Monday, November 12, 2012

Keeping Busy

 I volunteered to be a zombie in the Zombie Run 5K this year.  It was fun but REALLY cold.  Here I am all ready to go in my outfit (thrifted from the Salvation Army store)  and makeup (did it myself with junk I had in the bathroom).  All I bought was a tube of fake blood for 50 cents!

Mike and I  participated in the Girls on the Run East Central Illinois Fall 5K.  Say that 5 times fast!  I am hoping to get involved as a volunteer with this awesome group and wanted to see how race day went.


 I was really proud of Mike, this was his very first 5K!  This was the perfect one for a 5K newbie because it is non-competitive and EVERYone gets a medal at the end.  You can also see that we were ALL racer number 1.  :)

Excuse the iphone pictures!  I was Mary Poppins for Halloween but the battery in the camera was dead!  I didn't buy anything for this costume except the flowers and cherries (wooden balls painted red) for my hat.  ALL the kids knew who I was but so many adults had no idea.  Kind of weird, I guess it's been a while for some of them since they've watched kid movies.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Getting Along

Thanks to everyone for all the wishes and healing thoughts.  We are getting used to our quieter, slower-paced house and routine.  Stewart has been keeping us entertained.  I put the agility tunnel up in the living room and he took to it immediately.  I miss training just a little so I have started training him.  We've started with sit and he's almost got it.  He already comes when called and retrieves, he is very dog-like.
Here are a few belated pictures of things we've been doing to keep ourselves occupied.  We took a trip to Medieval Times with some buddies and enjoyed the show!   
We tried on silly Halloween costumes at Target.  I won't tell you what I'm going to be yet but I'll tell you, it's not going to be this.
And I went on a canoe trip and had a really good time with a HUGE group of college kids.  We didn't even capsize once!  (But we saw someone else flip when they got stuck on some rocks.)
 We really appreciate everyone's compassion and understanding, it is so comforting to know that so many people know just what it feels like to love a creature so much, just like a family member and extremely close friend.  And it's also comforting (and a little sad) to know that just as many people know what it's like to loose the close friend.  Thanks all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sad News

 Last week we had to say goodbye to our dear Sully.  About two months ago we took him to the vet for vomiting that was getting more frequent. The most likely problem was a food sensitivity so we found a limited ingredient food and started a trial with it to see if that would help. When it didn't, we tried another food with a different protein and even more limited ingredient list. That didn't help either, the vomiting was getting more frequent and he was loosing weight.
Blood tests, X-rays and exploratory surgery failed to give any clear indication of what it could be but he was loosing more weight, unable to keep much food down or digest completely what food did pass through. It became clear that it was something serious. Lymphoma. At only 9 years old, I didn't think I would have to deal with this for at least a few more years but life holds many surprises, good and bad.
Sully was a very special dog for us. Our first dog we had together, he completed our family. He was also Mike's first special dog that he connected with beyond just a pet. He was like our son. He went everywhere with us, including vacations through 8 states. His last trip was traveling up Route 66 with us just this summer. The house feels quiet, but Stewart is helping keep us company. We will miss him very much. It's hard to think about right now but I'm sure there will come a day when we're ready to welcome a new furry family member into our home but for now we will be a family of 3.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mini-Tri

If you follow me on Facebook then you already know that this weekend I completed my very first sprint triathlon!  It was VERY sprint-y in that all three segments were very short, not in that I was super speedy.  It was a 400 meter swim, 6 mile bike and 2 mile run. 

Swim
I just learned to swim in 2007 and actually haven't been to the pool much since then so the triathlon got me to the pool this summer!  I was super nervous waiting in line for the swim but I had been practicing at morning lap swim and knew I could complete it.  I am a long way from being a competent swimmer and a lot of people passed me but I was happy to be making it from one side of the pool and back each lap.

Bike
My new bike is awesome and I want to ride it ALL THE TIME!  Ok, maybe not when it's over 100 degrees or when I have 80 pounds of books to carry.  But I do really love my new bike and it made the 6 mile bike portion fly by.

