22.12.09

Comic Genius



This here be my nephew. At only 8 months (or so), he's got comedic timing down pat. He'll go far! My mom also wants you to note the look of sadness and resignation that fills his eyes ever so briefly when he realizes he's the Road Runner, recently departed from firm ground and about to plummet like an anvil to terra firma. I love this kid! 10 hour countdown to seeing him in person the first time since July begins now!

18.12.09

Deck the halls with saturated fats and processed sugar!

There's just nothing to compare to seasonal baking, is there? Here I present for your approval and enjoyment, the easiest and most impressive seasonal dessert you'll make this year. I promise! Stolen from someone famous who shall remain nameless but who is now free from leg shackles that kept her home for months on end. Please try this recipe! I made it once at Thanksgiving and a dish of it is baking as I type, in order to impress and delight the taste buds of Rocco's work mates tonight. Trust me, the squares will do the job!


Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Chocolate Pumpkin 
Cheesecake Bars
Prep: 25 minutes Total: 5 hours

To create swirls, drag the blade of a paring knife through the chocolate and pumpkin mixtures several times to make a marbled pattern.

Ingredients

  • FOR THE CRUST
  • 20 chocolate wafer cookies, (half a 9-ounce package)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • FOR THE FILLING
  • 2 packages bar cream cheese, (8 ounces each)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin puree
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

   Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.
  2. In a food processor, blend cookies with sugar until finely ground (you should have about 1 cup crumbs); add butter, and pulse until moistened.
  3. Transfer crumb mixture to prepared pan, and press gently into bottom. Bake until fragrant and slightly firm, 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  4. Place cream cheese in food processor; blend until smooth. Add sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs, flour, pumpkin-pie spice, and salt; process until combined. Set aside.
  5. Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave in 30-second increments, stirring between each, until melted. Add 1 cup pumpkin mixture; stir to combine. Set aside.
  6. Pour remaining pumpkin mixture into prepared pan. Drop dollops of chocolate mixture onto pumpkin mixture; swirl. Bake until cheesecake is set but jiggles slightly when gently shaken, 40 to 50 minutes.
  7. Cool in pan. Cover; chill until firm, at least 2 hours (and up to 2 days). Using overhang, transfer cake to work surface. With a knife dipped in water, cut into 16 squares. Serve.

14.12.09

Cop15: Copenhagen international climate change conference


A student colleague and friend of mine is attending the Copenhagen climate conference as an observer. She'll have the responsibility of writing about it to fulfill the terms of the grant that got her there, and as practice she's blogging about it here while she's there on the ground. Already very fascinating and moving, her writing is evocative, well informed, and thoughtful. I encourage you to check it out!

9.12.09

Chewed up and spit out by craft fairs!

I've been craftin' like a maniac. Some crafting of my own (I love you Dresssew!), but also major proxy crafting by way of others. This town is awash in craft fairs! A few of the fairs have been smaller, community-run kind of deals, but a couple larger fairs have been showcasing local and national craft talent, with lots and lots of opportunity for buying! The best to date have been:

Make It Vancouver! K, you should definitely go to the Edmonton Make It this coming weekend!
Got Craft?  This one was great and I picked up a number of gifts (thank goodness! Too much shopping for me under the guise of holiday shopping!)


And a few of the fabulous finds at the various sales:
  • Amazing matted fabric scarves or neck warmers that are worn as necklaces, made by Giulia Fatica. Gorgeous pieces, each one unique. My friends and I huddled around her table for almost a half hour picking out pieces for each other. 


  • Cutest ever felt creatures by Him Creations including thumb-size owlets and mohawked brown fuzzy guys. 








  • Beautiful head pieces by A Farmer's Daughter that may be over the top, but are also totally fabulous and look striking.




I'm gearing up for one last round this weekend with my sister, at Portobello West. I have a few more things to pick up for gifts, and then I'm totally tapped out by the craft fair bonanza for the season. This is nothing like heading down to the SAAG with my mom one cozy afternoon in December as we did when we were young. Definitely my love of craft was inspired by the gift shop there and the beautiful creations made by local artists, but the craft fair season of a larger city like Vancouver is... overwhelming to say the least. But fun! And ephemeral! It passes. So you've got to get it while it's hot. On to Portobello!

1.12.09

Best. Night. EVER.

LOMAH has apparently satisfied his urge to up his post rate for November and is going to retreat to semi-retirement again this month (allegedly!). But I had a couple more posts up my sleeve that I didn't get to air before yesterday - oops - so I'll post them this week. Including this one!

Best Night EVER!
Karaoke with the crew! Friends from my school program have been organizing random karaoke nights over the past couple years, and while I initially was repulsed at the idea, it turns out it's the most fun thing you've ever done in your whole entire life of fun things done with amazing people all over the world and in your hometown and in the mountains and in your bedroom. Seriously. Want some evidence? Oh I'll give you evidence!

Yes, that's a tamborine, and that's a beer; two things that make the world a better place to be. Yes, I'm singing.



You almost don't need a caption on this one, right? You already know that's yours truly giving her guts to Alannah Myles' Black Velvet - and rawking it, I must say!



Would the night be complete without a little Paula Abdul? Hells no!

 
And there was dancing on the tables, oh yes there was!

Rocco channeling Curt Cobain, to great acclaim. Nasty, nasty wig provided by own of the more forward thinking karaoke conspirators.


The picture that captures the entire evening in a glimpse. Divine.

I drank so much beer and normally would have been under the table early in the night, but instead after karaoke we retreated again to F&H's place for our own private dance party. It's true, one of the group tells tales of waking up mid-morning to puke violently, but otherwise I think we all survived. Survived to live another day, to sing another song. To karaoke.  

26.11.09

Lols



I know. It's really only funny to me.

25.11.09

You've seen this right? Jesus, you've really gotta see this if you haven't seen this. See this.

Quit while you're ahead

I'm in a book! I've co-authored a couple articles on comfort in built environments (i.e., can operable windows and control over building heating make you a more happy, productive, and obedient employee?) with a team of solid academics at UBC. Ray Cole, our lead author, is like a king in green architecture, so we knew the articles would get some play. In fact both articles had been commissioned from him and I was just lucky enough to become a co-author, almost by chance.

It turns out that one of the special issues has been printed as a book, published by Routledge! I had no idea this was coming, and neither did my supervisor, so we were both surprised to find bound hard copies on our respective desks this week. Yeehaw! When we met yesterday we shared a "what the hell?" moment of surprise, then I suggested that I've made it and I should be free to quit the PhD now. Strangely he agreed...maybe I should be looking for a new supervisor?

Guys, I really think this is gonna be a bestseller. You knew me when!

22.11.09

Cozy crafting

Inspired by a friend who recently made a gorgeous softshell jacket all by himself, I undertook a craft project recently to make a dress that's been in my head for months.

Here are some pics of the finished dress. The fabric is a fairly heavy sweatshirt material, and the pockets are lined with navy microfleece that I had lying around because I thought four layers of the sweatshirt fabric would be super bulky. I wasn't planning on pockets for this dress but the pattern I used for a base had pockets, and now I'm glad I dared because they pockets turned out really well and in the future I'll be less afraid to add such details. The bottom and sleeve hems are raw in the hope that they will curl up with wear the way old sweatshirts do. The neck edging is totally made up by me and looks a bit shoddy if you ask me. The final overall look is definitely homemade, but what more was I expecting, having not sewed from a pattern in 15 years? I'll probably wear it around a bit for casual days, but ultimately it's not the dress that I had imagined it could be. At the very least it's got me sewing again, and I learned a lot from doing it, so bring on future projects (and forgive my cheesy posing!)!


A tale of two films

This first one is circulating on f*&$book, so some of you may have seen it already. It's worth watching; it's beautiful.



The second film is a kind of response to the first. It's less beautiful, maybe, and more wonderful, definitely.



I like the second one more simply because the man in the second film is far less creepy and sinister than the man in the first film. There's something to be said for simply being who you are, warts and puke, n' all.

27.10.09

Ay Carumba Crunchy Cauli!

Long time no blog, so I'm falling back on my safe space: food blogging.

I invented a little dish last night that is destined to be a recurring character at our table. Ay Carumba Crunchy Cauli! This is inspired by the cauliflower at Nuba, for any Vancouverites reading. Here's a picture that is not mine but loosely resembles the creation:


1 head cauliflower, cleaned and broken into medium sized florets
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp cornmeal (for crunch)
1/2 tsp sugar

Crank your oven to 500F! My old oven aims for such high heat but doesn't quite get there so I think my cauli cooked at 450F or so, but aim high! Melt the butter somehow (I did it in the oven in the casserole dish I would use to cook the veggies), then put the cauli in a bowl and pour the butter over top. Stir to coat. In a small bowl mix all the seasoning, flour, and cornmeal together. Toss it with the buttered cauli until all is evenly coated. Pour veggies into a medium casserole dish so it can sit in one layer, then sprinkle with sugar before you pop it in the oven. Stir after 10 minutes, return to oven for another 10. Done!

A 20 minute cauliflower dish with mega crunch and tasty spicing! We ate this over mixed greens alongside a bowl of potato leek soup Rocco made last week. Wish I'd taken a picture! I want to serve the cauliflower as an appetizer at my next party, with toothpicks. We had it hot last night but I bet it would be delicious just warm and the cornmeal will help it stay crunchy even as the temp changes. I'm pretty certain the Nuba version uses almonds, and next time I'll experiment with sprinkling toasted almond slices over top after cooking, or maybe even subbing some of the flour with ground almonds. Mmmm delicious!

9.9.09

Skoki landscape shots



Skoki lodge, in situ.



View from Merlin Ridge showing the valley we hike through to the ridge.

More Skoki pictures



Mom and Rocco cooling their feet in the glacial creek after hiking up to Merlin Ridge. Painfully, but heavenly, cold!



Rocco emerging from a rock chimney you climb up and through during the hike out along Packer's Pass.



Me and mom standing on Packer's Pass, about to descend to Baker Lake, then Boulder Pass, then out on day three.

What a fantastic holiday!

photos from great hiking in Alberta, Sept 3-6



Mom and Dad hiking along the trail that leads from Lake Louise Ski Resort to Skoki backcountry lodge.



Mom and dad on a rock ledge after clambering up a bit of a chimney, on the way to Merlin Ridge on day two.



Yours truly up on Merlin Ridge. It was windy up there!

26.7.09

Pickling in order to get pickled

As of last week we're now sharing a CSA box with another family through our organic buying club. Rocco and I talked about buying into a CSA at the beginning of the season but decided that it would be too much food for us. Then I was contacted by the buying club since someone was a bit overwhelmed with the amount of food coming in and she was looking for someone to share it with. Last week we took our first box and we won't get the next one for two weeks - thank god! There's so much frickin' food!!!

For $32 we got the following local, all organic, amazingly fresh produce:
2 Long English Cucumbers
1 Romaine Lettuce
1 lb Sweet Onions
1 bunch Kale
1 bunch Rainbow Chard
1 small Green Cabbage
2 lbs Sieglinde/Butter Potatoes
1 lb Zucchini
1 pint Raspberries
1 bunch Broccolini
1 bunch Green Onions
1 bunch Spinach
1 bunch Carrots
0.5 lb Fennel
1 bunch Beets
1 lb Yellow Beans

Seriously! So far I've made kale and potato pancakes, zucchini chocolate chip muffins, fennel and tomato salad, pasta sauce with spinach and flash fried broccolini over fettuccine, a huuuuge salad with lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, beets, and other stuff, and the coup de grace, the ultimate in veggie savvy, I pickled beans!

Pretty much followed this recipe, and it was super easy and quick. They're refrigerator pickles which means they're not for long term preserving, which is fine by me because I intend to use them up quickly in multiple homemade spicy caesars! See that little pickled asparagus? Imagine it replaced by a snappy, deliciously spiced pickled bean! I supplemented the yellow beans we got from the box with yellow and green beans grown in containers on our deck. It will all come full circle when me and my two sisters sit out there later this week, sippin' the most awesome caesar and snacking on the beans while the bean plants thrive at our feet. The rare beauty of it: pickling for getting pickled! Also, when K is here I plan to grill the sweet onions on our little bbq and have them as appies with a radish mayo, recipe here. Yum!

Come on over for a caesar, anytime!

20.7.09

Knee Knacker Race Report! ***Long blog warning***


DSC_0495
Race photo taken in the second quarter by KneeKnacker
**Disclaimer: This is definitely going to be a looooong blog!*

I don't really know how to start this blog entry... Obviously I have loads of people to thank: thanks to all my amazing friends who are inspiring and extremely supportive! I loved receiving all your best wishes in the days before the race, and I thought of you at various points on race day - more when things felt good than when things felt bad, which tells you something, I think. Tells you that I keep very good company. I also got a lot of support from my friends and family locally who came out to the race to support me - how amazing is to see familiar faces along the way? UTTERLY AND TOTALLY AMAZING! I feel like I can't thank them enough and I can only hope they know how much their support has meant to me.

I did it! I completed a 50km ultra marathon through the bush, rock, mud, and boulder scree of the Baden Powell trail! It was both fabulous and brutal, with rough patches and a success story in the end. I'll try to capture the race for you here (and for me, when I want to look back on it), and do this feat some justice!

Most of you know Rocco and I live in an old house that has been broken up into 4 apartments. In the attic suite above us, our neighbour was 39 weeks pregnant in the week before the race. It would be just my luck that she would go into labour the night before my Biggest Race Ever and that it would be messy and complicated and the medics would come to the house, etc. Obviously that would be very bad luck indeed for her (!), but I was pretty anxious about getting some rest the night before the race, so I stayed at Jane's place instead of in my own bed. It was blissfully quiet and I managed to get four and half hours of decent sleep, surprisingly. We awoke at 3:30am and even at that hour, the first thing I said when she knocked on the door to my room was "yay!" I was so excited! We got some breakfast (I had brought my own raisin toast from home to be consistent), made coffee, got all our gear together including drop bags that the race organizers would shuttle from the start to the midway and then to the finish for us, and climbed into the car at 4am. The 50km is a point to point trail, so we drove to the finish and climbed on an old orange school bus that took us to the start. Luckily some of the ladies we have been training with also got on the same bus so we chatted away and giggled about our nerves.

I've never been a porta pottie user at races. I'm usually very regular and I know from practice that if I use the toilet at a certain time before we leave then I should be good until a rest stop I know is coming up, but Saturday morning I ended up in line at the pps not once, but twice. My stomach was in knots, and it turns out that it wasn't just nerves (more on that later). Milling around the start which was quite small as only 200 people run this race, we bumped into all of the people we had trained with, and some spectators who had driven racers to the start area. People were giddy and excited; we posed for pictures and teased one another about injuries and hidden talents; talked about strategy and rolled our eyes since strategy so often flies out the window the minute the start gun goes off.

Then the start gun DID go off!

1st quarter: We trotted as a group down a short gravel road to the first trailhead, sorting ourselves into single file strategically since no one wants to get stuck behind the slowpoke on the uphill, and no one wants to BE the slowpoke holding other people up! Before the gun, I saw a friend, D, who had climbed Black Mountain with me in both training sessions. Jane and I had decided we wanted to be near her at the start so we could form a good support group with common pacing, and it turns out D had the same plan. D and I did manage to stick together but Jane dropped back into another group well behind me, so I didn't see her on Black Mountain at all. Actually I didn't see her again until the halfway point. But we did have a solid group of about 10 people who were all pacing together up the first mountain, and we did really well, I think. It's the kind of uphill that you just tuck your chin in and keep going. Being in a group helps with that because someone is right on your heels looking to fill the toe hold your foot has just left as soon as it's vacant. The weather all week before the race had been super rainy, and we were worried that the rock would be wet and therefore slippery, but two short days of heat Thursday and Friday had dried it off and I had no problems skirting around the face of the rock, or on the boulder scree. The view from the top was stunning - the sun was already up, but not very high, and Howe Sound 3550ft below us was clear and sparkling!

