Sunday, March 23, 2014

Kilt Run

I finally participated in my first race for 2014: a 2-mile Kilt Run in Manasquan, NJ. The goal of the run was to set a Guinness World Record for the most amount of runners wearing 2-buckle wool kilts, while also raising money for Hurricane Sandy relief.

The previous record took place in June, 2012 in Perth Canada with 1,764 kilters/runners. Yesterday's event had 2805 registered, with more signing up that morning.

On the one hand, it is cool to participate in a world record. On the other hand, it is a pain to participate in a world record. 

The morning was warm by our 2014 winter standards (40 at 8 AM, rising to 50 by the 11 AM start), but it was WINDY and overcast. Because of the hoopla associated with proper record-keeping, we were all advised to get there between 7 AM and 9 AM to get wrist bands, bibs, be photographed and have those wristbands scanned on the way to the corrals by 11 AM. Oh, and there is not much parking in the area since the race was taking the convenient parking spots for staging.

Um, okay.

As I write this, I'm still only finding stories that they hope to break the previous record. Since they had nearly 3000 people registered and the previous record was about half that, I can safely guess they did break the record.

Don is sporting a MacKenzie plaid. I am wearing a Bruce of Kinnaird plaid, or so the tags on the kilt say.

Don walked the race with Dee, who is still building up strength in her ankle. The three hour wait was much more fun with her and Bill. I enjoy Don's company, but tire of the "hurry-up-and-wait" game when there is so much already to do that day.

We did enjoy a bit of people watching. A number of different groups came out for the event, including several groups of stormtroopers wearing kilts. There is a group for everyone, trust me.

There were also at least two pipe and drum marching bands walking in the event.

Babies and even dogs were also dressed in kilts.

The actual event was a lot of fun. The course was 2 miles, and was filled with enthusiastic spectators the entire time. It did start 15 minutes (again a frustration on an already busy Saturday), but I PR'd (easy to do when it is my first time racing a certain distance). Seriously, though, I kept a 10:45 mm pace, which is super fast for me since I still think of myself as a 12:00 mm runner. I had some chocolate chip La Yogurt at the end and walked back to find Don and Dee. They were pausing to pet a cute dog on the other side of the street. Hmm... Even walking, and getting distracted, they finished with a 17:30 pace. Nice job!

Overall, I felt there were a lot more than 2,805 runners. It was as crowded as a Disney race (which has 10x that number). They could have corralled us by runners in the front, walkers in the back, but they were more concerned with everyone having wrist bands that were scanned than a race happening.

Plus: great crowd support, flat course, fun atmosphere

Con: lack of parking (and parking lots being used for staging), crowded, late start, did not feel organized (the focus was on the world-record and not on the race, but my focus was on the race and not the world-record), never did find most of my friends who were there.

In case you were wondering, yes you can ride a bike while wearing a kilt:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lady Who Lunches

Nearly 12 years ago I left the world of regular paid employment when my princess entered my life. It was the right decision for our family. 

After a couple of years of mommy and me classes and talking about potty training, I thought my head would explode. 

Enter graduate school.

In 2008, with my MLIS I was ready to return to the land of regular employment. Well, not quite yet. That was the time we decided to home school Ashley for first and second grade. A decision I don't regret as it brought us closer, while also providing her with a solid foundation.

That brings us up to 2010. Over the past four years I had a series of job interview for "perfect" jobs, that were only perfect in my mind. Meanwhile, I started a freelance career, substitute taught, and became a "lady who lunches." 

Over the past four years I've been able to reconnect with childhood friends, such as Sylvia; friends from college, such as Robin; friends from post-college, yet pre-kids, such as Meave; and friends from mommy and me days, such as Carin, Laura, and Nancy; and grad school friends, such as Sharon. Most recently Jean and I went to Winterthur together. Thursday I met up with Marlene in NYC. Marlene and I met over 25 years ago in Belgium and often catch up when I'm in Montreal, where she now lives. This week I drove down to Don's office and had lunch with him and a co-worker (Chris) who commutes from (ironically enough) Montreal. I know I'm leaving important people off of this list! The great thing about being online is that I can add more names later. It was not on purpose.

During that same time I volunteered at Ashley's school, with churches, and other local organizations. Anyone who does that will tell you it can feel like you have an unpaid job. On those rare days when I am home, I scrapbook, take pictures, and go for runs. Sometimes I even clean the house. I often make homemade dinners, such as our Meatless Mondays, and am the taxi service.

I recently accepted my first real job since 2002 -- school librarian at Roosevelt Public School (no "s" on the end of school, since there is only one). Next month I will receive my first direct deposit paycheck -- that will be really weird! Meanwhile my freelance work continues and I'm busier and happier than I have been since before the first snowfall this winter. Hmm... maybe my happiness has more to do with seeing the grass and the sun than anything else. Feels good in any case.

Downton Abbey at Winterthur

Last week Jean and I attended one of the most gorgeous exhibits I have ever seen. If you are a fan of "Downton Abbey," or a fan of 1920s costumes, head to Winterthur in Delaware to see this amazing exhibit.

Forty costumes are on loan from Cosprop, one of the world's leading costumier to film, television and theater. The exhibit runs from March 1-January 4th, plenty of time for everyone to see it. This exhibit is included with general admission tickets, but they are requiring reservations for timed tickets for non-members. Members no longer need advanced reservations, so you can try to tag along with us.

Disclaimer: prior to taking pictures, I asked for permission and was told as long as I did not use a flash, I was allowed to take as many pictures as I wanted. Later on I saw "no photography" signs, so proceed with caution. I did see a lot of people using their phones to take pictures.

The idea behind this exhibit is to compare and contrast life in an American manor home of the 1920s (in this case, Winterthur) with one in England (umm...Downton Abbey). Winterthur was Henry du Pont's childhood home. He greatly expanded it to 175 rooms. He opened his home to the public in 1951, and died in 1969. Also included in the general admission ticket is a tour of the house. I highly recommend touring the house while there.

The first difference highlighted was that at Downton Abbey the staff and family members were hesitant to modernize. By contrast, du Pont wanted the gentility of the past with every possible modern convenience -- from electricity to air-conditioning.

In addition to the costumes were gigantic pictures of the actors and actresses wearing the outfits. In many cases, hats and other accessories were included in the displays. In a few cases, there were scenes from the show flickering on screens. Ahh...I can't wait until Season 5 airs in 2015.

There was a lot of interesting information to read throughout the exhibit, but not an overwhelming amount. One interesting tidbit was that women did not wear corsets during tea time. 

Some of the dresses included details about how the costumers made dresses out pieces of fabric or dresses from the 1920s. In the case of the one below, dyed a vintage dress to better fit the scene. 

This dress was made from a piece of fabric, with more added to it to turn it into a dress.

This suitcase fit all the clothes needed by a wealthy person for a weekend getaway. We have a similar piece at home that we use for Ashley's dress up collection. I can tell you ours is nearly impossible to move empty without a second person. I can't fathom traveling with one.

These women don't just look tiny on TV, they really are tiny in person. 

Above is one of the most famous outfits -- Sybil's harem pants worn in Season 1. One of the shoulders of this vintage outfit tore during filming. The costumers quickly made adjustments and filming took place at an angle where it was not visible. I stared as closely as I could without arousing the interest of the guards, and I could not tell you which side sustained damage.

Comparing the two grand dames: Violet and Isoabel.

I loved the entire exhibit. These are just a few pictures. There is a lot more to see. The Winterthur staff is having a lot of fun tying everything to this exhibit from the food they serve in their restaurant to lectures and teas and dress-up for the children and anything else they can imagine. It is a fun time to be a member of Winterthur.

We have already made plans to return in April. I look forward to sharing the exhibit with Ashley.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Pi Day

In 2010 the Princeton Tour Company joined up with Princeton Public Library, the Princeton Historical Society and other groups for a new event: celebrate Albert Einstein's birthday on March 14, which is also Pi Day (get it: 3.14). Einstein lived at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton for over 20 years and became a local legend, as well as an international personality.

Past events have included Einstein look-alike contests, reciting pi to as many digits as possible, and pie eating contests. In 2013, Ashley and I rode the Dinky with Einstein and his friends.

New for 2014 was "Princeton Light up the Night" -- an evening 3.14 mile bike ride around Community Park in Princeton. Participants wore a red blinking light that was synchronized with each other. Given the miserable weather we have had this winter, organizers were fortunate the event went off without snow and with temperatures (barely) above freezing. Their back up date was July 22- 22/7 is a close approximation to pi (3.14). Everyone was glad it took place on the real Pi Day.

The idea was that together they would look like a bunch of fireflies. 

Here they are when the red lights are dark:

Red blinking lights:

The lights on the back of Don and Ashley's helmets.

I stayed in one place and took pictures, which is not an easy feat with blinking lights. Next time I'll bring a tripod.

Don and Ashley enjoyed the ride. I thought about running alongside, but it was dark and not that warm. Maybe next year they'll do a 3.14 mile run. Next year Pi Day will be on Saturday 3.14.15, at 9:26 will be Pi to seven decimal places. Looking forward to the hoopla associated with that.

Friday, March 7, 2014


On my most recent birthday, I started a one-month job as a school librarian in Princeton. It was a challenge, mostly due to the sudden shift from being home full-time to being at work full-time.

About a month later, a one-day-a-week school librarian job came along and I passed on it. I wasn't ready to make the commitment.

A few months passed and I learned the school was still searching for a librarian. I threw my hat in the ring and was offered the position again. This time I accepted. 

My start date? March 6, my half-birthday. 

I'm finding some humor in the timing of both positions.

The new one has different challenges. 

* It is a 35 minute drive (vs. 15 minutes). Don will work from home on Thursdays to be here for Ashley and Sandy Dragon (the dragon has been flipping himself over a lot lately, and can't right himself). 

* It is six 45-minute classes -- five classes in a row, then a break for lunch. There is only one prep period for doing everything else that needs to be done in the library - from the basics of shelving books to collection development, and everything in-between.

* The library shares the room with the 2nd grade class.

* The library is not computerized.

* The library has as many donations waiting to be processed as books on the shelves.

* Most of the books are paperback donations that are falling apart, or hardback books at least 30 years old.

* Other than the school librarian who was there at the start of the year, they have never had a certified school librarian.

On the plus: 

* The principal and school board are completely behind the library succeeding.

* They want me to come in extra hours to set it up properly (and will pay me for that time). 

* They want the library collection available on-line, they want the kids to love coming to the library.

I'm in for a challenge, and we all know it.