Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Quit Wasting Time and Start Saving Money

The other day a coworker was selling Entertainment coupon books for his kid's school fundraiser. It took all of 25 seconds for him to talk me into buying one, as the moment I looked at the 2-inch thick tome of savings I recalled childhood memories of the Entertainment book we'd buy each year and my dad's reverence for its pages of half-price, buy one get one free, bargain bliss. Anywhere we went, it seemed the Entertainment book went with us and we consulted it regularly for discounts on anything from Arby's classic roast beef sandwiches to matinee movie tickets. The cover touted over $10,000 in savings and we were going to hit that number come hell or high water.

Perhaps you've never encountered the Entertainment book, and I myself had pretty much forgotten its existence until the very moment I was handing over a check for $25 on this fateful afternoon. Immediately I retreated to my desk with my prized purchase and, practically drooling, thumbed through its pages. I may be putting too much stock in this thing when I say the following: it's going to change my life.

You see, I have an aspiration to be The Kind Of Person Who Uses Coupons. It's just one personality descriptor on a nearly infinite list I've been steadily accumulating over the years. Also on that list: The Kind Of Person Who Prefers Herbal Tea To A Stiff Drink, The Kind Of Person Who Donates To Public Radio, and The Kind Of Person Who Owns A Collection Of Classic Rock and Jazz LPs. That last item, I realize, runs the risk of being douchey but I swear I wouldn't be all "mP3s are sucking the soul out of music, man" about it. I would just like to casually put on a record during a dinner party, once the table has been cleared and my guests sip brandy while sitting by the fire. I suppose this would also mean I need to be The Kind Of Person Who Serves Brandy After Dinner Parties, a goal I could potentially achieve since I own a decanter and a fancy silver serving tray. More urgently, to have such dinner parties, I should say I need to be The Kind Of Person Who Has A Dining Room Table, instead of an empty dining room that currently serves as a combination cat lounge and depository for groceries, kicked-off shoes, Target bags stuffed with nonsense, and whatever else I drag in from the car on any given evening.

Perhaps being The Kind Of Person Who Uses Coupons shouldn't be so difficult, but I've been failing miserably for the whole of my (admittedly new-ish) adult life. You know how when your receipt prints out at the grocery store, with it come two or three coupons specifically geared for your taste in products? "Oh, we see you bought cat litter, perhaps you'd also be interested in Activia and Betty Crocker Warm Delights single-serve microwavable chocolate cakes, as you're obviously a spinster." Well every time I get a handful of those bonus coupons at checkout, I bring them home, stick them in the junk drawer in the kitchen or atop the microwave, and abandon them until well past their expiration dates. Whoops.

And I've been equally useless in the world of newspaper's glossy coupon sections. I remember clipping coupons as a kid, "helping" my mom while secretly taking great joy in the activity. Occasionally I'd slip into the stack a coupon for some sugar-ridden product she'd never buy for me just to see if it would make its way into the shopping cart on her next trip to the store (it never did).

So when Devin signed us up for a subscription to the Los Angeles Times on a trip to the Rose Bowl Flea Market --you cannot let him out of your sight for one second, I tell ya-- I thought this might just be my chance to reap the benefits of its coupon section. I bet you can imagine the actual outcome. Yes, the papers arrived daily in plastic bags on our front lawn, and there they sat, bathing in the sprinklers for days on end until one of us would round them up and toss them in the recycling bin. The coupon section was never perused. Not even once. And then we cancelled the subscription... or just didn't pay our bill. Details.

And now here we are and I have this new Entertainment book with so many deals that my head is spinning with the possibilities of penny-pinching and personal growth. Free weekend day car rental with Alamo? Now I can be The Kind Of Person Who Frequently Goes On Fun Weekend Trips. Two for one games at the bowling alley? Maybe I'll be on my way to The Kind Of Person Who Participates In A Bowling League (a new aim of mine following the rush/fluke of winning the highest score in a game during an after work outing). Buy one get one free entrees at The Melting Pot is a two-fer: The Kind Of Person Who Goes To Fondue Restaurants AND The Kind Of Person Who Can Go Out For A Nice Dinner That Doesn't Result In An Anxiety Attack When The Check Comes And She Realizes All That Money Should've Gone To So Many Other Bills.

