Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Losing a Whole Year

To quote Bruce Springsteen, "Is anyone alive out there?"

I truly didn't mean to let a year pass.  To be perfectly honest, I was dealing with a LOT of junk starting in fall of 2018, and the 2019 hasn't done us many favors either.  I just wasn't in the headspace to blog at all, and I finally got to the point over the weekend where I was like, I should just delete this damn thing.  So I logged in and was literally going to delete everything, but then stopped myself.  Eric and I both got to reading some of my past posts and looking at pictures, and it just seemed wrong to delete it.  It's almost like burning a diary or something?  Anyway, I just didn't have the heart to delete my blog, and decided to keep it up and write in it when I feel like it.  It's less "fitspo" type vibe or whatever the hell I was going for and is just kind of going to be more like a journaling type thing.

Just to kind of get the ugliness out there and recap the last year, overall I'm fine.  There's just BEEN some shit.  It started with a situation last September where one of our bathrooms/ceiling got super messed up and resulted in a multi-week handyman intervention.  Very stressful, very expensive. Then Eric got a really bad stress fracture in his foot that took a long time to heal.  Then we had drama at work that almost resulted in us leaving (and I am minimizing the situation and summing it up greatly).  It thankfully worked out and we 're still in the same place and doing betterish, but yeah, it was touch and go.  So 2018 ended, we were thrilled to start 2019 and determined to have a great year.  Spoiler alert, it has not been.

Without beating around the bush, we lost our beloved Molly in February, right before what would have been her 11th birthday.  I can't bear to write out a huge thing about it because it's still incredibly painful, but she got sick in January.  It was this long, horrible situation that involved a misdiagnosis, us changing vets to try to get answers as to what was going on, a roller coaster of her getting better then suddenly having a downturn.  It was a horrific and traumatizing couple of months, and at the end of it we had to make the difficult call to say goodbye to our sweet, sassy baby Molly.

As difficult as this was, we called an at home euthanasia service, and I couldn't recommend that more if you have the option.  It was expensive, but a much more peaceful experience for everyone.  She was so frightened of going to the vet, especially by the end, that we were glad we could give her the gift of the thing she loved most...being at home on her bed with us sitting there and petting her.  As a pet owner I've done it both ways, and never will go back to a traditional vet office procedure the next time I have to make the final call if I can help it.  Anyway, it set the tone for the year.  We're both still heartbroken and desperately miss her.  I still find myself crying at random, or expecting her to be waiting for us at the front door.  The house is quiet and life just isn't as fun.  I still haven't been able to have an encounter with a greyhound where I don't have a breakdown after.  We do intend to adopt again, but it will likely be next year.  It's a combo of wanting to wait for some travel dates we have coming up to pass, and also still not being ready.

These are a couple of pictures I took of her during her last week.  One thing I am grateful for is how loving she was during her last month.  Normally she got so pissy about having her photo taken or being snuggled, but she really let us love her and soaked in the attention towards the end.

So yeah, sorry for the downer.  Like I said, it set the tone for the year and I truly just went in full "eff it all" mode after.  Caring, working out, all of it.  I'm definitely a bit doughy, which wasn't helped by getting a heel spur, which pretty much took the piss out of my entire summer.  Oh and I was diagnosed with anemia after experiencing crippling fatigue around May.  Yay!  Thankfully the foot is a dull roar at this point, and my anemia is getting better due to diet change and iron supplementation.

It's not to say 2019 has been entirely horrific, there have been some great moments/trips too.  In March we met my mom in Tucson and had a really nice long weekend that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Tucson was really gorgeous and we ended up touring the Mission San Xavier del Bac, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and the Tucson Botanical Gardens.  Every experience was really wonderful and practically a 6 part post in and of itself, I can't recommend each of those places enough.  The food down there was AMAZING too.  Both the botanical gardens and the desert museum had food that rivals some of the fanciest places here in Portland.

I love cactuses, especially Saguaros, so I was practically screaming every time we passed them.  It never got old for me.  It was amazing seeing thousands of them at once, especially on the drive to the desert museum.  It's a whole different type of landscape, but simply stunning.

We also did our usual trip to Central Oregon on the week of July 4th.  It was an annual tradition to get Molly away from the fireworks and we had booked our 3rd year in right before she passed away.  We debated about whether to cancel it, but ultimately ended up going.  I am so glad we did because it was a great break from work and life.  We did a healthy balance of relaxing and enjoying the property we always rent while also getting out and being active.  One of my favorite things we did was hiking at Smith Rock, which is simply gorgeous.  We didn't do the Misery Ridge trail because I didn't feel like I was reasonably trained up to do it safely, plus we each only had a quart of water on us, so we decided to keep the hike to only 3 miles or so.  If you come to Oregon I highly recommend a hike here, but make sure you slather yourself in sunscreen and bring plenty of water and snacks.  It's very hot and very dry, so it's easy to get yourself in trouble.

Let's see what else...Eric and I started a podcast together!  I'm sure this will shock no one, but it's about music.  It's been a TON of work but also a lot of fun.  I've personally learned so much, not only about the music we talk about, but about podcasting in general.  I do all of our sound editing, which was challenging to learn, but in a good way.  Not to sound like an annoying d-bag, but I'm not comfortable sharing the name here simply because I've got a TON of personal info about myself here and where we live, all of my depression stuff etc.  I just don't really need randoms finding this blog and connecting the dots, if that makes sense.

