Last Minute Preparations

Decisions are exhausting. That might be one reason some people choose not to travel: there are endless decisions. We have made most of ours, including when to go, where to stay and what to do. But with 1 day and 18 hours left before we leave, there are still several important decisions to be made.

Perhaps the most important decision to be made is in a category I will call Trip Electronics. This category has become more complex over the years, but it is especially complex on this trip since we will be hiking for 4 days and will be separated from the majority of our luggage (not to mention electricity) and will have with us only what we decide to carry.

All day today I had to resist the urge to purchase a third camera to take on the Trek. And while I am usually dependent on a laptop for photos, GPS, blogging, email, etc., this time we are trying out the minimalist approach and determining if we can use the iPad for all of the above.

This blog post is coming to you from the iPad. Today I bought a camera conversion kit and loaded photos straight from my camera to the iPad so I can test that combination to see if it is adequate for the trip.

Here are three pictures from a recent training hike on South Mountain with my friends Cindy and Lesley, and one picture featuring some last minute bonding between John and Penny.

What do you think? Adequate?

Cindy and Lesley
Trish and Cindy at the Top.
Blue Sky Cactus.
Who Spoiled the Vizsla?

Day 5 Castlenaud et Marqueyssac

This morning John and I had a little jog along the Dordogne.  We were just a little tired from our longer, hillier run the day before. So we strolled out into the fog, and ran towards the canoe put-in area. Then we went to the Patisserie and bought an apple tart. We had breakfast on the terrace again—forest strawberries, white peaches, goat cheese, and farm fresh eggs.

Le Petit DejeunerThen we walked down to the little market in Beynac—there were lots of nice artisanal cheeses and yummy fruits and vegetables. I bought a head of lettuce and some duck sausage for dinner tonight.

Then we drove only a few km to Castelnaud, where we saw a small medieval village and a large medieval castle. Justin especially liked the catapult display. And guess what we saw inside the castle? Wire-haired Vizslas! I have never seen one up close! The owners were Dutch, so I asked them lots of questions and they let me pet the sweeties. They were 5 years old, brother and sister. They looked just like Penny (skinny, with a white spot on the chest) and Rooster (a little heavier with yellow eyes) but with mustaches! So funny. And they were very friendly and playful just like our little ones.

Wirelhaired Viszlas

For lunch, John and I stopped near the river and had a smoked salmon and white asparagus salad and roasted chicken with pommes frites. When we got home the Hinckleys had just arrived, and were eating goat cheese, wild boar sausage, fresh apricots, forest strawberries. and bread. John and I got into our swimsuits and we walked down to the river for a swim. The water was refreshing, quite brisk! And the current was strong. Later today we’re going to our second castle at Marqueyssac, and then we’ll make some dinner chez nous. I’m kind of tired out today! The weather was really beautiful and the sun was warm.

1 day to go (and why I don’t have children)

Rooster and Penny in Jeff and Autumn's Yard

As many of you know, my decision not to have children stems from several ideologies: political, environmental, philosophical. But I’ve just bumped up into another one: emotional! I had to drop off my “children” today to Autumn and Jeff’s. And while I know they will be so well taken care of, and I’m so lucky to have friends who are willing to help facilitate me having a completely selfish and decadent get-away, I just feel like I’m falling apart. Can you imagine if my children were human and not canine? Can you say breakdown?

Autumn and Pups

My mother used to say to me that she wished I would have children just so I would know how deeply she loved me. Well, Mom, Rooster and Penny are all it took. It’s hard to believe we will be leaving tomorrow morning. I can hardly picture being in a new place and out of this heat, and away from my pups!

Dinner Tonight

I’m so happy to make dinner tonight that I wanted to share it with you. This dinner makes me so happy in all kinds of ways–happy to have fresh, nutritious food, happy to be with a man I love, happy to have a comfortable kitchen, happy to have puppies to shoo away from that comfortable kitchen. I’m also happy that we have this wonderful summer routine and partnership. Here’s how we do it.

John grills. We buy whatever protein is fresh–fish, chicken, beef. Tonight  it is our favorite locally raised chicken from RedBird. John wraps it in saran wrap and pounds it out so it is plenty tender and thin enough to cook evenly on the grill. He seasons it with salt, pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder, then he disappears outside.

While he braves the heat, I make the sides. My salad always has a fruit, a cheese, and a nut. Tonight it is blueberries, Roquefort, and pecans. I mix it with a little White Balsamic vinegar and it’s ready to go. The cheese and nuts are rich enough that any other oil or fat would be overkill.

Then I chop some tomatoes (from the garden if we have them) and add some basil (from the garden–we always have some), some Balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss and enjoy.

Then we always add an additional veg. Tonight I sauteed some baby portobellas in a pat of butter. Real butter–not the fake stuff. When used sparingly it won’t kill the diet, and it adds a flavor that cannot be replicated.

I hope you all had a good meal tonight too. I wish we could have shared it together.

