Thursday, February 18, 2010

April 10, 2010

Our entry forms for the 5K race in Pottstown, April 10th, are in the mail. Jim, Erin, our neighbor Erin B., and I are entering as a team. I am in my 5th week of the Couch 2 5K training program and am still very excited. Considering that there is still a whole lot of snow on the ground, running has been rather chilly lately. I am learning that it doesn't take long to warm up, and before I'm done I'm even removing my gloves and resenting my hat! (The hat needs to stay on- it keeps my cheap headphones in place.)

Yesterday as I was running the W5D2, which is two 8 minute runs with a three minute recovery walk in between, I was 2 1/2 minutes from the end of the second run when I met two walkers coming toward me. My thoughts of falling down on the road dead were replaced by the desire to keep it up at least until I'd passed them. Then, right at the same moment, my dear friend Heidi and I recognized each other and she immediately went into cheerleader mode! "Go, go, go! You are awesome!" yelled the master of encouragement as I raised my hands with V for victory and grinned from ear to ear.

I need no more evidence that this running thing is mostly psychological. I went from "ready to die" to "totally energized" in a matter of moments with no physical aid at all. I was able to finish well, thanks to my friend's energetic support.

Now if she'll only show up tomorrow when I'm supposed to have a 20 minute run without any breaks...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bon Appetit!

I have finally made a dish from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. We have watched the movie several times, bought the cookbook, and read her biography. It is well past time to hit the kitchen!

We chose Roast Chicken in Port Wine, Cream, and Mushrooms, not only because it looked so good in the movie, but also because,... well, it just sounds so scrumptious! As it happens, the movie doesn't quite follow the cookbook. The recipe begins with roasting a whole chicken- they showed chicken breasts; in the movie this was the scene where Julie learns to saute mushrooms perfectly, the mushrooms in the recipe are not sauteed. I ran somewhere down the middle, using chicken breasts and sauteing a few mushrooms while following the rest exactly.

This is also the very first time that I have dealt with a flaming pan of food- something they left out of the movie entirely, but would have been awfully entertaining.

We learned that all of the many steps to making this dish could be sorted out and done in easy portions, instead of taking it all at once. Once the recipe was broken down this way, it wasn't so very difficult. We also learned that when Julia writes, "avert your face" right before, "ignite the cognac", it's a real good idea to take her seriously. Nobody is singed, but we are going to give God all of the credit for that...

Not satisfied with merely cooking the food, we did, of course, photograph the food as well. Enjoy. If you hear of a widget that will allow for a scratch and sniff feature for computers, let me know.

Quickly cook the shallots in butter- real butter.

The Port wine

Mushrooms briefly boiled in water, butter, and lemon juice, then the juice is poured off and reserved and the cream is added to the mushrooms.

Chicken breasts roasted in butter... oh, yum.

A sauce is made from the reserved mushroom juice, port wine, and
mushrooms in cream. Yes, it's actually pink.

The chicken goes into a buttered pan in preparation for cognac and the match...


I'm still not sure how this influenced the flavor- but it sure was cool to do!

Finished product. Poulet au Porto. Be still my heart.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mobilizing For Sam Rohrer

My Sweetie sure knows how to show a girl a good time on Valentine's Day weekend.

Yesterday morning we got all dressed up and drove to Harrisburg for... a political conference. Now, normally, I would have wanted to attend a political conference about as much as I wanted a root canal. But this past year has changed things for me. Watching our government seemingly spinning out of control even as people all across our Nation are gathering to loudly protest- and yet not be heard- has raised my awareness. For me, voting has always involved knowing pretty much about the Presidential candidates, but not much about anyone else, and therefore voting the straight Republican Party ticket. No more.

Especially after what was happening in the same hotel where we met yesterday. While we were in one meeting hall with Sam Rohrer, our local State Representative who is now running for Governor, the Pennsylvania Republican Committee was in another meeting hall deciding that the Republicans of PA don't know enough to choose our own candidate in a Primary. The PRC voted yesterday to endorse our state Attorney General and moderate Republican, Tom Corbett, instead of holding an open primary in which the people's choice could be heard.

Really?! Wow.

We have decided to endorse Sam Rohrer, not only because he is a conservative Republican who has served nine terms in Harrisburg and can reliably be trusted to stand up for constitutional government and family affirming public policies*, but because Jim has actually met with him on several occasions to discuss his understanding of the role of government in Pennsylvania and how he wants to lead our state. (*full disclosure- I quoted some of Sam's literature in order to keep this succinct.) We've done our homework. Sam is also a brother in the Lord- but that is not why we are voting for him. It does give us direction in praying for him and his campaign.

Early in Sam's time as a Representative in Harrisburg, he developed a list- a filter, actually- through which every policy needed to pass before he would vote on it.

1.) Is it moral?
2.) Is it constitutional?
3.) Is it needed?
4.) Can we pay for it?
5.) Is this a State issue, or should it be dealt with on a more local level?

A "no" answer on any of these meant a no from Sam. The simplicity is beautiful. His integrity is obvious. Only a man of great personal character, absent of the vanity which political life normally breeds, would hold himself to such honest boundaries.

So, yesterday was indeed interesting and informative. We now have not only bumper stickers and buttons to share with friends and information on Sam's record and agenda, but a petition for which we are gathering signatures to get his name onto the ballot for the Primary election in May. And I didn't go empty-handed, I took my camera. Enjoy.

Some 400 people came to this event.

Plenty of information to be had.

I love camera folks.

Listening intently.

Our choice for Governor, Sam Rohrer

"Go Sam Go!"

Man of integrity.

And the crowd goes wild...

Our beautiful Capitol building, covered in snow.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Running Around Blizzards

Last Friday night we had a snowstorm that lasted well into Saturday. Tonight, Tuesday, we are expecting a blizzard that will last overnight and most of tomorrow. The training schedule which I have been following has me running three days a week with a day between runs for recovery, and I've also been running an extra day to accommodate our friends who want to train together on Saturdays, (M,W,F & Sat).

With the impending weather last week I ran on Monday, Wednesday, and then Thursday, anticipating no training on Friday or Saturday. Friday was clear enough once I got off work after all, so I did get my fourth run in. Saturday there was no finding the road under the two feet of snow, so I was glad to have gotten my days in already.

Now that we have a second snow event within one week, I ran yesterday- Monday- and again today, since the weather hasn't yet arrived. The snowplows have done a masterful job of clearing the roads from Saturday's storm, and they are clean and mostly dry, with occasional areas of slush. The snow is at least two feet deep on either side of the road up here on our hill, and the sun was shining gloriously bright yesterday. It was still shining this morning but in the past couple of hours the sky has begun to darken... the blizzard is most definitely on it's way.

The Road. Beautiful, isn't it?

I feel so much better knowing that my first two days of Week 4 are accomplished. This week the routine is a 5 minute warm-up walk followed by a 3 minute run, 90 second walk, 5 minute run, 2 1/2 minute walk, 3 minute run, 90 second walk and finishing with a 5 minute run and 5 minute cool-down walk. I'm not going to say that it was easy, that second 5 minute run sure got long, but I wasn't as aware of difficulty with my breathing this time. Once I'm finished with each run I come inside to stretch, and I suddenly realized that I was getting a lot more out of the stretching than I usually do. My forehead was pressed right down on my knee and I wasn't dying! I went to a real running store a couple of weeks ago to get the right pair of shoes for me- with some evaluation by the experts there, and I give them credit for reducing the aches and pains that were accompanying my running before.

The Shoes

Seeing improvement like that is certainly encouraging. Realizing that I am making a point to get outdoors even with snow on the ground is giving me hope that I can do this after all. The discipline required to actually train for an event may not be beyond my grasp, and if I can do this, I can accomplish other goals as well.

There are way too many "I"s in this post... Only one more.

"I can do all things through him who strengthens me."
(-Philippians 4:10-13)

Monday, February 08, 2010

Surviving the Snowpocalypse!

Nearing the end of last week we began hearing dire predictions for a Winter storm that was heading our way from the South. I believe that makes it a 'Nor'easter". By Friday afternoon people were in a panic, clearing the grocery store shelves, gassing up their vehicles, and generally making South Floridians facing a hurricane look sane. I had gone to the store on Thursday and worked on Friday until 2, so I was determined not to go back to the store but head straight home once I was finished.

Kate did have to work, (at the grocery store) and Jim worked as well, so he picked her up on his way home. Bekah was supposed to work at Fridays, so, since the sky wasn't falling by 4:30 she went on in, using our All-Wheel Drive vehicle.