The other thing that started last year and has continued through this year is that I have transitioned to being vegan.  To me this has been a positive experience, but I've hesitated on how to discuss it in this post, because I know many have a reflexive eyeroll about veganism.  All I can say is that for me personally, it was something I needed to do in order to align my actions with my values, and much like religion for other people, it's just kind of a personal thing.  I definitely have the philosophy that everyone has to do what's best for them, and I'm not here to push my values down people's throats if that makes sense.  So if you're worried that my posts are going to start being shamey or I'm going to post 900 photos of factory farming or whatever, rest assured, I'm not here for that.  Honestly, I've found that simply being chill, living my life, eating what I eat and not judging people has been a more effective "activist" tool than anything.  I mean honestly, who wants someone to scream at them and judge them?  No one, that's who, so I just don't.  It's made people be willing to ask me more questions and see that having a meal without meat can be fun, easy, normal and doesn't turn you into a crazy person.

I did do it for ethical reasons but have been shocked at the physical changes as well.  Not only did it drastically improve my skin, but it entirely resolved my digestive issues.  Yes, all the ones I struggled with for 4 years or more were resolved within a month of veganism.  I was thrilled but also pissed, because I would have done it years ago had I known.  But honestly, I wouldn't have been in the headspace, and I needed to have the ethical connection in order to make the transition.  Anyways, I'm all good now.  The anemia unfortunately was due to me being a dummy and eating poorly after Molly died.  Once I got diagnosed, I made it a point to make sure I was getting more tofu, beans and greens in my diet and also supplement with iron.  All good on that front now too.  One good thing to come out of it all is my focus has become much more about macros than calories.  Nothing wrong with counting calories per say, however, being focused on hitting vitamin and mineral goals has resulted in me eating much healthier than I would be if I was looking JUST at calories.

Anyways, that's been about it.  I'm here.  Was on the fence about deleting the blog, but decided not to.  Will kind of blog as I feel like it.  It's for me more than anything, but I'm happy to have people along for the ride if they want to read me.

Monday, September 10, 2018

What I Did This Summer

Hello friends!  I am so sorry to have not written for so long, but the truth is, the summer simply got away from me.  Thankfully much of it was in a positive way, we've just been very busy and on the move for most of the summer!  Overall, life is going really well, and this summer compared to last is definitely easier.  May through July especially were really wonderful months filled with a lot of joy, but August (as always) has been a bit stressful and not my favorite.  I will say that although that stress is there, that therapy has made my reactions/coping methods towards it so very different!  Therapy as well as meditation and breathing work really have been a life saver on many levels.

I thought about going back and doing a post to recap each month because there has been some great stuff going on and I hate to not talk about it, but it just honestly would be too much.  May and July especially were busy, and it just simply would take too much time to sit and recap it all.  I've truthfully been inching away from digital life ever so slowly, so I'd be lying if I said I had the desire to sit in front of the computer and do long blog recaps anyway.  I'm just going to do some bullet points and photos month by month of some highlights of the fun stuff.


Eric and I celebrated our 11th anniversary!

Time flies man...I can't believe that Eric and I have been married for 11 years.  In some ways it feels like just yesterday that we just started talking and being work friends.  I know saying that I married my best friend is so cliche, but there's literally no other way to describe Eric.  No one on the planet makes me laugh harder than he does, no one is a bigger cheerleader of my passions/dreams and no one has supported me as much as he's supported me.  I couldn't have gotten through the last year especially without his kindness and patience.  We had a really fantastic anniversary week!  The week before he surprised me with tickets to the Phantom of the Opera sequel, Love Never Dies.  Pretty appropriate given the anniversary vibes right?  I wasn't expecting it to be as amazing as Phantom (my favorite musical), nothing ever could be, but it was honestly pretty damn great. On our actual anniversary the following Saturday we went and had dinner at this French place called Bistro Agnes, which was really incredible, then went and listened to live music.  The next day we saw David Byrne from Talking Heads, which was honestly one of the top 10 concerts we've ever seen, and that's saying something.  He was absolutely incredible!

We got our passports!

So funny/mildly embarrassing thing about me...I've never owned a passport and have ergo never been out of the country.  It's something that has bothered me for awhile, but also one of those "I'll eventually do that" laziness types of things.  But I made it a goal this year to get my passport and get out of the country before I'm freaking 40 (next year y'all!!).  Eric had his passport but it expired, so he had to go through the whole process again.  Long story short, we did it, and have our passports in hand!  I'm also excited to tell you that I was able to take my passport on a maiden voyage during our Detroit trip on Labor Day weekend (which deserves and will get its own post).  But we had the time and opportunity to take a quick hop into Windsor, Canada for a few hours, so we did.  So much fun!  We're also planning something for my birthday next year.  I keep changing my mind on what I want to do, but at the moment I'm thinking about doing the European Christmas markets!


A classic movie followed by a weird one...

I had to look at my planner to see what we did in June honestly, and realized I had almost forgotten about us going to see a 70 mm showing of '2001:  A Space Odyssey'!  This wonderful art house theater in Portland did a bunch of showings in honor of the 50th anniversary, so we managed to snag tickets (they kept having to add showings because it kept selling out!).  I'd been meaning to see it for a long time given that it is such a classic and such an important movie in film history, but I'm so glad I not only waited to see it on the big screen, but to see it in 70 mm as was intended.  I really enjoyed it!

This shouldn't be notable on any level, but it was on my planner, so I will just mention it.  Two days after we saw '2001' we saw the finale movie of 'Best F(r)iends'.  What is that you ask?  Well if you are a fan of or at least know 'The Room', the iconic so-bad-it's-good film by Tommy Wiseau, basically it's his next attempt at acting.  I know I'm really selling this to you guys, but it's honestly hard to explain if you don't know the people involved with 'The Room'.  Long story short this film was split into two movies, which was utterly unnecessary on every level, but we rolled with it anyway.  To be honest, the first part was actually really interesting and I enjoyed it, but the second part kind of literally lost the plot.

