• sisters on a mission.

  • Three sisters. One in Virginia. One in London. One in New York. None of whom wear shorts. Ever.

  • the mission?

    Running.
    Taking delight.
    Learning Italian.
    Getting to Italy.
    Wearing shorts.
    In Italy.
    June 2011.

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Easing into 10k

Today has been one of those days that makes me glad we’ve started a new training program.  It started with raisin bread and peanut butter for breakfast (chased with carrot juice – so not completely bad).  But then – M&Ms at 10:00.  Next a huge plate of pasta at lunch quickly followed with a large chunk of dark chocolate truffle extravaganza.  The 3:00 chai and pumpkin bread set me up for the afternoon.  And to finish it off, beer dinner at a local pub tonight.

As I said – good thing I’ve started running again.  The girls and I had been feeling a distinct lack of motivation after completing the Couch to 5k plan and completing our official / unofficial 5k.  Lots of excuses:  too hot, too humid, too busy.  What to do?

Set a new and more challenging goal for the fall of course!  Enter the Ease into 10k program.  At first I thought it would be strange to go back to 3 minute intervals when I knew I could already run 30 minutes.  However, it has helped both me and Daisy to get back into the running groove.  We’re up to week 4 day 2 and going strong.

I’ve given up running with an iPod so I’m relying on my trusty watch to do the intervals rather than an app.  The cool things is that I’ve started to get a feel for how long I’ve run without looking at the time.  Sure, I’m usually off by 30 seconds or so but I figure it all evens out in the end.

That’s the latest and greatest on the training front.  I’m not working toward any race in particular but when I find one I plan to be ready.

zen and the art of marble making

I love to learn – especially if it involves making things.  Crafty things to be specific.  So, when my friend MK suggested taking a class on marble making at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond I was intrigued.   I had never taken a class there and had never dealt with glass and/or torches so this would be something completely new for me.  And in my book, new = fun (at least 85% of the time).

In preparation, we checked out on-line tutorials and you-tube demonstrations to get a better idea of what we were getting ourselves into.  Now, I have to admit, I’m a confident crafter.  That is, I go into things assuming I’ll be able to do it and do it well.  Unfortunately I’m also a perfectionist with sometimes often ridiculously high standards.  Turns out MK and I have a lot in common in that arena.

By the time we got to class, we were both a little worried.   Our research showed us that marble making looked hard.  And potentially dangerous what with the fire and shards of glass.  Nonetheless we got ourselves together, put on our sexy safety glasses and selected our spots across from each other at the worktable.

Brad, our instructor, made it look easy as he turned a long thin rod of colored glass into a perfect sphere, adding contrasting dots for flair.  The tools: a torch, a metal rod, tongs, and a half spherical mold.  Now it was our turn.

Step One: selecting the glass.   I fiddled around and around and finally, in a panic to get started, chose a translucent blue for the base and red for the dots.  So very all-American.

Step Two: turning on the torch.  I’m pleased to say I successfully avoided singeing any part of my body as I finessed the mix of propane and oxygen to get the perfect flame the first time out (although, I did manage a wicked long flame on my next attempt).

Step Three: making the marble.  I would like to say that I was able to accomplish this with the skill of a zen master but that would be a big fat lie.  Instead, with the metal rod in a death-grip in my left hand and a glass rod held like a fragile pencil in my right hand, I held my breath and began the twisting dance of melting the glass onto the rod.  The once-pliable muscles in my shoulders gave way to rock hard knots as I slowly created an unsightly molten lump on the end of the metal stick.   The only thing that made me feel marginally better was that MK looked like she was in the same boat.

Deep breaths.  In.  Out.   In.  Out.  Now, into the flame to try to round this sucker out.  Finally after a few minutes it started to look like a little balloon.  Back out of the flame and a quick swish around the mold and OMG it was starting to look like a marble!

OK, OK need to calm down and add the red dots.  First one on – so far so good.  Second one – still good.  Third one – CRAP!  I botched it, leaving a trail that turned my dot into a sperm.  OK, shake it off.  This is your first marble, no one expects it to be perfect.  What to do?  Ah ha!  I’ll just make a bigger dot to cover it.  Brilliant.

