The Beast, the B*tch and the Badass


Last weekend I realized that I hadn’t actually registered for the Mount Baldhead Challenge (The Beast) in September. So I (The Badass) went to the website, and read the announcement that the 15K had now become a 12-miler and some change. “Well that’s not a 15K then,” Jessica (aka The B*tch) said when I texted her. I’m going to do it. I have my heart set on running this multi-terrain race, but this means that the distance has increased, and when I checked the map, the amount of trail running has increased as well.

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Now this race was already hard. The first time I ever ran it, I had just started back running that year. I was choosing races that would help me increase my distance. I didn’t know enough to look at elevation or terrain or anything else. While standing in line at the porta-potty, I asked a fellow racer if he had ever run it before. “Yes!” he said. “This is my favorite race. It’s supposed to be the toughest 15k in the country! (or did he say Michigan?).” I was shaking in my running shoes.

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I ended that race dead last. The cop car with lights flashing followed me across the finish line. And I was hooked. I ran that race 3 more times – once in a pouring thunderstorm. The course takes you through scenic Douglas and Saugatuck, along country roads, up, over and through the beautifully wooded dunes of Lake Michigan, and just about the time you get really tired, you climb 302 steps to the top of the dune called Mount Baldhead.

So now it’s two miles longer. And I’m quite a bit older. Jessica has increased my mileage and the elevation of my runs. The bluff in Saint Joseph features a staircase that climbs about 75 steps from the beach into town. For the past two weeks, I’ve been adding a hill running/stair climbing training run. And, I’ve been running trails. This week, she told me I should come to Saugatuck and start practicing on the race course.

The Goal: Run for 75 minutes and then climb Mount Baldhead 4 times. (I’m sure that Okie B*tch is thinking of wimpy Florida dunes. She has no idea that Lake Michigan dunes are beasts.)

The Reality: Ashok and I took off and discovered that even the elevation of the roads in this area is very hilly. In town, it’s pretty flat, but when you get to the dunes, it’s like running in East Tennessee. I’ll be climbing that beast twice. Maybe I’ll work up to four in the next month. Maybe ….


I was surprised at how strong I was running the roads. Even though they were hilly, I kept up pretty well. Ashok did great, too and enjoyed playing in the ditches to cool off between intervals. Deer and squirrels kept her prey instinct occupied. It rained on and off, and the temp was a comfortable 50 degrees. I felt like I was on vacation with all the woods and water areas.


No dogs were allowed on the stairs, so I tucked her away in the car and started my climb. No way I was going to run them. Even walking, I had to stop and catch my breath several times. But I got up to the top, caught my breath, took the long walk down and did it again. I told myself I could try 3 if I thought I could make it, but my legs were so wobbly after 2 ascents, I thought I’d better call it a day. There will be plenty of time for stair climbing in the next three months.

Now I’m really excited. I hope to be in better shape for this race than any of the previous ones. I always trained on roads and hoped for the best. I never trained on the course ahead of time. And I look forward to spending more beautiful Sunday mornings atop Mount Baldhead while the view – and the climb – literally takes my breath away.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to take a nap.


Resistance is the Teacher



Studying my algebra this morning. I need all the help I can get.


The Sunday night before I started my PMP (Project Management Professional) class, the instructor sent out an email on what to bring to class and some links for additional study. In that email, he said we would be doing algebra and provided a link to Kahn Academy’s algebra lessons. “Algebra??” I said aloud in my hotel room. “I’m not doing algebra.” I grimaced as I thought about my high school and college algebra classes. I never understood it. It was a foreign language that I could barely grasp enough to pass.

WTF? Algebra? Isn’t that what calculators and spreadsheet formulas were for? I wrestled with my resistance and finally decided that surely he was just exaggerating. I’d find my way around this. I didn’t have time to learn algebra again.


Fast forward to this morning on a sunny Sunday, and I’m watching three webinars on how to calculate Earned Value, Net Present Value and Future Value. It took me until the last minute. I fought it every step of the way. “Maybe there wouldn’t be that many questions on that,” I tried to assure myself. Or what if I just memorized the formulas and plugged in the numbers? Surely that wouldn’t be that hard. But after missing question after question on the practice tests and realizing that I’d have to memorize about 20 formulas with a bunch of unrelated letters and symbols, I realized that I would have to learn the underlying reason for the math and compute algebra equations. It was standing in the way of what I wanted. The motivation, at last, overcame my resistance.


Yoga taught me how to deal with resistance. When I feel resistance in a pose, I’ve found my edge. It’s at my edge where I improve. But I can’t push past it, or I can get hurt. I have to surrender to the resistance and work intuitively and patiently until the resistance releases. The resistance will stop me long enough to teach me what I need to know about my body. I don’t actually overcome it, I learn to dance with it.

I don’t know whether I’m going to pass my test tomorrow or not. It all depends on how well prepared I am for the bank of questions that I draw. I’m as ready as I can be given the time I’ve had. I’ve learned a lot this last month. When I decided I was going to go for this certification, I made a decision that I wanted to learn it. I didn’t want to just employ a bunch of tricks to pass the test, and I’ve done as much as I can to truly learn the material. I already see lots of improvement I can make in my work. And it feels really good to have learned something new and to have undertaken a new challenge. No matter what happens tomorrow, I’ve won in that regard.


Resistance is not the enemy.  It is the force that holds me until I gain knowledge, muscle, health and even serenity. In my surrender to its will, I grow and learn. Resistance is not the enemy. Resistance is the teacher.

P.S. I still don’t want to do algebra. But I will, I tell you. I will.

Running Season, More Coffeehouses and Sunshine


On Friday someone mentioned it was supposed to be sunny all weekend. I checked my weather app, and they were right. It’s hardly spring with temps in the 20s-40s and snow in the forecast, but the sun shining in the sky is a reason to celebrate.

I got up Saturday morning early to get a cup of coffee before my hair appointment. None of the local coffeehouses were open, so I decided to stop by Plank’s at the local inn. I was really pleased at their brunch offering and got an amazing breakfast of avocado, eggs and sweet potato hash. My table was right in front of the fireplace with a lovely view of the river. It was a great, cozy, tasty way to start the weekend.


My internet has been out so I had to go home to wait for AT&T while I cleaned house, worked out on my TRX and cooked dinner. The guy was really nice, and I was very pleasantly surprised that he fixed it with no issues, and it didn’t cost me a dime. I went to bed early with my book club book, The Great Alone. A family in the 70s moved to rural Alaska on a whim, and I can’t wait to see if they will get eaten by a bear. There’s a lot of foreboding about danger and trouble going on. If the bears don’t get them, I expect the Daddy might go off his rocker and anger the locals. I’ll keep you posted.

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I had to do a long run this morning, so I packed up Ashok, and we headed to Kalamazoo to a nature preserve on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. It was a beautiful day although it was a tad colder than I expected. I’m lucky my technical shirt had some cuffs I could roll up over my hands. I planned on running 5 miles, but I felt so good at 2.5, I decided to go to 3 and double back for a total of 6. It felt amazing to be out and about and running on a day like today. And I noticed the Kalamazoo Nature Center is hosting a Maple Sugar Festival next weekend. That might be worth a trip!

I’ve started thinking about a running “season” this year now that the snow is melted and we seem to be on the back side of winter. I texted Jessica and hired her to coach me to run two specific races this fall. I want to run my favorite trail/road race of all time, the Mount Baldhead Challenge in September. And I signed up to run the Detroit Free Press International Half Marathon in October. I even had to use my passport to sign up since the race course goes into Canada. Woohoo!!! Now, I just need to train and get in shape. I haven’t run a half marathon since February 2013 in Austin. We’ll see if I can get this body in shape again!

