29 January 2014

Icepocalypse 2014

Not one to make fun of my fellow Houstonians, but I feel that, sometimes, we tend to overreact a wee bit to certain situations.  We can handle hurricanes, storms, tornadoes, droughts, fire ants with some aplomb (ooh, one of them 5 dollar words).  However, when it comes to colder temps, we have a tendency to go into the tend to an apocalyptic, end of the world mode.  With the onset of the polar vortex down south, we have seen our temps dip into, to quote local newscasters, a "frigid, arctic blast".  Last Friday, there was a full on panic over the icy road conditions and winter weather warning that had a lot of businesses and schools closed.  I had planned to take off Friday morning for a dentist appointment and arose to icy roads and freezing temps.  Work had asked everyone to delay the start of the day until 1:00 but I headed in at 1030 (roads were not that bad).  A number of the freeways and overpasses were closed because of icing.  A lot of people made it in without any problems.  And this was because the temps got down to a brutal 30 degrees.  

This week, it was round 2. Tuesday's forecast was for rain/sleet/snow with temps getting as low as, dare I say it?, 30 degrees.  Local weather forecast was pretty much doom and gloom (Oh God, Oh God, We're gonna die!).  Given the weather reports and projections for icy conditions, people went into full on apocalypse mode.  All of the area schools closed.  Most businesses closed.  City was put on emergency standby.  The hoard (12) of trucks were dispatched to toss chat rock on the roadways (we don't do salt down here).  Everyone was prepared for the end of the world.  My office had prepped everyone not to come in until 1:00 pm like earlier to allow the roads to clear.  So, when we awoke to temps still around 40 degrees, we were told to come in.  For all the projections of doom, the weather never really got extreme.  No way this can compare to some of the conditions that you guys are experiencing now.  

Now, I am no expert, but I have to admit that I have lived in colder climes during my life.  I spent more than a few years in my youth in New Jersey (I recall many Jersey winters plowing dad's driveway with the snow blower).  Later on, I spent several years in Germany with the Army, so I am not totally immune to cold weather conditions.  I realize that we don't want to risk people's safety for some minor goal or project, but it seems that we sometimes jump the gun on emergency response.  A lot of people on the net seem to be having fun with the Houston Icepocalypse 2014:  



Good thing this Icepocalypse ended quickly.  Otherwise, we might have had to resort to cannibalism.  

27 January 2014

Marathon post mortem

One week later and I am still paying for my run.  A twinge here, sore calf there, stiff joints.  I find the older I get, the longer it takes to get back to some sense of normal afterwards.  Even now my knees are making me pay for last weekend's outing.  

Whenever I do this run, a lot of things running through my head.  With 2.5 hours of running, I usually wind up with lots of interesting nuggets for blog fodder, but not enough for a full blog theme.  Sort of a mish-mash of comments/observations from the run.  
  • Agony of da feet (pain mitigation) - every time I do this run, I always tend to test the boundaries of pain.  One year it was my calfs, one year it was chafing of certain body parts, one year it was butt cramps, one year it was a charlie horse.  This year it was a back spasm. Never had that one before. Was able to walk it off, but it hurt like hell for a while.  I've got to admit that, this being my 6th rodeo, I anticipated the worse.  I know what works, what doesn't.  This time I pre-loaded the system (Advil) before the run to help mitigate the eventual soreness.  I mentioned last year discovering kinesthetic tape - sort of a duct tape for athletes to prevent injuries.  This is flexible tape you can use for injuries/muscles to prevent strain.  I tried it out last year and it seemed to make a small difference.  This year I taped my knees in advance and, despite what my doctor said, it seemed to help.  My knees were the one part of that really didn't hurt afterwards.  I know it may be voodoo healing, but if it works, why question it?  On top of that, I planned ahead and booked an hour on the massage table after the run just to work out the kinks.  That really made a difference in my post run recovery.  Almost felt human afterwards.   
  • Recovery - I fully expected to be all stove up after the run, given the lack of preparation for this year's run, so I took Monday off to allow time to recover.  Turns out, with massage, I was doing pretty good and could have gone in, but, given my vacation stockpile, I decided to burn it anyway.  Took advantage of the day off to finally go see the Hobbit movie while it was in the theater.    
  • Trail food - I have my system.  I try to carb load before the race, but, during the race is altogether a different equation.  I always buy some energy gels/gu/shots for the run.  These are things you can eat/drink before & during the run to give you a shot of energy during the run.  I am not sure if they really helped, but I did get some benefit from them.  I kept eating the energy gu packs every 30 minutes or so.  They are like concentrated pudding packs and easy to digest while running.  They seemed to help, to a point.  The energy gels shots are like over sized concentrated gummy bears loaded with quick energy.  As Abby noted, some people may think they taste nasty and I would not disagree, but they did seem to keep me focused, so I cannot complain (too much).  
  • Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink - After 6 years of doing this shtick, I've learned what works for me and what doesn't.  Like hydration - along the course, there are multiple points to allow you to rehydrate/refuel.  The first one you come across is the Gatorade stations followed by water stations about 50 yards later.  I learned a long time ago that I cannot handle my Gatorade while running.  Something about it just "sits there" when I drink it on the run.  Does not help.  When running, stick to plain old water to stay hydrated.  Of course, too much water and you will be seeking the nearest porta potty along the route.      
  • Weather - I cannot help but think how lucky we were this year.  I've run in the freezing cold, in relative heat, or, like last year, in a downpour.  Really does a number to your pace times.  This year was picture perfect.  Given the recent winter weather chaos ongoing, I think we really lucked this year.  This year's weather could fool someone into thinking that they could pull this off as an annual event.   
  • Road signs - I always try to keep my eyes and ears open during the run.  Most of the time, I zone out with my iPod and listen to the running playlist I have organized.  I tend to focus inward and miss some of the signs and hoopla on the sidelines.  I am always amazed/impressed with the amount of support we get along the route.  Groups, families, individuals.  People turn out in droves.  The crazier the group, the funnier the signs.  Some of the ones that I recall from this year that caught my eye:
    • Worse. Parade. Ever.
    • Run like there's a zombie after you
    • Blisters are for wussies.  
    • Who needs toenails?
    • And I thought that NASCAR was boring.
  • Side show - Along with the various signs and music along the route, there a number of groups that organize as support to encourage runners.  From handing out oranges and bananas and such, to giving out sticks of Vaseline, hula dancers to simply doing high fives to runners, all seemed to help make it run a bit easier.  This year I passed by one tent giving out cups of beer from the local brewer and I even passed one group giving out samples of bacon.  Almost bit on that one but I wasn't sure what beer and bacon would do to the stomach at that point.  
All in all, I have no real complaints about this year's run.  Yea, I should have been better prepared, but I was able to pull another rabbit out of the hat and make it across the finish line upright.  Thanks for everyone's support!  Who knows, I might be stupid enough to do it one more time.  After all, 7 is a lucky number, right?  

24 January 2014

6 years later and 13.1 miles down the road

Another medal, another finisher’s shirt. 

After 6 runs, I would think that I have seen it all.  Same distance, same pre-race build up, same general course, same blisters, same aches, same bands playing along the route, same Elvises, same funny signs along the route, same sprint to the finish line, same sore muscles, post-race euphoria.  But each year, there is something new, something different.  The first year I signed up because it was on my bucket list.  I've always had it in the back of my mind to run a marathon and, a year after my cancer surgery, I decided that life was too short to spend it on the sidelines.  When it came time to sign up, I didn't think I had the cojones to pull off a full 26.2 miles, so I went for the easier option of 13.1.  I ran/survived my first one sporting a dislocated shoulder, so I guess I achieved my goal.  The first one was personal – to say I did it.  The second one was just to prove it wasn't a fluke (and see if I could do better).  The third one was more of a tradition/rite of passage.  Number 4 was to motivate me for a better course time.  The 5th one was because, well, I just couldn't walk away with just 4. 

So now we come to number 6.  I am not really sure of the motivation for this one.  Part pride, part tradition, part inspiration, part stupidity.  I have always said that this was my annual tribute to being alive.  It is purely coincidence that it was 6 years ago today that I went in for my little procedure for prostate cancer.  To me, this run is sort of a spiritual reminder (aka kick in the butt) of how lucky I was to have a second shot at life.  No matter how much I bitch & moan, how hot or cold, wet or dry, steep or rough the course, cramps & blisters, I always try to remind myself of that.  All the little inspirational expressions I keep posting are just meant to inspire. 

Either you RUN the day or the day RUNS you.

Sunday’s run was pretty darned near perfect.  I really cannot complain.  Really.  Weather was awesome.  You couldn't have paid for better conditions.  Clear skies, cool temps,  dry pavement, FULL Moon.  WAY better than last year.  Standing  downtown in the predawn light (ala 0630) with 24,999 other loonies runners was a pretty amazing experience.  No matter how much I train (or not  train),  it is always a thrill to be standing on the start line awaiting the starting cannon.  Like each of the past years, waiting for the start puts me on the edge.  A whole mob of runners crowded into several downtown streets, all amped up and getting their game faces on.  Pretty intense in the corral (sort of like cattle waiting for a stampede).  One last chance to hit the porta potties before the starting gun. 

There will be days I don't know if I can do a Half-Marathon. There will be a lifetime knowing I have. 

I made it downtown insanely early.  Got my same parking spot right next to the convention hall and starting line.  I do feel I probably jumped the gun a wee bit early since I got on the lot a bit before 0400, but the lot was full by 0430 and I had a chance to relax stretch before the race. 

Will run for Beer/Wine/Scotch

With those kinds of temps/conditions, I chose to go light on the gear.  Shorts, shirt, running sleeves.  Less to worry about during the run.  I loaded up my SPIBELT with the various energy gels/shots, strapped on the iPod Nano, queued up the running music playlist, and waited my turn in the C Corral with for our time to start.    

I took the road less traveled by, now where the heck am I?

I won't bore everyone with a mile-by-mile report, but I will try to boil it down to the high points.  For most of the course, it was a totally different route.  The old route took us over a long bridge into the Heights area of Houston.  A very old section of town with an eclectic array of old, smaller shotgun houses.  This new route took us through the commercial district before turning into the more upscale neighborhoods.  Lots of smaller pubs, bars and restaurants.  As usual, with ~25,000 runners, it takes some time to get across the start line after the cannon goes off.  From my position in the pack, I crossed the starting line around 12 minutes after the official start.  Always helps to note your actual start time against the course time. 

That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.

This one hurt more than I remember.  I was a bit feeling stiff for the first mile before the knees/legs started to loosen up.  I did ok for the first hour.  Decent pace, wasn't pushing it too hard.  Got to see my parents and brother around mile 6.  Was nice of them to fight the traffic/crowds to cheer me on.  After the halfway mark, I started to feel my age.  First it was my right foot with some stabbing pain (thought I had stepped on something) but I walked it off.  Then my right calf started complaining.  As long as I kept moving forward, I felt ok.  Between 8 & 9 miles, I got a lower back spasm (that one hurt) but I was able to walk that one off as well.  At some point after 11, the inner calf started cramping.  Last mile was more of a run/walk/run/walk.  Gathered enough juice to finish up the last 1/4 mile running across the finish line.  As usual, crossing that finish line is a real boost to the ego.  A real sense of accomplishment, achievement.  I would complain about my minor aches and pains but then I look around me to see others who have way more to challenges that make mine seem trivia.  One woman was running this year's half had lost her leg to cancer (was using with a prosthetic blade device).  Three years back, I recall running with a blind Army Captain (he had spotters running alongside him).  This year, I ran part of the course alongside of Clutch.
Clutch is the mascot for our basketball team.  The guy who is Clutch actually ran the 1/2 marathon in full costume to build support for Organ Donations (Donate Life Texas).  As much as I whine about my aches and plains, imagine running a half with an extra 20 pounds of costume.

Of course, dressing up in costume for the run is nothing new.   

And there is always a sideshow along the route 

One more run in the bag.  Not sure if I will go for  number 7.  I am just going to bask in the achievement and go hit the hot tub.      

19 January 2014

Run for the Aged

Post Half Marathon report 2014

Sorry to disappoint everyone but I didn't croak on the course today.  Despite my serious lack of training and motivation, I managed to limp across the finish line this morning without too much drama or the assistance of the local EMS.  

I was able to wrap it up with a 2:33 time (that translates into a 11:42 pace for those serious runners out there).  Not a PR (personal record), but not my worst time.  Within the window of expectation.  Kinda pisses me off to think how I might have done better if I had been more serious about my training.  Despite my lack of training, I made it across the finish line with a decent time.  

The weather was obscenely incredible.  Temps at the start were around 55, clear skies, full moon, light wind.  You could't pay for better conditions.  

I will regale everyone with the course report later (if interested) but, for now, I am uber sore.  This one had a smorgasbord of different ailments/pains to accompany the run.  Hot spots on the feet.  Leg cramps around mile 7.  Back spasm between miles 8 - 9.  Groin pull around mile 10.  Spent the last 2.5 miles running/limping my way to the end line.  Not much left in the tank at the end, but I did manage to stumble across the finish line with some sense of dignity, despite feeling the old joints.  #6 in the bag.  Not sure if I have a seventh one in me.  

I got a massage afterwards that helped take the edge off.  It may be the scotch talking, but I have to admit, I am feeling all of 56++ right now.  

18 January 2014

Begin with the end in mind

In deference to Steven Covey, whenever I do this run, I always try to focus upon the objective/goal.  Tomorrow (under 24 hours to go), my primary objective will be this:  

Crossing it upright (and still running) would be nice.  

The weather forecast is pretty good:  Sunny, minimal wind. 48 at start time, 68 by the afternoon.  Way better than last year's splashfest.  
Mostly Sunny

Picked up my packet yesterday at the pre-race Health expo.  Picked up another shirt, bib, all sorts of swag.  

This is the first time I didn't buy any new gear/clothes.  I typically get a new set of shorts or shirt or running socks or sleeves, but this year I decided I really didn't need anything new.  My shoes are basically brand new (ASIC Nimbus 14s) at last year's expo but haven't really worn them except for the last month.  Been using my '13s all year and they are still in decent shape.  I did pick up an assortment of energy food/junk.  Gel packs, energy bars, power shots.  These are supposed to give you a boost of energy during the race - I cannot really attest that they work, maybe it's part psychological, but they do work for me a little bit, and, if that is what it takes to make it to the end line, so be it.    

Now I am organizing myself for an early am start.  I plan to head downtown at the crack of early.  I would love to do what Shadowrun did before her run last year - spend the night at a local hotel next to the course but a) I live only 25 minutes away and b) I am too cheap to spring for a downtown hotel ($$$).  Besides, I am hoping to score the same sweet spot right next to the start line (if I get there early enough).     

Laying out the clothes to wear:  long sleeve shirt or a sleeveless with the running sleeves?  Definitely no long pants this year.  Gloves or no?  I am charging up the iPod and trying to organize the music selection - I am trying to build a running playlist.  Something with a lot of good high energy.  

My strategy for tomorrow is simple:  
  • Show up early, stay loose, try to finish before dark.
  • Try not collapse on the course (considered bad form).
  • Start out slow and then back off.
  • Keep moving forward - even if I slow to a crawl, I always keep moving.  It's when I stop is when things start to stiffen up.    
  • Employ Abby's strategy:   One foot in front of the other, repeat! (I've been doing it all wrong the past runs!
And a few more sayings I spotted at the Expo:


16 January 2014

Prep work

3 days.  3 short, busy days.  I'm in full on questioning my resolve mode now - I keep pondering if it is too late to back out.  I am trying to psych myself up for this weekend's fun run.  I am laying out my strategy and getting things in order for an early start on Sunday and a lot of things are going through my head now:
  • Should I keep doing the short runs during lunch or lay off to rest up for the run?  I tend to lay off a few days prior to the run so as not to strain anything but my lack of prep this year has me thinking I need to keep up the runs if not for anything but to keep the old joints limber.
  • What's the weather going to be?  Normally, I don't start watching the weather until the week of the run.  Forecast is too unpredictable several days out.  This weekend is supposed to be clear and lukewarm (start out around 52 and it could get as high as 70 by the afternoon).  Those temps actually may cause some people problems with overheating.  
  • What to wear?  See the weather report.  I could do I normally dress in layers.  If it is chilly, I will have gloves, longsleeve shirt, running pants, jacket/sweatshirt (all disposable).  Per the race policy, any clothing that is tossed aside along the course is collected and cleaned and given to the local homeless shelter.  I have an old sweatshirt I picked up at a garage sale last year for a buck that I won't mind tossing.  If you want to keep the clothes, you either carry it the whole run or have someone you can hand it off to along the route.  It is warm, I will go with less clothes (shorts, shirt, shoes).  
  • What to eat?  I try to carb load before the race.  I have sworn off greasy fast foods, red meat, alcohol for a while so to lean out the system, but I haven't been as diligent this year.  The difference will be in the back half of the race - where I seem to lose steam.  
  • Hydrate - drink water, plenty of water. 
  • Course layout - Normally, I don't think twice about the course.  For my past 5 runs, the course has been unchanged.  Same route, same mileage points, same water stops, same porta potties.  This year the course has changed.  They rerouted the course from the start because a bridge was being taken down.  The entire first half is over a different route, through different neighborhoods.  Should be interesting to see the turn out.
  • Where to watch - my parents want to come down to see me run.  I keep telling them it is not a big deal - they will get to watch me run by the point.  I am trying to figure out the logistics of the run for where the best spot would be.  We have settled on mile marker 6 - almost halfway through the course.  Given my anticipated pace and start time, I expect to run past that spot about an hour after the starting gun.  
  • Logistics - where to park, how early to arrive, eat before the race, all of these thoughts are rambling through my head.
  • Post race - I expect to be a wee bit sore after the race so I am debating getting a massage after the race.  Something to work out the kinks/sore muscles afterwards.  I put in for vacation on Monday so I don't have to crawl into the office.      

It is starting to get intersting.  

I am just waiting for the Monday Morning Headline (Houston):  

  • 56 year old out of shape man collapses during the Marathon.  Barely made it past the two mile mark and had to be hauled off the course.  When contacted, his wife stated that "I told the old goat that he was too old for that crap"

14 January 2014

No excuses

Was a pretty good weekend.  The weather turned really nice for most of the weekend with clear skies and cooler temps.  A harbinger of spring, perhaps?  Before you start to put out the lawn furniture and start planting the vinca, you gotta remember where you are at.  This is Texas.  There’s an old saying down here:  If you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes, it’ll change.  I’m pretty sure that saying could apply many other places, but it seems appropriate down here when the morning opens up at 37 degrees and we are capping out at 74 by the afternoon.  But this ain’t my first rodeo and I will wait to start any spring time activities until early March.  

Still was a decent weekend.  Spent most of it with the dogs.  Saturday, I took them to the local Farmer’s Market where our Golden Retrievers Rescue group has a booth set up as part of our public awareness efforts.  We cut a deal with the people who run the market and they give us a spot where we can set up a table and hang out with the dogs.  Our little band of furry misfits tends to draw a crowd with lots of attention, so I think this is a win-win for both us and the Farmer’s Market association.  Regardless of who benefits, the dogs didn’t to mind the attention.  Of course, with most Goldens, any opportunity to get lots of heavy petting is always welcome.  As usual, Claire & Grayson know how to work the crowd.

Sunday I took them to the dog park to “let their hair down”.  I kinda felt guilty about it.  All that time off over the holidays and I got so wrapped up in my chores and projects, I never took them over to the park.  Oh, I did many long walks to our local neighborhood pocket park and they got to run wild, but, to them, the dog park is almost akin to taking your kids to the playground with all sorts of new friends.  Great, clear day for a run at the park, meet new people, roll in the mud.  

The rest of the weekend was just a blur.  Fixing an edger, drop off recyclables, wash the truck, run to the grocery, etc.  I even got in a pair of short runs.  Weather was way too nice not to hit the streets.  Not hard/long runs, just enough to limber up and stretch the legs.  Of course, that won't help me much this weekend.  There is no way am I prepared for my annual pilgrimage to abuse myself on the downtown streets.  Yep.  It's that time of the year again.  Time once again for the Houston Marathon.  Or, in my case, the Half Marathon.  A wonderful opportunity to hit the streets with 40,000+ other crazies in the early dawn light and see how far I can run without puking.   

This will be number 6 for me.    Lord only knows why I am doing this again.  Oh, sure, I have my reasons and a cause, but this year it seems harder to find my motivation.

Each year I sign up in June with the intent of cranking up the training and getting better prepared than the last run.  Each year, I somehow lose steam around November and limp into the holidays with the misguided idea that I can catch up on my training over the holidays.  This year was worse than the last few - I've just not found the spark to keep up with my runs.  I am not sure why but I am just having a hard time finding my mojo for this run.  Yea, I could offer up a couple of excuses, but those would just be just that, excuses.  I am sort of embarrassed to be out on the trail with the rest of the truly dedicated runners with my lack of training.  It doesn't help that this is typically the time just prior to the run when I start to question my resolve.  Too late to cry about it now.  I just need to cowboy up, pop some advil and hit the streets.  I'm sure that my knees will have something to say about it come Monday.  

Some of the inspirational sayings I try to keep in mind :
  • Either you RUN the day or the day RUNS you.
  • There will be days I don't know if I can do a Half-Marathon. There will be a lifetime knowing I have. 
  • I do not run to add days to my life... add life to my days. 
  • Thirteen point FREAKIN' one miles.  It's that damn point one that kicks your butt!  

5 days

10 January 2014

Mind your 'Ps'

First full week back and I already am looking for a break.  Things are start to come back on line, the routines are setting in, working to catch up on all the e-mails and projects that hit over the holidays.    

