Thursday, December 30, 2010

Indulge Me

Don’t mind me; I’m just going to interrupt our normal fitness-and-outdoor fun to share my outfit with you today.  I make no secret of the fact that I have fallen so hard for fashion blogs in the last five months or so, but I also know I could not possibly write my own style blog for more than a week or two.  I like that I wear clothes I owned in high school and college (the latter of which ended seven years ago for me!).  I’m frugal and tend not to wear trendy clothes, preferring my own quirky sense of style and my old, comfortable clothes.

So what’s the deal with me and fashion/style blogs?  One thing that really appeals to me is the creative remixing of the same articles of clothing to build outfits that look fresh and fun.  I love the idea of 30-for-30 and have enjoyed following along with the fall remixing of the last two months.  I’m even toying with the idea of doing my own little 30-for-30, minus all the photography and blogging.  New year, new outfits, same closet?  We shall see.

The other thing I like about style blogs is simply aesthetic: they’re pretty.  And they’re something other than food blogs, which, even though I continue to write mine, I think I’ve spent too much time reading.  These days I am drawn more to blogs that share pieces of everyday life and that tell stories.  I find that style blogs are always telling stories: what was the weather, what was on the schedule for that day, what was the mood.  I love seeing how other people live their everyday lives, and I think style tells those stories as much as food does.

If you don’t mind, I’m going to indulge myself here with a little fashion post.  Because I got new clothes for Christmas and I want to wear them.  Because it was sunny outside today, and I felt like taking my own picture.  Because I remain convinced that if I can prove to all my Michigan people that Texas is awesome, they will move down here and we can be neighbors (sun + warmth + December = awesome).

Posing with Help from the Wind

Faux Fashion Blogger

Fantastic Belt

Materials and Methods*

Top (green sweater with attached tank and black snap belt): iz Byer California, gift from awesome friend Heather

Jeans: Gap, hemmed by wonderful lady on Main Street in Evanston, IL

Black belt with silver buckle: Target, ancient

Black socks: Gift from sister Theresa

Black flats: Payless, I think

Red hair: Gift from red-headed mother

*a touch of nerd, a la What Would a Nerd Wear.  But I’m a scientist, so my nerd-style is more PLoS and less PMLA.

I wore two belts today!  I am ridiculous.  One belt I wore for fashion, and the other I wore to keep my pants up.  I adore this top that my friend Heather bought me, complete with gratuitous snap belt, the details of which you can see in the photo above.  The green color and fabric of the sweater is really lush.  I think I’ll be wearing this top over and over again.  The only bummer is that it’s a hand wash-only piece.

For the curious, when I went outside this afternoon in my short sleeves, I was totally comfortable.  The temperature must have been in the 60s because it felt warm and lovely, like a fantastic spring day.  Yes, it’s insane to have days like this in December (almost January!), but it’s hard to say no when the sun feels so good.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Under a Crazy Tree


Tuesday and Wednesday Bike Commutes (12/28-12/29/10)

May I be honest for a moment?  Yes?  Thanks!  I’m having a hard time with re-entry this week.  I went back to work yesterday for a few hours—I gave myself a short day, on account of my epic travel day on Monday—and today I did the same thing, but I worked a few more hours today.  Work is slow right now because I had to wrap things up in order to go on vacation.  Re-entry means I have to start turning the crank again to get things moving, and I am feeling tired, slow, and uninspired.  I find myself thinking about a certain four-year-old with fluffy blonde curls, and I wish I were still in Michigan to read stories to her, to cut cheese into cubes or sticks (depending on her instructions, of course), to snuggle with her while we watch her tv shows and rub the sleep from our eyes.

I miss my Lydia.  And it hurts.  

It’s no surprise, then, that work is hard this week.  I have to get my head back in the game.  I have to remember the experiments that I wanted to do, the experiments I was looking forward to doing once I returned from Christmas break.  This is hard, when all I want to do is make plans to move next door to that four-year-old so that we can play together every day.

It rained this morning, sometimes in fat drippy drops and other times in great buckets that soaked my jeans and made my heart feel heavy.  I had been looking forward Texas sunshine.  The sun, I knew, would cheer me up!  But there was no sun this morning.  Later, as I was riding home, feeling kinda mopey, the sun began peaking through the heavy grey skies and the sky itself began to lighten to these gorgeous shades of blue.  It was quite lovely, and almost immediately I felt better, lighter and happier.  And it helped that the rain had stopped!

The other thing that helped lift my spirits today was a photo session underneath one of my favorite trees on campus.  This wacky tree has long, low-hanging branches that stretch over a sidewalk, creating a woody canopy.  Every time I see this tree, it makes me smile with its strange, fairy tale-like beauty.  I can imagine a gnome living under this tree, or a group of toddlers having a picnic here.  For today, it was the perfect background for my purple bike, with or without me.


Monday, December 27, 2010

A Snowy Rest

Looking Through the Cattails

Christmas Break in Michigan (12/19-12/27/10)

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I said I was going to try to run while on vacation in Michigan.  Huh?  There was no running this week, unless you count running after a four-year-old niece who likes to be chased.  Oh, and there were the speed intervals I did up and down the street, using the same four-year-old in a stroller for additional strength training.  I did those intervals more for her pleasure than for my fitness, though the work-out was a nice holiday bonus for me!

This week was more about family and food than it was about fitness and feet.  It was a lazy, indulgent week of holiday treats and downtime.  I slept late, watched cartoons, drank coffee, and occasionally took some pictures.  I did get outside for a few wintry walks with various people I love, and it was good to move the legs and feel the cold air move in and out of my lungs.  One night we had an especially memorable walk.  My two older brothers and I took my niece Lydia on a sled ride up and down her street.  It was dusk when we left, the sky a cold slate grey.  The last of the daylight faded, and as night descended, Christmas lights lit up the neighborhood with their cheery gold and jewel tones.  Lydia loved the lights, and as I pulled her sled, I tried to stop in front of every house so she could get a good look at them.

Today I’m in transit, on my way back to Texas.  It’s a bittersweet feeling to leave such a big part of my life in Michigan to go back to my quiet, often solitary life in College Station.  But I have to admit this: I’ve been here at the Little Rock National Airport for the last two hours, playing on my computer, and the peacefulness of being alone here has been pretty delightful.  I think getting back to my routines will feel the same way, despite the ache of knowing I’ve left something very important in Michigan: my family.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Am Unstoppable


More Stretching

No More Stretching

Friday’s Long Run (12/17/10)

Triumph!  I finished my two 60-minute runs this month, and I am feeling so accomplished.  What is not feeling good is my tailbone, which feels a little bruised after Friday’s run.  The tailbone issue is familiar to me; when I’m running a lot, I find that it hurts if I put pressure directly on it.  However, I can’t recall it ever hurting like this after a run, which worries me.

My December vacation starts today.  I’m on my way to Michigan to spend a week with my family, especially my pint-sized niece and her new sidekick, my baby nephew.  While I’m in the Mitten, I’d like to go for 2-3 runs.  I’m thinking perhaps a ladder: running for 20 minutes one day, then 30 a day or two later, and finishing with a 40-minute run.  I’ve done really well lately with my long runs, and I’d hate to lose my momentum while I’m on vacation.  I’ll be happy if I run at least twice and take some long walks on the other days.

I probably won’t be posting again until I return to Texas, so until then, happy winter, dear reader!  Bundle up and get outside—winter is gorgeous, and if you go play outside, you can warm up with some hot chocolate when you come back inside.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Unexpectedly Nice

Twisty Bendy

Thursday’s Walk (12/16/10)

On Thursday evening, I walked home from campus.  It wasn’t planned.  The bus was way off its schedule, and I got tired of waiting.  Instead, I slung my bag over my shoulder, and I began my walk through campus to the other side of town, where I live.  And I swear, it was one of the most relaxing things I’ve done this week.  I hardly ever walk through campus; usually I’m riding my bike, speeding to and from work.  It’s a shame, because a walk through campus is lovely.  On this particular evening, the light was pale and golden, the air was cool but mild.  It had been a busy week, and I found myself feeling incredibly happy for this solitude, this time to think without trying to solve some pressing problem.  It was nice.  I’ll have to do this more often.  But next time, maybe I’ll wear my sneakers!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Good News

Branches and Sunshine

Bike Leg

Tuesday’s Bike Ride + Wednesday’s Run (12/14-12/15/10)

It’s been an incredibly busy week around the Feels Like Flying headquarters.  Unfortunately, writing blog posts has fallen to the side of the road while I bake and then exercise in an attempt to avoid any resemblance to a snowman this season.

I apologize for my silence!  The good news is that I haven’t fallen too far off track with my training plans.  Tuesday was a blessedly normal day during which I rode my bike to and from work (and baked thumbprints at night!  I love these cookies.).  On Wednesday, I was determined to do a short run, so after a quick walk to the store for some baking supplies (flour! milk!), I ran for 20 minutes in the darkness, sticking with busier roads for safety.  But at 20 minutes, my body was just getting warmed up for a longer run!  I could have run for 40 minutes that night, easily, but I had a cake to bake, so 20 minutes would have to suffice.  I’m hoping to do a long run tonight, as I’d like to get my two 60-minute long runs done before leaving town.  I think the next long run will feel great—just me, my sneakers, and the starry Texas sky above us.  Then I can eat some cake!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Elf on Wheels

Christmas Elf's Ride

Shadow Elf and Her Bike


Sunday’s Bike Ride (12/12/10)

Holy moly, was this a hard day to ride a bike!  It was ridiculously windy on Sunday, and my legs were feeling the burn.  The ride was so hard that I almost started crying from the effort to move the bike forward.  Finally, I hopped off and walked it to the end of the block, where I could cross the intersection and ride east instead of north and straight into the wind.

But biking ordeals aside, I had a great Sunday.  I rode to the lab, took care of my fly chores (I work with fruit flies), and then I rode over to Target.  I’m in full-on Christmas elf mode these days, checking off my gift list and putting the final touches on my presents.  Well, sort of.  Because I’m headed to Michigan a full six days before Christmas, I’ll do most of my elf work in the Mitten.  While I’m in Texas, I’m busy buying presents on Amazon and picking up a few things here to take home with me.  At Target, I picked up a new roll of gift wrap, which I realize is not Christmas-themed at all, but stripes are fun and more versatile for the rest of the year.  Also from Target: a great array of birthday cards to keep on hand (I absolutely love birthdays), a new toothbrush made from recycled yogurt containers(!), contact lens solution, and grey sweater tights.  I am obsessed with sweater tights right now, ever since I bought my first pair from the Gap.  I was really excited about this grey pair, but they are way too long!  They bunch at the knees and ankles and look generally awful on me, so I shall be returning this pair.  Sadness.  I’m hoping I can get more sweater tights from the Gap when my sister and I go shopping later this month.  Gap sweater tights rock my world.  See Figure 1 below:

Friday in Skirt and Tights

Monday, December 13, 2010

Saturday: On a Bike, on a Mat

Bike with Flowers


Yoga Time

Saturday’s Bike Ride Commute and Yoga (12/11/10)

My Saturday was fairly typical and much better than the last one.  I rode my bike to the lab to take care of some experimental business, then I rode over to Brazos Natural Foods to pick up the normal grub and ingredients for a birthday cake!  I’m baking a vanilla-lemon cake for my friend Amutha’s birthday, and I’ll be covering it with cream cheese frosting, which is one of my favorite flavors.  I don’t make frosted cakes too often, so I’m pretty excited for the chance.

It was a gorgeous, chilly day on Saturday, so I was bundled up against the wind and cold.  There was lots of sunshine, though—we almost always have sun in Texas, which is one of the things that I love about living down here.  I actually struggle with it sometimes because on days like Saturday, I feel like I should be outside, soaking up all that light.  But sometimes I just want to read blogs and play on my computer, so I feel guilty.  I had a pretty long week, including a day in which I spent five hours in meetings and seminars, so I should feel free to be lazy when Saturday rolls around.  But the nice weather makes me feel guilty…until I realize that this is Texas, and we have nice weather more often than not.

My legs were feeling pretty tight from all the running and biking I’ve been doing.  What I have not been doing very much is yoga, so I took the opportunity to fire up Gentle Hatha Yoga #2 on Saturday night.  Oh yes—this party girl was downward-dogging and breathing deeply while the rest of my town was out boozing it up in between taking final exams.  I make no excuses for the fact that most evenings, I’d rather be at home than out and about.  Home is comfort and good food and yoga sessions.  Home is sleeping for nine hours after some nice yoga, then waking up and eating my usual bowl of oatmeal and mug of tea.  My out-and-about is riding my bike around town during the day; my festive evening is homemade Indian food and Grey’s Anatomy.  Saturday was a good day.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Longest Yet

Leaves at Sunset


The Watch Tells All

Thursday’s Long Run (12/09/10)

Apparently, when I said that running 40 minutes felt intimidating, I totally forgot about all the long runs that must follow 40 minutes during half-marathon training: 50, 60, 70…The truth is, they are all intimidating because you must convince your body that it can do this thing that, at best (at least for me), it has not done in a long time.  If you’re training for your first half, you might have to convince your body that yes, it can run six or seven miles in one work-out.  When you are staring into the face of your longest run yet, whether in the season or ever in your life, it’s hard not to want to hide under a table until this insanity called “I want to run a half-marathon” clears your system.

Not surprisingly, I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of running 60 minutes in the dark on Thursday night.  I cut myself a little slack after I came home from work—a little computer time, a blog post written, a snack with peanut butter (for energy, of course).  But at some point, one must lace up her sneakers and go.  At some point, the prospect of doing a long run turns into a question of now or never.  I chose now.

I started out slowly on my 60-minute run, running at a very easy pace, which is another way in which I ease myself into the long run.  Once I got going, though, I think my pace resumed its “natural” speed—that is, the speed at which I tend to run unless I’m deliberately running faster or slower.  It was a good run, and not nearly as hard as it could have been.  My legs held up well until about 40-45 minutes into the run, when I started to feel fatigued.  I took a tiny walk break at the 43-minute mark, which gave me a little second wind, and I finished my 60 minutes feeling pretty strong.  Most importantly, I finished feeling happy that I had completed that which I set out to do.  That feeling, that sense of triumph—that is why I run half-marathons.  That is why I run, period.

PS  Congratulations to my blog friend Kate O., who finished her first marathon this weekend!  Congratulations, Kate!  26.2 hurrays!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

On Trend with Winter (or not…)

Wintry_I Suppose

Best Rack on Campus

The Sun Sticks Around

Wednesday’s Bike Ride Commute (12/08/10)

Here in Texas, we don’t want to be seen as untrendy by the rest of the states, so when it comes to winter, we do our best to fake it.  We bring out our cozy mittens and hats, we decorate our malls with images of attractive people playing in snow, and we put snowflake decals on the library windows so that maybe, for just a split second, someone will think that it is actually snowing outside.  But so far, all we really have that could be construed as vaguely wintry is cold.  It’s not even consistent cold; we got 70-something degree F warmth last Saturday, and who knows what today will bring?  At 9:30 in the morning, it’s already 65 degrees F (18 degrees C for my nerdy friends who, like me, think more in Celsius and metric than American units).

All of this is to say that riding a bike around town in December is very pleasant on most days.  It did feel chillier on Wednesday, but I would feel like a total wimp complaining about the cold here after spending my whole life in the Midwest, where we are winter trendsetters.  I’m excited to spend a week in Michigan for the holidays this month, but I am even more excited to spend another winter in Texas.  It turns out that when it comes to cold, snow, and ice, I really am a wimp. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

At Least the Lights Come Out at Night

Season of Lights

Monday’s Bike Ride Commute (12/06/10)

With a December vacation practically breathing down my neck, I’m trying to squeeze in as many experiments as I can before I leave town.  I do this every year: freak out a bit about being gone from the lab for a week to spend Christmas with my family, and things always work out.  Still, there’s a frenzy of activity before I leave, and I can’t say I regret it.

That’s why I scheduled an experiment for Monday that started at about 10 AM and didn’t finish until 9 PM that night.  I wanted to get it done, so this week I did it.  It didn’t turn out the way I had hoped—science, you break my heart again!—but at least I got it done.  I didn’t want to be left in the clutches of the bus schedule, so I rode my bike to and from work that day.  To keep my energy up, I took a dinner break at The Pita Pit, one of my favorite fast food places near campus.  On my way over to dinner, I admired the light tree you see above.  I’m mighty pleased that my camera was able to capture a good picture of the tree!  And I love that you can see the church in the background.

On the subject of dinner, I tried something new at Pita Pit, the Morning Glory pita, which is packed with good things of the morning type: scrambled eggs, hash brown potatoes, cheese, and some vegetables.  I got mine with a squirt of mustard (yum!) and some pepper jack cheese, and it was wonderful—almost good enough to take the exhausted edge off of an 11-hour day on campus.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Double Up

Sunshine and Branches

Leaves and Shadows

Caught in Motion

Saturday’s Bumming Around + Sunday’s Bike Ride Commute and Run (12/04-12/05/10)

It was a strange weekend here.  I’m afraid it wasn’t the best Saturday I’ve ever had, despite the deliciously warm temperatures and sunshine.  My Saturday night stew was a disaster, and I forgot to buy the veggie sausage the first time I went to Albertson’s for groceries, so I had to go back.  I felt spacey and out of it all day, and I had a weird headache that persisted until I finally gave up and went to bed.

All was not lost, however, despite my lousy Saturday.  I did get the grocery shopping done, a load of laundry washed, and much to my pleasure, I finally got around to re-doing my artsy bulletin board in my writing studio.  I covered it with new wrapping paper, hung up my little inspirational index cards, and tacked the announcement from my thesis seminar up there.  The wrapping paper is gorgeous, brown with these big flowers in blue, white, and green.  Every time I see my bulletin board, I feel all inspired and accomplished, which is exactly how one should feel when she enters her writing studio, I think.

Sunday was a much, much better day.  I rode my bike to the lab in the morning to work on a few experiments, then I rode back home after lunch.  I made granola bars, which were dangerously delicious, and ate one with a big mug of tea in my Santa mug.  Feeling fully loaded with sugar and carbs, I headed outside for a brief, brisk 20-minute run.  Saturday’s heat gave way to chilly temps on Sunday, so it was no faux-summer, running-in-shorts day.  I bundled up, because I hate being cold, and ran a shortened version of my favorite loop.  My legs felt a big heavy that day, like they were dragging some fatigue around with them.  It wasn’t a bad run; I just didn’t feel very light on my feet.  I’ll take it as a sign that my muscles are getting stronger.

(I could go for another one of those granola bars right now, especially looking at this picture, which is reminding me that those bars are only one room away from me…)

A Weekend Highlight

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Strangest Thing

College Station at Night

After the Run

Thursday’s Walk + Friday’s Run (12/02-12/03/10)

I’m not necessarily inclined to say that running errands, like I did on Thursday, is a “work-out.”  It’s more like active rest between harder work-outs, like bike rides or runs.  Thursday’s walk was an attempt to get some fresh air while buying new coffee (Winter Blend!) and groceries, which I needed, especially the coffee.  I took the long way around the block, enjoying the warm evening.  On Friday, I was surprised to find that my calves were sore!  I could feel them all day, which was just the strangest thing because normally walking does not have that effect on my calves.  Sometimes I’ll feel the after-effects of a walk on my hips or my back but almost never in my lower legs.  I’m stumped

Sore calves or no, I needed to do a longer run on Friday.  I played this one by ear a bit; I promised myself I’d run for at least 30 minutes and then see how things felt.  At the 18-minute mark, I decided that things were going well and I would go for 40 minutes.  It worked out well; I felt pretty strong for the duration of the run.  40 minutes is still a long ways from 60 minutes, which is what I need to hit this month, but I’m planning to do my first 60-minute run of the season next week.

For those of you who may be wondering, yes, I wore shorts during my outside run on Friday!  But that’s a Texas winter for you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What December First Looks Like…in Texas

On Campus_PosingThe Sun Prepares to Set

Cat and Bike

Wednesday’s Bike Ride Commute (and fun mobile photo session!) (12/01/10)

December in Texas is a funny month.  One morning it’s literally freezing and I’m digging out my scarf and gloves; the next day it’s balmy and I take an afternoon walk without my coat.  It’s disconcerting and lovely and totally bizarre.  I adore this place.

On Wednesday, I rode the bike to and from work, and on the way home, I had time to stop at Brazos Natural Foods to pick up sweet potatoes and crisp celery, just in time to make this recipe, my adaptation of which was totally delicious.  It’s been a slow week for me at work, so I was able to leave early enough to catch the last of the day’s sunshine with my camera.  I also encountered a very friendly cat who proceeded to make whiskery love to my bike, circling round and round and rubbing its cheek on all the surfaces it could reach.  Luckily, I find this sort of thing quite charming, so I allowed it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Forgotten, Then Remembered!


Footware in Pink

Terrible but Warm Combination

Monday’s Quick Strength Work-out and Tuesday’s Run (11/29-11/30/10)

I tend to go through phases with different types of exercise.  One example of this is circuit training.  I like circuit work-outs a lot, mostly because I have a short attention span and circuit training prevents me from getting bored.  As soon as I’m bored, it’s time to move to the next exercise!  It’s perfect.  Except that I can grow tired of the doing the circuit work-outs, in which case it’s time to move on to another exercise obsession, like Pilates.

On Monday night, I was in the mood for a quick work-out before bed, and I was inspired to dust off an old Self magazine work-out that describes an at-home circuit work-out.  It had been so long since I had done this work-out that I had forgotten how much I enjoy it (and how hard it is!), but I remembered it on Monday.  The gist of it is that you alternate cardio (I walk or jog in place) with different strength exercises, such as push-ups or crunches.  For example: walk for 1 minute, do push-ups for one minute.  Walk for one minute, do crunches for one minute.  This work-out feels like a really effective way to do a quick, fun strength work-out while keeping your energy and motivation high.  I put on a bouncy techno CD and did my thing for 13 minutes, and that was that.

By Tuesday, the temperature had plunged and I had to dig out all my cold-weather gear to go for an evening run.  S. just did a great post on winter running, and I’m so glad she did because I felt motivated to embrace the chilly temps and enjoy my run.  We have no snow here (yet), but we do have some cold days and nights, so my collection of running tights and long-sleeved shirts will get used this winter.  As far as work-outs go, I still feel a little like I’m recovering from my illness last week, so I’ve been taking it easy.  Tuesday night was an easy, 20-minute jaunt around the block a few times.  It totally hit the spot—I came home with that wonderful glowy post-run feeling, which is really the very best part of running.  That, and an excuse to wear running tights.