And now for something completely different…

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I usually don’t get all philosophical on my blog. My blog is for boring riveting training stories, pictures of food/the animals doing cute things and and other boring hilarious hi jinks. But, unfortunately for you, I’m going to drag out my soapbox and treat you to some of my thoughts. (Feel free to skip to the bottom to see a cute picture of Wally on the couch… )

In my campaign to make small, sustainable changes in my life vs. big New Years Resolutions, I’ve been looking at what I eat and where it comes from. (Yes, I know… ignorance is bliss.) I started with Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, both excellent choices to get you started. But then my local library finally provided me a copy of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, which was a much more unflinching look at the horrors of factory farming. I rounded out my “meat reading” with Catherine Friend’s The Compassionate Carnivore, which is a sustainable farmer’s take on being a more responsible meat eater.

I know from seeing friend’s Facebook statuses about watching Food, Inc. and the subsequent posts about what they’ll never eat again, that I’m not alone in this issue. It’s also a depressingly massive problem. The way food is produced in our country is seriously jacked up at every level, both animal and vegetable. But I’ve decided that while I can’t change the way agribusiness functions in our country, I can reduce how much of my personal $$ they get, and so I’m choosing to let my actions/dollars speak for me.

I’d already been working to add more veggie-based dinners into our weekly rotation and reduce how much meat we were eating in general, courtesy of Michael Pollan. I’ve also been a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) member forever (even when we lived in the ghetto in New York, we were getting veggie boxes.) But now we’re stepping things up with an order of pasture-raised beef & pork from a local farm. I’m still on the lookout for pasture-raised chicken, which is a little harder to find. Not only do I want to reduce the amount of commercially raised meat that I buy, but I also want to support the kind of behavior I want to see.

Whenever you start down this conversational topic, there’s always that question of “Why eat animals at all? Why not just become a vegetarian?” And vegetarianism is a perfectly fine choice for many reasons. But if I am concerned about animal welfare, it seems more powerful to financially support the small percentage of farms that are doing right by their animals – raising and slaughtering them humanely. The monolithic agribusiness industry feeds on the large percentage of the population that doesn’t really care where their food comes from, as long as it’s cheap. If the people who actually do care enough about animal welfare all switch to vegetarianism, then how is that helping effect change?

Regardless of where you fall on the eat meat/don’t eat meat equation, the factory farm system needs to be addressed. These farms cause massive amounts of pollution, in addition to the suffering of animals and the people who work there. I came across this organization in my reading and highly recommend you checking them out. I appreciate their even-handed approach to the problem at hand, without some of the divisive theatrics that PETA tends to rely on.

So ends my little rant. Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. And now, as promised, here are some cute pictures of Wally on the couch:

Growing up

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The Year of the Babies has brought with it many changes, obviously. I know the changes that affect me are but a drop in the bucket compared to the massive upheavals in my friend’s lives, but it’s still very interesting to watch how parenting has changed my friends and see how the babies are growing up. It also provides me with opportunities for new social occasions I never would have imagined myself in a year ago, such as being invited to a baby’s first birthday party. Will had a fairly dramatic entrance into the world a year ago, which when combined with the usual challenges a new baby brings makes for some pretty exhausted parents.

Since I’m not much of a baby person, I wasn’t really sure what to expect when we showed up at a Seattle park on a cloudy Sunday morning. We were greeted with an awesome playground and a group of parents/kids. After bemoaning the fact that kids today have way better playgrounds than we did growing up, M decided to nurture her inner-child (who apparently is also a monkey or mountain climber… )

And she makes it all the way to the top!


The birthday boy was engaged in some pretty serious firetruck driving, so I decided to wait until later to assault him with picture taking. We walked over to say hi to Sarah, who’d assembled a nice little party area across the park. While we were chatting, Graham was leading the playground folks over, pied-piper style…

Here’s the guest of honor, with his parents:

We got to meet some of the other party guests, including Rafi, who is awesome. Check out the teddy bear pants!

Seriously, where does one find brown furry pants?

Soon it was time to sing Happy Birthday to Will, who looked unamused by our antics. He was a big fan of the balloons, though:

All in all, it was a good time. I’m still happy with the kinds of babies I can stick in a crate, (Sorry Mom!) but it’s always fun to visit baby-world. As long as I can recover with an adult beverage on the couch afterward. đŸ˜€

Rocking the Shamrock 15k

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So, the last time I did this race it was two years ago and the only real preparation I had was one really crappy long run. I figured that I would definitely be able to do better this time and I really wanted to do a slightly longer race without taking on a half-marathon. Plus, I have fond memories of this race, despite never having a particularly good showing. Before I realized that Daylight Savings Time would be starting the night before the race, I was also looking forward to not having to get up so damn early since we could walk to the start from the hotel. So much for that plan!

