Monday, October 15, 2012

Coffeeneuring, ride 1

Monday, October 15th, the day of my very first coffeeneuring ride. I'm jumping on the bandwagon just a teensy bit late, but theoretically with plenty of time to complete the challenge. You can find this year's rules at  For the official record, my regular “weekend” days are Sunday and Monday.   

Due to both fitness and time constraints, I knew I had to keep this ride on the short side, so all told, I clocked a very modest 12.65 rather hilly miles.  The route I chose should have yielded some pretty decent landscape photos; unfortunately, the rather dull day did not produce the spectacular shots that I had hoped for.  Besides, in my opinion, the fall foliage around here is already past its peak.  Even so, it was a beautiful day to be out!  I chose “Dave’s Diner” to be my coffeeneuring rendezvous.  It is not the first time I’ve stopped at this diner on a bike ride and I’m sure it won’t be my last.  I ordered a small cup of pumpkin spice coffee and a homemade blueberry scone.  The day was mild enough for me to sit outside and enjoy both.  The coffee was the perfect drinkable temperature right out of the carafe (I don’t like my coffee so hot that I have to wait ten minutes for it to cool down so that I can drink it).  And the scone – it was just sweet enough, with excellent blueberry flavor and a tender, slightly moist texture.  Perfect.  I can’t wait for next week!

Great idea - coffeeneuring!

While reading through my blog list, I came upon this post which led me here.  Although I am late to the game, I am totally, enthusiastically, IN!  There are logistical difficulties, not the least of which is that I am way out of shape, but what better way to get back into things than with a little unofficial challenge of sorts.  This is going to be great!  I'm hoping for my first ride today, with my write-up to follow. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Good Days

I'm still happy.  I can't figure it out, but I'm loving it.  I managed my time effectively yesterday and had the time to take the dog for a two-hour long hike in the woods.  I wish I had a better photo, but his tolerance for sitting still for photos is limited.  As in non-existent.  But were were able to cover over 4 miles of trails, which is a pretty good clip when you consider all the time taken for sniffing! 

Since I'm back at work today, I don't have much for content.  But in looking through past entries, I noticed that I have posted recipes from time-to-time.  I'll include one that I made this past Sunday.  It has tarragon vinegar in it, which some people might not like, but if you are tolerant of tanginess, give it a whirl.  It's tasty!

Chicken and Artichokes
Yield: 6 Servings

      6    Boneless chicken breasts
      1 c  Bread crumbs, seasoned
    1/2 c  Olive oil
    1/4 c  Tarragon vinegar
      4    Garlic cloves
      3 T  Parsley, chopped
      2    Jars artichoke hearts, drained and cut in half
           (I just use the 15 oz can, the un-marinated kind, in brine)

  Cut chicken into bite size pieces and roll in bread crumbs. Heat oil
  and saute garlic to a golden color and remove. Add chicken, saute to
  a light brown on both sides. Place chicken in a large baking dish,
  add sauteed garlic, salt, pepper, and vinegar. Sprinkle with parsley.
  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Add artichokes and bake 10
  minutes more.

(Recipe via Meal-Master (tm) v8.05)
Like most main dish recipes, this is quite amenable to quantity adjustments.  Since I'm only cooking for two, I purchase the "standard" two chicken breasts (maybe a little over 1.5 pounds?  I never actually pay attention).  I then cut back on the olive oil, probably closer to 1/4 cup, though I never bother to measure.  I keep the garlic somewhere around 4-5 cloves, never fewer than four, though!  I increase the tarragon to a full cup, though that might be a bit strong for some.  I like to have a little more juice, though, so perhaps a compromise would be 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup water.  I also put the whole shebang into the oven to start baking while I snip and chop the parsley (about ten minutes).  The recipe doesn't state any preferences for baking covered or uncovered, so here's what I do.  Bake uncovered for the ten minutes you're chopping parsley.  Add the parsley and cover for 20 minutes.  Then add the artichokes and bake for the final ten minutes uncovered.  Serve over rice. 

Monday, October 8, 2012


1440 minutes in a day.  Of those possible minutes I need to sleep 480 of them.  That leaves 960 minutes for productive activities.  Why, then, am I consistently complaining that there is not enough time to get things done?  Clearly it is because I fritter away time in unproductive activities.  My biggest culprit?  The internet.  I rationalize my time spent on the internet as "research".  But my problem is that I tend not to retain much of what I read online.  For instance, a fair amount of my time yesterday was spent researching sloth anatomy.  What did I learn?  They have a four-chambered stomach and their muscular structure is predominantly retractor muscles, not extensor muscles.  Anyway, I digress from the original intent of today's post; which I had intended to be more along the lines of the idea of a "time budget."  I am really careful about how I spend my money, proud to say that I am actually frugal with my money.  I've never actually set up a budget per se, but I track almost every penny that I spend.  Why can't I be that diligent with my time?  As I was sitting here, I deducted that it's because the money is tangible (although as we get farther and farther away from a cash society, that is debatable.  But a subject for another day!), but time is not.  So I am trying an experiment today. 

