2015 Resolution #3 completed

Thanks to inflight wifi, this post was written while on my flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles!

First of all, I’d like to say that while in Hawaii this past week I successfully completed my New Year’s resolution #3 to wear a bikini! Woohoo! It was a rocky road to get there, though. It’s hard for me to admit, but after I hurt my knee in January I put on a bit of weight while I wasn’t exercising. While I was pretty happy with how I looked at the beginning of the year, being inactive for about a month really damaged my body image. I knew I needed warm weather clothes for my vacation, but I didn’t really want to think about it while I was heavier. I kept hoping that once I started running again in March/April the weight would come off easily. Unfortunately it didn’t. For that reason I kept postponing trying on my old bathing suits to see which ones I wanted to take with me to Maui. Three weeks before my trip I finally felt courageous enough to pull them out of storage and actually put them on, but the results dashed any self esteem I had a tenuous grasp on. None of the bikinis I bought last year fit properly. The tops and the bottoms were all too small for me to even consider wearing out in public. It was so discouraging. But I absolutely needed bathing suits in Hawaii so I began an urgent search to figure out my options. I won’t bore you with all of the steps I took to find swimwear in a hurry, but the results ended up being a mixed bag. Today let’s just focus on the positive outcome of that emergency shopping situation.

The last time I was in Hawaii in 2011 I saw a surfer wearing a bikini top with straps that crossed in the back. I loved it and I decided that I had to have that swim suit! Historically I tend to favor halter bikini tops since they fit me well and seem to be flattering, but I find the ties at the back and neck to be fussy and very uncomfortable. Inevitably the tie in the back is too tight or too loose, and the tie at the top causes me neck pain after a while. So when I saw the cross back bikini top I went on a mission to get one for myself. It took some work (i.e., a lot of weird Google searches), but I discovered that particular style is made by Rip Curl (see the photos above). So last year I went to Endless Summer, a little clothing store in Seal Beach that always has tons of bikinis, and bought the coveted top and a pair of matching bottoms. I loved them! Unfortunately I never found or manufactured a reason to wear a bathing suit in the last year. Fast forward to now and that top is currently too small for me. Yikes. Less than a week before leaving for Maui, and after a largely unsuccessful search for other bikini options, I desperately went to the Rip Curl website and ordered the cross back top in a larger size with two-day rush shipping. And it was perfect! I only ended up swimming two days on my trip, but I wore the Rip Curl top both times. I have another story about the bikini bottoms I wore with them, but I’ll save that for another post. The moral of this story is that bathing suits inevitably cause major frustration, but there can be a happy ending! Thanks to online shopping and rush shipping I was able to be comfortable in a properly fitting bikini in Maui this past week. And I completed a New Year’s resolution too! Incredible.

Inaugural Pixie Dust Challenge

I was so excited for the Pixie Dust Challenge at Disneyland last month, but I was nervous too. When I registered for it back in August I couldn’t believe I was going to run 19.3 miles in one weekend. I wondered if it was ridiculous to even consider for a fairly novice runner like me. After successfully completing three half marathons in the fall (slow as molasses, but I crossed the finish line under my own power all three times) I felt much more confident, but then I got hurt in January and that feeling of disbelief returned. I did almost no running in February while my knee was healing, and then I had to practically start my training from scratch in March. How in the world was I supposed to finish both a 10K and a half marathon without a decent regimen? The longest run I completed prior to the Tinkerbell Half Marathon Weekend was 8 miles. It wasn’t ideal, but it was enough to make me reasonably sure that I’d be able to survive the 19.3 miles to come. I gave myself permission to run slowly and take as many walking breaks as I needed to avoid burning out in either of the races.

The Tinkerbell 10K on May 9th was lovely. The weather was cool, the sky was overcast (as I wrote about a few weeks ago), and I felt great. The course for this race was almost entirely on Disney property so it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it more than any other Disneyland event I’ve participated in. After I crossed the finish line and got my 10K medal I walked back to my hotel for a much-needed shower. I was a little rushed because I had a brunch reservation at the Carnation Café inside Disneyland for later that morning. Fortunately I was able to get ready and walk back to the park in time. (There was a lot of walking over the weekend, in addition to all the running. My poor legs!) I had a delicious meal of eggs, sausage, potatoes, toast, and fruit to refuel after running 6.2 miles. It probably wasn’t necessary after that short of a distance, but I justified it as preparation for the half marathon the next day. I walked around Disneyland and California Adventure for a while after I finished breakfast and then went back to my hotel to rest. Not only were the races going on that weekend, but the “Tomorrowland” movie premiere was being held at the Downtown Disney AMC theater on Saturday night. Due to the crowds I couldn’t get a dinner reservation anywhere I wanted to eat so I just got some takeout lasagna (carb loading at its best!) from a restaurant at Downtown Disney and took it back to my hotel. I wanted to go to sleep early that night, but I had to wait until after the Disneyland fireworks to even have a chance. Luckily I slept well after they were over.

