Wednesday, 30 July 2014

A random assortment of things I have learned...

  • It is apparently quite acceptable to wear running/workout gear whilst shopping at the supermarket.  Indeed, for some it seems to be their normal daily attire - the latest Nike, Lululemon, what have you...  However, it is apparently not acceptable to wear said workout gear after a workout or run whilst shopping at the supermarket.  You will be met with mildly horrified stares.  Sweat is, evidently, not socially embraced as an outfit accessory in the somewhat more snobbish areas of Auckland Central.
  • I knew there was premise to calling it Ponsnobby... (I've called it that for years, even before I lived here).
  • This pretentiousness was evident even back 100 years ago, as I discovered while perusing old Observer newspapers for a library and information study project recently.  (This edition in particular).  I guess some things never change.
  • I cannot be trusted in the confectionery aisle.  If there is new chocolate, I will buy it, regardless of the knowledge that it will be awful.  Case in point, the new Whittaker's Hundreds and Thousands chocolate.  I had asked my children if they wanted to try it and after some discussion, came to the conclusion that none of us would really like it because it would be too sickly-sweet.  So what do I do?  Buy it anyway.  Who ended up having to eat it?  Me.  Why?  Nobody else liked it (except for T, he did have some of it).  Did I enjoy it?  No.  Did that stop me?  Of course not.  Nor did the knowledge that nobody else in the family likes peanuts combined with chocolate stop me from buying a whole block of Whittaker's Peanut Butter chocolate and then laboriously chomping my way through it.  In about four days.  And I haven't even started on the bittersweet peanut slab three-pack...
  • I can quite easily pack away enough food to feed two people at every meal.  Plus snacks.  Marathon training.  Thankfully, most of it is of the healthy variety.  Let's not mention the chocolate again...  Fruits and vegetables for the win!
  • I may not be entirely pleased with how its arranged, or the exterior view, but this little body of mine is pretty powerful and is constantly surprising me with its ability to do anything and everything I set my mind to.  Weekly mileage is still on the increase and I'm coping with it pretty damn well, if I do say so myself.  This year to date has been free of major injury and I am deliriously happy about this.  Bring on Waihi!!  Just over two months to go...
  • Dry shampoo actually works!  Colour me surprised.  Thanks for the tip, Runner Girl NZ ;)
  • Apparently, Spring is on the way:

Have a fabulous week people.  Y'all are awesome :)

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Run fun

I had a pretty good weekend, how about you?  Mine started a little slowly with a lazy Saturday morning.  I had planned on heading out to Parkrun, but decided to flag it at the last minute because a) I'd run Tuesday through Friday and thought I should probably take a rest day, and b) my bed was super cozy and I didn't quite want to get out of it at 7.30am.  The weekday runs weren't bad - a couple of treadmill runs, and I took in a few of my standard routes that I don't run as often as I used to - through Westhaven/Cox's Bay Reserve/Ponsonby (10km), and Hobson Bay/Ayr Street/Newmarket/Grafton, which is normally 15km but I finally figured out how to bypass Ngapipi Road and use the Hobson Bay Walkway without getting lost, which dropped it down to 13km :)  I decided my hill endurance was up to the task of taking on the dreaded Ayr Street incline, and wanted to give it a go.  That hill has been in the back of my mind since I first took it on over a year ago and it kicked my butt.  Since then I've always run down it, with the thought of 'one day...'.  Well, Thursday was that day.

See that?  Barely a hitch in my stride ;)  Ran the whole thing without stopping.  Yay me!  (In case you're wondering, the first dip in pace (the red section) is when I was going up the stairs on the Point Resolution bridge, and stopped to take some photos.  The second, smaller dip (orange section) was Ayr Street).  I snapped a few nice pictures along the way too, before the rain caught up to me at the end:

Rangitoto, looking fabulous as always

Hobson Bay Walkway

The sky over K Road.  Here comes the rain...

I was glad I'd decided to take a rest day on Saturday, when it came to Sunday's run.  I needed the energy for that!  It's a case of "you know you're a runner when...".  I had the alarm set for 5.45am (yes, on a Sunday.  Only runners and crazy people do that!) to trek on out to Bethells and meet a couple of guys for an out-and-back run along Te Henga.  I grabbed all my gear, scoffed a banana for breakfast and made a cup of tea for the road, then headed out the door.  I arrived at 7.15am but had failed to clarify exactly where we were supposed to be meeting, and couldn't check the Facebook post because there's no coverage out there.  Oops...  I hung around for a bit, drank my tea, then decided to drive around and see if I could spot them.  Luckily, on my way back towards the beach I spotted them out on the road (they'd come up to see if they could find anyone - good timing!), parked up, grabbed my pack and headed towards the trail.  The weather was quite changeable, and we had it all that morning.  It started out lovely:

Unfortunately, the combination of tea and no easily accessible toilets before the start of our run culminated in my first 'answering the call of nature, trail-side' experience about 20 minutes in.  Luckily, there were plenty of bushes to hide in!  A little while later, we reached an exposed part of the trail and it was about then that the freezing winds and drizzly rain decided to arrive.  It got pretty chilly for a while, but it soon passed, and we were rewarded with this:

A little bit of sunlight, breaking through

The trail got pretty muddy in parts, and I (stupidly) tried avoiding it to start with.  Bad idea.  Why?  Because I ran into a fence instead:


Not to mention that fact that I should know better by now.  All trail runs invariably end up with your shoes looking like this:

Trying to avoid the mud is kinda pointless...

We chatted along the way, but I found the discussion a little different than what I'm used to.  Having only met Richard a few times, and Vaughn once, I guess we're still at the 'polite conversation' stage of the relationship ;)  The group I usually run with are all about lighthearted jibes, joking around, and as much hilarity as possible, which makes for an interesting few hours.  This run wasn't bad though, we still had some pretty good conversation (and there were a few laughs as well).  We made it up the 'stairs of doom' to Constable Road in two hours which was about 9.5km, give or take a few hundred metres, from where we started at Bethells Beach.  After a short break and a chat to a guy who was just starting out doing the opposite of us (Constable Road to Bethells and back), we headed back the way we came, down the stairs and along Te Henga again.  By this stage the trail was pretty busy - there was plenty of traffic going in both directions.  Richard and Vaughn had slowed a bit at this stage, so I ran off ahead.

Richard (black top) and Vaughn (red top).

Due to my complete lack of navigation skills, I managed to get a little lost and ended up wandering up a random hill and losing the trail.  After stopping and looking around a bit, I saw Richard and Vaughn much further down the hill below me on the actual trail, so had to backtrack to catch up.  When I found them again, they'd stopped to chat to the Thomson family, who were going to be joining us but ended up starting out on their own later in the day (mum and dad Thomson ran the full Hillary together in December 2013, and the twin girls ran the full Hillary Trail with their dad in March 2012 at age 13, in case you were wondering what kind of family heads out for a trail run together on a Sunday).  Richard had just been asking them how far ahead I was only to be answered with blank stares.  Cue my arrival behind them, confused looks, and my sheepish explanation about being directionally challenged :)

The Thomsons' shoes were all pretty clean - they obviously have far more experience at dodging mud than I do.  After a quick chat we were all on our way again, and again I ran ahead, although this time I didn't get lost.  We were only about 5km from Bethells at that stage so I couldn't really go wrong unless I fell off the side of the cliff...

It could happen...

I got back to the car park just before the rain hit.  Richard arrived five minutes later, and Vaughn was several minutes after that.  It had taken us about two hours to get back too, so four hours total, with a little over three hours actual run time.  Not bad.  The more time I spend out west, the more I like it.  The trails (or at least this section of it) is becoming familiar - except for the occasional accidental detour of course.  In my defense, that was the first time I'd run it in that direction!

Afterwards, we decided not to stop for lunch so I just jumped in the car and headed home to a nice hot shower, home-cooked food, and a movie with the kids (The Addams Family - love that movie!).  I'm looking forward to the next Waitakere outing, which will hopefully be soon.  It's good training for Waihi!  Have a good week :)

PS: I missed out on signing up for the Queenstown Marathon - it's all sold out.  Boo.  But I am on the waiting list - got confirmation yesterday.  Fingers crossed!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Crafty goodness

Y'all thought I'd given up on knitting entirely, didn't you?  For a while there, I almost thought I might just let it roll on by.  Like that fixation had run its course.  Well, it hasn't, I just don't have as much time to put into it as I had previously.  I'm spending about 1% of the time I used to spend on Ravelry now - I just check in every few days to see if there are any posts in the Auckland group thread about Sunday knitting.  I don't even keep my projects up to date any more...  But there are finished projects!  Unfortunately, three of the cutest projects I forgot to get photos of before sending them to the mum-to-be.  Hopeless.  I will at least link to the patterns though, so you can see what they looked like.  I used some of my stash yarn - the olive-green Cascade 220 I bought in Canada.  You know the yarn, I made an afghan out of it, and my cardigan:

I used a skein and a bit to make a Milo vest, a wee Barley hat, and some ridiculously cute baby boots.  Love them!  So did the mum :)  I may see if I can snap a pic of them on the baby when he's born (he's due in August).