More flame work, more swishing and finally I was ready for the dismount.  This is literally a make it or break it point.  I won’t bore you with the sordid details but suffice to say it’s tricky and stressful for the uninitiated.  But finally it was done and I deposited my round(ish) patriotic ball of glass into the kiln with a sigh of relief.

We made five marbles that day, each successively more complicated.  A lunch break of sushi and pep talks kept us going but by the end of the day we were wiped out.

I confess that when I first pulled them out of the kiln, I immediately focused on the  imperfections.  But then I stopped, looked at them as a whole and thought about the journey.   And now I can honestly say that my little band of marbles makes me happy.  I guess that acceptance is my moment of zen.

she finally had a chair

Well I’m back from a glorious long weekend in Boulder!  Actually, I’m tardy – it was last weekend but never mind that.  The weather was beautiful, the food was fantastic and good times were had by all.  The only downside was that the lacing mechanism on my new hiking shoes broke and I resorted to hiking four hours in the Rockies in my slip-on Merrell Mary Janes.  Yeesh.

No bears were sighted but bear hair was in abundance on the trail.  In fact we saw no prairie dogs, no bobcats, no nothin’ except for a lone woodpecker.  But we did encounter plenty of hikers and runners, including one guy running in huarache sandals.  We turned around at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and took a little tour before heading back.   A little bit of trivia for you – Woody Allen climbed down the side of the building in the film “Sleeper”.  But enough of that.  It’s been a while since we’ve had a slide show so here you go:

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We also had some yum, yum, yummy ginger cake at the Boulder Tea House.

mmm...ginger cake

The building was a gift from Boulder’s sister city of Dushanbe in Tajikistan.  Beautiful.

Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

So glad I was able to go and experience Boulder.  But, the best part was just hanging out, relaxing and having a good dose of girl talk.  Must do that more often.

The great thing about traveling, especially alone, is that it allows plenty of guilt-free time to catch up on reading.   So, I zipped through a few more chapters of No Ordinary Time.  I know this is a book about FDR and Eleanor but the more I read, the more I empathize and want to know about Eleanor.   Sure it’s interesting to learn about FDR and get insight into his character but, so far, I’m on the fence about what I think of him.

On the one hand, he’s the husband who lets his mother dominate him and doesn’t make the effort to secure a seat for his wife at the dinner table or near the fireplace – instead leaving her to find a chair wherever she could.  It was not until Val-Kill that she finally had a chair of her own.  I don’t know if I would have put up with that.  More likely, I’d have brought in my own damn chair and smacked a label with my name on it.

On the other hand, he respected Eleanor enough to speak for him at the Democratic National Convention, basically saving his nomination.  And I didn’t read anything about advisors reviewing her speeches prior to that or any other event.  That’s trust.

I’m interested to see how this all unfolds.

ready for adventure

Boulder, CO

I was already excited about my upcoming trip to Boulder next weekend to visit a BFF and then I pulled up the forecast.  Woot!  Perfect weather for our plan to:

hike
stroll
dine
shop
and shop
and shop

and rent bikes if the weather holds.

(fingers crossed that no more wild fires will threaten the area)

As usual before travel, I have started obsessing over what to take.  Do I have the right bag?  Do I need a NEW bag (any excuse)?  No, no I need new hiking shoes more than I need a new bag.  Do I have the right jacket?  And on and on.  Gah!

Anyway, just a few days before I’m due to leave, I have finally found a good pair of shoes and will be returning the cute, but unnecessary, bag I bought at Macy’s during my initial travel spin-up frenzy.   I’ll be needing that cash anyway to buy trinkets in Boulder, right?

So the shoes.  I don’t know if I’ve every mentioned how much I hate shopping for shoes.  The problem, as I see it, is that shoe manufacturers cater to people with average to wide feet.  So a girl with long skinny feet [raises hand] has to resort to all manner of trickery to get a shoe to stay on her foot.   I’m talking inserts, thick socks, special lacing techniques.  That also means I frequently end up trying every shoe in my size in the store to find something that will work.  Time consuming enough in terms of sheer quantity but even more so when you factor in the switching out of inserts, changing up the lacing, etc., etc.


I heart my new kicks

Despite all of that, and thanks to the lovely folks at Blue Ridge Mountain Sports, I finally settled on a pair of Merrel Siren Sport hiking boots.  They are comfy, grippy, light-weight and not bad looking as hiking shoes go.  I’ll keep you posted on how they do on the rocky Boulder terrain.

