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Making up for lost time

October 20th, 2014

Wow, how is it already October 20th? The last three months of the year are always my favorite, and two-thirds of October is already behind me! I’m pretty annoyed that I haven’t been able to enjoy the first twenty days of this month as much as I wanted to, but it really couldn’t be helped. On Friday I finished an extremely intense ten-day activity at work that occupied almost all of my waking hours during that time, as well as more than a month beforehand. Not only was I tethered to the office during those ten days (I got called in late at night twice), but I was exhausted when I got home each day so my extracurricular activities were limited. I only ran a couple of times which set me back in my half marathon training, and the only other place I visited besides work and home was the grocery store. Thanks to all of my cooking efforts I was able to maintain my grain-free meals during this trying time, but the time in between is where it all went wrong. I ate quite a few Oreos (new and different flavors like limeaid, caramel apple, and pumpkin spice), sampled more fancy chocolates (Bissinger’s) than I’d like to admit, and drank Coca-Cola like it was going out of style. I am paying for all of these things this week. The scale says I’ve gained a little weight, I’m going through caffeine and sugar withdrawals after cutting myself off from soda again, and my running has definitely suffered. Time to start making up for lost time! After cooking all weekend I’m back on the wagon with my diet, and I have quite a few lunches and dinners in the fridge and freezer ready to keep me from cheating when I’m hungry. Also, I ran 4 miles on Saturday and 6 miles on Sunday so I’m getting back in the groove with my half marathon training. (I have a funny story about my 6-mile run yesterday, but I’ll share that another time.) Now I just need to get down to the business of enjoying the rest of October! I’ve already watched “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” once, and I’m trying to figure out when I can go back to Disneyland to enjoy the Halloween festivities before the end of the month. Plus, I’m going to a Halloween party on Saturday night. There are so many wonderful things about this time of the year. It’s time for me to get out and enjoy them!

iPhone 6 considerations

October 18th, 2014

I’ve had a lot of people ask me what I like about my new iPhone 6. That’s not a question I have an easy answer to. In general, I’ve found that the iPhone 6 is pretty much exactly the same as the iPhone 5, at least as far as actual operation goes. The fingerprint recognition is pretty cool, but I don’t use it. My phone is mostly for simple stuff like Facebook, Twitter, and email, as well as using Map My Run to keep track of my half marathon training. So when people ask what I like about my iPhone 6, I usually try to come up with something other than the fact that the glass isn’t shattered and falling off, like on my old iPhone 5. Even though it works great, I guess I’m not exactly in love with the iPhone 6. In fact, there are a few minor things I’m not a fan of. Like the size. Granted, the iPhone 6 isn’t all that much bigger than it’s predecessor, but I’ve added a case (to avoid the spiderweb effect if I drop it) which exacerbates the issue. I’ve become accustomed to carrying my phone around in the back pocket of my jeans (I don’t have a purse I like anymore), but that’s not nearly as easy as it used to be with the size of the iPhone 6 plus the case. Also, it’s much more difficult to go running with a larger phone. Some of my shorts and capris have back pockets which are perfect for stashing my phone while running. No extra belt needed. But now with the iPhone 6 I can barely squeeze it into those pockets or into the storage pouch on my hydration belt (for longer runs), and that’s with the case removed! And taking the case off every other day or so is no picnic. As much as I like the case I bought (it has little rubber grips to make it easier to hold and less likely to slide off of other surfaces), I might need to invest in one that’s a little less difficult to remove for running. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sorry I got an iPhone 6, but it’s going to take a little getting used to. The good news is that I’ve discovered the beauty of running pants with side pockets. The two pairs that I’ve gotten recently have pockets on the outside of the thighs that are the perfect size for my iPhone. Also, it makes the phone much more accessible for changing the music or checking my run progress. I love those pants so much that I’ve ordered another couple of pairs so that I’ll have plenty of options for running this fall and winter. So despite my complaints, I still take my phone with me everywhere I go and use it all the time. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

The race that wasn’t (Part 2)

October 17th, 2014

Last Sunday was the Long Beach marathon, half marathon, and 5K. Originally I was hoping to run the half marathon, but it didn’t fit into my training plan for the Avengers Half Marathon next month, so I signed up for the 5K instead. A nice, easy 3.1 mile run at 8:30 AM on an October morning was going to be lovely. As the race approached, fall was finally starting to arrive in Los Angeles and I was really excited about that. We’d had a lot of things going on at work since the beginning of October and I was scheduled to work last Saturday, but fortunately I was supposed to have a day off on Sunday. Perfect, right? Unfortunately things started to unravel on Friday night when I got called in to work at 8 PM for a couple of hours (even though it was supposed to be my day off). However, I still managed to get to the expo on Saturday before work to pick up my race bib and t-shirt, and I even laid out all of my clothes for the 5K so I’d be ready to go quickly the next morning. Then my Saturday shift at work turned out to be much more difficult than I expected, and I didn’t get home until after 10 PM. That might have been reason enough to skip the 5K the next morning, but more compelling was the fact that I had to be at work at 8 AM (despite originally having Sunday off) when the race didn’t start until 8:30 AM. Had it been earlier in the morning I might have been able to go, but I wasn’t that lucky. So I missed out on getting a Long Beach race medal this year, but I’m not really all that upset about it. I’m already planning to do the Beach Cities Challenge next year, which means three half marathons in 2015 – Huntington Beach in February, Orange County in May, and Long Beach in October. It might take a bit longer, but I’ll get that medal eventually!

