Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Knitty Last Few Months of the Year

My knitting has not abated; in fact, it's becoming a full-blown addiction!  Love the yarns!  Love to shop for them!  Love looking at what's new in pattern designs.  And my yarn stash has grown beyond the point of guilt!

The nice thing about knitting is how portable it is. I've taken a knitting project with me on nearly every trip this year.

The yarn for this sweater, called Julissa, came with me on my trip to WY-CO-NM and saw much of its time in my lap while I was in Santa Fe NM.


I had some of my favorite Cascade yarn in my stash, so immediately after finishing Julissa, I cast on and started knitting this beautiful long-sleeve version of Phryne.  I'd knitted a short-sleeve version of it in the spring, and really liked the fit and the pattern so modified it to add long sleeves.  The project came with me to Salt Lake City, where I ran the Big Cottonwood half marathon.  I finished it after I returned from a trip to Michigan for a wedding later that month.

Long-sleeve Phryne

My next race was in Kansas City, and another new project came along with me on that trip.  I eagerly jumped into this sweater, called Nanook, since I absolutely loved the design and the yarn!


I had a long 12-day trip planned to New England to run three half marathons, one in Hartford, one in Newport, and one in Lowell MA.  So a knitting project was definitely needed!  The yarn, needles, and pattern came with me in my checked suitcase and I put plenty of hours into this cardigan sweater, which has a pattern number, not a name, so I'm calling it my Cabled Gusset sweater.  I managed to nearly complete the entire sweater on this trip!

Cabled Gussets Cardigan

Sandwiched in between my trip to New England and a quick dash over to New Orleans to run a half marathon, I cast on and finished this beautiful wrap called Rose Garden!  The yarn is sumptuously soft baby merino and cashmere.  So cuddly!!  I can't wait to bring it with me on the cruise ship in February!

Rose Garden

I flew to Las Vegas for a race, brought some knitting with me, but never pulled it out and worked on it.  So when I returned, I spent the next three weeks furiously working on three different sweaters, two of which I'd started before that Las Vegas trip.  One is a beautiful cardigan that I'd had in my knitting queue for nearly a year and the yarn in my stash for at least 6 months.  It's called Grown Up Girl, and I adore the final product!

Grown Up Girl

The other sweater knitted up quickly in a beautiful bulky Peruvian natural wool yarn and is called Eased.  It came out great!  In fact, I love the yarn the sweater so much, I'm knitting another in a dyed version of this yarn.

Eased - comfy like a sweatshirt!

The third sweater is another that had been sitting in my queue for months and the yarn in my stash for nearly that long.  It's called Elliptical Pleated Cardigan and I chose a linen and merino wool yarn in a pretty gray-blue shade.  As I knitted it, I was having my doubts and nearly decided to quit on it a couple of times, but I am so glad that I hung in there, because once I got close to finishing it, the sweater finally began to take shape.  Some projects are like that...it's hard to envision the final product because of the method of knitting construction until it's nearly done.

Elliptical Pleated Cardigan

I wanted to make something for my daughter-in-law but since they live in San Diego, there's not much use for most sweaters, except at night time.  Although I may need to take another look a the possibilities for sweaters for their family.  But I knitted her that same Rose Garden wrap, only in a merino wool with a foil yarn wrap, which gives it just a little bit of sparkle when the light hits it the right way.  It's in black with black foil yarn wrap, and came out gorgeous!  She loves it!

Rose Garden wrap for daughter-in-law

this photo demonstrates the bit of foil wrap sparkle when the light
hits it just the right way.
A nice trip over to Panama City for the week before Christmas gave me plenty of time to knit this wonderful pullover sweater.  It's another project that I doubted I would like when done, but I am so glad that I kept at it, since I love it and have even purchased more yarn to make it again in a different color!  It's called Jasmine.  I made a minor modification to lengthen the sleeves and can't wait to wear it!

I now have another project cast onto my needles, another lightweight cardigan and have started my second Eased sweater.

Donna and her very first completed knitting project

A nice lunch before getting into knitting.  We stayed at it
for so long that we ordered in pizza for dinner!

Donna's fabulous holiday cookies!
My good friend Donna came over the Saturday after Christmas.  I made us lunch, she brought some of her fabulous homemade cookies, and we spent the rest of the day and well into the evening knitting together.  She's a new knitter and just completed her very first project, a scarf.   A couple of weeks earlier we had gotten together and I helped her order some yarn and needles to make her very own Eased sweater, so we spent this day helping her get it cast on and started.  It has some techniques she's never done before, so I got her started, and she's well on her way with it.

London Broil on the grill, with salad

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Sweet Re-Visit to Panama City

It is so ironic that I have high school friends living in Panama City.  You see, I went to high school in nearby Milton FL while my dad was an NAS flight instructor at Whiting Field.  We were transferred during my junior year, moving to Massachusetts. Here I made a few friends and finished out my high school career then went off to college.  I stayed in touch with my best friend Linda from that high school in Massachusetts until I moved away in the  mid-1980's.   I reconnected with her just 3 or 4 years ago, thanks to Facebook, only to learn that she and her two sisters Marcia and Sandy and her mom were now living, of all places,  in the panhandle of Florida, just 70 miles east of where I lived before moving to Massachusetts and meeting them.  Talk about weird!!

There's a very nice Marriott timeshare property on the bay between Panama City and Panama City Beach, and I like going back there, especially near Christmas.  I can visit my friends, get some good runs in, eat some of the best Apalachicola oysters, and relax in the off-season desertion of this town.

I went back there again the week before Christmas this year.  It's a good solid, full day's drive to get there, but I've driven across this stretch of I-10 so many times that I could do it in my figurative sleep.  There are two very nice grocery stores right near the resort - a Winn-Dixie and a Publix - so I stopped and did my week's grocery shopping before continuing on to the resort property and checking in.  As always, the units are plush, nicely furnished and giant.  About 1300 square feet with two bedrooms, two baths, washer-dryer in the unit, large well-appointed full kitchen, dining area, living area, and screened balcony.

It was a charming week!  Since my best friend Linda had moved back to New England the previous year, I didn't get to see her but did meet up with the other two sisters a few times during my visit.  But while I was in Lowell MA to run the Baystate Half Marathon last October, I was able to visit with Linda and have lunch with her.

I met one of the sisters - Marcia - for lunch at Hunt's Oyster Bar in the historic St. Andrews section of PC.  This is becoming a tradition for me.  Can't go to Panama City without going to Hunt's.  The local oysters are large and succulent and sweet.  Oh, my!
Hunt's Oyster Bar in historic St. Andrews

Six for an appetizer, a dozen for the main course!

Marcia is a very active volunteer for the local animal spay/neuter and feral cats programs, so before driving to Hunt's, I stopped at the grocery store and bought two 25-lb bags of Purina One Cat Chow and two large boxes of Fresh Step Extreme Kitty Litter.  It was a small investment on my part to a very large and worthwhile program on Panama City's part and more specifically on the worthwhile work that Marcia does, much of it supported out of her own pocket.

After lunch, Marcia suggested a coffee house nearby that I might enjoy, so we said our goodbyes with plans to meet up later in the week, and I strolled on down the little main street to Saint Andrews Coffee House for a wonderful cappuccino and a peppermint brownie.

Data from my GPS watch.  running some of the roads in Legend Point

The next morning I got a  nice little run in, in the rain, then stayed close to "home" for the afternoon keeping warm and dry.  Linda's daughter lives in PCB and has a son who turns 1 year old this week, so I did a little shopping for a gift to take to his birthday party later in the week.  A quick texting consult with my daughter-in-law regarding suggestions for gift items and I headed out to the store.

The "spoils," purchased at the nearby Publix grocery store.
The sippy cup and snack cup are staples in my son's family.
The soft vinyl squeezy bath toys are similar to those that my
granddaughter totally latched onto.  A bait bucket!! What a
perfect toddler "tote around!"  The hinged lid opens with an
easy squeeze of the latch, simple for a toddler to deal with.

Everything stuffed inside the bucket and wrapped loosely
for a toddler to tear into.

Wednesday the memory of those succulent oysters was weighing on my mind so I drove back over to St. Andrews and had a progressive lunch...a dozen raw oysters at Hunt's, and then a bowl of white bean and ham soup at St. Andrews Coffee House followed by one of their cream cheese brownies and a cappuccino.

The birthday party late that afternoon was everything you'd expect for a one-year old and then, afterward, Sandy took me to a very nice restaurant called Salt Water Grill for dinner.  Its biggest feature is the enormous salt water fish tank that occupies the central portion of the building.  We feasted on red snapper and enjoyed the live pianist.  Very pleasant!

Thursday was chili cheese dogs for lunch at the Wreck Room by the pool of the Marriott so I took advantage of it and brought two dogs back to my condo and ate them in front of movie.  I could tell those guests who were snowbirds.  They were the ones sitting by the pool in shorts and swimsuits while the rest of us huddled in our jackets and sweaters in our heated condos.

Data from my GPS watch.  running my favorite 5-mile route in Legends Point

Friday morning I went out for a longer, 5-mile run and as I was chugging along, I heard a car pull up behind me going slowly and then pull up along side me.  It was Marcia!!  She was in the area delivering a Christmas gift to an elderly friend of her late mom.  What a surprise!  She made the "call me" hand signal then pulled away.

I finished my run and once I got cleaned up and had lunch, I called Marcia and Sandy and we made a plan to meet for dinner that night at Carraba's.

While I waited for them to arrive, I looked around at the gorgeous poinsettias which were everywhere, I watched the other diners as they arrived, so festive and animated, some dressed for a party, and I thought about how this holiday, like no other, brings people together. The three of us ate ourselves to beyond fullness, enjoyed some wine - and one chocolate martini (!) - and then shared some dessert among us.
I wasn't sure if I would be staying until Sunday or if I would get up the next morning and leave a day early, so we said our goodbyes, not knowing when we'd see each other again.  But I enjoyed the time that I did have with these two friends.  I will miss them.

In the end, the fact that I still had enough groceries left for one more day and evening, ultimately made my decision to stay until Sunday morning.

Nyla immediately claimed her spot under the tree
Saturday night, I packed everything but the few items I'd need to get ready in the morning and loaded the car.  I had a few grocery items left, but I knew they'd travel well in the car. Now just one more night's sleep and I'd be heading for home.

It was a nice visit, sad that Linda couldn't be there with us, a little sad that their mom had passed away the previous winter, and sad that this trip wasn't heading toward San Diego to spend the holidays with  my son and his family.

I left PCB at 7:30 AM and arrived home at 6:30 PM to a happy cat.  I grabbed a quick dinner and then got to work setting up the Christmas tree and decorating it, eager to lend some cheer to the empty house.  Happy Holidays!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

San Antonio Rock n Roll Half Marathon

What we runners won't do for extra bling!!

I decided that since I was in for a dime, I might as well be in for a dollar, might as well add the San Antonio RnR Half Marathon to my 2014 race calendar.  The Rock 'n Roll Marathon Series has a Heavy Metal challenge....run two different Rock 'n Roll Marathons or Half's in a year and get an additional medal.  Run a third one, get another medal.  And so on.  So I decided that since I already had Portland RnR Half Marathon done, and had also signed up to do the Las Vegas RnR Half Marathon, I'd go ahead and sign up for a third one for 2014, the San Antonio Half Marathon.

San Antonio is only 185 miles from my house, so I knew it would just be an easy and quick overnight trip.  Throw my running clothes into a tote bag, leave the house just before noon, be in San Antonio by mid-afternoon, check in at the hotel, walk next door to the convention center to get my race packet, get up Sunday morning and run the race, hop in the car and drive home.  Be home by dinner time.

Couldn't be any easier.  Except the traffic in downtown San Antonio on a beautiful Saturday afternoon was a nightmare!  Every intersection was gridlocked as cars tried to negotiate left and right turns through hordes of pedestrian tourists in the crosswalks.   I did manage to work my way to the entrance of the Grand Hyatt and gladly turned my car over to valet parking.

I checked in, chucked my bag into the room and then headed back down to the lobby, out the side door to the adjoining San Antonio Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.  Out front was a Mazda test-drive canopy with a dozen different Mazda autos lined up.  Traffic was just too busy for them to conduct test drives, but if I gave a representative a few minutes of my time taking a tour of one of the cars, I'd get a $10 Starbucks gift card.  Heck!  I love my Mazda and always like to keep up with their new models, so I sat inside a 2015 Mazda 6 and let the rep give me the low-down.  Very nice car and would definitely consider it.  And I did get that $10 Starbucks card!

The Expo was enormous!  And so well-organized!  Within minutes I had my race bib in hand, despite this being their busiest time, and then through the chip check portal and into the race shirt and bag pickup area.  From there it was through another portal and into the larger exhibit area where I spent more money of course!  A nice Brooks half-zip fleece pullover with the San Antonio RnR logo embroidered on it.

On my way to San Antonio, I had stopped at a Subway sandwich shop, so I returned to my hotel room and pulled out that sandwich, a bag of chips, a Starbucks cappuccino and turned on the TV to watch college football.  Tomorrow morning:  race day!

My smartphone alarm went off at 6:00 AM.  I loitered in the room having breakfast, getting ready.  I've learned my lesson about these RnR races.  Don't rush to get to the start line, only to stand in the assigned corral forever!  I was in corral #27 out of 32 corrals.  Way in the back.  My hotel was nearby and I knew exactly where I was going since I've been to the Alamodome several times, which is where the race's start and finish lines will be.

I arrived at the venue at 7:35-7:40 AM, after the 7:30 race start.  There were no lines at the porta-potties so even though I really didn't need to go, I took advantage of it.  Then I moseyed on over to Cherry Street where the corrals were located and strolled along the sideline until I found the volunteer holding the Corral #27 sign.  Each corral is separated by a rope being held by two volunteers.  They move forward along the perimeter as each corral is released at the start line.  This is something I figured out too late at the Las Vegas race.

Just past the Alamo Plaza area

I crossed the start line at 8:09 AM and we were off running.  Just a little past the 1 mile marker, we ran through the Alamo plaza, right in front of the historic Alamo which was very cool!  The course took us north, zig-zagging across bridges that passed over the Riverwalk several times.  We eventually came to the San Antonio Zoo, where we found some really great support from their staff and volunteers, and then we headed up some steep hills toward Trinity University which was at the halfway point of the race.

Somewhere along the route, near the Riverwalk area

The streets were lined with university students cheering us up those hills.  This is where some of the best hand-made signs could be found.  The best was the one that said something like, "Trinity U. is hard to get into.  Congratulations!  You just got in!" Oh, but those hills!!

Race course, data from my Garmin watch (red).  By tagging
races in Runkeeper, it overlays the race route (in green).
Obviously the route was changed for this year's race.

We were then sent straight south into the downtown area, across the Riverwalk again, and then through a beautiful historic section on King William Street. Gorgeous mansions!  And finally 3 miles of ho-hum commercial/industrial areas and then back toward the Alamodome and the finish line.

Near the finish line

I was wearing my Half Fanatics singlet over a long-sleeve shirt and had several call-outs by other Fanatics along the way.  Early in the race I ran a bit with another Fanatic, but then pulled ahead of her at some point.  She caught up with me again at mile 11 and I was very grateful for her company as I was starting to flag a bit by then.

Crossing the finish line

Finally....the finish line!  It was visible ahead of us for more than a mile and seemed to take forever to get there.  But....it's done!  Excellent post-race village area, so well-organized!  This was by far the best RnR race I've done so far.

Lots of food at the finish line but I passed on the beer tent.  I needed to get back to the hotel and get checked out.  I knew I'd miss the 12 noon check-out time but didn't want to push it too far beyond that cut-off time.  I grabbed a quick shower, packed my things, got checked out and while waiting for my car to be delivered, I bought a Starbucks coffee for the road.

I already have the state of Texas many times over, so this race doesn't count toward my 50 states quest, but it does count toward by 100 Half Marathons quest.

Here's the finisher medal:

Half #61 is in the books!

Next:  A nice week spent in Panama City FL with old friends.