Run
Peg, a fantastic personal trainer and instructor at the gym we go to, was there and gave me some sage advice-take your run nice and easy to begin with since your legs will be in pedal mode.  Great advice and I found myself easily hitting my usual pace after a little warm-up time.  (Peg places 18th overall and 1st in her age group, she is Superwoman!)

Overall
My time was 1 hour 5 minutes and 15 seconds.  Which is WAY shorter than my under 1.5 hour goal.  I had alotted 25 minutes for the swim, 25 for the bike and 25 for the run and having never done all three back to back, I figured I would probably start to drag.  But I was ready to bike and dry off after the swim and my legs felt pretty fresh for the run so I was really proud!  Really, I was just proud to have been brave enough to sign up and complete it at all!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

2012 County Fair

This year I kind of let the fair slip right by.  I had a few items ready that I made earlier in the winter but I haven't really crafted since March or early April.  I took a total of 8 items which is very low for me.  And most shockingly, I did NOT get a doily done!  I had planned to get a lot done in the car to and from MA but the doily I am working on is such fine thread it was impossible to do in the car while it was moving!
 You've seen this quilt before, it's for Porject Linus. It got second place in the Large Machine Quilted category.
My crochet table runner (zig zag white, blue and green) also got second place in the Crochet Table Cloth of Table Dressing category.
You're seen this picture before, it's one that I made for the Town and Country Art show. It got first place in the Embroidered Home Decor, which I was pretty excited about.
This is the other embroidered piece I made for the Town and Country art show and since I wasn't sure which category to put them in, I put one in the embroidery division and I put this one in the Art Picture class in the Crafts division. It got first but it was the only entry.
And I think you've seen this guy before too. My 2011 cross stitch ornament was a sailor santa and he got third place in Christmas Ornaments.

So with my small batch of items, I still managed to make my money back plus a little pocket money but I was sad I didn't finish my doily in time. It's a really big one this year and fairly intricate but it'll be done for next year and then it's destined to be a present for someone so I can't show it to you!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Especially Canadian

There were surprisingly very few things we found on our short trip to Canada that seemed uniquely Canadian.  Sure, they have some different products than the US but a lot of them seemed to stem from their British ties instead of being authentically Canada-based. 

Maple-Everywhere you went, you could find maple-flavored things.  Donuts, fudge, drinks, cookies.

Raisin Pie/butter pie-This was mentioned on a website as being a Canadian food, but the ones I found were horrendous snack-cake packaged gloopy corn-syrup mini-pies.  I passed on them.

Smarties-These are UK, not Canadian but I DID enjoy them!

Casinos-Wow, it was most likely the area we were in but there seem to be casinos and signs for casinos all over!

Real Canadian Superstore-I was hoping this would be a good place to find some unique items but it was really disappointing.  It kind of made it clear that Canada is pretty much just a more northern USA as far as groceries go.  Macaroni and Cheese IS called Kraft Dinner, though.

Tim Hortons-Just as Dunkin Donuts were thick in the East, Tim Hortons were just about everywhere in Canada.  And their donuts were WAY better!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Uniquely East Coast

One of our favorite things about traveling is finding each area's specialties and regional products. Here is what we found to be uniquely New England:

 Corn Muffins-Corn muffins were EVERYWHERE! As common as blueberry or chocolate chip, they seemed to be a popular choice for breakfast or a snack. Here in the Midwest we generally eat corn muffins on the side of chili, not generally by themselves.  

Greek pizza-It seemed every other pizza place offered Greek pizza, which is apparently most like what we call "pan pizza" baked in a pan to make a thicker, chewy crust.  

Dunkin Donuts-They are EVERYWHERE!!! On every street corner, tucked into every little strip mall and highway rest stop. I do NOT like Dunkin Donuts but as you saw we did make a trip to the very first DD ever opened and I will admit the donut I had was maybe slightly better than the ones at the DD here in Champaign. But our DD are really terrible.

