Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Best of 2015: Books

Goodreads has the following ratings: 1 star = did not like it, 2 stars = it was okay, 3 stars = liked it, 4 stars = really liked it, 5 stars = it was amazing. This year I read 77 books and only gave four of them 5 stars. Those four were:

Still Alice by Lisa Genova: This was a heartbreaking story about a woman who gets early onset Alzheimer. She is a brilliant Harvard professor and it is really hard to read about her experience as she struggles to deal with day to day life and to come to terms with her disease. I could not put the book down even though I really did not want to get to the end.

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park: A true story about two different children in the Sudan. One is a girl who has to walk all day every day to go and get water and bring it back to her home. The other is a boy who gets separated from his family by war and ends up in s a surprising place in the end.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I am a sucker for a book about WWII and this one was no exception! This was a story about a blind French girl and a German radio operator who we follow along each of their own paths in the war until they finally meet in the French village of Saint Malo. The writer does a great job of keeping you entertained while giving us a bit of WWII history at the same time.

The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah: Yet another WWII book, this one is also set in German occupied France and it gives us a bit of insight into the role that women had in the war and as part of the Resistance.

There were also several which I gave 4 stars to. Of those, these were my favorites:

The Martian by Andy Weir: A story about a man accidentally stranded on Mars and his attempt at survival and his hope for rescue.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett: A bunch of short stories about writing, life, love and friendship. She has a quick wit and a way of writing that I really enjoyed.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: Another WWII book! This one is about an English girl who gets captured by the Germans and the story takes place while she is being interrogated by them. She gives them as little information as possible, but in the end, she does give them information.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio: The story of a kid born with a facial abnormality and his struggles to fit into "real life". You can't help but love him and you want to protect him from the outside world.

11/22/63 by Stephen King: The story of a man who goes back in time in order to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy. However, no action is without consequence. The only complaint I had about this book is that it was very long! It was almost 900 pages. Otherwise it was a hit.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion: The story of an autistic man and his quest for a girlfriend. Being a man of lists, he creates one to guide him on his quest.

What were your favorite books in 2015? 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Ho Ho Holiday!

I hope that everyone is having a wonderful week! Today after I get off work, I will drive up to the (snowy!) mountains where my parents live, where I will don flannel and wool and will spend time eating and reading and kicking butt in Rummikub (hopefully). This year my brother is not going to make it, but it will be nice to see my parents and my aunt and her family and to partake in the annual traditions.


The other thing I always love is getting together for the annual day after Christmas breakfast. It has been a tradition that my high school friends and I have had for probably about 10 years, if not more. Most years, most of us make it and a lot of the time the Moms and sometimes even my Dad, some brothers or even a boyfriend or two straggle in as well. It's always great to catch up with the girls and to see the kids get older and older. Last year I missed it since Christmas was on a Wednesday and I had to work, so this year I am looking forward to it twice as much!

I hope that everyone out there has a great weekend and a joyous holiday!

What are your plans for the next few days? Do you have any annual traditions? 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Best of 2015: Travel

It's my favorite time of year again! It's time for the Best of 2015! First, I am going to start with one of my favorites, in fact you may even call it the best of the "Best of": travel.

It's always hard to decide where the best travel places were each year! This year I was lucky to go to several new places as well as a couple of "tried and trues". However, even in the familiar places, sometimes there was a bit of a twist!

Mt. Baker, WA

Portland, OR

Tetons, WY

Rocky Mountain, CO

Home Sweet Home, CA

Half Dome / Yosemite -- May

Sisters Wilderness, OR

Tahoe Rim Trail, NV

Antelope Lake, CA

John Muir Trail / Yosemite - August

TMB, Chamonix, France 

NYC - View from Tribeca

As you can see, much of my travels this year involved the outdoors! This year while traveling, I tried snowshoeing for the first time, I tasted at least 28 different kinds of new beers (that is just a guess), I made a lot of new friends and cemented a lot of old friendships.

This year, I got to see parts of Yosemite I had never seen before, I revisited a couple of states that I haven't seen much of (CO, WY), I revisited a couple of states that I know and love (OR, WA, NY) and I added one new state (Idaho) to my "states I've visited" list.

I had a fabulous 2 weeks in the Alps of France, Switzerland and Italy where I hiked every day, ate way too many baguettes and cheese, drank too much wine and took a lot of photos of the same mountain from all different angles.

I feel so lucky that I have the means to travel and that my health is good. I am also lucky that I have a family that instilled the love of adventure, travel and the outdoors in me!  I try my hardest not to take things like that for granted. I don't know who I would be without some of the places that I have been. All in all, I would call this a successful year of travel and I can't wait to see what 2016 has in store for me!

What journey did you take in 2015? What was your favorite destination this year? 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Bit of Color

In my industry, when we are looking for information, we ask for "color", as in, "can I get some color on that sale at Nordstrom?" And the person would say, "it's tomorrow from 8 - 5." 

Here's a "bit of color" about me: 

I am reading two books (one for the bus on my Kindle, one hardback for home) and they are The Architects Apprentice and The Beekeepers Apprentice. It's a coincidence that both of them have the word Apprentice in them!! Both are good so far! The Architect is about Istanbul in the 1500s; the Beekeeper is about Sherlock Holmes. I hope to finish both by the end of the year, which will bring my total books read this year to 77 books. 

I am looking forward to this weekend, when we will have our group holiday dinner for work, next week, which is a short week where I will go and visit family and friends, and a good night's sleep, which I may not get for another week or so, but whenever I get it, it will be great. 

I am eating a lot of "comfort" foods lately. Soups, stews and desserts have been on the menu a lot lately, and I need to get back into the habit of eating more healthy. 

I am planning my running schedule for next year with hopefully a couple of vacation trips sprinkled in. It's hard to plan around 5 other people's schedules (only one of us can have a day off at a time at work), summer plans, family things and races!!! I know, it's a hard problem to have... 

I am putting off buying the last of my gifts. I have to buy a gift for a coworker's wife for our holiday party and I don't really know her well and I have no idea what to get her! 

What are you reading? What should I get my coworker's wife? 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Need to Buck Up

This year has been a strange one for me. I would say I have been "busy" but I don't know if I have been any busier than I was last year, or the year before that. There is always something on the To Do list; there is always something to fill the time. (See this post from 2013 where I was having similar "issues").

However, for some reason, this year, I have felt more of a change in my mindset, or my motivation. Or maybe I have just shifted my priorities. I am not really sure what the catalyst was or where the mood started to shift, but this year, I feel like I have been slacking in a few of my normal, pleasurable departments.

I used to talk a lot about running on this space. In 2012, I think I ran almost 40 races, including 12 half marathons and 2 marathons and my first ultra. In 2013, I traveled to Boston, Washington DC and BC for races and I ran my first 50 miler. In 2014, I ran 10 races over 50k. This year, I started off great. I wanted to run my first 100 mile race. I was training in January and I felt strong. I was running up hills with gusto. Then I fell one day and sprained my ankle pretty badly and my training went downhill and my fitness started to decline. Of course, I still had races on the calendar, because a lot of the races you have to sign up for really early.

The first race was Jed Smith, which is a loop course. I ran it about 45 minutes slower than I had the year before. My ego took a dive. The next one was the Gorges 100k in Portland in March. I had not trained enough as my ankle was just beginning to feel better, and this one was not as fast as I would have liked either. Next up was Lake Sonoma 50M, where I did not do as well as I wanted but I actually did better than I thought I would. The weekend after that I had a road race, which hurt me more than all of the other races combined (I was sore for days!).

I had a few week gap, where I ran intermittently, and then came the big one, Quicksilver 100k, where I did much better than I thought I would and was actually very happy with my time. The "training" by way of racing actually worked this time. But I had signed up for another race the next weekend and this one was my nemesis. It's called the Silverstate 50M and it's near Reno and it's got a couple of huge climbs and it's at about 7000 - 8000 ft. Last year I ran it while injured and it was horrible. I got the worst time I have ever gotten and the last climb was torture. This year I actually felt pretty good for the first 40 miles, but then for the last 10 I felt nauseated and tired. I crossed the finish line and had to go and sit by myself in the porta-potty just in case I was going to lose my lunch.

In the weeks after that, I had no energy. BUT, what I haven't said is this. There is another component to the story. In February, I started house shopping. Every week I scoured the internet. Every weekend I went to open houses. Every couple of weeks, I put in offers that got turned down. Finally, in April, my offer got accepted and thus started the downhill slide into home ownership. My escrow was 21 days and it closed on May 19th, three days after Silverstate. So I was physically and mentally tired.

The trifecta of this story is that work also ramped up at this point in a major way. My duties and responsibilities were doubling and tripling. I am not complaining, but I am just saying that when I got home after work, the last thing I wanted to do was run. I wanted to sleep. I did not sleep. I pulled weeds and moved furniture. I made many trips to Home Depot and Target. I paid bills and sorted files and went through all my old clothes. But I barely ran.

Fast forward to now. Today my average miles per week are about 30, if I am lucky. I am snacking more than I would like. My pants are starting to get a bit snug. The only thing saving me is my daily commute to work. But who am I kidding; the commute is not saving me, it's only prolonging the inevitable. So I need to buck up and get back on the horse and stop making excuses.

But I don't want to. I would rather bake a cake (and eat half of it in one sitting while watching Top Chef and making excuses).

How do you get out of a slump? 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Looking Back: November

November was one of those months where you feel kind of relaxed and you think you have plenty of time until Christmas and then all of a sudden, you get a slap in the face because it's already Thanksgiving and the advent calendars are about to come out. This November I even scheduled a couple of "free" days in order to get some of my December errands done early, but they quickly became "non-free days" or at the very least "not as productive as I wanted them to be" days.

Running: This month I did have a couple of long weekend runs (20 + 20 + 18 miles respectively). That coupled with a race gave me a grand total for the month of 126 miles. Aside from a run or two on the weekends, I have not been doing a lot of weekly workouts. However, I did rack up 20 miles of hiking, 18 miles of cycling and 3 strength training sessions. My goal for December is to do at least 2 strength training sessions per week.

Reading: I only read 4 books in November, which on one hand is a bit surprising since I did travel for work. However, on the other hand, when traveling on the plane I watched movies instead of reading (The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game). Also, one of the books I read was 849 pages long and it took me a while to finish! The four books were:

A Spool of Blue Thread (3 stars)
Into Thin Air (4 stars)
11/22/63 (4 stars)
A Tale For The Time Being (3 stars)

Travel: November was (mostly) a month of  doing things around my local area. I spent a couple of weekends going over to Marin to run on the Dipsea trail, I had my Dad visit and we worked on some things around the house, I had people over for dinner, and I met up with friends for hikes. In addition, I hosted 17 people for Thanksgiving at my house, which went over pretty well in my opinion!

I did travel for work to New York, and I spent a fun time with old friends in Brooklyn and Queens before heading over to Manhattan for two days in the office there. My favorite thing to do in the city is to eat and I did plenty of that! I had great Haitian meat pies in Brooklyn and Russian food in Queens, and then in Manhattan went to two great restaurants: Deux Amis and NoMad.

I am looking forward to January when it will be a bit more relaxed and I can finally do that project in the yard that I have been meaning to do for the last 6 months (wow, has it really been 6 months already?). Until then, there will be a barrage of Christmas parties (I have 3 in the next week alone!) and a bit of shopping and cookie making and eating and visiting and hosting. And eating.

How did November go for you? What is your favorite Christmas cookie (to make or to eat)? How many Holiday parties will you be attending this year?