Tuesday, May 24, 2016

San Francisco April 2016

Off we go to visit Daniel and I will also be running the Rock n Roll San Francisco Half Marathon on Sunday. I'm both excited about this race, and apprehensive. I want to see how much my new coaching plan is helping my racing abilities. But this is San Francisco and I know this is a very hilly race. 

Thursday we land and have a couple hours before Dan gets off work. First we go to Target and buy ourselves an air mattress to sleep on at Daniels. He has a futon with a foam pad but the pad is bigger than the futon and Lee feels like he might slide off at any moment. Then we find a nearby Philz to get some coffee and hang out until Daniel can get off work. We end up in the Glen Canyon neighborhood, high above the city. It's very pretty and that Philz coffee is good! We still have time to kill so we go ahead and park by Daniel’s apartment and walk up 18th street. A Peruvian Restaurant is having happy hour with $1 oysters but the oysters are already sold out. Oh well, we have cocktails and cerveche instead. 

Once Daniel gets off work we decide to walk to a nearby Japanese place for dinner. It's good, we've been there before, but it's pretty crowded and we end up sitting on the patio. Good thing they have heaters. San Francisco is chilly, and windy too. 

Friday Daniel has to work but we don't have a problem entertaining ourselves. First we go out for breakfast at Sally's. I have a waffle with dates, very good. We meet Daniel for lunch at a little French place around the corner from his office. My tuna sandwich and onion soup are great! Then we drive to the ocean and go for a walk along the beach. The weather is still chilly and windy but the sun is brilliant. The wind has made for huge waves, and has spilled loads of sand dollars all over the beach. Lee ends up with quite a collection.

Then we drive up to Lands End and go for a hike. We hike the entire trail, all the way to Eagle’s Point. Because of the recent rains the wildflowers so are wonderful. I take lots of iPhone pictures.

Dinner Friday is at a New Orleans French pub/bistro. The food is good but something upsets my stomach. That part is not so good. Was it the clam stuffed beignet? Who knows... 

Saturday we get to play with our son. We decide to try one of the offbeat things on a list I made of unusual things to do in SF. We go to the Beat Museum, all about Jack Kerouac and his friends. It's a funky little place with a beautiful 48 Hudson just like the one Neil Cassady drove in On the Road.

Then we head over to Crissy Field and admire the bay. It's a beautiful day but cold so before too long we decide to walk over to the Palace of Fine Arts. Very beautiful especially against the brilliantly blue sky.

After that Daniel says "hey would you like to see Twin Peaks?" I actually have no idea what Twin Peaks IS, all I can think of is the David Lynch TV show from the 90s, but we say sure! And off we go. Twin Peaks turns out to be the tallest hill(s) in San Francisco, the ones off in the distance with the radio towers on them. Wow what an incredible view! It's sunny and bright and we can see for miles and miles. It's also cold and windy so before too long it's time to head back down.

Dinner Saturday is my pre-race dinner. I want carbs, but not too much so I've asked for ramen. Daniel takes us to a place in the Mission called Kensen. It was the hot new ramen place a couple of years ago but we are eating early and the foodies have moved on so we have no trouble getting a table. Daniel Tse, our Dan's roommate, and his best friend from preschool days, joins us. It's great to see him, it's been several years.

Sunday I have to get up early, 3 am! The race starts at 6:30 am and I need to eat something and have time to drive to where the shuttle buses are waiting to take me to the start at Ocean Beach. I know this is a very hilly race, but with the hill repeats and other exercises my new couch has been putting me through I'm hoping I'm ready.

The start is cold; I wait until the last possible minute to take off my extra clothes. I know I will be warm enough as soon as I start running, but I just hate being cold at beginning of a race.

The first half mile is flat, but I know the first big hill is around the corner, and sure enough there it is. Steady as she goes, up I go. I'm following my coach's instructions and running by feel. The first 6 miles are supposed to feel like 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. This first long hill ends up being the slowest part of the race for me, but that makes sense since I'm still warming up.

We turn the corner, go down a hill, and at mile 3 the very long hill through the Presidio begins. At this point I start to realize just how beautiful this race really is. As we begin to climb higher the Golden Gate bridge comes into view. And along the road are service men and women, holding flags, high fiving us up this mountainous road. They are very energizing. I know this hill should feel exhausting but I am sticking with effort=5 so it's more fun than pain.

Then it's down a bit to the long slow climb that is the Golden Gate bridge. It fun to run across the bridge. It's foggy so there aren't a lot of views, but halfway across the bridge becomes a long slow downhill instead, and that's a nice break. Of course I lose a few seconds here and there to take a selfie or two but that's to be expected.

We turn around at the viewing place on the the other side of the bridge, so we actually run it twice. By now I'm in the second part of the race where effort should equal 7. After a huge downhill on the other side of the bridge we start to run along Crissy Field, the flattest portion of the race. I'm going faster but I'm holding back a bit, worried about needing to save something for the last big hill at the finish. I also need to pee, but I'm not going to stop, I don't care if I wet myself. Grrr!

Out of Crissy Field and up through downtown, the last big hill before a long downhill to the finish line. I push it little by little, more and more. I never feel completely spent and I do give it all I have on that final downhill.

My time is 2:29:22, three minutes slower than my PR. Much better than the very hilly New England Half that I ran last fall, but I'm still a little disappointed. I feel so good after the race that I can't help thinking that I could have run that final hill faster. But I'm 18 out of 49 women 60-64 in a big city race and my coach, and Lee both assure that is a good time. I don't know why I'm being so hard on myself!

After the race I'm looking forward to Dim Sum at Hong Kong Lounge. A quick shower and back in the car to go pick up Sherry Ott. Sherry is a travel writer and photographer and is never in one place for very long. It feels very lucky that we are actually in the same town at the same time!

Ah Hong Kong Lounge....we keep saying we are going to try the dim sum in Oakland, which is supposed to be even better, but HKL is so very good....everyone knows I'm starving so they hand the order sheet over to me, and I try very hard not to over order...BBQ pork buns, Shanghai dumplings, veggie dumpling, shrimp dumplings, rice wrapped in a lotus leaf, and egg tarts for dessert. Yum yum YUM!

Afterwards, well I'm tired. We go back to Dan's apartment and I even take a bit of a nap. That evening we go to a place called Hog and Rocks. The hog is proscuto, the rocks are oysters. We have the oysters of course but nobody goes for the ham. I do remember some fancy French fries with egg yolk on them, but otherwise I can't remember anything else we ate. This might have been a case of foodie overload!

On Monday its time to go home. We kiss Daniel goodbye. I feel a little blue; he has travel plans, it might be thanksgiving before I get to see my boy again. When we get to the airport we find out our flight is delayed due to the weather in Boston. Resignedly we settle down to wait. We're a little concerned that they will decide to cancel, but after a 3 hour delay we’re finally on board. I watch the movie Philomena in flight. Judy Dench does a wonderful job but it's so depressing, such a sad, infuriating story. Those nuns are a perfect example of the banality of evil. I did like when she said that she forgave them at the end. The journalist she was working with said "I don't know how you could do that," and she said "it's hard, I've had to work at it. But I don't want to live with that kind of hate in my heart" I just think it's such a perfect explanation of why forgiveness is a worthy goal. But I'm more like the journalist than Philomena. I don't think I could forgive them either.

It was very late when our airplane approached Boston Logan. The pilot came on the loud speaker to apologize and tell us there would be an additional delay so that they could plow the runway one more time before we landed. The passengers gave a collective sigh but I thought I'd much prefer they plow it than not!

It was another great trip to San Fran. It was wonderful seeing Daniel, and that was a great race. The weather was gorgeous, and we saw a few things we had never seen before on our trips to the left coast. Now I'm sitting in my kitchen back in New Hampshire. It's still pretty brown here, but there are finches at the feeder and Canadian geese flying over the lake. It's even getting warmer....highs in the 50s are predicted for all of this week. Before we know it spring will be here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Back in March I went to Finesse Pastries in Manchester with the Westie Girls and learned how to make French Macaroons. These are the pretty little cookies in pastel colors you can find in some upscale bakeries. Finesse offers various baking classes and this particular class sounded like fun, so here we were.

This was different from the bread baking class I took at King Arthur Flour last fall. For one thing it was only an afternoon, not 4 days of baking. For another, this was mostly a whim. I don't have any deep seated longing to make the perfect macaroon but I do have an affinity for bread.

So, this class was fun. It was also a lot harder than it looked. There are a lot of steps to making French Macaroons. It didn't take me long to decide that this wasn't something I was going to be doing at home!

There were 6 of us so the first thing they did was split us into three teams. Each team got to pick their flavor; we chose orange. At the end we got samples of all three flavors we made so it didn't really matter.

The first step was to made the macaroon. It sounds simple; mix together almond flour, confectioner's sugar, regular sugar and egg whites, beat the heck out of it. But, don't beat it enough and they won't hold their shape, beat them too much and they'll be too dry and break apart. Our expert instructors kept us in line and told us when we were at just the right point.

Then we put the mixture in pastry bags and again under careful guidance and instruction, squeezed the dough onto parchment lined baking sheets. It really wasn't easy! The danger was moving the pastry bag before you stopped the flow of the dough so you ended up with a little point or a swirl or a lop-sided wafer. Squeeze, stop, THEN move. It definitely took practice!

While the macaroons baked we made the ganache, the filling for the cookies. And again, this had to be mixed to the right consistency and then refrigerated for awhile or it didn't stay on the cookies and oozed out everywhere. The other groups made pistachio and coffee ganache; they all tasted yummy and looked pretty too!

We squeezed the ganache carefully onto the cookies, put the top half of the cookie on the bottom half, and ta-da! A French Macaroon! We all got an assortment of cookies to take home. Most of mine went in the freezer but they didn't stay there long. I managed to eat them all with only a little help from Lee.

Finesse offers other classes too, on making croissants, puff pastries, eclairs, and other French delights. I get hungry just thinking about all these baked goodies....

Friday, May 6, 2016

Florida 2016

Remember Florida? That nice place far away from the cold, the snow, the dreary New England winter? Way back in February we went back to Safety Harbor for a month. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, and I conscientiously  took notes about our trip so that I could write a blog post about it when we got back. But here it is, well into May, and I am finally getting around to posting. Better late than never!

For the first time we have an uneventful trip trip down south. No snow, no accidents, no strange snafus. This year we spend our first night in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Except for the gigantic piles of snow it's very nice. We have oysters for dinner and take our time getting on the road. We spend the second night  in Florence, South Carolina at the same La Quinta we stayed at last year. There are lots and lots of dogs at this La Quinta and that gives Cosmo fits. He's growling suspiciously at every little sound. We take a nice long walk through a nearby industrial park, and that helps calm them down. The dogs are so good and patient in the car. They are wonderful travelers! We have BBQ for dinner of course, very good even if they do get the order wrong and forget to give us sauce or eating utensils.

The next day it's on to Florida. It's a long drive but the weather is warm and sunny. We arrive in Safety Harbor around 5 pm, walk the dogs, go to Whistle Stop for dinner. We're so happy we're here!

On Tuesday I do my first Florida run,  six miles that get me very hot and sweaty but it feels great running in shorts and a tshirt. This year we shipped some things so that we didn't have to use the cartop carrier. Our boxes arrive so we can unpack.

On Wednesday I go take my first class at the Safety Harbor Spa, boxing and conditioning. Box, bike, planks, jump rope and more. By the end my legs are shaky but it's a fun workout. More oysters at Bar Fly that night. We certainly have been obsessed with oysters lately!