 Polar sparkling water-Oh my! I fell in love with Polar Seltzer! Especially the orange vanilla flavor! And it's not available in this area at all. :(  

Drake's Cakes (Ring Dings, Yodels, Funny Bones)-Owned by Hostess, the Drake's line is uniquely New England. But EW, maybe it's been a while since I've had a Hostess cake but these were so much worse than I remember packaged cakes being. Not something I'll pine for like my beloved Polar water.  

Pink Beans-A canned product I've only seen out East, these are apparently also known as chili beans but canned chili beans here in IL have chili spices added. Pink beans tasted like pinto beans but were a little smaller.  

Black and White/Half Moon cookies-More of a New York thing but these were pretty common in MA, they are a basic vanilla cookie with half chocolate and half vanilla frosting. I knew I wanted to try one out but I was kind of shocked at the variety of the cookies available. Some bakeries made them with a stiff shortbread-type cookie, some made a regular sugar cookie that held its shape and some made really cakey mounded cookies that were more like muffin tops. So I deduced that the name is really about the frosting, there is really not an accepted cookie type.  

Odwalla bars-These are sold here in IL but I KEPT seeing these everywhere in MA, and Odwalla delivery trucks and Odwalla bilboards and advertising. Turns out, there is a distribution center in Woburn, MA.  

Grapenut ice cream and pudding-This flavor was everywhere and it makes no sense. Grapenuts are not a regional product in New England. But they are HUGE ice cream fanatics so maybe it's an extension of that.  

Boston Cream- They'll make Boston Cream anything. Donuts, cupcakes, cookies, ice cream, snack cakes, you name it. I tried it, it was tasty but I wouldn't ask for it for my birthday or anything.  

Fire signals-When we got home, this was one of the first things we looked up to find more info on. There are red boxes on poles EVERYWHERE, on every street, with a signal to pull if there is a fire. They usually have a red light on top too, which comes on when you pull the signal. New England is HEAVILY populated (or as the signs say, "Thickly Settled" so these were meant to keep fires from devastating whole neighborhoods before 911 and the like. The signals are now being removed in some places and in others, they just don't repair them when they break down.  

Congregational Churches-By far the most prevalent denomination we saw during our trip, Congregational churches are nearly non-existent in IL. There seemed to be at least one in every town! Their rainbow flags everywhere were a refreshing site, a rare thing in the Midwest.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Vacation: Day 7 & 8

Friday we left Massachusetts. With our newly-acquired passports in hand, we were ready to head North and cross the border into Canada! I'm pretty sure breakfast was the last of the fruit and probably some oats but there's no picture to document! Lunch in the car was mainly veggies from the fridge that needed eaten up, along with the last of the homemade snack mix.
After we checked in to our hotel, we got a shuttle over to Niagara Falls though we probably could have walked because we could see them from our hotel room. Mike got us an awesome corner room with a view.
We hopped on the Maid of the Mist. With it's snaking, ramped entryway made to hold hundreds of peple I would hate to see this place when it is really busy! It reminded me of the queue areas at DisneyWorld, except not expertly themed to entertain you while you wait. Luckily, we whizzed right through to the boat.
The ponchos were kind of silly! The wind blows it around so much, my head and legs were WET but at least my torso staid dry. It was a complete giggle-fest once the wind and water started whipping around!
After Maid of the Mist, we walked up Clifton Hill (which is like a cross between Las Vegas and a carnival midway) and rode the SkyWheel. I was pretty surprised that Mike agreed to ride but the view is amazing!
Here we are in the Skywheel. Does it look like he's enjoying it or grimacing and gripping the seat for dear life?

That night we watched the illuminated falls from our room and ate dinner which was a combination of things we brought along (Dr. McDougall split pea soup cup) and things we got at a grocery store (veggie spring roll sushi and Smarties).

