Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking Back / Moving Forward 2016 - 2017 Edition

   This post is usually where I grade my goals for the year.  However, this year will be REALLY easy because I forgot to make any goals, so I guess I did pretty well.  😊
   Well, I guess that's not entirely true. I did make my "Read 52 books in 52 weeks" goal for Goodreads. And I finished my last book this morning.  It was "Montana 1948."  It was very good and fast read. I recommend it.  If anyone wants to check out my list, please visit my "Year in Books" on my Goodreads page: 

   But other than that - I didn't make any goals, so I guess I'll just reflect on what I did this year:

  • The big thing that I did this year is I learned how to knit and I LOVE it.  Seriously addicted.  I took an Intro class at Haus of Yarn back in March and haven't stopped knitting since.  I even started a monthly crafting group and have started recruiting others to knit with me.  I'm such a geek about knitting that I have favorite yarns and needles (yes, there are major differences between needles - who knew?).  I even make it a point to visit yarn stores when I travel!  It's insane!  But it's so much fun and it's very cool to have someone comment on something you're wearing and you say "Oh - I made this."  
  • Visited Vegas.  I know this might not seem like that much of an accomplishment for most, but I hadn't been to Vegas since I was 9 years old.  It's changed a bit since then.  We went for my Mother-in-Law's birthday, and part of the celebration included going to see Zumanity.  If you haven't heard of this show, look it up.  It's crazy and an interesting choice of show to see with your Mother-in-Law (she had a friend who worked there and gave us tickets).  Lots of laughs though.
  • I started racing trails, which is something I said I would never do.  Lesson learned, huh?  I have nearly killed myself several times because trail running is hard, y'all.  But running through mud is fun, so I keep doing it.  
  • Completed two Half-Ironmans - Raleigh and Muncie.  Sure - they weren't my best races time-wise, but both races were a lot of fun and I got to spend time with good friends. 
  • Raced the New York Freakin' Marathon!!  This was huge and something I will remember for the rest of my life.  If you're a runner, you NEED to do this race.
  • Went to Seattle.  Dudley and I took a great trip to Washington State.  We hit Seattle, Bainbridge Island and Tacoma.  It's a lovely area and we can't wait to go back.  And I ran a half-marathon while I was there, which brings to my race map...

  • I got to fill in Washington, North Carolina and New York this year!  Not a huge advancement, but I'm getting there.
  • We still have a home full of dogs.  I don't talk about that very much, but we are involved with Big Fluffy Dog Rescue and have fostered for two years.  Dudley and I currently have two fosters right now, along with our three residents.  If anyone is ever looking for a dog - talk to me.  I can find you a dog!    
  • And finally, on a very sad note, I lost my grandmother in 2016.  She was 101 years old and active until the very end.  We miss her, but were fortunate she was with us for as long as she was.  
   As far as next year?  I don't know.  I'll still read a lot, but I probably won't do the 52 in 52 again.  Knitting has eaten into my reading time, so maybe I'll cut the book number in half.  We'll see.  I'm kind of looking forward to just seeing what comes along!! 
   I hope everyone has a wonderful 2017!!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

What's Kristine Reading - December Edition

   Wow- this month has really flown by!  Christmas is only four days away, which also means that I have about a week and a half left in my 2016 reading challenge.  Thanks to my new knitting addiction, it's been tougher to get those 52 books in this year, but I'm currently on track to finish them all. I'll write more about that in a post next week, because THIS post is about something I read this month.  And that is "Wonderful Tonight" by Pattie Boyd.

   For those who don't know, I'm a huge Beatles fan and have been for as long as I have been listening to music.  I was obsessed with them as a kid, which is pretty funny considering they weren't a current band.  My friends all had posters of whatever teen sensation was hot at the moment on their walls, and I had pinned up good old John, Paul, George and Ringo.  To this day, I still have statues of the Fab Four on display in our house.  They were given to me for Christmas when I as in 7th or 8th grade and they creep my husband out to no end, but I love them. 
   Even as a child, I was a voracious reader and I read whatever books I could find on the boys from Liverpool, so I have known of Pattie Boyd, George Harrison's first wife, for decades.  Considering she is known as THE musical muse of the 1960's, I was looking forward to this book and hearing about her life from her perspective.
   A little backstory for those who aren't familiar with Pattie and her place in rock history - she is the inspiration behind The Beatles "I Need You" and "Something" (which is one of my favorite songs of all time).  She also famously inspired Clapton's anthem of unrequited love "Layla."  As I mentioned, she was George Harrison's first wife.  Then 19 and a local model, she met George in 1964 while on the set of "A Hard Day's Night," where she was cast as a schoolgirl.  Harrison was immediately smitten with Boyd, and (according to Boyd) proposed before even asking her out, which she declined because she was seriously dating someone else.  She promptly went home, dumped her boyfriend and started dating Harrison soon after.  They married in January 1966.  George became good friends with Eric Clapton in the late 1960's.  Clapton soon fell in love with Pattie and so created one of the infamous love triangles in rock & roll history.  Clapton pursued Pattie even though she was married to Harrison, writing such tormented songs as the aforementioned "Layla" during his pursuit.  At one point, Clapton blatantly admitted to Harrison "I have to tell you, man, I'm in love with your wife."
   Eventually, Harrison and Boyd broke up, and Boyd married Clapton.  They stayed together through a few drug and alcohol-fueled years before divorcing when Clapton revealed he was having a baby with an Italian model.  (This child, Conor, tragically died after falling from a high-rise window in New York City and was the inspiration behind Clapton's "Tears in Heaven").
   Now, from that backstory, you would think this book would be AMAZING.  What a life this woman had!  She married not one but two of rock's greatest legends and inspired some of their best work!  (Clapton's "Bell Bottom Blues" and "Wonderful Tonight" were also written about her.)  But unfortunately, the book kind of fell flat.  From what I can tell, Boyd spent a good portion of the 60's and 70's in an alcohol and drug-induced stupor.  She probably doesn't remember a whole lot of it, especially 30 years after the fact (this book was published in 2007).  And that's how the book reads.  It jumps around in time and is kind of scattered. And honestly, Boyd doesn't come off as all that interesting.  I'm sure she has some depth to her personality, but the book made her come off like some pretty fangirl who got lucky and married a rock star - twice.  Yes, she was very pretty, but a surely there had to be more to her than her face to inspire two musical geniuses.  Unfortunately, this book doesn't show it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What's Kristine Reading? November Edition

   This month's book was one that got a lot of buzz two decades ago (WOW - I'm old), but one that I never got around to reading. I purchased the book and everything (I used to purchase ALL of my books. Moving a few times helped rid me of that habit.), but just could never summon the energy to start reading it. Which is weird, because the topic is one that actually interested me. The book? "I Was Amelia Earhart" by Jane Mendelsohn. 

   It's a short book, only about 160 pages.  It tells a fantastical story of Amelia, and her navigator Fred Noonan, the days immediately prior and after their disappearance. The twist is that it is told from the perspective of Amelia and Fred. But I have to tell you - I didn't love it. It wasn't "bad." Not at all. Mendelsohn's writing is quite lovely, in fact. Almost like a poem. However, I think I was more in the mood for lighter reading at the time and I just couldn't get into lines like "The sky is flesh." The narration also jumps from first to third person really quickly and I didn't like that. It wasn't confusing, but more annoying (for me).
   Since I own the book, I'm tempted to keep it for a while and read it again in a year or two. Maybe I'll be able to appreciate it more when I have time to fully absorb the writing and themes of the book. But for now, it was just Ok.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

New York City Marathon Race Recap

   I purposefully delayed my race recap of the New York City Marathon a bit because I wanted the experience to fully soak in before writing about it. But then I got sucked into binge-watching old seasons of Gilmore Girls before the revival came out last Friday, so it's a BIT more delayed than I had planned. Oops.
   However, even after waiting almost a month to write this recap, I'm still kind of at a loss for words about the marathon. It was just SO huge. SO overwhelming. Words just can't do it justice. It is truly something that has to be experienced to fully understand the enormity of this race. If you are a runner and have any desire to do a marathon - this is the one to do.

   We started our adventure on Friday with the Expo. (I learned my lesson from Chicago and made sure we had a few days in New York before the race to hit the expo and relax a bit. MUCH less stressful!)  We had plenty of time for packet pick up and to do a little shopping, which was good because it was PACKED!!  Picking up our bibs and shirts wasn't so bad, but the swag line for official gear was kind of a nightmare. It serpentined around and through the entire shopping area.

The line for the expo. Still about 20 minutes from checkout.

   As you would imagine, the NYC marathon brings in all of the heavy hitters from the running world, whether they are running the race or not. We randomly saw both Kara Goucher AND Shalane Flannigan while wandering the expo. It was very cool. I missed Meb though. I would have loved to have seen him.
   The next morning, we headed out to meet up with Team in Training for a little shake out run (THANK YOU again to everyone who donated to my TNT campaign). I was the only TNT'er based in Nashville for this race, but a group had been communicating online, so it was nice to finally meet everyone. Professional triathlete Linsey Corbin joined us for the run. I totally fangirled her and got a photo with her. 

   The rest of Saturday was pretty much spend resting and making sure we were set up logistically for the race on Sunday. The NYC marathon is the largest marathon in the world with over 50,000 runners. It has a lot going on just because of how huge it is. Additionally, it's a point-to-point race, stretching from Staten Island to Central Park, and you have to get transportation to the start. Fortunately, TNT had morning shuttle busses for us, and I was able to secure Dudley a spot on the same bus. Even though we had to meet about five hours before the race start, it was a relief to not have to worry about subways and ferries, which is what a lot of runners took to get to the start. I heard later that some of the ferries were severely delayed and runners missed their start times.  
   Sunday's alarm rang at 4:30 AM, but it didn't really matter as I was up anyway. Even though I wasn't really racing, I still had pre-race jitters. Funny how that happens. After getting dressed and eating, Dudley and I made our way to the shuttle stop. I based our hotel location on this stop, so I knew we weren't far. And we weren't. It took all of five minutes to walk there - which meant we had to hang out in the cold for a half hour before we could board the busses. Me and my Type-A personality! Oh well, at least we were in the right spot.

Just hanging out in the cold.

Hazzah for warm busses! 

   I don't recall how long the trip was over to Staten Island, but it wasn't too bad. We did get stuck in traffic for a bit with all of the other shuttle busses, but again, it was better than being out in the cold. Plus, we were off our feet for a bit.

The Verrazano Bridge!  My next trip over will be on foot!

   After disembarking from the shuttles, we had to wait in line to get through security. We did a lot of waiting over the weekend.

Security line selfie!

   Once we were inside the Racing Village (the starting area) we had about three hours to kill, so we sat and people-watched for a bit. Dudley did bag-check for the race, so we were able to wear several layers of clothing and stay pretty warm while we waited. Some people took waiting very seriously and came prepared with blankets and pillows. Being first-timers, we didn't think about things that much. A blanket would have been nice though.

I was tying to not be obvious when taking this photo, 
but the people directly in front of us came prepared!  

Bummed because I left my spacesuit at home.

   We got a little bored after a while, so we also did some wandering around the "Villages." Yes, this race is so big that there are villages.  

THERAPY DOGS!  They had therapy dogs for the runners pre-race!

Timeline of the various start times for the villages, corrals and waves.

Map of the Villages.  We were green.

Giant Jumbotrons! 

    At about 10:20 AM, our village, wave and corrals (Green, Wave 3 and Corral D) were called to the start line. FINALLY - after five hours of waiting- we only had about 20 minutes before we were going to be able to run! This was also when Dudley and I split up. He was assigned a different Corral, and we decided that since I had trained and he hadn't (AT ALL), that we were going to run separately. 

Hello, Corral D!
About to start!! 

And we're off!!  

   While I was very excited to finally start running, I was little bummed when I realized that my Village was assigned the lower level of the Verrazano bridge. I wanted to run on the top level. It just seemed cooler, plus you didn't have to worry about anyone peeing on you. Apparently - that's a thing. But Green ran the lower level so I stuck to the inner section of the bridge to avoid any pee splatter.  Being on the lower level also meant that I lost my satellite reception immediately, so I had no clue as to my pace or distance. Then, even when I regained satellites, my distance was off for the remaining 24 miles. It was a bummer, but since I wasn't really going for time, it didn't matter too much.

   Post-Verrazano bridge, we headed into Brooklyn. The spectators were great. We had a perfect day for them to come out and cheer - around 55-60 degrees and sunny. One of those day where it got a little warm running in the sun, but nothing too bad. Pretty ideal conditions, actually.
   Step by step we made our way through the boroughs. I wish I had some witty stories to fill up the page, but I don't. I pretty much just ran non-stop for the next 4:45 hours. It was extremely crowded, and I found that I ran with the same group most of the race. It was just too crowded to move around people unless you REALLY wanted to. I didn't want to expend the energy so I just went with the pace of the crowd. Every once in a while I would slow down and take a good look around just to absorb the experience. I was running the freakin' New York City Marathon!! How cool was that? 
   The course was relatively flat, though there are several bridges that hurt. I had an issue on the one bridge around mile 15 that led us into Manhattan. My left calf, the same one that tore earlier in the season, was giving me fits and it felt like it was going to seize at any time. I think it was because, while I had run hills in training, they weren't like running over mile-plus long bridges that just went on forever. Exiting that bridge was SO LOUD though. You heard the crowd way before you saw them. This might have been my favorite moment of the race (other than the finish, naturally). Props to the spectators (again).
   I felt relatively good until the dreaded mile 20. While things didn't completely fall apart, I was READY for the race to be over.  I was so happy when we entered Central Park and headed toward the finish. Again, the spectators were 4-5 people deep and yelling their fool heads off. Even if you wanted to stop to walk, I can't imagine actually doing it because of the crowd. They almost carried you to the finish. The only thing that was kind of annoying here was that the spectators seemed to be more inclined to walk on / through the race course in Central Park (pre-finish line barricades). I almost ran into two of them. Come on people! I know you want to see your runner, but we're TIRED and have been running for a really long time. Don't make us swerve to miss you!!
   And then, there it was. The finish line. After almost 11 hours of waiting and running, I was actually there. I finished the New York City Marathon.  
Finish line selfie!

  After the race you are funneled through various lines for photos, food, mylar blankets and ponchos. (Sidebar - when you register for the race you are given the option of bag-check or a poncho for post- race. Choose the poncho. It is amazing! Weather proof and fleece-lined. But they only have 30,000 ponchos for 50,000+ racers so you have to choose quickly!!)
Mylar blankets


   I ended up finishing in something like 4:47, which kind of surprised me because that's what I ran in Chicago and I felt terrible in Chicago. Even with the calf issue, I felt MUCH better in NYC. Dudley finished a just shy of 6:00 which is amazing considering he didn't train. I think the marathon was his fifth run of the entire year. 
   If you couldn't tell - I LOVED LOVED LOVED this race. Would it be something I'd want to run every year? Probably not. It's just too much of a "thing" logistically, plus it's a pretty expensive weekend. However, I'd love to run it again in a few years and I absolutely recommend it to anyone who wants to run a marathon. Or even if you don't - head up to NYC for the weekend and be a spectator. They looked like they were having a blast out there cheering and dancing!
   As always, a huge thanks to Dudley for being such a good sport and supporting my crazy race adventures. THANK YOU to everyone who donated to my TNT campaign, which allowed me to participate in this race. And thanks to Andrew from FTP Coaching who got me (again) to another finish line upright and smiling.

BAM!!  Thanks, NYC!!  


Monday, October 31, 2016

What's Kristine Reading? October Edition

   This month's book is one that I have been very curious about for a while because it's part of a series that is extremely popular and has devoted fans. And now that I've read it I'm even more curious about the book because I just didn't get it. And that book is "My Brilliant Friend" by Elena Ferrante.

   WHY? WHY? WHY is this book so popular? I don't understand! It's the story of two poor Italian girls growing up in a small town just after World War II. Both of them are very smart, but have limited opportunities due to their financial circumstances. One is a horrible little girl (Lila) who is a terrible friend, and the other one (Elena) is her doormat and remains her friend (for decades) for some unknown reason. Yes, the book takes a look at class divisions, politics and feminism, but the main theme of "My Brilliant Friend" is friendship, specifically the friendship of Lila and Elena. And since I couldn't figure WHY Elena remained Lila's friend, the book didn't work for me. 
   Plus, the book is SLOW. Really slow. I had heard that it picked up after 150 pages or so, and it did (a bit), but 150 pages is WAY too long to wait to find a book interesting. If it wasn't for my rule of always finishing a book once I start it, I would have dropped it without hesitation. 
   Apparently though, I'm a glutton for punishment because I went ahead and started reading the second book in the series because I was told that book two was MUCH better than the first one. But no. I'm half way through and Lina is still a terrible person and Elena is still her doormat. I don't care how good books three and four are supposed to be. I'm done with this series.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Middle Half - Race Report

   The Middle Half is a race I have been wanting to do for a long time. I'd heard some really great things about it over the years, but I've either been out of town on race day, or if I were in town, it was sold out. For a small race in the middle of Murfreesboro, it's surprisingly popular and has sold out on the first day in previous years. So, when I received the reminder about registration for the Middle Half a few months ago, I planned ahead and had my browser open right when registration started. I was finally going to run the Middle Half! The 10-year anniversary race at that!

   Race day started at 4:00 AM. Yes, that is insanely early to get up to run, but Middle Tennessee State University (where the race was held) is about 45 minutes away and the race started at 7:00 AM. We had heard that parking was a cluster due to construction, so we wanted to get there early. Fortunately, while there was construction, traffic wasn't too bad and we easily parked in a relatively close lot. It was a little chilly that morning, so we (Dudley and our friend Jennifer) decided to utilize the race bag drop and wear warmer clothes on the walk to the starting line. We ended up turning right back around though because even though the tag said "bag drop," it was actually more of a "key drop" and backpacks weren't accepted. Whomp Whomp.
    We were able to hook up with several of our friends pre-race. As I mentioned, this is a very popular race and lots of East Nasties (and other friends) were there. It's popular for several reasons, but the main one being that it is FLAT FLAT FLAT. People come from all around to try to PR here. And while I'm not currently in PR condition, I was curious to see how I could do. My running confidence hasn't been all that great recently. I think this is mainly due to how freakin' hot it's been and I wilt like a delicate flower in the heat. Hopefully, my runs will be a bit stronger with the cooler temperatures.
   The race started right at 7AM. Well, actually, I take that back. They tried to start right at 7AM. They did the countdown and everything. But the timer wasn't working or something so they didn't actually start the race after the big countdown. They fixed it within a minute or two and we were off.
   I started running with Jennifer and another EN Patrick. We were planning on lining up with the 2-hour pacer and see how we did. My schedule called for me to run this in 2:05, so I knew 2-hours would be a bit of a stretch, but not too much. Unfortunately, there were a ton of people who wanted to run 2:00 and we lost the pacer almost immediately. Oh well.
   The first 7 miles of this course were great. We ran past some beautiful historic homes and the Oaklands Mansion. There was also some wonderful course support from spectators. I was feeling really good, too. Sure, I was kind of tired of running after an hour or so, but I felt fine. Then we turned Mercury Blvd. and it all changed. This was a bigger, more highway-ish, road and not as scenic as the previous miles. We also lost most of the spectator support (the water stops / bathrooms were still on point, though). Without the distractions of pretty houses and bands, the race wasn't so fun for me anymore. The pain kind of started to creep in. We were on this road for about a mile, and then we turned Rutherford Blvd. and it was like stepping into a wind tunnel. Sure, flat races are great - unless it's windy. From miles 8-12, we were in a crazy headwind. It was brutal. At mile 10, I knew I was supposed to pick up my pace, but I just physically couldn't because of the wind. I was killing myself but not going any faster, which is really quite frustrating, so I backed off a bit and just tried to get through it without stopping to walk. And believe me, I wanted to stop to walk.
   At mile 12, we turned off Rutherford and headed back to MTSU. It was such a relief to be out of that headwind. By this time, I knew I wasn't going to break two hours, but I was still under pace to beat my 2:05 assigned time. I held on and crossed the finish at 2:03. I'm satisfied with that.
   The post-race festivities were great. They had all sorts of food for the runners, with plenty of tables and chairs for us to use. That's something that is generally lacking at races, and was appreciated here. We also received a great finisher's medal, celebrating the 10 years of racing.

   Now that I have finished The Middle Half, I can see why it is so popular. It is truly a flat race that is very well-organized. And if you're local, you're probably going to know a ton of people racing so it becomes a huge social event. A round of thanks to the race organizers, volunteers and spectators for putting on a great race and also to Jennifer and Patrick for running with me for some or all of the course. And, of course, to Andrew at FTP Coaching for getting me to the finish line uninjured and faster than expected. (FYI - Dudley had a good race too - we just didn't run together on this one.)  
   Next up: the NEW YORK MARATHON!!!

Monday, October 3, 2016

One Last Vacation Post

   I've delayed in posting about this last event from our vacation because it's pretty upsetting and I wasn't sure how to approach it. I supposed the best way is to deal with it directly, so here it is: Dudley found a dead body in our hotel hallway when we were in Seattle. Literally - a dead body. He had gotten up early (6AM) to get some coffee and left me in the room. Almost immediately after he left the room, he called me saying that he's pretty sure that there was a dead body in the hallway.
  Umm- I'm sorry, but WHAT? Obviously, this woke me up pretty quickly and he told me his story. So you can picture this better, our hotel was U-shaped and the elevator was in the center of the U. Our room was down the left hallway. There was an open door that led down the right hallway, but this was propped open the entire time we were there. Dudley left our room and walked towards the elevator and there was a body laying right next to the propped open door that led down the right hallway. He said immediately he knew the person, he was male, was dead. Not asleep, not passed out drunk - dead. And that he had been for probably several hours. There was also a hotel maid standing there. Dudley asked, "Is he OK?" to which she replied, "the police told me not to say anything."Alrightly...
   The elevator arrived, and Dudley got on thinking that the situation was under control because the maid mentioned the police. But not only did Dudley get on the elevator - SO DID THE HOTEL MAID! Remember, she was the only other person in the area - there weren't any police or other hotel employees there at this time. She left a dead body alone in a public hotel hallway!
   That was when Dudley called me, told me what was going on and then he went to get coffee. At first I was going to stay in the room. I had no desire to be a part of whatever was going to go on down the hallway. But then I thought what if it was murder and the perpetrator was still on the floor? Would it be an active crime scene? Am I going to be banished to my room for the rest of the day with a killer skulking about? With that thought, I got dressed and got the heck out of the hotel. Unfortunately, I had to pass the unfortunate soul who was still laying in the hallway. By this time, there was one police officer who was standing behind the body. There still wasn't any attempt to cover him though. It was pretty surreal and very sad.
   When I got to the lobby, there was another police officer talking to the front desk clerk. They were talking pretty openly about the situation and, at the time, no one knew who he was. I guess he didn't have ID on him. The desk clerk stated the the person didn't appear to be a guest in the hotel, or at least not one they knew about. There also weren't any reports of concerned guests looking for someone who never returned to their room. Basically, a stranger showed up and somehow died on our floor and no one knew why, how or who he was. Comforting, huh?
   I found Dudley and we hung out at the coffee shop for a bit before heading back to the room. We needed to change clothes to get ready for whatever we had going on that day. We figured that by this time, the police would have removed the body or closed off the area. Turns out - nope.  He was still there. Uncovered. Though there was another police officer there by now.
   When we left the hotel again, the medical examiner had arrived and he was examining the body. The body was still uncovered, but the ME had at least tried to shut the door a bit to conceal what was going on. The next time we came by, everyone was gone. Later that night, Dudley spoke to the night desk clerk and was told that the gentleman was, in fact, a guest and that he had a heart attack. Honestly, based on what I heard earlier from the front desk clerk, I don't know if I believe that. Especially since, while we were staying in a nice area, both Dudley and I thought we saw a drug deal go down in the park outside of our hotel. I think that a heart attack might just be a story they told us because it was the most tame explanation they could give.
   Even a month later, I'm still not sure how to process this event. It's tragic, obviously. Extremely sad.  But when you separate from the emotion of the death, I'm also upset at how the hotel handled the situation. You think they would have done something to steer guests away from the area, but they didn't. In fact, they left the area completely unattended. I know they were probably trying to keep guests from finding out about someone dying in their hallway, but we didn't get ANY communication from them at all, even after they knew that Dudley saw him. I'm not sure what I expected the hotel to do, but definitely SOMETHING.
   I'm not sure how to wrap this up other than to say that I hope that the family of the gentleman who passed has found some sort of peace. I wish there was something we could have done to help him.

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!