Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tri Two

I mentioned in my welcome-back post in July that during my six month break from blogging Justin and I competed in our first triathlon.

We weren't the fastest on the road but we weren't the slowest either. The distances were a little longer than a traditional sprint tri, with a .5 mile swim, 15.5 mile bike, and 4 mile run, yet we still finished with decent first-race times; Justin in 1:58:54 and me in 2:07:47.

We were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed it so when we heard that the neighboring town was holding their inaugural triathlon just down the road from us, we sent in our registrations and got back on the training wagon. (We even convinced Justin's younger brother, Jason, to race this time.)

We only had two weeks notice before the race but luckily the distances were a tad shorter (.5 mile swim, 12.8 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) and being August, the temperature was much warmer. In addition to this being our second race, we splurged and bought a pair of racing bikes. As a result, the combination of these variables played to our favor. Justin finished the race in 1:35:51 and I was on his heels at 1:37:42.

First wave preparing for start (including Justin and Jason).

Third wave hightailing it in the water (including me).

The run up the beach after the first leg. (I'm in the grey tank and black shorts.)

The transition area.

Jason on his bike, finishing the second leg. Notice the absent helmet—tsk tsk.

Justin finishing the bike portion.

Me just starting the bike portion—had to get my pink on!

Jason finishing strong.

Justin starting his run.

Me finishing with a smile.

Our race-day tats. Left leg: age / wave. Right leg: I for individual.

Our bib biceps after the race.

Finish line!

The highlight of the morning was when I found out I placed second in my age group—woop woop!

Accepting my second place medal! (Watch out sweetie, I'm gonna beat you next time!)

Looking ahead, Justin and I plan to continue competing but since it seems the season for triathlons is over, we are going to have to wait until next year. In the meantime, we are participating in a 50-mile bike ride this Sunday (yes you read that correctly, FIFTY miles) and a few 5Ks throughout the fall and winter. Stay tuned as I try to rack up even more medals (my summer count was three!).

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Color of Remembrance

Ten years ago today, I sat in class stunned, terrified, and heartbroken as I learned of the horrendous events that occurred and were still occurring in New York City and the Pentagon. Today, as our country unites in remembrance of those who had fallen, I want to create my own entry.

Last week I came across a cool site called The Color Of. The site offers a "system created to find out the colour of anything, by querying and aggregating image data from Flickr...It is an attempt at answering a potentially complex and abstract question in an objective manner, by using simple algorithms on data originating from subjective human perceptions." I always find data-driven art fascinating and today I will remember 9/11 with the following color interpretations created by The Color Of.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Garden 2011

This summer, just as the past two, I planted a garden. I made sure to wait until the nightly frosts had passed before putting the plants in the ground and for several weeks now we have been enjoying the fruits of my labor.

I have been pretty consistent in my plot arrangement, which I shared last year, and this year I didn't change much again. Some newbies that joined the ranks are cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and soybeans. Sadly, the grape tomatoes have been underwhelming and to make matters worse, the soybeans didn't even sprout. (I think a few Peter Cottontails nibbled-up the seeds before they even had a chance—poor little guys.)

On the flip side everything else is flourishing including the green beans (I bought the right kind this year!)

jalapenos (by the dozen)

basil (finally learned how to keep it alive!)

aforementioned cherry tomatoes (what can I make with these?)

as well as, roma tomatoes and green and red bell peppers.

On another positive note, our Japanese beetle invasion has nearly left the building. I noticed that the only minor damage they have caused has been to the weeds—haha!

But back to a more pressing point, what can I make with those cherry tomatoes? When I planted them I thought I would be one of these people who, as she leisurely strolls around her yard, grabs a few and eats them right off the vine. Well, that's definitely not the case and these things grow in clusters so when I pick my garden I always come in with dozens more. We have so many that we have been giving them to our cats to roll around as toys (well not really but you get the point). Please, this girl's desperate, if you've got a recipe that calls for cherry tomatoes, send it my way!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

London Part 3

Welcome to the much belated third installation of stories, photos, and recollections from the London trip I went on with my best friend Dawn. Get caught up by reading part 1 here and part 2 here.

Once Dawn and I fueled up with lunch on our first day, we walked the short distance to Tower Bridge, commonly mistaken for London Bridge. At this time it was about 2:45 pm and the attendant advised us to wait until 3 to enter because we could see the bridge rise and lower and then go in. So, being the tourists that we are, we waited, watched the bridge split (not very exciting, nor a good photo opportunity on the bridge) and then went into the exhibition. This attraction did not have a guided tour but rather posted signs and short videos throughout explaining the history and construction of the bridge. We weren't in the mood to make an effort and zipped through the exhibit without learning much. The best part about this stop was that we got to go up to the cross bridge at the top that had excellent-but-limited views of the River Thames and surrounding area.

After the Tower Bridge exhibit, we meandered down the river walkway, west-southwest towards our next destination, the London Bridge Experience. This is when you can call me crazy because this was not your typical tourist attraction. The London Bridge Experience is basically a haunted house in the London Bridge, which by the way did have several disastrous fires and led to its ruin multiple times. We chose to visit it because it was one of the attractions fully covered by our London Pass (a discount card for tourist activities). If we had done this without the pass it would have been something like 21 pounds per person. And, it wasn't that bad. It was scary but they had a really nice 30-minute intro skit that set you up for the rest of the house. We also were instructed to follow the person ahead of you by keeping your hands on their shoulders the entire time, which made it much easier for me to close my eyes and continue walking through the place—ha!

After the London Bridge Experience, we didn't have any other plans, so we walked a bit more to Millennium Bridge (also known as the weebly-wobbly bridge), which crossed the River Thames and delivered you right in front of St. Paul's Cathedral. From there we hopped on the tube and rode it to the London Eye to see if we had enough time to squeeze in one more tourist thing before heading to dinner. Unfortunately, the line was horrendous and we both were hungry so we continued our walk along the Thames further west spying a magnificent view of Big Ben and Parliament.

Prior to going on our trip, we both had been told that the Indian food is phenomenal in London (go figure!). Therefore, when we saw that our London Pass also included some restaurant discounts, we found an Indian place called Mela that not only had good reviews but was a close tube ride to our hotel. I wanted to have Panang Curry, because that is what Justin normally gets and the only brush with Indian food I've ever had, but everything was written in Indian and after hearing this was our first Indian food experience, our waiter said "don't worry, I'll send you some stuff and if you don't like it, you don't pay." This made us extremely nervous because the dinners started at 12 pounds per entre plus extra for rice and bread. Fortunately we used our 20% London Pass discount totaling the bill at 40 pounds. It was still more than we wanted to spend but the food was delicious and a great first Indian food experience to end a great first full-day in London.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tillandsia Terrarium

Tillandsia have been sprouting up everywhere: in magazines, websites, and now stores! I've been secretly harboring a need-to-buy-crush since I first spied them way back when, so when Justin and I were out enjoying a beautifully-weathered evening a few fortnights ago (I'm reading Jane Eyre right now so pardon the ye olde English) and came across an abundance of them at The Mossy Twig, I had to snag some surprisingly affordable sprouts (six for $30!). Fortunately, for more than just us, this venture coincided with the recent engagement of our friends so I nabbed an extra to use in a quick'n'easy engagement present.

Tillandsia, better known as air plants, is "a genus of around 540 species in the Bromeliad family (Bromeliaceae), found in the forests, mountains, and deserts, of Central and South America, and Mexico and the southern United States in North America. The thinner-leafed varieties grow in rainy areas and the thick-leafed varieties in areas more subject to drought. Moisture and nutrients are gathered from the air (dust, decaying leaves and insect matter) through structures on the leaves called trichomes. Tillandsia species are epiphytes (also called aerophytes or air plants)—they normally grow without soil while attached to other plants. Epiphytes are not parasitic, depending on the host only for support." (Thank you Wikipedia.)

According to the associate at The Mossy Twig and proven over the past few weeks, to care for my air plants all I have to do is soak them in water once a week for about 10 minutes. Then before putting them back in their soil-less and water-less containers, shake them free of excess water. They do not do well with direct light but enjoy filtered light. If the ends begin to dry out, they aren't receiving enough water and if they appear soggy, they are getting too much water. Pretty simple, no?

Upon returning home from our weeknight out, I learned that not only was I drawn to these unique plants, our cats and their crunch-desiring appetites are too. Through a quick google search I found that "Tillandsias are NOT toxic to animals—although this does not mean your pet won't eat them, but they will survive the experience, your plant might not." Therefore I knew I was going to have to find containers that would completely enclose each plant, which wasn't a bad thing since my plan was to create little terrariums with them anyways.

I wasn't sure how many containers I would need but I did want them to be clear glass and clean-lined shapes so the next day's lunch hour was devoted to perusing my favorite closest thrift store where I found several containers that would do but only three that I left with—all for a whopping $6. After work I sidled up to our kitchen table with nothing more than the air plants, freshly washed glass containers, and some river rock that I have on hand for filling flower vases when needed.

(Look at Harley trying to sneak up and attack.)

In just a few minutes, I had arranged several terrariums. I even had to dig in my decor cabinet to pull out two more vases because when I was shopping for containers my memory underestimated the size of the plants and I clearly needed more.

First I laid down a layer of river rock, then I placed the air plant inside and called it a day! Nothing could have been easier and look at how simply beautiful they are.

To add another layer of texture, I tossed in some twigs I picked up outside my office. I think they especially work well with this leggy number.

So for a grand total of $36, I created five tillandsia terrariums, making each arrangement $6. This definitely is a winning project.
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