31 December 2010

Year in Review

2010 has been a heck of a year. I've written plenty about it already, though, and don't feel the need to revisit the highs and lows. Instead, I'm going to take the road less traveled...by focusing on the roads not traveled at all -- things that didn't happen, that I didn't do (although I thought -- and sometimes even publicly declared -- that I would). I'm sure there are more I'm forgetting, but in short, here are some of the things that 2010 didn't bring:
  • Landscaping (read about our false start on that front here)
  • Rye grass seed, which I intended to spread until we landscape in the spring (read about that short-lived plan here)
  • Built-in cubbies in the mudroom -- on the 2011 to-do list for sure
  • More bunnies -- after Dash got sick in May (update here), we realized that two is the right number for us
  • Visit to my grandmother in Oregon -- as much as I hate to say it, the house, moving, etc. got in the way (this is at the top of the 2011 to-do list)
  • New dining table (although we did get the chairs -- all 12 of them; stay tuned for a post about that Christmas Eve adventure)
  • Christmas cookies delivered with holiday greetings to the neighbors. We sent Christmas cards to a handful of neighbors, but I had really wanted to take a festive bunch of cookies to many neighbors and get to know more people on the block. (I got so far as to buy cute bags, but none of my three attempts at gingerbread were very successful. Still getting used to the new oven, I guess.)
2010 was an okay year. Not great, certainly not horrible. But we're hoping 2011 will be better, and whatever your outlook on 2010, I hope your 2011 far exceeds it. Happy new year!

The Very Best Bunny

My poor, sweet Dash.


(That's him on the left -- the dapper black and white fellow -- in a picture on the foundation when we took last year's Christmas card photos.)

He was so sick earlier this year. From Memorial Day weekend through about the middle of June, we were sure we were going to lose him. He was so, so sick. With almost daily visits to the vet and lots of medicine (even now, he's still on Cipro), he got better, but he developed a head tilt. (Imagine living your life with your head resting on one shoulder.) But otherwise, he's pretty much good as new. He eats, drinks, hops, snoogles his best friend Millie....

Since we were both off of work this week, and since Dash hasn't seen the vet since around August, we thought it was a good time to check in and make sure we're not missing anything that needs to be addressed. He's still on Cipro because it's easier to continue giving it to him than to reliably test for any lingering infection (the cause of his illness and the head tilt was a bacterial infection, pseudomonas, in his inner ear).

We also took Millie for a check-up, and she is doing great. The vet, Dr. Todd, was pleased with how Dash is doing, and we talked about stopping his Cipro on a trial basis. Then I asked about a bump I've noticed under his bad ear. One of our previous bunnies had something like it, which drained into his ear, but Dash's doesn't drain. I was concerned that it could be holding infected matter but couldn't drain because the infection caused the tissue in his ear to swell up, preventing much from coming out at all. Dr. Todd took a sample to test and found that it was an abscess. Because of Dash's other issues, and because we're good with at-home care, he thought it was best to [note to the queasy: here's where it gets unpleasant] make an incision in the skin to clear out what he could right then and leave it open so we could continue clearing it at home over the next few days. But after he got in, he found that it was much deeper -- under the fatty tissue and the muscle -- so the incision is both longer and deeper than expected (Dr. Todd even had to tie off a blood vessel). It does seem to be related to his ear, although probably not to his original ear infection.

So now our poor, sweet Dash is back home with about a half-inch opening under his ear. We have saline to flush it once a day, an antibiotic to keep infection out, and a painkiller to keep him comfortable as we work through this latest challenge (plus the Cipro, which we agreed he should keep taking at least until we get through this ordeal).

Dash is the very best bunny. We love him so much.

30 December 2010

File This Under "Better Late Than Never"

Notice anything different in here?


Today, after six months and five days in our house, we finally hung a towel bar in the master bathroom. (Because of a snafu with the radiant floor, our bathroom was still under construction for about a month after we moved in, so technically we've only been using it without a towel bar for five months. "Only.")

