1.22.2015

Currently: January

Wow - this week has flown by! I love short weeks because I still have the same amount of work to get done but less days to do it in, so the days go by very quickly. I have also been dog sitting, so I have been getting up even earlier in order to take the dog out before work. This makes for long days, but at the same time they seem to be very short. 

Current Book - I am all over the show lately with books. I am currently reading The Tipping Point on my Kindle and The Virgin's Lover in hardback and I have 2 other actual books checked out from the library and 4 e-books! I am on a roll this month though and have already read three books. Let's see if we can keep this train moving! 

Current Running Path - New Years Day run: Mt. Tam summit #1. Last year a local ran to the summit 100 times. It's about 2,500 ft high. Last year I ran to the summit once. Maybe this year we will make it twice!


Current Drink - Strawberry smoothie with coconut water and yogurt 

Current Excitement - I am in travel planning frenzy and am currently booking up all of my summer weekends...   

Current fashion trend - Ultra runners and their beards. Did you know there is a twitter page for ultra runner Rob Krar's beard? Beard is the new mustache. What's next, I wonder?  

Current Favorite Blog/Website - I have been digging Google Calendars lately. I have always used it, but I just set up a shared family page and even have my parents using it. It's fun and handy! 

Current Garden Item - dirt

Current Love - My magic bullet! I have been making smoothies and sauces and it's so fun and easy.

Current Food - My go to food has either been salads or baked potatoes lately. I am feeling a bit lazy in the cooking department these days. I blame the dark of winter.

Current Indulgence - Cookies. I am still riding the holiday snack train and I can't get off. 

Currently Pondering - What is going to happen to the Euro? Is anyone keeping up with the news regarding this? 


Current Mood - Tired. Too many things I want to do and not enough time for sleep.


Current New Find - A new running detour, which takes me to this view:

 

Current Peeve - People who don't pick up their dog poo. I ran in the dusk/dark tonight and almost stepped in a huge pile on the SIDEWALK. Yuck. This also reminds me of my peeve regarding lazy people. Grrr.  
 
Current Song - I have always liked this band, and this song is catchy!




Current Triumph - I broke down and bought a nice down jacket (the Ghost Whisperer) with some of my Christmas money. Why is this a triumph? Well, I got it at about half price and I have been wanting one for a long time but I have been biding my time... I am excited to try it out! 
 
Current TV Show -  I watched Orange Is The New Black and enjoyed it (and am waiting for the next season to be released on Netflix). I also started watching Breaking Bad (finally) and am about half way through the second season. So far so good.

Current Wish-List - There are a lot of things I wish for! I would love to have Scotty beam me somewhere from time to time... but realistically, I am still looking for that perfect sleeping bag that is lightweight and keeps me warm and doesn't cost TOO much (almost impossible). This is the one I am considering, but it is kind of expensive, especially since I would prefer the 20 degree option.

Currently Delaying - This sounds really gross, but the dog I am sitting had a tick and I had to remove it and it was nasty. Yesterday I found another one and today I am hesitant to check her again because I don't want to have to do any more tick removal. It's gross!

What are you delaying? What is your current triumph? What are you reading?

1.14.2015

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

I work with 7 guys. It's a bit like this:


Except there are not any deer.

We work in a small office with a long double-sided shared desk, which means I have someone on my left, right and center by about 1 - 2 feet. We can hear everything that the other people are saying. In addition to that, we have the TV on all day on CNBC or Bloomberg, plus we have a thing called the Hoot, which is basically like a CB channel where traders and other people can broadcast things and communicate with each other. It gets a bit loud sometimes.

Men, as you may know, are very simple. They basically talk about three things: money, women and food. When they get mad at each other, they lay it all out there. Fortunately, although I am generally pretty passive aggressive, this situation works for me. You just say what you mean and if someone has a problem with it, they say so, and then you get over it. It's much more efficient that the way that women do it.

However, it is funny how although men are not as bad at back stabbing or talking behind other people's backs, they do it from time to time. That is part of the problem of working so closely together every day. You really have to get along pretty well and carry your own weight, or it affects the entire group. There is one guy who is not quite there, as in he does things halfway and does not pull his own weight, and it really changes the feeling in the room.

I hear a lot of things in that room. I hear the F word at least a dozen times a day (and the S word? too many times to count). I hear the guys talk about their dates, how hot the new newscaster is on CNBC, or how their wife leaves the peanut butter knife out on the counter. They joke around with each other if one of them wears a pink tie or gets a new haircut. They talk about bathroom functions. I hear and know everything about them. And they are like family to me. You know how your brothers always annoyed you but you loved them just the same? That's how it is with these guys. They are my seven annoying, funny, lovable dwarfs. And I am Snow White.

What is your work setting like? Do you work in close quarters with the people you work with? Do you get along with everyone?

1.12.2015

Best of 2014: Travel

Well, this about wraps up the "Best of" series, but I have saved the best for last! This year I sure did not get to travel as much as I have in past years, but I did make a point to go and visit a few friends, as well as getting a couple of "vacation" days in! Aside from that, I took many day trips / road trips to closer places like Sonoma county, Tahoe, and the Sierra Nevadas. As I mentioned in my finance wrap up post, travel overall is one of my bigger expenses, and it is not by accident!

Charlotte, NC: In February, I went to visit Lisa in Charlotte, and we had a great time eating our way through Asheville, as well as doing a bit of hiking and a lot of visiting!

Asheville, NC

Sisters, Oregon: A trip that has become a tradition, my yearly visit to Sisters was, as always, full of good runs, fresh air and lots and lots of visiting time with a good friend. In addition, she had just had her newest baby, and it was really good to spend some time with both kids! If you are ever in Sisters, be sure to stop at the Sisters Bakery; they have the biggest apple fritters you have ever seen and they are delicious! 

View from the PCT

New York City: I always love visiting New York and this time was no different! My dad was working there and I took the opportunity to visit him and my mom while the weather was good. We had a great time wandering around, sometimes running, and definitely eating a lot! 

Manhattan Bridge

Mayrhofen, Austria (and surrounds): In September, I spent about 12 days in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Everywhere I went was great, but one of my favorite things was a 5 day Alps hiking trip on the Berlin High Trail near Mayrhofen. Each day I would hike all day and then settle down at one of the huts for some food, maybe a song or two (the Tyroleans like their music!) and a game of cards. It was beautiful and I would go back there in a heartbeat (maybe in winter for some skiing).

Berlin High Trail

Some other highlights included going to Phoenix to pace a friend for the Javelina Jundred, to Boston for Easter with friends and to run the marathon, to Mt. Whitney for a nice three day weekend hike, to the Grand Canyon & Vegas on a road trip, to the Redwoods for a camping trip, to Reno for a race, to Bodega Bay for clam chowder and a walk on the beach and to South Lake Tahoe for MLK day and the Superbowl.

Mt. Whitney trail
2014 was a good year full of fun places and great people and I can't wait to start planning trips for 2015!!

Did you do any traveling this year? Where was your favorite trip?

1.08.2015

Best Of 2014: Running

The last year of running has been an interesting one for me.

A few things happened; first I started racing with a team. I joined in order to be more competitive, but what I didn't realize was how many great people I would meet along the way. I have not only made friends within the team I am racing with, but through them, have met many other great people. In addition, once or twice a month, I have been running with a group on the weekends, which is totally new to me. And I like it. Usually I run as a solo artist, but I am beginning to learn that sometimes the miles go quicker when you are with a friend.

Last year I ran 2,552 miles and it was an interesting journey...Some of the highlights were:

Marlette Lake Trail

Running with my friend Kelly. In May, I ran a couple of races where I was injured and under-trained and so I got to run a few races with a friend who normally is a little slower than me. It was a really great chance to get to know each other better and this camaraderie carried easily through the year. In November I had the chance to pace her for the last section of a hundred mile race, and it was good to feel like I was giving something back to her, as she has been super supportive to me this year.

