16 April 2014

Blooms a'blooming and swans a'nesting

My first spring in England and it's been a glorious year for it.  Apparently it is slightly milder than usual and the sun the past few days has been blissful even though it fakes you out and makes you think it is much warmer than what it really is.  The back garden patio has been getting some use both as a place to sip our tea and coffee while basking in the aforementioned sunshine and as a workout area--the latter has greatly relieved my partner because he has been having visions of me losing grip on a kettlebell mid-swing and it flying through the French doors or front window, lol.


Another thing I'm enjoying about here are the endless blooms. I'm sure I'm driving people crazy on facebook with my constant pictures of various flora and asking them to identify it for me.  Spring in the US midsouth is gorgeous but there has always seemed to be a two week time limit on the life of jonquil and daffodil season (I might be exaggerating a little) and here they are still going strong a month after I first noticed them blooming.  Since these are my favorite flowers this makes me a very happy woman every time I'm outside.


The mutts and I also discovered that it is swan nesting season on a walk along the nearby canal trail. The one closest to us is disused as a waterway and that means the swans are able to build their nests in the middle of the canals.  Expect lots of pics in the coming weeks of the progress since there are two nesting within a mile of our walk.  The 2 photos I have are from my phone but we will be venturing out with the good camera soon in order to get better quality ones.



I haven't mentioned it here but I became a certified Nordic Walk Leader through the British Nordic Walking/INWA course at the end of March.  To borrow another fb quote from right after I got my certification, "I can't teach you but I can get you lost!" I was told quite firmly though that getting people lost during sessions is kind of frowned upon, lol!!!!  I am very much enjoying the nordic walking and looking forward to learning how to run with them soon, best yet I'm meeting people that I wouldn't ordinarily get a chance to chat with during our Tuesday morning classes.


All in all, life has been quite good lately. I have had several adventures that need to be blogged about and just as soon as I find the memory card reader so I can transfer images from the camera to the computer then hopefully I can get some posts up soonish. 




27 March 2014

Craving

Is it weird to be craving a run? To be specific, a lung-bursting, quad-burning, heart pounding trail run. The kind where you are dancing around the rocks and praying for the climb to end yet you are feeling so fully alive and in the moment. A run where you are not concerned about speed, simply taking in what's around and in front of you. Best of all, a run where once you reach the top of a hill it's not just the effort that has taken your breath away but the spectacular view laid out in front of you.


Besides I think it's time my Dirty Girl bombshell gaiters came out to play in the UK, I don't think I've worn them since the Sylamore 25k back in 2012. And folks, that is entirely too long.

Obviously pre-race

18 March 2014

Race Report-Newton's Fraction

It's been a while since I've done one of these, eh? Not sure I remember how.......

Flashing my Brooks Fanatics tee

Last year I ran the Stafford Half Marathon and I started to sign up for it again but stumbled upon the Newton's Fraction Half Marathon which was one of the top 10 as voted on by Runner's World readers in 2012 so thought I would give it a go instead.  Unlike last year where the weather was so cold that runners were coming in to pick up their t-shirts and medal (I've never ran a race where you had the option to pick up the medal before it started until Stafford) and immediately going back home, Sunday was absolutely gorgeous--slightly too warm for a spring race in my opinion but I loved the sunshine.  The winds, predicted to be up to 33 mph, I could have done without though.

The sideways ponytail? That's not from me tossing my head playfully

Miles 1-4 went well leading me to think I might be able to keep the 8:40 something pace I wanted to ensure a sub 2 hour. I'd skipped the first water stop at 3.5 because of a queasy stomach and drinking when I feel that way already leads to me needing to find a Porta Loo or some trees very quickly. Gross but true. Oh, I did have a garmin malfunction just past mile 1, it did the lost satellite reception thing then tried to freeze up. Fortunately I was able to shut it down and get it restarted with only losing .2 of a mile. 