Now, instead of heaping our towels on the teak bench or on the side of the bathtub, we can hang them neatly on the wall:


Because of the glass wall, I wanted to find a pivoting towel bar for easy access from inside the shower:


Back in the spring, I ordered a different pivoting bar, but I never hung it because it just didn't seem right (read about it here). That one cost a good bit, and this one cost even more, so our investment in hanging towels in the master bathroom has been...significant, but if that's what it took to get it right, well, I guess I can't complain too much.

29 December 2010

Recycling Can Make You a Star

If you remember the last time I worked on the garage attic, I stopped short of filling up the recycling bin with cardboard so there would be space for all of the recyclables I knew we would generate over the two weeks between pickups (including Christmas and all of the boxes, paper, etc. that comes along with it).

Boy did I miscalculate.

By Christmas Eve, the bin was already overflowing, and we still had almost a week until pickup day. As of Saturday, wrapping paper littered the floor by the tree, empty wine glasses lined the kitchen counters in a display of our holiday debauchery (there wasn't much debauchery, really), and boxes were everywhere. The situation got so dire that I even asked a neighbor if we could borrow space in their recycling bin...but after their own Christmas celebration, theirs was already full, too.

And then we remembered that we have an extra recycling bin from the old house that was stashed in the trees at the back of the lot last year before the house was torn down. We hauled it up to the garage, set it next to the other bin, and promptly filled it up, too:


That's 180 gallons of recycling. It's sad to think about the days before recycling...or the people who still haven't gotten on board.

I was unsure whether wrapping paper is recyclable, so I googled it and found that it depends on the area because some recycling facilities can't handle the smaller fibers and/or the metallic parts of wrapping paper. Fortunately, though, when I looked it up on Austin's solid waste services website, I learned that it's no problem to recycle wrapping paper here.

While I was on the city's website, I also found information about a waste-reduction challenge that the city is sponsoring over the next couple of months. Dare to Go Zero is going to take the form of a reality TV show, broadcast locally on the government access channel and online, designed to encourage recycling, composting, etc. It's kind of like The Biggest Loser for garbage -- each participating household "weights in" their garbage at the beginning of the challenge, and the winner is the one with the biggest "waste loss" by the end of the show. Since I'm all about green living and love a challenge (remember our gym's 20-day challenge and the Holidailies 30-day challenge?), I submitted an application. Of course, the format makes it impossible for us to win, as we already reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost, although I'm sure there's still lots we could learn if we were selected to participate. I suspect we won't be chosen -- the website stresses that you don't need recycling experience, which I think means that they want people who don't have any, and our white-bread DINK status hardly fits the diversity of living arrangements they're trying to cast. I think they're really looking for participants with pretty wasteful lifestyles to convert through the show. They have little to gain by encouraging us to be more efficient with our waste. I did point out in my application, though, that selecting us to participate might offer opportunities to highlight other kinds of green living measures (rainwater collection, etc.) that would benefit viewers and the city alike. We'll see what happens in the next few weeks, but we're not holding our breath.

(Austin folks: if you're interested, the deadline to apply for Dare to Go Zero is Friday.)

28 December 2010

Lazy Day...Lots of Time to Make a To-Do List

Today was a much-needed lazy day. Visiting relatives left to return to the land of early bird dinners, and we spent the first half of the day watching TV and movies. Then we went out to take care of some post-holiday errands. When we returned home, I raked some leaves (we only have one small garbage can that we borrowed from a neighbor, so it's taking a few weeks to get them all picked up for the city's large-scale composting) and, because it rained all day and the ground was soft, I pulled up more of the short, cloth silt fence from the backyard:


With most of the trees removed and the silt fence on its way out, I'm starting to see the yard as more of a blank canvas...which is good, because I realized today that, with planting season starting around March, we're going to have to figure out a landscaping plan in a hurry to have the hardscape, sprinklers, privacy fence, etc. in place in time. We have a few names of landscape designers, but inertia (and ongoing decision fatigue from construction) has kept us from getting the ball rolling. We better get on that.

27 December 2010

One Last Christmas Tradition

We have made a tradition of buying the official Swarovski crystal ornament every Christmas since our first anniversary. They alternate between stars and snowflakes. 2010 was a snowflake year:


Now that we have eight of them, they're really starting to have a visual presence on our tree and look amazing when they catch the light right. Over the last few years, we've started buying two each year and giving the second one to someone who has been significant to us that year. This year, there were three aspects of our lives that suggested possibilities: (1) Marathon training -- my running buddies have kept the process from being unbearable -- but that's really only significant to me, and I didn't want to make them feel like they needed to reciprocate (plus I already had a small gift picked out for one of them). (2) My brother's move to Austin this summer -- it's been fun reconnecting with him, but he's living in a smallish apartment and didn't get a tree, so it likely wouldn't have made it out of the box. (3) Our big move, and the amazing welcome we have received from the neighbors. We decided to go this route and give the ornament to the family on our street we've gotten to know the best. We took it over last week when we decorated Christmas cookies with them.


In other Christmas ornament news, I spent much of the day yesterday hitting the after-Christmas sales and amassed quite a collection of mercury glass ornaments and garland, including these:




It's my new love. I look forward to an antique-y Christmas theme next year and think that the crystal ornaments will be a nice, crisp accent to the aged finish of the mercury glass.

26 December 2010

Christmas Morning Run

Yesterday, after breakfast and exchanging gifts, I went out for my weekly long run. Fortunately, this week was only ten miles, as the holiday meant that I would be running on my own. I took off from home wearing a long-sleeved shirt and my fantastic new running gloves (the kind that convert to mittens, a gift from Steve) but just shorts, expecting to warm up as I got going. I didn't anticipate the wind, though, and while I did get warmer over the course of the hour and a half or so that I was out there, I never really got warm.

I've written about how I'm not really a runner, how I don't get a runner's high or find running the least bit meditative, but yesterday's run was closer to a spiritual experience than I usually achieve. There's just something about running on Christmas, when there are hardly any cars on the road and the air feels extra crisp. Not to get all political, but I generally belong to the "Happy Holidays" camp (I don't think it takes away from my holiday to acknowledge that others may celebrate differently); however, as the 25th approaches, I tend to transition into "Merry Christmas." There's a certain camaraderie among the people you see on a Christmas day run (walkers, other runners, a few cyclists), and saying "Merry Christmas" to all of them just felt right.

But my run was mostly made up of quiet moments -- at least when I wasn't singing. I use my iPod on most training runs, and yesterday I felt like singing along a lot. (In addition to it just being fun, it's an extra cardiovascular challenge.) My favorite running music is probably Billy Joel's Storm Front. I like running to We Didn't Start the Fire, of course, but a lot of the other songs are really great, too, and as I willingly put myself through ten miles of cold, hard exercise, sandwiched between a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner with family and an equally satisfying Christmas dinner with friends, these lyrics to Leningrad stuck out:

I was born in '49
A cold war kid in McCarthy time
Stop 'em at the 38th parallel
Blast those yellow reds to hell
Cold war kids were hard to kill
Under their desks in an air raid drill
Haven't they heard we won the war
What do they keep on fighting for?

Despite the challenges the last decade has brought to this country and to the world, my (admittedly limited) perspective suggests that we're better off than we were during the Cold War. Being a child of the 80s, I've never known air raid drills, and as long as I have the freedom to subject myself to these long, uncomfortable runs and then to spend the rest of the day eating and doing whatever I want, I will be grateful to everyone who has had a part in ensuring that freedom.

25 December 2010

The Flip Side of Being Carded, Part 2



The hours-long process is a labor of love, for sure, but we also get something tangible out of it. Every year, we keep one card and one letter for ourselves. We put them in a binder that has become, year by year, a chronicle of our life together. For instance, last year's letter featured the beginning of our construction process, so a picture of us standing (with Millie and Dash) on the newly poured foundation fit the bill:


One of the highlights of 2008 -- the year I really got into my triathlon groove -- was a trip to Portland for the national championship triathlon, so a picture from the Columbia River Gorge and another from a local race seemed perfect (too bad the color of the Oregon picture wasn't):


Since this binder is the closest thing we have to a scrapbook, I also tucked a copy of our "we've moved" card into the front pocket, and I also made some notes to serve as a reminder of how many cards and letters we need:


(We sent this card out last summer, after we sold our condo and moved into the temporary house, to give out our new (temporary) address. We didn't send change-of-address cards when we moved into the new house this year; instead, we tried to send out our Christmas cards early and highlighted the new address for our friends and family...which mostly worked.)