A very rainy Barenaked Ladies and Better than Ezra concert

This is definitely notable since I can't recall Oregon getting significant rain in June for a really, really long time.  We had this show on the books for awhile, and to be honest, most of the draw for us was the band Better Than Ezra.  They are a Louisiana band who was super popular when I was in my late teens and twenties, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.  They've continued to quietly put out albums, and I've continued to quietly be a fan and along the way gotten Eric into them too.  They NEVER come out this way, so we definitely jumped at the chance to see them.  The concert was outdoors, and we thought nothing of it since June historically is dry, bordering on first soul sucking heatwave of the summer.  Except when the day of the show rained.

And not even a little bit, it dumped pretty consistently the whole time.  But it's Oregon, so everyone rolled with it as you learn to do as an Oregonian when it rains like 7 months out of the year.  If we avoided doing things when it rains, we'd never do anything!  Both bands seemed gobsmacked and touched that there was still a pretty large crowd there, and that no one seemed to be deterred by the rain.  We were soaked by the end of the show, but it was fun as hell anyway!  We could have honestly listened to BTE perform for another hour, they were really on fire!  Barenaked Ladies were good, although it's really hard to get on board with a BNL with no Steven Page!

And I just realized that both selfies I've posted so far have been me triumphantly shoving my beer in your faces, lol.  Way to look classy Mary.


4th of July trip to Central Oregon

This is the second year we've done a "fireworks fugitives" trip to Central Oregon, which in the summer has this glorious burn ban and redneck morons don't blow off mortars for days on end.  We fell so in love with Central Oregon last year that we knew we were going to do the same week long trip again.

This trip was so needed and definitely will go down as one of the high points of 2018 for me.  The weather was absolutely perfect, with crisp high 40's in the mornings and just right 80's for the high.  Because the weather was so nice, we were able to bring Molly with us and get out and about more than we did last year, and we have some really wonderful memories of having her with us on a few adventures.  She even got to sit on a coffee shop patio with us, and didn't act an utter fool!  We just simply balanced a lot of relaxing and sitting on the deck outside with doing some fun jaunts out.  We went to Smith Rock, which if you guys ever happen to find yourselves in Oregon you 100% need to go, and we also hiked Steelhead Falls, which was so gorgeous.  It was just a very quiet and restful week, and being surrounded by natural beauty really did my soul good.

We did a big walk after breakast and dinner each day

Girls who run the world!

"I see bunnies!"

Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock

Steelhead Falls

I did my Cape Horn Loop hike!

This is the one thing I feel bad about not doing a longer recap on, but I did my Gorge hike that I signed up for back in March!  This was another big highlight of 2018, and something I am very proud of.

This was a guided hike through Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, and I was equal parts excited and nervous for it.  It contained pretty much all of my anxiety triggers: having to drive through the city (to get to the carpool spot), spending the day with strangers, not having Eric with me in an unfamiliar situation, and going somewhere I hadn't been before.  I don't mean to sound snowflakey about it, I was just quite nervous going in and unsure of what to expect, but as usual once I got over it, I had the best time!  I can't say enough nice things about the hike and my experience with Friends of the Columbia River Gorge.  If you live in Oregon or plan to visit, and are a bit nervous to tackle a Gorge hike alone, I cannot recommend Friends enough!  Just as with the Latourelle hike we did, I felt safe and supported every step of the way.  I 100% would have freaked out had I tried to do this hike by myself, so I'm really thankful to have had the support of a group.


I began transitioning to veganism

Oh yes, you read that correctly, I took a pretty big health step and am transitioning to being vegan.  This is another thing that warrants its own post (certainly not in a preachy way I promise) because there's a lot to detail.  Long story short, it started for ethical reasons but has had pretty major and positive health results that I'm excited to share with you!


Oh August, ha ha.  It's honestly my least favorite month of the year here because the weather is the absolute worst, the yellow jackets are at their worst (you seriously can't eat outside without them up in your business), and apparently we're going to have major wildfire events that lead to choking smoke every August.  We had 2 full weeks here where you couldn't be outside or have anything open due to fires in Canada and California making the air quality dangerous.  I ended up having a bad allergic reaction to the smoke complete with coughing/sneezing blood.  Doesn't this look like it was super fun to breathe?

But, even in August positive things can happen!  The biggest positive...

We got our floors redone!

You guys have no idea how life changing this was for us but we finally bit the bullet and replaced our skanky, cheap flooring downstairs with new laminate.  Seriously, our floors, specifically the carpet was such a mess.  It was the cheapest crap the builders could find, and after 10 years and 3 dogs, it was time.  And y'all, it has made such a difference obviously in appearance but in our well being too.  The downstairs is so clean and minimal now that it just feels easier to breathe somehow.

Before and After

Anyway guys, sorry to be out of the loop for so long.  I know maybe these things put together don't look like a ton, but there were tons of other things like work, vet appointments and doctor appointments there too kind of taking up space.  

Expect recaps of our Detroit trip and my vegan journey soon!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Clean Eating: Breakfast Edition

I thought I would start a series where I chat about my meals and what my typical day to day looks like when I'm in the zone and things are going well.  I got inspired to do this because I've seen a lot of crabbing about weight loss and calorie counting specifically.  I am honestly shocked at the amount of people who perceive calorie counting as something only miserable people with an eating disorder do.  While I understand that like anything in life, calorie counting can be abused, I've honestly found it very freeing and it's given me the best relationship I've ever had with food.  Counting calories is what allows me to fit in ALL of the types of things I love such as cheese, peanut butter, avocado, butter, etc but to keep the amounts reasonable.  I've picked up on a lot of patterns with my eating and have been able to make observations about eating certain things and how it impacts my energy/hunger levels that I don't know that I ever would have connected before.  I think people hear "calorie restriction" and start clutching their pearls, when really what we're (or at least I'm) saying is that we're restricting from eating 5,000+ calories a day!  I think back to when I used to bemoan that I simply "couldn't" lose weight, and if I mentally tally my day to day food back then, I know I was at minimum eating 4,000 to 5,000 a day without question, and doing barely any exercise.  I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, I just don't want people to be like I was in my 20's when I was willfully ignorant.

Anyway, sorry to get off on that little rant, I just kind of want to stick up for calorie counting since I read some stuff this week that made me PO'd!  I also want to show that you can eat really varied, vibrant meals while counting calories that certainly are not in the same realm of starving.  Oh and cheap!  My meals are typically pretty inexpensive, so I wanted to show you that yes, you can have healthy but affordable meals.

Right now in an order to really set good habits for myself and give myself the fuel I need to do my workouts, my focus has been on clean eating.  Just to recap, my view of clean eating is focusing on eating fresh, homemade food with a heavy emphasis on vegetables and fruits.  Doesn't have to be organic, doesn't have to be gluten/dairy free, doesn't have to be a previously unknown superfood grown by monks on a south facing mountain top in the Andes, it just has to be wholesome food that isn't heavily processed or packaged.  I've got some minor stuff in there like canned coconut milk and peanut butter that I suppose you could argue is packed/processed, but eh.  Again, I don't have some big stressful playbook that I go by here.  Lean proteins, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains and oils.  Pretty standard stuff.  Oh and my biggest rule?  To make meals I ENJOY eating!  There's no reason that clean eating has to mean bland, gross meals that make you sad.

I am not a huge breakfast person really, but find that the breakfast I do eat ends up setting the tone for the day.  It's probably my "lightest" meal of the day calorie wise, I try to get at least 250 calories, but may go as high as 450.  It really just depends on what workout I know I have coming up that day and my hunger levels.  Through food tracking (and just personal taste), I've discovered that having a savory breakfast with lots of vegetables tends to set me up for the most success and feeling of satisfaction.  Given those perimeters, typically my breakfasts during the week switch between egg dishes or oatmeal/oat bran.  Both are cheap but can be easily dressed up by changing the vegetables/fruit I use in them, so it's hard to get bored.

One of my favorite things I've been eating lately are microwave scrambles.  I love eggs and eat them so much that I'm surprised I haven't turned into one, but don't want to deal with making eggs during the week.  Then Budget Bytes posted this microwave scramble tutorial and totally changed my life!    Since then I've been alternating scrambles with oatmeal during the week, which prevents me from getting burned out on oatmeal.  They are so EASY to throw together to bring to work, and I also love how versatile these scrambles can be since you're really just using what you like and have on hand.  My scrambles are a bit bigger than Beth's because I take this opportunity to fit in a ton of vegetables (it's not out of the norm for me to use a whole bell pepper and 2 big fistfuls of spinach), and I usually use 3 eggs.  I also don't use the butter she has in her recipe, just because I find that it doesn't need it.  I typically add in heavier fatty components such as avocado on my really heavy lifting days, since I find that it helps me stay full and I won't be famished by the time I get home and do my workout.  If I include cheese, I keep it to a couple of tablespoons.

3 egg scramble with salsa, avocado, peppers, mushroom and cheese (450 calories)
That huge scramble was on a lower body lifting and HIIT day, which is why I upped my calories!

2 egg scramble with mushrooms, potatoes, onions and spinach (316 calories)

I typically pair my scrambles with a piece of fruit on the side, and that's my breakfast for the morning.  Those scrambles leave me really full and satisfied until lunch and have been a game changer when it comes to upping my veggie consumption for the day!

My other ride or die breakfast is oatmeal, and I alternate between steel cut oats and regular rolled oats.  Oatmeal is another great breakfast option because it's cheap as hell, easily portable and you really can dress it up with all kinds of spices and toppings to keep the variety factor going.  I find that oatmeal is the most satisfying to me when it has a little bit of a fat component, so long as you don't overdo it.  Peanut butter is a pretty standard topping for me, although I keep it to no more than a tablespoon typically.  Flax seeds are another good fat choice, and the toasted ones from Trader Joe's are especially tasty.  My new thing I've been rocking lately though is to drizzle oatmeal with a bit of canned coconut milk, the kind that you really have to stir the crap out of to get the coconut cream to mix into the water.  Besides the fact that it tastes really nice, it really ups the luxury factor on an otherwise boring breakfast.

Steel cut oats with a banana, peanut butter, honey, flax seeds and cinnamon (384 calories)

Steel cut oats with berries, honey and a drizzle of canned coconut milk (294 calories)

You'll note in the captions that those bowls of oatmeal had honey (sometimes I use maple syrup too), but I keep that to a scant 1/2 teaspoon.  To be honest, it grosses me out to have overly sweet oatmeal, so if I use sweetener at all, that's about it.  That plus the fruit make it sweet enough, especially if I use banana.

I don't have pictures of this, but I also really love oat bran and frequently eat it for breakfast, especially on rest/low impact days when I don't need as many calories.  It's low calorie and fast to make, but it's also incredibly filling.  Again it's not the most exciting thing in the world, but I find the texture very comforting, especially when my stomach is feeling wacky.  It reminds me of Cream of Wheat, which I used to love but gives me insane heartburn for whatever reason.  I even had oat bran in a pinch as a snack the other night when I was feeling hungry, and it almost immediately silenced my stomach and made me feel so full!  I don't get super fancy with it like I do oatmeal, I typically just season it with a pinch of salt and have fruit on the side.

And as a Southern girl, I do love my grits too.  They are very low calorie and have the same comfort factor to me as oat bran.  I love to sprinkle them with a tiny bit of cheese, or scramble a couple of eggs to have on the side.  Again, it's a good basic option on rest/low impact days.

