chalkboard paint & spice jars

Almost a year ago actually, I finally got around to painting little rectangles of chalkboard paint onto my spice jars. Sometime last fall I was refreshing our wedding countdown chalkboard and decided to paint our spice jars too. There was no real purpose. They were already labeled. I just like looking at them with their chalkboard surface and sloppy cursive handwriting. Only about half of our spices are in these jars, the rest are shoved in our cabinets in their ugly containers.

I was originally inspired by these posts here and here, way before Pinterest was even a twinkle in anyone's eye. See? Even before Pinterest we were all scouring the internet for cute but not-entirely-important craft projects.

I think I'll slap a few coats of paint on some of my food storage jars too. To throw a wrench in the labeling plans, though, I should note that I just bought a label maker. Yep, those little machines that crank out ugly labels that people use to label their silverware drawer or refrigerator shelves. The great simplify & clean out made me do it. In my defense, the label maker has a lot of fonts and I am also using clear tape instead of white, so I don't think the labels it prints are that aesthetically offensive. Between that and the chalkboard paint, watch out.

related posts:
simplify, september update
simplify & clean out

that first marathon

I am a marathoner! Can you believe it? Now that a few days have passed since the race, I almost don't believe it. Someone check the records and make sure I finished all 26.2 miles.

The day has become a complete blur, as much as four and a half hours of nonstop running can be. My experience mirrored those of so many other first-time marathoners. The first ten miles passed by almost effortlessly. Mile markers were flying past me, my pace was comfortable and I was loving life. The next ten were harder, but I anticipated that. I was ready for it. Somewhere between miles 19 and 22, though, it got even tougher. I tried embracing it, knowing that this was what made it a marathon. The hard parts are what makes it such an awesome accomplishment. It's one thing to know that intellectually, though, and another to be right there in the thick of it with tired legs and an impatient mind and the sun beating down on you. But Hartford put on a great race, with lots of course entertainment, clear mile markers, tons of support and water stations and pretty decent crowd support. I never found the official pace group I had vague plans to run with, but I'd still recommend the race wholeheartedly. The weather was beautiful, starting out at 50 degrees and warming up quickly to a sunny 68-70 or so. Truthfully, it was actually a bit warmer than I'd like but I decided not to complain and upset the running gods that day.

During my training runs, I always imagined how emotional I would be in the last stretch of the race. How much of a relief it would be to pass mile 23, 24, 25... knowing that I only had a few more miles left of this epic adventure. As it turns out, I didn't feel that relief until I crossed the finish line. With one mile left, I couldn't muster up the weepy pride that I had assumed would overwhelm me. No slow-motion montages of all of my previous hard work playing through my head. Nope, just sheer grit to make it to the finish line. I knew I would make it, of course, but even a mile seemed like a far distance to run. At mile 26 I passed Chris, enthusiastically cheering me on, and he told me the finish was right around the corner. It would only be another minute until I could stop and rest, but I still didn't feel any sense of relief! I just wanted it to be over, finally. As I ran down the finishing chute, a small smile spread across my lips and I managed to pump my arms in the air as I crossed the line. I collected my medal, my shiny foil blanket and water. Only then did I feel great. I felt proud. I felt equally triumphant and nonchalant about the achievement. I wondered if any of my family had tracked my progress on the computer and if they were relieved that I had made it. I shimmied out of the giant foil blanket meant to keep me warm, thinking that it unfortunately made me feel like a soggy burrito. I wandered over to the place where Chris said he would be. I waited for a little bit, probably just a minute or two, unable to think clearly about calling his cell phone or even sitting down in the shade to wait. I just stood there, in the middle of a race-crazed crowd, and looked around. I was in a total fog, but it was a happy one. When Chris got there he ran over and hugged me and shouted, "You just ran a MARATHON!" Then I sat down and burst into tears.

I've already got marathon amnesia. I'm already thinking about another one, in the future, someday. I am so proud of myself that I stuck with it during all of the training runs, especially those that I desperately wanted to skip. I'm thankful for the awesome phone calls and text messages and FB/Instagram notes and high fives I've gotten. For the celebratory champagne and beers. For the post-race burritos and Ben & Jerry's. For having friends and family that get it, or at least pretend to. For having a husband who doubles as my zen running coach. For the opportunity and ability to become a marathoner. And for feeling pretty damn great afterwards, with no injuries or major discomforts at all. Mission complete.

a marathon

Tomorrow I'll run a marathon. A full 26.2 mile marathon. I'm not really sure how I got here, but there's
no backing out now.

Actually, I do know how I got here. I've been training for tomorrow's race for 18 weeks, since the middle of June. That was so long ago! Since then I've run 429 miles and spent just under 70 hours on my feet. Almost 200 of those miles were logged with bleary eyes and bedhead between 6 and 8am. I learned to love the satisfaction of having put in those miles before work, early enough that my brain didn't really comprehend what I was doing. By the time I left the office to go home at night I sometimes forgot that I even ran that day. Morning running is great when you can make it work for you. In the summertime it helped me avoid the heat and take advantage of those long days. Now that's it fall, it's a little tougher. But there was nothing like sitting down at my desk at 8:30am, knowing that I had already put away a solid eight miles in my sneakers. I switched a few runs around, but mostly stayed right on track.

(Middle: Day 1 of my training plan. Top left: Final training run before the race. All of the others: the days in between.)

Then there were the long runs. Those were intimidating. After running the Camp Chingachgook Half Marathon in August, my training plan called for increasingly higher-mileage long runs each weekend. Soon I was out the door for 15, 16, 18 and even 20 mile runs. It seems surreal! To be out running for hours, many hours, seems impossible, even as I write this. What did I think about? Was I bored? How did I pass the time? Truth is, I'm not sure. Sometimes I remember being bored. Sometimes it was pretty uncomfortable. I thought about a lot of things but really and straight-up zoned out for a lot of it. When Chris and I ran together we would occasionally ask what each other was thinking, and usually we couldn't come up with an answer. We were just running. Cruising around town with my hydration fanny pack on.

I've run in the morning, at night, in the rain and heat and even on vacation. If you look closely above, you can see the modifications I made to accommodate life. Tomorrow morning, I'm lacing up my sneaks and tackling the ING Hartford Marathon. I feel pretty good about it. The nerves are there, sure, but I'm shoving them aside for now in favor of feeling like a bad-ass zen running warrior, ready to soak in the sights at an autumn New England marathon.

If you have absolutely nothing else at all going on this Saturday, you can watch live coverage of the race here. You should also be able to track my progress on the course here. I expect to be crossing that finish line sometime around 12:30pm EST, but who really knows? Then I will be drinking chocolate milk while eating grilled cheeses and apple crisp, as is promised to me in the finisher's tent.

simplify, september update

It was ambitious, I suppose, to peg September as my grand clean-out month. You see, I'm less than two weeks away from running my first-ever full marathon. That means I've been running. A lot. And then recovering from running. And eating enough for running. And reading about running and shopping for cute new running clothes.

But! I have managed to organize my jars and weed through rusty canning lids so that what we have is both useful and more easily accessible. For those of you wondering, no mason jars were harmed or thrown out in this process.

Other victories:
  • I pared down our ever-expanding reusable grocery bag collection. We still have more than we need, but I got rid of the nasty ones or ones that we never really used because they were too small, the handles weren't big enough or they were ugly ones we got for free somewhere. It's a better situation now.
  • One more garbage bag of clothes is ready to be donated, which I think brings me to four or five total bags donated this year. I'm particularly proud of this batch because it includes three tank tops that I always felt really lousy and frumpy in but never thought to get rid of, a pair of ill-fitting corduroys and a pair of old boots that I haven't worn for years. Out they go!

I'm tackling the rest of my junk one room at a time. Up next? Our entryway/living room/sitting area. It's the first place you see when you walk in and also one of the easiest spaces to address, which should give me a sense of accomplishment to keep me going.
  • Seasonal switch of coats and jackets, moving some to the downstairs closet and keeping the relevant ones out. Same with the shoe pile and basket of hats, scarves and gloves.
  • Clear out the entryway dresser full of fabric. There is fabric hidden in every corner, and I don't need it all. My goal is to consolidate down to just one bin of fabric, plus one bin of sewing accessories. That's it. I've held onto ugly fabrics in hopes that one day my taste might completely change and I will use them in a home-sewn masterpiece. Not going to happen. I'm going to reclaim this prominent dresser in our entryway for other storage.
  • Create a spot for our keys and a mail inbox system.
  • Clear out bins of miscellaneous cords and old phones and twine. Yes, we have bins full of these things. Why? No clue. 
  • Comb through books and donate those one-time reads that I'll never revisit. 

What room in your home could use a refresher? If you want to follow along with me, take a peek at your entryway and see how you can declutter it and simplify. It's the first room to greet you when you come home-- why not make it a calm and inviting space?

other related posts:
simplify & clean out


Oh internet. There is so much out there that catches my eye, gives me pause and makes me smile. When I find something beautiful or helpful or otherwise awesome, I have to share it. Oftentimes I'll do so through Twitter, Tumblr or Pinterest (maybe even Facebook, because a gal can never belong to too many social networking sites), but sometimes I'll post it right here on the blog.

Click on the categories below for posts about what inspires me and links I've wanted to share.