Plane tickets, sporting events, amusement parks, pizza places I've never heard of but could have fun seeking out... this book is like a promise of an eventful 2011. Sometimes I think all it takes to shake things up is a 2" x 3" scrap of paper offering you a bargain and daring you to try something new.

Friday, October 29, 2010

How To Make A Halloween Costume With Minimal Disaster

Call me a crazy, but I thoroughly enjoy making my own Halloween costumes, rather than purchasing one of those bagged ones from the ubiquitous Halloween stores that pop up mid-September in pretty much every recently-vacated storefront. In previous years I've constructed a margarita costume, a space girl, and Devin's Max costume (from Where the Wild Things Are). Once I get going on the project, there's no stopping me. And I make few compromises in quality and accuracy (until it's like 2 am the night before I have to wear it, I'm sleepy and my fingers are covered in hot glue gun burns).

This year, however, we're not throwing a Halloween party so I'm kind of sort of not sure what the point really is as we have yet to nail down plans. Oh well.

The standard for ladies costumes seems to be to take something ordinary and slut it up. Slutty school girl, slutty nurse, slutty mechanic (why?), slutty Harry Potter (why? why?), and slutty Spongebob Squarepants (why? why? why?). And, y'know, I get the appeal of dressing like a slut. I really do. It's just never been my thing. I'd rather look like an idiot.

This year, I'm trying to start a new trend in ladies costumewear. Instead of the slutty version of everything, why not the sweatsuit version? Shouldn't we be warm and comfortable? It's practically November, after all.

Hence, my endeavor to make a sweatsuit Kermit the frog.

I wasn't without inspiration. Does this kid look cozy or what?

After a brief search it became quite obvious I was not going to find all pieces of my ensemble in a matching, Kermit-green. So, I decided I would purchase everything in white, and then dye it so they'd all be uniform.

Now, we begin.

Day 1:

First, we have a white hoodie. I cut the bulky arms off, with the intention of layering a tighter shirt underneath, because Kermit has such scrawny little arms.

Then, the pants. You might be asking, but doesn't Kermit also have scrawny legs? Shouldn't you wear leggings? Probably, but there ain't nothing scawny about my legs and I'll be damned if I'm going to walk around in leggings without rear coverage.

Lastly, a wrinkled, discolored, food-stained long sleeve shirt I yanked out of the bottom of my hamper. Also, 2 curious pets.

I threw all three items into the washing machine, as per the instructions of the package of Amazon Green dye.

With 30-40 minutes to kill, I could've started on the other parts of the costume. Instead I made some mozzarella sticks and watched the first episode of the new season of 16 and Pregnant. Did you see it? Who gets married in a freaking racing uniform? Or, I guess I mean, who lets a guy get married in a freaking racing uniform? And why live in a barn for the same price as rent in a normal apartment?

Aaand we're back. Time to mix up the dye. In a step I didn't quite understand, I was supposed to mix the dye powder in 4 cups of water. Expecting the solution to turn a pleasing kiwi green, I was alarmed when I instead whipped up a batch of swamp water.

Oh well, no turning back now. I then added the dye to a sink full of warm water + salt, and pushed in the clothes.

With 60 more minutes on the clock, it was time to get the rest of the costume pieces in order.

First, Kermit's eyes. This took some inventive thinking as I wandered the aisles at Michael's craft store. Eventually I purchased a clear Christmas tree ornament that came as two halves --meant to be filled with I don't know what. glitter? Realizing, however, that their thin rims might not be substantial enough to stay on the hood with glue, I also gathered some styrofoam balls to mush in.

Then I painted them white, which took a few coats, and cut the pupil shapes out of black paper.

To adhere the pupils to the eyes, and to give everything a uniform, shiny finish, I applied a generous coat of Modge Podge.

All the while, as I worked away, my assistant sat clear across the room, contributing nothing.

On to the neck triangles! Who knows what the heck these are meant to be, but they are totally necessary to distinguish a Kermit costume from a regular ol' frog costume.

Some snippy snips at a few sheets of felt, and we're in business.

The dying timer went off and I was relieved to discover that my clothes were exactly the right shade of kermit green! So, as per the dye package instructions, I rinsed them and then washed them in warm water.

40 more minutes of waiting, and it was time to throw them in the dryer.

Aw shark farts. They're the color of mint chip ice cream, but paler. This picture doesn't truly do justice to the level of failure. Now what?

