Thursday, August 31, 2017

Coffee Date #9

I think it's time for a coffee date! Let's imagine we're meeting at the Durango Coffee Company - I'll have an iced chai and we can split one of the enormous and delicious chocolate chip cookies while we catch up on these last few weeks of summer.

Earlier this month we went to the county fair. The kids liked to see all the animals, but for some reason they were both really excited about the goats in particular. Swede and I rode the Ferris Wheel! We also took a day trip to Molas Lake and then went on to Silverton for coffee and muffins. The lake was so beautiful, and it was nice to do something different than our usual (and admittedly, not very exciting) weekend routine.

Last weekend I ran the Thirsty 13 Half Marathon which was my goal race of the summer. I was hoping to have a fun and fast race recap to share with you this week but unfortunately... Such is not the case. In retrospect I see that I should have targeted shorter races this year because my speed work has been successful but I lack endurance due to insufficient long runs. The first half of this race was great, and the second half was a miserable slog to the finish.

As you can see I finished just barely under two hours which is not one of my better times. This is not one of my better race photos either! See here for last year's recap with more details about the course, as well as a more cheerful recap as the race went much better for me last year. Having a bad race is so discouraging! Earlier in the year I had thought about doing an October race but there's nothing local and I don't want to travel this year so I think my next race will be a 5-mile Turkey Trot.

I also have to say that Abel has been very challenging lately, and I admit that it's gotten the best of me on more than one occasion. So many tantrums. So much food being thrown in every direction. I remember this same age with Swede as being difficult but he has the added frustration of an older sibling to compare and compete with. He wants to do all the big kid things that Swede does! He wants to eat Popsicles for breakfast! He wants to climb from his ride-on pony to the top of our bed frame to the windowsill and beyond! And he just can't understand why none of those things are possible.

Do NOT try to take this Popsicle away!

Swede's first official day of preschool was Tuesday. It doesn't feel much different since she's still doing two days a week at the same daycare/preschool that she's been at for two years but she's really excited to move up to a new class. I thought about doing a cute "first day of preschool" sign for her to hold but I didn't get around to it. Maybe for kindergarten? Two years to get ready should be just about right.

I'm realizing now as I write this that overall I've been feeling a little lackluster and scatterbrained these past few weeks. I need to refocus on mindfulness and gratitude as we head into fall. I do love all the fun seasonal activities and treats coming up in the months ahead. I have my eye on these Pumpkin Chai Crumble Muffins.

One last photo for the road:

That's all! What's new with you?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Five Favorites - August 2017

Greetings! Today I'm linking up with Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy for the Friday Five 2.0. The topic du jour is running fuel which you'll see in #2 below but here are some other things I've been loving lately as well.

1) I bought a new pair of prescription sunglasses as a birthday present to myself last month. I do have a sporty pair as well that are 5-6 years old. My prescription hasn't changed much so they are still great for active and outdoorsy activities, but I love having a nicer pair to wear with everyday or nicer clothes.

2) I have changed my allegiance for running fuel from Clif Shots to Honey Stinger gels and waffles. The consistency of the gels is so much better for me compared to Clif Shots or GU. It's a little thinner so it goes down easier without the gunky aftertaste. The waffles are my new go-to right before I start because having to actually chew something while running seems like too much effort!

3) I was skeptical and hesitated to buy these Good Manners Flash Cards but I'm so glad I did. Swede loves them and her manners have significantly improved in the past couple weeks. She asks to look at the cards every day after breakfast and dinner. We'll learn one new card and review the old ones. I don't expect the novelty will last forever but it's been a great kick-start to basic manners. 

4) Also for my birthday, my parents gave me a deeply fabulous Kate Spade handbag. Usually I carry a smaller purse or just throw my wallet and keys into the diaper bag but this purse is great when I need more space and also to look nice. It's especially great on my trips to Denver for work (as seen in the photo above) so I can maximize my carry-on plus personal item limit. I love the pretty blue color too!

5) Last but not least, I bought a new pair of my favorite pajamas, the Asian Wrap Cropped Pajamas from Garnet Hill. Having matching pajamas makes me feel grown-up and sophisticated. I think Audrey Hepburn would have worn matching pajamas.

That's all! What are you loving lately?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Reading Roundup - July 2017

Book Day! I read more books than usual this month so I won't waste any time - Here's what I read in July:

1) The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. 3/5 stars. I know I'm in the minority that I'm not a huge fan of TJR, but I did like this book. It's mostly the story of movie star Evelyn Hugo's career, and many marriages, from the 1950's through the 1980's. I enjoyed the first half of the book in the old-time Hollywood era more than the second half which also started to feel repetitive. I applaud TJR for tackling a subject that does not get nearly enough attention in popular fiction.

2) Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan. 2/5 stars. I really like the premise of this book: New mom Ashley Keller is struggling to adapt to being a stay-at-home-mom in "the world of  Pinterest-perfect, Facebook-fantastic, and Instagram-impressive mommies." It was funny at times but a bit too farcical for me, with all the characters as parodies rather than being true to life.

3) The Widow's House by Carol Goodman. 3/5 stars. This is a ghost story set in a big old mysterious house in upstate New York. I can't resist the big old mysterious house setting! It's creepy and atmospheric in just the right way for me (aka: doesn't keep me up at night) although the plot as a whole is pretty far-fetched even for a ghost story.

4) The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris. 3/5 stars. This book is interesting and thought-provoking although a bit slow at times. As with many nonfiction books I think it would have been sufficient to be a long article in an intelligent magazine. It's specifically aimed at those of us who remember life in our childhoods and early adulthood without the internet, social media, and cell phones. I was heading in this direction anyway but it further inspired me to take another step back specifically that I've started to do internet-free weekends and to leave my phone behind more and more often.

5) The Finishing School by Joanna Goodman. 3/5 stars. Do you think boarding schools are as dysfunctional in real life as they are portrayed in fiction? This book goes back and forth between past and present as Kersti tries to unravel the secrets behind a tragic event that occurred twenty years ago when she was at an exclusive boarding school in Switzerland.

6) From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. 4/5 stars. This is a charming middle-grade book, originally published in 1967, about two kids who manage to run away from home to hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC for a week. I know I read it when I was a kid but I didn't remember it that well. Interestingly to me, in this era of social media over-sharing, an important idea to the book is that having a bit of secret knowledge can make you feel special and different inside in a powerful way.

7) Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy. 3/5 stars. This book is about three families on a cruise together in South America whose six children aged 6 to 16 go missing during a zip line excursion. The point-of-view alternates between the parents and the children as they try to make their way back to each other. I'm not sure exactly why not but I couldn't really get into this one. The characters didn't seem very well developed and there's so much going on in the background (the attitude of Americans abroad, illegal immigration, the devastating effects of drug cartels) that it was hard to focus.

8) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. 5/5 stars. I couldn't resist this beautifully illustrated new Harry Potter edition. So far only the first two are out with the third coming this fall but chances are I'll collect them all. Obviously I'm very familiar with the HP world but I realized it has been quite some time since I read the books. This one was just as charming and magical and addicting as the first time I read it 17 years ago. [Fun Fact: My very first ever purchase from Amazon was HP#1 in May 2000.]

Also this month I had two DNF's which is pretty rare for me. I might have liked The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti at another point in time but I just wasn't in the mood for grim and gritty. And I picked up The Muralist because I liked B.A. Shapiro's first book, The Art Forger, but the art in this one is Abstract Expressionism, which I don't love, and there's also a sad WWII story, which - I've decided to take a break this year from the sad WWII story.

That's all!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Birthday Week 2017

Hello! I hope that August is going well for you so far. I'm just finishing a really nice week of "staycation" and birthday celebrations.

A rare photo of the whole family together!

On Tuesday I went hiking at Engineer Mountain with my dad and my brother, who was visiting from Las Vegas. The wildflowers were spectacular.

My birthday was on Wednesday. We had dinner with my parents and I asked for the exact same meal as last year - ribs, mac & cheese, spinach salad, fruit salad, although instead of an ice cream cake we tried the Favorite Fudge Birthday Cake from King Arthur. [Verdict: Very good but I haven't quit the search for the absolutely perfect chocolate cake, or maybe I should take those high altitude adjustments more seriously.]

Jonathan bought me many bouquets of flowers and a picnic basket. On Thursday I had a pedicure in the morning then we went for a picnic by the river.

We did have a tough day on Friday as both kids didn't sleep well the night before (which is rare in Swede's case but unfortunately not that rare in Abel's) and consequently we spent the day alternating between manic and melt-down.

Other happenings: We went to the pool three times - There is a fun kids area with water slides, sprinklers, fountains, and a lazy river. I went running several times, of course, and spent time reading. Jonathan and I finished the third season of Grantchester. We visited with my parents and brother. We went to the library, to church, and to a birthday party at the park for one of Swede's school friends.

Abel's latest favorite new word is "truck."

Other delicious things we ate: We went out for crepes downtown, and had ice cream with Jonathan's parents. We had Chinese take-out for dinner one night and Abel, who has been a very picky eater later, could not get enough lo mein. Swede and I baked Not-So-Boring Bran Muffins from Seriously Delish as an antidote to all the leftover chocolate cake.

Baking is seriously business.

Last summer I used my vacation to take off every Friday but this year I decided to take off one week a month in June, July, and August. Four-day work weeks are nice but a whole week off, even - and maybe especially - if you don't go anywhere, feels like a really nice long break.

That's all! Tell me: What's the best birthday you've ever had? The best birthday cake?