January travel

It’s my birthday, but I’m exhausted after a couple of busy days at Disney World, including a 10K this morning. So instead of penning something new I’m going to share a post I wrote on my flights from Long Beach to Orlando on Wednesday.

I’m on my way to Orlando right now and reveling in how easy this trip has been so far. I know I’ve said how awesome it is to fly out of the Long Beach airport before , but I’d like to reiterate it. It only took me about ten minutes to get to the airport this morning and there was virtually no traffic. So relaxing! And then there was only one person in front of me at the ticketing counter and the security line. Could it get any better? Yes! Free wifi not only in the airport terminal, but on my Jet Blue flight to Austin. That along with an empty middle seat beside me right now I think I’m in heaven. Too bad travel can’t always be this lovely.

Speaking of travel, I made a wish list back in December. Not a Christmas list or a birthday list (for those of us who have birthdays shortly after Christmas) or any other list of gifts that I’d like to receive, but a travel wish list. There are so many places I want to go and I figure it’s time to start making plans to visit them. Daydreaming about amazing trips is good, but making them happen is even better. I’m going to do everything I can to make 2015 a fantastic year, including as much travel as possible. (This might include a work trip to DC as well, but that’s OK as long as it doesn’t snow like last March! I also don’t mind because it means I can craft a side trip for personal enjoyment.) I’m still working on a more specific New Year’s resolution regarding travel because I want to make one that’s realistic. Like last year when I resolved to visit as many new states as possible. I think I did pretty well with six! I’m still going to try and visit new states in 2015 (including a family trip to Alaska in August), but that won’t be the main focus of my travel goals. This year I just want to have fun. Case in point, after this little sojourn I’m on to Disney World right now, I think my next adventure will be in Hawaii. I have a some girlfriends who are planning a trip to Maui in June and I am definitely going to join them. (This ties in with another one of my New Year’s resolutions, but I’ll write more about that later.) I can’t wait to do some swimming, snorkeling, and exploring new places/things I didn’t see when I was last there in 2011. I need to buy my plane ticket for that trip pretty soon. There are other trips I need to plan ahead for as well.

Believe it or not, I’m already thinking about 2016. Yes, I’m getting ready to book a Disney Cruise for February 2016. Not only am I dying to go on a Disney Cruise, but my ultimate goal is to run the Princess Half Marathon at Disney World and then leave on the cruise from Port Canaveral the next day. That particular cruise has the Castaway Cay 5K on Disney’s private island which is one of its major selling points. I might be going a little crazy with these Disney races, but at least I’ll have some awesome medals to show for it! I know it’s more than a year away, but I’m already looking forward to this combination Orlando/Bahamas trip. I’ve never been on a cruise before and I’ve never been to the Bahamas before. February 2016 will contain a lot of firsts! I can’t wait!

Christmas 2014

The first portion of this post was written while I was on my way back to California after Christmas (12/29), but never got around to finishing it. Typical! Better late than never, I guess!

Sorry for the unplanned blogging hiatus, I was so busy on my trip to Tallahassee for Christmas that I barely touched my laptop! I know that’s a pretty flimsy excuse for not updating my webpage, but I wanted to give a reason for my seemingly lazy behavior anyway. At the moment I’m sitting in the Dallas airport for my flight to LAX in about an hour. It was a whirlwind trip even though it was six days long. There’s always so much to do surrounding Christmas with shopping, cooking, and family traditions. But I had a wonderful time and a lovely Christmas with my parents despite the strong thunderstorms that accompanied my arrival (although my flight landed pretty easily in such horrible weather) and power outage when we got home from the airport. It’s a good thing my dad always has lots of flashlights! We went to sleep without power on the night of the 23rd. Luckily it was back on by the time we got up on Christmas Eve.

The remaining portion of this post was written today.

The rain wasn’t over yet, though. My parents and I waited out another line of thunderstorms that morning before heading to the mall to do some last minute Christmas shopping. That’s when I got my beloved red Toms which I’ve worn just about every day since then. Later than evening the weather had cleared up so we were able to go for our annual Christmas light viewing walk in the neighborhood. The rain had put a damper on some of the festivities, but it was still nice to admire the light displays. When we got home I hunkered down in front of the TV to watch “A Christmas Story” and wrap presents. You can’t wait any later than Christmas Eve for that! The next morning we made a delicious Christmas breakfast of buttermilk pancakes (thanks to this recipe from Martha Stewart), scrambled eggs, bacon, and fruit. Yum! We exchanged presents after breakfast and then all three of us got some exercise. It was a little chilly, but I ran 5 miles around the neighborhood, my dad ran a different route, and my mom took a walk. We all ended up getting home at about the same time. Our next job was putting together Christmas dinner. We had smoked turkey, cranberry sauce (using my own recipe), sweet potato casserole, and skillet green beans (a recipe I need to post soon). It was the most traditional meal we’d made in years (I usually make lasagna for Christmas dinner) and it was scrumptious. After dinner we went to see “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.” As far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out on this one. I definitely didn’t love it, but I think I’ll have to go see it again before making up my mind. As soon as we got home from the movie we had dessert – my mom’s famous chocolate cake and pecan pie. It was the perfect way to end Christmas Day.

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.

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!

Socializing

I have a colleague/friend that works in another city and travels out here about four times a year. Whenever he’s in town I try to organize dinner somewhere so that my close group of co-workers can get together and socialize a bit. In the past I’ve cooked a meal and served it to everyone either at my apartment or at someone else’s house, which was a blast, but I’ve been way too busy to organize that kind of event lately. I have enough trouble cooking meals for just myself! So this time I just proposed that we go to dinner at a restaurant one night after work. Easy, right? Wrong! Besides the fact that coordinating the schedules of five people is like herding cats, I should have realized that trying to plan anything this time of year is really difficult. Busy schedules are the norm in December. On top of all that, one person in our group had to be at work at 2 AM in the morning, another one was going out of town the next day, and a third person is moving away on Friday. Crazy! After trying to figure something out via instant message yesterday morning and failing miserably, we decided to call the whole thing off. To be honest, it was a bit of a relief, but I was still sad to miss out on an opportunity to hang out with my co-workers. There was a consolation prize, though. Someone suggested grabbing a spot in a conference room and eating lunch together. And it was great! This week has been pretty busy so it was nice to take a half hour to sit down, talk, and laugh together. Not only did we locals get to spend time with a couple of people from out of town, but we also got to socialize a bit with the guy who’s moving on Friday. It was a good time. These days we are all so busy that we usually just work through lunch, so yesterdays mini get together was a special treat. Stuff like that needs to happen more often.