#OptOutside: 2017 Edition

Our traditional Black Friday #OptOutside was our first time on the water since hearing about https://www.seventy48.com/… and trying to figure out if we have what it takes to join in that race. Seventy miles in 48 hours or less, including sleeping, eating, and bathroom breaks. This challenge has me looking at charts, trying to figure out which waterfront park restrooms are closest to their kayak launch, and plotting potential picnic and camping spots along the way.

This was also our third Black Friday spent on the water. The first time REI promoted #OptOutside, Little Baby Laura worked there, and got us excited about it. Last year, I think we grumbled around the house for half the day before finally making it out to float the Narrows. This year, I had a goal to map our journey and figure out how quickly we eat up the miles. Well… how quickly we cover the miles at a leisurely pace. I’m not looking to paddle as hard as I can for 48 hours straight, after all.

The verdict? 3.7 nautical/4.25 good, old-fashioned, regular miles in 1 hour & 42 minutes. First, we did 2.1 miles from Owen Beach to Point Ruston in one hour and one minute…
Looking towards the Marina from Owen Beach #OptOutsideLooking towards Vashon Island on the way from Owen Beach #OptOutsideView of the marina towards the end of the Promenade #OptOutsideLooking towards the Point Ruston Ferry as The Hubby kayaks approaches the first walkway #OptOutside
…and then we paddled the 2.1 miles back in just 41 minutes.
Raindrops in the foreground and Baby Laura Kayaking with Vashon Island in the background #OptOutsideView of the Promenade and Owen Beach from the water #OptOutsideAutumn leaves on the hillside above the Owen Beach Promenade as viewed from the water #OptOutsideFinal approach to Owen Beach with a bald eagle flying over Point Defiance #OptOutside

Were we faster on the return trip because we had the wind at our back? Because we were more in sync with the ebb tide? Because it started to rain and we had more motivation to hustle back to shore? Difficult to say. But I am certain that we’ll want to do several more practice runs and examine the weather, wind, and currents along the path as we approach the application deadline. It doesn’t seem impossible, but as I mentioned to my kayaking buddies this morning: I’m not yet #InItToWinIt. I’m more #MaybeInItToPotentiallyFinishIt. More training, more research, and more kayaking to follow.

CSA Share June 20, 2017

It’s CSA time!!!

Our first share from Zestful Gardens for 2017 has:

  • 1/2 pound Peas
  • 1 head Bok Choi
  • 1 head Chinese Cabbage
  • 1 head Endive
  • 1 bunch Chard
  • 1 bunch Garlic Scapes
  • 1 head Lettuce
  • 1 pint Strawberries
  • 1 bunch Basil

Recipes we tried out:

Ross Lake Dam Trail

On our way back from a fun weekend in Mazama, the Hubby and I decided to check out the Ross Lake Dam Trail. I’d heard about it originally in an article from Sunset Magazine, and since we were so close, we decided to add the hike onto our trip home. Given my druthers, I probably would never hike on an 86° day. Especially not an 86° day at the end of a three-day weekend full of rafting and adult beverages. The hike down the hill was pretty nice, but when you have to turn around and do that same mile UPhill… let’s just say that I’m proud that I made it back okay, and I was very grateful when the Hubby dipped my hat in Happy Creek on the way back. That ice-cold water really helped get me through the last little bit!

Pictures from the hike are below – mostly taken on the way down, when I could think about photos. The way back up took most of my brainpower to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Well… maybe not most of my brainpower… but far too much to think about pictures!



Board Body Workout

Once upon a time, the Hubby and I snowboarded ALL. THE. TIME. As in, we would purchase season passes when they went on sale in the Spring. And we would make sure we got our money’s worth. We would head to the mountains any weekday we had off work and at least one day each weekend. We would snowboard on Christmas Day. One year, when our local mountains were low on the white stuff, we even drove across the state and back for a few hours of snowboarding.

Then our lives changed. We no longer had weekends quite as available for snowboarding. Season passes stopped being the economical choice. Snowboarding became an every-once-in-a-while occurrence, although I think we’ve managed to make it to the slopes at least once each year. But that one time isn’t as fun as it used to be. Instead of experiencing the freedom of flowing down smooth runs, we’re re-learning how to control our boards (and our bodies). It’s a lot of work, and not necessarily very enjoyable. More frustrating, actually. For us and for those that ride with us.

When the Hubby took me on my first snowboarding adventure, he told me that you cannot tell if you like it or not on the first day. Or the second. The third day is when you can tell if you’re having fun or not. He said that this works exceptionally well if you are able to ride three days in a row. I trusted him, and I gave it three good tries, and I was hooked.

But now? Now we don’t often have three tries in a year. Now we have other priorities and other activities that compete for our time and resources. Now, snowboarding feels like work MOST of the time we’re doing it.

But we used to really love it. The Hubby might still really love it, even through all the work and frustration and leg pain. Me? I’m on the fence. But not quite ready to give up on it. So this year, we’re trying something new. We’re trying to get into snowboarding shape first, and then hit the slopes.

So I did some googling and found this snowboarding workout. And we gave it a shot for the first time last night. We cannot manage it. Literally – we can’t do all of the exercises in the set. If you’re interested, you can read through my bullets on what I did & didn’t do – I won’t be offended if you skip those, though.

Hubby and I committed to spend up to 15 minutes a day for the next seven days, attempting these exercises and to re-evaluate at that point. I’m curious to see how much we’ll improve and how sore we’ll be at the end. I don’t really think that doing some exercises in our living room will completely make up for being able to hit the slopes every weekend. But I do think that anything that makes us move more and work our muscles is probably pushing us in the right direction.

Read on if you’re interested to see where we started. Or check back in next week for an update!

  • Pulse Squats are okay. My quads are burning by the end, but 30 seconds doesn’t seem like the end of the world.
  • Mountain Climbers feel like I should be able to do a lot more of them, a lot more easily… but they’re also okay.
  • We skipped the Step Ups because I don’t think we have anything in our house that we could actually step onto for these. If it weren’t storming out, I would have braved the front porch steps. But it wasn’t worth it. So we nixed them.
  • Russian Twists were literally the only thing I felt like I could do well, for the full time. I think I owe that to Liz’s 6:30 a.m. Abs Class at the Downtown YMCA – my abs may be hidden, but they’re still pretty strong, and my obliques can probably withstand a lot more punishment than this workout can dish out.
  • Single Leg Stand Up… I managed two on each side. We completely abandoned the concept of 30 seconds per leg and focused on attempting to complete the exercise. At all.
  • Back Extensions were okay for me, also. This is an exercise I did for physical therapy following my car accident a little over a year ago, so it’s not completely foreign to me. One of the exercises where I didn’t feel like I was about to die while trying it.
  • Elevated Stationary Single Lunge was difficult, and I don’t think my form was great… but I got through it.
  • Quick Get Up – from the description the Hubby read, I thought you weren’t supposed to use your hands to stand up. That proved impossible. I was able to manage this one a few times on each side, but had to push off with my hand. Seems like that’s cool, from the photos. So I did it. But it was pretty difficult.

We did NOT repeat the exercises a second time. We made our way through the list (except the Step Ups) once and called it good for a start. And I was immediately sore and felt like it was a chore to sit down. That feeling hasn’t changed in the last 24 hours.

We completely neglected to do any stretches, but judging by how tight my legs feel today, that will be an important component to bring into our lives.

More Reading 2016

With 2017 breathing down my neck, I don’t think I’ll finish any other new books in 2016.  You’ll notice that I read a lot fewer per month over the last few months than I did in the first few months.  I did keep up with my reading, but I had some of those tough times where you just want to hang out with the book friends you already know.  Y’all have times like that, right?  It’s not just me?

ANYWAY… Here’s what I read recently:

  1. The Haters by Jesse Andrews – I was entertained by this book, and even more entertained by imagining my friend, Chris Blount, working as hard as these characters to actively hate all around them.
  2. The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney – entwined stories bring characters together in a web of unpleasantness.  There wasn’t anyone in this book that’s likely to become a friend, but it was fascinating peering into their lives.
  3. At Hawthorne Time by Melissa Harrison – I felt wistfully that most of these characters were within reach of a better life, but that none of them seemed to have the gumption to change it.  Some of the description and imagery was really nice – worth the read, but you might feel frustrated at the choices the characters are making.
  1. The Magicians by Lev Grossman – I loved the beginning of this book.  If the kids had stayed in school forever, I think I would have been extremely happy.  I basically felt dissociated from them once they were out in the world… and made their way to other worlds.  I see that you can watch the Syfy show on Netflix… we’ll see if that idea catches hold for me or not.
  2. The Dive from Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer – I loved this book.  A section of the novel involves the main character frequenting my favorite haunts in Manhattan.  I was transported back to my time there and I luxuriated in those scenes.  I didn’t love the end… but I guess the author gets to make her own choices for her characters, right?
  3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – I haven’t seen the movie, but I did know (just from being alive in 2016 with an internet connection) that it involves a love story between teenage cancer patients.  So I was expecting some tears.  I wasn’t expecting how the numerous losses of 2016 would pour out of my eyes in huge, racking sobs.  But I probably should have known that would happen.  I liked this book, and have passed it to another reader, so she can cry big, heavy tears of her own.

And an update on my reading list?

Of course, since you asked… I have just 4 books checked out from the library, 29 on hold, and a ridiculous 422 that I’ve listed as something I’ll want to read later.  Seems like I should be able to at least manage to read 23 new-to-me books in 2017, right?

I’m very glad that I challenged myself to get more NEW reading accomplished this year.  I look forward to meeting new book friends and travelling different places in 2017!

#OptOutside 2016

While we had an excellent time during our first #OptOutside adventures, they did set me up with the expectation that November in the Pacific Northwest would be bright sunshine and flat-calm waters.  Black Friday 2016 wasn’t quite that way. It was cold and cloudy and I was super cranky. So we paused, we re-set, and we headed out later in the afternoon, fortified with snacks and beverages. It wasn’t quite the dreamy adventure that 2015 brought, but I did feel good about getting outdoors and enjoying nature. We launched from Point Defiance, paddled around to float the tides, and rafted up to snack in the middle of the Narrows.
View of Tacoma from the Narrows

Sixteen Books in 2016

Earlier this year, I happened upon a Buzzfeed article – The 27 Most Exciting Books Coming In 2016 – and thought, “huh… I guess I could take these recommendations and see where they lead me.”  And then I came across 20 Incredible Books From The Past Year That You Need To Read Right Now and thought, “yeah – I probably do need to read these RIGHT NOW.”  Then there were 16 YA Books You’ll Want To Read This Spring.  And 15 Books To Read If You Love A Shocking Plot Twist, 9 Books You Should Read Now That The Oscars Are Over, and 15 Book Series To Read If You Enjoyed “The Hunger Games”

Before I knew what was happening, I had books on hold, books stacked by the bed, and books I couldn’t possibly finish before they were due back at the library.  I paused for a moment, took stock of my situation, and realized that I’ve already read sixteen new (to me) books in 2016.  Although I didn’t make that a goal for myself, it seems like the sort of resolution I might have made, if I’d been trying.  Here’s what I’ve managed to read so far this year:

  1. The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray – I had a hard time staying involved in this book. I think my mind wasn’t ready to follow the plot spirals through time.
  2. Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson – ballet in New York City in the 70s – with an inappropriate relationship thrown in for good measure.
  3. Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa – I think my only problem with this book was wrapping my head around the concept that the WTO riots were the setting for a historical fiction novel.  That was rough to swallow, but if you can get past your own ego on that one, this is well worth the read.
  4. The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni – as the second book in my book-club-of-one with some disturbing interpersonal situations, I started wondering what I’d gotten myself into.  Well-written, but I would recommend spacing the heavy reading out a little more than I did.
  1. Ruby: A Novel by Cynthia Bond – this book is so, so, so well done.  Gorgeous imagery, wonderful characterization, and it fully draws you into the world of the novel.  It also is so disturbing that I have trouble recommending it to others.  It’s a hard read because of the horrible truths it portrays and the deep damage it does to characters you care about.  It’s still on my mind, after reading it months ago.  I see that there is a second book in the Ruby trilogy, and I am rejoicing that I’ll get to read more of Bond’s writing.  And frightened of what else might happen to these book friends of mine.  If you’re up for dealing with traumatic plot points set in the South over several decades, I encourage you to check this book out.
  2. The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter – this was the first book from the YA list, and I probably should have known from the title that it was going to have some dark content.  Again – I’d encourage you to read it, but take this as your trigger-warning.
  3. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh – in spite of the murder, magical curses, and political posturing in this book, this one turned out to be the first light fare I’d set myself up for.  Finally – a book I could relax with and just enjoy.
  4. The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah – back to tough subject-matter including a murder trial, death row, and race-relations in Zimbabwe.  Highly recommended.
  1. Whispers Through a Megaphone by Rachel Elliott – I loved this book.  It took me away from some of the darkness on my list – perhaps because it is set in our modern world of social media.  Although, I should admit that the plot centers around emotional damage done to the main character.
  2. Divergent by Veronica Roth – this is the first I read from the Hunger Games list, and it fit my expectations exactly.  It’s the sort of fast-paced read that makes it easy to stay up all night, with a strong female lead that you cheer for nearly right away.
  3. The Anatomist’s Dream by Clio Gray – this was another one that was difficult for me to stick with.  I loved the descriptions throughout, but felt slightly removed from the plot.  I didn’t feel that the main character’s thread kept me engaged in his transformation, but I could easily blame that on my attention span rather than the writing.
  4. The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh – this is the sequel to The Wrath and the Dawn, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first.
  1. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – I enjoyed reading this one.  I found myself lost in plot points on occasion, but the author quickly caught me back up.  With the subject matter at hand, I think this was probably intentional.
  2. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – this one felt like a light read until about midway through the book.  Then it suddenly became heavier and stayed that way throughout.  Good read, but I probably wasn’t prepared for it to be so intense.
  3. Still Alice by Lisa Genova – the frightening world of alzheimer’s, from the sufferer’s point of view.  Beautiful, difficult, and intense.
  4. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt – as my third book in a row about death, dying, and incurable disease… this was a great read, but was nearly as emotionally difficult for me as the run of heavy books toward the beginning of the year.

At this point, I have 6 books checked out from the library, 25 on hold, and 241 that I’ve pegged as something I’ll want to read later.  Doesn’t seem too ambitious, right?  All that is before I dive into 21 Books By POC Writers That You Should Definitely Read At Some Point33 Celebrity Books That Are Actually Really Good, and 21 Books Every Woman Should Read In Her Lifetime

Wish me luck!

Kayak Camping – Take 2: 2016 Edition

After the debacle that was our first kayak camping expedition, I wasn’t too keen on the concept of trying again.  Until I talked to a colleague who loves kayak camping and learned that we’d traveled more than FIVE TIMES further on our maiden voyage than my buddy recommends.  So I considered for a day, and then told the Hubby that I was open to trying again.  IF we shorten the distance by A LOT.  And IF he could get everything we need ready in less than 48 hours.

The plan: we get everything we need for successful kayak camping loaded into the car for a Saturday morning departure.  We take the Point Defiance-Vashon ferry, and then drive to the North end of Vashon Island.  There’s a boat launch right near the ferry dock there, and a place to leave the car not too far away.  We’ll paddle a couple of miles, to Blake Island, and camp for the night.  Since the weather reports are predicting thunderstorms late Sunday afternoon, we plan on getting back to Vashon by midday – thunderstorms seem easier to handle in a car or on a ferry than they do in a kayak.

At no point did either of us sit down & figure out how much food and water we should bring with us.  We just went for it.  It turns out that we brought more than 21 litres of water and more than 12 meals worth of food.  Which would be good, if we were going on an extended trip.  But we were literally on blake island for less than 20 hours.  This still wouldn’t be a big deal, except that I’m not accustomed to how the boats react when fully loaded.  They sit lower in the water and they have more inertia.  Which is great if you’re trying for long distances.  But it’s not awesome when you’re ready to turn.  Or accelerate.  And it takes a lot longer to pack tons of food & water than it does to pack 2 meals worth of nourishment.

That’s right – two meals worth.  Because we had lunch on Saturday at La Playa Mexican Restaurant.  And then, since we’d just paddled back & loaded the boats onto the car around lunch time on Sunday… we ate there again.  So our frito pie on Saturday night and our biscuits & gravy on Sunday morning were the only meals we needed.  Of course, I was glad to have apples & peanut butter when I didn’t like the biscuits & gravy.  So it was good that we brought snack foods, too.  That’s right – snack foods, in addition to the 12 meals worth of food.  In addition to the emergency rations that we always keep in the boats, you know, in case of emergency.