Running Again

I have 3.5 weeks before the trip, and I better hunker down and get some tone back becasue we’ll be taking lots of pics!  I have had too much rest and too much butter pecan ice cream. So I’m back in the training zone. I love to do 2 runs, 2 swims, 2 bikes, 2 lift sessions, and 2 yoga sessions each week. That’s a perfect week for me exercise wise. It’s why I prefer triathlons over marathons. All that running hurts my feet! I like to mix it up a bit. This morning I tried to get out of the house without the pups, but they gave me that look! You know the one. So I leashed them up and attached them to my hipster Camelback. They really do drop my pace from about a 9:30 to a 9:15 because they like to run fast. Here are the details of the run. This is such an easy trail run to do from the house. Just out the door, and up to the Water Tanks. There’s a trail marker at exactly 1.5 miles, so I make sure I touch it before I turn around. I can’t believe what a blessing it is to live next to this park. I think I’d go a little bonkers if we didn’t have that beautiful mountain just steps away. That was one smart move we made, anyway, getting this house next to South Mountain.

My Park

The Driving and The Lodging

I have been very slow at starting this blog, which makes me sad because my mom would have loved reading it. Four days before she died she sent me an email asking about our trip and I didn’t have many answers because I was still struggling to find time to put details together. Now I have the driving and the lodging figured out, but I still need to choose lots of activities and restaurants. That is the more fun part, I think, since it involves fewer calculations and fewer hard decisions. To see all the details so far, including the hotels and houses, click here.

Planning this trip makes me really appreciate my mother because when she took me to Europe when I was 16 she had to do all of this work through phone and mail. I can’t imagine trying to plan this without the internet and email. Mom worked really hard to make that trip special and it obviously had a big impact on me because I still have the travel bug. Thank you Mommy!

John and I go to a new country every year, and though I lived in France during college I never did get to Spain. That’s lucky for us because when our friends Kirk and Corinne called and said “We rented a house in France, come join us,” our answer was a big yes! Kirk and Corinne are the same friends who called us in 2000 and said, “We’re going to China, want to come?”  That was another big yes! So the four of us went to China, and Kirk and Corinne fell in love and 9 years later we’ll be vacationing in France with them and their two children Justin and Emma.

Here's the house Kirk and Corinne rented.
Here's the house Kirk and Corinne rented.

I’m really looking forward to this trip. It will be wonderful to spend time with friends, show John some of my favorite places in France (Carcassone and Sete), see the second to last stage of the Tour de France, and explore brand new territory in Spain. Our lodging is a mix of 5 hotels, 2 house rentals, and a 4 night package we purchased from Luxury Link. We are spending 10 nights in France and 7 nights in Spain.

I’m very sad that because of the trip I will be missing my Aunt Lynn’s 80th birthday party on July 17. But as a lifetime lover of travel herself, she promises me she forgives me. Plus I’ll be going to see her in Minnesota on her actual 80th birthday August 21, and I’ll bring plenty of pictures so she can see my adventures. I’ll be thinking of you Auntie Lynn!

Now. I still have a lot to do today. Boy it’s hard to balance a busy life. We got the dogs walked, the chores done (oops–there’s laundry to fold still) and soon John will start grilling his amazing Tequila-Lime shrimp. I still need to write a poem for my online Poetry Group (that’s due tomorrow at noon) and I need to write a piece for my Graduate course in Creative Nonfiction (that’s due Tuesday at 6pm). I need to answer a few student emails too. I better log off before the whole day passes me by.

John’s Tequila Lime Shrimp

1 lb Big Shrimp
1 lime
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tequila
3 garlic cloves
cayenne pepper

Zest the lime, then squeeze it. Place the lime zest and juice, plus all the other ingredients in a ziplock bag in the fridge for about 2 hours. Grill in a grill-basket just until pink. Don’t overcook ‘dem Shrimps or they’ll be tough.

AM Hike

Egg Pie and FruitI’ve been a sloth for a while now–since my mother died on June 2. John went to the grocery store and came home with all my favorites: cherries, raspberries, strawberries. Later I found that he had also brought home a gallon of butter pecan ice cream, and somehow that’s where my attention went. I have had about a half cup of it each day, and when I eat it I think “I am doing something good for myself because I’m letting go a little.” But when the ice cream is gone, I’ll go back to fruits and veggies, which will feel good too.

Our friends Autumn and Jeff are coming over for a hike today. When folks found out mom had passed they all asked what they could do. “I want to see you!” I told them. Now more than ever I want to spend time with my friends. So Jeff and Autumn are coming and we’re going to hike up to the top of South Mountain, and it will be so nice to see them and get a big fat hug. I’m going to make my egg pie. It’s really simple and here’s the recipe:

1 potato
1 red pepper
1 container pre-sliced mushrooms
1 bunch asparagus
1 onion
18 eggs
1/2 cup asiago cheese

Slice the potato into thin rounds (I use my Cuisinart). Layer them in a lasagna pan to form the crust. Pre-bake the potatoes at 350 while you chop veg. Mix the 18 eggs well (I use the Cuisinart to mix eggs since it makes em fluffy) and put them in a big bowl with the cheese and chopped veg. There will be a lot of veg (it’s good for you). Salt and pepper the mixture, pour over the potatoes, and bake until firm.