Day 2:

Frustrated that 80% of my costume was all wrong, I vented to some coworkers, who all concluded that you cannot follow the package's instructions and wash the dyed clothes in warm water. I've been swindled!

After work I went to Joanne fabrics to "quickly" pick up another package of dye and try again. Apparently everyone else decided to go to the store at the same time. After fighting for parking spaces for 15 minutes, I found a spot on the street about a block away. Inside the store was a madhouse, and I wound up waiting in the kind of checkout line that has no business being in a craft supply store.

Having wasted 45 minutes, I got home feeling the kind of pressure I normally experience the night before I take a trip and I haven't done laundry or packed.

When I walked in the door, before doing anything else, I mixed up another sink full o' dye and added the clothes again. Here's what's weird. This was the exact same shade, but the color was now wrong. Oh well.

There are no pictures of this because I was distracted baking cookies, drinking Pumpkin Ale, and supervising Devin's pumpkin carving. (Domestic goddess that I am.) So we'll skip ahead to the final product:

This doesn't rank as my favorite costume I've ever made, but it sure is the snuggliest. Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Pasadena Wine Festival

A few weekends ago, Devin's sister Meghan came to visit. And because, as a hostess, I'm tragically incapable of planning activities that don't involve drinking, I bought us all tickets to the Pasadena Wine Festival.

When a coworker mentioned this event to me I was instantly giddy as the name boasted Pasadena (where I live), wine (which I live on), and festivals (which I live for).

The set up of the event was simple enough. For the price of admission and an all-you-can-drink bracelet, you spend the day sampling, then re-sampling, then re-sampling, all of the various kinds of wine offered at each winery's booth. In between sips, participants can purchase snacks from food trucks, play badminton and horseshoes, or sit back and listen to live entertainment.

In addition to trying new things, I'm also trying to take advantage of L.A. area public transportation. Yes, it does exist. So I did a little research and found a metro bus that would pick us up down the street from our house and drop us off at the Los Angeles County Arboretum (in Arcadia, bordering on Pasadena), where the festival would take place. How perfect is that?

Shortly after 2pm we got our act together and headed for the bus stop. The bus ride over was relaxing and gave me a chance to see other parts of Pasadena I'd yet to explore. It was sort of like being on a tour. When we arrived at the arboretum I found that, as an added bonus, taking the bus meant avoiding the crowded parking lot and $13 parking fee. Huzzah!

The entrance. Promising.

Forgoing the food trucks, olive oil samples, and assorted other vendors, our first order of business was to get our drink on --- in the most sophisticated manner possible, of course. This is the Pasadena Wine Festival, after all.

We approached the wine garden (which may or may not have actually been called that) where booths were set up in a square, with the middle area left open for tables (and later in the day, long lines... but we'll get to that.)

The booth at the front handed each of us a wine glass --ours to keep, if we ever wanted to pour ourselves tiny glasses of wine at home-- and we were on our way.

Devin and Meg

We started off with some crisp white wines, and then tried to find a shady area to sit down and escape the ever-increasing heat. By the time we found a patch near the stage, I was out of wine, and then just had to march back over to the wine garden. I quickly concluded that trying to relax was a pointless task until later, when the sun went down and we could buy ourselves a bottle of our fave of the day.

While sipping on an Australian pinot blend, I noticed several people crouching through a small opening in the wooded area beyond the booths. Was this allowable? Were they in danger? What was in those woods?! I had to find out. Immediately.

Or, well, after we filled our glasses yet again.

So then we marched off toward the trees and, following another group of wanderers, we ducked through a branch archway and uncovered a lush Ferngully rainforest, complete with ponds, tropical looking plants, and adorable wild life. Who knew this was here?

The only way to hike

Just a buncha turtles, sittin on a log

As the day went on, we met up with friends, chilled out on the lawn for a while and continued our tastings. Sadly, with the much-anticipated nightfall came the should've-been-expected crowds. Instead of meandering from booth to booth, now everyone had to wait in lines for their pours. We'd get ourselves a sample, then immediately enter a new line so that by the time we'd finished sipping, we were at the table for the next pour. There was no time for careful consideration of the flavors, or musing "Yes I do detect the chocolate undertones... I think." It no longer felt like wine tasting, but more like a pub crawl.

By 6 or 7, I was completely starving and, having put off food all day ("I'll wait until I'm ravenous, then it'll be even more delicious!" Idiot.), I was desperate to buy a Korean taco or grilled cheese from one of the various food trucks. But guess who else wanted to grab a bite? The entire population of southern California. Lines stretched on and on. Someone toward the back of one of them claimed she'd already been waiting 35 minutes. She'd be lucky to get served before dawn.

So, that was out. And then set in the familiar "Why do I even bother leaving the house?" feeling. At this point all I wanted was to have something to eat while sitting outside and enjoying the cool night air. Seems like I could do this somewhere like, oh, my backyard.

Within an hour of reaching this conclusion, we'd left, stopped at the store for provisions (frozen pizzas), and were resting comfortably at the patio table.

There's no place like home. There's no place like home.

But that forest was pretty sweet.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Late Summer Activity Extravaganza MegaPost

Whoops. I have a blog. Nearly forgot for a second. (And by "a second" I mean 2 months.)

Even though I may not have been writing about doing stuff, trust me I've been doing stuff. Loads of it. And when I haven't been doing stuff, I've been working too much. So how can I find the time to write about doing stuff if I'm so busy doing the stuff I want to write about? Looks like I've stumbled onto something of a "catch 22" (believe me, I hate using that term as much as you hated reading it).

So to try to get you caught up, I will now tell you the stuff that's kept me busy. And to prevent this post from getting too fat, I'll keep each activity's description to 100 words or less.

If you want to read a lengthier explanation on any of the below, let me know and I'll write another post with more details.

Item 1: A Return to the Rose Bowl Flea Market

This time, my friend Rachael was visiting, but Devin couldn’t come along because our dog got mysteriously sick so they went to the vet. I felt bad for Devin because the flea market is his favorite thing ever, so I spent the whole time shopping for a fun gift to cheer him. I wound up with an R2D2 toy chest that was the envy of everyone we passed on our way back to the car. People would ask, “Where’d you get that?!” Really?

Rachael, R2, and Me

Item 2: Adventures In Scrunch Butting

Splash Sundays market themselves as a “Vegas style pool party” at the Woodland Hills Marriott. The party atmosphere seemed a little forced, but I suppose it could be fun if you like pounding house music and 22-year-old girls dancing in bikinis. Apparently the trend now is the “scrunch butt” look, which sounds like a joke. The last thing my butt needs is a questionable adjective. Overall, it’s fun for a few hours of loudly judging other people while sipping cocktails. But I felt really old and out of place.

Item 3: The Mud Run

The L.A. Mud Run seemed like it was going to be a lot of fun, as everyone dresses up in costumes and then runs around in a muddy obstacle course. In actuality, the first 10 minutes of the run were spent being hosed off by race personnel who were yelling insults at us (WHY?), while we crawled through a slushy pit of muddy water and gravel (ow my knees). This was followed by a 4 mile run in complete silence (can’t bring ipod in mud water). As one fellow participant described it, “A lot of run, not much mud.”

I looked super gross in the Mud Run pics, so here's a picture of Sarge

Item 4: It's Gettin' Hot In Here

Because I like to approach my fitness regimen in a series of fits and starts, I stopped running and instead got really into Bikram Yoga. The idea of a 90 minute workout in a 105 degree room might sound awful to some people, and to those people I’d say, “You’re right, it is kinda awful.” BUT you don’t really notice how hot you are as most of the class is spent trying not to fall over and wondering how it’s possible for the human body to produce so much sweat. After every class I feel like I’ve lost 10 pounds.

Item 5: The Thing They Say About Riding Bikes Is True

Went on a Sunday excursion to Venice with Katie and Becca. After being in L.A. for 6 years I had yet to find the canals or ride a bike along the beach. This day, I did both. Riding a bike was surprisingly fun, and I didn’t collide with any tourists or small children! Afterward we had some beers on the deck at The Whaler, and this day drinking may have contributed to our being entirely too fascinated with the crabs we saw in the canal on our walk back to the car.

It's a good look for me

Who gets to live here?

Item 6: No, The Malibu Campsite Didn't Have A Starbucks

I really hate camping in tents. But this last trip wound up being a lot of fun. Maybe owing to the margaritas. Maybe it was because there were bathrooms with running water (huzzah!). Me and the other ladies on the trip set up the whole campsite ourselves, including 4 tents. As a bonus, our hippy campsite neighbors helped us start a fire and made us egg sandwiches for breakfast. Saw a shooting star. Stayed up really late.

Item 7: Tents Are Cool, But "Camping" In A Cabin Always Wins

Two weekends later, a bunch of us rented a sweet cabin in Big Bear for a weekend of something that can loosely be called “camping.” I brought along a bunch of tie-dye supplies and we had an artistic afternoon. Dying shirts is a lot like dying Easter eggs. You get all caught up in the fun of it without considering the product. Who wants 4 dozen hardboiled eggs? Hello pink-tinted egg salad sandwiches for a week straight! Also sat in the hot tub for several hours each night and ate entirely too much.

Nice automatic timer action, Barry

Jeesh, Seamus. You need to learn how to relax.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Doing Stuff: The OC Fair

Growing up, the New York State Fair was all that and a bag of chips. It took place every year right at the end of summer and even if I try to explain why it was so awesome you still won't understand my infatuation because all of my memories are polished with a heaping dose of nostalgia.

But I can try to get you in my mind-set by telling you about the giant buildings filled with farm animals, and a butter sculpture, and a sand sculpture, and fried dough, and baked potatoes, and curly fries. And rides, rides, rides!

Hmm. Well forget it. It just ruled, okay?

Since I no longer live in New York State I haven't been in probably 6 or 7 years. So I thought maybe, just maybe, I could start a new west coast tradition for myself by visiting the O.C. Fair. And so last Sunday I went with Katie (fellow fair enthusiast) and Devin (reluctant skeptic) on a little road trip to visit our neighbors to the south in Orange County.

First off, this sounds stupid but I kind of didn't really know Orange County was so far away. I mean I knew where it was... kind of. And I'd been to it. But in my head I thought it took like 30 minutes to get there. Really, it was an hour and a half. At any rate, we made it and found free (free!) parking in a nearby business park with a shuttle bus to the site.

After waiting in a really long line at the fair's entrance (Minus points. NYS fair never has lines to get in!), we paid just $10 for a ticket. (This would be the only bargain of the day.)

As we walked in, immediately up ahead I spotted a petting zoo. Ding ding ding!

Would you just look at the teeneh tineh bebeh goats?

And this wooly calf?

The OC Fair may have had the cutest petting zoo ever, but these were some of the only animals on the premises. Later we saw oxen, some shorn sheep, and Alaskan racing pigs (yes, they run a race and yes it's amazing), but the animal display was nothing compared to the NYS fair. Although, I guess this was just the county's supply of prize winning livestock, and not the whole state's. And are there even farms in Orange County? (Knott's Berry Farm doesn't count.)

Enough about animals. One of the other big attractions of fairs is the food. The disgusting, greasy, delicious food. Although, I think in the last decade it's gotten even more disturbing. I'd heard tales of fried chicken nestled between Krispy Kreme donuts. And deep fried Snickers bars. Deep fried ice cream (how?). In a way, it's tempting to try these fat wads. You think, "Well it's not going to kill me to have a bite."

It's one thing to imagine trying such stuff. It's a whole other experience to see something like this.

That's right. Deep fried butter. Chocolate covered bacon. We couldn't even bring ourselves to get any closer for fear of absorbing air born lard particles.

But you know what we were more than happy to sample? Beers. Obviously this was the one part of the fair I never got to take part in as a kid. There were beer tents and-- if memory serves -- wine slushies. Grown ups seemed to be wasted.

And now I got to be a grown up too. Though, no, I didn't get wasted. At $10 a cup I couldn't afford to. Still, any outdoor activity improves immensely when one is allowed to walk around with an ice cold beer.

Now onto the buyable crap! And the OC Fair had plenty. In addition to vendors lining the walkways, there was also The Parade of Products, The Carnival of Products, The Festival of Products and The Product Promenade. Each of these was a warehouse-looking structure packed full of the kind of junk sold on infomercials or SkyMall. As Katie remarked while we walked through, "They've invented everything." Yes, they have. And I don't really want any of it.

Though I did join in on the purchase of designer knock-off sunglasses.

I know, I look adorable. But these are the darkest sunglasses on earth. I really couldn't read anything up close... or far away... or clearly make out facial expressions. And I nearly walked into stuff. It was as if the lenses had been tinted on both sides.

It wasn't long before we'd pretty much seen everything the fair had to offer except for the rides. When I was younger I would devote an entire day to going on the rides at the fair. I didn't care that the people who operated them had no teeth and were super creepy and seemed like they might snap and intentionally loosen one of the bolts holding the structure together. Aside from the tilt-a-whirl, which has ALWAYS been barftastic, I was up for trying anything.

Now, as an older, wiser, lamer version of myself, you couldn't pay me to go on those things. Every single ride seemed to shoot up into the air, upside down, backwards and inside out. They made me woozy just looking at them.

The one ride I would've considered was the ski lift that runs the length of the fairgrounds. These stuffed animals had the right idea.

But my companions were not so eager and I didn't care enough to pester. So, having decided to skip the rides, and having spent entirely too much money on beverages, we were out of things to do in about 3 hours. We dawdled around a short while longer and then hopped the bus back to our parking lot to head home.

While it doesn't hold a candle to the New York State Fair -- and really, what could? -- the OC Fair was a fun little outing. If I can get over my fear of artery-wrecking food and hastily assembled roller coasters, I could probably enjoy it even more.

I might even check it out next year.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New York State of Mind: Part Three - In Which I Run 9 Miles And Nearly Throw Up - OR - The Things I'll Do For Free Beer

The plan was for me and Rachael to hit the road by 11am. Then that Julia Roberts movie came on TV -- the one where she fakes her own death to escape her abusive husband. I got sucked in, then Rachael got sucked in and then some how we didn't leave Brooklyn until 3:30. Whoops.

We were heading to Utica on Saturday to run the Boilermaker 15k on Sunday morning. The race attracts about 12,000 runners each year, perhaps because it ends at the Utica Club Brewery, where racers are rewarded with unlimited free beer.

Last year we'd both run the 5k version of the race, along with my mother and sister. This course is less popular and less celebrated. I felt great when I got to the finish line and joined the post-race party. But then as the 15k runners started arriving, I got the feeling that maybe I was second rate. I should have - could have - tried harder and run the big race.

So this year I was determined to make it happen. For months I'd been training, usually running 6 - 7 miles at a time, though pushing myself to 8 on occasion. And twice I'd come just shy of running the full race distance of 9.2 miles, but I wanted to save that accomplishment for the race itself.

I felt really confident that I'd kick the boilermaker's ass because whenever I ran in training it was a breeze. Well, not totally a breeze, but I could keep a good pace and keep my energy up.

Of course, there was the matter of my bad foot. Two weeks before the race, while I was at a friend's house, I was making my way to the fridge for a beer (hey, we all have our pre-race diets) and halfway there my foot started to ache. I shook it out, rotated my ankle a bit and kept going. Throughout the rest of the night my foot would feel fine one moment, and absolutely terrible the next. The following morning, when I got out of bed and first put weight on it, I nearly collapsed because it hurt so badly. I presumed I must have hurt it while running and it took a while for the full effect to kick in.

I decided to stay off it until the race and fortunately, in that time, whatever I'd done to it reversed itself and I was no longer limping and hobbling through life. However, this meant I hadn't run in two weeks and I wasn't sure if I'd messed up my endurance.

The day before the race I was well behaved. I ate good food and drank plenty of water. Too much water, perhaps, as I had to get up and pee like 5 times during the course of the night and as a result I missed out on some valuable sleep.

The following morning, the house --Devin's parents' house in Utica -- was abuzz with runners: me, Rachael, Devin's sister's friend, Devin's mom, my mom (who planned to run the 5k again because "9 miles? What am I gonna do that for?"). I honestly didn't feel nervous. Rachael was anxious, but I kept saying, "Just do whatever. Walk if you have to, but you've been training so I'm sure you'll be fine."

Here we are before the race.

And here we are after, at the post race party.

I know, we look sort of the same. But what you can't tell from these pictures is that for the hour and a half between them I was dying.

I started off doing ok. I felt like I always do. Hotter than usual, and not used to the humidity, but otherwise nothing unusual. It was around mile 4 that I started to feel barfy, sluggish and dizzy. This was unexpected. At this point in my training 4 miles was a piece of cake. And I never felt ill when I ran. What was happening to me?

I kept on, ignoring how I felt. At about 6 miles, I got the attention of Rachael, who was running near me, and told her I was going to fall back for a bit to see if I could regroup. She trotted ahead and I slowed my pace. Sadly, it didn't really help. I was willing my legs not to stop, and yet they seemed to have a mind of their own. They were ready to walk. I was not. I kept going.

By the time I got to mile 8 I'm pretty sure I was nearing total meltdown. I was so furious with my body for failing me. For months I'd been running several times a week, waking up early to fit in 7 miles before work in the morning, sacrificing a Sunday of sleeping in to make sure I completed a long run before it got too hot outside. And now here I was, at the main event, and I could barely put one foot in front of the other.

The problem with wanting to give up during a race is that you actually can't. Even if I just walked off the road and sat in a shady patch of grass, I'd still have to some how get to the finish line to meet up with everyone else. So I walked for a minute, then ran a little more, then walked a little more, then ran a little more. It was heartbreaking to be at my worst when everyone else whizzing by me was thinking "Almost there! I'll just give it my all!"

Anyway, I made it to the end. My time sucked. I felt awful. I was really proud of everyone else, and sorry for myself. But such is life. After a few minutes of standing still, a bottle of water, and a cold beer I was feeling good again.

Now the question remains -- do I try again next year?

Following the race I rode with my parents to their house, where I spent 2 days doing nothing. Really. Nothing. It was great. Of course, my relaxed state of being was destroyed by my spontaneously canceled return flight home and the panicked rescheduling that followed.

But I won't get into that here. I'll end on a happy note: At least the race is done.

Monday, July 26, 2010

New York State of Mind: Part Two - In Which I Am Obsessed With Dinosaurs

Day 2 of my trip to New York meant making my way into Manhattan to meet up with Yasi --on her birthday!-- for some more good ol' wanderin' around.

We began by heading to High Line Park. Starting somewhere around W 12th street, this park is the transformation of an unused elevated railway into a little slice of nature reminiscent of a marsh.

We walked the existing length of it, which ended at a chain link fence sealing off the still-in-progress part two of the park. Then we made our way down the steps to ground level, fighting an onslaught of tourists who emptied out from a nearby bus.

From there we stopped for a quick bite, then on to the American Museum of Natural History. This was my idea, suggested in a casual "well if we have the time it might be cool" manner, though what I meant was "I want to see the dinosaurs now!!!" I have this ongoing fascination with paleontology and prehistoric things, leftover from the dinosaur chapter in 3rd grade science class. From what I can tell, there isn't much your average grown woman can do to make such an interest a hobby, unless it's super dorky -- dinosaur models?-- or completely impractical -- take a leave of absence from work and join an excavation in Hungary? So I'll get my kicks from museum exhibits.

And this one was awesome. Here, I took too many pictures:

This creeper is some kind of prehistoric tiny deer. Look at his stick legs.

And the ancestor of the elephant, my favorite living creature.

After the dinosaur wing we searched for 20 minutes to find the display of living reptiles, only to discover that there was an additional fee for the exhibit. Peh.

And so we retired to Yasi's apartment where we fitfully tried to get ready for her birthday party. I hated the choice of clothes I brought to change into and felt fat and sweaty from the day of walking around in the heat. So I stomped around, changing in and out of my dress like 6 times before realizing there simply wasn't enough time to lose 15 pounds and shop for an entirely different wardrobe.

Off to the party! (In a cab that made me really really car sick.)

The cool night air was just barely starting to role in as we arrived at the bar with an outdoor "beer garden," a loosely used term meaning "picnic tables out back." I was starving and thirsty by this point and plowed my way through some nachos and a beer before most of the guests even arrived.

We had a lovely evening and in addition to spending more time with Yasi, Rachael and Anne, I was also reunited with several other college friends who live in the city.

Yasi and I were simply thrilled with the green wall. I swear this pose made sense at the time.

For the after party we walked a few blocks west (east? north?) to another bar, but I was still fantastically hungry and forced Rachael to stop at a pizza place with me. Really, if I lived in New York I'd gain 30 pounds from pizza alone. There's a pizza place on every corner and they are so inviting.

After our slices, we had some Fruit Stripe gum from this pack I'd impulsively bought earlier in the day. I remembered the included temporary tattoos being more impressive. Or maybe they were just better made when we were kids?

Then after the after party, Rachael, boyfriend Joey and I took a cab back to their place. We crossed the bridge to Brooklyn --which bridge? I don't remember, and that's a shame because Joey did a terrific job explaining the various bridges and their histories-- and then we were asleep within 2 minutes of walking in their front door.

Coming up next, the exciting conclusion, Part Three: In Which I Run 9 Miles and Nearly Throw Up -OR- The Things I'll Do For Free Beer.