Sunday, September 30, 2012

Carolina Beach 14

I really wanted to get in my long run on trails today, but those are few and far between around here. We ended up deciding to travel down towards Wilmington to Carolina Beach State Park, where we ran the Turkey Trot four years ago. We could have headed to Lake Waccamaw, but Carolina Beach gave us better post-run eating options and was a slightly shorter drive, so it won out.

It was another overcast morning, cool and humid. We parked at the marina and headed off onto the trails. Ryan was running with me, hoping to help me find a good loop to run, so we headed out onto the Sugarloaf Trail out along the Cape Fear River. We got a bit confused almost immediately, and Ryan was none too happy. I really didn't care. I knew I was going to be out for a while, so who cared if we took a wrong turn or two? One of our wrong turns took us to the Sugarloaf Dunes, where the trail dead-ended into a salt water marsh. There we saw four egrets and a kingfisher fly over. There were also a fair number of deer tracks in the sand.

The trails were flat (duh!), but pretty sandy, so it was slow going right from the start. However, it was really a nice place to run. Along with the marsh grasses and sand were pitch pine tree and small live oaks, mushrooms coming up through the sand (they must have been confused!) and a few cactus too. Along one stretch, as the trail intersected a marshy area, a number of small chocolate brown crabs ran across our path. I think they must have been wharf crabs. Pretty funny to look down and see little crabs skittering along in front of us!

Leaf littered trail

Nice and flat

We got even more off track a few miles in, taking a turn off the marked state trails into a big sand dune area. We followed some ATV tracks up and over a few hills, and at one point saw a few orange flags that seemed to indicate a route. To where, who knew, but we figured what the heck? In looking at the Garmin data, we were still in the park, but had meandered off into no man's land. We took a few turns out to the water, but turned back inland, and eventually stumbled across the park boundary line, which we followed and which finally dropped us back on a marked trail. We wandered through the campground at the park, following the trail through some neat old woods, the trail lined with big pine needles and twisting and turning with roots underfoot.

Our first "loop" dropped us back at the parking lot at 6.25 miles. Ryan took a look at the map while I had a snack, and devised short "inner" loop. Back off we went, through a wide open pitch pine forest in the sand, and back on a few wide boardwalks through a swamp. When we got back to the car, the Garmin was reading 8.1 miles and Ryan was ready to be done. I really appreciated that he had done those miles with me, as although the park was beautiful and the pace was mellow, my heart and head and legs just weren't into the run. I knew it was going to be a bit of a struggle to get in more miles, but I begrudgingly set out for another loop anyway. Without Ryan's company, I slowed down considerably, but hey, at least I kept going!

I followed the outer Sugarloaf loop once on my own, but carefully stuck to the marked trails this time around :-) I got in another 4 miles before getting back to the car. I came to a stop, wanting to be done, but instead, took off my pack, had a drink of water and set off for the inner loop. I figured I had another 2 miles in me at least. And I'm glad I did head back out, as I saw a box turtle along the way, and through the pitch pine forest came upon a group of bluebirds and yellow-rumped warblers flitting amongst the trees. There was also a flicker on one of the trees! Neat.

Honestly, I had hoped to get in a few more miles, but I just didn't have the energy or the gumption today, so 14 miles in 2:25 it was. Oh well, sometimes that is just how it goes. I went into the river up to my knees to clean off my legs, quickly changed and away we went. We fueled up at Flaming Amy's with some yummy burritos, and made a necessary stop at Boombalatti's for ice cream before making our way back to Wallace. Sam had lots of fun biking and swimming and doing art projects with Neenie and Pippi while we were out running, but sadly decided not to nap, so Ryan and I took her up to the playground for a bit before dinner to keep her occupied and drain her off any possible excess energy so she would sleep well tonight :-)

Higher, Mama, higher!

Headed down


 Tomorrow we're making our journey home. It's been a great visit - we're definitely going to be sad to leave "the resort" and get back to reality! Thanks Neenie and Pippi!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Running, Biking and Swimming

Don't worry, I'm not taking up triathlon :-) The running is all me, but the biking and swimming are all Sam. If I had been able to convince her to come out the door for a little cool down loop after my run, I could say she was in triathlon training but she took one look at my sweaty self after my run and wanted nothing to do with running with me :-) Ha!

