The Beautiful Game Back in The Day

Love Soccer

Love Soccer

I grew up in a time and place that was quite unique. I played soccer and swam on the neighborhood summer swim team. Forty years ago. It was very normal. I had no idea that literally the year my family moved to this unique place, Title IX was passed. It didn’t seem to matter. Boys and girls, black or white or other races were all just kids. We were on teams and in school and we were not told we couldn’t do any of it for any reason. I had no idea how rare it all was. I had no idea that there were huge areas of the country that did not offer soccer as a sport option, or if they did, did not offer soccer as a sport for girls back at that time.

In high school, I played on the Girls Varsity Soccer team, which I believe had only started up the year or two before I got there. I would later learn that one of my former neighborhood team teammates had lobbied hard to make high school soccer for girls a reality at my school. (Thank you, Jessie!) Our coach was a Cuban American woman, who was also my Spanish teacher.  There was no Girls Junior Varsity team back then. I don’t even know when that started in our county. I was in college by then or older perhaps.

So, I was a soccer player and soccer fan in the U.S. a long time ago. We had a very successful Boys Varsity Soccer Team at the time. One young man was drafted to play in the North American Soccer League (NASL), the U.S. professional league, right out of high school. He played for the New York Cosmos, which was a very good team.  It was very exciting to think that someone we knew from our school was playing professionally with some of the top names in the sport.

Today I learned that one of THE legends of the game back then died. Johan Cruyff. He was Dutch, but he played in the U.S. for another NASL team, the Washington Diplomats, for a time. I can’t believe how hearing of his passing has brought to mind this flood of my personal soccer memories and with them, gratitude. I got to see that guy play. And, while the details are fuzzy and honestly irrelevant, I’m happy to have had the honor. But, I’m even more grateful that I was able to play.

Soccer Patches

Soccer Patches

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In The Bubble

Owen Brown Tennis Club

Owen Brown Tennis Club

One of the advantages of being a blogger in Howard County (HoCo), Maryland is the wonderful network of bloggers you can get to know. Many of HoCo’s bloggers know and blog about local events and happenings, and etc. I was happy to catch up with one such knowledgeable blogger at the Nalley Fresh Blog party a couple weeks ago. Duane, of HoCoConnect blog fame, has shared lots of newsy tidbits on things to do around the county. Today, I had a chance to check one out. I went to Drop-in Pickleball at the Owen Brown Tennis Club bubble. Since I’m not a tennis player, it was my first time at this Columbia Association facility, which currently offers drop-in pickleball twice a week. Wednesdays from 1-3 PM and Thursdays from 12-2 PM. There is a nominal fee of $3.00, and they have paddles to use if you don’t have your own.

 

In the Bubble

In the Bubble


It was not my first time attempting to play Pickleball. But, it was my first time playing with folks who know the rules. I have a lot to learn, which is really easy to do with practice. And, while I can say I played real Pickleball, I cannot say it went real(ly) well. In fact, suffice it to say I will not be representing the USA in any World Pickleball Championships any time soon. Or ever. Just judging by my games today.

The good news is, I am back into the whole idea of playing and can now set about to get some drop in sessions on my calendar. Many thanks to Duane, his wife and her teammate for today for teaching me the ropes (and for having lots of patience!). With spring right around the corner, look for more opportunities to learn to play this fun game that has elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong at different locations around the county.

 

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New Bike! New Trail!

Fall Day on the NCR Trail

Fall Day on the NCR Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My husband and daughter surprised me with an early birthday present–a new hybrid bike. It hasn’t been very long that we started our biking adventures, and the need to have more trail options than a road bike can handle had become apparent. There are just too many trails that are calling our names, but that would be too dicey to ride on my road bike. So, fatter tires it is.

I wanted to give the bike a test spin, so we took a little 5.5 mile ride in a local office park area. My initial reaction was 5.5 miles on a hybrid made me about as tired as 20+miles on my road bike. John decided my degree of exhaustion was due more to the fact I had had an early morning and eight hour work day, than the fatter tire size. Maybe, but I did notice a difference.