So I know I said in the beginning that my version of clean eating doesn't exclude dairy, but you'll observe from these pictures that I don't eat a ton of dairy in the morning.  I just find that not only does it seem to wreck havoc with my stomach, but I suspect dairy is pissing off my skin too since I've noticed it's less red since I reduced the amount I eat.  It also comes down to that satisfaction factor, and yogurt/cottage cheese don't seem to keep me full as long.  If dairy doesn't give you issues, then Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit also make very inexpensive and low calorie breakfasts that you can easily take on the go!

I hope you liked getting a peek behind the curtain so to speak at my breakfasts.  I'll also be doing a post on my lunches and dinners!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Latourell Falls Wildflower Hike Recap

This is the first time in a long time I've had a fitness type "event" to recap, so I'm really excited!  Sunday we did the wildflower hike at Latourell Falls in the Gorge, and this was also the first guided hike we signed up for through Friends of the Columbia Gorge, so I was definitely really eager to see what the experience would be like.  Spoiler alert, it was awesome!

Latourell Falls is located in the Columbia River Gorge one of the very first of many waterfalls you'll hit as you drive down I-84 and I am ashamed to say that I've lived here about 16 years and have never once been to it.  I guess if the wildfire did anything, it's forced people to check out areas of the Gorge that they may not have before, I know that's definitely been the case for me.  Latourell is on the Historic Highway that runs parallel to 84, which I hadn't driven since last summer before the fire.  It was good to drive it again, it's honestly a bit of an engineering marvel, but I was really sad at points at how many scorched trees are there.  It's just a hard thing to witness.  There were also quite a few rocks in the road, which was a bit nerve wracking since rock slides are a major concern now that many of the trees are gone.  (In fact, there was one near where we were on Monday!)  We ended up getting there pretty early because we were worried about the parking situation, which can get gnarly around some of the waterfalls.  It gave us a good opportunity to get in some warm up stretches, and also check out the overlook for the lower falls!

After that, both of the hike leaders arrived, as did the rest of the group we were with.  A state park ranger led our hike (since I didn't ask her permission to have her name/photo shared, she will be referred to as M), and she was so awesome!  I am kind of dorky like this because I get oddly anxious about silly things, but having a ranger be there suddenly calmed down any remaining nerves I had.  It just felt very official and like we were in great hands, and we were!  There was also a really great volunteer who I'll call S who was walking at the back of the pack.  They were really awesome about making sure everyone was being safe and that everyone was always accounted for.  I am terrible at guessing crowd numbers, but I think we had about 10 people on our hike besides us?  We ended up being the youngest people besides M and S, but that's fine with me because we're kind of old souls anyway.  Everyone was just kind of quiet and about business on the hike, which I appreciated.

The forecast had rain, but M joked that she was holding the rain back until the hike was over, and wouldn't you know, it didn't rain a single drop the whole hike!  I mean it's Oregon, I was fully prepared to get rained on, but having the hike be dry was such a blessing.  The sun even popped out at several different points, and it just honestly made the hike magical.

We started off towards the upper falls, and M had given us these cute wildflower "bingo" cards where we could win prizes if we identified flowers in a certain order.  The cards were mainly helpful for identification.  I'm pretty good at identifying typical garden type flowers, but I definitely am hopeless in the native plants department.

One of the first things M pointed out to us was wood sorrel, which is edible.  I've passed this plant a million times out in parks and never realized that you could eat it!  Eric didn't try any but I was brave and took a stab at it.  I actually really liked it, it was immensely sour and a lot like lemon, but I'm very much about sour foods.

Yummy Sorrel!
We reached the upper falls, which were just absolutely gorgeous.  We were blown away by how close you could get to them.  They were running pretty strong, but we've had a lot of rain and snowfall this year.  The mist that was coming up felt very refreshing!

We continued on uphill and got several breathtaking views of the Gorge.  I have to admit, I've been in an Portland funk lately, just basically wondering if this city is still a good fit for me since there have been some immense changes to the city since I've moved that leave me kind of cold.  But we reached a view point that made me fall in love with Oregon again, hard.

The far away side is Washington, I'm standing in Oregon, and the mighty Columbia River is in the middle!

I realized it's just the city I'm mad at, and I can leave it and come look at this beauty anytime I want.  Maybe we could even retire out this way someday.  Regardless, I'd be pretty silly to leave this.

And I of course need to point out the star of the show, the wildflowers!  Since the spring has been pretty dark and wet they weren't in full bloom yet, but there were definitely plenty of pretty, delicate little flowers to be found.  I only captured a few of them since I was trying to balance taking photos with putting my phone away and just experiencing the sights around me.

Top Left to Right:  Bleeding Heart and Salmonberry
Bottom Left to Right:  Corydalis, Larkspur, False Solomon's Seal (?)
We also encountered quite a bit of stinging nettle, which I thankfully have never been stung by because I hear it's quite painful.  I have eaten it a few times before and it's very delicious.  I might have to bring some clippers next time and harvest some!

The entire hike was a little over two miles, and while I wouldn't classify it as difficult on any level, there were definitely a few points that made me thankful that I'd started back into strength training and have really been pushing my limits on what I'm lifting for my lower body exercises.  There were just a few uphills where I really had to pay attention to my footing and having lower body and core strength definitely helped.  (I was not sore the day after either, score!)

The hike ended earlier than we anticipated and we were still pretty pumped, so we did a little extra loop down to the lower falls, which again we were surprised at how close you could get to them.

Please excuse my fat thumb that messed up an otherwise amazing shot.  :(

After that we went and had lunch at Thunder Island Brewing, which is a bit of a drive up 84 but totally worth it.  They have a patio right next to the Columbia River, and it's so relaxing to sit out there, have a beer and watch the river.  

