Friday, October 31, 2008

The Quilt

Today was our second class and we learned to construct most of the blocks that will be used in the quilt. It was fun to piece together the strips and blocks and start to see the quilt unfold. I can already see that my quilt is going to be very vibrant, but I love it.

I realize all of my posts lately are either about my arts and crafts, cooking experiences, or the sillier moments of my life. I promise I still am training, often twice a day, along with elbow rehab, injury prevention exercises in the gym, core work, and even a few pilates classes. Overall the training is still somewhat relaxed and unstructured, and will continue this way until December. I figure I will have ALL season to blog about my training so I might as well share my fun with crafts while I still have the time and energy. Don't worry, there will be plenty of talk about tired legs, ice baths and naps in the coming months.

Right now I need to get these m&m's out of sight before there are none left for the trick-or-treaters. How is the turnout so far? Well, we've had nine-times as many kids as ever before (you can do the math.....). That leaves 41 packages of candy left for me.... oh boy...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Dry Run

Wendy has never had trick-o-treaters at the "Hotel." I put some thought into why this could be and came up with two possible explanations:

1) Not many children live in James Bay

2) Wendy has made a point to turn off her porch light every Halloween

I would bet the latter is the most likely explanation for the lack of kiddies. Wendy is normally the most over-the-top celebratory person I know so this really surprised me. I casually mentioned that we should maybe get a few pumpkins and some treats in case there any kids stop by this year. Well, Wendy's festive switch was suddenly cranked to the max today and she came home with every decoration under the sun. I don't even think the porch light will be necessary with the flashing pumpkin lights, the lanterns leading down the driveway and the explosion of spooky stuff outside the front door. She even bought 50 packages of m&m's for the treats (which we have already busted into, just to be sure they are good enough for the kids :-)
I now feel a little silly as my only contributions are two semi-rotting pumpkins and another one that is vomiting. 

We did a dry run tonight to test all the lights and the cobweb positions so that we are prepared when the little ones arrive (hopefully) tomorrow evening. It obviously worked as a black cat showed up just as we finished!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

SEW Much Fun

Yes, that pun is totally intended. 

I have a new hobby that might be slightly more hip than quilting. Learning to quilt has gotten me excited to work with fabrics but I am having trouble being patient when the classes are a week, or sometimes two apart. I mentioned to Wendy that I might like to start sewing and that very night she set up the basement as a "sewing studio." And, while I was starting to think about where I could purchase a sewing machine, Wendy contacted a friend who is an avid sewer. To make a long story short, I was given a machine (thank you, Rhonda!!) and I was all set to go. 

My sewing experience doesn't go much beyond boxer shorts and hair scrunchies in the 90's, so I knew I wanted to start with something simple. After picking up the sewing machine, I stopped by a few fabric stores in search of inspiration. I had a difficult time getting excited about the patterns as the pictures on the front are often rough drawings of models wearing the clothes. Or, when it is an actual photo, the clothes are always sewn in awful fabric. I did my best to imagine the clothes on me and in my choice of fabrics, and settled upon a pattern for PJ's (if you don't know me, I love pajamas and can never own enough). The pattern brand was "Kwik-Sew". Perfect, it would be easy and fast, right? Well, not exactly, but more on that in a second. I returned to my quilting shop and the ladies there helped me select some fabrics for these pj's. 

I spent most of today in my sewing studio (apart from a great cross ride with Tiff and a swim). The pj top was a huge challenge, to say the least. There was terminology used in that pattern that I had never heard so I had to do quite a lot of internet searching to figure out what I was doing. I am actually really surprised how they turned out, but more importantly, astonished that they actually fit! I always have trouble finding clothes to fit my long torso, broad shoulders, short legs, pin head, etc.... I didn't have to make any alterations and these pj's are super comfy. 

I am not sure what I will sew next, but for right now, it's off to bed.....


Thursday, October 23, 2008


I picked up these beauties the other day from the market but had to restrain from carving them until tonight. It's now 10 days out from Halloween so they shouldn't rot and hopefully will not be stolen and smashed. 

And yes, that pumpkin is albino.

Notice the Superman bandaid on my finger. I managed to cut myself almost immediately. And, the knife was a rusty pineapple slicer from China. Good thing my tetanus shot is up to date. 

It's hard to see in this picture, but the little guy getting eaten was also carved and I was hoping his fearful expression would show up better. I might have to do some more work with the rusty slicer....

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Where is the snow?

Rinny, I'm ready for Whistler. Are you?

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Butternut

I know I say this every season, but I love this time of year. The cooler, crisp air, sunny days (sometimes), and the abundance of Fall vegetables and fruits. Apples are my favourite fruit and they are finally in season. Adam, who literally eats anything, is ridicuously picky when it comes to apples, and will actually throw away an apple if it is at all soft when he bites into it. So, I know he is a happy camper this time of year as you can't seem to find anything but crisp and tart deliciousness. Squash and pumpkins are also exploding out the bins at the grocery shops and are hard to walk past without some consideration. Apart from carving the standard orange pumpkin every year, I haven't been too adventurous with these hard-shelled wonders. 

Last week I was out for a run and had a very random thought: I am going to buy an immersion blender! Again, I love squash, especially pureed in soups, but have had a few nightmares trying to pour the piping hot ingredients into a blender. So, I set out for the shops and returned with my new kitchen toy, a new sharp knife to attack the squash, and some ingredients for my soup. I have seen quite a few recipes over the years for squash soups so took what I remembered and attempted to create my own. I chose to use a Butternut squash and a couple tart local apples for this curried soup. Preparing the squash is a challenge (my healing elbow was put to the test), but it is well-worth the effort because the soup makes enough for a few day's worth of leftovers. Use your biggest soup pot for cooking this soup as it makes the stirring and pureeing less messy. Here is my recipe:

Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 medium chopped onion
1 large peeled & cubed butternut squash
2 peeled & diced apples
4 cups organic chicken broth
1 cup apple juice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
fresh cracked pepper to taste

Saute the onion with the coconut oil over medium heat for about five minutes, until it is softened. Add the squash and apple and saute for two more minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the squash and apple are very tender (it will take less if your squash and apples cubes are small). Puree the soup with your immersion blender and that's it... enjoy! 

Working with the butternut has inspired me to try other recipes and I have a few I am looking forward to testing soon:

Butternut Squash Chilli (with Kale!)

This is a boring cooking blog that some may not bother to read. So, if you've made it this far, here is something FUN to do with a Butternut:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

This & That

I actually don't have any fun stories to share from the past few days as my life has been very low-key. I have been feeling oddly exhausted this week which I initially thought was just because of my crazy day at the polls on Tuesday, but when it continued yesterday and again today, I thought it might be just the usual off-season "fatigue." (this always happens when I take a break). But today, I have finally realized that I am fighting some sort of virus. Phew! I am actually relieved by this; I was worried I had become so "soft" that my 1km swims and easy runs have been hard on me!  

Quilting class finally started yesterday, and believe it or not, it is better than I had imagined! I don't have any neat photos to share of my progress as my quilting bag is full of strips of fabric in ziploc baggies. We spent three hours simply cutting our fabrics, which I am learning is the "hard part" to quilting. The measurements have to be very precise; it is quite the test of my patience (I usually like to "rip" through things...). Anyway, I have a better idea of what my quilt will look like now that the blocks are all cut and I love it. Now, the challenge will be waiting until the next class to start the sewing. 

Swimming is coming along nicely and I have been enjoying a few short sessions every week in the warm pool at Commonwealth Place. I have been craving some company lately so was thrilled to run into Jasper at the pool this afternoon. Jazz, who is in the thick-of-things with his Ironman Arizona training, was doing a recovery swim after his 5 hour ride and I was hoping to set a record with a 2km swim (my longest swim since the crash). So, we were perfect swim buddies. My elbow was the best yet, with very little discomfort. I was even able to use my pull buoy for a bit, which is never fast, even when I am healthy and fit, so you can imagine the speed today...but it did feel good to put some power behind the stroke. We finished with a "get-out" 100m swim and honestly, this was NOT my idea. We had to go under 1:30 (I don't know what would have happened if we didn't make this goal....I'm guessing it would be more embarrassing than anything!). Of course I couldn't just aim for 1:25 or so, cruising to finish off. I got slightly fired-up, forcing my arms to turnover faster than they have been used to. I surprised myself with a 1:11! By 75m I regretted starting so quick, but it actually felt good to feel the burn again. I imagine I will be sore tomorrow! 

Above is a photo from my run the other night. I always seem to run the same loop everyday: from Hotel Wendy, along the waterfront, to Beacon Hill, past the peacocks and back home. If feeling adventurous I will add on a 10 minute stretch for poodle-spotting further down Dallas Road. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Election Day

I didn't really know what to expect with this job, but I knew it would be a long day. I had prepared myself like I would for a flight to Asia or Europe, as it would be about the same length of time, door-to-door. Also, I figured it would be equally unpleasant with fatigue, bad food, stale air and crotchety people. At this point though, I might have to say that I would rather have sat on a plane for 20 hours than have been repeatedly yelled at as an Information Officer on Election Day. 

