Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween and Scurry Things

Hello there peeps.

It has been a busy busy almost-two weeks since I last posted. Fitting PT (appointments and exercising) into my schedule now means I don't have as much time to do other things, so I let blogging slip to the side a bit. Although, honestly, it hasn't been super interesting 'round these parts, so I promise you're not missing much.

Oh! Except the new(est) hamster. I had to return something to Petco, and Cam made the mistake of letting me look at them. Remember that calico hamster I mentioned when I got Dresden? Yes...well...he came home with me. He's adorable and I love him. His name is Bärtemius.

It's like that Kleenex box was made for him. That bottom right picture is about all I could get to show the calico kind of pattern he has going on with his fur...but it's his eye markings that really won my heart over!
Right now he has a basic bin cage, but I'll be upgrading him soon...just gotta find the time (and monies)!

The rest of life? Well really, I'm just working more. We (my department) found out early in the week that my coworker who broke her ankle the same weekend I sprained/effed up mine (September 12-13th) has had her disability extended. Again. And...well.

I try very hard not to talk about work here (aside from fun fundraising stuff), and even harder not to complain about (because complaining is soooo easy, amirite?), but working weeks and weeks of overtime is a drag. I've been working OT the days I don't have PT or doctor's appointments...and even on some of those days too, and it's gotten old. The stress is making me sleepy, and it's caused my acne to flare up (yeah, I still have acne and it fucking blows to deal with at almost-28).

But seriously. This is going on seven weeks that our department has been down two people, and by the "anticipated" return date of this coworker it will be eleven. That, combined with the excitement of October means I'm just burnt out on the work front, and anyone who's been overworked before can probably empathize that going in every day and putting on a smile turns into a job itself. So that's where I'm at there.

For the first time in a long while, I also felt like I encountered unsupportiveness from many random angles for a variety of reasons during the week, and it just put me off my game. It's one thing to tell yourself that you don't care what people think - it's an entirely different matter to get yourself to believe it.

And then over the weekend I had quite the realization: I really, really miss running.

I'm sick of being inside all the time, and I'm getting jealous of all the people out there who get to enjoy Fall Everything. I mean, I'm not even allowed to walk my dogs! Stupid tendinitis.

A great example to me of how bad walking can be for tendinitis was the Making Strides walk. Two weekends ago Cam and I went to it because that's what I helped organize that event (with the shirts) and team for (PS...we raised over $4,000 before employee matching, which will bring that close to $8,000!). Anyways...I had the (very very stupid) idea to walk part of it. It was a 5k and I only did one of two laps, but I was limping pretty badly by the time we finished that first lap. So yeah...that taught me not to walk.

Bonus photo though...I managed to get up on Cam's shoulders for it, and I neither fell off nor died trying to get down, though I now fear for our future children and how high up they'll be when they ask to ride on Daddy's shoulders...:


It was a fun picture, and we had quite a few people watching us make it happen.

But then the next day Amy yelled (okay, not actually yelled) at me for having the genius idea to walk. She asked me if I was planning any marathons in the near future to exercise my bright idea streak. (I do like her sense of humor, that's for sure.)

I got the message though...no long walks on the beach, or through my office. Nada, zip.

So...I've been indoors, cleaning out my closet and stuff, and working out at the gym. But sticking to the walls of the pool, spin bike, and weight room are getting monotonous and, dare I say it, boring. And by the time I can do real outside stuff, it'll be cold and I'll be sticking to the inside stuff anyways so I don't slip on the ice and herniate my lateral posterior whatchamacallit.

*sigh*

Tis the lot I have been dealt, and I shall deal. As long as I do all the right stuff, this is a temporary problem that can be solved. Until then...patience.

And since I've now been long and brooding...I have really been looking forward to this weekend. We (Cam+me+friends) are driving down to Champagne, IL to visit some other friends and party it up for Halloween this weekend. I will do my best to take pictures, because I know all of you want to see mine and Cam's costumes!

To wrap things up... I found this today over at Live Love Surf, and thought it would be fun to fill out. Enjoy!

Ten Things: Halloween and Fall

1. What is your favorite Halloween candy?
Everything. I love candy. But I’d probably take Snickers or Reese’s over just about everything else. Mmmm peanuts and chocolate.

2. What is one of the worst “treats” you ever received in your candy bag?
I don’t remember getting anything really bad…but probably raisins. I hate them plain and they definitely would have gone straight in the trash as a kid (nowadays I would turn them into something else…like cookies or trail mix balls because throwing stuff out is wasteful).

Also Good’N’Plenty, and Whoppers.

3. What was one of your favorite costumes you wore when you were a kid?
My mom made me a tiger costume when I was little, and I LOVED it. I think I was a tiger when I was 4, 5, and 6…basically until it didn’t fit any more. That was definitely my favorite.