On top of Black Mountain is the first aid station, and this station is totally amazing since volunteers CARRY all the supplies up to the top from Cypress parking lot, which is quite a hike in itself, let me tell you! They start at 4 in the morning, lugging up water, eLoad, sharkies, first aid, etc., out of the goodness of their hearts! And trust me, they are a sight for sore eyes for us runners because seeing them means you've summited Black Mountain and are about to hit the downhill. And hit it we did! I lost D at the top when she stopped to refuel, but kept pace with a stranger in black shorts and a red singlet. We ran the downhill all the way to Cypress where the first checkpoint was set up. For this race there are three major checkpoints along the way that you have to pass within a minimum time or they will pull you from the race. You have to ensure that they've seen your number and checked you off before you can run on. I reached the checkpoint at 2:06 (hours, not time of day), at least 15 minutes earlier than I had been reaching it in training. Grabbed some water, a few pieces of fruit, and kept running.

2nd quarter: This quarter is tied with the last quarter for being my favourite portion of the race. It's called the Hollyburn chutes, it's essentially all downhill, and it's really beautiful forest with a few opportunities for fabulous views of the mountains and the city of Vancouver below. I ran with another friend from training, S., for a while, but she really is more of a solo runner and happily dropped back on the downhill at some point. Black shorts/red shirt guy kept pace with me and we chatted for ages about his work, my work, and other stuff like how this was his fifth Knee Knacker. I don't really remember passing many people, one guy maybe, and perhaps being passed by one or two others, but mostly this section of trail was just me and this dude and a few random hikers who would scuttle out of our way when they heard us coming. I was feeling pretty good, although all the downhill plays havoc on my IT band. Properly timed ibuprofen was really helping me out, and I was eagerly looking forward to the next big aid station that marks the halfway point.

Two weird things before the halfway though. Dropping down towards Cleveland Dam (the halfway), a volunteer was in the woods directing us where to turn. He shouted up to me, "Did you pass a guy lying on the ground?" No, I definitely did not. I asked him if someone was missing, and he said yes! But nothing else was said, and we just ran on! Odd. The second weird but wonderful thing was that we could hear the crowds at the dam from at least 2km away! That was amazing! Finally running across the dam (oh flat ground, how I love thee!) and heading towards the crowd, I was totally overwhelmed. People were cheering and clapping and stomping - I really got choked up and started to cry! I had to work hard to rein it in; this is only halfway! There's a lot of race left! Keep it together!

Halfway stop: (Sorry, this is really becoming an epic blog! Feel free to stop reading.) Man, the supporters and the volunteers were just so awesome. I ran through the crowds, two people who are friends of Jane's yelled my name and cheered me on, and I looked for Rocco and Steve. They were at the very end near the aid station but as I headed towards them a volunteer cut me off and demanded my attention. She laser beamed my eyes to keep my attention and said, "Do you need your drop bag? Come sit down. I'll do everything. What do you need. Tell me what you need. Do you need these socks? Do you need salt? Do you want your hydration pack refilled? What do you want in it?" Holy crap! Seriously, she sat me down in a folding camp chair (heaven!), gave my pack to someone to refill (!), took my shoes and socks off (disgusting!) and helped me put new socks on (brave woman!), checked that I was feeling ok, stood me up, put my pack on me, and pointed me at the toilet building. I was flabbergasted! It was like pulling into a pit stop during the Indy 500 with a full pit crew pulling for you and taking care of all your needs. I cannot tell you enough how phenomenal the volunteers are at this race! There are 250 volunteers to 200 runners - can you believe it?!?

The volunteer who sat me down at the halfway was intense. In fact, I made two choices during the race that were totally polite Canadian choices: at the Black Mountain aid station I took some sharkies even though I didn’t want them because those poor folks had carried them all the way up the mountain for us; and I changed my socks at the halfway point mostly to give the intense volunteer something she could do for me. The sharkies stayed in my sweaty palm for about a half hour until I found a pocket to stash them in, and I spent the rest of the race collecting more grime than necessary on the gooey sharkie mess that was my right hand. And as for the socks, I had packed extras in my drop back just in case the mud or snow up top was really wet but it actually wasn’t that bad, and the blisters I found after the race definitely indicated that I shouldn’t have changed socks halfway. But I’m still so grateful to the volunteers! Also, red shirt/black shorts guy and I finally had a moment to introduce ourselves at the aid station (his name is Bryan), where all the volunteers laughed because we had been speaking to each other like we’ve known each other for years, but only met a couple hours ago on trail. Bryan was quick in the station and left very quickly to continue the race.

Back to the race. I used the toilets at the dam but the visit didn’t resolve the upset I was feeling in my bowels. It had been nausea so far but something was brewing lower down as well and I couldn’t seem to shift it. I wasn’t really hungry and my stomach was rolling but I thought it was smart to eat something so I ate a few pieces of watermelon, some orange slices, and three pieces of boiled potato with salt provided at the aid station. Everyone lauds the potatoes: they’re instant but slow burn carbs without the sugar, and they get that salt into you. Personally, I think they were a mistake for me, but you just never know. After eating I looked around for any familiar runners. S was there, having entered the station soon after me, and she was ready to get back in the race. She left and we both thought I would catch up to her on the long road up to Grouse Mountain parking lot (this is the only section of the race on road). I waited and watched for Jane and she ran in about a minute later. I was so excited to see her but also really anxious to start racing again, so instead of waiting two minutes for her to prep, I left, again with the plan that she would catch me on the road. This was a mistake. Three things I’d been concerned about for the race were 1) Not hitting my damn head on that damn tree on Black Mountain that I’ve run into every training run! 2) Not running the Grouse section alone because it is soul destroying! And 3) Finishing the damn race upright and smiling! Well I accomplished number 1 to great cheers from runners around me who I had informed of my goal as we neared the tree, and number 2 I had been worrying about for weeks. I had the opportunity to wait two minutes for Jane so we could run that section together but I passed it up in my haste to get back into the race.

3rd quarter: I saw a few other runners on the long road but we were all very spaced out. The road winds up from the dam through heavy traffic to the entrance to the Grouse Grind, a famous local hike that attracts HORDES of people. Our route shares the approach to the Grind for about half a km, then stays low when they start their arduous climb. Volunteers were at the entrance trying to regulate hiker flow into the trails to give runners a chance to get through with less difficulty, but I reached the entrance just after they had let a large group onto the trail. The volunteer apologised sincerely (I was a little clueless and didn’t think it was a big deal), and as I entered the trail he cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled “RUNNER…COMING…THROU-OUGH!” Ha! I quickly piped up, “SLOWLY!” so that no one would get the wrong idea, and that got a few laughs from the hikers around me. Eventually I passed the hikers and began the long slog that is the third quarter. It’s a deceptive section because although it looks like it’s undulating along a relatively even altitude, this section actually climbs dramatically. I seriously think that it’s a mind f*ck because you can’t wrap your head around the fact that you’re going up, up, up since it looks like you’re just going up AND down, and so mentally you break down because you feel so very tired (knackered, even!) but think you shouldn’t be. Every runner I have talked to hates this section the most, seriously, which is why I desperately wanted to be with someone so that we could chat to pass the time and take our minds off it. But no, I screwed that up and covered about ¾ of this section all alone and depressed and fatigued. Plus, runners GI was rearing its ugly head and all I could think about was where the next toilet opportunity would be; unfortunately I had just entered a very long stretch without any toilet facilities except dense forest.

Eventually I did see that I was gaining on someone – it was D! I had missed her in the aid station somehow and she’d run on ahead. Guess what? I wasn’t the only one with GI issues! She was in rough shape and had been walking for about a half hour, she figured. We walked on together, quite happy to have caught up with each other but depressed that neither of us was feeling well enough to run. After a while she wanted to fix her shoe so she hurried ahead to the next aid station where she would wait for me. Almost as soon as she took off, Jane came up behind me! I was so glad to see her! She must have taken her time at the halfway point because she was moving along at a pretty good clip and would have caught me earlier, otherwise. Her splits show that she took this section seriously and had a solid run. Anyway, we were glad to be reunited and she slowed down a little to trot with me. We emerged from the worst part of the third quarter and suddenly saw Rocco and Steve again! I didn’t expect to see them and it was a great surprise. Then, 10 minutes later, running up towards the third checkpoint and major aid station, someone yelled Jane’s last name: two friends of hers who also know me, and they ran us in to the checkpoint. God, familiar faces work wonders on the spirit in this kind of challenge!

4th quarter: We didn’t stay long at the station, but I have to tell you a little about the fuel they put out for us. Some runners will have heard about the wonder drug that is flat Coke. I’d never tried it but let me tell you how much I salivated when I spotted those little Dixie cups of black gold! It’s the perfect fluid: instant sugar with no bubbles so you can simply gulp it down. Delicious! And chips! Each station had two or three flavours of salty, salty chips! Exactly what you’re craving after running for over 6 hours. But the best, the ultimate, the only thing that got me through, was the watermelon. I’m convinced now that it’s the perfect food. Cold, watery, sweet but not sugary, perfectly crunchy – total heaven. Every aid station had watermelon and I started to look forward to it when I was only steps away from the previous station. I spoke to another random runner after the race as we were gobbling watermelon at the finish line and he told me he had cut up a whole watermelon, frozen it over night, and carried all the pieces in his hydration pack! He was laughing at himself that he carried his own watermelon up the mountain when the race was providing it at every stop! Also, one of the minor aid stations in the second half had a kind of shower rigged up, and big buckets of cold water with sponges. My god, a soaked sponge has never felt so good!

Ok, running again, and feeling crappy in my belly but otherwise mostly back on track. Very glad to have Jane by my side, and we’re both excited about the fourth quarter since it’s our favourite section. The forest is lovely through here (from Lynn Canyon to Deep Cove) and although the first half of it is very technical terrain, the latter half to the finish line is mostly manicured paths that are fast and easy to run on. But to get there you have to first tackle the Seymour Grind. This isn’t a Grind that is famous like the Grouse Grind; in fact, I doubt if non-runners call it anything or even notice this section as being all that different from other portions of the Baden Powell trail. But among runners, it’s INfamous. We reached the Seymour Grind about seven hours into our race. SEVEN HOURS! We had already scaled Black Mountain, climbed the illusion of flat ground in the Grouse section, and by now we were very, very tired. The Seymour Grind climbs straight up over technical ground for a solid twenty minutes, and my legs were almost shot and my bowels were giving me hell. I had chosen not to use the toilets at the Lynn Canyon checkpoint because I didn’t think it would resolve anything and could have been more frustrating and demoralizing than useful. I still think that was the right choice, but this issue plagued me throughout the long race. It seemed to be more aggravated by going uphill…like on the Seymour Grind. I strode on, determined to be strong. Had to stop and rest a couple times which is very unlike me, and Jane and I couldn’t come up with a juicy topic of conversation for the life of us, so the climb seemed unending. But it did end. We were victorious. We got there. We…well, I stopped at the top, bent over double, and told Jane to save herself.

I’m glad she went ahead because I would have felt bad if she had stalled her race for me, but I also kind of wish she had stayed with me as I was feeling pretty low. But maybe because she left I was propelled to suck it up and continue. I think she couldn’t have been more than two minutes ahead of me, but unfortunately I didn’t see Jane again during the race. I was seriously trying to catch her, and I’m usually a bit faster than her on this final section, but she eluded me. She ran a very solid race, smashing her previous fastest time by over 15 minutes. I’m so proud of her!

I kept going. As I said, this final leg is pretty calm, manicured paths that are easy to run on, and of course knowing you’re closing in on the finish always gives you a final wind. Jogging on trail, jogging across the last road, dropping one last time down into technical trail…this last 20 minutes of the course is on a very busy section of trail where lots of hikers were out enjoying the beautiful summer day (it was 29degrees and cloudless!). They were so nice, knowing full well that this race was on and that we weren’t in any shape to be going around them. They would sidestep out of the way or wait for me to pass, and two hikers actually had to turn me around to face the correct trail when I might have headed the wrong way. My brain was definitely losing grip at this point! Something felt a bit funny between my legs suddenly, and I was a little freaked out that maybe my stomach issues were becoming more public than I was comfortable with. I slipped a hand down my leg and brought it back up with something stuck to it, something…blue? It took me a second to figure it out – part of my shorts had fallen off! My shorts were disintegrating but I just wanted to see the finish! Then suddenly I was on the last stairs down out of the trail, running towards the asphalt path through a small park, and hearing the crowds again. What a glorious sound! I started to tear up again and choked on my breath – but then, wait, who’s that? It’s my sister! And Ness! And a few steps further on Miranda and her stepson David! I had no idea they were coming! And then Rocco and Steve and Steve’s gf! My tears disappeared and I was just filled with joy! Sounds super cheesy, I know, but I did mention that my sanity was a little questionable by now, right? Anne leaned towards me out of the crowd and I thought she said, “Give me a hug!” I yelled, “No way! I’m FINISHING this!” and ran on! Sprinting, sprinting, charging toward the finish line feeling like the race had just started and I was chock a block with energy! I RAN across the finish line, 50km and over 8000ft change in elevation away from the start line. Man, I felt GOOD! I ran straight into Jane’s arms for a huge bear hug, the biggest grins on our faces! YES!

This is the biggest physical challenge I have ever taken on, and you know what, even before crossing the finish line I decided that I would do it again. I loved all the training runs. I loved meeting such great people on the trails and spending so much quality time with Jane. I LOVE that I ran through my shorts! They’re in tatters and will never run again, but thanks to a healthy dose of Bodyglide, I didn’t even chafe while my shorts were being torn asunder! My trail runners also definitely need to be retired. There is not much give or cushioning left in those puppies, and I wonder if the mud casing is doing a better job of holding them together than any of the original stitching. But they got me across the finish line in 8 hours, 16 minutes, and 34 seconds, smack dab in the middle of my goal range of 8 or 8 and a half hours. It looks like one toenail might go black, but 1 out of 10 ain’t bad, and the blisters that I think were due to the second pair of socks have already cleared up. In fact, I think recovery was worse after my first half marathon because I wasn’t trained for it. I was definitely trained for this race, and although I’m sore and a bit tired, I have very few complaints.

In spite of the heat, a new course record was set on Saturday: 4:39:52!!!!! The first woman finished in 5:36:24!!!! But overall the average time across all runners was up from other years, probably because it was so hot. Also, I was not alone with my stomach problems; I told you D had stomach pain too but so did a majority of the runners I spoke to afterwards. I think that has to do with the heat as well, as you’re drinking more while still trying to balance your salt levels by eating more and everything is sloshing around inside.

Well folks, that’s my story. I had an absolute blast, in spite of some rough patches, and if they had a sign up table to enter the lottery for next year at this year’s finish line, I would have signed up right then and there. If you got this far, thanks for reading! I wouldn't blame you at all if you quit many paragraphs ago, but I needed to document the race for myself, and I think one or two of you will actually be interested in the whole story. So thanks!

8.7.09

Kidomatic

Truism 1: Parents have a lot of free time.
Truism 2: Having a toddler really cranks up your personal creativity output.

Evidence:

28.6.09

Family film reel


Seeing as how some people I love have recently welcomed a new addition to their brood, I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on my own brood. What's obvious from the pictures is that I'm the only one interested in this reflexive project. Oh well, at least they're cute.

Congratulations LOMAH!!!! I should also say congratulations Miranda(!!!) for your own family expansion. Family is good people!

17.6.09

Spring growth - all over the place!


I decided the garden is looking good enough to brag about so here are a few pics showing highlights of spring growth. This is my favourite thing by far: zucchini blossoms!!!!

It's my first year trying zucchini in a container and so far, success is palpable! There are four flowers already, and the veggies are already taking shape. Unfortunately, as you can almost see in the photo, some kind of wee black bug has taken up residence on the zucc, so I nuked them today with Safer spray. Cross your fingers for me that it does the trick. I hate garden pests! My tomato is promising big things but there's no fruit yet, and my sugar snap peas are reaching for the stars!

I don't know why but my snow peas are NOT showing any sign of growth. I planted them the same day as the sugar snap peas but while the peas are now taller than chest height, the snow peas are still only about 4 inches tall. Any advice on snow peas is enthusiastically accepted! Also, if you look closely at the sugar snap peas photo you might notice the first small white flowers at the top of the stalks. Fresh peas are on their way! :-D

My garden is thriving and reaching new heights, and I'm trying to match its success in my trail running. The 50km ultra trail race is coming up on July 11th and our training runs on Sundays are getting longer and longer. Every week now is a milestone for me as I pass my longest distance ever run every seven days. This past weekend was a huge weekend of running since I ran the 5 Peaks trail race on Saturday (the shorter distance rather than the longer distance, which I thought was wise because), and a 38km training run on Sunday. Seriously. I know there are a lot of marathoners on here that can churn out a 38km run without batting an eyelid, but this is all new territory for me, and my IT band is NOT used to it. I had quite a bit of pain in my left knee and hip during the run, and on Monday, but by Tuesday it had calmed down and I'll go for a short city run tonight to test things out.

I think mostly my body was telling me that I'm tired, that I need rest, and that I'm doing more than I ever have before and I should take care of myself. So that's what's happening. I've found a new physio who I adore, and her stretches have been really helping this past week. I see her again Thursday. Also I'm trying to book a massage this week to work on my left IT, but the dude hasn't called me back yet to schedule. Maybe I should call again? Or try a different therapist? A highly recommended book on vegetarian diets for endurance athletes is finally in and on hold for me at my local library, so I'll pick it up today. I'm looking forward to learning more about what my body needs right now and how best to fuel its herculean (to me, anyway) efforts.

The race training group got a photographer out on one of our training runs a few weeks ago, and me and Jane showed up in a couple of the shots. He was positioned only about 10 minutes down the trail so we still look really fresh, which is NOT the case after 4 hours of running. I'll put the link to all the photos after the pics here; there aren't very many but they do show the snow we were running on for about 2 hours. Very, very difficult going up since the beaming sun was melting the snow under our feet, and very, VERY fun coming down as we boot skiied and whooped and hollered! I'm in white/purple, you know, the one with the little pot belly, and my running buddy Jane is wearing all black and hamming it up for the camera.


Oops, you'll have to click on the first running image to see the whole thing. Not sure why blogger is resizing it...
Photo link

15.6.09

A poem, about plums

This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

29.4.09

Fighting the good fight

Did I mention that they drew my name for the 2009 Knee Knacker? Yep, they did. Damn them. So I have a 50km trail race in my future, in July to be specific. About all I can say to that is "dear god"! We've started training (running buddy Jane also got in) and I have a lot of work ahead of me! Not only that but this year the race organizers imposed a mandatory volunteer requirement on all entrants. By June 15th each entrant must have volunteered at least 4 hours with any group, for any cause, or forfeit their entrace fee and place. Personally I think it's super cool. Most people will probably volunteer at another race or do their hours cleaning up trails on the North Shore. I thought I would take a look around for other opportunities that might be out there, and found a fantastic site.

Go Volunteer is a website that lists hundreds if not thousands of volunteer opportunities all over Canada. They range from long term commitments to short term or one-off opportunities like special events, and there's a huge diversity of groups who are using the site to advertise positions. You can narrow your search by interest (like Arts or Health, etc.) or by location, or by availability.

I know there are very few of us who see any time in their schedules available for volunteering, but this race has forced me to find some time, and actually I'm really looking forward to it. A new group of people, trying something new or teaching something that's old to me to a new student, and getting to see another side of my community. Take a look at the site - I think you'll be surprised at what's out there to take advantage of. Have fun!

25.4.09

Great ad

Browsing Craigslist and found this little ad:



Love it! Is anyone interested? I'd go pick the stuff up for you just to meet the person who posted it. :-)

24.3.09

Men and the cats who love them

Apparently this went viral last year and I missed how. How could this BE??? I'm on the intertubes EVERY SINGLE DAY, and I am drawn to cat paraphernalia. Bullshit that I missed this! Anyway, *le sigh*, I've found it now and want to share it with all of you for educational and cat compassion-building purposes.

23.2.09

For my Alberta eaters

Through six degrees of separation, I found this site for the Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association that allows you to link up with farmers and food producers so you can get your food directly from the producer. Those businesses listed might be the farm itself that offers a U-Pick, or a market that carries locally produced food stuff. The coolest feature is a google mapping tool that lets you look up any food, like beef or broccoli and a whole extensive list, and pins producers on an interactive map.

Here's a screenshot of searching for basil.


It's such a great tool! Happy food hunting!

18.2.09

The evolution of Boris binding

As you scroll down the page, witness the evolution of Boris binding we've recently experienced.

Majorly depressed in his doctor-prescribed cone. He wore it for over three weeks!


A delightful sweater that Boris found far too tempting to lick - maybe because it was quite like fur. He licked it to death after only a couple days.


T-shirt number one. A good compromise; freedom from the cone that was not licktastic but he did manage to pull the stitches apart after about a week.


The current look: Super B! T-shirt number 2.

I can't believe he still needs to be wearing anything, but the weird wound in his armpit is still not totally healed. I'm suspicious it's more than the vet thought, but maybe we'll see the vet again for another opinion next week. Meanwhile...Super B wears his colours!

Sheldon the Magnificent!



Here he is! All 7lbs, 12ounces of him. I've met him by webcam and I get to meet him in the flesh in a couple weeks. Can't wait! K and H are happy he was a little early and everyone is doing very well indeed, thank you. K even said something ridiculous, that maybe I shouldn't be repeating here in case it incites acts of wrath from other mothers... oh well. She said it wasn't even that hard! Seriously?! I think maybe she just really wants Sheldon to have cousins. Yeesh.

Closing note: SERIOUS CUTIE! Congratulations to all three of you! And send more pictures!

12.2.09

Evil baby ... or is he?

This is for Kath and Hugh. I hope life with wee Sheldon is this much fun!

8.2.09

Bothering Boris just got Better!

Boris is still in need of the cone, but I asked the vet on Friday if there was any alternative to the elizabethan collar. She said I could try and rig something up, and I needed no further encouragement!

Behold: Sweater Boris!


I took an old, stretched out sock of Rocco's and fabricated a kind of kitty bolero jacket. It has a hole for one arm, giving him the most mobility, and a sleeve for the arm with the wound that requires protection. Right now he's hobbling around trying to get used to the contraption, but I think he's relieved that he's now able to bathe himself and fit through small spaces once again. Hey, now he and Rocco can be all Matchy McMatcherton!



No, Rocco is not painfully hungover; it's just a bad angle and I took him by surprise. And no, I'm not wearing the Shaka Khan look on purpose; this is my morning hair. Like it or lump it.

All hail the kitty bolero!

20.1.09

The Kilmorey Lodge burned to the ground!


A historic lodge and landmark in a southern Alberta national park burned to the ground Tuesday morning.

The Kilmorey Lodge in Waterton Lakes National Park caught fire at 4 a.m.

Everyone made it out safely, according to park officials. No other buildings were damaged.

"For a lot of people the Kilmorey was near and dear to their heart, so it's a very sad day for the park and for visitors," said Rod Blair, the park superintendent.
The Kilmorey Lodge in Waterton Park, pictured here before the fire, burned to the ground Tuesday morning.The Kilmorey Lodge in Waterton Park, pictured here before the fire, burned to the ground Tuesday morning. (Courtesy www.watertoninfo.com)

Blair rushed to the lodge when he learned about the fire and watched the engulfed and partially collapsed building burn.

The loss of the Kilmorey will have an impact on tourism in the village of Waterton Park near the U.S.-Canada border because it was a popular spot, said Blair, but not just with visitors.

Blair was among the parks staff who ate lunch at the lodge since it was the only restaurant open in the winter.

"It's sort of an icon in the community," said Blair. "It's a sad thing to see a beautiful old building like that destroyed.

Blair described the interior as "Victorian-style."

"I think it was the only place left that didn't have televisions, radios and telephones in the rooms. It was keeping in the era of the original rooming house," he said.

The lodge was built in 1926 as a rooming house by Ida Kemmis. It burned down in 1933 and was rebuilt and expanded in 1940.

The cause of the fire is unknown and fire officials are investigating.

"Hopefully the owner will rebuild," Blair said.


The story is from cbc.ca. This is truly terrible news, and I'm really saddened by it. The Kilmorey was always the last stop before driving to Lethbridge after a day in the mountains, for beer or a hot drink, and often for a delicious burger. Just this past December as we navigated icy roads to Waterton National Park, we couldn't reach the ranger's office to ask if the roads worsened ahead or to ask about trail conditions, so we phoned the Kilmorey. The lady at the front desk was so nice and answered all my questions to the best of her knowledge. Certainly not her job and she had no responsibility to help us out, but she was kind enough to tell me what she knew about conditions. We picked up hot coffees there after a wonderful day snowshoeing but unfortunately didn't have time to stop for longer. I'll sure miss this place!

God bless an inversion!



Last Friday, while the rest of Vancouver suffered yet another foggy, drizzly, nasty, cold day, Miranda and I took off up the mountain for a day of snowshoeing. It was beautiful! There was a full inversion and we could feel the heat rising forcibly almost off the snow. I even got a little bit of sunburn on my nose. Gorgeous day, good company, totally revived our spirits and vitamin D levels.

Did you know snowshoeing burns like 500 calories an hour? That seems absurdly high but multiple sites on the internet confirm it. And, as we all know, the internet never lies. No wonder my hips were sore and my legs were so tired after two and a half hours!