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So I started a Twitter hashtag to keep track of the interesting, beautiful and just plain weird things I see while running. A few other Twitter users (like Jose) followed suit, and the "#seenonmyrun" posts have slowly begun to spread -- even the Sac Bee wrote about the hashtag, which was pretty darn cool.

There was much to see on this morning's run. I met Laura in Carneros to practice the 10K route for the Carneros Vineyard Run, which we're both doing in March.

The hills were killer, but the landscape was amazing -- green pastures, yellow mustard blossoms and plenty of fluffy sheep.

it's a döne(r) deal

It's official: We're moving!

But not to Portland or San Francisco, as you may have thought.

We're just moving across town to a nicer neighborhood within walking distance of downtown Chickenland. The house is a little three-bedroom bungalow that was originally built in 1903. It has blue walls, space for a garden and a walk-in closet. When we went to see it for the first time, there was a 15-year-old orange cat named Tommy yawning in the living room. (Really, few things are better omens than strategically placed orange cats.)

But the best part: The house is right next to the high school track. Speed workouts, here I come.

We signed the paperwork tonight. And then to celebrate, we went for a bite at Real Döner, Chickenland's newish Turkish kebab place -- a perfect way to end the day.

what to do on a rest day?

Watch running movies.

Last night we saw Without Limits, one of the biopics about Steve Prefontaine.

Yes, folks, there are actually two Prefontaine movies. The one that lit up our screen starred Billy Crudup as Pre. The other one has Jared Leto (whom I will always think of as Jordan Catalano, no matter what).

Todd's suggestion: Why not hold a Billy vs. Jared Prefontaine face-off, in which the two actors don their Pre garb and race each other for three miles to see who most closely resembles the true Pre?

While that would be funny, perhaps even more hilarious is the thought of Tom Cruise as Prefontaine. Cruise produced "Without Limits" and supposedly considered playing Pre.

Just imagine: Teeny-tiny Tom Cruise with that mustache, pounding down a track in little shorts.

Could've been scarier than the couch incident.

powered by cebiche

While everyone else was indoors watching football this afternoon, I was outside powering through a 12-mile run.

And it felt damn good -- probably one of the most relaxing long runs I've had in awhile.

Clearly this is entirely because I finally made it to La Mar. (Although it was a close call -- Jenn ended up going to Tahoe at the last minute, and I almost cancelled the reservation, but then Todd quite literally stepped up to the plate.)

Had a late lunch there yesterday, and it was fantastic -- easy-going atmosphere, killer food and great service. And instead of bread, they bring you a basket of fried potato chips, plantain chips and yam chips with three dipping sauces. Chips are one of my most favorite foods (perhaps second only to French fries), so this pretty much sealed the deal for me.

We split the cebiche tasting, which included four cebiches: Mixto (Mahi Mahi, calamari and octopus in ají amarillo leche de tigre sauce with cilantro, red onion, habanero, Peruvian corn and yam), Chifa (Mahi Mahi with peanuts, scallions, ginger, pickled carrots and daikon, mango, habanero, wonton strips and cilantro in a pineapple leche de tigre), Nikei (Ahi Tuna, red onion, Japanese cucumber and avocado in tamarind leche de tigre) and Clásico (California Halibut in a classic leche de tigre, red onions, habanero, Peruvian corn and yam). Every single cebiche was delicious and completely unique. I was, however, quite partial to the Mixto. Octopus -- yum. (By the way, in case you are wondering, leche de tigre does not have anything to do with sports nutrition bars. Rather, it's the name for the marinade used to make the cebiche.)

Then we had anticuchos de corazón -- grilled beef heart skewers. I'd never had beef heart before and wasn't sure what to expect. These were delicious -- nice lean meat (which makes sense considering the heart is a muscle), nothing strange about the texture. We also had empanadas de choclo, which I absolutely loved -- the corn filling had a slight sweetness to it, and the dough was just so crisp and flaky. I think I could easily eat a million of these.

And of course, we had to have Peruvian drinks to go with the Peruvian food -- first, Pisco sours and then Peruvian beer, which brought back memories for me. I hadn't had a Cristal since college!

healthy appetite

As I sit here chewing freshly-microwaved leftover brown rice and Polish sausage because there is nothing else in the house to eat and I don't want to order delivery, it becomes very easy to compose my list of 10 restaurants I'd like to visit this year. In fact, at this very moment, pretty much anything sounds better than what I am eating right now.

But since I have to narrow the list to just 10, here goes:
  1. I still have not made it to Quince. There really is no excuse for this. Hell, we even have a $50 gift certificate. And I just found this awesome San Francisco hotel deal, so really, Todd and I should go to Quince, eat a bunch of food, drink a bunch of wine and then spend the night in the city ...
  2. ... and wake up the next morning and go to Dynamo Donuts for breakfast, where we would be forced to choose between the bacon doughnut, banana de leche or lemon thyme. If only all decisions could be so wonderful!
  3. Seriously, though, folks, most of the places on my list are in San Francisco. I think I'm having major city withdrawal. I feel like I'm out of the loop, like all those city kids with their skinny jeans, tattoos and ironic hairstyles are engaged in delectable gluttony without me. Take Flour + Water, for instance. This cozy Italian spot opened last year in the Mission and quickly made a bunch of "top eats" lists. I had never even heard about it until two months ago, when Ulysses asked me if I had been there. My reply: "Uh, no. Uh, can you send me the link?"
  4. Humphry Slocombe is another one. Hello? Why did I not know there was an ice cream place that makes truffle ice cream? (Also on their menu and said to be fab: Secret Breakfast ice cream, a.k.a. bourbon and cornflakes.) I must live under a rock. (Or just over a bridge and through a tunnel.)
  5. Then there's Brenda's French Soul Food -- right smack in the Tenderloin -- which is supposed to have the Best Grits Ever, according to quite a few food bloggers I've talked to. Tables are hard to get on the weekends, but the brunch is apparently well worth the wait.
  6. Finally, to round off my I-miss-SF rant: Let's talk about La Mar, acclaimed South American chef Gaston Acurio's cebicheria. The funny thing about La Mar is that Jenn and I have tried to go a million times, but something always came up, and we've had to cancel our reservations at the last minute. We even tried to go last weekend! We're making the attempt again on Saturday. Keep your fingers crossed that we actually succeed this time.
  7. And now a little love for the North Bay. Humble Pie is my favorite local brunch spot, hands down. I'd like to try their dinner menu as well. I've heard it's hearty, comforting and pretty much killer.
  8. Out in the teeny-tiny West County town of Freestone is the Wild Flour Bakery, which is legendary. I've told so many people about this place -- it was even on our "places to visit" list for our wedding guests -- but I've never actually been myself. I know, right? Totally embarrassing. So I'd like to go there with some Brebiou cheese and eat a warm baguette. And then go to Osmosis afterward for a massage.
  9. Then there is Scopa, a pint-sized Italian place in Healdsburg that has all of six tables. (And I'm only exaggerating a little bit.) I attempted to carb up there before my last half marathon, but was sadly turned away because I didn't have a reservation. Damn you: I vow I will return. And this time, I will be seated.
  10. And to bring this list to a close: How about some Indian food in Napa? That's right. Napa finally has Indian food. Neela's opened recently, and it's supposed to be good. Obviously, this food won't pair with your typical big Napa Cab, so the wine list is not what you'd typically find in the Valley -- lots of imports. Spicy food + obscure wine varieties? I'm in.
And there you have it: Ten reasons why I have to run like a crazy woman because otherwise I would be very, very fat.

rain or shine

Wondering if a PR is even possible at the upcoming Kaiser Half. Training started off as planned, but then my left knee began to hurt for no apparent reason, so I took a few days off to rest it. Then I went to L.A. and only got one run in while there (and it was much hotter than I'm used to and I wimped out and cut the run short). And then I got sick.

And now, rain. And a whole lot of it. (As you can see, it's slowly turning our parking lot at work into a lake.)

I'm going to steal a line from the Sacramento Bee's running blog and quote Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman: "There's no such thing as bad weather, just soft people."

With race day looming, I have no choice: Softness is not an option. I ran a soggy eight miles on Sunday (which actually wasn't bad -- the rain was more of a light drizzle, with only one real near-downpour moment that lasted just a minute or two). Running in the rain is refreshing. And I definitely prefer it to the tedium of the treadmill (or "dreadmill," as Jessa calls it). Also, it's kind of funny to see people's reactions when you splash past. One woman actually said: "Good for you!"

Still, I'd rather stay dry. So I've been glued to the hour-by-hour weather forecast, and my running gear is with me at all times. The moment there's even just a brief break in the rain, I'm out there. Today I managed four miles with some speedwork, finishing in time to get a foam roller session in and head back to the office before a gigantic thunderstorm roared through.

mountain lion

I know, I know – I'm overdue for the restaurant post.

But we encountered a vicious mountain lion Saturday when we were hiking the Dipsea Trail to the Tourist Club. (The things we do for a pitcher of beer, right?)

I ran away, but as you can see, Todd was not so lucky.

I've bean cooking

Bad pun intended.

Given that it's already mid-January, I should probably write my annual post of 10 restaurants I'd like to go to at some point this year. (You can find the 2009 list here and 2008 here. I did pretty well last year -- made it to every place on the list except Quince and Avatar's Punjabi Burritos.)

But before I begin, I'd like to talk about my other food-related goals for 2010 -- goals that involve actually cooking instead of just eating.

I'm no Julie Powell, and the last thing I want to do is copy the Julie/Julia Project. (By the way, did anyone else find Julie extremely whiny, both in the book and in the movie? Dear god, I wanted to smack her.) But I do want to use my cookbooks more. And actually learn from them. I have a bad habit of flipping through cookbooks, picking one recipe and making only that recipe over and over again -- regardless of what else is in the book. I'm also guilty of buying cookbooks and never using them -- ever.

So this year, I am attempting to learn from two James Peterson books: Splendid Soups and Baking. Both seem to provide a good foundation for technique, and Peterson does a great job of explaining why things are done, instead of just telling you what to do.

Yesterday I actually soaked dry beans and made Peterson's pasta e fagioli recipe. This was huge for me -- I never use dry beans (with the exception of lentils, of course, which is how I survived grad school). Dry beans have always intimidated me because I thought they required so much planning. But the truth is, they really don't. And cooking them didn't take hours and hours, either -- just 1.5 hours, and salt thrown in at the right time (about 30 minutes into cooking).

And the soup was pretty easy. (The most painstaking part was peeling and seeding the tomatoes.) And puréeing the beans before adding them to the soup was another learning experience for me -- it's a great way to make soup creamy without actually adding cream (and all the accompanying fattiness).

The result was delicious -- even better today for lunch. I'll have to try this recipe again in the summertime, when tomatoes are actually in season.

Next on the Peterson educational agenda: Pastry dough. I'd love to learn how to make it from scratch.

(And now this post is officially too long, so the restaurant list is going to have to wait yet one more day.)

in our genes

Home at last, though exhausted and sick. But so thankful to finally be home.

The weekend was long and intense: Three days straight of Catholic mourning. And not just any Catholic mourning -- Filipino Catholic mourning, which seems to be much more rigorous -- like an ultramarathon of grief. I have never heard the rosary prayed so many times. There was also a novena that had the phrases "gnawing worm," "bloody sweat," "horrible darkness" and "intolerable cold." And there were multiple Masses. And public wailing. And four hours of sitting with the open casket.

But it was interesting to hear the stories about my grandmother. Everyone who spoke said something about how much she loved food and how she was always offering it. It truly was the way she communicated. After the viewing Sunday, the whole family went to my grandmother's favorite Chinese restaurant and ordered all the dishes she used to get.

And my cousins and I definitely proved ourselves to be her grandchildren through and through this weekend. On Saturday night, we got some time on our own, so we tracked down the legendary Kogi BBQ truck, whose marriage of Mexican food and Korean barbecue are what many believe to be heaven. I had a short rib taco (which was just as amazing as everyone promised), a Korean tofu taco (I think I am going to crave this for the rest of my life) and a Kogi dog (this was good, but really over-the-top -- check out the photo above -- I think you have to be drunk to truly appreciate it). And then we went to a churro truck a few blocks down the street and got bags of freshly fried churros.

We stuffed ourselves silly. And in a way, it was like she was still feeding us.

what we couldn't say

A little tough to try to write after the last post.

I would be lying if I said we were close. We rarely spoke the same language. In fact, we rarely spoke at all. At family parties, there was always the polite kiss on the cheek, the customary pay-your-respects. But there was never anything deeper -- she was not one to sit babies on her lap or go out for high tea or attend the high school dance concert, and to be honest, I am not the type of person to offer. When it comes to family, I often think I fail -- like I'm missing pieces or perhaps more accurately, emotions.

All I know is this: There were handwritten prayers that she had made up herself tucked in the pages of her Bible. Her top drawer always smelled like roses. She sang, and when she didn't know the words, she hummed. And there were stories -- I heard them from my mother, from my aunts -- about my grandfather and a great love and a house with chickens and dogs and plenty of children. And she went back there often in her mind because my mother said she would call for him, talk to him like he was still here.

Toward the end, when I said, "How are you?" the answer was always "I'm in pain." And I never knew what to say afterward.

I suppose we communicated best through food. This is what she offered when my brother and I were kids and needed someone to watch us. There were no board games or cartoons or toys. But there was always food: Rice, pork, potato chips, mango juice, diet soda, ice cream. Everything we could want, everything we didn't want, everything we weren't supposed to have. This was her way of nurturing. And we ate until we were full, and then took more home with us for later.

I fly south on Saturday to say good-bye.


Cheers to my grandmother: The woman who eloped, who owned a Casio keyboard with follow-along light-up keys so you too could play "Old Folks at Home," and who loved her pork (this woman never said no to chicharrón).

at their mercy

This pretty much happens to me every morning. For some reason, our cats always pick on me and leave Todd alone. I think they know I'm a big sucker who has trouble saying no. As a result, I often look like someone's taken a scalpel to me.

Last night was especially awesome. Mari was sleeping next to me, all curled up in the crook of my arm. It was adorable and comfortable until she suddenly jumped up and out of the bed -- and in doing so, totally clawed up my right arm.

Cats. And still we love them.

(Thoughts go out to Christina who lost her Jemma kitty yesterday.)

a running start

It's only Day 2 of 2010, but so far, so good. We spent yesterday recovering from our New Year's Eve festivities (during which I discovered you can pair wine with beer -- I swear, the Zinfandel-and-stout combination will change your life).

We hung out around the house and watched a few movies, including Running on the Sun, a documentary about the 135-mile Badwater ultra.

My absolute favorite part of the movie is when one of the race participants starts talking about how he had problems with blisters forming under his toenails (which has happened to me and which is just as pleasant as it sounds). The guy resolved this by removing his toenails completely. He then takes off his sock and shows off his foot, which is totally naked of toenails. It is nothing short of awesome.

While I am not planning to run 135 miles in 115-degree heat any time soon (or perhaps any time in my entire life), I do have running goals for 2010. They're pretty straightforward and accessible, I think.

  • As previously discussed, I'd like to get faster. I want to run another marathon and get my time down to 4:30. I don't know if this will actually happen, but I think it can if I form a solid mileage base and incorporate regular speed workouts into my training.
  • No more death by incline. I want to run hills more efficiently. Which means hello to hill repeats in 2010.
  • CIM definitely taught me where the weak points in my body are, and I want to make those a priority this year. So it's all about serious cross-training focusing on my core and lower back, as well as on strengthening and loosening those hamstrings.

I got to work on those goals right away today. Woke up at 6:45 a.m. and went straight to the yoga studio for a 90-minute power Vinyasa class. (I adore how my teacher says things like "Love your hamstrings." Mine need affection!) And then it was off to Helen Putnam for a hill workout -- ran up and up and up in the cold and the mist, and then flew down ("no brakes" downhill ChiRunning -- scary and awesome all at once). I finished the workout with a series of timed hill sprints. (Which resulted in puzzled glances from other people because I would walk backwards down the hill after each sprint -- this looks funny but it spares the quads!)

And then: My reward, of course -- eggs in a hole with parmesan and harissa and a hot Chai latte at the Tea Room.