Welcoming fall with pumpkin bread

When September rolls around it means that it’s late enough in the year for me to bake with pumpkin again, but somehow I waited eighteen days to take advantage of that freedom in 2016. What a shame! But I think this pumpkin bread was worth the wait. I first tried this Taste of Home recipe over a decade ago with great success, but one of the ingredients was a tad problematic. Finding cook-and-serve vanilla pudding in 3 oz packages was impossible! I had to buy a larger box and just roughly guess at the right amount to pour into the batter. It was annoying so I found other recipes to try instead. But this year I was browsing the grocery aisles and found the little 3 oz pudding packages! It was a sign that this tried-and-true pumpkin bread recipe needed to make a comeback this fall.

As I was baking today I did make a couple of minor changes to the Taste of Home recipe. Actually, they were more like augmentations. The original recipe called for just 1 teaspoon of cinnamon as seasoning, but one of my other go-to pumpkin bread recipes (see my spiced pumpkin bread recipe here) calls for a host of other spices as well. So I also included nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and pumpkin pie spice in today’s baking endeavor. Similarly, I added 2 teaspoons of vanilla because it makes everything better. The result was absolutely fantastic. In spite of being on a diet I tried a piece this evening. This may be the best pumpkin bread I’ve ever tasted! The perfect fall treat to share with my co-workers tomorrow!

INGREDIENTS:
5 large eggs
1 1/4 c canola oil
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
2 packages (3 oz each) cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix
1 tsp baking soda
2 c all-purpose flour
2 c granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS:
Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer. Make sure it’s a really big bowl because this recipe makes 2 loaves which means a lot of batter! Add the canola oil, pumpkin puree, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, and salt and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the vanilla pudding mix and baking soda and beat until combined. Lastly, add the flour and sugar and beat until combined. Pour the batter (it’s pretty thin and easily pourable) into two 8×4″ loaf pans coated with cooking spray. (I only have one loaf pan at the moment so I used a 12 cup bundt cake pan instead. If you go this route make sure that every nook and cranny of the pan is coated with spray because you don’t want the cake to stick!) Bake at 325 deg F for 70-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes before inverting the loaves (or cake) onto a wire rack. Cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

Based on Taste of Home’s Delicious Pumpkin Bread.

Disney virtual runs

With a couple of exceptions (like the annual July 4th 5K in Huntington Beach, for example), the summer is devoid of races. This spring I ran just about every race I could feasibly attend (it was pretty ridiculous), but after the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego half marathon at the beginning of June there wasn’t much on my running calendar. But with my Disney World Marathon training starting right after Labor Day my goal for the summer was to run consistently so that I would be in decent shape when September 6th arrived. Usually races are what keep me motivated and accountable so maintaining my fitness routine without them is a lot more difficult. Then runDisney announced their Virtual Running Shorts summer 5K series. How delightful! It’s no secret that I’m a Disney fanatic (I spent 5 hours at Disneyland yesterday to catch the Paint the Night parade one last time before it’s discontinued after Labor Day) so earning more runDisney medals by simply completing a few of my planned summer training runs was very appealing. So I signed up for the series, which included all three 5Ks between May 15th and June 30th. Finding the motivation to go for a run on a weeknight when it’s hot and humid outside (for Southern California, at least) is a lot easier when I know I’m earning a tangible reward. And the medals didn’t disappoint either! They look great hanging on my cubicle wall at work with the rest of my 2016 race bling. Now that summer is just about over (except for the warm weather which I expect will stick around for a while) I’m extremely grateful to the Disney virtual runs for giving me something to look forward to during these three quiet months. And helping me prepare for the Disneyland 10K and half marathon next weekend! Let the fall race season begin!