On Thursday I do another 6 mile run. It's 70F and humid. I'm not used to this yet! At around 3 a front blows in with rain and dropping temperatures. We take the dogs for a short walk and we all get wet. Lows in the 40's and 50's next week, highs in the 50's and 60's. Good thing I brought some sweaters with me!

On Saturday I run the Best Damn Race 10k/5k challenge. The 10k is @ 6:45 AM.  I'm up at 3:45 so I can eat well before the race. It's cold for Florida, 48F. I wear 2 fleeces and don't check them until the last possible minute. I run the 10k by feel and it works really well; I match my 2nd best ever 10k time. I have an hour before the 5k. It's warmed up but I'm sweaty and I get very chilled. The 5k goes by quickly. It actually feels good, I don't push myself but still manage to run an okay race, slow but not embarrassing. There's lots of food and beer at the post race party but after I retrieve my fleeces and get my challenge medal I'm ready to go home. 

I'm hungry and actually sleepy that afternoon. I take two naps, just drifting away on the couch. It feels great! We go out to a new sushi place in town, Happy Salmon. Overall the sushi is very good; the dumplings are excellent. Lee should not have ordered the mackerel however. It wasn't fresh and there's nothing worse than old mackerel. Also the nigiri were gigantic, which makes them more finger food than chopstick portions, but that's okay.

We are in for a couple days of cold Florida weather and brisk winds. We are very relaxed and lazy. We take dogs to the big Enterprise dog park one day. They just love it, playing with other dogs, chasing balls, and even doing a little agility.  I really should do agility with Harper. She loves it, and is good at it too. But she has a lazy owner....

My running is going well. I have new coach. He is okay with run/walk and works with older women. He still has me run only 3-4 days a week,  but every run is very focused and more demanding, both longer and faster. After a week of going wtf! I'm really enjoying this new training and hopeful that I will get faster without getting injured.

Thursday February 11th is sunny and a little warmer. Once again I'm so relaxed, eating cookies, drinking coffee, hanging with the dogs. Think I'll work the NYT crossword puzzle online....

Friday February 12th. It's time for a bike ride in the beautiful sunny Florida weather. Then that night we eat at Green Springs Bistro. I have risotto with scallops and shrimp, Lee has shrimp and grits. We share some gumbo too, it's really, really good. And we have a good bottle of Pinot Noir too. This is our Valentine's celebration because Eugenie will be with us on the 14th. 

Saturday February 13th. I do a 5 mile run so that my Sunday progression runs starts on tired legs. Interesting all the new types of running exercises I'm doing! Eugenie arrives that afternoon. We just hang out and relax. She is stressed from driving her brother's big truck by herself all the way from Delray Beach.

Sunday February 14th. This is something called a progression run. I start the run slowly and gradually get faster. I basically kill it; I nail my paces all the way and do it all by feel, just occasionally checking my watch to see how close I am to the expected pace. It's an awesome feeling to do one of my coach's challenging runs correctly. 

We take Eugenie to Whistle Stop on Valentine's Day. We have delicious Margaritas and one of our usual wandering conversations. It's strange; we have known each other so long, we know all of each other's stories, our quirks, foibles, etc. It's like we're related. Oh and later I get a metal lobster yard art hanging as a Valentine's Day present. We might hang it  in the gazebo, I don't know yet. 

After Euge leaves on Monday it's a foggy cloudy day. Its a good day to drive around in the car for a change so we go for a drive, first to get bahn mi sandwiches at a place called Seasons in Pinellas Park. I get the pork meatball, so very very good, worth the drive in itself. Then it's on to the crazy Italian market, Mazzano,  for truffle cheese, good wine, olives. That place is always just packed. Then we go to Bill Jackson's, the giant sporting goods store. I got Lee a gift card to this store for Valentine's Day, but he can't find anything he wants there, so I buy warm running gloves with His gift card and then we go to West Marine and buy him a new hat.

Tuesday February 16th it's off to Clearwater beach. It's a cool, cloudless, sunny day. We eat tacos at Pearly's, take a walk along the shore, talk, play with my camera.

Wednesday we go to the St Pete Runners' Store, cause we're both due for new running shoes (or walking shoes in Lee's case) . We both get a very thorough work up before we purchase our shoes. What a great store; I wish they were in New England! I end up with very comfy Sauconys and a few more suggested exercises for strengthening my feet and improving my balance. I swear eventually I will be doing more exercises than running!

Thursday evening Catherine shows up. With her birding interests, by the time she leaves I know two new birds - Fish crows and a wood stork - and I'm suddenly hearing birds all over the place. She identifies a lot of birds by sounds. The mockingbird in the back has quite a range! The builders next door are cutting concrete all weekend. Concrete saws are very annoying; I'm ready for them to finish. Next year those two houses will be built and we will have new neighbors!

After Catherine leaves things are quiet for a few days. We go back to our lazy ways. We meet Fateh and Barbara, friends from 3M days, in St. Pete. We sit outside at a Cuban sandwich place called Bodega and catch up on things. We are all becoming snowbirds more and more. We stop at Craft Cafe on the way home. We like their coffee!

I take my last boxing class on Wednesday February 24th. Of course now that we are leaving I'm getting the hang of it. Maybe next year I will at least buy some wraps. They protect your hands, and the communal gloves are pretty gross. 

On Friday we go to Parts of Paris, a nice French restaurant in town. We went there last year and the food was great, but we had terrible service. The bartender was doubling as our waiter and kept forgetting to take care of us. But we wanted to give them another chance and I'm glad we did. The food is wonderful and this time we had a good waiter, although he did forget to bring Lee's frites....in apology he gave us both an extra drink, which I did not need. I should have said bring me a free dessert instead, but really I was too full for dessert anyway.

On Saturday we drive down to Gulfport for their Get Rescued annual fundraiser. Gulfport is the town where we spent our first Floridian winter getaway. It's such a darling town, much funkier than Safety Harbor. Get Rescued is a street fair with lots and lots of dogs. Some people are just idiots with their pets....I don't think ours are all that well behaved but they are absolute angels compared to some dogs. It's not the dog's fault either, it's their owners.  We go to get bahn mi sandwiches at Seasons again. They are soooo good, but we had to sit outside because of the dogs and it was ccccccold. I had the hood up on my parka.

Sunday, our last day in Florida, was a lot of fun. In the morning, early, I ran 15 miles at a fairly fast pace for me. I didn't have any trouble and felt quite proud afterwards. Then at around 12:30 we hopped on our bikes and rode over to the Phillies baseball stadium for their first spring training game of the season. They were only playing the University of Tampa so it wasn't very competitive, but we enjoyed it anyway. We ate junk, basked in the sun, walked around the stadium, and even watched the game a fair amount. Then we rode our bikes back home. We go to Bar Fly for oysters and tacos one more time and that's it for this year.

Our drive home was okay...but the La Quinta in Florence went dramatically downhill since we stopped there on our way down. It was filthy! I mean we found dog poop in our room!!! Disgusting! We changed rooms, but we won't be back. The Kimpton in Baltimore was of course wonderful as always. We got in right at 5 pm and made it to happy hour for our free glass of wine with minutes to spare. We ate at their restaurant again, it's great and we were exhausted anyway.

On our last day we stop for lunch at a rest stop. Our dogs are often magnets for all kinds of comments and interactions, but this time a little old man and woman stop by. She is in the early stages of dementia and all she wants to do is just sit there and pet our dogs. The little old man can barely tear her away. He looks at us apologetically as they leave. So very very sad.

Now here we are back in New Hampshire. We know we have a couple more months of winteryish weather before spring starts to make an appearance. We have an inch or so of crusty snow on the ground, and the weather is cold, but the sun is shining and it's great to be home.


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