4. How about your favorite costume as an adult?
Actually, this year’s! Cam and I are going as Wyldstyle and Emmet from The Lego Movie. Stay tuned for pictures!

5. What scares you most on Halloween? Spiders? Zombies? Axe murderers? Eyeballs in a jar… (or something else)?
People jumping out at me in scary masks. I’m terribly afraid of anything scary…I jump FEET in the air just turning around a corner and encountering someone I didn’t realize would be there.

Story time: The first Halloween Cam and I were together I had decided I really liked him, so I agreed to go to a haunted house (this was before things were official, otherwise I woulda bailed…but I had to ensnare him first.). When we got there we had to use the bathroom and there was some actor with a weird, three-foot tall juggalo-type mask standing outside the porta potties trying to scare people. As a result, when I had to leave I just about barreled out of there in case he was standing by my door – I wanted to smack him really hard if he was there so I could run away faster. I hit some girl instead.

Then I’m standing there waiting for Cam and Daniel to get out of the bathroom and another actor, dressed as a very convincing (and very cute) vampire came up to me and just stared at me. He had white out contacts in and I nervously started word-vomiting at him about his contacts. He eventually relented with his staring at me and started talking about where he got them. I was persistent in the word vomiting though.

AND THEN I practically had my eyes closed through the entire haunted house, and one of the characters asked me what I was so scared of…and I looked at her, eyes closed, and said, “YOU!” And she’s like, “Then why are you here?” – Cam happened to be in front of me (as I grasped him around his waist desperately, clinging for dear life because clearly I was about to die) and said, “BECAUSE I REALLY, REALLY LIKE HIM.”

True story, yo. Here’s a picture of us waiting in line…our first picture together, d’aww.



6. So then, what is your favorite scary movie??
Hah. None of them. Unless we’re counting The Little Vampire, in which case that one.

7. What is your favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal?
Turkey and stuffing, the rest is just for kicks.

8. What is your favorite piece of clothing or accessory to wear in the Fall?
Hoodies all day long! And scarves, since I can’t wear hoodies to work.

9. What is your favorite pie?  If you do not like pie I will forgive you but then what is your favorite Fall dessert?
My mom’s Lemon Meringue, hands down.  But I’m also a fan of Strawberry Rhubarb, and the occasional Chocolate Pie is delicious too.

10. Do you live where there are four seasons? If so, where is your favorite place to see the fall colors?
Yes I do! There are some really nice state parks and forest preserves around where I live, but I think my favorite is one near my aunt and uncle’s house because I don’t really know the layout so it’s easier to get lost in things…and there are leaves everywhere! That said, I enjoy walking around near my house as well, it’s nice to see the place I live go through all the seasons!

11. What is your favorite fall tradition?
Hmmmmm…good question. We really don’t have many of them, but I have always enjoyed Halloween and Trick-or-Treating…either going out and doing it (now sometimes with people who have children…), or staying home and handing out candy. I think it’s fun to see all the costumes,  and  good for the mind and creative spirit to step out of yourself for a day and have fun as someone else.

12. Is there anything else special about the Fall to you?

I just like that it’s cooler and I can bundle up everywhere I go and not have to worry about getting frost bite like I do in the winter. I also really enjoy stepping on allllll the crunchy leaves!


What about you? Any favorite fall things? Feel free to steal the survey and drop me a link so I can read your answers!

Until later!


x

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Summer of Gardening (photo heavy post)

FYI, that title is total click bait. What I really should have titled this was, "How to Successfully Garden in the Absolute Laziest Way Possible" because that's really what I did this summer.

I also spent the summer intending to post about the success of said garden, and then my posts about other stuff kept getting longer and longer so for the most part I left the gardening stuff out, except for the occasional picture (both here and on Instagram), and this one post right after we built the thing.

But since I spent a chunk of yesterday morning clearing out my garden, I thought it'd be a good time to post my reflections on the project. Get ready for loads of pictures and details of the project, start to finish (but also kind of mish-mashed since I want to organize by topic)! I've also included the photo date for every picture so you can get a bit of a chronology going for the pictures.

I'll break it down into chunks, so you can skip between bolded sections if there's something you're particularly curious about. In case you wanna skip between, they are:
  • Getting Started
  • Time Commitment
  • Cost
  • Space
  • Construction, Planting, and Growth (includes pictures of assembly and some growth)
  • What I Planted
  • Harvests (includes pictures of produce and a few harvests)
  • Conclusion
And absolutely, the first thing I'll say is that I'm really, really glad I took the time to do it this year. I will definitely be gardening in the future. Now on to the details.

Getting Started

Before I started, I found a book called Small Plot, Big Harvest, at a book sale at work and I learned soooo much from it. It really served as the impetus to get gardening this summer, though I'd been interested in the prospect for the last few years.

I also perused a few websites and forums, like /r/gardening on reddit, but also some of the places you can buy seeds from.

