Monday, September 13, 2010

Mendocino's Sites and Tastes

I woke up bright and early our first morning in Mendocino to go for that 10 mile run I mentioned in my half marathon recount. The first mile of it was running along the freeway, on the shoulder which hardly existed. Anytime a car came near I slowed to a walk and pushed myself as close to the drop off as possible. Luckily, that early in the morning there wasn't much traffic. Eventually I came to my destination for the majority of my run - Russian Gulch Park. I wish I had brought my camera because it was SUCH a gorgeous run, over the bridges and through the woods, through fern gulches with huge pines towering overhead. I came home in time to jump in the shower and head to breakfast before we headed in to Mendocino itself for a little exploring.

The town of Mendocino is VERY small. Thatboy had warned me about that. The downtown area really consisted of two main streets, one of which was mostly consumed with historic buildings.

But we did happen to stubble upon some incredibly fresh raspberry bark and couldn't pass it up. After I bought a couple sticks for the two of us, I was chastised by someone in the know for not treating them reverently enough. We kind of rolled our eyes.

And then we tried them. And all of a sudden, I was very kitten mittens with our extra delicate cargo that couldn't be messed up AT ALL because they were one of the best things we've ever eaten. How come everyone doesn't eat these all the time?

Fittingly for our fourth anniversary (traditional gift = flowers) Mendocino was abloom with. . . blooms. Gardens poked out from between buildings, homes, and in every free space there was.

When we had finished going in and out of the local shops, we headed for a little hike along the coast, which ended down along the beach.

Thatdog LOVES running along the beach. We're lucky enough to live in an area where we can take him to the beach on a fairly regular basis, so he knows exactly what to do. What to do = chase the waves as the come in until his supreme machoness makes the waves retreat.

After a full day, we headed back to the Inn for some wine and appetizers where Thatboy fell in love with some artichoke spread. And then it was off to our very fancy anniversary dinner.

When I was researching places to eat in Mendocino, one restaurant continued to pop up - La Petite Rive. Reservations were a must since there were only 8 tables and 2 seatings for dinner. But we were able to get in, which made me feel very fortunate indeed. And this was before we discovered that the innkeeper who called me his "little runner girl" was the chef at the restaurant along with his wife. We happened to dine on a night where his wife ran the kitchen. And honestly, we couldn't have asked for a better meal!

La Petite Rive works similarly to a tasting menu you would find elsewhere - with a twist. You order your entree, and they take care of bringing you the other four courses. While we waited to order, we ordered a bottle of Cabernet Franc by Rivino. AMAZING. We were blown away by this wine, and we definitely were impressed when we saw what a small batch it came from - only 46 cases were produced. Have I gushed before about how much we love small wineries? So we were tickled when our amuse bouche arrived - beef rolled in gorgonzola and walnut with a small taster of the cab franc. Guess we made a good selection!

Next came a garlic soup which might have been THE BEST SOUP I'VE EVER HAD. Seriously. I'm tempted to email Troy and offer our first born in trade for the recipe. I've seen Troy with kids...he might take me up on it. This was amazingly delicious. Good description right? I can't help it. SO GOOD. No words are enough. Even if the rest of the meal was a fail I would come back for this soup.

And then our salad - greens dressed with a citrus vinaigrette and yummy toasted almonds. I love how something so simple can taste so amazing. Nothing fancy, but every note was pitch perfect (that works for more than just music, right?)

As we ate our salad, I noticed our waitress outside picking flowers. Those flowers then showed up as garnishes as our palette refreshers - mango sorbet. Really, what's not to like about sorbet? Cool refreshing, and obviously cleansing.

For a main course, Thatboy had the filet mignon. I love filet mignon, so take my word for it when I say this was perfect and tender.

But my meal was definitely the winner. The rack of lamb, encrusted in baked goat cheese. Seriously - lamb in goat cheese????? How I could I NOT order this? And it lived up to the hype I had created in my head. The goat cheese was such a great creamy, tangy complement to the sweet rich meat.

For dessert we ordered the chocolate cake. Mostly because Thatboy loves chocolate and dessert and me? I was just fine with my wine and lamb. Although I did eat all the strawberries on top of the slice.

But it's always nice to end an anniversary celebration with cake, right? And this was definitely the way to go out. It was SUCH a fantastic end to another year of marriage and gave us hopes for the next.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Anniversary in Mendocino: 4 years and we haven't killed each other yet

I can't remember how long we had been dating, but I remember from a very early date Thatboy had our retirement all planned out. His long term goal was for us to retire to Mendocino, CA where we would run our own little bed and breakfast. Honestly, he's been talking about this for years.

Mendocino is a little coastal town north of San Francisco where he spent many a childhood summer camping with his family. As for me? I'd never even heard of the place when we started dating, and 10 years later I still hadn't been. So we decided for our 4 year anniversary we would spend a long weekend checking out this place we were supposed to be wiling away our golden years.

We decided to roadtrip that sucker so Thatdog could come with us. Early on a Thursday morning we dogpiled into the car and then we peoplepiled in, ready for the 12 hour drive.

We did our typical route up to the Bay Area, crossed over into Marin County, through Sonoma County, and that's when things started getting new and exciting for me. We wound through dense forests on narrow roads. There were so many trees that it grew dark and cold as we drove.

Once we were through the forest though, we saw the light. And the coast! And it wasn't long before we pulled into our home away from home for the next few nights. Inn at Schoolhouse Creek. So called because it inn...on Schoolhouse Creek. So called because the first school house in the area was built here, beside a creek.

The "main house" where we had breakfast and our afternoon wine and snacks.

During breakfast the innkeepers put out birdseed on the tree stumps outside those windows so we had loads of woodland creatures joining us - bunnies, squirrels, birds, even some families of quail!

And then our rooms. Thatboy and I stayed in one of the rooms built during the crazy motel phase of America so there were three rooms in a row, but all looking out over the ocean.

Thatboy let me pick the room, and he was glad he did - wood everywhere, a huge deck, and a fireplace that functioned as a heater. Everytime it got cold, it would just turn on! And even though it was August, it got plenty cold.

And the Inn especially catered to its four legged guests. Upon check in, That dog was given a special goodie bag.

Thatdog LOVES his new tennis ball. I think he knew it was a special present, because he hasn't ripped it into pieces like most of his toys. And the goodie bag wasn't the only pet friendly aspect.

There was a giant field for him to run around in. And chairs for when he got tired of running.

And a hammock that sat beside the creek. Thatdog was a little nervous about this swinging thing, but he eventually got the hang of it.

Because his mom and dad make him do all sorts of things he hates. And they're mean enough to hold him on a hammock until he realizes it's not going to eat him alive.

And there were loads of other things to amuse us - I just love giant chess sets. Except I can never remember how to play chess. I've been taught a million times, but it goes right in and right out. I think I remember the horsie moves in an L shape....

And there were the resident donkeys...who were much less interested in Thatdog than he was in them.

Once we were all settled in, we headed out to dinner at The Moosse Cafe - a dog friendly restaurant in Mendocino. Well, the patio is dog friendly, so we got to sit outside with a view of the garden.

One of the attractive things about Mendocino is that it is known for both the wines and beers produced in the Anderson Valley. We knew we were going to do a lot of partaking in both. So Thatboy started early with one of our favorite breweries from the area - Anderson Valley Brewery.

Anderson Valley Brew Co is a "green" brewery, using solar power to make its beers. The entire area is very organic and eco-friendly. But it's especially nice when a beer can have a social conscious AND be good too. The Oatmeal Stout is a nice sweet dark beer. I had my 10 miler the next morning, so I only had a sip of Thatboy's, but I would have had more as it lacked the overly hoppy flavor of many of Southern CA's microbrews.

I mentioned earlier that it was cold, even for August. We came prepared in our winter coats, especially since we figured we'd be dining al fresco with Thatdog. It's a good thing we did. Thatboy and I split some mushroom barley soup to warm up! It was absolutely perfect timing and temperature.

Thatdog didn't get the benefit of soup and you could tell this was another one of those moments where he was questioning our sanity for being outside in the cold when we had a perfectly nice room with tennis balls we could be sitting in.

For dinner, Thatboy had salmon with wild mushrooms in a curry sauce. He loved it so much he kept trying to get me to try his sauce - but I declined because of the proximity to the fish. For some reason proximity didn't bother me too much with his mushrooms though. SO delicious and buttery.

