Looking Back: March

A coworker said to me the other day, "You know March; It goes in like a lamb and out like a lion." I asked him if it wasn't the other way around though and he was adamant that it came in mild and went out wild. So I let it be. In Oakland, March started very rainy and has ended full of sunshine and wildflowers, so however the saying goes, I am loving it.

Running: In March, I ran just shy of 200 miles (298) and climbed about 33,000 feet. My favorite run was a second go at the Rim to Rim to Rim, where I ran with friends from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the North Rim and back to the South Rim. It is hard to do it in one day am I was plumb tuckered out, but it was worth it!

You can see us in the middle -- we are tiny!

Heading toward the north rim.

Reading: In March, I read the following 7 books, including three from my own collection (bolded) and one borrowed one (italic)! I still have not paid for a book since 2014 when I started my "no book buying" challenge. It has been a lot easier than I thought it would. Thank goodness for the library! My favorite book was The Paris Architect, which is about a WWII architect who builds hiding places for Jewish people while also designing armament factories for the Germans. As always, it's interesting to learn more about that what went on during the war while also being entertained at the same time.

In the Belly of the Beast: Letters from Prison (***)
Carry on Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed (***)
The Wonder (***)
The Namesake (***)
On Beauty (***)
Heart and Soul (***)
The Paris Architect (****)

Travel: Vegas, baby! For our Grand Canyon trip, we flew into Vegas, but it's not as exciting as it sounds. After a late arrival, we went to our room in Henderson, NV (apparently the retirement area of Vegas, who knew) and stayed out until past 11 pm in a smoky bar. It made me love California and our smoke free bars, that's for sure. The next day we made the drive to the South Rim where we scoped out the canyon from the rim. The next day we did R2R2R and then on Monday we drove back to Vegas and caught our flight, with a stop at the Hoover Dam of course!

I also met up with my Mom for a weekend in Auburn, where we ate and hiked and caught up on everyone's doings. She had a rough month in February, when there was a lot of rain and she was out of power and phones for quite some time and I had a broken water tank so had been taking showers at the gym or improvising. So it was nice to get a hotel room and relax a bit, even if it was just for one night! Plus we found two new breakfast places that we loved! (See 1 here + 2 here)

Have you ever been to Vegas, baby!? What is your favorite book that you have read so far this year? Where should I go for my vacation this year (I am open to any and all suggestions)?


Currently: March

I have not done one of these in a long time! However, I am "currently" procrastinating doing a few other things, so why not?

Reading:  The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Loving: The weather, working in the yard, running friends and cottage cheese and fruit.

Thinking: About getting my planter boxes finished and putting in some veggies soon! I just need to decide what!

Frustrated: About plumbing. I would rather be an electrician or a carpenter. Just don't make me work in cramped spaces with pipes or poop!

Feeling:  A little hungry still, even though I just ate a couple of hours ago!

Anticipating:  Next weekend's trip to the Grand Canyon where I will be doing a R2R2R with friends. We have heard reports of ice though, so we may not be able to complete the entire thing right now. However, there will not be very many crowds so we will be able to appreciate the beauty even more than normal!

Watching: Twin Peaks. A running friend could not believe I had not seen it so I decided to give it a go. If you aren't familiar, it's a murder mystery show from the early 90s. It's set in Washington, where my friend is from and he said that watching it is an absolute must. It's a bit quirky, but is fun so far.

Working: A lot lately. We have been extra busy, plus we are interviewing people, plus we have been short a man from time to time (and will be again this week) so it's been very go, go, go lately. However, it's still a fun challenge, not a frustrating one!

Grateful: For family. I had a fun weekend with my mom last week and a great lunch with my brother this weekend and in both cases, we had a good time catching up and chatting. There is something to be said about people who know all parts of you, especially the bad ones, and who you can be yourself around, no matter what.

Listening: To a few new podcasts in addition to the regular standbys, namely Reveal and Criminal.

Wishing: There was more time in a day. I would love an extra hour or two if possible! There are just too many fun things to do (after getting all the responsible ones done, of course).

What are you listening to? What are you anticipating? 


Looking Back: February

For a short month, February was chock full of stuff! Even during the short week after Presidents' Day weekend, it seemed like we crammed seven days worth of work into four days! In addition, I spent much weekend time working in the yard/backyard and around the house, so a lot got done on all counts!

Running: I logged 183 miles in February, and climbed about 35,000 feet. My favorite run was a 42k run with a friend on his 42nd birthday. In addition, I went home to visit my parents and got to log some snowy miles in one of my favorite places!

42nd B-day 42k

Reading: In February, I read 8 books. Actually, I never finished two of them, so you may call it 6 and two halves. My favorite was When Breath Becomes Air, a story of a neurosurgical resident who gets lung cancer. It is well written and moving. I read it in one sitting. I also enjoyed, but was quite disturbed by All The Ugly and Wonderful Things, about a 20-something biker who takes an 8 year old girl with drug addict parents under his wing. It's both sweet and cringe-worthy at the same time.  Lastly, Adnan's Story, a more complete explanation of the story behind the podcast Serial, was very interesting. Books I own are in bold.

Family Reunion (* couldn't finish)
Adnan's Story (****)
Suite Francaise (***)
In the Country We Love: My Family Divided (***)
When Breath Becomes Air (*****)
Lean In (***)
The Big Green Tent (** couldn't finish)
All The Ugly and Wonderful Things (****) 

Travel: I did not travel that much in February. Aside from a trip north to see my parents, I spent a lot of time in my own backyard. Literally. I will post more photos later, but essentially I have been spending a lot of time moving rocks from one place to another! It's been great cross training!  I would say all in all I probably worked in the yard for about 4 hours a day, at least 6 days in February. Check out these guns!

Views on my Rock Creek run

What was your favorite workout, book or destination in February?


Looking Back: January

The word of the month for January on our side of the country is "wet." It has seemingly been raining for the last month straight (or longer?) in the Bay Area, in what feels like a non-stop manner. In addition, the Sierras are getting snow (finally), so we will have plenty of runoff this Spring as well. You would think this signals the end of the water shortage in California, but from what I have heard, it's only a drop in the barrel (hehe). However, it is wreaking havoc on places like the area where my parents live, where the rain and runoff causes fast moving water which takes out roads and railways and leaves people without power and phones for days (5 and 14 respectively).

Running: Even with all the rain (and sometimes hail and snow), I ended up running 203 miles. I have to admit, although I know that I have definitely been getting back into it after a bit of a hiatus, I was surprised to see that I topped the 200 mark. No wonder my legs felt like jelly last week. Don't worry Mom, I took a rest week last week! In addition, I climbed about 30,000 feet. Due to the rain, I did not bike commute at all.

Reading: Because of the rain, and a bit of traveling, I read 9 books in January. Well, actually it was 8.5, since there was one that I lost interest in and ended up not finishing. I have to say, none of them were really great. I only gave two of the nine four stars (and none 5 stars) and they were:

Lily and the Octopus
The Marriage of Opposites

Travel: I went to Portland. One day before my trip, they had a snowpocolypse. When I got there, the world was white and my plans to run in Forrest Park were a bit overzealous. However, I still had a great time eating and wandering around a town nearly carless and sometimes nearly devoid of people. A couple of highlights were Ox, Upright Brewery, Powell's (duh!) and Forrest Park (see photo below). Other than that, I actually had quite a few weekends where I stayed local.

Home: I started my photo project; I started my backyard project. I am considering a rain barrel garden watering project. I did a mini yearly purge. Photos to follow!

How was your January? Have you started on any of your yearly or monthly goals? What is your favorite thing to do when it's raining/snowing outside?


Looking Forward: Goals 2017

Last year I did a pretty shoddy job with my goals. However, I had a great year and part of the greatness was in the act of attempting to achieve those goals, even if I did not complete them. I believe that there is a goal "sweet spot." I would like to set goals that are a bit of a stretch, but are not so far away that I end up with a list of failed goals at the end of the year. I am not sure I have found that sweet spot yet, but I am going to keep trying!

I think that this year I need to revisit my intentions and focus more on fewer more important things rather than several smaller less important things. This being said, there are a few repeats from last year!

1. Run a 100 mile race --This is one that has eluded me, but this year, I am going to try, try again! I know I can do it, but have unfortunately run into a few issues the last couple of times. However, I am going to learn from my mistakes (no moving furniture a week before a race!) and get back out there again.

2. Run 2,400 miles / Climb 450,000 feet -- Last year I ran over 2,200 miles and climbed over 400,000 feet. I would like to increase both by about 10%.

3. Conquer the hills -- There are a set of hills I regularly climb and this year I want to either (a) run all the way up it if I have not before, or (b) run faster up it if I have run the entire thing already. Here they are: (1) Marincello: 1.4 miles / 9% average grade / 682 ft climb / best time 15:41 total or 10:53/mi (03/16) (2) Bobcat: 2 miles / 6% average grade / 696 ft climb / best time 21:33 total or 10:39/mi (03/16). In addition, there is a loop that I do which I would like to get under a 9:00/mi pace on. (3) Regular 12: 11.6 miles / 2,200 ft climb / best time 1:45:00 total or 9:03/mi (03/16)

4. Read 52 books (with at least 4  of them off my home shelf) --  I have consistently beat this goal each year (last year I read 72 books), however, I do not want to get into that rut of finishing something that is no longer fun just to say that I did it. So, as much as I love to read and will likely read more than one book a week, I do not want to force myself to do it. In addition, once again, I will try to cull my home shelves a bit by reading one book a quarter from them and probably giving them away afterward.

5. Bike or Run Commute once a week to work -- Right now it's raining, and so it may be a little while before this happens, but I want to either bike or run to/from BART at least once per week.

6. Try 12 new things -- this can be a new place, a new food, a new activity, or...whatever! This is actually quite a fun goal and one I like setting and accomplishing!

7. Spend less money than last year -- I know where I need to cut back (transportation is a big one), so this is totally possible, as long as I watch my spending. I plan to do this by continuing my quarterly spending check, as I have for the last couple of years.

8. Complete my yard project -- this has been on the radar for a while, but I have not really been in any hurry. The plan is to get rid of the lawn and put in rocks/shrubs. I have already begun by planting a few things, but the main part, the groundwork, has been put off.. I just need to order (or forage) the supplies and get to work!

9. Complete my wall art / photo project -- since I have moved in (almost two years ago!) I have been meaning to put some photos on the walls. I have even gone as far as painting some frames and ordering other ones. However, I need to pick and print out the photos, but I am dragging my feet on this. I have too many photos to choose from! I would like to get this done by the end of the year.

This is it! I have a couple of other small ones, like my yearly purge, but these are the main goals for the year. I think this year's goals are all doable, as long as I get my plan together. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!

What goals do you have planned for this year? Are there any goals that you duplicate year after year?


Looking Back: 2016 Money Pie

Happy New Year!! It's that time of year again...money pie time!! As you know, each year I recap my spending throughout the year as a percentage. I think this is a great way to see where the money is all going so that I can make smarter decisions with my money in the future years. You can find previous year's posts here: 2014, 2015.

As always, I did not include any savings in this chart. This is not technically "spending" although I do track it and it is part of my yearly financial plan.  
Home: This category includes mortgage, utilities, taxes and insurance, as well as other misc items, such as appliances and other crap that comes with owing a home. However, the bulk (about 86%) of it is mortgage, taxes and insurance, with the others trailing way behind. Also, anything I buy on Amazon, I categorize as "home" as I am too lazy to figure out what it was I actually bought. It is probably a mix between shopping, home and entertainment in actuality.   
Transportation: This year I bought a car. As you can see from the pie, it affected the transportation category greatly! In addition, I still spent money commuting (BART) and definitely drove more, as a friend and I started a weekly run meet up after work and I took advantage of nice summer days to get the heck out of dodge as much as possible, including a road trip to Oregon and Kings Canyon.
Travel: Speaking of Oregon and Kings Canyon, once again, my indulgent category was travel. Funny enough though, I actually spent less this year than last, or my calculation methods could be inconsistent. Either way, I had a great time traveling abroad as well as to several U.S. destinations and many local weekend trips.

Groceries/Dining Out: Once again, these are almost the same! This year some friends and I went out to a nice meal once a month and we took turns paying. This equates to about once every four months me spending way too much on dinner. However, it is a lot of fun, but it's not helping my "dining out" budget.

Misc: This includes personal care, toiletries, gifts and donations, credit card fees and things like that. The bulk of it is gifts. The other things are minor.

Health: This includes pre-tax deductions and any copay or charge for contact lenses etc.

Entertainment: This includes movies, baseball games, and running related (or other hobbies) expenses. This year, most of it went to race fees. I probably should shift some of my "travel" over to this category, but once again, I am too lazy to really sort it out that thoroughly.

Shopping:  This category included clothing, toiletries and items from Target that were not home or running related. This year I bought a couple of pairs of work shoes and some things from REI which could be in the entertainment category...and that is pretty much it.

So, what did I learn from this? This year I definitely spent more that last year, although a lot of that extra cost was due to my purchase of a car. However, excluding the transportation category, the biggest increases over last year belonged to the Entertainment (53%), Health (33%) and Home (26%) categories. This makes sense, as I signed up for more big ticket races, my insurance premium went up, and I was in my house for a whole year vs. 7 months last year. On the flip side, I also saved more this year, so I am pretty happy with that, as my goal from the beginning of this year was to save more if I could.

What do I want to accomplish this year? This year I hope to do a bit of deeper analysis and develop a plan regarding getting the best bang for my buck. For example, does it make more financial sense to put my money into savings or use it to pay off my mortgage quicker. I have most of the information I need; now it is time to execute! In addition, once again I would like to save more this year than I saved last year. I would like to say I could minimize the Home category, but in reality, there is always a backyard project or a broken pipe or a random thing that goes bump in the night. So, that's it!

Do you keep track of your spending habits? What is the biggest piece of your money pie? What are your financial goals this year?


Look Back: Goals 2016

At the beginning of this year, I set a few goals for myself. Unfortunately, I did not do a very good job of sticking to them this time! Last year, out of about 10, I completed or partially completed 8 of them. This year, well...you shall see! I found that this year I focused more on a few specific things in my life and a lot of the other little things went by the wayside. 

1. Run a 100 mile race. As much as I hate to say this yet again, this was one goal that I Did Not Complete. I signed up for the Silverheels 100 mile race in Colorado, where the course was from 10,000 feet to 12,500 feet. I got about 60 miles into it before I finally threw in the towel. This was after a lot of nausea and a very difficult time keeping food down, hence very little energy overall. However, I learned from my time in Colorado, and I am ready to try this goal again!! 

2. Run 2,000 miles / climb 250,000 ft elevation: Completed. Last year I ran about 1,800 miles and climbed about 250,000 feet, but my goal was to train smarter than last year, because last year I got injured, which put a damper on my running. Happily, I ran approximately 2,230 miles this year and according to Strava, I climbed 413,000 feet. I will take this with a grain of salt, as my weekly running partner did about 300,000 feet. However, I probably got about 100,000 feet more than him just by hiking in the Alps. So I will call it something between 300,000 - 400,000 feet. Total win.
3. Read 52 books. Completed. This year I read 72 books. I also did the Book Riot Read Harder challenge, which I will probably not do again next year. I found it fun to try new things but felt pressure to complete the categories and guilt if I read something that did not "count toward something". See this post for my favorites of 2016! 
4. Read 12 books from my own shelves. Did Not Complete. I ended up reading 3 books from my own shelves and throwing all three away. It's not great, but if I was a baseball player, I would have a better batting average than most pitchers. 
5. Ride my bike to work 2 times per week: Did Not Complete. According to Strava, I biked 134 miles for a total of 57 rides or 2.35 miles per ride. Before you say that it's not so bad because that's still over 1x per week, let me remind you that a "ride" to me is to AND from the BART station, which would be about 4 miles each day. So I probably rode to work 28 times, which is an average of about once every two weeks.
6. Practice my Spanish: Did Not Complete. My goal was to talk to a friend for at least 5 minutes once a week,  and to study and learn at least 100 new words per week. This is a goal that I didn't really even try to make happen. My running husband is from Mexico and he would happily talk to me in Spanish, but I didn't even try. Total fail.

7. Try new things: Partially Complete. (1) Visit 12 places that I have never been before. DONE (2) Learn one new recipe a week. Did Not Do. (3) Try 6 new things.  DONE (ate Polish food, went cycling in New York city, walked over a huge frozen lake, went to a jug band party, carried chairs down the streets of Brooklyn, ate at a three Michelin star restaurant [and many more!]).
 8. Spend less than I spent last year: Did Not Complete. This year, although I did not buy a house, I did buy a car and so my transportation category is way inflated over last year. In addition, paying all the household bills myself rather than splitting them like I did for part of the year last year probably increased the "bill" portion of my "home" category by at least twice as much. I will be posting my annual 2016 money pie very soon and will give a breakdown of how much each category increased/decreased from last year. 

As you can see, out of the eight goals I posted, I only completed two and partially completed one. Next year I will have to think about where I could improve upon achieving my goals. I think my biggest downfall this year is lack of planning, which is not normal for me! But, in the words of good old Benny F., "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." So true. First goal of 2017: be more structured in my planning! (Side note: If you haven't listened to this episode of Freakonomics about productivity, you should do it now!)

In case you think that I am a totally negative Nellie, fear not! I have a lot of things that I am proud of from this year! I installed a ceiling fan in my room, I did a ton of work in the backyard, I did a huge purge and Goodwill run (and got rid of a ton of books etc. in the process), I had a new 100k PR and beat my old 50 mile time for one difficult race (in the snow no less), I spent a lot of good times with my friends and family and I traveled to some fabulous places! However, those items are not as easy to quantify, but all in all, I would say it was a successful year.
Did you make goals in 2016? Which ones were difficult for you to obtain? Do you fail to plan or are you good at seeing things through? Did you have a successful year?