Another project I do have pictures of is an afghan I knit for our friends that got married in May:

Graphic Afghan, knit in Countrywide Natural 12 ply yarn.  I modified the pattern slightly by knitting eight rows of seed stitch to start, and eight stitches of seed stitch on the sides (increasing the row stitch count by eight), and I knit 15 full pattern repeats to make the afghan a little larger.  I was initially disappointed with the size even after the various increases, but after blocking it stretched out a bit, and our friends love it.  They comment often on how warm it is, and perfect for keeping their feet warm at the end of their bed at night.  My friend and I are watching one Harry Potter movie a week over winter, and this afghan gets brought out each time.  That makes me pretty happy :)  It's always good to know when your hand knits are appreciated and used.

Last of the finished projects is something that's been in the works for nine months.  Yep, you read that right.  Nine.  Months.  Crazy.  But I persevered and worked on it little by little, and finished it (finally) a week and a half ago.  I haven't 'modelled' it for photos because it's just too darn cold at the moment, but here's a crappy 'finished' pic:

A stockinette, long-sleeved, lace weight hoodie.  This was knit in 100% merino lace weight yarn I bought from Skeinz a while back (obviously, since this project is nine months old...).  The original pattern, Versio, is not a hooded sweater, but a large number of people who knit it convert it to one.  I used some modifications that were posted by another Raveler and am fairly happy with the result.  I'm looking forward to wearing this in summer - the plan is for it to be used as an over-bikini beach garment/warm summer evening garment.  But please, if I ever mention that I'm thinking of knitting a long-sleeved lace weight anything ever again, remind me that its a bad idea!!  It wasn't a difficult project by any means, but deathly boring!  Particularly because of the colour choice, the fact that I didn't want stripes, and omitted the fake side seams on the body and sleeves.  It was just plain ol' knit stitch, over and over and over and over...  It's done now.  I just have to wait for the warmer weather ;)

What I'm working on now is going to be a bits-and-pieces project - I'm using all my sport/dk/worsted weight leftovers to make a crochet granny square blanket.  I love granny square blankets, and aside from the one T has from his babyhood, we don't have one in the house.  Shock horror!  This must be remedied!  Behold, the in-progress fugly blanket!  (Y'all know what fugly means, right?):

It's a little hard to tell from this pic (which I took in poor night-time lighting) but the colour combinations are something to cringe over.  So far, from the middle outwards, we have: grey, red, forest green, black, bright yellow (and some beige when I ran out of yellow), blue, dark grey, olive green, burgundy, brown, light grey, bright pink (in three shades), peacock, mid-blue... and I've been working on the latest colour since this photo was taken - bright, golden yellow.  Mmmmm, fugly indeed...  I love it!!

Next on the 'to-do' list is a Where's Wally hat for my nephew - he specifically requested it for his birthday.  Kids.  They're weird!  Gotta love 'em ;)

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Dome Valley race recap

I had my alarm set for 6am on Sunday morning - the XTERRA website would be updating at that time to let us know whether or not the event was going ahead, due to severe weather warnings north of Auckland.  I woke up well before then and lay in bed checking social media to fill in the time.  At 6.10am, the website was updated, letting everyone know it was indeed going ahead.  I'll admit to being slightly disappointed - we were in for a muddy one, and it was cold and wet to boot.  I don't think I would've minded if the event was cancelled and I had the option of just staying in bed.  But I got up and flumphed downstairs in order to get ready.  I packed extra gear just in case - waterproof jacket, cap, thir, shorts (in case I changed my mind about wearing capri tights), rubbish bags for in the car (because mud just gets everywhere)...  I'd decided to go with the smaller hydration pack because it was a shorter distance run, and because it was cold I wasn't expecting to need much water.  I would've gone without it entirely, but there was going to be quite a gap between the two aid stations and there's nothing worse than running thirsty.  I had a power cookie for breakfast, made a cup of tea for the road, and went outside to wait for Martin to arrive.  Parking was going to be tight, so we were carpooling because we're good like that ;)  I picked up Lindsay and we headed out to Warkworth, debating about the weather and how crazy we were to still be running in it.

