What I Learned From NaBloPoMo (And Pistachio Rosewater Ice Cream)

Well, it's been quite an adventure. It may not have been the best month to do commit to posting every day, given that I spent the first few days of July away from the internet, and then was stricken down by the Bubonic Plague for a few days in the middle, but despite that, I managed to crank out a post during the rest of the days in July. I'm proud of myself.

And because it's almost the season for those "What I Did This Summer" essays (remember those? ugh...), here is my version of the genre ... a top ten What I Learned From NaBloPoMo:
  1. I have more versatility as a writer than I thought I did. More than once since the inception of this blog I have banged my head against a virtual wall and talked myself into believing I have nothing to say, or convinced myself that I could only write about food or yoga or parenting. I've gone weeks (well, maybe no more than a week) without posting. But apparently, if I read enough elsewhere, I can come up with other things to talk about, and -- this was the biggest surprise to me -- people actually read what I've written and think it's worth commenting on, even if it's NOT about food or yoga or parenting. Either I'm better at this than I thought, or I have some very kind followers. Well, maybe a little of both.
  2. I don't have to post food every time I write. It's worked for me in the past, but it's not the end of the world if I change that formula every once in a while. People won't instantly stop reading my posts. And I may actually acquire new readers who are interested in the other things I write about. I may stretch my brain a little bit by trying something new.
  3. If you want to write, something has to give. Writing consistently requires reading, which sucks up time. And then writing itself requires more time, to draft, to edit. This month, I did practically zero hours in my consulting job. Which means that I gave up potential pay, small as it may have been, to do this project. There are a limited number of hours in the day, and giving up sleep will not get you more time to write. You need to decide what you are willing to sacrifice, if you're going to write.
  4. Sometimes you will write crap. There are posts I've done this month that I'm not particularly proud of. There are also posts that I think were pretty damn fabulous, if I do say so myself. There was probably more crap than fabulousness, but that's OK with me. Mostly, I had to write the crap in order to keep writing, and get to the good stuff.
  5. Which brings me to this: writing begets writing. If you sit down and write, you will write more. 'Nuff said.
  6. On the flip side: FB is a time suck. It is all too easy to scroll through pages of status updates looking for something interesting to spark your writing muse. You are probably safer going to read the NYTimes or the Huffington Post or the BBC or ... well, practically anything else.
  7. A list of prompts doesn't guarantee that you'll be able to write. You still have to come up with your take on the prompt, and sometimes a prompt simply won't resonate with you in a way that opens the floodgates to language. Writing prompts do, however, serve as a very useful guilt-inducing tool, especially if you know and respect the person who drafted the list.
  8. On a related note: writing in community makes a difference. Even if no one is writing about what you're writing about, and even if you're not really committing to reading or commenting on each others' work. Just knowing that you are supposed to produce for other writers, who are also producing something regularly, induces just enough stress that you may get off your duff and do it. And if you surround yourself by people who are writing intelligent, thoughtful things, you are also more likely to write intelligent, thoughtful things.

  9. If you are blogging often, and your writing invites comments from said community, you should build in time to respond to comments. See #2. Responding to comments creates better conversation, but it can feel overwhelming, especially if you're also reading and commenting on other blogs, as you really ought to do in order to be a good bloggy citizen.
  10. Committing to a writing project makes a difference. Having a goal, even if it's not a very lofty goal (post something every day! even if it's about your toenails!), can make you feel like a writer, and act like a writer. And thus? BE a writer.

SO: thank you, Kathy, for talking me into this ... thanks, jjiraffe and Kristin, for committing along with us ... congratulations to everyone who participated and finished (even if you didn't post every day) ... and thank you to my readers and commenters, who helped move me forward!  Cheers!  I'm saluting you all in Half Baked style: a bouquet of roses, for dessert.

There will be penance in August for the days I missed in July, because I was raised Catholic and that's how I roll, even if I am UU now, but you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the ice cream. (And thanks for the great flavor suggestions ... I had the ingredients for this on hand today, but up next: cardamom, peach, sweet potato, and much more!)

Pistachio Rosewater Ice Cream

1/2 c. pistachios, chopped and roasted or toasted
2 c. whole milk
1 T. plus 1 t. cornstarch
1 1/4 c. heavy cream
scant 2/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 T. light corn syrup
1 T. + 1 t. rosewater
1 1/2 oz. (3 T.) cream cheese
1/8 t. kosher salt

Fill a large bowl with ice water. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch. In another large bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.

In a large saucepan, combine the remaining milk with the heavy cream, sugar, corn syrup, pistachios, and rosewater. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves and the nuts flavor the milk, about 4 minutes. Strain through a sieve to remove the nuts and set the nuts aside. Return the milk mixture to the saucepan, and off the heat, gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Whisk in the salt. Set the bowl in the ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 20 minutes.

Strain the ice cream base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions, adding the nuts during the last five minutes of freezing/processing. Pack the ice cream into a plastic container.

Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream and close with an airtight lid. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

Running for a Reason

I am dedicating my run at the Born to Run 100 on May 18, 2013 to my good friend Bob, lost to suicide on July 25. If you can contribute, please donate here.

Bob with A (3 months ago)

Potjie and Biltong Festival

On Saturday we went to the annual Potjie and Biltong Festival.


After turning off the main road, we went down a long, dusty road.

Past a typical Botswana scene: people hanging out in the shade of a tree.

When we pulled up to the parking lot, I was surprised to see it was overflowing.

I was excited, because there is a real dearth of things to do around here, and organized events like this with a big turnout are uncommon.

We walked down a little garden path.

Past an orange grove.

And finally arrived at the festival! I was really impressed to see the tents and so many people.

The shirts in the picture above and below -- tan and green color-blocked short sleeve button ups -- are a typical South African farm-type shirt worn, as here, by both young and old. We saw a lot of them at the festival.


As Neil saw me taking pics, presumably for this blog, he made the comment, "If you only saw this [festival], you'd think Botswana was only white people." Which is certainly NOT the case. We decided that every white resident of Botswana who is of South African descent must have been at the festival.

So, the potjie and biltong fest!

potjie (pronounced POY-key) is a small cast iron pot in which a beef or chicken stew with potatoes, carrots, and seasonings are cooked. The stew is then served over rice.

Here is the potjie pot the rice was served from.
(And a very South African-looking man: big, tall, with short shorts.)

And the potjie! Delicious!

And the biltong! Biltong is basically jerky, made from all different kinds of meat. Or game.


There were all kinds of crafts, baked goods, food booths, music, children's dance performances, and face painting.

Even a kid's rugby game.


A proper festival!

Most things were written in both English and Afrikaans (a language spoken mostly in South Africa by the Afrikaners, whites of Dutch descent). You don't typically see things written in Afrikaans in Botswana.

Malva pudding, a South African favorite. 

There was even some sort of kids' modeling show ... not quite of the Toddlers and Tiaras caliber. The kids were mostly in T-shirts and shorts, it was very "come as you are." One little girl didn't even have shoes on. I guess they were judged purely on technique, not style.

Nile and I spent a lot of time at the jumping castles.

Yes, with her trademark tutu. Deja vu, these are the same jeans I'm wearing in these pictures, where I was about as far along with Nile (6 1/2 mos.) as I am here with her baby sister. (Here's when they were new -- no, they're not maternity pants -- thank heavens for low-rise!)

Till next year!


San Francisco Marathon (Race Recap)

Sunday, July 29
Marathon #13
State #6
San Francisco, CA
Weather - Overcast, mostly perfect

If you recall, my friend died last week. I wasn't sure I was going to end up going to the race at all, so I didn't pack my bag in advance. Friday night a friend of ours hosted a BBQ and I finally found out the services would be AFTER San Fran. However, I had a few beers and by the time I got home, I "packed" and went to bed.

Apparently, I had not set an alarm for my 8:45 am flight. Luckily J had to work and woke me up by saying "what time was your flight?" It was after 6:30 am. I had no time to verify what I packed. I had to get dressed and go. Arrive at the airport, park, grab something to eat, get to the gate as the plane is boarding. I'm AWESOMELY in the very last row. Then a few minutes later, I get re-seated to the 4th row. Stretch seating. Sweet. Only... due to weather in San Fran, our flight is delayed 90 minutes. So we are asked to deplane. It's at that point I decide to check what I packed. It is discovered I brought my running clothes. AND NOTHING ELSE. I have no underwear, no long sleeves, no #magicpants and nothing to change into after the race other than what I am currently wearing. I mean, I guess it is a good thing I managed to get my clothes packed? Luckily J had seen I done a half-ass job of packing and thought to throw my flipbelt, phone charger and camera in the bag. Or I would have be really screwed. Frontier gave us free tv for the super late departure. My luck, the only thing on for the Olympics was table tennis. TABLE TENNIS. I dozed on and off for the flight, and I think I ended up landing around noon.

Did you know San Fran has a super confusing airport? It's true. I was texting Heather to let her know I had arrived. She said to come upstairs to the train. Um. How? I see stairs nowhere. Anyway, after wandering around for 10-15 minutes, I find her, and thanks to her being a genius, she knows exactly what to do to get us to our hotel.

We ride the BART, the noisiest train ever, and then we walk to our hotel in Chinatown. On the way, we stop at the Paul Frank store, where I manage to not buy a thing. We checked into our room. Our teeny tiny room for midgets. Or children. Or possibly dolls. Smallest. Room. Ever.

Worst view ever 

smallest. room. ever.
Then we figured a quick lunch and head to the expo. We stopped at the Lululemon down the street and AMAZINGLY I was able to get a mirage pacesetter skirt in my size. What?? It sold out online the day it was released. SUPER EXCITED. Then we grabbed food at a cute bakery on our walk to the expo. It didn't take too long, and other than knocking over some creepy guys bike, it was uneventful.

Not even sure what was happening here
Expo was the most crowded EVER. We managed NOT to buy anything, but stocked up on Larabars and other random items. On our way out we ran into Libby and chatted a bit about the course. On the way back we had every intention of taking the bus but couldn't figure out how to get on it so we ended up walking back. We got coffee and tried to find bagels for the morning with no luck. Really, Whole Foods? Picked up a new neon yellow wristband at American Apparel (did you know that item is a FINAL SALE?) since I obviously forgot to pack mine.

Got back to the room and tried to get my stuff ready for race day. I took a quick shower, we watched the Olympics (sort of) then we headed to meet... Twitter/blog friend Reneigh for dinner. We went to a super cute Italian restaurant and had the most amazing bread and pasta ever.  (There is a cute picture somewhere on the Internet Machine).

Headed back towards the hotel, but I needed to stop and buy underwear (really). We hit up Ross and then we stopped at the most awesome Walgreens I've ever seen. DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN BUY SUSHI AND STUFFED MUSHROOMS AT WALGREENS? Apparently you cannot buy bagels though. Instead, we got donut holes and a small carrot cake. That's practically the same, right?

More Olympics, some eating, then bed around 9:45.

Race Day
Thanks to the information we got from Reneigh, we knew we didn't have to get to the start line super early. Which was good, because we wanted to sleep late and it was COLD. We were hoping to start in wave 6 (6:12) start, and we got up at 4:47, leaving the room around 5:30. The donut holes were the best ever, but at least I followed it up with a banana. It took us maybe 10 minutes to get to the general start area, but then probably another 10 to actually get into the corral. We literally never stood around and walked right up to the start line and started running.

I was a bit nervous for this race only because my mileage has been reduced dramatically, and I've been having some weirdo aches and pains. Even though it was sort of overcast and chilly, it wasn't too cold that I was whiny about not having gloves or arm sleeves. Pretty comfortable running weather, and we settled into a comfortable pace.

I was hesitant to have a "walk" plan, although there were some hills we planned on at least partially walking. Considering the number of runners, the course was not very congested and we didn't have any trouble running together. I was running holding an Aquafina bottle of nuun. Pretty glad I had that as most of the aid stations were having trouble keeping up with having cups filled for runners. (Minor complaint - SMALLEST CUPS EVER).

The course was pretty, although it was pretty foggy, so it was hard to see all the things. We ran by Libby and then headed up by Ghiradelli Square before heading up to the bridge. The bridge was pretty cool to run on, but it was super narrow and WET. We were pretty cautious as we didn't want to fall. On the other side of the bridge we used REAL BATHROOMS (with no line), then headed back across. Seemed even more congested on the way back. We were still taking it easy and I didn't have any nagging pains, but I was already starting to get hungry!

Look, it's Libby (middle blue tutu)
Hard to tell, but that's the bridge behind me

Example of why I should always wear sunglasses 
Mile 12.5 and I was sorta wishing that we were only doing the half.

We headed into Golden Gate park and right by where the 2nd half started, we were greeted with... BUFFALO!! They were so cute! Heather said she got a bit tired of running in the park, but I enjoyed it. I can't seem to remember the miles, but we did a loop around more of the park and then I think we were around mile 17 and we had to run right by the finish line for the 1st Half. So wrong. I was so hungry and there were all these people eating. It was probably another mile before we had an aid station. Bummer. Somewhere we stopped and used another indoor bathroom, can't remember where we were.

The outside of my right knee really started to hurt around mile 19 or so. I knew we were going to have some flats/downhills on the second half, but it was pretty painful to do the downhills with my knee being all stupid. The interesting thing about this race is that not everyone runs the exact same race. It's true. The police sometimes put up tape and route people onto different streets to ease traffic congestion. As a result, it was never super crowded. It might have been the aid station around mile 20 that had beer. I took two cups. It was glorious.

Aid station at mile 23? I had to slap some Biofreeze on  my knee. I just wanted to be done. By this point, my garmin had died (you know, since I had forgotten to pack the charger) and we were really hoping to finish in about 5:05.

We took some walk breaks, and finally caught up to Dave at mile 25 or so.

Lulu skirts are so dang cute.
There was a home game happening and it got a little crowded...

I had really hoped to run a nice last mile, but my leg was just hurting. Finally, with about a half mile to go, I sucked it up and we ran for the finish. We passed a TON of people in the last quarter mile. Heather said we were running a low 8 pace at the finish. I was never so happy to cross a finish line!

We got our medals and mylar, then got to the food area. Only somewhere we missed all the baked goods. Total bummer because I was starving.

Bib #50029
Overall Place - 4990/6440
Division Place - 308/425
Official Time - 5:10:49
Official Pace - 11:52

We had to walk back to our hotel and amazingly we had enough time to take showers before checkout.

The biggest hill EVER.
 The hotel was willing to hold our bags, so we went out to get lunch. Stopped at an amazing place to get burgers and (sweet potato) fries.

We wandered around by the pier, then took the bus to Ghiradelli Square. We had the most amazing key lime cupcake ever, then we decided we might as well head to the airport.
San Francisco Bridge
Ghiradelli Square
Most giant seagull ever
Ginormous pelican

Heather was in a different terminal, but we had some salad and pizza, watched a bit of the Olympics (synchronized diving), before she had to leave to catch her plane. OF COURSE mine was delayed. It was already bad enough I wasn't scheduled to land until 12:20 am. Flight delayed 30 minutes. I sat next a super chatty girl on the plane so I got NO sleep, and we landed around 12:45. I didn't get home until almost 2:00. Most. Tired. Ever.

Overall, this was a very well organized race, and a beautiful course. I just wish my body had been feeling better.