We were warned ahead of time that a lot of people wouldn't know about the new rules for bringing your ID to vote (even though there was plenty of notice in the media, newspapers and even written ON the voter's card that came in the mail). It makes sense to me that everyone voting should have some proof of identification that matches their registered name, but I don't know if I would have gone as far as requiring proof of residential address AND another piece of ID. Anyway, those were the rules and we were not to let anyone over to the poll without this documentation. 

For the most part, people were well-prepared and in good sprits. But, there are always those sour apples that taint the whole day and I sure had a few rotten ones. I had the F-bomb used at me on more than one occasion and one man was so angry that the spit flying out of his mouth sprayed me in the face. The most popular pharse to be yelled when I asked people to return home to bring a piece of mail, was, "THIS IS A DEMOCRACY!!!" Ummm, yes, sir it is so please bring your proper documentation and then you can vote. As these unhappy individuals stormed out of the building, it was common to hear, "Well, I am NOT going to vote, then!" But never fail, they always returned with the necessary ID. 

I did feel bad for a few people who lived in lighthouses, on remote islands and even aboard sailboats who had various mailing addresses, with the most popular being "general delivery." Apparently, that isn't an acceptable address but with a few calls to headquarters, they were granted special access to vote. 

I came to realize that a lot of people love conflict and simply want to start an argument, despite coming prepared to vote. I also learned quickly not to fall for their trap and avoid taking the bait. I would process them as quick as possible and direct them to the correct poll, often having to repeat my words a few times before they realized there would be no argument with me. Sometimes I wish I had security with me, but in the end, it always worked out and everyone was able to vote. 

The day wasn't all stressful and actually quite eventful a times. Dogs are not supposed to be allowed in to the polls unless they are service dogs. Well, when I saw a lady carrying in Kiwi, the smallest yorkshire terrier with a tongue that stuck out (like Poly's!!!), I couldn't ask the dog to leave. And of course it was a very slippery slope from that point as the next dog was a poodle named Howard and you can just imagine my reaction at that point. The third dog was another yorkie, this time wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket with a matching cap. I knew James Bay had plenty of little doggies!

Food was another area of amusement. I am not sure how much (or little) I ate as the day is quite a blur. I do vaguely remember trying to practically pour my goat's milk yogurt down my throat as quick as possible in between the mid-day rush. Apart from that it was many cups of tea and coffee and some snacks I had packed from home. There was a food table set up for the poll staff in the corner, and it was pretty clear that it was not for the electors. That didn't stop a lot of people from sneaking some pumpkin pie, chocolate almonds, and even filling a ceramic mug with tea! I had to laugh as I watched one man stuff his pockets with chocolate almonds and leave with the guiltiest expression on his face! 

My day ended about 8pm so 14 hours was a good estimation. Feeling as though I had some pretty brutal jet-lag, I couldn't even stay up to watch the count on TV. I slept from 9pm until 8:30 this morning and actually feel great today. I didn't exactly get a chance to do any exercise yesterday so I am itching to get out there for a run. I didn't see a snitch of daylight yesterday so I think fresh air will feel good!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


It has been brought to my attention that I incorrectly reported Amanda's Grouse Grind result.

The actual result was 41:24, not 41:25.

Competitive much? It seems we have more in common than I had thought!

Thanksgiving Weekend

Training has been really light for me lately with tons of flexibility. I can go as hard or easy as I like, with an "as I feel" training theme. I actually ran pretty hard while in Fredericton with the UNB team but I don't think I've done a snitch of effort since then. I have actually enjoyed just running without a second thought about pace or distance, just loving being active on my own time. However, I think I can only be relaxed (and uncompetitive) for so long and this weekend I cracked.

Last night I had Thanksgiving Dinner #1 at my sister, Amanda and her husband, Rob's house. It was a fun evening with a lot of great food. I ended up staying overnight at their place and we were up early this morning for the Grouse Grind. After last year's very painful race, I had made a promise never to put myself through that again. But after hearing Amanda and Rob (lovingly) trash talk each other, I got really fired up. We each had our own pre-Grind breakfast strategies. Amanda and I stuck with what we know works; it was almond butter on toast for me and coffee with sweetner for Amanda. Rob took a holiday twist, grabbing a fistfull of leftover turkey as we were heading out the door.

Warm-up was practically non-existent with a gentle walk to the trail head. At this point I was having flashbacks of last year and was actually nervous! There was no time to really put to much thought into what I was about to do because as soon as we hit the starting post, Rob was gone! Amanda said he starts fast but I wasn't ready for this. Adam's tip to me was to "break their spirits early", but Rob was breaking mine! I didn't exactly have a spring in my step today, but I trudged by him after a few minutes, desperately trying to downplay my breathing. I kept saying to myself, "out of sight, out of mind" but I don't think Rob was too concerned with me. There was another battle going on behind that I didn't witness until the end. Amanda is strong and steady at the start and holds her pace. She caught Rob at the halfway mark and it was a close finish. Here are our unofficial Thanksgiving Grind results:

Lauren: 34:56

Amanda: 41: 25 (2 minute PB!)

Rob: 42:00

I think it might have been an even closer spousal race is we were to factor in Rob's breakfast choice. Turkey burps cannot feel good!

Dessert tonight!

Friday, October 10, 2008

My New Job

It's not a full-time job, or even a job with any kind of commitment. Instead, it's a one-day, mega-overtime stint with Elections Canada. My neighbour nominated me for this position because I "like to smile" and I thought it would be a great way to learn more about Canadian politics. I am always a little embarassed to admit that I don't follow politics as close as I should and I seem to know more about what goes on in the US than my own country. I spent a lot of time this week reading up on the parties and their platforms and I will be voting on long as I can find a free moment in my day...

My job title is "Information Officer." I am the first person to see when walking into the Polling Station. I will be checking for adequate proof of identification, making sure the electors are at the correct Poll, opening and closing the doors at exactly 7am and 7pm, and making sure there is no partisan political activity within the vincinity of the building. So please, don't come to the James Bay poll with your flags, buttons and signs because I will have to lay down the law!!

I had my training the other day and it was a bit overwhelming. I came home to study my manual while it was still fresh in my mind, but I am still nervous about Tuesday. There is a lot I have to do and I don't even have a replacement if I need to go to the bathroom, have a snack, etc. My work day will be a minimum of 14 hours. We weren't told the maxiumum....I didn't want to ask. I am already planning what food I can bring that doesn't have to be refrigerated. And, FYI, I will kindly accept deliveries of Sally Bun's, Bubby's cinnamon buns, and any cookie, cake or pie that is yummy tasting. You will not be turned down at my poll!

I also found out something quite exciting... my Aussie friend, Rinny is COMING TO VISIT in November! She has been my training partner for the last couple of years, my partner in crime and is one of the funniest people I know.
ALWAYS a fun time with Rinny!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I know this posting is going to get me in trouble with Rinny. She already calls me a "nana" because I wear floral Birkenstocks. Well, I might as well sign up for the retirement home now because quilting takes my old lady qualities to a whole new level. 

I have always been amazed at quilters and what they are able to create. My mom has always been a sewer so I grew up helping choose patterns and fabrics and I feel at home in a sewing store. I don't seem to have any interest in regular sewing these days but I sure have felt like returning to my fabric store roots and starting something new. 

I tried to talk my way into a quilting class while in Fredericton, but it was an intermediate class so in hindsight, it was probably good I wasn't allowed in. I made some calls when I got back to Victoria and found an amazing quilt shop downtown that had room in a beginners class. I met up with the instructor this morning to pick my fabrics. Oh my gosh, I was like a kid in a candy store! There were SO many fabrics. It took a good two hours to get everything sorted and now that I am home and looking at my fabrics, I still like my choices. It was such a tough decision picking the colour palette/pattern and I was worried I would regret my choices. So, I think it's a good sign that I still love them because there is no returns once the fabric is cut! The only problem is that I am dying to start cutting and sewing now but can't touch the fabrics until class next Friday!!

I know that time and energy won't be an issue when it comes to quilting. This next month is still light for training with a 'choose my own adventure' theme. I haven't yet struggled to find things to fill my days and there is still plenty to choose from on my off-season checklist. I've been doing plenty of adventure runs and a few short trainer rides every week, just to keep up the strength. The trainer isn't exactly the most fun (unless What Not To Wear is on tv), so I am looking forward to getting on my cross bike once my elbow heals up. I'm also now in the pool a few times a week for very short swims. I'm amazed at the improvement from week-to-week. I am now feeling like there is a little power behind my left arm which is a wonderful feeling. I was worried for awhile that I was going to return to my kick-dominated stroke from the old days (the pre-"gunz" days!) I have been secretly timing myself for 100m every time I'm in the pool. I don't swim hard because that's not really possible right now, but I just like to monitor my progression. When I got in the water at 5 weeks post-crash, I swam 1:35 for the 100m 'test' (which I think was almost entirely kick). At week 6, I swam 1:28. This was exciting for me, sub 1:30! This week, week 7, I swam 1:22! I should be back to good in the next few weeks, but will stick to my 'Nana' activities until then. 

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Garage Sales = No Fun!

Today was the day I had been dreading for the past 5 years....
As mentioned in the previous post, my parents have been wonderfuly supportive. One example is the no-rent storage facility I have made out of their basement. I think I have moved every year since 1999 and every year, the "transition zone" is always the basement. There is lots of movement of stuff, but the trend seems to have been that more comes down that basement door than ever makes an exit. They have been so patient with me and my explosion of belongings (too patient), and I knew that there was no better time than now to get it cleared out.
This was also a great opportunity for my mom to clear out her closet and cupboards. Our family hasn't done a purge like this is in......probably ever! My parents sold this rather rustic log cabin a few years back so there were about a million nick-nacks and 1700 bird houses that had to go.
I was nervous no one would show as it is a typical Vancouver Fall day (dumping rain). I couldn't have been more wrong. The sale was scheduled to start at 8am, but that didn't stop some early birds from showing up very early. In other words, the night before!! The real sale started though at 6:45 this morning when I was lying in bed and heard a van rumbling outside the house. Yep, it was an eager shopper and he actually bought SO much stuff, including about 18 birdhouses. That really set the tone for the rest of the morning and at times there were at least 15 people in the garage at once. It's weird to watch others sorting through your stuff, but I didn't care, I just wanted it gone! And, of course I had to make this into somewhat of a bakesale, serving up coffee and muffins. I had intentions to try a new cookie recipe but I don't think it would have gone down well with my family if I postponed set-up last night to do some baking.

I spent the afternoon cleaning up and dropping off the remaining goods at the Salvation Army. I can't tell you how good it feels to finally be rid of all that junk. I am never going to buy another knick-knack again (I can almost hear Adam's laughter from 4,000 kilometres away...). Well, maybe one or two!

Now I am going to get on the trainer and try to 'flush' out this day.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Yesterday's announcement and Kristina's speech got me thinking about my family and how they have made my Olympic dreams possible. From their unwavering belief in me, to the extremely selfless acts done year after year, I realize that I truly couldn't do this without them.

I came across these fun photos today from my parent's collection.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

TV Stardom

Today I had the opportunity to take part in a VANOC (Vancouver Olympic Committee) function at the new Olympic area at UBC. Petro-Canada was making an official announcement that they wanted to share with local Olympians, the COC and the 2010 organizers. I excepted it to be a simple press conference, a meet-and-greet, and maybe some laughs with the 2010 mascots (I was secretly hoping to meet Quatchi today). After mingling in the lobby we were asked to take a seat in one particular section of the arena. As we walked around the rink I noticed a podium and a red carpet set up in the middle of the ice. Nothing unusual, just a press conference in the rink. I noticed there were a few cameras set up and they seemed a little more "pro" than those used for the nightly news. We were asked to grab a set, any seat, as long as it didn't have a name on it. Well, there were only two seats in the entire section with names. And they both said "GROVES". Uh-oh. What on earth is going on?! I turned to one of the organizers and said, "ummmm, is this seat for me? I didn't bring a guest..." She then says, "WHAT, your parents aren't here?!" To make a long story short, she thought I was Kristina Groves, the speed skater who turned out to be a key part of this "function". Phew!
Anyway, back to the story..
We are handed flags and random Canadian paraphanalia. The lights to out and man comes on the loudspeaker giving us instructions (on a side note, his voice was very familliar. It was one of the Hockey Night in Canada announcers). We are told that Kristina will be skating a few times around the rink and we are not to cheer until the third lap. It turns out that they are filming at Petro-Canada commercial and we are the "fans." It was a lot of fun, but I was so nervous for Kristina as there would only be one take for this commerical. Of course, she did a fantastic job and was actually a very good actress. I don't know how I would have done with acting the emotions of competition in that situation.
The actual annoucement was also special and rather unique. Petro-Canada is supporting the families of Canadian athletes competing in 2010. They will be covering the accomodation and event tickets for families who have to travel. Families are a huge part of our Olympic journeys so this level of support and recognition is wonderful. Sharing my race in Beijing with my family (despite the outcome) meant a lot to me and I know my experience wouldn't have been the same without them.