The Restored 1898 Monkton Train Station

The Restored 1898 Monkton Train Station

 

Our first trail with my new bike was the Torrey C. Brown (TCB)/Northern Central Railroad Trail (NCR Trail) from Ashland, Maryland to York, Pennsylvania.  We jumped on the trail at the Ashland Trailhead, which was about a 35 minute drive from our house. It was a chilly – low 50’s, but a sunny and bright fall day. There were lots of walkers, joggers, and bike riders coming and going. We set off and were immediately impressed with the scenic and serene trail vibe. The trail was alternately narrow and wider. The surface alternated between packed gravel (almost paved) to loose gravel; with lots of leaves. I was very glad to not be trying this trail on my road bike. There were several muddy areas that my new bike handled like a charm. As we traveled north, there were fewer people, but it was still a well-used trail. I was freezing. I decided I need earmuffs that fit under my helmet. And gloves that fit over my riding gloves. And, I could have used warmer socks. But, we were delighted by the trail, so we kept pedaling, hoping to warm up.
The trees were not in full autumn glory, but there was some nice tree color. The part of the trail we rode was probably 90% shaded. We entered Gunpowder Falls State Park and spent a good deal of time with the Big Gunpowder Falls in view. It was so nice. Talk about a great way to disconnect from reality. Just nice scenery and no sounds, but those in nature.

Position Light Signals, NCR Trail

Position Light Signals, NCR Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benches and picnic tables dot the trail. There were also some cute scenic points of interest. We stopped a couple times in sunny spots to warm up and enjoy the views. We went about 8.5 miles, just past Monkton, before turning around and heading back. This is another one of those long, beautiful trails that had us planning our next ride before our first one was finished. John was so taken with this ride, it was one of the big reasons he bought me the new bike. I agree with him. It is a great trail. And, it’s close to home. We will be back to try to get to Pennsylvania next.

Sunny Spot along the NCR Trail

Sunny Spot along the NCR Trail

  For our review and more photos of this trail, see my post on my bike trail blog here.

 

Running For Preparedness

Survivor Strong Memorial 5K Run and Fun Walk, August 2015

Survivor Strong Memorial 5K Run and Fun Walk, August 2015

The mark of a truly successful event is having volunteers ask to be part of the same event next year. The mark of a successful charity (non-profit, in this case) and charity event is having volunteers ask, “What are you doing next? I want to help with everything you are doing.” And, the mark of a non-profit’s successful mission or relevance is its ability to bring known and well regarded personalities to attend, speak at, and promote the mission and efforts of your non-profit. The National Center for Citizen Safety (NCCSAFE) had all of the above and more at the first Survivor Strong Memorial 5K run and fun walk.

Volunteers Getting Ready for the Race!

Volunteers Getting Ready for the Race!

The founder and president of NCCSAFE, Lois Blevins, invited me to work at her non-profit this summer to help with the 5K and other projects. I was excited to bring my experience running events to this effort. NCCSAFE is headquartered in Ellicott City, Maryland, and was started just over a year ago in response to the alarming rise in “active shooter” situations and other acts of domestic terrorism. Its mission is to fill the gap in educating the public on what to do if they find themselves in this type of life threatening situation; to be a repository for information and resources for survivors of such incidents; and to provide survivors with healing camps and retreats. The NCCSAFE has several initiatives started that will continue to promote citizen awareness and preparedness, but the 5K run was a major fund- and awareness-raiser.

Gathering for the Race Start

Gathering for the Race Start

Eyeing the Finish Line!

Eyeing the Finish Line!

Her team of volunteers and college interns did an amazing job, and the compliments keep pouring in through word of mouth and social media. I was happy to coordinate the volunteers for the day, and was asked by several about how to volunteer with NCCSAFE year round, as well as for next year’s 5K.

