Another November weekend

It was not a very exciting weekend, but I did get a lot done.

***I did a lot of shopping/returning. Online shopping has been my preferred method of updating my wardrobe lately, but it’s not always the most reliable method. More often than not the items I order don’t fit quite right. Not a big deal, but then I have to handle returning what I don’t want to keep. One of the good things about Los Angeles is that there’s a brick and mortar establishment of just about every store within a reasonable driving distance. This means that I can usually return items in person rather than through the mail This weekend I took clothes back to J.Crew (an itchy sweater), Old Navy (an ill-fitting pair of workout pants), and Lucy (another pair of workout pants I didn’t like). Unfortunately those three stores are located at three different malls spread out all over Orange County. Maybe I should have just mailed everything back instead! On the flip side of the shopping experience, I bought a jacket (love the new North Face store at South Coast Plaza), some chocolates (for Thanksgiving), jeans (cheap ones at Old Navy), and a Christmas ornament (Hallmark, of course).

***I replenished my food reserves. In the middle of last week I ran out of homemade meals in my fridge and freezer and started eating less healthy options. It was bad news. So this weekend I put together a bunch of meals consisting of meat and vegetables so that I wouldn’t be tempted by fast food, junk food, or leftover Halloween candy. I already had some ground beef, broccoli, and carrots left over, so I just needed a few things to augment those items. Yesterday I made some Crockpot teriyaki chicken, and then today I made two batches of green beans (one roasted, one sautéed). Now I have enough prepared meals to get me through the week, at least. After that I’ll be spending the weekend at Disneyland because the Avengers Half Marathon is early on Sunday morning. After the experience of the Disneyland Half Marathon in August, I decided to stay at one of the nearby hotels so that I won’t have to get up and drive to Anaheim at 3 AM on race day. It will be nice to be able to sleep a little longer and then just walk to the start line that morning. The only difficulty will be making sure I get the necessary nutrition. I’ll need to find restaurants where I can get some protein, vegetables, and probably some potatoes the night before the half marathon. I’ll work on that.

***I watched a lot of TV. This is probably true of just about every weekend for me, but I figured it was worth mentioning this time. The best thing I got to see was Florida beating Vanderbilt yesterday. It hasn’t exactly been a banner year for the Gators so far. But last weekend unranked Florida upset #11 Georgia, which shocked just about everyone, especially after three losses already this season (including homecoming). Personally I didn’t expect the streak to continue, but I was a very happy Gator fan when it did! We’ll see what happens next weekend against South Carolina, but yesterday’s win was a lot of fun to watch. After the game was over I re-watched last weekend’s episode of Doctor Who while doing laundry and washing dishes. It was the first half of the season finale. These seasons are never long enough for me! Rather than staying up to watch the second half of the season finale last night, I saved it on my DVR until this afternoon when I was done with my errands. The show had quite a sad ending, actually. I’m not sure I liked it. But Doctor Who is still my favorite show these days and I’m sorry the season is over. At least I have the Christmas episode to look forward to next month.

So that was my weekend. Thrilling, huh?

We need a little Christmas

“Haul out the holly, put up the tree before my spirit falls again
Fill up the stocking, I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now
For we need a little Christmas, right this very minute
Candles in the window, carols at the spinet
Yes, we need a little Christmas, right this very minute
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry, but Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry”

“We Need A Little Christmas”

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! I know it’s still fairly early in November (although the first week went by fast), but the Christmas commercials started dominating all of the TV stations the day after Halloween. As much as I love the holidays, it still seemed a little early to me. But I’m not really one to talk since I look forward to the Hallmark ornament premieres every July! I guess I’m just a holiday junkie. (I haven’t even put my Halloween decorations away yet! They need to be replaced with Thanksgiving stuff this weekend for sure.) Despite my mild objection to the extreme holiday creep, I went ahead and ordered a new artificial Christmas tree this week. Maybe I should have waited, but I didn’t want to put it off and have to dig through the last few trees left at Target after Thanksgiving. Based on a recommendation from a friend I ordered my tree from Treetopia. I decided to just get a 4′ tree since I don’t really have any need (or any space) for a larger one. But even a 4′ tree will give me more room for my collection of beloved ornaments than the dinky little one I’ve been using for the last two years. I was not sorry to see that tree go when I dropped it off at Goodwill in January. Hopefully my new tree will work out well in my little apartment. It was delivered on Wednesday, but I’m going to leave it in the box until after Thanksgiving. That’s what a regular not Christmas-crazy person would do, right? I’ll just look forward to setting the tree up and trimming it when I get home from San Francisco after Thanksgiving. I probably need to look for some garland and a new tree topper beforehand. So much to do before Christmas! Good thing I ordered my Christmas cards today. With cards and a tree already taken care of, I’m ahead of the game! ‘Tis the season!

Foodie Friday – Roasted potatoes

I’ve shared quite a few really simple recipes on my webpage, but this one rivals them all for ease of execution. It’s almost a no brainer! But believe it or not, before I tried this recipe I had never cooked potatoes in my life. Is that weird? But when I gave up grains I had to find something to replace the carbs in my diet, especially before long runs. Potatoes seemed to fit the bill. Too bad I didn’t know how to cook them! Fortunately this method couldn’t be easier. I even found a recipe that left the skins, which was great because I dreaded the idea of peeling potatoes! Pretty much all you have to do is dice them and roast them. So simple and so delicious!

1 large white potato
1 large sweet potato
~2 Tbsp olive oil

Clean the potatoes (I had to buy a vegetable brush for this) and then dice them into approximately 1/2″ to 3/4″ pieces. You don’t even have to peel them! Put the diced potatoes into a large bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Don’t be stingy with it. My first batch stuck to the pan because I didn’t use enough oil. Stir the potatoes (a spatula seems to work best) to make sure all of the chunks are coated. Then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Stir the potatoes again and add more salt and pepper, if desired. Spread the diced potatoes in a single layer onto a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray (another nonstick line of defense). I like the olive oil spray from Trader Joe’s. Bake the diced potatoes at 400 deg F for 30-40 minutes, stirring once or twice. When they’re done the potatoes will be slightly crispy on the outside. Enjoy!

Based on The Cookin’ Chicks’ Parmesan Roasted Potatoes.

Something stupid

I’m sitting on my couch in pain for a completely ridiculous reason. Over the weekend the smoke detector in the hallway right outside my bathroom went off while I was in the shower. This has happened a couple of times in the past and I think it’s due to the steam. It’s very annoying. I had to jump out of the shower (dripping water all over the floor), drag a bench from my bedroom into the hallway (after moving a bunch of books and clothes off it), wrestle the smoke detector off the wall, and remove the battery. Geez. After I finished my shower I probably should have put the smoke detector back on the wall, but I left it dismantled and forgot about it. Then on Tuesday as I was enjoying a nice hot shower after my evening run, the smoke detector in my guest bedroom started going off. I was so frustrated! Having to run around soaking wet to shut off an ear piercing alarm will definitely ruin your day. Not only that, it can be hazardous to your health, as I’ve discovered. You see, I had to drag the heavy bench from my room into the guest bedroom, which is up a couple of small stairs. As I lifted the bench to get it up the stairs I thought, “This is going to be bad.” I didn’t know how right I was until this morning. The right side of my back hurt with every movement and with every breath I took. It was miserable. I took some ibuprofen and applied my heating pad for a while, but I only got marginal relief. Unfortunately I couldn’t take the day off because I had too much to do at work, so I eventually lurched around enough to get dressed and ready to leave the house. Let me tell you, computer work is not the best thing for a sore back. I grunted and groaned my way through the day until I could go back home and relax my aching muscles. Needless to say, my evening run will have to wait until tomorrow, at least. I’ll heal in a day or two, but the bigger problem is that I have two disabled smoke alarms that will go off in the vicinity of a hot shower. I need to find a solution for that. But for now I’m going to spend some quality time with my heating pad before I go to bed. Ouch!

Feeling sluggish

It’s only the fifth day of November and I’m already struggling to keep my webpage updated every day. Sorry about the wordless post yesterday, by the way. I didn’t really have much to say about the election since I mailed in my ballot a couple of weeks ago. That was amazingly convenient. It was nice to not have to scramble to get to my polling place either before or after work yesterday. And the mail-in ballot even came with its own “I Voted” sticker so I could advertise that I’d done my civic duty. Perfect! But getting back to the subject at hand, I’ve had trouble keeping up with all of my regular activities and obligations lately. I don’t know if it’s the change in the weather or what, but I’ve been feeling really sluggish lately. That’s the best way I can think to describe it. First of all, I haven’t been following my training plan very faithfully and now I’m not sure how ready I’ll be for the Avengers Half Marathon on the 16th. Barring injury, I don’t think I’ll have too much trouble finishing the race, but I was kind of hoping to beat my Disneyland Half Marathon time. The weather should be much nicer that it was in August, thank goodness, so I think I have a good chance to improve on my half marathon time. Only time will tell, I guess. Besides running, I haven’t been keeping up with my cooking or my diet too well either. I’ve been eating more grains than I’d like (McDonald’s Egg McMuffins are my weakness, I guess) and there has been an abundance of leftover Halloween candy at work this week. So many of my co-workers brought in their kids’ trick-or-treat hauls and I think I ate my weight in fun-sized Snickers bars and peanut M&M’s since Monday. That has got to stop if I don’t want the number on the scale to keep going up. Yikes! Since giving up grains (for the most part) I’ve actually seen a downward trend in my weight, but that turned around in the last few weeks. Bad news. If I’d had my usual stash of homemade meals to eat that might not have happened, but I haven’t cooked really anything recently. Last week I made do with a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and some frozen broccoli. Tasty, but not exactly what I would have preferred to eat. However, when I got home from work this afternoon I cooked enough meat and vegetables to make four lunches, which should at least last me through the weekend. And I’m already making plans to cook more on Friday and Saturday so that I’m not tempted to eat out and ruin my diet again. Hopefully getting back on track with my healthy routine will snap me out of this malaise that I’ve been feeling lately. There’s so much I want to do in November and December to enjoy the holidays. There’s no time to waste!

November 1st

***On Saturday I made it to Disneyland for the first time in over a month. The crowds around Halloween are crazy so I stayed away for the entirety of October. But I was determined to make it there on Saturday, rain or shine, so that I could enjoy the Halloween decorations before they were taken down. Not only did I get a great picture of the huge Mickey jack-o-lantern on Main Street (see the above photo), but I also got to ride Space Mountain: Ghost Galaxy one more time this year. It was super creepy and I loved it. In addition, I finally made it on to the updated Finding Nemo Submarine Adventure ride that re-opened in September. It’s not that much different than before, but the colors are much more vibrant.

***After a few more rides and a lot of walking, I almost gave into my cravings and got a chocolate milkshake. But then I realized it was lunchtime so I got a much healthier lunch instead. The rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes, and roasted vegetables from Flo’s V8 Café in California Adventure is actually really delicious! There are definitely more diet-friendly meals available at the parks than I ever imagined.

***When I got home from Disneyland I immediately turned on the Florida vs. Georgia football game. I had missed the first hour, but since the Gators were losing at the beginning of the 2nd quarter I decided not to go back and watch the first fifteen minutes of play. The good news is that Florida started putting points on the board as soon as I tuned in! It was awesome. They ended up upsetting Georgia 38-20, which was pretty amazing considering the awful season they’ve had so far. This was exactly what the Gator fans needed to bolster their spirits for the remainder of this year’s football schedule.

***I spent the rest of the day doing chores and watching TV. I initially tried to go to the Laundromat to wash a few loads of laundry at the same time, but the place was packed so I just went right back home. Fortunately I was able to wash three loads of towels and sheets in the single washer/dryer combo at my apartment. In between juggling loads of laundry I washed a whole bunch of dishes and watched last week’s Big Bang Theory, Elementary, Gracepoint, and Doctor Who. Geez, that’s way too much TV! I really need to cut back on the number of shows I record every week. I’ll work on that. Besides, how am I going to enjoy the holidays while sitting on my couch?

Story of a jacket

I went to New Zealand for the first time in June 2007. It was summer in the northern hemisphere, but winter south of the equator so a warm coat was an essential part of my wardrobe on that trip. It was also the rainy season in that part of the world. It rained every single day I was in New Zealand, which got to be pretty annoying by the end, although it made sure all of the tourist sites were nearly deserted. I wore my heavy wool peacoat everywhere I went (it’s in almost every photo) which helped with the cold, but didn’t do much to protect me from the rain. It absorbed a substantial amount of precipitation whenever I was outside and didn’t exactly smell like roses afterwards. As much as I loved my peacoat, after that trip I knew I needed to buy some kind of rain jacket for any future trips to potentially rainy locales.

Fast forward more than eight years…

This weekend started off with rain. It was crazy! I don’t think we’ve had any real precipitation in Los Angeles since February so the storm that rolled through on Friday night/Saturday morning was extremely beneficial. (And it stayed away until after the kids finished trick-or-treating so that was a bonus.) I hope we have a lot more storms this winter to bring us a deluge of much-needed rain. On my way to Disneyland yesterday morning and I stopped by McDonald’s for breakfast. (I know, it’s not grain-free, but Egg McMuffins are so tasty!) I thought the storm had cleared out for the day, but I knew it was still around when I got rained on walking back to my car. I had an umbrella in my bag, but that wouldn’t be ideal at Disneyland so I drove home and grabbed my Arc’teryx GORE-TEX rain jacket instead. I bought it at an REI sale back in 2009 in anticipation of an upcoming vacation. To be honest, I haven’t worn it very much since then, but it did come in handy once or twice in Hawaii. I guess a raincoat is something you want to have in your closet, but hope you don’t need. Although, I expect if I lived somewhere like Seattle it would have seen a lot more inclement weather. Even though I drove through some pretty substantial rain on the way to Anaheim, by the time I got there I was debating leaving the Arc’teryx jacket in the car. But when the sky opened up as soon as I got outside the parking structure I was glad decided to wear the rain jacket! Having that GORE-TEX layer was very helpful during my first hour at the parks. No soggy sweatshirt on a cold and rainy morning! It was lovely. So while it’s a piece of clothing I don’t wear much, I was very appreciative of my raincoat yesterday!

Halloween 2014

I think this may have been the best Halloween ever. Granted, it started really early when my alarm went off at 4 AM so I could turn off my Crockpot, but I went back to bed for a couple of hours after that. We were having our 3rd annual chili cook-off at work so I hauled my Crockpot full of delicious bacon chili (I called it “When Zombie Pigs Fly – Double Bacon Chili”) that slow cooked over night into the office with me first thing in the morning. As it has been in year’s past, the cook-off was a great success. We had eleven different chilis for folks to sample, as well as a wide array of sides, snacks, drinks, and desserts. All of the food I tried was delicious and I think everyone had a lot of fun. Between the chili cook-off and doing some actual work, I was exhausted when I left in the afternoon! But it was worth it to see all of my co-workers so happy. Sometimes it feels like we don’t get enough recognition for all of the amazing things we do, so something as simple as a chili cook-off really lifts our spirits. I rushed home after work so I could quickly change and go over to a friend’s house for trick-or-treating. The above photo is a selfie I took with her adorable daughter who dressed up as Peter Pan for Halloween. So precious! A few families got together so all of the kids could trick or treat together and I was fortunate enough be able to tag along. It was a blast watching the kids run from house to house in their costumes (I think they were all Disney characters, actually) gathering candy. And I got a chance to hold a cute baby! I loved it. I bailed on trick-or-treating a little early so I could go on a short run before bedtime. I missed my usual Thursday night run because I was making chili for the cook-off, but I didn’t want to completely skip a training run with the Avengers Half Marathon about two weeks away. So I ran 4 miles, took a shower, and went to bed. I was already planning to go to Disneyland in the morning to catch one last glimpse of the Halloween decorations before they are taken down. This was maybe the busiest Halloween I’ve ever had, but it was probably the best. Here’s to making November and December just as amazing!