Visions of Sugar Plums…well actually just a few photos from this past week

It has been a wonderful week of preparation, festivities, relaxation, and runs.  Here are a few tidbits of what’s been happening.

This little guy came right up to the fence as we went by on our long run on Sunday.

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During the week, Bentley was uncharacteristically excited about me doing Pilates. Having an enormous, slobbery, furry friend excitedly hover above you as you try to do leg lifts is actually quite alarming. Eventually he just plunked down on my mat which was also less than helpful.

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Abby, on the other hand, is happiest when she’s sitting by a blazing fire. We call her our little “heat seeker” and figure she loves the warmth because she was a rescue from Tennessee.

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Mike and I went out to do a little shopping last weekend and stopped for a delicious lunch at When Pigs Fly. This special was listed as “soup” (their quotation marks).  It had clams, sausage, fennel, Meyer lemons,  broth, and fingerling potatoes.  It was divine!

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Their extensive beer list is one of the reasons we love to go there.

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I did an early Christmas Eve morning interval run. The weather was drizzly but the temperature was relatively mild.  Amelia’s Spotify Christmas playlist was the perfect soundtrack for this holiday run. I couldn’t resist snapping a couple of photos. It’s been unseasonably warm here in Maine so the snow is dwindling and the ice has melted.

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I thought this wreath on the wrought iron fence surrounding a historic town cemetery was picturesque and festive. I returned home feeling strong and pleased with the run.

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I have realized that I am a big fan of presents when they are still wrapped.

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Christmas Eve was very quiet-just Mike, Hannah, and I.  But we made the best of it and enjoyed trying out a new-to-us cocktail, a Moscow Mule.

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I liked the drink but I really loved the traditional copper mugs that they are served in.

Christmas day was quiet and relaxed.  We missed having Amelia and Matt here but we are working on adjusting to the new “normal”.  Having our long-time friends join us for dinner was perfect.  I was slightly alarmed to realize that my shoes matched the tablecloth! But, I do LOVE plaid!

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The day after Christmas Mike and I  headed out for our weekly long run.  We are in week two of our half marathon training for the Houston Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon which is on February 15th.

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We did eight really hilly miles and felt terrific about our efforts.

This morning the sunrise was spectacular.  I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

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I walked up into our top field to get a new perspective.

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The clouds were beautiful.

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On my way back to the house, Hannah’s pony, Chelsea, called to me as she looked out of her window.  She may have been a little miffed that I had put photographing a fleeting sunrise ahead of her breakfast. Poor Chels!

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We hope your week was warm and festive.

What was the best part of your holiday week?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ugly Sweater Run-Chicago

Deciding to go to the ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) Convention in Chicago a year ago was easy.  Having the opportunity to immerse myself in my profession for several days has always been something that I’ve enjoyed.  But now that we were on our quest to run a road race in every state, the opportunity to go to Illinois and check off another state was the clincher.  We decided that I would go to Chicago on my own for the Convention and Mike would meet me Friday night.  We used our trusty runningintheusa.com site and found what I thought could become the most festive race yet.

Once I took a peek at the The Ugly Sweater Run website, I knew we had to do it. The video of hoards of people dressed in “ugly sweaters” with gigantic blowup Christmas decorations lining the route looked awesome.  It’s an un-timed run that is just for fun. Substitute hot chocolate for water stops and wool hats for t-shirts, keep the traditional beer party at the end and you’ve got an Ugly Sweater Run!

Before heading to Chicago, I did my best to find Mike and I ugly sweaters.  Since we had been hitting thrift stores on a regular basis as we collected white plates for Amelia’s wedding (see previous post for more details on that), it was not hard.  So I headed to Chicago with my special ugly sweater in my suitcase.

The conference was great but I was eager for Mike to join me. Unfortunately, there were a number of flight delays that resulted in him arriving at our hotel very late on Friday night.  However, he made it in time for the Saturday morning race.  Carefully planning and packing my race day attire is always my first priority when traveling.  So although it felt very bizarre to be getting ready for a race by putting on our hideous acrylic sweaters we were ready to run. We looked ridiculous.  It was perfect!

 

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I guess I was feeling a tad self-conscious about our attire as we waited to take the elevator downstairs because as soon as the elevator doors opened I blurted out, “We’re doing the Ugly Sweater Run!”  The people on the elevator thought my disclaimer was humorous but I wasn’t taking a chance that they would think we dressed like this for real.

We had debated about taking a taxi or public transportation to the race but our decision to go with the bus was perfect.  There was only one other obvious race participant on the bus when we got on but within a few blocks every stop added in more and more people who were obviously headed to the same event.  Suddenly my ugly sweater looked pretty mundane compared to the festive outfits and accessories that many people had donned. I have to admit I was actually having some sweater envy as I eyed the array of attire before me.

The pumping Christmas music blasting from the start told us we had arrived even before we saw the enormous inflatable decorations.  It was extremely windy and some of the inflatables looked precariously close to ditching their moorings.  The mood was incredibly festive and obviously the participants were not in it for a PR. Although we are used to having beer at races (and basically consider it an essential component of a good event) we were not used to seeing runners drinking beer before the race.  But they were.

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There was a sea of runners topped off with our swag wool hats.

There was a sea of  Ugly Sweater Run wool hats.

After getting the crowd jazzed up with holiday music and an enthusiastic announcer, they began to release waves of runners. The course wound around the park-like area surrounding Soldiers Field and along Lake Michigan.  The water was so choppy that waves splashed up onto the concrete sidewalk lining the lake. Along the route we were cheered on by a variety of holiday characters. When we came to the hot chocolate/water stop I definitely was not in the mood for hot chocolate and happily nabbed my paper cup of water.  Despite the cool temps and brisk wind, I was hot. Apparently acrylic ugly sweaters don’t wick away sweat. However, we finished the race feeling enthusiastic and energized. It was a great race that we would definitely think of doing again in another location

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We sampled some Sam Adams and soaked up a little more Christmas spirit before heading back to our hotel. After changing into much less festive attire we ventured to the Navy Pier for lunch at Riva Cafe.

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There was a great view of Lake Michigan and we enjoyed watching large ferries/tour boats (?) maneuver into their moorings.

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That evening we enjoyed dinner at an upscale beer pub recommended by our hotel concierge.

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The beer and drink menu was extensive so we celebrated the completion of our 15th state.

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The presentation of our dessert donuts and dipping sauces was adorable.

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The next morning we awoke to a thunder storm so opted out of an early run. The storm passed but it was incredibly balmy and windy as we walked to Millennium Park after breakfast.  We were enthralled with the Cloud Gate sculpture, also known as “The Bean”.  The skies were intense which made for some dramatic photos.

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I love this shot where you can see me taking the photo of Mike.

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We reluctantly left the city for the airport.  With the intense winds and previous thunder storms we were anticipating that our flight might be delayed.  But American Airlines kept indicating it was on time…until exactly five minutes after we arrived at our gate at which point the flight was cancelled! Very intense storms were suddenly pummeling the airport.  “Cancelled” statuses were filling the flight screens. We miraculously found a desk with a gate attendant who was able to book us on a flight the next day AND gave us vouchers for “a good rate” at an airport hotel.

We checked into our hotel and found that it was indeed a very good deal, i.e. free!  We felt lucky to have been given this perk. However, as we watched the news coverage of the storms, we learned that more than 40 tornadoes had touched down just south of Chicago.  Sadly, four people were killed by these severe storms. We felt so fortunate to have only been slightly inconvenienced by having our travel home delayed by a day.

Despite the unexpected ending to our trip to Chicago, we had enjoyed a fabulous time in the city and had a very merry Ugly Sweater Run.  Although my runs at home this time of year don’t have quite the excitement of the Ugly Sweater Run, I am loving running to this festive Spotify holiday playlist that Amelia created. Hearing sleigh bells as I run or doing intervals to “Run Run Rudolph” really adds to the Christmas spirit. It’s a perfect soundtrack for actual running or for running around doing holiday prep and just enjoying the season.

Merry Christmas!

State: Illinois

Quest Race #: 15

Date Run: November 16, 2013

The Bottom Line: The Ugly Sweater Run was definitely the most fun race we have done in our quest.  We think that doing Ugly Sweater Runs in other locations would make a great holiday tradition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Snippets from the Week

Our annual village tree lighting was this past week.

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Singing carols around the tree and visiting with neighbors as we enjoy hot chocolate and cookies is a quintessential start to the Christmas season.

We line the path to the cookies and hot chocolate with luminaries.

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This week there were more mesmerizing skies.

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Mike continues to tolerate my obsession with stopping to snap a shot on our long runs.  But we are so lucky to run in an area that offers images so wonderful that I can’t resist them.

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One morning we awoke to the most gorgeous snowy scenes.  The roads were clear so my run was spectacular.  It was definitely a photo op day.

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I adore cutting and decorating with greens for Christmas.

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The turkeys’ presence was evident in the fields when I headed into the woods for more pine.

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I bought four new pairs of socks for winter running with a gift card Mike had given me.  They are labeled as ski socks but they are absolutely the best thing for running and for wearing with boots.  I am in heaven! (FYI-although they are adorable, I don’t run with my leggings hiked up above my knees!  This was just so I could show them off in the photo.)

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I have decided that beyond the obvious need for family and friends, the three essential creature comforts that will keep me happy during the cold, dark winter are cozy socks, tiny white lights virtually everywhere,

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and a constant supply of hot tea.

Hannah and I are loving Trader Joe's Candy Cane Green Tea.

Hannah and I are loving Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Green Tea.

What are the three things you need to be content this winter? I’d love to see your thoughts in the comments below!

 

A Very Special Run

One of the most poignant runs we have ever done was not a race. It did not benefit a charity. There were no spectators and we didn’t get a t-shirt.  This run took place one beautiful June morning this spring. Our family was at Moody Mountain Farm for the wedding of our daughter, Amelia.

Photo by Boro

Photo by Boro

It would be fair to say that the days leading up to this day had been a “tad” hectic.  We had decided to do quite a bit of the wedding preparation, including catering and flowers, without the use of hired professionals.  The amount of help and support that was offered by family and friends was truly phenomenal and this help was the only way we were able to even consider attempting to accomplish this.  But despite my best laid plans, I awoke at dawn after too few hours of sleep in a moderate (leaning towards overwhelming) panic about what still had to be accomplished.

Amelia and I had spoken previously about our desire to start this day with a run together and this was absolutely still a priority for me.  So after an hour or so of last minute organizing, my panic was subsiding.  The house was still quiet when Amelia appeared and asked if I wanted to run.  Mike was up, as well, and was ready to join us.

Both of our girls have been involved with running pretty much always. Whether it was tagging along to a race, doing a fun run, competing on their high school track team, or doing road races themselves, running has been a part of their lives.

Amelia and Hannah at an early race.

Amelia and Hannah at an early race.

Mike, Amelia, and I have had our share of running together, as well. We cheered her on in her first half marathon.  The three of us signed up for two local race series the year she was at home prior to starting vet school.  As a result, we were together at many races.  When Amelia trained for her first marathon, I biked beside her on her long runs (she was too fast for me to run with, alas). And of course, over the years we have traveled many miles together during ordinary, run-of-the mill (pun intended) runs.

So it seemed only fitting that on this truly special day the three of us should spend some time running together.  We headed out the door into the blissfully warm, sunny morning. The setting was gorgeous and the views were stunning.

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The road rose uphill pretty much immediately, so pretty much immediately Amelia and their dog, Jameson, were way ahead of us.

Amelia and Jameson

Amelia and Jameson

Mike and I caught up when she stopped for us at the top of the hill. We savored the quiet, the views, and this time together.  We talked a little bit about the day ahead, but mostly we enjoyed this tranquil time, silently reflecting on the momentous event that was about to occur.  As I ran, nebulous thoughts swirled through my mind.  They were thoughts that were more like sensations about the years that had passed, how Amelia had grown from our little girl into this smart, confident, strong, beautiful woman who was on the verge of this milestone in her life.  It was a tiny bit bittersweet, too, knowing that after today, things would be different. We absolutely love Matt and couldn’t have been more thrilled that he was marrying Amelia.  We consider his family great friends and we eagerly looked forward to the blending of our two families. It was just the end of one era and the launching of a new one.

As we turned around and (thankfully) ran down the hill back to Moody Mountain Farm I thought of how this epic day that had  been mere thoughts and visions in our minds was about to actually unfold. Months of talking, planning, creating, and dreaming were finally transpiring into a truly incredible day.

The run gave us all a cherished opportunity to be together before the wonderful whirlwind of the day began. As I returned to the house I was filled with that blissful feeling of serenity, clarity, and peace that only a run can provide. And I was so grateful that Mike and Amelia and I had been able to, mostly wordlessly, share the emotions that we felt as we traveled this distance together.

The excitement and activity of the day were soon escalating until that poignant moment when Mike was walking Amelia down the aisle through the field.

mike and amelia in field

Photo by Boro

As I watched them I was overcome with emotion.

Photo by Boro

Photo by Boro

I felt relief that everything had come together. The weather was absolutely perfect, which was particularly appreciated after a frigid, rainy spring.   Amelia looked stunning in the spectacular gown that was designed and created by her fashion designer sister, Hannah.

Photo by Boro

Photo by Boro

The barn was decorated just as we had hoped.

Photo by Boro

Photo by Boro

The tables were set with the dishes we had gathered over the past year, garnished with ferns freshly picked by cousins, Mollie and Leah.

Photo bu Susanne Harkins

Guests had arrived at the farm as my brother, Rich, played the bagpipes.

 

Photo by Boro

Photo by Boro

Fabulous food had been prepared by family and friends.

Photo by Jen Myers

Photo by Jen Myers

There were delectable wedding cakes (plural!) made by their multi-talented cousin, Annie.

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Photo by Boro

But beyond that feeling of relief, I was feeling joy, pride, contentment, excitement, and love.  Amelia and Matt were about to be married.

Photo by Boro

Photo by Boro

The ceremony was heartfelt, funny, and moving. Their love for each other was so clearly evident as they said their vows surrounded by family and friends.

Amelia, Matt and their dog, Jameson

Amelia, Matt and their dog, Jameson

The day was filled with family,

Photo by Boro

friends,

Photo by Boro

Photo by Boro

 festivities,

Ready for the bouquet toss

Photo by Boro

 and love.

Photo by Boro

Photo by Boro

It was perfect from start to finish.

Photo by Victoria Grant

Photo by Victoria Grant

 

It Was a Week to Remember

Last week was full of surprises. It started off calmly with warm weather that allowed me to finish fall chores like raking leaves and planting bulbs.  I savored the gift of a few more warm(ish) mornings runs.

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The early morning light continued to be spell-binding.

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The evening skies were dramatic.

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And then on the day before Thanksgiving, the snow began.

001It continued until it had dropped a foot of really heavy snow- heavy enough to bend tree branches…and snap power lines.

As we did pre-Thanksgiving cooking on Wednesday evening, the lights flickered several times.  We momentarily froze and then relaxed when they stayed on.  But then the inevitable happened and they were out for good.  We had made a good dent in our cooking for the Thanksgiving menu so we happily whipped up a dinner of tacos and settled in for a game of “Cards Against Humanity”. Thinking of playing it instantly makes my cheeks hurt as I immediately associate the game with hilarity and laughing until I can’t breathe.

The first few hours after the power went out we contentedly ate dinner by candlelight and warmed up next to the fire.

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We went to bed cautiously optimistic that the power would be back by morning.  But, sadly, we woke up in a chilly house with no power.

I had signed Mike and I up for our first virtual run which was to take place Thanksgiving morning.  I had read about it at Run Salt Run on Wednesday and it sounded like a terrific idea. We had planned to do our own Thanksgiving morning run anyway so the idea of a virtual run was perfect. And…Mike LOVES pie!

This is the adorable bib number that Run Salt Run sent.

This is the adorable bib number that Run Salt Run sent.

But alas, when we woke up Thanksgiving morning and the power was still out and our long driveway was a foot deep in snow, we regretfully opted out of our pie run.

With my phone/life-line to civilization dead, I headed to our car to charge it and check-in with the world while I enjoyed a cup of tea.

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The news was not encouraging.  Power was out for more than 100,000 Maine electric customers.  My brother texted that his brother-in-law, who is an electrical company lineman, reported that it was one of the worst storms for outages.  This did not bode well for cooking the 21 pound turkey that was waiting to be popped into the oven.  We were expecting 10 of us for dinner so it was time to get creative.

The idea of not having a full Thanksgiving dinner was never an option.  My sister, Kate, who was with us for Thanksgiving, is a fabulous cook.  She had been the driving force behind our self-catering of Amelia’s wedding in June.  So we accepted the challenge and switched gears so we could continue our dinner preparations.

Thanks to our trusty camp stove we were able to keep cooking. After a lot of discussion, we decided our turkey was just too big to safely cook on the grill.  Katie went out for a few items and came back with turkey tenderloins to swap for the traditional turkey. She concocted a fabulous marinade and Annie turned canned turkey gravy into a gourmet delight.

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Annie and Leah weren’t thwarted by the challenge of cooking without power. (Note the hanging flashlight “spotlight”.)  Katie “baked” her  yeast rolls on the grill with spectacular results!

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When it came time to heat up everything that we had already prepared we were delighted to see how much the grill could hold and how wonderfully it worked as a mini oven. Mike manned the grill and masterfully grilled the turkey tenderloins to perfection.

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We weren't going to be intimidated by no running water for doing dishes, so we set our traditional Thanksgiving table.

We refused to budge from our long-standing tradition of a formal Thanksgiving table.  Beautiful job, Leah!

The dinner was great and we were proud we had risen to the challenges that the day presented but in the end the time together was the best part.

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An unexpected bonus to not having running water was that there was no question of anyone doing the dishes after dinner.  They were tucked away until the next day when the power returned.  I can say from personal experience that it is an actual pleasure to do dishes with the “luxury” of hot running water after two days of melting snow and heating water over the fire or on the camp stove.

Saturday morning things were back to normal so I enjoyed a run along our traditional loop route.  The snow made for some stunning scenes.

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Tuckaway Tree Farm

Tuckaway Tree Farm

On Sunday it was time to choose and cut our Christmas tree at Tuckaway Tree Farm after having run past them on our weekly runs all year.

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Hannah and Todd humored me and posed beside our tree before Todd gallantly crawled under the branches to saw it down.

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023Let the Christmas season begin!