Although Blake Island has three Cascadia Marine Trail campsites, the Hubby was willing to compromise with me and camp at the standard campground.  Running water, bathrooms, and even an option to enjoy a salmon bake seemed more my speed than a pit toilet and no running water.  We were a bit of an anomaly on that side of the island, as we were the only folks camping out of kayaks on that end.  We had lots of folks ask us how many trips it took to get all of our gear to the island by kayak (answer: one).  Several folks were amazed that we’re able to fit the tent, sleeping pads, reclining camp chairs, and tons of food, water, books, and games into our boats.

We hiked over to check out the marine trails sites.  They’re not as primitive as I’d imagined, but I’d still rather take this journey slowly.  I haven’t fully embraced the concept of kayak camping.  Crossing open water, dealing with shipping lanes and other boaters, and being at the mercy of the weather are all things I need to get more comfortable with if this is going to be a regular thing for us.

The evening was pleasant, and we had a leisurely start to our morning.  Everything was going fairly well, until the weather started coming in as we were packing our campsite.  Although the thunderstorms were still predicted to be hours away, the winds bringing the storms our way made packing the tent an adventure.  We loaded the kayaks in the rain while I contemplated whether I was brave enough to make the crossing back to Vashon.  In the end, the weather died down a bit, and I put on my big-girl-pants and opted to paddle back, rather than trying to hitch a ride with one of the bayliners in the marina.  My fear of social awkwardness overcame my fear of a rough sea.

In the end, we made it back just fine.  I got somewhat more comfortable with open-water crossing, and I’m willing to try it again next year.  In the meantime, we’ll work on our packing list, and pare things down a bit more.

O, Christmas Tree

As is our tradition, Hubby and I used part of our Thanksgiving weekend to start decorating for Christmas.  Since he’s deep in rehearsals for The Nutcracker, it’s important to get the ball rolling right after Thanksgiving – otherwise, we tend to find ourselves at the end of December without a tree (and sometimes without gifts for anyone).  We started the afternoon with a trip to Bluebeard Coffee for a couple of La Pistola (spicy) hot cocoas before heading to Green Acres Christmas Tree Farm in Edgewood, WA.  The Hubby even consented to listen to one the radio stations in town that plays Christmas music on their regular (non-HD) airwaves.  Since he’s not big on holiday music, that was a big concession for him!
We meandered through the farm, each of us pointing out trees that we thought would be good to bring home.  He turned down my first choice:

BehemouthAND he wouldn’t agree to my second choice – something about our living room not being large enough and not having tall enough ceilings…

How about this one, honey?

When wWho says you can't put a tree in your trunk?e agreed on a 7-foot tree with a side that would work against the wall, I was sure that we should have brought the Hubby’s car, with its kayak racks (the ones we’d secured our tree to last year).  The Hubby was certain that it would fit in the trunk.  And he was right, although I was doubtful when I saw the tree lying on the ground next to the car.  I should never doubt his tetris skills.

Loaded & Ready to RollOnce we’d unloaded the tree, it was time to decorate, right? I learned from holiday movies (okay, and from my parents) that it’s important to check your lights BEFORE putting them on the tree.  It’s good that I learned that lesson ahead of time, because my 19-year-old lights have given up the ghost.  One string of lights didn’t come on when I plugged it in – it only lit up at all after I messed with the fancy late-90s dimmer controls that determined how quickly they flashed.  Even then, less than a third of the bulbs lit up – not enough from my point of view.  The second string of lights did mostly light up, but both are showing some corrosion on the wires, and maybe nearly two decades is enough for the lights to last.

If we’d been super productive today and had headed to the tree farm in the morning, we may have still been able to decorate today.  But we were NOT super productive, and I think we only got to the tree farm an hour before closing.  Also keep in mind: this delay happened after we’d already spent an hour or more troubleshooting Amazon Video to try to figure out why our playback is so choppy when streaming my favorite Christmas movie of all time, Die Hard.  I finally lost patience with the technology and opted to watch on my iPhone.

So the Hubby made a run to the store, returned with all-new lights, and we were able to get that much done tonight.  It’s time to take the small victory of having a lit tree in our living room and call it good for now.  Maybe we’ll enjoy a nice, slow week of decorating for Christmas and stay in a festive spirit the whole way.

Stay tuned for photos once the decorations are done!