Monday, September 26, 2016

What's Kristine Reading? September Edition

   It's no secret that one of my favorite authors is Jane Austen. I have read all of her novels several times. I own all of her books as separate editions, as well as a complete set of her novels in one bound edition that is a fixture on my bedside table. One time, when Dudley was out of town, I finished the book "Pride and Prejudice" and then immediately watched both the BBC mini-series and Keira Knightly film adaptations of the book. A veritable "Pride and Prejudicepalooza," if you will.
   So, when I heard about "The Austen Project," I was intrigued. This project, sponsored by HarperCollins, pairs six contemporary authors with the six completed books of Jane Austen. Each author was assigned to rewrite the book, but under a contemporary lens. Unlike "Bridget Jones' Diary" or "Clueless" which were inspired by the novels but had different characters, these books would use the same characters and storyline as the original books - just updated.  So far, I have read three of them - "Emma," "Sense and Sensibility" and "Eligible," which is the retelling of "Pride and Prejudice."
   While I would love to say that I have really enjoyed these books, I was ready to give up on The Austen Project after reading two - "Emma" and "Sense and Sensibility." It's not that the books weren't well-written, because they were. It's just that even though the authors tried to update the books, it wasn't enough, and plot conflicts that were prevalent in the early 1800's aren't really applicable today. This was an era where if a man and a woman were alone in a room together, it was assumed they were getting engaged. Estates being entailed to the eldest male heirs so the wife and daughters end up homeless don't exactly fly in today's society. And don't get me started about secret engagements that can't be broken because the man feels it's his duty to marry her even though she's a horrible person. It's a SECRET ENGAGEMENT!  Who is going to know?!
   Given my history with the Project, when I received the notice that "Eligible" arrived at the library, I didn't exactly race down to go pick it up. In fact, I even contemplated not reading it at all. But when I went to the library to pick up a different book ("My Brilliant Friend"), it was still there so I picked it up. And I'm glad I did because I, surprisingly, really enjoyed it.

   "Eligible" was written by Curtis Sittenfeld. I've never read any other books by her, but she's now on my radar. What I liked so much about this book is that she not only updated it, but she changed the storyline JUST enough to make it seem realistic. Sure, some of the storylines were a little far fetched, but this isn't supposed to be great literature. It's supposed to be fun, and it was. 
   The characters weren't 100% the same as the original novel, so it was neat to see how the storylines were going to develop. You still have the five Bennet sisters, of course. Lizzy is a writer, Jane is a yoga instructor, Mary is a professional student, and Kitty and Lydia are cross-fit enthusiasts. Mr. Bennet, is still very kind but kind of clueless and Mrs. Bennet is an overly-dramatic, somewhat racist, mess. Darcy is a very, very proud neurosurgeon and Bingley is a contestant on a "Bachelor" type dating show called "Eligible." And catch this - they live in Cincinnati! How do they all fit together? Well, you're just going to have to read the book and find out. 
   As far as the rest of The Austen Project, I think I'm going to give the remaining books a shot. At least the one for "Persuasion" when it comes out, since that's one of my favorite Austen novels. Hopefully, it will be as fun as "Eligible" was. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bainbridge Island and Olympic National Park

   After a great three days in Seattle, we caught a ferry to Bainbridge Island. Seattle is surrounded by all sorts of cute islands, and Bainbridge came highly recommended, so we went there. I suggest that if you go to Bainbridge Island, make your lodging plans earlier than a few days prior.  I'll go into why a bit later, but trust me.

Seattle via ferry.

   We spent the first few hours in Poulsbo. Technically, this isn't on the Island, but it's where the car rental place was, so we hung out there for a bit. This quaint little town was founded by a Norwegian named Jorgen Eliason, so there are references to Vikings everywhere. Is had definite Stars Hallow vibe, which I found very charming. I kept looking for Kirk. (Gilmore Girls for those who don't know. Watch it.)

Welcome to Poulsbo!

Main Street Poulsbo.

Killer seagull.  I'm not joking.  He's a legend in Poulsbo.

   After a tasty lunch in Poulsbo, we headed back to downtown Bainbridge. Like Poulsbo, they had a cute downtown area with lots of little shops and restaurants. I looked up at one of the directional signs and saw something for Churchmouse Yarns and Teas. As you might know, I've been obsessed with knitting recently and Churchmouse is famous in knitting circles. They have some great patterns, including a fabulous one for a poncho that I'm currently making. Surely, this wasn't THE Churchmouse, right? Turns out - it was! They're based on Bainbridge Island! Who knew? I was honestly more excited about seeing this store than any normal person should have been. I spend a LONG time in there looking around and talking to the clerks. I didn't buy anything, because heaven knows I have more yarn than I know what to do with, but I wanted to!  

   As I mentioned earlier, if you want to spend the night on Bainbridge Island, make your plans earlier than two days prior to going - especially in peak season. There is only one main hotel - the Best Western and, unfortunately, that one was booked, so we went the B&B route. After many phone calls, we finally found one that had a room for two nights (our length of stay on the island). It looked very promising! It had llamas! Who doesn't love llamas?! But once we got there, we found the place was really run down and not exactly clean. I don't want to bash the owner by naming the place, because she was very nice, but I think she was just overwhelmed and couldn't maintain the place properly. Steps were broken, grass was overgrown - we didn't even get keys to the room because she couldn't find them. Unfortunately, by this time, there wasn't anything we could really do about it as there weren't any rooms left on the island. We HAD to stay there at least one night. But on a whim,  we called the Best Western, hoping that maybe someone had cancelled for the next night. While no one had, they told us of another hotel that didn't come up on any previous searches. HAZZAH! We were able to secure a room for the following evening and got the heck out of the rundown B&B.

Hello, Llama!! 

   Our last day on the island, we got up crazy early and headed out to Olympic National Park. We easily could have spent our entire vacation at this park. It. Is. HUGE! They even have two sets of rainforests! But since we had to get down to Tacoma for the half marathon, we only had one day at the Park. We hiked two sets of trails, though we didn't go THAT for out on either one. We thought about it, but we really didn't have the right shoes or enough food and water to go out in the wilderness all day, so we stayed on the more popular, calmer trails. We didn't want to end up as a news story about stupid tourists who got lost with no food, so the state had to send the National Guard out on a search and rescue mission.

   If you haven't been to this part of the country, you need to put it on your list. I'm warning you though - there is so much to do! We never even made it to Victoria or to Mt. Rainier, which were two of the main things I thought we were going to do originally. Both Dudley and I had a great time and we're really looking forward to going back. Soon. 


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Three Days in Seattle

   Dudley and I recently went to Seattle for a little vacation. Neither one of us had ever been to Seattle, or that part of the country previously. In fact, all I really knew about Seattle was what I'd seen in movies, the Seahawks, and that it rained all of the time. Oh - and Starbucks was based there. But considering I don't drink coffee, that last one didn't really appeal to me. But since Seattle is close to several National Parks and a ferry ride away from Victoria, British Columbia, I figured we'd fly in to Seattle and spend a day before moving on elsewhere.
   Wow- was I wrong. Seattle is so cool and there is SO much to do! We spent three days non-stop exploring and I'm sure we could have easily spent the entire week there and been throughly entertained. We mainly hit the touristy stuff - the Space Needle, the Farmers Market...those kind of things, although we tried to stay away from the touristy restaurants and ventured to more of the local haunts for food.
   We stayed in a hip little neighborhood called Belltown. It's centrally located to everywhere we wanted to go and we could walk everywhere. (FYI- you don't need a car in Seattle. We took a train from the airport to the downtown area and walked to the hotel.)
   Probably the first thing we noticed about Seattle is how dog-friendly the city is. I'm not exaggerating in stating that within the first half-hour of getting there, we saw two dachshunds and a corgi out walking. This is my kind of town! There also happened to be a dog-park across from the hotel - BONUS!
    The second we noticed about Seattle? It's freakin' HILLY, y'all!  Not so much where the hotel was, or by the Space Needle, but if you go down to the Farmers Market and then down to the waterfront, be prepared to walk up and down some serious hills.

So many tourists.

Even more tourists were here. The line went down the block. For coffee.

View from the waterfront.


   We did a cool tour called Underground Seattle. Did you know that Seattle is actually built on TOP of Old Seattle?  Apparently, the original city was in a place where buildings weren't really supposed to be built, so they would flood a lot. And then they caught fire in 1889 and most of Seattle burnt down. Rather than moving the city to someplace a bit more hospitable, they decided to rebuild ON TOP of the old buildings and just pave over everything. It still blows my mind how it all worked out, but the tour was fascinating and also hysterical, so if you go to Seattle, you should go on this tour.  Here is a link telling more about it.
   We also did the trip up the Space Needle and a tour of the Chihuly museum, which is adjacent to the Space Needle. Expensive ticket, but worth it.

View from the bottom.

And the top.

Chihuly is freaking amazing...

Seriously amazing.

   One day we took a trip over to Ballard, which was a recommendation from our hotel front desk clerk. They have a canal there with the busiest locks system in the US. Who knew? I had never seen locks in action before. It's a slow-process, but very interesting, especially since they had been doing this here for over 100 years. They also have a Fish Ladder there, which just cracked me up because while I know fish don't climb ladders literally, it's certainly an interesting visual. In actuality, a Fish Ladder is a way for salmon to pass through the locks. For more info, check out the Ballard Locks website.

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks


Obligatory Salmon photo.

   We really had a great time in Seattle, and know there was a lot more to explore, but we had other places we wanted to visit while were we in the area, so we left after three days. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Seattle, you should go. It's not a cheap visit - it's up there with NYC and, apparently now, Nashville. But it's worth it.
   Up next: Bainbridge Island and Olympic National Park!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon - Race Report

   I recently crossed another state off my list on my quest to run a half marathon (or further) in every state. Dudley and I spent a week in Seattle and the surrounding area, and it "just happened" to coincide with the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon. Lucky me!

   The Tacoma Narrows Half is a locally-run race managed by the people who run the Marathon Maniacs / Half Fanatics. Apparently, they are located in Tacoma. Who knew? (Insider tip: if you're a member and want to do this race, be sure to look for a discount code.)
   After spending a week running around Seattle and Olympic National Park (which I'll go into in a later post), we arrived in Tacoma on Friday, which was the day before the race. We stayed at the Courtyard Downtown, which is THE place to stay if you want to do this race. It's really conveniently located, plus it's an exceptionally nice Courtyard.
    Packet pickup was a quick Uber ride to a nearby Fleet Feet.  Technically, it was close enough to walk - just a couple of miles - but it was too far considering I had a Half to run the next day. Packet pickup was set up right on the sidewalk outside of the store and it took all of five minutes. We spent more time waiting for our same Uber driver to pick us back up than we did actually waiting in line for my packet. 
   The rest of the day for me was spent hanging out in the hotel trying to rest after a crazy week of being a tourist. I really need to learn to take vacations AFTER a race, not before. That way I don't have to waste half a day resting in the hotel. 
   Race day started at around 5:30 am when I caught the shuttle to the race start. The shuttles were literally across the street from the hotel. Perfect. We rode about 20 minutes to a small airport outside of Tacoma, where the race started. There wasn't a whole lot to do at the airport, so most of us (about 1,000 racing) just sat on the ground and chatted while waiting for the race to start. I don't recall what the exact temperature was, but it was chilly enough for me to wear capris and a short-sleeved shirt. After a few months of running in Nashville 90+ degree heat and insane humidity - this weather was heaven.

   The race was a point-to-point course, from the airport back to a park outside of the Courtyard (see- it's the perfect hotel!). There were really two highlights of the race. The first was running over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. We hit the bridge pretty early - around Mile 3. If you have a fear of heights, this is not the race for you. I'm OK with heights, but this bridge is LONG. And it's crazy windy. After about 5 minutes of running, I was ready to get off that thing. It was pretty though.

That's a big bridge!

So tall!

The view was worth it.

     The second highlight was running through Cheney Stadium, which is the home of the Tacoma Raniers Triple-A baseball team. After 15 years of working in professional sports, it's still fun to be on a field and the Jumbotron.

YAY Baseball!

Named for Ben Cheney, who brought baseball to Tacoma, not the former VP.
(Just in case you were wondering.)

If you look close, I'm the light blue speck on the screen.

   As much fun as running over the bridge and the stadium were, the rest of the race was pretty ordinary. We ran through some suburbs on our way to downtown Tacoma, but nothing historic or anything. Though we were on a greenway, it was pretty urban and we literally ran next to a highway for a stretch. There was a fence there, but you still got the exhaust fumes from trucks as they passed by. Ugh. One thing I should note - it was hilly! It felt like you were running uphill for 11 miles and then down for two. After being in Seattle and Tacoma and seeing the hills, it actually could have been MUCH worse, but I just wasn't expecting the hills. My fault for not looking at the race profile.
   As I mentioned, we finished in downtown Tacoma, right outside of the Courtyard. They had a fun post-race party with a live band. Dudley had spoken to the announcer right before I finished and told them it was by birthday, so I got a HUGE announcement when I finished wishing me a Happy Birthday. It was a wonderful surprise.

   My race time wasn't the best - a 2:26, I think. But I killed a lot of time taking photos and a whopping SEVEN minutes waiting for a restroom a Mile 8. (This was my only major complaint - more restrooms, please! Not that I was racing for time, but a seven minute wait for a restroom because there weren't enough on the course isn't right.)  I think my time really should have been more around 2:10. Even so, it was a great way to kick off my birthday and a perfect way to end a great vacation! Cross Washington off the list! Only something like 35 more states to go!