On a Saturday in January

Yesterday started out as a cold, slightly breezy morning.  After waking early enough for a bowl of cereal, Special K Cinnamon Pecan if you must know (a crunchy mix of rice and wheat flakes, sprinkled with cinnamon and pecans), and a cup of coffee (Starbucks, Italian Roast), I dressed for a morning run.  The first challenge on a cold morning such as this is to convince yourself to leave that warm comfortable bed, knowing you will be facing sub-freezing temperatures.  The second challenge is to pick the right combination of layers so you are warm enough at the start, but not overheated after the first mile.  Donning long tights, an undershirt I usually use for cycling, a long-sleeve thickly woven running top, a knit cap, and cheap knit gloves, I headed out the back door.

About sixteen degrees, a bit of snow on the leaves.

About sixteen degrees, a bit of snow on the leaves.

Checking the thermometer, I saw it was about 16 degrees, but the sun was starting to rise, and with it the temperature.  I pulled my backpack over my shoulders and headed out for my run, the pack carrying clothing for a change once the run was over.  I did a nice warmup 2 mile run to my friend Brandon’s house.  It was still quite cold, though, and my fingers, the parts I could feel, were stinging inside my gloves.  But, the rest of me felt comfortable.  Only an inch or two of snow had fallen the night before, and it was light enough that a few folks were out early sweeping it off their sidewalks with a broom rather than shoveling.  The street was patchy with spots of snow and ice, but mostly clear.

Meeting up with Brandon, I could see he had the same idea about dressing.  Don’t dress too heavy, since one will warm up and start to sweat no matter how cold.  I dropped my backpack in his living room.

Brandon, ready to run our usual Saturday loop.

Brandon, ready to run our usual Saturday loop.

We started our run, heading down to the Cooper River, for a loop around the park.  The breeze was still in our faces, and it did sting, but as we got into the run, we warmed up.  Sharing our own news of the week, discussing philosophical issues, talking about current events, with the occasional mention of beer, we proceeded around the park, staying on the road rather than the path, which was snow covered.

The Cooper Yacht Club, with the snow covered boats overlooking a snow covered frozen river.

The Cooper Yacht Club, with the snow covered boats overlooking a snow covered frozen river.

The sun still hadn’t quite made it over the trees yet, so we were still running in the shadows, but the air felt crisp and clean.  I thought about the reports of the thick smog in Beijing, glad we could run where the air is clean.

Cooper River Boat House on a snowy January morning.

Cooper River Boat House on a snowy January morning.

Across the Cooper River, frozen, and with a layer of snow atop the ice, the Cooper River Boat House stood out, with no rowers planning a workout on the river today.  The rowing machines indoors will, no doubt, get used this day.  We continued our run around the river, over the newly constructed pedestrian bridge along Route 130, to the other side.  We’ve heard this bridge is temporary, but the consensus is we, being the runners who use it, rather like it and hope it achieves permanent status.  Farther down the run, we got into a trail in the woods.  We seem to have been the first to come this way this morning, judging by our tracks.

Tracks in the woods on a snowy day.

Tracks in the woods on a snowy day.

The geese, whose original home as I understand it is Canada, but who have made a permanent home of South Jersey, were closely gathered in the remaining unfrozen water, jostling for position and making a racket.

Geese in the remaining unfrozen water.

Geese in the remaining unfrozen water.

The last part of the run heads back up a hill to the streets of Brandon’s neighborhood.  The sun had finally come out.  My glasses had taken on their usual fog, my hat was moist with sweat, and it was a good run of seven miles.  We headed indoors for a cup of tea (Taylor’s of Harrowgate, breakfast tea).


Rudolph’s Red Nose Ale, the tasting

For those of you following my blog, you may be aware I put together a Christmas Ale I named “Rudolph’s Red Nose Ale“.  This was a play on words, since I designed it to be a Christmas spiced ale, but with a red tint and styled after Belgian Christmas ales.  It’s not a typical Belgian Red Ale, in that it is not aged in wood, and so doesn’t have the sour characteristic of that style, but it comes fairly close.  The red color comes from a certain type of “crystal” malt, Caramel 80, which gives the beer a slightly sweet flavor and brick red color.  The Belgian Abbey yeast was used to give it a fruity flavor, not too pronounced, but not requiring the actual addition of fruit.  The hops were meant to be in the background, providing bitterness and a bit of aromatic hop flavor, but this is a malty brew and so not meant to taste hoppy like an IPA.  So starting from this:


Partial Mash for Rudolph’s Red Nose Ale

We made it to this:

A Bottle of Rudolph's Red Nose Ale

A Bottle of Rudolph’s Red Nose Ale

The label was cleverly created by my daughter Katie, who seems to have a knack for design.

In the glass:

Glass of Rudolph's Red Nose Ale

Glass of Rudolph’s Red Nose Ale

The pour was very nice, a bit underwhelming for the head, which was thinner than I was expecting.  The final alcohol content was 7.35 % ABV, which is around where I was shooting, and appropriate for a Christmas Ale meant to dull the abrasive edges of family get-togethers.  It has a nice slightly fruity and slightly sweet taste, and the spices are also there but in the background.  Reading further, I could have added spices to the secondary fermentation to make them more pronounced, but alas, didn’t think of this or know I could until after it was already bottled.  It’s part of the learning process.  I like the way the reddish hue comes through.

It got a true test on New Year’s Eve.  A group of about fifteen from my running club went for a late afternoon run, then gathered at my house for a pre-New Year’s Eve celebration.  We had a real fire going in the fireplace, and a warm spinach and feta dip accompanied by thin slices of crusty french bread.  There were clementine oranges and some Manchego cheese.  Many of the gathered runners sampled the Rudolph’s, and reports from this discerning crowd were very favorable.

So now I have a great brew to keep me warm the next couple of months, while I come up with a recipe for a spring beer.


Resolutions versus Goals

Yes, 2013 has arrived, the ball in Times Square with a crystal remembrance of Dick Clark has dropped, and now what?  Did something change?  Have we arrived in a new time and place?  Not from what I’ve been reading in the press, and yes, I am one of those who still reads a newspaper.  I admit to reading a lot of it online, but still get the old fashioned paper delivered to my house.  Today, that feels like such an anachronism.  So, perhaps that is something that has changed.  From what I have read and listened to on TV, and also read in blogs, the latest message for the new year is that “I don’t make resolutions, I make goals”.  TV personalities have stated this as if they made up the phrase, although it has been everywhere of late.  What is the difference, and can one, or should one, have both?

From reading about the history of resolutions, it appears the first record of this practice was from the Babylonians, who celebrated the start of the new year around the time of the vernal equinox.  They had an eleven day celebration, and promised to return borrowed goods and repay debts.  The Romans moved the celebration of the new year to January 1, which was to honor the god Janus, whose two faces looked backwards and forwards and symbolized remembering the past but looking forward to the future.  Over time, resolutions have taken on religious and personal health themes, betterment of mankind and other noble features, but generally are intended to make things better in the new year, an erasing of the errors of the past.  A resolution starts at the time it is made.  We all know the most common resolutions.  Lose weight, go to the gym regularly, stop smoking, cut back on drinking, have better study habits, be more attentive to others, learn a new language, laugh more, stress less, attend church regularly, and one which is almost always successful, stop making resolutions.

It is well known that resolutions frequently are not kept.  This is  where goals come in to play.  Goals go hand in hand with resolutions.  If your resolution is to lose weight, set simple, attainable goals which can be kept.  For example: ” I resolve to lose weight, and I will lose one pound in two weeks”.  There!  Not too hard, but not insignificant.  Then you can build on your successes as they come.  Didn’t make your goal?  Not to fear, reset it and keep going.  If you made your goal, picture it going forward for twelve more weeks.  At a pound every two weeks, that amounts to six pounds.

But keeping resolutions is so difficult because we like the ruts we fall into.  The comfort of an extra helping of mac and cheese.  The calming effect of the draw on the cigarette.  The buzz from the second beer.  It takes, yes, resolve, to keep a resolution.

While the recidivism rate for new year’s resolutions is spectacularly high, it is definitely worth trying.  Otherwise, we wind up living exactly the same life year after year.  The calendar may as well have only months, no years listed.  How do we increase the chance that we will keep our resolutions?  One way is to inform your family or close friends of your resolution.  Then, you know they will be watching to see if you meant what you said.  This can backfire, though, if you didn’t really mean what you said, it just sounded good, and now your family is harping on you to put down the Xbox controller and go out for a jog.  Another method is to share a resolution with a group.  The group dynamic can work very well since everyone is working towards the same goals.  For something like learning a new language, this might mean joining a group lesson.  Even if you are the worst student in the group, you are going to learn something.

This leads nicely into running, and why it is good to join a running club.  It certainly is easy to go out and run by yourself.  It takes little in the way of equipment, you can set your time to run whenever you wish, and you are not beholden to someone else’s pace, schedule, or tendency to argue politics while running.  But a running club gives much more than it takes.  First, you are able to meet like-minded people with very similar goals in mind.  You will be introduced to activities you may not have thought you could do, such as running a half marathon, or doing a trail run.  Runners in my club are generally quite upbeat individuals with lots of personal goals in mind.  Once you feel part of the group, which really only takes being willing to show up, you will get a lot of encouragement from the other runners who will smile on your successes and share their own stories of setbacks.  You will have access to meetings where training plans are shared and speakers come to talk about coaching, stretching, yoga, racing experiences, avoiding injuries, and other topics.  You may find yourself taking on more challenging goals as you meet the first few easier ones, which will lead to other resolutions being met, such as weight loss, getting fit, and lessening the stress in your life.  You are not likely to learn a foreign language or attend church more regularly, if those are your resolutions, so those will need to be addressed in another forum.

I feel making resolutions is a good thing, and setting goals makes resolutions happen.  If one is not successful at keeping a resolution, here’s a tip:  many cultures around the world celebrate the new year at different times than January 1.  So, there are plenty of opportunities to re-declare resolutions throughout the year.  My personal resolutions I am willing to share with my close friends reading this blog.  I would like to eat more nutritiously, primarily by making meals from scratch rather than buying anything pre-processed, with the exception of Greek yogurt, which I think is pretty healthy.  I already started, by making pasta from scratch with my daughter the week after Christmas.  It was fun, was a bit of hard work, but tasted great.  I also resolve to read the books piling up on my bedside table, most of which I’ve started but not gotten very far into.  And finally, in the tradition of the Babylonians, I’m going to return books I borrowed from a friend about a year ago and are still on my shelf.


Uncorking Croatia



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