I would comment on our cold snap earlier this week, but it was nothing like the Polar Vortex up north.  Oh, sure, we got down to a balmy 25 degrees down here for two days, but at least we weren't at -17 like some northern climes.  While those temps are manageable to most, our area down along the coast is not geared to prolonged, cold spells.  Whenever we start to head near freezing temps, the newscasts go into overdrive (aka panic mode) warning people to protect the four "Ps"  (People, pets, pipes, plants).  

  • People - there are a number of folk who will go out in t-shirts and flip flops even when temps are in the low 30s.  
  • Pets - some owners down here leave their pets outside 24/7 - they have to  be reminded to bring Fido or Kitty indoors (or set up some shelter).  
  • Pipes - almost every home down here has the pipes running through the attics (the ground shifts too much to run them through the foundation).  A lot of pipes are not insulated properly (if at all) and will freeze if temps fall below 30 for days.  When we bought our house down here 1990, it was right after a hard freeze and many homes had some water damage from burst pipes.  
  • Plants - a lot of the landscaping and plants down here are tropical.  They tend to flourish in the high temps and high humidity of the gulf coast region.  Some, however, do not like the cold at all.  There are several species you will not find very far north of here.  Long ago, I converted all of my bushes over to the more hardy variety - things that withstand the extremes of hot & cold temps and prolonged droughts that we have every other summer.  

It was cold enough that I actually had to go winterize my trailer (drain the water out).  I haven't had to do that in years.  Still, the great freeze of early 2014 was pretty much a nonevent for us.  After a few days of chilly mornings, the temps are back into the 60s for the weekend.  

Burning another vacation day today playing catch up.  I have a several follow up tests/physicals (hearing, stress) scheduled for today that I could not complete before the holidays.  The hearing test was a breeze - just wire me up like a cheap Xmas tree and let the computer run the noise test.  Hopefully, I will survive the stress test this afternoon - it is much like an extended session on the stairmaster.  Doc can be a real sadist on this machine - reminds me of my old drill instructor trying to wear us down.  I should be in better shape, but I haven't been running regularly over the past month.  I wish I had a good excuse, but I am finding it hard to get/stay motivated.  I am slowly getting back into the routine and I know I am going to pay for it next weekend.  

I hope everyone has a good (and warmer) weekend.

8 days

05 January 2014

Hello 2014

Starting out the new year already behind.  THAT's not a good sign.  I had hoped to clean up my act a bit and get more organized, but I am still stuck in holiday mode and finding it hard to get motivated.  

First of all, holiday wrap up.  The holidays were  good to us, if not a bit anticlimactic.  Way off our normal year end frenzy. Momma is still spending nights over at SIL taking care of her, so that leaves the house to just me and the dogs.  Kinda quiet over here (except for the occasional football game).  I had hoped to used the rest of the holidays to catch up, but got caught up in some marathon series watching (Walking Dead, Dr Who, Firefly, Breaking Bad).  You can really lose track of time/days if you get hooked on it.  

The New Year Rally went off very well (despite my furnace not working).  It has been a problem I have been working on for a while and I think I got it resolved.  Fortunately, I have electric blankets and a small quartz heater that will take the edge off the cold.  Although, the dogs seem to prefer the cooler temps.  The weather was nice, if not a bit chilly, the dogs liked exploring new territory, got a chance to spend some more time with my parents.  Stephen and Rebecca came out for the New Year's Eve dinner we had with the group so we got to spend a few more hour with them (first time I got to see her since she has been ill).  With this group, we always plan a dinner on New Year's Eve and some games or celebration.  Last year we attended a dinner/theater at a local castle in Bellville.  This year, the hosts decided to have a murder-mystery play along with dinner.  Some people were assigned roles to play and given a script to follow.  The actors were given hints and clues to drop along the way, but nobody (including the actors) knew who really "did it" until the end.  Was a fun evening.  My mom was chosen to play one of the roles.  She was given the role of Lotte Hauptengruben - a floozy/wine merchant/double agent.  Her instructions were to dress up and show some skin/leg.  

Nothing like having your 90 year old mother flashing some leg at the party even if it was all in fun.  

Of course the dogs had a good time just being out of the house for a few days although it looked like Claire partied a wee bit too much champagne the night before.

Can't hold her champagne 
The new year is starting off well.  Looking forward to seeing all of the new surprises/twists that 2014 will bring.  

13 days