The tummy did do what I feared and started rumbling towards the end of mile 4 so between that and the first big hill at mile 5.5ish my pace dropped to a low of 10:33 for mile 6. I did find someone to chat with for 3 miles which got me back under a 9 minute pace but then around mile 9.5 I started feeling like the nail on my left big toe was being ripped away.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Going up the other big hill at mile 10.25 made it throb even worse and I was vowing to never enter another half marathon. It was such a relief to be told finally that the finish line was within half a mile but I couldn't even manage to pick up the pace once I got on the track. Actually I got slower, lol.  

The end is in sight! After a lap around the track that is

Despite the toe and tummy issues I did enjoy most of the course. I love running canal trails and back roads plus the view of Belvoir Castle was amazing.   The area of Denton that we ran through was quite pretty as well. The only complaint I would have was that the final 1.5 miles wasn't quite as nice as the rest of the course but you have to get back somehow on an out and back.  This isn't a personal best course in my opinion and if you are a bling collector you will be disappointed because there were no medals, only finishers shirts which were a bit plain (no logo on back, small logo on corner of the chest).  The goodie bag was also a bit sparse especially when compared to the one from the Rushcliffe 10k. The only extra besides food was a trial size tube of toothpaste--hmmm, wonder what they were trying to say, lol.  A big thank you to all the course marshals and volunteers, everyone seemed to be pleased to be out there--that probably had a lot to do with the beautiful sunshine though :-) 

Not happy about the 32 seconds over 2 hours but happy to be done!

So back to the toe. I was dreading pulling off my shoe because I was expecting a bloody mess but fortunately I (and everyone else on facebook because I would have taken pics) was spared that.  Turns out that the Compeed callous plaster I'd placed on the side of my foot had started to come loose and when it did it was catching on my sock which then was catching the side of the nail and pulling it up with each step I was taking. Extremely painful yes but no permanent harm done this time, whew.  

Click to enlarge

Mileage and time is off because of the Garmin issue



  

28 February 2014

feeding the mutts

Who knew searching for a good quality dog food that will suit both the mutts would be such a time-consuming task.......back in the states I fed them Hills Science Diet which is a good basic food that is readily available most anywhere--a must if you are (or in my case, were) a truck driver and got caught out for longer than normal. However Elsie suffers from Schnauzer bumps (kind of like blackheads but hers develop into giant nasty cysts) that is exacerbated by cereals and grains and Ben has a sensitive stomach so I've decided to find a better quality food here in the UK.  

The only one I've tried so far is Applaws Chicken small and medium breed and I'm nearing the end of it. The problem with it is that my partner absolutely despises the smell of the food itself and  Ben has the rankest gas ever on it.  On the other hand, Elsie hasn't had a single Schnauzer bump since the changeover and her scent is just better--she has always had whatever the doggie version of BO is, poor girl. 

So I need a dog food that is as natural as possible, grain-free, and has at the very least Glucosamine Chondroitin added. I would prefer cranberry as well due to Elsie's history of urinary infections and bladder stones and because of the partner, something that doesn't have fish as the main ingredient.  Back to the research grindstone for me, any suggestions would also be very welcome.  


24 January 2014

Spur of the moment day trip

*click on images to enlarge

One of the best things (that I haven't taken much advantage of yet) about living in England is the proximity to mainland Europe and cheap airline or train tickets. A recent Eurostar sale had fares down into budget range for a last minute foray to Paris so it would have been crazy to not go there on a day trip. Yes, a day trip to Paris, France as a very early birthday present......I'm still in a bit of awe that we could do that.  However since we live a little north of London it required a 3:30 am alarm and a drive down to a train station a bit further south than the one we usually use because it didn't have any scheduled for as early as we needed.  It also meant I got to experience the morning "rush hour" commuter crush on Wednesday morning--can they make those seats any narrower???

