Month: February 2011

It’s Snow Joke

Sidenote:  Remember when I said I would “post five times a week as long as life didn’t get in the way?”  Well, life work got in the way last week.  Sorry for being MIA!  This week will be much better, plus I have a lot to catch you up on!

This past weekend was the Snow Joke Half Marathon I’ve been training for since December…remember this post of yore where I was nervous about missing some long runs?  I’m glad to report that missing those runs didn’t seem to hurt me too bad; but there were certainly some other obstacles/signs/omens (whatever you want to call them) that tried to deter me from finishing.  Take for example:

  • Working 70 hours (out-of-town) the week just prior to the run.  Not only was I mentally exhausted I was physically exhausted as well….missing two of my three weekly runs.   Yes, they were just my tapering runs, but it doesn’t help me mentally to miss runs that close to the race. 
  • Forgetting my running tights.   Since I returned to Missoula Friday afternoon, I had to madly unpack and re-pack to leave for the race.  You see the race was in Seeley Lake (about an hour drive from home), and the plan was to drive up Friday night.  Seems that in the frenzy of packing I forgot my tights (and temperatures were forecasted to be sub-zero)!    Lucky for me Stephanie had brought a spare set. 
  • The fact that the only food I packed with me was a bottle of wine.  Forget carbo-loading and protein; apparently red wine is my pregame fuel of choice.  I guess Stephanie had to go and save-the-day again with her bagels and peanut butter. 
  • We spent the night in a sauna – or what might as well have been a sauna.  Turns out Monica and I build a killer fire in a wood stove.  Sorry girls. 
  • The thermometer said MINUS twenty-one degrees when we woke up in the morning.   Enough said. 
  • The starting gun rifle was handed to a woman dressed like Sarah Palin to start the race.  Seriously.  She had a red skirt suit on and a Sarah Palin mask.  The scary thing is I couldn’t tell if it was a joke or serious.  You just never know in these small Montana towns; but it was certainly a deterrent to me, no matter what the meaning.     

View into Seeley Lake

In the end, I decided that I couldn’t let work be the reason I missed the race no matter how tired I was!   That’s just silly.  And I couldn’t let the fact that my pre-race meals weren’t exactly up-to-par deter me either.   I’d been training for 12 weeks for this thing!  So the last and biggest deterrent?  That minus twenty-one degrees?  I decided that Old Man Winter can suck it.  I didn’t work my butt off to quit the day of the race.  Luckily the temp was a balmy negative one by race time.  A real heat wave.

Luckily the other girls decided the same thing.  Here’s some of us waiting in the school gymnasium prior to the starting gun.

Me, Stephanie and Monica looking a bit to excited prior to running 13 miles in -1 temps

I’m sure ya’ll wanna see the rifle I mentioned earlier, eh?  I apologize there’s no Sarah Palin to go with it..it was a “surprise.” 

You can't make this shit up people

Look how many other crazy runners there were!

I don’t have any pictures from the race (hello, I was running)…but I’ll tell you that it went fairly well.  At one point I got passed by a man wearing a skirt…and it brought back memories of my first 1/2 marathon where I got passed by a man running barefoot.   Right.  With no shoes on (and this was before the big barefoot running craze).  At that point I didn’t care if I passed out right there on the course; a man with no shoes was not beating me…oh hell no.  I found myself starting to feel similarly about the man in the skirt, but I decided to let it go.  Besides, around mile ten I passed a dude wearing jeans…so I considered it even.   But seriously, what is wrong with people?  Isn’t running thirteen miles hard enough?

The Snow Joke is a funny little race.  According to the lady at the local coffee shop it was started by a “bunch of drunks.”  Not sure what that means because drunks don’t usually moonlight as distance runners.  But it is kind of a light-hearted race (see Sarah Palin bullet above).  People dress up.  There’s no real “finish” line except for two orange cones you run through.   This was the first year I’ve noticed an official time clock.  I asked for water at the end and they were out.  haha.  You run down the highway for about five miles and the whole time a dude (the race director?) drives back and forth yelling at people to “run single file or get disqualified.”  Dogs are allowed. Your race tag gets you a beer at the local bar.  There are funny signs along the whole course; for example:

  • Jokers do it once a year
  • Rhino crossing:  Do not molest
  • Vulture hang out:  Stop and be eaten alive
  • Safe Water:  The water at mile six was unsafe

I wish I could remember more.  I tried. 

Anyhoo…I finished:  2:09.  I was hoping for under two hours, but given the snow, wind and sub-zero temperatures; I’ll take it.  Take that Old Man Winter.  And here are some pictures to prove it:

Notice the Peach smoothy I got in place of water.

The obligatory beer at the Filling Station

All the girls; plus one random creeper in the back. haha

In the end?  I’m glad I didn’t let anything deter me.  Was it freezing?  Heck yes it was freezing.  Was it fun?  I haven’t decided yet.  Was it worth it?  Heck yes it was worth it.   Now to find the next race…perferably without snow.

Now for a random pic I thought you would enjoy:

Found this in the restroom (registration was in the local middle school). Hmmm. So middle schoolers really need to be reminded to "leave?" I just picture kid after kid piling up in the bathroom because no one told them to leave. Weird. But it has also inspired me to post my own "bathroom expectations." If that ever comes to fruition you know you'll hear about it. :)

Cheesy Comfort

It has been dumping snow here in Missoula!  It seriously just.  won’t.  stop.  And it’s awesome.   I’m working on a post about our weekend adventure to share with you soon.  But until then, I thought I would share another recipe with ya’ll…because all of these pretzels are making me thirsty all of this snow makes me crave comfort food. 

One of my favorite comfort foods is homemade macaroni and cheese.  Seriously, what could be better than mounds of melted cheese?  Yeah, not much.  I have a few different recipes ranging from my Grandma’s delicious recipe (that I can’t seem to quite master), to some really yummy but not-good-for-you-at-all recipes, to some relatively healthy (or at least make you think they are healthy) recipes.  I suppose it just depends on what type of mood I’m in and how tight my pants are that day as to which recipe gets made.

This weekend it was the healthy version…which surprisingly is quite satisfying!  I find it’s also a sneaky way to get the hubs to down some veggies….as the majority of cheese is replaced with butternut squash.  I feel like this would be a good recipe for kiddos too.  Husbands and Kiddos.  hahaha.  Anyways, here’s how it goes down:

Simmer your cubed squash in milk and chicken broth

Meanwhile chop yourself up some bread crumbs from a yummy artisan loaf

Once you can easily pierce the squash with your fork, mash up all the cubes so it looks like so. Oh, and also meanwhile...boil 1 lb of elbow macaroni

Combine the squash mixture with the drained macaroni....stir in some ricotta (for creaminess) and a wee bit of parmesan and sharp cheddar. Then top with your breadcrumbs

Now, I understand that this is my “healthy” recipe.  But healthy or not, in my opinion this version really skimps on the cheese.  I think it’s something like 1 Cup plus 4 Tbs?  Seriously?  I like to add just a titch more…because I like cheese.   And because I feel pretty good already about the squash.  haha.  Whatever works, right?  Cook as directed and you should have something like this:

So there you have it.  Cheesy, yummy comfort food.  It looks like winter is sticking around for a while yet (yay!) so if you’re feeling cheesy too, give this recipe a try.   And if you do, be sure to let me know how it turns out!

In case my stellar directions aren’t quite enough (what, you want like measurements and stuff??)…you can find the full recipe here.

Update:  Check out this reader-submitted picture (ok, she’s my sister so she is guilted into reading my blog) of her own squashy-cheesy dish!  I hesitated to post it because it looks better than mine, but I guess I’ll just get used to it.  Glad your hubs and my cute little nephew gobbled it up!  I love the alternative bread crumbs…it makes such a difference!

Yum!

Put a cork in it

I like wine.  I like most everything about wine.  The bottles that come in all shapes colors and sizes.  The creative, artistic and colorful labels.  The earthy full-bodied reds.  The summery-sweet whites.  The delicate crystal wine glasses you drink it out of (or the stemless options if you’re feeling unbalanced).  The different smells, tastes and textures that come with different blends and grapes.  The corks with different designs, logos and animals.  Ahh yes.  I think I like wine very much.    There’s something about pouring a glass while cooking dinner….reading a book (yes Liz, I read now!), catching up on a favorite show or just sitting on the front porch watching the sunset.  This is not to be confused with cracking a cold one after a hard day on the ski hill.  Beer is just as delicious to me…but in different circumstances.

Something not everyone knows about me (but probably will now) is that I’m a pretty sentimental person.   I tend to hang onto things that have special meaning to me.  A handful of wheat that I picked from my Grandma’s field when she sold her house at the lake?  Still have it.  A rock that caught my eye on a seven-day trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River?  Yep.  On my desk.  Almost every single note that was passed back and forth between my girlfriends in highschool?  Shockingly….and somewhat embarassingly…yes.    The bell that was tied to a balloon I let go after my mom’s funeral?  You better believe it.  Birthday cards, graduation cards and flower arrangement cards?  Uh huh…and all in a special little box.  Friends’ wedding invitations (and now baby invitations)?  Check and check.  The grass wedding ring I braided for The Hubs to wear after he lost his real one two summers ago?  Just in case (cuz I am not buying him another one.  I draw the line at two).   

You get the picture.  Some might say I’m just a packrat, and to those of you I’d say “talk to my dad.”  And let’s clarify…I am not a hoarder.  In reality it’s just because I’m one big cheeseball sentimental chap.

Given this little sentiment of mine…it’s only natural that I like to keep my wine corks as cherished little treasures.  I like to look at them and be reminded of the bottle we shared on our Honeymoon in Hawaii on our balcony overlooking the ocean, or the one I drank with my sisters over Sister’s Weekend (yes that’s a thing) last year.  I think it’s fun to have people sign and date the corks after we shared the bottle….as if to seal the memory forever. 

Also given how much I like wine….you can guess that I have a lot of corks.   Which meant I needed some sort of functional solution to coral and display them. 

A trip to Target proved to be successful.  I came home with a tall shadow box and a 1″ drill bit.  The idea was simple…drill a hole in the top of the shadow box big enough to drop a cork through.  The corks can then accumulate in the shadow box but still be displayed for sentimental-Janna.

I also decided to cover the back panel of the shadow box with a fun piece of fabric…just to keep it interesting.  The pictures below are actually from the second cork-keeper I made for my sister.  I perfected the process (but not the pictures obviously) the second time around!

I love the way the corks fall haphazardly to the bottom of the shadow box and create their own little pyramid that changes with each new cork.  And I of course love that you can see what special event the corks are from.  I noticed a few “Italy” corks in my sisters from their recent trip abroad.  What a special reminder for them. 

What do you think?  Is anyone else sentimental like me?  Do you have a creative way of saving/displaying your own wine corks?  Do share.

Run Down Memory Lane

There are parts of my past that almost seem surreal.  I know the memories are mine and the experiences happened to me, but for whatever reason when I recall them it’s almost like an out-of-body experience.  I can’t really explain it.  Maybe it’s that they happened so long ago that it takes a physical reminder to really remember them.  Or maybe it’s just that the experiences are so different from my life now that it’s hard to imagine that they are my experiences. 

As you know, I was in Seattle last weekend meeting the newest member of our family, my new niece Ella.  She is a beautiful, tiny and precious little girl.  It’s amazing to me how just holding her can make your day, or how you can stare at her forever and not get tired of it.  Nothing else seems to matter when you’re taking care of her. Heck, I didn’t even care about making my typically-required trip to Crate & Barrell while I was there.  That’s big people.  Huge.  I was content staring at a baby for four days….and I would have been quite happy to continue doing so for several more.   

However I did need to get a long run in while I was there because the Half is just 2 weeks away.  Eek.  So my brother-in-law mapped out a course that took me from Green Lake over to Ballard and back…somewhere around 11.5 miles.  I was stoked because Ballard was my old stomping grounds.  When I moved to Seattle in 2001 with my (now ex) boyfriend, we decided that Ballard was the place for us.  It felt like a small Montana town nestled in The Big City…which meant it had the benefits of both worlds for us small-town Montana folk.  I was pretty excited to spend some time over there, but what I didn’t bargain for were the emotions some of those memories would stir up.   A few of the things I stumbled upon during my outing:

  • The dog park we used to take Summit and Rudy (my ex’s dog) to.  Golden Gardens was one of our favorite dog parks because it was (1) close to our house and (2) tucked-away in this really neat forested area, so the dogs got to run wild around the trees, etc.  Seeing that dog park for the first time in several years made me miss Summit as a puppy.  It made me miss Rudy too.
  • The beach that we would hang out at in the summer.  It sucks to be in Seattle and not know someone with a boat; it’s like a cruel punishment to be surrounded by so much water and not get to cruise around on it.   And trust me, there is nothing more beautiful than Seattle on a sunny day.   But there’s a beach in Ballard that allows boatless-people (like we were) some satisfaction to feel as if they are somewhat “one-with-the-water.”  So we would at least go hang out on the beach and pretend that we were kinda cool.  We spent several summer days on that beach and also a few evenings walking and watching the sunset.   Running by that beach made me miss having the water so close and the amazing sunsets you get with it. 
  • The Canal restaurant that I always wanted to go to….and never did before I left.  Turns out I’m still mad my ex never took me there.
  • My old Aveda salon, Habitude.  I used to make it a point to get my hair done with Hailey (my old stylist) when I visited Seattle.  In fact I didn’t even have a stylist in Missoula for a couple of years after I moved back; it wasn’t until the time between my visits (and roots) kept getting longer and longer that I decided I better find someone in Missoula.  Because of that salon I’m now an Aveda snob loyal Aveda customer. 
  • One of my favorite Indian restaurants.  Indian food is my favorite ethnic cuisine, and I fell in love with it in Seattle.  Nearly half of my spice collection is now for cooking Indian meals at home because Missoula doesn’t have anywhere to get it.   Gazing in at the eclectic place made me miss having endless cuisine options at my fingertips.  Now if I want Indian food, I’m cooking it for myself.  Somehow it’s just not the same.
  • The bar I first saw The Clintons in and fell in love with their music.  To this day, they are hands-down my favorite band.  Ironic that they are actually from Montana, but I first saw them in Seattle.  Their music has meant a lot to me over the years and I have followed them since that first time I saw them in the Tractor Tavern.   In fact, the lead singer sang acoustic at our wedding and he also sang for my 30th Birthday party.  Running by that bar made me a little bit sentimental wondering what my life would be like without that influence in it. 
  • My old gym, The Ballard Health Club, where I would spend Friday nights doing Yoga.  Yes, Friday nights.  I found that it was the best way for me to unwind after a crazy week of working, commuting and getting stuck in traffic.  That memory actually made me feel grateful that I live in a place now that doesn’t require Friday-night yoga sessions to unwind. 
  • The bus stop I used to wait at every morning for the #17 Bus.  I remember having to be at the bus stop by 6:45 a.m. in order to be at work by 8…and I worked 14 miles away from my house.  Insane, right?  Actually it’s just part of the contract for living in a city.  I started taking the bus after I found myself getting less and less patient with driving across the 520 everyday.  I’m not really an impatient or angry person…but sitting in traffic on the 520 at 5:00 is enough to make any normal person go insane.  I found the bus was much less stressful…and also gave me the opportunity to perfect my knitting.  I could whip out an entire scarf on one day’s commute.   Seeing that bus stop and watching the buses go by reminded me how lucky I am to get to ride my cruiser bike to work every day in the summer now and leave my house at 7:45 to get to work at 8:00.  Now that’s more like it.
  • Our old house.  This is the one that really got me.  In my head, I remembered a cute little yellow house with a door that I had painted red.  I took great care of the yard and landscaping, and always had flowers out front.   Well.  At least the door was still red.  If I were writing this post solely about that house I could have titled it “Rundown Memory Lane.”  Seriously.   It broke my heart to see how rundown the house was; and I’m not sure if it was always that way (and I chose not to see it like that), or if it’s just a result of years of neglect.   Either way, it wasn’t really what I expected to see and it caught me off guard.   I expected to see the house that resides in my memory…a cute, happy little house.  The house I lived in for 3 years.  The house I called home.  A place I was excited to be.  The house I saw on my run is not someplace I can even imagine myself at now.  I can’t even imagine wanting to walk in the front door.  That cute little red door that I painted.  I guess it really bothered me, as if my memories from Seattle are all tarnished and rundown as well. 

I’m pretty sure I picked up the pace at this point even though I still had another 6 miles to go.  I wasn’t sure what to do with all of these memories and unexpected emotions.  So as I headed out of Ballard and back towards Green Lake, I got to thinking about all of these things that were once my life.  Things that were now foreign to me.  I can’t imagine sitting in traffic.  Riding the bus to work.  Wanting to go to yoga on Friday night.  Taking Summit to a dog park instead of on a hike.  Lying on a beach.  Leaving my house at 6:30 a.m. to go to work (and not getting back home until 6:30 p.m.).  All of these things were part of my life there; a very different life.   I guess that’s why I feel like it’s almost surreal – because it was just such a different reality than what I live now. 

But the more I ran and the more I thought about all of it…I decided that it’s not sad.  I shouldn’t look back on these memories and feel like they aren’t a part of me anymore.  They are mine and they are absolutely a part of me.  All of the people, places, experiences and events have made me who I am today.  The experiences are real and an important part of who I am.   

Looking back through that list, I have a lot to be grateful for:  knowing Summit has a better life now, getting exposure to a new cuisine that I truly enjoy, finding music that has provided the soundtrack to many important events in my life…and basically just having great memories from my time in Seattle.  The three years I lived there have given me an appreciation for so many things that I would maybe have just taken for granted, like riding my bike to work, having access to biking, hiking and running trails within 5 minutes of my house, never having to angrily sit in traffic.  

By the time I got to the top of Phinney Ridge (holy crap Lindan…really??  You run up that hill??) I felt a lot better.  I wasn’t sad or reminiscent of my old life.  In fact, I realized that part of the sadness I was feeling was simply because I miss it.  There’s a lot the City has to offer that I’ve given up to live in Montana.  But I’m glad that I’ve had the experiences because I can’t really imagine my life without them.   Like I said, they’re part of who I am and why I believe/act/react certain ways.  And I wouldn’t change it. 

But I would like someone to spruce up that little house on 20th Ave NW.  Oh, and maybe put an Indian restaurant in Missoula.

P.S.  You know….if I had a running partner…I’m sure my mind wouldn’t wander so much on these long runs and you we would all be saved from these type of posts.  Twelve miles is a loooooong way for me to be left alone to my thoughts.  Hint hint. 

M.I.A

I’ve just returned from a trip to Seattle, so I apologize for the lack of posts this week!  I’m sure my three readers were very distraught.  I’m not to the point of pre-scheduling my posts.  Yet.  But let me know if you’re interested in writing a Guest Post!

To tide you over until I have time for  a real post, I thought I would distract you with share some highlights from my trip. 

The purpose of the trip was to meet my new niece, Ella.

Is there anything more precious than a sleeping baby?

A trip to Seattle is not complete without a visit to Trophy cupcake! It was Ella's first!

We couldn't leave without a mini-cupcake. In addition to our regular sized one of course.

 

All bundled up for a walk!

More baby-time with our cousins. From the left, me, cousin Jill and baby Joseph, cousin Stacey and baby Mason, sister Amy and baby Ella, and sister Erin

 

Homemade Valentine's Day cookies!

Getting one last snuggle in before heading home.
So there you have it.  My last four days have revolved around holding babies, eating cupcakes and drinking wine (not pictured).  It’s been fantastic.
Your regularly-scheduled blog posts will return tomorrow.   :)
But today, I’ll leave you with this: