Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Vehicular Ice Capades -OR- That Time I Wrecked the Car

5:30 a.m.: Alarm goes off. I hit snooze. Obviously.

5:40 a.m.: I hit snooze again.

5:44 a.m.: I am paranoid that I will sleep through the next alarm so decide to check the weather on my phone. 28 degrees with freezing rain. Fun.

6:35 a.m.: I decide that it will probably take longer to get to work on account of the freezing rain. Decide to take the Subaru. Figure that buys me an extra 10 minutes.

6:45 a.m.: I step out onto the porch. The crunch of the welcome mat tells me this ain't gonna be easy. I gingerly step down the stairs and literally slide over to the car. Definitely taking the Subaru this morning.

6:55 a.m.: I am finally done scraping ice off the windshield and carefully back out the driveway. Carefully drive down the street. Time to turn left.

6:57 a.m.: Carefully turn left. The car swerves. Then swerves some more. I do not panic. Adam warned me about this. I feel prepared. Cool as a cucumber. Driving on ice? I got this.

6:59 a.m.: I drive past the high school and middle school and notice there isn't the usual buzz of cars and students. Think it is odd but continue on.

7:07 a.m.: Getting on and off the freeway was no problem. Traffic was slower than usual but there weren't many cars on the road. I make my final left turn. Almost to school. The road continues to curve. The car does not. I have no traction to brake, accelerate, or steer. THUD! into the curb. THUD! into the curb again. THUD! one last time. I notice a truck in front of me is also having issues. It has swerved all the way to the other side of the road but gets it together. I try to continue on. The car will move but there is a terrible sound coming from the front right wheel well. I get out to check on it, doing the ice shuffle so I don't fall down. The wheel has been bent. The tire is now slanting slightly towards the road and touches the body of the car. Cars continue to struggle with this particular stretch of road.

7:10 a.m.: I get the car as out of the way as I can and call Adam. The roads are too dangerous for him to come get me. I text someone from work that I will be late today on account of this accident. They reply "Didn't you know there was a two hour delay?" No, no I did not. I kept getting calls asking if I would like to accept sub jobs for today. I never once got a call saying there was a delayed start. Another driver of a disabled vehicle comes to check on me.

7:16 a.m.: I call road side assistance. They say a tow truck can get to me by 9:07 a.m.

7:25 a.m.: A white SUV slides not too far behind me. A tow truck slides not too far behind it. The SUV recovers and moves on. The tow truck driver comes to check on me. He skates down the street. I have to move my car off the road or the police will ask him to tow it to the city yard. I slowly and carefully move the car.

8:20 a.m.: Worcester has now closed all schools for the day due to icy road conditions.

8:28 a.m.: The tow truck driver calls to say he is in Worcester but is stuck on the freeway with all the accidents. He says there have been over 400 accidents and that even police cruisers are spinning out. He will try to get there as soon as he can.

8:30 a.m.: A police officer who has utility work duty* shows up and asks if I'm okay and if a tow truck is on the way. I say yes, I just talked to the driver and he will be here soon.

9:07 a.m.: Tow driver still stuck.

10:07 a.m.: Tow truck finally arrives.

10:45 a.m.: Get car to body shop. Body shop lady and her husband were also in an accident this morning.

11:00 a.m.: Get call from insurance claim representative. She says it has been a busy morning. Every time she puts down the phone there are 4 more claims.

2:30 p.m.: The ice is finally melting. I call Enterprise to pick up my rental car. They say they have had thousands of calls today because of the ice. They can get me a car by 4 p.m.

4:17 p.m: Still waiting for that car...

*Any time there is construction or utility work there are police officers who direct traffic and make sure the workers are safe from passing cars.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

How to dress for summer

In California, here is what I would wear in the summer. Every day. Because every day is the same (hot).

1.     Shorts
2.     Tank top
3.     Bring sweater/scarf/sweatshirt everywhere because of air conditioning

Here is how I get dressed in Massachusetts.

The other day, when it was not at all humid, I realized the only thing separating me from my California winter wardrobe was a pair of socks and closed toe shoes. I felt really stupid for a minute, until I looked around and saw that several people were also wearing long pants and long sleeves.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

On the Road Again

2013 was a year of intense running. Two marathons, four half marathons, a triathlon, a 10k, and several 5ks really wore me (and my knee, and my hip) out. So I have enjoyed the first 6 months of 2014 as basically run free. I was really thinking "Hey! Maybe this could be my year of no running after spending a year doing nothing but running."

But then, Adam said, "Oh I got an email about registering for the Walt Disney World marathon. I was thinking maybe I would sign up." And I thought "Wow! Adam wants to do a marathon?" And he did! He said he needs motivation to run (because he has none) and that if he were ever going to do a full marathon he'd want it to be a fun one, like the Disney World marathon. I agreed to run with him during training, and then thought, well, if I'm going to be running anyway, maybe I should sign up for a marathon too.

Then we checked the e-mail again, and realized the sign up was for the Princess HALF marathon. I think we both like the idea of doing another half better than jumping into a full, and it IS Disney World, after all... And I've never been... and we were planning on taking a Disney Cruise anyway... so we decided to sign up.

So now the running begins (again). That sub 2 hour half seems so elusive, but I'm determined to get there this time! And then maybe by February I'll be in good enough shape again that running a third marathon won't seem so daunting.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Oh M{eye}!

Last week, I went to the eye doctor. The first thing the eye doctor said to me after entering the room was, “Soooo how do you like driving at night?” Short answer: I don’t enjoy it at all because all I can’t see a dang thing. And then we began my least favorite part: reading the tiny, blurry letters that always look so far away. I always feel like I’m supposed to be able to read the letters, but most of the time I have to just guess. Can other people always read all the letters? E’s and B’s look alike. C’s and G’s. F’s and P’s. Ugh gives me a headache just thinking about it.

So it turns out I need glasses. The guy has me test out three different prescriptions. Of course the ones I like best are the ones that have a prescription strength of only half what it should be, but apparently that’s ok. It will give me time to adjust to wearing glasses without feeling dizzy and deciding to just not wear them.

Today I went to pick up my glasses. Wearing them is actually kind of nice, because everything is nice and crisp, and most importantly, I can read street signs before it’s too late to turn.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

New England wine tasting in a word: Ew

This weekend we went wine tasting in New England for the second time. The first time was on our way home from Rockport, at a place called Russell Orchards. This time we went to a place called Truro Vineyards on Cape Cod.

We drove up and were greeted by a scene pretty typical of a California winery- sprawling lawn with people picnicking and enjoying their wine. In addition, there was a food truck, rum stand, and a game of corn hole going on. We entered the farmhouse style building and there the differences began.

Instead of bellying up to the bar and perusing different options while we chat with the pourer, we had to buy tickets for the next tasting. (They do tastings every 30 minutes there). We happened to arrive at 3:30, perfect timing for the next tasting.

We headed out to the back deck, where there were several round tables set up and a bar with the 10 wines available to taste on display. Each person could taste five wines. Since there were two of us, we opted to share our glasses so that we’d each get to taste all 10 wines.

First up: 2011 Truro Vineyards Chardonnay & 2012 Truro Vineyards Vignoles
Second: 2011 Truro Vineyards Triumph Meritage & 2011 Truro Vineyards Zinfandel
Third: 2011 Truro Vineyards Cabernet Franc & 2010 Truro Vineyards Merlot
Fourth: Truro Vineyards Cape Blush & Right Red
Fifth: Truro Vineyards Cranberry Red & Turo Vineyards Diamond White

The whites were very sour and most of the reds tasted watery, like a Central Coast wine. The Cape Blush was Ok. Out of all of them, I liked the Cranberry Red the best. The people who let us stay at their cape cod house seem to like the Diamond White, because they have several of those empty bottles around their kitchen. The Cranberry Red comes in a clear lighthouse shaped bottle, and the Diamond White comes in a blue lighthouse shaped bottle.

We were kind of hoping that since the bottles were cool, the wines would be good. So far though, we haven’t found anything that rivals a good California wine.

We left the wine tasting area to go get our free sample of their spiced rum. The rum was much better than any of the wines. It tasted like alcoholic chai tea. Yum.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Horse Drawn Carriage Through History

One thing that Worcester is full of is abandoned, crumbling buildings. Ever the city that just won't quit, there is a campaign called "Free the Blackstone," which is all about bringing awareness and business to the part of town with the condemned buildings.  Why? Because they are part of the canal district. The canal that was once the hub of industrialization in New England and allowed products to be sent down to Rhode Island and shipped out (thereby taking business away from Boston and keeping Worcester the bigger city).

Once Boston wised up and built railroad tracks from their little shipping port to the Big City, the people of Worcester started using the canal as an open sewer, into which they would dump industrial waste, human waste, food scraps, butcher scraps, and dead animals. Eventually the canal grew so smelly and toxic that they just covered it up. So the canal disappeared, but the factories that sprang up alongside it remain.

Several of the buildings have a sign on them that is a red square with a white line or x across it. That is to signify to firefighters that the building is condemned and is unsafe for anyone to enter. They had to do that after a fire broke out some time ago and when firefighters went in to put out the flames, the building collapsed on them and they died.

Some of the buildings are being fixed up and turned into residences. Some of them house restaurants and other businesses. Some of them are still factories.

We learned all this on a horse drawn carriage ride through the canal district, complete with college "actors" performing vignettes of business people who were once influential in the district.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Introducing: Ruby the Subie!

Adam and I are full of little quirks, one of them being that our car family is made up of two small red Hondas. Small red Hondas are great when you live in California and you never have to deal with Winter. Small red Hondas are terrible when you live in a hilly city known for getting the most snowfall in the state.

Once we knew we were moving to Massachusetts, we knew we would have to get a snow car. Since Bert is almost paid off (and I love him) we figured it would be best to part with the Civic (who never got a name).

I’ve always wanted a Subaru Outback. It’s what I would have gotten instead of Bert if I could have afforded it. Adam also likes Subarus. Once upon a time he had a fancy Saab that was just a Subaru with a different label on it.

We thought Subarus might still be too expensive, so we had a plan to get a different car, at a much different price. Then we started looking into the fourth of July sales and found out that Subaru was having a clearance on their 2014 Outbacks. Sold!

The dealership had four of the same red Outbacks, so we ended up getting a great deal (below KBB), and now we have a snow car! AND we still have our family of red cars. :)

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Sometimes, Worcester is ok. Most of the time I think it sucks.

I miss California.

Where "ar" is not a forgotten sound
Where a hurricane doesn't ruin 4th of July plans
Where 86 degrees feels comfortable and not sweltering
Where you can take a dip in the lake, or river, or pool to cool off
Where someone says a place and I know how far it is and whether it is safe
Where I know where the roads go
Where I can go to the grocery store and post office without needing GPS
Where I actually have space to walk around in my home
Where recycling is standard
Where the radio stations are familiar and there's a big market for country music
Where I know how to find and get a teaching job
Where the skies are not cloudy all day

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Losing Anonymity

I thought it would be possible to remain anonymous in a city in which I know exactly one person (my husband). But I'm learning that's just not the case.

In trying to meet people and find things to do, I joined a few meet up groups. One of them, the Worcester Alliance of Photographers, had a meet up today. I met a lovely group of people and got to learn some photography lighting techniques. I also ran into someone I've encountered before. He works at Trader Joe's. He gave me advice about cheese.

It was easy to recognize him because he has a gray beard and a British accent. So now, when I go grocery shopping, I will see someone I know.

Also, I was looking up restaurants on Yelp, and who should I see reviews by than more people from the meet up? For the second largest city in New England, Worcester seems pretty small.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

An Atlantic Sunrise, Rockport, and Wine Tasting

I've always thought it would be cool to see the sunrise on the longest day of the year. As a native Californian, I could always see sunsets over the ocean, but never a sunrise. So watching the sun rise over the Atlantic ocean on the longest day of the year seemed like a great way to celebrate the official start of summer.

On Friday I told Adam that we were going on an adventure on Saturday and that he would need to wake up at 2:45 a.m., make us some coffee, and be ready to leave no later than 3:15.

At 3:10 a.m. on Saturday, we grabbed our coffees and a few breakfast burritos and headed out the door. We drove to Rockport, Massachusetts, which is about an hour and a half away, but it's supposed to be one of the best places to watch the sunrise, and it looked like a cute little town.

We arrived before dawn and headed out to the beach with our cameras. It was cold. So cold. We bundled up in a blanket and took pictures.

The last time we tried to watch a sunrise was when we went to the top of Mt. Haleakala on our honeymoon. We ended up missing the actual sunrise because we both had to go to the bathroom really bad. This time, we were not going to make that mistake again.

We saw the sun come up, and thought, "Now what?" It was still only about 5:15 a.m., cold, and nothing was open yet. So we took more pictures.

The problem with eating breakfast at 3 a.m. is that you then need second breakfast, so at 6:30 a.m. we found a little cafe that was open. Most of the clients were in their 70's or older. We suddenly understood why "early bird special" dinners start at 4 p.m. We ate, went back to the car, and napped.

Around 9:30 it finally started to warm up, so we got out of the car, walked around a bunch, and took more pictures.

There is a wharf there called Bear Neck, which has a nice little collection of art shops, galleries, jewelry stores, and other businesses that are great to just go wander around in. We went in several shops, took more pictures, wandered through the Scandinavian Festival, and decided to get lunch.

We ate lunch at a place at the end of the neck and decided that was enough sun for the day. One more parting shot before leaving Rockport.

On the way back, we stopped at a place called Russell Orchards, which is a u-pick type farm with many animals you can look at, a country store, and wine tasting. What surprised us about the wine tasting was that it was not grape wines. First we had a dry, non-carbonated cider. It wasn't very good. Then we had strawberry-rhubarb wine, peach wine, blackberry wine, and strawberry wine sangria. The best out of the bunch was the strawberry wine sangria, but even that wasn't great. It made us really miss wine tasting in Calfornia!

Monday, March 10, 2014

That Time I Ate Poop on Live TV

The title is not misleading. I did eat poop on live TV over the weekend. Lucky for me, it was edible "poop" of the Destination Science variety.

Last week I was contacted about a cool opportunity to promote Destination Science on Good Day Sacramento. I was supposed to go on and talk about some of the things we do at camp, maybe demo the robots and other cool things.

Then I mentioned how two weeks ago, I made the edible poop with my students and they loved it. The producer said making poop and eating it live was a "Good Day dream." So it was settled that I would be making the poop.

Last summer at training when we learned how to make this poop I was very grossed out. But now I've eaten so much of it, I gotta admit it is pretty tasty.

Here's the clip to see for yourself.

The recipe is:

1 tbs butter
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tbs cocoa powder
3 tbs powdered sugar
1/2 slice american cheese
crumbled oreos (to represent undigested bits of food)

Mix it all together in a plastic bag. Adjust quantities as needed to achieve proper consistency.

Finally, gross out everyone you know!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Adventures in Air Travel – or – That Time I Spent the Night at the Airport

Due to a series of unfortunate events (blizzard, mainly), I was not able to get to Boston on my regularly scheduled flight. I could have waited in California until the next day, but then I would have lost a whole day of my trip. Southwest ticket agents are the best ever, and they found me a flight to an East Coast city that was not affected by the blizzard (Baltimore).

I thought that would be great, since Baltimore is near-ish to D.C., where my brother lives. He agreed I could spend the night with him. Too good to be true! Indeed. The catch was, Baltimore is actually about an hour away from D.C. My brother doesn’t have a car. And if I had taken the train, it would have gotten me there around 3 a.m. I would have had to turn around and go right back for my 8 a.m. flight. So that wasn’t going to work.

I looked online to find out if one could voluntarily sleep at an airport. It turns out, it’s quite a popular thing to do and BWI is a good airport in which to do it. Because my travel plans had gotten quite convoluted since I first checked in at 6 am, I wasn’t surprised that my luggage never showed up on the carousel. This was only disappointing because the suitcases had two warm blankets, my snow boots, and several warm coats.

I read online that the international terminal is the quietest and has padded benches, so I changed into sweats and headed over there. It was indeed very quiet. The only other people there were the airport cleaning crew and security personnel doing their rounds. It was so quiet I could hear the fluorescent lights buzzing. Loudly. No matter. I spotted a padded bench. It wasn’t actually padded. It was a metal mesh. Could have been worse. I curled up, pulled my hood over my eyes and tried to sleep.

Soon it got cold. Really cold. I pulled my fleece PJ pants over my sweats, and my snow pants on over those. I wrapped a scarf around my head and neck, and zipped up my coat. I even tried putting a layer of clothing between the bench and me. It was still cold. I realized they probably weren’t heating this empty terminal, and since it was 2:15 am I was quite hungry. Luckily, the Dunkin Donuts at BWI is open 24 hours. I got my first ever Dunkin Donut (wasn’t that impressed) and sat in the relative warmth of the food court for a while.

At 3:00 am I walked over to terminal A, where most people were curled up on wooden benches. I thought it might be warmer over there, so I did the same. It wasn’t.

Finally, at 4:15 the security checkpoint opened. I thought for sure it would be warmer by the gates, since that’s where everyone would soon be headed. I made it to my gate, found some padded seats to stretch across and tried to nap a little bit. It was just too cold. Around 7:00 I got some tea just to try to get warm.

Overall, it wasn’t a terrible experience. It felt as cold as camping in the mountains, so I’m guessing at night the terminal was in the fifties. If I had had warmer clothes or blankets it would have been fine. I was also lucky there was food available. If I sleep at any other airports in the future I will definitely plan on bringing snacks.

On Sunday night I ended up sleeping for 15 hours, so I did make up for all that missed sleep and was not jet lagged at all.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Real Winter - or - A California Girl Goes East

I have lived my 28 years with a very clear definition of “winter”:  The few months out of the year when the days may be cloudy, and one will occasionally have to deal with strong winds and lots of rain. Overall, not such a bad season.

I always thought winter was not so bad because each year I deal with months and months of summer: The five and a half to six months of the year when temperatures rival those in the deepest pits of Hell.

This weekend, I traveled to the East coast during a storm and got to experience what I will now call “Real Winter.” Real Winter is the reason people hate winter.  In Real Winter, the sky is gray. It always seems to be threatening snow. And when it does snow, the flakes will mock you. “Haha. You’re stuck now!”  “Haha! Your feet are cold and wet.” “Haha. I’m melting today but I will freeze overnight and then make you slip in the morning!”

When experiencing Real Winter, you have to actually wear something called “layers.” “Layers” mean you have to wear multiple pairs of pants, multiple shirts, a scarf, a hat, gloves, a coat, and waterproof shoes. Layers are very inconvenient when switching between indoor and outdoor environments. If you wear your Layers indoors, you will soon be sweaty. You could remove them, but they are heavy to carry around. And it takes longer to put them back on than it takes to walk to your car. So you could choose to not wear Layers. You might think, “It’s only 50 feet. I’ll be fine!” If you choose this route, just know that you might get so chilled in those 50 feet that once you get inside, you will wish you had more layers to put on.

Now that I have experienced Real Winter, I appreciate California’s excellent weather. I can’t wait to go back east in June and experience “Real Summer” (aka humidity and bugs).

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My Year of Running

2013 unofficially became my year of running. I did 13 running events in 12 months. The highlights were: improving my marathon time by over an hour, frequently placing in the top 10 of my age group for shorter races, and having a PR at my last race of the year.

What's next? Trying to run a sub 2 hour half marathon at Disneyland for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon in a few weeks.

12 out of 13- not too shabby!

13 in '13

1. Run a Marathon
or two...
Folsom Lake Trail Run: April 27, 2013
California International Marathon: December 8, 2013

2. Complete a Sprint Distance Triathlon
Sacramento International Triathlon (Olympic Distance): June 30, 2013

3. Give Up Meat for at Least a Month
Decided it wasn't worth it this year.

4. Grow Some Veggies or Herbs

The tomato plant produced one tomato, that Adam accidentally knocked off the vine when it was still green. But I am at least growing some (patchy) ground cover in our side yard.

5. Compost
Attempted. Failed. Tried again... Failed again.

6. Perform in a Play
Grizelda in Cinderella Redux: Spring 2013

7. Sing in Public
Got up in front of a small audience in a park and played my guitar and sang.

8. Go Somewhere I've Never Been
Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada: March 2013

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: June 2013
Mammoth Lakes, California: October 2013

9. Help Others
-1/1 Fun Run: Sweet Dreams Foundation
-Wounded Veteran Run: Wounded Warrior Project
-Folsom Firecracker 5k: The Grace Foundation
-Folsom Turkey Trot: Twin Lakes Food Bank
-Jeans for Troops: GI Go Fund
-Canned food drive at school: Twin Lakes Food Bank
-CIM: SRA running programs
-Santa Run: Breast cancer research

10. Simplify
Most of the labels have fallen off, but the pantry still looks fairly organized. We also organized our closet. The garage was organized for a while. The craft room got organized too. And, at school, my files are finally organized!

11. Make an Item of Clothing
To be clear, I never specified it had to be clothing that could be worn anytime... I've made a tutu and a princess dress (but the top was just safety pinned to a tank top).

12. Go to Church More Often
I don't think I went to church more times than in 2012, but I did go more regularly for a while. What I learned was that I feel more spiritually connected in a yoga class than at mass.

13. Work toward my financial goals
WE FILLED THE MONEY JAR! It might not be a big goal, but one goal I had was to fill the money jar with change left around the house. How much money was it you ask? Over $108. Ka-ching!