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  • 11/24/15--13:54: Shepherd's Pot Pie
  • The Forks Over Knives Shepherd's Pot Pie is a recipe I don't recommend unless you're up for a major challenge. Salt and pepper to taste aren't really enough to save the bland flavor of the mashed potato topping. Which isn't shocking. Mashed potatoes aren't good because of the potatoes, but because of the butter, cream, sour cream, cheese, cream cheese, or whatever it is you like to have in them. Potatoes and dairy products make great friends, and those dairy friends aren't invited to vegan parties.

    I tried adding a bunch of chili powder and cumin, but the batch was so large, it barely made a dent.


    The recipe says it'll fit in a 9x13 dish, which is the size on the right. And I think both of these are really too full, so I'd say make a half batch. I don't dislike it enough to throw it away, but I don't see myself making it again. I add a ton of hot sauce when I eat it, and it's fine, but I'll be glad when I've finished it.

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  • 11/26/15--06:04: Happy Thanksgiving!
  • We're hosting today, eight other adults plus a one-year-old, so this morning will be dedicated to finishing up the house cleaning we started yesterday, plus food. I'm in charge of mashed potatoes, which can be done any time. And they'll be much better than what I put on that stupid shepherd's pie.

    I normally sleep with the window open because I like a cold room and warm blankets, but it's gotten cold enough that I closed my window and turned the heat on in my room for the first time ever. And it smelled terrible. My room should always be warm enough if I keep the window closed, and that sounds easier than using the heater enough to burn off all the dust. I really wish the whole house had heated floors; the additions have them and they're perfect.

    Since today's a busy day, I'll just leave you with some recent cat cuteness behind the cut.

    Steve mug and Steve @butchricky

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  • 11/27/15--14:25: Thanksgiving!
  • It was a nice one. The only real snag was that the turkey was done early. Still quite good.

    Drink station

    Main table

    "Kids' table"

    Sitting area

    Snacks where the buffet ended up

    The crowd. My niece Katie and her boyfriend Kiel, my niece Tiffany and her husband Tony and their son Raiden, our friend Claire and her mom Val, and Garrett's parents Bev and Dennis.

    Dennis and Bev's 50th anniversary is in a few weeks, so Garrett decided to surprise them by putting their presents out on the drink station. They're blue glass goblets with gold detail for their gold anniversary. They wanted a photo for their Christmas card, and we took a bunch. This was the one Bev hated the least. ;)


    The food was excellent and we had a grand time. Glad we claimed Thanksgiving as one of our holidays.

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  • 11/28/15--08:04: SchadenFriday
  • Oops, the holiday made me forget this! Better late than never.

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  • 11/28/15--08:18: CATURDAY

  • RIP Sophie

    BONUS Saturdogs

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  • 11/29/15--12:44: Frosty af
  • I didn't really know what to expect when I left the house. We keep our cars in the garage, which is nice on days like this when I pull out and the entire neighborhood's got a thick layer of frost. It wasn't particularly foggy or anything, except when I drove over the river. Right then, I could only see a few feet in front of the car, which was pretty scary on such a high bridge. It's very straight, though, and nobody else was around, so it was fine.

    I pulled up to the riverfront park and it was the frostiest I've ever seen. 17 degrees! Something to keep in mind from these pictures: there was no snow at all, just freezing fog.

    Yeah, it"s a little cold out here.
    19 degrees with freezing fog

    I was pretty surprised with as cold as it was to see a heron. You'd think they would hang out somewhere warmer.

    Heron and ducks

    Walking in the cold isn't so bad, once you warm up. The problem was that it took me about half the walk before that happened. My hands were killing me, and that's with gloves! I might order some reusable hand warmers, but it never really stays very cold here for too long, so that might be dumb. Anyway, it was cold enough that my beard froze and I even found frost in my hair.

    This is the first time my beard has frozen.

    Today"s awesome walk, 2.77 miles in 50 minutes, 5,952 steps
    2.77 miles in 50 minutes, 5,952 steps

    I was pretty happy that I'd dragged myself out and didn't turn back when my hands were throbbing, so I figured I'd just do one lap and head home. It was nice.

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  • 11/30/15--17:46: A much-needed climb
  • I looked at the weather this morning and saw it was 22 degrees. Below freezing again, and no chance of precipitation until the afternoon. I decided I liked the odds that all the mud at Japanese Gulch would be frozen enough to be a non-issue, and headed out. Ice is a problem some places, like down the street from us, where areas with poor drainage keep freezing and refreezing, but I'm not particularly worried about ice in the gulch.

    I was right! Most of the center path heading up looked like this.


    Very nice. Mud that crunches when you walk is so much better than mud that squishes. There were a couple of wet muddy spots, but nothing major. Apparently I stepped in one and didn't even notice.


    That dried and wiped off easily when I got home. No big deal. My back was hurting a little bit, so I wasn't looking for a big long route. I just wanted a good climb, which is what the waterfront walks really lack. I decided to go all the way up and curve onto that one service road, and head back. I checked several side trails and decided they just weren't worth it. The creek was flowing heavily with icy water, and I figured anything really steep might be pretty slick if it was covered in frozen leaves. So out and back was nice.

    Today"s awesome walk, 3.4 miles in 1:09, 7,319 steps, 399ft gain
    3.4 miles in 1:09, 7,319 steps, 399ft gain

    The timing was good. It takes a while for the sun to get into the middle because the sides are so high. I didn't want to be around when everything started melting, so it was good that it wasn't really even close yet when I was on the access road.


    That minor back pain was my body politely asking for some yoga. I should definitely oblige tomorrow.

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  • 12/01/15--14:40: Yo-ductive
  • Now that one of my duties is testing new features on our software at work, some days can be much busier than others. Today was one of those busy ones, so I plowed through what I could, sent out an email with questions about what I couldn't, and did some yoga. I realized when I was finished with that that if I hurried, I could shower and arrive at my barber's place right as it opened. That's the way I do it, because if I'm not the first one there, I usually have to wait, or the wait would be far too long. Today's a good example; if I'd gotten there four minutes later, I would have been second in line instead of first. I'll get a pic of the new hair next time I put product in it.

    Got caught up on dishes, cleaned the waffle iron, and wrapped Garrett's Christmas present that came today. I hate wrapping presents and I'm not particularly good at it, but wrapping each present as it arrives helps. If I saved it all up to do at once, I'd get overwhelmed and keep putting it off.

    Not sure why I waited so many years to start keeping vegetable scraps in a baggie in the freezer to make my own stock once in a while. They're going in compost bin anyway, may as well make an extra stop and have some nice homemade stock to use.

    Making stock from vegetable scraps

    Actually the best reason to start doing this is to get some use of vegetables that would otherwise go bad. I make a lot of crudite each week and it's not always possible to get to it fast enough. If I know it's not going to last much longer, into the freezer it goes.

    Speaking of which, I should figure out what to make with it, and make it this week, so I don't have to freeze it.

    Update: I hadn't wanted to freeze it because I didn't know what to freeze it in. Then I remembered we have a lot of ice trays because our last place's fridge didn't have an ice maker. I saved one container in the fridge and then filled six ice trays.

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  • 12/02/15--17:09: Sloppy trails to you
  • One thing I've been frustrated about for years is the lack of followup in the news. I'm not just talking about one kind of news or a specific medium, either. Stories stand alone and are rarely linked well or expanded upon. Tragedies are covered extensively but recovery from them is barely talked about. On a local scale, we hear about things that affect our daily life, but we don't have good mechanisms in place to find out when those things stop. Today I was specifically thinking about the recent flooding over at Rotary Park and Lowell Riverfront Park. It wasn't the first time the area had flooded since we moved in nearby, but I never heard about it opening up again after the last time it happened. I just found that it was open again by stopping by. The original plan today was to do some yoga, but I decided to go check out the situation down there instead.

    Today"s awesome walk, 2.3 miles in 42 minutes, 4,955 steps
    2.3 miles in 42 minutes, 4,955 steps

    The hill leading to the area is pretty steep, and there's a good view of the Riverfront Trail parking area, B on the map. I could see that there was a garbage truck right near the entrance that was possibly blocking the way in, so I drove over to the Rotary Park entrance, where the boat launch is, point A. Open gate, clear parking lot, extremely muddy trail.


    That's a paved trail, too. The flooding was bad enough to leave a couple of inches of mud on a paved trail. But I don't understand how the grass between the water and the trail can look so normal.


    I decided I'd turn back, go to the car, and park at point B. From there, I could see if that part of the trail was any better, and if not, I could just head back home. But it was clear over there! So I decided to just walk to the end of the pavement and back.

    One thing I'm seeing more of lately is these wheel-chair accessible picnic tables, and that's pretty great.


    Not much else notable today since I stayed on the trail. It was overcast and I only got the slightest glimpse of the sun. The clouds were an interesting mix of pale blue and pink.


    As promised, here's my new haircut.


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  • 12/03/15--17:45: Blursday
  • Thursday was my favorite day of the week for a long time. When I worked from home on Fridays only, I'd come home from the office on Thursday so happy, because Friday didn't have the commute or the shared office. Thursday has been my payday for years, every week. Thursday is Garrett's designated evening to make dinner. So much great stuff. Recently it's been less fun because I now have a conference call each week from 3:30-4:30pm, which is a bummer since I start my work day at 4am. Something changes when I have to break up my day that much, and I often go into a very productive mode.

    Today I decided I'd shop for and make a new recipe, as well as make a batch of muffins. Those will be addressed in a separate "review" post. I also threw in a yoga video and a trip to the pool! When I came out of the shower, this was on the bench by my locker. Huh.

    And odd find in the men"s locker room at the swim center.

    I had a few minutes here and there to sit and work on Brainstorm, an awesome movie that I haven't seen in forever. The boys kept me company.


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  • 12/04/15--07:15: SchadenFriday

  • And, because once in a while, they make it.

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  • 12/05/15--08:17: CATURDAY

  • x

    BONUS Saturdogs

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    I'd put off trying the Forks Over Knives Sweet Potato Lasagna because it has so many ingredients and steps, would take forever to make, and leave a ton of dirty dishes. But it was time to make something new, and it sounded so good. I had a can of Trader Joe's marinara that had been in the cabinet for a long time, and figured if I used that, I could save myself from having to wash a blender or food processor, plus all the time it would take to cook up the sauce from the recipe. I also didn't want to make a special trip to possibly several stores to try to find rice lasagna noodles, so I substituted regular no-boil noodles. Not 100% vegan, of course, but again, I saved another pot and strainer from having to be washed.

    As is usually the case with a big complicated recipe, there were other changes and substitutions. I had to settle for red chard instead of rainbow chard because that's what I could find at the store. And honestly, I'll probably use kale or just double the spinach if I make it again. Chard is big and unwieldy, filthy and hard to clean, and only lends the slightest flavor variation. I also made a lot more of the cashew cheese than the recipe calls for, and found that it was barely enough as I was spreading it in the pan.

    Another dish-saving shortcut I took was to microwave the sweet potatoes in a bunch of stock in a bowl in the microwave instead of steaming them in a pan. Several chunks were pretty tough and difficult to mash, so completely submerging all the chunks in stock or water would have helped a lot.

    As I put it in the oven, I thought, this better be really good. It's a bummer when you put a lot of work and money into a recipe and it's only so-so or even bad. Thankfully, it's great!

    Forks Over Knives Sweet Potato Lasagna

    It even sliced perfectly. I'll revisit this recipe for sure.

    Forks Over Knives Sweet Potato Lasagna

    If anyone ever wanted to get into vegan cooking, I'd have a couple of warnings. A lot of the recipes require advance prep time, like soaking dates or cashews for at least a couple of hours, and you often need extremely ripe bananas. I've bought tons of bananas lately because I like them pretty green, Garrett likes them pretty ripe, and if they're almost black, they're perfect for recipes. Thankfully you can peel those and freeze them if they're ready but you don't need them yet. But you also don't want a huge frozen banana backlog, especially when you need your freezer for frozen portions of other recipes.

    I've been very happy with my granola for breakfast, which also requires ripe bananas, but I figured I'd mix it up a bit and try banana bread again. I made this vegan banana bread before, but left out the soy yogurt because I didn't have any and didn't want to look for it. It was fine. But I happened to find soy yogurt while I was at WinCo! They didn't have plain, so I got blueberry, which is perfect for banana bread anyway. These turned out great.

    Vegan banana muffins

    I used AlsoSalt in these, which is a salt substitute I discovered by reading the label on the low sodium ketchup I've been buying. Cutting sodium is the main reason I started eating a lot of vegan recipes, but it didn't have a huge impact and I've started a prescription that'll hopefully help. In the process, I ended up with three different salt substitutes, all of which I can't stand on their own. Oddly, they work pretty well in recipes, and especially well in something like this where a hint of salty flavor that gives way to sweet is what you want.

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  • 12/07/15--17:24: Lasagn-again
  • I was so happy with the sweet potato lasagna I made the other day, and since I figured it was the cashew cheese that made it so great, I decided to make a big batch of it. That was dumb. Not that it's not good, but I should have waited until I could think of something to do with it. The only thing I really wanted it for was to use on a "bacon" "cheese" "burger" for lunch today, so I decided to make another lasagna, with some minor changes.

    Since it stays dark so late, I decided to go to the store for the stuff I needed, do the first lasagna step, and then head out for a walk. Going to the store first was great, but I ended up leaving later for the walk than I wanted to. Before that, though, I skinned some sweet potatoes, cut them up, and boiled them in my homemade vegetable stock. I wanted them to be even smoother than last time, so I ran them through the ricer. I always like a chunky mashed potato, but for a layer than needs to be smoothed out flat and thin, the ricer does a nice job.

    Off to the beach I went. It was a perfect PNW morning; the kind of weather I moved here for, really. Cool and cloudy, but not cold. Damp, but not wet. Not always the best for photos, but perfect for living in.


    Tons of geese and other fowl were around.


    Unfortunately, so were a lot of people. The most people and cars I've ever seen down there. At least I got to see corgis!

    Corgi race!

    And this guy.


    Today"s awesome walk, 2.96 miles in 51 minutes, 6,357 steps
    2.96 miles in 51 minutes, 6,357 steps

    Nice walk. Good way to ease into the week. Back at home, I got back to work on the lasagna. Instead of spinach and chard, I found a huge bag of spinach baby kale, and used the whole thing. More mushrooms, too. And I cooked the onions and mushrooms down in my stock. Used about 2/3 of a jar of basil tomato marinara instead of a can of plain. We'll see how it compares to the first one I made. I've got three servings of the old one and six of this one in the freezer, along with five or so other meals, so it'll be a while before I need to cook any more lunches. I need to make another batch of granola tomorrow, though.

    That "bacon" "cheese" "burger" I made sucked. I don't recommend Tofurkey brand maple "bacon." I don't hate it enough to throw away what's left, but I'll definitely never buy it again. What I didn't use is in the freezer and I'll probably crumble it up and throw it in something sometime. I'm not too sad about a bad burger today, though, because a family friend who recently had eye surgery needs my help taking her cat to the vet tomorrow, and she's taking me out to lunch at our neighborhood hangout after that. And on Wednesday, I need to go down to Lynnwood for an errand, so I'll try Katsu Burger while I'm down there. Five months of part-time veganism didn't do nearly as much for my blood pressure as three weeks of medication did, so I'll take an extra lunch out if the opportunity arises. I've also been thinking I may as well go ahead and eat leftovers for lunch if the need arises.

    The new lasagna looks pretty much like the only one did. I didn't really get much of a taste after dividing it up, so I'm looking forward to actually trying it.

    Another sweet potato lasagna

    I also made another batch of stock today. Garrett saved me a lot of extra celery plus carrot peels from Thanksgiving, so it was mostly that. It's freezing in ice trays now.

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  • 12/09/15--05:07: Walk Local
  • I haven't walked much in my own neighborhood lately, mainly because all the good routes require some time spent walking on Mukilteo Boulevard, which is busy and loud, and is also a little scary on the spots with no sidewalk. And I still have a hard time mentally shaking off how unpleasant those local walks were when my back pain got really bad last year. But my neighborhood's hilly, and I need more climbs while Japanese Gulch is muddy, so I just have to get over it. There's an advantage, too, since I need to leave later due to the darkness and I don't have to factor in the driving time.

    Yesterday"s awesome walk, 2.96 miles in 1:07, 6,371 steps, 337ft gain
    2.96 miles in 1:07, 6,371 steps, 337ft gain

    I like the trails at this park, but they're a little frustrating. I don't really like dead ends and having to turn back, and most people would at points B and C. They might connect, but I've only proceeded past those points once because it gets really steep.

    Of course, my timing today sucked. The storm a few weeks ago took down tons of the trees. I was able to crouch to get under some of them.


    This one blocked that trail completely.


    It was nice to see that part of the trail that was washed out last time I was there has been fixed.


    If there were any doubts how serious this storm was, this tree managed to bend a rail.


    And one of the biggest ones in the neighborhood took out a huge section of a house's roof and damaged their boat. The bench in the bottom of the picture is about a third as tall as the width of the root base.


    The park was nice and eerie in the stormy sky.


    This is the entrance to Pigeon Creek Road, point A on the map. It's just an access road for city workers to get to the lift station down by the water. David Lynch and his crew were recently there filming Twin Peaks! That article states that the road is closed to the public, but I'm not sure that's 100% true. The warning signs at the top read "official vehicles only" and "no overnight camping" but nothing really indicates it's completely off limits. I've walked down before and probably will again.


    One thing that's odd to me is that this gigantic lawn at the park doubles as overflow parking for special events. Imagine a bunch of cars here.


    I found these stylish sunglasses! And got water in my nose while taking this photo.

    Found these sunglasses in the park! Got water in my nose taking this picture. :(

    And I saw this very adorable bunny on the way home.


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    I worried throughout our long, dry summer about our trees in the front yard. They're very tall and skinny and it seems like drought conditions could make them more susceptible to losing branches, or worse, falling over. I haven't done any research or anything, that's just a feeling. Well, I'm not worried about it any more. According to Garrett's weather station that's mounted on our house, we've had over five inches of rain in the last week. It was pouring this morning which made it pretty easy to choose yoga. But first, I had some cooking to do.

    First up, my next batch of granola. I've made it several times, and have never tried any variations on it before. Sometimes I think about adding dried fruit or something, but haven't. I threw a little vanilla extract into the wet ingredients this time, but don't taste a difference.


    This recipe, like so many other Forks Over Knives recipes, is the maximum amount you can easily make. The ingredients completely fill the largest standard size mixing bowl, and it's quite challenging to stir it all together without making a huge mess. Then the mix completely fills two cookie sheets. It's nice, though, because the finished product fits nicely into two of the largest reusable containers I have on hand, and I don't have to make any more for weeks.

    Forks Over Knives Banana Almond Granola

    Once it was done enough that I could set the oven timer for another ten minutes and just leave it in the warm oven, I went to Safeway to pick up stuff for Stew. I already had lots of carrots and celery, so I was after stew meat, onions, and potatoes. I had onions and potatoes in my basket, and found when I got to the meat section that they hadn't put the day's meat out yet. It was almost 8am! I decided if I couldn't get everything I wanted there that they didn't deserve any of my money, so I put my stuff back and went to QFC. Thankfully, they had everything I needed.

    I followed this recipe, only instead of beef broth, I used my homemade vegetable broth, because I need to get in the habit of using it whenever possible and replenishing my supply regularly. It was ok. I've made much better stews using jars of slow cooker sauce, but I wanted to make it without a shortcut. Extra Worcestershire and some aminos didn't do much to help, but we both added chipotle Tabasco and I had a little sour cream in mine. It was nice with our additions. And I found a really good cheese and onion flat bread to serve with it.

    The best part about stew is the second time you serve it and add more stuff. I found some cans of diced tomatoes with roasted garlic, and I'll put at least one in, as well as some frozen vegetables like peas and corn. It'll be great.

    I had a pretty fun afternoon as well. I needed to go to Total Wine in Lynnwood, so my coworker and her husband met me at Katsu Burger for lunch. I had a Tofu Tokyo Classic with wasabi slaw and nori fries. I barely made a dent in the fries, but don't mind that I didn't finish because I wanted to try both of those side. Nori sprinkles on fries is such a great idea. Trust me if you ever go there, they give you enough for two or more people. I liked Katsu Burger, but I don't make it down to Lynnwood often and there are tons of other restaurants to try. I'd definitely pick up takeout from them if they open an Everett location.

    But that's the thing about Everett. It's a decent-size city but there's a lot of stuff you have to go to Lynnwood or Marysville for. And that's fine. I can drive and I'd much rather live here than either of those places.

    It's been a while since I needed a "schmupdate" post, which I do on days where I have nothing specific to talk about, so there's a huge backlog of cat pictures over at flickr. And now is not the time to address that backlog. But here's a cute picture of Sam posing the way Steve usually does.

    Sam copying Steve"s signature pose

    And a quick programming note. Some days, I'm not in the mood to type out my post, so I'll do it the next morning and backdate it for the day before at 11:59pm. :)

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  • 12/10/15--13:45: Mellow day
  • Thursday's here again. My day off from cooking dinner, but a day I often decide to get a lot done in the middle of the day while I wait for the conference call at 3:30pm. I've been pretty productive, though, and there are lots of pre-made meals in the freezer now. I decided I'd take it easy today since I didn't need anything from the store, so I paid all my bills online and then set out for a nice neighborhood walk.

    A walk out to Howarth Park and back is a good five-mile route, even though so much of it is on the oh-so-loud Mukilteo Boulevard. But I was really ready for it today, because going all the way down there means a good climb coming back. I used to spend a lot more time down there, but the beach has been closed for a while due to engineering concerns about the pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks. And today I learned that even though the upper part of the park is still open, they close the bathrooms for the winter. Boo.


    It's really a lovely park. Amazing views.


    They taped over the part indicating that the work on the bridge should have been done by now, in Fall 2015. So maybe it'll go on long enough that it won't matter that they closed it for the summer. If it's a whole year, there's a summer in that year no matter what.


    It never occurred to me that they'd close the lower parking area and the access road to it. That actually works out nicely for those of us walking there, because a road with no cars on it is a great place to walk. Makes me miss the cool access road at Interlaken Park in Seattle, for sure.


    The sky cleared up a lot more than I thought it would.


    Seriously, though, if you need a spot for a picturesque picnic, you could do way worse than Howarth Park.


    There's some very nice real estate all around the park. One house is on four lots and has these amazing lions flanking the driveway.


    This is one of my favorite houses in Everett. It's the last one before the start of the road going down to the beach on the Eastern side, and it's got a deck with amazing views. And I really like the style.


    Even the most plain neighborhood park, a ball field in View Ridge, is still quite nice.


    A huge swath of Forest Park is still untouched other than the boulevard up above. It's a bridge in that area and I'd estimate it's 50 feet above the ground. I love the mossy trees in that part.


    Today's route. Nice climbs, good views, and my first 5+ mile walk since October. Nice to have this one in my pocket for wet weather.

    Today"s awesome walk, 5.25 miles in 1:38, 11,293 steps, 589ft gain

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  • 12/11/15--04:15: SchadenFriday

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    I enjoyed yesterday's walk so much, even the dreaded traffic noise didn't stop me from doing it again. And I decided to go ahead and leave earlier. Walking in the dark never used to bother me, so I'm not sure why I've been avoiding it lately. There weren't nearly as many photo opportunities, and I do get a bit of a spring in my step when it's dark, so today's time was ten minutes shorter.

    Today"s awesome walk, 5.25 miles in 1:28, 11,292 steps, 583ft gain
    5.25 miles in 1:28, 11,292 steps, 583ft gain

    Since the step count from today is just one more step than yesterday's, I'm pretty sure now that the app is just estimating based on distance, rather than using any sensors in the phone.

    While it was too dark for pictures, it certainly wasn't pitch black. The deep blue sky was pretty neat while I was out by the water. And I managed to catch glimpses of the sunrise just as I arrived to my immediate neighborhood.


    Something I've been wondering about that I didn't realize I got in this picture until just now: why have they trapped that car behind that boat? Weird.


    It's now gone from headband weather to hat weather. I look like a gnome.

    It"s gone from headband weather to hat weather, and I look like a gnome every morning

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