Swim totals

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I’d hoped to do a final test to see the difference in my speed from the start of the challenge to the finish, but holiday pool hours and our travel plans got in the way. (I know my speed has improved, but I’m curious about by how much.) In any case, my form is better and my swimming feels a lot stronger. I managed to swim 5 times a week from November 1 through December 26. In November, I swam a total of 23.4 MILES and then in December 26.3 (that’s a little longer than a marathon!) That’s a total of 49.7 miles for the whole challenge. I don’t think my swim totals for the rest of the year were that much.

Now the challenge of integrating the rest of my training back into the schedule starts, but I’m hoping to build on the gains of this focus and get even stronger. I’m even more hopeful that all of this work will translate into faster swim times this summer.

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Multi-purpose husband…

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He cooks, he cleans and sometimes he acts as a human trash compactor:

But when your neighbors don’t break down their boxes in the recycling bin and then it doesn’t get picked up for some reason, what are you going to do? Not recycle? I don’t think so!

Christmas, party of two…

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Growing up in a house of four kids, Christmas was a noisy, chaotic, over-the-top affair. My parents apparently enjoyed spoiling us rotten, as did our extended family, so we generally got so many presents that we had to take a break mid-way through the opening process to eat breakfast. (In fairness, we are the kind of family where you take turns, so it wasn’t just an overabundance of gifts that took time.) When I met “only child T” I was shocked and appalled to learn that his traditions were a family gathering on Christmas eve where they’d open their presents and Christmas was a quiet and peaceful affair.

As a result, we spent many of our early Christmases with my family and kept the craziness rolling. Then we moved across the country from our families and Christmas meant flying. And flying at Christmas sucks. So, we decided to stay home one year. Just the two of us. And, despite my trepidation that it would be boring and sad, it wasn’t. It was glorious. And it was the start of our own family traditions.

When we moved to Portland, it was hard to keep our new family tradition afloat. Now that we lived in the same town as my parents, it was expected that we would jump back into the regular family traditions, so it was a struggle to carve out some autonomy. (Even though the family celebrations have scaled back over the years in terms of presents, they still maintain their noisy, chaotic qualities, especially when additional siblings are present.)

When we moved to Seattle, I decided that we would at least take turns between “the family Christmas” and “our Christmas.” Since last year was the big family one, this year was just us. There are certain traditions that still must be upheld. The Christmas tree lights and music must be turned on and coffee must be made. (But now it’s me doing that and not my grumbling half-asleep father, while we all wait impatiently upstairs… ) And most of our gifts came from Amazon rather than Santa.

Even though the volume was reduced, we still did very well for ourselves. The boy scored some new bike gear, an REI gift card and some fun stuff from my brother:

In addition to some tri books and a running pack, I opened a giant box from T to find one of my bike wheels and this puzzling sign:

T explained that he’d rented me the wheels pictured for my first big race planned for next year, which is super awesome. I’ve talked about renting race wheels before, but when push comes to shove, I usually feel guilty about all the money we’re already spending on the race, so I don’t end up going through with it.

Our boys also got quite spoiled, with THREE new dog toys. (Can you spot the people who can’t make a decision in this picture?) We’d initially gone to our local pet shop to buy their annual Tuffy toy, only to find that the shop was going out of business and the only Tuffy toy they had left was a 3-foot tall Godzilla. T really wanted to buy it, but picturing the destruction Wally would reign down upon us allowed me to hold firm. Instead they got a small barnyard, meet soon to be unidentifiable carcasses Sheep and Pig:

They also got a new throwing/pull toy to chew on. Wally also rampaged around with his favorite toy of all – cardboard. He played himself out and had to take a nap in the wrapping paper:

We concluded our morning with some decadent cinnamon rolls in the memory of my Grandma McIvor:

The rest of the day was spent chatting with family on the phone and lounging, followed by a Christmas dinner at M’s house with her Mom, who was visiting from Virginia. We had real Virginia ham with biscuits, sweet potatoes and green beans, followed by one of J’s excellent apple crisps. No shortage of good food and thankfully no stomach flu to keep me from enjoying it. (Later when I step on the scale, I might think otherwise… )

Happy holidays y’all!