Survivors, Sponsor, Staff and Interns!

Survivors, Sponsor, Staff and Interns!

In addition to enjoying a well organized and well run event with great food, beverages, and SWAG, the participants and spectators heard inspiring words from three speakers, who know first hand how horrible living through shootings and domestic terrorism is. Hector Hernandez conducted responder recovery at the Oklahoma City bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Building, where he once worked. Michele Gay, a former Howard County resident, who lost her daughter Josephine Grace in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT, is a founder of Safe and Sound: A Sandy Hook Initiative. And, Erika Brannock, also a Maryland native, who lost her leg in the Boston Marathon bombing, is currently writing a book. All three were very supportive of NCCSAFE’s mission and spoke of the need for the type of information and advocacy that NCCSAFE provides during the pre-race ceremony. I was so happy to be a part of such a positive event for such a worthwhile cause. 

Hector Hernandez, Erika Brannock and Michele Gay, Event Speakers

Hector Hernandez, Erika Brannock and Michele Gay, Event Speakers

Photo Credit to Ellie and Fred McKenzie

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A Picture Perfect Day For a Bike Ride

Picture Perfect Day in DC

Picture Perfect Day in DC

Today the Empty Nest vibe was in full force, which is to say that we planned a bike ride and executed said plan. We chose the Capital Crescent Trail, a wonderful Rail Trail, that took us from Bethesda, MD all the way to Washington DC. It was a picture perfect day to ride this beauty of a trail. We did the same ride last Memorial Day weekend, but today was better. I remembered being a lot hotter and sweatier last year. It’s 82 degrees and sunny today. We were not surprised to see lots of people along the trail and enjoying the monuments in DC. Some points along our route were trickier to negotiate on a bike than others, but for the most part, we were able to enjoy the city and monuments and the trail with no problems. This time, the restrooms at Fletcher’s Cove were open and I was happy to find they were air conditioned.

Fletcher's Cove

Fletcher’s Cove

The area was teeming with folks enjoying both the river access part and the canal part of the Cove. We got into DC and the line to rent kayaks, paddle boards and other watercraft was the longest we’d ever seen there. So it looked like the Potomac River was as busy and crowded as the bike trail.

View of Trails at Fletcher's Cove

View of Trails at Fletcher’s Cove

John was commenting about what a great ride it was given the variety of sites and effort level required. We were rather tired by the time we started back to Bethesda, as the ride back is mostly up hill. But it was a great day and a great way to Empty Nest. 

Capturing Two Monuments in DC on Memorial Day

Capturing Two Monuments in DC on Memorial Day

A Winter Trip to Buffalo, Yes, Please!

Beautiful Canal and Bridge, Buffalo, NY December 2014

Beautiful Canal and Bridge, Buffalo, NY December 2014

Thinking of taking a trip to the Buffalo/Niagara area, why not do so over the winter?

Yes, I just suggested that you should plan a trip to one of the reputed snowiest places in the U.S. that is not known for its skiing. To the very city where, on November 18, 2014 , a heavy snowstorm left a 7 to 8 foot swath of snow, courtesy of Lake Erie, on neighborhoods and highways in Buffalo suburbs in surgical fashion. The places that were hit, were hit hard. Others just minutes away got a dusting. The snow has long since melted. We were trekking up to visit family just after Christmas. The weather was mild and perfect for travel.

Most of the folks I know that go to Buffalo, go to visit family or have planned a family vacation to Niagara Falls. That is all well and good. However, I want to give you an awesome tip on a fun, family vacation in which Buffalo is THE, if not A destination, as well. There are plenty of fun things to do there now, including skating, curling, or biking (yes, I wrote biking. Ice biking, to be specific) on the new and recently opened Canalside ice rink. It is, as they say,  “on fleek”; awesome and amazing and wonderful all at once. I was very eager to skate on the rink, as soon as I saw pictures of it. I found, tried on, and then packed my skates. I was so excited.

