Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sir Ian McKitten, Esquire.

Disclaimer: This is a post about my cat. But the internet seems to like cats. So.

For my 25th birthday, I asked for the same thing that I had asked for at ages 5 and 11: a kitten, please.

My wish came true, just as it did back then. Daisy Doodle (may she rest in peace), a dainty calico with a keen eye for hunting and a bit of a nasty streak, and Sneakers called Butch, an extremely vocal and comfortably rotund white ball of fuzz. Mr. Butch is an old man now, relishing his senior years in my parents' house in IL.

I loved them both, Butch very much so, but nothing like Sir Ian.

Ian came to us in the middle of a downpour on a (fittingly) gray August day from the Humane Society on 59th and 1st. I had met him the day before and brought Sir back to approve; one look in the eyes of the tiny beast and my stoic Sir was a puddle of butter. He was ours.

He's a dreamy little guy, Sir Ian, silky-soft, good-natured and always snuggly. Fierce in protecting us from his fake mice and bits of dust, he's always sliding around our hardwood floors, his ridiculous 6-toed furry mitts providing little to no traction. Skidding into walls, crashing into furniture, all stumbly and rumply and hilarious and adorable.

Something about him, I just feel so much for the little dude. Maybe because we rescued him from a noisy, frightening, confusing place like a shelter. Maybe because I shared previous cats with my family of five and several dogs. Maybe because I'm (almost) solely responsible for him, I don't know. He's just mine, and Sir feels the same. Ours.

We learned this week after bringing him to the vet for an upset stomach that he has a heart murmur. No vet had heard it before - progressive heart failure at seven months old. Yes, it's possible that previous vets had just missed the murmur. It's possible that it doesn't mean anything at all, and he will have a long, funny, fuzzy life, just as we'd planned. But we don't know. It scared the hell out of me, to hear that. My own heart went totally numb, alone at the vet's office. My little man.

For now we're keeping an eye on him; he seems totally fine, but honestly, mothers, I don't know how you do it. Being a cat-mom has aged me this week.

Please hang in there, Little Sir. We need you, if only to show us how to use the computer.

Hearts for your heart, Sir Ian.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon: My wrap-up post.

This Sunday morning, I'm still in bed, enjoying the silence. Two Sundays ago, I ran a marathon. My first marathon.

My dear friend Chuck and I, along with 36,159 other finishers, ran a 26.2 mile loop around the glittering city of Chicago.

With Chuck in the start corral, blissfully unaware of our impending fate.

It seems physically impossible at this point that 26.2 miles actually came out of me just 14 days ago, but they did. Sometimes triumphantly, but mostly in a greatly labored, painstaking fashion. Despite following my training schedule almost exactly to the letter, running 310 miles over 12 weeks, peaking at 21.4 miles -- allow me to be the first to say that running a marathon is difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

I was planning on being overprepared, training on the hills of Prospect Park in 95+ degrees and crazy humidity all summer. Chicago is famous for being an 'easy' beginner marathon, known for a fast, flat course and relatively cool temperatures. I had hit overtraining points at various instances in my training schedule, experiencing dead legs, frustration, and declining motivation. But I had rested it out, recovered and finished my schedule strong, running my last 10-miler on a mountain in Aspen. Strong legs, strong lungs. I felt ready.

October 10, 2010: my personal day of atonement. The marathon started off brilliantly - 60 degrees, a breezy beautiful day in Chicago. Chuck and I laughed at the people who stopped to walk as we easily peeled off the first 10 miles, waving at our DFCB comrades at the 6.5.

It got harder, and much hotter, from there. I remember looking longingly at the 13.1 mile marker, remembering how fun it was to run the Phoenix RnR half and realizing that I was going to have to double that distance before I could rest today. Oof.

By 15 miles, Chuck and I both realized that the wheels were falling off. It was a mental game from there on out.

I honestly don't know how we got through the rest of it, but we did. Playing the alphabet game along the way definitely helped. Seeing my wonderful parents at the 17-mile marker gave me a crucial boost. Having my amazing boyfriend cruise on the sidewalk across from us on a bike in the final miles was more or less necessary. Also, having one of my best friends struggling alongside me was a HUGE help - we've both said we didn't know how we would have finished without the other.

But we did. Finish, that is. That was all I had set out to do - finish, preferably without walking. Aside from walking through the water/aid stations and two bathroom stops (one with an agonizingly frustrating 20-minute wait), I ran the whole. Damn. Thing. The wimpy girl who could never once run the mile in high school without walking, the clumsy girl who was always picked last for every team, ever, the bookish girl whose 4.0 was marred by A-minuses in gym - I ran a marathon, in five hours and 45 minutes.

And that is pretty cool.

That may have been my last marathon - the jury's still out.  The whole thing was really hard on my body, my knees - it's a rough undertaking, to train for something like this. Really gratifying in the end, though. I'm so glad that I was able to participate, thrilled that my body allowed me to be part of such an incredible, life-altering event.

It took me a long time to write this wrap-up post, partly because it's planning season at work and things have been a little nutty, and partly because it took me that long to come to terms with what I had really accomplished. I missed my goal time by more than an hour. My runner friends were tweeting about their terrible finish times, people who had beat me by more than two hours. I was mortified. It took me this long to realize that I didn't need to be embarrassed, that my incredibly slow time didn't make me a failure.

It makes me a marathoner.

A hug from my runner father, post-race.

Fancy hardware.

My three key marathon take-aways:

1. Unless you're an amazing natural athlete, and even then, do NOT disregard your training schedule. A marathon is a big freaking deal. Your body deserves to be prepared for it.

2. Support system, seriously. I don't know how I would have finished the thing without Chuck, Clay and my parents supporting me the whole way. Also, be sure to write your name on your arms. Random people cheer for you the whole way and it's completely amazing. And entirely necessary, in my case.

3. Be proud. Even if your time is a completely mortifying five hours and 45 minutes, be proud. You've done something that the majority of people will never be able to do, and that's pretty remarkable.

Next, I seriously gotta nail that triathlon.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Making fresh pasta, gluten-free.

Sir and I purchased a pasta-maker today. Meaning we're basically Italian now (boopa-da-bee-bo!).

We're hosting our first family dinner tomorrow night, a tradition he started with his two cousins and their ladies when he first moved out to NYC. A delicious, delicious little tradition - we love family dinner. We've been holding off on hosting - a shameful admission - because honestly, we only had four plates. We hoofed it to Bed Bath and Beyond (a nice little Saturday) and bought some more plates, and now we're ready to entertain.

Tomorrow, we're going to attempt a pumpkin ravioli, spurred on by a confidence I've mustered up after seeing all the food-bloggers rave over the Gluten-free Girl's fresh pasta recipe. Tonight, we wanted to give the new pasta-maker a shot.

It turned. Out. Awesome.

We made linguine using Shauna's blend of gluten-free flours, including a red quinoa flour that lent a delightful color and texture to the pasta. The recipe is from her latest cookbook - available for purchase here. It was my first time blending gluten-free flours - a little intimidating in theory, exceptionally easy in practice once I got my hands in the bowl. After a quick boil in salted water, we tossed the pasta in a brown-butter-fresh sage reduction, shaved some parmesan on the top, and boom. Tender, chewy, salty, buttery, sagey hot goodness. It had a zippy freshness that we couldn't quite put our finger on - srsly amazing flavors. Truly delicious eats.

Have no fear in the kitchen, and don't be precious. You can always, ALWAYS make amazing food gluten-free. Thank goodness for that. Definitely looking forward to pumpkin ravioli, hosting family dinner, and all the steaming piles of gluten-free pastas to come.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Spotted: Gossip Girl on location in DUMBO.

"Who's that traipsing about Brooklyn Bridge Park? Looks like Little J is back with a vengeance and leaving poor Dad in the dust..."

 Taylor Momsen on the set of Gossip Girl in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

'Twas the Friday before the marathon, bright and early on a cool morning in my quiet neighborhood.

Aside: Despite all the "city that never sleeps" lore, people in NYC don't seem to be up to much prior to 8 am. Not that I've noticed anyhow, which, given my soundproof apartment and reputation as a heavy sleeper, isn't saying much.

I had planned on spending the morning resting up for the race. Looking back, I'm not entirely sure it would have done me much good.

Instead, I was sitting cross-legged on the gravel in the park, chilly paws wrapped around a steaming cup of coffee, watching starry-eyed as my favorite TV show played out before me. Some of my favorites delivering drama on repeat right in my little neighborhood - pretty awesome, for my first NYC celeb encounter.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't totally freaking out. Sue me.

Alas, awe gave way to disgust as a horde of photographers swarmed on and started snapping away at Taylor, calling at her to turn around while she prepped the scene with the director (Tate Donovan! Jimmy Cooper! Double awesome!). It was my first time witnessing a paparazzi ambush - do not like. Our little J greeted the photographers politely and asked for them to kindly cease fire while she was filming. They screamed at her about photographer's rights in return, calling her names and tightening their circle around the set. Security shooed them away and filming resumed, but the whole thing definitely cast a dark shadow on my glitzy view of the entertainment industry (and perhaps a more forgiving glow upon the likes of Lindsay Lohan).

I put away my camera, embarrassed for humanity.

Luckily, before the paparazzi shenanigans went down, I was able to snap a few shots of the whole thing. Here's a little snippet of my time on the set of Gossip Girl, below.

Cast and crew trailers on Front Street.

Taylor Momsen and Matthew Settle as Jenny and Rufus Humphrey.

Taylor Momsen talking turkey with Tate Donovan.

Tate Donovan prepping to film at Pete's.

Setting up outside Pete's on Water Street.

Obligatory shot of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Full set here. XOXO!