We made it to London St Pancras in time to enjoy a much needed caffeine break via Costa before joining the queue for security.  Even the trains have airline style security now, all except for having to take your shoes off, something I wasn't expecting and I'd worn a belt and several pieces of jewelry--let the disrobing begin! My partner asked why and when they'd started doing the extra security and it earned him a complimentary baggage search so I wouldn't recommend doing that ;-)

The trip to Paris wasn't that crowded so we were able to sprawl out in the 2+2 seats. I felt sorry for a girl sitting across the aisle from us, she had to share seats with two people traveling for work one of whom was an Australian girl that seemed to be hell bent on talking as loudly as possible on subjects chosen for the shock value.  Fun stuff, eh.  There was also a signal disruption once we entered France which caused our train to be delayed, fortunately the chunnel crossing was uneventful and very fast (I'm a wee bit claustrophobic).

View and reflection from the train window

Our Paris plan was not much of a plan, there were a handful of places that I wanted to see but mostly we just wanted to wander around and "see" whatever crossed our path. Not sure that makes sense but neither of us wanted to be shackled to a must do xyz mindset.  Speaking of seeing, Gare du Nord aesthetically is very underwhelming and the signage could significantly be improved. It doesn't seem to be a very good welcome to Paris in my opinion, very dark and industrial, concrete everywhere. We didn't have any trouble with thieves/pickpockets/panhandlers but we didn't make ourselves out to be easy marks either.  

First things first though, the stop we needed right away was for more coffee (and a loo that wasn't moving!) so off to find a cafe but we ended up at the most American of places. Yep, you got it--Starbucks! Lol, how typical is that? Well it would be except that my partner is thoroughly British :-), it had to be done though if only for the humour value.  Yes, there was also a McDonald's right next to it.

U.S. in Paree

Love the street sweeper against the backdrop of the Academie Nationale De Musique

Being a typical tourist at the Tuileries Garden


very busy pic but so much to look at

Artist sketching The Thinker at Musee-Rodin

The Musee Rodin was the only museum that we opted to go into on this trip and that was because you could opt to only pay for the gardens which is a bargain at 1 Euro. We also decided to stop for coffee and a snack at the cafe on the premises which was not so much a bargain but it was nice to kick back and relax for a few minutes off our feet.  I loved seeing the girl dressed so brightly and furiously sketching out The Thinker. It was after this we decided to start using the Metro instead of walking because we were going to run out of time.  I was thoroughly impressed with the double decker trains and some of the stations--especially the submarine themed one, it would be cool just to plan a trip to see all the stations.

Gazing up

Next to see was the Eiffel Tower as up close and personal as you could get without going up it (budget day trip). While we were standing under it and gazing upwards at all the iconic iron glory that is the symbol of Paris to the rest of the world I had a very "girl" moment and burst into tears. Not a slight eye water but a full on gush of waterworks, it was so embarrassing and funny and apparently endearing........I never believed I would actually be standing at the base of the Eiffel Tower at some point in my life.  After my tears we just stood around watching everyone else and noticed a couple locked in an embrace. Very romantic, eh. Except it kept going and going and going to the point it went from awwwwwww to being pretty sure they were just doing it for the attention.  Or perhaps I'm just a pessimist, lol.  

Mopping up the tears

The final stop (since we were running out time) was Notre Dame. This ended up being my only disappointment of the day, not because of the Church itself but because we didn't get a chance to walk up the tower steps so I could see the gargoyles up close and personal.........yep, my reason for wanting to see Notre Dame was not because of the novel or movie or my beliefs but it was for the ugly-beautiful gargoyles. I am so fascinated by them and would love to have one or two of the grotesques on my own house.  

approaching Notre Dame

Statue of Charlemagne with a modern addition

Notre Dame Cathedral 

While impressive (understatement) I think I am slightly jaded after seeing so many gorgeous cathedrals in England and Scotland so I wasn't that interested in the interior of Notre Dame.  Sorry France, but I think my adopted country does fancy churches better but I didn't cry when I saw Big Ben so you win in the emotional response department :-)

At this point we were ready for a meal before making the trek back to Gare du Nord so we decided on a cozy looking cafe amongst the tourist crap shops on Rue Arcole called Le Parvis.  It was a bit pricey but that was to be expected and the waiter was very friendly and informative--much nicer than the guy at the Musee Rodin cafe (however his attitude was much better when I brought the tray back up to the counter rather than leaving it for him to collect after we had eaten).  We both opted for a burger and frites figuring it would be quicker than most everything else and what we were served was amazing, even better than the picture on their website, even the salad was much larger and more varied than shown.  