Finally, many things were learned the good ol' fashioned way: from listening to my mom. She used to have a huge vegetable garden when we lived in the city, and she was invaluable in this process. Having someone who can kind of guide you through when you have random questions is very useful!

Time Commitment

I know that this is one of the first things people will wonder about, and that a lot of people think they "don't have time" to garden. To give you some perspective, I spend about half of my weekly free time (3-4 day of my nights and weekends) at Cam's house, so aside from the two initial Saturdays spent building and planting, I did all of my "gardening" in the other 3-4 days of the week when I was home. This time was usually right after work on Monday or Wednesdays, with anything more intensive on the occasional Saturday or Sunday, depending on which I was home for. And remember...I did all of this while training for a half marathon, going on vacation, working (including overtime), and studying for my first CPCU test. You can totally do it if you want to.

Also...it was a huge help that I never really weeded (lol).

I'd say I spent a total of 10-12 hours over 6 1/2 months doing "hard labor" (from the first weekend in May to yesterday, October 17th). The initial building was one part - though admittedly Cam and our friend Daniel did most of that while I removed sod and laid weed paper and stuff. We spent about 5 hours that day building and putting in the bed and filling it with dirt.

Two weeks later, my mom and I went and got all the plants and I put them in. This whole process (not including plant buying) took me about 1-2 hours, including planting items in pots. No, my mom didn't help, she was doing other garden work. So this was the estimate of doing it alone.

After these initial time investments, I spent very, very little time "tending" the garden. I spent 30-60 minutes cleaning out dead stuff and debris two or three times all summer (which included removing or repositioning plants); I never, ever weeded (except pulling some stuff out with the dead leaves and when I did that); and I went out and picked stuff all summer long (not hard labor, but ~10-15 minutes at a time, 2-3 times a week). The last session of "hard" work was picking the last bit of everything, pulling plants out, and turning over the soil yesterday..which took about 75 minutes.

There are pictures of all this in the section titled Construction, Planting, and Growth.

Cost

A large bulk of the cost for this came from the necessity of building a raised bed. The soil where I live is terrible (most soil is not ideal for gardening without heavy prep), so the bed was a necessity.

The full cost (wood, dirt/manure/compost, chicken wire, trellises, plants, etc) came to about $800 - and I'll give my mom total credit for funding this project. She'll use the bed for future gardening, so she judged it a good investment when I said I wanted to do it. A majority (~$600) of that was a one-time cost for the wood and supplies, as well as the initial soil investment. In the future, the soil will need to be topped up and 'fed' to replace nutrients, but the plants easily covered their own cost, and we still have items in the freezer to get through.

Obviously, an annual cost will be the plants, but I'd feel confident giving seeding a try for certain things, like tomatoes and peppers. The few seeded plants I had this year did really, really well, so I'd like to try this method of cost cutting next year. Growing plants from seeds and then transplanting them would save a TON of money (like 6000% percent, seeds are so cheap for so many), and give more control over the number of plants I would have to commit to (i.e. I can just seed 5 broccoli plants as opposed to buying 2 4-packs of broccoli because that's how they're sold)

Space

Our raised bed ended up being 12 feet long by 4 feet wide by 1 foot high (12'x4'x1'). This was plenty of (cramped) room for all the stuff I decided to try. Though the depth was a concern going in, I lost very few plants, so I'd say this size is just fine.

In all, it didn't take up too much space. Mine and my mom's biggest far was that it would get in the way during our Fourth of July party, but even then, it didn't cause much of a problem, and people really enjoyed peeking in to see what was growing!

The garden is directly behind the white tent, and didn't cause problems with space at all!

Construction, Planting, and Growth

Cam and Daniel get full credit for constructing the raised bed. Cam measured, cut, and bolted all the wood together to form the frame of the bed. There is no bottom to it - we (me and Daniel) simply pulled up the sod underneath, I laid weed paper, and then the three of us set the frame down.

As for the type of wood...we bought treated cedar at Home Depot, and paid attention to what it was treated with (as in, I googled the chemicals to make sure they wouldn't leech into the soil). Make sure you check that if you decided to build a bed for a vegetable garden. There's tons of literature on the topic, so I'll leave it there.

We did NOT dig post holes, because I didn't know I had to call JULIE in advance to do so (clearly I'm not an adult yet), and we really only had the one weekend to build the thing. In case you're wondering - there was absolutely no problem with not having posts. All that dirt holds things in place.

Yeah, we got wood.

He used our patio table as his workbench :P
Though the weed paper extended a good six inches beyond the frame in all directions, and though I double layered it as best possible, I still got growth from the grass up through the bed in a few places (near the frame). Oh well, that's Mother Nature for you.