Simple pleasures

Earlier this year my bathroom at home wasn’t fully operational. Much to my disappointment, my shower has never had great water pressure and I’ve had to ask my landlady to clean out the filter on the shower head about once a year to keep it serviceable. On top of that, my sinks and tub drain start backing up about once a year as well and the plumber has to be called to snake the lines and remove whatever has built up in there over time. Back in May I was dealing with both of these issues at the same time. And then one Monday morning the toilet broke. Now I’ve had to deal with my share of chains gone awry that simply have to be reconnected, but in this case the flusher handle got completely detached from the inner workings in the tank. There is no easy fix for a snapped piece of plastic. Luckily nothing else was wrong so I didn’t have to deal with an overflow situation or anything like that, but I did have to call my landlady and tell her that at this point my bathroom was basically out of service for all activities.

Two days later I got a text message saying that everything was fixed. A working toilet was essential (I’d been spending a lot of time away from home to be near working facilities), a functional sink was a nice perk (washing my face in the morning was a lot easier when the water drained properly), and a shower with slightly higher water pressure was going to be much more pleasant (I’d been showering at the gym which was a pain). When I pulled open my shower curtain I noticed that my landlady had completely replaced the shower head with a brand new one. Nice! I had fairly low expectations for the water pressure due to my years of lackluster showering experiences in my apartment, but at least I knew the filter was new and not clogged. So when I turned on the shower I was blown away! Almost literally! The water pressure was at a level I had never personally witnessed! Here’s how I described it to my mom via text message – “My new shower is glorious! I think I heard angels singing! Water pressure of a Biblical magnitude!” I could not have been more ecstatic in that moment. There’s nothing better after going for a run (which I do 3-4 times a week) than a nice hot shower to unwind before bedtime. As you can tell, it doesn’t take much to make me happy. The simple pleasures in life are all I require.

Saving the planet?

A couple of months ago I started going to the gym with a co-worker/friend/running buddy. We have been running together since the OC Half Marathon in May (more on that in another post) and her cross training habits inspired me to include other activities in my exercise routine. I haven’t even been to spin class in months, and resistance training has been extremely sparse for a number of years. So since I can’t survive on running alone, in early June I went to her gym as a guest to try it out. Most of the classes are Crossfit-style and have a different group of exercises each day. My first class was awkward and slightly embarrassing due to my lack of overall fitness an unfamiliarity with a lot of the exercises, but I kept going back. And now my friend and I are usually there three times a week. Not bad! But discussing my new workout schedule is not the reason I’m writing this post. When I showed up at my first gym class I brought a plastic bottle of Arrowhead water with me for hydration purposes. But when I looked around at all of the other attendees I noticed that everyone else had reusable bottles instead. I felt so wasteful! It was time for me to cut the cord with disposable water bottles. So over the next week I researched and ordered three different stainless steel bottles to use at work, at the gym, and while driving. All of them are insulated so I can keep the water cold longer, which is especially refreshing at the gym. And one of the bottles has a sippy cup lid which turned out to be a necessity after a couple of spillage incidents on my way to work. It’s important to hydrate safely while on the go! I’m pretty pleased with my purchases and I feel good about my little attempt to save the planet. Not more plastic water bottles in my life!

Sunscreen experiment #17

Considering I’m all the way up to experiment #17 it’s probably a foregone conclusion that I have a ridiculously large collection of sunscreen. I’d say I need an intervention, but I consider the pursuit of the perfect sun protection to be a noble quest! And my bathroom cupboards and medicine cabinet are a testament to my unwavering devotion to this journey. (Feels more like Mission: Impossible sometimes, but I haven’t given up yet!) One of these days I’m going to gather up all the different tubes, tubs, cans, and sticks of sunscreen I own and take a picture to share. The first step is admitting you have a problem, right? Anyway, on to today’s review!