We had packed very light lunches and snacks for the hike in anticipation of maybe splitting an appetizer at Thunder Island, but we ended up just splitting a half of a PB sandwich and clementine on the hike, just kind of on the go.  That was enough to tide us over, and since the hike got over early we were able to have a proper lunch at Thunder Island so score!  They have really great food!

Then we ended the afternoon with an absolute must, a twist cone at the East Wind Drive In.  Best soft serve ice cream ever!

This was seriously the most fantastic, positive experience, and it made me so pumped and less nervous for the hike I'm doing with them in July.  I just felt really safe, immediately comfortable and welcome the whole time.  It's funny though, I felt the same way I did when I first started running and didn't know anything, like I didn't know what the hell you were supposed to wear or what kind of shoes to get.  I was definitely eyeing M, S and all of the people on our hike to see the types of gear they had.  Working out at home means I can wear whatever, so I don't have a ton of compression wear or workout gear anymore.  I also workout barefoot because I just feel steadier when I lift that way, so even my running shoes are ancient.  I'm definitely going to have to start getting some proper pieces of clothing and shoes.  My zero drop New Balances were fine for a smaller 2 mile trail but are definitely not going to hack Cape Horn.

If you live here, I cannot encourage you enough to check out Friends of the Columbia Gorge's site not only for their guided hikes, but simply for the wealth of information they have on ALL the hikes on both the Oregon and Washington side of the Gorge.  They are really kind, knowledgeable, and their love for the Gorge is so evident.  If you plan on visiting Oregon and are interested in hiking, it's a great resource as well!  They are doing fantastic work along with the Trailkeepers of Oregon, so definitely give them some love and support.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Post Vacation

So we've been back from Cleveland for a bit, and things are on an upswing right now for the first time in awhile.  I'm sure you guys could tell from my posts, but before we went to Cleveland, I was still in the midst of a major downswing, and was feeling very uninspired and lost.  I didn't realize how bad the fog was until we were in another city and out of our routine.  It was nice to be in a different city, trying new restaurants, experiencing museums I haven't seen before and meeting new people as well.  I felt like my brain and body was awake for the first time in awhile, and I quietly resolved to bring that energy and momentum back here to Oregon.

The first and obvious thing this trip did for me was to give me new energy, passion and perspective on my Rock Hall project.  Sometimes it's hard to do this project in a vacuum with only Eric to talk to about it, and frankly I have an uphill battle with this artist and know it, so it's hard sometimes to continue being excited.  I'd hit a couple of snags with it where I felt like I failed and I'd failed the artist I was championing, and it really threw me into such a state that I wasn't sure I was even going to continue doing it.  But being in the middle of the Rock Hall excitement with our friends who get it, sharing stories/opinions about our experiences and also pairing that with reading a newer biography on my artist gave me new life.  It struck me how this person's friends and family are still deeply affected by and still love this person (who unfortunately passed away some time ago), so it gave me the push and reason I needed to keep going.  One of my biggest hangups was feeling like no one cared that I was doing this, but there are definitely people that care, and I need to keep going for them.  I definitely have more fire in the belly about it than before, and since we've gotten back I've been faithful about posting on my Twitter/Facebook again and creating a new vision for my project.  It's nice to have something creative to work on!

I also came back with a fresh attitude towards my eating habits, which have been fair to poor the last few months.  While we did some good eating in Cleveland certainly, being there actually put me in a more mindful state towards my health than I had been.  Eric and I were pretty good about splitting meals so that portions were reasonable and trying to make the best choices possible.  We kept breakfast very small and low key every day, usually just opting for cereal and fruit.  Lunches for me were also modest.  We had drinks, but would limit it to 1-2 beers (except for our Rock Hall Watcher dinner).  We also walked a TON.  Our hotel was a few blocks from the Rock Hall, so we just walked instead of cabbing or Lyfting, we were doing lots of walking around the museums and just in general were active and on the go the entire time.  I even managed a low impact Fitness Blender workout on the first day we were there!  By the end of the trip, my pants were actually fitting more comfortably than when we arrived, which really gave me the push I needed to keep the momentum rolling.

Since I've gotten back, I've thrown myself into making sure that I'm eating clean as possible.  I know "clean eating" is a touchy subject and there are a million definitions of it for people to argue over.  For me personally, it's just about making sure that I'm eating fresh, wholesome foods, that I'm making homemade meals a majority of the time and not relying on processed packaged foods or eating out.  I don't stress about everything being paleo, organic, gluten free, vegan/vegetarian or any of that, I just mainly focus on exactly what foods I'm filling up on.  It's just more about being sensible and focusing on nutrition.  Yesterday morning was a good example, I made scrambled eggs for breakfast.  While I could have paired them with an English muffin, I decided the better choice was a cup of sauteed mushrooms and a half cup of bell pepper.  There's nothing wrong with English muffins or any bread, but I know it's better for me to fill up on vegetables instead, plus I was taking into account that I was making BBQ bean sliders for dinner, which involved bread.  I just generally try not to have a huge calorie hit thing like that 2 meals in a row.  Anyway what I'm saying is, I'm just trying to be much more mindful.  I am logging calories again just for observation more than anything, and my focus on vegetables and fruits definitely allows me to eat more food, and who doesn't love eating more? 

And finally, fitness.  Being so active in Cleveland woke me the hell up y'all.  I didn't realize how little I was moving here at home until I was in a situation where we barely stopped moving, and you know what, it felt really good.  I felt like my blood was pumping, my brain was awake and just generally felt more alive.  I've carried back that spirit of just simply getting up and moving around back here to Oregon.  The weather is getting better, so it's easier to take our usual walks, so I average a mile or two a day of walking here.  I started a second round of Fitness Blender's newest strength training program, FB Strong, and have been putting full effort into it.  I've still got annoying pockets of fat that have built up from being a slug since December (belly and thighs as always), but they are slowly shrinking with a healthier diet and lifting.  The batteries in my scale broke, and I honestly DGAF about replacing it right away.  I know I'm doing what I need to do.

