New Year’s Resolution #2 – Swim, Bike, Run


In Start at the Very Beginning, I mentioned that I made three New Year’s Resolutions.  I’ve already talked about the first, which is this blogging project.  I thought I’d take some time this week to talk about #2: Completing a sprint distance triathlon this summer. 

Now, I’m pretty sure that all my current readers already know me, and so you know that I’m not exactly slim and athletic.  I have said many times over the past 10 years (ever since my first triathlon, which was shorter than a sprint) that I never needed to run again.  I love being in the pool or scuba diving in the ocean, but I’m not a lap swimmer.  And the last time I rode a bike was when I was 5 weeks pregnant with my (almost) 2 year old.  I don’t even own a bike anymore.  So a triathlon might not seem like the easiest way to start getting in shape. 

Enter Sporty Best Friend.  She resists me calling her my coach or my trainer, but I would not have attempted this without her encouragement and belief that I was up to the challenge.

We started with running, since that’s the one I knew would cause me the most trouble.  I got some new running shoes to aid in my training.  Sporty Best Friend put together a running training schedule for me and on weekdays is my running partner.   We started my running program in the second week of January, and I’ve completed every assigned run on schedule.  I’ve actually surprised myself with the dedication I’m feeling for this challenge.  I am determined not to let myself down.  At first, I thought I was determined not to let my friend down, but it turns out that she was only the catalyst.  Now that I’m going, I don’t want to stop.  I even had a moment during a solo run when I thought, “I’m beginning to understand why some people love this!”  Okay, who are you and what have you done with the real Beth? 

 Swimming is my second weakest (or second strongest?) of the three sports.  I LOVE being in the water – I’ve been swimming since I was a little girl.  But I’m not all that comfortable with the front crawl, which is the stroke usually employed during a triathlon.  I don’t think the breast stroke (which I can do for a long time without getting tired) would be well received in a crowded triathlon swim.  So I signed up to be a student at our local college, and am taking a swimming class with Sporty Best Friend.  It started this week, and on the first day, I was really nervous.  What if I couldn’t keep up?  What if the coach took one look at me and told me to get a grip on reality?  But it wasn’t like that at all (of course).   The coach posts a workout assignment, and you either do it or you don’t – I can even choose to not receive a grade, just a pass/fail determination.  The pool is huge, and we all just work on our swimming and ask for feedback when he’s close by.  I’ve learned a lot already just from watching other swimmers, asking questions, and practicing on my own.  And it’s only been one week (two classes per week). 

Cycling is the least of my worries. I know I can complete the cycling portion of the event.  The challenge will be getting my cycling muscles back in shape so I don’t have to walk my bike up hills and can avoid a super-bruised backside by the end of the day.  For now, I’ll be training in the gym on a stationary bike, but at some point I’m going to need to get an actual bike and start riding outside.  I can’t wait – I really enjoy riding, but I’m a little worried about when I’m going to fit it in.  One thing at a time – I’m just getting used to the swimming. 

So, over the next few months, I’ll be increasing my training in all three sports.  This is the first time in my life that exercise has been a part of my daily life – a priority, not just an after-thought.  And it feels good. 

Now, I’d better get out for my run.  The dog is getting restless.

On the Kindle: The Recipe club: A tale of food and friendship by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel

Okay, Foodies.  Pay attention.  This is a great book.  I downloaded it onto my Kindle and read it in less than a week.  Granted, it’s not a long book.  But it really grabbed me.  It’s a coming-of-age tale about two best friends.  They share a love of cooking, and send recipes back and forth with their letters over the years.  They survive many trials of their friendship only to have a major falling-out, breaking ties for many years.  The story is about their attempts, as middle-aged women, to rekindle a friendship over email, alternating with providing the back story via the letters and recipes they sent to each other as children and teenagers.  This book is chock full of recipes that I can’t wait to try. 

Since that didn’t take long to read, I started another book right away: Silent Thunder by Iris and Roy Johansen. This one is in hard cover – a completely different experience from reading on the Kindle.  I have to say, it’s a little heavy to carry in my purse. 

This is a story of a “brilliant marine architect”, Hannah Bryson, who is hired to draw up schematics and assess the safety of a Russian submarine that has been purchased by a marine museum.  It turns out that the submarine holds some pretty valuable secrets.  There are Russian bad guys who are willing to go to any length to get them, and they think Hannah might have the information they need.  Hannah, fighting for her life and desperate for answers, gets caught up in the violence and politics surrounding the submarine’s secrets and will stop at nothing to figure it out.  So far, it’s a gripping read. 

Happy reading!


Road-kill, Celery Root and Tulips


No, this is not a hillbilly dinner menu.

On Friday, on my way home from dropping my dear husband off at work (approximately 19 miles/30 km), I drove past 4 skunks and one possum whose guts were all strewn across the highway.  While seeing the carnage is nasty enough, skunks are pretty vicious on the nose as well and the smell sticks around long after you’ve left the poor creature behind.  Sometimes there are dead deer too, although there weren’t any this time.   It got me thinking…why do we see so much road-kill around here?  I think a major part of it is that there is a lot of green space in our county, and there are also a lot of cars on the highway.  Those of us who live in the suburbs often do so because we want to be close to nature reserves and hiking trails.  The irony is that our ability to live in peace with our critter cousins is sabotaged by our technology, no matter our desire.  It’s too bad, really, but we can’t all be Pocahontas. 

My gory drive home reminded me of the one and only time I’ve ended an animal’s life (I don’t count bugs and spiders in this tally, and YES I eat meat with pleasure, but I don’t actually kill those animals directly, okay?).  It was a chipmunk (I think) and I was on a rural highway headed out to work at a museum/farm in the summer.  I was enjoying the early morning drive on an almost-empty highway when it sprinted across the road in front of me.  I had no time to stop, or even slow down, and actually, I’m not even positive I hit it.  But it plagued me for weeks (maybe years?).  I kept thinking of that poor chipmunk’s family waiting for it to come home.  What if there were baby chipmunks that were not going to survive because Mama wasn’t coming home with food?  My guilty heart tortured me until I finally had to concede that there was nothing I could have done.  And my logical mind theorized that it might have escaped unscathed after all.  It WAS a tiny animal – maybe I missed it.  That was at least 12 years ago.  Maybe this confession will allow me to finally let the matter rest (oh goodness, I hope so).

Okay, so on to a topic that is more appetizing.  Celery root! 

Now, you may want to argue with me about whether celery root is a more appetizing topic than road-kill.  But if you’d been at my house for dinner last week, I guarantee you’d agree with me.  I had never cooked with celery root before, but had heard some good things about it.  So I bought one, hoping to expand my repertoire of vegetable dishes. 

Celery root (also called celeriac) is an ugly vegetable.  I’m pretty sure that when they filmed Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, they modeled the Mandrake after this root (just a guess – cannot verify).  Well it turns out that celery root has a similar texture to potatoes, although the flavour is more like really strong celery.  It can be eaten cooked or raw.  The recipe I made was a modified version of a French dish: hachis parmentier.  I didn’t have potatoes, so I mixed the mashed celery root with some mashed chickpeas, and it turned out really well.  And the best part is that on Weight Watchers (yes, I’m a member), celery root has no POINTS (ie. I can eat as much of it as I want)!  If you have not yet discovered this wonderful, but aesthetically challenged, root vegetable, I challenge you to pick one up and take the plunge. 

And lastly, I LOVE tulips.  It’s already tulip season in Northern California, and I’m so happy.  I bought some in pots and put them on my sundeck.  Ahhh, Spring!  My condolences to those of you who are in less temperate climates right now.

Karma and Freecycling


Recycle imageI’m sure you all practice your three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. But do you Freecycle? I recently discovered Freecycling and I love it. I looked up “Freecycle” on Wikipedia, and there was actually a page for it: “Freecycling, the act of giving things no longer wanted or needed away for free.” Now, people have been giving their used stuff to other people since time immemorial, but in this day and time, when so many people are disconnected from their communities, it seems the way to find and give away free stuff is on the Internet.

I signed up for my local Freecycle group a few months ago, and at first, we gave away a lot of stuff. We were moving into a smaller space and some of our stuff just wasn’t selling. We sent a large load to a local charity, but as we continued to make decisions about what was to stay and what was to go, I decided to build up some karma on the freecycle site and start giving some of it away to my virtual “neighbours”.

That karma has started paying off. Before our trip to Utah for Christmas, I got a free snowsuit for Jenna from a fellow freecycler. We didn’t end up needing it, but when she grows out of it I’ll put it back on the freecycle site for someone else to use. And I didn’t have to pay $20+ for a snowsuit that we never even jogger photo

Even better, this week I got a jogging stroller. It needed a little cleaning and WD-40, but it’s in great shape and I used it today – it worked great! I could have bought a second-hand stroller for anywhere from $60 to $175, but instead, I got one for free. I like this!

The value of things that people are willing to give away for free, and also that they ask for, amazes me. I love reading through the freecycle emails just to see what crazy stuff is getting posted. Someone asked for a car! I guess there’s no harm in asking. Others have offered computers, office-sized photocopiers, large appliances and an “unused hospital bed”. I guess sometimes it’s just easier to get someone to pick things up, rather than deal with the hassle of trying to sell them or bring them somewhere to be discarded safely.

There are some strange items that get offered and snapped up, too. This week, someone posted sumo wrestler salt & pepper shakers, and they were gone very quickly. Who the heck grabbed those? I mean, I’m glad they’re not in landfill and that someone is enjoying them, but really? No accounting for some tastes, I guess (my apologies if you’re into sumo wrestlers).

I’ll let you know if I get the bike trailer I’m looking for. You never know, although I may have used up a big chunk of my karma with this jogging stroller.

Have any of you been freecycling? I’d love to hear about what kinds of things you’ve received or given away.


On the Kindle: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

Okay, this one’s not actually on my Kindle. It’s a for-real-and-true book. But I expect that many of the books I read going forward will be on my new Kindle (from Santa), hence the title of this section.

I’m really loving this book. I’m about half-way through and it’s getting more and more interesting. It’s a fictional collection of letters written just after the Second World War that tell the story of an author’s quest to find the subject of her next book. As you read, you learn about the German occupation in the Channel Islands during WWII, specifically in Guernsey, and how the locals were affected by it. It’s a fascinating and delightful read and I hope you all go out and buy or borrow it. If you live near me, I’m willing to pass it on when I’m finished.  (P.S. that’s one of the shortcomings of the Kindle – you can’t just pass on a book when you’re done reading it).

Start at the very beginning…


So how does one go about starting a blog? I used to have one that was intended to be like an online journal/news site for my friends and family. Except that, as with the beautiful journal that sits by my bedside, I was very sporadic with my entries. It always felt like a huge chore to keep updated. I finally quit the blog and resorted to using Facebook status updates to communicate with my loved ones.

I think one major obstacle was that I felt the urge to include information about the gaps (and they were large gaps) in the story before moving on to the more recent news. The solution: Blog about ideas instead of trying to keep everyone updated on my life.  Topics for this blog are not intended just for my nearest and dearest. I hope they all read it, but I also want to generate discussion with people I don’t see or talk to frequently. The blog entries are also not intended to be a play-by-play of my life. Yes, they will be about something I’m dealing with, or trying to understand, or find interesting, but you won’t find historical updates here unless it’s necessary to do so in order to make a point about the topic. If you’re lost or want more personal details, ask questions.

Inspiration for my new blogging project came from a friend and prior colleague who also loved to write and had just never taken the step to do it for a wider audience. She’s an interesting person who does crazy, amazing things, so her blog posts are often hugely entertaining. I feel like I’ve become a less interesting person since becoming a stay-at-home Mom, mostly because my world got a whole lot smaller in a very short period of time. Part of the reason I decided to start blogging is to stretch my intellectual muscles and find interesting things to talk about that have nothing to do with diapers, play dates, or baby food.

My second motivation for blogging is the discipline of writing. If I’m just journaling for myself, I have no accountability to anyone. In this case, I told a whole room full of people (including my best friend) at a New Year’s Eve party that one of my resolutions was to do some blogging. They challenged me to make the goal SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time specific – you may be familiar with other interpretations of this acronym, but the spirit is the same). And so, I committed to writing weekly and posting something to my blog at least once a month. Next year when we’re all recalled for the 2011 party, we’re expected to report – whether the resolution worked for us and why/why not. I intend to be able to report favorably on all three of my resolutions (more about the other two later).

The third reason is simply that I love to write. I cherish the process of choosing just the right words to precisely convey an idea. I am passionate about editing and ensuring that my grammar and spelling are correct. Like every other writer, I have an insecurity or two – is what I have to say even remotely interesting to anyone else? I hope so. But more importantly, I am writing for myself. So much of my life is given to my husband and daughter, both of whom I adore intensely. But I don’t spend enough time doing things for myself. So I will write.

I think it will take a concerted effort not to write 600+ words for every blog post. I apologize in advance (and in perpetuity) for getting a little long-winded. Read it all if you want, or take it in smaller chunks. Please comment, but try to be nice or at least constructive (yes, feedback is welcome). And if you feel like writing too, just do it.