My Disney pin collection (i.e., New Year’s Eve 2014)

With all of the crazy stuff that’s happened in 2014 I figured I’d end the year on a lighter note. With Disney pins! I first wrote about Disney pin trading back in 2011, but back then my collection was barely a fraction of what it is now. Regular trips to Disneyland over the last two years via my beloved annual pass have led to an exponential growth in the number of pins I own. They definitely don’t fit on a lanyard anymore! I don’t buy a new pin every time I go to the parks (I’d have tons more if that were true), but anytime I see one I like I make sure to take it home with me. You never know when certain pins will sell out or get discontinued, and I’ve missed out more than once. I don’t hesitate anymore. (Case in point, I bought almost all of this year’s Christmas pins in mid-November when I was at Disneyland for the Avengers Half Marathon. And it’s a good thing too because when I was there yesterday the pins I liked were all gone!) That’s probably obvious from the above photo, though. Back in 2011 I wrote, “Now that all of my pins are together at last I need to figure out a way to display them. Any idea where I can get a stylish corkboard for our game room?” Well, I no longer live in the house with the game room, but last year I found a simple little corkboard at Pottery Barn to display my pins in my apartment. It’s hanging in my bedroom, and as you can probably tell, it’s almost completely full now! Luckily, I bought a second corkboard when I realized how quickly I was going to run out of space on the first one. I think it might be time to make use of it! I’m the first to admit that my pin collection is kinda out of control, but I really love it. It’s like a scrapbook of all of my years of Disneyland enjoyment. Especially the Run Disney race pins. I only have two so far, but I will be adding more very soon (thanks to FOUR races in January). And as a friend told me recently, the pins are a relatively inexpensive souvenir compared to all of the other available merchandise. I’d break the bank if I bought Disney shirts as often as I buy pins! Unlike my Mickey Mouse sweatshirt which I only wear every once in a while (like today – it was cold is SoCal!), the best part about my collection is that I get to enjoy it every day. So much happiness from something so small. If only everything in life was that simple.

2014 resolutions revisited

As the year is drawing to a close I thought I’d write a little recap of my 2014 resolutions. I was surprisingly successful! The combination of realistic resolutions and hard work really paid off!

Resolution #1: Eat good breakfasts
Win! I now eat breakfast everyday, and it usually consists of some sort of fruit smoothie concoction. Since attempting to go grain free (and I’d say succeeding about 75% of the time), I’ve been trying to make egg concoctions to alternate with the smoothies. Unfortunately I haven’t made anything particularly good yet. I might need to try to scramble some eggs before going to work, even though it will mean getting up a little earlier. I’m generally against extra work in the morning, but this might be worth the trouble. Especially since swinging by the McDonald’s drive thru for an Egg McMuffin isn’t an option anymore! I have a few additional goals related to my breakfasts that I will be working on in 2015, such as making them healthier without sacrificing taste, but in general I did pretty well in 2014!

Resolution #2: Take care of my skin
Win! I took my last dose of Accutane on December 14th and I’m absolutely thrilled to be done with it after nine months. I won’t miss the monthly dermatologist appointments and all of the red tape associated with actually getting the prescriptions, but my skin has looked great since I started the medication. Taking the Accutane was a last resort for me since topical treatments and oral antibiotics weren’t working for me. I’m so glad I did it, though. Despite the side effects (very dry and sensitive skin, periodic rashes, and extremely chapped lips), it was worth the hassle. Now that I’m done taking the Accutane I’ll hopefully never have to take any more. There’s always a chance that I will sometime in the future, but we’ll see what happens. For now I’m enjoying my clear skin and the added confidence that comes with it!

Resolution #3: Run a race
Win! Not only did a run one race, but I ran twelve! Can you believe it? And that number doesn’t even include the two races in October that I signed up for but didn’t actually participate in (one due to work and the other due to oversleeping). How crazy is that? And the even crazier thing is that I’m already registered for twelve races in 2015 (4 in January, 2 in February, 2 in March, 3 in May, and 1 in October) and I know there are going to be many, many more! It’s so hard to believe that a year and a half ago I couldn’t run more than a block or two without getting seriously winded and now I’m running half marathons! I’m not competitive in any sense, but signing up for of these races challenges me and gives me something definite to work towards. And even when I run very slowly or feel terrible after crossing the finish line, I still have a sense of accomplishment for reaching a goal. All of the awesome medals I have hanging on my cubicle wall at work aren’t bad either!