We arrived early enough to get a park pretty close to event base (hooray!) so there was minimal schlepping back and forth, and the car was close by to sit in - dude, it was coooooold!  And poor Lindsay wasn't starting her run until 10am so had quite a bit of time to wait around.  There was nowhere to sit outside because the entire area was a mud pool except for the occasional patch of grass, which was wet because of the rain.  I picked up my bib and transponder, and noticed quite a few people were dropping down from the super-long to the long distance.  The organisers had already had to reduce the distances earlier in the week - the super-long had dropped from 25km to 21km, and the long had dropped to 15.5km from (I think) about 19km, but the terrain was going to be tough, which would make up for the shortened course.  I don't think anybody was complaining!  Before race briefing it started to rain, so after some convincing from Martin (I believe his comment was "tell me where the car keys are so I can drive us home because you'll be suffering from hypothermia") I donned my waterproof jacket over my merino sleeves and singlet top.  This required me to shift my race bib to the top of my tights.  It was still obscured by my jacket, so I tucked that into my tights a little bit to uncover it - don't want to miss out on those race photos ;)  I have no idea how people can run whole races with their number there, it's bloody annoying!

At race briefing we were informed that due to the high level of the river after all the rain, it was too dangerous to have the river crossing in the event, so the long and super-long courses had been shortened again - they would now be 14km and 16km respectively.  A lot of discussion broke out after that announcement, and I don't think anyone was really listening to the rest of the briefing - poor guy, he still went through it anyway.  I'm pretty sure everyone was happy about not having to jump into freezing, fast-moving water!  At 9am we headed off on our run, which started with an uphill slog on a gravel road.  Just as we began, the sun decided to make its appearance.  About two minutes into the run, I was cursing Martin for convincing me to wear my jacket!  I stripped it off pretty quickly and tied it around my waist, but it wouldn't stay done up.  It was so annoying!!  I briefly considered just dumping it on the side of the road, but came to my senses and realised I'd be pissed at losing a $120 jacket just because it was irritating me.  I ended up having to tie it around the top of my pack straps because there was nowhere else to put it.  I had to slow to a walk to achieve this, but at the time I didn't mind too much because the uphill was relentless and I needed a bit of a break.  I also took this time to shift my race number back to my shirt.

There was a bit of downhill as well which was quite fun, but then there was more uphill.  Another opportunity to take a short walk break and strip off the sleeves too, which I managed to stuff into the tiny pocket of my small pack.  On reflection, my trail pack would probably have been a better choice for this event simply because there are more storage pockets - it would have prevented the jacket issue entirely.  Oh well, you live and learn...

After about 5km of undulating gravel road, we veered off into the forest.  They had warned us it would be muddy, but I have never seen so much mud all in one place, including Tough Mudder!  Holy crap, there was a lot of mud!  We're talking giant slip-n-slide hills, both up and down hill.  There were ropes for a couple of the uphills which were really handy, because I'm pretty sure most people wouldn't have made it up without them.  I love being able to fly downhill at top speed, but I am not a fan of losing control while doing it, so I went carefully on the slippery downhills, planning my footing as best I could to avoid sliding out.  I got passed by quite a few people who clearly had less concern for their safety and general well-being.  I have no idea how they made it down without disappearing off the side of the hill or severely injuring a limb in the process...  It didn't matter what shoes you had - unless they had 1" spikes protruding from the soles, there was no avoiding the slippery slides.

This pic, although only showing a short section of the epic muddy uphill slog towards the end of the run, gives you an idea of what it was like (shamelessly stolen off Facebook - was posted by Nic Daulton in the Total Sport Dome Valley thread):

Most people used the rope over to the right hand side, a few hardy souls slogged up over on the left without the aid of a rope (apparently there was a lot more vegetation over there which helped prevent sliding downhill), and the poor dear in the pink top you can see in the mud on all fours had just been flung off the rope sideways after somebody slipped.  A select few attempted to go it alone through the middle, and had to be rescued.  I heard a few less-than-savoury comments coming from some participants, but most of the banter was pretty jovial - its not every day you get out in the elements and slog up a ridiculously steep, muddy incline for the fun of it, you might as well enjoy it ;)

After the mud-fest, there was a little more forestry to run through, then we hit the gravel road again.  I was expecting there to be a lot more downhill than there actually was - my memory tricked me into thinking I'd run a lot more uphill at the start I guess.  It felt like a bit of a slog and I walked a bit on and off.  I caned it on the downhills and thought I was going pretty fast, but I was still getting passed - admittedly those passing me were all men with long legs...  Afterwards there was another short downhill blat through muddy forest track before heading to the finish line.

