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The Twin Lights Half Marathon 2012

May 16, 2012

I find myself shivering this morning, despite the rising temperature.  A thousand runners mill around me.  I stand in the warm embrace of my husband, the best cheerleader and support team anyone could ever hope for.  He lets me wear his fleece sweatshirt over my warm-up jacket, but my legs shake and are covered with goosebumps despite the extra layers.  The ten minute signal has been given and the runners press closer together.  I slip out of the two extra layers, handing them over.  I take a final sip from my water bottle and hand that over, too.  A last hug and kiss and he eases his way to the sidelines.  I stand alone in the crowd, ready.

The emcee chatters away on the microphone, then plays a tape of “The Star Spangled Banner”.  The runners around me put their hands over their hearts.  I watch them and listen to the words, willing it to be over so we can run.  Finally, the music changes.  “I Got a Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas blasts over the loudspeakers.  The announcer tells us to get ready.  There is no countdown, just a “GO!” and we’re off.  Although the we have been standing close together, we are able to run right from the start.  The runners spread apart quickly.  I forget all of my goals and just go.  I pick off one runner after another, passing with ease, seeking out the empty spaces through which I can slip.  The first mile is easy.

By the second mile, I am regretting my breakfast.  I chose to eat before the race, giving myself a good three hour window to start to digest.  The chai oatmeal sits like lead in my belly.  I feel no cramps, but rather a deep, uncomfortable pain that hurts more with each stride.  I suck it up and press on, wishing I had not read any of the advice from Runner’s World about what to eat.  I note my first lesson of the race:  stick with the banana for breakfast. I glance at my wristwatch at the mile three marker and see that I am under 24 minutes, much, much faster than I should be running.  I slow down.

I look for my children as I pass the foot of my street.  Neither one is there to cheer me on, but a couple of my neighbors are on the sidelines and call my name, waving, clapping, shouting encouragements—“Go Elizabeth!  Looking great!  You can do it!”—and I feel better.  Maybe my family will be there on the return loop.

We run through the downtown area of Rockport, up Main Street, and then along Beach Road.  I see a teacher I know from the high school who flashes me a wide smile and gives me the thumbs-up sign.  I wave and keep going.  I see at least six other people I usually pass on my regular morning run and each of them waves to me and calls out.  The support makes this mile easy.

We turn onto Granite Street and I chug up the hill, jumping up onto the sidewalk where no one else has chosen to run.  As I crest the hill, already tired and thirsty, I see my friend Charlene on my side of the road.  She’s waiting for me, standing under a tree, and as I approach, she reaches under the jacket she is holding and passes me a water bottle.  She has even thought to remove the cap and my heart swells with gratitude.  As I take sips and the refreshing water coats my parched lips and throat, I am filled with love—love for my friend who has remembered this day and come to cheer for me and give me exactly what I need, love for running, love for the beauty of the day.  The sun is bright,and the air  is warm and heavy with the scent of lilacs.  I can taste the salt of the sea with every breath.

As I continue along Granite Street, I see the woman who works at our local health food store, waving from her yard.  I wave back.  I see my friend Anthony outside his stonework shop and call to him.  He raises his head, immediately finds me in the group of runners, and calls out to me, “Go, go, go!  You got it!”  Again, I and filled with gratitude for the people in my life who are cheering for me today, and every day.

The route has been changed from last year and instead of turning onto Phillip’s Ave., we continue up the grueling hill on Granite Street.  We finally turn onto Curtis Street and I realize I am more than halfway through the race.  My legs are tired.  I can feel my quads protesting as I force myself up a sharp, short hill. I am lonesome, too.  This is the first long race I have run without a partner runner.  We turn again, then once more and are back on Granite Street.  Again I see Charlene, again on my side of the road.  A strange man calls my name and I see Charlene’s little girl Sarah standing with him and more children.  They wave and cheer.  Charlene’s husband is a few paces beyond them.  He holds his camera, the big lens aimed directly at me.  I give him my best sweaty movie star smile and wave.  I cannot wipe the grin off of my face as I let my legs carry me down the long hill back to Beach Road.

We retrace our steps most of the way down Main Street, running against the one-way traffic, then turn right onto School Street, the left onto Broadway.  We turn right onto Mount Pleasant Street and I realize I will have to run up the worst hill in town.  I plow on, wondering if either one of my children with be out looking for me.  I stop thinking about them as my muscles begin to protest the steep angle I am forcing them to overtake.  Although I have been taking advantage of each water stop, guzzling Gatorade, water, and more Gatorade, I know I am dehydrated.  The temperature is rising, rising.  My lips are cracked and I can taste blood.  I keep running, willing myself to take this hill as the biggest challenge of this race.

Sue, my running partner, makes me run this hill with her every time we go out together.  It starts off steep, then takes for damn ever to crest.  Up, up, up.  It’s Rockport’s Heartbreak Hill.  It is not breaking my heart.  Instead, it’s breaking my will.  I press on.  Runner after runner passes me.  I note the lesson here:  there is no conditioning for running other than running.  I cross-trained like crazy during the plantar fasciitis, but although my cardio fitness is excellent, perhaps better than ever, the lack of miles I usually log week after week has made a difference in my ability to easily run distance.  I tell myself I can finish.  I tell myself I am going back to running the way I did before the injury.  I take a careful mental note of this lesson.

I actually stop to drink three cups at the next water station, but jump right back in to the race.  Now, there are runners who are walking.  There are runners who are sitting.  There are runners who are down on the side of the road, medics attending them.  I send good thoughts their way.  I keep running.

And so to the last three miles.  My legs are made of lead.  My mouth is filled with cotton.  From the 13 mile marker to the finish, it is 10 miles to cover that last tenth mile.  I cross the finish line and see my husband standing in the crowd, the video camera in one hand, my warmup jacket in the other.  I go right up to the camera and say, “Do not let me run while recovering from an injury ever again!”  And then I smile into the camera.  “I DID IT!”

Time: 2:00:33.  Best lessons: maintain an excellent cheering squad and support team.  And keep running!

Trial Run

April 25, 2012

It’s Saturday morning and I am three miles in.  My mind is playing the new, annoying game of “Can I Really Run This Far?” that has kept me from attempting to run long enough to prove I will be able to complete the Twin Lights Half Marathon in May.  The air is cool; the sun bright and warm.  The ocean is a rich, deep blue and calm.  Small waves lap the shoreline as I pass Front Beach, Back Beach, and Andrew’s Point.  My foot is feeling pretty good these days, the plantar fasciitis is slowly going away.  The insurance company has approved enough visits for physical therapy so that I can have the full ten treatments of cold laser therapy and it is working.  I am walking without a limp.  I am running, as my physical therapist tells me, with near-perfect bio-mechanics.

Today my goal is to run 11 miles in under two hours, although I have told my husband not come looking for me unless I am gone for more that two and a half.  I want to be left alone to win the game and toss it out for good.  Today’s run will decide whether or not to withdraw my entry for the race. I run up Phillips’ Ave., the hill long and slow.  I take my time, not pushing too hard because, after all, I have not run longer that six and a half miles in quite some time, maybe two months or more.  My mileage has dropped from 45-50 miles per week to under 25.  I have been cross-training like crazy, though.  Kickboxing, boxing, cycling, core and strength training at the gym two or three times each week have kept me in good shape.  I am trembling a bit on the inside despite it all, wondering if I have lost my distance mojo.

The chattering monkey in my head makes me wonder if I should turn left at the top of Phillip’s and head back.  I wrench myself to the right and cross the road, heading for Halibut Point instead.  I focus on my music, my breath, the sunlight bathing my face.  And suddenly I am there, running through the park as if I have been doing it all along these past weeks.  My legs are strong.  They carry me along the dirt trails and down to the Bay View path, then up and out along the fresh new mulch path back to the road.  I head back toward town, my stride easy, no longer wondering if I will be able to complete today’s goal.  I chug up the steep hill by my house and keep going.  I take Marmion Way the long way around and turn left onto South Street.  When I reach Eden Road, I cross and loop back around.  From this point, all I have to do is run straight home and I will be done for the day.