Summertime at Disneyland requires sunscreen. Lots and lots of sunscreen. Because when you’re baking in the sun or standing in a crowded line for a ride it’s just too hot to be wearing long pants or long sleeves. And this situation requires a different kind of sunscreen than the sport variety. For my sunny weekend runs I need something ultra sweat proof (currently I’m using Anthelios products), but that also makes them difficult to wash off afterwards. While that’s a good quality mid-run when I’m sweating like crazy, it’s kinda gross to feel it still on my skin even after a shower. So for Disneyland days I’ve been trying moisturizing sunscreens instead, like the Aveeno Protect + Hydrate SPF 30 I reviewed back in sunscreen experiment #7 and sunscreen experiment #7 revisited. So I ordered some Coola Body SPF 30 Plumeria Moisturizer hoping it would not only protect me from the sun, but feel decent on my skin. I’ve had mixed results with Coola products so far, but the ones I’ve tried have all smelled wonderful even if I wasn’t a fan of their other qualities. I couldn’t care less what I smell like when I run, but the rest of the time I’d prefer to not be put off by whatever I slather on my skin to keep it from burning. Luckily the Coola Plumeria Moisturizer smells delicious! And it has lovely moisturizing properties too. It feels a little sticky when I first apply it, but it absorbs nicely after a little while and keeps my skin soft all day. Not only is it great for a Disneyland day, but also for occasions such as July 4th celebrations and outdoor birthday parties. This sunscreen is definitely a winner!

Boeing on the Move 2016 (a.k.a. I lost my pedometer again)

Yesterday was the last day of Boeing on the Move 2016 and I was pleased to rack up more than 30,000 steps. That’s what I call finishing strong! I averaged somewhere around 20,000 steps/day over the last eight weeks, so the much higher total for the finale was thanks to a morning at Disneyland with my friend and her daughter, and then a six mile run in the evening (in 75% humidity). It was a day well spent. Despite my satisfaction of yesterday’s step count I was ecstatic to be able to leave my pedometer at home this morning. I’m always excited when Boeing on the Move starts every year, and even more excited when it’s over. Not that I mind a sharper focus on my activity level and fitness (who couldn’t use that?), but I have numerous reasons to gripe about the cheesy little plastic pedometer we have to wear. Remember how I lost my 2015 pedometer in Hawaii last year? That sucker just wouldn’t stay clipped to the waistband of my shorts! Do you remember my solution? “Fortunately I still had last year’s pedometer tucked away in a drawer for just such an occurrence so I’m covered for the rest of Boeing on the Move 2015.” What luck! Then when Boeing on the Move was over last year I once again tucked away the 2014 pedometer and promptly forgot about it. As long as I got a new pedometer prior to the start of Boeing on the Move 2016 I figured everything would be fine. And it was until I lost my 2016 pedometer only two weeks into this year’s Boeing on the Move. I have no luck with those things! I went to lunch with some co-workers one Friday and I swear my 2016 pedometer vanished into thin air at some point. I guess it made a successful bid for freedom. So when I got home that evening I frantically dug through the drawer of my nightstand, praying that the workhorse of a pedometer from 2014 was still there and still functional. It was! And that reliable little mechanical step counter got me through yet another year of my company’s annual fitness challenge. I’d like to say it’s earned retirement, but there’s no way I’m not keeping it around just in case of another mishap next year. If I’ve learned anything from Boeing on the Move it’s always have a backup pedometer!

Goodbye July

It’s been so long since I posted anything but pictures. Every weekend I sit down in front of my laptop with the intent of writing a post, but then I manage to find a reason to not follow through. There’s always something else I could be doing, whether that activity is more interesting than writing or not, so I put off a new post for at least another week. In my defense it’s been an amazingly busy summer so far! That doesn’t excuse my absence, though. There’s no way I’ll ever catch up on all of the stuff that’s been going on since April when I published my last substantial post. Maybe I’ll still give it a try. But right now it’s time for me to get changed so I can go for a run. Today is the last day of Boeing on the Move 2016 and I want to finish strong! Without the burden of the pedometer I might have a little more free time coming up soon. We’ll see how it goes!

Fourth of July 2016

“Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. ‘Mankind.’ That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom. Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution, but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”
President Thomas Whitmore, “Independence Day”