At about 5:30 the first flakes began to appear, and we were making soup and falafels for dinner. It took a while for the storm to really get moving, but when we were texting Bekah to tell her to get off work and come home NOW, it was another hour before she was released. By then she was rather nervous about driving in the dark with the weather, but she has nerves of steel so we told her to go ahead and come on home.

Our hill, you must understand, gets difficult to climb once the roads get too bad. We knew that they were still passable with the car she was using, provided she came up a certain road. If she didn't come home Friday, we wouldn't see her until Sunday, because the snow was forecast to continue for almost 24 hours. She gritted her teeth, took a hold of the wheel, and made it home safely. What a relief. With all of our darlings safe under our roof, we tucked ourselves in for a long Winter nap.

In the morning I crawled out of bed and took a look out the window. Snow was steadily falling in the quiet dawn, and there was no discernible difference from yard to driveway to road to neighbor's yard across the street. Pure, undefiled snow, as far as I could see. And continuing to fall...

Just gorgeous,... and deep! (Look at the bench to the right)

The situation clearly called for action. So I gave everyone a wake up holler and dashed downstairs to make pancakes! Once fed, the crew suited up for battle and attacked the snow with shovels, at least 2 feet deep on the front porch, back porch, and driveway. Before long our neighbor Keith brought up his Kubota tractor for Jim to use to clear our driveway- what a blessing indeed! With two feet of snow already blanketing the driveway, and more falling, it begins to look like a futile task. Even with the borrowed machinery it took Jim and Isaac 4 1/2 hours to finish up.

Isaac and Jim in their mission to dig us out...

Now this will help!
The storm has passed, all is quiet and calm.

Vali enjoyed herself immensely outside once she figured out where the steps to the deck were. Jumping and leaping through all of that chest-deep snow was the best fun she'd had in a long time. So much fun, in fact, that she needed to barf her entire breakfast on the carpet before laying down for a quick nap.

Indoors we had a cozy fire going in the fireplace and Kate and Bekah helped me with household cleaning while I also cooked and baked. A hearty spaghetti lunch was just what the diggers needed, and warm fresh bread from the oven is simply aromatherapy and absolutely delightful on a cold day. Later in the evening, once we were all recovered from our labors, we made pretzels from an Auntie Anne's kit- yum- and played a new game that Jim got the family for Christmas; You've Been Sentenced.

Warm and yummy.

Erin prepares to twist.

Words fail me...

"You've Been Sentenced"
Game night is so much fun...

Oh, what in the world?
Erin is a master of justification... and confusion.

All in all, I'd say we had a spectacular weekend.

And they're calling for more snow on Tuesday night- yee-haw!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Forecast

It may snow tonight. Lately the temperatures have certainly been cold enough, and now we are again looking at a forecast of snow continuing into the morning hours. I'm wondering how this will affect my training schedule? (a thought that has only recently begun to cross my mind...)

See, we don't own a treadmill, so the running that I've been doing has been happening outdoors. I never, NEVER, never thought that I could walk, much less run, outside when it is as cold as we've been experiencing. Yet, it has been dry, so I've laced up the shoes, pulled on the warm gear, and gone out the door three days a week at least. Nobody is more surprised than me, believe me.

But tomorrow will be different. I will be given so many excuses to stay inside where it is dry and warm. Snow on the ground, muck on the road, slippery footing...

On Monday I was actually able to go for my run on the trails at Gring's Mill, not far from where I work. The sun was shining brilliantly and I was all alone as I walked and ran. The intervals for this week are 90 seconds of running, 90 seconds of walking, then 3 minutes of running and 3 minutes of walking- repeat. Just me and the birds as I listened to the music podcast with the audio cues for when to change from running to walking and back again. I'm still working on controlling my breathing, and had to watch my footing more carefully, but it was a neat time out there and I look forward to the warmer weeks to come when I can do it again.

Every single day our neighbors with the Husky go up and down our street for their exercise. First Mike takes the dog for a run, then Carole goes for her walk- sometimes twice. Rain or shine, miserably cold or terribly hot, they're out there. Of course, if Mike falls frozen on the side of the road he has the dog to save him...

(Here is where I will not mention that taking Vali for a run would be a really bad idea... she's nightmare on a leash.)

But I suppose that even without a sled dog to save me I can get out there. After all, our group run with mike and Sharon and the kids on Saturday was accomplished in 18 degrees... What's a little snow?!

If I survive this, April will be easy!

"...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..."
(-Hebrews 12:1-3)