Saturday morning I enjoyed the hotel's gym, which included some fancy treadmills and free weights. I did some intervals on the treadmill and then did this workout I had printed out. I had packed a band but I also used the free weights since they were there! After a shower and some hotel-room-coffee-pot oatmeal, it was time to pack up and leave. We did manage to catch an episode of The Littlest Hobo on tv so I think we got quite a Canadian experience packed into less than 24 hours.
At lunchtime we stopped at Dagwood's Deli in Lapeer, MI. It was a cute little place and attached to Blondie's Sweet Boutique. I was dubious of the menu which had very few veg options and tentatively asked if they would me make just a cheese sandwich. The sweetest server asked if I was vegetarian and explained that she was too and that they could make a sandwich with all the veggies I wanted and this awesome pesto!
So that's what I had. On marble rye with a pickle on the side. Plus a couple of cookies for the road. Of course, then we had to go and check out the Sweets Boutique and I ended up with a sugar cone filled with mint chocolate chip! Thus began my downward spiral into car snacking hell. I don't even remember any of it but I know I ate far too much just because the drive was kind of long and what else is there to do? But anyway! We got back into town around 7 pm on Saturday and it was SO NICE not to have loads and loads of laundry to do thanks to the washer and dryer in the apartment. This was a fantastic trip, I LOVED having a home base that was more like home than a hotel room! We ticked off quite a few states from our list of places to visit and visited an entirely different country! Next step, a country that is not contiguous to the USA!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer Vacation: Day 6

Thursday morning I walked to Spirit Bear yoga to try out their Hour of Pour hot yoga class. I had never done hot yoga before and it was....HOT! I totally forgot to bring a towel with me so my mat was a giant puddle but the heat and humidity let you get SO loose and stretched. Not to mention I am cold-blooded so being surrounded by heat was AWESOME!
On my way home I stopped at the Bakery on the Common to get my slice of traditional Boston Cream Pie!
And somehow I also ended up with a black and white cookie and a HUGE M&M cookie. I ate half the cookie for breakfast! With a bowl of mango, strawberries, honeydew and cantaloupe with a little oatmeal sprinkled on top.
Our destination on this day was Rhode Island. We went to the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson and Wales University. (Did our vacation have a food theme?)
They have a very large section devoted to the evolution of the diner, from horse-drawn food cart to shiny mod restaurant.
I posed by these waffle irons because my calendar told me the next day (June 29th) was Waffle Iron Day. After the museum, we had lunch at East Side Pockets, which was delicious. I guess I forgot to take a picture though! I had the falafel pocket (which was HUGE!) and shared curly fries with Mike.
After lunch, we were off to the beach! The water was COLD! A day of extreme temperatures, hot yoga cold ocean!
It was a really nice day and the beach was packed. Which was kind of bizarre, not what I expected at all. I'm not sure how often I would go to the beach if it's always this crowded.
After the beach, we drove back to Natick, chilled for a bit and then I changed clothes for Hula Hooping with Wildkat Hoops! A highlight of the trip for me because we do not have any hoop classes here and I've been wanting to try it. It was awesome! Turns out, all those Zumba and Hip Hop Hustle classes have given me hip-swiveling mastery. I am totally making my own hoop!
On the way back from hooping, we made an unplanned stop at the Peace Abbey. We noticed it on the way over and made a note to stop and see what it was all about. Turns out it's all about peace, nonviolence and cruelty-free living.
This statue of Gandhi is surrounded by quotes from sixty peacemakers from around the world.
And behind that there is a statue of Emily the Cow, who escaped from a slaughterhouse and lived at the Peace Abbey. She is surrounded by quotes about vegetarianism and cruelty-free living. We were sad to see that the Peace Abbey is for sale but found out that the memorials are safe and will remain, while the museum contents have been incorporated into the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Dinner for me was a big salad as usual. This time I included some tempe that I sliced up and pan-seared. Silly me, I bought this at Trader Joe's thinking I could take it back with me but I don't think that would work so well since we were off to Canada before heading home! So I had to use it up before we left. This salad also had beets from Trader Joe's and some steamed broccoli and cauliflower on the side. Dessert was that piece of Boston Cream Pie I picked up after yoga! And it was GOOD! So I didn't get to eat it IN Boston but at least it was in Massachusetts. It is the official state dessert after all!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Vacation: Day 5

