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.

Resolution #5 revisted

Remember those new blogging rules I posted at the beginning of the month? Well I didn’t adhere to them for very long, did I? Obviously my last three posts were just photos of me in the new states I visited during my vacation, but before that the worthwhile updates were few and far between. Pretty pathetic. I want to do better. I’m not making any promises, but I’m certainly going to try and post more often in June than I did in May.

Getting back to the subject at hand, I visited three new states while I was on vacation – Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho! It was an amazing trip. I’ve been wanting to visit Yellowstone since 2001 when my dad and I took a more northern route when driving across the country for my Boeing internship, but not nearly northern enough to visit our country’s very first national park. Denver was the farthest north we got. Northwest Wyoming is pretty out of the way, but I managed to talk my family into going there on vacation this year. And it was spectacular. I’ll have to write some more about everything we saw and did in another post (check out some photos here if you’re interested), but I’m going to focus on my New Year’s resolution to visit as many new states as possible in 2014 right now. After adding West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware to my list of states visited when I was on the East Coast for work in March I couldn’t wait to check off more boxes before the end of the year. (I’m still kicking myself for not taking a quick detour into New Jersey in March when I was driving to/from Delaware, but I might be able to remedy that because there’s a chance that I’ll have to DC again in September.) So although the majority of my family’s vacation was spent in Wyoming (in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks), we drove a little bit out of our way so I could set foot in Montana and Idaho. The northern entrance of Yellowstone is actually in Montana so we only had to drive about five extra miles to take my picture next to the state welcome sign (which was much smaller and less ostentatious than I expected). Getting to Idaho required us to drive about twenty miles west from Jackson, WY and through a mountain pass before we could cross the state border. But I’m so glad we did. When else am I going to have a chance to visit that corner of the US? And look how much color is on my states visited map versus how it looked at the beginning of the year! This makes me very happy. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

P.S. My family decided that we’re going to Alaska next year. It’s going to be awesome!

In-flight post #2 – ATL to LAX

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the whole year – holiday potluck day! It’s an annual tradition of a work group that I’m not actually a member of, but I was invited to attend about five years ago and I’ve been involved ever since. Over the years I’ve brought lots of different offerings for the breakfast or lunch spread including pumpkin bread, cornbread, and cookies, but I usually partake of just one thing – scones. One of my co-workers makes these award-winning scones that are out of this world. So delicious. Last year I walked out to the parking lot in the rain to help bring them in the morning of the potluck…then helped myself to about five of them. Yum. So when I got the email about this year’s potluck I was one of the first people to sign up (after the guy who makes the scones, of course). I told the coordinator I was going to bring cookies because I assumed I could easily whip up a couple of batches the night before, like I’ve done in many similar situations, and my cookies are always well received. Then I realized that the potluck was my first day back at work after my trip to Tallahassee. That changed things a little because I definitely wouldn’t have time to make anything when I got home from the airport. (And since my flight took off from Atlanta two and a half hours late I’m not going to get home until about 11 PM. Definitely no time for baking.) So I told my mom I’d have to do some baking while I was in Tallahassee. Getting ready for the potluck was on my mind from the time I landed at TLH on Thursday until I packed a Tupperware full of brownies and blondies in my suitcase to fly back to LAX today. Luckily, now that I’m sitting on my flight to Los Angeles I know that my offering for tomorrow’s buffet is ready. How did that happen, you ask? Well, yesterday I baked a pan of my favorite brownies, cut it into bit-sized pieces, and packed them into one half of the red Tupperware I brought home with me. Then this morning I made a double batch of snickerdoodle blondies and filled the other half of the Tupperware with them. Both recipes turned out great so I know they’ll be a hit tomorrow. I could have just picked up some cookies at the grocery store on the way to work tomorrow morning, but the fact that my co-worker will be making his famous scones before the break of dawn made that option impossible. I would have felt too guilty stuffing my face with scones made from scratch while only bringing store-bought cookies for everyone else. And knowing I could have easily made something much better would have made me feel even worse. But with a little bit of work while I was in Tallahassee I will be proudly serving brownies and snickerdoodle blondies to my co-workers tomorrow. I hate to say it, but I probably won’t eat anything but scones all day! I’m so excited!

