Thursday Things

1. I know it’s not exactly groundbreaking news for me to announce on the blog that I’m stressed out, but holy smokes. My upcoming move has me more stressed than any other move I can remember.

There are approximately forty seven gazillion things stressing me out about the move, ranging from “things it makes sense to stress about immediately” to “things I shouldn’t stress about until the move is done, but I’m stressed about anyway.” On my current list:

  • Packing progress and adherence with my established packing project plan, specifically, how I’m not making the progress I’d like to be making and how the project plan is not being adhered to.
  • Availability (or rather, lack thereof) of boxes of appropriate sizes for packing.
  • Coordinating renter’s insurance, which of course had to expire at my current place like a week before I move, making everything more complicated.
  • Setting up utilities, which is proving to be a thousand times more difficult than it should be. This is my first time moving into an unoccupied apartment (vs. moving in with other people who already lived there), and it has been a HEADACHE trying to get everything set up.
  • Buying a car, which deserves it’s own sub-bullets:
    • The fact that I’ve never purchased a car before, and only have a vague idea of what I’m doing, and worry that I will be taken advantage of due to only having a vague idea of what I’m doing.
    • The fact that I’m only considering used cars, and the whole can of worms that has the potential to open (CarFax is basically my #1 most visited website these days).
    • The fact that I’m only really interested in one very specific make and model of car, which is not widely available in my budget.
    • The fact that there is only one car of that very specific make and model in my budget with a clean CarFax available in the entire Chicagoland area right now.
    • The fact that I really need to buy this car this weekend or next weekend at the absolute latest.
    • The fact that I HATE spending money in general, but I especially hate spending it on things I need but don’t want, and of all the things in the whole world available for purchase, the #1 thing I don’t want is a car.
    • The fact that I spend most of my days living in existential angst about climate change and the rapid decline of the environment, and that I am now being forced to contribute to the problem by spending a gigantic sum of money on a hunk of metal I do not want (albeit contributing in a smaller way than I could, as the very specific make and model of car I’m interested in is a plug-in hybrid).
    • The fact that I think we, as a species, would’ve been much better off if personal cars had never been invented, and now I, a firmly, enthusiastically anti-car individual, am going to have the title to one of these planet-ruining, suburb-enabling, isolation-creating, road-rage-inducing things.
  • Getting everything done before the movers arrive.
  • If the theoretical new tenants of my current apartment (as far as I know, it hasn’t been rented yet) will have interest in purchasing some of the furnishings we’re selling, and if not, how to dispose of them in a budget and environmentally friendly way.
  • The entire unpacking process, and the crying it has the tendency to induce.
  • Figuring out and adjusting to the logistics of living in a new place (and owning a car), including:
    • Where will I run?
    • Are the most logical areas I’ve identified to run in safe?
    • Are the most logical areas I’ve identified to run in well populated (i.e.: is there regular, consistent foot and/or vehicle traffic in the area that will both discourage someone from attacking me and will provide ample opportunities for witnesses should I collapse mid-run [a constant, though likely irrational, fear of mine]?)?
    • How long will it take me to commute to our current suburban office?
    • How long will it take me to commute to our new suburban office?
    • How often will the Metra derail (hopefully only in the figurative sense) my intentions of working downtown?
    • How are my Tuesdays going to work, what with therapy and dance being in the city and my house not being in the city?
    • How is my budget going to need to be adjusted to reflect:
      • Higher rent
      • More utilities
      • The costs of car ownership (charging costs, gas, saving for inevitable repairs, insurance)
  • The fact that this new apartment is intended to be temporary, which means there’s a not-zero chance I’ll have to go through all of this again in a year.

In case you didn’t feel like counting, that’s 31 things I’m actively stressed about. Even for me, that’s pretty high. And this is just what I’m stressed about, not any of the other emotional distress I feel about leaving the city, of which there is plenty.

I realize there are some things on that list, particularly the logistics of living in my new apartment, that I don’t need to worry about right now–but knowing I don’t need to worry about them and not worrying about them are two very different things. I know this is just a season, and in two months or so when this is all over I’ll have forgotten how terrible it all was, but boy, that sure doesn’t make things more fun in the mean time.

2. On an entirely different note, I pulled up a Jonas Brothers interview to watch on YouTube while I stretched post-run on Monday (as one does), and this particular video was preceded by an ad from McDonald’s, promoting its new “World Favorites” menu. When I was in Europe, I was curious about the menu at McDonald’s in the countries I visited, so this caught my attention. It particularly caught my attention, though, when I saw the Dutch flag on a McFlurry.

You guys. McDonald’s in the U.S. is now selling stroopwafel McFlurries. Be still my wishes-it-were-still-in-the-Netherlands heart!

This is both very exciting (because duh. Stroopwafels are delicious and McFlurries are also delicious.) and very surprising, because when I was in the Netherlands, I specifically looked for stroopwafel McFlurries and there were none. (And by “specifically looked for” I mean “looked at online menus.” I don’t think we actually went into a McDonald’s in the Netherlands, so I can’t remember if we looked at any physical in-store menus or not.) I wanted to check because London had Cadbury Creme Egg McFlurries in honor of Easter, which made me wonder what other international McDonald’s offered in the McFlurry department. I really hoped Dutch McDonald’s would have stroopwafel McFlurries and fully intended on trying one if they did. But all I saw were “rood fruit” McFlurries (“red fruit”), which did not interest me in the least. Now I can try a stroopwafel McFlurry here! I don’t even need to go to the McDonald’s HQ in the West Loop to do it, never mind the Netherlands! Though let’s be honest: I’ll take whatever excuse I can get to go back to the Netherlands, and I’m not about stroopwafel McFlurries being that excuse πŸ˜›

Fear not: I shall report back once I have so you will all know my opinions on it.

3. We’ll skip a third thing this week since this is already plenty long πŸ™‚

Chicago Marathon Training Week 1

Sunday, June 9: Rest
I had a lot to do at home on Sunday and knew that would be the case, so I scheduled a rest day to kick off marathon training, as one does πŸ˜›

Monday, June 10: Strength training – legs (AM) + 5 miles in 56:38 for an 11:19 pace
I’ve kept up with strength training more or less since the Chicago Marathon last year. I took three full weeks off strength training post-marathon, and have taken a handful of non-consecutive weeks off here and there since then, but for the most part, I’ve been at the gym three days a week picking heavy things up and putting them back down again. I feel like this will really give me a leg up in the strength training department this year, since I’m starting with roughly a year-long background rather than starting from scratch. Hopefully it’ll especially help in the soreness department!

I’m trying to get in as many run commutes as possible before I move, so I ran home from work Monday afternoon. I wasn’t a huge fan of my normal five mile run commute route, so I reworked it for this one and thought it went a lot better. I normally map out my run commutes ahead of time, since I don’t trust my Garmin to give me an accurate measurement with all the buildings in the city, but on the past few run commutes I’ve found that my Garmin is hitting my mile markers almost exactly where my pre-mapped route said I would hit them, which has been SO nice! I’m relying on my Garmin to measure my route more than my pre-mapping now. I think it’s accurate enough, which is fine with me. Anyway, the run itself was pretty lousy. I don’t know what’s going on with me lately, but running has been harder than I like it to be. I’ve been running consistently-ish, but ever since my Europe trip (almost two months ago now), I haven’t been following a super strict (or super long distance) running plan. I’m hoping that my endurance (and weather acclimation) will come back with time.

Tuesday, June 11: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
I had a relatively easy upper body workout on Tuesday morning, which was great, because I think I tweaked my left bicep on the first rep of my first exercise. Oops. It was sore for the rest of the morning but felt better by the afternoon.

After taking us through our usual warmup on Tuesday, my dance teacher asked us to rehearse together as a class for five minutes (without him) while he worked on the music mix. I ended up leading the class through the rehearsal, which was really fun! I could never be a full-blown dance teacher, because I can’t come up with choreography to save my life, but I do enjoy leading class when I get the chance (and have someone else’s choreography to teach/review πŸ˜› )

Wednesday, June 12: Rest
My company had our annual “field day” event Wednesday afternoon, though due to the rain, it ended up being a “wherever we can find space in the office day” instead. It’s a lot of fun (though not very physical, hence calling this a rest day), but since it takes place at our suburban office it keeps me from having time to do a real workout.

Thursday, June 13: Strength training – legs (AM) + 5 miles in 54:09 for a 10:50 pace
Can’t say I expected to need to bundle up in sweatpants and a hoodie to get to the gym on June 13, but here we are. The Real Feel was around 43 when I woke up on Thursday! I had a solid workout and upped my weight on kettlebell swings for the first time…ever? The first time in a very long time, if nothing else, and that felt good.

What a difference 10 degrees makes! I followed the same route home that I took on Monday’s run commute, both of which took me past an electronic sign that displayed the temperature. When I ran past it on Monday, it said 77 degrees. When I ran past it on Thursday at almost the exact same time of day, it said 67 degrees. I felt one billion times better on this run than I felt on Monday’s run, which made me relax. I was worried something was physically wrong with me and that’s why my run on Monday was so hard, but based on how much better Thursday’s went, I really think it’s the weather. We’ve had a few one-off warmer days (though we haven’t had any truly hot ones yet), but the occasional 75 degree day followed by a string of days under 70 doesn’t really help you acclimate to the heat. IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS IS NOT A COMPLAINT ABOUT THE WEATHER. Haha. I will happily, happily, take sub-70 degree temperatures all summer, thanks. I am merely observing that having not had any significantly warm weather for any significant stretch of time makes it harder to run on days where it’s warmer than usual. But that’s a price I’m MORE than willing to pay if it means keeping my air conditioning off and being able to exist comfortably outside.

Friday, June 14: Rest

Saturday, June 15: 6.21 miles in 1:09:22 for an 11:11 pace
(I think this distance is wrong, but I’m having trouble finding a route creation tool online that has the fully separated Lakefront Trail, so we’re just going to go with what my Garmin says for now.)

First long run of marathon season woo! As I mentioned last week, I’m group leading this year. I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of attendance, but I ended up having four other people start with me! One tripped and fell less than half a mile into the run, which I felt bad about 😦 There wasn’t anything I could do to prevent it, of course, but still. So for the remaining 5.5ish miles, I had three other people running with me. I thought things went really well! I have a bit to work on in the pacing department (my non-building affected mile splits were 11:19, 11:24, 11:42, 11:43 – I’m aiming for an 11:30), but no one seemed to mind. I told them all at the get-go that if they ever felt like I was going too fast or too slow to speak up, so hopefully if there ever is a problem, people will feel comfortable enough to say so.

 

Thursday Things

1. I assume you’ve all listened to the new Jonas Brothers album, Happiness Begins, by now so we can discuss it, yes? Excellent!

I, obviously, downloaded it the second I woke up Friday morning and made sure I brought headphones to work so I could listen to it on my phone all day (well, mostly all day. The Tootsie Original Broadway Cast album came out on Friday, too, so I had to divide my time.) As a side note, that is EASILY the biggest downside of Apple Music: that you can only use Apple Music on Apple devices, and can’t easily access it from a browser on any computer (like you can with Pandora or Spotify). Like most of corporate America, my company uses PCs, so if I want to listen to Apple Music at work, my only option is my phone, which I think is so annoying.

ANYWAY. This is not about Apple Music. This is about the Jonas Brothers!

As with most albums, it took me a couple listens to get into it. I feel like this is pretty common? I don’t know that I’ve ever listened to an album all the way through the first time and been like, “OMG THIS IS THE GREATEST COLLECTION OF MUSIC I’VE EVER HEARD.” Regardless, I certainly was into it by the end of Friday, but it’s not like there was ever a chance I wouldn’t be. I’m obviously extremely biased towards the Jonas Brothers, so as long as they didn’t make an entire album of, like, chewing noises, there was no chance I wasn’t going to like it.

I did, however, like two songs immediately on the first listen-through: Hesitate and Rollercoaster. I wasn’t surprised to like Rollercoaster, because it was part of the Chasing Happiness trailer and I already liked the little clip of it from that. Soon after my first listen-through, I found out that Joe Jonas wrote Hesitate with Sophie Turner in mind, which immediately explained why I liked it so much on my first listen, because I think we can all agree that the only reason Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner are together is because he never met me before he met her, and had he met me first, he would’ve written the same song, but with me in mind instead. (I’m joking. Kind of. πŸ˜› ). It’s a really sweet song.

And while we’re on the topic of Jonas Brothers releases: omg. Chasing Happiness. WHAT a movie. I was VERY upset that it came out on Amazon Prime while I was at a conference in California last week, meaning I had to wait TWO WHOLE DAYS to watch it. Not cool, conference schedulers. I didn’t get home until like 10 p.m. on Wednesday, so there was no time to watch it then, but it was my #1 priority post-run last Thursday evening, and ugh. I loved every single second of it. Even the seconds that made me really sad, like when they’d talk about how much hurt surrounded the 2013 breakup of the band, and when Joe cried *one million sobbing emojis*. It was really interesting to learn so much about the band’s background, rise, fall, and comeback, and it made me feel like I know the Jonas Brothers more personally now…which is obviously not true, but whatever. I’m happy to feel like I’m friends with them, even if I clearly am not.

2. Speaking of feeling like you’re friends with someone famous after learning more about them: I finished Andrew Rannells’s memoir yesterday (Andrew Rannells being arguably most famous for originating the role of Elder Price in Book of Mormon on Broadway.). It’s a great read if you have any interest in learning more about him/making it on Broadway in general, and I only happened to be reading it right now because my forever-long hold on it on Libby came in while I was traveling (I think I waited 14 weeks for the book? It was one of the longest holds I’ve ever had.), but the timing turned out to be perfect because the Tony Awards were on on Sunday! This was the first year I was actually able (and interested) in watching the entire broadcast, and it worked out great because Andrew Rannells and the rest of the cast of The Boys in the Band revival from last summer were up for Best Revival of a Play (and won!). That meant he was in the audience, so every time the camera panned to him, I was all, “omg! Andrew Rannells! I know him!” (I do not know him. But it’s fun to feel like I do.)

I know you’re all very interested in my take on the Tony Awards, which is: well, I’ve never watched a full broadcast before, so I had nothing to compare it to and can’t really say much about the show’s quality. I can say that I’m super annoyed with how much Hadestown dominated the musical categories, because I resent Hadestown for stealing what I believe should have been Tootsie’s well-earned thunder.

I also think next year’s Tony Awards would’ve been a lot more interesting if Hadestown could’ve waited like two more months to open on Broadway, because then both Hadestown AND Moulin Rouge would likely be eligible for the 2020 Tonys. Unless Moulin Rogue is a spectacular disaster (which I think next to no one expects it to be), I feel confident calling it right now, even without ever seeing the show, that Moulin Rouge will clean up at the Tonys next year. I mean, for goodness sake, they already had the people from the cast of Moulin Rogue presenting awards at this year’s Tonys. What kind show gets its cast on the Tonys before it’s even opened on Broadway?! The kind that’s going to dominate, obviously.