Even with the earlier wake up time, we still had plenty of time to grab coffee, get changed and have a leisurely walk down to the start line. There were crazy amounts of people around:

And some very special fashion choices:

A quick self portrait of M & I:

and then a better one, taken by M:

Then it was time for me to line up and M to negotiate the maze of lining up 15k-ers and finishing 5k-ers, not an easy feat! After the most depressing hymn sung by a local high school choir and a total cluster at the start line when they had to have the 5k-ers finishing chute overlap the start line of the 15k because an emergency vehicle needed to be on the 5k course. This led to them sending us off by pace group, which resulted in a lot of stop/starting. The only nice result of all of that confusion was that this was the first race I’ve ever done where I could run right from the start line, which was very nice. It was very hard, but I tried to ignore the legions of runners passing me and take the first mile very conservatively. (Thank you, Jon Cane for drilling this into my head… )

Pacing is really important in this race – the first mile has a long gradual uphill, followed by four miles of rolling hills of varying amounts of steepness. Because my other goal for the race was to not take any walk breaks unless absolutely necessary, I wanted to pace the first third very conservatively, hang tough for the middle third and then run as fast as I could for the last third.

I did really well the first two thirds, taking it nice and easy and not letting the hills take too much energy. Meanwhile, all around me were people going balls out and sprinting up the hills. It was crazy! And I’m in the 9-10 min/mile pace group, so it’s not like it’s a lot of faster runners who are having to weave through the ranks. In sharp contrast to last time, I was part of a pack for the whole race, which was weird and nice at the same time.

Finally, I saw the turn that brought us back toward town, signaling the start of the downhill section. It was time to kick it up a notch! I let my legs relax and picked up the pace. I got to pass tons of the people who flew past me at the beginning or on the hills, which was very enjoyable. I felt really good until mile 8, then still pretty good until mile 9 and then I was really ready to be done. The last .3 was me just trying not to think about the things that hurt and once I could see the finish line, I just locked eyes on it and ran as hard as I could. It hurt, but I figured the faster I went, the sooner it would be over. My final time was 1:42:28, exactly 11 minute mile pace, which is a full minute per mile faster than last time. That made me very happy. It’s always nice to see improvement.

After the race, I met up with M and we headed back to the hotel for a quick ice bath/shower and to checkout. M was nice enough to snap a few pics of me next to my favorite mannequins:

West siiiiide!

Afterward, we headed to Jam for breakfast. The food was delicious, but the ridiculously long wait was not. Then it was time to hit the road back home. We both agreed that while the weekend was fun, it was nice to be back home.

PDX pics

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Today was pretty much our main day to spend in Portland, since tomorrow was the race and the drive home. We had a ton of stuff we wanted to do, so we were up pretty early and out the door. Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, we started with St. HonorĂ©. (Even though I love Besalu and it fulfills my french pastry needs very well, I have a soft spot in my heart for St. HonorĂ©. I have such fond memories of our Forest Park run tradition of stopping there afterward) Here’s a little tribute to the buttery goodness:

Afterward, we headed to the east side of town for a little shopping and race packet pick up. Back when I lived in Portland, I’d done some running shoe testing for a woman who coordinates product testing for Runners World. She does a big sale once a year to get rid of all of the extra stuff she accumulates in her line of work and fortunately, I’m still on her e-mail list. I usually read about these sales and lament that I can’t go, but this year it timed out perfectly. So, first stop was this sale where I scored some cute Karhu running shoes, a blue fleece hoody, some nutrirional products and a dog leash that snaps on to a running belt. Score! (M was good and passed on an awesome pair of rain pants – she is so disciplined.)

Afterward, it was on to packet pickup. With 21,000 people signed up for the various races tomorrow, I was anticipating having to wait. What I was not anticipating was having that wait be in the traffic jam turning left and getting into the parking garage. The actual parking and picking up of the packet was a cake walk. Sadly, registration was closed so M was officially out of the 5k. Once the cute race shirt was spotted, I think she’d have definitely signed up otherwise. We were both hungry, so we headed to the NW for lunch and some shopping.

On the way back to the hotel, we wandered through this little square downtown. It used to be a giant construction-filled hole, so it was nice to see it completed. It had this nice fountain area:

Upon closer examination, the sign gave the formerly innocuous caution tape new meaning. (I particularly like the third sentence. Shudder.) So, so, very wrong…

We grabbed a little cookie/soda action from the food court of the mall near our hotel and headed back to our room for a little rest before our evening out. I snapped these shots of the cool building across the street – I love how the old type looks carved into the stone:

After a little rest, we got dressed for dinner and walked over to the Pearl District for dinner at Andina. (After all of the money we saved on parking, we figured we could splurge on a fancy dinner.) On the way, we stopped at the Ace Hotel because we’d heard it was cool inside. Which is true:

Yours truly, posing tourist style in the lobby:

There was a photo booth in the lobby, which M & I couldn’t resist. I’ll scan a copy and post it soon, but in the mean time here’s a sneak peak courtesy of M:

It wasn’t clear when it was going to take the initial picture, since it basically just started flashing lights at us, so the first one is my favorite. But all of them are awesome. I love photo booths – they are rad. I also loved this very Portland style of advertising:

Across from the Ace was this very cool old billboard that I’ve seen numerous times, but either never had my camera with me or had a chance to take a picture:

Down the street further, advertising a restaurant that T’s grandfather used to own, a giant inflatable crab/crawfish over Jake’s Crawfish:

Not the most appetizing thing to have over your restaurant – especially since the wind would blow the legs around. Andina, of course, was delicious. Afterward, we hit up Powells for some post-dinner browsing. I do miss that awesome book store, it’s pretty fantastic. Then it was back to the hotel and early to bed for daylight savings time/race day tomorrow.

To the Nines

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Girls Weekend 2010 would be staying at The Nines, which is a swanky hotel right in downtown Portland.

Needless to say, it was far fancier than our budget would have allowed otherwise, so many thanks to M’s husband J, who generously donated some of his Starwood points to our adventure. There’s something about a hip, boutique hotel in Portland that is sort of surreal – old woman in cat sweater and bright yellow Crocs walking into the techno-playing lobby surreal. All that aside, it was awesome to get to stay in such a pretty and “designy” space. (This environment also spurred a ton of Zoolander quotes, so be prepared.)

M & I quickly checked in and moved our car to a reasonably priced garage. (btw, The Nines – 32.00 a night for parking is RIDICULOUS in Portland, OR. Please make a note of it.) Afterward, we returned to the hotel to more thoroughly ooh and ahh over our room and the public spaces in the lobby. I didn’t get too many pictures of the room itself, but luckily I travel with a photographer, who is kind enough to contribute her work to this blog, so here are a few, courtesy of M:

I did take a ton of pictures of the public spaces. Starting with the chair outside of the elevator:

Right? And here’s the atrium behind the check-in desk:

It had all of these nice little groupings of seating that I really liked:

And these adorable vases: (M proclaimed them to be “totally Jonathan Adler.” This is apparently who we are now. Those design people.)

The lobby was also inexplicably full of naked mannequins (apparently naked mannequins are so hot right now!):

After a little bit of lounging, we headed over to my old stomping grounds in the Southeast to poke around the shops on Hawthorne and eat at Pok Pok. M was very skeptical of the heavenly Fish Sauce Wings, but after tasting a bite concurred that they are pretty much the most awesome food ever. It must be the crack that they inject them with or something. (Actually based on the sheer number of M’s food rules these violate, it really is the only logical explanation… ) We were also treated to some highly inappropriate dinner conversation courtesy of the table next to us. (A helpful hint: when sitting in a restaurant where the tables are a foot and a half apart, it might not be the time to share the details of all of your therapy sessions, I’m just sayin’… )

When we got back to the hotel room, we were “treated” to cheezy light jazz on the radio, the lights turned low, ice in the ice-bucket and our robes laid on the bed. So romantic…

Sorry, Nines but it’s not *that* kind of girls weekend!

Road trip hijinks

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This weekend, M & I are hitting the road for a little girls weekend down in Portland. We’d both been wanting a little getaway, but both husbands are crazy busy with work/school, plus we didn’t want to spend a lot of money or take a lot of vacation time. I’ve wanted to redeem myself at the Shamrock Run 15k, so Portland became the destination. I took Friday off, so we could hit the road at a reasonable hour and we were off!

The drive down to Portland feels a lot longer than the 3-3.5 hours it actually takes. Partly, because there are long pockets of nothingness interspersed with driving through towns and partly because it’s just one long straight line, for the most part. We usually find a stopping point half-way just to break up the monotony, so this time it was at a McDonalds/gas station combo in a town with the unfortunate name of Grand Mound. (shudder) I typically don’t eat at McDonalds or any fast food place, I have a long-standing exception for road trips. So, we got ourselves a little snack and while in line noticed the a gentleman wearing what I can only describe as a camouflage yarmulke. Initially, we were totally baffled until he sat down with a group of military-looking folks, so we figured it must be some sort of government issue accommodation for observant Jews in the military, but it was unusual to say the least. Needless to say, M & I started scheming on how we could get a picture of it without calling attention to ourselves.

Traveling with a photographer has it’s perks, because she very casually picked up a camera to take this candid shot of me eating my cheeseburger:

But this was our real target:

So, anyone have any intel on this? I’m all for freedom of expression, I’m just a little surprised to see it showing up in the military of all places!

Special guest

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One of my co-workers just got a new puppy and brought him into the office. I got a chance to dog-sit him while she was on a call. His name is Jack and he’s a Westie (West Highland Terrier) Schnauzer mix (a Wowser?) He’s very friendly and adorable:

Helping me get some work done…

He didn’t help my productivity too much, but definitely cheered up a hectic workday!