In-flight post #1 – LAX to ATL

I wrote this run-on paragraph while sitting at LAX waiting to board my flight to Atlanta. Then I edited it after takeoff and now I’m publishing it en route to ATL. Yes, I paid for in-flight internet access today and I’m going to get the most out of it!

Terminal 6 at LAX is under construction and it’s very unpleasant in its current state. If being at the airport at 6 AM isn’t bad enough, add some circular saw noises to that. I’m not looking forward to my flight to Atlanta because I don’t have frequent flyer status on Delta anymore and I was too cheap to pay for a seat with more legroom. I was also too cheap to pay for a checked bag so here I am sitting at the gate with my little carry-on suitcase. It doesn’t weigh very much, but it’s infinitely more annoying to deal with when boarding a plane than a backpack. It remains to be seen if I’ll be too cheap to pay for in-flight internet access on the way to Atlanta. I probably don’t need to be connected to the internet, but it would allow me to get a few things done I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Like make a grocery list for all of the cooking and baking my mom and I are planning to do this weekend, and update my webpage so that I don’t have to worry about it after I arrive in Tallahassee tonight. I’ll have to decide if it’s worth the cost. It’s been about seven years since I last flew Delta – probably since I was in grad school. Delta seems to be the cheapest airline to fly from LA to Tallahassee, but I just haven’t flown back to my hometown that many times since 2004. And I’m so spoiled being a United Premier member that I expect to check bags and get seats with extra legroom for free. I’m afraid today’s flight is going to be a rude awakening. In general, coach travel (domestic and international) is awful. The only good thing about taking my carry-on suitcase on this trip is that I won’t have my usual bag under the seat in front of me, occupying some of the space for my feet. Hopefully I’ll be able to entertain myself with my laptop, movies on my phone, and potentially the in-flight entertainment system. From what I read online Delta has a complimentary satellite TV option like Virgin America and Jet Blue now. I’ve got my fingers crossed that it’s on this flight. Not that there’s a whole lot to watch on TV this early in the morning, but anything to distract me from how miserable air travel is these days will be welcome. After abstaining from air travel for more than seven months (not by choice) this will be my third round-trip flight since the beginning of November. (On three different airlines, no less.) I’m no big fan of business travel, but I definitely missed it after we stopped traveling to DC in March. I guess it’s a good thing I don’t have any trips planned in 2012 because I’m going to lose my United Premier and Hilton Honors status at the beginning of the year. Dan and I are hoping to go to New Zealand in February, but that will only be possible because we’ve been hoarding American Airlines frequent flyer for quite a while. We were hoping to fly first class, but getting those tickets to New Zealand using miles is difficult so the best we might be able to do is business class on Air Pacific. Air Pacific is kind of a second-class international airline, but I can’t dispute that it gets you to New Zealand for a good price. When we went on our last trip in December 2008 our tickets were only about $750 apiece. So while we would like to be on Qantas instead because they have much nicer facilities, Dan and I might have to resort to Air Pacific f we want to go to New Zealand in the spring. As long ¬as we don’t have to fly coach again I won’t complain. But back to the trip at hand. My flight to Atlanta should be boarding in about half an hour. I hate taking a wheelie suitcase as a carry-on because someone always ends up having to drag their bag back to the front of the plane to gate check it when the overheard bins fill up. Luckily I haven’t been that person yet, but maybe today is the day. And I’m positive that my suitcase won’t fit in the overhead bin on the tiny plane that’s taking me from Atlanta to Tallahassee. As long as I don’t have to pay to check my bag at any point I’ll be happy. These days every penny is precious. I just paid my credit card bill that had about half of our Hawaii trip expenses on it. Yikes. As always, I’m extremely grateful that Dan and I are still employed in these tough economic times. And our minimal Christmas is going to help too. Speaking of Christmas, Dan came home from work early last night so we could get our tree! We always buy our Christmas tree from the Hermosa Beach Kiwanis lot on PCH because I feel better giving money to a charity organization than a tree farm. Since we were there early in the season this year we had a pretty good selection of trees. We ended up buying a noble fir in the 7-8 ft category that looks great in our living room. While we were coveting the 8-9 ft trees it’s a good thing we didn’t get one because the shorter tree we actually bought is only about six inches from touching the ceiling! Dan and I knew that we wouldn’t have time to trim the tree until I get back from Florida on Monday, but we got the difficult part of getting it home and setting it up yesterday so that’s a relief. I can’t wait until I get home and we can decorate that thing within an inch of its life! One of my main goals for this trip to Tallahassee is to help my parents get ready to host some of our family for Christmas. They haven’t put up a Christmas tree since the last time I spent the holidays there (2005, just before Dan and I got engaged) so they’re a little out of practice. I guess we’ll see how their artificial tree has fared after being boxed up in the garage for the last six years. If it’s not presentable we’ll either pick out a live tree or buy a new fake one. I wonder if my dad still has those Christmas CDs I bought him back in 2001 when we drove from California to Florida in December? What better to listen to while trimming the tree? I’ve got a pretty good train of thought going right now, but I’d probably better get up and go to the restroom before my flight starts boarding. I kind of hate to get up, though, because this terminal is so hard to navigate with a rolling suitcase and all the construction. Maybe I’ll just stay here. I should have looked for new cooking magazines on my way to the gate because there’s no way I’m going all the way back to the shops now. Plus, I can avoid spending money that way. I already know that next month’s credit card bill is going to be huge because it includes the second half of our Hawaii trip expenses. Very painful. I’m going to have to be frugal in 2012. That brings New Year’s resolutions to mind. I don’t think I was very successful with the ones I made for 2011. I have however, completed my goal of trying fifty-two new recipes this year! I haven’t posted them all yet, but I’ve been very productive in the kitchen since Thanksgiving so the grand total for the year is going to be more than fifty-two. It probably would have been better if more of those new recipes this year had been dinner fare rather than all the desserts I made, but my resolution didn’t specify that!

Planning dinner

I wrote this post on Monday while sitting in the Denver airport waiting for my flight to Los Angeles. You know you can’t escape posts about food on this blog! Can you tell I was hungry when I wrote this?

I’m really anxious to get back to cooking this week, even though I haven’t set a precedent of regular weeknight meal preparation (unless it’s leftovers, of course). I was hoping to get home early enough to make a Greek-Style Skillet Supper recipe from McCormick that I saw in the newspaper a couple of weeks ago. It looks simple enough, so since my flight was scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles before 1 PM I figured I would have plenty of time to go to the grocery store, pick up the ingredients, and whip up a batch for dinner. Well, the best laid plans, and all that. My original flight from Denver to LA was supposed to leave at 11:18 AM so I was very worried when my flight from Tampa didn’t land until 10:55 AM. I thought I just might have enough time to run and catch the plane before it left but it was going to be close. But then I checked my email as we were taxiing to the gate and got a message that my 11:18 AM flight had been cancelled and I had been rebooked on a flight at 2:24 PM instead. That eliminated my fear of missing my connection, but all of a sudden I was left with three hours at the Denver airport with nothing to do. So I sat down at an empty gate, where I am right now, and started writing this post. Great story, right? My life is so exciting. But anyway, back to the food! Dan and I are big fans of Greek food, especially due to its affinity for garlic, and I love the idea of a Greek-inspired meal that’s not my usual meatballs with tzatziki sauce (although I’ll probably make some anyway just in case this recipe is lacking in flavor for some reason). This recipe seems perfect for a weeknight meal, with just a few ingredients with fuss-free preparation, so I’m really curious to find out how it tastes. I was considering substituting ground lamb for the ground beef, but I’ve heard it can be very dry and it’s difficult to find at my local grocery store anyway. So tonight, assuming I have time when I get home, I will give this new recipe a try (and you know I’ll take photos and blog about it later so the results will be well documented). I’m crossing my fingers for a good meal. On a side note, I’ve wanted to try making gyro meat for a long time now, but I’ve been too afraid of an inedible or just mediocre result to attempt it yet. But since I’ll never know until I try, I should make a special trip to Whole Foods this week to get some ground lamb. I need to make a long grocery list, but right now I’m going to go wander around the Denver airport to kill some more time before my flight home. Only about an hour and a half left!

