February 25, 2014

V Day!

*GAAAHH!!  I never posted this!  better late then never....

V for velocity  virus vistaster VALENTINE'S DAY!!!  Yeah!  Let's start with Valentine's Day.  We decided to go easy this year, no big dinner out and no prezzies, since we'd rather save the money for fun over in Italy!  Plus, we rigged our trip so that we're there in wine country for our 12th wedding anniversary!  Romantic enough, yes?!  And an important milestone anniversary.  What better place to celebrate this beautiful thing we have...that impossibly continues to grow more deep with each passing year?  So, we opted to stay home for a family evening with Willa and get a nice pizza delivered.  And of course we got each other prezzies.  Miles sent a lovely bouquet of roses to my work and gave me a pair of unique copper earrings.  I splurged on a sensational bottle of Barbaresco...the female to Barolo's male.  Grapes from the Peimonte region in Italy.  The most gorgeous wine to ever cross my lips.  The pizza came in handy since we had no heat or hot water.

Let's back-track a day.  Thursday night, Willa and I get home from school.  I head straight to the bathroom with a full bladder.  The toilet seat was FREEZING.  Wait a sec....I still have my down coat on.  It's CHILLY in here....  Uh, oh.  Sure enough, I give the baseboards a feel, check the thermometer.  Ooo!  58 degrees!  I give Miles a heads up and call Karl with a K, our handy handyman.  Our boiler set up is in our crawl space/basement and only accessed though a trap door in the floor of our CLOSET(eye roll).  I get in there to remove the door and turn the light on for Karl's arrival.  Oh, My Fucking GOD.  There is a WATERFALL cascading from our Quietside heater.  There is a foot of water in the crawl space.  Things.....are floating everywhere.  I frantically call back Karl to let him know things are REALLY SNAFU and hurry up!!!!  Willa is in tears thinking the water is going to flood the WHOLE upstairs as well and is frightened when I put on my Xtra-tuffs to get down there and salvage what I can.  Fast forward a few hours, Karl has come and gone, the water shut off and now draining, a part will be ordered, wood stove is blazing, several space-heaters are set up around the house to keep things warm enough to not have pipes freeze and plants die, and Miles and I are hauling up nasty wet trash from the crawl space.  I tell myself it's just junk, a lot of it was going to be given to the Salvation Army anyway, too bad it got ruined.  All our important beloved stuff is upstairs anyway....  Then Miles upends a plastic bin that had tipped over and took on water.  It contained most of my photo albums. Pictures from my childhood up until about age 30....most of which I had taken.....DESTROYED.  Out of hundreds I saved maybe 40-50.  A decent cross-section of years.....but, MAN, it was still a blow.  And what.a.mess.  This vistaster was not taken well by all.

Our little family pizza and wine snuggle fest in our chilly house eased the pain on Valentines day.

Beauty in destruction?
The next morning we escaped headed into Eagle River early to drop Willa off at the Ski bus that would take her and a ton of other very happy kids to Alyeska for the day to have a downhill ski lesson.  Miles and I followed in the car.  We had beautiful clear weather for our day of skiing.  As soon as I got off the lift onto the slope, I killed it! I skied the BEST I have skied in my LIFE!  I think it's from all the skate skiing I've been doing...they seem to compliment each other.  I even took on a great deal of speed that I usually would have been freaked out about. I seem to have entered a "less fear" zone when it comes to velocity!  Willa enjoyed her morning lesson and skied with us for the rest of the day.

 And here we are on Sunday.  Still no heat or hot h2o.  Hoping our part will be delivered and installed  tomorrow.  Continuing to haul up trash and organize all that didn't get wet in the basement.  This has actually been a project on our to do NOW list for quite awhile. The basement has long been a catch-all and storage of all things What Should We Do With THIS?  I'm thinking if we are brutal in our choices, we can cut this shit down by 75%.  It would be a breath of fresh air.
We took a break to make the chocolate dipped strawberries we had promised Willa we could have for Valentines day.  Can't wait until they have cooled and solidified!
And as I have been sitting here, I've begun to feel a "pressure" slowly build in my chest.  That itchy solid feeling that usually signifies a chest cold coming on.
Yay for viruses?  That's all I need.  But the strawberries....that will make it all GOOD.  Right?

Continuing with my All Things Italy as well! ;)
Brings me joy.

Ski the Beach!