Tahoe Rim Trail

Road trips! It started off in January with a road trip to Sacramento for a race, and the year continued, with road trips for both my own races as well as others. Two of my favorites were a trip to Forrest Hill / Auburn for Western States where we cheered people on and ran around the trails a bit while we waited. The second was a trip up to South Lake Tahoe for the TRT 100. I got a ride up with a virtual stranger who is now a good friend, and I had a great time running on Saturday and cheering for everyone on Sunday. Sometimes the most fun part of the race is the after party and being part of the crowd. I also flew to Pheonix to pace/crew a friend and that was a very exciting trip as well. There is nothing more satisfying than being a part of someone's joy and success.

Getting 2nd place overall female at the Tamalpa 50k. As I was running through the aid stations, people kept shouting out that I was third, and I thought that they just could not count very well, or had missed someone going by. Then at the second to last aid station, they said that I was 2nd woman, and I just thought that this proved my point that they were not really paying enough attention. When I came through the finish shoot, the race director put his arms around me and told me I was second and I was floored! In addition, I got a cool fleece pullover and a drop bag for my efforts!

Anthony Chabot Park

Seeing Broski become a stronger runner as the year has progressed. In March, Broski and I ran the R2R2R together and although it was tough for him, he went on to run the Tamalpa 50k, his first official ultra. In addition, he has really come far in his training and has even signed up for a couple of races in 2015 already!

North Kaibob Trail

Training in the Marin Headlands. They are not really super easy to access (I have to cross a bridge and drive about 20 miles) so I often just run in my own backyard. However, when I do get extra time or have wheels, I love to treat myself with a run in the headlands. The weather is great, the views are fantastic and you can get a decent amount of vertical climb in a relatively short time.

Getting an award!! My running club voted me the ultra runner of the year! It's such an honor, especially since there are a lot of people who are faster, volunteer more, are nicer and who run more races than me.


There are really just too many to list. Other highlights included a Rim to Rim to Rim run at the Grand Canyon, getting to run Boston after the terror of last year's race, and running my first 100k in May. 

So what is on the agenda for this year? Hopefully more fun, more road trips, races and friends. Definitely a lot of hard work, as I have signed up for a 100 mile race this summer! It will be interesting to see where my training takes me and whether or not I become a sniveling mess after running 80 miles.... More on that later!

What were your top running moments in 2014? What are your 2015 fitness goals? 

1.05.2015

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

I feel that I have always been a pretty frugal spender. However, I do not skimp when it comes to certain things. Interesting though, is how my "actual" spending list stacks up to my perceived spending list. In this post from 2012, I thought that the heavy expenses would be: travel, gifts for other people, and running related items.

In all actuality, I was not too far off. Check out the pie chart** below:




Let's break it down, shall we?

Rent -- This includes rent and utilities. This is a category I didn't really consider as something that I "splurge" on, as it is a necessity. However, this is clearly my biggest expense, at over 2x the cost of the next category.

Travel -- I was right when I said I would spend the most on travel. In 2014, I did not skimp on the trips. I went to Charlotte to visit Lisa, central Oregon for an annual summer trip, Mt. Whitney, New York City, Europe and Phoenix. In addition there were several weekend trips to Tahoe, Sacramento and Marin for running excursions as well as many trips to Sonoma county to hang with Broski, and home to see my parents. Looking at the numbers, the dollar amount I spent on travel was a bit outrageous. However, I will bring a bag lunch every day if it means spending that money on traveling!

Dining Out -- This category is pretty self explanatory, and includes dining at all restaurants, bars and coffee shops.

Transportation -- This includes mostly public transportation / commuting costs. However, a couple of times a year I rent a car to get to races or to holiday functions, so car rental and gas are also included in this category. Really, about half of it could also be added into the "travel" category.

All Other --There were a lot of categories, and I had to get rid of some of the smaller ones. However, some of the other categories that were higher on the list but didn't make the cut were: taxes (2.4%), insurance (2.2%), gym (1.1%), credit card fees (0.89%), and entertainment (0.61%). Apparently my main "entertainment" is Running or Dining Out.  

Shopping -- This category is pretty broad, but basically includes the following: gifts, toiletries & household items (non food), clothing & shoes, electronics and books. The bulk of this category went to the gift subtotal. This distant second runner up was toiletries/household items. Funny enough, this year I only spent $4.00 on books, as I am getting most of them from the library these days.

Running -- This includes the cost of races and shopping for running related items. I found it interesting (and proving my theory) that it was high enough to warrant it's own piece of the pie and to not get lumped into the "all other" category.  If transportation costs were also added in, this category would probably be closer to 9%.

Groceries -- Although this is 6% of my spending pie, when it all boils down to it, I spend less than $40 per week on groceries. To note, I very rarely buy meat or alcohol, which are two of the more expensive things. However, I make up for this by buying lots of fancy nuts and cheeses. Of course my food cost is also supplemented with dining out, but even added together, total food costs equal about $80 per week, including booze, coffee and fancy nuts. This also includes food eaten while traveling. This cost could have been a lot higher, but my brother is a wine (and beer) maker and so I can't remember the last time I bought a bottle of wine in the store.

Health -- This mostly includes my premium, but also includes co-pays and contact lenses, which are minimal.

**Not included in the pie was any money set aside for retirement, savings or investments.

The Verdict? I was pretty much spot on regarding where I spend most of my money. I love budgeting how to spend, as well as looking back to see where it all went. I feel that being aware really makes a difference in your spending, just as logging your calories makes you think twice about reaching for that second piece of pie. In order to keep track, I use my bank's "Portfolio" tool, which lets you upload/link all of your accounts so that you can look at them all at the same place. I have also heard good things about Mint, and have just started to try in out recently. So far it seems to have good budgeting tools.

What will I watch next year? I could spend more on groceries and less on eating out, but I really do not eat out that much unless friends are in town or I am traveling. I could save a lot of money by not traveling, but that is one of my rewards to myself and I am not really willing to give that up. However, the Europe trip I took was not really a "budget" trip, so I could have saved by staying in cheaper lodging and/or buying my plane ticket earlier (it was over $1000!). I could also save by buying less gifts or less expensive gifts for people, as well as not buying so much running related stuff.

All in all, I was pretty happy with my spending this year. If you check out Mr. Money Mustache, he writes a post every year about how much he spent the last year, and I am about on par with him. Of course, his is for two people, but on the other hand, he does not have to pay rent (especially rent in the Bay Area). How about you: Do you spend more, less or about the same amount as Mr. Money Mustache?

Do you keep track of your spending? Where do you spend the most? What costs do you feel that you need to minimize and/or cut in 2015?

12.30.2014

Best Of 2014: Books

Although this year I did a lot more studying than reading for fun, and have not been posting as much as I normally do, I could not resist the yearly recap post phase, which is always so fun. These recaps are often where I get ideas for my next year's travel, books and races!

So here they are, in no particular order, my top seven reads from 2014. You can find past lists here: 2013, 2012, and 2011.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking -- This one took me a bit to get through, but it was because it's chock full of information and it was a lot to take in. However, I really related to a lot of the things that she talks about. For instance, introverts are not necessarily shy; they just need alone time to recharge and prefer less stimulus than extroverts.

Mr. Penumbria's 24 Hour Bookstore -- This was a fun and fast read about a quirky old man who owns a bookstore in San Francisco that turns out to be more than just a bookstore. I liked the story and it had a few twists, plus it was set in the city, so that gave it an added plus.

Eleanor and Park --A story about an unlikely pair of friends in high school, this story was one of those ones you just can't put down because it is so fun!

Unbroken -- You probably know all about this because of the movie, but it's a story about an Olympic runner turned WWII airman who gets stranded in the ocean for many weeks and captured by the Japanese. He goes through hell and lives to tell the tale. It's a very interesting book.

Orphan Train -- I didn't realize this part of our nation's history, but large trains full of orphans were sent to the Midwest from the East Coast and were "adopted" and made to work on the farms there. This was an eye opening and interesting read about one of the orphan girls.

MWF seeking BFF -- A thirty something who has just moved to a new city sets out to make a new best friend. She quickly realizes how hard it is to make friends when you are a married thirty something. She tries really hard though, pulling people from all walks of life, and ends up with a few good friends in the end.

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry --  Recommended by Lisa, this story did not disappoint. This is the story of a book seller on a tiny island in MA who ends up adopting a stowaway baby. He is a likeable character and he goes through some of the same worries and thoughts and tribulations as we all have gone through. It was one of those books I could not put down.

So there you have it! This year's list is a lot smaller than the past years, but there are always a few good ones. This year more than others, I put a lot of books down unread. I probably started but did not finish at least a dozen books. I have decided that it's not worth my time to read a book I am not getting into.

How about you: What was your favorite book this year? Did you put any down without finishing them?

12.29.2014

And In With The New

At the beginning of this year, I did a huge purge of all things old and moldy and holey. 2015 will be no different. Gone are the days of too big pants, too tight underwear, and year old stewed tomatoes. Actually, I try to be pretty good about either using things or throwing them away, but I do have a bit of hoarder in my genes, and so some things are harder than others to get rid of. However, my neat freak usually wins out and my spreadsheets come out and then there is no stopping me. So here it is, the list.

2015 New Year List:

Throw away: any socks with holes, underwear with holes, mismatched socks (this one is difficult for some reason!) too small pants (this year I have a few thanks to my new office job with no lunch break, which is when I would get a nice walk in), magazines not yet read, newspapers not yet read (don't get scared; there aren't that many of these), expired food items, old paper files, towels with holes, too short sweaters and DVDs I will never watch.

Do this soon: Read any books on shelf that have not been read yet, then give them to Goodwill.  Cook any nearly expired food items.Watch any DVDs, then give them to Goodwill. Write thank you notes. Update Christmas card list.

Organize/back up: photos, contacts, computer files, paper files, drawers, closets, shelves.

Dust/Sweep/Clean: top shelves, fans, under and behind all furniture. Toilet, tub and windowsills. The top of the refrigerator/dryer, the back/front porch and the garage.

Take to Goodwill: All clothing/books/DVDs (see above re too short sweaters and previously read books).

Prepare next year's planner, including running calendar, vacation calendar, goals and expenses/budget. Recap last year's goals, expenses and budget.

Certain things are easy, for example throwing away holey socks. It only takes one (painful) day of walking around with a sock with a hole to realize that it is not worth keeping. Another easy (and fun) thing for me is the rehash of last year's goals, expenses and budget and the preparation of this year's. Lastly, usually there is not very much old food, as we are pretty good at eating things before they go bad. The exception would be things like Halloween candy, which does not get eaten, and therefore sits around for quite some time.

Not as easy to do is the deep clean (it's not that fun), the reading or tossing of old books and magazines (I feel that I "might" read them "soon"), and the getting rid of too tight pants. I mean, what if I lose weight in a couple of months? I wouldn't want to have to go out and buy new pants! That would be a waste. How many pairs of pants does one person really need though? I'm thinking 17. Just kidding. Sort of. Well, at least one in every color and every size, just in case, right? You get my point. They are hard to throw away.

The bottom line is that cleaning out my closet or dusting the top of the fridge makes me feel like I am starting out the year fresh and new. It also makes my brain feel less cluttered, which is the most valuable part of it all.  So let's bring in the new year with a de-cluttered house and mind, shall we?

Do you do a yearly deep clean or purge? What is your least favorite chore? Be honest: how many pairs of pants do you own (and of the total, how many actually fit)?