Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Miami Half-Marathon Recap - Race Report

Just the facts first
I had a goal of 1:50 for the Miami half-marathon. I ran 1:58. Not close at all. But I wasn't surprised to not hit the goal. About 2 weeks ago I attempted a mile repeat workout with the 1:50 pace as the goal. I wasn't able to hold the pace. So, I knew it was a long shot.
This is my official stolen photo from MarathonFoto. This is pretty close to the start because I've already ditched my pants.
It was a cool day for the marathon. Which meant that maybe I had a chance to run faster than expected since everyone does a bit better in cool weather. Standing at the start I was not focused at all. I have run enough races that I know that when I go out to hit a goal I have that goal clearly in my head. I frequently go off to start on my own to run my own race. This year I even said out loud,  "I need to get my head in line if I'm going to do this." I was also pretty sure I was under hydrated even though I had been drinking water the day before. In the end it just didn't come together. It felt like hard work the whole way and when I look at my personal data I was working the whole time so this is just what I had on this day.

While I wish I had hit the goal wishes don't make goals happen. Actions do and I know I hadn't been training enough to make this happen.

About the Miami Marathon and Half-Marathon - It's Miami people.
We start our races here very early because while heat wasn't a factor this year (2015) if it's going to be hot it gets hot very early. But it's Miami, so be prepared to battle stupid traffic on the way, parking is a total pain unless you are really early (we arrived more than an hour early) and of course, the race started late.

Here I am hiding behind a pole from the chilly wind. We actually went and stayed warm in the arena before the start.
The handcarts and physically challenged group was listed as starting at 6:05 but the announcer said the intersections were not closed until 6:10 so they went off late and all of us starting after went off late too. It's Miami - we're famous for being late. I started at almost 6:30. 

Hablamos Espanol
This race draws and enormous amount of participants from "the Americas" so enjoy the multilingual start and the flow of English, Spanglish, Spanish, Portuguese and even French around you throughout the race. If you do the full I read in the guide that we had a cuban coffee station. Seriously, that would be amazing on a marathon course.

The Miami marathon is a crowded race. This year I will say that the start was the best it has ever been organized. The corrals were well manned and people were only allowed where they were supposed to go.  It was still very crowded all the way through the course - but for me not at all un-runnable like it has been before. People are describing it like the new corporate run so still pretty crowded. There is a lot of bobbing and weaving throughout the race. Probably a bigger time gap between corral starts would help.

The Miami Marathon is all grown up.
This is the 13th year of the Miami Marathon and Half-Marathon. So 13 years ago I ran this half totally untrained because I really wanted to support a hometown marathon. Luckily for me it's become a smashing success. This year we even had the Goodyear blimp overhead and we have lots of bands and cheering squads along the way. Sadly, long gone is surprising the cross-dressers on South Beach because that was a highlight in the first few years. There were still a few club goers dazed along Ocean Drive.
In the past this start has been a disaster where you were bobbing around hundreds of walkers for miles. This year was much improved. I started at the front of corral D had only one issue. That was having to weave around 10 teams of charity walkers pushing adults in strollers or wheelchairs in the middle of the road. I saw one collision where a runner collided with a charity stroller team (the stroller stopped short just after a left turn and the runner coming from behind just plowed into them). I do hope that everyone involved was okay. Just like when driving I always wish that slow traffic would stay to the right. I'm happy the stroller teams are there in the race - they deserve to be there - I just wish they knew to stay to the right.

I mentioned it was a cool temperature start and I started with too many layers. instead of shedding my top long sleeve layer and toughing it out while waiting to start I kept it on and after 2 miles had to stop to remove it which was a bit of a process. Oh well it was what it was.

Also, my iPod decided to not function ... bummer. I think one too many runs in the rain did it in. Luckily the course had lots of entertainment.
This is my group chilling inside the arena before the race.

Miami has beautiful sunrises and some colorful characters on the course
Watching the sun peak up over the cruise ships was great, the fire boat was spraying water in the bay, also great. The sunrise over Ocean Drive was beautiful. The music along the course was fantastic. At one point on Miami beach we run through a Jewish cheering section. There are at least two Jewish charity/training groups so we have a Jewish flair to this race that adds even more character.  While personally I learned that Israeli pop music doesn't inspire me to run faster I did enjoy watching the guy dancing by the yellow bus and I think a lady offered me kosher ham... which made me chuckle.

I carried my own fluids for this race so I avoided the water stops. They looked very crowded so I was happy to skirt around them. 

The Miami Half-Marathon course was kept clear and wide the whole way which is a first and that was great. I loved the singing island-homeless lady downtown and the finisher chute was pretty good. 

I was extremely happy to not take the right lane to run the full marathon. 50 people go left and seriously 3-4 pull off for the full. Lonely. For some reason the volunteer there thought I had made an error and kept saying to me, "full to the right" and pointing to me. But I shook my head no (with as much vehemence as I could manage) and thought inside my head ... nope, no way, not today. I had never been registered for the full so I'm not sure what caused his confusion.

There is a tight turn headed into the finish and I was almost knocked over by an over aggressive dude bobbing and weaving to shave off 5 more seconds. But I didn't tumble so all is well that ends well.

All in all a great morning even though I didn't have the speed I'd hoped for in my legs.

Why does not hitting a goal that wasn't realistic still sting?
Hoped is the word there. I hoped I could do it but I know I didn't actually do the work it would take to make that happen so I'm good with not hitting the goal. It is actually my fastest Miami half marathon time. While a lot of people set prs on this course Sunday I don't think it's a PR course for me. I've never thought it was.

Amazingly we all grouped up after the finish and met for breakfast. It's always amazing to me that even with 25000 people out there I can find my friends. The walk back to the car in the chilly winds was super unpleasant. Luckily my friend had my sweatpants and I was able to put them on about halfway to the car. Brrrr.
But it did take a day to have that really settle in. I knew I wasn't trained for sub 1:50. I just came out of the vacation mind-set after Chattanooga. I thoroughly enjoyed the holidays and I'm pretty out of shape. But it did still sting just a bit.  I think missing this goal is actually what I needed though to push me forward.

Is it a good race? Do I recommend it?
I try to run the Miami Half Marathon race almost every year. It's a fun morning. It's not my favorite local half-marathon though. That title goes to a1a in Fort Lauderdale which I can't run this year because of a family conflict. I've never run the full Miami marathon and at the moment I have no intention to do so. While the half marathon has lots of fans the full marathon is pretty much regarded as a lonely sufferfest.

I recommend this half marathon as a fun morning. If you live out of town and want a weekend of fun in Miami - this is a great time of year to be here.

Onward and upward. Next up Ragnar Relay to Key West.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

It's all about the veggies, about the veggies, about the veggies - how we make the veggie share work in our house

I'm clearly concerned with what I eat being at least somewhat healthy. And during Ironman training I feel like I eat all the time. Although as I say this I'm relishing the taste of girl scout cookie ... thin mint if you're curious. I just indulged. I'm not perfect and who wants to be?

Over the years I've learned more about food and made my own decisions about what I find to be a good option for me and my family. Food is of course all about options and what works for one person may not work for another.

Know your farmer
Eventually I came to the conclusion that sourcing local and organic foods was very important to me. To that end I signed up for a veggie share. It was called Endlessly Organic and I picked up my box every two weeks and we had a mixed experience with it. Eventually we went on vacation and I put the box on hold and when I got home I cancelled it because it wasn't working for us. The main reason was we had tons of left over veggies.
kumquats. You eat the skin so it's good to know where they are grown.

Shortly after that I found a new share and I signed up for that (much to the shock of my husband who may still have been scarred from the first go around) but that one has worked for us much better although I quit that one too because it wasn't convenient. Now we're on our third go around and I thought it might be worth a go to share how I make it work for us.

First, it really does help if you cook or at least eat at home. If you rarely eat at home it will be tough to use enough of the veggies to make it worthwhile. I'll just be honest about that. I cook a lot for my family and we actually will go through our bag of veggies in under a week. We are a family of four.

My share has full and half shares so another option is to not get a full share and then you get less veggies. They also have fruit only shares and a juicer share - so pick what works for you.

Second - I have learned to shop with the share in mind. My pickup is every other Monday and I go to the grocery store on Sunday or Monday. So every other week I don't really buy produce in the supermarket. That way I have an empty veggie/fruit crisper to fill with the veggies from the share.

There is no filter here. Do you see how red that is? And notice there isn't a huge white stripe. Crazy sweet.
The produce that comes from my veggie share is often ripe and ready to eat. In fact, it has changed what I know about when veggies are ripe. We are getting peppers now, sweet red peppers. They are so red that they put to shame any red peppers I have ever eaten before. Also they have practically no white strip inside.  It will honestly be a challenge to eat traditional peppers again. My daughter loves red pepper with ranch dressing. So I chop these up and put them in her lunch for school.

My share gives me a list of what is expected in the share the day before so I can use that when shopping. It's almost always not exactly correct though since they don't know what they have until the day of and substitutions are the norm.

Third - It should be convenient. I will be the first person to admit that shopping locally can be a huge hassle. After all I can never remember where or when the farmers markets are. This is the third share I've tried and I pick up from a business - not a home which I actually prefer. It is literally two minutes from my home.

Ready, Set ... Salad. I mentioned that the produce from the share is usually ripe and ready to eat. Especially fresh harvested baby greens which I get a lot. So farm share day is salad day. In fact I have learned to try to put at least one or two things from the share straight into dinner. So last night we had salad with fresh greens, fresh tomatoes and fresh red peppers. I also roasted the red potatoes that came with our share for dinner. Today for lunch I had left over salad with added fresh avocado sliced on top. 

An extra bonus for me with the farm share is that I have learned what foods really are local to my region which is different wherever you are. I actually quit one of the shares because it was really just delivering the same thing I could get at the store (cal-organic label and all). We get a lot of citrus, strawberries, green beans and tropical fruits. I've also learned what they taste like when they are allowed to ripen on the tree. It's a huge difference. I guess is makes sense that to get it to the store takes time so it needs to be picked earlier.

Next, I learned to speak up about what I like.  I cancelled my first share because it was too heavy on greens like kale and collard greens. I like kale but seriously too much of a good thing is just too much and I don't like collard greens so not much of that is too much. Some shares aparently offer switching but not mine - what you get is what you get. But in the beginning I just happened to send an email that I was thrilled to have fresh herbs in that week's share and low and behold now I get fresh herbs at least once a month which is really fun.

I happen to enjoy trying new things. We have really discovered a lot of fun things with our veggie share. I live in the tropics but I didn't grow up here. When I get a native local fruit like dragon fruit or thai guava sometimes I don't know what to do with it.

red dragon fruit - there is also white but it's not so pretty
I'm known to post pictures of unknown things on Facebook where I have always gotten great advice. We discovered that we love rainbow chard. We discovered dragon fruit smoothies and lots of other fun things. Some take more than one try. Others we don't like boniata root we aren't sure we like and that's okay too. 
this is a dragon fruit smoothie which is really yummy

I will also email the share if I'm really confused by what something might be. For example Boniata root looks like sweet potato so I cooked it like one only to discover it was most definitely not a sweet potato. So I emailed the share and they let me know what it was and shared recipes to try. I haven't found a winner yet with them but I'll try again next time.

Sometimes it's best to share the bounty. As I mentioned I don't like collard greens. I also don't like squash. I know I know ... everybody loves squash. I'll keep trying it but so please share your recipes but so far it's not my favorite. So I've learned that when I get things I know I don't like I give it away to friends. I literally will take veggies to school drop off and say to a friend, hey do you like squash? If they say yes ... it's theirs. Immediately I hand it to them. They never know quite what to say when I produce a bulb of fennel from my purse for them on the spot.

persimmons and oranges
Yes, of course, it does feel very strange to take veggies to school but I have learned that this little trick almost always returns itself as a bottle of wine or chocolate or an invitation to dinner all of which I happen to like a lot so it all works out.

You can usually customize your share. I get 2 dozen local fresh eggs and 6 organic lemons in addition to my veggies. These are staples that we use all the time in my house so this way I'm sourcing those from a local farm. The eggs are really a lot better and one thing we have a lot of in Florida is local citrus.   Although it can be a challenge to find organic lemons so this solves that problem for me.

I drink a lot of lemon water ... because I drink a lot of water and sometimes adding lemon makes it more interesting.
One last thing to know about me which might help make sense why this works so well is that while I love fresh food I have a totally black thumb. I cannot garden to save my skin. So this is my only option for fresh produce. 

Don't you get like 30 rutabegas or something? I currently have 2 eggplants and two batches or watercress staring at me in the kitchen that I'm not sure what I'll do with. So it's true you can get a lot when things are ripe. I've never actually gotten a rutabega though. But I've learned to enjoy the seasonality of the veggies. They taste better fresh and in season so it's worth it to me.

I did once get a cabbage that was so big I couldn't fit it into the fridge that was pretty funny. My husband called it the mutant communist cabbage. It was so big I needed help to cut it open. I made coleslaw and threw a bunch out because I didn't know what else to do to be honest.

Our current Farm Share is called Farm Fresh Miami. It really is affiliated with a local far. I think it's is a good feeling to support a local farm.. If you're local and want to give it a try I recommend it.

How about you ... do you take part in a coop or a veggie share? If so how do you make it work?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen... I'm in love ... with my Nathan handheld water bottle - product review

My previous water bottle was the Amphipod handheld.

You might remember that this bottle so annoyed me during the Rome Marathon that at mile 24ish I threw it to the side of the road. I gleefully threw it to the side.
The Amphipod water bottle. Love the color - hate the leaks.

But then I bought the same bottle again because it was the only option offered at my favorite running store. I'm really going to have to talk to them about this now that I've found a better option.

I was constantly annoyed with the fact that no matter what I did ... it leaked.  Leaking is (in my opinion) really not an acceptable characteristic for a water bottle. In fact I would say that holding the water in when desired is actually the only job a water bottle actually has.

I posted on twitter asking for recommendations I was referred to Amazon to buy a Nathan  Handheld Water bottle which I bought immediately online through my phone.

Thank you to the twitterverse for the help. 

It arrived and it was bigger than I expected. It's a 16 ounce bottle. But I tried it  and ... I'm in love.

It's superior water bottle technology. I don't know if they've got an exclusive on this top type but if not everyone should change to this in my opinion. Either way I'm very happy to have discovered the Nathan bottle.

There is a suction valve in there. Basically it's closed until you pull water through. It works really well.
What makes the Nathan handheld bottle superior? Well obviously this is just my opinion but these are the things I like:
even though the water bottle is bigger I've tightened the strap down so it's tight on my hand.
  • The hand strap is adjustable.
  • The bottle top does not need to be opened to drink or closed when finished.
  • The bottle fits in my hand even though it's bigger than my last bottle
  • It doesn't leak
  • It has reflective tape for visibility in low-light conditions.
16 ounces of hydration ... so far so good.
I actually might go ahead and order a smaller bottle. 16 ounces might be heavy in my hand. That's the biggest downer about handheld bottles is the weight of carrying those in your hand over 26 miles gets very heavy. But I prefer that weight to the rub of the belt around my middle.

I have to add that Amphipod did get wind of my dissatisfaction via twitter and they have contacted me to send a replacement bottle. They say that their bottles shouldn't leak. I agree ... they shouldn't.  Plenty of people use these and somebody did make the Amphipod suggestion on twitter too. So they get a 10/10 for customer service and I'll update this if when the replacement bottle arrives it is leak-free. It's definitely possible that I just have a bad bottle from them. Twice. Or user error. Also possible.

Monday, January 12, 2015

From Resolutions to goals and including dreams - 2015 Here I come

To me resolutions are not the same as goals and goals are not the same as dreams. 

I like to set goals and I even more like to hit my goals. I'm also a believer in the power of simply writing your goals out and making them happen. I've shared this before but when I finished college I was asked to make a list of things I wanted to do in my life and by when. It was just a list. I found it right after I had my first child 2 days before I turned 30. I have actually done almost all of those things including have my first child before I was 30. (ooooh, creepy, eh?)

