ago). It's not even so much about keeping my body healthy (although yes, of course that's important, mom). What it's become is my most effective escape from stresses and pressures that keep me from sleep and threaten my sunny disposition. And what's even more surprising to me is that I actually ... enjoy it. It makes me feel good, happy.

I realize that this is not a revolutionary concept in theory, but it feels revolutionary to me, personally. I once participated in a workshop where we were asked to shout out tasks we found necessary but distasteful (chopping onions! picking up dog poop!). I said, "exercise," and the workshop leader literally waved me off, saying no, that doesn't count, because exercise feels good. And I remember thinking, really? Because I think it kind of sucks, all that huffing and puffing and sore muscle shit.

I get it now, though. When I'm working my body, my brain quiets, shifting gently away from manic-panic multitasking and the sleep-stealing spiral down the rabbit hole of worry. I find myself daydreaming and composing new recipes and thinking of fun things to write - the kinds of things that feel too frivolous to focus on most of the time, and and things I probably should do a lot more. My body feels strong - I love telling the guys at work, no, I don't need help, I can lift this 40-pound water bottle on the cooler ALL BY MYSELF, and catching sight of the curve of my bicep when I'm changing my shirt at home. I love that I can do more than a single pushup on my toes now, only dropping to my knees at the end of the set.

No wonder I've started craving it. I hope I always do. If I stay fit maybe I can wear one of those mummy dresses too.

February 7, 2011

Bumps

So did you all watch the Superbowl last night? I did, by accident. My mother in law invited us to dinner, and  there it was on her giant 55-inch TV (not hers, actually - she is house-sitting for some clients). That HDTV shit is crazy. You can see every pore in the announcers' faces. And let's not even talk about the football player's uniforms and how they showed every lump and wrinkle and scrotum. Would it be too much to ask that the two teams wear different colored spandex pants? Preferably not yellow?

Confession:  I never learned the rules of football. Not even in high school, when I was a cheerleader. I just kept an eye out for the other girls cheering and then I'd cheer too. I totally rocked the halftime show, though (Ch-ch-ch-chaka Khan, anyone?).

I am feeling a little whirl-windy these days. Not much downtime lately, and I am a girl who likes her downtime. I've read that extroverts re-charge their batteries by being around other people, and introverts re-charge by being alone. If that's true than I am without a doubt an introvert. But I had a really great weekend with my sister, who is so easy to be with that it is practically like being alone (I mean that in the most flattering sense). We started the weekend out with lots of red wine and what we thought would be a funny movie (Dinner for Schmucks). I was so sure it would be funny! It was not. About halfway through I glanced over and caught my sister sound asleep on the floor, snoring. Couldn't blame her. It was so bad. Tsk tsk, Steve Carell. You are better than that.

The next morning we shook off our hangovers and went for a ski:

Check us out, being all model-y (and match-y!). I took a video, too, hoping to capture the serene beauty of our skis gliding quietly through the new-fallen snow, but my heavy breathing behind the camera gave it more of a serial-killer-stalking-pretty-girl-in-the-forest vibe, so I stuck with the stills.

Sunday my kiddo wanted me to take him snowboarding. I have been snowboarding for 20 years, and he just learned this season, and this was our first time ever going together. Just you and me, Mom, he said. 

video

He did great, but it was cold, and we had a few meltdowns (a couple of them his). I took him on a run that had some bigger-than-expected moguls and deep snow, and he got frustrated, lying down in the middle of the run and screaming about how much he HATES! the STUPID! POWDER! But we got down okay, went into the lodge, and cheered ourselves up with hot chocolate and the FatBooth app:

before
aaand ... after!

As we walked out, giggling, he said, Mom, I was starting to have the worst day, and you made it the best day.

Amazing what a couple extra chins can do.

January 30, 2011

Sunday

Sundays are my homebody days. I love staying my jammies and flipping through my cookbooks while sipping coffee and puttering around my house. Today, though, Ellen called and proposed a morning ski. It was another bluebird day and, remembering last weekend's happy ski, I immediately said yes despite the pull of laziness and my sore ass (thanks again, Body Pump). A small group of us went up the same trail I hit last weekend. On the way, we stopped to take photos of ice-covered branches, sparkling like a Neil Lane showroom: 

it was bling-ier in person
 
We chatted while we skied, and I was sweating and red-faced by the time we got to the top, but cooled off on the fast, icy route back. We all congratulated ourselves on the fact that no one bit it on the way down. It was great.
 
I still felt like cooking when I got back, so I thumbed through recipes looking for dinner ideas. Every weekend I think, I should cook some meals ahead for the week. Then I can come home from work, pop a dish in the oven, and relax with a glass of wine and a magazine. Doesn't that sound nice? I am sure it would be. I will let you know if it actually ever occurs. 
 
I did pretty well today, though, and made two main dishes and a dessert. First, The Pioneer Woman's Chicken Pot Pie.  If you haven't yet discovered The Pioneer Woman's website, please go there right now. She's an amazing cook and a gifted photographer, but it was her goofy humor that hooked me. I stumbled across her recipe for cinnamon rolls one time, and had to make them after reading that they'd earned her multiple marriage proposals. They are indeed a powerful weapon. Just looky: 

hello, butter

Her Chicken Pot Pie was equally fabulous. I think this dish, generally speaking, gets a bad rap. Many traditional pot pie recipes are heavy and gluey and not very flavorful. But this one is - let me say it again - FABULOUS. Savory and velvety and comforting, with juicy chicken and tender vegetables in a light thyme-scented gravy. And a homemade buttery crust. Although the recipe didn't call for them, I added some diced potatoes, too, and that was a good choice. Here's the final result: 



Even my picky eight-year-old liked it.  Here he is, entertaining me while I cook:
 
clearly he gets his fashion sense from his mother
 
I had opened a bottle of wine while I cooked (WHAT the recipe called for it), and after a little sippy or two figured, well, okay, I can do it! I'm gonna make another meal for this week! So I made PW's Simple, Perfect Enchiladas, too. I left out the cilantro, because it tastes like soap to me, and the black olives, because the child's complaining is just not worth it. And I also used green and red enchilada sauces, just because I like to mix it up. I split the recipe into two pans, and put one in the fridge for this week, AND one in the freezer for a future week. I KNOW. Two extra dinners!


 
Lastly, and then I'll stop, I just have to share today's last, best, and most thigh-dimpling creation:  Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats from Smitten Kitchen. You are just going to have to trust me when I tell you these are the best rice krispie treats you will ever have in your life. I have made them dozens of times, and have gotten at least one good involuntary groan of pleasure from every person I've served them to. They are sweet and salty and nutty and gooey and the 'salted brown butter' aspect makes you seem like a gourmet foody person despite the fact that they are very easy to make.
 
 So. All in all, it was a damn good Sunday. I am pretty much bursting with pride. And butter. *burp*
 





January 27, 2011

Curse

I'm a smidge crabby tonight. My back hurts. This morning I went to my regularly scheduled Body Pump class, which I love, and there was a substitute teacher. Which, fine, but she was different, and I like my regular teachers (see: persnickety), and also, despite being Exceedingly Perky, she announced at the beginning of class that we had all better hurry up and get in place and we were getting no breaks because her goal was to do three extra things before class was over. Body Pump usually kicks my ass sufficiently as it is, so I raised my right eyebrow at three extra things.

Thing One was to make us lean up against the wall and hold a squat for like, three minutes - after doing our regular four-minute round of Body Pump squats. Which wouldn't have been so awful, except she made us hold up our arms too, and then do THE WAVE around the room as we held our squat (really?). I mean, it was 6:15 a.m. And we were not at a sporting event.

Thing Two is what I have been holding responsible all day for my sore back. She made us find a partner and do those leg throw thingies where you lay on the floor and your partner stands behind your head and grabs your ankles and pushes your legs to the ground over and over. And if your lower back isn't completely flat to the floor ... well, they can stress your lower back. Needless to say, my form left much to be desired, and my back felt tight and sore all day. I think I also may have implied to my dear friend Ellen, who had the misfortune to be my leg throw partner, that she was too hard on me.

And then I got home tonight, feeling inexplicably murderous and also very hungry, went to pee, and ... oh.

THAT's why my back hurts.

(p.s. I didn't stick around for Thing Three. I always have to leave early on Thursdays because I have to drive my son to school early for Book Club. But today, I was not sad).

January 24, 2011

Digression

Today was one of those I'm-so-busy-I-forgot-to-pee kind of days, which, bladder distress aside, I actually don't mind so much because my work day goes by a lot faster. I took a quick time out in the afternoon to complain on Facebook check my personal email, and look what I found in my inbox, from the clever folks at BlueQ:

  


I mean, come ON. Soup for Sluts? How can I not order that? But I hate to pay for shipping, and to get to that $75 minimum I might have to add another little something.


Or, wait, no. This: 
it's gum!


I'm sorry. I've ruined the surprise. Now you all know what you'll be getting for Christmas next year (ramen keeps that long, right?).

January 23, 2011

Outside

It's been snowing here a lot lately. Like, five FEET in the last ten days. This was my front walkway ... a week ago:



I didn't buy a ski pass to our local resorts this year, so I haven't really been excited about all the fresh powder to the degree that my skiing and boarding friends have. Instead I have been grumping a lot about snow removal. And then coaching myself to get over it and appreciate the excellent workout that comes with throwing 5-lb shovelfuls of snow over one's head for hours. And then whining about my baaaack later.

This morning, we woke up to a beautiful, sparkling, blue-sky day and I knew I should take advantage of the break between storms and get outside. But I looked at the thermometer, saw -4, and instead decided to head to the rec center for an hour on the good old reliable stair climber and treadmill. I had my People magazine ready, my water bottle filled, and my running playlist all queued up. And then I drove up and realized I'd arrived an hour before they opened. Exasperated, I pointed my car back toward home, but as I turned toward the mountains, I looked up and suddenly thought, what is the problem here? You live in a place so beautiful and special that people save up all year just to come visit for a week, and you're annoyed that you can't run like a gerbil on an indoor treadmill? Get your ass outside.

So I did. I bundled up, strapped on my cross-country skis, and landed here: 

trail, untouched since yesterday


my old buddy Finnegan, grateful to be included

top of the trail. note the snowpack all the way to the TOP of the fence on the right


I also ran into that guy Travis who was on The Bachelor a few years ago and now has his own TV show and writes diet books. I wanted to take his picture too. But I didn't. Here's one someone else took: 
 I think his boobs are bigger than mine


Anyway, yeah. It was cold. I couldn't feel my toes most of the way, and my nostril hairs got itchy when they froze (who knew?). But I found myself with a huge smile on my face nearly the whole way, marveling at the lightness of the snow and the little tracks from some critter who'd gotten up a lot earlier than me. I felt a rush of strength and confidence as I fell into that perfect swish swish rhythm on my skis. By the time I got back to the car, I was sweaty and breathless. And SO glad I hadn't bothered with the treadmill.