The Flip Side of Being Carded

First things first -- Merry Christmas!

And while we're talking about Christmas...I love sending out Christmas cards. I mean, I really, really love it. I take an inordinate amount of pride in putting everything together. I like to imagine that recipients see the envelope from us in their mailboxes and get giddy with excitement because they know something special is inside. (I have no idea if that is true for even one of our hundred or so recipients, but I like to imagine....)

You see, we don't just sign a card and throw it in an envelope. We send a letter printed on holiday paper, which we sign (sometimes with a hand-written note), and a personalized photo card. (In the early days, when we were still figuring this stuff out, I would use a picture card, a Christmas letter, and a regular greeting card, where we would write a short note and sign. That was too much.) Here's what we sent out this year:


I don't want to discourage anyone from sending out similar holiday mailings, since I love receiving holiday letters and picture cards as much as I love sending them (maybe even more), but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a ton of work. All told, it's easily 20 hours of work, including the following:
  • taking the picture (this year's took five shoots and at least 60 takes -- animals increase the difficulty exponentially -- although some years we go with something that we already have, e.g., from a trip or a race)
  • writing the letter (I keep notes all year long and start writing around October)
  • finding just the right coordinating paper and picture card (paper from Target or Hobby Lobby, picture card from Costco)
  • formatting and printing the letter
  • printing the recipients' address labels (after updating the excel file of names and addresses; this is a huge time-saver and saves me from accidentally sending two to the same person, as I did a few years ago)
  • stamping the envelopes with our return address stamp
  • putting postage stamps on each envelope
  • signing the letters
  • stuffing the envelopes, licking, and sealing
Here's a visual representation of everything that goes into it:


Oh, and since the manufacturer of our personalized address stamp (Three Designing Women) has a bunch of fun ink colors and stamp sets, I swapped in a holiday design and red ink to add a festive touch to the backs of the envelopes as well:


If you're wondering, the cost of the whole mailing breaks down as follows:
  • $50 for postage (and increasing every time another friend moves overseas!)
  • $25 for 125 Costco picture cards (including envelopes)
  • $10 for 105 sheets of holiday paper
  • a couple of dollars for a few sheets of address labels
  • this year, about $20 for the colored ink and holiday stamp set, which should last through multiple years (I already had the stamper and black ink)
At about $1 per letter, that's not bad for the most meaningful gift we give each year. We get more picture cards than letter paper and give the additional cards (minus one, which I'll explain later) to co-workers. For the hundred or so cards we send out each year, we receive approximately 40. And that's okay. For us, it isn't about getting anything in return. Rather, we think of each card as a small, homemade gift to people we care about, who hopefully get some measure of holiday joy from receiving it. It's like baking cookies, but for the heart instead of the taste buds (and way easier to mail to out-of-town family and friends).

So, may your day be filled with homemade cookies, both literal and metaphorical, and all of the best things the season can bring.

24 December 2010

Finally, O Christmas Tree (Finally)

Before we get to the tree, here's my favorite, simplest holiday decoration this year:


I bought this interesting 50's ceramic dish at a garage sale this fall for $8. (It's from a company called Florence Ceramics from Pasadena, California.) The minute I saw it, I imagined it full of ornaments, so I was glad the holiday season finally arrived so it could fulfill its destiny. (I took a close-up because I didn't want to move the various things on the table at that moment. To see it in the larger context of the room, click here.)

So, with the dish full of ornaments, there wasn't a whole lot left to put on the tree. (After Christmas sales should help with that.) And we had some troubles with the lights, and the angel is still crooked, and the bottom line is that our tree just won't be winning any beauty contests. But here it is:


I think my favorite thing about a decorated Christmas tree is the festive mix of papers adorning the packages underneath.


There is one ornament I want to highlight.


It's actually not an ornament, although it's cleverly designed to look like one. It's actually a control for the lights. We picked it up a few years ago at Target the day after Christmas, and thank goodness we did -- the only convenient outlet is directly behind the tree where only a contortionist would be able to reach. The snowflake has a cord that connects to a plug, and the lights in turn plug into that plug. Instead of battling the tree, we just touch the snowflake to turn the tree on or off. Brilliant!

22 December 2010

Happy Anniversary To Us, Part 2

After our wedding at sea eight years ago today, we headed to the north shore of Oahu to spend three days at Turtle Bay Resort. (That took us up to Christmas Eve, when we would head back to the other side of the island to spend Christmas at my grandmother's house. After Christmas, we went on a week-long cruise around the Hawaiian Islands and across both the equator and the international date line to Fanning Island, but I like our Turtle Bay pictures better, so I'm going to focus on that here.)

The hotel is perched on the end of a peninsula so that each room on its three wings has a view of the water. If you remember a TV show a few years back called North Shore (kind of like The O.C.: Hawaiian Edition...there's no reason you would remember it), the wide-view exterior shots they showed of the resort were of Turtle Bay:


It's the kind of place where you drive in, park, and don't need to drive again until it's time to leave. We ate all of our meals at the various on-site restaurants, walked down to the beach to swim and snorkel, and just lounged around a lot. The property is so big that we felt like we were the only people there. One day we went for a horseback ride, and it was, again, just the two of us (plus our guide):


Another day we walked the mile or so to the northern tip of the island. On the way, we ran into this lovely lady:


She's a Hawaiian Monk Seal, an endangered species. (We assumed she was a lady. I don't know why.)

After a bit of rain the night we arrived, the weather was great. One wall of our room was all sliding glass doors, which I don't think we ever closed. The sound of the waves crashing against the shore was the perfect soundtrack for our stay at Turtle Bay.

Happy Anniversary to Us

Today marks eight years since I married my best friend:


I highly recommend eloping in general, and eloping in Hawaii in particular. We had the most beautiful backdrop for pretty much every picture -- clear blue water -- and a friend conducted the short, simple ceremony.


We were fortunate to be able to use another friend's 1929 wooden sailboat. We had the choice of a couple of different boats, but we knew this was the one when we saw that the color of the sail cover and other accents matched the vest we had bought for Steve for the occasion.


After the ceremony, we went to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (now the Kahala Resort) for a terrific brunch at Hoku Restaurant. While at the hotel, we took advantage of some of the beautiful backdrops that were all around us. This staircase, surrounded by stunning walls of orchids, was extra festive three days before Christmas:


Has it been eight years already?!

21 December 2010

We Got Carded, Part 3: This Time I Mean It

I fibbed.

When I first showed the fireplace Christmas card display, and later when I showed how to do it, I hadn't actually received many cards yet. I was feeling the holiday spirit and wanted to do some decorating (that didn't involve stringing lights on a tree), so I mocked it up with last year's cards.* But now that we're just a few days from Christmas and I've gotten a good assortment, I present the honest-to-goodness 2010 collection:


And since I wasn't thrilled with the twine I used the first time around, I swapped it out for a red semi-sheer wired ribbon, which I twisted to give it some shape:


* Click here for information about a great charity that will use your old Christmas cards for a fun project for disadvantaged kids while also raising money to support its mission.

The Tree-Org

The Christmas tree required us to rearrange the furniture a bit. Here's how the room looked pre-tree:


And now:


We'll put it back after Christmas, but it's kind of a nice trial run for if we end up getting a sofa with built-in chaise longue* like we're thinking about, kind of like this (but not exactly this; this was just the first picture I found online):


Next year, I'm hoping to put the tree in front of the middle window so it will twinkle from the street. (Since we still have temporary shades that don't go up and down easily, it seemed pointless to do that this year.) We're still working on getting it to twinkle from inside the house. We've had a couple of false starts on the lighting front.

* Impromptu French lesson: It's chaise longue, not chaise lounge. It means "long chair," not "chair I don't feel like getting out of."

20 December 2010

I'm Pretty Sure at Least Some of the Neighbors Secretly Hate Us

We've been in the house since the end of June, and we still have random debris laying around the yard. This week is our neighborhood's bulky item pickup, so we jumped at the chance to have some of it hauled away.

