Saturday, February 24, 2018

Hints of Spring

February is always a weird month in New England. We're just as likely to get a random day where it's 65 and sunny as we are to get two, or three blizzards that knock out power and keep you inside going stir crazy.

My wife had to go to the blood test lab today for another gestational diabetes screen, so we went with her. I chased my daughter around the lobby, mostly. We ended up covering about two miles on foot. I felt kind of good about the fact that when I'd offer her the tablet to watch a show, she'd turn it down and opt instead to run off. I don't sweat the screen time, but I do feel positive about the fact that she prefers playing and running around.

We had some fun running around, anyway. Looking at the paintings, and the fish tank in the kid area. I took her to the cafe there in the lobby and we split a big chocolate cookie.

I've been running the stairs in my house on my cross training days, and that's paying off. Not a big stair case (maybe ten steps or so), but I'm up to 50 repetitions in a day, and it's really making hill climbing easier on me. Additionally, my legs are building a lot of muscle. So that's a thing.

16 mile long run tonight, which went pretty well. Was feeling strong going into the last 5k or so, and then started to get fatigued (physically.) Sipping on water every two miles, but didn't bring any food with me. Being that I ran late, I already had about two thousand calories in my system.

If I'd had to, I could have toughed out another few miles. So that makes me feel good about where I am in the training and what I've kept from my last run streak's fitness.

Weight loss is going well -- down to about 175 lbs from 183. Quite a ways to my goal, but still happy with the progress and noticing the benefits in performance.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Quality Time

This winter has been a slog so far. Not really in the doldrums (I don't think...) but just feels like it's taking forever to pass.

As previously mentioned, I've been baking loaves of sourdough sandwich bread. We usually go through two loaves a week (they're pretty small, no worries) so if I make more I give it away. As a thoughtful way of saying thanks, one of my coworkers went to his favorite coffee roastery and got me some ground coffee. So with an excellent cup of java, I'm sitting down to write this blog post.

Seriously it would be amazing if people 
gifting me coffee was just a regular thing.

I've been trying to slow down a bit, and stay focused on what I'm doing. To that end, I've spent a lot of time playing with the kiddo. We've been coloring with crayons, using the big sketch pad we got her, and the set of 65 crayons we got her. We haven't done much coloring yet, so it's pretty overdue that we made it a bigger part of our play at home. I'm having to find new layers of patience, because you can't expect a toddler to know that you don't color in the pages of a book, or on photos, or on other household objects.

Her crayon control is pretty decent, but we're still in a pretty abstract phase. Sometimes she'll ask me to draw something, and then I will and she'll draw over it (in an attempt to make the same shapes?) This has been fun, if trying. Like I said, new layers of my patience are emergent.

We've also been doing lots of singing and moving. I'm using some of the songs and movements that I did when I taught pre-school music, and throwing in some of her favorites from elsewhere. A real highlight is singing "They're red hot" by Robert Johnson, which she knows pretty well by now.

Race training wise, I'm a bit off my plan. Averaging three runs a week, but with a workout, easy run, and long run in there. We're only two weeks in some time yet to rebound. I've also been running the stairs in my house for cross training on days I don't run, and that's making the hills in the neighborhood feel a bit more effortless. Was actually able to run in my sandals, too, yesterday, as it was about 51 degrees.

Today there's an epic amount of rain, and flood warnings in the area, so my long run may get pushed off until tomorrow. That's not really a big concern, though, as I'm confident in covering the distance, and the ability to put the time in will really just mean quality at the end of the thing. I'd prefer quality, of course, but I'm planning to have a long life with endurance sport, so I'm not going to punish myself psychologically while also trying to parent a small human.

I'm trying something new this year with regards to the weight loss thing. I had bought a smart scale for myself back at the start of the year (as one of my last purchases for the year, because of my no shopping resolution) and I've been weighing on it daily. I weigh between 530 and 7 every morning (including weekends) and I basically don't look much at the scale. I try not to think about the day's number as anything other than a part  of a bigger picture, and I've been pretty happy with the downward trend so far. I'm down about six pounds so far, and it keeps dropping (slowly, and with fluctuation). Hopefully I'll be closer to my fighting weight for the marathon in April, but in any event I feel much better when I'm out on the move.

Nutrition wise I'm eating more good fats, and attempting (although not eliminating completely) my sugars. I've been big on poached eggs with sweet potato and guacamole. I also learned how to make homemade pasta using discarded sourdough starter this week. At first I was sort of bummed about the recipe, because it's an egg noodle it takes six egg yolks to make. That's a lot of egg yolks, and I'm weary of anything that resource intense. But, oh man, once I figured out what that six yolks actually yielded....

One ball of dough makes about eight servings! This whole week, I'd come home, roll out and cut the pasta, and then cook it up. For this reason it was pretty good for portion control, and also practicing my timing!

So it's a bit labor intensive, but absolutely worth it.

There's no better feeling than having cooked a meal like that from scratch, and seeing how much my daughter loves it!

For my dinners, I'd just toss the noodles lightly in some sauce that I'd seasoned up. A couple of times I topped this with poached eggs, to pick up some extra protein.

For my wife and daughter, I tossed the noodles in a light sauce, topped with some of the leftover beef roast we had, and then topped that with more sauce.

Here's the website I based my noodles off, although I didn't have any whole wheat flour around, so I had to use all purpose. It worked out well, though.