I visited two coffeehouses this weekend. My friend Donna had told me about The Full Circle coffee house (#9) in Stevensville so I stopped there on Saturday. It was a cute little cafe that serves a full breakfast as well as bakery goods and coffee. I opted for a chocolate scone which melted in my mouth. It had the texture of a flaky southern biscuit with a light drizzle of chocolate on top and a spattering of chocolate chips. They serve Infusco coffee, and I grabbed a latte to go. The manager told me it was called Full Circle because it is owned by three friends who grew up together, went on with their lives and then came “full circle” and opened a restaurant  together. The story is almost as cute as the furnishings and the setting in the cafe.


On Sunday, I stopped at Water Street Coffee (#10) in Kalamazoo. It is one of my favorite coffeehouses in that area. I had just run, so I got a Denver omelette strata and a latte made from their own roasted beans. The small place was packed, so I didn’t hang around too long. I noticed they have their own line of teas as well as coffee, local artisan-designed t-shirts and some really amazing coffee mugs. When I have time to browse, I’ll go back for another cup.

I’ve cooked up some beans for meals this week and am going to head to bed to read some more tonight. Now I’ve got races to motivate my running, a blog project that encourages me to explore my area, and a book club to motivate me to read. What’s motivating you to do what you know you want to do? Maybe it’s time you put something in place!

Have a great week, y’all!


My Complicated Relationship: Running


This month, Runner’s World features a story called “The Love of My Life” by Marc Parent. It is, of course, about running. My running coach and soulmate Jessica has always said she has a relationship with running. It made me think about my own relationship with running that has – over the years – become more complicated and much more committed.

I remember when Parent started running. I was a new runner, and he wrote a series that began with him lacing up his running shoes for the first time. He was overweight, out of breath and not necessarily inclined to make running a habit. Every month I couldn’t wait for his dose of humor that more often than not mirrored my own path with running. I remember feeling like a kindred spirit as I watched him do his first 5K, half-marathon and then the beast – the full. I also remember when I started to wonder if he would stop writing the Newbie Chronicles as it was obvious he was a full-fledged, card-carrying runner.


I’ve been running fairly steadily since 2003. In fact, my first short runs were run in February of 2003 on snowy roads in frigid temperatures about 3 miles from where I sit. My ex subscribed to Runner’s World, and I got hooked on the magazine. I had been a runner in my college days but had long since given up the ghost. I finally decided I was going to run when I read a piece about a 60-year-old woman who ran her first marathon. If that old woman can do it, so can I!

My path has had its ups and downs. I got in shape that February by running short intervals that got longer each run. I ran my first non-stop 30 minutes on a path in Maui on vacation that year. A 5K race in 2004 still stands as my 5K personal record. After a move to Memphis in 2006 and a failed attempt at training for a marathon, I sort of gave up on running. I was getting divorced, there was a lot of stress and my body seemed to hate running.

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But my love for running haunted me. I longed to be out on a beautiful day, and I hungered for that exhausted feeling after a good effort. A post-divorce depression intensified, and I sought out help from an acupuncturist. The acupuncture sparked my energy, and I started to run again. Luckily for me I found an amazing group called Memphis in Motion, and that is where I trained for my first full marathon surrounded by like-minded and tenacious beginner runners. I was introduced to the run/walk method which transformed my relationship with running.

I’ve been fairly consistent with running since then except for a hiatus in Louisiana. I kept getting injured, and I finally just quit for awhile. It was too hot. I didn’t enjoy it there, and I could never find a running group that worked. Looking back, I think I was under a lot of stress, and, given the fact that my body hated running when I was going through my divorce, running may not work for me when I’m in extreme stress. That’s okay. I now know the problem, and I can work with that.


Once again last year I longed for the sound of my feet hitting the pavement, and I hired Jessica to slowly coach me back to running the 5K distance. I took it long and slow, and, with her guidance and support, I got back in the game. I started signing up for 5ks once a month, and since August I’ve only missed December. The winter admittedly is causing me issues, but I’m persevering. I plan to run today. I’m allowing myself to keep it short and to dress as warm as I like, but I’m going to get out. Spring awaits, and before you know it, I can run swiftly – for me – on roads unencumbered by ice and snow. This spring, like many before, will include running through the daffodils.