OK, I’m off to start sorting through my gear and clothes.  And maybe take a shower since it’s already noon and I can’t seem to rustle up the energy to work out.    Sheesh.

back in the saddle

Daisy : Lead Slacker

Well, well, well.   I can’t believe it has already been a month since our fun run.  And nary a peep from the sisters.  What a bunch of slackniks.

I can’t speak for Cathlin and Colleen, but my motivation tanked when we started having 100+ degree / 80+ % humidity days on a regular basis.  Who can think under those conditions, much less string words together to create readable sentences?

Plus my training has been completely out of whack.  I decided to take another break from running (the old foot issue) and do some biking instead in a nice cool gym.  Then I took a week off of everything and sat around eating cupcakes and feeling sorry for myself because my foot still hurt.  Which, sadly,  didn’t help either.  So, I sought the help of a professional (podiatrist) and am (fingers crossed) back on track.

Anyhoo, back to my misadventures in biking.  My gym has a few expresso bikes that have virtual courses you can ride.  They’re cool – the handlebars move and there is a shifter with 20-something gears.  The settings vary from flat short race courses on a track on a bright sunny day to alpine trails in the early morning to coastal rides at dusk.    Other bikers are on the course and there is a pacer that you can stay or leave behind.

My first time out, I did a 3.5 mile coastal ride and gave the shifter a workout as I chugged up and down the hills.  And curves.  Did I mention the sharp curves on the hills and the steep drop off on either side of the path?  On the curvy hills?  Leading to certain catastrophe if you strayed from the path?  I had the handles in a death grip as I tried to work up the nerve to pass a couple of riders that were blocking me.  Every time I thought I had a shot, another curve would pop up.   Damn it!  I was starting to sweat profusely and I’m sure there were unsightly veins popping out of my neck due to the stress.

Finally, I made my move on a straight-away.  Whew!  What a relief.  I settled in and made it to the finish line.  Nerves still jangling, I staggered over to the water fountain, grabbed hold of the edge and took a big swig.   Thankfully no one noticed the not-so-virtual dork with the weak knees.  At least I hope not.

Well, you know what they say about getting back on the horse that threw you (or almost made you throw up).  So, I adjusted my saddle, hopped on and rode a flat course immediately afterward, purposefully trying to veer off the trail and run into other riders just to see what would happen.

Of course the program wouldn’t let me.  The tires refused to go outside the line and the offending riders vanished in a poof as I made contact.  All that worry for nothing, except maybe a few extra calories burned.  Confidence reinstalled, I recklessly rode the coastal trail again the following week,  careening down hills and plowing into anyone who got in my way.  Take that!

together

The sisters, and dog, were finally together last week for our own official/unofficial early morning extremely humid, hot August 2010 5K Fun Run.  The stats:  88 percent humidity, 75 degrees, 5k, 6:00 am, 46minutes and some change. (46 minutes, that’s the “fun” part).  Daisy was a little confused by the extra company and kept looking back to check on us, but she is a great running companion, and it’s a welcome break when she needs to stop to sniff or do other business..even it she’s faking it.

Thank goodness for some early-morning lawn waterers that gave us the chance to run through a couple of sprinklers. We were a bit slow that morning and I think we were technically lapped by other runners who seemed to quickly pass us more than once. But we finished.  Medals were awarded (hand made and personalized by the kids).  Biggest news…..shorts were worn.  Scary.  We were desperate in the humidity.

What next?  8k?  10k?  Need a plan.

food, glorious food: London-style

Warning…if you have any interest in good food mixed with travel, the images you are about to see could cause you to dig out your credit card and buy an expensive plane ticket to London posthaste.

Seriously.  As I was going through the photos from my trip I noticed a preponderance of food-related snapshots.   Which, to be honest, is not that unusual.  I started documenting meals on a trip to Rome a couple of years ago and looking back at those photos takes me back to the scene as nothing  else can.   And despite what you might have heard, London grub is equally noteworthy.