These are some shots of the trails in Coolidge Woods. It has really lovely, well-tended paths. The weather cooperated and each morning was just a little damp and cool.
On Wednesday I found the fitness stations that I had heard about but couldn't find the day before! So my run was punctuated with dips, pull-ups, sit-ups, box jumps, balance beam and all variety of other fun activities!
It's hard to take pictures of yourself in the woods though. I had to string the camera up in a tree.
Breakfast was the usual fruit plate of kiwi, grapes, raspberries and a peach. I ate part of the WholeSoy & Co. soy yogurt but it was NOT as good as the coconut milk yogurt. And I had a spoonful of Teddie peanut butter that I picked up at the grocery store! This is another product I'd heard about and wanted to try. It's peanut butter, what can I say? It's good but not any better than my favorite natural store brand and their Super Chunky version that I was Super Excited about wasn't any more chunky than the peanut butter I brought along with me! Just goes to show you that you always think the grass is greener on the other side. Until you get there.
Our first activity on Wednesday was whale watching! So we drove to Boston (traffic was not nearly as bad as we had been warned) and got on the boat at the New England Aquarium. On the ride out to where the whales were, we were told about some of the landmarks we could see on shore and we could also watch a movie about whale research. Once we got to the whales, we saw several Humpback Whales including a mom and baby! It was kind of bizarre how there are so many boats out there, all trying to spot and zoom in on whales when they pop up.
I was so glad I dressed warmly, it was windy and chilly out on the water! I had to sit inside most of the time. But see the boat behind us and the upper deck that is uncovered? People sat up there the entire time, even when we were speeding out to site, they had to be SO COLD!
After our whale watching, we visited the Aquarium exhibits. This is a very blurry sea turtle whizzing by.
This adorable sea lion (seal? not sure) was playing with a toy. He kept flinging it around, like a dog!
We had lunch at Legal Seafood. Mike had a lobster roll, which he really enjoyed. I think that might have been the only seafood he ate the whole trip! I had a baked potato and salad, nothing exciting but I wasn't terribly hungry. To tell the truth, the bumpy trip out to the whales had kind of made my tummy flip-flop a little. But at least I didn't throw up like one poor girl on the boat. Ew!
We shared this "Boston Cream Pie" but it was more like tiramisu in its construction. I wanted to have Boston Cream Pie in Boston but after eating this (though it was tasty) I didn't count it was my Boston Cream Pie since it wasn't very traditional! After lunch we did a little shopping at Quincy Market. We didn't actually buy a single thing but we did find a pressed penny machine and got a few new ones for our Penny Passport!
Later on, the town of Natick was having a celebration on the Common (which is what we would call a square or central park). You can see the event behind me, where I got to play plinko, duck pond, Mike got cotton candy, I got a slice of pizza and you might also be able to see the orange braid I got for my hair. This ice cream sandwich was HUMONGOUS! It didn't come from the festivities though, it came from this adorable ice cream shop across the street, Park Street Ice Cream.
Isn't she the cutest? I got to sample Blue Moon ice cream! It tasted like...Juicy Fruit gum? Cherry-vanilla? Tooty-fruity? Not sure, but I'm sure I couldn't eat a whole scoop of it! Instead I got a handmade ice cream sandwich made with chocolate chip cookies and cookies and cream ice cream inside. YUM! I think I saw her put at least 4 scoops of ice cream in that thing!
This place was too cute! I forgot to take a picture the day we were there so this is from Thursday morning so it's closed.
Pizza was not a complete dinner so to make sure I was getting my veggies, I made a salad with beans, cooked some cauliflower and broccoli and had a little watermelon before busting out the ice cream sandwich!