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The Garden

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Yesterday I was so excited to get my day started--I was putting in my first sizable vegetable garden -- 10 x 15 -- and then going for a 6-mile run. A friend and I applied for one of the community garden plots at the university and were going to split it between us, but Friday she called to say that she wouldn't be able to help and that if I wanted to take the entire garden, I should.

A local organization was having a plant sale so I stopped there first. I was like a kid in a candy shop--8 heirloom tomatoes, 4 broccoli, 2 eggplants, 1 cucumber, 12 lettuce, 6 spinach, 4 brussel sprouts, 4 bell peppers, 4 jalapeno and 1 cayenne pepper, rosemary, cilantro, and parsley. Then I realized I hadn't seen any beans, sugar snap peas, radishes, or carrots, so I ran to Lowe's and picked up seeds for them, plus Cosmo and Lavender. When I took the inventory I was a bit worried that there might not be enough space in the garden.

When I arrived at the garden around 10, there were already about a half dozen gardeners hard at work. Some gardens had already been planted, others were in progress, and a couple hadn't yet had ground broken. I met my "neighbors"--either grad students or their spouses and we learned that we were all novice gardeners.

I was surprised when I saw that I was going to have to dig up and turn over all of the soil before I started planting. So I went to the shed, pulled out a shovel, rake and hoe, and started to work. The ground looked as if it had never been gardened before and was packed and hard. I turned over the first couple of shovelfuls and realized that it would probably take me hours just to break up the soil and work in some compost. Boy, did I wish that I had a rototiller handy!! I walked around the other plots and could tell that everyone had done it by hand.

After two hours, the ground was all broken, but still too rough to plant. It was time for lunch, so I brushed myself off and got in the car to run out to grab a bite to eat. I scared myself when I looked into the car's mirror. Sweat had been seeping into my eyes and every time I wiped them, a little soil was left behind. It was very windy and my hair was sticking out in 50 different directions. I cleaned up as best I could and got some lunch. It felt wonderful to sit, but I was afraid my back was going to stiffen too much, so I didn't rest for long.

Shortly after 1 p.m., I started breaking up the large clumps of soil. This was as hard as breaking ground. Another 2 hours flew by. By now, I wondered if I could keep on going. My hamstrings and back were as tight as violin strings, and the foot I was using to push in the shovel was beginning to ache. But I had 3 trays of plants and just couldn't abandon them. I took a second break and walked around the plots again to meet some new people and see what they were planting. It was nice meeting new people and hear their enthusiasm when they talked about their gardens. By the end of summer, I'm sure we'll all have made some new friends.

Now I had to work in some compost, so I grabbed a wheelbarrow, loaded it and began working it in, still trying to break down any remaining large clumps. Another 90 minutes went by. It took 3 trips to mix compost in the entire garden. Finally, it was time to set in the plants.

At lunch, I had taken graph paper and mapped out my garden. Too bad I left it in the car, and I was too tired to walk to the car. After another hour, I had all of the plants in, but hadn't planted all of the seeds. Monday I'll plant the beans and peas and I still have to buy some Genovese basil. Then it was several trips back and forth with the watering cans to get everything hydrated--the plants had already begun to wilt.

At 6 p.m., I called it quits. I looked around and saw that I was the only one still there. But it felt great knowing that most of the work was done, and I had done it all myself. I will really appreciate those vegetables when the harvest comes in.

It's about a half hour drive from the gardens to my home. I could barely peel myself out of the car; every muscle in my back and legs had stiffened. At first, I was dreading the thought of waking up Sunday--muscles always hurt more the day after and the worst 2 days after. And then a second thought occurred to me that brought a huge smile to my face. All of the strength training and aerobic exercise allowed me to do heavy work all day long doing something new. How wonderful is that??? Those muscles aren't just for looks (I'm finally seeing some definition!!) . The gardening would have been more difficult a year ago, and I doubt I would have been able to get it all done in one day by myself.

Today I am a bit sore and tight, but I've already done some yoga which has loosened my back considerably. A half hour session this afternoon should have me back to as good as new.

I was disappointed that I didn't get my run in, but I'm sure I made up for it considering I spent at least 5 1/2 hours digging--surely that's strength training and aerobic exercise all rolled into one.

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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WILDCARD1 5/12/2009 9:38AM

    Great job! I am right there with you! My neighbor and I are doing a garden together too, and we spent Sunday pulling the weeds out and turning it over. We did have a rototiller, but that too is a lot of work. It takes different muscles to keep the thing from taking off on you. Sunday we worked for 6 hours and last night we worked for 2.5 hours, and tonight we will be getting our plants in. I know where you are at with the sore muscles, but the more that I move, the better that they feel. I am not sure how big the plot that we have is, I will measure it this evening, but it is a really nice sized one. This is the 2nd year that we are doing it. Last year we didn't get that much, but this year should be better. The soil is much nicer this year then last year. I have to go out and search to find out what likes to be planted next to each other, and what should not be planted together. It is amazing at all the stuff that you need to know to plant a veggie garden.

Good luck with your garden! Just think of all the great food that you will have at harvest time!

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BRIAN36 5/10/2009 1:05PM

    You are a MACHINE!!! I am so proud of you. I'm certain I would have given up long before you. Before long you will be enjoying the fruits (and vegetables ) of your labor and they will taste that much better knowing how much work went into it. I hope you take pics at harvet time, too!

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BENGIE123 5/10/2009 9:33AM

    Who needs a gym when you've got a yard and garden? Here's how many calories a 180-pound person would burn in 30 minutes of activity:

Sitting quietly in the garden: 40
raking leaves: 162
trimming shrubs manually: 182
weeding: 182
chopping wood: 243
mowing lawn with a push mower: 243

Great job! emoticon

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New York 5 Boro Bike Ride

Monday, May 04, 2009

My husband, a friend and I left arrived in NYC Saturday afternoon under clear skies. We drove to Totonno’s Restaurant to meet my nephew who I hadn’t seen in years. After graduating from Purdue he headed to sunny San Diego and just this past Fall to NYC. It took us about 30 minutes of circling several blocks until we found a parking space. None of the parking garages would permit us to park because we had the bikes on a hitch rack, which took up more than the allotted space for a vehicle. Even though the bikes were locked securely to the hitch and the hitch was locked to the car, I was worried that we’d come back from dinner and find that our bikes had been stripped of everything removable—wheels, handlebars, computers (we should have taken them off!!)—and only the frames would be locked to the rack. But nothing dastardly happened, and we had a great time catching up with my nephew.

Then we headed to the hotel in the financial district. DH dropped us off at our hotel (we spent 30-45 minutes going in circles trying to locate the hotel) and headed to the wilds of NJ to stay. My friend and I were in NYC to ride in Sunday’s New York City 5 Boros Bike Ride—traffic free riding through Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island—and DH was going to the Yankees game. We checked in, took our bags and bikes up to our room and organized everything for Sunday’s early departure.

Sunday morning we awoke around 4:30 a.m. We hadn’t planned to be up quite that early, but decided since we were awake, we’d get up. Line up for the ride was to begin at 6:30 a.m., but we figured people would start congregating long before then, and we wanted to be one of the first 10,000 in line. Thirty thousand cyclists were registered for this annual event.

The weather forecast was not promising—overcast with a 30% chance of rain in the early morning increasing to 60%-80% chance beginning about 10 a.m. We debated about what to wear—be optimistic and dress lightly or be pessimists and dress for the worst-case scenario. We compromised—short sleeve bike tops and rain jackets. We did not wear the warm, long-sleeved shirts under the bike tops (a BIG mistake).

We arrived at Battery Park at 6 a.m. and got in line. And as expected, there were thousands in line before us, but we were in the first 10,000!! By 6:30 a.m., it had started to drizzle. We kept entertained by batting around a number of beach balls that kept flying our way, and looking at the decorated helmets. Riders from Maine had lobsters on their heads, another group had flowers in flower pots, and some D.C. riders had the dome of the Capitol attached. There were birds, rats, palm trees, butterflies, streamers and who knows what else setting atop bike helmets. I wish I had taken more pictures, but it rained hard enough that I was concerned about ruining the new camera. (We’re thinking our cycling group—The Fit Chicks—will have to come up with some helmet decorations for our next trip. We’re from rural Pennsylvania, so maybe Punxsutawney Phil, the famous weather-forecasting groundhog, or a cow—farming is the No. 1 industry in PA—or the Penn State Nittany Lion.)