I woke up on May 10th and was disappointed to discover that the sky was clear. A sunny day is not good for running a half marathon. I crossed the start line of the Tinkerbell Half Marathon at 6 AM, which is right around the time the sun came up. The race course didn’t leave Disney property until almost the 6 mile mark so the first half was really enjoyable. But around mile 8 I started to get tired. Since it was my first healthy half marathon in months I allowed myself to take extended walk breaks as needed. That kept me from getting frustrated with my slow pace and I didn’t get completely exhausted. At one point I saw the 3-hour pace group ahead of me and I was determined to finish the race before they did. And I succeeded! My final time was 2:51, which is far from my slowest half marathon. I was happy! The best part was getting my medals, though. Not only did I get the Tinkerbell Half Marathon medal, but I also got the Pixie Dust Challenge medal, and my Disney Coast to Coast medal for completing a half marathon at both Disneyland and Disney World in 2015. (All three are in the above photo.) It felt so great! Granted walking back to my hotel with all of the medals clinking around my neck was a little annoying, but I was too proud to care. I had conquered my first Disney race challenge!

Foodie Friday – Buttermilk banana bread

In case you happen to be looking for the absolute best banana bread recipe, your search is over. This is the best banana bread in the world! And to think I only discovered it because I had some buttermilk leftover from making a birthday cake for a co-worker! Banana bread doesn’t usually have any dairy products in it, unlike most loaf cake recipes, but adding buttermilk was a stroke of genius. It made the bread incredibly moist, rich, and more cake-like than regular banana bread. I couldn’t get enough of it! And all of my co-workers raved about how delicious it was.

I actually doubled this recipe and made two loaves – one with chocolate chips (mini semisweet chips) and one without – to use up as much of the leftover buttermilk as possible. For a double batch I used 5 large bananas and it worked out great. However, I learned something about optimal pan sizes. Since I only own one 9×5″ loaf pan I baked the second loaf in an 8×4″ pan instead. Unfortunately the loaf in the smaller pan took longer to cook and was actually still a little underdone in the middle (but overdone on the edges) when I finally retrieved it from the oven. The loaf in the 9×5″ pan turned out perfectly so definitely one of those for this recipe. I’m going to buy another large pan so I can whip up two more loaves soon!

1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 c granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 medium sized ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 c buttermilk
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
Chocolate chips, optional

In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. (I usually just mix ingredients by hand when I bake, but I made an exception this time.) Add the eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla and beat to combine. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and beat until the flour is incorporated. Fold in some chocolate chips, if desired. Spoon the batter into a large loaf pan (preferably 9×5″) coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 deg F for 50-60 min (mine took closer to 60 min) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 min before turning out of the pan. Cool completely before slicing and serving. Enjoy!

Edited on 9/20/15: When I made this again yesterday I doubled the recipe and used three 8×4″ pans to make slightly smaller loaves. However, in this configuration the edges browned too quickly and I had to turn down the temperature halfway through. Next time I’ll try 325 deg F and see if that works better.

Based on Two Peas and Their Pod’s Buttermilk Banana Bread.

On the move again

Boeing on the Move 2015 has started! When I woke up on June 1st I had to remember to clip on my pedometer to make sure I was getting credit for the maximum number of steps. Not only does this eight-week challenge provide motivation for me to exercise more (plus keep up with my chores and spend less time on the couch less), but earning an Amazon gift card is a pretty good bonus. As long as I maintain an average of 13,000 steps/day I’ll get a $100 gift card. And since my normal running/walking schedule makes this a breeze, it’s basically free money. I’ll take it! We’re two weeks into Boeing on the Move and I’m averaging about 21,000 steps per day so far. On the days I don’t go running I take a long walk around Seal Beach in the evenings to make sure my step count average is maintained. Also, it’s a great way to enjoy the beautiful June weather. While I was out waking tonight I found myself daydreaming about fall, but then I realized I should be savoring the beautifully cool evening that I was experiencing at that very moment! This weather makes exercising outdoors a pleasure. I know the heat of summer is right around the corner so I want to spend as much time outside as I can before those days arrive.

On a related note, on the second day of Boeing on the Move I registered for yet another Disney race. Last year when I wrote about the beginning of Boeing on the Move 2014 I mentioned signing up for the Star Wars 5K and 10K at Disneyland in January 2015. This year I made an even bigger commitment by registering for the Star Wars Rebel Challenge – a combination of the 10K and half marathon – in January 2016. The reason I’m able to do these races is because I decided not to train for the 2016 Walt Disney World marathon, which is also in January (as detailed in my New Year’s Resolution #1). There’s always a silver living, right? (Don’t worry, I’m still planning to run a marathon eventually. Hopefully the Disney World marathon in 2017.) Not only am I excited for the Rebel Challenge itself, but in general I’m looking forward to participating in the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend when I’m not injured. Last year I was still hurt after the Disney World half marathon so I didn’t really get to enjoy the Star Wars races because I was in pain. I have every expectation that next time will be different, especially since I’ve figured out what the root cause of my knee pain is. No guarantees, of course, but I’m going to do everything in my power to stay healthy for all of the awesome fall and winter races!

2015 Resolution #5?

New Year’s Resolution #5: Visit more states

My 2015 New Year’s resolutions haven’t been going too well. I’ve had varying degrees of success with the four resolutions I’ve posted so far, but there are several others that I’ve written down but done nothing else with. Kinda defeats the purpose of resolutions, huh? There’s still time to accomplish some of my goals this year, though! Let’s get started.

Last year I made a resolution to visit as many new states as possible. And after setting foot in a grand total of six new states (West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho) in 2014, I think I did pretty well! When I sat down to write my 2015 resolutions I knew I wanted to keep this trend going, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to do so during the first half of the year. Not that I haven’t tried! Last month I was supposed to go to Oregon to meet my parents and brother, and also to visit my brother’s girlfriend who lives there. It turned out that May was an inopportune time for me work-wise, though. Way too much going on. I’ve wanted to visit Oregon for a long time and I was so disappointed that I couldn’t go when my family was there. Maybe I’ll find an excuse to make it up there before the end of the year. Another setback so far is a lack of business trips to the East Coast. The last time I was out there was in September, and that was only for two days. Originally I was supposed to go to DC this week, but it ended up not happening. My plan was to take a little road trip to New Jersey to mark it off my list while I was out there. Luckily there’s still a lot of time left in the year and I’ll probably get sent to DC either next month or in the fall. Happily, an extremely exciting travel opportunity is happening in August. Last year when we had such a great time in Yellowstone my family decided to go someplace else amazing in 2015. Our consensus on the ideal destination was Alaska, so we’re planning a trip in August. Nothing concrete yet, but I’m really looking forward to it. I might not make it to as many new states in 2015 as I did last year, but I’m going to enjoy the ones I do visit!

Sunscreen experiment #13

I’m kicking off this year’s sunscreen experiments with a positive review! About a week ago I was perusing the sunscreen aisle at Target, as I usually do when it looks like summer is imminent, and I saw something new. It was called Bare Republic Mineral Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 (the untinted version). I was initially drawn to it because it was a mineral rather than a chemical sunscreen, which I generally prefer. Luckily a lot more companies are coming out with “natural” options that contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, which makes my fair skin and me very happy. Unfortunately most of these mineral sunscreens have turned out to be thick and gooey, make my skin feel sticky, and leave a ghostly white cast on even my pale skin. But I keep trying them, looking for a diamond in the rough! One of the reasons I picked up the Bare Republic sunscreen is because it’s made by Coola. Back in 2013 I tried Coola Sport Mineral Citrus Mimosa Sunscreen (SPF 35) with mixed results, but it did have one thing going for it – no yucky sunscreen smell! That benefit was enough for me to take home a tube of the Bare Republic sunscreen (which seems to be Coola’s less expensive drugstore line) and give it a try. I first used it on my face and neck when I went to Disneyland yesterday. And it was great! Initially I was skeptical because the sunscreen is more liquid than cream, which I wasn’t expecting, and my skin didn’t absorb it quickly. But after about a half hour my face was powdery soft with a surprisingly flattering matte finish. No greasy or shiny skin? I was sold! And the best part was that I spent about three hours at Disneyland with no hint of a tan. Very promising. Then this morning I gave the sunscreen a bit tougher challenge – the LA Galaxy 5K. June Gloom abandoned us today so it was hot and sunny at 9 AM when the race started. I wasn’t sure if the Bare Republic was going to do well in this particular environment, I slathered it on my face, arms, and legs this time to put it to the test. And it worked great! There wasn’t much shade on the course so I sweated profusely during the race, and the sunscreen didn’t get sticky or run in my eyes. It was a brilliant success! I will definitely be taking the Bare Republic sunscreen with me to Hawaii in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait!