Monthly Archives: January 2012

The new must-see TV

Let’s start with a little background. You all remember your first crush, right?

Mine was Fred Savage, circa 1988. Every week, I stalked the TV listings for new episodes of The Wonder Years. I became obsessed with the movie Little Monsters and found a new appreciation for The Princess Bride. I daydreamed and schemed, concocting fantasies in which the object of my affection would move to Washington state, enroll at my school, and profess his love for me in front of my third grade locker.

A pipe dream, obviously.

Twenty-three years later, armed with a  DVR, I can relive those formative years every single night.

I’ve known for a while that one of our odd little cable stations airs vintage sitcoms, often at weird hours of the day. (They also show Family Ties, which I also enjoyed…however, Alex P. Keaton was no Kevin Arnold. And by the time Leo DiCap came on there, I was over it.)

For some reason, it only recently occurred to me to unleash the DVR on this station, a veritable goldmine of quality eighties programming. The machine went to work, stockpiling episodes in its memory bank. And now, instead of spending my Monday night with that Bachelor crap (or whatever you kids are watching these days), I get to have my own little mini-marathon of this:

Eight-year-old me is extremely jealous.

Childhood crushes aside, though, The Wonder Years was fantastic television. It’s funny how elements of the show that I never noticed or paid attention to when I was a kid – like the relationship between Kevin’s parents, Norma and Jack – are now interesting and relatable.

And Winnie Cooper? Well, I pretty much wanted to be her.

It’s humiliating to admit this, but I insisted on wearing my brown hair long and straight, with bangs, because I seriously thought that if anything happened to Danica McKellar, maybe they would call me in as an understudy.

(Uh, yeah…not quite.)

When I was little, she could do no wrong. But watching now, I’m realizing: girlfriend could be a real bitch sometimes. And she was kind of (understandably, I guess, given her family drama) messed up in the head.

I’m still working my way through the episodes on my DVR, but I already know that they don’t wind up together in the end. I remember feeling outrage at the series finale when I watched it the first time around. I’m guessing I’ll probably feel a little differently today.

Anyway. That’s how I’ve been spending my free time lately.

How about a beer?

Peak Organic’s Maple Collaboration is an American Red/Amber Ale made with locally-sourced Maine oats and Vermont maple syrup.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one. Would it be a pancake in a bottle? (And would that be a good thing?)

As it turns out, the maple flavor is understated, presenting itself briefly and pleasantly on the finish of each sip. And there’s not much bitterness here, for a red – perhaps another byproduct of the syrup. The oatmeal goes completely unnoticed. Some BA reviewers griped about noticing the alcohol, but I really didn’t. Overall, it’s an amiable beer with a little hint of something sweet. 6.7% ABV.

Bottom line: Nothing earth-shattering, but enjoyable. (Purchased at Tasty Beverage, $6.50/big bottle)

Ok, back to my DVR stash….

Mini muffin meatballs

I’m at that point in the moving process (ugh) where it’s dawned on me that my freezer contains a whole lot of food.  Food that will, if unconsumed, land with an unceremonious thunk in the bottom of a bag on moving day and be frantically ferried to the trash chute.

Of course, I don’t like wasting food. So I’m making it my mission to piece together as many meals as possible from this collection of random frozen crap.

Tonight, I took a turkey burger patty and made some teensy meatballs in my mini muffin pan. Surprisingly, they were delicious, and something I’d make again, even if I weren’t in freezer-clearing mode.

Basically, I just mashed together the thawed turkey patty, an egg, a small squirt of ketchup, a handful of shredded parm and about half a cup of panko, seasoned with garlic powder, dried oregano, dried basil, salt, and pepper. I lined a few cups of my mini muffin pan with foil and brushed them with canola oil, then baked at 375* for 18 minutes, until the tops formed a light golden crust. They were perfect.

Atop some whole wheat penne with (jarred Costco) marinara sauce, it was a satisfying meal. I was a little worried that a whole egg would be too much for just one serving of meatballs, but it gave them this extra fluffy texture that was actually very good.

Now if only I can some up with something this easy and tasty to do with the rest of the freezer. Anyone want to come over for waffles and green beans with brisket and lobster stock?

(Don’t answer that, please.)

This week’s running mileage came out right about where I hoped it would:

That “not-long” long run this morning was a little bit of a struggle. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to tackle Umstead’s Turkey Creek bridle trail on my “easy” day. Turkey Creek is chock full of hills from hell; I have never had a good run on Turkey Creek. Yet somehow, I forget and think it won’t be that bad. Wrong…it is that bad. I slowed to a near walk on a few climbs and overall felt exhausted and frustrated. Oh well.

Tomorrow’s an easy day…Tuesday, too…nothing tough on tap until speedwork on Wednesday. I hope a couple of recovery days will revive my tired legs.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

TGITrackday: 800s and 400s

When I’m marathon training, I like to take a week “off” from long runs every 3 weeks or so. That week is this week. So I “only” plan to do a 13-14 miler this weekend.

(Crazy how marathon training changes your frame of reference about these things, eh?  A two-hour run is considered time off.)

Because I have an lower-mileage weekend on tap, I wanted to get two speed sessions in this week. So on a couple of days recovery from Tuesday’s awesome tempo, I headed to the track this morning.

(And by “morning,” I mean 11:30 AM. Technically, that is morning.)

I’ll be honest: as I was warming up to the track, which is 2.5 miles from my apartment, I really was not feeling it. As I neared campus, I began to entertain a little fantasy that I’d arrive there and find the university track team working out and thus be forced to bail. But alas: aside from some buff sprinter guys doing drills in the outer lanes on the backstretch, the track was wide open. No excuses.

The workout on tap was this CPTC workout that I stole from Megan. I miss CPTC workouts something fierce. That shit will make you faster for sure.

The plan: 4 X 800 @ 5K pace, 4 X 400 @ 3K pace. Because I lack reading comprehension, I did 200M recovery throughout, but the workout as prescribed actually calls for 400M recovery between the 800s. I’m calling it even, though…I tend to stop my watch and dawdle a bit between repeats when I’m running workouts alone. (Bad habit.)

I know I often write about how much I looooove track workouts. And I do. But this workout was not easy. Not for me, not today. I thought about quitting between each and every one of those 800 repeats. Every time I punched the start button on my watch and took off, it was with a sense of dread. During the last 400, I felt like I was running through cement. This workout hurt.

You know what, though? I’m so glad I pushed through and finished and and kept the pace legit.

Workouts where you cruise along and feel great are wonderful, but for me, it’s the tough ones that build confidence. Eight times today, I thought: I can’t. But eight times today: I did.

Something to draw on next time I’m faltering through the inner miles of some race that I’m in danger of bombing, I hope.

Anyway. After the workout, I came home and cleaned my entire apartment. That sucked more than the workout, but it needed to be done.

And then I rewarded myself with a beer:

This Black Raven IPA hails from Olde Hickory Brewery, which is right here in North Carolina. I don’t think I ever blogged about it, but I tried Olde Hickory’s Death By Hops IPA a few weeks ago and thought it was kinda meh. I decided to give the Black Raven a shot after my favorite local beer store guy assured me it that was a good choice.

Equal parts roasty and hoppy, I thought this beer was a decent example of what a Black IPA should be. It’s a sipping beer for sure, with the toasty backbone of a porter and the pucker factor of a strong IPA. With all of that going on, there’s not a lot of room for other flavors in there, but I did get a little hint of dark chocolate and charred…something. Good carbonation and overall enjoyable. 7% ABV.

Bottom line: Definitely not a must-try, but a good beer if you happen to come across it. (Purchased at Bottle Revolution, $5,22/big bottle)

I’m off to spend my Friday night watching “Shark Tank.” (So glad it’s back!) Happy Friday!

Threesome

Since my husband has been off doing his new job thing and I’ve been a fake single girl, I’ve learned something about myself in the bedroom. Namely: I’m about as dominant as a tramped-down doormat.

It starts out innocently enough.

I take my side of the bed, and they take the empty one. We engage in a little foreplay: I set up my phone with Pandora and sleep timer; they turn in circles and purr and knead the comforter. After a few minutes, each of us has settled in to his or her space. We’re good to go. (To sleep.)

A couple of hours later, I awaken to find myself stuck.

They tag team me, going for a weak spot: the crook behind the knee. It’s a devious move on their part, as I’m now trapped on my side, pinned down to the mattress, and they can do whatever they please. (Which is…sleeping.)

I squirm for a few moments, trying to get up the nerve to move. But I’m under a spell…their soft furry bellies, rising and falling so gently. Their little sighs. Their twitchy paws. In the end I relent and drift back off, anchored under my furry captors.

This emboldens them, and they become more aggressive.

All of a sudden, the bed becomes unbearably warm. I’m sweating and clammy and I want it to stop. There are too many bodies in this bed. Someone has to go. I just can’t. (Sleep.)

Beaten down by the battle, I concede. When I awaken in the morning with shadows under my eyes, I just tell myself: well, that’s the price you pay for a wild night in a crowded bed.

Yeah, I know I could just boot them out and shut the door. (And sometimes I do.) But the truth is, I kind of love having my cats around as I lay down to sleep. It makes this whole temporary-long-distance thing a whole lot less lonely.

And if that means sacrificing a little sleep, so be it. I can’t help it if I’m a pushover in the bedroom.

Tempo Tuesday: chasing sub-7

So I’m a little conflicted about this one.

I headed out at lunchtime today for a tempo run. The plan was 5 miles at goal half marathon pace, which is 7:15-7:20. I figured I should start rehearsing since I’m running one in a couple of months.

(Did I mention this? I don’t think I mentioned this. I signed up – just in the nick of time, as it’s now full – for the Tobacco Road Half Marathon. It’s on Sunday, March 18. Moving day is March 19. So that should be a fun weekend.)

Anyway, the tempo. I hit the first mile in 7:04 and felt really really good…aaaaand poof! 7:20 pace went right out the window.

I don’t know where that came from, but…that is not half marathon pace. I’m not even sure it’s 10K pace. At an average per mile of 6:59, it might actually be closer to 5K pace. But today, it was OMG THIS IS FUN pace. It was hard but it felt great.

(That first mile is junk, BTW…I was too impatient to wait for the satellites to load so I just took off on my warm up and didn’t start picking up distance until a couple of minutes in.)

On one hand, I’m thrilled, because I ran pretty darn fast (on a hilly course, too) and felt fantastic. On the other hand, I totally missed the point of the workout, which was not to run balls out, but to rehearse half marathon pace.

Also, it always makes me feel a little sheepish about my race performances when I run workouts like this. Like…something is not clicking during races. Why can’t I fly along like that when I’m running a 5K? Because the last time I ran a 5K, it was a major struggle to hit 6:XX. Today, it felt natural and…well, not exactly comfortable, but manageable.

It’s a mystery, I guess. Anyway.

In honor of tonight’s SOTU, I opened this bottle of Fermentation Without Representation, which is an Imperial Pumpkin Porter.

This beer is part of the Salt Lake City-based Epic Brewing Company‘s Exponential Series, a collection of quirky, seasonal and/or limited release brews  which the brewery markets to the “accomplished consumer or the ever-curious.” Well, I’m not exactly the former, but I’m always up for trying something a little different.

Sweet and smooth, this porter goes down easy. The pumpkin flavor (which I’m not generally nuts about) actually goes pretty well with the beer’s toasty dark malt, and is more squash casserole than pumpkin pie. Of course you get some nutmeg and cinnamon, but I appreciated that they were balanced by more traditional porter flavors: coffee beans, dark chocolate, burnt caramel. 7.6% ABV.

Bottom line: It’s probably a little late in the season for this one, but grab it if you see it! Definitely worth trying. (Purchased at Bottle Revolution, $6/big bottle)

Even though presidents rarely say anything surprising or earth-shattering in their annual laundry lists, I try to tune in each year. I could say it’s because of my CIVIC DUTY or spout some bullshit about being an informed citizen, but really, I watch the SOTU for the same reason I watch the Superbowl. I’m not really rooting for either team, but on the off chance that some drama goes down, I don’t want to be the person at the water cooler the next day who has no idea what everyone else is yapping about.

And I’ll admit that by far the most entertaining part of the whole ordeal is watching the camera zoom in on the various members of congress and other public figures as they try to look appropriate in their reactions. Oh hey there, I see your barely-concealed smirk – and that lady across the aisle raises you a furrowed brow of forced consternation!

With that, I’m off to watch some more serious programming…Iron Chef America is on! Morimoto’s got my vote.

Almost perfect Pad Thai

Ask me about the best thing I’ve eaten abroad, and I’ll tell you: it’s Pad Thai from a street cart at a night market in Bangkok. And I’m not even trying to be trendy with the whole food truck thing. This was ten-plus years ago.

The noodles were fresh. The flavors were simple yet amazing: briny shrimp and tart tamarind, lightly sweetened and caramelized together to make a brown sauce so delectable you wanted to lick every last egg bit from your plate. (But you restrained, because you were eating at a table full of locals and you didn’t want to give scrubby American backpackers a bad name.) The whole thing was served piping hot, cooled down with a squeeze of lime wedge so that it wouldn’t scorch your tongue.

Good Pad Thai isn’t easy to re-create at home. It’s the fresh-noodle factor. And the heat factor. (Well, maybe your kitchen has a big-ass open-flame burner large enough to accommodate an enormous wok, but I have a crappy electric range.)

But it’s one of my favorite foods, so I try.

I’ve been tweaking this recipe, derived from a booklet I received as a souvenir for taking a tourist cooking class in Chiang Mai, on and off for a few years now, and I think I’m finally getting there.

To make good Pad Thai, you have to use a very hot pan: this prevents the noodles from getting overcooked and sticky. And when using a very hot pan, things happen quickly. When making a dish like this, I always measure and lay out each and every ingredient before I put anything in the pan. Even little things like spices and water.

More dishes, less stress.

So you get your pan piping hot and then add all of the above things in succession, while stirring constantly. My favorite part is the egg; I like to make a little cradle in the middle of the pan and scramble it there, in it’s own little space, before mixing it in with the noodles.

So, anyway. Try it and let me know how it goes for you?

Until then, I’ll keep tweaking….

Almost Perfect Pad Thai [Adapted from the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School cookbook]

Serves 4.

1/2 lb dry flat rice noodles
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp jarred crushed garlic (or 2-3 fresh cloves, minced)
1/2 block extra firm tofu, pressed and cut in to 1/2″ cubes
1 lb shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/2 C warm tap water
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3-4 scallions, sliced
1/4 C dry roasted peanuts, chopped
2 limes, cut in to wedges
1 C mung bean sprouts

Sauce:
1/4 C fish sauce
1/4 C brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp fresh lime juice (1-2 limes)

  • Soak noodles in warm water for 20-25 min, or prepare according to package directions for stir-fry.
  • Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large high-sided pan or wok.
  • Whisk together sauce ingredients and set aside.
  • When pan is just smoking hot, add tofu and garlic. Stir until fragrant, about 45 seconds.
  • Add shrimp and stir until just barely opaque, about 45 seconds.
  • Add noodles and water and cook, stirring frequently, until water has absorbed, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium.
  • Add sauce and cook until absorbed, about 1 minute.
  • Push noodles and shrimp to the edges of the pan, creating a “cradle” in the center. Add egg and scramble. When egg is nearly cooked through, add half of scallions and combine with noodles. Toss thoroughly to distribute.
  • Transfer to a serving platter and top with bean sprouts and peanuts. Garnish with lime wedges. Serve immediately.

I had some Chardonnay with dinner:

This 14 Hands 2010 Chardonnay was a nice wine. Definitely on the fruitier side, but well-balanced by a hefty dose of vanilla and a very smooth apple-pie-like flavor.

Bottom line: A good value white, in my book! (Purchased at Harris Teeter, $12)

And that brings me to last week’s running recap:

I’m reasonably satisfied with my long-slow-distance (LSD) run and pretty happy that I got a track workout in, but I wish the overall mileage number were higher. I should be in the 50s. Perhaps I could have pushed today’s post-work run a bit to get there, but it just didn’t seem like it was worth it. My legs were tired from a long day at work, and really, I need to be logging that mileage in earlier in the week, not cramming it on on Sunday night on the heels of a long run.

I know I need to start doing doubles again, a couple of times a week, if I want to get my weekly number back up in to the fifties and sixties and beyond.

Let’s call that a goal for this coming week, eh?

Wasted Saturday

I don’t mean like totally wasted, OMG let’s go streaking through the quad! (That was last weekend in Vegas. Minus the streaking.)

Nope, I mean squandered.

I had big plans, y’all. With the day off of work, I’d envisioned a lovely long run in the (not-too-early) morning, followed by an afternoon of leisurely errand-running or cookie-making or whatever sounded good. It would be the sort of day that blended productivity and relaxation in perfect proportions, causing me to sigh happily as I ate my (home-cooked) dinner and reflect on its loveliness.

So smug about this vision, I was, that I deliberately un-set my alarm as I went to bed on Friday night. Surely I would wake up naturally the next morning, fully rested and ready to go, at an appropriate time.

What actually happened was as follows.

At 7:25 AM, I awoke groggily, stirred by the sound of a kitty tongue methodically licking a plastic bag. (If you’re unfamiliar with this sound, consider yourself blessed.)

After finding the culprit and disposing of her slobbery prize, I checked my phone’s weather app.

Apparently my city was the bizarre calm spot in the center of a massive ring of rainy and stormy weather; surrounded on all sides by torrential rain.

You should go running now…like NOW, I told myself. A peek through the blinds confirmed that it was indeed dry outside. Obviously I had a window of opportunity here.

I shut the blinds and went back to sleep.

It was almost 10:30 by the time I dragged myself out of bed. Coffee brewing and bread in the toaster. The skies were still calm and gray.

I’m going to go running just as soon as I digest this toast, I vowed.

Noon came. It occurred to me that all of the people who had done their long runs in the morning were home and showered and enjoying a nice lunch right now. I poured another cup of coffee.

As the minutes ticked by, the run became the elephant in the room. Every half hour or so I glanced outside, half hoping to see a dangerous lightning-laced downpour so that I could finally just address this damn 18-mile run I’d planned and responsibly conclude that it was better to call it off.

But the sidewalks stayed dry.

The great thing about winter running is that, with nice cool weather, you can procrastinate your long run until mid-day if you want to. But the crappy thing about winter running is that at some point, you bump up against the early-setting sun.

So finally, around 2 PM, I decided I’d run out of excuses. I was quickly going to run out of daylight. I got my ass in gear. Naturally, as I was driving to the trailhead, it started raining.

I had the American Tobacco Trail all to myself…which isn’t surprising given the conditions, I suppose. Who the hell wants to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon running?

I’d planned to do 18 miles with a few miles at goal marathon pace, but I wasn’t feeling it today, so I just cruised easy. The gravel trail was waterlogged, making it very soft and soggy, which wouldn’t have made for a good pace workout anyway. And it would have been challenging to get going fast in these clodhoppers:

I got this pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTX last fall as a work freebie, but had never run in them until today. It’s basically the regular Adrenaline but with a Gore-Tex upper and a slightly burlier tread.

Overall, it’s not a bad shoe, but it’s definitely heavier and stiffer than what I’m used to. (The women’s Gore-Tex Adrenaline weighs in at 10.7 ounces, versus 9.4 for the regular version – and I usually run in the 9-ounce Ravenna or 7.5-ounce PureFlow.)

I will say that my toes stayed nice and dry, though! If I lived somewhere where I needed to slog though cold slush and snow on a regular basis, it would be a great shoe. (Brooks also makes a Gore-Tex version of the neutral Ghost.)

Anyway. 18 miles got done, and even though I bagged the tempo portion, my overall pace was right where I wanted it to be. I’m (optimistically) calling goal marathon pace 7:45 this time around, so 8:45 (60 seconds per mile slower) is just about perfect for a long run.

By the time I was pulling out of the park gates, the afternoon had ceded to a drizzly dusk. By the time I got home and showered, it was almost time for Jeopardy. This run pretty much dominated my day.

And that home-cooked dinner? It took the form of Ling-Lings’s Chicken & Vegetable Potstickers, fresh out of the freezer.

A Saturday wasted? Yep, pretty much.

At least the rain has stopped. If anyone wants to go streaking….

NAQ: bedtimes and schedules

Yesterday, I mentioned that, at 11 PM, I was still a couple of hours away from my normal bedtime and a few people actually asked about that.  Well, folks, I can take an idea and run with it. Sounds like it’s time for a NAQ* post!

[Please note that I’m posting this because my schedule is a slightly unusual and because I realize it’s a little strange for a grown-ass woman to stay up so late and be such a lazy slob in the morning. But it works for me. I am not posting this to show you how busy I am and complain about how hard my life is. I’m not that busy and my life isn’t particularly hard right now.]

Q: What time do you go to bed?

A: Usually between midnight and 2 AM. And I generally wake up between 7 and 9 AM.

Q: Why do you stay up so late? What’s wrong with you?

A: I prefer nights to mornings, and my current job rarely requires anything of me before 10 AM. Sometimes, I don’t have to be at work until 2 or 3 PM. It’s pretty awesome.

Q: What the hell kind of job is that?

A: I work at a running store.  I do the actual shoe fitting/selling thing and also do our store’s website and marketing, as well as helping out with events and training programs. Since we don’t open until 10 AM, I don’t need to wake up terribly early, even when I have to open. (But I do work a lot of evenings and most weekends.)

I love my job and am sad to be leaving it in a couple of months when we move to Atlanta.

Q: When do you run?

A: On days that I work the “morning” shift, I typically run in the afternoon/evening. On days that I work the “afternoon” shift, I usually run in the late morning, after a nice cup of coffee and breakfast, or at lunchtime. On days off, I run whenever, just as most people do on a lazy Saturday or Sunday.

I rarely run first thing in the morning unless I’m doing a long run or a morning “shakeout” run on a double day.

Of course, in the summer when it’s hot as balls, I have to shift my bedtime so I can wake up and run early in the morning. I hate the summer.

Q: WTF do you do when you’re burning the midnight oil?

A: It’s not that much extra time, really. I usually eat dinner around 9 PM, sometimes later.  If I’m working in the evening, I get home around 8:30. And at my husband’s old job, he worked long hours and was rarely home before 9 or 10 PM, so I’ve been in the habit of eating on the later side for a while.

By the time I finish dinner, clean up, and random chores, it’s usually 10 or 11. I watch TV, blog, and/or work on other writing projects for a couple of hours, then mosey to bed and read or dink around on my phone for a little while, until my eyelids get heavy and I shut the light off.

See? Not that much different than someone who eats dinner at 7 and goes to bed at 10:30.

Q: Is your husband on the same schedule?

A: He was, before his new job. He went to work at a normal time in the morning, but since his commute was a 5-minute walk, he didn’t have to wake up terribly early. We’ll see what happens once we get settled together in the same city. I have a feeling he’ll be on a more traditional schedule, and I still don’t know what my schedule will be, because I haven’t figured out what I’m going to be doing yet. (I should probably get on that.)

If I need to adjust to 6 AM wake-ups, I can do that. But it’s not my preference. I’m more relaxed, alert, creative and happy in the evening. I’m grouchy and unproductive in the morning.

Q: Just wait until you have kids.

A: I know. It’s one of the many reasons I fear I’d be an unfit parent. You should see how surly I get with my cats when they stomp around on the bed in the morning. And I can just kick them out of the room and go back to sleep.

Q: Are we done talking about this yet? I can’t believe I just wasted four minutes reading about your daily schedule.

A: All done. And this post was so quick to write – it’s only 11! I’ve got a whole evening in front of me…

*Never Asked Questions. Credit to: Marie, AR, and Sarah-who-doesn’t-have-a-blog-anymore. <3

Back to the track: 8X800

The idea of a track workout in January is still a little weird to me. Shouldn’t the track be covered in ice? I guess I’m still not entirely used to living in the south.

But, hey – it was nearly 50 degrees today, I’ll take it. I pulled on my tights (I err on the side of caution when doing speed work in colder weather) and headed to the track for my first real speed workout since CIM.

Since I am marathon training yet again, I decided to ease in to things with a longish set of intervals – 8X800 – most of which were at a relatively mellow speed. In addition to waking up my legs and lungs, I hoped the set would be a good lesson in pacing.

Nailed ’em. The biggest challenge of this workout was simply getting over the mental hurdle of running 4+ miles, on the track, by myself. Those last couple of 5K-paced repeats were a little tough, but other than that, I felt strong the whole time. And I logged a little over ten miles when it was all said and done.

Post-workout beer:

This one was…interesting. Dogfish Head Burton Baton is a blended beer: separately-brewed Imperial IPA and American Double IPA come together to age briefly in oak tanks before bottling, hence the “oak-flavored” designation. As someone who is generally a fan of oaky things (see: Chardonnay), I had high hopes.

Drinking this beer felt a little like drinking a sauna: it was dry, and very woody. I am also a fan of saunas so this wasn’t necessarily an issue for me, it was just different. No, what held me back from entirely enjoying this beer was the alcohol. At 10% ABV, it packs a punch, and I noticed it wafting off of my tongue with each sip and scorching my throat with every swallow. I don’t mind noticing the booze in a high-ABV beer, but this one was a little too hot for me.

It’s possible that I simply picked the wrong beer for the circumstances: I was tired and thirsty and probably should have reached for something a little less ambitious. Oh well.

Bottom line: It’s an interesting beer worth trying, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. (Purchased at Bottle Revolution, I think it was around $3.)

One thing that I’ve missed about track workouts is that they make me absolutely exhausted when bedtime rolls around.  It’s not even 11 PM – two hours before my normal bedtime – and I can barely keep my eyes open! I haven’t been sleeping very well lately, but I have a feeling I’ll be out like a rock as soon as my head hits the pillow. Which will be in about four minutes.

10 miles of running + 10% ABV = the beer runner’s Ambien.

An update on Parker

It’s a rainy Tuesday night and I don’t have much else to talk about, so how about the latest dish on my cat’s urinary tract?

Try, please, to contain your excitement.

You can read about the whole ordeal with Parker and his bedazzled bladder here and here. Or allow me to summarize his issues for you, in order of gravity:

*His bladder makes more crystals than a Swarovski factory. The crystals the drift downward and eventually block his urethra. Bad shit, this is. Worst case it leads to death; best case, expensive vet bills.

*He is dehydrated. Seriously, I have never seen this cat drink water. We’ve tried every type of conceivable water-delivery device and he just has no interest. This almost certainly exacerbates the above.

*He is a fat ass. In the grand scheme of things this is a minor concern, but obesity doesn’t do anything beneficial to a cat’s projected lifespan, and given that a dietary overhaul was inevitably going to be part of the solution to the first two problems, it’s something I’ve been mindful of.

So we’ve been working to find a new diet/hydration regimen that keeps Parker crystal free, while being manageable for our other cat, Emmy, as well.

(She’s got some junk in her trunk, but she does rock some fierce supermodel cheekbones.)

According to our vet, we needed to feed Parker a food that would:

*Lower the pH level of his urine, creating an inhospitable environment for those pesky crystals;

*Encourage him to drink more; and

*Contain minimal amounts of certain things that can tend to promote crystal formation in some cats, including seafood/fish, magnesium, and ash.

Our vet’s proposed solution was to feed him a prescription cat food from Hills or Science Diet. Which I did for a while. But because I am one of Those Annoying Hypocritical Pet Owners who shops at the fancy pet store and frets about by-products in their animal’s food while happily chomping on a Quarter Pounder, I wasn’t thrilled about it.

In addition to being ridiculously expensive, it peeved me that this food was full of low-quality ingredients and (TMI kitty warning) made trips to the litter box room-clearing events.

So, on the suggestion of several people (including commenter Crystal – thanks!), I decided to switch him to a more “natural” food that contained a minimal number of ingredients and use a supplement to deal with the pH issue.

This is what we’ve been doing for the last two months, and it seems to be working. The supplement is from Wysong and is designed to promote acidic urine (the same thing the prescription food does). The food is from Weruva; it’s grain-free and fish-free and looks just like canned chicken:

(And I have now posted a picture of cat food on my blog. The show has reached a new low, people.)

Neither the food or the supplement is exactly dirt cheap, but even combined it’s less expensive than the prescription food. I mix in the supplement (which looks and smells like a crumbled chicken boullion cube) and then add a whole bunch of water to the bowl. It’s soup for dinner! And breakfast too!

He is forced to drink the liquid to get to the food.  The smart-ass has figured out how to flick the water out of the bowl with his tongue to get rid of it more quickly, but he has to consume at least some of it.  (Emmy gets the same thing but without the supplement mixed in.)

Knock on wood: it’s worked well so far. We’ve been having his urine tested every few weeks and he’s come back clean every time. (And bonus – he’s down almost a pound! To nineteen!) If the crystals come back, of course, I’ll get over my first world problems and just feed him the prescription food, even though it contains rotten pork toenails or whatever.

I hope this post doesn’t come across as holier-than-thou; that’s really not my intention. I just don’t like paying an arm and a leg for cat food that contains crappy ingredients. And I really don’t like dealing with stinky poop. Searching on the web and asking around over the last few months, I was surprised at how many people had been in the same situation – having a cat with urinary issues requiring a special diet yet wanting to feed a high-quality food – so I thought I’d share our experience (so far).

In any case, it’s an evolving process. For example, Emmy is a kibble nibbler and getting her to eat on a schedule and eat wet food exclusively has been a long and failed process, so I’m looking for ways that we can re-introduce a limited amount of dry food into their collective diet and keep everyone happy.

Anyway, that is my Parker update.

Today was a long day at work and I am patting myself on the back for making a real dinner (sort of) instead of copping out and eating snacky stuff:

Baked panko-crusted chicken tenders and frozen sweet potato fries. And I tried to be responsible and eat a salad…

…but then I ate an irresponsible amount of goat cheese. Oh well, I tried.

Off to bed, as I’ve got a kitties to snuggle and a track workout planned for tomorrow morning. Night!