I had a crazy moment this week, one of my goals for 2018 was to be able to comfortably deadlift 70 pounds by the end of the year.  Right now I am able to do one set of 60 pounds, and even though it's a struggle, I can tell that with some persistence it won't be long before I can do two full sets.  Anyway I had a moment when I was struggling to pull up the weights that I've lost about 60 pounds from my original weight, and I was pulling up that very amount right in that moment.  It felt difficult.  It was uncomfortable.  And it made me freaked out and suffocated because I realized I used to just have that weight on me all the time.  Setting those weights down when my set was done was a relief, and it was a reminder to never, ever get in a place again where I have weight on me that I can't simply just set down.

Anyway, I'm just feeling really good and focusing on all of the life giving things in my world, and being grateful.  I've got an amazing husband who loves me and we have so many adventures together.  Our dog, who we love despite the fact she's an asshole, is incredibly healthy and doing well at 10 years old.  My project is going well.  The weather is shaping up.  I was able to plant a bunch of flowers and vegetables in our backyard.  We've got long awaited/wanted home improvement projects in the works.  Life is getting much better.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Cleveland Trip Part 4: Brunch in The Flats

Home stretch people!  Thanks for hanging in there.

On Sunday we met up with our friend Maria down in the Flats of Cleveland for brunch.  We've known Maria for about 5 years now, and met her through a Facebook group for greyhound owners back when we first adopted Molly.  She is really awesome, funny and has the same taste in music, so we've just bonded really well over the years.  We met her in person for the first time back in 2015 and it was a blast, so of course we wanted to make time to see her again.  Eric and I joked that every time we come to Cleveland, we jump in the car with someone we only internet know.  But seriously.

I didn't know much about The Flats, but it sounds like the typical, it was the hip happening place "back in the day", then fell into disrepair, and now is back on the upswing.  Eric researched some places and settled on this place called Collision Bend Brewing because of their nice looking brunch.

They seated us in this closed in patio right next to the Cuyahoga River and it was so relaxing!  Again, a brunch place like this in Portland with any kind of cool view would be impossible to get into on a Sunday, but we got right in there and it was also super mellow.  I was obsessed with those smoke stacks when we were there, they look just like the ones on the Pink Floyd Animals album!  The blue bridge (sorry locals, I didn't catch the name) was really cool too.

I normally opt for savory breakfasts, but their baked French toast sounded so amazing that decided on that, and it was definitely the right choice.  The custard part of it wasn't too sweet, and it also had Nutella and berries in it.  It was so delicious!  Their Bloody Mary's were also very tasty.

We had a great time catching up with Maria, who was then kind enough to drive us over to the West Side Market to check it out.  I really was dumb and not on my picture game Sunday, I regrettably barely have any photos from the market.  It was this amazing indoor market similar to Pike Place with stands ranging from spices to meat to cheese to baked goods.  I honestly could have walked around there for hours.  If I lived in Cleveland, I'd be there every week shopping!  Maria bought me a kolache cookie to try, but sadly it was a bit shoulder shrugging.  For whatever reason the baker had them super refrigerated, so I don't think they were as good as they could have been.  Eric bought these fruit filled Russian tea cakes that were pretty amazing though!

If you're a foodie and in Cleveland, definitely take the time to stop and walk through the West Side Market!

After that we went to a bar called Town hall to have one last cocktail.

 I have to admit, I was feeling a bit crispy by this point.  On top of the whirlwind trip and the ceremony, I had another case of insomnia on Saturday night, even after the ceremony.  Super frustrating but yeah, the trip started catching up with me.  The bar was super loud (one of the Cavs playoff games was going on) so I was definitely anxious to kind of power down back in the hotel room.  We finished up our drinks, got back to our hotel and just chilled awhile.

The weather was really rotten again that night, and instead of going out to eat, we decided to get Chinese and have it delivered to our hotel room.  I know that doesn't sound exciting, but it sadly was pretty novel for us, because we live in an area where the delivery options are pretty limited and also quite expensive.  Being able to get cheap Chinese food delivered to our hotel room was kind of mind blowing!  Also, for whatever reason we don't have the big NYC style egg rolls here in Oregon, just the little tiny spring rolls.  I'm not sure why that is, but he and I both really miss the big ones, and this place had them!

It was honestly the perfect way to end a very busy trip, just staying cozy and dry in our hotel room, eating delicious Chinese food and watching "Step Brothers", ha ha.

Anyway, that was our trip.  It definitely was a really wonderful break and helped changed my perspective and outlook on things.  I am eager to write about what's been going on since we got back!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Cleveland Trip Part 3: Induction Ceremony

Okay, we're in the home stretch here.  Sorry for the delay!  I'm going to try to hurry up with the next 2 recaps so I can talk about present day again!

So I have to admit, Saturday didn't start off on the best note for me.  My insomnia decided to rear its head Friday night when I went to bed, and I didn't get to sleep until about 3:30/4 am on Saturday morning, then was up at 7 am.  That...sucked.  Like majorly.  I was freaking out because we had a busy day ahead of us, including the ceremony, which was likely going to clock in at anywhere from 4.5 to 6 hours.  We'd wanted to go to a different museum that morning, something like the Science museum that's there by the Rock Hall, but decided to just dial it back a notch.  We had a small bit of the breakfast downstairs, took our time getting ready, then decided to gear up to have lunch at around noon.  We spontaneously texted our friend N to see if he wanted to meet us for lunch since it was going to be the last opportunity to see him.  Thankfully he was done with his own Rock Hall museum walkaround and was able to meet up, so we just all went to Masthead Brewing again.

