Tag Archives: christmas

2014 Resolutions and 2013 Wrap-up before it’s so late it’s irrelevant

Today, we took down our adorable tiny Christmas tree and all the wonderful cards we received. The last day of Christmas is always bittersweet. We have also managed to eat every last bit of Christmas cookies, candy, and cake that was left in the house, so it’s well and truly over until next year.

One batch of the roughly 1000 pounds of fudge we made for the holidays. Sadly, all of it has been given away and/or consumed.

One batch of the roughly 1000 pounds of fudge we made for the holidays. Sadly, all of it has been given away and/or consumed.

And now for the important parts of this post. What we did and what we’re going to do.

What we did last year:

Short version – last year I did an Ironman. Which I shall never tire of saying, sorry (not really. Ironpeople are never sorry for bringing it up. Again. Maybe this year I’ll actually finish last year’s race report.). I was going to run up a mountain this year, but instead, I’ve decided to qualify for the Boston Marathon and just like that, another obsession is born. The Wife has decided to do her first 70.3 triathlon this year, so we have some fun training times ahead of us.

Long version – here’s my season recap for this year which basically says that I did an Ironman (did I mention that already?) and got a bunch of PR’s along the way, which was nice. Here’s last year’s resolutions post where go into stupefying detail about how to write resolutions and then give a laundry list a mile long of all the things I wanted to do or work on during 2013. Here’s the (hopefully less painful) summary of last year:

  • Ironman (see above.)
  • 4:00 marathon – cancelled because I was too tuckered out from Ironman (see above) to do anything meaningful with the rest of the fall. Poor, poor, pitiful me.
  • Flossing. Yep, still flossing. Like a boss.
  • Basic medical care, cats + humans. Behaving mostly like an adult and doing this stuff when we’re supposed to. Except the dentist. I never did go back to have the ancient cavities replaced. They still don’t bother me at all, giving me zero incentive to actually have things done.
  • Being a Scientist. Working on it. Was harder than I’d imagined. But there’s still hope.
  • Being a German speaker. Passed the B2 German exam and the civics exam for residency in May!
  • Being a home handyperson. Not really. Something had to fall off the (overly ambitious) list and this was it. Not that things are in bad shape, but I still want to reorg the bathroom and living room the way I did with the kitchen in 2012.
  • Getting wedding rings and having the accompanying wedding. Yeah, that one worked out pretty well. In case you were wondering, yes, we are legally in a Lebenspartnership here, but that’s like a civil union and not like a marriage. For US Immigration purposes, we needed a wedding and a marriage, so we had (another) one. It was beautiful and we had so much fun with it and that’s the one perk of same-sex unions. We get to (in fewer than half of the US states, though) have a lot of weddings. To the same person. (Because we have to in order to satisfy different states and countries patchwork and not wholly equal laws and regulations. So to counteract the lack of equality in a lot of places, we express our joy in those places that do consider us equal under the law by having more parties there.) OK, same-sex equality rant over. This is supposed to be a tri-blog, after all.

What we’re going to do this year:

I’ve decided against running up a mountain this September as it interferes with both our vacation plans and my BQ plans.

My A Races:

  • Mainz Marathon (May)
  • Frankfurt Marathon (October)

My B Races:

  • Frankfurt 1/2 Marathon (March)
  • Wiesbaden 70.3 (August)

My C Races:

  • Platte, Fertig, Los (only 450 meters of climbing in 5 miles up Plattestraße in Wiesbaden) (March) (Yes, I’m doing this one just for fun. For some definition of fun.)
  • Frankfurt City Tri (As usual, the week before Wiesbaden. I’ll probably do the sprint distance again. Maybe I’ll get first woman on the bike again this year.)
  • Lauf für Mehr Zeit – Frankfurt’s AIDS charity run. (September) If we’re not on the beach in Crete.
  • Cologne Triathlon Weekend (September) I may do the Oly here for fun since the swim is so beautiful and I’ll be there anyway, sherpa-ing for the Wife at her first half-iron distance triathlon. (Go Wife!)

Intense BQ-based navel-gazing ahead

(with a side-order of Maffetone nattering)

First, about navel-gazing. That refers to omphaloskepsis, or the act of meditative belly-button contemplation. Which is different from naval-gazing, which involves looking excessively at pretty boats, er ships. So, originally I’d hoped to BQ this May in Mainz, but then I realized that Mainz would only count towards 2015 when I will still only be 44 and the BQ time is 3:45 which is 17 minutes faster than my current marathon PR. However, Frankfurt, in October will count towards 2016, when I’ll be 45 and only need to pull off a 3:55, a mere 7 minutes faster than my PR. A majority of the predictors imply that based on my 1/2 marathon and 10k times in 2013, I should be able to swing a 3:53. I’m going to try for that at both Mainz and Frankfurt with some fun triathlon in the middle along with a couple of cool holidays.

Maffetone. Still not sure I believe in him. I’ve started HR training this month and seriously, keeping the HR below 180-43 (+5 for good behavior the last 4 or 5 years) is making me into one angry runner. I was reduced to almost 13 minute miles in the middle of Sunday’s long run. People were walking faster than I was running. I snapped at the Wife. It was miserable all around. I think I may have had a HRM malfunction in the middle of the run or something. Or the constriction around the chest (which triggers my claustrophobia) started to bother me. Or I have no aerobic fitness or something. I don’t know. But I cannot wait until March when I can get one of these fancy optical HRM that I get to wear around my wrist instead of my chest. I will stick with the Maffetone method at least until the end of February, but if my paces aren’t improving by then, I’m going back to the usual. In case you were wondering, all this started because the Wife has gotten so fast that I can no longer rely on running with her to keep my long run pace slow enough anymore and since I’m wearing the hated strap, I thought I might as well go all the way and see what happens.

So here’s my marathon training plan for the next few month in graphical format:

My weekly total mileage and long run length up to and including the Mainz Marathon this May. Races are marked as red dots on the long run (blue) line.

My weekly total mileage and long run length up to and including the Mainz Marathon this May. Races are marked as red dots on the long run (blue) line.

That’s the quick version of what I’m up to for the next year. Oh, and blogging. I resolve to blog no fewer than 52 times this year (that’s once a week at a minimum).

 

Captain Dukie was a bit traumatized by our being away for almost two weeks at Christmas. So now, all of my seated activities involve peering over a cat. For example, breakfast.

Captain Dukie was a bit traumatized by our being away for almost two weeks at Christmas. So now, all of my seated activities involve peering over a cat. For example, breakfast.

 

Advertisements

Advent 2013 day 10 Sockgasm and cranberry desserts

I am tired so instead of recipes typed in by me, you get two that are directly from the internet.

Apple-Cranberry Pie from Runner’s World – Not the healthiest pie on the planet, but it’s got apples and fresh cranberries in it (along with cream cheese, oats, and other good things) and it was relatively fun to make and much more fun to eat.

Oatmeal Cranberry cookies – I found the recipe for these online last year and now it’s our favorite cookie. I’m making more tomorrow. These use dried cranberries and it makes them about a thousand times more interesting that cookies with raisins in them. The cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom make them really special.

The other thing that happened today besides a 25 km round trip bike ride to get my regular (every 2 months) bloodwork done – necessary to make sure my meds aren’t destroying my liver and to make sure I’m still basically mostly healthy – and the usual 3.5 hours of Aikido and a ton of work in between those two things is that I got to wear my new Christmas socks today. We exchanged gifts early because I am a five-year-old and couldn’t wait.

The feeling I get when I get to wear a new and soft pair of socks for the first time can be described better in German: Sockenvergnügen. Apparently this word did not exist until I entered Germany. The best English translation is: Sockgasm!

These big, fluffy socks have fleece on the inside. It's sort of like getting to wear Devil-Kitty on my feet all day long. He's in awe of the socks.

These big, fluffy socks have fleece on the inside. It’s sort of like getting to wear Devil-Kitty on my feet all day long. He’s demonstrating what the inside of these socks feel like for us.

In lieu of music today, here’s David Sedaris reading his hilarious Christmas essay 6 to 8 Black Men.

Advent 2013 Day 7 No Bake Cheesecake

We were at the Christmas Market today, buying gifts and drinking Glühwein, thus the late and slightly slurred post. I failed spectacularly to run today, but I did manage to get to Aikido class. And I haven’t taken cough medicine in more than 14 hours so I think maybe I’m done with the cold. The Wife, however ran 14 miles so far this week and we’re heading out for a long run tomorrow, so she’ll have about 25 miles all together and I’m her coach, so I claim her miles. I can do that, right?

I’m also writing up one of her recipes that she made for me yesterday. So basically, this post is entirely the fault of the Wife, thank Santa that I have her to do the heavy lifting while I sit here hiccuping Glühwein in the catbird seat. Speaking of Thurber (who really did come up twice in today’s conversations) did you know that Ben Stiller’s making the Secret Life of Walter Mitty into a movie? The posters are everywhere here. I just wish it was an actor that I liked a bit better.

Anyway, I’m warm and full of Poffertjes (favorite Christmas Market food along with Dampfnudeln, Kartoffelpuffer, and big cones of freshly cut and cooked french fries. There’s a lot of carbs in Christmas in these parts.) and cheesecake and it’s getting late, so here’s the Wife’s Cheesecake recipe. It uses quark, though, which is nearly impossible to get in the US. I’ve scanned a bunch of websites and it seems that you can make your own or substitute mascarpone . Other than the finding of the quark (sometimes – according to a non-functioning web site – labelled as fromage blanc in the US, I have no idea how it differs from actual French fromage blanc, but it’s worth a shot if you can find it, I guess) this is a very straightforward and incredibly tasty recipe that involves no ovens.

Wife’s Cheesecake

  • 1 pkg hard cookies like graham crackers, shortbread, etc. (Use your judgement here. I don’t remember the weight of the package we used this time, but it was pretty small and yielded probably a cup or so of crumbs.)
  • 1/2 stick (4 Tbsp) melted butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy (whipping cream) (150 ml)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream (150 ml)
  • 3/4 cup low-fat quark or mascarpone cheese (150 ml)
  • 4 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp coriander

Preparation

  1. Crush the cookies in a plastic bag using a rolling pin, hammer, meat tenderizer mallet, baseball bat, or similar
  2. Mix cookie crumbs and melted butter and press firmly into the bottom of an 8″ x 8″ baking pan (If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that the last 3 recipes all used an 8″ x 8″ baking pan. That is because our kitchen is small and we have very few different size pans. Our 8″ x 8″ brownie pan gets a lot of use. It’s definitely not a unitasker! What’s a unitasker? Googling it gives you the wikipedia page for Alton Brown. He’s a cool guy. The answer is on that page somewhere.) using a piece of waxed paper and a bit of brute force. You can also use a slightly smaller pan to press it down for a nice, even crust.
  3. Whip the heavy cream until <S>it cries for mercy</S> it is fluffy
  4. Mix sour cream, quark, honey, and coriander together
  5. Fold the sour cream mixture into the whipped cream
  6. Spread mixture evenly over the crust
  7. Refrigerate at least two hours until set
  8. Eat and enjoy
Captain Dukie stands guard against nefarious cheesecake nabbers. Also, note our cool coffee table. It's a cheap IKEA model with a glass top where we've finally figured out what to do with some of our old race numbers!

Captain Dukie stands guard against nefarious cheesecake nabbers. Also, note our cool coffee table. It’s a cheap IKEA model with a glass top where we’ve finally figured out what to do with some of our old race numbers! (Also, now you know what the L stands for if you hadn’t already google-stalked any of my race results…

Why did I post this video? Were you paying attention to Alton Brown’s biography?

Until tomorrow, dear internet.

Advent 2013 Day 6 – Pagan Pears

Because nothing says Christmas like recipes from the civilization that killed Christ.

Yep, I’m still sick and possibly slightly high on cold medicine. I did swim today though. Swimming first thing in the morning when it’s windy and dark and cold and icy out is really nice. You get to the pool where it’s nice and warm, swim for an hour, sit under the lovely hair dryers for a while and then come out, and the sun is shining, it’s no longer icy and you still have the entire day ahead of you. Also, we did some good exercises in swim class. My favorite went like this:

Push off from the wall and without kicking, glide as far as you can. Then swim 6 strokes. Then glide again, 6 more strokes, and one more glide. If you’re good, you should be able to make it with just two sets of 6 strokes and the last glide should bring you to the wall in a 25 m pool. I came close, but still haven’t made it. The instructor promised that by the end of the course, I’ll be able to. I am hopeful.

We also had lunch today with a triathlon friend who’s just back from Thailand where she did the Laguna Phuket Triathlon. That one is now on my bucket list. And Thailand features (sort of) in today’s recipe so I’ve very cleverly worked in the reference now.

Recently, we were visiting the Roman reconstruction and museum at Saalburg (one of the towns on the Roman Limes (wall) which is as far as they got into Germany) where we picked up a cookbook. Here’s the first recipe we tried from it:

Patina de Piris

(or weird Roman pear thingy)

Ingredients

  • 1 kg (2 pounds) Pears
  • 2 Tbsp Honey
  • 200 ml (1 cup minus 1 Tbsp) Passum (Roman raisin wine. It’s red and sweet and generally hasn’t been made for like two thousand years. Feel free to substitute Sherry or do what we did and make your own by dumping about 100 g (2/3 cup) of raisins into 200 ml (a little less than a cup) of red wine and letting it sit in the fridge for 3 days or so. Then hit it with the stick mixer. Or not. The recipe works either way.)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • Liquamen (Roman fish sauce. Also hasn’t been made in two thousand years. Use Thai fish sauce instead. Trust me on this.) As for the amount, the recipe isn’t entirely clear. It says use a shot of it. Probably around a teaspoon or two.
  • Olive oil (Another shot. We used about a tablespoon.)
  • 4 Eggs (Size not specified. Roman chickens were probably about the same size as modern chickens. You should have seen them in the gladiatorial games, though, with their armor and little chicken swords. They were dynamite!)
  • Pepper to taste

Preparation

This one takes at least a day of prep, 3 if you’re making your own Passum.

Step 1. Make the passum. Wait a couple of days. Don’t drink it or you have to start over.

Step 2. Peel, core, and quarter the pears. Then cut them into pieces. I don’t know. Maybe Jupiter or some other god likes things to come in groups of four.

Step 3. Pears into a pot. Add in the honey, fish sauce, olive oil, Passum, and cumin. Cook, covered (again no recommendations as to heat. Go with medium low to medium depending on how closely you want to watch it.) until the pears are soft. Then hit the whole thing with either the potato masher or the stick mixer. I recommend the latter.

Step 4. Let the pears cool completely. Also, do not worry about the intense cumin and/or fishy smells during the cooking. It will all work out in the end, I promise.

Step 5. Preheat the oven to medium. I don’t know. The Romans clearly didn’t have convenient temperature dials on their ovens. (I mean, my grandmother’s cook book describes the type and number of logs needed to cook certain things, so this is no surprise, really. I’m not sure anyone ever gave specific cooking temperatures before sometime in the 1970’s. Oil a casserole dish or baking pan. We used an 8″x8″ brownie pan.

Step 6. Beat the eggs until fluffy. Fold them into the cooled pear mixture.

Step 7. Cook, covered until the eggs are firmly set. At this point it should look like a slightly browned omelet. Cooking time? For us it was about 35 minutes.

Step 8. Add a dash of freshly ground pepper to the top and serve. The consistency is a bit odd, but the taste is really nice.

So there you have it. Roman dessert with pears and Thai fish sauce. I posted this one for my friend P who’s been having a lot of nasty dental work and can’t eat crunchy foods these days.

So, being sick, I’ve been curled up half the day watching christmas cat tv. It’s one of the most entertaining reality programs I’ve ever seen. The internet is for cats!

christmascats.tv on their lunch break. They're adorable, especially the ones in sweaters. Devil-kitty won't wear sweaters.

christmascats.tv on their lunch break. They’re adorable, especially the ones in sweaters. Devil-kitty won’t wear sweaters.

And finally, the Air Force Band was at the National Air and Space Museum on Tuesday. My other friend P. was there for it. I wish I still lived in the DC area so I could go to one of their Christmas concerts.

Advent 2013 Day 5 still sick and also tired

Which reminds me of a line from one of my favorite Bill Cosby standup routines.

I need to get to bed because I got a swim class in 7 hours. I got home from aikido to discover that the internet had exploded with news of Nelson Mandela’s death. He was a  great man and also a good man and this sad news has kind of taken the wind out of my sails so today will be short.

First, tomorrow at 9 am EST, tune in here for a live stream of Christmas cats (this weirdness is explained here by NPR). Interestingly, I have actually adopted cats from these nice folks many years ago when I lived on LI.

I haven’t made mine this year yet, but I can’t think of anything more heartwarming and able to keep the darkness away than homemade fudge that’s so stupidly easy that anyone can make it:

Ridiculously Easy Fudge

Ingredients:

  •  1 can (14 oz.) Condensed Milk
  • 14 oz. baking chocolate (semi-sweet, milk, or white)
  • Mix-ins – possibilities include:
  • Vanilla (1-2 tsp.), Walnuts and marshmallows

Mix in examples (but really this is up to you, that’s what makes this so much fun!):

  • Red wine (about 2 Tbsp) and dried cranberries
  • Vanilla and candied ginger
  • Peppermint extract (1-2 tsp) and crushed candy canes
  • White chocolate, pistachios, rose water (2 tsp)
  • Crumbled bacon and a dusting of sea salt on top (I’d use dark chocolate for this one)

Directions:

  1. Line an 8 x 8 inch square pan with aluminum foil
  2. Break chocolate into pieces (Use semi dark and milk in any combination or use white chocolate on its own.)
  3. Combine chocolate and condensed milk in a microwave safe bowl
  4. Microwave on high for about 1 minute and stir
  5. Microwave in increments of 30 seconds to 1 minute (depends on microwave wattage) until only a few small chocolate chunks can be seen and then stir until these melt and chocolate and milk mixture is smooth and shiny
  6. Add in mix-ins of your choice.
  7. Stir until combined
  8. pour into prepared pan
  9. Refrigerate at least 4 hours
  10. Cut into 1 inch chunks
  11. Store in an airtight container

Today’s music (in addition to the Christmas music accompanying the livestream of the cats in Christmas sweaters linked above) is for Paul and all the percussionists out there. Yes, they’re playing the ice on Lake Baikal:

The boys playing in my favorite marathon swag, the 25th anniversary backpack from the 2011 Frankfurt Marathon.

The boys playing in my favorite marathon swag, the 25th anniversary backpack from the 2011 Frankfurt Marathon.

 

Advent 2013 Day 2 – Things go swimmingly

Today, on the second day of Advent, I got up early to get to the pool by 7:00 am for the first day of a 2-week Advanced Crawl swimming class at the local pool. There were 7 of us, 2 women and 5 men all with varying amounts of interesting tattoos (one has some very Maori tribal ink down both arms and another has his entire back covered in very Japanese artwork) I was a bit worried about this because I don’t believe in my heart that I’m good enough to be advanced, and because this class is taught in another language on top of it. But the instructor knows me and she said I’d be find, so there I was.

You know how in every class, there’s one person who has to be last? Yeah. That wasn’t me. Actually, it turns out that I can outswim this entire class. The guys started getting out of my way, saying “Ladies first” so that I didn’t catch up with them and pass them. So huzzah for ego-boosting swim class. After the class ended, I stayed around for an extra 15 minutes, just swimming by myself and feeling comfy in the water. I haven’t swum alone since deep in the high volume weeks before Ironman, so it was nice and peaceful not to be looking out for anyone else and having to set an example. I was so peaceful and in the zone that I swam directly into some guy who magically appeared out of nowhere in my lane, backstroking right towards me. Oops! Overall, it was a fun and new experience to be the fast kid in class. I could get used to it!

Possibly, my swimming has improved since I obsessively do about 300 meters of technique exercises at the start of every swim. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Catch-up Drill
  2. Fist Drill
  3. Zipper Drill
  4. Underarm touch
  5. Tarzan drills

Anyway, might as well stay under the sea for today’s recipe. The other week, the Wife brought home 2 kg of fresh mussels from the local fish shop. We didn’t have any white wine on hand for traditional Moules Marinières so I improvised.

Moules Triathlonières:

Ingredients

  • 2 kg fresh mussels
  • 3 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes in juice (or 1 cup fresh tomatoes, skinned and diced + 1 cup water)
  • 1 Tsp dried thyme
  • 1 Tsp dried basil
  • Fresh or dried parsley to taste
  • Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Rinse the mussels in fresh water and remove beards and barnacles. Discard any obviously dead ones (Like ones that are already open and don’t close again when you poke at them or very obviously broken shells.)
  2. In a large heavy sauce pan or stockpot heat the oil over medium heat
  3. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, try not to burn the garlic.
  4. Add the wine and cook an additional minute
  5. Add the tomatoes plus a cup of additional water
  6. Add the spices
  7. Bring to a low boil
  8. There will be about three waves of mussels. Make sure each wave is wearing the appropriate color swim cap…Cover and steam for 3 to 4 minutes or until most of them have opened. Send them to T1 and add the next batch. Repeat until all mussels are cooked and the broth is rich and tasty.
  9. Add all mussels back into broth (or serve mussels in separate bowls and spoon broth over them)
  10. Serve with garlic bread.

I used the leftover broth the next day to make vegetable soup with spinach, mushrooms, and pasta. It was pretty salty so I had to cut it with more water for the soup.

And now let’s hear from some folks who met someone who’s 6’4″ and full of mussels…

This is especially for the Wife and the theme of rock musicians playing flutes. We’ll continue with that theme tomorrow.

And now for your daily cat. At the Christmas market we got a cat surprise treat bag that contained a catnip treat. The cats turned it into a tiny, sodden pillow soaked in cat spit in short order. While I don’t have any pictures of them fighting over it, falling over in a kitty stupor, and subsequently getting the munchies, I do have a picture of them covered in ribbons, helping us take down last year’s tree.

Captain Dukie and Devil Kitty undecorate the tree. And yes, if you notice, our angel topper is a weeping one. Don't blink!

Captain Dukie and Devil Kitty undecorate the tree. And yes, if you notice, our angel topper is a weeping one. Don’t blink!

Oops, suddenly it’s mid-February

…and I haven’t posted my wrap up from last year yet or any of the absolutely fascinating things I’d meant to post from this year so far. I’ll try to be a better blogger in the future….

Only a month late, here’s my wrap –up of 2012:

2012 Year in Review

2012 was a great year in some respects, not so good in others.  It was my first full year of marriage to my wonderful Wife, which was great. It was also a year that I was sick with a pretty significant flare-up of Ulcerative Colitis and associated problems (like anemia) for most of the spring and summer, going into fall. So without further ado, here’s my 2012 race wrap up so that I can move on to the more fun posts like:

–       A pictorial of an exploratory run in Spain in January while German was covered in snow

–       My kitchen renovation – it is beautiful and efficient, let me show you it

–       How to succeed at swim seminars without really trying (actually that’s not true, I was trying as hard as my little arms could pull me)

–       The hash I’ve made of trying to make my own training plan for this year

–       Cinnamon buns of love

–       Chapatis – easier than you think

–       Lembas pancakes – healthy and cashing in on Hobbit-mania (maybe next will be Die Hard Donuts)

–       Eggplant chili

–       Weekly training updates

–       Why I have to be crazy to train for Ironman along with doing aikido three times a week.

–       But look, despite all the chili, cinnamon rolls, and chapatis I’m making in my beautiful newly redesigned, significantly more efficient kitchen, all this training is making me seriously buff!

All these and more after I finally get this wrap-up out of the way.

So then, in 2012 I raced in 5 triathlons, 5 running races, and did a few other significant things.

Continue reading