Canalside Ice Rink When Closed.

Canalside Ice Rink When Closed.

Unfortunately (and fortunately all at the same time), the weather was very mild. It was too mild to skate on Saturday. The rink was closed, but because we were going to the Buffalo Sabres hockey game that night, we went downtown early to check out the recently developed Canalside area and the new HarborCenter. We walked around the waterfront and then ambled over to where the ice rink is located. It looked really nice and was a good size. We walked around it and moved on to our next stop: the new (716) Food and Sport restaurant in the HarborCenter that John really wanted to try. (716 is the area code for Buffalo.)

We had heard from family members that the restaurant is a huge hit and there is usually a wait. So, we thought we had planned accordingly. We got to Canalside around 3:00 PM and wandered around. There were a lot of people everywhere. This is a complete change from before the downtown redevelopment started. It used to be more like a ghost town than a destination.

But, clearly, it has become a destination. We walked over to (716) to put our names on the list at about 3:30/3:45 PM. There was a line of people snaking around under a pop up tent outside the door. As we were getting our bearings and finding our way into the line, we heard the young lady with the clipboard saying, “There is a three to four hour wait for a table at this time.” Wut?

Yes, she said that. Our perfectly planned outing hit another snafu…the first being the ice rink was closed due to the mild weather. It was not going to work for us to get a table, eat and make it to the hockey game on time.

Waterfront, Buffalo, NY December 2014

Waterfront, Buffalo, NY December 2014

 

Happily, with the help of John’s sisters and a nephew, we were able to find another restaurant that could seat us almost right away. We ate at the Liberty Hound, a quaint restaurant situated in the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, at the original terminus of the historic Erie Canal. Afterwards, we walked over to the First Niagara Center for the game. It was a great game, which ended in a Buffalo win in a shootout.

 

Canalside Ice Rink Open! Buffalo, NY December 2014

Canalside Ice Rink Open! Buffalo, NY December 2014

Fast forward to Sunday. We found out that the rink was going to be open that afternoon. Hurrah! I was very excited, although some in our party were less than thrilled with the idea of going ice skating–at first. As soon as we got there and saw the throngs of people, the excitement spread through our party.

All Smiles!

All Smiles!

The ice was filled with people skating. We saw the ice bikes and they looked fun and manageable. We also saw a group getting a curling lesson and really wanted in on that activity. It was almost too much to take in, but we focused and found our ticket line. It seemed really long, but it went really fast. There was such a steady turnover of skaters that we hardly noticed the wait. I had my skates, but everyone else needed to wait in a second line to get their skates. That line didn’t take long either, thankfully. John zipped over to (716) to put our name on the list again and was told there was a 2 hour wait, which was perfect for us to skate then head over.

 

We all had so much fun on the ice. It was a blast. Some of us hadn’t skated for several years, so we were lucky to stay on our feet the whole time.

Happy Skaters!

Happy Skaters!

 

 

 

 

 

The entry fee and rental fees were very reasonable. I wished we had more time to take the curling lesson and to try the ice bikes. But, just about the time when we were starting to get fatigued, John got the text from (716) that our table was ready. Alyssa was able to get her skates off and sprint over to the restaurant first, to ensure we didn’t lose the table. The rest of us moved as quickly as we could to get there too. And, we were not disappointed. The food was fantastic. I had a house salad with steak on it that was delicious. There is no doubt that we will get back to Canalside on our next visit, and we highly recommend it – even in the winter.

 

Me and John Skating Together, Canalside Buffalo, NY

Me and John Skating Together, Canalside Buffalo, NY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canalside Ice Rink at Night Buffalo, NY December 2014

Canalside Ice Rink at Night
Buffalo, NY
December 2014

 

Money Saving Tips for Swimmers

Indoor Pool

Indoor Pool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s that time again. Many folks are starting indoor swim programs, including high school teams, year round club teams (age group and Masters), lessons and Aqua fitness classes. For all of you who are going to be hitting the pool for exercise, competition, or just any day fun, here are some tips to help you save money.

 The Swim Suit – Usually the most expensive piece of “equipment” for swimming.

A) Fabric:You want to buy the best suit for your needs. How often are in the pool? If you are swimming one or two times a week, you are probably okay purchasing a suit that is made of Lycra. However, if you are in a pool that is heavily chlorinated and/or you are swimming more than two times a week, you should strongly consider purchasing a polyester suit. Each of the major swim suit manufacturers: Speedo, TYR, Dolfin, Nike, and Arena have a polyester suit option. These suits may cost a little more up front, but they more than make up for it in the length of wear you can get out of them.

B) Care: I’ve mentioned this before in a previous blog post (you can read it here), but it can’t be said enough: rinse your suits in cold water and hang them to dry. Do not use detergents, rinses or soap. Do not machine wash or machine dry. Just don’t do it. Your suit will last longer if it is properly cared for.

C) Wear/Fit: The fit of your suit also plays a role in the longevity of your suits’ life. Wear a suit that fits snugly and does not have wrinkles or extra fabric hanging around. Avoid suits with significant gaps between the suit and your skin. There are many, many suit types and styles. Find one that fits your body to a T. Proper fitting suits last longer than ill fitting ones.

A Handful of Practice Suits

A Handful of Practice Suits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Goggles 

Wearing goggles is a must for lap swimmers. Finding a comfortable and well-fitting pair is essential to an optimal swim experience. Again, there are a multitude of styles and types. Clear or lightly shaded lenses are appropriate for indoor swimming. Mirrored and/or darkly shaded lenses are desirable for outdoor swimming. The key is finding a pair that fits your face. They are not one size/type fits all. Try them on before you buy them. If you wear glasses or contacts, you will likely want to consider prescription goggles. These are more affordable and available than ever before. Visit your local swim shop to see if it offers what you need. I could write an entire post on googles alone. Maybe one day, but for the purpose of this post find a pair that fits and will be comfortable to wear for the length of time you plan to wear them. Then, take care of them.

Don’t put your fingers in the eye pieces to wipe away the fog. Don’t spit in them or roll your tongue around in them. (Yes, this is a “thing.”).  And, don’t spend a ton of money buying “Anti-Fog” solutions and cloths. Most goggles say they are anti-fog. It lasts about a week, if that. My solution is to make an anti-fog mix of your own. (Note: This was told to me by a friend long ago. I can’t remember who. Was it you? Let me know and I’ll give you the credit for this fun swim hack.)  

Anti-Fog Goggles and Baby Shampoo

Anti-Fog Goggles and Baby Shampoo

In a spray bottle of your choosing (I used an old hair product bottle that I washed out), put about 1 to 2 parts Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and add about 10 parts water. Shake it gently before use. Spray the solution into your goggles before you start swimming, dip your goggles once into the pool, then put them on. You should have fog free lenses for most if not all of your practice. You can repeat this process as often as needed.

Keeping your fingers (and tongues) out of the eye pieces will extend their wear. Using this inexpensive anti-fog mix will also allow you to get longer wear from your goggles.

 

 

Swim Bags

The best way to extend the life of a swim bag is to allow it to dry as quickly as possible after it gets wet. This means that if you shove your wet suit rolled up in your wet towel into your swim bag after practice, make sure you pull it out as soon as you get home and hang the suit to dry (you rinsed it in cold water or showered in it at the pool, right?). Leave your swim bag open so the inside can dry completely. Moldy swim bags are gross.
You may also want to consider having two bags, one for clothes, towels, toiletries, and one for your equipment: fins, pull buoys, paddles, caps, and goggles: all the equipment that gets wet, but dries quickly. I use two bags. A backpack for toiletries and dry clothes and towel and a mesh bag for all of the above mentioned equipment.

 

I hope you find these money saving tips helpful! Let me know if you have other ideas. I’d be happy to pass them along in a future post.