Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Day 246: Calypso Tumblers

Mr. E and I had planned to go to one of the museums around the border of Jackson Square on Friday morning, but it was still closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.  So instead, we headed towards the Riverwalk, where we had noticed a large crowd gathered on the stairs and had heard lots of cheering and noise. We discovered the reason for all of the excitement -- some amazing acrobatic street performers, the Calypso Tumblers.

Check out some great photos of these talented guys. We saw one of them doing these handstand push-ups on the stair railing:

We also caught all of the final bit, which was a running front flip over 6 people -- incredible!  The entire troupe was very entertaining, and the fact that their name is reminiscent of our sweet black and white kitty, Calypso, just endeared them to me even more.


Day 245: New Orleans Cooking Class

Yesterday, Mr. E and I and his family attended a cooking demonstration class at the New Orleans School of Cooking on St. Louis Street in the French Quarter, just four blocks from where we were staying at the Hotel Mazarin:

We had a wonderful instructor, Pat Hirsch, who gave us an entire culinary history lesson before she showed us how to make three typical New Orleans dishes -- brown gumbo, jambalaya with rice, and pralines -- in the demonstration kitchen classroom:

I knew ahead of time that I wouldn't be able to eat the main dishes, as they both included not only garlic and onions but also sausage (pig), so I planned ahead of time and swiped the makings of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat bread from the breakfast offerings at the hotel in the morning.

The experience was fabulous, even if I couldn't sample the dishes, and Pat was an informative, engaging, and personable instructor.  We got copies of the recipes to bring home, so Mr. E and I may try to make our own versions of gumbo and jambalaya with modifications to accommodate my dietary needs.  Yum!


Day 244: Turkey Trot

Yesterday morning, Mr. E and I ran the 5-mile turkey day race, organized by the New Orleans Athletic Club and the New Orleans Track Club.  As we were trying to stay warm while waiting for the race to start, Mr. E noticed a familiar face sitting nearby on the stands of the Gormley Stadium in City Park:

This is the actor, Michael O'Neill, whom Mr. E recognized most recently from the new TV show, "Extant."  Once we were able to identify him, I figured we should check the race results to see if we managed to beat him across the finish line.  He was about four minutes slower than we were, finishing 807th out of 1,215 men, and Mr. E placed 694th.

Of course, this gentleman is also almost 20 years older than we are (63), so I'm glad we were still able to out-pace him, even with our gradually slowing times over the past few years!

I'm also glad we were able to do a Thanksgiving morning race, as we or I have frequently participated in the annual Run to Feed the Hungry in Sacramento when we've stayed close to home for the holiday.  It's always such a nice way to start out the day and support a good cause.


Day 243: Happy Thanksgiving from New Orleans!


Day 242: Travel for Turkey Day

Last year, Mr. E and I spent Thanksgiving in the Midwest with Mr. E's family. His sister and brother-in-law hosted the holiday meal at their home in Oak Park, and we then drove up to Madison the next day to spend some time in our old haunts and go to the Badger football game on Saturday. Brrrrr!

We decided this year that it would be better if no one had to play host, so all six of us flew to New Orleans. It's my fourth time in the city, as I attended a conference here when I was in grad school, and Mr. E and I came here with friends M and L in February 2002, when Mr. E was running a 1/2 marathon with a friend, and then we returned for a "mini-honeymoon" after we got married in January 2003. Mr. E's dad hasn't been here for decades, and his mom, sister, and brother-in-law have never visited before.

Traveling for Turkey Day is a nice way to get in some extra "destination trip" time and get together with family in "neutral" territory (which also allows us to both spend time as a group as well as separate for our own activities).


Day 241: Infrastructure Improvements on R Street

We recently noticed that several blocks on R Street are closed for construction.  Apparently, this closure of R Street between 16th & 18th Streets, leading up to the R Street Market (and our local Safeway) is part of the ongoing infrastructure improvements along the R Street Corridor that are intended to make this part of the neighborhood friendlier to pedestrians, bikes, and private developers.

