Happy Holidays!

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In contrast to last weekend’s craziness, it was a very peaceful weekend. We hung out with M & J on Christmas eve, which was really fun. M is past her due date, with no relief in sight and it definitely ready for that damn baby to get here already. So, we hung out, played Trivial Pursuit (the original 1980’s version) and tried our best to keep her mind off of it. It was fun to hang out and I hope we cheered her up a little.

Christmas day was very quiet. It was just T and I. He made a lovely decadent pannetone french toast for breakfast, complete with homemade syrup:

XmasBfastIt was pretty rainy out, so we spent most of the day chilling on the couch watching TV. I talked to my mom on the phone to hear how their Christmas was going. Erik & Nerissa were there and it sounded like they were having a great time. It made me feel a little sad and lonely afterward. I hope someday we can have do a family Christmas without all of the interpersonal drama that tends to happen (like Thanksgiving of last year.) We’d made cool spice racks for Erik & Nerissa/M&J, which I can finally reveal without ruining the surprise for anyone. (We made one for ourselves as well… )

SpiceRackI hope everyone had a great Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Holiday rehearsal

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With the baby due right around Christmas, we decided to go down to Oregon for family Christmas weekend. On Thursday, I took the train down so I could spend an extra day with my family. The train took forever, but did have some lovely views:

IMG_3822I spent Friday working remotely and then running some last minute shopping errands with my mom. It wasn’t the most exciting day, but it was fun. Saturday morning, T woke up very early and drove himself and the dogs down to Portland. We had a few hours of opening gifts with my family before going to my dad’s family gathering.

I believe I’ve written about these gatherings before, but these gatherings follow the same agenda every time. First, we eat. Then there’s a gift exchange with presents people have made or bought for $5.00 or less. The exchange is one of those affairs where people can steal gifts back and forth and can go on for a REALLY long time. It’s fascinating to see which (unwrapped) gifts become hot items and this year a humble contender was a big surprise:

IMG_3830(No, it wasn’t actually pasta sauce.) It was the one I was given initially and I amused myself by seeing if I could keep it. T actually managed to get it, so we got pretty close. 🙂 My cousin’s little girl was a hoot. She didn’t like her present getting stolen initially, but eventually got into the spirit and would ask the person choosing to steal her present. She was also usefully suggestible, so when T looked like he was going to end up with the present I’d brought, we used her to get it back into circulation.

The can turned out to contain dehydrated apples from my aunt Susan (seen here posing with the cute ornaments my cousin Derek made):

IMG_3849My cousin’s old vizsla was also a highlight:

IMG_3848Then there was a break for dessert. And my least favorite part of the festivities, my uncle’s reading of the childrens book:

IMG_3850I like my uncle very much, but man do I hate this tradition. He always picks the books and they are always these insanely long and terrible books. The two actual children in the room were so bored they would get up and wander around the room. You’d think that would tell him something, but it doesn’t seem to. Ugh. I passed the time by sending sarcastic texts to M.

Afterward, we excused ourselves to go have dinner with Joe and Susan. We ended up trying a new place in town, a very odd restaurant called Broken Bread. It had the weirdest menu and not just because it was on a clipboard.

IMG_3852There was a total hodgepodge of items on the menu. For example: one of your choices of sides for muffaletta sandwich was strawberry yogurt. And then the waiter was an added level of oddness. Susan and I couldn’t stop giggling. It was awesome.

The next day we had Christmas at Susan’s house. Lydia’s dog Molly put on her festive tie-dye sweater before going back to terrorizing Wally (not joking, he was afraid of her):

IMG_3851There was also a lot of pittaha on the menu:

IMG_3859Which means lots of butter:

IMG_3858And just in case that wasn’t enough, there were about five different kinds of dessert:

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IMG_3865So we’d be nice and sugared up for our big drive home. In addition to the five pounds we gained from the days festivities, we scored some awesome gifts and had a lot of fun hanging out with everyone. We did have to drive through some horrible weather to get home, but it was worth it.

 

 

Surprise!

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About a month ago, I started planning a surprise baby shower for M. Since a lot of the awesome folks that I would have invited to such a shindig live elsewhere, I had to get a little creative. So, I sent out an email asking them to make videos for Ms. M and send them to me. I had SUCH a hard time keeping it a secret. I almost blew it a million times by wanting to tell M about various aspects of the planning process.