I also made popcorn last night on the stove, using a big stock pot (link to version used here). I've never done that before but I thought it looked like a neat way to make popcorn, and saves me the trouble of having to store an air popper in my tiny little kitchen. Also, I made a pretty large volume of popcorn which was really great for our family movie night. I even seasoned mine up with some nutritional yeast, although I'm out of flora oil so I'll need to restock on that to get the vegan popcorn thing going again.

This week looks like a bunch of nice days. Maybe we'll get a zoo trip in, and hopefully I'll get more workouts in.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Enduring February

Winter is tough. Living in New England, I'm used to a fairly long and cold winter with lots of variation. It still never manages to throw me off that December is really not that bad of a month (usually) or that January can even have some unseasonable days. It makes my annual holiday run streak fairly easy, temperature wise. It makes training for a spring marathon a whole other thing.

I've gotten good at identifying a couple of patterns in myself. I reach the end of January, am fully done with winter, and expect to move on. February hits, and we usually get a couple of decent snows, and I'm totally sick of it. February is a short month that feels super long because of the cold.

Nothing to be done for that, of course. I can't control the weather. But I have to do some stuff to shake me out of stale and old habits, and to keep me from going completely stir crazy in the winter month ahead.

Decided to put some real effort into an early spring cleaning after researching some ancient Pagan and Celtic traditions around Imbolc / St. Brigid's Feast. Typically cleaning is a big part of the holiday. Not really affiliated with any specific ideology, I set February 2nd as my goal time to revamp the house for spring, put away the Christmas Tree (finally) and started my marathon training in earnest. Spent quite a few hours yesterday cleaning the living room, kitchen, rearranging for spring.

I have two separate formats for my kitchen. The fall/winter arrangement allows for an easier flow of traffic when we have lots of folks around, and people come over for pot lucks and need to use the stove to heat up and serve food. The spring/summer arrangement allows me a larger prep area for when I'm making bread, ice cream, meals, and also serves as a buffet of sorts as I can lay out the two crock pots on it. Additionally, the two layouts force me to deep clean the whole room a few times a year, and keeps things from feeling stale. Someday I'd like to build a better island, as the ones I have now are sort of ad-hoc mashups of the old island. In any event, the kitchen is set up for spring and summer now.

I also finally put the last set of blinds up on our second window in the kitchen. We had gotten custom wood slat blinds as a gift a few years ago, and I had put the blinds up on the window facing the street right away. We didn't have a window frame on the other window (which faces our driveway) until recently, so I hadn't put these blinds up. The room feels somehow more empty to me now that it's "finished" but I'm sure that will change with time. I like to have the windows open, the natural light and air, so it's not as if they HAD to be up, exactly.

I've been baking bread again, as well. A couple of months ago I started cultivating two wild yeast starters with some wheat berries I'd milled down, and I've had a lot of luck baking with them so far. I've made sourdough chocolate pancakes, as well as about eight loaves of bread. Mostly I'm giving the bread away as I try to lose weight for the marathon, but like anything else the practice of the little skills, every repetition brings some improvement. This morning I used slices from my most recent sourdough loaves to make french toast! I only had a couple of bites, because I'm trying to eat well so I can get in shape for the marathon, but it was extremely good.


I'm craving a race, but I can't really find any in February, and also in New England. That's going to cause this month to be a real mental test for me. Not a terrible thing for me, I guess, to build some mental fortitude. Crazy to look at the race calendar on the white board in front of me. Doing spring backwards, with a 20 mile race, followed by a marathon, and then two halves going into the summer.

Speaking of self-discipline, I've done well so far staying out of stores and avoiding shopping on apps so far this year. That's a big part of my resolutions for 2018 and I'm hoping to be able to stay away from buying things more this year. I still need to get some jeans to turn into shorts for the spring, but I'm planning to do that off the clearance rack. I'm also going to be in need of running shoes at various points through the year, but I'll make it work.

On the parenting side of things. I don't post much about parenting, or link to sites, but I want to save this one here in case I want to remember it later. I spend a lot of time talking to other parents of small kids, and inevitably screen time comes up. Scary Mommy had a great article on a new book on the topic (link here). We have been limiting screens around bed time for awhile now, and we've had a lot of luck with that. The screen that my daughter most interacts with is probably the TV, but she actually would rather run around the kitchen and tear the house up, so I'm not super worried about addictive qualities. She has spent enough time with my phone that she can navigate parts of it on her own.

I don't really like that. I mean, I'm not naive to the fact that we live in a tech-centered society, and she'll definitely have a relationship with these screens throughout her life. I just want her to have a few years where they aren't super ubiquitous. They certainly feel that way in my life, and I've also been trying to take some steps to decrease my phone's power over me.

I also am developing a complex relationship with social media. I don't so much mean this blog, or the twitter, which I maintain to keep ties with the digital parenting community. This gives me an outlet, and a place to read, so I have an idea of what's normal and what's not. Ultimately the blog is just a journal, and a place to recall the comings and goings of the days.

But I'm weary of the types of social media that encourage aquiring a large number of "friends". I sort of feel that if I don't regularly interact with someone in person, the relationship is a sham. That doesn't go for all cases, of course, but it is how it feels.

I have complicated feelings on all of these things, and maybe that warrants another post.