Thankfully, Sam slept much better last night, and even slept in a bit too, so we all woke up feeling more rested. Since today is the last day in my "week," it was MP run day whether I liked it or not! It was a bit overcast but very humid as I headed out around 8:00 am. I had mapped out a route the other night just so that I wouldn't have to think about where I was going to be going along with keeping a certain pace while running. I ran a one mile warm-up out to Paddlewheel, and then set out to run the next 5 miles at 8:00 pace.

As I headed down the main drag, two guys passed by me in a golf cart. I smiled and said hello, to which one guy replied, nice pace! Well, who doesn't like to hear a compliment like that? :-) The clubhouse and the practice area were hopping - I guess Saturday morning is the time to play golf! I ran right on past, out towards The Bluffs, the outer edge of the development. It was quiet out there, with most of the lots still undeveloped. I looped back around and then turned at the clubhouse to head out towards the River Lodge. I had a few moments during mile #3 and early on in #4 where the pace felt relatively effortless, but reality set back in around mile 4.5 of the 5 MP miles, and it definitely felt like work. I was happy to hit the miles in 7:54; 8:00; 7:49; 7:46 and 7:52, but was perhaps even happier when my watch beeped to indicate I was through with that last mile. Ha!

I ran a mellow mile back to the house, getting in a total of 7 miles to bring the week's mileage up to 43. Highest I've hit in a while. I can feel that I haven't been in my regular routine of rolling, and that I have done a lot of road miles this week, but despite my legs and hips being a bit stiff, I'll call this week a good one.

When I got home, we got out Morgan's old trike, and let Sam have a whirl on it. Her legs still aren't quite long enough to give her enough power to push the pedals very effectively, but hopefully by the spring, she'll have grown enough so that she can use it. Regardless, she had fun getting pushed around and taking a few spins out on the porch. It kept her entertained for much longer than we would have expected!

On the bike!

We followed up the bike riding with a trip to the pool. Sam wanted to get right in and swim. There was no stopping her! She did great with the water wings on, really kicking and propelling herself around the pool. It was so cute to see how proud she was of herself! And she wanted no help! She was swimming on her own, gosh darn it :-)

Happy swimmer!

Swimming with Mama

I love the pool!

Sammy swimming!

Friday, September 28, 2012


Yesterday, we went down to Fort Fisher to the Aquarium there. It was the perfect size for a kid Sam's age, with a little playground, a touch tank (not that Sam wanted to touch any of the animals in it...), and some local North Carolina animals, including an albino alligator and a cool exhibit of box turtles. We followed up the visit with a yummy Indian food lunch, and some pool time later in the afternoon. All in all, a fun day.

Looking down into the turtle area

'Hanging' out on the playground

Playground fun

Cautiously taking a look at the touch tank


Box turtles

Time for lunch!

Unfortunately, Sam was a really really bad sleeper last night, much worse than usual, and as a result, we all woke up tired. I had planned to run my marathon pace run today, but it was evident shortly into the run that that wasn't going to happen, so I chose to just run a leisurely hour instead. I kept the pace mellow, let my mind wander and ran along the berm and then up the main drag to the clubhouse before taking the backroads back to the house. It was still early enough in the day that a lot of my route was in the shade, and although it felt a bit more humid than it has the past few days, it wasn't bad out. I tacked on a bit at the end to get in 6.75 miles, and was more than satisfied with the miles considering how exhausted I felt. I'll get in those MP miles tomorrow, one way or another, and am really hoping that we all get a better sleep tonight so that they come a little easier!

I scared up a big Great Blue Heron while I was running along the Berm. It had roosted in a dead tree, and as I got closer, it honked and squacked at me, finally taking off as I was running right beneath the tree.  I saw another Heron fishing in one of the ponds further along, as well as a lot of mockingbirds and a few turtles sunning themselves on a branch at the edge of another pond. Also a cardinal and a belted kingfisher, high on one of the telephone wires above a pond, busy keeping an eye on the pond for his next meal. We've been seeing some neat sightings right here in my parent's yard too. There are mockingbirds galore, along with a ton of green anoles, ranging in color from bright green to muted green, to mustard yellow, brown and even one the other day that had turned almost black as he was resting on the faux black wicker chairs out on the porch. There is also a pair of ruby throated hummingbirds in the yard. It is really neat to see them together, as they "talk" and chatter to each other, and after having fed in the flowers, go off and roost on the thin ends of the live oak and birch tree branches at the edge of the yard. Very cool. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Even with No Humidity...