But the big day finally arrived and we’d laid the groundwork for she and J to come over for a “casual dinner” at our place. But the downside of that plan was that it couldn’t be so casual that it wouldn’t be a big deal to bail on, so we told M that we were making pittaha for dinner. Plus J was in on the plan, so we had some insurance. Which was good, because M was having a very grumpy day.

T and I cleaned and decorated the house, which looked very lovely when we were done:

IMG_3795I’d even made little favors (blue & pink wrapped chocolates!)

IMG_3796Joining us for the party was a friend of M’s who I’d not met before, Robyn and our friend Sarah. They came over early to help surprise M. Which was a huge success, because she was completely surprised when she got to our house. The guest of honor and our partner in crime:

IMG_3772(And no, that’s not actually wine in her glass… ) J had made an awesome playlist of songs containing the word “baby” so we had some great music to accompany dinner and some lovely conversation. T had made smaller “fancier” pittaha and we paired it with a lovely salad and some green beans. With cupcakes for dessert:

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IMG_3797Then there were some presents to open. M’s friends had been very generous and sent a bunch of great stuff. (It’s too bad they aren’t accompanied by great photos, but what can you do?)

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IMG_3786There were also GREAT videos to watch. But the best part was how special it made M feel. The pregnancy has been hard on her, so it was really awesome to do something nice for her. I am so thankful to J and her friends for their help, I definitely couldn’t have pulled it off without them!

Last day in Vegas

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Our flight didn’t leave until the afternoon, so we had time for one last adventure in Las Vegas. We went to Paris for their brunch buffet, only to discover that their online schedule was wrong and that they don’t in fact have brunch from 11 – 1, it’s lunch only. Again, in a city that stays up as late as this one, how is it so hard to get breakfast foods after 11:00? So, I suspect we were not alone in our disappointment, as there were a lot of race shirts in the line…

Then we sent the boys off to play poker and Nerissa and I caught a cab out to the Neon Museum:
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Run by a non-profit that obtains and restores old neon signs, it was an incredibly interesting place to visit. You have to take a tour, but it’s filled with all sorts of tidbits and historical trivia. For example, this is the first neon sign in Vegas:

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There were basically pathways with all sorts of neon signs arranged artfully. I had a really good time photographing them:

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IMG_3732This guy is a remnant from Vegas’ ill-advised 1990’s campaign to become a “family vacation destination.” He used to live outside of Treasure Island (now called TI):

IMG_3734The guide claimed you could see his face on Google maps, so of course I had to check. Sure enough, she was right!

Screen shot 2012-12-23 at 10.43.35 AMThere were some very famous signs from now-demolished casinos:

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IMG_3749It was the perfect outing. We got to be out in the sunshine, look at cool stuff and learn a little something about Vegas history. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Then it was a cab ride back to the Strip to retrieve the boys from their poker room. T and I had to grab our things to head to the airport, while Erik & Nerissa had a few more hours to kill. I’m so grateful that they made the trip with us, it was an insanely fun weekend.

 

 

Time to Rock n’ Roll!

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Race day was finally here and I’m very grateful that we didn’t have the usual super early wake-up call after last night’s adventures. We set out to get breakfast at the Paris brunch buffet (a highlight of our trip last time) but the line was so crazy talk long that we all decided to go someplace else. It was surprisingly challenging to find a restaurant serving breakfast after 11:00, but thanks to the power of smart phones we found a place in the Planet Hollywood casino.

I was expecting it to be on par with Denny’s, but it was surprisingly good. And with the race coming up in the afternoon, I justified an insanely decadent breakfast of cinnamon-roll french toast with a side of bacon:

IMG_3663So delicious, but I could only finish about half of it. Afterwards, I headed back to the room to relax and stay off my feet while the rest of the gang headed out for more poker (the boys) and wandering around (Nerissa). I put on the new compression socks and put my feet up while watching some terrible TV:

IMG_3636Having an afternoon start time is really weird. It was hard to have so many hours of the pre-race energy/nerves. On one hand, I usually don’t have time to stretch and relax before a race, let alone take a nice hot bath. On the other, I had time to fret about every one of my clothing choices and freak out about inadequate training. Good times!

But soon enough, everyone returned to the hotel for the trip to the start line. (The strip was completely closed for the race, so our hotel was offering a complimentary shuttle to the start line.) T confirmed my last-minute decision to wear a short sleeved shirt (such a good call!) and took a cute picture of me before we got on the bus:

IMG_3672Don’t you love the socks? Cut up knee-highs from Target over compression socks. Geek-chic at it’s finest!

