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Weekend away from home (part 2)

December 20th, 2014

I figured I’d better finish writing about last weekend before THIS weekend ends!

I spent all of last Sunday afternoon after the Holiday Half Marathon relaxing in my hotel room. It was lovely! This time of year is always so busy that I don’t have enough time to enjoy myself. Spending a whole day without needing to accomplish anything substantial felt really great. I only left my hotel that day to get lunch (a sandwich at Jimmy John’s) and dinner (a salad at Panera). I couldn’t believe how tired I was. It didn’t help that I had trouble sleeping the night before the half marathon. I went to bed plenty early, but I woke up about five times between 3 AM and 6 AM, anxious about the race. At that point I realized it wasn’t worth tossing and turning any longer, so I got up and started getting ready. Staying so close to the Pomona Fairplex was great because I got there that morning by 6:45 AM, even after only waking up at 6 AM. Totally worth it. It was another cold morning (45 deg), so I was glad for the old sweatshirt I’d brought with me. My plan was to wear it until the start of the race or shortly after, and then discard it. Actually, this was all my mom’s idea. She knew that I have several sweatshirts that I was planning to give to Goodwill anyway, so wearing them for warmth before races during the winter works out perfectly. The race instructions said that discarded clothing would go to charity anyway so everyone’s a winner! Even though I was cold before the race started, it turned out to be perfect weather for running. Too bad the course wasn’t as perfect. There were SO MANY HILLS. I walked the entirety of mile 8 because it was all uphill. Ugh. It actually turned out to be a lovely course (check out the above photo for proof), but I can’t say that I really enjoyed it. My finishing time turned out to be about the same as my Disneyland Half Marathon time, which means slow, but I’m OK with that. I crossed the finish line and that’s all that really matters to me. Afterwards I picked up my Golden Snowflake Challenge medal for completing the 5K and half marathon that weekend! That was pretty cool. I don’t think the promise of an extra medal will tempt me to return next year, though. That half marathon course was killer and I’d honestly rather not repeat it. It made me realize how much I appreciate the flat Disney race courses!

Wordless Wednesday – Christmas cards 2014

December 17th, 2014

Ten days ’til Christmas

December 15th, 2014

It’s December 15th and Christmas is in ten days. Fortunately I’ve got almost all of my Christmas shopping done, with just a couple of stocking stuffers to pick up after I get to Florida next week. (Anything I don’t have to cram into my suitcase is good.) My little Christmas tree and other decorations have been in place in my apartment for almost two weeks, and I even sent out all of my Christmas cards in early December. I’m ahead of the game for once! More than I could have possibly imagined, actually. Believe it or not, I’ve already gotten started on my resolutions for 2015. I know it’s a bit early, but I’ve put a lot of thought into some changes I want to make next year. I think I’ve made some great strides in 2014 and I want to keep moving in the right direction in 2015. I’m still compiling/clarifying/simplifying the new resolutions so I’ll save the whole list for next year, but there’s one I want to at least mention now. In a nutshell: Less screen time. I’ve always admitted that I watch too much television (I’ve got “The Simpsons” on right now) so starting in January I’m going to make a concerted effort to cut back on time spent in front of the TV. I’ll still watch my favorite shows (DVRed, as usual), but other mindless couch-potato impressions will not be tolerated! One of the ways I’m going to do this is to ban iPad TV/movie watching while getting ready for bed. I know the glow from the screen impacts the quality of my sleep so I will turn off almost all of my electronic gadgets (laptop included) at night. There was one little problem with this resolution, however. How do I reconcile reading in bed on my iPad Mini? Easy! I ordered a blue light filter for it that will let me read as much as I want, but hopefully keep the iPad from messing with my natural sleep cycles. Brilliant! The filters should be here tomorrow and I can’t wait to start using them on both of my iPads. I should probably look for a filter for my laptop as well, but one step at a time!

Weekend away from home (part 1)

December 14th, 2014

Written on Saturday night:
I left home this morning at 6 AM to drive to Pomona for the Holiday 5K. I was worried that it might be an hour-long drive, but the Saturday morning traffic was light so it only took about 45 minutes. And it was such a lovely drive! There was snow on the mountains after the storm on Thursday and Friday. I didn’t realize the drive to Pomona was going to be so scenic, but I really appreciated it. When I got to the Fairplex I had to pick up my bib for the 5K that morning as well as the half marathon tomorrow. I wasn’t sure whether signing up for both races was really foolish, but I was afraid that I’d regret it if I didn’t. Finishing both races means an extra medal. There’s nothing wrong with running just for the bling! I got to the Fairplex at 7 AM to pick up the race bibs and it was 45 deg outside. Brr! I was wearing a light jacket, but I don’t usually put on my running shoes until the last minute because they aren’t particular comfortable except for running (stupid stability shoes). So I wore a pair of flip flips to walk into the fairgrounds, but quickly discovered that it was too cold for open-toed shoes. I also started to reconsider the short-sleeved Hello Kitty Christmas shirt I had picked for the 5K. I knew that I would probably be plenty warm as soon as I started running, but I didn’t want to freeze while waiting for the race to start. After picking up my race bibs I decided to change into my long-sleeved Avengers Half Marathon shirt. I was quite comfortable before the race started, but the clothing choice turned out to be a mistake after about a mile. Not only did the sleeves make me overheat, but the shirt was black and it was very sunny by 8:30 AM. It was like a furnace. Luckily I had a better plan for the half marathon tomorrow. Besides the temperature problems, I wasn’t a big fan of this 5K course. I felt pretty bad during the first mile and a half, but then I realized it was because that part of the course was all uphill! The second half was obviously downhill because I averaged less than 11 minute/mile. That’s crazy! I’m not sure of my exact finishing time yet, but I think it was pretty average for me. No big deal. It’s not like I was out to set any speed records (or even personal records) the day before a half marathon.

In order to save myself multiple long drives to and from Pomona over the weekend (and to get as much sleep as possible before the half marathon) I booked myself a room in a nearby hotel. In a previous post I mentioned that accommodations for December races was my Christmas present to myself and the money couldn’t have been better spent. I had to hang around the race expo for a couple of hours after the 5K before checking into the hotel, though. I was so glad to get there around noon. I took a shower and then went out to get some lunch. I chose Marie Calendar’s because I knew I could get mashed potatoes there, but it was a terrible choice and a terrible meal. After that I had to swing by CVS and get a toothbrush since I left mine at home when I was in a hurry to leave in the morning. I spent the rest of the day being pretty lazy. I watched a lot of TV, did some online shopping (all for myself – I think my Christmas shopping is pretty much done), and surfing the web. It was nice to be able to completely relax for a change. Now it’s time for me to go to bed so I’ll be well rested for the half marathon tomorrow morning!

Holiday 5K

December 13th, 2014

Foodie Friday – Amazing bacon chili

December 12th, 2014

When the chili cook-off at work rolled around on Halloween I still wasn’t 100% satisfied with the recipe I had been working on. In the end I whipped up a batch that I called “When Zombie Pigs Fly Double Bacon Chili” that used a whole pound of bacon, but I wasn’t sure it would be a success. People seemed to like it (I knew the bacon would be a crowd pleaser), but I actually didn’t even taste my own concoction! I was a little afraid to considering how badly my previous batch had turned out. I’m not sure what I did differently the last time, but I threw half of that batch out because I simply didn’t like it. What a waste. I’m pretty sure the chili cook-off version was better than that since my co-workers at every last bite, but I still had a nagging feeling that it was just mediocre. So a couple of weeks ago when I decided to make a batch of chili for my weekday lunches I was nervous that it would be another flop. Fortunately I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was amazing! Here’s what I did differently: 1) I used maple-flavored bacon (the hint of sweetness made all the difference), and 2) I cooked in on the stove rather than in a Crockpot. Those tweaks turned this chili into one of the best things I’ve made all year. I even made a batch for my co-workers this week and they loved it.

Note: This chili recipe is completely customizable. If you want some heat, add a little cayenne pepper or some diced chili peppers. I can’t handle spicy food so I simply leave those kinds of ingredients out. Also, you can throw in a couple of cans of beans (drained and rinsed), like I did in the batch I made this week. Black beans and red kidney beans are my favorite. You can also use other meats or vegetables. Whatever you want! I think I’m going to try sweet potato chili next. The sky’s the limit!

INGREDIENTS:
1 lb maple-flavored bacon
1 c diced sweet onion (about 1/2 large onion)
1 c diced red bell pepper (about 1 large pepper)
1 lb ground beef (preferably grass-fed)
2 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
1/2 Tbsp paprika (mine is smoked)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes
1 can (14 oz) tomato sauce (can use two 8 oz cans instead)

DIRECTIONS:
Cut the bacon slices into 1/2 in pieces. In a large nonstick skillet (I have an aptly named chili pot that I love), cook the bacon over medium heat. Use a splatter guard if you have one because that bacon grease is hot! Once the bacon pieces are crispy, remove them from the pan and set aside for later. Add the ground beef, diced onions, and peppers to the pan with the leftover bacon grease and cook until the beef is no longer pink. Add the chili powder, cumin, paprika, coriander, garlic powder, oregano, salt, and black pepper. Stir and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and reserved bacon and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover, and cook for at least an hour (longer if you want), stirring occasionally. Enjoy!

Based on Kate’s Healthy Cupboard’s Bacon Chili (Gluten Free).

Socializing

December 11th, 2014

I have a colleague/friend that works in another city and travels out here about four times a year. Whenever he’s in town I try to organize dinner somewhere so that my close group of co-workers can get together and socialize a bit. In the past I’ve cooked a meal and served it to everyone either at my apartment or at someone else’s house, which was a blast, but I’ve been way too busy to organize that kind of event lately. I have enough trouble cooking meals for just myself! So this time I just proposed that we go to dinner at a restaurant one night after work. Easy, right? Wrong! Besides the fact that coordinating the schedules of five people is like herding cats, I should have realized that trying to plan anything this time of year is really difficult. Busy schedules are the norm in December. On top of all that, one person in our group had to be at work at 2 AM in the morning, another one was going out of town the next day, and a third person is moving away on Friday. Crazy! After trying to figure something out via instant message yesterday morning and failing miserably, we decided to call the whole thing off. To be honest, it was a bit of a relief, but I was still sad to miss out on an opportunity to hang out with my co-workers. There was a consolation prize, though. Someone suggested grabbing a spot in a conference room and eating lunch together. And it was great! This week has been pretty busy so it was nice to take a half hour to sit down, talk, and laugh together. Not only did we locals get to spend time with a couple of people from out of town, but we also got to socialize a bit with the guy who’s moving on Friday. It was a good time. These days we are all so busy that we usually just work through lunch, so yesterdays mini get together was a special treat. Stuff like that needs to happen more often.

Wordless Wednesday – Christmas tree 2014

December 10th, 2014

Holiday shopping for myself

December 8th, 2014

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! More specifically, it’s time to get great deals on presents for the people you love! And I’ve done pretty well buying Christmas gifts for my family so far this holiday season, but I must confess that the bulk of my purchases have been for myself. The combination of Black Friday and Cyber Monday led to quite a few personal acquisitions, mostly clothing. We didn’t have any internet access in our hotel room in San Francisco (because they were charging a fortune for it) so I didn’t do any online shopping on Black Friday. And despite spending some time at a mall in San Francisco the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the only new thing I took home with me was a box of chocolates from Cocoa Bella. Tasty, but not exactly notable. However, when I got back to Los Angeles on Sunday I hit the internet and started shopping. The Cyber Monday deals I found were great! I got jeans at both Old Navy and American Eagle for 40% off which allowed me to get rid of some old pairs that were either worn out or just plain uncomfortable (i.e., too tight since I can’t manage to lose any weight). I got another pair of running capris from Lucy for 40% off too. Workout clothes can be insanely expensive and I’ve been investing in some quality items lately. Luckily the sales over the weekend allowed me to stock up on pants and tops at a decent price. Speaking of which, I got two running shirts from Raw Threads (in the photo above) for less than half price! I bought them specifically for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon weekend in May – the shirt with the wings on the back for the 10K, and the shirt with “19.3” on the back for the half marathon. The “19.3” indicates that I’ll be running 19.3 miles that weekend (10K + half marathon) in the Pixie Dust Challenge. Yikes! Who knows if I’ll actually be able to do it, but at least I’ll be well dressed!

Saturday night entertainment

December 7th, 2014

P.S. While I really enjoyed “Mockingjay, Part 1,” if you’re wondering to whether you should stay through the credits and see the scene at the end (which I verified via aftercredits.com before sitting through them myself), don’t bother. It’s not worth it. There’s no worthwhile content at all and I was really disappointed!