Resolution #5 revisted

Remember those new blogging rules I posted at the beginning of the month? Well I didn’t adhere to them for very long, did I? Obviously my last three posts were just photos of me in the new states I visited during my vacation, but before that the worthwhile updates were few and far between. Pretty pathetic. I want to do better. I’m not making any promises, but I’m certainly going to try and post more often in June than I did in May.

Getting back to the subject at hand, I visited three new states while I was on vacation – Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho! It was an amazing trip. I’ve been wanting to visit Yellowstone since 2001 when my dad and I took a more northern route when driving across the country for my Boeing internship, but not nearly northern enough to visit our country’s very first national park. Denver was the farthest north we got. Northwest Wyoming is pretty out of the way, but I managed to talk my family into going there on vacation this year. And it was spectacular. I’ll have to write some more about everything we saw and did in another post (check out some photos here if you’re interested), but I’m going to focus on my New Year’s resolution to visit as many new states as possible in 2014 right now. After adding West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware to my list of states visited when I was on the East Coast for work in March I couldn’t wait to check off more boxes before the end of the year. (I’m still kicking myself for not taking a quick detour into New Jersey in March when I was driving to/from Delaware, but I might be able to remedy that because there’s a chance that I’ll have to DC again in September.) So although the majority of my family’s vacation was spent in Wyoming (in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks), we drove a little bit out of our way so I could set foot in Montana and Idaho. The northern entrance of Yellowstone is actually in Montana so we only had to drive about five extra miles to take my picture next to the state welcome sign (which was much smaller and less ostentatious than I expected). Getting to Idaho required us to drive about twenty miles west from Jackson, WY and through a mountain pass before we could cross the state border. But I’m so glad we did. When else am I going to have a chance to visit that corner of the US? And look how much color is on my states visited map versus how it looked at the beginning of the year! This makes me very happy. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

P.S. My family decided that we’re going to Alaska next year. It’s going to be awesome!

Really busy week

So I only updated my webpage twice last week. Pretty pathetic, huh? I guess I still haven’t broken through my writer’s block, although I don’t think that’s completely to blame. I was planning to write another post about running yesterday (the easiest subject for me to write about since it pretty much dominates me life these days), but I had some trouble with my webpage. For some reason I wasn’t able to create any new posts. Turns out I had a corrupted database that needed to be repaired. After working on it a bit this afternoon I fixed the problem and everything is back up and running. Hooray! Too bad I don’t have the time or energy to actually write anything decent tonight. I ran 3 miles this evening and then put two batches of chili in my Crockpots to cook overnight. I’m bringing it to work to feed my co-workers tomorrow. The week has just started and it’s already incredibly busy. I have a lot to do in the three days I’ll be at work this week, and then on Thursday morning I’m leaving for Yellowstone! It’s going to be an awesome vacation. Unfortunately I’ve done almost nothing to prepare for the trip yet so I will be scrambling before I fly out on Thursday morning. Yikes! But right now I’m going to sleep because morning is going to come way too soon. Good night!

The heat is on

After a few unbelievably hot days this week (as evidence by the above photo) it’s actually very pleasant on this Saturday morning. What a relief! I reveled in the cool breeze as I walked over to McDonald’s to get breakfast. It was lovely. When I left work yesterday and checked the weather app on my phone I was thrilled to see that the temperature was only 82 degrees! Only? That’s still unusually hot for Los Angeles this time of year (10 deg warmer than the average), but after the week we’ve had it felt like heaven. No one appreciated temperatures in the 90s on Monday and Tuesday, but it was completely miserable when we saw triple digits on our thermometers on Wednesday and Thursday. That has never happened since I’ve lived in California. I still remember the first time I arrived in Seal Beach in 2000. It was late May, which if Florida had taught me anything, meant the long, hot summer was in full swing. But when I got out of the car I was greeted by a cool breeze that gave me goose bumps. What an incredible surprise! I loved Los Angeles from that moment on. Where else can summer actually be comfortable? This last week was quite the exception, though. It made me remember why I never went anywhere without a sun shade in my little Neon when I lived in Florida. They were absolutely essential if you wanted to be able to touch your steering wheel after the car had been sitting in the sun for a while. But I never needed one in California until last Wednesday. Luckily the heat wave is over for now, but if we have any more hot days like that I’ll have to break down a find a sun shade for my CR-V. I shudder to think what kind of a summer we have in store if this week was any indication!

Sunday Runday – Making progress

I have now completed two weeks of half marathon training. Only 16 more to go! It seems daunting, but of course it takes time to prepare to run 13.1 miles. Especially when, like me, you’ve only been running for about ten months. I’m no stranger to gradual improvement! So far the longest run I’ve done as part of this training plan is 4 miles (last night), but these short runs are meant to build up my base endurance. It won’t be long before my Saturday runs will be much longer. Gulp! I’m going to need a lot of support to get me ready for the race in August. Speaking of support, I went to a podiatrist on Tuesday to figure out what the heck was going on with my ankles. I explained my troubles, told and doctor what kind of shoes I’ve tried, and then he had me walk up and down the hall a couple of times to observe my gait. It didn’t take him very long to determine that I am a SEVERE overpronator, meaning that my feet roll inwards when I run. He said it was obvious that this has been causing my pain. I hate to admit it, but it seems that the folks at the running stores I’ve been to were right about my overpronation (although their suggestions were less than helpful), but according to the doctor it’s going to take more than a running shoe of any kind to correct it. That’s right, I got fitted for orthotics. The doctor took molds of my feet and they’re being manufactured as we speak. I should have the inserts sometime this week – hopefully in time for Saturday’s scheduled 5-mile run, but I think I’ll survive without them if they don’t arrive (or I don’t break them in) in time. I am very hopeful that this will make running more enjoyable. I know it won’t be an overnight fix, but I can’t wait to get started!

Foodie Friday – Indian-spiced almonds

I haven’t done much cooking lately so I’m having to look back pretty far to find recipes to post these days. But there are some chocolate chip cookie recipes calling my name so hopefully that will change soon. For now I’ll have to share a tasty treat that I made for Thanksgiving.

About a year ago I made Indian-spiced chickpeas to share with some friends. I thought the flavor was good, but despite cooking them much longer than the recipe stated, the chickpeas weren’t crispy enough. So when I needed a simple, low carb snack to take to San Francisco for Thanksgiving I tried the same recipe with almonds instead. I actually think it worked out better that way! While they weren’t as popular as the rosemary pecans, but everyone seemed to like them.¬† So if you’re looking for¬†something quick and healthy give these Indian-spiced almonds a try!

INGREDIENTS:
3 c almonds
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper

DIRECTIONS:
In a medium bowl, drizzle the almonds with olive oil and stir to coat. Then add the curry powder, garam masala, garlic powder, salt, and white pepper and stir to evenly coat the pecans with the spices (I used my hands). Spread the almonds in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake at 400 deg F for about 20 minutes, stirring once, or until the nuts are toasted. Be careful not to burn them! Enjoy!

Based on A Spicy Perspective’s Indian Roasted Chickpeas.

Writing prompt – Junk food

NaBloPoMo writing prompt from May 13, 2014:
How often do you eat foods that you know are bad for your body?

So I’m not going to answer this question with an exact number (mostly because the truth is scary), but I will say that I eat a little bit of junk food almost every day. (More than I’d like to admit, but that’s a story for another time.) “Everything in moderation” is pretty much the cornerstone of my dieting philosophy because I get cranky if I deprive myself of the food I crave for too long. I just try to minimize the amount of unhealthy things that I eat to make sure my body is properly fueled for running, and also to try and keep my weight in check. It hasn’t been working as well as I’d like, but it’s a work in progress. Unfortunately my Disneyland visit last night didn’t really help with this endeavor. Here’s what my dinner and dessert consisted of:

Chieftain Chicken Skewer (chicken in Polynesian sauce) from Bengal Barbecue
Safari Skewer (bacon wrapped asparagus) from Bengal Barbecue
Dole Whip Soft-Serve (pineapple frozen yogurt) from Tiki Juice Bar
Hot chocolate from Ghiradelli’s

All of this was so delicious! Especially the bacon wrapped asparagus. It was perfectly grilled, the bacon was crispy, and the asparagus was tender and slightly blackened. I could have eaten three of them, and I know I’ll be back for more on my next visit. The chicken skewer was tasty too, but not as remarkable. I will try one of the beef skewers next time. The Dole Whip was a new experience for me, which is hard to believe based on how many times I’ve been to the park since I got my annual pass. I admit the hot chocolate was too much after the Dole Whip (which I didn’t finish), but it was a bit chilly after the sun went down (I love Southern California!) and I wanted something warm. Plus I don’t have the willpower to walk by Ghiradelli’s without getting something bad for me. The hot chocolate really hit the spot, but I didn’t finish it either. At least I saved a few calories on the sweets!

Sunday Runday – Orange County 5K

I got up ridiculously early this morning to drive down to Costa Mesa and run the Orange County 5K at 7 AM (although not as ridiculously early as a couple of my co-workers who ran the full marathon, which started at 5:30, or the half marathon, which started at 6:15). Per the half marathon training plan that I’m following I needed to run 3 miles this weekend, so the 5K fit that schedule perfectly. And the race was great! I didn’t run as fast as I would have liked to, but the course was flat, it wasn’t too crowded (the Seal Beach races were much worse), and the weather cooperated! It’s been insanely hot in Los Angeles this week and I was apprehensive about that trend continuing through the weekend, causing temperatures in the 90s, which is so rare in Southern California. Luckily it cooled down a bit today and it was actually quite pleasant during the race this morning. Running early in the day helped with that too. My official time for the 5K was 34:03, which works out to be 10:59 min/mile with no walking breaks. Not bad, but I was hoping for slightly faster. I will definitely be working on that during the short runs of my half marathon training program. (And as far as the long runs go – well, I’ll cross those bridges when I come to them.) But before I dismiss my slightly slower than expected finish, I’d like to make an interesting point. Last week when I was going out for a run and feeling a little discouraged, I told myself, “I’m only running 3 miles.” Only? When did I become a person who can run 3 miles without stopping and think it’s no big deal? This time last year I’d have told you that was impossible! It just proves that I’m capable of more than I thought. So any time I get frustrated I need to remember how far I’ve already come. Believe it or not, I think I might actually be able to call myself a runner now.

P.S. It’s a miracle! My ankles haven’t hurt during my last three runs, including the 5K today, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’m still going to the podiatrist on Tuesday so see if I need orthotics or something like that, but I’m hoping I can avoid more pain in the future. I’ll let you know how it goes as I increase my running distances over the next few weeks.