Now that I’m pretty close to that “old woman’s” age, I appreciate the fact that I’ve chosen running as my drug of choice. It has prevented depression, given me reason to vacation, provided a means of touring new places and is a veritable fountain of youth. I know the hunger of not running, and I know the exhilaration of completing a marathon. Running is a gift that keeps on giving. It teaches me about perseverance and commitment and defeat. And while it is a backdrop in the drama I call my life, running gives me wings.

On a Cold Day in Chicago: We Run


I packed my running clothes for the trip to Chicago. The last time I was here, I had a blast running downtown Michigan Avenue. The forecast was cold, but it’s almost never TOO COLD. I just have to dress for it. Last night I looked at the forecasted temps with wind chills below zero. Hmmmm … perhaps that is too cold, I thought. I decided to wait until this morning to make up my mind.


I took Ashok out to do her business right before bedtime, and we walked down on the Riverwalk next to the Chicago River. We had not explored it last time I was here, and I was surprised at how long it was. Bundled up, I felt fine. It made me feel a little less worried about a run this morning. And, I could always turn around and come back if I got too cold. It’s not like I’d be doing a 20-miler anyway.

The temperature shot up to a balmy 12 degrees around 9:30 AM, and I decided to go for it. I bundled Ashok up in her new parka, and I put on 4 layers on top and two layers on bottom. I added a headband, a knit hat, a pair of gloves and some technical mittens over them. I was good to go. I told the doorman goodbye as he opened the doors for us, and we took off on our first Riverwalk run. (So, this is my something new for today!)


The shattered ice in the river sparkled in the sunshine. Glass puzzle pieces bumped up against each other amid the current below. Items like trash, a life preserver ring and even a frozen dead duck were lodged in the frozen soup. Live ducks and geese paddled furiously below the surface keeping some areas liquid. I thought fondly about my days as a birdkeeper in Knoxville when we’d free ducks from the ice when it had frozen around their feet. One of the poor ducks was not so lucky here. He was frozen right as he lay. It made me sad.

We ran out to Navy Pier and then turned back toward the city. Several runners ran past us. It’s Chicago in January. It’s supposed to be cold. I imagine they would have thought it was funny that I even worried about it being too cold this morning. I broke into a sweat beneath my layers, but I didn’t get too overheated. I’d say my layering was just right for the run this morning.


Ashok and I are perched in the window seat of this lovely suite overlooking the Chicago River. The hotel staff here upgraded my room as a birthday present. I had a fabulous hot shower in a shower big enough for four, ate a little after-run snack, and I’m about to head down for a coffeehouse recommendation. Chicago would be a great place to get another coffeehouse or two on my list. One down – 56 to go! I also think I might check out that new movie “The Post”. I plan to keep today somewhat simple. Walk around, enjoy the city, have a few warm drinks, chat with my new friends here at the hotel and sit by the fireplace. I may even snag a bag of Garrett’s popcorn.

Have a great Sunday, y’all! Bundle up. It’s cold everywhere.

Fiction: Almost Given Up


Tara looked at her running shoes on the other side of the room. They look like new but had been in her possession for many months. “There’s nothing like the feel of a new running shoe under my feet,” she thought. It made her smile. She glanced out the window at the road that she had run so many times. Running was freedom. It was a longing and an attempt to maintain forward motion. She loved it.

The Chicago Marathon was less than an hour from starting. Even with the warmth of the 70,000 people around her and the buzz of excitement, she was cold. But she had waited a long time for this. She had trained a long time and through a lot of humid, hot miles. It was her first event of this magnitude, and it would be the highlight of her 40s to finish it.

In fact, her 40s seemed like a marathon. The death of her best friend, a divorce and the loss of the job that she had loved for 15 years knocked her off her pedestal of success. But inside, she felt that she was a better person for it. She’d learned how to ride the waves of grief, reinvent herself and ask for what she wanted. The muscle of her soul felt stronger. She’d chosen the marathon as a way to help her outsides match the badass strength of her insides. Every mile gave her the confidence that she was gaining ground.

Looking up at the condominiums on the other side of the park, she wondered what it was like to live there. Would she want to lug her stuff down 15 floors every morning to go to work? Slogging through snow and ice to catch a train could be an adventure if you looked at it that way. She thought of the empty space in her future where her dreams used to live. Could this be a future she’d love? Her heart jumped a little at the thought of it. She could see herself as a city girl.

The miles slogged on the roads through weather of all kinds was just a metaphor for her life journey. And her shoes lay on the other side of the room, discarded… a reminder of what she hadn’t done more than what she’d accomplished. After the marathon, she’d almost given up on herself. It was a great accomplishment, but it somehow brought on a pause instead of a celebration … a depression instead of joy.

She had wanted that 26-mile journey to be the start of something new. Instead it felt like an ending. It was the hard stop of the life that she had known before with a fist shaken in the face of defeat. The energy it had taken to get there – physically and emotionally – left her depleted. Her much-needed physical rest turned into a surrender to life. The grief was gone, but the hole left by her dreams seemed bottomless. Those almost like-new running shoes lay right where she had left them that day 6 months ago. When you don’t know the next step, who needs shoes?

She looked at the road again. The sound of her footfalls and the sight of her frosty breath on a cold day seemed like a gift. She thought about that morning in Chicago when she was so hopeful and inquisitive about her next steps. “Every journey begins with a single  step,” she whispered. She breathed in a big breath shifting the weight of the depression weighing in on her chest. “Maybe I could start with a walk,” she bargained. “Yes, I think a walk would be good.”


Sundays in Sawyer: Dancing With Darkness


The house across the street when I left this morning.

It was dark when I left out this morning at 8 AM. Christmas lights sparkled red and green against the soft luminescent snow. The Winter Solstice is this week – Thursday to be exact. I love Solstice celebrations. When I think of the significance of lightness and darkness in our lives, it makes sense to me that the days with the most light and the days with the most darkness should be marked in some way. And what would Christmas lights be without the long interplay of darkness in December?


I’ve always loved the dark. I love seeing the stars at night, and I love the long nights of winter. They are times of rest and reflection. I don’t sleep as well in the summer with the long days of sunshine. While I feel more energetic during the summer, I don’t think it is good for us to be revved up all the time. There is a reason for the season, and I believe the reason is rest and rejuvenation – of our bodies, our souls and our lives. Our ancestors felt these seasons were so important, they were the biggest celebrations of the year.


Part of my plan for getting through the winter this year is to be open to doing something different. I signed up for an 8-class yoga pass at my old yoga studio where I completed my teacher training. And, I decided that I would start doing my Sunday blogging at Infusco Coffee in Sawyer since it is on the way to the Sunday yoga class.  When I visited their website last night, I read about their mission. This is much more than a coffee shop. They sell “relationship coffee.” It makes the coffee taste much better when there is such a good cause behind it. If that’s not a light in the darkness, I don’t know what is. So now my Sunday blog will be called Sundays in Sawyer…. until I do something different.

The mission and history of Infusco ….

A sign on their counter said their eggnog latte was divine, so I ordered one. Ashok was out in the car waiting like usual, and I thought to ask if they allowed dogs. They do! Ashok can now hang with me instead of waiting in the car. I set down her blanket, and we both enjoyed the Christmas tree and the quiet setting of this comfortable and welcoming coffeehouse.

The darkness of depression is still lingering with me this evening. But I got up and made myself a nice, healthy dinner. A task so simple feels overwhelming when I’m depressed. But, I have to say it made me feel a tad better to put some effort into taking care of me. I think I’ll turn off this computer now and go read for a bit. Surely I have something light and humorous on my Kindle to ignite a little lightness in my spirit. If not, I can always fall asleep and get some rest. Either way, tomorrow will be another day.

