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  • 06/11/15--08:44: Back on the mat
  • This morning I did yoga for the first time since I got the cold. I did the one I've been doing the most from the 30 Days series, Yoga for Your Back. I think I'll also hit the pool this afternoon.

    Because I was on the floor, I found something I'd been looking for for about a week. It bothers me that I even need the printed Everett Parks and Recreation guide, but even though the Summer edition has been out for weeks now, the summer info isn't on the website. I knew I had the printed one, but couldn't find it. Turns out it was under the end table next to my spot downstairs.

    After all that, I took the garbage, recycling, and food/yard waste down to the side of the street. I also put a DVD in the mail and got yesterday's mail from the mailbox, which is across the street and over one house. The neighbor who lives there finally yelled, "MORNING NEIGHBOR" as he jogged by with his early '90s antenna headset. I'm not sure why today was the day he said hi. Of all the neighbors, I encounter him the most. Not only does he jog around the time I often leave for a walk or take out the trash, he also just jogs up and down our street. Plus, as I mentioned, I have to go in front of his house to get our mail.

    I could tell his music was loud, so I waved when I said hi back since I was pretty sure he wouldn't hear me. The whole thing was a little awkward since it was very early and we were both loud. Oh well.

    Just checked the pool hours in the guide that was lost. Currently, open swim starts at noon, but it'll start at 1:30 for the summer, starting June 22. That's actually better for me, because on days I swim, I eat lunch pretty early. It'll be nice on days I want to go out for lunch to be able to finish my work day at noon, grab some lunch, and still have plenty of time before the open swim starts. Of course, it'll be summer, so it'll be mobbed. Perhaps some of the younger crowd will shift to the outdoor wading pool, and others could end up and the free spray park section outside. I'm also curious if the adults who come by on their lunch break will stop coming.

    Gah, it's so sunny out. Summer is stupid.

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  • 06/12/15--16:03: SchadenFriday

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  • 06/12/15--18:11: Japanese Gulch
  • It's no secret that I hate summer. I grew up in the desert and moved here to get away from the sun. But there are some benefits for walking in the summer, as long as you're an early riser. It's much less creepy since it's actually light out instead of pitch black, for one thing. I get up at 4am, and sunrise is already starting! I got to thinking this morning how little rain there's been lately, and remembered the Tails and Trails Park. I'd been there before and tried to check out the trails, which wind their way through the Japanese Gulch, but they were too muddy. I knew today would be a perfect day to head back there.

    Japanese Gulch

    This place is amazing. There's a huge dog park, and trails into the gulch start right behind it. I chose the upper route today, and as I climbed higher and higher, all I could see was trees and sky. We're fortunate in Washington to have lots of parks with these steep trails. They're a more intense workout, and the sweeping views just take everything to a higher level. It's hard to explain how great it is.

    Of course, there are drawbacks.

    Today"s awesome walk, 1.15 miles in 35 minutes, 2465 steps, 179ft gain
    (1.15 miles in 35 minutes. 2,465 steps, 179 ft gain, but it felt like 3x as much because that's how hiking feels)

    Somewhere close to where I marked with that dark spot, I encountered a sign which said DOG PARK, with an arrow facing the direction I'd come from. I thought I was actually close to where I started and thought there was an entrance to the trails I hadn't noticed. That was incorrect. It wouldn't have been that big a deal to turn back, but I've always preferred loop routes to there-and-back ones. No worries, though, the trail was obviously going somewhere, and even if I left the park completely, I could just walk back to the entrance. That's exactly what happened, but that neighborhood's shortcut to the park trail isn't being maintained the way the rest of the park is, so I spent a lot of time climbing over fallen trees and working my way through thorny vines. Nothing insurmountable, but I got a few scratches.

    Pretty satellite version

    Look at that climb! I think I'll designate a day to come back here every week this summer. The trail branches off in tons of different directions, and they aren't on Google maps, so I could spend quite a bit of time here exploring. It's so interesting while being there to realize that one of the world's largest buildings is just a mile or so away. You'd never know judging by all the vegetation and silence.

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  • 06/13/15--08:54: CATURDAY

  • BONUS Saturdogs

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  • 06/13/15--11:01: Trail sense
  • Woke up this morning and just barely missed Garrett as he headed out for some weekend tasks at work. I confirmed via text that he'd be gone a while, and headed back to Japanese Gulch. From way high up yesterday, I noticed there was a trail next to the railroad tracks at the bottom. It's actually the only trail through there that's on the map, I suppose because it's a designated bike route. So, my plan for today was to follow that all the way to the end and see how much of the Boeing plant could be seen from there.

    The trail starts off innocently enough.

    Easy version

    This is just before it joins up with the railroad tracks, and also just before it becomes a steady climb for quite a ways. That's good, though. I didn't necessarily want to climb as steeply as yesterday, but I also didn't want it to be too easy. The trail's a little confusing though. As you're walking that direction, the tracks are on the left, a creek's on the right. That runs between where I went yesterday, and where I went today. But what's weird is that every once in a while, there's a trail leading across the creek, followed by a "no trespassing" sign. Are the little pockets of overground land between the trails off limits? Are the trails themselves off limits? Who can say? It's not residential or anything, so I think I'll follow the spirit of this vandalism.

    Go trespassing

    Here's what I could see of Boeing once I got to the end of the trail. I was hoping for something more like an airport. :)


    It's stated very clearly on signs that walking along the paved road isn't allowed, which is a bummer because that could be a cool way to make one giant loop. I also saw a couple of dirt roads that appear to be owned by the railroad. I'll have to investigate later and see if those are clearly marked. I've previously enjoyed going down one road with a locked gate at the top because its signs only banned cars and overnight camping, but didn't mention anything about walking. If the dirt roads aren't explicitly banning jogging and walking, they might be fun to check out.

    At that point, I was getting ready to double back, because there was a truck nearby and I figured it'd be best to investigate those roads if I didn't see anyone around. I got about 50 steps back when I guy I'd noticed running with his dog off in the distance behind me earlier ran past me and said hi. His passing me there meant that he'd taken one of the paths I'd looked at on the other side of the tracks and it connected, so I could head back that way.

    That was an extremely cool series of winding paths, and a nice test of my sense of direction. I was trying to end up on the original trail, and at one point I could see that one of the path options was highly unlikely to go there, based on the way the land was sloping. In a huge area like that where no maps are available, it's good to feel comfortable trusting you'll make the right choice.

    Got a pic of some cool mushrooms for suxdonut.

    For Tats

    I made my way to where I got on the trail, by the parking lot, but wanted to emerge from the gulch at the pedestrian trailhead on the opposite side of the road, a bit east from there. However, I was unable to find a way to get there! I suspect that trailhead has several paths which lead to the area where I'd been earlier, up above the tracks, but nothing near where I was.

    I did see an impressive feat of vandalism under the bridge, though.

    The local vandals definitely aren"t lazy

    Every one of those holes is a smashed brick. These people are assholes, but they're definitely not lazy assholes.

    Since I wasn't able to emerge where I wanted, I decided to keep going, figuring I might finally see the entrance to the beach that was recently opened, but no big deal if I didn't. That brought me to the Mukilteo train station.

    Mukilteo train station

    I could have made my way over to the beach entrance from there, but as you can see, it was getting pretty sunny, and I knew it would be a bit of a climb to get back up to the car, so I just headed back. Along the way, I found another tiny little park. Stopping to take pictures was a nice little break in the shade. I wanted to sit for a bit, but they'd just watered and everything was soaked.

    Barbara Brennen Dobro Memorial Park
    Barbara Brennen Dobro Memorial Park
    Barbara Brennen Dobro Memorial Park

    Barbara Brennen Dobro, what a great name. Today's route:

    Today"s awesome walk, 4.51 miles in 1:42, 9705 steps, 515ft gain
    (4.51 miles in 1:42, 9705 steps, 515ft gain)

    Back when I worked in the office Monday-Thursday and at home on Friday, I had a pretty good routine. Walks that were part of my commute Monday-Thursday, a longer walk on Friday, Saturday off, and a ridiculously long walk Sunday. I've decided it's time to bring back Sundays. It's been ages. I think I've rehabbed my back enough that I can probably do walks on three weekdays plus Sunday, along with yoga and swimming two weekdays. But who knows? There's really no reason to limit myself. Working from home gives me back something like 2.5 hours on work days that I didn't have when I had to commute, so I could do yoga every day if I'm up for it. We'll see.

    There's really no comparing the walking options that were available to me in Seattle, plus the transit options which allowed me to go twice as far instead of doubling back, but I'd say comparing the size of Everett and Seattle, Everett's the better place to be. Proportionally, it works out.

    I'm going to set an alarm for 5am tomorrow and head back out to the gulch. This time, I'll enter via that pedestrian trailhead I tried to find earlier and see where it goes. I'm really looking forward to exploring every inch of the trails on both sides. Especially if I can find shortcuts going into other neighborhoods like I did yesterday. I wouldn't be shocked if every street on either side of the gulch had its own way in. That's the kind of amenity people expect in such areas.

    I also want to check into the bus schedule for the route that comes back from there. I'd love to walk all the way there and take the bus back. I used to do that sort of thing all the time.

    EDIT: Ermagehr, there is a map! It's not super useful during walks since you can't follow along on it on the phone, but it's nice to be able to see what all's there. The blue side is the side I stayed on yesterday, and they grey side is where I ventured into today. Lots to explore!

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  • 06/14/15--10:09: Edgewater Beach
  • My alarm was set for 5am today, but I was wide awake by 4:30. I relaxed in bed with Sam for a bit, but a neighborhood cat screamed somewhere down the street, and he went to investigate, so I got up and was actually out the door at about 5:00. The sunrise was nice, and I was hoping to get a good photo somewhere. That can be really difficult around here, since there are trees everywhere and they're so tall. I've been wanting to check out Edgewater Beach, and wasn't sure where the entrance was, so I drove that way figuring I'd be able to figure all that out and get the picture at the same time.

    The first spot where I thought I might gain access was a dud, but there was tons of parking and I noticed that there was a small bit of shore access by the Silver Cloud Inn, so I headed over for a quick photo.

    Good morning

    The second spot where I looked was by the train station, and there was a path there. It was marked "temporary beach access" and the sign said that the beach was a third of a mile away. My agenda for today's walk was to start at the trailhead I mentioned yesterday, so I got back in the car and drove over to the dog park.

    Immediately when I got to that trailhead, I saw the smaller print on the sign that I'd never noticed from the car. That section of trail led down to to Mukilteo Lane, and was only .25 miles long. It obviously didn't connect with the rest of the gulch, so I decided to follow it down, then go over to the beach.

    The trail was lovely, and I emerged from the woods right next to where I arrived on Mukilteo Lane yesterday via the train tracks. A quick shortcut I definitely wasn't allowed to take got me to the train station parking lot. That temporary access trail was pretty cool. Big concrete walls, water views, and not a soul around.

    But I was very confused when I got to the beach. I'd obviously remembered this blog post completely wrong, because there was a parking lot, a real paved entrance, and an information display about Mount Baker Terminal.

    Edgewater Beach Park

    I might have read something elsewhere about the temporary access to the beach being added because the demand for this beach may increase due to the closure at Howarth Park. I dunno.

    Today"s awesome walk, 4.92 miles in 2 hours, 10,584 steps, 507ft gain
    (4.92 miles in 2 hours, 10,584 steps, 507ft gain)

    I doubled back and figured there'd be at least one more path into the main part of the gulch so I wouldn't have to go all the way to where I parked, and I was right. That's spot A on the map. The trail started getting pretty steep and sandy, and I didn't want to walk back down that way. That was when I decided my mission was to see just how far East I could go in the gulch. I was extremely curious to see if the trails emerged near office buildings since the area on the trail map from yesterday is labeled "Boeing Recreation Area".

    It's surprising to find out that the total climb was only 507 feet, because it felt like a LOT more. I guess because so much of it was all at once. I was pretty wiped out when I finally found a road (point B on the map) but the road itself wasn't all that helpful because it went the wrong way, and following it would have been an extra three miles I didn't feel like taking. But I was pretty sure I could find a way down to the road.

    Looking down the hill from where I was at point B, I saw that a lot of it had been cleared previously, so I decided to give it a shot, figuring it might be a neighborhood shortcut like the one I can use to come down to our neighborhood from the park. You can see on the map that I was wrong. At least I saw a cool slug.

    Slug pal

    That was actually not the coolest one I saw today. One on the super scary steep dusty path was an awesome shade of green with a big black diamond shape on its back. But I didn't want to fall down the trail because I bent over to get a picture of a slug.

    After climbing back up, I was definitely in the mood to get to the road and just kind of float down to the car rather than having to climb down the trail. Looking at the map, I could tell I had one more shot at point C. Luckily, I was right! There's a pond there with a fence around it, and the nearest houses on the street down below have a pretty big space between them, which has a trail. What a relief. I ended up in a very nice neighborhood.

    Nice neighborhood

    The photo really can't do it justice. The street got steeper and the views got better, while the houses got bigger and more expensive. Amazing.

    I solved one apparel problem today and discovered another. I've always walked in a hoodie, running tights, and cargo shorts covering the tights. The tights prevent most of the chub rub issues, plus they're protection from all the plants along the trails. A lot of people just wear tights and nothing over them, but I like having the pockets. Back when I worked at the office, I carried a clean shirt, underwear, and socks, and just wore those with the same cargo shorts I walked down in.

    The cargo shorts aren't ideal, though. In real life, I wear them on my hips, but that doesn't work for walks because it limits the range of motion a bit. So they have to be pulled all the way up for walks, which was fine back then, but I gained some weight back when I took the time off walking, and they were extremely tight across the waist. I've been rolling them down at the top for walks, and it's been awkward.

    Yesterday while I was shopping for clothes on Old Navy's site, I picked up a couple of pairs of athletic shorts, figuring they'd be stretchy and would work much better for walks. But, duh, I already have a couple of pairs that I bought on clearance when K-Mart was closing to wear around the house. So today I walked in running tights under athletic shorts, and it was so much more comfortable. I'm so dumb for not trying this sooner.

    Today was the second day in a row that I struggled with sweat in my eyes and foggy glasses, so I guess it's time to get some sweatbands, too. That's a look I never thought I'd rock. I'm also going to start leaving my glasses in the car. I never used to walk with them and there was really no reason to now. It's just unpleasant for a few minutes while my eyes adjust. It was never an issue before because I had designated home and office glasses, and got up and left for work without ever putting any on. So those will stay in the car now, even if it's annoying for a bit.

    I'm sure that's a whole lot of information that of little interest to anyone but me, but lately I've just been in the mood for that style of blogging. Here's an oddly specific parking sign.

    Oddly specific

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    Continuing yesterday's thought process, I decided it would be nice to start low, climb, and return, so I decided to park down at the beach instead of the dog park. Today was a good day for that.

    Days that I know are going to be hot and awful later on start off really nice. The air's amazing, the sky is bright but still mild, and you can see forever.

    Good morning

    Sky art

    Here's that lovely athletic shorts/running tights combo.

    "That"s a lot of look"

    Stylish, eh?

    The reason for leaving the car at the beach was so that it'd be at the lowest point, but there's no reason not to enjoy it while down there, so I walked the length of the Mukilteo Lighthouse Park before heading up the hill.

    Mukilteo Lighthouse Park

    Is that not the dinkiest little lighthouse ever? I laugh when I see it. The area's still very lovely. The climb started immediately as I left the park. The road that leads out of the ferry terminal immediately heads up and over the railroad tracks, and is never flat for very long all the way until it ends up in my neighborhood, almost six miles away.

    Since I recently explored the higher gulch trails on either side, it made sense to try the lower ones in the center.

    Lower path

    I stand by my recent statements about not worrying when walking around on trails because they're designed to loop around or emerge somewhere. But I have an addendum: the trails have to be maintained for that to be true. The lower trails are currently more overgrown than I'll put up with.

    Today"s awesome walk, 5.22 miles in 1:58, 11,221 steps, 526ft gain
    (5.22 miles in 1:58, 11,221 steps, 526ft gain)

    You can't quite tell by where I marked the map with point A that I turned back on three different trail options before giving up and turning back to find a way across the water. But I guess that's fine since the trails down at that level would be pretty boring anyway.

    Point B, where I crossed the water, had a pretty clear trail leading there, so I figured there'd be a small bridge. That was incorrect. Wet feet are how you get blisters, so I'm glad I was able to get all the way across stepping on rocks that were in the water, without getting wet.

    I definitely warped the length of the bike trail in my mind. After I crossed the water I didn't think it would be long at all before it met up with the railroad tracks and I could cross to the paths on the other side. That spot, point C, was a lot farther away than I figured. That made the whole thing take a lot longer than I planned for, but that's ok. I also ended up going down the sandy path that I didn't want to go down yesterday, but at that point I was ready to be done and knew it would be the fastest way. It wasn't as scary as I thought it'd be.

    The back pain came about four miles in, and it really wasn't a big deal. This is such a nice change from getting a few blocks before it became unbearable. I'm beginning to think that maybe being sick for a couple of weeks contributed to the healing.

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  • 06/16/15--14:47: Efficiency
  • Those last three walks were awesome, but left me pretty sore. Stiff calves, mostly. Decided to give them a nice break today with some yoga in the morning and swimming in the afternoon, and they already feel a lot better.

    So, my blood pressure's terrible. Always has been. My mom's was, too, and I'm definitely my mother's son. She died the night after her gastric bypass surgery, and hypertension's probably what did it. I can't remember the numbers from previous tests, but when a nurse visited recently for our insurance physical, it was 140/100. I'm not sure if that's what it would be today, I'd been sick for two weeks when she visited and hadn't exercised at all. But of course it'll still be high.

    I need to address it, and the best next step after exercise is to look at food. I recently watched Forks Over Knives, which if you haven't seen it, is one of those documentaries that scares the hell out of you and makes you want to toss everything out of the kitchen and start over. But that's not practical. It's expensive, for sure. All recipes usually are. You end up needing a couple of spices, and spend ten bucks for them. There's plenty left for future recipes, but that initial expense is a killer.

    So for now, I want to make all my weekday breakfasts and four of my weekday lunches from the Forks Over Knives recipe app I got for my phone. That'll make nine meals out of the 27, and I think 33% is a pretty great start. The reason I only want to do four lunches is that I decided a while ago that it'll be good for my mental health to have a lunch out each week. I'm home all day every day, and it's hard not to go stir crazy.

    After the yoga this morning, I quickly showered and ran out to get the stuff for two recipes from the app: breakfast tacos, and Tuscan white bean burgers, which I guess aren't among the free recipes. There were so many ingredients and it was a lot of work to get it all together, but I ended up with enough stuff for four breakfasts and four lunches. All the effort's up front. I even made fake sour cream from their condiments section in the app to add to the tacos.

    Speaking of which, what I'll say about these recipes is that the finished products are definitely more than the sum of their parts. With processed foods and real dairy, we're used to everything tasting very good. Fake sour cream tastes nothing like the real thing, but the taco will be better if you add it.

    Right here's the point where a lot of people would say, "See? I did it! Anyone can!" I hate that so much. What I'll say instead is that I'm so glad I'm not afraid to cook any more (took me until my early 30s to get there), I'm glad I'm doing ok financially and have a good food budget, and I'm lucky to work from home with a good, flexible schedule. Easy access to lots of great stores helps, too.

    And now, the results. Breakfast was great, and now that I've made those once, I could easily do a serving at a time. But it's cool that the rest of the week is taken care of. Lunch was pretty good, but I didn't plan for a side, so I had a few frozen tater tots. Not part of the plan! But I wanted to be out of the house by noon to go swimming, so convenience won. There weren't very many red onions at the first store I went to, and I forgot I needed one at the second, so those were left out of the recipe. It would have been nice to have them, but it's not a tragedy. I used just a little bit of ketchup on the bun, and it strangely dominated the flavor of the rest of the burger. I'm going to play with toppings the next few days and may even use some of the fake sour cream one of the days.

    I was fed and ready to head out to the pool, and had another efficient thought. If I'm just going to the pool and back with no other stops, why not just wear flip flops to the pool? I hate flip flops and usually won't go further than the mailbox wearing them, but shoes and socks to the pool aren't ideal. Locker room floors at swim centers are just wet. If you're putting on shoes and socks, it's a strange dance trying to get your feet all the way dry and keep your socks from getting wet.

    Oh yeah, my lower back hurt more today from standing around in the kitchen cooking and doing dishes than it did yesterday four miles in. Back to its old tricks, like letting me walk 10 miles but hurting like crazy standing for ten minutes while waiting to catch a bus back home. Womp womp.

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  • 06/17/15--11:10: No goats, no trails
  • Although there are other roadside and neighborhood shortcut ways to get into Japanese Gulch, the only two entrances listed are the Tails and Trails park where I've been leaving the car, and the Mukilteo Community Garden. I initially balked at the idea of exiting there and heading back on the roads, because the park is on 5th and the Garden's on 75th.

    It turns out, those aren't 70 blocks apart. It's 5th Street and 75th Street SW, and the latter corresponds to the street numbering way over in Everett. Once I realized this, exiting that way became my next goal.

    I headed in and up the trails, and it wasn't too long before it got scary.

    That was terrifying

    Absolutely terrifying. And just after I got past that, I ended up at a huge fallen tree that I had to climb over. That on its own wouldn't have been too awful, but the ground on either side was steep and muddy. Fun combination. But if I turned back to find a different way, I'd have to go over that "bridge" again, so I figured a new challenge was better than turning back.

    After all that, my heart was pumping and I was panting. It felt like I was already at it for an hour, but it had only been 25 minutes. I guess it's the fear and adrenaline that causes that perceived time dilation. Scanning the path and everything around it to spot hazards while also trying to enjoy the scenery. It's scary, fun, and beautiful at the same time, and it's weird when it all happens so fast.

    Some back pain also appeared right around then as opposed to a few miles in two days ago. That makes me wonder if a day of rest after Yoga For Your Back is in order. I think I'll do that on Friday since Saturday's a day off.

    The headbands I came yesterday, so now that's part of the uniform:

    Walk, walk, fashion baby

    Today's route:
    Today"s awesome walk, 3.87 miles in 1:37, 8318 steps, 447ft gain
    3.87 miles in 1:37, 8318 steps, 447ft gain

    You can see where I marked point A that I had just a little trouble finding my way out. It wasn't exactly a dead end; someone cleared a path leading to a little pond. It was a nice little spot except for the giant rusty barrel sitting on the water. No big deal, I just turned back and was out pretty quickly.

    Mukilteo Community Garden

    The Mukilteo Community Garden's a nice landmark and I'm glad the exit's there. It shows up on maps, so even though the trails don't, you can tell whether or not you're heading the right direction. There's also a portapotty there and tons of parking, which is nice. I might park there and go down and back up at some point, or use it as place to start and explore more of the area.

    Don"t be fooled by the name

    I spotted Mukilteo Goat Trail Park on the map while planning the day's route and knew I would be walking by, so I figured I'd check it out. Turns out "park" isn't really what it is, it's more of a small wildlife preserve with a seating area at one end. As far as I could tell walking by, there's nowhere to walk in at all. It's on Goat Trail Road, and I haven't figured out why it's even called that.

    Whidbey Island

    That area of Mukilteo's gorgeous. The walk down was really nice, even if the shoulder next to the road around the 3-mile marker on my route was a bit narrow. Definitely looking forward to seeing it again. That'd be a nice area to have a big, expensive house as long as you don't care about being near stuff. It's a bit pricey for my tastes and I like being near stuff. We may only go to the bar every few weeks or less, but it's really nice to have the option within walking distance.

    Today's breakfast tacos were even better than yesterday's. It only took about four minutes to heat and assemble anything, and the spices in the sweet potatoes tasted better with some time to meld. I don't want to get burned out on this recipe, so I'm going to choose something else for next week's breakfasts, but I'll be coming back to them very soon. They're very filling, too. It's really nice to not feel like I'm starving by lunch time.

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  • 06/17/15--16:20: Terracotta Red
  • I had to get the car's emissions tested in order to get the tabs renewed, and our nearest location for that is in Marysville, the next town North. I figured that was as good a reason as any to have my once-weekly lunch out, so I started looking at the map. Terracotta Red is a place that's been on my radar since almost immediately after we moved to Everett, and I decided today was the day to go.

    It's in a cool older building in an older part of town that's got historic buildings, but isn't quite as dense as the same street is downtown to the West. Not that it's ever hard to park in Everett, but it's even easier around there. I got there well into the lunch service and still got to park almost right in front. There's a sushi place next door that also looks nice from the outside. They have a huge lobby with a nice sitting area, a bar up front, and a nice-sized dining room with a real palm tree in the middle. There are a good amount of tables, but they don't pack them in the way a lot of restaurants do.

    The menu is pan-Asian and full of all kinds of awesome-looking things, but I wanted to try a Vietnamese standard since those are my favorite and I judge a restaurant by their interpretations of the standards. I chose grilled Kurobuta pork shoulder, which was served as a vermicelli salad bowl AKA bun. My favorite dish. This was the best Vietnamese food I've had in Everett, and was pretty damn close to being the best I've had.

    I was surprised when I ordered to be asked if I wanted soup or salad with it. That's never happened in any Vietnamese restaurant I've been to. Ever. I always choose salad over soup, and wish I would have asked what the soup was, but I'm also glad I didn't. I've never had a salad so perfectly dressed. I couldn't even see any dressing, but it was somehow so flavorful even though it was tossed with little enough to be nearly invisible. The greens were a neat mix that included purple leaves I didn't recognize at all, and there were crunchy dried sweet potato curls on top. Amazing.

    The main dish came and was the perfect size. I'm always getting bun and wishing I'd ordered it "less noodles", but everything was just perfect. Their nuoc cham sauce mixed perfectly with the pork drippings for a very unique taste. If I order again, though, I'll probably set aside half the pork to enjoy it on its own, it's just that good. And finally, there was a very nice touch. Most places serving this dish don't do much in the way of presentation, but this bowl was topped with a perfect disc of pickled red onions, popped into two perfect sections resting on each other. I can't even imagine how to slice, pickle, and use a slice of red onions without the rings coming apart.

    Of course, I still have a few points against them to list. They don't keep any condiments on the table, and I feel that any restaurant that serves Vietnamese should have a few:
    Required: sri racha, sambal oelek
    Nice to have: soy sauce, salt, pepper
    You are amazing if you have: vinegar

    Of course, they might not be as concerned with having all that since they don't serve pho, which is my second criticism. I can only think of one other Vietnamese restaurant that doesn't have pho on the menu, and even they did on weekends. It's just weird not to. I get that they're trying to be more upscale, but that's no reason not to have oxtail pho, or even a vegetarian version with a really unique variety of veggies in it.

    If I had to compare this place to another restaurant, it reminds me most of Seattle's great sister restaurants, Tamarind Tree and Long Provincial. The main differences are that those two are Vietnamese-only and Terracotta Red has other cuisines, and the size of the menus. TT/LP's menu is gigantic, and has a vegetarian version of just about everything on the menu, but TR has very few vegetarian options at all. I noticed this because I was thinking about ordering vegetarian today.

    But I guess if I'm not given any vegetarian or vegan options that look very good, the best pork belly I could possibly ask for is a good second option.

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  • 06/18/15--05:39: Next breakfast recipe
  • I was looking through what was needed for the various FOK breakfast recipes and realized there were two extremely ripe bananas in the kitchen, so I should go ahead and try these cranberry orange muffins. This was another investment upfront. Aside from the bananas, the only thing in the recipe I had onhand was the cinnamon and the vanilla extract. My vanilla extract probably has alcohol, and that's fine, and I didn't bother looking for gluten-free oats.

    I made a rookie mistake. I should have waited and gone to WinCo first. They've got a great bulk section and I know for sure I overpaid for the dates and craisins. Plus, everything's cheaper there. But I only go there early in the morning and for some reason I just wanted to get the shopping done.

    Not sure if my breakfast once these are ready will be one muffin or two, but that's either six breakfasts or 12. Thankfully bread products freeze well.

    I'm glad this one's on the website. We have a tablet mounted on a kitchen cabinet by the stove, and it's so much easier to cook from there than from the app on my phone.

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    I'm always saying everyone needs to keep their phone on them or nearby. Not only because it's frustrating when you can't get a response to a text because the person keeps their phone halfway across the house, I'm mostly worried about seeing something cool and not getting a picture. I wanted to charge my phone yesterday while I went for a haircut, and thankfully I didn't see anything cool.

    I was dumb to think I could take out the garbage and recycling this morning without my phone.

    I SAW A DEER! I walked very slowly down the driveway and put the bins down as gently as possible. He flinched a little each time, but stayed put, munching away. I crept back inside, ran up the stairs, got my phone, and slowly approached.

    I saw a deer!

    I've been waiting a long time to see deer. Our neighbor said he saw a mama deer and two babies walk through his yard and ours (they're connected), and I know they're pretty common around here because whenever the trees have apples on them, the street's littered with half-eaten ones.

    I managed to get six pictures total before he was off between a couple of other houses. What a fun start to the day.

    I saw a deer!
    I saw a deer!
    I saw a deer!
    I saw a deer!
    I saw a deer!

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  • 06/18/15--16:23: Summer's really here
  • The weather's actually pretty nice right now. But I went to the pool, and it was teeming with kids. I've never seen it so crowded. They normally keep three lanes for lap swimming open during the open swim, but then took the innermost one out to make the pool bigger for the crowd. I only treaded water for 17 minutes because I got tired of getting splashed in the face so much. Guess I won't be going back unless it's to check out early laps or the late evening open swim. The latter is unlikely since I go to bed so early, though.

    I wanted to get a little more activity in, so I went ahead and mowed the lawn. May as well track that, too.

    May as well track that, too

    I'm going to make those muffins I mentioned earlier tomorrow, and it turns out I bought way more dates than I needed to. The recipe calls for a half a cup of date paste, but the link to the date paste recipe is for a ton more than that. I should have realized that. Guess I'll be trying lots of new things with date paste. I made this velvety macaroni recipe today so I'd have a side for my white bean burgers today and tomorrow. I added the garlic powder too late, and used frozen squash instead of cooking one up myself. I don't think those two things account for how much I didn't enjoy the recipe. I mean, I'd probably like it a lot if I added a ton of salt, but that defeats the purpose since I'm doing this for my blood pressure.

    And the author of that recipe says that it feeds two. It's more like 8-10 servings. I ate a big helping, saved a big helping for tomorrow, and tossed the rest. It's a bummer, but the thought of eating any more after tomorrow turned my stomach. I'm getting ready to make a stroganoff recipe and maybe some thai noodles for lunches next week. I've got a lot of what I need, but some of it needs to be fresh the day of. Some of what I have, I'm worried will go bad, so I might go halfway through one recipe tomorrow, freeze, and finish on Monday.

    This has been a crazy week. Shopping for a lot of ingredients, cooking a lot, walking a lot, and driving to the spot where I've been walking, it's a lot for someone who normally hangs around the house most of the time. But I've felt pretty on top of it all and am enjoying the feeling of accomplishment. Looking forward to a nice, relaxing weekend.

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  • 06/19/15--05:23: SchadenFriday

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    I'd been thinking the next route I'd like to take would be the main gulch path to the end, then find a way to get back via roads in Mukilteo. I didn't think following the main road the rail ends at would be the way to go, but I'd seen some dirt roads around there and figured I'd give those a shot. The plan turned out to be an ideal one, because it was raining a little bit. That made me want to stay off the trails. In fact, when I got there, a guy on a bike asked me about the trail, and I told him I thought he'd be able to get out without turning back, but I was testing that for sure today.

    The trail was nice today, though I did stop a couple of times to give my back a rest. Here's a photo I got the second time.

    Resting spot

    This is one of those dirt roads. You'd have no idea looking this direction that there's a highway right behind me. That's also where I took this.


    I was trying to make a funny face. I see now that it looks like a bee stung my lip. First time in a while I've worn that green safety harness. I decided it was time again because of the scary narrow part of the road in Mukilteo with the small shoulder. I also figure it's best to wear it any day I go to the gulch; if I were to fall in and have to be rescued, that'd make it easier to spot me.

    Today"s awesome walk, 4.8 miles in 1:46, 10,317 steps, 586ft gain
    4.8 miles in 1:46, 10,317 steps, 586ft gain

    You can see around the 2-mile mark that I was trying to get to the main East-West road without taking the North-South one to the right. It was really busy with morning traffic and I'm not even sure there's a wide enough spot next to it to fit. I'll check it on a Sunday sometime. So the new agenda was to figure out the Southernmost path across the Gulf and get out via the community garden again. It was easy to find, and the path wasn't as wet as I'd feared. It's really quite nice, a lot of people have to drive really far to find a spot so wooded. I was disappointed to see quite a few discarded tires, though.

    The scary section

    That's the aforementioned scary narrow shoulder. I'm right to worry, as the first car I saw drifted toward me over the line a bit. A little while later, I found someone's Kindle.

    Found someone"s Kindle!

    He's listed in the phone book and I found it right around the corner from his address. I left a message on his answering machine and also paid the extra dollar so my Facebook message would go into his inbox instead of "Other." Haven't heard back from him. My theory is that he and his wife were on their way out for a weekend trip and he left it on the car while packing up. Betcha he's on a deck chair right now wishing he had it.

    I'm glad I got back when I did, as it started pouring pretty quickly after. I don't particularly mind walking in the rain, but I wouldn't plan for the gulch if it was raining, and I'd hate to be caught there when it started.

    I baked that batch of muffins I'd posted about before and will wrap them up and freeze them. I'll try one for breakfast first and will do two after that if it's not enough. They're not huge, but they're pretty dense. That left me with a ton of dirty dishes, and I even had to hand wash a couple of things I needed for the recipe. Once the dishwasher was going I made a run to the mall to return a few things, and grab a couple of items I needed from the store. Now I'm taking a break while some porcini mushrooms hydrate, and I'll make lunches to freeze for next week. With next week's breakfasts and lunches taken care of, I'll finally be ahead of the game a bit. Phew. While I wait, I'm watching Wild Palms on DVD. I felt like I might have seen it since it originally aired, so I checked my Netflix DVD and Instant Watch histories. It's not in either, but I've been renting discs from them since 2004 and watching instantly since 2007. Wow!

    Here's a song I really love that I discovered via the show when it originally aired.

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  • 06/20/15--06:57: CATURDAY

  • BONUS Saturdogs

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  • 06/20/15--07:40: Finally, a break
  • The new schedule is to exercise Sunday-Friday. I guess now it'll be all walking and yoga (emphasis on walking) until I check out morning laps. I'll admit, I'm pretty intimidated. I like treading water because I'm a slow swimmer, and I picture the morning lanes being full of tons of fast people. Or maybe nobody's there at all! That would be cool. They also do Parent-Tot swim at the same time, which is weird to me. Is a swimming time for tots at 6am really popular? Guess I'll have to see.

    June so far

    Since Garrett had to work last Saturday, I went ahead and walked. That was that first day in the gulch and I've been back four times since then. 12 days in a row of activities hasn't been that harsh, thankfully. My feet were a little sore yesterday, but nothing major. Woke up at 5am today with no alarm, which was nice since that's the time I'll be getting up for a walk tomorrow. Maybe I should go somewhere other than the gulch. Sunday morning would be a good time to hit the Langus Riverfront Park.

    With the muffins done and everything cleaned up yesterday, I was about to start on the mushroom stroganoff when the guy whose Kindle I found called. I was worried I'd burn garlic or something if I started cooking before he showed up, so I just got all the mise en place done. That took up just the right amount of time, as he showed up right as I dried my hands. He agreed that it probably fell off his car, but I was wrong about the weekend trip part. He doesn't check his answering machine very often, but happened to notice the light flashing as he was looking everywhere for the Kindle. Ha. He refused to take no for an answer, so I ended up with $10 as a reward.

    I was really impressed with the flavor of the stroganoff sauce. I substituted white mushrooms for the portobellos because I got a good deal on them, which helped offset the cost of the porcinis. There's an issue on the website and the noodles aren't listed in the recipe, but in the app, it calls for an entire pound of whole grain fettuccine. That just seemed ridiculous to me, so I cooked up about half as much. That amount filled the four containers I set aside perfectly, and the amount of sauce seemed right, too. It all tasted quite nice, hopefully it still will after having been frozen and thawed.

    It's been a crazy busy week, but now that my breakfasts and lunches for all of next week are done, I'm ahead for a while.

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    I'm not sure why I wondered yesterday about where to walk today, when I already said Friday that I wanted to definitely hit the Gulch today and leave via the road when it was less busy. So that's what I did. The view when I got to the spot where the road leads out was quite nice today.

    Aviation sky

    Just before I got to the street, I found a noyf.

    I found a noyf

    It didn't have anyone's name on it like the Kindle did, and I didn't want it, so I left it there. There were also some nice wildflowers.

    Nice wildflowers

    I'm paying more attention to wildflowers now because I want to do a bunch in our center flower bed next year. Seems easier. We bought eight kinds of flowers just to see what would happen, and they were mostly looking good, but suddenly--literally overnight--a bunch of weeds showed up. I don't necessarily hate the way they look, but now only four of the bunches of flowers are still alive.

    Flowers vs weeds

    Anyway, I went all the way to the main road, and I took it.

    Today"s awesome walk, 4.74 miles in 1:39, 10,203 steps, 490ft gain
    (4.74 miles in 1:39, 10,203 steps, 490ft gain)

    What I'm referring to is that yellow stretch on the map at the very bottom. It's got a decent enough shoulder, but there are also barriers and a little path next to that. Really nice. That didn't last, though, and once I started heading North again, it was back to the same old tiny shoulders. But I did find where the Schwan's trucks live.


    Since it was Sunday and I was going places that are normally busier, and I wanted to go a little further, I went all the way to Mukilteo Speedway. Won't be doing that again. Zig-zagging through the neighborhoods is much nicer. For a while, I walked on the shoulder where backup ferry traffic lines up, but suddenly it became a lane of traffic with no should. I crossed the street to walk on the other side, and just in time, because a whole bunch of traffic came up the hill, probably from the ferry. Glad I missed having to wait for that.

    We had a nice brunch with Garrett's parents for Father's Day, which I'm still from. Will probably just have an apple for dinner.

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  • 06/22/15--10:02: Fuzzy math, fuzzier bunnies
  • First thing's first, I have a correction. When I said earlier that I was changing five breakfasts and four lunches a week to plant-based/mostly whole foods recipes, I said that was 33% of the weekly meals. And I was a little disappointed because that number's a little low. But it's also wrong! There aren't 27 meals a week, there are 21. So it's more like 43%. That means I get to call it "almost half" instead of "just a third."

    Since I didn't go there yesterday, I headed over to Langus Riverfront Park and Spencer Island today. The entire area's pretty lovely. Even the parking area has a nice view.

    Langus Riverfront Park

    This park is probably the only one I've been to that's close to a hunting area. Thankfully I've never been shot or even heard any bangs.

    Proximity to hunting

    I used to walk a lot near UW's popular areas for rowing. This park's got a facility for it as well.

    Solo rowers

    If you zoom in on that second picture, you can see a couple of people rowing on their own. I've always wondered if it's nerve wracking to row without a coxswain. Do they wear little rear view mirrors? I don't think I've seen anyone with one.

    Remote spot for a picnic

    This picnic spot cracks me up. It's about halfway through the loop trail, so either way you walk, it's almost two miles. Does anyone ever bring in a basket? The only time I've seen anyone at that table, it was a couple laying down on it, staring at the sky.

    I was cursing the sun most of the time, but at least I managed to get a couple of cool shadow pictures.

    Big bridge shadow
    Small bridge shadow

    I tried something a little different today.

    Today"s awesome walk, 4.68 miles in 1:33, 10,072 steps
    4.68 miles in 1:33, 10,072 steps

    Every other time I've gone there, I went clockwise around the Spencer Island portion on the right. A section of it was very overgrown last time I was there. In my memory, it was almost immediately below that third mile marker on the map, and wasn't very long. The idea going the other way was to walk through a bigger section before encountering it, so I'd see more before I turned back, if I did. It turns out, it's bigger than I remembered and it's big enough that it takes up almost a third of the island side of the path.

    You call this a trail?

    You'd encounter it just as soon either way. I was stubborn and walked through anyway, got pretty wet, and even fell down when I slipped on some wet grass. That'll teach me to not listen to me.

    The area's ideal for bird watching, and there are even some boardwalks which lead to spots to do it. I'm sure there's a name for these, but I can't think of it right now.

    Birding spots

    I had a couple of cool bird encounters. Even over my music, I heard that sound we all associate with Seahawks football being discussed on the news, the keeYAWWWWW of an osprey. As I looked up, a smaller bird was chasing one away from a tree and even bopped it on the butt in mid-air. Luckily they were being very chatty from the next tree over and I was able to get a quick Vine of their awesome calls.

    A bit later, as I crossed a bridge, a big flock of, well, some cute little birds that was flying past broke formation, gathered all around me, flew in little circles, and took off. I felt like Snow White. They were probably trying to threaten me for invading their territory or something, but it was just cute.

    Speaking of wildlife, I forgot to mention that I saw a dead mole for the first time on my walk. And then I saw another. That was weird. I don't know whether they poison the moles out there, and I also feel like even if they do, most poisoned moles probably die underground. Strange. Today was much cuter. I saw lots of bunnies and they got a lot closer to me than most usually do.

    There are a few unusual things about this area. Everett's sewage treatment plant is there, and while I've never really smelled it before, it was pretty gross today. Almost like being in Tacoma! ;) The main thing I don't like is that it's only accessible by car. There's just no way to get there other than the highway, and I'm not even sure it could be done by bike. Even after you get off the highway, a very long stretch of the road leading there has no shoulder at all. I personally would never walk all the way there, but I still always feel like every road should have a shoulder and one should be able to. My feet are also sore because that long straight part of my route toward the end is actually a dirt and gravel road, and the size and shape of the rocks they picked is just unpleasant to walk on. That's kind of funny because the rest of the path on that side of the river is a paved walking and bike path. Not sure why they didn't just finish the loop.

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  • 06/23/15--11:53: No beach for you
  • I mentioned a while back that they had to close Howarth Park's beach because of concerns about the structural integrity of the bridge that goes over the railroad tracks to get there. A bummer for sure, as it's big, close, and a good place to get rocks. And I'd been slacking in the rock collection department for a while. I've been curious about how exactly they closed off the access, and figured I may as well take a day off from my Gulch-a-thon, so I walked down.

    Not very far into the walk, and right next to the park, I found this. I guess they just couldn't wait until they got home.

    So much perversion in this mostly-hetero neighborhood

    Today's route took me through View Ridge, the neighborhood next to ours, which is one I had my eye on when we were looking at houses. I like our area a little better because they didn't take down as many trees here due to the steep hills, but the views over there are pretty spectacular. Here's what you see from the entrance to the park.

    Upper Howarth Park
    Upper Howarth Park

    Overlooking that entrance is this lovely estate, which was recently listed for $1.3million. It sits on four lots, and I'm sure it's very expensive to maintain. Nobody bought the house and its Zillow Zestimate is $707,000, just over half what they were asking. Ouch. Mostly I'm jealous of the lions.

    A lovely estate

    I say it all the time, but I'm just so glad we found our place. The neighborhood's lovely, but it's also close to stuff. On foot, this neighborhood's another half hour out from the main drag. Fine for exercise, but inconvenient for, say, trying to go out for some cocktails. I bet a lot of people drink at the Masonic lodge that's at the intersection where the neighborhood starts, come to think of it.

    Down the road, through the woods, and up the stairs is where the bridge they closed is, and they did a pretty good job. There's even barbed wire up top.

    We"re closed

    There's still a lot more park up above the beach, and it includes some trails. I almost explored them, but it was going to be a long haul back home, so I decided to save those for another time. There are nice views everywhere you look, though it's hard to tell by the shots my phone's capable of.

    Western Upper Howarth Park

    Since the first time I've been to the park, there's been a sign at the top of a staircase saying that a bridge is out down below. They've added signs regarding the beach closure there, so now I'm curious. Is there a second path to the beach that they've closed off? I can't imagine a way across the tracks for it. Maybe, when that bridge isn't out, it's an alternate route to the main bridge? So many questions. Rest assured, I'll investigate sometime.

    There's a play area there and I realized it'd been far too long since I used the timer option.

    We ride at dawn

    Today's route:
    Today"s awesome walk, 5.07 miles in 1:43, 10,895 steps, 631ft gain
    (5.07 miles in 1:43, 10,895 steps, 631ft gain)

    The stats on this route excite me because it's the largest ascent I've done in a while, and it's over five miles, which I've only done once recently. However, all the traffic was pretty annoying. I didn't realize how spoiled I've been by all the silence and serenity in the gulch lately until I had to listen to so many cars today. Something to consider when I'm thinking about leaving my own at home.

    On the way home, I realized it's been ages since I posted a picture of our ridiculous trees.

    Our ridiculous trees

    I love them so.

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