... 83 degrees is still darn hot! I didn't get out for a run early this morning because we decided to head into Wallace to Shawn's Restaurant for some good 'ol southern cooking. The restaurant reeks of bacon and grease, with a little bit of old smoke smell thrown in for good measure. Smoking in restaurants was finally outlawed down here a few years ago, but that smell still lingers... Sam must be having a growth spurt because she polished off a whole Belgian Waffle, minus one or two small strips, complete with a whole lot of syrup, and we all enjoyed deliciously buttery biscuits, among other treats. After breakfast, Ryan and my dad headed off to play golf, and Sam, Neenie and I headed up to the playground for a little playtime, followed up by some time in the pool. Sam did great in the water - she even put her head back into the water while Mom was holding onto her!

So, it wasn't until a little before 2pm, once Sam was asleep and my lunch had settled, that I headed out for my run. I ran down to the River Lodge, along the nature trail and back on the roads. It was hot. Luckily, it's a pretty quiet development, so I was able to weave through the streets finding the shade :-) I didn't feel very spunky, so even though I thought the loop would be 6 miles and it only turned out to be 5.25 back to the house, I stopped instead of running around in circles to get in the extra 0.75 miles. Hmmm, maybe I'm not such a crazy runner after all :-)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

NC Fun

No running for me today, so just a few photos instead! We're having a great time!


Batter up!

Wrightsville Beach sunshine


In the water


Taking a ride

A walk on the beach

Yum, sprinkles!


Making cupcakes!

Monday, September 24, 2012

NC 20

After much hemming and hawing, I decided that it did indeed make the most sense for me to get in my 20 miler today. I felt so sluggish during yesterday afternoon's run that I was sure it wouldn't go well this morning. Not to mention today would be day #5 of running, which is a lot of days in a row for me. And it was the first day of vacation, and I hated to be gone all morning. But, the reality is that Sam was plenty happy to spend the morning with Neenie and Pippi and likely didn't miss me at all :-) They went fishing and then up to the pool, and I got a chance to run, so it was a win win!


Having fun!

At the edge of the pool

I headed out a little before 7:30 am. It was bright and sunny but not yet 60 degrees so it was very comfortable. The Landing Course is closed on Mondays, so I ran the cart paths as the first portion of my run. The workers were already out working on the course, so with all the activity, I didn't see much wildlife, but did see a big Egret, a few Great Blue Herons and a pair of Red-Headed Woodpeckers, so that was cool. I got back to the house with my Garmin reading 6.25 and stopped for a quick bathroom break. 

Then it was onto portion #2 of the run. I headed out on the roads to the River Lodge. I tried to take the old dirt road along the river, but it was so overgrown that I aborted and just stuck to the roads instead. At the lodge, I took the "nature path" through the woods and along the golf course, before hooking back up with the roads. Then along the main drag to the gate, onto the gravel path along the Berm. At least that stretch allowed me to be on a bit of dirt! I got back to the cart path that crosses my parent's street with my watch reading right around 14 miles, so I hopped back on the cart path going backwards, knowing I just needed to put myself on auto-pilot and follow the path back home and I would get in my 20. I was still feeling pretty good, although the day was warming up. 

Things went OK until right around 16.5 miles when the balls of my feet and my quads just started to feel really trashed. I stopped to stretch a bit and when I started up again, just could never get back into gear. I had taken a bit of a risk from the beginning, going out at under 9:00 pace, which was comfortable at the time and felt right considering the terrain, but that, combined with the flat course and all the pounding on the concrete just caught up with me. I haven't looked at the Garmin data yet, but I know I slowed down a fair bit in those final 3 miles. I did manage to squeak in at just under 3:00 though, so the overall pace was still decent, but the final miles certainly weren't pretty! Ah well. I still got in the 20 miles and kept going, even when it would have been oh so nice to stop, so I'll call it a good run. I did find it interesting that it appeared I must have been running right around a pace that was my body's threshold for being unable/unwilling/uninterested in ingesting fuel over a long period of time. I got in a 1/2 packet of Honeystinger energy chews at mile 4, a Z-bar at mile 8, another 1/2 packet of chews at mile 12, and then struggled to get in another 1/2 packet at mile 16, but that was all I could handle. I'm definitely have not yet figured out how to get enough fuel into myself on these long runs. It worked out fine, but I do wonder if I wouldn't have slowed down quite so much at the end if I had had more to eat? Who knows. I guess this is all just a constant experiment of one - I am certainly still working on what works for me! :-)

Sunday, September 23, 2012


It's official. 4:00 am is way too early to be up! But all in all, today's traveling went very smoothly, Sam was a superstar, and we arrived, tired but happy, in NC on time. Of course, it took us a while to get out of the terminal because Sam wanted to ride the moving walkways, and then we had to change from pull-ups to undies, etc etc. After our bathroom break, Sam shouted out to Ryan, "I'm wearing my undies!" right in front of a poor, unsuspecting older man. He sort of shook his head, and I smiled and said, "I bet you really didn't need to know that, did you?" He laughed. At least Sam is cute, so she can get away with these things :-) Ha!

Gotta love big backpacks :-)

Getting a ride at the playground on Pippi's shoulders

On the train

After a stop at a very cool Raleigh park for a picnic, a train ride and a little playtime, plus a stop at a big farmer's market, we made our way to my parent's house. Sam settled in happily playing with the toys they have, and Ryan and I snuck out for a quick run. It was about 4:00pm, the sun was shining and although there was a nice breeze and it wasn't humid, it felt hot! The sun certainly is still very intense down here at this time of year. We got in 4 miles along the roads and on the path along the berm at a brisk pace considering the late hour, the early start and the traveling. We were bombed by butterflies and grasshoppers along the berm, saw lots of turtles in the ponds, scared up one Great Blue Heron and noted a number of bluebirds flitting about. 

And with that, I'm headed to get my stuff ready for tomorrow's long run and then go to bed! I'm beat!

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Long sleeves and tights, that is! I know, I know, it wasn't actually that chilly out this morning but with the rain and the fact that I need my shorts for our NC trip, I decided to do with tights. I actually was quite comfortable in the end. Got in four miles on the Heath loop, as the mist and rain fell. The bog bridges were slick, so it wasn't a fast 4, but I was happy to get it in!

Thinking of my Trail Monster friends running at Virgil Crest today. Hoping the rain hasn't made its way out to NY, and they are enjoying clear skies on their 50 and 100 mile journeys!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Hill Repeats, Take 2

Sam is yet again going through a period of many wake-ups at night. I wish I could figure out why she felt compelled to wake up so many times in the early morning hours. Perhaps she's having a growth spurt? Or trying to process a lot of new information? Or maybe she's just a bad sleeper. Somehow I just think it is the latter. Ah well. In any event, despite little sleep, I was feeling better than last time about heading out for hill repeats. I had actually skipped one of my planned hill repeat days a few weeks ago, the week I ran 16 miles to Wolfe's Neck, so I knew I had to get out and run them this week, there was just no way around it :-)

It was cool - only 42 degrees again! - and the sky was grey. I headed out a little before 7am and made my way to the top of Mt. A. I ran one loop down the front of the hill, one loop down the back of the hill and then on the third time, decided to take the trail to the top instead of the pavement. It was a nice change. I repeated the sequence and then did one additional front and back loop for a total of 8 repeats. I didn't time the "laps" so I don't know how my loops this time around compared to last time, but overall I felt better. I was still working each time on the uphill, but I didn't have the same discouraged feeling that I did last time I was running this workout. The overall time for the 5 miles ended up actually being slower than in August, maybe because I ran one additional loop instead of taking the long and easy way back around like last time?, but since I felt better mentally and physically and managed to run 1 more loop, I am considering it a moderate success and a step in the right direction.