Resolution #4: Wear shorts
Win! I actually wore shorts on a regular basis over the summer due to the prolonged hot weather in Los Angeles that lingered well into October. The only thing I miss about the relentless summer weather is wearing shorts. On the weekends it was so easy to throw on a pair of shorts, a tank top, and my cushy Nike Free shoes and go about my business. It was the perfect outfit for Disneyland, shopping, or just running errands when it was hot outside (and inside too since my apartment doesn’t have air conditioning). Now that it’s winter and we’re enjoying much cooler temperatures, the Nikes that babied my feet all summer don’t really pair well with my drawer full of skinny jeans. It’s a shame. Luckily I have big plans for wearing shorts in 2015. If all goes well I’ll be headed to Maui in June with some friends, and shorts are practically mandatory in Hawaii! I’ll be looking for some new pairs before then, though. I only have three pairs of shorts that fit, and I’m using that word loosely. I’ll be doing some shopping as soon as spring clothes hit the stores in 2015!

Resolution #5: Visit as many new states as possible
Win! In March I took a little side trip to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware while on a business trip to DC. That added three states to the list of ones I’ve visited. And then in May I set foot in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho during a family vacation to Yellowstone National Park. Six new states in one year – not bad! My total right now is 33 out of 50 states, and I already have plans to increase that number in 2015, but it might take more than a little planning to cross some of the states off my list. I’ll cover that more when I start posting about my 2015 New Year’s resolutions in January. If I’m lucky I might even make it to New Jersey when I’m in DC for work again! (I can’t believe I missed it last time.) I’ve decided that trips and experiences are better than presents (based on all of the races I’ve traveled to, that’s probably obvious), so in December I made a travel wish list that I fully intend to make some progress on in the coming year.

Resolution #6: Read every night before bed
Fail! While I did ramp up my reading after making this resolution back in March, I definitely haven’t been reading every night. More often than not I find myself tapping away on my laptop or watching TV on my iPad as I’m sitting in bed. This is a very bad habit. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about decreasing my overall screen time in 2015, but I still want to encourage reading at bedtime. I have always loved to read, but it’s a hobby that has sadly fallen by the wayside over the last year. Now that I’ve installed a blue light filter on my iPad Mini I should be able to utilize my Kindle app to my heart’s content at night without disturbing my sleep patterns. Hopefully. I have no idea if the filter will really work, but it certainly can’t hurt to try. I’ll write more about this next year in relation to my 2015 resolutions. I have quite the backlog of interesting books that I’ve downloaded so I’m excited to start reading them!

My favorite Christmas present

I’m on my flight from Dallas to Los Angeles now and making the best possible use of the inflight wifi. I’m working on a post about my trip to Tallahassee, but it’s not going to be ready to post tonight (my current flight is barely two hours long), so here’s another little something instead. On Christmas morning I took a picture of my favorite present – a red pair of Toms shoes! I’ve noticed several of my friends wearing them over the last year and I’ve been coveting their effortless style. I’ve been fiercely loyal to my All Stars for many years (classic and surprisingly still popular these days), but with my wardrobe of skinny jeans sometimes the Converse can be a bit clunky. Plus, my mom got some Toms recently, and she’d been singing their praises ever since. It’s rare that something so trendy fits our narrow feet so I was eager to try a pair myself. On Christmas Eve, after waiting out a thunderstorm that rolled through Tallahassee that morning, my parents and I headed to the mall to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. Almost immediately after arrival my mom steered me to Journeys to find a pair of Toms. It took a couple of tries to get the right size, but when I slipped on the red size 7s I was in heaven. They weren’t too wide for my skinny feet and even without socks they fit perfectly in every other way as well. It was amazing! My mom and dad purchased them for me as an early Christmas present and I couldn’t have been happier. I didn’t think it was possible that I was getting the exact pair of shoes I’d been wanting for so long. They were the perfect gift and I wore them just about every day I was in Tallahassee. In fact, I’m wearing them right now as my flight makes its way to LAX. I have a feeling I’ll be wearing my red Toms a lot!

Let the holiday fun begin

As of 3:30 PM on Friday I was done with work for the year! That was a good feeling. I had originally planned to work on Monday the 22nd, but I had put in enough extra hours the week before to cover it so my vacation started a few days early! It was lovely knowing that I didn’t have to go back to work until January 2nd. However, my holiday break started with a little bit of a hassle. I had to drive up to Valencia on Friday night in preparation for the Magic Mountain Holiday 10K the next morning. I knew it would take about an hour and a half to get there and there was no way I was going to face that drive early the next morning. Luckily I had a hotel reservation very close to Six Flags California where the race was being held. The traffic was definitely heavy on the Friday before Christmas, especially through the Sepulveda Pass, but I still got to Valencia is a fairly reasonable amount of time. The next morning it was 43 deg when I got to Six Flags. Brr! I wore another disposable sweatshirt before the race started and I was very glad I had picked one with a hood because my ears were freezing! The Magic Mountain Holiday 5K/10K wasn’t as well organized as it could have been, but it was still a fun race. I hadn’t been to Six Flags since 2012 and I enjoyed seeing the park as we ran through it. Unfortunately the course wasn’t very well marked or supervised so I made one wrong turn that added mileage to my route. Oops. And the steep hills didn’t help. I was anticipating them, and I walked up them to avoid exhausting myself, but they were still challenging! I did enjoy the downhill portions, though. And there were plenty of them, thankfully! My time still wasn’t anything to be proud of, but I crossed the finish line and that’s all that matters. Next year someone remind me not to sign up for so many races in December. The Magic Mountain 10K was my fourth and I was tired afterwards! Granted, it’s the best time of year for running, but I think I overextended myself a little bit this year.

After going back to my hotel for a shower and a little rest, I headed back to Six Flags to spend the afternoon. I can’t say I really enjoyed it, though. After spending so much time at Disneyland in the last couple of years, Six Flags suffered by comparison. I did have a good lunch, though – a turkey hotdog with stuffing and cranberry sauce. It was surprisingly delicious! I really should have tried the fried Oreos too. Unfortunately, besides he food, the rest of my afternoon was surprisingly dull. Magic Mountain is know for it’s crazy roller coasters, but the newest one was broken down while I was there. And since winter is not a popular time at Six Flags, some of the rides were simply not running at all. Phooey. Then I realized that that they don’t allow any loose articles on any of the coasters, so I’d have to put my phone in a locker if I wanted to ride any of them (like X2 and Tatsu which are awesome). It didn’t seem worth the trouble. So I spent a few hours walking around, stretching my legs after running 6.2 miles that morning, and looking at everything Six Flags had to offer. It’s not much, really. Most of the merchandise was really tacky, but I ended up buying a couple of funny holiday shirts. I intended to stay until after dark to see the holiday decorations, especially since this is the first year they’ve ever decorated for Christmas, but by 4 PM I was tired and ready to go back to my hotel. Overall, my visit to Six Flags Magic Mountain was underwhelming. I think I’ll have to go back sometime and leave my phone in the car so I can actually ride the roller coasters!

Weekend away from home (part 2)

I figured I’d better finish writing about last weekend before THIS weekend ends!

I spent all of last Sunday afternoon after the Holiday Half Marathon relaxing in my hotel room. It was lovely! This time of year is always so busy that I don’t have enough time to enjoy myself. Spending a whole day without needing to accomplish anything substantial felt really great. I only left my hotel that day to get lunch (a sandwich at Jimmy John’s) and dinner (a salad at Panera). I couldn’t believe how tired I was. It didn’t help that I had trouble sleeping the night before the half marathon. I went to bed plenty early, but I woke up about five times between 3 AM and 6 AM, anxious about the race. At that point I realized it wasn’t worth tossing and turning any longer, so I got up and started getting ready. Staying so close to the Pomona Fairplex was great because I got there that morning by 6:45 AM, even after only waking up at 6 AM. Totally worth it. It was another cold morning (45 deg), so I was glad for the old sweatshirt I’d brought with me. My plan was to wear it until the start of the race or shortly after, and then discard it. Actually, this was all my mom’s idea. She knew that I have several sweatshirts that I was planning to give to Goodwill anyway, so wearing them for warmth before races during the winter works out perfectly. The race instructions said that discarded clothing would go to charity anyway so everyone’s a winner! Even though I was cold before the race started, it turned out to be perfect weather for running. Too bad the course wasn’t as perfect. There were SO MANY HILLS. I walked the entirety of mile 8 because it was all uphill. Ugh. It actually turned out to be a lovely course (check out the above photo for proof), but I can’t say that I really enjoyed it. My finishing time turned out to be about the same as my Disneyland Half Marathon time, which means slow, but I’m OK with that. I crossed the finish line and that’s all that really matters to me. Afterwards I picked up my Golden Snowflake Challenge medal for completing the 5K and half marathon that weekend! That was pretty cool. I don’t think the promise of an extra medal will tempt me to return next year, though. That half marathon course was killer and I’d honestly rather not repeat it. It made me realize how much I appreciate the flat Disney race courses!

Ten days ’til Christmas

It’s December 15th and Christmas is in ten days. Fortunately I’ve got almost all of my Christmas shopping done, with just a couple of stocking stuffers to pick up after I get to Florida next week. (Anything I don’t have to cram into my suitcase is good.) My little Christmas tree and other decorations have been in place in my apartment for almost two weeks, and I even sent out all of my Christmas cards in early December. I’m ahead of the game for once! More than I could have possibly imagined, actually. Believe it or not, I’ve already gotten started on my resolutions for 2015. I know it’s a bit early, but I’ve put a lot of thought into some changes I want to make next year. I think I’ve made some great strides in 2014 and I want to keep moving in the right direction in 2015. I’m still compiling/clarifying/simplifying the new resolutions so I’ll save the whole list for next year, but there’s one I want to at least mention now. In a nutshell: Less screen time. I’ve always admitted that I watch too much television (I’ve got “The Simpsons” on right now) so starting in January I’m going to make a concerted effort to cut back on time spent in front of the TV. I’ll still watch my favorite shows (DVRed, as usual), but other mindless couch-potato impressions will not be tolerated! One of the ways I’m going to do this is to ban iPad TV/movie watching while getting ready for bed. I know the glow from the screen impacts the quality of my sleep so I will turn off almost all of my electronic gadgets (laptop included) at night. There was one little problem with this resolution, however. How do I reconcile reading in bed on my iPad Mini? Easy! I ordered a blue light filter for it that will let me read as much as I want, but hopefully keep the iPad from messing with my natural sleep cycles. Brilliant! The filters should be here tomorrow and I can’t wait to start using them on both of my iPads. I should probably look for a filter for my laptop as well, but one step at a time!

Weekend away from home (part 1)

Written on Saturday night:
I left home this morning at 6 AM to drive to Pomona for the Holiday 5K. I was worried that it might be an hour-long drive, but the Saturday morning traffic was light so it only took about 45 minutes. And it was such a lovely drive! There was snow on the mountains after the storm on Thursday and Friday. I didn’t realize the drive to Pomona was going to be so scenic, but I really appreciated it. When I got to the Fairplex I had to pick up my bib for the 5K that morning as well as the half marathon tomorrow. I wasn’t sure whether signing up for both races was really foolish, but I was afraid that I’d regret it if I didn’t. Finishing both races means an extra medal. There’s nothing wrong with running just for the bling! I got to the Fairplex at 7 AM to pick up the race bibs and it was 45 deg outside. Brr! I was wearing a light jacket, but I don’t usually put on my running shoes until the last minute because they aren’t particular comfortable except for running (stupid stability shoes). So I wore a pair of flip flips to walk into the fairgrounds, but quickly discovered that it was too cold for open-toed shoes. I also started to reconsider the short-sleeved Hello Kitty Christmas shirt I had picked for the 5K. I knew that I would probably be plenty warm as soon as I started running, but I didn’t want to freeze while waiting for the race to start. After picking up my race bibs I decided to change into my long-sleeved Avengers Half Marathon shirt. I was quite comfortable before the race started, but the clothing choice turned out to be a mistake after about a mile. Not only did the sleeves make me overheat, but the shirt was black and it was very sunny by 8:30 AM. It was like a furnace. Luckily I had a better plan for the half marathon tomorrow. Besides the temperature problems, I wasn’t a big fan of this 5K course. I felt pretty bad during the first mile and a half, but then I realized it was because that part of the course was all uphill! The second half was obviously downhill because I averaged less than 11 minute/mile. That’s crazy! I’m not sure of my exact finishing time yet, but I think it was pretty average for me. No big deal. It’s not like I was out to set any speed records (or even personal records) the day before a half marathon.

In order to save myself multiple long drives to and from Pomona over the weekend (and to get as much sleep as possible before the half marathon) I booked myself a room in a nearby hotel. In a previous post I mentioned that accommodations for December races was my Christmas present to myself and the money couldn’t have been better spent. I had to hang around the race expo for a couple of hours after the 5K before checking into the hotel, though. I was so glad to get there around noon. I took a shower and then went out to get some lunch. I chose Marie Calendar’s because I knew I could get mashed potatoes there, but it was a terrible choice and a terrible meal. After that I had to swing by CVS and get a toothbrush since I left mine at home when I was in a hurry to leave in the morning. I spent the rest of the day being pretty lazy. I watched a lot of TV, did some online shopping (all for myself – I think my Christmas shopping is pretty much done), and surfing the web. It was nice to be able to completely relax for a change. Now it’s time for me to go to bed so I’ll be well rested for the half marathon tomorrow morning!