I think that the action of sitting down and figuring out specifically what your goal is and what it will take to make it happen is really helpful in getting it started. So, I plan to share my resolutions, goals and dreams here for strangers and all to read them. Today is just resolutions. I'll be honest that's in part because I don't want to announce half-thought out goals and that's what they are at the moment.

To me resolutions are behaviors I resolve to work on with no tangible end and they don't really need to be measurable. They are just things I think are important to do.

Here are some of my resolutions for 2015.

I resolve to not use my phone while I'm driving. It's a no brainer that this is an unsafe thing to do while driving and yet I admit I cheat on this. I will send a quick text or email while stopped at a light. Sometimes I'm not quite finished when the light changes and so I'll finish while moving. It's not good. My kids are 11 and 8. They call me out on this behavior when they see it and they are correct to do so. I resolve to keep my phone where I can't get it and make it a priority to stay off my phone while driving.

I resolve to learn more words in Spanish. This one is maybe actually a goal but this isn't a test so I can put it where I want :-) I have lived in Miami almost 20 years. I can flub my way through basic situations in Spanish. I joke that I speak housekeeper Spanish.  Honestly, it's a real asset to be able to actually communicate well in Spanish in Miami There's a lot that happens in and around this city in Spanish and the multicultural part of Miami is something I really enjoy but I'm not making the most of it.  I make my kids take after school Spanish and I'm going to start for myself.

I resolve to be humble and kind. I find that humility and kindness are hugely underrated and I really appreciate people who practice both of these character traits when I'm around. So I'm going to try to work on being humble and kind this year. 

I resolve to do some serious soul searching about what I want to do with my life. It's a transitional year at our house and I feel like I might need to make some changes. I have frequent thoughts that I might be happier if I had a job. My husband and I are having lots of rounds of circular non-productive conversations about this topic. He's very supportive and he really likes that I'm home with our kids. But for me  I just need to spend some time really thinking about what I want in the future so that I can work towards that ... whatever it might be.

Next up: Goals for 2015. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Farther and Faster in 2015 - 201 Days until Ironman Lake Placid

This year I'm going to do at least one thing I have not done before and that is that while I train for Ironman Lake Placid on July 26th I'm also going to raise awareness and funds for Apert Syndrome and the Children's Craniofacial Association.

There it is ...  the big announcement. Did you miss it. Okay, one more time:

201 Days to Ironman Lake Placid
I've decided to fund raise for the Chirldren's Craniofacial Association as a part of my journey to Ironman Lake Placid. Ta-dah.

Maybe it's not so big. People raise money for causes all the time. Yes, yes it's true but not me and not ever tied to my racing. I have always kept these two things separate. I do good things and separately I race marathons and triathlons.

How did this happen - How did I learn about the Childrens Craniofacial Association?
Here's why and how it came about. I'm 41. A zillion years ago when Facebook came around it was great fun for us old-timers because those of us who had moved far and wide across the world reconnected. It was especially fun to reconnect with my college girlfriends with whom I had lost contact. Over the years we've been able to share the miracles of becoming mothers and raising families. Through Facebook I reconnected with my college sorority sister Erin.

One of her children, named Eli was born with a genetic abnormality named Apert Syndrome. She has been very open with her story of raising Eli over the years. Since I also have children around the same age it has been very touching to me.

Last year, while training for Ironman Chattanooga three members of my team had registered for the event through Team Challenge which included a fundraising commitment to benefit Crohns and Colitis Foundation of America. It was a lot of effort for them to meet their fundraising minimum and so the whole team helped. You may remember me harassing people on the blog and Facebook. While I was hounding my friends for virtual run registrations I was also reading about Erin and Eli going through a rough time recovering from a surgery. She is open about her challenges and it was an emotional time for anyone who knew them. I had moments of guilt because I was working hard on a cause for my friends at the same time somebody I knew was actually at that moment directly in need. So I think the seed was planted in my mind. And like a lot of seeds it slowly grew.

A few months ago I asked Erin if I could fund raise for her cause. She never asks for anything my friend Erin so this was all my idea. She said yes and pointed me to the Children's Craniofacial Association. And we were off.
This was the sunrise on my way to my New Years Day run on South Beach. No I shouldn't take pictures while driving on the highway. And no the photo doesn't do it justice.

Why the Children's Cranialfacial Association? and Why you?  and Why now for Ironman Lake Placid?

Why Children's Craniofacial Association? I asked my friend who she would want me to raise money for as I was inspired by her and her family. She directed me to CCA. Also, because I had never heard of Apert Syndrome.  I think that rare conditions benefit from both exposure and money. The more exposure they get of course the more money to help those affected the more people can be helped.

I had to come in and edit this after the fact because in the first round of this post I had made a mistake. There is no cure for Aperts Syndrome. It's a genetic mutation that can happen to anybody. What the CCA does is work in education and outreach, offering tools to assist those who have just received a diagnosis, those who are transitioning to school, and even adults with Craniofacial abnormalities. They host a retreat every summer for children and adults with Craniofacial conditions and their families. There are seminars but mostly it's a chance to just come together and be "ok" for a few days. And CCA also offers financial support for those who need it when traveling to see specialists. 

Why me? Well ... if not me then who? So there you have it. It's me then.

Why now? Because why not now. It felt like as good a time as any. I'm going to race Ironman Lake Placid - the training will be a long journey. There is a pretty natural tie in between ultra endurance events and other tough battles like parenting a child with Apert Syndrome, I think.

All parents share a similar journey and at the same time every parent walks the road alone. When I read about Eli and Erin and their challenges I am touched to the core of my soul as a parent about the similarities of our lives and also the striking differences.

Raising Awareness and Money
Over the next seven months I hope to tell a bit of Eli's story. If you're interested you'll learn a bit about this syndrome. Plus of course I hope to raise some money. Fundraising is hard and I'm not going to be shy about it but I also am hoping not to annoy everyone at every turn by harassing them for money so let me know if I cross the line.

How to Give
I set up a fundraising site through I Tri for Good to accept donations. I chose this method because they tell me that Every Penny that is put into this account will be given to the Children's Craniofacial Association. I set it up - people donate - after the event they cut a check. Seems like a win win to me.

So if you'd like donate here.

The link if you're curious is https://itriforgood.org/athlete-profile/amysaysso/

New years eve fireworks in the driveway. This was I think the grand finale which happens when my husband is tired of lighting the fireworks. He just lines up what's left and sets them all off. Not actually a bad plan. This years show had rave reviews from the kids. We also do this around 9 pm and then spend the next few hours trying to convince the kids to go to bed before 12. We never win. But 12:01 bedtime!
The bulk of the posts on the blog will most likely still be blather about my day-to-day training. For example let's do the end of year recap. It's required for bloggers I think to share this.

In 2014 my totals were:
Run: 1058 miles or  216 hours
Bike 1785 miles or 156 hours (trainer miles are only in hours so it's a mismatch but whatever)
Swim 191,995 yards or 84 hours
Brick (no idea why these hours were recorded this way 56 miles or 6 hours

To compare and contrast with 2013
Run 688 miles
Bike 1407 or 141 hours (again mismatch with the trainer hours)
Swim 144866
Brick 57 miles

Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The latkes broke my food processor and I simply cannot eat anymore Christmas ham

Mix thoroughly until blended
I'm part of a mixed up blended family. My parents were divorced, I'm my husband's second wife (which means his oldest kids have divorced parents and I'm a stepmom) and of course, my husband and I both grew up with different religious holiday traditions.

In a super simplified nutshell our winter holidays are wonderful but complicated a little stressful and of course filled with much to much food.
Do not ever let your kids set up the family photo. Seriously. We squeezed this in at my mother-in-law's house after a holiday party the night before. We were all together for my husband's birthday and of course another day of Chanukah. More latke's!

Add in ex-wives, step-kids, different traditions and you almost need a guide book to make sense of it all.  I personally think we do a pretty good job of making it work. I know everyone's holidays are a mix of crazy and hectic and I thought a look at our last few days might be mildly entertaining.
One giant multicultural party!

Before we got married my husband and I talked about our two religions and while our opinions have definitely shifted after we had children together the nexus point of agreement that we would teach them about both sets of traditions has stuck. So we participate in both Chanukah and Christmas.

When people find out we have a blended family sometimes they have questions. After the questions come their opinions. Most folks who have strong enough opinions to choose to share them (which is usually balanced by them having a shortage of self-control to keep their mouths shut) think we should choose one religion as a family and therefore we're doing it wrong. I've mostly learned to keep my mouth shut. Mostly.
8 days of frying
During Chanukah we eat a lot of fried food because it's all about the oil. For almost every night during the eight nights I  fry up some kind of latkes. Our favorite is the straight potato latkes but I also tried zuchini latkes to mixed reviews and apple to unanimous rejection.

standard potato latkes or as others might call them - hashbrowns.
My husband and his family love my latkes and while it's a huge amount of work I do it every year.  This year we shredded so many potatoes the lid to my food processor jiggled apart and I had to hold it down for the last few potatoes.
zucchini latkes. Meh.
I will say Chanukah is fun but I'm tired of frying after 8 nights. There was one year where Chanukah overlapped Christmas ... that nearly stressed me to the breaking point and now we have a no latke on Christmas eve policy ... things you never thought you'd need.
Apple latkes. Gross. Which is weird because all the ingredients are delicious. I may need a different recipe.
Despite the fact that we give give give I do try to tell my kids that neither holiday is about presents. I am definitely losing this battle. But I'm giving it the good fight.

Winter birthday trauma
Adding to the chaos of our season. My husband has a late December birthday. It almost always falls during Chanukah. and He suffers from what I call December Birthday Child Trauma Syndrome (DBCTS). This is when a person feels slighted by having to share their December Birthday with another winter holiday. Symptoms include whining and buying yourself all kinds of stuff so that your family can't figure out what to buy you as a present. Treatments include all of the following: make sure he gets birthday gifts. Never ever ask, "do you want a birthday gift or a Chanukah gift" Never  try to combine birthday or Chanukah gifts when dealing with a sufferer of this syndrome. Also the gifts must be wrapped in birthday paper not holiday paper.

The tree
My Jewish husband loves our Christmas tree. He makes sure that the first free day after Thanksgiving we're all at the tree lot picking out a big Christmas tree. And he does the heavy lifting to get it inside and string up all the lights. He also puts the ornaments up high. His mom, my Jewish mother-in-law has admitted she loves the tree. Probably 1/4  maybe more of our ornaments are from my mother-in-law.
We definitely do not have a designer tree. Every ornament is made or accumulated over the years. Also, random things have just been designated ornaments which I'm pretty sure they weren't to begin with. It's all good.

Having a supportive mother-in-law is important, very important for making a blended family work.

There are many funny stories about me, my husband and our Christmas tree. We've had at least two trees topple over. Once we bought a tree that was much too big and too heavy to carry. Once we bought a tree that was too tall and we had to cut it off at the top. But I am always thankful that my husband supports my Christmas tree tradition.

This year we had a hilarious half hour of reminiscing all the tree mishaps led by my step-daughter who brought her boyfriend/fiance into the mix. They've been dating about 20 minutes so it was natural to get engaged and include him in all of the holiday events. If that relationship works out well in 10 years this could be one of his funny stories to tell.

Santa Claus
I grew up with Santa. I love the tradition of Santa and the magic behind it. But my husband was apprehensive. He had heard about kids being traumatized when they realized Santa wasn't real. So before he agreed to be Santa I had to convince him that our kids wouldn't be traumatized. In fact I have my doubts about the intelligence of any child who doesn't figure this out by the age of 10 or well before. I don't think our kids have been traumatized - at least not about this. Just like the tooth fairy and other parental magic there comes a time when you realize he has to be your parents. It's okay - it's still fun. We have one kid who knows and one who suspects/knows but I tell them you have to believe to receive so we're all still playing along.
I am so thrilled that this house is not on my street. Love the lights but that has got to be super annoying.