 ...The culmination of our skate skiing season with the Junior Nordic ski club. An afternoon of races for kids and adults alike. Races range from 1K to 15 K. It's a fun beach-themed shindig with lots of bathing suits, grass skirts, pink flamingos, colorful flower leis, food and  warm Gatorade punch.  This year it was a balmy 20° on race day but the sun was a-blazing and it felt much warmer.  That solar heat, unique to Alaskan winters, on my face, eyes closed and upturned toward the sun, felt incredible.

But, is was more like Ski the BITCH, for me this time around.  I wasn't planning on skiing the beach due this weird virus that I seem to have had for the past week and a half.  A strange feeling of itchy pressure in my chest but no productive cough. I've also been on a roller coaster of fatigue... feeling quite tired at times and fairly energized others. It's been like a brewing cold that never quite hits- like my body has been battling it and trying to keep it at bay. Up until Sunday morning I was planning on not skiing it with Miles and Willa, or even leaving the house that day, because I just didn't feel like I had the energy for it. But the day was SO gorgeous and beckoning... And after all, this is the ONE ski race I participate in each year. All my time spent helping to coach Junior Nordic, and the personal time I spend training on the hills culminates in this one 7K race for me. So...my ego got the better of me. I threw on my gear at the last minute, had a bowl of oatmeal and decided I was going to go for it. The Facebook invite for Ski the Beach said it started at 12 but they failed to mention  that the set up started at 12.  The actual race didn't start until two, so we found ourselves with two hours to spare but not wanting to go back home. We decided to head over to the Eagle River Alehouse for a light protein filled lunch. Miles and I split some spicy wings and Willa had her standard grilled cheese and fries.

Back at the ski chalet a little while later we picked out our  Hawaiian leis, registered for the race, and hung out with some friends until race time. Miles and I got in line with the 7K racers with Willa behind in the 3K section with her buddies from junior Nordic. The 15 K racers started a couple of minutes before us. When it was our turn, I patted Mile's arm and bid him a good race.   I had the usual excitement at the beginning, polling hard in the tracks until they opened up and I could start to get a good skate on, passing the slower people and trying to catch up with the faster. Fresh corduroy tracks laid and crisp wind in my face!  YES!

 10 minutes later I thought, "What in the HELL was I thinking?!?!".  That window of energy on the rollercoaster I had been riding slammed SHUT. I felt devoid of strength, the muscles in my legs suddenly rubbery. But it's not like I was dying or anything so I plugged on. MAN, it was grueling. Really brutal .  Looking back I realize that there's a lot of the race that I really don't remember! I guess it's kind of like those marathon or ultramarathon runners who, towards the end of the race, start really zoning out, if not hallucinating. While I certainly wasn't hallucinating, I felt that I had transported to the end of the marathon within only a few minutes of starting that ski race. The second half of the race went a little easier than the first because I was skiing on terrain that I'm very familiar with.  I know what's around every bend, and I know if I put a lot of power getting up some of those upcoming grueling hills I'm rewarded with a nice fast downhill glide to restore my breath. While I've really improved with my skate skiing uphill this season, the one thing I've noticed is that while I can ski up the hills quite quickly and even with a little bit of grace, I have to stop at the top because my heart is just pounding, my lungs are in overdrive. Just for a bit, mind you, and then I ride that welcome downhill as far as I can until I reach the next hill. I've also really embraced speed this year both with skate skiing and downhill skiing. When skate skiing on the steeper hills, I used a snowplow a little bit and drag my poles to slow down the descent.  This year something just... changed.  Nothing forced...just a shift in perception, I guess.My skis are straight, I tuck down, poles close in and out behind me and I'm flying down that hill with no fear.

Back when I was still duck-walking hills there was no need to stop at the top as it really didn't take my breath away so much.  But this year it's a different story with the power I'm putting into my form going up hill.  DANG, it's workout!  It really affected my race in that if I wanted to keep continuously skiing without stopping I had to revert back to duck walking up the hills and, yes, it made me feel like a rookie. There were a few top-of-the-hill pauses where I would look back to see who was behind me.  I could often see Miles in the distance and more than a few times I thought I should just stop for a couple of minutes, catch my breath, let him catch up and just finished the race together. But I decided to keep pushing despite how horrible I felt- something I would kind of look down on before I started entering races.   Where have you been all my life, Competitive Streak?!  Where did you come from?  And why did I let you compel me to do something potentially harmful to my body!?!  Well, at least I didn't DNF. I came in just under two minutes slower than last years time which had had me bummed out but then again, I was SICK.   I was 4th out of 7 women.  As I slid through the finish line looking forward to my post race cool-down which usually consists of just walking or slowly skiing a lap, I was immediately halted by some woman who desperately wanted my race bib right NOW.  We wrestled together for a minute trying to pry off that kooky, tight fitting, belly shirt from the 80's lookin' thing and once I was liberated Willa burst out of the Chalet to give me a big hug, report on her race, and as fast as she had appeared, she DISappeared. Willa really rocked her 3K, coming in 8th out of 23 kids.  She was so proud of  herself!  We are too!

I immediately went from feeling horrible to miserable.  My chest and throat felt like sandpaper and my limbs and core were quite shaky with exhaustion.  The warm Gatorade was welcome, indeed.  We went home to very lazy burger-and-mac dinner in front of Terminator 2.

Am I glad I did this race?  Yeah.  As long as it doesn't turn into walking pneumonia or something...  2 days later and my cough is only a little more productive...still tired.  Will I race again while feeling sick like this?  Jeezus Fuck, NO!

Junior Nordic may be coming to a close but the season's not over yet.  There's still a lot of skiing to be done and hopefully we'll get more snow. My goal is to continue working on endurance- trying to ski up those hills without having to stop and gasp at the top. To be able to get through that 7K route without stopping.

Miles at the finish

February 11, 2014

Riding the white...

Up high.....scenes and a vid from our first weekend of alpine skiing:

Willa and I are on the left....

February 9, 2014

Shit's gettin' REAL!!!!!

How often does one get to say, "I just booked a flat owned by a jazz musician for 2 nights in Milan!"?!?!?!  In MILAN!!!!!!!!!!  I said it!!!  It's so surreal in my world right now!!!!!  Look how quaint this is!

It's a tiny 2 floor flat in an old converted 14th century convent facing a courtyard in the Porta Romana district down town Milan.  The owners live right next door, are multi-lingual, and they have a 10 year old daughter. (Willa is very excited!) Perfect for a 2 night stay while we're there for the Pearl Jam concert.

I have spent the last 2 weeks deeply engrossed in researching a handful of AMAZING road trips for us.  Starting in Venice, to Aviano, traveling through the Alps to Innusbruck, back down through Northwest Italy's lakes regions, and to the Langhe in Piemonte.  Then we hit Milan, meander to the Italian Riveria for a few days, and then head back to Aviano for a 2-3 day mellow-out before heading home to Alaska.  I literally could sit here all day looking into into the multitude of ideas available to us.  It's a struggle to make myself stop, fold up the maps, shut off the laptop, close the books and re-enter the real world in Casa Di Pruner.

We've decided we'd like to add 4 extra days onto our trip to really give us a solid chunk of time in the Riviera as well as some rest time in Aviano.  We're waiting till Monday or Tuesday to change our tickets so that we can get the lowest fee.  It will still hurt the wallets....but we think it's worth it!  Not etched in stone yet, but that's the plan.  I've decided to nix Tuscany in favor of Piemonte.  We like the bolder red wines of the region over the lighter reds and Chiantis of Tuscany anyway.  In Piemonte, the rich rolling hills with the Alps as a backdrop, quaint towns and way less tourism really appeals to us.

The Langhe
I've connected with another blogger who, with his wife and new baby, are in the process of renovating an old Langhe farmhouse al la Under The Tuscan Sun.  (The Langhe is hilly sub-region in Cuneo east of the Tanaro river and south of Alba).  A very gracious guy who has given me some great ideas on where to stay and where to mangiando.  I'm really enjoying his well written and humorous account of their adventure:  Living in the Langhe – a new life in Piemonte, Italy !!  I'm hoping we can stay for 4 nights here.  I'd like to split the time between staying in an Agriturismo-Agriturismos are "rural holidays" were you can stay on a working farm, sample the products grown and made there, take tours, horseback ride and  even help work in the vineyards!  And the other half will be spent staying in  a cluster of medieval buildings that have been restored into a B&B complete with it's own restaurant and wine shop...boasting fabulous Apertivi!  This place looks AMAZABALLS!!!!  Both accommodations are way pricier then what we are aiming for, but I think it's worth the splurge.  And I'll be saving tips for the next few months to put toward surprising the fam with an extra night at that Medevil B&B/cave!

I'm really digging this new Travel Research part time job of mine!

AND!  In other travel news.  This just in!  For this year's New York Life council meetings, Miles has already earned us the Executive Council trip!!!  So we'll be spending a week in hot steamy  New Orleans at the end of summer!  And since he's really killin' it so far, he has a slight chance of actually making President's Council and taking us to Puerto Rico!  He has a few more months to give it a shot.  Either way, we'll be ending a summer of travel in one of those two places.  Fuckin' pinch me NOW!  SERIOUSLY?!?!?



**None of the photos on this post are mine....All Via Google Images