Once it was finished, the boys and I split bag after bag of dirt into the bed. I bought a combination of soil, manure, and compost. I believe the ratio I used was 50% soil, 30% compost, 20% manure (ish):
I ended up having to send my brother out to buy even more mix. I believe we got another 3 large bags of soil, and one or two of each compost and manure.
I also had the guys drop 6 stakes on the inner perimeter of the bed (in the soil), because the very last thing we added a few weeks later after planting, was chicken wire, and I needed something to zip tie the wire to. If you plan to make a vegetable garden DO THIS. I am totally, 100% convinced that the chicken wire is what saved a huge portion of my stuff from being eaten by rabbits, chipmunks, birds, squirrels, and Stewarts. I know a lot of people lost certain things to critters, and I honestly only lost a few low-hanging runner beans all season.

So yeah...chicken wire. When we put it around we made it so there was a kind of gate in the front of the garden, like this (garden green, frame black, wire gray):
So we started in the front middle, and wrapped around the right side, back, and left side. Cam and Daniel helped to hold the wire flush with the base around 3 sides while I stapled it in place and zip tied to the stakes, but the entire front portion was left open and unstapled (that's why it comes away from the base in the picture. We then overlapped the wire in the front, and used zip ties to hold it shut (there's a picture where you can see this further down).

This worked really well, though there was some grass growth between the wire and the frame that I trimmed down once during the season, and again yesterday morning (because it couldn't be weed wacked). I was able to harvest over the wire pretty easily. If you're shorter it might be harder, but the zip ties can be easily cut and the wire rolled to the side if you need to get in the garden (which is what I did when I cleaned up yesterday).

Bottom line...use chicken wire.

Other things to mention: I fed my garden twice with Miracle Grow: Once right after planting, again after seeding the green beans and runners (which was about three weeks after the initial planting of everything else). I did not use any pesticides or that kind of stuff, and I had zero problems with bugs...honestly, spiders kept pretty much everything away, and respun their webs when I accidentally destroyed them during harvests. It also rained heavily here in June. It was the wettest June on record for Illinois. That is probably why my tomato plants were effing massive. When it stopped raining, I watered at least twice a week, normally three times, depending on other rainfall.

Since I wasn't sure where to put them in this, here is the appearance of the yard, start to finish, plant growth included:

A blank canvas! (April 11th)

Bed built and soil added! (April 11th)
After the initial planting. (May 10th)
Stuff's starting to get bigger! (May 22nd)
The season in full swing. Those tomato plants were about 4 feet tall! (June 29th)
The first "clean out" session. (July 1st)
Everything cleared out, except for the sprouts which should last until November. (October 17th)
And actually, all of it was very pleasant. I enjoyed pulling dead stuff out and replanting. I loved harvesting my veggies, and I was sad to pull everything up today and know it's gone for the winter.