Hotel de Ville ice rink

On the way to find the nearest Metro station after eating we stumbled upon the Hotel de Ville and had to stop for a few moments to admire it and the ice rink.  This was the best photo of the lot which is terrible--I need to get better about changing the settings--but I wanted to post this anyway because of the Union Jack umbrella :-). The history of the place is quite bloody though, kind of disconcerting reading that the guillotine used to be in the area where the rink is not to mention all the other sorts of public execution.  

Overall this was a wonderful trip, we messed up on our routing a little and missed the Arc de Triomphe and the smaller Statue of Liberty.  No museum trips were planned other than the Rodin garden and I want to tour the Catacombs on the next visit as well as climbing those tower steps at Notre Dame.  Any suggestions as to what is a must see would be appreciated. 

Culture differences


What surprised me about Paris? I experienced very little of the rudeness that you hear about but again we weren't here for very long--most people we dealt with were far more polite than those in similar situations in London actually.  The noise (sirens and horns), atrocious parking, and amount of motorbikes everywhere is just like what you see in the movies.  The only petrol station we saw consisted of 2 pumps (gas and diesel) on a sidewalk next to the road--you simply stopped in the road or drove onto the very wide pavement to fuel up.  There wasn't as much dog poop as I expected, lol.  The men and women do dress more chic than in most other cities I've been to but black is still the color of choice in the winter.  The most surprising thing of all though were the number of armed soldiers on the streets but it shouldn't have been considering what's recently kicked off in Mali.  

New passport stamps

Paris souvenir


20 January 2014

A year ago today

This time last year we were a few days into a road trip from Arkansas to California, for some reason I didn't blog about most of (if any) it at the time.  Oh well, it's giving me some post material for this year :-) 

In Arkansas at our second pitstop 

On our first day we had a late start (waiting on a camera delivery for Wednesday morning) but we still managed to make it to Tucumcari, NM where our first hotel room was reserved--it was too cold to camp in January otherwise we would have saved some money. My partner got to experience the monotony of I40 in the winter and the scarcity of coffee shops through miles and miles of highway but we did make one essential tourist trap stop in Amarillo, Texas, The Big Texan.  To add to the general kitschiness there were several groups of Australians and one group of Brits visiting there at the same time. Better yet, one of the Aussies had squared off against an Englishman in the 72 ounce steak eating "competition", we were about to roll out of our booth from laughing so hard at one particular Aussie who was yelling at his countryman not to let the limey beat him. 

Hard to get a good photo at night with all the blinking lights, Amarillo, TX

"Normal" for California

Visit to the USS Midway museum San Diego, CA

Tour of San Diego with Victor from Victorville 

Would have loved to chatted with her

Santa Monica, CA

Finish line at The Rocket Launch Half Marathon, Santa Monica, CA 
20 January 2013

I have tons more pictures but those are some of the highlights of January up until this date last year and I don't want to overload the post with too many. This year has been more low key but that doesn't mean any less exciting or different since I'm beginning my first full year as an expat in the UK, it just means I need to get more creative with my adventures.  











19 January 2014

No run and and a mini rant

This weekend has been a bust for working out, I'd planned a long run meet up for Saturday morning only to wake up about an hour before my alarm went off with a swollen and sore throat, scratchy eyes, feeling achy all over and dizzy spells whenever I tried to move about. No fever thankfully and I think it was one of those times when my body has decided that I've done too much and it was going to shut me down in the quickest way possible. Blech.  First words out of my partner's mouth after he finally woke up was "Wow, you sound terrible".  Yep, no running or working out for the weekend after all, grrrrrrrrr. I am much better today and hope to get back in the groove tomorrow *fingers crossed*.

