Monday, August 31, 2015

lake george

These pictures are worth a thousand words, but I've added a few phrases with each to describe the atmosphere around each of these photos. Please enjoy my favorite sights from one my favorite places on the whole planet.

Gazing across the cool, glassy lake from the lightly swaying dock, while waves lap at the posts and boats gently tug on their lines.

cozy birdhouse | lake george

Chilly sprays of water dampening my hair and jacket as Grampa speeds us across the lake in his boat. My hair whipping around my face and over the colorful towel wrapped tight around my shoulders.

cozy birdhouse | lake george

The pure joy of zipping across the slightly choppy water in a Jet Ski. That thrill of feeling just barely out of control as you dash over a wave or wake.

cozy birdhouse | jet skis on lake george

The crisp sound of plastic playing cards shuffling over a checkered table cloth during a picnic on the islands. Brightly colored bocce balls scattered between gnarled roots and crunchy pine needles.

cozy birdhouse | playing cards on the island at lake george

The screeching calls of several large juvenile bald eagles, screaming at their parents from their massive aerie in the treetops of the islands.

cozy birdhouse | bald eagle baby at lake george

cozy birdhouse | bald eagle at lake george

The light buzzing and shrill chirp of tiny hummingbirds flitting in and out of the porch while we eat dinner and play cards.

cozy birdhouse | hummingbird

The most brilliant rainbow, illuminated against feathery clouds and deepening evening skies in the gentlest summer rain.

cozy birdhouse | double rainbow over lake george

The floor of the back room littered with Atari games during an afternoon trying to beat the high score on the BMX part of California Games.

cozy birdhouse | atari collection at lake george

The inspiration for my blog: Gramma and Grampa's "The Years" documenting their biggest family events every year since their wedding.

cozy birdhouse | 'the years' books by gramma and grampa

The glint from the shelf over the sink, lined with dozens KLM Delft Blue Houses, still full and sealed. An inconspicuous memento of their many amazing travels.

cozy birdhouse | gramma and grampa's KLM delft blue house collection

The slightly musty scent of the vintage 1960s and 70s Springbok circular puzzles which Dad rescues from the closet as soon as we arrive. Remembering how we each used to hide a piece in our hands when the puzzle was almost complete, hoping we would be the one to finish it.

cozy birdhouse | vintage springbok round puzzles

cozy birdhouse | working puzzles at gramma and grampa's house

Thank you for a great visit, Gramma and Grampa! I'll treasure these memories for years.

cozy birdhouse | dan and i with gramma and grampa

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


I'm officially a half marathoner!

Last Saturday, I completed all 13.1 miles of the Camp Chingachgook Half Marathon at Lake George, New York. The route runs from the south end of the lake up along the eastern edge, with beautiful scenic views and rolling hills the entire length. Growing up, we visited my grandparents at their home on Lake George almost every summer and Christmas break. Since I graduated from college, my trips have been less frequent but more treasured each time. When I discovered the Camp Chingachgook Half Marathon happened to coincide with our short lake vacation this year, I was thrilled! I'd be running at one of my favorite places on earth, and my family would be there to cheer me on!

The race course was along a road that remained open to traffic for the whole event. Although it was mildly annoying to keep an eye out for cars, it was very convenient for my adoring fans. My mom and dad followed in their rental car, cheering each time they passed and stopping a little ahead of me several times to hop out and cheer me on with their colorful posters. I particularly loved the acrostic poem of my name where they added a new word at each of their cheering spots along the route! Dan also followed along and staggered his stops so I had someone cheering for me almost every mile! Here's a little recap of my race:

Mile 1: Feeling great! All my anxiety about getting injured and not making it to this day is already melting away. The weather is bright and beautiful, but a little warmer than I'd like. Spotting a bald eagle overhead energized me for the first of many, many hills.

Miles 2-5: Feeling good! Hanging out near the back of the pack. Slowly picking off people one by one on the uphills. Glad I trained on the hills at home!

Miles 6-9: Feeling okay. A little tired, and a little overheated. Survived the biggest hill! Gramma and Grampa and all my siblings popped up at mile 8 to cheer me on!

Miles 10-12: Ugh. So many hills. Slowing down a bit and walking here and there. I thought it would be downhill/flat after mile 11.5. It was not. Hills the ENTIRE time!

Mile 13: The longest mile of my LIFE! Running purely on willpower; still passing people!

Mile 13.1: AAAARRRRGHHHH!!!! Finished! Total time 2:26:39, for an average pace of 11:11 minutes/mile. Almost collapsed at the finish line, but I DID IT! I used up all my energy, and left nothing on the course. So proud to have finished and so happy to be done!

I was feeling pretty crummy at the end and shakily climbed down into the refreshingly cool lake. After a few touch-and-go moments from drinking too much water too fast, my stomach settled out and I was able to nibble a hot dog at the post-race cookout in the camp shelter. I donned my medal (a bright pink Camp Chingachgook cowbell) and took a photo with my fan club and their posters.

Crossing the finish line was the completion of my 300th mile since I started training in April. Since 300 miles is approximately the distance from my house to The Windy City, my family even made a poster for the end of the race saying, "Welcome to Chicago!" (which hopefully didn't confuse the other runners too much).

That evening back at the condo, my family threw a little party with streamers and cupcakes to celebrate my race and my cousin Matthew's birthday. My parents gave me a card and a little silver necklace stamped with 13.1 that has been repurposed into a charm for my collection! Even Charlie was excited for me; My friend Kathy who was taking care of him this week texted this photo Saturday evening. Probably one of my all-time favorite texts!

Finally, because I am an engineer and I like data, here's some graphs detailing my training and race:

I have lots more to share from our trip, but will save that for another day. I'll have plenty of time to spend sorting and editing my photos as I recover and reduce my training schedule!

Monday, August 17, 2015

a tale of two weddings

Two weddings in two days in two different cities. We had a very busy weekend in early August!

Friday evening, we left work and drove straight to South Bend for Wedding #1: Dave & Julie (one of my college roommates). After dinner at the Fiddler's Hearth, Dan and I walked from our hotel at St. Mary's to the grotto at Notre Dame to light a candle for Nolan.

cozy birdhouse | the grotto at notre dame

Saturday morning, I jogged to campus. It was hot and humid, but I always love running around the lakes! I completed my first Couch to 5K program running around those lakes with my friend Susie!

cozy birdhouse | view of the university of notre dame from across the lake

The wedding was held Saturday afternoon in nearby Mishawaka. Julie looked absolutely stunning, and the bridesmaids were beautiful in varying shades of pink/coral.

cozy birdhouse | julie and dave's wedding

The church was bright and pretty, but my favorite part was its proximity to Ritter's Frozen Custard, my favorite ice cream place in the entire world. Thank goodness we had some time between the ceremony and reception to grab a treat!

cozy birdhouse | ritters!!!!

The reception was held at the South Bend Country Club in the main room and outside deck overlooking a beautiful golf course. Julie surprised everyone by hiring the DJ from my college friends' favorite bar. The look on their faces when they discovered this little Easter Egg was priceless. My friends and I have maintained one continuous email chain for years with the subject line "Subjects Are For Organized People" (abbreviated to SAFOP). Because we live all over the country, we absolutely must take a group picture when we are all together!

cozy birdhouse | SAFOP

At the end of the night, we sent off the newlyweds with a tunnel of sparklers!

cozy birdhouse | julie and dave's wedding

Sunday morning, we went to church and immediately began the drive back home for Wedding #2: Karen & Brian (one of Dan's friends from work). We made it home around 3pm, and I had time for some power-resting (laying on the couch and watching an episode of Elementary from the DVR) before getting showered and dressed up again. The ceremony was held at outside (also at a golf course), and finished up just in time to avoid a light sprinkling of rain that came through. We enjoyed dancing and catching up with some friends we haven't seen in a little while at the reception.

cozy birdhouse | brian and karen's wedding

cozy birdhouse | at brian and karen's wedding

It was an exhausting weekend, but we were happy to spend it celebrating with so many close friends!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

things i learned in wales

Last week, I made my second business trip to Wales for an event at our facility located a few miles outside of Cardiff. I enjoyed this trip even more than my first one in November 2013, as I could be more independent both at work and around the city. The event provided an excellent opportunity to spend time with coworkers from all over the world (Mexico, Poland, India, Singapore) that I talk to weekly, but rarely get to meet in-person. Here's a few things I learned during my week in Wales:

  • Virgin Atlantic international flights are pretty nice, and a (free!) upgrade to premium economy is even nicer. My seat came with a bit more room, an individual TV screen, free beverages, two hot meals served on real dishes, and a little amenity kit with eye mask, ear plugs, and socks for the overnight flight. I giggled a bit when the flight attendant served our snacks, a little packet of pretzels from a company called Penn State Classic American Snacks (made in the UK... and apparently not affiliated with Dan's alma mater in any way).

cozy birdhouse | penn state brand pretzels

  • "Lemonade" is what British people call "Sprite." Here's a transcript of my exchange with the flight attendant when I learned this. (Please read the flight attendant's part with a British accent for authenticity.)
    Flight attendant: Can I get you anything to drink?
    Me: A Sprite please?
    Flight attendant: Is a lemonade okay?
    Me (inner monologue): In what universe is that considered a reasonable substitute???
    Me (out loud): Sure.
    Then she handed me a little can that said "R. White's Lemonade" from which I poured 150 mL of sparkling lemon-lime flavored soda. So... Sprite. Which made me wonder: How do you order an actual lemonade in the UK??
  • It rains in Wales. A lot. One local gave me this nifty tip for predicting the weather: "If you can see the mountain, it's about to rain. If you can't see the mountain, it's already raining." The downpour started during our drive from Heathrow to Cardiff on Sunday morning and didn't really let up until mid-day Wednesday. We passed the dreary morning exploring a very soggy Cardiff castle. We bumped into a few of our coworkers who had arrived a day earlier and were smart enough to snag a couple of umbrellas from the Poundland (English version of the dollar store). They were unfazed by the limited selection of patterns and proudly carried their new blue and white flowered umbrellas around the city. I think this was my favorite photo from the whole trip.

cozy birdhouse | a rainy trip to Cardiff castle

cozy birdhouse | a rainy trip to Cardiff castle

  • Braised faggots are a tasty dish. Especially if you don't find out until after eating them that they're made from liver and heart. I enjoyed mine served with mashed potatoes and mushy peas, though I did feel pretty weird ordering faggots at the canteen. Also, I've said it before and I'll say it again: there is a serious lack of meat pies in the States. Why haven't we embraced the combination of beef and pastry? Yum.
  • Dragons are everywhere in Wales! Statues, symbols, signs, posters... everywhere! I particularly liked the big metal dragon perched atop the City Hall building. It's just such a cool symbol. I was particularly excited to find a silver dragon charm for my collection at one of the gifts shops (even though I was actually out for a jog at the time and had to carry it with me the rest of the run).

cozy birdhouse | cardiff city hall

  • When the rain finally stops, Cardiff is absolutely beautiful. I made a few treks through Bute Park, which is a huge green space right in the middle of the city with trails, paved paths, landscaped gardens, and huge open fields. My walk along the flower-lined paths beside the River Taff on sunny Wednesday was much more pleasant than my rainy jog on squishy trails the day before! After my brisk walk, I felt much better about indulging at our work dinner at Madeira, a Portuguese restaurant that served my enormous kebab by hanging it from a ceiling hook over the table.

cozy birdhouse | bute park in cardiff

cozy birdhouse | bute park in cardiff

  • When running the Cardiff Bay Trail, allow a few extra minutes for the drawbridge! On Thursday, our last night in town, I decided to tackle the 6 mile trail around the bay plus the mileage to and from the hotel. I made a running buddy on the route, a Cardiff native and father-of-two named Adam who is training for a local half marathon in October. I passed a couple of notable landmarks including Millennium Stadium and the terracotta-colored Pierhead Building, part of the estate of the National Assembly of Wales. The beautiful weather, flat trails, good company, and gorgeous views made it a very enjoyable 10 miles!

cozy birdhouse | cardiff bay

cozy birdhouse | cardiff bay

cozy birdhouse | millennium stadium in cardiff

cozy birdhouse | pierhead building in cardiff

  • And finally, British game shows are the best. During our vacation to London in 2013, Dan and I discovered "Countdown" which is a strange combination of spelling and "maths" quizzes solved by B-list British comedians. In addition to "Countdown" I also watched "Catch Phrase" (celebrities try to determine the common sayings illustrated by poor-quality computer animations), "Golden Balls" (game itself was dumb but the name made me giggle), and 1970's re-runs of "Bullseye" (my new favorite... a perfect marriage of darts and trivia).

My brain was pretty tired of trying to sound out Welsh (Cymraeg) words on all the signs around Cardiff (Caerdydd) by the end of the week, but I'm already looking forward to my next trip!