I heart macaroons

Let’s start on Saturday at Notting Hill.  After wandering through the crowded market we took a detour to Books for Cooks, where we were waylaid by a table loaded with macaroons set up just outside the store.   Bite-sized yummy confections.   Macaroons are the new cupcake, or will be soon.  If I had any interest in baking or initiative whatsoever I would open up a macaroon shop in Richmond to compete with the multitude of cupcake offerers.    I wish I could give the baker a shout out but her business card is back in London on Cathlin’s refrigerator.

waga mama

Next up, wagamama at Spitalfields on Sunday.  Great location up above the market craziness.  I had the yasai katsu curry: sweet potato deep fried in panko breadcrumbs with curry, sticky rice, mixed greens and red pickles.  It was delicious and even though it was fried I didn’t feel like an unhealthy slug afterward.

Cathlin had some sort of noodle, vegetable dish that she loves (the dish in the foreground) and orders frequently.  Can’t remember the name of it.  I was too absorbed with anticipating and then inhaling my own meal.

Monday was a gorgeous sunny day so we popped into the OXO tower restaurant to take advantage of the views.  We sat on the outside patio overlooking the Thames, feeling ever so cosmopolitan as we munched on grilled asparagus, goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, some sort of tomato deliciousness, pea gazpacho and chips.  A bit expensive, thus the appetizers only.  But totally worth it for the atmosphere.

appetizers at OXO Tower

chocolate heaven

Tuesday was a big day for indulgence.   After fighting the crowds at the Grace Kelly exhibit at the V&A (highly recommended btw – the exhibit, not the crowds), I needed an escape.  Thankfully, Cathlin had already mapped out the way to Kensington Creperie which I found without too much difficulty once I got pointed in the right direction outside of the museum.

There were almost too many options.  I was tempted by a strawberry / cream number but finally decided on Hazelnut Chocolate Cream: Hazelnuts, butter, cream, with dark Belgian Chocolate.  And Orangina.  Because orange and chocolate belong together.  I have to admit that I couldn’t finish my crepe.  Do you see the size of that monster?  I hit my sugar threshold.

yum

Later, Neapolitan style pizza for dinner at Franco Manca in Chiswick.  Ricotta, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes,  spinach and perfectly prepared crust.

A little backstory: I lived in Naples Italy for several years back in the 1990s and am always on the lookout for la vera pizza.  This was pretty authentic.  I would definitely go again if someone would please buy me another ticket to London.  Coach class is fine.

And yes we each had our own pizza.  Did I mention that I was on vacation?

Wow, this post is getting long and I’m not even half way through the week yet.  In the interest of space I will just say that Wednesday I had a yummy egg salad and watercress sandwich from Marks and Spencer.  I could not take a picture of it because I was balanced on a 5″ wide “bench” at a bus shelter on a busy shopping street and trying to eat my sandwich and not drop my chips.

On Thursday I took time out to sit down for lunch at the World Food Cafe in Covent Garden.  I love this place in Neal’s Yard (check out this  cool 360 video).   Another vegetarian dish with potatoes, beets, bananas, rice and greens.  Very interesting combo of flavors.

the west african

I was going to leave it at that but then I spied the chocolate cake cooling on the counter.  Couldn’t pass it up.  Best thing I ate on the entire trip.  No lie.  Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.  Divine.

french chocolate cake

Almost to the end of the week and I still hadn’t had a full english breakfast.  Can you believe it?  We remedied that on Friday at Cote Brasserie in Chiswick.  I know, I know, I should have done so at a pub rather than at a French cafe but I have to say they did it right.  Left out the beans though – maybe not French enough?  That also explains the egg in crepe dish that my nephew ordered.

full English

I took a side trip to the Cotswolds to visit friends on Saturday and tried my first soft-boiled duck egg for breakfast – fresh from one of their ducks.  Tasty but definitely richer and bigger than the chicken eggs I’m used to.  Worth a try if you ever have the opportunity.

Finally on Sunday, my last day in London, we made it to The Brook, the local pub,  for lunch.  We had just run a 5k so we rewarded ourselves with steak, fries and dessert.  Just looking at these photos puts me in a bit of a food coma.

eton mess

berry pudding

brownie extravaganza

I did not eat all of these by myself, mind you.  Although I did have a taste of each.  The brownie was the clear winner.  And I’m not just saying that because I’m an American.

So there you have it.  One week in London (plus an extra weekend), loads of good food.  I am now officially starting my healthy diet again.