Here's an aerial shot of how these blocks looked before the work began:

And these are renderings of how it will (hopefully) look after the work is completed next June:


Day 240: Scooter Maintenance

A few weeks ago, I planned to take the scoot to work in order to attend a post-work gathering at New Helvetia Brewing Company on Broadway, which was a bit beyond my typical bike ride distance.  Unfortunately, the scoot didn't start that morning, so I ended up walking to work and getting a ride from K to the event and a ride home afterwards from V.

Mr. E thought the problem with the scoot might be the battery, so he removed it and took it to the service branch of a local shop, Scooter City Sacramento, which recharged it (for free!). 

That allowed him to then drive the scoot back to the shop this evening to get some well-deserved and long-overdue maintenance.

Now we (I) just have to make sure to activate the scoot on a regular basis each week so that it doesn't get too tired again from lack of attention!


Day 239: Shady Lady - Cocktails & Snacks

Mr. E and I returned to the Shady Lady this evening after our monthly massages to try out some cocktails and food. We had another great experience for both food and service, so we'll likely add this spot into the rotation of Sunday evening food & beverage venues.

We each tried a gin cocktail - Mr. E ordered the Tom Collins, and I had the French 75. We shared the full charcuterie board (Mr. E ate all of the meat, of course, including the bone marrow and house-made pork rinds) and a side order of shoe-string fries.


Day 238: Shady Lady - Brunch

Our monthly brunch group decided to try a new spot today.  Shady Lady is one of the restaurants in the development along R Street between 14th & 15th Streets.

Mr. E and I had gone there for cocktails once when it first opened, but we'd never tried any of the food.  All of us were very pleased with our brunch experience today, as good food, tasty coffee, and attentive service (thanks, Stephen - you were great!) made for a winning combination. We'll definitely return for another brunch outing.

The menu had something for everyone, including pancakes for M, which is always an important consideration.  Mr. E ordered several sides to create his own perfect combo of 2 eggs, biscuits & gravy, and hash browns; S had 2 eggs and blueberry pancakes, most of which she ended up taking home to share with N since the order was so large; and I had the veggie omelet with avocado instead of green onions and hash browns prepared without bacon grease (yay!); and we all shared an order of beignets to start off the meal.

Mr. E and I figured this would be a preamble to our upcoming Thanksgiving trip to New Orleans, where we plan to enjoy the coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde.


Day 237: Small Town, Small City

As I was waiting to board the plane from Boston to Salt Lake City last night, I overheard three women in line in front of me talking about Sacramento. They mentioned living in Midtown and East Sac, and since it's not very often that I encounter Sacto residents when I'm visiting the East Coast, the conversation definitely caught my attention.

I ended up sitting just across the aisle from one of the women, so I asked her about the Sacramento connection and discovered that she and her husband and two kids live at 19th & F Streets in Midtown.

Small city... When Mr. E and I first relocated here from Madison in 2004, we lived in an apartment at 19th & H Streets, just a few blocks away!

As we chatted a bit more, I learned that she grew up in Duxbury, one of the towns that borders Marshfield, and that she lived close to the high school and the Percy Walker Pool, which is where I swim when visiting Mom.  I mentioned that I grew up in Marshfield, and she said that she had just been staying with her sister in Marshfield.  "Oh, which part?" "Rexhame."

Small town... As described in my previous post, my Mom lives in Ocean Bluff, which is one of the Marshfield beach communities that is bordered on either side by Rexhame and Brant Rock!

A bit later, I asked her more about the neighborhood where she lives in Sacto and joked that I'd probably run by her house at some point when I was running more and frequently took routes through Midtown. She asked if I'm familiar with a small independent book store on the corner of 19th & F, as she and her family live next door. I said that we used to pick up our CSA box at a house nearby.

Small city... turns out that the CSA Midtown drop-off spot was on her porch! The woman who runs the Heavy Dirt Farm CSA, who is the sister of my colleague, is a friend of a friend whom she knows through playing viola as part of the local band, Be Brave Bold Robot. I guess Mr. E and I may have to catch one of their shows at the Fox & Goose sometime.

Now for the final bit. When I told Mr. E this story, he asked, "Does she have blond hair? And kids ages 7 and 9?"  Um, yes. Turns out that he had actually met her a couple of times when he picked up the CSA box, and he even passed on to her some of the produce that we didn't want!

Small world, hmm?


Day 236: Too Much Driving

One of the things I appreciate about where we live in downtown Sacramento is that we usually don't need to drive much during the week, although Mr. E now has to commute to work again.  Otherwise, I walk, bike, or take light rail to work; our gym is just two blocks away; and I can do errands during the day or on my way home, such as getting stamps or mailing a package at Downtown Mail, stopping by CVS for a prescription or some OTC items, getting cash from the Wells Fargo ATM, or even going in person to the Sacramento Ballet box office if I need to purchase or change our tickets.

In contrast, almost every type of errand requires a car ride here in Marshfield.  Technically, there is a branch Post Office within walking distance (1/4 mile), but it's got limited hours.  And next door to the Post Office is a Package Store (the Massachusetts term for independent stores that sell mostly alcohol and other stock that's sort of similar to a typical convenience store).  Otherwise, the next closest businesses are down at the Brant Rock Esplanade, which is about 1 mile away.  That's more of a bike ride than a walk, but the road leading there isn't a terribly safe or comfortable place to bike.

So I'm looking forward to going home so that I can avoid too much driving again!


Day 235: Red Oval Farms Stoned Wheat Thins Minis

My favorite crackers are Red Oval Farms Stoned Wheat Thins:

These crackers have the perfect amount of crunch and crispiness, with just a touch of salt.  Even better is the mini version of the crackers, which are a perfect substitute for chips:

We used to buy both sizes as part of our basic groceries until Safeway stopped carrying the minis.  Boo!  The Trader Joe's version was an option for a little while, but then that also disappeared from the shelves.  And even Corti Brothers was an unreliable source.

So I was extremely happy to find two boxes of these little treasures on the bottom shelf at the local Star Market here in Marshfield!  I have plenty of room in my suitcase to transport them back to Sacramento, and I'm hoping that perhaps the stock has been replenished by the time I go grocery shopping tonight so that I can increase my supply even further.


Day 234: Blackman's Point

My run this morning took me on one of my common routes from Mom's house up to Brant Rock, passing through the Marina, up the hill into Blackman's Point, back down through the Esplanade, and on top of the sea wall along Ocean Bluff.  I still felt really good at that point, so I added on a little extra at the end towards the street that goes to Rexhame Beach, and I ended up running a total of 1 hour - not a run/walk combination, but a full hour of just running.  Yay!  It's been months since I've been able to do that!

Usually when I run in this area, it's during a summer visit, when every lot in Blackman's Point is filled with a trailer or RV, so it was a bit odd to see the more sparse off-season settlement.  The site is perched atop a cliff overlooking the ocean and has wonderful views.  Below are some aerial photos of the location, beginning with an historic view from 1944:

Apparently, the Brant Rock area was the site of some pretty impressive early radio activity, including what some claim to be the first public voice broadcast during Christmas of 1906 by Reginald Aubrey Fessenden, who was never duly credited for his achievements and inventions during his lifetime.


Day 233: Lighthouse Utility Pole

I've posted several entries about the Capitol Box Art project in Sacramento, which enlisted local artists to create artwork "wraps" for the utility boxes at the corner of certain intersections in downtown and Midtown.

I was so pleased to see something similar at one of the main traffic lights in downtown Marshfield!  The utility pole on the island at the intersection of Route 139 and Route 3A, across from the Veteran's Park and the small commercial complex that includes Walgreens, Auto Zone, and a Realtor, is now painted to look like a lighthouse:

I wish I had a better close-up shot of the lighthouse, as it's really quite lovely and striking, especially when you're sitting in your car and waiting for the traffic light to turn green. 

Mom told me that it was designed and painted by local artist Sally Dean, and the weekly paper, the Marshfield Mariner, featured the new addition to the street-scape back in October, a few weeks after the artwork had been completed.


Day 232: Go Badgers!!!

From opposite sides of the country, Mr. E and I watched the UW-Madison Badgers football game versus Nebraska yesterday and texted comments to each other.  The first quarter did not begin well... several miscues by our Badgers and dropped balls and turnovers.  Yikes!  But then Melvin Gordon kicked it into high gear and finished the game with a new NCAA rushing record.  Amazing!!! 

A couple of other firsts from the game included the coldest temperature at kick-off since the 1960s (26 degrees) and the first snowfall of the year:

Personally, I'm convinced that the turnaround in the game was a direct result of my putting on my Bucky Badger earrings...


Day 231: You Know I Love You When...

...I cross the threshold of a (*shudder*) Wal-xxx (can't even type the name!) in order to fill your post-surgery prescription at the lowest price.

As it turns out, I most likely could have avoided the entire experience, given that Medicare did cover most of the cost, so any other acceptable pharmacy (CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens) would probably have been able to offer a similar price after all.  But the info from the Case Manager to Mom indicated that the dreaded Wal-xxx would be $150 vs. $500 at some other vendor.  In the end, it was actually only $10, thanks to Medicare prescription coverage.

I still feel sort of contaminated...


Days 229-230: Fall Weather on a Different Coast

Wednesday was relatively mild, foggy, and cloudy. It was a good day to just stay inside and work, enjoying the cozy gas stove in the corner of the living room.

Thursday was colder, clear, bright, and sunny. I went for a run in the afternoon during a break from the hospital and could appreciate what remained of the autumn leaves lingering on the trees. Many more bare branches around here than at home in Sac.

Last night, the arctic freeze weather pattern brought in a mixture of rain and snow just in time for this morning's commute. Big, wet snowflakes were still falling just now (6:30am) when I went to put some stuff back in the car in the hospital parking lot. There's not much accumulation on the ground, but the trees and cars are trimmed in white. Pretty!


Day 228: Veteran's Day In Flight

During my flights yesterday, the crew recognized Veteran's Day and celebrated current and former members of the Armed Services with a lovely appreciation message, followed by applause from the rest of the passengers.  Much of the in-flight magazine for this month was also devoted to stories about Delta's work with veterans and other national initiatives to support veterans, primarily for transitioning to the civilian workforce.

I did have to stifle a laugh, however, when the flight attendants came through the cabin offering everyone a "Veteran's Day truffle."  I'm not sure that Lindor knows its truffles are now being used to honor and celebrate this particular holiday, at least on board Delta flights!


Day 227: My Favorite Trees

These lovely trees are directly across the street from our driveway, beautifying the sidewalk area along the parking garage, and they turn the most amazing shade of yellow in the fall. I'm pretty sure that these are gingko trees, based on the size and shape of the leaf and the coloration.

The photos below show the trees this weekend and today, as they progress quickly in their transition from one hue to the next:

By the time I get home from my trip in a week and a half, I'm guessing they will be completely yellow but also starting to be more bare as the leaves fall to the sidewalk below!


Day 226: Another Rose

This morning, I caught sight of a sign for the George Burns rose during my morning bike commute through Capitol Park. I really enjoy the multiple colours and striations of this rose varietal:


Day 225: Hook & Ladder

Mr. E and I went out to brunch this morning and decided to try Hook & Ladder again.


We've been here once before with the monthly brunch group, and I've gone several times for dinner with girlfriends. The previous brunch experience wasn't great, primarily due to extremely slow service, but Mr. E and I were hoping that this time around would be more positive.

Mmm... not so much...

Unfortunately, we again had quite slow service, and the food definitely wasn't outstanding enough to overshadow that aspect of the experience. As I've written in previous blog posts about restaurants, I'm far more likely to forgive mediocre food if the service is excellent than vice versa.

So next on our list of brunch spots to try (or try again) will most likely be Shady Lady, Capitol Garage, The Porch, and Magpie.  Good fodder for future blog posts! (and hopefully good food, too...)


Day 224: Fall Colours Come to Sacramento!

This week, I finally started to notice some of the striking and beautiful fall colours on the trees around Sacramento. Some of the most brilliant striation and coloration can be found on the trees in and around our Roosevelt Park neighborhood:


Day 223: Capitol Box Art

On my way to meet S at The Press for Happy Hour tonight, I passed by the Capitol Box Art at the corner of 16th & K Streets:

This piece, by Janine Mapurunga, is entitled "Welcome Home." I really enjoy the different perspectives on food and baking and pasta in this creation, and it's in a particularly fitting location in the midst of multiple restaurants along the 16th Street corridor.

Here's the artist's statement about her own work:
If you asked me to choose one word by which to define my work, I would choose Storytelling.
A curiosity about the human condition and an eagerness to connect with others are the main driving forces behind my work. In my projects I provide an opportunity for people to tell their story and, in so doing, I establish a connection with them.


Day 222: Roses

During my morning bike commute today, I noticed the signage in the rose beds that line the 13th Street cut-through of Capitol Park. Most of the rose bushes are labeled with the name of the rose varietal, and several of them struck me with their whimsy:

Pumpkin Patch

Julia Child

Twilight Zone


Day 221: Stand Up/Sit Down Desk

About a year ago, I was having a lot of pain in the upper part of my left leg, which I originally thought was some sort of hamstring strain, based on an initial diagnosis by a Sports Med doctor.  I wasn't convinced, however, and several visits with two different Physical Therapists led to a different diagnosis of "neural tension."  Although that sounds rather vague, the solutions and exercises recommended by the PTs finally led to relief of the pain and helped me start running again.

One of the positions that aggravated the pain was sitting for long periods of time, including at work.  I approached our "HR" person to ask about getting a standing desk set-up to help alleviate the pain and was basically told to figure out a DIY solution since the ergonomically-correct desks were too expensive.  I chatted with one of my colleagues who had found an online site with instructions to utilize Ikea items to create a standing workstation with the appropriate height and implemented that solution.  Over the past year, several other staff have followed suit, and the Fit Team started discussing ways to improve the ergonomics of both the cubicles and the offices.

Thanks to my peer manager, K, one of the prizes for a staff contest associated with Annual Conference was a VariDesk adjustable height sit-stand desk:

This particular model didn't fit well in the cube of the staff prizewinner, so it ended up in the office of our "HR" person, who lately has been experiencing neck and back pain and working with a PT of her own.  Apparently, she rather liked the adjustable work station, and suddenly the option of ordering a similar set-up was provided to All Staff.

Hmm.  Funny how that works.  Self-interest = Progress.  Sad...

But as Mr. E reminds me, at least the end result is positive, as we now have a majority of staff who are able to use this type of workstation and avoid excessive sitting during the day.  And I have to admit, I'm very pleased with my Varidesk, which arrived today, as it's definitely an improvement over my Ikea DIY model (although that worked pretty darn well for the past year...).


Day 220: The Rind

S and I had our monthly Happy Hour at the end of last month and decided to try The Rind again.

"The Rind is a cheese-centric bar where you can experience unique and inspiring artisanal cheeses paired with delightful and complex wines and beers.  Cheese Enthusiasts will finally have a place in Sacramento to explore cheeses, from buttery to blue, nutty to stinky, with a glass of wine or beer and no pretention.  Still hungry? Indulge in classic and "grown up" grilled cheese sandwiches to mac & cheese."  

We'd been once before but hadn't made this a regular spot, primarily because the food offerings are limited and very cheese-focused (understandably, given the name...) and also due to small space that sometimes causes challenges in finding a table.

The cheese selection is extensive, as shown by the cheese list that's organized by source (goat vs. cow), origin (country, state), and relative hardness:

I secured a table by arriving a bit early and ordered a glass of wine and eventually a cheese plate, figuring that S would probably like any cheeses that I selected. The cheese plates come with a few sides and some crostini and are quite elegantly but simply presented:

At some point, I'll need to bring Mr. E to The Rind so he can enjoy the cheesy goodness!


Day 219: Odd Trends When Visiting A

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I was visiting A and crew this weekend, and I noticed that there seem to be some odd trends whenever we're getting together, at least based on the last three visits.

(1) September 2013 - Labor Day Girls' Long Weekend - St. Louis, MO

  • My original Southwest flight from Sac to Phoenix was cancelled, and there was no other option to get out to St. Louis that day, so I didn't arrive until the following afternoon.
  • The weather was HOT and HUMID.  Ick.
  • At the end of a run one morning, I managed to trip on the curb of a sidewalk and go sprawling, ending up with bruises and abrasions on my knees and elbows.

(2) February 2014 - Baby Shower - Louisville, KY

  • My United flight from Louisville to Houston (first leg of the trip home) was delayed, and there was no other option to get back to Sac that evening, so I ended up with an overnight in Denver at the airport Embassy Suites Hotel. Mr. E had to pick me up the next morning, bring work clothes for me to change into in the car, and take me straight to the office.
  • The weather was COLD and SNOWY. Brr.
  • No workout issues this time around. Phew!

(3) October/November 2014 - Meeting Freddy - Louisville, KY

  • My United flight from Houston to Louisville was delayed due to maintenance issues, so I arrived two hours late, at midnight instead of 10pm.
  • The weather was COLD and RAINY and WINDY and SLEET-Y. Yikes!
  • At the end of my run on Friday morning, I landed right on top of a chunk of concrete on the side of the road across from A's house and badly twisted my left ankle. I managed to walk it off and was still able to run yesterday morning, but my ankle was quite puffy over the past few days, and the bruise is turning lovely colours.

I think I'm jinxed! And what this really means is that A, R, and F need to come west to visit us next time to help break the curse...


Day 218: Cold Weather Running

I'm visiting A & R in Louisville this weekend and meeting Mr. FMV for the first time (we'd met previously via Skype). Although Louisville is in Kentucky, which suggests the South, it's really much more Midwestern in many ways, including for climate and weather.

For example, last night the temps dropped to 26 degrees, and there was frost all over the lawns and rooftops this morning when I went out for a run. In Sacramento, we do get temps in the high 30s overnight and into the early morning during the winter, and that's when I have a "3-layer" day for running gear, i.e. 3 long-sleeve tops + running pants + gloves + hat.

I decided today would be a 4-layer + 2-layer day, as I haven't done cold weather running with temps in the 20s for many years.  So I had a workout tank + 3 long-sleeve tops + running capris & running pants + gloves + hat. 

With all of those layers, my hour-long run was cold but beautiful, with sunny blue skies and brilliant fall-coloured leaves, and I could actually enjoy the crisp winter chill in the air. I was quite grateful for the long-sleeved fleece that A had passed on to me, as I otherwise wouldn't have had that 4th layer available to keep me warm!


Day 217: Daylight Savings Time

Although I definitely understand that some of the original compelling reasons for Daylight Savings Time no longer exist (e.g. energy savings, more light and time for harvesting and other agricultural efforts), I'm not sure that I'd want to totally abolish it, even though it could make scheduling easier and more consistent. At this time of year, I'm very happy to "fall back" and return to having lighter mornings and darker evenings, but I wish we could stay that way all year rather than changing again in the Spring.

Apparently, some people are quite adamant about wanting to get rid of this tradition entirely, but for now, we do have to change the clocks yet again, whether we want to or not.  And I'm rather looking forward to an extra hour of sleep tonight and a lighter, brighter morning tomorrow!