I glance at my watch as I approach my house.  1:42′.  I cannot keep the grin from spreading across my face as I climb the back steps.  I think about the way it feels to be surrounded by runners—listening to their breathing mix with mine, their footsteps pounding out a rhythm that gives me a beat to move faster and faster as we surge through 13.1 miles to the finish line.  I will not withdraw.  The game of “Can I Really Run This Far” has just been exchanged for “I Know I Can Do This”.  I will run the half marathon.  I will run strong and I will finish.

Resilient and Relentless

January 28, 2012

The sun shines bright in a clear blue sky this morning; the wind is light. The air is cool but not cold, fresh and tangy with salt.  I am dressed for a run, the bad knee covered in gauze and wrapped in paper tape.  Although I absolutely cannot squat down, I can move forward.  I can barely wait to get back on the road.

This is one of those runs where I am so grateful to be out here that I have no goals in mind— I am not watching the clock, I am not planning a set distance.  I’m going until I’ve had enough and whatever that looks like is just fine with me.  A revised running playlist is in order on my iPod and I start out listening to OutKast’s “Git Up, Git Out”.  Perfect.

I run the first mile easy, easy, listening to my body for any signs of protest.  “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People pounds in my ears as I pass by Front Beach and Back Beach.  The heel does not hurt.  The left shoulder and hip feel good.  My arms are still a bit sore, but I don’t mind.  As I finish my warm up and pick up my pace I turn onto Granite Street to the melted-chocolate-rich vocals of Notorious B.I.G. rapping “Can’t You See”, a great tune from the soundtrack to the film The Wackness.  I run uphill and then down, cringing inside as I pass the spot by the Tool Company where I wiped out the other day.

Before I know it, I’m all the way to Halibut Point State Park, listening to Journey’s “Any Way You Want It”.  The song and the air and the wind in the trees and the blue, blue sky are deliciously satisfying to every sense, and the touch of each foot on the soft ground is almost unbearably good.  I gasp aloud with pleasure as I pass the deep quarry set in front of the vast expanse of ocean all visible from the path.

A family is out for a walk on the thick wood chip path that leads out of the park.  The dad is lumbering ahead, the mother and two tiny little red-haired  girls trail behind him, laughing, loving this morning as I am.  I think tiny hurdles as I zip past, laughing.  The two little girls call out after me, hi, hi, and I turn my head and wave to them as I head back to the street.  I take the long way, first down Phillip’s Ave., then Point De Chene, my breath in sweet rhythm with the motion of my legs.  The sound of Girl Talk’s “Bounce That” and “Peak Out” play as I turn back toward town.  I sprint down Broadway fast enough that my hair flies out behind me; I watch my shadow for a moment and see one long-legged runner move with joy.

I run eight miles this morning.  I trot up the final hill, listening once more to The Notorious B.I.G., this time the song “Sky’s the Limit” and I agree, grateful for having a resilient body and a relentless passion for running.

The Bad, The Good, and the Ugly

October 21, 2011

I’m in my kickboxing class, the only class I take.  Training numerous clients all week is fun, but I have discovered that hitting an 800 pound bag or boxing pads held by a strong sparring partner lets off steam and releases anger and frustration I never knew I had—or at least had never been in touch with before.  My teacher is a pretty, tiny woman whose husband owns their fitness business.  She is a certified boxing and kickboxing instructor who is good at what she does.  She takes time to demonstrate the left-hand version of everything; more than half of us in the class are lefties!  We talk in between rounds; she knows I am a personal trainer and respects my level of fitness.  She tries to find challenges for me during the core training segments of our class.  She makes comments about my muscle definition that make me feel great about my body.  I trust her.

One. I jab, straight out in front, with my shoulder rolled and my right fist curled tightly in my glove.   One, two.  I  jab again with my right fist, then pivot on my back leg and punch across with my left fist. One, two, hook— the same one-two, then I pivot back, bringing my bent right arm in front of and across my body, elbow high, the fist cutting the air with a whoosh.  Front kick, two, upper cut, that punch powered by a fast, shallow squat with my right fist pushing up and out, clipping someone’s imaginary jaw.  A fine glaze of moisture forms on my brow and she smiles at me.