Today was spent doing some research for an upcoming day trip which meant I got a little lost on youtube chasing after only sort of related videos, a couple of which were from Americans who had recently visited Great Britain and Ireland. One recurring thing I hear a lot is about how terrible the food is and I just don't get it (yes, I've ranted about this before, lol). This one girl just whined on and on about the horrible food and that even the fast food places tasted "different" and "not right", needless to say the comments were disabled for that vid because I'm guessing she had been slammed for it. I'm not sure where they had been eating but it sounds like they never made it past the fish and chips shops or the motorway services.  I might miss certain foods but there is no shortage of deliciousness or variety about to partake of and I'm making it my mission to test out the gammon and egg in as many pubs as possible.


17 January 2014

earworm

It has been far too long since I posted an earworm. I'm enjoying this band quite a bit today.


The Graveltones 

16 January 2014

Strolling about

This afternoon I managed to convince the partner to come out with me and the mutts on a short walk--well, there is some dispute over whether it was a short walk or not (2.5 miles give or take). We fed the horses a carrot each and slogged through the mud to reach the canal trail.  While wandering about we ended up chatting with an elderly couple that had a couple of dogs as well. During the course of that conversation it turned out that the man had lived on our street but had moved away in 1964--I felt sort of youngish since that was before either me or my partner was born, lol.  Some older people are like children though, absolutely no filter! My accent was such that it led the woman to ask could I even say "Ben" and here I thought my southern drawl was getting more understandable ;-).

We did take the time to explore a nearby cemetery and churchyard that I'd been meaning to stop at since we moved here. I'm glad I waited until today so I could share it.




pics from the week before

I have fallen off the Janathon blogging wagon but my workouts have continued. Not sure that anyone was enjoying those posts anyway so I will go back to my usual modus operandi. Today is just random pictures from the past week.

Wind turbine progress, all 3 blades are now attached

Nettle bloom

The unseasonably mild English winter means that the trees are already budding out and there are odd bits flora sporting blooms. Of course it's only the middle of January so there's a lot of Old Man Winter left to come. Hopefully it won't do like last March when it was snowing on us nearly every day when we were here looking for a place to lease.  

More of the wind turbine. It looks sort of like a giant bird coming over the trees at us

One of our "neighbors", the big horse will come up to me all the time for carrots but this is the first time the pony has approached me for a treat. Of course Ben wanted to say hello

The start of a short Peak District hike with Elsie and Ben

Shut down brewery--seen on Saturday's run

Top of a hill looking towards the Peak District--another pic from Saturday's 7 mile run. Yes it was a gloriously beautiful day so long as you ignored the wind









12 January 2014

More cross country

Ahhhhhh, cross country racing. I'm not sure if I love or hate you, today was a bit of both. It was cold, muddy, hilly, muddy, did I mention muddy? Nearly lost my left shoe, walked way too much, slid around like I was a drifting extra in Fast and the Furious, flew down the hills like a bowling ball headed for the gutter, and gasped like a fish flopping about just out of reach of the water. Oh did I mention the mud?????

Before the mud and before the sun disappeared

And we are off! 

Suffering, attempting to sprint for the finish line

stats are a bit meh

yep, muddy. Soaked through my shoes and socks

Water hose and newspaper:  xc runner's necessities 

Unfortunately we were one female short of fielding a team for today but the men were well represented and I think they all had great races. Having that camaraderie and support is AWESOME, especially when you are struggling to keep trying to go UP what amounted to be a slide made of mud (thanks again guys!) . The coffee provided by one of the members afterwards was soooooooo good as were the biscuits (the cake was almost gone by the time I finished and I was heaving too much to grab a piece of it). Today was also the other lady's first ever cross country race and she did fantastic, think she's hooked as well now :-).  

Run Britain had a great article this evening about cross country racing. I had to chuckle about the "event" style races and how much they cost. Loving the fact that I get to do what is essentially the same thing several times a year for the £20 annual club membership fee, I'm not much of a medal or t-shirt collector anyways so not getting them isn't a big deal for me.