One more short run here in Maine tomorrow morning, and then we head south! I'm hoping to take advantage of the available built-in babysitting while we're at my parents, and plan to get in some good mileage next week. A lot of it will likely be on roads, and I can pretty much guarantee it will all be flat, but as they say (at least in Sam's daycare), you get what you get and you don't throw a fit! :-)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

7 at 7

Got up and out early for a nice 7 mile wander along the Cathance trails. It felt downright chilly out - only 42 degrees by our thermometer! - and I could see my breath as I ran along. There was a silvery mist rising from the river, and the Heath grasses were covered with a thick dew. The river was low, but the water trickling through the ravine and along the rocks created a pleasant backdrop as I ran along the river's edge. There were a number of blue jays crowing overhead, and I scared up what I think must have been a woodpecker - it called out with an eerie cackle and flew across the river into the trees before I could get anything but a quick glance at its back, but otherwise the woods were quiet. I never can manage to actually run fast on the twisty, rooty singletrack through the preserve, but I made a conscious effort to keep the pace "quick," and finished up the lollypop loop in 1:08. Under 10:00 pace anyway :-) Beautiful morning to be out, and a great way to start the day!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Apple Picking

It was another gorgeous blue sky September day today, and we took advantage of it by heading out to a big breakfast followed up by a visit to Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury. It is quite an operation! We were surprised to see so many people there on a Monday morning; it seemed there were a number of school groups there too. We headed up the hill to the apple orchard, enjoying the morning and marveling at all the beautifully laden apple trees. Sam picked a few apples, but was much happier to ride in the wagon and eat a few apples along the way :-) We also went into the farm store where we got some delicious apple cider donuts and picked a small gourd for Sam to take home, and spent some time feeding the chickens. All in all, a lovely morning for a visit to the farm!

Feeding the chickens

Walking in the orchard

Helping Mama pick an apple (yes, in her tutu :-) )

Wagon ride!


Look at all those apples!

Sam was fairly tired out from the farm excursion, so she went down for a nap easily and slept for almost 2 hours, which nicely afforded me to time to get out and run the 5-mile Weldon Farm road loop and have a bit of time to relax! The run was fine, but nothing special. I felt creaky and tired, it was warm in the sun and I was a bit dehydrated. I managed to squeak in just under 9:00 pace, but just barely :-)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Three Hour Tour (and a bunch of family photos too)

We're down in Massachusetts visiting Ryan's family this weekend, so I decided to take the opportunity to get in a long run on the Stonecat course in Willowdale State Forest. Unfortunately, Ryan's legs weren't up for joining me, so I headed out alone around 7:00 am, into the bright, blue sky, crisp morning. Perfect running weather!

I parked at the school and headed out, map in hand. I completely expected to get lost, but was OK with it. I figured I was out for a 3 hour run anyway, so who cared if I got a bit off track :-) I easily recognized the first few miles of trail, not to mention they were well marked with the reflective bike tape on the trees. I was amazed to see that the trail cutting through the swamp was bone dry - wow! - quite a change from the past few times I've run through there. I got a bit confused somewhere around mile 5, but noted a marker and got back on track. However, around the 2nd aid station, I ended up going through marker #10 three times. It was fairly comical actually :-)

Once back on track, I once again got confused doing some of the singletrack that crisscrossed the carriage roads, and somehow ended back before Freddy's. What the heck! Oh well, I looked at the map and took the shortest route, going once again past marker #10, skipping confusing singletrack and heading across the park. I did a few extra loop-de-loops somewhere near the edge of the park, before finally asking a fellow runner for directions. I knew what marker I was at, but couldn't quite put together which direction I should head to keep on the course. (ie, never expect me to lead you on a run if I haven't run the exact same route many, many times over!) He pointed me in the direction of the cornfields, and I was doing OK except that after the swamp, they had relocated a portion of trail and I once again was directionally challenged for a moment before finally getting onto the final out-and-back stretch to the school.

As I neared the school, my Garmin was reading almost 16 miles! So much for a 12.5 mile loop. HA! :-) I did a loop around the school and ran until the watch beeped 17 on the dot. I didn't stop my watch at all during my time out on the trails, so with all my stops, I was out for a little over 3 hours. Slow, yes, but honestly, I was just out there to run, and despite all my confusion, I was happy with how it went. I felt good and steady the whole time. I did OK with fuel, and never felt low on energy. It wasn't hot and I was very comfortable the whole time. Despite my twists and turns and the time I spent off the official route, I was never frustrated and remained calm. I ran into a few runners, a few mountain bikers and scared up one deer and a few mallards in the swamp, but otherwise, it was just me and the trails and the blue sky above. Hard to complain about that!

