Adult snow day

12 Feb

At 8 this morning our doorbell didn’t ring. Chris, one of our builders, is never late. I’m convinced he comes 10 minutes early and smokes outside so he can be upstairs at exactly 8 am. One time he even rang at 7:59 am. But not this morning. At 8:13am our contractor called. He hurt his back, Andy the other builder has a prior commitment, so none of the guys were going to come in today.

And just like that I have an adult snow day.

And just like a childhood snow day, it would have been nice to know the night prior so I could sleep in, but I still have a whole free day ahead of me.

It could be just like old times! I can run in the afternoon daylight instead of at dusk! I can work from my bed instead of from the home office desk! I could see a play, or maybe go shopping, and not have to be back at 4 pm when the builders leave. I could even go back to sleep!

But what did I do? I made myself a cup of tea, as I have been every morning since the builders started a month ago, and took it into the home office. Because I’m a creature of habit, and as much as I don’t like to admit it, I’m a lot more productive at this desk than I am in bed.

The guys have been making progress and our living room is looking more and more majestic. On Friday I asked them how much longer they thought everything would take.

Their response?

Two weeks.

money pit yelling

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Two weeks

27 Jan

Two weeks ago when I told my mom our builders would be working on our reception room renovations for two weeks she sent me a compilation video from The Money Pit.

“Haha,” I replied.

But I knew our situation would be different. It really would only take 2 weeks — heck, judging by the speed with which they removed the old cornice, frieze and fireplace, it could take even less!

And then the cornice and ceiling decorations actually arrived. And it turns out getting an ornately patterned cornice to match up in a room that’s not a complete square, or even a proper rectangle (apparently one wall is 3 cm longer than the other (?!), is really difficult. So that one-day job turned into a four-day job, because we had to order an extra piece.

Then it was time to tackle the decorative ceiling.

“We’ll get the whole ceiling done on Friday!” one of the builders told me. And then they unwrapped the plaster mouldings and realized the pattern didn’t match up. So I had to call the manufacturer, who insisted it was not a problem, but they finally agreed to send one of their installers on Monday to help our builders.

Once the ceiling is done, they have to do the decorative molding on the walls. And install the new fireplace. And paint everything. And then we decided, hey, let’s get some floor tiles and do that too!

“Two weeks.” Haha! Two weeks! I’ll honestly be happy if we get all this done in two months.

I wasn’t sure what it would be like having strangers working in my home all day. I thought the noise would be the most troublesome part, but it hasn’t been bad at all. The worst part is having to wake up early and adjust my whole routine. Since my bedroom is right off the living room where they’re working, I spend the whole day on the other side of the flat in our office/guest room. I can’t walk around the flat to get Fitbit steps because there’s hardly an inch of space not covered in decorations, furniture or equipment. I have to do my work at Stephen’s desk like an actual working person, because the guest bed is covered in a giant slab of decorative plaster. I can’t run during the day like I usually do, I have to wait until the guys leave, which is always when it’s dark. Running in the dark is the worst. I have to eat all my meals earlier than I normally would, because I have to go to bed earlier to wake up earlier.

I keep telling myself it’ll all be worth it when we have a majestic reception room. But having space and a flexible schedule is like being healthy — you take it for granted until suddenly you’re sick, or everything in your flat is covered in a thin layer of plaster dust and you can’t walk two feet without bumping into a decoration.

Everything is covered in dust and my lungs are full of plaster: flat renovation 2018

17 Jan

When we moved into this flat over a year ago we immediately started planning how we were going to renovated it. We were going to get rid of the ugly wallpaper in the bedroom and the ugly floor in the kitchen. We were going to add more kitchen cabinets. We were going to remove the cornice and frieze from the reception room and add more majestic ones, complete with ceiling decorations that made it look nicer than a room at Buckingham Palace. New Year’s Eve 2016 we were showing our friends possible designs, musing how much better our living room would look this time next year.

And then life happened. Stephen got caught up with work, we struggled to find a reliable builder for a reasonable price, and, mostly, we got lazy. This is why people do renovations before they move into the property. Because once your furniture is set and everything is unpacked, the thought of moving everything around and living in what feels like a war zone does not sound appealing.

But we’re finally doing it. Last weekend just the two of us moved all the living room furniture into other rooms in the flat and laid down carpet underlay to protect the wood floor. Then the builders came yesterday and removed all the cornicing, creating a dust storm to rival those in the Sahara. They made a makeshift plastic curtain to block off the living room, and we made a makeshift plastic curtain out of recycling bags to block off the hallway, plus we closed the kitchen door, and yet my kitchen countertops are covered in plaster dust. I was working in the second bedroom down the hall — the farthest room possible from the living room — and started to notice dust coming in under the door. Then I realized it was on the desk. And in my hair. And in my drink. And (likely) in my eyes and lungs. I thought the noise would be the worst part of the demolition, so when I realized it was tolerable, I decided to stay instead of going to a cafe. I didn’t even think about the dust!

I asked one of the builders if it was bad for us to be breathing in this plaster dust all day.

“Um, we do this every day,” he replied with a smile and a shrug, which now that I think about it, isn’t really an answer. They wore masks during the demolition, but took them off when they were cleaning up and the dust was settling. I probably should have worn one too while I was working. Or, you know, left the flat for the entire day like a wise person would.

The loud and dusty part is over (I think), but this week is probably a good time to catch a West End matinee and get out of the house. I may have complained a little to Stephen that working from home means I have to deal with all the renovations while he gets to escape to the office. His response? “You’re the one that will get to enjoy the finished product while I’m always at work.” Touche.

dusty gif.gif

A look back on 2017

5 Jan

And just like that, it’s 2018. 2017 really flew by, so I figured I’d pull myself out of this jetlag fog to remember all the things I did last year.

-I became an expert in cholesterol and became obsessed with lowering mine, only to find its genetic and there’s not much I can do
-I got to meet Cherry, my parents’ new Chihuahua-corgi rescue, and promptly fell in love with her (The amount of photos of her butt alone that I have on my phone is probably cause for concern)
-I got to see my Chicago and Milwaukee friends twice
-I ran a 5K race in under 30 minutes and completely wiped out in a 10K race and still finished in under an hour
-I got to see my favorite band Over the Rhine twice, once at their farm and once in Over the Rhine
-I saw Jim Steinman’s Bat Out of Hell the Musical twice from the front row
-I finally visited Greenwich
-Stephen and I had an epic holiday in Prague, Budapest and Tuscany
-We finally visited the Buckingham Palace state rooms
-I road a camel
-I got to meet my best friend’s daughter at the hospital a day after she was born
-I reached level 38 in Pokemon Go and still continue to play every day
-I saw Hamilton in Chicago
-I saw 16 West End shows, smashing previous years’ record of 9
-I became pescetarian in September and kept with it aside from a bit of turkey on Thanksgiving
-We rang in the New Year with new friends and a killer fireworks display in London

I don’t like to make formal New Year’s Resolutions, but there are some things I’d like to focus on in 2018. I’d like to continue my pescetarian diet at least until my next cholesterol test, just to see if it’s making any difference. Though to be honest, I don’t really miss meat that much. I think I’d also like to have another go at a half marathon this year, either the Flying Pig in Cincinnati or the Royal Parks Half in London (if I can manage to secure a ballot spot! Third time’s the charm, right?). On the hobby front, I’d like to pursue calligraphy and lettering more. I got into it a bit last year, but I got some nice pens and paper for my birthday this year that make me want to do it more. They say you should have at least 3 hobbies — one to keep you healthy, one that allows you to be creative, and one that makes you money. At least I’ve got the first two down! (Does writing and editing count as a money-making hobby if it’s your job?)

Here’s to a great 2018 — may I not spend the entirety of it jet lagged! (I’ve been back in London 6 days now and it’s starting to feel like I just might)

doug the pug new year

Wipeout deja vu

9 Dec

Lately I’ve been entertaining the thought of running another half marathon. Heck, I even let the thought of running a full marathon enter my mind. My hip and knee injuries from the Thanksgiving Day Race have all but healed. I’ve even been keeping up with my running in the treacherous weather. This morning I did what all the running blogs and magazines say to do and laid out my kit the night before. I got dressed the minute I woke up, before I had a chance to talk myself out of it. It was freezing outside — literally, the temperature was in the 20s. Even Pokemon Go warned me that it was extreme weather conditions and I should be careful. But I still ran. I was actually feeling pretty good given the conditions. I ran a decent mile. And then my headphones battery died. And then my fingers started to go numb through my two pairs of gloves.

And then I wiped out.

Again.

corgi tripping.gif

In the very same manner I did in the race, ripping open the very same wound on my knee that was finally getting better. I laid back on the sidewalk and actually screamed out “Really?! Again?!” It didn’t seem possible, but the pain in my knee was very real and all too familiar. I contemplated how long I could lay there before one of my parents’ neighbors would see me. When I finally stood up I noticed the woman across the street getting into her car — did she witness the whole thing? If she did she didn’t seem at all concerned. I thought about shaking it off and running home, but I wasn’t in a race anymore. Instead of an adrenaline rush I was feeling anger and frustration. How did this happen? Does cold weather somehow change my gait? Did I step on a sidewalk crack and mess up my knee instead of my mother’s back? Was it because I was wearing the same shirt and socks I did during the race, and hadn’t worn since? That last one is a bit ridiculous. But I can’t help but wonder what’s going on considering I went a good three years in between running wipeouts, and suddenly I have two within weeks.

I know one thing’s for sure — I need to take some time off from running to let my knee heal (again). I have a lot of work to do before I go to Chicago and Milwaukee next weekend, and I want to be able to focus on spending time with my friends instead of racking up the miles. I’m pretty sure my knee is just skinned and bruised, so hopefully I can get back to running (without falling!) in a week or two.

2017 Thanksgiving Day Race recap

4 Dec

2017 thanksgiving day race.jpgI did not have high expectations for this year’s Thanksgiving Day Race. Thanks to Pokemon Go, I hadn’t trained as hard as previous years. My A goal was a PR, but I would settle for a B goal of finishing in under an hour. And after I did a 2-mile shakeout run the day before to test my new trainers and thermal compression shirt, a C goal of just finishing seemed more attainable. I was used to running on the flat park paths of London in 50-degree weather. The forecast for 9am on race day was 26 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 C).

In the past we’ve always gotten to the race too early with nothing to do but stand around and shiver, so we left later this year, only to find they really do close the roads at 8am, so it was nearly impossible to find parking. My parents dropped me off near the stadium while they searched for a spot. I had just enough time to queue for the loo (can I say that in America?) before I walked to the start. I was feeling ambitious and lined up with the 9-minute mile crew. I took two puffs of my inhaler and soon we were off.

The problem with the Thanksgiving Day Race (and a lot of other races that aren’t serious marathons) is that no one takes the timing corrals seriously. Immediately after I crossed the starting line I was boxed in by a crew of walkers, only to get around them and encounter slow runners. All my runs on tourist-infested Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus prepared me for this, so I maneuvered around them effortlessly, hopping up on the sidewalk, then down on the road, then back on the sidewalk. I was feeling good. I had my music blasting, my two pairs of gloves were keeping my hands warm, my new thermal compression top was doing its job, and I let myself think that maybe — just maybe — I had a personal best in me after all.

frenchie tripping.gif

And then I was on the ground. It happened so suddenly, but at the same time felt like slow motion. I could feel myself falling, but couldn’t do anything to stop it. My right knee and left hip hit the sidewalk hard and my brand new iPhone went flying. (The fact that it didn’t get damaged is a testament to my Speck case!) Runners around me stopped to make sure I was OK. I quickly got up and gave a little kick to make sure my leg wasn’t seriously injured. I was so close to the starting line that I could easily have called it quits and walked back. I decided I would try running for a minute and if it didn’t hurt, I’d continue on. I quickly discovered that a pain-masking adrenaline rush is a very real thing, and I felt faster and stronger than ever. It was also so cold out that it probably had the same effect as icing my knee. So when Britney came through my headphones and told me to “get to work,” I took off, as if the spectacular wipe out never happened.

I ever started to get cocky around mile 3. I opened Pokemon Go and started spinning stops for items as I ran. I even placed a Pokemon in a gym along the course. MapMyRun was telling me my pace was around 9 minutes a mile, which I knew wasn’t right, but I still felt like maybe my shot at a PR wasn’t lost. And then the final bridge came. I didn’t walk it, but it definitely slowed me down. The last mile of a race always seems to go on forever. I sprinted the last bit, but it wasn’t enough. I crossed the finish line in under an hour, but a minute slower than my time from two years ago. Not too shabby considering I wiped out in the first mile and almost didn’t continue.

By the time I met up with my parents and Cherry and collected my swag, the reality of my injuries started to kick in and really hurt. Blood was seeping through my two layers of pants. My hip didn’t begin to hurt until days later, but my knee was extraordinarily bruised and beat up. I spent the rest of the morning icing it while watching the parade. It’s now 11 days later and it’s still bruised and scabbed. I’m quite fortunate that I wasn’t seriously injured and that it only hurts now when Cherry jumps up on me or I forget and slam a cabinet shut with my knee. My hip was really bothering me last week to the point that I almost went to the doctor, but I tried some stretches I read about online and it really made a difference.This whole week I’ve felt 30 going on 70 complaining about my hip and knee pain. Getting old is the worst. I thought running was supposed to keep me young and healthy?

How is it mid-November already?

17 Nov

Is it just me, or does the time between the end of August and Thanksgiving go by in about 10 minutes? I swear we were just getting back from our summer holiday, and now I’m looking at the massive amount of Christmas presents I’ve purchased over the past few weeks and am wondering how I’m going to fit them all in my suitcase when I head back to the U.S. on Tuesday. I’m seriously contemplating not packing any clothing — I have a closet full of sweaters at my parents’, and we already have plans to hit the outlet mall on Black Friday. The only thing I need to bring is running clothes for the Thanksgiving 10K. I keep checking the Thanksgiving Day forecast for Cincinnati hoping for it to warm up. It has changed from snow to rain to sun, so we’re headed in the right direction, but my body is definitely not used to running in freezing temperatures. A PR would be nice, but I’m not sure I’ve trained enough for one, so I may have to settle with just finishing.

I was hoping to fit in one more West End show before my trip back, but I couldn’t manage to score lottery tickets to see Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones) in Venus in Fur and didn’t want to see it badly enough to queue for day seats. I only managed 3 day seat queues this year, which is impressive considering I saw 16 shows. I finally got out of the 9 shows a year slump! 16 is a nice even number to go out on, and is setting the bar high for next year. And while I may be done with London shows for 2017, I’m not done with theatre for the year — my friend and I got tickets to see Hamilton in Chicago next month! We’ll see if it lives up to the hype (and believe me, at the insane ticket price and the non-stop “OMG HAMILTON!!” on social media, my expectations are sky high).

As per tradition, I walked around Oxford Street yesterday to take in all the Christmas lights. It’s the same display they had last year (and possibly every year), which is beautiful, but like most things in life, would be even more beautiful if there weren’t so many people everywhere. I was particularly intrigued by the conversation this couple walking next to me was having.

“Look how impressive this is now, just imagine how it will look once they turn the lights on!” the guy said to his girlfriend.

I did not take any photos of the Oxford Street lights, so I’ll post one from Time Out.

oxford st lights

That’s what the street looked like. As the American saying goes, “It was lit up like the 4th of July.” From the stores to the hanging bulbs above the street, the whole area was awash in light. No bulb remained unlit.

What was he talking about?!

He kept repeating it too. “It’s gonna look so cool with all the lights on!”

“All the lights are on, you nitwit!” I wanted to shout.

Perhaps he was confusing Oxford Street with Regent Street. Oxford Street turned their lights on on November 7, while Regent Street waited until yesterday. I walked down Regent Street in the early evening yesterday and the lights weren’t on yet, and it was very obvious to tell. I’m not sure what additional lights he was hoping would be turned on on Oxford Street. He certainly needed to turn on the light in his head.