Wednesday, March 19, 2014

San Francisco

In January Lauren, Leti, Marissa, Heather, and I ran the 15k Hot Chocolate race in San Francisco. We booked our hotel rooms about a month in advance and were ready to get our run on! Several days before our drive out, my aunt offered to put us up for a night in their fancy hotel suite, so of course we obliged. The way I purchased an overnight stay at the original hotel didn't allow for us to cancel our reservation, but we were able to change the dates, so another trip to San Francisco was made! Only Leti, Lauren, and I went on this trip...Marissa and Heather were able to get a refund for their reservation. It's been hard to make plans for the weekends due to training runs, but luckily we had the first Sunday of March off, so we decided to drive to the Bay Area that weekend.

We drove up to San Francisco on Saturday and made our first stop at my favorite fabric store ever, Fabric Outlet in the Mission District. They sell the best knit fabric there for the best prices. I actually didn't get any knits this time, but I did manage to purchase some black stretch velvet and floral rayon-like fabric.

This trip we had no real plans for our weekend in the city. Like I've said before, I love trying new vegan restaurants when I travel so that was something I wanted to do. Before leaving Sacramento, I'd been searching different places to dine in San Francisco. One of my many interesting hobbies. After Fabric Outlet we headed over to Source for dinner. We ordered spicy buffalo bites and source fries with rosemary sea salt and creamy Gilroy garlic sauce for appetizers. The buffalo bites were to die for and I loved the ranch that came with it. For dinner the three of us shared the awesome burger, smashed potato pie pizza, and siracha cluck teriyaki. The burger was good, different, but good. It was made out of beets so it was red/purple in color and I was not expecting that at all. It had good flavor and was filling, so I enjoyed it. I never had mashed potatoes on pizza, but likewise it tasted yummy, but could've used a bit more flavoring. The teriyaki chicken stir fry was also tasty, but it wasn't anything "special" that couldn't have been offered at most other restaurants with some alterations. For dessert we went overboard and busted our buttons. We devoured a chocolate covered twinkee, strawberry filled snowball, and a brownie bite. I've never been a fan of twinkees or snowballs, so I'm not the best person to critique those. I did try a few bites of the snowball, and to my surprise I enjoyed the cake-like outside as long as I didn't eat the filling. I've never been a fan of filled desserts. I know, I'm picky and weird. The brownie bite tasted like a chocolate brownie Clif bar cut up and doused with chocolate mouse. I didn't care too much for the brownie, but the mouse was good.

We spent the next morning at the Ferry Building as I read that they have vegan donuts! We stopped at Pepple's Donuts and bought a dozen donuts. I picked out the lemon, vanilla glazed, maple, and chocolate donuts. I enjoyed them all except for the lemon one...too tart for my taste buds! These donuts were definitely worth the weight...he he, get it?  I also tried a vegan steamed Chinese bao that was pretty good. I was just impressed they offered a vegan version.

Next we stopped at the ImagiKnit yarn store...Lauren loves yarn. As Stitches West was the weekend before, I was on a strict no-more-yarn diet and refrained from buying anything, although the Manos de Uruguay Alegria has been tempting me.

We made a stop at another fabric store...a huge warehouse that carried all kinds of fabric in large bolts. I purchased some plaid cotton, lots of muslin, and white/black striped knit fabric. San Francisco is my favorite place to shop for fabric, even though I've hardly used any of the fabric I already own.

Before driving back to Sacramento, we stopped at Source again for lunch. We had the buffalo bites (again), baked spinach artichoke fondue, peking quack spring rolls for appetizers. I've never tasted anything like the spring rolls; they were amazing! We each order our own entrees this time...I picked the crisp Caesar salad with "chicken". It was a good salad and I appreciated all the lettuce after stuffing myself the previous with everything but veggies, but the dressing didn't taste Casesar-ish. Don't get me wrong, the dressing was still really good, but it wasn't what I was expecting.

I don't have another trip to San Francisco planned just yet, but when I do go back I foresee more fabric shopping and an abundance of vegan food in store for me!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Shamrock'n Half Marathon 2014

Yesterday Lauren and I ran the Sharmrock'n half marathon in Sacramento. It's probably one of my favorite road courses in the area, and it's such a good event to take in some of the cool sights downtown. The race starts in West Sacramento right outside of Raley Field, the River Cats' baseball stadium. We ran past the state capital, along the bike trail, through Old Sacramento, and crossed the finish line back inside Raley Field, near home plate.

First of all, this race went SO much better than last year's Shamrock'n. No scrapes or injuries this year, thus a successful run if I do say so myself. I actually ran my personal best half marathon yesterday, PR'ing by 23 minutes! My official time is 2:14.50 and I'm so pleased with it. We beat Lauren's mom's half marathon time by 3 minutes which she ran about a decade ago. Lauren and I also ran 20 trail miles yesterday, so I'd be curious to know how well we would've done today had we not been running on tired legs.

There were several things I did differently this race which I think allowed me to improve my time and be happy with my finish. First of all, I've been training with SacFit since last June and have been running pretty regularly since then. Since I am training for a 50 mile trail race, I've been running lots of hills and much longer distances. So, running 13.1 miles on flat terrain was easier than my long distance trail runs I've become used to running. This race I was so much more well-conditioned than previous half marathons and training with a running group has really helped me reach this goal.

In SacFit most pace groups run intervals. On Saturdays my group runs 6:1 intervals; we run for 6 minutes, walk 1 minute. It might seem a little silly to walk so much during a race, but those short walk breaks really help me keep going and give my muscles and bones time to recuperate from running hard. So, Lauren and I decided to do 8:1 intervals for this race and it worked really well for us.

Additionally, I learned how to hydrate and fuel while running. SacFit has offered several seminars regarding these topics and Fleet Feet Sacramento has given me a lot of advice too. I ended up eating about 100 calories every 4 miles. At mile 4 I ate a citrus Clif gel, at mile 8 I ate three orange Clif shot blocks, and at mile 12 I just ate 1 shot block. I also drank water throughout the entire run, and had a cup of Nuun five times. Compared to last year's complete lack of fuel, this year was a great improvement. Eating every 4 miles and getting my electrolytes from Nuun worked for me. The most important thing about running is do what is best for you, do what works for your own body.

My mom saw us cross the finish line and took Lauren and me out to lunch afterwards. We went to Wicked 'Wich and I had the vegan tree hugger burger again. Delicious!

I had an awesome run yesterday and I couldn't have dreamed of anything better.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Merit Vegetarian

Lauren and I made a deal for our Stitches West trip: I would drive and by gas, and Lauren would buy dinner. One of my absolute favorite things about going on trips is searching for delicious vegan food. Seriously. So of course, this trip required a good meal as well.

I left it up to Lauren to choose a restaurant, and after narrowing it down to two she chose Merit Vegetarian, which should really be called Merit Vegan. Everything there is vegan! Awesome. It's located in Sunnyvale, so it wasn't too far of a drive from the Santa Clara Convention Center.

Merit Vegetarian is a Chinese restaurant that serves Americanized dishes. Even though there were only two of us, we ordered enough to probably feed an entire (skinny) family. I never pass up the chance for delicious leftovers. We decided on drumsticks and imperial rolls for appetizers. For our entrees we shared the gourmet fried rice, orange nuggets, and noble broccoli. And what's dinner without dessert? With a full list of vegan desserts to choose from, we opted for the strawberry cheesecake.

Everything there was delicious and I'm still amazed that every single item was vegan! The fried rice and orange nuggets were my favorite dishes. The cheesecake was surprisingly fluffy like dairy cheesecake! While we didn't finish all the food at the restaurant, every last morsel was gone the following day. Hence, their food does well microwaved a day later and still tastes delightful.

Merit Vegetarian...move to Sacramento please!   

Pretzel Stitch Markers

I had so much fun collecting different stitch markers at Stitches West last year, that I jumped at the chance to participate in the stitch marker swap again this year.

Last year I made rubber ducky stitch markers and I wanted to use clay again this time. With Lauren's help, I decided to make pretzel stitch markers, because really, who doesn't love pretzels?

I mixed up a batch of pretzel-brown clay using brown, orange, and white polymer clays. I ended up creating a ball of clay about the size of my fist. Then I pinched a small ball of clay off and rolled it out evenly so that it looked like a snake. It took a lot of practice to shape the "snake" into a pretzel, so much so that I almost ditched the pretzel idea completely. I didn't obsess over making the pretzels identical to one another; I am actually loving the fact that no two pretzels are alike.

After I shaped all my pretzels (with some help from Lauren), I popped them in the oven for about 30 minutes. Once they cooled, I added some white glitter and modge podge to look like salt. I found that using a wet toothpick was the most efficient way to add glitter, and I simply just painted on the modge podge with a thin paintbrush.

I let the modge podge dry for about an hour and relied on Lauren to add jump rings to my pretzels. Thanks Lauren :) I made both knitting stitch markers with regular circular jump rings, and crochet stitch markers with lobster claws. The whole pretzel-making process took a few days, but the more time I spent working on them, the more I enjoyed seeing the finished project.

I ended up making 92 pretzels, and I had 36 rubber ducks leftover from last year. When given the choice, most people actually wanted one of my leftover ducks instead of a pretzel...oh well! I didn't do too much swapping in the Marketplace this year because I only had one day to shop, but I really enjoyed exchanging stitch markers at the designated meetup that evening. There were some really cute ones out there like Lauren's mini skeins, Lego heads, and random word beads, just to name a few.

Even though there's no way I'll ever need hundreds of stitch markers, I still love participating in the swap just to see what everyone else comes up with and makes. It's a great way to use up supplies you already have and an excellent way to end up with some unique pieces!