Be It Ever So Humble: Closet Makeover

It was very common back in the day for houses to not have closets. Don't quote me on this, but my understanding is that it had something to do with getting taxed for each "room", and closets were counted as rooms. Therefore, many older houses are closet-less. 

My house was built in 1924. I  have friends with similarly aged homes which have teeny tiny closets, which I have heard came from the fact that homes were taxed per square foot (and why waste it on closet space). Luckily, my closets are not too tiny and I even have a bonus hole in my hallway. However, there is not a lot of shelving in any of them.

The other day my Dad calls me up and says that he would like to come down and fix something in my house. Fortunately, I do have a self imposed Honey Do list. However, most of the things on it are pretty easy things I can do myself (not that I always want to, but I CAN). Luckily, I can think quickly on my feet, and when he requested a project AND a drawing, I quickly got to work. Here is what I came up with. 

Bedroom Closet Plan

Hall Closet Plan

Aren't my drawing skills fabulous? NOT. For the bedroom closet, I wanted a few shelves to put shoes or clothes on, as well as a rod to hang things. For the hall closet, I wanted some shelves and also a space for the broom/mop and a space to hang people's coats when they came to visit. 

So Dad came down and got to work. Here are the before and after shots. 

Bedroom Closet: The day I moved in
Bedroom Closet : Before
Bedroom Closet : After

Don't judge me. I have a lot of shoes. 

Hall Closet : Before
Hall Closet : After

I still need to paint the shelves in the bedroom closet and to figure out how I want to organize everything, which will involve a bit of shifting and time to see if things are working the way I want them to. However, overall I am quite pleased with the way everything turned out! 

Do you have enough closet space? If you could have a closet makeover, what would you change/add? 


Be It Ever So Humble: Getting Robbed

Don't freak out; this post is NOT about what you think it is.

I decided that I would post from time to time about the joys of being a homeowner. I am sure that many of you have similar stories and I would like to know how things are in your neck of the woods. Are they the same as mine? For instance, do YOU have a nosy/creepy/annoying neighbor? A loud xyz near your house? An animal that poops in your flower bed or eats your homegrown veggies? What woes do you have in your neighborhood?

My first woe is this: Alarm Systems.

When I first moved in, the "curtain twitcher" (my nosy friendly neighbor across the way) came over to introduce herself (at 8:30 p.m. and mind  you, I normally go to bed around 8:30) and to talk about the neighborhood and the goings on and the other people on our block etc. Apparently the guy behind me "might" be a drug dealer, the people at the end never leave their house and the people across the street rented to someone because they moved to Paris for work (but that is the only non-owner occupied home on the block). I learned all of this (and more!) in about 26 minutes, as the clock was slowly ticking toward 9:00.

The other thing she told me, which was interesting but not great, is that since we live on a street that is very easily accessible from the freeway (great for commuting!) sometimes thieves will get off the freeway, kick in your door, steal your TV and get right back on the freeway in a matter of minutes. Now, I am not super attached to my TV, but I am pretty attached to my life, so I decided to get an alarm system.

First of all, getting an alarm system is a pain in the butt. It's worse than getting cable. First, you sign your life away by paying up front for the install/equipment and the first month. Next, some creepy guy comes to your house and tries to suggestive sell you on $9,000 worth of equipment, which by the way, will ONLY cost you an additional $900 in install/equipment fees and another $50 per month on top of the original $40 per month you already agreed to pay. Of course, in his spiel, your area is VERY dangerous and it's IMPERATIVE that ALL windows, doors, peepholes, cracks and crevices be set up with an alarm and preferably a camera and a direct line to the CIA.

So I get the standard, the one that I ALREADY paid for and I kick the creepy guy out. Now, one of the things you also have to get, which creepy guy pretty much brushes over the details of, is a permit with the city or county. This is like a registration with the local police. However, creepy guy did mention that they would take care of it for me. I thought this was great until I got a bill in the mail from them, asking me to reimburse them for taking care of it for me.

Fast forward to three months later when I am riding my bike to work and my phone rings. I ignore it because who the heck is calling me from a 1-800 number at five in the morning; I figure it must be an east coast telemarketer. Turns out it was the alarm company, calling me because the alarm went off for no reason. The police were dispatched and they did not find any signs of a break-in. I was happy to hear that, and I thought that was the end of that. Until I received a bill last week in the mail for $84 for a "false alarm". I thought, "No problem. I have a permit. I will call them and tell them there has been a mistake".

Not so fast, little girl. I looked it up and here are the details.

General False Alarm: With permit = $84, Without permit = $154
Robbery False Alarm: With permit = $156, Without permit = $226
Genuine: With permit = Free(!), Without permit = $70

So, the only way to save money is if your alarm is genuine, aka you get robbed by a burglar. Otherwise, instead of getting robbed by a burglar, you get robbed by the city instead.

Do you have a home security system? What are the rules in your area? If you don't have an alarm, what frustrates you about one of the rules of YOUR neighborhood? 


Looking Back: October

Another October is in the books! Finally, a month with a good mix of friends, family, work, running and getting things knocked off my To Do List (which is no mean feat). I had a couple of weekends at home, which, although they weren't "quiet", did give me a chance to get some things done that I have been wanting to do for a long time (like planting that darn orange tree in the back yard)!

Running: Finally I picked up my mileage a bit, mostly because I ran the Dick Collins 50M early in the month, but also because I am trying to get back out there little by little. Running mileage was 126 miles, which I have to say I am pretty darn happy with! I also put 36 miles on the bike, hiked 14 miles and did 6 HIIT/strength/core workouts. I mentioned in the race recap that I thought the strength workouts were helping my running and I plan to keep doing them at least a couple of times each week to see if it works out better for training. Something has to give; I am still having back pain and that plus my lack of motivation have led to a lot less running that normal. However, if I can find a substitute for one or two days of running per week and it works out, this may be the solution.

Reading: I am not super excited about any of the books I read in October. I ended up reading 5 books total and they were all just "okay". They were:

Heroes Are My Weakness (2 stars)
Life After Life (3 stars)
What Alice Forgot (3 stars)
The Dinner (3 stars)
Dietland (3 stars)

Travel: I didn't stray too far away from home in October, but I did have a nice trip home to see my parents, where we went on a couple of nice hikes, spent some time with my grandma and ate the last of the fresh tomatoes. I also went to my cousin's wedding which was at a nice vineyard about an hour and a half from my house. The setting was beautiful and it was great to see family that I hadn't seen in a while and to get a bit gussied up and to dance my booty off (I did not count that as one of the strength workouts, but it WAS a workout)!

November is shaping up to be another fun (filled!) month, with a couple of visits from friends and family, some big house projects, some running events, hosting Thanksgiving at my house and a trip for work to NYC!

How was October for you? Did you go trick-or-treating or did you hand out candy? Do you know of any good strength workouts I should try? 


Dick Collins 50M

Wow! It's been a long time since I have done a race recap.

In 2013, Dick Collins was my first 50 mile trail race. I had no idea how to pace myself. I just said that I was going to "walk every hill". I finished just under 10 hours and I was very proud of that time. Last year, I was in pretty good shape and I ran it again, knocking about a half an hour off my time, and finishing in 9:29. This year, I was not in pretty good shape. I had been running about 15 - 30 miles a week and doing 1 or 2 days of HIIT training. I was not watching what I ate and I had been spending long hours at work and getting not enough sleep every day.

My expectations of myself were pretty low. I just wanted to get under 11 hours, which would mean basically I could run a minute and a half per mile slower (or walk more) than last year and I would still be okay. There was a friend of mine who ran last year and we ended up finishing together (hand in hand across the finish line!) and he was also running this year and I thought my A goal would be to just keep up with him.

The race starts off in the dark, along a paved path that goes partially around Lake Chabot. I ran along and talked to some friends, but soon I felt that need to pass people (I always get antsy at the start) and so I said goodbye to them and took off. Luckily this part of the race was on a fire trail so it was no pressure to pass or be passed, like it would on a single track. I ended up running with a lady who was running her first 50 mile race and she was doing a great job. We ran together for several miles before she peeled off to visit the bushes and I pressed on.

Luckily, the weather was cooperating. It was about 50 degrees and it was a bit foggy, which was perfect running weather. Like all trail races, this one has a lot of ups and downs (almost 9,000 ft total), but there is also a lot of trail that is runnable. For about 10 miles it was a slight downhill or a flattish area and I was running under a 10 minute pace. Around mile 15, I hit the Skyline Gate, which is where I often end up when I run from my house. In my mind for a second I thought how easy it would be to just run down the hill to my house from here. But no, I grabbed some watermelon, used the facilities and pressed on. From here on out, there is a lot of single trail. As I started out, there were two people just keeping pace with me. One was a girl, who when I came up behind her, happily pulled over to let me pass. In my mind, even though I did not think this was going to be a great race for me, I still wanted to pass that girl.

As the race went on, the girl and I were neck and neck. We would swap places on the ups or the downs (she was faster on the ups; I was faster on the downs) and we would sometimes both roll into an aid station around the same time and one of us would get through faster, but we were right next to each other most of the time. But we did not speak; we just kept leap frogging. Then came the long downhill to the turnaround. Since I had been faster at the downs, I got a bit of a lead on her at this point. I came into the 25 mile turnaround, grabbed a grilled cheese (still my favorite ultra food) and headed back out without slowing. She came in about 45 seconds behind me.

The next 4 miles was a steady uphill climb. I was about halfway through the climb when the girl caught up to me and I jokingly said, "darn it!" to her. We continued on together after that, talking and enjoying the company, and griping over our aches and pains for the day. I was feeling better than expected, but my back was hurting me and my knee was giving me a twinge now and then. After the long climb up, there was a pretty steep road down to the aid station and then a pretty steep downhill single trail, where my knee really started acting up. I actually had to walk down the hills in some places.

Soon we were back to Skyline gate, which meant we had about 15 miles left. The girl and I ran together for some parts and did our own thing for others. However, we were pretty much within sight of each other the entire time. Then we came to the last 5 miles. She pulled ahead of me, but I could still see her there, my carrot on a stick. The final 2 miles are paved and I could still see her, and I gave it my all, ramping up to under a 9 minute pace. My feet were hurting; my quads were burning; my back and knee were telling me to hurry up and get to the finish so we can rest!

I made it to the finish just behind the girl. I went up to her and thanked her for being my carrot and she told me that I had been her carrot in the beginning and she would not have run as fast if I had not been there. She ended up getting first in our age group and I ended up with 2nd, which I was happy with because I ended up being much faster than I had anticipated!

Final time: 9:31
Age: 2nd
Gender: 8 / 60 finishers (+22 DNFs)
Overall: 36 / 185 finishers (+69 DNFs)

Overall, I would say that I was very happy with my results. In fact, I may try to change up my training plan going forward so that it is more strength and cross training (cycling mostly) and less miles, since it surprisingly seemed to work.

Have you ever done better than expected at something even though you did not prepare as well as you would have liked? What is your "carrot" when you are going for a particular goal? 


It's a Wild Ride

It's 4:49 a.m. My alarm goes off and I hop off of the couch, where I have been sitting and reading. I wash my breakfast dishes, grab my lunch and use the bathroom one last time and then I put on my helmet and grab my bike and my backpack and walk out the door.

It's about 2 miles from my house to the train station. Luckily, in the morning, it's mostly downhill. I put on my bike light, hike up one leg of my pants and start pedaling. You never know what you are going to see on the streets of Oakland at 5 a.m. There are not too many cars, which is good because that means I can buzz through most of the intersections without slowing down too much. There are sometimes people, but they are mostly like me, heading to work in the dark of the night.

Except for one corner which is near the train station. This corner is a bit different that the others. Women hang around in short skirts; men in trucks slow to a crawl as they pass. It's usually pretty quiet though; I pedal through with no problems.

I reach the train station in about 7 minutes. I constantly try to break the 7 minute time and have only done it once. It all depends on how I hit the traffic lights and how many cars there are that I have to avoid. I get there around 5:07, lock up my bike and hop on the train to work.

In the afternoon, the same journey takes about 12 minutes. From the station, I have to ride uphill and generally its around 4 or 5 pm. I have to stop at every intersection, sometimes for 2 or 3 minutes. There are cars to avoid, as well as people, broken glass, a lone shoe and a condom. It's hot and the traffic is busy and I swerve around old ladies and kids on skateboards. It's a whole different world. I can see everything.

I get home, hop off my bike and push it into my living room, where it lives. I do everything in reverse: walk in the door, backpack off, helmet off, put my lunch in the sink and use the bathroom one more time.

Note: I have been commuting by bike to the train station for a few months now and am really loving the view I am getting of the world this way. Plus a little extra exercise using different muscles never hurts!

How do you get to work? Do you ever walk or ride a bike? What interesting things have you seen while cycling? 


Looking Back: September

September! Back to school days and leaf raking days; new pencils and old friend days; putting on pants and jelly making days. Early sunset nights and late sunrise days. Soup days and boot days. Crisp air and fog days.... What does September mean to you?

Running: I clocked just over 100 miles this month, which is better than last month! However, I did not get the same amount of hiking in, so the total "time on feet" was less. Instead, I have been focusing more on my strength training, and am doing a twice a week strength training regime rather than so much running. This month's totals were 45 miles of hiking, 53 miles of biking and 9 strength training sessions.

Reading: This was a good reading month quantity-wise, but only so/so quality-wise. I ended up reading 9 books and two half books (couldn't finish/had to put down)! My favorites were these four:

Farewell to the East End: The Last Days of the East End Midwives
Station Eleven
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage

Travel: My vacation spanned two separate months, so September marked the end of my trip to Europe. The first week of the month included a relaxing soak in a thermal bath, some hiking in the Alps of Switzerland, more cheese and bread and wine, and a trip to see a very old friend of mine, who had been an exchange student in my tiny high school when I was growing up. She lives near Geneva and so I not only got to see her house and to meet her husband and children, but I also traveled with her to her parents house in the mountains, where I got to meet the whole family, hike in the snow and drink Schnapps. It was a fun time all around!

Swiss cows are friendly!

After I returned, I spent a bit of Hobbit time doing things around the house, visiting local friends, going out for drinks with the work mates, cooking, shopping and eating and generally just catching up on life. I still have a mountain of items on my To Do list, but I am checking them off little by little! Unfortunately, new ones keep popping up!

And....Beer: New category! You know how you try things, such as beer, or wine or a new recipe, and then when you go to get another or make another, you can't remember the name or the website? Well, to prevent that, I am trying to remember to log things better and to write them down. So, the new beer I tried in September that I liked was: Fieldwork's Torrential Double IPA (website here).

What do you have on your To Do List? What new beer have you tried lately? What happened in your September worth mentioning? 


Looking Back: August

From here on out, this space will be called the "looking back" space. Before I go on, I am looking forward to Fall! Okay, now I am not just all about looking back. August is always a busy month: Last year I studied for and passed a licensing exam, took a vacation and still managed to run 189 miles (phew). This year was a lot less study, but was still packed solid every weekend of the month!

Running: For the first time in a long time, in August I dropped below 100 miles. My heart (brain/legs, etc) is just is not in it. My total for the month was about 85 miles of running. However, I am still loving the outdoors! August also brought 40 miles of cycling, 109 miles of hiking, 21 miles of walking, 1 open water swim, 1 kayak trip and 1 hour of strength training. All in all, this equals about 256 miles of "activity." I will take what I can get!

Reading: I read 4 books, and none of them really knocked my socks off.... The best two were probably The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

Travel: Not a lot of running; not a lot of reading...but there was a lot of travel. There were 5 weekends in August and I spent them in 5 different places: Yosemite, Humboldt County (redwoods), Taylorsville (Dad's first half marathon), Milan and Chamonix (UTMB). Due to all of this, I have added a new category, which I will move on to now...

Family, Friends and Food: August really is "family, friends and food" month. The first weekend was a great trip to the lesser known regions of Yosemite park, aka, not the valley, where I spent some time camping and running with friends. The next weekend was another camping trip, but this time it was in the opposite direction, north along the coast, into the redwoods. It was great hanging out with the "in-laws" and my brother while swimming, playing catchphrase and drinking plenty of cold beer.

View of Half Dome from North Dome

The next weekend was ANOTHER camping trip, this time with the whole fam damily, and when I say whole, I mean three (or four?) generations of crazy, dirty, active, fun and loud family members. It was a side of the family that I don't see as often, and it was a lot of fun! My dad ran his first half marathon and kicked some major butt in the process (first in his age group and 7th overall)!!

Dad after his "Running of the Bears" win

After that, it was off to Europe for my annual vacation, where I ate baguettes and cheese, drank wine, hiked in the Alps, cheered on my friend at UTMB and in general had a lot of fun and time exploring the outdoors. I tired myself out so much, that I never even had time to read the 10 books (or even 4!) that I brought with me on my Kindle. Every night was a good night's sleep and I woke up each day ready for another adventure. Now I am busy resting from my vacation....just kidding! It's been straight back to the old grind with no easing in!

So...how was your August? What annual summer traditions do you have? Are you ready for Fall yet?