What I Planted

I'm sure you're now dying to know what I planted and all the details thereof, so here's the full list (not including herbs, which were like basic Italian herbs + cilantro). Quantities are bolded, types in normal font, survival notes in blue, and satisfaction/future notes are in purple:
  1. 8 Brussels Sprout plants
    • 7 left, one pulled early because it wasn't developing.
    •  Amazing so far, I'll do them next year but pull the leaves off earlier so the sprouts can grow better.
  2. 4 Tomato - 3 Big Boy and 1 "early" blossom plant
    • All flourished throughout the season, but the early plant did not flower early, it bloomed with the others. 
    • Next time, 2 plants will suffice. I now have like 3 dozen green tomatoes in my freezer to see if there's something I can do with them. My grandma also got buttloads of tomatoes because they kept growing so fast.
  3. 4 Eggplant - 2 Nadia (like Asian Eggplant) and 2 Black Shine
    • I pulled one of the Nadia in July, but the others produced all season.
    • In the future I'll only do Black Shine as they yielded better harvests.
  4.  2 Zucchini
    • They did well, produced consistently, but required a lot of trimming because the leaves go everywhere.
    •  2 plants is plenty, and I was sad when their season was officially up (mid August). They need to be harvested consistently though otherwise the low hanging produce will rot easily.
  5.  12 Broccoli
    • 8 were planted in my garden, 2 in a pot at Cam's house, 2 in a pot at my house. The potted ones that went to Cam's were fine (just smaller than the gardened ones). The pots at my house were raided by Stewart the Everything Eater. Of those in the garden, 1 did not fair well, 1 was small, and two were huge. I was disappointed that one of the big ones flowered (because apparently it does that if you don't harvest it soon enough) while I was in Idaho and was inedible. The 4 heads we were able to eat were delicious.
    • Broccoli grows HUGE, and thus takes up a lot of space. In the future, I'll pot them (1 per pot) so I have room for other stuff in the raised bed.
  6. 4 Bell/Sweet Pepper - 4 bell, 1 cherry sweet
    • I replanted two of them after removing the broccoli plants in July. One did not make it, another did not flower (or bear fruit) at all. The other two only produced a few (7-8?) peppers through the whole season. The sweet cherry pepper plant did really well, but they weren't my favorite to eat because of how many seeds they had.
    • I'll probably do 2 full size pepper plants next year, but I think I'll pot them like the jalapenos.
  7. Seeded Green Beans - ~ 10 plants in all (~12 seeds planted)
    • These were amazing. They were one of the few items I did from seed and I was so pleased. I got multiple (about 6) great harvests from them, even one after I thought they'd stopped producing. It was so fun planting the seeds and watching them sprout and grow that way.
    • I will definitely plant them again and give a little more room to grow, as well as staking them so they can grow taller. They were one of my favorite items from the garden, crisp and delicious, and I loved having them.
  8. Seeded Scarlet Runner Beans - ~10 seeds planted, 7 plants left)
    • My next favorite item were these Runners. Oh goodness, they are delicious. They're not as common in the States but they're very popular in England, which is how we knew about them. The plants did so well, started flowering around July, and they had a great harvest all the way up until I dug the plants out today. Easy to pick and cook for a quick addition to any meal.
    • Duh, I love them. I'm doing half the garden in Runner Beans next year (kidding...only a little)
  9. 2 Cucumber (pickling size)
    • One died, perhaps from lack of sunlight due to the broccoli's size. The other flourished!
    • I loved having cucumber and I'm sad that the one died, but I think I knew it was going to. It had a good harvest, around a dozen cukes. I may try cucumber from seed next year, and I'll make sure they have a big more room and sun.
  10. 6 Swiss Chard 
    • Of the 6 plants, 5 survived and thrived. We had Swiss Chard literally all season, and ended up giving what amounted to buckets of the stuff to my Grandma, as well as having tons for us too. Easy, no fuss, just wash and cook.
    • My mom loves Swiss Chard, so this was her thing because she really, really wanted it. It took up quite a bit of space though, and we probably would have been better with only 3 plants. I think I'll try this from seed next year because it fared so well all summer.
  11. Bok Choy (2 pots)
    • I seeded a lot of Bok Choy, saw it all start to sprout, and then it was gone practically overnight. I tried to cover it with nylon, but an animal (probably Stewart, since I saw him pulling stuff out of the second pot) tore through the nylon and ate it.
    • I want to try Bok Choy again, and next time I'll chicken wire the pots. Apparently it grows all season (much like the Swiss Chard) so it'll be an adventure for next year!
  12. Lettuce - 3 varieties, can't remember which (Red Leaf, Butter...)
    • We harvested the lettuce a few times, but a lot of it got eaten by the rabbits :(
    • I'm willing to try again! CHICKEN WIRE!!!!!!!!!
  13. 6 Jalapenos 
    • One died. The rest did not, they grew like freaking weeds and nothing ate them (duh). I had jalapenos growing out the wazoo and ended up having to slice and freeze a bunch of them.
    • I actually loved them. I made jalapeno poppers twice for parties and they were really great. I'll totally grow them again because they were so easy and even fun!
Harvests

Finally, allllll the pictures you want to see!

Bok Choy (half eaten) lettuces (about to be eaten) and jalapenos. I got rid of the nylon once the lettuces went. (June 29th)
Eggplant flowering! They were beautiful plants :D (June 29th)
The first broccoli crown to flower. (June 29th)
My first tomato! It was a LONG time before I harvested it. (July 6th)
The zucchini were the first things to flower and produce, next to the broccoli. (July 6th)
Just to get an idea of how big the broccoli was getting. This was the first head I harvested. (July 6th)
AS SOON AS I picked this, Nigel tried to eat it. I had to trim off what he got. Grr. (July 6th)
I manged to get some of the herbs before they died...basil, thyme, and oregano for a pizza one night. (July 6th)
These zucchini went into hulk mode while I was in Idaho! (With some flowered broccoli on the side...I was so sad!) (July 20th)
For reference...he's 6'6" (July 20th)
It got stuffed. (July 20th)
I was also SUPER STOKED about the first green bean harvest when we got back!!! (July 20th)
Zucchini for the Presidentress and family!! (July 26th)
More zucchini, if you look carefully... (July 29th)
Eggplant!! They were so cute! The large one is a Black shine, the small very purple one at the bottom of the photo was a Nadia. (July 29th)
The Scarlet Runners flowering. They ended up producing steadily through August, September, and October. (July 29th).
My first runner bean, hanging out with a cucumber. (July 29th)
Just for kicks, some of those Jalapeno Poppers I mentioned (before they were breaded and baked). (August 9th)
Runners and tomatoes! (September 18th)
Runners, tomatoes, (the last) green beans, peppers, and eggplants. (September 26th)
Conclusion

So...there you have it! Though there are lots of harvest pictures, it's nowhere near the total sum of all my harvests. There are no pictures of the swiss chard or Brussels sprouts, I only showed you one head of broccoli, you didn't get to see very many of the tomatoes either...just trust me, you're not seeing lots of things that grew and ended up in my belly...or in the case of some of the tomatoes, spoiling on the counter :(

Hopefully this post was a bit fun and informative for you. It's been really exciting for me to look back and see how much my tiny little garden accomplished this summer. If you're interested in the idea of gardening and can spare a bit of time and energy doing so, I highly recommend it.

Questions and comments are welcome! I'd love to know what you think, if you've gardened before...anything. I loved doing this and am looking for everything from tips and tricks to advice on starting plants from seeds. I would love to chat about this!

Aside from that...peace out, and enjoy the rest of your Sunday (and the week ahead)!


x

Thursday, October 15, 2015

My 100th post: Let's TRI This Again...

Believe it or not guys...this is my 100th post since I came back to blogging! One hundred! Phew! Hopefully you consider everything I'm about to write good and meaty...!

I mentioned in my post yesterday (October 14th) that it was mine and Cam's 2 year anniversary...I just want to take a second to brag, and to reiterate how lucky I am. We'd originally decided to go out for dinner tonight after our workout (the 15th, instead of the 14th), because I had PT and he had class...so imagine my surprise when I walked out of my PT's office yesterday, heard someone walking behind me, and turned around to see Cam, running up behind me with flowers!

I was quite surprised! I was even more surprised when he handed me a little box with these inside:


This man. He has amazing taste. And he knows me soooo well (sapphire is the best 'cause it's BLUE!). And his reason for earrings? There are two of them...and we've been together two years. *swoon*

I always feel like I should approach stories like this like that by saying it would be totally okay with me if Cam didn't do these things. I never expect them, and I love him for so many reasons, but the fact that he does stuff like this makes me fall in love with him over and over. You'd never guess it from looking at him (I mean, really, at the moment he looks like he's in a biker gang with the long hair and beard), but he is a true gentleman, and these gestures...well, they speak for themselves.

After the initial surprise, he took me out for dinner at Duke's in Crystal Lake (delicious, local, and farm-friendly food, if you're looking for somewhere!), and then we headed back to my house to watch the Walking Dead (equally romantic, especially the part where I fell asleep on him, drooling...true story).

Who's got two thumbs and is the luckiest girl ever? This one, right here!



Now...other things, with only this segue: Cam has highlighted one very important thing in my life - What it means to have a really solid support system. My mom has always been supportive of me. But until Cam, my boyfriends have not. They always met my goals with snide (whether they meant it or not) comments about my abilities. Cam is the first person in my life outside of my mom (and dad) who has ever said, "If you want to do it, you will be able to do it." And that support means the world.

Not being able to run my half had this weird effect on me. I realize it was the "smart" decision (both Dr Gent and my PT, Amy, are really, really glad that I didn't run the half because of how bad the sprain was), and that there were many things against me - I realize that I did run 12 miles in one go, so I was fully prepared to run the half, but not having run it has left me in this weird limbo of accomplishment. Like kind of there, but not really.

I've resigned myself to the fact that I am, in fact, facing some kind of injury recovery, and I need to embrace that and roll with it, but I need some kind of goal to look towards.

What's really amusing is that this happened at a time when I've been so focused on fitness goals (go figure), and I even started contemplating triathlons again. Way back in 2011 I signed up for a sprint-distance triathlon that I never completed due to a stress fracture (I also had an associated blog...with a whopping 7 posts).

Truth is...I had no idea what the fuck I was doing. I thought I had some kind of knowledge, but I really didn't. It also was not a good time in my life. Honestly, 2011 was a terrible year for me, worsted only by 2009. I was in school, working, on the cusp of a bad relationship, depressed, and floundering when it came to time management. Both were years where I lacked direction, focus, and purpose. I was not ready for triathlon, in part because I really wasn't comfortable with who I was.

I also wasn't comfortable with swimming, biking, or running. And all of those things have changed a bit.

But I've spent the last 9 months preparing for and running races. I started heavy lifting. I've learned a lot about nutrition and how to fuel my body for lifting and endurance training. I still definitely consider myself a novice in all realms, but I'm ready and hungry for more.

It's like, having trained for the half (even if I didn't go and run it) gave me a taste of what it takes to train for something like that, and now that I can't run, I have to switch gears (that's a pun, and you don't even know it yet).

For a short while I was thinking about buying an Aqua Jogger so I could pool-run, but the pools at my gym are 4'6" at their deepest. To use the Aqua Jogger you have to be in up to your neck, so I had to scrap that idea. With how much I've been thinking about triathlon lately, it only made sense to stick the the pool...and swim. So as I mentioned before, for the last few weeks I've hit the gym and started acclimating myself to the water again.

I think I can already say that I'm a stronger swimmer than I was 4 years ago. I'm about ten pounds lighter too, so that doesn't hurt. I actually had to go out and buy a new suit because the one I was wearing was loose on me, and anyone wearing goggles underwater could probably cop an eye-full down the front.

