Looking Back: Books

I am not going to lie; lately I have been unmotivated to read real books. It may be that the one I am reading is not really gripping me and so I keep finding better things to do than read it. However, I am still going strong with the audiobook game, and in the first two months of the year have read some good ones! Here are a few of my favorites so far. 

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt: What can I say; this is a cute book. I did not hear all of the hype. I just picked it because it had a bright cover and came up on my list on Libby when I was searching for books. It is about the relationship between an old lady and an octopus and a younger, kind of troubled boy. I enjoyed the characters, the story was engaging but not too fluffy, and I was entertained throughout. 

Dinners With Ruth by Nina Totenberg: I do like RBG and enjoy learning more about her as well as hearing each different point of view from the different authors I have read. Nina was a reporter who became friends with Ruth despite their age difference. This book details their friendship as well as some of their accomplishments, especially geared toward equality for women. 

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama: In this novel, Obama talks about her relationships in life, but especially the ones with her mother and her kids. She has some words of wisdom like "start kind" which could be kind of corny coming from the wrong person but from her it makes sense. 

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman: Once again, the story of the Thursday Murder Club participants did not disappoint. This is Osman's third in the series and you can't help but love the octogenarian citizen detectives. They are annoying at times but they get the job done! I was also happy that Bogdan is still around, as he was one of my (surprising) favorites in the first book. I listened to it on audio and I also enjoyed the interview with the author that was at the end. 

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult: This is a controversial book about LGBTQ, murder, and the controversies surrounding both. I don't want to spoil anything, but I can say that I always enjoy how much work Picoult puts into the research around the topics that she writes about. Most of them are controversial and she really digs in and gives readers insights that we may not have known about. I always learn something by reading her books and this one was no different. 

Wrong Place, Wrong Time by Gillian McCallister: This book may not usually be my forte, as it involves time travel which is not the most realistic, but I actually enjoyed it. A woman sees her son commit a murder and then she wakes up the next day and it has not happened yet. As the book goes on she learns more and more about the situation and in the end she has to decide what she wants to do about it. I was entertained and did not really see the ending coming, which always makes it more fun. 

Have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think? If not, what has been your favorite book so far this year? 


What is a Regular Weekend Anyway?

Thank you to all who commented on my last post. I am taking all of your advice into consideration! However, I am still doing some digging, so if you have not weighed in yet, you can still go here and let me know your thoughts. 

Last weekend was a long one and it gave me the perfect opportunity to get some stuff done and still have fun too! I was thinking about what a regular weekend around here looks like and of course it depends on the weekend, but a regular weekend at home generally looks like this: prepping meals for the next week, laundry, house cleaning, working in the yard, a run (or two), reading, working on the purging project, and meeting up with friends for a hike/run/coffee. However, weekends lately have been a little different! 

Remember my post about being uncomfortable? Since I wrote that post, I have been even more uncomfortable! That ride was about 40 miles; after that was a success, on New Years weekend, I decided to ride to my brother's house in Santa Rosa, which is about 70 miles away from where I live. Before I started, since it was supposed to be a little wet, I got new tires and put them on Bertha. A quick backstory: Bertha is old, maybe even older than me, but I am not really sure, as I have been told that it is rude to ask a lady her age. She is a ten speed, of which maybe only three of the speeds work and her brakes have not been changed the whole time I have had her, which has been about ten years. So she is not really in tip top shape, but she gets the job done. 

The day that I planned on starting, Mother Nature was not having it; you may recall that this was the weekend where we were hit with the bomb cyclone? So I had to wait a day and shorten the ride, but in the end, I started off bright and early on Saturday morning from Richmond point and went across the Richmond bridge for the 2nd time in less than a month. Surprisingly the weather was good, the winds were in my favor and I got through San Rafael with no issues. 

I don't really know (but am learning!) what normal cyclists use for navigation, but I used Google maps and kept my headphone in while riding so that I could hear the directions as I went. Sometimes they are confusing, like when she says, "turn right, then left" but really she means, "stay on the same path" so I did go the wrong way a couple of times since I was not actually looking at the map, but generally it was fairly easy to follow. My route took me through San Rafael, Novato and Petaluma before putting me on Stony Point road, which was 14 miles long and actually went straight to Santa Rosa and almost right to my brother's house. 

Once I arrived there, we took a shake out walk and went for New Years Day pho before relaxing in the hot tub and then in front of a movie with ice cream. Broski and Mrs. Broski always treat me right. 

The next day, I got up early and left as it was supposed to start raining again at 11 am and I wanted none of that. I had gear and everything but one of my fears is slipping on the wet street and falling in the middle of traffic, or even just on the ground on a hard bike path or street. Not to say I will never ride in the rain but for now I would like to avoid it when I can. It was great riding back along Stony Point with the sun rising and no cars on the road. 

As I said above, my route generally followed frontage or access roads near highway 101, but often took me into the downtown areas of the towns I went through and I will not lie, although I have been to and driven through these towns before, I had never been to some of their downtowns and they are very cute. For example, Petaluma has a nice old town downtown with cute shops and everything! I will have to come back to explore more as I was trying to outrun the rain, but who knew! Petaluma also had a bathroom that was open, which I was very grateful for, as I had made a pitstop in the bushes the day before. 

I got back to Richmond only slightly damp and it actually started raining shortly after that. Score. What are my takeaways? I learned that I am not a fan of padded bike shorts. So, when I say uncomfortable, I really do mean physically this time. I nicknamed them my "diaper" and have a few TMI things to tell you about this. First of all, did you know that you are supposed to wear them without underwear? I can't tell you how glad I am to get to my destination and take off the shorts and put on underwear. It's my new favorite thing. I learned that I need new brakes, which I have since bought and not yet installed. 

One of the most useful things I have learned on this adventure but also in life, is that you don't need special or fancy equipment to start a new adventure. You just need to try it with what you have! I put a change of clothes and some tools in a dry bag, strapped it to the back of the bike with a bungee and used that as my "paniers," I clearly do not have a state of the art bike, I wear old running shoes (another use rather than gardening!) and I wear whatever is comfortable. I get passed by sleek riders, dressed in fancy matching spandex with $16,000 bikes made of air, as I huff and puff on my 57 pound bike up a hill with my lowest of three gears. But you know what, I arrive home tired and happy and proud of myself for not letting any of that stop me. Not to get on a tangent here, but the same goes for everything! Don't let the lack of gear or the lack of experience or the fear of looking silly hold you back. 

Total miles: 105 (54 + 51)
Time taken:  10 hours (5.5 + 4.5)
Bridges crossed: 1, but I crossed it twice (Richmond)
Modes of transport: 2 (car to Richmond, bike)
Map of my trip: https://caltopo.com/m/E803B 

What does your regular weekend look like? What does your out of the box/adventure weekend look like? 


Feed Me!

Hello readers; I need your help. You may have noticed that I was having trouble with my blog feed, and it was driving me nutso. I was posting posts but they were not showing up on Feedly for three days. The last one I posted (Minneapolis) actually did not show up in my feed at all, and that is when I knew that I really had a problem. I tried all kinds of things and posted a bunch of test posts (sorry if you got these) but I couldn't seem to figure it out. 

I removed all of my widgets, messed with my HTML code a lot, searched for errors and tried to fix them, removed code, added code, etc. If you know me at all you know that I do not like to leave things undone, so I spent several days patiently (??) trying to fix this issue. Then I kind of gave up, and decided to transition to WordPress. 

I spent several days staring at this

I downloaded everything in Blogger, uploaded it to WordPress and was still in the process of fiddling with the settings when my Minneapolis post showed up in my feed finally (about a week after my original post date). Clearly something I had messed with  had worked! I then posted a test, which worked, and then I scheduled the gadgets post, which worked. 

Now my conundrum is, should I stay or should I go now? From the few hours I spent working on the WP blog, it seems like there are definitely some features I like more (the commenting seems better for example) but some things that kind of confuse me (the set up of the template - I cannot seem to get my header font smaller without also decreasing my post header font and vice versa, also my side menu options seem more limited, but maybe I just need to fiddle some more). 

I need your help! 

WordPress people: What do you like/dislike about WordPress? What is the commenting like? If the person commenting is not on WP, does it make it difficult? Do you get an email if someone comments back (that is something I wish I had now. When I comment on a WP blog, I have to go back and check to see if they replied sometimes), can you comment back via email (you can do this on Blogger if the person is on Blogger too, but I can only do this with some WP people). 

Blogger people turned WordPress: Why did you convert? What things were hard during the conversion? (I noticed all of my comments came over but they are all "anonymous" now) What things do you like better or dislike more? 

Blogger people: Why do you stay with Blogger? Have you ever considered converting?

Additional questions for all: What feed reader do you use? How do WP vs Blogger posts show up on your reader? Do you have a preference for the aesthetics of one over the other? What day did you get this post? (FYI, I am posting it on February 18th) Alternatively, if you subscribe by email, when did you get this post? Also, if you have had this problem, how did you fix it? 

If you are shy, you can email me at travelspot06 at gmail rather than commenting. 

If you don't feel like answering any of the above questions, at least tell me...what are you up to this weekend? 

Thank you for your help! 


What I Love: Gadgets & More

You know how sometimes you buy something and it slowly migrates from the counter to the cupboard to a shelf in the garage? I know we all have these things. I have a huge canning pot / pressure cooker which was very cool when I was gardening more and was using it to pressure can multiple quarts of vegetables every year. Now it holds empty jars in the garage, because I am not using them as much anymore either. Or how about those wired earphones that got stuffed in a running drawer after someone gifted you wireless earbuds? Or remember when you went through that air fryer phase? 

On the flip side, sometimes I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the things I have. I just want to say that this is not a sponsored post. These are things I have paid for or was given and I have really appreciated and I feel like I have gotten my money's worth. However, if any of these companies do want to sponsor me, I am game! 

Instant Pot: I must confess, my instant pot is a Pressure Pro, but I love it just the same. I would guess that I use it on an average of at least once a week, and probably more, as some days I even use it more than once! I know it may seem like a gimmick, but it does so many things. I have always been a soup and stew lover, but also one of my favorite things to do is to get home from a run, toss a frozen pork chop and a potato in there with some salt and pepper and by the time I get out of my shower, I have lunch!! You can't beat that for efficiency! My second favorite, and this one I poopooed for a long time before finally trying it, is hard boiled eggs. They just slip right out of the shell when they are done. They have come up in price a little bit, but if you put a price alert on them, you could maybe get one for around $60.00. I also noticed that the new ones have all kind of fun things -- dehydrator, air fryer etc. It may be worth spending the $100.00 plus at some point! 

My baby

Grandma's blankets: I have quilts made by both of my grandmas and I use them every day! I love snuggling "on top" of my bed in a quilt and reading a good book. These are obviously priceless. 

Lap desk: I often will use my laptop in bed or on the couch and I bought a lap desk like this one about five years ago when I was studying approximately 20 hours a week for the CFA. I spent so much time on the computer at home that this was a life saver! However, it is also very handy now and sometimes when I am working from home I set it on the counter and use it like a standing desk. 

Ninja: It took me a LOOOOOOONG time to bite the bullet and pony up the dough for a silly blender. However, this blender is a rock star and I use it several times a week. Whether you are making smoothies or soups or salsas, this thing will get it done in no time. I bought the one with the side smoothie cup and the food processor and it was worth it. I probably use the smoothie cup the most out of all of the attachments. As a side note, I also got a Magic Bullet as a gift and I thought that one would make the other obsolete, but I actually like to blend up my coffee (or I used to do my scrambled eggs, but I have not been buying eggs lately) every day and I use the bullet for that, so I am getting a lot of use out of both gadgets. 

Kindle Paperwhite: I don't think I really need to say much about this! Actually, I would have been team paper books all the way but my brother got me a Kindle about 12 years ago for my birthday and after realizing I could put multiple library books on it quite easily, I have been a convert. My first gen died only about a year ago and I am loving the Paperwhite so far! Aside from gifts or using gift cards I have been given, I have not spent money on books for a few years now! 

Nothing better than a book and a beer...

The Red Rocket: This is my car. For a long time I did not have a car, and living in the Bay Area that was working out just fine. I took the bus to work, I can run straight from my house into the trails and I would rent a car if going away for the weekend. However, I started going away more for weekends and it was getting more expensive to rent a car, so I decided to buy a used car with good gas mileage to have in case I needed it. The rocket has served me well and during the pandemic, I would have been stuck at home (I never really went to working from home, even during the lockdown, since technically, we are "essential") without it. To learn more about the rocket and what the parking is like around here, go here

Buffs: This is kind of random, but it is an item that is very versatile and doesn't even cost much. In fact, if you run races, you may even get one for free. Some people call it a neck gaiter. Whatever you call it, it can be used as a hat, a headscarf, an ear warmer, a neck warmer, a wristband, and during the pandemic, a mask. In fact, my mom even put one around her and called it a skirt and another friend used it as a bandeau. I also use mine in a pinch as a pot holder, snot rag, pee rag and dishcloth (not the same one!) when camping. 

What item do you use the most in your household? What item have you thought you would use is now gathering dust in the garage? 


Weekend Travel: Minneapolis

You may wonder why I decided to go to Minneapolis in the dead of winter. Great question! The week before I arrived the highs were not getting over the single digits and the lows...well, we won't talk about the lows! Also that does not even count the wind chill. I went to see Lisa and her family, and thought it was funny when she told me that it was going to be warm for the weekend that I was there. By warm, she meant lows of about 2 and highs in the low 30s on one of the days! Woohoo! Break out the Bermuda shorts! 

I met Lisa via blogging about 13 (?) years ago, and when I was working in Missouri in 2011, I flew up to MSP to meet with her for a 10 mile race and our friendship was set. At the time she lived downtown and we had a great time exploring the city, and eating ice cream and Kowalski's sausages. She has always been a good host, and so I went to visit her again when she was living in Charlotte and we had a great time eating fish tacos and having a weekend away in Ashville (if you have not been here, I recommend it). 

Over the years she has come to visit me several times and we always have fun hiking and running and eating and catching up. Of course, life has progressed and now she is married with two kiddos and the visits are a little different, but it is still great to catch up and to be part of life's journey! This visit was just as fun as the others! 

I arrived on Friday to two degree weather and got picked up by Lisa and her little buddy Pablo, who was very excited to see me, even though I have not seen him since he was a baby (he is now almost five)! It was a warm (!) welcome! We caught up over pizza and I even was coerced into having a beer with her husband before heading to bed.

On Saturday, we spent a great time at the zoo. Luckily a lot of the exhibits are indoors, and the two boys sped through the maze of jungle animals before we headed to the main event: the dolphins! The zoo has borrowed dolphins from the Chicago zoo and they put on a really nice show with four of them, even going so far as to have a trainer get in the water with them and do tricks. I was impressed and the boys both sat still the whole time, which was a good sign that they liked it too! Later that day, after it warmed up a bit (~18°) we went for a run around Lake Harriet and then had a nice dinner and I spent some time reading with the boys. 

On Sunday, we did a 10k snowshoe race, which was something I've never done before. It was very fun but our snowshoes were not meant for running! Some people had really cool rubber ones that are especially made for running, but ours were a little cumbersome and both of us were sore in weird places the next day. We stopped off on the way home for some gluten free pastries and I got biscuits and gravy that were delicious! My new mission in life is to recreate this, as it's my favorite breakfast item and I've been avoiding it due to digestive issues. We had a nice dinner and did a puzzle with the Grammys in the background after watching 60 minutes and having the nightly apple with the boys. 

Monday was Lisa's birthday! I worked for a little while and then we celebrated by taking a little run and getting her a free Starbucks coffee before I left her to go for a walk so she could have some much needed alone time. After that, we went for a multicultural lunch of dosa, kimchi salad and grain bowl before she dropped me off at the airport. 

I know that one thing that the pandemic has done for me is to give me a better appreciation for time spent with friends, especially those who are farther away. It's not a given that we will see them often or at all, and as we get back to some sort of normal, I really enjoy time with people who I haven't seen in years! Next time, I'm hosting!! 

Have you ever done a non-running race and if so, what was it and how did it go? What friend or family have you finally seen lately that you maybe did not see over the last few years?