I had the crispy organic chicken breast stuffed with a citrus-fennel and olive butter, served with thyme-scented couscous, baby carrots, sun chokes and a tomato-balsamic relish. Now, I love vegetables pretty much any way they're served, but the balsamic relish was to die for! I love the sweet vinegary burn. And as someone who doesn't usually like chicken skin, I was planning on giving it to Thatdog for a special treat. Until I had a bite. And then it was much more "one bite for me, one bite for you."

We were tempted to get some dessert to go home, but we were tired, and full, and knew that we wanted to take advantage of something else our Inn had to offer.

The creekside hot tub! Because it's set away from the rooms, the hot tub is available for dipping pleasure 24 hours a day. And that fence area meant Thatdog could join us! The only problem was we couldn't find a light anywhere, so it was a very dark dip - and that also meant we couldn't keep a good eye on Thatdog. So we made it a quick dip and headed back to our room to enjoy the fireplace and some wine. After all, it was just our first day and we were itching to start the real exploring the next day.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Infamous Half - What, Like It's Hard?

April 24, 2010 - I sign up for the America's Finest City Half Marathon.

April 25, 2010 - 2 runners in the La Jolla Half Marathon collapse of heart attacks. Thatboy informs me he doesn't think my half marathon idea is such a good one.

May 24, 2010 - August 14, 2010 - Training! I had some really awful runs, including an 8 miler I thought would never end. I took so long that Thatboy started worrying and called me to check and see if I was alright - "I'm only a quarter mile away" I told him, "but can you come out and meet me? I could really use a little pick me up." After that I changed up my pre-fueling routine as well as my fueling during my runs. I had done the 15k without needing any supplements, but for some reason, maybe running in the summer instead of winter, I could not make it through 9 miles without a little fuel while I was running. After I got that under control, it was all smooth sailing. I upped my weekday runs to 5 miles, and while at first I dreaded tacking on the extra miles, after the first few weeks 5 miles just flew by. And my weekend runs were amazingly glorious. I did most of them running along the coast, enjoying the view and working on a killer farmer's tan my capris give me. And then there was my last run in Mendocino, which was supposed to be 10 miles - my longest to date. Running through the forest at the crack of dawn was both scary and exhilarating. I sang out loud as I ran to make sure the "Warning: Mountain Lions" knew there was a person coming so they could skedaddle. I didn't quite make it all 10 miles because I got a later start than expected and I had to make it back for breakfast, but I did over 9 and felt like I could keep going easy after that. And it completely endeared me to one of the innkeepers who called me his "little runner girl" for our entire stay there. (More Mendocino good times later).

A couple weeks before the race Faye was in town visiting and we went for a long walk where I confessed all my fears about the half. Faye had already run this particular half before, and even though I knew my fears were ridiculous, I really wanted to hear someone else say that! I had 2 big worries about the race:

1) Time. The course had a 3 hour time limit. This is about a 14 minute mile. Now, recently my typical race speed has been hovering a bit below a 9:30 min/mile, but even before that my race speed was around a 10 min/mile. My "hey, I think I'll go for a lazy run" speed is about an 11 min/mile, and my "I better slow down and catch my breath" speed is about a 12 min/mile. So 14 minutes was easily within my grasp. But a little bug inside my head kept thinking "what if it isn't?" Faye kind of rolled her eyes at me with this concern and told me she was sure I'd finish in the allotted time.

2) THE HILL. Requiring all kinds of capital letters. This is a serious hill. (Although UDubb and I looked at the half she ran in Vancouver and it had a hill that made this one look practically flat.) Check out the rise in elevation between mile 11.5(ish) and 12.5(ish):

Folks - that's about 200 FEET in 1 MILE!!! Now my typical weekday run has a hill that goes up about 100 feet in a mile, so I'm no stranger to hills, but that hill kills me and it's half the elevation! AND it's in the middle of my run, so I know when I get to the top I get to turn around and head home. Who puts a hill like this in the last 2 miles of the course? Thatboy kept assuring me that the hills I ran in Mendocino were way steeper than this hill, but I wasn't buying it. "I walked that hill" Faye told me.

"Yeah, but Faye, you're a much faster runner than I am, there's no way I'm going to be able to walk that hill AND come in within 3 hours."

August 15, 2010 - The day of the race. I was up before dawn. Normally Thatboy drives me to the race and hangs out while I warm up and we wait for the race to start, but this race started at Cabrillo National Monument, a place where we had to be bused to. Which meant I wouldn't have my cheering section there at the start, and I'd have to bus it up there alone. Thatboy dropped me off at the bus stop and I stood in line alone and in the dark and waited to board.

When I got on the bus, my nerves got the better of me. I fought back tears as I texted Thatboy - "I feel like I got on the wrong bus, I don't belong here, I feel like a fraud." I got a quick text back with some words of encouragement. It felt like the longest bus ride of my life and I second guessed myself the entire time.

Luckily once off the bus, a few laps around the parking lot that was serving as the holding area helped me calm down a bit and regain my composure. And it wasn't too long before the sun was up and we began all walking down to the start line. Or so I thought! There were so many people running this race, that by the time I could see the start line I saw that people weren't stopping - just running through! The race had started!

The first three miles seemed to go by so quickly. I don't remember a 5k ever feeling so easy. And I was keeping a pretty consistent 10 minute pace. My goal for the half was just to finish (3 hours), but my little head wanted me to come in around 2:30, and my little heart wanted me closer to 2:10.

Pretty soon I was at mile 6. "Huh," I thought - "I've already run a 10k!" And due to my new fueling technique, I felt a lot stronger than I had during my last 10k.

At mile 7 I realized I was over half way through! "You have less to run now than you've already ran!"

At mile 8 they were handing out champagne, and I remember thinking "I have 5 miles more to go and there is no way I'll be able to finish if I get drunk. And there's no way I can drink champagne right now without getting drunk."

Mile 9 was the hardest for me. To tell you the truth, I remember very little about that mile. I couldn't tell you ANY of the sites I saw or where mile 9 was in relation to the city. I just remember thinking "You're almost a mile 10 - then you just have a 5k left!"

At mile 10 they were handing out hamburgers. Really? Hamburgers? The thought of burgers in the morning while I was running made my stomach turn a little. And this is also where they had a "car wash" set up where you could run through sprinklers. "That'd ruin my ipod" I thought as I avoided the spray. "Only a 5k left to run!"

I was dreading mile 11 - remember that hill? But my time was much better than I thought it would be. I had kept a pretty consistent 10 min/mile for the first half of the race, and around mile 8 slowed down a bit to 11 min/mile. I figured out I could definitely walk the hill and still make it within 3 hours (heck, I could still make it in 2:30). And so when the ground rose up in front of me, I joined almost everyone else in walk/running between mile 11.5 and 12.5. It was cute to see us all passing and getting passed by the same people as we would run a bit, walk a bit, run a bit, walk a bit. It was like the whole race was playing a game of yo-yo.

Between mile 12.5 and the finish I really had to push myself. That's why I typically don't walk during a race, I have a really hard time picking my momentum back up. But I knew I was going to finish, it was right around the corner. Although when one of the "helpful" cheerers yelled that we just had to "push it a little harder" I nearly stopped running so I could kick him. "Push it a little harder?" You're standing there cheering. You run 13 miles and tell me how much harder you're able to push it.

And then I saw the finish and I just sprinted for it. Why not right? If you're going to crumple after crossing, you might as well put on a good show.

But I ended up not crumpling. At all. Like the opposite of crumpling. Thatboy said I didn't look like I had just run a half marathon. He said the nonchalant way I crossed made it seem like I had just finished a 5k. Thatmom also commented that I looked less exhausted than she would have thought. And honestly? I felt fine. Good even. I don't think I could have run much longer, but I definitely wasn't dropping and dying. And, I made myself proud coming in UNDER 2:30. It wasn't 2:10, but it might have been if I hadn't walked a portion of the race, so it's something that I feel is within my reach.

And another fun playlist! I actually didn't get through all of my playlist, so here's what I did listen to!

Half Marathon Playlist
  • Dumpweed - Blink 182
  • Wake Up Call - Maroon 5 (Welcome to the Maroon 5 portion of the playlist)
  • Little of Your Time - Maroon 5
  • Hey Ya - Outkast
  • All these things that I have done - The Killers
  • Stronger - Britney Spears (Ooooh it's the fun girl portion of the playlist!)
  • Barbie Girl - Aqua
  • Bizarre Love Triangle - New Order
  • Hips Don’t Lie - Shakira
  • Smooth - Rob Thomas and Santana
  • Candyman - Christina Aguilara
  • Living on a prayer - Bon Jovi ("ooohhh we're half way there" -I was hoping this would come on when I reached mile 6.5, but it was a little early)
  • This is how we do it - Montell Jordan
  • Sorrow- Bad Religion
  • Paralyzer - Finger Eleven
  • It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me - Billy Joel
  • Laid - James
  • La Vie Boheme - Soundtrack from Rent
  • Bootylicious - Destiny's Child
  • Here Comes the Sun - Beatles
  • House of the Rising Sun - Animals
  • What’s your fantasy - Ludacris
  • Bennie and the Jets - Elton John
  • Edge of Seventeen - Stevie Nicks
  • Bye Bye Bye - N'Sync
  • I run for life - Melissa Etheridge
  • Crocodile Rock - Elton John
  • Shawty Get Loose - PBT
  • Dance Epidemic - Electric Six
  • How You Like Me Now - The Heavy
  • Brown Derby Jump - Cherry Poppin' Daddies
  • Lost Again - Dance Hall Crashers
  • 1-76 - G Love and Special Sauce ( I had a pen pal in elementary school who introduced me to them and a high school friend who LOVED them, so a little tribute to my past with the inclusion of some fun songs)
  • Recipe - G Love and Special Sauce
  • Fat Bottom Girls - Queen
  • Blister in the Sun - Violent Femmes
  • Gone Country - Alan Jackson (This would have introduced the country portion of my playlist, but I ran too fast so I only got 2 songs)
  • Chasin that Neon Rainbow - Alan Jackson

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Summer Makes Me Crabby Week: Crabmeat Casserole

My buddy Faye keeps bugging me to blog about the half marathon I ran a couple weeks back, and I promise I'll get to it - some time before she heads back to the desert, but life throws some unexpected curve balls, doesn't it?

I was recently reminded of just how selfish we all can be. And I had to put myself in check. 2 weeks ago I got devastating news. Except it shouldn't have been devastating for me (see what I mean by selfish?) My friend N awoke in the middle of the night and had to rush her husband K to the hospital. In a scene that surely must have echoed what we felt 2 years ago, her family stood at the hospital praying for a miracle, and trying to hold themselves together when it didn't come.

When Thatdad died we all agreed he was too young. Thatmom felt like she didn't have enough time with him. But Thatdad was twice as old as K. Twice as old. For those of you who aren't good at math, K was in his 20s. Too young doesn't even begin to describe the loss. And when I got the news, the first thing I did was contact N with a message of love and support. And then it became all about me. In a situation that was not about me. I called Thatboy and told him I wasn't okay. I ran a bath and waited for him to come home. We went to the beach and walked and I made him promise never to die. I called Thatmom for some support. I felt myself sinking into depression. And at a certain point I realized that this was ridiculous behavior and I gave myself a stern lecture. Just in time for the unveiling of Thatdad's headstone.

At the unveiling I went back into "protection mode" like I was after the funeral. Keeping an eye on Thatmom. Which was good, because I was able to focus on someone other than me.

It was a weekend full of sadness, memories of men taken far too soon and the rest of us left behind who try to put the pieces of our lives back together. It was the kind of weekend where even chewing seems like too much effort. So it's a good thing there isn't much chewing involved in this crabmeat casserole. Honestly, I was much more interested in the cornmeal mush - which is like a cross between grits and polenta. (Delicious) But then again, you can't be too surprised that a dish filled with mayo and heavy cream wouldn't be my thing.

Crabmeat Casserole (From the Fannie Farmer Cookbook)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp minced parsley
1 Tbsp minced onion
3 1/2 cups crabmeat
6 hard cooked eggs, chopped
1 cup buttered bread crumbs

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and butter a shallow baking dish. Combine the cream, mayo, parsley, onion, salt and pepper to taste, crabmeat, and chopped egg.
  2. Toss lightly, put into baking dish, and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Bake for 30 minutes.

Cornmeal Mush
1 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp salt

  1. Mix the cornmeal with 1 cup cold water.
  2. In a saucepan, bring 3 cups water and the salt to a boil.
  3. Add the cornmeal mixture to the boiling water and cook, stirring often, over medium heat for 7 minutes, or until thick.