I got home in time to enjoy brunch with everyone, catch up a bit with Phyllis and Ted and play with Sam for the afternoon. We played out back and then I took her to the playground later in the afternoon while everyone was watching football.

Red Sox hat, big sunglasses, pink tutu and crocs to match. Who needs anything more?! :-)


Enjoying pistachios with Great Grammie

Reading with Bampie

"Tell me a story, Great Grammie"

Hanging with Grampie

Yum! Fruit!


Doing her 'exercises' (her words, not mine!)

"Mama, don't help me. I can do this myself!" Getting so big!

Friday, September 14, 2012


I was determined to get up and out early this morning so that I could get my miles in. The alarm went off a little before 5:30am, and a little before 6:00, just as there was starting to be a hint of light in the sky, I was pulling on my shoes and ready to sneak out of the house into the semi-darkness. Sam must have had some sort of sixth sense that I was getting ready to go as she chose that exact time to wake up and cry out for me. I went upstairs, hoping I could get her back to sleep for a bit longer, but alas, she was awake. We lay there for a while, cuddled up, her hands curled around my hair, breathing together in the darkness, before she finally asked to get dressed and go downstairs. We sat on the couch and read stories until Ryan came down a little later, only partially awake but ready to take over story duty so that I could go out the door. Thanks honey :-) And so it was that I finally headed out around 6:30, into the fog and mist. I ran down the powerlines and back for 6 miles. I scared up two deer on the way down the hill after Rt. 24, and they were there again on my return - must have been some good eating there in the brush! - and I saw an inquisitive little chipmunk poke his head over the edge of the sand, but otherwise all was quiet. Glad to have gotten out for a decent run to cap off this "rest" week. Hoping to get in some good mileage next week, starting with a long run down on the Stonecat course on Sunday morning while we're visiting with Ryan's family!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Another 4

I haven't quite been giving myself enough time to get in the 5-6 mile runs this week like I had planned. Oh well. I got in a quick-paced 4 miles this morning, mostly on the roads, but with a few chunks of trail thrown in. My legs felt good, and it was yet another beautiful crisp and sunny morning. Can't beat that!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Ryan has been making fun of me the past few mornings because I've been saying it's cold! It's not that I don't like the cold, it is simply that it was such a swift change from muggy, heavy, humid air to the lovely crispness of fall, and my body needs a bit of time to adjust! But in any event, this crisp fall weather is wonderful for running! I got out for a quick 4 miles on the powerlines this morning. I had hoped to get out at first light and get in a few more miles, but surprise, surprise, that didn't quite happen :-) Instead, I slept in a bit, cuddled with Sam in bed and hung out with her for a bit before heading out around 7:30. I really didn't feel great when I woke up - my back was stiff, my hips were stiff, my leg was tight. Sigh. But Sam suggested that we do a bit of "rolling" before I went out - we are teaching her well, are we not?! :-) - so roll we did, with her on my lap and then her next to me, rolling on her stomach while I tried to work the kinks out of my back. It did help loosen things up a bit - such a smart little girl! - and the run went fairly well. I got a leg massage before heading into work and that helped too! Ahhh. Lovely!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Creak Creak

I probably should have done some sort of cool down yesterday, but I was so cold after standing around for a few minutes after the race, soaked in sweat in the oddly humid but cool weather, that all I wanted to do was go get into dry clothes. I could definitely tell I raced (and didn't cool down) yesterday, as the legs weren't in the mood to move at all this morning when I headed out for my run. I got in a very creaky 4.25 miles around the Heath. It was slow going, but on the upside, it was only 54 degrees! And I wore long sleeves! And I was comfortable in said long sleeves! Hurray fall!

Speaking of fall, Story Time at Pineland Farms started up again this morning after a summer hiatus, so that is where Sam and I headed. Sam still doesn't quite have the attention span to sit quietly through all the stories, despite the snack break and the activity time, but it's still a fun activity for us and a nice thing to do on a Monday morning when we're around. Plus, Sam loves stopping at the market for their ginger molasses cookies - yum!

This morning, the coloring page was that of an apple tree, and the woman running the story hour commented on how much Sam's coloring skills have progressed since we saw her last in mid-May. Indeed, although she doesn't really stay in the lines, she definitely now "gets" the whole idea of coloring each part of the picture, although of course with her own flair - I especially love the blue tree trunk :-)