Anyways...I am sure you can see where this is going. Even yesterday when I told Amy about using the spin bike, then swimming the other day she looked at me and said, "Cycling. Swimming. You want to run again...did you sign up for a triathlon or something?"

I looked at her sheepishly, grinned, and said, "Yeah. I did."

Let me just say, if I thought this year's goal of a half marathon was lofty, I would consider the goals I'm contemplating for 2016 completely insane.

I will preface this list by saying that I have a lot of work to do with this tendinitis, but if my recovery goes okay, here it is the bucket list for 2016:

  1. Hustle Up the Hancock (for the Respiratory Health Association, all for my Grandpa who has COPD)
  2. Sprint Distance Triathlon (TBD spring/early summer race, with Cam. All to prep for...)
  3. The Transamerica Chicago Triathlon - Registration opened Tuesday and I am paid and registered to compete in the Olympic distance race!

    and, should it happen...
  4. The Chicago Marathon

1. I will be totally honest - my commitment to the Hustle (which is in February) depends entirely on how this tendinitis thing goes. Ninety-four floors of stairs sounds like just the thing to aggravate peroneal tendons, never mind the training. But I really want to try, so I will. My company has a team that I plan on signing up for in a few weeks, and if it looks like I won't be able to complete training, I will drop out so someone else can take my place.

2. I want to do the Sprint TRI to get a feel for transitions (which, to me, are the scariest part of triathlon) and a TRI race day in a no-pressure environment, because I want to challenge myself a bit with the 3. Chicago Triathlon. And believe me, it took some internal convincing to sign up for this race. I'm already nervous, and it's still over 10 months away.

4. Never mind that, during and after triathlon training, I hope to be training for the Chicago Marathon as well. Spectating this past weekend solidified my desire to run Chicago, and I'm hoping I can get on one of the charity teams (not gonna say which yet because I don't want to jinx it).

But as one of those super-inspiring posters at my gym says, "Before you can accomplish something, you must expect it of yourself."

And I expect it. Right now, everything I'm doing with PT and conditioning and lifting is to prepare myself for some part of next year, because I expect to do these things.

I have put so much thought into this over the last few months, and I'm actually excited. I'm excited (and nervous) for the rest of my physical therapy (which is hard to be excited for because it's very slow going right now). I'm excited for all of these events. I'm excited for Swim Bike Fuel (more about that later).

And to really round things out: I'm so excited that I have someone who, when I told about these things, said, "You can do it. Let's do it."

(Although Cam assured me right after he said those words, that he's not going to do the Olympic tri or the marathon with me, lol.)

So. There are two and a half months left in 2015. And then all the months of 2016 ahead. And my 100th post promise is:

I'm gonna do my best to crush them all.


x




(and hopefully not end up in PT again...)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Two Years - and a Day Downtown with my Favorite Guy

I intended to post about the Chicago Marathon wayyyy sooner, but it just didn't happen (obviously). I dare you to ask me about the last two days at work. Trust me, if you do you'll wish you hadn't... >:|

Good news is...I'll post about the Marathon today! This actually works out very well, because today is mine and Cam's two year anniversary (dating), and our little adventure downtown on Sunday was such a reminder to me about why I'm with him. Not like I question our being together...we're like PB&J or Mac&Cheese or *insert other corny duo here*...but it's nice to do something together out of the norm and realize your relationship, though way more stable, is just as fun and exciting as it was when you started dating. :)

So with that said...

The Marathon was amazing. I said earlier that I'd never spectated before...I think the only race I'd ever spectated was the Turkey Trot in my hometown, and it was only because I couldn't run it because I'd acquired a knee injury (doing jiu jitsu).

Obviously this race was totally different. The weather was perfect - high 60s/low 70s all morning, and it got warmer after that. With the shade from the buildings I ended up wearing my sweatshirt all morning too.

We left Cam's at 7:15 and got downtown just before 8:00. Shout out to Google Maps for great directions, and having every single blocked road marked. That was a huge relief. We found a parking lot about 2 blocks from where we wanted to plant ourselves - smack between Mile 13 and 13.1, so we'd see the runners just as they came across the river.

We met Mama and Papa Bender there (if I haven't said this before, they're the parents of one of my best friends from college. Two of the nicest people on this planet...). Papa Bender took a picture of me and Cam:



The race started at 7:20 with the wheelchairs, elites went at 7:30, and I was tracking Uncle Jim and Katie so I knew when they both started (7:41 and 8:01, respectively). It was obviously a lot of waiting, but it was so cool seeing all the different athletes go by. I was in awe of the wheelchair racers because I cannot imagine racing an entire marathon with your arms.

So we got to see the elite men go by, the pace car showing 1:04:33 for a half marathon...






And a few minutes later (I think it was 1:10) the elite women...