At 7:45 a.m., a few dignitaries made remarks and shortly after 8 a.m., we were off . . . . at a crawl. Imagine getting 30,000 cyclists underway—it’s a slow start. For the first 2 blocks, we walked our bikes. Slowly, space opened up and we began to walk a bit faster. Finally, we were able to jump on our bikes and begin riding, and it was a good thing, because already we were damp and chilled.

Our ride took us from Church Street to Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) and through beautiful Central Park, which was lovely with azaleas and dogwood in bloom. At times, traffic jams (bicycles, not cars) occurred and we would have to get off the bikes and walk for a block or more. We watched joggers out run us. We were not expecting that, though we should have.

The most impressive bridge crossing was the Queensboro Bridge. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to cross it with my friend. We had gotten separated somewhere along the FDR Parkway. I didn’t learn until I was in Queens that she had her first flat tire (ever!) and had to learn how to do it on the fly. She is a very tenacious and resourceful woman and managed to get the job done. I waited in Queens at the rest stop just before Astoria Park for her to catch up. While waiting, a cyclist pedaling a rickshaw pulled in with his dog, Cooper, running alongside. Cooper looked fine, but Sean looked exhausted. I learned that the rickshaw with Sean in it weighed about 300 lbs. And much to my relief, Cooper was only occasionally running alongside—he was usually riding on the bench seat with Sean. (See photo album.) I’ll admit it; I was more concerned about the dog’s welfare, than Sean’s. In October, Sean, his dog, and a friend, Pierre, are going to bike across country in the rickshaw (see Rickshawusa.blogspot.com) or join Facebook Group: Rickshaw Diaries, if you’re interested in following this crazy journey that begins October 1, 2009.

Just before reaching Astoria Park, my friend blew another flat tire. Luckily, we were within a few yards of the next break area which had a repair tent. She got in line for a repair, and I got in line for the Porta-potty. After a bite to eat, we walked our bikes through the next traffic jam and headed onto Brooklyn. It had been raining the entire trip, and we were cold and shivering for miles and regretting that we hadn’t dressed warmer.

We were about half way through Brooklyn when the third flat tire happened. This time I was alongside her, so we both began walking. We walked for several miles before finding a ride marshall to find out how far away the next repair station was. We still had at least a quarter mile to go, and we had to make it there by 2:15 p.m., because they would be closing that checkpoint down then. It was the last rest stop and the last stop where we could opt for the sag wagon. We didn’t have much time, so I decided to ride ahead and let them know she was coming in the hope that if she arrived a bit late, they’d wait for her. That’s when I got my flat tire. I started to maneuver the bike to the sidewalk so I wouldn’t get run over by other cyclists. As I went up over the lip of the curb cutaway, my front wheel bounced off the lip, and I went tumbling onto the sidewalk. I jumped up and found I had a skinned shin and some bruises, but nothing major except the bruise to my pride. But the fall had knocked the handlebars askew. We walked the bikes the last quarter mile and called it quits. If we repaired the bikes and had yet another flat, we would have no way to get the bikes repaired, and we’d be on our own in a city we didn’t know how to get around. The sag wagon wouldn’t leave until the route closed, which was 5 p.m. We were too cold to wait in a bus for 3 hours. A couple of other riders were calling it quits, too, due to flat tires, so we took off searching for the subway. By now, we were shivering so hard we could hardly talk. Our hair was soaked and the rain was seeping through the helmets and rolling down our faces and necks. We all cracked jokes along the way – we thought we were the victims of a New York Insiders’ joke—every couple of blocks we’d stop to ask where the nearest subway station was, and each time, we were told it was just 2 more blocks that way. We must have walked about 45 minutes before coming to the station. We purchased our tickets and were relieved to get inside a warm train. Then we caught the Ferry back to Manhattan.

Despite all the travails, or maybe because of them, we want to ride again next year. It’s a rare opportunity to ride traffic-free through one of the greatest cities in the world. Being one of 30,000 cyclists is amazing. The organizers and volunteers perform a Herculean task to make this possible. Next year, we’ll plan a little better, and we’ll take our hybrid bikes—they’ll be better to take on the mean city streets of New York.

If you want to know more about the 5 Boros Bike Ride, visit http://www.bikenewyork.org/index.html


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    What a marvelous story! I love your tenacity. Can't wait for pictures. Janice's "Adventures on 2wheels!!"

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LIMASTAR 5/4/2009 6:00PM

  My boss & my spin teacher had mentioned this ride to me a few years ago (can't believe it's been a few years already), but due to various circumstances, have yet to try the ride. Maybe next year will be the year.

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SORGIN 5/4/2009 5:44PM

    Oh my gosh, I cannot believe you went through this! You are one tough gal! The first flat would have had me rethinking the whole thing. The rain, the other flat tires and the accident would have had me in tears and headed back home. You are such an inspiration! Thanks for sharing this journey. It reminds me that not all events live up to our expectations but it's still worth the effort. Whatever we do, we should give it our best. And you both gave it your best! There were probably a lot of people who didn't show up or who fell by the wayside long before you. You planned as best you could and you stuck it out given the conditions you were in. THAT IS SO COOL! Thank you so much again for sharing this. Never underestimate perseverance!

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Hitch Receiver from H - E - Double L

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The super-deluxe hitch bicycle rack that I ordered arrived a couple of days ago. It’s really cool—carries 4 bikes, has anti-sway straps for each of the bikes, and has a lock to secure the bike & the hitch to the car. No one is walking off with my prized possessions without a lot of work. The next step was to order the hitch receiver and get it installed.

Time was running out—it all had to be installed by this Friday—so I called around and found a local U-Haul store that had a hitch receiver that would fit my car. I took it in last night and had it installed. It only took about half an hour and the guy said it was the easiest hitch receiver he had ever installed. Hmmm---maybe DH and I should have given it a try ourselves, but neither of us are mechanically-inclined, and we are not quick to drop on our backs and shimmy under a car.

This morning before work, I took the rack out to install it on the hitch. I couldn't believe it, the hole in the rack didn't line up with the hole in the hitch receiver. It was off about 1/4 inch. I pushed, jabbed, jammed, jiggled and wiggled the rack, but it wouldn’t line up. I called out my husband—two heads are always better than one. What am I doing wrong? I asked. He peered into the receiver, turned, the rack over in his hands a couple of times, then pushed, jabbed, jammed, jiggled and wiggled the rack, too, but it wouldn’t budge.

Okay, I said. Let’s figure this out. Is the problem in the receiver or in the rack? We couldn’t tell just by looking at it. A light bulb goes on—take the rack back to U-Haul and ask them to try it in another receiver. If it goes in, then the problem is the receiver and I’ll ask them to install a new one. If it doesn’t, then it’s the rack, and I’ll call the store and ask them to Fed Ex a new connector.

I went into the store, told him my story, and he looked at the rack. Follow me, he said, I’ll give it a try. Again, it wouldn’t go in. He pulled it out, turned it over in his hands a couple of times, then pushed, jabbed, jammed, jiggled and wiggled the rack, but it wouldn’t line up.

Then he peered inside the hitch receiver and found the problem—a weld wasn’t flush. He suggested I file it off. And what if we file and file and can’t get it flush, I asked? Now I can’t return the hitch receiver. No problem, he said. He promised I could bring it back and they would refund my money less the labor fee to un-install it. This might be a really expensive hitch before this is all over.

So I called into work and said I’d be late. Then I rounded up a friend, two files, and the two of us began filing away. I worked on filing the bumpy weld, and she worked on filing the end of the rack. After half an hour’s work, a skinned knuckle and a bruised hand, we pushed and jiggled the rack into the receiver. GIRL POWER!!!!!!!

The End

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SORGIN 4/29/2009 1:03PM

    Wow, isn't it amazing the things we do to get our "fixes" in? Good luck at your event and know that GIRL POWER RULES! (PS I took my first real bike ride of the season this morning. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. I get all I'm-so-in-shape-because-I-run only to be demoralized by wind and the use of different muscles. Let the cross training begin!)


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It's Here!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Finally -- the packet for the NYC 5 Boro Bike Ride arrived. I ripped open the envelope, pulled out my deep green bib & modeled it. Then I dug deeper into the envelope and pulled out the number that gets affixed to the front of the helmet -- 40076. Then I started reading the route guide, the historic buildings we'll be passing & the beautiful bridges we'll be riding over.

On May 3 a friend and I will be riding through NYC's 5 Boros with 29,999 other cyclists. This will have to be one of the coolest bike rides I'll ever have the privilege of riding.

We'll be staying just blocks from the start at Battery Park. We'll literally roll out of bed into our biking gear and be there. The line up starts at 6:30 a.m.--I wonder how early we really have to be there to be one of the first 10,000 in line?

Any other Sparkers out there who are riding in this or have ridden in it before?

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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SORGIN 4/29/2009 1:07PM

    Wow, this sounds like fun. ENJOY!

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CRZYRUNRGRL 4/22/2009 9:28AM

    WOW! Sounds like so much fun!
Have a wonderful time and come back to tell us all about it!

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NIKNAKPATTYMAC 4/21/2009 11:41AM

    Hey Janice.....If you don't get up early enough, instead of "rolling out of bed" and "be there" you'll have to ride 10 miles to get in the back of the line! WooHoo....I hope you have a blast.

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BRIAN36 4/21/2009 8:47AM

    Almost makes me want to pull out my bike.......almost.

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MUSCLEMOM_2 4/21/2009 8:38AM

    Sounds like fun! Can't wait to hear all about it. You know keeping up with your rides has made me break out my bike and get some pedalling in. Didn't know you had that much influence over folks huh?!


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KELLYFIT4U 4/21/2009 8:29AM

    That sounds like a fun ride! It is fun to meet other sparkers. I'm hoping to atleast meet 2 more this year that around my area. Maybe you'll be able to meet some too!

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You Saved $125 Today

Monday, April 13, 2009

That's what the sales clerk said to me after she rang up my pink twin set and bathing suit. " Wow," I said. "That's great. With savings like this, I should keep shopping. I could use some new shoes and a skirt to go with the twin set and maybe a cover-up for the bathing suit, too. I could easily save $200 with the great sales you're having."

I didn't buy anything else, but when I got home and looked at the sales slip, I was surprised that I had spent $104 for my great finds. So much for my great savings!

How we react to information depends on how it is presented. Had the sales clerk said to me, "Thank you for shopping with us today; you spent $104," I would have told her I didn't really need the bathing suit and put it back.

When I'm recording and calculating calories & exercise, I'm always looking at the positive side. "Sure, I'll have that sliver of cheesecake--I ran 3 miles this afternoon and probably burned 300 calories." Never mind that the cheesecake is an extra 560 calories.

It's time I pay more attention to the real cost of eating. Burning 300 calories doesn't seem like such a great deal if I've eaten 2,000 calories.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NIKNAKPATTYMAC 4/19/2009 11:27PM

    wish I'd read this before I got back from my bike ride today. I used the same "logic" when I decided I needed to have a big supper and that I could "afford" those cookies. Somehow I always figure if I worked out hard that ANY amount of caloric intake is okay......like PSJH71 said, "You hit the nail on the head!" Thanks for the heads up!

Comment edited on: 4/19/2009 11:27:47 PM

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VEGGIE-FITNESS 4/16/2009 5:21PM

    Wow, you hit it right on the head......I guess its all about perspective and which "presentation" we give ourselves.....you really opened my eyes to the way I see things....

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KELLYFIT4U 4/16/2009 11:59AM

    Thanks for the comment on my blog. What great savings. I need to remember that when I want to dive into all those sweets. They really aren't worth it are they!?!? You should get your P90X out, it is a great workout. I didn't think so in the beginning but I might be ready for another round!

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WHISKERS12189 4/14/2009 10:33PM

    Great point! I'm always looking at how much I've saved, and not necessarily what it's cost me!

For example, on Easter, my husband knew that I really didn't want a slice of the chocolate French Silk pie that was oohh, so very decadent. So he stopped at Rita's Italian Ice and got me a Large Gelati. Very Nice, and I saved at least 250-300 calories, but I still consumed almost 560 calories, just in dessert! Yikes!


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SHININGTHRU126 4/14/2009 10:24AM

    you know it - it's that planning thing again, do you see it?

i'm not the world's best planner but i can appreciate how doing it will save me revelations like yours. i've had lots of those...

you've got it figured out.

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EMMAKATE218 4/13/2009 9:08PM

    Great thoughts!

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