My watch said 14.98km, and I'd run it in 1:49:50.  I'd been feeling pretty strong and was really keen to see where I'd placed.  I jumped in line to grab some freebie noms (cider was top of the list - I bypassed the sausages as usual), then waited around for my friends.  I caught up with Sheryl for a while:

Thanks to her hubby for taking the picture :) (btw, purple-haired lady from the first XTERRA race is right behind Sheryl!)

This picture gives you a little more of an idea of what the place was like - mud, mud and more mud!  I fared pretty well - I didn't slip over and get covered, but the back of my legs were pretty splattered.  I grabbed a hot coffee and waited for Martin to finish his super-long.  He looked like he'd been swimming in the mud, he was covered!  I was very glad I'd packed a roll of rubbish bags after seeing him!  By the time we headed to the car, most of the mud had dried so I could scrape the majority of it off before throwing on a pair of jeans and changing into some clean socks and shoes, then we all headed to Warkworth for lunch.

That evening I jumped online to check my results - 55/121 overall, 19/56 women, 11/33 in my age category, with an official time of 1:49:39.  Yep, I'm pretty happy with that :)

Dome Valley shall hereafter be named 'The Mud-fest'.  I'm looking forward to seeing what Riverhead is like at the end of August.  It's known for its muddiness - the first race was also in Riverhead and although muddy, I don't think it has a patch on Dome Valley.  It wasn't even on the same scale.  We shall see...  The next XTERRA event is in Waharau on the 10th August, with a toughness factor rating of 9.5/10.  Should be fun ;)

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Game on

I mentioned recently that my marathon training had started, but I wasn't expecting it to go well over the school holidays with Deane often away and the kids (obviously) home 24/7.  I was out of free babysitting options too, which meant I couldn't just sneak out for a quick blat around the neighbourhood.  That was certainly the case for the first week, with Deane in Sydney.  I was a little annoyed about it, but was happy about the fact that I managed to get a lot of other stuff done - spring cleaning and de-cluttering, finishing my laceweight hoodie (more on that later) and lots of other tiny little things that didn't take long to do, but were way down on the priority list.  I didn't even end up jumping on the bike because of aforementioned assorted other stuff.  I had planned on going for two long runs over the weekend - 15km on Saturday and 23-24km on Sunday.  Well, Saturday morning ended up being horrendously wet and windy with severe weather warnings, and I had other things planned for the rest of the day which completely ruled out the first run.  After the week I'd had, I did not hold back on the whinging over missed training!  And I felt the need to make up for it by going for an extra long run on Sunday.  What was going to be about 23-24km ended up being 31km!  And boy, did it feel gooooooooood!  I arrived home in a much, much happier mood.  The weather held out really well, and for the most part I had good company too.  Martin ran to my place, arriving at 7am.  We headed to Cornwall Park and met up with a few others, and proceeded to run a couple of laps including One Tree Hill.  I am very pleased to say I ran up both times without stopping :)  Hill endurance for the win!  After that, they all headed off for coffee/breakfast, and I ran home.  Not happy with leaving it at 29km, I decided to extend the run a little to round it out to 30km - I ended up overshooting a little, oops ;)

Auckland Domain, early morning

View of Rangitoto from One Tree Hill

The lovely peeps I got to run with - Richard, Martin, Deb and Dan

31km, in under three hours no less! (Actual run time - I paused for all the stops)

But I still had another week of school holidays ahead of me, which potentially meant more missed training opportunities.  What to do?  Monday was a rest day because seriously OMG 31km, and Tuesday I finally got around to setting up the bike trainer again so did half an hour of relatively vigorous cycling.  And Wednesday?  Well, Wednesday saw me doing 10km on my brand-spanking new treadmill!!!  The guy who delivered it was kind enough to set it up for me so it was all ready to go.

One can only assume my whinging became annoying enough that it warranted a significant purchase...  In case you were wondering, I have since moved it because I quickly realised running while staring at a white wall is incredibly boring.

Thursday morning was a super early start - at 5am Martin and I embarked on a 22km run through a bunch of Auckland suburbs.

5am and ready to roll!

I took this photo at about 6am, a little over halfway through the run:

About ten minutes later I tripped on some uneven paving.  Determined not to injure my legs, I managed to do a bit of a sideways dive roll manoeuvre.  My hands hit the concrete, but I landed on the grass verge on my shoulder and did a complete roll to end up on my butt, yelling "I rolled!".  I was rather pleased with myself :)  Apparently it looked pretty stylish too, lol!  It wasn't until the next day that I felt any effects - my shoulder is a little sore, but there's no bruising so I guess its not too bad.  Weird running injuries - I haz them ;)  The views on the run were pretty good, although as always, the pictures don't really show it:

Hello sunrise, nice to see you.

Friday was another 10km on the treadmill, this time while watching a Harry Potter movie with the kids.  Much more interesting than a blank wall ;)

Yep, that treadmill is pretty darned handy...  there's no excuse to skip marathon training any more!  If I can't make it out the door, I can still get a run in.  Hurrah!  Less than three months to go now, so training is in full swing.  Game on!  Gosh, that marathon is creeping up fast...  The combination of the looming marathon and the 50 Days of Winter Running challenge has really made an impact on my weekly mileage.  I've enjoyed participating in the challenge, and seeing how others have been progressing as well.  It definitely kept me motivated!  And in case you were wondering, the challenge is also the reason for the run-selfies lately. Y'know, in case I didn't manage to get a good pic of the scenery...  Don't worry, I spared you from most of them ;)  Tomorrow marks the end of the 50 days, and it will be finished off in style with a 15.5km gnarly trail run in Dome Valley.  Looks like the weather will be cold and wet too.  Fitting I guess, for a winter running challenge...

Along with the increase in mileage comes the increase in appetite.  Ever heard of the term 'rungry'?  Here, let me help you out a little:

I can relate to this one (although sub the greek yogurt for granola):

Eating so much food!!!  I have a granola addiction at the moment - current faves are the chunky chocolate buckwheat granola (seriously love that stuff!) and a new find, coconut macadamia granola.  I made a batch, then ate a quarter of it in the first two days.  Dangerously good!  I subbed pine nuts for the hemp seeds since we can't legally buy hemp seeds for human consumption in New Zealand, and they worked really well.  I think I'm going to have to stop making granola for a while, because I end up eating it for breakfast, snacks, dessert, sometimes lunch, or second dessert, or third dessert... yeah, too much granola...  But just look what happens when you try to branch out and make something nice like blueberry oatmeal waffles:

Nailed it! Hahahaha!!

After that minor fail, I managed to salvage my breakfast by making pancakes with the remaining batter:

Much better :)

I stumbled across a new product in the supermarket the other day, and after a quick perusal of the ingredients list, happily added it to the shopping basket:

Dairy and egg free, yay!

You must go out and buy this bread and try it.  Yuuuuuuuuuum!!!  Nobody else here is eating it so the whole loaf is mine!  And I've nearly finished it already...  The slices are super thick, and its great toasted with jam, or cashew butter, or just dairy free margarine.  Again, not really eating it for breakfast...  Unless breakfast is now an all-day thing ;)

Okay, this post is getting super long, so I'm going to finish up here.  Next post - Dome Valley race recap.  Post after that - knitting!  Yep, still knitting, just not as much.  I've got a few finished projects to tell you about, so I'll see you again soon :)  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

What's important to you?

Ever just wondered, during the course of your day, what are the most important things in your life?  I happened to be contemplating this yesterday, while de-cluttering the boys' room.  Being stuck at home with the boys during school holidays while it's stormy outside and Deane's away does have benefits I guess - much-needed spare time to get 'things' done that haven't been done for an age.

So anyway, I was thinking about what was most important to me, and it came down to four things (in no particular order):
  • Food
  • Sleep
  • My people
  • Experiencing life
Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it?  In a nutshell, I guess that's what it's really all about.

Food is essential to life, but there's no reason why we can't make it an enjoyable aspect of our everyday.  Branching out and trying new things is part of the fun, and eating healthy (with the occasional splurge on the decidedly un-healthy) doesn't have to be a chore.  Every few months we order our 20kg of grass fed 'happy cow' beef, and stock the extra space in the freezer with chicken, lamb, pork and a few bits of game meat.  This makes it easier to meal plan, with a list on the wall above the freezer of exactly what we have.   Of course, since September last year this has been purely for the omnivores (or as T likes to say, the omnomnomnivores) in our family - aka, not me.  What keeps me happy is the weekly delivery of our Foodbox.  I know what's arriving every week, and sometimes there's stuff in the box I wouldn't ordinarily buy myself - new things to try, or something to get creative with.  I enjoy the challenge of trying to come up with healthy, nutritious meals with what we have in the fridge.  Yesterday I tried a roasted cauliflower and leek soup, and was pleasantly surprised.  It was delicious, and I'm looking forward to having the other half for dinner again tonight (I halved the batch):

Excuse the head-shadow...