Here I have 32 little "buttons".  As captioned, one for each half-hour in "my" day.  (As stated above, I need 8 hours of sleep each night, leaving me with 16 awake hours.)  Breaking that into half-hour increments seemed reasonable, since most of my tasks run at least that long.  Breaking it into smaller increments seemed too cumbersome.  As each 1/2 hour ticks away, one more button is removed from the bowl.  So far, this has served to sharpen my focus.  Perhaps as I start to get more organized, I won't need the visual reminder, but it's a good start for now.  I do want to mention that I ran across a web site that I'd like to explore further...  This seems like a concept that would work for me.  When I get time to try it, that is!  Next up is to refine my method for prioritizing and assigning times to my tasks, thus increasing my time budget's effectiveness.  As always, a work in progress; but I'm happy as long as there's progress!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Damn you, depression!

Ok, for those of you still following, yes - I'm still here.  I've spent most of the past 3.5 years in a funk.  I don't know if it was depression, since I never actually went to a Dr.  So maybe depression is too strong a word.  Whatever, I don't know.  What I do know is that I wasn't myself.  Normally optimistic, I was moody and unhappy.  I tried hard to hide it from friends and co-workers (especially co-workers, since I was in a new job and I wanted to make a good impression).  But due to some enormous life events, I was stressed!  Would you like a synopsis? 

In April 2009, I was notified that the company I worked for was transferring my department to either New Jersey or Indiana.  I loved this job!  LOVED IT.  But neither of us wanted to move to either region.  So I started looking for other jobs.  This took awhile (in fact, it took a full year).  In January 2010, we discovered that our Bernese Mountain Dog (then 6.5 years old) had a thoracic mass.  Sure, we could have chosen surgery, but that seemed like too much to put her through, especially since she was asymptomatic and I was still looking for a new job. 

 In May 2010, I started what seemed like a dream job (though the voices in my head told me nothing about this job was going to be easy.  Boy, were they right!).  It has taken me two and a half years to feel like I'm getting my head above water in terms of keeping ahead of my workload.  Currently there are two things spurring me forward.  1.  My job is pretty unique and special  and 2.  I keep getting a little further ahead day-by-day.  I figure if I stick with it, I'll eventually be caught up!  As far as the job goes, I am a veterinary technician for a small zoo.  We are AZA accredited and maintain a collection of around 1,000 animals. One of the biggest detriments is that I've always been able to commute to work by bicycle (at least during the summer.  I've only had one job where I was able to commute year-round).  However, due to several factors, I haven't yet been able to commute to this job (largely due to distance, terrain, traffic, irregular hours, and right now a lack of fitness).

In December 2010, my boyfriend and I decided to get married.  Yes, good stress, but stress nonetheless.  It was a small affair with absolutely no fanfare.  Perfect.

Regular checkups on our dog showed that the mass was growing, but not at an alarming rate and she was still asymptomatic for the most part.  In hindsight, I believe now that she was exhibiting signs of discomfort, but we were unable to definitively put it together.  I will know better in the future.  She was still active and loved her walks, especially in the winter (though deep snow really tired her out and there were times I actually left her home, knowing she would be too tired). 
In June 2011, I came across a dog in the middle of a downtown intersection.  I was on my way to work, but luckily had enough time to stop and coax him into the car.  He was wearing a harness and trailing a broken leash, so I felt certain that somebody would be looking for him.  I put out notices in as many places as I could think, but nobody ever came forward.  He has some issues (separation anxiety and thunderstorm phobia), but with the help of a product called "Composure", we're making progress.  We used to have to keep him in a crate while we were away, but he is reliable enough to leave with full house access now.  This is huge!

In July 2011, I had appendicitis with complications and was out of work for 3 weeks.  By November/December 2011, our dog was starting to tell us that she wasn't feeling well.  She was less enthusiastic about her walks and her appetite started decreasing.  Repeat radiographs showed that the mass had not only enlarged, but it had spread.  I was devastated and started to question whether we should have put her through surgery back in 2010.  I'm still glad we didn't, but the doubts were there nonetheless.  By February, she had really lost her zest and her appetite.  We couldn't let her go on, and elected euthanasia.  I am at peace with our decision, but I can honestly say that I miss her every day.  I am so glad that Norman found us when he did...without him the house would have been unbearable. 

In June of 2012, my father faced a health crisis.  I spent a few weekends helping out my folks as much as I could, culminating in staying for about a week in August while my dad was in ICU.  Dad was in pretty rough shape and decided to enter home hospice.  I helped them out for several more days, until they got to the point that they could manage on their own.  The good news is that he's doing much better and has been kicked out of the hospice program as of October! 

At present, I am riding a wave of complete optimism and happiness.  The only real changes I've made is that I finally sat down and let go of some volunteer commitments and have made concrete plans for getting back into a fitness regime.  I don't know if it was possible that I was clinically depressed....the really weird thing is that I can pinpoint an exact moment when my attitude changed from one of merely existing, to one of optimism.  That happened this past Tuesday morning.  I was preparing my lunch and it was like a switch flipped back "on".  Was it just that sufficient time had passed in order to allow my body and mind to process all the stress?  Is it possible to be depressed and get better without medication?  I really don't know, but to anybody who may stumble upon this because they're feeling similarly disillusioned; don't give up hope.  Things will get better.