Holiday cheer

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This year we combined decorating with paring down our excessive supply of Christmas decorations. Somehow, over the years the number of ornaments and Christmas lights had become ridiculous. It was nice to pare things down to our favorites and get rid of all of the “back of the tree” ornaments and lights that hadn’t been used in years. It wasn’t even that hard to let go of those things. Plus the house looked very pretty. We even decorated George!

Tree hunting

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I had been looking forward to making another trip to this tree farm to go get our Christmas tree. (I’ll admit that it was as much to maul Burton as anything else, but still… ) Unfortunately, they were out of trees (WTF?! You’re a tree farm for heaven’s sake! In the Pacific Northwest where trees grow like weeds! ARGH!) Okay, I’m better now. So, this meant we had to find a new place with only the terrible websites on the internet to guide us. I found a cluster of them in Issaquah, so we decided to make the trip.

We drove through a strange neighborhood of McMansions to get to the first tree farm on our list, which lacked a great deal of ambiance. The trees were priced by variety as opposed to by size, so if you were getting a 3 foot noble fir, you were paying the same as a 10 foot noble. The prices as such were on the high side, which was fine if you were getting a 10 foot tree, but they only seemed to have four and five foot trees, so it wasn’t such a good deal. This, combined with the rain had put me in a most un-Christmasy mood. I was positively grumpy as we tromped through the expensive lack-luster tree farm, so we decided to check out the next one.

The next farm was much more normal. Still not as nice as the Carnation farm, but definitely a big improvement over the McMansion farm. It had some hilarious odd-ball trees, including this one that we were tempted by:

But in the end, we went with a nice boring grand fir. Wrangling it onto the car was much easier thanks to the roof bike rack and the help of an energetic college kid, so in the end it was a successful outing. But here’s to Carnation having a better tree crop next year…

Hipstamatic morning commute

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While waiting for my bus, I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this blackbird on a wire against a gray Seattle sky.

It felt very artsy and my inner angsty 20-year old approved… Here it is with a different lens:

Ooooh… ahhhh… Stupid addictive Hipstamatic app. Enjoy the view from the bus stop:

Per usual, I am really happy not to be of their number. I’m quite certain that not having my blood pressure spike twice a day while yelling at idiot drivers will pay off in the long run. Not to mention all of the extra time to play Angry Birds… 😀

The great experiment

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This year, I really wanted to make most of my Christmas gifts and happened upon a recipe for wine jelly. Now, I’m a sucker for “interesting” foods, so I promptly looked it up online to see what one would use wine jelly for. To my surprise everyone seemed to be using it just like regular jelly, so I decided to give it a try. I’ll admit, the fact that I’d never tried to make jelly did make me a little nervous, but I decided to go ahead anyway. (Luckily, Google contains a wealth of jelly-making lore… )

I did the first batch of red and aside from buying liquid pectin instead of powder (the only difference is that liquid has to be added at a different time in the cooking process than powdered… ) it went pretty smoothly. One of the jars didn’t seal properly so we had to eat that one right away, so we had a chance to taste it and I must admit, it was pretty tasty. It has some of the red wine smell, but basically tastes like a more complex grape jelly (there’s the sweetness of grape jelly but paired with a nice tartness.) Let’s just say the jar we have is almost gone and it’s only been about two and a half weeks…

I didn’t get any pictures of the actual jam-making process, but I did snap a few of the cooling jars:

*** Sorry for the delay in posting, I had to wait until some of the blog-reading recipients had opened their gifts! 😉 Now, hopefully my parents won’t read it before I go down there next weekend. Luckily, I’ve also gotten them something else, so they will still be half-surprised. ***