Thursday, April 29, 2010

A few pics from Galveston Photo Fest

A few weeks ago I drove down to Galveston (twice) to participate in the annual Galveston Photo Fest, an offshoot of the Feather Fest, a birding convention.  I went out with a couple of groups to do some photographs of birds in flight and picked up quite a few tips from the tour leaders and later from an expert in the field, Larry Ditto.  My photographs were ok but not fantastic; put it down to the weather (gray and rather dank) and the birds being a little too far off, most of the time.  I used the Nikon 200-400 zoom lens with a 1.4 converter.  The photographs are mostly of Skimmers - what elegant birds they are - and a some egrets and an unidentified wader. My birding skills aren't what they used to be.

This was dinner on April 28 - a Provencal-type bean salad with a tangy vinaigrette from 1000 Vegan Recipes with Baked BBQ tofu (Veganomicon) and sweet potato.  You can give me any kind of bean salad and I'm happy - this one would be a complete meal with some sliced potato or cooked pasta.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Stage one knee injury

An easy 5 miles with Daisy this morning along Buffalo Bayou.  My left knee is at 'stage one' in the predictable running injury arc:

Stage 1:  Some soreness at the injury site but not serious, it goes away quickly after you've warmed up.  A couple of miles into a run and you're feeling 100%.  Nothing to worry about, right? 
Stage 2:  The pain doesn't go away as readily (as in Stage 1) during a run, sometimes it even becomes worse.  However you manage - perhaps with the aid of a knee brace - to carry on regardless.
Stage 3:  The injury becomes worse when running and you are unable to run as far or as fast as usual. You may be forced to abandon a run halfway through and hobble back.
Stage 4:  You can't run at all.  You consider going to see someone about it.
Stage 5:  Just walking is uncomfortable.  You finally abdicate to common sense and go and see someone.  He or she tells you to cut down on your running (duh); to wear a brace (which they have handy for sale) and they prescribe some physical therapy.  The therapy consists of stretches and other exercises with which you are very familiar and should probably do on a regular basis. However if you did that it would cut down too much on your running time.

I will try not to go beyond Stage 1 by re-starting the physical therapy (I still have the file with all the exercises) today and will continue to wear the brace.  What was that?  Stop running?  No way.

Dinner last night was chipotle painted baked tofu and potato and white bean salad with roasted red pepper, both from 1000 Vegan Recipes.  We also had some fresh green beans.  Good ones have been hard to find lately - the not-so-close HEB on the corner of Memorial and Dairy Ashford had these organic ones from Mexico.

Kathleen and I also went to the official inauguration of the new athletics track at Rice University stadium: here is a pic of the inaugural run with Sammy the Owl being beaten by a girl. In case you missed it, the new track is blue.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

'French' bread a la KitchenAid

Page 55 of my KitchenAid 'Recipe and Instructions' booklet looks like it might have been unearthed with King Tut.  Parchment-like in appearance with brown spots and stains, several watermarks - and some fingerprints.  No doubt mine, as I've been following this particular recipe for 'French Bread' for some 25 years now, on and off.  It's easy - the most tedious part being measuring the flour - and if you get the temperatures right (don't scald the yeast!) - pretty much foolproof.  You get to actually handle the dough so even though the KitchenAid does the kneading, the process still retains a bit of the romance of baking bread.  Unlike using a bread machine, I would think.

The results are invariably good and reliably so.  The bread can be baked either in a loaf format or it can be rolled to look a bit more like the real thing.  Of course I have no illusions about this being anything like a proper baguette-style loaf.  Some may differ but I think you only get those in France.  Preferably Paris.  To get a nice crust I spritz some water mist into the oven just before I slide in the baking stone or the bread pan, or both as was the case today.  Instead of the tablespoon of butter called for in the original recipe, I nowadays use a tablespoon of olive oil.  And instead of glazing the bread with the traditional egg-white wash, I simply spray the top with some Pam, 5 minutes before it comes out of the oven. This is best eaten fresh, tastes wonderful with a light smear of Marmite and toasts exceptionally well after a couple of days or so.  Who loves it even more than we do?  Our two Boxers.  I swear they can detect the sound of a bread knife being picked up in this household.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Running and cooking

On the running front Kathleen and I have both been running well lately; she has her sights set on qualifying for Boston hopefully early next year.  My own goals are not quite as lofty: it would be great to stay healthy for a while and hopefully improve the speed a little bit, trying to get back to around 21+ minutes for a 5K.  I know that won't be easy and that I would have to lose quite a bit of weight to get there.  Will have to see about that. 

The weather has been exceptionally nice so far this spring and Kath and I have been able to increase our weekly mileage quite a bit; my last two weeks have been over 40 miles with just a couple of warning signals.  A bit of tightness in the calves possibly caused by one too many runs in the Vibrams, and a little discomfort in the left knee.  We'll take it easy next week. 

We've had a lot of fun participating in the weekly Tour de Bayou runs presented by HARRA, every Thursday in April.  So far we've completed cross-country races (about 3 to 4 miles with approximately 150 to just over 200 runners) at Spotts Park, White Oak Bayou, alongside Buffalo Bayou at Memorial & Waugh and last Thursday along the Ho Chi Minh trail in Memorial Park.  Practically all of the city's hard core racers show up so it is a tough environment to do well.  Fortunately the results are age-graded so we are both hoping for a decent showing once the results are tabulated. 
It has not been all running all the time though.   I've been doing quite a bit of cooking, baking bread again (not a good thing for the weight loss program...) and trying several new recipes.  A couple of weeks ago I tried my hand at a Houston Striders chili cookoff, but alas the chili was not up to scratch.  The consistency was more like a sloppy Joe than a real chili.  As a result, there's plenty of Bert's 'non-award winning chili'  in the freezer - as soon as we've worked our way through it, I will start investigating some new recipes.

Talking of sloppy Joes, we had Snobby Joes on kaiser rolls (from Veganomicon) for dinner tonight, accompanied by a very tasty and nicely textured edamame and snow pea salad with lime-ginger dressing.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Racing around Houston

Kathleen and I raced the '4 the Park' four-mile fun run at Memorial Park yesterday, Saturday April 3.  The course was flat and fast (with a few sharp turns in the first mile or so but after that ok) and the after party is one of the best in Houston.  There must have been in excess of 20 food and beverages stalls with a taste of everything from gourmet chocolate to vegan fried rice, ultra light beer to fruit smoothies, burritos, hummus, fresh cut fruit, breakfast tacos, bagels, and many more. We had a blast.  So thank you very much Michelob Ultra, My Fit Foods, California Pizza Kitchen, Smoothie King, Whole Foods, Los Cucos Mexican Cafe, Hungry's, Banyan Foods, El Rey, Freebirds, the Hot Bagel Shop, Firkin Phoenix, Sicilian Village, the Fruit Palette, Beck's Prime, Caceres, Candelari's, Latin Specialties Produce, VitaminWater10, Salata and Tintos.  We will definitely be back next year!

The run itself was pretty good too - Kathleen ended up grabbing 2nd place in her age category.  Well done!  I made a real rookie mistake by leaving my timing 'chip' at home.  No chip, no time... Unofficially I clocked the 4 miles at 28:58 which I was very happy with, considering the warm weather.

I like the fact that the race benefits Memorial Park Conservancy and particularly a plan to build a running center close to the new natural bridge which provides a safe way to cross Memorial Drive which bisects the Park.  Runners are forever supporting someone else's causes such as alopecia or melanoma, supporting the arts or in aid of Sudan.  I have no beef with that, but it was a good feeling to run in support of something that would directly benefit regular users of Memorial Park.   

Kath and I also participated in the first of five consecutive Thursday afternoon races in the annual spring 'Tour de Bayou' cross-country race series presented by the Houston Area Road Runners Association (HARRA).  These are fun but sometimes very taxing events ranging from 3 to 5 miles, with most of the organization handled by Roger Boak, a well-known (and fast!) veteran of the Houston running scene.  The Tour de Bayou series is laid-back and free with a minimum of hassles: no need to remember your timing device as there aren't any.  Even so, they are very competitive with some of the city's fastest runners coming out for bragging rights.  Interestingly, the results are age-graded which is a big incentive for some of the more 'mature' runners to measure themselves against the speedy youngsters.  Last Thursday's course laid out in Spotts Park at the intersection of Waugh and Memorial Drive, was diabolical.  A steep uphill right out of the starting block and it gets worse after that! By the time we had gone twice around, out and back, there was not a runner present who hadn't tested his or her heart rate limit, if they tried to stay with the pack.  Hopefully next Thursday's course at White Oak Bayou will be a little less strenuous. We'll see!