We got on the bus pretty early because I wasn’t sure what the traffic would be like and didn’t want to be stressed about it. It wasn’t too bad, so we got there pretty early. I had plenty of time to find a port-a-potty and my corral. The wind had been picking up pretty steadily all afternoon and it was definitely blustery. A race photographer wanted to grab a pre-race photo of T and I, which Erik was paying no attention to, so the first shot he crashed right into me (worst picture ever!) but the one that followed was pretty hilarious:

AwesomeI think Erik should pose like that for all family photos. Amazing.

Soon enough, it was time to bid my support crew farewell and line up in my corral. There weren’t a ton of people there initially, but it filled in pretty steadily:

IMG_3671Apparently, PF Chang had a group that ran with a Chinese dragon:

IMG_3675(Because half-marathons just aren’t challenging enough… )

Here’s the classy establishment that we stood next to for a while. Surprisingly, it’s out of business…

148403_10200181170477141_1302156200_nOne of the things that they did for the race that I really liked was staggering the starts of each corral by 1-2 minutes. So, we’d hear the various waves in front of us getting sent off and then we’d walk forward. It was so much nicer than the usual “we’ll blow the starting horn and then you won’t be able to run for another 20 minutes and get super frustrated about it.” This way, you had space to run right away, it was awesome.

The race course goes out away from the Strip for a mile and then comes back, so you get to pass the start line. I was shocked to see that there were still tons of people still waiting to start when I ran by at mile 2. (I was in corral 11!) The wind was crazy. At one point it pushed me sideways and then another big shove from behind. (That was cool!) At times, the tailwind felt like we were running downhill, but for a lot of it the buildings on the Strip blocked it pretty effectively.

It was an amazing experience running down the Vegas strip at night. All of the lights were insane and a HUGE crowd of spectators were out cheering. I felt like a rock star and realized that I’d been running with this huge stupid grin on my face. There were bands approx every mile and a half, most of which played rad 80’s hair metal. I don’t know if it was because the race was so large or RnR races attract a different crowd than normal ones, but I never found a consistent group running my pace. There were always people walking in front of me and faster people passing me. I didn’t really know how fast I was going, so I just sort of picked a cruising pace and went with it.

I could see mile markers initially, but then I stopped paying attention. I had my Garmin beeping at me and it had been pretty close to their signs, so I stopped worrying about it. Everything was going pretty well until around mile eight. I’d expected the aid stations to have gels earlier on the course, so I was getting hungry (not a good sign). Finally, I saw them and had to slow to a walk to pound down two of them. I stuffed one into my jog bra just in case (Running is sooooo classy!) and got back to running.

The race goes through the downtown section of town (where we’d been last night) and there were a lot of turns and less spectators. It was hard to stay focused. Plus I was getting a lot of crazy cramps from a special visitor that morning (the joys of being a woman!) and was having a hard time mentally. At one point, I looked at my Garmin and it had my pace a full minute per mile slower than I expected. That really deflated me and I took a little walk break because I felt like I was already going so slow, what did it matter.

Then I rallied and made myself start running again, if for no reason than to get this stupid thing over with already. On the final mile, the cramps hit hardcore and I slowed to a walk again. It sucked so bad. Even walking hurt and running was agony. The finish line was in front of the Mirage, which was aptly named because it shimmered on the horizon for an impossibly long time. Finally, I just sucked it up and ran as best I could, grimacing and moaning my way over the line. Not fast, but not as bad as my Garmin had me believing.

Miraculously, I heard Erik, T & Nerissa in the roar of the crowd, so I knew where they were. And thankfully, I’d brought my phone along, so I could text them from the endlessly long finishing chute. I kept accepting things offered to me so I ended up with an improbable number of beverages, a space blanket, a rad finisher metal and so forth. I’d given T a bag with my finish line stuff, so I was able to change my shoes and put warm clothes on without dealing with bag check lines.

We walked back to the hotel and got cleaned up for dinner. I really wanted to wear this:

IMG_3683And while M and Reed approved via text and Facebook friends gave them the thumbs up, my compression socks were vetoed by the group who had to actually be seen in public with me. 🙂

We went to the tapas place in the hotel to use up a $100 dining credit that my brother had gotten when he booked the room. Should you find yourself in Vegas, check out Julian Serrano. You’ll be glad you did. The decor is super cool:

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IMG_3692The food is AMAZING:

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IMG_3695And I was blessed with lovely company:

IMG_3688We tried a lot of different dishes and I swear that every one of them was amazing. (I might have been an easy audience.) Afterward, we met up with Reed at Chandelier Bar. Reed had not had a good race either, but at least we had a cool space to compare war stories:

IMG_3699Even though the race didn’t go the way I wanted it to speed-wise, I still had an amazing time doing it. It’s a truly epic race experience and I would definitely come do it again. It would be a great destination for another group half-marathon (hint, hint ladies!) Though in the future, I would recommend coming in on Saturday and then spend more time enjoying Vegas post-race. All of the pre-race hijinks definitely didn’t help my performance. 🙂

Saturday night downtown

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We thought it would be fun to see a new part of Vegas, so we’d made plans to go to the Downtown section. While Nerissa and I were getting ready, the boys entertained themselves on their respective iPads:

IMG_3638We had reservations at Rick Bayless’ Mundo:

IMG_3665The food was amazing (far better than that terrible tagline!) and we ate waaaaaaayyyyyyy too much. But it was so delicious. I highly recommend it, but definitely show restraint on the appetizers. (You’ll thank me later.) Afterward, we grabbed a cab and checked out the Fremont Street experience:

IMG_3664There were these amazing old neon signs:

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32356_10200171278069837_1146535619_n(We’d later learn these were restored and maintained by the Neon museum, but more on that later.) There was also some amazing people watching, my favorite of which was this guy:

IMG_3666The picture’s not the best, but he’s dressed like Jesus (complete with crown of thorns) drinking out of a glass shaped like a lingerie-clad lady. Blasphemy-tastic! We also passed this fine establishment:

IMG_3667(The Heart Attack Grill: Over 350 lbs Eats Free!) They did have this fantastic mural on their wall of DaVinci’s Last Supper with all of the fast food mascots that I would have loved to get a picture of, but alas.

We recovered from that harrowing experience at a cool bar. T had absinthe which was dangerously smooth. You could get seriously messed up on that stuff. But he was a good boy and only had one. We finished out the evening with a cab ride from this crazy guy who sounded exactly like Jesse Pinkman (for the Breaking Bad fans out there.) Just another wild and crazy evening!

Seeing the sights

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We continued our Vegas experience by sleeping in late (not too surprising given how late we stayed up… ) and then hit a buffet for brunch. (Bellagio does a nice job of brunch, I highly recommend it.) Then we turned T and Erik loose to play some poker while Nerissa and I went to go take care of my packet pick-up at the expo. But first we took a little detour through their lobby and atrium to look at the holiday decorations:

IMG_3612The atrium had these cute polar bears:

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IMG_3602Then it was off to the Sands Convention center for the expo. This race is the biggest race I’ve ever done (by far!) and about four times the size of T’s marathon. I think you could fit the entire Portland Marathon expo in Brooks’ booth at this one. Speaking of which, they had the coolest booth I’ve ever seen. They really get their audience. Look at these mirrors for example:

IMG_3627And the changing rooms look like port-a-potties!

IMG_3626Then you turn the corner and see every vendor that has ever made anything even vaguely running related. It was insane! I did score myself some new compression sleeves and the knee-high compression version of the Injini socks I run in. Zappos had a giveaway where you got a little card initialed when you visited the various booths (the prize turned out to be a cloth shopping bag, which was a bit underwhelming, but what can you do.) We got pretty over-saturated and headed back to the hotel.

Because the expo was at the Venetian, we stopped to take a picture of their lovely lobby. They had an accordion player in the lobby for extra ambience:

IMG_3630One of the more baffling things about Vegas street culture is that all of these people dress like celebrities and cartoon characters and stand around to get their pictures taken for donations. Nerissa couldn’t resist the white trash Mickey & Minnie:

44931_10200169936596301_710432365_nAnd I couldn’t resist snapping a picture from the escalator of this Transformer chatting with some random dude:

IMG_3628The last bit of interesting sights before getting back to the room was this interesting art piece in the shopping center next to our hotel:

IMG_3616Those tubes have little cyclones, as do the colored circles on the floor. The best part was a woman training a seeing eye dog by having him stand on the floor ones. (It must be extra challenging to train helper dogs in Vegas!) The poor dog was completely freaked out by the “floor cyclones” but he was starting to get the hang of it. Nerissa was having fun photographing the tubes:

IMG_3620We had a little time to chill out at the room before the boys returned. It was nice to catch our breath after all of the sights of the day.