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cookie zen

What can be more amazing than gingerbread men practicing yoga? Todd's cousins gave me this fantastic cookie cutter set for Christmas, so I spent yesterday baking the cookies and this morning frosting them. We'll be bringing them to a New Year's Eve party tonight.

Plow pose is my favorite:

Confession: Not all of the cookies turned out this cute. Decorating these guys was tricky as hell. There were a lot of cyclops gingerbread men, and one guy looked like he needed a bikini wax. Oops.

And then there was this guy, who seems to have been in a bar fight:

And this totally failed attempt -- this poor guy has a hunchback and only one leg and one arm!

another gift

Seen during last Sunday's post-Christmas brunch with the in-laws: A woman parallel-parking her horse and cart.

pop up, chow down and sin

We went to the Hapa Ramen pop-up tonight at Bar Tartine.

As a result, I am in a partial food coma and am having trouble doing things like buttoning my pants all the way and expressing myself in a manner that doesn't involve small burps and sighs. So please forgive me if this post wanders all over the place.

Before I launch into a description of the meal, I want to say this: Pop-ups are really cool. This was the first one I've ever experienced, and it was great. Bar Tartine is normally closed Mondays, making tonight the perfect time for Hapa Ramen's Richie Nakano and crew to transform the restaurant into noodle central. They had their own reservation line, they brought in their own bowls and chopsticks, and even the servers said, "Welcome to Hapa Ramen!" when you walked through the door. So cool that Bar Tartine was so generous with their space!

We started with the pig face. Yes, that's right. A piece of pig head cut out and served with salad, pickled apples and mustard seeds.

Clearly, this is not vegetarian. I justified it by telling myself that if pigs had to die to make the pork in the ramen, then we should probably eat as much of those pigs as possible and not let any of that meat go to waste, thereby honoring the pigs for their death. The pig face was good -- fatty, but good. (Although I will admit to feeling extreme guilt after about two bites. I kept remembering these guys, and then I kind of wanted to weep. And then I started thinking about how if pig faces are fatty, they must age better than humans and this is why people need Botox, so maybe we should take a cue from pigs and have fatter faces. In short, Todd had to eat most of the pig face.)

We also had fried brussels sprouts. I don't know what kind of dressing was on these babies, but they were out-of-control good. (Also, no one's face was involved.)

And then there was the ramen. Hapa Ramen is the only restaurant (or food purveyor or ramen provider or whatever you want to call this pop-up experience) I've come across so far in my ramen quest that actually has a genuine, 100 percent vegetarian ramen on their menu -- no meat in the broth, no meat in the bowl, no meat anywhere. And the veggie ramen option changes -- tonight's broth was pumpkin (and the server said last week's pop-up had celery root).

I went for it.

It had tons of veggies -- seaweed, spinach, winter squash, more brussels sprouts -- to the point where it almost felt stew-like. And I really wanted to love it because it honestly was good, but I found myself staring across the table at Todd's bowl. He ordered the "Big Daddy" -- a giant bowl full of meaty broth with pork belly, shredded pork, fried chicken and a soft, melty egg. He said it was even fattier and more decadent than the ramen he had at Daikokuya.

And I was jealous. The veggie ramen just couldn't compare.

So now I find myself in a conundrum. Is there no way to love ramen and be vegetarian? Am I always going to be at odds with myself?

(Also, the cold I came down with last week has morphed into a hacking cough, which has totally derailed my running plans. So now I am a sinful, fat, failed vegetarian who barely managed to run a mile today. But perhaps that is another story for another time. Now pardon me while I slip into some elastic-waist pajama bottoms.)

a christmas miracle

I was typing and blowing my nose and blowing my nose again (yes, somehow I've managed to come down with a cold in the past 24 hours), when I heard footsteps on the front porch.

And behold! A woman wearing a black peacoat handed me a pie! And not just any pie, a pie from Petaluma Pie, my current favorite place ever!

She said: "This is from your friend Kate and her husband, but I forgot to write down his name."

So thank you to Kate. (And to whoever her husband is.) It is nothing short of Absolutely Awesome to receive hand-delivered pie at home.

in the off-season

As illustrated by this giant tray full of desserts, I've been indulging a little. (In fact, this mountain of postprandial goodness followed a feast at the Lazy Ox Canteen on Saturday. Apparently dinner -- which involved a cheese plate, seven different types of tapas, Roussanne and seasonal holiday beers -- wasn't enough, so we went to the Nickel Diner and ate more.)

So it's no surprise that easing my way back into running has been challenging, to say the least. I took some time off after CIM to allow myself to recover -- my sad hips and sore knee needed a break. Since raceday, I've only run three times, for a whopping total of nine miles -- most of which were slow and characterized by feet that felt like led and very heavy breathing. (Although I will say I had a pretty decent tempo run today at lunch. Granted, it was only three miles, but I got negative splits, and the last mile was under a 9-minute pace. And this was with a headwind almost the entire time. Yeah!)

Even though I do have a race coming up in February, I'm trying not to think so much about mileage and training. Instead, I'm focusing on what I can do to strengthen my body so I don't have the aches and pains that have plagued me during the past few months. I know my injuries stem largely from a weak core, which is making my hips overcompensate, which results in really tight hip flexors and also ends up affecting my knees. And then I bonk at Mile 23 and want to lie down on the side of the road and cry.

So I've signed up for Pilates. (Dear self: Merry Christmas.) I had my first reformer/apparatus session tonight. (Yes, folks, double workout! Running on my lunch break! Pilates in the evening!) It was not easy. I felt like my instructor was pointing out weak spot after weak spot after weak spot. And then she said I really need to work on my walking before I can improve my running.


But I guess this is what it means to build a base, right?

taking photos of the moon

I am trying to stay awake long enough to see history.

(Will it have a soundtrack?)

eating l.a.

I left L.A. before I was old enough to explore it. I turned 18, went away to college and pretty much never looked back. Except for the occasional weekend spent visiting family, going to weddings or attending an event for work, I am hardly ever in Southern California.

As a result, I know basically nothing about the food scene there. (Unless you count food trucks. I can tell you about food trucks.)

I spent the weekend trying to remedy this. (And also celebrating an early holiday with my parents. But let's get back to the food.)

First target: Ramen at Daikokuya. (Of course, right?)

Everything I'd heard was intriguing: How there is almost always a wait, no matter the time of day; how it is the only ramen place in L.A. worth considering; how -- if you are really looking to go over the top -- you can ask them to add pork back fat to your broth.

Todd and I met Shaya there for an early lunch yesterday. It was drizzly and grey and basically perfect ramen weather. (Another plus: When it rains, people in L.A. freak out and don't go outside. Which means we didn't have to wait for a table. Yes!)

Shaya and I had their house Daikoku ramen, while Todd upped the ante and went for the back fat. All of us also got a side of tempura (mine was vegetable).

Of all the ramen places I've tried so far (and remember, there really haven't been that many, since I am but in the early stages of my ramen investigation/obsession), Daikokuya is the richest. Their chashu looks like straight-up strips of bacon -- which is probably no surprise since it is kurobuta pork belly. The broth is hearty as hell, with an awesome marinated boiled egg, bamboo shoots and lots of green onion. And it doesn't stop there -- there are condiments! In addition to the usual soy sauce and chili flakes, there are also containers of garlic and pickled pink ginger (yum).

Good rainy day fare.

happy cakes

I just scrolled through some of my recent posts, and it seems my definition of post-race recovery involves eating extraordinary quantities of food. Instead of marathons, I've been indulging in eat-a-thons.

And honestly, can you really blame me when there are cupcakes like these around?

We discovered Cynically Delicious at Bazaar Bizarre last weekend.

Their red velvet cupcakes, complete with hipster mustache, were a huge hit. (Although it seemed like anything with a mustache was the trend at the craft show -- everybody had something with a mustache on it -- T-shirts, tote bags, magnets. There was even a giant plush mustache as large as my torso.)

But the best cupcakes -- the ones I absolutely could not resist -- were the Crapcakes. That's right -- a rich, luscious chocolate cupcake decorated like poo, complete with marzipan fly.

Mmmm. Poo.


Yesterday we stumbled across perhaps the most exciting thing that's ever happened in Chickenland: A brand-new restaurant that serves nothing but pie.

It's called -- appropriately -- the Petaluma Pie Company and offers both sweet and savory options.

I cannot even begin to explain how thrilled I am about the availability of savory hand pies. They're not easy to find. Since discovering them and falling completely in love with them in Australia several years ago, I've only had them twice -- once when we were in Portland and again at a pub in Santa Rosa.

Neither of those experiences compares to the goodness that comes from the Petaluma Pie Company. Yesterday we ate the wild mushroom pie, and I swear, I almost swooned. Tonight we had the cheese and onion (above), and I was once again delighted.

These pies are absolutely heavenly. I don't know what's in the crust (maybe crack?), but it is flaky and oh-so-light. It's so hard to make a hand pie like this! The problem with a lot of the pub pies is that they tend to be dense. Also, I think most of them are frozen and reheated instead of made fresh on site. But the pies from Petaluma Pies are so airy that they're almost dangerous -- I could probably easily scarf down five in one sitting.

We're looking forward to trying the sweet pies next time.

chairman bao

Part of what makes the food truck phenomenon so exciting is the thrill of the hunt. I follow my favorite trucks -- as well as the ones I want to try -- on Twitter, read their Facebook updates and try to memorize routes.

Street-eatz comes to our office park every Tuesday at lunch, and lately, it seems like their seasonal special is vegetable soup (which is delicious, especially when you get a piece of crusty grilled bread to go with it, put the bread at the bottom of a bowl and pour the hot soup on top of it -- yum). The Napa trucks (and yes, I'm still jealous that Napa has more trucks than we do here in Sonoma County) seem to meet once a month at Oxbow for Food Truck Friday. And Fork is at Dutton-Goldfield quite a bit -- I've been dying to get my hands on one of their quinoa burgers.

One truck I've had my eye on for awhile is Chairman Bao, pictured above. I finally got to sample the goods in person at Saturday's Bazaar Bizarre craft fair in San Francisco. The Chairman -- along with Kung Fu Tacos, Twirl and Dip and Onigilly -- were all out front.

Even though we had just finished a mini-feast at Greens, Todd and I got in line. We both got steamed buns -- I went with the crispy garlic tofu with miso greens, and he ordered the pork belly with pickled daikon. (His first choice had been the duck confit with mango salad, but alas, they ran out.)

The buns were like open-faced sandwiches that you fold up and eat like a taco. They were delicious -- so much flavor! We were tempted to get back in line and order seconds.

the 'it' bag

Here is an excerpt of a recent e-mail exchange among my training group friends.

Me: [Forwards message about volunteering at the Napa Valley Marathon.] Is anyone interested? I did it last year -- helped with bag check. I will probably do it again this year.

A: Is anyone thinking about running it? I like the tote bag.

Coach: You are going to run a marathon because of a tote bag?

R: It is the same reason he supports NPR every year.

M: This is a beautiful conversation. That tote bag better do my dishes and fold laundry.

D: I think there is a way to help with checking bags and acquire that great tote at the same time ...

A: Here is a picture of the bag. Very nice. [Attaches photo below.]

M: Wow, that is a nice bag! Not sure if I'd run 26.2 for it, though. I'd need to see inside the pockets.

R: Here is a picture of what is inside the front pocket. I guess the top pocket is even nicer, but I couldn't find a pic. [Attaches photo below.]

shoyu goodness

Perhaps the reason I powered through Sunday's really tough race -- when I really, really wanted to quit -- was the promise of ramen at the finish line.

Oh, Akebono: This is why I run.

in recovery

The thing about the marathon: You work so hard for so many months, and then after a few hours, it's all over.

I had to go to Shollenberger -- the place where I started running -- today to take a long walk (and get rid of some of the lactic acid build-up in my legs) and clear my head.

I'll admit it: I feel a little off -- sort of weepy -- lots of pent-up post-race frustration as well as the usual dramatic emotions that marathons stir up in me.

I was convinced yesterday was going to be My Race. I was ready for it. I wanted the PR, the big marathon breakthrough. And everything seemed to be aligned: The weather behaved, my close friends were with me (I don't know how we did it, but our training group managed to wade through thousands of people and find each other at the starting line, coach included) and I even had a really good pre-race poo (if you run, you know how important this is).

But I'm discovering the marathon has a mind of its own. No matter how perfect conditions seems to be, no matter how prepared you are, you just can't control what happens out there.

I started off well and was on target for a 4:40-4:45 PR. My mind was focused, my body was in rhythm and those first few miles actually felt easy.

And then I had to pee.

I got stuck in a port-a-potty line at Mile 14. And while I was using said port-a-potty (which was an absolute disaster area, by the way -- clearly other runners were having issues), the 4:45 pace group passed me. And things only got worse. At Mile 17, my hips started to really, really hurt. And the aid station ran out of water cups. Pain and thirst are not a good combination. I wanted to drop out. I actually envisioned it. And there was a SAG wagon driving slowly alongside the runners like a vulture, waiting for one of us to give up. It was so tempting.

Luckily, I saw my coach's wife in the crowd. The sight of a familiar face does wonders, especially when you're like me and don't want to drop out in front of someone you know. So I pushed on. Thankfully, the next aid station did have cups -- granted, they were giant plastic ones that were tough to drink out of without spilling, but I was grateful.

At about Mile 19, I realized I had drifted into the 5:00 pace group. While I knew there was no chance for a PR, I still wanted to come in under the five-hour mark. So I pushed again, picked up speed and started passing people. I actually began to feel strong again and wondered if I could somehow manage at least 4:50.

And then the knee pain started around Mile 23. And it was bad. I was making faces. And complaining about my discomfort to other runners. I probably would've dropped out if I didn't have just a few miles left. I ran until the pain became overwhelming, then I'd take a walk break, pick a point in the distance to walk to and then run again when I reached that point. I did this over and over until I got to the final stretch of the race down L Street. It was sheer force of will.

That's when I met the lady from Nebraska. We didn't exchange names, just hometowns. She chatted about her husband, and I told her about my knee. She kept me going when all I really wanted to do was cry.

As we moved into the last few hundred meters, I saw Margie from my training group. I grabbed her hand, and she started running me in to the finish line. (At this point, I was yelling "Fuck!" every time my left leg hit the ground -- my knee hurt so much.) Then we spotted Derrick, and he began running on my other side. And then Neveia, who was yelling like crazy, joined us. And then Sammy jumped in as we rounded the corner. I was practically in tears, but I felt like the luckiest person in the world to have such amazing friends.

They sent me down the chute, and I finished in 4:56:28. I wandered around looking for water (once again, they were out), had my photo taken with a finisher banner and then went to the medi tent for ice. (So not fun to finish a race and end up in the medical tent, surrounded by the bruised and battered. I saw a woman bawl her eyes out and then barf. Yikes.)

And the story doesn't stop there: As soon as I came out of the tent, I spotted Todd. He was holding a bag of Del Taco nacho fries. This is why I married this man.

It was a rough race, and I feel pretty beat up both mentally and physically. But I am so grateful for that finish. My knees may hurt and the marathon may be my ultimate nemesis, but it feels really good to be loved.

(Excuse me while I cry again.)

three days and counting

I was doing just fine until I got this e-mail.

And then I started wondering: Am I really ready for Sunday?


The forecast says 40 percent chance of showers.

The upside: Rain is better than heat or extreme cold. And I have done this before.

The downside: Must I do it again?


As always, the No. 1 goal is no crapping my pants, followed by no dying and no puking.

But I also want a new PR, perhaps more than I'd like to admit. For some reason, putting my time goal in writing makes me feel like I'm going to jinx myself.


Seen on Twitter: "If found lying on ground, please drag over Finish Line."