We had to wait about another hourish for Uncle Jim (then Katie), and about 10 minutes before that, Papa Bender's phone started ringing. It was Uncle Jim calling! to tell us he'd just got to the 12 mile mark. He kept cruising along, talking to Papa Bender and then we just had to wait for him!

And before long, there he was!


The man did not look like he'd run 13 miles. (Spoiler alert: At the end he didn't look like he'd run 26.2 either.)

He stopped and chatted for a while, and then after he headed off, Mama and Papa Bender decided to make their way to Grant Park for the after party while Cam and I waited for Katie.

I'm bummed out that Cam didn't manage to get a picture of Katie as she ran by...I was looking and looking for her and when I finally saw her he just didn't have enough time to snag one before she practically flew by. I believe she saw my sign though and that's how she knew it was me...it was big and bright...actually, it was bigger and brighter than a lot of the other signs I saw. Not embarrassed at all, pretty proud of that, if I'm being honest!

Cam took this picture about an hour later...but we'll get there!
Anyways, she shouted "Thank you!" to me, I said, "You're welcome!" and gave her a high five, and she kept on going. And good thing too...but I won't spoil the 'why' here...it's her story to tell, so keep an eye on her blog to find out how she did.

*Edit: She's posted her recap over on her blog. Go read it!!!*

Second spoiler alert: When I saw her final time I was floored. She seriously did such an amazing job, and because I've been reading her blog for a while now I knew that it was a big deal.

After she ran by, Cam and I decided to start walking towards Grant Park, and maybe grab some coffee and a snack on the way. Now...I'm not a fool, and because of my ankle I took crutches downtown with me to help with the walking. I'm glad I did too, because walking too much really makes the tendinitis flare, but using the crutches to assist my walking kept it from hurting at all. That said, I got a ton of weird looks for hobbling around the city on crutches.

Our walk ended up taking us by the Sears ("Willis") Tower, and Cam turned to me and said, "You ever been to the Skydeck?" And I told him yes, but I was really little...like 6 or 7 (turns out I was actually about 5) and it was cloudy the day we went. So he suggested we go right then.

At first I said no, because it's expensive ($19.50 per person), but he said he didn't care, and it would be fun since we had so much time to kill. So in we went! On the elevator ride up they have a video that shows all the buildings you're "passing" in height as you go up...that was pretty cool! The Sears Tower is now the 13th tallest building in the world, but it's still the tallest building in the US (okay, technically it's One World Trade Center, but only because it's antenna is taller. The Sears Tower has more floors - 108 to 104 - booya). It's one of those things that grinds Chicagoans' gears that the Sears Tower's antennas are not included in it's height because they weren't part of the architectural design, but other towers' "spires" are. It's dumb, honestly. Architects are now fancifying the antennas (ahemm, "spires") to add height, so there are a few towers considered "taller" than ours. But screw them! We still beat out half of the 12 "taller" buildings with occupied floors. So there.

Annnywhoodles. We went up up up, and saw the city from it's pinnacle:

A view of the lake...

Marathoners marathoning!

Snagging a pic with the Hancock in the background (forget about Trump tower...that silly man).

And my mom's office, which is right in the tower's sights...not crazy enough to tell you which one it is though!
After we wandered around and took a few pictures, we got in line to go in one of the glass floor sky boxes. It took ages (I think some families decide to photo shoot for their Christmas pictures up there...), and we took our own!

A view down-down-down town. The very first thing I said when I stepped in the box was "wow, that'd be a really long way to fall!" ...I'm sure people loved that ;)
Cam also took that picture above with me holding the sign for Katie, and I instagrammed it telling her I was still cheering for her from the top of Chicago! And then...

Cam got this great selfie of us :)
**Cheesy moment alert**

Sometimes, I really struggle with stopping and living in the moment. I have trouble focusing on enjoying what I'm doing because I'm thinking about all the other things I have or want to do, and it's not until later that I realize I could have done more in those moments. But Cam...well I'm grateful for him. He is the one who reminds me to stop and do things because we can, and because they are fun and we'll appreciate having done them together later.

And I did enjoy it. Spending time with Cam on Sunday was the best part of the entire day. Sure, the marathoners were super inspiring, and seeing Mama and Papa Bender was fantastic, but hobbling around the city with my best friend was hands down the best experience of the day. I'm beyond lucky to have someone so loving and fun to be with, and it was nice to break out of the routine and do something different this weekend.

So, le boyfriend, here's to two years down practically in the blink of an eye, and a lifetime to go. And with you, I know it will be the better than the best I could dream of. Love you, Bär.


x





To dispell the cheese, here's a random housekeeping item: For some dumb reason, ages ago I installed Disqus on my blog. I've never liked it but it hasn't been working really well lately which was driving me insane. Well...it's gone now. Thank god. It should make comment moderation way easier for me (not that I really get any comments anyway *frowny sad face*).