Today for lunch I'm going to give beet, avocado and grapefruit salad a go.  I'm not a fan of grapefruit or beetroot, but don't mind them mixed with other things.  I'm looking forward to seeing how they go together :)

Planning ahead and being organised makes cooking weekly meals a lot easier.  I've gotten into the habit of cooking and freezing large batches of chickpeas, kidney beans and black beans at a time and freezing them in half cup or one cup lots since I usually cook vegan meals for just myself.  Having said that, halving or quartering recipes isn't always possible, so the occasional meal ends up being a three-night affair, or freezer leftovers.  My pantry is always stocked with nuts, seeds, grains, pulses, spices (seriously, 43 different spices (probably more since I counted) and they're all used regularly), flours, sugars and natural sweeteners, and all the other random assorted items that come in handy for cooking and baking.  Having pre-made steel cut oatmeal in the fridge in single serves has been great too - hot, filling, healthy breakfast only takes a couple of minutes!  My list of recipes to try is forever growing, but I'm crossing things off the list as fast as I can too - so much fun, and so much good food!

Sleep is also an essential part of life, and again, something that doesn't have to be awful.  I adore my bed, and look forward to hopping in to it every evening.  I'm a morning person so don't spend much time in it once I've woken up - my 'sleep in' (if you could call it that) is usually over by 7.30 if I have one (which isn't often), and once in a blue moon I might lie in and read for a while, but I've usually got stuff I'd rather be doing so I generally get out of bed as soon as I'm awake.  Breakfast is a big contributing factor - I love breakfast, and often go to bed the night before, thinking about what I'm going to have in the morning :)  A comfortable bed is important, so a good mattress is definitely something worth spending money on, as is good linen.  We've had two sets of 1,000 thread count cotton sheets for about ten years and they are the softest, most comfortable, beautiful sheets to sleep on, but sadly they are becoming threadbare and have slight tears in a couple of places.  Sad face :(  So, after spending several months contemplating and researching different types of sheets, we finally splurged on a set of 100% linen sheets, pillow cases, and duvet cover.  Yes they are expensive, and straight out of the box (and after a wash) they are a little rough (particularly after sleeping on aforementioned ten-year-old softness), but linen sheets are known for softening more and more as they age, and lasting for a generation (or two).  Call me crazy, but I am excited about this.  I slept on them last night and they weren't too bad.  I am really looking forward to enjoying them and their growing softness for many more years to come.

Hello bed, I love you.

The people in your life are what makes it all worthwhile.  Family and friends are what hold you together.  They share in your experiences, make you laugh, make you cry, make your heart burst with pride and joy and love, and infuriate the crap out of you.  Where would I be without my people?  My mum and dad, my sisters, my husband of thirteen years, my two boys, extended family and in-laws, my best friend, all the other friends I've made along the way... so many good people, who are all amazing in their own way.  I wouldn't want to be without them, and I wouldn't be where I am today without them.  Y'all are the best!

My boys are in the midst of their mid-year school holidays, and they're enjoying things like a movie night sleepover, and mall-shopping ice cream and juice breaks:

Fun times ;)

Today we have the not-so-fun outing for allergy shots, but we'll improve it slightly with a much-wanted enderman purchase (for T - hooray for pocket money!) and comic book purchase (for X).

Now, experiencing life... this covers everything from the big adventures like trips overseas to see another part of the world (always exciting and fascinating), and the little things like enjoying a sunrise or sunset, or even just how the sky looks at any particular point of the day, the sound of the rain on the roof or the wind howling, hearing the birds sing, watching insects and other little creatures go about their day - a spider spinning a web, an ant carrying some food, bees pollinating flowers... seeing the patterns in plants, or wood grain... looking up at the night sky and seeing the moon and the stars... the world is an amazing place, and everything in it has a purpose.  A reason for being there.

Even the everyday experiences are a part of what makes you who you are.  Studying for a degree as an adult has been quite the learning curve - not just the subject matter, but how to manage time and juggle all the balls (family, hobbies, exercise, household, etc).  As hard as it is at times, I'm enjoying learning all that I can.

The people I've met, the things I've seen, and the experiences I've had and shared through things like running and knitting are something I'm so glad to have been a part of.  I'm looking forward to experiencing so much more - running, in particular, will be a huge factor in this.  I have seen so much of Auckland and its surrounding areas through running - suburban streets, little pockets of sanctuary hidden amongst the urban sprawl, amazingly beautiful regional parks... and the people!  Runners are a wonderful, friendly bunch.  I'm not the most social of runners and struggle to strike up a conversation at times (and I have a 'bitchy resting race' that makes me look unapproachable), but although I may not be the most chatty, rest assured I'm enjoying the experience.  Just very quietly :)

Gosh, that turned out to be quite a waffly post, didn't it?  Let's chalk it up to procrastination.  Now I need to go have a shower and continue with my spring-cleaning/de-cluttering.  Today, the spare room!

So people, I ask you - what is most important to you?  Think about it...

Monday, 7 July 2014

Love the run

My marathon training has officially commenced!  Having said that, it's school holidays and Deane is away all this week (seriously, I'm sure he's moving to Australia without us.  His backup plan appears to be Wellington) so although I managed to squeeze in a slow 6km this morning, that'll probably be it until the weekend.  Helloooooo bike trainer!  We'll be hanging this week, just so you know...

This last few weeks has seen some pretty good runs though.  Even the shorter, mid-week runs are pretty cool.  Last Wednesday my training program called for a 10km hill run, so I decided to visit Mt Eden.  If you take into account the run up Hepburn Street, Newton Road, and Mt Eden Road, then two times up and down Mt Eden before reversing the trip home (which, naturally, also has uphills along with the downs), I'd say it was a pretty good hill workout!  The hill runs for the next few weeks call for 10km or 11km, so I think I'll stick with it for now, throwing in an extra up-and-down of Mt Eden for the 11km runs.  After that the distance increases, so I'll plan a new route.  Friday's run was a 10km PB - 49:39!  Woohoo!

But my favourite training run so far (all of one week in to it) would have to be yesterday's run.  A group of five of us headed into the Cascade Kauri regional park in the Waitakere Ranges, and ran some very technical trails adding up to 19.2km.  The scenery was amazing!  Sadly, my phone is on its way out and died every time I tried to take a photo, so I only got a few along the way, and nothing spectacular like the tramway or the waterfalls :(  We drove to the end of Falls Road, and started along Whatitiri Track, then onto Long Road Track.  We detoured onto Wainamu Bush Track then back along Smyth Ridge Track before joining back onto Long Road Track.  From there we headed along Fence Line Track before crossing the dam at the end of Waitakere Reservoir and running along the Waitakere Tramline Walk, finishing up along Anderson Track.  Such a good run, so much terrain variation (mud, gravel, grass, tree roots, stairs, stream crossings, tram lines, boardwalks, dirt, vegetation... you name it!), beautiful birdsong the whole way, and stunning surroundings.  We were lucky to get good weather - a little chilly, but perfect for when you're on the move!

I would never have remembered all the track names while running them, but was able to compare my Nike GPS tracking to the topographic map and figure out exactly where we'd gone.  Very handy!  I'll have to remember this for future bush runs :)

The regional park is named for the majestic kauri trees in the area, and it was good to see a large amount of kauri dieback hygiene stations along the way, and everyone using them.  Some of the tracks in the park were closed for research purposes (to further understand the nature and spread of the disease), but our run host had done his research and knew the route he'd mapped out would be all clear.  We were out on the trails for over three hours, but actual run time was about 2 hours 37.  Considering the technical nature of the trails, I thought this was a pretty good time.  There were definitely some pretty decent downhills!!  I was feeling really strong and had a really good day.  I had a power cookie for run fuel, which clearly did the trick!  My uphill endurance is improving, and Richard (the run host) set a good, steady, manageable uphill pace to keep up with.  I'd love to head back some time soon and run the area again - it was just so fun!  Next time, I'll get pics of the tramline, tunnel, trees and waterfalls in the area.  Beautiful.

Afterwards, we scoffed a big lunch at the Swanson Station Cafe - I got the corn fritters sans bacon and sour cream:

Yum!  I haven't been posting much about food on here lately (I'm sure you've noticed!) but that doesn't mean I'm not cooking up a storm!  I'm still going through 'the oatmeal trials', although branching out from The Oatmeal Artist and trying other recipes along the way (such as these), I'm still trying out recipes I find on Pinterest (and most of them are pretty good), and I still have my main fave vegan websites to draw from - my current pick has to be Minimalist Baker.  Such.  Good.  Food!!!  When I do post foodie pics, they're usually on Instagram.  Pretty much all vegan, although I'm also trying out different meat-based recipes for the boys.  We've found a few faves for them too :)  This break in study is giving me a little more time to plan meals and try slightly more challenging things.  Tonight, I'll be giving corn tortillas a go!  I sweet-talked Deane into letting me buy a tortilla press over the weekend.  Now I have to learn how to use it ;)

Fun times ahead!  I'll let you know how I get on, and promise to take pics of any disasters.  They're always entertaining :)  Enjoy your week!!

Edited to add:

Dinner was a success!!

Excuse the terrible photos, I was in a hurry to eat ;)