Tuesday, April 27, 2010

saying goodbye late

We sold our boat (about two weeks ago, now). The day before it went, we took it out for a final lazy hour on the lake.

He loves the wind.

past the point of decency, approaching ridiculous

Thursday, April 15, 2010

learning to run like a child again

I haven't gotten the Vibram FiveFingers yet, but that hasn't deterred me from beginning to run like a child again. I have to learn this because I've been a shoe-donning adult for too many years. As a little girl, I used to gallivant around our yard barefoot all the time. Even the gravel driveway didn't pose too much of a problem. These days, my feet are much more sensitive.

My current experiment is my choice of foot apparel for my short morning walks/jogs with my dog. I started slipping into my Mary Jane-style Crocs out of sheer, time-saving convenience. Then it dawned on me that it didn't bother me to do the periodic jogging sprints that are dispersed throughout our walks in them. In fact, I kinda liked it. So I started jogging the whole mile. Maybe they'd start rubbing, or the distance would prove their cumbersomeness, but so far it hasn't.

Yesterday morning I decided to test them on a longer distance. I ended up doing a little over 2 miles. No rubbing. No blisters. They felt great. Maybe I'm confused about the source of my exuberance--it was a crisp, spring morning, after all--but I'd like to think that just being one step closer to being barefoot (or in my FiveFingers) is making a tangible difference. :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

obsessed with insanity

I'm a hair over 100 pages from finishing "Born to Run," Christopher McDougall's national best seller about "a hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen." It's been the fascinating catalyst for my new obsession with ultra-distance running. I'm spellbound by the concept of running 100 miles, intrigued with the biological science supporting barefoot running, and adding new names to my list of people that can only be described as "anything to do with them is cool, and you should think so, too."

The topic is the epitome of exciting because it's equally insane. Take for example the Leadville Trail 100. McDougall writes a fitting analogy:

"To get a sense [of the Leadville 100]...try running the Boston Marathon two times in a row with a sock stuffed in your mouth and then hike to the top of Pikes Peak. Done? Great. Now do it all over again, this time with your eyes closed. That's pretty much what the Leadville Trail 100 boils down to: nearly four full marathons, half of them in the dark, with twin twenty-six-hundred-foot climbs smack in the middle. Leadville's starting line is twice as high as the altitude where plans pressurize their cabins, and form there you only go up."

And people do this. Because they want to.

Then there's Badwater, "the Foreman Grill in Mother Nature's cupboard," that requires participants to run 135 miles through a scorching 125-degree Death Valley. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you it's nearly a requirement to run on the painted white line if you'd prefer your shoes not melt and broil on the blacktop stove.

It's crazy! And I love it. Not because I have any desire to experience it. No thanks. I'd rather stick to my comparatively pithy half marathons (and maybe full marathons), but the simple knowledge that such races exists (and you have to have participants to have a race) is both sick (in the younger-generation, "good" sense) and inspiring.

It's also lead me to take my own running to a new level. I'm going to exchange my Mizuno Elixers that haven't left the box yet for a pair of Vibram FiveFinger (barefoot) shoes. All the evidence that proves running barefoot is better has convinced me of its veracity. I could recount the research minutia, but I won't. Bottom line: Wearing running shoes means injury at some point in your running career. The more expensive the shoe, the greater the risk. (And here I've been preaching all this time that a good running shoe will cost you.) The God-given way to strengthen your feet (and prevent injury) is to run with naked pods. So I'm going to try it with a minimalist pair of these:

Maybe you think I'm crazy. And maybe I am. We'll see. Either way, you should try running. A lot of people who run are crazy, but it's not a prerequisite. :)

bird eggs

These adorable bird houses and feeders are by J Schatz. I'd snatch up one (or two) in a heartbeat, except their price ($135 each) is deterring me. They're also made of porcelain. What if they fell? Or worse yet, what if too-big a bird tried to squeeze herself through that little doorway?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

you & i, items on a shelf

It's not what's on the outside that counts, it's the WHOLE product.

What most people have a tendency to forget is that "whole" intrinsically refers to the inside and the outside. When it comes to purchasing commercial goods (everything from Fido's treats to hair products), most people belong to one of two consumer identifications: packaging judge or packaging apathetic. The prior assume that if the outside looks good, the inside must follow suit. (My natural tendency lies here.) And the latter think, Who cares what the contents come in, as long as the contents are good? Both avenues are extremes and have ultimately resulted in a marketplace far too littered with ugly wrapping and disappointing products.

Applying lopsided focus to any leg of good marketing strategy leaves consumers unbalanced, overly accepting of the unacceptable. The obvious problem with my soap box speech is that reality flies in its face. If grocery store shelves are any indication, it's a fact that companies with disgusting packaging will never learn the importance of aesthetics simply because there's no one to teach them. People don't boycott products because the package isn't well-designed. (But they should.) Likewise, companies that put makeup on their blemished products will never learn about customer satisfaction because there's a limitless number of people who haven't fallen for their facade yet. (This scenario is less prolific than the other. All it takes is wasting your money once. Also, people seem less willing to buy something they don't like solely because it comes in a pretty box. But I digress...) As long as companies push product, there's little motivation to change it. Ergo, the eyes of the (adept) graphic-design community continue to tear.

The hidden pearl in the commercial carnage is that some companies have reached beyond the line of aesthetic (or content) complacency. Companies like:

Organix [hair products]
Burts Bees [whole-body care]
LaraBar [yummy bars]
Savanahh Bee Company [soaps, lotions, etc.]
Izze [natural soda]
Tazo Tea [ummm...]
Teavana [see above]
Zuke's [dog treats]
Method [cleaning products]
Hammer Nutrition [low-energy fixes]
Mrs. Meyer's [cleaning products]
Clif Bar [more yummy bars]
Jones Soda [I refuse to even put it]
Kiss My Face [body care]
CloudStar [everything for man's best friend]
Hugo Naturals [whole-body care]

If you haven't heard of some of these, go introduce yourself. They'll make you happier. Promise. :)

This all becomes strangely pertinent when we realize that you and I are just items on a shelf. We're "for sale" to others as friends, husbands, wives, employees, bosses, and every other relational label you can imagine. Just like a bottle of shampoo, we should be as appealing as possible on both the outside and the inside. Humanly speaking, most content mishaps are more correctable than packaging ones (plastic surgery not withstanding), but having a third eye doesn't mean you can't dab a little mascara on it.

The disconnect in all this is our contradictory standards. We have a propensity to judge each other by the cover and our groceries by the pages. This explains well why there are beautiful people you couldn't be paid to be friends with and products you love that come wrapped in a gag-fest.

So, yes, beauty is skin deep. And, yes, it's what on the inside that counts. But the package and the product don't have to be mutually exclusive, for us or the things we buy.

Monday, April 5, 2010

CSA alphabet soup

One of my friends has introduced me to the CSA initiative. She wrote a blip about it on her blog.

So now I'm excited about (and maybe a little obsessed with) the whole concept. Not unlike my friend, I want to join Rise 'N Shine Organic Farm. The way I see it, my benefits are these:

•Fresh-out-of-the-earth produce every week for 30 weeks

•Trips to the farm in exchange for time spent under the halogen lights of the grocery store (Ok. I don't actually hate it that much.)

•I think I'll save money

•All the warm gooey feelings I get from supporting my community, being green and eating chemical-free goodness

What could beet that? (Yes. That was wrong of me.)

Friday, April 2, 2010

berry bars

One of my dearest friends celebrated another year this past Tuesday. She & I have been friends since our families moved to the same town when we were 6 years old (almost 18 years ago). Together we survived liking the same boy in elementary school, the drama of freshman year in high school (and the next 3 years), a trip to Spain, nearly killing each other as roommates our first year of college but caring enough to split and save the friendship, taking a whirlwind tour of 8 European countries in 28 days, and the list goes on. These days, adulthood has meant we don't see each other as often as we'd like, but we're still close and, when we do see each other, we just pick up right where we left off. Good friendships are like that. So are desserts. You can put the fork down and trust that when you return, it will be just as sweet as it was before.

These are berry bars, and they're delicious. (Yes. I tried them. I've accepted the fact that I simply can't bake and not taste. It's impossible.)

twofer, threefer

UPDATE #1 | Tipper graduates from basic training class (Yay!)

Last spring, we enrolled in obedience school, but vacation made me miss a few sessions, and his puppy attention span (he was only 5 months old) only complicated things, so we didn't actually finish the course that first time around. So we re-joined the class six weeks ago. I figured since he was another year older (and theoretically more mature), he'd do better and learn more. I guess I was right because he graduated last Tuesday night, despite our practicing way less than the first time! He heeled, sat & stayed, came when called (after a quick detour to retrieve a dropped treat from the previous dog and his owner), and walked away with a certificate and a new toy, which he promptly destuffed once we got home (some things aren't correctable).

UPDATE #2 | I'm now grinding artichokes (and other foods)
Actually, I don't eat artichokes unless they're disguised behind the thick veil of creamy ingredients in artichoke dip. But I could grind them if I wanted, which is the point.

Several afternoons' and late nights' worth of home improvement effort, a good handful of trips to Home Depot, and a handy boyfriend have given me a food disposer in my kitchen, a new electrical outlet in my basement, and a motion-sensitive light in my backyard. The latter two were tangential projects that sprouted off the original goal of installing my food disposer. I don't have a picture of my new kitchen toy because food disposers do not lend themselves to attractive portraits (and I refuse to post an ugly picture on my blog). [I might link to it, though... or at least to the mess we made installing it.] The grinders manage to look aesthetically presentable on the packaging and on the packaging only, which, in my case, got filled with dirt and carted off by the garbage truck yesterday. Which leads me to my final update (and where the dirt came from).

UPDATE #3 | I have a tulip branch
My dad has many passions, but two of them are easily identified as 1) landscaping/gardening and 2) me. Consequently, he gave my lawn a springtime face lift. The gift came with a tree for my front yard, and after much dialog and a modicum of botany research, we settled on a dwarf-genre tulip tree.

At maturity, it will be about 8 feet tall, 8 feet wide, and bloom gorgeous cups of a purplish-pink hue.

But right now, mine looks more like a branch plucked straight off the tree and transplanted upright into the ground. That's ok. We all start somewhere. Usually the beginning. Which for this little guy is fairly naked and humble. Like most botanists must feel, I'm excited about his potential.

And there's your 3 for 1. Great deal, yeah?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

in the face of cliché

I love. love. love. the face-lifts Anthropologie has given these classics. Titles include: Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Sense and Sensibility, Great Expectations, and Wuthering Heights.

Oh, to decorate my shelves with such art.

book covers

I love books (have I mentioned this before?). I dream about owning a bookstore one day. I get giddy about bookshelves. And I'm an advocate of judging books by their cover. That said, here are a few on my literary wish list. (Incidentally, it's no coincidence that they all have well-designed covers.)