Flying solo

I wrote this post on my flight from Tampa to Denver yesterday. I should have made more time for writing while I was in Florida, but as with most vacations, I was busy spending time with my loved ones instead of in front of a computer. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to write about the events of the past five days this week, but until then here’s a musing I started before my plane took off yesterday morning and finished before landing in Denver.

I saw a couple of young girls who seemed to be flying without an adult on my flight to Denver today and it made me think about the time I first flew anywhere by myself. Surprisingly, I think it was in March 2002 when I flew from Jacksonville to Los Angeles to visit Dan during the last Spring Break of my undergraduate years. And I think my last flight that preceded that was in 1997 when I returned to the United States from Europe with my high school tour group. (I thought that Amsterdam to Atlanta flight was long, not including the snail’s pace bus ride from Atlanta to Tallahassee afterwards, but it was nothing compared to the torture Dan and I endured on our Sydney to Los Angeles flight in 2007.) I can’t believe I didn’t fly at all for almost five years. My college career was extremely busy, but travel during that time was mostly confined to the highways between Gainesville and Tallahassee – just a two-hour trip in my little Neon. Even the longer trips, like the five cross-country trips between Florida and California with my Dad, were made in my Neon. So I was already an adult the first time I flew anywhere alone, which means I should have been capable of handling the difficulties that come with it, right? Wrong. You see, because of my five-year hiatus from air travel I was unfamiliar with all of the changes that took place after September 11, 2001. I had an electronic ticket so I didn’t think I had to bring any paperwork with me to the airport, but I soon learned otherwise. When one of the curbside bag checkers made fun of me for not having a copy of my itinerary, and even laughed about it with some of his friends, I felt like a prize idiot. I didn’t know the proper post-9/11 procedures, but after being used for the amusement of a few airline employees I never made the mistake of showing up at the airport without some sort of travel paperwork again. Since then I’ve done plenty of flying by myself, for work and vacation both, and I’ve gotten it down to a science. I have fond memories of a time when flying was fun, but I’ve grown quite weary of it after all of the trips I’ve made since March 2002. Fortunately there are some benefits. I’ve been able to take advantage of the thousands of frequent flyer miles I earn each year to get tickets for Dan and me to Chicago (Fourth of July 2009) and Hawaii (November 2011). This trip to Florida pushed my mileage balance above the level necessary to book tickets for another trip to Hawaii. I can’t wait to get home and solidify those plans. I think we’ll fly in and out of Maui, but I suppose that will depend on what flights are available to book with miles. Plus, I should have enough Hilton Honors points to get us a couple of free nights at the Grand Wailea Resort on Maui. I’ve heard it’s a fantastic hotel and I always appreciate not having to pay for accommodations. I was able to use some Marriott points so that my parents and I could stay at the Tampa Airport Marriott last night, which made getting to my flight this morning was extremely convenient. I’m glad to be going home today. I might have to fly to DC again the first week of May, but that means that I have more than a month before I have to travel again and that sounds good to me.

Pumpkin juice and Butterbeer

I’m flying back to Los Angeles in the morning, but I did get a chance to upload all of the photos from my fabulous vist to the Wizarding World on Harry Potter on Saturday. Here is a link to the Orlando 3/23-3/28/11 album in case anyone wants to see them. The above photo is of a bottle of pumpkin juice and a mug of frozen butterbeer that we sampled. Both were delicious, in case you were wondering. I would love to have access to these Harry Potter treats on a regular basis. My parents and I really enjoyed our time in Harry Potter’s world, but today we drove back to Tampa from Orlando and now we’re at the Airport Marriott so that it will be easy for me to get to my flight tomorrow. I’ve had a great trip to Florida, but I’ll be glad to get back home tomorrow afternoon. I just hope the predicted thunderstorms don’t keep my flight from taking off in the morning. I have a connecting flight in Denver and I don’t want to miss it because of the weather. Right now I need to re-pack my suitcase and see if I can fit everything that I brought with me plus everything that I’ve bought on this trip in it. It’s going to be difficult!