Wildflowers

It was a beautiful day for a hike at Pt. Reyes National Seashore today.  The conditions were ideal: sunny day, lots of visibility, a slight breeze, a new trail, great views and the last of the Spring wildflowers.  Enjoy!

How many can you identify?  I encourage you to take advantage of these beautiful days and spend some time exploring new trails.  Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Against the Wind

I have never run in a 5k race.  The distance seemed much too short for me to get up early and drive to the starting line.  I also believed this distance was for the more serious and much faster runners.  But, I did revisit this since I hadn’t been running much (if at all) and this shorter distance no longer seemed short.  An opportunity presented itself from the Dick Beardsley Foundation  (a non profit organisation assisting those suffering from chemical dependancy) to enter their virtual ATW5k on March 31st. 

Most runners have heard of Dick Beardsley, but for those of you that haven’t, in the 1980s he was one of the top U.S. runners.  At the age of 24, he ran against Alberto Salazar in the 1982 Boston Marathon.  Now known as the Duel in the Sun , these two elite runners battled it out while running five minute miles, leaving the other runners far behind and breaking the 2:09 barrier for the first time.  Beardsley’s time of 2:08:54 was a second place finish to Salazar’s 2:08:52 – A TWO SECOND DIFFERENCE on a very hot and hilly course.  I highly recommend the book, Duel in the Sun!  Subsequent to the race, Beardsley injured his leg in a tractor accident ending his running career.

What is a virtual race, you ask? A virtual race is a sporting event where everyone sets their own course and runs their own race wherever they happen to be on the planet.  You sign up online, receive a bib number, run your race competing with people from all over the world who are running the race on the same day. Since it is impossible to verify first, second, and third place, top prizes are awarded for various place finishers (e.g. 2nd place will be #1982 (the year of the Duel in the Sun race) and, obviously, you will not know where you rank until all the times are submitted.  Other prizes would be awarded randomly and there is also a virtual goody bag!

This  sounded like a no-brainer and the perfect venue for me.  Most normal runners would pick a course that was to their advantage and score a personal best, but knowing I was going to be in San Francisco that morning I immediately recruited Lucy to run with me.  Not being the friendliest dog on leash, I wanted to avoid all contact with other dogs (primarily so I wouldn’t trip over the leash  and do a face plant). I outlined a course through Dog Patch and Portero Hill which translates to several steep hills! I ‘should’ be running this distance in under 27 minutes and knowing that wasn’t going to happen I am looking forward to gaining a few PRs in the future (the only distance where this just might be possible).

Of course, rain was on the forecast!  Luckily when I awoke it was overcast, but dry.  With my Garmin in place we were out the door and enjoying a rather warm run (since I overdressed).  I should say I was enjoying it; Lucy thought I was a bit daft for leading her about the streets as I did.  I misjudged the distance with about 1/2 mile to go which meant another hill  and then the rain drops started.  They weren’t gentle and the wind was fierce. Running up 18th over the freeway overpass, I understood what Against the Wind meant in real time.  We had to leave the sidewalk to avoid the blowing tree branches and we couldn’t see with the rain blowing in our faces, but the end was near.  A huge shout out to the SF muni driver who just shook his head as he passed us with a wide berth!  It was over, I was freezing and Lucy was willing to continue!

I promised her the Whole Foods gift certificate should I win that for her boundless energy.  We won no prizes, but I did get a pair of New Balance running shoes since I was part of the Pub Runners’ team and they qualified in some category.  I loved this concept of running (a ‘fellow’ runner was competing off the coast of Angola, Africa where he was based on a Chevron oil rig – how cool is that?) with the low entry fee and complete freedom to run the distance as you choose!  More, please!

I was in San Francisco for a pre planned Paella Dinner which we turned into a birthday celebration for Mike.  I chose the paella menu as I had never made it before.  Since Christopher did all the planning and preparation I still haven’t cooked it!

No excuses, but it has been a wet several weeks and the morning temperatures have been in the low 30s and my YTD mileage is low and my training abysmal though there have been a few good hikes.  First quarter mileage: 151! Happy Easter to all!  Spring is here and I hope to see you on the roads and trails – virtually or in person!

Austin

There are some windows of our lives that are more dense than others; rich with friends, activities and challenges.  My late 20s was one such time for me.  I worked in advertising when it was fun, lived in Malibu, had a wonderful network of varied friends and life was good!  I was young, invincible, mischievious with a sparkle in my eye and had way too much energy – anything and everything was possible!  We shared secrets, dreams, ambitions and imagined our lives as Paul McCartney sang in the movie, Yellow Submarine, ‘will you still need me………..when I’m 64’!  Getting old wasn’t a reality and so, so hard to imagine.

But we all know life isn’t static, but a constant whirlwind.  People relocate, change careers, get married, have children – the busyness continues but in a different direction.  I moved to Mill Valley, didn’t work and embraced my new surroundings with vigour.  I went back to LA, I think, once.  It was no longer on my radar as there were so many other destinations to explore.  Eventually I lost touch with most of that era only keeping in touch with a few friends and their news in the annual Christmas card. 

Then came the ‘in your face’ electronic age.  Email and social networks were abundant and I was able to instantly reconnect via Facebook with many MIA friends and a more frequent connection with the others.  If for only this reason, I love Facebook – nobody would have been MIA if this medium were available years ago.  This and email are such an easy and unobtrusive way of staying in touch.

Why is this entitled Austin, you ask?  I decided to visit one of these friends.  After 30+ years I was actually going to see my friend, Mary and her husband, Richard (his website if you are looking for some great art).  I didn’t have any concerns (and discovered she didn’t either) – we just picked up the face-to-face conversation where we left off those many years ago.  We may not have grown old ‘together’, but we were no longer invincible yet that mischievous sparkle was still there.  I loved every minute of our reunion!

Just as advertised by the media, Austin was a lovely city albeit one filled with young people.  This was a constant reminder of the way we were when we had first met.  As the capital of Texas, Austin is their fourth largest city and its official slogan is “The Live Music Capital of the World” and is home to the University of Texas Longhorns. It is an enclave of liberal politics in a generally conservative state.  The Italian Renaissance Revival style Capitol completed in 1888 is interesting.  It is mostly built of limestone and covered with PINK granite (it was constructed by convicts and migrant worker often a thousand at a time).  The Colorado River is pretty and offers many outdoor venues and a wonderful setting for the city (I still don’t understand why they call part of it a lake).  It is the HQ of Whole Foods and many high tech companies have offices here.

I was able to see a lot of the city and even ventured to the hip SoCo (South Congress) neighbourhood as I wanted to buy a pair of cowboy boots at Allen’s Boots.  I am happy to report I was very successful!  Another highlight for me was having a martini at the legendary, Driskill Hotel.   The Romanesque style building was completed in 1886 by cattle baron,  Col. Jesse Driskill.  In more recent times, former President Lyndon Johnson had his first date with his future wife at this hotel and it became his campaign HQ for much of his career. It was here he addressed his supporters after his 1964 Presidential Election victory.

So I say to y’all, don’t wait any longer – take the steps to reconnect with somebody that was important to you once in your life.  It will make for a rich and rewarding experience!

Unplug

Remember when the kids were young and how everybody looked forward to ‘quiet time’ (not to be confused with ‘time-out’).  In our house quiet time was not only for Christopher who was often involved with massive amounts of Legos or immersed in listening to a Books on Tape.  It was also a moment in the day where I could enjoy a cup of tea while reading a chapter in my latest book.  TV or video games on school nights was not even an option.

To think, that in today’s world, people are craving what a recent NYT article calls the Joy of Quiet.  In planning vacations, people are now paying dearly for the privilege of NOT having TV or internet in their room and choosing remote destinations to get back in touch with themselves.  The article mentions that the average American spends 8.5 hours in front of a screen and sends/receives 75 texts every day.  Whew, I think, this does not apply to me; I don’t even watch TV that much (are reality TV shows appealing to anybody?).  But wait!  I work on a computer many hours a day and though I might not be spending  59.5 hours a week in front of a screen I am easily spending 50% of that time just on work related projects.  A recent ad I saw emphasized that there are over ½ million apps available for the iPhone.  The iPad comes without directions.  What?!  Recently, I could not find the internet connectivity on a borrowed laptop and was told this was intuitive.   My intuition is far more primal and doesn’t relate to machines.  That was when I decided it was time for me to unplug.  Not pull the plug entirely, but choose wisely how I wanted to spend my allotted time in front of a screen.  Last year I made a conscious effort to spend much less time during non working hours on the computer. It is so easy to research something  before realising how many hours have been lost. It’s best not to begin.  This year I hope to spend even less time on it.  The 17C French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, remarked all of man’s problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.  Little did he realize how true that was to become!   I was finally going to buy an iPhone this year.  I will wait, I don’t need another learning curve and certainly not another screen.  I am choosing to forsake the knowledge I might gain and experience life instead.  Balance can be difficult at times.
 
Today emphasised the need to unplug even more fiercely.  It was the memorial service and scattering of the ashes of my friend and running coach, Rick Batty, who died suddenly last month in Montreal.  We all think we are invincible (I know I do) and times like this remind us of how precious life and how we choose to live it have become.  Time is my most precious commodity and I hoard it like a miner might have done with his stash of gold.  Living and experiencing every moment of life has become my top priority. It was such a perfect day; the weather was glorious on Mt. Tam – sunny, warm and massive views were abundant.

Caroline and I had planned a hike before we knew of this service so we decided to head down the Cataract Trail to the falls.  Normally this is an extremely populated trail, but today we virtually had it to ourselves.  It has been years since I had been on it and remember fondly taking the dogs, Wolfus J. Hound and Magoo, hiking here.  It was beautiful! We ended the hike meeting Mike at the relaxed ceremony for Rick at the large meadow at Rifle Camp.  It was wonderful to  share memories and meet so many of the friends he had mentioned over the years.  It was a bittersweet day as today would have been his 60th birthday; the ceremony ended with the singing of Happy Birthday!

Studies now show that Americans are deficient  in Vitamin D and rather large doses are recommended.  Wouldn’t going outside daily in the sunshine be another alternative? Just
asking.

It was cold in the mornings this past month and I didn’t get as many sole related miles in as I would have liked.  I ended the month with 48.3 miles; all of them walking or hiking (I hope to add running this month).  I need to justify the new trail shoes I want to buy!

Do you spend too much time in front of a screen; do you plan on unplugging? 

Wine Road

Wine Road is an association of wineries and lodgings in northern Sonoma County’s Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys  which was founded over 30 years ago.  It began with a mere nine wineries and today’s membership is over 150. This was the 20th Anniversary of Winter Wineland Weekend with over 140 participants. 

Typically, when crafting a tasting itinerary, I would choose some of the high visibilty wineries or those that are generally not open to the public.  This time we opted not to drive very far from our starting point and essentially visited wineries in the West County area and a few on Olivet Road.  Not only had I never been to any of these wineries I knew nothing of most of them.  This is a cooler growing region so we were primarily tasting Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah.

Hanna Winery
Balletto
Taft Street
Red Car
Dutton Goldfield
Sunce
Hook and Ladder
Harvest Moon
DeLoach

What a delightful day it was – relaxing, the weather sunny, warm and beautiful (I had to keep reminding myself that it was January!).  We weren’t disappointed and enjoyed all of our choices.  I loved Red Car – this was only a tasting room and I am not sure they have an actual winery – not only were the wines good, I was pleasantly influenced by their branding and their labels.  The best decor was Hook and Ladder with t-shirts from different fire stations hanging from the ceiling not to mention the vintage fire truck out front.  Now that I have experienced this quieter approach to a big event, I highly recommend that you try it.

Several wines were purchased and I chose the non-wine purchase route this time: a bottle of yummy hot sauce as a benefit at Hook and Ladder and a blue pottery bowl from artist, Peggy Parr, at Harvest Moon.  I did say I wanted to visit new wineries this year – Life is good!

Champagne and Chocolate 2012

Nothing marks the beginning of a new year for me better than my annual Champagne and Chocolate party which is typically held the first weekend of January.  I always find this a fun event because it brings together people from many different parts of my life and sometimes the year slips by so quickly that  I only see some of these friends at this party.  Since this has been going on for so many years, it is like a reunion for the guests as well and they can catch up with people they have met at these parties.  And, there have been some interesting re -connections as well – a few years ago two of my friends reunited after 20+ years and now have been in contact again.  I love this!

January is typically the time of year when we reflect on the prior year, do some soul searching and set unrealistic goals and resolutions for the new year; making promises that are not only difficult but impossible to achieve. Vowing to do something better, different or just doing something!   In the past I have been no exception to this and have framed my yearly resolutions noting that each year the list gets shorter.  Life is short (am I just realising this?) and I have redirected my thinking.

I have but one resolution this year – Yin Yang.  This is a belief that there exists two complementary forces in the universe.  Yang which represents everything positive and Yin which represents the negative.  Neither is better than the other; they are both necessary and a balance of both is what is desirable.  The magic word: Balance!  That is what I strive for in 2012.  I want to not only live in the moment but enjoy it as well and find the time to embrace all the things I so much love to do.

I want to continue to enjoy my journey with friends, exercise and a healthy lifestyle.  It would be nice to log 1000 miles this year, do a few trail runs (Death Valley is calling again – Mike and Lisa, are you reading this?), create some new recipes, visit new wineries (Sheila thought one new one per month would be a great plan) and play with my ink and pens, clay pots, yarn and canning jars.  Cleaning out the garage would be an added bonus!

I know some of you asked for my toffee recipe which I would be glad to share with you just leave me a comment.  I look forward to what adventures lay ahead.  What story do you want to write for yourself this year?  I hope all find your yin and yang in 2012! 


Remembering 2011

2011- Adaptability was the mantra.  Diagnosing ‘what ailed me’ took center stage over other things that were certainly more fun.  I learned quickly that I had to adapt my lifestyle markedly certainly in the food and exercise arenas.   Simplicity seemed to be the new direction of 2011 in overall lifestyle.  A new course had to be set, changes made and plans adjusted and this was okay!

I learned new things this year – more clay pot cooking knowledge, experimenting with heirloom beans, that walking could be embraced (maybe not as passionately as running, but certainly with both arms), new knitting techniques for the ever growing stash of yarn, thinking outside the box with fountain pens and  making my first small batch of sauerkraut.

And most importantly, 2011 taught me that I could count on my inner strength, to live in the moment, to be very grateful for who I am and where I am in life’s journey and that I have incredible and valuable friendships (both real and imaginery).  Life is good!

Mustard in the winter vineyards

Love my trail shoes! (and, nail polish)

Half Marathon Races

First signs of Spring

Sonoma Valley

Glen Ellen

St. Paul’s Cathedral, San Francisco

San Francisco Murals

Carnevale Murals San Francisco

San Francisco Painted Ladies

Carneros Napa County

Coastal Trail 

Portero Hill San Francisco

Family

Ice Cold Martinis!

Reunion
Mission Bay/Giants’ Stadium

Desolation Wilderness

NEVER too old!

Sagittarius Walk

I could have called today’s walk a birthday walk or a Moo Cow reunion walk and have been accurate.  But it was a Sagittarius walk because Caroline, Sheila and I all share that astrological sign.  It was a beautiful, clear morning in Sonoma albeit a bit on the brisk side (frost was still evident on roof tops).  We decided to start at Sonoma Plaza and do a loop through the vineyards. I received a Jacque Lawson card today from a long time friend who lives in Colorado wishing me a happy birthday and hoping I was going to get outside and enjoy beautiful California (she lives in CO which has been hit hard by storms) – that we did! Thank you again Jesse, for my beautiful running top – you can see it peeking through on some of the photos.  The theme of many of our ‘urban walks’ this year seemed to be murals so I couldn’t let today disappoint and I was able to show Caroline some of Sonoma’s finest vineyard murals on today’s URBAN walk!  7.5 miles – totally pain free!  Wahoo.  This is the third walk/hike in as many weeks (Marin Highlands and Helen Putnam Park) and I am now encouraged to try some runs.  Though estatic I am proceeding cautiously.  I now own Jamie Koufman’s, Reflux Diet Book and will begin her induction diet on the 26th.  This basically is a reflux cleanse – no foods below a pH of 5 (which essentially includes all fruit and alcohol), no fatty foods (dairy, meat, chocolate), no common trigger foods (tomatoes, onions, chilis)  and certainly no packaged foods or sodas (this part is easy!).  I am hoping to end 2011 and begin 2012 as healthy and reflux free as possible (I have reduced the meds and want to be completely off them soon).  Keep your fingers crossed!  For those of you who have been dealing with this just keep experimenting as everything you eat is so individualised and on a trial and error basis of learning what you can ‘safely’ eat!

Enjoy pictures of today’s walk and winter in Sonoma!

 

Jelly Fish. Albino Alligator. Snakes.

  The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is one of the largest museums of natural history in the world and the only place with an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum, and a 4-story rainforest all under one roof.  When it became time to decide on my birthday celebration with Christopher and Rebecca it is no wonder that I chose a  Thursday night here.

    

On Thursday evenings from 6-10 pm the Academy hosts a NightLife event which is open to adults 21 and older (read this to mean no strollers).  There are no host bars strategically placed throughout,  restaurants are open, music is abundant and most of these evenings are themed (this one was a holiday themed Bazaar Bizarre [note the Snowman] with Indie Designers and DIY craft stations).  You can reserve your tickets in advance, but if you want planetarium tickets you must buy them upon arrival and they do sell out quickly.  The crowds are minimal, admission is very reasonable – like being at a private party.  Oh yes, I forgot to mention that the median age is well under 30.  So people as well as fish viewing is fantastic!  I didn’t know if you could bring a camera so I didn’t – you can although there are several places where pics are not allowed (no sea horse pictures!).  So, the best vehicle for picture taking we had was an iPhone.

I have been here many times – too numerous to count or even remember and I love it.  As a child, a young adult, then as a mother when Christopher was a child and on more than one occasion for private events.  However, all this was before September 2008 when the completely rebuilt (many of the buildings were damaged significantly in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake) Academy re-opened – the new building totals over 400,000 square feet (look at the difference in the pictures of the two buildings). For months lines were miles long and many were turned away.  I did not even attempt to go.  Now, I was in heaven; what a great birthday present!  Not to mention I had my own personal guide who had been since it had been remodeled, but most importantly remembered what it was like before and all the things we loved about it.

Many of my favourite things were still there: the  Foucault pendulum, the tide pool tank and African Hall.  Others are gone like the insect room, the fish roundabout, the crystal and mineral hall, many dinosaur exhibits as well as the space exhibits, the earthquake simulator (guess they didn’t want to be reminded) and all the wonderful reptile and amphibians that used to be displayed in the central hall as you entered (these displays are now scattered throughout). I just remembered, I didn’t see the Far Side Cartoon exhibit by Gary Larson.  Before the remodel, there was a fun run, “Run to the Far Side”  in the Park in late November that benefited the Academy and each year the long sleeve race tee shirt featured a Gary Larson cartoon.  They have become collector’s items and I have still have a few of them.

The Steinhart Aquarium takes up most of the basement area as well as the four story dome that is the rainforest.  Claude, the albino alligator, joined the museum when it re-opened.  Morrison Planetarium is still going strong (it was the seventh to open in the U.S. in 1952) as is the Kimball Natural History Museum.  There is also a  2.5 acre green roof.  It was not lit up Thursday night, but it was a crystal clear night and there were two telescopes set up and we were able to see Jupiter and its moons and well as the Seven Sisters Constellation.

I could spend hours looking at the jelly fish, sea horses, star fish, coral reefs not to mention Lemondrop, the bright yellow albino python.  I think another excursion will be on the agenda in 2012 adding the Planetarium.  If the Thursday night event does not appeal to you (though I do give it a huge shout out), the Academy is open every day and it’s free the 3rd Wednesday of the month and based on your SF zip code there are Neighbourhood Free Days as well. Do visit!