We got out for a hike today at Warren Dunes State Park. That helped my mood a bit, too….


Yumming on Yummly

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Whirlpool bought a tech company named Yummly. Why would we need a tech company? Well, Yummly happens to be a virtual recipe collection app. And, think about it. We make kitchen appliances. What do you do on kitchen appliances? You cook food. And how do you know how to cook food? You look for recipes. Thus, we now own a virtual recipe collection app called Yummly. And I was curious. After all, I like to cook. I’m up for change when it’s for the better. So I started exploring the world of Yummly.

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I downloaded it for free from the iTunes app store, and signed in with my email address. It asked me for my food preferences. I liked that approach. I chose vegetarian, pescatarian, and vegan. I also prefer to avoid recipes with beef, pork, and sugar. It asked me about my favorite cuisines. Apparently, this thing works sort of like Tinder. The more recipes I “yum” (like), the better the app gets to know what I like. Theoretically, I’ll see more of what I like as I teach it my preferences.

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So I Yum’d several recipes and I created some labels that made sense for me. I found a vegetable soup that looked really yummy – not to be confused with yummly. The recipes list the nutritional information, the ingredients, directions and even reviews.

And, best of all, there’s an “add to list” button. I clicked it, and it immediately added all of the ingredients to a shopping list. I’ve had apps with shopping lists before, but they were pretty static. With this one, I could go through the list and check what I already have on hand. If I check the box, it drops down to the “I got it” section. Each ingredient links to the recipe so I can click through if I have questions while I’m in the store. Sweet!

I didn’t have time to do much else, so I left for my morning errands. When I got to the grocery, I decided I would make that soup tonight, and there was a hot chocolate recipe I wanted to try. I went to the Yummly app, added the ingredients to the list and started shopping. I was able to shop and stuck to my list which helps with my budget. I felt very good about my trip, and I had all of the ingredients for a nice dinner and a healthy cup of cocoa.



While I was eating that lovely soup, I got online and started learning more about my newfound helpmate. I added a “bookmarklet” to my browser on my computer and one on my iphone. I can search the entire web (not just Yummly) for recipes, and when I find them, I can bookmark them to Yummly. This is going to revolutionize the way I keep recipes. Right now, I bookmark them but sometimes they are on Safari, and other times they are on chrome. Sometimes they are on my phone bookmarked, and other times they are on my computer. Most of the time I just forget that I saved them and never use recipes. I end up wasting food or not having enough stuff on hand to cook a healthy dinner in a hurry.

On my iPhone….


On my computer….

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And I found out that I can manually add items to the list as well. So, even if I have to buy things like toilet paper or milk or eggs not tied to a recipe, I can keep it all on one handy list.


This app has the potential to revolutionize the way I keep recipes and grocery shop. If I’m in the grocery, and they have some great-looking winter squash, I can get right on the app and search for a recipe. And with one click, I can add all of the ingredients to my list. Or if I plan a meal, and the grocery doesn’t have a key ingredient, I can just quickly delete all of the stuff for that recipe and find another. And I love a checklist for groceries. It’s much nicer than creating notes and having to delete them or edit them one item at a time.

My favorite benefit, though, is the database of great recipes pulled from many, many different sources with a focus on my personal preferences. Google was easy, but this will help refine my search much more quickly. Maybe I’ll even try some new cuisines! So it looks like I would describe Yummly as Yum! Oh yeah… tell them Whirlpool sent ya!

Here are the top features I like:

  • Easily created and editable grocery list
  • Customizable labels for recipe collections
  • Preferences to weed out things I don’t like or things I don’t eat
  • Seasonal recipe collection – Cook things “in season”
  • Easily shareable recipes
  • Bookmark from any blog or site on the web (You can also add your own, but I haven’t tried that.)
  • Pictures, reviews, my preparation notes and nutritional information are all in one place and accessible on any of my devices

So, here’s the link to There are some helpful resources on the site, of course.

And here are some tips on how to use it:

That First Bite is the Sweetest


Today’s Daily Prompt is “bite”. 

Why is it that the first bite of food is always the best? Maybe I’m hungrier. It could be a supply/demand sort of thing. Scientists also say that the pleasure centers in our brain register the pleasure of food or any addictive substance even before we consume it. For an addict, just being in a place where they usually score drugs can ignite the pleasure center of the brain as much taking the drug. Maybe it’s anticipation that creates the sweetest of sensations on our taste buds. It’s a good argument for me to stay out of bakeries.

The first time I really had to work at losing weight was in my 20s. I had never read any diet books or anything, but I realized that thinking about eating food brought me as much pleasure as actually eating it. In fact, it might be even more pleasurable because there is no remorse afterwards. If I saw a piece of cheesecake that I wanted, I took a minute and imagined what that cheesecake would taste like. In my mind, I took my fork, swiped a bite, let my eyes savor it for a few seconds and then let it linger on my tongue. So, it was not a problem to imagine the sweet creaminess of a cheesecake melting on my tongue. I just had to tap into that memory and let her rip.

I remember being so frustrated with the short amount of time that food was actually satisfying. If I’d really eaten the cheesecake, it might last 10 minutes at the most. So, I’d have 10 minutes of pleasure followed by 6 hours of kicking myself for eating it. Why not skip the 6 hours of kicking myself by not eating it? By fantasizing about it, the only thing I lost was the 10 minutes of pleasure in the interaction with the food. And if I really did a good job of imagining it, I only missed a small fraction of the pleasure. I guess you might call this food porn!





The Underdog: Base Layers of Merino Wool


You can’t see it, but I have my Smartwool base layer on!

The Daily Prompt today is underdog. For some weird reason, the only thing I can wrap my mind around is underwear. Is there an underdog of underwear? Honestly, my base layer I wear when I’m running is sort of like the underdog of my wardrobe. It may not get the audience or attention that my outer layer gets, but it is definitely an unsung hero. With out it, I would freeze. (How’d you like that transition?)

When I took a job as a bird keeper at the Knoxville Zoo, I had to learn how to dress for winter. Much of my day would be spent outside raking up bird poop, washing water bowls and checking on the health of our bird collection. My supervisor told me to get lots of long underwear, and I ordered it from Land’s End. I was astounded at how much difference it made to wear a base layer. I was always toasty warm. But the long underwear in those days was thick cotton or silk. While both had advantages, they are not nearly as nice as the base layers we have today.

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I have a hard time convincing my friends in Louisiana that I don’t get really cold up here.  I dress in layers. These days, I almost always have a merino wool layer next to my skin which keeps me toasty even when wearing skirts. Smartwool makes tights that are cute, soft, warm and very durable. I wore one of about 4 pair almost every day last winter. I’d throw them in the washer and dryer, and they still look great even after a year of constant use. I bought three more pair at the end of the season on clearance.

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I bought Smartwool base layers two years ago for backpacking. Our backpacking teacher said they were the best for sleeping and for wicking moisture on hikes. I wear those things on runs and even for sitting around the house. Occasionally I wear them for sleeping. I could easily use another 2 or 3 pair, but they, too, are expensive. And now I’m salivating about some Smartwool running tights. If I could wear that stuff year round from head to toe, I’d be thrilled. I even have a Smartwool balaclava and neck gaiter!

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Yesterday I ran upon a blog claiming that Merino wool is the hot new technical wear for athletes of all kinds.  Those sheep live in very cold climates but have to suffer through pretty warm summers. So, the wool is very warm but is breathable enough that it’s not too hot when temps rise. This stuff is like a miracle. And, another blogger I follow was laughing at himself because he has never been happier since he paid $25 for a pair of Merino wool cycling socks. Who knew wool was the workhorse of the underwear business?

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