Monthly Archives: June 2015

A two t-shirt day

Those who know me, and in particular those who have seen my closet, know that I have a fair amount of t-shirts.

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I can’t remember the last time I bought a t-shirt, but I sure do have a lot of them. On this one shelf (not all pictured) there are 81. I counted. After tidying them up for the picture.

They have a variety of origins – gifts, giveaways, events, races, and the occasional (way back when) purchase – but mostly they’re from races. Run a race? You get a shirt! You get a shirt? Add it to the shelf! And then you kind of rotate through them, with some getting more attention than others, owing to factors like a good design, a better fit, and that it’s easier to grab the ones near the top.

This past Sunday was a two t-shirt day, as in, I got two new shirts to add to the collection. The reason was that I did a 5K, which naturally came with getting a t-shirt, and then after the race they gave me another t-shirt as part of the award…for winning the race!

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Race shirt

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Award shirt from one of the race sponsors, a toute heure

I usually don’t make a big deal about accomplishments, and part of me, as I’m writing this, wonders if I’ll actually post this when I’m done, but what the hell :). I haven’t written a race recap in a while, and I felt good and had a good time doing it, as in I was enjoying it while I was running. So here we go!

First as a disclaimer, I would say that yes, my current running fitness is pretty good, but it’s also not at the level that would typically win a race. Usually even in a smaller race like this one, there’s a handful of people who will go faster than the 19+ minutes I did. I also didn’t enter it because I had visions of winning. I entered because my brother was doing it and it would be another opportunity go see him and his family. Running it could also confirm where I was at running-wise; in the past month or two, I feel like I’ve been getting back into it, enjoying it more again and feeling like I want to keep building it up.

All things considered, my finishing position at the end was a highlight, since it’s a pretty rare thing for me end up there, but what else stood out? Mostly it was the process, which is to also say the story, the guts of it.

While warming up and then standing at the start, my mindset this time was actually better than it usually is. I was pretty successful at staying relaxed and not worrying about it. I don’t do too many races, but often there’ll be a time right before the start that involves some focused worries about ‘not doing well’ or ‘not running good enough’ (‘what if I can’t do it?’, ‘what if I don’t go fast enough,’), which are typical and understandable thoughts but also ones I could a little more without. Butterflies are good, but to a point.

A minute or two after the start, the field settled, and the following became clear: there were only two people in front of me, they were at most five seconds in front of me, and we were going about the same pace. My basic, non-winning and relaxing-but-still-pushing-it-a-little plan going into the race was simply to stay calm and collected and go slightly faster than would feel comfortable. And there I was, doing that, and near the front. Which then produced a minute or two of the old worry…what if I keep this up? what if I pass them and take the lead? what if I can’t do it after that???

And then I was like, Whatever, I’m just going to keep doing my thing. We passed the first mile mark at just over six minutes, with me still a few seconds behind and feeling good, and then the guy in second slowed his pace just slightly. I had a brief moment where I thought, I could just hang back, not take a chance, and run with this guy, and then the moment passed, and I passed him. And then I was up behind the guy in front, who now also was slowing. The thought repeated itself, but this time in more of a split-second format, and I passed him. It was about seven or eight minutes in, and I never looked back.

I kept going at my pace and my original plan, and it flew by. I noticed that being in front also seems to get you more cheers, but not considerably more than say, two years ago, when I last did the race and did it at a more modest pace, while pushing my niece in the Bob. I led in the stroller division that day and remember getting a equal amount of “Go Dad!” cheers from the people watching and “Go faster Uncle D! You’re not going fast enough!” statements from the four-year old getting the free ride.

My brother pushed his other, younger daughter in the Bob this time, and a highlight of the race this year came a little over two miles in, as the route made a left turn past the corner where my sister-in-law and my now six-year old niece were standing.

“Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D!”

I think that’ s an exact quote.

Plus or minus.

And then before I knew it, I crossed the finish line. And my thoughts went from, I’m doing this, to, I did it 🙂

What if I can do it. What if I believe in myself. What if I keep doing my own thing and keep enjoying it. What if what if becomes more of memory.

It was a good run, and one of more to come.

On time, and in time, in the garden

The community gardening season is back! Actually it’s been back for a month now, with the recreation department having prepared the plots and let us know we could get started on May 1st. I’ll admit that my initial reaction to the later start was to be annoyed (late March/early April would have been better for peas and other things), but when I did finally make it there on May 9th (yep, more than a week after I could), it turned out alright. Like it always does 🙂

Had I gone right away, I wouldn’t have seen the small plants coming up from the seeds left behind by last year’s plants – sunflowers, morning glories, and radishes! Apparently there were some strong little seeds that made it through the winter and the recreation department’s roto-tilling.

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Upon initial inspection, seeing a lot of brown

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But then after looking more closely, some green

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And some more

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And more! Here, a radish seedling.

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A cilantro plant said hello as well

It was a reminder that timing is everything. And that also important is how you respond. This time (and lately more times than not, I believe) my response was (and has been) one of more going with it and seeing the beauty and appreciating what’s there. I wouldn’t call it a laissez-faire attitude, which would imply a lack of action and responsibility, but rather more of a forward-moving, active one, with ownership acknowledged. I can control and act on what I can, like getting started in the garden and planting things (tomatoes, basil, hot peppers, summer squash, cucumbers, corn, edamame, and more sunflowers, cilantro, and radishes!, so far), but you never know how it’s going to turn out. So you go with it and adapt along the way. Like, for instance, how it looks like I’m going to be planting some more seeds or buying more transplants (I actually just got some cucumber and tomato transplants at the farmers’ market yesterday) for the places where the cucumber, edamame, and cilantro seeds didn’t come up. And that’s okay. And like, for instance, how I can take more classes, write more, draw more, apply for different jobs, go on dates, meet more people, and do whatever, and we’ll see how it goes and figure it out.

When you have the right mindset, things also seem to happen at the right time. A friend of mine, who read a number of foodnsight posts recently, remarked how a lot of them were about time, and I think he’s right. I’d thought about starting the blog for a while, but it didn’t actually happen…until it happened to be right time.

A coconut falls when it’s ready.

You can’t say your mother’s soup is the best until you’ve stepped out of her kitchen.

Proverbs add spice to language.

I think, but I’m not completely sure, that’s how these three food / life / thought proverbs go. That’s how I remember them at least, having heard them in lecture and in conversation by a bouncing, full of life college professor who was originally from Ghana and who you could tell truly enjoyed what he was doing both in school as a professor and outside of school as a minister, which in general was teaching, connecting with people, and adding a lot of energy and spice all around.

It’s always the right time to do what you want to do, and to do what feels right. The coconut for the inception of this blog fell a little over a year ago, and more have been falling since, at different rates. Sometimes it’s a chance encounter with a special rutabaga (and a day off from work, and the deadline of a family gathering), or sometimes it’s a neighbor’s gift of plantains (and a good run, plus a friend’s general suggestion to let the words come more easily), and then it falls more quickly. Other times it’s the lessening shelf-life of a winter squash, or that the gravity (and levity) simply builds up, and then it’s time. In any case, the cumulative result is also a chronicle of time passing, a certain curated version of my life that also, I hope, comes with bits of art, truth, and beauty mixed in with the radishes, pumpkins, and risotto. It’s also great when the fun, funny, and creativity are all flowing.

Given the timing of this post, more than a month after the last one, I say we also take a little time and a quick look at some of the food highlights and time-points from May.

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Plantains – I made them, and they were awesome! I more or less followed my neighbor’s recipe, which in my case turned out to be the following: after letting three yellow plantains ripen (after about a week they softened a bit and the outsides turned somewhat black), I peeled them, sliced them into coins, and fried them for 5-10 minutes (flipping them halfway through) in an oil mixture of 2 cups canola oil and 2 Tbsp palm oil. I also let the oil heat up first before frying them (medium heat), and when they were done I placed them on a plate with a paper towel to dry.

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Spinach – This one also deserves an exclamation point. Sauteed spinach with chopped garlic and rutabaga, made in a mixture of canola and palm oil! I could have eaten a plateful of this it was so good. It was easy too: I sauteed the diced rutabaga (about a cup’s worth) in a few Tbsp of oil over medium heat, then added the diced garlic (a few cloves worth) and sauteed that also until it was softened just like the rutabaga (this brought me to about 15 minutes now from the start), and then added the spinach (about 8 oz, but you can add more) and let it cook over low heat for a few minutes until the spinach was wilted (pictured above). As if that wasn’t good enough (though it was, believe me), I also tried the following: 1) adding a handful of chopped raisins and chopped sliced almonds, and 2) adding the chopped raisins and almonds, and also adding some finely shredded Parmesan cheese. Both ways, so good.

If the canola and palm oil mixture sounds familiar too, it should! It’s the same oil that I used for the plantains. And by the “same” oil, I do literally mean the same oil because, really, although plantains soak up some oil when they’re fried, the amount that remains from the original 2+ cups of oil when frying three plantains is…well, I didn’t measure it, but it looked something like 1-2 cups still remaining. So there was plenty left for me to use with everything I cooked for about two weeks afterwards 🙂 And the rutabaga! Like a squirrel saving a food-prize for later, I still had a softball-size piece of rutabaga left over from the original big one, tucked away in the back of the fridge, waiting for me to use. I had just gotten a fresh bag of spinach from the farmers’ market, and something in my head put the two together…spinach and rutabaga. Yes! It was time to cook the acorn. (I used the rest of the rest of the rutabaga, similarly diced and plantain oil sauteed, in a good tomato sauce the same day.)

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Asparagus – Spring time means not only fresh spinach, but also fresh kale, lettuce, strawberries, and asparagus! (and more). The picture above is from a few weeks ago, when I stopped at Terhune Orchards one afternoon after a bike ride and picked a few pounds of asparagus and several quarts of strawberries. Mmmmmmmmmmm, fresh local strawberries. I wish I had some right now… Yes, and asparagus too 🙂 Part of me also wishes that I had a good picture of the strawberries to use here, as a nice, sweet, juicy, red picture would look great following the yellow and green ones above. But that’s alright. And in the absence of such a picture, let’s give asparagus a little extra love. If you’ve never seen asparagus growing, that’s really how it looks in the field, the green shoots growing right up out of the ground (followed by tall ferns later if the spears aren’t harvested). To pick asparagus, you just snap the shoots off at the base. And then once you’re home, you can steam them, add them to pasta, put them in risotto, grill them, roast them with olive oil / salt / pepper and then add a little lemon juice right at the end!, and do lots of other things I’ll try sometime. Lately I’ve been steaming them since it’s quick, like 5-10 minutes, and then adding either a little salt or no salt. Easy and good.

In the process of finding the rutabaga, I came across a few other things in the fridge that, shall we say, ran out of time. Usually I’m pretty good at using things up, but there were a few small things I had to toss this time. And in the world where food mirrors life, and combine, so too were there some ideas I thought I would use when I started writing, but that now I know I’m going to have to toss. In the process of writing, and now feeling where I’m at and the writing is at, I’m reminded again that not everything can make it into the soup. Ideas, people, and stories can’t be forced; it’s better when it all flows and happens naturally. As another friend once reminded too, if it’s important and needs to be felt or said, there’s always another post, another time.

In the garden, things are growing. The passage of time, a month, allows me to share the following:

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May 9

May 16

May 16

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May 23

June 5

June 5

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Projected future outcome

Actual results may vary…

But where there are buds, flowers often follow 🙂

For now, I found some flowers of another kind, from thinning the radishes,

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Radish bouquet

and found some color, and neat patterns too, from underground.

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How about that for beauty? It’s like looking down at farm fields from an airplane, but with every shade of red instead of green (and with a lyrical inspiration nod to “The Hudson” by Dar Williams). I think I have a thing for radishes.