The race that wasn’t (Part 1)

October 16th, 2014

Mascot

October 10th, 2014

At work we tend to be a bit superstitious. I know this isn’t a trait that you’d usually associate with engineers and other scientifically minded folks, but I think the fact that we work on spacecraft which have a tendency to malfunction has something to do with it. Amongst my co-workers, we have rituals that must be followed or else people get really nervous. For example, we have one particular phrase which shall never be uttered again based on what happened the last time someone said it. Also, when we get close to finishing a package of Oreos (we eat a lot of them in my office), the last cookie absolutely must be eaten by one specific person. Heaven forbid that final Oreo is taken by anyone else! That superstition has been going on so long that I can’t even remember what initiated it. Yes, we’re a crazy bunch of people sometimes. We even have a mascot! Several actually – a Lego space shuttle sitting on top of a computer, a cartoon character figurine, a rubber duck that brings good luck, etc. But one of the mascots that’s been around for a long time is The Fruit Cup. I capitalize the name to distinguish it from any other ordinary, run-of-the-mill fruit cup. This one is special. It’s a small can of fruit cocktail that was purchased at a grocery store in the DC area sometime in 2009 or 2010, at the latest. To personalize it, a “Spicy” sticker from a Chick-Fil-A spicy chicken sandwich was added to the outside at some point. That fruit cup is still around (and unopened, thankfully, since it expired in 2011) in our DC work area, bringing us luck when we need it. In fact, we consider it such an effective good luck charm that this week someone decided we needed a corresponding Fruit Cup on the West Coast. Unfortunately it seems Chick-Fil-A doesn’t use “spicy” stickers on their sandwiches anymore so our newest mascot isn’t the same as the original in that respect. As an alternative, I supplied some Hello Kitty stickers with inspirational phrases in case the Fruit Cup’s owner wanted to decorate it in a different way, but that idea was rejected. I guess the masculinity of mixed fruit would have been undermined by the presence of Hello Kitty. Or something like that! So for now it’s an unadorned fruit cup, but based on what’s happened since it arrived, it has definitely brought us luck. I know it sounds silly, but we all feel a little more at ease with our new Fruit Cup in the office!

Buy a flashlight

October 6th, 2014

“I may have cast a little curse, but I did not ask to maintain a metropolitan electrical grid. Oh, and get this, I’m starting to get why Regina was evil. It wasn’t her; it was YOU! You have survived your ENTIRE LIVES without light bulbs. Buy a flashlight!”
Snow White/Mary Margaret, “Once Upon A Time”

Foodie Friday – Chocolate chip cookies #50

October 3rd, 2014

Chocolate chip cookies #50: Based on Averie Cooks’ Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies. Baked on 8/7/14 and 8/30/14.

Obviously I made these before I went grain-free, but I’m still committed to perfecting my cookie recipes. Just because I don’t eat grains anymore doesn’t mean other people can’t enjoy them! (Plus, I always try at least a little of everything I make to ensure it isn’t terrible. You’d be surprised how often that happens!) And what better way to use grains than in a chocolate chip cookie?

I love oatmeal chocolate chip cookies as well as coconut chocolate chip cookies so I thought combining the two would work really well. And apparently I’m not the only one because I found several cookie recipes online that use both oatmeal and coconut. I settled on this recipe, which called for coconut oil in place of butter. I planned to use butter instead, but I realized I was completely out (gasp!), so coconut oil won that battle. I also used a full 1 cup of oatmeal and 1 cup of coconut, as directed, but I diverged from the recipe by toasting it first. Both of these things turned out to be a problem. As I mentioned in chocolate chip cookies #49, I think the toasted oatmeal is just too dry in this context. I know for a fact that toasted coconut in cookies is delicious (see my co-worker’s favorite cookies here) so the oatmeal must have been the main reason these weren’t a success.

I made these cookies again over Labor Day weekend when my parents were visiting. This time around I used just 3/4 cup each of oatmeal and coconut to try and improve the texture. And it worked somewhat, but not enough to really win me over. The cookies were good, but not my favorite. They were still too dry for me. It’s possible that reducing the amount of oatmeal and coconut even further would yield perfection, but I’m not sure I’ll devote the time or ingredients to find out. There are so many other chocolate chip cookie recipes to try instead!

So glad it’s October again!

October 2nd, 2014

Lazy weekdays

October 1st, 2014

I have been so lazy the last couple of days. My “to do” list is about fifteen items long, but I have checked off very few items since Sunday. However, I actually had a very productive weekend, so maybe that makes up for it? I ran 6 miles on Saturday morning, then did some shopping at Ikea and South Coast Plaza, and finished up the day making a batch of chili (recipe forthcoming). I also got a chance to catch up on some of the fall premiere episodes that I DVRed during the week. (As I’ve stated before, I watch way too many TV shows, and I’m always trying to cut back. At this point I think “Sleepy Hollow” is going to get deleted from my record list. It’s just not that entertaining.) Sunday included a morning trip to Disneyland since the weather was so lovely. After several weeks of unbearable heat in Los Angeles it was finally cooler over the weekend and I tried to enjoy it as much as possible. I was actually a little chilly in my shorts and t-shirt until it warmed up a little. Fall might actually be on its way! When I got home from Disneyland I spent the rest of the day cooking (and watching more television, like the latest episode of my favorite show, Doctor Who). Eliminating grains from my diet has required me to prepare almost all of my food at home. There’s no such thing as a quick meal for me anymore! I can count on one hand the number of fast food places that serve anything that’s not between slices of bread, on a bun, or in a wrap. Hopefully this means I’ll start saving money on food, but so far I’ve been going to the grocery store (including expensive ones like Whole Foods) so often that it might end up being a wash. And that’s ok. I made some delicious almond butter chicken stir fry on Sunday – yet another recipe I’ll be sharing soon. I was so excited about the success of the stir fry that I decided to try my hand at grain-free chocolate chip cookies. Unfortunately those were decidedly less successful due to a few mistakes on my part. A friend of mine has had a lot of luck with the recipe so I’ll pick up some more almond flour this weekend and try it again. It would be so awesome to be able to make tasty chocolate chip cookies without refined sugar or flour.

Getting back to the laziness, I was finally able to get a few things done tonight. Like wash the sink full of dishes that has been piling up for a few days. (And watch some more TV shows piling up on my DVR. What can I say? I’m an addict.) While I’m really glad to have made some headway on my chores, there’s still a lot I need to do before the end of the week. This means I can’t let myself have any more lazy nights this week. It’s going to be a busy couple of days!

Old recipe – Spiced pumpkin bread

September 28th, 2014

Forgive me for posting more than one recipe in a week, but I haven’t been able to get it together enough to write anything else this in the last few days. I was pretty busy at work last week and I’ve been all over the place this weekend. At the beginning of a weekend I always feel like I have tons of time to do everything that I want to, but then the two days pass so quickly that I hardly know how I spent them. It’s a bit frustrating, really. But that’s a subject for another time.

Getting back to the food, I can’t believe I’ve never posted either of my favorite pumpkin bread recipes before! I must remedy this error as quickly as possible. Since fall technically started last week I decided to bake some pumpkin bread for my co-workers. Of the two most successful recipes I’ve tried, this one is the easiest since it doesn’t require any out of the ordinary ingredients. (The other recipe calls for “cook and serve” vanilla pudding mix which I never have just lying around.) I’ve had a couple of cans of pumpkin sitting in my cupboard since last year, begging to be made into yummy treats, so I didn’t even have to get any at the store before whipping up this delicious seasonal treat! By far the best thing about this pumpkin bread is the mix of spices. I added the pumpkin pie spice myself, and maybe next time I’ll throw in a little cardamom for good measure. You really can’t go wrong. I’m not sure anything tastes more like fall than this pumpkin bread. Plus, the recipe makes 2 or 3 loaves. It’s so good you’ll need that much to go around!

INGREDIENTS:
1 c canola oil
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
2/3 c water
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 c granulated sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3 1/2 c all-purpose flour

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl (or extra large if you have it – this recipe produces a lot of batter!), stir together the canola oil (you can substitute 1/2 c butter and 1/2 c oil if you want), pumpkin, water, eggs, vanilla, and sugar (you can use a mix of white and brown sugars if you want). Add the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and pumpkin pie spice, and stir until combined. Now it’s time to break out the electric mixer (if you haven’t already). Add 2 c of the flour (I used a combination of all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour) to the bowl and blend until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Add the other 1 1/2 c of flour and blend until combined. Divide the batter between a couple of greased loaf pans. The original recipe calls for three 7×3″ pans, but since I don’t have any of those I used one 9×5″ pan and one 8×4″ pan instead. Bake at 350 deg F for about 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Keep in mind that if you use pans of different sizes, like I did, the smaller one will be done faster. Enjoy!

Based on All Recipes’s Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread.