For anyone who’s not familiar with #tbt, it’s an Instagram hashtag that means Throwback Thursday. But Tuesday starts with a ‘T’ as well so I’m going to capitalize on that technicality and post an old picture today. Well, the photo itself isn’t old, but the subject is. This is my little Samsonite suitcase that I bought back in 1997 to take to Europe. It’s not readily identifiable as a Samsonite anymore because the badge got ripped off on one trip or another in the last couple of years so you’ll just have to trust me on the brand. I remember going into JC Penny to buy this little guy before I went to Europe. I needed something with wheels for mobility, but small enough (it’s a carry on size) that I could easily carry myself when necessary. And I got a green suitcase because I wanted it to stand out a little from the sea of black you usually see on baggage claim turnstiles. See those pink and yellow neon ties on the side handle were? They were added so that we could easily recognize all of the suitcases from our large group at every airport (London, Munich, and Amsterdam). I can’t believe those ties have stayed on for nearly seventeen years! I also can’t believe I fit three weeks worth of stuff into that little green suitcase. I took this picture on my way home from a business trip last August because I thought it might be my last trip with that suitcase and I wanted something to remember it by. Not that I have any reason to replace it at the moment, but I don’t think it will be too long before I do. Thanks for all your years of faithful service, my trusty Samsonite!

Reward system

Since I didn’t go running tonight I had some free time after work, but I might as well start off by telling you that I didn’t spend any of that time writing an amazing blog post. Sorry! So what did I do? I watched last night’s episode of “Downton Abbey” (which was very enjoyable) and the season 3 premiere of “Sherlock” (which was incredible). It was awesome. Rarely do I feel like I can completely kick back and watch TV without feeling guilty, but I allowed myself to do it this afternoon. Watching two and a half hours of my favorite PBS programming was my “reward” for running yesterday. It’s a bit silly, but I’ve been using a reward system to keep me motivated. Usually I promise myself that I can get dinner someplace special (like Which Wich) or watch a movie *like “Iron Man 3”) on my rest days after I go running. Like tomorrow if I go running I decided I’d go to Disneyland after work on Wednesday. That’s my motivation not to wimp out on tomorrow’s run. It sounds a little crazy when I write it out like that, but it works! I suppose that’s one of the reasons I didn’t feel like a total slug sitting on my couch watching television all evening. Besides cleaning off some of the hard disk space on my old laptop while watching I didn’t accomplish anything else. It was glorious, but once the shows were over (and I can’t overstate how great “Sherlock” was – seriously, go watch it!) I knew I needed to get up and move around a little bit. So to burn a few calories I took a walk around my neighborhood while listening to an old Nerdist podcast. When I got home I took a shower, got in bed, and now I’m sitting here, writing another fairly pathetic webpage post. Aren’t you glad you came back today to read more about my incredibly mundane life? Until tomorrow, then!

I need more free time

It turns out that this wasn’t really the best weekend for writing. I did write a (slightly) longer post yesterday which was a plus, but I didn’t have much of an excuse for not writing an entire novel. I spent my day shopping (both buying and returning), movie watching (“Dallas Buyers Club” in preparation for the Oscars), and doing stuff around the house (dish washing and clothes folding). It was the ultimate lazy day. But I did that on purpose because I knew I had to go to work today. I needed to get some uninterrupted testing done and the weekend is the best time for that. So unfortunately my Sunday wasn’t too productive. I got home from work around 4:30 PM, went running at 6 PM (second run in my new shoes – still reserving judgment on them), then took a shower and crawled into bed. And now I’m totally beat. Not only does running help with weight loss and stress reduction, but it makes falling asleep a snap! And since I’m going to try and get to work early tomorrow I’d better go to sleep soon. My goal for tomorrow is to run the errands I skipped today, washed the dishes I ignored today, and watch both the most recent episode of “Downton Abbey” and the season 3 premiere of “Sherlock.” And write a better webpage post, of course. It’s going to be great!

Continuing chronicles of Lauren’s running

I know y’all have been impatiently waiting for the latest installment in the ongoing chronicles of my running. What could be more exciting than reading about a thirty-five year old engineer struggling to get ready for a 10K in April? You’re probably on the edge of your seat! So let me put your mind at ease – the chronicles continue right now!

After I went running last Sunday night I was in a lot of pain so I rested and iced my injuries for two days to give them a chance to heal. As much it annoyed me, I didn’t want to risk hurting myself even more by running again too soon. (Although relaxing for a couple of days had its benefits – I watched the Golden Globes, Downton Abbey, and a few other shows that had been piling up on my DVR.) But on Wednesday I laced up my shoes and went out on an exploratory walk/run. I ran very slowly and in short intervals to begin with to make sure it wasn’t going to be too uncomfortable. The good news was that the muscle I pulled in my leg the previous Friday seemed to be much better, but the bad news was that I was still having a lot of foot and ankle pain. Not enough to stop me from running, but enough for me to reevaluate my choice of footwear. I wasn’t sure, but it felt like my New Balance shoes were making my feet roll inwards, which was causing ankle strain, so I decided it was time to look for another pair. After work the next day I went to Snail’s Pace, a local running store, and got a proper shoe fitting for the first time. The salesperson watched me run on a treadmill for a minute or so, saw how my feet were indeed rolling inward, and told me that I needed some stability shoes to keep that from happening. I tried on three different pair and ultimately decided on the Nike Zoom Structures. In a perfect world I would have been able to try on the narrow version for my freakishly skinny feet, but since Snail’s Pace didn’t keep them in stock, I bought the regular width pair since Nikes tend to run a bit narrow to begin with. They felt pretty good as is, but I can always order the narrows later if I decide I need them. Buying those shoes was a very humbling experience because I realized just how much I’d been doing wrong all this time, but I was so glad I went to Snail’s Pace. On Friday I was really excited to put on my brand new Nikes and go on a run (three 2.25 mile intervals, my current standard run). So what was the verdict? Better, but not perfect. I’m reserving judgement until I wear these shoes a few more times, but I can say that my feet and ankles didn’t hurt nearly as much, or as early on in my run. I have a feeling some of the pain is lingering from the injuries caused by ill-fitting footwear so hopefully it will all get better in time. I’ll let you know how it goes. Until then it’s encouraging to feel like I might finally be honing on right running shoe for me. It’s taken long enough!

Foodie Friday – Vegetarian chili

Do you have a vegetarian coming over for dinner? No problem! Make this veggie chili and everyone, including the carnivores, will love it! It’s healthy and delicious. A few days before Christmas I made a pot of this chili for my family and friends side-by side with the incredible turkey chili I posted a couple of weeks ago. That night I actually ate a bowl of the vegetarian chili for dinner and I really enjoyed it. The seasonings are almost the same as the turkey variety except the meat is replaced with carrots, bell pepper, and chickpeas. You can probably add other vegetables too (zucchini, celery, but I wasn’t sure which ones would work best so I erred on the safe side. Potatoes or butternut squash or some kind of grain (like quinoa or lentils) would be good too. So pretty much customize it however you’d like! Next time I’ll make chili I’ll give some of those options a try. Just like the turkey chili, I wrote the instructions for making this chili in a slow cooker since that’s what I would have done if I was in my own kitchen, but simmering it on the stove top for several hours works too. Just leave the lid on, propped open to let steam escape. Delicious!

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 c sliced baby carrots
1 c diced bell pepper (about 1 medium pepper)
1 c diced sweet onion
3 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cans (15 oz each) dices tomatoes
2 cans (8 oz each) tomato sauce
1 can (15 oz) reduced sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz) reduced sodium kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz) reduced sodium chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or pot (nonstick or otherwise, doesn’t really matter). Add the carrots, bell pepper, and onion, stir to coat, and saute until the veggies start to soften, about 8-10 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, paprika, oregano,salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper (if desired). Stir until the spices are well incorporated and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the veggie mixture to the bottom of your Crockpot (I recommend using a liner to make clean up a breeze). Pour the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and drained and rinsed beans and chickpeas on top of the veggie mixture and stir gently to combine. Put the lid on the Crockpot and cook on low for about 8 hours or high for 4-5 hours. Enjoy!

Based on Home Cooking Memories’s Veggie Chili.

Falling asleep

Holy cow, it’s late. I had quite a few things I wanted to write about tonight, but it’s already after 10 PM and I only just got a chance to sit down with my laptop. I went to work early today so I got to leave early, but then I ran an errand and went to Disneyland for dinner. Even after I got home I didn’t let myself sit down because I had to wash some dishes (notably, my breakfast sandwich maker so it would be ready in the morning) and sort my laundry (so I can go to the Laundromat tomorrow afternoon). Really exciting stuff, huh? Such is the life of an aerospace engineer! I’ll have to spend some more time writing this weekend. Good night!

Birthday purchases 2013

These earphones are one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. I bought them in July with the last of the Amazon credit that my parents gave me for my birthday. You remember that my birthday is in January, right? Well, I made that Amazon credit last seven months. It helps that my parents were way too generous with their gift, but I also thought about each purchase to ensure I was getting the most for my money. (I suppose that credit also included what they gave me for Christmas as well as a couple of DVD sets I traded in, but that makes the story less compelling. So forget I said anything.) Anyway, back to the earphones. I love them. Until they arrived I’d been using the earbuds that came with my iPhone 5 when I was walking or running and they really weren’t working for me. I guess my ears are fairly small because the Apple earbuds kept falling out, and when I got sweaty while jogging all bets were off. I mean, I understand that this could be a problem with female ears, but seeing as how we account for about 50% of the population you’d think someone would make earbuds that work for us! It’s not rocket science (and I should know). But these Monster iSport Intensity In-Ear Headphones are perfect for me. They have flexible earpieces in different sizes so you can find the ones that fit your ears, and they stay in place even when you sweat. Plus they aren’t sound isolating since they don’t go all the way into your ear canal, which is especially important when you don’t want to get hit by a car! I can’t say enough about how awesome these things are. I did get quite a few other things with my birthday Amazon credit – books, movies, etc. – but these earphones were the best purchase. I appreciate them every time I go running. Here’s hoping I get something as good with this year’s birthday present!

2014 Resolution #1

New Year’s Resolution #1: Eat good breakfasts

I’ve been slowly putting together a list of resolutions for 2014, and this is the first one that I thought of. Food would be the first thing that came to my mind, wouldn’t it? Well, eating breakfast is a relatively new thing for me, but after I started running last summer I realized it was an essential meal. On nights that I run I can’t eat a lot beforehand (stomach aches, you know), and I have very little appetite afterwards, so dinner is pretty much nonexistent. That means my breakfasts and lunches on running days need to be a little more substantial. Special K protein shakes just don’t cut it on those days! Jimmy Dean Delights frozen breakfast sandwiches have been my go-to on weekdays when I’m in a rush because I can heat one up in the microwave when I get to work. They get old kinda fast, though. When I have a little more time (usually weekends since I can’t seem to get up as early as I’d like during the week anymore) I get breakfast someplace like McDonald’s, Panera, or Corner Bakery. Egg sandwiches are my new favorite thing, but going out to get them can be annoying. So when I saw an ad for the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker I ran right out and got one! It wasn’t expensive and it doesn’t take up a lot of counter space so I’m hoping I’ll be able to use it to make delicious homemade breakfast sandwiches. I haven’t used it yet, but today I bought eggs (well, MORE eggs since I already had a bunch in the fridge for cookie baking), English muffins, ham, and cheese to give it a try tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed! And since I can’t live on egg sandwiches alone, yesterday I ordered a Cuisinart Compact Portable Blender to try my hand at homemade smoothies. I found a few recipes on Pinterest that look good, but I have a feeling it’s going to take several failed attempts before I figure out what works best for my picky taste buds. I’ll let you know how it goes. There will be some interesting experiments to share, if nothing else!

Thoughts during the Golden Globes

Yesterday after I saw “American Hustle” I figured that on Sunday morning I had one more chance to see a Golden Globe nominated movie before the awards. So I scrolled through the listings for my favorite theaters so see what the possible showtimes were. Much to my surprised I discovered that “Gravity” was still showing at the AMC at the Block! So of course I went to see that this morning. What an awesome movie. For an aerospace engineer like me it was completely captivating, even though there were quite a few scientific inaccuracies. There were more than a few inaccuracies in “Armageddon” (more like gaps between the plot and reality so big you could fly the shuttle through them) and it’s one of my favorite movies. So I’m willing to suspend belief for a great film. And “Gravity” was absolutely amazing. I’m so glad I saw it.

I went running tonight (my second run after graduating to 2.25 mile intervals on Friday – woohoo!) so I DVRed the Golden Globes at 5 PM. Turns out I might have been better off staying home to watch it live because I had to ice not one, but two different body parts after my run. Ouch. I think my left ankle is improving, but I still slapped that bag of frozen edamame on it when I started watching the recorded Golden Globes. I would really hate to be in pain tomorrow if I didn’t ice it even though I’m not sure it’s necessary at this point. And speaking of pain, it seems I pulled a muscle in my right upper thigh on Friday while running and it really bothered me tonight. Ouch. So since I don’t have any proper ice packs in my freezer and the edamame was already on my ankle, what did I use to ice my leg? Why, a bag of frozen cranberries, of course! Duh. If it’s not one thing, it’s another, right? I sincerely hope this most recent injury or whatever doesn’t derail my running routine for very long. I’m very frustrating. Assuming I’m not in pain tomorrow I’ll take a walk after work and see how my legs feel. I’ve been spending a lot less time sitting on my couch so far in 2014 and I want to keep it that way!

P.S. I’m going to have to go to bed before I finish watching the Golden Globes, but I just want to say that Amy Adams is just so amazing. I really hope “Enchanted 2” happens eventually.