“You’re mist-ified!”

Mist-ified.  That makes me grin.  I love the feel of sweat running down my back and down my shins as I throw each fist forward, punching the heavy black bag, dancing around it as if I am in the ring with a relentless partner.

“I’m thinking of running that marathon that’s starting in Rockport on October 23.  Haven’t run one before, but I feel pretty ready.”

“You should talk to Aldo about it.”

Aldo, her husband, has been a trainer for 14 years.  He has run marathons, boxed professionally, works his clients as though it’s his (and their) last day on earth.  I don’t know him, but I see him in passing when boxing class begins, and sometimes when he starts a session with a client at the end of our boxing class.

“Well, I guess I could.  My running partner thinks I’m ready.  She’s run more than her fair share of marathons.  I feel comfortable with her input.”

“I still think you should talk to Aldo.”

But I don’t.  I run by the sign advertising the marathon every morning and know I will go online and register.  I run 17 miles one day.  I get home, eat a pile of food, shower, then go out with my husband and spend the rest of the day shopping.  If I can do that, surely I can run 26 miles.

Back in class, my instructor looks closely at my face.

“Aldo doesn’t think you should do it.  He doesn’t think you are ready.”

“Really?”

I shove the words aside and punch harder than usual, wondering how he could possibly assess my readiness without looking at my training log, without watching me run.  Yet I begin to feel doubt.

Another week goes by.  I run mile after mile, throw punch after punch.  I do plyometric drills.  I throw the P90X DVD in and do the Ab Ripper segment. I can do the entire segment straight through.  Then I go out for another run.  I think about the marathon.  I do not register.

“So!  Are you going to run that marathon?”

“No, I don’t think so.”  No I am not.

I run with my friend Eric another day and we run 11 miles.  It’s easy for both of us—in fact, he tracks our pace, trying to keep us to 9:30′ miles, and we struggle to go that slowly.  We talk about his upcoming half marathon in Newburyport and somewhere during the run, he mentions not having a cheering section and running alone.  I get ready to hint that I would like to run it with him.  Before I can finish, he says it would be great to run it together.  A rush of relief washes over me.  If I’m not going to do the marathon, at least on that day I will have a race—a race I can easily do.  A race with a friend.  We run the 11 miles in a figure 8, and on the second loop, we keep trying to back off, to slow down so we can complete the distance and when we are finished, he sends me an email saying maybe a better goal for the half marathon would be 9:10′ per mile.  I go online and register right away.

So, that’s the bad and the good.  Now for the ugly.

I let someone who doesn’t even know me influence my decision to run my first marathon.  That’s not like me at all—just ask my mom, my husband, or my kids how often I take their advice.  I appreciate their advice, yes, but I make my own decisions.  Why would I let anyone plant a seed of doubt in my mind, let alone allow it to grow into an invasive vine of questions that overgrow my trust in myself?  That is the ultimate ugliness, far worse than not finishing my first marathon, or limping pathetically over the finish line.  I am in the best shape of my life.  I know that.  How could I have let that knowledge be smothered?

For now, I will toss that ugliness aside.  I an thrilled to be running the Green Stride Newburyport Half Marathon this Sunday morning with Eric.  We will keep each other company, cheer each other on, and finish proudly.  This will be my second half, so when I see the next advertisement for a full marathon, I will keep my sense of self intact and sign up to run.

