May 31, 2012

The most wonderful time of the year

No, Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year. Not by a long shot. Kayaking season is!

As you might have heard, I still can't run. But surely my old lady hip won't keep me from kayaking. Trea and I first kayaked on a trip to Puerto Rico in 2009, and we loved it so much that we bought our own 2-person kayak a few months later. We live in a little town with lots of small, calm lakes, and one of our favorite things to do in the summer is take the kayak out and paddle around and just listen to the quiet.

The first time we took the kayak out, I bought a couple of waterproof disposable cameras, and we just got the pictures developed YESTERDAY. Because we're organized and on top of things over here. It was so fun to see three summers' worth of pics -- 2009, 2010 and last year.

Kayaking fun in 2009!
The lake where we go is gorgeous, and we usually just paddle around the perimeter, admire the beautiful houses, daydream about someday owning a lake house and look for cranes. We LOVE cranes. They're the pelicans of Arkansas.

Summer 2011
Summer 2011. We both slimmed down and got better hats since 2009.
On hot summer weekdays, if we can both leave work on time, we'll pack a cooler with a picnic and have a quiet dinner on the water while the sun goes down. It's a nice change of pace, good exercise and so tranquil. We love the lake, but we don't like most normal lake activities like skiing or tubing or wake boarding, so a real boat with a motor would be wasted on us. We just float and paddle and chat and hang out. With no phones, no TV and no distractions. Just peace.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

May 28, 2012

Made my Monday

A fellow blogger, That Pink Girl, used to write weekly posts called "Made my Monday" and she would focus on something positive that had happened that day. I admire folks who can look on the bright side, especially on Mondays. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those people, so this isn't going to turn into a series.

But today was pretty good! Not only did I have the day off and get to sleep in, but I also had my first real workout in 3 months! A stress fracture was to blame for my not exercising for 6 weeks, but the rest of the time...I probably should have been doing something.

After my meltdown the other day, I realized that I'm not going to feel better until I get out and do something, no matter what that something has to be. I can't run, so I have to suck it up and deal with it and find an alternative. I cannot continue to sit on my couch in front of the TV eating pizza. That's how this whole thing started in the first place. So today, I took my bike and went outside to ride in the sunshine.

I didn't get very far. But riding on a trainer out on the deck is better than riding a bike at the gym and definitely better than doing nothing. I might try a real ride at some point, but I wanted to use the trainer first to make sure my hip didn't hurt. Also, I'm not supposed to use much resistance, and here in the Ozarks, it's going to be tough to find a place to bike without any hills.

It's been so long since I've put on workout clothes that it took me quite a while just to locate a sports bra and running top. It was so good to dust off my old Nike running visor! I even got to try out my new Texas socks from TPG.

Normally, I would consider this blasphemy, but I just finished Friday Night Lights. Texas Forever.

I spent 30 minutes spinning in the sun, listening to my old running playlist, which I haven't turned on since December. My hip didn't hurt, and it felt great to finally DO something. But I can tell I've been too lazy and I have a long way to go. I'm sore in places that shouldn't be sore after an easy bike ride. But it's good to hurt. It's good to have stupid tan lines. It's good to be starting over. It stinks that I have to, but it's good that I CAN.

It made my Monday!

May 24, 2012

Am I still a runner?

It's been 5 months -- FIVE -- since I've been able to run. It's been 3 months since I was diagnosed with a stress fracture. And according to the doctor and new x-rays this week, I'm still fractured.

Not only was I a slow runner, but I'm also a slow healer.

I thought I had put in the time, been careful, hobbled around on crutches for over a month, followed all the rules. But I'm still not better. Even the doc was a bit perplexed. I had already taken nearly 2 months off when I finally figured out what was going on. Then after another full 6 weeks on crutches and 6 more weeks of taking it easy, we both thought I'd be fine. I'm assuming osteopenia is to blame. As if stress fractures aren't bad enough, I get saddled with wimpy old lady bones.

So basically looking at my x-rays was like the worst Groundhog Day ever. 6 more weeks of nothing. At least. If I'm not better in another 12, we'll do another MRI. If I'm not better in another 12, I'm going to lose my mind.

I'm cleared to use the elliptical (no resistance, no incline) and an exercise bike (very little resistance) and I can swim. That would be great except all of those things really suck. I'm a terrible swimmer and I just plain don't like it. It was fine when I thought this was temporary and it was a means to an end, but there's no end in sight, so why bother? I've long given up trying to maintain my fitness so it would be easier for me to pick up with running when I'm allowed to. And I have the uncomfortable pants to prove it.

I'm sure I should be more like Red, who spent 9 months of last year elliptical-ing her heart out while her stress fracture healed. But I'm not. I'm down. Way down. I started running because I wanted something that let me get in shape while setting goals and not going to the gym. Just me, my shoes and the road, whenever I felt like it. I DESPISE the gym. I've tried so many times to like it, but it's just awful there. And I have a decent gym. It's the waiting in line for a machine after work, the stinky smells, the weirdos pumping iron, and the crap on 20 TVs with nary a window in sight.

I want to be outside.

And it's getting hot, so I want to be outside on the trails under the trees. With my friends. I miss my town. I missed running under the redbud trees on Central Ave. this spring. I feel like I can't even call myself a runner anymore. I got to enjoy that dumb 26.2 bumper sticker for less than a month before everything fell apart. It's still on my car, and I hate it. I was so excited to get it, and I hate looking at it. Every.single.time I approach my car, I remember and I get sad. But if I take it that the end? Admitting that I'm not a runner anymore?

Maybe one day I'll be a runner again, but not any time soon. Sorry for the down-in-the-dumps post, y'all, but I'm just sad these days, and there's not a happy way to spin it right now.

May 18, 2012

I ate a horseshoe

This is the last installment of my Midwestern Road Trip Vacation Extravaganza, and I promise to find something substantial to blog about soon. But since I still can't run, well, you get to hear all about what I can do: eat. 

In Springfield, Ill., the last stop on our vacation after St. Louis and Chicago, eating a horseshoe is commonplace. It's a crazy dish that I'm still having dreams about and is served at just about every restaurant. We went to D'Arcy's Pint, where if I'm being totally honest...I didn't eat a full horseshoe. I ordered a ponyshoe -- a half portion -- but it was still enormous. 

Horseshoe: Texas toast topped with the meat of your choice, fries and cheese sauce = HEAVEN. I went with the Deluxe Pony, which also included seasoned ground beef, grilled onions and bacon. This is the main reason why I need to be able to run again. 

My husband is a big history nerd, so we made a special stop in Springfield to check out anything and everything related to Abraham Lincoln. It was quite a culture shock after spending several days in Chicago, but Springfield turned out to be a really cool place and we had a surprisingly good time. But Trea and I have a good time wherever we go. Literally, we entertained ourselves for quite a while with just a statue of a dead president and a camera. 

Hi Abe!

We spent hours at the presidential library and museum...where, oddly enough, there's a wax replica of the entire Lincoln family, with volunteers standing by offering to take your picture. This was both hilarious and disturbing.

And never be fooled by a city's nickname. The wind is not just limited to Chicago. The entire state of Illinois was out to ruin my hair and all my photos.

Walking around downtown near the old state capital building.

We spent all afternoon at the Lincoln tomb, which is in one of the most beautiful cemeteries I've ever seen. I don't know why, but I've always loved cemeteries. They're so peaceful. I used to go to a little cemetery near my college campus to write when I was in school because I could just be quiet and reflective there. So yes, it's probably a weird thing to do on vacation, but we spent forever after we saw the tomb just walking around the cemetery, gawking at elaborate mausoleums and reading headstones. Odd to say that it was fun, but it actually was.

And on a happier note, we experienced another culinary tradition of the Midwest that forever changed my life: Maid-Rite. The Maid-Rite sandwich shop in Springfield opened in 1924 and claims to be the first drive-thru in the U.S. A Maid-Rite is a loose meat sandwich, which sounds disgusting, but is actually one of the best things that's ever happened to me. There's seasoned ground beef, mustard, pickle relish and onion on a little steamed bun. Also? This Maid-Rite makes their own root beer that they serve in a frosty mug! I think I actually liked this meal better than the horseshoe. It was so good!

We loved Springfield, and one of these days, I hope to go back if for nothing else than just to eat Maid-Rites and horseshoes! 

Have YOU ever eaten a horseshoe? Or a loose meat sandwich? 

May 9, 2012

The Windy City

Alternate title: Hey Everybody, Look at My Chicago Vacation Pictures!

I'm in love with Chicago. I want to move there. I've already picked out an apartment on Michigan Ave. A block from H&M. Truly, Chicago is the most wonderful place on earth (not during winter) and I loved every second that I spent there on vacation.

After our stay in St. Louis, where we learned the secrets of Budweiser, Trea and I headed north to the windy city. We stayed at the Rafaello Hotel, which is like a little slice of heaven for travelers on a mid-sized budget. I'm sure the Four Seasons is lovely, but this place suited us just fine.

Rafaello Hotel

The Rafaello is on Delaware, just a block off Michigan Ave. -- right next door to the Hancock building. We had a suite with plenty of space, and it was like having our own little apartment in the city.

It was immaculate, just our style, surprisingly quiet and in the perfect location. I cannot say enough nice things about the Rafaello. We hung out there quite a bit because we simply enjoyed being there and people watching.

Seeing the Sights
Or is it sites? Anywho... we spent a lot of time strolling down Michigan Ave. It's absolutely beautiful, and while we were there, every green inch of the city was covered in tulips. And tulips, even more than gerber daisies, just make my heart happy.

Our first stop was the Hancock building. It did not disappoint. We did not wait in line for anything, and there was no crowd at the top. It was breathtaking.

I've never been to Chicago before, so I was 100% country mouse in the big city. Sure, I've visited other large cities, but none so beautiful or so friendly as this place. Everything made me gasp with delight and my cheeks hurt from smiling. Lake Michigan is like having a little piece of the ocean right in the Midwest!

And the Hancock building has a nice little spot where you can get a cocktail or a cup of coffee while you take in the view. We were there just before sunset, so we got to see the city in the daylight and slowly watch things start to sparkle. Our little table right by the window was lovely! 

The next day, we went to Lincoln Park Zoo, which was tons of fun and offered even more beautiful views of the skyline. Then we rode the 'L' -- like real city folk! -- and went Millennium Park to check out the bean.

Waiting for the brown line.

We spent several hours at the Art Institute where I fell in love with Monet. I never knew I cared! But truly, the Monet collection is unreal and I have a whole new appreciation for art now. After we got home, we even watched Midnight in Paris for a second time to see if we recognized any more artists than we did the first time around! (We are so sophisticated!)

Rolling on the River
We took a 90-minute architecture cruise tour with the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and it was amazing. A cold front had come through, so the weather was freezing and incredibly windy while we were out, but that's my only complaint about the experience. If it had been a bit warmer, I would've been in heaven. Chicago is so gorgeous, and cruising on the river is a fantastic way to see the city and learn a little bit about its history.

Painting the Town
Every minute was awesome, but without a doubt, the best parts of this trip were our nights out on the town. The main reason we were even in Chicago in the first place was to see Death Cab for Cutie -- the greatest band of all time. That's the only reason I cared to go there. I could write volumes on how I feel about Death Cab and why. Benjamin Gibbard is a genius, and I have never been so excited about any event I've ever attended. I was SO nervous leading up to the concert. I have loved Ben's lyrics so much and for so long, I was praying that his live show would live up to my high expectations. And boy, did it!
When we rounded the corner and I saw the Chicago Theatre marquee, I forgot who I was and started hopping up and down on my hurt hip! The theater was crazy beautiful. It's an old movie theater from the 1920s with a red velvet curtain, ornate ceilings, chandeliers and statues everywhere. Death Cab played with the Magik Magik Orchestra, and I literally cried when I heard them.
They played every single song I wanted to hear. At so many concerts, I've left saying, "I wish they would have played this or that." They played EVERYTHING that I love. Passenger Seat, Cath, I Will Follow You Into the Dark, Transatlanticism, Death of an Interior Decorator, What Sarah Said, Stay Young Go Dancing, Grapevine Fires, Title & Registration, Bend to Squares...everything. Seriously, if I could have chosen the playlist, I would have picked exactly what they did. Ben didn't talk much; they just played. And it was everything I hoped it would be.

The next night we went to The Second City. I had no idea what to expect, but it was phenomenal! It helped that we had listened to Tina Fey's book, Bossypants, in the car all the way from St. Louis to Chi-Town, so that made us appreciate the experience even more. It was basically like watching Whose Line Is It Anyway, only about a zillion times better. We laughed and laughed, and we were so sad when it was over. For some reason, this was one of our most favorite things about the trip, but we have zero photos or souvenirs to show for it. Sad panda.

The Food. Actually, just the pizza.
This won't take long. Deep dish pizza from Giordano's. NO WHERE ELSE. Giordano's. This should be the only pizza allowed in Chicago. It changed my life. We ate at a lot of wonderful (non-pizza) places, but we ate at Giordano's three times. I have dreams about this pizza.

We gave Pizzeria Due a whirl, but there's really no comparison. This was our last stop before we drove out of town.

Chicago was surprisingly fantastic, and I can't wait to go back. I swear, I would move there in a heartbeat. And next time...I will be able to run along Lake Michigan and Navy Pier. Next year's Chicago Marathon, perhaps? Hmmm...

May 4, 2012

Meet me in St. Louis

I'm back from vacation -- a fun-filled road trip with Trea to St. Louis, Chicago and Springfield, Illinois! We spent 10 days on the road. He was lead driver and I was head DJ and navigator extraordinaire. We had so much fun! (And I've had that Judy Garland song in my head for weeks.)

I'm walking without crutches now, but I'm still nowhere close to being able to run. So forgive me while I turn this blog into a travel journal for a few posts. Here are some highlights from St. Louis, with more to come soon on Chicago and Springfield. 

The first thing on our must-see list when we got to St. Louis was a tour of the Anheuser Busch brewery. I don't even like beer, but this was the most fun thing we did while we were there. The grounds were gorgeous, and it was cool learning the history of the business. But the Clydesdales were my favorite! 

They were so pretty, running in the sunshine!
And yes, we're lame and buy the tourist pictures because they're usually the only decent pics we get with both of us in it.
See? Blurriest picture of the trip, thanks to a shaky stranger. And this was before the samples!
Giant barrel o' brew.

Time to taste!

And then it was off to see the arch! Our hotel was right next to it on the river, and we could see it from our window. Unfortunately, we got there too late and didn't get to go to the top, but we browsed the gift shop and walked around the nearby paths on the riverfront. It was a lovely day. 

After one perfect day, the rest of our visit was rainy and cold, so we stayed indoors for the most part. Did LOTS of shopping and checked out a couple of museums. We found some phenomenal Italian food. We celebrated our fourth anniversary while we were there, and for our anniversary dinner, the owner of Dominic's -- Dominic himself -- who is as Italian as they come, surprised us with dessert and serenaded us with a lovely rendition of "Happy Anniversary" sung to the tune of Happy Birthday. It was awesome. 

Next stop, Chicago!


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