My husband is not good at all with the secrecy of Santa Claus. At all! He slips up all the time in front of the kids - if I didn't laugh this would make me batty.  He'll say in front of the kids, "what did you put in the stockings?" And I'll reply, "honey Santa fills the stockings." When they were tiny it went over the kids heads. Now, I know they'll understand it and that's okay.  In the end though the elves are both our undoing. We simply cannot remember to move those little turkeys every night.

The decorations
We have a giant box of holiday books. Some Hannukah books, some Christmas books and believe it or not some blended family books. We read them during the season and then put them away until next year.

We have santa elves, hannukah helpers and this year we got a mensch on a bench. I know, it's hilarious, right? We also have a dancing Santa and a singing rabbi to round out the lunacy.
pre icing. Not gingerbread but chocolate sugar cookies.

We'll make sugar cookies to honor all of our traditions. We have 3 bags of cookie cutters including, dreidles, menorahs, trees, angels, santas and the ironman m-dot too.

My kids really want outdoor decorations but  so far we only have wreaths. I have no idea how to hang outdoor lights and I think the inflatable decorations are annoying. My husband did search for a giant inflatable Mr. Hanky (the Christmas Poo) which I would have thoroughly supported but we didn't find one.
New this year our Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo ornament.

If I can get an electrician to get power to my trees in front I would love to wrap them in holiday lights. However, so far no go. Instead we take a tour of holiday lights around town on Christmas Eve. 

Thank goodness it's over
It's a lot of work. It's plenty of money. It's a huge pain. But we do it. We always say we we'll scale it down next year.  Someday we'll toss the traditions aside for a year to take a trip to visit family or just see some snow. But for now we do it. It's the Amy giftapalooza season. We have more holidays and more food and gifts than we know what to do with. But we love it anyway.

I hope that your holiday traditions whatever they may be were enjoyable. Next up - New Years planning, goal setting etc. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

The reason for my divorce

First - I am not actually getting divorced.

My sister-in-law will be the first one to read this so I don't want to cause undue stress. It's bad for family relations.

But, if I was getting divorced it would be because my husband cannot follow my rule that he is not ever allowed to cook eggs in our stainless steel pans.
If you have metal pans you must have this in your cleaning arsenal. It is not organic, or kind to your manicure, or probably safe but it does clean the pans.

Part two of this rule is that if he breaks part one of this rule he has to clean it himself.

Part three of this rule is never ever ever cook eggs and cheese in a stainless steel pan because seriously it takes longer than forever to clean it. In fact, even my cleaning lady doesn't clean egg and cheese off the pans. She does most of it but then puts it back not fully clean which makes me super-de-duper cranky.

Let me be clear - it is possible to cook eggs in a stainless steel pan. But it's not really easy. You have to use plenty of oil, a very low cooking temp and a metal spatula. Even with that it's a hassle to clean. That's why we have 2 non-stick pans. I only use them for eggs because I am a little freaked out about eating the non-stick surface that does eventually wear off of all non-stick pans. My husband is a less freaked out about eating the non-stick surface but he goes with it. But if the non-stick pan is not on the top of the pan pile he grabs the next one and we have a history of this which is why I created the rules. Also his idea of a low cooking temp is 8 on the 10 point scale so ... well, there's that.
cooked egg hermetically sealed to the stainless steel pan. Such a pain. Such a colossal pain.

So imagine my surprise unloading the dishwasher to find a pan totally caked with egg. Because the only thing harder to clean than egg with cheese cooked in a stainless steel pan is that pan after it's been soaked and rebaked by the dishwasher.


But whatever we've been married a while. I put the barkeepers friend on the counter next to the pan and then told him he'd have to clean it. I also gave him instructions. Insert powder and a bit of water. Let soak and apply elbow grease. Lots of elbow grease. All of the photos are taken after his attempt to clean the pan.
Soaking said egg.

Then I went for my run and returned to find the results of his "attempt" which were not very successful.

Grrr. I will wait patiently and I will let him clean the pan himself and then  I may hide the stainless steal pans from him because that will be good for our marriage.

Training news
In other news. My run streak is actually on a 6 day run. So I'm pretty happy with that.

I have a tremendous amount of wrapping to do and perhaps only 2-3 more presents to get so that's very good.

Do you ever have cleaning disputes with your spouse? How do you resolve it.