Saturday, February 28, 2009

Distracted by Dresses, pt. 2

The dress I was happily dreaming of wearing this summer? Since yesterday, the bidding has jumped out of my reach. I expected $100-150, but it's now over $250, with a few days still to go.


Seeing as how I'm likely to have a bit more time on my hands in a few months, maybe it's time to learn to sew. A vintage pattern is one heck of a lot less expensive than the dresses I'm mooning over. At the very least, I could stitch up my very own aprons. The regular use of the few aprons I've picked up at garage and estate sales over the last decade has worn them a bit thin.

Grocery Challenge & Supper Wars - Week 8

2009 Grocery Challenge - Week 8
Kroger - $55.09
Trader Joe's - $21.40
Trader Joe's - $17.23
Week 8 Total - $93.72

Year to date - $1,153.92

Weekly Average - $144.24

Week 8 Grocery Lists:

Great week for the budget. Under $100, and we didn't have to skip anything. Now, I just have to figure out how to have more weeks like this. (I haven't totaled up week 9 yet, but it's not pretty.)

Supper Wars -
Broke out the Thai cookbook I received as a gift several years ago. There are a couple recipes which I use often enough that I can do from memory, which means there's been fewer chances to browse and pick an adventure meal. DD & I stocked up during Sunday's shopping on the fresh herbs needed, and spent the next four days in a happy abundance of basil, cilantro & ginger.
Rice Soup w/Eggs
It's essentially the Vietnamese Pho, but with rice grains replacing the rice noodles. I was really surprised this didn't go over better. I think we'll try it again, but I'll roll the ground chicken into small meatballs, instead of browning in pan with spices before adding broth & rice. Then, it will be even closer to the bowls of Pho they love.

Stir Fried Pork & Corn w/Chinese Noodles
I was a bit worried about this one, especially after the reaction to Sunday night's meal, but everyone liked it, mostly. B2 requested I use edamame or snow peas next time, as he wasn't a big fan of the crunchy green beans. We talked about it, and he's okay with me trying again after my next Dekalb Farmers Market trip, when I'll have the chance to pick up the thinner long beans.

Warm Tuna & Tomato Salad

Homemade Mac & Cheese, Peas
I knew the kids would try a slice of the tuna steaks, as long as I kept emphasizing the word "steak" while cooking. I didn't make pushing the warm tomato portion was a big priority. The tuna was seared, then tossed in the dressing for the salad before serving. Served their tuna steak slices with mac & cheese an green peas. Mine was tossed on a bed of shredded cabbage with the tomatoes. Soooo Good! Will repeat this exact meal again, and soon.

Thai Style Burgers, Salad
Garlic-roasted Russet & Sweet Potatoes
The seasoning of these burgers was very similar to the normal basil/cilantro/lime burgers we already make with either chicken or turkey. The difference in these burgers was the container of minced button mushrooms. The kids weren't too keen on the texture. (I loved them, of course.)

Cheese Pizza, Salad

Baked Tofu, Fried (Brown) Rice, Broccoflower
The only complaint on this meal was general lamenting over the green of the broccoflower. They like it, very much - they are just eagerly awaiting the day when we can find the purple cauliflower in the market. Yes. Instead of asking for the cereals in the latest commercials, my kids are begging for the veggie they saw in a health news story. (Sometimes, they are the neatest little weirdos.)

Veggie Omelets, Bacon, Whipping Cream/Cheese Biscuits
2009 Grocery Challenge
Supper Wars

Friday, February 27, 2009

Distracted by Dresses

Here I am, with my first non-work computer time in days, and what am I doing? Am I catching up on the posting of Week 8 suppers & groceries? Filling out my training log? Reading the news to find out what's been happening this week? Getting signed up for next Saturday's 10k?


I'm window shopping for vintage sundresses. And, I'm not just finding dresses which look lovely, I'm finding dresses in my size. 28-30 inch waists, instead of only 24-26. (I love the vintage dresses, but not to the point of shopping for girdles & corsets.)

I do have a couple of summer dresses which need replacing. I had them cut down three years ago, but can't have them tucked any further without getting them taken apart and completely rebuilt. I'd love to replace one with this.
A plain cotton dress or two are also on my radar, for everyday, but this one is top of the list. I love the color. The apron. The cut. I hope I win, but am setting myself a strict limit on the bidding.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Crummy weekend, sort of

Actually, it was a lovely weekend, if a bit cold. It was me. I was the crummy part of the weekend. Never ran a fever, so can't say I was sick, but I was giving it a pretty good try. Stuffy nose, sore throat, headache, queasiness. Felt icky. I think the kids played the role of Typhoid Mary, and brought home a contagion from school.

It was a low key weekend, with family game time, comfort food and movies on demand. Igor with the kids; Burn After Reading for myself. No running on Saturday, but did go for a three mile walk with kids & dog Sunday.

Baked a batch of Black & White Cookies. B2 calls them Cannibal Cookies, seeing as how the cookie dough "eats" 20 oreos (or Trader Joe's JoeJoes). It was the first time we baked them, and I started off skeptical.

The cookies are surprisingly good. The chewy/crunchy combo of buttery cookie dough, crumbly less-sweet chocolate cookie bits, and globs of vanilla cream filling... wow. A bit too sweet for me, but that works out well, because it means one cookie is all it takes.

Almost back to feeling like a person again, so will try an easy three (or four) with Peter T. later today. Would go now, if not for the temp being 33.

Oh. Wait. It's because I'm off to shelve books at the middle school media center, not because I'm a complete wimp today.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Stimulus - Sticker Shock

The stimulus package passed. Instead of everything being sunshine & lollipops, I'm hearing there's already talk about a second stimulus, and possibly a third. Why not? TARP led to TARP 2, and the auto bailout didn't last more than a couple of months before it became known as the first auto bailout.

I've read about costs for individual portions of the bill, the total amount of spending, the number of jobs to be created, the various tax credits - both those which were cut and those kept. I was finding it hard to locate the actual cost to the individual tax payer. Until Monday or Tuesday of this week.

William La Juenesse was on Fox Business (my favorite cable news/business channel, by the way), with exactly the numbers I'd been searching for. I found his earlier interview at - in the Videos section, under "Sticker Shock." I couldn't find a written copy of the numbers, the automatic transcript was jumbled, and the video couldn't be embedded, so I listened through the clip, pencil in hand.

La Juenesse started with the official cost of the Stimulus Bill - $787 Billion, and questioned where the money would be coming from. 15% of the taxes collected in the US come from corporate taxes, so the majority will be paid by individuals. (That individuals also pay corporate taxes in the form of higher prices is a completely separate topic.)

La Juenesse spoke with John Lott, Economics Professor and author of Freedomnomics (great book), and with Kevin Hassett, a Columbia Univ. Economic Professor about the costs to the individuals.

Heritage has the cost at $8,000/year, per household, but Lott and Hassett answered questions I find much more interesting.

Current Deficit + Bank Bailout = $3.7 Trillion Cost per Household = $27,000 With Stimulus Expense = $40,000
The average household income is pretty close to $40,000, in case you didn't know.

Question 1: If we had to pay for the Stimulus Package tomorrow, in a lump sum, how much would it cost?
Tax Bracket Tax Bill

Question 2: If we finance at today's interest rates (30 years @ 4.5%), what will it cost?
Tax Bracket Tax Bill

That's almost double the lump sum cost.

In all the talk of the spending - sorry - stimulus, the politicians are quick to point out the tax breaks. Sounds great, until you hear that the tax breaks amount to $400/year.

$400, against a personal tax bill of $2,500 to $90,000. Or, over 30 years, $12,000, against the $5,000 to $168,000 of borrowed money. This is without any additional deficit spending on new & improved stimulating bailouts.

We all know this is how it's going to be paid. There's nothing there. The treasury will be printing money, causing us all to pay the hidden tax of inflation. And when that's not enough, what's next? Increasing income tax? Extra payroll deductions? Value Added Tax?

As La Juenesse closed his segment...
It's going to cost either you and I or our children. One or the other, but we have to pay the piper.

The video clip continues with Peter Morici, Economic Professor from University of Maryland, discussing why the stimulus will fail, even when it delivers portions of what's promised - such as over 2 million jobs (temporary jobs, he points out). If you don't know Morici, you should watch his congressional testimony during hearings on the first auto bailout .

Adding two blogs to my regular reading list:
Angry Bear. Good stuff, even when it's not good news.
Predictably Irrational. Dan Ariely, author of the book Predictably Irrational. Also links up to the feed for his Arming the Donkeys podcast.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Gmaps Pedometer and Too Far, Too Soon

I'm a map addict. I love looking at maps, drawing maps, charting data on maps, plotting locations, playing navigator... all of it. It really dovetails nicely with my "thing" for outdoor exercise, not to mention my chosen line of work. But it's possible the map thing is getting out of hand.

I map runs and rides in my online training log at Runners World. Have been doing it for over a year now. Works pretty well, and makes it easy to pick a route from a list and have the mileage automatically pop up. Has been fun for seeing how last year's Long routes are this year's Easy. My only complaint is the straight line measuring. If I want to get an accurate number, I have to zoom in and add a whole lot of points. And, should I want to change the route later, I have to zoom in and slide point, after point, after point.

Enter the Distance app. GPS checks in every 30 seconds, and keeps me updated about pace as I go. I can also flip over to "View Route" mid run, to see where I am. (Not that I'm lost, I just like to look at the map.) When finished, the data can be uploaded to MapMyRun / MapMyRide, to keep track in a work out log. Except, I don't use their workout log, I use RunnersWorld. Still gets uploaded though, because when I quit the app, the data is forever gone. I need to be able to look it up when I get back home and add to the training log. Frankly, if not for Distance, I'd be running around staring at Garmin Data on my wrist, and I'm far too clumsy to stay safe with that kind of distraction.

And, from Google, Gmaps Pedometer.


It automatically follows the streets. No more clicking 8,000,000 points to mark an accurate route. It even picks up park trails, such as official National Park Trails. Switch between satellite, hybrid and elevation. Check your calorie burn. Get the URL for your recorded route, so you can bookmark it, email to your workout parter, link in a blog post, whatever.

Seeing as how my last couple of short runs have gone pretty smoothly, I figured I'd map out a slightly longer route, and check it against Distance. Columns Drive is close by, has a clear bike/pedestrian stripe on each side, and is relatively flat. But, mapping to the end of Columns gave me roughly 2.5 miles, for a total of five. And, that little sandy gravel path through the Chattahoochee Recreational Area starts right at the end of Columns. And, the handy dandy automatic path would find it's way to and from anywhere I clicked. Even if I clicked on the parking lot off Powers Ferry, way on the other side of the park.

8.595 miles. Eight-and-a-half. No big deal. After all, I just ran 13.1 last week. I can do 8.595.

It was cold, so wore tights, and a half zip over my shirt. Remembered gloves. Chapstick. Brought along a bottle of water, too. Easy 8.595, if you're prepared & awesome, like me.

It was 43, but felt colder. And windy. Not breezy. Windy. Not in the dangerous way stalwart cyclists of Atlanta endured during the recent storm. I wasn't busy avoiding tornados or anything. But my complaints seem far less whiny if it sounds like I was heading straight into an arctic blast. (Which isn't the case, as it was a crosswind.)

Crossed from the end of Columns onto the path, and still felt pretty good. Mile four, still okay. Turn around point by Powers Ferry, not so great. Approaching the parking area to go back onto columns, uncomfortable. Crossing the bridge, with two miles to go, ouch?

My toes were not ready for 8.595 miles. The poor little deflated blister and purplish spot piggies (wet shoes & socks on Saturday) were only up for six. I had to drop to a 5:00/2:00-run/walk by the last mile.

I'm back in flip flops again. A couple of good notes:
  1. My daughter is taking it as me loving the pink leather sandals, with all their sparkly gems. She bought the lovely "princess sandals" for my birthday, three years ago. I like them, because I love her.
  2. I can play with Gmap Pedometer tomorrow, while I'm NOT running.
Now, to figure out how to protect the piggies during the next half. Body Glide didn't work out so well in wet weather. Maybe the socks with individual toes? Should do the trick, if its just that I need room to spread my toes which my regular socks don't allow.

$100 Grocery Week? Maybe so.

With Tuesday's shopping trip, and the Kroger shopping on Sunday, I'm up to $76.49 for the week, so far.

Rode to Trader Joe's. My quads were surprisingly shaky. I had been feeling fine since Saturday's half marathon, except for my bruised & blistered toes. Or, so I thought. Had to drop my seat about an inch, so my feet would reach the ground for a solid stance. The normal tiptoe perch was not cutting it. I was dangerously close to testing out my helmet's ability to protect my head from the asphalt.

Anyway, enough griping. Here's how $21.40 filled out the bike basket:

Yes, that's another bag of flour. I had the right amount figured for 2-3 loaves of bread each week, and breakfast muffins, but completely forgot to figure in the extra required for hamburger buns, pizza dough, and biscuits this week. 'Doh!

I'll need to make one more trip to the store Friday morning, but I don't need much. Fingers crossed, pencils sharpened, list ready to go. (The list is on the iPhone in Grocery IQ, so there's not actually any pencils needed. I just like the mental image of myself with a ledger book, pencil and green eyeshade.)

And, Tuesday night's Try Something New - Warm Tuna & Tomato Salad:

Cooked strips of tuna ( two yellowfin steaks picked up at TJs a couple months ago) over high heat, then tossed garlic, ginger, salt, chopped scallions and halved grape tomatoes into the pan drippings. After a couple of minutes, added fresh chopped cilantro and mint, and placed on shredded cabbage, with a dressing made of brown sugar, lime juice, white wine, fish sauce and red pepper flakes.

I didn't hit the kids with the whole dish, but they did try a strip or two of the tuna (after it'd been tossed with dressing) with a side of pasta with white sauce and green peas. I called it "steak", until after they'd tasted it. After the two fish-shy young'uns said they liked it, I asked them if they'd like me to cook tuna steaks again sometime. They said yes. Big old win for mom!

Monday, February 16, 2009

$100 Grocery Week?

After lamenting my inability to get the grocery spending down as far as I'd like, I decided to change it up a bit this week. For starters, the biggest part of the shopping was done at Kroger. The produce section is generally better than the Publix near my house, so it's the right choice for a week where I'm semi-avoiding Whole Foods. Second, I'm doing the remainder of my shopping in two small trips, one Tuesday, and one either Thursday or Friday. These small trips will be by bike, to either Trader Joes or Whole Foods. It will probably end up being one of each, as WF is the place to go around here for bean sprouts, which I'll be needed Friday night. (TJ's packages are equally fresh, but availability can be spotty.)

Sunday's shopping: $55.09. It would have been a smaller haul by bike, if I could have worn something other than flip flops on my post-13.1 mile toes. (Not pretty.) Took my three reusable bags and filled them all, plus the one gallon of milk. If I managed to put together the right plan for suppers, shouldn't be much more than $40 for the rest of the week.

Now, off to start bread and bake a batch of cinammon oatmeal cookies for tomorrow's packed lunches. There's no room for Keeblers or Nabisco in the budget this week, especially not with this Triple Brownie ice cream indulgence. It's excellent when drizzled with a bit of hot all natural peanut butter from WF, btw.

In less than three hours, I fixed, with help from DD:
Supper - Stirfried Pork with Corn (Thai)
Dessert - Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies (for tonight & the next few days of lunches)
Breakfast - Oatmeal Flax Muffins (2-3 days), AND
Bread - Honey Oat/Whole Wheat (two days of packed lunches)

WooHoo! Took until the end of the day, but today did turn out to be quite the productive day. Good thing we went for that hike earlier, because DD and I snacked on an awful lot of cookie dough.

Mmmmm, cookie dough.

Half Training, 2/9-2/16

Monday 2/9:
Cycling, 25.62 miles

Tuesday 2/10:
Hot yoga, 90 min

Wednesday 2/11:
Rest Day
Sick child @ home

Thursday 2/12:
Rest Day
Sick child @ home

Friday 2/13:
Easy run, 3.06 miles. 9:06/mile

Saturday 2/14:
Run the Reagan Half Marathon, 2:09:41 (official time)
Watch time - 2:07:52, 9:46/mile

Sunday 2/15:
Rest Day
15-20 minute walk. In flip flops, because the tips of my toes are blistered.

With the addition of cycling, this was my first 40+ mile week for 2009. As the weather gets warmer, I'm looking forward to seeing my first 60, 80, and 100 mile weeks of the year. Won't be this week though, because we've snapped back to winter temps (40-50 degrees).

Also, I think it might be time to start shopping for new running shoes. I've been alternating my two pairs of Asics, and keep the "good" pair out of the everyday shorter runs, but my feet were a bit achy after 13.1 miles on Saturday. They only have 340 miles and six months on them (thank you, Runners World training log), so they aren't too beat up. It's probably time to drop them to short run (3-6 mile) status, and get some shiny new shoes. The oldest pair, which was actually my first pair of shoes specifically for running (14 months ago), will move to regular house & yardwork wear.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Grocery Challenge & Supper Wars - Week 7

2009 Grocery Challenge - Week 7

Whole Foods - $67.99
Trader Joe's - $21.60
Publix - $29.90
Week 7 total - $119.49

Year To Date - $1,060.20

Weekly Average - $151.45

Pretty good week for the grocery shopping/budget. I did need to restock on flour and other baking supplies, but since this was week three of the four, it means I'm getting closer to having the proper amount during my stock-up shopping. Last month, I didn't even make it 1-1/2 weeks.

Trader Joe's Trip:
Whole Foods Trip:

Week 7 Grocery Lists:

I'm a little discouraged, though I am glad to be see I'll probably be back under $150 for the weekly average with Week 8. In order to get the average under $120-125, I may need to back off on the Whole Foods shopping, and make do with conventional produce from the supermarket. OR, make the farmers market trips an every two weeks thing, instead of every four.

Supper Wars -
Hoisin Beef, Brown Rice, Three Pea Toss
Amazing how the kids managed to eat all the peas, snow peas and sugar snaps, without touching the red onions. Next time, they'll be chopped smaller.

Turkey Soft Tacos, Corn, Mango Salad
The turkey was cooked with all fresh veggies and herbs. Amazing flavor, and the onions, garlic, tomato and jalapeno were all diced small enough to avoid comment. Or, they ate too fast to notice what was in the turkey.

Baked Ziti, Broccoli, Salad

Roast Chicken Breast, Roasted Veggies, Sugar Snap Peas
The roasted veggies were picked through, so may need to stick with familiar sweet potatoes, carrots and red potatoes for a while longer, before sneaking in baby zucchini.

Chicken Noodle Soup, Cheese Whipping Cream Biscuits
Yes, I know how "bad" whipping cream biscuits made with a cup of heavy cream and half a stick of butter are for us. Don't care.
Tofu baked in Miso Sauce, Fried Rice, Petite Peas
Mixed White wine, red miso paste, soy, ginger and brown sugar to make the sauce. The kids thought it was okay, but prefer the less sweet marinade of soy, ginger and sesame.

Saturday is sandwiches and hot cocoa, given that we're all a bit wiped from the first half of our day.

The standout for this week, other than the whipping cream biscuits with cheddar cheese, has to be the Three Pea Toss. Almonds, mint, red onion... yummy!

Next week should be fun, as I'm planning a couple of suppers out of my Thai cookbook. Wonder if I can get fish balls past them?

2009 Grocery Challenge
Supper Wars

Happy Heart Day!

We didn't exactly boycott Valentine's Day here, but we skipped the hubub, for the most part. Cards were homemade, even those which went with kids to school. Instead of big meals out and gifts, we ran a local race. We all rolled out of bed before 6:00 this morning, and headed off to parts northeast. The gang cheered for me as I headed out on the Half Marathon at 8:00. I was finished and waiting to cheer for them when they crossed the finish line of the 5k.

The little pink blur starts a line of three of my racers.
B1 was hanging out next to me at this point, having finished the 5k twenty minutes earlier.

We came home for cleanup and refueling. There's been napping, and much sharing of loving thoughts, as the kids try to blow each other up in a free-for-all game of Halo. We'll be watching last night's Monk & Psych episodes in a little bit, over sandwiches and big mugs of cocoa. A hand or three of Munchkin is also on tap.

It still cost money - $4 for construction paper, glitter & a new bottle of glue, and $145 for five entries in the Run the Reagan Half/10k/5k/1 Mile. Two or three gallons of gas for the trip. But, on the "life energy" scale of value - the number of hours you have to work to earn the money to buy the thing, from Your Money or Your Life - this was a bargain of a Valentine's Day.

Run the Reagan Half & 5k, Unofficial Results

B1 - 5k; 30:21 (new PR for him!)
B2, DD & Dad - 5k; 54:33
Me - Half - 2:07:52 (watch time)
Official race time is 2:09:41 - due to portaloo break around mile 5 or so - Curse the combo of my thimble sized bladder and need for hydration during long runs!

And, a helpful tip I'll share:
If you are ever asked the question "Can you fix apple strudel for dessert?" by a camera-holding relative, don't reply "Really? Apple Strudel?" It is an attempt to snap the photo at the exact moment of the "oodle" in strudel, in order to win a goofiest picture wager with teen. (Note that my daughter looks great, as always. So glad she didn't take after me in the goofy looks dept.)

Unfortunately, this will be the best photo of the day. The rain and drizzle had mostly ended by time the half started, but it was quite misty much of the way. I'm sure the finish line photos will have all of us looking like half-drowned cats.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lower Gas Prices = Found (Pre-tax) Money

Wenchypoo linked to an article at MSNBC the other day which caused a "Hey! I can do that!" moment. Liz Pulliam Weston's money saving tips included an item on the savings potential which comes from paying yourself $2/gallon when you fill up the gas tank.
Instead of frittering away all that money you've been saving on cheap gas, force yourself to save. Think of it as your own strategic reserve.

We have, my friends, a terrific opportunity now that gasoline in most parts of the country costs less than $2 a gallon.

The precipitous price drop since last summer leaves more money in our wallets. But unless we take action, that windfall is likely to dribble away in extra spending.

So I propose that we capture that money (more than $2 a gallon) and sock it away. Plumping up our savings cushions never hurts, and if energy prices rise again, we can tap our own individual strategic reserves of cash.

I drive a big truck. A Ford F150 SuperCrew with a 25 gallon tank. Filling up last year was $75-100. That's what was in my budget for this year. With prices under $2, that is a savings of roughly $50 per trip to the gas station. I don't do a lot of driving, so I fill up every two or three weeks.

Figuring two refuels per month, and $50 per trip, that's $1,200 per year.

Nice. But, what to do with it?

Fund the Health Savings Account. For a family, the allowable contribution each year is $5,800. That's pre-tax money, and is above and beyond the health insurance premiums. We haven't hit the maximum any year since getting the plan & account in place - but this extra $1200 should get us closer in 2009.

Put 24.7 gallons in the truck on Monday. Time to schedule that first deposit of "found money."

Thanks to the handy-dandy Gas Cubby iPhone App I'm trying out, I see my gas mileage on the last tank was 11.8 mpg. Ugh. The short distance kid-shuttling makes for a very fuel in-efficient vehicle. If only I could figure out how to get the kids to & from school on bike. (Previous rant on lack of sidewalks for pedestrians and safe bike lanes in my neighborhood.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sick Day & Gigglefest

DD is home with a sore throat and low fever today. She's napped. We've read. We've giggled until our tummies hurt. We spent quite a bit of time browsing through many posts, including the Grammy and BAFTA red carpet outfits, both at Go Fug Yourself and Project RunGay. There were moments of :

"oh! my eyes!"
"She looks like a spinning top"

"Pretty. And Floaty."
Not always giggly, we liked this one.
"Eww - is she wearing a dress made of skin?"

"Look mommy, it's Juniper, the tree nymph from that story we're reading"

Along with these, there were all the usual giggles over outlandish combos, dresses which should have been classified as either shirts or belts, sheer materials (with and without undergarments), and there were times we simply laughed too much to say anything.
I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that sharing the desk chair for the better part of an hour won't result in a sore throat for me, but we had a blast.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Half Training, 2/2-2/8

Monday 2/2:
Easy Run, 3.43 mi, 9:27/mile

Tuesday 2/3:
Hot yoga, 90 min

Wednesday 2/4:
Rest Day
Grumble, Grumble

Thursday 2/5:
Hot yoga, 90 min

Friday 2/6:
Hot yoga, 90 min

Saturday 2/7:
Chattahoochee Challenge 10k, 9:29/mile
And about 2.5 miles of walking with kidlets.

Sunday 2/8:
Easy run with dog, 4.67 miles, 10:09/mile

Monday, February 09, 2009

First Ride of 2009

Gorgeous weather today. Too pretty to stay inside. Sent off a couple of proofs, and stealthily crept out of the office. (Wasn't hard, as I work from home.)

Took Blooregard Q. Kazoo out for his first ride this year. I've ridden in 2009, so it wasn't technically my first ride. All the rides up to today have been commutes. This was my first ride with no other purpose than to ride. And it was marvelous. Went to Starbucks, to fill my travel cup with Chai Tea Latte. Pedaled in the sun. Pedaled in the shade. Pedaled really fast, just so I could coast, wind in my face.

25.62 miles of happy.

Image from beeswax productions.

Pete's Taxi Service

Went for a run at Riverside Park with Peter T. Dog on Sunday. It's not something I planned, it just happened. The kids were off at a birthday party, so I decided to seize the afternoon and enjoy the beautiful weather. Figured a nice, easy three miles around the neighborhood would be a good way to work out the slight stiffness from Saturday's 10k.

As soon as I pulled out my running shoes, Pete was beside himself. I finished changing, with him pacing at the foot of the bed. I filled the water bottle, with him sitting on my feet. I walked over to grab the doggie bags, with his nose in the back of my knee. Opened the kitchen door, and was almost knocked to the ground by Pete, as he charged the screen door.

I know, how is this a taxi service?

The waist leash was still in the truck from Monday's run. I opened the back driver's side door, to get it. Snapped it on to Pete's collar, and turned around to set his radio collar by the house, and...He was in the center seat. Would not get out of the truck. I could not talk him out. I could not bribe him out. I could not drag him out. He was ready to go.

So, I started the truck and drove Pete to the park.

Darn dog.

We had a blast. Good run. 4.6 miles, with stops at both creek and river access point for the wild dog to drink his fill of muddy water.

The park was packed. The warm weather had brought out the herds. Loads of folks, clogging up the usually empty stretches of path. I don't mind at all the kids, learning how to ride bikes or rollerblade. I'm glad they're out there. I do mind their mothers, who walk absentmindedly in the center of the path, barely holding onto the leashes of their yapping dogs, while talking on cell phones, gesturing wildly with the hand holding the leash, and hitting runners who are trying not to get in the way of their offspring . And, if you're not going to pause in your conversation long enough to say "excuse me" for poking said runner in the breast, at least have the decency to buy me a drink.

Grocery Challenge & Supper Wars - Week 6

Not a bad shopping week. Not a great one, but not bad. Earlier this week, I posted my blissful shopping by bike from Sunday, but here's the Whole Foods haul from the midweek shopping.

No, it was not by bike, as I had two bags, one of them loaded down a six pack of pop and a jug of milk. Moved the fruit into the bowl for photo. (Can't tell much from plastic baggies.) I've become a total pear addict over the past couple weeks. I'm cooking with them, eating them as-is while working at computer or driving to pick up the kids at school. (Something I advise against, having had to wipe down the door handles, steering wheel and center console after a particularly perfect Red d'Anjou.)

Week 6 Grocery Numbers:
Trader Joes - $42.63
Whole Foods - $62.19
Publix - $15.76
Week 6 Total - $120.58

Year to Date - $940.71 Weekly Average - $156.78

I will need to either double my quantity of whole wheat flour, or just plan on purchasing every other week, instead of on the four week stockup. The rice & couscous amounts were perfect, so I'm getting better. Still have a ways to go until I get it down to under $120/week. Would probably be a bit easier if I cut back another supper or two each week to basics, but I'm going to see if I can manage without that.

Supper Wars
On the supper front, was a pretty good week. I expected loads of complaints, so was quite pleased with the less than average number I received.
BBQ Chicken Breasts (Split), Roasted Sweet Potatoes w/Garlic
Snap Beans, Oat & Whole Wheat Rolls
Have gotten the kids used to the mix of regular & sweet potatoes. Am down to just cutting one russet potato into wedges, with 2-3 sweets. (Big win!)

Mild Vegetable Curry, Bronzed Chicken Breasts, Brown Rice
There were protests over the curry, until I let them stir green peas into the sauce. (I planned it this way) Used coconut milk for the sauce, instead of yogurt, to lure in B2.

Herbed Turkey / Ham Sandwiches, Celery & Carrot Sticks
Assortment of Sliced Apples and Pears.
Lest the kids think "try something new" is always about the icky vegetables, we had a family wide taste test, with three different varieties of apple and two pears. Pink Lady Apples are still the favorite, though we did enjoy the Arkansas Black. Comice beat out d'Anjou as the pear of choice.

Veggie Omelets, Turkey Bacon, Cornmeal Waffles
Brinner! Kept the veggie amount in the kids' eggs a bit lower. They're still getting used to "stuff" in eggs. No complaints, but a few raised eyebrows & scrunched noses. The uncured turkey bacon from Whole Foods (365 brand) was a big hit. Waffles are always a win.

Basil Chicken/Turkey Meatballs, Whole Wheat Linguine and Sauce
The meatballs turned out really well. Wasn't sure they would, since it was the other portion of the mixture for last weeks Cheddar Packed Burgers. No worries, though. I'll be doing this again. Added a bit extra chopped basil and parsley to the sauce before serving. None of the kids commented on the extra bit of green, so they're getting used to it. Pretty soon, I'll have fresh greens added to everything (mua ha ha)

Moroccan Spiced Lamb Stew, Couscous, Nan
It was delicious! But... the girl loved the chickpeas and hated the lamb. The boys liked the lamb, and thought I was poisoning them with the chickpeas. Between them, the dish was, well, it was like a bizarro version of the Jack Sprat nursery rhyme.

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts, with Winter Veggies and Autumn Fruit
Cheesy Flatbread
Kids ate sweet potato, parsnips, carrots, pears and butternut squash, but were not at all interested in the sprouts. No surprise there, and I'm not willing to push that particular veggie just yet.

Friday's Moroccan Spiced Lamb Stew, complete with the little girl who rinsed the garbanzos and lentils, and did the garnishing. If she hadn't seen the label on the ziploc bag, it's quite possible she'd have liked the lamb. But, knowing it was lamb and not cow, she wouldn't touch it. Oh well.

2009 Grocery Challenge
Supper Wars

Chattahoochee Challenge

Saturday, Feb. 7th, was the first race of the year for the clan. Part of the clan, at least. I ran the 10k, the kidlets ran the 1-mile Fun Run. (The oldest kid was away for the weekend.)

Had to get out of bed at 5:30.
It was cold.
I didn't get any coffee before the race.
Did I mention the cold?

Anyway. I'd picked up our numbers at Big Peach Running Co., so we were not pressured to get to the Chattahoochee Nature Center too early. Parked at St. Francis, and walked the mile to the start/finish. The boys walked; DD & I alternated walking and skipping, because it annoyed the boys. It was quite fun, and I think it helped keep us warmer than our walking pals.

The fun run started at 7:30. Here's my little runners:

DD - 11:37
B2 - 12:58

Rough times, noted by glancing at clock and trying to see where the munchkins were wandering off to after they crossed the finish line. I'm super proud of them, and will be helping them put together a playlist for the 5k they'll be run/walking with Dad next Saturday.

The 10k was at 8:00. Started in my normal back of the pack position. Hit the first mile in 8:43, then blew the official time by veering off to the park restroom at 1.5 miles. (There were no blue boxes at the start line! They had them for the summer race - where were they this time?) Made up some of my time by only walking through the water stops. The knee went numb & painful all at once at 5 miles, on the only mini-hill of the race. Slowed down to stretch out, then was fine coming back over the same hill in that last half mile.

Official time: 1:01:06

Watch time: 58:53

Got the first win for the 2009 goals - have gone faster than last year's 10k time. Now, let's get officially signed up for Run the Reagan Half Marathon, and see if I can knock out another one next week.

Once again, the race photos taken of me were all at the worst possible moments - while blowing out a breath, scrunching my face & squinting into the sun, etc., but the running kid pics were good, so I'll likely order one or two of my little runners.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Fun with Fitness & Organization on the iPhone

It will take me some time to see how I feel about these in the longer term, but here's how I've spent what little free time I had over the past couple of weeks:

iMapMyRide / Distance Meter
I keep track of runs & rides on the MapMyFitness website, via another app, Distance Meter. Have been using it since October, but I was willing to be wooed away from it. I tried to use this iMapMyRide, because it is from MapMyRun / Ride / Fitness. I don't like it. It's hard to say why. Sometimes the GPS is funky. Sometimes it randomly quits, mid-run.

It's not as easy to use as Distance, so I'm sticking with what I know. Distance had it's problems, but many of the random drops and trouble with incoming calls and texts interrupting the workout have been fixed. The screenlock feature is handy - really handy. Since it requires a triple tap to reactivate, there's no accidental switch offs when the iPhone is bouncing around in the zipper pocket on the back of my jacket or shirt.

Grocery iQ
Love, Love, LOVE this one. It's so easy to tap up my grocery list, especially when I'm heading to the Farmers Market. Quantities and notes about possible substitutions can go right into the phone, and it's really easy to navigate in the aisles. I can have one of the kids reading the list and doing the checking, which keeps them busy. (I know, they can do it on paper too. But since it's on a screen, there's not even a hint of complaining.)

After shopping, all the checked items can be moved into my history, making the staples quick to add to the next list or transfer to Favorites. I've gone back in and added notes about quantities for the next trip, so when I put it on the next list, it's automatic. Example: Bought flour on the stock up trip. Turns out I underestimated again this month, but not as badly as last month. What I purchased lasted 2 weeks, so I've doubled the qty in the favorites list, to have it come up properly for the next Farmers Market / Bulk trip.

Gas Cubby
I think I'll end up liking this one, but it will take a month or two to know for sure. I plugged in my gas purchase 10 days ago, along with the mileage, oil change schedule, tire rotation, annual emissions testing, etc. In the 10 days, I've yet to use a whole tank of gas. I've not even used a half the tank yet. Like I said, it's going to take a month or so to see how handy it really is, but I like the idea of it.

Lose it
Saw this on one of Apple's ads. Downloaded it, and haven't stopped using it since. I've been using it for a little over a week, and keeping track of food & exercise. I have customized calorie burn on types of runs, based on my heart rate monitor, which is rather neat. There are a lot of restaurant and supermarket brand name foods and meals available, but what I really find handy is the section which allows you to add your own recipes. For example, I was able to plug in the ingredients for Butter Chicken, including the batch of rice and side of green peas, and get a per person nutritional count. (It's 530 calories, in case you were wondering.) I'm not tracking all of the available info., just calories, protein and fiber.

To give the weight loss goals part a trial run, I'm doing three weeks with my daily calories set for a one pound per week loss. I did put on a couple pounds over the holidays, but it was within my "window", 3 lbs. either side of my average weight. I finished up the first week, and - sure enough - dropped one pound.

What's more - this app has made me aware I've not been eating enough calories. For the first few days, I was coming in 300-500 calories below the amount recommended for weight loss. Some days were fine, but seeing the actual numbers on days with 90 minutes of either running or hot yoga, I've probably been slowing down my metabolism. A bowl of blueberries and sliced strawberries may be super healthy eating, but it's not enough to make up for a 7 mile run, unless I use a much bigger bowl. Lose it had me tossing on an extra scoop of flax meal, and using 1/2-2/3 cup of yogurt, instead of just a couple of spoonful. (spoonsful? spoonfuls?)

Anyway, I'll keep using it, then switch over to "maintenance" as my goal after the three weeks are up. I'll have a virtual cookbook finished by then. I would really like to be able to sync the information for my custom foods and recipes to the computer. Not only would I not be in danger of losing all the data if there was a problem with the iPhone (touch wood), it would be nice to see it on the big screen while I'm doing menu planning and shopping lists. After all, I can't have both Grocery iQ and Lose it open on the screen at the same time.

My photos of the screen are lousy, I know. Here's the pretty version of the daily log screenshot from their website. For as much as you're entering each day, it's pretty simple. Doesn't feel as much like work as writing it all down. Of course, it can also be done through one of many websites, but that requires me to write it down too, so I don't forget it when I get home. If I'm writing it down, there's the little matter of having to also spend time digging up the quantities and remembering where I put the paper or notepad. I prefer Lose it.

Reason TV: Stimulis Ad

I'm avoiding conversations about the current battle over bailouts and stimulus packages as much as possible. It's gotten tiresome, both with liberal friends and with my ultra-right wing mother. Thanks to Reason TV, I no longer have to say a word. I can just send this link:

Dinner Conversation

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, I could completely see this conversation happening at our table. Add a middle child of the boy variety, and toss in a mention of space aliens or monsters from mythology, and... OMG! I think it may have actually happened, more than once.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Half Training, 1/26-2/1

Monday 1/26:
Easy Trail Run, 2.65 mi, 22:47
With teen (B1) and dog. Nice little run, not too tough on knee

Tuesday 1/27:
Hot yoga, 90 min

Wednesday 1/28:
Easy Run, 3.46 mi, 35:05
Tougher on knee; decided to avoid hills for a few days after this.

Thursday 1/29:
Easy Run, 6.2 mi, 1:01:20
With dog by river. No hills - great for knee.

Friday 1/30:
Hot yoga, 90 min

Saturday 1/31:
Long Run, 6.28 mi, 1:03:58
B1 ran about 3 of the miles with me, then spent time walking by river with younger sibs & dad.

Sunday 2/1:
Rest Day
Bike, 3.2 mi, 20-25 min (trip to store)
Family Hike, 3.5 mi, 90 min (Sope Creek)

Planning for this coming week will be a bit trickier. The Chattahoochee Challenge 10k will replace my long run on Saturday, so I'm trying to figure out whether to work in a long run on Wednesday or Thursday. Add two projects in the final proof stage, the possibility for a bit of freezing rain Tuesday morning, and the insanity which comes with any winter weather in Atlanta, and I'm not sure what's going to happen this week. I think it might be time to take the challenge from MizFit and Charlotte to add meditation to my daily routine.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

S.A.D. Bike? Take it out for some retail therapy!

With the shorter days and cold temperatures, does your bike suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)? I know Blooregard does. Patty, too.

Given my dislike of riding when temps are below 50 on the road bike, there's not much I can do for Bloo. I started running last winter to avoid the wind chill I created for myself on November-February rides over 16 mph. (Yes, I am a pansy.) Bloo is hanging out in the house, waiting for spring. He gets regular concerts from the young pianist in the family, since he's right by the baby grand. But Patty? No winter hibernating for her. She's my commuter/hybrid, so still gets to make the trips to the bank and to the store for groceries. Unfortunately, between temps in the low 40s and the off-and-on messed up knee, even she's been sitting for a week or two at a time.

This morning, I needed to make a quick store trip. Walked out to put my bag in the truck, and noticed Patty. She looked lonely and bored.

The sun was shining. It was over 50 degrees. My knee is feeling much better, now that I've given up tackling hills until healed. Tossed the TJ's bag in the basket, and checked the tires. Pulled on sweater & gloves. Grabbed the backpack, and we were off. Cannot remember a better traffic day on Johnson Ferry. No close calls with SUVs driven by women chatting on cell phones. Waved to a couple of runners, a walker, and a father & son doing yardwork. I just missed the left turn light onto Roswell Road, but didn't care. With the weather so perfect, there was no reason to get cranky over the wait.

Did the shopping. Paid. Packed the groceries myself. The cashiers are always perfectly lovely at Trader Joes, but can't seem to quite understand that when I say it has to fit in one bag, I mean it. Smiled extra sweetly at the folks giving me "the look" when I pulled away from the cart corral with Patty. (If you've ever carried anything other than a childseat on your bike, like a cargo rack or basket, you know "the look".)

The ride home was just as lovely. Not only did I feel so much cheerier for having skipped the drive and worked in some exercise...

...doesn't Patty look so much happier?

Now, as soon as the loaf of Honey Oat & Whole Wheat Bread is finished baking, we'll be packing everyone into the truck for a quick drive over to the Chattahoochee NRA, for a hike. No excuses to stay inside on a day like today.

As for the Retail Therapy, here's the grocery haul:
  • Black Beans, 15 oz - .79
  • Whole Bean Coffee, Volcano, 12 oz - 6.49
  • Chocolate/Vanilla Joe Joe’s - 2.49
  • Veggie Tortilla Strips, 12 oz - 2.59
  • Sliced Smoked Gouda, 8 oz - 2.99
  • Green Beans, Frzn, 24 oz - 2.29
  • Whole Milk, 1 qt - 1.19
  • Applegate Slcd Turkey, 7 oz - 3.69
  • Kayem Sliced Honey Ham, 12 oz - 3.84
  • Emp. Kosh Split Chicken Br, (3.99/lb) - 8.50
  • Petite Red Potatoes, 1.5 lbs - 2.99
  • Sweet Onions, 2 lbs - 2.29
  • Total - $42.63In addition to the foodstuff, there's a bottle of laundry detergent, which was carried in the backpack, along with the potatoes and coffee beans.