Running with Eric

September 28, 2011

I am running late this morning.  An early client with a pretty intense session focused on the Wellness Coaching aspect of what I do as a trainer finishes with a good core workout and a long low-body stretch sequence. Wellness Coaching requires quite a lot of focus, listening, and thoughtful questioning.  I am eager to hit the street and shake out my mind and my muscles.  I call my mom first, because I know she waits for my call and I don’t like lugging that feeling with me on a run.  I listen to her morning stories, missing her, but also itching to get outside.  I don’t hurry her, though.  I pace around my kitchen, thinking about how hard it is for her to take care of my dad, and wish they lived closer so I could be more helpful to them.  She lets me go after a little while, knowing I am waiting to run.   I fill a water bottle, double-knot my Nike Free sneakers (still the same pair!) and turn on my iPod.  I ease down Atlantic Ave., letting my body settle into motion and try to stop thinking.

I run along Beach Road, not really hearing my music so much as using it as a tool to zone out.  I reach Granite Street and press up the hill.  I look up to see a man in a bright green tee shirt barreling toward me and as I open my mouth to say good morning, I realize that it’s my friend Eric. I stop and reach out to him and he just about jumps out of his skin.  He regroups,  smiles and puts his arm around my shoulder, trying to cover the fact that I have just startled him, then, giving up, he confesses that he is already so in the zone that he did not even recognize me.  We chat for a few seconds, then I ask him if he wants to run together.

“Sure.  Yeah, sure.”

I cannot decide if I have overstepped a boundary by cornering him into running with me, but to be honest, he is a good friend, a fairly new runner, and I have been itching to run with him.  We are both the kind of people who are good at pushing ourselves; he’s also a bit competitive.  I am not very competitive with anyone except for myself, but I know he’s fast and I am interested to see if I am able to keep up with him.  He lets me choose the route, different than his, and we trot off together up the hill.

Eric is slender and quite strong.  The muscles and tendons in his legs visibly flex with each step and he tells me he has read the book Chi Running and is really trying to focus on his form.  I, too, have read this book and have been working to incorporate the postures and techniques recommended to prevent running injuries and make the running experience even better that it is.  (There have been days when I have chanted “needle in cotton” to myself, mile after mile after mile, attempting to lean forward just a little and keep my spine straight yet arms and legs soft.  It’s work.)  We both remove our ear buds and fall into a rhythm, his stride long and relaxed, mine easily matching his.  After a couple of miles, it becomes clear that his pace is faster than mine, but also that I can keep up if I push.  I am able to sprint ahead on the return of the loop as we take turns fartleking the telephone poles that are planted in the sidewalk.  By the time we finish the last big hill we are running together, I know I am at my limit and curl around the internal gratitude I feel, knowing he is headed off to his own house and my last mile will be leisurely.

When we part, he thanks me for bringing him out of his comfort zone—taking an unexpected and unplanned route was good for him.  I thank him, too, for his good company and for the chance to finally get to run with him.

I stop running when I reach my front walk, but take a stroll down my street to cool down and let my heart rate ease back to normal.  I am exhilarated from today’s run.  I am happy my early client went over time, that I called my mom before I ran.  The timing turned out to be perfect for me.  Running into and then with Eric cleared my mind better than anything else could have today, and keeping up with him reminded me that it’s good to push a little harder once in a while.

Crazy Strength Training with Charlene

February 24, 2011

My friend Charlene is a powerhouse.  She’s pretty, petite, slender, and in excellent shape, able to do five pull-ups while barely breaking a sweat.  She’s the friend who took me to Body Combat.  She’s a friend who is really good at sharing, too.  She and her husband have been doing the P90X series for about a year, incorporating it into their regular workout schedules, along with down-hill and cross-country skiing, fitness classes and cycling.  They keep an extensive set of free weights at home; I asked if I might join her for strength training last week. I thought it would be fun to work out together, and I was itching to have the chance to use heavier free weights to see how I would do.  Not so itchy as to join a gym, maybe though, to see if I should invest in heavier free weights myself.  Giving me her biggest smile, she invited me to join her whenever I wanted.  We decided on Tuesday morning, after my run and after she dropped her daughter off at school.

We lifted free weights and combined that with low body strength, executing multiple sets of squats with rowing, then sets of lunges with curls.  I usually work out with 15 lb. weights, and do drop sets with 15s to 12s.  Standing in the bright sunshine of her husband’s office, looking out at the ocean with loud pop music pumping from his computer speakers, I used 25 lb. free weights for rowing squats, 20 lb. weights for curls, overhead press and lunges, 25s for triceps kickbacks, and 25 to 20 lb. drop sets for chest presses.  We did triceps push-ups.  (Charlene did about 20 full body tri-push-ups in a row.  I did about 15 “girl” ones.)  We did regular push-ups.  (Charlene did 30.  I did 20.  My last 5 were weak.)  She demonstrated a one-armed push-up!  We did front raises with the 20 lb. weights while doing an isometric Plié squat.  I had started off feeling cold, but by the time we had finished out sets, I was down to my capri pants and tank, dripping with sweat.  I looked at my pile of discarded fleece and sweats on the floor and grinned.  My friend turned to me.

“How about we go downstairs?  I usually do the Ab Ripper after this.”

I thought she meant a video she and I both shared.  It’s a Pilates video, not too bad, the Ab Ripper segment is about 10 minutes long and I can do it, no problem.

“Sure.  I need some more water first, though.”

We bounced down the stairs and into the kitchen, refilled our glasses, and went into the living room.  We laid out yoga mats on top of the rug, and Charlene fiddled with the television and X-Box until the video came up.

“Is this from the P90X series?”

“Yeah, but it’s only 20 minutes.  Plus, there’s a couple of things I skip, so it’s only about 15 minutes long.”

I stretched out on my mat and waited.

I am a trainer.  I know the upper quads are considered part of the core, but this was ridiculous!  The first three exercises just about wiped me out.  My quads were screaming as I tried to execute “Crunchy Frog” (you really don’t want to know) but then we moved onto a couple of exercises that focused more on the abs.  I was keeping up pretty well until the P90X guy, Tony, had us roll onto our hips.  It was a side sit-up, wherein you perch on the side of your glutes, raise your legs up to a low V, then, with your fingers linked behind your head, you crunch your elbow on the same side down to your knee.  I could feel my sit bones grinding into the floor right through the yoga mat and the rug beneath me.  We switched sides after 25 reps. (Okay.  Charlene did 25 reps.  I did about 8 before giving up.  I did try the other side but the pain was too much.  I stopped.)

I was able to do most of the rest of the video with some serious effort. My favorite was leg climbing, where you lie back, raise one leg straight in the air, keep the other flat on the floor, then use your hands to “climb” the raised leg all the way to the foot.  25 reps on one side, then 25 on the other.  Charlene finished it up like it was a piece of chocolate cake.  She popped up off the floor and offered me a cup of coffee.  I rolled over onto my side and groaned as I accepted her offer, asking if she was willing to repeat this with me next week.  She said yes, of course.

What I learned:

My fitness rule ‘challenge yourself’ is a really good rule.

I am a strong runner.

I could be stronger.

I need to buy heavier free weights!

Day Two: Green Elephant and Mead

February 17, 2011

We woke up fairly early on Saturday morning, despite our late night Friday.  All I could think about was lunch, but breakfast had to be first.  We found a great bagel shop with a wide selection of whole grain bagels and tofu cream cheese.  The bagels were so fresh—crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside—that my husband bought a dozen to bring home with us, lugging them across the city all morning while we poked around in book stores and galleries.  We checked out of the hotel and made our way over to Green Elephant.

The restaurant was in full swing for lunch, and although there was no line, many tables were filled when we arrived.  I was pleased with the clean, olive-y-lime-y green paint job inside, and the warm atmosphere immediately made me feel welcome.  A brightly colored chalkboard boasted of all the locally made ingredients the restaurant used.

Green Elephant Chalkboard

Our waiter came quickly to our table with menus and water.  I ordered one of their hand-mixed teas; my husband opted for a glass of the locally brewed mead.

Dry Mead from Maine Mead Works, Portland

Although we had studied the menu beforehand, I took my time deciding what to order.  The crispy wontons stuffed with soy cheese and spinach, served with chili sauce was my first choice, and we decided to add steamed vegetable dumplings with a tamari dipping sauce to start.  Both appetizers were delicious.  The wontons were indeed crispy. Fresh, hot, and flavorful with the chili sauce, these were a vegan delight, although the soy cheese was undetectable.  The dumplings were good, but not particularly special; they were reminiscent of the vegetables dumplings served at my favorite dim sum restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown.

Crispy Wontons stuffed with soy cheese and spinach, served with Chili Sauce

Steamed Vegetable Dumplings with Tamari Dipping Sauce and Hot Sauce Smear

We decided to try a soup, and when the waiter came back for the order and I asked for the Asian Vegetable Stew, he gave me a look that said maybe that was not the best choice.  He recommended the Fragrant Coconut Soup with Tofu and Baby Bella Mushroom.  I looked at my husband, shrugged, and we decided to try both.  The bowls came steaming hot; the Asian Vegetable Stew was more like a soup, with a thin broth.  It was packed with greens, turnip, carrots, and a couple of pieces of fried tofu.  The flavor was outstanding.  The rich and complex broth was the perfect vehicle for the tender Asian greens.  The Coconut Soup with Tofu and Baby Bella Mushroom was thicker, but the flavor of coconut, which I really do adore, was so dominant that I could barely taste the mushroom.  This soup came in a larger bowl, but was more broth than substance.  The richness of the coconut milk was very filling.  I wondered how we would have room for our entrees.

Asian Vegetable Stew (bottom); Fragrant Coconut Soup with Tofu and Baby Bella Mushrooms (top)

The waiter seemed a little annoyed that we were not ordering everything at once.  I figured since we were trying so many things, he should be a little more patient.  My husband ordered Chines Broccoli with Crispy Breaded Soy Filet.  I had a hard time deciding and asked the waiter what he would recommend.  He was non-committal; I chose the Stir-Fry Asian Vegetables and Tofu, served with 5-grain tempeh and brown rice.

The dishes came and right away.  I thought my husband’s looked better.  The greens were bright and fresh, the cutlet was enticing in its crispiness.  Mine looked like something I could have made at home.  I tasted the tempeh.  Cold, a bit mealy.  But the rest turned out to be wonderful.  The vegetables were fresh and hot, the rice steamed to perfection.  The tofu had been lightly fried first, then left to soften in the sauce with the vegetables. The Asian flavors of the sauce were rich but not too salty.  Leaving the tempeh, I dug in.

I looked across at my husband.  He was picking at his plate, pushing the food around.

“Full?”

“Well, not really.  This just isn’t very good.”

We switched plates and I tasted his cutlet.  Bland.  Then the vegetables.  Salty.  Very, very salty, and not much else.  Although the plate was artfully arranged, the actual food was not good.  We signaled the waiter, who eventually came over.  He took my husband’s plate, offering to bring something else.  My husband declined, and I shared some of what was left from my meal.

Chinese Broccoli with Crispy Breaded Soy Filet

Stir-fry Asian Vegetables & Tofu

The other server, on her way by, noticed we were finished and offered us dessert.  We checked out the menu and decided to share the vegan pumpkin cheesecake.  We asked for two forks and a take-out box, but when we tasted what we had ordered, I knew the box would go unused.  Rich, creamy pumpkin, spiced as for a holiday pie, was mixed with what could only be the most perfectly redefined cream cheese made from tofu filled a light, flaky crust.  The top of the small slice was garnished with pepitas, and there was a dollop of vegan whipped cream on the side that was so light and sweet!

Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake with Vegan Whipped Cream

I wanted to ask to bring the rest of however much they had left in the kitchen home with me.  Or finish it up right there.  We left full and mostly satisfied, but a little disappointed in the entrees.  Will have to go back and try it again, in case they were not having their best day.

We went from Green Elephant directly to Maine Mead Works.  This tiny mead brewing plant lies on a quiet street on the outskirts of the city.  We were greeted by an enthusiastic woman who gave us samples of each type of mead the company makes, then a tour of the brew tanks, hold barrels, and a preview of next year’s mead flavors.  We left with four bottles of mead— two dry, one lavender, and one cranberry.  We headed home, relaxed, full, and happy.