We had a nice time chatting about our favorite exhibits at the museum, speculating about what we thought would happen at the ceremony that night and just assorted Rock Hall nerd stuff that I won't bore you with.  After that Eric and I went back to the hotel and I pretty much went back to bed in order to get some semblance of rest before the ceremony.  In the midst of our nap, the weather decided to take a complete dump and started POURING!  It was crazy.

The Cleveland ceremonies are held at Public Hall, which is a really pretty venue if you've never been.  It's a bit small considering the event, but is a really nice place regardless.

We ended up freaking out when we saw where our seats were, which were in a VIP section pretty damn close to the stage!  I guess some fancy VIP person thought they'd be happier making cash off the tickets than going to the ceremony.  Whatever the case, we were pretty pumped because we had a great view of the room, and hilariously, the teleprompter.

Just in case you weren't sure or wanted a refresher on this year's class, it was the following artists:

  • Bon Jovi
  • The Cars
  • Dire Straits
  • The Moody Blues
  • Nina Simone
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe

I will be honest, I wasn't completely jazzed about this year's class apart from Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  I can't stand the Dire Straits, The Moody Blues don't do much for me, Bon Jovi is complicated for me.  I was neutral about The Cars.  My "decades" are primarily 50s/60s and then jump to 90's.  I enjoy music from the 80's, but it's not the decade I'm passionate about.  But, the ceremonies always have something to love, so I just rolled with it all.

So to back up to Bon Jovi...I have very complicated feelings surrounding them, probably far more complicated than any one person should allow an 80's hair metal bad to hold over them, but here we are.  I was HUGELY into them when I was young, then my interest waned for the most part after the Keep The Faith album.  I was kind of mildly surprised they were inducted frankly.  They are too big of a band to ignore, it's not that I don't think they should be inducted, but I do think they should have waited.  There are pretty fundamental rock "building blocks" bands who have not been inducted who are far more deserving to be in the front of the line frankly.  And straight up, Jon Bon Jovi has acted like a spoiled asshole throwing a tantrum for YEARS about them not being in.  While we were here they visited the museum, and Jon gave a speech that ended with, "It's about f**king time."  Um first of all, you are standing next to the Moody Blues, who I don't like but are important to music.  They have been together and touring for 50 years and are just now getting in so, let's maybe calm down.  Secondly, I've seen many a "tough" artist get up there and express a heart melting amount of humility and gratitude over being inducted, so what's up with the chip on your shoulder?  Entitlement is not a good look Jon, for real.

So the ceremony was over 4 hours long and it's going to air on HBO on May 5th, so I will just condense some personal highlights/observations for me so this post doesn't yammer on for 5 years.

Ceremony Highlights

The ceremony opened with The Killers playing Tom Petty's "American Girl" and it was AMAZING.  They did a great job with it and it was a very heartfelt moment!

Bon Jovi's induction was rough.  Howard Stern did the inducting, and I know it's his thing, but he was very crass and insulting and just gave this uncomfortable speech.  It was seriously the most entitled crap of how it was the most unjust thing ever that Bon Jovi hadn't been inducted until now and was just a whole casserole of nonsense.  I have a pretty low brow sense of humor, I love things like South Park and Family Guy, and I most definitely have a foul mouth.  It's not like I'm a prude.  But I also have a sense of time and place and audience and yeah, Howard didn't do much for me.  Then the band got up, did their speeches (Jon gave a 20 minute speech that was basically his entire Wikipedia page and life story, WTF) and played.  Their set unfortunately sounded pretty terrible.

So I was tepid about The Cars getting in but holy SHIT their set was amazing.  They sounded fantastic and were a ton of fun.  I knew Eric was super excited to see them play, so I was happy for him in general, but even I was pretty blown away about how great they were.  Brandon Flowers inducted them and gave a very sweet and heartfelt speech that I really enjoyed.

The Sister Rosetta Tharpe set was seriously one of the best moments of the night.  Now, a lot of people are not aware of Sister Rosetta, but she is incredibly important to rock and roll, and I highly encourage you to check her music out.  She was the first black woman to play electric guitar (in the 30's and 40's no less!) and influenced Elvis, Johnny Cash and Little Richard, among many others.  She was simply amazing.  Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes inducted her and also played one of her songs, and it was so sassy and joyful.  Felicia Collins also took a song and was pretty incredible.

Biggest highlight of the night...the Nina Simone set.  Mary J. Blige, who I love dearly, inducted her.  Nina's brother got up and accepted the award on her behalf, and gave a really inspiring speech (and also threw some delightful shade at Bon Jovi). Andra Day and in a surprise move, Lauryn Hill performed on her behalf.  They announced Lauryn Hill at the last minute and I seriously about peed myself when they announced it, because I love her.

Andra Day though, my god.  You guys need to 100% watch this video I'm about to link, because she not only has one of the most amazing, otherworldly voices, but her performance was very sexy in the most classy, sultry way.   I was just totally entranced by her.  That wail she did at the end as she falls to her knees took everyone's breath away!  I hope they don't cut this on the HBO broadcast, because it was hands down one of the most powerful performances of the night.

And Lauryn Hill, total swoon.  First of all, she looked absolutely, positively gorgeous in this big insanely poofy dress.  It was definitely like a queen taking the stage.

The first part of her set was a bit rough, it seemed like she was having issues with her monitors, but it quickly smoothed out.  Her performance of "Feeling Good" was exquisite.

Okay, that's it for the ceremony.  The next recap will be meeting up with a friend in the Flats, and then I promise I'm done!