There was a hunk of stone used to support the (fairly thin, and therefore fragile) hearth slab in transit from the stone yard. We kept it because we thought we might make it into the seat part of a bench for the backyard, but it's waaaaay too heavy to haul back there. It was also incredibly heavy to drag to the curb for pickup (we had to lift one edge and flip it -- the short way -- toward the street), but fortunately it broke into pieces as we maneuvered it. (Of course, that means it may not qualify as "bulky" and may not be picked up, but most of the pieces will now fit into our garbage can if we have to go that route.)

There was also some random lumber that's been chillin' in the front yard since we moved in. We could have thrown that in the garbage can months ago, but we would have had to find a saw and cut it up, and it just never made it to the top of the priority list.

We've been gradually removing the silt fence used during construction to keep dirt from creeping everywhere. Some of it is still adorning the backyard:


The metal posts used to hold the fence up were driven into the ground pretty far, and the significant amount of dirt that did collect against the fence further buried them. We finally found success pulling them out after a heavy rain, when the ground was soft. We rolled up the fencing and put it in the garbage, but the metal stakes didn't fit (and would be good candidates for reuse or recycling anyway). So they were littering the yard, too, until we stacked them up along the curb with the other debris for bulky item pickup:


Within a few hours, the metal stakes were collected (as was the old cyclone fence gate that we had held onto after demolition just in case) by some passers-by who I assume were going to sell the scrap metal.

So, once all of the the debris is collected this week, the yard will be a tiny bit less awful. There's still the pile of ground up drywall, intended to be worked into the dirt to soften the clay (which I've been working on g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y as the mood strikes), as well as the general post-apocalyptic feel of the landscape.

Oh, and the foreground of that picture above includes a reminder of another reason the neighbors would be justified in hating us just a little: the rectangular patch in the asphalt is from when the water main broke under the weight of the cement truck as the foundation was being poured.

19 December 2010

Stuff

My office holiday party last week included a white elephant gift exchange.  I've brought really good gifts in the past -- the best was a hand-me-down bottle of tequila I was never going to drink -- but since there are a number of cheesy or silly gifts each year, this time I decided to simply re-wrap a not-so-good gift I got at the exchange a few years ago: a Stetson cologne gift set in a ratty old box.  I had stashed it in the back of my file cabinet when I got it, and I was happy to get it out of my life.  If I received something good in return, fine; if not, it would go straight to Goodwill.  Either way, at least one unwanted item would be out of my life.

A wonderful co-worker who is known for her love of snowmen was delighted when she opened the package she chose and found a snowman night light.  As each person's turn came up, they could either choose a new gift or take one that someone else had opened, and someone took the snowman night light, leaving my co-worker to choose again.  Unfortunately, she chose my deceptively pretty box that contained the Stetson.  What made it even worse is that this year, it was the only truly "bad" gift, and I felt terrible.  When it was all over, I gave her the calendar set I ended up with (which I would never have used).  It wasn't a snowman, but she seemed happy to have come out okay in the end, and I was blissfully unencumbered by more stuff.

Another co-worker chose a huge gift bag and found herself the new owner of a pretty fancy-looking pair of dolls.  They were posed in kind of an odd seated position, their heads tilted to the side and their lips puckered, so we thought they were intended to be placed in such a way that they were kissing.  While they were nice dolls (the kind that adults, not children, would collect), they clearly weren't on my co-worker's wish list.  When someone else stole them from her in the white elephant game, she whispered to me, "I'm kind of glad she took them.  I didn't know where I was going to put them."

I was stunned that she seemed to think she was stuck with whatever she got.  It wasn't like a wedding gift from a relative that you might feel compelled to hang onto and display when the giver came around.  These were random, probably re-gifted things from an anonymous co-worker who would never remember -- much less care -- who ended up with them.  I had to wonder if I was unique (at least in that room) in my desire not to clutter my home and my life with things that serve no good purpose.  Why are people so willing to let their stuff dictate how they live their lives?

18 December 2010

People Do This for Fun?!

Today I ran longer than I ever have before.

22 miles.  (Austin folks: for a sense of the distance, it's like running from downtown to the Ikea in Round Rock.)

I have no desire to do that again...much less add 4.2 more mile to make it to a marathon.  But for reasons I won't get into here, I am doing just that.  In less than two months, I am running the Austin Marathon.

I have run races of all distances up to half marathons, but running isn't really my thing.  My love of swimming got me into triathlons a few years ago, and I was quickly hooked.  Running is an essential element of triathlons, so I reluctantly started running, at first able to run only about a mile.  Within a few months, it went from being so unbelievably hard and slow that I wanted to quit at every step to being hard only when I made it so by pushing myself but otherwise mostly comfortable.

What has been wonderful about running, though, is seeking the hard work turn into improvement.  I never -- never -- thought I could become a decent runner.  My outlook is pretty much that I'm good at some things and not good at other things, and there are enough things I'm good at that I don't need to bother with the others except for fun (hence my trips to the driving range every year or two for an hour of failure to connect with the ball).  Anyway, I don't devote much energy to areas in which I'm lacking...but maybe I should.  Hmmmm, I'll have to think about that.

But back to running.  Earlier this week we did a 2-mile timetrial to gauge our progress from a couple of months ago.  We were running on a track, and I planned my pace per lap based on the improvement I thought I should have made by now (because, again, the only joy I get from running is in seeing the progress).  I hit my pace for the first two laps (half a mile) and then started to slide.  I still cut seventeen seconds off of my time, but I was shooting for more than double that.  The timetrial is a predictor of marathon performance, but I'm not too concerned about it.

Today's 22-miler has me more concerned.  What we did today looks a lot more like the marathon (we even used much of the marathon course, but in reverse), and it was so hard.  I know it will get easier, but it's hard to imagine two or three more training runs of similar difficulty...and the marathon itself.  Around mile 19, my buddies and I compared notes on which body parts were hurting the most.  Feet, ankles, knees, calves, hamstrings, quads -- they were all on the list.  Now, 12 hours later, I'm feeling pretty good, except that one of my knees doesn't seem to be working quite right.  I estimate that my knee joints each opened and closed about 20,000 times over the course of the run, and it feels like it's on strike.  Or maybe it's the muscles that expand and contract to open the knee joint -- which also had to  do their thing 20,000 times -- that aren't happy about what I put them through this morning.  Either way,  I hope it is short-lived so I can get back to the agony of marathon training.

A Foundational Anniversary

Today marks one year from the day the foundation of our house was poured.  After demolition day, pouring the foundation was probably the single most captivating part of the entire process.

I wrote about it in real time here, so I won't rehash that, but I loved the foundation process that I wanted to write about it once more.

It took five weeks to go from an empty lot to a complete foundation.  Here are some of the steps in that process.  First, forms were laid out to define the footprint of the house.  Concrete would be poured up to the top of the horizontal boards.  Since this was the low side of the lot, more boards were needed to build up this side:


Then, because foundations aren't just a solid slab of concrete (and because I can imagine that much concrete would be super pricey), the "ground" level had to be built up to the top of the forms.  And then they had to pack down the fill:


Then all of the channels were dug where the foundation "beams" (deeper vertical parts of the slab added for strength, usually under walls) would go.  Before any pictures were taken, the remaining segments of fill were covered in plastic to guard against erosion and to keep dirt from getting into the concrete.  (This part of the process apparently hasn't changed much, as we were finding pieces of plastic sheeting from the original house's foundation for weeks after demolition.)


Rebar was worked into all of the channels and on top of the fill to give the foundation strength:


Finally it was time to bring in the cement truck and pumper and see some real action.  They poured the concrete room by room, working out the air pockets, smoothing the surface, and skimming off the water that rose to the top.  Here they had finished all of the front rooms and were about to get started on the guest room:


After the guest room was poured, a few guys did their thing in there while another poured the back porch.


Although the pour was on a Friday, the workers were dedicated enough to return the next day to remove the forms so we could get a good look at the beginnings of our new house:


I am so glad to have been there to witness the foundation work.  That kind of thing is so foreign to my experience, but I love learning new things, and it's amazing to watch truly skilled people whose work product isn't just a piece of writing or a drawing of electrical designs but a concrete (tee hee) thing.  It's got to be physically demanding, and the workers will never get rich doing it, but I really hope they love their work as much as I loved watching it.

Watching the pour was fortunate for us because we actually missed most of the earlier foundation work.  Our builder was nice enough to take pictures and e-mail them to us while we were on vacation doing this:


And this:


And a little of this:


(And some things on land, too.)