I know I’m 1) biased and 2) not really entitled to an opinion, since the only show up for Best Musical this year that I’ve seen was Tootsie, and I saw it in its pre-Broadway tryout previews, for goodness sake. There’s a reason they don’t give average schmucks like me a vote for the Tonys. But I was so impressed with Tootsie from start (almost) to finish (I thought parts of the end were a bit meh when I saw it in September) and feel like it didn’t get a fair shake.

3. I stayed up way too late watching the Tony Awards, but figured I’d be able to fall asleep pretty quickly after they wrapped up and I could go to bed. Not so. As I got into bed, I heard this repeating screeching outside my window. I thought it sounded like a bird, but birds are asleep at night, so I had no idea what it could be, other than that it must’ve been some sort of animal. It would not shut up, and it took me forever to fall asleep as a result.

As I was getting ready for bed Monday night, I heard the sound again! Obviously it wasn’t something dying in the alley or whatever – it must be some animal that had decided to live in the area. I recorded the sound and sent it to my parents to see if they had any insight. They didn’t, but my mom was sure it was a bird. A quick Google search about nocturnal birds in Illinois led me to the Common Nighthawk, whose call I looked up on Merlin, and lo and behold! That’s what it was!

They are, to put it kindly, not the prettiest birds you’ll ever see or hear. Apparently they feast on bugs, and I guess there must be a lot of bugs in my neighborhood, because when I came home from dance on Tuesday, I heard him again! Since I was outside this time, I looked for him, and there he was, soaring way up high, screeching his little heart out. I’ve quickly moved from being annoyed by his noises to appreciating them, now that I know what he is. I had never heard him before Sunday night, so he must be new to the area, but I hope he sticks around!

Marathon Season 2019

Here we are, dear readers: my last (for now) Chicago Marathon training cycle. After two years of threatening to quit and not actually following through, this time I mean it. Barring major, bad, unforeseen circumstances, I do not plan on running the Chicago Marathon (or any other fall marathon) in 2020.

I think this is a good time for my Chicago Marathon victory lap for a few reasons. Running the Chicago Marathon has largely defined my post-college life, but the chapter of post-college life I’ve lived since June of 2012–that chapter, in the Book of Bethany’s Life, being titled “Chicago”–will start to come to an end in a few weeks when I move to the suburbs. While I don’t expect that my life will change as immediately and dramatically as it did when I moved from Michigan to Chicago seven years ago–after all, it’s much easier to commute back into the city from the suburbs on a regular basis than it is to commute back to Michigan from Chicago on a regular basis–I know that things are going to change as a result of the move. Not having the marathon as the center of my life anymore will help facilitate that change, I think, as will continuing to have the marathon be the center of my life for the next 18 weeks. I hope that will make leaving the city more of a gentle transition.

Beyond that, as I said after the marathon last year, I am perfectly satisfied with what I accomplished during last year’s race. I was (and still am) very proud of my 4:42:49, and if I never run a faster marathon than that, I won’t feel like I’ve still got something left to accomplish.

With those things in mind, this felt like an optimal time to wrap up my Chicago Marathon-ing for the moment. I’m going into this year with zero goals other than to enjoy myself as much as one possibly can while dragging themselves out of bed before 6 a.m. multiple days per week (including Saturdays) in order to run for hours in hot, humid conditions and, ideally, not let my plantar fasciitis get noticeably worse.

This upcoming move will require several things to change from my past couple of years of training:

1. I will no longer be able to run commute, due to the distance between my new apartment and my office.
2. I anticipate that my entire schedule will be upended for at least five weeks during/after the move, because about a month after I move, my office is moving, too. Popular year for relocating, I guess!
3. I am quitting my current gym (because it’s located near my company’s city office location, and I’ll be switching to our suburban location after I move [the suburban location is the one that’s moving]), which will throw a small monkey wrench in my strength training. My new apartment and the new office both have gyms, so I’m not worried about having access to training–it will just be a matter of figuring out when I can train, based on my aforementioned upended schedule.

Obviously, life is going to be a bit bonkers for me until about mid-August (just in time for marathon training to become a bit bonkers! Woo!). I know this is going to require a LOT more flexibility in my training than I’m used to as I figure out my new commute, my new running routes, my new area, my new schedule, etc. To that end, I’ve actually written two marathon training plans for myself: my ideal plan, which is basically identical to last year’s training plan, and my if-needed plan.

My ideal plan has me running high(ish) mileage three days per week, following(ish) Hal Higdon’s Marathon 3 program for weekday runs and his Novice I program for weekend runs, per CARA’s training plan. This is what I did in 2017 and 2018 and I loved it–but I loved it because I discovered run commuting. I’m hoping to work remotely on days I run high mileage to solve the commuting-takes-time-and-so-does-running-10-miles-on-a-Monday issue that plagued me pre-run commuting. On the occasions that that’s not possible, however, I also have my if-needed plan. My if-needed plan has me running the same total mileage each week, but spreads those miles out across four days rather than three. With both plans, I also avoided assigning particular runs to particular days–instead of saying “10 miles on Monday,” for instance, I said, “10 miles for run of this week’s runs.” I know I struggled a lot with feeling guilty if I deviated from the plan in the past, even if that deviation was as minor as swapping Wednesday’s and Monday’s workouts, so I’m hoping this will solve that problem. All about that flexibility.

All about that flexibility…except on Saturdays. I signed up to group lead for CARA this year, which means no more taking CARA’s long runs as suggestions rather than requirements. Because I’ve committed to group leading, I won’t be fast finishing any long runs this year, nor will I be skipping them in favor of doing a race instead. I don’t plan to race at all during this training cycle, in fact. I’m both excited and nervous to group lead. It feels like a lot of pressure, but at this point, I don’t even know if I’ll have anyone to lead, so I’m going to try to not get too worked up about it until I have a better idea of how many/if any people are in my group.

My last order of marathon training business is this plantar fasciitis situation that, surprise surprise, has not magically resolved itself as I’ve continued to do the things that led to it in the first place. I don’t expect it to go away during marathon season (though I’d be fine with that!). Over the past few months, I’ve noticed the #1 thing that seems to help it is not running, which is a pretty risky way to train for a marathon. While I don’t expect it to go away while training, I’m hoping to keep it from getting worse by doing the following:

1. Switching shoes. The ones I ran in when I got plantar fasciitis are dead anyway, so I’ve moved on to Asics Gel-Nimbus 21s. I ran in the 20s all of last marathon season without issue, but then got plantar fasciitis in a third pair of 20s, so *shrugging emoji*. I started wearing them yesterday and plan to wear them for two weeks before making a final decision. If my PF gets worse, I’ll return them to Fleet Feet and start back at square one.

2. Getting back into my foot stretching/strengthening routine. I kept up with this while training for my half, then quit once I crossed the finish line and didn’t care anymore. Now that I care again, I’m going to try very hard to remember to stretch and strengthen the soles of my feet daily, and use that blue super calf stretcher thing after every run (this thing, which my podiatrist made me buy after my first bout with PF years ago).

3. Wear my night split to bed on days I run, and my arch sleeve to bed on days I don’t run. I really hate my night split, but I also really hate waking up with a foot that hurts. I haven’t really given the night split a fair shake (it’s uncomfortable, so I’ve never worn it more than once or twice in a week), so I’m going to make more of an effort to use it and see if that helps. I also have a compression sleeve I wore around my arch during the winter that’s less bulky (and thus more comfortable) than the splint, but doesn’t do as good of a job at keeping my foot from flexing.

4. Wear supportive footwear at all times. That means wearing my OOFOS when walking around the house, my SuperFeet flip flops on weekends, and my work-appropriate SuperFeet sandals I ordered the other day at the office/church – if I wear sandals at all, that is. Choice #1 will be tennis shoes when possible.

5. If I haven’t seen noted improvement by the time I move, start physical therapy. Honestly, I should’ve done this months ago. I just didn’t want to. I didn’t need one more commitment, and the pain usually wasn’t that bad anyway. Well, it’s been four months now, and I need to cut it out with the excuses. I’m going to wait until I move so I can go to a PT closer to my new place, since that’ll be more convenient than anything by my current house. But this is going to happen if I’m still in pain, darn it!

So that’s the plan for this year. Happy marathon season!

Random Europe Thoughts

Alternatively titled, “All the Things That Somehow Didn’t Fit Into Daily Recaps.”

1. I was (pleasantly) surprised by how friendly the Euro to U.S. Dollar conversion rate was while we were in Europe. One Euro was worth about $1.12 or $1.13, which was much nicer than the British Pound to U.S. Dollar conversion rate (closer to one pound equaling roughly $1.30). Based on that, I’m glad we opted to spend most of our time in Euro-using countries!

2. I reconfigured my budget after we got home to eliminate my Europe Trip line item, and it made me really sad. I’ve been saving for this trip pretty much since I started working “real” jobs, and it’s weird to not have to save for it anymore. I’m tempted to keep putting my usual amount per paycheck into my Europe fund even though I don’t have one in mind right now, because I really, really want there to be a next time. Though that money could go to better use over the next few months, as I have some gigantic, much less exciting expenses coming up.

3. We stayed in four hotels in two different countries, and not a single one of those hotels had 1) washcloths or 2) clocks in the room. Not having a clock wasn’t the end of the world, since my Fitbit and phone were more than capable of quickly telling me the time, but not having washcloths drove me nuts! How was I supposed to shower?! I already feel like I’m slumming it in hotels when I use washcloths (I use a loofah at home), but to not have anything made me long for American hotels and their washcloths.

4. I was way too pampered on those transatlantic flights. Both trips were on 757s, and apparently spending 15.5ish hours on a 757 (between the flight to London and the flight home from Amsterdam) was enough for me to get used to that kind of space, because when I traveled this past weekend via 737s, I was like, “What IS this poor excuse for an airplane?!?” Ha. I flew economy both ways on the Europe trip, but the economy cabin was set up in a 2-3-2 configuration, so if you weren’t in that middle aisle, you either had a window or an aisle seat: no middle seats. I was all about that 2-3-2 arrangement! I was legitimately surprised when I got up to go to the bathroom during the flight at 1) how short of a walk it was to the back of the plane and 2) how few bathrooms there were. I cannot believe how much two flights on a 757 skewed my size expectations!

I was also all about all of that food service. On both flights, us peons in economy got one hot meal, dessert after said hot meal (lemon sorbet on the way to London, honey ginger ice cream (it was…weird) on the way home), a pretty generous snack 90 minutes or so before arrival (croissant and yogurt on the way there, a sandwich and pathetic stroopwafel on the way home – though obviously any pre-packaged, refrigerated stroopwafel was going to be pathetic after the fresh-off-the-griddle ones I was treated to in Nederland), plus the mid-flight drinks/little snacks you get on your run-of-the-mill domestic flight. I suppose we didn’t get that much attention during the middle of the flights, but overall, it felt like the flight attendants came by a lot more often than I’m used to. So when I flew domestically this past weekend and it took like an hour and a half to get my usual in-flight Sprite, I was, once again, all, “What IS this poor excuse for in-flight service?!?” Get over yourself, Bethany.

5. While in England, I got a very unexpected text from…my brother? Sister? Someone in my family…that we had upgraded our family cellular plan to unlimited data (this, after years of fighting over our 15 gigs spread out among five people!), and got a six-month trial of Apple Music as a result. I had no idea why this was happening (I have since discovered it was due to my brother’s bonkers use of data), but I was happy to give Apple Music a try, so I signed up after I got home.

In poking around Apple Music, I discovered that they have Top 100 radio stations from just about any country you can think of, including Nederland! I don’t need to listen to the Top 100 songs in the U.S. on my phone–I can get those just by walking into my office building’s lobby, which pipes in pop music every day–but I certainly don’t have routine access to popular music in the Netherlands, so I gave it a listen. A lot of the music is the same stuff you’d hear on the radio here: not a surprise, since plenty of songs I knew came up on the radio when we were driving around in our rental car. But there were also, of course, some songs in Dutch, which really didn’t do anything to alleviate my newfound and ongoing desire to be Dutch (in more than just heritage), but I really enjoyed listening to! This is my current favorite:

I…have like no idea what most of it means, though there’s an English translation in the comments that I assume is accurate.

Listening to Top 100: Nederland regularly also enabled me to correctly answer the question about the winner of Eurovision in the New York Times weekly news quiz a couple of weeks ago (it wanted to know where Duncan Laurence was from. I knew it was the Netherlands, because the song he apparently won Eurovision with what has been the top song for a few weeks now.), and when I correctly answered it, only 39 percent of respondents had gotten it right, so *hair flip*

 

OOFOS Review

I received a free pair of OOFOS sandals for review, but all opinions are my own.

I mentioned it a couple times in passing earlier this year, but back in February, I developed a case of plantar fasciitis in my right foot. I don’t know what exactly led to it–I suspect it was a combination of my new running shoes and my newly-increased running volume–but why I came down with plantar fasciitis is less immediately important to me than the fact that I’m dealing with it.

Fortunately, the pain hasn’t been severe enough to keep me off the roads, but I’d be lying if I said my foot is pain-free these days. I’m sure walking 20,000ish steps per day in Europe (in the aforementioned running shoes) didn’t do me many favors, nor has my refusal to quit running, nor has my apparent inability to stick to any sort of rehab program that might help me, nor has my lack of interest in actually seeking out professional help (i.e.: physical therapy).

When I received an email from OOFOS days after I started feeling pain in my foot, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give them a try. I know several people from my marathon training groups that swear by them, and while I have a pair of supportive flip flops, they’re not the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. OOFOS, being made with their proprietary OOfoam, sounded a lot softer.

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On top of that, the sandals are molded to support your arches. If you ask the internet what you should do to remedy plantar fasciitis, one of the things it mentions is to avoid walking barefoot, even inside. Arch support is supposed to help relieve symptoms, so once again, OOFOS sounded like they might help me out. Being February, I wasn’t all that interested in wearing flip flops outside, but a brand new pair of OOFOS could serve as my indoor, supportive footwear.

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I’ve been really impressed by how much these sandals have helped. Have they cured my plantar fasciitis? No, but I don’t think you can really expect sandals to cure plantar fasciitis when you continue running high mileage in shoes your feet don’t like/walk around Europe in those same shoes/don’t consistently do foot strengthening exercises/don’t wear your night split/don’t pick up the darn phone to schedule a physical therapy appointment. They do, however, dramatically reduce my symptoms when I wear them at home. They also make me an inch or so taller, which I don’t hate πŸ˜›

If you have issues with plantar fasciitis, I’d definitely suggest giving OOFOS a shot. For me, they’ve certainly been a better alternative than walking around my house barefoot, and I’m sure they’d be equally great outside. Like I said, I already own a pair of supportive flip flops from another brand, and while I like those ones as well, the OOFOS are light years ahead in terms of comfort, which, when you’re dealing with plantar fasciitis, is a pretty big selling point. If you’re interested in checking them out, you can read more about their OOfoam (and purchase shoes, which come in everything from boots to flip flops) on their website, or locate a store near you that sells OOFOS.

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Europe Trip Days 10 (Part II) and 11: Amsterdam

You can find all my Europe Trip posts here.

Picking up where I left off…

We exited the begijnhof into the Spui:

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and walked from there toΒ P.C.J. Hajenius, a tobacco shop. I don’t smoke, nor do I have any interest in smoking, but Rick Steves assured us that one does not have to smoke to appreciate P.C.J. Hajenius, and he was right. The store’s interior is reminiscent of those from the 1910s, and being inside felt like stepping back in time. It was worth the detour to see!

A little down the road was the Munttoren, or mint tower:

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and just beyond that was my favorite part of our Amsterdam walking tour: the bloemenmarkt, or flower market.

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The bloemenmarkt is made up of stalls floating in the Singel canal. At these stalls, you can buy all sorts of flower-related things: bulbs, garden decorations, etc. I really enjoyed wandering through the different stalls and seeing everything they had to offer. I bought a couple tulip bulbs for my mom and grandma, though who knows if they’ll ever grow into anything. If they don’t, I only spent about a euro each on them, so it won’t be the end of the world. We also popped into a souvenir shop on the other side of the road from the bloemenmarkt where someone was making fresh stroopwafels, so we got one of those as well, obviously πŸ™‚

We walked through the koningsplein to get to Leidsestraat and Leidseplein, and from there returned to our hotel to relax for a moment until it was time for our final activity of Day 10: the Anne Frank House.

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(Taken from loading onto the canal tour boat the next day. The Anne Frank House is the one on the center right, without the shutters.)

I don’t remember ever reading The Diary of Anne Frank (so I assume I haven’t – it seems like a book you wouldn’t forget you’ve read), but going to the Anne Frank House seemed like one of those things you’re Supposed to Do when in Amsterdam, so we got tickets as soon as they became available two months before we planned to visit (which was actually a little trickier than you might expect, given that we visited on April 29, and two months before April 29 is February 29! In case you ever plan to visit on April 29 on a non-leap year, April 29 tickets are on sale on February 28.).

We added a 30-minute pre-tour talk onto our visit as well, which was 100 percent worth it, particularly if you haven’t read the book. The “30 minute” talk lasted close to an hour and covered both the people who lived and worked in the building (before, during, and after World War II) as well as world events happening at that time. As I continually realized during this trip, my knowledge of European history aside from the most basic, basic facts is embarrassingly nonexistent (particularly for someone who fancies herself a history buff), so even though I was aware of why Hitler rose to power and the consequences of that, I didn’t realize, for example, that the Frank family moved to the Netherlands from Germany because the Netherlands was neutral in World War I. Since I haven’t read The Diary of Anne Frank (yet – it’s definitely on my To Read list now), I also didn’t know anything about the other people who lived in the house–honestly, I’m not sure I even knew there were other people living in the house–so I learned a ton during the talk and am really glad we decided to add that on.

After the talk, we began our tour of the house. Otto Frank, Anne’s father, wanted the house left empty after it was turned into a museum, so there’s no furniture in any of the rooms. That doesn’t make the experience any less powerful, however. An audio tour guided us through all the spaces other than the areas where the family actually lived while in hiding. For that, you only had plaques on the walls to read.

I don’t think I can accurately put into words how powerful it was to visit the Anne Frank House, particularly the annex in the back where she and the other families lived for two years. World War II in general felt much more real and recent in Europe than it’s ever felt to me before, but being in the actual rooms where the Frank family lived, seeing the actual pictures Anne hung on the wall of her room and the actual lines Otto and Edith drew on the walls to track the growth of Margot and Anne really drove home the point that these aren’t made-up characters in a fictional book: they were all very real people with very real lives who experienced very real trauma and death. It was quite moving, and I think visiting should be a high priority for anyone spending time in Amsterdam.

We got dinner at Georgio’s Cafe, and then went to bed to rest up for our last day of the trip.

The last day of the trip was a bit more low-key than the others (not that that would take much, ha) and mostly involved eating, which is not the worst way to spend your last day of vacation in my opinion. We had breakfast at the hotel, and then left to go get cookies (at 10 a.m. πŸ˜› ) from Van Stapele Koekmakerij. I have a friend who went to Amsterdam a few years ago, and when she posted about it on Facebook, someone recommended–nay, insisted–that she go to Van Stapele Koekmakerij while there. I made a note of it at the time and figured with such glowing reviews that I should go as well, and boy, was it worth it! It was one of the richest, most delicious cookies I’ve ever had.

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Big fan of the name of this boat, spotted on our walk to get cookies πŸ˜€

We wandered through the Nine Little Streets shopping district again before settling on Toos & Roos for lunch, and then walked over to the Anne Frank House again to board our canal cruise through Flagship Amsterdam. There are plenty of canal cruise companies in Amsterdam, and this was the only one I tried, so I can’t really compare it to others. It felt very casual: a Chicago River architecture tour this was not. Sometimes our guides would point out highlights along the canals, but other times we’d just float on in relative quiet. The guides were all very friendly, and just based on how other boats looked, I’d imagine we had a more intimate tour than you might get with a bigger company (but I don’t really know, since I haven’t been on any other tours). Regardless, I really enjoyed the cruise (and the blankets on the boat, as I, in a fit of optimism, left my fleece back in the U.S. and only brought a light sweatshirt and rain jacket with me to Europe. That was a bad call.). One thing I especially liked is that we all went around the boat before we launched saying where we were from, and every group was from a different place! There was people from England, from Wales, from Germany, and from Switzerland on our boat (plus us, from the U.S.). I thought that was really cool πŸ™‚

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One thing I was VERY curious about was the hooks I noticed at the top of seemingly every building in Amsterdam. I spent most of Monday wondering what they were about and hoping we’d find out on our canal tour, and we did! Many of the buildings along the canals were once warehouses. In Amsterdam, buildings were taxed based on their width, so many are as narrow as they can be. They build up rather than out, and consequently, staircases in buildings in Amsterdam are extremely narrow and steep (why would you waste what little width you have on a wide staircase?), as I noticed immediately in our hotel, and in the Anne Frank House as well. In both instances, the staircases were just this side of basically being a ladder. Those steep staircases are not conducive to moving anything other than humans (though I would argue they’re barely conducive to doing that), so instead of using stairs to move goods in and out of warehouses, people would rig a pulley up with the hooks in those pictures and use that pulley to hoist the goods up to a window, where they would be pulled in. While these buildings are mostly residences now, according to our canal guides, people still use these hooks and pulleys for moving in and out of houses–there’s no chance you’re going to get a piano up any of those stairs, for instance. This is also why most of the buildings are intentionally built to lean forward: to prevent goods being hoisted from hitting and breaking your windows/house. I thought that was super interesting!

After our hour-long canal tour ended, we walked to the Rijksmuseum, which, as I learned on our boat tour, was no longer home to the famous I amsterdam sign you’ve undoubtedly seen in pictures from anyone who’s visited Amsterdam since it was installed in 2004. It was removed in December of last year, which was a huge bummer to learn, because how was I supposed to post an I amsterdam picture on Facebook if the sign wasn’t there anymore?!?!?! WHY EVEN BOTHER GOING?! (I’m kidding, obviously. I was slightly disappointed, but it was far from being the biggest disappointment of the trip (that was not buying cheese in Gouda), and I got over it pretty quickly.)

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Though the Rijksmuseum no longer hosts an I amsterdam sign, it does still house oodles of artwork from Dutch masters. I’ll be honest with you guys: I know even less about art than I know about European history, and that makes the experience of visiting an art museum something that is mostly wasted on me. I don’t “get it” and therefore don’t appreciate it as much as I’m suspect I’m supposed to. Like, I couldΒ not comprehend why everyone is so into Vermeer’s The Milkmaid, when there were plenty of other Vermeer paintings right next to The Milkmaid that looked just as good to me as The Milkmaid did. I’m sure there’s a reason why The Milkmaid is so important, but I don’t know it or understand it, so instead of appreciating The Milkmaid, I was mostly just annoyed at how hard it was to see this painting I was supposed to be very interested in seeing because…the museum told me I was supposed to be interested in seeing it?

Anyway, the point of all that is to say that I’m neither educated nor interested in art in general enough to fully appreciate something like the Rijksmuseum. If I were to go back to Amsterdam, I’d rather go to the Van Gogh Museum, because I actually am interested in Van Gogh and his paintings. If you’re more cultured than I am, you’ll probably enjoy the Rijksmuseum a lot more than I did. We did go to the special exhibit, All the Rembrandts, featuring a ton of Rembrandt’s work. That was cool to see.

We got dinner at Heinekenhoek after the Rijksmuseum, where I had my first and only Heineken of the trip. We had seen bitterballen on menus all over the country, so we decided to try those at dinner that night, and I will say that’s the one Dutch food I definitely don’t need to have again. I’d seen them translated on menus as meatballs, and that’s accurate, in the sense that it was meat in a spherical shape, but they were NOT at ALL like the meatballs I’m used to. The best way I can describe them is “deep fried warm meat pudding,” and if you think that sounds unappetizing, you are correct! You can find a recipe here for a better description of what they’re like from a person who enjoys them, but they were 100 percent not my cup of tea. (That being said, I’ll happily eat pickled herring, another Dutch food that skeeves some people (i.e.: my travel buddy) out. Everyone has their own tastes!)

And that’s that! Eleven days of European travel. While it felt like a once-in-a-lifetime trip, I very much hope it wasn’t. I’ve been back in the U.S. for almost a full month now, and I still wish every day that I could be back in Europe. I only saw a very small slice of the continent, but I absolutely fell in love and sincerely hope that I’ll have the chance to go back some day.

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AMSTERDAM SUMMARY

Accommodations

Food

Sights Seen

  • Nine Little Streets shopping district
  • Amsterdam Centraal
  • Damrak
  • Beurs van Berlage
  • Dam Square
  • Royal Palace
  • Nieuwe Kerk
  • Kalverstraat
  • De Papegaai
  • Amsterdam Museum
  • Amsterdam Gallery
  • Begijnhof
  • English Reformed Church
  • Spui
  • P.C.J. Hajenius
  • Munttoren
  • Bloemenmarkt
  • Koningsplein
  • Leidsestraat
  • Leidesplein
  • Anne Frank House
  • Canal tour (Flagship Amsterdam)
  • Rijksmuseum