Testing. I screwed something up royal and I’ve been trying to fix it for three days! Numerous code problems, database problems, theme problems, and plugin problems. Issues just keep cropping up! It’s still a work in progress.

2015 Resolution #5 revisited

As of 8/13 I have visited 35 states. I had an amazing vacation in Alaska with my family last week. We visited Denali National Park and it was really beautiful. (Doesn’t that map look great with the giant state of Alaska colored in? I’m so proud.) We saw as much of the park as we could in five days, but I have already decided that I want to go back. Maybe next September. What better place to go during the dog days of summer (especially when you don’t have an air conditioner at home) but a place where the temperature peaks in the low 60’s, if you’re lucky. It was spectacular! My jackets haven’t gotten that much use in six months! As with so many other experiences I’ve had lately, I intend to write a much longer post about my Alaska vacation. I have a feeling that won’t happen anytime soon, though, based on the fact that I still haven’t finished writing about my trip to Hawaii in June. I am a terrible blogger! But I got sick on Wednesday when I flew back from Fairbanks so I’ll be spending a relaxing weekend at home (probably going through a whole box of Kleenex thanks to this miserable head cold) letting my body heal. Maybe I’ll actually get some writing done. Or not. But I digress. Barring a miracle, I probably won’t have a chance to visit any more new states in 2015. Adding two to my list this year isn’t bad, though! I’m happy with that. In the event that I get to go to DC for work sometime next year I have some preliminary plans for side trips. And I’ve also started dreaming up locations for next summer’s family vacation. It’s still going to take me a while for me to get to all 50 states, but now I only have 15 to go!

Additional sunscreen successes and failures

I’m on a plane headed to Alaska on vacation. So exciting! I have a lot of flight hours ahead of me, though, so I am going to take advantage of this time to compose some webpage posts. Sunscreen might not be the most obvious subject for me to write about when I’m headed for a less than tropical destination (I’m looking forward to some cooler weather now that summer has arrived in LA), but I wanted to share my recent experiences before too much time passes. (Speaking of which, I still need to finish a post I’ve been working on about my amazing trip to Hawaii in June, but that might have to wait until I get back from my current vacation. I’m just traveling all over the country this summer!) I’ve combined my latest two sunscreen experiments into a single post for brevity and to avoid boring my faithful readers (all two of you) too much!

Sunscreen experiment #14: Bare Republic Mineral Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
After my overwhelming success with the Bare Republic Mineral Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 I was eager to try the “sport” version of this sunscreen. Usually when brands market different varieties for face vs. body they are extremely similar products, so I was expecting something light and comfortable when I slathered the sport sunscreen on my arms and legs for a trip to Disneyland. Unfortunately I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was thick, sticky, and hard to apply. Not greasy like some other sunscreens, but not as pleasant as the face variety. What a disappointment. However, since it’s a mineral sunscreen my skin was very well protected all morning at Disneyland. At least it was effective in that respect. But despite that point in its favor, I’m adding this one to the growing list of sunscreens that have failed to meet my high expectations!

Sunscreen experiment #15: Coola Face SPF 30 Cucumber Matte Finish
After exhausting the cheaper Coola sunscreen options (Bare Naturals) I turned back to the original brand for inspiration. If the “cheaper” face sunscreen was so amazing, might the more expensive alternative be just as good? Way back in sunscreen experiment #8 I tried one of Coola’s mineral sport sunscreens with mixed results. It definitely provided superior sun protection, but it felt sticky on my skin. Not ideal. This time around I ordered a tube of the mineral face sunscreen from the Coola website. Once again, I used this stuff on my face, arms, and legs for a trip to Disneyland. The cucumber scent smelled pretty good which was a major plus, and it felt light and powdery on my skin during application. So far, so good! However I noticed something funny when I used it on my face. If I rubbed the same area too much I started to see white flakes forming. Very annoying. It didn’t look very good, but I just shrugged my shoulders hoped not to see anyone I knew at Disneyland that day. Luckily I didn’t notice the same problem with flaking on my arms and legs, even later in the day. As another test I also used this sunscreen at the OC Fair 5K last weekend and it worked great (since I wasn’t exactly concerned with my appearance during the race!). So this sunscreen isn’t a complete loss! I will definitely continue using it, especially on my arms and legs.

OC Fair 5K 2015

This morning I ran the Orange County Fair 5K and it was a lot of fun. This is in contrast to my experience at the same race last year. In early August 2014 I was nearing the end of my training program for my first half marathon so I had already completed several long runs (mostly successful – the less than stellar ones were still in my future). So when the OC Fair 5K rolled around I figured I would breeze through 3.1 miles with absolutely no trouble at all. It wasn’t even going to be a challenge! I couldn’t have been more wrong. (This should explain why I didn’t really write anything about it on my webpage at the time. Dwelling on failed runs is not helpful!) The summer had been relatively hot up to that point so I was thrilled on race day to see that the sky was overcast. This didn’t mean it was as cool as I would have liked, but the temperature was fairly reasonable and at least the sun wouldn’t be beating down on me the whole time. I was really confident when I started the race. 5K was nothing! But about halfway through I felt awful. When I walked through the water stop to get a drink I was sweating like a pig and I had a hard time catching my breath thanks to the high humidity (yes, it does happen in LA sometimes). I was not expecting to do so poorly running such a short distance. And I couldn’t quite get back into a good rhythm after the water stop. During the second half of the race I walked more than I ran. It was so discouraging. It was the first time I regretted running a race. Luckily I was able to put the bad experience behind me and happily participate in many other races.

I went into the OC Fair 5K this year with much more realistic expectations. 1) I made my #1 priority for the race to enjoy myself. Running through the Orange County Fairgrounds is pretty cool and I wanted to appreciate it this time around. Also, I got to hang out with a co-worker of mine and her awesome kids before the race so that by itself made the whole thing worthwhile. 2) I knew the weather was going to stink so I lowered my time/pace goals accordingly. I still had to take more walk breaks than I wanted to in the second half of the race (humidity is killer!), but that didn’t dishearten me as much as it did last year. Funny enough, today’s weather was almost exactly the same as last year’s. 3) I did not allow any poor performance to ruin my opinion of myself as a runner. While I wasn’t exactly proud of my performance today, I knew it wasn’t representative of my overall progress in my running career. The 2015 OC Fair 5K was just another step of my journey. And it’s a journey that doesn’t have a definite end! That’s what makes me smile every time I cross a finish line. Well, that and the cameras. Speaking of which, hopefully I’ll have some good photos to share soon!

Foodie Friday – Chocolate chip cookies #53

Chocolate chip cookies #53: Based on Call Me PMC’s Chocolate Chip Potato Chip Cookies. Baked on 7/25/15.

I know it’s hard to see in the above photo, but this batch of chocolate chip cookies has potato chips in it! I took these cookies to my co-workers in DC along with the Bourbon soaked cherry chocolate chip cookies (recipe #52) that I wrote about last month. I’ve experimented with so many different mix-ins during my search for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, so it was only a matter of time before I threw in some potato chips. Someone told me the best chocolate chip cookies they ever had included crushed potato chips so I definitely had to give it a try. I’m not sure it really matters, but I used Ruffles. And the double batch of cookies that I made (a 13×9″ pan’s worth) contained almost 2 cups of coarsely crushed Ruffles as well as 1/2 cup each of milk chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips. When you’ve got chocolate chip variety, use it! The potato chips gave these cookies a nice crunch and a salty kick. A sweet and salty combo in a chocolate chip cookie is always good. These cookies were very popular with my co-workers, but I think there are some slight improvements to be made. In my opinion I either crushed the potato chips too fine or I just didn’t add enough of them because the flavor/texture wasn’t as pronounced as I was expecting. I’ll just have to try again. Anything to make more chocolate chip cookies!

Ant-Man on my day off

When I decided to take today off work (I have a lot of extra work hours built up from my business trip last week) I knew I wanted to go see a movie. So after I got home from Disneyland this afternoon I immediately drove to the theater (got there just in time for the previews to start), bought a ticket for “Ant-Man,” and really enjoyed it! However, my first movie choice was “Terminator Genisys,” but it’s not playing at anywhere nearby. It’s probably for the best. This latest installment in the Terminator franchise got terrible reviews, which is disappointing because I love Terminator movies. But I might have regretted paying the ridiculous ticket price to see “Terminator Genisys.” Luckily “Ant-Man” was great. It’s no secret that I have a deep seated love for Marvel movies, and this one only reaffirmed my feelings. And it set up “Captain America: Civil War” (which I’ve read is going to be more like Avengers 2.5) in the post credits scene so I loved that. I’ll just have to wait until next summer to see it! For now I’ll have to be satisfied with “Fantastic Four” which comes out this week. It’s a great summer for superhero movies!

2015 Resolution #5 in progress

I’m back in Los Angeles today after my business trip, but I spent yesterday working on one of my New Year’s resolutions. I visited state #34 – New Jersey! (Based on NJ’s relative size, the above map is almost identical to the one I shared last year with only 33 states colored in, but there’s a subtle difference. And that’s what matters.) While there’s no way I’ll be able to visit as many new states as I did last year, I’m very happy to start making progress on new travel destinations in 2015. Even if they aren’t any more exciting than New Jersey. Ideally I would have checked this state off my list last year when I took a day trip to Delaware on the tail end of a business trip, but for some reason I didn’t drive the few extra miles to do so. Due to my laziness a special trip was required visit the Garden State. So I tacked an extra day on to the end of my latest pilgrimage to the DC office and took a road trip to New Jersey. It wasn’t really that far to drive, really. Just a couple of hours, right? Unfortunately traffic wasn’t on my side yesterday morning. It took me over three hours to drive through three states and finally get to Fort Mott State Park in the southern part of the state. This wouldn’t have been a big deal except I missed the last ferry of the day to Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island that I really wanted to visit. So instead I just walked around the remains for Fort Mott for about an hour or so and headed back to the DC area. (Lucky for me the traffic going that direction was much better.) It was a short visit in state #34, but it counts! Even better, I’m going to be setting foot in state #35 in less than two weeks. I’m going to Alaska on vacation! More on that soon!